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the call of the newt

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The ringing of his phone is about the worst wake-up call Newt has ever experienced in his short life. While it isn’t the first time he’s waking up this morning (a series of text messages chiming obnoxiously will do that as well—he swears he silenced it then but apparently not), it’s just as painful. It blares and attacks his senses in a way that should be illegal and whose brilliant idea was it to set it as the cry of—ugh, which lemur is that? Bringing the sound closer to him doesn’t help him figure it out but it does allow him to turn it off.

About time.

Oh, he answered it. Newt whines in annoyance.

Not a good morning, then?

The voice floats softly into Newt’s ear, tickling it. Regardless, he's in a poor state of being—throbbing head, dry throat, nausea, something dead sitting on his tongue, cold—and can’t be bothered to return the politeness like he wishes to.

“Sod off, Thes,” Newt groans into the phone.

The voice hums. “Guess again, Little Newt.”

Newt’s eyes snap open as the familiar words click into place and he scrambles up, only to regret it and slump down again with a pained moan. He buries his face in his arms in an attempt to block out any external stimulation, but is helpless against the internal ones. His head spins and nausea rolls through him; in a second he’s up again to run to the bathroom and empty his stomach. The coolness of the toilet is his best friend for the moment as he breathes through the residual sickness afterwards.

Oh my god, Newt thinks, hanging onto the porcelain like a lifeline. Please strike me down.

Once he stops feeling like he's being tossed around in an ocean, Newt freshens up with cold water and manages to brush his teeth. When he trudges back to bed, he sees the call is still ongoing.

“Bugger,” he curses under his breath, picks it up. “Hello?”

“Good morning,” the other person says, and Newt hears a hint of a smile.

“Morning, Percy,” Newt responds miserably.

Percy a.k.a Percival Graves – Newt’s older brother Theseus’s best friend, a family friend by extension, and the object of Newt's crush the size of the moon since he was twenty-five-years-old. He’s twenty-eight as of today.

“A little too much fun, I see,” Percy teases, obviously amused. “Go get yourself a glass of water.”

“Yes, mum,” Newt mutters and obediently heads to the kitchen. “Did you need something?”

“Just checking on you, and wondering if you were available for brunch today,” the man replies. “Doesn’t seem like it, though. Let me know when it’s good. My treat, for the birthday boy.”

That sounds nice, and Newt starts nodding before remembering that that’s a bad idea. He arrives in time to lean over atop the kitchen counter and breathes for a moment, then makes an affirmative noise. “Tomorrow?”

Percy’s voice continues to rumble pleasantly through the speaker as Newt finally musters up the energy to go to his fridge. He opens the door and the small blast of cool air feels great. Pouring himself a glass of water proves to be more of a challenge than usual but he manages with minimal spills. A refreshing sip rejuvenates him some and enables him to go search for some painkillers.

“Aha,” Newt exclaims, grabbing the bottle from the cupboard.

“—and you aren’t listening anymore.”

“What?” Newt mutters distractedly, trying to manoeuvre the phone onto his shoulder, put down the glass, and twist open the cap simultaneously. “Birds. You were saying something about that.”

Ha, he was listening. The lid pops open, and Newt tries not to read into the responding silence seemingly full of disbelief as he taps out a couple.

Percy snorts. “Of course that’s the only part you caught,” and the fond exasperation in his tone has Newt picturing him shaking his head. “Never mind, it was your birthday celebration; not recalling half the night was the point.”

Newt almost chokes as he swallows the pills down with another drink. “Oh god, what did I do?”

“I’ll let you know if I'm feeling generous.”

“Percy,” the name drags out of him in a whine.

“Happy birthday, Newt.”

Newt pauses the glass at his mouth, breath momentarily catching at the warmth he hears. His heart responds in kind though it isn’t quite the same sort, quickening a bit.

“Thank you,” he says, certain emotions making it softer than intended.

“I’ll leave you to your recovery, then, and text you the details,” Percy says, and it fills Newt with both disappointment and relief as the call ends.

Sighing, Newt runs a hand over his face and stands there for a moment, then drains the rest of the water and leaves it in the sink. Going back to bed seems like a good idea at this point.

In bed, now a bit more conscious, he checks the unread messages that woke him earlier. Most are from his friends who were celebrating with him last night asking after him, a couple from Theseus that are a series of emoticons that make no sense. One is from Percival about voicemails that Newt has no recollection of leaving, one of which included bird calls. The bird thing. He isn’t sure if he’s glad the man didn’t pick up to hear him live, or mortified that they’ve been recorded for future reminiscing at his expense.

They aren't too terrible, at least, he tries to console himself; best to put it from his mind for now.

Before sleep, he texts his friends in their group chat, apologizing for getting so pissed last night and thanking them for getting him home safely. They seem to be alright as they tease him for not lasting past a of couple rounds.

Jacob: we shouldve stuck to our tradition for newt

Tina: traditions are meant to be broken

Queenie: there’s always next year, honey ❤

'thx guys heading back to sleep' Newt types as his ‘goodbye’ and closes his eyes.

The painkillers start taking effect within half an hour and Newt is just about to fall asleep when a sudden memory has him jolting up with a gasped ‘no’. Newt remembers exactly what Percy meant by ‘birds’: he left a damn mating call of a purple-crowned fairywren on the man’s voicemail.

Fuck, can he be anymore pathetic?

Newt falls back onto his pillow, buries his face in it. He doesn’t scream but it’s a close thing.

 

 

How it happened is anyone’s guess including Newt’s.

Theseus met Percy halfway through grad school when they were assigned to be roommates and became fast friends. So fast, in fact, that his brother brought Percy home that very summer after first year. Being at an awkwardly confused and developing stage in his life, Newt wasn’t too keen on dealing with strangers who had the potential to be cruel as much as his peers were to him at the time. He hadn’t been rude, just a bit reticent, yet Percy showed respect, left Newt alone while not ignoring him completely. He was... nice, ‘brother of my friend is a brother of mine’ and all that.

Percy never minded when Theseus would try to include Newt in any of their activities or study sessions, and aptly listened when he wanted to talk about his interests, even asking appropriate questions. He encouraged Newt when he struggled with indecision to pursue his dream career, helped reason with his brother who posed realistic limitations. It built from there, and got to the point where he would act in Theseus’s stead when Newt needed someone.

And that hasn’t changed one bit, at least on Percy’s end.

A few years ago, Percy left on a long-term business trip overseas to manage a headquarter office for his company. Upon his return, Newt went to pick him up from the airport, saw the man walk through the sliding doors and smile at him fondly and openly with Newt’s name on those lips and... that was that.

It’s still a profound mystery for him to this day.

And he tries not to wrack his brains on his way to the promised (belated) birthday brunch with Percy. Having spent all of yesterday to recover from the amazing celebration he had, it’s with a refreshingly clear mind, anticipation, and nerves that he goes. It probably isn’t such a good idea for them to meet alone with how obvious he is lately zoning out in front of the man from being distracted by his various gestures and features, but he will never turn down a treat from Percy.

Frankly, Newt considers it a miracle (and good luck) that he hasn’t noticed anything.

Percy is already there when Newt arrives at the quaint bistro where they make everything sound fancier than it is; not that he minds, it’s still delicious if a tad pricey. He’s welcomed with open arms, literally, and Newt falls into them with a smile, smells one of Percy’s subtler colognes as he squeezes back.

“All better today?” Percy asks with a teasing undertone as they sit.

“Yes,” Newt sighs ducking his head, picks at the corner of the menu. “Not doing that again anytime soon.”

A hand reaches over and ruffles Newt’s hair as if he isn’t an adult nearing thirty, and he swats it away before being temporarily dazzled by Percy’s responding smile. Briefly, he wonders if Percy will even take him seriously should he confess, what with his ‘younger brother’ view of Newt. A five-year difference seems less significant now than it did when Newt was eighteen but...

“I did say to order whatever you want but the whole menu might be a little too much,” he hears the man say, and realizes that he has been staring down at the menu for too long without actually seeing anything.

The server comes by with their beverages that Newt doesn’t even remember ordering, unable to tell if he did while absent-minded or Percy ordered for the both of them because he knows what Newt wants anyway. Oh dear, this is already turning out to be a mess. He’s fully engaged at least when they place their food orders—Percy indulging himself with waffles and Newt a simple omelette.

After the server leaves, they drink in silence. Newt tries to ignore the way he’s being scrutinized over the mug’s rim by Percy (who currently looks like he stepped straight out of a coffee commercial, goodness) and hides behind his own cup. Maybe if he keeps silent and purposefully ignorant, nothing will happen.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Percy was simply waiting for Newt to put his cup down.

“So, about that mating call—”

And Newt cries out partially in shock and partially to prevent more words following that phrase then immediately snaps his mouth shut, but not before blurting out, “How did you—”

Percy sighs, a (nice) hand rubbing over his (delicate) mouth thoughtfully. “The right question is, how would I not know—it’s your favourite bird of the month. More importantly, it seems you remember.”

Fuck me, Newt thinks with dread; he stupidly set himself up. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“No?” Percy questions with an arched brow.

Still handsome even when Newt’s in the throes of mortification, the wanker. Newt firms his mouth in a hard, stubborn line even as his face heats. Percy doesn’t know, will never know if he can help it.

“Because if you did, we can arrange something between us.”

Newt blinks, frowns. “What?”

“Like a date,” Percy shrugs, picks up his mug again for a sip.

Newt blinks again, opens and closes his mouth a couple times. “What?

“Do you like me, Newt?”

“Yes—I mean, no,” Newt shakes his head. “I mean, not like like. But I like you plenty. Like—yeah.” His brain isn’t processing the situation properly, rendering his social skills even more chaotic than usual. God, help him. “I don’t. Think so?”

Why did that even come out as a question.

Then it’s Percy’s turn to frown, and Newt has lost his mind enough to think that he sees something like disappointment cross that face. “Ah, I see, that’s a shame. I’m sorry to have brought it up, then. Please forget about it.”

Their food arrive shortly after an uncomfortable silence which persists as they eat. It’s all Newt can hear despite the ambient noise of the surrounding customers and his own fork and knife clinking against the plate.

Halfway through the meal, it hits Newt. He raises his head, dumbfounded, watches as Percy cuts elegantly into his waffle and then spears a strawberry before dipping it in syrup.

“Were you asking me on a date?” he hisses in a shocked exhale.

Percy pauses with the fork halfway to his mouth then puts it back down, sighs. “I was rather confirming if you were.”

“How. What happened. When did—” Newt stops, mind spinning, hand hurting. The latter he belatedly realizes is because he’s gripping his fork too hard, and lets go.

“Recently, I suppose,” Percy mutters, expression a little embarrassed.

“You suppose,” Newt repeats dumbly.

“I was a bit slow on the uptake. Sue me,” Percy crosses his arms defensively.

“That’d be problematic if I’m trying to date you,” Newt says without thinking.

“So, that’s a yes.”

“I suppose.”

Percy snorts. “You suppose.”

“Shut up,” Newt retorts, fighting against a grin because this isn’t actually happening, is it? “Yes. Yes, alright?”

“Finish your eggs, Newton,” Percy says, but the sternness is effectively ruined by his mouth twitching upwards.

He picks up his fork again, and the cut of waffle and strawberry finally make it to their destination. Newt gets lost in the motion of his chewing until Percy raises his brow again and snaps him out of it.

Afterwards, his friend (boyfriend? date?) drops him off at home and pulls him over across the seat by his shirt for a kiss. It's short and beyond sweet, one that will follow Newt into his days and nights for a long while. He barely sighs into it when Percy draws back, and Newt grabs his hand that was about to let go, drags his eyes from that mouth up to pretty brown eyes.

“One more?” he murmurs, licking his lips and tasting a hint of strawberries.

And Percy obliges with a smile. There’s a click from the release of a seatbelt and Percy is pushing forward with both his mouth and body forcing Newt back, and Newt’s breath catches as the man climbs over to his side—already? Really? Oh god, is he ready? But they’re in the car—

Click. Clunk. Whoosh.

Percy’s weight lifts off of him and Newt opens his eyes in confusion, first looks at his friend still smiling, then at the opened door to his other side, then back again.

Percy gives him a quick peck on his cheek with the murmured words, “Take care, Newt; until next time.”

Newt’s nudged out of the car and the door closes behind him; he watches Percy wave and drive off, leaving him dazed in front of his building.

And, well, that’s that, apparently.

 

 

(Later, Newt finds out Theseus had to knock their heads together, figuratively speaking. Newt's attitude was obvious to everyone except the relevant person; Percy noticed but not noticed noticed, attributing some other reason for Newt’s stares of admiration and longing looks, and in his own way the man tried to help with fashion advice and 'cheer up' outings.

So Theseus pulled him aside and bluntly stated, “He likes you, you twit. How daft can you get?”)

“Not sure whether to thank him or not,” Newt mutters. He’s on Percy’s couch, head on his shoulder as the man taps away on his tablet. “He'll either gloat or yell about not wanting details.”

“Shall we see?” Percy asks.

They take a selfie together, smiling, and send it to Theseus.

You guys are gross, Theseus messages back.

its your fault Newt types.

That’s right and there’s a toothy-grin emoji at the end.

Percy snorts and shakes his head. “Anyway, I needed some time to process it and found that I wasn’t opposed to the idea, perhaps already returned some of it myself without realizing. I wondered how to broach the subject.” A pause. “Then you sent that message.”

Biting back a groan, Newt feels his face heat in memory. He’ll never live that down.

“It could have been a drunk habit of yours for all I knew,” Percy shrugs. “Like you said, you don’t drink often, never mind getting hammered.”

“Let’s never talk about it again, please,” Newt begs.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be laughing about it in a few months' time,” Percy hums, and Newt can hear the smile in his voice. Tap tap tap. “And besides, how many people can say that they were propositioned via bird noises—”

Percy’s words cut off with a yelp because he almost drops his tablet when Newt bowls him over into the couch. Newt pulls it out of his hands and sets it on the nearby coffee table in one smooth motion while muffling a surprised laugh from the man with his mouth.

No bird noises are involved in the proposition that follows.