Baz is up to something.
I can hear Penny in my head right away: ‘You always say that, Simon.’
This time it’s completely, positively true, I tell the Penny-voice in my head.
‘You always say that, too.’
My breath held, I wait until I’m sure Baz has finished rounding the corner up ahead before I continue tailing him.
I saw him leaving the Mage’s office, I say to fake-Penny. He shouldn’t have been in there—he shouldn’t be able to get in there at all.
My trainers are making soft sounds on the wood flooring. I’ve walked this corridor outside the Mage’s office hundreds of times—I know which spots are creaky. I tiptoe around them.
‘Did you see him do anything?’ fake-Penny asks.
No, but that’s not the point.
‘Did you hear him cast something?’
I hold my breath again before peeking my head around the corner. For all I know, Baz could be waiting right there for me, wand drawn....
‘Did he take anything?’
I don’t think so....
‘Then what are you accusing him of, Simon?’
When I finally crane my head around the turn, I see Baz up ahead.
He’s standing perfectly still at the top of the stairs, facing the wall, not the steps. He looks like he’s staring at something—I can’t make it out, it’s too dark. Baz doesn’t have a torch or anything, simply navigating with his creepy vampire night vision. I’m not so lucky—I’ve got to squint into the darkness, with only the silvery moonlight coming in through the window to help me. It makes his hair shimmer.
He’s hesitant. Baz reaches towards the wall. It looks like he’s taking hold of a handle, but there’s nothing at the top of those stairs....
He pushes forward, and then he’s suddenly bathed in bright, golden light as the wall before him falls away.
He’s up to something!
Baz disappears into the warm light, and I immediately rush down the short corridor after him, careless about how loud my steps are. I can’t lose track of him now, not when he’s skulking about and opening secret passageways!
Thankfully, the mysterious doorway is still there by the time I reach it. Inside is a massive room—far bigger than is possible, given we’re right at the stairwell atop the tower. This room definitely wasn’t here before.
What did Baz do to summon it? What is he up to?
‘What if it just appeared, Simon? That happens around the campus all the time.’
I’ve certainly found more than my fair share of inexplicable doors and hidden passages.
But this...this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
The expansiveness of the room is easy to miss, given how cluttered it is. There are piles upon piles, reaching to the ceiling, the floor barely visible. I only do a quick glance around the room, yet I can immediately see the wide variety stuffed into this space—jewellery, clothes, shoes, books, pencils and pens, magickal artefacts.... It’s like if a hoarder magician and a dragon had a particularly off-kilter baby, and this was their closet.
Even if the room wasn’t a visual overload, I’d have a hard time taking my eyes off Baz. The room’s golden glow, from a light source I can’t find, makes Baz’s pale skin the colour of soft set honey. It’s so distracting—everything about the room, not just Baz’s warm skin—that it takes me a long moment to notice what he’s doing.
Baz is stood several paces into the room with his back mostly facing the door I’m hovering in. He’s staring at one of the piles—at something that’s caught his eye—and he’s reaching for it.
I hold all my muscles taught as Baz picks the object up. His movements are tentative in a way I’ve never seen from him. The light is glinting off the object, but eventually I make out what it is: a handheld mirror.
He holds it up to his face, captivated. I don’t get it. It’s just a mirror. Can vampires even see their reflections? (Why haven’t I tried to catch him in the bathroom before?)(Though, I can’t imagine he can get his hair so perfect every day without a mirror....)
Baz can’t look away from the mirror, and I can’t look away from him. Less than half his face is visible to me, but it’s enough—the complex progression of emotions on his face is painfully clear. Confusion, then something a bit wistful, and then...sadness.
He’s usually so composed. If Baz makes an expression around me, it’s either contempt or anger or disgust.
Not this deep, heavy sadness that makes something ache behind my ribs.
It shouldn’t matter. Whatever it is he’s seeing or thinking, it shouldn’t make me feel empathetic. He’s my enemy. A monster. I can’t let my guard down.
It’s as I’m thinking of calling out to him—to yell at him, I mean—that Baz’s face twists again.
He snarls and shakes his head and slams the mirror down with enough force, I’m certain it will shatter. It doesn’t, but I must have gasped in anticipation of it—Baz wheels around towards the door, startled, furious. Cheeks full.
“Wh-what are you doing in here, Baz?” I bluster.
Baz growls low in his throat. I can feel my heart rate spike, and then race even faster as he comes stomping towards me. I stumble back, taking a defensive stance and rushing through the incantation to summon the Sword of Mages before he can get to me.
I’m wielding the blade right as Baz throws himself through the doorway. With how enraged he looks, I’m rightfully nervous about how this might go down. That doesn’t mean I’ll cower.
I set my jaw and brandish my sword in his direction. “You shouldn’t be here!”
I’m preparing myself for him to lunge at me, tensing as his hand reaches out—
Baz clutches the banister and hauls himself down the stairs before I can process it.
I’m too slow. I rush down the steps after him, but I’m encumbered by my sword and the low-light. My eyes can’t adjust fast enough—unlike Baz’s.
By the time I’m bursting through the tower’s doors and out into the cool night air, Baz is already nearly out of sight. Damn him and his long legs and vampire speed!
He’s heading for the Catacombs. I consider following him...instead, I sheath my sword and hoist myself back up to the top of the tower. I want to inspect the new mystery room further....
When I get there, the door is gone.
The next morning, over breakfast, I tell Penny all about it. The conversation goes better than the one I had with the Penny-voice in my head.
“A mysterious room,” Penny says to herself, “and a mirror that made Basil all upset and stroppy. How fascinating...!”
“And he never came back to our room last night,” I tell her around a mouthful of eggs. “I haven’t been able to question him about it yet.”
“What would you even ask?”
“Why he was in the Mage’s office, for one.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” Penny says with a dismissive wave. “The Mage’s Men raided his home this past weekend. He was probably trying to get back whatever was confiscated.”
I stare at Penny, another bite of eggs halfway to my open mouth. “What?”
“Yep. I heard it from Premal,” she says, rolling her eyes.
I set my fork down. Then I look over my shoulder to check if Baz is at his usual spot yet. He is—sitting there, sipping tea and laughing with Dev and Niall about something or other. Probably about how easily he shook me off last night.
His family must have sent word about the raid, and so he started snooping....
Why am I the last one to learn about this? The Mage was at Watford all through Friday—he could have told me. I could have helped.
Actually...on second thought, I don’t think I would have wanted to. Barrelling into the Grimm-Pitch manor and searching for forbidden texts and dark magickal artefacts sounds like nothing but trouble. And not the good kind of trouble—the kind that means Baz would make my life more of a living hell than usual.
Still. I feel like that’s the sort of thing the Mage should be keeping me in the loop about. Even if I don’t want to take part, it still concerns me. Baz is my roommate—and an evil git! He could take it out on me despite knowing I wasn’t involved.
Baz catches me staring at him and curls his lip, giving me a sneer that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, even from all the way across the dining hall.
I scowl at him, then turn back to my food. “He didn’t take anything from the Mage’s office or from that weird room.” I scoop up some eggs again and shove them into my mouth. “Which means he’s probably going to keep sneaking around until he finds something.”
Penny peers at me over the rim of her glasses. “Which means you’re going to follow him around until he stops.”
I shrug. “Well, yeah. I figure he’ll want to head to that room again as soon as possible.”
“Do you think it will be there?” she asks.
“He did something to make it appear the first time—don’t see why he can’t do that again.”
Penny hums thoughtfully. She’s still peering at me.
I grin. “Do you want to tag along?”
There’s a twinkle in her eye. “For once? Yes.”
The Mage still isn’t back (maybe he’s off raiding more of the Old Families’ homes). Even so, I know Baz will wait until dark before he sneaks up the tower again. It’s possible he’ll go skulking around somewhere else, but Penny and I decide to take the gamble and wait for him there after supper.
The door at the top of the stairs was still missing when we came up. Penny tossed a few spells at the spot, to no avail.
We park ourselves just around the corner so that Baz won’t see us when he comes up. Penny sits on the floor, reading a book by the glow she’s magicked around her ring. I stay at the window, staring down at the grounds below.
We chat quietly. I pace and stretch. Penny reads, then takes a small nap, then reads some more. I get fidgety. Then she does also.
“Maybe we should call it quits, Simon,” she says at the tail end of a yawn.
“Basil surely went to your room, saw you weren’t there, and decided not to push his luck tonight.”
“You can leave if you want,” I tell her, not taking my eyes away from the window. “I still think he’ll come.”
Penny extinguishes her light and gets to her feet. I hear her hip pop—she groans, rubbing it. “Should have magicked the floor soft,” she grumbles. “Promise me you won’t stay up here all night.”
“Define ‘all night’....”
I turn from the window to give her a crooked grin. “I’ll stay another hour or so, then I’ll get to bed.”
Penny gives me a cute smile and a pat on the arm as she walks off. I watch her turn the corner, then I go back to staring out the window. It’s only a split second later when Penny comes scrambling back around, crashing into me.
“He’s coming!” she whispers.
“What?” I whisper-yell, gawking at her. “I didn’t see him out the win—“
Penny flails a hand about to silence me. “Well, he’s here!”
We both hold our breaths, and sure enough, I can hear Baz climbing the steps. It has to be him. No one other than the Mage would be coming up here at this hour, and the Mage’s footsteps are much louder—heavy boots, not the soft click of Baz’s posh shoes.
Penny sets her book on the windowsill as quietly as possible. It’s too late for her to cast any concealment spells, so all we can do is hope he doesn’t catch sight of us as we peek around the corner....
Sure enough, Baz stops at the top of the stairs, paying far too much attention to the wall to notice us. He reaches out, and then, just like last night, he grasps a door handle that wasn’t there earlier, pushes, and is awash in golden light.
Penny’s the one to gasp this time, but Baz doesn’t hear it, thank magic. He simply slips inside the brightly lit room, leaving the door open just a sliver behind him.
Neither one of us needs any prompting—Penny and I both dash down the hall, desperate to get to the door before he changes his mind and closes it—or before it disappears. I shove it open the second it’s within reach, and Penny and I both stumble into the room.
Baz jumps, nearly dropping the mirror that’s already in his hands. “Seven snakes!” he hisses, baring his teeth at me. (No fangs—though I’m certain they were there last night!)
This time, I walk all the way into the room. Penny’s right behind me—I can hear her muttering an impressed expletive under her breath. I suppose the room is pretty impressive, but all my focus is on Baz.
“Tell me what you’re doing in here,” I demand. I don’t have my sword out, so I just squeeze my fists and jut my chin at him.
Baz sneers. “I’m looking for something. Go away.”
“Looking for what?”
“None of your business.”
Penny’s making her way into the room, stepping over all the books and pens and other crap littering the floor. “What do you have there, Basil?”
He turns his sneer on her now. “None of your business either, Bunce.”
“Perhaps not,” she agrees, “but if it’s a magickal artefact that’s been confiscated from your family, then I think perhaps you ought to put it down.”
Baz’s eyelashes flutter—which means he’s trying real hard not to roll his eyes. “I’m looking for a book. One that was unjustly confiscated, if you must know.”
“You’d say that about anything,” I snap at him.
Penny’s not interested in that part. “Then why are you holding that mirror?” she asks.
Baz sets it down on a pile of textbooks—he does it more gently than last night, but not by much. “It distracted me, that’s all.” Vain prat.
I advance on him. (It’s hard to be menacing when you’re trying not to trip over a bunch of junk.) “How did you know about this room?” I ask him, none too nicely.
“I didn’t.” Baz turns away from me and delves deeper. He even makes all this careful stepping about look graceful.
I follow him. “Then how did you get in?”
“I turned the knob.”
“Don’t be a smartarse,” I growl. “What spell did you use?”
Baz sighs as he disappears behind a tower of clothes and paperbacks—I nearly slip on a pair of knickers trying to get to him. “There was no spell, Snow,” he says. “There was a door, I turned the knob, I went in.”
“You’re lying.” I kick a set of keys out of the way, which in turn sends some loose papers fluttering. “There was no door there before you came. Or after you left.”
“Then maybe it wanted me to enter and not you,” he jeers from behind a stack of notebooks.
“Basil!” Penny calls before I have a chance to yell at him more. “Do you know what this mirror is?”
“Yes,” Baz calls back.
“Are you certain?”
“Yes, Bunce. I’m not a fool,” he groans. He picks up a book, turning it over in his hands before setting it back down. “Did you not see the inscription?”
“Oh, I see it. We read about this in Artefact Studies last year.”
“Exactly.” Baz checks another book, then moves on.
“What?” I say, loud enough Penny can hear me also. “What is it?”
“I thought it was only a myth,” Penny continues, completely ignoring me. “Why do you suppose it’s here?”
“How should I know?” Baz huffs.
I follow him around another slumping pile of clothes and realize we’ve gone in a circle. Since no one’s answering me, I head for Penny—she’s holding up the mirror, staring at it with rapt interest.
“What is it?” I ask again as I come up next to her.
Penny shakes her head in disbelief, her ponytail flopping about. “Well...,” she says, handing it to me before moving on, “see for yourself.”
I grasp the mirror’s handle. It’s made from tarnished silver, and there’s something peculiar about the glass—the light bounces off of it, making it hard to see anything at all. Once I angle it differently, I can just make out the inscription curved along the top of the frame: WE WERE WRITTEN IN THE STARS
“What do you suppose this room is?” I hear Penny ask Baz.
“I’m not sure,” he admits. “It’s filled with nonsense.”
I tilt the mirror again. And again. All it’s doing is sending light glaring back at me. (I’m still not even sure where the light in this room is coming from.)
“Penny, what is this thing?” I ask again, clearly frustrated. I hold it up directly in front of my face, like I saw Penny and Baz do—
That’s when I see it.
“You took the same class we did, Simon,” I hear her sigh from somewhere far away.
“And you expect him to remember what we covered?” Baz grunts from even further off.
How could Baz be all the way over there...when it’s his grey eyes staring back at me in the mirror?
“It’s a soulmate mirror, Si.”
“Supposedly, that is,” she goes on.
“You have to hold it up just the right way, though, otherwise it won’t show you anything.”
Penny’s got to be mistaken.
“Simon? Do you see anything?”
There, against the background of an inky sea of stars, Baz stares at me from within the glass. His hair is loose, framing his face. His gaze is soft. There’s the faintest smile on his lips.
“It’s—“ My voice cracks. “It’s broken.”
“Broken?” Penny baulks. I lower the mirror and watch her stumble back my way. “It was fine a moment ago.”
“Leave it to Snow,” Baz grumbles.
“I didn’t break it,” I say. “Baz must have done! It—it didn’t show me the right thing!”
Penny’s still making her way over when there’s a slam behind me. I whip around towards the door—
And everything goes dark.
Penny squawks. Then there’s another slam—presumably of Penny hitting the floor, judging by the pained whimper she then lets out.
“I’m all right,” she groans.
“What did you do, Snow?” Baz snaps.
“I didn’t do anything! Penny, are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, I just stepped funny and landed on my bum—“
“I can’t see anything—“
“Too bad none of us are mages,” Baz quips.
I startle as there’s a flicker of light ahead of me. It takes me a moment to realize Baz has summoned a flame above his hand, casting just enough light that I can see Penny sitting unhappily on the littered ground.
“Put that out,” I bark at Baz.
He doesn’t succeed in not rolling his eyes this time. Merlin, he looks even more villainous by firelight.
“Let there be light!” Penny casts. An orb of light hovers in the air just before her. Baz extinguishes his flame.
I haul Penny to her feet. “We should get out of here,” I say.
The room is still rather dark, despite her orb. All the towering piles of junk seem particularly ominous now, throwing long shadows. Baz is so far back, he’s hardly lit at all—until he starts marching our way. His scowl is vicious in the harsh light.
My hackles go up immediately, but before I can bluster out a proper sentence, he’s already breezing past us for the door.
“What did you do, Snow?” he growls.
“Why is it my fault?”
“Everything’s always your fault!”
Penny huffs and drags me towards the door as well. “Enough squabbling, let’s just get out of here.”
“That’s precisely the problem,” Baz snaps.
I realize then that he’s standing where the door is, but not actually opening it. It’s not until Penny and I come closer, her orb of light flouncing alongside us, that we see why.
There’s no door.
“Fuck a troll,” Penny says.
“It’s got to be here.” I slap my hands against the wall, feeling around for a seam. “It probably blends in with the wall.”
Baz stands to the side, his arms crossed as I grope about. He’s glaring daggers at me—not looking nearly as fond as he did in the mirror— “There’s no handle,” he informs. “The door’s gone.”
“Was there a handle from this side to begin with?” Penny asks.
“Of course I checked, Bunce.”
As I scrabble along the wall, the two of them keep bickering—which eventually turns into a spell casting contest: Open sesame; show me the way; as one door closes, another one opens; give way; exit strategy; open door policy; take the easy way out....
“You’re both going to run out of magic!” I yell. “Spell up some more light, if you want to be useful.”
Baz spells up an orb like Penny’s and deepens his frown. “I know magic is an unfamiliar concept to you, Snow, but if the door were still there, one of those spells would have worked.”
I frown right back. “Are you saying I should stop looking?”
“You can do whatever you want—you always do. I’m merely stating that it’s futile. I believe that’s a concept you’re better acquainted with?”
Baz is close enough that I can reach out and grab him by his lapels—and cocky enough to not think I’ll do it until it’s too late. I slam him against the wall. “I knew you were up to no good in here!” I growl.
He lets out a cruel laugh. “You think I’m the one who made the door disappear?”
I tighten my fists in his jacket and push him harder against the wall. “Obviously!”
“Snow, if my plot was to lock you in a room until your expiry date, I wouldn’t be so masochistic as to lock myself in with you.”
“You don’t need to wait that long.” I shove closer, lifting myself up on my toes so I can better glare at him despite how he’s staring down his nose at me. “You’ve trapped us and are going to drain us, then you’ll leave our bodies to rot in this secret room that only you seem to know about.”
“What an imagination you have,” Baz remarks. “A pity it’s never useful.”
“I don’t think Baz would drain me,” Penny protests under her breath.
“What did you do to the door?” I demand again, yelling even though I’m right in Baz’s face. He doesn’t flinch.
“Nothing.” Baz shifts just slightly, and then I feel something pointy jabbing me in the ribs. “Now release me before I send you flying.”
Shit. I might be able to headbutt him in the mouth before he can get a spell off—
I give Baz one last shove before wheeling away from him and stomping off. There’s a rugby ball lying nearby—I kick it hard, sending it crashing right through a stack of books. Better to take out my aggravation on inanimate things—getting into a proper fight with Baz won’t do us any good. I don’t think I’d be able to pummel any information out of him anyway.
“Control your monkey, Bunce.”
“Oh, hush up,” Penny groans. I can hear her coming up behind me, taking careful steps around all the rubbish in the low-light. “Simon? How about we ignore Basil, take a breather, and then think of a new way out, all right?”
I squeeze my fists until I feel my nails dig into my palms. “He did this, Penny,” I insist.
She gives me that long-suffering look I’m too familiar with. “How are you so sure?”
“Because he did something to that mirror, too!”
We both ignore Baz’s scoff. “You mentioned that,” Penny trails, going off in search of the mirror. “You said it’s broken?”
“Yeah.” I follow her—and the light. “I mean—did it work for you?”
The mirror is easy to spot, what with the way the light bounces off it so harshly. Penny picks it up and holds it in front of her face.
“What do you see?”
Penny looks...forlorn. “Well....”
“It’s the same bloke I saw when I picked it up the first time.” She lets her arm drop and gives me a pinched look. Even behind her glasses and the shadows they’re casting on her face, I can see how discomfited she is. “I’m not sure who he is.”
“You mean, it’s not—” I stop myself. I’m not sure what I want to ask. Not Micah? Not Baz?
“It’s not Micah,” she offers up. “He’s someone I’ve never seen before.” Penny sets the mirror down and wraps her arms around herself. “I guess this means I haven’t met my soulmate yet.”
“You—” I feel something coiling in my gut. “You don’t actually believe it’s real, do you?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“I mean—because it’s—there’s no such thing as soulmates!”
“There’s no proof of soulmates,” Penny says. “There are whole books’ worth of anecdotal evidence, though. The Normal kind and the magickal kind. Myths, spells, artefacts...the running theory is that even if soulmates aren’t inherently real, our collective desire for such a romantic ideal has led to their creation.”
I press my hands into my hair, tugging back my curls until it hurts. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“Maybe not to you,” Baz mocks—his voice makes me jump. “It works the same way all magic does. Language is power. Humanity swooned over the concept of soulmates for long enough that it was magicked into existence.” He walks towards us, coming close—too close for comfort. I flinch when he sweeps his hand towards the mirror. “A powerful mage created a spell to find their soulmate, then infused said spell into this mirror. There are numerous artefacts like this one.”
“Though this one is the most famous,” Penny adds.
“Infamous,” Baz corrects. “Many duels have been fought over this mirror and its divinings.”
“Well, it’s all a load of bollocks,” I grunt.
Baz pulls back his lip in a nasty smirk. “What’s wrong, Snow? Didn’t see your darling Wellbelove?”
“No,” I snarl, shoving myself in his face again, “because you fucked with it!”
The repulsed twist of Baz’s expression makes me shrink back. “I didn’t fuck with it,” he says, voice thrumming with something I can’t name. “So sorry that your ‘golden destiny’ isn’t quite as destined as you thought, but don’t take it out on me.”
“You—” Something about Baz’s demeanour is throwing me off—I’m all flustered. It’s more than just disgust. (I’m used to disgusting him by now.) “You’re fucking with me so you can get to Agatha instead.”
Baz clucks his tongue and gives another heaving roll of his eyes as he turns away. “You’re pathetic.”
Penny puts her hand on my arm, probably to suggest I not go after him, which is fine, because I don’t want to. I’d much rather he stay out of reach, where I can’t see the confusing details of his expression. It’s nothing like the gentle gaze he possessed in the mirror—
“Who did you see, then?” I yell at his back.
He laughs. It’s humourless. “Why would I tell you?”
“Did you see anybody at all?”
“Of course I saw somebody,” he spits, then disappears with his orb of light behind another imposing pile.
“Who?” I demand.
“Fuck you, Snow!”
Penny steps in front of me, setting her hands on my chest. “Simon, maybe we—“
“I bet you didn’t see anything!” I keep hollering, louder the further he gets. “How could a vampire have a soulmate if you’ve got no soul?!”
Penny sighs heavily. It’s the only sound in the room, other than my shaky breaths. Baz doesn’t reply. I can’t even hear the soft click of his heels on the floor.
I stare off into the dark, hoping to catch sight of him but too afraid to go searching.
Penny and I both tense when Baz finally speaks: “Is that why you’re so incensed, Snow?” His voice is flat—tired. “Was there no one staring back at you in the mirror?”
A rush of heat bursts through me, an uncomfortable mix of embarrassment and confusion and anger. “Don’t—don’t try to turn this around on me!”
“Isn’t that what you’re doing?” is Baz’s droll reply. I can’t tell which direction his voice is coming from. “Deflecting? Perhaps you don’t have a soulmate because the only thing you’re fated for is dying by my hands.”
I lunge forwards, despite having no idea where Baz is and having no chance of finding him in the dark, chaotic room. Penny pushes me back.
“Simon, stop, that’s enough—“
“Come say that to my face!” I growl into the blackness.
Baz emits another sharp laugh. “I’m not afraid of you,” he says. And, as if to prove it, he comes out from behind a heap on the far side of the room, light first.
“Tell me who you saw,” I command.
“Why can’t you tell me?”
“Because it’s none of your business!” he roars, advancing on me.
I step around Penny. “You’re lying.”
There’s a flash of something across Baz’s face that I don’t understand. Fear? “About what?”
“About having seen someone!”
“I did!” Baz insists. “Piss off!’
“Then why did you look so upset?!”
Something else—something just as indecipherable—flits across Baz’s face. And then, as fast as it came on, it morphs, distorting into gnarled rage.
“Because it’s unrequited!” he howls. He’s all bared teeth and flying spittle.
“That’s enough!” Penny bellows, wedging herself between us and giving our chests a shove. I stumble back easily, blinkered by Baz’s outburst. “Basil, go talk a walk!” she orders. Then, she turns on me and thrusts a finger in my direction. “And you! Let it go!”
“Silence is golden!” Penny casts. The air around Penny and me shimmers as the silencing spell takes hold, blocking Baz out of our conversation. “Really, Simon! What’s gotten into you?”
“He—“ I’m sputtering, shaken. I keep my eyes on Baz’s hunched, retreating back. “He did something, Pen, I’m sure of it.”
Penny’s face falls. “Was...was he right? Do you not see anything in the mirror...?”
“No! I do! But it’s— It’s not right, it doesn’t make sense.”
“Simon...I told you time and again that you and Agatha weren’t a good match....”
I toss my head and hassle my hair. “It’s worse than that.” Penny only frowns, so I continue on blustering. “He’s fucking with me. He did something. Cursed it.”
“It’s an extremely powerful piece of magic. He couldn’t have done. Especially not so quickly.”
“Then maybe he cursed me,” I insist. “Something.”
Penny’s eyes slowly grow wider, her face more slack—it’s dawned on her. My stomach falls through the floor. “Did you...? Simon...in the mirror...did you...?”
I can’t breathe. All my blood is rushing in my ears, and I can feel my jaw moving, but nothing’s coming out.
“Sweet Stevie...,” Penny murmurs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so bowled over.
“P-Penny— I’m not— He must have— I—“
“All right, take it easy,” she shushes gently. I know she’s trying to be helpful, but her worried stare and tentative shoulder pats are riling me up even more. My face is hot and my magic is kicking up. “Easy,” she urges. “Let’s just...let’s stop thinking about the mirror for a little while, all right? We’ve got bigger problems right now.”
I tear at my hair with both hands and try to take deep breaths. “R-right...yeah. Right. —You don’t think it’s related?”
Penny shakes her head. “I can’t see how. I suggest we search around. Maybe if we can learn more about what this room is, we can think of a way out.”
I pull my hair harder. I nod. “Okay. Yeah. Right. Okay.”
“Yeah.” I exhale hard and scrub my hands on my thighs. “Let’s look around.”
Penny seems wary, but she eventually nods and unspells the bubble of silence around us. I don’t bother checking to see where Baz is—he could be trapped under a landslide of rubbish for all I know, and I refuse to care. I focus on following Penny and scanning my eyes over every little thing. It makes for a good distraction.
There’s a lot. Texts of all types—discarded papers, novels of every genre, textbooks for classes I both do and don’t recognize, notebooks, diaries. So many articles of clothing—especially lone socks. There’s bric-a-brac everywhere, also—rings, hair ties, keys, earrings, wallets. And, Merlin, an unfathomable amount of pens and pencils.
“I can’t make any sense of it,” Penny complains. She lifts up one of the hundreds of books strewn about, makes a face, then tosses it aside.
“There’s got to be clues somewhere,” I say. “Like an escape room.”
“An escape room,” I repeat. Penny blinks at me. “You know, where you get locked inside a room with some of your mates, and you’ve all got to solve the mystery of the room in order to get out.”
Penny keeps blinking at me. “That’s a real thing?”
“Yeah?” I shrug. “I mean, I’ve never done one myself, but....”
“Normals sure have strange methods for making their lives interesting,” she says to herself, heading off to the next mound of crap. I follow her. “I can’t figure how that would apply here. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to this collection....”
“I don’t think it’s a collection,” comes Baz’s voice. I recoil from the sound—I’d been so focused on not focussing on him, I forgot he was here. “Though some more light would help,” he says, showing himself and giving me a pointed look.
Oh. I’m the only one who hasn’t tried to spell up any light. And I actually do have my wand on me for once—I yank it out of the back of my trousers. My magic’s no longer threatening to billow out of me, but it is still licking just under the surface of my skin. As I cast “let there be light!”, it rockets down my arm in an explosion of hot, white light.
All three of us yelp and cover our eyes.
“Aleister Crowley!” Baz curses. “Nothing in moderation with you, is there?”
The light tapers off into something calmer, making it easier to adjust to. While it’s not the comforting golden glow the room had earlier, it illuminates things well enough. Definitely less of a risk of one of us falling on our arses (again).
Penny rubs at her eyes. “What was it you were saying, Basil? This not being a collection?”
Baz’s face is puckered—he’s still tetchy from our argument. “Yeah. Look around. There is truly no pattern. There are clothes that could belong to ten year olds and sixty year olds. From both genders. And the breadth of genres in these books is staggering.”
“I just thought we were dealing with a particularly eclectic hoarder,” I mutter.
Baz gives me a glance, then looks away. “I thought so as well, at first,” he admits. “Until I noticed that, despite all of this,”—he gestures dramatically—“there are two things missing.”
Penny and I both stare at him expectantly.
Baz smirks. “Filth and decay.”
Penny frowns. “What?”
“I don’t care what cleaning spells you cast—with this much rubbish, there ought to be some dirt and dust,” Baz explains.
Now I frown. He has a point...not that I’d tell him so.
“Plus, I saw a diary back there from 1912,” he says. “It’s in perfect condition.”
“Nicks and Slick...when you put it that way....” Penny swings her head about, taking in the room as a whole. “There is one thing all of these items have in common.” Baz and I stare at her, and her face splits into an excited grin. “They’re all things that can be easily lost!”
It’s my turn to blurt out a “what?”, but Baz talks right over me: “Bunce...are you suggesting what I think you are?”
Penny’s grin gets even cheekier. “It’s a lost property room!”
Baz curses, impressed.
I’m still trying to process it. “Wait, but,” I stammer, “Watford doesn’t have a lost property department—does it?”
“No, not officially,” Penny agrees, no less pleased with herself. “All of that stuff must have needed somewhere to go!”
“It wouldn’t be the strangest thing to have happened on campus...,” Baz says thoughtfully.
I start roughing up my hair again. Morgan’s tooth...they’re right. Us three know better than any other students (and likely most of the faculty) what sort of unusual secrets Watford holds. The labyrinth under the chapel, the hidden gates, the moat under the moat, the missing nursery—not to mention all the doors and treasures and crawl spaces that come and go, seemingly at random.
Baz and Penny are having an animated conversation about the logistics—how necessity could birth such a place, how long something needs to be lost for before it will appear here, how the preservation of the objects might work....
I can’t follow the conversation. My brain is stuck on only one thing.
“Hang on,” I say, and even though my voice is low and unsure, they both give me their full attention. “The whole point of a lost property office isn’t only to hold onto lost things—it’s to get everything in one place so people can come find what they’ve lost.”
Baz lifts a perfect eyebrow. “I believe we’re all aware of how it works, Snow.”
“No, you don’t get it—if this is a lost property room, then why does no one know it exists? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?”
Penny cocks her head. “Well...you could look at it like that, yes....”
“So,” I press, “this is just...a room for lost things. Not a lost property office. Not a lost-and-found. Just a...lost.”
Baz squints at me.
Penny makes a little “huh” sound.
We all just stare at each other.
Baz snaps out of it first, shaking his head with an agitated huff. “That’s ridiculous. None of us are lost—why would the room close us in?”
I frown. And shrug.
“No, wait...let’s think this through a bit more.” Penny wanders off, shuffling through the sea of misplaced belongings as she mumbles her thought process to herself.
I use my foot to nudge clear a spot on the floor, then take a seat. I stretch my legs out in front of me.
With no cryptic messages to follow or enemy to fight or hideout to discover, I’m not left with much to do.
I stare at my trainers.
Best to leave the thinking to Penny. And Baz, who has slunk off again.
I stare at my hands.
There’s no sense in me breaking my head over it. I couldn’t think about it even if I tried.
I tip my chin up and stare at the ceiling.
My head feels like one big blank. The exact opposite of this cluttered room.
I let my chin fall and I stare at something that catches my eye.
There’s an uneasiness in me, though. I feel untethered. I feel...
I squint at the object that’s bouncing light back at me and realize I’m staring at the mirror.
I feel lost at sea.
I hear the crunch of footsteps coming closer. I can’t take my eyes off the mirror, winking at me from the heap across the room.
They’re Penny’s footsteps. “Did you say something, Simon?”
I drop my head into my hands and dig my fingers into my scalp. “Fuck, fuck, fuck—”
Penny falls to her knees and grabs my shoulder. “Simon? What’s wrong?” She sounds nervous.
My magic’s bubbling up again. “The mirror—”
“What about it?”
This can’t be. It’s stupid. I must be wrong. I can’t deal with this. I don’t want to deal with this—
“Nothing,” I gasp. I press the heels of my hands into my eyes and try to unsee, unthink— “Nothing, never mind!”
“What’s happened?” It’s Baz’s voice—I jerk my head up at the sound.
He’s closer than I expected, peering down at me with a perplexed frown, and it makes my stomach lurch. I scramble backwards, hitting into a stack of something-or-other behind me that spills about.
“Go away!” I blurt at him.
The furrow between his brow deepens. “What are you freaking out about this time, you cretinous disaster?”
“Stop it, Baz,” Penny chides, getting up to flap her hands at him. “Shoo! Go away!” He scoffs, throws his hands up dramatically, and marches off. Penny immediately kneels back down in front of me. “Simon? Just breathe, all right?”
“I’m fine,” I say. I’m not fine. I’m sweating and I feel sick. My magic is seething in my gut. My edges are blurring.
Penny casts another silence is golden around us. She puts a hand on my knee—I’m burning up so much, I wonder if touching me hurts her. “Breathe, come on. You can’t go off in here, it’s too dangerous. Just breathe. In and out, nice and steady.” Penny sets the pace, and I follow her as best I can. “That’s it, Si, keep going.”
It takes a few minutes...maybe longer...eventually...eventually, I can pull my magic back in. It’s still there, desperate to get out, but now it’s at a low simmer, not a roiling boil.
“I’m fine...,” I say, and this time it’s not a lie—not as much, anyway. Penny rubs at an eye under her glasses. She looks bleary and exhausted. Even with all of her exposure to my weird magic over the years, it still messes her up pretty good. “Sorry, Pen.”
She gives me a small smile. “It’s all right. I’m glad you’re feeling better,” she says. I nod. “Can you tell me what just happened?”
“Um.” I swallow and avert my gaze. The blasted mirror catches my eye again, and I wince. “I don’t—um.”
Penny follows my gaze to the mirror before I can look away. And then, before I can get out a proper protest, she’s on her feet, going to collect it. I yell at her not to, but she can’t hear me because she’s left the silencing bubble around this spot. Not that she’d listen anyway. Then, she returns and sits criss-cross in front of me with the mirror in her lap. She’s giving me a searching look.
“You still think this has to do with the mirror,” she says.
“I—I don’t know.”
Penny holds it out to me. “Tell me what you see.” I shake my head and tuck my hands into my armpits. Penny gives me a stern frown. “Simon. Do you want to get out of here or not?”
“You said it’s not related,” I challenge.
“I’m starting to think otherwise.” She waves the mirror impatiently. “Take it and tell me.”
I’ve already learnt my lesson time and again that trying to defy Penelope Bunce is useless. That doesn’t mean I don’t whinge about it first—especially right now. I’m dreading this something fierce. My hands are shaking when I finally take the mirror from her. The glass is blindingly bright, as if it’s trying to tell me this is a terrible idea. I take a deep breath and hold it up in front of my face so that it will work....
It’s the same vision as before, and I don’t know why that’s so upsetting, but it is, and I hastily hide the mirror face down in my lap and squeeze my eyes shut.
“Tell me,” Penny says again, softer.
“Who do you see?”
“Simon. Look in the mirror, and tell me who you see.”
Fuck it all. I growl and yank the mirror back up to eye-level. And, there among the sea of stars, is Basilton Pitch staring back at me.
“It’s Baz,” I get out from around the lump in my throat.
Penny takes a slow breath.
I don’t look away from the mirror—from Baz’s deceptively soft gaze. I never back down from a staring contest with him. I’m not going to let him win this. I’m not going to let him keep fucking with me.
“Baz is your soulmate...,” Penny whispers, even though he can’t hear us.
“He’s not.” I say it more to him than to her—to this fake conjuring of him, that is. The real Baz Pitch would never look at me like that. Like I’m worth something more than a laugh.
“What if he is...?”
“He’s not,” I insist through my teeth. “He’s evil. He’s a vampire. You heard him—all we’re destined for is to try to kill each other.”
Penny sets her hand back on my knee.
“He’s a prick. A bully. A monster.”
Penny peers at me from around the back of the mirror—I can see the disappointed downturn of her mouth even without taking my eyes off fake-Baz.
“He’s my enemy.”
Penny says something, but I’m too riled now.
“I hate him,” I bark.
Penny grabs my wrists and shoves the mirror down. “Breathe!” she pleads. “Calm down!”
Merlin—I didn’t realize how volatile my magic had got again. I take big, gulping breaths, and I can taste the smoke. Penny walks me through a more urgent round of guided breathing, while Baz shoots me glares from across the room. I can’t bear to look at him, not after staring at fake-Baz for so long, with that fond glow about him—
I toss the mirror away. It lands outside of our bubble of silence, so I don’t hear if it shatters, and I can’t be arsed to check. It doesn’t matter. It’s all bollocks. No one should have to be tortured with that stupid thing.
Penny squeezes my hands hard, bringing me back to my body, to the breathing.
It takes longer to come down this time. Once my magic has settled, there’s a persistent thrum inside my chest, like something is still struggling to break free.
“That’s better,” Penny soothes. She doesn’t let go of my hands. “Now...let’s try again.”
I can’t help from lashing out at her with an angry, “No!”
Penny holds her ground. “Different tactic this time. Instead of focussing on all the reasons why it can’t be true, I want you to think about why it can.”
“Simon!” she snaps. “It’s a thought experiment, all right? Make a list!”
That surprises me. “What...?”
“A list. Make a list for all the reasons why Baz could be your soulmate.”
I stare at her.
“No,” I say feebly.
I shake my head and stare down at our clasped hands. “No, I mean...I don’t....” My eyes are burning. “I’ve got...I’ve already...” Our hands are blurring, but not because of my magic. “Shit...”
Tears are welling up in my eyes. It’s too much, this is all too much—too much is trying to break it’s way out of me. Not just tears and magic...there’s a truth wedged into my heart, locked into a secret room for lost things. A place for everything I know I can’t have—things I want to forget about. And there in that dark room is the biggest yearning of them all, rattling the lock on the door, desperate to be found.
“Penny...,” I confess, my voice barely there, “I’ve already got a list.”
She softens her voice to match mine. “What do you mean?”
Reasons why Baz could be my soulmate:
—I’ve already got a list
All the things I want to do to Baz, a list:
No.1—Feel his hair
I want to run my fingers through it. Mess up that severe, slicked-back thing he’s always got going on. Feel how soft it is when he wears it loose. Watch as the water drips down when he’s fresh from the shower.
No.2—Breathe his scent
My heart speeds up when I smell that blend of his—cedar and bergamot and Baz. Sometimes, like when I enter the bathroom right after he’s showered, it gets me a little too excited....
No.3—Stare into eyes
I know every detail of them. Grey. But also a bit blue and a bit green. A stormy summer ocean. With lovely dark lashes framing them, and those full, expressive eyebrows of his. His gaze is usually so sharp and calculating—I’ve always wanted to know what he’d look like with something so much softer and sweeter in his eyes.
No.4—Keep him in my sights
The first night back together at Watford after the summers away is the best sleep I get all year. And every day after that, it’s impossible to not watch him. If he’s in the room, he’s all I see. If he’s not in the room, I have to find him. I need him nearby. With me. Safe.
Merlin and Morgana...there’s so much more than those four things. Ten, maybe—or more.
Perhaps the list is endless, even. I feel so overcome with my revelations, I wouldn’t be surprised if it never stops spilling out of me now that I’ve opened the door.
Floodgates, more like.
I don’t realize I’m crying until Penny pulls me into her arms.
“What do I do?” I ask wetly into her shoulder.
She pets my hair. “I’m not sure....”
After a few moments, I pull back with a sniffle—I don’t want to get snot on Penny. And I also don’t want Baz to see me crying, but I think that’s a lost cause—I can faintly see him in my periphery. I focus on grabbing a discarded tee shirt and blow my nose in it, then toss it aside. And then I pick up another piece of fabric to wipe my eyes with. I think it’s silk. I’d be more worried about ruining the fabric with moisture if it had any hope of ever finding its owner.
I stare at my tear marks mucking up the beautiful fabric, and I feel absolutely fucking pathetic.
Penny’s just watching me.
Further reasons why Baz could be my soulmate:
—I’m hopelessly in love with him
I swallow. Might as well let it all out.
“I’m...I’m in love with Baz.”
It feels good to say it, I think. No—shit—it feels awful, actually. But it also feels right. Like I’m finally seeing clearly.
I don’t feel so lost any more. It’s hard to admit...but it’s freeing, too.
I soak up my fresh tears with the silky fabric.
And then I yelp when something hits me hard in the shoulder. A pen—?
Penny and I both whip our heads to Baz—he’s flailing his arm and yelling. As we clamber to our feet, Pen drops the silencing spell—he’s shouting, “the door!” over and over.
We make a run for it before the room changes its mind. Baz holds it open and pushes us both out. The second we’ve all thrown ourselves into the familiar hallway at the top of the Weeping Tower, the door slams shut—and disappears. Penny looks disappointed to lose access to such a treasure trove, but none of that stuff was ours—I doubt we could have left with any of it, anyway.
The only lost thing that got to leave that room was me....
As Penny congratulates me (for cleaning up my own stupid mess), Baz snatches me by the wrist.
“Where did you get this?” he demands.
“What? Oh—” Looks like I’ve still got that piece of fabric in my hand. “I found it in the room.” Baz yanks it out of my grip faster than I can react. “Hey!”
He spins away from me, and I don’t stop him. “This...this is my mother’s....”
I gawk at him. “What?”
“Your mother’s?” Penny invades his space despite the dirty look he gives her. “How can you be certain? It’s just a bit of fabric.”
“I remember it clearly,” Baz says with a firmness that leaves no room for scepticism. “It was her favourite scarf. She’d wrap it over her hair on windy days....” Baz shakes out the blue silk scarf and frowns at the wet splotches all over it.
Great. I wrecked his dead mum’s scarf.
Well, not like he doesn’t already hate my guts. What’s another strike against me?
Thankfully, a simple out, out damn spot does the trick. I sigh in relief. Baz gives me the briefest glance—my heart shoots into my throat—and then he whisks himself down the stairs. Probably eager to get the fuck away from me before I drag him into something else.
I wonder if that’s why the room appeared for Baz. So that it could return the scarf. At least I was able to help with that, even if it wasn’t deliberate.
Penny collects the book she discarded on the windowsill earlier. And then we head out.
Baz is already long gone.
I walk Penny to the Cloisters. She doesn’t speak up until we get there.
“Are you going to talk to Baz about it?”
She gives me a tight hug. “I’ll leave my window open tonight. Send a bird if you need anything.”
The walk to Mummers feels far too short.
I’m not ready to face him.
What could I possibly say? ‘You know, Baz, I was thinking—what if we switched out the slugging each other for snogging instead?’ He’d probably deck me for even suggesting it. Especially right after my mentor just raided his family’s home....
Ugh. I can too-easily picture the fury that’d be in his eyes.
Fuck shit fuck—
If I saw Baz in the mirror...doesn’t that mean he saw me, too?
I falter on the steps leading up to our room. All I can see is the disgust and wrath on his face as he raged at me, ‘Because it’s unrequited!’
I squeeze the banister and shove down a wave of panic. (And fear.)(And nausea.)(And pain.)
I’ll never be ready to face him...but I’ve not got a choice, do I...? He knows....
It’s all right. He hates me. He’s repulsed by me. None of that’s new.
I can do this.
I’m stronger than this.
I temper my bubbling anxiety—and all the magic spilling out of me—as best I can, and then I push open the door to our room.
It’s some absolutely godawful hour of night, but because that’s just my luck, Baz is still up. He’s in his pyjamas, sitting up against his pillows, on top of his covers, reading by lamplight. I can’t meet his eyes—I immediately grab my pyjamas and lock myself in the toilet.
I wash my face.
I take a leak.
I brush my teeth.
When I go back into the room, Baz is still reading. I head straight for my bed, yanking back the sheets and climbing in. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep, but I have to at least pretend—
Seems like Baz isn’t willing to let me suffer in peace. “What happened in there?” he asks.
“It doesn’t concern you.” I roll into a tight ball, my back to him.
He scoffs. “You had me trapped for hours, I think it concerns me.”
“I saw something that upset me, all right? We got stuck until I came to terms with it.” I press my hands against my eyes. I’d much rather focus on the spots I’m seeing than this conversation.
Baz is quiet for a moment. Then, he asks, “You really didn’t see Wellbelove?”
“Obviously not!” I can’t believe him!
“Well,” he says lightly, “that certainly makes your recent breakup more tolerable, doesn’t it?”
“Didn’t like who you saw?”
“Ah,” Baz emits with another one of those humourless laughs, “it’s unrequited, then?”
His words cut right into me, splitting open my chest, leaving me feeling even more raw and exposed than I already did. Is this how he plans on ending me? By reaching in and tearing my heart out of my body? Drain me straight from the source?
“So I’m told,” I say through my teeth.
I hear Baz close his book and shift. “What does that mean?”
This is the sort of thing the Roommate’s Anathema should protect you from.
He can’t do this to me. I won’t let him.
I do what I do best—I channel everything I’m feeling into aggression. Hunger, loneliness, fear, pain, love—all of it’s so much easier to handle when you can kick and scream instead. I fling back my sheets and swing my legs over the side of the bed, just barely resisting tackling and throttling him.
“Could you be any more cruel?!” I bellow. “Why must you always say the most awful shit?! How can you act like you don’t know?!”
Baz looks well gobsmacked by my outburst. “What are you talking about?”
“You saw it, too!”
Baz’s whole demeanour goes cold and dark. He leaps out of his bed and strides over to his desk, slamming down his book. “You know nothing about what I saw,” he hisses.
“Yes, I do!” I yell at his stooped back. “That’s how it works, innit? I saw you, and you saw me!”
Baz straightens, slowly. Then turns to me, slower. His eyes are wide. “What did you just say...?”
I want to punch that slack jaw of his. How dare he look like it’s his world that’s gone pear-shaped? I jump to my feet. “Why are you pretending? What, are you trying to spare my feelings?”
“No, I....” Baz gives his head a slow shake, his rounded eyes never leaving mine. He looks shook to his core. “I thought...I didn’t....”
“It’s fine, Baz.” I bare my teeth at him—I think it’s the only thing keeping me from crying. “I get it. You hate me. Sorry that you got stuck with a shitty soulmate.”
“You...you saw me...?”
“Go ahead. Lord it over me like you do everything else.”
Baz takes a step towards our beds but falters. “Snow...did you...do you think I saw you in that mirror and said it was unrequited...because I hate you...?”
Even snarling at him isn’t keeping the tears from collecting in my eyes now. It hurts—it hurts so fucking bad—from him even mentioning how he could never return my feelings.
“You’re such an arsehole.” I try to sound tough, but my voice is wavering and wet. “What is it you want from me? You want to hear me say it? Want to take a recording so you can torture me with it forever? Yes, I saw you,” I assure him, “because for some reason, despite what an insufferable bastard you are, I’m in love with you.”
“Ha....” Baz hangs his head and hides his face in his hand. “Haha...!” A few more unhinged chuckles burst out of him. “Aleister almighty...you’re astoundingly idiotic!”
When I thought Baz would laugh at me, this isn’t what I expected. I’ve got no idea what to think about this sort of reaction. “What?” I blurt.
“That’s not—that’s not how it works, Snow. Not definitively.”
My blood goes cold.
I gawk at him, only managing to make incoherent noises in response.
Baz lifts his head from his hand. He’s...smiling. And it’s not a sadistic smile. It’s...almost fond. Almost like what I saw in that fucking mirror—
“I told you,” he continues. His voice is brimming with amusement and something else, something warm. “There have been many duels fought over the soulmates seen in that mirror. Not merely from an unwillingness to believe it—the divinings weren’t always in pairs, leading to all sorts of arguments and misunderstandings. You seeing me doesn’t necessitate that I would see you.”
I duck my chin down and stare, wide-eyed, at the floor.
Me seeing him doesn’t mean he saw me....
He didn’t know I saw him.
I’ve just made a complete arse of myself.
I snap my head up—the look on Baz’s face is like nothing I’ve ever seen. His expression is so open. He looks like his heart’s in his throat. He struggles to swallow around it.
“You’re right,” he says. “I did. I saw you. You’re all I ever see.”
It’s hard to hear him over the blood rushing in my ears. “What...?”
I could swear Baz’s eyes are glassy. “I said it was unrequited because I thought you hated me,” he murmurs. Gently. Like it’s something important. A confession.
“So, you...you don’t...?”
Baz smiles more, and it’s nothing like what I saw in the mirror—it’s fonder. Lovelier. “I don’t need a mirror to tell me how I feel for you, Simon Snow. I looked at you one day in fifth year, and there’s been no looking past you since.”
“I love you, Simon.”
He looks like there’s affection ready to burst from his body. Perhaps because it’s no longer trapped behind a mysterious door in the depths of his heart.
I take a step closer. He’s too far away— “Come say that to my face.”
Baz exhales a little huff of humour. He reaches his hand out for me, managing all of one step forwards before I realize I don’t have the patience for this. I rush him, planting my hands on his chest and shoving him up against the wall. Baz’s breath catches—it’s never sounded so good.
“I love you, Simon,” he murmurs again, his eyes slipping closed as I press in closer.
His lips are parted, plush...
They feel perfect against mine.
Baz’s cool hands hold me by the hips while I kiss him. And kiss him. Both slow and urgent—tender, despite the way I’m crushing him against the wall. And he kisses me back, sweetly, breathlessly, until I can’t imagine ever not having this.
This is what it’s supposed to be like....
I slide my fingers into his hair. It’s no longer slicked back—he always shakes it out before bed. I run my fingers through it, wondering how much of the sleek silkiness is due to leftover posh product and how much is just Baz. I want to know. I want to feel it tomorrow morning when he’s fresh out of the shower. I want to feel his wet hair and kiss him until it’s dry and then feel it some more.
Can I do that tomorrow? Will we still have this in the morning?
He saw me in the mirror. He said he loves me. Twice. With my name. Not ‘I love you, Snow.’ It was ‘I love you, Simon.’ Twice!
We break apart because I’m too overwhelmed to breathe, far less continue kissing. He curls a hand around the back of my neck, the other one gripping the back of my tee shirt. He’s holding me to him. Which is perfect because I have no intention of pulling away.
Baz trails his lips along my cheek and jaw as I catch my breath. I think he’s trembling. He loves me...I think he wants this as badly as I do.
Part of me feels like crying again—but there’s no point in crying when I could be kissing Baz instead. So I do.
His lips are cool. (Because he’s a vampire.) His chin is a bit rough. (Because he’s a boy.) His body is strong and solid. (Because he’s a footballer.) His knees are buckling. (Because he’s in love with me.)
We sink to the floor, with me kneeling between Baz’s legs, my fingers still tangled in his hair. We’re not close enough, but I can lean over him like this, dip his head back and take my time delving into his mouth. He’s warming up under my hands and lips.
All of Baz is brilliantly maddening.
I love it.
I love him.
‘I love you, Simon.’
Baz gasps and lets his head fall to the side as I line his neck with kisses. He tangles one hand into my curls, as if the little noises he’s making aren’t encouragement enough to continue.
“Simon,” he sighs. And then, with a breathy laugh, he says, “We’re soulmates.”
I practically whine into his neck. “Yeah...Merlin. Baz—“
We kiss until I can’t kneel like this any longer. Then we shift, and I straddle him, sitting on his thighs instead, and we kiss until his bum is sore. (The concept of ‘Baz’s bum’ is a whole other floodgate I’ll have to deal with at another time.)
“Let’s get off the floor, yeah?” I say against his mouth when he starts squirming with discomfort. Baz nods.
We get up, and there’s a moment of hesitation where Baz looks at me, expectant. Lost.
I take his hand and show him the way, leading him over to my bed. I crawl on first, tuck myself near the wall, and pat the mattress. Baz takes a moment to stare down at me. His cheeks are flushed and his hair’s a mess and his mouth is red—he’s gorgeous. I bite my lip and grin at him, patting the mattress again.
Baz’s smile is sheepish, but he doesn’t hesitate any longer. He gets situated on his side, facing me. I pull the covers up over us. While I don’t have as many blankets on my bed as he does, I have every intention of keeping him warm. I slide an arm around his waist and pull him to me.
“You do want this, right?” I ask.
“Yes,” Baz huffs. “Crowley, fuck, Snow, yes.”
I grin. “Then why are you always such a twat?”
Baz’s face scrunches. “Protective manoeuvre?” he offers. “I didn’t want to be found out by you.” I lean closer, letting our noses touch, and he sighs. “What about you?”
“You’re no stranger to aggression towards me.”
“Protective manoeuvre,” I tease. “Didn’t want to be found out by myself.”
Baz scoffs. “You really are thick.”
He’s the one to kiss me this time, and every part of it—every part of him—is so adoring and insistent. I get completely swept up.
We kiss...and at some point I think to remove my cross.
Baz gets more daring after that. I’m not scared—I’m putty in his hands.
We kiss—and touch—until we’re too tired to keep it up. I stifle a yawn into my pillow. Baz gives me a fatigue-drunk smile. His eyes are a warm grey, like a cosy blanket. He’s too lovely.
“Can I ask you something?” I murmur as he brushes his fingers through my curls.
“I saw you...when you looked at the mirror last night. Why were you so upset?”
Baz exhales.... He’s staring at the movement of my hair through his fingers while he flexes his jaw. He’s thinking hard.
Eventually, he speaks: “Loving you always felt so hopeless. I wanted to believe that maybe I could get over you one day. Or live long enough to have the chance.”
I roll onto my back and bring him closer. Baz comes willingly, curling up against my side and resting his cheek on my chest. I press my face into his hair and breathe him in deep.
“I hope,” I begin, “that this means we’re going to stop trying to kill each other?”
I feel Baz smile against me, which is good because I’m smiling too. “Are you saying you like this better than fighting?”
Baz pushes himself up onto one elbow. His hair falls in his face as he hovers over me. My heart is racing. “How are we going to explain this?” he asks. “The Families, the Mage....”
“I don’t care.”
“That’s all well and good, but—“
“Baz.” I reach a hand up to hold back his hair, not wanting to miss a single detail in his gaze. “I’ve finally found you—my feelings for you. I can—I can finally see. Properly. I’m not— They can’t— There’s nothing they can do. I won’t look away.”
Baz smiles at me like he’s been aching to hear those words his whole life.
We wrap ourselves around each other and let sleep claim us. I sleep so peacefully despite having to share my twin bed. Crammed together like this, there’s no fear about where Baz is or what he’s up to.
There’s no fear that I won’t be able to have more and more and more nights like this with him.
Because no matter what comes in our way, whether it be dreams or wars, I know I’ve finally found something good.
And I’ll make damn sure to never lose it.