The tick thrums loudly in my ears and I almost mistake it for a headache. I press my free hand to my forehead, hoping to relieve the ache so I can get back to sleep, but my attempt is futile. The urge to jump is unbearable this time.
I crack my eye open, flinching with the pain that the morning light causes as it filters through the window and lands on my face. I try to lift my other hand to shield my eyes but it doesn’t budge. I roll my head over to see why it won’t move and realize it’s gone numb from being slept on by Kat. I move my other hand instead and wait for my eyes to adjust.
The memories of the night before come flooding back to me in a torrent. The tournament, the zombie fight, Morgana, a black spot where I don’t quite recall what happened, and then the bath. I grin to myself at that last memory; I don’t think I’ll find myself forgetting that one anytime soon.
The tick beats unevenly as I reminisce, prompting me to resume waking. I roll onto my side to look at Kat as she breathes softly in her sleep. Her expression is peaceful, hair dried in loose curls from going to bed damp after the bath. I feel a heat in my chest as I watch her sleeping and I try not to think about last night.
How does she have the power to make me feel this way? I reach my free hand out to stroke her hair over her shoulder. The action causes her to stir and I smile as her eyes flutter open, gazing at me.
“Morning,” I whisper.
Kat rubs her eye and yawns. “Is it morning already?”
“It is,” I continue to lay there, just watching. I am reluctant to move, not wanting to disturb the moment. Despite the insistent ticking, I feel strangely at peace.
She rolls over onto her back, stretching her arms above her head as her back arches up. “I guess we should get ready to go home. I wonder if they’ve noticed we were gone?” Her movement free’s my arm and I cringe as the feeling comes back into it. Pins and needles can be painful in the morning.
“Who?” I ask, I little distracted and confused. “Gone where?”
She tilts her head. “The Guild, Caroline, Kaede, Cliff… Who else?”
“Ohh,” I raise my eyebrows. I had completely forgotten about the others. I thought she meant the Guardians here and Arthur. My inner voice chuckles at my own stupidity. “I bet they’re worried sick. It’s been two weeks almost, right?”
Kat shrugs as she sits up. “I’ve disappeared for longer than that before.”
“Well,” I grin, “so have I, but I mean, we were on a mission and this time they were all waiting for us. Do you think they’d have called a search party? What if they’ve taken down -” I pause as I struggle to find the right pronoun to use for that freak of a guy Kaitlyn used to be friends with; nothing new comes to mind so I stick with, “him.”
Kat shakes her head. “Judging by the look on his face when he took off… I doubt he stopped running until he was far from that place. If they found where we were, they won’t find him.”
I frown at that likely scenario. We need a way to take him down and fast. Maybe, this time, we can get a team to corner him or something. I let the thought trail off as I notice Kat zoning, a dark expression on her face. I wonder curiously what she’s thinking about. When she doesn’t return I prop myself up on my elbow and gently shake her shoulder, calling her name.
“Kaitlyn? Earth to Kaitlyn!”
She blinks a few times, coming out of a daze. “Sorry,” she blushes with a little smile.
“You don’t have to apologize. What were you thinking about?” I ask, settling back against the headboard.
She grimaces. “You probably don’t want to know…”
“You don’t trust me to hold it together?” I ask, a little heartbroken, though, she’s probably right. Lately, I haven’t been able to hold myself together when it comes to things related to ‘him’ or Arthur and her.
She frowns with innocent wide eyes. “No, it’s not that. It’s just…” she trails off.
“Just what?” I prod.
“More violent than you might expect from me…” she mumbles as she turns away.
“I wouldn’t blame you,” I find myself saying, comforting her. “The things he did to you, I am surprised you haven’t acted sooner,” I frown, thinking about how placid she was when we first met, and it all makes sense. I should try not to say things like this maybe… we can’t change the past.
She stares at her palm for a moment, before raising her gaze and smiling at me. “Things are different now.”
I nod in agreement. “You’re right, they are. I shouldn’t say it like that.”
“Well, we can’t do anything about him from here,” she teases.
The tick thurms extra loud as she says this and I know that it is agreeing with her comment. I get the hint and throw the sheet off, placing my feet on the cold stone and standing. I look around for my clothes. “You’re right. We should get moving. We need to say goodbye and get back to our time. I think we’ve waited long enough.”
I throw on the wrinkly clothes with the intent to change in my own room in a moment. When I’ve fastened the belt I turn to face Kat, who is slipping into a simple dress. “So, besides the strange events that occurred while we were here, how do you like jumping?” I ask.
She frowns as she tugs at the fabric, trying to make it sit right. “Honestly, I don’t really remember the first time.”
“I mean, to the past,” I grin. I wouldn’t expect her to remember the jump itself.
“Oh,” she giggles. “It’s amazing. Like living in a fairytale.”
I smile, happy that the experience was somewhat memorable and left a good impression. “I’m glad. Maybe we can do it again sometime, when we aren’t in need of healing and stuff,” I shrug.
Her cheeks flush. “I’d like that. Especially the ‘not in need’ part.”
“Alright!” I laugh. “Well, I should, uhh… get some clean clothes. I’ll be back,” I say, moving towards the door. I look back as I pull it open and see a distressed look on her face. “What is it? What’s wrong?” I ask, a little worried. Then I clue in, she’s worried about Arthur. “Want to come with me?” I offer.
She nods quickly. Dashing over to the desk and grabbing a couple of leather bound books before following. Rhoan crawls out from under the bed and falls in line at her heels. I lead them over to my room, slipping in quietly and latching the door shut once we’re all inside. I rummage through a pile of clean tunics on my bed, left there after the tournament from the day before. I suppose the servants knew I would be back later to change. I find the same ceremonious over shirt from the first day and decide it’d be a nice touch for leaving.
It takes me only a few moments to change, but I feel her gaze on me as I do, blushing at the attention. I try to distract her with a question. “So, what were the books you grabbed?” I pull on the tunic over the white undershirt and fidget with the belt.
She looks confused. “The journals.”
My eyes grow wide as I remember the journal she gave me. “I completely forgot! I’m so sorry!”
She laughs. “I remembered, so it’s okay.”
I let out a relieved sigh. Once I’m dressed I strap on the rapier I got from the Guild and double check my room for any other possessions I might have forgotten about. Then I face Kat, arms wide and a smile on my face. “What do you think? Am I forgetting anything else?”
Her eyes trace over me carefully and she shakes her head. Glancing at the books in her arms, she chews her lip, “Maybe we should ask for a bag to carry these…”
“I suppose we could ask Merlin if he’s around. Then we could find Ceph and Elias,” I frown, wondering what we should do in regards to formality. “And, if you’re ok with it, we should formally say goodbye to the King and Queen, unless you want to just sneak away,” I wink, stepping close to her and wrapping my arms around her waist, pulling her close.
Her breath hitches and her face turns pink again. It’s so cute. “Tempting… I want to say goodbye to Merlin, and Eli… and Ceph too, I guess,” she smirks playfully.
“You guess? What’s that smirk for?” I say softly, chuckling as my hands make her self-conscious. It’s really cute. She shrugs one shoulder, looking away, but now I’m too curious to let that slide. “What? Are you still mad at him?” I ask incredulously.
“Mad? No… Not mad,” she pouts. “But I don’t think he likes me much since I was so mean to him…”
I frown, pushing her shoulders back so I can see her face. “Don’t say such ridiculous things. Ceph wouldn’t hate you for something that wasn’t entirely your fault. You were being magically influenced by Morgana. I wouldn’t superimpose your guilt onto him just yet. Let’s go get a bag and find them so you can see for yourself, OK?” She nods once, a skeptical pout on her lips.
“Come on,” I jest, twisting my hand into hers and pulling her towards the door. I make my way down the all too familiar hall to Merlin’s room. The door stands open a jar so I peak my head in to see if he’s there. I spy him hunched over the glass tubes, brewing a new potion. I push the door the rest of the way open and enter.
“Good morning Merlin. How are you?” I ask, pulling Kat in after me.
The older man lifts his head with a hum. “Ah, Andrei, Kaitlyn. I wasn’t sure you’d say goodbye before you left.”
I can’t believe he’d think so low of us to not say goodbye. I cross my arms, though he doesn’t see, being distracted by the bubbling over of a jar hanging above a candle. “We would never do such a low thing as to not say goodbye. Not after all the help you have given us. We wanted to thank you, and also,” I say, gesturing to Kaitlyn’s books, “we wanted to know where we might get a bag of sorts to carry these home,” I say.
Merlin glances over, his face scrunching up in thought. “A bag…? Hm… I suppose you can take one from that rack by the door. I can have a new one made later,” he turns back to the bottle. “I did not mean to offend. I simply thought after the events of yesterday evening, the pair of you were quite eager to leave as soon as possible.”
“We are, but I don’t like leaving without thanking you for your hospitality, and all the help you gave us in regards to healing and other things. I often don’t get the chance to say goodbye after a jump, that is until recently. I have been gaining more and more control lately and I hope I can start to make this a habit,” I gesture to Kat to get the bag. “Do you know where we might find Ceph and Elias? We want to thank them too,” I add.
“I put them in a room just around the corner, past the ones you were in,” he waves in the general direction. “I am glad I could help you two. Perhaps we will meet again one day.”
“I’d like that,” I say. I feel this trip had a different kind of agenda for us, but I find myself thinking about how it would be nice to spend a jump with Merlin, maybe when he’s not Arthur’s main attendant. I turn back to the door with a smile, taking one last look at the wizards cramped study. “Thanks for your advice too, I will try to remember it, when I get back to my time.”
“I hope you do,” Merlin turns, his gaze falls on Kaitlyn. He nods once, deep and slow with a slight smile. She mimics the motion, though looking a little confused. I wonder for a moment then slide out the door. I walk back down the hall.
“I didn’t realize they were the next room over,” I blush, hoping they couldn’t hear us last night. I reach the door and rap my knuckles on the back in a musical pattern to let them know I’m here. I hear a chair scrape and steps coming towards the door. I step back, waiting.
“Hello,” I hear Ceph’s deep voice as the door swings open. He is dressed, a loose, untied tunic hangs about his shoulders. I haven’t seen him so casually dressed before now. It takes me a bit by surprise. I spot Elias, still buried beneath the covers in the bed. “Are you…” I hesitate, a bit confused, “sharing a room?”
Ceph looks at me with indifference. “Yes…” He says slowly, his ears turning bright red. “To save on rooms…” he stutters.
Kat snorts quietly, coughing to cover it up.
I look over my shoulder at her, one eyebrow raised. “Well, we’ll be leaving today, so feel free to take one of our rooms. It might be more comfortable,” I suggest. I feel like I’m left out of some sort of inside joke and I look back at Kat hoping to see her give it away. She’s a terrible liar.
She raises her hand to hide her smile as I frown. “What? What am I missing?” I ask them both. Ceph just turns a deeper shade of red. What’s he blushing for?
Kat clears her throat, struggling to keep a straight face as she leans in to whisper. “Andrei, I don’t think they want another room,” she stresses.
I shake my head. “Why wouldn’t they -” and I stop suddenly as the joke finally dawns on me. I’m stunned into silence, looking between Ceph and Kat, I feel a look of surprise on my face. “They’re… you’re… to-gether?” I ask, putting my pointer fingers together. Now it’s my turn to blush.
Kat covers her mouth with both hands, her whole body shaking as she holds in her laughter. A few tears well up in her eyes.
I don’t get why it’s so funny. “Am I the only one who didn’t know? Come on, stop laughing, it’s not that funny!” Ceph just slides back into the room, making room for Kat and me to enter.
“I’m sorry,” Kat continues to giggle. “I can’t believe you didn’t know.”
“Well, in my defense, it’s not like they disclosed that information. How was I supposed to know?” I ask her. I guess my voice is a little loud as Elias stirs in the bed. “How did you find out?”
Kat sighs as she shakes her head and steps into the room. “It doesn’t matter… You know now.”
“As you are well aware, in the past, our kind of… relationship is not acceptable. We try to be as discreet as possible. Kaitlyn, though, is very observant, I see. I should be concerned if you were able to tell,” Ceph says quietly, standing next to the table with a slouched posture.
Kat fidgets, staring down at the floor. “It’s hard to hide that level of adoration. Sometimes you just can’t help it. It’s not your fault,” she explains.
I watch as Ceph just stands there, looking at the ground. I see all the signs now, the lingering eyes, the gentle demeanor, the proper mannerisms all designed to shift the attention to something else. And obviously the blushing, but that’s just an in-the-moment give away. I feel a pang in my chest for their secret love. I can only imagine how hard it must be, originating from the past when that kind of thing was seen as wrong, and dirty.
Ceph glances at the bed as Eli yawns, finally waking up.
The redhead squints as he sits up, shirtless with sheets tangled around his waist. He looks around the room, confused with all the people present. “What’s going on?”
I look to Ceph, I don’t want to explain.
Ceph smiles at him, one corner of his mouth lifting slightly as Eli watches us with a confused look.
“They found out El. I’m a terrible liar,” he sighs with melancholy.
Eli’s brow creases. “I thought they already knew… Sis and I talked about it days ago,” he looks to me. “She didn’t tell you?”
I shake my head. Ceph visibly relaxes. “You mean, I didn’t give it away? You told her?” he asks.
Eli scratches his head. “Didn’t have to.”
“We have to be careful El. I know they are from the future, but what if it was someone else? Or the King? We’d never be allowed back here, whether we are Guardians or not,” he warns.
Eli raises an eyebrow. “Merlin doesn’t seem to care. Why would Arthur?”
The tension returns to Ceph’s posture. “He’s the King. His father would not approve, maybe he is the same.”
“His father is dead,” Eli replies bluntly. “Your opinions don’t matter when you’re dead.”
Ceph just shoots him a worried glance. I feel like this is a conversation they’ll continue later.
“Anyway, we came to, uhh…” I interject, “thank you for all your help training and stuff. We’re going to try heading back to our time.”
Eli’s eyes open wider. “You’re leaving already?”
“Yes,” Kat replies quickly. “We have unfinished business in our time. now that we’ve recovered, we should probably head back.”
“We’d like to get back and deal with things. We really appreciate all the help. We couldn’t have, well, you know, got stronger and learned more about our respective elements without you,” I turn to Ceph. “You may not make notes now, but I found notes in books back home, written with your name. So, maybe you will in the future. I could really use your clues, trying to teach myself more about time magic and all without a physical teacher.”
He looks at me and smiles. “I’ll do my best to leave you some crumbs. I guess you’re my first student.”
I smile back with thanks. “Maybe one day you can jump to our time. I really wish there was more time to learn from you,” I pause as the ticking in my ears presses harder.
“You shouldn’t suppress it, if it’s calling you to jump,” Ceph warns. I look up at him, surprised he can tell.
“Is that what this feeling is?” I chuckle. “I hope I don’t kill myself trying to learn how to manage this,” I joke.
His expression turns dark. “Don’t kid about it. There was a time mage who did just that. Time can be a dangerous magic if not used correctly. Be careful,” he says.
“I will. I’ll try,” I assure him.
“Good luck in the future, Sis. I can’t wait to see how we’ve both grown, next time we meet,” Eli grins.
Kat laughs. “You’ll have to visit us then. We have rooms designed to minimize collateral damage,” She pauses, lowering her voice sadly. “I hope you do.”
The moment feels a little too tender, so I cough awkwardly. “We would rather not disturb the King, but would you disagree if we left now, without saying anything to him?” I ask, just to be sure.
Ceph looks to Eli with a shrug. Eli shakes his head with indifference. “If you care for the formality, I’d say something. Otherwise, El and I can mention that you had pressing matters to attend to,” Ceph offers.
I look at Kat, watching her anxious expression. “We’d greatly appreciate that.”
“Goodbye Andrei, Kaitlyn, and Rhoan. It was a pleasure,” he nods. Eli waves from the bed as we turn for the door.
“Bye!” I call, stepping into the hall. “Man, it feels good to actually say goodbye,” I tell Kat as we walk back to her room. It is closer after all.
“I find goodbyes hard enough when in the same time. Knowing that they don’t exist in our time… makes it even sadder,” she muses quietly.
“It does, but that’s why it’s nice to say goodbye. I’ve rarely had that opportunity, you know, to properly end things. I always just jump in and out of their lives without warning. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
She smiles knowingly. “I can understand that. That said, I’m more than ready to say goodbye to this place.”
I know what she means. Despite it being the Camelot of legends, I have had my share of medieval times for a while.
We stand in her room, the mid-morning light casting a warm ray on us. It’s hot on my back, like being on the beach in Hawaii. Her hair seems to glow alive like real flames in the sun’s light. It’s stunning, I can hardly look at anything else. She smiles up at me, waiting. I nervously step towards her.
“I’m not exactly sure how we did this last time. You pushed me to jump with you. Ceph mentioned something about maintaining contact. Are you ready?” I ask her, reaching out a hand.
She reaches up, wrapping her arms around my neck, resting her head under my chin as she presses her body against mine. I feel a tingling sensation as she hugs me close. “Absolutely,” she mumbles. I can’t help but smile.
I release the pressure of the constant ticking and watch as the blue sparks leap across my arms and around us both. I squeeze her tightly against me, holding her for dear life as we are flung backward off the ground.
The ribbons of time return, a mirage of colours flashing around us as we gently tumble towards nothing. I look around, trying to determine our time. Kaitlyn remains still in my arms, I feel her breath on my neck and I get goosebumps on my skin. I look up and catch sight of the ribbon that glows a bit more brightly than the others. I feel like that’s the one. I raise one hand towards it, hugging Kaitlyn with the other as I grasp the time.
I feel a jolt as the ribbon yanks me towards it and we are flung back into our own time. I stumble backward as gravity suddenly returns to us and struggle to maintain my grip on Kaitlyn at the same time. I fall back, landing hard on my butt, Kaitlyn on top. Lights flash before my eyes with the pain and when I look at Kaitlyn, she seems different. I see black hair framing her face, a face that isn’t quite her’s, and ruby red lipstick.
I blink, trying to dispel the pain and the strange image. I look again, and she’s just herself, red curls hanging from her unmade face, brow creased with worry.
I smile back. “All, good. You?”
She nods. “I’m fine… How are you feeling?”
I smile through my cringe. “I might have a bruise, other than that, I’m good.” I lie.
She hums with a frown, before getting to her feet. Her eyes scan the room, like a hawk searching for a mouse. “Doesn’t look like anyone has been here for a while,” she observes.
I look around, seeing what she sees. “You’re right,” I stand up, brushing my pants off. “Think we can get out of this cell then? Seeing as we’re stuck on the inside?” I ask, walking over to the bars and leaning against them. They swing open and I stumble out of the cell. “That was easy. Wow,” I chuckle with surprise.
Kat rolls her eyes and snickers. “Great work, Sherlock. Though, maybe next time we should be a little more wary of potential traps.”
I grin at her from outside the cell, resting my hands on my hips. “Nah, it’s all good,” I make a mental note of her suggestion though. It seems smarter than stumbling into a magic laid trap.
“So, what’s the plan? If he’s not here, how do you think we get out of here? Also, where is here?” I ask. I turn as I hear heavy steps echo down the hall. I gasp in shock as I recognize the hulking shape of Cliff barreling towards us. Kat ducks back into the cell just as Cliff makes connect, squeezing the life out of me. I feel my spine crack and I can’t breathe.
“Wow! You really are here!” he booms. I wait for him to let me go before gasping for air, coughing and rubbing my back. Someone needs to teach him how to greet guests, seriously!
“What are you doing here?” Kat asks with a suspicious tone.
“We traced the transportation spell from the office building you entered! We managed to locate this place as the delivery end of that spell. We’ve been taking turns, my crew and I, watching for your safe return, as per Kaede’s tip that you’d probably return to the place you left from.”
“How’d he know where we left from?” I ask, wheezing, still a little dazed.
“He said he tracked the GPS signal on Kaitlyn phone. We found her phone down the hall in a disturbingly decorated cell. I have to say, I don’t much like this guys style. A little kinky for me,” he shakes his head.
I try not to think about what the cell down the hall looks like, thanking God for Kaede’s tech brains. If it weren’t for him, would Cliff have found this place at all? I wonder.
“But you two, you look well and healthy! This makes me very happy! We have been worried sick! Caroline won’t stop insisting we involve the headmistress. It is difficult to calm her down,” he continues.
“She was right,” Kaitlyn replies seriously. “You should have.”
His eyes look between us before he responds. “I had to be sure before I involved her. You weren’t the only ones in these cells. We found another while we were waiting for your safe return,” he says darkly.
“We almost didn’t have one,” she mutters, her eyes tracing the dark stains splashed across the concrete floor. “Where is this other person?” I frown at the seriousness of her tone, not following her gaze, but choosing to remain fixed on Cliff’s expression.
“Down the hall. I’ve informed the Headmistress of the events leading up to now after we discovered the girl,” he says, turning and beckoning us to follow him. “The Headmistress said to find out if the girl was friend or foe, but so far, she hasn’t said a word… well, until just now. I don’t know how she knew you’d returned.”
I freeze in my tracks when my eyes fall on the skeletal figure sitting the cell. Food boxes litter the floor around her, but their contents lay untouched. I can hardly tell if she really is a girl or not. I take a step back as Kaitlyn bravely steps towards her.
Did he do this? Did ‘he’ do this to her? My mind races against my will, and I have to force it not jump to conclusions as I listen and watch carefully from the hallway. As I wait, I notice it, like Kaitlyn taught me on the first day we met. I see the aura, the faint glow of light around the figure in the cell and I know instantly, she has magic.
By Kayla West