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I See You

Chapter Text

BAZ


My soulmate tattoo used to make me feel hopeful. I was thrilled when I had gotten mine on my 11th birthday. I know Father feared I wouldn't, since I'm not technically alive. But when I unbuttoned my flannel and gazed into the mirror early that November morning, there were seven words written in a messy scrawl right over my heart. 'I know you, Baz. I see you.' I laughed, something I rarely did even as a child, giddy with relief and the knowledge that I had a soulmate.

In first year, when the Crucible cursed me, I thought, at least I have a soulmate. And as first year turned to second, which turned to third, which turned to fourth, and it became glaringly more and more obvious that I had no interest in girls whatsoever, I thought it would be okay. Surely, if I was gay, then my soulmate would be another boy. At least I have a soulmate, I thought, at least I'm human enough to have a soulmate.

Until fifth year, when I realized I didn't. Not really.

I had been particularly vicious to Snow in Possibelf's class that early spring day. But he couldn't accomplish a simple You're Getting Warmer, for Crowley's sake. "Really, Snow. You can blow up the entire theatre, but you can't cast a third year spell?" I drawled, and Dev and Niall snickered appreciatively at my insult.

Snow and Bunce, the Siamese twins they were, both cast me identical nasty looks. "Piss off, Baz," Simon said through gritted teeth, and the room started to smell like a bonfire. Wellbelove glanced over from the other side of the room, throwing Snow a concerned pout, and I decided I wasn’t quite finished with him.

I was sick of Snow following me that year, sick of him getting in my face. His piercing gaze always finding mine across the dining hall, his constant presence at every one of my football practices. His new cross—a gift from Mr. Wellbelove, he announced in our bedroom pointedly after the winter holidays—always around his neck. So I pushed harder, and with a sharp sneer, I said, loud enough for Wellbelove to hear it too, "Really, the Mage should just throw you out on your arse, already. You're the worst Chosen One that's ever been chosen."

He looked genuinely hurt by that for a moment, and I got an uncomfortable pang deep in my gut that I didn't want to admit felt a lot like guilt. He quickly replaced his wounded look with one of anger, standing up and saying, “you—you know what—"

Right then, Mrs. Possibelf cast an Attention Class, and we were all forced take a seat, quiet down, and look at her. But Simon's magic wasn't calming down—it was getting stronger, more intoxicating, rather more like a forest fire than a bonfire. When the bell rang, signalling the end of the period, most of the class, including Wellbelove, rushed out the door, trying to get away from Snow before he blew. But I've always been a bit of a masochist, so I took my time, smirking at Snow as Bunce whispered to him, trying to calm his temper, and waltzed out of the classroom, knowing Snow wouldn’t be far behind.

"You're a monster!" he yelled as he charged after me, and the words cut through me like a sword.

I spun around, and said, calmly, "thanks". Then I turned back towards the hall, dismissively, but he caught my arm and glared me down, and repeated, "You're. A. Monster."

Why do I care so much what he thinks? I thought as looked directly into his blue eyes. I couldn't get myself to tear my gaze away, and that shot a shock of fear through my system. His round eyes were just blue, average, mediocre blue, but they mesmerized me for some reason, even when they were pinning me with contempt. I could never get myself to look away from him. "I think we've already established that's your position on the matter, but I really would like to make it to dinner on time, so—"

"Why? You never eat anyways." He said it a bit nervously, like he was afraid of me. He clutched at his chest, where I knew his wooden cross was.

I tried to sound casual as I replied, like I didn't know exactly what he was getting at. "Sure I do, Snow. Humans need food to survive. You should know all about that, since you stuff your face like you'll never see another meal again." Then I rolled my eyes for good measure.

"Yeah, humans do," Snow replied, undeterred. He took a step forward and his delicious cinnamon scent invaded my nostrils. "But you're not human, are you, Baz? I see you sneaking off the the catacombs every night. There are rats down there, drained of blood. Know anything about it?" He looked a little disgusted when he mentioned the rats, glancing down at my lips and shuddering a bit. I felt suddenly very exposed, and not just because of what he was insinuating about my undead status. The disgust was almost worse than the fear, the fact that he knew I was so pitiful that I had to suck rats dry and was properly grossed out, the fact that he knew I wasn't human, looking at me like I was worthless. It didn't just annoy me, like I always pretended. It hurt me. I didn't want Snow to feel revolted when he looked at my lips, I wanted him to—

I stiffened. Oh no, I thought. Oh Crowley, no no no please. I began to pray to a God I didn't believe in. To try to will away the feeling that had been growing in me the moment we first touched, when we shook hands and I felt his warm skin on mine. To pretend that I didn't know whose hands touched my face in my dreams, whose curls I would run my fingers through, whose chapped pink lips I would kiss, whose average blue eyes I would look into—

And then he said those seven words.

"I know you, Baz. I see you," Simon snarled at me, and I recoiled like he slapped me.

"What did you just say?" I whispered, deadly quiet. The little blood I had in my body rushed straight to my head. He carried on like he didn't hear me.

"You'll slip up, but I'll be here. I know you're a vampire, and I'm going to catch you. I see you Ba—"

That's when I punched him, hard, in the jaw. It wasn't my fault that we happened to be at the top of a staircase. It wasn't my fault that he lost his balance and stumbled down it. It wasn't my fault that he broke his toned leg, that he scratched up his strong hands, that he cut his beautiful, golden, mole-spattered face.

It's his fault that he made me fall in love with him, and that he will never, ever be in love with me.

I had an unrequited soulmate, and it was Simon bloody Snow.

Chapter Text

SIMON

 

Like most things, I needed Penny’s help to get properly sorted about the whole soulmates thing. Sometime in June before Watford, I woke with the strangest sensation in my chest. It took me nearly the whole day to notice the tattoo on my chest, one word in posh cursive letters, right over my rapidly beating heart. I became more and more anxious about the strange tattoo until I started to smell smoke, and my vision got so hazy, and then….

 

Pain. Fire. Wreckage. I had gone off in my bed in the orphanage, and nearly taken out the whole block. Miraculously, I was somehow able to protect the others in the building when I exploded. I was laying on the ground afterwords, fire in my lungs and nose, terrified. That’s when the Mage had come for me, and explained what I was, and told me all about Watford. Honestly, I all but forgot about the tattoo for a while, overcome by the mystery and attraction of magic and a new school.

 

Penny and I became fast friends our first year, with Agatha joining our little trio after her family had invited me to stay for the winter holidays, and I walked up on them giggling on the lawn later that spring.

 

“All right?” I asked them in my rough Lancashire accent that I’ve since rounded out.

 

“Did you hear? Penny’s older brother reckons he found his soulmate!”

 

“Shhh!” Penny exclaimed as she hit Agatha roughly on the arm.

 

Agatha yelped in surprise. “Penny!” 

 

“Don’t go shouting my business about, Agatha!”

 

“It’s not your business, is it? It’s your brothers,” Agatha replied matter-of-factly.

 

“Well, hush up about it either way—"

 

“Uh…” I intervened. “Isn’t your brother, like… thirteen?” I thought it was a little young to be talking soulmates when Premal had barely hit puberty.

 

“So?” Agatha asked, with her head cocked, confused.

 

“Well. He’s, um, young to be so, uh, sure about someone.” I felt my face heating up, embarrassed to be talking about crushes and feelings, when I had just began noticing how nice Agatha’s hair was and how pretty her lips were…

 

“Oh, Simon!” Penny exclaimed, breaking me out of my internal tangent about Agatha. “Do you not know? How can you not know? Don’t you have a—" she paused, looking worried.

 

“Don’t I have a what?” I pressed.

 

“I mean… when Mages turn eleven…” I’d never heard Penny sound so unsure in the half a year I’d known her at the time. As she glanced over at Agatha, I noticed that she had tensed as well. I braced myself. “Simon, do you have any writing on your chest? Over your heart?”

 

“Oh!” I said, blinking. That? I thought. “yeah!”

 

Penny looked visibly relieved. “Oh, okay!” She said, brightening. “That’s your soulmate mark!” She proceeded to explain to me that Mages get soulmate marks on their eleventh birthdays, when their magic becomes developed enough to reach for their soulmate. Apparently, some Mage about a century or two back had been so filled with joy over the realization that he had found The One, that he had cast For I Never Saw True Beauty Until This Night—a line from Romeo and Juliet from when Romeo sees Juliet and realizes he loves her. That Mage’s magic was so powerful it cast an enchantment over all Mages, so that when they came into their magic at eleven, they would have the words their soulmate would speak to them when they realize they love their soulmate tattooed on their hearts.

 

“So… I have a soulmate?” I asked, joy building in my chest. I snuck a peek at Agatha and felt a blush creep up my neck.

 

“Yes! I was a little worried, since you came from Normals, but—"

 

“What do your guys’ soulmate marks say?” I asked curiously. They both flushed a deep red, even Penny with her dark olive skin.

 

Simon,” Agatha said, like I had just done something wrong, like she did when I knocked over the mashed potato bowl on Christmas. It splattered all over the floor before anyone even got a chance to eat it, to my dismay and embarrassment. I apologized over and over, but Agatha had the same exasperation in her voice all night. “You can not ask people that.”

 

“It’s not polite,” Penny said with a roll of her eyes. “But whatever. Mine says ‘I think Jane Austen novels have created the best British spells, don’t you?’” Agatha looked surprised that Penny offered up her soulmate mark so easily. She clutched up her neckline on the left side awkwardly.

 

“Oh,” I said. “Mine just says, 'Simon.'

 

“That’s a simple one,” Penny said, with her head cocked a bit, a curious expression falling over her face, like she was solving a puzzle. Then she shook her head and smiled. “But it’s okay, you’ll just know, Simon.” Agatha nodded along, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear.

 

As I walked back to Mummer’s, I began to feel overjoyed. I imagined what it would feel like to hear my name and just know I had found the one. That moment was the first time I finally felt like I belonged. The soulmark meant that, one day, I would have a real family. I was daydreaming about Agatha saying my name as I walked into my bedroom.

 

“Why do you have that stupid look on your face?” Baz sneered up at me. He was sitting cross-legged on his bed as he peered up at me from under his dark bangs. His hair was quite long and silky, for a bloke. Even at twelve, you could see he would grow up to be handsome, with his aristocratic brow and sharp cheekbones.

 

“I just found out I have a soulmate!” I replied, stupidly, too giddy to remember that my roommate hated me, and that I should not be offering up any personal information. When I tried to tell him the story of how I got my red ball—I had won it at a carnival, and was very proud about it— he berated me for being too poor to get decent presents.

 

“You just found that out?” He asked, and laughed cruelly. “Crowley, Snow, what did you think the soulmark was?

 

“I well—uh— I figured that—” I stopped, realizing that I didn’t know what I figured. I just…. didn’t think about my soulmark until now.

 

“Well, I’m properly shocked all your Normal,” he spat the word out like he had just said something disgusting, “blood didn’t make you incapable of having a soulmate. Bless the poor girl who ends up with you.”

 

I felt a rush of anger. “Fuck you, Baz,” I spat, and stormed into the bathroom to run cool water over my face. Who cares what he thinks? I thought. I have a soulmate.

 


 

“Have you seen Aggie yet?” I ask Penny anxiously.

 

"For the fourth time, Simon, no," she replies, not even bothering to look up from her book. She licks her finger and turns the page.

 

"The welcome ceremony is about to start! She never misses it!" I exclaim, exasperated.

 

"Then, I'm sure she won't miss this one," Penny says with a shrug. I know she isn't very invested in our relationship, but now she is just downright ignoring my panic.

 

"Don't you care?" I demand, more harshly than I intend to. "Isn't she your friend?"

 

Penny closes her book with a resolute thud! and looks at me sharply. Crowley, am I in for it now.

 

"Isn't she your girlfriend?" She asks with a dangerous edge.

 

"Yes," I say, refusing to lighten my tone, though I know I should.

 

"Really? Then why was she dancing all night at the end of the year ball with Baz?" Penny asks, getting right to the root of why I was so anxious to find Agatha. Last time I saw her, Baz was flirting with her incessantly, showing off his knowledge of waltzing and table etiquette. Agatha loved it, giggling and smiling at him all night. "Two left feet, Snow?" he asked knowingly when he saw me and Aggie dancing. I was doing a poor job of it, and Agatha was starting to get properly frustrated with me. "Allow me to cut in," he said cooly, as he whisked her away, graceful as a gazelle. The git was smirking at me the whole time. He looked fit, with his dark hair slicked back, though not as fit as he does when he wears it loose around his face. He wore a grey suit that brought out his unique eyes; I was wearing a hand-me-down from Mr. Wellbelove, and even with Penny's magical tampering, I didn't look nearly as put-together as Baz. I hadn't spoken to Aggie much since that night, since the Mage doesn't allow me to talk to anyone over the summer, and now it was the beginning of 7th year and I just could not find her.

 

I storm away from Penny and towards the all-you-can-eat buffet to get seconds. I need to eat away my anxiety. By the time I come back to sit down by Penny, I have wolfed down half of my Shepard’s pie and am getting started on my roast chicken.

 

“You’re an animal,” Penny says, affectionately, and all my anger dissipates. Well, all my anger towards her anyways.

 

“It’s just,” I start. I don't know what it was just. It was just that Agatha can't like Baz. So I've decide to just ignore it. “Let’s just forget it. So she danced with Baz. So what?”

 

Penny wisely decides to change the subject. “So, what do you think our adventure will be this year? The goblins still after you?” She asks cheerily, like this isn’t a threat to my life.

 

“They always are. They’re so...” I start, but then I catch sight of him. Baz. He's never in his uniform the first day back; instead he's in a form fitting dark blue blazer and tight slacks. His eyes scan the crowd until he catches me staring. He smirks and gives me a mock salute. "There he is. I was hoping he wouldn't be here," I say with scowl.

 

"You were hoping he wouldn't be at the school he attends?" Penny asks with her eyebrows raised.

 

"No, I mean here. The welcome feast. He skipped last year to get drunk with Dev and Niall. He came back to our room reeking of vodka. I even heard him laughing." I say, mildly revolted. The only other time I had seen him drunk was that time I found him alone in the catacombs, but that seemed more like sad drinking to me. Baz didn't seem sad that night though. He stumbled back with his damn lackies singing an Irish drinking song. When they all walked in, and saw me there, Baz looked surprised to see me, like he didn't walk right into our bloody room. "Dammit, Snow's here," he cursed and then burst into laughter, which got Dev and Niall going. It's an unsettling memory, him laughing without any cruelty. He seemed… happy. Then he said, "let's go back to your room, lads,” turning away, but not before flashing me a smile that gave me a stomachache. I felt weird all night, and the feeling didn't go away until he came back the next morning. He was sober, and back to his usual self. I think he told me to piss off, and I said we shared this room, and he said we won't when I kill you, and then stalked off to take a thirty minute shower. The worst part was the arsehole didn't even seem to have a hangover the next morning. Bloody vampire.

 

"I'm going to go talk to him," I announce suddenly, getting to my feet and rushing over to him before Penny can stop me. I'm about halfway there when I realize I don't know what I'm planning to say. It's too late though. He's already spotted me, looking expectant, like he'd known I'd come over to him. Tosser. "Baz," I say, standing in front of him with my arms crossed, looking up—damn those three inches—into his amused stormy eyes.

 

"Snow. To what do I owe the pleasure?" Baz asks, falsely polite. Dev and Niall exchange an indecipherable look.

 

"Fuck you," I growl.

 

"Now or later? I'm actually quite busy now, trying to enjoy the festivities." he replies. He looked around mockingly and says, "Where's your little girlfriend?"

 

"I'm warning you, Baz, if you don't stay away from her I'll—I'll..."

 

"—stutter me to death?" he finishes for me, and his friends chuckle.

 

"I'll stake you." His eyes turn from amused to cold, the way they always do when I bring up the fact that he's a vampire.

 

"I'm positively quivering with fear," he replies, flatly. My fists clench and I feel my magic rise. I'm about to respond, but Penny shows up and grabs me by the arm. "Come on, Simon. The fireworks are about to start."

 

"Yes, Snow. Go with your babysitter. Be a good boy, now," Baz calls after me, and I want to turn and yell at him but Penny hisses at me. "Seriously, Si, can you make it through at least the first day without fighting with Baz? I've spotted Agatha."

 

My mood perks up at this. "Really? Where?" I ask, stopping in my tracks to look around for her.

 

"Over here, c'mon," Penny replies, and I see Agatha by herself under a pine tree, about twenty feet from the festivities. When she spots me, she seems a bit nervous, and suddenly I am too.

 

"Hi," she greets me, brushing a lock of her blonde hair behind her right ear.

 

"Hi," I respond, lamely. Penny looks back and forth between the two of us, and I know she can feel the tensions between us, because she suddenly says, "I'm thirsty. Are you thirsty? I'm thirsty. I'm going to go get a drink. Bye," and turns back towards our classmates, leaving Aggie and I alone.

 

I sit beside her, and for a minute we're quiet, unsure what to say to one another.

 

Then we both try to talk at once: I say, "So how was your summer?" and she says, "I think we should break up."

 

"Break...up?" I ask.

 

She bites her lip. "Yeah I… I want to break up."

 

"But…but… Why?" I'm completely thrown by this. Sure, I was worried about Baz, but I didn't think Agatha was really going to break up with me. "But Aggie... we're soulmates."

 

She sighs heavily. "I don't think we are."

 

"Did you find your soulmate or something?" I ask and she furrows her brow.

 

"It isn't that, Si. I just—" she starts, but I cut her off.

 

"Is it Baz?" I demand and she looks put out by the question.

 

"Why would you ask me that question?" she says, crossing her arms.

 

"Why won't you answer it?" I can't believe this.

 

"Do you really believe we're soulmates?" She looks doubtful.

 

"Of course we are! You and me—Aggie— we're destiny!" I say, louder than I intend to, and she gets up suddenly. "Aggie, WAIT!" I yell, accidentally putting magic into the demand. She goes straight as a rod and her eyes flash with hurt and betrayal. "No, no, no, you don't have to! You don’t have to!” I yell, and she's released from my magic.

 

"This, this right here, is why! I don't want your crazy magic and this hero's journey you'll always be on! I don't want to be fighting monsters and—" Just then Agatha stops, her big brown eyes going wide at something going on behind me. A hear a loud bark and—Crowley— there's a three-headed dog tearing apart the buffet. I draw the Sword of Mages on instinct, and start charging towards the monster, before stopping in my tracks to turn and look at Agatha. She's got a sad, self-satisfied smile on her face and she sighs. "Carry on, Simon." When she says my name I don't feel it, the magic everyone's talking about, the just knowing. But that doesn't mean it's over. It doesn't mean she's not the one.

 

"Agatha, please," I beg.

 

"Really, Simon, go." I don't want to. I want her to convince her that we're soulmates, that we're meant to be. But I hear a crash and then screams, and I know I have to do my duty. I run towards the beast with my sword swinging above my head, pushing thoughts of Agatha aside. I catch a glimpse of Baz as I do, and the smile on his face tells me that he heard our whole conversation.

 


 

I'm beyond furious when I get back to the room.

 

The cerberus was beyond difficult to kill, because every time I slayed one head another one just popped up to take it's place. I couldn't do it, even with Penny's help, and eventually I just had to go off on the thing. I hate going off. It reminds everyone else that I'm a nuclear weapon. It reminds me that I'm an unpredictable asset. And it bloody hurts. I looked for Agatha afterwards, but I couldn't find her. Then the Mage called me up to his office and lectured me for an hour on what spells would have been more effective against the damn dogs.

 

So I'm stomping up to the top of the stairs to my room, covered in the three-headed dog's blood, feeling mutinous, when I yank open the door and see Baz, casually reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on his bed.

 

"Cheers, Snow. I got some research for you," Baz says sarcastically, waving the book, mockingly. "Did you try playing it to sleep with a flute first, or did you just go nuclear on the poor creature?"

 

I growl in response.

 

"I'm taking that animal noise to mean 'nuclear,'" he says with a solemn nod.

 

"Let's go outside," I demand.

 

"No thanks, it's quite chilly."

 

"Let's go outside, because I'm going to rip you. Limb. From. Limb," I say tearing the book from his hands and chucking it on the ground. He's up in a second, pulling his wand down from the hem of his sleeve—I always forget he does that— and squaring up to face me.

 

"Easy, Snow—" he starts, but I cut him off.

 

"Shut. Up. SHUT UP!" I scream, at my wit's end with the Humdrum and the Mage and Agatha and, most of all, Baz. "I'm so sick of you!" 

 

"You're not exactly a walk in the park, either."

 

"Stay away from my girlfriend!" I yell.

 

He cocks an eyebrow. "I heard she's no longer your girlfriend."

 

I want to rip the cocky expression off his face. "She's not your soulmate! To have a soulmate, you have to have a SOUL!" I scream, not caring if anyone hears us; they've probably all cast silencing charms on our room by now anyways. His expression darkens. For a moment, I think I see hurt flash across his face, but I must be imagining it, because I blink and the glare he has set on me is beyond murderous.

 

"At least I can string a sentence together. Maybe she doesn't want to be with you because you are such a sorry excuse for a Mage, you can't even properly cast the spell to open our bloody door," he snarls.

 

I grab the collar of his shirt, and he looks shocked and even a bit scared. When I try to rip it down, he grabs my wrist in his iron grip. "Show me your soulmark," I demand.

 

"No," he says, jaw set.

 

"Show me!" I scream, wanting to will magic into my words but being too angry to have the slightest grip on my magic. I'm so mad I'm starting to see red.

 

"Go to hell," he curses, shoving my hand away, stalking out of our bedroom, and slamming the door behind him.

 


 

“So, to clarify, our plan is to ambush him in the showers after a football game?” Penny asks, one eyebrow raised as she peers at me over her cat eye spectacles. I have already spent most of the morning ranting about the row Baz and I had last night. He was gone past the time I fell asleep and was out the door before I could catch him this morning.

 

Yes,” I reply with emphasis as I take an angry bite out of my scone.

 

“Simon, I’ve helped you with a lot of your Baz schemes, but this has got to be the most homoerotic one yet,” Penny reponds cooly, taking a casual sip of her tea as I choke on my breakfast.

 

“I—I— Penny!” I bluster as I felt my face turn red. “I’m not—that’s not why— I just want—"

 

“Why don’t you just ask him?”

 

“Ask him if I can see him in the showers?” I ask, imagining the scene now. Coming up to Baz, shiny with sweat after hours of exerting himself on the football field. His cheeks are always a little flushed by the end, bringing some color to his gray skin. I wonder what he would say…. I shiver. From fear, obviously. He’d skin me alive if I asked to see him undressed. We never, ever change in front of one another.

 

“No, Simon, just ask him about his soulmate,” She replies with a roll of her brown eyes, like it was the most obvious answer in the world.

 

"I tried to get him to tell me!" I exclaim.

 

"You tried to physically rip his shirt off. I'm not sure that's the same thing. Try being polite," Penny replies.

 

“He’ll kill me!”

 

“He hasn’t yet.”

 

“He set a chimera on me!”

 

“That has yet to be proven,” Penny replies. She always says that, like it’s possible it was anyone but Baz.

 

“He pushed me down the stairs in fifth year!” I push on.

 

Penny frowns. “Wasn’t that after you accused him of being a vampire, though?”

 

I gape at her. “He is a vampire.”

 

“If so, it probably wasn’t the wisest choice to go yelling about it in the hallways.”

 

“You’re—you’re— what’s the word? What’s that word that you use? The feminist one where you blame the victim?”

 

“...victim-blaming?” Penny asks dryly.

 

“Yes! You’re victim-blaming! That’s misogynistic, you said so!” I exclaim, pointing my finger in her face, which she promptly swipes away. My little outburst caused about a dozen or so heads to swing in my direction, including Baz’s. He gives me a long, searching look and then turns to mutter something to Niall and Baz under his breath. They both chuckle loudly, and then he catches my eye, smirking. I feel my blood boil and my magic rise to my skin. Penny takes me by the forearm and stage-whispers my name. I force myself to take a couple deep breaths.

 

“Listen,” She starts, trying to sound patient with me. “Just try it tonight. At least if he’s in your room, he can’t start throwing punches.”

 

“Or try to steal my voice,” I mutter grumpily.

 

“Yes, exactly,” Penny says. I can tell she wants to argue we don't have any bloody proof that Baz stole Phillipa’s voice at the end of fifth year, but she thinks better of it. I know it was him, the ruthless git. Though, he did look pretty haunted after… for the last few weeks of class, he was quieter than usual, with dark purple circles under his eyes, almost like he was guilty….

 

I push the thought out of my head. It’s unlike Baz to feel guilty, of all emotions. He was probably just sick.

 

“Penny,” I whisper. “What if they are soulmates?” Just the thought of Baz and Agatha together made me feel physically ill. 

 

Penny considers this for a moment. Then she asks, delicately, “Simon…? Do you really think Agatha and you are soulmates?”

 

I gape at her. Of course I think we're soulmates. I mean, we have to be. We're Simon and Agatha. We're destiny. I look over at Agatha, sitting alone on the other side of the dining hall. She looks so lonely. It just... isn’t right. We’re a trio. I answer confidently, “Of course we are.”

 

Penny still looks unsure, but she says, “okay, Simon…” Then, after a pause, she adds, “I really don’t think Baz and Agatha are soulmates.”

 

I relax at this. “I’m still going to ask him who his soulmate is,” I say. “Just in case.”

 

She looks at me like I'm a particularly difficult spell she's still working out. “Okay, Simon. You better go get another scone before they run out. I’ll warm it up for you.”

 

I bolt up out of my seat. How did I almost forget to get another scone?  Baz must really be driving me mad.

 

Chapter Text

Baz

 

I've said it before, and there's no doubt I'll have cause to say it again: Simon Snow will be the death of me.

 

I've tried everything short of lighting myself on fire to get rid of my feelings for Snow. I tried physical violence, but no. When I would raise my fists to his face, I never wanted to hurt him. I would want to caress his freckled cheek, to feel if his skin was as smooth as it looked. I tried to wank it away. I think I mortified my Father and Step-Mother with how often Vera was changing my sheets the summer after fifth year. But that only led to even more detailed Snow-invaded fantasy dreams. It was like my unconscious mind thought my conscious mind had given it permission to delve deeper. I wasn't only dreaming of bedding him, I was dreaming of being in bed with him. The way he might hold me after, the sweet nothings he might whisper in my ear, how we'd have breakfast after and he'd hand me my coffee, extra creamer, and say "cheers, darling"...

 

Sixth year, I tried a new tactic. Infuriate him by flirting with Wellbelove. The ruse was a good distraction. I could get Snow's attention in a safe way. They're soulmates, I thought. It's harmless fun, just a way to get a rise out of Snow.

 

Yeah, perfectly harmless, except now he's hell-bent on seeing what my soulmark says.

 

"Simon Snow will be the death of me," I announce moodily as I throw my tray down onto our usual table.

 

"Really? You haven't mentioned it before," Dev comments dryly, picking at a piece of his croissant distractedly.

 

Niall smiles. He’s more indulgent than Dev of my Snow rants. "What's he done this time?"

 

"You really couldn't hear him howling his list of grievances at me last night?" I ask, rolling my eyes.

 

"Mate,” Niall responds, pointing his spoon in my direction, “you know every bloke in Mummer's has spelled your bedroom door soundproof a dozen times over by now. You two fight like a pair of dogs."

 

"A pair of dogs with three heads each," Dev adds with a smirk.

 

Dev’s joke only serves to remind me of how Snow had to be the arsehole who comes back to his vampire roommate's dorm covered in blood, which brings on a whole new wave of annoyance at him. Stupid, insensitive git. "I thought he might be able to break the spells with how utterly insane he was being," I say darkly, clenching my jaw.

 

Dev and Niall look at one another and then at me. "Okay man, what's up? How is he already this furious at you?"

 

I open my mouth, and then close it when I hear Snow screaming excitedly at Bunce and pointing his meaty fingers in her face. She swiftly bats them away, and he turns bright pink and immediately catches my eye. I fight to keep my expression neutral as I respond to Dev and Niall, "He thinks Wellbelove and I are soulmates."

 

Dev and Niall both burst out laughing. Their amusement lightens my spirits a bit. Niall chokes out, between his loud chuckles, "you're gay."

 

"Thanks for the update. Hadn’t noticed." I smirk, keeping my eyes on Snow.

 

"What did he say about it?" Niall asked. I felt my stomach drop to the floor at the memory. To have a soulmate, you have to have a soul. We hadn't talked about soulmarks before yesterday. Except that one time in first year, where he bounced in like a kid in a candy store, thrilled to learn he had a soulmate. I didn't know why the thought of him with some pretty little soulmate bothered me so much at the time, so I just started insulting him until he stormed off. I would have been perfectly fine never discussing soulmates with him—or anyone else, for that matter— again.

 

"That they broke up, and then…" I take a sip of my tea, pausing for dramatic effect. "He tried to rip my shirt off to see my soulmark."

 

They both look stunned. It's considered impolite to even ask someone about their soulmate mark, let alone try to force them to show it to you. Snow doesn't have basic table manners, but Bunce must have taught him at least that by now.

 

I don't tell them that I'm pretty sure Simon tried to use his magic to force me to show him. Soulmarks are extremely personal. A lot of them are sickenly romantic. Some are just not ideal phrases to have tattooed on your body. Fiona told me about a Watford friend who had "you're a damn good lay" across her chest. Then, there are ones like mine, that are just plain and simple downright humiliating. I can never let anyone—let alone Snow— see it.

 

"Well, he's lost the plot," Niall concludes, and Dev nods empathetically. They both know that I dislike the topic of soulmates, though they don’t know why. They both know I have one, but after I found out my soulmate was Snow, I all but taboo-ed the subject.

 

"I reckon he has. The fumes from his magic must be rotting his brain, if he even has one,” I respond.  “I don't know why Snow’s getting so worked up anyways. I bet you Watford’s Golden Couple will be back together by the end of the week." I try not to sound or look bitter about this infuriating fact. I glance over at Wellbelove sitting alone at a round table far from Snow and Bunce. As soon as I do, I catch her eye and she flushes crimson when she realizes I've caught her staring.

 

Dev eyes this exchange and scoffs. "Don't be so sure about that, Baz."

 


 

thought watching my devastatingly heterosexual soulmate happy in love with his golden girlfriend was difficult. But that was just child's play. It turns out the pair of them are even more persistently annoying apart than they were together.

 

Agatha Wellbelove insists on gazing at me during all of our shared classes, which Snow has caught on to and is visibly furious about. Every shared class we have together today has been engulfed in the addicting, smoky haze his supernatural magic produces. He's kicked out of nearly every class before the hour is up, because no one else can concentrate—or, at times, quite frankly see— through the magical tantrum he is currently throwing.

 

By lunch, I had resolved myself to avoiding Snow until him and Wellbelove get back together. I broke that promise by dinner time.

 

Wellbelove cornered me after our last period. “Baz!” She exclaimed from behind me as I was walking towards the football pitch. I was hoping to kick the ball around to clear my head. Plus, I couldn’t bloody well go back to my own bedroom—then, I’d be cornered by Snow. “Basilton!” Wellbelove calls after me again—louder, too loudly for me to pretend I didn’t hear her this time. I sigh, and decide that of the two of them, she’s the harmless one. I turn to face her. “Yes, Wellbelove?” I ask cooly, and she looks taken aback by my emotionless tone.

 

“Um, well—” She pauses to make a show of tucking a strand of her long hair behind her ear. I’m not sure if this is an unconscious habit, or an attempt at a flirty gesture. “How was your summer?” She finishes lamely.

 

“Splendid,” I reply curtly. She pauses, clearly waiting for me to talk more or ask her about her summer plans. I have no such intentions. I keep a neutrally bored expression on my face. She looks disappointed by my non-response, but she recovers quickly, pressing on nonetheless.

 

“Did you do any dancing?” She asks suggestively, with a coy smile. So, she’s definitely flirting. Crowley, I’ve screwed up. I really should not have used her to mess with Snow.

 

“Look, Wellbelove,” I start, and her eyes brighten hopefully. “Let’s not do… this.”

 

She cocks her head, and asks, confused, “Let’s not do what?”

 

“Let’s not pretend this isn’t some misguided detour in the Snow and Wellbelove saga.” Her eyes darken, but I press on. I’m quite irritated with her, more so than usual. I mean, she is Simon Snow’s soulmate, and here she is, playing some kind of mind game with him. “Please just run along and tell him you’re sorry and you’re meant to be so Snow can leave me the fuck alone about you. Why mess around with your soulmate's—”

 

She cuts me off abruptly, looking quite angry. I’ve never really seen her so put out. I’m only ever looking at her when I know Simon will notice, and she’s usually got a beauty queen smile on for that. “How do you know Simon and I are soulmates?” She demands with her arms crossed petulantly.

 

I’m silent for a beat, and then snap, “Because you are.”

 

“Oh, really? And you know this… how?” she asks sarcastically.

 

This is getting ridiculous. “Everyone knows you are.”

 

“How?” She asks. “Have you seen my soulmark?” Well, obviously not. I think. I’m really not in the business of undressing birds. “Have you seen his?” Again, no. As much as I fantasize about it, I’m not in the business of undressing him either.

 

“Well,” I continue, “no, but—”

 

“So you really don’t know anything, do you?” Her crossed arms are looking less petulant and more fierce to me by the minute. "All you boys are the same, you think you know everything."

 

Crowley. I’m getting chewed out by Agatha Wellbelove. Oh, how the mighty fall.

 

“What’s your soulmark say?” she demands. Really? This again?

 

“Have you and Snow switched bodies?” I snap. “Blink twice if he’s forcing you to ask me to irritate me to death.”

 

She narrows her eyes, and opens her mouth—likely to chew me out a bit more— when we both see Snow marching over to us, Bunce right on his heels. She’s trying to slow him down, but he’s ignoring her protests and making a beeline straight for me and Wellbelove.

 

“Pitch!” Snow growls at me, getting up in my face to give me his worst scowl. “I thought I told you to stay away from her.”

 

“You did what now?” Wellbelove asks, with poorly concealed anger. Nice going, Snow. You’ve really done it now.

 

His eyes widen. He swallows showily, his stupid Adam’s Apple bobbing obnoxiously in his throat. It makes me want to bite him. “I just—I, um— Aggie! He’s evil!”

 

“It’s true,” I retort with a nod. “My favorite hobbies are skinning puppies and deflowering virgins.” I look meaningfully over at Wellbelove. “Watch out.”

 

The pair of them turn red, Wellbelove with embarrassment and Snow with rage. Bunce just rolls her eyes at the scene.

 

“What are you plotting, Baz?” Snow demands.

 

“Is that your catchphrase?” I ask, unable to resist falling into our familiar banter. “It’s getting a bit old. Consider thinking up a new one, keep me on my toes a bit.”

 

“Seriously, keep your distance.” Crowley, like it’s my fault that Wellbelove is trailing me like a lost puppy because she wants to drag me into her fair maiden dilemma. Well, I did chat her up all last year, I think to myself. So maybe it’s a little bit my fault.

 

“Stop trying to convince her that you’re soulmates.” I think Bunce mutters something like “is this you trying to be polite?” to Snow at that, but I can’t quite hear her over the ringing in my ears. Never mind, I think. This is all bloody Snow’s fault .

 

I throw my hands up in mock surrender. “Never. I wouldn’t dare impose on the bleeding Chosen One’s golden fucking destiny,” I spit out. I'm going for sarcastic, but I fear some of my bitterness has slipped into my voice.

 

Wellbelove opens her voice like she’s about to protest, and I’m at my goddamn wit’s end with these idiots, when the wind starts blowing madly from the east, from where there is an orchestra of high pitched chirping. We turn to look, and—

 

“How unexpected.” I drawl, and Agatha tries to catch my eye. She’s got a 'see what I have to deal with?' kind of expression on her face. I can’t begrudge Wellbelove her exasperation, because about three dozen harpies are flying our way at a breakneck speed.

 

“Oh, fuck me,” Bunce says. I cock an eyebrow at her, and she retorts, “piss off,” and whips out her wand. I quickly do the same, and Snow starts casting the enchantment for the Sword of Mages.

 

Harpies are nasty things on their own, but downright heinous in groups. They’ve all got unpleasant female faces reminiscent of stern Sunday school teachers and the bodies (and ruthlessness) of London pigeons. These ones are all making a beeline for Snow, which makes me protectively growl, which he, of course, misinterprets.

 

“Don’t look at me!” He says with wide eyes. “It’s not my fault they chose to come while you were luring Agatha out here!”

 

Aleister Crowley, how in Merlin’s name did I lure her? I think. And I know it’s not his fault he’s the Chosen One, but I yell back “everything’s your fault!” at him because a lot of the time, especially right now, it really feels like it.

 

“Will you boys stop bickering for, like, two minutes and help me out?” Bunce yells over her shoulder, her hair, dyed a vivid purple this year, is blowing wildly around her face and she’s squared up into a fighting stance. “Drop It Like It's Hot!” she screams, pointing her right pointer finger, the one with her magical ring on, at the flock of harpies. About five of them hit the ground instantly.

 

“Nice one, Pen!” Snow yells at her, giving her an appreciated glance and a wide smile. He always looks so heartbreakingly beautiful when he’s got his adrenaline pumping. His blue eyes are sparkling and I can feel his electric magic rolling off of him in waves. His brow is furrowed in concentration, and I have the overwhelming urge to smooth it with my hands, or kiss it. He must sense me staring, because he turns to me and tells me to "bugger off" with a frown.

 

“Not bloody likely,” I reply. “I have to make sure you don't miss any of them. Don't want them following you to our room and pecking us to death in our sleep. You're practically asking for it, leaving that damn window open all night.” I sound annoyed, but I’m secretly relieved for the excuse to stay. Whenever Snow’s off on his missions it sets me on edge, making me even more unpleasant than usual. I’m happy for the excuse to help him, and this self-motivated explanation conceals my true motives well. “Stop, Drop, and Roll!” I scream at the harpies, and a swarm that was making its way towards Simon hits the ground. “You’re welcome,” I say.

 

He looks suspicious, and like he’s about to say something—probably accuse me of plotting— when he shakes his head like he’s trying to clear his head. He nods once in my direction, the closest thing to a 'thank you' I’m likely to get from him. He begins to swing his sword around his head like a helicopter towards the rapidly approaching harpies, beheading the little beasts who try to make their way to him.

 

With the three of us battling the harpies— Wellbelove apparently decided to excuse herself from the showdown— we’re able to keep them at bay. Unfortunately, they just keep coming. They’re just like that damn three-headed dog. Kill one head, and another one just pops right back up. After ten minutes, I realize Bunce and Snow are tiring. As a vampire, I’m physically fine, but I’m worried that I’ll eventually run out of magic.

 

I realize, suddenly, what I have to do to end this.

 

“Really, Snow? This is the best you’ve got?” I yell at him, my voice dripping with contempt. “Crowley, no wonder you and Bunce are always running around like chickens with your heads cut off.”

 

“Fuck—” He dodges an attack from the right by ducking just in time. “Right—” He slices a harpy cleanly down the middle. “Off!” Snow screams through gritted teeth. He’s got a line of sweat dripping from his temple. I want to lick it clean off. (I'm disturbed, ask anyone.)

 

“You can’t even properly use magic to fix a problem you created, and now we’re all going to have to—STOP, DROP, AND ROLL— suffer for it!”

 

Simon is so angry he’s shaking and the air is getting hotter and hotter by the minute. Bunce casts me a warning glare. “Basilton—” she starts but she’s drowned out by Snow’s roar of outrage.

 

“Leave, then! I don’t want you here! You’re such a—” Simon begins to snarl, but I cut him off, because that will enrage him even more.

 

“I can’t believe the Mage is stupid enough to let you stay at Watford. You’re a liability.” And, then I add, and I know this will be what really sets him off, what will really hit him where it hurts: “You’re dangerous.”

 

Bunce isn’t thick. Or, at the very least, she’s seen this one too many times, because she’s caught on to what’s about to happen. She’s makes it about ten feet back before Snow explodes, setting the sky ablaze with his scalding hot magic.

 


 

“The heroes are out to get me, boys. Please play 'Every Breath You Take' at my funeral. I want them to know that I’ll be haunting their self-righteous arses from beyond the grave.” I’m laying on the floor of Dev and Niall’s room, staring straight up at the ceiling. I’m too nervous to go back to our room and face Snow.

 

“Do you go about your life and think, what’s the most extra thing I can possibly do next?” Niall asks.

 

“Alternatively, I will accept 'Highway to Hell.'” I continue on, like Niall didn't even speak. “It’s fitting.”

 

“Ding-dong, the Pitch is dead,” Dev adds in a monotone.

 

“Thanks, cuz. You get it.” I turn over to Niall, and point over my shoulder to Dev. “He gets it."

 

“I think you might deliberately be trying to get Snow to kill you at this point,” Niall accuses, narrowing his eyes.

 

Maybe I am. I think. It would at least put me out of my misery.

 

“I’m just trying to get him to break the roommate Anathema first. It’s doubtful I’ll be able to last to the end of 8th year without tearing him to shreds.” It’s more like I’m not sure if I’ll make it to the end of 8th year without shoving him against the wall, sticking my hand in his messy bronze curls, and snogging him senseless. At least until he regains his senses and re-breaks my nose.

 

“Uh-huh,” Niall says suspiciously. “Right.”

 

I sit up suddenly, uncomfortable with his tone. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I demand.

 

Niall looks at Dev for backup, and it irritates me. They’ve been doing it for weeks now, having some kind of private silent conversation through meaningful glances. “What?” I demand again, harsher. "Out with it."

 

Niall is undeterred by my tone. “Look, Baz, it’s just… you talk about Snow. A lot.”

 

“He’s my roommate and nemesis. He comes up a lot,” I respond dismissively.

 

“Yeah but…. at the end of last year, you complained about his hair,” Niall says delicately. "You said you didn't like it when he shaved it." I’m very glad I haven’t headed to the catacombs for the night yet, or my blush would have given me away. I guess there are some benefits of being undead.

 

“I don’t know to what you are referring,” I say, knowing exactly what he is referring to. He had just shaved his curls off for the summer, which only serves to remind me that I won’t see him for three months, and that the Mage ships him off to a boys home every summer. He cried about it for weeks first year, and it was hard to be annoyed about it even then because it was so pitiful. Just the sight of that haircut throws me into a frustrated disarray, apparently so much so that I was voicing my complaints aloud.

 

“What about all the guys this summer?” Niall pressed on.

 

Since last year's tactic of wanking off to thoughts of Snow clearly didn’t work, I thought maybe I’d hook up with some other guys this summer to get my mind off him. I’d find someone that looked enough like him, with his curls or his jawline or a showy Adam’s apple and flirt and flirt and… nothing. I couldn’t ever go through with it. It wouldn't have mattered if I found Snow’s damn doppelgänger, because it wouldn’t have been him.

 

“Not good enough for me,” I answer, embarrassed that he clearly noticed that they all looked a bit like Snow. “So?”

 

“Well what about—” Niall begins to say, but Dev interrupts him with a dramatic, long-suffering sigh.

 

“Crowley, Niall get to the point,” Dev says, more animated than usual. “We think you fancy Snow.”

 

I’m really, really glad I haven’t fed yet today.

 

I scoff. “Yeah, and last week I shagged the Queen.”

 

“Why won’t you talk about your soulmark?” Dev asks. “You glare daggers at anyone who has the bollocks to bring the soulmate enchantment up around you.”

 

“I don’t believe in soulmates,” I lie.

 

“You used to,” Niall whispers quietly. It would have been too quiet for me to hear if I wasn't a vampire.

 

“Well, I don’t anymore, and that’s that. Don't ask me about it again,” I say tersely. I sit up suddenly, startling Dev and Niall. “Gotta go, boys.”

 

I’m out the door and headed towards the Catacombs before either of them can call after me.

 


 

I wait until half past midnight to return back to Mummer’s tower, hoping to avoid Snow. Calling him dangerous was cruel, even for me. It’s obvious how much he tries to shield others from his powers, how guilty he feels after he goes off.

 

He’s got the window wide open and it’s freezing. Even with the chill, Snow’s got his covers thrown off. He’s hugging his pillow and has got his mouth wide open. Mouth breather. I shiver as I grab my pajamas and slip in and out of the bathroom, as quietly as I can manage.

 

When I crawl into bed, I close my eyes, but I still feel wide awake. Filling myself so full of blood that my stomach is now sloshing uncomfortably wasn’t enough to distract me from the embarrassment of Dev and Niall realizing I have feelings for Snow. I thought I’d been so careful to camouflage all my desire and make it look like disgust. Apparently not. 

 

“Baz,” Snow whispers loudly, startling me a bit. I still, pretending to be asleep. “Baz, I know you’re awake.”

 

I sigh dramatically, and turn to face him. I'm not sure if he realizes I can see him perfectly with my heightened sense of sight. He's pouting at me, his full lips downcast and his brow furrowed like it is when he's trying to work out his Latin conjugations. His cheekbones are too pronounced though, the way they always are after his summers in care. After about a month his cheeks fill out more, in a good way. It makes him look healthier. “Yes, Snow? Do you have a good reason for interrupting my sleep?”

 

"Were you trying to make me go off?" He asks. "Penny thinks you were saying all those things on purpose to try and make me go off."

 

He doesn't sound mad, just curious and a bit confused. I should just be honest.

 

"Yes," I say sarcastically. "I thought to myself, hey, do you know what would be fun right now? Let's light this place up like a Christmas tree."

 

"Typical," he huffs. He turns his body to look up at the ceiling, and I think this conversation is finally over. But then he asks, in a heartbreakingly small voice, "Why won't you just tell me if Agatha's your soulmate? Do you really want to torture me that badly, Baz?" 

 

This question makes me madder than anything he has ever said or done. The only person getting tortured here is me, day in and day out, tortured by my never-ending love for this gorgeous numpty.

 

"I don't have a soulmate," I snap angrily. I don't. Not a mutual one, anyways. "Okay? So I'm not trying to steal your precious girlfriend."

 

I regret telling him this the moment it leaves my mouth. All the blood I drank tonight rushes to my face, and I thank Crowley that it's too dark for him to realize how mortified I am right now. The silence that follows is the most awkward one we have ever had. Which is saying something, considering we have been roommates and enemies for seven years now. I feel the room heat up by a couple degrees, like Snow is upset by this revelation.

 

"Baz…" Simon says carefully, biting his lower lip. Oh no, now he pities me. "I didn't mean to—"

 

"Stop," I interrupt him. I think I will lose it if he tries to apologize to me right now. "Just… stop talking." I roll over and close my eyes, and eventually I hear Snow do the same. I fall asleep to the sound of his breathing, and dream of fire, and harpies, and Snow. 

Chapter Text

Penny

 

“Simon, Simon, no,” I say with a sigh, marking up his essay with a red pen. He completely forgot that it was due tomorrow and had to spend most of the afternoon writing it. It’s going to take the rest of hisand my night to fix his careless mistakes on it. “Pixies aren’t all supernaturally beautiful, that’s fairies.”

 

Simon scrunches up his face, and seems confused. “What about Trixie? She’s fit.”

 

“One, ew,” I say, annoyed by his compliment to my roommate. Sure, she’s objectively pretty, with her long legs and light pink chin length hair. But she’s dreadful to be around. It’s hard to admit someone’s fit when said person is constantly getting pixie dust all over your clothes, or spelling the walls bright pink, or trying to grow a mini garden in the middle of our bedroom. “Two, just because you think one pixie is good-looking doesn’t mean they all are.” I pause thoughtfully. “Though, you really seem to have a thing for magikal creatures.”

 

“Look,” Simon huffs, and throws his hands up to emphasis his point, “Goblins are just objectively good-looking. They look like Hollywood actors!”

 

Not the magikal creature I was thinking of, I think. “Simon,” I say, giving him an incredulous look. “They are currently trying to behead you for political gain.”

 

“Doesn’t mean they’re not fit,” Simon says with a shrug.

 

“Whatever,” I say, rolling my eyes. I look back down at his messy handwriting. “I’m still right about the homework.”

 

He looks thoughtful. “How do we know fairies are all supernaturally beautiful? No ones seen them in ages.”

 

“We’re working off the information we have. Last time we checked, you can tell a fairy by their silver wings, black eyes, and striking beauty. Pixies just… shed.” I wrinkle my nose distastefully.

 

“Oh. Well, thanks for your all help, Pen. I’ve been too tired to pay any attention in Magikal Creatures,” Simon says with a wide yawn. My heart twists a little. The last couple of weeks have been beyond hectic. The Humdrum only usually sends Simon something once every few months, but lately Simon’s been attacked several times each week. You would think he’d pay a little more attention in Magikal Creatures since he’s encountering one every time he turns a corner, but he’s more distracted than ever. (Even though missions and battles usually make him sharper—he really comes alive when he’s got his sword in his hand.)

 

“Are you okay?” I ask empathetically. His magic is acting up more than ever this year, and he’s exhausted from going off at least once a week. I’m quite knackered myself. The attacks have not only been relentless, they’ve all been difficult as well, especially now that our trio is down to a duo.

 

Simon gives me his signature shrug.

 

“It’s been mad this year,” I continue on, trying to get him to talk but he just chews on the cap of his pen. (Gross.) “What does the Mage think?”

 

Simon looks embarrassed. “He thinks I should be trying harder. That I need more practice controlling my magic.”

 

“He’s too hard on you,” I respond, annoyed. Simon has too much magic to control, especially when he’s forced to use it so bloody often.

 

“He’s just trying to make me better,” Simon says with a nonchalant shrug. I know he feels indebted to the Mage for bringing him to Watford, so he doesn’t like to complain about him. “Anyways, I’m more concerned about…” he trails off.

 

“Agatha?” I asked, assuming that’s what he was about to say. He doesn’t respond, so I ask him, tentatively, “Have you spoken to her at all since… everything?”

 

He sighs. “Not really. I keep waiting for her to come to me. I mean… we’re soulmates. Who else could it be for us? I know it’s not Baz…” He turns red all of a sudden. Interesting.

 

“You don’t think Agatha and Baz might be soulmates anymore?” I press, curious. I didn’t know he changed his mind about that. I mean, he hasn’t brought it up. (Now that I think of it, he hasn’t brought Baz up much at all, which is unusual for him. Usually I have to remind him of his Baz limit every other day.) “I mean, neither do I, but what makes you say that?”

 

He looks like a kid who got caught in the cookie jar, looking around the library wildly. It’s just the two of us in this corner, but he leans in to whisper anyways. “Baz doesn’t have a soulmate.”

 

I can’t keep the horror off my face. “What?” I ask a little too loudly, and an 8th year surrounded by piles of books turns to glare at me. (I glare right back until he turns away.)

 

“Yeah. That’s what he told me a few weeks ago, the day with the harpies.” Simon says.

 

“He doesn’t have a soulmark?” I ask. That’s… unheard of.

 

He puts his head in his hands, pulling at his curls. He seems frustrated. “I don’t know, I guess not. He just said he didn’t have a soulmate.”

 

“Wow.” I say, and then an academic theory comes to me. “Wait, do you think vampires can’t have soulmates?” This makes Simon flinch for some reason.

 

“I don’t know…” Simon says, looking over my shoulder at nothing. He looks distressed. “He seemed… torn up about it, though.”

 

Crowley. I think Simon is feeling sorry for Baz. I guess there really is a first time for everything.

 

“What else did he say?”

 

“Nothing. And he’s been avoiding me like the plague ever since he told me. He won’t look at me, and he won’t let me apologize for being a prat about his soulmark.” Simon groans, and throws his hands up. “He isn’t even taking the piss at me for my magic being so off lately!” Simon sounds put out by the fact that Baz is ignoring him, which makes me want to laugh, since he’s always saying how he much he wishes Baz would just leave him alone.

 

“Hmm…” I say thoughtfully. “Are you going to tell Agatha?”

 

Simon looks uncomfortable. “Isn’t that, like, wrong somehow? Like I probably shouldn’t tell people he doesn’t have a soulmate. That’s, like, maybe… too far?”

 

Another shocker: Simon has boundaries when it comes to Baz. This is coming from the boy who once tried to convince me to use The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth on Baz in front of of the whole school to prove he’s a vampire. He didn’t seem nearly as concerned that I would get arrested for using a forbidden spell on a student than I feel he should have been.

 

“Yeah…” I agree, though something about this situation rubbed me the wrong way. Does Baz really not have a soulmate? It’s possible, but... I don’t know. I thought, maybe…

 

“Pen?” Simon asks, pulling me out of my thoughts.

 

“Yeah?” I respond, and he gives me a sheepish smile.

 

“Can we sneak into the kitchens? I’m hungry.” As if on cue, his stomach grumbles. I laugh.

 

“Sure, Si. Wouldn’t want you to starve because I made you go without your fifth meal of the day.”

 


 

I open the door to Agatha’s bedroom without knocking first. It’s not like she has a roommate, anyways. She’s sitting on the floor, painting her toenails a dusty pink. My interruption startles her, and she drops the nail polish bottle on the floor, staining the white rug.

 

“Crowley, Penny,” Agatha curses angrily. “Ever heard of knocking?”

 

“Heard of it, sure, but I’m not sold on the concept,” I reply. “Out, Out, Damned Spot!” I cast, pointing at the stain, and it disappears. “Good as new.” Satisfied with my spellwork, I plop down beside Agatha.

 

“You still made me waste polish,” she mutters, apparently determined to be annoyed with me. That’s alright though, seeing as I’m quite put out with her as well.

 

“You’ve been avoiding me and Simon,” I say, and Agatha frowns.

 

“Didn’t think you and Simon would have noticed,” she says bitterly. Ugh, I can’t believe she’s still jealous of our friendship, especially now that she’s gone and broken up with Simon. Not that I think it was a bad idea on her part. Honestly, they haven’t seemed happy since fifth year. Plus, I really doubt they’re soulmates.

 

“Simon misses you,” I say, choosing to simply ignore her insinuation.

 

“Great for him,” she responds dismissively. I narrow my eyes at her.

 

“What?” She asks, irritably. “Am I supposed to stay with him just because that’s what people expect of us? Just because that’s what he thinks he wants? What about what I want, Penny, do you ever think of that?”

 

“I’m not saying you should get back together,” I clarify. “I didn’t think you would just abandon us, though.”

 

She can tell I’m not just talking about the fact she won’t sit with us at lunch. She crosses her arms defensively. “I never asked to be a part of all this,” Agatha says. “I don’t care about magic and politics and all these stupid attacks. I’m not going to apologize for not wanting me dragged into the tornado that is Simon Snow, especially now that it’s only getting crazier.”

 

I do my best to suppress my anger and irritation, and say, “Simon doesn’t ask for any of this, either. The monsters are coming to him, not the other way around.”

 

“I know that, but…” she bites her lip. “You hear the way he is about destiny.” I nod. “I don’t want to be someone’s destiny. I don’t want my life to be so set in stone, especially not if it’s this life.”

 

“It’s been hard dealing with all these attacks without you,” I say, and she sighs.

 

“I know, and I’m sorry, but… I just can’t do it, Pen.”

 

I expected this, but I’m still disappointed. I stand, straightening my skirt with my palms. “I only have two and a half friends,” I say. “I really don’t want it to only be down to one and a half. Think about sitting with us at lunch. You don’t have to be a part of the missions if you don’t want to.”  

 

She looks torn. I know she’s been lonely. It’s not like she has many other friends here, either.

 

“Just… think about it,” I say, and walk out the door.

 


 

Agatha doesn’t sit with us the next day, or the day after.  Though she does seem be throwing more glances our way than before, so at least she seems to be considering what I said.

 

It’s nearing the end of lunch now, and Simon’s just left for a meeting with the Mage. Something about learning more defensive spells for future attacks. It seems like a waste of time to me, seeing that Simon doesn’t like to rely on his magic during a fight. He’s much better with a sword.

 

I’ve been thinking about these attacks more and more, and we’re going to need more help if we’re going to make it through the year. Especially since Agatha won’t help us. It’s not like she’s all that powerful, but it was helpful to have another Mage whose magic was stable at least. I simply don’t have enough magic on my own, and Simon’s is too unpredictable. We need more allies.

 

Simon’s not going to be happy about this, I think as I make my way across the dining hall.

 

“Basilton,” I greet politely, as I arrive at my destination: Baz’s usual table. He turns to face me and raises one of his dark eyebrows at me. “A word?” It’s supposed to be a question, but it comes out as more of a demand.

 

Niall looks surprised by my interruption, but Dev just looks bored. That must be a Grimm family trait.

 

“Need help with Magic Words, Bunce?” He taunts. “You seem to be slipping. Careful, or it’s going to be just far too easy to beat you for top of the class.”

 

I clench my jaw. Since I’m using so much magic during the attacks, my class performance has only been satisfactory. I always catch Baz smirking when he sees me struggle to summon up enough magic to get through the practical portion of our lessons. “Baz. A word. Now.” I demand fiercely, and turn towards the double doors. Baz excuses himself and follow me out to the courtyard. I walk  towards the edge, waiting before we’re out of earshot of any other students before I speak.

 

“I need your help.”

 

“I’m not actually going to tutor you in Magic Words,” Baz responds in a monotone.

 

“Crowley, I don’t need help with our coursework. I know the material in my sleep.” And the bastard knows that, I think to myself. I take a moment to swallow my pride, let out a large breath, and try this again. “I need your help— well, Simon and I both, really need your help with

 

I stop talking because Baz is laughing at me, loudly with his mouth open. I’ve never seen him laugh like this. Simon was right; it is a little unsettling seeing Baz Pitch laugh. Plus, I think I even see the glint of his fangsthat or he has got really sharp canines. “Our interests don’t align when it comes to Snow.” He points to himself. “I’m evil, remember?”

 

“Yeah, but this is your school too,” I reason. “Do you really want it to keep getting attacked?”

 

“Not my problem,” he says, then cocks his head thoughtfully. “Actually, it’s making the Mage and his heir look bad, so it’s more of a win for me.”

 

“C’mon, Pitch. This is serious. Simon and I can’t do this on our own.” He doesn't budge, so I add, begrudgingly, “you're a decent Mage. You were a big help the day that the harpies attacked.”

 

“As much as I’d fancy myself Snow’s personal babysitter,” Baz says sarcastically, “I think that’s technically your job.”

 

“Are you not listening to me?” I hiss. “It’s not enough for just me to help him with these attacks. Not without him going off nearly every time.”

 

“Look, Bunce, I get it,” Baz says condescendingly. “I’m sure you’re sick of getting blown by his ungodly magic, but it was your choice to befriend a human time bomb. Don’t blame me for your bad choices

 

“I don’t care about me!” I scream so loudly that I make a group of third year girls 25 feet away jump. “It hurts Simon much, much more than it hurts me when he goes off, and

 

Baz looks shocked. “It...hurts Snow?”

 

“Yes, obviously!” I exclaim impatiently. “What, you think his body can handle exploding every damn week?”

 

Baz doesn’t respond, but it’s obvious that: yes, that’s exactly what he thought.

 

“So, will you help me?” I ask.

 

He pauses for a moment, thinking it over. He seems to be in two minds about it. He finally says, “no.”

 

“No?"

 

“No. I don’t want to follow Snow around to make sure the boogeyman isn’t about to snatch him. I have better things to do.”

 

“Better than protecting the school from constant invasions from dark creatures.” I don’t even bother framing that as a question. I know he doesn’t.

 

“Yes,” He says, not caring that I clearly don’t believe that flimsy excuse.

 

Well, here goes nothing.

 

I cross my arms. “You don’t have a soulmark.”

 

He looks confused, and then opens his mouth, probably to refute it, and then promptly closes it again when he realizes what I’m getting at. I’m right. I think. He does have one.

 

He goes palepaler than usual, which is saying something but reverts back to his bored facade.

 

“You going to try and rip my shirt off too? Take care not to pop a button; this is new.”

 

I stare him down, and he stares back. I get in his face, as much as I can, considering I’m nearly a foot shorter than him and I have to crane my neck to look into his eyes. “Help us.”

 

He doesn’t even bother answering, just turns around and stalks off, back into the dining hall.

 


 

I can’t believe I’m about to do this. I think to myself. This is stupid. I should just let it go.

 

Then I remember how Simon’s face looked the last time he went off, and push the locker room door open.

 

I decided to take a page out of Simon’s playbook and watch Baz at football practice. He’s the captain this year, so the coach kept him back late, about twenty minutes after the other boys, presumably to go over plays and positions or something. So when I enter the locker room, it’s quiet. Baz is alone and shirtless, and he’s got his back to me with his head in his locker.

 

“Fancy seeing you here, Pitch,” I say, with more confidence than I actually have. I startle him enough that he turns to face me on instinct. In a familiar messy scrawl, over his heart, are the words 'I know you, Baz. I see you.'

 

Crowley, I was right.

 

Baz eyes widen when he realizes what I’m looking at and turns around quickly. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing in here?” Baz growls at me.

 

“Testing a theory out,” I say, lightly. “Looks like I was right about you having a soulmark, after all.”

 

Baz shoves a long-sleeved shirt over his head aggressively, and turns back to me. His gaze is so deadly, he could be a basilisk. Baz’s voice is venomous when he says, “I don’t know if you can read, Bunce, but the door very clearly says Boys Locker Room on it. Pray tell me, are you a bloke?”

 

“Seems like you don’t want Simon to know about it. Wonder why?” I say, my voice heavy with insinuation. “He’ll be so interested to hear you have a soulmark after all.”

 

“I never said I didn’t have a soulmark.” He spits out, clearly furious. “I said I don’t have a soulmate.”

 

“I don’t know about that. The handwriting looks familiar

 

He cuts me off. “What do you want?” he asks flatly.

 

“Same thing I wanted earlier.” 

 

He growls in frustration, and slams his locker door closed. “Fine, fine, Bunce. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you’re more persistently annoying than Snow.”

 

“I’ll do anything for the people I love,” I say sharply. (I mean it. I don’t mind being ruthless if it’s for Simon.) 

 

This softens Baz up a little, but not much. “He’s lucky to have you," he says with an indecipherable expression.

 

“I’d say the same to you, but seeing as I had to threaten you to help your own soulmate

 

“Bunce. Not a word of this to anyone. If I help you, you keep my secret. That’s the deal.” There’s a tinge of desperation his voice that shoots a shock of guilt up my spine. I know I’m being a right prick. But there was no other way.

 

“I promise.” I say, honestly.

 

He pulls out his wand from his trousers, and says, “swear it with magic.”

 

“Okay, then, you too.”

 

We cast An Englishman’s Word Is His Bond. He swears to help Simon and I with the dark creature attacks to the best of his ability, and I promise not to tell Simon about Baz’s soulmark. It’s no skin off my back; I wasn’t really going to tell Simon. Sharing your soulmark with your soulmate is private and sacred. I just wanted Baz to think I would.

 

Those boys are going to have to figure this thing out for themselves.

 

“Ask Dev and Niall if they’ll help too,” I add. They both have quite a bit of magic, so having them as well would be helpful.

 

Baz grits his teeth, and looks like he’s about to lose it. If he had Simon’s magic, I’m sure he would have gone off on me by now. “Anything else?” Baz asks sarcastically.

 

I pretend to think about it. “Not for now, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.” I smile as his scowl deepens. “We’ll have a meeting tonight in your room at 9. Don’t forget your friends.” He growls, and I stifle laughter as I turn away from him.

 

Maybe, I think as I walk out of the boy’s locker room. I should listen to Simon’s mad plans more often, after all.

Chapter Text

Simon

 

I’m bouncing my red ball against the wall when Penny bursts into my room.

 

“Simon, don’t get mad but—" Penny starts, and then sees what I have in my hand. “You still have that?” She asks with a small smile.

 

“Yeah,” I say sheepishly.

 

“I remember when you used to have the thing practically glued to your hand,” She says nostalgically. She's right; I used to never put it down. Baz taunted me relentlessly about the ball first year, so I stopped lugging it around everywhere. But I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. (It was the only thing I’d ever owned at that point.)

 

“Baz is going to lose it if he sees you in here,” I say, changing the subject from my childhood toy.

 

“No he won’t,” Penny says, plopping down on Baz's bed. “He knows.”

 

“He...knows?” I ask, confused. If Baz knew how often Penny was in our room, he’d curse the both of us into oblivion.

 

“Yeah... okay, don’t get mad, but I did a thing.”

 

Always a reassuring statement from her. Penny 'doing a thing' can range from sneaking me extra scones after hours to sneaking into Possibelf's office to steal a magical instrument. (It wasn't stealing! Penny insisted, I just wanted to know borrow her Time-Turner so we'd have time to study and find that goblins den.) “What?” I ask, my tone cautious.

 

“We can’t handle these dark creature attacks on our own, so I asked Baz to help,” Penny says, nonchalantly. Like she didn't just say something totally insane.

 

My jaw drops straight down to the ground. “I’m sorry, you did what?”

 

“Also, Dev and Niall. They’re going to help us, too,” She adds.

 

“Why in the world would you do that? ” I demand.

 

"They're good mages, and we need more people in our corner when shit hits the fan."

 

“This is coming from the person who thinks it’s wrong to have more than two and a half friends,” I point out to her.

 

“Don’t think of them as friends. Think of them as colleagues.”

 

"You've officially gone round the bend, Pen."

 

“Listen, Simon,” Penny starts, but she’s interrupted by Baz coming into our room with Niall and Dev trailing behind. He’s got his wet hair slicked back the way he always does after football practice, which makes him look all the more like an old Hollywood villain. I wish he wouldn't do that. He looks so much better when he leaves it loose around his face. He takes in Penny’s seating choice with narrowed eyes.

 

"Bunce, if you don't get off my damn bed this instant, I’ll throw you out the fucking window and let the merwolves take you."

 

Penny doesn't even blink at his threat. "You're late."

 

"My apologies," Baz says sarcastically, throwing his football bag down on the ground. "You didn't give me much notice, and you insisted I recruit my friends into your drama as well."

 

"Thanks for coming, guys," Penny says with a nod to Niall and Dev.

 

"How did you get in here?" Niall asks Penny curiously.

 

"Through the front door," Penny responds, cheerfully. Niall looks right impressed by this. (As he should be. As far as I know, she's the only girl to ever get into Mummer's Tower.) (Though, Penny won't even spill to me how she gets does it.)

 

"My bed better not smell like a girl now," Baz says with an impatient huff.

 

"You would be concerned about that," Niall says with a sudden laugh, for some reason. Why would Baz care if his bed smelled like Penny? Penny smells like sage and vanilla. Baz throws Niall a wicked glare, but it doesn't seem to bother him much. He must be used to it. Wish I could get used to Baz, I think. He never seems to fail to put me on edge.

 

Dev also seems unaffected by Baz's hostility. He smirks, sits down on Baz’s bed, and opens Baz’s nightstand. He pulls out salt and vinegar crisps—so that’s where he keeps them— and opens the bag with a loud pop.

 

“You could have asked first,” Baz growls.

 

“You would have said no,” Dev responds, popping a crisp in his mouth.

 

“Prick,” Baz says with a deadly scowl plastered on his face.

 

“Arsehole,” Dev shoots back, unaffected by Baz’s glare.

 

This is so weird, I think, looking at the three of them. “This is so weird,” I say.

 

Baz, Dev, and Niall all turn to me. Baz narrows his eyes. “What’s so weird?”

 

You having real friends, I want to say. I’ve never seen someone take the piss out of Baz and get away with it. Is this what Baz is like when he's bantering with his mates? He seems pretty much the same as he does when he's fighting with me. I turn to face Penny. “This is a bad idea. Baz is evil.”

 

This makes Niall smile for some inexplicable reason. “Right?” He says. Baz responds with an offensive hand gesture Niall's way.

 

Penny looks embarrassed that I insulted Baz, like I don't do it all the time. “Simon,” she says carefully, but I cut her off.

 

“He must be plotting,” I try to reason with her. “He’s only going to pretend to help, and then get me offed.”

 

“Oh no, you’ve caught on to my grand plan,” Baz says in a flat voice.

 

“He can’t,” Penny says. “We cast An Englishman’s Word is Their Bond.”

 

My jaw drops. “You what? ” Why would Baz agree to that?

 

“Baz swore to help us with the dark creatures to the best of his ability. He means it.”

 

“What did you swear, Pen?” I ask nervously. An Englishman's Word is Their Bond always goes both ways—if he promised something, so did she. Who knows what dreadful thing she’s going to be forced to do now?

 

She opens her mouth to respond, but Baz cuts her off. “Bunce swore to be at least 50% less annoying than usual.” He sends her a sharp, meaningful look, and I know that’s not what she actually promised.

 

“This has to be a plot, Penny!” I insist. Nothing else makes sense.

 

Niall sits down next to Dev, and stage whispers. “Let’s make this a drinking game. Take a shot every time Snow accuses Baz of plotting.”

 

Dev shakes his head. “No, Niall. I don’t fancy dying of alcohol poisoning.”

 

“Lightweight,” Niall shoots back.

 

I growl in frustration, and Baz’s jaw clenches at my outburst. Penny sighs, and walks over to my bed. She sits beside me, and says, kindly, “we need their help, Simon. You can’t keep going off.”

 

She has a point, there. I’ve been on edge from having to go off so often. It’s been exhausting. And I know all these attacks have taken a lot out of Penny too, though she’d never complain about it. I turn to glare at Baz. “You’re really just going to help us?” I ask suspiciously.

 

“Snow, you know that this is my school, too, right? At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before you burn it to the ground.” Penny gives him a smug look at this comment. This 'school spirit' explanation has Penny written all over it. "This course of action will prolong that inevitability until at least the end of the school year."

 

“And your minions?” I ask. Baz has actually called them that, his minions . Though, seeing them actually interact now is making me think that maybe he was being sarcastic when he said that. They seem like actual friends to me.

 

Dev glares at me for referring to him in such a way. “Us, Baz’s minions?” He scoffs. “Please, if we blindly did whatever Baz told us to do, you’d be dead by now. You’re welcome for talking him out of his crazier plans.”

 

Well, that’s properly frightful. If this is Baz toned down, I can’t imagine how bad he can get before being talked down.

 

“You done being a prick?” Baz asks. Me, the prick? That arsehole hasn’t even spoken to me in weeks, I think to myself. Though, he’s talking to me now that he’s going to help us with the dark creature attacks, so maybe I should let him stay. It’s been weird without our familiar bickering. I feel a little less uneasy about Baz’s soulmate thing now that he’s acting like himself and talking to me again.

 

I’m about to tell him that he’s the prick, when Penny claps her hands together. “Perfect, now that we have that sorted, let’s talk strategy.”

 

“Here’s my strategy,” Baz says. “The next time the Humdrum sends Snow a dark creature, we all cast Six Feet Under at it.”

 

Penny rolls her eyes, “Well, yes, but—”

 

Dev interrupts her, and says cooly, “I don’t think this is the Humdrum.” Everyone turns to look at him in surprise.

 

“If not the Humdrum, then who, mate?” Niall asks Dev, and turns his inquiries. “You got another arch nemesis we should know about?” I turn my gaze over to Baz warily, and he rolls his eyes.

 

“When I kill you, Snow,” Baz says, “I won’t hide behind bloody harpies to do it.”

 

I want to point out to Penny that allies don’t usually reference the fact that they plan on murdering you at a later date, but she’s preoccupied. “Why don’t you think it’s the Humdrum?” Penny asks Dev, with her head cocked curiously.

 

“The feelings not right. It’s definitely off, but the Humdrum feels like the airs being sucked out of the atmosphere,” Dev says thoughtfully. “These attacks come with a weird electric charge to them.”

 

Dev’s right. I hadn’t really noticed until now, but the attacks haven’t felt much like the Humdrum. Instead of the trademark empty sensation, these attacks have set my nerves on edge. Penny looks taken aback by the fact she hasn't realized this yet. To be fair, she's been busy—well— being the only proper mage in the fights. “Merlin and Morgana,” she whispers.

 

“Plus,” I add, only now realizing another odd thing, “the Humdrum doesn’t send the same thing twice. But last week there was a sphinx attack.”

 

“Yeah,” Penny agrees. “And we already fought a sphinx at the end of fourth year." Plus, that attack was only one, and the last one was half a dozen of them.

 

She twists around to cast a See What You Mean at the wall behind my head. She creates two columns: “what we know” and “what we don’t know." In the “what we know” column, she puts “probably not the Humdrum.”

 

“Okay, what else?” Penny turns and asks us, a hand on her hip.

 

“Whoever this is is more persistent,” Dev says. “There’s been—what? Two or three attacks a week?”

 

Penny nods, writing that down. “Though, we don’t know what’s sending it,” she jots down "who?" in the what "we don’t know" column, “there’s a distinct kind of magic to it. I’ll hit the library this week, see if I can find anything out.”

 

“It’s making it hard to control myself.” I scratch at my neck self consciously. “I mean, um, I agree with, uh, Dev,” I add, reluctantly. “There’s some kind of magic in the air that puts me on edge. It brings my magic right to the surface.”

 

“That’s must be why it seems like you're going off so much more easily,” Penny says, grabbing my hand in a comforting gesture. I appreciate it, though I’m a little embarrassed Baz and his friends are here to see it. Especially because Baz is looking at our clasped hands distastefully.

 

“Whatever this is, it’s about Snow,” Baz says with an unreadable expression. “He’s a magnet for trouble.”

 

I frown, offended. “I didn’t ask for any of this. I don’t want this.”

 

“Yeah, well, trouble wants you. Life isn’t a wish-granting factory,” Baz says sullenly. What is his problem? I think bitterly. Even Niall and Dev are frowning at him now.

 

“Okay,” Dev says, in a carefully neutral voice. He's looking at Baz, but Baz is looking at me. “I think that’s enough for tonight.”

 

Penny sighs. “Yeah, I should be heading back.” Penny throws her arms around me affectionately. "Take care, Simon." She sends a warning glance Baz's way, and then gets up to leave with Dev and Niall. After the door closes, and it’s just Baz and me, an uncomfortable silence falls over the room. Baz takes a seat at his desk, turning his back to me.

 

“It’s not my fault,” I say after about a minute. I want it to come off like I’m sure of this fact, but my voice shakes.

 

“Of course not,” Baz says, sarcastically, without bothering to turn around. Look at me, Baz. “Nothing is ever the Chosen One’s fault.”

 

I hate when he calls me that. I throw my pillow at him, hard. I know that wasn’t what he was expecting, because he doesn’t bring his arms up to block it, so it hits him in the side of the face. He looks shocked for a moment before sneering, “wow, a pillow fight, real mature, Snow.”

 

“I’m not the immature one!” I yell, petulantly. “You’re—you’re the one who's been avoiding me—”

 

“As opposed to usual, when I’m constantly seeking you out,” Baz laughs cruelly. “Remember fifth year? It seems like you're the one who's in the habit of stalking me. Or does going off give you brain damage too?”

 

I pull at my curls, infuriated. Baz always goes for the kill shot when we fight, and it makes me want to do the same. “You’re just mad I know you don’t have a soulmate!” I retort without thinking, and immediately regret it. Baz’s face drops, and his eyes widen. “I’m—uh— sorry.” I try to backpedal; I shouldn’t have brought that up. “I meant—um— you’ve been ignoring me since then, and—"

 

“And you should learn to take a hint,” Baz hisses, but not as viciously as usual. He sounds almost defensive, for once. Baz is usually a strictly offensive opponent. (Even on the football pitch. He’s a bloody ball hog. Nine times out of ten, he's the one with the ball under his feet, gracefully making his way towards the goal. It'd be annoying, if he wasn't so damn good at scoring.)

 

“Why did you agree to help me, Baz?” I ask. I can’t make sense of it. “If you’re so hell-bent on avoiding me, why help me fight the dark creatures?”

 

“I don’t have to explain myself to you,” Baz says through gritted teeth, curling his lip. He looks uncomfortable by my line of questioning, but I'm not about to stop there.

 

“No, Baz. Why don’t you just let the next creature tear me apart? It’ll save you the time and effort of doing it yourself!” I yell, frustrated. I wish—not for the first time—that I could read Baz Pitch’s mind, so I could know once and for all what his deal is. Why he hates me so bloody much. Why, since the moment he met me, he has been a royal prat to me.

 

He doesn’t even bother answering. Baz just stands abruptly, and stalks out the front door, loudly slamming it shut.

 

“Typical,” I mutter angrily, grabbing my pillow from his bed, before he comes back and sets it aflame.

 


 

“Penny, just tell me,” I whine, for probably the hundredth time in three days. I can tell I’m starting to get on her nerves. She’s stabbing her Shepard’s pie with her fork far more aggressively then is strictly necessary. I can’t stop myself from asking the same question, though. “Why is Baz helping?”

 

“Simon,” she says, exasperated. “Because he’s sick of the attacks too, because—”

 

I cut her off, knowing what she’s going to say. “Okay, okay. I know it’s his school too. But you had to have promised him something else.”

 

It's not like he’s a Good Samaritan, in it for the greater good of Watford. He wants me dead, for Crowley’s sake. He has to have another motivation for offering essentially to help save my life over and over.

 

“I don’t know what to tell you,” she says, followed by a long sip of her tea. She drinks a lot of tea when she’s stressed.

 

“Tell me the truth,” I say. “No secrets, remember?”

 

Penny sighs. “Simon, please, please, just trust me. Baz isn’t trying to kill you,” she says, and then glances over my shoulder. I follow her gaze and see she’s looking at Baz’s table. He’s eating—or, more accurately pushing his food around his plate— with Dev and Niall. “He’s not as bad as you make him out to be.”

 

“Basilton Pitch, not that bad?!” I exclaim. “He’s a Pitch, first of all—”

 

“That’s a stupid reason to dislike him,” she says with a wave of her hand. “That’s like someone disliking you for being the Mage’s Heir.”

 

“That’s literally what Baz does,” I huff. “He was a wanker to me from the moment he heard my name.” More like from the moment he saw me. He got this weird look on his face, one that he still gives me all the time today. I think it’s the face he makes when he thinks I’m being an idiot. Or he’s plotting. I always catch him staring at me during class with that same damn expression on. I always want to punch it off his face.

 

“Plus,” she continues on, “not all the Pitches are bad. His mother was a bloody genius.”

 

“Wasn’t his mum an elitist?” I counter. “Your family hates the Pitches.”

 

“Well, yes, we’re not a fan of her politics,” she corrects impatiently. “But I’m talking magic. You know she invented a lot of the Queen spells when she was a student here?”

 

“Natasha Pitch was a Freddy Mercury fan?” I ask. Though that makes sense, I guess. Baz is always listening to 80s rock. I always assumed that was his scary aunt's doing, though.

 

“I heard she invented Another One Bites The Dust in her sixth year because she heard her boyfriend was cheating on her,” Penny says with a laugh.

 

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” I ask with a flinch. That’s a nasty spell to throw at a bloke. (Just the kind someone in Baz's family would invent.)

 

“I’m just saying, give him a chance,” Penny says carefully. She pauses, and then adds, “I think you guys could be good...friends... if you tried to get to know one another.”

 

“Me, friends with Baz Pitch!? Over my dead body!” I yell, far too loudly in my shock. I feel three heads to my left snap in my direction.

 

Penny notices I’ve caught the attention of Baz’s table, and says, sternly, “Simon, you really need to—”

 

I don’t hear what I really need to do, because then there’s a terrifying screech from outside the dining hall. Penny and I are up on our feet in a moment, dashing towards the double doors.

 

“How, on Aleister Crowley’s grave,” Penny exclaims, “did someone get a Jabberwock!?

 

On top of Morgana's Hall, is a 15 foot long green-scaled monster. With it's long, sharp claws and spiked wings, it's a right fright.

 

"Have I gone mad?" I hear a posh voice say from behind me. Baz, Niall, and Dev apparently followed us out here.

 

"Mates,” Niall says, looking up at the creature as it begins to circle the courtyard. “I think we’ve gotten in over our heads here.”

 

"I think we're going to need something more powerful than Six Feet Under," I say with a meaningful look towards Baz. I pull out my sword as he pulls out his wand.

 

"All the mimsy were the borogroves!" Baz screams at the Jabberwock, and it's wings falter a bit.

 

"What the bloody hell is that spell?" I wonder aloud.

 

"I've read Alice in Wonderland, obviously," Baz responds. "You see this is a Jabberwock, right?"

 

"I've seen the movie," I pause. "It's a book?"

 

Baz looks offended by my ignorance. "Honestly, don't you ever read?"

 

I don't get to retort over the sounds of Penny, Baz, Niall, and Dev casting furiously. Niall and Dev seem to be sending the beast the usual killing spells, and Penny and Baz seem to be quoting Alice in Wonderland.

 

"Come to a sticky end!"

 

"Push up daisies!"

 

"Off with his head!"

 

"He took his vorpal sword in hand, and the vorpal blade went snicker-snack!"

 

They keep casting spells, but the Jabberwock is tenacious. It's resolutely trying to make its way to me. Suddenly, it launches itself towards Baz. I scream and my heart stops—for one awful moment, I think the monster is going to take Baz's head clean off— but Baz dives to the right.

 

"Are you okay, Baz?!" I scream at him from 10 feet away. He's slumped on his side on the ground.

 

"Never been better," he replies, and rolls gracefully up. (Only Baz can make getting up after landing on your arse look cool.) "And hast thou slain the jabberwock?!" he yells, joining the rest of the others in the battle.

 

I'm still holding my sword in my hand, but the Jabberwock is too far for me to get in a good jab. I would try casting a spell like the rest of them, but my magic's uncomfortable in my body—more so than usual. Crowley, I think, this really isn't the Humdrum.

 

It’s all too much. I’m trying to calm my rapidly beating heart. Penny has been trying to teach me breathing exercises, thinking they might help control my magic. In for four, hold for seven, out for eight, I try to tell myself, but I can still feel my temperature rising and my vision getting hazy.

 

“Snow!” Baz screams as he runs towards me, his silky hair waving in the air. He startles me so badly my breath gets stuck in my throat, and I think oh, no, he really is going to off me now , when I see his hand reaching for me. But he just grabs my shoulder tightly, stares me straight in the eyes, and says, “Snow, calm down.”

 

“I can’t!” I choke out. My whole bodies shaking.

 

“You can, you absolute nightmare! Breathe!” His stormy eyes are piercing me through, grounding me, and I let out a deep even breath, trying to push my magic down—or away. Just as I’m imagining letting go of my magic, Baz sticks up straight like a rod.

 

“What are you doing?” He whispers shakily, with a hint of awe in his voice.

 

“What do you mea—” I start to ask, and then realize my magic isn’t so overwhelming anymore. I look at where his hand meets my body, and realize there’s a kind of electricity running between us. Merlin, I think, he’s taking my magic.

 

How are you doing that?” I demand, pulling away from him.

 

Baz looks dumbstruck. “I—um—I don’t—what?” Baz stutters—something I've never heard from him. It's actually a quite amusing look on him. He's so uncharacteristically flustered I almost want to laugh, before reminding myself that he just attacked me.

 

“How did you steal my magic!?” I demand.

 

“I didn’t!” He insists, starting to compose himself enough to start forming complete sentences. “That was all you!”

 

“How would I—”

 

“A little help would be nice, boys!” Penny screeches, sending a stunning spell to the Jabberwock’s right wing, causing its flight to falter for only a moment, before it rights itself.

 

I grab Baz’s arm without thinking, and try to do what I did last time. “Keep your hands off me, Snow!” Baz exclaims. He tries to pull away, but I tighten my hold on him.

 

“No, no, just wait.” Merlin, what did I do last time? I just pushed and—

 

It works, the electricity between us is back. “Baz, try casting something!”

 

Baz nods, setting his features into a determined expression. “Ring Around The Rosie,” Baz starts in a clear, loud voice. The Jabberwock starts to soar over to us, screeching a bird-like caw. “ Pocket Full of Posies,” Baz continues on confidently like there isn’t a thousand pound beast making its way toward us. Though—Crowley— I think that this spell is really working. The Jabberwock is suspended mid air, frozen in place by Baz’s—by our— magic. “ Ashes, ashes... ” he continues, and I raise my wand to help him with the last stanza. With Baz's help, my magic doesn't seem so impossible to use anymore. In unison, we scream, “THEY ALL FALL DOWN!

 

The Jabberwock goes rigid and begins spiraling towards the ground. Its body hits the grass with a resolute thud, shaking the earth beneath us. It’s quiet; until Niall breaks the silence and whoops a triumphant “fuck yes!”

 

Penny marches over to us, and I know she’s noticed what just happened between Baz and me, because she grabs my arm and exclaims excitedly, “my turn!”

Chapter Text

Baz

 

“Penny!” Simon whispers, albeit loudly. “Stop.”

 

“C’mon,” Bunce whines. “I want to try. Just imagine, my spellwork and your magic. We could defeat the Humdrum by dinner, we could solve world hunger by Friday, we could—”

 

“Bunce,” I cut her off, motioning to our surroundings. “Have some spatial awareness.”

 

Half the student body came out to witness our Jabberwock confrontation, and are now standing in awe of the defeated beast—and of us. Agatha Wellbelove has her mouth wide open in shock. (She should really close it before she catches flies.)

 

Bunce composes herself, and looks a little embarrassed about her outburst. “Sorry, sorry. Later,” She says, with a pointed look at Simon, just as Ms. Possibelf begins striding over to us.

 

“Excellent spellwork, Mr. Pitch,” she says, looking at our improbable gang with open curiosity. “Good work to all of you. I’m sorry to say I’d been in my office when the Jabberwock attacked, or I would have assisted. Though it seems the five of you had a pretty good grip on it.”

 

Barely, I thought. There was a second there I really thought the creature might take my head off. I barely dodged that ambush. Though...the way Simon screamed my name, the fact that he asked if I was okay, the concern he seemed to have for me, almost made the near-death experience worth it.

 

Crowley, I’m pitiful.

 

“Thank you, Professor,” I respond politely, pulling myself out of my morbid musings.

 

“It’s a good thing you had enough power for such a tough nursery rhyme,” she says, with a glance over at Snow, and I realize she might be a bit suspicious that I just displayed superhuman magic.

 

“Snow helped out at the end. I couldn't have done it without him,” I offer, not wanting her to know that he had given me his magic. Ms. Possibelf and Snow both looked openly shocked that I—of all people— am giving him credit for his spellwork. (And that I appear to have a capacity for humility.) I add, just to fuck with them a little, “Snow’s a great Mage.”

 

Ms. Possibelf doesn’t catch on to the teasing lilt to my voice, but judging by Snow’s frown, he certainly does. I smirk at him.

 

“Very well. Good work to you too, Mr. Snow,” Ms. Possibelf says with a nod to Snow. He wipes the unhappy expression off his face to smile softly at her and thank her for her compliment. (Snow’s not used to getting praise from professors—I’m sure— with his haywire intoxicating magic distracting from all the class lessons and his god awful accent screwing up his spells due to his poor elocution.) (No one can butcher a vowel like Snow, the gorgeous moron.)

 

“Well, I better go take care of that,” she says, pointing her thumb at the corpse, and gracefully making her way over to it.

 

As soon as she’s out of earshot, Penny hisses, with her ring finger pointing at Snow and me, “your guys’ room, 10 minutes.” Then she skips over to her living quarters before the rest of us blokes can agree—or disagree— with her meeting plan.

 

The walk back to Mummer’s is—to put it lightly— fucking awkward. The four of us walk in silence, with Snow trailing behind the three of us a bit. Dev and Niall look a little in awe of the godlike display of magic we just did, and everytime I sneak a peek back at Snow, he’s looking at me oddly. Maybe he thinks I might just grab him and suck him dry at any moment—though, I’m not sure if he’s thinking I’d prefer his blood or his magic.

 

His magic. Oh, Merlin—his magic felt euphoric. I felt bottomless with it, like the magic he gave me could fill the Atlantic Ocean. I was so high with the thrill of it all, it left me sputtering like I was bloody—well—Snow . But I’ve never felt so warm, not since I died. The last time I remembered feeling like that, I was just a toddler. Every night, my mother would tuck me in, and cast “sweet dreams, little puff," and then I would dream of bright hot sunshine and rolling green hills and crisp fresh air. After she died, the nightmares began, and Father was too heartbroken to spell them away at first. By the time the grief wasn’t so all-consuming for him, he presumably thought I wasn’t having them anymore— or that maybe I was too old to be having them— so I haven’t felt that kind of magic in over a decade.

 

I want to laugh when I think of the fact that he just gave it to me. That he trusted me with all of his magic. I thought when he realized what had happened, he’d be disgusted, repulsed, but then he just grabbed my arm and did it again.

 

Though, I shouldn’t get so pleased with myself just yet. It was a life or death situation, and Snow won’t take his eyes off me now. I can just hear him now. Baz, what are you plotting? he’ll say in his self-righteous voice. Like I could ever plot against him. As if I could ever really hurt him. I’m really all bark, no bite at this point.

 

When we all pile into our room at the top of Mummer’s and close the door, Niall rounds on me.

 

“Mate,” He says with wide eyes. “What the fuck was that?”

 

I wait for Snow to butt in here with his accusations, but he’s looking a little dazed, lost in his thoughts.

 

“I don’t know,” I say honestly. I look to Snow for help. “Have you ever done that before?”

 

“No,” he replies, uncomfortably, pulling at a thread on his bed. “I’ve never tried it.”

 

“I’ve never heard of Mages sharing magic,” Dev says thoughtfully just as Bunce bursts in. She's panting like she ran all the way here, and she's got a large stack of thick books in her hands.

 

“Okay, okay, okay,” she says in a hurried, excited voice to Simon, before setting the stack in her arms down on his desk. “Why didn’t you tell me you learned how to share your magic? Did the Mage teach you?”

 

“I was his test case, apparently,” I say, and the pair of them frown at me.

 

“How did you know it would work?” Bunce asks Snow in a curious voice, cocking her head.

 

“I didn’t,” Snow responds, pulling at his hair. It’s a nasty habit of his; he always does it when he’s upset. I always want to take his hands and stop him from mussing up his bronze locks. It’s sticking up every which way now, and his hair is flushed, and he looks so handsome I want to throw something at him.

 

“It was an accident,” He continues, looking at Bunce, with confused eyes. “I didn’t mean to. I just… pushed.”

 

“You pushed?” Bunce asks in a disbelieving tone.

 

“Ye—yeah!” He stutters. “I didn’t want to. I mean—uh— I didn’t really think about it the first time. I just was trying to stop myself from going off and Baz took it.”

 

“I didn’t take it,” I snap harshly, feeling defensive at that description of events. “You just threw it all at me.”

 

“Wait…” Snow asks with a concerned look over to me. “Did it hurt?”

 

He sounds really nervous that I might say yes. I don’t know how to tell him that it far from hurt, it felt amazing. How connected I felt to him, how overwhelmingly right it felt. So I don’t. I just say—keeping my face blank of expression— “no.”

 

“Try me, now!” Bunce exclaims, bouncing up excitedly on Snow’s bed, like she's been waiting all day in the queue for a roller coaster. Snow is shaking his head frantically.

 

“No, Pen, what if I accidentally hurt you?” Snow says, with furrowed eyebrows and a distressed pout.

 

“It didn’t hurt Basilton,” She reasons with him with a vague arm wave to me.

 

“Yeah, but Baz is…” he cuts himself off with a shrug. What does that mean? I wonder. Nothing good, surely, so I don’t bother asking him to elaborate beyond his caveman gesture.

 

“C’mon, it’ll be alright,” she says, grabbing his hand. (She’s so touchy with him.) “Please, Si.”

 

What a ridiculous pet name, I think. I try to convince myself that I'm not jealous of the familiarity she has with him. I won’t even call him 'Simon,' too afraid that adoration will slip into my voice. There would be no way he wouldn’t hear all the awful want I have for him if I couldn’t hide with insults, if I called him something as soft as 'Si.' It’s easier to sound like I don’t love him when I call him by his surname.

 

“Alright…” He agrees tentatively, and squeezes her hand. He closes his eyes, and gets this dreamy look on his face. It’s so intimate I want to look away before Bunce gets to feel his magic, but then—

 

“FUCK!” She screeches, yanking their clasped fingers apart and clenching her fist shut. “Aleister Crowley’s bollocks, Simon!”

 

I don’t realize just how much I was hoping it wouldn’t work for her until she screamed. I can’t help myself—I collapse back onto my bed with a full-bodied, unselfconscious laughter. I know it doesn’t change the fact that I’m not his soulmate, but it’s nice to know that the magic-sharing memory is special. That he can’t just do it with anyone.

 

My laughter is extremely, extremely rude, though—considering it now looks like I’m mocking Bunce’s pain. Niall and Dev have leaped off my bed in reaction to her outburst, and Simon looks like he might actually rip his curls clean off his scalp.

 

“Penny, I’m so sorry! It was an accident!” Simon yells, distraught enough that my chuckling dies in my throat at his obvious guilt. “I’ll never do it again, I’m so, so, so sorry!”

 

Penny is now trying to hide that her right hand is badly burned from Snow, lest he make himself bald. “Simon, it’s okay, it was just… a lot. It didn’t hurt that bad.” I can tell by the way she’s clutching her wrist in a vice-like grip that she’s lying to spare his feelings.

 

I point at her injured hand, and cast “Get well soon!" and a "Cool it.” She yelps, stunned by my grease burn magic at first, but then relaxes.

 

She opens her hand, and the burn is only a light pink now, rather than the nasty red it was before.

 

“Okay, so we’ve concluded that Snow is not a portable power generator any of us can tap into,” I say, trying to lighten the mood.

 

“It’s not funny, Baz.” Snow pouts, eyes glued to Bunce’s injured palm. “Crowley, I can’t believe I hurt you,” he says in a small voice. “I’m sorry.”

 

“We had to try, Si,” She says affectionately, ruffling his hair. He rolls his eyes.

 

“We don’t have to do anything. You just always want to,” He says, with a tinge of exasperation. “Do you think we had to sneak into the Waving Wood at two a.m. last year?”

 

She frowns at him, and says, “you had never seen a unicorn.”

 

He throws his hands up. “And we just had to see one in the middle of the night.”

 

“Their horns glow in the dark, and two a.m. is the best time to see that.” Bunce points out. I can tell she wants to add “duh” to the end of her sentence, but she bites her tongue.

 

“Checks out,” Dev says, opening my nightstand drawer to nick my crisps again. I don’t even bother saying anything this time.

 

Bunce throws him an appreciative look. “See!” She says to Snow, sounding vindicated by Dev's support.

 

“Wait,” Snow says, changing the subject and turning his focus back onto me. “So were you lying about it not hurting?”

 

He looks suspicious. Why would I lie about that? I roll up my sleeve to show him the part of my forearm he gripped to transfer the magic, and say, with as much disdain as I can manage, “Do I look burned to you, Snow?”

 

He gets up off his bed to inspect my arm. He grabs my forearm lightly, and runs his fingertips across the inside of my wrist to check for injuries. I try, and fail, not to get goosebumps. I jerk my arm away before it becomes too evident that I enjoy his touch, and his cheeks dust with pink at my sudden movement.

 

“Um, uh,” He stammers, making eye contact with the laces of his shoes, “So, then. Why did my magic, um, work on you, and not Pen?”

 

Why did it work on me? Could it be that, since he’s my soulmate, it can’t hurt me? That I love him so much that my body is willing to take any part of him, even the parts that are supposed to hurt? Crowley, how pathetic. My obsession with him really knows no bounds.

 

I realize now I haven’t spoken in thirty seconds, and everyone is looking at me. Even Snow has looked up from the ground to gaze up at me curiously. I open my mouth to speak, and realize I don’t know what words are about to come out, when I catch Penny’s eye. She seems to have caught on to my panic and come to the same conclusion I have, because she cuts in.

 

“It’s probably because, uh, you spend so much time together, that he’s gotten used to your magic.” Bunce tries to explain. I feel a rush of gratitude for her. As furious as I was at her for blackmailing me into helping her and Snow, I’m secretly a bit grateful she forced me into it, if only because I got to feel his magic in my veins.

 

My thankfulness falters a bit, though, when Simon furrows his brow. “But we hang out constantly.” It’s true. It’s not a great excuse, seeing as they’re practically joined at the hip.

 

“Well, yeah…” Bunce course corrects quickly. “But you two were cast together by the Crucible. That gives you a unique bond, so you probably can’t hurt him with your magic.”

 

Simon points at me. “He pushed me down the stairs. The crucible didn’t intervene then.”

 

Crowley, Simon. I think, Let it go, already.

 

“Yeah, but,” Bunce carries on. “I mean really hurt one another. I’ve never heard of a roommate killing the other, at least while they’re at school.”

 

In 1826, my great- great- great- great- great- great uncle Alfred Burgess Pitch challenged his roommate to a duel at their Leavers Ball, and killed him. Maybe he was hopelessly gay for him, and was trying to lessen his own misery by taking the sorry bloke off the earth. I could sympathize with that particular plight.

 

Snow doesn’t seem to know this historical fact, though, because the wariness clears from his face, and he says, “oh, that makes sense.” Though, Snow seems to buy Bunce’s excuse, one glance at Niall and Dev tells me that they know better. I hope they have the sense not to bring it up to me later, though. They haven’t mentioned my feelings for Snow since the day I stormed out of their room, and I’d rather like to keep it that way.

 

“Anyways,” Penny says, clearly eager to move on from her display of faulty logic. She rolls off Snow’s bed and grabs the book pile she brought from his desk. “I got us some research. It was more obvious to me this time around how different the magic surrounding the Jabberwock was.”

 

To me, too. I had noticed something was off, but couldn’t put my finger on what until Dev pointed it out. Frankly, I was a bit vexed that Dev had caught on to the peculiarities of the attacks before I did. Though, I’ll chalk that up to being more focused on Snow than the beasts.

 

Bunce starts passing us all volumes from her stack, with titles ranging from ‘Defensive Spells for Dummies’ to ‘Dark Magic: Possession, Resurrection, and Blood Tithes.’

 

“Penny,” Snow whines, holding up a thick book that reads ‘Mythical Creatures through the Ages.’ “Do I have to read all this?”

 

“Well, I suppose not,” Bunce says thoughtfully. “Unless, that is, you fancy not being hunted by dark creatures for the rest of your days.”

 

Snow pouts, clearly knowing when he’s lost an argument. I assume, for him, that’s nearly always, with Bunce as a best friend and me as a nemesis. “Cheer up, Simon,” Bunce says. “I gave you that one because Magical Creatures is your favorite subject.”

 

“Because I like caring for them,” he mutters under his breath, and an image of him feeding Ebb’s goats pops into my head unbidden. “Not because I like reading about them.” Bunce chooses to pretend not to have heard his complaint.

 

We all get comfortable and dive into the books Bunce has assigned us. Mine is the one on dark magic rituals, but I’ve already read it; father’s got a copy in our family library. I don’t want to admit to this though, knowing that Snow’s reaction will likely be to accuse me of reading it because I’m evil. (I wasn’t planning to do any of these spells. I was just bored that day and curious.) So, instead, I take this time to watch Snow. The rare times I've caught him reading, he’s always got this determined expression on his face, like he’s about to go into battle. I rather like it on him. At one point, I think he feels my eyes on him, because he jerks his head up suddenly, too suddenly for me to pretend I was doing anything other than staring at him. I sneer at him, and go back to pretending to read about spirit possession.

 

Niall eventually breaks the silence a while later with an audible yawn. “I think we better call it a night," he says. "I can’t concentrate any longer.”

 

Dev stands up with him, so Penny does too. “Alright, I guess… but everyone take your books with you and let me know if you find anything interesting.” She smiles and adds, “fine work today, boys.”

 

“Good to be on the team,” Niall says, and I think he means it. He enjoys being in the thick of things. I think he enjoyed my incessant pranking of Snow because it gave him something clever to do. But I’d given up on it this year, wanting to avoid Snow since he found out about my not having an actual soulmate, so we’ve all been rather bored this semester.

 

The three of them leave the room; Bunce with a bear hug for Snow and Dev and Niall with curt nods to me.

 

“It really didn’t hurt?” Simon asks, once we’re alone.

 

“I already proved it didn’t, haven’t I?” I say flatly, falsely impatient at his worry.

 

“You’re not lying to seem… tough?”

 

“No, Snow,” I sigh, and decide—against my better judgement— to add, “it felt… nice.”

 

“Nice?” He questions, perking up a bit. “Like what?”

 

Like a hot cup of tea on a rainy London evening. Like coming home to the smell of freshly baked bread in the oven. Like love. “Like power,” I say.

 

“Can we try again, then?” He asks eagerly.

 

“You… want to try again?” I question, disbelieving. “Why?”

 

“Um, well, it feels—” he blushes, and I desperately want to know what it feels like for him. But he changes his mind and says instead, "it seems like a good idea for us to, um, practice. For next time.”

 

“How often do you plan on doing this exactly, Snow?”

 

“Well, we oughta do it whenever we need to, don’t ya think?” He says, like this is a foregone conclusion. My head is spinning a little. “I mean, it worked well, didn’t it?”

 

Well, yes. Except, for me, it was like falling in love with you all over again. Which is it's own kind of sweet torture. “I suppose.”

 

He reaches for my hands, and I pull back on instinct. “Don’t be a baby, Baz,” He sulks. “If it doesn’t hurt, what’s the problem?”

 

Can’t argue with that logic, I guess. I take his hands in mine. I feel him opening up, the rush of the electric current running between us, and start to get light-headed, a little drunk on all that warm power. Without thinking—Snow is really rubbing off on me— I start to sing my favorite lullaby from when I was a child.

 

Rock a bye baby, in the tree top,” I begin in a clear voice. Suddenly, the sky of our bedroom is transformed, and we’re in a meadow in the woods. The trees are bright green and the sky is a dark blanket with specks of bright lights.

 

“Where are we?” Snow whispers. 

 

Home. We’re in my favorite spot, behind my house back in Hampshire. My mother used to play with me here, and sing to me, and enchant the forest creatures to come by. That was before they all became afraid of me.

 

“I don’t know,” I whisper back, unable to give him this horribly raw part of me. He doesn’t look like he quite believes me, probably because my voice broke a little at my lie. I continue the song.

 

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.” A gentle breeze fills the room, but it doesn’t make me cold for some unfathomable reason. “When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.” The wind slows and the star-lit sky starts to brighten, the sun starting to shine over the horizon in east.

 

Snow finishes the lyrics with me. In unison, we sing, “and down will come baby, cradle and all.” We’re back at Watford, sitting on my bed holding hands. The windows open, but the room is still comfortably warm.

 

“Woah,” Snow whispers, looking dazed. He doesn’t let go of my hands. “That was… woah, Baz.”

 

Woah, indeed. “Ye—yeah,” I choke out, unable to form any more words since my heart is lodged in my throat. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sure that Simon is the only one for me than I am in this moment.

 

“Thank you," He says, and his words shock me so much that I drop his hands. I instantly regret it, because there’s no way for me to grab them again now.

 

“For what?” I ask.

 

“For today,” he says shyly. “I didn’t really think you would help Penny and me with the Jabberwock, and you did, and you stopped me from going off, and you…” He trails off. “Anyways, thank you.”

 

Did I misinterpret his looks earlier? Was he really just… grateful for me? Have I been dropped into another dimension?

 

“Well,” I say, a little awkwardly. This is uncharted territory for us. “I swore to Bunce I would, so.”

 

“Yeah... I guess you did.”

 

I don’t know what to say next, so I say nothing at all. Snow eventually breaks the silence.

 

“So… truce?” Simon asks, with something like hope in his voice. He sticks out his hand, as if to shake on it.

 

I imagine laughing cruelly at him, making some quip about how we’ll be on a truce until I’m ready for our final battle. Imagine grabbing him by his rumpled collar and pushing him against the wall and using his own heart breaking words against him: ‘Over my dead body.' Imagine sinking my teeth into his neck—my teeth, not my fangs— and then running my lips over the love bites and saying to him: ‘I want more, Simon.’

 

I don’t do any of those things. Instead, I say, "sure," and reach for his outstretched hand, thankful for the excuse to touch him one more time tonight. “Truce.”

Chapter Text

Simon

 

“Wait, so Alice in wonderland is a real person?” I ask, shocked. Penny’s head snaps up from her textbook, and she says, “Simon…”, with a sigh.

 

Baz rolls his eyes. “Yes, obviously, Snow. Lewis Carroll was Alice’s father, and wrote it as a cautionary tale when his nine year old daughter wandered into fairy territory and got herself stuck there for a week.”

 

“Sounds like something Mordelia would do,” Dev says, and the comment makes Baz smirk.

 

“Oh, definitely. She’s mad enough, alright,” Baz quips, with more affection in his voice than I’ve ever heard. It makes my stomach churn uncomfortably.

 

“Whose Mordelia?” I ask quickly, feeling unusually annoyed.

 

Dev picks up to the edge in my voice, and he replies slowly, “Mordelia is Baz’s sister.”

 

Half sister,” Baz corrects. “She’s not a Pitch.”

 

“She sure acts like one,” Niall says with a crooked smile.

 

“You have a sibling?” I ask Baz incredulously. I didn’t know that. I can’t picture him as a big brother honestly. He probably scares the hell out of her.

 

Baz raises an eyebrow my ignorance. “I have four, Snow.”

 

Four? ” I ask incredulously. “Are they all like you?”

 

“Devastatingly good looking? No, that’s just me,” Baz deadpans. He adds, with a pointed look at Dev, “Too much Grimm in them for that." Dev throws an eraser at him in retaliation.

 

“They all have his shitty attitude,” Dev says with a solemn nod.

 

“I swear,” Niall says, leaning in. “Last time I was over, I met the newborn, and he glared at me.

 

We all laugh—except for Baz, who frowns. “He’s a baby. How can a baby glare?”

 

“Just like that,” Niall says while pointing at Baz’s face, causing another round of chuckles. Even Baz smirks a little. The librarian shushes us, and we settle down, though we are all still smiling a bit.

 

Ever since the Jabberwock incident, Penny’s got us all researching the magical creatures involved. There’s been six attacks in the month or so since Baz and his friends agreed to help out, and I genuinely don’t know how Penny and I would have kept up without them.

 

If I’m being honest, Dev and Niall aren’t even half bad blokes to hang around. Niall is quite funny, really. At first, I was a little peeved to find out he was the one who thought up most of the pranks that Baz would pull against me (until this year, at least, when they randomly stopped). But then one day, Dev walked into the dining hall with bubblegum pink hair, demanding that Niall fix it. Baz laughed so hard I thought he’d crack a rib. Then I realized Niall is just the kind of sort who likes to take the piss, and I was quite a bit less put out with him. Dev’s got Baz’s dry humor, but none of his Pitch fire. He’s more of a de-fanged rattlesnake while Baz is—well, a fanged vampire.

 

Though, Baz isn’t so cruel when he’s with them. I mean, sure, his tongue is as sharp as ever, but I can tell by their reactions that that’s just how Baz teases. He doesn’t hate them like he hates me though, so I guess they just know not to take it personally.

 

The doors to the library open, and Agatha walks in, clutching her Magic Words textbook to her chest. She’s got her long blonde hair tied up in a red ribbon, and she looks pretty as ever. She sees the five of us studying together and her brows furrow in an unspoken question. She catches my eye, and I miss her all of a sudden.  I haven’t thought of her much since our break-up, honestly. I’ve just been too busy dealing with the dark creature attacks and study meetings with Penny, Baz, Dev, and Niall, I guess. I remember a particular Christmas we had, in fourth year, before we started dating, where her mother let me help her make sweets in the kitchen. It was the first time I had felt like I had a family. If we’re not soulmates, I don’t know what I’ll do after Watford.

 

“Simon? Earth to Simon?” Penny says, forcing me to pull my gaze and thoughts away from Aggie.

 

“What?” I ask. Penny is leveling me with an unusual gaze. Her eyes flicker to Baz, who's frowning down at his book.

 

“What do—uh," she says. “What do you think of wood nymphs?”

 

I pause. “Like, in general?”

 

Baz scoffs. I send him a dirty look, but he doesn’t see it. He’s still looking down at his book.

 

“No, Simon. As the attackers. Have any of them come up to you and given you a prophecy lately?”

 

“You think I would forget to mention that?” I ask. “Wait aren’t wood nymphs, like, gentle creatures?”

 

She shrugs. “Yeah, just wondering," she says, nonchalantly. When I look back over to where Agatha was, her blonde ponytail is swinging around the corner. I sigh, wishing Penny had chosen a different time to ask me about wood nymphs, and go back to reading.

 


 

The next day, Agatha sets her tray down on our dining hall table at lunch without a word, and starts eating her vegetables like she hasn’t avoided us for two months. Penny shoots me a glance. I open my mouth to speak, but can’t quite find my words.

 

“Uh. Hey, Agatha,” Penny says, trying—and failing— not to sound confused by her presence.

 

“Hi,” she replies as she begins breaking into her roll of bread.

 

“So… you’re talking to us again?” Penny asks, and Agatha shrugs, looking down at her tray. I feel a weird mixture of happiness that she’s re-joining our group and annoyance at her unusual composure. I clear my throat, but she stays silent, so I try speaking.

 

“Aggie,” I say, and she looks up. I notice that her eyes are watering a bit, and she seems very upset. My stomach churns uncomfortably, and my irritation with her vanishes. I never could manage to stay mad at her. “We missed you.”

 

She gives me a watery smile, and then gets up to give me a hug. It takes me by surprise; she’s never been very physically affectionate. But I quickly hug her back, happy to have her back at our table. Though Penny and I have always been much closer, it has still been weird not having Aggie here. I need someone to get exasperated at Penny’s wilder plans at with.

 

“I’m sorry I’ve been avoiding you guys,” she says, quietly. “I really don’t like helping on your adventures and missions, but… can we still all be friends?”

 

“Yes!” I agree eagerly. Everything can go back to normal now. We can be friends, and then she’ll realize that we’re soulmates. “Of course.”

 

“About time, Aggie,” Penny says, with an affectionate roll of her eyes. “I asked you to come back to sit with us ages ago.”

 

“You did?” I ask Penny, surprised. She never told me that.

 

“Duh,” Penny says. “Things are weird without Aggie. I need someone else here who doesn’t only want to talk about Baz Pitch.” Agatha and I both blush at this, but Penny carries on. “I know you don't want to do any of the actual fighting, but do you want to do research with us though?”

 

Agatha hesitates. “Research?”

 

We fill her in on what’s been going on with the dark creature attacks, and how we don’t think it’s the Humdrum. She looks shocked at this. “Who else could it be?”

 

“We don’t know. Honestly, our research hasn’t gotten us very far, even with the five of us working on it several nights a week.”

 

Agatha gives us an unusual, searching look. “Yeah, I’ve noticed you’ve been teaming up with Baz’s gang,” she says with a bit of an accusation in her voice.

 

“Yeah, well I told you we needed help,” Penny says defensively. “We’re kind of drowning in dark creatures over here, if you haven’t noticed.”

 

Agatha crosses her arms over herself protectively. “Yeah,” she says carefully. “I didn’t think you’d ask them, of all people though. They’re not exactly on our side.”

 

“They are about this,” Penny says, a warning in her tone. Agatha opens her mouth, but I cut her off.

 

“Anyways,” I say, knowing that if the two of them start to argue, this will go south quickly. “We’re meeting in the library tonight around 7 to do some reading if you want to come.”

 

Agatha looks at Penny, then back at me. “I’ll think about it.”

 

“Cool,” I reply, and then there’s a slightly uncomfortable silence. “So, um… do you have a competition this holiday break?” I ask, to change the subject.

 

“Oh, yes!” Aggie replies, lighting up now that the topic of conversation isn’t dark creatures or Baz Pitch. She launches a long talk about one of her horses, who apparently is pregnant and due to give birth around Christmas. I zone out like I usually do when she gets started on her horse stuff. I’m smiling when I catch Baz’s eye from across the dining hall. He’s grimacing, with a look in his eye I haven’t seen in a long time. I blink, surprised by his hostility, and when I open my eyes again, he’s broken eye contact, looking down at his untouched plate with an unreadable expression on his face.

 


 

“Snow,” Baz says, through gritted teeth. “Will you please stop that incessant noise? Some of us are trying to read here.”

 

“Sorry, sorry,” I reply. I’d been tapping my pen against the table and staring at the library door, waiting to see if Agatha would come. It’s half past seven, but she still might, I think.

 

“What’s so interesting in the front of the library?” Baz says, pointing his pen towards the door. “Got a crush on the librarian?”

 

I blush. The librarian is an 70 year old man—so, unsurprisingly, no. “Aggie might come.”

 

Baz clenches his jaw, and grips the edges of his book tighter. “And your ex-girlfriend is more important than your potential pending downfall. I never thought I’d see the day where I was more interested in saving your life than you were.”

 

“Oh, how the mighty fall,” Niall says with an awkward laugh. I think he’s trying to ease the tension, which you could currently cut with a knife.

 

“What’s your problem?” I demand. Then I add, suspiciously, “I thought you said you weren’t after her?”

 

He laughs, cruelly, too loudly for the library. “Are you ever going to stop accusing me of that? It’s more ridiculous than you could ever imagine.”

 

I open my mouth to answer, but then Penny comes back with toffee and a smile, breaking me away from my thoughts. “Here you go, lads,” she says, setting the sweet treat down on our table. All of us but Baz reach for some immediately.

 

Dev gives her his approximation of a smile, seemingly grateful for the interruption. “Honestly, how do you do it?”

 

“You know that I can get food from the kitchens whenever I want, too, right?” Baz says, a little petulantly.

 

Dev waves him off. “Cook Pritchard is your cousin. You just ask for the food. She does it with magic.” This makes Baz scowl deeply at him, but Dev’s still looking at Penny.

 

“Don’t ask Pen her secrets,” I say, with a teasing glare in her direction. “She won’t tell you them. Not even me, and we have a no secrets pact.” Her grin broadens at that.

 

Baz scoffs. “Are you guys five? Really, did you pinky swear on it, too?”

 

I growl, sick of Baz’s attitude. I don’t have much of a tolerance for it lately, now that we’ve been allies. I know he still hates me, but at least he’s been trying to hide it lately. Why can’t he just like me? I wonder, I like him enough. The thought makes me snap, and I say harshly, “Well, we don’t all have coffin sized secrets to hide.”

 

As I realize what I’ve just said, everyone goes very silent. Too silent for even the library.

 

Baz slams the book he was reading shut, grabs his bag, and stalks off.

 

Penny sighs, and Dev and Niall turn to glare at me. I feel my face heating up, but I don’t want to back down now. “What?” I snap defensively.

 

Dev and Niall share a private, indecipherable look, then simultaneously get up and leave as well. Dev pauses at the door to throw me a Grimm-level—which is to say murderous— scowl.

 

“Simon,” Penny starts, but I cut her off.

 

“I hate him,” I say, not really meaning it but feeling like I should say it after my outburst. “You should be on my side,” I add, even knowing that I probably sound like a whiny child.

 

“Have you ever considered…” Penny says thoughtfully. She seems to be choosing her words very carefully.  “That maybe… Baz thinks his whole, no-soulmates thing…. is related to his being a vampire.”

 

My stomach drops out from under me. Fuck.

 

I tug at my curls with both hands. “Do you think that’s really true? That vampires can’t have soulmates?” I mean, I guess it would make sense, from a whole vampires don’t have souls perspective. Though, I don’t really think Baz doesn’t have a soul, anymore. Just last week I caught him correcting Niall’s Latin homework for him. I mean, when I teased him about it, he said, “well, I can’t have everyone thinking my best mate is thick, can I?” But I think he was just joking.

 

Penny pauses to think this through. “Well, I don’t know. Not really. But Baz could very well think that. That could be one reason he’s so touchy about it.”

 

Well, Crowley. I’ve really done it now.

 

“He was being a prick about Aggie not coming,” I defend. “He just… gets under my skin.”

 

The thought of him liking Agatha makes me feel crazy. The thought of them kissing makes me want to set things on fire. Baz with her just… doesn’t make sense.

 

“Just…” Penny says. “Maybe cut him a break.” She closes her book. “Let’s call it. I want to FaceTime Micah before it gets too late.”

 

“Penny, you really shouldn’t have a phone. The Mage says it messes with the security of Watford.”

 

Penny sighs dramatically. “If I get an inkling that Micah’s planning an American invasion of Watford, I promise, you’ll be the first to know.”

 

“I don’t think that’s why that’s a rule.”

 

“Of course it is,” She insists. “It’s to keep the Old Families from communicating with their kids, so he can keep a better grip on the Coven.”

 

I frown, finding her analysis of the situation off-putting. Honestly, since I’ve never owned a phone, I never thought much of the rule. “He wouldn’t do that.”

 

“Sure, Si,” Penny says, very obviously trying to placate me. She doesn’t argue with me about the Mage, though I know she doesn’t agree with a lot of his policies. I mean, she’s all for magical equality, but I don’t think she likes his methods. “Just think about what I said, alright?” Then she gets up too, leaving me alone in the library with a pile of books none of the others bothered to put away.

 

I gather up the books and start to put them on the appropriate shelves. As I’m in the ‘S’ section, I spot a cover that reads: ‘Soulmate Magic: A Complete History’. I pause, and decide another hour in the library won’t kill me. I relax into a plush loveseat, and begin to read.

 


 

“Simon,” Penny says exasperatedly. “Just go apologize.”

 

“I’ve been trying,” I say, exasperated. It’s been a week since Baz and I fought in the library, and he’s been avoiding me like I’m contagious. I think he might even be sleeping in Dev and Niall’s room. There was an attack yesterday, and they all helped still, but he wouldn’t let me share my magic with him. When I reached for him, he flinched, so I didn’t try again. I just ended up going off.

 

“Try again,” She says, and I let out a long suffering sigh. I look over to Baz—he’s sitting with Dev and Niall, who are also now ignoring me. Didn’t expect that to bother me, either, but it does. I'd gotten used to their presence. Baz's hair is falling in waves around his face, framing his sharp cheekbones nicely, and he’s smiling softly at something Niall is saying. Then he catches me staring and his smile becomes a frown. My insides twist as I see his eyes darken and then look away from mine.

 

“So, I’ve been reading,” I say to Penny, forcing myself to rip my eyes away from Baz's direction. 

 

“On your own?” She asks with raised eyebrows. “Something I didn’t make you read?”

 

“Shut up,” I say, slightly offended by her open shock—though it’s warranted. I pull the Soulmates book out of my book bag and onto my desk.

 

I didn’t mean to read nearly all of it, but the more I read, the more I realized how little I actually knew about the soulmate enchantment. I didn’t know that it was a Pitch who invented the Soulmark, or why. Fitzgerald Pitch apparently wanted to marry a girl from a poor family, one that wasn’t very powerful, but his parents strongly disapproved. Even then, the Pitches were notorious for their magical superiority, and they didn’t want to run the risk of their eldest son having subpar heirs. Fitzgerald created the spell as proof that he and his soulmate were magically linked. His parents couldn’t argue their engagement after that—not when two of them were the ones who invented the phrase ‘Magic Knows Best’.

 

The story was shockingly more romantic than I thought it could be. I could never imagine Baz Pitch standing up to his father that way—Malcolm Pitch is, somehow, even scarier than Baz. He always comes to drop off and pick up Baz for holidays, and it’s clear where Baz gets his signature looks of boredom and hostility from. Sharing a room with Baz is probably the only thing that has kept me from being properly scared shitless of him. (It’s hard to think someone’s the actual devil when you see how much hair product they use.)

 

Also, the book says that there’s no Mage in recorded history that doesn’t have a soulmark.  There are people with unrequited soulmates, or soulmates that die young. But they all still have marks. It didn’t say anything about vampires, but… I don’t know. If Basilton Pitch has magic… he should have a soulmate.

 

“I think Baz has a soulmark,” I say with confidence. “I mean, he should, according to this. I think.”

 

Penny grabs the book, scanning the cover. “I’ve read this.”

 

“I figured.”

 

“It doesn’t mention vampires,” she responds.

 

“Who cares if he’s a vampire, though?” I ask.

 

“Um, you?” Penny responds. “If I’m guessing generously on the lower end of the spectrum, we’ve literally discussed the potential that Baz Pitch is a vampire at least two million times since third year.”

 

I roll my eyes. “His soulmate won’t care, though.” I don’t even care, really, anymore. I mean… if he was going to drain me in my sleep, he have done it by now.

 

“Baz says he doesn’t have one,” Penny says.

 

“But, listen,” I say. “According to this, he should at least have a soulmark, right?”

 

Penny lets a meaningful pause fall over us. “Yes, that logically would follow," she says in a measured voice.

 

“So I should ask to see his,” I say, confidently. Penny looks exasperated by my conclusion.

 

“To what end?” She asks, probably thinking about how well that plan worked out last time. 

 

“I can help him!” I say, excitedly. 

 

“You’re going to help Baz find his soulmate?” She asks, leaning forward a bit, curious.

 

“Why not? He’s helping us with the dark creatures!” I reason. “Then, maybe he’ll stop being mad and talk to me again.”

 

Penny smiles a private smile. “Wow, you really miss him.”

 

“What? Miss him? No! I just, uh, well—” I pause, trying to figure out my motive. I just know that I want Baz to stop looking at me with empty eyes. “He’s the only one I can give my power to,” I finally say, deciding this makes sense. It is true, anyways. “I don’t have to go off when I share with him.”

 

“Uh huh,” Penny says. She doesn’t sound like she believes me, but mercifully she doesn’t persist. “Well, be careful bringing it up to him. He’s touchy about soulmates.” She hands me my book back, just as Agatha is walking up to our table.

 

“Hey, guys! Sorry I’m late, I had to talk to Miss Possibelf about my last essay,” she says with an easy smile. “Whatcha got there, Si?” She asks, pointing at the Soulmates book. I turn the book to show her the cover. Her eyes widen as she reads it.

 

“Simon, can we talk?” She asks suddenly.

 

“Sure!” I respond with a smile. I’ve been meaning to get her alone all day. Penny throws me a look I can’t quite understand, but I decide to take as supportive, grinning as I follow Agatha out of the dining hall.

 

“So, Aggie,” I say happily, excited to share what I learned in this book last night. “I found out that soulmarks are written in your soulmates handwriting.”

 

“You didn’t know that?” She asks, shocked.

 

I shrug. “You guys never told me.”

 

“I’m sorry, Simon. I thought everyone knew that,” she says uncomfortably, staring at my feet. I don’t know why she’s uncomfortable, I’m about to give her good news.

 

“It’s okay!” I say, still grinning. “Anyways, mine is in your handwriting, so it’s perfect! We can get back together now, yeah?”

 

Agatha is quiet for a long moment. Too long. I realize that she’s trying not to cry, and I become overwhelmed with dread.

 

“I am so, so sorry,” she whispers. “You’re not mine.”

 

“What?” I ask, horrified. How is this possible? Everyone has been telling us we’re soulmates for years, since we were kids. If we’re not…

 

“Si, my soulmark is in my own handwriting,” she says, looking at the ground.

 

“What, but… what?” I ask again dumbly, unsure of what else I can say. She looks back up at me, and tears are streaming down her face in earnest.

 

“I’m asexual,” she says. “And aromantic.”

 

“What’s that?” I ask confused.

 

“It means that I’m my own soulmate. I don’t feel romantic or sexual attraction, whatsoever,” she answers. “I’m sorry, I just… didn’t know what to do. I always knew that I was always different, that I never really had crushes or wanted to have anything physical, but.” She pauses and takes a deep breathe, composing herself. “I was in denial because I had never heard of it before. So when you asked me to be your girlfriend, I said yes, because truly, Simon.” She starts nodding earnestly. “If it was anyone, it would be you. I promise. I love you, but I can’t love you like that. I can’t love anyone like that.”

 

I’m silent, trying to process this. It makes sense… our relationship hasn’t ever been particularly romantic or remotely sexual. “So that’s why you broke up with me,” I say slowly, starting to understand.

 

“I knew it couldn’t be you, because of the handwriting, so I got to thinking maybe it could be someone else—" she starts to blush at this, and looks away. “And, well, it wasn’t. I called and admitted to my friend Minty—you remember her, the Normal one, my neighbor?— I explained how I felt and she told me what asexual was and. Well. Everything just clicked.” She looks back into my eyes. “I should have told you sooner, Si. I’m so sorry.”

 

“I don’t have a soulmate,” I realize, and the loss of it rushes into me.

 

She cocks her head, and looks at me like I’m a puzzle. She reminds me of Penny in this moment. “I know this is a rude request, but would you mind if I saw your soulmark?”

 

I lift my shirt up without even looking around to check we’re alone in the courtyard. This is the closest we’ve come to undressing in front of one another, which I only realize now is a bit unusual considering we were together for two years. Agatha lets out a relieved laugh.

 

“Oh thank Crowley, Simon!” She’s laughing loudly now, with her ugly little snort she does when she’s truly happy. “I was so scared for a minute!”

 

“What?” I demand, quickly going from devastated to confused. I don’t really see how this is a situation for laughter.

 

“That’s not my handwriting!” She exclaims, and lets out a loud, satisfied exhale. “I mean, it's similar, but it's not mine. I’m not your soulmate either, Simon.”

 

The world starts spinning on its axis again. I still have a soulmate. There’s someone else out there for me. I start laughing too, and before long we’re both in stitches.

 

“Wow, we really made a mess of this, didn’t we?” She asks, grabbing my hand, and smiling fondly.

 

“Yeah." I laugh a little. “You’re still my family though, right Aggie?”

 

“Simon!” She envelops me in a crushing hug, and for the first time, I let myself admit what it really feels like. It feels like affection, yes, but not romantic love. We’ve always had a brotherly/ sisterly bond. “Of course we are.”

 

We stay hugging for a while. After a couple minutes, I say, “I love you, Aggie.”

 

“I love you, Simon,” she responds, and I smile into her neck. I realize that our classmates are finished with dinner, and have been in the courtyard for some time. Many are looking at us with open curiosity, probably assuming Watford’s 'power couple' just got back together. It brings another chuckle to my lips, realizing how wrong we all were—including me.

 

“Aggie?” I ask, still grinning. It feels nice to have this figured out. The overwhelming need to have us be soulmates is gone. I feel like a bit of a prat, realizing how hard I was pushing for us to be soulmates. Though it's nice to hear we both kind of wanted that, even if it wasn't right.

 

“Yeah, Si?”

 

“Please don’t scare me into thinking you’re really into Baz Pitch, again, yeah?” That was the worst part of this year, really.

 

She gives me her ugly snort again, and I laugh along with her. Everything feels right between us, for the first time in a while.

 

Chapter Text

Baz

 

“So,” Niall says. “I was thinking we could sneak out to the Wavering Wood tonight. Dev and I have had a bottle of scotch hidden away in our room all semester that we haven’t gotten to put to good use, yet.”

 

“I hate scotch,” I lie.

 

Dev raises a familiar aristocratic brow at me. “Last year’s annual Christmas party would like to argue otherwise.”

 

“I paid dearly for that on Boxing Day, and have since learned my lesson,” I respond. The first half of the statement was true, at least. I spent half the morning puking after the three of us snuck away from the stuffy cocktail party to play King’s Cup in Dev’s bedroom. Though, I won’t deny it was a interesting game. The Queen’s Question card got Niall to admit he was the one to knock over the two thousand pound cake at Father and Daphne’s wedding when we were eight, which I plan on holding over him for the rest of time.

 

“Really? What about Amsterdam last summer?” Dev shoots back, and I glare at him.

 

“That night has been tabooed as a topic of conversation, and you know it.”

 

“Fine by me. I still have the videos as blackmail, anyways.”

 

“Will you ever tell me what Baz did in that club that was so embarrassing?” Niall asks, and I growl “no” as Dev says “yes.”

 

“Don’t you want to celebrate—” Niall starts.

 

I cut him off. “You know I do not.

 

“C’mon Baz. You’re being stupid,” Dev says.

 

“I am not,” I say, though I know very well I am. But I am not in a celebrating mood, particularly of late.

 

I glance over at Snow and Wellbelove. I’m almost certain they’ve gotten back together again. I knew it was inevitable; I told myself to expect it. I don’t know why I’m so taken aback about it now that it’s actually happened. But when I saw them hugging it out in the courtyard last week, the ground fell out from out from under me, and no amount of time in the catacombs draining rats brought even a degree of warmth to my veins. I haven’t seen them kiss yet—a small consolation, but a comfort nonetheless—but they have this easiness to them that I hadn’t realized until now was missing from their relationship since fifth year. Wellbelove must have finally accepted her soulmark.

 

I'd just gotten so accustomed to Snow’s presence. We stopped being so hostile with one another, for a while there. He’d even offer to have us try out our magical connection outside of the attacks in our bedroom. I’ve said no, worried that it’s too obvious how I feel about him when we share our magic. (It’s always lovely, but it leaves me feeling too exposed.)

 

I watch Snow lather on so much butter on his scone that I’m shocked his cholesterol levels haven’t killed him yet. I should be repulsed but instead get a rush of affection that is makes my breath catch in my throat. I feel like a drug addict trying to get clean, avoiding Simon. I always want one more hit, damn the consequences.

 

I should have known playing with fire would get me burned.

 

Dev’s caught on to what—or who— I’m staring at, and sighs. “I heard they got back together.”

 

“I told you so,” I say, though I get no satisfaction out of being right.

 

“We still should help them figure out who's behind the attacks. Did you notice that the creatures they send always smell flowery?”

 

“How in Crowley’s name did you pick up on that of all things?” Niall asks.

 

“I pay attention.”

 

Now that Dev mentions it, I realize that is true. I should look out for that in my research. I won’t go to the library with Bunce and Snow anymore, but I’m still looking for answers in my free time, reading out by the football bleachers so as to not be disturbed.

 

“You should tell them,” Dev says.

 

“Do it yourself,” I say, just as I hear Snow’s loud laughter from across the dining hall. I get up to get more tea, so I can see the smile that lights up his face at whatever Bunce has said.

 

I take my fixes where I can get them, these days.

 


 

“Baz!” Bunce calls after me. “Basilton Pitch!”

 

I turn the corner and pick up my pace, ignoring her. I really am not in the mood. She speeds up to grabs my arm and spins me around. “What?” I snarl. “What could you possibly want?”

 

Bunce wouldn’t stop staring at me during Magical Cultures. It’s one of the few classes I don’t have with Snow, so I was looking forward to the rare luxury of not having someone’s eyes drilling into my back. Unfortunately, Bunce took it upon herself to step up to the plate in Snow’s absence.

 

She does not seem phased by my hostility. She never does. She’s more stupidly brave than even Snow. She crosses her arms, and says defiantly, “we had a deal, Pitch.”

 

“So?”

 

“So, unless you want your right hand to shrivel up like a raisin, it’s time for you to stop pouting.”

 

“Pitches do not pout.”

 

“Then what’s this?” She says, waving her arm to gesture to my face—which, unfortunately, is pouting.

 

“Me, existing,” I snap.

 

“Seems like a miserable existence.”

 

She doesn’t know the half of it.

 

“Look, Bunce. I’m still helping with the attacks. That’s all I promised.”

 

“No, you said you’d help to the best of your ability. The best of your ability would be helping us research. The best of your ability would be sharing magic with Simon.”

 

“He’s the one who doesn’t want to share with me,” I respond. He’ll reach for me, and then changes his mind halfway through the motion. I don’t bother telling her that I’ve been researching on my own. I don't want to give her the satisfaction. Plus, I still can’t figure out why Snow’s getting attacked. No matter how much I read, it doesn’t make sense.

 

“Funny, he said you were the one who didn’t want to share magic.”

 

“What an unfortunate misunderstanding,” I deadpan. “Oh, well.”

 

“Baz, look,” she says with a loud, frustrated exhale; though her expression softens. “I didn’t expect to, but I care about you. You’re my friend, and I don’t like seeing my friends being dumbasses.”

 

“Your best friend is Simon Snow,” I point out.

 

“Exactly, so I’ve met my quota.” She’s got an amused look on her face, so I’m sure she’s joking. Even so, I suddenly find myself wanting to defend Snow, even though I’m the one who insulted him in the first place. Crowley, am I hopeless.

 

“You’re insufferable,” I say.

 

“I know you like me too. Insults are just your way of communicating.” She's smiling her cat who caught the canary smile. She’s right, I do actually like her quite a bit. She’s clever, and unexpectedly funny. I can’t even really fault her for her ruthlessness, seeing as I am a Pitch and a Grimm. Plus, as annoying as she is, her heart’s in the right place. “I forgive you, for now. I won’t be so sure about that choice, though, if Simon has to go off again.”

 

I sigh loudly. “What do you want?” I ask.

 

“Talk to Simon,” she answers. I don’t agree, but I don’t disagree. I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out ignoring him, especially since it’s clear he wants to talk to me.

 

“The attacker’s always have a flowery scent to them. Rose, I think,” I deflect. “Might want to consider researching that.” I know I plan to.

 

Before she can respond, I turn back towards Mummer’s and walk straight to Dev and Niall’s room. They both look up from their respective beds at me.

 

“Fine,” I say, defeated. If I'm being honest, a part of me wanted to agree to their mini party in the first place. “We can celebrate my birthday.”

 


 

I’m sitting in the forest, halfway done with my first cup of scotch and soda, when they arrive. I see them before Dev and Niall, thanks to my vampire vision, and say, “you have got to be kidding me.”

 

Bunce has got a grip on Snow’s wrist, and is pulling him towards our group. “Hi, Basil!” She greets me, pleasantly. “I didn’t know it was your birthday!”

 

“That’s because I didn’t tell you.” I glare over at Dev and Niall. Dev looks cool as ever, but Niall is blushing a bit.

 

“I invited them,” Niall says, a bit guiltily.

 

Snow’s eyes widen. “You said Baz invited us.” My heart beats a little faster, knowing that Simon came because he thought I wanted him here.

 

“Did I?” Penny responds, in a voice that tells me that she most certainly did.

 

“You guys!” A shrill feminine voice calls out from the darkness. “Why do you both always have to walk so fast?” Agatha Wellbelove pops up out of the bushes, and Niall’s wide eyes tells me he didn’t know she’d be a guest as well.

 

Snow looks apologetic towards Wellbelove, but Bunce does not. “Why do you always have to walk so slow?” Bunce retorts, and Wellbelove points to her feet.

 

“Heels!” She exclaims.

 

“Well, don’t blame me for your fashion mistakes,” Bunce says, and Wellbelove rolls her eyes.

 

“Great,” I say sarcastically, “now that the whole Scooby Doo gang is here, it’s a party.” I take a swig of my drink.

 

“You know you just implied you’re a part of the gang, right?” Penny says with a smile. I narrow my eyes at her.

 

“Who's the Scooby of the group?” Niall asks.

 

“Simon,” Bunce and Wellbelove answer in unison, exchanging shit eating grins.

 

“Will do anything for food?” Wellbelove says with a fondness that makes me sick. “Check.”

 

“Would be lost without Velma?” Bunce points towards herself. “Check.”

 

“I hate you guys, so much,” Snow replies, but it’s undercut by his crooked grin, and the fact that he throws his arms around them both.

 

“We were just about to play Never Have I Ever,” Dev says.

 

“We were not,” I respond. “You were suggesting it, and I was veto-ing it.”

 

“What’s Never Have I Ever?” Snow asks, looking at me. I don’t answer, so Niall does for me.

 

“It’s a game where you say something you’ve never done, and if someone else in the group has, they have to take a drink.”

 

“Sounds fun,” Snow says, smiling nervously at me.

 

Suddenly, Penny points her ring at the cups and casts The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth.

 

“Hey!” I protest.

 

“Seriously, Penny?” Snow asks. “What happened to ‘I will do this spell for you when hell freezes over’?”

 

I don’t know what he’s referring to, but Penny surely does, because she throws her head back and laughs loudly. “Simon, I had a perfectly valid reason for not casting that spell for you, and you know it. Trust me when I say you’ll thank me later for my judgment on that one.” Simon glances in my direction guiltily, so I know whatever he wanted it for had to do with me. I frown at him and he looks away, blushing.

 

“Plus, I didn’t do it for you, did I? I did it for everyone.” Penny shrugs, a habit she no doubt picked up from Snow. “No use playing a game about honesty if we can just lie, right?”

 

I think if I didn’t already have a head start on the drinking, I would have stormed off by now. I have more than a couple things to hide. But Snow’s looking at me hopefully, so I sigh like I’m doing everyone a big favor, and say reluctantly, “Fine.”

 

Everyone smiles, and sits in a circle.

 

“I’ll start,” Niall says. “Never have I ever jumped off a roof.”

 

I’m the only one who drinks. The golden trio is looking over at me in shock. “Truth or dare gets out of hand with us.” I smirk a little at the memory. “I thought Daphne was going to have a stroke, I scared her so bad.”

 

“We were a bit mad at twelve.”

 

“Cheers to that,” I say, and follow up with, “Never have I ever peer pressured someone into getting a tattoo.”

 

Niall and Dev sigh, and both take a drink. They roll up their sleeves to reveal matching Deathly Hallows symbol tattoos. “You really should have stopped us, Baz.”

 

“I tried. You told me to piss off!”

 

“I don’t remember that part,” Dev says.

 

“That’s because you were wasted. You should drink twice since it was your idea.”

 

“Fine,” Dev says, and then sends me a pointed look, and I know I’m in for it. “Never have I ever gotten on top of a bar top in Amsterdam and strip teased to 'I'm A Slave For You' by Britney Spears.”

 

I feel all the blood the rat I drained earlier rush to my cheeks. “What part of ‘take this secret to the grave’ was too hard for you to understand, Dev?” I snap, and then take a sip of my drink. The rest of them are laughing, except for Snow who’s got his jaw on the floor.

 

“You—you did what? ” He stammers, blushing wildly.

 

“I’ve got the video to prove it,” Dev says, grinning. “Wanna see?”

 

Snow opens his mouth to respond, but before he can, I pull up a small fire in my palm, and threaten, “I will burn your life to the ground, Dev.”

 

“Fine, I won’t show them, but only because it’s your birthday,” Dev concedes, and frowns at the fire in my hand. “Put that away.” I can tell he wants to add ‘you’re flammable’ but decides better of it.

 

The game continues on like this for a while. Penny’s never had a surprise party thrown for her. I want to argue this doesn’t count, but since half the guests were a surprise, the spell forces me to take a sip. Snow says he’s never had a birthday party at all, while smiling. It tugs at my heart, thinking about him growing up in the orphanages with nothing. I quickly drink to cover up my empathic facial expression.

 

Dev and Niall, apparently, are playing this game with two distinct goals in mind: to embarrass me, and to get me wasted. Every time it’s their turn, they say something that only makes me drink, and makes Snow’s jaw drop nearly every time. I was never planning on giving everyone a mental image of me skinny dipping in the pool in Hyde Park after a night on the town, but Bunce's spell is well-cast.

 

Snow’s caught on that a tactic of this game is to target your friends, because he says, with a meaningful look towards Agatha, “Never have I ever ate the rest of the gingerbread cookies and lied about it.” Her hand twitches, and her face pinches up in concentration. Finally, she lets out a loud exhale, and takes a sip of her weak scotch and soda.

 

“I knew it!” Snow exclaims, sounding supremely vindicated, pointing an accusatory finger in her face. “I knew it wasn’t your dog.”

 

“Simon.” She sighs, exasperated. “You had twelve and I had two.

 

“Still lied,” he retorts, self-satisfied.

 

“Well I thought you might murder me in cold blood for it,” she says earnestly.

 

“Thought about it,” he teases and she laughs. I regret agreeing to this game, right about now. I’ve never been front row to their flirting before. They're always friendly, but not like this. The strong buzz I have going doesn’t make it easy to hide my jealousy.

 

I’m about to just get up and leave, make up some excuse, when Agatha says, “You wanna play it like that? Let’s play it like that. Never have I ever fancied anyone in this group.”

 

Snow looks like he’s been hit over the head with a saucepan. I’d laugh at him for it, but I reckon I’ve got an identical expression on my face. I brace myself for Snow to start bursting into tears, when—

 

Suddenly, he’s laughing so hard he's clutching at his stomach. I take this moment that everyone’s distracted to discreetly take a sip of my drink—though Dev definitely catches me— and stare at him in confusion. Is he having a nervous breakdown? I wonder, before he says, “Well played, Aggie.” Snow takes a drink. “Well played.”

 

“Um,” Niall says awkwardly, after he’s taken his drink. (Every straight boy at this school has had their Agatha Wellbelove stage.) “What is happening right now?”

 

Agatha looks up like she’s just now realizing that the rest of us are here. “Oh,” she says, seeming slightly embarrassed. Simon grabs her hand and Penny smiles on supportively. “Um, I haven’t really, uh—like come out?” She says. “But I’m asexual.”

 

As she explains what that is to Dev and Niall—honestly, how do they not know what that is in this day and age?— I try to process this new information. Snow’s smiling at her as she speaks, seeming genuinely happy for her.

 

“Wait,” I say, before I can stop myself. “You guys aren’t back together?” Everyone turns to look at me, and I pray they attribute the redness of my cheeks to the alcohol.

 

“Back together?” Simon asks confused. “No.”

 

Relief rushes through me, and I laugh a little. Everyone looks confused, and Snow says, “uh, I know I was a prat to you about Aggie before, and, uh—”

 

I know he’s going to say something stupid about us fighting, assuming that I have feelings for Wellbelove. I cut him off impulsively with, “Crowley, Snow. I told you already I wasn’t interested in her. Never have I ever fancied a girl.”

 

Now it’s Snow’s turn to look confused. “What?” he asks and I blush. My sexuality isn’t exactly a secret. All my friends and family have known since fifth year, but I’ve never felt it appropriate to tell Snow, before. It’s more than a little awkward to say something like, ‘hey, by the way, I fancy blokes, and I’m head over heels for you. Okay, now let’s go back to our mutual hostility and your hatred of me.’ Though, I guess I’ve got the liquid courage for it now; Wellbelove’s admission was pretty inspiring.

 

“Wait, you guys still hadn’t figured out Baz is gay?” Dev says. “Merlin, how have you guys survived all your misadventures? Dumb luck?”

 

“I would have thought the Troye Sivan obsession would have given it away,” Niall says. “I know Baz’s got a poster up in his wardrobe, and he doesn’t even listen to his music.”

 

"It’s true, he's fit," I say, trying to be nonchalant. (Troye Sivan looks a lot like Simon Snow, after all.)

 

“I knew,” Bunce says with a roll of her eyes, and Snow turns his confusion onto her. She ignores it and changes the subject. “Oh! Never have I ever been sunburnt.” 

 

We continue on for a while like this, playing the game at first and then just falling into comfortable conversation. Though Snow’s been awfully quiet since I came out. Finally, I yawn, and say, “I’m beat, and drunk.” It’s hard to get drunk, being a vampire and all, which I suppose is why Dev and Niall decided to try to get me to drink at nearly every turn. “I’m heading back.” Everyone agrees to go to bed, and Penny and I spell a bridge over the river to get back onto the main campus.

 

Snow and I walk up to our rooms, alone for the first time in a while. Whenever we’ve both been in the room lately, I’ve made a run for it. Doesn’t really feel appropriate after a night of drinking games and confessions, though.

 

“Sorry we crashed your party,” Snow says awkwardly. “Penny told me you wanted me there.”

 

Well, that’s not exactly untrue. “The party wasn’t my idea. I’m… not really a birthday person.”

 

Not since fifth year, as I was steadily falling deeper in love with Simon, and I started to realize I recognized the handwriting on my chest, even if I wasn’t ready to admit it. I don't like to celebrate the anniversary of my cursed fate. 

 

“Really?” He asks, with a bright smile. “I love birthdays. It’s the only time we’d have cake at the homes.”

 

He’s always so cheery about the homes. You’d think he enjoys them. But he cried for weeks about having to go back to them his first year, so I know it’s just him putting on a brave face. I overheard him telling Bunce that the other kids are afraid of him, that they find his magic off-putting instead of intoxicating. I want to say something kind, or comforting, but I settle for teasing. “You would be concerned about the food selection, Snow.”

 

He laughs. “Happy birthday, Baz.”

 

My heart skips a beat. I think the alcohol has got me imagining a fondness to his voice. “Thank you,” I reply in an even voice.

 

“And, uh,” he scratches the back of his neck. “I’m sorry I’ve been a bit of a prat about Agatha. I didn’t know you were, uh—that you were—”

 

“Gay as the Fourth of July?” I offer up with one raised eyebrow, and he laughs with his mouth wide open in amusement.

 

“Yeah, that. I just, uh.” He pauses, looking worried. He pulls at his curls a bit.

 

“Just…?” I ask.

 

“So, uh, I thought she was my soulmate, and like, I wanted her to be.” My stomach drops to the floor—until he lets out a self-deprecating laugh at himself. “Which is honestly a bit stupid when I think about it now. I didn’t realize how much of sister she was to me until she told me how her soulmark is her own handwriting. It made sense, once she did…” he trails off.

 

“You dated someone whose like your own sister for two years? Gross,” I joke, unsure what else to say.

 

“Yeah, Penny says you gotta hit me over the head with the truth a couple times over for it to stick.” He bites his lip. “She also says I should apologize to you.”

 

“What for?” I wonder. He's looking at me right now like he can really see me, and a wave of panic rushes through me. I suddenly become afraid Penny told him about my soulmark, and that he’s about to say he’s sorry, or maybe that he's disgusted. Maybe he’s going to punch me in the face or tell me off or go off—

 

“I shouldn’t be such a prick to you. Force of habit, I guess. I, uh, don’t know how I would have gotten through the year without you.” He blushes redder than usual, so I know he’s had quite a bit to drink as well.

 

I'm concerned there’s not a zero percent chance of this being a hallucination, and I’m tempted to pinch myself to check if I've just dreamed him saying that. But I’d have to set myself on fire if he noticed me doing that, so I just say, “Oh, um, no problem.”

 

“So, uh, are we friends?” He asks nervously. “I like this better than fighting.”

 

It’s not enough. Friends don’t have a map of their friends moles and freckles tattooed in their brain. Or want to run their hands through their bronze curls. Or fantasize about shagging them spectacularly.

 

“Sure, friends,” I say, because being near Simon Snow is so much better than being apart from him, even if I will never be able to get as closely as I want to.

 

He smiles at me, and wishes me a good night, and I sleep soundly for the first time in weeks.

 

Chapter Text

Simon

 

“I wasn’t trying to kill you,” Baz says with a sarcastic roll of his eyes. “It was just supposed to be a laugh.”

 

My jaw drops. “You thought setting a chimera on me would be funny.”

 

“Yeah,” he says. “I thought you might pee your pants, and then poke the thing with your sword.”

 

“It was non-corporeal, Baz!” I exclaim.

 

“Well. Dev was supposed to get a male,” Niall admits.

 

“Exactly, only the female ones are non-corporeal,” Baz says, and then points an accusatory finger at Dev. “It was Dev’s fault, completely.”

 

“It was your idea, Baz,” Dev says in a bored tone. “I said you should have just gotten him trapped in the Astronomy Tower overnight, if you insisted on doing anything. You were always saying you needed a break from him so badly, and then doing something that would guarantee you did not get a break.”

 

“Sounds like Simon,” Penny says, rolling her eyes.

 

“To be clear, I also thought that prank was too far,” Niall says. He pauses to take a sip of his green tea, before adding, “Though, your original plan was to get a dragon, which I feel like this is a prime example of your over dramatic temperament.”

 

“Thanks for the sell-out, mate,” Baz mutters under his breath to Niall.

 

“A dragon? A DRAGON!?” I demand.

 

Baz throws his hands up. “Okay, okay. Fine. I was a prick.”

 

“Was?” Penny asks with raised eyebrows, to a round of laughter from all of us—except Baz, who's pouting. I used to think this was his contemptuous look, but I’ve learned that Baz has a lot more emotions than I originally thought. I’ve just always misinterpreted his facial expressions.

 

“You wouldn’t have gone through with using a dragon, though. You wouldn’t have wanted me to go off on it,” I say. “You like dragons.”

 

“What makes you say that?” Baz asks, puzzled.

 

“In fourth year, I snuck a peek at your sketchbook, and you drew a couple,” I say with a nonchalant shrug. I saw him writing in a journal one day in the spring, and he promptly shut it when I walked in. I was naturally suspicious. I assumed he was plotting against me, obviously. But I found the book later and went through it, and it was just full of sketches. Of Watford mostly, and of some kind of castle too. Though I’m pretty sure one of them was of me going off. All of his lines were so clean in the rest of his drawings, except for that one—the edges of the boy he drew was unstable, and I’m pretty sure the boy was standing next to the banshee I went off on a few months prior. It was the only one done in color, with vivid reds and greens and blues.

 

I never said anything about it, because it was weird of me to go through his things—even by my low standards of privacy when it comes to Baz. Especially since, when I realized it was just a sketchbook, I shouldn’t have continued to go through the rest cover to cover. It was just so mesmerizing; I’d never could have imagined Baz doing anything so… soft. I couldn’t reckon the fierce Baz who taunted me relentlessly with this new version of him as a boy who drew landscapes and mythical creatures and maybe even me. I was too embarrassed by how conflicted the sketchbook made me feel to ever mention it before, though the look on his face now is worth bringing it up today.

 

“I’m sorry. You did what? ” Baz says harshly, and the balls of his cheeks darken slightly, the way they do when his face wants to blush but he hasn’t fed recently enough.

 

I smile. This is another one of Baz’s emotional expressions I've always misunderstood: Baz hides his embarrassment with hostility. His grey skin hides it well since his face won’t flush red, but he can’t hide the nervous way he sucks his fangs when he’s self-conscious. “You’re talented, Basilton,” I tease with a Cheshire Cat smile.

 

“You people have no concept of privacy,” Baz complains with a mutinous look towards Penny, which she returns with a private smile. Baz rolls his eyes back at her.

 

“I forgot Daphne used to make you take private lessons,” Dev says with a smirk.

 

“Yes, unfortunately,” Baz says with a sigh. It’s all an act, though, because the corners of his lips are tugging upwards slightly. He must have liked drawing somewhat, considering how perfectly done they all were; they must have taken a ton of time. Then again, Baz is amazing at everything, so I wouldn’t be surprised if sketching barely made the top 20 in Baz’s list of skills.

 

“Wow, and here I thought you couldn’t get more annoyingly posh,” I say.  

 

“There’s nothing wrong with being posh,” he defends.

 

“Hear, hear,” Agatha adds with a soft smile. “Hey, did you ever have to do ballroom dancing classes?”

 

Baz sighs loudly. “You know it.” Then, they get into a pissing match over whose parents made them do more outrageously posh activities as a child.

 

Agatha was wary of Baz and his friends at first, but I swear they’ve grown on her since. She tried to talk Penny and me out of hanging out with them, which I found a bit hypocritical since she was always finding excuses to chat him up before she realized she was asexual. Though, I guess she was just taking random stabs in the dark at who her soulmate could be, so I don’t exactly blame her.

 

When she found out I wanted to go to Baz’s birthday party, she said “Simon,” like I was being particularly thick. “Baz is a vampire. You’ve been saying so since we were fourteen.”

 

I shrugged, and said, “Maybe," though I was still positive he was. It just felt kind of wrong to keep insisting it to everyone after all Baz’s help this year. “Though, we shouldn’t go around telling everyone that.”

 

Agatha’s mouth dropped halfway to the floor at that. “Simon, in sixth year, you tried to get everyone to sign a petition saying they knew Baz was a vampire and should be kicked out of Watford.”

 

Crowley, was that a bad idea. Dev luckily found out before Baz did, and before anyone had actually signed it. He promptly ripped it up and threatened to turn my organs inside out if I made up another one. Penny saw this exchange and made me swear to stop my campaign against Baz.

 

Penny will take the piss out of Baz any day, but I can tell she likes being friends with him. They have a lot in common, after all. I think they find themselves hard pressed to find other people who actually care about—or can even carry a conversation about— topics like Elizabethan era poetry structure and pixie medicinal plants like they do. I’m sure that, if it weren’t for me, they would have been friends a lot sooner. Though, when I mentioned what good friends they seemed to be, Baz said, “friends? we’re barely acquaintances,” to which Penny wholeheartedly nodded and said, “agreed.” Though, they exchanged (pretty friendly, I'd say) grins afterwards, which undercut their claims substantially.

 

Agatha huffed when I said that I was going to Baz's party with or without her. She said she’d tag along to make sure we didn’t get cursed or poisoned. Though, the day after, when we said we were going to the library to research with Baz, Dev, and Niall, Agatha agreed to come and do her Latin homework. She clearly changed her tune, seeing how fun the boys can be when we’re not all feuding.

 

So, now, Aggie’s sold on them too. I never thought I’d be able to watch Baz and Agatha banter so comfortably and not lose my head over it. Though, Baz’s birthday was properly educational, wasn’t it?

 

I was a bit floored to learn Baz was gay. I mean, I’d never noticed him fancy anyone before, except Agatha, I thought. He admitted that he only did that to get under my skin, which irritated me for a minute. But then he apologized, and I was so taken aback by the shyness in his voice when he did that I forgot that I was cross with him. He was biting his bottom lip, which was so bashful and so unlike Baz that it was endearing. I wanted to smooth out his lip to make sure he didn’t get a teeth mark there. I wanted to—

 

“Simon, did you hear the bell?” Penny asks, concerned, pulling me out of my daydream.

 

“What?” I stutter. “Oh, yeah, um, yeah… we have, uh, Elocution?”

 

“Eloquent as ever, Snow,” Baz teases with a smirk.

 

I knock his book out of his hand just to see the surprise on his face. “Oops, sorry, Pitch,” I say with a smile. 

 

He kneels to the ground for his book, narrowing his eyes at me through his long, dark eyelashes. “You’re a national disgrace.”  

 

I laugh, and grab his hand to pull him back up. I feel a bit electric when he grabs my hand—probably an instinctual feeling from when we share magic. We walk together to Elocution class, trading insults the whole way.

 


 

Baz, Niall, and I are out on the football pitch when it happens again. Now that Baz and I are friends, I can come to his practices without risking a fight about it later. When I was following him around fifth year, I started showing up to all his practices and matches. He got so antagonistic about it, especially when I told him I was going to catch him plotting. When I stopped following him around the clock, I figured I ought to tone down the football visits, so I only showed up once every couple of weeks to watch him play. (It was to make sure he wasn’t plotting anything—just in case.) Though, I love football, so I really do like watching them (especially Baz) kick the ball around. I reckon now Baz actually appreciates that I enjoy watching him play, though he wouldn’t ever admit it. The first time, he pouted a little, asking if I was hoping to catch him secretly performing dark rituals. I shrugged and answered honestly—that I just like watching him when he plays. He ducked into the bathroom after that, but not before I saw his cheeks darken slightly. Now, he’ll send me victorious smirks every time he makes a goal.

 

About an hour in, Baz has the ball and is making his way toward the goalie, when loud howls pour out of the Wavering Wood. The sound stops him dead in his tracks, and his gaze snaps to the west. He’s sniffing the air discreetly. Then, he suddenly does a 180 and starts to sprint up to the bleachers toward me.

 

“Werewolves,” He hisses, low so only I can hear.

 

“What? Really? You sure?” I ask, with widened eyes.

 

“Yes, I’m sure,” He spits out harshly. “This isn’t like the time last year you killed that Great Dane for no reason, this is the real deal.”

 

I ignore his accusation, partially because I’m sure that dog was were. (And it was about to rip Baz’s head off, so I’ll remind him to thank me later.) Though, the reality of werewolves in Watford shoots a thrill of fear through me the other attacks couldn’t manage. We learned in Magikal Creatures that werewolves are one of the few creatures whose teeth can easily slice through a vampire's skin. Just like Baz can smell them, they can smell him. It’ll be their natural instinct to make a beeline for him. I grab his hand in a protective gesture.

 

“Chill, Snow," Baz says, yanking his hand away. “They aren’t here just yet.”

 

Undeterred, I reach for his forearm, and grip hard so he can’t pull away again. “We both know we need to end this one quickly, Baz.”

 

To make matters worse, we’re outnumbered. Penny and Dev are all the way back in their dorms. Who knows how long it’ll take them to realize there’s an attack?

 

“Fine, Snow,” Baz replies, and his wand slips out of his shirtsleeve.

 

“Really?” I ask with a huff of amusement. “Even during football practice?”

 

“You can thank me later.” Baz smirks. “It’s clearly going to be put to good use today.” Niall finally makes his way over to us. The howling has gotten much closer, I realize, as Niall pants, “werewolves.”

 

“So we’ve deduced.” Baz says, and then turns to me. “Careful not to make it too obvious… what we’re doing.”

 

Baz thinks it’s dangerous or something for people to know we can share magic. I disagreed, and wanted to tell a teacher, or the Mage when he gets back from wherever he’s been most of the semester. But Penny was just as adamant as Baz was that our magic-sharing needed to stay a secret. I trust her judgement more than anyone, so I promised not to tell anyone. It makes these attacks more tricky, though, because Baz and I have to find excuses to touch so he can borrow my magic. Our classmates are thoroughly mystified by our sudden closeness. We tend to get stares as we walk through the hallway together, which Baz meets with cold indifference, though all the attention on our friendship makes me blush a little.

 

Niall grabs my arm, so that now we just look like three unusually close blokes who like to link arms before battle. We stop when we reach the edge of the Wavering Wood. Niall and I are standing defensively in front of Baz as six—Crowley, six!— werewolves stalk out of the shadowed forest.

 

“That’s half a pack,” Niall swears, trying to broaden his shoulders to cover more of Baz.

 

“Then we better get to work,” Baz answers quickly. Niall nods, casting “once in a blue moon!” at the wolves, though that is only going to hold them at bay. We’ll need something more powerful to take them out. Baz grabs my hand, now that we’re far away enough from the crowd. I open up my magic to him, trusting he’ll know the right spell (the clever bastard). I hear his sigh of relief as I fill him with my magic, as he chants in a loud clear voice, “Silver bullet! Silver bullet! SILVER BULLET!” at the beasts.

 


 

I’m still caked in blood and sweat as I walk down from the Mage’s office, hours after the werewolf attack. The Mage didn’t bother casting a Clean As A Whistle on me, and I didn’t dare attempt it myself. Given how exhausted I am, my magic probably would have just have turned me into a whistle.

 

Penny and Dev made it to the woods just as the three of us had finished off the last of the werewolves. Though the creatures clear targets were me and Baz, Niall got the worst of it, since he was using his own body as a barricade. I’m sure he knows about Baz being a vampire. When the last of the werewolves launched for Baz, an inhuman scream ripped itself out of me and Baz froze, but Niall sent his whole body against the beast. That bought Baz just enough time to grip my hand tighter and send a perfectly aimed Silver Bullet to the creature, ending the battle. I wouldn’t let go of his hand though, not even when the Mage showed up, his green long coat blowing wildly in the breeze, and pulled me away from the violent scene.

 

The Mage’s suspicious, that’s for sure. As soon as I sat down in his office, he cast an Eavesdroppers Never Hear Any Good of Themselves on the door to ensure we aren’t overheard. Then, he started in on me, spending a good hour trying to figure out how I’ve gained such good control over my magic. He must not have been close enough to realize that Baz was casting all the particularly difficult spells. I was thinking about breaking my promise to Penny—I thought, surely, it couldn’t hurt to clue in the Mage, right?— when he brought up Baz.

 

“That Pitch boy and the Kelly boy were with you?” The Mage asked, and I nodded. “They were trying to derail your magic, weren’t they? I can bring them in for punishment next.”

 

“No, no, sir!” I protested. “They were only helping! They have been helping us fight the magical creatures all semester!”

 

The Mage gave me a skeptical look. “Surely, you can’t mean that, Simon.”

 

His doubt confused me. Why would I lie? “I do! They’re very good at magic, sir!” For good measure, I add, “I couldn’t have survived the semester without them.”

 

This made the Mage clench his jaw tightly. “Simon, have you considered the Old Families may have counseled their children to pretend to be your ally?”

 

No, I’m pretty sure Penny just threatened them, or something, I think, but I know better than to say that out loud, so I said, “Sir, we’re all just friends, now.”

 

The Mage looked at me, and said, “The Pitches will never be our friends. I recommend you stay away from that boythe whole lot of them, really. The Grimms and Kellys are nearly as bad as Pitches. None of them can be trusted.”

 

Crowley, did I used to sound this paranoid? I wondered. The families really can’t be all that bad, I reckon. Niall’s always going on about how amazing his mum is at baking, and Dev keeps a pocket watch that has a family portrait of him with his parents, who are both smiling on dotingly at him. Though I still think Mr. Grimm seems terrifying, Baz clearly loves his little siblings. He complains about them whenever they’re brought up, but his eyes light up and he gets this sentimental little smile, so he must just like teasing people he loves.

 

The Mage has always painted them as these magical purist maniacs who spend their free time hoarding black magic. Though, from what I gather, they just seem conservative. Though I disagree with their politics, not being progressive doesn’t seem like a crime punishable by exile, the way the Mage makes it seem.

 

I decided saying any of this would be pointless, so I just said, “okay.”

 

The Mage’s shoulders relaxed at this. “So you’ll stop fraternizing with Basilton Pitch?”

 

No way. “He’s my roommate.” I said, a little more defensively than I should have. The Mage’s eyes narrowed, and I added, “Sir, the Crucible cast us together, like brothers?” I could never see Baz and I as brothers, but to win an argument with the Mage it's best to use his own logic. "So… we have to spend some time together."

 

“Very well. Just… try to avoid them as much as possible. Let me know if they give you trouble,” The Mage said, looking dissatisfied. “Now, let’s practice some offensive spells, shall we?”

 

And that’s how I got stuck practicing magic for another two hours, immediately after an intense battle. I trust the Mage knows what’s best, but, Crowley, is he exhausting sometimes. Especially since, given “my” performance with the werewolves, I was supposed to have suddenly gained Basilton Pitch’s level of control. Though I do have a better hold on my magic since practicing with Baz, it only truly works right when we’re sharing magic. I pretend that I must just be drained from the werewolf attack as an explanation for why I’ve suddenly apparently lost most of my newfound talent, and the Mage eventually excuses me, albeit with some poorly concealed skepticism.

 

When I finally make it back to my room, I startle Baz, who appears to have been pacing around our bedroom. “Hey Baz. Miss me?” I ask cheekily.

 

Baz huffs, but stops his pacing. “As if,” he retorts smoothly.

 

"How's Niall?" I ask.

 

"Fine, he's fine," Baz says, running a hand through his long hair. He hasn't cut it all semester, so it's down to his shoulders, now. "He was healed up pretty quickly, actually. He's just resting it off in his room now." I let out a sigh of relief. Baz presses on immediately, asking, “What did the Mage do to you? He kept you so long I assumed he decided to ship you off to Scotland or something.”

 

I laugh. “Yeah, he asked me to quit school and become a werewolf herder. Wanna come?” I ask. (Baz’s sarcasm is really rubbing off on me.) He frowns.

 

“Seriously, Snow? Did he notice the magic sharing?”

 

I shrug. “I think he knows something’s up, but I don’t think he suspects that. I think he’s hoping I’m just really growing into this Greatest Mage thing.”

 

Baz’s shoulders relax and the tension slides from his face. “You? The Greatest Mage?” He jokes. “He didn’t see you last week in Magic Words when we were working on Dickens.”

 

“I already told you,” I respond, exasperated. “I’ve never read Tale of Two Cities!”

 

“Uncultured swine,” he deadpans, looking me square in the eye.

 

I grin and move to take off my blood stained clothing. He hasn’t complainedhe still pretends like I don't already know he's a vampirebut all this blood must bother him. I turn to my dresser and pull my shirt over my head, and out of the corner of my eye I see that Baz has stiffened and is looking down. I forgot that we always change in the bathroom, since we’ve gotten so much closer. “Sorry” I say, awkwardly. I motion to the shirt and say, “Uh, the blood.”  Baz stops sucking on his fangs and goes redlooks like he fed today. I take that as my cue to slip into the bathroom with my pajamas to take a shower, keeping my back to him as I walk into the en suite.

 

When I come back out, scrubbed clean of blood, Baz is still in his uniform, laying in bed with one of his textbooks open on his lap.

 

“Only you would be studying the night before winter holidays.” I laugh, and then add, “Well, you and Penny.”

 

“I can’t let her beat me for top of the class, now can I?” Every year, Baz and Penny are neck and neck.

 

“Of course not,” I say sarcastically, and we fall into companionable silence for a while.

 

Baz finally breaks it, with, “so, you’re headed to the Wellbeloves for the holidays?”

 

“No, not this year,” I respond without looking at him, trying not to sound disappointed. Agatha asked me not to come home with her this year. She wants to come out to her parents as asexual and aromantic, and she thinks it might be a hard to do that with her ex-boyfriend tagging along for the holidays. I understood, and she suggested that I stay with Penny instead. But since Penny’s mum can’t stand me for more than two consecutive days, I’m only going to head over there on Boxing Day. It’s going to be lonely at Watford over the break, though Ebb suggested I stop by her place until she leaves to see her own family.

 

“Oh, um,” Baz stutters, surprising me into looking up at him. “Would…” He starts, and then trails off.

 

“Yeah?” I encourage, tryingand failing to catch his eye. He’s still looking down at his textbook, though I haven’t noticed him turn the page since I got out of the bathroom.

 

“Well, we have an extensive library at my house. You could come home with me, and we could research,” Baz says.

 

I laugh nervously. He can’t be serious. “Yeah, and then your father will serve me as the main course at Christmas dinner.”

 

This is when Baz finally looks up at me, and there’s an emotion that I can’t quite catch that rushes into his eyes before he flattens it with a cold gaze. “We don’t make a habit of cannibalizing our guests.”

 

“Yeah, but…” I try to find something to say. “I mean, I won’t be welcome.”

 

“Obviously, if I’m asking you, you’re welcome.” The coldness in Baz’s eyes has spread to the set of his jaw, the furrow of his brow, the down curve of his lips.

 

I start to panic a little, not wanting him to revert back to the Baz I fought with for so long. I open my mouth to say something to make him soften again, but out comes, “I think it would upset the Mage.”

 

Baz’s jaw clenches, but I keep talking, trying to find the right words. “I mean, uh, when I went up to talk to him, he was worried about how much time we spent together, and I just think

 

Baz cuts me off with a sneer. “Think that it’d be too off-brand not to be his lapdog for once?”

 

I forget that I’m trying to keep from escalating the situation. I forget that I’m just trying to explain that I’m worried about him—that if the Mage thinks Baz is taking advantage of me that he’ll take it out on him, not me. But I fall back into bad habits so easily. “Fuck you, Baz."

 

“You’re always going to be his loyal Heir, no matter what he does, right?” Baz pushes.

 

“You’re being so unfair!” I yell. I feel the temperature in the room raise as my magic jumps to my skin.

 

“If he says jump, you’re always ready to ask: how high?” Baz laughs, and not the one I’ve grown used to the last couple of months. It’s not his carefree, pretty laughter; it’s the mocking, cruel chuckle I’ve heard too many times throughout the years. "Crowley, Snow, you're pathetic."

 

“He saved me!” I yell back. It’s the real reason I always stand up for the Mage, even when I disagree with him. He saved me from the alternative, the one I have to go back to for two and a half miserable months every year. “If it we’re up to you and your elitist family, I’d be stuck going off in Normal homes for the rest of my life! If your mother was still

 

I know I’ve gone too far immediately. I regret my temper the second Baz registers what I’m about to say. For once in my life, I feel cold when Baz doesn’t even bother to hide the hurt that cloud his features. I’m sure I’ve done something totally unforgiveable if he’s looking at me like thislike he can’t recognize me.

 

“No, no, no, Baz,” I say quickly, pulling at my curls so hard I’m sure I’ve torn some out. “I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry, I meant"

 

It doesn’t matter what I plan on saying next, because Baz is already out the door, slamming it shut as he leaves.

 


 

I wake up the next morning feeling less rested than I ever have. I kept waking up throughout the night to see if Baz would come back, but he never did. He must have crashed in Niall and Dev’s room to avoid me.

 

To make a bad day worse, waking up throughout the night means I don’t actually drag myself out of bed until ten a.m. So I end up missing saying goodbye to Penny and Agatha by a good hour. I scrawl a hasty “I’m sorry, Baz” note and drop it on his bed, figuring he has to come back sometime today since his things are still here. Then, I eat breakfastoatmeal, since they’re out of scones in silence.

 

I don’t know why I reacted so poorly to Baz asking me to come home with him. I mean, considering the Mage barely checks in on me unless something major is going on, I probably could have gone to Baz’s for the holidays and he would be none the wiser. But the question left me so flustered, I just got so worked up. I mean, I meant what I said about the Mage not liking it. But there’s just something about my friendship with Baz that just feels so fragile. I feel like we’re on the precipice of something, and I just can’t figure out what. The offer to stay with him just felt like too much unknown for even me to jump into.

 

Finally, I finish my soggy oatmeal, and decide to head over to Ebb’s. She always manages to keep me distracted.

 

As I walk to her cottage, I make my list of Things Not To Think About. I expect this to take me the whole 10 minute walk, but it turns out there’s just one thing I can’t handle thinking about right now, and one thing I can’t stop thinking about: Baz.

 

I’ve picturedand beat myself up for— the face he made when I mentioned his mother roughly a hundred times by the time I’m knocking on Ebb’s door.

 

“Wotcher, Simon!" Ebb greets with her crooked smile. She’s got a touch of a Cockney accent, which drew me to her immediately when I came to Watford. Nearly every other person here spoke with such careful precision from growing up with elocution lessons to prepare them for Watford. Ebb is much more emotionally charged than articulate, so her accent slips into her voice when she's not doing magic. It makes me feel less out of place. “Lovely day, innit?”

 

I have to disagree with her on that one, so I just shrug.

 

“You stuck here for Christmas, eh?” Ebb asks with a frown. I nod.

 

“Wanna come feed the goats with me then?” The offer is the first thing that makes me smile today, so I give her an eager nod. She pops into her shed to get some hay, and we walk over to the pens. Ebb’s humming God Save The Queen under her breath cheerily, but other than that, we fall into companionable silence for a while. After we finish with the goats, Ebb invites me in for tea.

 

“You haven’t been up here much,” Ebb points out, without any accusation in her voice, as she hands me my Yorkshire tea.

 

“I’ve had a rough couple of months,” I admit, blowing on the steaming cup. She must have warmed it with her magic, because it smells like the sea.

 

“I’ve noticed,” She pauses, stirring her own cup of tea. “You’ve been hanging out with that Pitch boy quite a bit, yeah?”

 

My stomach drops. Feeding the goats actually took my mind off him for a while, and the guilt of our argument rushes through me at his name. “Yeah,” I respond simply, fighting to keep my voice level.

 

“Boy’s got all his mother’s talent, he does. You must be happy to have him helping you out with all these attacks.”

 

This is not where I was hoping this conversation would go. I reckon I better just answer honestly, and say, a little sadly, “yeah, he’s brilliant, alright.”

 

Ebb doesn't drop it, like I hope she will. She gives me a searching look and says slowly, “You know, my brother used to date his aunt.”

 

I look at Ebb in surprise. I’ve only ever heard derogatory things about Ebb from Baz, back when he used to try to get a rise out of me by insulting her. I would never have guessed they had this connection. “He did?”

 

“Oh, yeah. Our last couple years at Watford. Inseparable, the pair of ‘em. Almost as inseparable as Nicky and I were. He was my twin, ya know? Though the two of them had more trouble in each of their pinkies than I do in my whole body.” This makes Ebb smile nostalgically. She doesn’t talk of her brother often, but when she does it makes her weepy. She carries on, though. “Nicky didn’t realize what he had with Fiona though, and he messed it up. Dumb mistake to make, letting true love slip you by.”

 

If the connection between Ebb and the Pitches shocked me, this floors me. “He broke up with her?” I ask, unable to keep the awe out of my voice. Fiona Pitch seems like the type to castrate a bloke for offending herI loathe to think what she'd do to someone whose dumped her.

 

Ebb says, vaguely, “In a way. He took a wrong turn, and Fiona wouldn’t follow. Messed her up good, though. She was almost as gutted as me, after.”

 

Fiona Pitch is a right fright, now. She comes to visit Baz sometimes on weekends, and she rolls in with her red vintage Aston Martin like some kind of punk rock James Bond. She’s got a sharper tongue than Baz andsomehow— even more fire. I can’t imagine her as a heartbroken teenager.

 

“Did you guys get into a lot of adventures?” I ask, trying to keep the conversation cheery.

 

She laughs wetly. “I got dragged into a couple. Fiona was always coming up with wild plans, like finding Wonderland.” Ebb says with a roll of her eyes.

 

“Wonderland?” I ask, then remember what Baz said about that. “Wait, fairy territory?”

 

“Yeah!” Ebb says. “It’s in the New Forest.”

 

“The National Park?” I ask. One summer, there was a large donation to one of the homes I was staying in, so we took a field trip there. I was eight, and I didn't see anyor believe in— fairies.

 

“The very one. You know the story, Lewis Carroll’s daughter wandered off on vacation and got stuck there, yeah? Well the Pitch house is not far from therethey’ve got a mansion in Hampshire and it was Fiona’s idea to try to get us a four-leaf-clover. They’re wicked useful, but super rare, since they’re almost always in fairy territory. Anyways, we got caught, obviously. Barely left with our heads.” She laughs, and I suspect that, even if she wasn’t as much of a troublemaker as her brother and Fiona, that she could be a force to be reckoned with if she wanted to. I never really imagined Ebb as young and wild before now, but she must have gotten all her smile lines somewhere.

 

“What happened?” I ask, curiously.

 

“Well,” Ebb starts, “we got as far as entrance garden when the Queen’s fairies got us.”

 

“The Queen of Hearts?” I guess.

 

“Oh, god, no! Lucky for us, she’s been dead for a century or so. Her daughter summoned us. She’s much kinder, but wicked clever. Nicky got quite cheeky with her, so she decided to tell him his future… powerful fairies can make predictions, sometimes, though you’re always supposed to take ‘em with a grain of salt because fairies can be tricky. They can cause your future by telling you it...” Ebb trails off, and I notice tears start to form. From what I've gathered over the years, her brother's dead.

 

“Um, then what happened?” I ask, not wanting her to start weeping over Nicky.

 

“She wanted something from all of us. An exchange. I don’t know what she took from Fiona, but she took my and Nicky's bracelets.” She says this like the Queen asked Ebb for her own heart.

 

“Oh, er, I’m sorry?” I say, not meaning to make it sound like a question, but unsure how a bracelet was a major loss.

 

“No, no, they weren't ordinary bracelets.” Ebb shakes her head, catching on to my incomprehension. “They were bracelets my grandmother, an extremely powerful Mage, had enchanted for us. They had a strong protective charmsupposed to keep you safe from dark creatures. They were dead useful, especially because they were made with love.” She sighs. “The Queen has an affinity for love magic from her mother. It’s said that her father was a powerful fairy who had the ability to see into all possible futures. With those magics combined, she’s unstoppable. It was an iconically Fiona Pitch brand of reckless to try to get into Wonderland in the first place, but that’s Fiona for you.”

 

“Wow…” I say. “What was it like? Scary?”

 

“Wonderland is beautiful. Rose gardens as far as the eye can see, the food’s allegedly divine, but you have to stay there until it’s out of your system, so it’s not recommended to eat or drink anything…” Ebb loses the dreamy look on her face. “The Queen isn’t cruel, per se, but she will still run your blood cold. She’s so powerful that her fairy magic messes with Mage magic the closer you get to her. Especially if you have a lot of it. Nicky and I could barely cast a spell in Wonderland. Fiona had to do all of them.”

 

“Fairies mess with your magic?” I ask. Wait a minute...

 

“Not all of them, but she does. God, it felt like… excuse my choice of words, Si. But I reckon it feels almost like going off. Like you're gunna explode with all the magic at your fingertips.”

 

I stand up suddenly. “I gotta go, Ebb.”

 

“You okay?” Ebb asks, concerned. “You sure you don’t want to finish your cuppa, love?”

 

“No, no, I wanna find Baz. I gotta talk to him,” I say urgently, running a hand through my curls.

 

“Oh, okay,” Ebb says cheering up. “Don’t mess that Pitch up, yeah?”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” I answer, not actually listening to what she’s saying anymore in my rush to get my coat and get to Baz. “Happy holidays, Ebb!” I add politely, and run back to Mummer’s.

 

When I get back to our bedroom, Baz’s travel bag is missing. I swear in frustration, until I see a note on my bed.

 

Below the apology note I wrote Baz, written in loopy, precise cursive, is an address in Hampshire. I snatch up the letter without even reading it, and rush out the door to call a cab. 

 

Chapter Text

Baz

 

"Mordelia, no," I insist, for probably the hundredth time this evening.

 

"Why not," she demands. (It's not a question.) She levels me with a glare.

 

"You're six," I try to reason with her.

 

"I will be seven in a week," Mordelia responds, with one eyebrow raised, like she's made her point. I decide not to enlighten her to the fact that six and seven is not an age difference that makes much of a dent in my opinion of her.

 

I raise an eyebrow right back at her, and say, "Because this violin is worth more than your life."

 

"Impossible, I'm priceless." She's got her tiny arms crossed over her chest, and she's perfected the Grimm deadpan already. Crowley, she's cute. But not cute enough to let her borrow my mother’s antique violin after she's only had a couple months of lessons.

 

"Name three Bach pieces," I say, changing tactics to throw her off.

 

She frowns. “I learned how to play Old MacDonald last week."

 

"Child's play," I wave her off dismissively.

 

"Baz, I am a child!"

 

A loud, mournful organ song suddenly plays throughout the house. Saved by the bell, I think happily. "Go get the door, Mordelia."

 

"No thanks," she replies cheerfully.

 

I narrow my eyes at her. "Now."

 

"Mum told me that I can't talk to strangers. What if it's a stranger?" Damn it, of course she's already had the stranger danger talk. Though, since the locals think this house is haunted, this will likely just be a Ding-Dong-Ditch situation.

 

"Fine." I compromise. "We'll both go." Father and Daphne would not be pleased if I let Mordelia get kidnapped while I was babysitting, and, honestly, I don't feel like hunting someone dumb enough to take a Grimm heir, anyways. They'd have to know that we'd be obligated to tear them to pieces for the mistake.

 

When I open the door, instead of a kidnapper or a twelve year old prankster, I find Simon Snow, soaking wet from head to toe and shivering at my doorstep.

 

"Taxis won't drive up your driveway. Did you know that?" he asks, and then immediately adds, earnestly, "Is it because you live in the Addams family house?"

 

Mordelia peers from behind my back, and Snow looks shocked to see her, like he doesn't already know I have a sister. Mordelia narrows her dark eyes at him, and says boldly, throwing her shoulders back and placing her hands on her hips, "You're Simon Snow."

 

"Uh, yeah," Simon says, dumbly.

 

Mordelia looks at me. "Why is the Chosen One at our house, Bazzy?"

 

Damn her, of all times for Mordelia to use that stupid nickname. I open my mouth to answer her, but I'm cut off by Snow's howling laughter. I glare at him, but that's been less effective of late. He continues his loud chuckling.

 

"Really, Snow, are you quite finished?" I finally ask, impatient. Maybe I shouldn't have bothered to invite this git, I think, but then he looks up at me with his blue eyes, coughs a little, and stutters, "sorry, sorry, can I, uh, come in?", and I remember why I wanted him here so badly in the first place. I miss him over holidays.

 

"Not like that you can't," I say. He looks disappointed by my rejection, until I drop my wand from my sleeve and point it at him, and cast, "Clean As A Whistle! Bone Dry!"

 

"Thanks" he says shyly, and steps out of the cold, over the threshold to our foyer. "I came to tell you, well, I was" He stops in the middle of his sentence to say, in a serious tone, "Baz. You'reyou're wearing jeans."

 

I look down at my attire, and I am, indeed, wearing dark blue Levi's. I don't really see how that's relevant, though. "Yeah?" I say, unsure where he is going with this.

 

He turns beet red, and stammers, "Well, I've just never, uh, well"

 

Mordelia cuts him off before he ever gets to his point. "What's the Addams family?" she asks innocently, and I want to laugh at the embarrassed look that Snow gets on his face.  I almost want to let Snow try to explain the macabre decor of the show to a six year old, but it would take too much time for him to find even half the words.

 

I speak before he can start stuttering again. "Why don't you go play in your room?" I ask Mordelia.

 

"No, thanks," she says flatly.

 

"Not up for negotiation."

 

"I'll tell Mum you weren’t actually watching me," she threatens.

 

"Then, I'll tell her it was you who broke her antique vase last summer."

 

"She won't believe you," she replies, with her angelic, wide smile. Merlin, she's right.

 

"I'll let you play my violin," I concede. She dramatically thinks this over for about thirty seconds, and then says, "fine." and skips back up the stairs to the music room.

 

Crowley, Mordelia better be as good at the violin as she is at bargaining and manipulation, or she’s going to ruin my instrument.

 

I turn to Snow, who looks a bit shell-shocked by my little sister, and raise a solo eyebrow at him. "Fancy seeing you here," I say. I left my address with him, but I didn't think he'd actually show up. Much less only a few hours after I arrived home.

 

"Um, sorry, I just I, uh well, I thought you'd want to know that, uh"

 

Crowley, will he ever get a sentence out? The suspense is killing me, so I demand, "Spit it out."

 

"I-think-I-know-who-the-attackers-are!" He exclaims so quickly that his sentence comes out as one word.

 

"Come on," I say, and lead him to my bedroom so we can talk privately. Mordelia is well-known for her eavesdropping.

 

My heart’s hammering as I take him to my bedroom. I’m still cross with him over our fight yesterday.

 

As soon as we walk into my bedroom, and Snow says, amused, "okay, I was almost joking about the Addams family house thing before, but seriously?"

 

I can see what he means. My bedroom is decorated like it's 1819which makes sense, since that's when it was furnished. I have a large King-sized four poster bed, red velvet wallpaper, and goddamn gargoyles on my bed posts, for Crowley's sake. There are posters and pictures inside my wardrobe, but other than that, the house is to be kept in its original state. I don't want to give Snow the satisfaction of knowing that even I don't like the decorations in my own room, so I raise an eyebrow, and say, "did you come here just to insult my ancestral home?"

 

His eyes widen. “No, no! So I was talking to Ebb and she said

 

“The goatkeeper?” I interrupt, wrinkling my nose distastefully.

 

He juts out his chin defiantly, clearly picking up on my judgement. “Yes, her. Your aunt used to date her brother and

 

“She what?” Leave it to Aunt Fi to leave that detail our when she was trash talking the goatkeeper.

 

Snow sighs loudly, pouting. “Can I tell my story?”

 

I sarcastically motion locking my lips and throwing away the key, and he smiles a little.

 

“Okay, so they went to Wonderland as teenagers because they wanted a four-leaf-clover.”

 

“What a fun way to commit suicide,” I note. Fairies don’t like having their territory trespassed.

 

“Yeah, yeah. Well it was your aunt’s idea.” Typical, I think. It’s a wonder none of Fi’s wild plans have gotten her killed. “It’s apparently in New Forest National Park, and the place smells like roses, and they met the Queennot the Queen of Hearts, the new one, her daughter and she’s like a super powerful fairy and Ebb said that.” He stops to take a large breath of air, since he’s been talking a mile a minute since he got started. “The Queen’s magic made her magic go funny.”

 

“Go funny as in…?” I ask, though I’m sure I know the answer.

 

“She felt like she was going off.”

 

My stomach drops. “That’s… bad.”

 

“What? We know who it is now!” Snow reasons.

 

“Yeah, and it’s fairies.” I explain. “That’s bad.”

 

We were lucky when the fairies decided to disappear into their wooded corners of the world. They’re clever creatures with mysterious magic. Mages have always had a healthy respect and fear of fairies.

 

“Oh… well…” True to form, he shrugs. My heart twists. He doesn’t even realize the danger he’s in.

 

“How did you manage to make an enemy of a fairy?” I ask, eyes narrowed. “No, correct me. How did you manage to make an enemy of the bloody Queen of Fairies?

 

“I dunno.” He gives me one of his infernal shrugs and I growl. “I don’t, honestly!”

 

“Of course.” I sigh, and decide, “we’re going to see Fiona tomorrow.” Since she’s clearly had experience with fairies, I’m going to talk her into helping us solve this fiasco.

 

“W-we?” He says, his eyes bulging in alarm. “She hates me.”

 

I wave him off, and say, “Rubbish.” Though, I’m pretty sure he’s right on this one. If Dev and Niall think my plans are over-dramatic, it’s because they’ve never been privy to the ones Fiona insists I carry out, after she’s had a couple of glasses of whisky. He’s looking at me skeptically, and I suddenly remember why I’m so annoyed with him. “Look, Snow. My family is not going to murder you in cold blood. I know we’re all elitist, soulless pricks, but we have some honor, after all.” I sharpen my voice to hide my hurt, though I’m not sure I do an excellent job of it, because his face is suddenly stuck between utter mortification and rotten guilt.

 

“Baz,” He starts, staring me down with his blue eyes, and I’m furious with myself because I’m already melting. Why am I so weak for him? Why can’t I just let him go?

 

“Basilton, Mordelia! We’re home!” Daphne calls, interrupting my self-loathing thoughts.

 

Bloody hell. They're back.

 

“Whose that?” Snow asks.

 

“My step-mum." Knowing I have to get it over with, I say, “Come on, meet my family.”

 

We meet Daphne in the kitchen. She’s got the baby in a high chair, and is warming up his formula. She flips her long dark brown hair over her shoulder, and says in her high, clear voice, “Oh, Basil, thanks for watching your sister for us, she just hates shopping, and” she stops when she sees Snow from across the kitchen island. She looks shocked for a moment, but recovers quickly, and says, “oh, hello, you’re Basilton’s roommate, right? It’s a pleasure.”

 

She’s acting like The Mage and his heir hasn’t been a subject of discussion a hundred times in this household. Daphne is nothing if not diplomatic.

 

Snow is just staring at the hand she has outstretched over the counter, until I kick his ankle discreetly. He takes her hand. “Oh, hello, I’m Simon Snow,” he says, like every Mage in Britain doesn’t already know that. “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Grimm-Pitch.”

 

To Daphne’s credit, her smile barely falters. “Just Mrs. Grimm, sweetheart.”

 

Simon flushes red at his mistake. If he keeps doing thatturning that delicious crimson color I’m going to bite him. Or kiss him. Most likely the latter.

 

“I’mI’m sorry, Mrs. Grimm,” he corrects.

 

Daphne looks at me expectantly, waiting for me to explain why a boy I have complained about non-stop since the day I met him is now hanging out in our kitchen. I imagine saying ‘Listen, you know how I said he was insufferable? Well, this year I got sucked into a kind of Mage Dream Team with him and we’ve spent the school year fighting dark creatures. Why, you ask? Well, I am arse over tit for Simon Snow, and his best friend blackmailed me with the fact that he's my soulmate (unrequited, of course) and—”

 

No, better not that. “We have a project, and I said he could stay with us.” Then, I add, knowing it will soften Daphne up. “He didn’t want to stay at school by himself for Christmas, and since we have room here...”

 

The orphan card works. The confusion clears from her face and is replaced with sympathy. She doesn’t care much about the War, anyways. “Oh, of course he can! I’ll just tell Vera to make up the guest room and set an extra plate at the table.” She pauses thoughtfully, “Though, we better go tell Malcolm

 

As if on cue, Father walks into the kitchen with a twin on each hip. “Tell Malcolm what?” He asks flatly, though there’s a mischievous glint in his eye someone who didn’t know him well wouldn’t pick up on. I hear, rather than see, Snow swallow, and I keep my eyes on my Father to keep from letting his gorgeous Adam’s apple distract me.

 

“Father, I invited Snow to stay with us for the holidays,” I say with more confidence than I feel. Father turns his head towards Snow, and surprise flashes in his eyes momentarily before he crushes it from his expression.

 

“Oh?” He asks, with an eyebrow raised. Snow looks wildly uncomfortable, but holds his hand out to greet him. My father still has my sisters in his hand, and doesn’t move to shake it.  

 

Predictably, he starts babbling. “Um, yes sir, Mr. Grimm, you see, I’m here because, um, Baz and I, well

 

I cut him off mercifully. “Snow and I are friends, and we have to work on a project, and he didn’t have anywhere to go for Christmas.” Might as well get it all on the table, now. Well, the relevant bits. No need to give them the gory details tattooed across my chest.

 

“I see,” Father says. His mouth thins out a bit, but I don’t falter under his gaze. He finally sets down the toddlers, and holds out his hand to shake Snow’s. Snow looks like he’s prepping for battle, the way he broadens his shoulders and clenches his jaw.

 

“ThThank you very much for having me, sir. Youuh— have a lovely home.” I almost snort with laughter, because not 15 minutes ago he was all but accusing us of having trapdoors and dungeons for prisoners. But my Father doesn’t know this, so he’s somewhat appeased by the compliment. He gives Snow a curt nod, and walks out of the kitchen.

 

Well, that’s the best that could have been hoped for, honestly.

 

“Basilton, dear,” Daphne says with a smile. “How about you two get cleaned up for supper? Make your sister get in her dress too, please.”

 

Damn, I think, Introducing Snow to my family is a piece of cake compared to convincing Mordelia to get dressed properly.

 


 

Dinner is a somber affair. Even the baby has picked up on the weird mood and is staring at his formula bottle with detached disinterest. He’s a natural born Grimm, alright.

 

Daphne finally breaks the silence. “So, boys, what’s your project on?” She asks, with polite interest.

 

“Fairies,” I say, figuring if we’re going to raid the family library, we might as well keep our stories straight with the books we’re borrowing. “We thought the project would be more original if we used books from our library instead of the schools.”

 

“Good thinking, son,” Father says, but he’s frowning. “The Watford library has become inadequate since your mother was Headmistress.”

 

I think this might be a ploy to see how Snow will react, to test his loyalty to the Mage. But Snow is too busy shoveling food down his throat to notice the subtle jab to his mentor. Father is looking at him like he’s a zoo animal.

 

I decide I have to correct his poor table manners. “Snow, we’re not going to run out,” I whisper to him, and his ears go red. He swallows quickly and mutters an apology. I roll my eyes.

 

“So,” Mordelia says with the sweet smile she always has when she’s about to be cheeky, “is Simon your boyfriend?”

 

My father chokes on his Yorkshire pudding.

 

“Mordelia!” Father scolds, with his napkin over his mouth.

 

Daphne eyes look like they might pop out of her head. She doesn’t mind my gayness, not like Father seems to, but that doesn’t mean she finds my ‘preferences’ to be polite dinner conversation.

 

“What?” She says, sincerely. “Doesn’t Bazzy fancy boys?”

 

“Yes, but not every boy,” I explain to her. Which is true. I’ve only fancied one bloke. The one sitting to my left. But no one needs to know that.

 

“Don’t you think Simon’s cute?” She asks, with false innocence and her head cocked. This is her revenge for choosing a pink, frilly dress for her to wear tonight, I'm sure of it. I should have drowned this mischievous child in the river at birth. It would have saved me a world of trouble. I don’t dare look at Snow’s face, now, because his disgust with Mordelia's assumptions would be too much to bear.

 

“Okay! Time for dessert!” Daphne says with false cheerinessthank Crowley for her and rushes off to the kitchen to get the custard tart. Luckily, the promise of sweets seems to distract Snow from the embarrassment of being mistaken for my boyfriend, and Mordelia from her heinous plans to have me self combust with mortification. The pair of them dig in immediately, and no one says another word for the rest of supper.

 


 

We head straight to the library to find books on fairies and Wonderland. I'm about halfway done pulling books off the shelves to create a considerable pile, when Snow says, "I'm sorry."

 

I raise an eyebrow."For?" I ask. We both have so much to apologize for, it’s hard to pinpoint what he could mean.

 

"I didn't really think before I came here…" he trails off and looks nervous.

 

I’m unsure if I want to hear the answer, but I ask, “Why did you then?”

 

He lets out a sigh so dramatic I'd think it was an act from anyone else, but Simon’s incapable of duplicity. "Baz, I wanted to come here for Christmas in the first place, yeah? Just, the Mage—" He lets out a sigh of frustration and runs his hands through his curls. "Just—look, okay? I don't have much of a choice in where I ended up in my life. But I get to have this life instead of… well… what I thought my life would be. When the person who gave me magic and a home tells me to do something, I tend to listen." He rubs his red ears in frustration. “I can make my own decisions, though. And I wanted to be here, so I came.” He pauses, like he’s deciding something, and says, “I thought he might take it out on you if I came. He assumes you all are just pretending to be my friends for the war. That’s why I shouldn’t have come. I don’t want to get you in any trouble.”

 

Oh, Simon. I don’t mind that you’re nothing but trouble. We match.

 

“That… makes sense,” I answer, unsure what else to say. I want to insult the Mage, but I think that’ll put us right back on thin ice.

 

“I’m sorry for everything I said,” he whispers, his eyes on the floor.

 

“Yeah…” I admit, “I wasn't on my best behavior either." His rejection stung, and I did what I always do: go for the low blows.

 

"No, but Baz, really," he tugs his curls, and my hand twitches. "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have mentioned your mum." He adds in a whisper, "Please forgive me?"

 

"Yeah…" I say, in a low voice, "I forgive you."

 

He lets out a sigh of relief I didn’t realize he was holding, which prompts me to say, “I’m sorry too.”

 

He looks surprised, and then smiles. “So, what do these books say about fairies?”

 

We start reading, and our research tells us what we already know: the Queen is extremely powerful. I’m worried she’s going to be supremely difficult to get a hold of. This fear is only reinforced when we find a map of Wonderland. The Queen’s palace is in the center, protected by her mother’s dangerous hedge garden. Even Snow, with all of his stupid bravery, looks worried.

 

“Is there any way to maybe, like, send a note...?”

 

“Should it say 'Hello, would you mind not trying to murder me anymore? It’s interfering with my Magic Words grade. With love, Snow.’?”

 

Snow snorts, and I feel my lips turn upward in a self-satisfied smile.

 

“Couldn’t hurt,” he says, turning the page. A portrait of a beautiful young woman with scarlet hair, full ruby lips, and a long regal neck. She looks human, except for her grand silver wings and pitch black eyes. Under the picture it says, “Queen Genevieve, born 1906.”

 

“Woah,” Snow says.

 

“Yeah. Even I can tell she’s attractive.” Snow gives me an odd look. “I’m gay, not blind.” I blush, thinking of dinner.

 

He gives me a searching look, and I shift uncomfortably under his gaze.

 

“Please stop me if I'm wrong or if you just don’t want to talk about it, but is the whole… gay thing a sore spot in your family?" He looks like he's not sure if he's crossing a major line. I'm not sure if he is, either. I rarely talk about this aspect of my family dynamic.

 

"Father… isn't cross with me," I start, trying not to sound defensive. "He's just… getting used to the idea. It still shocks him a little."

 

Snow frowns and furrows his brows. "Why?" he asks.

 

"It's not what's expected of a Pitch heir," I say, trying not to be upset by this fact. "We're supposed to… I don't know," I do air quotes here, "carry on the legacy." (Which I think is especially stupid considering I'm a vampire, and therefore, undead. I'm not really sure if I could reproduce even if I married one of the 'perfect' female candidates my Father would line up for me in a second if I'd allow it.)

 

“That’s bollocks,” Snow says, putting his battle face on, the ruthless one I love so much. "No one should make you feel bad for being gay, Baz. That's just who you are, and there’s nothing wrong with that."

 

I don't think anyone has ever said it quite like that to me before. Dev, Niall, and Fiona tease me about blokes goodnaturedly, but I’ve never really opened myself up to talk about the topic seriously. Daphne is kind about the matter, on the whole, and she tries to be there in her way. (She gave me the Call Me By Your Name book a couple weeks after she saw the movie got popular in the news. I'm only assuming she had no idea how graphic that book is, because if not, our relationship is weirder than I thought.) But she’s not one for verbal reassurances. And Father hasn't blatantly disapproved of my sexuality, but he hasn't exactly put a Pride flag up. Ignoring it seems to be the most he can manage at the moment.

 

No one has ever told me nothing is wrong with me, before. I didn’t know I needed to hear it.

 

"Yeah, Si—Snow," I correct, so he doesn't hear the longing in my voice.

 

He smiles and rubs his eyes. “Sick of reading?” I ask.

 

“Yeah,” he says sheepishly, and gives me a small smile. "Wanna watch a movie, now, then?"

 

I agree. He insists on watching Love Actually, because it's nearly Christmas. It's not an ideal situation to watch a romantic comedy with your long-time crush, but I eventually agree for the young Hugh Grant. I make shitty comments about all the boring heterosexual couples throughout the film, though. He falls asleep towards the end, so when the credits roll I shake him awake.

 

"Snow?" I say softer than I intended to. "Ready to sleep?"

 

"I am sleeping," he replies. I smile wide, since his eyes are closed and he won’t be able to see it.

 

"I mean in your bed, prat."

 

“Can I stay with you?” He asks innocently as he flutters his eyes open. (I'm sure to wipe my smile off before he sees it.) 

 

“Absolutely not.”

 

“There are wraiths in my room.” He frowns.

 

“They’re harmless,” I say, fighting to keep my voice even.

 

“It’s just… I would sleep better in your room. You’re the most familiar thing in this house.”

 

I get the overwhelming urge to scream that he can’t say things like that, that it’s cruel and heart-wrenching and awful, because it’s exactly what I want to hear, but not in the friendly way he means it.

 

I swallow my temper and pride and respond, “Fine, you can stay on the couch." Honestly, there's plenty of room in my King-sized bed for the two of us, but if I let him that close, if I let him sleep on my bed, I'll go mad with want. I may be a Pitch, but I still don't think I should play that closely with fire.

 


 

I'm in my room at Mummer's Tower, and everything's on fire: the curtains, the beds, the sheets. I'm so hot and uncomfortable, and I gasp for breath but I can't breathe in anything but the smoke in my lungs. My mother's on the other side of the room, burning, but I can't do anything about it. I'm screaming and screaming my head off—someone has to help her, why isn't anyone helping her—but she keeps burning from the bottom up, until the fire finally starts to reach her face. I cry out in frustration and grief, when—

 

Simon appears. He's always an unpredictable addition to my dreams. He looks just the same; untamable curls, moles from head to toe, a chip in his right front tooth. But I know to be cautious with him, because I get every version of dream Snow. Sometimes he beats the fuck out of me.  Sometimes he takes off all my clothing and moans my name. I freeze like a cornered animal, and stop screaming to assess the situation.

 

He's nothing but urgently worried this time around though. "Baz, Baz, Baz, wake up!" He's screaming. "BAZ, PLEASE!"

 

His screams brings me to my senses and breaks through my consciousness. This is just a dream, I think to myself. I always know this when I’m dreaming, but I forget that I can do something about it in my terror. Wake up, wake up, wake up . Finally, I’m opening my eyes, I see Simon, so beautiful, gazing down at me in terror. Blue eyes I'd drown in, if I could. Everything's still on fire, though, so I guess I'm going to burn. "Simon…" I sigh, satisfied that he'll be the last thing I see before I die.

 

The last thing I recognize is the smell of roses before I slip into the darkness.

 

Chapter Text

Simon

 

I wake up because it’s too hot in Baz’s room. His fireplace is warming the space a little too well. I get up to open Baz’s window, but it’s locked shut. I roll my eyes, but smile despite myself. It’s so Baz.

 

I lay back on the couch, and look over at Baz. I like how he looks when he’s sleeping. He’s on his side, facing me, and he’s pouting, and he’s got a small little furrow between his brows. (It’s cute, I want to smooth it out with my fingertips.)

 

My chest tightens with so much affection for Baz it shocks me, and I have to look away from him. My heart starts to beat faster, and my throat chokes up a bit. I’ve never felt as much for anyone as I have for Baz. I knew that even before we became friends. I’ve never hated anyone like I hated Baz, never needed to know someone’s every whereabout to think straight, never felt so on fire in anyone else’s presence. I always thought that’s what it’s like to have a nemesis.

 

Yet. I got these rushes of feeling even before. In fourth year, when I saw that drawing of me going off. In fifth year, when I listened to him play his violin so beautifully with his flawless fingers. In sixth year, when he came back from summer and had grown his hair out to his shoulders. Today, when we watched Love Actually, and he scoffed at the scene where Keira Knightley watches the wedding tape, and said, “Crowley, the heteronormative nonsense. Am I really supposed to believe he fell in love with a girl he wouldn’t even speak to? Mark is flamingly gay for Peter and that’s that," and I smiled so hard my face hurt and my stomach fluttered.

 

I’m suddenly very, very afraid. I feel like I’m on the very edge of a cliff, like I’m going to fall over with the lightest breeze, like maybe I’ve always gotten this all wrong, like maybe—

 

My hectic thoughts are interrupted by a large blinding light at the window. No—what seems like hundreds of tiny lights. I sit up suddenly when, somehow, the light source is opening the bolted shut window.

 

“What the hell?” I say, as they all rush towards Baz. “Hey!” I scream and run over to him. I yelp when one of the lights bite me. I call my sword forward, though I’m unsure how I can help fix what’s happening right now. They’re moving too fast, creating a kind of tornado around Baz until—oh no, oh Crowley, no— a circle of fire surrounds the floor of his bed now. It’s not quite close enough to touch him, but too close for my comfort. The lights are circling the bed above him still.

 

A horrible, mangled sound rips out of me. I don’t recognize the sound. “Baz, baz, baz, wake up!” I beg. “BAZ, PLEASE!”

 

I drop my sword and carefully jump over the low, burning fire to jump on the bed. I grab his shoulder, and say, “wake up.”

 

He opens his beautiful grey eyes and looks me right in the eye. Oh, Baz. Thank Crowley.

 

He’s giving me an indecipherable look, and I’m just about to tell him we need to get out of here, now, when he says in a voice I’ve never heard, “Simon…”

 

My stomach swoops like I’m on a roller coaster. He’s never said my name before. He’s never spoken to me like that before. All of a sudden, I realize what’s always been true. I fall headfirst off the cliff and hit the rocks full force.

 

I’m in love with Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch.

 

Before I’ve had even a second to process this earth-shattering revelation, the fireflies swarm Baz, and a dark hole opens up beneath him, and the lights and Baz fall right in. I scream and try to follow, but I’m not quick enough, and the tunnel closes and leaves a large hole in Baz’s large bed.

 

Where Baz once slept, there is a blood red envelope. I snatch it and rip it open to read the letter.

 

“Simon Snow,

I think it’s about time we become properly acquainted. Please come to see me in my castle by noon today. Failure to comply with this request will lead to severe consequences for your Bloodsucker.

Sincerely, Her Highness Queen Genevieve.”

 

I hear footsteps approaching, but my eyes are glued on this note. Severe consequences for your bloodsucker. No, no, no, no, NO—

 

The door slams open, and Mordelia rushes into the room, sees Baz’s empty, burned bed, and lets out a high-pitched, long scream.

 

In what feels like no time at all, Malcolm and Daphne Grimm are in Baz’s bedroom too. It takes them a full 30 seconds to take in the scene. The burnt floor, the singed sheets, the smoke smell. Me on the bed, my sword on the ground, and Baz gone. When they break through through their shock, Daphne grabs the crying Mordelia and Malcolm has me by my flannel pajama collar.

 

“Where is Basilton?” He demands, shaking me. His dark brown eyes bore into mine, and for the first time in my life I see fear in Malcolm Grimm.

 

“I don’t—I don’t know!” I insist.

 

“WHAT HAS THE MAGE DONE?” He roars in a voice louder than he was capable of. He’s always so poised, so reserved, so stoic. But not now. Daphne has Mordelia in her arms, and Mordelia’s little face is in her Mum’s neck. Daphne rushes out, clearly not wanting to have her little girl witness whatever’s going to happen next.

 

“You need to tell me right now where he is.” Malcolm’s thumb nails are digging into the skin above my collarbone because he is gripping me so tightly.

 

“There were lights, and the window opened, and then there was fire—” Malcolm becomes unhinged when I mention fire, slamming me against the wall by my throat.

 

“If you’ve burned him,” Malcolm threatens, and I am having trouble getting enough air. “I swear to Merlin I will—”

 

“Fiona!” I scream, cutting him off, and his grip on me loosens in his confusion. I catch my breath, and say, “We need Fiona Pitch.”

 


 

Fiona comes in like a lightning storm. I can’t believe she got here from London so quickly. She must have been driving 100 miles per hour. I’ve insisted that I refuse to speak to anyone but her, because I wasn’t exactly getting very far with Malcolm Grimm.

 

When she arrives, we are all sitting in Baz’s room. With the combination of the mysterious lights’ fire and my own anxious campfire magic, the room smells heavily of smoke. I’m sitting in a ball on Baz’s bed, thinking of his face right before he disappeared. He’s never looked so vulnerable.

 

Malcolm and Daphne were sitting on his couch, holding hands, staring at me. Keeping watch, I guess. Malcolm’s gaze has been empty since he accepted I wouldn’t speak to him anymore. I could never guess what he’s been thinking, but I know right now all his thoughts are with Baz. He’s been quiet, but I can tell he’s devastated. Daphne’s face is worse to bear. She looks like I’ve betrayed her. After dinner last night, she told me where in the fridge she keeps the seconds with a knowing smile, and I was so pleased that she was so kind. I liked her so much, and I think she liked me too. But she’s also not said a word since coming back in from putting Mordelia to bed.

 

When Fiona Pitch enters the room, it goes from solemn to electric.

 

“What have you done?” Fiona snarls the instant she walks into the room. I stand, alarmed. She backs me up into the wall with her wand to my throat quicker than I can reply.

 

She looks murderous. It feels silly that I was ever scared of Malcolm Grimm, compared to her.

 

“Nothing,” I say in a broken voice. The grandfather clock in the corner says it’s 3:06 a.m. It’s been one hour and six minutes since Baz disappeared, and I feel his absence like a physical injury. The longer he’s gone, the worse it gets, like a slow-working poison.

 

“Every. One. Out,” she growls through gritted teeth, spitting a little on my face. Fiona looks absolutely wild. Her eyes are glinting with rage and her hair is messy, like she’s been ripping at her roots.

 

“Fiona, I need to know what—” Malcolm is clearly about to make his case for staying, but Fiona makes a feral noise that stops him in his tracks.

 

“I am going to do as many illegal, heinous things to the Mage’s Heir as it takes to find Basilton. I will do things that it will make Satan’s skin crawl, things that can get me sentenced to imprisonment by the coven. You have small children, Malcolm. You don’t want to be a part of this. Get out of this room.”

 

Malcolm looks like he wants to argue, but Daphne grabs her arm and nods. They both walk out, leaving me alone with Fiona Pitch.

 

“We don’t have much time—” I try to explain.

 

“What have you done?” She demands again.

 

“Nothing. Do whatever you want to me, that will be my answer. Truth spell me right now.”

 

She is looking at me suspiciously, but she raises her wand to the center of my forehead. (I know that’s not necessary for the spell to work, so I guess she’s just dramatic, just like Baz.) “The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth,” she casts. My spine straightens. Her magic is sickly sweet. Like a shot of Fireball, like cinnamon on fire in your veins. “What did you do to Basil?” she asks, and her voice shakes a little when she says his name.

 

“Nothing,” I reply again.

 

She looks stricken. She was positive I was lying.

 

“I would never hurt Baz,” I whisper truthfully. I wouldn’t, never again.

 

Fiona makes a manic noise, half laugh and half sob. It’s an awful sound—between bitter amusement and awful sorrow. It’s a noise only a desperate woman would make. Despite all her threats, this convinces me it was right to get Malcolm to call her.

 

She’s not going to hurt me. She loves him too.

 

“I need to show you something,” I say, making my decision on what to do next. I start unbuttoning my flannel.

 

“Keep your shirt on, Chosen One, this isn’t a brothel,” she says, looking thoroughly disgusted.

 

“No, look. Look,” I insist, pointing at my heart.

 

I didn’t try this with Malcolm Grimm, because he disapproves of Baz’s sexuality. I think if he knew the Mage’s Heir was in love with his eldest son… well, I don’t know if he would have been able to resist strangling me.

 

But during Never Have I Ever, Baz—reluctantly—admitted that Fiona tried to take him to go to a gay strip club. So I know that at the very, very least, she won’t take trouble with my gender. Just everything else about me.

 

She’s sharp as Baz. It takes her all of five seconds to recognize the handwriting. Her eyes widen at the simple word that Baz said to me not even two hours ago. 'Simon' in Baz’s perfect, neat cursive carved on my heart.

 

“Is that what I think it is?” It’s the first time I’ve ever heard her voice with any degree of softness. I wouldn’t have been able to recognize it if I didn’t know Baz’s tones so well. They’re so similar.

 

“Yes,” I say. “I’m in—” I mean to finish with in love with Baz, but I choke on my words, finally letting out the sob I’ve been holding back all night, the one I wouldn’t let myself have until now, because this is my fault. I got my soulmate kidnapped.

 

“Stop,” she says harshly. “Stop.”

 

There is no longer anything soft in her face. The intensity of her gaze cuts me off mid-sob.

 

“Tell me everything,” she demands.

 

I wordlessly hand Fiona the red note. I tried to show it to Malcolm, but he wouldn’t even read it. She scans the letter hungrily, eyes widening when she gets to the signature. She lets out a relieved sigh, but the tension in her shoulders doesn’t leave her.

 

“He’s alive,” she says, breathlessly.

 

“Unless she’s lying,” I voice my biggest fear in barely a whisper, but Fiona catches it. Her head snaps up from the letter she’s clutching like a lifeline.

 

“Here’s what we’re not going to do.” Fiona’s voice is low and commanding. “We’re not going to give up. We’re not going to cry anymore. We’re not going to waste our time and efforts planning for the worst.”

 

The passion in her voice grounds me. I take three deep breaths—in, out. In, out. In, out.

 

“We’re going to find him,” I say in a forceful voice. Willing it to be true.

 

“Yeah, Chosen One. We are.”

 


 

By eight a.m., Dev and Niall are sitting at the kitchen island with Fiona and me. Fiona insisted we had to sleep to be sharp enough to face the Queen. I disagreed, wanting to find Baz immediately. We we’re in the middle of fighting when she hit me with a Sweet Dreams. I wish she picked another spell, because I only dreamed of Baz. That hurt like a motherfucker when I woke up alone. I also wish I didn’t wake up on his bedroom floor. Fiona didn’t even bother to get me a pillow.

 

The Grimms are around the kitchen table, sending me suspicious glances. Fiona promised them I didn’t do anything to Baz, but they don’t look convinced. Daphne’s eyes are red-rimmed, and she looks like she’s fighting tears. Malcolm is glaring at his sausage like it’s personally offended his mother. Mordelia is looking mutinous. When she woke up and saw me in the house, she screamed like she’d seen the Humdrum in the flesh. Daphne had to calm her down outside the kitchen for 15 minutes before she’d come in and eat her pancakes, which had gone cold by then.

 

Dev and Niall both clasped me on the back when they came in, so even they are getting the Grimms’ wary gazes now.

 

“You going to eat anything, mate?” Niall says to me. There’s an untouched plate of scrambled eggs in front of me that Fiona insisted Vera make me, despite Malcolm’s disbelieving glare.

 

“I’m not hungry,” I mumble. I’m too empty for hunger.

 

We sit in silence for a while, until a loud organ sound plays. I jump, before I realize it’s the doorbell. Vera excuses herself to answer it.

 

Penny comes rushing into the kitchen and throws herself into my arms. Dev called her right after Fiona called him. “Simon,” she whispers into the crook of my neck, and my eyes tear up despite myself. She pulls back and looks at my face. She frowns, and asks in a concerned tone, “Are you okay? You’re pale.” She turns to Dev and Niall. “Has he eaten?” They shake her heads and she narrows her eyes. “He has to eat.”

 

“He said he wasn’t hungry!” Niall insists.

 

Penny looks at me, obviously worried. I’m never not hungry. She points her ring finger at my eggs. “You’re Getting Warmer. ” She looks at me. “Can I cast something on you, Si? It’ll help.” Her voice is very gentle. I nod, not trusting my voice not to crack with unshed tears. “Hungry, Hungry Hippo!”

 

Suddenly, I can feel my stomach again. It grumbles, and I give her an approximation of a smile. I eat my food so fast that Malcolm and Daphne look disgusted with my poor table manners. I don’t care.

 

“Okay,” she announces. “Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk strategy.” She turns to Fiona. “I’m assuming this place has a library?”

 

Fiona responds contemptuously, “who doesn’t have a library?”

 

“Is there a chalkboard?” She asks in a determined voice. Fiona looks to Daphne, who looks confused as to why a random girl just came into her house while her step son’s missing and started barking orders. Daphne nods though, and we all make our way to the Pitch Manor’s Library.

 

Penny gets to writing on the chalkboard as soon as we get in the room. “Okay, okay,” she mutters as she writes her "what we know" column. She doesn’t bother with a “what we don’t know” column, probably because the list is too long.

 

They all turn to me to fill them in. I clear my throat, and do my best to explain everything in a steadiest voice I can manage. I tell them about Ebb’s story, about Baz and our research yesterday, about the little lights that attacked, the fire they started, and Baz falling into a hole.

 

“Down the rabbit hole,” Dev mutters bitterly.

 

“Sounds like it,” Penny adds. “Crowley, fairies.”

 

I think she sounds slightly excited by the prospect, and as much as I love a good adventure, this is not that. I scowl at her, and she picks up on my hostility quickly. She clears her throat, and says defensively, “Just, from an academic and political standpoint, it’s shocking. The fairies tend to keep to themselves.”

 

“It looks like they’ve decided to forgo the norm,” Dev says, scowling. He’s been scowling since he arrived, just like Malcolm. Must be a Grimm reaction to stress.

 

Penny writes down “fairies," “Queen Genevieve," “Queen’s castle," and “ifrits."

 

“What’s an ifrit?” Niall asks before I can.

 

“I’m pretty sure they’re what the lights Simon described were. They’re fire creatures.” I didn’t know that, but I trust Penny’s right. “They’re pretty mischievous, and I read a while back that some of them migrated from Pompeii to Wonderland when Queen Genevieve’s reign started. She’s apparently very… persusasive.”

 

“Little Bunce is right,” Fiona agrees. It’s unclear whether ‘little’ is in reference to her height or the fact that she’s a teenager. Penny doesn’t seem to enjoy the nickname either way, and is frowning at her. Fiona ignores this, and continues to talk. “Queen Genevieve is no blind fury like her mother. She’s more cunning than that. She is more interested in trades and mind games. We need to be smart in there. She’s definitely going to want something in return for Basilton.”

 

“She wants something from me,” I say what everyone else is already thinking. “And whatever it is, I’ll do it. Whatever the price, I’ll pay it.”

 

No one knows what to say to that, so no one says anything.

 

Fiona finally breaks the silence a minute later. “Okay, Chosen One. Let’s go, then.”

 


 

As we drive to New Forest, Fiona plays rock and roll. I’m not sure it’s appropriate, but I’m sensing it’s very like Fiona.

 

I tune out Kurt Cobain’s voice to make a list of things in my head not to think about.

 

One, Baz’s lips.

 

Two, Mordelia Grimm. She yanked me by my trouser leg as we were leaving to whisper to me, “if you don’t bring my big brother back, I will go to Watford to learn magic just to end you.”

 

Three, how much like Baz that comment was.

 

Four, that I’m afraid of the Queen. I have no idea what she wants from me, why she’s been sending magical creatures to attack me for months. I’m afraid because she has Baz, and I have no idea how she’s treating him. Does she know that vampires need food and blood? (Penny read that fifth year when I was on my rampage against Baz.)

 

Five, Baz’s hair when its loose around his face.

 

Six, Baz sweaty after a football game.

 

Seven, Baz pouting. Specifically his lips when he pouts. Maybe this point is essentially my number one.

 

Eight, Baz’s infuriatingly attractive scowl. How can someone be so fit while scowling?

 

Nine, Baz’s voice saying my name.

 

All my things not to think about are essentially just Baz, so I try to close my eyes and try just not to think about him, but his face is tattooed to the back of my eyelids.

 

I know only one thing for certain: I’m not leaving Wonderland without Baz Pitch.

 

Chapter Text

Fiona

 

Oh, Natasha, if you could see me now.

 

I’m 38, and I have no fucking clue what I’m doing with my life. My soulmate’s a vampire. I mess around with Normal men, though I never let any of them spend the night. I’m still living off the family money. I’m a certifiable wreck. I’m going to Wonderland for the second time, against your explicit advice.

 

I'm not you, I could never be you. I don't know which way is up, and what to do next. Why did you leave me alone in this fucked up world?

 

Tash, I'm a hot mess. I've done a million things wrong.

 

But my worst mistake was that I somehow didn’t see what was causing your son so much pain.

 

It makes so much sense now. His reluctance to go through with any of my plans against Snow. His bitter jabs at Snow that always had a hint of longing. (I was blind to mistake it for jealousy of his power.) His refusal to let anyone see his soulmark. The way he would cast Nothing To See Here over it every time he took his shirt off in front of other people, like his chest had a dirty secret on it. The way he would run his hand over his heartbeat and sigh a heartbroken sigh, like he was damned by the mark. It's all falling into place now.

 

He’s in love with the enemy’s heir.

 

I know you’d object to it. You’d say he’s better suited with someone else, someone of a higher status. Someone who would understand our family better. Someone who wasn’t a human time bomb.

 

I’m tempted to say the same.

 

Yet.

 

Simon Snow looks wrecked right now. He’s in the front seat of my car, looking out the window at nothing, and he looks broken. I see him periodically putting his own hand over his heart, right where his name is in your Basil’s handwriting. I can tell he’s willing to do anything—fight anyone— to get to Baz.

 

Pitches respect loyalty, Tasha. And this boy is basically a golden retriever.

 

So maybe I’m not going to handle this the way you would. For that I’m sorry. But it’d be wrong to split them apart.

 

No one should have to live without their soulmate. (I would know.) And I’m going to make sure these boys don’t, even if I have to beat the bloody Queen of Wonderland to do it.

 


 

As we pull into the New Forest National Park parking lot, I'm blaring Heart-Shaped Box so loudly I can feel the bass in my chest. I can tell Snow isn’t very fond of my music choice, so I make a point of playing Nirvana the entire ride. I can’t resist the urge to mess with the Mage’s Heir, even if he is Basil’s soulmate.

 

Snow is out the door the minute the car halts, before I even have the thing in park. “Okay, where is he?” he demands, then slams the car door before I can answer him. He’s bouncing from foot to foot with nervous energy.

 

“Someone’s eager to meet some fairies,” I say sarcastically. In response, he honest to God growls at me. Like he's a dog.

 

“I’m eager to get your nephew back. Aren’t you?” He shoots back.

 

Crowley, this kid is sick in love.

 

“Don’t get your knickers in such a twist, Snow,” I say. “It’s this way.”

 

I lead the group of teenagers north. It’s a long incline. Little Bunce is panting a little and trying to slow Snow down by grabbing his shirt sleeve, but he isn’t cooperating with her efforts. Snow doesn’t even seem to be breathing, his teeth are clenched so tightly.

 

I wonder how long Snow’s known Basil is his soulmate. I reckon Basil found out in his fifth year, because he banned the subject of soulmates the summer after, and he was a right terror that year. We all chalked it up to him being uncomfortable in his vampirism, which presented when he hit puberty. Or maybe just some teen angst since the previous winter he had told us all he was gay, and his father pretended he didn’t even hear Basil. But I always thought it might be something more. (He was listening to Creep by Radiohead on repeat.)

 

I last saw Snow at the end of their sixth year when I was picking Baz up from Watford. His father was busy with a very pregnant Daphne, and I was happy to see my favorite—though, admittedly, only—nephew. When I went to his room to see if he needed help packing up his things—he didn’t, he was ready to go, just like Tasha always was—Snow was sitting on his bed glaring murderously at Baz. Baz was pretending not to notice the daggers at his back, but the tense set of his shoulders gave him away.

 

“Bye, Snow. Try not to blow yourself up this summer.” Baz’s tone was sarcastic… yet, also something else. Earnest, maybe. Like he really thought Snow might light himself on fire. (Baz did tell me later that he thought it was a bad idea that the Mage always sent him to an orphanage every summer. 'He could explode on all his chavvy normal buddies and we would be none the wiser,' he said bitterly.)

 

“Fuck you, Baz,” Snow snarled. The Chosen One didn’t even look at me once while I was in the room. I’m not sure if he even noticed me. His eyes were glued on Basilton. We walked out right after, but Baz turned for one last look at Snow, who was now pouting and picking at a thread on his trousers. Baz rolled his eyes, and said, “I’m so ready for the summer holidays,” without looking away from Simon Snow.

 

Baz was in love with him, then, I’m sure of it now. But was Snow?

 

I want to ask, but I don’t think outing him in front of everyone is a wise course of action. He might go off, and I’m sure we’re going to need him to save his supernatural, nuclear-strength magic for later.

 

Finally, after about 45 minutes of walking, we find the right meadow. I recognize it by the white roses that bloom randomly around the area. They aren’t local to this region; they’re a marker for Wonderland.

 

“Here,” I announce, stopping as I recognize my surroundings. Snow runs into my back in his haste, not comprehending what I just said. (I’d usually curse a bloke for bumping into me so hard, but I decide to let his clumsiness go in light of the situation.) I point to a small hill with a large oak tree on it. There’s a white marble statue of a rabbit at the base of the hill, and we make our way over to it. I remember being a very small girl when Natasha took me here. She was a Watford student at the time, and had just done a project on Wonderland. “It has to be our little secret, Fi," she whispered. “Don’t tell Mum and Dad I showed you.” I promised her I wouldn't tell anyone. She said fairies were dangerous and cunning, and more trouble than they're worth, and she then warned me not to come back here. But not before she showed me how to open the portal to Wonderland.

 

I point my wand at the little statue, and cast, “Curiouser and curiouser." The side of the hill opens up, revealing a dark, dirty tunnel leading downwards.

 

“Woah,” Little Bunce whispers in an amazed tone. Snow bolts forward to go through the hole, but I grab him by his collared shirt—which, as I'm getting a closer look, I’m pretty sure he nicked from Basil’s closet—to stop him from bloody swan-diving in.

 

“Slow down, Mage’s Heir,” I say, and he frowns at me. (Basil says he hates being called that.) “I’ve heard your strategy is usually to blow everything up, yeah?” His forbidding expression tells me that’s a yes. “You’re going to want to control yourself in there. Going off isn’t going to be a good idea in there.”

 

“Thanks for the lovely advice,” he says sarcastically. (I want to laugh, or maybe I want to cry, because that’s what Basil would have said.) 

 

“I’m serious. Keep your cool, Snow,” I demand.

 

He grits his teeth and I smell smoke. “I thought we were going to do whatever it takes to get Baz.”

 

“Yeah, but unless you want to be responsible for whatever the Queen does to him as retribution for your carelessness—”

 

“Fine! I get it! I’ll do my best, okay!?” He lets out a groan of frustration, tearing out his curls with both hands. There’s now a distinct smoke fog surrounding him, and I take a step back in alarm.

 

Dev and Niall are looking at him like he’s gone mad, but Bunce seems a little more sympathetic. Baz has mentioned that she's Snow's best friend—though I think he used the term "smarter half". He says Bunce is his only real competition for top of the class, so she must be properly bright. Even though I don't like her mother much, I have to admit Mitali always was clever. That must be where little Bunce gets her brains from. She's looking at Snow with concern, and, I think, some understanding.

 

“Deep breathing, Si,” Bunce says, rubbing his back. He's tense, but he doesn't shy away from her touch. She doesn’t look afraid of Snow, despite his agitated state.

 

“I know, I know,” he mutters, sounding annoyed. He makes an exaggerated point of loudly breathing through his mouth. I'm unsure if this is for Bunce's sake or if this is really how they deal with Snow when he's about to blow a magical fuse. Finally, after about a minute of this disgusting mouth breathing, the smoky air around him clears.

 

He seems to have gotten a grip on himself. “Okay,” I say delicately (or as delicately as I can manage), not wanting to upset him again. I check my watch, and it's a quarter after 10. “The rabbit hole is spelled so that you can safely just jump in. Our plan is to get in and out as quickly as possible. While we’re in there, do as I say. Don’t bother arguing. I’m the only one here who has ever dealt with fairies before, and I’m telling you: I need everyone to keep their heads.”

 

“Is that a pun?” Dev asks flatly. “That better not have been a pun.”

 

“Of course it was a pun,” I snap. It was a damn good pun, too. “But, also, it's my actual advice. If you kids can’t listen, then I’m sending you all packing. I'll spell the bloody lot of you to a tree and leave you for the wolves if I have to.”

 

All of them but Snow nod in agreement. Snow mumbles a spell and an obnoxiously large sword appears in his hands.

 

“Whatever. It. Takes,” he says through gritted teeth, and takes a running leap down the rabbit hole. Bunce sighs, calmly walking forward to follow him down. (I see now that Bunce is a best friend and a babysitter.)

 

I motion with a wave of my arm for Dev and Niall to go ahead, and they do. This gives me one last chance to take a deep breath of the crisp winter air before I plunge back into fairy territory. (Again.)

 

I was laughing and holding Nicky’s hand the last time I slid down this pathway. Ebeneza had yelled "You two are mad!" as we took the plunge, and Nicky screamed back through his chuckles "Damn straight we are!" This time, I’m gritting my teeth and holding my breath.

 

I land softy at the bottom in a blindingly white room where the four teenagers are looking around curiously. The ground is covered with a sparkling, thick, white powder.

 

"Ugh," Bunce says, brushing off the fairy dust from her skirt. "Is this Trixie's living room or something?"

 

"That pixie the Mage let into Watford?" I ask with a distasteful expression, remembering Baz mentioning a 'Trixie the pixie.' "God, the standards at that school have dropped to the ground since my sister's tenure," I think out loud.

 

"She's my roommate," Bunce says.

 

"Really? Bloody hell, that man would let fairies in if he could.” The tosser really would. He’s been recommending an alliance with them for ages. “I couldn't imagine rooming with a—"

 

"Can we get on with this mission already?" Snow demands angrily. Bunce stops picking fairy dust off her shoulder to put herself at his side in a supportive gesture.

 

We are standing in a circular hall with dozens of doors of varying shapes, sizes, and colors along every wall. As I’m looking around for the right one, Snow clears his voice impatiently. I scowl at him. He’s really getting on my nerves.

 

Undeterred by my unhappy expression, he demands, “So? Which one leads to the castle?”

 

“I don’t know,” I admit, and he narrows his eyes accusingly. “I wasn’t exactly knocking down the Queen’s door last time. I didn't ask 'hello, your royal highness, mind if I steal a magical plant from your land?' I’m not a bloody numpty.”

 

He looks taken aback. "You don't know anything? I called you because I thought you knew something."

 

"I know a lot of things," I snap at him, annoyed that he's making me out to be useless. "I'm just saying, I'm not sure exactly which door it is. But I'll figure it out."

 

I look around. I remember the doors all have clues on them. Last time, we just found the door with a four leaf clover, as well as some vervain and a mandrake, on it, and it led us to the Magick Garden. I was hoping the right way would be that obvious this time around.

 

"There should be a spell for this," Bunce says, more to herself than anyone else. She concentrating hard, like she's sifting through an encyclopedia in her head.

 

That's right, Natasha mentioned one for this sort of thing once or twice. That'll work too. What was that spell again?...

 

"Oh, yes!" I declare, as the right incantation pops into my head. I point my wand to the ceiling, and cast "Choose The Path of Least Resistance."

 

The whole room spins. I'm prepared for it, but the teenagers aren't. I brace myself for the dizzying effects of the spell and stay standing tall, planting my feet firmly a little more than shoulder length apart. The lot of them aren't so lucky. They all fall right on their arses as soon as the ground under them shifts. Dev's twisted on his side, having landed hard on his right elbow, and Niall's caught himself with both hands, though he's on his knees. I stifle laughter at their silly positions.

 

"Oof!" Snow says, shocked by their sudden collapse. Since Bunce had him by his wrist before my spell, she's now fallen on top of him.

 

"Thanks for the warning, Fi," Dev mutters as tries to stand straight and regain his Grimm dignity, though he's scowling and rubbing his elbow. I just smile at him.

 

"There you go, Snow," I say, pointing at a door with a red crown triumphantly. "Turns out you need me, after all."

 

"I could have stabbed someone!" He exclaims angrily. Oh yeah, his sword. He has outstretched above his head, with the point aimed away from everyone.

 

"Oops," I say, my tone bored. No harm, no foul. I walk towards the door towards the Queen's castle, reach for the golden handle, and—

 

"Fuck!" I exclaim, shaking my red hand. "It burned me!"

 

"Serves her right," Niall whispers to Dev, while eyeing his scratched up palms. I raise an eyebrow at him and he looks away.

 

"Put out the fire, put out the fire, put out the fire," I cast, singing the Queen song at my hands. It was the spell Natasha would always use when I started smoking cigarrettes and would get first degree burns on my fingers from my 'ridiculously recklesss carelessness.' (Her mouthful of an expression, not mine. Though, she'd say it with an exasperated smile.)

 

"The Queen has put up anti-intruder protections," Bunce says, announcing the obvious as she peers at the door through her unfashionable spectacles.

 

"Why would she do that when she specifically asked me to be here?" Snow asks.

 

I remember something about the Queen. Before she would have an audience with Nicky, Ebb, and me, her soldiers had us pick her roses. The soldiers said it had been a Wonderland custom for centuries. Our hands were bloodied from the thorns as we handed her the flowers. She clearly made note of our injuries with unironic delight.

 

I laugh bitterly. "Oh, Crowley." I point to the door. "Sentence first, verdict after," I announce pointing at the door. Then I cast "Knife to a gunfight" and a switchblade appears into my hands. I carefully slice my palm, just deep enough to draw blood.

 

"What the hell?" Snow says, but I ignore him and put my hand on the handle again. It glows red, and the door unlocks.

 

"Fairies like blood sacrificies, the vile creatures," I say distastefully, holding out my knife. "It's pay to play, one ticket per customer. So, do you lot want to use my switchblade or Snow's sword?" I ask my shocked audience.

 

"How medieval," Dev says, but he takes my switchblade to draw his own blood. Niall and Bunce use my blade as well, but Snow uses his sword, holding it at an awkward angle to cut himself. It's much messier than it would have been if he used my blade, and I raise my eyebrows at his gushing palm. He looks at me with stubborn defiance.

 

"You three go ahead. I want a word with the Chosen One," I say, narrowing my eyes at Snow.

 

Bunce looks apprehensive, but Snow gives her a dismissive nod. She sighs, but carries on through the door, with Dev and Niall on her heels. I can see them through the portal—they look both close and far away. I can see Dev saying something to Niall, but I can't hear them, so presumably they can't hear us either.

 

"You need to calm down. Your attitude is not helping. I don't like you, but—" I start, but he cuts me off.

 

"The feelings mutual," he says mutinously.

 

"I don't like you," I try again, and he doesn't stop me this time. "But this isn't about you or me, it's about Basilton."

 

"Of course this is about me!" he exclaims.

 

"No, this is about the fairies—"

 

"Why do you do that?" he interrupts. (I'm starting to think his inability to let anyone else finish their sentences is a bad habit of his.)

 

"Do what?" I ask, annoyed but curious.

 

"Talk so derogatorily about other species, when your nephew is a vam—"

 

It's my turn to be the rude one. "Don't you dare," I snap. "accuse Basilton of being a—a—that," I finish lamely.

 

"I'm not accusing him of anything. I know he's a vampire and I don't care." He pulls his hair. "Why would I be going to save him if I cared about that? It's not like he'd ever bite anyone. He's Baz."

 

I was always worried that Baz was going to hide his condition from his soulmate. I couldn't imagine how he'd get someone to understand. The best I'd hoped for was someone who knew but didn't mention it. I feared, when he banned the subject, it was because his soulmate couldn't bear to be with a vampire. But Snow read the note, he knows Baz is a 'bloodsucker' and he just doesn't care. He doesn't mind acknowledging it, or even defending it.

 

Snow keeps talking before I can find some way to answer him. "And this is about me. It's my fault. The Queen wants me. Not Baz. Not you, not Penny or Niall or Dev. Me. I'm the one putting everyone in danger. I'm the one who got Baz kidnapped."

 

I start to feel bad for the Chosen One. I try to be comforting, though I'm properly out of practice. "Listen, uh, Chos— Simon. I'm sure Basilton would—uh. There's no reason to get so upset—"

 

I'm not sure if he even hears me. "And I know it's so unfair to Baz. I know he didn't ask for this. I showed up at his house when I knew I had fairies after me, and the Queen must know he's my soulmate somehow, even when I didn't even know until yesterday, and Baz. Baz doesn't even want me—how could he? He's Baz— so I also have an unrequited soulmate and this is all the worst. But I don't care if he doesn't want me, I'm going to save him. I'll save him and keep him safe and I'll keep my distance so this never happens again and I'll just be miserable and just I don't need you to tell me what to do and—" He cuts himself off with a loud, deep breath. "Just—don't tell me to calm down."

 

He takes his bloody palm to the door handle, and then shoves himself through the portal.

 

I take a moment to try and process the emotional shitshorm Simon Snow just unloaded on me.

 

Snow thinks it's an unrequited soulmark.

 

I remember the day I realized my soulmark was my damnation. Nicky crossed over the day after we graduated. We had plans to tour Europe—Greece, Italy, Spain, the whole nine yards. I was hoping he would propose on the trip—but if he didn't, I had a backup plan to just do it myself on our last night in Venice. I was a Pitch, after all, and Natasha proposed to Malcolm. I thought we'd be engaged by the end of the month.

 

He came to pick me up, and I opened the door with a wide smile. I frowned when I realized something was very, very wrong. His tanned skin had turned a sickly pale overnight, his cheeks were puffy, like he had something in his mouth—

 

I remembered all his research on vampires during eighth year in a sick montage flash. His curiousity with the creatures. I assumed it was purely academic, when he pondered, 'What if a Mage was also a vampire ? Wouldn't that make them extra powerful, a super Mage?'  I assumed it was academic, because it had to be. Because he couldn't do this to me, he wouldn't.

 

But then he smiled at me, like he always did. But his familiar grin was marred—by two unmistakable fangs.

 

I screamed, and his smile was replaced by a frown. I screamed, and Natasha came running, and Nicky looked suddenly more scared than I'd ever seen him. I screamed, when Natasha spelled him into chains.

 

I stopped screaming for his speedy trial but I sobbed as his wand was snapped later that very day.

 

These boys don't have to be damned by their soulmarks. Not like I was. Nicky left me by choice.

 

But Snow doesn't care that Baz is a vampire. Snow doesn't even care if Baz doesn't love him. I'd reckon he's ready to follow Baz anywhere.

 

Oh, this boy is in for a happy shock when we get my poor nephew back.

 

I step through the portal and think, Time to rescue your boy, Natasha.

 

Chapter Text

Baz

 

When I wake up, my first thought is of blue eyes.

 

My second is that I am very, very cold.

 

My third is, oh, I guess I’m not dead, then. Right?

 

I open my eyes to confirm and—yep, not dead. But definitely not in my comfortable king size bed at home. I have a kink in my neck and my head hurts. The blanket I have on me is itchy, and I’m staring at a concrete ceiling.

 

I’m in a prison cell. It looks straight out of a movie—metal bars, concrete bench, shitty mattress— the whole bloody picture. I sit up, confused as to how I got here—wherever here is— from Hampshire. I find myself face to face with a tall, gorgeous redhead, who's standing with her hands clasped on the other side of the bars.

 

“Hello, Mr. Grimm-Pitch,” she says in a high, musical voice. It’s more childlike than I expected from someone with the body of a young woman. “Pleased to meet you.”

 

I'm stunned into silence for a moment. But, then, I finally register her black eyes and silver wings. Crowley, I’m speaking to the fairy queen. Queen Genevieve. The night before comes rushing back into my head. Snow showing up at my house. The dinner from hell. Our research. His apologies. My nightmare, the fire, the awful sinking feeling, before the shocking fear and the black, black, black of nothingness.

 

She has a polite, neutral expression on, which annoys me more than if she was gloating. I don’t want her to see any weakness, though. “Queen Genevieve,” I greet her nonchalantly, like we’re just having afternoon tea. “What a surprise.”

 

I presume most kidnappings are a surprise, anyways. She smiles knowingly, and says, “don’t worry, bloodsucker.” I don’t react to the fact that she knows I’m a vampire. In this moment, I’m glad I’ve spent so many years pretending to be unaffected by Snow’s accusations, because it’s helped my poker face in this moment. Though Queen Genevieve looks only a couple years older than I am, her true age is shown in the way she carries herself. She has the effortless self-confidence of a Queen and distinctive wisdom in her bright eyes. She’s clearly clever, so she pushes on.  “Do you need a drink? I’ve procured some blood for your stay.” She holds out a goblet filled with a deep red liquid. As she does, some of it sloshes out onto the floor. I don’t dare to move for it even though I can smell the rustic tang of blood from here. I clench my jaw definitively shut, and ignore the saliva filling my mouth.

 

“No, thank you,” I say as coolly as I can manage, given I’m definitely thirsty. I didn’t drink last night because I didn’t want Snow to comment on my absence during my usual hunting time, and the attack has drained me of a lot of my strength. But I know better than to take anything she offers me. At least, not this soon. So I ignore the scratchiness of my throat and the emptiness of my stomach.

 

“Are you sure? It would be no trouble,” she says, with what seems like genuine concern in her voice. Crowley, I knew fairies were deviously clever actors, but this feels a little like overkill. I mean, does the Queen dote on all of her prisoners? Seems like a waste of royal resources.

 

“Your highness,” I say, with only a hint of contempt. I can tell she picks up on it though, because she cocks her head and her small smile becomes amused. “Would you mind telling me why I’m here? I had other plans for this morning. I think my invitation got lost in the mail.”

 

She giggles with her hand over her mouth, and I am very suddenly reminded why I am so gay. Girls look and sound so ridiculous when they laugh like that. Though... honestly, it might look good on Snow.

 

Okay, it would definitely look good on Snow.

 

“I think I forgot to send one. My apologies, sir," she teases, playing along.

 

“Pity,” I comment in a flat voice. “Well, then maybe you could just send me home and we could reschedule this tête-à-tête. I’ll dress more accordingly next time.” I’m still in my flannel pajamas, and I feel silly standing in front of the fairy Queen. She’s dressed in a full corset and gown attire, standing tall and straight with her hands behind her back. She looks like she’s stepped out of a Jane Austen novel, with her long golden dress, baby pink lipstick, and elaborate curled updo. Well, as long as you ignore the wings. As for me, well—I haven’t even had a chance to run my fingers through my surely matted and dirty hair, and I’m drenched in sweat.

 

“I’m sorry. It has to be today,” she says earnestly. “I had my ifrits leave a note, though.”

 

My family, I think, and my mouth goes dry. What do they think happened to me? Are they worried? Did they tell Mordelia?

 

“Don’t look so glum!” The Queen says, her eyes widening. I guess I must have given away some of my distress. “Your boy’s already on his way.”

 

My stomach drops to my feet. No, please no. Please don’t mean him. “What boy?”

 

“Don’t play dumb with me, Basilton. Can I call you Basilton?” She asks, casually polite. I don’t answer. I just clench my teeth tightly together. Her damned calm and collected attitude is infuriating. “You may have been able to fool most people—even him. But not me.”

 

“Who are you talking about?” I ask, even though the panicked racing of my heart is answer enough.

 

“Simon Snow, of course. I want to make his acquaintance. But first, I needed to give him some incentive to come into my land.” She waves her arm, motioning to all of me. I’m confused, until I realize she believes I’m supposed to be the incentive.

 

I let out a little laugh of relief. “I think you’ve overestimated our relationship, your highness.” He won’t come for me. He’s safe.

 

She looks puzzled. “I think you’ve underestimated it, Basilton.”

 

She waves her hands in an intricate motion, like an orchestra conductor, and a projection appears on the brick wall behind her. I’m surprised by her sudden show of magic, since I almost forgot fairies don’t use magical instruments. My heart skips a beat at what I’m looking at. If I thought her magic shocked me, I’m absolutely floored by what the magical screen is showing me.

 

Because it’s Simon Snow, holding his sword of Mages at his side with an adorable look of intense concentration. His teeth are obviously clenched tightly, because the sharp jawline he has right now should be a crime. He brushes his sweaty curls off his forehead and I notice his left hand is bloody. He’s wiping it on his shirt and—wait, is he wearing my button up? He definitely is. I recognize it. It's an old one of mine, from before I hit my growth spurt. It’s too short for him, so when he lifted his arm, I got a flash of his golden midriff. In the background, I see dark green hedges I recognize from our research as the fortress to Wonderland.

 

He came for me.

 

“Snow,” I whisper. I lift my hand to reach for him, but quickly put my arm down, embarrassed that I just revealed how absurdly sentimental I am. She doesn’t notice, though, because she’s engrossed by the magical screen.

 

“Not just him!” She says excitedly. “All your friends!”

 

The projection pulls back, and I see that Snow’s not alone. I can’t keep the horror off my face: he’s with Fiona, Dev, Niall, and Bunce as well, and all of them have their wands outstretched defensively.

 

They all came for me. They all came for me.

 

Beneath my overwhelming fear for them, I’m touched. I can’t believe they would all come into fairy territory to save me. Even Penelope Bunce is here.

 

“Would you like audio? I can play the audio if you’d like,” the Queen offers with a sincere smile.

 

I’m too choked with emotion to speak. I can’t tell what’s worse—hearing or not hearing. Knowing or not knowing.

 

But I see Simon’s mouth moving, so I nod for her to turn the sound on.

 

The Queen does another elaborate wave of her hand, and suddenly I hear—

 

Yes, I’m sure, Fiona,” in a familiar, husky tone. “Baz and I were studying the map just last night and—”

 

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Fiona says sarcastically. “I’d forgotten you’ve done some light reading. Or, more likely, Baz did some light reading. But I’ve actually been here before, Chosen One, and I’m telling you, we go left here—”

 

“Did you even get this far?” He asks in a familiar suspicious tone. (It’s cuter when he’s not using it on me.) Snow looks properly exasperated with her, though he hasn’t started tugging his curls just yet. “Ebb told me you guys got caught early on. Did you even have to go through this part—”

 

“Okay, well, no, but—”

 

"But then you don't know where we're going!"

 

“Do you two ever stop bickering? Like ever?” Penny asks. “Shut up. Seriously, I think I heard something.”

 

“Oooh,” Queen Genevieve says in a delighted tone. She’s biting her thumbnail like this is a particularly exciting film in the cinema. “I like that one. She’s feisty.”

 

“I don’t hear anything, Pen—” Snow starts, but then stills when there’s a deep, primal roar. “Okay, I hear something now.” Snow admits, and I wish I was there to shoot back ‘no shit, Sherlock.'

 

“No shit, Sherlock,” Dev says, so I guess I’m not needed for shitty commentary after all.

 

Snow has his sword up just in time, because a beast jumps at him from his left, and he protects his face with the blunt part of the blade. The beast rolls as it crashes to the ground. When it recovers, it rears its head at Snow, and I get a proper look at it. It has a human face- chalky and pale with blood-red lips, a dark mustache and eyebrows, and a nasty grimace—except for a spiked ring of fur around its face. It’s body is coated in dark yellow fur and its tail resembles a scorpion's. 

 

Merlin and Morgana. A manticore.

 

“Fuck!” Bunce exclaims, accurately summarizing my thoughts. She lifts her wand and casts “take the sting out of it!” at the creature’s tail.  The manticore cries in pain, and its stinger shrivels and blackens.

 

The monster’s enraged by the attack, and charges towards Bunce, but Niall screams “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor!” and the beast falls flat on it’s stomach, limbs outstretched, before it can tackle Penny.  

 

“Good one, Niall!” Dev exclaims. His dark hair is messy and his knees have grass stains. He’s never looked less Grimm, and it makes me want to smile. (I would, if I weren’t so terrified.) The beast turns its head, looking for Dev, so he yells, pointing at the creature’s eyes, “Blind As A Bat!”. The manticore stumbles back a bit, and then it’s black eyes turn a clear blue. It growls loudly, and looks from side to side, trying to find Dev’s location from sound. None of them move a muscle when they realize what Dev’s done.

 

At least, until Snow sneezes.

 

The manticore turns it’s head sharply to Snow as soon as he makes the noise. He has his hand over his nose and a shocked expression on his face. He doesn’t raise his sword, frozen at the charging manticore and wiping his snot on my button up. I scream, afraid he’s about to be torn apart, my soulmate’s about to die and I’m going to watch because I’m cursed and—

 

Manticore venom!” Fiona yells, and the beast kneels over, and then stills. It doesn’t move again.

 

Everyone looks at her. She says, defensively, “what, haven’t any of you actually read Game of Thrones?” She flips her hair. “Really, it’s better than the T.V. Show. Last season was a mess.”

 

Snow looks at her like she’s crazy for a moment, and then laughs unselfconsciously with his mouth wide open to the sky. It’s the first time I’ve seen him smile since this projection started. “Wow. You’re better in life-threatening situations than I’d expect.”

 

She scowls at him, but I know it’s her affectionate scowl and not her I-Will-Burn-You-Alive-In-Your-Sleep scowl. It makes me grin a little, even if I don’t know how they got there. Fiona’s only ever said bad things about Snow, about “the Mage’s Heir”. I’m not sure how a couple of hours could change her mind about him.

 

“Woah,” Queen Genevieve says. “They did even better with the manticore than the gnomes.”

 

“Aren’t gnomes supposed to be in Iceland?” My mouth asks before my brain can stop it, since I’m still reeling from my shock at their manticore defeat and Fiona and Snow’s bonding.

 

“They were, but the food in Wonderland is exquisite, so they relocated.”

 

Then, I process what she just said. “Wait, they were fighting gnomes?” I ask, taken aback.

 

“Yes! We’ve come to the show a little late. I’ve been sending them some obstacles to get to you,” she says cheerily. “It makes it more fun.”

 

I want to object to this mind game. I want to scream at my friends that this is a trap, but they can’t hear me, and plus, it looks like they’ve hit their next obstacle. They’ve just exited the hedge maze, and they all breathe a sigh of relief when they realize they’re in view of the castle. It’s shockingly beautiful. It has gothic architecture—pointed arches, rose windows, and stained glass—all in solid gold. It looks huge—even from my TV-sized projection. I can’t tell where I’m being held, because the only sights in view seem grand, and my holding cell is, well, decidedly not grand. The image is marred by the rows of soldiers—playing cards with sharp silver spears in their arms.

 

Now we're really in Wonderland, I think sarcastically .

 

They all hold up their weapons and charge forward.

 

He’s A Wild Card,” Niall says.

 

Cash In Your Chips,” Dev screams.

 

Bad Habits Die Hard," Fiona yells.

 

Snow doesn’t yell anything, but he runs forward with his sword above his head—typical Simon— and starts slicing cars soldiers by the middle. I look to the Queen, and she’s smiling.

 

“Your boy’s such a spitfire,” she says happily. “I see why you like him so much.”

 

I don’t bother answering, and keep my eyes on the battle. Niall’s sends a “The King’s English!” to a soldier card and it becomes skin and bone. Snow takes its head off before it can even speak.

 

Dev sends “At Sixes And Sevens” at a six of spades, and it's face becomes confused and it spins in place like a ballerina before falling to the ground. Its stumble only acts to infuriate the card, and it charges at Dev with its shiny silver spear, so Niall hits it with a “Come To A Sticky End." The card suddenly hits the ground like a bug caught in a Venus Flytrap, coated in a brown sticky paste to the floor. Niall casts “Dead as a Doornail” and the card stops moving.

 

Fiona’s battling a three of diamonds, so she casts “Easy as One-Two-Three!” The card splits into three tiny versions of itself, fighting Fiona. “Thank God For Small Blessings,” Fiona yells, and the cards shrink to half their size.

 

A Wild Card!” Snow swoops in while pulling his wand out of his pocket. All the cards in the vicinity, including Fiona's small cards, fall on their back. I'm impressed Snow can do magic at a time like this—he usually can't. Well, not without me, anyways.

 

Fiona looks annoyed. I think she’s embarrassed she didn’t handle the cards herself. “Can you not?” she says to Snow, irritated.

 

“Can I not what? Help?” Snow asks, frustrated.

 

“I just don’t want to gamble—” Fiona starts.

 

“Will you quit it with the puns!?” Snow yells, then he turns to shoot a spell at an approaching Joker. “The Butt of a Joke!

 

The Joker falls on his behind, and then Snow adds “Push Up Daisies!” and the soldier kneels over, choking up flowers.

 

“You’re laying into me about puns, when you’re, what? Sending ironically literal spells?” Fiona yells.

 

“I’m not being ironic, I’m just trying to lay out playing cards!” Snow slices an eight card with his blade as he screams this, effectively proving his point.

 

“Fine! You know how to fight. I’ll give you that,” Fiona admits, and then spirals to her left and yells, “SLEEP WITH THE FISHES!” She hits a six of hearts, and it collapses. Snow sends Fiona a smile, until he notices two cards to his right. He spirals his sword above his head to keep them back.

 

I’m getting tired of the anxiety of this fight. “Okay.” I say to the Queen. “Enough is enough. Call them off.”

 

“What?” She says in a cheery voice. “It’s just getting good!”

 

Please,” I beg, letting go of my pride. I add in a whisper, "I don't want my friends to die."

 

“Don’t get so upset, Basilton," she says, exasperated. “I wasn’t really going to hurt them. How would that benefit me?”

 

I don't know! I don't know what you want! I want to scream. I want to rage and break things and tear her apart, but I don’t see how that would help me. So I stay silent, and she keeps talking.

 

“Violence for violence’s sake is the rule of beasts,” she wrinkles her button nose in distaste. “Or, perhaps, the rule of men. But not of fairies. I have a plan.”

 

“What plan?” I ask.

 

“You’ll see!” she insists while nodding enthusiastically.

 

The projection is showing them still battling the card soldiers. “Please, just stop it,” I ask.

 

She sighs loudly. “Fiiiiiine.” She waves her hand in a complicated motion and the soldiers stop the battle. They all just stand up taller and start walking towards the grand double doors at the front of the castle. Snow looks like he’s been hit over the head, shocked that the cards just suddenly stopped fighting. The Queen waves her hand again, and the projection disappears. “Have it your way, Basilton.”

 

I’m not sure if I prefer not being able to see Snow and my friends, but I nod like this is what I wanted. “I would like to be released, now,” I say with as much confidence as I can muster.

 

“Sorry, no can do. It’s time to meet our guests. Though, you need to clean up for them. Can't see your boy looking like that, can you?” She does her unusual magic again, and I’m suddenly dressed in trousers and a button up. “That’s better," she says, self satisfied. “Take a moment to compose yourself, and then you may come up.” A King playing card comes down the stairs. I suppose he’s my escort.

 

I run my fingers through my hair. I wouldn't ever admit it, but I'm grateful she changed my clothes. I felt filthy. I put my shoulders back as I walk out of the prison cell, even as the guard puts me in handcuffs.

 

The guard leads me up a spiral staircase, and I'm trying to hide the fact that I'm struggling to keep up with his fast pace. Out of the prison basement, the castle is gorgeous. It's solid gold on the inside too, and the walls are lined with portraits of former fairy queens. I'm lead outside to the front of the palace, where Queen Genevieve is waiting for me.

 

"Basilton," she greets me with a nod. She seems even more forbidding here, in front of her grand castle. "Now, let's let our guests join the party."

 

The gates open, and I see Penelope Bunce, who has dirt on her cheek, Dev, with blood on his Panic! At The Disco T-shirt, Niall, whose ginger hair is sticking up in every direction, Fiona, who has a deadly expression on.

 

I see Simon Snow, who looks like a revelation. Like the answer to every prayer. Like an angel. I can't see the tear in his jeans, the blood on his hand, the wildness of his curls. All I can see is his gorgeous blue eyes, searching for me.

 

When I meet his eye, his shoulders relax, and he lets out the breathe he was holding.

 

I whisper, without meaning to, "Simon."

 

Chapter Text

Simon

 

I'm fighting with a Seven of Spades when, in an eerie synchrony, all of the playing cards straighten up and walk away from the fight. We all look at each other, confused. A King of Hearts turns and says, "Her Highness Queen Genevieve requests your company. Please come in and await her arrival in front of the main gates."

 

"This is not how I usually treat company. At the very least, I offer them a drink before trying to slit their throats," Fiona says, her voice dripping in annoyed sarcasm. She has a small gash on her cheek she hasn't noticed or doesn't care about, though it's starting to drip blood down her face. Penny casts a Stitch Up on her, and the wound closes up, though the blood stays on her face. Fiona gives Penny what I think is her approximation of an appreciative nod.

 

"Well, what are we waiting for?" I say, and start walking down to the gates.

 

Dev says, "it's been literally 30 seconds," at the same time that Fiona says, "uh, to fix my face?", and I ignore them both. I know I've been impatient with everyone since I got here, but I can't help it. 

 

I need to get to Baz. Now. 

 

A memory from sixth year pops in my head suddenly. Baz was coming back from football practice, and he was dripping sweat. He was objectively captivating. His sleek black hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and his biceps were highlighted by the tank top he was wearing. I remember thinking, annoyed, No wonder all the girls want him. He’s flawless.

 

“What are you doing?” I snarled, even though “nothing” was the clear answer. His face was just so aggravating. The minute he walked into the room I felt tense, like I was going to go off. 

 

“A bloke can’t come to his own bedroom these days, huh?” he asked sarcastically.

 

“I know you’re plotting something against me,” I accused. Because there had to be a reason my veins were on fire, my skin was suddenly uncomfortable, my face was numb. There had to be a reason his stormy grey eyes set me on fire.

 

“Yes, always,” he deadpanned with a nod. “I just can’t help myself when it comes to you.”

 

That made me growl animalistically and he almost smiled a little. That irritated me. He can’t be amused at my indignity, I thought. That isn’t fair. 

 

“Fuck you, Baz,” I snarled my usual insult. I’d known I’d lost the battle I'd started already.

 

“Gladly,” he whispered so low I barely caught it. I don’t think I was meant to hear him. He sounded angry, and I was going to reply, "what?", but he slammed the door to the bathroom and soundproofed it. That night I was playing football with Baz in my dreams. I was trying to catch up with him the whole time. (He was even supremely better than me in my own dreams.) Every time I got close, he would just send me that smile he did that time he was drunk at the beginning of sixth year, and sped up. I woke up with a stomach ache and my skin on fire.

 

Aleister Crowley. Did I want him, even then? I think I did.

 

I'm tapping my foot at the tall white picket fence around the castle. It's surrounded by red roses, and the strong smell makes me want to vomit. 

 

"Simon," Penny says empathetically, "It's going to be okay."

 

I resist the urge to snap at her. It's not her fault. I decide to be honest instead. "It won't be okay if he's not okay," I whisper. She grabs my hand, which marginally stills my shakiness.

 

"Well, then we better save him, huh?" she whispers back, and then hip-checks me affectionately. "Good thing we have a couple of experienced heros on the job."

 

I look up in her big brown eyes, and they're filled with the kind of understanding only a best friend could have. I get a surge of gratefulness for Penny—gratefulness that she came as soon as I called. That she woke up at dawn and drove her dad's Suburban for hours for me. That no matter what, she's the only one who never leaves. It prompts me to admit, in a low murmer just for her, "I love him."

 

Penny doesn't look as surprised as I thought she would. By that, I mean she doesn't look surprised at all. "Oh, Si," she says and engulfs me in a hug. "I know."

 

"Why didn't you tell me?" I say, pathetically in her ear.

 

She pulls back to give me a sympathetic smile. "Would you have believed me?" I let out a bitter laugh, because no, I wouldn't have. I wipe my watering eyes as the others approach.

 

"Time to shine, Chosen One," Fiona interrupts, having caught up with us. It looks like she had Dev or Niall spell her clean, because she's no longer covered in blood and dirt. "This is the part where we might need your powerhouse magic." She turns to Penny, and says, with grudging respect, "And your brains probably won't hurt either."

 

Penny looks pleased by Fiona's admission. Though, before she can answer, the gates suddenly begin to open.

 

"Showtime, mates," Niall says determinedly, and we all have our wands at the ready, getting into fighting stance. 

 

My eyes are searching, and my heart's speeding up, every beat a please, please, please, dear God, please—

 

And that's when I see him, flanked by a King of Hearts. I let out a loud, unsteady breathe when I meet his eyes. I see Baz’s mouth form a word I can't decipher, and I almost want to smile—despite the sweat dripping down my temple, despite all the dried blood down my right arm, despite the painful ache of my bones. 

 

Because he’s alive.

 

Thank Crowley he’s alive.

 

I wasn't sure until now. I knew there was a chance that this was just a ruse. During our descent into Wonderland, I remembered a story I read last night. Her mother, the Queen of Hearts, had half a dozen different husbands, all of which died under mysterious circumstances. (Mysterious in that they all were deemed accidents, but it was an open secret that the former Queen had killed all but the first King.) She was said to have really loved that one, but he was killed by a Mage in the Fae Wars. When fairy princesses ascent to Queens, they're apparently supposed to get married, but Queen Genevieve flat out refused, giving a speech about how she would be a better ruler without "undue influence" or something like that. When I read it aloud to Baz, he quipped that, "maybe having a praying mantis for a mother turns you cold blooded." I snorted with laughter. But, as a gnome was trying to spear me with a pickaxe, I thought that joke may have some actual merit. It's a pretty heartless decision. 

 

“Baz!” I scream, looking right in his stormy grey eyes. I’m so relieved to see him, and I think maybe he's relieved to see me too—or maybe he's just grateful that someone came for him—because he lets out a sigh and gives me one resolute nod. He’s not in his pajamas anymore, but he still looks disheveled. His hair is pushed back, like someone tried to give him a bad comb over—messier than I've ever seen it. There are dark circles under his eyes and a slight hunch to his shoulders. Though, the fact that he doesn't seem injured puts me slightly at ease.

 

“Simon Snow,” a musical voice tears my focus away from Baz. A tall auburn haired woman is smiling unironically at me. She’s got a perfectly straight set of white teeth, and one dimple that seems out of place on her otherwise symmetrical face. I recognize her from the early 20th century photo of her, though it seems she hasn't aged a day. 

 

“Why did you make me come here?” I demand with my eyes locked on the fairy Queen. The venom in my voice is biting. I move to take a step forward, but Penny holds me back. Her fingers grip by biceps in a silent warning. 

 

“Welcome to Wonderland,” Queen Genevieve says politely, ignoring my impertinence. I look at Baz again—to double check he's really there and he's smirking just a little. He's no stranger to my bad temper, after all. I look back at the Queen as she's giving me an old fashioned curtsy. I’m not sure if I'm supposed to bow back, so I just give her a curt nod. “I pray you had a safe travel?” she asks with upturned lips, like this is an inside joke. 

 

"Why did you want me to come here?" I ask again, annoyed. I don't feel like bantering about getting hounded by, yet again, more magical creatures as I was on my way to save my soulmate, who I got kidnapped. I know I should be more polite with a Queen, and a fairy Queen at that, but I'm in an unfortunate mood. Baz is in handcuffs, and the sight of his hands shackled makes my skin crawl. 

 

"I wanted to meet you, but I thought you might come quicker with the proper motivation. Plus, I foresaw that the two of you might eventually trespass on my land. I thought I’d save Basilton the trouble, and bring him here myself.” She smiles playfully, like she’s discussing brunch reservations, and not kidnapping the heir of Pitch. I scowl back at her, but manage to bite my tongue to keep from answering rudely again. 

 

She just laughs at my unhappy expression. “Okay, I apologize for my lack of tact, Simon Snow. I see now you're sensitive about him.”

 

I feel my cheeks blushing red, and I try to force myself not to look at Baz. The Queen must know he’s my soulmate, which is humiliating and awful and—oh, Merlin. What does Baz make of her comment? I break my own resolve and glance over at him. I can’t read his expression. His face is carefully neutral, and he’s avoiding my eyes.

 

Even with his obvious exhaustion, he’s gorgeous. Has he always been this gorgeous? Have his shoulders always been so broad, his eyes so striking, his lips so kissable? 

 

Have I thought about kissing him before?

 

I know immediately that the answer's yes. I’ve thought about kissing him more than I’d like to admit. I’ve thought about what it would be like to run my fingers through his thick hair, to touch his soft cheeks, to bite his full bottom lip, to—

 

“Simon?” Queen Genivieve says, gently. 

 

Penny’s looking at me like I’m being particularly thick. I don’t blame her. I’ve clearly zoned out of the conversation. I’m sure the Queen said something while I was day-dreaming about Baz.

 

“Yes?” I reply, with burning cheeks. I curse myself in my head. “Your majesty. It’s a pleasure,” I add, for good measure. Penny chokes back a laugh at my poor attempt at false politeness. I've never been a good actor. 

 

She giggles, putting her hand over her mouth as she does. The girlish gesture looks silly on a Queen who I know is over a hundred years old. “You’re lying, Simon Snow. But I appreciate it.” She sends me a seemingly genuine smile. “Welcome to Wonderland.”

 

I take a moment to scan the area, taking note that the only possible escape route is back where we came. The portal spit us out at the outer edges of the castle, where we had to get through a hedge maze. I could see even from miles back that this castle was stunning—huge and solid gold— but it seems even larger from up close especially with the Queen, her soldiers, and Baz at the top of the staircase. There could be any number of creatures at her disposal. If I can't give her whatever she wants, I don't think our chances of a daring escape are looking great, even with my and Penny's particularly good track record for daring escapes. 

 

“You are very powerful, Simon Snow.” Queen Genevieve continues with a solemn nod when I don't answer. “I can feel your magic from here.” I bet she can. The air around me is a bit hazy with smoke. “I have the gift of foresight, and I foresaw your birth, Chosen One.”

 

"Do you know where I came from?" I ask, my curiosity piqued. Someone wrote 'Simon Snow' on my arm when I was born, so I must have came from somewhere, but no one knows how I ended up in that orphanage in Lancaster with all my magic. No one's ever even hinted at knowing.

 

"I know a lot of things." The Queen replies airily, and then changes the subject abruptly. “I want to apologize for my tactics. I thought it was a bit passive aggressive myself, but your power needed to be tested."

 

“Tested…?” I ask, confused and reeling a bit from her mention of my origin story. 

 

“You did an excellent job. None of my creatures came close to harming you.” This woman is speaking with such nonchalance about harrassing me all semester. About sending werewolves to a vampire. "And then something interesting happened."

 

She pauses. I can tell she wants me to say "what?", so I do.

 

She looks appeased that her dramatic pause was effective in getting me to speak. "Then, you performed love magic."

 

This is not what I expected her to say. This time I say "what?" not because I thought she'd wanted me to, but because I'm genuinely confused.

 

"You performed love magic with Basilton," Queen Genevieve says, again. It takes me a moment to get her meaning.

 

Oh, Crowley. Oh, fuck.

 

I can share my magic with Baz because I'm in love with him, and he's my soulmate.

 

The embarrassment of my unrequited feelings being revealed in front of the person I have unrequited feelings for makes my skin burn hot. My vision goes blurry with the start of embarrassed tears forming, and I blink them back. I can feel myself start to want to go off, feel my skin getting hot. Penny lets go of my arm, which I didn't realize she was even still gripping, and I take a step forward.

 

"Just tell me what you want." I try to keep the desperation out of my voice. I do not want her to keep going on about how I've been pouring my love for Baz into him. At this point, she could ask for an arm and a leg and I'd give it. Hell, maybe she should ask for my eyes, so I don't have to see Baz's face when he inevitably rejects me. Maybe he'll be kind about it, now that we're friends, but it will still be mortifying. Again, I tell myself not to look at him, and this time, I manage not to.  "I'll give you whatever you want." 

 

She smiles, and holds out her hand. "Come here, Simon Snow."

 

When I move to step forward, Fiona and Penny go to move with me. She turns to them and says, "Just Simon."

 

Fiona growls, and the Queen turns her attention onto her. "Welcome back, Fiona Pitch. I'll be honest, I didn't think you'd trespass into Wonderland again. 

 

Fiona frowns at her. "Hard not to when you've kidnapped my nephew," she says defiantly.

 

"That's fair, I suppose. In exchange for my foul play, I will allow the uninvited guests to continue to accompany you." She says with a nod to me, and then looks back at Fiona. "At the bottom of the stairs."

 

I think Fiona realizes this will be a losing battle. She has been to Wonderland before, after all, and did not manage to get the upper hand then. She clutches her wand tightly, and gives me a curt nod I assume I'm supposed to take as permission. I walk up the stairs slowly, keeping my eyes on the Queen.

 

"And, put your sword away, darling. This is a conversation, not a brawl."

 

This woman really lacks self awareness. I have the blood of several creatures that she sent to me on my T-shirt. But I do as she asks, and whisper the incantation to hide the Sword of Mages.

 

The closer I get to her, the hotter my skin feels. I realized that it's easier to control when I think of Baz when we were fighting those playing cards. So I allow myself just one second to steal a glance at him to steady myself. His expression is almost neutral, save for the furrow between his brows that gives away his nervousness. I take a deep breathe, feel myself cool a bit, and take the Queen’s outstretched hand.

 

Trying to cool myself down was a waste, because as soon as I touch her, I feel like I’ve put my hand on a hot stove. I yelp and try to pull away, but she holds on, and she’s stronger than her skinny arms and delicate frame would suggest. I hear Baz’s low growl to my left.

 

“Terribly sorry, professional necessity, Simon” the Queen says politely in an even tone, before letting go of my hand. I look at my palm, expecting a burn, but surprisingly, my skin is unblemished. I shake it like I have been anyways, annoyed. “I needed to get a better read on your magic, and touch is the best way to do that.”

 

"Don't you want me here for my magic? Why would you need a read on it?" I ask. 

 

"Magic is a tricky business," she says, with the tone of a scolding professor. "We must be sure of the consequences before we take action."

 

"And what action are we taking?" I don't know why I say 'we' like I have a choice.

 

The Queen purses her lips, and she looks displeased for the first time since I've met her. A shot of fear rushes through my system at the thought that maybe I can't give her what she wants, but then she turns to one of the playing cards at her left, and says, "Leonard, can you be a doll, and hand me over the instrument?" An Ace of Clubs nearly trips over his feet to get the Queen a purple hatbox with intricate gold stitching. "Do you know what this is?" she asks, softly.

 

"No," I answer simply. Though, I see that the top is engraved with some words. 

 

“Simon,” Queen Genevieve starts. “Your magic is… overpowering. It’s more than an element. It’s like… gravity.” This is the first time she seems to be struggling to find words since we’ve met. It makes the words she is saying seem much more important, but I can’t see where she’s going. “This instrument is meant to help control that.”

 

“To give me a better grip on my magic?” I ask.

 

She pauses, and then finally says, “Yes", but it sounds like a no.

 

I ask “what’s a—” I glance at the box again to read the inscription properly, “Guddler’s Box?”

 

Queen Genevieve is silent for a moment, then opens her mouth to speak, but is interrupted before she can get a word out. 

 

"No!" Baz yells, and I whip his head around. His scream comes out like it's been ripped out of him, the way that it pulled at him from his chest outward. A King of Spades holds Baz back as he tries to lung forward, and it knocks the breath out of him. On instinct, I cross the fifteen feet between us and knock the King of Spades over to the ground with a protective growl. My impulsiveness took Baz and I down to the ground with the playing card. So, now, I’m practically straddling Baz whose under me looking torn between surprise, amusement, and something else I can’t place. Our faces are just inches apart, so close that I can tell his grey eyes are an unusual mixture between blue and green. Why haven’t I noticed that before? Maybe because I’ve never been on top of him until now. I’m feeling a little embarrassed, because if I don’t get off him soon, I think all the emotion in my body is bound to turn to lust. So, I push myself up, but not before I take this opportunity to, as discreetly as possible, shove my wand into his trouser pocket. 

 

“Enough!” Queen Genevieve says, and she looks angry for the first time. I’m still on all fours above Baz, and I scurry to get to my feet. I try to look innocent, like I didn’t just tackle a guard and give a prisoner a magical instrument. I’m torn between praying that I just looked like I was feeling Baz up and praying nobody thought I was using that opportunity to feel Baz up. 

 

I walk over to the Queen and say, “no hurting Baz." Low, so only she can hear.

 

She looks exasperated and sympathetic. (She can really fake empathy to a sociopathic degree.)

 

“Please control yourself, Basilton,” she says with a brief look at Baz, whose face is neutral. My tackle has messed up his already unkempt hair, and it’s sticking up in the back in a way I’d find comical if my heart wasn’t about to beat out of my chest with fear. He nods once, and she—thank Crowley—turns her attention back onto me. “You too, Simon.”

 

I nod, too quickly and not half as casually as Baz, but I guess the Queen chalks it up to embarrassment, and carries on.

 

“As I was going to say before I was interrupted,” she says with a quick, pointed look at Baz, who seems unbothered. His poker face is astoundishing. “This is a Guddler’s Box. I need you to do your… the magic you do with Basilton,” I silently thank her for not saying ‘love magic,’ “with this box.”

 

“You want me to push some of my magic into this box?” 

 

“No. I want you to push all of it in.”

 

All of it shakes around his brain without meaning for a full minute before I turn to look at Baz’s tortured expression. And I suddenly get what all of it means. Why Baz is looking at me like I might die.

 

Baz cares more about magic than anyone else, maybe even more than Penny. This would be a fate worse than death for him, I think. 

 

If he couldn’t love me before, he could never love me after I do this to myself. 

 

But the Queen’s face is resolute. And I’m scared what will happen to Baz if I say no. Will she keep him if I don’t? Will she hurt him? Will she kill him?

 

“If I do,” I whisper to Queen Genevieve, “you will let Baz and all my friends go, unharmed?”

 

Genevieve says in a loud, clear voice, “yes”. 

 

I have no choice but to believe her. My fate worse than death is Baz as a prisoner, Baz tortured, Baz hurt. My fate worse than death is Baz dead. So I say, equally loud and clear, “Okay, I’ll do it.”

 

Chapter Text

Genevieve

 

I was given my name by my father. He was an exceptionally gifted sight seer, and he assured my mother that I deserved ‘Genevieve.’ He said I would be 'the woman of our race'—the woman of the fairies, a wonderful queen one day. I’ve always been proud of my name, and of him. He was an exquisite king, and an even better father. 

 

The night before he died, he asked if I wanted a new bedtime story. It was a right treat to hear one of his stories, especially after my mother had already tucked me in and sang me goodnight. I said yes, and he recited it from memory: a lovely tale about a Mage girl named Alice who gets lost in Wonderland. All father’s stories had happy endings, but I was a little disappointed that Alice left our home, Wonderland. I would have quite liked the idea of such a sweet girl in my land, even if she was a Mage. I didn't have anyone my age to play with in the castle. Though, I was confused about one part of his tale.

 

“Who's the queen of hearts, father?” I asked. Wonderland didn’t have a Queen by that name.

 

He didn’t answer my question. He got a faraway look in his eye, and said softly, “My Genevieve. I need you to promise me something.”

 

I nodded profusely. I was eight, and my father was my hero. I would have done anything he asked. 

 

“When you grow up, I want you to be a fair and benevolent ruler. I want you to always do what’s right. You are a very talented fairy.” He brushed a stray lock of my red hair behind my ear. My vivid hair is the only feature of my mother’s I inherited; my face is all my father's. “But magic is about more than talent. Magic is a tricky business, my love. The more you have, the trickier it gets. It is our duty to take care of its consequences.” 

 

I nodded, empathically. “Yes, father.”

 

I loved magic wholeheartedly then. I thought I got the best parts of both my parents. Love magic and Seer magic. I was already practicing regularly with my tutor—though I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be as good as them. My mother’s love magic was so strong no fairy could resist loving her. It made the subjects unequivocally loyal. My father’s gift of foresight meant he could foresee every major event, not just of fairies, but of Mages. Like all fairy magic, these were intensified by touch. To touch my mother was to fall under her spell irreversibly. To touch my father meant your every possible future would be spelled out in his mind. 

 

“I love you, Genevieve,” he whispered. “You are my life’s greatest foresight.” Then, he kissed my cheek and bid me goodnight. It was the last time I ever saw him.

 

The next day—as I practiced my magic hand movement techniques, as I played in the garden and picked white roses, as I snuck into the stables to pet the bandersnatches—my father went off to battle. My father fought a powerful Mage named Geoffrey Salisbury, and lost. 

 

That was the day my father was murdered, and I lost everything. That was the day everything changed.

 


 

Baz

 

I was thirteen when I admitted to myself that Simon Snow was brave.

 

It after that idiotic chimera fight. I was sure he’d lose it—maybe even cry. I really wanted to make him cry that week, because someone had properly cut his hair that year. The first couple of years it was always too short, so his curls ended too early at an awkward wavy length. But he had gotten an uppercut that summer, his curls were wild and bronze and a little reddish in the sunlight and it made me want to scream. At the time, I didn’t know why I was so upset about it. I didn't know why I couldn't help being such a prick about it (“honestly, Snow, aren’t you taking this Annie the orphan thing a little too far?”). That insult barely got a rise out of him—probably because I overdid the Annie references a lot the first couple of years of school. But I wanted to get his attention or kill him or just do something about those damn curls, so I tricked him into fighting a chimera. I lured him to it, and then I waited in the bushes for him to bawl or piss his pants.

 

But when he saw the chimera, he just called his Sword of Mages and ran straight for the beast. When he realized I was there too, he stood in front of me protectively. Even though it was my fault. Even after I was a total prat to him during the battle with the creature. Crowley, even when I provoked him into going off, he found a way to keep me safe from his own explosive magic. And that’s when I had to admit that Simon Snow is brave.

 

Stupidly brave, yes. But brave all the way through.

 

I was fifteen when I admitted that I loved that about him. His unselfish courage drives me crazy with worry when he dives headfirst into the thick of things without thinking, but I loved it. I loved it until this very moment. In this moment, I want him to do anything but be stupidly brave. I want him to be doing anything but what he’s about to do.

 

His face is determined when he says to Queen Genevieve, “Okay. I’ll do it.”

 

He can’t lose his magic to be noble. He can’t lose his magic for me.

 

“Snow, don’t,” I rasp, my voice rough from all my yelling. “Please.”

 

He looks at me with his blue eyes. He looks a little surprised that I’m pleading, and I'd surely be blushing if I wasn't so empty on blood. Fuck it, though; this is really not the time for my pride. 

 

“I have to,” he says, his voice breaking at the end, and then he grabs the box from the Queen and gets a familiar look of concentration on his face.  

 

Thank Crowley this gorgeous moron was at least smart enough to give me his wand. If I can wield his magic, then I should be able to use his wand. I turn to the rest of my rescue party and see that Penelope Bunce is looking at me, trying to catch my eye. When we make eye contact, she sends a meaningful look at my pocket and nods once to signal that she knows Snow’s wand is there. She mouths ‘ready when you are.’

 

I give her a small smirk and she elbows Fiona and discretely nods in my direction, who looks at me too. I mouth, ‘one...two...’

 

“THREE!” I yell, and all hell breaks loose.

 

Bunce screams “Tis But A Scratch!” at the King card holding me back, and it’s sliced clean in two. If there’s a later, I have to remember to compliment Penny’s extensive knowledge of Shakespeare spells. 

 

At the same time, I take Snow’s wand out of my pocket, point it at the Guddler’s Box, and cast “AT THE DROP OF A HAT!” and it falls to the floor, shocking both the Queen and Snow into jumping backwards.

 

Fiona points her wand at the Queen, and yells “Royal Pain!” and the Queen stumbles back, clutching her chest where she was hit by Fiona's spell. 

 

Dev and Niall are all battling guard cards as I cast “Prison Break” on my shackles. They pop off, and I’m running towards Snow in an instant.

 

He turns towards me, and opens his mouth to speak. I want to kiss him more than anything. I'm not sure if it would shock him much, because after everything the Queen said, he must have riddled out that I’m gone for him. But this is neither the time nor place—if there was ever a time or a place. I don’t think he’d punch me, but he’d surely push me off, and that would be both embarrassing and time-wasting. I guess I'll explain to him about unrequited soulmates later. I yell at him, as I pull him away from the Queen, “You miserable excuse for a human being. You dim-witted wrecking ball. What do you think you’re doing?

 

“Saving you, you prat! What does it look like?” he says indignantly, though he’s smiling a little despite himself. 

 

“Looks like you're about to make a colossal mistake, you noble tosser.” I huff, though I can’t fight my slight grin either. That is, until I see that the Queen is recovering from Fiona's spell. Her expression is thunderous. I think we’re finally seeing the real Her Highness Queen Genevieve under her fake nice act, if the furious set of her scowl is anything to go off of. She picks up the Guddler’s Box from the ground and lifts her hand to do some of her mysterious fairy magic.

 

Knights in shining armor!” I cast on Snow and myself, before the Queen can use her magic against us. It's a very particular spell, it only works if you're acting for the good of someone else. But since he came to save me, and now I’m saving him, my spell lands. A silver bubble shield wraps around us, protecting us from the fairy Queen’s wrath. 

 

“Boys,” Queen Genevieve says in a measured tone, though there is an unmistakable undercurrent of rage in her high-pitched voice. She won't be able to get through my shield; tropes are very powerful spells. “I know you boys can’t see how, but you are really making a mistake right now.”

 

I scoff and Snow gives her one of his growls. I unconsciously shift closer to him, to be protective, and because—well—his growls are so sexy.

 

“This is going to end very badly if you two don’t take that shield down and calm down,” she adds in a superior tone.

 

“Right,” I say sarcastically. “Like we’re going to listen to someone who’s trying to steal a Mage’s magic.” I spit this out like it’s the most disgusting thing in the world. Because it is. Crowley, if Mages knew it was even possible… surely, we’d have torn each other to bits by now. 

 

“I am a Seer,” spits out. “And I can see this situation far more clearly than a couple of teenagers who—” she starts, but is interrupted by Bunce, running towards us with her wild purple hair messy from battle, casting “slash and burn!” at the Guddler’s Box. It drops from the Queen’s hands again and she lets out a roar of outrage. The Box starts to spark flames, and the Queen is moving her hands in a rapid, intricate wave, clearly trying to repair the damage.

 

“C’mon, c’mon!” Bunce yells at us. “Quickly, we need to get out of here!” But no sooner than she's gotten the sentence out, Bunce drops to her knees and lets out a horrible choking sound.

 

“I’ve never—“ Queen Genevieve starts in a low, harsh tone. There’s nothing musical about her voice anymore, and I’m petrified by the wild look in her eyes, “used my mother’s cruel magic before. Ever, in over a century as Queen, have I resorted to harsh tyranny.”

 

Penny is holding her throat like she can’t breathe, and Snow lets out a tortured cry at her pain and moves to run to her, but is held back by my Knight in Shining Armour shield. 

 

“But you children,” Queen Genevieve says derogatorily, “understand nothing—nothing—of what is at stake. You know nothing—“

 

“Please, please, please!” Snow screams, banging his fists in the force field. He has fat tears streaming down face rapidly. “Please stop! I’m sorry, don’t hurt her—“

 

Queen Genevieve whips her head around to stare down Snow, and I’m shocked to see there’s an ancient pain in her eyes. She looks her age for the first time. “Do you think I want to?” She demands with her eyes on Snow. Penny is still on the ground gasping for air—on all fours, heaving for breath. “There are consequences for your actions, there are consequences to your magic—"

 

“We’ll stop, we’ll stop!” He turns to me with a plea in his teary blue eyes, and I drop the force field around us. The Queen lets her magic-wielding arm drop and Bunce is breathing again, heavily and loudly refilling her empty lungs with oxygen.

 

“Silence! Stop right now!” The Queen commands, and a force of red magical energy explodes out of her. Everyone in the courtyard freezes involuntarily. Dev’s arm is outstretched, frozen mid casting. Niall is on the ground, with a Jack of Hearts above him. Fiona was fighting three cards at once, her stance and arms wide defensively. 

 

It looks like the Queen is in physical pain. She's shaking, and her beautiful face is so contorted that she looks ugly. “I need everyone to calm down, right now. I don’t want to resort to barbaric violence, but I will. Angels help me, I will.” She's not yelling, but her voice rings in my ears anyways. The silence following her threat is deafening. 

 

“Now,” the Queen says, her voice calmer somewhat, but with a harsh edge. She does an arm wave and everyone is released from her freezing enchantment. Snow runs straight to Penny and is on the ground with her in an instant. He's holding her by her shoulders, and asking her, “are you okay?" over and over. Bunce gives him a shaky nod, trying to seem tough. The Queen is looking at Snow intensely. “Simon Snow,” she says to him, and he looks up at her from the ground with his scared, beautiful blue eyes, not taking his hands off Bunce’s shoulder.

 

“Yes?” Snow says in a small, broken voice. His face is wet, and I choke back tears of my own at the sight.

 

“Will you please come here now?” She asks, though it’s not really a question, since he doesn’t have much of a choice. 

 

He looks at Penny for only a second, before getting up resolutely. I want to ask him not to. I know how much he loves magic—I can tell by the way his eyes light up when Bunce casts a spell for him, the way he never stops being amazed by the Welcome Picnic’s fireworks, the way he glows when a teacher demonstrates a new enchantment in class. I know because I’ve had his magic inside my veins. I want to offer up my own magic instead—if I did, we’d still be able to share, maybe. But I can’t. Because I know, whatever the Queen wants right now, she will get. She’s too powerful, too determined to stop. Whatever she wants, it's not me—it's him.

 

“Now,” she says to him, once he's face to face with her. “Try again.”

 

He lifts his hands to reach for the box, and then hesitates. He looks over to me for—well, I don’t know what for. I can’t read his expression. He locks eyes with me for a moment, and looks like he’s concentrating—maybe he's trying to tell me something? But then he sighs, and looks back to the Queen.

 

She's noticed the exchange though, and looks at me thoughtfully.

 

"Okay,” she lets out a long-suffering sigh. "I think some safety precautions are in order here, this time." She waves her hand in a swishing motion and I see leaves growing out from the ground at my feet. I try to get away but the branches wrap my body tightly, like vines. Before I know what's happening, the shrub is circling around me—my legs, my torso, my arms. The bush finally stops at my chest, and around me I see that lush blood red roses bloom from the branches.

 

I hear Fiona's cry from behind me, and I look back to see she's struggling against the assault, and has gotten herself stuck in thorns. I can smell the metalic scent of her blood from here, and I wish I could plug my nose. I'm so thirsty—there's too much blood in the air and I've already exhausted myself by using a spell as powerful as Knight in Shining Armor. Since the vines are preventing me from moving my hands, I try to just stop breathing through my nose.

 

"Don't try to move,” the Queen says flatly. "It just makes it worse." She has a dead, faraway look in her eyes, like she's remembering something unpleasant. Then she shakes her head a little and focuses her attention back to Simon.

 

"You didn't have to do that,” he says to her, referring to the rose cages.

 

"That's what I hoped last time around,” she responds, and then holds the box out to him. He reaches out and holds it in his hands.

 

He closes his eyes, and he furrows his brows and frowns like he's concentrating very hard. If he had something to fidget with too, I'm sure he would. It's silent in the courtyard for only thirty seconds as he tries to push his magic into the box, before he breaks the quiet with a loud gasp. Snow opens his eyes just in time to see the Guddler's Box begin to glow brightly. There seems to be a golden haze around the device, almost like Simon gets when he's about to go off. At the same time it stops glowing, Simon collapses to the ground.

 

I can't feel the thorns tearing at my skin, I can't hear the wails I know must be coming out of my mouth, I can't see anything but Simon Snow, limp on the ground. 

 

I don't know how long I push against the rose bushes screaming. I don't know when the pain stops, when the vines around my leg unwind so I can start running to him. I'm just suddenly kneeling over Simon Snow, and he isn't breathing, isn't moving.

 

I have to check though, don't I? I take my shaky palm to the left side of his chest right over his heart. Nothing. My vision goes hazy, I think I'm about to lose it, when—

 

Simon Snow takes a big, shuddering breath. 

 

I let out the one I was holding. I'm not sure if I inhaled once since he hit the ground.

 

He opens his blue eyes, and looks at me, confused. 

 

"B-Baz?” He asks.

 

“Yeah?” I respond, too disoriented to come up with a better response.

 

“Are—are you bleeding?" He asks, and I suddenly feel dumb. Because he’s alive, and I’m so in love.

 

“Y—yeah,” I answer, cursing myself for stuttering. I look down and I’m covered in my own blood. The pain finally sets in now that I’m not running on adrenaline, and I gasp at the onslaught of agony.

 

Then it suddenly stops. I look up, and the Queen is doing a complicated hand movement. I look down and I realize I’m not bleeding anymore.

 

“Sorry,” she whispers so quietly that I wouldn’t have heard her without my vampire hearing. She clears her throat and carries on loudly. "Now, for part two.”

 

She waves her hand again, and out of the double doors, comes…

 

The Mage.

 

He has an annoyed look on his face, and he’s walking like he’s being pulled by an invisible string. My money’s on the Queen making him come forward with magic.

 

“Mage?” Simon says, in a small voice, and the Mage’s head turns to him. They lock eyes, and the Mage suddenly looks nervous.

 

“Now, you have what you want,” Queen Genevieve says. “The locket, please.”

 

The Mage pulls a gold heart-shaped necklace out of his pocket, and hands it to the Queen. The Queen snatches it from him lightening-fast, and caresses the necklace like it’s precious, and then puts it around her neck. 

 

“What’s going on?” Simon asks, his eyes glued on The Mage.

 

“Simon…” the Mage starts. “This is for your own good, trust me. You can’t handle your own power. It was too much for a child to handle.”

 

“Oh, David,” the Queen says teasingly, like they’re old friends. Except her tone is mean, and she looks like a snake who's about to strike. “No need to sugarcoat it.” She grabs his hand, and looks him dead in the eye. “Tell the truth.”

 

The Mage straightens, and I realize the Queen is compelling him with her magic. He looks like he’s literally biting his own tongue to keep himself from talking. But he can’t resist her compulsion, so he begins to speak.

 

“I thought if I made you the Greatest Mage, it would work. But you’re defective. You can barely cast a spell without mucking it up. You can’t do anything right, so I needed to take your power and make myself the Greatest Mage.”

 

“There we go,” the Queen says with an ugly Cheshire Cat smile. “Honesty isn’t so hard, is it?”

 

“But—“ Simon chokes out. I’ve never hated being right about someone more than I am in this moment, knowing the Mage is making Simon look so devastated. “Why?”

 

“Your mother wouldn’t have wanted this.” The Mage looks shocked by his own words, so I know the Queen’s honesty spell is still on him. “She loved you from the moment she knew you existed. Her rosebud boy, she called you. But I made you for your power, Simon. I made you to be great. But you’re weak. We needed a Greatest Mage to save our world, and you can’t handle it.”

 

I growl at The Mage, infuriated by his words. He really can’t see that Simon is the sun, magic or no magic?

 

Simon starts to cry, and that’s the final straw for me. I leap up defensively to protect him, though I’m not sure what I can do, really. The attack isn’t physical, it’s emotional.

 

“Stop,” I command.

 

The Mage sneers at me. “I wouldn’t have even known to resort to this, vampire, if it wasn’t for you,” he spits. “I saw that Simon gave you his magic that day with the werewolves. I told the Queen to send them, thinking they would tear you apart. But Simon helped you with his magic, and then I knew what he could do. I knew he could be more than an overpowered fuck-up.”

 

The Queen has now gripped The Mage’s forearm. I think she’s trying to get him to stop speaking. Because I am shaking with rage, shaking with the knowledge that this man that Simon looks up to, this man who Simon would follow to the ends of the earth, cares so little about Simon that he would steal his magic, would steal the thing that made Simon feel like he belongs. Would steal the thing that brought him into my life.

 

The Queen expects me to lunge at him. She expects me to punch him in the face, to beat him the Normal way. What she doesn't know is that I always keep my wand up my sleeve.

 

But it’s been no bed of roses!” I scream my mother’s Queen spell at him with Simon's wand, and the force of it throws him back. He has thorns sticking out of him all over. I only meant to send them at the place I hit him, over his heart, but my anger amplified my spell.

 

Resistance is futile!” The Mage yells at me, and I’m suddenly chained up again, in shackles from my wrists to my ankles.

 

“Don’t spell him!” Simon yells. “Don’t hurt him!”

 

“Simon—" the Mage starts. He’s looking at him like he’s trying to explain why the sky is blue to a child. “He’s the enemy.”

 

“No he isn’t!” Simon yells, and his words warm my insides. “You are!”

 

“Simon—“ the Mage starts, but is cut off by Simon charging at him.

 

Please!” The Mage screams, and Snow’s stopped in his tracks.

 

“I didn’t mean to!” The Mage yells, and I wouldn’t believe him if I didn’t know he was compelled by the truth spell. “I didn’t want to ruin you!”

 

“Well,” the Queen says. “Magic is tricky, and it has consequences.”

 

She does another intricate hand movement, and The Mage is on his knees.

 

“W—what?” he chokes out. “You’re on my side.

 

“The thing is…” She smiles, and it’s cruel. “I don’t like dictators.”

 

She waves her hand again, and he’s unconscious on the floor.

 

All of us are silent, and still, and scared. She stares at the Mage for a while, before she finally looks up. 

 

“Well, that was eventful. Not exactly how I expected this prophecy to unfold… Oh, well. you know what you humans say about the best-laid plans.” The Queen shrugs, and it’s unusual to see on a woman so powerful. “Would all of you like some tea? I’m assuming an explanation is in order.”

 

Chapter Text

Genevieve

 

My mother was beside herself with grief after that awful day. On the same day I lost a father, I lost a mother.

 

She locked herself in her room for six days, and on the seventh, she came out and was a different person. Cruel, ruthless, cold. No one could help but love her anyways, because of her magical strength. But, logically, I knew that when she snapped at me, when she refused to play any of our games anymore, when she became a cruel leader, that the love I had for her still was forced. It was unjustly granted. 

 

Or at least, I told myself that when I ached for her lullabies.

 

I had a secret, though. My father had left me a private message, a last gift. I got it on the second day we knew he was gone. His chief lieutenant brought me a small purple box, and told me to wait to open it until I was alone. He wouldn’t give me any other instructions or information, so I went to my bedroom to inspect the gift without risk of prying eyes. Inside the hatbox was a note.

 

My dearest Genevieve, the note began in my father’s tight handwriting. I choked back a sob, took a moment to collect myself, and then read my father’s last words to me.

 

I’m sorry I had to leave you too soon. But this mission was too important to compromise, and sometimes, the price of magic is sacrifice.  Tomorrow, I will die. I know my surrender is a piece of the puzzle of the future. Without my death, the greater good could not be accomplished. But I don’t underestimate the pain I am leaving behind. Pain is a price and it’s one I’m sorry that you will have to pay for.

 

I was shocked by this. I had no inkling that my father had done this on purpose. I could not have guessed such a thing.

 

If I am successful, Lieutenant Kieran will be delivering this note along with the Guddler’s Box. It will come in handy later.

 

My daughter: I will give you one last piece of advice, and I will make one last prophecy for you.

 

My advice: being a seer is a gift and a curse. Treat it as such. 

 

My prophecy: the Greatest Mage will face their greatest enemy, and it will be your job to right their wrongs. Remember to watch for parallel Magic’s: that will be the key to the Greatest Mage’s curse.

 

I’m sorry I can not be more specific. A lesson you will learn is to keep the specifics of your insight close to your own mind. They have the power to destroy as much as they do to create.

 

I believe in you. With love, Father.

 

These were my Father’s true last words. Just for me.

 

For a year, after his death, I was so, so lonely. I threw myself into my lessons, but it didn't lessen my pain. I was eight—going on nine—and my mother didn't love me anymore. And my father had left me a mission that had no start or end date. 

 

But on a warm April day, everything changed again.

 

"Your mother has a guest coming," my maid told me as she was braiding my hair. “She's fighting in the maze as we speak."

 

"Cool," I responded, bored. My mom was always beheading peasants. It was awful, but it was all too common.

 

"No, Genevieve, it's a Mage this time." My head whipped around so fast at this new information that my maid dropped my braid and it became untwisted. She looked alarmed—she was new, and my mother was ruthless about any incompetence. I'm sure she assumed I was the same way. 

 

"My mother is trying a Mage today?" I asked.

 

"Y-yes," she said, uncertainly. “She's a girl who came into our land accidentally."

 

"I have to see this,” I insisted, gathering up my belongings with one braid on my right, and wild hair on my left. "I have to see this." 

 

"Genevieve!" My new maid yelled, and I stopped at the panic in her voice. "Please sit down and let me finish!"

 

"What's your name?" I asked.

 

She looked shocked by my question. "It's— it's Virginia," she said.

 

"Virginia," I said kindly, but forcefully. "Please take me to this girl."

 

She—thankfully—listened to my plea. "Okay…." she said tentatively. "We'll go, after I finish your hair."

 


 

My braids were perfectly symmetrical when the Mage girl arrived.

 

She was blonde with pigtail braids. I wondered if her maid did them too, or if her mother did. She walked up to my mother with her shoulders back, but I think she was also shaking.

 

"Hello, Queen," she said, and curtsied.

 

"Greetings," my mother said, but there was a cold edge to her voice. "Welcome to Wonderland."

 

My mother didn't mean this. When she had that voice on, she was about to strike.

 

“I didn’t mean to come,” the girl started. “It was an accident, and—“

 

“And you’re trespassing,” my mother interrupted coldly.

 

“My name is Alice, and—“

 

She may have continued speaking. I don’t know. I don’t know anything she said after Alice. She’s Alice.

 

“You’re in my land,” my mother started. “And that has consequences.”

 

“Listen, though!” She yelled. “I didn’t mean to—“

 

“It doesn’t matter. The point is you came, and the sentence is death.” The Queen smiled her awful smile. “Off with your head, darling.” 

 

“W—wait!” I yelled. I wasn't sure where I was going with my outburst; I just knew Alice was supposed to get out of that situation alive. “I can see this is a bad idea!”

 

”What do you mean, child?” My mother asked me with narrowed eyes.

 

“She’s supposed to live. I foresee that,” I said with as much confidence as I can muster.

 

I didn’t pull the Seer card often. It always swayed my mother, but I don’t think it would have if I said things like ‘I foresee that we should have chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast.' It was an exceptionally rare thing I did—invoke the Seer magic logic on her. But it was effective. No one in their right mind doubts a true Seer—doubts the daughter of the truest Seer in a millennium.

 

“Okay,” my mother said reluctantly. “Then send her to the dungeon.”

 


 

I snuck into the dungeons as soon as I could.

 

Virginia was hard to persuade. Like most of my maids, she thought my mother’s word was law. Because it was.

 

But my mother told me to stay in my room. And I didn’t want to do anything of the sort.

 

The dungeons are the only part of the castle that isn’t extravagant. There are no decorations, just brick walls and silver bars. I walked up to Alice’s cell with more confidence than I actually possess.

 

She didn’t look fazed when she said, “hello, my savior”, almost sarcastically.

 

“Hi,” I responded back, lamely. We were quiet for a moment.

 

“Why?” She asked, finally.

 

“Why what?”

 

“Why did you save me?”

 

I was silent for a minute. Then I said, “Your name is Alice?”

 

“Yes?” she responded, confused.

 

“I’m a Seer,” I said, and she cocked her head.

 

“What does that mean?”

 

“I can see the future because my dad could. He told me a story about you. He told me about a girl named Alice who got lost in Wonderland.”

 

She looked me up and down, like she was sizing me up. Then, she came forward and grabbed the bars. “Did she escape?” she asked, seriously.

 

“Yes,” I said earnestly.

 

“How?”

 

I smiled at her. She was cheekier than I expected.

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” I teased.

 

Alice’s smiled back, and said earnestly, “I would.”

 

“I don’t agree with my mother’s tactics,” I said honestly.

 

“Oh? Decapitation isn’t your style?” she asked sarcastically.

 

“My mother is a... queen of hearts,” I explained carefully. “She has the unwavering loyalty of her subjects, so she can do whatever she likes.”

 

Alice looked thoughtful at this comment. “You’re different, though.”

 

“Yes, I am.”

 

“You’re going to get me out,” she said.

 

“Yes, I am,” I responded, again.

 

She looked shocked, even though she predicted I would. I guess a fairy helping a Mage is just too much to ever anticipate. “Why?”

 

“It’s the right thing to do,” I said. “Now, how powerful are you?”

 

“Not very without my magical instrument.”

 

“Your what?” I asked, confused.

 

“My...magical instrument.” She was looking at me like I was being dumb, and it made me flush with displeasure. “The thing I use magic with? Mine’s a locket. My grandmother’s locket. I’m very powerful with it, but I wandered in here without it.”

 

“Why don’t you just use yourself?”

 

“What ever do you mean?”

 

I decided a demonstration was in order. I pointed my hand at the locks to her cell, and did the hand movement for ‘undue.’ The lock clicked out of place, and I pulled it off, waving it at Alice as to say ‘see?’ Her jaw dropped.

 

“I’ve never seen anything like that. Mages need magical instruments to do magic,” she said in awe. I realized I wanted to make Alice look at me like that again: pink lips open and blue eyes wide in disbelief. In admiration and amazement.

 

“Wicked!” she said happily, as she pushed her way out of her cell. She all but skipped out, marveling at her good luck.

 

“Wait!” I said, and she looked suddenly wary, like I’d set her in some kind of trap. “No, no,” I said, to answer her silent question of ‘is this the part where your mother pops out, says boo!, and I get beheaded?’ “I mean, I’m letting you out, but you can’t just waltz out of here. My mother will know it was me, and punish me,” I said matter-of-factly.

 

“Your mother would do that?”

 

I didn’t respond, ‘not a year ago.’ I responded, “Yes, so we have to be smart about this.”

 

She looked thoughtful, and a bit sad. “Sure, boss.”

 

“Okay,” I said with a loud sigh, “what do you know about jabberwockies?”

 


 

Two hours later, there was a slain jabberwocky, and Alice was deemed the most talented young Mage Wonderland had ever seen. 

 

How could she have done that?!” My mother roared. “She’s a child Genevieve’s age, for angels sake! How could she break out and slay my creature!”

 

Considering that 'Genevieve' did most of the work, I found her tone insulting, but I bit my tongue. (The whole point of this plan was to make the Jabberwocky-killing a sign that Alice was powerful beyond belief, after all.) 

 

“That girl better not step foot in Wonderland again, or so help me, I will take her head clean off her shoulders!” My mother screeched and ran out. Her maids and handlers scurried after her like scared—but impossibly loyal—Golden Retrievers.

 

“Let’s call it a night, Virginia,” I said to my new maid, who covered for me during the hour I was away with Alice. “I’m just absolutely knackered.”

 

Despite this claim, I pulled my magic mirror out as soon as I was left alone in my bedroom. I had given Alice the matching set, to keep in touch. By the end of our little adventure, she had decided that she’d quite liked my company, and said she would miss me. That’s when I remembered my magic mirrors. My father had given them to me and said that I could use them with a friend one day—though I had almost lost hope that day would ever come. The life of a vicious Queen’s daughter was lonely. But Alice waited the 20 minutes it took me to fetch the mirrors, even though she could have used that time to retreat farther from Wonderland. Instead, I found her patiently waiting at a portal, waiting for me to bring her a red handheld mirror. (Though she did complain exasperatedly, "finally!")

 

“Hello?” I whispered at my own red mirror. “Alice?”

 

“Genevieve?” A sweet voice responded, and on the mirror, my frown was replaced with Alice’s smiling face. 

 

“Get home okay?” I teased. She’s changed out of her bloody clothing into pink silk pajamas. There’s no doubt she made it back home to her cozy family. She laughed at my weak excuse for a joke, anyhow.

 

“If having an extremely cross father is okay, sure. He made me recount every detail of my journey. It was agony.” She still smiled despite her words. “How are things on your end?” 

 

“Good. My mother thinks you’re some kind of super-Mage. That you used your magic to break the lock to your cage and valiantly fought through the jabberwocky on your own.”

 

“So does mine. He thinks I’m the greatest Mage of my generation.”

 

I didn’t say ‘so do I.’ I just laughed, and said, “It would have been pretty spectacular to slay a jabberwocky all by yourself. You know, if you could have without my help.”

 

Alice retorted, “Next time I see you, I’ll have my locket.” She pulled out a gold chain necklace from her neck with a self-satisfied grin. “And I’ll show you just how powerful I am.”

 

I tried to hide how pleased I was at the prospect of a next time, but I think I failed, because Alice’s smile just got wider. We spent the whole night laughing over the misadventure that brought her to me.


 

"You're not Cupid,” Alice chided.

 

"Oh, Angels, Ally. Of course not!" I insisted. She told me Ally was a nickname from her friends, and I always mocked her for it. (I found nothing wrong with her given name. 'Alice' is lovely.) "Cupid was a right idiot, he was. He could only create temporary lust. I’m more powerful—I'm helping people fall in love."

 

It had been a handful of years since our first meeting, and we were both fourteen. Alice had snuck into Wonderland and I had snuck into the human world more times that I could count by then. That day, we were in London, and I was orchestrating meet-cutes between couples I foresaw.

 

"All this manipulating is going to get you in trouble some day,” Alice teased.

 

"When that day comes, dear," I said with a smile. "Then off with my head."

 

She snorted. “You think you’re so cute.”

 

“Oh, no. I know I am.” I smiled, and Alice smiled back, and my stomach squirmed.

 

I thought to myself, I think humans call this feeling butterflies.

 


 

“Gods, Gen!” Alice screamed. “You’re so thick!”

 

I felt my face flush—and I cursed my pale, revealing skin for betraying my hurt. “No, that’s you, Alice.”

 

I had snuck into Watford to see her. The magic mirrors weren’t enough. I wanted to see her face in person—smell her lilac perfume, throw my arms around her. I didn’t expect a fight. We rarely fight.

 

“Do you know what the Coven would do if you were caught?” she hissed, her pretty face enraged. “Off with your head!”

 

“That’s the punishment here as well?” I asked, momentarily distracted. Alice threw her hands up. 

 

“No! I was just—ugh!” Alice yelled. “You make me crazy!

 

“Yeah, well, right back at you, Alice!” I screamed back. Because she did. Her bee-stung lips make me crazy. My gaze flickered to them, and then back to her blue eyes.

 

She was looking at me dead in the eye, and I thought she was going to throw around some more harsh words, the look in her eyes was so intense.

 

She didn't. She lunged forward, threw her arms around my neck and kissed me passionately. It was my first kiss—wild and wet and wonderful. The whole world faded away when her lips were on mine. 


 

“You like danger,” Alice accused. I smiled widely at her and kissed the nape of her neck.

 

“That I do, darling,” I responded in a sing-song voice, and then licked the skin under her ear. She shuddered with pleasure. I whispered in her ear, “I know you love it,” as I bit her earlobe gently.

 

“If it means I get to be in bed with you, love,” she said. “Then yes, I do.”

 

It had been over a decade since I met Alice, and somehow I managed to love her even more each day. I told her so, and she beamed up at me.

 

“Who knew the tiny, scrawny redheaded fairy I met in Wonderland would be the love of my life?” Alice teased.

 

I pinned her hands above her head in a show of mock dominance. “Hey! Are you calling me weak?”

 

She giggled. “I wouldn’t dare, princess.”

 

There was a knock at my door, and Alice’s eyes went wide with fear. 

 

“It’s okay. It’s just Virginia,” I whispered. (I knew because Virginia had done our special, secret knock.) “Come in!”

 

Virginia's cheeks went a little pink when she noticed Alice, half naked in my bed, but she pretended to ignore her. “Your mother requests your presence.”

 

I sighed, and placed a kiss on Alice’s button nose. She smiled involuntarily. “Duty calls, darling,” I said, and moved to get dressed.

 

I met my mother in her chambers. Her eyes followed me like a snake as I made my way into her room. I curtsied and bowed my head in respect. “Hello, Queen,” I said solemnly. (She asked me to stop calling her Mother around age twelve.)

 

“Hello, Princess,” my mother said. “Your hair’s a mess.”

 

I felt myself turning red in embarrassment. “Um—” I stuttered, and cursed myself for showing weakness in front of her. There was nothing my mother hated more. I cleared my throat. “I apologize, your Highness. I had a late morning.”

 

“So it seems,” my mother said, pursing her lips. For a moment, I worried she knew about Alice. But then she carried on with, “it’s time for you to pick a husband.”

 

My stomach sank to the floor. My mother had just disposed of her sixth husband, and now she was looking for one for me? I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing.

 

“Your coronation will occur on your 21st birthday,” my mother said, shocking me.

 

“You’re giving up the crown?” I asked, forgetting to be polite.

 

My mother looked annoyed at my tone, so I corrected my posture before she could. She looked even more annoyed that I predicted that particular insult.

 

“Princess,” my mother said in a measured tone, “I am ill.”

 

“What?” I whispered, shocked.

 

“I will only make it a couple more months.” She pulled out a folder. “Here is your list of candidates. Pick one.”

 

She handed me the folder, and I stared at it like I didn’t understand it. “I don’t want a husband,” I said stupidly, and my mother’s eyes narrowed.

 

“We all do things we don’t want to, child. Take it,” she spat, so I did. I excused myself with as much politeness as I could muster. On the walk back to my room, I thought only of ways I could get myself out of this.

 


 

The morning of my coronation, I lost my breakfast. Twice. After the second time, I walked out of my bathroom to find Alice on my bed.

 

“Alice!” I hissed quietly. “What are you doing?”

 

“You look pretty for someone who I just heard puking in the bathroom,” she replied.

 

“Alice, the Queen will behead you if she finds you here.”

 

“You’ll behead me, Queen?” She fake gasped. “Oh, but then who will know how much you like it when I stick my tongue—“

 

“Alice,” I said seriously, desperately wanting to let her do what she’s talking about with her tongue, but knowing I’m on a time crunch. “It’s just going to be for show. It won’t be a real marriage.”

 

Alice’s face fell. She had heard that argument more than once. It wasn't convincing her. She whispered, “It would be real to me.”

 

I tasted the tears as they fell to my lip before I even knew I was crying. “Alice,” I begged, wanting her to understand.

 

She kissed me like it was a punishment. Harshly and all teeth and desperation. She bit my lip, and whispered, “I won’t fuck a married woman.” Then she proceeded to take my dress off.

 


 

“Fairies of Wonderland. Thank you for gathering here today to witness my coronation as Queen. As your leader, I hope to rule with the legacy of those who came before me, in mind and in heart.” I’m only referring to my father, here, I thought. But I knew the flattery would please my mother. “I hope to use my gift of foresight to bring upon a lifetime of wise choices.” And my love magic to make you love those choices. “You have all been promised a wedding today, but I’m sorry to say that won’t be happening.” Gasps from the audience. I continued anyways. “As Queen, I want to be an impartial ruler. I would never want an undue influence,” I looked at my mother here, and her eyes are cold as snow, “to impact my judgement as your Queen. This monarchy will live on in me, and me alone. Thank you.”

 

I was met with applause. The people were impressed at my decision, though I know one woman who was not that day.

 


 

“I’m—” kiss on my earlobe, “so—”, kiss on my neck, “proud—“, kiss on my shoulder, “of—“, kiss on my collarbone, “you.” Kisses lower, lower, lower.

 

Alice worked her magic on me, and I came undone for her. After, her mouth found its way back to mine.

 

“You’re the only one, Alice,” I whispered. “The only one.”

 

The door banged open then. I was shocked and terrified—because there was only ever one person powerful enough to break through my lock charms.

 

“You little—” my mother spat. “You little slut.”

 

I scrambled out of the bed, to my feet—to find that was a much worse solution, seeing as I was undressed. I grabbed a robe, and threw one to Alice as well. “Mother—" I started, and she cut me off immediately.

 

“You think you’re going to undermine me in front of my subjects? You think I’ll stand for it? Well, you take something from me, and I’ll take right back.”

 

All I saw next was blackness.

 


 

I awoke to a face full of blonde hair. I smiled into it for a moment, before I regained my senses and my last memories.

 

I jerked up to see Alice, apparently sleeping peacefully. “Alice?” I asked. “Alice? Wake up!”

 

“She’s not going to,” my mother said, and I turned quickly to her.

 

“What did you do?”

 

My mother cut to the chase quicker than I expected for a woman who usually liked to play her food before she ate it. “What did I do? I fixed your little problem so you could marry and make an heir.”

 

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER!?” I screamed, distraught.

 

“Cursed her. She can’t be awoken, so now you can find a husband.”

 

A million things rushed through my mind. My mother, when she found out my father had died, screaming in grief. My mother, after her first beheading, smiling like she had found her new favorite drug. My mother, when she ordered Alice beheaded. Alice laughing. Alice smiling. Alice.

 

The fact that every curse could be broken.

 

“How do you break it?” I demanded.

 

“She put up a hell of a fight. I see why you’re so enamored.” 

 

How do you break it?” 

 

“Listen,” my mother said. “You can turn it off. That’s the beauty of love magic. You can choose not to love.”

 

“What do you mean?” I asked, confused.

 

“Turn it off, Genevieve.” It had been years since she used my given name. I felt it in my gut when she said it. “Turn it off. It will make everything hurt less, make everything stop.”

 

I thought of my mother, inconsolable with grief. My mother, who wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t drink water, wouldn’t move after we got the news of my father.

 

I thought of my mother, after seven days, coming out of her room as a monster. I finally understood.

 

I took her by the throat. Her illness had made her weak enough that I could overpower her. “How,” I demanded, “do you break it?”

 

She tried to laugh cruelly at me, but I was crushing her windpipe. When she opened her mouth to speak, I let up. “When you can find both her magical instrument, and the parallels to match, let me know,” she said.

 

Parallels. Parallels.

 

“Father warned me about parallels,” I said, cooly. Her eyes widened in surprise, and held emotion—something I hadn't seen since the day I lost her. “He said to right the wrongs. Well-”

 

I tightened my hand around her throat until she stopped struggling, until she stopped breathing.

 

I got a doctor I trusted to rule it a death by illness. She was ill, after all. In more ways than one.

 

After her funeral, my head began to clear. I began to look for answers in my own head, to look for my own prophecies.

 

I saw a boy with bronze curly hair do impossible magic. I saw that one day he would become useful to me.

 

I saw why foresight is a blessing and a curse. Knowing and understanding is awful. Knowing the only thing you can do is wait is torture.

 

But I’d rather have a century of torture than nothing. I would never turn off my emotions. I was going to find the greatest Mage, the parallels, and save my Alice. My shattered heart beat for that.

 


 

Simon

 

“Okay,” The Queen starts, while mixing sugar into her tea. Her maid brought it, and in the most fond tone I’ve ever heard from the Queen, she said ‘thanks Virginia.’ Virginia replied ‘of course, Gen’ in an equally fond voice. It was weird. The Queen took a sip immediately, even though it was steaming hot. “Would you like the short version or the long version?”

 

“The true one.” Baz responds flatly. He’s sitting right beside me, and I’m clutching at his biceps. He’s being usually kind by not saying anything about it.

 

“Okay. I need Simon here,” she waves to me, “to do me a favor.”

 

Baz laughs bitterly. “Now why would he do that?”

 

“Because, I know how to defeat the Humdrum.”

 

My head snaps up, “what?”

 

“I know how to defeat the Humdrum,” she says again, and takes another casual sip of her tea. 

 

“Then do it!" I stammer. "Do it for magic!”

 

“Fairy magic isn’t affected by the Humdrum. Why should I?”

 

I choke on my own words of indignation. I understand the leverage for a favor now.

 

“What do you want?” I ask rudely. She smiles nonetheless.

 

“Have you heard of Alice in Wonderland?” She asks.

 

“Gods, we’re still talking about her?” Dev mutters under his breath, but the Queen hears him.

 

“Excuse me?” The Queen says harshly.

 

“Um—uh—” this is the first time I’ve heard Dev stutter, and I’d be amused under any other circumstance. “The Mage girl who got lost in Wonderland? We read about her. Her father wrote about her.”

 

“Timothy Salisbury never could help himself," she says, rolling her eyes. She keeps acting very un-Queen-like, and it’s unsettling.

 

“Who?” Dev asks.

 

“Oh, you know him by his pen name, Lewis Carroll.”

 

We’re all confused by this announcement, but the Queen continues anyways. “Alice is under a spell.”

 

“Alice? Alice in Wonderland?”

 

“Who else?” The Queen asks me impatiently. “Alice was cursed by my mother, and I need your magic to break it.”

 

“Why would you help a Mage?” I ask. Fairies and Mages aren’t allies. Queen Genevieve herself cut off contact with Mages around the time the Mage came in power.

 

Thinking about the Mage hurts, so I shift gears in my mind. Focus on something else—what Alice is up to.

 

“Why do you want to help Alice?” I ask, again. 

 

“She’s my lover,” the Queen replies plainly. I expect a startled response from her soldiers and maids, but I don’t get one.

 

Baz starts laughing at this, and the Queen sends him a small smile.

 

“This is a two birds, one stone situation," the Queen says. “We can defeat the Humdrum and help Alice at the same time.”

 

My interest is peaked at this. (Sure, I probably would've wanted to help her anyways, since saving a Mage is the right thing to do.) But a trade-off is better.

 

“Okay,” I say. “What do you want?”

 

Chapter Text

Baz

 

"Okay. What do you want?" Snow asks the Queen, with his chin jutted forward and his eyes boring holes into hers. Simon's got his fighting face on and he's clutching my biceps tightly, and the combination is so unbearably attractive that I have to look away from his face. The Queen catches my eye as I look away from him to her. She's sitting at the head of a long, mahogany table, with Penny, Dev, and Niall on one side and Simon, me, and Fiona on the other. We're gathered in her tea room, which is too pink and girly for me to stomach. I frown at her, and she smiles back. It just makes me more suspicious of her. 

 

"Wait. What can he do for you?" I spit out venomously, my tone distinctly bitter. "You took his magic."

 

Snow lets go of my arm and looks at the floor. 

 

"That is very complicated, Basilton," Queen Genevieve responds passively.

 

"How do we know you're not going to double cross us like you did the Mage?" I demand. The question makes Snow flinch.

 

"I don't like dictators," the Queen says again, as if it's as simple as that. 

 

"And you like us?" I laugh cruelly, clearly demonstrating how ridiculous I think the idea is. Snow is frowning in my peripheral. 

 

"Yes," the Queen says, so earnestly I'd believe it were true if it wasn't for everything else. Her sending dark creatures to Watford, to Snow. Her kidnapping me. Her luring him here. Her taking his magic. Her almost killing him. 

 

"I don't believe you," I snarl.

 

She sighs, and I think she might snap at me, but then her expression becomes more patient. It makes me even angrier. I wish she'd break her Ice Queen composure—then, at least, I could get a good read on her true feelings and motives.

 

"Okay, Basilton. I already said an explanation is in order. Let me give you all that, now," she says in an annoyingly sincere voice. She reaches forward, almost as if to take my hand in a comforting gesture. Then, it's like she catches herself, and she reaches for her tea instead. She takes a long sip. The tea here smells divine, but I know better than to drink it. When she brought us all cups out, no one made a move towards their tea—except for Simon. I had to grab his arm and shake my head to communicate to him that Wonderland food couldn’t be eaten unless you planned on staying at least a day for it to exit your system. I’m not sure if he fully got my meaning, but at least he hasn’t touched his tea, and my physical contact encouraged him to grab by biceps in the first place. So, I considered the exchange a win-win for me.

 

"Fine. Explain," I say flatly. I ball and un-ball my fists in frustration. I resist the urge to tap my foot impatiently. Simon's eyes are downcast again, and I wish he'd touch me again, grab my arm again. Hell he could kick me in the shins, anything to reassure me that Simon Snow is solid, and here, and alive. I thought he was dead not an hour ago, and I've never felt so soulless than when I thought I was somehow on this Earth and he wasn't. I've never felt more undead—not when I first felt the bloodlust. Not when I first felt my fangs creeping on my tongue. Not while draining countless rats in the catacombs. Not when I was bitten and I felt the warmth drain out of me. Not when I was never warm again. Not until I saw him lying motionless on the ground. When he was holding my bicep, his hand was rooting me to the ground. I feel airless without his touch now, like a balloon without a string. I wish he would anchor me again.

 

"I will tell you all the relevant information you will need to understand... this," Queen Genevieve begins, apparently unable to find a better word for our complicated predicament. "Our story begins in 1863. A benevolent King was giving his young daughter a bedtime story, which was a great privilege." Her face gets whimsical. "She loved him very much."

 

"I thought we were only covering the relevant bits?" Fiona hisses lowly in my ear. I'd laugh under my breath, if the Queen's eyes didn't turn to my Aunt's direction at her comment.

 

"This story will be un-interrupted monologue," the Queen says. It doesn't sound much like a threat, honestly. But after seeing her power out in the courtyard, everyone in the room straightens up like she mentioned the punishment for rudeness is the guillotine. Even Fiona folds her hands in her lap and cocks her head, as if in interest. The Queen looks mollified by the response, and continues her story.

 

"Anyways…" she starts in her sickly sweet, falsetto voice. "That little girl, the princess, didn't know it at the time, but her father, a very powerful Seer, was actually giving her a prophecy. A prophecy about a girl who would become very important to her. A girl whose father would write a popular book about her time in fairy territory titled Alice's Adventures In Wonderland." She pauses to gauge our responses to this revelation. Crowley, this woman is dramatic. "Now, do any of you know how Alice escapes the Queen of Hearts?"

 

Bunce leans forward. "Yes. After Alice's offenses, the Queen of Hearts much more moderate husband convinces the Queen to spare Alice, seeing as she was only a child of nine. He had a habit of quietly pardoning her subjects, and Alice's departure went largely unnoticed by the Queen." Bunce looks now the same way she does when she answers a question in class—overeager and overconfident.

 

"Yes, that is the Mage's account of history." The Queen nods. "But, this is not the true course of events. The Queen had half a dozen husbands, but she only loved the first. She only ever listened to her daughter's father. She never listened to the other five. Plus, very little went unnoticed by the former Queen, my mother." She spits out the word 'mother' like a curse. Then she pauses dramatically, and takes the time to look every one of us square in the eye. "I am the little girl who heard the prophecy of Alice."

 

Okay, no shit.

 

"So, that day, I was the one who saved Alice from my mother. I made it appear as though Alice could do wandless magic. I found her in her cell and lead her out of Wonderland, leaving a craze of destruction in her path. Unnecessarily messy, just like a Mage would." She smiles fondly at the memory for a moment. "I told Alice to never tell anyone of my existence, of my help, of my…" she pauses, and now she's being openly, very fond of her memories, "friendship." 

 

Queen Genevieve finishes that sentence with so much insinuation, she shouldn't have even bothered with the pretense of the word 'friendship' in the first place. Especially since she already let the cat out of the bag about them being lovers. I'm guessing this woman can't help herself when she gets going in a good story. Though… the comment—the reminder that this woman had a Mage as a lover—makes me realize something. The Queen’s magic isn’t making me uncomfortable right now. I discreetly create a tiny flame in my palm, just to make sure I can without too much effort, and the fire comes easily. She must have an off button for her Mage weakening power. If she was really with Alice, who was a Mage, surely she wasn’t constantly making her feel like an H bomb. I can't imagine that would be much of a relationship.

 

"My mother would have been furious to know of my indiscretion. She hated Mages, and she especially hated Salisburys." She glances at Snow so quickly, I'm not sure if I've imagined it. "You see, Alice Salisbury was the niece of Geoffrey Salisbury. The mage who murdered my father."

 

Okay, even I have to admit, this time the pause was appropriately dramatic.

 

The Queen looks young for a moment, truly young. Like a child who lost a parent too young. It's unnerving, how this woman can be at once shockingly powerful and shockingly vulnerable. I wonder for a moment if any of her emotions actually have been faked thus far. If so, she's an actress so talented that she can make even a Pitch question themselves on the subject of liars. And I've never seen anyone lie better than a Pitch. If not...

 

"What my mother didn't know," Queen Genevieve continues with a heavy sigh, "is that my father sacrificed himself that day. He could see the bigger picture—that was the gift and curse of his magic. He knew what must be lost so that more could be gained. In the years since his death... I've gotten more answers about that day. It was at the end of the Fae War, when fairies were vying to gain total independence from the human world. Mages didn't like it, because you lot aren't independently powerful. You can't do what we can." She pauses, like she's daring us to rebuff her claims. No one does, so she continues, "Mages need Normals to stay powerful. But fairy magic… is pure magic. It's an element. It's a feeling. It's raw emotion." The Queen's voice is fervent, her love for magic so clearly out on display. It strikes a chord with me, this intrinsic love for magic. Until I remind myself she stole Simon's magic, and then my heart hardens towards her once more. "Fairies have always been useful to Mages, though. Powerful allies. The Coven was not interested in severing ties, in allowing us to exist in our own private corners of the world. We were winning the war, though. No Mage had ever bothered to truly understand our magic.. Angels, you still don't, so we had the upper hand. But then..." her face becomes grave, clearing most of the passion from her face and replacing it with severe distaste, "Geoffrey Salisbury stole the Guddler's Box."

 

I remember hearing about the Guddler's Box as a child. It was always presented as a myth, though—a sort of magical Boogeyman. A magical instrument that could steal magic: contain it, hold it, even transfer it. It was of the variety of horror story that Dev, Niall, and I would whisper under our sheets to one another at sleepovers as children. "Watch out, or a fairy will trap your magic! They'll unleash the Guddler's Box on you and you'll be a Normal!" It wasn't until today that I even thought it was remotely possible that the Guddler's Box was real. The word "Guddler's Box" invoked a sense of dread so primal in me, even though I never even truly believed it was possible, because just the thought of such a thing was so awful. When Simon asked that question, so innocently, so naively, "What's a Guddler's Box?", I realized how truly scared I was of such an instrument. A Pitch without magic is like a car without wheels. 

 

"The Guddler's Box—the Thief's Box in our native tongue—was created by a fairy named Apate. Her twin sister Aletheia was bestowed the magical gifts of truthfulness while Apate's magic could only create falsehoods. This formed a rotten jealousy that started as children and grew into their adult lives. They took separate paths because of their polar opposite magic: Aletheia served our justice courts, while Apate became a street trickster. Apate was sick of her life as a criminal, and created the Box to steal her sister's magic for herself. Luckily, she was unsuccessful, as she was caught by the Queen at the time.” Genevieve frowns, here. “The Queen wasn’t careful enough in guarding the Guddler’s Box, though. Geoffrey Salisbury had his hands on the instrument in 1863, and was planning on stealing fairy magic to make us comply with the Mages' demands in the Fae War. So, my father sacrificed himself to get the instrument to me, telling me it would come in handy one day."

 

She meets my eye, but doesn’t flinch at the deadly scowl my face is surely set it. I don’t much like the idea of a box that stole Simon’s magic being referred to as “handy.”

 

“So, the years went by, and Alice and I grew closer. Much closer.” The Queen smiles to herself. I hope she glosses over the lesbian aspects of the story. (I can't stomach one woman in a sexual position, let alone two.) Luckily for me, she actually sticks to the essentials for the rest of her story. “My mother insisted I take a husband and make heirs.” She looks at me now, like she somehow knows I’ve had the exact same speech from my father. If I had blood, I’d flush pink. “I refused, and she cursed Alice for my insolence. She put her in a deep sleep—a curse that could only be awakened by the Greatest Mage and parallels.”

 

She’s lost everyone with her talk of parallels, but she continues on, unconcerned with our incomprehension. She talks like the words are being pulled out of her. “I’ve spent over a century in my head. Reading the signs. Predicting the best course of action. Considering the consequences. Trying to find who would be the Greatest Mage—who could wake Alice.” She looks at Simon, almost reverent. “It’s you.”

 

Snow says nothing. The Queen pauses to allow him to speak, but he doesn’t take the hint so she carries on.

 

“Twenty five years ago, when you were just an idea in a young boy’s head, your face came to me. And I knew you’d be the key to my life's problem.” She pauses, like she’s considering something. “Mages are difficult for me to read. I’ve practiced extensively, but I’m not my father,” she says reluctantly, like she’s unwilling to readily admit any weakness. “So I can see a lot of the details when it comes to the Mages that cross my path, but not all of the specifics. Not as clearly as I can predict fairies.” She tucks a lock of red hair behind her ear, and bites her lip, distractedly. “So, I could see where the Greatest Mage would come from, and who he’d be, and who he'd lo—"

 

“Wait,” Simon interrupts, for the first time since he asked what the fairy Queen wanted. He has his arms wrapped around himself in a protective gesture, and there’s nothing I want more than to reach out for him. But I don’t think he’d want that, so I dig my fingernails into my thighs to keep from stroking his mole-spattered cheek or hugging his broad shoulders or grabbing his golden hands. “You know who my parents are?” He asks in a small voice.

 

The Queen pauses, looking reluctant. “Knowledge isn’t always power, Simon. Sometimes it’s only pain.”

 

Who are my parents?” He demands in a stronger tone, and I know he’s not going to let this rest. The Queen meets my eyes—and I nod, careful that it's so quick that it's indiscernible to anyone but her.

 

“Okay,” she says with a deep sigh. “Your mother was a Mage named Lucy Salisbury. Kind girl, very loyal.” Her face hardens. “Her magical instrument was Alice’s locket. My mother had sent it back to the Salisbury’s, with a fake goodbye from Alice. I didn’t even know for decades, not until I improved my ability to see Mages… anyways, I couldn’t just take it the locket from Lucy. I had to wait for the parallels.”

 

“What are the parallels?” I demand, sick of hearing about but not understanding the what she means by 'parallels.'

 

“That’s… complicated,” she answers.

 

Everything’s fucking complicated with this woman.

 

“I think we're smart enough to keep up,” I deadpan.

 

She stares at me in obvious frustration. “Sure, you are. But then I might ruin your future by telling you too much. Don’t you want to see if you get a happy ending?”

 

I know I don’t, anyways. I’m a gay vampire with an unrequited soulmate. “No,” I say, simply, and pointedly don’t look at Simon.

 

“Well, I do, Basilton,” the Queen says with more affection than is warranted from a Queen to a royal prisoner. “I will tell you what I can, and nothing more. I promise it will be enough for your purposes.”

 

I don’t count much on her promises, but I keep my mouth shut anyways.

 

“I wasn’t able to see the…” I can tell she wants to say parallels, but to avoid another argument, she changes her words. “I wasn’t able to see quite the time when the locket would become useful again until,” the Queen pauses, and looks at Simon, “your parent's first kiss.”

 

He takes a rapid, shallow inhale at the mention of him having parents.

 

“Then, I was able to see his plan forming. He wanted the Greatest Mage to bring about change. He had read about a prophecy that the Greatest Mage would right the wrongs, and he could see nothing but wrongs with the way Mage society was run. So, with Lucy, he decided to create the greatest Mage.”

 

Genevieve stops talking and looks meaningfully at Simon. This time, the Queen’s pause doesn’t seem dramatic. I think she just doesn’t want to have to be the one to say it.

 

“Me,” Simon whispers.

 

“You,” the Queen responds in a low voice. “Your mother….” the Queen trails off, in a voice that can only mean bad news. “She died in childbirth. But, Simon...” She reaches forward and takes his hand, and to my surprise, he doesn’t flinch away. He must be too shell-shocked by all this new, painful information. “She loved you with all her heart. She wanted you so badly. She would have been perfectly happy, even if you were Normal. She loved you.” 

 

Simon’s trying not to cry. Damn my pride, I grab the hand the Queen isn’t holding and clasp our fingers together. I can’t not, not when he’s so vulnerable and near and alive. When he’s so, so Simon. He doesn’t look at me, but he squeezes my hand. He lets go of the Queen’s hand, like he only needs one person to ground him, and she pulls away without showing any offense of his rejection.

 

“Who’s my father?” Simon asks, his voice thick with unshed tears.

 

“Simon,” the Queen says—carefully, softly. “That is not relevant.”

 

“Who is he?” He demands, his voice hardening, and I know she’ll tell him. He won’t leave without the answer. I lured him out to the chimera by pretending I had information about his lineage. I signed the note with my own damn name—he had to know it was a trap. But he came anyway. No child can resist knowing their parents, even if they don't like what they learn.

 

I have the sense that the answer is going to be both obvious, and earth shattering, and I don’t want the Queen to tell him. I try to catch her eye, to stop her, though I know it’s pointless and we’re headed off this cliff either way.

 

“The Mage,” the Queen says, as gently as she can. It’s not gently enough. There is no gently enough. 

 

Simon puts his hand to his mouth to contain the horrible sob he lets out, but it's perfectly audible, even without vampire hearing. Penny is to her feet and has her arms around him quicker than I can react. She’s perched on the arm of his Louis XV-style chair, and he has his face in her neck. He’s shaking with his sobs, and all I can do is squeeze his hand. He squeezes back so hard I think he might leave fingernail marks on my hand, but I don’t mind. If anything, the pain’s a comfort, because I feel like, maybe, I can take an ounce of his suffering through the contact. Even if it isn’t true, I focus on his sharp fingernails as he weeps into Bunce’s shoulder. After a minute that feels like an hour, his cries turn to sniffles, and he turns away from Bunce to reveal his red eyes and tear-stained cheeks. The sight is so heart-breaking I clench my teeth to force myself not to react—to not cry myself.

 

The Queen is looking at him with sympathy, as she whispers, “I’m sorry.”

 

“How can I help Alice?” He asks, switching gears unexpectedly sudden. He has a determined expression. 

 

Of course he launches into savior mode, I think, that’s so Simon.

 

“Alice was—is—very powerful. In her time, they called her the greatest mage of her generation. Some of that was her legacy from her adventures in Wonderland, but a lot of it was just her.” Genevieve smiles, and I recognize the sick in love look. It's the one I try to hide when I look at Simon. Crowley, this terrifying fairy really does have a heart. “She was so magical, she made the air around her buzz with electricity. Her magic came from her heart. But my mother, an expert at love magic, took advantage of this, and trapped Alice’s essence—her magic, her liveliness—into her magical instrument.” She pulls the necklace the Mage gave her from her neck to show us it. “It’s made every Salisbury lucky enough to use it a better Mage, but it’s left Alice in a limbo between life and death. I need you, Simon, to push her soul back into her.”

 

“How?” He asks.

 

“I’m going to give you your magic back,” she says, too casually.

 

Everyone in the room straightens up.

 

“What?” Simon asks, his mouth open and a dumbstruck expression on his face. Penny’s still resting on Simon’s armchair with her arm around his shoulder, but she’s leaned forward towards the Queen in interest at her offer.

 

“I will give you your magic back, and you should be able to awake Alice,” Queen Genevieve says, slowly.  

 

“Okay, let’s do it,” Simon says eagerly, standing so suddenly that he nearly knocks Bunce over. 

 

He looks at me for my… opinion? Approval? Surely not that—I just can't get a read on the situation. I'm not sure exactly what Simon's expression holds. I think about warning him that the Queen could be lying, that this could be a trap. But he looks so... hopeful. I quickly glance at the Queen, but her face is unreadable. It’s possible the Queen might be able to force him to do this anyways. I have no idea. But I can’t think of a good argument against him at least trying to get his magic back, so I look to him and nod, in what I hope is a supportive way. Simon turns his attention back to the Queen and nods as well.

 

“Follow me,” the Queen says, standing up from her chair at the head of the table, and turns to walk up out of the room—and into the unknown future.

 

Chapter Text

Simon

 

The Queen leads us to a bedroom not far from the tea room. The walls are cream-colored and there’s a gold four poster bed in the middle of the room. It almost reminds me of Baz's room—in the way it feels so outdated. The style of the room is decidedly 19th century.

 

Baz—who is miraculously still holding my hand—is looking at me. He hasn’t stopped looking at me since we left the tea room. Maybe he thinks I’ll go off, and blow up the place (even though, at the moment, I can't. For the first time in my life, I'm truly empty of magic). Or maybe he just cares now that we're friends. I want to feel comforted by the possibility of Baz caring about me, but I'm still sick from the hearing about my parents… about the Mage. I don't return his stare, worried I'll start crying again. 

 

When I was younger, before I found out about magic, I used to fantasize about my parents coming back for me. I wished for them to say, "we were too young, but we loved you so much, and we will take you home now, Simon." In my dreams, I would live in a house with a big backyard, and maybe have a pet dog. I could invite friends over, and play in a kiddie football league. (In this fantasy, I would also have friends. I never had any when I was a kid, because kids were afraid of me. I didn't know then that it was because my magic was so off-putting to Normals. I just thought I was incurably un-likable. Imagining having friends felt almost too far out of the realm of possibility, but I did it anyways.)

 

During my first year at Watford, I used to hope the Mage was my father. That he saved me from the orphanage because he found out about me. That he never knew who I was, but now that he did, he would take me to his cottage in Wales and we'd be a family, the two of us. That dream died by third year, when I dismissed it as a childish whim.

 

Penny and Agatha and everyone assumed my parents were Normals. 'Mages would never give up their children, Simon,' they said.

 

It looks like they were wrong. 

 

I can't think about the Mage now. I can't even think about Baz's skin on mine, so I drop his hand, and refocus my attention on the petite girl who's unconscious on the bed. 

 

She's very pretty. A heart-shaped face, dirty blonde curly hair to her ribcage, long dark eyelashes on her closed eyelids. She's got a mole over her top lip on the right side of her face. Though I hate my own moles, it actually gives her face more character. The way the Queen is looking at her, though, you'd think she was Aphrodite. Or the sun. The reverence on Genevieve's face is unmistakable. I wonder if I've ever looked at Baz like that, but that train of thought embarrasses me, so I switch gears.

 

"What would you like me to do?" I ask the Queen stiffly.

 

She nods to a card soldier, and he hands her the Guddler's Box. It's still glowing with my magic, almost shuddering at the edges. The Queen waves me forward, but Baz grabs my forearm before I can move. I look to him, but I can't read his blank expression. 

 

He hesitates, which is so not Baz that I furrow my eyebrows at him. He looks at me with an indecipherable expression, and then asks a question I don't anticipate. "Is this going to hurt Snow?" Baz says flatly—not like it's a question, but more like it's a statement. Or, more like it's a demand.

 

I didn't think to ask that. I reluctantly take my eyes off Baz's clenched jaw to look at the Queen's stony face. "No," she says, looking straight at Baz. "It will feel the way it does when he shares his magic with you."

 

Baz nods hastily and lets go of my forearm. He's sucking on his fangs, and I think he'd be blushing if he'd been fed recently. It makes me very curious to feel the effects of the Guddler's Box for myself, if just the idea makes Baz Pitch so sheepish. I step forward towards the Queen.

 

She's holding the Box gently in her hands, looking at it like it's precious. "This won't be painful, but it will be overwhelming. Prepare yourself," the Queen says, gently.

 

I'm not sure how I'd go about preparing myself, but I nod anyways. 

 

She opens the Box and does an intricate hand movement, like she's coaxing my magic out of the Guddler's Box. I see my own glowing gold magic slowly crawl out of the Box and towards me.

 

When it finds its way back to me—my magic—I feel like a firework. I want to cast a sonnet, or a song, or a soliloquy. I feel lit up from the inside, like benevolent lightning just hit me. 

 

Merlin. Is this how I made Baz feel every time?

 

It feels like the way Penny’s affectionate hugs do, like the way the Wellbelove's homemade cookies taste, like the way Baz’s smile warms me.

 

It feels like love.

 

Fuck, it feels a lot like the moment I realized I was in love with Baz. In front of the whole room—in front of Baz himself—I'm falling in love with him all over again. I let out a silly giggle. I'm between regretting it and loving it, when—

 

Suddenly, my nuclear magic fully fills me, again, and again, and again—and it’s too much, too powerful. I gasp with the shock of the way it makes my skin hot again, the way it makes me feel less human and more atomic bomb.

 

Baz sounds concerned when he says, “Snow?”, but I can barely hear him over the pounding in my ears.

 

“It's okay, I'm okay,” I say as an answer, trying to steady myself. In my head, it's all fuzzy. I'm trying to adjust to the too much with a couple deep breathes. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s familiar, too. Being—well—me, I know crazy magic like the back of my hand. “It’s back,” I say confidentially, as soon as the power reaches my heart. I gasp in shock at the sudden static—I can’t control it, but I can feel it. 

 

“Simon?” Queen Genevieve says gently. “You have it now?”

 

“Yes, it’s back,” I say, steadying myself. I hear Baz sigh, and I’m a mixture of annoyed and relieved. How much does my magic matter to him? I think antagonistically. Is he friends with me for it?

 

“Here’s what you’re going to do,” the Queen says, breaking me out of my impending downward spiral. She places the locket around Alice’s neck gently, and strokes her cheek lovingly, lingering on her chin. “Push the way you do with Basilton, but through Alice’s locket.” The Queen offers me her hand, and I take it. She guides my fingers to the necklace and closes my hand around the heart shaped locket. 

 

"I need you to imagine you're pushing your magic into Basilton," Queen Genevieve whispers in a fond tone. Everyone else is on the outer corners of the room, so her voice is low enough so only I can hear. "Love magic is more about feeling than technique. Feel Alice's magic into her body. Feel her soul back into her chest."

 

I try to imagine the way exactly the way I feel when I share magic with Baz. Like I'm turning a faucet on and into him. No… that's not quite right. Like I'm giving away the pressure… no, no, no, it's not working. When I push into Baz, I just look into his grey eyes, and—

 

Oh, that's working. I feel my magic opening up. I forget my pride and turn to get a glimpse of Baz, so I can get a grip on how his eyes make me feel, and when I look at him, he's gaping a little. I'd laugh, except he's so fit that he can make even stupid expressions look hot. When I make eye contact with Baz, I'm finally able to push magic into Alice properly. My hands are suddenly electric, and I feel the lessening of a burden on my shoulders. Not as effortlessly as it is between Baz and I, though. Giving my magic to Baz feels like taking off a heavy backpack after a long hike, while pushing my magic into Alice feels more like pushing a boulder up a mountain.

 

As I feel the static shock of power flow between me and Alice through her locket, I keep Baz's gaze, afraid that if I don't focus on him than I just won't be able to do this. I only break our mini staring contest when I hear a girlish gasp below my hands, and feel the relief that comes with the release of a heavy weight in my chest.

 

I look down, and sky blue eyes are looking up at me. 

 

"Merlin! You did it!" Alice says in a melodious voice. She grins, and her teeth are perfectly white and straight, save for a chip in her front tooth. Alice looks around widely until her eyes find her obvious target. "Gen? Baby?" Alice asks when her gaze lands on the Queen. Her voice cracks with unshed tears.

 

The Queen's face is uncomfortable to look at. Her expression is one of total adoration, of total worship. The little cry that comes out of Genevieve's mouth is like listening to someone else's Catholic confession. "Alice?" she questions, like she can't believe her eyes. Like she's looking at the impossible. 

 

Maybe she is. I think this reunion is a long time coming, if the tears in their eyes is anything to go off. Plus, I couldn't stand less than twelve hours without Baz, so I'm guessing over a century without your soulmate is agony.

 

Crowley, what am I going to do when I'm not living with Baz? When I can't watch him sleep? When I can't wake up and see his bedhead and pout and peaceful sleeping expression? I push that thought out of my head as quickly as possible, and luckily, I have quite the distraction.

 

Alice has thrown her hands around the Queen's neck, and is snogging her without any reservation. Open mouth, slipping her the tongue, the whole nine yards. I notice their height difference now—Genevieve has to be six foot, while Alice barely clears five feet—because Alice has her legs wrapped around the middle of Genevieve’s waist in order to keep their face's at eye—or rather mouth—level. I look to the ground, embarrassed by their overenthusiastic public display of affection.

 

I know they've finally stopped, that it’s safe to look up, when the Queen exclaims, "Alice, I can't believe—", at the same time Alice says, "Gen, I can't believe—" They both burst into laughter at their twin trains of thought. 

 

"You first, my love," the Queen whispers, "It's been far too long without your voice."

 

Alice grins widely. Crowley, I thought she was pretty when her face was neutral, while she was sleeping, but she's much prettier smiling. Almost as pretty as Baz.

 

"I can't believe you stayed celibate for over 125 years!" Alice exclaims, throwing her head back in happy, unrestrained laughter. Alice's legs are still wrapped around Genevieve's middle. If possible, she seems to squeeze her closer with her calves in time with her cheery declaration.

 

"How do you know that?" Genevieve asks with a dropped jaw. For the first time since I've met her, she has a dumb expression on her face.

 

"I heard you," Alice whispers. Genevieve's eyes widen in disbelief, but with hope as well. Alice nods enthusiastically at her silent question. "Every morning, every night. I heard you." Alice strokes Genevieve's cheek fondly with her pointer finger. "I'm sorry I couldn't respond out loud. I responded in my mind."

 

Genevieve lets out a truly pathetic sob, and I look down to my sneakers again. All of us are really intruding now. Despite my averted gaze, I can't help but still hear Alice murmur, "I ended every one of my imaginary responses with 'I love you.'"

 

I don't need to look to know they've resumed snogging. 

 

"Be polite," Alice chides to Genevieve, when they eventually stop kissing. I look up, thinking the coast was clear, but caught Alice biting Genevieve's earlobe nonetheless. "Introduce me to your guests."

 

Genevieve puts Alice down gently, but promptly grabs her by her hand. It's an improvement to when she was grabbing Alice's arse. I appreciate the more family friendly gesture of affection.

 

"This is Alice Salisbury," Genevieve says, smiling so brightly it almost hurts to look at her. I doubted the Queen's sincerity in more than several moments, but not in this one. She's certainly head over heels in love with Alice. That fact is not a question. "She's my… mine."

 

Alice giggles with glee, and tries to curtsy. It's hindered slightly by the fact that she doesn't let go of Genevieve's hand as she does, so only the right side of her dress is lifted. "How do you do?" She says politely, bowing her head a bit. No one responds, so Alice keeps going. "Simon Snow?" she says, looking at me with her bright eyes

 

"Uh, yes?" I respond, unsure.

 

"Hi!" She throws her arms around me. I look at Baz in a panic, but his face is also very 'WTF', so I don't see him being much help. "Thanks for saving me! That nap was a little too long for my taste." Alice throws her head back and laughs, with her arms still around my neck.

 

"Uh—you're welcome—uh—" I say, awkwardly, and gently extract myself from her overfamiliar hug. 

 

"This is the Salisbury?” Alice conforms with Genevieve who nods. “We're family! You’re decended from my little brother!" Alice says cheerfully, clapping her hands together. Her exuberance excedes her little body. I see what Genevieve meant by Alice’s electricity. Both in her magic and personality. "I’m your aunt, kind of! This is going to be so much fun!" She looks like she's scheming. I can already tell I'm not sure if I want to see where an Alice scheme goes.

 

"Darling, give him a moment," Genevieve says in a low voice, close to her ear, placing her hand gently at the small of her back. She seems to be trying to guide her away from me. "He just found out he's a Salisbury."

 

Alice's face drops so suddenly, I almost want to apologize to her. If her happy face is shockingly carefree, her unhappy face is uncomfortably anxious. She's a ball of emotions. "I'm so sorry, Simon!" Alice cries, distressed by my discomfort.

 

"Um, no, no, it's okay!" I answer, quickly, trying to change the expression on Alice's face. I notice her magic at that moment, since it's starting to leak out of her. It smells like… butter? Sour cherry scones? Cedar and bergamot? 

 

I remember something that Penny said when we were talking about Alice in Wonderland. Before I thought of her as a real person. 'She was very powerful, Simon, almost like you,' Pen said, 'Her magic was said to smell like the things you love most.'

 

"Can we have tea?" Alice asks, and the Queen's nodding before Alice's even got the sentence out. "I miss Darjeeling tea."

 


 

Once again, we're sitting in the pink tea room. Alice is drinking up her tea like an alcoholic in a wine cellar. The maids keep bringing her more tea—like all the other Mage's in the room don't have untouched cups in front of them for Alice to drink. Alice seems unaware to this peculiarity, happily drinking her tea, only to pause to let the Queen know how very much she missed tea. 

 

Once Alice has finished her second cup, she asks lightly. "So, is cricket still cool?"

 

Baz pounds his fist onto the table, shaking the entire thing. "We helped you wake your little girlfriend." He spits out the word more cruelly than is really necessary. Alice looks offended. "Now, tell us how to defeat the Humdrum."

 

"What's the Humdrum? You never really explained that properly," Alice says sweetly to Genevieve.

 

Genevieve responds enthusiastically. She hasn't taken her eyes off Alice once. "Oh, it's a magical force. Or really an anti-magical force. It's the result of—"

 

Baz stands up, takes his arm, and knocks over every teacup his hand can reach, toppling the Queen and Alice's cups clean off the table. "I don't," Baz growls at the Queen, "give a fuck about your catching up. Do it on your own time. Tell Snow how to defeat the Humdrum. Now."

 

Baz really doesn't like Wonderland.

 

"Basilton," the Queen says in a measured tone, finally looking away from Alice and at Baz. "Please calm down—"

 

Baz's bangs his hand on the table again. "Tell us now," he growls. He must be starving, because his fangs pop out. I knew they were there, but they still manage to shock me. I've never seen him like this—so wild. It's kind of hot. But he must look truly scary to everyone else, because everyone but me leans away from him. Alice nearly falls off her chair at the sight. 

 

"Gods, Gen. You didn't tell me there was a vampire here—" Alice is cut off by Baz growling again.

 

I grab his arm, "Baz, Baz," I say, but he's still looking at the Queen. "Basilton," I insist, and he finally looks down at me. Crowley, his canines—no, his fangs—are long. I kind of want to touch them, but that certainly won't calm Baz down. "Breathe."

 

His eyes are wide and his mouth is gaping. Then, like he remembers himself, he closes his mouth quickly—as if to hide his fangs, as if everyone in this room (except for Alice) didn't already know he was a vampire. Like he didn't just reveal himself just a moment ago. He looks embarrassed, and I want to kiss the self-consciousness off his face, but that would probably be counter-productive. So I just let my hand slide down to his wrist, grip it tightly, and whisper, "It's okay."

 

Baz breathes loudly through his nose, and after a moment I see his fangs begin to retract through his cheeks. I don't break eye contact, not even as his expression becomes neutral. I pull his arm down, and he sits again with a quiet huff, looking down at his hands, which are folded in his lap.

 

You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. Everyone looks uncomfortable, and Alice looks scared. 

 

“Okay,” I say, unsure how to best pick up from Baz's scene. “Queen? I think now would be a good time to tell us how to defeat the Humdrum.”

 

“Very well," the Queen says, “when Alice has finished her tea, I will help you defeat it myself.”

 

We all sit in silence as Alice downs her third cup of tea.

 


 

"Are you sure you don't want any blood?" I ask Baz for the fourth time. "The Queen says that she got it from an elk near your house. It should be safe for you to drink."

 

"Stop hovering, Snow. You're not my handler," Baz spits out through gritted teeth, still not looking at me. He hasn't since after his outburst. Baz's clearly embarrassed about us seeing his fangs, considering he's answered everything I've said to him since in a scathing tone. His responses the last couple of times I tried to get him to drink we're predictably insulting. 'Snow, are you really as thick as you look?' and 'You're so fucking gullible, it's pathetic' and 'Sure, and next, I could set myself and this whole fucking palace on fire.' Dramatic git.

 

"Suit yourself," I say with a sigh, though my worry for him hasn't lessened a bit.

 

The Queen has led us back out to the courtyard. She says it'll be better out here, doing such intense magic in the open. She still hasn't told me what intense magic we're doing. But she brought the Guddler's Box back out, which made Baz growl animalistically and glare daggers at her. Alice looked concerned at that, but the Queen's calm expression didn't falter.

 

We're all gathered at the top of the steps. The Mage is still unconscious on the floor, and I avoid looking at him—though my throat got involuntarily scratchy when I first saw his face and was able to see my own features in his. We have the same nose. Maybe Baz will return the favor and break mine for me, after all this.

 

“Simon,” the Queen says delicately. She extracts herself from Alice to take the Guddler’s Box from a card soldier with both hands. Alice moves closer to her to compensate for the loss of touch. “When Davy did the ceremony to make you the Greatest Mage, there were consequences to that decision. Magic has a price. So…" the Queen looks uncomfortable, and I think I know what she’s going to say, before she even says it. I feel my gut twist, and I know I’m going to want to unknow what she’s going to say next.  "The human magical atmosphere compensated for your magic by creating the Humdrum."

 

I can hear everyone else's gasps as I clench my jaw to keep from screaming.

 

The Queen is patient as I try to process this. "So, I'm the Humdrum," I say, bleakly.

 

Baz laughs a little, involuntarily, and I turn to glare at him. His eyes flit over to mine as I do, and he tries to pass off his chuckle as a cough.

 

"Not exactly. You’re more like parallels. It grows as you do."

 

Goddamn parallels.

 

"What do I do?" I ask, though I'm afraid of the answer.

 

"You need to make the magics one," the Queen explains. "You need to fill the void with your magic."

 

"Are you telling me," Baz says through gritted teeth—his fury poorly hidden in his low, menacing voice, "that you gave him his magic back, just to take it away again?

 

"No. We need him to just give up his excess magic. His parents are Mages—he has his own magic. But the Mage placed too much unnatural magic in him. He can't control it." The Queen looks Baz in the eyes and says, "But you can."

 

"Me?" he asks, both eyebrows raised.

 

"Yes, if Simon casts through you, he will be able to get rid of just the excess." She turns back to me. "Didn't you notice you could cast spells properly when you were sharing with Baz?"

 

Nick and Slicks. 

 

"So… I'd just be a normal Mage?" I ask quietly.

 

"Yes, Simon. That's why I waited to come get you until…" She pauses. "I foresaw this was the right time. All the puzzle pieces fit now."

 

"Let's do it," I say eagerly.

 

"Very well," the Queen bites her lip. "But to do it, I'm going to have to get you to go off one more time in order to summon the Humdrum."

 

"No," Penny and Baz say in unison.

 

The Queen sighs. "It's the only way." 

 

"I don't care about the pain," I say without looking at the two of them, and walk forward so I'm facing the Queen. "I'm ready."

 

The Queen holds her hand out to me, and I take it. It doesn’t burn me at first, like last time, until— 

 

I suddenly feel like my hand is on fire. It’s worse than last time. Much worse. I had resolved to stay quiet so Penny wouldn’t worry—but my body betrays me, and I let out an involuntary gasp of pain.

 

Stop it,” I hear Baz snarl.

 

“I can’t," the Queen sighs, her expression sincerely sympathetic. 

 

Everything gets fuzzier and hotter, until I feel that familiar building sensation. Like a wick of a dynamite has been lit inside my stomach—I feel the wick getting shorter until I blow.

 

I take the explosion as inwardly as possible. It hurts myself more this way, but it makes it so no one around me can get hurt. Nonetheless, when I come to, I still hear the others coughing.

 

“Hello,” a familiar voice with a heavy Lancashire accent says. I look up and it’s—

 

It’s me.

 

The Humdrum looks like me at eleven. He’s wearing ratty sneakers with a hole in the left toe, a faded novelty Liverpool Football Club T-shirt, and jeans that are about two inches too short for him. He’s bouncing my red ball, and he’s got an expression I’ve never seen on my own face. One that's unsettling on a child—a cocky, menacing grin. 

 

“What the actual fuck?” I hear Fiona say from behind me. 

 

“That was my favorite one!” The Humdrum says with a bounce of his red ball, before he pockets it. “You really exploded that time. So much magic!” The Humdrum claps his hands together happily.

 

“We are going to fix you, child," the Queen says to the Humdrum emphatically.

 

The Humdrum looks to the Queen as if she’s seeing her for the first time. “Yeah?” He says in a pitifully hopeful voice. He's now making an expression I recognize on my own face—he's got the face of a boy who wants something so badly, but is afraid to believe it’s possible.

 

“We’re going to fill your nothing,” the Queen says with a nod, and the Humdrum smiles maniacally.

 

“More magic?” He asks hopefully.

 

“All of it, child. Simon here is going to give you all of it.”

 

“How?” The Humdrum says, bouncing on the balls of his feet excitedly.

 

The Queen opens her mouth to speak, but is interrupted by a curse coming from over my shoulder. "AND WE ALL FALL DOWN!" a booming man's voice casts, and it's so powerful it knocks even the Queen to her feet.

 

“Crowley!” I hear Penny yell, and I turn and see the Mage standing tall and intimidating behind us all.

 

“Simon." The Mage is seething. “You have no idea what you’re doing.”

 

I hear Baz growl, and when I look over to him and his face is thunderous. I can see his fangs have dropped, because his cheeks look full, like he’s sucking on a jaw breaker candy. 

 

“Give the power to me. I can handle it,” the Mage insists. I back away from him—still on the ground—and he glowers at me. 

 

“Boy,” the Mage snaps, annoyed. “This is for the greater good.”

 

“Any excuse serves a tyrant,” the Queen spits out—but she’s weakened, since the Mage's powerful curse was aiming for her. Alice is hovering over her and clutching her locket, casting healing spells so rapidly I can't catch her words.

 

The Mage ignores the Queen, though he spares her a glare. Then he turns to me, and says, “Now, Simon. Give me your magic."

 

The Mage moves to come near me, and Baz casts “Steer Clear” at him to keep him from advancing towards me. The Mage blocks Baz's spell and counters with “ Everything Under The Sun.” Baz screams horribly. I recognize that spell from my fifth year research, though I could never bring myself to use it. It burns vampires.

 

“No!” I wail, torn apart by Baz’s pain. “STOP! DON'T HURT BAZ!” Baz stops screaming, but he’s still heaving on the ground, catching his breath.

 

I stand and square my shoulders at the Mage. "I'm not giving you my magic, ever," I say. "You're the reason this is happening, father." I spit 'father' out like a curse, and he recoils like it was one. 

 

"Simon, you can't understand—" The Mage starts, but I interrupt.

 

"I understand perfectly," I say, and Baz has made it to my side now, still breathing hard. I grab his hand to share my magic, so I can cast "Stand your ground." It works—the Mage tries to move his feet, but finds himself stuck to the ground. 

 

"Now, Simon, Basilton," the Queen says, having recovered her strength. The Humdrum has been watching this exchange with polite interest, and when the Queen waves him forward, he comes to her. The Queen is holding the Guddler's Box, and hands it to the Humdrum. "Hold this, child. It will all be over soon." Then, to me and Baz, she says, "One hand on the Guddler's Box and one on each other."

 

I reach for Baz with my left hand, and the base of the Guddler's Box with my right. The Queen has her hand on the lid. "Now," she says gently. "On the count of three, I'm going to open the Box, and you are both going to push the magic into it. Ready?"

 

I turn to Baz to nod, and he nods back.

 

"One...two… THREE!"

 

The Queen opens the Box, and I begin pushing, imagining giving all my excess to the Humdrum—to my parallel.

 

The Box begins glowing, and then the Humdrum begins to glow as well, with a satisfied smile on his face. He lets out a sigh of contentment before he begins to disintigrate into the Box. When he's completely sucked into the Box, it shatters, breaking into pieces on the floor beneath us. 

 

"No!" The Mage yells, sounding deranged. "What have you done?

 

He begins to lunge towards me, and I say, "no, no—"

 

"SIMON SAYS!" Penny casts with her ring finger.

 

"Don't hurt me!" I finish yelling, and it comes out with magic. " Stop hurting me!"

 

As soon as I finish my sentence, the Mage collapses, only five feet away from me. 

 

"Mage?" I say tentatively, but his slumped over in an unnatural position, and doesn't answer me. His chest isn't rising and falling, so I kneel over him. "Mage?" I say again, and put my hand over his heart. No heartbeat. "Oh, no no no no no—" I say panicking. "Penny? Penny? I think I killed him, oh God, I killed him, I'm a murderer, I'm—"

 

I choke on my words. Baz is at my side, and Penny is beside me only a moment later. When I begin to sob, both their arms find their way around me. 

 

"It's okay, you brilliant nightmare. You glorious monster. You defeated the Humdrum. You did it, you brave fuck." Baz is whispering all these half-insult, half-compliments at me, in the softest voice I've ever heard him use. But I stop hearing anything but my sobs.

 


 

Genevieve

 

"They were nice," Alice says as we crawl into my bed together. I've slept by her sleeping form for over a century, but I haven't been able to get into bed with her. I haven't had our nighttime chats in too long. "I can't believe I'm an aunt! I think we’re going to be great friends."

 

"You think that about everyone, darling," I answer fondly.

 

Alice smiles mischieviously. "And everyone ends up my friend."

 

That's true. There's no one more intoxicating in this world than Alice Salisbury. I kiss the smile off her face.

 

I've dreamed of this day for so, so long. I can't believe I'm finally having it. I can't believe I had the patience for it. Patience for the parallels.

 

It was hard to figure out my father's prophecy. My foresight isn't as strong as his was, but with practice and hope, I finally got it. 

 

Soulmates that can share magic are rare. In Wonderland, we call those kind of soulmates—the ones that are so perfectly right for one another—parallels.

 

Of course my father was clever enough to give me multiple prophecies in one—I had to wait for both the Greatest Mage's magic parallel and soulmate parallel, in order to save my greatest mage from her curse. 

 

I can only be grateful I riddled it out. I hope those sweet boys can, too. Poor Simon still had tears running down his face when they left Wonderland, and he didn't ever look up from the ground to see the way that Basilton was looking at him—like he was gravity, like he was the center of his universe. 

 

I'm grateful that I played my part so well. Testing him with those creatures, bringing the Mage in, intimidating them with making the descent into Wonderland so difficult. In the end, it made sure Simon got to keep his magic. I could have awoken Alice years ago if I kidnapped the Chosen One from the beginning of his time at Watford. But then he'd be without his magic, and he wouldn't have been strong enough to defeat the Humdrum. Alice's Mage World, the one she loved so much, would be destroyed. Plus, after watching Simon in my mind for so many years… I started to care about this sweet, lost orphan boy. After all, after my father died, I was as good as an orphan. I understood his pain, his loneliness. So I made the sacrifice of waiting an extra seven years for her. I've waited over a century, what's another seven years? I thought to myself. But it was hell, waiting for my Alice to come back to me. I understood fully what my father meant when he said our Seer magic was a blessing and a curse. We know too much.

 

Alice begins kissing my neck, and I forget all about anything that isn't her right now. These seven years dragged even slower with the impossible waiting, and only Alice's lips lessen any of the pain of her prolonged absence. Alice, Alice, Alice. Mine.

 

"You could have turned it off," Alice whispered into my neck. "You could have given up, but every morning, every night, you came to me." Alice places a wet kiss on my neck. "You fought for me for tens of thousands of days. Even the days that your monologues were soaked with hopelessness, you ended each one by saying 'I love you.'"

 

"That's because I love you," I say plainly, because the answer is really that simple.

 

Alice cups my cheek, and there's tears running down her face. "I know, darling. As I love you."

 

I had a plan. I was going to get all her favorites—daisies and champagne and chocolate. I was going to ask her at sunset. I had a ten minute long speech planned. But I can't wait any longer. I just blurt out, straightforwardly and so quickly it almost sounds like one word instead of four, "Will you marry me?"

 

Alice looks shocked for a moment, and I worry for a heart-stopping moment that maybe it was too soon to ask. Until her face breaks into a dazzling, staggering smile. She kisses me hard and long, and when she pulls back, she whispers against my lips teasingly, "I thought you'd never ask."

 

Chapter Text

Simon

 

Being an orphan sucks.

 

As a kid, I mean, the unwanted aspect of it was bad. I used to fantasize my parents were going to come back for me. But by the time the Mage found me, I started to think maybe they were just dead. In some ways, that was better than being unwanted.

 

The first time I went off was a bad day on top of the mysterious tattoo I had acquired, the orphanage I had been at was being shut down, and we were all to be transferred the following day. Not like I liked that home, but it was familiar. 

 

That night I was too hungry to sleep. I had a growth spurt earlier that year, so the food we got was never enough. I tossed and turned in bed for what felt like hours, too uncomfortable to ever really fall asleep. I tried (and failed) not to think about the soulmark.

 

That’s when I started thinking about my parents. Even then, I made a list in my head of things not to think about, and they definitely made the cut. I only ever thought about them in passing, but this night the hunger and fear and everything was just too much. So I thought about them in earnest.

 

Why didn’t they want me? Why didn’t anyone want me? Why couldn’t I make friends? Where would I go after this orphanage? Would I make friends there? Would I ever have friends? Would anyone ever want me?

 

What did the tattoo on my chest mean? Was there something fundamentally wrong with me? Was this tattoo proof of that?

 

A million rapid fire questions bounced around my head, and suddenly it was getting hotter and hotter in the previously chilly room. I heard another boy wake up with a cough. I saw smoke start to fill the room, and after a moment the deafening blare of the fire alarm shook the room awake.

 

The younger boys were crying, afraid. I had already learned not to cry in front of the other kids. No one ever came to comfort you, and it gave the other kids ammunition to bully you. Actually, I expected Steve Nickson to start laying into the crying boys any minute now, but he was coughing too hard to threaten to clobber any of them. Finally, a social worker came in to evacuate us, but I felt like I was on fire—I couldn’t move. She didn’t notice that I was the only boy in the room not moving, too busy leaving with the crying children. I hadn’t made a sound since the beginning of this—my first going off—no coughing, or crying, or speaking.

 

All I could think was unwanted, unwanted, unwanted, so fucking unwanted -

 

And then the room exploded, and I knew before it even happened that it was all my fault.

 

When I came to, I was alone, still in the boys sleeping room. I don’t know how long I laid there, terrified. It could have been seconds, minutes, hours, days. But eventually, a man in a long green coat with a thick toothbrush mustache was leaning over me. “Simon Snow?” He asked, and I remembered thinking my name sounded right in his voice, even though it wasn’t a particularly kind tone. I thought irrationally that he must said my name before, must have known me—though I dismissed it as a childish whim and quickly forgot that hope.

 

“Am I in trouble?” I asked, my thick accent so garbled in my voice I’m surprised he understood what I had said at all.

 

“No, Simon. Not at all," the Mage responded.

 

He spent all night explaining what I was, what I had done, what my destiny would be. I was scared—it sounded like I was in trouble, after all. I was an abomination. I remembered a nun at my last home had gotten Harry Potter removed and banned from our already meager book collection. She had said magic was evil and devious. A sin.

 

I had definitely sinned in this orphanage, I thought.

 

If the Mage noticed I was scared, he didn’t comment on it. “We need you at Watford," he said. "You will be our salvation.”

 

I didn’t know what Watford or salvation meant, so I started crying. I assumed Watford meant ‘prison’ and salvation meant ‘curse’. The Mage looked wildly uncomfortable at my display of emotion. “This is a good thing, Simon. There will be kids just like you," he said seriously. “Well, not just like you, not as powerful. But we will teach you, mold you, and you will be our savior.”

 

Oh, I thought.

 

I probably should have asked more about the whole savior thing, but I was more interested in something else. “Other kids, sir?”

 

“Yes, other Mages. I’m sure you will make great allies there," he said with a solemn nod. “You will have a roommate, and you will be like brothers. It will be great, Simon. It is your destiny to be great.”

 

I smiled for the first time since the Mage arrived. A brother. Honestly, I had always wanted sisters, but a brother sounded great to me. It would be like having a friend—a best friend.

 

I spent the next few months fantasizing about Watford. By the end, I worried that maybe it was just an elaborate daydream. But, on the day he promised, the Mage came to pick me up from my new orphanage in Liverpool, and I was off to Watford.

 

I couldn’t wait to meet my roommate.

 


 

Baz

 

Simon Snow is looking out the window at nothing as Led Zeppelin’s heavy, guitar-driven sound blares over Fiona’s speakers.

 

Typical Fiona. Though, the heavy metal is pretty reflective of my own internal feelings right now.

 

Simon has stopped crying, the tear tracks dried on his cheeks, but he still looks miserable. He’s been silently staring blankly at the Hampshire's landscape for the past hour, and he barely notices when Fiona pulls into the driveway of my house.

 

Father, Daphne, and Mordelia are waiting outside of the house, and they all straighten when Fiona’s headlights illuminate them. Father has his arms crossed, his anxiety revealed in the tense set of his jaw and slight furrow of his brows. Daphne is shifting her weight quickly from foot to foot and chewing on her bottom lip. Mordelia is tugging on Daphne’s arm, trying to break free of her grasp. Daphne must have an iron grip on her, because Mordelia is not making any headway, though I know she’s unusually strong for a child. Vera must not have done Mordelia’s hair this morning, because it’s wild and unbrushed. She looks like she’s been crying, and her little face is set in an unhappy pout. I momentarily forget Simon at my family’s unusually emotional display, and whip open the car door as soon as Fiona brings it to a halt.

 

When I step out, Daphne lets go of a struggling Mordelia, and she runs to me. In a high pitched yell, she screams, “Bazzy!”

 

I bring her little body into my arms and she clings to me. “It’s okay, little puff,” I whisper quietly, so only Mordelia can hear. She’s sobbing into the crook of my neck. “It’s okay.”

 

“Basilton," my Father says, and he would almost sound neutral if it wasn’t for the subtle strain in his voice.

 

“Father,” I reply with a nod and a slight strain of my own. He gives a relieved, doting smile, and it’s more affectionate than I’m used to from him. I’m glad for the excuse to cover my face when Daphne brings me in for a hug as well, her relief evident in her loud sigh.

 

“I’m glad you’re okay, Basilton." She pulls back to search my face, and whispers low, “you are okay, right?”

 

I say ‘yes’ at the same time Simon says ‘no.’ Everyone turns to look at him. It’s the first thing he’s said since what happened with the Mage.

 

“I’m fine, Snow,” I respond in an even, emotionless voice.

 

No, you’re not fine,” he insists, “you’re hungry.”

 

“Oh, of course, you are! Vera can whip you up something real quick, what would you—” Daphne starts, but Simon interrupts again.

 

“No, not that kind of hungry,” Snow says so coldly he almost sounds like me.

 

The silence that follows is beyond awkward. Mordelia breaks it with a confused “what?” My father sends Snow his worst glare, but he doesn’t even flinch.

 

“You can go now, Mr. Snow,” my Father says sharply.

 

Simon opens his mouth to speak, and then closes it. He looks at me with a silent question in his eyes.

 

“Okay, okay,” I say, not as gently as I mean to as I set Mordelia down on the ground. “Let’s have Fiona fill my family in on our misadventure. We’ll go clean up.” I turn to Dev and Niall and nod. They understand my meaning, and head towards the guest room they usually stay in. I turn to Penny and Simon and say, “There are two bathrooms near my room. You guys can clean up in there.”

 

My Father opens his mouth to argue, but Fiona beats him to it. “Cmon, Mordelia. Let’s go find Vera. I get she’ll make cookies with you. We can leave a few for Father Christmas and the rest can be for you.” I completely forgot tomorrow was Christmas.

 

Mordelia looks over to me, and then back to Fiona, weighing her options. “Peanut butter chocolate chip?” she asks.

 

“Yup,” Fiona says, popping the ‘p’ with a slight grin.

 

“Fine,” Mordelia concedes, with one last tight hug around my leg. “But Bazzy has to play with me tomorrow.”

 

“Of course,” I say quietly, allowing my voice to get kind, softened by her obvious anxiety at my absence. She must have known something was really wrong.

 

When Fiona and Mordelia walk away, Father starts to talk again. “Basilton, I think it’s best if everyone left so we can take care of you.”  

 

His voice is perfectly neutral, but I understand the insinuation. Apparently Snow does too, because he snaps, with as much subtlety as a tsunami, “Can we get him blood already? He’s really thirsty. I don’t think he’s fed in several days.”

 

My Father visibly flinches. He’s not used to having my ‘condition’ referred to with such flippancy.

 

“It’s okay, Father. They’re okay.” I wave them forward. Father looks displeased and Daphne looks suspicious. I lead them to bathrooms anyway, and I give them instructions on where to find the towels and soap. As I do, Snow never meets my eyes. Then, I head to the backyard and drain three deer. It still doesn’t make me feel completely satiated, but the blood sloshes around in my stomach uncomfortably, so I’m forced to stop.

 

I take a scalding hot shower when I get to my bedroom. The water runs down my back and I see blood and dirt pool at my feet, reminding me of everything that had happened today. Was I kidnapped only this morning? That feels like a lifetime ago.

 

I am still in disbelief that Simon Snow came to save me. It almost feels like a fever dream—it's so outrageous and far-fetched. But I don’t think my subconscious could come up with the Queen’s many complexities or the Mage’s horrific betrayal of Simon.

 

Crowley, I hope Bunce will be able to help Simon through this. Too much happened to him today—accidentally killing the Mage, defeating the Humdrum, losing most of his magic.

 

The fact that he’s my soulmate.

 

I feel my face flush red—warm from the shower, the blood, and embarrassment.

 

I’m never going to convince him I’m not in love with him now. Even Snow’s not that thick.

 

I shut off the shower with a sigh, get dressed, and cast a Dry As A Bone on my hair.

 

When I step out of my bathroom, Simon Snow is waiting for me on my bed.

 

Simon

 

Penny says I'm brave to a fault. That I dive headfirst into situations without thinking them through properly. 'The worst part,' she says, always endearingly, 'is that you always come out the other side mostly unscathed, so the next time danger comes around, you don't think you have to stop and think it through.' It's true. Penny's the thinker, and I'm the doer. (Though I'm not quite sure what I'm doing right now.)

 

Baz walks out of the bathroom in slim fitting joggers and a faded Chelsea Football Club T-shirt. I've never seen him look so casual; he's always in his posh silk pajama sets at Watford. He looks good in those too, of course. He looks good in everything. But he looks so heart-breakingly domestic right now that my breath catches in my throat.

 

Penny's wrong. I'm not getting out of this one mostly unscathed.

 

"Hi," I finally choke out, and my voice sounds so wrong. I stand up quickly from his bed. Why did I sit on it? Is he going to think it was a desperate come-on? Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid—

 

"Snow, what are you doing?" Baz asks. He's looking a lot better, and his beauty makes it hard to speak. His pale cheeks are tinted pink. Judging by the steam coming out of his bathroom, he warmed himself up with a hot shower. He always fogs up the mirrors at Watford, and never bothers to do the spell to clear the mirrors afterwards. He always comes out of the shower with dry hair, so he probably spells it. I wonder what his hair looks like wet. How he looks when he's washing his hair with his fancy shampoo, soaping his fit body, with the hot water running down him…

 

"Snow...?" Baz says, snapping me out of my fantasies of him naked.

 

I'm sure I look as mortified as I feel. I'm lucky the Queen took my excess magic, or I might go off. "Uh—um—well—uh—are you okay?"

 

Baz looks confused by my question; I don't think he was expecting it. "I'm fine," he says in a measured tone.

 

"You get enough to drink?" I ask.

 

"I'm fine," he repeats, his tone clipped. I realize what a stupid question that was. It makes him turn redder than I've ever seen him, highlighting the fact that of course he went to feed. He looks so uncomfortable; I think he's embarrassed I saw his fangs earlier. He's had trouble looking me in the eye since, and he's looking at the ground now.

 

"Oh, um. That's good," I say, unhelpfully. I'm getting the sense that maybe I shouldn't have just barged into his room uninvited. "Um, sorry, I guess I'll just—"

 

There's a knock at the door, and we both jump. It's Fiona with a large tray of food in her hands. "Thought you'd want something to eat," she says, and my stomach growls at the mention of food. "It’s not for you, golden boy. But I’m sure Baz could be persuaded to share." Her voice is heavy with insinuation. She smirks at me, and my stomach churns with embarrassment. I look to the ground; I don't need to see her face to know that she's enjoying my discomfort. "The others are going home for Christmas, but I told Malcolm that Snow should stay here. Malcolm, Daphne, and I are going to go fill in the Coven on today's events. The kids are in bed. Behave," she teases as she hands Baz the tray.

 

He hands me the fork without looking up at me, and takes the spoon for himself. We eat in silence—me, shoveling food in my mouth, and Baz, slowly taking small servings onto his spoon. When I'm finished, I look up at Baz. He has his hand over his mouth as he chews his mashed potatoes.

 

"Do you do that because your fangs pop out?" The question comes out of my mouth before I can stop it. I've been wondering it for a while now. The few times I've seen him eat, he always does this.

 

It was the wrong question, obviously. Baz drops his spoon, quickly swallows his mouthful, and levels me with a glare so vicious I feel as if I've been burned. "Will you stop asking stupid fucking questions you know the answer to?" he spits out venomously.

 

"I'm sorry, Baz, I didn't mean to—" I try to interject, but he rises to his feet, knocking the tray over into me and letting out a frustrated muted scream. It shocks me into forgetting the end of my sentence.

 

"Look, I don't need your pity—" he spits out.

 

"I don't pity you!" I yell, louder than I mean to. I don't know what he's even talking about now. I’m the pitiful one. I’m the one who's desperately in love with my unrequited soulmate.

 

Baz

 

I really should stop yelling at him right now. It's not going to do me any good—it'll just make his rejection crueler. I should really just come out with it. Say 'I'm sorry you're my soulmate. I'm sorry I fell in love with you. I'm sorry you came to Wonderland for me. I'm sorry you lost your magic and your mentor. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry—"

 

But I don't say any of that. I just laugh cruelly down at him.

 

"Of course you do! That's why you're here right now. Why didn't you just leave with Bunce?" I snap harshly. His responding flinch makes me want to flinch back, but I restrain myself.

 

"Uh—well—um—"

 

"Spit it out," I growl, cross that he can’t get his damn words out. I don’t want this awful conversation to drag on. (But I don’t want him to leave either.) (Fuck, I’m pathetic.)

 

He scowls at me. "Fiona said I could stay—"

 

"Yes, I know," I say impatiently. Fiona must have riddled out that Snow is my soulmate. She's the only person who’s never respected my taboo on soulmate talk. She mentioned a locator spell once that only wildly powerful Mages could do, and I nearly bit her head off in my rush to get her to shut up about it. I panicked—thinking she had caught on and was going to suggest Snow try it for me. If she didn't suspect it then, she definitely does now. "My question was why?"

 

"You know why," he says, his eyes on the ground.

 

"What?" I ask, confused.

 

"Don't act like you don't, Baz," he spits out through gritted teeth.

 

"What, are you here to stake me for being a vampire?" Crowley, would he? He probably will if I keep talking. But I can’t ever stop myself from pushing Snow’s buttons. "You've finally gotten the proof you need to get me set on fire. Congratulations. You want to end me before or after the Coven gets here?"

 

Snow’s head snaps up, and he's looking at me like I've grown a second head. "Are you mental? "

 

"Defeating dark creatures is what you do best, Snow. And you've got one right here," I say, gesturing to myself.

 

"You're not a dark creature." His brows are furrowed and he's frowning.

 

"Aren't I?" I respond bitterly. It's my turn to look down at the ground. "Vampires are as dark as it gets, aren’t they? C’mon, you slay monsters all the time. How is this any different?"

 

I feel like I'm going to cry, but I'll never forgive myself if I break down right now, so I choke back the tears, biting the tip of my tongue with my front teeth to focus.

 

"Baz," Simon says, urgently. He stands and tries to catch my eye, but I'm avoiding his gaze. "Baz, look at me. "

 

He doesn't put any magic into the words, but I look up anyhow. Simon's blue eyes are boring into mine like he can see right through me, and it sends a chill up my spine.

 

"You're not a dark creature. You're not a monster. You're just a boy," he says, gently. For some reason, his kindness enrages me—because it has to be pity. There's no other explanation.

 

"You're even dumber than you look, Snow," I spit out. "I am a monster. You saw that clear as day earlier. So why won't you just run away from me?"

 

"I can't," he says forcefully, his voice full of an unnamed emotion.

 

"Yes you can!" I yell. "Walk out the front door. Crowley, how do you know I'm not going to drain you in your sleep without the Anathema?"

 

"Because! I know you, Baz! I see you!" He bellows, tearing at his hair. This is only going to get worse, I can feel myself loving him more every time he speaks. I laugh at how those words will haunt me for the rest of my days, which may be forever for all I know about vampires.

 

Simon growls at my laughter. “What’s so funny?!”

 

“Everything. Nothing,” I reply bitterly, because both are equally true.

 

“Are you really laughing at me right now? Are you that disgusted with me?” He looks so hurt, and I can’t riddle out why.

 

“What are you talking about!?” I scream.

 

Why are you always so difficult?!” He screams back.

 

“In Aleister Crowley’s name, me? You’re the one who makes everything impossible!”

 

He growls animalistically at me, and it’s so hot I feel my cheeks redden.

 

“What am I missing here?” I ask, throwing my hands up.

 

“I love you, you fucking prat!” Simon screams, eyes blazing into mine.

 

My brain short-circuits.

 

Simon

 

Baz looks like I’ve hit him over the head with a club. His eyes are wide, his lips are parted, and he’s brought his hand to his chest like I’ve just given him a heart attack. It’s so silent in his room you could hear a pin drop. Fuck, I’ve done it now.

 

“Simon, I—” Baz starts. I don’t find out how he was planning to end that sentence, because the moment he says my name, I throw myself at him.

 

This is a prime example of my not thinking, because I’m kissing him desperately, and he’s not responding. I’m about to pull back, and kindly ask him to set me on fire or drain me or—

 

But then he’s kissing me back. And it’s—oh. It’s everything. I’ve got my hands around his neck and he’s got his hands in my hair. We’re pushing against one another with our mouths. It’s like a fight, but such a hot one. This is how we should’ve been fighting all along.

 

I’m kissing my soulmate, and I wouldn’t notice if the world was on fire.

 

Baz

 

My brain forgets everything that isn’t Simon, Simon, Simon.

 

I’ve got my hands in his curls and they’re just as soft as I always imagined. His lips are soft too, even though the bottom one is chapped—probably from biting on it so much. The toughness of it adds to his allure—like a euphoric punishment, proof that this is really happening and not just an elaborate fantasy.

 

He starts to explore my mouth with his tongue, licking the roof of my mouth and it feels so good I let out an involuntary moan. It encourages Simon, and he shoves me against the wall, covering every inch of my body with his. His hands are wandering now, down to my shoulders, my back, my sides. He sticks a hand up my shirt to rub my stomach, and I gasp at the contact. He’s so warm, and it feels so good. He smiles against my mouth before he moves his mouth to my neck.

 

I’m starting to fear this really is a fantasy, or that I’ve died and I’m in heaven, or maybe I'm in a teasing purgatory. Because nothing on earth could possibly feel this good. His tongue is licking and sucking the spot where my neck meets my shoulder and I thrust my hips forward in encouragement.

 

Don’t stop, don’t stop, I’ll die if you stop, I think. “Simon,” I say, though it comes out as a moan. Simon growls and bites my neck in response, and I think I’m going to explode.

 

Simon

 

Baz is panting loudly—louder than I’ve ever heard him. Even louder than when he’s running circles around the other players on the football field. The sound makes me feel so alive, like his breath is giving me oxygen.

 

He just moaned my name, and it's so erotic that I react my biting down on his neck so I don’t moan too. And he likes it—if that high-pitched whine he just let out is anything to go by.

 

I want to try it on his bottom lip, so I take my mouth off his neck and he whines again in protest at the loss of contact. He’s placated though when I put my mouth back on his. After a moment I take his bottom lip between my teeth and bite gently.

 

Baz

 

Yep, I’m definitely dead, and this is definitely heaven.

 

Simon

 

I don’t know how long we kiss. Time has lost its meaning as a concept. Eventually, we come apart, both panting hard, as the reality of the need for air presents itself. I guess he’s not oxygen after all—he’s just as vital as it.

 

His eyes are searching mine, and mine are searching his. I’ve never seen him so vulnerable, so beautifully ripped open, not even the first time he said my name.

 

“Why did you kiss me back?” I ask.

 

He snorts unattractively—something I’ve never seen. It’s so endearing I smile instinctively. He gently pushes me backwards, and I step back, torn between lingering giddiness from our kisses and disappointment at his apparent rejection.

 

But then he takes his shirt by the back of his neck and pulls it over his head.

 

For a moment I can’t think anything but Baz is shirtless holy fuck he’s fit Crowley look at his abs and chest and—

 

But then I see his chest has seven words on them. ‘I know you, Baz. I see you.’ I feel hope bubble up in my chest.

 

“I… I said that to you today,” I stammer in astonishment.

 

“No,” He says, softly, and I feel my face drop. Didn’t I say those words earlier? I feel the panic rise in me and tears threaten the corner of my eyes. Did I just hallucinate that kiss? Am I crazy? Am I— “You first said them to me in fifth year.”

 

“Fifth year?” I ask, confused. When did I say that in fifth year? I’m wracking through my brain, trying to find the memory in my head…

 

Oh fuck. The day he pushed me down the stairs. The first time I accused him of being a vampire.

 

He notices the moment it hits me, and gives a rueful smile. “Yeah," he says softly, nodding.

 

“Baz,” I whisper, and slowly move my hand to stroke his cheek. He leans into my touch with a sigh. “I’m sorry.”

 

He opens his mouth to speak and then closes it. He shrugs. I’ve never seen him do that—it’s so unlike him, but it makes my heart ache because I think he picked the habit up from me.

 

I move my hand off his face to pull my own T-shirt off. His eyes go right to my soulmark. His lips part, and he moves to run his fingers over his handwriting, silently mouthing my name. I shudder with pleasure at the touch. When he looks back into my eyes, the look he gives me is so adoring that I finally let the sob I’ve been holding back out.

 

He swallows my cry with his mouth, and I let myself drown in him.

 

Baz

 

“I was so scared today,” Simon whispers into my chest. It sounds like a confession. I stroke his hair comfortingly.

 

We kissed and kissed and kissed until both of our mouths were sore. We ended up on the floor by the fireplace, his body over mine. He made me reach up for his mouth over and over, like he needed me to prove I really wanted it. Wanted him.

 

I reached for him every time. And when we rolled over, so that Simon was below me, and I returned the favor.

 

He reached for my mouth too. Every time.

 

“I know. I was too,” I admit to him. “I thought I lost you for a minute there.”

 

He leans up to look into my eyes. “Me too," he says. “Fuck. I’m sorry.”

 

“For what?” I ask. I can’t think of anything to be sorry for.

 

“That I didn’t realize sooner,” he says. “That you had to wait so long.”

 

I feel choked up, and the vulnerability in his voice pushes me to say something I wouldn’t have ever admitted otherwise. “I would have waited forever for you, Simon.”

 

He kisses me again, and it’s soft and gentle and loving. It’s nothing like our kisses before. This one’s all apologies and promises.

 

When he pulls back, he hits me with those perfect blue eyes. I whisper, “I love you too, you beautiful disaster.”

 

He smiles at me, and it’s so blinding I have to close my eyes, but I don’t bother hiding the wide smile on my face. He settles his face in the crook of my neck, and we fall asleep on the floor, wrapped up in one another.

 

Chapter Text

Baz

 

I awake with a mouthful of curls in my mouth. I’ve just had a very good dream about snogging Simon, undressing him, kissing every inch of his golden body...

 

Oh wait, that wasn’t a dream. That was last night.

 

I open my eyes to see Simon, with his arms wrapped around my middle with his head tucked into my chest. I can feel his steady breaths on my tattoo, and it tickles. I shake him—since it's our first day of eighth year, and we need to get going soon.

 

“Wake up, love,” I whisper softly. He groans in response.

 

I shake him again, a little harder. “Stop. Prat. Head hurts,” he says grumpily, his lips moving across my skin.

 

I laugh at him. “Well,” I say, lightly. "Then you shouldn’t have drank so much last night.”

 

He looks up from my chest to scowl at me, barely loosening his grip around me. “No fair. You only don’t have a hangover because of vampire perks.”

 

I smile widely at him. Simon always blames my ‘vampire perks’ for everything. I beat him in football? Vampire perk. I’m not ravenously hungry 24 hours a day like he his? Vampire perk. I don’t think our bloody room is hot enough to open a window? Vampire perk.

 

He drinks half a bottle of vodka, so he has a hangover? Vampire perk.

 

“Be nice, or I won’t spell it away,” I threaten. Simon hasn’t quite gotten the hang of anti-hangover spells. But since my best friends are Dev and Niall, I certainly have.

 

“You wouldn’t dare, or else...” he trails off, and tries to raise an eyebrow. (It doesn’t look ironic or suggestive on him, just silly.) “Maybe I won’t give you a repeat of last night.”

 

I blush. Last night was amazing. I mean, every night with Simon is amazing. But last night was just mind-blowing.

 

“You wouldn’t get yourself off just to spite me?” I ask.

 

“No,” he says, and quickly wraps his legs on top of me so he’s straddling me. He takes both my hands and places them above my head. “I’ll still get off. I’ll spell you so you can’t move and do it in front of you.”

 

My face is certainly burning now. “Okay, you twat,” I concede. “I was only teasing.”

 

“You better have been.” He growls, and I roll my eyes.

 

“I can’t spell you if I you don’t let go of me,” I say, looking up at my hands pinned above my head, to signal he has to let go of them. He smirks at me, and brings me into a searing kiss.

 

He’s kissed me a million different ways in the months we’ve been together, but this kind is my favorite. Our fighting kiss. Our tongues and lips and teeth fighting for dominance. It reminds me of our first kiss. It reminds me that Simon and I were never destined to fight with our fists or with magic, but with our mouths.

 

When he pulls back, he says, “Fine,” but doesn’t get up. He just reaches over to my bedside table and grabs the closest wand—the one that happens to be his—and hands it to me, expectantly.

 

I’ve never told him explicitly, but I think he knows how much I love to use his wand. It reminds me that we’re connected in soul, heart, and magic. When Genevieve told me—in private, thank Merlin—that only true soulmates, parallel soulmates, could share magic the way Simon and I do, I started crying on the spot. My only consolation is that Simon didn’t see me blubbering like a baby.

 

Stinson’s Hangover Fixer Elixir,” I cast up at his forehead, and he sighs in relief.

 

“Much better,” he says with a smile.

 

“Have I ever told you why that spell works?” I ask, feeling sentimental enough to enlighten him.

 

“No, I don’t think so,” he says, thoughtful. “It’s from How I Met Your Mother, right? I haven’t seen it.”

 

“Yes, it is,” I confirm. “One of the characters always gives it to his friends as a hangover cure. It’s a mixture of a bunch of revolting food. Funyuns, grease, some energy drink…” Simon doesn’t look grossed out, and I snort. “Of course, you probably wouldn’t turn your nose up at it. Food is food, right?” I ask with a grin.

 

He takes a pillow and hits me in the face with it.

 

“Hey, hey, truce!” I say through laughs, and he stops after one more good hit. “Okay, really though. He is always giving his friends this when they're hungover, and it always works. He won’t tell them the secret ingredient though. And you need the secret ingredient for the spell to work.”

 

I pause. After a moment, he sighs, and apparently decides to indulge my dramatics. “What’s the secret ingredient?” he says, exasperated, knowing I won’t tell him until he asks.

 

“Love,” I answer, matter-of-fact.

 

“Ugh!” He groans, looking at the ceiling, unable to contain his smile. “ No one would believe me if I told them what a big softie you are. Baz Pitch, a romantic. Who knew?”

 

“Well…” I say quietly. “You do.”

 

He smiles softly at me, and it warms me from the inside out. “Yeah,” he says. “I do.”

 

He kisses me, and we decide to give last night’s performance an encore.

 


 

We are laying together in bliss afterwards, when a knock at the door interrupts us.

 

I scramble for my wand, just barely casting “Dress The Part” on Simon and I before the door swings open.

 

“Mordelia!” I say through gritted teeth. “For the millionth time, knock!”

 

“Why? Don’t want me to see you snogging your booooyfrieeeend? ” she teases, rocking from toe to heel with a mischievous grin.

 

I roll my eyes at her, and cast a silent prayer that she didn’t decide to knock while we were doing much more than kissing. Father and Daphne have let Simon and I both stay in my room this summer, since we’re both 18, but there’s a jinx against locking my door. It hasn’t stopped us from doing locked door activities, but I tend to be careful when I know one of the kids are likely to barge in without knocking.

 

“What do you want, Mordy?” I ask, ignoring her question.

 

“Mum says it’s time for breakfast. Fiona will be here in an hour.” 

 

Crowley, already?” I ask. Time really flies when you’re shagging Snow.

 

We both jump out of bed, and Mordelia starts giggling.

 

“What?” I snap at her.

 

“Your shirts are inside out.” She says, laughing all the way to the kitchen.

 

“Oh, Crowley.” I'm mortified.

 

“Ah, well,” Simon says, sounding smug despite his blushing cheeks. “It’s nice to know I’m so good that you can’t properly cast a spell afterwards.”

 

He waggles his eyebrows, and I throw a pillow at his head.

 


 

When we come downstairs, both properly dressed in our school uniforms, there’s a large buffet laid out on the kitchen table.

 

“Wow,” Simon says. “Great job, Vera. You’ve really outdone yourself.”

 

Vera grins back, more widely than she does to anyone but the small children. “Thank you, Mr. Snow.”

 

“I pray you two slept well?” My Father asks, and my face heats up. Snow coughs and walks over to the coffee maker.

 

“Yes, Father,” I say, and just barely resist sending a nasty look towards Mordelia. No doubt she’s recounted the whole story to the table.

 

“That’s lovely, dear,” Daphne interjects, and changes the subject before my Father can comment on my sex life. “Are you two excited for 8th year?”

 

“Oh, totally,” Simon responds, as he hands me my coffee just the way I like it: two-thirds coffee, one-third creamer. “Cheers, darling,” Simon says with an easy smile and sex-crazed hair (which he’s trying to pull off as bedhead). I remind myself, not for the first or second or hundredth time, this isn’t an unusually long dream.

 

Daphne smiles at him dotingly. He’s completely won her over. He helps her in her garden, helps put the baby to sleep, reads to the twins, and plays football with Mordelia. In her mind (and mine), he’s the perfect partner for me.

 

My Father was tougher to convince. When I told him about Simon being my soulmate, he turned bright red with emotion—I don’t know which one, but it clearly wasn’t joy. After a long minute, he said, “well, that’s that,” and walked out.

 

When I insisted Simon stay with us over the summer, he tried to talk me out of the idea. It was one of our worst fights ever. Usually, with us, it’s just avoidance and cold glares. But this time I started screaming, saying nothing in this world would make me less gay and that Simon and I were a package deal and a bunch of other sappy, hyperpersonal things I’d like to forget. I shocked him into silence and stormed out. But I won the argument, and Simon moved in with us.

 

And Simon did what he does: he proved he’s impossible not to love. By the first week, my dad was asking Simon friendly, personal questions. By the second, he offered to take him shopping for ‘proper clothing.’ A month in, Simon was allowed to learn how to drive in his Jaguar. I gaped at my Father when he said that, but he just ignored my shock and said, ‘make sure you stay on the backroads, Basilton, I don’t want you boys hurt.’

 

Suffice to say, Simon’s a lot more welcome in the Pitch Manor than he was a year ago.

 

“You ready to study hard, Basilton?” my Father asks me, snapping me out of my reminiscing. “Your mother was top of her class, you know.” Of course I know that. I manage not to roll my eyes though, and just nod at him.

 

Simon smiles at me with a twinkle in his eye. “You’re going to have to fight Penny to the death for it,” he teases.

 

“Oh, it’s on,” I respond competitively. “Bunce is going down.”

 

Simon laughs at my ferocity. “That’s my boy,” he says fondly, and Father and Daphne don’t bat an eye.

 

He really was my Christmas miracle.

 


 

We’re finishing up packing our things in our bedroom. I’m going to miss summer—days at the club, swimming in the lake, unlimited time with Simon. But I guess he’s still going to be my roommate—in our room with a lock—so I can’t really complain.

 

“Don’t forget your thermos, love,” Simon calls, sticking his head out of the bathroom with his toothbrush in his mouth.

 

“Of course not. I’m not a numpty,” I reply. He just rolls his eyes. When he’s not looking, I grab my thermos from the drawer, where I had forgotten it.

 

Headmistress Bunce is aware of my special diet, and has the kitchens stocked with pig’s blood from the market. Who knew you could get pig’s blood from the market? Not me, certainly. Luckily Simon did. I haven’t had to go down to the Catacombs since before Christmas. Well, not for blood at least. I still go down to see my mother sometimes.

 

I’ve never brought Simon. I’ve meant to a million times, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to do it.

 

I don’t know what I’m so scared of. Simon talks to me about his parents. How he wishes he could have met Lucy. He met Lady Salisbury earlier this year, and she’s been kind to him. She tells him stories about Lucy that make Simon laugh and cry. I always worry when I bring him to her, but I think it’s helping him come to terms with losing a mother he never knew.

 

The Mage is… more complicated. He still thinks he killed him. Penny is always quick to say that, technically, she killed the Mage, but Simon still feels guilty, still wakes me up in the middle of the night with his cries. I spell him with Sweet Dreams if he hasn’t woken yet. If he has, I talk him down with words and comfort and kisses. Penny’s mum found a Mage therapist for Simon, and he goes to her office every Friday to Skype with her. I think it helps. He doesn’t usually have nightmares on Friday nights.

 

“Baz?” Simon says, breaking me out of my trance. I realize I’ve been staring at my suitcase for the better part of the last ten minutes. “You good, love?”

 

“Yeah,” I say. “Yeah, of course.”

 

He smiles and it reminds me to go get something for him.

 

“Oh! Wait here.” I run to the baby’s closet, where I’ve been hiding my gift. When I come back into my bedroom, Simon’s looking at me curiously.

 

“What is it, Baz?” He asks, trying to see what I have behind my back. “We’re going to be late; Fiona will be here any minute.”

 

“Um, well—” I start and then clear my throat. He raises both his eyebrows. I rarely stutter, only when I’m wildly nervous or anxious. “Shut up,” I say, and he motions locking his lips and throwing away the key.

 

“So, today’s our 8 month anniversary—” His eyes widen, and he opens his mouth to speak, but I cut him off. “Chill, Snow. I didn’t expect you to remember, or get me anything. But I—uh—made you something.”

 

“You did?” He says, awed.

 

“Yeah,” I say sheepishly, and hand him his present.

 

He takes carefully in his hands, looking at it like it’s precious. His lips part and he silently gasps.

 

“I made it fifth year. After I realized... yeah.” I’ve said ‘I love you’ a thousand times, now, and so has he, but it’s still hard for me to talk about the pining phase. Especially fifth year.

 

“Baz,” he whispers, eyes glued on the sketch. It’s him, sleeping in our room soundly. It’s a very good one, if I do say so myself. All of his moles are perfectly placed, and he’s illuminated by the golden moonlight shining through the open window. It was the first one I did all in color.

 

I’ve almost burned it in a self-hating rage countless times. Seeing the look on his face right now makes me impossibly grateful I didn’t.

 

He puts the drawing down carefully on my desk. My eyes follow him as he walks there and back to me. Then, he wraps his arms around my neck and brings his face only inches from mine.

 

“Do you like it?” I whisper.

 

He closes the distance between us, whispering against my lips, “I love you”.

 

We end up being 10 minutes late coming downstairs.

 


 

“Front seat is for people who haven’t been kidnapped by fairies,” Fiona insists as I try to get in on the passenger side.

 

“Fiona,” I complain, exasperated. “You were kidnapped by fairies. The very same fairy!”

 

“No,” she says—and I can predict every single thing she’s going to say next, because we’ve had this argument dozens of times already. “I was captured in fairy territory. Not kidnapped. I was arrested for trespassing. That’s badass.”

 

“That’s fucking stupid is what it is,” I respond with narrowed eyes.

 

Fiona opens her mouth to say her next line, but Simon interrupts us. “Crowley, you two are exhausting. If it makes you feel better, Baz, I’ll sit in the back with you.”

 

I smirk. It does make me feel better. Fiona frowns. She likes Snow now, and surely wanted him to sit with her.

 

“Thanks, love,” I say smugly, and Fiona mimics vomiting.

 

“So, what did you crazy kids get up to last night?” Fiona asks.

 

“Dev and Niall came over,” I say, wanting to leave it at that.

 

“Guess what?” Snow asks her cheekily, leaning forward in his seat so he can look at her.

 

“What?” Fiona asks excitedly. (He's got his I'm about to tease Baz voice on.) 

 

“Put your seatbelt, Snow, or the Pitch family really is going to be your downfall,” I snap, already knowing what the answer to Fiona’s question is going to be. Snow just grins wider.

 

“We were playing Truth or Dare, and Baz admitted that he has wanted to kiss me since the moment we met.”

 

Fiona is cackling with laughter—so hard that she swerves a bit on the road and into the lane next to her.

 

Be careful,” I hiss—even though we’re the only car for miles on this road, and I know Fiona always casts anti-crash spells on her car. She has to; she’s such a damn reckless driver.

 

“That is golden!” Fiona yells, shaking with laughter. “You should have heard Basilton first year. ‘Fiona, he’s insufferable.’ ‘Fiona, he’s a slob.’ ‘Fiona, how can I get away with breaking Anathema?’ And that fucker already wanted you.”

 

Fiona and Snow are laughing together, and I’m pouting.

 

“Like you’re much better, Snow. You spent fifth year stalking me,” I retort.

 

He frowns. “I thought you were plotting.”

 

“At football practice?” I deadpan, and he blushes. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

 

But he recovers, and just says, with that damn smirk he's picked up from me, “Your arse looks good in football shorts.”

 

It’s my turn to blush now, but I still manage to retort, “Well, your arse looks good in everything. It looks even better in noth—”

 

My sentence is cut off by Fiona slamming on the breaks suddenly. Snow starts to fly forward and I have to use my vampire speed to grab him around the waist, absorbing his impact.

 

“FUCK, FIONA!” I scream. “Are you okay Simon?” I ask frantically.

 

“What are my two rules for my car?” Fiona asks.

 

“Really, Fiona?” Snow mutters, and I sigh in relief at the sound of his voice.

 

What are my two rules?” 

 

“You could have hurt him!” I growl.

 

“I knew you’d protect him,” she says, turning around so I can see her roll her eyes. “You’d jump in front of a train for him.”

 

“Here, I thought Baz was extra,” Simon says with a laugh, and the sound loosens the anxiety in my chest a bit. “You take the cake, Fi. You’re the most dramatic Pitch.”

 

“Damn straight,” She responds. “Rules.”

 

Simon sighs, and answers for me, since I’m too mad to open my mouth, “One, no one who has been kidnapped by fairies may sit in the front seat. Two, no flirting.”

 

“Thank you,” she say casually, putting the car back in drive, like she didn’t just do something totally insane.

 

I’m about to start yelling at her again, but then Simon turns to me and sighs. “I’ve really joined some family, huh?”

 

Then, well—I’m just too damn happy to be mad.

 


 

“Simon!” Bunce yells as soon as Snow steps out of Fiona’s Aston Martin. She throws himself into his arms. By the looks of it, it’s as if they didn’t just see each other last week. Simon laughs joyfully and spins her in his arms. They are really too much—though it’s objectively adorable.

 

Dev and Niall trail behind her, both looking worse for wear.

 

“Get home alright, boys?” I ask with a grin.

 

“Stop yelling,” Niall responds, even though I spoke at a perfectly normal tone.

 

“Niall threw up in the Uber halfway home from your house. We had to get out on the side of the road and call another one,” Dev responds, and we both laugh more loudly than necessary.

 

Niall groans and covers his ears. “Stop being a baby, Niall. I’m the one out 150 pounds,” Dev says.

 

I roll my eyes and cast Stinson’s Hangover Fixer Elixir on them both. “You two really need to just watch the show already. It’s really good if you skip the last season.”

 

“I can’t believe you watch that show. I feel like that’s something you would deem, quote, too heteronormative,” Dev says.

 

“Everything’s too heteronormative. But Neil Patrick Harris is gay, and he’s fit as hell,” I reason. Snow sends me a dirty look, and I laugh. (I've always known Simon was the jealous type, but it still surprises and thrills me when he’s jealous over me.) “Calm down, Snow. No need to go green with envy. You're fitter.”

 

Simon beams, and throws his arm around my waist. I kiss the top of his head, and Dev, Niall, and Penny all fake gag. Our friends do that a little too often. I guess we can be nauseating. (I don’t care.)

 

“Go unpack, lovebirds,” Penny says with an eye roll. “We’re FaceTiming Agatha before the Welcome Feast. Meet us in the courtyard at 5:30.”

 

“Okay!” Simon says happily. He was disappointed when Wellbelove first told us she wouldn’t be coming back for 8th year; instead, she ran off to California to attend university. (Though, she was already calling it ‘college.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if she was American by Christmas). To be honest, I was even a little sad. It took a few months for my jealousy of her to completely subside, but by the end of 7th year, we actually grew quite close. (Now that our ridiculous love triangle has been put to rest. Crowley, that was stupid.)

 

Simon takes my hand and we walk to Mummer’s Tower together. We get more than a few stares. It was downright comical when we showed up together after winter holiday together. Simon snogged me in the middle of the dining hall, and I swear, the room got so quiet that all l could hear was our classmates’ collective gasps. Word spread quickly that Baz Pitch and Simon Snow—legendary rivals—were soulmates. Even the teachers were gossiping about how that could have happened. It was ridiculously amusing.

 

I let out a contented sigh when we finally get to our bedroom door. I pull out my wand to do the spell to unlock the door, but Simon stops me.

 

“Wait,” he says. “I think I can do it.”

 

I smile encouragingly. I’ve been helping him with his magic, and he’s gotten much better. He’s still struggles though. He’s just so far behind the rest of us. But with me as his tutor, his grades have gone up significantly. Plus, I’ve made him practice all summer.

 

Welcome Home,” he casts, and the door unlocks for him. He whoops, and throws himself into my arms like he’s just scored the winning goal in a championship football game.

 

“Honestly, Snow.” I sneer, though it’s undercut by the softness in my voice. “Any second year can cast that spell.”

 

Simon smiles widely at me. He never takes my insults seriously anymore. “Yep, and now so can I.”

 

“Congratulations, Simon. Welcome home,” I say, surprising him when I bridal-carry him to the bed. We turned our two twin size beds into a full. Dev and Niall teases us endlessly about it. (I made them promise not to spread that rumor to the whole school, lest Headmistress Bunce decide it’s too inappropriate for two hormonal teenage boys who happen to be soulmates to share a bedroom.)

 

“Baz, we need to unpack!” Simon laughs as I kiss his neck.

 

“No.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“No.”

 

“Yes!”

 

“Fine!” I concede, and move to pull away, but Simon doesn’t let go of the back of my neck.

 

“Wait.” He says. “Five more minutes.”

 

“I’m going to need at least fifteen.” I respond, smirking down at him.

 

Simon gives me a wolfish smile, and I bend down to kiss him again.

 


 

Simon

 

An hour later, we finally get to unpacking. It takes longer than it usually does. Before, we both were too wary of one another to keep our things out in the open. This year, though, we went shopping for decorations together, so there are posters up on the wall. Baz puts a framed photo of the two of us at Genevieve and Alice’s wedding on his desk, and I smile when I see it. It’s a candid: Baz’s hair is tied back in a bun, and he’s smiling down at me as I laugh at one of his jokes. I can’t even remember what he said that was so funny. But he looks so handsome and young and free, and we look so in love, and I adore it. I tell him so.

 

“That’s my favorite picture of you,” I say, pointing at it.

 

He smirks. “Every picture of me is your favorite,” he says, smug.

 

I roll my eyes, but don’t deny it. “That day was actually fun.”

 

I told Baz that we didn’t have to go. (I was worried going back to Wonderland would be traumatic for him.) (And he was worried it would be traumatic for me.) But Alice is damn persuasive. She was showing up to Watford to visit us every other week, trying to get me to call her Aunty Allie. It was very weird at first, but she’s the sort that really grows on you. Even Baz ended up liking her, considering she’s a wealth of knowledge on pre-20th century spells. When she asked me to be her Best Man, I was surprised. But I guess I’m nearly the only family she has left. I asked her if that made her sad, once, and she teared up a little talking about her parents and siblings. But said that she had a century to mourn them, and now it was time to be happy for the family she did have. I couldn’t exactly say no to her after that.

 

Baz laughed off my concerns for him, and insisted that if I was going to be in a suit, he had to see it. We could barely take our eyes off one another as I was waiting at the altar for the ceremony to start. He was in the audience in a fitted dark green suit, and he looked so delicious I started to wonder if I was the vampire. Virginia, Genevieve’s Maid of Honor, had to force my attention away once Alice started walking down the aisle. I think there’s no way that it’s customary for a Queen’s maid to be her maid of honor, but Genevieve doesn’t seem like the type that’s much for tradition.

 

“I liked the part where you accosted me in the coat closet,” he deadpans.

 

“I liked the part where you accosted me in the bathroom,” I respond, trying to mimic his posh accent. I do a poor job, and it makes him laugh.

 

“C’mon,” he says, holding his hand out. “We’re going to be late.”

 

When we get to the courtyard, the other three are already on the call with Agatha.

 

“Here they are—Crowley, Simon, at least do your tie up properly when you walk around campus—Aggie, they’re here!” Penny says cheerily.

 

“Finally,” she says. “How are you guys?”

 

We exchange pleasantries for a while and promise to send her pictures of the fireworks from the Welcome Ceremony, then hang up the phone to head to the field.

 

“Think we might have a drama-free Welcome Ceremony this year?” Dev asks.

 

“With Snow there? I doubt it,” Baz retorts. I hit his arm and he smirks. Penny laughs, like the Baz-loving traitor she is. She ignores the stern look I give her and hip checks Baz.

 

“I should have never introduced you two,” I mutter, and Baz snorts.

 

“How did you introduce us? We all go to the same school.” I try to let go of his hand in retaliation, but he grabs it back immediately, keeping an iron grip on me.

 

Vampire perk.

 

Though, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it.

 

At the buffet, I pile my plate, and watch Baz do the same. He never does any more than pick at his food in public, but he always gets extra for me. We find a place to sit under Baz’s favorite tree a ways off from the rest of the students. We bring food out to eat out here often, because Baz is self conscious about his fangs. He’ll still cover his mouth with us around, but he’ll eat more than nothing, which is an improvement.

 

“Oh, what a difference a year makes,” Dev deadpans, breaking our companionable silence.

 

“Yeah, mate?” Niall says.

 

“Remember when Baz spent last ceremony complaining about how ‘watching Snow eat was like watching a shark devour a seal?'” Dev says with air quotes. “Now look at him. He’s watching Simon eat with that lovesick expression. Mate, did we make a mistake by entertaining this friendship?” He asks Niall.

 

“Oh, definitely. All the action's over, and now we’re stuck with a lovesick Baz,” Niall replies with a shit-eating grin. They’re really packing on the teasing today. It feels just like the first day back from winter holidays last year. I hope they get it out of their system before Baz hexes them, like he did last January. (Niall was forced to sing everything he said for a week after a joke about Baz's hair looking sex-crazed.)

 

I laugh. Baz deadpans, “I will feed you two to a chimera,” but his cheeks redden slightly.

 

Dev opens his mouth to retort, but is interrupted by a girlish scream near the buffet line. On instinct, I jump to my feet and call my sword of Mages to my hand. Baz is up on his feet too, standing defensively beside me.

 

“Simon—Simon—calm down,” Penny says, tugging my sleeve. “It’s just a Visiting.”

 

“A what?” I ask, confused, still on edge, remembering last year’s Cerberus attack.

 

“A Visiting. The Veil is opening.” Penny sees that I still don’t know what she's talking about, so she explains how ghosts that can return every 20 years. She sneaks a conspicuous glance at Baz, who is determinedly looking at his hands.

 

He’s silent for the rest of dinner, and I pick up on his weird mood and suggest we go upstairs before the fireworks are even half over. We quietly slip away holding hands. I squeeze his hand reassuringly, and he squeezes back.

 

As soon as we get back into the room, I engulf him into a tight hug.

 

“It’s okay,” I whisper soothingly, patting his hair.

 

“I can’t believe I forgot the Visitings were this year." His voice cracks at the end of the sentence and it makes my heart twist. I pull back and search his face, and his eyes have unshed tears in them.

 

“What is it, love?” I ask softly.

 

He’s quiet for a long time, not meeting my eyes. “Will she come for me now that I’m dead?”

 

My heart sinks, and I feel myself start to cry as well. We’ve had this conversation before, in dark late hours in whispered tones. I know he’s afraid that being a vampire means he’s not alive.

 

He couldn’t be more wrong.

 

“You’re not dead, Baz,” I say, not for the first time. I’ll say it until he believes it, even if it takes all night or a hundred years.

 

“I go to her grave in the catacombs and talk to her. Do you think she can hear me?” He says, with an edge of shame in his voice.

 

“I don’t know. But if she can listen, she would,” I say with conviction.

 

“What if she doesn’t come?” He finally looks me in the eyes, and he doesn’t bother to hide his fear.

 

I can’t promise him she will, because if he hopes too much and I’m wrong, it will destroy him. My lips are no good with words, but at least they’re good for something else. I kiss him gently, until our tears mix and fall onto our lips, making the kiss salty and sentimental.

 

When we pull apart, he whispers “thank you.” I take him to bed and stroke his dark hair until he falls asleep. It’s fitful and he’s frowning, but his breathing finally slows in time with the rise and fall of his chest. Only then do I allow myself to close my eyes.

 


 

Baz

 

I hear my mother's honeyed voice in my dreams. “Basilton.” I’m happy my subconscious has preserved the exact way she said my name—with an abundance of tenderness and warmth. I can’t imagine she’d have that kind of adoration for the adult version of me, so I cling to it. “Basilton.” The voice is more insistent, now, more real. I think the dream is getting more clear, except I’m waking now, and I don’t want to. I want to stay here. “Little puff,” her voice calls one last time, demanding, and I wake with a jolt.

 

I look up and see a woman standing at the edge of our bed. Long dark hair, sharp cheekbones, bronzed clear skin.

 

“Mum?” I say, amazed.

 

She smiles. “Basilton.”

 

I jump up out of bed, startling Simon, awake. “Darling…?” he mumbles, sleepily. I feel him startle when he notices my mother standing in our bedroom. He moves to stand, but then stops himself—probably because he’s only in his boxers.

 

My mother spares Simon a quick glance, before looking at me. I get a jolt of anxiety for a moment that she’ll disapprove of him. I’ve been so agonized about the vampire thing that I haven’t properly worried about the gay thing.

 

The intensity in her eyes is staggering. “Basilton, I don’t have much time, so listen to me right now.” She moves forward and grabs my hand. “I love you. I will always love you. You are the best thing I ever did, and I love you just the way you are.”

 

I let out a sob. I’ve never let myself imagine these words from her, and until now, I haven’t known the depth of this wish. That my mother would accept me. My knees buckle, but I stay upright.

 

She looks at Simon again, and demands, “Take care of him.”

 

Simon nods furtively and juts his chin out. “Always,” he promises.

 

My mother is starting to fade, now, and I can tell she feels it because her eyes widen. “Basilton,” she says, like she’s trying to give me as many memories as possible of her saying my name, like she knows how much I need it. “I will see you again. I’ll meet you in the afterlife. I promise. Don’t worry, little puff.” She kisses me on the forehead, and she’s just as cold as I am. Her lips linger until she fades into the night.

 

I don’t start crying in earnest until she’s gone. Simon pulls me into his chest and lets me break down against him for a long time. Once I’m out of tears, I look at him. “She still loves me,” I murmur in astonishment.

 

“Of course she does, you twat,” Simon says lovingly. “You’re impossible not to love.”

 

A fresh wave of tears gather in my throat as the weight of Simon’s love hits me, but I swallow it back.

 

“I love you so much. You are the center of my world,” I admit quietly. He kisses me deeply, affectionately, as his response. 

 

When he pulls back, he says, “sleep,” so I do.

 


 

Simon

 

“My rosebud boy. Simon, Simon.” A woman’s voice calls out, and I awake to see a blonde woman standing over me, crying. She’s clearly a ghost, one that's not half as solid as Baz’s mum. “Simon Snow, my boy.”

 

Baz is looking at her too, though I didn’t hear him wake. He’s wide-eyed and gaping. I’ve never seen this woman before, but her eyes… they’re my eyes.

 

“Mum?” I ask, the name sounding foreign on my lips.

 

“Yes,” she confirms, with a tearful smile. “My Simon, Simon, I never would have left you.”

 

I reach out to touch her, but she’s already gone. I stare at the spot she was just a moment ago, wonderstruck.

 

“Simon,” Baz says, delicately. I think he thinks I’m going to cry, but I don’t think I have it in me. I just saw my mother for the first time, and there’s an awful joy to that.

 

“I’m okay,” I say. “She wanted me.”

 

“Yes,” He says, very carefully. Clearly waiting for the water works.

 

But they're not coming. I look at him, and just say, “let’s go back to bed.”

 

He nods, and lets me be the little spoon even though I know it’s secretly his favorite position. I smile in the darkness, calmed by the love I can feel in this bedroom, in the only place that’s ever been home. Now I know it’s not the four walls that made it that, but the boy with his arms around me.

 

I close my eyes, and nothing else—not nightmares, ghosts, or even dreams—interrupts my peaceful rest.

 

All is well.