James cried out. Lightning seemed to fork behind his vision, and suddenly he was back in Regent’s Park, kneeling on the grass. There was a firm grip on his shoulders. “Jamie, Jamie, Jamie,” said an urgent voice, and James — his breath tearing in and out of his chest — tried to focus on what was in front of him.
Everything was blurred in that moment but Matthew’s face, his green eyes wide and dark and steady. Behind him moved other figures; they seemed in that moment like the shapes James had been finding in the clouds — inchoate and untouchable.
“Jamie, breathe,” Matthew said, and his voice was the only steady thing in a world turning upside down. It had been years since this had happened. Years. The horror of it happening in front of a crowd of people —
“Did they see me?” he said in a cracked voice. “Did they see me turn?”
“You didn’t,” Matthew said, “or at least, only a very little bit — perhaps just a bit fuzzy round the edges —“
“It’s not funny,” James said through his teeth, but Matthew’s humor acted like a slap of cold water; he opened his eyes fully, saw Thomas and Christopher looking down at him. They had positioned themselves so as to block him from the crowd at the lake’s edge.
“Get up,” Thomas said. “It’s the best thing you can do, James, we’ll tell them you tripped or fell.” His hazel eyes were anxious but his tone was reassuring. “Honestly all the attention was on Ariadne — “
Matthew’s hands on James’ shoulders turned into a grip on his arms, and James was hauled upright by his three best friends. Christopher produced a handkerchief from somewhere and began to dust his lapels.
“Chris,” said Matthew. He was the only person who ever used that nickname for Christopher besides Anna. “Stop. Who cares if he’s dusty? He was just invisible.”
“But he isn’t any more,” Christopher pointed out.
“We need to get you back to the Institute,” said Matthew to James in a low voice. “If you’re going to start suddenly going all — shadowy — for no reason, then the Silent Brothers —“
“Not the Silent Brothers,” said Thomas. “Just Zachariah.”