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23 – In Which Timothée Follows the Voice in His Mind

23 – In Which Timothée Follows the Voice in His Mind

Timothée’s head was full of shadows and fire, and a voice that was not his own. After he had been released from the infirmary, Rayna had caught him in hallways, saying Vivian was in tears. Of course he’d gone to her. He’d spent hours sitting with his sisters until finally Vivian had cried herself to sleep. Now it was the middle of the night, and he crept out of the Morning Star common room.

Vivian had ended everything with Darius. His heart ached for her. Was it because of the things Darius had said during the Dark Prophet’s vision—killing the vampires? Maybe a part of it, but Timothée suspected it was much deeper.

Vivian was getting sicker.

And there was nothing anyone could do to help her.

It wasn’t fair. They were at the Celestial Academy for Fallen Stars: the most magical place in the entire world. There had to be answers.

Or had there been answers through the Prophet’s dark door? His head swam and he stumbled, catching himself on the wall.

The Dark Prophet.

It was you beside me.

Timothée ran a hand through his hair. More than anything, he wanted to collapse into his bed and sleep.

Well, there was something he wanted more, but that would require Valentine not killing him.

Would Val be angry? The last time he had seen Val, he’d been passed out in the bathtub from the overly potent sleeping draft Timothée had brewed. And then Timothée had refused to give him the antidote…

He pushed open the doors to the Cauldron. The main room was crowded. Classes had been cancelled and the dining hall and grounds were closed so everyone was here.

Timothée realized this was the first time he’d been in front of his classmates since the ball. The ball where he’d dressed as Noctis and ignored everything in the entire world except Val’s mouth on his.

Now he couldn’t ignore all the eyes that turned to him, staring at him in the doorway of the Cauldron: barefoot, with dried blood on his collarbone, and hickeys on his neck.

But there was no lilac gaze in the crowd.

“Ahh!” Erik Borstigsson laughed. “Our resident godling has returned. How did it feel to be rescued by your little sister?”

Terrifying, Timothée thought. Because while he may have played at being a god on All Hallow’s Eve, Marion had been one.

One of fire and death.

But he just looked at Erik lounging on the couch and shrugged. “Marion’s been saving me my whole life. And besides,” he added, “she’s older than me.”

Erik gave a grunt of indignation. He had a bandage on his arm and chest. Timothée noticed many of the Starlings nursed injuries.

The mercenaries were sent for me.

A wave of guilt flooded through him.

“Let our little godling rest, won’t you?” Carmilla rose from the crowd and grabbed his arm. “Come with me.”

He walked with her up the stairs toward his dorm.

“It seems you’ve had quite the night.” She ran a hand over the marks Val had left on his neck, then over his bandaged collarbone where Allistar’s rapier had sliced him. “Don’t worry. You can tell me all about it after you’ve slept.”

Timothée sighed then looked up the stairs. “Have you seen Val?”

“He came down a little while ago looking for you.”

Well, at least the potion didn’t kill him. “Uh, did he tell you what happened?”

“In great detail.” She scrunched her nose. “Are you nervous to see him? I wouldn’t worry. By the sounds of it, nothing much happened between you two.”

Timothée’s heart clenched. “I guess.”

“I know you had your little show in front of the ballroom. I’m sure it added to your intrigue. That Val is a quick thinker. We all play our parts of pretend on All Hallow’s Eve.”

Was that what Val had said to her? That it was all pretend?

“I thought…” What had he thought? Of course, it was a show. Val hadn’t even been willing to call him by his name.

“Listen.” Carmilla narrowed her eyes. “Valentine loves a spectacle, and that’s what you were last night. I don’t want you to get hurt. Val doesn’t do the whole Vivian-Darius thing.”

Vivian and Darius didn’t even do the Vivian and Darius thing anymore.

“It’s not like I haven’t messed around with people before.” Timothée’s entire face heated. “It’s just they haven’t been my roommate.”

Carmilla gave a twinkling laugh and shook his arm. “Oh, don’t worry, Timothée. By the sounds of it, what you and Val did was incredibly tame for him. I doubt he’ll give it a second thought.”

Timothée hadn’t stopped thinking about it except for when he was almost killed by an ancient vampire. And even then he had wondered: if he were to die, would Val ever wake up, and if he didn’t, would Yvaine eat his body to survive?

“Yeah, me neither,” Timothée lied, and ran a hand through his hair.

“You look tired, little Greywick. It must be exhausting to pretend to be a god and then be hunted like one all night.” Carmilla perked up on her toes and kissed his cheek. “I’ll see you after you rest.”

Carmilla hadn’t said anything he didn’t already know, but it made his insides roil anyways. What version of Val would be waiting behind that door? There had been so many different sides of him Timothée had seen last night.

But he still couldn’t think about the moment right before the mercenaries attacked when they were kissing. It had felt…different. Special.

Slowly, Timothée opened the door to his room.

The bookcase had been moved back to its original position. Val was lying on his bed, a book on his lap, and Yvaine at his feet, a purple bow around her neck.

“What did you do to my cat?” Timothée crossed the room and picked up Yvaine. Her dark fur was soft and brushed, and she softly blinked her blue eyes at him.

“Well, you insisted on us spending so much quality time together.” Val slammed his book shut. “Now she doesn’t look like a mangy stray.”

Yvaine gave a meow of indignation and leapt from Timothée’s arms.

“H-how…” Timothée stumbled. “How are you feeling?”

“Better than you apparently.” Val’s judgmental gaze raked up and down, stopping at the cut on Timothée’s collarbone. “You smell like smoke and blood.”

“About that…” Timothée said. “My sister decided to incinerate dozens of mercenaries in front of me, and I got sliced by a vampire.”

“How am I supposed to know when you poisoned me and locked me in the bathroom?”

Timothée grabbed a pile of his clothes. “You drank it yourself.”

Val’s expression gave him nothing. He was just lying there, wearing a dark purple shirt and loose pants. “I should have known you’d mess up even the simplest of potions.”

Timothée pushed aside the curtain that separated the bathroom from their room. He dropped his clothes and jumped into the shower, wishing he could wash off every bit of the night before. And not wanting to at the same time. What are you thinking, Val?

Timothée’s blood was still humming with magic. He’d almost forgotten about it, but here in this quiet room, he could feel it echoing again.

There had been such a draw to that door…

“So, you made enemies of a couple vampires.” Val’s voice was close. He must be standing right outside the bathroom.

Timothée shut off the water, threw on fresh clothes, and still behind the safety of the curtain, said: “They were here to kill me. That’s what the whole attack was for. So another Noctis couldn’t rise again or whatever. They almost succeeded too. But…but the Dark Prophet came. And he created this door out of his magic. And he wanted me to go with him—”

He drew back the curtain and Val was right in front of him. “Why didn’t you?”

It was at that moment he realized he had lied to Marion when he told her he would have never gone through.

There had been something waiting for him behind that door of darkness. “I almost did.”

Val turned, sighed. “Unfortunate. It seems like I’m still stuck with you in these close corridors.”

“Sorry for the inconvenience.”

He looked over his shoulder, lilac hair falling across his face. “I suppose I can endure.”

And then they were staring at each other, and Timothée realized the only thing he wanted to do was exactly what he had been doing right before the attack on the Academy.

Kiss Val.

I just want Val to like me as much as I like him.

“Don’t look at me like that.” Val didn’t break their gaze.

“Like what?” Timothée watched how the lines in Val’s jaws tighten, how the muscles in his neck moved when he swallowed.

“It’s unsettling.” Then Val was moving closer to him. “You really do call disaster to you.”

Timothée let out a long sigh. “What do you mean? It was only a fleet of ships and two vampire assassins.”

“They wouldn’t have gotten so close if you had just woken me up instead of locking me in here like a weak little cat.”

“Would you really have used your magic and risked your place at this academy, for me?”

“Is that so hard to believe?”

“A little…” Timothée stepped around him. He was exhausted, he wanted to sleep, he wanted to kiss Val. But he was terrified that any moment Val was going to laugh and say that everything that happened last night had meant nothing. “Last night I pretended to be Noctis. But what if I’m more like him than I thought?”

“You’re nothing like Noctis.”

“Enough like him for everyone at the Academy.” Special enough that you wanted to kiss me last night.

“All Hallow’s Eve is nothing but a night of pretend.” Val fell back to his bed.

Just like Carmilla said. Timothée’s heart stuttered. All pretend. Val hadn’t mentioned anything about them kissing or even tried to touch him again. He knew any moment, Val was going to laugh at him and how ridiculously desperate Timothée had been last night.