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Just A Spark

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Patrick’s reluctant to leave the ice even as he steps off of it. The iron null grids that line the rink disappear as he walks down the hall toward the locker room and the farther he moves away the more he can feel his magic begin to return, tingling at the tips of his fingers.

Most of the team has already changed and left by this point, in a rush to make it to class or grab more sleep before their next class begins. Patrick’s Differential Equations course doesn’t start until noon, which gives him time on the ice to practice alone, a habit he’s had almost as long as he’s played hockey.

“What’s wrong?” Patrick says before he’s even entered the locker room.

He can feel Jonny’s irritation thick throughout the hallway, could probably sense Jonny all on his own from a hundred miles away, Patrick’s so attuned to him. Maybe it’s because they’ve known each other half their lives that he can pick out Jonny’s emotions better than anyone else’s in a crowd, Patrick doesn’t know. Maybe it’s that Jonny’s his best friend, the one he’s always reaching out for. Or maybe it’s that when Jonny’s pissed about something the anger reverberates off him in waves that shudder so loudly Patrick couldn’t ignore it even if he wanted to. Possibly all of the above.

“Tore a lace when I was taking off my skate,” Jonny says. His brow is furrowed and his mouth is in a tight line, he’s shirtless, but the rest of his gear is still on as he messes with his skates.

Patrick walks up to his locker and deposits his stick and helmet, then his gloves. Everything in perfect order.

“Need some new ones?”

“No, I’ve got it,” Jonny huffs. “Or I thought I did. Was using my magic to lace them and I turn away for one second to take off my pads and noticed they were fucking backwards. So now I have to unlace them and redo it by hand. It shouldn’t be this goddamn hard to get laces right.”

Patrick smiles, reaching over to ruffle Jonny’s sweaty hair. “You can move an entire truck with your mind, Tazer. And your hands. Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Jonny sighs and snaps his eyes up, dark and endless as they look right at Patrick, almost into him. Patrick’s whole body buzzes with a familiar warmth, a sensation he’s known as long as he’s known Jonny. It glows a deep honey gold around the edge of his vision, following Jonny wherever he goes.

Around them the lights in the locker room begin to flicker, humming loudly as they grow brighter and then dim before flickering again.

Patrick draws his hand away from Jonny’s hair and turns back to shedding his own gear, he takes a long calming breath. Waiting for the lights to right themselves he holds his breath, trying to calm his racing pulse. “Why are you still here anyway?” he asks. “You skipping class?”

“Canceled. Davidson is sick. And I thought we could pick up lunch on the way back home.”

“Tacos?” Patrick suggests. “You mentioned wanting them last night and your stomach panged so hard it gave me a craving.”

The apples of Jonny’s cheeks flush a light pink. There’s an edge of embarrassment mixed in with some fatigue, a little eagness, a touch of hunger; the kinds of easy feelings most people don’t bother to hide and Patrick can easily detect. He usually blocks his senses to these smaller, insignificant emotions. It’d be too overwhelming to feel everyone’s everything all the time. But with Jonny even the smaller feelings curl like happiness inside his ribcage. He doesn’t like to shut them out.

“I thought you’d argue with me about pizza,” Jonny says, the corner of his mouth quirking up. The anger that was initially there is now beginning to seep away.

“I don’t always argue with you.”

“Yes, you do.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes.”

“No,” Patrick says, throwing his glove at Jonny’s face.

“Like you aren’t right now?” Jonny asks. He throws the glove back so Patrick can put it in its place.

Patrick rolls his eyes. “Can you turn on the hot water in the showers please?”

“Sure, but only because you asked nicely,” Jonny says, reaching his hand out for an invisible nozzle and turning. Across the hall, Patrick can hear the water come on.

“What are we doing tonight by the way?”

Finished lacing his skate by hand, Jonny inspects his work with a pleased expression sliding onto his face and filtering into the air. He puts both skates in his locker and begins to undo his pants. “Duncs wants to try some new club on campus. I think he’s trying to hit up some blonde bartender. We have to wingman, I guess.”

“Isn’t that Seabs’ job?”

Jonny glowers at him. “Be a team player, Kaner.”

“You be a team player. I have my own hookups to worry about.”

“Like who?” Jonny snorts. It’s a little insulting he doesn’t have more faith in Patrick’s game. Not that Patrick’s scored much in the last, well, year or two, but still. That’s only because he wasn’t putting his best effort forth, distracted by other, stupid, currently pants-less, men.

“I should make you think your precious tacos taste like dirt.”

“That’d be rude.”

“Would it?” Patrick says, pushing just a tiny tendril of fear in Jonny’s direction. Small enough Jonny can detect it for what it is as soon as he feels it. He’s known Patrick too long to not know when Patrick pushes emotions his way.

It’s not the kind of action that’s considered kosher among other empaths, but then again Jonny isn’t some stranger on the street. And when he jumps up to race after Patrick, preventing him from moving away with two simple fingers, well, no one is there to see them fudge the rules a bit.

*

“Where are we going again?” Abby asks.

“This new club Duncs wants to try,” Sharpy says. “He’s after the bartender, Stacey or something.”

“Apparently it’s a null club,” Patrick says from the backseat of Sharpy’s car.

He can see Abby in the front seat, where she’s using the mirror on the visor as she conjures makeup from her right index finger on her right hand. She keeps switching between a dark purple shade and a dark red wine, and each time she switches, she places her left hand on Sharpy’s thigh, using his kinetic energy to help her create her lipstick.

People look at them weird sometimes, Patrick’s noticed. The old school types tend to think energy sharing is something to be done in private or not at all, that it turns magic into a perversion of itself. But when your boyfriend has the power to make anyone almost instantly think they’re in love with him, well, sometimes his type of power needs to be minimized.

“I don’t see what people really get out of clubs like this,” Sharpy says. “Seems bland.”

“It only seems that way to you because wherever you go you walk in the door and instantly have people fawning all over you while the rest of us have to, you know, work at it.”

“I’m with Patrick,” Abby says. “It’ll be nice to just sit around with everyone and have some drinks without all the usual power jocking bullshit you boys always feel the need to do. Especially when there’s someone you want to impress around.”

Patrick scoffs. “I don’t do that.”

“You do when Jonny’s around,” Sharpy says, smirking.

“Fuck off,” Patrick says. He could deny it, but they’d all know he’s lying.

They park in the closest empty lot, hiking it almost a quarter of a mile until they reach their destination. As they approach the club from around the block, Patrick can’t help but push a little insecurity Sharpy’s way, just a crumb, a tiny pinch.

“Do I look okay, babe?” he asks Abby, combing a hand through his stupidly perfect hair. He smooths down his shirt and fiddles with his collar until Abby rolls her eyes.

“Patrick, stop.” She giggles, turning to smack him on the arm as they both laugh. Sharpy scowls and messes with his hair some more.

“I’m sorry, buddy,” Patrick says. “I couldn’t resist.”

“I’m gonna get you back for that you little shit,” Sharpy points at him as they reach the line to get inside the club.

Jonny’s there already, and so is half the team, lined up alongside the front of the building, at least forty to fifty people in front of them. The name of the club is in bright neon above them: Ironside. An appropriate choice, Patrick supposes, for a null club.

Jonny’s talking with Seabs and Schmaltzy when he sees Patrick and waves him over, his head tilting in a come hither gesture. Patrick’s heart flutters and so does the neon sign. He tamps it down fast, clenching his fists. It can’t take that long to get inside the club. It won’t. And then he’ll be good for the next few hours. No big deal. He just has to keep himself in check for twenty minutes.

Unfortunately keeping his elektrokinesis under control has been a problem ever since he realized he’s in love with Jonny.

It’s probably one of those things he should’ve picked up on much sooner, like maybe when he was fourteen and he enjoyed hugging Jonny more than he did kissing any girls. Or how he was happier cuddling with Jonny on the couch watching hockey than he was losing his virginity to his then-boyfriend, Adam. Or how they followed each other to college without ever questioning going somewhere separate. Or how they’ve lived together for the past two years and Patrick never wants to live anywhere else. Or maybe how Jonny’s the most important person in his entire life.

Could be any of those things, or all of them. And Patrick really should’ve noticed a lot sooner, but all it took was him getting the flu their freshman year and Jonny watching over him while he was vomiting and snotty and lying on the bathroom floor. Jonny had barely left his side except to go to class for that whole week, and whenever Patrick texted him about needing something, anything Jonny would reappear with it not long after. But that’s just the kind of person Jonny is and has always been. He’s one of the good ones, one of the best.

Patrick knows now what it took him so long to get: they met when they were young enough that Patrick thought all people deep down were as kind, giving, and warm as Jonny. He thought people would always fill him up with light. It wasn’t them.

“What took so long?” Jonny asks, pulling Patrick under his arm when he gets close enough.

“Sharpy has to primp in the mirror for a half an hour,” Patrick says. “So we took off late.”

“That was you, Peekaboo,” Sharpy says, reaching out to fuck up Patrick’s hair.

Jonny bats his hand away with the flick of one finger and Sharpy stumbles back, the overdramatic diva.

“Chill, Tazer. You almost took my arm off.”

“I did not. Shut up,” Jonny laughs.

“Have any of you guys been to this club before?” Abby asks. She’s decided on the wine lipstick apparently.

“Duncs brought some of us last weekend,” Schmaltzy says, pointing between himself and Brinksy. “It’s pretty nice inside but the drinks are fucking expensive. It’s a good thing the bartender likes Duncs because if she hadn’t given us a few free pitchers, I don’t think we would’ve had enough to pay our tab.”

Patrick frowns, remembering the crumpled twenty in his pocket.

“Did you bring money?” he whispers to Jonny.

“Yeah I got us covered,” Jonny whispers back, squeezing Patrick’s shoulder cap. The headlights on a car across the street flash on, bright enough to blind oncoming drivers, the neon sign flashing two times, then three.

Patrick swallows and closes his eyes, fists squeezed shut as he tries to right himself. This shit is getting out of control.

When he feels steadier he opens his eyes and subtly shifts away from Jonny, hoping no one notices. He glances up as people talk around them, seeing Jonny giving him an unreadable look out of his peripheral vision. Patrick tries to sense what he’s feeling, but he’s locked it down tight, everything cold, his golden glow dim.

Thankfully the line begins to move then, a small distraction, but a good one.

“Hey Patrick.” A small tap on his arm catches his attention and he spins around.

It’s Dayna, his and Jonny’s next door neighbor. She shares the apartment across the hall from them with some girl whose magic involves transfiguration. And the only other person Patrick’s ever come across in his life with that kind of power was a girl in his seventh grade home room who threatened to turn him into dog shit if he didn’t let her cheat off his math homework. He’s been suitably unsettled by their kind ever since and tends to warn Jonny against playing loud music in their apartment.

“Hi Dayna. How’s it going?”

“Not bad, not bad. My friend works as a bartender here and so Duncs invited to me to be his wingman,” she laughs. “I’m supposed to put in a good word and he’ll introduce me to Brent.”

“Brent, eh?” Patrick waggles his eyebrows.

“You know I’ve been coming to your guys’ games for the last two years and I don’t think he’s noticed me once.” She tucks her long brown hair behind one of her ears, clasps her hands together. She gorgeous in a way Patrick would totally go for if his head wasn’t full of Jonny.

“That’s just Brent. He’s gruff and kind of guarded, but he’s a great guy. I’ll introduce you if you want. Don’t worry about Duncs.”

“Are you serious?” she asks, her eyes wide and hopeful. “That’d be so awesome of you.”

Patrick nods. “Yeah, no problem.”

She reaches her arms out and embraces him quickly, her emotions bleeding through her touch and yelling, YES, and, EXCITEMENT, and JOY, and a small sharp tang of fear.

Patrick doesn’t push her away, although the intensity of it all makes him dizzy for an instant until Dayna pulls away.

The line moves again, the beginning of their group now making it into the club when a woosh of air blasts by everyone standing outside and suddenly Hayden appears, like a crack in the world opened up and out he popped. Fucking teleporters.

“Sorry I’m late!” He says to Jonny, bumping their shoulders together and creating a wall between them, and him and Dayna. Fucking tall people.

“Glad you made it, man. Were you working on that bio paper?” Jonny says, interest radiating off of him. Whether it’s interest in the answer to his question, the paper, or Hayden himself Patrick isn’t sure.

“The citation is fucking me up so hard. I’ve never done APA before.”

“It’s a goddamn headache.”

“Understatement of the year,” Hayden laughs, handing his ID to the club bouncer. He gets a stamp on his hand instead of the wrist band since he’s under twenty-one and Patrick smiles. At least he gets to drink.

As Jonny bares his arm for the band Patrick can see his Triad tattoo on the underside of his wrist, a series of triangles all interlocked. It’s the symbol for those rare few who are born with three powers, when most are born with one or two. The mandatory tattoos are assigned their thirteenth birthday, the day most powers begin to emerge. The Triad tattoo is meant to be a symbol of responsibility, a mark many people see as a form of classism and privilege. And it’s true Triads are often considered more important to society, are often treated better, and given opportunities others aren’t. They’re also the first called upon whenever there is a national threat, expected to lay down their lives first and protect others. Their very existence is polarizing and at times not as easy as many like to think.

Jonny hates his tattoo for a lot of reasons, but mostly because he doesn’t want people to treat him any better or worse than he treats them. Patrick knows this because it’s something Jonny’s told him several times over the years, usually during his lower moments and he needed Patrick to understand him when most people wouldn’t. And Patrick has, he always will.

*

Patrick’s four drinks in when Dayna drags him and Jonny onto the dancefloor. Duncs has been monopolizing Seabs’ time at the bar since the moment they walked in, not giving Patrick much of an opportunity to introduce Dayna without making things overly awkward. She and Abby have become fast friends in the meantime, bonding over their English department woes. Sharpy’s been sullen since they sat down and the waitress didn’t offer to bring him free food or drinks like he’s used to, while Brinksy’s been telling the group the story of the time he shapeshifted into a kitten and accidentally got taped into an Amazon shipping box his mom was about to return. And Hayden looks irritated he has to ask people to move whenever he wants to get out of their booth instead of being able to teleport out.

But Patrick is having a great time. It’s nice for once to be able to drink, relax, and let his guard down around Jonny. He’s tried to keep more of a distance between them this past year. His magic started acting up right around the time he realized what Jonny truly meant to him and no amount of practice, meditation, or calming breathing has gotten it back in line. In fact Patrick’s noticing it only seems to slowly be getting worse. He’s not sure what the fuck he’s going to do about it, and he knows he needs to do something, but for now he’s going to enjoy these moments.

Jonny’s always been an affectionate and tactile guy, even more so with Patrick, and he’s missed it. The way Jonny will casually sling an arm over his shoulder, or pull him into a hug, or press a hand to the small of his back; these little touches letting Patrick know he’s there, he’s near, he’s not going anywhere. He’s doing it now while they’re on the dance floor, Dayna beside them as they move to the beat in an awkward little circle of three. Patrick doesn’t care if he’s a horrible dancer, that Jonny seems to only get better at dancing the more he drinks, Dayna laughing at the two of them as they shimmy in unison to some remix of Livin’ La Vida Loca.

“I’m taking a video of this!” Dayna shouts, pulling her phone from her skirt pocket.

Jonny continues to dance, oblivious to what’s going on, and urging Patrick to keep up while they keep bumping into each other, a little drunk and uncoordinated. When he notices Dayna taking video he tugs Patrick into his chest, enveloping his arms around him in a tight hug.

“Say cheese,” he yells over the music, his smile goofy wide and beautiful.

Patrick thanks all the powers above for the iron grids that surround them in this moment. His heart is jack rabbiting inside his chest as he smells the woodsy scent of Jonny’s cologne, sees the sweat glistening on his tanned neck. He’d probably short circuit every light in this building if it weren’t for those grids, possibly phones too. And then everyone in the building would want to murder him. So he can’t really be blamed for taking advantage of the opportunity to burrow into Jonny’s arms for a minute and just hold him back, even if this is all he’ll ever get, even if he’ll never feel more from Jonny than his warmth and steady arms, it might be enough.

Maybe.

“She’s recording us, not taking a picture, you fuckin’ lamer,” Patrick laughs, pressing his face to Jonny’s neck. He can feel Jonny’s fingers rubbing up and down his spine. His stomach flutters.

“You guys are so cute,” Dayna says as she puts away her phone. “How long have you been together?”

Jonny stiffens, draws away slowly. “We aren’t together. Just friends. Right, Peeks?”

And Patrick viciously remembers why it’s not enough, not even close.

“Right,” he says, flashing Dayna a weak smile.

Her own face falls when she looks at him, but she schools it quickly, offering to buy them drinks for their dancing.

As they approach the bar Patrick figures now is a good a time as any to make introductions with Seabs.

“Hey Seabsie, my man,” he says clapping him on the back.

Seabs turns at the touch, his face impassive and his five ‘o clock shadow already impressively close to full on beard status. He gives them a nod in greeting and lifts his bottle.

“Hiya boys. What’s up?”

Patrick steps back a bit to let Dayna come forward, making room for her between him and Jonny by the bar which is already crowded with people. “I’ve got someone here I think you should meet?”

“Oh yeah?” he asks, eyebrows rising.

“Her name’s Dayna,” Patrick begins. “She’s our neighbor and she just bought us drinks so she’s my new best friend. Sorry, Jonny.”

“Earlier you said you’d never love anyone more than me for buying you tacos,” Jonny says.

“My love is cheap. You can buy it back for a basket of hot wings.”

“Fifteen bucks for wings. You aren’t that cheap.”

“I know,” Patrick whispers to Dayna. She smiles.

“Are these idiots bothering you?” Seabs asks, taking her in now, turning his seat toward them. “I can make them leave.”

Dayna shakes her head as she smiles wider, her long hair falling like a veil across her face. She tucks a few strands back behind her ear again. It’s not hard to tell she’s nervous. Patrick doesn’t need his magic for that. “I’m good, but thank you. I’m Dayna by the way.”

“Brent. Nice to meet ya. This buffoon over here that won’t shut up is Duncan.”

Duncs is still talking to Stacey who is only half listening to him as she fills someone’s drink order. He either doesn’t hear them or doesn’t care, and he doesn’t acknowledge any of them. Ahh, classic Duncs.

Dayna squints in his direction for a second, surveying. “I think we took British Lit together last year. But I don’t think he’s in my department.”

“He’s still undeclared,” Seabs says.

Dayna blinks, shocked. “As a senior?”

“Duncs is on a different...trajectory than the rest of us.”

As if hearing his own name has finally piqued his interest in the conversation, Duncs turns to Seabs and says, “Yeah, because I’m not boring like the rest of you boners. Hey, Stace, make Seabs tell you about the time we stole my uncle’s mini van and drove from Thunder Bay to Niagara and got chased by a Mountie.”

Brent turns away from Dayna. “It wasn’t a police car. It was a park trooper I’m pretty sure. But we did it in less than 12 hours on one tank of gas.”

The story continues, but it’s clear whatever connection Seabs and Dayna were about to make has been severed by Duncs’ interruption and she quietly excuses herself to go to the bathroom.

Fucking Duncs.

*

Later Patrick’s standing outside the club while he and Abby share a cigarette and Jonny glowers, displeased at the situation and unwilling to let them enjoy the moment without a comment or two about how they’re polluting their lungs and bodies with toxins. It’s a bad habit of his that’s only gotten worse since they came to college, Jonny the know-it-all, who smokes pot, but thinks cigarettes are evil. Even if cigarettes are nowhere near as heinous as some of the underground potions Patrick’s heard of people becoming addicted to. Suffice it to say, Patrick loves Jonny, but he can be a wet blanket.

“Go inside if it’s bothering you,” Patrick says, waving his hand in Jonny’s face.

Jonny leans forward like he’s about to bite one of Patrick’s fingers until he snatches it away.

“I’m not leaving you guys out here alone at one in the morning. Anyone could walk up and do anything,” Jonny frowns.

“My hero,” Abby says, touching Jonny’s cheek and leaving a lipstick imprint there. “Anyone got any aspirin? My head is killing me.”

“Conjure it,” Jonny suggests.

“Can’t,” Abby says. “I over extended myself earlier when I was trying to hurry and finish a paper. Then I used it again getting ready to go out, I’m all drained.”

“Does that happen often?”

“Only when I can’t get the energy I need in return, but yeah. It doesn’t for you?”

“Maybe once,” Jonny says. “The day Kaner and I moved into our apartment and I moved all our furniture and boxes in by myself.”

“You wouldn’t let me help!” Patrick cuts in, defending himself. Although he does remember that day vividly, watching Jonny use his telekinesis and his super strength to move their couch, their recliner, and their plasma television up two flights of stairs all by himself. He didn’t even break a sweat, the fucking overachiever.

“I can probably help with that,” Dayna says, from behind them. She must’ve just stepped out of the club because Patrick didn’t hear come out. But now that she’s near he can feel her dejection like a sheet of ice against his back, cold and deep dark blue.

She reaches her hand out toward Abby’s temple, pausing before she touches skin. “Can I?”

“Yes, please,” Abby says and bends her neck forward while Dayna gently soothes her headache. He didn’t know Dayna was a healer, hadn’t asked, although most people’s magic is labeled on their student ID, not everyone wears them around like the freshman do.

“Better?” she asks when she’s done.

“So much, thank you! You’re an angel. Let me get your number so we can hang out soon.”

They exchange numbers while Patrick finishes the rest of the cigarette, Jonny thumbing through his phone and texting what looks to be like Hayden. Again with Hayden.

Patrick’s stomach twists, aching down low and making the cigarette taste like dirty ash on his tongue. He throws it on the sidewalk and puts it out, the neon Ironside sign dimming.

“I think I’m going to head home,” Dayna says. “Thanks for earlier, Patrick.”

“No problem,” Patrick says, watching her take off down the road alone.

It’s Friday night on campus so there are quite a few people around, even if most of them are wasted. He doesn’t feel right, however, watching her walk home by herself, especially knowing the trek back to their apartment complex is a good two miles.

“I’m gonna walk with her. Make sure she gets home okay,” he says to Jonny.

“Want me to come with?” Jonny asks, uncertain and almost definitely considering coming anyway.

Patrick rolls his eyes. “We’ll be fine, dad. I’ll text you when we make it back. You stay and have fun.” With Hayden, he wants to add, but doesn’t.

He feels Jonny’s worry and uneasiness as he begins to take off in Dayna’s direction, jogging to catch up with her down the block. He can feel it for almost the next mile, swirling like a sick, pale green around his face. He’d swat it away if it wouldn’t make him look insane.

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out. Duncs is a good guy, but he can be a self-involved shithead at times and then he ropes Seabs into it and Seabs is so loyal he doesn’t always say no when he should.”

“Maybe I’m just not that interesting,” Dayna says, uncertain, vulnerable.

“I don’t think that’s it,” Patrick says.

“I mean what did I even say? My name and that I took a class with someone? Ugh I’m an idiot.” She shoves her face into her hands like she wants to shake off her own embarrassment.

Patrick pats her shoulder, pushing reassurance and faith gently in her direction. “I think you’re great. A little shy maybe, but once he gets to know you he’ll see you’re great too. Plus you’re gorgeous.”

She peeks out between her fingers. “You’re really sweet, Patrick. How long have you been into Jonny.”

Patrick barks out a nervous laugh. “Jesus. Is it that obvious?”

“Kinda.”

And now Patrick feels like shoving his face into his own hands. “Great.”

“He’s into you too. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“He’s really not.”

“And how do you know for sure?”

“I’m an empath. A good one, I think. And we’ve been friends for nine years. Not a blip,” Patrick shrugs.

Dayna’s mouth drops open. “Get the fuck out.”

“I’m serious.”

“There’s no way. He looks at you like he wants to devour you,” she says, sounding so certain.

Patrick swallows as he plays those words back through his head, once, then again. Every street light down the block begins to flicker and a light bulb bursts in the one closest to them, crackling and fizzing like the whole pole was just hit with lightning.

Dayna jumps back, looking from the burnt out street light to Patrick, then back again. “Whoa.”

“Sorry that was me,” Patrick sighs. “Electrokinesis. Less good.”

“Wait. Was that you earlier when…”

“Yeah.”

“And when we left the club…”

“Yep.”

Dayna purses her lips together, but the whites of her eyes are big enough to tell Patrick exactly what she’s thinking. “That’s…not ideal.”

“I know,” he says, shoulders slumping. “If I don’t get a handle on this shit soon, I’m fucked.”

Dayna hums, like she’s thinking, or maybe she’s already got an idea.

“Well,” she says.

“What?”

“Nothing, never mind. It’s probably a horrible idea.”

“Now you have to tell me,” Patrick says, fully prepared to wait her out.

She must see this on his face because she nods and continues. “I know this guy. He’s an herbalist, a legit one. But on the side, for some extra cash, he sells some drugs and potions. He might be able to solve both of our problems.”

This could go wrong in so many different ways. Patrick should absolutely say no and walk them home and go to bed. He knows better than this, he’s going to make the smart choice.

“I’m listening,” he says.

*

The green leaf applique above the red cross on the glass door shines faintly even from inside the low light of the pharmacy. Ryan, the herbalist Dayna told Patrick about, has a pestle and mortar and is mixing a bright yellow powder with a few different types of leaves. He grabs one bottle that’s filled with a white shimmering liquid and pours a few drops in, then goes back to mixing. From the orange glimmering headphones around his neck, the faint strains of Drake bleed into the air.

To be honest Patrick expected more questions and more fanfare, but when they arrived Ryan simply asked them what they needed, offered a price, and once they paid got to work concocting their potions. It was almost too easy and he looks around for a security camera feeling a wave of paranoia come over him.

“The cameras are off. No worries,” Ryan says, not even turning around and Patrick looks at Dayna to see if she caught that bit of weirdness.

She shoots him an uneasy smile.

Ryan claps his hands together.”Sweet, I think we’re good to go,” he says holding up two similar sized bottles, one faintly pink and the other an opaque white, both with cork tops. “There are some precautions I should probably warn you about. If you want.”

“Hah, yes, please,” Dayna says, barely touching the pink bottle like it might jump out and bite her.

“Sweet. So you’ll wanna take about a tablespoon a day, no more, for each day you see him. Or her. I don’t judge. Love is love. But don’t take more than that because it builds on itself. The more you take, the stronger the effects of the potion get, you know what I mean?”

Dayna nods.

“So one tablespoon a day, no more. You can take it consecutively or whatever days you’re going to run into them and want them to notice you. Make sure to keep eye contact while speaking, creates a stronger connection. But like I said, just a tablespoon if you want to catch their attention. Any more than that and they’ll start to become infatuated, then enthralled with you. Which everyone thinks is awesome at first, but it’s temporary and when it wears off in about twenty-four hours you’ll have one confused and possibly pissed off paramour, you know what I mean?

Dayna nods again. “I do.”

“Sweet,” Ryan says. “Moderation is key, my dudes.”

“What about the blocker? Any special advice?”

“Nah, you can take that all at once. Should last about a month.”

“Oh,” Patrick says. Well, that was anticlimactic.

“I don’t recommend coming back for more too soon though. There’s a reason doctors don’t usually prescribe this high of a dosage. It can weaken your magic over time or make you sick.”

“Right,” Patrick says. “Got it.”

He watches Ryan slip their potions in a brown paper sack and hand it over to Patrick, who takes it and tips his invisible hat. As he’s waiting at the door for Dayna and Ryan to say their goodbyes he reaches inside the bag and grabs his bottle, popping off the top and swallowing it down before he can think about it too much or talk himself out of taking it altogether. He caps the top and slips it back inside by the time Dayna is ready to leave.

“Are we insane for doing this?” she asks as they walk quietly down the street.

“Probably. My potion tasted like mint lemonade and rosemary so we might’ve just gotten taken.”

Dayna’s eyes widen. “Did it feel like he was being deceptive?”

“No,” Patrick shakes his head. “But he clearly does this on the regular so it wouldn’t feel like much of anything to him most likely, except normal. I couldn’t sense anything out of the ordinary with him.”

“I’m going to kick that hippie’s ass if he stole forty bucks from me.”

“I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. I already took mine,” Patrick says, handing over the bag.

Dayna glances at the paper sack in her grip, more uncertainty rolling around her. “I might wait. I don’t know if this is such a good idea anymore. I want him to like me for me. And what if this makes him see someone or want someone that doesn’t actually exist? Ugh, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.”

“Is it lame if I say I know you’ll make the right choice?”

Dayna huffs out a small laugh and exhales. “Kind of. But thanks.”

“Hey, if you can’t buy illegal potions with your neighbor, who can you buy them with?”

“No one, duh,” Dayna says.

And Patrick agrees.