The twins walked in, grinning widely.
"Who's enchanting Arthur's girlfriend?" they teased.
"He must be so mad at you," Shaun said.
"Oh shut up," I said mildly.
To my surprise, Shaun's mouth clamped shut. From his eyes, I could see that he was as bewildered as me.
Simon didn't appear to notice as he said "But on a serious note, Henry, why is it that Harriet is so captivated by you?"
"Doesn't matter," I murmured, still trying to get my head around the fact that Shaun had obeyed me when I hadn't been using suggestion.
"Okay," Simon said numbly, in a very un-Simon-like way.
I looked at him sharply. There was no hint that this was a joke in his expression.
"Sit down," I said slowly, not really daring to hope my hypnotic tone lacking voice would have an effect on my younger brothers.
But, to their great alarm, they sat down, straight on the floor.
"What are you guys playing at?" I asked, half suspicious, half curious and therefore believing they actually couldn't help themselves.
"We're not!" they chorused indignantly.
It was at this point that Andrew walked in. Seeing the twins sat on the floor, he broke out into a wide grin.
"I like your style," he said to me.
"How has this happened?" Shaun cried angrily.
"He had no right to do this without gaining our trust," Simon yelled.
"He had no right to, end of!" Shaun shouted.
They glared at me.
"I didn't plan for this to happen," I said, in my defence.
"Oh, what, so you just made a suggestion without realising it?" Shaun asked sarcastically.
"Seems like it," I replied truthfully.
"Don't talk tosh," Simon said.
Andrew looked at me. "Wonder if you ever got the wrong impression of me," he said, winking before leaving.
Wearily I said "You can get up off the floor, guys."
"Thanks a bunch (!)" Simon muttered as they stood up.
"Don't even bother talking to him," Shaun said to his twin as they left.
But at the door, Simon turned and said "Never thought you would do this sort of thing, Henry."
I sat down heavily. ‘I am so not looking forward to this role,' I thought.
"When d'your parents want you for lunch?" Arthur asked.
We were sitting on his bed, the fingers of one of each our hands entwining on the patch of duvet between us.
"Probably about one o'clock. They'll keep it in the oven for me, though."
Arthur glanced at his watch. "It's quarter past twelve now. You hungry?"
"D'you have a Sunday roast?"
"Yeah - every week. You?"
Arthur shrugged. "Depends on whether Mum and Dad have some fancy friend coming round."
"I've never met your mum and dad..." I said thoughtfully.
"I intend to keep it that way. 1) They don't deserve to see I've found myself a girlfriend and 2) they're probably prejudiced against non-Captivators."
"I don't talk to them much. The second it was possible for Mum to stop breast-feeding me, they gave me to our governess."
"Oh. Was she nice?"
"She left when Andrew turned 13 because she ‘didn't want to look after teenagers'. Before that, she believed all children to be nasty little creatures."
"Oh, you poor things. How did you grow up to be so nice?"
"Andrew snuck out one night and persuaded/ hypnotised a group of teenagers he'd met during a grocery shop to come to our house. They were our first friends. There was a really good kid who we found didn't need to be hypnotised to visit. He was kind, had morals, a conscience. Well-intentioned bloke to the core. He brought his older sister and cousins and they all used to bring their friends along too. They taught us values. You wouldn't find a better family if you tried."
"What was the boy's name?"
Arthur smiled. "Richard."
"What happened to him?"
Arthur sighed. "He moved. To America. His cousins Alicia and Lauren still come visit occasionally, though."
"Oh," I said sympathetically. I reached out with my free hand and stroked his shoulder.
"But he was the one who ... encouraged us to leave the house. Go to parties and socialise with people." Arthur grinned. "Initially, we used to hang around together. At the bowling alley or cinema, you might have seen us all huddled round together like we belonged to some special sect. And then, gradually, we began to split up and do our own thing. First we split in half, the four youngest forming one group and us older ones another, and then we were in two threes and a pair: me hanging out with Henry and Jack; and now, we're pretty much our own people. Except the twins who are inseparable."
"It's so good that things worked out for you all," I said, smiling.
Arthur nodded, smiling back. He suddenly grinned. "To think two years ago, I wouldn't have had the confidence to talk to you, let alone kiss you."
I smiled. "I'm so glad you do now."
Arthur lay back, gazing contentedly up at me.
"Which brother are you closest with?" I asked out of curiosity.
"Hmm," Arthur said thoughtfully. "Andrew? Maybe Matt but he gets on with most people. I don't like Ryan. Can't stand our younger brothers."
"Andrew?" I said in surprise.
"But he's been mean to you before."
"He's been mean to everyone. I can't help but admire how powerful he was."
"Well, Henry's meant to be the big thing now. Maybe Andrew and I will go back to how we were three years ago."
"Maybe," I said dubiously. "But remember, he almost tortured me."
Arthur looked uncomfortable. "Yeah..."
"But ... he's not all bad. You've seen him 'round Liza."
"I suppose," I said slowly.
Arthur rolled his eyes. "Oh, don't think about it if it bothers you."
"No," I said teasingly. I prodded his stomach. "You change your mind."
"Control freak," Arthur teased, poking his tongue out.
"Rude little boy."
I chuckled and leant down to kiss him. "I love you," I said, lying down beside him.
Arthur rolled over. "Get away from me, you soppy weirdo."
I snorted. "Soppy weirdo?"
"Yeah. What are you even doing in my room? Stalker."
"Who would stalk you?"
I shook my head in amused wonder. "You're so entertaining to be around."
"You're a freak."
Arthur's gaze became intense. "Nah, you're wonderful."
I smiled. "So are you."
"And now I'm going to coat my voice in hypnotic power and you are going to fall asleep," Arthur said in a singsong voice.
The suggestion was totally unexpected and I fell into a trance.