Girl Genius fic: Fate in a Bottle
When Gil left for university, he knew it would be filled with wondrous new experiences. He just never thought he’d be trapped in a room with a dozen students, Tarvek Sturmvoraus, and a mysterious bottle on the floor.
2,164 words | [PG-13]
“Okay, mes cheris,” Colette said, clapping her hands, “everyone take a seat in a circle—it’s time to play a game.” She went around the room, closing the curtains and tossing pillows onto the floor.
The other students giggled and got comfortable. Gil just stood there, confused. Across the room, Tarvek looked equally baffled.
“Come on, boys, don’t be shy.”
Colette’s words were soft and friendly, but there was an edge of an order to them, and no one argued with the Master’s daughter. Gil dutifully plopped down on a pillow. Tarvek took a little more convincing by the hushed but tense conversation he had with Colette. Eventually, he sat, too. Colette always got her way. He definitely didn’t look happy about it, though. Or maybe it was just Gil he was unhappy with because he hadn’t stopped glaring across the circle since he entered the room a few minutes after Gil.
Gil swallowed hard and turned his attention to the game, trying to suss out the rules before they started. The group of about twenty students, equal numbers of boys and girls, gathered in the circle on their pillows. An empty glass bottle sat in the center of the circle. Gil couldn’t guess what it was for.
Colette took center stage. “All right people, settle down. Settle down!” The noise instantly ceased causing Colette to smile. “All right, you know the rules, so let’s keep this fair. No drama-”
Gil slowly raised his hand, knowing he was probably going to regret this but needing to know the answer more.
Colette paused her instructions. “Yes, Gilgamesh?”
“Um, I don’t actually know the rules.”
That got a laugh out of everyone in the circle. Except Tarvek. His eyes just narrowed, jaw set tight. Gil sunk down on his pillow and tried to look like none of it bothered him, but inside, he was instantly back in Castle Wulfenbach being laughed at by the other kids for not knowing the simplest things. Or just for existing in some cases.
The girl sitting next to him, Alexia, giggled. “You don’t know how to play spin-the-bottle? Where are you from?”
“Maybe he’s from Mars,” said another girl Gil didn’t know.
Gil frowned at his feet in front of him—his heart in his throat as the childhood flashbacks intensified. He pushed down all the hurt and humiliation then mumbled, “I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up.”
Alexia looked away, her cheeks tinting pink. Gil sighed and considered leaving to save himself anymore indignity. Of course, he’d have to see these same people in class and around campus so it wouldn’t really matter.
“Actually, Colette, I’d like to know the rules as well,” Tarvek said over the growing laughter. “This isn’t exactly a game I learned in all of my schooling at Sturmhalten.”
Gil glanced up at him, thankful, but quickly looked away from the angry intensity in Tarvek’s eyes. He should have left when he had the chance.
Colette clapped for everyone’s attention again. “I said no drama. Gil and Tarvek shouldn’t be shamed for their ignorance. It’s not their fault they’re completely socially stunted.” More whispers but these were less insulting. Gil relaxed some. Tarvek seemed less amused by Colette’s brush off.
“So this is spin-the-bottle,” Colette continued, picking up the bottle. “When it’s your turn, you spin it like this.” She gave it a twist then waited until it stopped, pointing at Gustavo. The boy flushed as dark as Tarvek’s hair. Colette smiled then knelt in front of him. “And then you kiss.”
Gil was sure Gustavo might actually faint when she pecked his lips. Gil himself blushed despite how chaste it was. This was a kissing game! He’d heard of them on Castle Wulfenbach but had never been invited to play. He was suddenly rethinking his fleeing options. People were laughing at his discomfort again, but he was too nervous to notice.
Colette ignored them all. “And now it’s Gus’ turn to spin. Now the rules—there’s no refusing the kiss. Lips and cheeks are fair game, but we’re going to laugh if you choose the cheek because we’re not babies.” Everyone giggled.
“Wait,” Gustavo said, hand on the bottle, “what if it lands on another boy?”
“Then you kiss,” said Colette, eyelashes batting in innocence. “No drama, got it?”
He sighed then spun the bottle as Colette took her seat. Lucky for him, it landed on Janette who quickly bounced across the circle to give him a quick kiss. And so it went. Gil watched as the other students took their turns. Alexia tapped his leg then handed him a bottle of wine which he eagerly took a slug from. That bottle went around almost as often as the spinning one.
Gil had gotten three sips of wine before the bottle landed on him. He swallowed hard as Celeste coyly signaled him over with a finger. She was sitting right next to Tarvek. Gil sighed inwardly then crawled over the bottle and leaned in to kiss Celeste. Only she didn’t allow the simple peck like most of the others. Her fingers twisted in his hair, holding him in place long enough for him to taste the fruity gloss on her lips—strawberry.
He stumbled back when she finally let go and barely registered the catcalls. He blinked in surprise then caught Tarvek glaring at him. He quickly made his way back to his pillow. Alexia punched him playfully on the shoulder and passed the wine—a new bottle. He took a swig and spun the bottle on the floor, landing on Iliana, three spots over.
Several rounds later, the free-flowing wine was starting to loosen Gil up, and he actually found himself enjoying the party when Colette suddenly grabbed the bottle as it spun on Lester’s turn. She stood in front of Tarvek with the wine she’d snatched from Misha. “Take it,” she said in that soft yet commanding way she had.
Tarvek stared up at her. “I don’t drink alcohol.”
“Oh, honey, no one believes that. You are stiff as a board and we’re among friends. Loosen up.”
Tarvek crossed his arms, resolutely.
“Come on, Tarvek. It’s just for fun. You do know what fun is, right.”
Gil cringed. How could Colette be so cruel when moments ago she’d saved Gil from utter social destruction? “He doesn’t have to drink if he doesn’t want to,” Gil said without thinking. Maybe he should cut back on the wine himself.
Tarvek turned his scowl on Gil. “I don’t need your help.” He grabbed the bottle and swallowed several gulps before handing it to Celeste.
Colette looked between them, brow furrowed then turned back to Tarvek. “Good, now it’s your turn.”
“Hey,” Lester protested, but Aimee sitting next to him kissed him on the cheek to shut him up.
Tarvek’s hand hesitated over the bottle a moment before he took a deep breath and spun it, landing on Colette. She smiled brightly.
“See how that works.”
They both crawled to the center and kissed softly. Gil felt a sudden twist in his chest he couldn’t place and looked away. After that, the bottle of wine went around a few more times. Everyone got a lot louder and rowdier with the kissing. Colette landed on Celeste and got the same treatment Gil had only Colette seemed to appreciate the approach a lot more. Then poor Gustavo landed on Peter and reluctantly pecked him on the cheek. Everyone threw bits of their snacks at him. Gustavo only shrugged as he retook his place and Peter spun.
Eventually, the bottle pointed back at Gil, getting him a kiss from Alexia who even blushed. Gil bit his lip as he picked up the bottle. He’d had more than enough wine to loosen his inhibitions and was already considering who he might get to kiss next. Celeste waved and now Gil was blushing, but then he made the mistake at glancing at Tarvek who for once didn’t look angry, just resigned. To what Gil had no idea—Tarvek looked away before he could figure it out.
Gil spun and waited as the bottle settled on Rosa-maria sitting on Tarvek’s other side. Or he thought. He blinked and the bottle suddenly pointed at Tarvek instead. His entire nervous system seized up. He couldn’t breathe or swallow or move. The only thing working was his heart that was beating right out of his chest. Tarvek just stared at the bottle like he expected it to jump up and bite him.
On one side, Celeste pouted, on the other, Rosa-maria folded her hands in her lap and innocently looked anywhere but at Gil. He frowned, glanced at the equally innocent look on Colette’s face and his heart sank. This was a set-up. Why would she do that? He thought Colette was his friend. Colette glared at him and jerked her chin towards Tarvek. Gil shook his head. This was going to end badly. If Tarvek didn’t take a swing at him, he’d be surprised.
“Kiss, kiss, kiss.” The chant started softly to his right but grew. No one had refused a kiss yet. What did he do? If only Tarvek would give him a clue—preferably one that didn’t end with Tarvek’s fist in Gil’s face.
Finally, Tarvek looked up, but instead of the anger Gil expected to see, there was just sad confusion. His chest clenched, he never wanted to see Tarvek make that face ever again.
Colette cleared her throat and nodded towards Tarvek again. Gil had to do something. Slowly, he crawled across the space. He guessed he’d leave it up to Tarvek to accept or reject him. The whole thing was eating him alive, and it settled dully in his gut. He stopped a foot from Tarvek and tried to catch his eye.
Just tell me what to do!
Tarvek bit his lip before finally meeting Gil’s gaze, but now Gil couldn’t stop looking at Tarvek’s mouth. He finally forced his eyes back to Tarvek’s. How much time had passed? He couldn’t hear anything but the rush of blood inside his own head. Tarvek swallowed hard. Gil had never seen him look so uncertain, and in that moment, Gil had never felt so utterly sure of what he wanted to do. Before he could think better of it, he leaned forward and pressed his lips against Tarvek’s.
They were plump and soft just like they looked and tasted vaguely of the wine and salty crackers they’d been eating. Gil waited for Tarvek to react, but he did nothing, and it was almost as painful as if he’d physically punched him.
Five more seconds, Gil gave himself. Five more seconds to relish the feel of Tarvek this close before he let reality back in.
He took a deep breath, readying himself.
Disappointment sunk his heart into his toes.
Gil pulled away, feeling like an idiot, but Tarvek’s hand shot out, grabbing his shirt, pulling him close again. This kiss was nothing like any of the other kisses he’d seen that night. Tarvek was rough and greedy and was that his tongue? Whoa. And Gil refused to let Tarvek feel that agonizing disappointment he’d been crushed with moments ago, letting his fingers slide into Tarvek’s hair.
He wasn’t sure how long the kiss lasted, but Gil was out of breath when they finally separated. All around them, people hooted and whistled their approval, Colette loudest of all. Tarvek’s pupils were shot, and he stared at Gil, mouth partly open. Gil wondered if he looked just as dumbfounded.
“Finally,” Colette shouted, jumping to her feet. “Now that that’s over maybe we can go have some real fun.”
The other students started to get up. Gil vaguely registered Ana-maria and Colette exchanging thumb’s up. Definitely a set-up. Gil wasn’t sure if he cared anymore. Everyone was ignoring them as they picked up pillows and snack bowls, laughing and chattering about whatever. Gil didn’t care. He couldn’t stop staring at Tarvek, waiting for him to do something. Anything. Even hit him.
He took a deep breath. “Tarvek?”
Tarvek suddenly blinked, eyes darting away. For a second, Gil’s heart sank, but then Tarvek looked back, determination in his eyes.
“I’ve wanted to do that for so long,” he whispered.
Gil couldn’t have been more surprised. “But you hate me.”
Tarvek snorted. “In my experience, love and hate aren’t mutually exclusive.”
They both seemed to realize the meaning of Tarvek’s words at the same time. Their eyes got big then a smirk slid onto Gil’s face. “You lov-”
Tarvek shut him up with another kiss as Colette flipped off the lights and shut the door behind the exiting students.
Nobody saw Gil and Tarvek again until classes on Monday where they both tried to pretend they weren’t just holding hands as they slipped into the room.