The start of the school year was always an interesting time for Finn. Not having had enough interaction with people his age for the majority of his life, he was thrilled by all the new faces and enjoyed seeing the old ones as well. He could spot the freshmen from a mile away, since they all fit into one category or another for newcomers: meek and hesitant or cocky and arrogant. They were either scared of the bigger and more experienced upperclassmen, or they walked around like they owned the place.
Finn chuckled softly to himself as he shoved his bag over his shoulder and continued the walk down the main thoroughfare of his urban campus. Those poor cocky kids had no idea how ridiculous they looked. Did they really think they were the only ones smart enough to get into the school?
He'd been at the University of Pennsylvania for over three years now, and it had yet to cease to amaze him that he had been accepted, what with his dubious background and all. What had these freshmen done that merited the sort of pride they were showing? Found the cure for cancer?
He grinned to himself again, and, had he looked around at the time, he would've found a group of nearby girls start giggling and sighing over the way his smile flashed so wickedly in a face defined by slashing dark brows over deep green eyes and a long, aristocratic nose. His hair was a tousled black mess curling over his ears, and, most mornings, he just snapped his fingers and watched it rearrange itself into the style he liked best. He was lean and tall with the build of a soccer player, though he'd yet to step foot on a soccer pitch.
He could never quite remember to call it "soccer" in any case. Americans…
Finn knew people watched him; he often watched them right back. It had disconcerted him for the first year he'd been introduced to mere mortals because they often had strong reactions to his very presence. Try as he might to diminish whatever attraction he held for them, he hadn't accomplished it.
Even now, as he strode into Houston Hall to grab fresh brewed coffee from the café, he knew that several pairs of eyes were on him; he simply chose to ignore it. He'd learned to appreciate the gift that differentiated him from his peers, but he chose not to dwell on it or tout it. Instead, he turned right around and studied those people.
Having never interacted with anyone but his family and other powerful men and women, he found people-watching a thoroughly fascinating experience. He did it often, and, though he startled many of his subjects, it didn't deter him from doing so.
Flashing a smile at the cashier, he picked up his coffee cup and scouted out an empty armchair in the lounge. There were fifteen minutes left before his first class of the year, and he wanted to make full use of the time. Not bothering with the pretense of a newspaper, he settled back in the chair and gazed at various groups of students over the rim of his cup.
"God, you are so creepy when you do that, you know."
Finn glanced up at the tiny blonde who'd perched herself on the arm of his chair. "What's that, like the five trillionth time you've told me that in the last three and a half years?" he wondered with a grin. "You should be used to it by now, Sam."
When his eyes turned back to scan the crowds of students, Samantha Lakin rolled her eyes and rested her elbow on his shoulder. Technically, she was used to his people-watching, but it was always a shock to the system whenever she saw her best friend—and she still didn't know why.
"See anything interesting, Irish?" she asked aloud as her brown eyes tried to see what it was that he saw. As always, she failed and simply saw a bunch of people taking up space and making too much noise.
"I always see something interesting, Sam. It's you who doesn't believe me," he muttered with a small smile lingering on his lips. "See those two over there?" He gestured to a young man and woman in the far corner of the lounge, and Sam followed his gaze to the couple.
"Yeah. What about them?" They were arguing, she thought, but what was so interesting about that?
Finn passed her his coffee and spoke as she sipped from it. "They've been together for over a year, and she just confessed that she cheated on him this summer."
Sam nearly spit out her coffee. Sputtering a bit, she swallowed before turning to him with the usual shocked expression she always wore when he told her these things. "You know, I have no idea how you do it, but I'm sure you're right. Dude, Finn, they're all the way across the room. Do you have super hearing?"
"Just a sixth sense," he told her as he always did. Then, turning away from his people-watching, he looked up at her. "So how was moving back in, Miss Resident Advisor?"
She passed his coffee back and shrugged. "Eh, the same. Two girls on my hall got in a fight over a hair straightener, and some guy had his laptop stolen. What else is new?" she added with a sardonic smile. It was common knowledge to Finn that, much as he loved people, Sam couldn't stand them.
"I still don't understand why you, of all people, wanted to be an RA," he muttered, giving her short locks a quick tug. She batted his hand away with a scowl, making him chuckle. "Really. I don't know how you've gotten this far with that hatred for your own species, a stór."
Her stomach fluttered as it always did whenever he used Gaelic on her, but she shoved the feeling aside and rolled her eyes. "It's just who I am, Ryan. Just like you're the creepy guy in the corner who watches everyone."
"You know, they love it when I watch them," he pointed out truthfully. Pulling his bag back onto his shoulder, he stood.
Sam fell into step with him as they made their way through the lounge and outside. "Yeah, but that's just because college students are a shallow bunch. They see that pretty face of yours, and they can't help but stare. Then, when you open your mouth and that accent comes out, they fall all over themselves." She made a sound of disgust. "It's pathetic, Finn. It really is."
He slung an arm over her shoulders and caught the dirty look a passing brunette shot at Sam. Shallow, indeed. "I'm still waiting for the day when you'll realize I'm your own true love and want to run away with me and have my babies."
"Ew, not a chance in hell," she groaned, falling into the old running joke between them. "You're so into yourself, I'd be stuck taking care of those kids. Thanks, but no thanks."
"Aww, but I had their names picked out and everything," he teased her good-naturedly as they pushed through the doors of one of the buildings in the Perelman Quadrangle. "I mean, Finny, Finnaeus, and Finn Jr. just sound so perfect, don't they?"
Sam grinned despite herself and patted his cheek. "Cute, real cute. What room is that class in?" she asked as they passed classroom after classroom on the first floor.
"The one at the end of the hall," he replied absently as his eyes returned to perusing the people in the hallway. "I had a class there last semester, too."
"Right." Sam marched on to the end of the hallway and into the lecture hall, leaving Finn to trail behind.
He shook his head at the precise way she took each step and climbed to the top row of the room, settling in the desk at the center of the row. Sam was a bundle of contradictions and liked everything in her life ordered precisely the way she wanted. She was also the best and truest of friends he'd had in his five years away from home. He hadn't told her about his powers, but she knew everything else about him and didn't fawn over him the way everyone else did. She made him feel normal, and he couldn't help but cherish her for that.
"You're in my seat," he told her as he made his way down the row towards her. "Budge up."
"Hell no. First come, first served," she countered and slouched low in the seat. "Stop looming over me, Ryan."
Finn rolled his eyes but leaned back anyway. "You know, you're a perverse creature."
"Yeah, and many will concur with you. Sit, Irish, the prof's about to start class," she added in a mutter.
Grudgingly, Finn gave up his prized center seat and sat next to her. It was a bit OCD of him to be certain to sit in the center seat of the last row in every classroom, but he couldn't help it. That spot ensured prime view for him to see everyone, since observing the rest of the class was the only way he could stay awake in really boring lectures.
As much power as he had, Finn often lamented the fact that he'd yet to conjure up some way to keep himself awake in class. Coffee worked for the first half-hour, but, after that, it was anyone's guess as to how long it would be before he crashed. During his freshmen year, he'd fallen asleep in a biology lecture and ended up with his nose buried in a petri dish. The professor had been a particularly vindictive one as well and had lectured him about falling asleep in her class. After that experience, Finn had vowed to never fall asleep again.
However, as the current professor droned on and on, Finn found that not even reading the syllabus served to prevent his drowsiness. Instead, he glanced over row after row of faces, cataloging them all in his mind as people he knew and people he didn't know. This particular class was full of people he hadn't seen before, and he recognized only a couple familiar faces.
UPenn wasn't an extremely large school, but it was still large enough to ensure that Finn would always see different people in every class. He enjoyed new people and often wondered where they all came from and what their life stories were. Was it any wonder, he often thought, that he'd ended up as an anthropology major?
Probably not, as the major seemed to lend itself to watching people constantly.
By the time he'd studied three-quarters of the class in an attempt to stay awake, Finn was rather bored with the game. There didn't seem to be anyone of interest, and he decided he'd much rather see the insides of his eyelids than anything else.
Then, his gaze fell upon a brunette three rows down and a few seats over from where he sat, and it was as though all others in the room vanished.
He could see her profile with its small nose, brown eyes, and full, unpainted lips. Her hair was pulled back from her face with a rubber band, and he could see two piercings in the ear visible to him. She seemed bored as well, though she scratched on her notepad every so often, her eyes intent on the figure of the professor several rows below.
Finn stared at her with abandon and wondered what it was about her that had him so stuck. She was ordinary-looking, and there was nothing so spectacular about her. He'd had more voluptuous girls throw themselves at him. Though he'd brushed them off, he wondered what it was about this average girl that had him going back for a second, third, and fourth look.
Then, she turned her head in his direction to glance at the clock behind the last row, and their eyes met.
To Finn, it seemed as though sparks—literal ones—flew between them and locked their eyes together. A burning sensation filled his chest and spread through the rest of him. It took him a second to realize that the sparks were real flames, and he hoped he could get rid of them without anyone seeing. He figured he'd been the only one to see the flickers in the air…until he noticed the way the brunette started and reached out her hand to touch one that burnt out just before her fingers brushed over it. Her eyes shot back to his questioningly, and he had to force himself to look away, whispering incantations under his breath to vanish the rest of the flames dancing in mid-air.
Instead of looking back at the girl, he poked Sam awake. "Psst. Samantha."
Her eyelids flickered then opened, and she scowled at him blearily. "What?" she whispered, clearly cranky. "Damn it, I was getting some good, quality sleep at the-"
"Who's that girl?"
Sam was wide-awake at that. Finn never asked about any girl—not ever. They usually asked about him. Her eyes widened as she blinked furiously in surprise. "Say what?" she hissed quietly. "Did you seriously just ask what I think you asked?"
Finn resisted the urge to roll his eyes and fought to prevent his gaze from drifting over to the brunette. "Yes, I did. Answer the question," he whispered back.
"Which one?" she asked eagerly as her eyes raced over the rows of students.
"Three rows down, five seats to the left. Brown hair, ponytail."
Sam searched for the mystery girl and finally spotted her. "Oh, yeah, I see her."
"Is she looking over here?" he asked quickly, and she shot him an amused glance.
"Wow. Is big, bad Finn Ryan actually crushing on someone?"
He wasn't sure that he'd call it a crush, but he was feeling something. "Do you know who she is?"
Sam studied the girl for a few moments before recognition clicked. "Oh, hey! That's Reese White. Damn, Finn," she added after a moment, "you sure know how to pick them, don't you?"
He didn't get a chance to ask her what she meant as the professor ended class, and the rush to the door ensued. Clamping down on his impatience, Finn grabbed Sam's wrist and, with one last glance over his shoulder at the puzzled face of Reese White, he dragged her to the closest bench outside.
"Okay, now spill it all. Who is she? Is something wrong with her?"
Finn sounded so agitated that Sam squeezed his hand comfortingly and felt twin pangs of alarm and amusement. "No, there's nothing wrong with her. She's just not the kind of girl I pictured you going for. That's all."
"I'm not 'going for her,'" he insisted; though his uncertain tone spoke multitudes in the opposite. "I was just wondering."
She frowned at his agitated tone. Finn was also never agitated. He was Mr. Cool, his feathers never ruffled. "You sure nothing's wrong, Finn?"
Like a switch had been flipped, Finn leaned back and shot her a careless grin. "Sam, have you ever seen me gaga over a female?"
"Um, no? Which is why I was wondering if you had a thing for Reese White."
"I don't even know who she is," he replied carelessly, hoping she'd accept his answer. "How can I think anything of her if I've never met her before?"
Sam frowned. "Well…I guess not."
He grinned. "Exactly. So," he looked out at the rest of campus, unable to meet her eyes, "what's Miss White's deal?"
"Aha!" She pounced on the casual opening. "So you do like her?"
Finn scowled a little before replacing it with an easy smile again. "Must I repeat myself, Sam? I'm trying to find out about her. It doesn't mean I have a crush on her. In fact, if you must know, I don't have any feelings whatsoever for her." None that I can understand anyway, he silently added to himself.
"Okay," Sam said after a moment. "Well, she's a sophomore archaeology major and works in Special Collections for the school. Apparently, she's insanely smart, but a huge man-hater."
"A super-feminist? A lesbian?" Finn wondered aloud.
Sam shrugged. "Who knows? All I know is that she's had plenty of guys ask her out, including your quarterback pal, Davy. She shuts them all down. The other girls call her the Ice Queen."
"Ouch," Finn murmured and spotted Reese's figure emerge from the building. Their eyes met across the courtyard, and he felt that odd burning sensation again and frowned before deliberately breaking the contact. "So she's a genius man-hater?"
"As far as I know, yeah." She eyed him carefully. "If you're looking in that direction, pal, I'd think twice if I were you."
He nodded even as his eyes slid back to watch Reese's retreating back. "Don't worry, Sam. I'm not looking in that direction at all."
But his fingers were crossed behind his back anyway.
"So the flames just appeared out of nowhere?" Bridget asked him again.
Finn glanced over his shoulder at the mirror on the wall where his sister's face peered at him curiously. Her sharp green eyes watched him closely. "Yes. I didn't do a single thing, not one word, and there they were. I'm hoping she thought she was hallucinating."
Bridget made a hmm sound. "Well, it's interesting anyway. You, looking at a woman more than once? It's remarkable, really."
"Oh, I don't need this from you, too," he muttered and, with a flick of his hand, a dirty sock flew across the room and hit the mirror.
"You know, I can't smell how awful that must be, so it ruins the purpose of doing it," his twin pointed out. "Besides, I'm just curious. My baby brother's never taken an interest in a girl, so this one's got to have something going for her."
"Besides the fact that fire appeared in mid-air when I saw her?" Finn muttered. "I don't know. Maybe it was just a one-time thing and means nothing at all."
Bridget made a tsk-ing sound. "Please tell me you're not green enough to believe that."
"Well, what on earth else could it be?" He began pacing the cramped confines of his tiny dorm room. He'd used his powers to persuade the residential dean to give him a single room for all four years of his undergraduate career, and he couldn't have been happier. He could do all the magic he wanted, and no one would be the wiser. "It's not like I go around lighting up in front of everyone. I'm trying to be normal, Bridge."
"I know you are," she soothed. "I'm just saying it's unlikely that it'll never happen again. Maybe you should try to get to know this Reese, even if she is a 'man-hater'."
Finn shrugged irritably. "All I know is, I have no time to waste on worrying over something like this. I don't want to give myself away as a witch, and, if it happens again, I'm sure someone's bound to see it."
"You'll figure it out, Finn. Do you want me to ask Mum and Dad?"
"No!" he snapped, knowing they were the last people he wanted to involve in his affairs. "Anyway, Bridget, remember the Code?"
She rolled her eyes at the mention of the Code of the Realm of Magicks. "Who could forget it?"
"The fourth or fifth cardinal rule states that no magical being may form a romantic relationship with a mere mortal. I can't strike up any sort of anything with her." He ran his hands through his hair in a frustrated move. "Besides, she's rather plain looking. I'd want someone more…well…you know."
"Of course," his sister replied dryly. "Well, why don't you just wait and see what happens?"
"You mean wait for the next time I shoot fire out of my fingertips at the site of Reese White?" Finn countered. "Great."
"Well, what else could you do?"
"Good point." He sighed heavily. "If this ruins my senior year, Bridget…"
She shook her head. "Relax, Finn. Who said magic was foolproof? Maybe yours just malfunctioned for a moment."
There was a knock at his door just then, and he could hear male sounds of laughing and cheering. The knock came again, louder this time.
"Yo, Finn, my man! You there? Open up, buddy."
Bridget chuckled. "I don't know why you still spend time with Davy. He's yet to grow up, you know."
Finn grinned then blew her a kiss. "Bye, sis." When he heard the distinct pop of the mirror going blank again, he pulled open the door and was attacked by over five hundred pounds of pure muscle.
Three members of the Quakers football team jumping on him was rather painful, but he couldn't help but laugh at their hoots and hollering.
"Time to party, time to party," Davy O'Toole chanted repeatedly, punctuated by cheers from the other two. He slung his muscled arm around Finn's shoulders. "You ready to go out and get wasted, Fish Finn?"
Finn rolled his eyes at the stupid nickname Davy had given him when they'd met nearly ten years earlier. Davy was half-magical and had become Finn's sidekick, following him wherever he went. Now, Davy was the star of the UPenn Quakers and was decidedly more popular than Finn wanted to be.
He also enjoyed drinking more than Finn did. Davy called him a disgrace to their Irish roots often, and Finn took it good-naturedly. However, he'd been unable to break away from the tradition Davy had instated, declaring that they'd get drunk on the first day of classes in the fall of every year. So far, they'd been three for three, and Finn decided that, in order to forget about Reese White, he'd help Davy make it four for four.
"Let's go," he replied cheerfully and, amidst loud cheering, left the dorm, determined not to allow a mere mortal to ever distract him quite as badly as Reese had.
AN: Thanks to LeticiaLiebstTokioHotel and kurstin.burstin for the encouraging reviews! Please let me know what you think so far as this is my first foray into stories involving magic! Thanks!