One thing about Samirah Al-Abbas was that she possessed the enviable ability to maintain her calm even in the most stressful of situations. Whenever a crisis arose, Magnus would always be on the verge of hollering and yanking all his hair out, while in contrast, she was always there as a stern reminder to get his shit together- an unflappable presence, exuding calm and composure. This had been the norm, even back in first grade, when Magnus had thrown a tantrum on the first day and had received quite an unpleasant shock when, fed-up, the girl seated next to him had promptly smacked him on the head, stunning him into an affronted silence. Needless to say, that had been the start of their inseparable, if not exactly cordial, friendship.
The other thing about Sam was that once you got to know her, you would not be spared from her brutal honesty. She was frank and straightforward, speaking her mind with complete transparency. If you weren't that close to her, you might have thought it a somewhat vile habit, but it wasn't that she did it out of spite- it was just another aspect of her character. That said, it was this trait that made her such a valuable voice of reason in times of crisis; she was the go-to adviser, the one Magnus knew he could always rely on to have a solid, candid viewpoint.
It was for this exact reason that Magnus, out of sheer desperation and at the end of his wits, finally abandoned his dignity and stripped bare his dilemma before her. He had braced himself for the severe bruising his pride would have to endure, but when the time came, it still stung a considerable amount when Sam rolled off her chair howling and gasping with laughter, causing his ears to burn bright pink with embarrassment.
Scowling ferociously, his ego bruised, Magnus waited until she had regained enough of her composure for her to sit up in her chair, wiping at her eyes, shoulders still shaking in mirth. "It's not funny," he complained. Even to his own ears, his voice sounded lame and petulant, carrying a faint but perceptible undertone of desperation. It was pathetic, but he forged ahead. There wasn't much left to salvage of his pride anyway. "I came to ask for help, not to get laughed at. If I had wanted to get laughed at, I would've gone to Blitz." The very idea of Blitz finding out terrified him; he could already hear him crowing obnoxiously. "Magnus has a crush!" Shuddering, he pushed the image away into the dark recesses of his mind. He had more important matters to worry about.
Sam straightened up, looking contrite, though amusement still danced in her eyes. She cleared her throat. "Took you long enough to realize," she remarked. Magnus's head whipped around involuntarily to stare her in the eye. She met his shocked gaze with an irritatingly serene, patronizing expression. "I can't believe you were the last person to realize that you were absolutely infatuated with Alex Fierro. In fact," her lips twitched upwards in a faint smile, "if you had waited a day longer, I would have lost the bet to Hearth."
This revelation sent Magnus reeling. He took a moment to process. Sam had known all along. So had Hearth. But then- no. Surely not. That would mean-
"Does Blitz know?" he blurted.
Sam raised an eyebrow at his faintly panicked tone, but nodded. "Of course he does. As a matter of fact, everyone at our lunch table knows- Mallory, TJ, Halfborn. The only reason nobody said anything was because it was so much fun watching you make heart eyes at Alex without even knowing what you were doing."
Magnus was fairly certain that his mouth was hanging open. Sam took pity on him. "We didn't tell anyone else," she assured him. "We wouldn't disrespect your privacy like that." She seemed genuine enough, so Magnus nodded gratefully at her, hoping that simple gesture could convey the extent of his appreciation.
Sam's mouth quirked up into a grin. Magnus knew what was coming before she even opened her mouth to speak. "But enough of that. You must really have a death wish if you're seriously considering asking Alex to be your prom date." Magnus groaned, letting his head thump heavily against the desk. He ignored Samirah's derisive snort of laughter, choosing instead to wallow in his despair. Out of all the people in school, he just had to fall for the most detached, cynical, sardonic person. It just had to be Alex Fierro. "I know that," he said, his voice muffled by the wooden desk. "I don't know what I was thinking. It's just that TJ asked me the other day about who I was going with, and I couldn't answer, and when he asked who I wanted to go with, the answer just popped out in my head: Alex Fierro." It had come as a shock to him; Alex's name had seemed the natural answer to TJ's question. He had spent days afterwards puzzling over it, until it finally hit him the day before that he was harboring a massive crush on Alex. They only ever talked during biology (they were lab partners) and Calculus (they shared a desk). Nevertheless, when his feelings didn't magically evaporate after 24 hours, he had panicked and told Sam to meet him at the usual rendezvous point: the falafel place owned by Amir's family. (He had made it a point to stress that under no circumstances should she bring Hearth or Blitz along).
Sam hummed thoughtfully. Raising his head off the desk, Magnus turned towards her. Her eyebrows were furrowed in contemplation. "So what's the problem then?" she asked. "If you're willing to take the risk, then go on. Ask her and see what she says."
"I can't." Even the idea of going up to her after Calculus and casually popping the question made him shudder in fear. He would undoubtedly end up stuttering and stammering and making a complete fool out of himself (more so than usual, anyway). "I want to, but I can't. I can't- oh, God. This was such a bad idea. Why-"
"Write her a note." Sam interrupted, cutting him off mid-sentence. Magnus involuntarily shut up. "Write a note and slip it into her locker." Magnus opened his mouth, then closed it again. He blinked.
"Oh, my gods." Samirah shot him an incredulous gaze, scoffing in disbelief. "Don't tell me you didn't think of that." Magnus flushed and looked away, cheeks burning. For the second time that day, Sam doubled over, choking on her laughter. "No wonder you couldn't even figure out that you liked Alex! You honestly didn't even consider-"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Laugh all you want." He was fairly used to it, so he didn't take it personally.
"Sorry." Sam didn't sound sorry in the slightest. "So there you go. Problem solved. Write a note. Anything else you want to ask?" She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Yes, actually. What on earth does Amir see in you?"
"Very funny, Chase."
"Kidding. He's lucky to have you." Magnus faced Sam, hoping she could see how grateful he was that she had actually taken the time to come down and listen to his problems, even if a sizable chunk of it consisted of her laughing at him. "Thanks, Sam. I owe you one."
"Anytime." Sam stood up, readjusting her trademark green hijab. "I gotta go. I have to tutor a bunch of fifth graders in an hour from now." She pushed in her chair as Magnus got up. "See you tomorrow?"
"Sure." Magnus waited until she had left, waving until she was out of sight, then set off for home, already putting his plan into motion. Tomorrow morning, before lessons began, he would write a note and slip it into Alex's locker.
From there, he would just have to see how things went.
Early the next morning, Magnus arrived at the rendezvous point outside Fadlan's Falafel 15 minutes before the due time. The restaurant was still closed, blinds rolled down over the windows, lights turned off inside. Pulling out a chair from the row of tables lined outside the restaurant, he dumped his bag onto the table and dropped into the seat. He was grateful for the peace and quiet. Once in a while, it was refreshing to be alone with his thoughts. He took the time to revise his plan until he had exploited every single flaw he could possibly think of, then settled down to wait for his friends to arrive.
It wasn't long before he heard the telltale scraping of boots against the pavement. Magnus lifted his head just in time to see Blitzen and Hearthstone rounding the corner. Blitz was dressed in a long coat over a button-up shirt, paired with a pair of clacks and topped off by a shiny pair of boots that Magnus had never seen before. The resulting outfit was one that was really better suited to a fancy-dress party rather than first-period Calculus. Next to him strode Hearth, whose simple and predictable fashion sense contrasted starkly with Blitz's fashionista ways. His trademark candy-cane striped scarf was draped over a black leather jacket and jeans. After three years of dating Blitz, you would've thought he might have picked up a fashion tip or two, but that was evidently not the case. Catching sight of Magnus, Blitz elbowed Hearth in the side. The two of them ran up to Magnus's table, Hearthstone looking mildly affronted at having been jabbed in the side by Blitz's elbow.
As soon as they arrived in front of the table, Blitz dropped himself into the seat. "Hey," he said by way of greeting. Beside him, Hearth took a seat with a little more finesse than his boyfriend. Hello, he signed. Sam not here yet?
"Nope." Magnus weighed the pros and cons of telling them about the whole Alex fiasco, then immediately felt guilty for even having to consider it. Sure, Blitz and Hearth might tease him about it, but they were two of his best friends, and they deserved to know just as much as Sam did.
"Guys," he began, already bracing himself for their reactions. Both of them turned to look at him, but before he could get another word out, Sam appeared out of nowhere, strolling up to them casually. "There you are." She stopped in front of their table. "Ready?" She said the word casually, but Magnus heard the underlying question she was asking him. Ready to put your plan into motion? NO, he wanted to yell, but settled for a nearly imperceptible nod of his head. He stood, grabbing his bag off the table.
"Yeah," he said, pretending not to see the curious glances Hearth and Blitz were shooting him. "Lets go." Directing his attention towards Blitzen and Hearthstone, he mouthed the word later. Looking concerned, Blitz opened his mouth, perhaps to protest, but Magnus grabbed him by the arm and led him off down the sidewalk, distracting him with talk of the upcoming biology test, prompting him to launch into an animated discussion about homeostasis as Hearth trailed behind with Samirah, shaking his head fondly at their antics. Just like that, the issue was forgotten.
As they walked, Magnus told himself firmly that he had it all covered and planned out. Despite the niggling feeling that he was digging his own grave, despite the sensation that he was missing an obvious flaw in his plan- he tried in vain to convince himself that nothing could go wrong.
He had always been a terrible liar.
As soon as they got to school, Magnus and Sam went their separate ways from Hearth and Blitz (the latter two were in a grade above them; they had all become friends because Magnus, Blitz and Hearth lived in the same neighbourhood). Once they were out of sight, Magnus dragged Sam off to the lockers. The hallway was vacant except for a bunch of seventh-graders sitting cross-legged on the floor and chewing gum. Sam and Magnus strode purposefully down the corridor until they came to a halt in front of Alex Fierro's locker.
Sam immediately went into business mode, turning to Magnus with a look of deliberate look of solemnity on her face. "Have you got it?"
Magnus nodded. From his jacket pocket, he produced a folded slip of paper. The reality of what he was about to do now felt substantial and overwhelming. Tendrils of doubt and uncertainty were already beginning to take root in his mind. If Alex rejected him, if she laughed at him or was disgusted by him, he had no idea how he was ever going to face her again. The thought of trying to focus on Calculus with her seated next to him was torture. He wondered why he was even doing this in the first place. Why would Alex Fierro- smart, beautiful (or handsome, on occasion), facetious, confident Alex- want anything to do with him? He was only Magnus Chase. Goofy, dorky, dumb old Magnus Chase. Nothing special.
His face must have betrayed his inner turmoil, because Samirah's face softened. He could tell that she understood his dilemma, even without his having to explain it. "Magnus," she started, and her tone was so unexpectedly stern that his eyebrows shot up involuntarily. "You're gonna tease me for this later, but let me just say that you are an awesome guy-" Magnus flushed and opened his mouth to cut her off, even if he didn't know what to say, but Sam held up a hand. "You are. You might be a bit of a doofus sometimes, but you're kind, and funny, and sweet, and you may not see it, but I do. Don't you ever doubt the truth of what I just said. And if Alex happens to see it, then that's wonderful- and if not, then that's just too bad, but whatever happens, I'm here for you."
Crouching next to her in the shadows of the dim hallway, Magnus felt a wave of gratitude and appreciation overwhelm him. He remembered when, years ago, she had confided in him her feelings for Amir Fadlan and he had told her pretty much the same thing she was telling him now. Granted, it had been worded a bit less eloquently ("Dude, you're awesome. Amir knows that. And anyway, if he laughs at you or hurts you or stuff, I'll help you beat him up,"), but the meaning was the same. They were best friends, and whatever happened next, that was something that would not change. To his embarrassment, he found himself blinking back tears. He sniffed quietly, trying to hide it, but Sam heard him anyway. "Are you crying?" she asked incredulously. "Man, I knew you were a down-to-earth guy, but hasn't anyone ever told you-"
"Shut up, Sam." Magnus wiped at his eyes furiously. Samirah laughed at him, the sound as familiar to him as his favourite tune, and just like that, the moment was gone, preserved forever in memory. They shifted their attention back to the mission at hand, switching into Business Mode.
"Okay." Sam sounded confident and sure of herself. Magnus hoped she wasn't faking it for his benefit. "Slip the note through here." She indicated the vents in the door of the locker. Now that the whole friendship-speech-pep talk moment was over, Magnus felt his previous anxiety returning, thrumming through every bone in his body. Heart pounding an erratic rhythm in his chest, Magnus took the note in shaking fingers. Raising his hand to the vents in the metal, he took a deep breath, confirming that yes, it was indeed the right locker, before pushing the paper through. As soon as it slipped from his fingertips and into the darkness of the locker, he felt a great weight lifted off his shoulders, and fought the urge to sigh out loud. It was done. It was over. There was still Alex's reaction to look forward to (or, rather, dread), but at least half of it was over. Magnus wanted to scream and dance in joy and relief, but he doubted that that would sit very well with the handful of students lounging around the hallway.
"It's over," he said, his voice full of awe, and he must have looked ridiculously and tremendously relieved, because Sam snorted. Her amusement prompted Magnus to respond with his own peal of laughter, until the both of them were rolling around on the floor, snorting with laughter and gasping for breath. In hindsight, it seemed ridiculous that such a small piece of paper had caused him so much worry and stress. It was absolutely ludicrous. The other students were unamused, giving them the stinkeye, but, caught up in gleeful joy, Magnus found that he couldn't care less.
The rest of the day seemed to crawl by slowly. Magnus felt restless, adrenaline humming through his veins. Over the course of the day, he kept sneaking looks at Alex, who sat across the classroom, but she gave no indication that she had received his note. Anticipation and anxiety swirled together within him, building up until he thought he might just burst. He had no idea if or when Alex had seen his note. The thought terrified him more than he cared to admit.
The blow struck during recess time, when Magnus turned a corner, only to find Alex leaning against the wall outside the classroom. Immediately, his attention was drawn to the slip of paper she grasped in her hands- it was, without a doubt, the note he had slipped into her locker. She was gazing at it intensely, her expression unreadable. Fortunately, she was much too engrossed to have noticed Magnus. Heart pounding, he dove back behind the corner where he had come from, ignoring the strange looks he received, and raced off to look for Sam.
“That’s good,” Sam said once he relayed this incident to her. “That means Phase 1 was a success. Now all we have to do is wait.” I’ve been waiting all day, Magnus thought impatiently, but he held his tongue.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of waiting, Calculus period arrived. Sam got up from her usual place to go sit next to Mallory Keen, but before she left, she locked eyes with Magnus and mouthed, Good luck. Magnus, not trusting himself to speak, gulped and nodded, eyes already scanning the room for a flash of familiar green hair. This was it. The big moment. Any minute now, Alex Fierro would take the seat next to him and either strangle him, threaten him, or mock him. This thought sparked an unbearable flare of panic within him, which grew rapidly until it threatened to overwhelm him. He felt like his intestines were writhing viciously in his gut. He wanted to throw up. His palms were sweating like crazy; his hands trembling. He was going insane- he could sense it- he was already feeling rather lightheaded. Seized with panic, Magnus twisted in his seat to look for Sam’s reassuring gaze and instead found himself eye to eye with a familiar checkered green and pink sweater. Alex Fierro had arrived, and was presently gazing at him with a raised eyebrow.
For a moment, Magnus couldn’t breathe. His heart was beating so loudly he thought everyone had to be able to hear it. His mind was engulfed with nerves and trepidation. Alex stayed silent and motionless, eyebrow still arched. It was a very nice-looking eyebrow, Magnus thought, and then mentally kicked himself. He mustered up enough courage to squeak out a “Hi.” Alex looked askance at him, but nodded and pulled out her chair.
Magnus found himself holding his breath in anticipation as she took her seat. So far, she had yet to strangle him, choosing instead to sit silently at the desk. That was a good sign- or was it? He furrowed his brows in confusion. Why wasn’t she saying anything? Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of movement that might have been Samirah craning her head to catch a glimpse. Something was wrong. Magnus shot Alex another surreptitious look, and that was when he saw what he had missed the first time.
There was an air of puzzled bewilderment surrounding Alex, as if she had seen something she couldn’t make head or tail of. Her eyes held a hint of storminess, her mouth pursed subtly in a frown. Magnus was suddenly and irrationally concerned. He had expected violence and irritation from Alex, maybe even acceptance or sympathy if he was lucky, but definitely not silent bemusement. But why on earth would she be so confused?
The answer hit Magnus like a freight train, sending him reeling in his seat. He hadn’t signed his name on that note! He was so, so, so stupid! Magnus fought the urge to scream and throw a tantrum right then and there. Of course Alex was confused. He would be too, if some random anonymous note inviting him to prom had suddenly turned up in his locker out of the blue. She was probably wondering if it was a prank. No, thought Magnus, feeling defeat settle into his bones. It was not a prank.
Disappointment and bitter anger welled up within him- anger at himself for being so goddamn careless. Who the fuck wrote a note and then forgot to sign it? Only Magnus- stupid, dumb Magnus Chase. He slumped down in his chair, feeling Sam’s eyes boring into the back of his head. Next to him, Alex eyed him with concern, but, consumed by despair, he couldn’t even be bothered to return her gaze. He had gotten this one perfectly good chance, and he had blown it spectacularly. For the rest of the period, he fixed his eyes on the board, ignoring Sam’s and Alex’s concerned looks.
For the second time that day, he found himself blinking back hot tears.
Alex Fierro could remember with vivid clarity the day she met Magnus Chase.
That had been the same day that she began her education at Valhalla High School in Boston, Massachusetts. She hadn't even wanted to move there- it had been because of her dad's job, and, unsurprisingly, she hadn't gotten a say in the matter. Nevertheless, they had packed up and moved to Boston, where Alex began her new life. Sadly, this also meant that she had had to change schools in the middle of tenth grade. The only good thing about this was that she was leaving behind all the bullies who had laughed at her, ridiculed her and mocked her for her genderfluidity. Alex had vowed never to let anyone shame her again, and she had been true to her word.
From the moment she stepped through the entrance of her new school, she carried an air of confident self-assurance around her, striding purposefully down the corridor, eyes fixed unwaveringly ahead of her. She wore an expression of casual indifference, throwing all traces of self-consciousness to the wind, flaunting her trademark green and pink ensemble with newfound pride and smirking internally as students stopped in their tracks to stare at her in astonishment. In her previous school, she had shrunk away from their piercing, judging gazes, but here she relished in the attention, marching down the hallway as if she owned the place. It wasn't easy- of course not, not after so many years of hiding away in corners, trying not to be seen by anyone. She was fed up with that kind of lifestyle; anyone who didn't accept her could go fuck themselves.
From now on, Alex Fierro would live only for Alex Fierro, and for nobody else. Nothing had any sway over her- she did not care for anyone or anything. That was her motto. She did a pretty good job of upholding it, too- at least, until five seconds later, when a blur of blond and blue had come careening around a corner, crashing abruptly into her and sending them both to the ground in a tangle of limbs. This blond-blue blur, she later came to learn, was better known as Magnus Chase.
Disoriented and dazed, Alex tried to blink the spots out of her eyes. Her shoulder smarted where it had hit the ground. Her arms were trapped underneath something warm and heavy and soft, and something was obscuring her vision, making her go nearly cross-eyed, before she realized with a start that she was staring at an up-close view of a face. This revelation was enough to shock her back to her senses; she yanked her arm out from underneath the other person, ignoring the slight pain as she did so, and moved her face backwards to get a closer view at the stranger.
Right off the bat, she knew she was going to end up forsaking her motto.
The other person happened to be a boy- a very cute one, too. Long locks of wavy light hair framed a clear, smooth-skinned face. His eyes were grey like stormclouds, gazing intensely at her through thick, long lashes. He wasn't the first pretty-faced boy she had run into, but there was something highly endearing about him as a person that made Alex feel inexplicably drawn to him. A flush was already creeping up his neck, warming his ears so that they burned bright pink. He looked embarrassed, but scrambled quickly to his feet and thrust his hand out towards Alex. She took it, ignoring the jolt of electricity racing up her spine at the contact.
Shaken and thrown off her course, Alex opened her mouth to say something, anything, but the boy beat her to it. "I'm really sorry," he apologised, already taking a step back. "Are you okay? Oh, Gods. I should have watched where I was going, I know-"
Alex cut him off sharply. "It's fine. I'm fine." To her credit, her voice sounded steady and composed. "No need to worry." Relieved, the boy nodded gratefully, then took a hesitant step back, as if asking for permission to be dismissed. Alex raised an eyebrow at him; he hastily turned on his heel and scurried off. Alex saw him waving enthusiastically at a girl in a green hijab, who rolled her eyes but did nothing to conceal the smile playing at her lips. She turned away sourly, feeling embarrassment and anger starting to boil inside her gut. Never had she felt so flustered by a boy before. Nor had she ever thought of a boy as cute. Schooling her features into an unreadable mask, she started down the corridor, but her thoughts were a frenzy of confusion and irritation. Who did this boy think he was, to confound her so thoroughly?
As she walked, she continued to puzzle over him for another minute or so, then pushed him firmly to the back of her mind, locking the memory up in a chest, along with the unfamiliar, strange feelings that had begun to take root in her heart. She refused to acknowledge what they were- attraction, infatuation, butterflies in her stomach- and instead mentally reinforced her motto, chanting it in her mind over and over again until all traces of Magnus Chase were gone from her mind.
Indeed, that was not the last encounter she had with Magnus Chase. They happened to be in the same class; albeit seated a good distance away from each other. They were assigned seats next to each other during Calculus (she couldn't ignore the flip of her heart at this turn of events). They ended up being lab partners during Biology. Over the course of their school year, they slowly formed a tentative acquaintance between them. Alex told herself that this was perfectly fine. Magnus was, after all, a pleasant enough fellow- his friendship was something to be valued.
Deep down, she was far too smart to be fooled by her own arrogant pretense, but she was content with trying.
The truth, however- the brutal, honest truth was this: she couldn't ignore the butterflies in her stomach when he looked at her with his piercing grey gaze, nor how her heart soared when he laughed, eyes shining, nose wrinkling, mouth stretched to show his ever-so-slightly crooked teeth. She couldn't ignore how he made her feel things she had never, ever felt before. She couldn't ignore the fact that she was falling, day by day, deeper and deeper, into a hole that she wasn't sure she wanted to escape from, and how this thought terrified her more than she cared to admit.
She also couldn't hide the fact that she absolutely did not deserve someone like Magnus Chase- Magnus, with his sunny disposition, exuding an aura of warm summer sunlight. Magnus, with his bright smiles and joyous laughter. Magnus, who was beautiful and sweet and caring and everything she, Alex Fierro, damaged and broken and calamitous, was not.
And so she hid her emotions behind a sturdy wall; a façade of cool apathy. She remained closed off to everyone around her, allowing herself to indulge in the occasional conversation, chatting with her friends every once in a while, but never mentioning Magnus to anyone. As far as she was concerned, she would take the secret to the grave if she had to- not out of shame or fear, but for the simple fact that, no matter how hard she tried, no matter how hard she wished otherwise, she did. not. deserve. Magnus. Chase.
And no matter how many times she told herself that, she doubted the words would ever stop stinging.
omg i'm so sorry i have been putting this chapter off for forever but i'm still alive sjsjsjs
a big thank you to everyone who read, left kudos, and especially those who commented - you guys are the reason i crank out these chapters.
also its late rn so the chapter might seem a bit wonky in terms of writing style or storyline becus i'm sleepy as fuck but i'll try to smoothen it out in the morning
Ever since the incident, Magnus could tell that his friends were growing increasingly worried for him.
He had tried his best not to show how much his failure had really crushed him- how it had made him feel not only stupid and foolish, but clumsy and all the more undeserving of Alex Fierro's attention. After all, why would she want to associate herself with such an idiotic person? Perhaps it was for the best that his plan hadn't worked out; it had saved him the trouble and humiliation of being publicly rejected by Alex.
Sometimes, he wondered if he was overreacting.
Still, he couldn't help but feel down for a few days, although he tried his best to keep this from showing in his expression and actions. From the looks of it, though, he guessed that this hadn't fooled his friends in the slightest. Everyday, he would pretend not to see the furtive looks they cast each other behind his back, or the way that they gazed at him with frowns etched on their faces when they thought he wasn't looking. Magnus wasn't exactly sure about the extent of Hearth and Blitz's knowledge on what exactly had happened to throw him into such a downcast mood, but all the same he appreciated the fact although they were concerned for him, they respected the fact that he absolutely did not wish to talk about what had happened. Once he opened the door and started talking, he was too afraid that he might not be able to stop and end up just bursting into tears, therefore embarrassing himself tremendously. Because of this, he had deemed it best to wait until his inner whirlwind of emotions died down to a calmer state.
Magnus was also fully aware that it wasn't fair for him to keep Blitz and Hearth in the dark, not to mention allow them to keep worrying about him. Sam, bless her soul, had kept the incident secret from them in an attempt to respect Magnus's privacy, but sooner or later he would have to open up about what had happened. He made a silent promise to himself- as soon as he felt that he could talk about it without subsequently breaking out in sobs or otherwise embarrassing the shit out of himself, he would sit them down and tell them everything that had happened. Whether they laughed at him or not, it would take a great burden off his shoulders to know that he wasn't keeping anything secret from them.
All these thoughts went through his head as he trudged down the sidewalk, heading for Fadlan's Falafel. To his surprise, he saw as he rounded the corner that Sam was already there, sitting at one of the empty tables and reading her book. She raised a hand in greeting as Magnus approached, and he nodded at her before dropping into the seat across hers. Today, he was feeling rather upbeat and positive; this came as a pleasant surprise to him, to not have a huge black cloud constantly hanging over him. Perhaps this was a good omen that this day would be the day he stopped moping about what had happened.
His thought process must have shown on his face, because Sam took one look at him and raised her eyebrows, turning in her seat to fully face him and setting her book down gently on the table. "You look particularly cheerful today," she remarked. Beneath her words, however, Magnus detected the underlying question: Have you finally gotten over what happened with Alex?
Magnus hesitated for a second, lowering his gaze, before finally he cracked a small smile, raising his eyes to meet Sam's steady gaze. "Yeah," he said, and was surprised to hear that his voice was firm. "I feel a bit better today, actually. Besides," he added, "I can't forever be moping around, now, can I?"
Sam smiled softly at his words. "I'm glad to hear that," she said. "Will you be telling Hearth and Blitz, then? I know they've been worried sick about you."
Magnus nodded. "I'll tell them," he affirmed, then, jokingly, "Although it makes me shudder to think of admitting to Blitz that he was right about my crush." Sam chuckled and opened her mouth to respond, but at that moment Blitz and Hearth showed up, making their way towards Magnus and Samirah. Shrugging at Magnus, Sam begin to get up from her seat, grabbing her book from the table. Magnus followed suit, relishing in the fact that he no longer felt so burdened down by the weight of insecurity and memory of failure. Of course, he still felt bad about what had happened - you didn't just get over someone in the span of one day - but for the first time he could see some light in his situation. He relished in the way that Blitz's and Hearth's eyebrows shot up involuntarily when he greeted them with a sincere, cheery grin. Ignoring their questioning looks, Magnus led them off, heading for school.
Once they arrived, Magnus was about to make a beeline for his locker, but before he could even think about moving, Blitz's figure loomed up before him, flanked by Hearthstone, the both of them working together to block him off. This did not come as a surprise to him. Magnus had been expecting them to corner him and begin their interrogation from the moment he caught them exchanging furtive glances on the way to school; it had been a dead giveaway that they were plotting something. Given the recent circumstances, it was no struggle to connect the dots and come to the conclusion that they were officially done being in the dark about what was really going on. And to be fair, Magnus supposed he couldn't blame them. He owed them a long-due explanation.
Blitz and Hearth both looked uncharacteristically solemn. Blitz was the first to speak up. "Kid," he started in a gruff tone; Magnus was surprised to hear Blitz address him this way for the first time in years since he was little. "Look, I know something's going on with you. Problem is, I don't know exactly what it is. Now, Hearth and I have been worried sick here. Whatever's going on, I just want you to know that you aren't alone here. Hearth and I want to help. Let us help."
Beside him, Hearth nodded vigorously. You told Samirah, he signed. Magnus started guiltily, but Hearth's expression didn't hold any bitterness or resentment. You can tell us too.
Magnus swallowed, nodded slightly, touched by the concern that they had for him. "Yeah, I know," he said softly. "I appreciate it, guys." Blitz opened his mouth as if to say something, then apparently decided against it. He remained silent as Magnus continued, "Actually... I was planning to tell you guys today. I just wasn't ready to talk about this to anyone yet, but now I think I'm ready. I mean, sooner or later, I'll have to face it, right?" Hearth nodded again, encouraging him to go on. If the situation had been different, perhaps Magnus would have found amusement in the fact that they resembled a scenario in which Magnus was the moody teenager having a talk with his parents about hormones and first loves. As it was, he didn't feel much like joking around, so he went straight to business. Bit by bit, the story came out. Samirah interrupted occasionally to fill in details that Magnus failed to include. Eventually, he found himself pouring out his emotions - how frustrated and insecure he had felt at the end. "So that's about it," he ended, watching his friend's faces - a mixture of understanding and sympathy. Blitz reached out to place a hand on his shoulder; his grip was firm, warm and comforting. Magnus found himself leaning into the touch. "You'll get over it," he said. "You'll be fine. Don't let it get to you." Magnus nodded in agreement. Already he felt much lighter and freer after sharing some of his burden; in fact, it seemed almost silly how much it had affected him. Of course, he still felt slightly down and disheartened, but it was significantly less profound than it had been before.
Emotions swelled up within him, affection and appreciation for his friends. Gratefully, he launched himself at Blitz and Hearth in a giant bear hug, relishing in the surprised oof that Blitz let out. "Thanks, guys," he managed to get out past the lump in his throat, voice muffled by the Blitzen's woollen sweater. He felt Hearth squeeze him in reply. the hug lasted for a few more fleeting moments before Blitz drew back, letting out a short bark of laughter, but he was clearly affected, despite how he tried to mask it. He tried to cover up for his moment of weakness by putting on a facade. "Enough of all this mushy huggy crap," he said. "Time to get to class." He gave Magnus one last fond cuff on the shoulder before dragging Hearth off down the corridor with a spring in his step.
Samirah gazed after them, her expression the same infuriating serene mask, but her eyes were sparkling when she glanced at Magnus. "That went surprisingly well," she remarked. "I wasn't expecting you to actually tell them. Granted, they did corner you first before you started speaking, but you eventually managed to tell them." Magnus shrugged and grinned in reply. He didn't have the heart to feel insulted by the fact that Sam didn't think he had had the guts to fess up to his friends about his problem. "In any case, well done," said Sam, not condescendingly. "We might want to start making our way to class, though," she added dryly, and Magnus's eyes immediately went to his wristwatch. "Crap," he blurted, and set off for a brisk walk down the hallway. Behind him, he heard Sam's good-natured scoff as she followed closely behind. Just like that, his day was officially off to a good start. HIs bitterness, his anger, his frustration - all were forgotten, barely a trace left. They weren't completely eradicated, but he was off to a good start. No more beating himself up over Alex Fierro. It was all in the past.
In the back of his mind, however, no matter how hard he tried to convince himself otherwise, he couldn't pretend that his feelings for Alex had disappeared as readily.
i...have no words...this chapter is so late...
all i can say is i'm so sorry for the eternity-long wait
The moment she got through the doorway, Alex whirled, barricading the door with her own body, heart racing and thoughts running wild in her head like a stampede gone out of control. Adrenaline coursed through her veins. She could hear her blood rushing in her ears. Leaning her head back against the doorframe, she took deep, steady breaths, giving herself time to calm down and process what she wasn't quite sure she had just witnessed.
If her senses had been serving her right - and Alex wasn't entirely sure they were reliable - then she had just walked in on Magnus Chase confessing his love for her in a deserted corridor, surrounded by his ragtag group of friends.
God, it sounded ridiculously absurd just thinking of the notion. She resisted the urge to laugh out loud. Magnus Chase, sunshine boy, full of life and love, falling for Alex. Rash, rude, coarse, messed-up Alex. She and Magnus were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Sure, people always said opposites attract, but Alex was a skeptic by nature. It wasn't in her to believe in soulmates or destiny or any sort of bullshit humanity came up in an effort to reassure themselves of their own happiness.
Nothing made sense anymore. This was a situation she never thought she would be in. A snort of derision suddenly bubbled up within her, and she fought to contain it, knowing very well that she was in no position to successfully stifle it should it burst out of her. It would do her reputation no good if someone were to find her stuffed in a broom closet laughing her head off at seemingly nothing. Alex Fierro, finally losing her mind. Over a boy, of all things.
Her amusement quickly petered out, all traces of mirth gone almost as soon as they had appeared. She sat there silently in the dim, dank air of the closet, turning her thoughts over in her mind, replaying the scene she'd witnessed again and again in her head, pulling apart everything she had seen, analyzing the expressions on Hearth's face, on Sam's face, on Blitz's face. On Magnus's face. Magnus Chase liked her. He had been the one who left that note in her locker. He wanted to ask her to go to prom with him (of course she would have said yes, albeit in a nonchalant and I-totally-don't-care way). He liked her. He thought she was worth loving. She thought he was out of his mind.
Crush or no crush, this was a very sticky situation. There was no way Alex could confront Magnus without revealing that she'd been eavesdropping. It might all even have been a misunderstanding. Perhaps there was another Alex Fierro in school. Or maybe she had heard wrongly. Or maybe this was all a prank set up by one of the many people who detested Alex for no apparent reason. Maybe it was Gunilla Thorson. God, she hated that bitch. Always thinking she was better than everyone else.
Either way, she still had ample time to contemplate what to do. Prom was still a couple months away, give or take. For now, she let herself pretend to be a normal teenage girl, giddy with joy over the boy she liked, who apparently, unbelievably liked her back.
Her back against the door, Alex let gravity take hold of her body, sliding down against the door to sit on the ground. She drew her knees up to her chest in the darkness. Blond hair and grey eyes flashed in her mind, eyes crinkled at the corners, lips drawn back in a beautiful grin. His laugh rang in her ears.
For the first time in a long while, Alex smiled. A real, genuine, happy smile, albeit a secret one in the darkness, only for herself and nobody else. She had hope and she had determination. She deserved happiness and she was going to get it, starting with Magnus Chase.
IM NOT DEAD GUYS
ALSO I AM SO SORRY FOR THE LONG ASS WAIT IT HAS LITERALLY BEEN ETERNITY SINCE I UPDATED
As much as he hated to admit it, Magnus had been a fool to pretend that his feelings for Alex would disappear into thin air the moment he told his friends about how badly he'd screwed up his plan.
One thing he had gotten right was to tell them. Silently, he thanked Samirah over and over again for the fact that she had pressed him to share his feelings with the others - otherwise, he would still have been moping around in misery and very likely beating himself up over what had happened. He didn't feel shitty anymore; he accepted the fact that he had made a human, careless mistake, but it wasn't worth hating himself over. Those thick clouds of insecurity and frustration had long evaporated.
His gargantuan crush on Alex, however, had not.
They were approaching the end of the week, and prom was coming up in a month or so, and Magnus was running out of time.
For all his attempts at denial, he had failed to completely give up the fantasy of showing up to prom with a certain gorgeous green-haired individual by his side, flashing her trademark smirk (or him, depending on whichever gender Alex would be on prom day). Magnus would have loved to see everyone else gaping, frowning with obvious disapproval of their match. He would have loved not caring about their opinion. He would have loved sharing that memory with Alex Fierro, knowing that she had said yes. She had cared enough about him agree to his proposal.
(The fact that this all sounded like a marriage-proposal-situation in his head, rather than a prom-proposal one, was not helping him to curb his daydreams in which Alex Fierro said yes to a different, and significantly more life-altering question, which eventually culminated in a white-picket-fence life with a dog and three cats, and perhaps even a goldfish. And maybe a kid. Who knew?)
So yes, he had stopped feeling shitty and terrible over the failed proposal attempt. No, he had not stopped sneaking covert glances at Alex across the Biology lab or during Maths class. But the funny thing was, eight times out of ten, he could have sworn Alex was already gazing at him with her steady eyes, only to look away after a brief moment of eye contact when Magnus happened to dart his eyes in her direction. That moment in which their eyes met never failed to send a shiver down his spine - a shiver that was partly due to nerves and terror. Never before had Alex taken notice of his existence on her own account. What had happened now to change that fact? Perhaps someone had seen Magnus slipping the note into her locker and told her, and now she was mad at him for daring to even think of asking her to prom. Maybe she had noticed the borderline-inappropriate number of times he looked at her during class, and was staring back at him to make him feel uncomfortable. (It was working).
He didn't like the way her eyes lingered on his back long after he blushed and looked pointedly away from her once he was caught. He could feel her eyes boring into the back of his head even as he grabbed his stuff and rushed out of the classroom, hurrying down the hallway to escape her calculating gaze. Samirah had rolled her eyes when he'd complained about it.
("I would've thought you would be elated to know she looks at you," she'd said.
"I am. I would be," grumbled Magnus, shoving things haphazardly into his locker, trying to get everything done and get to class before Alex had a chance to round the corner and see him in the hallway. "I just don't like the way she looks at me as if I've done something very wrong. What if she knows about what we did? Is it really that inappropriate to sneak a note into someone's locker?")
Even now, Magnus could feel that familiar burning sensation on his spine, travelling up to the nape of his neck. She was doing it again. And he hadn't even been looking at her this time! What on earth did she want? In the background, the teacher was still droning on and on. Nothing was making sense. Maybe he should approach Alex after class and face his inevitable death. Anything would be better than this game they were playing between them, in which he wasn't sure whether he was the villain or the victim. Alex, however - she was most definitely the superhero. The one fighting all the creepy stalkers who tried to sneakily ask people to prom with unsigned notes.
Yeah, he really couldn't wait until the bell rang and they were all set free from class. Until he could run away from the frankly-terrifying gaze of Alex Fierro.
He got his wish approximately ten minutes later. It was the last class of the day. No more facing Alex until tomorrow, and then he had a whole weekend to hide from her. Shoving his things into his bag in a frenzy, he swung the strap hastily over his shoulder, pushing in his chair and turning around to stand, only to come face to face with the devil, standing in his way in all her green-and-pink glory, arms crossed in a way that meant business. Alex Fierro herself, blocking his route to escape with a coolly raised eyebrow.
Magnus stood shell shocked for about a minute before his fight-and-flight instinct took over. "Hi," he blurted out. "Um. I'm sorry. I, uh- I have to go-" he gestured lamely- "I mean, Sam's waiting for me?" He cringed inwardly at how feeble his voice sounded. Panic was already starting to control him, reducing him to stammers and stutters as everyone else left the room. Over Alex's shoulder, he met Sam's gaze. Help, he tried to say with his eyes. Talk to her, mouthed Sam, shooting him a look that said you better do it or else, and then she left. She actually left him. Left him standing alone with Alex Fierro in a rapidly emptying classroom. What a traitor, Magnus thought sourly. Leaving him to fight death all by himself.
Alex didn't seem to notice his blustering, or maybe she just didn't care. The way she looked at him was terrifying, as if she was stripping him bare and laying out all his secrets. She definitely knew something about what had happened. But as Magnus looked at her, it seemed to him that there was a small furrow in her brow, a small twist in her mouth that betrayed a hint of human conflicted emotions. Alex Fierro, showing uncertainty- the thought gave him a strange sense of comfort and confidence.
His gaze travelled up to her eyes. She was already looking at him. No surprise there.
This time, he looked back at her as steadily as he could manage. This was new. This feeling of courage and confidence, of not feeling insignificant in her presence, of seeing her as someone capable of vulnerable emotion. This was new, and Magnus was fairly certain it was not an unpleasant change. Whatever it was she wanted with him, he would handle it. No telling what would happen when it came to Alex Fierro. Just go with the flow. If she rejected him, he would handle it. If she yelled at him, he would handle it. If she just wanted to talk, then he would handle it.
Time to face this whole problem. Time to take action. Sam would have laughed at him. Or maybe she would have been proud of him. He wasn't too sure.
Alex was still looking at him, considering. Then she nodded. She grabbed his hand, and an involuntary jolt sparked through his system. If she felt him jerk slightly, she didn't show it. Pulling him out of the classroom, away from the classmates who were still lingering, pretending not to be interested in their conversation and failing miserably. Down the hallway they walked, her touch burning its mark into his palm, spreading up his arm. He was almost certainly red in the face. Magnus was only partially aware of their surroundings, focusing on the feeling of her slender fingers against his, so that he was caught unprepared when she stopped in front of a broom closet. "C'mon," she said impatiently when he stopped to gather his wits, then dragged him in and shut the door behind them.
The situation was becoming slightly scandalous, and he was fairly certain they were breaking a few school rules- a boy and a girl alone in broom closet - but he wasn't about to screw things up by cracking a lame joke or protesting.
There was only a dim light in the closet, casting a shallow light on them from above, so that he could barely see Alex's face, carefully schooled into a netural expression. She still hadn't said anything to give him an inclination of what exactly he'd been dragged into the broom closet for. Taking a seat on the cramped ground space available, she crossed her legs and looked up at him, releasing her grip on his hand. It felt too empty without her warm skin brushing against his. "You can sit down," deadpanned Alex when he stood awkwardly, looking down at her. There was barely any empty space on the floor, but he complied anyway, drawing his knees up to his chest to try and maximise the space between them so she wouldn't feel as though he was trying anything funny. Even so, they were sitting so close that he could see the faint freckles splashed across her nose and the mezmerizing colour of her mismatched eyes.
"What did you want to talk about?" he whispered. The sound came out loud in the enclosed space, and he couldn't help but feel as though the walls were listening in to their conversation. Alex didn't look angry, at least. She was still studying him, chewing thoughtfully on her lip, and Magnus tried not to look at the way her teeth worried at the pink skin of her bottom lip. The silence wasn't as awkward as he'd feared it would be, but it was tense all the same. He could tell something was coming.
"Magnus," Alex said. It was one of the only times she had referred to him by first name instead of just "Chase". He liked the way she said his name, simple and straightforward, but as if it had a deeper, underlying secret meaning to it that only she knew. Magnus swallowed. "Yeah," he said, the word brittle and crackling in his throat. They were making eye contact now, and even in the darkness of the closet, her eyes seemed to shine with a steely glint. "I just-" she huffed, then fell silent. "I just wanted, to, you know-" she was stuttering with uncharacteristic uncertainty, and it was making Magnus anxious, "I just. Wanted to talk about something that I heard a few days ago." Here it comes, thought Magnus, and sure enough, "I heard you talking to Sam, and Blitz and Hearth. About. You know." She was getting frustrated now, her voice coming out strained and tense. "Prom? Did you really- were you really the one who wrote that note? The one in my locker?"
Magnus didn't bother trying to deny it. "Yeah," he said, and he was gratified to hear that his voice was steady, if not slightly apologetic. "Sorry about that. I mean, I know it was stupid. It was a stupid thing to do. Maybe it was even creepy, I don't know. I didn't even know if you were planning on going to prom."
"I wasn't," she said, and Magnus nodded, disappointment burning in his throat. "But I would have," she continued, "if I'd known you were going to ask."
Magnus's eyebrows shot up involuntarily. It wasn't like Alex to be so unabashedly straightforward. And then the implications of her declaration hit him like a bullet train. What did she mean, she would have if she'd known he wanted to go with her? Was that supposed to be a joke? Was it sarcasm? What was going on?
Before he could think to open his mouth again, she was already speaking. "Why did you do it?" she asked. There wasn't anything accusatory or mocking in her tone. She just seemed genuinely curious, like she just wanted to know and wasn't going to judge him for it. This was a whole side of Alex that Magnus had never ever seen before. It was nothing like her sarcastic, snarky self, but at the same time it was so uniquely her that it gave him butterflies all the same.
"Because," he said, comtemplating lying, but dismissing the idea. It was no point trying to lie to her when she was giving him that look that said that she saw right through him. "Because I like you. I kind of have a massive crush on you, only I thought you knew," and he was blabbering on again, like he always did, but she was listening intently, and he couldn't stop talking, "because of how many times you caught me staring at you. I mean, I do it all the time. I know it's creepy and, like, inappropriate," Alex raised an eyebrow, and her eyes were still glinting with some hidden message, "but I really do like you, because you're funny and sarcastic but you're also really smart and surprisingly kind and, also, kind of, like, beautiful." The number of times he had ever cringed inwardly during his lifetime was at its peak today. "So I thought maybe it was a good idea to ask you to prom, because I really wanted to go with you, even if you'd never really noticed me before, but I didn't dare do it in person. And then I forgot to sign the note. Sorry, I know that was stupid of me. You were probably really confused. I understand if you brought me here to reject me. Sorry." Stop talking. He wanted to melt into the floor, or just get up and bolt out the door and move halfway across the globe so he never had to face Alex Fierro again. You said she was beautiful. You admitted to staring at her during class. (It wasn't as if she didn't already know, but still. She totally wants to go to prom with you now.
Alex was still nodding silently. Oh God, he was going to lose his mind. Wringing his hands in his lap, he squirmed on the floor. "Sorry," he said again lamely, in a vain attempt to reduce the awkwardness between them. He didn't dare look at Alex, instead fixating his eyes on her hands, clasped in her lap. To his aboslute horror, it looked like they were shaking, vibrating with anger. Shit. Alex was angry. She was going to punch him in the face, probably, and then tell everyone else at school and ruin his reputation for good. He would have been fine with just having been rejected!
But when he chanced a glance up at her face, she wasn't mad at all. Instead, she was laughing - shoulders shaking, laughing so hard she was falling over, towards him, the hair on the top of her head brushing his chin as she doubled over. Magnus gaped at her. His brain was about to combust with the bizareness of everything that was going on. Magnus Chase and Alex Fierro. The most unlikely pair in the history of unlikely pairs. Sitting together in a broom closet. Magnus had essentially confessed his love for her, only to have her break out into hysterical laughter. Was she laughing at him? He didn't think so.
He just let her laugh until she was done, straightening up and gasping for air.
"Alex?" he asked cautiously, and then winced at how insecure, almost needy, he sounded.
"Yeah, yeah," she said, smile fading. "Sorry. I just- this just feels so surreal. It feels absolutely-fucking crazy. Never imagined this situation in my wildest dreams." She cracked another small smile, then grew serious. "Magnus." Then she grabbed his hand. Magnus just about combusted on the spot. She must have seen his shocked look, because she rolled her eyes, but he got the feeling that she was blushing, though he couldn't tell in the dim light. "I know I tend to hide my feelings. Brush them off, y'know. In fact, this is probably the first time I'm opening up to anyone about my emotions. I know it's a problem, but it's just who I am. And in that way, we're kind of, like, polar opposites." She squeezed his fingers. "You were always so cheerful and smiley. Like the goddamn embodiment of sunshine. Maybe if it was anyone else it would have pissed me off. Nobody has the right to look so happy all the time. But for some reason I was drawn to you. And I thought we would have been doomed to fail, so I didn't bother trying to feed my hope, because I was sure there was no way this would work out. Because you were too good." She shrugged, then held up a hand when Magnus tried to protest.
"Recently I've realised that that's a load of bull. I figured it was time to lay off on the low self-esteem and stop selling myself short. What I'm trying to say, I guess, is that I deserve to be happy. So do you. So does everyone. And it would make me very happy to go to prom with you, Magnus Chase. You make me happy." She was definitely blushing now, but she held his gaze, with something like a challenge sparkling deep within her eyes.
Magnus could barely believe his ears. Oh, this was all too much for him. It was too much to be real. Alex Fierro liked him back? Nothing made sense. This defied every rule of logic. But right then, Magnus found that he cared fuck-all about logic and sense at that moment. The only thing that mattered was that Alex Fierro had just confessed to liking him back. He didn't know whether to gape at her or to grin at her- in fact, he had a feeling he had a strange mixture of both expressions on his face. She rolled her eyes again, but stayed silent, as if waiting for him to respond.
Magnus wasn't going to make her wait long.
"Does this mean you'll go to prom with me?" he asked.
Alex shrugged, her signature move, laced with a hint of playfulness. "I dunno. Why don't you ask me for real?" Magnus nodded stupidly for a few seconds, then cleared his throat and regained his composure.
"Alex," he said. She cocked an eyebrow at him, encouraging him to go on. "Go to prom with me?" It was highly unlikely that she would say no, in the light of recent revelations, but he found himself sweating anyway.
Alex smiled at him fondly, in a way that Magnus didn't think she was capable of. "Sure," she said. Simple, straightforward, one-word, but it made fireworks burst inside his heart like the Fourth of July. Sure.
Her fingers laced through his, sitting on the floor of a dark broom cupboard amidst the dust and probably more than a few cobwebs, still smiling stupidly at each other, Magnus was happy.