The Magic Between
Stephanie Hoyt © 2021
All Rights Reserved
AB Cerise is a disaster. He’s an obsessive-compulsive ball of barely checked anxiety surrounding his Invisibility being discovered and used against him. He has no rational reason for it. None at all. The fear is annoying, unreasonable, absolutely nonsensical, considering the whole world is full of magic. Like, AB knows no one would care about him being a Concealer beyond him cracking after years of dodging the particularly bold interviewers’ questions of where he falls on the list of categories.
But the real kicker, what makes this obsession of AB’s so much worse, is the absolute lack of proof to support the possibility of someone being able to manipulate him and his Invisibility just by Knowing he is. In fact, his Invisibility has always been tied to his emotions, so the obsessive way he fixates on being controlled and the compulsive way he avoids ever turning Invisible only further destabilizes his magic. Again, AB knows this. He does.
When it comes to magic, AB is his own worst enemy, but he can’t stop. He’s spent nearly five years in therapy, and he’s still plagued by the same insidious hell his mind has created for optimal torture. His intrusive thoughts are a terrible inconvenience that AB has spent an inordinate amount of time wallowing over, but despite her best efforts, AB can’t accept what Dr. Barnes says. Her end goal, since the beginning, has always been for AB to publicly Divulge and rob his intrusive thoughts of their power. Unfortunately, AB can’t even think about Divulging without breaking out in a cold sweat.
But therapy hasn’t been a useless waste of time. He is trying and he is making progress. Sort of. He hasn’t made as much progress as he should, but he’s made enough. He can now stay present when he’s anxious, no longer getting lost in his emotions to the point he has to run off and hide before he Conceals in front of people he’s never Divulged to. Hell, AB even survived a strange, and frankly traumatic, case of the Frits from two years ago that resulted in him Concealing the moment he stepped on stage at a sold-out Madison Square Garden.
Sure, the whole ordeal led to a spike in anxiety, a tightening of the grip the fear of being Known and controlled had over him, but the very thought never got the best of him. He never turned Invisible because of it. Which, in AB’s opinion, is a significant achievement, considering how Displaying in front of tens of thousands of strangers would’ve been a catastrophic, debilitating event at the start of his therapy journey.
AB thinks about going Invisible often. Thinks about the only indication he even had the Frits was the split second of spontaneous Concealment. About the two full weeks he spent monitoring for other symptoms that never appeared. About his Invisibility always coming with a spark and how the sensation at the Garden was wild and electrifying. How much more exhilarated he was on stage—as if the dial had been turned all the way up, maxed out. But mostly, AB thinks about the random times the same sensation has prickled beneath his skin while he wanders New York City—fast and intense but never as substantial as the one at the concert, never enough to bring on the Frits, not even a tiny blip of Invisibility.
He’s at brunch, smiling awkwardly as people recognize him on his mimosa-soaked trek to the bathroom, when the same electricity makes another appearance. This time, the sensation is accompanied by a sharp tug at his heart, and AB knows, deep in his bones, Invisibility will be inevitable no matter how hard he tries. He speeds to the bathroom; thankful the sensation doesn’t reach its peak until after the door shuts; annoyed as he checks to find his hand the same transparent purple he always is while Concealed.
Personally, AB thinks a lap full of mimosas is enough inconvenience for the day, but the universe doesn’t seem to agree. Not only can he not push the Invisibility down, but when he leans against the door to stop anyone else from coming in, and lets out a soft, frustrated groan, something clatters to the ground in front of him.
Because of course someone was already in here. Of course, AB couldn’t be spontaneously Invisible in peace. Of course, he already ruined his chance of getting out of the way without making a noise. Of course, this guy is staring at AB with wide bewildered eyes.
That’s not possible.
“What the fuck?”
Is AB shrieking? He’s definitely shrieking. But… “You can see me! You can see me? Can you see me?”
Not only can this absolutely beautiful man—no, this bro—see him, but he’s staring at AB with absolute wonder in his eyes. He opens his mouth but then shuts it with a click of his teeth; instead, he looks AB up and down with such a methodical intensity AB begins to fidget. AB wouldn’t consider himself a blusher, but every sweep of this guy’s eyes leaves AB burning. His gaze settles back on AB’s face before speaking, and when he does, AB thinks he must be hearing things—there’s no way.
Mr. Omnivision over there—because what else could he be?—purses his lips, then repeats, “I know this sounds ridiculous, but I think you’re my future Bondmate.”
AB might be short-circuiting. What the actual fuck! This guy, this gorgeous guy with his ridiculous sweatpants and his ridiculous backwards snapback and his ridiculous smile, can’t possibly be standing in front of him claiming they’re Bondmates. At brunch. While AB is covered in mimosa. This has to be fake.
Did he make an enemy of an Illusionist who’s messing with him? Is he seeing things? He must be seeing things. This guy has to be an Illusion.
“I can assure you I’m real,” Mr. Omnivision says, looking at his pants with bemusement before stepping forward with his hand outstretched. “Hi, I’m Matthew.”
Oh, great. He’s been thinking out loud.
AB knows he’s being rude—can faintly hear his mother’s voice chastising him in the back of his mind—but he can’t stop staring. Despite his awful outfit, which AB has apparently insulted to his face, Matthew is stunning. He has dirty-blond hair and a ridiculously strong jaw and a dusting of freckles. Which really isn’t fair—freckles are his kryptonite. How could he not stare?
“This isn’t going the way I’ve always imagined.”
Matthew drops his hand and awkwardly rocks back on his heels. The downward slope of his mouth knocks AB’s brain back online.
He thrusts his hand out. “Shit. Sorry for staring. And insulting you. I’m AB.”
“You also called me gorgeous, so I’ve decided to think of it as balancing out,” Matthew says, his mouth quirking as he takes AB’s hand.
AB is making a fool of himself, and he’d absolutely die of embarrassment if shit didn’t get downright weird when he takes Matthew’s hand in his. Simultaneously, bright golden light bursts from where their palms meet, and AB pops back into view.
“What the fuck?” AB squawks, snatching his hand away.
Even after breaking contact, the heat of Matthew’s hand burns against AB’s skin, and while he’s no longer Concealed, none of the electricity produced by their touch has dissipated. Instead, they’re encased in an invisible crackling bubble of it, as if the light of their handshake shocked the air surrounding them.
“So, that was weird,” Matthew says, after AB fails to add anything constructive to their conversation. He bites his lip, an indecipherable emotion flickering across his face, and then adds, “Uh. I kind of have to go? But I’m serious about what I said. And considering all of this—” He motions between them, pointedly staring at AB’s hand. “—I’m hoping you’ll give me a chance to explain?”
“Uh, like, can I…maybe get your number or…shit.”
Matthew fidgets with his hat, the tips of his ears burning. “Look, I don’t live under a rock. I know who you are and how this could…I don’t know, come off as some sort of ploy to get your attention? You mentioned this could be an Illusion, which I’m not, obviously, but I absolutely understand if you’re not comfortable giving me your number, but I’d really like to explain myself when we’re not in a bathroom and my impatient friends aren’t ten seconds away from storming in here to drag me out. Or maybe your email? Or—you have Twitter, right? Who doesn’t have Twitter? Well, I don’t have Twitter, but uh…Instagram? Or if you’re into face-to-face chats we could agree on a time and public place to meet up again? I’m running out of ideas here. What else is there?”
Matthew blushes, turning his sun-tanned skin an adorable shade of ruddy pink, and all AB can focus on are the freckles, darker on his nose than anywhere else. He’s staring again. Or maybe he never stopped staring, and really, AB should be mortified, but this has been such a strange encounter he doesn’t think Matthew can judge him. He’s running through all the ways entertaining Matthew’s declaration is a terrible idea, how he clearly caused the one thing AB is so obsessed with happening, how he should be running far, far away, when everything clicks into place.
“Were you, by any chance, at my concert when I played Madison Square Garden a couple years ago?”
Matthew furrows his brow. “Yes, but what does—wait. It wasn’t actually the Frits? You think I caused your Concealment? Or, well, our magics Reacting made you Invisible?”
“Wait, sorry… How can you possibly tell what type of Concealer I am?”
“A guy’s got to keep some secrets,” Matthew says with a slow, crooked smile. “Maybe I’ll tell you one day.”
The smile tips him over, and AB makes a decision Carson might actually murder him for.
“I’m not sure about Bondmates, but you’re certainly affecting my magic. Which intrigues me almost as much as it pisses me off. So yeah, give me your number.”
AB unlocks his phone and brings up a new contact page, then hands it to Matthew. “I’ll text you once I’ve decided whether or not meeting up with you is a dangerous idea or just recklessly irresponsible.”
Matthew snorts when he reads the name AB put him in as.
AB shrugs. “Well, aren’t you?”
Matthew’s face is dazzling when he smiles. “Yeah, you got me there.”