There came a time in every young man's life, especially one meddling with supernatural forces beyond the ken of mankind, when he had to admit that he'd made a mistake, and ask for help. Teghan liked to think of himself as a rational individual. He was capable of complex logical equations that escaped even the brightest members of his generation. He was widely regarded as the enchanter to watch, with a brilliant academic career stretching ahead of him. Teghan wanted to preserve that image, which severely limited his options, help-wise. It was with great care that he examined the short list, disqualifying each candidate one by one until there was one name left. Teghan sighed. He gathered his notes together, tucking them into his bag, selected the proper jacket for the cool weather, and tightened the laces on his shoes. Opening his door, he inhaled, stepped out, locked it, stuck his keys into his pocket, and fucking ran for it.
The central square of the university flashed by. A few undergraduates were outside, enjoying the sharp autumn sunshine. They cast curious looks at Teghan as he passed. At least the men did. The women perked up like lionesses scenting the blood on a wounded gazelle. Teghan put on a burst of speed, took the corner down Quintlin Avenue, and ran straight into a tour group of prospective students.
Oh dear lord, Teghan thought. Fifteen teenagers and their mothers. He was never going to survive. He shoved through the crowd, muttering apologies, slapping away the hands reaching for him.
"Teghan?" Maris, the pretty undergrad leading the tour, grabbed his arm. "What are you-" She stopped, nostrils flaring, pupils expanding. "Something's different about you," she said.
"Can't talk, got to go, bye!" Teghan shouted, wrenching his arm free. He cut through the mall, panic feeding his speed. There was footsteps behind him. Teghan didn't look back. One, it would slow him down, and two, it would make him pee his pants and really, the situation was awful enough without a reenactment of his third-grade field day. Veering off the grassy mall, Teghan leapt up the steps of a non-descript three-story townhouse, and beat his fist against the door.
"Letmeinletmeinletmein!" he screamed.
"Who is it?" A deep male voice asked.
"You know who it is!"
"Teghan Black, you unmitigated asshole!"
"Hmmm, I'm sorry, I don't think I know a Teghan Black."
"Liam, I'm being serious!" There was a growl from behind Teghan. Spinning around, he faced a crowd of staring, hungry women. He gulped. "Listen," he said, holding his hands up in a placating gesture. "I'm sure you are all lovely people, but I'm not interested. Really."
The woman nearest Teghan bared her teeth in a feral smile. She was middle-aged, chubby, not unattractive, but certainly not Teghan's idea of his ideal partner. For one thing, she reminded him of his aunt Janta. For another, she looked as though she might bite off his head mid-coitus.
"LIAM!" Teghan yelled. The woman lunged forward. Teghan shrieked and jumped backwards, landing against a warm chest. An arm snaked around his waist, holding him in place.
"Ladies," said the deep voice. The pack fell back, assessing the newcomer. "I realize it's hard to keep your hands off the gorgeous piece of man-flesh that is Teghan Black, but please restrain yourselves."
"I don't think they understand you," Teghan hissed through clenched teeth. The chest behind him shifted as the owner of the voice shrugged.
"Well, then." The hand slipped lower, grasping Teghan's crotch. Teghan yelped. "Mine," said Liam in a threatening, thunderstorm of a voice. "Go away."
"Liam," Teghan said, in a strangled tone. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Making a point," Liam said, his breath warm against Teghan's ear. "Apparently more than one."
"I changed my mind," he said. "I'd rather be torn apart by horny grandmothers."
"Suit yourself," said Liam.
"No, wait!" Teghan grabbed at the retreating arm. "Make them go away."
The pack had advanced, sensing their competition was retreating. They crowded together on the steps, watching Teghan in silence. He wished they would talk. It would be less disturbing. Not a lot less, but some.
"I don't know, Teghan, I think it'd be good for you to make some new friends," said Liam.
"Please, Liam," Teghan begged. He was sure the one on his left was about to go for his jugular.
"Well," Liam said. "All right." He pushed Teghan into the house and stepped out on the porch. "Ladies," he began, clapping his hands together. Teghan closed his eyes. There was a flash, and a bang, and the sound of thirty confused women sprinting for their lives.
"Thank you," said Teghan, gratefully. Liam scooped up the hydra he'd conjured and carried it into the house, alternating strokes between its nine heads.
"So," he said. "How exactly did you screw up and what do you expect me to do about it?"
"I didn't screw up," Teghan said. Liam raised his eyebrows. He set the hydra on the floor, letting it slither off towards the kitchen. "There was a misstep in the calculation of variable parameters."
"Yeah," said Liam. "You fucked up."
Teghan glared at him.
"I was attempting a radical shift in Godfy's Gate solution in order to promote a further expansion into less localized positional transmissions," he said.
"Sure," said Liam. "Then you fucked up."
"I didn't fuck up!"
"So turning yourself into a literal sex magnet was on purpose?"
There was a long moment of sullen silence. Teghan kicked at the edge of the frayed carpet, scowling. Liam waited, his arms folded over his chest.
"Okay!" Teghan shouted finally. "I fucked up!"
"That's I needed to hear," he said.
Teghan perched on a stool in Liam's lab, waiting as Liam read through his notes. The lab was a large room with two long tables, covered in glass beakers, bottles of strange liquids and papers scribbled with indecipherable formulae. Teghan had meet Liam two years earlier when he'd decided to go slumming and take a class in applied potions. He'd assumed it would be an easy way to boost his grade point average. What he got was four months of terror, explosions, chemical burns, mocking, and constant sexual harassment from the insane professor. Liam was the insane professor. He was also, as Teghan learned later, a genuine genius. He'd graduated at fifteen with a doctorate in Theoretical Magic, then changed his mind and switched to Applied Magic, focusing on potions, earning his second doctorate at age eighteen. Technically, he worked for the university, so every now and then he would teach a course. Most of the time, he worked on individual research. Liam claimed it was because no one else could keep up with him. The dean said it was because Liam was a certified nutjob. Teghan thought it was a combination of both.
"Well," Liam said at last. "This is interesting."
"You know what went wrong?" Teghan asked.
"No." Liam held up a sheet of paper, waving it in Teghan's direction. "Apparently, I have a-" he consulted the paper. "-a smoking hot ass."
Teghan made a choking noise in the back of his throat. He lunged for the paper, but Liam held it out of reach.
"Hang on," he said. "I want to read more about me."
"Liam!" Teghan said. "That is private."
"Then you should have been more careful with it." Liam grinned at him, waggling his eyebrows. Making a sharp gesture, Teghan jerked the paper out of Liam's hands, sending it flying across the room. He snatched it out of air and, with a quick word, disintegrated it. Brushing the ash off his pants, he gave Liam a smug look.
"I have a eidetic memory," Liam said. "That was a futile gesture."
"I don't care," said Teghan. "Fix me."
"Oh, Teghan, that's going to take much more than my admittedly impressive skills."
"You don't know what went wrong?"
"No, I imagine you were born this way," Liam said. "Maybe a good psychologist-"
"I loathe you."
"Then why do you want me to throw you against a wall and violate you in a way I'm sure is still illegal in some of the more backwards areas?" Liam grinned again. Teghan's fingers twitched. He wasn't a fan of physical violence, but Liam just invited a punch to the face.
"I wrote that in a moment of drunken weakness," Teghan said, striving for aloof condescension. "Obviously, I would never seriously consider you as a suitable romantic partner."
"Hmm," said Liam. "Is it because you're intimidated by my intelligence? Because I can use small words while telling you how I'm going to ruin you for other men."
"Excuse me? You are not smarter than me. You are a genetic freak. You're a computing machine. You-" Teghan stopped, a thought occurring to him. "Why aren't you effected?"
"Took you long enough," Liam said.
"It doesn't effect men who aren't attracted to their own gender, but obviously you don't belong to that group."
"Gosh, how could you tell?"
Teghan shot Liam a dark look.
"Was it my constant attempts to lure you into my bed?" Liam asked. "Because I thought I was being subtle."
"You-" Teghan gave up. He let his head drop against the tabletop. "So this is how it ends. Groped to death by lust-crazed grandmas."
"Don't be silly," said Liam. "They weren't all grandmas."
"You know what the worst part is?" he asked, talking into the stained wood of the tabletop. "You're the one I came to for help. An entire university of people to choose from, and I picked you. I knew you were going to be like this, but still here I am. I must be losing my mind."
There was the sound of a chair scraping against the slate floor. Teghan felt a warm hand on his back, and he raised his head to look into Liam's dark eyes.
"Come on," said Liam. "I'll make you lunch. Then we can start working on it."
"Thank you," said Teghan.
"If you figure out why I'm not effected, I'll let you have cake for dessert."
"Or you could stop being an ass and just tell me."
"Oh, Teghan," said Liam. "Then how would you learn?" He patted Teghan on the back, then wandered away towards the kitchen.
"Definitely losing my mind," Teghan muttered.
"No, no, no," Teghan said. "You can't apply Lenke's formula to a double-cross Arcane loop."
"You can if you alter the loop to include earth-based boundaries," Liam said.
"Yes, if you want the feedback to drown out any usable supply of power."
"That doesn't matter. The gate provides more than enough power. We just need the loop to balance out the weltys so we don't blow our heads off!"
"Blowing up our heads will be the last of our worries!" Teghan shouted. "If the feedback overwhelms the restraining circles, the university is going to have to be renamed Idiot's Crater!"
"Well, they're not naming it after me!"
"Implying that I'm the idiot? You're the one who fucked up a simple translation shift!"
"That wasn't what happened! There was a freak spike in the lormens that-"
Liam slapped his hand down on Teghan's notes.
"Look," he said. "What does that say?"
"It says E squared equals..." Teghan trailed off. "Ah."
"I may have made a slight error."
"No," said Liam. "I'm stunned. An error? You?"
"Your sarcasm is neither appreciated nor helpful."
"You fuck up, I get to mock you. That is the rule."
"Can't you go back to attempting seduce me?" Teghan asked.
"I can do both, sugar lips."
"Oh dear lord," Teghan said.
"We're friends. You can call me Liam."
"You still can't use a Arcane loop."
"I'm telling you, you can."
"No, you can't!" Teghan shouted. "You don't know everything! Sometimes you're just wrong!"
"Maybe," said Liam. "But not now."
"Fine! Prove it!"
Teghan poked his head over the table, surveying the smoldering wreckage that was Liam's lab. Small fires burnt dotted the room, and a thick haze of black smoke hung in the air. Shards of glass pierced the walls and tables, and there was a puddle of suspicious liquid eating its way through the slate floor.
"Well," said Liam. "There's no crater."
"You moron," Teghan said. "We could be dead!"
"There were containment circles."
Teghan waved his arms wildly.
"Look around you!"
"Okay," said Liam. "So the theory was flawed. That's why experimentation is so necessary."
"It's amazing to me that you haven't killed yourself yet."
"Yeah," Liam said. "I hear that a lot."
"No kidding," said Teghan. "Did you ever think maybe you should do something about that?"
"I did. I stopped listening." Liam stood up, dusting off his pants. With a quick flick of his fingers, the fires winked out. A few twists and the liquid separated into its component ingredients, flowing neatly back into mended vials. The smoke was blown out the high, narrow windows, and the broken glass gathered up and deposited into the pail set aside for that purpose. Teghan couldn't help being impressed. There was a difference between being proficient at theory and another at applying that knowledge in everyday life. Most theorists looked down at practical users, but Liam made it look good.
"You're staring," Liam said. "Admit it, you want me."
"Your shoes are melting," Teghan said. Liam glanced down.
"Huh," he said.
The fire was dying down. Teghan added another log, then returned to the couch, kicking off his shoes and curling up. The hydra slithered in, a few heads glancing in Teghan's direction. Apparently he passed the inspection, because the hydra settled down by the fire, light flickering off its speckled scales.
"Why a hydra?" Teghan asked. No response. Twisting his head, he looked over at Liam. He was sitting in the armchair, his hands grasping the arms, eyes closed. He could have been sleeping, but Teghan knew he wasn't. He'd seen Liam do this before. He would focus on a problem so completely that the rest of the world could disappear. Teghan could do a strip tease with the hydra and Liam wouldn't notice. And considering Liam's obsession with seeing Teghan naked, that was saying something. Teghan sighed and pulled the blanket off the back of the couch. Liam was going to be a while. He might as well take a nap while he waited.
"It's Relian's constant!"
Teghan woke up with a jerk, tumbling off the couch and landing on his face. A hand reached down and pulled him upright. Liam was grinning. Not his 'let's-have-sex' grin, but his 'I'm-a-genius-and-I'm-about-to-prove-it' grin.
"It's Relian's constant," he said.
"I heard you the first time," Teghan said. "What about it?"
"When you screwed up the translation shift-"
"Fine. I screwed up the translation shift."
"Yes, you did," said Liam with unrestrained glee.
"You blew up your lab!"
"So what? I do that every other week. Come on." Liam grabbed Teghan's wrist, pulling him out of the sitting room and down the stairs to his lab. "Help me move the tables."
"What are you planning?" Teghan asked, grunting as he shoved one of the long tables up against the wall.
"A masquerade," said Liam. "What do you think?"
"I don't know what to think with you randomly yelling about Relian's constant and dragging me about," Teghan said.
"Chalk's over there."
"I don't even know what I'm doing!"
"Think about it!" Liam shouted. "A mistake in the shift causes..." He leaned forward, making a 'come on' gesture with his hand.
Teghan clenched his fists, the quiet snap of the chalk in his grasp only adding to his frustration. There weren't many people who could make him feel stupid, but Liam was right at the top of the list.
"I don't know," he said in a tight voice. Liam let his hands drop.
"All right," he said. "I'll explain it to you."
"No- no don't," said Teghan. "Just give me- just wait a minute." He dug around in the junk on the table for a pencil and a bit of paper. Muttering to himself, he began scribbling equations, glaring at Liam as he peered over Teghan's shoulder.
"Are you sure about that?" Liam asked.
"Go wait over there. Go on. Go."
Shrugging, Liam ambled to the other side of the room. Teghan tapped the pencil against the paper, frowning. He hadn't even used Relian's constant. It wasn't required for a Godfy's gate. Mostly it was used in biological spells, since it related to the rate of destabilization of semi-permanent hormone adjustments within-
"Damn," said Teghan.
"Do you see it?" Liam asked.
"I see it." Teghan sighed. "God damn."
"Congratulations, you accidentally invented the first metaphysical lust spell," said Liam. "No more sneaking into back-alley potion shops, just a few chalk diagrams and a Godfy's gate for that extra oomph."
"Just help me get rid of it."
"But this is an achievement! Do you know how many desperate, lonely enchanters have tried to do that over the years?"
"I don't care," said Teghan. "Get rid of it."
"Are you sure? You could publish a paper."
"I like it when you scream my name," he said. "I'm thinking a geriss square with a Timeta's gate in the Eastern quadrant."
Teghan did admire Liam's ability to switch from sex to scholarship in a split-second.
"And a double hexagram to counter?" he asked.
"We'll need a frostern chalice," Liam said.
"Not if we use an Arcane loop."
"Oh, now you want to use an Arcane loop."
"Shut up, Liam."
Teghan stood in the center of the ornate chalked diagram, a piece of agate clenched in one hand for protection. He wasn't entirely confident in the field of crystology. There were a number of studies that showed the field had promise, but without more rigorous standards he wasn't going to unilaterally accept the premise that a tiny bit of rock was going to keep his heart from exploding out of his chest. He'd said this to Liam, who shrugged and said it couldn't hurt.
"You're sure this is going to work?" he asked.
Liam glanced up.
"You helped come up with it," he said. "What do you think?"
"I think it'll work," said Teghan.
"Okay," said Liam, circling the diagram.
"I just would feel better if you said you thought it was going to work too."
"I think it's going to work."
"Do you think it'll hurt?" Teghan asked. Liam stopped at the top of the diagram and looked at Teghan, his eyebrows raised. "I'm not really used to this," Teghan said. "Theory is a lot more...theoretical."
"It's not going to hurt," said Liam. "You shouldn't feel anything."
"Yes." Teghan closed his eyes, waiting for Liam to activate the spell. There was a long moment of silence.
"Why aren't I a suitable romantic partner?" Liam asked. Teghan opened his eyes.
"That's what you said earlier. So why not?"
"You want to talk about this now?"
"Seems like a good time."
"How is now a good time?" Teghan demanded.
"Well, I've got you trapped in a containment circle," said Liam.
Teghan narrowed his eyes.
"You're an evil man," he said.
"Is that the reason? Because we need to talk about your definition of 'evil.'"
"No, that's not it."
"So, you're a professor," said Teghan, casting around for any excuse that wasn't 'I don't want to be known as the guy crazy enough to date Liam Whelan.'
"There's no rules against professors dating grad students outside their discipline."
"I need to focus on my work."
"That's a reason why you're not a suitable partner," said Liam. "We're talking about me."
"I'm just not interested," Teghan snapped.
"You find me attractive. You enjoy my company-"
"Drop it, Liam!"
"So there's no reason."
"It's because you're completely bonkers!" Teghan yelled, patience snapping like a dry twig. "I have a reputation and it doesn't include a half-crazed sex fiend with a pet hydra and an explosion fetish, okay!"
"Okay," said Liam. "Thank you for answering my question." He turned around, walking towards the stairs.
"Wait! What about the spell?"
"It's done," Liam called over his shoulder.
"I did it already. You're welcome." He disappeared up the stairs. Teghan glanced down at the edge of the diagram. The containing circle had faded, only a pale dusting of chalk remaining. Cautiously, he stepped off the diagram, exhaling when nothing happened.
"Liam?" Teghan climbed the stairs, feeling a dark, heavy seed in his gut. He crossed the hall, peeking into the sitting room and finding it empty. He tried Liam's name again.
Teghan paused in the doorway to the kitchen. Liam was making himself a sandwich, not surprising considering the amount of energy practical diagram casting used up.
"I didn't mean to-" Teghan began.
"No, I asked," said Liam. "It's fine." The indifference in his expression made Teghan wince.
"Let me take you to dinner," he said.
"I have a sandwich."
"Save it for lunch tomorrow."
Liam took a big bite, tucking a stray piece of lettuce into his mouth.
"I like my sandwich," he said. "Was there anything else you needed?"
"Liam, would you please just yell at me?" Teghan asked. "You're starting to freak me out."
"I'm not mad at you," Liam said.
"Then why are you being so weird?" There was a strident desperation in Teghan's voice that made him blush as he hear the words coming out of his word.
"Teghan," Liam sighed. "I can respect you not being attracted to me. I can respect you fancying someone else. I can respect you wanting to eliminate distractions to your work. I can respect you thinking we wouldn't make a good match."
"Do you have a point or did you want to say 'I can respect' a lot?" Teghan asked.
"I'm getting there. What I can't respect is you deciding that I'm not a suitable romantic partner because of what other people will think."
"That's not what I said."
"That's exactly what you said."
Teghan clasped and unclasped his hands. He stared at them, the tips stained with chalk, nails bit down to nubs, a small scar running over his left index finger from a childhood accident with an awl.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"I told you, it's fine," said Liam. "You're just not that person I thought you were."
"Ah," said Teghan, involuntarily. He blinked rapidly. "I'll go now. Thank you. For helping me."
"Good-bye," Liam said.
Teghan didn't exactly run out of the house, but it wasn't far off. He stopped on the stoop, looking at the twilight horizon. On the other side of the street, a woman, books clutched to her chest, was hurrying up the sidewalk.
"Excuse me!" Teghan called. "Miss? Can I ask you something?"
The woman stopped, giving Teghan an up and down glance. She must have decided he wasn't a threat because she gave him a small smile and stepped closer.
"This is a little awkward," Teghan said. "But do you find me attractive?"
"What?" the woman asked.
"Do I inspire thoughts of lust?"
"Uh." The woman backed away, tightening her arms around her books. "Not lust, no," she said.
"Yes, I can see that. You do prefer men, correct? As sexual partners?"
"I have to go," said the woman.
"I'm not hitting on you," Teghan said. "There was an accident and I needed to double-check and..." he trailed off, aware he wasn't helping his case.
"Are you okay?" the woman asked. "You look upset."
Teghan blinked at her.
"Thank you for your help," he said. "Have a good evening." He strode away, shoving aside the feeling that the dark seed in his stomach had grown into a full-grown bush of thorns.
Teghan stopped by the kitchen, hoping there would be some leftovers to scrounge. As a graduate student, he could live off campus, but it was cheaper and easier to stay in the rooms the university had assigned him. It meant he didn't have to make his own meals, and all-night access to the library. On the other hand, it also meant going hungry if he missed dinner. One of the sous chefs took pity on him and slipped him a roll and an apple wrapped in a napkin. Teghan munched on the apple on the way to the library.
"Where have you been?" Garrett asked, looking up from his book. He was a long-limbed blonde with leonine features and a fixation on resurrecting ancient magic. Currently, he was working on a replicating a twelve hundred year old transmogrifying spell from incomplete texts written in a dead language. Teghan liked to tease him about copying other people's work. Garrett liked to call him an ass.
"I was with Liam- Dr. Whelan." Teghan pulled out a chair and sat down. Opening his bag, he realized he'd left his notes at Liam's house. There was no way he was going back there tonight. Or ever.
"Hmm," said Garrett. He shifted, kicking out a chair and stretching out his legs.
"What does that mean?"
"It doesn't mean anything. It's a noise of acknowledgement."
"You meant something."
"No, you're just crazy."
"I know the difference between a 'hmm' and a 'hmm'," said Teghan. Garrett set down his book.
"I'm just confused," he said. "Why were you with Dr. Whelan?"
"He was helping me with a problem."
"Hmm," said Garrett.
"Seriously, what is it?"
"I think you could do better, but it's your decision."
"Excuse me?" Teghan asked.
"I don't really care who you date, but other people might not be so open-minded, yeah?"
Teghan's mouth dropped open.
"What?" he demanded.
"You know the only reason the dean hasn't fired him is because he has tenure," Garret said.
"The dean hasn't fired him because he's a genius," Teghan said coldly. "Any university would be lucky to have him."
"A dangerously unstable lunatic with a propensity for explosions? Yeah, he's a catch."
"I'm sorry, when was your last paradigm-shifting discovery? Have you advanced multiple disciplines by decades? No? Then shut the hell up." Teghan could feel his face growing hot as his heartbeat started to increase.
"All right," said Garrett. "I'm sorry I brought it up."
"We aren't dating," Teghan said. "I just respect his intelligence."
"Even if we were dating, it wouldn't be any of your business."
"I didn't even want to talk about it in the first place," Garrett said.
"What is your problem with Liam, anyway?"
"Nothing. He's fantastic. I'd date him myself but he's not interested."
"So he's a little strange," Teghan said. "Is there something wrong with that?"
"He keeps a hydra as a pet," Garrett replied. "That's not a little strange. That's psychotic."
"It's very tame. It's never bitten anyone."
"Teghan, seriously, what do I have to say to get out of this conversation? Because I'd actually like work now."
"I don't see where you get the gall to decide who it's okay for me to date," Teghan said.
"I told you, I don't care. I'm just saying other people might."
"Well, who gave them the right to judge my relationship?"
"I thought there wasn't a relationship," said Garrett.
"There isn't," said Teghan.
"Then what is the problem?"
"There's no problem."
"Good. Stop talking."
"I'd lucky to have Liam as a boyfriend," Teghan said.
"I disagree, but whatever."
"Fuck off, Garrett." Teghan stood up, nearly knocking over his chair.
"Now you're storming off in a huff?" Garrett asked. "Over a relationship that doesn't exist?"
"Maybe it does exist."
"So you are dating Dr. Whelan."
"Yes!" Teghan shouted. "I'm dating Dr. Whelan!"
Heads turned to stare. The library wasn't crowded, but there was at least a dozen people within earshot. By this time tomorrow, the story would be all over the university. Teghan blanched.
"Finally," said Garrett. "I thought you were never going to admit it."
"Are you insane?" Teghan hissed.
"Why? Do you want to date me too?"
"You-" Teghan shook his head. "I'm leaving."
"For the record, I hate you."
"Eh, you'll get over it," Garrett said.
For the second time that day, Teghan knocked on Liam's door. At least this time he didn't have a sex-mad horde chasing him. On the other hand, he wasn't looking forward to the conversation he was about to have. Teghan clung to his anger all the way from the library. Garrett had helped with that.
"Who is it?" Liam asked.
"I know you can see me," Teghan said. "There's a viewing portal in your door."
Liam opened the door.
"Why must you strip all the joy out of my life?" he asked. Teghan glared at him.
"That was an asshole thing you did," he said.
"Fixing your mistake?" Liam asked. "I can put the spell back if that's what you want."
"You know that's not what I meant," said Teghan.
"I really don't know you at all."
"That. That right there. It's blatant manipulation and I'm not going to stand for it."
Liam raised his eyebrows.
"I don't see-"
"I hurt you and I'm sorry," Teghan said. "But that doesn't mean it's acceptable for you to guilt me into giving you what you want."
"I wasn't trying to guilt you," Liam said.
"Yes, you were. I'm very smart, Liam. Don't treat me like an idiot."
They stared at each other for a long moment; Liam frowning slightly, Teghan's expression set hard.
"You're right," said Liam. "I apologize."
"Thank you," said Teghan. "Invite me inside."
"Would you like to come in?" Liam, bemused, held the door open. Teghan entered, stopping in the middle of the hallway. Now that the easy part was over, he wasn't sure what to do next. He toyed with the buttons of the cuffs over his shirt. Liam walked towards him, then stopped and leaned against the wall, his arms folded over his chest.
"Did something happen?" he asked. "Did the reversal spell not work properly?"
"No, it worked," Teghan said, looking up. Liam tilted his head to the side.
Teghan punched him on the shoulder.
"Hey!" Liam rubbed his new bruise. "I apologized. You don't get to hit after you already accepted an apology."
"You really made me feel terrible," Teghan said.
"That was the point."
"Don't do it again."
"Can you really blame me? I'd just had a traumatic experience."
"Being attacked by pirates is a traumatic experience," Teghan said. "Being turned down for a date is a mild annoyance."
"Could be traumatic," muttered Liam. "I have a very fragile psyche."
"Your psyche is made of rubber. Besides, the only reason you want to date me is because you think I have a cute ass."
"No, that's one of many reasons I want to bang you like a drum," Liam said. "It's not the reason I want to date you."
"So what's the reason?"
"I like you."
"You like me?"
"I know," said Liam. "Wanting to date someone because I like him; I'm a radical like that."
"Your fun and easy-going demeanor."
"Funny," said Teghan. "Take me to dinner."
"What is with you?" Liam asked. "Did you hit your head? Are you drunk? Did you pick your own mushrooms again?"
"You said you were never going to mention that again."
"That was before you started demanding I buy you dinner."
"Don't make me say it," Teghan said.
"Maybe you could use hand signals," Liam said.
"You really are thick," he said.
"What am I supp-" Liam cut off, his eyes going wide as Teghan darted forward, pressing a kiss against his lips.
As far as kisses went, it wasn't the best. Tension radiated through out Teghan's frame, growing stronger as Liam remained still. He pulled back, feeling a sick twisting in his stomach. His lungs didn't seem to be working, It took far too much effort to force air into them.
"That's what you meant?" Liam asked. "How the fuck was I suppose to get that from you coming here and yelling at me?"
"It's not my fault that this is the one time your mind didn't immediately jump to sex," Teghan replied.
"You punched me. Punching is the anti-kissing."
"I'm sorry! I'm not good at this!"
"You're admitting you aren't good at something?"
"Liam! I stood up in front of twenty grad students and shouted that we were dating. Now is not a good time to tell me you're not interested."
"You're fucking nuts," said Liam.
Teghan covered his face with his hands.
"Liam," he said weakly.
"An hour ago, you shot me down in flames. What changed?"
"Then I repeat, fucking nuts."
"Garrett played devil's advocate," Teghan said. "At least I think he did. It's hard to tell with him."
"Huh," said Liam. "Remind me to send him a thank you note." Wrapping his hands around Teghan's wrist, he pulled his hands down. "Hey," he said, with a sidelong grin.
"Hey," said Teghan.
"I'm going to kiss you now."
"That would satisfactory." Teghan closed his eyes, shaking his head slightly. "I'm sorry, that sounded ridiculous."
"Yeah, I'll mock you later," Liam said. He slid his hands down Teghan's arms to his shoulders, over his chest to rest on his hips. Teghan's breath caught in his throat. Hesitantly, he reached up to run his fingers through Liam's hair. It was thick and dark, softer than it looked. Liam made a quiet noise, his eyes heavy-lidded and drowsy. Teghan created a new mental list: places Liam liked to be touched. He imagined it wouldn't remain so scant for very long. He moved his hands lower, massaging the muscles in Liam's neck and shoulders.
Liam's grip tightened. He tugged Teghan flush against him, and bent forward, first laying skipping kisses up Teghan's throat, before sucking gently on his lower lip. It was being kissed by a lightening bolt. Teghan gasped. His fingers clenched as Liam's tongue teased him, writhing against his own, warm and wet and dizzying. He pressed against Liam, as though trying to meld their bodies together, trying to melt into the tantalizing pleasure.
"Teghan," Liam whispered.
"Where do you want to go to for dinner?"
They never made it to dinner.
Teghan lay on his side, a warm heavy weight against his back, Liam's arm flung over his waist. Firelight lit the room, shadows dancing on the pale walls, gold flickering on Liam's skin. Teghan traced the bones in Liam's hand, rubbing over the fingers, stained with years of working with potions.
"Uh huh?" Liam mumbled.
"Your hydra is staring at me."
"It's her name."
"Nine pins, nine heads. Skittles."
"Fine. Skittles is staring at me."
Liam shifted, raising his head to peer at the hydra.
"Shoo," he said. The hydra hissed, but slithered out of the room. "Happy now?"
"She's just jealous of her daddy," Liam said.
Teghan decided not to think to hard about that statement. He rolled over, placing his face against Liam's chest and inhaling.
"I'm hungry," he said.
"I'll get you something to eat."
"That's what you said three hours ago. I want real food this time."
Liam laughed, making Teghan smile as he felt his chest rumble.
"Are you complaining?" Liam asked.
"My stomach's still empty, though."
With a groan, Liam sat up, rubbing a hand over his head.
"You're going to be very high-maintenance, aren't you?"
"Are you complaining?" Teghan asked.
"My mother always told me to be careful what you wish for."
"Right now, I wish for a sandwich."
"It's not that late," said Liam. "We can still go out."
Teghan stretched, the blanket slipping lower.
"I'd rather stay here," he said.
"Of course," said Liam. He threw aside the blanket and stood up, shivering a little as his feet hit the bare floor. There was a hard set to his spine. Before he could go, Teghan caught his hand, stopping him.
"You can walk me home in the morning," he said.
"Lots of people out in the morning," he said.
"Yes," said Teghan. Liam grinned even wider. He jumped on the bed, pinning Teghan down with a jubilant kiss.
I'm never going to get my sandwich, Teghan thought.