Chapter 1: Good years
Sometimes change is inevitable.
And so far, Magnus hasn't seen good change much.
Like the time when he moved to Boston with his mom due to the death of his father. Or at homecoming when someone finally kissed him but then forgot the next day, claiming it never happened and that he should just stay away from them. Or when he left for college, hoping for something different, something remarkable to happen. Or maybe when he left his mom on her own, hoping for a brighter future. It never sat right in his stomach. He wanted to be next to her to protect her, to take care of her, to make sure nothing like at the Hike will ever happen again. But then, his mom is just the empty husk of a beautiful, awe-inspiring woman. Staring out of the window waiting for a dead man to return to her.
But Magnus never thought, never dared to let the thought occur to him that maybe, just maybe, something or someone will come. And will change his life for the better.
The bookstore that Magnus worked at was rather old but magnificent nevertheless, with high ceilings and large, wooden bookshelves. Dust would collect in the nooks and crannies in between the spaces from years of neglect. There was a coffee shop in the bookstore where people would sit and read or study. And thus, the place would always smell like freshly brewed coffee and new books. The air would be filled with sounds of the whirring and churning of coffee machines and the sound of pages being turned. The silence was comfortable, with few conversations struck up every minute or so. The entire place gave off a very calming vibe.
And Magnus was absolutely miserable.
Ever since the death of his mother a few months ago, Magnus has been miserable. He remembered sitting in the stark white room with his mother, the heart rate monitor beeping and setting a steady pace as his mother lay in the hospital bed. Her eyes were closed, wrinkles and grey stringy hair framed her once beautiful face. Her breathing was slow and raspy while the nasal cannula connected to her nose was trying to help her breathe.
He sat in the hospital for days, his mother falling in and out of consciousness all the time. Sometimes she would speak to him, ask him how his day was. They would talk and occasionally laugh a little. But some days, she would lie in bed and stare out of the window next to her bed. She wouldn't acknowledge the fact that Magnus was there and that he was worried. She wouldn't speak or eat or do anything even when Magnus begged, begged her to do something so she doesn't get sicker.
After that, Magnus didn't have much time to go to the hospital. He had his job, and it was the only way he could pay for college and the hospital bills.
A week later, the hospital called.
The funeral was to be held exclusively for family members, although most of his family never showed up.
Uncle Frederick was there with Annabeth, who flew all the way from San Francisco during a very important project of hers to be here and Magnus was very grateful. Randolph wasn't there, typical of him. He drowns himself in whiskey and misery. Randolph never cared about his sister anyways, just the family he lost to the unforgiving jaws of the ocean.
Although this was a private ceremony, Magnus’ friends showed up afterward to show their support. Magnus’ flatmate Sam brought a bouquet of flowers but all Magnus really needed was for her to be there for him that day. Mallory came and expressed how sorry she was for his loss and hugged him tightly. Although Magnus doesn't like physical contact, he was glad he had someone close by to comfort him. Gunderson was a man of many words but at the funeral, he was quiet. Only mumbling softly to express how sorry he was. TJ also came, his usually upbeat aura gone.
Natalie Chase was cremated, her ashes put in a black container to be poured out into the wild. The “funeral” took place in the same place they buried Magnus’ father. They found the same secluded area they let his father's ashes go and poured out the remains of his mother. The ashes swirled and danced for a second before the wind picked it up and carried it away into the air.
Magnus didn't cry at the funeral, his expression remained stone hard. He accepted the good wishes from his friends and other family members with a poker face.
He cried himself to sleep for days afterward, waking up with red, swollen eyes.
Magnus took a few days off after the funeral, the co-manager Hunding understood and patted Magnus sympathetically on his back before sending him off to rest. Magnus bought him a box of chocolates afterward to say thanks, knowing that he especially loved the ones from the chocolaterie two blocks away from the bookstore right opposite the small but well-kept boutique owned by his good friend Blitzen.
The days passed like a blur, it was the same every day. Get up, eat, college, work, eat, sleep. Magnus hardly ever felt like doing anything he loved, like reading or working on his novel. He didn't feel like going to his favorite falafel place and talk to his roommate's fiance, Amir. He was depressed and stayed in this miserable state for a long time.
That is until one day, a certain individual with a head of bright green hair appeared in the bookstore Magnus usually worked at. Never did Magnus imagine that a set of heterochromatic eyes and a sly smirk would capture his heart at lightning speed.
For Magnus, it was just supposed to be a peaceful day at the bookstore, with the usual amount of customers milling around the bookstore, quickly finding the suitable book for themselves and eagerly walking up to the till to pay for the item. A small bell hanging above the main entrance announcing the arrival of new customers with a little twinkle, almost like a small light laugh. Although Magnus often asked Hunding why they would have such a loud little item in a usually quiet space and the other man replied with a shrug, saying that the owner liked the small ornament and kept it to announce the arrival of new customers, saying that “everyone has a right to feel special” and that something should be there to remind them of that. The owner, Odin, being a usually obnoxious man, liked to give his employees inspirational speeches and powerpoints at least once a week. Everyone dreads them but no one had the heart to tell him so, for the fear of being fired.
Magnus smiled at a customer as they retreated from the till. It was a father and a small girl. The girl clutched her book tightly, smiled at Magnus and skipped away while his father hurried to catch up, uttering back one last thanks before exiting the bookstore with his small daughter.
Magnus let out a sigh of relief as he saw there were no more people waiting in the queue. He checked his watch, there was still 30 minutes before his shift ended so he swapped roles with one of his colleagues so that he could spend the rest of his shift stacking books.
As Magnus rolled the trolley down familiar wooden bookshelves, he scrunched up his face and yawned greatly. He hasn't slept much ever since the funeral so his eyes were puffy and ringed with red while underneath lay dark bags that made his haunting facial features more suspicious than ever before, his high cheekbones, paler than usual complexion and gray eyes didn't help this situation at all. When he opened his eyes after yawning, they were watery so now it looked as if he had been crying. A few people looked at him sympathetically so he knew they must think that is what happened. He wiped his eyes quickly with the back of his hand before anyone could question it.
Magnus stopped before a bookshelf tucked in a smaller corner of the bookstore, not many people come here due to the fact that these are not new releases and Magnus has only seen a few older people and occasionally middle-aged women pick out a book from this section. Classics, read the place tag describing the genre on the very top of the shelf. For Magnus, this was his favorite part of the bookstore. Although he loved introducing new releases to the customers and occasionally picking out one for himself to read, Magnus thought that nothing could ever beat the great books of old. He spied a few copies of Great Expectations, probably there waiting for a middle schooler to claim it as their compulsory English reading book and copies of the well-known Iliad and Odyssey from Homer. Magnus thought they were great books but the myths were something he was not familiar with and because of that, he found it dull reading books about stuff he barely understands. He vaguely remembers his cousin Annabeth telling him about his boyfriend Percy. Apparently, he knew a few things or two about Ancient Greece and their mythology but Magnus never really paid much attention to her when she's gushing on about her boyfriend, it only reminded him of his own sad love life and how he hasn't gotten laid in almost a year.
Magnus began to load books onto the bookshelf when someone lightly tapped him on his shoulder. Startled, Magnus turned around only to be greeted by a young Asian teen.
“ Hi, um, do you work here?” She asked nervously.
“ Uh, can you help me find a copy of this book?” the younger girl took out a piece of paper where the name of a novel was roughly scrawled on the crumpled piece of paper. Magnus sighed in relief when he could finally decipher what it said.
“ Yeah sure, right this way miss,” He replied with a brief smile, turning his heel to walk towards another section of the bookstore. After scanning the names of the different novels with his eyes, he finally found the book and gracefully tipped the book off the shelf before handing it to the girl. The girl muttered many thanks before retreating to one of the many couches in the bookstore.
Magnus proceeded to walk back to the Classics section where books lie down waiting to be put onto the bookshelves. As he walked back, he thought he caught a glimpse of unusually bright curly green hair. Convincing himself it was simply a hallucination due to sleep deprivation, he rubbed his eyes and turned the corner to his section where he stopped dead in his tracks, eyes wide open and heart threatening to jump out of his chest from seeing the most beautiful person standing in front of him.
A small petite figure with a mop of unruly bright green hair was standing next to Magnus’ trolley and was looking at the titles of the various books that were yet to be stacked. The person’s head snapped up when they heard footsteps approaching and Magnus was met with large heterochromatic eyes, one dark brown while the other was shining gold, like the armor of Achilles before he stepped into battle. He felt like a moth drawn to a flame or a bug trapped in amber, seconds before death consumed them.
“ Hi,” the beautiful stranger piped with unusual confidence and Magnus could feel thousands of butterflies threatening to rip out of his stomach and heat searing through his face, turning it an unattractive tomato red.
Suddenly, Magnus didn't want his shift to ever end. Not if it means he gets to stay with this gorgeous stranger, standing in the bookstore where he worked, holding a copy of one of his favorite books.
“ Hi,” he stuttered in reply.
And this time, Magnus was ready for change.
Chapter 2: There you are
Hiiiii! Sorry for the long wait but here's the second chapter of Empty Space! Hope you enjoy!! <3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It's been 2 weeks since Magnus saw her in the bookstore.
And 2 weeks felt like an eternity to Magnus.
Magnus raced through the streets, a mid-autumn chill was in the air promising a rather cold winter to come in Boston. He dodged pedestrians on his frantic chase to the bookstore, scared of being late for his shift. Although the manager Helgi was rather patient with Magnus, the young man didn't want to take any risks. He still had college tuitions to pay for and he cannot risk getting fired from his acceptably nice part-time job.
And ever since 2 weeks ago, there was a rather nice plus to working at the bookstore.
The wind picked up, shaking off the wilting reddish brown leaves on the almost bare trees. Magnus wrapped his jacket tighter around him and breathed out in frustration, the air turning misty as his warm breath met the cool morning breeze. He remembered when his mom took him to the park in fall, he would often breathe out just to see it become misty and pretend he was a mighty dragon of sorts.
Magnus shook his head, now's not a good time to be thinking of his mother.
He rounded a corner and spied the cozy little bookstore not so far away. The sign above the entrance read “Valhalla Books”. Magnus found it rather amusing and ironic that the owner, Odin, decided to name his bookstore after a place in Norse mythology while his own name also came from the same myths. The building itself was not easy to miss, rich gold and green accents contrasted greatly against the buildings surrounding it. Steam came from the coffee shop next to it as customers snuggled up warmly inside with cups of hot drinks, light spilling from inside as mindless chit-chat emitted from the small shop.
Magnus smiled as he halted in front of the entrance of Valhalla Books, looking back at the cafe. Magnus loved seeing people at peace and enjoying the smaller aspects of life. He just wishes he had enough time to do that with someone special to him. Immediately, the image of green hair and a warm smile found its way into his mind.
Nope, nope, nope! Magnus scolded himself. Don't think about her, not now.
Magnus walked into the bookstore and a gush of warm air greeted him as well as the sound of mindless chit-chat that filled the air. Magnus took off his outer layer of clothing, feeling the weight leave his shoulders and his hands warm up from the warm air inside. He took a breath of relief as he walked to the backroom, rather impatient to start his shift.
Magnus was pushing his trolley to a familiar part of the bookstore.
Ever since he saw the stranger, Magnus couldn't wait to come to the bookstore every day in hopes of seeing them again. He’d often dream of those heterochromatic eyes and how it would feel like running his hands in their hair ever since their encounter on that fateful day.
Magnus halted in front of the bookshelves and stared at the familiar scratches that have always been there since Magnus has arrived at the bookstore. This part of the bookstore was the most familiar, the spines of the books faced him warmly as he stacked up some new orders onto the shelves.
All day, the green-haired figure kept on wandering into his mind.
On the day everything had felt so right, it was like they were made to meet each other. How the universe had managed for the two of them to meet Magnus didn't know but he was thankful nevertheless. It was as if their fates were interwoven into each other's, they were meant to be.
Wishful thinking, the little voice in Magnus’ head told him. You saw someone pretty and now you're making up a load of bullshit to fill in for your uninteresting life.
Shut the fuck up, Magnus thought back.
There was silence in his head after that.
2 weeks ago
“ Hi,” Magnus stuttered back, trying to keep his heart still and the heat on his face under control.
The green haired figure standing in front of him was smirking at him. Their finger laid over their puckered lips, studying Magnus with much intensity. Magnus felt himself wither slightly under their intense gaze.
After a moment of silence that felt like an eternity to Magnus, the stranger spoke,
“ I'm trying to find some works by Sappho, do you happen to have some here?”
“ Yeah, I, uh, I'm pretty sure we do.” Magnus silently cursed himself for sounding so lame.
Magnus quickly turned and walked up to the classics section, the one he was hovering by just now, and took a look at the many books on the shelves. He raised a hand to skim over the titles of the books. Magnus found the books after some time, the small copies resting peacefully on the tallest shelf. No wonder the stranger couldn't find it, a small smile displayed on Magnus’ lips, he realized that they weren't tall enough to reach it and he found the disadvantage in height was rather quite cute. .
Magnus handed the book to the eagerly waiting customer, the small smile still displayed on his lips.
“ What are you smiling at?” the stranger tilted their head, expression curious.
Not wanting to be outed Magnus cleared his throat and replied, “ Uh, I really enjoyed these books and I'm glad someone enjoys her works as well.”
The stranger looked at Magnus through narrowed eyes as though they didn't really believe what he said.
He cleared his throat again.
“ So I've got some of her poems here. There’s the Complete works of Sappho and also Poems and Fragments .”
“ Hmmm… I think I’ll take Poems and Fragments .” The stranger emphasized the “think”, dragging out the “i” and popping the “k”. They plucked the book delicately out of Magnus’ hands, still smirking as they did so.
Magnus found it irresistibly cute and sexy .
After handing them the book and putting the other book back onto its shelf, Magnus turned to see them smiling as they read the blurb.
“ Yeah, I also really like her poems. I can’t believe most people don't know her!” the stranger exclaimed suddenly. Eyes bright as they looked at the book, hands gliding over the front cover delicately. “ I'm glad you know her though. Finally! It's about time I found someone with the same taste in books as me!”
Magnus’ heart beat a little faster at how cute they were.
“ Can I check this item out for you? Or do you want to look at some more books?”
“ Oh, yes, please! That's so nice of you!”
Magnus chuckled, “ It's my job, uh…”
Magnus hesitated, realizing he didn’t know which were the appropriate pronouns to use.
Noticing his hesitation, the stranger smiled and said, “ Call me Alex. and my pronouns are she and her today.”
Magnus’ heartbeat impossibly faster.
“ Nice to meet you, Alex.”
After checking out the book, Magnus waved and said, “ Come again!” out of habit. Magnus immediately cursed himself for sounding so fucking boring.
Alex looked back and smirked, a dangerous flame sparkled in her eyes.
“ I'd come back every day just to see your face.”
The ringing of the bell on top of the door matched with the ringing in Magnus’ head. Was this real? Or was it all a cruel trick his mind was playing on him?
Did the beautiful stranger with heterochromatic eyes actually flirt with him?
Now as Magnus walked back to the storage room, he thought about the events from that day, he couldn't help but overthink the whole thing in his head. What if he was wrong? What if she didn't really have an interest in him? What if this was all a big fat joke?
What if, what if, what if…
Magnus quickly changed back into his normal clothes, pulling on his coat hurriedly as he exited the backroom. The bookstore was just about to close and there was hardly anyone still here.
“ Hey Maggie, can you just help this chic here real quick?” Magnus’ co-worker called to him from the till. “ I’m a bit busy here.”
“ Yeah, if playing that fucking game on your phone is called busy,” Magnus called back. Magnus wasn't ready to do more work without getting a raise for dealing with everyone’s shit.
“ Hey man, she asked for you.”
This had Magnus’ attention, who would specifically ask for him? He didn't know any of the customers and he hasn't told any of them his name before. Maybe it was Sam, coming to find him to sort out some newly occurred problem in his small flat. Or maybe Mallory, who’d come to annoy Magnus because she knew his shift was over and that she didn't have to come to work today.
But curiosity got the best of him as he walked out from behind the shelf in front of the storage room. He caught a glimpse of forest green hair before ducking behind the bookshelf, almost tripping and knocking over the books. He peeked out from behind the bookshelf, not trusting his own eyes.
There he saw her, green haired Alex.
Alex was standing there, looking around for someone. Amber and brown eyes wandering around the store as she bit her lips nervously.
She's looking for me, Magnus realized as his face turned crimson. Realizing the position he's in, Magnus looked down at his old rumpled clothes and sniffs them. He wrinkled his nose, Not good.
“ Dammit, Chris. I'm coming!” Magnus hollered back, trying his best to flatten his hair and unrumple his shirt.
There's no turning back now, Magnus thought as he emerged from behind the shelf.
Drop a comment and tell me how I did! What would you like to see in future chapters? Good advice and constructive criticism is welcome! (Also, just to clarify: the guy named Chris in this chapter is just some random person I came up with and doesn't exist in the books)
Quick reminder that I am on tumblr as @aMatchaTiramisu and I have a playlist on Spotify by the same name as this fic!