Take a moment to consider what you’d do if in one moment you were alone in a dark alley, and you suddenly stepped into daylight onto an expansive green lawn. Trust me, you’d be freaking out. I was. Even if you are someone like me, who believes that stuff like Platform 9¾, the Starship Enterprise, Fillory, and magic are all real. Especially when you’ve been waiting for a moment like this—a moment you don’t even know what it is yet, but which is happening nonetheless—all your life.
Even as I started lowkey hyperventilating, it only took a moment to notice there was someone reclining on a wall, many yards ahead of me. It was a bit of a relief realizing there was at least someone I could try to get some answers from.
I can’t tell you now what all was spiraling in my mind as I trudged toward the figure, but it was a lot. By the time I was close enough to be within earshot, my brain just...glitched. So began one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. And, as it turns out, the most transformational moment of my life. But I digress.
I followed him, mouth agape, babbling incoherently, hating that I couldn’t form a sentence. I wanted to say six or eleven things at once, yet nothing fought its way to the surface. Or everything did, maybe. I remember thinking that if I was somehow in upstate New York, that portals or transporters must be real, and how amazing and cool was that? But then I realized I was following what had to be some otherworldly being, to some unknown location, at a too-brisk pace, without any more information than “follow me.” My whirling thoughts screeched to a halt when my brain’s wheel of fortune stopped on “stranger danger.”
“But he’s not a stranger, he’s Eliot,” my mind helpfully supplied, right as he turned to ask how asking him would help. “Come on, or you’ll miss it,” he urged, as I jogged to catch up. What the fuck had I just gotten myself into?
I could not possibly conceive why Henry would send me to meet a new student. Obviously, I was Brakebills’ most promising talent, yet mentor material I was not. But the rumors were already out. Bambi and I had recently collaborated with some naturalists to create a new intoxicant so profound—and so perfectly safe, it was a masterpiece, really. It felt like cannabis, ecstasy, and cocaine all rolled into one. Plus, there was no hangover, no liver damage, none of the nasty side effects you trade to temporarily escape the mundane. Of course, we called it mélange.
It was a Thursday. The party was scheduled for Friday night, and we’d manufactured enough mélange to keep 100 of us blotto for 48 straight hours. We were going to fold time, probably only figuratively speaking, and I knew Bambi would chemically castrate me if I did anything to jeopardize her party. So, I acquiesced to Henry’s bizarre demand: whatever the sacrifice to continue flying under his radar, I would make.
I sat up on my elbows when I noticed movement in the hedge across the lawn. I’d carefully chosen this day’s ensemble to dazzle this “Quentin Coldwater,” escort him to the exam, and promptly ditch him so I could start pregaming the mélange. I stretched out to display my assets, lit a cigarette, and affected as much boredom as I could muster. And I waited for him.
I felt...something as I watched him approach me. He looked completely stunned. For a moment, I reminisced my own entrance to this august institution, and assumed I was simply feeling uncharacteristic sympathy for a kindred spirit whose worldview has just been dashed to flinders. How perfectly gauche. The poor ridiculous little lamb looked so confused, I wanted to pat him on the head. I hopped down right into his personal space to intimidate him with a once-over and no sooner did I land than the universe punched me in the gut. I have no idea how I remained standing.
Fortunately? If there was anything my childhood taught me, it was how to nonchalantly freak out. I couldn’t breathe. I headed away as quickly as I could, forcing my face into a blank mask, trying to vaguely recollect the symptoms of going into shock. My hands were shaking enough that I nearly dropped the card with his name but managed to fumble it back into the wrong pocket, at least. My senses were on fire, my dick was half hard, and I needed to sit right the fuck down.
Instead, I carried us toward the testing room, walking fast, even for me. I couldn’t even look at him for fear of losing my entire shit, because Eliot Waugh does not lose his shit in front of anyone, thank you very much. I grasped at the comfort of knowing that in less than 15 minutes, I told myself, I’ll lose my shit to Bambi. I could hold my shit together for 15 minutes. Bambi would know what to do.
I was touching up my nail polish in the living room, because I had no intention of my rooms smelling awful for hours. Fuck the rest of these cocks, they could share it with me. Waiting on Eliot to get back from his ludicrous, nonsense assignment to escort some rando to the exam was mind-numbingly boring. We had an epic party to plan. I looked at the clock again and noticed he should have been back half an hour ago when he burst through the door and made a beeline for the stairs, eyes wild.
“El? What is it, baby?” I asked, following him up to his room. He hummed quickly and tutted his door open. Once we were both inside, he collapsed on his bed, sitting with his eyes closed, hands on his knees, winded. I closed the door and cast a silencing ward to ensure privacy. He was pale as a sheet and visibly sweating, and I began to worry. Someone could have seen him like that. There were rules.
“Bambi, he’s here. He’s here right now and what if he doesn’t get in? What if they expel me and wipe my memories, too? He’s so cute and I just want to carry him around everywhere so he can be right next to me all the time, and pet him and pat him and squeeze him and stroke him and keep him safe, and I don’t understand why any of this is happening to me!”
I took his hands and held them gently in mine. “Honey. Wait. Are you saying you think that boy the dean sent you to meet is your soulmate? Let’s slow down a little, yeah? What was his name, again? Tell me what happened.” I noticed I’d ruined my nail polish and also that I literally could not care less about it.
“Margo,” he wailed miserably, nodding. “Bambi. He’s pocket sized. It’s absolutely precious. His name is Quentin. Quentin Coldwater. I felt...something...as soon as I saw him, and it hit hard as soon as I got close to him. All the stupid shit in the songs and romcoms is happening to me right the fuck now. I am literally dizzy with it. I can still smell him. I need to taste him. It’s all so clichéd. This cannot be happening! I’m a fucking cliché. I’m a fucking cliché, Bambi! The good times are over. What am I going to do?!”
I rolled my eyes as lovingly as possible. “Oh, grow a clit, Eliot. You’ll take your boy to Rite Aid later and do the test, just like everybody else does. No big whoop. If he’s your soulmate, he has to have magic. He has to be compatible. That’s how it works, remember? I can see why you’re freaking out—you’re in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime event that not everyone gets, and it’s not one you get to plan for.
“I also know you know that magicians have much higher incidences of bonded pairs, which is why they have to let him stay if he really is your soulmate. They aren’t going to expel either of you or wipe your memories. There was always a better than average probability this would happen to you, just like there is for me and everyone else here. Yes, your life just changed. But it just changed for good, Eliot. Can you imagine the sex magic, if what they say is true?
“Okay, let’s recap. It’s barely lunchtime. He’ll be out of the test and interview in the next few hours, and by tonight you’ll be tenderly banging your cute, magical soulmate. This is a good thing, El. Even if I am already jealous of the time you’ll spend with him.” I pouted dramatically, “I won’t be your favorite anymore.”
I walked to his desk, plucked the #6 Barovier lens from his set, and peered through it at him. “Your aura has already begun to change; it’s happening whether or not you’re ready. Let’s go downstairs and get you something to eat before you fall over. You’re going to need your stamina. We’ll go find him later this afternoon, okay? You are Eliot Waugh, and you are fabulous, and this Quentin Coldwater has no idea how fucking lucky he is to have you. Go splash some water on your face, and we’ll have lunch. Also, did anyone see you sweating like a pig like that? What the fuck, Eliot.”
“I refuse to dignify that with a response,” he snapped, flopping backward onto the bed, feet still on the floor. He screwed his eyes tightly shut, covered his face with his hands, and took several deep breaths. “Okay. I’m...okay.” He scrubbed at his face and turned to stare into my eyes. “You will always be my favorite, Bambi. Always. I just. I just...need a minute to catch my breath.”
My meeting with Dean Fogg was brief. It took me about 3 seconds to make the decision. I absolutely wanted to attend Brakebills at all costs, even the expense of immediately abandoning my entire life and what I thought were my goals. Magic was real, there was a whole school for it, and Quentin was...somewhere around. I was happy to know he’d tested, too, and looked forward to finding him later to talk all about it.
There was a soft knock on the door. A guy about my age entered, handed the dean a note, and left. After I signed on the dotted line, the dean asked, “You are acquainted with Quentin Coldwater, are you not?”
“Yes, he’s my best friend. We’ve known each other since we were little kids,” I answered, making a hand gesture about 3 feet off the floor to vaguely indicate our relative ages. “You saw us together at the test. Where is he now? Did he get in?”
Fogg answered, “Yes. He was accepted as a Brakebills student. His demonstration of magic was extremely impressive. In fact, it impressed Quentin himself so much that he fainted and fell to the floor. Let me assure you. He is completely unharmed, Ms. Wicker. Come; I’ll take you to him now.”
I couldn’t help but think what a huge day this had been for Q—hell, it had already been a huge day for me. I love Quentin like a brother and know him better than anyone else. I know he doesn’t always do well in new situations. And today had been full of them: A dead guy and some kind of transporter followed by an unexpected test, plus this revelation about magic? I was a little concerned, but surely Dean Fogg would have mentioned if he was actually hurt. Wouldn’t he?
I woke up with Dean Fogg crouching next to me, gently shaking my right shoulder. Oh, good. On the floor. Yay, it’s Quentin Dies of Embarrassment Day. I rolled onto my back, groaning; my left side ached from how I must have landed. The dean helped me up after a moment and led me to a chair in a small office just outside the room where I had somehow telekinetically built a house of cards. So, yeah, magic is real, apparently. Also: ow.
Someone—a student, maybe—handed me a juice box and a package of crackers and strode away with Fogg. I guess I hadn’t eaten anything since early morning; after all, I was expecting to interview for Yale and go back home. My brain started to clear after a few minutes, and that’s when Julia appeared, running toward me.
“Oh my god, Q, Dean Fogg said you fell but you’re okay. Are you hurt?” Julia patted my arms, then scanned me head to toe and cupped her hand along the side of my face. “I’m, uh. I’m fine. I mean, my left shoulder kind of hurts, because I landed on it. And I have. Um, a headache. The snack has helped,” I said, brandishing the juice and crackers.
Fogg spoke up. “Mr. Coldwater. I am grateful to see you upright again. You missed the part where we tell you that you’ll be housed in the dorms until your discipline is determined. We already know Ms. Wicker’s discipline, so she will move into the Knowledge students’ house immediately. Ms. Wicker, why don’t you escort Mr. Coldwater to the dorms. He looks like he ought to lie down.”
My...discipline? Nobody had said anything about that. But Fogg was right; Q really did need to rest for a little while. I asked the dean for directions and held on to Quentin’s arm as we began our walk to the dorms. “Poor baby, let’s get you to bed for a bit. I’ll go check back with Fogg to find out where I’m supposed to be; I don’t even know what a discipline is.
“My meeting with him was interrupted—I guess when he got word you were awake. Hey, can I have that last cracker? I’m starving, too. I’ll find us some food, and be back here as quickly as I can, okay? You get a little rest, and then we’ll talk and get everything figured out.”
It wasn’t a long walk. I got Quentin settled, and he fell asleep almost immediately.
If I got to choose my soulmate, it would have been Margo. No one was as surprised as I when I found I kind of wanted to backhand her in the mouth when she said my Quentin “wasn’t that cute,” but I can’t imagine a universe in which I would actually harm her.
It was all I could do not to wear Quentin like a backpack as Margo and I gave him a brief tour of the campus. I could almost feel how he was reaching a limit, right on the verge of another freakout. I suggested that we get something magical to smoke; I knew a little bit of mélange would relax him considerably. Plus, it would relax me too. Win-win.
He followed us back to the Physical Kids Cottage like the world’s sweetest, most obedient puppy. I could feel our connection starting to undulate between us and wondered why he hadn’t said anything about it. But I knew he’d had a lot to take in, and I remembered my own terror, elation, and relief at finally having escaped the “normal” world. I had to admit I might not have noticed it either, had our situations been reversed. I was going to have to start admitting a lot of things before much longer.
I took a moment to silently congratulate myself for maturely considering Quentin’s situation, then sat him down next to Margo while I got the mélange and made us a round of cocktails. Getting him to smoke with us was as simple as handing him the pipe and lighter. Interesting. I warned him to only take one hit and see how he felt after because for now I knew I was only doing one of my own. We still needed to talk, as well as leave campus for the drug store, and I wanted to be reasonably sober for all of that.
Margo had been trying to scare Quentin off since the moment they’d met. Now, she snuggled up to his side, sliding her hand along his for too long as she took the pipe away from him. She batted her eyelashes and used her saccharine-sweet ‘mean girl’ voice, drawling, “So, Quentin, I’d always figured Eliot and I would be soulmates by choice. But now you’ve come along, his real one and all. Hurt him and I will delight in castrating you with my bare hands and feeding you your balls until you choke on them.”
“Bambi! Chill! Jesus!” I snapped. Quentin, too, was shocked, trying and failing to be subtle about sliding away from Margo. Apparently, he babbles when he’s startled, like, “I. But. He, uh, I don’t. Eliot?” I could only assume he was asking me for confirmation as he tried to burrow into the arm of the sofa, pleading with those sweet puppy dog eyes. I wanted to pull him into my lap and let him burrow into me. And rub myself all over him.
I glared at Margo, surprised at how furious I was with her. I hissed, “Bambi, dammit. Shut your whore mouth. This is not how I wanted this to go.” I took a deep breath and turned to my other half. “Quentin. I apologize on Margo’s behalf. I know this day has been banana pants crazy for you. But it’s true. You know it’s true.” I moved to crouch in front of him. “Unclench for a minute. It’s okay. You’re okay. Trust me, yeah? Get comfortable. Filter everything else out.”
He relaxed in visible increments over the next few minutes, during which Margo was thankfully silent. “Okay, better?” I asked. Quentin took a deep breath and blew it out. “Yeah, a little. I mean, it is a lot. Today. Has been. We only just met a few hours ago, and I already feel like you’re a part of me that I’ve known forever—even though I don’t really know you at all. And I want to. Know you. I want to know everything.”
Temporarily mollified, I went for broke. “Okay. So, do you want to do this here, or do you want to go to the drugstore first?” Margo gently interjected, “You’ll have to go to the drugstore anyway, to confirm so you can register. Quentin, I’m sorry I was a twat. You have to understand. Eliot means the actual entire world to me and I can’t fathom the idea of ever losing him. I want us to be friends. I do; El and I are kind of a package deal, and I would literally kill and die for him. I will be with you both through this, every step of the way, no matter what, okay?”
By now, the drugs had taken hold. It was clear I had become absolutely invincible, and I hoped Quentin was high now, too, because it would probably make this much easier. I was ready to irrevocably change my life. And lick him from head to toe. Quentin spoke up, “Yeah, okay. ...Thanks, Margo. Apology accepted. Okay, Eliot, I’m ready. Let’s do it the old-fashioned way; I mean, I do feel it. I feel you even though we haven’t initiated the bond yet. I’ve just been so overwhelmed all day.”
Quentin held his hands out to me, and I moved from crouching to sitting. From the corner of my eye, I saw Margo take the Barovier lens she’d borrowed from my room out of her purse. She held it in front of her eyes so she could watch, smirking. Bambi loves to watch.
“Wait! Jules!” Quentin cried out, scrambling to his feet and nearly tripping over me. Margo soothed, “Jewels? Honey, you don’t need a ring this time.” Quentin shook his head and gestured wildly. “No! Jules! Julia. She’s my, like you. Julia. Is my best friend. She’s here, somewhere, she tested today, too. She was supposed to come find me at the dorm. She’s a Knowledge student? She has no idea where I am. I passed out, earlier, at my demonstration. She must be worried sick. If Margo gets to watch, then Julia should, too. We need to find her, Eliot!”
I knocked on the side of the open door. “Hello? I’m looking for Quentin Coldwater. He was here about an hour ago. This is supposed to be his room. Are you his roommate? I’m Julia.”
“I’m Penny. You mean you know that loser? On purpose?” he asked me. What a miserable prick. This should be real fun. “Yeah, he’s my best friend, what the fuck?” I growled back at him.
“Dude needs to learn how to shield his mind. He thinks too fucking loud. I don’t know how he hasn’t peed his pants today, and neither does he.”
I sighed. Who the fuck even was this guy? “Thank you for that opinion. Do you have any idea where he went?” Penny rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. “No, I mean, I can hear him wondering how he hasn’t peed his pants today right now. I can hear him lowkey panicking right now. Ugh, god, he is giving me a fucking headache with his whiny bullshit.”
“Wait, you can read minds? That’s, wow.” Yep, this was turning out to be quite a day for me, too. Penny snorted, “Yeah, sure, it’s super wow to expend this kind of energy tuning motherfuckers out all day, every day. Your boy is thinking real hard about a soulbond with this dude Eliot. He came here with some girl Margo earlier. Quentin left with them.”
“A soulbond? Holy shit. Do you know who this Eliot is? Did they say where they were going? Can you…would you help me find them? Can you tell where someone is by reading their mind?” I had been on this campus less than half a day, and I was already asking questions I’d never dreamed of. I could hardly wait to start classes.
He raised an eyebrow, considering. “Your friend is about to lose his shit. Maybe you can get him to chill out. Or nut the fuck up. Or, preferably, both. Okay, yeah, sure, I’ll help you. If you let me get you a coffee or something later. Let’s go.” He winked at me.
For all his bluster, it was obvious Penny was as new to all this shit as everyone else. He had to be; after all, Fogg had said the dorms were for people who didn’t know their discipline yet. I couldn’t hate him, even though he was being a colossal dick. I guessed Penny’s discipline must have something to do with being psychic, but since he was still in the dorms there must have been some information missing somewhere. Who the fuck knew. Not my problem. But he was kind of cute and was helping me find Q—so he’d earned my respect. At least, for now.
We wandered around campus aimlessly for a few minutes when suddenly Penny stopped walking, and his entire body visibly relaxed. “We’re definitely heading in the right direction. He’s thinking about a new kind of high. His thoughts have slowed down. They must have given him some drugs. Thank fuck. At least he’s not panicking anymore. That’s some really good shit.” We started off in a specific direction, until Penny tensed up again. “Fuck. Wait. Nope, now he’s panicking about finding you. I’m pretty sure they’re in there.”
Penny led us to a Tudor-style that I guessed must be one of the discipline’s houses; I’d briefly seen my room with the other Knowledge students above the library. I knocked on the door, and a very pretty girl answered the door. Before she had a chance to say anything, I heard Q’s voice from across the room, shouting “Jules!” as he ran toward me and crushed me in a brief hug, nearly knocking me down. The girl introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Margo. You must be Julia. Looks like our best friends are soulmates; I’m sure we’ll get to know each other very well. Welcome to the Physical Kids Cottage.”
Quentin finally released me and gestured toward tall, dark, and handsome. “This is Eliot. We’re, ah. We’re soulmates. We almost, um, we haven’t initiated the bond yet. But we both know it’s there. Margo wanted to watch it happening, and I wanted you to be here, too. I’m so glad you found me! We were about to form a search party. Oh, um, hi, Penny. What are you doing here?”
Penny scoffed, rolling his eyes and scowling at Quentin. “You took off before Julia came back for you. She was worried shitless and didn’t know where to find you. We formed a search party, dipshit. That’s what I’m fucking doing here.”
Eliot looked down his nose at Penny. “What a charming anecdote!” He turned to me with what appeared to be a sincere smile. Hello, Julia, I’m Eliot. It’s very nice to meet you; I’ve already heard about your lifelong friendship with Quentin. I met him this morning when he stumbled onto campus. I was assigned to escort him to the exam. I immediately knew we had a connection while our sweet boy was mind-shitting all over the front lawn. Remind me to ask you later why you and Quentin didn’t arrive together, hm?
“Penny. It is positively delightful to have made your acquaintance, I’m sure, but my soulmate and I must attend to some family affairs. Bambi, my queen, I promise we will not initiate the bond until we return here so you and Julia can watch it happen. Julia, welcome to Clan Waugh.” With that, he turned to collect his jacket, and walked out the door. Clan Waugh, huh?
Quentin looked at me with his “please soothe me with a hug” face, and I embraced him tightly. I wondered how long it would take before Eliot learned to recognize this expression. I loosened the hold and tipped my forehead to his for a moment, waiting to feel him relax. Backing up a bit to look into his eyes, I couldn’t help but acknowledge, “Wow, sweetie, this has been the biggest day of your life, huh?” When he nodded, I continued, “Guess I missed part of it, but I am so. Incredibly. Grateful to be here with you.”
I reached up to catch a lock of his hair behind an ear. “So glad we get to experience this together. I’m so fucking proud of you, so happy for you, Q. Your soulmate! We have so much to talk about, it’s unreal. Go with Eliot. I’ll stay here and get to know Margo—it looks like I’m going to need to!” I leaned in to kiss his temple, took his shoulders, and turned him toward the door. I gave him a gentle push. “We’ll talk later.”
I swallowed the last of the protein bar, burped loudly, and tried to lean into what was happening. How had this become my life? Since this morning? I sat on the grass next to Eliot, carefully not touching, propped up on a white picket fence bordering the Fairfield Inn and Suites about a block from Rite Aid. The portal back to Brakebills was concealed in the trees in the greenbelt behind the property. I unwrapped the package, unfolded the directions, and scanned them quickly. “Okay, you ready to do this? You spit in that one, I spit in this one. We plug the tubes in each end and press the button. Then we wait about 2 minutes, it says.”
Eliot blew out a breath and popped the lid off the tube. “It’s not like we don’t already know the result. I don’t know why I’m so nervous. Okay. That’s not true. Margo is the only person I’ve ever allowed to know the real me. And even then, we don’t always tell each other everything. I’m … never going to be able to hide again, and I don’t know how I feel about that.”
I nodded and replaced the lid on my filled tube as he started to spit into his. “I never thought I’d get a soulmate. Sometimes my … brain breaks. I’ve needed inpatient mental health care, more than once. Part of me is worried it’s somehow contagious, that I’ll break you, too. But I’m also, I don’t know, relieved? Because now I’ll have someone who will finally understand. Maybe you can help me make sense of my brain. It’s so hard to describe something when the other person has no frame of reference. Just the possibility of something like that happening makes it feel like something to look forward to.”
Eliot clicked his tube into the unit, and I repeated the action with my own. He pressed the button, took a deep breath, and said, “Hi, Quentin. I’m Michael Eliot Waugh. I was born October 29, 1995, at 2:20 am, in Gatchel, Indiana. At home. On a farm. I’m a Scorpio with Libra rising, a Kinsey four and three quarters, wear size 13 footwear, my favorite color is aubergine, I’m very partial to Plymouth gin, and pineapple on pizza is one of the world’s best breakfasts as long as it’s paired with feta. My dad used to try to beat the gay out of me, and everyone in that hellhole excuse of a town turned a blind eye. I got the fuck out the week after I graduated high school, moved to New York, and learned how to become myself. You will repeat this information to no one.” His eyes flickered away from mine as he drank some water and lit a cigarette.
“That’s, um, holy shit, Eliot. My birthday is June 25, 1996. Born in Newark. All I know is that I’m a Cancer. I never really thought about the Kinsey scale? I’m whatever the middle is, I guess; I identify as pan. I like earthy greens? My parents divorced when I was in the 9th grade, and I lived with my dad. My mom never said so, but it was always pretty obvious she didn’t want me. She lives in Middletown, Connecticut, with her wife. She teaches English Lit at Wesleyan. I don’t think I would have survived my parents’ divorce without Julia. It was during that time I was inpatient for the first time.
“Margo said she’d have picked you as her soulmate. Ever since we met in kindergarten, everybody has asked Julia and me whether we’re soulmates. Apparently, we’re…not, but I spent a lot of years in love with her. Or thinking I was. It’s, I don’t know, she’s my person. And now you are, too.” I gestured to the testing unit. Its window very clearly displayed a plus sign.
I watched Julia push Quentin out the door. She seemed nice enough, sensible enough. Obviously loved the shit out of Quentin. I could work with that. I smiled at her. “So, Julia. Looks like we’re about to become sister wives, or sisters-in-law, or some shit. We should probably join forces. Come on in, take a load off.” I showed Julia and Penny to the sofa and we sat with Julia in the middle.
Julia laughed. “Thanks, I’d like that. It’s been one hell of a day already; I could use someone to show me the ropes. I appreciate it. It’s a lot to take in. Of course, you know that already. Hey, you all were talking before about watching the soulbond activate. I have to assume that means there’s something magical about it? How will we be able to see it?”
Ah, this girl seemed like a smart cookie. Maybe we would become actual friends after all. I wasn’t sure about Penny yet, though. “You guys just took the exam this morning, so you probably don’t know very much about magic yet, right?” They both nodded.
“Okay then, let me give you the 30-second crash course in aura reading.” I picked up the Barovier lens and handed it to Julia. “Take a look through it at Penny,” I suggested. She held the lens at eye level and turned toward Penny. “Holy shit! Holy shit. That is wild. What about you, Margo?” She moved her attention toward me, peering through the lens. “What the fuck, Penny! This is amazing! Look at this!”
Penny took his turn. As soon as he raised the lens, his eyebrows shot up. He examined each of our aurae in turn, then moved back and forth between us more quickly, presumably to see the differences. “Okay, yeah, that is pretty cool. I guess this, what is this, glass? This lets us see somebody’s aura. So, when Oscar Wilde and his Muppet baby get back, we’ll be able to see something happening with their aurae when they activate their soulbond?”
“Hey!” Julia and I shouted simultaneously, scowling at him. What a douche. I admitted, “I’ve never seen a soulbond initiate before. It’s not exactly something that happens every day, after all. But from what we know about the magical aspects of a soulbond—which you will learn more about in class—we should be able to observe some significant changes in each aura as they merge. Eliot’s aura already looks different since he met Quentin this morning.
“This is a #6 Barovier lens from the standard set of 13. This one is Eliot’s; I used it to check out his aura just after he told me about what was happening with Quentin. The colors and visible sigils had already started to change, even though they haven’t initiated the bond yet. I expected the sigils to be different, but I was surprised at the color change…
“Anyway, you’ll get your own set of Baroviers once classes start. Each lens lets you see different types of magic. You can use them alone or in combination—and you’ll learn all that crap very soon. Using Baroviers to view a variety of spells will be one of your first labs, and it’s actually kind of fun.”
Penny pinched his nose and shook his head. “Test’s positive. They’re headed back. At least Quentin isn’t about to wet himself anymore. That’s a goddamn relief.” A few beats later, Eliot and Quentin walked through the door.
I greeted the happy couple. “Congratulations, you two.” Eliot’s brows scrunched in surprise. “Bambi. How did you know we tested positive?” I gave Eliot a hug, then squeezed Quentin’s hands. I gestured with my thumb behind me. “Penny here is a psychic, which explains why he’s such a joy to be around. I showed these two how to view aurae with a Barovier.”
Penny scoffed. “Why don’t y’all just record the fucking thing? Jesus.” He looked at me. “Does that even work?”
I made a face and looked at Eliot to find he wore an identical quizzical expression. “I don’t know. Why don’t you give it a try? Get your phone out and set it up to record. I need to go get my own lens and find a third so Julia and I can watch while you record. I’ll be right back.”
I crunched my hands into my hair and squeezed. I noticed I was pacing frantically. “Fuck me, is there anyone else who wants to dictate the terms of my soulbond initiating? Does everyone have their goddamn popcorn? Anyone need a bathroom break? Fuck!” This day had already been at least three years long. I kind of wanted to sleep for a month. “Eliot, can we smoke some more of that…whatever it was we smoked earlier? I for one would like to try to enjoy the most important day of my life by establishing my soulbond relaxed and in a good mood, and I am neither of those at the moment.”
Eliot perked up, smiling softly at me. He was beautiful. I was so lucky. “Of course, baby. That’s a wonderful idea. Back in a flash.” I felt my cheeks warm at the endearment. I knew I would fall in love with him and wondered how it would happen, what it would feel like, how long it would take. Not all soulbonds were romantic in nature, but we both knew ours was. Would be. Whatever. Even though I knew he would fall in love with me too, it was hard to imagine what it would be like to no longer doubt I belonged.
My thoughts started to spiral. I couldn’t let myself hope the bond would help my broken brain. I couldn’t let myself dread the possibility of affecting Eliot’s. I sat down on the sofa next to Julia and contorted myself until my head rested on her lap. She ran her fingers through my hair reflexively. I imagined myself on this same sofa with my head in Eliot’s lap. I wondered what his fingers would feel like on my scalp.
I felt myself start to unclench—as Eliot had put it earlier—right as he appeared with the pipe and a lighter. I sat up and breathed in the light, sweet smoke. I offered some to Julia. “Try this, it’s the actual shit.”
Margo gestured toward Eliot. “Your soulmate invented it. Along with myself, of course, and a shockingly-less-than-useless Naturalist we know. We’re debuting it at tomorrow’s party. The whole school is invited; we’re celebrating the incoming class. We should have at least a couple hundred people here. You and Julia should both know there are a lot of parties here. Most won’t be as big as this one, which we expect to last until sometime early Sunday evening, but there’s something happening here almost every Friday and Saturday night. The Physical Kids have the best parties on campus, which is why we have so many. Supply and demand, you know.”
This had been such a long day, and I was legitimately worried how long it would take me to recuperate. I wasn’t sure I was up for that kind of party with or without a brand new soulbond. Which we still hadn’t even gotten around to activating.
“Eliot, can I talk to you a minute?” I stood and walked into the kitchen. When we were out of the others’ earshot, I said, “Eliot. I don’t usually do very well at large parties. Especially—tomorrow night? The whole weekend? I mean, we haven’t even bonded yet and I already feel like I need to decompress over the weekend before classes start Tuesday.”
Eliot’s face did some kind of thing I couldn’t interpret. “Well, I’m a required participant in the festivities. Smoking mélange with a few people using a pipe is great, but it’s not practical for the gathering we’re planning. So, every hour one of us will do a spell that essentially fogs an entire room with it. It only needs one person to work, so Margo, Josh, and I will alternate. I’ll talk with Margo and see what we can do. I’m sure we can teach the spell to a few other trusted people. We’ll ask Julia and Penny first!
“I absolutely—absolutely want to spend as much time alone with you as possible, given what we’re about to do. I also want the recognition and adoration I deserve for having created such a gift to humankind. I will have to make appearances. I want it all, of course.
“With you on my arm, I’ll be the envy of everyone on campus. We’ll be the envy of everyone on campus. And we will also do a lot of nesting in my—our room, okay? I’ll show you the silencing spells. You’ll love them. I promise, I will remove you from any situation the moment you become uncomfortable. By then, of course, I’ll be able to feel it through the bond. My top priority is you, Quentin. From this day forward, as it were. Now, can we go do this thing?”
I breathed a sigh of relief. The mélange effects had settled in and I felt calm and peaceful. I was glad to learn he was willing to talk things out, listen to and include my input, and make decisions together. It would be advantageous to at least meet some of the people I’ll be studying with here at Brakebills before classes started. I could power through. I decided to remain positive. Everything would be fine, with Julia and Eliot nearby. “Okay,” I smirked, “let’s go let our best friends creep on the most personal and intimate moment of our lives.”
I sat on the sofa between Margo and Penny, Barovier lens in hand. While Quentin was in the kitchen talking with Eliot, I wondered about Penny’s idea of trying to film it on his phone through the lens. Whether or not it worked, he’d still be able to see it happening. I wished we’d had the idea earlier when we were playing around, so we could have tested it. Still, I realized it would make an awesome gift to give them if it does work.
Margo, Penny, and I had arranged ourselves on the sofa again in the same formation as earlier. I liked Margo already, and I was thankful to know that Quentin’s soulmate had a relationship similar to ours; with them, it didn’t seem like it would take a lot of explaining. I decided to wonder later about how soulmates’ friends and family fit into the destiny of it all. Instead, I focused on how grateful I was that Quentin had somebody of his own to look after, someone who would look after him. He had such a hard time so often; heavens knew he deserved it.
Eliot followed Quentin into the room as the coffee table…moved itself out of the way. When he saw me startle, Eliot waved his hand, dismissively. “Oh, sorry. I forgot you don’t know. My discipline is telekinesis. We’ll talk about all that later.” He sat on the floor in front of us on the sofa, indicating a spot next to him.
He looked at all of us and turned his attention back to the floor. “Quentin, I don’t know what to expect here. I’m already shivering with anticipation. Seems like doing this sitting down is probably the safest way to do this. Bambi, we’re going to just reach out and take each other’s hands—on the count of three, so get ready to do your thing. Quentin, ready? One… Two… Three…”
I was entranced, watching how their aurae were already reaching out toward each other even before they lifted their hands. Everything in the room seemed to slow down. When they finally joined hands, I felt something kind of buzzing in the room—maybe it was magic? Their aurae kind of…splashed against each other as they touched—and then just…melted into each other in a riotous kaleidoscope of colors. It was probably the most gorgeous thing I’d ever seen.
I saw the first tear roll down Quentin’s cheek as he blinked a few times, chest heaving. “Hey,” he greeted his new soulmate. Eliot sobbed once and stammered, “Hi,” voice cracking. He reached out to wipe Quentin’s tears away as his own started. He cupped Quentin’s face in both hands and kissed him softly. Quentin threw himself at Eliot, enclosing him in a tight embrace. As they held each other and cried, I looked at Penny, nudging him to end the recording.
It was obvious Eliot and Quentin needed some time. Margo and I shared a look, stood, and went into the kitchen. When he noticed us leaving the room, Penny stopped fiddling with the phone and followed us.
You’d think the moment you learned magic is real would be the most important event of your life. Until this moment, I’d thought it was, too. Nothing has ever compared to this. You’ve heard every story in the world about what it feels like to touch your soulmate for the first time. You know, coming home to the mandolins and fireworks and whatnot, so I won’t repeat the same thing everyone else says. Just Google it or whatever.
What you don’t hear is what a soulbond is like between magicians. Quentin hasn’t been to a single class yet. He knows exactly zero spells. And yet, I could immediately feel his magic in me as well as mine flowing through him—it feels like it’s a part of the bond itself. How the hell did this even work for muggles? I didn’t even feel my own magic with such clarity until it twined with his, and I first felt mine at age 14.
I’m not qualified to diagnose his discipline, but I do know he has some kind of telekinesis, because I can feel it. It’s different than mine, though; mine feels more generalized, somehow. We’ll figure that out soon enough. I also can’t read his mind like Penny (which, just what we needed, another smug asshole psychic) but I have a vague sense of how Quentin is feeling almost all the time. That’s normal for soulmates.
While there are many kinds of cooperative spells, our magic now is forever inherently cooperative. From now on, we literally have to account for both of us when calculating spell circumstances—even spells we do alone. Quentin will learn magic this way from the ground up. I, on the other hand, have much to relearn. But there were a few things I was sure of right then.
I stood and clapped my hands once, leering at the crowd pretending not to watch us from in the kitchen. “Okay, everyone, show’s over. I am taking this gorgeous creature upstairs so we can consummate our bond.” Julia and Quentin made exactly the same wincing face, and Quentin groaned, “Oh my god, Eliot.” He turned the prettiest shade of crimson I’d ever seen, making me feel even more smitten and obsessed. I held my hand out to him, and when he took mine, I crushed him to me and kissed the top of his sweet head.
I was bonded to the world’s most beautiful soul and felt like the luckiest—and happiest—motherfucker ever to live. Caught up in the joy of the moment, I swept him up in a bride’s carry, making him bark out a laugh and ask me to put him down. But there was no way I was taking my hands off him any time soon. I started up the stairs, bearing most of his weight telekinetically.
I already loved him so much. I kissed his temple and nuzzled into his ear, “So glad you’re mine now. Gonna marry you, baby. Daddy's going to take such good care of you, give you every single thing you ever want, every hour of every day.” Quentin started to sputter and wriggle, but we reached my room. Our room. I put him down and interrupted, “Let me show you the spell that unlocks the door.”
Quentin’s focus immediately shifted. I didn’t think he’d seen anyone cast today; it seems like the kind of thing he might have mentioned at some point. I almost swooned when I realized I had the honor of teaching him his first spell. I told him, “Let me go through it once, a little slower than I usually do it, just so you can see the whole thing. Then I’ll show you how to do it, step by step.”
I went through the tuts for the door’s lock. “Huh,” said Quentin. “That little … finger dance? Is the spell that opens the door?” I laughed, “Yes, although there’s more to most spells than this one, which is a fairly simple spell. You’re going to have so much fun learning magic, baby. We have other things to focus on tonight, though, so this is probably all the magical education you’re getting this evening. Now, I’m going to lock the door again, then show you how to do this ‘finger dance.’ We call them tuts.”
I showed him how to unlock the door. He was an unsurprisingly quick study and although still clumsy, got it right on the second try. I turned the knob and opened the physical door, making a sweeping gesture indicating he should enter. I nudged him a bit farther into the room so I could close it behind him. “I’m going to cast a two-way silencing spell on the room. It’ll keep the noise in the rest of the house out while keeping anything we say—or any noises we make—within these walls. You’ll learn it pretty soon in class, so no need to practice this one; you can just watch.
“Welcome home, my Quentin. We will absolutely redo this room—including its size, because magic is fantastic—very soon. It’s not big enough for two. But we’ll make do for now, since we have so many other concerns.” I tilted his chin up and kissed him, telling him I wanted to kiss him everywhere. And I did, removing one piece of his clothing at a time.
I wasn’t sure whether it was the soulbond or Eliot’s talents, but we had the best sex I’d ever had by magnitudes. “Holy shit, Eliot.”
“Quentin. Quentin, Quentin, Quentin. You are going to be the death of me. You’ll probably hear from most of the campus about my promiscuity. You needn’t worry about any of that. There is literally no point in me trying to have average sex ever again. You said you identify as pan; it’s clear you’ve got experience bottoming. And, may I say, what a bottom it is.”
I could feel my whole body blushing. Eliot looked at me with hungry heart eyes. I wondered if he was ready to go again, because I was almost there already. “Yes, definitely pan, definitely experienced. I also consider myself a switch, but I prefer to bottom whenever possible.”
Eliot nodded. “I’m starting to believe there’s something to this whole soulmate thing.” I rolled my eyes as he chuckled softly, “Because I switch too but prefer to top. What are your feelings about open relationships, polyamory, that kind of thing? It’s not something I want to explore right away, but I do know it can be very nice to have sex with multiple people at once. Plus, although it doesn’t happen all that often, Idon’twanttostopsleepingwithMargo.”
“That’s an interesting question,” I replied. “Under normal circumstances, I generally don’t mind. But when there are strong feelings involved, I tend to spiral and wonder when the other person is going to leave me, which tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But…you and I, we’re bound now and no one will be able to get between us—and that thought is an amazing comfort that will probably take some getting used to. I feel like we should wait to make rules until we know each other better, but I technically don’t have a problem with us sleeping with others—together or separately. Now, what’s this about Margo?”
“Before I moved to New York, I considered myself gay. Like, all the way, Kinsey 6 gay. I don’t know if it was a product of the female specimens of my hometown or what. I spent a lot of time in gay bars when I first arrived, having so much sex with so many random strangers I legit don’t know how I don’t have every STD. The City has so many beautiful women, and I began to notice passing attraction to some of them. Started fantasizing about what fucking them would be like.
But Bambi. Margo was the first woman I ever slept with, and it was good enough that it’s happened many more times. I’ve picked up a couple of random women to sleep with since then, with variable results. I think it would be incandescently hot for us to find a pretty girl to destroy. What about young Quentin? Did you always identify as pansexual? Did you first have sex with a boy or a girl?”
I smiled to myself, remembering. “My first sexual experiences were at camp the summer I turned 15. Chris…had ambiguous genitalia and was being raised as a boy. But that ambiguity didn’t keep my hands or mouth off it—in fact, I thought it was way hotter than having one or the other. I’d be one of a limited number of humans to have seen and experienced their uniqueness. I mean, yeah, sure, everyone’s is unique—yours is huge, obviously—but you know what I mean.
“We’re Facebook friends these days; they identify as enby, and I’m grateful that’s an actual thing. Anyway, we snuck around and made each other come once or twice a day for the full two weeks of that camp. Basically taught each other how to do the sex. And how to kiss.
“I’m sure it’s not surprising that I was never very popular even though I got to hang out with the ‘in crowd’ through Julia. I didn’t date very much at all. I had probably an average amount of sex, though; in a way I was kind of popular, since I slept with all kinds of people. It wasn’t that I didn’t have standards, as the other kids often accused. I realized pretty early on that people have so many attractive qualities that aren’t physical. Attractive to me, at least.
“I prefer sex with somebody I can have a conversation with before and after. I guess most people are too shallow for that. I’ve had lots of fuckbuddies who were nothing more than good friends—and, I’m still in friendly contact with most of them. But, you know, with the whole brain-breaking thing, I’m not good at approaching people romantically. And I’m shit at noticing I’m being flirted with. Most of my fuckbuddies just kind of happened. And they’ve been all over the gender spectrum. That you’re male is objectively no more or less interesting than that you have brown hair.”
Eliot feigned offense. “I’m outraged you find any part of me ‘more or less interesting.’ Let’s see if this is interesting enough for you.” He slithered toward the foot of the bed, and what he did with his tongue was very interesting indeed.
 I named them based on glassmaking history since having invented such a thing as glass seems like pure magic https://www.glassofvenice.com/murano_glass_history.php
 I selected this particular one because it is in upstate New York, fairly close to what appears to be rural areas where Brakebills could reasonably be concealed. I especially picked it because it looks like it never made it out of the 70s (from Google Streets view). The Fairfield Inn was just a bonus.
 At 4:02pm, we later learn, as this information is part of your personal Circumstances
 Can also be used as part of your personal Circumstances as a refinement so it’s helpful to know
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
When I woke up on Friday morning, I decided to announce the boys’ new Bonding at the party. I had decided I liked Quentin enough already that I didn’t want him to have to deal with other first years throwing themselves at Eliot, which was certain to happen. Cute boys threw themselves at Eliot all the time, and I wasn’t sure how the new bond would affect Eliot’s usual MO at one of our parties. I figured if everyone knew Eliot was Taken with a capital T, they’d be less likely to approach him looking for a handjob in the bathroom as an audition for a one-night stand. Plus, who didn’t love more than one reason to celebrate?
I had left an enchantment at Eliot’s door that notified whoever opened it they needed to come find me immediately. But since I knew Eliot, I was pretty sure it would be him who was first out the door—he would be sure to get up early so he could fix his makeup and regale me with a summary of last night’s events while he made coffee and breakfast to surprise the boy in his bed. I loved to hear about his conquests and usually rubbed one out after, thinking about the latest story while he did the breakfast in bed thing. Unless, of course, I was kicking someone out of my room.
I wondered how their bond would change this ritual, as well. Quentin didn’t seem like the type to have his private shit shared everywhere—but then again, he had let us watch the soulbond. I knew he and Eliot would make each other very happy, and even my aro ice queen cryomancer self was happy for them. Right about the time I started missing Eliot, I heard him rustling at the door. Our timing has always been good like that.
“Good morning, sunshine. You look like you had a very good night.” He definitely had a spring in his step as he hopped up on the bed with me. I grinned at him as he kissed me on the cheek.
“Bambi. I’ve been trying to decide what to tell you first for the last five minutes while I was getting dressed. Come downstairs with me?” He stood and turned to the door.
I rolled my eyes at him as we headed down the stairs. “Like I haven’t been waiting for you? Spill. I want you to tell me everything while you make him breakfast and coffee. You both looked very cozy before you swept him away last night. How was he?”
He started the coffee and put water on to boil. “Ah, Eggs Benedict. You really are trying to impress this boy.”
“Bambi. Last night I had the best sex I’ve ever had. Like, by a lot. He is everything. If I had to follow him around everywhere picking up after him just for the chance to be close to him I would do it. I want to spend every moment of the rest of my life spoiling him rotten and making sure he’s taken care of and as happy as he can be. Quentin is my whole heart and soul.
“Here’s the thing, though. He is clinically depressed, and nearly treatment resistant. At least he has been so far. Maybe the bond will help. I hope it helps. I don’t know enough about it yet to know how it all works. I want it to help. I can’t stand thinking for a single second that he isn’t perfectly content one hundred percent of the time. I feel like I want my entire focus in life to be ensuring his happiness.
“I’m sure he’ll talk about it soon enough—he doesn’t consider it a secret, but it’s not his favorite topic, either. I know mocking others is our love language, but that needs to be off the table for him. He is precious and soft and a fucking genius and hilarious—and sarcastic as fuck. He’s absolutely perfect. Just … don’t give him any shit about his depression. Or anxiety. Or any of his mental shit. He gets enough of that from his traitor brain. Okay?”
I sighed. “Eliot. I can’t wait to make fun of him. I can’t wait to make fun of both of you together. I have a feeling he’ll give as good as he gets, once we get to know each other better. But I’m not a dumbass, you know. Not completely heartless. I love you. You are my semiplatonic life partner, and now you come with two package deals. Three, if you count Julia, which is also likely to be a requirement. We’ll be Clan Waugh, just like you said. We’ll rule the entire campus. The four of us are our new normal. At least it will be once I get Julia in my bed.”
Eliot squeed a little and stopped whisking the hollandaise long enough to make a tiny clapping motion. “Oh my god Bambi, that would be so hot. You watched us, so you’ll have to let us watch you. Would you get me the bag of spinach out of the refrigerator, darling?”
I snorted. “Yeah, no, the similarities between my relationship with you and Julia’s relationship with Quentin end with Julia’s hard nope on the sex. She’s never felt that way about him, even though she knows he had that awful crush on her for most of their teenage years. Also: holy shit, spinach too? You really are completely gone over this boy: you want to make sure he eats his vegetables, too? Damn, Eliot. That’s something else.”
He sniffed, “As I have already mentioned, I am fully devoted to my soulmate’s health and well-being. I am merely leveraging my organization and cooking skills to benefit us all. Surely you noticed six English muffins on that plate? Who else might be gifted Eliot Waugh’s Extraordinary Florentine Eggs Benedict this fine morning, I wonder? Hmm?
“Seriously, though. You’re right: I am completely smitten. Please do not take this the wrong way, Bambi, please. Okay? He is literally the best thing that has ever happened to me. You were right yesterday morning. My life has changed for the better. Mind popping those English muffins in the toaster for me? It’s time to poach these eggs, then plate.
“I can already feel it. The four of us are going to be an unstoppable force—even if you and Julia aren’t soulmates. Even if you don’t hook up. Which, for the record, I hope you do, because it would be hot! And, of course, because I want you to be happy. Julia is very beautiful; it’s not hard to see why Quentin spent so many years crushing on her. I truly am looking forward to getting to know her. Quentin thinks the world of her, as I do you.”
After starting the toaster, I got the orange juice and champagne out of the fridge. I brandished the bottles, informing him, “See how much I love you? Before I went to bed last night, I took the liberty of chilling this so you could also bring him a mimosa to go with his coffee.” I went into the cabinet to get the tiny sugar and creamer set, grabbed his favorite ‘breakfast in bed’ tray, and started setting it up. “See how I’m helping? It’s a big day for us all. I will wring your neck if you ever tell anyone about this, but I’m ridiculously happy for you. Congratulations, El. Now, go feed your boy.”
We worked together to finish everything on the tray. I made myself a mimosa and tucked into breakfast as I watched him ascend the stairs. Eliot really was an amazing cook. No way was I letting this get cold.
I was grateful to have squared everything up with Margo. Not that there was really anything to settle; I just wanted to make sure she would be mindful about the way she treats Quentin. I didn’t think of him as a delicate flower or anything, but I knew damn well I’d step between him and anyone who tried to make him feel like he was anything less than the angel he was.
I hoped he was still asleep; I was desperate to kiss him awake. I tried reaching out through the bond, but I didn’t really sense anything besides calm. I knew at some point we would learn how to use the bond to sense how the other felt. Although I was impatient to know everything about him, I knew it would take time. It had been less than a day, after all.
Telekinesis is amazing when it comes to carrying a tray loaded with breakfast up a flight of stairs. I thanked my lucky stars yet again as I silently opened the door hands-free. I was delighted to see he was still asleep, although I felt just a teensy bit sad to see he had obviously reached out for me at some point after I left.
I cast the spell that would keep the food and drinks at proper temperatures, toed off my shoes, and very carefully climbed on the bed. I moved his outstretched arm and snuggled in close, reaching to brush his hair off his face and kissing his forehead softly. I felt our bond pulse and sent “wake up” thoughts through it. I kissed the corner of his eye, then his lips. In the quietest voice I could find, I greeted him, “Good morning, baby. Wake up now. There’s coffee and breakfast for you.”
He snuffled and wiggled adorably for a couple of seconds, and his eyes opened. When he realized where he was, he had an almost shy smile for me as he croaked out, “Hey.”
I rubbed noses with him. “Hi baby. There you are. I’d ask if you slept well, but I already know the answer. I’m not sure yet how you take your coffee, so I brought cream and sugar. And breakfast. And mimosas. I’m going to completely ruin you for anyone else, starting today.”
He smirked at me. “Pretty sure you already did that last night.”
Ah, a brat. I could work with that. I sat up and turned toward the tray. “Yes, sweet boy, but that was just with my cock. You’re going to be the rottenest brat ever spoiled. I promise. Now, do you want to sit up and start in on some coffee? How do you like it?”
He sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Um, just cream, no sugar. I don’t usually like sweet coffee or tea. There are some random exceptions, but even I don’t understand them.” Noticing the other contents of the tray, he asked, “Where did you get Eggs Benedict? Holy shit, did you make that? For me? Wow, um, thank you, Eliot.”
I added cream to his mug and kissed him before I handed it to him. I said, “I did make this breakfast for us. I hear tell I’m pretty handy in the kitchen, so expect to be fed well, at the very least. Thanks to magic, everything will be the perfect temperature when you’re ready to eat. And we can thank Margo for the champagne in the mimosas. She’s amazing. You’ll see. And I can hardly wait to get to know your Julia. The four of us are going to be Brakebills legends.”
“Pretty confident of you considering Jules and I haven’t even started classes yet. We might both suck at magic,” he laughed.
“Not possible. You’re both new, but I already know through our bond that you’ve got more than enough innate talent to do well here. I don’t know much about Julia yet, but Margo seems to like her a lot. Like, a lot a lot. Does she also identify as pan?”
Quentin raised an eyebrow. “Um. I mean, I know she’s bi, because I’ve seen her take women to bed. We share an apartment. Or, well, I guess we did share an apartment? I don’t know if we’ll keep it now that we’re here? Julia’s last boyfriend hurt her pretty badly, and it hasn’t been that long since they broke up. I don’t think she’s thinking about relationships at this point.
“But I don’t know. I’m not her keeper. I tried to … distance myself from that aspect of her life when we were teenagers. It was just too painful to watch her date other people. Obviously, that won’t be a problem anymore, though. I’ll be happy if all four of us are friends. Anything else beyond that would be nice, I guess. I just want her to be happy. Right now, I’m pretty sure magic—and being here—will be enough.”
I replied, “Well, Margo told me this morning that she offered to show Julia the ropes around here. Perhaps romance will blossom. That may just be wishful thinking on mine and Margo’s part. Regardless, I am glad she’s here with you. Margo and I met here, as you know, but I literally don’t know what I’d do without her. Shall we toast to our leading ladies with our mimosas?”
Quentin held out his hand to take the stemmed crystal flute. My love deserved the best of everything. He saluted with the glass, “To Margo and Julia.”
I returned, “Margo and Julia. Are you ready for breakfast, baby? I’m kind of hungry now.” When he nodded, I placed the tray between us so we could both use the surface to eat.
He took the first bite, and moaned, “Ummmigd, Eliot.” As he portioned more on his fork for the next bite, he told me, “Eliot. This is so good. I really must be lucky. I never really got much good home-cooked food growing up. My dad was more the fried SPAM sandwiches and mac & cheese type. You cook like this all the time? I usually burn water.”
“Oh, honey,” I tsked at him. “We do pretty well here at the Physical Kids Cottage. Now that I have you to feed, we will eat like kings. Cooking for four to six is what I do best, and I do love to dazzle with my culinary prowess. I learned to cook growing up and refined my skills to a more gourmet level in undergrad. I wanted to be able to feed myself well, and I always believed having the ability to cook a very nice meal was a very frugal way for me to impress a date. In all seriousness, though, I am glad you like it. Eat up, love. We’ve got a party to finish planning!”
By the time we finished breakfast and came downstairs, Julia had clearly been hanging out on the sofa with Margo for a while; they were deep in conversation. I could definitely tell by the way Margo was looking at Julia that she was into her. I wasn’t sure if Julia had noticed that, but she did notice me. “Q! Hey! How was your night? Are you all bonded now?” She stood and hugged me.
Margo piped up, “Hmmm, Q, huh? Quentin, I hope you don’t mind it, because Eliot and I are going to start using this immediately.”
Eliot finished descending the stairs, carrying the tray of dishes. “What are we using, Bambi? I think we could use a round of cocktails. Right, Julia dear?” He leaned to buss a kiss on her cheek as he walked toward the kitchen, pretending to ignore me completely.
Julia laughed. “Q. It’s his nickname. Well, one of them. His dad calls him Curlicue.”
Eliot stopped in his tracks. He twirled around with ridiculous grace for someone more than six feet tall carrying a heavy tray of china and crystal. He released the tray, leaving it floating in the air and stepped out from behind it as he clapped, “Q. That’s perfect. Oh my god. Curlicue? That’s literally the most adorable thing I’ve ever heard. I probably won’t use it, though; not if it’s your dad’s name for you. Ok, so you’re Q to the four of us. It’s a family name.” He leaned over to kiss me before he turned around again, grabbed the tray, and took it into the kitchen.
Now, Julia scrunched her nose and looked at Margo. “He’s taking this whole family thing really seriously, isn’t he? I mean, I get him and Q since they’re soulmates and all. It’s … really nice for you and Eliot to essentially adopt me on first sight.”
I couldn’t help but agree. “Yeah, seriously, thank you, Margo. These last couple of days have been, I mean, holy shit. Insane? I agree with Jules. I really do appreciate having allies in a situation where I know almost nothing.” I looked at my best friend. “Holy shit, Jules, magic is real.” I grinned at her and hugged her again.
She giggled. “I know, right? Margo has already graciously answered so many of my questions. I’ve never felt like such a newb before. It’s kind of weird. I mean, you and I have always been the smartest two in the class. But now, even though I know it’s ignorance which can—and will—be remedied, I still feel kind of like a dummy.”
Eliot returned, this time carrying a tray with four bloody marys with essentially a second breakfast as garnish. How many trays did he have? He snorted, “Julia. You are obviously not a dummy, and neither is my Baby Q. You wouldn’t have been accepted to Brakebills if you were. It’s not just your magical potential they look at for entrance. They will have looked at your undergrad scores and who knows what all else before essentially luring you into the trap of the exam room.”
I agreed. “Yeah, not such a big fan of being tricked onto the campus, but it’s a pretty effective sales strategy. Pretty sure I wouldn’t have believed anyone who tried to tell me there was such a thing as magic grad school and asked me if I wanted to attend.”
Eliot roared with laughter. “He asked me if he was hallucinating. Baby, Baby Q, I wanted to kiss the fear off your face and carry you to your seat at the test. He stumbled across the lawn and seemed so freaked out, it looked like he was going to cry.”
Julia laughed loudly, too. “Ted—that’s his dad—would say ‘he didn’t know whether to shit or go blind.’ I never did understand that one…”
I wasn’t sure how well I liked the direction this conversation had turned. “Eliot. I kind of did want to cry. I wondered if I was hallucinating you. Or, I guess the bond, really, to be more accurate. I was freaking out at how much I wasn’t freaking out about you. I’ve longed all my life for magic to be real, and that I just didn’t know how to access it. Part of the way my brain breaks is that it thinks so many things at once that it can’t always process it all in real time. Especially when speech is involved.
“The second I stepped into the daylight from a dark alley, I knew. I knew magic was real. I was drawn to you not only because I wanted to know what the fuck had just happened, but because I felt you in a way I’d never felt anyone before. Now that I’ve had some time to unpack those first few minutes, I realized I’d come to the conclusion that magic was real and that I’d just met my soulmate. I knew it was you. I knew it would always be you. All my dreams came true all at once. But I just couldn’t sort out my thoughts into words fast enough. You must have thought I was an idiot.”
Margo cleared her throat loudly. “Did you two need to go back upstairs? Because you already have a room, you know.”
I shrugged. “I mean, if we’re supposed to be a family and all, I feel like transparency is the way to go. It’s how Jules and I have always communicated. Thanks to years of therapy, I’m used to talking about deep personal shit with people I trust. And I do. Trust you. Why not just say in front of you what I’d tell Julia—or what Eliot would just tell you—later anyway?”
“Nobody thinks you’re an idiot, Q.” Julia gestured toward me with her thumb, smirking, “Communications/English Lit. Graduated with both Bachelors’ at the same time. Wanted to teach English lit so he could spread the good word of Fillory far and wide. Did I mention he wanted to teach middle schoolers?”
I blushed. “Middle school students who discover stories to identify with quantifiably improves learning outcomes. Reading promotes positive changes in identity and sense of agency, as well as enhanced awareness in their intellectual, relational, and moral lives.”
Julia groaned. “Ugh, this one again. Ladies and gentlemen, The Quentin Coldwater Show.” She waved sarcastic jazz hands around.
Quirking a warning eyebrow at my best friend, I sighed, “Could you not?”
“Ha ha, okay, Q,” Julia conceded. “I’m sure they’ll hear your greatest hits before long.” She addressed them, “He will avoid being the center of attention at all costs unless he’s around people he knows and trusts. Once you’re in his inner circle, he’ll talk your ears off.”
“Jules! Shut the fuck up!” I was starting to feel kind of angry with her. Eliot must have been able to feel it, because he put his arm around me and pulled me into his lap. He kissed my temple about forty times and started petting me.
Julia pouted, but held her hands up, surrendering. “Okay, sweetie, I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to piss you off. I love you. You know that. Let’s make it up to you.” She pulled her phone from under the pillow she was leaning on and held it up. “Wanna watch your bond? It was astoundingly beautiful.”
With all the nonstop excitement over the past day, I’d forgotten that they’d recorded it. I made grabby hands at her phone. “Oh my god, Jules, yes. Please let us see it.” She handed it over, Eliot leaned his head on my shoulder, and I pressed play.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
I couldn’t believe how lucky Q and I were to have found Margo and Eliot. Even though it was amazing that Quentin had found his soulmate, it was still good to have made two new friends. I got the feeling the two original members of Clan Waugh weren’t always the most welcoming to newcomers—they had “in crowd” written all over them. I still had so many questions, it was hard to decide where to start. I decided the beginning might not hurt.
I asked, “Eliot, why did you escort Q to the test? I didn’t have anyone to meet me. Yesterday morning—which feels like about five days ago, by the way—I went with Quentin to interview for Yale. Or so we thought. When we got there, the man Q was supposed to meet had died. After we dealt with the police and the coroner came, Q and I parted ways. Instead of the elevator taking me back home, I ended up in the hallway that led to the testing room.”
Eliot responded, “Henry—Dean Fogg, that is, insisted. I honestly don’t know why. Quentin, what did you do between when you and Julia split up and you emerged onto the campus? I wonder why you weren’t supposed to arrive together? Do you think the dean knew I was about to get a soulmate?”
Quentin shrugged. “Basically, what Jules just said. We walked in on a dead guy, called it in, and helped file the report. One of the EMTs noticed there was an envelope with my name on it. She handed me a manuscript for Fillory and Further Book Six—which we should also talk about at some point—and one of the pages blew away. Chasing the page led me into an alley, and then on to campus. I’d walked away from Julia 5, maybe 10 minutes before? I guess we each needed to be ‘tricked’ in different ways? Is it just me, or does that feel kind of shady?”
Margo made a face. “I don’t know, El, how would Fogg have known that? They never tell us very much about how their … recruitment process works. Maybe you should ask when you register on Monday?”
I agreed, “Yeah, that kind of does seem like more than just a coincidence. Definitely let us know what they say. Eliot, I know we basically just met, but I’m glad to have you as a friend. I can already tell that you and Q are meant for each other.” Although my statement was true, it did feel kind of weird to talk to Eliot while he was petting my best friend who was sitting in his lap.
Quentin responded, “Jules, I agree that it is really weird. But I’m not sure it really matters. Having a soulmate is so much better than I ever expected it would be. You and I know each other incredibly well because we’ve been friends for most of our lives. And somehow, within a few short hours, Eliot knows exactly what I need. I know he has my best interests at heart—from the best sex I’ve ever had last night to an amazingly delicious and nutritionally sound breakfast this morning. I don’t know whether the bond will help with my depression and anxiety long-term, because it’s just too new to be sure. But I can tell you I already feel more emotionally balanced than I ever have before.”
That was good to hear. Quentin was his own kind of weird, just like everyone else—but it hardly seemed fair that his own brain would beat him up so badly and so regularly. I couldn’t help but wonder how he would deal with the giant party this evening. Would he read in a corner by himself, or would Eliot’s presence help him have a bit of fun? He deserved some fun—he could sure use it.
Eliot stopped kissing Quentin’s neck and spoke up. “Thank you, Julia. I am glad to have you as well. I agree with Q’s earlier statement about transparency. Since Margo and I share everything, and you and Q do as well, it makes good sense for the four of us to be open and honest with each other. Just as long as you agree to support and protect the “Eliot Waugh, Brakebills’ Party King™” persona.
“It’s a shame you weren’t here for breakfast, though. I’ll be sure to let you know when I’m cooking—which is usually a lot—so I can ensure we are all eating like royalty as often as possible. I enjoy taking care of those I care about, so you ladies—and Quentin in particular—should prepare yourselves to become accustomed to having your needs met.”
“Wow, Eliot, thanks. Margo told me earlier about the amazing breakfast you’d made for Quentin, and how lucky she was to have gotten in on it. I’d be happy to chip in with meal planning, from grocery shopping to helping in the kitchen,” I replied. “What about tonight’s party? Will there be food involved? Can I help out with any of that?”
Margo chimed in, “Eliot made all the appetizers last weekend. They’re in the freezer; all we have to do is thaw some and heat up some others. I’d love a hand with the setup. I understand Q here isn’t a party animal, so I figured he and Eliot would want some alone time before the festivities begin. Especially since Eliot will not only be starting the party, he’ll be bartending for a while, as well.
“That reminds me. Since the boys will be nesting for part of the party, I could use your help with a spell. You smoked some of the mélange already; Eliot, Josh, and I put together a spell to keep the Cottage library fogged out for an hour at a time—just hang out for a few minutes, get high as fuck. We’d planned to rotate the hourly reactivation of the spell, but Eliot’s not going to be available for a few shifts. So, Julia, how’d you like to learn your first spell?”
I replied, “Cool, thanks, I’d love that! You two really have adopted us, haven’t you?” I was still pleasantly surprised at how quickly Margo and Eliot had made room for us.
Eliot chuckled, waving a hand. “Time is an illusion. I bond fast. Even when it’s not a soulbond. Margo and I decided within about an hour of meeting that we would be each other’s BFF. Speaking of bonding fast, mes demoiselles, Quentin and I are going upstairs now. We need to discuss how to remodel our room, take a nap, and conduct some other affairs.”
I put my hand over my mouth, looked conspiratorially at Margo, and stage-whispered, “That’s code for fucking.”
This time, Eliot laughed in earnest. “Yes. Yes ma’am, it is. I’m about to fuck your best friend into the mattress to make sure he will actually sleep, so he will be awake for most of the first night of this epic weekend. Love you both!” He moved to stand, nudging Quentin off his lap. He took Quentin’s hand and led him up the stairs as Margo and I laughed at their absurdity.
I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that Quentin woke me from our nap. I knew he was physically and emotionally exhausted, but apparently anxiety is more powerful than both. I couldn’t actually feel his anxiety, yet somehow knew that’s what he was feeling. But I had my arms around the hottest, nakedest boy cuddled up on my chest, and I refused to let him go any time soon. He was MINE, and I could hardly believe I got to keep him. I smiled at him and kissed his nose. “I wanted you to sleep longer, you know.”
He groaned. “I know. But it’s been a few hours, so at least I got some rest. I couldn’t stop thinking about whether Penny was fucking with my stuff. Or anyone else he might have over there. Not that I have much. Then I realized I don’t even have a change of clothes right now. I guess Julia and I both will need to go back to the apartment to get more clothes and whatever.”
“Of course we can go get your things from the dorm and from your apartment, baby. We can do both of those things this afternoon. We’ll have to portal to the City and get to the apartment like mere mortals, but we’ll portal back to Brakebills. I’ll also set up a permanent portal between the apartment and our room here so it’ll be easy for you or Julia to get whatever you need from there. We could get up and go do that right now, but I need to be close to you just like this for a little while longer, okay?”
He smiled at me so sweetly. I was glad I was already lying down because I felt like I was swooning. He nuzzled his cheek on my chest and murmured, “Yeah. This is good. I’m exactly where I want to be right now. I feel more safe, protected, and loved than I ever have before, and it would be overwhelming if it didn’t feel so … normal.
“Thank you, Eliot. Thank you for accepting the bond, for caring, for not running away, for being so welcoming to me, to Julia, for everything. For being my partner. I’ll never have to feel alone, ever again. That’s … fucking huge. It’s everything.”
While he spoke, I felt moisture on my chest. My eyes began to prickle, too. I ran my fingers through his hair and spoke quietly to soothe him, “I know, baby. It’s so much. It’s just this side of too much. It is for me, too. It’s literally insane how profoundly our lives have changed in a single day. Happy dayversary, by the way. Here’s to millions more, yeah? From now on, it’s you and me—and Margo and Julia—against the world. Okay?”
I wiped at his tears, and at my own. I kissed his forehead and rubbed circles on his back. “What do you think? You wanna go see if Julia is still here? She can come with us to the apartment to get her stuff, too. Or did you want to try to get a little more sleep?”
He rolled off me and sat up, looking around the room, his mind clearly engaged with something. He looked at me skeptically, saying, “I can’t stop thinking about it. You said you’re going to magic this room bigger? How much bigger? How does that even work?”
I hauled myself to a sitting position as well and gestured at the room. “Well, this room is its original size, designed for one person. Ironically, it’s probably the only one here in the Cottage that is. I kind of always wanted to design a more luxurious space for myself, but I never could justify it since I really don’t spend that much time here. Most of the Physical Kids’ rooms are essentially small apartments, and ours will be, too. This Cottage is anything but. Frankly, even I don’t know how many rooms are here. The third years have an entire wing hidden behind a door two down from this one, but they are a bunch of elitist cocks.”
Quentin chuffed out a laugh, and I could feel it was at my expense. He asked, “What did you have in mind for the room? I don’t have any frame of reference for what can be done here.”
“We can do pretty much whatever we want with the space. Right now, there’s just the basics: the sleeping area and the en suite, which of course you’ve seen. You may have noticed I’m fairly extroverted, so I usually spend most of my time in the common areas of the Cottage, which is why I’ve never bothered to enhance the room. I’ve noticed you’re super introverted and will probably want to homebody up in here, which means we’ll need more space.”
I stretched out to the far side of the bedside table for a notebook. “Okay, this space is currently a rectangle, so that means it’ll be easier to just expand it to include a bedroom, bathroom, living area, study, and closets, of course. Ooo, and a tub! I hope you like baths. Cancers and Scorpios are both water signs, in case you didn’t know—and you’ll need to. Whenever I get upset, I find I settle down and even out better when I’m in water. And I’ll bet you do too.”
I started sketching. “So instead of a rectangle with the sleeping area in front and the bathroom in the back like it is now, let’s make the ‘public’ portion of the room include the study and living area. Yeah, put a door here, so we can close the study off when one or both of us needs to focus. That’ll create a little foyer-slash-hallway. We’ll put the door to our bedroom here in the middle. The bedroom will be toward the back and the bathroom will share the wall with the external hall.”
I showed him the rough drawing. “We’ll put hooks along the entry hall for coats. And hoodies, and messenger bags. The living area will have a sectional, TV mounted on the wall, a dinette for two, and a mini kitchenette where we’ll have a coffee maker, bar sink, minifridge, and microwave. We’ll each get a desk in the study.
“This queen bed is great for an occasional sleepover, but we’ll get a king that will be our bed. I hate that I’ve made you sleep in a bed that has been desecrated by others, so we will remedy that situation as quickly as possible. Anyway, moving along. We’ll do a sliding barn door that leads to a hall with a closet for each of us followed by a shower stall on the left and a water closet on the right. Each of us will have a sink, and then I’m going to make us a tub so big it’ll be embarrassing. I want both of us to easily fit in the tub.”
I scribbled some calculations to estimate measurements. Nodding and laughing, I told him, “So, we’ll have about 625 square feet of small apartment. That’s a little less than twice this size. Obviously, I’m going to do the actual dimensions later; I’ll need them for the spellwork. But it looks like we’ll be able to fit a tub that’s 9 feet long and 3 feet wide. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?” I do love to surprise and delight.
Quentin took the notepad from me to study my scribbles more closely.
He shook his head. “That seems like a lot. I mean, magically. I love the floorplan. Seriously, I think it will be perfect for us. How do you enlarge a room magically? Where will we get all the furniture? How will we get it all in here?”
“Well, Margo will need to help me since you don’t know the spells. They aren’t something I can just teach you on the fly. No offense, but it would be like asking you to do calculus before you’ve learned any algebra. I helped her with the spellwork for her room; this floorplan is fairly similar to the one we designed for her. I’m sure you’ll see it at some point today. What you can do to help, and what we might even enlist Julia to do, is to essentially be our mana batteries. It’s pretty much just like in video games—you’ll do spells that will sort of power us up, giving us additional stamina to do the heavy lifting, so to speak. We can easily teach you those.
“As far as furniture goes, I’ll pay for it. Before you protest, hear me out. Magicians have ways of choosing extremely lucrative investments. I’ll teach you and Julia all about it. There are much more important things for you to learn right now than how to become financially secure. Money is not an issue—and besides, my money is now our money. Seriously, do not worry about it. I want to do this, for both of us.
“Getting everything moved in past the campus wards is as simple as getting the furniture delivered to a storage unit and adding a portal back here to the room. There’s a storage unit in Schenectady that all the Physical Kids share for this express purpose. We won’t even need movers, thanks to my telekinesis. But that ‘mana battery’ spell will come in handy, so you’ll be able to help then, too.
“What do you think, are you about ready to get up and moving? Why don’t we go see if Julia is here and head to the City? Maybe Margo will want to go, too. We can grab a quick bite on the way to the apartment and eat there before you pack up what you need, at least for now. We can tell them all about our new room.” I tore the sheet out of the notebook and folded it so I could put it in my pocket.
Quentin smiled. “Yeah, I’m ready. I’m actually really excited about our room. And, I know Jules will be excited about the portal. She’s … kind of a crazy plant lady, and I can hardly imagine what it would be like if any of them died. If you can show us how to make some money, I’d guess we’d definitely keep the apartment. It’d be a nice place for the four of us to get away from campus if we need to. There’s an amazing south Indian place across the street where we can get some lunch.”
I dramatically slammed my hand to my chest, feigning a swoon. “Perfect. Is their uthappam any good? It’s been aeons since I had any. Mmm, fuck yes. I love that stuff. Margo will definitely want to go; she’s half Indian, you know. Her mom’s from Chennai. I’m sure she’ll love showing off by ordering for us in Tamil. Okay, let’s go get our girls.” We finished dressing and went downstairs.
I was absolutely delighted. I was still full of the foods of my childhood and was surprised by how impressed I was with the apartment Quentin and Julia shared. It was clear who’d done most of the decorating, but our Q seemed to have better taste than I’d imagined he would. Eliot and I had mesmerized them by creating a portal back to their room, embedding the spell in one of Quentin’s Fillory and Further action figures. Although neither of them was ready to learn portal spells yet, they both were happy to know they could travel back and forth relatively quickly. And I was glad to have a crash pad in the City. That shit was going to come in handy.
The boys showed us the floorplan they’d decided on, and we agreed to do the spellwork the following Sunday. That way, they’d have time during the week as well as Saturday to do their furniture shopping and deliveries. The week would be crazy busy, with classes starting, the boys getting their bond registered and a likely tutoring appointment, but all four of us were committed to getting through it together.
Now it was time to get the party started. Most of the guests had already arrived, and Eliot was planning a fashionably late grand entrance on the staircase. I’d helped Quentin pick out an outfit from his closet in the apartment that would coordinate as best as possible with Eliot’s ensemble. Fortunately, Julia had given him a few decent shirts over the years that he rarely wore. We seriously needed to get that boy a new wardrobe.
In addition to helping Eliot and me co-create mélange, Josh was one of the people in the other disciplines we could actually stand to be around. He always had the best drugs and the best baked goods—and specialized in combining his two favorite hobbies. When he heard about Eliot’s bond with Quentin, he took it upon himself to bake them a bonding cake.
Josh set the cake in the middle of the table with the food and joined me at the staircase to declare the official start to the party. We had planned Eliot’s entrance before he even met Quentin, so Eliot wouldn’t be surprised to see us there. But I knew they would both be surprised to see how we planned to coopt it to announce Brakebills’ newest soulbond.
Somehow, Eliot had convinced Quentin to be the first down the stairs. Quentin was dressed in his usual faded-to-charcoal skinny black jeans and grey suede chukkas. Tucked into the jeans was a good-quality burgundy button-down—which actually fit him—paired with a floral/plaid bow tie from Eliot’s collection. Eliot had obviously conditioned and dried Quentin's hair as well as subtly lined his eyes, turning him into quite the tasty, bite-sized snack.
Eliot followed two steps behind. He’d refused earlier to wear a jacket to what he called “such an informal party;” instead, he layered a crisp white long-sleeved shirt under a grey Prince of Wales check waistcoat topped with a longer burgundy waistcoat that closed with a chain. His trousers matched the grey check, and the tie was a standout diagonal black and white stripe. His hair and makeup were perfection. I lamented for a moment that I wouldn’t be fucking him again for a while. He was hot like an atom bomb and looked absolutely edible. Quentin was one lucky sonofabitch.
Not to worry, though, I had my mind set on getting Julia into my bed later. She unsubtly started taking pictures as Eliot stopped near the bottom of the staircase, making Quentin look at her with question marks on his face. Eliot clapped loudly and spoke to the crowd. “Welcome, everyone! We are gathered here today to congratulate new students in the incoming class! Stop by the Cottage library once an hour or so—we’re premiering a brand-new smoky treat for you tonight. It’s called mélange and it’ll keep you nice and high.”
I stepped up two stairs and made an announcement of my own. “We are also dedicating this weekend’s festivities to Brakebills’ newest Bondeds. Physical Kids, Other Kids, I present to you Eliot Waugh and Quentin Coldwater.” I gestured toward the table of food. “Eliot and Quentin will be doing the cake ceremony in half an hour—that’ll give all of you time to get a drink and a good fogging first. Anyone who wants to get high, follow me.”
A cheer went up as I gestured toward the happy couple. As we started toward the library, Quentin took a look at the cake. “Holy shit, El, look at this cake. Margo, where did this come from? This looks amazing!”
I gestured with my head toward Josh, who was standing between Julia and me. “Oh yeah, that’s right, I forgot you haven’t met Josh yet. I told you a little about him—he’s the guy Eliot and I worked with to create mélange. He supplies us with a wide variety of delights, including most of our drugs, and stellar baked goods like your bonding cake. Julia and I almost ate the whole motherfucker ourselves before you had time to learn of its existence, but we decided we liked you enough to wait. We talked with Josh about some of your favorite flavors. Josh?”
“Hi Quentin, I’m very glad to meet you. I’m looking forward to becoming friends. I guess these two consider me somewhat of an honorary Physical Kid, even though I’m a Naturalist. So, the cake. As the frosting suggests, this is a spumoni cake. On the bottom, we have a chocolate cake topped with chocolate ganache and frosted with chocolate buttercream. The second layer is cherry-amaretto cake with cherry buttercream, and the third layer is a pistachio cake with pistachio-rosewater buttercream. I hope you enjoy it. Mazel tov, both of you.”
Eliot was obviously humbled; his eyes looked suspiciously shiny. He placed his hands on Josh’s shoulders, looking him solemnly in the eyes, and said, “Kol ha’kavod, Joshua. It’s beautiful. And a beautiful gesture. You have outdone yourself. I’m sure you’ve heard what a whirlwind all this has been. I didn’t even think about cake. Thank you. Thank you so much.” He pulled Josh into a hug. His gaze flicked to Julia and me, then Quentin, and turned naughty as he looked back at Josh. “And thank you, too, Margo and Julia. I can hardly wait to feed it to him.”
Eliot’s compliments and leer had Josh and Quentin both blushing. I scoffed at the ridiculous boys, “Ovary up, toddlers, it’s time to smoke the library out. Our adoring fans await.” We all made our way to the Cottage library, where we found most of the attendees indeed waiting for us. Eliot introduced himself and Quentin and started performing the tuts that made violet smoke crawl down on us from the ceiling. The bass began to shake the walls and people started dancing. Life was good.
Hebrew for “good job” or “good work.” Literally “all of the respect.”
The year's first Physical Kids party is memorable for everyone. Eliot and Quentin celebrate their bond, and Margo and Julia get a little closer.
I didn't abandon this story, y'all!
I'm a freelance writer, and took on as much work as I possibly could right before the lockdowns started—I expected a lot of it would quickly dissolve, which seems to have been the case. For the last several weeks, I've been extremely blessed to have been too busy to write for pleasure. Now that things are slowing, I expect to update more regularly.
Also, it would be great if the boys would tell me the story in order—I've already written several chapters later on in the story. But there are one or two missing in the middle! This chapter is ~2,000 words, and the whole thing so far exceeds 21,000 words. It's nowhere near finished and is already the longest thing I've ever written (excepting technical manuals). It might end up near novel length, and that's both exciting and scary!
Here's some super fluffy fluff for you to cozy up with. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. <3
I knew Eliot and Quentin would be grateful later that I began taking pictures while they were still on the stairs. I hoped the surprise wasn’t too much for Q; I knew very well how much he hated being the center of attention, especially in a crowd. Fortunately, the announcements were short, and his own attention turned quickly to the gorgeous cake Josh had made for them. I just kept on snapping as Josh described the cake, making Eliot teary-eyed.
I was still gobsmacked about magic in general, so watching Eliot do the spell that dropped the purple mélange smoke from the ceiling was, well, magical—even though I’d already learned it myself. It really was the best recreational drug I’d ever tried, and I knew I for one was going to have a very fun night. I stood next to Margo as the smoke reached our shoulders.
“Dude, this is awesome.” I grinned at her. “Are you sure I’m ready to do the spell later? It was really smart of you to schedule Josh for the second shift so you and I can hang out with the boys after they cut the cake in half an hour.”
She smirked at me, raising an eyebrow. “Everybody at Brakebills is smart. It’s kind of a thing here. But Clan Waugh? We’re fucking geniuses. As for me, I try to think of everything. It’s surprising how dazzling you can seem when you mention you’ve taken care of the detail no one else thought of. Like that cake, for example. Don’t tell them, but Josh didn’t come up with that idea on his own. I know how talented he is, so I asked him if he would mind baking it.
“He really is a great guy, Jules. He’s a good friend, even though us Physical Kids act like we want nothing to do with the other disciplines. I told him Eliot likes chocolate and cherries and said he should ask you about some of Q’s favorite flavors. I don’t have to taste it to know he did an amazing job, although I can hardly wait. It’s going to be the best cake you’ve ever had.
“I love Eliot, and I know I will come to love Quentin just as much over time, but those two dipshits have been too wrapped up in each other to have even thought about a bonding cake. So I made it happen. We take care of each other. And I’d like to take care of you, later, too.” The mélange had just started to kick in, and I was feeling very good as Margo leaned in and gave me a brief and very gentle kiss.
When she pulled back, I met her halfway, returning the kiss with one of my own. “Oh, it’s on. I wanted to fuck you as soon as you opened the door when Penny led me here.” I kissed her again, pleased I hadn’t read her wrong. Then, I heard Eliot squeal from across the room.
Margo and I broke away from our brief reverie and looked toward Eliot and Quentin, who had apparently been watching us for some time. We sauntered closer to our best friends, watching Quentin blush. Eliot elbowed Quentin in the ribs, laughing, “Ha! I told you! I win! That means you blow me first.”
Margo waggled a finger in Eliot’s face, shaking her head and sneering, “You sad, jealous cocks. We’re about to cut your fucking bonding cake and you’re betting on my sex life? Pathetic.” She put her arm around me and moved us toward the table of food. She shot over her shoulder, “Let’s go cut your cake, assholes.”
As the four of us gathered around the table, Margo whistled loudly, and the music stopped. She shouted, getting everyone’s attention. “Cake time, motherfuckers!”
Most everyone came to watch, and I moved to the side to get the best angle for pictures. Josh joined me with his phone. I said, “Hey, Josh! What do you think—do you want to take some stills and I’ll get a video?” He nodded, and Margo spoke again.
“All of you are feeling pretty good by now, yeah? You have me, Josh here, and our very own Eliot Waugh to thank for this brand new high. Talk to us later if you want more. We’ll be renewing the spell each hour, all night long. Eliot and Quentin just bonded yesterday, and Josh made them this beautiful cake to celebrate their union. As Eliot’s best bitch, I would like to propose a toast. To Eliot and Quentin!”
Everyone shouted their response, “Eliot and Quentin!” The boys set their drinks down and sliced a piece of cake together—just like you’ve seen at every other bonding party. Their arms entwined as they fed each other a bite of cake, and another cheer went up as Quentin began to suck on Eliot’s fingers very suggestively. When Eliot kissed Quentin, I was half expecting him to just fuck Q right there on the table.
Josh saved Quentin the embarrassment, shouting, “Eat, drink and be merry, everyone!” He began slicing the cake and handing it out to the partygoers. That seemed to be enough for most of the crowd to move along to other activities.
Once everyone had been served, I asked Josh, “Hey, would you mind taking some more pictures of the four of us after we’re finished with the cake, which is fucking amazing, by the way. When I told you Quentin likes pistachios and amaretto, I had no idea this would be the result. It’s just superb. I don’t know if he’s thanked you yet, so I’m going to thank you for both of us. These last couple of days have been crazy, and we’re both overwhelmed. It’s really nice meeting good people and making new friends.”
Margo was right about Josh. He really was a great guy. I was so excited about all the new people to meet here at Brakebills. The five of us hung out together for a while, talking with others who’d come to congratulate the boys. Eliot wouldn’t let Quentin go; he either had an arm around him or was holding his hand. Eliot leaned down and kissed some words into Quentin’s ear, Q blushed again.
I told them they were ridiculously adorable, and Eliot corrected me. “Still think it’s adorable that I’m about to take him upstairs to fuck him again? We’ll be back…eventually.” Margo and I shook our heads as they retreated up the stairs with the last of the cake.
Quentin returned to the party more than three hours later with no bow tie and his eyeliner slightly smeared. I only knew how much time had passed because Margo, Josh, and I had all done the mélange refresh spell. He went straight for the table of food and loaded up a plate before coming to sit next to me.
I leaned into his side dramatically, laughing, “Wow, Q, you disappearing for hours in the middle of a party to get laid is going to take some getting used to.”
The tips of his ears reddened, but otherwise his poker face was on point. “Jesus, Jules, what the fuck. Can’t a guy binge eat a giant post-coital snack in peace around here? How’s the high, by the way? I think we sobered up quite a bit.”
“It’s the best thing ever. I feel amazing. Hurry up and finish eating that; let’s go get you some more. We can’t have you stay sober at your first party at Brakebills!”
He laughed, “Ok, sure, as long as it doesn’t make me hungrier. Being soulmates with Eliot is hard work! I’m, uh, getting a lot of exercise.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “Mmm-hmm. Is that what the kids are calling it these days? Come the fuck on already. Get more food later. There’s still plenty.” Right as we stood up, Eliot appeared as if on cue, to escort Quentin to the library for more mélange.
“Come now, this instant, the both of you,” he instructed, tsking. “Daddy didn’t spend weeks creating a brand new drug and a large-scale delivery system for you to be sitting here eating. Let’s go chase the horned dragon.”
In that moment, Eliot was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever experienced in my entire life. My face literally hurt from grinning so hard for so long. Quentin had a very odd expression, one even I wasn’t sure how to interpret. He mouthed, “Chase the horned dragon?”
Eliot snorted at him. His lips were pursed in mock-disgust, but his eyes were dancing as he waggled a finger in our direction. “Don’t you try to mock me, Quentin Coldwater-Waugh. I saw that.” He extended his elbow at me with a nod. “Shall we, my lady? The horned dragon awaits.”
I giggled and took Eliot’s arm, breaking into a laugh as he whisked us away. Quentin sputtered for a moment, rolled his eyes at us, and followed, smirking. Josh had just finished the hourly spell a few minutes before. He must have done something extra—in addition to the purple smoke, now there was some pink—and the room smelled just like the bonding cake. I took a moment to reflect on my amazement of magic, then started chatting with Josh when the boys started making out.
By the time I noticed I’d lost track of Quentin and Eliot, Josh had moved on to talk with a different group. When I found them cuddled together in the corner of the sofa, Q was fast asleep. I quirked an eyebrow at Eliot and pulled out my phone, immediately snapping a series of pictures that began with him scowling at me and ended with a very sweet one of him kissing Quentin’s brow.
“How long has he been asleep?” I asked. Eliot replied, “Oh, I don’t know, 15 or 20 minutes? I was waiting for one of you to find us so we could tell you both goodnight. Wanna go grab Margo for me?”
I smiled at him warmly. My heart was full of joy. “Sure, let me go find her.” I finally found Margo outside smoking and laughing at some story Josh was telling her. “Hey guys. Margo, would you come with me? Eliot sent me for you.”
I took her cigarette from her and smoked a few puffs. “Later, Hoberman. Thanks again for everything.” Margo said. When she turned toward me, I blocked her from taking another step and swept her into a kiss.
“Q is literally asleep on Eliot, and they want to go to bed. But not before we can both wish them a good night. Are you ready to take me to bed?” I kissed her again.
“Fuck yeah, Wicker. I’d love for you to show me a real good time. Let’s put the boys to bed, then it’s your turn to do the spell again. After that, we’ll go upstairs, too.” She slid her hands and cupped my ass. I couldn’t wait to taste her. But it was Quentin’s big day, and I wanted to be there for him first.
Eliot seemed to be nodding off himself when we arrived. Margo clasped her hands in front of her chest, a cute combination of a swoon and a sigh. “Aww, baby, your baby is so sweet and cute.”
He raised an eyebrow at her, then scowled. “Rude. He is the most perfect piece of perfection nature ever created. And I need to put him to bed.” Kissing Q’s forehead and pulling his arm out from behind Quentin, Eliot spoke softly to his new mate. “Hey, you. Let’s go to bed, baby, I’m tired.”
Quentin blinked himself awake, his eyes darting around as he confirmed his location. “Did I fall asleep? Sorry.”
Margo held her hands out, indicating she wanted to help him up. “Yeah, sweetie, you did. And El here isn’t far behind. Come on, let me and Julia congratulate you one last time before you go to bed.” Quentin accepted the help, then stood and hugged her all in one motion. Hugs and kisses went all around, then Eliot sauntered up the stairs, Quentin’s hand in his.
“Well, now that we’re alone, it’s about time for that spell, huh?” I asked. “Let’s get to it, so we can go get to it.”
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Eliot and Quentin begin to learn how being soulmates affects them as Magicians.
Y'all, I didn't abandon this story! :-) I am grateful to have been involved with a big project that brought me some extra income that was much-needed in this crazy time in our lives.
I fervently hope it won't take nearly as many scaramuccis for me to make the next update.
I hope you enjoy! Kudos and comments are food for this solo quarantiner's soul...
I couldn’t even remember the last time I got up as early as I did on Tuesday morning. I mention that only because Eliot essentially chanted those words slowly, over and over until we reached the steps of the Administration building. He was as put together as ever, yet still bleary-eyed, clutching a Brakebills travel mug full of strong coffee. He’d filled its twin for me and put cheese sticks and granola bars in my messenger bag for us to have as our breakfast on the go. I might have eaten a package of dry espresso powder for breakfast in other circumstances. Already I wasn’t sure what I’d do without Eliot. I was glad I didn’t have to find out.
The person staffing the Registry office greeted us by name. They introduced themselves as Aeson, and already had two packets of forms on clipboards ready for us. They handed the clipboards to Eliot and me, excitedly chattering about how awesome it was to have another bonded pair at Brakebills and mentioning their soulmate’s name was Ash.
“You’ll meet Angelyn this afternoon after classes. She’s the Bonded specialist here, and also runs the Brakebills Bonded Society. The meetings are on the first Thursday of each month. You’ll always see Ash and me there; I hope you’ll join us when you can. Navigating a new bond and magic will be much easier with a support system. I can tell you that from personal experience; Ash and I had been together for a couple of years, but we didn’t know we were soulmates until we were on the Brakebills campus grounds. Some of my siblings and cousins are also Bonded. Their educational needs as muggles are nothing like what you’ll have to learn to become Magicians.
“To get registered, you’ll need to provide us with a copy of your test results receipt. You can go get it if you didn’t bring it. Oh! And by the way, you could have tested here at Brakebills, in the infirmary. You didn’t have to go off campus. Not that that information is helpful now; it’s not like you’ll need to test again. Anyway, sorry! I know this all is a lot. I’m excited you’re here. I’ll let you fill your forms out now. Just head into the conference room and bring them back here when you’re ready.”
“Thanks Aeson,” I said, wondering how there were morning people. I took a seat, put my bag and coffee down, and began skimming over the papers on the clipboard.
Eliot collapsed into a chair, groaning. “I don’t think I’m even capable of reading this early in the morning. What does all this say?” He clicked the pen a couple of times, staring at it as if it were an alien artifact. He whined, “Oh my god, I have to write, too?!” He sucked down some coffee and let his head drop to the table. This soulmate of mine was such a drama queen sometimes. Meh, pot, kettle.
I removed my stack of papers from the clipboard and started paging through them. “All kinds of things, official data type stuff. Birthplace, time, parents’ names… Magician relatives, time and place of Bonding—oh wow, they want GPS coordinates if possible. I guess we can get that easily enough. Hm, these are more esoteric: favorite hobbies from ages 7 – 12. Ha! Do I like cilantro or does it taste like soap? And here’s a bunch of multiple-choice things where you order various items. Hm. Allergies. MBTI and/or DiSC profile type? Come on, Eliot, quit fucking around. I know your first class doesn’t start until this afternoon, but I won’t have time for a nap. Let’s do this so I’m not late. For my first class at magic school.”
Eliot roused himself and leaned over to kiss my temple. “Aww, baby, I know, it’s going to be Hell Week. From classes to Bonding stuff to moving in together, we are not getting much sleep this week. But it will all be worth it to wake up in our brand new apartment on Sunday morning, won’t it? Daddy will make sure you get your favorite meal when we go furniture shopping on Thursday. What is your favorite meal, or dish, or whatever?”
“Making it on time to my first class at magic school,” I quipped, not looking up from the answers I was writing.
Eliot leaned on me again, this time nuzzling into my ear. “Ooo, you naughty little mouthy brat. Daddy likey.” He nipped at my earlobe, making me yelp. “Most of this stuff would have been collected anyway, throughout the course of your first semester. It’s all information that can be relevant to your individual Circumstances. It’ll be pretty easy for me to answer most of these since it’s literally information I gathered and learned in my first year—good for you, you’ll get a little head start. Get them to make you a copy so you have it all in a single place.”
“Yeah, I’m really glad to hear there’s at least one group for Bondeds here. Maybe there will be someone who has a similar situation. I’m sure you can’t be the first person to bond with someone newer to Brakebills.”
“Ugh, I hope not,” Eliot sighed. I don’t know how it will actually pan out, but in some ways it feels frustrating that I’m going to have to relearn how to do magic. Maybe it won’t be that hard. It’ll definitely be interesting to relearn magic as a Bonded at the same time that you’re learning for the first time. That’s not on you, baby! I would start over from scratch if that’s what it took. I think what I’m going to enjoy most is watching you learn magic. You’re still so enchanted by it all, and I find that, well, enchanting. You know I love meeting new people, and now there’s yet another group I can rule. That we will rule.”
“I’ll be happy to be learning. I don’t think we need to be the party kings of the Bondeds, too. I’m still not recovered from this weekend’s party, and there’s just so much to do this week, Eliot. I don’t know if I can–”
He interrupted, “Q. Quentin. Baby. It’s ok. My social aspirations are just that.” He ticked off on his fingers, “Mine, and aspirations. You are under no obligation to be glued to my hip at all times. Let me make myself perfectly clear. ‘Eliot Waugh, Brakebills Party King’ is so much less important to me than ‘Eliot Coldwater-Waugh, Quentin Coldwater-Waugh’s Soulmate.’ I told you. You are my top priority, forevermore.”
My eyes started to well up. “I don’t need you to change who you are for me.”
He surprised me with a snort. “The Universe took care of that for us. We’re both different people today than we were even a week ago, like it or leave it. You know that. I’m still dragging you to parties, and I’m even going to teach you how to have fun at a party. And I’m going to snuggle with you in our apartment with sound wards up when you’ve reached your socialization limits. It’s just like the rest of all this. We will figure it together, as we go.
“But you are absolutely right. Let’s get this fucking paperwork done.” He kissed me softly, pushed me away, and started filling out the forms.
After classes were over on Tuesday afternoon, Quentin met me for our second trip to the Admin building that day. We were scheduled to meet with Angelyn Davies, Brakebills’ soulbond specialist. Until this morning, I didn’t even know we had one, but I was very glad we did. Between giving him a brief overview of how soulmates’ magic is entangled and his first day at classes, I felt like Quentin and I had nearly equal knowledge of how it all worked. Which is to say, not very much; after all, I hadn’t ever needed more than a 30,000-foot view until now—what most Brakebills students got. I was looking forward to learning more about the ways our magic would affect each other.
We entered a wing that looked like a doctor’s office. I told the receptionist who we were and sat next to Quentin in the small waiting room. No sooner than we sat down did a tiny, pleasantly plump woman emerge, beckoning us back into the rest of the office. She was absolutely adorable. I loved her immediately.
“Hi, I’m Angelyn Davies. You must be Eliot and Quentin. It’s wonderful to meet you. Congratulations on your bond. Come on in and sit down.”
She led us into what looked like a couples’ examination room, which…tracked. She waved us toward the loveseat, though, indicating, “I don’t think we’ll be diagnosing any problems today, so just make yourselves comfortable. Obviously, you’re here because you just bonded the other day. This might sound like an odd question, but have either of you been laughing considerably more than usual, having headaches and/or balance issues, or have any foods you’ve eaten since you bonded had an aftertaste lasting longer than two hours?”
Quentin shook his head. “Longer than two hours? That seems…random. No, none of those, I feel fine. Well, other than what my limited research says is to be expected of a new soulbond. What would it mean if the answer had been yes?”
Angelyn smiled, responding, “Those are the most common signs of an incomplete bond. If you’d answered yes, I’d be asking you to get on those examination tables. But since you didn’t, let’s get started. You are now, to use a muggle term I hate because of its negative connotations, special needs students. Here, though, it’s really more like being honors students—you’re literally going to learn more than most of the students here. Frankly, you’re going to get a superior education to most of the students here.
“Throughout the rest of your education here at Brakebills, your instructors will inform you about spells and accessibility. Because a considerable proportion of magic requires additional information when Bondeds calculate Circumstances, we have a Wiki with common conversions, tips and tricks, and frequently asked questions. It should answer most of the questions you’ll have about how your soulbond affects your magical education, but never hesitate to come to me if you need any clarifications. It’s part of why I’m here.
“Also, Jack and Daniel are third-year Physical students who live off-campus, and you probably already know Maggie and Kevin, who live there in the PKC with you. They may have some insights for you, and I also facilitate a monthly meeting where all the Bonded students exchange information. The schedule for that and other Bonded get-togethers is on the Wiki.
“Moving along. Magic is literally the world’s oldest programming language. Spells started out as prayers, or supplications, and over millennia kind of evolved into statements. A spell that may have once started out something like, ‘Bright heavenly Theia, I, Angelyn Davies, of Allen and Lorsha Davies, humbly beseech you to assist me, currently residing in Iona, Scotland, in my endeavor to enchant this amethyst I hold to glow when I call out “abracadabra”’ evolved through the use of tuts, sigils, and so forth. When you add them together and use magical shortcuts in varying combinations, you end up with something like, ‘I enchant this amethyst to glow upon command.’
“But now you aren’t just ‘Quentin’ or ‘Eliot.’ Now, you are ‘QuentinandEliot,’ so to speak, and you must modify your Circumstances and casting commensurately. Eliot, you may have noticed that there is a certain syntax to spells, and that it tends to follow the syntax of the language from the region where the spell originated.
“Quentin, I reviewed your paperwork and noticed that you have a strong linguistic background as well—that will definitely help you with your magical studies. Understanding how syntax affects spells will probably come fairly naturally to you, instead of just simply memorizing words and pronunciations. The most important thing you’ll need to remember is to use the appropriate modifier for plural nouns when you’re casting in languages that use declensions.
“And it’s also pretty damned important that you have the ability to determine when to use single or plural pronouns to be able to represent yourselves as two parts of a single unit. A lot of this is typically achieved by using a sigil that you’ll get tattooed on your dominant hand. Eliot, you probably remember the personal sigil lab, which is when first-year learners get their set of Baroviers.”
Of course, I remembered that lab; after all, Margo had conducted a slightly different type of Barovier lab in the living room of the Cottage days ago. So, I mentioned it to her. “Yes. When Quentin and I bonded, our best friends Julia and Margo, along with Quentin’s roommate Penny, watched our bond form using #6 lenses. Penny filmed the whole thing on his phone. Margo showed us the video the next morning. It was one thing to experience it—but another thing entirely to watch it. It was just as amazing and beautiful visually as it was emotionally.”
Angelyn’s eyebrows bounced off the ceiling. When they landed back on her face, she was practically vibrating with excitement. “Are you serious? Your friend was able to successfully film through a Barovier lens? On a cellphone?! You aren’t kidding? I’d be incredibly interested in seeing that video, if you’re willing to share it. For science, of course. Normally what we do to determine the family sigil of a newly bonded couple is to view the pair with a combination of Baroviers 6, 7, and 13, and the viewer literally draws the sigil on paper. I’m very curious to see how the sigils combine.”
I leaned over to kiss Quentin on the forehead, saying, “I don’t mind if you watch it, Angelyn. What do you think, honeylove?”
He scowled at me briefly. “Sure, El, why don’t we just upload it to YouTube so the whole world can see the most personal moment of my life?” He twitched a single eyebrow as one corner of his mouth quirked upward. He looked at Angelyn, “No, it’s ok, really. I mean, it already feels kind of like an inside joke that we waived all rights to privacy when we bonded the way we did. Besides, it will probably help you with other Bondeds, right? So yeah, I think you should see it. Sure, Eliot, why not. Let’s be a case study.”
I dug my phone out of my waistcoat pocket. “I have it right here, if you want to watch it now. Or did you want to find our new sigil first? We seem to have gotten distracted.”
Angelyn blew out a breath. “You’re right. Sorry, that little revelation blew my script all to hell. I’ve gone completely out of order at this point. Okay, Eliot, you might know some of this already, but since Quentin is brand new to magic, he probably won’t have heard about any of it. I know I keep saying that. Here are the basics: I’m going to discover and record your new family sigil so you can get your tattoos. I’ll need the information from both your natal charts to schedule your tattoo appointment. So Quentin, I’ll need you to track down the location of your birth to as close as you can get. Just like the place of your bonding, if you can get precise GPS coordinates, that is ideal. But of course you may have no way of knowing the exact hospital room where you were born, so the address will do.
“Since it’s almost the new moon, I can tell you your appointment will be within the next 35 days, but I can’t get any more specific than that. A soulbond tattoo appointment will take precedence over almost any other kind of inking, and we like to give Adebayo as much advance notice as possible. You’ll also consult with him several days beforehand, so that you’ll have time to make preparations for whatever he needs you to do before you get the tattoos.
“There are a whole set of rituals that go with it—and they will be personalized for your bond and your bond alone. Adebayo will tell you everything you need to know. Your soulbond sigil tattoos will enable you to do a lot of things—not the least of which is being able to cast solo on spells higher than Level 3. Without the tattoo, spells above that level won’t work very well, if at all. Since it’s Quentin’s first year, he’ll need to be able to cast at that level around midterms, and the second year curriculum shouldn’t get too far ahead of you, Eliot, so the timing should work out just fine. But first, the sigil. Stay seated next to each other, but without touching.”
I reluctantly released Quentin’s hand as she removed the #6 and #7 lenses from her set. She first examined us with the #6. She repeated the action with the #7 lens, then picked up the #13. She clipped all three together before holding the stack to her eyes. Nodding, she turned to grab a small sketchpad and pencil, then drew a figure that looked something like this:
“Ah, Eliot, you’re left-handed,” she mused. “Mhm, safety and belonging. This is a rare combination outside Healing magicians, but the adhesion, cohesion, and rotation are exactly as they should be; your bond is perfect. I’m not quite sure how safety and belonging go with telekinesis, but it’ll be fascinating to find out. However, if I were a betting person, I’d guess you two will be able to construct some incredibly powerful shields and wards. Ask Adebayo; he might know something about that. Quentin, your personal sigil is a manifestation of your deep conscious and unconscious desires to feel safe.”
I chimed in, “Yes, and mine is related to my need to feel accepted. That makes sense. Safety, acceptance, belonging. This looks like exactly the sigils in the video. Do you want to see it now? I noticed that the attachment nodules seem to be polarized; you’ll see them bouncing off each other until they finally spin enough to stick, which seems only to happen when the al-Kubunani line on his Lemniscate Möbius is horizontal. But I don’t know what significance that carries. ‘As above, so below,’ maybe? Still not sure what it would mean, though. Let me guess: Adebayo can probably tell us more.”
She laughed. “Correct. I’m the soulbond expert and he is the sigils expert. His mastery of his Discipline—along with the most esoteric collection of random information you’ve ever encountered—is literally awe-inspiring. You’re going to love him. Our knowledge has some overlap—so, I could guess. But I’d prefer to let the specialist give you the most accurate and up-to-date information available. I’m reasonably certain he will want to see your video as well. Let’s take a look at it.”
I tapped at my phone’s screen for a few moments, and we watched the video.