I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times...
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
Cress is nearly allowed to live in the dorms. Then, her stepmother points out how unsafe it could be and, really, she’s already driving over for her job – her stepmother works in the admissions office – and couldn’t Cress just ride with her instead? So, Cress stays at home, rides over with her stepmother and her stepmother’s Fox News radio, and tries very hard to enjoy college. She ends up transferring to an online school before her sophomore year starts.
Thorne moves into the dorms and pulls the fire alarm on the second day. He spends one week asking every girl on his floor out on a date, claiming they should give him the ‘old college try’. Only one girl, Scarlet Benoit, says yes, and at the end of the date, she admits it was for a free dinner. They end up friends anyways, and the second year the two of them move off-campus to an apartment with one of Thorne’s friends, Cinder, from high school. The three live together until Scarlet graduates – Cinder graduates prior from a vo-tech school and Thorne ends up dropping out and bartending. Upon graduation, Scarlet moves in with her boyfriend, a bouncer with arms the size of Thorne’s head from Thorne’s bar, and Cinder moves to be with her sister, Iko, for her first year of college.
Thorne puts out an ad in the newspaper for roommates.
Cress reads the ad, even circles it. Her father tells her about the dangers of roommates, and Cress throws the newspaper away.
Cress gets a job at her favorite company – a tech place in the heart of Colorado. She moves into a small apartment, decorates the ceiling with stars like her room back home. She takes the bus into work, does crosswords and avoids eye-contact the whole way there. Her father calls once a day, like clockwork, and Cress slowly becomes less homesick.
Thorne gets fired after – allegedly, as he is quick to point out – being involved with his boss. It violates some aspect of his contract that he never read. He moves to Colorado for a new start. He drives to work, but he always sees a girl from his apartment building waiting at the bus stop. Thorne tries to figure out a way to ask if she’d like a ride that doesn’t sound creepy, but all his ideas are shot down by Cinder and Scarlet when he tests them out. So, he just thinks about it. He never figures out how to before he ends up moving again.
Thorne moves to New Mexico. It is not entirely because of a girl, despite Scarlet’s jokes suggest otherwise. It is partially because of a girl –though, in fairness, she is the most beautiful girl Thorne’s ever seen. However, she turns out – oddly – to be Cinder’s cousin, and further, engaged to a soldier. Thorne stays in New Mexico regardless, falls a little in love with the sunset there.
Cress finds evidence of fraud, turns it in, and finds herself out of a job. Her father asks her to come home over Skype, but her stepmother is there in the background so Cress turns him down. She drives out of Colorado, ends up somewhere in Arizona. It is warm and bright and she falls a little in love with the sunrises there.
Thorne takes helicopter lessons, ends up working as a pilot for a tourism company. It works well for him. He makes his passengers call him captain.
Cress takes a vacation to New Mexico, for a hot air balloon festival. She sees a sign for helicopter tours. It costs too much, and she forgets it as soon as she’s driven more than ten miles past it.
Thorne comes back to the town he went to college in when Scarlet gets pregnant. He doesn’t have much as far as family, but he’s got Scarlet, Ze’ev, and Cinder. Cinder is engaged to a guy who is running for mayor. She loves him even if she’s all wrong to be a mayor’s wife, she whines over beers, while Scarlet whines over not being able to drink. Thorne finds another job bartending, moves back to another apartment like the one he left behind.
Cress’s father has a heart attack. Cress moves back home. She gets a job at the college she transferred away from, working as a website consultant for several of the programs there. One of the graduate students even becomes her friend, a beautiful redhead named Scarlet, who is somehow managing a French history program and a pregnancy. Scarlet offers to take her out for a drink – off Cress’s shocked look, she rolls her eyes and says it’s just where her friend works, and she likes to hang out there. When they get to the bar, Scarlet’s friend isn’t working. She buys Cress a drink anyways.
Thorne buys a motorcycle. He crashes it after having it for two weeks and ends up in the hospital.
Cinder’s father has to stay at the hospital for a while, complications with his heart. Cress wanders the halls of the hospital. She bumps into Scarlet, who shakes her head and tells Cress that no, she isn’t having the baby. Her friend’s hurt his arm. Cress wishes her luck, avoids the question of why she’s there, and heads back to her father’s room.
Thorne stands up at Cinder’s wedding, tries very hard not to feel alone. He fails.
Cress sits at her father’s bedside, tries very hard not to feel alone. She fails.
Scarlet has her baby while Cinder and Kai are on their honeymoon. Thorne is the third person to see the baby girl, after Ze’ev, Scarlet’s grandmother, and (obviously) Scarlet herself. He declines to hold the baby. Cress is looking at the babies in the maternity ward – a trick to keep her spirits up – when Scarlet’s boyfriend recognizes her. He’s a big man, and he gave them both a ride the day they went out for drinks. He smiles and his whole face changes with it. He offers to introduce Cress to his daughter. Cress nearly declines, but finds herself agreeing for some reason.
Scarlet looks radiant, and the baby is tiny and quiet in her arms. There’s a man eating the Jello from her tray, one arm in a sling. Scarlet smiles, first at her boyfriend, then Cress.
“Well, aren’t you going to introduce us?” The man asks as he sets the Jello back on Scarlet’s tray. Scarlet rolls her eyes.
“Cress isn’t here to see you.” Scarlet says. He smiles.
“She could be.” He says, with a wink.
Cress blushes. Something about it reminds Thorne of sunsets.
The hat debates only for a few moments before settling on Gryffindor for Thorne. He pumps his arms in the air and settles onto a bench next to a red-haired girl. A year later, when he makes a comment about werewolves, she punches him and breaks his nose. They becomes friends, but she never does apologize for that.
The hat considers Gryffindor for Cress, but decides on Ravenclaw in the end. Cress is not sure how she feels about that, but then during her second week, one of the Gryffindors punches another square in the face, so she thinks maybe Ravenclaw is a better fit.
Thorne becomes friends with Cinder, without really meaning to, during his third year. He teaches her how to play Quidditch and somehow they become friends. Scarlet’s been spending more time with a girl in Ravenclaw, Winter, so it’s nice to have a new friend.
Cress eats lunch most days during her second year with Ze’ev. He’s a tall guy, two years ahead of her, and he hardly talks, but he never teases her either so she likes him well enough. His little brother – a Slytherin – comes by one day and starts to tease Cress about her father. Ze’ev tells him to shut up. His brother does, which is nice, but even nicer is the realization that Ze’ev might be her friend.
Thorne becomes Quidditch captain his fourth year. It should make him a real hit with the ladies. When he mentions this to Scarlet and Cinder, the two laugh so hard Cinder actually falls out of her chair. If it weren’t such a shit year otherwise, Thorne would be more upset. As it is, he’s rather glad to see them happy.
Cress figures out that Ze’ev is a werewolf during her third year. He looks absolutely bewildered when she doesn’t tell anyone. Telling just seems like the wrong thing to do, she says. He smiles. It’s nice to see him happy.
Thorne does not like Scarlet’s new boyfriend. He’s a year ahead of them – which means he only has two years left here. Despite Scarlet’s claims that he dislikes him because he’s a beater for Ravenclaw, and despite Cinder’s claims that he has a crush on Scarlet, Thorne knows it is something else. He finds out the guy is a werewolf in April – way after his two friends knew. He’s angrier about that than he should be.
Cress is absolutely terrified of Ze’ev’s girlfriend. She’s beautiful and very small. The two met at a Quidditch camp over the summer – both are beater for their own houses. Scarlet is nice, but Cress is not prepared to lose her friend to a girl. It’s not that she has a crush on Ze’ev, which is her roommate Winter’s first thought. It’s more that she only has the one friend, so now, she’s a little lonelier than she should be.
Thorne stays at Hogwarts over winter break his sixth year, for the sixth time. It’s nice, as always. It’s quiet, as always, but it’s better than home, so it’s nice.
Cress stays at Hogwarts over winter break her fifth year. It’s nice, more than she had expected. It’s louder than it would be at home, but her father’s travelling and she has no where else to go, so it’s mostly nice.
Thorne goes up to the observatory tower on New Year’s Eve. He could be with someone, or at the party in the common room. Somehow, he ends up at the observatory tower though.
Cress likes the stars. On New Year’s Eve, she goes to look at the stars.
Thorne finds a girl there. She’s pretty, with hair nearly at her waist. He recognizes her, in the vague sort of way that makes him think they must have friends in common. Scarlet, probably, because Scarlet knows everyone. The girl is staring up at the stars, a nice smile on her lips. He clears his throat after a moment of her not noticing him, figure its better to do that than get caught staring.
Someone clears his throat and Cress spins. It’s one of Ze’ev’s girlfriend’s friends. Cress thinks he might play Quidditch. He’s cute, she thinks.
“Almost midnight,” he says. She blushes more.
He’s smirking and then it falters. He shrugs.
“I – just, a fact.”
Cress is pretty sure it’s the first time anyone’s ever flirted with her.
Thorne is pretty sure it’s the first time he’s messed up such an easy pick-up line.
Midnight comes. He kisses her cheek.
- Coffee Shop
Cress sets up wifi at the coffeeshop that Cinder opens. Cinder makes her a card for unlimited coffee for a month in exchange. Cress gives the card to Winter, her roommate, because she doesn’t really like coffee. Winter hardly needs it since Cinder’s her cousin and she wants to support the business, so the card goes mostly unused. It’s nice of Cinder regardless.
Thorne gets a job at the coffeeshop that Cinder opens. Cinder threatens to fire him if he hits on too many of her customers. Thorne only flirts if the customers start it because he is a little scared of Cinder. Thorne ends up flirting a lot anyway.
Cress gets dragged to Cinder’s because Winter likes one of the guys who plays in the open mic night there. Cress thinks the barista is cute, but knows that it’s useless to like a guy when she’s standing next to Winter. Still, the barista makes her flustered enough that she asks Winter to order a chai latte for her.
Thorne considers asking Winter about the girl she came in with. Winter’s not much of a wing man though, so he keeps quiet. He does write his number on the peppermint mocha that she orders. Thinks it can’t hurt.
Winter comes back with the barista’s number on her drink. Cress fidgets a little when she sees. Of course, she thinks.
It takes Thorne a few weeks to figure out that the redhead who keeps coming in has no interest in him. The first clue was when she said, on her first visit, not to even bother flirting with her. The second clue is the way she keeps smiling at their pastry chef. Ze’ev is the biggest guy Thorne knows – he looks like he could bench press a truck – and he blushes at the redhead. Thorne tells the girl to just ask for Ze’ev’s number and feels like someone should really nominate him for sainthood when she does.
Cress realizes after a few weeks that Winter is dating the guy from open mic night. She also realizes he’s one of Winter’s oldest friends. Winter’s had a crush on him for ages. Anyone else would tease her about it, but Cress never does. Cinder says she deserves sainthood for that.
Thorne has to deliver coffee to Winter’s for Cinder, and he’s doing it off the clock. Cinder has promised to stop making fun of him for two weeks for the errand. No one answers the door when he gets there, so he leaves the coffee on the doorstep.
Cress misses her bus and has to take a later one. It also rains and she has to carry in a huge package of coffee for Winter when she gets home. It’s not a great day.
Thorne goes to a latte art competition with Cinder. Cinder spends the entire trip pointedly not talking to the guy who runs the Better Business Bureau. His name is Kai and he’s nice enough. Thorne makes a point of calling him over as often as he can, for business tips. Cinder might actually kill him when they get back.
Cress decides to try the coffee shop. The barista is a tiny girl named Iko and Cress is a little disappointed it isn’t the guy from open mic night. She likes the tea she gets, at least.
Thorne grows a beard.
Cress cuts her hair.
Cinder’s wifi shuts down and the internet provider is being less than helpful. It could be because Iko used rather bad language with them (for which, she does later apologize), but either way Cinder ends up calling Cress to come fix it.
That’s why Cress is squished – just barely fitting – under the counter when Thorne shows up for his shift. He thinks first that she’s very small, and second that she’s very pretty.
Cress stands as she gets out from under the counter and finds herself nearly running into the barista from open mic night. He smiles down at her.
“Don’t hit on my favorite IT girl,” Cinder calls from a table nearby. Cress opens her mouth to protest, but the barista shrugs before she can.
“I was considering it.” He admits. Cress blinks, then smiles. He nods at her. “Peppermint mocha, right?”
It strikes Cress then that those are Winter’s favorite drink. She shakes her head.
“Chai latte.” She replies. He snaps his fingers, makes a face.
“I had a fifty-fifty shot on getting that right,” he says. Cress smiles up at him.
“Oh god, do I have to say don’t hit on my barista?” Cinder calls from her table.
“Cinder,” Iko shrieks next to her. She smacks her friend’s arm. “Let them flirt.”
Cress blushes at that, but Thorne just smiles.
Cress cuts Carswell Thorne’s picture out of a magazine when she’s fifteen and he’s seventeen. He’s the lead singer of Rampion and someday, she’s going to marry him.
Thorne promises to marry anyone who throws him their bra at the third stop on the tour. Scarlet won’t talk to him when they get on the bus that night, but he ends up with ten bras on stage, so he thinks maybe it’s worth it.
Cress gets asked out by a boy who makes her promise she won’t tell his friends about the date. She goes on the date anyways. When she comes home that night, her father is happy that she’s home by curfew and that she’s starting to fit in. She doesn’t have the heart to tell him the truth.
Thorne goes on a date with Cinder for publicity reasons. He nearly gets mowed over by paparazzi as he walks out to the car, so at least it works. Cinder leans on his shoulder in the car, promises him again and again that it won’t always be like this. She pulls up a picture of Scarlet and her boyfriend – the drummer of Wolf. Cinder promises love exists. Thorne doesn’t have the heart to tell her the truth.
Cress goes to a party the summer after she’s graduated. She drinks a lukewarm beer and lets a boy kiss her before she goes home. It feels like a checklist, but she thinks that maybe it’s good that she’s having the typical teenage experience.
Thorne goes to a rave the summer he turns twenty. He takes some kind of pill and feels like maybe he doesn’t exist. The tabloids hate him and love him for it in equal measure when he gets arrested for indecent exposure that night. It feels like a checklist, like he’s stuck living out some typical celebrity life.
Cress hates her roommate the first time she sees her. The girl is the most beautiful person Cress has ever seen and she knows that eventually other things will matter more, but at first glance, this matters a lot. So Cress hates her, even if she feels bad about it later.
Thorne hates the new band manager. The guy wants to make the band more about the music and less about the public image – this he says while looking at his notes and not at Thorne in a way that feels deliberate. The guy’s right, and he seems decent enough, so Thorne already knows he’ll come around to liking the guy. But he hasn’t had a drink in a couple days and he knows that whatever public image Rampion has is really his image, so – he hates him, for now.
Cress’s roommate starts to model. Cress is happy for her, really, because Winter is sweet and beautiful and tall. Cress just hates standing next to her because Cress is quiet and plain and small.
Thorne ends up being the only single one in the band. Cinder ends up dating their manager, Kai, and Scarlet’s been dating Ze’ev long enough they’re basically married. Thorne likes being single, he likes going out and drinking and just finding someone for a night. Some days, it feels rather lonely though.
Cress comes home the summer she graduates from college and finds her silly Carswell poster. She considers tearing it down. On the plane ride home, she read a tabloid that informed her that he’s in rehab, which is good for him, but he’s been spotted with a lot of girls, which is – well- bad for her. She smiles at the poster though, remembers the girl who wanted to marry him. She ends up keeping the poster up.
Thorne goes to rehab. Kai gives him a bonsai tree when he graduates and something about the knowing look in the other man’s eye makes Thorne wonder. He never asks though. It doesn’t feel like something to ask about. Still, he keeps the bonsai tree.
Cress keeps in touch with Winter. Winter is getting famous and Cress even turns on the television to see her friend on a talk show one night. One of the girls from Rampion – Cinder – is there too. It turns out, the two have the same father. The host is commenting on how crazy that is and Cress orders flowers for Winter. Winter’s always liked to have flowers around when she’s sad. Cress thinks maybe she’s sad.
Thorne is there when Cinder gets the news that she has a sister. Cinder’s face goes hard, the way it always does when family comes up, but Kai drapes an arm around her and Cinder looks a little better at that. Cinder goes on a talk show after she meets the girl, and Thorne sends a bottle of tequila to Cinder’s afterwards. Just in case.
Winter’s boyfriend finds a job for Cress at his company. The place is kind of sleazy, and her boss is pretty awful, but Cress is no longer living in her father’s house, so she can deal with it. It’s the first time she’s lived in New York, but she loves it. She stays in the guest room at Winter’s and stares out at the city, hopes and hopes of whatever is out there.
Thorne finds that without booze, he has less to do. He learns to sail, for no other reason than because he can. Cinder’s sister’s boyfriend – an almost jerk named Jacin, who definitely hates Thorne – has a sailboat that he teaches Thorne on. Jacin looks annoyed the entire time, but once Thorne gets good at it, Jacin at least has the decency to shut up. They’re out at sea and Thorne looks out to the ocean, the vastness of it, and hopes and hopes of whatever is out there.
Cress comes home to a party that Winter is throwing. Someday she will get used to being around models and musicians and actors. Not today, but someday, she thinks as she makes small talk. Cress always tries to make small talk for at least twenty minutes before creeping back to her room.
Thorne skips out on a party that the rest of the band goes to. He scrolls through the pictures that Cinder sends him later. Someday he’ll feel okay with going to parties and not drinking. Someday, but not today.
Cress finds her own apartment. Winter demands to throw a good-bye party for her and Cress loves her friend enough that she lets her.
Thorne goes to the next party that Cinder’s sister throws. He makes it about half an hour before he wants to leave – apparently, huge parties are rather boring without booze. Instead, he ducks into the nearest room, to clear his head.
Cress is hiding in her room, texting her coworker Iko, when someone bursts in. She considers asking the intruder to leave, but realizes it’s Carswell Thorne and freezes instead.
A very small woman is seated cross-legged on the window-seat, blinking up at Thorne. He smiles back and after a long moment, her mouth quirks up in a smile too.
“Just needed to get out of all of that for a minute. I can go,” Thorne says after a too long moment. She shakes her head. Thorne smiles wider. “Alright, I can stay.”
So he does.
Cress is eighteen when the Registration Act passes. It doesn’t seem like much of a big deal to her. She’s never presented any powers, despite her father being formerly one of the greats. Cress reads the articles about the Act, then turns the page to do the crossword.
Thorne is twenty when the Registration Act passes. It comes across the radio while he’s smoking on a rooftop. The report comes right on the heels of a call for the arrest of the Captain – Thorne grins at the use of his moniker. He stands, slips the necklace he swiped earlier into his pocket, and tries to out run the rest of the radio report.
Cress makes it exactly sixteen months before she meets an Unregistered Hero. It helps that she keeps to herself, lives alone, and rides the subway at the least busy times, but it still is inevitable that she find one. Still, Cress is surprised that it happens when she comes home to get dinner with her dad. The woman is on her kitchen table, blood on her cheek and a metal arm resting in her lap. She smiles at Cress and just like that Cress’s life changes.
Thorne lasts nearly two years before he ends up getting arrested. Jail isn’t so bad, at least, and he figures he’ll be able to get out sooner or later. Then, someone in the cell next to his breaks the wall down and just like that his whole life changes.
Cress has to break Cinder out of prison about six months after she meets her. It’s the worst and best thing she’s ever done and it feels like the way her father used to talk about flying. She sends Cinder to a friend of her father’s farm. The last she hears over the comms is the sound of someone loading a shotgun, so y’know – she’s pretty sure Cinder’s had better days.
Thorne ends up escaping prison with Cinder, some kind of cybernetic girl who doesn’t really give him a choice in the matter. At first, he thinks she’ll leave him behind when he refuses to tell her his real name. Still, she brings him along and he can’t really complain at freedom. They end up on a farm with a shotgun staring him in the face. He’s had better days.
Cress takes her laptop and her father’s car and goes. Apparently helping the nation’s most wanted prisoner escape gets you put on a couple of lists. Cress sends out four separate messages for Cinder, but gets no responses. She has faith in Cinder though. As she drives across the state, she just really hopes that Cinder finds her sooner rather than later.
Thorne should probably be grateful that Little Red didn’t shoot him. She repeatedly tells him that she’s still thinking about it. Little Red – who refuses to tell Thorne her real name, which is fair since none of them know his – has no abilities, but she’s living with a guy who looks like he could lift an entire building up without breaking much of a sweat. Combine that with Thorne, Cinder, and Cinder’s mystery hacker, they might actually have a shot at taking down the Registration people who want them dead.
Cress wakes up in her car to find one of the men who arrested Cinder tapping on her window. She startles but he rolls his eyes and jabs a thumb over his shoulder. There’s a beautiful girl waving at Cress. Cress slowly waves back. The guy explains, sounding very tired, that his friend – the word said with a hesitation that makes Cress curious – is psychic, unregistered, and they’re here to help. So Cress lets them.
Thorne steals them a car. It’s not exactly hard, but everyone else has been on the right side of the law – save for the fact that they’re all supposed to have their name down in a list and instead don’t. The car is an eight-passenger van that earns him a look from Little Red and a smile from Cinder. Then, she tells them they have a hacker to save.
Cress soon realizes that Winter may be psychic, but she’s also a little unbalanced. The other woman keeps holding Cress’s hair up and murmuring about space. Cress likes her despite it. She even likes Jacin, who refuses to listen to anything other than NPR while he drives.
Thorne realizes after about four hours of driving that he’s actually friends with these people. It’s a strange feeling, especially considering Little Red and Wolf both won’t give him their real names until he tells them his. He even likes the fact that Cinder refuses to listen to anything other than oldies music while she drives.
Winter directs them to a field in the middle of Nebraska. Then, she sits on the hood of the car and says they have to wait.
Whoever is chasing them catches up with their van around the time they reach Nebraska. They get run off the road into a field and everyone spills out. There’s one other car in the field and two people stand near it, another perched on the hood. The woman on the hood of the car waves, then yells that they should all duck. Everyone does as she says. The sky lights up and someone screams for a second before it goes quiet.
Cress is surprised when the President’s son ends up being an Unregistered. She’s less surprised that he saves the day. Kai always seemed like a good man. He smiles at her as he lands on the field, but then his eyes are only on Cinder.
In the after math of the fight, Thorne makes his way over to the other car. The man from that group glares at him, one arm around the girl who predicted whatever the hell just happened. Thorne nods at them and the girl points to the third member of their party. She’s small, and half of her seems to be blonde hair, piled up on her head.
“Who’re you?” He asks her as he approaches. She shakes her head.
“I’m no one.” She says, a shaky laugh an ending to the sentence.
Thorne shakes his head. “That much I know isn’t true.”
“Cress,” she says after a moment. “My name’s Cress.”
“Thorne,” he replies. She smiles, the look of it lighting up her face.
“You tell everyone your real name?” Cress asks.
Thorne smiles, considers lying. Her face is too earnest. He hasn’t seen honesty like that in a long time.
“Nope.” He says.
Eventually, they all get herded back to cars. When Cress sits next to Thorne, Winter looks to Jacin – gives him a knowing look. They’ve got a long ways to go still, but Winter knows that it’s good at least, that they’re all together.
Cress spent eighteen years alone, living within the same small space. The novelty of the entire world that comes after never really wears off. Most of the rest of their group settles down. Sometimes, Thorne asks if that’s what she wants – if she wants to find some town and a house and stay there. Cress never does.
“Do you think we should just settle down somewhere?” She asks one night. They’re watching the northern lights for the fourth night in a row. Tomorrow they’ll leave, move on to a camp of people that live in one of the coldest towns.
Thorne shakes his head. “Maybe in another life. In this one, we’re good to keep going.”
“You think we’re together in another life?” Cress can’t help but ask. Thorne gives her a look that makes her blush.
“Cress, I think that if I’m lucky, we’re together in every life.” He says.
She kisses him then, in a land that is not their home, on a ship that is their home, and hopes that he’s right.