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Carry On No Place - The Curse of the Dark Wand

Chapter Text

SIMON

It was Dr Wellbelove's idea that I join the Coven.

He's been at me for years to join, ever since I defeated the Humdrum actually, but I always said no. I wasn't ready for that. After the end of the Humdrum – and the death of the Mage – I'd had enough of everything and wanted to live a normal life for a while. Not Normal, like without magic, but normal, like without all the bloody drama. I'd spent my childhood saving the magickal realm from every dark creature imaginable and then I was in therapy for years because of it, so joining the Coven was the last thing on my mind.

I had my own stuff to work through anyway, especially all that business with the Mage and his fucking Will. He left me some money and a cottage (which I didn't in any way want), and then when Penny and Baz finally talked me round to going there, we found out that he was my fucking biological father and that he had somehow given me all of my magickal power in the first place. Created his very own Chosen One, and then he stuck me in a fucking orphanage.

Those revelations were the final straw for me and I took off for a few months, completely lost in my own head.

But Baz and Penny stuck with me and things finally turned around. I found out that it was my mother who came through the Veil back at Watford and that she wanted me, and my magic came back when I found her wand. And then Baz asked me to marry him and I said yes (of course), so all of a sudden we were engaged. I even found that I have real relatives – a grandmother (my mum's mum), and an uncle (my mum's brother). I had a proper family and Baz was at the centre of it.

All that was really cool and my life finally settled into some kind of normal existence for a change. Well, as normal as you can get when you're a mage with dragon wings and a tail, and a husband who's a mage and a vampire. But it felt normal enough, and right – especially when Baz and I got married, and for the first time in my life I was really, blissfully happy.

So when Dr Wellbelove asked again about me joining the Coven a few months ago, I guess I didn't say no fast enough. I just shrugged, and he took that for a yes. That's why I'm here tonight.

I look around Dr Wellbelove's dining room. It's a big room with an enormous oak table and enough white leather chairs for all of us to be seated around. I used to spend Christmas with the Wellbeloves when I was dating Agatha, so I'm fairly comfortable here despite the fact that I haven't visited in a while. When Agatha and I broke up and Baz and I became boyfriends, I didn't really have a reason to come here anymore. I still do pop in every now, but just not that often, and usually only when Dr Wellbelove wants to check out my wings.

The Coven meetings are held at a different house each month so the Normal neighbours don't get suspicious. I think they tell the Normal neighbours that it's a book club or something. As long as no one ever asks me what we're reading I'm fine with that. (I don't think comics qualify.) (That's what Baz says anyway.)

Agatha's mum kisses my cheek when I arrive and asks after Baz. She got over the fact that Agatha broke up with me and I married Baz some time ago now, and once she found out Agatha was dating a mage, and an Englishman, she's been extra nice to us. She still tells me I look handsome every time she sees me. Some things never change.

Mrs Wellbelove and their helper Helen brought in snacks and drinks earlier and I've knocked off a fair few of the sandwiches already. Helen's sandwiches are the best, especially the roast beef with horseradish.

The first hour of the meeting is pretty boring. They're discussing how to allocate next year's school funding. When the Mage took over he created a whole bunch of taxes against the Old Families so that anyone with magic could attend the school. Before the Mage Watford had been much more selective, intentionally – there were school fees and mages had to pass some sort of magickal test to attend. When the Mage died, all of his new laws and taxes pretty much ended along with him. The Coven has been trying to sort through the mess ever since.

Now that Headmistress Bunce is running the show, she's managed to secure a load of Normal government funds because it's a school. (Regardless of the fact that it's a magickal school.) It's taken a lot of pressure off the magickal families while still allowing mages who are less financially well-off to attend. The Mage never really got involved in the Normal world so he probably had no idea how to access that type of stuff. He immersed himself entirely in the magickal world, I don't even know if he ever even used a mobile or a computer.

I try to look interested, but they're still droning on about how best to allocate those Normal funds and I don't really give a toss. I sink deeper into my chair and rest my head back – we're going to be here a while.

Maybe I didn't fight joining the Coven this time because most of my friends have left London recently. Penny and Micah left for America earlier this year, my old boss Alex and her boyfriend Marco left for their Italian adventure, and then my mate Olivia left to travel around the continent for a bit. Even Agatha's still over in California. So with everyone gone, I have a lot more time on my hands.

If only they would talk about something more interesting, and I could contribute something. They're arguing about whether or not they have enough funding to bring back the Watford Drama Society. I don't really care. I stifle a yawn.

I'm still well shocked to have a seat at this table. I didn't think anyone would actually vote for me to join the Coven but there must be enough mages around that still believe I'm the Chosen One or something because they voted me in straight away and I didn't really have a chance to say no again.

Penny thinks I was voted into the Coven because half of the mages believe they need the Chosen One close at hand. Kind of like an insurance policy – so that I could save the World of Mages at a moment's notice if it ever needs to be saved again.

Baz thinks I was voted in because the other half – mainly the Old Families, like the Grimms and the Pitches and their allies – think that because Baz and I are married, I would look after their magickal interests or something. None of the Old Families have any clue that Baz and I disagree on nearly everything when it came to stuff like that. We used to fight viciously back at school whenever Baz brought up things like the old days and the power trials and how taxes were for Normals and not Mages, and he would go off on a rant about how bad it was that 'every pathetic excuse of a magician' was allowed into Watford. Whereas I thought the opposite; why couldn't people go to a magickal school if they had magic? Then he would bang on about standards and traditions and I would stammer and get all mad and we usually ended up fighting and trying to push each other down the stairs.

Of course that was before we realised that we didn't hate each other but were mad for each other. (Well, Baz had already worked it out, he'd worked out how he felt years before me.) (It took me a lot longer.) And we may be married now and madly in love but we still disagree on loads of things about magickal politics. Especially things like inclusion and class. Baz is my husband and the love of my life but he's still a posh git and an almighty snob sometimes. Well, most of the time really.

I didn't know the half of what the Mage was up back when we were at Watford that kept getting Baz so riled up; taxing the Old Families, creating new laws that banned magickal books and magickal phrases, creating rules about where and when mages could go and where they could meet, raiding magickal houses whenever he felt like it and confiscating magickal artefacts and books and Merlin know what else. Actually I didn't know any of it. The Mage kept me isolated every summer in those fucking orphanages without any contact with other mages, not even my friends like Penny and Agatha. He said he was protecting me but I realise now he was keeping me in the dark on purpose.

It's pretty easy to control someone who's uninformed – that way you can make them believe whatever you want. And that's what he did to me for a long time. It wasn't until Baz and Penny and I tried to solve his mother's murder that we started to piece together that it was the Mage that was behind all the bad stuff that had happened. And I mean all the bad stuff; the wars with the Old Families, the wars with the dark creatures, letting the vampires into Watford that resulted in Natasha Grimm-Pitch's death – everything. I didn't know how evil he was until he killed Ebb and tried to kill me and take my power to end the Humdrum, even though Baz and Penny had already worked out that I was the Humdrum so there was no way he could end it. Only I could do that, and I did.

And then I accidentally killed the Mage too. You could argue that Penny did it – she cast the spell, but I said the words that killed him so I reckon it was me.

I grab another sandwich and glance around the room. There are thirteen of us in all, and they all have a few years on me. Some are from the Old Families, mages that managed to win back their position after the Mage died, and there are a few still hanging on from the Mage's reign like Dr Wellbelove and the bloke next to him. The rest seem to be fairly neutral, like Professor Bunce and the two women on either side of her. And then there's me. I'm the youngest by far, and the most clueless.

This is only the third Coven meeting I've been to, and I've hardly said anything. I'm never really sure what to say.

Penny says I should prioritise all of the issues that I think the realm needs to fix, like finding the fairies and the unconscious bias against women and equality for all magickal creatures. And Baz says I should try to restore the traditions of old, like the oral presentations and magickal trials to get into Watford. Whenever the topic comes up they always end up arguing so intensely that they forget I'm there. After a while I either leave the room or growl at them that if they feel that strongly about it, maybe they should join the Coven instead of me.

Finally we're on the next topic – the dead spots in the magickal atmosphere. Penny's dad enters to read a report on the status of the holes and I tune out a bit. I know what it says because I'm still working with him every now and then, visiting and measuring the dead spots to see if they've shrunk. They haven't.

He finally finishes reading and heads to an empty seat for the discussion.

"Maybe the holes will never close," one of the younger coven member's comments. I think her name is Kendra, and I think she's friend with Professor Bunce. She seems nice enough.

"Maybe they just need time, like the hole in the ozone layer. That's closing slowly, ever since the Normals banned those nasty chemicals," someone else chimes in. Theodore, I think. I'm still trying to remember everyone's names.

"But how much time? That's the question," an old bloke huffs. He's got glasses and he's sitting next to Alfie. I think they might be friends with Baz's dad, or maybe they're part of the Old Families or maybe I've seen them at the club. (Knowing my luck it's all three.) I don't remember his name.

"We'll just have to wait and see. This isn't an exact science, it's magic after all," Professor Bunce says as he sits down. He leans towards the other Professor Bunce and they start to discuss something between themselves.

"But these are people's homes, magickal homes that have lost their magic. You can't expect us to sit around and wait until they choose to close by themselves. It's been years now," that bloke Wilbur says. I think his is one of the houses in a dead spot. His family had to move so they could use their magic again.

"Well at least I haven't made any new ones?" I'm not really listening and it just comes out. I'm looking longingly at the half-empty plate of sandwiches and wondering if anyone would mind if I took a couple more.

I don't notice straight away that everyone stops talking.

"What was that, Simon?" that old mages asks. Alfie. He must be at least seventy. Why he's still on the Coven is anyone's guess.

"I said I haven't made any new ones. I gave all my magic to the Humdrum to stop him so I can't suck the magic out of the magickal atmosphere anymore. That's at least something." I shrug.

It gets really quiet. So quiet that even I figure something's not right. I pull my eyes away from the plate of sandwiches and look around the table. That's when I finally notice that they're all staring at me. I reckon they're staring at me for a good half a minute before everything goes pear-shaped. The two Professor Bunces look up.

"Simon. What are you talking about?" Dr Wellbelove asks. He's frowning slightly and leaning towards me across the table.

That Alfie bloke narrows his eyes. "What do you mean 'you haven't made any new ones'?"

"I thought the Insidious Humdrum made the holes?" Kendra. She frowning at me.

"You made the holes?" Theodore now.

"You sucked out the magic from my house?" Wilbur this time. It sounds a bit like an accusation.

"You?" that other bloke says. He doesn't look too pleased either.

"You?" Alfie yells, looking right pissed off now.

"You did this?" That bloke whose name I can't remember asks. He looks like a middle-aged accountant with his glasses and a dull grey suit that doesn't fit quite right – it's a bit rumpled.

"You caused all of this mess?" Wilbur bellows at me.

They're all standing now, looking down at me. Well, everyone except Dr Wellbelove and Professor Bunce and the other Professor Bunce.

Shit. I should really, really learn to pay attention. And to keep my big mouth shut.

"Wait, what?" I splutter. I'm flushing and my heart is racing. How the hell is this news? Didn't everyone know this already? Didn't everyone hear about it when Penny testified? Or Baz? Or Agatha?

By the looks on their faces it's obvious that they didn't.

They're all yelling at me and my heart is pounding out of my chest but I close my eyes and force myself to think back the trials – to what was discussed, what they asked Penny, and Baz, and me, even Agatha. Fragments of memories flood my mind – questions about the Mage, Ebb . . . And I realise with a jolt of panic that the cause of the holes never came up. That all the questions at the trial focused only the Mage, his crimes.

Fuck me, I'm an idiot.

"You were the cause of the holes, Simon?" Dr Wellbelove asks again, cutting through the noise. He's loud but composed, as if he's asking after my health, or the weather. That's what I've always liked about the Doc. He's so easy-going and calm.

"We thought the Humdrum created the holes," Lilly says, just as calm. I like her too, she's smart and always nice to everyone.

I don't know what to say; they obviously didn't know that it was me and now I've just gone and told them that I'm the cause of the biggest problem the magickal world has ever known. Shit. Shit. Shit.

"Well. I didn't do it on bloody purpose or anything, did I? It was whenever I went off, whenever I used a lot of magic, you know, to stop the Humdrum or the dragons or other dark creatures that the Humdrum sent. You knew that didn't you? I thought you knew?" Shit. Shit. Shit.

"We most certainly did not know!" Wilbur snaps. His perfectly round face is turning a bright shade of pink.

"How would we know that?" that other bloke says a bit too sarcastically for my liking. Reggie, that's his name. I'm not sure if I like him.

"You assume much, Master Snow," Alfie says, all high and mighty like.

"It's Mr Snow. I'm married." I say, automatically lifting my hand with my wedding ring. He still won't acknowledge that Baz and I are married, the homophobic old git. I drop my hand back down and start twisting my wedding ring with my other hand absently.

"Mr Snow," he drawls, narrowing his eyes at me.

Master Snow, Mr Snow, whatever. He's not calling me Simon anymore. Shit.

They're all talking so fast now that I don't know who's saying what. I keep looking at one to another as they fire their questions at me.

"It was the Humdrum," I say, backtracking a bit. "Of course it was the Humdrum who made the holes."

"But you just said it was you?" That accountant looking bloke says. Huxtable or Huxley or something.

"It was me, I mean it was the Humdrum!" I'm flustered now and my words are getting all jumbled up. "I made the Humdrum accidentally when I went off when I was a kid, and then the Humdrum sent dark creatures after me to get me to go off and make more holes. At least I think that's how it worked. Merlin, I thought you knew all this?"

"We most certainly did not!" a bunch of them answer together.

"Can everyone please calm down!" Professor Bunce says, trying to regain order but they're all ignoring her.

"So this is your fault!" Wilbur yells, looming over Dr Wellbelove's nice dining room table and pointing his stubby finger at me accusingly.

"No! Stop!" I finally stand up too, banging my fist on the table. "It was all an accident! I didn't know any of this until Baz and Penny worked it out. Then I stopped it, straight away!"

"How did you do that?" one of the twins inquires, Luella or Odella, I can't really tell them apart. They're quite an old pair, and I think they're friends with my grandmother, Lady Salisbury.

"I went to see the Mage, to tell him, and then all that shit happened. But I ended the Humdrum that very night. I gave it my magic, all of it, to stop it," I try to explain, looking around at their stunned faces. "I thought you all knew."

"We did not," Reggie says like the pompous twat he is. He's such an arse.

"I think everyone needs to calm down," Dr Wellbelove says in a firm voice. He stands up and stares at everyone in turn until one by one they sit down. I sit down after they all do, and I'm shaking so much that I spill a bit of my water as I try to take a sip. I'm so grateful to Dr Wellbelove for stepping in just now. "We need to move to the next topic on the agenda –"

But then it all flares up again.

"Welby, we're not finished here. It's obvious that you're the reason, Mr. Snow, that the holes aren't closing." It's that same person whose house is in a dead spot. Wilbur.

"Wait. What?" I jump to my feet again. "How can you say that?" I yell at him. I can't help it, I'm so frustrated. "You don't know that!" How can he say that? He's not an expert, he doesn't know anything. What a load of crap.

"Simon, calm down please," Professor Bunce is trying to keep some sort of order but is failing spectacularly.

"You created them, Mr Snow. So it's obvious that you're the reason they won't close!" Wilbur the prick insists.

"Now, now," Dr Wellbelove interjects in a calm but authoritative voice. "That's a serious accusation, Wilbur. There's no evidence to suggest–"

"I think it's obvious– he created them, so it must follow that he's the reason they're still open," Alfie snaps, interrupting Dr Wellbelove.

"What?" I yell. "That's tosh and you know it!"

"That's ridiculous." Professor Bunce steps in, much to my relief. "You cannot level such a grave accusation with no proof, Alfie."

"There is no evidence to suggest that Simon is the cause of anything," the other Professor Bunce says. "I've studied these holes for many years and there is nothing to suggest that anything or anyone is delaying their closure. I firmly believe it will take time and no manner of Normal or magickal interference will speed it up."

"But there's also no evidence to suggest that he isn't the cause," one of the more vocal members retorts. (Huxley I think.)

"How the hell would you know?" I throw back. I really want to tell him to fuck off but I don't think it would go down too well here in Dr Wellbelove's dining room. "I lost my magic for two years and nothing changed then, so why the hell do you think I'm the cause now?"

Everyone knows I lost my magic after I ended the Humdrum, and they know it came back, but most mages think it came back all by itself. They have no idea I got my magic back when I found my mother's wand. That would just lead to everyone finding out that the Mage was my father, and there's no way I'm ever telling anyone that.

"Well maybe you're the reason, Mr Snow, not your magic."

"Sod off," I growl at Reggie. I don't know what else to say to these tossers. I wish Baz were here. I wish Penny were here. They'd know what to say.

"That doesn't make any sense, Reggie." Professor Bunce argues back. "It's no more Simon's fault than it is mine."

"I think we all need to calm down. Obviously this is news to the Coven and I understand that you're all a little surprised," Professor Bunce chimes in. She stands then and looks over at me. "I repeat: Simon has done nothing wrong. He saved our realm and I will not have this Coven use him as a scapegoat for this."

I sigh in relief as everyone finally listens to her. The other members still look pissed off as hell but at least they're not yelling at me anymore. Some of them are even nodding. The others are looking at me like they want to kill me. It might be an even split.

"I agree with Professor Bunce." Dr Wellbelove says. "Simon Snow saved our realm, along with Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch and Penelope Bunce. And it would do you all good to remember that."

Dr Wellbelove emphasizes Baz's full name, probably to remind everyone that he's Natasha Grimm-Pitch's son. The Pitches were one of the most respected families in the realm for a long time. They probably still are now that the Mage is gone and is no longer trying to sully their name.

It seems to work– a few members of the Coven sink down a bit in their seats, like kids that have just been chastised. But a few of them keep glaring at me with their arms crossed. I try not to squirm.

I hear a couple of them mutter, "here, here." and I breathe a sigh of relief.

"I think this meeting should be adjourned. We're not going to resolve anything further tonight," Dr Wellbelove says.

I let out another loud sigh but I don't look up. I sit there with my head down, twisting my wedding ring around my finger until all of the members say their curt goodbyes and get up and leave, a few patting my shoulder as they pass by. It feels like it takes forever and it's not until both Professor Bunces and Dr Wellbelove are the only ones left that I lift my head.

"Are you all right Simon?" Professor Bunce asks. She's frowning at me, but not in an unfriendly way.

"Yeah," I say in a shaky voice. "I just . . . I had no idea they didn't know . . ."

"They didn't know. That fact didn't come up the trial. The trial was only to do with the Mage's crimes. I thought you realised . . ." The other Professor Bunce trails off. "And I stand by what I said; I don't believe for a moment that you're causing them to remain open."

"You knew, Martin? Mitali?" Dr Wellbelove asks.

"Yes, Welby," Professor Bunce says, taking off his glasses and wiping them on the corner of his shirt. "Simon, Baz, and Penny told us everything that night after the White Chapel."

I sink back into my seat and cringe a little. We didn't tell them everything exactly, like about Baz being kidnapped by the numpties and us visiting that vampire bar, because that would just lead to more questions about Baz being a vampire. Or how the Mage tried to take Ebb's magic and then take my magic. That would lead to too many other questions.

"We didn't see any point in bringing it out during the trial," the other Professor Bunce explains to the Doc. "It had nothing to do with the Mage's death and his crimes."

"And Simon had been through enough," Professor Bunce finishes, patting me gently on the shoulder.

I look at Professor Bunce and he's smiling at me and giving me a kind look. I look at the other Professor Bunce and she's nodding. Then I look at Dr Wellbelove and he's just looking at me with a slight frown. I guess it is big news and I owe him an explanation.

I take a big breath and I tell Dr Wellbelove what Penny and Baz worked out on that Christmas day in Professor Bunce's study. That I'd accidentally created the Humdrum when I went off the first time, when I was eleven, and that it sent all those dark creatures after me to get me to go off again, to make more holes. And that as soon as they worked it out I went to the White Chapel to fix it. They all know what happened after that. (Mostly.)

When I finish, Dr Wellbelove sits back and sighs. "That actually makes a good deal of sense," he says. "You acted very bravely, Simon."

"Thanks," I mumble. I also sit back, letting out a ragged breath. "I thought everyone knew . . ." I trail off.

Professor Bunce shakes her head. "We thought it best not to make that public . . ."

"Christ," I mumble. "What are they going to say when they find out the Mage is my father?"

"They won't find that out, Simon. Not unless you choose tell them." Professor Bunce reminds me.

"Or let it slip – like I did this."

"You won't, Simon," the other Professor Bunce says, patting me on my back again. He does that a lot. "Don't worry about that. Let's just deal with this now."

"Everything will be fine, Simon, they were just surprised. We all were. Now they need some time to calm down," Dr Wellbelove says, trying his best to reassure me.

"You think?"

"Yes."

I sit back and stare at the table. I hope he's right but I have my doubts. I'm a fucking idiot.

"Best get going Simon," Professor Bunce says. "I think we've discussed this enough for one night. We'll talk soon."

"Do you need a ride home?"

I shake my head. "No, I'll be okay, thanks." I just want to get out of here. I just want to go home.

"All right, then." Professor Bunce nods once, briskly. She's always so business-like, even when she's being kind.

I look at each of them and they're all looking at me. I give them a small smile. "Okay," I mumble as I get up. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight," they say in unison.

"Wish Basil all the best on his exam tomorrow," Professor Bunce adds as I head out the door.

"Yeah, thanks," I answer without turning around.

Chapter Text

BAZ

I slam my laptop closed with a smile, feeling rather satisfied with myself– even a little smug. I'm definitely going to be first again this year. Tomorrow is my final exam after years of study and I'd never forgive myself if I ruined my perfect record now.

I pick up my wand and with a flick of my wrist jump from 'Fiona's Essential Brit Punk and New Wave' playlist that my ridiculous aunt made for me ages ago, to Simon's more appealing (albeit poorly named) 'Top 25 Classical Pieces to Study To.'

I don't listen to Simon's playlist very often. I like it of course, (I like everything he does) but whenever it's on I tend to stop studying and start listening, playing the notes in my head, and I start itching to pick up my violin. I think that's why he made it for me, so I'd play violin for him more often. (I wouldn't put it past him to try to distract me even when he's not here.)

However both playlists are infinitely more palatable than the other one Simon made for me. (The moronically named 'Snow Tunes.') It's an ridiculous mix of songs from Simon's past and present – everything from bland, easy-listening tunes (thanks to the radio played incessantly at those children's homes), bloody annoying pop (courtesy of Bunce), and now some American alternative and indie rock (Micah's influence). Clearly there's still work to be done on his musical education.

But I need to stop messing around with playlists and get dinner started. It's a simple distraction from the fact that it's getting late and Simon's still not home.

I'm sure everything's fine – probably just another long meeting, or knowing Simon, a silly argument with some stubborn old member of the Coven. I've seen firsthand how Simon takes the moral high ground on every single subject he's presented with – he's like a rabid dog on a bone when it comes to what's right. And I know these meetings can drag on for hours, so there's no logical reason whatsoever for me to feel uneasy. But I do, I'm still haunted by that terrible time when he left me after discovering the truth about his father.

I was so angry with him for leaving me. Even when I came to understand that from his view he didn't have a choice. And he wasn't really leaving me – he was leaving our realm. But I was furious with him regardless, and we fought terribly because of it. And when we finished fighting I asked him to marry me. Not the soundest logic perhaps, but I was (still am) desperately in love with Simon and I never wanted to lose him again.

I try to shake myself out of the past and make a start on dinner. Mrs Wellbelove would have provided supper no doubt, but it won't be enough for Simon. He has a ferocious appetite and he'll be ravenous by the time he gets home. I prepare the steaks, whip up that Middle Eastern salad just the way he likes it and set the table.

Simon seems to have let a lot of his anger with the Mage go these days, which is pretty remarkable given that most of the Mage's despicable acts were directed at him. I wish I could be more like him; let the anger go and move on, but I can't. That fucking Mage still pisses me off just as much now as he did when we first realised he was the one behind every corrupt and evil thing that happened in our realm.

And it's why I can't wait for this exam to be over. Magic may be my first love, but the law brings with it a security that I've only begun to fully appreciate. And after years studying Law and Commerce (or 'that boring finance stuff' as Simon calls it), I've almost finished the Bar, next stop is my pupillage and then I'll be a barrister.

I wonder if Mother would be proud.

I wasn't planning on going down this route – specialising in common law and human rights for my pupillage – but after all the shit the fucking Mage put our realm through I realised I had to do something. Our realm needs this. I need this. Simon had his magickal psychologist and his art and even his wings to help him through the aftermath of the Mage's catastrophic reign and I have the law. And once I'm a barrister I'll finally have the knowledge – and the power – to never let any other bastard control our realm the way that Mage did. That's been my therapy.

Well, that and Simon, of course.

I'm also specialising in corporate finance and commercial litigation – for Father's business primarily, but also for myself. It's interesting enough and I dare say it could be quite useful. It's unheard of to specialise in as many areas as I am, but I'm a mage, and a Pitch, and academically brilliant. I can do whatever the fuck I like.

I'm nearly finished with dinner when I hear the key in the lock, and I can't help but smile to myself. Simon's home – my brave, selfless, breathtakingly handsome husband.

SIMON

I want to call Baz as soon as I walk out of Dr Wellbelove's house, but I know he's studying and I don't want to bother him. I almost phone Penny but she's in America and I don't know what time it is over there exactly. She's hours earlier though and probably busy working.

I usually take the Tube home from work, even though someone nearly always steps on my tail. Baz says to take our car when I have Coven meetings straight after work but I don't. I'm extra glad I don't have the car tonight (a brand-new, fancy Jaguar that Baz's parents gave us as a wedding present). I couldn't possibly focus on driving right now. I'm just so mad at all of them, and at myself. How could I have been so bloody stupid? I really should have paid more attention during the trials, I wouldn't be in this mess if I had.

I need to fly tonight so fuck the Tube too. Flying is like therapy for me. When I fly I don't think about anything other than the peace and quiet and the wind in my face and the power in my wings. And it's a hell of a lot quicker than driving or the Tube.

I duck into a quiet alley, spell myself invisible and take off into the dark London sky.

In a matter of seconds I'm already soaring high and everything is so blissfully quiet. The sound of London traffic is muted to a soothing, distant hum and the city lights are twinkling below me. My wings are strong and silent as they flap rhythmically and my tail waves lazily as it acts as a rudder, helping me swoop and corner with ease. I've been flying for so long now that I don't even have to think about it, I just stretch my wings and let instinct take over.

And let worry flood my mind.

Should I tell Baz what happened? Should I tell Penny? Maybe I should tell them both.

I used to tell Penny everything when we were at Watford. We had a 'No Secrets' pact and we stuck to it. But then I teamed up with Baz in our final year to find out who killed his mum after she came to me through the Veil and before I knew it I was sharing stuff with him and not necessarily telling Penny everything first.

Now that we're married of course Baz and I tend to share everything right away, and Penny soon after. But I really don't want to trouble Baz with anything tonight. He'll be immersed in his studying and I don't want to interrupt. He's relentlessly focused on acing his exams and I know he'll be pissed off if he doesn't make first. That's all he's ever been.

And I'm not calling Penny either. She's got enough to be getting on with these days what with all her and Micah's research, and I really hate to bother her anyway with my messes.

I land easily on the roof of our flat and take out the bread I picked up on my way out of the meeting. I drop my satchel and slide down the rough brick parapet, bringing my knees up in front of me. I start roughly tearing off chunks of bread for the waiting pigeons.

I like sitting on the roof feeding the pigeons. I've a brilliant view of London from up here and the feel of the wind on my face is relaxing and peaceful. And if I keep the pigeons well fed it means there's always one or two hanging around for a quick snack if Baz is in a hurry. (I'm nothing if not practical.)

I think about Baz downstairs studying away. He's so focused when he studies, he can go for hours without a break. I only ever manage about thirty minutes, tops, before I got bored, or distracted, or hungry. I need to let him concentrate, so I decide not to mention the meeting from hell until tomorrow. It's only one day.

I brush the crumbs off my suit as I stand, pick up my satchel and head down the stairs to our flat.

Our flat. Our home. I'm always so bloody pleased to open the door, to see Baz here waiting for me. We've been living here ever since I moved out of the flat I shared with Penny, and this place feels more like home now than anywhere I've ever lived.

I can hear Baz in the kitchen, and I take a moment to school my face. If he detects even a smidgen of worry, he'll start panicking and drilling me with questions like a vampire on a rat.

I drop my satchel, rake my fingers through my windblown hair, and throw my jacket and tie over the arm of the sofa. I take a few steadying breaths, unbuttoning the top buttons of my shirt as I head into the kitchen.

"Hi," I say, willing myself to stay calm.

"Hi," he answers, glancing over his shoulder. He's finishing off dinner and I'm relieved at the distraction. I can't hide anything from Baz ordinarily, he can pretty much read me like a book most of the time. We've been together for so long (and obsessing over each other for even longer) that nothing much gets past either one of us.

I slide my arms around his slim waist and kiss his cool neck, slouching gratefully into him as I rest my forehead on his shoulder. His body is cold, vampire cold, but he starts to warm up where my body touches his. I breathe him in deeply. He smells woodsy and citrusy and something else, like sunshine and rain, something entirely Baz.

He leans back into me. "Hmmm, bad day love?"

"Nah, just tired," I lie as I hold him a bit tighter. I'm glad his back is to me – if he could see my face, I'm sure he'd sense that something's wrong. I let him go when he finishes cooking and moves to the table.

Baz carries two plates to the table. He places the plates onto the table and we both lean automatically in for a quick kiss. I pull away and busy myself pouring drinks and fussing about so I don't have to look back up. "Want to talk about it?"

I try to smile. "Not really. I'd rather hear about your day."

He shrugs. "The usual, conflicts of law and constitution."

"Yeah?" I hope he'll keep talking as I start eating. I'm not really that hungry, and that's saying something because usually I'm ravenous when I get home late. I force myself to eat anyway so Baz won't notice anything. I must be really stressed because the food seems tasteless. I chew slowly until I've ground down the steak to a pulp, and then I finally swallow it down.

Baz's fangs slide down as he starts eating. (It's still as wicked as ever.) But he doesn't elaborate, he knows I hardly ever get what he's on about. I just hope he's tired enough and preoccupied enough with his exams to not notice.

"This is good," I tell him, just to have something to say. And I know it is even if I can't really taste anything tonight– Baz is a pretty decent cook these days. I'm still better but he's mastered quite a few dishes now and a load of desserts. He's particularly good with steak– he has a knack for getting them just right. He eats his so rare it's almost raw, but he always gets mine perfectly medium rare.

"Of course it is, I made it." He's still just as conceited as ever and I smile, there's something comforting in that. I duck my head, forcing myself to take another mouthful. "I was thinking," he says eventually. I look up at him for a second but keep eating. "It would be nice to head to Oxford for a few days after my exam, for the weekend."

I flick my eyes to him again as I cut another piece of steak. "Yeah that sounds good, Baz." I love going to Oxford, we've been doing it for so long now that it feels like a second home. And I especially love spending time with his family. (Even though his dad is still as scary as ever.)

Baz stops eating and sets down his cutlery. He's frowning at me. "Simon. Love. Are you sure you're all right?"

I stop eating and look up then. I take a deep breath and focus on his soft grey eyes until I can feel myself start to relax, and then I smile, letting out a long breath. "Yeah Baz, I'm fine, really, just a little tired." I keep smiling at him until he goes back to his dinner.

When we finish eating I clean up with magic so he can go back to swotting at the kitchen table. I use Spic and Span these days, it's a way better spell than Clean as a Whistle. Penny taught it to me when I first got my magic back. That – along with A Place for Everything, and Everything in its Place – sort out the after dinner mess handily so I'm done after a few minutes.

I stay out of Baz's way for the rest of the night, getting out my sketchbook and sitting quietly on the sofa. I can't concentrate so after a while I head to bed, leaving him at the table studying. I don't think either one of us ever uses the study area that Daphne set up for us in the second bedroom; maybe we should turn it into a guest room one day? We've never needed a guest room because everyone we know used to live right here in London. But with so many of our friends scattered, maybe we should set it up now?

I give Baz a quick kiss goodnight and go to our bedroom, and it's not until I'm lying in bed with nothing to distract me that I let my mind run through what happened at the meeting. What a fucking mess I've made. In spite of the Bunces and Dr Wellbelove trying to reassure me, I just know the rest of them hate me now. Maybe they'll even kick me off the Coven. Can they do that? I don't know. I don't know shit about what they can do. Why didn't I think before I spoke up? Why don't I ever think? That's my problem, I never think. I'm such an idiot.

I'm still awake when Baz comes to bed. I keep trying to fall asleep but I can't stop my mind from running through all of the things they said to me. All the accusations. I feel so defensive, and so helpless. I didn't create the holes on purpose, and I did stop the Humdrum as soon as I could. That's got to count for something, doesn't it?

I feel Baz wrap his cold arm around my waist as he places a kiss on my forehead, and my tail automatically loops around his thigh. I bring my hand up to his face and rub his cold cheek with my thumb until it warms up, and then I run my fingers slowly though his long black hair. It's soft and smooth and it slips through my fingers. I like the feel of it so I keep running my fingers through his hair until I can tell he's fallen asleep.

I stay awake for a long time listening to Baz breathe, lost in my thoughts.

Chapter Text

BAZ

Simon's hiding something.

Usually he prattles incessantly (especially when I'm trying to study) (or sleep). But he's hardly said a word since he came home last night. After all these years watching him I can read just about every emotion he ever has. Sometimes before he can.

He says he's tired. But I see worry in his eyes, and I know I'm not wrong.

He didn't even interrupt me once while I was studying last night and that never happens. We used to study together when he lived with Penny, and while Bunce and I would go for hours swotting without a break, Simon could only manage twenty minutes before he would start fidgeting, or chattering, or stretching, or scouting for food. (It drove Bunce crazy.) (I thought it was adorable, but I'm so stupidly in love with him I think every idiotic thing about him is adorable.)

He's up early this morning and I can hear him banging about in the kitchen as I get up to shower. (He's just as noisy as ever.) I intend to be early for my exam and Simon has work so there won't be much time to talk.

When I come out of the bathroom he's serving up breakfast. I wrap my arms around him once he puts the heavily laden plates on the table. "Simon. Are you sure you're all right?"

He looks up, surprised. He probably thought he was doing a good job hiding his feelings.

"Yeah Baz, I'm good," he says, trying to smile. It doesn't work – it doesn't quite reach his eyes. "All set for your exam?"

I pour the tea. "Yes, it'll be fine." I know I will; I know all of my exam topics back to front.

"So, we're heading to Oxford tomorrow?" He changes the subject but I let it go, it's obvious he doesn't want to talk yet.

"Yes, I'll pick you up from work if you like."

He starts hoeing into his eggs and bacon. "Yeah, okay. It'll be good to see everyone. And to fly again."

Simon loves to fly but hasn't had many opportunities since he started working, and now that we live together there's no longer the need to fly over in the middle of the night. No doubt Mordelia will coerce him into taking her for a joy ride or two across the lawns and garden. At least Daphne doesn't mind anymore, I think she worked out a long time ago that it was Mordelia who was talking Simon into it. My annoying little sister can be pretty cunning when she wants to be. That must be the Grimm in her, my stepmother is as sweet and innocent as a newborn babe.

In spite of my concern, I can't help smiling as I watch him eat. He eats every meal like it's his last, shovelling a continuous stream of food into his mouth before he swallows the last mouthful. It's a full show. His wedding ring catches the light and I absently reach for my own and twist it around my finger. I'd better start eating soon if I want to get any of it before he makes a move on it.

All too soon it's time to leave so we clear up in a rush and gather our things. I turn to Simon for a quick kiss, which turns into a longer kiss as he pulls me towards him, and I can feel myself melting into him as he lifts his chin and his warm lips brush against mine. My lips part automatically to let him in and I melt further into the kiss. I take his cheeks in my hands and run my thumb along his jaw, feeling the warmth that is Simon Snow, and a part of my mind curses the need for exams and lawyers and work because all I want to do right now is feel my beautiful husband's warm mouth on mine for as long as possible.

Simon pulls back and smiles up at me, effectively putting an end to this train of thought. His hands move from my back to my waist as he looks down at my chest.

"Are you wearing my jumper?" he asks, trying and completely failing to raise his eyebrows in a derisive way.

"Yes. For luck."

He shakes his head. "You don't need luck, you're going to ace it."

"I know," I shrug. I'm a Pitch for Crowley's sake, we definitely do not need luck. "For comfort then. And because it looks good on me."

He grins at me. "Smug git." he whispers, and then kisses me again. "Good luck with your exam, Baz. I know you'll ace it." He pulls out his wand and spells his wings and tail invisible.

"Thanks," I say, still a little breathless from that last kiss.

SIMON

My concentration at work is shit today. I can't stop thinking about last night.

I'm going to tell Baz everything as soon as I get home.

We were supposed to be celebrating tonight and instead I'm going to spoil everything by telling him how severely I fucked up. Shit. I'm a fucking idiot.

I press myself into the crowded Tube after work, berating myself for being an idiot. (And for not flying home after the third person steps on my tail.) I coil my tail around my wrist and pull my wings in tighter so I don't take someone's eye out. The Tube is dodgy at the best of times, add invisible wings and tail into the mix and it can be downright lethal.

The last few years have been so good and so blissfully normal. (Well, normal except for that one time in Soho with that goblin.) (Penny and Baz warned me about going to uni parties.) But apart from that one incident things have been nothing short of perfect.

I should have known it wouldn't last. I've never really had a peaceful life – not for more than a few years at a time anyway. It's almost as if I'm due for another bloody drama.

After Baz and I were married I really thought this was it for me. We had the loveliest honeymoon in Tuscany and we did all the things we said we would. We played tennis, swam, ate amazing food, shagged. . . Baz even tried to teach me how to dance. (He failed spectacularly because I still can't dance for shit.) (It's probably the only thing he's ever failed at.)

Baz even mastered how to make those sour cherry scones like Cook Pritchard's. He promised he would if I let him teach me how to dance. I held up my end of the bargain – even if all those lessons didn't do me any good – and now I get scones all the time. I just keep telling him they're not quite perfect so he keeps making them because he's such a bloody perfectionist.

But now this has happened. And I have to tell Baz.

I open the door to the flat and drop my satchel and keys. I shrug out of my suit jacket and throw it over the back of the sofa as I head to the kitchen, kicking off my shoes on the way. I find Baz leaning on the counter talking on his phone; he has a serious look on his face but he finishes his call as soon as he sees me. He watches me for a moment as I stare back at him, and something in my face must crumble because next thing he's right in front of me, placing his hands on my waist and pulling me in close. I lean into him and take comfort in the feeling of his arms around me as I steel myself to tell him.

I can't put this off any longer. I need to tell him straight away. I take his hand and lead him to the Chesterfield and tug him down next to me.

I exhale a loud breath as I run my free hand through my hair, readying myself. Finally I meet his eyes. "Something happened at the Coven meeting last night. . ."

"Simon– " he starts, but I cut him off.

"No Baz, let me talk." Baz does what I ask and stops talking immediately. He fixes his gaze on me instead.

I run my hands through my hair and take a big breath and then tell him everything that happened last night. I tell him how I opened my big mouth that I was the Humdrum and that I caused the holes in the magickal atmosphere and the mayhem and accusations that followed – the shouting, the blame, the guilt. By the time I'm finished I'm exhausted and I sag back into the couch, clinging to his hand.

"Why didn't you tell me last night?"

That's just like him; he's just as imperious as he's always been, especially if it's something not quite right with me. I know he's worried and it's his way of being protective.

I shrug at him. "I didn't want to interrupt your swotting."

"You should have talked to me straight away," he says, more gently this time, and I shrug again. I don't say anything else. It's like I used up all my words telling him what happened and now I'm exhausted now. He starts rubbing his thumb on the back of my hand in an attempt to soothe me. I watch his thumb as it moves in small circles. I feel numb.

He tugs on my hand until I look up to meet his eyes. "Professor Bunce called just now and told me everything."

"She did?"

"He did," he corrects. "Martin."

"Oh."

"This is nothing to worry about, Simon. It'll all blow over soon," he says, like it's nothing.

I give him an incredulous look. "Is that all you've got to say, Baz? It'll blow over?"

"Yes, it will," he nods, confident as ever.

I shake my head. "I don't think so, you didn't hear what they said. They were pretty angry . . . I'm such an idiot."

"Simon–"

"Baz. I am. I'm a total moron. Merlin, you can even say it if you want: 'You're an idiot, Snow.'" I sigh and let my shoulders slump and sag into the sofa. "I deserve it."

"I haven't called you 'Snow' since we were married. It's in my vows, remember?" He looks like he's trying not to smile.

"Baz–"

"And you're not an idiot, Simon. I haven't called you that since Watford," he continues in that same matter-of-fact tone. It's starting to aggravate me. I roll my eyes.

"Although you have to admit, you were a bit of an idiot back then." He's still trying not to smile. "Everyone's an idiot in high school."

"Not helping, Baz."

"Everyone except me, that is," he tries to joke. It falls flat.

I could take the opportunity to remind him about the Chimera incident, or the trying to steal my voice thing– I reckon they were pretty idiotic, but I'm really not in the mood right now.

"Baz," I mutter and he squeezes my hand. "Christ. I really messed up. I truly am the worst Chosen One who's ever been chosen. You got that right back then too." I shake my head in annoyance, whether at myself or the Coven or at Baz for taking this too lightly I'm not really sure.

"That's true."

I look up, startled. He still looks like he's trying to hold back a smile.

He raises his eyebrow at me. "Well you sort of were the worst Chosen One when you think about it, you were the hero and the villain. How often does that happen?"

"Merlin Baz, this is serious!" I growl. "They were really pissed off." Why is he making a joke of this? Doesn't he know how badly I messed up? Is he deliriously happy because his exams are finally over? Has he been drinking?

"Have you been drinking?"

He tries to scowl at me. (It usually comes out as a pout these days.) "Certainly not."

I drop my head onto the back of the sofa again and let out a groan. I can't believe he's not taking this seriously. He has no idea– the anger in that room. . .

Baz squeezes my hand, tugging me towards him until I finally look up.

"Simon, it's all right. I wouldn't be too worried about them," he says, his voice even. "Granted, I wouldn't have told them if I had the choice, but those idiots on the Coven don't really do anything but waffle on about Watford educational standards and upholding magickal values. They never really did anything until the Mage arrived and since the Mage's death they haven't done anything other than sort out his mess. And that's been Professor Bunce's doing, largely," Baz continues. He's still rubbing his thumb back and forth across the back of my hand as he speaks. I must admit, it feels really nice. Almost relaxing.

I let out another frustrated sigh and drop my head. My eyes follow his thumb on my hand as I think about what he said.

"Professor Bunce said the same thing," he goes on. "And he says Mitali Bunce agrees."

I look up at him, feeling a little hopeful now.

"You really just need to learn to shut up occasionally," he smirks this time. He's obviously given up trying to stop smiling. "And listen every now and again, that would help too."

"Baz, this is serious." I know he's just trying to lighten the mood but really, this isn't the time.

"Simon," His voice is so gentle and soft this time that I lean into it a bit. "I don't think anything will come of this really. They'll huff and puff and argue a little to let off a bit of steam and then they'll get back to business."

"Really?" I hate that I sound so desperate. "That's what Dr Wellbelove said."

"He should know. He's been a member of the Coven forever," he says giving me an encouraging nod. He's still running his thumb across the back of my hand.

I slump back into the couch, throwing my head back dramatically. "I dunno," I groan, "I thought they were going to send out a lynch mob or something. And your dad's mates – that old bloke and the other really old bloke – they were as mad as hell."

Baz snorts again. "Those morons on the Coven wouldn't know where to find a lynch mob. They wouldn't know a lynch mob from a luck of leprechauns. They're nothing but a bunch of bloody fools," he says, dismissing the thought. He wraps his arm around my shoulder and pulls me towards him. "And I especially wouldn't worry about Father's associates. I'm sure Father thinks more of you than of them."

I'm not too sure about that last bit; this will probably just give Mr Grimm something else to hate me for. But I can't think about my tenuous relationship with my father-in-law on top of everything else. I drop my head on his shoulder and he pulls me in closer and I try to relax. I turn my face into his neck and breathe him in. He smells good.

"I still can't believe they never knew, Baz," I sigh into his neck and he wraps his other arm around me, enclosing me in his arms.

"They only heard what they wanted to hear at the trials. No one asked for more details, and it had nothing to do with the Mage's death, so Professor Bunce just let them assume."

"I wish I knew that yesterday," I mumble into his shoulder.

Baz huffs out a small laugh. "I think the Bunces did the right thing keeping this quiet. You'd been through enough, Simon."

"But the holes? Some of them were really pissed off because their houses are in the dead spots."

"And I'm sure Professor Bunce explained that they'll take time to close, so why would they think any different? They're not the experts. They're being idiotic."

I pull back and take a long look at Baz. He looks so confident and sure that I can't help but believe him. (And he's usually right.) Thank Merlin he's here to talk some sense into me, I was tying myself into knots all day worrying about this.

He's looking at me with so much love and honesty that I let myself get just a little lost in the depth of his blue-grey eyes for a moment. Then I pull him in and rest my forehead on his. I could stay like this forever, enjoying the feeling of our closeness, his arms around me and his breath mixing with mine. It calms me better than any words ever could.

But my stomach has a different idea and let out an embarrassingly loud growl.

He must have heard because he stands then and pulls me up with him. "Come on Simon, dinner."

I smile for the first time today as I follow Baz into the kitchen. We talk about his exam while we cook and eat together and the more we eat and talk, the more I relax. He aced his exam of course, and we talk about how he has some time off before starting his pupillage thingo and I feel lighter than I have all day. And once we magic everything clean I remember again that today was his final exam so I take his hands in mine and lead him back to the couch, smiling at him as I pull him down to sit next to me.

"What?" he asks.

"Today was your last exam."

"Yes," he agrees and I can see the corner of his mouth tug upwards slightly. I wouldn't notice it if I wasn't looking at his mouth, or if I wasn't fluent in all things Baz.

"So . . ." I raise eyebrows.

"So?" he repeats, a slow grin forming on his face.

I lean in and kiss him.

He kisses me back, slowly at first, and I savour the feeling of that moment that our lips first touch, his cold to my warm, and it's good, it's always so good, so I kiss him again, brushing my lips lightly across his.

"I think we should celebrate," I say, pulling back just enough to get the words out.

"Mmmm," he hums and he presses his lips back to mine, harder now as he wraps his arms around me, pulling me closer. I love it when he does that, and I let him pull me into him until we're flush against each other. I push my mouth against his and kiss him harder, until I feel all the frustration I've felt since yesterday finally dissolve as I concentrate on only this.

"Was that a yes?" I ask between kisses, even though I know what his answer will be.

He doesn't answer for a while, he just kisses me harder. I run my tongue across his bottom lip and he hisses in a breath. "Yes," he finally whispers, right before he makes a beeline for my jaw. "Fuck yes," he says again as he peppers my jaw with open mouth kisses and I feel like I'm going to lose my mind.

I shove my hands into his smooth black hair and clench my fists in it to pull his face back up towards me, smiling when I hear him gasp. And when I bring his mouth back to mine we both open at the same time. I trace my tongue against his, all wet and soft and warm, and a quiet moan escapes one of us as he drives me back further into the couch.

And as I lift my neck to him I know that he'll suck and kiss but never bite, and I moan again as he places velvet kisses along my jaw and neck, removing my tie and undoing the buttons of my shirt as he slowly kisses his way down.

BAZ

Simon Snow in a suit is one of my all-time favourite things. He is required to wear a suit to work every day now and I don't know if I'm insanely jealous or outrageously turned on by it. Either way, undressing Simon out of said suit is just as enticing, maybe even better. I'm doing that right now and I'm taking my time, savouring the feel of him as I revel in what's underneath.

There's nothing else I'd rather do than kiss Simon. Kiss and make love to him. I could do that all day long, and all night. And we've done exactly that on those 'duvet days' that Simon cooked up during one of our long summer breaks back before we were married. He does need to learn to think before speaking, but for all that he really does have a brilliant mind.

I work my way down unhurriedly, peppering kisses across his broad chest and down to his hard, flat stomach, where I graze my lips back and forth across his warm skin while I undo the belt of his trousers. He moans again and I make it my mission to elicit every sweet sound I can from him tonight as I slowly pull them down.

-oOo-

Making love once is never enough for Simon or me, even after all this time together. As we lay on the Chesterfield, our skin glowing with perspiration, one of his hands travels lightly up and down my side. I let out a quiet, contented hum. Simon looks up at me and smiles and he's so breathtakingly beautiful that my almost-dead heart lurches in my chest. I lean down and kiss his soft red lips and they part to let me in and then we're groping for each other all over again.

"Maybe we should go to bed," he gasps between kisses.

"Mmmm?" I say, I'm not really listening; I'm focussed on the feeling of his skin against my mouth as I move down to his neck.

"Bed, Baz." He tries again as I nuzzle at that spot just below his ear. I slowly drag my mouth back to his, trailing my tongue along his warm neck and jaw as I makes his way back to his mouth, and when I reach my mark we're kissing all over again.

So we stand clumsily, without breaking our kiss and he backs me to our room and onto our bed. As I climb backwards towards the bedhead, Simon follows me on all fours until he's above me– it's a favourite move of his and I love it. He strokes my cheek gently as I reach up for his mouth over and over and I don't want to stop, I never want to stop kissing Simon, and as he moves his hand slowly down, trailing warm fingers across my chest and my stomach and lower still until they're around me, I get lost in Simon all over again.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I stare out the window as Baz steers our car into the long gravel driveway. He pulls up in front of the old stables that have been converted to a garage, the gravel squelching beneath the tires as he comes to a stop.

We've been coming to Oxford for years, ever since he told his parents about us just after everything happened, and it's like our second home now. Sometimes we only come for dinner and so Baz can hunt, but often we stay over. I like spending time with his step-mum and sisters and brother. They're kind of like the family I never had. And I like sitting outside on the big lawn and playing Pitch football or having a kick with Mordy or sitting in the shade, drawing with Baz by my side, his head in a book or six. And I like flying over the estate too.

I drag my head away from the window where it's been resting during the hour long drive and I turn to face him. "We have to tell your parents."

He switches off the engine and turns to look at me, giving me a guarded smile. "I've been thinking about that too."

"Better they find out from us than anyone else, yeah?" I offer.

Merlin I'm nervous. It feels like the first time I came to Oxford with Baz all over again – when I still thought Mr Grimm wanted to kill me, and not because I was working with the Mage but because I was Baz's boyfriend. I wonder if he'll want to kill me again when he finds out.

"I mean, I'm surprised someone hasn't told your dad already," I mumble. I can't believe those two old twats haven't said anything yet. (We would have heard if they did.) Maybe they're not as close to Baz's dad as I thought. I can't help hoping for this one little thing to go my way. "How do you think he's going to take it?"

"Hmmm, how do I think he's going to take the fact that his son-in-law is responsible for sucking the magic right out of our family home in Hampshire? Creating the biggest magickal dead spot in the entire UK?" And he smirks at me, the git.

I don't say anything, and something in my face must break because he stops joking and pulls me towards him. "It's all right Simon, they'll understand once we tell them what happened. You were saving me from the Humdrum, remember?"

He's rubbing my back and I nod against him as I lean into him. Of course I remember. It's like it's burned into my memory. Everything that happened back then is burned into my brain forever. I'll never forget any of it. I don't think Penny and Baz will either. He doesn't stop rubbing my back and I stay there for a while, enjoying the closeness.

Finally I pull back and look at him, giving him a small smile. He gives me an encouraging smile back. "Ready?"

I nod and he gives me a quick kiss before we get out of the car.

BAZ

After dinner and after my siblings are sent to bed, we sit with my parents in the library. Daphne makes up some gin and tonics and she passes them around with a smile. Fiona turned up during dinner, (ridiculous as always in her leather and Doc Martens in the height of summer) and declares she's staying the night so it looks like she's going to be part of this discussion as well. Splendid.

"Hey, Chosen One, how's it going?" she as we take our seats. She bumps Simon's shoulder casually as she passes.

"Fine Fiona," he growls. His knee is bouncing nervously against mine and I can tell he's not in the mood for her cheekiness today.

Daphne gives Fiona a reproachful look, "Don't call him that."

"What?" she mocks. "It's his name."

"Give it a rest Fiona. We have something important to discuss," I snap.

"What?" she says again as she flops into the nearest chair, putting her heavy boots onto the antique coffee table. She catches Daphne's reproving look and drops her feet back to the carpet. Her eyes shift between Simon and me. "Oh fuck. You're not adopting a baby are you?"

Father almost chokes on his gin and I fight to hold back a smirk as he regains his composure. Talk about giving my father a heart attack, he's barely over the wedding and it's been almost two years. I'm pretty sure he still hopes my being gay is just a phase.

I roll my eyes. "No Fiona." It would be amusing on any other day.

"What is it Basil?" Daphne asks and I swear her eyes were a little hopeful for a second. Crowley, isn't my ridiculously large brood of siblings enough for her to fuss over?

I glance in Simon's direction and notice he's drinking his gin a little too fast on account of his nervousness. I'm thinking he'll probably want to stay sober for this discussion, a drunk Simon is not something I need my parents to witness. (There's the slurring of course, and then there's the hugging and the kissing.) (It's absolutely adorable.) I catch his eye and he stops drinking and gives me a small nod. He wants me to start.

I tell them how there's something about the Humdrum that we didn't tell anyone before, and probably wouldn't have until Simon accidently mentioned it at the Coven meeting the other night.

Fiona huffs impatiently. "Well come on then Basil, what's the big secret?"

I tell them about that Christmas eve when the Humdrum came to Hampshire. How it and pushed a void into me that emptied me and how Simon filled me with so much magic, magic that saved me from the Humdrum and sent it away. I tell them how we worked it all out the following day – on Christmas day – with Bunce in her father's study. How all the holes aligned with whenever Simon went off or used an excessive amount of magic, and how the Humdrum sent the dark creatures to set Simon off so he would create more holes in the magickal atmosphere.

And then I tell them that the Humdrum looked like Simon that night, an eleven year old version of him, and that's when we worked out that the Humdrum and Simon were one and the same. I take a cursory look at each of them as I talk and I watch as their faces change from sceptical to incredulous to shock. I remind them that Simon ended the Humdrum the very night as soon as we worked out that he was creating the holes, the same day that the Mage died and the wars ended.

When I finish I sit back and reach for Simon's hand. No one says a word; they only sit and stare in shocked silence. Simon finishes his drink. I finish mine.

The silence stretches and it's starting to feel uncomfortable. Simon shifts in his seat and squeezes my hand so tight he'd probably cause me serious pain if I wasn't a vampire. But I take it and rub my thumb across the back of his hand, hoping to reassure him. I wait for someone to speak.

Fortunately the awkward silence is broken. Unfortunately it's by Fiona, but we've been sitting here for so long that I'll take anything at this point.

"So let me get this straight," she starts, staring at Simon, "You're the Chosen One and the Humdrum?"

His eyes flick briefly to my parents and then back to Fiona. He gives her a reluctant nod.

"Well, fuck me," Fiona whispers, throwing herself back against the chair. "I bet none of the prophets ever saw that coming."

She takes a large swallow of her drink but doesn't say anything else, and I think for once in her ridiculous life she's actually lost for words, stunned into silence. Father on the other hand is turning a deep shade of red, (or is it violet) and I think he's going to have a heart attack right here. He opens his mouth as if to speak but Daphne places her hand on his shoulder, stopping him before he says something I know I'll regret.

"I'm sure it was unintentional Simon," she says, giving Simon a soft look. "You didn't mean to create the dead spot over Hampshire, or any other place. Did you?"

He turns to her and he looks so grateful I could hug her. "No of course I didn't. I was just a kid. I had no idea what was happening."

"No one did," I remind them.

"Until you and Penny worked it all out. . . " Simon says, squeezing my hand. I squeeze back automatically.

"Of course Simon," Daphne reassures him. She keeps her hand on my Father's shoulder and she's rubbing it lightly. She turns to face my father. "We believe you, don't we Malcolm?"

I turn to look at my father as well. Fiona is staring at him just as keenly and eventually even Simon lifts his head to sneak a look. We sit and wait.

Father is still staring at my husband, his steely gaze hasn't moved from Simon during the entire exchange and I can feel Simon starting to shrink back into the sofa, his face turning deathly pale. Father's face is still a deep shade of red, turning slightly crimson now. They're quite the opposite.

Finally Father's expression changes, his eyes narrowing into slits. This can't be good.

"That was our home," he hisses, his eyes never leaving Simon.

"None of this was intentional Father. You must know that," I remind him. "And he stopped the Humdrum as soon as we knew. He worked out how to stop it the very next day."

Father turns to face me and I can feel the tension between us, the air is thick with it. Simon has sunk so far back in his seat it looks like he wants it to swallow him. Fiona's eyes are shifting between my father and me like she's at Wimbledon. Daphne is staring intently at my father. No one says a word.

Until Fiona pipes up. Again.

"So let me get this straight. Simon here, a.k.a. 'the Humdrum,' accidentally created the biggest dead spot in the UK, right over Hampshire, while he was saving your arse Basil?'

I turn to face her. She can be a right pain most days but that's about as succinct a summary as any. And she is trying to ease the tension between Father and Simon. I'll owe her one for sure after this.

"Yes that's right."

"How did you do that Simon?" Daphne queries. "I'm not sure I understand."

There's genuine curiosity on Daphne's face and I let out a long sigh. I'd forgotten that hardly anyone knew that Simon could push his magic into me.

"I pushed my magic into Baz," he tells them. "He was empty, the Humdrum took everything, so I gave him mine."

"That's not possible," Fiona scoffs, but she looks doubtful. "How?"

"I dunno," Simon shrugs. "I just . . . pushed."

"It doesn't work anymore," I interject. "It was only possible when Simon had all that magic."

"Could you do that with anyone?" Daphne asks.

"Not without hurting them," Simon says, shaking his head slowly. "Penny made me try with her but it hurt her. It only worked with Baz."

Daphne gives me a knowing smile which I chose to ignore. I know what she's thinking– that we were destine to be with each other, that our magic is perfectly compatible and that we're some sort of bloody magickal soul mates or what not. She's such a hopeless romantic. (As am I, but that's beside the point, and there are more important matters to contend with tonight.)

I think back to that night Simon gave me his magic and I took him to the stars. I wonder if he's thinking of it as well. I steel a glance at Simon again and he looks miserable. He's not thinking about that night, instead he's probably thinking about the Mage trying to steal his magic. We're getting awfully close to that and he looks panicked. There's no way we're telling anyone that the Mage wanted to take his magic; that he'd worked out the spell to do it. (And ruined Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody for us forever.) I need to move things along.

"Anyway, the Humdrum pushed a void into me and Simon saved me with his magic," I say quickly, trying to move the discussion back to safer territory. "The dead spot over Hampshire was a result of Simon using so much magic."

"I didn't have a choice," his eyes are wide and his voice quiet. "Baz was . . . Baz was hurting . . ."

I squeeze Simon's hand again.

Fiona stares at Simon for a little longer, then nods to herself as if deciding something. She turns to face my father, "Well that's what you call true love I suppose, eh Malcolm?"

Leave it to Fiona to make a joke of all this.

But then she's all back to business. "Well I think you've got your work cut out for you convincing that lot on the Coven that you're not the devil incarnate, but I'll back you Snow," she goes on, knocking back the rest of her drink. "Or is it Chosen One, or can I call you Humdrum now. Hummo for short maybe? Or the Humster?"

"That's enough Fiona!" Father barks. He stands up and glares at each of us, saving Simon until last. Simon still can't look at him, he's studiously studying his lap instead. "If you'll excuse me," he grits out. And with that he leaves the room, drink still in hand.

We all watch him leave. No one says a word until the door shuts firmly behind him.

Simon exhales loudly. "Fuck."

Fiona takes our glasses and makes up another round of gin and tonics and hands them around gingerly. When she gets to Simon she nudges his shoulder. "Here, I made you a double, I think you need it."

He looks up at her. "Thanks," he says in a shaky voice. He downs the drink in one, then turns to me. "He's really mad at me isn't he?"

"For now," I shrug.

Daphne pats his hand. "He just needs some time to take it all in. That was our home."

"I know," Simon mumbles. "I'd do anything to bring the magic back if I could Daphne. You've gotta believe me."

She gives him a reassuring smile. "I believe you Simon. And Malcolm will be fine, he just needs some time to process this. It's all so . . . new. You were saving Basil after all."

"I think he's forgotten that for the moment."

"It's just a lot to take in Basil," Daphne says. "Hampshire was his home. It's your home too, your mothers . . . It's your inheritance."

"I know." It was the House of Pitch. My mother's home. Father has always treated Hampshire reverently because of my mother.

Simon looks up at me and frowns. I never told him that Hampshire will be mine eventually. It isn't really something you tell the very person who made it unliveable. I guess he's worked it out now.

'Yeah, he'll come around Humster. You'll see," Fiona says, trying to lighten the mood and doing a shit job of it.

"Fiona!"

"All right, all right, I was just trying it out!" she shrugs. "I think I'll stick to Chosen One if that's all right with you?"

I roll my eyes and down my drink.

SIMON

I go straight to our room after that, partly because I'm so tired after this crap of a week but mainly because I do not want to bump into Mr Grimm tonight, or for the rest of the weekend come to that. (I wonder if I can stay in our room the whole time.) (I'm pretty sure Daphne will bring food.)

"Fuck," I groan as I throw myself onto our bed.

When I first started coming here I had to sleep in the guest room. That didn't bother me – we were barely out of our teens so it made sense. And at least that room wasn't haunted like the one in Hampshire. We get to share Baz's room now that we're married and we don't have to sneak around in the dead of night anymore. (Not that I did that very often, Mr Grimm is a scary bastard.) (Baz did though, loads of times.)

Baz lies next to me and I turn to face him and close my eyes. He immediately starts running his fingers through my hair. I can feel their cool weight as he pushes my hair off my forehead and then he's twisting and twirling it in slow repetitive movements. It's calming. We lie like that for ages before I have the energy to speak.

When I open my eyes Baz is staring at me. "Baz?"

"Yes love?"

I have to ask him about Hampshire now. How the hell did I not work that out before? It's the House of Pitch for Merlin's sake.

"Why didn't you tell me? About Hampshire?"

"It's not important." He's running his fingers absently through my hair as he watches me and I don't know how he can be so flippant about it. About losing his bloody house!

I stare at him like he's lost his mind. "But it's your house! I took the magic from your house! What a fucking mess . . ."

He moves his fingers from my hair and cups my face, brushing his thumb across my cheek. "You saved my life Simon. It seems like a fair trade."

I don't know how he can be so calm about this? It doesn't make any sense. Maybe he's just had way too long to get used to it.

And I didn't even know.

I drop my head so he can't see my eyes. "I'm sorry," I say, even though I know it's not enough. Nothing could ever be enough for losing your family home, his mother's home. His inheritance.

"Hey, Simon." He's pulling my chin up until I'm forced to meet his eyes. They're soft as he watches me. "It's not your fault Simon. None of this is your fault."

I try to drop my eyes but he's still holding my chin up.

I know he loved that house. He never says it outright but sometimes he talks about growing up there and I can tell how special it was to him, even with all those spooky gargoyles and bloody wraiths.

"I mean it," he says in a firm voice. "I love you and none of this is your fault. All right?"

I stare back at him. I really don't understand him sometimes. At school he'd get mad at me just for opening that bloody window and now he doesn't even care about losing his house.

"All right?" he says, even more insistent this time.

I huff out a frustrated breath. I guess his priorities have changed somewhat over the years. "All right," I mumble.

"Good," he says, kissing me lightly. I flop back on the pillow and huff again, more in exhaustion than anything else. I close my eyes and Baz starts running his fingers through my hair again. It feels so nice that I don't want him to ever stop.

I turn to face him again and he's so close I can make out the blue green flecks in his dark grey eyes. "Hey Baz?"

"Yes love?"

"How long do you think your dad's gonna want to kill me?"

"He doesn't want to kill you," he says, trying to stifle a smile. "Not anymore."

I let out a groan.

"He's just doesn't know what to make of all of this yet."

I turn to lie on my back again and Baz props himself up on his elbow and looks down at me. He starts running his fingers though my hair again. I close my eyes.

"He'll calm down Simon, you'll see. And so will the Coven."

I open one eye. "Do you think?"

He gives a confident nod. "I know."

I open both eyes and look at Baz. He's staring back at me and his eyes are soft and dark and I want to forget about everything that's happened this week and get lost in them.

"Kiss me Baz," I whisper. And he does, he leans in and closes his eyes and he doesn't stop kissing me for a very long time.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I manage to last all Saturday without seeing Mr Grimm, but now and I have no choice because we're taking our seats for dinner. I sit next to Baz and do a covert sweep of the table. The kids are here and there's an extra place set so I might be off the hook. He can't very well bring it all up in front of the kids, and a guest.

Just as I start to relax Fiona struts in and takes the spare seat, and as soon as she sees me she starts on about it all over again. So much for being off the hook.

Mordy's eyes go wide and she drops her fork with a loud clatter before she remembers to act bored like the teenager she is.

"You were the Humdrum?" she gapes at me across the table. "But you stopped the Humdrum. And I thought you were the Chosen One? You can't be both Simon." She's shaking her head like she knows everything and none of us know anything.

"He was and he did Mordelia," Fiona nods, grinning. She's not really taking this seriously at all.

Mordy's eyes go even wider as she looks between Fiona and me a few times before they finally settles on me. "So you really were the Humdrum?" She raises her eyebrow at me, looking a hell of a lot like Baz. It's kinda scary.

I give her a small, reluctant nod, trying hard to avoid Mr Grimm.

"He didn't know he was," Baz snaps, narrowing his eyes at the two of them. "Can we all just agree that, once and for all?"

"Of course Basil," Daphne says, her voice the essence of calm.

"We know Basil, keep your shirt on," Fiona says, waving her hand in the air. "What's more important is what everyone else is going to believe, starting with your father. Right Malcolm?" She looks over at Mr Grimm and gives him an pointed look.

Everyone turns to watch him now, even the twins and Baz's little brother stop eating and look up at their dad.

Baz's dad has been watching the exchange with a slight frown on his face. And when Fiona directs her question at him he puts down his cutlery and wipes his mouth with his fancy cloth napkin. He places his hands on either side of his plate with his palms flat on the table, readying himself to speak. My mouth goes dry and I swallow, hard.

He looks at Fiona, then Daphne, and then Baz before his gaze finally settles on me, and he sits there and stares at me for so long that I think he's going to ask me to leave or something. I have no bloody clue what he's going to say and I'm a nervous wreck. I swallow again.

His eyes shift from me back to Baz and Fiona. "This doesn't bother you Basil? Fiona?" he eyes passing between them. "Hampshire does belong to the two of you. It's your birthright."

"Of course not Father," Baz says straight away. He takes my hand under the table.

"Me neither," Fiona shrugs. "I don't want it. I always hated living in that big old haunted mansion."

"And he didn't create the hole on purpose," Baz reminds his father. "He was saving me from the Humdrum."

"From himself?" Mordy asks. (I really wish she would drop it, she not helping the situation.)

"No Mordelia, from the Humdrum," Baz snaps at her. "Simon wasn't controlling the Humdrum."

"But–"

"Mordelia." Baz's dad says. He gives her a long-suffering smile and then turns to me. I keep my eyes on him even though I really really want to study the pattern on the tablecloth right now. "You saved Basil from the Humdrum, Simon. I understand–"

"From himself," Mordelia mumbles.

"I understand," Baz's dad continues as if Mordy hadn't said anything, "that you were not controlling the Humdrum. And I believe that you didn't mean to take the magic out of Hampshire, or anywhere else for that matter. I'm grateful that you ended the Humdrum when you did. And I'm especially grateful that you saved Basil that night."

I let out a big breath that I don't even realise I'm holding. "Thanks," I mumble, dropping my eyes to my plate. Baz squeezes my hand under the table and I squeeze back, taking a quick peek at Mr Grimm again.

He nods once and then picks up his cutlery and goes on eating like he hasn't just said the nicest thing ever to me. Daphne beams at him and then Baz and then me, and I can feel my face turning red.

When we finish eating, Vera comes in and clears the dishes away. We sit in silence until she leaves, and we stay silent until dessert is served. (Treacle tart and some after dinner mints.)

"Righto, glad that's sorted," Fiona says as soon as Vera leaves. "We still love you Chosen One, no matter what the rest of the magickal realm's going to think when this comes out. And we'll stand by you. Right?" she nods, looking around the table.

I don't always get Fiona. Sometimes I think she still hates me and wants to spell my feet into the dirt, and sometimes, like now, she can be my greatest ally. It probably helps that she's more than likely dating my uncle – not that either of them will admit it, they've been pretty cagy about their relationship ever since they met at our wedding, but it probably helps anyway.

"Of course," Daphne says without hesitation. She's still beaming at me and Baz's dad alternately.

"Nothing is going to happen Fiona!"

"You have a short memory Basil," she says, shaking her head. "We were at war not five years ago. Half of the realm wanted our kind wiped out." She's looking around the table and shovelling pudding into her mouth at the same time.

"It's hardly the same thing. The Mage is gone. He's the one that started the wars, turned everyone against us, killed . . ." Baz stops then, not able to finish his sentence. They don't talk about his mother's death, and especially not in front of the kids.

"I'm just saying," Fiona goes on. She takes the after dinner mint from her plate and passes it under the table to Mordy without missing a beat. "They're a bunch of bloody cowards, too scared of their own shadows to make a decision on their own. If someone wants to blame your chosen one here for the dead spots, there are plenty of others that are likely to follow."

I swallow again but don't say anything. Instead I drop my head down and watch as a little hand belonging to one of the twins stealthily swipes the after dinner mint from my plate. She spits it neatly in two under the table before handing half to her sister. I hear Baz's little brother huff from across the table. He hates missing out.

We go back to eating in silence until Daphne asks Mordy about her piano lessons and they get into a long winded discussion about the merits of studying rhythm and blues over classical.

I'm relieved when dinner is finally over and Baz motions for us to leave. I get up quickly and follow him out, trying to hide a smile as he sneaks his after dinner mint into his little brother's hand as he passes.

PENNY

Ever since Micah and I moved to America, mum makes it a habit to call me every Sunday morning. Sometimes she asks after our research or Micha's family, but usually she just calls for a chat. After I graduated from uni, Micah and I thought about staying in London, but his contract ended and we secured a magickal research grant at Yale to research the dreaded pixie sticks.

It's a debilitating disease, if you're a pixie that is, and is desperately in need of magickal research to try and find a cure, or at least some form of treatment to lessen some of its more distressing symptoms. (Pixie sticks causes pixies to gradually lose their ability to produce pixie dust, which has a devastating effect on their magic. Without pixie dust a pixie is pretty much a diminutive Normal with pointy ears.) (It also causes them to become quite manic. Most pixies are a little manic anyway but after contracting pixie sticks they become more and more crazed until they end up quite unhinged and sectionable.)

It's not my ideal research project, after seven years sharing a room with Trixie that annoying pixie, I thought I was done with them. But this is where the funding is the moment, and it is interesting research, and it means we can live in America which keeps Micah and his enormous family happy.

And the research is vitally important of course, the last thing we want is another extinct magickal race, there aren't enough of us as it is. There are still far too many dark creatures around and we don't want the scales tipped in their favour. It's all about balance I suppose. But truth be told, I'd rather be back in the UK trying to cure unicorns of their insatiable thirst for young virgins, or finding the fairies – both worthwhile causes in my view. Hopefully the funding will be there for either of those one day, and now Simon's on the Coven, you never know. I know he thinks they're both important, but maybe that's because I told him so.

Simon. Merlin, I miss him. We spent most of our teenage years together at school and then we shared a flat after that. Now we're limited to weekly phone calls and daily texts since I moved, which is all right for now, but I miss him and his texts are terrible. And I miss Baz too. (Not that I'm ever telling Baz that.)

And I still can't help worrying about Simon, even though he has Baz now and the dark creatures no longer have a price on his head. (Except for that goblin that tried to lure him to his death that time.) (I told Simon that uni break up parties were dangerous.) (Doubly so in Soho.) I suppose the habit is hard to break after years of looking out for each other.

I just got off the phone from mum, and I'm still reeling that Simon spilled the beans to the Coven about being the Humdrum. I spoke with mum for ages about it. She's worried that some of the Coven members will make a bigger deal of this than it warrants, and it really isn't a big deal anymore. Since Simon ended the Humdrum nothing bad has happened in the magickal realm at all. Surely they know that? So if they think for one second that Simon is the cause for the holes staying open then they're a bigger bunch of morons than I thought. Simon is no more the cause of them staying open than I am.

I often wonder how some of those idiots were voted on the Coven in the first place. Sometimes I think I should join the Coven, and Baz should too, just to bring some fresh thinking to that lot. I realise I'm twirling my ring around my finger faster and faster as I think about all this. Merlin and Morgana, I need to calm down.

So many of them are uninformed and completely out of touch, especially those hanging on from the Mage's reign. Once the Mage got rid of the members from the Old Families and added a few of his yes men, (no women, he really was a sexist pig) mages who really didn't have any business being on the Coven and who were all to ready to agree with all of his oppressive rules and taxes, things really started to go downhill. There's only a few of them left now but the Coven would still be better off without them. And then a few from the Old Families regained their seats after the Mages demise and they're pretty useless as well. I mean, how old is that Alfie anyway, he's got to be over seventy. (Eighty maybe?) Surely it's time he moved on.

I have to talk to Simon. I can't believe he didn't call me as soon as this all happened. He usually has to talk about everything straight away, but I guess he has Baz for that now. And I know he still has trouble figuring out the time difference between us. (We're five hours behind, how hard is that to work out?)

SIMON

Baz is in the study discussing Merlin knows what with his dad, (probably me and my dark half knowing my luck) so I decided it's in everyone's best interest to stay outside for a while. Mordy's back from Watford for the summer and she and I are playing football on the big lawn. It's been ages since we had a kick so she grabbed me as soon as we finished lunch, and I'm glad she did, I still feel stupidly uncomfortable around Mr Grimm.

"So is it really true Simon?" Mordy asks as we finish up our game. She gave me a good thrashing as usual.

"What?" I ask, panting. "The Humdrum thing? Oh yeah, it's true."

"Mum said you accidently created the Humdrum when you were a kid." She's tossing the ball between her hands like she does whenever we talk about stuff.

"Yeah sort of," I nod. "But I didn't know I'd done it. It just happened when I first went off . . ."

Even Mordelia knows about all the power I had before. She heard all the stories about me from the Old Families when she was a kid, and now that she's at Watford she hears even more. She bounces the ball a few times on the end of her foot while she thinks this through. (She's pretty good at football, just like Baz.) (They're more alike than he'll ever admit.)

"So what, are you like an outlaw now?"

"What? No! Of course not," I say. "This will all blow over. Everyone just needs to get used to it I suppose." I don't know if that's true or not but I tell her anyway, because she's a kid and doesn't need to be burdened with my problems.

"I hope so, I like having you as my brother-in-law," she says. "You're a lot more fun that Basil."

I let out a small laugh in spite of myself. "Thanks."

"Would you be my brother-out-law if you really were an outlaw Simon?"

"What! No!" I say as I shake my head, but she's giggling and smiling up at me so I can't help smile back. I could never hold a grudge against Mordy.

My phone rings then and I see Penny's picture flash on the screen.

"I gotta take this. It's Penny," I tell Mordy as I walk out of earshot.

"Penny?" I answer and smile to myself. I always look forward to talking with Penny, and I'm especially glad today after everything that happened.

"Simon! Are you all right? I spoke to mum just before and she told me everything." She yells in my ear.

"Yeah I'm alright."

And then she's on at me, asking me questions and forcing me to explain every single thing that happened at the meeting and when I told Baz and when we told Baz's parents. I flop down on the grass under a tree and we talk for ages and I'm exhausted by the time I catch her up on everything. For once she doesn't interrupt me, she just listens without a word, other than the occasional uh-huh and yeah and what? and scoffs derisively every now and then.

"Yeah, so, that's it I suppose," I finish, pulling at the grass with my fingers. "I'm just really pissed off at myself. I'm such an idiot, Penny."

"No you're not," she says a little more calm. She's no longer yelling now that I've told her everything. "It will be fine, you'll see. They'll get over it."

"You think?" Everyone keeps saying that but I can't bring myself to believe it yet.

"Yes, I do," she says, confident as ever. "Mum says they're just going to take some time to get used to it and then they'll get over it."

"Yeah?"

"Yes. And maybe it's time they all found out anyway . . ." she says in her thinking voice. "This impacted the world of mages so maybe they have a right to know . . ."

Typical Penny. She's just like her mum, 'Information wants to be free' and all that rubbish. She probably thinks the magickal realm should know about my wings and tail too, and about the Mage being my father as well. But I'm not so sure, sometimes people don't handle the truth that well, and then it would only be a small leap to how the Mage gave me my powers and I know that information can never be free.

But I don't feel like disagreeing with her right now, it'll probably just start a long winded discussion about the risks of withholding the truth or some crap. 'There's no such thing as a bad thought.' is another one of her mum's sayings, but judging by what the Mage was thinking right before he created me, and right before he tried to kill me, I reckon that's a load of bollocks as well.

"Yeah, maybe," I mumble, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. We're quiet for a little while then and I hope that subject is done because I'm a little over talking about it now.

"I spoke with Agatha this week," she says after a bit. "She's working through the summer in some veterinary hospital, before her final year of study."

I let out a sigh of relief that she moved 's the good thing about Penny. She knows when I've had enough and she knows not to push.

"Yeah? That's great."

"Yeah, I think she's still got a year of study to go. She seems to be doing really well . . . Oh, and Josh has moved in to her place. He's working at a local high school now," Penny goes on. "A Normal one." she scoffs. "Teaching sports and history."

"Yeah?" I say again, ignoring her tone at that last bit. Penny still can't get over the fact that Agatha is happy living a relatively Normal life. I smile a little, despite myself. It's kind of nice hearing about Agatha and her life in California. Even though she's dating a mage her life always sounds so Normal.

I don't say anything more because I've run out words, and I think Penny know this. I'm not that great at talking on the phone anyway, so she fills in the gaps and talks a bit more about Micah and their work and his family and their obsession with Prince Harry. Then she asks about my work and Baz's exams and by the time we hang up I feel a little lighter, like I've unloaded all the worry I've been carrying around like excess baggage.

By the time Baz and I head back to London I'm feeling almost like my old self.

Chapter Text

SIMON

For the next few weeks things are almost back to normal. Almost.

Baz and I start running again now that he's finished studying, and we head to Oxford most Friday nights for dinner. (I go for dinner, Baz goes to hunt.) We don't stay the night though, I still feel a little uncomfortable around Mr Grimm. I know he's being weirdly nice about all of this, but I don't want to push my luck.

Baz still drives out mid-week to hunt as well. He might as well seeing the deer are there just for him, and he prefers them over the rodents in the city any day. And since Penny left for America, he doesn't have the pigeons on the roof of her flat to tie him over. There was a whole load coming to roost by the time I moved out, and Baz would often head up there whenever he was too cold or too tired to go any further to hunt. I started feeding them on our roof a while back and soon there'll be enough to keep Baz going if he's ever in a hurry.

Between the running and the trips to Oxford and my new job, I'm busy enough to keep my mind off the Coven.

I was worried I wouldn't even find a job after uni but my grades were good enough, and Professor Bunce put a word in with some Normals at the Department for Environment and I was hired after just one interview. It's nothing special, graduate shit kicker really, but I get to go out on field investigations all the time. In the end I'm just happy I have a job.

Olivia ended up doing the same degree as me but she's off travelling around the continent with some friends and I haven't seen her in months. I miss her sometimes, and Penny and Micah, and Alex and her café and Marco and his amazing food . . .

It's Saturday, nearly four weeks after that disastrous Coven meeting, and Baz suggests a game of tennis at the club. We've been going there for years and I'm even a member now we're married. Dev and Niall are usually there (they practically live at the club) and Niall always challenges Baz to a tennis match. He turns up with a bag full of racquets and always manages to smash at least one. Some things never change.

I'm lazing in bed because I've worked all week and for once don't have to get up early, but Baz is full of beans.

"Come on Simon," he says, brushing my cheek with his cool fingers. "It'll be good for you to burn off some energy."

I groan but don't open my eyes. I could sleep a bit more. Working full time is draining and even though it's been more than six months now, I'm still not entirely used to the regularity of it.

"Simon?" he whispers in my ear this time.

"Mmmm?"

"Come on love."

I don't move. I'm still enjoying my post sleep haze.

"Simon?" he whispers again. I can feel his breath on my ear and his lips lightly brushing my skin. I tilt my head a little closer.

"Mmmm?"

He kisses my earlobe this time, and then my neck – once, twice and then again. I tilt my neck and lift my chin to give him more access, and I'm smiling because it feels good. (So good.)

He has his mouth on my throat now and I can feel the chill of his lips as he leaves a trail of kisses. That's probably my favourite place he kisses me, my throat. Maybe it's because he's a vampire and it's stupidly dangerous to give him free access like this, but it feels good so I don't really give a toss right now. I let my mind drift while Baz kisses me, and I can feel myself getting hard.

He brings his mouth back to mine and kisses me lightly– a soft brush of his lips, and then I feel the loss as he pulls back. I finally open my eyes and I'm met with his (warm grey today) as he stares back at me. I pull him towards me, just a little, so he can feel what I want. My tail unwinds from his leg and wraps slowly around his waist. He smiles at me.

"The club can wait I suppose."

-oOo-

"Baz."

"Mmmm?" he hums this time, and he sounds so content it's practically a purr.

"Breakfast. Then tennis at the club, remember?"

He groans loudly and I think I may have tired him out, like really tired him out for a change. Maybe I'll even beat him at tennis today.

"Breakfast Baz," I remind him again, shaking his arm gently. "I'm going to starve if I don't eat soon." Who am I kidding, no one has ever beaten Baz at tennis.

He sighs again, "You won't starve, Simon."

I pull off the covers and make my way to the bathroom and Baz finally gets out of bed and heads to the kitchen to start on breakfast. By the time I'm finished showering he's put together a decent breakfast of eggs, bacon, mushrooms, and sausages and he's made a pot of tea.

We eat together and I clear up with magic while Baz showers, and one we're changed into our tennis whites I drive us to the club.

Penny couldn't stop taking the piss when she found out I'd joined the club. She said I was going to become a snooty snob just like Baz and the rest of his family, but then we both pissed ourselves laughing because she knows as well as I do there's no chance of that ever happening – I still can't work out which bleeding fork I'm supposed to use at their fancy dinners.

We get in a quick game, (without magic) (only occasional use of my tail) and then Dev and Niall spot us and Niall challenges Baz to a game. Honestly, it's like those two are always here. I know it's Saturday but they seem to live here in the summer – if they're not drinking their way around the continent that is. Surely they've finished uni by now and have got themselves jobs in their family's business or something?

I don't bother asking though, conversation has never been a strong point between us. And they're Baz's friends anyway, so I grab a pint and I'm content to sit in the shade with Dev and watch the game. Dev's not that bad I suppose, and now that he's gotten himself a mage girlfriend he doesn't ask so many questions about Agatha.

"Heard from Agatha lately?" he asks when Baz and Niall stop for a drink. (Okay so he still does ask after her sometimes.)

"Not lately," I tell him. "Penny told me she's working in a veterinary hospital this summer."

"Yeah?

"Yeah. And she and Josh have moved in together." I have to add that. I can't help myself.

"Oh," he says, and he doesn't say anything else for the rest of the game. I don't mind, it's peaceful sitting out here in the shade with my pint, listening to Niall swear and curse while Baz thrashes him again.

BAZ

"So," Niall says, lifting his chin in Simon's direction.

We're enjoying a post-match pint before lunch. I thrashed Niall by the widest margin yet. I beat Simon as well, although by not so much this time, and even though I know he used his tail I let it go. It's not magic as he never fails to remind me, and I do have my vampire speed so fair's fair.

Niall has a tennis bag full of broken racquets by his feet that he kicks a couple of times. "My father tells me that you were the cause of the holes in the magickal atmosphere."

Fuck. The news has spread already.

Simon splutters, spilling half of his pint onto our bags and the floor. "What?" he coughs out, wiping the beer off his chin. The barman waves his wand at the floor to clear up the mess and then returns to the business of pouring pints without missing a beat.

Fuck that idiotic Coven for not being able to keep their business to themselves. I wonder who else knows?

"Fuck off, Niall." I sneer as I place my pint back on the bar. "Simon is not to blame for any of this." I try to remain calm, even though I feel like I'm burning inside.

Niall shrugs. "They reckon he was the Humdrum and he caused the holes in the magickal atmosphere." He taps his tennis bag with his foot.

"Is that true?" Dev asks, blinking stupidly at Simon.

"No. . . Yes. . . Sort of. . ." Simon stammers.

I squeeze his hand and I wonder how many times I am going to have to explain this now that it's out.

"Look," I snap at them. "It's complicated, but yes, the Humdrum was an echo of Simon of sorts, created the first time he went off. It sent the dark creatures so Simon would go off, and when he went off he would inadvertently suck the magic out of an area. He didn't know of course. And once we worked it out Simon stopped the Humdrum that very day. And that is all there is to it." I kick Niall's tennis bag for effect.

I glance at Simon. He's pale and quiet and his tail, invisible as it is, has wrapped itself around my waist. I give his hand another squeeze.

"Well that's not what everyone's saying exactly," Niall says, looking between us. "All I heard is that you caused the holes and it's your fault they're still open."

"What?" Simon barks at Niall. "That's a load of bollocks Niall and you know it!"

"Is it?" Dev asks.

"What do you fucking think?" Simon growls, and Dev shrinks back just a little.

I rub the back of Simon's hand with my thumb in an effort to calm him, or maybe it's for my benefit. "Simon has nothing to do with the holes remaining open," I snap, fighting hard to keep my voice even. "Those morons on the Coven have no fucking idea."

I take a sip of my pint in an effort to calm myself. Dev, Niall and Simon do the same.

"So lemme get this straight," Niall starts, rubbing his chin. "You sent the dark creatures? After yourself?" He looks dubious and it comes out as more a statement than a question.

"I didn't do it on purpose!" Simon yells, and then glances around the room to see if anyone heard.

"He didn't know. None of us did. And as soon as he did he ended it," I say in a measured voice, trying to keep my irritation at bay.

"Huh," Dev shrugs, turning to Niall. "That kinda makes sense–"

"–in some weird, apocalyptic sort of way." Niall finishes, shrugging at Dev.

"Good," I huff, relieved at their response. If I can make these two dimwits understand then maybe the Coven won't be such a stretch. "Now can we please drop it and–"

"You may not have a choice, mate," Niall says, cutting me off. "And you're going to have work cut out for you trying to convince some of those families that had to move. My father says they're pretty hacked off about it."

"Shit," Simon mutters, shaking his head. "I knew this wasn't over. How many people know?"

"Loads," Niall shrugs, taking another pull from his pint. "I was over at The Headless Goblin last night and it's all everyone talked about."

"The what?" Simon asks.

"The pub, you know, over on Houndsditch."

Simon doesn't know about The Headless Goblin. It's a magickal pub in the East End frequented by mages for hundreds of years. We've never been there and it's never come up in conversation– mages who are members of our club do not generally frequent The Headless Goblin. And with Simon's history with actual goblins. . .

"What were you doing over there?" I can't help ask.

Niall shrugs. "Cheap pints."

It figures.

I continue to rub my thumb across the back of Simon's hand in an effort to reassure him. "Look, Simon. This will blow over. They'll blather on about it for a while– complain and let off some steam, and then see reason."

"I don't know Baz," Simon says, shaking his head. He sounds unconvinced and his brow is furrowed. I squeeze his hand and tug him closer to me.

"They will." I nod, keeping my eyes on his until his frown softens. He lets out a resigned huff.

Good. I've managed to calm him and that calms me, but it's short lived as I look around the dining room. A number of patrons are looking our way. They used to stare at Simon when he first started coming here– for some of them it was their first glimpse of the Chosen One and they needed to satisfy their curiosity. But that was years ago and they're used to him now, they treat him as any other member these days.

Until today.

People are staring at him. Almost everyone in the club is staring, and not all of those stares are friendly.

Fuck.

We should leave, immediately, before anyone decides to say something. I smooth out my features before turning to face him. "Come on. Let's go." I give him a small smile, hoping to mask my concern. I nod at Dev and Niall. "Gentlemen."

"You might want to wait a minute Baz. Old Alfie's just walked in," Niall says, pointing towards the entrance with his pint. "He's the one that told my father. And that twit Reggie is right behind him, he's another one. They were pretty pissed off from what my father said."

"Shit," Simon mumbles.

"It's all right Baz, we'll sort it," Dev says, grinning as he picks up his pint. "Time to create a diversion Niall."

"Right you are Dev," Niall chuckles.

They nod in our direction. "Baz, Simon."

And with that they head off towards the entrance, pints in hand, chortling loudly as they stagger towards Alfie and Reggie. Niall walks straight into Alfie, and Dev walks into Reggie, spilling their pint down the front of the older patron's shirts.

"Sorry Sirs, how clumsy of us. Here let me fix that for you," Dev says as he waves his wand. Instead of casting Clean as a whistle Dev points his wand at them and smiles mischievously.

"The Emperor's new clothes!" Dev bellows, and both Alfie and Reggie's shirts disappear, leaving them clamouring to cover their pasty white torsos. I can't help rolling my eyes as we make our way to the exit, they've been waiting a long time to use that spell.

"Oh, sorry about that Sirs," Niall hollers. "Here, let's just try that again. Um, Birthday suit!"

"Oops. That didn't work either. Nice legs by the way Alfie," Dev chuckles. "Um, let's try Dressed to the nines!"

"No that's not right Dev, bit formal for a Saturday morning. Er, how about Keep your shirt on!" Niall says, waving his wand with a flourish.

"Well at least you're covered up now Sir," Dev offers, eyeing Alfie's ludicrous floral shirt.

I pull on Simon's hand and we walk out of the club unobserved while everyone watches Dev and Niall make a spectacle of themselves. Good men.

Simon doesn't say a word the entire way home, and it's not until I pull him inside and turn him towards me, holding both his hands in mine that I dare speak. He has his head down and I wait for him to look up at me. When his eyes don't shift from the floor I knock up his chin until he meets my eyes with his own.

"There's nothing to worry about Simon." I keep my voice as even as I can. "They're still getting used to the idea. It's going to take a little time for all of this to blow over."

"I don't know Baz. You heard what Niall said."

"I did. But you saw Father's reaction. He came around a lot sooner than I expected, and so will everyone else. They know you didn't do anything on purpose. You were just a child when all this started for Crowley's sake. If anyone is to blame it's that fucking Mage. He's the one that gave you all that power in the first place. We should tell everyone–"

"No Baz!" Simon cries, his eyes wide and fearful. "They can't know that. They can't ever know he gave me all that power. It's too dangerous! Once they cotton on there's a spell out there that will do that, then . . . . then who know what will happen."

"All right, all right love." I brush his cheek with my thumb and repeat the words until he starts to calm down. His wild blue eyes softening as he finally composes himself.

Even in death that bastard Mage is still hurting Simon and I want to kill him all over again. I want to curse him and bite him and snap his wand and make him suffer over and over for what he's done.

And Simon, my brave, selfless Simon. He's still protecting the magickal realm from itself, even after everything the realm has done to him. Does he know he really is the Chosen One? How many other mages would take the blame for all of this, say nothing rather than risk the realm finding out what really happened?

But he's right, it is too risky. And as much as I despise it, I have to agree. If anyone finds out there's a spell out there that can give them untold power, they'll tear each other apart to find it, and then we can all say goodbye to our realm.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I'm dreading the Coven meeting tonight.

I put off thinking about it for weeks but I can't do that anymore. It's been on my mind from the moment I woke up – everything they said, everything they accused me of.

And Baz knows I'm worried, so now he's worried as well.

"Do you want me to come with you?" he asks over breakfast. (Bacon, fried eggs, baked beans and kippers.) (And a strong pot of tea.) He asked me twice last night and again when we woke up. And he's clenching his jaw so hard I reckon he's going to cut himself with his fangs.

"No Baz, I'll be fine." I try to act relaxed as I pour the tea. "What can happen? They'll yell and blame me for the holes and then we'll move on to discuss funding for the next Yuletide ball or some other crap."

He stares at me as I knock off an egg and some bacon. "All right love," he concedes. "But call me if you change your mind."

"Yeah okay."

We finish eating in silence and I don't say anything else until I'm at the door, ready to leave. He's right behind me when I turn to face him.

"Baz?"

"Yes love?"

"Will you pick me up after the meeting?" I know I won't feel like catching the Tube home, or flying tonight. I reckon I'll be ready to come home as soon as the meeting's over, whatever happens.

Baz wraps his arms around my waist and pulls me towards him and rests his forehead against mine. "Of course I will," he whispers.

I smile up at him and he smiles back and it's still as breathtaking as ever. I want to stay like this forever, just us together, but I have to get to work so I press my lips to his and kiss him goodbye instead.

BAZ

Of course I'll pick him up tonight. There's no way I'd ever let him face that lot on his own.

I was already planning to meet him whether he wanted me there or not. I don't know how he doesn't realise it after all these years, but I'd follow him to the ends of the earth if he asks me to. (And even if he didn't ask I still would.) He's the best thing that's ever happened to me – he's the bloody love of my life, I'd cross any line for him.

SIMON

The Coven meeting is at the Bunce house tonight. Pacey lets me in, and I say hi to him and Priya and Pip who are all lying on the couch watching some old episodes of East Enders. I ask how Prem's doing in Bristol and they all shrug and say they don't know. That's the funny thing about Penny's family, they're all so independent and they don't have any clue what Penny and Prem are up to now that neither of them live in London. It's like they don't even care.

Penny's dad finds me in their dining room. It's so crowded with all of their books and clutter that I have to be careful not to knock anything over with my wings and tail. I don't know how they're going to fit so many people in here, but I guess they do it every other meeting and Christmas so it should work itself out.

Penny's dad is not actually on the Coven, only Penny's mum is. He was only at the last meeting to give his report on the dead spots – the report that started all this shit. But he's usually around in case there are any questions.

He asks me to come up to his study. I'm a little early and I figure I have time so I follow him up the stairs, chatting about his work on the way.

"I visited a number of the dead spots this week," he says once we get inside and take our seats. His study is exactly the same as it's always been; books and journals cover the desk, finished mugs of tea hold maps and documents down, and the entire back wall is covered in a map of the UK with pins and flags identifying each of the dead spots, complete with date and size.

I scan the countless number of flags on the back wall. "Any change Professor?"

He shakes his head. "Nothing I'm afraid. We keep measuring the holes and they don't change at all." He removes his glasses and starts cleaning them on the corner of his shirt.

I twist my wedding band around my finger. "You don't think it's because of me, do you?"

He stops wiping his glasses and looks up at me in surprise. "Of course not Simon. That was quite reckless of Wilbur to suggest it."

"But old Alfie and Reggie agree with him," I say, rubbing the cool platinum band with my finger. "And they've been telling everyone. Niall said–"

He sighs at that. "Alfie and Reggie are being incredibly irresponsible Simon," he says, sliding his glasses back up his nose. "And very unprofessional discussing Coven matters with every mage they come into contact with. Mitali will bring it up tonight no doubt."

I don't know if it will make any difference whether she brings it up or not, they were pretty pissed. But I don't say that. "I'm not looking forward to tonight's meeting." I say instead.

"Mitali and the doctor will be there to support you Simon. And I'll be right outside if you need. And it really is about time you called me Martin don't you think?"

I don't know, it feels odd to call Penny's parents by their first names. They've always been Professor Bunce to me, like Dr Wellbelove and Mrs Wellbelove and Mr Grimm. I only call Fiona and Daphne by their first names. I don't know why, it just feels right. I can't imagine calling Fiona Ms Pitch – that just sounds stupid.

I shrug in response. I'm not sure how to answer.

"All right, never mind. Let's head down stairs, most of them should be here by now."

I follow him downstairs and sure enough, the dining room is full of Coven members. I nod hello to those that are looking at me and ignore the others who ignore me. I say hello to the other Professor Bunce and Dr Wellbelove and sit between them.

Professor Bunce starts the meeting as usual, apologies first (there are none, everyone is here) and then a quick run through of the minutes of the last meeting. (I try not to listen to but I can't help hearing.) Once the minutes are agreed she's about to start on the first agenda item, but she is interrupted almost immediately by Reggie.

"Excuse me Professor, but I have an additional agenda item for tonight's meeting," he says, as pompous as ever.

"All right Reggie, I would have preferred you submit any changes to the agenda twenty four hours prior to the meeting but let's have it," Professor Bunce says, exasperated as always with anyone who doesn't follow protocol.

"It's regarding the expulsion of Mr Snow for causing the dead spots in the magickal atmosphere."

Fuck. I knew this would happen. I just knew it. "You want me off the Coven? For doing something when I was eleven?" What a complete tosser. What a fucking twat.

He turns to face me and gives me a withering stare. "No," he says, all high and mighty like and raising his chin a little. "I'm not calling for your expulsion from the Coven, Mr Snow. I'm calling for your expulsion from the United Kingdom."

I stand up before I realise what I'm doing. "What? Are you fucking joking?"

It has to be a joke. Why would he even say something like that?

"This is no joke Mr Snow. A number of us on the Coven believe this is the only way to fix the holes in the magickal atmosphere," Reggie says. He's pointing his nose down at me and I swear I've never seen such a scornful look – and I lived with my sworn enemy for almost eight years.

Professor Bunce stands up quickly and bangs her hand on the table. "Reggie! That's outlandish! Just what do you think you're up to here?"

"I believe we should put it to the vote," he says, ignoring the Professor.

"Reggie this is completely uncalled for," Dr Wellbelove booms. He's leaning forward in his seat and has his hands balled into fists on the table. "I demand that you withdraw your request immediately."

"I second that notion," Alfie says.

"Thank you Alfie," Dr Wellbelove says, and he starts to sit back.

"No, not your notion Doctor, I second Reggie's notion," Alfie says to Dr Wellbelove.

My eyes are moving wildly between Reggie, Professor Bunce, Dr Wellbelove and Alfie, trying to follow what's going on. I open my mouth to say something but nothing comes out.

"You can't expel someone from the UK!" Professor Bunce shrieks, banging her hand on the table again. "That's absurd. This is not 1787. We don't banish individuals to the colonies anymore!"

This seems to wake me up because I finally find the words I want to say. "You do realise I stopped the Humdrum," I growl, pointing my finger at that Reggie twat. "If it wasn't for me you'd all be fighting dark creatures left right and centre! Do you realise how many I fought to save this realm?"

"Yes yes, regardless of that," Wilbur dismisses me like it's nothing at all that I saved the realm. "You have admitted you are the cause of the holes in our magickal atmosphere, and we believe you are the reason they are not closing now, Mr Snow."

Wilbur's in on this too? What a dick.

"That's preposterous Wilbur," Professor Bunce shrieks. "You are not the leading expert on the dead spots! That would happen to be Martin!" She's jabbing her finger in the air at him over and over.

"Yes. And as far as I can see he hasn't achieved anything in all the time he's been studying them. We believe it's time for more drastic action," Reggie retorts with a sneer.

"Drastic action?" Dr Wellbelove demands, sitting forward again. "Like banishing our hero from his home? Can you hear yourself?"

"We request this be put to the vote," Reggie says undeterred.

"Your request is denied," Professor Bunce snaps. She sits back in her seat and shuffles her papers, ready to move on to the next agenda item. I breathe a sigh of relief. Thank Merlin for Penny's mum.

"Here here," Theodore call out. He's normally asleep so I'm guessing all the yelling woke him up. This is one of the few times I've ever heard him speak.

"Those in favour of banishing Mr Snow from the UK, to enable our magickal realm to recover and the holes to close, raise your hand," Reggie pushes on, ignoring Professor Bunce and Theodore and everyone else.

"What? This is bollocks!" I shout as I thump my fist on the table loudly. Why won't he let this go? My tail is thrashing around unseen behind me and it's causing the papers on the table to flutter around.

This is complete rubbish. They can't do this. They can't. (Can they?)

"Really Reggie, this is completely out of line!" Professor Bunce shouts. She's standing and pointing her finger at him across the table again. I've never seen her look so serious. So irate. Not even when Prem was acting like a complete tosser that year. "May I remind members of the Coven that the realm of mages is no longer controlled by a tyrannical regime!"

But one by one, the committee members raise their hand. Not all of them, but there's Reggie and Alfie and Wilbur who raise their hand immediately, and then Velma raises her hand slowly. Half the time I forget she's even on the Coven, she never said a word at the last meeting.

"My mother's house is in a dead spot . . . she had to move . . . it was very upsetting . . ." she starts explaining in her soft voice, but Professor Bunce glares at her and she stops talking.

But she keeps her hand raised.

Then Huxley raises his hand as well. Well, fuck you Huxley. What a prat.

I scan the room and take stock of the raised hands. Five. I let out a loud breath. Only five out of thirteen, it not enough, this isn't going to happen. I sink back into my seat and run my fingers through my hair. This isn't going to happen.

But then Luella and Odella slowly raise their hands.

That's seven.

And there are only six of us with our hands down.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. FUCK!

"I would say the motion is carried wouldn't you Alfie?" Reggie says, nodding at Alfie.

I'm up in a flash. "What the fuck?" I manage to croak out.

And then all hell really breaks loose.

They're all standing and yelling across the table, pointing fingers and barking insults and accusations at each other. Professor Bunce is going off at Reggie and Alfie simultaneously, calling them names I never thought I'd ever hear come out of her mouth, and Dr Wellbelove is arguing with Wilbur and Velma, saying something about conflict of interest or the like, but I'm not really listening anymore. My heart's hammering in my chest so hard it feels like my ribcage is going to burst, and I can't breathe properly. The rooms gone indistinct and out of focus, and their voices sound muted and far away. I feel like I'm sinking down down underwater. Deeper and deeper.

I remind myself to breathe.

They can't do this. They can't fucking do this. (Can they do this?) They can't kick me out of a country. My home. Surely not. This is just a magickal Coven for Merlin's sake, what powers do they really have?

My legs feel weak and I drop heavily into my seat and suck in a few deep breaths to try to calm myself. I can feel my heart clenching in my chest.

"Order! Order!" Dr Wellbelove shouts again and again. He's standing up now, eyeing everyone with a look that would scare the shit out of me if I didn't know him so well. He keeps yelling 'Order!' until almost everyone quietens down and takes their seats

Only Professor Bunce and Reggie are still going at it now, leaning across the table, yelling and pointing at each other.

All I can do is watch.

"This is outlandish! It's preposterous! You cannot do this!" Professor Bunce shrieks. "It's not mage law Reggie!"

"You're the magickal historian Professor," Reggie says, his voice sure, "And I believe you published this?" He's pointing to a book on the table in front of him.

Everyone is watching Reggie now. He has one of Professor Bunce's magickal history books with him– the one she wrote. She stops yelling and looks down at the book.

He opens it to a tagged page and begins to read from it. And as he reads about the overriding powers of the Coven to banish anyone that places the magickal realm at risk, Professor Bunce's eyes go wide and she brings her hand to her mouth.

I watch her reaction and my heart starts beating erratically again.

This looks bad.

This looks really bad.

She doesn't say anything, she just stares down at the book in front of Reggie.

The other Professor Bunce enters the room now and Baz is right behind him, his face fixed on Reggie. My heart thumps loudly in my chest. Baz is here. Thank fucking magic Baz is here.

"What in magic's name is going on here?" the other Professor Bunce asks.

Reggie ignores him and turns directly to me with an arrogant smirk. "In accordance with Mage law Mr Snow, you are effectively banished from the United Kingdom for causing the holes in the magickal atmosphere."

And it's that bloody smug look on his face that finally snaps me out of my stupor and I'm on my feet in an instant. "Banished? How can I be banished? I've done nothing wrong!"

Before I realise what I'm doing, I lunge myself across the table at that twat. But Baz is by my side, moving quicker than any human could and he's pulling me back by my arms. My breathing is ragged as I strain against his grip, but he's so strong and I can't move. I'm panting furiously as I wrestle against Baz's iron grasp.

Reggie cowers back a little but then regains his composure when he realises I can't move. "The Coven has made its decision Mr Snow. You have thirty days to leave the United Kingdom. I suggest you start making arrangements immediately."

Baz turns me around to face him, holding my arms tight so I can't pull away. "We'll fix this," he says so only I can hear. "Breathe Simon. Deep breaths now." His gaze is steady as he holds my arms firm, waiting for me to stop fighting against him. I try again to wrestle away from him but it's useless, he's so bloody strong. I take a deep breath and stop struggling, but I can't speak, I can't find any words, so all I do is nod.

He releases his hold on me and slides his hands down to mine, giving both of my hands a squeeze before he lets go. I fall back into my chair for the umpteenth time this evening and remind myself to breathe as I watch him walk determinedly towards Reggie. I can't do anything but watch as Baz gets right in Reggie's face and starts on at him. His voice is low and dangerous and he's as cool as ever. Reggie cowers back ever so slightly.

"And just what risk has Simon put the magickal realm in? Hmm"

"He–he caused the dead spots." Reggie stutters.

"The Humdrum caused the dead spots," Baz counters in an even voice.

"He ad–admitted to causing the dead spots–" Reggie blusters this time.

"Accidentally, when the Humdrum sent the dark creatures," Baz maintains, calm as ever. "To stop them."

"He admitted he was the Humdrum–" Alfie says nervously, he's standing next to Reggie now.

"An unfortunate consequence of being The Chosen One," Baz says, his voice low. "And he didn't choose any of this."

"He was the Humdrum–" Reggie tries again.

"The Humdrum was created when Simon first went off," Baz reminds them. "When he was eleven."

"He's the reason they won't close–" Wilbur cries, pointing at me.

"Where is your evidence that Simon is the reason?"

"Where is your evidence that he is not!"

"What happened to innocent until proven guilty?" Baz snarls. He sounds positively dangerous this time. I know his patience is almost gone.

Reggie steps back a little, noticing the change in Baz's tone. "That's Normal law, not magickal law. The Coven has made its decision," Reggie says, sounding nervous. Alfie and Wilbur step up next to him and nod in agreement, and Reggie seems to gain some of his confidence back. He raises himself up to his full height (still a good four inches shorter than Baz) and points his finger up at Baz's chest. "And you, Mr Pitch, are not a member of the Coven."

Baz takes a step towards him, his face is hard and his eyes murderous. "Well, we'll just see about that," Baz says in a quiet voice, and it sounds so menacing and he looks so fucking deadly that Reggie and Alfie and even Wilbur all shrink back noticeably this time.

"Can everybody please calm down!" Dr Wellbelove says in a booming voice. He steps between Baz and the other three, attempting to defuse the situation.

"That's enough everyone," Professor Bunce echoes, slamming her hand on the table with a thud. "This meeting is hereby adjourned. Everyone go home and calm the magic down!"

Reggie, Alfie and Wilbur take a couple of steps back, Reggie stumbling in his haste to get away from Baz. "I agree Professor," Reggie says, turning to me. "Thirty days Mr Snow." Then all three of them shuffle quickly out the door.

I don't hear much else, I'm shaking so hard that my mouth can't form any words. The members who voted for my banishment leave immediately behind the other three, and they're followed shortly by the others who pat my shoulder as they pass, saying words I don't hear. Baz and the Bunces and Dr Wellbelove talk quietly for a while but I'm not listening. I can't believe this is happening.

Banished. Banished? What the hell does that even mean?

BAZ

Simon is staring at the table, staring at nothing, not speaking. He looks like he's in shock.

Fuck, I think I'm in shock.

I need to fix this. I can't let this happen.

Martin Bunce and Dr Wellbelove sit across from us, looking like they're not sure what to do next. They look as lost as I feel.

Mitali Bunce returns from her library, her arms laden with a number of heavy magickal history books. She drops them onto the table with a loud thud and swiftly skims through the first one until she finds the law that idiot Reggie quoted from. Then she opens another book and flips to another page and reads quickly. I grab the first book and skim the page, hastily reading the relevant law. When I finish I shove the book away in frustration. I grab the second book and start reading. When I finish I shove that one away as well.

"They can't do this."

Mitali looks up from her third book and gives Simon a quick glance before she turns to me. "As members of the Coven, they can Basil. It's mage law."

"But Simon poses no threat," Dr Wellbelove says.

Mitali rubs her eyes. "They think he does Welby." She sounds resigned.

"Surely seven mages can't determine the fate of another mage?" I challenge. "They're not even qualified to make legal decisions, Reggie's a –what is he – a maintenance worker?" I sneer at the words. (This is exactly what I said would happen when the Mage destroyed the magickal social order.) (We used to have standards.)

"He's a building services engineer," Martin says, trying his best to ignore my classist slur.

"Whatever," I wave my hand in the air, "He has no legal experience. This whole thing is ridiculous, there's no basis for their decision. They're just scared and behaving like idiots."

"But the law stands," Mitali says with a resigned sigh as she points to a paragraph in the book in front of her. "It's an old law Basil, put in place in the fourteen hundreds. It's never been withdrawn because it hasn't been used since the seventeen hundreds. They banished quite a few rogue mages back then."

"Simon is not a rogue mage!" I shout. That came out a little more forceful than intended and I take a steadying breath.

"We know that Basil," Dr Wellbelove says, his voice calm despite my outburst. "But they've gone and got it into their heads that he is."

I turn to look at Simon, he's still staring at the table, his face deathly pale. I always thought I would be the one to be tried unfairly before the Coven when that bastard Mage was in charge. I can't believe it's Simon instead of me. Simon, the most selfless mage in existence, the fucking Chosen One for Crowley's sake. I take his hand and give it a squeeze. This seems to wake him up. He looks up at me and then turns to face Mitali.

"But banished Professor? I'm not a criminal for Merlins sake!"

"We know Simon," Mitali nods, patting his arm. Her voice is soft, caring, and I can see where Bunce gets it from.

"And I ended the Humdrum and we brought an end to the wars. Have they forgotten all that already?"

"Apparently they have rather selective memories," Dr Wellbelove sighs. "It appears the dead spots are weighing more heavily on people's minds than we thought."

"But banished? What does that even mean?"

Mitali exchanges a nervous look with Martin before she turns back to Simon. "It means you have to leave the UK, Simon. Permanently."

"What?"

"And you can't step foot in the UK again without the Coven agreeing to it, otherwise your feet will be spelled into the dirt as soon as you step foot on her soil. It's an old law . . . old magic . . . and it's binding."

"What?"

"And they've given you thirty days," she finishes.

"Fucking hell," he whispers. His voice is unsteady, almost inaudible. But I can hear him, and the panic in his voice, clear as day.

Chapter Text

PENNY

"Simon? Simon? Are you all right? Mum just called, she said you've been banished! Banished! I didn't even know they could do that! I didn't even know that was a thing! They can't do that Simon! No one can do that! The Coven has no right! Simon? . . . Simon?"

"Can you please stop yelling Bunce."

Oh, it's Baz. Where the hell is Simon then?

"What in magic's name is going on Baz? Where's Simon? Why are you answering his phone?"

"He's right here, keep your shirt on."

I hear some muffled talking but I can't make out what they're saying. I press the phone closer to my ear but I still can't work out the words. What's taking them so long? They're probably sitting right next to each other. They're probably holding hands for snakes sake. I swear I'm going to lose my mind with worry if someone doesn't tell me what in magic's name is going on here right this very min–

"Penny?"

Finally, Simon's on the phone. "Simon! Thank Merlin! Are you all right?"

"I . . . I don't know. The Coven's banished me Penny. Banished me. They say it's my fault that the dead spots are still here, that they won't close." His voice is shaking and he sounds terrible, like he's on the verge of tears.

I let out all of the pent up worry and frustration I've been feeling ever since mum called me and told me what happened in one solid go. "Well it's not your fault! What would they know? That Reggie and Alfie don't know anything– they haven't got half a brain between them. Those two shouldn't even be on the Coven! Don't you worry Simon, mum says she'll talk to them and sort this out. They can't do this! No one can do this!"

"They've already done it Penny. That twat Reggie even quoted the law from one of your mum's books."

Shit that's right. That's exactly what mum said when I stopped yelling and gave her half a chance to explain. "Shit. I mean, it's all right. Mum will fix it Simon, don't worry." I tell him anyway.

"I hope so," he mumbles.

But I am worried, really worried. From what mum says the law is still very much in place. It hasn't been used in a long time but it can be invoked whenever the Coven believes the realm to be in danger.

And those who voted for his banishment must believe the realm is in danger. They must think it's Simon's fault the dead spots are still dead, and they'll try anything to fix them. Even banish the Chosen One.

Fuck.

Mum went off her nut when she told me what happened so it must be serious. But then again, mum has a tendency to be overly dramatic about most things. I need to find out what's going on. I need to talk to Baz.

I reassure Simon again that we'll sort it out, but he's gets progressively quieter until neither of us has anything else to say. He sounds miserable and I wish I was there, to help him or be with him or something, but mum said she and dad and Dr Wellbelove and Baz will sort it.

Eventually he mumbles a half-hearted goodbye and hands the phone back to Baz.

"Great snakes Baz, what are you going to do?"

"Crowley Bunce we're going to fix this of course!" He spits the words at me but I'm too agitated to care right now. And he must realise how he sounds because he lets out a long sigh before continuing, much more composed and a lot less vehement. "I'm looking into the law. It's ancient, so there must be some irregularities – miswording or confusing terms that we can use to prove they've misinterpreted it."

"And if that doesn't work?"

"It has to work," he insists. "Failing that I'll look at every other magickal law. Maybe there's a contradictory law, or one that supersedes it."

"And if there isn't?"

He sighs heavily into the phone. "I'll look at the Coven by-laws. Perhaps we can challenge the Coven's powers."

"And?"

"Well, we could go for public outcry I suppose."

He's obviously thought this through - it's probably all he's thought about since all this shit happened. And it seems like enough. For now. "Well get on it. You're the lawyer. This is your top priority!"

"You don't have to tell me that!"

I decide to cut him a break – arguing about it won't do any of us any good right now so I stop hounding him, instead I hang up the phone and start pacing the living room. I'm so bloody pissed off at that lot. How did it ever come to this? How could the Coven reach this decision? How could things have gotten so out of hand so quickly?

What the fuck can I do to help Simon?

I'm still pacing, lost in thought, when Micah comes home. He watches me pace for a while, saying nothing, until it looks like he's finally had enough and asks me what's going on. When I tell him what happened, he looks as shocked as I feel.

"It just makes me so angry!" I fume, twisting my ring around my finger. "What a bunch of idiots! What a bunch of complete morons! What is the realm coming to? He's the Chosen One for snake's sake Micah!"

"I'm sure your mom and Baz will sort it out. It's an archaic law so no doubt Baz will pick it apart," Micah says, watching my fingers work my ring. "I can't imagine the Coven will actually follow through."

"It just sounds so drastic. What do they hope this will achieve? The holes will mysteriously close as soon as Simon leaves? He didn't have magic for two years and they didn't close then so why in Merlin's name do they think they'll close now?"

"I don't know Pen."

I stop twisting my ring around my finger and start pacing the lounge room again, up to the kitchen and back. The room's not that big but my legs are short so it takes me a good half a dozen strides. I reckon Micha could do it in four.

I still can't believe what's happening. And I can't believe I'm stuck here in America while Simon's world is falling apart. Maybe I should go back and help, or at least be with Simon. But our research, we're on a deadline here. I can't just up and leave Micah with everything.

"Do you want to go back to London Pen?" Micah asks. "To be with Simon?"

I stop pacing and turn to face him. He's watching me with his big brown eyes, and I can't help admire his repose. I let out a sigh and let my shoulders slump. "Maybe. I don't know. Yes," I decide. I want to go but I don't want to leave Micah with a whole load of extra work. We're busy enough as it is. "But our research Micah, I can't just leave you with it."

"We can handle a week delay Penny. And I can put in extra time while you're away," he says. "Why don't you go, be with Simon. I think he needs you right now."

Merlin, how is he always so considerate. I step up to him and take his hands in my own. "Are you sure you'll be alright? It's a lot of work on your own."

"Yes Pen. I'm sure," he smiles. "Just go."

SIMON

The week after the Coven banished me is a blur. I call in sick for work. I don't sleep. I'm not hungry, I don't do much at all. I can't focus on anything, but everyone else around me is working themselves into right bloody frenzy.

I can't believe this is happening. I thought I was finally done with all the drama, I thought my life had finally settled into some kind of normal.

I thought the shit part was in the past.

The news of my banishment makes it to The Magickal Record. Reggie and Alfie must have spilled the beans because it's all over the front page. 'Chosen One Banished! A gross miscarriage of justice or has the Chosen One got what he deserves?' the headline reads. It quotes those two wankers, saying I admitted to being the Humdrum and I caused of the holes. Baz reads the article through muttering 'idiots' and 'morons' and rolling his eyes, and when he finishes reading it for the second time he throws it onto the coffee table and starts swearing like a Normal. I grab the paper and read it through a couple of times and then I toss the paper onto the coffee table as well. It cast me in a pretty bad light.

"Fuck." I groan. "This is bad. What am I going to do Baz?"

He grabs my hand and holds on tight as he fixes his gaze on me. "We'll sort this out Simon. I won't let those bastards get away with it. They'll fucking burn for this."

I nod but don't say anything, and even in my fucked up state I notice it's always fire with Baz.

Within minutes he's back on his mobile, calling Professor Bunce. They speak at length about the article and about the law that Reggie used to have me banished until they exhaust both of topics. Eventually Baz hands the phone over to me.

"The Magickal Record has been in contact with me, Simon. They want to interview you," Professor Bunce says as soon as I'm on the phone. "Are you alright with that?"

"No! I don't want to talk to them!" I can't hide the panic in my voice. I really don't want to talk to the paper. What good will it do? I got myself into this mess by talking, I think I'll be better off if I shut the hell up for a while.

"I can talk to them on your behalf, if you agree Simon?" she says. "We need to give your side."

That sounds like a much better idea – better her than me I reckon, and she'll at least know what to say. "Yeah okay."

"But Dr Wellbelove and I are meeting with Alfie, Wilbur and Reggie first. Going to the newspaper, really! I don't know what they're playing at. I'm going to try and talk some sense into them. Failing that, I'll speak to the paper and give your side. Don't you worry Simon, we'll sort this out!"

She sounds pretty determined. And if anyone can talk some sense into those three it'll be her. I sink back into the couch and throw my arm over my eyes.

The next day there is another article on the front page of The Magickal Record; 'Humdrum Snow and his Dead Spots!' it screams at me. The article lists every dead spot in the magickal atmosphere, one by one. It takes up the entire front page. There's also an interview with Wilbur, who had to move because his house is in one of those spots, and Velma, whose mother had to move as well. It's pretty bad.

Baz is working relentlessly. He's either on the phone with his father or Professor Bunce or Doc Wellbelove, or he's pouring over magickal history or magickal law books. He scribbles page upon page of notes and mutters under his breath a lot.

The other Professor Bunce comes over and tells me I don't have to go back to work until this is sorted. He says he spoke with his Normal colleague in my department and they approved a sabbatical for me for a year. I think he used magic.

"A year! Surely it won't take that long? It will be sorted before then Professor?"

"Of course it will Simon," he says. "I thought it prudent to go for the maximum period so you don't have to worry. This will be sorted before the thirty days is over, then we'll magic it so you can go back to work straight away, you'll see."

I drop my head into my hands. I can't think of anything to say so I just nod.

Penny flies back to London and I'm so relieved to see her, I insist she stay with us. Daphne immediately arranges to have our second bedroom cleared out and set up as a guest room so Penny doesn't have to sleep on the couch.

It's such a relief having Penny here. There's something comforting about her pacing and muttering and her bright purple hair. Baz is working like mad trying to sort this out, pouring through all the magickal books he borrowed from Penny's mum and a whole bunch he brought back from his family library. And Penny is working just as hard, reading through the laws, shadowing and arguing with Baz and yelling at her mum over the phone, but she stops to make sure I'm okay every now and again.

I don't have anything to do except worry and make tea.

Penny went off at her mum when she first arrived; I could hear her yelling from the other room. In the end I had to take the phone from her and apologise to Professor Bunce otherwise she who knows when she would have stopped. And she's at it again now. I take the phone away and apologise to Professor Bunce again and spend the rest of the afternoon trying to pacify her. It takes me a few hours but eventually she's calm enough to talk about it.

"It's not your mum's fault Penny."

"I know Simon, but she should have found a way to stop the vote somehow." Penny's relentlessly tough on people sometimes, especially her own family.

"I was there Pen, she tried. But that twat Reggie must have had it all planned. The law exists and he found it and used it against me." I run my fingers through my hair.

Baz comes in waving the latest copy of The Magickal Record which he passes over to me. Penny's mum's interview is on the front page. 'Renowned Magickal Historian and Watford Headmistress, Mitali Bunce Speaks out In Favour of Chosen One!' the headline reads. I read the article through twice.

It talks briefly about Professor Bunce's current role as Headmistress, and her research and publications, and the rest of the article is her interview. She said that yes the holes were inadvertently caused by me whenever I used that same magic to 'Fight the Humdrum!', and that everyone should be reminded that I am 'The Chosen One!' and how 'It was prophesised' and how I 'Ended the Humdrum as soon as I knew!' and how we 'Saved the Realm!' and it was 'All a terrible misfortune!' and 'He didn't choose to be chosen!' and all that.

I put down the newspaper and Penny immediately snatches it and reads it through, and then reads it again. Baz snatches it from her after she reads it a third time and reads it through once, quickly. He puts it down and looks between me and Penny.

I watch him for a while, until I can't stand it any longer. "What?"

"Well, it's at least a factual account of what happened," Penny says.

Baz takes my hand in his. "And now it's up to the public to decide."

"Decide what?"

"Whether they agree with your banishment, or with Professor Bunce," Baz says. He's staring at me, watching for my reaction.

"And in the court of public opinion this could go either way," Penny says, twisting her giant purple ring around her finger.

"What? Why Penny? How can any of this be my fault?"

"I'm not saying it's your fault Simon, I'm saying that the mages out there will form an opinion based on what they read and hear." She's using her explaining voice, the one she used to use whenever she helped me with my homework or explained the difference between fairy tales and magic.

She takes off her glasses and wipes them on her corner of her top and then puts them back on before continuing. "At least now they have both sides of the story, not just those idiots Reggie and Alfie's side."

"And we need to make sure they read and hear the right things from now on . . ." Baz says.

"Yes Baz, I have to agree." She stands and starts pacing the room again. She's done that a lot since she arrived.

Baz picks up his mobile from the coffee table. "We need a strategy. We need to fight this together. . ." he mutters as he scrolls through his directory. "Bunce, do you think you can get your parents on board? I'll set up a meeting."

Penny stops pacing. "Yes Baz, of course. I'll go tell mum," she mutters back as she heads out the door.

Baz calls his dad as soon as Penny leaves, then Dr Wellbelove, and then Professor Bunce. He's taken over from Penny, pacing the living room as he speaks to each of them about setting up some sort of meeting. I lie on the couch and close my eyes.

Penny comes back later that night, a lot calmer and with a shitload more books. She tells Baz that her mum and dad are on board and muttering something about a plan of attack.

Baz says his dad has offered up his house as a meeting place, saying it's far enough away so no one will know what we're up to. I can't believe that Mr Grimm would do that, let all of us meet at his house. I reckon Baz must have put him up to it, or Daphne even, but I don't know for sure. Either way we have a meeting spot now that the rest of the mages won't know about. It's not as if they'll be driving around country Oxford anytime soon.

We're having our first meeting tomorrow.

It all sounds a bit dodgy and I'm not entirely sure it's magickally legal, but I try not to think about that right now. Penny is in on it, as are her parents and Dr Wellbelove even, so it should be all right.

And I still don't know how any of this is supposed to help.

BAZ

We drop Bunce at her parents' home in the afternoon, on our way to Oxford. They're going to join us for our meeting, but I want this time with Simon alone before we start strategizing. I'm going to use the time to go through my family's library again, and I have to get Simon out of our flat for a while, he'll likely go insane if he's home a second longer.

I've read every magickal law and history text I've been able to lay my hands on and found nothing that will help us. The law as it stands is precisely written and leaves no ambiguity. At all. I haven't told Simon this yet, I was hoping the others may offer up something.

Simon lets out a quiet sigh as he stares out the window.

"All right love?" He's been so quiet this past week. I've been so busy pouring over magickal books and discussing our case with Professor Bunce that I've hardly had time to spare. And when I have, Simon is quiet and withdrawn, staring at nothing as he holds my hand tight. Thank magic Bunce is here. She's been by his side whenever I'm not, patiently explaining and discussing magickal laws and history with him from the moment she arrived. And when Simon is no longer responsive, she starts on me, and then her mother . . .

"Not really Baz. What am I going to do?"

I glance at him briefly before turning back to the road; he's still staring out the window, his forehead resting on the glass. "We are going to work this out Simon. You're not alone in this."

He turns to face me. "I'm the only one that's been banished Baz."

I take his hand in mine. "And you're my husband. We're in this together." I flash him my wedding ring to drive the point home and his eyes flicker to it before coming back to meet mine, but he doesn't say anything else.

The silence is nothing new. He hardly says anything during the day now, but at night we hold each other close as we talk. It's like the darkness is his refuge and he can tell me all the things he's afraid to divulge during the day.

We talk about his work and my career, my music, the places we want to visit. He talks about missing Bunce since she moved to America, and how he misses Alex and the café, and even Olivia. We talk about the first time he flew and our trips to Dover, and the first time I flew with him. We reminisce about our honeymoon in Tuscany, about our week in New York for Penelope's wedding, our week alone in Paris, our wedding.

And he talks about the dead spots. How he wishes he could do something to close them if only he knew how. I hold him tight until he falls asleep, until we both fall asleep, wrapped in each other's arms.

-oOo-

Daphne greets us as we arrive and takes Simon inside so I can hunt. She sits with him and they drink tea while they wait for the others to arrive. Daphne has always been a calming force around Simon, ever since he flew here that day he found out about the Mage's Will. They've been close ever since.

My siblings are home from school so they keep Simon busy while I go through the library before dinner. I manage to find a whole new raft of books to investigate– our library is particularly well stocked.

After dinner, the table is cleared and Vera sets up refreshments for our meeting. Father and Daphne join us and wait, and one by one they start to arrive.

Martin and Mitali Bunce are first to arrive and Penelope trails in behind them. She sits next to Simon and gives him an encouraging smile as she squeezes his arm. She has her laptop and sets it up facing us.

"Agatha's joining us," she informs the group. Agatha's face appears on the screen and she waves to Simon and Penny. Simon gives a half-hearted wave back. Bunce turns the screen to face the room.

Dr Wellbelove arrives next, along with Mrs Wellbelove. I called the Doctor immediately after Bunce's parents came on board. They were more than willing.

"Hello dear," Mrs Wellbelove says.

"Hello mother," Wellbelove replies from Bunce's laptop, her British accent intact despite living in America for the past five years.

Lady Salisbury arrives next and seats herself next to Mrs Wellbelove. They chat quietly between themselves.

Fiona and Simon's uncle arrive last. As much as she won't admit it, my ridiculous aunt and Simon's uncle have been almost inseparable since our wedding – whenever she's in town that is. Who knows what she gets up to when she's off in Prague or Helsinki or wherever the bloody hell else she hunts vampires. She scans the room as they take their seats between Lady Salisbury and Daphne.

Everyone stares across the table in strained silence while we wait to make a start. This is the first time we've all been on the same side, working together instead of pitting against each other, and we all know it. It's more than a little awkward. I stand to address the gathering but before I can, Fiona butts in.

"Righto, let's get this show on the road," she smirks, rubbing her hands together. "What's the verdict? Guilty or not?"

"Fiona!" I hiss. "Now's not the time for bloody jokes."

I catch Father narrowing his eyes at me and I can see exactly what he's thinking; that's Simon's poor vocabulary is rubbing off on me. (If only he knew.) I ignore him and move on.

I glance around the room, briefly meeting everyone's eyes. "Thank you all for coming tonight," I start. "It's clear we need a strategy in order to fight this outlandish charge. We should start by laying out everything we've uncovered thus far."

I take my seat and recount everything I've learned about the law; what it does, when it was last put to use, and that after a week of researching all I've found is that it's faultlessly clear and perfectly unambiguous. I leave the rest unsaid – that I don't have a way forward.

"I spoke with Reggie, Alfie and Wilbur and they won't budge on this," Mitali says. "And I've poured over my history books as well as quite a few others. Unfortunately, the law as it stands is still in force today, it's never been repealed." She goes on to provide the history about the law and the rogue mages that were exiled. "There weren't many, one or two in the fifteenth century, exiled to the continent. Although apparently there was a dark phase when twenty were expelled at once during the sixteenth century for practicing dark magic. I believe they were sent to the Americas. A few were sent to India in the seventeenth century and two or three more during the eighteenth century to Australia, no more after that."

"How can we repeal it?" Daphne asks.

"Magickal laws must be repealed by the Coven, and that's not going to happen any time soon," I tell them and Mitali gives me an approving look. Of course I know Coven procedures and magickal laws. I was first at Watford, and university, and I've read the Coven by-laws . . .

"But we'll certainly be doing that in the future. This is an out of date law that needs to be rescinded, we'll work on that as soon as we get the numbers," she adds.

"On the Coven?" Bunce asks her mother. "How are you going to do that?"

"With new members, when the existing members finish their term," I huff. "That's going to take too long. We don't have the time."

"I know Basil," Mitali agrees, "But we'll still aim to do that anyway. We should probably review all of the laws to ensure something else like this can't happen in the future. In the mean time we need to focus on Simon. We need a new plan."

"You need one new member now though," Simon says. "I'm no longer on the Coven, Professor."

Everyone turns to Simon, including me. He's right about that.

"That's right Simon!" Bunce beams at him. "Can you get someone voted in that's on our side?"

"All we can do is put a name forward. But everyone knows we're with Simon's on this," Mitali says, rubbing her temple. "No one's going to vote for any one of us at the moment."

"They don't know about Lady Salisbury," I remind them. It's true – no one outside this room knows Lady Salisbury is Simon's grandmother. (Apart from my siblings, but they don't count.) (And they're good at keeping secrets.)

"Oooh, a double agent on the Coven," Fiona grins, rubbing her hands together.

I give her a sideways glance. "She wouldn't be a double agent." Honestly it's like she misses the war and having some covert action that she can be a part of. I roll my eyes for good measure.

"Yeah, whatever Basil," she shrugs. "But your right, no one knows about her and Simon."

We all turn to Lady Salisbury. She's not exactly young so it's unclear how other members will react – there's been a drive to get younger mages on the Coven over the last few years. That's what started this whole fiasco in the first place.

"Ruth?" Dr Wellbelove asks.

"I'll do it," Lady Salisbury says without hesitation. "I'll do whatever it takes to bring justice to our realm, and to keep my grandson home."

Simon's uncle leans forward. "Are you sure mum?"

She grins at him. "Yes dear of course dear, I have quite a bit of spare time these days. And there are only so many fundraisers for stutterers I'm prepared to attend in my remaining years." I can see why she and Simon get along so well.

Simon leans forward. "But that just replaces me, if you get voted in that is. It's still not enough to change the vote. What else is there?"

"I'm good friends with Odella and Luella," Lady Salisbury says. "I'm going to have a little chat with them, see why they voted against you. Once I'm elected onto the Coven that is."

"If you're elected Lady Salisbury," Father cautions. "That's the first step." Ever the pessimist.

"Well then, I'll have a chat with Odella and Luella tomorrow, see if I can put the idea into their heads to put my name forward. I can do the same with Alfie, we go back a long way. That should do it, don't you think Malcolm?"

My father gives an approving nod. So does Fiona.

"And I would like them to explain the reason for their vote. Odella and Luella at least, I think Alfie is a lost cause."

"Your Gran's a fiery one," Fiona chuckles to herself. "Must be where you get it from, eh Snow?"

He ignores Fiona. We all do.

"Even if you convince them to change their mind, which is highly unlikely, you'll have to wait until the next Coven meeting," Father reminds us. "And you need a quorum to get a vote across. If the other members find out what you're up to they simply won't turn up." He's surprising me with his involvement tonight, even if he is being frustratingly negative.

"Yes that's right Malcolm," Mitali agrees. "But no one knows about Lady Salisbury and Simon, so that shouldn't be an issue this time."

She's politely ignoring the fact that the Old Families used exactly that tactic when the Mage was in power – we all are. We may have been on opposing sides during the Mage's contrived war but we're all firmly on the same side now.

"And we can call an emergency meeting as soon as we know Luella or Odella will change their vote." she finishes.

"If they change their vote," my father adds. "And it's highly unlikely anyone will change their vote so soon." Crowley he's stubborn. Why is he being so negative?

"But there is a possibility," I challenge. "What about the other members? Is there anyone else that might change their mind?"

"Reggie, Alfie and Wilbur seem to be the ringleaders," Dr Wellbelove says, rubbing his temple. "So they're out. Even Huxley was pretty vehement." He looks up at Mitali. "What about Velma, she seemed a little hesitant?"

"Her mother's house is one of those that lost its magic, it's right in a dead spot," Martin says. He knows every dead spot there is and who in the magickal realm has been affected. "So she'll most likely be looking for a resolution."

"But it's worth a try," I push, trying not to let my frustration show.

"Yes," Bunce agrees. "You have to talk to her mum."

"I can't be seen to be influencing members of the Coven," Mitali reminds her. "It could be seen as coercion."

Simon juts out his chin and I know what's coming. "And what Lady Salisbury is doing isn't?" he challenges. "Sorry Gran."

I knew Simon would have a problem with this – he's far too honest for his own good. It's one of the reasons I love him, but still.

"I won't be coercing anyone dear, just having a friendly chat," she says, giving her grandson a sweet, grandmotherly smile. Fiona's right, she is a fiery one.

But Simon shakes his head, still unsure. I can see we're going to have to convince him. Without his agreement we won't be doing anything.

"We have to try Simon," I tell him, taking his hand. "We have to do something. The way they're treating you, the Coven has no right to do this, to you or to any mage. It's unfair Simon. And it's wrong." I'm appealing to his sense of justice, of right and wrong. I know Simon well enough to know that this is how to get him on side.

"Yes Simon," Bunce says, backing me up for once in her annoying life. "We need to stop this. It smacks of the Mage and his dictatorial behaviour. We simply can't let this happen again!"

His eyes shift between us. Bunce and I are both nodding slowly, and we keep nodding until he finally lets out a resigned sigh.

He gives us a single nod back. "All right," he says, chin raised and eyes full of determination. "Let's do it."

Chapter Text

SIMON

The next week is just as chaotic as the last.

Everyone seems to be busy working on something to keep me here – everyone except me that is.

Baz is determined to find a loophole in the law, even though he's already been through every magickal history and law books he borrowed from Professor Bunce and his parent's library at least five times. He talks with Professor Bunce every day and it sounds like she's doing just as much research in between her headmistress duties. They read and talk but don't find anything.

Penny's dad takes his team out to measure some of the holes again, looking for any change. There aren't any.

"I'm sorry Simon," he says when they return from seven straight days of measuring the dead spots. He stopped over on his way home from the last one (Hampshire) and he looks exhausted.

I make him a cup of tea as he slumps onto the couch, where takes off his glasses and wipes the lens on his rumpled shirt corner. I bring over the tea and biscuits and sit down and listen as he recounts their trip. Even Baz takes a break from his research to sit with us and listen to the Professor's findings, taking my hand and rubbing the back with his thumb as Professor Bunce tells us there's no change.

The Magickal Record runs a different article every day, and it looks like they're interviewing everyone who's ever met me. Miss Possibelf says I was a good student when they interview her, (she obviously doesn't remember my grades) and Rhys and Gareth tell the paper that I would never do anything deliberately to hurt the realm (they've obviously forgotten all the things I blew up). Even Elspeth and Philippa Stainton say nice things about me, which is weird because I hardly know them.

There are still plenty of negative articles to offset the good ones though; about the Humdrum and the dead spots and a few more interviews with mages who had to move house.

I get text messages from old classmates and some from mages I don't even know. Most give their support, but there are a couple of really nasty ones that blame me for having to move house. I don't even know how they got my mobile number – hardly anyone in the magickal realm has it. I decide to ignore them.

Penny, Baz and I spend a lot of time with Professor Bunce, trying to come up with ways to keep me here. There aren't many.

Penny needs to get back to America – to Micah and their research. She's reluctant to go and before she leaves she gives an interview with The Magickal Record. She tells them all the things we did to over the years to save the realm. She tells them how I did most of it, which is kind of true, even though I couldn't have done any of it without her help, and they even quote her word for word when she says "Simon Snow saved our realm. You should all remember that!"

It's brilliant. But now she has to leave.

"It's all right," I tell her for the fifth time today. "You need to go home."

"But will you be all right Simon?"

"Yes Pen I will." I don't actually know if that's true or not with all the shit going on, but I say it anyway. Otherwise she won't get on that plane. "And Baz is here so it's not like I'm on my own or anything."

She gives me a reluctant nod and then gives Baz a stern look. "Look after him Baz or so help me I'll hex those luscious black locks of yours right off your head!" He winces slightly but then quickly recovers and rolls his eyes at her. She turns to me next and her face softens. "Call me if you need anything Simon."

"I will," I tell her, hugging her tight. "I'll miss you."

"I'll miss you too," she says, hugging me back. But we don't say goodbye because Penny can't stand goodbyes.

She gives Baz one last glare and then she boards the plane and is gone.

I miss her already.

-oOo-

Penny calls a couple of days later and I fill her in on what's happening, or not happening. She's adamant that Baz and her mum will sort everything out – first by Lady Salisbury being voted onto the Coven and then by the Coven realising the error of their ways and then changing the vote. She's stupidly optimistic about all this. I'm not though, I was there and saw the way they were looking at me.

Baz and I stay away from the club to let Lady Salisbury get on with things, and by the time we have our second meeting, Lady Salisbury has been nominated to join the Coven. Odella and Luella put her name forward and Alfie supported her without question. She's friends with just about everyone so that's serving us really well.

"Who are the other nominees?" Daphne asks as soon as we start our second meeting.

"Wilbur recommended one of his associates, Danforth Clutterbuck, but he's not likely to be voted in, he's a bit of a scatterbrain," Professor Bunce informs us. "I can't see anyone on the nominations committee putting him forward, unless it's just him and Lady Salisbury."

He was never a fan of Wilbur, and Penny says he positively detests him now, ever since Wilbur had a go at him for not finding a solution to the holes. (Like it's all his fault.) "That's all there is at the moment I'm afraid. The younger mages are still a little complacent and reluctant to get involved."

I turn to Penny's mum next. "Who's on the nominations committee, Professor?"

"Theodore, Kendra, Lilly and Luella," she says. "That's it, just the four of them."

"And they support you Simon," Penny says through my laptop. I've got her on my laptop this time. "Except for Luella that is."

I turn back to Penny's mum. "So when's the next Coven meeting?" I know I sound nervous but it's been more than two weeks already and I'm running out of time. There's less than two weeks to go before the thirty days is up.

She shuffles through some papers until she finds the one she's looking for. "I've called an emergency meeting for next week. I've already advised them we need to vote in a new member, and one of the nominees is leaving for holidays the following week. Lady Salisbury already mentioned to Alfie she'll be away after that, so he agreed readily."

"And if Lady Salisbury is voted in?" Baz asks, rubbing his temple. "You can't repeal the banishment – you still don't have the numbers. Unless Odella or Luella are prepared to change their vote."

"One thing at a time Basil," Dr Wellbelove says in a practiced voice.

Baz leans forward and bangs the palms of his hands on the table. "We don't have the time!"

Mrs Wellbelove flinches ever so slightly and I take Baz's hand from the table and hold it in my own, rubbing the back of it with my thumb like he does to me. I want him to calm down before he starts snarling at everyone and his fangs pop. Fiona and his dad are watching him.

"Once Lady Salisbury is voted onto the Coven, then we decide our next step," Dr Wellbelove maintains. He doesn't look at all bothered by Baz's outburst.

Baz lets out a long sigh and it comes out a little like a frustrated huff, but I can see he's trying to reign it in. I give his hand a squeeze again and he squeezes back, it's a good sign.

The Doc's right of course – there's nothing to do but wait. I feel so helpless in all this and it's really starting to piss me off. I growl under my breath and Baz squeezes my hand until I stop.

-oOo-

The following week we meet again at Oxford. The Coven had their meeting earlier tonight so we're anxious to find out what happened.

"Reggie tried to cancel the meeting the night before, but in the end we had the numbers so the vote went ahead," Professor Bunce informs us. "Lady Salisbury won the vote. She's on the Coven."

I look straight at Baz and grin. He grins back and we all celebrate the small win with a round of congratulations for Lady Salisbury.

"So now that Lady Salisbury is on the Coven, what the next step?" Penny asks from America. Baz has her on his sleek new laptop this time. I have Agatha on my older one. (He tried to buy me a new one but I said no, this one works just fine.)

"Now we need to see if we can get any of the seven to change their vote. We only need one, and Odella and Luella are the two most likely to change their minds, or perhaps Velma. The rest were quiet vehement once they found out it was Simon who created the dead spots." Professor Bunce says. She's been working so hard on trying to keep me here on top of her day job and she sounds tired. I remind myself to thank her again for all her help.

"Well I can't see that happening," Agatha pipes up.

"Why not?" It's Penny's voice coming from Baz's laptop. It may be a new laptop but her voice still sounds tinny through the small speaker.

"They obviously believe it's true, otherwise they wouldn't have voted for Simon to be banished in the first place," Agatha explains. "So I can't see them changing their mind overnight."

"It's not overnight Agatha," Penny says. "Baz can you turn the laptop around so I can see Agatha? Thanks. And anyway Agatha, they're wrong. It's just a matter of time before they work that out. We just need to speed things up a little."

"But how do you know they're wrong Penny?" Agatha asks, and she's being sincere. I think.

"Of course they're wrong!" Penny shrieks.

My eyes are darting between our laptops as they argue it out.

"Well," Agatha says, a little unsure now, "No one actually knows whether it's true or not. It hasn't actually been confirmed that Simon is not responsible."

Baz turns my laptop to face him, his mouth turning down to a sneer. "Simon saved our realm. It would do you good to remember that Wellbelove."

"Simon is not responsible for the holes staying open Agatha!" Penny shrieks. "Baz can you please turn the laptop back around? Thanks. How can you even say that?"

"I'm not saying he is, just that he might be!" Agatha insists. "We don't know for sure."

I can't believe she said that.

"I can't believe you said that!" Penny shrieks.

"Well someone had to say it!" Agatha shrieks back at her.

"And did it have to be you?" Penny shrieks louder.

"Agatha!" I say, turning my laptop around to face me. "How can you agree with them?" I screw my hands into tight fists.

"That's a load of rubbish Wellbelove and you know it," Baz hisses, poking his head in front of my screen.

"All right, cut the crap you lot." I look up from my screen and glance around the room. Everyone is staring at us and Fiona is glaring daggers.

"Who's that?" Penny voice screeches from Baz's laptop. "Baz can you please turn the laptop around? I can't see who's saying what from here." Baz and I turn our laptops back around again, and I think we need to come up with a better way of doing this.

"I said cut the crap," Fiona snaps. "You lot can finish your argument on your own time, we've got a shit load of work to do."

Penny huffs from Baz's laptop but doesn't say anything else.

"Someone had to say it," Agatha mumbles, and Baz snaps my laptop closed.

PENNY

I can't believe Agatha said that. This is Simon we're talking about. How could she be so heartless? Simon's beside himself with guilt as it is and then she says something like that. I'm going to give her a piece of my mind next time I speak to her.

If I ever do speak to her again that is.

AGATHA

I don't know why everyone's so upset. Someone had to say it – everyone's probably thinking it.

BAZ

I don't know why Wellbelove is even here. Who invited her anyway?

SIMON

I'm frowning as I ram my laptop into my satchel, a little too forcefully, then shove it under the table. I don't like this. I don't want my friends to fight, and I don't want to be the cause of it. The three of them arguing like that is just stressing me out even more.

Baz takes my hand and rubs his thumb across the back until I start to calm down a little. I stop frowning at any rate.

"I'm having lunch with the Odella and Luella at the club tomorrow," Gran says, bringing the group's focus back to her. "My trip away has been conveniently cancelled. We're going to have a little chat." She gives us all an innocent smile and I can't help smile back at her. She's a pretty cool gran.

"Righto, good luck then," the other Professor Bunce says and Dr Wellbelove nods in agreement.

"We're running out of time," Baz hisses as he glares around the room. "Do you realise there's only one week left?"

He's rubbing his temple with his long fingers of his free hand and he's getting all sorts of worked up so I start rubbing his hand this time. It seems to do the trick and he squeezes my hand gently. I squeeze back. (I swear our hands can have an entire conversation of their own sometimes.)

Professor Bunce gives him a kind look. "Yes Basil we do."

"But what else can we do?" Daphne asks, looking as lost as I feel.

No one says anything. What else can we do? Everyone's been working like mad trying to sort this and this is as far as we've got. I don't know what else anyone can do short of storming the Coven and that's not going to happen – we're already skirting around the law here as it is.

It's Dr Wellbelove who finally breaks the silence. "I think we need to talk about the fact that this is likely to take longer than thirty days to resolve."

"What? But. . . What does that mean? I have to leave? And go where?" This time Baz squeezes my hand tight.

Professor Bunce clears her throat. "Simon. I think it's time you make plans to stay with Penny for a while."

"What?. . . I thought . . ."

What did I think? That they would sort this mess out within the thirty days and I wouldn't have to leave at all? Yeah, that's exactly what I thought. I never really believed it would come to this. I thought between Penny and Baz and Professor Bunce and everyone else here we could find an answer – a way through it.

Shit. I'm an idiot.

I sink lower in my chair and switch off for the rest of the meeting, ignoring everything else that's said. I just hold on tight to Baz.

BAZ

"Baz?" Simon's voice is quiet and reticent.

"Yes love?"

Simon turns to face me. It's dark but I can still see the worry in his eyes. "How long do you think this is going to take to fix?"

Neither of us can sleep. Simon switched off as soon as Mitali said he should make plans to go to America. When she said she'd organised his visa on his behalf, I realise this is going to take a lot longer to resolve than I first thought. I'll never admit it to Simon but I was a little shaken. Mitali obviously knew it was going to be more difficult to resolve when all this shit started, but I didn't see it. (Or maybe I didn't want to see it.) We drove home in silence, holding hands, lost in our own thoughts.

I turn onto my side and face Simon. His eyes are on me as I place my hand on his cheek and rub my thumb gently across it. He wraps his tail loosely around my leg and places his hand on my waist, satiating me with his warmth. I decide it's time to be completely honest rather than put on a brave face.

"I don't know love. Lady Salisbury is our best hope at the moment. And The Magickal Record. The articles have been pretty favourable lately, public opinion should be well in your favour."

"But what good will that do?" he asks. "What good is public opinion if the Coven can decide anything they want? What are people going to do, set the Hellhounds onto them? Storm the Coven? March in protest against the decision?"

"That's not a bad idea Simon."

"Setting the Hellhounds onto them seems a little drastic," he scoffs. "And storming the Coven? Really Baz?"

"No, but a few vocal protestors out the front of the meetings might help." I wonder who would back me on this. Bunce is out of the country and it's probably better that Wellbelove is out of the picture too, she hasn't been very useful. There's always Fiona but she works for the Coven so her involvement so far has been covert. I start to think through my options. "It will definitely put pressure on those idiot Coven members. Maybe make them see reason."

"Do you think Gran will be able to talk some sense into Odella and Luella?"

"I don't know Simon. I hope so. She can at least try," I sigh. She is our best bet at the moment, which says a lot for how slim our hopes are.

"I don't want to live in America Baz. This is our home." His voice is shaky and I take his hand in mine and lace our fingers together. I bring our joined hands up and rest them on the pillow between us.

"I know love. But it's only temporary, until this is sorted. And it will be sorted Simon. I promise." I place a kiss on each of his fingers, one by one.

He gives me a small smile that doesn't reach his eyes. "I hope so."

I lift my chin towards him and he meets me half way, pressing his lips lightly against mine. It's a soft, slow kiss, and when we're done I kiss him again. I pull him closer and trail my fingers lightly along the length of his back, grazing where his wings meet his skin. "We'll fix this Simon," I promise in the dark.

He pulls me closer and closes his eyes. 'I hope so.' I hear him whisper again.

Chapter Text

BAZ

Time is running out.

There's only one week left and we spend most of it together. We go over Simon's case with Mitali and Martin Bunce and Dr Wellbelove, and we have another meeting at Oxford, but other than that Simon and I are alone.

Simon's grandmother is yet to convince either of the twins to change their mind, so no vote is forthcoming. She's been doing her best but it has to be subtle – planting the seed of doubt, offering a different view, questioning Reggie and Alfie intentions. She knows what she's doing but it's a delicate process and there's nothing we can do to speed things up, not even cast a Hurry-Up. (I've checked – it won't work.)

I scour the magickal laws, looking for a way through. I talk with Professor Bunce a few more times but there's little to report. Daphne calls to see how Simon is doing. We dine with Lady Salisbury one day and Simon's uncle is there as well. (He's dressed well enough, and he's astute and witty and if I squint hard enough he could look like an older version of Simon.) (I can almost see what my ridiculous aunt sees in him.) Penelope calls twice a day to talk with Simon – to see how he's doing and to berate me for not doing enough. She's getting on my nerves.

We have no visitors or meetings or lunches or phone calls to attend to today so we're having another duvet day. It's my idea. Over the last three weeks I've done nothing but search through legal and historical texts, reading case after magickal case, studying The Magickal Record articles for changes in public opinion, racking my brain on other ways to repeal the law, hitting dead end after dead end. And Simon's done nothing but lie on the couch. So for one day we decide to turn off our mobiles and ignore the rest of the world and spend the entire day under the covers.

I thought Simon would say no – that he's far too anxious, but his eyes light up and he's practically dragging me back to bed before I finish my sentence. I'm not complaining.

"Kiss me Baz," he breathes as we land on the duvet together. So I do, and more than once.

I love kissing Simon, his soft warm lips make my slow heart stutter and race every single time they meet my own. His mouth is something I cherish, so soft and sweet and warm. Crowley, I could kiss him forever.

Our kisses are gentle at first, leisurely – nothing more than a light brush really. And the more we kiss, the more heated they become.

I don't stop, (I never want to stop) but he pulls away just enough to take in a breath – it's ragged and I feel a slight satisfaction, and then I pull him back and press our mouths together again. Simon threads his fingers slowly into my hair as I pull him closer and I don't ever want him to let go.

I move to mouth his jaw, letting him catch his breath again, and then make my way from ear to chin, relishing in the feel of his skin as I kiss him thoroughly. And as I move to his neck, Simon tilts his head back to grant me access. The move drives me wild – my brave, beautiful husband is lifting his neck to me to kiss. Me, a vampire. But I won't bite him, I'll never hurt him. I love him more than my own life.

We make love slowly, carefully, as if we both want to remember each and every moment, every touch, every sensation.

And when we're done, we do it again.

-oOo-

I wake up feeling hungry.

I didn't hunt last night, I didn't want to leave Simon alone. But now I need blood, so I dress quickly and head out. I drive to the nearest abandoned warehouse where I catch a dozen rats and drain them dry. I don't particularly like rats, they're a little on the bitter side, nothing like the sweet blood of the deer at Oxford. But they are plentiful and I'm doing London a favour by ridding the city of a few every night. I still go to Oxford twice every week so I can hunt the deer that my father keeps stocked in the forest, but in between visits the rats are the next best thing, convenient and quick. (The vampire version of fast food I suppose.)

When I return to our flat, Simon has showered and is making breakfast. He's lost in thought as he prepares his usual feast of eggs, bacon and baked beans. He looks thin and pale and not at all his usual golden self. I know this is taking an enormous toll on him.

I kiss his cheek as I head to the shower. "Good morning love."

"Morning Baz," he almost smiles back.

I pour the tea as we breakfast together, and as Simon finishes off the rest of my eggs and bacon I realise we need to talk. We only have two days left and we've avoided the topic of his departure for as long as possible, but time is running out. I wave my wand to clear up the breakfast dishes and I'm about to bring it up when Simon beats me to it.

"So," he starts, "When are we leaving?"

I stop mid motion, my wand in the air in a half arc as I come to a shocking realisation. With all the meetings and planning and searching for a way out of this we've never once spoke about what will happen when time runs out.

And he thinks I'm going with him.

Fuck.

I take his hand and pull it towards me.

He furrows his brow. "What?"

"Simon." There's no easy way to say this so I take a deep breath and go for it. "I need to stay here, to work on getting this decision reversed. I can't do it from America. . ."

He doesn't say anything, he simply stares at me. I squeeze his hand but he doesn't acknowledge it.

"Simon?"

I squeeze again but he doesn't move. I wish I knew what he was thinking. I watch for any sign of movement.

"Love? I thought you realised?"

Shit. He didn't realise. Of course he didn't. Have I ever given him any indication that I wouldn't be going with him? Aleister Crowley I'm a fucking idiot. (And I think I've just worked out what he's thinking.)

He shakes his head and releases my hand like it's on fire. "You have got to be fucking joking."

"No Simon. I have to stay."

He stands up quickly, knocking his chair back in the process. "No you don't!" His voice is incredulous but his face unsure.

I stand up slowly so I can meet his gaze. "Yes I do." I keep my voice as even as possible. No sense both of us getting riled up.

"Why?"

"Because this is our home and they can't do this to you. I have to stay here and sort it out Simon."

"But–"

"I can't do it from America."

"But . . . No! No fucking way Baz!" He has his feet apart and his fists are clenched, and he's shaking his head again. And he's starting to hunch in on himself, like a bull, like he's getting ready for a fight.

"Simon I don't want this but I can't see any other way," I try to sound convincing, not like I'm pleading. But I am. I'm pleading for him to understand. I need him to understand.

"You can come with me. That's another fucking way." His voice is low and angry.

"And do what exactly?" I throw my hands in the air. "Sit around Bunce's flat while everyone here gets on with their lives and forgets about you? I can't do that Simon. I have to sort out this mess." He must know that. He must know I can't leave. I have to fix this.

He cocks his head to one side. "The mess that I made?"

I let out a sigh. "That's not what I meant." Of course Simon would take it like that. Even with all the years of therapy he continues to blame himself for every bloody thing that's happened in his life when that fucking Mage is responsible for all of it. I want to kill that homicidal bastard all over again, or snap his wand again, or shove that wand so far up his. . .

"Isn't it?" he growls, pushing his chin out.

I take a deep breath. I need to focus on this. On Simon. I need to make sure I can get my point across and not cave completely. I run my fingers through my hair, taking my time to compose my thoughts.

"Look, Simon, love," I start, quieter this time. "I want to come with you, I do. But I have to stay here and fix this. I need to find a way out for you. I need to work with Mitali to repeal this travesty of a judgement. I have to make sure there aren't other laws around that the Coven can use against you. I have to make people aware of the injustice that's been done. I have to make sure they continue reporting your case in The Record, the way we want it reported. I have to . . ."

"But–"

"I can't let this happen, Simon. This is our world. You belong here. I have to fight this."

"But we're married Baz. We're meant to be together, not on different continents!" He says it with a mixture of anger and hurt and I want to give in, to take the hurt away. But I can't leave. I have to stay and fight this, fight for him.

"I know that!" It comes out harsher than I want and I have to stop myself before I snap at him again. I take a breath before I go on. "I know love, but this is temporary, I promise."

He huffs at me.

"And you'll be with Bunce. . ." Lame. So infernally lame.

He clenches his fists even tighter. "Baz."

I stand my ground. "I have to stay."

We stare at each other, neither of us giving in, and for a moment I'm reminded of the fights we had at school, where we would throw slurs and insults at each other, working ourselves up until eventually he'd have enough and would leap at me or take a swing. Or go off. We haven't done that in years and I'm not worried that we're going to reach that point today, but I can't help reminisce a little.

He drags his fingers through his hair a few times, until his curls stand up in wild coils, and I think he's finally going to back down and yield.

"Come with me," he says instead, and it comes out like a command. Of course he doesn't back down, he's Simon bloody Snow, when does he ever back down from a confrontation? He juts out his chin even further and stares at me. Challenging me.

It takes every bit of my resolve not to capitulate. There's nowhere in the world I'd rather be than by his side. He must know that. Surely he knows that by now. "I can't," I say instead.

'You won't."

"I can't."

Silence.

He's pinning me in place with his ordinary blue eyes and I can't look away from them. (I don't want to look away. I never want to.) Our eyes are locked and neither of us is giving in.

We don't move.

I feel a slight breeze as his wings flutter behind him and his tails thrashes around dangerously, and I wonder again if he's going to tell me to fuck off or take a swing at me. He can't hurt me, not with my vampire strength but I'm a little curious. I brace myself just in case. But then he unclenches his fists and drops his shoulders. He's deflating before my eyes and it's fucking heartbreaking.

"You do what you have to do," he says, his voice flat. "I'm going out."

He turns away from me and grabs his wand and keys off the counter, and I don't do anything but watch as he walks out of the kitchen and out of our flat.

I slump against the kitchen counter and let out a noisy breath. That did not go well. I knew he would resist but I thought we'd be able to talk about it, talk through it, but he's just as stubborn as he's always been. (He's as stubborn as me.) (I always said we match.)

I wonder if he'll remember to spell his wings and tail invisible as I pick up my mobile. I debate whether to call him but decide it's probably not a good idea. He needs some time to cool off so I call Bunce instead. I know I'll wake her up but I don't particularly care. She picks up on the third ring.

"Do you know what time it is Basil?"

"Of course I do," I snap and regret it immediately. It's probably not good form to be rude when calling in a favour. "I need you to call Simon."

"Why?"

I can hear the rustle of her duvet through the phone and I picture Bunce reaching for her absurdly unfashionable glasses, her purple, red or blue hair a mass of untamed frizzy curls. I shake my head to rid myself of the disturbing image. "Because he just walked out of our flat."

"Why did he do that?" she demands, more awake now.

"Because I told him I wasn't coming with him. He didn't take it well."

"Shit Baz. What the hell have you been doing all this time? I thought you two talk about everything? Why haven't you talked about this?"

Why does she have to ask so many bloody questions? I drag my fingers through my slightly damp hair. "I was getting around to it."

"Left it a bit late haven't you?" I was expecting this response. Bunce has an annoying habit of stating the obvious. It's irritating as hell.

"Yes thank you for your startling insight," I sneer. "Now will you stop wasting time and call him?"

"All right I will."

"Call me straight back."

"All right!"

PENNY

This is so typical of those two. They can declare their love for each another a thousand different ways and spend hours discussing the virtues of sour cherry scones, and all the timeline faults in that stupid Marvel Cinematic Universe, and yet they haven't once discussed what will happen when Simon's time is up?

I've half a mind to let them sort out their own mess, but I know Baz wouldn't have called unless it was an emergency. And I'm worried about Simon, this has to be upsetting him, so I do what Baz asked and call him straight away. He answers on the second ring.

"What Penny?" It comes out as a growl. He must be pissed.

I decide to get straight to the point. It's late and I'm tired, I want to go back to sleep. "Baz called me."

He's silent. That means he's sulking. If he was angry he'd be yelling already.

"Come on Simon, do you really want to spend your last days together fighting?"

He huffs out a loud breath. "No."

"Then go home."

"But Penny, he's not coming with me," he whines. He's moved on already from growling to sulking to whining. This is a good sign.

"I know."

"You know?" He sounds incredulous.

Honestly those two. What have they been doing for the last few weeks if not talking about what will happen next? No scrap that, I know exactly what they've been up to. I bet Baz has been working like a maniac trying to sort it all out, all the while protecting Simon from will happen when time runs out.

"Yes of course!" I snap. "Someone has to stay there and sort this out. Who better than Baz?"

"But–"

"But what Simon? Micah and I were apart for years and we got through it. You two can be apart for a few months surely–"

"A few months?"

"Well maybe less, maybe longer I really don't know." Honestly I haven't a clue, but I know that everyone is doing absolutely everything to sort out this ridiculous business as quickly as possible.

"I thought this would all be sorted in a few weeks," he grumbles.

"I don't know how long it's going to take Simon, but at least we have a plan of sorts." I decide to go hard because he needs to understand the severity of his situation, and that Baz is his best hope out of this mess. And because Micah is stirring beside me. I think I've woken him up. "And I know it will be sorted a hell of a lot quicker if Baz is on it."

"Shit," he mumbles.

"Go home. Make up. Snog yourselves stupid until it's time to leave."

"Penny!"

"Come on Simon, you know you will," I add, feeling a little smug. I can't help it. I know him too well. I bet he's blushing right now.

He huffs a bit and grumbles some more, and then finally relents. "All right, I'll go," he huffs. "Bye."

I call Baz. "He should be on his way. You owe me big time Basil."

"And I'm sure you'll never let me forget it."

The line goes dead and I smile as I place my mobile back on the bedside table. That's about as close as I'll ever get to a thank you from him. I snort to myself as I roll over and see Micah watching me. He's not wearing his glasses so his brown eyes look especially large and lovely.

"I take it Baz just told Simon he's not coming?"

I remove my glasses and place them back on the bedside table. "You got it in one Micah. But I think they'll sort it out."

"Good," he says, smiling a little. "You know, that means we only have our apartment to ourselves for the next two days. Better make good use of our privacy don't you think Pen?" He raises his eyebrows at me in an unreasonably cute way. It makes my heart flutter a little.

"That's right. And seeing as we're both awake now . . ." I raise my eyebrows back.

He's grinning as he leans in to kiss me.

SIMON

Damn Penny for being so right all the time. I should have known this would happen. I should have seen it earlier, way earlier.

I saw the look of outrage on Baz's face when those bastards on the Coven banished me, the way his mouth turned into that all too familiar sneer that used to be reserved especially for me, but was now pointed squarely at those who did this. I heard the words that came out of his mouth as he argued my case with them, his voice dripping with contempt, and I saw that look of complete determination in his eyes as he started plotting my return. I should have realised then, the battle he was prepared to wage to fix this.

He wasn't ever going to just skulk away to America with me. He wasn't going to sit back and let this happen. He wasn't ever going to do nothing. The World of Mages is our world, and just like when the Mage was threatening his family, and all the Old Families, he'll do his part to fight for it. He'll fight for me.

I know Baz is right, and I know Penny is right as well, but it doesn't mean I can't be pissed off about it.

I unlock the door to our flat and open it to see Baz staring up at me from the Chesterfield. He stands up and faces me.

"I'm sorry–" I start.

"It's all right," he says, walking towards me. When he reaches me he takes my hands in his.

"I don't want to fight–"

"Neither do I." He pulls me into our flat, pushing the door closed behind me.

"I never thought we'd be apart anymore," I tell him. "We haven't been apart, ever since we were married. Before that even. I like it like that."

He pulls me closer and slides his arms around my waist. "I know. So do I." His voice is soft and I lean into him, wrapping my arms around his neck. I breathe him in and I catch his scent, it's something pure and clean – like the air before a rainstorm. And then there's his other smell, soft and woody and a little spicy and sweet too, Baz's scent. It calms me better than anything and I love it. I love him.

Sometimes it still amazes me that we found this – found us, through all the years of mistrust and hate and fighting. It's nothing short of a bloody miracle and I'll do anything to hold onto it. I don't ever want to lose him, lose this. I pull him a little closer and I can feels his arms tighten around me.

I look up into his eyes. They're a gentle grey today, cloudy day grey. "I love you," I tell him, because I know he wants to hear it and because it's true.

He smiles like I've given him the best present of all. "I love you Simon," he whispers, pressing his forehead to mine.

We hold each other close, neither of us speaking, and I breathe him in again. It's like I want to get as much as I can in this moment, like I know our time together is running out.

I pull back a little and wait until his eyes meet mine. I need to apologise now, for leaving. I said I would never do that again, I know how hurt he was the last time.

I must look troubled because he frowns at me. "What's wrong?"

"I said I would never fly off in anger Baz. I'm sorry I left earlier." I close my eyes and let my head drop forward into his chest.

"You didn't fly Simon, you walked. You haven't broken your wedding vows."

I lift my eyes to meet his. He doesn't look like he's mad at me, he looks like he's trying not to smile and I can't help wondering yet again how someone as perfect and brilliant as him can love me. I must be the luckiest mage in the realm. Well, apart from being banished that is.

I let out a sigh in relief as he kisses my hair. I pull him in for another hug and smile into his chest.

-oOo-

"Baz?"

"Mmmm?" His voice is distant as he twists a lock of my hair between his fingers.

"Do you think we can just spend the next two days right here?"

"In bed?"

"No I mean in our flat. Alone?"

"I'd rather spend it in bed," he quirks up an eyebrow and tugs my hair.

"Baz."

He lets out a sigh. "I think my family is expecting us to visit before you fly out tomorrow night."

"Oh, yeah." I run my hand lightly across his chest. He's warm now from our heat. From us. I rest my hand over his heart and I can feel the thrum of his heartbeat under my fingertips, softly beating out its reluctant rhythm.

He turns to face me, brushing my messy hair from my forehead with his fingers. His hand comes to rest on my cheek and I know he's thumbing the three moles I have there. He's still just as obsessed with them as ever. Not that I mind, I love it when he touches me.

No one's ever touched me like Baz. When I dated Agatha we used to snog a lot, and hold hands all the time, and occasionally there was even a bit of groping and stuff. But not that much, we were pretty young and Agatha's just not that much of touchy person. She hardly ever hugs Penny, I don't even think she hugs her mum.

And before Agatha, at the orphanages, there was zero affection from anyone. Meals were served on time even if they were bloody meagre as fuck, and there was always a clean bed and clean clothes, albeit hand-me-downs. And school and health care was provided by law but that's pretty much where it stopped. I'm sure the carers soothed the little'uns when they were upset or sick or something but there just wasn't that many carers to go around so the older ones were left pretty much alone.

Baz is always touching me though. We hold hands nearly all the time, and he's always brushing his hand against my shoulder when he walks past, or pressing his knees up against mine when we sit on the sofa watching the telly. And in bed he wraps his arms around me and snuggles close, pushing his nose into the crook of my shoulder and tangling his legs with mine, pressing his ice cold feet against my calves. And he runs his fingers through my hair and touches my face any chance he gets.

I didn't even know how much I wanted, no, needed all this affection until Baz and I got together.

My magickal psychologist says I was deprived of hugs as a kid and that leads to a kind of hunger for them now or something. Penny says I'm just obsessed with Baz. I think they're probably both on the right track. And I don't really give a toss. All I know is I'm definitely making up for my lack of early affection now.

I drag my arm around his waist and pull him closer. He moves his hand from my cheek to my neck where he curls it and starts playing with the back of my hair. It's shorter there and he brushes his fingers through the thick crop. (I close my eyes and try not to purr like a cat.) (I decide to hum instead. Humming's okay.)

After a while he moves his hand back to my cheek and I open my eyes to see him staring at me. Up close, I can see the pearly silver flecks in his grey eyes – they're absolutely bloody gorgeous, I could stare at them forever.

"We can go there for dinner tonight. Apart from that, we don't have to see anyone else if you don't want to." He's still brushing his hand across my cheek, and occasionally the pad of his thumb brushes ever so gently against my lips. I press my lips into it.

"I don't want to."

"All right love."

I want to spend the entire day right here with Baz in our flat (in our bed). I miss him already and I haven't even left yet. That doesn't make sense but I can't help how I feel – I want to hold onto him and never let him go. I lean over to close the distance between us and he leans in and closes his eyes.

I love kissing Baz. Whenever I do he stops whatever he's doing and kisses me right back. He could be reading or studying, or cooking or talking but he stops whatever he's doing and kisses me. Every single time.

His lips and cheeks are still warm from where I've been touching them, and his arms and chest are warm as well, but the rest of him has started to go cold – vampire cold. I decide to do something about that.

I pull him closer until his body is pressed up against mine and our legs are a tangled together. I feel his cool legs as they press against mine and know they'll warm up soon. I pull him closer again and trail my fingers across his back and down his side and hip to his thigh, until I elicit a small moan from him.

I can't think of a better way to spend the afternoon.

BAZ

Simon is quiet in the passenger seat, his head is pressed against the window and he looks lost in thought as the hustle and bustle of midweek traffic gives way to the quiet calm of country Oxfordshire. He's been doing this a lot since this shit started; thousand-yard stares and long silences, peppered with soft kisses and thumbs stroking knuckles.

After Simon came home we spent the rest of the day wrapped around each other, a tangle of arms and legs and hands on skin and sweet caresses and soft whispers. He's leaving tomorrow night and I'm going to miss him terribly. I want to spend every moment with him before he's gone.

I don't know what Bunce said to him but she must have said something right because he came to terms with his leaving and my staying pretty quick. (I probably owe her for that.) (Not that I'm ever telling her.) I'm thankful for their friendship every single day. She's turned out to be a pretty faithful friend to us both.

It's still daylight when we arrive so we spend some time in the garden before dinner. We stroll hand in hand across the big lawn, taking our time to admire Daphne's hard work. The Foxgloves and Bellflowers are in full colour, and the Delphinium is in full bloom and is a striking blue against the more subtle pinks of the Rambling Roses and Lily's. The shrubs and herbs and ground covers add a rich layering and informality to the garden, while the lush topiary displays lining the entrance to the house and the Wisteria climbing the northern wall add another dimension to the floral palette. It's fragrant and inviting and completely unpretentious, unlike Hampshire with all its pomp and formality. It's also wildly beautiful. I know Simon finds it peaceful.

Simon stops to pick a couple of the lilac Hollyhock, snapping the stems a few inches down. He looks at them for a moment before pressing them to his nose to breathe in their sweet scent, and then he pushes one behind my ear. (And he thinks I'm the sentimental one.) I snort out a laugh.

"Daphne will rip you to shreds if she catches you defacing her garden."

He gives me a distracted shrug and turns his back to the garden, casting his eyes across the flowerbeds. "No she won't. She likes me." It's true, he's always had a special relationship with my step-mother that I've never quite shared. And Daphne is most likely the reason why Father has accepted Simon at all, first as my boyfriend and now as my husband. "That colour suites you Baz. You look beautiful," he says, and I smile at my sweet husband who can make me feel like a lovesick teenager with just a few words.

"I'm going to miss coming here," Simon murmurs. I glance at him as he's stares into the distance, deep in thought. I squeeze his hand in acknowledgement and he squeezes back. "Remember our wedding Baz?"

"Of course."

"It was perfect, wasn't it?" he says, turning to face me now. "It was perfect, Baz."

I bring my free hand to his cheek and brush it lightly. "Yes love, it was perfect." How could it not be anything but? It was the day I got to marry the love of my life. I married Simon Snow. Sometimes I still pinch myself to make sure it's not a dream.

I take the other Hollyhock from his hand and push it behind his ear. He gives me a stunning smile before he's distracted again, staring past me at something or nothing in the distance.

He tugs the flower out from behind his ear and stares down at it, lost in thought. Eventually he lifts his gaze back up to me.

"Do you ever wonder Baz? What life would have been like if we didn't get together?"

We've talked about this many times over the years so it isn't new. And Simon thought about it endlessly in those months after everything happened. We both did. It's all I thought about while we were at opposite sides of the war and then for months after, when I was torn between marvelling at my good fortune and despairing at Simon's losses.

In the early days of our relationship when I was alone in my room at Watford, I'd wake with a start, thinking we'd lost each other. On those nights I'd grope around in the dark for my mobile and call him at Bunces. Later, when I moved to London and Simon learned to fly, he'd often arrive unannounced in the middle of the night where he'd climb wordlessly into my bed and wrap himself around me. We would make excuses to not leave each other's flats more often, and whenever I woke in his bed I would reach for Simon's hand, a sense of relief flooding through me as I pulled him towards me and held on tight.

"No. You would have killed me and I'd be dead." Well, more dead than I already am, but that's a matter for another day.

He shakes his head as he watches me. "I don't think I was ever going to kill you."

"Yes, you would have. And I would have let you."

He huffs out a small laugh. "Thank Merlin we didn't get to that. I never would have forgiven myself."

"I know." I cup his cheek with my hand and he leans into the touch, closing his eyes. Thank Merlin that we didn't get to that all right, and Morgana and Aleister Crowley and all of fucking magic.

He stops smiling and his eyes fill with sadness and I want to wrap my arms around him and protect him from the world that's hurting him all over again. But I don't, because I'm afraid if I do I'll never let him go. And I have to let him go, as much as every fibre in my being is telling me to stay with him, I have to let him go to America without me. It's the only way we're going to resolve this.

"This . . . won't be for long Simon. You'll be home before you know it," I whisper. "And you'll be with Bunce. Imagine all the terrible things she can say about me when I'm not there."

He laughs softly but it peters out all too soon. "I know. But Merlin I'm going to miss this." He gives me a brief look and then turns his gaze back towards the garden, lost in thought again.

-oOo-

Dinner is a subdued affair. Everyone is quiet, lost in their own thoughts until Mordelia asks if she can visit Simon in America.

"Sure Mordy, if you want," he mumbles.

Simon sounds miserable. His mood has been getting steadily worse as dinner progresses, and I think it's finally starting to sink in that he's leaving tomorrow.

"He won't be there for long Mordelia," Daphne says. "Surely Basil?"

"It shouldn't be very long," I shrug, trying to sound confident. I reach for Simon's hand under the table. "Lady Salisbury is working on Odella and Luella as we speak."

Father gives me a shrewd look. "You should prepare yourselves, in the event that this takes longer to resolve than you anticipate."

He returns to his dinner as if he hasn't said anything controversial, but Daphne drops her cutlery with a clatter. "Malcolm! It can't possibly!"

"And public opinion is turning with every positive article published," I continue, ignoring Father's pessimism and Daphne's outburst. She really seems to have a rather large soft spot for Simon these days. "Perhaps we can rally some of the more vocal mages to protest against the decision at the next Coven meeting," I suggest artfully.

"A protest march!" Mordelia squeals. "Can I come?"

"No Mordelia," Father says, not lifting his eyes from his dinner.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," Daphne says, ignoring him. "It might do some good, you'll be surprised how much support is out there for Simon. It might hurry things along."

I smile to myself, I was counting on Daphne's support. Mordelia's excitement is a bonus.

"I'll ask Pip to come too!" Mordelia says, egged on by her mother.

This has Father's attention now and he narrows his eyes at me. "I don't think protesting is appropriate for a Grimm, or a Pitch. And I don't see how that can help Simon."

"The Magickal Record should cover it," I suggest, ignoring Father again.

"And Aunty Fiona too!" Mordelia says.

"What's a protest?" my brother asks.

Daphne turns to my brother and smiles at him. "A protest is a group's formal declaration of objection darling."

"Publicly displaying that you object to something," the twins recite together. They've obviously studied this at school.

Daphne claps her hands in encouragement. "That's right," she beams, proud as ever.

"Like a rally, or a march . . . or a petition!" Mordelia gushes. "We could start a petition!"

Daphne taps her chin with her perfectly manicured finger. "I think it's a wonderful idea Mordelia darling. It might be just the support we need. . ."

"I really don't think it's appropriate to involve our family," Father says in a strained voice. He's always been extremely concerned with our reputation amongst the magickal community. Especially the Old Families.

I couldn't give a toss about them.

"We are involved Father," I remind him. He frowns at me and I meet his stare with my own look of determination. "Simon is my husband."

His eyes don't waver. "Of course Basil. But I don't see how this will help the situation." His voice is calm but he tightens his grip on the silverware until his knuckles turn white.

"I'm going to start a petition!" Mordelia tells Simon as she starts on dessert.

Simon nods but doesn't say anything. He's been staring at the table throughout the entire exchange. He hasn't even touched his dessert. I give is hand another squeeze before I start rubbing my thumb across the back of it in what I hope is a comforting gesture.

Daphne and Mordelia start chatting excitedly about rallies and petitions while Father watches on in steely silence. He doesn't look happy about their enthusiasm but I don't care. At least something good has come of dinner tonight – with Daphne on the case, our rally is all but organised.

Chapter Text

SIMON

Last time I flew to America was for Penny's wedding. That time was my first time on an aeroplane and I remember I was nervous about the flying bit. I'm a little nervous this time as well, but it's got nothing to do with the fact that I'm thirty eight thousand feet above the earth with a very thin layer of aluminium and steel and titanium separating me from certain death. I wonder if I can use my wings to fly at this height without slipping into unconsciousness or dying from extreme cold. I wonder if I can Float like a butterfly. I wonder if a warming spell will still cut it at minus sixty degrees Celsius.

I've had time to check these facts on the flight because the flight is bloody long and right fucking boring.

I eat the aeroplane food for something to do.

I'm nervous because I'm on my own. For the last five and a half years I've had Baz by my side constantly. And before that we were forced together when we were roommates, so we were still together even though we weren't together together.

I was only ever away from Baz during the summers back then, when I was stuck in those fucking orphanages. I never handled those summers very well.

And then there was that time when Baz was kidnapped by the Numpties. I didn't handle that time very well either.

And there was that other time when I took off. Neither of us handled that very well.

Now I'm alone again.

On the way to Heathrow, Baz insisted it will only be for a little while. He's been saying that ever since I he told me he wasn't coming with me. I should have figured out he wasn't coming before he told me; Professor Bunce only ever mentioned my visa not his, and Baz never actually said he was coming. I just didn't realise.

I know it makes sense that he has to be in London. I know he has to stay there and fight. I would too if I was him. But I still can't help wanting him here with me.

I miss him already.

And I'm worried about him. I'm worried that he's not going to eat or hunt enough. I'm worried that he won't be able to sleep at night or that he'll get stuck in his own head trying to fix this, or that he'll start having those fucking Numpty nightmares again and no one will be there to wake him and calm him down and hold him and make him a cup of tea.

I'm worried that this is hurting him more than it's hurting me.

I try to sleep. I have my wand in my hand just in case the very thin layer of aluminium and steel and titanium decides to give way at any point, or in case a bird decides to fly into the engine or lightning strikes the plane or the engine ices over or in case some mechanic on the ground accidentally used the wrong rivet for the wrong piece of metal. (I've had a lot of time to research.)

I don't know how Normals do this without a wand, or a parachute at the very least.

I don't know why I just didn't fly myself here. It would be a hell of a lot safer.

By the time Penny and Micah meet me, I'm so relieved I practically fly off the plane. But I don't, even though I'm dying to stretch my wings.

"Simon!" Penny waves as I finally make it through Customs. She's got even pointier glasses than usual and her hair is a shocking shade of red this time, with these weird orange streaks that make it look like it's on fire. And it's frizzier than ever.

"Hey Pen," I say as she pulls me in for a hug.

Her eyes are roaming over me as she takes me in. "All right Simon?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Hiya Micah," I only just manage to get out before Micah pulls me in for a hug as well. His family are all huggers and he's exactly the same. And for a small bloke he's surprisingly strong. "Oof,"I say as he squeezes the air out of my lungs.

"Hey Simon. How are you bud?"

"Yeah good Micah," I choke out. "Thanks for letting me stay with you," I add once he lets me go, just in case I forget to say it later.

"No problem. It's good to have you here. Penny's been excited for days." He says it amicably enough so it puts me instantly at ease. Micah's a good bloke. Solid and friendly, no pretences and all that shit. He's easy to get along with.

We make our way to the luggage carousel. "Good flight?"

"Not really. Long."

Penny frowns at me. "Why didn't you cast Hurry up on the plane?"

I shrug at her. "I don't know how safe it is. I didn't want the plane to fall out of the sky, Pen."

She rolls her eyes at me and gives my arm a playful wack. "Really Simon, it's the simplest spell in the realm."

"No it isn't," I mumble. I've never actually cast it – never had reason to and I don't think it's smart to use it for the first time while I'm thirty thousand feet above the ground. (Thirty eight thousand feet according to that pamphlet – the one that tells you how to brace in case of impact.) (Like that's going to help.)

Micah drives us back to their apartment in their new old car. Penny explains it's new for them but it was already a few years old when they bought it. I think it's pretty comfortable after the flight so I'm not complaining. It freaks me out that we're on the wrong side of the road in the dark. (The right side is the wrong side?) I close my eyes and try not to notice.

Penny and Micah live in New Haven, not far from Yale University. They somehow managed to secure research facilities at the uni even though they're doing magickal research. Their research grant has been spelled to look like a Normal one, or there's a mage on the grants committee – Penny tried to explain it to me a bunch of times already and she tries again on the way home but I'm not really listening.

"What happened to your hair Pen?" I ask instead. "I mean, I like the red, and the orange even, but it's kinda big isn't it?"

She gives her ponytail an awkward tug. "It's the bloody humidity here. It was frizzy to start with and here it's positively annoying."

"I like it," Micah shrugs. "You look like Morgana le Fay."

They share an intimate look, and I stare out the window until Penny turns back and starts watching me again.

"Can't you magic it less frizzy if it bothers you?" I'm sure there are all sorts of beauty spells around. I think Agatha used to use some.

"Waste of magic," she mutters. I know using magic doesn't worry Penny so her big hair probably doesn't bother her as much as she makes out. I let it go, it's not my problem. (As long as it doesn't take my eye out.) I sit back and try to enjoy the ride.

It's just gone midnight when we arrive at their apartment and they show me straight to my room. It's decent enough and it looks like they've gone to a lot of effort to make it homey. There's a big bed in the middle with a blue and green duvet, a built in wardrobe along one wall and a small wooden dresser opposite the bed. And there's a pile of stuff on the dresser for me. (Mint Aero bars, a jar of Marmite, Earl Grey tea, a Yale cap and a map.) I tear open an Aero and bite into it while I sit on the bed and open the map. Penny's circled the apartment in red marker, and she's circled a load of other places she probably thinks I'll find interesting. There's a café and a pizza bar, a grocer, a pub and a library. I scoff at the last one, she just can't help herself.

I start to unpack and get my stuff ready to shower, but I decide to give Baz a call first. My tail unfurls itself from around my leg and I stretch my wings out while dig my mobile out from my pocket. It feels good to open my wings after being couped up in that aeroplane seat and then the car for all that time, and I think I might need to fly soon. I haven't used my wings in a while, not since all this shit started.

I pull out some clothes from my duffel while I wait for Baz to answer. I think it's the middle of the night back home and I briefly wonder if I'm going to wake him. "Good morning love," he answers.

"I thought it was night there?"

"No it's morning here, it's night there." He sounds like he's trying not to laugh at me.

I shove my duffel on the floor and sit on the end of the bed. "Oh yeah. How are you?"

"All right, how was the flight?"

"Boring. Seven and a half hours boring," I tell him, picking up my wand. "Did you know that an aeroplane wall is thinner than a can of soft drink?"

"I did not know that."

I try to cast some of my clothes away. "And did you know that the longest non-stop commercial flight to London is from Perth, Australia. Eighteen hours and twenty nine minutes?" They miss the drawer and end up in a heap on the floor.

"Really?" I can almost hear the smile in his voice.

I shove at the pile of clothes with my foot."Eighteen hours. That's completely bonkers."

"And twenty nine minutes. We can't forget those minutes."

I give up on my clothes and grab another Aero. "And did you know that Perth is the second most isolated city in the entire world?" I go on, enjoying the fact that I remember so much useless information I read on the flight.

"What's first?"

I take a bite. "Honolulu. I had a lot of time on the plane."

"I can tell," he says and I'm positive he's smiling now. "I miss you."

"I miss you too."

I finish the Aero while we talk about nothing. I don't bother asking if anything's happened with the Coven – it's only been a day and he'd tell me if something had, and I'm not expecting any miracles. I step over the pile of clothes and head to the bathroom for a shower, then head straight to bed, exhausted. I can magic my clothes away tomorrow.

PENNY

We've managed to keep Simon so busy for the first week that it flies by without the need to cast Hurry up or any other spell to move it along. Micah and I show Simon around Yale and then some of the better known places in town and I get Simon a bus pass and show him how to get to the supermarket. The sooner he feels comfortable here the sooner he'll feel better about being here. He seems to be happy enough as we take in the sights. And he's been quite positive so far.

After a few days I suggest we go out for breakfast. Simon agrees readily, probably happy for a change from Weetabix, so we head to our local café and take a seat near the window. He picks up the menu and looks it over.

"Where's the eggs? And bacon? And beans?" he complains, "And what about sausages, there aren't any sausages."

"This isn't England," I remind him.

"I really feel like eggs, and bacon, and sausages. And beans too," he grumbles.

"Then have a breakfast burgers. That's kind of the same, just all piled up. Why don't you have one of those?" I point to it on the menu and he scoffs at me.

"I don't want a burger. And what the hell is a bagel?"

I ignore him and look over the menu. "There are eggs, see." I point to his menu again. "And you can get a side of grits or hash browns or both."

"I don't know what they are."

"They're potatoes. Sort of. I think." Micah nods in agreement.

"And grits?" Simon whines. "Sounds like dirt. Why would I want to eat dirt?"

I give him a pointed look. "When did you become such a food snob?" All this complaining isn't like him. He's usually happy to go along with anything, especially when it comes to food.

"I'm not a food snob," he grumbles, and he glares at the menu like he's willing it to change with his mind. He probably could have done that before he lost all that magic. I wonder if he ever tried? I'll have to ask him later.

"I think you've gotten used to eating at the Grimm's."

"What about my cooking?" There's a hint of petulance in his voice. "I can cook Penny."

"What about French toast, or pancakes?" Micah suggests, pointing at the menu.

"Baz makes that."

I look at Micah and stifle a giggle. Honestly he's like a child when he's hungry.

He ends up ordering the eggs, bacon, home fries and sausage meal, and then adds a stack of cinnamon pancakes anyway, and coffee. He looks incredulous when the meal arrives but he eats it all, growling and mumbling and scoffing all the way.

He sits back and rubs his stomach. "I think I'm going to be sick," he grumbles. "I don't know what that was but it wasn't sausage. And those pancakes were way too sweet. And what's with the size of that coffee?"

"Maybe you should have stuck to bacon and eggs," Micah says, trying not to smile.

I should have known the positive attitude wouldn't last.

-oOo-

"Are you sure you'll be all right Simon?" We've just finished a wonderful English breakfast with eggs and bacon and sausages (real ones) and tomatoes and a lovely strong pot of tea that Simon put together. After a week of Weetabix and our disastrous breakfast outing, Simon offered to take over making breakfast in house.

"Yes Penny I'll be fine," he growls, shovelling the leftover bacon into his mouth. "You two have done enough. You need to get back to work."

"You can always call us," I remind him, trying my best not to sound worried as I pick up my bag. "And use your mobile if you get lost, and you can always fly I suppose."

"Stop fussing. I'll be fine," he says again. "Go."

I make my way to the entrance where Micah is patiently waiting, but stop as I think of something else. "But don't use There's no place like home if you're flying. You haven't been here long enough so that spell might direct you straight back to London."

"Go!"

Micah and I leave and I can't help worrying a little, he's going to be all alone for the first time since he arrived. I know Simon talks to Baz every day, sometimes just to say hello and sometimes to talk about the progress (or lack of progress) with the Coven, and I know Simon is trying to stay positive, but each time there's no change he looks a little more dejected.

I'm relieved when we return home to the wonderful smell of home-made pasta sauce.

"Why do they have to have so many different types of pasta here?" We haven't even made it inside the door and Simon's already complaining. "And not one of them was the one I want."

I put my laptop bag down beside Micah's and kick off my shoes.

"And the sauces, I don't want ready-made, I want to make my own. I had to ask the bloke stacking the shelves and he had no clue what I was on about."

I glance at Micah as we make my way to the kitchen. Micah heads to the fridge and pulls out two beers. I lean against the kitchen bench.

"Maybe he couldn't understand your accent," Micah says, handing Simon a beer. He slides along next to me and I elbowed him in the ribs.

Simon takes the beer and opens it. "I don't have an accent, it's you lot that do."

"It's just going to take a little time to get used to everything." I try to sound sympathetic but I don't think I pull it off.

"And the money," he complains again. "It's all the same size and same colour. The fiver looks exactly the same as the tenner, and all the rest."

"But you've got your Queen on all your currency," Micah points out.

Simon frowns and takes a pull from his beer. "Yeah but it's not all the same colour is it?"

"Just use your card instead."

"Anyway, there's too much choice," he goes back to his original argument. "It took me ages just to buy a few things."

I turn to look at Micah, he has a bemused look on his face.

BAZ

There's been almost no progress this week. The Coven won't meet for another few weeks and things have gone quiet on The Record. When Simon left, the paper ran an exposé on the Chosen One, starting with his time at Watford and ending with a list of all of the dark creatures he's slain – it was rather impressive. (And very long.)

The paper requests to interview me again, but Simon and I decided early on that we would hold onto that option until we really need it. We want the papers to focus on Simon and all of his achievements, not our relationship. Fiona disagrees; she says I should do it now.

Father steadfastly refuses to be interviewed even though our Hampshire home is in the largest dead spot of all. Fiona's been on at him to do it, and even Daphne agrees, but he refuses to budge. It would really help our cause if one family that is directly affected by the dead spots openly support Simon. And Father's name still carries a lot of weight in the realm.

I spend my time combing through the magickal laws, searching for a loophole or anything that will help reverse this ludicrous charge. I come across many laws that are outdated and oppressive or just plain idiotic along the way, and Professor Bunce and I are going to look at repealing those when this is all sorted, but I don't find anything to help Simon.

Bunce is doing her bit, keeping Simon distracted while he's in America, but now she and Micah have returned to their research so Simon is alone. And Simon left alone thinking is never a very good thing. He'll get lost in his own head if he's left alone too long, and then he'll start blaming himself for all the woes of the realm. I can't let that happen this time.

So I call Simon every day, sometimes twice, and we talk about everything and nothing at the same time. He complains non-stop about the food and now he's on about the transport.

"There's no Tube here. I have to take the bus everywhere." He's been whining about this a lot since he left.

"Why don't you drive? You can hire a car Simon."

"They drive on the wrong side of the road," he grumbles. "And I haven't organised my international drivers licence yet."

I smile as I listen to his voice over the telephone. "You can fly Simon. Surely you haven't forgotten that?"

On that fateful night that Simon left, we drove to Heathrow and sat in the departure lounge together, waiting for his flight to be called. We held off his leaving for as long as possible but eventually he had to board. I held him tight and told him I love him and he kissed me right there by the gate and said he loves me too, and then I watched as he walked through the departures gate alone. One moment he was there, giving me a small smile and a wave, and the next he was gone.

I won't ever forget the sight of the empty gate or the feeling that accompanied it. It felt like I'd been torn open and had my heart ripped from my chest. I couldn't breathe properly for a long time.

And then I felt empty.

He has no idea how difficult it's was for me to not drop everything and get on that plane with him. It took every ounce of my resolve to say no when he asked me to go with him. I nearly caved a number of times, but I know that I have to stay to fight this, to fight for him.

I've miss him every moment he's been gone. Crowley I'm pathetic.

PENNY

Micah and I get on with our research. It's tiring and trying but we're making some progress. Micah is currently looking for funding to keep our research going into next year and I've started discussions with some magickal colleagues in California on the possibility of collaborating in the future.

I talk to mum ever few days to find out what's going on because as much as Simon talks to Baz every day, he doesn't have much to say about what's happening. (Or what's not happening.) (I think he doesn't want to get his hopes up.) Mum says it's gone a little quiet. Even The Magickal Record had something non-Simon related on the front page for the first time in weeks. I'm waiting for our next meeting to hear more.

I haven't spoken with Agatha since that last meeting when she all but said Simon is to blame. Agatha lacks empathy at the best of times but I thought she'd at least be there for Simon. There are already enough mages that blame Simon so we don't need her touting the same rubbish. I'm still waiting for her to apologise

Simon's not upset with her at all. He says I should let it go.

"What if Agatha's right? What if they're all right? What if I am the cause?" he asks one night.

We've finished dinner and we've moved to the sofa. I'm reading through some notes on the magickal healing qualities of South American tropical plants and Micah is glancing over some grant papers. Simon is watching but not watching the telly.

He's becoming more accustom the differences between the two countries now, and he's not complaining nearly as much as when he first arrived. Although I think most of his complaining has more to do with him being banished rather than the food or the shops or the money or whatever else he was banging on about. (I tend to switch off whenever he starts up.)

I look up from my book. "She's not right Simon. You're not causing the dead spots to stay open." I'm absolutely sure he's not, and up until he was banished the thought never crossed his mind either. I detest those idiotic members of the Coven for making him doubt himself.

"But how do you know?"

"I just do. It's a ridiculous notion. You know as well as I do that they're going to take time to close. Like the hole in the ozone layer. That's closing a little bit every year."

"Or like deforestation. It takes time to recover," Micah adds helpfully.

Simon gives us a sceptical look and it's obvious he doesn't believe us. That's just splendid, now Simon's blaming himself and he's stuck here away from his home, away from Baz – the only person who can actually talk some sense into him when he gets like this. Damn the Coven for blaming him. And damn Agatha for stirring this up.

BAZ

We're getting ready for another meeting. I hunt in the forest and then join the others who are already waiting in my parent's dining room. There are three laptops set up this time; I have Simon on mine, Professor Bunce has Penelope and Mrs Wellbelove has Agatha. I will shut her down again if I need to.

We really need to come up with a better way to manage the increasing number of international attendees, but most of us are better at magic than technology. Maybe I'll ask Mordelia to deal with it. The twins would have it sorted in a few minutes.

Simon's face pops up on my screen.

"All right love?" I ask as we prepare to start.

"Yeah Baz," he smiles, and I suppress the urge to reach through the laptop and brush my fingers across his cheek.

"Okay progress reports first. Lady Salisbury?" Mitali starts when I don't. I'm pleased it's her rather than her bumbling husband.

"It's Ruth, please," Lady Salisbury insists as she peers through her half-moon glasses. "Luella and Odella are both determined to hold their position I'm afraid. I've discussed the issue with them a number of times – as much as I can without raising suspicion that is, and they both seem to want to 'see what happens'."

"What does that mean? 'See what happens'?" Simon asks from my laptop.

"They want to see if the holes close while you're gone," Martin explains, and then he launches into a long, drawn out oration on time versus tropospheric turbulence and the effect that pollutants and other atmospheric constituents may have on the outcome.

Thankfully Bunce cuts him off before we all fall asleep.

"That's ridiculous. Not you dad! I mean what Luella and Odella said."

I disagree. Whatever he was waffling on about was ridiculous. But I keep my thoughts to myself, I've only recently made it into Martin's good books. He's held a grudge against my family for years.

"They are being rather ridiculous," Lady Salisbury agrees. "But I'll keep on at them. At least they're happy to continue to discuss this with me for the moment."

"Yes that's something. Keep doing what you're doing," Mitali urges. "Anything else?"

"The Magickal Record has gone a little quiet. We need to keep Simon on the front page," I remind everyone. I may have an ulterior motive in raising this.

"And how can we do that?" Dr Wellbelove asks. "They've interviewed everyone already."

"Not everyone," I say, looking at my father. "There's me. And Father."

"Basilton," Father says, eyeing me evenly. "I really don't think this is the time."

"I can't think of a better time."

"Basilton," Father says again. He says it as if he can still admonish me with that word. But I'm not a child anymore, and my loyalties shifted to Simon a long time ago.

"Oh come on Malcolm," Fiona snaps. "Do you think Natasha would have just sat back and done nothing?"

I have no idea what my mother would have done in this situation. Although I'd like to think she'd be as incensed as Fiona.

She turns to me next and nods once. "I think you should do it now. And then you Malcolm."

Father barely blinks her way. "This is none of your business, Fiona."

"This is all of our business!" she snaps again. Go Fiona, she's proving to be quite useful today.

"Thank you Fiona, but it's Malcolm's choice whether he is prepared to be interviewed or not," Dr Wellbelove says. "We'll leave that up to you Malcolm."

"Yeah yeah, whatever," she huffs. "Basil, are you sure you want to do this?"

"Yeah Baz, are you sure?" Simon asks.

"Yes of course," I tell them without hesitation. I knew long ago I'd cross any line for Simon.

"I'll set it up then," Dr Wellbelove says.

Good, that's settled then. I move on before Father can voice his opposition. "What about Velma? Didn't you say she hesitated at the vote?"

"Yes, maybe someone can do a little poking around . . ." Bunce suggests. I do admire her – she's a fierce magician and she catches on quick.

"Leave that with me," Fiona says, a little too eager. "If there's anything there, I'll find it."

I roll my eyes at her. "You can't intimidate her Fiona." She's always looking for an outlet for her particular brand of magic.

"I won't! I'm just going to see what's going on there, that's all."

I doubt that is all, but I let it go for now. If there is anything to be found, Fiona's our best bet. And she's not afraid to get her hands dirty every now and then.

"All right good. Anything else?"

"Oh, there's the petition," Daphne says.

"What petition?" someone asks from across the room, I think it's Mitali.

"Mordelia started an online petition. She has over fifty signatures already. Mostly Watford students, but it's a start," Daphne gushes, clearly delighted.

"Mordy did that?" Simon asks. "Can you tell her thanks from me Daphne?"

"Yes of course, Simon."

"We need to get more signatures," Bunce interjects. "Baz can you give us all access. We can even take it to The Record once we get more numbers. This will get us back on the front page!"

"Actually, we should let it slip to The Record that there is a petition. That will help increase the number of signatures." I had this in mind when we first spoke at home about it.

"I'm on it," Fiona nods. "I know a journalist there. And while I'm at it I'll tell them to focus on Simon and his achievements when they interview you Basil."

"Thank you Fiona," Mitali nods her approval. I don't even have to steer this group anymore, they're doing well on their own.

"And the final petition should be presented to the Coven," Wellbelove says in a small voice. She sounds nervous – it's the first time she's spoken since her outburst. She's probably afraid of Bunce cutting her down again. I actually forgot she was here.

"Good idea Agatha," Bunce agrees. I thought they weren't on speaking terms. "Or the paper, or maybe both. . ." she beams at Agatha. Obviously they are. I'm not so forgiving though.

There's a murmur of agreement and a few nods of approval around the room.

"Alright everyone, I think we've covered everything. We'll meet again next week," Mitali finishes. "If you have anything to report in the meantime please pass everything through to Basil."

I turn my laptop around and touch Simon's face on my screen, supressing the urge to crawl through it. "Hi," I say instead.

"Hi," he answers in a quiet voice.

I glance around the room, everyone is still milling around chatting and saying their goodbyes. I turn back to Simon. "I'll call you when I get home."

"Okay."

I let out a heavy sigh. This is our life now.

Chapter Text

SIMON

"When was the last time you went out?"

I'm sitting on my bed in the dark, talking to Baz. This was I can pretend he's right here next to me rather than three thousand miles away.

I've been stuck here for four weeks and each week has been just as boring as the one before. I love being with Penny and Micah, but I miss Baz. A lot. And I miss home. I miss my life.

The Coven meets next week and Gran hasn't got any further with Odella or Luella. Dr Wellbelove says she's doing a great job but it's going to take time. Penny says we might have to abandon that approach and try something else – but exactly what that something else is she doesn't know. Fiona's been covertly checking into Velma's background but she's hasn't found anything yet.

At least the petition is growing, it's up to one hundred and sixty signatures already. I don't even know that many mages but I guess there's a lot of people who know about me, and there must be enough that believe I've done more good than bad.

"I went to Oxford the other day," he answers. I can hear the leather of the Chesterfield squelch as he settles back into it.

I roll my eyes at him in very Baz-like way. "Not to visit your family or hunt. To have fun."

"Crowley Simon there's hardly time for that."

He's always working on my case – either reviewing every magickal law he can get his hands on, or keeping track of everyone else. He even gave an interview with the newspaper the other day; 'Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch speaks out for the Chosen One!' the headline read.

He talked about how I stopped the Humdrum and how I gave up my magic to end it, and how no one else in the realm would have the guts to do something like that. And he went on and on about the Mage, (on and on and on) about how evil and murderous he was, and detailed all his crimes. (The ones they know about anyway.) Baz was so eloquent and persuasive that a whole load of mages wrote to the paper in support of me. It was brilliant. He was brilliant.

But even someone as brilliant as Baz needs down time.

"Yes there is. You should catch up with Dev and Niall." It's not much but if anyone can take his mind off things for a while it's those two. "Go to the club, thrash Niall at tennis. It will be good for you."

"Crowley Simon. Do you really expect me to go to the club and play tennis while you're in exile?" He's probably shaking his head at me but it's a bit hard to tell in the dark.

"Why not? Show those tossers who agreed to this that you're not going away," I nod, warming to my own idea. "There are plenty of people at the club who support us Baz."

"And there are plenty who don't," he throws back at me. "And I'm not in the mood to meet up with those idiots from the Coven."

I don't back down.

"Baz."

"Simon."

"You should go."

I know he needs to take a break, but he won't do it unless I make him. He doesn't say anything and I stare at his image on my screen. I can be plenty stubborn when I want something, and I want him to go out. He can't keep working on this all the time, it's not healthy.

He stares back at me without speaking, he's just as stubborn as me the git. I bet he thinks he can out stare me but I've got nothing else to do, and I've had dinner so I'm free for the rest of the night. I don't say anything. I keep staring. I could stare at him all day.

It takes less than a minute for him to relent. I must be getting good at this.

"All right, if you insist," he huffs. "I'll try to find some time." He sighs dramatically and a lock of hair falls across his face. I want to reach through the phone and brush it away.

"Good," I say instead, grinning at him. He smiles back at me and it's so fucking beautiful it makes me miss him even more.

"What about you? When was the last time you went out?"

"I go out every day."

"Not to shop for food," Baz says, and this time he's the one rolling his eyes. "Out. As in a night out."

"I don't want to go without you." And that's true, sort of.

I don't want to go out without him, and not only because I know it will be boring and a waste of time. I also don't want to go out because I'm so fucking tired all the time. My nightmares came back and they keep me up half the night sometimes. They didn't come back straight away – it wasn't until the second week here that I had my first one, and I don't have them every night, but they're back.

I don't want to tell Baz about them.

They're different now. I'm still fighting the dark creatures in some of them, and the Mage is still there, trying to hurt everyone I love. And sometimes I still go off, and when I go off I can't stop and everything is on fire. Everything is burning; the children's homes, Watford, the White Chapel, Oxford, our flat, it's all burning and it won't stop.

But now some of my nightmares have the Coven, and Baz and Baz's family and Penny's family and even the Wellbeloves. In those nightmares they're saying things that scare me even more than the never-ending fire or the Mage trying to hurt me or the dark creatures trying to kill my friends. 'You can't come back, ever.' Professor Bunce says in one of them. 'We've done everything we could.' Dr Wellbelove says in another. 'It's your fault the dead spots are not closing!' the Coven chant at me in another.

But the one that had me waking in a cold sweat and gasping for air and feeling like something is squeezing at my heart is the one where Baz turns his back on me and says 'Goodbye Simon.'

So yeah, I don't want to tell Baz about them.

"Go out with Bunce and Micah. Surely they go out sometimes?"

"They're busy working. I don't want to interrupt them." It's a lame excuse I know.

"When was the last time you flew then?" he pushes. I know he's going to keep on at me now and I suppose it's my fault – I started this, and I didn't think it through as usual.

"Yesterday." At least that's true.

I fly a lot these days. It tires me out enough so I can sleep a little better. I spell myself invisible and then head out over different parts of the town and the bay. It's nice to stretch my wings for a bit and I get to see the sights as well, and I only get lost sometimes.

I started running again too, and I've been drawing a lot as well. Doing that helps pass the time and I do sleep a little better. I go for a run in the mornings, and then in the afternoons I fly off and find a quite spot while Penny and Micah are at work and sit and draw, sometimes random people an sometimes I draw Baz from memory. It's not as much fun as drawing Baz in real life but it keeps my mind busy for a while. Then I fly back to their apartment and start on dinner. Penny still can't cook for shit so I think Micah really appreciates it, and it's the least I can do seeing as I'm staying with them.

"Go out and have some fun Simon."

He stares at me with those grey eyes and that determined look and I relent this time.

"All right," I mumble.

"Good," he grins, and it's annoying and gorgeous at the same time.

Merlin I miss him. I always miss him these days, even when we text or talk on the phone or even facetime each other.

And I worry about him too. He's all alone in our flat and he's working so hard trying to fix this. I text Fiona every now and then to remind her to and check on him, just to make sure he's okay. I ask him every day when he last hunted and what he ate just to make sure he's not skipping. (A hungry vampire is never a good thing.)

And now I've convinced him to go out, so at least he wont be stuck at home alone all the time.

BAZ

I'm at the club with Dev and Niall. It was Simon's idea – he thinks I need to go out more. Like I feel like hanging around at the club while Simon is across the Atlantic confined to bloody New Haven of all fucking places. Not having Simon home by my side is killing me but I put on a brave face, for him. It would do me no good to have him know how badly I'm handling this. No good at all.

I haven't been sleeping very well since Simon left. I've become used to the sound of his breathing all these years because now all I hear is the quiet. I go to bed late, usually after pouring over dozens of magickal laws, and after a few hours of fitful sleep I get up and hunt. Then I return to our flat in the early hours of the morning and eventually drift off to sleep. I wake up tired every day.

I thrashed Niall before and now Dev's up and I'm beating him by a decent margin as well. I could thrash him easily but my hearts not in it right now. But after a few more dreary rallies I think fuck it, I want this over quickly so I ace the rest of my serves to end the torture. Game over.

"Fuck Baz that was harsh," Dev pants as we leave the court. "You're still fucking ruthless as ever."

I shrug as I pack up my tennis bag.

"Pint Baz?" Niall asks, already heading to the bar with his bag full of broken racquets.

"Why not?" I trail behind Dev. Niall has already ordered pints and hands them around wordlessly.

We drink in silence for a while, and Dev and Niall have downed nearly half their drinks before Dev finally speaks up.

"So I signed Mordelia's petition the other day." He tips his pint my way. "Looks like there's a lot of support for Simon out there."

"Yes, I think there are well above two hundred signatures now." It comes out bored.

"Will it help?" Niall asks, taking another long pull from his glass.

I shrug. "Probably not, but Mordelia wants to help."

"I never realised Simon did all that stuff while we were at school – saving the realm and all," Dev says, looking rather impressed. "Slaughtered a whole load of dark creatures didn't he?"

"He didn't like to advertise."

"A lot of people didn't know."

"They do now, and it's made fuck all difference," I scowl. I really don't want to go over this again but it is Dev and Niall, they're my friends and they seem genuinely concerned. I even think they're on Simon's side in all this. Oh fuck it, I know they're on Simon's side, and they deserve to know what's going on. They could even help spread the word. "He saved our realm more times than I can count."

Dev and Niall nod in agreement.

"Those that voted for his banishment are a bunch of morons," I add for my own benefit.

"You should join the Coven Baz," Dev says, pointing his pint at me. Only a little slops out onto the floor. "You're a hell of a lot smarter than that lot."

"There's not much chance of that happening is there?" I give him a pointed look. "With my husband being banished by the Coven and all."

He takes another mouthful and wipes the froth from his top lip. "Oh yeah. Well maybe not right now, but later, you know, when he's un-banished."

"Is that even a word Dev? Un-banished?" Niall asks, finishing his pint.

"No fucking clue," Dev shrugs and finishes his pint as well. He goes to order another round.

I shake my head at these two idiots. I've had enough. I finish my pint and place the empty glass on the bar. "Gentlemen," I say. "I'm off."

I peel off a tenner and drop it on the bar. "Next round's on me."

And as I walk towards the exit I can't help noticing that everyone is staring at me. Everyone here knows that Simon is my husband so they're probably wondering how Simon is doing, or what I'm doing here, or where Simon is, or whether the holes have started to close. Or maybe they're not wondering anything at all.

Let them fucking stare I decide. I hold my head up high as I leave, ignoring them all.

I notice Lady Salisbury sitting with Alfie and Odella and Luella near the exit so I stare menacingly at Alfie until he drops his head as I walk out. Then I head straight to Oxford and sink my fangs into the first deer I find.

PENNY

"Come on Simon, let's go out and do something," I plead again.

"No."

"Why not?"

Simon is sitting on the couch with his feet on the coffee table, playing games on his phone again. I'm standing on the other side of the coffee table with my hands on my hips. He doesn't raise his eyes. "Don't want to."

"We'll shout you dinner?"

"No."

"A pint at the pub?"

"No."

"Ice skating?"

"Penny!" Simon huffs, finally looking up at me.

"Come on Simon. You can't stay home every night. Our Normal friends want to meet you."

"You don't have any friends."

I narrow my eyes at him. He really does know me too well. "Well Micah's friends then. Colleagues actually, and they want to meet you."

"No," he growls this time, his eyes fixed on his game.

I cross my arms and give him my most determined glare. "I'll call your husband and tell him you're sulking."

That seems to do the trick and Simon finally looks up from his phone. He stares at me for a moment, then huffs out a breath as he finally relents. He throws his mobile onto the sofa next to him and flops back against the cushion. "Yeah okay Penny, whatever."

Merlin and Morgana, it was a murder of crows getting Simon to go out tonight. He's been here almost four weeks and his mood has been getting progressively worse each day. At first he was really trying to be positive (even though he complained a bit), but as the week passed and there was no progress back home I can see his hope diminish.

And then the nightmares started again. It was probably two weeks after he arrived when I first heard him cry out in the night. I went to his room straight away, tentatively knocking on his door, and when I went in he was bathed in sweat and shaking all over. It was a terrible site. Micah put the kettle on and we drank tea until he calmed down. When he finally spoke, he said it wasn't the first he'd had since he arrived here. And when I asked him why he didn't tell me about them sooner he said he didn't want to worry us.

I dug out my crystal ball the very next day while he was out flying. I wanted to see if there was going to be a good end to this.

My crystal ball doesn't always work, sometimes the images are more confusing than clear but sometimes they are uncannily on the mark.

I did see something, although it wasn't very clear. There was Baz and Simon on what could have been the big lawn at Oxford, or perhaps Hampshire, or it could have been somewhere else entirely. I've only been to either place once or twice. (And I haven't been to Hampshire since that time.) (And the last time I went to Oxford it was completely transformed into something magickal for their wedding.)

Simon looked a little different, older perhaps, or just different. His hair was a little longer and he looked like he hadn't shaved for a while. And Baz looked a little different too, he was sporting a neat designer stubble and his hair was a little longer. Simon was throwing a ball into the distance – not a red one mind, maybe a tennis ball, at what I couldn't see. That's all I got unfortunately. It wasn't very helpful but at least no one was bathed in blood this time.

I haven't told him about it. I don't know where they were or when they were, so I don't want to put him in an even worse mood than he already is.

He's been moping around with his tail between his legs for the last week. But it's Friday night and Micah's Normal colleagues go to the local bar every week and we ask him again to come with us. He flat out refused the first few weeks and this is the first time he's actually said yes. I hope it cheers him up.

We head out for pizza first and then over to the bar. It's full by the time we arrive but we find our colleagues easily enough. I introduce Simon to our Normal friends (Micah's Normal friends) and we order drinks. Simon knocks his beer back faster than I thought possible and then heads back to the bar to buy another round. Maybe he needs a night out more than I thought.

After a few more beers Simon gets into a conversation about football with a couple of Micah's colleagues, and Micah and I smile at each other with the knowledge that he finally seems to be enjoying himself. I'm chatting with a few of the other scientists about our respective research – they're Normal scientists and they think Micah and I are researching Normal diseases. It must sound convincing because they don't question it. Eventually the conversation turns to Simon.

"So is he a friend of yours?" One of them asks – Addy. It's Addy with-a-why she told me when we first met.

"Yes, he's my best friend. We went to school together back in London."

"And lived together," Micah adds, handing me another Vodka Cruiser.

We talk about the differences in schooling between the two countries for a while. It's pleasant enough but not really my idea of a good night out. I can discuss this topic with mum any time I want an robust debate.

"He's cute. Think you can introduce me?" she finally asks when there's a lull in the conversation.

"Sure."

"Is he single?"

"Married." She's not the first one to ask about Simon tonight.

"Married? Which one's his wife then?" Addy-with-a-why asks as she glances around the bar.

"Husband. And he's back in England, working."

"He's gay?"

I give a non-committal shrug. It's not my place to divulge Simon's or anyone else's sexuality. And it's none of her bloody business anyway. (And I don't really know.)

"Shame."

"Not really," I say. It comes out clipped.

Micah can sense my change in mood and has the good sense to interrupt. "So Addy, tell me a little more about your latest findings . . ."

I know I can be a little short with people sometimes but I really can't be bothered fielding questions about Simon. Why don't they ask him themselves instead of going through me?

Simon bounds over with two more drinks for him and Micah and Vodka Cruiser for me, and I think he's well on his way to getting completely shitfaced.

"Here you go Micah, Penny," he shoves the drinks into our faces. His balance is a little off.

"No more for me Simon, I'm designated driver," Micah reminds him. Simon shrugs and keeps the spare for himself.

"Hiya," he says to Addy-with-a-why, finally noticing her.

I introduce the pair (reluctantly) and he immediately launches into a discussion about local pubs and the food and how all the money is the same colour. "It so confusing!" he tells her. "I nearly tipped the bloke who brought the pizza a hundred the first week I was here." One of her friends joins them and then another, and now they're all discussing the best place in town to get pizza.

We leave them to it but not before I take his wallet and his mobile in case he loses either one or shouts the entire bar. Micah and I find a quieter spot away from the bar and chat with a few colleagues.

"We should probably get Simon home soon," Micah suggests. It's late although the bar is still full. Simon is swaying unsteadily and talking nonstop.

I wave him away. "Let him go for a little longer Micah. He needs to let off a bit of steam."

"But those girls look like they're ready to pounce."

I snort back a laugh. "He's married to a vampire. I'm sure he can handle a few fervent women."

Micah laughs and eases back into his chair as he re-joins the conversation with his colleagues. I take another sip of my drink and join in, and we're finally relaxing into our first Friday night out since Simon arrived until Simon's phone rings. I look at the screen. It's Baz.

"Are you going to answer it?"

I grimace. "I suppose I'd better, otherwise Baz will go into an all-out panic attack . . . Hello Baz."

"Bunce? Where's Simon?" He dispels with the pleasantries and gets straight to the point as usual. "And what's all that noise?"

"We're at the pub. Simon's up at the bar . . . He's a little tipsy." I decide to tell him everything immediately. He'll get it out of me anyway.

"A little?"

"Well a lot actually, he's pretty smashed."

"Did you take his wallet?"

"Of course.

I can hear him let out a protracted sigh. "You're supposed to be looking after him," he snaps. "Not getting him plastered."

I huff at the insinuation. "I am looking after him! He's having fun for a change so don't get your knickers in a twist. He's just talking."

"Who's he talking to?"

"Just some colleagues of ours . . ."

"Bunce?"

I rub my temple. Bloody lawyers. "All right female colleagues."

"Plural?"

"Two . . . Three actually."

"Crowley Bunce. Are you going to take him home or what?"

"He's fine Baz. And it was your idea to go out, so don't blame me. We had to all but drag him out. He's been a little . . ."

"A little what?" Demanding bloody vampire.

"Down. Nothing major, just a little down lately. His tail has been drooping for weeks now. I think it misses you too." It's true, he looks like a lost puppy these days.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

I'm bloody well telling you now, I think to myself. "I thought it was obvious," I tell him instead. "Honestly, what did you expect Baz?"

He sighs again. "I don't know."

He sounds tired.

"How are you doing anyway?" I may as well try to have a conversation now that he's on the phone.

"Fine," he drawls. "Go save Simon."

The line goes dead. So much for having a friendly chat.

BAZ

Fuck.

This feels like our second year as boyfriends all over again. It was the fucking Mage's fault last time with that fucking Will eating away at Simon, keeping himself so busy he didn't have to think about the Will or what it could mean, going to the pub and getting smashed and cornered by random classmates – girls and boys.

And it's still the fucking Mage's fault.

He's stuck doing nothing to pass the time while we're trying to reverse this ridiculous decision. He's not allowed to work or study while on his tourist visa, so he has nothing to keep his mind occupied. And that means he has plenty of time to think about everything he did to get himself to this point.

He blames himself for this no matter what anyone says. He still believes it's his fault that the dead spots were created, his fault that the Humdrum was created, his fault that the realm is still suffering.

What a burden to have to carry all the time. I honestly thought his life was settling down after the wars ended, that things were going back to some kind of normal. Well mostly normal, apart from that one night in Soho. (I detest uni parties.) (And I detest goblins, especially ones that try to kill my husband. Or crack onto him.)

I know Simon craves a normal magickal life. One where he can live peacefully and not constantly have to save the day or be thrust into the limelight, or be blamed for the entire realm's problems. None of this is Simon's fault. These are the fucking Mage's crimes he's paying for.

Fuck that fucking Mage.

It's late, or early morning here but I hardly sleep these days. I spend my time working around the clock trying to find a way out of this for Simon. But no matter how much I try, I can't find anything that will fix this. I study up on magickal history but find nothing that will help us. I plough through all of the magickal laws that I can get my hands on to find anything that fits this situation but there's nothing. It's maddening.

Our second wedding anniversary will be upon us soon and Simon hasn't said a word about it. And I don't want to bring it up in case he's forgotten. It will just make things worse. He has enough to deal with.

We were planning to go to Tuscany again. We had the best time there. We did everything we said we were going to do; dance, draw, play violin, fuck. . .

Now Simon is stuck in nowhere New Haven getting chatted up by Merlin know who, and I'm here trying to find a way to bring him home. He's so restless and worried that our anniversary is probably the furthest from his mind.

I feel like everything is falling apart.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I'm really worried about Baz.

He called me last night, right before I went to sleep, blabbering on incoherently about something or other, but I couldn't understand much of what he was saying because he was so bloody hammered.

He was in a taxi on his way home from a pub, or a club, or maybe somewhere else – he said something about Dev and Niall, and dancing, and then he started rambling on about how much he misses me and a whole lot of other stuff before he hung up. I tried to call him back but he didn't answer, and he was completely wasted anyway so I thought I'd let him sleep it off.

It's still early when I get out of bed, so I try to be quiet as I pull on my trackie and grab my mobile. Penny and Micah are asleep so I try not to make noise or hit anything with my tail as I move around the lounge room. I take a seat on the sofa and call Baz again – he didn't call me back and I want to make sure he's okay. I drag my fingers through my hair a few times in an attempt to tame the mess but it's all over the place so I give up and check the time instead. It must be going on lunch time in London.

"Hello?" someone that's not Baz says. It startles the shit out of me this early in the morning.

I check my mobile to make sure I dialled the right number. Baz's picture is staring back at me so I definitely did. "Who are you?" I ask the person that's not Baz.

"I'm Lana. You must be Simon."

I check my phone again and Baz's picture is definitely staring back at me so I wonder what the fuck is going on. "Where's Baz?" It comes out a little gruff.

"Hi Simon! I'm afraid Baz is a little under the weather at the moment, he was pretty wasted last night," this Alana person says like it's perfectly okay to be answering his mobile.

It's definitely not okay. I need to find out what's going on. Right now. "What are you doing with his phone Alana?"

"It's Lana, and he dropped it on your coffee table before he fell asleep last night, or early this morning rather."

"What?"

"More like fell unconscious actually."

"He what?"

"He was pretty wasted," she explains.

"And what are you doing in my flat?" I growl.

"Oh, um, the driver took off as I was helping Baz out of the taxi and I couldn't get another one at that time of night so I crashed on your couch. I hope you don't mind."

Mind? Of course I fucking mind. She's in my flat. With Baz.

I drag my fingers through my hair. "You what?"

And helping Baz out of the taxi why exactly? My stomach twists uncomfortably.

"I don't think the taxi driver was very impressed with all those things he said he was going to do to you the next time he sees you," she says, completely oblivious to my inner turmoil.

I feel the heat of a blush on my face and ears as I remember some of the stuff Baz said last night. He was very explicit, but he was rambling and he was almost incoherent and I had no idea there was anyone else in the taxi. Shit, now I'm blushing even harder. I drag my hand down my face as I try to bring my mind back to the present. I especially want to know about this unknown woman who spent the night in my flat. With my husband.

"Can you please tell me what the hell is going on?"

"Sure thing," this Lana person says. "So, I bumped into Dev and Niall last night. You know Dev and Niall right?"

"Yes," I growl, impatient for her to go on.

"Oh, okay good. I know them from uni. Anyway the three of them were having quite a big night by the looks of it. They were all good and smashed by the time I met up with them. We got talking about something or other – I think it was a mutual friend from uni, or was it about their latest trip to Ibiza . . . I can't recall, probably both come to think of it–"

"Lana please," I cut her off. I don't want to listen to her waffle on about stuff I don't give a toss about. The only I want to know is what the fuck she's doing in my flat.

"Oh, right, yes. Anyway, Baz wanted to dance and those two wouldn't – I don't think I've ever seen them dance before, they're probably crap at it anyway knowing them, so I danced with him. He's quite the mover isn't he, your Baz? Didn't stop all night. Except to drink that is, and he did quite a bit of that as well."

She stops to have a little chuckle at something, which annoys me even more and I'm just about to say something not especially nice but she starts up again.

"We lost Dev and Niall at some point, I think they left after Baz swore at them. He can be pretty direct can't he? Anyway Baz was pretty drunk by then so we shared a ride home, I don't live that far away from you it turns out. . ." she sighs happily.

"Go on." Her cheeriness is really starting to piss me off.

"Yeah okay, where was I? Oh yeah, he didn't stop going on about you all the way home. On and on and on, I think he misses you. He called you from the taxi as you know and, well, I think the driver was a little shocked by what he heard. I was too now that I think about it. Anyway, the taxi driver forgot to charge us, he just took off as I was helping Baz out. He was a bit wobbly – Baz not the driver – but then I couldn't get another one home so I crashed on your couch."

I rake my fingers though my hair again. "And where's Baz now?" I growl again, my patience growing thin.

"Still asleep I guess." And I'm just about to tell her to go wake him but she starts up again. "Hey you're not the Simon from Alex's café are you?"

I stop raking. "Er, yeah?"

"I thought so! Baz showed me some photos of you. Quite a few actually. I used to buy my coffee from you! What do you know, small world isn't it."

She says it in an annoyingly cheery tone and I'm just about to snap at her again but then I think about it for a second and I remember someone called Lana now.

"Skim latte one sugar, extra hot?"

"Yeah, that's me! You've got a good memory." She sounds pleased.

"You used to come in with that bloke. Thick neck. Double shot almond Frappuccino, two sugars?"

"Yeah that's right. My ex. He lives close by."

And I remember him now, I always thought he was a bit of a prat. But I really don't give a toss right now. And I'm just about to tell her to get Baz but she beats me to it.

"Oh here comes Baz, we must have woken him up. I'll put him on now. It was lovely talking to you Simon." And she says it so nicely that I'm having a hard time hating her right now, no matter how much I want to.

I wait with the phone pressed hard against my ear.

"Who are you?" I hear Baz question her through the phone. He sounds as pompous as ever.

"Lana. We danced last night. Your husband's on the phone . . . Mind if I make myself some breakfast, er lunch before I head off?" I hear her ask.

"Simon?" Baz is on the phone immediately, ignoring that Lana person completely.

"What the fuck Baz?" I growl into the phone. "Why is there some woman in our flat?"

"Fuck," he groans into the phone. "I have no idea what happened. I must have had a few too many last night."

"You think? Do you remember calling me?"

"No. I don't remember much of anything I'm afraid. . ."

Seriously? Is that supposed to make me feel better?

"Where the fuck were Dev and Niall? They were supposed look after you." My voice is getting too loud and I try to lower it so I don't wake Penny and Micah, but I'm so fucking mad that I'm doing a shit job of it. "I'm going to kill those two. I said go out and have some fun, not go out and bring home some woman! Jesus Christ Baz!"

"Can you please lower your voice. I have a headache." He sounds pained.

"You're a vampire. You don't get headaches," I yell. I can't believe this is happening.

"Well it seems we do."

"Well spell it away! I don't give a fuck!"

"Simon," he pleads.

I don't say anything, I take a few deep breaths instead. I can't believe this. I cannot fucking believe this.

"Simon? Please love, answer me."

"Baz," I growl through my teeth. I try to reign in my anger but it doesn't work. There's a fucking woman in my apartment. That thing in my stomach coils tighter.

"I shouldn't have let this happen." His voice is quiet, remorseful this time, and my heart melts a little bit. And that just pisses me off even more.

"No you shouldn't have."

"I feel terrible."

"That's your hangover."

"I miss you."

I let out a loud, frustrated breath.

"I love you Simon, only you," he murmurs. "Surely you know that?"

"Then why is there a woman sleeping in our apartment?"

"Flat Simon, you sound like an American."

Fucking typical. He just can't help himself, even when he's hungover and completely in the wrong he still sounds like a patronising git.

"Maybe that's because I'm stuck in fucking America," There's ice in my voice now, "While you have a woman in our apartment."

I'm so fucking mad I feel like I'm going to explode. It's bloody lucky I can't go off anymore because I'd definitely be tasting smoke right about now. I can't believe he can still act like an arrogant prat when he's gone and done something like this.

Actually I can, it's fucking classic Baz.

"I didn't know she was here. And anyway, it's not like anything was going to happen. She is female, hardly my type . . . no offence Lana."

"None taken!" I hear that Lana person yell in the background. Why the fuck is she still there?

"Not funny Baz."

"And you're one to talk. You were happy to let three women corner you in the bar the other night."

"They were friends of Penny!"

"Bunce doesn't have friends."

"Micah then. The point is I didn't wake up and find them crashed out on my couch, or their couch, or in this apartment!" I shout. I can't believe he's bringing this up now. I thought we'd already talked about it and it was sorted. Apparently not, he's probably been waiting for his chance to bring it up again. In fact, I'm sure of it. "Have you been waiting until you could use that against me?" I bet he has and I'm not going to let him get away with it.

"I'm merely reminding you that you have not been innocent in all of this." He sounds so pompous right now I reckon he'd give that twat Reggie a run for his money.

"What? Don't you fucking dare Baz! This isn't about me!" I can't believe he's trying to turn this around on me. Yes I can, it's so fucking typical, he hates to lose at anything.

I'm so mad at him now, way madder than I've ever been, even when he set that Chimera onto me. I rake my fingers through my hair again, pulling at it with my fingers. I'm pulling it so hard that I'm going to rip chunks right off my scalp if I don't stop.

He must hear the threat in my voice this time. He must be able to tell that I'm not going to back down and give in and just let it go. I think he must realise his mistake because he backs right down. "You're right Simon." He actually sounds remorseful this time. Good.

I huff out a breath but don't say anything. I'm really pissed off, at Baz, at Dev and Niall, at the bloody Coven, at this whole fucking mess. I feel like banging or kicking something but I'm in Penny and Micah's apartment so I'd better not.

"Come on love, please don't be angry with me. I miss you so much." His voice is gentle and I close my eyes at the sound of it. He's going into full soft Baz mode now. I can't let it distract me.

And then a thought pops into my head and my gut tightens all over again. I feel hot all of a sudden, like someone's turned the heat way up, and my palms have started to sweat. "What sort of club was it?"

I hate asking but I have to know. I've seen the way other blokes look at Baz whenever we go out dancing. (Whenever we go to the shops even.) (Whenever we go any-fucking-where.) He's gorgeous and fit and perfect and smart and funny and rich and brilliant, and he bloody knows it. Usually he's holding my hand and doesn't pay them any mind when it happens but I'm here and he's there and . . .

"What?

"You heard."

He lets out a breathy laugh. "It was a straight club Simon. Dev and Niall may be idiots but they're not arseholes. They're not about to drag me to a gay bar while my husband's in exile."

"Oh." I let out a breath I didn't realise I was holding, and that thing in my stomach loosens a bit.

"And I love you Simon. Surely you know that by now?"

I do know that, but for how long? I fucked up royally and now I'm stuck here. What kind of relationship do we even have now?

One where my husband goes out dancing and brings a woman home apparently.

I look up and see Penny and Micah – they're watching me from the kitchen, which means I woke them. Penny's frowning and Micah has a questioning look on his face.

I shake my head at them and huff into the phone. "I'm going to kill Dev and Niall."

We talk a bit more– well, he talks while I growl and grunt. He says he feels terrible and he regrets what happened and that there's nothing to worry about and how he loves me, only me. And then he says it all over again before we finally hang up. And he manages it all without once actually saying he's sorry. He'll probably spontaneously combust if he ever actually says the words. I drop my head into my hands and take a few breaths to try to calm myself, and then I'm straight back on the phone calling Dev.

"Dev. It's Simon."

"Simon my man! How's life in exile?" What a fucking idiot.

"Fucking brilliant, what do you think?" He must hear the anger in my voice. It's so bleeding obvious.

"Oh yeah, sorry," he mumbles. "Er, what can I do for you?"

I decide to get straight to the point. I'm not in the mood for small talk with Dev or anyone.

"How could you leave Baz alone in that club?" I yell at him. "You and your idiot sidekick were supposed to look after him, not fucking abandon him!"

Dev chuckles nervously. "Oh yeah that. We tried to get him to leave but he told us to fuck off."

"So?"

"Quite a few times actually."

"So? You're his mates. You're meant to look out for him," I bark down the phone. Honestly, they call themselves friends?

"Is he all right?" he asks. He sounds worried now. So he bloody well should be.

"He's fine. Hungover."

"Aren't we all," he grumbles down the phone. "He's a little hard to persuade once he sets his mind to something."

"So?"

"We tried Simon. You've got to believe me. We wouldn't have left him but he wasn't budging. You know what he's like once he gets going . . . Next time we'll make sure he comes with us I promise." It sounds like a bunch of excuses to me. Covering up for the fact that he ditched his mate who was completely bloody legless in the early hours of the morning in some club.

"There won't be a next time," I growl down the phone.

"Yeah all right, maybe the nightclub wasn't such a good idea, we'll stick to the pub next time. The Headless Goblin perhaps. . . Better?" And at least he has the decency to sound contrite, which is the only thing that stops me from launching into another attack.

I huff out a breath. "Better." I grumble, the fight gone from my voice. I still haven't been to that pub yet but just the very mention of it reminds me of home. My shoulder slump and I feel tired all of a sudden.

"Oh by the way, everyone's rallying outside the Coven meeting this week," he says, glad for the reprieve. "Should be a real crowd."

"Yeah?" I didn't know they were doing that. I was only joking when I suggested it back at Oxford. Shit, Oxford – that feels like a lifetime ago now too.

"Yes, quite a few ex-Watford students will be there. Mordelia's been working like mad on it."

"Mordy did that?"

"I thought you knew? She put it on the bottom of the petition online. 'Come and show your support for our hero at the next Coven meeting!' I've spoken to a few people from Watford and they're going to be there . . ."

I get off the phone with Dev and start pacing the living room. My tail thrashes around so much that it knocks over the lamp on the side table and I have to take hold of it before it does any more damage. Penny has to cast As you were to fix it.

I keep pacing as I think about everything that happened. Baz had a woman in our flat. A fucking woman. In our flat. I pace back and forth, tearing my hand through my hair. Baz brought a woman home last night. I can't believe this. I can't fucking believe this!

My breathing comes short and fast and I feel like I'm going to hyperventilate. I've got to calm the fuck down before I smash something else, or board the next flight back to London. I stop pacing to take a few deep breaths like Baz always tells me to. It helps, a little.

Penny starts on at me until I tell her everything. I tell her about the rally and then about Baz and the random woman last night. She's really excited about the rally – I think she wants to hop on a plane and join them – but she's not at all fussed about Baz. Micah can't stop laughing until Penny elbows him in the ribs.

"Ow Penny."

I start pacing again.

"Don't worry about Baz, he probably just needed to let of some steam," Penny says, giving me a soft look and Micah a stern one at the same time. (It's scary how she does that.)

I stop pacing and shoot Penny an incredulous look. "Let off some steam Penny? Seriously?"

She's giving me a fixed look right back. "Yes Simon. You know he's been working really hard trying to get you home."

I stare at her. "He had a woman. In our flat!"

"Exactly!" she says, throwing her hands into the air. "Think about it Simon. He wouldn't even know what to do with a woman!"

"Penny!" How can she joke about this?

"Look Simon," she says in her no nonsense voice. "Baz has been mad for you since you were both twelve years old. And he was over the moon when you finally figured out you wanted to snog him instead of kill him, so I don't think he's going to change sides after a few measly weeks of not being able to shag you." She's jabbing her finger in the air towards me entire time, driving home her point.

"Penny!" I splutter, turning red instantly. She can be really direct sometimes, and usually I can handle it, but she's saying this all so matter of fact, and in front of Micah too.

"Well it's true," she huffs, turning back to the kitchen. She puts the kettle on and starts rattling around looking for clean mugs.

"She's right Simon, you don't have anything to worry about," Micah says, rubbing his ribs. "Baz is absolutely smitten with you."

Penny smiles up at Micah, he clearly said the right thing this time. He looks chuffed as he grabs the eggs and bacon from the fridge.

"And you are bound together magickally of course." Her voice is strained as she gropes around the top cupboard.

I blink at her. "We are?"

"Of course you are," she says, turning to face me. She stares at me for a moment and then rolls her eyes at me pointedly – a sure sign I'm missing something. "When Baz proposed to you that second time, with magic – that's how it starts. And your marriage vowels complete it. I thought you knew this?"

"Um, I thought the second time was just his fancy way to propose," I shrug. "Traditionally. You know how much Baz loves his traditions."

She shakes her head, sighing loudly. "It's more than just tradition Simon, you're magickally bound together. All magickal marriages are like that. They're not Normal Simon, they're . . ." she frowns and waves her hand around in front of her.

"Magickal?" I offer.

"Exactly. Anyway, that means he's not about to go off with some Normal, or anybody else for that matter."

"Oh," I sigh, rubbing my palms into my eyes. Why didn't I know this? Why didn't anyone tell me? There's still so much I don't know about magic. I scratch at the back of my neck, feeling like a bit of a twit.

She cocks her head to the side and crosses her arms. "And you seem to have forgotten that other, rather important detail. . ."

"What?"

She rolls her eyes at me. "That your husband is gay!" she yells, throwing her arms into the air again.

My eyes dart between the two – they're both nodding at me. Micah has the frypan in one hand and the eggs in the other, and is looking at me with a mixture of compassion and hope.

I let everything she said roll around in my head for a bit. We're magickally bound together. Magickally, not Normally. I like the sound of that. I decide I'm going to read up on magickal marriage bonds next.

But he still had a woman in our flat. I growl again at the very thought. A woman. My blood boils all over again and I start huffing and growling again until something clicks in my brain somewhere.

A woman, I realise stupidly. Not a bloke.

"Shit," I mumble, throwing myself back onto the couch. Penny's right, (She's always bloody right.) but I'm still mad as hell. "It still sucks being here. This whole thing is bollocks."

"I know," Penny says. She's given up looking for the cups and waves her big ring around to magic them up. "But things are happening. It's just going to take time. You need to be patient Simon. And trust Baz."

I don't answer. I sit back on the sofa and rake my fingers through my hair. This is all so fucked up. How long is it going to take for the Coven to see reason? All this stuff we've been doing and so far nothing's changed. Nothing at all. And I feel like nothing will ever change, like I'll be stuck here forever. Then what will I do? What will Baz do? Will we even make it through all this shit?

"I can't wait to hear about the protest rally and the petition. Good on Mordy eh?" Penny says, breaking though my thoughts. She places a mug of Earl Grey on the coffee table for me and heads back to the kitchen.

What am I going to do? How fucking long am I going to be stuck here? What the fuck am I going to do if I can't go home? What's Baz going to do?

It feels like everything is turning to shit.

I let my head fall to the back of the sofa and let out another loud breath. I lift my head and see Penny and Micah watching me. I was so lost in my own head I forgot they were still here. And I couldn't really give two shits about the rally at the moment.

"I wonder what Baz's dad's going to say," she goes on, oblivious to my frame of mind and fussing with more tea for her and Micah. "He was absolutely against anyone in their family doing anything public, wasn't he Simon?"

"He may not have a choice anymore," Micah sighs, putting he frypan back in the cupboard and pulling out the box of Weetabix when it's clear that I'm not going to answer. Or cook breakfast.

I kick out at the coffee table in frustration.

Chapter Text

PENNY

Simon's a mess again.

We tried to convince him that there's nothing to worry about with Baz, but he got it into his head that there is and he worked himself up into a right bloody strop. In the end I told him to go for a run or fly or do something to take his mind off things. And he did, and then he came straight back and started banging things around again.

At least we managed to convince him to come out to dinner with us tonight. There's a new Italian restaurant in town and we thought it would be good to get out for a bit. And everything was fine until we walked passed the pub as we headed back to the car and he dragged us both inside. He'd already had a few with dinner and he seemed a little better and we haven't been out all weekend so we thought it wouldn't hurt.

And we were having a lovely time, chatting with our colleagues and catching up with research news, and even Simon started having a good time after a few drinks, but then he had a few more and a few more after that. He's such a chatty person that half of our friends were buying him beers and now he's completely bloody plastered. Again.

And Addy-with-a-why and her friends have cornered him. Again.

I wouldn't be too worried normally, but he is very pissed off with Baz at the moment and it looks like he's decided to deal with it by getting himself completely smashed, talking to as many people as possible and buying everyone drinks. I only just wrangled his wallet from him after he bought at least two rounds for people we don't even know. And I took his phone again too, just in case.

"Do you think we should save Simon from Addy and co?" Micah asks. We're standing a way down the bar, talking with some of his uni mates. It's always lovely to meet Micah's friends but I can't concentrate on what they're saying because my eyes keep wandering back to Simon. He's backed himself into a corner and Addy-with-a-why is handing him another drink.

"Yeah," I sigh. "Maybe the pub wasn't such a good idea. I think we should take him home."

I put my drink on the bar and move over to where Simon and Addy are standing. When I tell him we're leaving soon he gives me an idiotic look.

"Nah Penny, I'm stayin'. I'll cash a tashi home," he slurs as he throws his arm over my shoulder. He has to bend down a bit to reach me which causes him to lean heavily against me.

"I don't think that's a very good idea," I suggest, nice enough. He's still leaning and I'm struggling to support his weight.

I remove his arm gently from my shoulder and try to right him a bit. He ends up leaning against the bar for support. "I'm just going to the loo then we'll be off. Back in a bit." I give Addy a warning look as I head to the ladies and when I return I see that Addy-with-a-why is standing in my place with her arm hanging loosely around Simon's shoulder.

I know there's nothing is going here on but I think I should intercept anyway – he's far too friendly for his own good sometimes. And completely bloody oblivious most of the time. I start off in Simon's direction but his mobile rings before I make it halfway. I check the screen as I make my way to Simon, it's Baz.

I mentally sigh. Of course it bloody is. Do vampires have some sort of sixth sense when their love sick husband is behaving like an idiot in retaliation for them behaving like a moron or something?

I sigh outwardly as I answer the call and decide to get straight to the point, it will be less painful that way. "He's up at the bar." I tell him.

"Again?"

"Yes Baz. And don't you dare get shirty. He was upset all day so we decided to go out for a bit." It's late and I'm tired and I don't feel like being blamed for this. If it's anyone's fault its Baz's for not being able to hold his liquor.

"Calm down Bunce . . . How many this time?"

"Drinks? Quite a few I'm afraid. He's pretty out of it."

"I mean women," Baz snaps.

"Oh, um . . . two . . . three . . . four," I cringe as I count, why does Simon has to be so friendly? "Four this time. . . They think his accent is cute."

I hold the phone away from my ear as Baz lets go a number of expletives. "Are you going to take him home or what?" he snaps after he finishes cursing.

"Yes, we're doing that now," I agree because it seems like the only sane thing to do.

Neither of them is behaving rationally at the moment. They're both acting like a pair of stupid teenagers and their relationship is going to implode if they don't sort things out soon. And hanging around bars and clubs getting completely wasted is not the way to fix things. (If only I'd thought of that before we let him drag us in here tonight.)

"Just don't you go out dancing next, all right?" I add for the fun of it.

"Very funny Bunce. Take Simon home. . . Now."

I hang up and grab Micah's hand. "We need to get Simon home now, before anything happens."

He must see the serious expression on my face because he looks at me and then at Simon, and gives a determined nod. He follows me to the bar where I not too gently coax Simon away from Addy and co.

"Hey Simon, Baz just called to say goodnight," I yell, extricating Simon form Addy's clutches. With the mention of Baz's name Simon looks at me and seems to remember where he is.

"Baz?" he asks, leaning against my side. I stumble a little as I struggle to hold him up.

"Yep. Come on Hero Boy, time to get you home," Micah says, wrapping his arm around Simon's waist. Thank Merlin Micah is here, I wouldn't be able to support Simon's weight for much longer. All that running and working out and flying has turned him into a solid unit these days, even with all the weight he's lost lately.

"Bye ladies," Micah says over his shoulder as he drags Simon out of the bar.

They give a half hearted wave as we leave, Addy clearly disappointed.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I'm pissed off.

And bored out of my mind.

I've done fuck all for the last few days except wait around for our next meeting. I hang around the apartment while Penny and Micah work, making dinner and helping out around the place, magickally cleaning up and stuff. I don't bother to go out anymore, what's the point?

I can't focus on anything for very long. I pick up a book only to put it down a few minutes later. I watch the telly but don't focus on anything. Baz calls me twice a day but our conversations are stilted and short.

Things with Baz have been a bit rubbish since that night. I know nothing happened with that Lana person but that's not the point, it just feels wrong. It's like everything our relationship was built on is shifting.

We've only been apart one time since we've been together and neither of us did too well then. Merlin, we nearly died in a ball of fire trying to save each other. (A ball of fire that I started, but that's not the point.) I didn't want to leave Baz that time but I felt like I had no choice. And I didn't want to leave him this time either, and this time I really had no choice, thanks to my big mouth and those fucking twats on the Coven.

But are married now and we were happy, (really happy) and this sort of shit shouldn't happen when you're happy and want to be together. Being apart is shit. I guess we're just not good at it.

Penny and Micah and I went to the pub that night after Baz's bender, and I got pretty smashed. I wasn't planning to but everyone kept buying me drinks and I bought a few rounds as well (until Penny took my wallet). And everything was going just fine until Micah's colleagues or friends or whatever they are cornered me against the bar. Again.

When I woke up Penny told me off for behaving like an idiot. Then she told me Baz called while we were at the pub and she told him that Addy and her friends had cornered me, (again) and said Baz was pretty mad. So I guess we're kind of pissed off with each other right now.

I don't like this. We've fought more in the last few months than we have in the last few years and it's awful. I know full bloody well that he wouldn't have done anything with that woman so I don't know why I reacted so badly. I know he loves me.

And he's gay. He's definitely gay. He's like one hundred percent gay.

And we're magickally bound together whatever the hell that means. I'm still not entirely sure but I'll look into it one day. Or ask Baz.

I think I'm more pissed off that he was dancing with someone that wasn't me. (Even if I am crap at dancing.)

Being mad at him for dancing with someone is kind of stupid though. I should be madder that she was in our flat. Maybe I'm mad because she got to dance with Baz and be in our flat while I'm stuck over here. I don't know. I don't know what to think. I just want this to go away. I don't know how long either of us is going to be able to keep doing this.

He hasn't even mentioned our anniversary yet. I bet he's forgotten all about it. Of course he's forgotten about it. We're thousands of miles apart and he's working day and night trying to reverse my banishment and we're too busy going out and getting shitfaced to even talk about it.

And he's mad at me. He's definitely mad at me.

I'm the one that's not one hundred percent anything so I get why he's mad at me. I'd be mad at me. Fuck, I am mad at me.

I sit, I wait, I rake my fingers through my hair. I twist my wedding ring around my finger until it's time to start the meeting.

Penny, Micah and I are sitting at the kitchen table, each on our laptops and a pot of tea and biscuits between us. Micah is joining us today. He looks excited.

Professor Bunce starts off instead of Baz this time. "Hello Penny, Micah. Hello Simon, how are you holding up?"

"All right," I grumble, realising too late how it sounds.

"All right let's get straight to it," she presses on, ignoring me like she ignores all her kids whenever they whine. "The Coven met tonight and I have to say it was a bit of a disappointment."

I slouch back in the chair, already pissed off. "What happened?" It comes out gruff.

"Nothing unfortunately. The entire meeting was nothing but an argument over Simon's banishment," she explains.

"But that's good isn't it?" Penny says. I don't know whether it's good or not – I'm still stuck on the fact that nothing happened.

"Yes I suppose it is Penny, but there wasn't any movement from either side. It was more of an 'I'm right, you're wrong' finger pointing exercise. No resolution to speak of I'm afraid. No progress at all actually."

"This could be useful," Baz says. "Discord among the Coven is bound to be newsworthy." I stare at his face on my laptop. I miss him like mental.

"True," Dr Wellbelove agrees. "But we were hoping for a few members to change side. And that hasn't happened, even with your interview Basil."

There are murmurs of agreement around the table, that Baz's interview was excellent and that it should have provoked some kind of epiphany from those twats that had me banished.

I didn't expect anything to change, but I'm disappointed nonetheless. Still, I can't help smiling a little, Baz's interview was brilliant.

"Yeah, good one Baz." Penny says. "But what about the rally, how did that go?" She's just like her mum, straight back to business. She's probably itching to get back to her research, she and Micah have been working relentlessly lately.

"Ah yes, the protest march, and the petition. Rather ingenious of Mordelia I must say," Professor Bunce says.

"Yes, it was quite a success," Daphne chimes in, smiling broadly and sounding every bit like a proud mum. She goes on to tell us how many signatures the petition has now, ("Over two hundred and fifty Simon!") and how many people were rallying outside the Coven meeting, ("At least thirty!") and how vocal everyone was ("So very vocal!").

They're moving faster than usual today and I'm having trouble taking everything in, keeping track. I'm still thinking about Baz's interview. And Baz. And me and Baz. Everything else is just noise.

I'd better try and keep up.

"And The Magickal Record was there to cover it," Baz adds, and I let the deep timbre of his voice envelope me. Merlin I miss his voice.

"And that did not go down well with the Coven," Gran adds, grinning like mad. "The nonsensical seven were quite horrified that so many people were there, and the newspaper."

"The senseless seven more like it," Baz scowls. He's probably rolling his eyes but I can't tell from half way around the fucking world. I miss the scowling and the eye rolling as well.

"The Senseless Seven?" Micah asks, sounding slightly bemused. "Is that what we're calling them now?"

"That's what I'm calling them," Baz says, his voice biting. I bet he didn't just think that up. I bet he's been calling them that in his head for a while. He's so scathing of that lot that had me banished, I bet he's sneering right now as well. Christ, I even miss that.

"I quite like it," Gran chuckles.

I like it too. I think I'll say that.

"Me too," Penny says, beating me to it. "Hey Fiona, reckon you can leak that to The Record?"

"Hmmm it might be useful. I don't see why not."

Leak it to The Record? Yeah, that might be a good idea. It can't hurt anyway. I think I'll say that.

"Any word on Velma, Fiona?" Daphne asks.

Shit, they've changed the subject again. I'm still not doing a very good job keeping up. I need to focus but my head feels like it's full of stones. What are we up to? Velma I think, or is it the rally or the protest, or have we already finished with those as well? There's a lot going on.

Fiona says something but I'm not really listening. It sounds like a load of swearing, and then, no.

"Luella and Odella?" Penny asks. What happened to Velma? Merlin she's on the ball tonight.

"Not much movement there I'm afraid," Gran says. "They seem to believe this is still the best approach. I'm getting rather tired of them."

So am I. I don't know how she can spend so much time with those two without going completely batty. I think I'll tell her that.

"Well, keep trying Ruth. And you're still our secret vote against Simon's banishment. We only need one more to turn the vote around," Dr Wellbelove reminds us. "Martin do you have an update of the dead spots?"

Shit, moved on again.

"Yes Welby. My team has been measuring the dead spots weekly since Simon left." Penny's dad says. "There's been no change. Sorry Simon."

"That's okay Professor," I manage to blurt out before they move on again. I think it's the first thing I've managed to say in a while because everyone is looking at me. Or maybe they're just looking at me because they feel sorry for me. I get that a lot these days. It sucks.

I turn my mind back to what Professor Bunce just said. I'm disappointed that there's been no change, but I'm kind of relieved at the same time. If the dead spots had started to close then this would actually be all my fault. But if they did close then maybe I could go home. I don't know which I'd prefer at this point. I don't know how I feel about it.

Penny asks if anyone has footage of the rally, already moving on. She wants to see who was there, curious as always. I don't care. I'm still thinking about the dead spots, and about Baz's interview. And Baz's voice. Merlin I'm a mess today.

"I'm loading it up now," Baz says and I can see his face take over my screen as he bangs on his keyboard. His hair looks a little longer but it's a bit hard to tell from here. It's falling around his face as he types and I want to touch it. "You need to make sure it makes the front page Fiona."

Fiona gives him her usual, On it, Basil.

We watch the video of the rally in relative quiet and I use the time to gather my thoughts. They've covered a lot of shit in a short time and I need to keep up, but I'm having trouble keeping my mind on anything today.

Images from the rally flicker across my screen so I try to focus on it. There's a lot more people than I expected and Mordy and Daphne and Baz are right out front. I wonder what Baz's dad thinks of all this, and I realise he hasn't said a word yet. He must be pissed. I knew he'd be pissed. I'd better talk to Baz about it later, tell them to back off a bit. I don't want to be the cause of a family argument, they’re my family too. (Are they still?) (I think they are.)

Mordelia and Daphne and Baz are leading the way, and there's Rhys and Gareth, Dev and Niall and even Miss Possibelf. I think I see Keris – Trixie's girlfriend, or fiancée now, and I think I can make out the top of Trixie's head next to her but it's hard to tell because she's pretty short. Elspeth and her husband are there and even that Philippa Stainton and a whole load of others from Watford and even some whose parents are members at Baz's club. I think I can also see Cook Pritchard, which reminds me of that bloody kitchen skink. There's also a bunch I don't know or can't remember.

"That's the Petty family on the right," Fiona says. "Ebb's family."

The Petty's? I didn't know they were at the rally. They were really nice to me after everything happened but I haven't kept in contact with them over the years. I haven't had much to do with anyone from before except for Baz and Penny and Agatha and their families. I feel a sharp pain in my heart again for Ebb. I miss talking to her.

"Who are those two on the left?" It's Dr Wellbelove who asks. "I think I've met them."

"Yes those two," Daphne grins, "Are Velma's boys. Mordelia mentioned it in passing. Their younger sister is in her year."

"This is exactly what we need, discord within the family unit," Baz says in a cool voice, and I'm instantly wary. I know that tone, it's the one he uses when he's plotting something. It sounds like he's hatching an evil plan.

"I think we've found our way in!" Penny almost squeals next to me, squeezing my arm at the same time. Whatever it is that Baz is up to, Penny's worked it out as well.

"Right. I think we have enough to go on," Baz says quickly. "Send the petition and footage of the rally to The Magickal Record. Fiona you're doing that. Make sure they show Velma's kids at the rally. Makes sure the paper points them out."

"Will do Basil," Fiona nods, looking smug. She's in on it too then.

"And make sure you get that name out there The Senseless Seven. Let them think they came up with it."

"On it," Fiona says again.

"I'll continue to work on Odella and Luella," Gran says in her sweet grandmotherly voice. "And if they don't change their mind I could always work on getting them to retire." She give me a quick wink.

"Good idea Ruth. While we're at it we should be encouraging younger members onto the Coven," Dr Wellbelove grins. "Basil, are you interested?"

Wait. What?

"Er," Baz hesitates, and I can tell he's a little shocked, like me. But he recovers quickly because he's a Pitch and a master at masking his emotions. "Yes certainly," he says, his voice back to normal, "However I don't think that will happen while Simon is in exile."

Yeah, good point.

"Yes of course," Dr Wellbelove agrees. "But we need future candidates. We could still use you Basil. And perhaps look at who else was at the rally?"

"I'll do that," Baz and Daphne say in unison, already moving on. I'm still reeling at the thought of Baz joining the Coven.

"And someone needs to leak that there was discord at the meeting." Penny reminds the group.

"I'm on it," Fiona says.

Professor Bunce wraps up quickly and the meeting is over before I realise it, my head still spinning from everything we covered in such a short time. Everyone says their goodbyes and Penny and Micah disconnect and I try to put my thoughts into some sort of order.

When there's only me and Baz still connected, he smiles into his laptop. I smile back in spite of everything.

"Hi," he says, his voice timid. We're both careful around each other these days when we talk. It's shit.

"Hi," I answer just as reticent. I stare at him stupidly because I miss him so much. I might be pissed off at him but I still love him like mental.

"I'll call you when I get back to London."

"Okay." I close my laptop and think about everything that happened while I wait for Baz.

Chapter Text

PENNY

Simon's not home and I'm worried.

He hasn't left the apartment in days so I should be happy that he's out and about again, but I can't help feeling something's not right. He hasn't been the happiest of late, ever since Baz went and got himself completely tanked and, well, everything. Since then he's done nothing but mope around the flat, he spent the entire day on the sofa yesterday. I decide to give him a call, relieved when he answers straight away.

"Are you on your way home for dinner?" I'm making his favourite biryani tonight. It's been a while since I made dinner, ever since Simon arrived actually.

"Um, not yet," he says.

"Why, where are you?" He can't be that far. I can send Micah out to pick him up with the car if he's lost again.

"New York."

I stop what I'm doing and press the phone closer to my ear. "New York? What in Merlin's name are you doing in New York Simon?"

"Nothing, just hanging around for a bit."

"How did you get there?"

"Flew." Of course he did.

"You flew? That's a long way isn't it?" He can fly pretty far these days but New York is not exactly around the corner. I start calculating the distance in my mind.

"A bit further than I'm used to, but not really."

"Why did you fly to New York?" My mind is buzzing with questions but this seems like the next most logical. I know he's been moping around for a while, especially since everything with Baz but still, New York?

"I wanted a muffin." He says it like it should make perfect sense. (It doesn't.) "I thought I'd try and find that shop that Baz and I went to when we were here last, for your wedding."

I stop preparing dinner and place the knife on the cutting board, wipe my hands on a tea towel and take a seat at the table. I need to concentrate on this conversation. "You went to New York. To buy a muffin?"

"Um yep," he says. "Last time I found a shop that made pretty good ones. They're not scones but they're all right. I had the three berry muffin, Baz had the chunky apple pumpkin with caramelized pecans and peanut butter chocolate."

I scoff at that. "That's ridiculous."

"I know. I said that too but he seemed to like it."

"No Simon, I mean it's ridiculous that you went all the way to New York for a muffin. You do know we have muffins here?"

"Yeah, course I do. But I felt like flying for a bit."

Oh, I think I've worked out what's going on here. "Does this have anything to do with Baz going off and getting trolleyed the other night?" I bet it has. I bet is has everything to do with Baz and nothing to do with wanting a muffin. Or flying.

He doesn't say anything so I know I'm right. Why else would he fly all the way to New York?

"Simon."

"No. . . I just wanted a muffin."

"Simon."

"And to fly . . ."

"Simon!"

"All right, yeah maybe," he mumbles. I knew it.

"Simon. You know nothing happened, and you know Baz is completely mad for you. Honestly, you two really are behaving like a pair of splendid morons lately." This is probably the fifth time we've had this conversation and I'm starting to tire of it. It's all he talks about whenever I finally get him to talk. "Look Simon, I know this isn't easy but he's doing everything he can to get you home."

"Yeah I know," he grumbles.

"And New York, that's seventy miles away!" I know this because I just checked. "That's like flying from England to France three times over!"

"Is it?" he asks, perking up a bit.

"Well from Dover to Calais yes. The Straight of Dover isn't that wide Simon, people swim it you know."

"I know that." He sounds indignant. Simon hates it when I assume he doesn't know basic facts, but he also knows that I know that education standards in care are severely lacking. I once wrote a letter to The Telegraph about it.

"You didn't try to fly across it when you and Baz went there did you?" I ask, remembering their dates in Dover. That's where Baz cast that spell that found his birthday so I know Dover holds a special place in his heart. I also remember Simon only learned to swim on his honeymoon so I don't want him flying over water, but then again if he's going to crash, then neither land nor water are great options.

"Nah, I never thought of it before," he admits. "But I'd like to try it one day now that you mention it."

Shit, did I really just put that stupid idea into his head? I wouldn't put it past him to try it as soon as he gets back to England. (If he gets back to England.) (When he gets back to England, I remind myself.) I stop thinking about England and drag my thoughts back to the present, to Simon in New York.

"No you won't. It's too dangerous." I use my sternest voice, the one I save for when he's behaving like an idiot. I think this qualifies. "No more flying off to other cities without telling me. All right?"

"Yeah all right."

"Or going out and getting trolleyed without Baz," I add for good measure. "All right?"

"Okay Penny."

"Good. Now, are you coming home soon?"

"Yeah, I've had my muffin. It wasn't as good as I remember. . . I might try the cheesecake next."

"No you won't. You'll come home right now, before you take a wrong turn and end up in bloody Canada!"

He reluctantly agrees, and as soon as I'm off the phone I text Baz: Simon's in New York. Went to buy a muffin.

I hit send and scrub my eyes with my palms. It's obvious being stuck here is taking a toll on Simon– his tail's been dragging around almost since he arrived and he's hardly left our apartment lately. He's been miserable for weeks and he's gotten even worse since Baz went out and let that Normal follow him home.

All this is wearing on Baz too judging by his behaviour that night. It's just so unlike him. Ever since I've known Baz he's always been the master of self-control. He hardly ever drinks, which I always thought it was a vampire thing; keeping his wits about himself so he doesn't accidentally sink those fangs into a human or whatever, but Simon says he just prefers not to.

I receive a text straight back: ?

I know he's calling Simon right this second.

Actually, when I think about it, it's entirely like Baz to behave like this. When Simon disappeared that time, Baz completely fell apart, he was an absolute mess – he wouldn't eat, he wouldn't hunt, he wouldn't do anything other than play with his bloody fire and stare at pictures of Simon until in the end I had to call Fiona. I thought he was at risk of lighting himself up, or starving to death, or undeath, or whatever vampires do when they don't eat or hunt.

I don't think Baz is in danger of undying again, but I still don't think he's handling this very well. He's either working nonstop trying to get Simon home or he's drinking and dancing himself into oblivion. And Simon hasn't handled the situation very well either, getting himself just as wellied and chatted up by a ridiculous number of women.

Honestly those two just don't seem to cope very well on their own. I guess they just really miss each other. They used to drive me mental at school, Simon always banging on about Baz, watching him, obsessing over him, worrying that Baz was plotting to kill him or bite him. And Baz always doing things to incense Simon.

And when I lived with Simon, Baz was always there, and when he wasn't there Simon was at his flat. I don't know how many times I caught them snogging on the couch or disappearing into Simon's room when I came home, and they're always holding hands or leaning on each other or finding some other way to touch each other. Whatever their relationship is, it's obvious that they're both deliriously happy when they're together, and completely stupid when they're apart.

Thank magic Micah and I are not that dependent on each other. It all sounds terribly impractical.

I decide to give Fiona a call, to let her know what her nephew's been up to. It worked wonders last time so I figure it can't hurt.

I finish up with Fiona and then get busy with dinner. Simon will be starving by the time he makes it back here. I wonder how long it will take him to fly back from New York.

BAZ

I just received the strangest text from Bunce so I call Simon immediately. He answers on the second ring.

"'lo?" There's a lot of background noise and I'm struggling to hear him, even with my heightened senses.

"Simon? Are you all right?"

"What?"

"I said are you all right?" I repeat, a little louder this time.

"Hi. . . . . ." He's yelling something but I can't quite make it out. "I'm. . . . . ."

"What?"

"I said I'm . . . . . ."

"What?"

"FINE!" he yells again.

Oh he's fine. That's good. Then what's all that noise? "What's that noise?"

"WHAT?"

"I said WHAT'S THAT NOISE?"

". . . . . ." I didn't catch any of that.

"WHAT?"

"Wind," he shouts. "I'm flying."

That explains the noise. I bought Simon a Bluetooth headset a while ago to wear while he was out flying. More for my own peace of mind than anything. Thank magic he thought to use it.

"Back from New York?"

"What?"

"BACK FROM NEW YORK?" I yell this time.

". . . . . ."

"WHAT?"

"YEAH!"

Okay. So he's on his way back from New York. Good to know. "What were you doing in New York?"

"WHAT?"

"I said WHAT WERE YOU DOING in NEW YORK?" I yell, louder this time.

"Went to get a muffin. Didn't Penny tell you?" he shouts.

Of course he did. "No. . .Yes. . . Why?"

No answer. He's probably shrugging. Can he even shrug while he's flying? I'll have to ask him later.

"Simon?"

"What?"

"WHY?" I shout again. All this yelling is starting to irritate me.

"HUNGRY," he yells. He was definitely shrugging.

"It's a long way to go for a muffin isn't it?"

"What?"

"LONG WAY. FOR A MUFFIN?" I yell, completely frustrated now. Perhaps the Bluetooth headset wasn't the best idea.

". . . . . ." He says something that I can't make out.

"WHAT?" I yell back. This conversation really isn't going how I had hoped.

"Not really!" he yells again.

"All right," I yell back, even more vexed. I rub my temple with my free hand. "Call me when you get back to Bunce's."

"What?"

"CALL ME WHEN YOU GET TO BUNCES!" I yell as loud as I can. Whatever will the neighbours think?

"OKAY!"

The line goes dead.

Bloody hell. That conversation went almost as well as every other conversation we've had recently.

It's been quite difficult to talk lately. Since my idiotic behaviour that night followed by his almost as stupid behaviour the following night, we've struggled to communicate somewhat. I don't know why I let myself get so drunk in the first place, so drunk that I abandoned my friends and danced half the night away with a woman. And a Normal no less. And I let that Normal follow me home for Crowley's sake. I behaved like an idiot and Simon has every right to be angry with me.

I don't know if he let himself get cornered by those women because he was hurt or because he wanted to hurt me but it really doesn't matter, we both behaved poorly. It's bad enough that he's in exile, now we're hardly talking.

This whole situation is intolerable.

SIMON

I didn't tell Penny or Baz the real reason I flew to New York. It wasn't only to buy a muffin – although I really wanted one of those as well. I actually went there to look for an anniversary present for Baz, even if he has forgotten about it. Baz loves his traditions and we've been following these naff ones every anniversary since we were boyfriends and now we've started them all over again since we were married. So I flew to New York because this is the only place I could get him his present, because they didn't have what I wanted in New Haven.

Our anniversary is only a few days away so I know I've left things a bit late. I wonder if there's some kind of magic spell that will get it to him in time? Or maybe I'll use express post.

I also flew because I needed to burn off some energy. Ever since all this shit started I've been right bloody mess, and since that night Baz went out my stomach has been in knots worrying about us. I needed to do something to unwind.

I haven't been on a long flight for ages so I wasn't sure if I even could anymore. But I did, and it was pretty easy, and I felt a lot better once I was airborne. It's relaxing when I my mind go blank for a while.

I wonder if I could fly all the way to Canada. It's got to be a bloody long way. I check my mobile. Yeah okay, a bit too far. I know I could do that trip Penny mentioned from Dover to Calais, that would be piss easy, I reckon I could do it a few times over like Penny said. I usually don't fly more than fifty or sixty miles in one go before because everything is just a lot closer back home, but I just made it to New York and back, and that was over seventy each way. I think I'll start testing my distance while I'm here, at least it will give me something else to do.

Baz called me mid-flight on my way back to Penny's. We could hardly hear each other so the conversation didn't last very long. But then again none of our conversations have lasted very long lately. It feels like we're just checking in and going through the motions. We talk but neither of us is really saying anything.

I hate it.

Chapter Text

FIONA

Here we go again.

The Chosen One is gone and my brilliant but stupid in love nephew is acting like an idiot. Again. You'd think he'd have a better handle on things by now – it's not as if Snow has actually left him this time, although getting himself banished by that lot on the Coven is almost as stupid.

The Coven. The whole bloody lot of them has gone to shit ever since the Old Families were forcibly removed by that murdering bastard all those years ago. I told Malcolm we needed to take back our seats once the Mage was done away with, but he didn't do anything and the opportunity slipped us by. Too busy dithering over magickal livestock and archival seed stock or whatever the farming fuck he's into to care about regaining power.

I knew my sister had scraped rock bottom when she married a Grimm and Christ, did I fear for their offspring, but Basil has more than enough Pitch in him to compensate for that useless farming blood, thank fuck. He's as dark as a Pitch and as smart as a whip, and a scheming brat at that – fighting for his chosen one with everything he's got. And he'll do it too, if he just holds it together that is.

That Bunce had the foresight to call me last time Basil lost the plot, and she's called again. Seems Basil hasn't been handling things as well as I thought. From what she said they both aren't, lovesick bloody idiots that they are.

I stomp up the stairs, ignoring the looks I get from the Normals as I pass. I take a long drag from my cigarette and bang my fist on the door. Hard.

This used to be my flat, and before that it was Natasha's, but now I have a place in Prague. I've been there for the most part of six years, hunting down rogue vampires and the like. Those vampires are nothing like Basil, they'd kill a Normal just for the fun of it so I'm more than happy to take them down. Basil on the other hand is full of light and love, especially for Simon Snow. I never would have believed it if he didn't tell me himself, and if I hadn't seen it for myself. In all the years since Tasha was murdered I've never seen Basil so happy. And he deserves to be happy.

Of course I took the piss out of both of them for a good few years after they started dating. It was too good of an opportunity to let pass. The heir to the House of Pitch and the Chosen One, who would have ever thought?

I take another drag from my cigarette and leave it hanging between my lips as I bang on the door again, harder this time because Basil is obviously ignoring me. I blow smoke towards the smoke detector, just to see if it goes off, (It's always good to check these things, especially with my flammable nephew living here.) and wave my wand to stop the blaring noise when it does. If my old neighbours didn't know I was here before, they do now.

I stash my wand away and take another long pull from my cigarette. I suppose I should give up the fags one day – they're not doing me any good and they're downright lethal around Basil, but they do come in handy when I need to intimidate the odd stubborn vampire. . .

I'm about to give the door a swift kick when it swings open, and my favourite nephew is staring back at me, looking pale and thin and just a little worse for wear.

"What do you want?" he demands, charming as always.

"I've been sent over here to sort you out. Seems you've been behaving like a bloody idiot again."

He narrows his grey eyes at me and mutters one word; "Bunce," and I swear he'd turn it into a curse if he could. He ignores me and walks back inside, leaving the door open behind him which is all the invitation I need.

I glance around as I follow him in. The flat has definitely looked better, there are ancient looking magickal books everywhere; on the coffee table, the kitchen table and even the floor, and the couch is littered with note books and screwed up balls of paper. There are clothes and shoes on the floor – even Snow's clothes are littered around and he's been gone for weeks. Actually I think he's wearing Snow's clothes right now, one of his ratty tee shirts by the looks, it's hanging like a sack on my nephew's slight frame. Christ he's a mess.

"I like what you've done with the place," I tell him, taking in the surroundings.

He shrugs and heads for the kitchen, returning with an ash tray. He hands it to me without a word and I put out the cigarette before I accidentally set him alight.

"I don't need you to sort me out," he scowls. "I'm fine."

"Doesn't look like your fine," I say, casting my eyes around the room. I kick one of Snow's trainers with my boot, just for the sake of it.

"I've been busy. And I'm fine."

"Then make me a cup of tea and get me a bikkie," I tell him, putting out my cigarette and flopping on the couch. I shove at a pile of papers to make room.

He rolls his eyes but waves his wand lazily, magicking up some tea and lavender biscuits. He places the tray on the coffee table and takes a seat on the overstuffed chair furthest from me, never taking his eyes from mine. I take a biscuit and dunk it in my tea.

I take a bite and chew for a minute. "Got any of those Chocolate Digestives?"

He ignores my request like the disrespectful brat that he is, and asks instead, "What do you want Fiona? I've got work to do."

Oh well, it was worth a try – I'm a bit partial to a chocky bikkie with my tea these days – but it looks like we're getting straight down to business.

"I'm here to tell you to hold your shit together," I tell him as I dunk the rest of my biscuit in my tea, catching the soggy mess with my mouth before it drops into the cup. "Snow's relying on you to sort this out."

"I know that."

"Then what the fuck were you doing bringing a Normal home?" I take a sip of tea. Earl Grey, nice.

He narrows his eyes again. "I hate Bunce," he mutters. Yep, I reckon she's a dead woman.

I actually like the Bunceling these days. She's a clever one, just like her mum– she's almost as clever a Basil. I'm sure the realm would miss her talents if Basil took her out, not to mention his stupid half would probably never forgive him if he offed Snow's best friend.

"Were you planning a late night snack?" I offer, trying to hold back a smirk.

He rolls his eyes at me again. "Your attempt at vampire humour is pathetic."

I thought it was pretty decent but I decide to get to the point, all jokes aside. I don't know how long he's going to be open to talk about this. "You're being pathetic Basil, bringing a girl home. Jesus Christ."

He knows I'm serious when I start swearing like a Normal and he cast his eyes down towards the floor, ashamed. "I didn't bring her home, she followed me."

I wave his comment away. "How she got here is neither here nor there. What matters is that she was here while your husband was not."

"It was an accident," he mumbles, still not taking his eyes from the floor. It looks like my nephew already feels like shit about this, which is good, it will make my work here a lot easier.

I put down my tea and sit up, facing him directly. "It was a stupid accident Basil. You're married and your husband has been banished and is stuck in shitty New Haven of all places, and you go out and get yourself wasted and bring home a Normal?"

He blinks at me for a moment, startled by my rant, then his mouth turns into a grimace as and he turns away from me again. "Nothing happened."

"That's beside the point." I jab my finger at the air in front of him. "You're leading this campaign. You need to hold it together otherwise everything will fall apart – your marriage, Snow, everything."

He gives me a long cool look but doesn't say anything else. I take it as my prompt to go on, at least he's listening.

"You know what? Getting married is easy, anyone can bloody well do it," I say, waving my arms around in the air. "Staying married is the hard part."

"What would you know?"

"I know things," I shrug, taking another sip of my tea. It's true I've never been married, but I've been around long enough to know how it works.

And Tasha and I used to talk. A lot. She told me all about the stupid fights her and Malcom got into in the early days of their marriage. Fights about how our family didn't think he was good enough (he wasn't), about how his family thought the Pitches were just a little too dark for the Grimms (we are) and stupid fights, like these two, jealous tiffs that two people in love have when there's really nothing to be jealous about.

And I've had my fair share of relationships as well, I know what's worth fighting over and what's not.

He snorts dismissively at my enlightening comment and I roll my eyes at him again.

"Listen to me boyo," I go on, taking another biscuit. "Marriage is the easiest bloody thing in the world to fuck up, and right now you're fucking it up." I jab my biscuit at him to drive home my point. He watches on, tight lipped, as a trail of crumbs fall on the carpet.

He turns his eyes back to me and gives me that cool look again but I know him, I know it's a defence mechanism. He learned how to school his looks from his dad. And he's a Pitch, we're all cool as a cucumber in a crisis.

"Since when did you become such an expert on marriage?" he asks, his tone icy. He seems to have regained some of his composure so I have to get this done quick.

"I'm not, but I've had loads of practice fucking up," I shrug, 'cos it's the truth.

"And why do you care so much?" he challenges, raising that bloody eyebrow at me. Natasha's eyebrow. He looks and acts more and more like her every day but I'm not telling him that right now, best save that one for another time.

"You're my favourite nephew. It's my job to care," I tell him, dropping my head quickly and dunking my biscuit in my tea.

"I'm your only nephew. And you know nothing about any of this, you've never been with anyone longer than a few months," he throws back at me. "Although you and Simon's uncle have been pretty exclusive since our wedding haven't you? That's got to be some sort of record for you, hmm?"

"That's none of your bloody business."

He sits forward now and cocks that eyebrow at me again. "Know what I think?" he says in that annoyingly insolent tone of his. "I think you've developed a bit of a soft spot for my husband."

I huff out a laugh into my tea. The cocky little brat has got it in one. I may have been late to the party, but when the Chosen One took it upon himself to dispose of the Humdrum and accidentally took out the Mage as well, I started to like the bloke. And when Basil started going out with him and I saw how happy he made my nephew, I appreciated the idiot. But it wasn't until he found out the Mage was his father and thought it was his almighty duty to save the magickal realm by staying away from it that I realised I admired the selfless little shit.

Snow might be a little dim but he's as brave as they come. Like that time he took down that goblin – the one that was trying to lure him away by pretending to crack onto his Normal friend Olive or Livia or something. Christ knows what he would have done with that butcher's knife he filched from the kitchen if I hadn't shown up when I did. When I got there he was waving it around like it was the bloody Sword of Mages.

And with the news that Snow was the Humdrum as well as the Chosen One, well that's just gold isn't it? So I can't help it, I actually like Snow with his wings and tail and evil twin and goofy grin and his doe-eyes for my nephew and his stupid selflessness and the way he always protects Basil from me accidentally torching him and the way he makes my nephew shine with so much fucking love it's blinding. . .

"Yeah yeah, all right you got me. What can I say, your other half's grown on me. . . But that's not the point," I say, waving my hand at him. "The point is that your little snowflake needs you and you need him, and if either of you fuck this up then the rest of the magickal realm is going to have to put up with you two miserable sods for the rest of eternity, or the rest of your lives, whichever comes first."

He stares back at me, not blinking, not saying anything. Hell, I don't even know if he's breathing. (Vampires do breathe, I know this.) I think he's in shock that I didn't deny it. Or maybe he's actually listening to me for once. I decide to keep going.

"You need to fix this."

He drops his head and lets out an overly long sigh, rubbing his temple with two fingers.

I raise my eyebrow at him. "So. . ."

He cocks his head back in my direction, lifting his eyes back to me. "So what?"

I huff out an almighty sigh and roll my eyes at him again. "So what are you still doing here?"

"I live here." It comes out long and drawn out, like he's addressing a fucking five year old.

"And?" Usually he's a bit quicker off the mark than this. Has married life made him a little slow? Has the lack of sex lately affected his otherwise brilliant mind? Has a little too much Snow rubbed off on him maybe? Christ knows his husband isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer but Basil is usually bright as a bonfire – he should be able to work out what to do without my help. I'm definitely not the leading expert on relationships but even I know that these two need to be together before they completely bloody fall apart.

"Christ Basil. You really suck at this – no pun intended," I say, and he rolls his eyes at me for the umpteenth time. "Go to shitty New Haven, shag your husband, get your head back in the game."

I take another biscuit and dunk it in my tea.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I'm bored and pissed off and do not want to get up off the couch to talk to the pizza delivery bloke, no matter how hard he's banging on the door. I figure if I stay on the couch and don't move, Penny or Micah will get up instead.

After the last meeting, I thought things were finally going to happen– there was a real feeling of progress that night– but that was three days ago, now I'm back to milling around, doing nothing much and going slowly insane.

Fiona let slip to her journo friend that there was conflict within the Coven, and there was a long article about in The Record about it the next day, Professor Bunce gave another interview about how I'm not to blame and questioned whether it's time to limit the Coven's powers, and there was another article about the rally and how much my support base is growing. But that's it. Nothing else has happened.

Penny says things are happening, but it will take a bit of time for the fallout to occur. She says people need time to digest the information before they form an opinion, before they take action. She says there will most likely be even more people at the next rally.

"The next rally? I groan at her from the couch. "That's another month away Penny. Please tell me it won't take that long."

"I don't know how long it's going to take Simon. You just need to be patient."

Here I was thinking the momentum was finally building, but nothing has changed at all.

And to top it off, it's our second wedding anniversary tomorrow and Baz hasn't said anything. He's definitely forgotten. He hasn't mentioned it the entire time I've been here. Not once. I know I haven't either, but it feels kind of stupid and petty to make a fuss about it seeing he's working so hard to bring me home. I'll have to say something tomorrow though, but I won't make a big deal of it.

We were planning to go to Tuscany again before all this shit started. Now I'll be lucky if he even remembers.

"Can you get the door please Simon?" Penny calls from the kitchen. "It'll be the pizza."

Penny and Micah have been working on their laptops since they got home from work so neither of them had time to make dinner, and I got back late after flying around town and didn't bother to start anything.

I drag myself off the couch, spell my tail and wings invisible, grab my wallet off the coffee table and open the door. And come face to face with–

"Baz?"

"Simon."

I blink a few times to make sure he's real.

Baz is here. Baz is here in fucking New Haven.

I blink again, because I can't think what else to do. But my tail does, because the traitorous thing whips out from behind me, wraps around his waist and yanks him towards me before I can even think. We both look down towards it even though it's invisible. There's nothing I can do about it– it always has had a mind of its own– so I let my eyes glide up the smooth line of him, his pale neck, his sharp jaw, his mouth, his eyes. He's staring back at me and I can't move, I'm frozen in place, and when the corner of his mouth lifts into just the smallest hint of a smile and his eyes crinkle in the corner, all I can think of is how those eyes and that smile will be the death of me one day.

I blink at him like the idiot I am, not saying anything even though my tail is wrapped tight around him and I know he's really here. Baz doesn't say anything either, he simply stares back at me with those fucking beautiful blue-grey eyes.

It feels really good just to stare right now.

I feel his arms snake around my waist, it's slow, tentative, as if asking for permission, and I press my hands to his cheeks in reply. It must be all the invitation he needs because he leans down and I reach up and then his mouth is on mine and we're kissing, kissing after so long and I can't think, I can't think of anything other than the fact that Baz is here and his soft lips are on mine and his hands are on me and his smooth black hair is slipping thorough my fingers as I drive my hands further into it.

Baz is here, he's here in my arms and he's kissing me.

His lips leave mine as he pulls back just enough to meet my eyes one more time, and then his lips are back, ghosting kisses along my jaw and down my neck and back up to my mouth and it feels like coming home.

Someone is saying something. There seems to be a whole load of voices now but I can't make out what they're saying because my brain is focused only on Baz, his mouth, his arms, his cool, lean body pressing against mine.

"Um, excuse me please boys . . ."

". . . Er, that'll be twenty dollars thanks . . ."

I pull Baz back away from the door and further into the apartment, vaguely aware that there's more than just us here and we stumble towards my room without taking our eyes off each other.

"Don't mind them, they haven't seen each other in a while . . ."

". . . Thank you, goodbye . . ."

"I'll just bring these bags in for you Baz . . ."

". . . Is this your wallet Simon?"

I pull him into my room, pushing the door closed and shoving him against it, and then we're kissing again.

Maybe I'm being a little rough? The door knob is likely pressing into his lower back which can't be comfortable but I'm not really thinking anymore –my brain is on autopilot. I don't stop to think about it and by the looks of it neither does Baz because he kisses me like he might die if he stops. I know I will.

I push his jacket off his shoulders and he shrugs out of it and lets it fall to the floor, then he brings his mouth back to mine and kisses me again. His hands move to my waist and when he splays his fingers and grips me tight, my heart stutters. His kisses are soft and slow this time, light gentle brushes against my lips. He does that thing where he kisses my top lip, takes my bottom lip between his, pulls. I sigh into it. And then his mouth is crushing back on mine for a long, deep kiss and the urgency of it sears me to my core. My stomach fell to the floor a while ago and I don't bother picking it up.

We kiss and kiss and kiss again. And when we can't anymore, he pulls back and rests his forehead on mine. "Simon," he rasps.

"Baz," I pant in reply.

BAZ

It's been so long since I've touched him, held him, gazed into his ordinary blue eyes. So long since I've tasted the deliciously sweet taste of him. I want to make this moment to last forever and I wonder, briefly, if there's a spell for that. But I let the thought go as I mouth slowly along his jaw, savouring in the feel of his stubble, breathing him in, delighting in his smell, relishing in the soft, warmth of his skin. I don't need magic for this.

I wonder if he can feel my un-dead heart hammer in my chest?

I trace one hand down the curve of his back, my other hand fixed firmly on his waist, and bask in his heat as I pull him close. I find his wings, the point they meet his back and press my fingers there. His wings flutter in response, blowing my hair from my face. I close my eyes and bask in it.

I trail my hand further down until I find his tail and wrap my hand around the base, giving it a playful tug, and he smiles at me like I've handed him a plate of scones.

Crowley he's beautiful, and fuck I'm so in love with him.

SIMON

I can feel his heart hammering in his chest and I want to kiss it, but first I want to take him in with my eyes– his face at least because I'm too close to see anything else. His eyes are a warm blue-grey and his hair is a little longer and smells like his posh shampoo. He's breathing hard as he watches me.

I let my eyes trace over the rest of his face. He needs a shave. He's a little rough along his jaw and chin and I rub my nose along it, deciding immediately that I like him like this. A lot.

I'm so fucking glad he's here.

I think about having him right here against the door, but my legs are going to give way any second and Penny and Micah are right outside, so I back up clumsily towards my bed. My tail unwinds from his waist and starts thrashing around like mad and my wings flap wildly, knocking books and clothes around my room but I can't stop them, I've other things on my mind.

I manage to climb back onto my bed without getting tangled in my messy duvet and realise too late that I should have tidied up, but I let that thought go because Baz is following me step for step until he's above me, looking down at me. His eyes have darkened and his kisses are hard and urgent and I can't get enough of him; his mouth on mine, his cool hands burning against my skin, his long, lithe body bearing down, hard and perfect against me.

There's still too much between us so I yank his jumper over his head. (Light blue cashmere, I think it's one of mine.) I toss it onto the floor with the rest of my mess, and bring his face back close so I can kiss him again.

He pulls back and draws in another ragged breath, rests his forehead on mine. His dark hair brushes against my face, luscious and long as I undo the buttons of his shirt, and after I push it roughly off his shoulders, his mouth finds mine for another searing kiss.

Baz's fingers find the hem of my tee shirt and slides his hand underneath. His touch makes me gasp embarrassingly loud and his eyes flash as his mouth twitches into a smug smile. I wipe it off with another kiss.

He pulls back to wrench the tee shirt over my head, glancing at it briefly before tossing it to the floor, (It's one of his.) and then his mouth is on my throat, peppering my skin with soft wet kisses and my heart is pounding so violently I think it might explode right out of my chest.

BAZ

Fuck he smells good; like cinnamon and bacon and something else, something sweet and brown and heady and warm. It's intoxicating, and I feel like I'm getting drunk on it. I'm definitely getting drunk on him.

I thought for a moment he was going to shag me right there against the door just like old times, but his bed is much more comfortable, even if it's an absolute disaster. I bet it hasn't been made since he arrived.

Our mouths meet again and he tastes heavenly, like butter and life and I want to devour him. I kiss him again instead, right on the pulse of his throat and he repays me with a soft sigh. I smile against his skin. He's definitely going to die kissing me one day.

We haven't said more than two words to each other and I don't bloody care. I'm going to take him so far into the next realm he's not going to be able to say anything for a very long time.

SIMON

Should I say something? There's a lot to be said but I can't find the words right now, and we've done nothing for the last seven weeks but talk.

I fumble with the button of his jeans because talking is overrated anyway. Baz must agree because he doesn't bother to say anything either, and he doesn't stop his relentless attack on my mouth as we attempt to remove every barrier between us. I peel off his jeans and pants in a tangle of denim and cotton and legs and he removes my trackie and pants in one fluid movement – he's so good at everything, even that.

We're finally skin on skin and I reach up and cup his cheek as he settles over me. He leans into my touch and presses his chest flush against mine, and as I brush my thumb across his parted lips, his body envelopes me completely, all hard and smooth and cold and magnificent.

We kiss for a long time, and when I pull away and trail my hand along the column of his throat, he swallows long and slow. And when I trail further, along his chest and stomach, and then lower still, he closes his eyes and tips his head back and surrenders himself and I love him more than anything.

-oOo-

BAZ

"Baz?" Simon whispers in the quiet. It's music to my ears.

He's curled up next to me, lying on his side with his head in the crook of my neck, his lips brushing my skin. His arm is slung across my chest, the palm of his hand resting on my heart, his fingers attune to the sporadic beat.

"Yes love?"

I assume we're in Simon's room in the hovel that is Penny and Micah's flat. I didn't get a good look at the place when I arrived because my mind was on other things. (Or one thing.) But my mind is clearer now I've had Simon for the last hour or so, (Had him, tasted him, fucking decimated him.) so I take a look around in the dark. The room's a mess, it's definitely Simon's.

I can't believe I finally have him back in my arms. After everything that happened since he left London, I was worried our relationship wouldn't survive this forced separation. But here we are.

I twist a golden lock of his hair between my fingers. It's is a little longer than usual, I like it. I run my fingers through it a few times, remembering the texture as I thread my fingers through his thick curls. It's been so long since I've done this. Too long. I let out a gratified sigh.

I flew out as soon as I finished sorting through the last stack of notes, videos and photos for Fiona to pass onto The Magickal Record. I couldn't wait to leave. Once the decision to leave was made, I would have headed straight out the door after Fiona if there was a flight available. It was the longest few days.

"I missed you," he murmurs, I can feel his breath against my skin.

I reach over to turn on the lamp.

"I could tell," I smirk automatically. I can't help it – I'm a smug bastard, and Simon is very, very vocal. (I wonder if he remembered to cast the soundproofing spell.) He doesn't laugh though, and I chance a glance at him. He's pulled back so he can see me, a serious look on his face, so I decide to swallow my pride and confess what a wreck I've been since he left.

"I missed you too, Simon. You have no idea how much."

I lean in to kiss him and he tilts his chin up to meet me, and when our lips touch, it's soft and warm and glorious. I brush my lips against his and then bring our mouths together until I hear him sigh. He wraps his arm tight around my waist and pulls me closer and I smile against his mouth.

But we're not in the clear yet – there's still some unfinished business we need to sort through. I blame myself entirely for the fighting and the distance we set between us, I behaved so poorly that night and he's been upset ever since. I need to make things right.

He pulls back a little and furrows his brow, watching me. "So . . . Are we okay?"

Crowley, he beat me to it again. I'm the idiot that messed up and yet Simon's the one who's worried. He's nervously holding my gaze, waiting for my answer and I feel like an even bigger idiot. I can't believe I let him feel this way, even for a moment. I detest myself even more for ever letting him doubt us.

I bring my hand to his face and brush my fingers across his cheek. "Of course we are," I whisper without hesitation, he lets out a sigh of relief. "Of course we are love." I whisper it again and again until I feel him relax in my arms.

He pulls back again to stare at me, eyebrows raised in question this time. "Did you come here for our anniversary then?" His voice is timid but there's a small smile playing on his lips.

"I thought you'd forgotten," I tell him, relieved.

He props himself up on his elbow, looking down at me, and I gaze up at him, completely lovestruck as he pushes a loose lock of hair behind my ear and brushes his fingers across my cheek. "Of course I didn't forget. I thought you forgot."

"Never," I whisper solemnly. "How could I forget when you married me? That was the happiest day of my life Simon." I stare into his eyes, hoping to relay the absolute truth of my feelings for him.

He rewards me with a smile, and it's so breathlessly beautiful, he's radiant. I reach up to kiss his neck. He has a couple of moles there, right below his left ear that I've missed almost as much as I've missed Simon himself.

"Mine too," he hums. "Happy anniversary Baz." He's beaming down at me now and I know I'm smiling like an idiot as well. He brings his mouth to mine for a soft kiss.

"But it's not until tomorrow?" I remind him as he pulls away.

"Yeah, but it is tomorrow in England and we were married there so . . ."

I can't help but laugh out loud at his superb logic. "So we get to celebrate twice? Tonight in Greenwich Mean Time and tomorrow in Eastern Standard Time?"

"Yes absolutely," he grins back.

"I love the way you think Simon," I whisper, smiling as I pull him down to me. "Now kiss me again."

He does.

-oOo-

"Simon?"

"Mmmm?"

He's tracing his fingers across my skin, leaving a trail of heat in his wake. It feels like he's igniting my skin but in a good way, a tantalizing way, not in a flammable flash paper sort of way. It burns me with desire, I pull him closer.

"I love you."

"I love you Baz," he whispers back, but there's a frown on his face as he says the words.

I know he's still upset over what happened, regardless of the fact that there's absolutely no chance I'd ever be with a woman – I'm as queer as fuck and he knows it, he's the one that hasn't worked out whether he's gay or not. I need to apologise, tonight, I can't put it off any longer. I'm the one that messed up but I'm yet to say the words I know he needs to hear. I pull back a little so I can look at him.

"I shouldn't have let that woman stay in our home . . ." I start.

"Lana," he says, biting at his bottom lip.

"Yes Lana," I repeat. "You have to know that nothing happened, and nothing will ever happen with anyone else. Ever."

"I know." His voice is barely audible.

I brush my thumb across his cheek. "I've never wanted anyone but you. You never have to doubt my love for you Simon."

He props himself up on his elbow, takes a lock of my hair and twists it between his fingers as he watches me. "I've never doubted you Baz. From the moment you told me you love me I believed you."

"I do love you. I love you so much."

"I know," he whispers, "So don't start doing shit like that because then I will start to doubt it."

"You're right." I agree, and I must be pouting because he pokes at my mouth. I grab his finger and kiss the tip until I have his full attention, so I can finally say what I have to say. I take a deep breath. It's now or never I suppose. "I'm sorry Simon."

He exhales loudly, closing his eyes and taking my hand. He laces our fingers together and gives my hand a squeeze. I know he needed to hear that, I'm such an idiot for taking this long to say it.

"I know you are." His eyes are back on me and he starts twisting my wedding ring between his fingers. "Just, don't do it again."

"I won't."

It's true. I'll never do anything that idiotic ever again. I'm a fast learner and I've definitely learned my lesson. One idiotic mistake is enough for me for this lifetime. I'm living a charmed life with Simon Snow and I'm not about to do anything to fuck it up. I shake my head to drive the point home but he's not looking at my face, instead he's tracing his eyes over me, frowning as he shifts his head from side to side.

"What?"

"Nothing," he shrugs, trying hard not to smile. "Just making sure you haven't burst into flames or anything."

I bark out a laugh. "Very funny Simon." I try an eye roll but I'm too happy and smitten to pull it off. "You know, I'm probably the first Pitch in history to say the 'S' word."

"I know. Oh, how the mighty have fallen." He gives me a cheeky smile and I grin back stupidly.

It feels so good to be back where we were before all this started, in each other's arms and deliriously in love. So I don't mention the women cornering him at the bar the other night– even though it has happened more than once, nor the fact that he's the only one out of the two of us that could ever be interested in women. If anyone has reason to be concerned it's me.

It's not that I don't trust him – I do, I trust Simon completely. It's everyone else I don't trust. Simon is like a mage magnet, and since he lost all that explosive magic he's a Normal magnet as well. He attracts friends and others who want to be more than friends so naturally he doesn't even realise it, and he's completely oblivious when someone's hitting on him. I, on the other hand, notice everything.

But I'm not going there – tonight or any other night. This is entirely my fault so I'm not going to bring up any of that, not when we're back in each other's arms. I'm not spoiling this for anything.

But it's like Simon can read my mind.

"And I'm sorry, that I let those women corner me at the bar," he apologises. "I shouldn't have done that."

I stiffen slightly at his words. I'm relieved that he brought it up but I'm nervous at where this could take us. I feel a tightening in my chest. "No."

"It's not like anything was ever going to happen Baz," he adds in a rush of words, noticing my apprehension.

I'm wary as I watch him. But don't answer, I need to let him get it out, no matter how anxious I feel.

"We're married. . ." he says, raising his eyebrows at me.

As if I need reminding, I've already told him that it was the best day of my life.

"I might not be gay Baz, or I might be. Or I might be bi or something else. But none of that even matters because we're married." He's piercing me with those exquisitely ordinary blue eyes and I can't move – I'm pinned to the bed by his eyes, his words. "We're married and that means I'm never ever going to be interested if some bloke or women corners me in a bar and tries to chat me up and I'm too stupid or too bloody hammered to realise it, yeah?"

Is he talking about his sexuality or our magickal marriage bond or something else entirely? "That logic doesn't exactly follow. . ."

"But it does Baz. Because I love you. Only you. I love you and I married you and I only want to be with you."

I swallow hard, the knot in my chest loosening slightly. I don't think he's talking about our magickal marriage bond at all, or his sexuality and its ambiguities. I think he's talking about the two of us, together. Us.

I decide I like this even better.

"And I would never do anything to jeopardize this." He waves our joined hands between us. "Jeopardize us."

My pulse races. He really does love me, only me, and only wants to be with me. Deep down I know this already– we've said it and shown it often enough, but I've felt vulnerable and alone since he's been away from me, so to hear him say the words makes my head dizzy and my heart pound erratically with pure fucking joy. He's my husband and he loves me – gay or bi or whatever, magickal fucking bond or not. I'm his and he's mine forever.

"I love you Baz," he says, breaking through my thoughts. "That's all that matters." And Simon smiles at me, it's warm and unguarded and so fucking beautiful that my brain blinks out momentarily.

"I'm glad to hear it," I whisper when I regain my senses, the knot in my chest uncoiling at last.

I cup Simon's face with my palm, gently thumbing those moles on his cheek and then I kiss them, one at a time, letting my lips linger on his warm skin. I brush my lips over his until he lets out a low sigh and then I kiss him again.

I could snog this gorgeous man forever – I will snog him forever, but right now I want more. Simon must feel the same because he pushes me back into the mattress until he's hovering above me, looking down at me. His wings are spread wide behind him and that fucking tail is coiling itself around my ankle, making my heart stutter and race. I reach for his mouth without hesitation, again and again until my insides feel like they're on fire, until I can't stand it any longer and wrench him down to me.

-oOo-

"Baz?"

"Love?"

It must be after midnight by now but my body clock is still on London time so I'm wide awake, as if it's the start of a new day. And after everything we've been through tonight it really does feel like a brand new day.

"Do you reckon Penny and Micah left us any pizza?"

"Maybe." I try to hold back a smile. Nothing's changed I'm glad to see. "Shall we go and check?"

"Yes lets. I'm hungry," he says against my skin. "And then another shag, we have to celebrate in US time now."

I pull back and flash him a sly grin. "Has anyone ever told you, you have a brilliant mind Simon?"

His eyes go wide as he tries to supress a laugh. He looks so happy that I have to kiss him again. So I do. I lift his chin with my thumb and finger and press our lips together, I kiss his cheek, his ear, his neck and his jaw until my mouth is back on his and we're kissing again, slow and deep this time, until his stomach growls. He groans and I pull back, both of us grinning now.

"Food?"

"Yeah, I need food first," he says, his tone regretful.

We separate and dress in silence and I can't help watching him. I watch the muscles shift in his broad shoulders as he pulls on his pants, watch as they glide over his strong thighs and come to rest low on his hips. I watch as he pulls on those disgusting trackie bottoms that have definitely seen better days, as he pulls my tee shirt over his head – stretching it permanently out of shape as it slides over his wings. I watch the muscles of his taut stomach tense and contract as he moves and I want to touch him again. I take a deep breath and drag my eyes from him as I get dressed instead.

We venture into the kitchen in search for food as stealthily as we can. There's some left over pizza in the fridge but Simon looks at it and mutters something along the lines of Not enough so he heats a pot of water on the stove with magic and then digs around the larder for pasta and olive oil and other bits and pieces.

"Carbonara," he says when he sees me question him. He's watching me, looking me up and down, studying me. "You need to eat more Baz, you're too thin."

"I'm fine," I say, trying to sound casual. But I know he's right, I haven't had much of an appetite since he left. Simon still asks me every day when I last hunted and when I last ate, sending Fiona around to check on me every week, checking with Daphne when I last visited Oxford. That's so typical of him, worrying about me and my eating habits while he's the one living in exile.

And I do hunt and eat, just not as much as I used to. Simon made up a batch of Bolognese sauce the night before he left London and neither of us said anything when he packaged it into individual serves rather than for two. It was a silent acknowledgement of what was about to happen. I'm yet to touch one.

He opens the fridge and pulls out bacon, eggs and parmesan cheese.

"You're looking a little rough and weedy yourself Simon," I tell him, smoothly deflecting. It's also true, he looks pale thin and it pains me to see the transformation from not even two months ago. "Isn't Bunce feeding you enough?"

"I'm fine," he says, mimicking my response perfectly. And we stare at each other in silence, neither willing to state the obvious; neither willing to acknowledge how much a toll this is taking on both of us. He turns back to the hob in silence.

Within minutes he's whipped up a delicious late night supper and I realise I'm famished. Penny and Micah must hear the commotion because they wander out of their bedroom, both rubbing their eyes and putting on their equally unfashionable glasses. They're wearing the most ludicrous matching pyjamas I've ever seen and I try not to stare. Maybe they've come to say hello, we didn't have much of a chance before. Either that or they're hungry.

"Hey Baz!" Micah grins, raising his hand. "Welcome."

"Yes hello Micah, Bunce. Thank you," I answer, shaking Micah's hand. Bunce pulls me in for a hug despite my protests, burying her alarmingly bushy red hair in my chest.

She lets me go and leans against the counter. "I see you two made it out of Simon's room. I thought we were going to have to send in a search party," she prattles, sounding a little too smug for my liking.

"Simon was hungry," I shrug, trying to give nothing away. It's a bloody difficult because I'm so fucking happy right now, but she doesn't need to know that, she'll only use it against me down the track.

She snorts out a laugh. "Of course."

"Want some pasta Pen? Micah?" Simon asks, blushing furiously and trying to ignore the exchange.

"Sure!" Micah says, practically salivating. One day they're both going to have to learn to cook.

We sit down at Bunce's minuscule table and Simon carries over four overloaded plates while Penny hands around the cutlery and grabs a pitcher of water from the fridge. Simon starts eating immediately, his mouth bulging in seconds.

"So," Micah starts, nodding at me far too enthusiastically for someone who's only just woken up, "I hear you're quite the ladies' man these days?"

Simon splutters and nearly chokes on his pasta before he finally takes a big swallow. His face turns red and I rub his back absently while I scowl at Micah. Leave it to the American to be crass, can't they leave anything unsaid? Simon and I have already been through this enough, do we really have to do it all again with Bunce and Micah?

Bunce snorts out a laugh and I scowl back out of habit.

"All right there Simon?" Bunce asks as I continue rubbing his back. He no longer needs it but I keep doing it because it feels nice to touch him again. Simon nods at Bunce.

I let out a sigh. Best get this over with I suppose, they're going to bring it up whether I want them to or not. "Yes all right, I deserved that."

"So, I take it that's the first time you've ever picked up a girl?"

"Penny!" Simon cries, his eyes wide with disbelief or embarrassment, it's difficult to tell at this angle.

"Kidding!" Penny teases. "I'm kidding Simon."

"I believe she picked me up," I scowl, "Off the pavement, quite a few times."

"It's no joke Pen," Simon huffs, but he gives me a half smile as he pokes at my mouth. Alright pouting not scowling then.

"Simon, love. I danced with a girl. Hardly worrying behaviour." I sneer at Bunce for good measure and she gives me one of her withering looks back.

He grunts in response and shovels more pasta into his already full maw. It's a joy to watch, despite Bunce's insistence on making me relive every moment of my embarrassing evening yet again. Is there no end to the humiliation? I decide to change tact. Get on the front foot so to speak.

"It's the same as if Bunce danced with a girl," I offer, hopeful for some agreement. "Right Micah?"

"That depends," he asks. He puts down his fork and rubs his chin with his thumb and finger, as if pondering a complex scientific problem. "Is Penny straight or gay in this scenario? And does Penny bring the girl home with her and find her on our couch the next day? With no memory of the night before?

"Forget it."

"While I'm stuck in exile overseas?"

"Thanks for your support," I snap. It wasn't the best analogy but I'm a little off my game tonight, what with all the travelling and the kissing and the apologising and the sex. (Oh, the sex.)

Simon has a hard look on his face and I watch him until I catch his eye. He gives me a small smile and I take his hand in mine, enjoying the warmth as I rub my thumb across his knuckles. I twirl some pasta around my fork and start to eat, my fangs popping with the first forkful.

"So, what's happening with Simon's case?" Micah skilfully changes the topic and I remember again why I like him. I've had enough of the previous subject to last an eternity.

I take my time to answer, waiting for my fangs to disappear back from wherever they emerge.

"It's slow," I answer once they've retracted enough. "The first few stories have made it to the paper. Next week Fiona will provide the link to Mordelia's petition. They'll be able to see firsthand who's signed it."

"Great interview by the way," Micah says.

We discuss my interview with The Record at great length, Bunce peppering the conversation with insight into how I tied everything back to the Mage, which was exactly my intention. Everything that has happened to Simon is that bastard's fault and I intend to make sure the world of mages remembers it. I don't know what good it will do but I felt better for doing it. And it made Simon happy.

Eventually, we tire of the topic and Bunce moves on to the petition.

"How many signatures now Baz?"

"Well over three hundred since the latest articles."

"Excellent," she nods. "What about Velma's kids being at the rally? That's got to have some fall out."

"That's the next leak. Fiona's drip feeding the information to the paper. That way the story will stay on the front page."

"Keep them interested?" Micah nods. "Good plan."

"I hate being the story," Simon mutters, shovelling more pasta into his mouth. He's been quiet until now but I know he's listening. Taking it all in in that way he does, so he can pick it apart later when he has more time. When he's alone.

I rub the back of his hand with my thumb. "I know Simon. But everything's a story. And we have to play the game."

"Yes Simon," Bunce agrees. "I know it sucks, but what else can we do?"

Simon shrugs but doesn't say anything more, and we let the silence surround us as we eat.

When I've had my fill of pasta I turn to Bunce. "Your father will give another interview with his latest findings on the dead spots, right before the next Coven meeting. We don't expect them to have changed."

Penny nods but doesn't say anything more.

"What about your dad," Simon asks. "Is he still pissed?"

"He can hardly be angry at Daphne and Mordelia. I think he's resigned himself to the fact that they're going to be part of this."

"And what about your interview? Was he mad at you for doing that?"

I shrug. "He'll get over it."

"But he still won't agree to an interview?" Bunce asks.

"No."

"It's all right Baz," Simon says. "He doesn't have to. He's done loads for us already."

I give him a sideways glance. I'm not exactly sure what he means, Father hasn't done anything during this entire ordeal except voice his scepticism at every bloody meeting we've had.

"He has, Baz. He didn't try to kill me after he found out that I took the magic from Hampshire," Simon shrugs. "That's something."

I keep watching him but don't say anything. Simon takes another mouthful of pasta, chews it thoughtfully.

"And he didn't try to kill me that first time I came to Hampshire, when he thought I was The Chosen One and working with the Mage, or when you told him the Mage was my. . ." He still won't say it out loud. "Or when he found out we were boyfriends, or when we got engaged–"

"That's just his impeccable manners. And you were, and still are The Chosen One."

Simon ignores me and continues with his reasoning. "I mean, he's a complete snob and scary as all hell, and he'll probably never fully understand this." He waves our conjoined hands between us, "But he's always been there for you Baz. I don't think you realise how good you've got it."

"Yes well, I suppose you're right. But he could do this one small thing," I mutter at the table, frustrated at my father for his stubbornness and at my own lack of sensitivity. I can't believe I'm complaining about my father at all. It's in extremely poor taste to criticize my father considering what Simon's father did to him.

"Hey," Simon says. "Don't."

I glance up at Simon, my brow furrowed in confusion and shame.

"It's all right Baz," he says, his voice soft. "Just stop thinking whatever it is your thinking." He gives my hand a squeeze and me a dazzling smile, and I feel my face soften. Only he can pull me from my dark thoughts with that soft voice, those words. A look. I take a deep breath and squeeze his hand back, and think about touching his mouth again later.

"So, how long are you staying Baz?" Micah asks, tactful as always. "Stay as long as you want of course."

I turn to Micah, pulling myself from the thought of Simon's mouth under my thumb. "A week. I need to get back after that."

"It's good to have you here," Penny says, affably enough. "Hey, do you think you could head up to the roof at some point? The pigeons poo all over our balcony, they're driving us absolutely mental."

"Of course," I answer automatically. At least I can put my vampire bloodlust to good use while I'm here. And I haven't worked out where to hunt yet.

Simon releases my hand to push his empty plate away, He starts twisting his wedding ring around his finger. "A week? I thought you might stay a little longer."

I hand him my unfinished plate and take his hand again. I feel like I need to touch him all the time since I arrived. It's pathetic I know but I can't help it, I've missed him so much.

"I have to get back Simon. I have to keep working on this with Professor Bunce. I have to keep pushing your case. I need to be in London."

"I know," he mumbles between mouthfuls. His tail creeps up from behind us and wraps silently around my wrist. Penny squeezes his arm.

Chapter Text

SIMON

We're going out for dinner to celebrate our second wedding anniversary properly tonight. I said we've celebrated enough, but Baz thinks twenty four hours of hiding in my room shagging is not celebrating. I beg to differ.

He's finally gotten around to unpacking his suitcase, and I watch as a bunch of his clothes and a fair amount of my stuff fly out of his bag and sort themselves into my half empty wardrobe and drawers.

"Why did you bring all my stuff?" I ask when he's finished sorting his clothes into impossibly neat, colour coded sections. He starts sorting through my pile of stuff next and I watch my leather jacket and a few socks float across the room.

"Because most of the clothes you packed were mine," he says, trying not to smile. He fails spectacularly at that and I grin back at him, which just makes him smile more. Merlin I love it when he smiles, he should do it more often. Like, all the time. "Honestly Simon, did you pack any of your own things?"

I'm still grinning at him and I add a shrug. "Um, some?"

He laughs and raises one gorgeously perfect eyebrow at me. (And at his faded yellow Sex Pistols tee shirt I'm wearing.) I did pack some of his things when I left, some tee shirts and a jumper or two, but the rest is all mine. What can I say, I like wearing his stuff. I give him another shrug as I watch two suits fly past.

"What are they for?"

"Dinner. It's our anniversary and we're going out. And that means dressing appropriately."

I scoff at that and he pouts at me so of course we're dressing up for dinner. Baz came to America to see me so I'll do anything to make him happy, and I like everything about Baz in a suit.

"Here," he says, handing me a small package he's pulled from the bottom of his bag. "I brought you this from home."

I frown as I open it, and then my frown turns to a grin. "My snow dome!"

I carefully unwrap it from the tissue paper and give it a shake. It's the one I bought in Paris right after Penny's wedding. Penny started the whole snow dome thing when she brought one back from New York for me that first summer after we moved in together. I completely missed the joke at the time, I thought she was just being nice. Then I remembered Penny may be my best friend, but she's never just nice. Anyway, since then I've had a bit of a thing for them and I try to pick one up from wherever we go. This one's my favourite though, because it's the first one I bought myself.

"I thought you'd like something from our flat," his eyes soft as he watches me. I grin again and give it another shake, placing it on the bedside table next to the framed picture from our wedding day. I watch on, entranced as the fake snowflakes drift slowly towards the bottom. I catch Baz staring at our wedding photo, and when he sees me watching him, his face breaks into another gorgeous smile and I have to kiss him again. And again.

So now we're running a little late for dinner, even though Baz casts Make Way for the King a few times on the traffic. And we're late not because we got side tracked snogging back at the apartment, (even though we did that for a lot longer than we should have) and not because Baz took longer than usual with his hair either ("This bloody humidity."), but because he booked our dinner in a restaurant in New York. As in New York City New York.

I offered to fly us here in half the time and he said it wouldn't do to mess up our suits, but he most likely meant his hair. It's either that or he's still shit scared of flying that far with me.

When we finally enter the restaurant, only half hour late, I let out a involuntary whistle under my breath. It's very posh looking, (French, Baz says) with fancy chandeliers and big windows and smart looking tables with white tablecloths set up in neat rows and snooty looking waiters walking around in black shirts and trousers and white aprons, and they're pointing their noses down at everyone. In other words exactly Baz's kind of place.

Baz manages to wrangle a table in the corner for us so he can face the wall while I face the restaurant. He always does this so no one can see his fangs while he eats. We don't eat out that often because of his fangs but we do for special occasions, and this is definitely a special occasion.

The menu is completely foreign and I think I really should have paid more attention in French back at school, probably Greek too for that matter, but it's too late to worry about that now, and Baz ends up ordering in perfect French for both of us because he loves to show off how proficient he is.

We toast ourselves with fancy Champagne Baz ordered. He had an entire conversation with the waiter about it which I don't understand at all but I don't particularly care because whatever he said sounded hot. (I'm going to remember that for later.) I get him to repeat the name of the Champagne a few times, just for something to do.

"You know. They say the first year is the hardest," I tell him after I finish the entire glass. I notice Baz only has a sip. Was I supposed to sip it? I don't really know but it tasted too good to stop. "But the first year was brilliant Baz. It really was . . . This year's been a bit shit though."

The first year was brilliant. We'd just started living together and we were both studying and it was just easy and good and perfect. Then I opened my big mouth and everything went pear shape and we've been separated and we've fought and it's been absolute crap.

"Only the last few months," he says, reaching for my hand across the table. He rubs his thumb across my knuckles a few times. "But we'll get through it love."

I give his hand a squeeze. "We have to get through it Baz. We're married, so you're kind of stuck with me." I'm trying to lift the mood, it's our anniversary and I don't want to dwell on the negative tonight, I've done enough of that before he got here. And I want him to speak French again.

"I couldn't think of anyone better to be stuck with." His voice is soft when he says it, and so are his eyes. He's always saying sappy stuff like that and I should be used to it but I still blush. He's such a romantic git.

Our conversation throughout dinner is about stupid stuff mainly. And even though we talk every day we still find stuff to say. I tell him what it's like living with Penny and Micah, which I really like except for the fact that neither of them can cook very well, and neither of them are morning people and neither of them like to watch the telly much. Penny mostly reads and works and Micah pretty much reads and works and plays baseball.

"So basically all they do is work, or talk about work, or plan what they're going to do at work."

"Sounds riveting."

"And I still don't get baseball, even though I've watched Micah play a few times."

"It's not that difficult, Simon." He tried to teach me last time we were here, but I got side-tracked by the food and he gave up.

I finish off my veal and half of Baz's lobster and most of the wine and I'm rubbing my stomach, feeling very full when the dessert menu arrives. Baz is about to pass but I shake my head and grab the menu from the snooty waiter, because you can't come all the way to a fancy restaurant in New York and not order dessert, that and because I want to hear him speak French again. I tell him this (the first part) and he relents and orders two desserts that sound completely sumptuous and downright erotic but turns out to be coconut meringue raspberry sorbet and chocolate mousse with mint coffee ice cream. I finish all of mine and half of Baz's after I ask him to repeat the names a few more times.

After dinner we decide to walk for a bit. It's still warm out, and it's been such a pleasant evening I don't want it to end yet. I don't think he does either.

"This reminds me of our first date," Baz says, inclining his head my way. He slings his arm around my shoulder as we head down the block, and I wrap my arm around his waist, my tail following suit.

"Mmmm that's right, Louis's restaurant," I smile, remembering the night. We'd already been boyfriends for a year and a half before we even had our first date. Baz and I never did anything the normal way.

"Yes. I believe that night started your love affair with Beef Wellington," Baz smiles.

"Mmmm," I hum. I remember the taste now, it was so good. "I haven't had that for ages."

"As I recall, we went out dancing that night, after dinner. . ."

We stop walking and I turn to face him. I look up at him to see he's watching me, his eyes careful. He raises his eyebrow just a little and his lips twitch into a hint of a smile.

"You want to go dancing?" It comes out cautious because it's still a bit of a sore point. I can't ignore the fact that he danced with that Lana person and brought her home with him, all while I was stuck here away from him.

"Yes. It's our anniversary and we look fabulous. We should definitely go dancing." But he sounds a little apprehensive, not his usual confident self. "If you want to that is."

I know he knows I'm thinking about what happened. Usually he's more persistent when it comes to dancing.

"And I really want to dance with you," he adds earnestly.

I can't help smiling at that, I really want to dance with him too.

"And you look rather stunning in that suit Simon," he practically purrs this time, more confident now.

I'm grinning widely now. "All right. Let's do it." I'm a complete fucking pushover when it comes to Baz. Does he even realise it?

He grins back at me and he looks so beautiful I almost forget how to breathe. "Right," he says, looking a little uncertain. "Now to find a club."

He pulls out his mobile and types for a bit, then mumbles impatiently as he waits for the information to load. He scrolls quickly through the data, muttering Not there and Nope, until he finally says There! He loads up a map which he studies for a moment.

"You mean you didn't plan for this?" I can't hide the surprise in my voice. Normally he plans absolutely everything in advance to the minute detail because he's an absolute control freak.

He stops looking at his phone and watches me, unsure again. "I wasn't sure if you'd want to."

"Of course I want to dance with you!" It comes out exasperated. He's the love of my life and it's our anniversary and he's here, in New York, with me. He may have danced with someone else back in London but that doesn't mean I don't want to dance with him. Of course I want to bloody well dance with him. I'm just glad he still wants to dance with me. I'm the one that's crap at it. Sometimes I wonder how his mind works– for a near genius of a bloke he can be incredibly dim when it comes to how much I love him. I shake my head.

He grins at me and pulls me in for a quick kiss before he grabs my hand and leads me with haste down the road. "That's what I was hoping. Let's go."

We find the club in minutes and he drags me straight to the dance floor, wraps his arms around my waist and holds me close. I slide my arms around his neck and rest my head on his shoulder and just like that we're slow dancing together to the music. Even after all of those bloody dance lessons on our honeymoon, (and loads of times since then) I still can't dance for shit. But I prefer to dance with him this way anyway– slow and close, I don't think he minds either.

"We're dancing my love," he whispers against my ear.

I wind my arms tight around his neck and hold him closer, swaying to the music. "Mmmm," I agree wholeheartedly.

His arms tighten their hold around my waist and he has his nose in my hair, his breath tickling my scalp. It feels perfect, better than perfect, it feels right. It feels like home. I don't want him to move an inch.

"I only ever want to dance with you Simon," he whispers into my hair.

"I only ever want to dance with you Baz," I whisper back. He holds me tight as we dance some more, his arms strong and sure. "But it's okay if you want to dance with other people, you know, that can actually dance. . ."

He pulls back a breath and blinks at me. He looks confused but I need to tell him this, he needs to know I really don't mind because I trust him. Completely. It's not like he doesn't know that already, but it's good to reiterate sometimes, especially when we're apart for so long. And he needs to know I'm not one to get upset over something stupid like dancing. Well, not too much anyway.

"Just, maybe not while I'm in exile, yeah?" I don't take my eyes off him so he knows I'm serious. He stares at me, not saying anything and I hold my breath, waiting. But then his face softens.

"All right."

"All right," I breathe, bringing our foreheads back together. We've covered a lot of shit since he arrived and it feels good to get it all out. I feel lighter in a way, unburdened. I pull him closer and press myself against him as we sway to the music. "And you look very handsome in that suit," I add because I forgot to tell him before.

He presses his lips to my hair. "I know." he murmurs, and this time I roll my eyes. He might struggle to understand the vast depth of my love for him half the time, but he has no problem understanding exactly how insanely beautiful he is. He's such a prat sometimes. (Most of the time.) (Always.)

We stay like this for a long time, and as we sway to the music I can feel all the hurt from the past few weeks finally melt away. Baz is here and we're dancing together on our anniversary in some really fancy club in New York after a brilliant dinner, and I don't even mind that I had to wear a fancy suit.

We drive back to New York in the early hours of the morning, without magic and with our fingers intertwined on the console, both content to enjoy the long drive. We stop briefly on the way back after Baz spots some elk, and he makes me wait in the car because he never lets me watch him hunt. Still, after all this time, he hates the fact that he has to suck the blood out of animals to stay alive. I don't know why he's so touchy about it, he knows I don't care he's a vampire, and it's not as if I'm a vegetarian or anything.

It's very late when we finally sneak into the apartment, so we creep as silently as we can to my room, and when I close the door Baz hands me my anniversary present. The box is wrapped in pretty silver and red paper with ribbons and bows and looks ridiculously expensive, so I can't help grinning when I open it because inside are six pairs of personalised cotton socks. He gave me a pair on our second boyfriend anniversary and I've had to wait years for more pairs because I set a ten quid limit on gifts that year. (He's infuriatingly stubborn when he sets his mind to something.) I put a pair on straight away.

I give Baz his present next, the one I picked up in New York. It's another cotton slouch beanie like the one I gave him on our last cotton anniversary, this one is lilac. The colour looks so good against his black hair, just like the Hollyhock back at Oxford, so he keeps it on all night. I keep my socks on as well as we snuggle under the duvet together.

"Goodnight love," Baz murmurs. All I can see is a lilac dome peeking up from the duvet.

"'Night Baz," I whisper as I pull him closer, trying to ignore his cold feet that are fighting for place in my socks.

BAZ

I've only been here a few days when Fiona calls. Bunce and Micah left for work a few minutes ago, and Simon and I are finishing off the remains of our breakfast together. (Eggs, bacon, baked beans, spinach and a pot of tea.) We're going spend the day visiting some of Simon's favourite haunts.

"You two love birds sorted?" she asks without introduction.

"Yes Fiona, we're fine."

Simon glances up at me over his cup, eyebrows raised in question. He's polished off the rest of my breakfast and is finishing the tea. I reach across the table and take his hand loosely in mine.

"Good. I've got one for you then," she drawls. "What's the difference between a lawyer and a vampire?"

I roll my eyes. "I suppose you're going to tell me whether I want to know or not."

"A vampire only sucks blood at night."

"I'm hanging up now," I scowl into the phone.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I like having Baz here. I spend most of my time showing him around the town, when he's not on the phone with Professor Bunce or going over magickal laws that is. I take him to the places I've discovered around town and I show him where I spend some of my days drawing. I get him to try the pizza in Little Italy and take him to a place that makes a pretty decent pumpkin mocha breve. We run most days and we even fit in a game of football with Micah and his colleagues one lunchtime. It was fun enough, even though we couldn't use magic and Baz made me promise not to use my tail. For the rest of the time, we either hang around the apartment or find a nice park with lots of shade and I draw him while he reads one of his magickal books. It reminds me of our weekends at Oxford and I decide that's one of the first things I want to do when I get back home. (If I get back home.) (When.)

I even manage to convince him to fly with me around the city one night, late, when it's dark. But we've only done that once because he's still not entirely comfortable with it no matter how many sticking spells we cast.

I draw him constantly.

Micah gave Baz some good tips on where to hunt when he first arrived – there are loads of squirrels and rats and raccoons in the nearby parks at night and there's elk further out, so Baz heads out before we go to bed or sometimes after midnight when the rest of us are asleep. Sometimes I wake and find him gone and I grope around for my mobile before I remember he's out hunting and not back in London. I make him wake me when he comes back– he's always warm and slightly flushed after. I like it.

Penny and Micah take us around the university to show Baz. He's suitably impressed but still shakes his head in mild disapproval at their research. "Waste of magickal talent and resources," he sighs every time they start talking about it. He's such a speciesist.

Baz and I go back to New York for another day. I'm happy to sit in the park and eat pizza by the slice, but Baz is dead keen to shop. He buys me a load of new clothes that he reckons I need and a shitload for himself that he definitely doesn't need.

It's been almost a week now, and the days have been going by so fast that I asked Penny if there is a counter curse to Time Flies. There isn't.

We go to the pub on Friday night for a drink. I don't particularly want to go but Baz is determined – I think he wants to meet Penny and Micah's colleagues. (Especially the female colleagues.) (Especially the female colleagues that had me backed into the corner.)

He holds my hand when Penny and Micah introduce him to their friends, and when they tell him how much fun they had with me those nights he throws his arm across my shoulder and pulls me in close.

He's as polite as ever but I can see his patience is running thin by the end of their long winded discussion about how nice and polite Englishmen are. His eyes are hard as steel but he listens without interrupting because he might be a conceited snob but he has impeccable manners.

"If only they knew," he whispers when they finally chat amongst themselves. They've just spent the better part of half an hour gushing over British social graces and our penchant for sarcasm. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean," Baz answered.

"Knew what?"

"Not all of us are nice." His breath tickles my ear as he whispers the words for only me to hear. "Some of us are vampires."

I let out a small laugh as I look up at him. "You're the nicest vampire I know," I whisper and then kiss his neck. Merlin I love his neck. What is it about necks that make them so enticing I wonder? I think I'll ask Penny later. I can't really ask Baz about it, his opinion will probably be skewed towards the pulsating jugular.

He grimaces slightly. "But you only know two. And that Nicodemus has got to be the biggest moron in the history of magic."

I have to agree with him. Who in their right mind would choose to become a vampire for Merlin's sake? I know he helped us solve Baz's mum's murder, but he didn't stop the attack. And those vampires killed Baz's mum and Turned Baz that day. And that attack started the wars with the dark creatures and put the Mage into power. I can never forgive him for any of that. He's nothing but a loser vampire who thought he could become some sort of super mage. He's nothing and people are dead. I push him from my mind. I don't want to think about him tonight, or any other night for that matter. I've thought about all that shite enough for a lifetime.

The week goes by too fast. I don't want it to end and I think my tail agrees because it wraps around Baz's waist all the time lately, whenever he isn't holding it anyway. And at night, I cocoon us under my wings and we talk about everything that has happened over the last six weeks since I left London. We talk until we fall asleep.

Micah had to move their lamp off their side table and spell the telly untouchable because my tail has started to wag like a dog whenever Baz is around. I never knew it could do that, usually it's wrapped around him or touching him, but ever since he arrived it wags wildly or thumps the ground whenever he comes into the room. And when it happens, Baz looks at me with a ridiculously self-satisfied expression on his face– it's nothing short of embarrassing. Sometimes I have to snog him just to wipe that smug smirk off his face. I usually try to ignore it.

He's on the phone constantly with Professor Bunce, and Fiona and even Daphne, planning the next stage. Gran calls every week to see how I'm doing and Baz sometimes chats with her about the Coven. She says he should seriously consider joining the Coven if a spot opens up and I'm starting to think that's a bloody good idea. Maybe if he joined instead of me I wouldn't be in this mess. I wouldn't be in this mess come to think of it. He should have joined instead of me.

PENNY

Micha decides to invite some of his colleagues for a barbeque. There's an important baseball game on the telly– the final of the World Series or whatever – and he wants to do something while Baz and Simon are both here. When I ask him which countries are playing he gives me an odd look and shakes his head. All I know is that Micah has commandeered the barbecue, (always a bit of a risk) so neither Simon nor I have to deal with dinner tonight.

Baz and Simon have been particularly helpful today, picking up the beer and ice, and tidying the flat with magic. Simon helped me with some salads and Baz whipped up a rather impressive Victoria Sponge for dessert. I knew he was working on perfecting those sour cherry scones but I don't know when he learned how to bake this well. Though I suspect he's had to with Simon as a husband.

Addy tagged along with a few of Micah's colleagues that were actually invited. Baz met them at the pub the other night, and Simon already met them on our previous visits to the pub, even if he was half cut at the time, so it seemed like a good fit. Addy seems to be behaving herself now that Baz is here, and Simon is steering clear of her at any rate.

Our guests are milling around the telly while Baz and I add the finishing touches to the assortment of salads. Simon is helping Micah cook the barbecue on the balcony. Micah is explaining some of the baseball plays to Simon while they watch over the meat.

". . . A sacrifice bunt is where a batter bunts the ball before there are two outs so the runners can advance to the next base," Micah explains, not for the first time. "They usually get out, hence the sacrifice."

Simon is frowning. "Why?"

"So the runners can make it to the next base."

"Why?"

He's messing with his curls like he does when he's not sure of something, and I watch on, bemused. I wonder when Micah will figure out it's a lost cause. I think Baz and Agatha spent an entire afternoon trying to explain the game to Simon one time.

"To help their chances to return players to base," Micah repeats as he turns the skewers. He has the patience of a saint.

"Huh," Simon says, poking at the steaks and flipping some burgers. "So they get out intentionally?"

"They don't always get out, if they can out-run the fielder they can still make it to first base."

"But if they don't?"

"Then they get out."

Simon shakes his head, he looks nonplussed. "It's not like cricket is it? You would never see the batsman sacrifice themselves in cricket."

"No, it's nothing like cricket," Micah agrees, indulgent as always.

"And why do they call it World Series baseball?" Simon questions. "It not a World Series, not like cricket. Or football. There are no other countries involved, are there?"

"No, it's not a world series per se," Micah agrees. "It's the annual championships."

"Then why don't they call it that?"

"Tradition," Micah shrugs.

I can see Simon shake his head and scoff from here. I thought exactly the same thing when I first arrived.

They finish cooking and bring in a large tray of cooked meat. Everyone Oooh's and Aaah's over the food as if it's something amazing but really it's just a barbecue for snakes sake. They continue to gush as they make up their plates and then find a spot to watch the game. Simon takes the corner of the sofa (far away from Addy), and Baz is right behind him, sitting next to Simon with his knee pressed firmly against his husband's. I catch Baz's eye and give him a pointed eye roll, which he answers with a sneer as he shifts even closer to Simon.

Baz picks at his half empty plate while the rest of us make our way through the delicious lunch. He stealthily passes it to Simon to finish off and Simon grins and hoes into it like there's no tomorrow. It's like he's forgotten there's a table load of food only a few metres away. I take a second plate and decide Simon must have imparted some cooking tips onto Micah while they were outside because this tastes pretty good, much better than Micah's usual attempts.

We watch the game. Baz and the others seem to get into it, but Simon looking as bored as me so when he looks over again I tip my head towards the balcony and rise out of my seat. He nods and picks up his beer and follows me out, stopping to pick up a chicken skewer on the way.

"World Series, what a load of shite," he exhales once we're out of range. We're leaning on the railing with our backs to the game, looking at the view. (Nothing spectacular, just more apartments and roads.)

"It's not cricket," I agree, nudging his elbow.

He's already finished the chicken and dumps the empty skewer next to the barbecue. "Yeah, I feel like a right twit whenever I watch it. I just don't get it."

He wipes his hands down his jeans and I roll my eyes, waving my ring to get rid of the smear he left.

"It takes time Simon," I shrug, not really interested, I find both sports as dull as dishwater. Give me a good book and a cup of tea any day. But I do watch Micah play sometimes – if the weather is fine and I don't have any other excuses – so I understand the game well enough by now. "Baz seems to be enjoying it . . . although it's probably those snug knickerbocker things."

"Hey!"

I snort back a laugh and Simon gives me a sideways look, sniggering quietly.

"So you and Baz doing all right now?" I've hardly had time alone with Simon this past week, he and Baz seem to be permanently attached at the hip ever since Baz arrived. I'm fairly confident things are all right between them but I want to hear him say it.

"Yeah Pen, we're good," he smiles as he nudges my shoulder. "You and Micah?"

"You know we're fine," I drawl. And we are, we're more than fine actually, the last two years since our wedding have been nothing short of wonderful.

He drinks some of his beer, turns to look at me, frowns. "How did you do it Pen? Keep everything all right between you when you were at home and he was here?"

I shrug my shoulders. "A great deal of trust and a very busy schedule."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. And loads of phone sex."

His eyes go wide and he blushes immediately. "Penny!" The tips of his ears turn pink.

"I'm kidding! Honestly Simon. . . I guess we were used to it. It was like that from the start, after his exchange programme finished at Watford. And we were so young that it kind of wasn't as big an issue," I tell him truthfully. "As we got older it did get a little more difficult, but we were committed by then."

"In it for the long haul?"

"Yes." I think back to all those months between visits, and how it was when everything happened. Thank magic that's over with now. I don't think I'd cope with another long separation. "And it was a very long haul."

He huffs and frowns as he takes another sip of his beer. I sip my wine.

"You just have to hang in there Simon. Think of it like that baseball bunting thing."

"Huh?" He looks at me, surprised that I heard their conversation. But it wasn't that difficult, our apartment isn't that big. (Thank magic for soundproofing spells.) (And thank magic those two know soundproofing spells.)

"You know, make the sacrifice in the short term for your long term happiness, or some shit."

He scoffs at me. "You're such a romantic. I don't know how Micah can handle it."

I give his shoulder a good solid wack and his tail whacks me back.

"Ow Simon! Your tail is really hard." I rub my shoulder where it hit, the skin still stinging slightly.

"Sorry Penny!" He rubs my shoulder for me.

"It's all right, didn't really hurt. . . just shocked me a bit." And I smile at him so he knows I mean it. We glance back at the lounge room, at the group gathered there. "At least Addy seems to have given up on you."

"Thank snakes for that," he mumbles, his eyes still on the living room. "But I don't think she was really into me, looks like she's got her eye on Baz at the moment."

I take another look and sure enough Addy has moved next to Baz is chatting animatedly with him. He has that trademark look of disdain on his face and I do believe he's only moments away from rolling his eyes and cutting her down with some malicious remark. He's so close to sneering I can almost sense it. I bet it won't take long, he just can't help himself. I keep watching, it's bound to be soon . . . wait . . . and there it is. Simon and I turn back to face each other, I swallow down a giggle as he snorts back a laugh.

We stare out at the boring view for a bit longer, and I catch him frowning which hopefully means he's thinking about what I said. I just hope it sinks in this time and they don't lose it again when Baz flies back to London. We drink in silence.

When he finishes his beer he turns to face me, watching while I finish my wine.

"C'mon, let's sneak a piece of Baz's fancy Victoria Sponge," he says when I take my last sip. His eyes are twinkling and he's grinning mischievously. "He'll go barmy when he goes to serve it with a big wedge missing." He pulls himself away from the balcony, already heading inside.

I snort back another laugh as I follow him. "Brilliant idea, Simon." I love watching Baz lose his shit.

SIMON

Baz ends up staying for another week. I don't know if he was planning to or if I talked him into it but I'm not complaining. We spend most of it in the apartment, in my room, in bed. Every morning we hide under the duvet, and as soon as Micah and Penny leave for work, either Baz pounces on me or I attack him and it's like our first summer all over again.

"Just like old times," Baz murmurs after a particularly enjoyable hour.

"Mmmm?" I'm not quite asleep but my eyes are closed and I'm feeling extremely content. He's running his fingers lightly along my skin to my stomach, tracing circles around my belly button and then back up again, leaving a trail of deliciously cool skin in his wake.

"Like our duvet days," he murmurs.

"Week," I correct him.

"Hmm?"

"This would be a duvet week," I tell him. I open one eye and grin up at him. He's up on one elbow, looking down at me, his matted hair falling around his face in messy waves. I tuck a lose lock behind his ear.

"When this is all over we're going to have a duvet fucking month," he says absently, still running his fingers across my skin. He leans down and starts nuzzling at my neck and snakes alive, it feels good. So good. Like, I think I might spontaneously combust any second now good.

"Duvet fucking month?" I question, my voice sounding decidedly uneven. Somewhere in my mind I wonder if he can tell.

"Figuratively speaking," he murmurs. He sounds far away as he goes back to nuzzling my neck, placing small kisses up behind my ear. He runs his fingers lightly up the length of my body and ghosts them up my arm and though the palm of my hand where he laces them through mine. I can feel my pulse quicken.

"I think you meant literally this time Baz," I manage to breathe out.

He stops what he's doing and stares down at me. His eyes widen briefly and then we're both laughing, our bodies convulsing together in a way that feels far too good to ignore. He must feel it as well because he stops laughing abruptly and crashes his mouth into mine and we're kissing again.

"Definitely literally," he whispers between searing kisses. In a flash he's climbing over me, descending on me, enveloping me completely as he pushes me further into the bed.

Chapter Text

BAZ

I return to the Micah-Bunce hovel of a flat later than usual. I went hunting further afield to feed tonight in search of something a little more appetising. There are plenty of squirrels around this time of year and they're decent enough, and I use hunting spells so it's quick work, but tonight I went in search of elk and that took more time.

I let myself into the flat without a sound, and after brushing my teeth and cleaning off I head quietly to Simon's room. I strip off my clothes and remember to cast Sound of Silence with my wand, discarding it silently on the bedside table when I'm done. We used to cast Silence is golden but this spell is more persistent. I found it on Simon's playlist not long after being forced to endured three excruciating nights of Eurovision, ("We used to watch it at the orphanage all the time," he claimed.) ("You're not in the orphanage anymore," I reminded him.) Simon and Bunce squabbling over the politics of jury voting preferences. ("Australia was robbed," he argued.) ("Australia's not even part of Europe," Bunce and I argued right back.) The annoying pop song was sandwiched between Shivers and Stayin' Alive.

We've used the silencing spell quite a lot since I arrived, and a hell of a lot more than we did when Simon lived with Bunce back in London. If only we'd thought of it sooner back then. . .

It's almost completely dark in his room save for a small sliver of moonlight peeking through the curtains. He leaves them slightly open for me, it's the unspoken acknowledgement of my kidnapping, and that after all the years I still detest absolute darkness. The soft blue hue spills across the duvet, and I can see Simon clearly thanks to it and my vampire night vision. He's lying on his side, pulled into a knot as usual, his wings and tail stretched out languorous behind him. The duvet is pushed down to his waist and his naked torso is pale and smooth in the dark. I watch him sleep. Lately, when he's awake he looks as if he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, but right now he looks calm and at peace with himself and the world, and he's beautiful.

I climb onto the bed and press my lips to his bare arm. He doesn't stir so I kiss him again, moving up to place a soft kiss on his shoulder. I kiss his collarbone, his warm neck, under his ear, gradually working my way up to his earlobe.

"Simon." I let my lips brush lightly against his ear as I whisper his name. He insists that I wake him when I return from my hunt each night and I gladly oblige.

"Baz?" he mumbles sleepily.

I kiss the underside of his jaw. "Yes love."

He turns without opening his eyes until he finds my mouth with his own. His lips soft as his hands move to find my cheeks, I know he's feeling the warmth there.

"Mmmm."

I push into his mouth. He lets me in and I trace his tongue with my own– it's warm like his kisses, and I drive down deeper. When he wakes fully he reaches for me, taking control as he pushes me onto my back, following until he's above me. He laces his fingers through mine as he presses me further into the bed.

He kisses me again and again, harder, more insistent. First on my mouth, and then moves to my jaw, my throat, my shoulder and I relish in every touch of his lips and they trail across my skin. When he's done he kisses his way back to a spot on my neck and I can feel him sucking at the skin there, leaving his mark. My heart is hammering furiously against my ribs as the feeling of his warm wet mouth pulling on skin threatens to take me over the edge. I make a sound somewhere in the back of my throat and roll my hips towards him, letting myself go as he works his magic on me.

SIMON

I love Baz like this– under my hands, barely in his mind and losing control fast. I love that I can make him feel like this with my hands, my fingers, my mouth. He's always needs to be in control of every situation, of himself especially, so having him like this is a gift.

I love it whenever he touches me too– our knees pressed against each other's while we watch telly, or holding my hand, absently stroking the back of it with his thumb while he reads one of his daft number of books. Or when he pushes up against me and presses his nose into my hair and his ice cold feet against my calves as we fall asleep. It feels like something I never thought I'd have. It feels like coming home.

I love touching him. I love the smooth silky feel of his hair as it slides through my fingers, dark as pitch and pretty as fuck. I love the feel of his muscles as they shift under me, hard and strong as I settle over him, on him. I love the feel of his cool skin against my own or under my hands as I trail them over his body. I love his mouth against mine. And I love touching him when he lets himself go like this, when he trusts completely and surrenders everything, brimming with so much love and lust and desire and want.

I watch him as his breath quickens and he lets out a series of low moans, each more rough and guttural than the last. His voice rasps as he tries but fails to say my name. "Si" is all he can manage in a breathy whisper. I take my time with him, slowly and deliberately bringing him to the brink as he arches up to me, and then I take him over the edge, watching, awed, as he comes undone, until he can finally, breathlessly whisper my name again.

BAZ

Simon makes his way back up to me and smiles as he runs his warm fingers along my cheek. I pull him closer and hum in response. He places a soft kiss on my lips and grins as he lies beside me, giving me time to recover. It takes a few minutes for me to catch my breath, for my heart to stop hammering as I bask in the aftermath of his delicious exploits and my body is still thrumming when I take Simon and press him into the bed.

Crowley I'm hungry for him.

I run my fingers along his arms and through his palms until our fingers intertwine, the cool weight of our wedding rings pressing firmly against each other. I love the feel of them, and the look of them – they're a constant reminder that I'm his, he's mine. Of our enduring, eternal love.

When I pin him to the bed, he smiles up at me, excited, expectant. I press my mouth to his and kiss him incessantly, relentlessly and he kisses back, just as hungry. Tonight I want to kiss him until he see stars.

We break for a breath before I kiss him again and then again, fiercely, mercilessly this time because he's mine. He's mine and I'm his and I have to take him as high as he took me. He wants me to and I need to and his body demands me to and we're just so fucking perfect for each other it's a wonder how we ever managed to stay apart for so fucking long. I drag my mouth from his and kiss all the moles on his beautiful face, his neck and his body, one by one, gliding my hands down to his waist to steady him as a tremor runs through his entire length. His skin is pale and washed out in the half light, and it's warm and soft and smells like cinnamon. I kiss every mole I find.

I can feel his heart pound under my hands, hear it thrum in his chest, urging me on, and when he lets out a long, quiet moan it's music to my ears. When I reach his stomach, he rolls his hips and arches up to me and I kiss the flat expanse of skin, his right hip, his left, lower. My fingers trace his thighs. I'm torturously slow tonight, taking him higher and higher with each deliberate move until he can't hold on any longer and finally, exquisitely surrenders. Coming for me, only for me.

After, when we're both sated and spent, blissed-out and blown apart, I wrap my arms around my love and watch him fall into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I can't stop smiling.

I don't think I've stopped smiling since Baz arrived. It's so good having him here. With me. We spend our days together and each night I fall asleep in his arms to the sound of his soft slow breaths. I wake to his soft kisses and semi-warm skin after he returns from hunting.

I haven't had a single nightmare.

It almost feels like us before any of this shit started, before I joined the Coven, before I started working even, when all I had to worry about was uni, my shifts at the café, Penny's weird dinner schedule, snogging Baz. Those were good days.

It's not like I don't like our life we have now– the one we had before I had to leave anyway. I do. I love living with Baz, even though he's a neat freak and says I hog the bed. I love going to Oxford on the weekend and I love his family. Hell's bells, I don't even mind going to his posh club every now and again and him beating me at tennis every time we do. And I like my job well enough, even if it is dealing with Normal environmental problems.

Penny's dad says us mages live in the same world as the Normals so their problems are our problems too, and we need to be part of the solution. But the absolute truth of it is I'd rather be working on sorting out the magickal environment, fixing the holes that I created.

Penny's dad says I need to spend some time working with the Normals first. He says there's a lot to be gained understanding the way they deal with the multitude of environmental issues facing their world. He also says I'm way to close to the problem, (which I probably am) and it could cloud my judgement, (which it probably would) and I don't have that much experience yet. I wanted to argue that last point given I made the holes in the first place, but I can't go back to the UK anyway so there's not much chance of me working with him any time soon, or going back to my job.

At least Baz can go home and keep his career going. He's almost finished his studies now and he's nearly a barrister for Merlin's sake. I'm so proud of him for that and for everything he's done for me, he's still doing for me, and one day after all this is over and he finishes his studies, he'll even get a job himself and go to work and earn a living like the rest of us.

Sometimes I wonder how he'll cope.

Penny and Micah are due back from work any minute. Baz is asleep on Penny's couch and the late afternoon sun is streaming into the living room through their big window, casting contrasting shadows and angles onto Baz's face. I'm trying to capture the light and shade of him on my sketch pad.

He must be really knackered to need an afternoon nap, but we did go for a long run today, and I have been keeping him up a lot at night lately. I missed him like mental when he was in London and I can't get enough of him now that he's here. Not that he seems to mind much, he's a pretty greedy vampire.

I'm squashed into the corner of the couch with Baz's feet on my lap. I've my sketch book resting on his feet and my pencils and charcoals strewn across the coffee table. It's all warm and comfortable and familiar, a lot like home.

I've drawn him a lot since he arrived. He says I draw him too much but I know he loves it, he even smooths down his hair whenever I start. Penny says I'm obsessed with him but that's nothing new– I've always been obsessed with him. Micah says nothing. I really like Micah, he's knows when to keep his opinions to himself.

I've just about finished this drawing of sleeping Baz. I've drawn sleeping Baz loads of times back at our flat. I've also drawn studying Baz, cooking Baz, reading Baz, sweaty Baz after football, and just showered Baz. Then there's pouting Baz and smiling Baz, and violin playing Baz, (One of my favourites.) and Baz lying on the lawn at Oxford looking sexy as fuck, (Also one of my favourites.) and bed Baz. (Actually that's my favourite.) (I've done loads of those.) Then there's a bunch of horny Baz, but most of those are unfinished.

I add a few pink highlights around his lips, (not too much, he's pretty much shades of black and grey) (with a little blue-green for his eyes) and then cast my eyes over the finished work. it feels done so I place the sketch book back on the coffee table, careful not to move too much so as not to wake him. I stretch out my arms and spine. My wings.

I watch Baz sleep for a bit. He's been out late every night hunting, and when he comes back he wakes me and, well, we don't get back to sleep for quite a while so he probably needs this catch up. My fingers are blackened from the charcoal and I'm just about to Clean as a whistle them when I get a better idea.

I lift his feet just enough to slide off the couch, placing them gently down when I'm off. I choose a soft black charcoal pencil from the coffee table and crawl as quietly as I can along the carpet, up to Baz's face. Very gently, I press the charcoal to his upper lip. I pull back and hold my breath. He doesn't wake so I do it again, this time fashioning a moustache with a few deft strokes. I hold still and watch him as he twitches his nose, but his eyes stay closed so I move to his chin and fashion a quick goatee. I've always wondered what he'd look like with a bit of growth but he'd never do it, he's far too vain. I finish his goatee and I'm just about to move back but I think of something else and quickly add a few more quick strokes below his bottom lip. After I admire my work for a bit, I back away and place the pencil back on the coffee table, spell my hands clean and head to the kitchen to start on dinner.

PENNY

Micah and I arrive home to the delightful smell of Simon's cooking. We find Baz asleep on the sofa, so we tip toe head past him to the kitchen. I want to see what Simon's whipped up tonight– whatever it is smells absolutely delicious.

We make it half way across the living room when Micha pulls at my arm. I look back at him and mouth what's wrong? He's grinning as he tips his head in Baz's direction and I snort back a laugh and only just manage to make it to the kitchen before any sound comes out. Once we're a safe distance away I ask the obvious.

"What did you do to Baz?"

Simon shrugs as he moves around the kitchen. "Art."

"You know, that kinda suits him," Micah shrugs. He pulls a few beers out of the fridge and hands one to Simon. "Cheers."

I dig out the half finished Zinfandel from the fridge and pour myself a glass. Baz and I had a glass last night and I figure we'll finish it tonight. "He's going to kill you."

Simon shrugs again as he leans back on the counter and takes another sip of his beer. Micah slides up next to him. Simon enquires about our day.

"It was good," I tell him, taking a sip of my wine. Baz picked it up the other day, he said it's from the Napa Valley, I like it. "We've identified a magickal herb from South America that could have some regenerative properties."

"Yeah?"

"Yes," I go on, still tickled pink with our discovery. "It's really obscure, not even referenced in any magickal medical books as far as we know . . ."

Simon places his beer down and starts setting the table. "Mmhmm."

". . . and if synthesized correctly, it could be used to develop a regenerative medicine that could repair the damaged pixoid gland . . ."

"Really?"

"Uh huh," I continue, warming to the topic. "And that would to enable production of pixitosen hormone again which is absolutely vital for the manufacture of pixie dust within the gland. . ."

"But it's a long shot," Micah adds. "We've already investigated a number of other magickal herbs that failed to provide any healing qualities . . ."

SIMON

I have no idea what Penny's on about but I nod as she tells me about her day. She put down her glass a while ago and is waving her hands around the way she does when she's excited or angry. I'm assuming she's excited this time. It all sounds terribly important, a lot more important than what I did today, or any other day I've been here for that matter.

PENNY

I realise at some point during my lecture that Simon has no clue what we're on about. I think he stopped listening a while ago.

". . . and that means tails that wag stupidly whenever their other half enters the room will be mandatory magickal accessories for all young mages in the new millennia. . ."

"Uh huh," Simon says, skilfully removing the Beef Wellington from the oven.

"Yeah," Micah adds, smiling. "And baseball has just replaced cricket in England as the official summer sport."

"Wait. What?" he splutters.

I chuckle as we sit down at the table. Simon pokes me in the ribs as he goes to wake Baz. "I was listening Penny," he grumbles on the way past, "Something about pixie dust and plants."

BAZ

I wake to blue eyes and bronze curls.

"Dinner Baz," Simon says. His voice is soft and his beautiful face is just inches from my own. I want to pull him in close and kiss those soft, warm lips, but before I can he straightens and steps back. "Penny and Micah are here and dinner's ready."

I didn't realise how tired I was, but with all the midnight fucking Simon and I have gotten in the habit of lately I've hardly had much sleep. Not that I mind, I'd rather be doing that than sleeping any time.

I debate whether to tell them to fuck dinner but I can smell Simon's Beef Wellington and I know he's gone to a lot of trouble. I get up instead and stretch towards the ceiling to iron out the cricks in my spine from the ridiculously uncomfortable sofa, and then pad in my stocking feet to the table.

"Hey Baz!" Micah says, cheerful as ever. His eyes are wide and he's wearing a idiotic grin. He always smiles a lot, and is extremely polite whenever I speak with him, but he's not usually this happy to see me. I assume he had a good day, maybe even a startling discovery in their research.

"Baz!" Bunce says, just as excited. She's smiling weirdly as well. Definitely a breakthrough. "Good sleep?"

"Hello, and yes it was fine." I suppose it was fine, as far as afternoon naps go.

Simon serves up the beef with green beans and broccoli on the side and Micah pours the wine, and I'm about to take a sip but something's off – they're all grinning at me, looking more than a little foolish.

"What?"

"Nothing," Bunce mumbles before dropping her head. She starts on her dinner without looking back up. I glance at Micah and he's also smiling, but that's not unusual, happy little American that he is. I turn to Simon and he averts his eyes as well, smiling like he's trying not to. Something's definitely up.

We eat in silence for a while, silence peppered with stunted snorts and sniggers that I elect to ignore. The beef is extremely good and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy Simon's take on it. I take another mouthful and Bunce snorts again. She picks up her glass of water and takes a drink.

"All right what?" I say as nonchalantly as I can through my lisp.

Bunce shakes her head and tries to hold in a snort but fails spectacularly when water shoots out of her nose. Simon burst out laughing while Micah hands her a napkin, sniggering as well. It was amusing I suppose, but it wasn't that funny. (All right maybe it was.)

"So," Micah says, still grinning like a fool. "What did you two do today?"

Simon blushes so he's no help. He's probably thinking about what we did all morning. Luckily we went out to pick up the ingredients for dinner otherwise what could we possibly tell them? That we shagged ourselves stupid all morning, showered and then did it again? I don't think they want to hear that. "We went foraging for dinner," I tell them instead.

Bunce looks rather smug, even though she's still grinning idiotically and has water dripping off her nose. "That took all day?"

I give her a long, cool look. "Not all day." I let her make of that what she wants. She knows full well what we did today, she lived with Simon for three years and caught us at it more times than Simon cares to remember. It used to embarrass him no end.

Simon and Micah snort back more laughter and drop their heads. What is it with them today? They continue to grin all throughout dinner and Simon finishes his second serve, still grinning. I don't know how much longer I can tolerate their unruly behaviour.

Bunce snorts again and Simon follows suit. I drop my cutlery with a clatter. "All right what's going on?"

This time their titters turn to snorts and then peals of outright laughter. I stand, ready to interrogate them further, and that's when I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window.

"Who. Drew. On my face?"

They're outright laughing now, so I give them my best sneer and wait as the laughter turns to stunted sniggers, then snorts until it finally tapers out. But they don't answer, and they're still avoiding my eyes.

"I think it suits you," Micah says, finally looking up. This sets Bunce and Simon off again, laughing harder than before. Bunce wipes her eyes.

I ignore them all and take another look at my reflection instead. Hmmm, not bad. I always wondered what I would look like with some facial hair. I think I look rather distinguished. (Of course I do, I'm extremely good looking.)

I admire my face a while longer, but they're laughing again, and that won't do. I take the opportunity to rearrange my face before turning to glare at Simon. "Your doing Sn– Simon?"

His eyes widen in shock as he registers my almost use of his surname. I vowed I would never call him that again at our wedding and I've never slipped up. Ever. Two years without so much as hankering to call him Snow only to be almost outdone by something as simpleminded as this. Something so typically Simon. I stare him down.

He recovers quickly. "I don't know what you're talking about," he says, attempting an innocent smile and failing completely to pull it off.

I take another look, this time turning my face from side to side, and that's when I catch a glimpse of two long upside triangles drawn neatly below my lip.

"Fangs? That's hardly original."

"No idea," he says, still trying not to smile, "What you're talking about."

"You'll pay for this," I threaten, my voice menacing. Well, as menacing as it can be under the circumstances. It's a little difficult to sound all that threatening when you're absolutely sick in love with your intended victim. And I'm out of practice, I don't know how I managed it all those years at Watford.

He stands from the table and backs up toward the living room, shaking his head and trying to hold back a smile.

I take a step toward him, staring him down. He takes another step back, chin raised in defiance.

PENNY

Simon turns and races out of the living room and heads towards his bedroom, but Baz moves so fast that he's just a blur and he's on Simon before I can even blink. I don't know why Simon bothers to run; no one can outrun a vampire for Morgana's sake. Baz has Simon pushed up against his bedroom door in seconds and I don't know when he picked up the charcoal pencils but he's doing something to Simon's face.

I debate whether to go back to my dinner but this is entertaining enough.

Simon is spluttering. "Wait . . . stop . . . Baz that tickles." Hmm, I didn't know Simon was ticklish. I wonder if I can use that sometime?

"You're going to pay for this Simon," Baz says smooth as ever.

Simon is huffing and squirming and trying to move his head but Baz has him pinned with one hand. It looks effortless– I guess he really is that strong.

"What are you . . . stop . . . he he . . . Merlin that tickles . . ." Simon's pretty strong himself but it looks like he can't move at all.

Baz pulls back a little to look at his work. "Hmmm, just a little more."

"Baz . . . he he . . . are you. . . are you drawing on my nose?"

"This is your cheek, Simon," Baz says, drawing something on Simon's cheek. "This is your nose." He licks Simon's nose.

Ugh, those two.

"Did you just lick my nose?"

"Wouldn't be the first time," Baz mutters, moving the pencil to Simon's nose. "Nor is it the only place I've licked."

Simon and I both cry out at once: "Baz!" Simon looks almost as embarrassed as I feel. His entire head has turned a deep shade of red.

"Too much information!" I shriek from the table. I cannot believe his audacity. Actually I can, I've learned the hard way that absolutely nothing fazes Baz.

Sometimes I think he's a little disturbed.

Micah laughs and finishes his dinner, I drain my glass with a few large swallows. Baz ignores us all and continues to draw on Simon. "Hold still . . . almost done. . . there."

He finally releases Simon and steps back to admire his handiwork so I take a quick look at Simon's face. It looks as if Baz has tried to draw a cat's face – rather crudely – complete with whiskers and pink nose. I snort out a laugh because Baz, who's always first at everything, is the absolute the worst when it comes to art.

"Is that supposed to be a–?" I start to ask but Baz completely ignores everyone but Simon as usual. He throws Simon over his shoulder like he's not a fully grown man and disappears into Simon's room, slamming the door behind him.

I turn to Micah and raise my eyebrow.

"I don't think we'll be seeing those two for a while," he says with a shake of his head, serving himself another slice of Beef Wellington.

It's true. They'll be in there all night knowing those two. But I smile as I pour myself the last of the wine and finish dinner with Micah. When we're done, I wave my ring to clear up, storing the leftovers in the fridge for Simon to devour later. Since Baz arrived Simon has been so happy, and Baz is clearly over the moon as well. (Although he tries very hard not to let it show.) All they need to do is make it through however long this takes to fix and they'll be fine. I know it.

I just hope they do too.

BAZ

I throw Simon back onto his bed, grinning wickedly as I straddle him. I pull off his tee shirt easily and pin both of his hands above his head, holding them firmly in one of my hands, my vampire stealth and strength coming in quite handy today. He gasps as I lean over him.

"Baz? What are you doing?" He sounds nervous.

"Working," I mutter, and I start drawing a series of long lines, starting with those two moles on his neck, just under his left ear. I recall just how much they tortured me throughout my high school years. It's time to even the score.

"That tickles." He's squirming but I hold him in place with my thighs and one hand as I draw down his to his shoulders.

"Shhhh."

"What are you drawing?" He wriggles again but it's futile, there's no way he can escape my iron grip.

"Not drawing," I tell him as I reach his chest. I linger there for a moment, the pencil resting just above his heart as I admire the way his muscles tense and contract.

He squirms some more. "What are you doing then?"

I flit my eyes up to his and then back to the task at hand. "Dot to dot."

"What?"

"You know, connecting the dots. Or in your case moles." I try my hardest not to smile. "Now stop interrupting, I'm living out my fifth year fantasies here."

He huffs out a breathless laugh. "Go on. I want to hear more about these fifth year fantasies of yours."

I smirk but keep working. There's no way I'm ever telling him about those– a man should have some element of mystery after all. Not to mention they are rather embarrassing. . .

"How romantic," he teases when I don't say anything.

Simon eventually stops squirming and starts to relax. I let go of his hands and work my way down.

I place a kiss on his stomach. "It's very romantic," I tell his belly button. I stick my tongue in it and give it a lick and watch as his stomach convulses when he tries not to giggle. He's always been very ticklish, especially there and I recall exactly how delighted I was to discover that little piece of information. "Too many clothes," I mumble as I work to remove his jeans. I hesitate for a moment and then remove his pants as well, figuring I'll need full access if I'm to do this properly.

I sneak a peek at Simon's face– his hands are behind his head and his eyes are half closed and he's wearing a gorgeous half smile. (It's the only thing he's wearing.) I let my eyes trail over the rest of him; he looks magnificent in all his glory, stocky and strong, glorious firm muscles on display, his wings spread wide behind him. Even that ridiculous cartoon devil's tail is gorgeous when it's relaxed like this, the spaded end waving gently in the air next to him. Crowley he's a vision.

I finish my mental appraisal of his naked body and drag my eyes back to the pencil and get back to the task at hand. I take my time, working methodically. There are many, many of moles to connect. I've traced them with my fingers countless times and almost know them by heart. Still, I don't want to miss any.

It takes a while and when I'm done he's an absolute mess. It's intoxicating and I love it. (I love him.)

"There," I murmur, sitting up to admire my work. He slowly open his eyes– they're blown wide as he stares back at me and my breath hitches embarrassingly. He doesn't say anything at first, he simply reaches for the charcoals. But I'm still on top of him so I lace my fingers through his and pin him down again.

"My turn," he whispers, and he tries to raise a eyebrow suggestively, but doesn't pull it off as usual. It only makes him more adorable, especially with that ridiculous pink cat face. My heart is hammering in my chest and I try not to let him see just how much of a hold he has over me when he does that.

"You already had your turn," I remind him, turning my face from side to side.

He pushes me off him and onto my back. "Not finished."

I go willingly, and this time he straddles me and I can't help feeling secretly thrilled. Simon is the creative one after all, and I really do love it when he has all his attention focused on me.

He pulls off my jumper and shirt, and then removes my jeans and pants until I'm as bare as he is. Then he straddles me and starts working in earnest. I place my hands behind my head and watch his face as he works.

He's busying himself with my chest, leaning in and concentrating hard with his eyes half closed and his bottom lip between his teeth. His wings are spread wide and his tail is waving gently in the air behind him and it's a bit of work not to pull him down and snog him stupid.

I wonder what he's drawing? He's been at it a while so it must be a work of art of epic proportions. He has one hand flat on my chest and his other is working studiously next to it, drawing in careful, sweeping movements, followed by small scratchy touches. He pulls back to admire his work and swap colours every now and again, and then dives back into it. He looks beautiful, even with his crude cat face and completely covered in lines. I don't close my eyes. I watch him instead, becoming more aroused by the second.

He sits back one final time to admire his work and mumbles, "Done." He's been working for the better part of half an hour but I'm not complaining, it's been a very pleasant half hour.

"Why did you take off my jeans and pants if you only going to draw on my chest?"

He climbs off me and pulls me to the mirror. "Wanted to," he grins. I huff a soft laugh.

He turns from me and looks in the mirror, at the chaos of lines all over him. "Merlin Baz, what a bloody mess."

"You're a living dot to dot," I murmur against his ear, wrapping my arms around his waist and pulling him to me.

He takes a closer look at his face in the mirror, turning from side to side. "Am I supposed to be a– a cat?"

I shrug against him. "I don't know how to draw a dragon."

"It looks like your little brother drew it."

"You're the artist," I remind him and then I look at his handiwork. "What's this supposed to be?"

"Nothing," he shrugs, but a pink blush spreads across his cheeks all the way up to his ears. I look back towards the mirror and snort back a laugh.

He's written 'This vampire belongs to Simon Snow' across my chest in the neatest script I've ever seen him use, completely surrounded in elaborate embellishments and flourishes fit for a Royal decree. It's completely at odds with his messy, almost illegible animalistic scrawl I usually have to decipher. Who would have thought he could write like this if he set his mind to it.

I brush my fingers lightly over the work as I stare at Simon through the mirror. "It's true," I tell him and he grins at me.

I take another look and see he's added a small caricature of me under the word 'vampire', complete with a goatee and fangs.

"Nice touch." I laugh, pulling him back to bed. I grab my wand off the bedside table. "Shall we clean off?"

"What? No!" he practically yells. He snatches my wand and drops it on the floor before pushing me onto the bed, crawling over me until he's above me. He leans down and I reach up for his mouth and we're finally kissing, our tongues sliding together, warm and wet. Hungry.

I catch a glimpse of his face, of the black and pink smearing into a ridiculous mess of colour, and somewhere, in a deep dark part of my mind, I decide to make it my mission tonight to find out exactly how far our two works of art can coalesce.

Chapter Text

BAZ

I poke Simon in the ribs. "Come on Simon, I'm leaving soon so we need to make each day count."

I'm trying to get him out of bed but it's proving to be a task. After our extremely enjoyable evening of body art last night, it's time to get out of this room. I have the entire day organised and he's threatening to derail my plans by not budging.

He grins at me. "We can make it count right here in bed."

"We've already done that," I remind him. "A lot."

I'm sitting up, leaning back against the headboard looking down on a mass of messy golden curls and twinkling blue eyes. Simon grins wider and pulls me down for a long, lingering kiss that I thoroughly sink into, and I have to remind myself again that I made plans.

"Come on Simon," I try again when he finally releases my mouth. I add a little pout this time. "I have the entire day planned."

He pokes at my mouth with his finger. "We're not going to visit another museum are we?" We did that the last time we were in New York, and Paris, and Florence and right here in New Haven. And I've dragged him around a fair few in London as well.

"No."

"Or art gallery?" Again, we've spent days wandering through the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, the Saatchi, the V& A and quite a few others at home. In Paris we visited the Louvre, the Musee d'orsay and more, and we spent a day wandering through MoMA last time we were in New York. And I dragged him to the Yale Art Gallery and Centre for British Art last week, although why we bothered with the last one is beyond me.

"Not today."

He furrows his brow, tries to come up with a reason not to get up. "Um. . . will there be food?" He hasn't had breakfast yet so it's obviously playing on his mind.

I roll my eyes and try not to smile. "Yes love, there will be food."

This seems to spark his interest and he props himself up on his elbows. Slight progress. "What sort of food?"

"Crowley Simon, whatever you like." I have no idea but I'm sure it's not that difficult, we're going to New York.

"Can we get those muffins again?" he asks, beginning to relent.

"Yes Simon, if you want," I appease. I swear it's like trying to convince a child.

"And cheesecake?"

"As well?"

He raises his eyebrows, expectant, and I instantly cave. "All right, if you must," I sigh. It comes out a little more dramatic than strictly necessary.

He scrunches up his face, trying not to smile, desperate to come up with another reason to delay. His eyes light up when he thinks of something else. "And will there be sex?" It comes out adorably bashful.

"We just had sex."

He raises his eyebrows again and I feel a blush coming on.

"Yes, my insatiable husband. Lots and lots of sex. All right?" I wasn't planning this part and wonder just how the hell I'm going to fit this into our day. I'll just have to be a little creative I suppose.

He grins. "All right then, why didn't you say so." And with that he jumps out of bed and saunters off to the shower, completely oblivious to the fact that Bunce and Micah haven't left for work yet.

"Simon, put some clothes on!"

"Sorry Penny!"

By the time we finish showering and enjoy one of our very few breakfasts with Bunce and Micah we're already running late. We both end up having to cast Make way for the King quite a few times to help us get to New York on time.

SIMON

My eyes light up as I realise Baz got us tickets to a baseball game. We've parked in the enormous car park and we're heading to our seats and I remember the last time we were in New York for Penny and Micah's wedding, when Baz and I and Agatha and Josh came to a game. I enjoyed watching the game even though I didn't really understand the rules. Josh tried to explain it, and Baz tried to explain it and even Agatha tried but it just didn't make a lot of sense to me. Still, it was a good day.

"We need merchandise," I tell Baz as we head towards the entrance. He rolls his eyes as I pull him towards the shop, but lets himself be dragged along. I pick out the cheesiest tee shirt I can find for Baz, in pink. I hold it up against him.

"I'm not wearing that," he scoffs.

"What about a jersey?"

"What are we, twelve?"

"Cap?"

"Nope, I want to wear my slouch beanie that my wonderful husband gave me. " He adjusts the lilac dome lower over his head. He's given up trying to tame the waves out of his hair and has taken to wearing the beanie everywhere instead.

I smile at my absurdly romantic husband. "Socks?"

He shakes his head. "You're the one with the sock fetish."

I'm about to disagree with that– I don't think I have a sock fetish exactly, I just like my personalised socks. And they usually end up on Baz's feet during the night anyway because of his heat challenged body.

If anything I probably have a Baz fetish. I'm not really sure if that is even a thing but I reckon I have it, especially after this last fortnight. But the game's about to start and he's the fussiest dresser I know, I need to stay focused.

"What then?" Or maybe it's a Baz's skin fetish. I really like the feel of his skin.

He looks through all of the merchandise and finds a black tee shirt for him and a blue one for me. "These are the least ridiculous items they have."

I really like the taste of his skin so it's probably a skin fetish. And his mouth, I really like the taste of his mouth as well. Is that another fetish? I'm getting off track again. I need to focus.

He thrusts the tee shirts at the cashier, completely oblivious to my musings.

Once we're seated I pull my new tee shirt over my head and make him wear his as well, then I take his hand and settle in for the game, trying not to think about his skin again. Or his mouth.

The game is less confusing than last time. I've been to a few of Micah's games now so I'm starting to get it, and I even notice when the player does that sacrificial bunting thing. We have a few beers and I clap whenever someone hits it long or makes it home and I eat some stuff on a stick that Baz thinks is disgusting.

BAZ

I drive us to a little restaurant that Micah told me about. It's casual enough for our baseball attire but has a decent menu, and large enough serves that will surely appease Simon, even though he ate enough at the game for the both of us. We order antipasti and wood oven pizza and spaghetti and crusty bread and a bottle of wine and we talk and laugh and order another bottle of wine and before we know it we're well on our way to getting completely sloshed.

"I have to stop drinking. I need to drive us back," I remind him as I push my half empty wine glass away from me.

"Don't worry about it," he says, waving his hand at my face. "Agatha's parents used to cast that spell to drive their cars home for them whenever they got too trolleyed to drive themselves. Did it every Christmas Eve."

We're having a good time and if Simon's going to spell the car home then so be it. "All right," I agree and finish the last of the wine. We move to a decent looking bar across the street and start with gin and tonics and Simon tries a couple of craft beers while I order a pink gin spritz.

He leans heavily onto the bar. "That's the shtupidest drink I've ever heard of." His words are starting to slur.

"Well technically one should drink a spritz before the meal. . ."

"Is stupidest even a word?" Simon mumbles, ignoring my sagacious insight into the world of aperitifs.

"It's a superlative adjective," I tell him automatically. Crowley I have no idea where I pulled that fascinating fact from. Why do I even remember this?

"I think you jusht made that up," he shrugs, trying to stand without the bar for support. It doesn't work.

"I can assure you I did not." I think it has something to do with the fact that I'm a near genius. Yes that must be it.

"And I think you made up that drink too," he says, nodding at my elaborately decorated glass.

I try not to smile but my cheeks hurt so I don't think I pull it off. "I did not."

"It's a shtupid drink. Maybe you should get a Bloody Mary next, more in keeping with that dark brooding vamp image you've got going. . ."

I ignore him and drink my spritz – I like it. And I absolutely ignore his feeble attempt at vampire humour. (Bloody Fiona) I need to take a piss anyway so I leave him against the bar while I negotiate my way gingerly to the men's room. After I stare at the weird symbols on the doors for a while, I take my chance and enter the one that could be construed as masculine. Why can't they just use words anymore?

I return to find Simon leaning heavily onto the bar, chatting to the barman. ". . . So a vampire and a dragon walk into a bar right?"

"Yes sir," the barman nods politely as he hands Simon another beer.

"And the barman goes 'What'll it be?'" Simon grins idiotically and takes another pull from his beer. "And the vampire goes, he goes . . . um, hey Baz? What's the name of that drink of yours again?"

I think it's time we left.

It's dark by the time we head back to the car, and when the cool air hits me as we step outside, I realise I'm a great deal more intoxicated than I first thought. Simon wraps his arm around my shoulder and I have my arm around his waist while I guide us to where I think I left the car. When he leans into me to kiss my cheek, it threatens to tip us over onto the pavement.

It's been years since we've been drunk together and I'd forgotten how messy Simon gets. His golden curls are askew and his ridiculous tail is wrapped around my wrist and he's slobbering on my cheek in the most adorable fashion. I help Simon into the car and walk around to the driver's side, grinning as I cast my mind back over the years.

"Someone stole the steering wheel Baz!" he shouts as he slides into the passenger seat.

"It's all right, I have it," I tell him as I drop inelegantly into the driver's seat, gripping the steering wheel for support.

"Oh . . . right. Weird Americans. They do everything back to front."

I fumble with the key for a while, which turns out to be a card, which I bash uselessly at the dash, and when I turn to Simon for help, I become momentarily distracted because there are two of him facing me. Two Simons! Crowley, I'm living a charmed life. And I remember that the vehicle has a press button start.

Left Simon considers me seriously. "I think you're drunk, Baz."

I pull myself up to gain some height. "I am not."

They're both staring back at me, looking a little incredulous. "All right then. How many fingers am I holding up?" It's mesmerising how they can speak in sync like that.

"Sixteen," I nod confidently.

"You're completely shit faced Baz," they nod together. How do they do that?

"No I'm not."

"Yes you are," they nod again. I could watch them all day. They're still nodding as they take the card from my hand.

I slump back in my seat. I don't have the energy to argue the point right now. I'd rather a nice cup of tea and a lie down to be completely honest. And I'm still trying to figure out what gave me away.

I turn to face the two of them. "Right," I sigh. I think I'm swaying a little, or I could be swooning. It's not beneath me to swoon, especially when there are two Simons to swoon at. "You two need to cast that spell to get us home."

"I dunno it," the pair of Simons say, looking a little surprised at my request. "I thought you did?" Then they hiccup and chuckle.

"I've never heard of it," I tell the pair. I'm not sure which one I should focus on, they both look impossibly handsome right now, albeit a little drunk. "This was your idea Simon," I tell the one on the left, he seems the more attentive of the two. I nod at right Simon, just to confirm.

"I tol' you the Wellbeloves use it every Chrishmas Baz. I never said I knew it," they chuckle and shake their heads and I try to scowl at them but I can't seem to pull it off. It must be all the wine, or the gin, or one of the other concoctions Simon decided I needed to try.

"Well I don't know it. I've never needed it," I tell them. It's true too, I hardly ever drink. Apart from that night that ended with a Normal in my lounge room I don't normally partake in more than one glass, two tops. I'm fairly certain that there's something innately dangerous about an intoxicated vampire roaming the streets.

"Then I guess we're stuck 'ere," they chuckle in unison. "Anyway, the day's snot over yet. Still need muf'ns."

"Now?" I blink at right Simon, he seems to be the one in charge now.

"Yes. And then sec."

"Sec?"

"kz."

"Sex?"

"Thassit."

Of course he wouldn't forget either of those. I try to roll my eyes but it hurts my brain. "Of course."

"Dealz a deal Bazzz," they slur in sync. Both Simons try to wink and elbow me at the same time but they miss my arm and finally converge into one as the newly singular Simon almost clocks me in the head with his thick skull.

He fumbles his way out of the car and walks around to my side, swaying slightly as he waits for me to exit the car. Once I get the door open he pulls me out and leans against me.

"I know where the muf'n shop is," he nods, "Flew 'ere a fortnight ago." And with that he drags me down the block, and then another, and around a corner until we arrive at the shop. Typical. Simon cannot find his way around New Haven where he's lived for months but can sniff out a muffin shop from two years ago, while completely trolleyed.

We order a selection of muffins and two slices of cheesecake and a pumpkin mocha breve. Simon orders the smallest coffee on the menu and scoffs when it arrives and after he finally manages to pay, (waving my card at the coffee machine didn't seem to work) I drag him outside before he commences his diatribe on the art of espresso and commandeers the coffee machine.

"All right love," I say as we walk unsteadily down the street. "Let's find a place to stay."

"We're stayin 'ere?" He's already devoured one muffin and is starting on his second. He ditches the coffee without drinking it.

"Neither of us is in a state to drive back," I remind him. I check for the other Simon but it looks like he's gone for good. Pity. I take another sip of my pumpkin mocha breve, it tastes strange after all the alcohol so I follow Simon's lead and ditch it in the nearest rubbish bin. There are two of them and I think I'm seeing double again until I realise there actually are two rubbish bins. (I choose the one on the right.) "And we still have the last part of our agreement to fulfil."

He grins at my words, and even with a mouthful of raspberry muffin I can't help finding him as fetching as ever.

SIMON

"Baz?"

"Mmmm?" his voice is deep and quiet and thick with sleep.

Baz found this flash hotel on his mobile and booked us straight in. I'm not sure if he picked this one because it was the closest or the poshest but I'm not complaining, it's seems very nice. Well the bed is very nice anyway. I have no clue about the rest of the place because neither of us got to see very much. I dragged Baz into bed as soon as he closed the door. I'd been thinking of his mouth and his skin ever since the baseball game and it'd been driving me delirious with desire all day. We tried to kiss for a bit, and tried to take off each other's clothes but it all seemed like too much work. I let Baz take off my jeans and then promptly fell asleep.

I push myself up onto my elbow and look down at him but my head hurts so I drop back down again, groaning and feeling the beginnings of a hangover. Why did I drink that much? It always seems like a good idea at the time and I always forget about the after effects. Until after.

Baz sits up way too fast and then drops his head into his hands and groans as well. (Apparently vampires do indeed get hangovers.) He turns his head slightly and looks over at me.

"Hangover?" he mumbles and I give him a careful nod. He gropes around for his wand on the bedside table and points it at me. I nod once, gingerly, giving him permission to cast the spell because I still won't cast that spell on myself or anyone else, not since school. (It took Agatha weeks to recover.) (And to speak to me again.)

He casts, "Hair of the dog!" being careful not to overdo it. He's always careful when he uses his magic on me these days. Maybe it's because of the searing heat of it or maybe it's because he's actively not trying to curse me anymore. Either way, I like it.

I feel his magic now, the low burn, just before the point of uncomfortable as it runs through me. It always stings a little, a bit like heat rub or your skin after mild sunburn. It used to be really prickly but now it just feels hot but kind of nice. I feel it linger in my head and stomach for a minute as my hangover dissolves away and I remember again why I love magic so much. He casts the same spell on himself and then smiles at me, instantly recovered. He flops back onto the bed, discarding his wand on the floor somewhere.

I prop myself up on my elbow again and glance around the room, taking it in properly for the first time. It is a very nice room – posh and fancy just as I thought, and it's tidy too, except the lamp is on its side and my jeans are over the telly. Baz must have thrown them after he managed to peel them off.

I look down at both of us, I'm still wearing my pants and my personalised socks and he's still wearing his shirt (half undone) and jeans, and one sock. Baz managed to remove a lot more of my clothes than I did of his. Of course he did, he's still extremely talented even when he's completely bladdered. (And he's a bit of a show off.) I run my hand across his cheek and start playing with his hair, running my fingers through the soft smooth locks. He closes his eyes and hums.

"Thanks for organising today."

"You're welcome," he murmurs as he looks up at me through those sexy as fuck grey eyes, and I immediately remember we haven't completed everything on the list. I debate eating the cheesecake that's still somewhere around here but I decide to lean down to kiss him instead – first things first. He reaches up and kisses me back and I move to climb on top of him but he stops me.

"I have to hunt," he says, sounding a little embarrassed as he eases me back.

My eyes light up. "I'll come with you."

He shakes his head on the pillow. "You'll do no such thing."

I knew he'd say no but it was worth a try. I don't know why he wont let me see him hunt, or that he still feels uncomfortable even discussing it but he does. It's weird how after all this time, after everything, this still worries him. I roll my eyes at him and am about to argue my case but he bolts up and searches around for his other sock. He dresses quickly and kisses me and says he won't be long as he heads out the door.

I grab the slice of cheesecake and decide to check out the room service menu while I wait. A late night snack sounds like just the thing and I order off the menu. I move my jeans and turn on the telly and eat the cheesecake while I wait for food and Baz.

BAZ

I take a cab to Central Park and cast a hunting spell. The squirrels appear immediately and I thank magic because I don't want to be here, I want to be with Simon. I drain a few quickly and dispose of their carcasses thoughtfully, and then pick up the car from where we left it and head back to the hotel.

I enter our room to the smell of Shepherd's Pie, which is odd. We haven't had that since Oxford.

"I found this on the menu Baz!" Simon shouts across the room, grinning manically. He's sitting at the dining table with two places set, waiting for me, and I grin back, knowing only Simon can get this enthusiastic about a Shepherd's Pie. "I miss it."

We eat supper quickly, leaving the empty dishes outside the door and I return to see Simon stripping off the remainder of his clothes as he heads back to the bedroom. I peel off my clothes and follow, I have a promise to fulfil and I intend to fulfil it. Repeatedly.

Chapter Text

SIMON

Another meeting.

Penny and Micah are sitting at the kitchen table, their laptops open, and Baz and I are on ours on Penny's couch. There are now so many of us connecting to the meeting from remote locations that half the seats in the Oxford dining room are empty. Baz's dad set up a big flat screen telly with a camera and some remote meeting software so they can see us and every time someone speaks, their face pops up on every laptop and telly simultaneously. Right now, Baz, Penny, Micah, Agatha and I are little boxes at the bottom of my screen. It's pretty cool – a bit like magic.

"Hello to our American contingent," Daphne says, waving to us. "We miss you Simon."

Gran hoots out Helloooo and Mrs Wellbelove waves and gives us a polite Cheerio before Baz starts huffing. "Yes, yes, all right, enough with the pleasantries. Any resignations within the Coven yet?" He goes straight into meeting mode, impatient as ever.

It's Professor Bunce who answers him– she's just as businesslike as him. "No change yet Basil. But we hope there's some movement once Fiona releases the video of Velma's boys at the rally." She shuffles a load of papers in front of her. She always has a load of papers in front of her at these meetings, so has Baz. I've got a sandwich.

"That's going out tomorrow," Fiona chips in, "Along with Mordelia's petition." She's got an ash tray in front of her.

"There should be some very interesting reading in The Magickal Record over the next few days," Daphne gushes, and everyone mumbles in agreement. I feel my hopes start to rise because this could be it, this could finally be the turning point we've been waiting for.

"Good, good," Dr Wellbelove agrees. He turns to face the telly with the camera. "Perhaps you should come home Basil. If a position on the Coven opens up you should be here."

Oh, of course. We turn to look at each other and Baz takes my hand. When I give him a small nod, he almost smiles.

"My flight is in a few days," Baz answers, not letting go of my hand. "I'll be back soon enough. Anyway, they're hardly going to vote me onto the Coven while my husband has been banished, by the Coven."

"Yes I suppose that's true Basil. So we'll need another candidate to put up alongside you," Dr Wellbelove says. It's still strange hearing the Doc talk so genially with Baz, his dad, Fiona. Agatha told me once that the Doc hated the Pitches. Maybe that's why he got along with the Mage so well, or maybe it's because he's the only magickal doctor we have and the Mage was always turning up at odd ours of the night with weird hex-induced injuries. All I know is since Baz stopped the wars and Baz and I got together, and especially since Baz and Penny saved me from that fire, the Doc has a lot more time for him and his family.

"Good idea," Penny says. "Reggie and Alfie will most likely put up another candidate as well." I can hear her behind me as well as see her face pop up on my screen.

"That's right Penelope," the Doc agrees, "And their candidate won't necessarily need to be better suited than Baz to win the seat."

"No one's better suited than Baz," I say automatically, squeezing Baz's hand. I feel a lot more focused now that Baz is here, I feel like I'm actually keeping up with the meeting this time.

"Regardless Simon, we need someone else who's not directly associated with you," Penny says. "Just in case." I turn to look at her at the table and she shrugs at me.

"We need another young candidate . . . fresh blood, so to speak," Penny's dad says and I hear Baz scoff under his breath, the vampire in him just can't help it. I don't think anyone else heard but I give him a sideways look anyway. He smirks at me but shuts up. "Weren't we going to look at someone who was at the rally?"

Shit that's right, Baz and Daphne were going to look into it. I'd forgot all about it since Baz arrived. By the looks of it, so did he. At least I'm not the only one getting distracted here.

"That's right Martin," Dr Wellbelove agrees. "Any ideas anyone?"

Everyone's silent for a bit, and it's clear no one else has thought about it either. I start to feel disheartened again. If we can't find anyone to go up against Baz, Reggie will put someone up against him and that mage will get voted in over Baz because Baz is married to me and I'm a walking fucking disaster and then I'll be banished forever and I'll never get home and–

"How about Trixie?" Micah offers, pulling me from my rumination into banishment hell.

Baz is already staring at Micah by the time I turn to look at him, Penny is staring at him as well. Micah's nodding into his screen, completely oblivious of the three of us, even Penny, who's right next to him giving him such an incredulous look, it's as if he suggested we ask a goblin to stand. I flick my eyes over to Baz, he's almost sneering.

"The Pixie?" Fiona scoffs loudly, and Baz scoffs as well, not as loud but it sounds just as derisive. I give him a quick elbow in the ribs to shut him up. It hurts my elbow and he doesn't flinch at all because of his bloody stupid vampire strength.

"Yes," Micah goes on. "She's young, energetic, and very intelligent. I hear she was quite the activist at university."

Penny scoffs so hard she almost chokes. "How do you know that?"

Micah turns to face her directly. "Keris, her fiancée. She's a cousin of one of my magickal colleagues."

I rub my elbow and turn back to my laptop to check out everyone else's reaction. A miniature Fiona is scoffing and shaking her head. "A Pixie!"

Daphne's face pops up on my screen. "There's never been a Pixie on the Coven before." She says it with caution but there's no malice in it, it's more like she's stating a fact.

"There's a first time for everything," Penny's dad grins. "Penny she was your roommate, do you think you can talk with her, find out if she's interested?" He looks extremely pleased with the suggestion. I try not to grin.

"Best find out if she supports Simon first," Agatha suggests. I nod in agreement, smiling at Agatha through my screen. I catch Baz rolling his eyes and he stops when he sees me watching. He lets out a loud breath through his nose instead.

"She was at the rally–" he sighs, a tad too dramatically and sounding more than a little annoyed by this development.

"–So it's highly likely," Penny adds, just as reluctant. "But I'll check with her just in case." I can hear her sigh behind me and this time I do grin.

I know Penny doesn't want to talk with Trixie again, she'd had enough after seven and a half years sharing a room with her. She still hates pixie dust to this day, which is kind of funny given her research. She said it took months to get it out of all her stuff. (It didn't take that long, I was living with her at the time so I know it only took a few weeks, one month tops.)

Micah is smiling mildly at his screen and Baz is shaking his head at no one in particular, so is Fiona. I reckon they're both speciesist and I reckon Penny is too, or she just really, really had enough sharing a room with Trixie. I think Trixie's kind of cool.

"I think it's a great idea," I tell everyone. Baz gives me a sideways look and narrows his eyes but doesn't say anything. I shrug.

"Well you're going to have to cut out the footage of her at the rally, otherwise the Coven won't have a bar of her," Agatha pipes up again.

"Good point darling," Mrs Wellbelove says, reaching for a piece of cake. I don't know why she comes to these meetings. This is the first time she's spoken at any of them, other than to say hello and ask me how I'm doing. (And tell me how handsome I look.) (It's kind of embarrassing.) But I suppose she's here to support me and I appreciate it, even if she taunts me with Helen's cakes.

"We'll be releasing that this week so I'll do that before it goes out," Baz sighs. "And Trixie didn't show up in any of the photos The Magickal Record printed when they covered the story last week."

"That's because she's so short," Fiona snorts.

"Now now, Fiona," Dr Wellbelove sighs. He gives her a long-suffering look like she's a misbehaving child and not a fully grown forty something badass mage with a hoard of dead dark creatures to her name.

"What?" Fiona retorts, completely undeterred. "Have you ever seen a tall pixie?"

Dr Wellbelove shakes his head but ignores the question, turning to Gran instead. "Lady Salisbury, anything to report?"

"Luella and Odella are getting a little tired of the attention from the paper. Which may work in our favour," she tells the group. "We may well see two more resignations in the future. Although they could just be complaining, they do that quite a lot."

"Thank you for spending so much time with them Ruth," Professor Bunce says. "I know it can be quite vexing. Keep on it."

"Will do," Gran chimes. "And Alfie is as adamant as ever that Simon is the cause of the dead spots, so no change of heart there. So are Reggie, Wilbur and Huxley. Sorry Simon dear."

I tell her that it's okay. I never thought any of those twats would change their minds about this so this isn't news to me. I'm just grateful she's doing what she's doing, it must be driving her mental to have to spend so much time with that lot.

The discussion peters out and the meeting ends with a bunch of new actions about Trixie and The Record, and then there's a fuss of goodbyes and our screens go blank. I close my laptop and sit back, rubbing my palms into my eyes. I let out a long sigh and Baz does the same, rubbing his temples as he does.

He takes my hand again, rubbing his thumb across my wedding ring. I know what's coming and I know there's nothing to be done about it so I don't say anything. I like being with Baz and I like Baz being here. When we're together I don't think about all the shit that's going on, I don't feel alone and I don't worry about being alone. I feel grounded and safe. Home.

I know I shouldn't feel any different when we're apart because we're still together, and all this business of us being on other sides of the world is temporary, but I do. I can't help it.

I think it's good for him to be with me as well. When he's with me he's not stuck in his head, doubting himself. I don't have to worry that he's off brooding about being a vampire or despising the Mage or the Coven or tormenting himself that he won't be able to fix this.

I know him. I know he does it even though he's a master at masking his feelings. So I try not to let my feeling show either. It won't do either of us any good.

I lean my head towards him. "You have to go back?"

He leans against me until his hair brushes mine. "I do."

BAZ

All too soon it's time to leave. We sit in silence as I drive us back to the airport and drop off the car. I offer it again to Simon but he doesn't want it, saying he prefers to fly.

"It'll be much quicker Baz. And flying's a lot better for the environment you know."

I snort at that. "You do realise there are well over two hundred and sixty million registered vehicles in America?" I tell him as we make our way towards Departures. "One more won't make any difference."

He shrugs at that. "Everyone can make a difference."

I let it go.

We stop when we reach the gate and make small talk while we wait. My mind inadvertently shift back to when Simon left London at the start of all this, and even after these two glorious weeks together, the memory still makes me shudder.

In no time my flight is called and I turn him to face me. He hands me the bag of gifts for my family. "You haven't driven in America yet haven't you?"

He squares his shoulders and crosses his arms. "Not yet," he says, lifting his chin. "And I like flying."

He sounds defiant but I don't mind, I actually prefer him flying rather than risking an accident or getting lost on these foreign roads. "All right love. Just watch out for low flying objects . . . like birds . . . and planes."

"Or bats?" he offers. I snort out a laugh and wave my wand, casting a quiet "Nothing to see here!" I wish I didn't have to cast that spell– I want to be able to kiss my husband a passionate goodbye like anyone else, but this world's not quite there yet. I wonder how the Normals cope? I thank magic for magic and pull him in for a tight hug, painfully aware that it's going to be another long time before I get to hold him again. He hugs me back tight and I breathe him in as we hold each other.

"Baz?"

"Mmmm?"

"Let's not do what we did last time, before you came here."

I pull back so I can see his face. "What's that?"

He bites his bottom lip, looks at me, hesitant. "Fall apart?"

I let out a breath and gaze into his stunningly ordinary blue eyes. "I promise I won't fall apart Simon."

He nods at that. "Neither will I. I love you Baz, and I'm going to miss you."

"I love you Simon. And I'm going to miss you more."

"All right," he says. "Now kiss me and go."

And I do. I kiss my beautiful, brave husband goodbye and drag my wretched self back to London. Alone.

Chapter Text

PENNY

After six blissful years away from my annoying roommate I now find myself on the phone with Trixie, listening to her shrill voice as she recounts every single thing she's done since we parted ways. And it's all thanks to my darling husband. It was Micah's brilliant idea to ask Trixie to serve on the Coven, and he came up with that brilliant idea thanks to her girlfriend Keris – or fiancée rather, because her cousin is a magickal colleague of Micah's. The world of mages really is annoyingly small sometimes.

We talk for a while before I broach the subject of the Coven. She tells me about her studies and her work and Keris' work, and when I tell her about my work she squeals excitedly and says she's very interested in our research. Her aunt on her mother's side was recently sectioned after suffering from pixie sticks for years, so it turns out Trixie is rather grateful to both Micah and myself, pledging her support in any way she can. She even tables the idea to move towards a more unified approach between the two nations, and after a while I find I'm enjoying our conversation, much to my surprise.

By the time we get to talking about Simon she's so riled up that she tells me without prompting that she's entirely against his banishment and those who banished him should be called to account "Right this very minute!" I mention I saw footage of her rallying outside the Coven.

"Of course I was there! What happened to Simon is a travesty! It's terrible! And it's absolutely unjustified! We need to make the Coven see reason!" she squeaks through the phone. Pixies tend to squeak or squawk when they get excited, which is most of the time as far as I can tell. They're an easily excitable species, and they often spout pixie dust to make their point. I'm glad I'm doing this on my mobile.

"I agree!" I say, trying to sound just as excited. I don't tend to squeak or squawk in general but I'm trying to keep her on side.

"It's so unfair!" she squeaks. "What can we do to help Simon!"

"We need to bring him home!"

"Yes I agree. But how!"

"We need more like minded members on the Coven, that's how!" I say, trying a squawk.

"Yes!" Trixie squeals. Pixies squeal too. I hold my mobile away from my ear.

"Perhaps you should join the Coven, Trixie." I tell her. "You have just the skills they need! I understand you had quite a reputation for being active on campus!"

"The Coven!" she squawks. "Me on the Coven!?"

"Yes!" I take a sip of water, my throat is starting to hurt. "Why not Trixie? You'd be wonderful! And with your legal background, you'd be ideal!"

"But there's never been a Pixie on the Coven before!"

"I know! We can fix two injustices at once! And add a bit of diversity to boot! Imagine that!"

"I'll have a think about it Penelope! What with work and all! I'll have a word with Keris!"

"Yes you do that!"

"All right I will!"

"Talk to you soon!" I squawk one final time before we say our goodbyes.

I hang up and close my eyes for a moment. I feel drained and wrung out and when I open them again, both Micah and Simon are staring at me.

Simon especially is frowning at me, looking at me like I'm a complete idiot. "What was that?" he asks.

"That was me trying to get you home!" I tell him as I flop down next to him on the couch. "So don't complain!"

"You still sound like a pixie," he says.

I swat his arm.

Baz flew back to London yesterday and we've been trying to keep Simon distracted ever since. We offered to take them to the airport but they insisted on going alone. It probably for the best, I recall the night before their wedding when Baz dropped Simon at our flat for one night apart and their goodbyes went on for ever. I can only imagine what it would be like when they have to part for weeks (or longer).

When Simon returned we dragged him out and took him straight to the best pizza bar in town but it only served as a mild distraction. He was glum from the moment Baz left and today he's done nothing but lie on the sofa and twirl his wand, casting very annoying spells to pass the time. And he's still doing it, he's turned the lights on and off enough times to blow a bulb and now he started on the telly. I snatch his wand away.

"Hey!" he startles. His wings open involuntarily and knock me off the couch.

"Simon!" It comes out a little shrill, more from the shock than anything – he hasn't knocked me with his wings for ages.

"Sorry Penny!" he apologises as he helps me off the floor.

"Why don't you go for a run, or fly around for a bit," Micah suggests. "You need to burn off some energy now that Baz's gone." He's trying not to smile.

I snort out a laugh. "Yes go. By the time you get back the latest issue of The Magickal Record will be out. We'll see what's on the front page."

"Yeah okay." And with that he sulks into his room and emerges a few minutes later in running gear. He hunts around the lounge for his trainers before snatching his wand back from me.

"Going for a run," he calls behind him. "Ring me if there's any news."

SIMON

I run five miles and I'm exhausted when I finally make it back to their apartment. I look at Penny, hopeful for news but she shakes her head. "Nothing yet."

I head to the shower, trying not to let my disappointment show.

I let the warm water run over me, soothing my aching muscles and washing the sweat off my skin and I realise I can't remember the last time I showered alone. I don't think I have since before Baz was here. (Not that Penny and Micah know.) (I'm pretty sure Penny has a rule about that.) I try not to mope about it, and I'm definitely a lot faster in the shower without him.

We had a brilliant time while he was here. We sorted out all of our shit on that first night and then spent the rest of the time content to just be together. It almost didn't feel like I was banished while he was here, but now he's gone and everything is shite again.

At least my tail isn't wagging anymore, that was a really embarrassing new development. Penny and Micah haven't stopped taking the piss since it started doing it, even after Baz left. Baz was annoyingly smug. I'm definitely not going to miss that.

The last two weeks flew by so fast, and it dawns on me as I finish up in the shower that I've been here for over two months already. I count the days I've been here and then count what's left on my visa and realise with a start that I'm already two thirds the way through. Shit. Why didn't I mention it while Baz was here? I think I just forgot about it, it was a pretty distracting two weeks. But I'm not distracted now. Now I'm worried – what the fuck am I supposed to do when it runs out? I'll have to talk to Baz and Professor Bunce about it, and soon. There's only a month to go.

"Simon!" Penny is at the door, pulling me from my thoughts. "The Magickal Record is out."

I turn off the shower and shake my wings before I get out, then I quickly dry off and pull on a pair of trackies and a tee shirt. It's getting cooler outside but I still run warm so don't really feel it. Penny's already wearing a light coat out these days.

Penny put the tea on so we're having a cuppa and biscuits as we read through the paper. There's a front page article about Velma voting for my banishment while her kids were at the rally, suggesting a possible rift within the family. The article goes through the magickal background of each of the seven members who voted for my banishment and even calls them The Senseless Seven. Then to be fair it goes through the other six members of the Coven, and their magickal background. Interestingly, the reporter never asked what Gran's position is on the matter because she wasn't part of the vote. I'll have to remember to thank Fiona when this is all over.

Penny scowls as she pours more tea. "More like The Stupid Seven, or even The Shambolic Seven."

I don't say anything.

"This is good news Simon," Micah says. "There's disunity within the Coven and now within a Senseless Seven's own family."

"I know," I grumble, even though the article is exactly what we expected. "But it's still taking so bloody long."

Penny and Micah exchange a look but don't say anything more. Neither do I. We drink our tea in silence.

My mobile rings and it's Baz, so I head to my room to talk to him. We talk about the article while I dig out my passport to check my visa and sure enough, there's only four weeks left.

"Fuck Simon, I forgot about it," Baz says when I tell him.

"What am I going to do?" I tell him I don't want to be caught overstaying it, then I really will be an outlaw.

"There's always the continent? It's not the UK and it's a hell of a lot closer than America."

I sigh into my mobile. "Another move? I was hoping this would be sorted before then."

"We need another member on the Coven before we can overturn the vote, Simon. You know that."

I run my hand through my hair. "Yeah I know." I do know that, but I can still be pissed off about it. Everything is taking so much longer than I though. I thought this would be sorted out sooner.

"We can try to extend your visa if you like, but I'm not sure if we can," he says. "And anyway, you'll need to see where Bunce is planning to spend Christmas."

"Christmas! But . . . It's just gone November!"

BAZ

Fuck.

I didn't mean to bring up Christmas. As soon as Simon mentioned his Visa I realise we need to start planning for that eventuality. We're in November already so there really doesn't seem to be any chance that he'll be home before the end of the year now. While we were still in October it felt like we had more time but now I feel like time is running out.

It's not like me to overlook something so important.

I need to work out where Simon can go next. I can't let him worry about this.

SIMON

"Baz?"

"I know this is fucked up Simon," Baz says, "But we're going as fast as we can, short of storming the Coven like you said."

"I know."

"Although I don't think that's a bad idea . . ." Baz muses. "Maybe the Hellhounds could knock some sense into that lot. "

"Baz," I growl. This really isn't time for jokes.

"It was just a thought. Anyway public opinion for you is growing fast. There's been a big turnaround since this all started– the public was squarely divided in the beginning. It won't be long before the Coven really starts to feel the pressure."

"Yeah?" I hate how hopeful I sound. I start pulling at a thread on my ratty tee shirt.

"Yes. I'm heading to the club with Dev and Niall soon, to show my face again," he adds. "There are plenty of people willing to support you now, and they're happy to let me know it."

"That's good. Thrash them both for me will you? And tell Niall he's a dick for leaving you that night. I only told Dev." I want to tell both of them they're dicks for abandoning him that night. I resolve to do that next time I see them, whenever the fuck that will be.

"All right," Baz snorts. Then he's quiet for a bit and I listen to the sound of his soft breaths. "I love you Simon."

"Love you too, Baz," I tell him back. "Hey Baz?"

"Yes love?"

"I forgot to ask you before. How's your pupillage thingo going? Have you started yet?" I've been thinking about this for a while but when he was here we had so many other things to talk about, it just never came up. I feel like a bit of a twat now for not asking about something so important.

The line goes silent when he doesn't say anything.

"Baz?"

I hear him sigh through the phone. "I haven't started yet," he finally admits. "I decided to put it off . . . until after your banishment is repealed."

"What? Why?" I'm not sure what he's on about because I know how important it is for him to finish. It's all he's talked about since the start of the year, well, it was, at least until all this shit started. And it slowly dawns on me that he hasn't mentioned his studies at all since I was banished.

"Because I need to focus on bringing you home," he says. And it comes out with such conviction, like it's the most obvious thing in the world. "I wouldn't be able to concentrate on study and work anyway. I have enough to deal with." He's obviously thought it through and made up his mind. Now I feel even worse.

"Shit Baz, I'm sorry." I know how keen he was to get it over and done with. I had no idea that me opening my big mouth was going to cause so many fucking problems for us.

I can't believe he's had to delay his career for me.

"Don't be. This isn't your fault. I can start next year, don't worry about it."

I huff but don't say anything.

We say goodbye eventually, after he tries to convince me again that it's not a big deal. It is though, a big deal, and I can't help feeling bad about it. I hang up and lie back on my bed and twirl my wand.

I wish there was a way to speed things up. A spell or something. What about Time flies? That won't get me a resolution with the Coven though, and I'm definitely not having any fun so there's really no point casting that. But I wish there was a spell to fix this. I wish there was a spell to fix the dead spots so I can go home and Baz can start studying again and life can go back to the way it was. I just want life to go back to the way it was. And I want to go home.

BAZ

I hang up from Simon and head off to the club. It's true what I said, more and more mages are on his side these days, but it's still not enough to change the minds of those idiotic Coven members.

Dev and I play a game of tennis, that I easily win, and I pass on Simon's message. They hoot and laugh and think it's all a big joke and I swear the more Simon tells them they’re idiots, the more they seem to like him. Maybe Simon is growing on them or maybe I've conditioned them to shitty friends, but either way, I like the fact that they're starting to see Simon as one of their own. It's more than I could ever have hoped for.

They reminisce about our drunken night out and poke fun at my relentless dancing, but I don't tell them about the woman I found in my apartment the next morning. I'm never telling anyone about that. It's bad enough that Bunce and Micah know. I'll never fucking live it down if these two ever get wind of it.

Niall is up next. This will be a piece of cake.

SIMON

I wander back to the kitchen and sit at the table and re-read the article while Penny fixes dinner. I feel so useless stuck here while everyone else is working their arse off trying to get me home. I'm not doing anything.

"Simon I thought you'd be happy with the article," Penny says as she serves up dinner. (Chicken, salad and home-made wedges.)

"What? Oh yeah, I am Penny," I say, grabbing my plate and taking a seat at the table. "It's just taking a long time isn't it?"

"Things are happening Simon," Micah says, taking his plate. "Don't lose hope."

I look between them and then my eyes settle on Penny again. "I just wish there was a spell to close the dead spots. Then I could fix this."

Penny sits down next to me with her plate and places her hand on my arm. "Simon they're not your fault."

"They kind of are my fault," I say. "I know, I did it by accident, but I still made them all. It was me."

"They're still not your fault," she repeats, more forcefully this time as she stabs a wedge with her fork. "And anyway, there wouldn't be a spell powerful enough to close all of the holes. There are hundreds of them."

"Yeah, yeah," I huff. I eat a few wedges and slice into my chicken. She's right, there are hundreds of them, and some of them are the size of a small town– like Hampshire. "But . . . what if I'm the one that has to close them?" I say, thinking aloud.

Penny scoffs at me. "They're going to close by themselves Simon. In time." She takes another mouthful. Micah nods in agreement.

"But how do you know it doesn't have to be me?" We've never really talked about this before but I want to now. I want to find out if there is a way to close them.

Penny sighs a reluctant sigh, like she doesn't want to talk about it, but I've asked a question so she tries to answer it. She places her fork on her plate and chews for a moment, thinking. "Simon, it would take an extraordinary amount of magic to close the holes and you don't have that sort of magic anymore. No one does."

I take another mouthful. She's right of course, I don't have that sort of magic anymore. I used to, but now I'm just a regular mage. We eat in silence for a bit.

"Or maybe just an extraordinary spell rather than an extraordinary amount of magic," she muses to herself. Then she shakes her head as if to clear the thought from her mind. "Although I've never heard of such a thing. I still believe they're going to close by themselves and no amount of magic will hurry it along."

"Then why haven't they started closing yet?"

"Maybe they have," Micah offers. "Maybe they are closing and we don't know it. Maybe they're closing from the top down instead of from the sides . . . Has anyone ever measured their height?"

"We never thought of that. But how can we measure their height Micah?" Penny says, immediately interested.

Micah puts down his cutlery and looks at me. His eyes are wide and he looks a little excited, like he's on the verge of a scientific breakthrough or something. "Did you ever fly over them Simon?"

"No. Yes. Only once. At Hampshire and when I first made that hole. There wasn't any magic there then. And I'm not even sure how high I was flying at the time . . . I wasn't really thinking straight. And then I lost my magic so I wouldn't have been able to tell anyway."

"But have you tried since you got your magic back?" Penny asks. She sounds excited now.

"No, I never thought of it."

"Hmmm it would be interesting if Simon could fly over them now to see where the magic stops, or starts . . ." Micah muses.

"Yes it would," Penny beams at Micah. "Then dad could take three dimensional measurements and measure the volume instead of only the area."

"That would provide a much more accurate basis to track against," Micah nods, grinning at Penny.

Penny's brow furrows. "But how would we get an accurate reading of the height?" I think they've forgotten I'm here.

Micah's frowns for a moment, chewing on his chicken. And then his eyes light up. "An altimeter would do the trick. Attached to Simon as he flies over." He arcs his hand over his plate of chicken, demonstrating.

"Well I can't do that. I'm not allowed step foot in the UK anymore, am I?" I remind them.

They both turn back to me, startled. Yep, definitely forgot I was here. The both give me a sympathetic look before returning to their dinner, and when we finish eating I excuse myself and go to bed early.

PENNY

Simon pulls me aside and asks me what my plans are for Christmas before I leave for work. It's amazing he's even out of bed at this time of the morning – while Baz was here those two didn't even venture out of his room until we left. I have no idea how they spent their days. (Actually I have a fair idea but I try not to think about it.)

"Oh Simon, I'm not sure yet," I tell him truthfully. "Why?"

He shuffles his feet nervously before he answers. "My visa runs out in less than a month. I was just talking to Baz about it yesterday."

"Shit Simon. I didn't even realise. Can you get an extension?"

"Baz is looking into it, but probably not."

I don't want to tell him that I was thinking of going home to help mum and Baz sort this out. Of course that was when I thought he would be here in America. I thought he could spend Christmas with Micah and his family, they'd love to have him. We've only been back to visit once since Simon arrived and I know they want to see him again. Maybe we should go again before the month is out?

Maybe I should stay here? Maybe I should go back to London before Christmas and then come back to spend Christmas with Micah and his family, and Simon if he's still here. Where on earth is Simon going to spend Christmas if this isn't sorted by then and he can't stay here? Where is he going to go next?

"I'm not sure yet Simon," I say instead. "But we'll sort something out."

He nods and I leave for work feeling like shit.

Chapter Text

BAZ

It's in the public domain now that Velma's brood were at the rally, and the fallout is, as expected, brilliant. She idiotically agreed to an interview, that she spluttered and stammered her way through, and all but lost it when the journalist quoted her own sons back at her. The two boys said Simon's banishment was Outrageous! and Unjustified! and my personal favourite; It's just not cricket!  I couldn't have said it better myself. They'll be reporting on her resignation next.

Fiona's been entirely useful for once in her ridiculous life. When she's not off vampire hunting or doing whatever she does with Simon's uncle, she's meeting covertly with her journalist ex-boyfriend from The Magickal Record, passing on information, suggesting who he should interview next, letting slip juicy titbits; the disharmony on the Coven, Velma's boys at the meeting, letting them believe they came up with the name The Senseless Seven. I have to hand it to myself, that last one was particularly clever. It's caught on at the club already, Dev and Niall have been instrumental in spreading it around.

Bunce has been talking with the pixie every few days. She says Trixie is so riled up about Simon that she's willing to be nominated as soon as a position becomes available. Even if she is a pixie, she's on Simon's side and that can only be a good thing. I'll go up against her as planned and I fully intend to lose for once in my overachieving life. As long as I am the other nominee, the Senseless Seven will vote for anyone other than me. It's only a matter of time now.

Time. It's the one thing we don't have enough of. Simon can't stay in America much longer so I need to sort out his visa extension or find him a new location. I don't want him to worry about this on top of everything else, he has enough on his plate to deal with. But I know he will.

I drive back to London and catch a few hours' sleep, he'll be waiting for my call before he goes to bed. I'm used to getting up in the early hours of the morning these days, either to hunt or to research another idea that can bring Simon home. These thoughts chase me through my dreams as I toss and turn in fitful sleep.

I wake and immediately reach for my mobile. He answers on the first ring.

Simon called me early this morning, having just awoken from a nightmare. He's been having them regularly– almost since he left London– but he only told me about them when I was with him. He said he didn't want to worry me, he said I have enough to deal with. I wish he'd told me sooner but it's just like Simon to be so selfless. I wish I was there to wake him and take him in my arms and hold him until the last remnants of his bad dreams fade away.

"Baz," he breathes. Already in bed then.

"Yes love."

"Tell me something good about your day." He wants to hear something that will help him sleep, that will keep the nightmares at bay. I rack my brain for something worthy.

I throw my arm over my eyes in the dark. After all our years together I still find it difficult to speak so intimately, unlike Simon who's an open book. It's one of the countless things I love about him.

I roll over onto my back, the leather of the Chesterfield creaking softly beneath me. I imagine Simon next to me. "I've made a list of all my favourite things about you."

"In your head?"

"Yes."

"I thought I was the list maker?" He sounds surprised and it makes me smile. Simon used to make lists in his head of all the things he didn't want to think about.

"I've picked up on your habit," I tell him.

"Yeah?"

"Yes." I'm almost whispering now. "But I like to think about the things on my list."

"So do I," he huffs. "I don't make lists of things I don't want to think about anymore."

"I know. I know, love."

At least that's one good thing that came out of all of his years in therapy– he tackles his issues head on these days. It makes for many exhausting conversations but at least he doesn't hide behind those lists his anymore.

If only I could get him to stop blaming himself for all the woes of the realm. He'd mostly sorted that out with his psychologist years ago but since all this shit started he's reverted right back to blaming himself for the dead spots, assuming responsibility all over again.

If only I could get him to see how extraordinary he is.

"What are they?" he asks. I imagine him lying on his bed in the dark, in Bunce's spare room in that hovel of a flat. The window would be wide open and the duvet askew. I bet his clothes and shoes are strewn across the floor wherever they landed when he took them off, the legs of his trackies squashed down to two holes where he stepped out of them, ready to step back into them in the morning.

If only I could get him to use tidying spells.

"Your hands," I tell him.

"I like your hands too Baz," he answers straight back.

I smile in the darkness. "This is my list. Wait your turn."

He chuckles softly at that and I wait for him to settle, nestling back into the Chesterfield before I continue. There's a soft glow from the lamp in our bedroom and I imagine I'm in there, lying next to him, our hands linked on the pillow between us. "I like your hands when you hold mine. Sometimes it feels like our hands are having a conversation all of their own."

There was a time after everything happened that we would sit and hold hands for hours while Simon stared his thousand yard stares. Sometimes it felt like all the things we were yet to say to each other were being said between our hands.

"Yeah, I know what you mean," he murmurs, and I can almost hear him smile, remembering.

"And I like what you do with them."

He snorts then.

"Not that. Get your mind out of the gutter," I chuckle to myself and shake my head. "I mean your drawings, your art. Cooking."

"Oh. Thanks." I imagine him blushing, the soft pink tinge slowly spreading across his cheeks to the tips of his ears, his skin warming as the blush deepens.

I listen to him breathe. "Your eyes . . . I like your eyes," I whisper, feeling myself blush this time. "They're the loveliest blue." His eyes might be the most ordinary shade of blue eyes but they're breathtaking none the less.

He stays silent so I go on. "Your voice," I say, squeezing my eyes shut. "I like the sound of your voice." It's easier to confess these things over the phone, in the dark, when we're thousands of miles apart.

"Thanks, I kinda like the sound of your voice too," he murmurs. His voice is quiet, timid, and I find myself wondering again if he's blushing.

"Thank you. And its's lucky I do like it, because you talk incessantly." I'm trying to lighten the mood but it's also true. He may not be able to construct a complete sentence most of the time but that doesn't stop him from trying. He talks about everything, which forces me to talk. I don't mind though, we spent years not talking to each other so I rather like not having to keep everything inside these days, I save that for when I visit my family.

"Ha ha, Baz."

We're silent for a moment and I listen to him breathe while he waits for me to continue.

"Your hair," I go on, cringing in the dark as I admit this rather embarrassing piece of information. "I used to fantasise about running my fingers through those ridiculous curls of yours."

"You and me both," he mumbles, and I chuckle in reply. He's always winding his fingers through my hair, it drives me delirious with desire and he knows it.

"Your candor. You don't hold anything back, you always say whatever's on your mind." I throw my arm over my eyes, even though there's no one in the room and he can't see me. "Although that's probably because you don't think before you speak," I add, more to stave off further embarrassment. Simon snorts and I huff out a laugh. "You keep me in check you know."

"I do?" He sounds a little bewildered.

"Yes. I wasn't brought up like that," I remind him, even though he's been around my family enough to know this. Grimms and Pitches do not talk about feelings. It's just not done. "I like it."

"Me too." His voice is growing distant, drowsy. I don't have much time left.

"You're unfailingly honest," I go on.

"Isn't that the same as the one before?"

"Not quite, Simon. You can't lie to save your life."

He chuckles. "Yeah, I know."

He really is the world's worst liar. He can't keep anything from me these days– it's like he'll burst at the seams if he tries. I like it, and I don't want to keep anything from him either.

I listen to him breathe again, his breaths are becoming slow and even. I think he's almost asleep.

"Your bravery," I whisper in the dark.

"I don't think I'm brave," he mumbles. I bet he's frowning. He still doesn't believe this simple truth, no matter how many times I tell him.

"You are Simon. You're the bravest person I know." Simon doesn't say anything to refute it this time, and I think he's finally falling asleep. "You're the centre of my universe. I love you."

"Love you too." Still awake then.

"Goodnight. Sweet dreams."

"G'night."

I hang up and toss my mobile onto the coffee table, rolling over to my side on the Chesterfield so I'm facing away from our bedroom. I fall asleep thinking of Simon.

SIMON

I wake feeling more refreshed than I have in ages. I didn't have any nightmares last night and I feel lighter than I've felt in days. I think I'll get Baz to give me different lists every night– I figure it can't hurt. And I liked it, a lot. Next time I think I'll get him to list all the things I do to annoy him. Actually that's probably not a good idea, that list could go on forever.

I have breakfast with Penny and Micah before they leave for work and then clean up with magic. I sit on the couch and flick through the telly for a bit but there's nothing on so I turn it off. I start thinking about what I'm supposed to do when my visa expires, and I start to worry– if I don't fix this I'm going to be homeless or stateless or something. Well, more than I already am. Shit. The more I think about it the more I start to panic. I start pacing the room.

I need to take some responsibility for myself. I can't have Baz and Penny fix everything for me– they've done enough already, and they're busy enough. I rack my brain for a while, trying to work out what to do. It takes me all afternoon and a lot of dumb ideas but I get there eventually.

The next day I go to the visa application place and ask for an extension. The useless prats straight out refuse to extend it no matter what brilliant (and completely fake) reasons I come up with, and no matter how much magic I spell the application with. Wankers.

So I think long and hard about where I can go next, and it looks like the only place I can go without another visa is the continent. I start to think about where I can stay, and it's about this point where I wish I had paid more attention in languages. I can't speak French, or Greek or any other language for that matter so wherever I go is going to be a right pain. And I haven't had to pay rent staying with Penny, so if I go to the continent it's going to get expensive. I don't even know anyone there.

And then it hits me, and I can't believe my own brilliance. Olivia. Olivia is travelling around the continent with Emily right now. We've always gotten along and I reckon I could hang out with her for a while, even if she is a Normal. I have no idea where she is right now but I could give her a call and find out. Merlin I'm clever!

And I'm just about to call her when I think that maybe it's not that great an idea. If they're travelling around I can't very well go off with them. I need to have a base. I'm not about to start traipsing around the place while everyone else is working like mental to bring me home.

Shit. Not so brilliant then.

And then I remember Alex. Alex and Marco are in Italy somewhere managing some restaurant or other. That could work. They might be Normals but they're friends. Good friends. And they're not moving around like Olivia, they're working. A lot. And they have a base. Alex and I got pretty close when I worked for her and she even told me that we're welcome to stay if we ever go back to Italy. I decide to give her a call and find out what she's doing.

My face breaks into a grin when she answers. "Simon?"

"Hey Alex."

"Simon! How the hell are you? God I miss you guys," she shouts into the phone. I can hear banging and clattering in the background so I'm guessing she's cooking. She's always cooking. "How's Basil, still practicing violin I hope?" Of course she asks about his violin first, she was obsessed with him going to some fancy music school for a while there. That seems so long ago now.

"Yeah good, yeah he is." No he isn't, he hasn't touched his violin since all this started but I'm not about to tell her that. She may be my friend but she's still a Normal, and there's no way I can explain any of this mess to a Normal.

We talk for a while about how everyone is and then Alex asks about my job. She has no idea that I haven't been at work the last few months, nor that I'm in America – last she heard I'd stared working back in London and Baz was studying and everything was bloody wonderful. Shit, I really should have thought this through before I called her. Why don't I ever think?

"Good, really good," I lie. "And Baz is good. We're all good. . . You?"

"Yeah we're good too. Working hard at the restaurant. Marco's having a ball being back in Italy. I don't know how I'm ever going to get him back to London next year."

"That's great, great . . ." I answer, nodding to myself and trying to sound interested. How am I going to do this? How am I supposed to ask her if I can stay with her? I take a deep breath and decide to just go for it. "I might, um, be coming to Italy in December," I say. I have no idea what I'm doing here, involving a Normal in all this. I'm pretty much just winging it.

"Really! You have to come and stay with us. It's beautiful here and the apartment is huge for just the two of us. And we're hardly ever there because we're always at the restaurant. You and Baz are welcome any time."

Shit. How the fuck am I going to explain it's just me. She'll never buy it. Unless . . .

"It's for work, it could be just me for a bit," I lie. I'm amazed at how easy the lie comes but then again I've always had to sort of lie to my Normal friends. I think they'd run off screaming if they ever knew they were hanging out with someone who could do magic, and had a pair of dragon wings and a tail. Not to mention my blood sucking vampire husband.

I wonder what she'd think if she knew I could fly.

"Without Baz?" She sounds sceptical.

"Yeah, it's for work. Just for a bit." I hate lying but how the hell am I supposed to explain any of this to a Normal?

"Well, all right then. Come and stay with us! But bring Baz too if you're able," she offers again.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah of course you dolt," she says playfully, and I'm pretty sure she's rolling her eyes right now. She got that from hanging out with Baz.

"Yeah okay, thanks." Hells bells, that was easy. I silently thank Merlin for Alex and Marco and their obsession with Italian food, and I'm just about to wrap up the call when I realise I have no fucking clue where they even are. I think she told me once but I forgot. "Um, Alex? Where are you again?"

She laughs at me like I'm joking. (I'm not joking, I don't have a fucking clue.) "I'll send you our address right now. Let me know when you're coming and I'll set up the other bedroom. This is going to be brilliant! It's been ages since we had a visitor from home." I nod for a bit before I realise she can't see me.

"Yeah okay, thanks Alex. I'll let you know if it ends up happening," I tell her. I figure it's best to keep my options open in case anything happens with the Coven and I can suddenly go home. Not that I'm expecting that.

"Sure sure. I'll get your room ready anyway," she says like it's a done deal. "I can't wait to tell Marco."

"Thanks Alex."

"You're welcome. And see you soon Simon!" she chirps. "Give my love to Baz!"

We hang up and I realise I'm smiling, like really smiling. I'm smiling so much that my cheeks hurt. I realise I miss Alex. I miss talking to her and hanging out with her and even Marco with his booming loud voice and Italian his accent and his wild hands waving around frantically whenever he speaks.

And I miss their brilliant food. I wonder if I can get a meal or two in their restaurant while I'm there.

I phone Baz straight away and tell him the news. He's impressed that I even thought of Alex and Marco.

"At least I can stay with them for a few weeks while I sort out what to do next."

"We'll sort out what to do next Simon."

"Okay, okay." He's said that so many times now I automatically agree with him. He tells me that it's a brilliant idea and then I tell him I don't actually know where they are, all I know is they are somewhere in Italy. I scratch at the back of my neck awkwardly.

Baz is properly laughing at me now. He's probably rolling his eyes too but I can't see him. "They're working together at a restaurant in Florence. Don't you remember the postcard?"

"The one on the fridge?" I do remember it now, it has a picture of a cathedral with a big red dome and a bunch of other buildings. Baz and I spent the day in Florence when we went on our honeymoon, shopping and visiting a few galleries. It looks like a really nice place but we didn't stay long enough to see very much– we were in a bit of a hurry to get to the villa. (It was our honeymoon.)

"Simon."

"Yeah?"

"That was a brilliant idea," he says again, and I feel myself blush a little. I always blush when Baz says stuff like that, and he says stuff like that a lot. He was such a condescending prick to me for so long back when we were enemies that I never thought he had it in him to be nice to anyone. I'll take any compliment he throws my way now. "There's an food and forestry department at the university. You can tell them you're doing collaborative research."

"Okay . . . I just hope this will be sorted before then," I say, bringing the mood down immediately.

"Me too."

But as he says it I know in my heart that it won't be. The way things are going I don't know if this will ever be sorted.

-oOo-

I finally get around to telling Penny and Micah about going to Italy. Micah says it's a fantastic idea and Penny agrees, but I think she was hoping I'd stay in America. She looks a little disappointed, even though I tell her I tried but this country's practically impossible to get into, and extending a visa is just not going to happen – with or without magic.

Gran calls Penny to tell her she's been having a quiet word with Luella and Odella about the need for more young women on the Coven; "Young women are grossly under-represented," she told them and the old twins agree with her. Then she asks me how I'm doing and she tells me how heroic and brave I am. (She's always saying stuff like that to me.) (I used to get embarrassed but Penny says that's what grandmother's do.)

Mordy rings next and we have a nice long chat about the petition and the last rally and her school friends and he brother and sisters. I've miss hanging out with her and Baz's family at Oxford. I miss talking to Daphne in the garden and playing with the twins and flying Baz's little brother across the big lawn while Daphne isn't looking.

"Simon!" Mordy yells into the phone. "How are you? How's America? Have you driven yet? Did you see The Record? The protest rally, it was brilliant! And have you seen the petition? Four hundred signatures already!" She's talking so fast I'm having a hard time keeping up.

"Yeah? That's cool Mordy. Thanks for organising all that. Is your dad mad at you?"

"Nah, mum was with me so how can he be?" she says nonchalantly. "Even the twins wanted to come but mum said no."

"Oh." At least Mr Grimm isn't mad. He's being weirdly nice in all of this and I'm still having trouble getting used to it. I'm used to him being scary and remote.

"Anyway it was all Baz's idea."

My head snaps up. "Was it?"

I didn't even realise it was Baz's idea. So much has happened since all this shit started completely forgot our conversation over dinner at Oxford that night before I left. I thought Baz suggested it to piss off his dad. I didn't think he'd follow through.

"Yep. I set it up though. Mum helped too."

"Yeah? That's great Mordy. Tell her thanks."

"All right."

And we're quiet for a bit and I think of something that's been bothering me ever since I heard about the rally.

"Hey Mordy?"

"Yeah?"

"Didn't the Normals see all the mages rallying? Like, outside their houses?"

Sometimes I think I'm the only one close enough to the Normal world to think of things like this. Baz's family and even Penny's are so immersed in the magickal realm these days I don't think they know what's Normal and what would be seen as freakishly weird to anyone not magickal.

"No Simon," she says in that long-suffering tone, similar to the one Penny uses– the one when she's trying to explain something. I bet she's rolling her eyes right this minute. "Everyone cast diversion spells."

"What spells?"

"Diversion," she repeats. "You know Driven to distraction and Nothing to see here and all that."

"Oh."

"Yeah, and Miss Possibelf was there, to make sure everyone did it right."

"Miss Possibelf was there?"

"Yeah, and the Minotoar. I mean Professor Minos."

"Yeah?" I think about that. Miss Possibelf and the Minotaur were both there at the rally. Who would have thought? It makes me smile to think that some of my old teachers support me, even if I did accidentally kill their old boss.

"Yeah . . . hey Simon?" she goes on when I don't say anything for a bit. "Do you think Miss Possibelf is part elf?"

"Huh? I dunno," I shrug even though she can't see me. I've never really thought about that before, and whenever we talk, Mordy changes the subject so fast my head starts spinning. I just try and keep up as best I can. I think about Miss Possibelf's pretty voice that always tickled my ears and sent a buzz up the back of my neck whenever she spoke. "It's possible."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah I s'pose." I think about her tinkling voice at our wedding and how it was like she captivated the entire gathering without ever raising her voice. I feel a shiver up the back of my neck and my wings flutter involuntarily.

"Yeah. That's what Pip says."

And then we're silent for a bit more and I'm just about to ask her about school and normal stuff when she starts up again.

"We miss you here Simon. Baz won't play football anymore, he spends all his time in the library going through magickal books. Or he paces around on the phone with Headmistress Bunce."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. And he's back to being his old snarky self. You make him nicer Simon."

I can't help smiling at that. He can be a snarky old git sometimes, especially when he gets his teeth into something difficult.

"He's just trying to get me home Mordy."

"I know," she grumbles.

Then she perks up again and tells me what her siblings have been doing, and how most of the students at Watford are on my side. "And did you really do all that stuff The Magickal Record said you did? The gates? And the Selkies? And the werewolves and the hares and all those other creatures? When you were my age?" she whispers. I can imagine her eyes wide and her eyebrows raised halfway up her forehead.

"Yeah. Penny did too, and Agatha," I shrug again even though she still can't see me.

"Is that why mum won't let me get a rabbit?"

"I dunno. Probably. You don't want one though, they're vicious creatures." I shudder involuntarily as I think back. Thank Merlin Penny and Agatha helped me sort that mess out.

"And did you really chop the head off a goblin?" she asks dramatically.

"Um yeah, but he was trying to kill me Mordy." I don't tell her about the sense of satisfaction I felt when I kicked the severed head with my trainers though. She's way too young for that.

"I know! You're like a real life super-hero aren't you?"

And I definitely don't tell her how I almost chopped the head off another goblin with a kitchen knife at the pub only last year. "Nah, not really." I think I'll save that one for when she wants to go to her first uni party.

"Yes you are. Even mum says so." I can practically hear her nodding.

"Yeah?"

"Yep. And dad won't say anything but I think he thinks so too."

"I dunno Mordy. I'm pretty sure your dad still hates me."

"Don't be an idiot Simon, of course he doesn't hate you." She's rolling her eyes at me now for sure. Sometimes I swear I'm talking to third year Baz when I talk to Mordy. They sound so similar it's scary.

"And mum is really mad at the Mage." She says his name like it's something distasteful. Again, just like Baz. "For making you fight all those dark creatures when you were so young. She says he should be charged with child abuse."

"I dunno Mordy, it wasn't that bad." It's an automatic response, even though my psychologist said the same thing on more than one occasion. So did Penny's mum. And Baz.

"Yes it was! Even dad says so."

"Yeah?"

"Yep, but he always hated the Mage so. . ." She goes quiet for a bit and I wait for her to go on. "Been flying much lately?"

"Yeah, loads. Flew all the way to New York and back just the other day." I puff up a little because it was pretty cool.

"Yeah? That's got to be–"

"Seventy miles each way," I tell her, and I know I sound a little smug but I can't help it. I'm still pretty pleased with myself. "Did it in two hours flat."

"Wow, you were really booking it!"

"I know! Wasn't even that tired after." I can't help smiling. She's probably the one person that really loves to hear about my flying feats. I wonder if I should tell her about all my night flying. But then I decide I'd better not – that will lead to her finding out that I used to fly to her big brother's flat in the dead of night back when we'd just started dating, and then she'll probably work out that I used to stay there at night and that's a conversation that I don't ever want to have with my husband's little sister.

"Wow!" she says again. "You'll be able to fly all the way back to England soon!"

"If I was allowed back in," I mumble. I'm not smiling anymore.

"Yeah," she sighs.

"One day," I say, trying to sound optimistic.

"Soon I hope," she agrees.

"Yeah," I say back, and then we're quiet for a bit, each lost in our own thoughts.

"Anyway. I've got to go," she says after a time. "Mum says it's time for my piano lesson. Bye Simon."

"Bye Mordy."

I get off the phone from Mordy and try not to think how much I miss home.

Chapter Text

BAZ

One day blurs into the next as we work furtively to change public opinion. I spend my days with Mitali, reviewing the laws that need to be changed, and most evenings with Dr Wellbelove working on my nomination, but these steps are incremental and progress is excruciatingly slow. At times I'm tempted to cast a spell to hurry things along but I know it won't do any good.

I've updated an extraordinary amount of magickal laws in the meantime– oppressive and outdated laws that have no place in our modern realm– and they're ready for approval by the Coven whenever Mitali sees fit to present them. I've even had a go at the Dark Creatures Act of 1858, amending it to read that vampires are considered dark creatures if they bite a human. I wonder if I can slip that small but significant change through without anyone noticing. Either that or Fiona can push it through on my behalf. I figure it can't hurt?

I'm on my way to Oxford for another meeting. Every week we gather here and every week we measure the progress we make. Sometimes it's infinitesimal and sometimes it's monumental, but all the time Simon is away from home and I miss him.

Thank magic Simon thought to go to Italy. I'll worry a lot less if he's staying with Alex and Marco, he'll be in good company (even if they are Normals), and he'll definitely be well fed. And I'll be able to continue working here to bring him home, relatively comfortable in the knowledge that he's not alone. I don't know how he'll pass it off as a business trip if he's not working though, he'll have to use magic I suppose.

Simon and I talk every day, twice some days. When he first moved to America we would talk incessantly about the Coven and our plan and how we were going to reverse this injustice. But we don't bother anymore. Now we focus on the small things; what he did that day, where he flew or what he's been drawing. He asks me if I still practice violin and I admit I haven't. He says I should.

Things are much better between us since I went to America. Neither of us has the inclination to repeat our poor behaviour, and I think that in itself is a load off both our minds. We were both more concerned than we let on that we thought the other had forgotten our anniversary. I think that more than anything caused us both to behave so idiotically. I have absolutely zero desire to go through that again. I need to stay focused.

I want to call Simon now so I can hear his voice. I miss it; the rough lilt that's a reflection of his upbringing, the slight inflection at the end of his sentence whenever he's unsure. I miss his ridiculous jokes, the way he says my name, (at least twenty times every day) the sound of his snores, soft and even when he's asleep next to me . . .

I sigh as I turn into the drive at Oxford. I leave the car and head straight to the forest to hunt before everyone arrives.

PENNY

Simon, Micah and I set up our laptops at the kitchen table in preparation for the meeting. I magic up a pot of tea and Micah pours while Simon devours a couple of biscuits, nervous as he waits for the meeting to get underway.

Mum starts off this time, retelling what happened at the Coven meeting last night. Apparently Velma was quiet and didn't say much, but she held on to her position nonetheless. We're all disappointed that she didn't take the opportunity to resign.

The rally outside the Coven meeting, however, had well over one hundred participants, including Velma's boys again. And this time The Magickal Record interviewed people on the spot so it will be all over the paper tomorrow. Baz lead the way and Daphne and Mordelia were right next to him. My siblings Pip and Priya were there and even Pacey turned up this time. (And thank Morgana they were there, otherwise they'd be hearing from me tomorrow.) Mordelia must have talked them into it.

"But does that mean I have to wait another month?" Simon asks. He's sitting next to me and I can also see him in miniature on my screen. I give his arm a squeeze.

"I'm afraid so Simon," Dr Wellbelove apologises. "I'm sorry but these things take time. Velma is probably thinking through her options at the moment."

Honestly, she really doesn't have that many options from what I can see. Her own children are against her for magic's sake, as well as half the magickal population. How stupid is she?

"What options?" Fiona scoffs. "Stay on the Coven and piss off your family, or leave? Sounds pretty straight forward to me."

I smile at Fiona's reasoning. She used to scare me silly when Simon first starting dating Baz, but these days I rather like her. She's proven herself to be extremely loyal to her family, and Simon is part of her family now.

"I understand certain members of the Coven are pleading with her to stay," Lady Salisbury explains to the group.I can see she's trying to no let her disappointment show– for Simon's sake.

I must say I do like the way Lady Salisbury seems to have her feet firmly in both camps. She's proven to be just the double-agent we hoped she's be. (Well, Fiona hoped.)

"We have to dial up the pressure," Baz snarls, rather aggressively. And fuck if I can see him scowl from here. He's getting frustrated, and without Simon there to calm him down . . . well, I hope his fangs don't pop suddenly. "Fiona, can you get the papers to interview her sons again? Push them to openly criticise the Coven. Or their mother even . . ."

"I don't think we need to go that far–" dad starts to remonstrate. Oh shit. He's only just started to trust Baz these last few years and it won't take much to turn him right back to thinking the Grimms and Pitches are as dark as the rumours suggest. Is dad going to get all moral on us now? After all this time? If he does, Baz wont back down and then his fangs will definitely pop.

"Don't you worry about it Marty. I'm on it," Fiona says, cutting dad off with a wave of her hand. She doesn't elaborate and no one thinks to ask how, and thankfully we move on. Yes I do like Fiona.

"How's the petition going, Daphne?" Simon asks. I think he's trying to calm Baz down before he does lose it, and change the subject. Dad sinks back in his seat.

"Very well." Daphne says. "We have well over five hundred signatures already. You have a lot of support in the community, Simon."

I pat Simon's arm.

"Thanks Daff. I'll pass that on to the paper," Fiona says, keeping things moving as usual. And probably trying to keep dad for piping up again.

"Luella and Odella, Lady Salisbury?" Baz this time. His voice sounds a little strained but he seems to have reigned in his temper– I can't detect a lisp.

"They're very interested in my views on the need for youth and diversity on the Coven, Basil. I think they'll be quite open to Trixie's nomination."

"That's excellent news," dad says, smiling through my screen. Good, that means he's already moved on from Baz's plotting. Or he's given up trying to deal with it. "I always thought our Coven a bit too exclusive . . ."

I know dad thinks the Coven is made up of too many elite old mages. He was happy as anything when Simon joined the Coven so he's probably thrilled to bits at the thought of a pixie joining its ranks – anything to chip away at the 'historical snobbery' as he puts it.

"I know this means you need to think about moving again Simon. Your visa expires soon," mum says, cutting dad off. "I'm sorry this is taking so long."

"That's alright Professor," Simon says. "I'm going to stay with Alex and Marco in Italy for a while."

Everyone goes quiet for a bit, probably thinking about all the shit that Simon has been put through. I know I'm thinking about it. I was confident Velma would resign after that interview by her sons, but it looks like she's holding on. I glance over at Simon, he's fidgeting with wedding ring, twisting it around his finger while he frowns at his screen. I give his arm a light squeeze and he gives me a small smile that doesn't meet his eyes.

"I'm glad you've sorted that out Simon," mum says, moving on already. "Penny, keep Trixie primed please. It could be next month. . ."

Once we say our goodbyes, Micah and I turn to Simon.

"Don't be disheartened that Velma didn't resign Simon," Micah says. "It's only a matter of time now. And other things are happening."

"Yeah," Simon shrugs, closing his laptop. He gets up and moves to the living room, flopping dejectedly onto the couch. He pulls out his mobile and stares at the blank screen, waiting for Baz to call.

Oh no, he's getting downhearted again. His tail is dragging on the floor too, a sure sign. "They are Simon," I say, echoing Micah.

Simon doesn't answer and I'm about to reiterate my thoughts when my laptop chimes an incoming email. I read it quickly and then show Micah. I knew this was coming and I need to talk to Simon about it because it affects him too. I wait for Micah to finish reading and then he nods over to Simon, echoing my thoughts. We need to tell him.

"I've got some news Simon."

Simon lifts his eyes towards me. "What?"

I glance at Micah again, he smiles and nods, we were expecting this after all.

"Micah and I have to fly to Los Angeles next week for our research. I just received the confirmation."

SIMON

I suppose I'll be stuck here on my own then. I don't mind, I guess I'll hang out at the park and fly and run to pass the time. And talk to Baz.

"That's cool Penny, I'll just hang out here. I've got lots of magickal spell books that Baz left so I'll read through some of those." In truth I asked Baz to bring some books for me to read, he thought I was bored but I actually want to start looking for a spell.

There must be a spell, some kind of spell to close the dead spots. I've been thinking of this for a while and the more I think about it the more it makes sense. There's a spell for practically anything so why not one to close the holes?

All right maybe it's not the same thing, most of the spells we use do small things like tidying up and making things invisible, or turn things into something else or heat and cool things and stuff like that. But there are some bigger ones as well, like the one we used to clear traffic on our way to New York, or spells to stop a dragon like Baz did at Watford. And there are spells to make food out of stuff and bring flowers back to life, or when Penny stopped time for her engagement, they're all pretty serious spells. And there are a whole bunch of other spells I've never even used. I know none of those are powerful enough to do something like bring magic back to somewhere, but maybe the holes don't need magic to be brought back. Maybe they do, or maybe they just need to be closed.

I don't really know how it all works but I thought I'd have a look into it anyway. It's not like I've got anything else to do.

I know that some of the dead spots are massive, some cover whole towns, but some are small too and there may be a way of closing them. And if there's a way of closing the small ones then there could be a way of closing the really big ones, like Hampshire.

And Baz did work out that spell to find out my birthday and that was pretty massive when you think about it. I'm not as smart as Baz, or Penny, or Micah even, and I don't know if there is even a spell out there that can do this. And Penny was planning her time stopping spell for ages and it took Baz an entire year to find my birthday spell, so this could take me forever.

Okay maybe it's not such a brilliant idea but I have to do something. If nothing else it will at least give me something to do while I'm stuck in fucking exile.

"Don't be daft Simon. We want you to come with us," Penny says, pulling me from my thoughts.

"What?"

"Come to California. Agatha wants to see us. She said you can stay with her and Josh. We'll join you for the weekend after we finish in Los Angeles."

"Really?" I thought they were going to leave me alone for the week but this sounds so much better. And I've never been to California. I smile at the thought.

"Of course," Penny says, a touch exasperated this time. "As if we were going to leave you alone!" Then she rolls her eyes at me and shakes her head, just to make her point.

I'm so excited that I can't stop grinning. I call Baz straight away and let him know that I'm going to California. He asks a lot of questions that I don't have answers to yet.

"When do you leave?"

"Dunno."

"Where are you staying?"

"Not sure. Agatha's I think."

"Who with?"

"Agatha and Josh I think. I dunno yet."

"Where are Bunce and Micah staying?"

"Um. Los Angeles I think."

"Josh will be there?"

"Dunno."

In the end he calls Penny, and now Penny is talking to Baz.

"Seriously Baz everything will be fine, and we'll be there on the weekend. It's not as if they'll be alone together or anything, and Josh will be there . . ."

I think Baz has never gotten over the fact that Agatha and I dated.

AGATHA

I'm really looking forward to seeing Simon and Penny. And Micah. It's always good to see them, and it's been a while since I've seen anyone from home. I miss them.

I especially want to see how Simon is getting on since all this dreadful mess started. When I heard Penny and Micah were coming to California I insisted they bring Simon. I want him to come and stay with me. I need to make sure he's okay. I know Baz is doing everything he can to get him home, but Baz is in London and Penny and Micah are busy with their research, so that leaves Simon at a bit of a loss for something to do.

And I know he must be hurting, even if he puts on a brave face for the others. Poor Simon, he really has been through so much, first when he was the Chosen One – killing dark creatures and solving stupid mysteries left right and centre, and then that awful business with the Mage being his father, and now this. I wonder when the struggle will ever truly end for him.

I had no idea he caused the dead spots, or the Humdrum, or that he was the Humdrum. I'm really not sure how he could be both, even though Penny explained how they worked it all out. And I'm amazed they've managed to keep it from the magickal realm for all these years. Well, until Simon accidentally let it slip.

He was never very good at hiding things – he's way too honest for his own good sometimes. He used to tell anyone who listened to him that Baz was a vampire back at Watford. Luckily hardly anyone would listen to him, and I suppose he really only told Penny and me, and that murdering Mage of course.

That's all he used to talk about back at school; Baz this and Baz that. It's a wonder I didn't work out long ago that he had feelings for him. But Simon hadn't even realised it yet, and Baz was awfully good at hiding his own feelings for Simon back then. (So well I actually thought he wanted me for a while.) (I don't think I'll ever live that down.) And we were so frightfully busy back then anyway, always off trying to save the realm and putting our lives in danger. And for what exactly? Absolutely nothing, that's what. What a stupid waste of our teenage years.

That's why I love living here, the mage community couldn't give a shit about Covens and rules and magickal education – they just get on with their lives, fully integrated in the Normal world. It's all so laid-back and so normal. Nothing at all like the world I left.

I get busy preparing the spare room for Simon. Emma left her room in a decent state but I dig out my wand from my drawer in my bedroom and cast a few cleaning spells regardless.

I use magic a fair bit these days, it saves an awful lot of time, but I don't carry my wand with me like Mother said I had to back home. There's no need – it's not as if a dark creature is going to jump out and attack me while I'm blading down the boulevard any time soon, and anyway it doesn't fit in my purse.

Mother would have a pink fit if she knew. So would Penny.

Penny. I'm really looking forward to seeing her; it's been an age since we last caught up. I thought she might not want to see me after what I said at the meeting, but when we finally spoke she seems to have gotten over it.

I don't really know what all the fuss is about – everyone was probably thinking it anyway, even if they were too afraid to say it. What if Simon really is the reason the dead spots are still open? After all, it hasn't been confirmed that he isn't so wouldn't they want to know once and for all? I know I would. It seems like they don't though, because Baz and Penny shut me down immediately. Especially Penny, she wouldn't have a bar of it.

I wonder if it ever gets tiring for her, being his faithful sidekick all the time.

But I suppose that is rather harsh of me. She doesn't do that anymore. Ever since Simon and Baz got together, Penny seems to have backed off. She's still a wonderful friend though, loyal to the last and all that, but she's married now and living in America, and Simon has Baz so I guess she's not his number one anymore. I think she used to really like being the most important person in Simon's life back at school.

I'm just happy that Simon has Baz to love him. He's stood by Simon through everything. I guess that's what happens when you're really truly in love.

Sometimes I wonder about that. I wonder if I'm in love with Josh? I think I am. I like spending time with him, but I'm also just as happy when we're apart and doing our own thing.

We're not like Simon and Baz who can't leave each other alone for a second, or Penny and Micah, who love the intellectual stimulation they give each other. I guess we're just different. We're definitely more than friends though, we're important to each other, and that's something. Maybe that's everything?

I dated a few Normals when I first arrived here – which was very nice and very normal. When I first met Josh I had no idea that he was a mage, (or English) but by the time I found out I was already quite taken by him. And he was with me, even though he thought I was a Normal. It took me six months of dating before I even told him I went to Watford.

He was as surprised as ever and I think a little bit pleased too. And then he asked if I'd ever met The Chosen One. That was a whole other discussion.

I like the way Josh is so laid back – everyone over here is. No one is pushing me to use magic or have magickal career or to marry a mage or take one of those ghastly tours of Magickal Britain. . .

I finish getting Simon's room ready and head out to the grocery store. If Simon's coming to stay, I really need to load up on food. I wonder where I can find any decent scones.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I decided somewhere over Iowa or Nebraska that I really don't like flying, in aeroplanes anyway.

I've only been in the air for half an hour and I hate it already. I'm on my way to San Diego to spend the week with Agatha and I'm edgy and nervous at the thought of all the things that could go wrong up here. I wish I'd never read about all those airline catastrophes on my flight from London. I wish there were spells to make sure this thing stays in the air. I wish I could trust myself to cast Hurry-Up on the plane.

I start reading Modern Magickal Spells and Curses again to take my mind off the flight. I don't find anything useful in it so I slam the book closed and start on Medieval Magickal Mayhem, one of Baz's favourites. That one doesn't help at all so now I'm on Everyday Enchantments. I read them from cover to cover after Baz left and I did find a few useful spells, (Method to his madness would have come in really handy when I was at uni, it helps you sort your notes, and As right as rain is good all round fixing and healing spell.) (And it's downright scary what An arm and a leg will do to people who owe you money.) but I don't find anything to fix the dead spots.

I disembark from the plane feeling relieved and more than a bit stiff from having to keep my wings and tail pulled in during the flight. After Agatha gives me an awkward hug and Josh shakes my hand, I unfurl my tail from my leg as we head out to the car park. I told them not to pick me up– I would have flown to their place if they gave me their address– but they insisted and I don't know my way around yet anyway. I grab a map from the information counter for later.

I give my wings a stretch before I climb into the car – they're still spelled invisible but Agatha gives me a funny look when her hair wafts in the breeze. I give her a shrug. "Thanks for picking me up," I tell them as I buckle up my seat belt. It's a bit tight back here with my wings but I manage to squeeze everything in.

"It's no problem Simon," Josh assures me as he starts the car. "We're glad you came. How are you holding up?"

Josh knows all about my banishment. Every mage in America seems to know about it if Micah's family are anything to go by, and they all seem to be steadfastly on my side and not at all fussed at all that someone who was tearing holes in the magickal atmosphere is now residing in their country. (If only they could convince those wankers on the Coven.)

Josh doesn't know about my wings and tail though. Even though he's has been around for a few years now, I still haven't told him, nor anyone else in the magickal realm. I thought Agatha might have blabbed accidentally but she's managed to keep it to herself. It's probably for the best, one major revelation about me is enough to handle at any given time. Anyway, I think her dad had something to do with it. (Ix-nay-on-the-ings-and-tail-way) He's pretty good at those.

"Yeah all right thanks," I tell him. Agatha turns to face me from the front seat and gives me an apprehensive smile and when I smile back, she seems to relax. I think she's still worried that I'm mad at her for saying what she did. I'm not mad, and I'm not judging her for saying what she said. (I've got Penny for that.) I reckon some of the others were thinking it anyway.

We settle back in comfortable silence as Josh drives us back to their place. I want to close my eyes but I keep them open to take in the view as we wind our way to their house. Everything is so different from London – it's more open and sprawling like New Haven, but things seems a little brighter here, or maybe that's just because the sun is shining and we're close to the ocean. It even smells different.

"So what do you want to do while you're here Simon?" Agatha has turned to face me again. "Do you want to try rollerblading with me one day?"

"Hmm?" I stall, not knowing how to answer. I haven't really thought about what to do while I'm here.

"Simon doesn't want to rollerblade don't you? How about a surf lesson or two?" Josh offers instead. "I'm back teaching during the week but I have the odd afternoon or morning off."

He finished his degree last year and is teaching sports and world and medieval history at one of the local high schools. He prefers teaching sports, but says he has to teach some academic subjects as well at the school he's at.

"Nah, I think I'll give both of those a miss if you don't mind." I only just learned to swim on my honeymoon so I don't think I should venture out too far in the ocean yet. And as for that rollerblading shite? If it's anything like ice skating then I'll definitely give that a miss as well.

"Come on Simon, it'll be fun." I think she's joking. I don't think she really expects me to say yes.

"There are plenty of other things to do," Josh says. "There's the city and the harbour to visit, and bike trails, and there's an excellent historical walking tour of all the restaurants and pubs and brothels."

I'm not too sure about the last part but the restaurants and pubs sound good. "That sounds great," I tell him. I'm not really fussed what I do here for the week, I'm just glad I'm not stuck in Penny and Micah's apartment alone.

We arrive at their place quickly, and Agatha and I get out of the car while Josh heads off to work. The house is small and tidy, with grey timber panelling and white wooden windows and a fairly decent porch that goes across the entire front. It has a neat little front lawn and she says the lawn at the back is a little bigger.

As soon as we get to inside the door, Agatha is met by a shaggy brown and white dog. It's barking and jumping up at me as I carry my duffle to my temporary room. She gives the dog a quick pat and then the dog ignores her and starts running around me and snapping at my tail (even though it's spelled invisible). I wonder if dogs can see invisible wings and tails? I have to ask Baz. Or Penny.

I drop my bag and sit on the bed, looking around the room. It's a decent size and very neat. "This is really great Agatha, thanks," I tell her as I pat the dog.

"This is Emma's room," she explains from the doorway. "She's staying at her boyfriend's so it's yours until Penny and Micah arrive. Then you're stuck on the sofa I'm afraid."

I pat the dog again. "That's fine." The dog's jumping up at me and barking in a friendly way, but I keep my tail out of its reach just in case. "What's your dog's name? What sort of dog is it?"

She hesitates before she speaks, and when she does speak, she sounds nervous. "Um . . . It's a Cavalier King Charles spaniel."

I pat it again and look at its collar. It has a name tag: 'Lucy'

I glance up at Agatha and she's watching me with an anxious look. "You named your dog Lucy? Like my mother?"

"Um . . ." she says again, even more nervous this time. And she's frowning like she does whenever she's bothered by something. "I sort of named her . . . after your mother actually. . ."

"You named your dog after my mother?" I don't quite believe it. Why in Merlin's name would she do something like that?

"Well I didn't know she was your mother at the time Simon," she says quickly. "I found her in the snow outside Watford that night. I thought she was going to freeze to death so I picked her up and took her with me. When I left London I couldn't just leave her so I brought her with me and, well, yes, I named her Lucy."

"Why?" I can't believe she named her dog after my mother.

"Because Lucy ran away from magic, or so I thought at the time, and that's all I wanted to do after I escaped from the Mage. I'm sorry Simon."

I think about that for a bit. I guess it kind of makes sense, in a weird sort of Agatha way. I probably would have done the same thing if I was her.

But once she found out who Lucy was, surely she could change the dog's name to something else?

"Couldn't you have changed it to something else, once you found out she was my mum?"

Agatha shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot. She's doing that frowning thing again and I'm thinking of telling her to loosen up before it becomes permanent. "Um . . . well . . . we sort of got used to it, Emma and I," she stammers. "We didn't see the point of changing it."

"Didn't see the point? She was my mum!"

"I'm sorry Simon," she says, and she almost sounds like she means it. "But you can call her something else if it makes you feel better." Almost, but not quite.

I shake my head. I'm tired from the flight and I just want to have a rest. "It's a bit late now isn't it?" I shrug. In the end I don't really give a fuck what she calls the dog, but there's no way I'm calling her Lucy.

Agatha nods and quickly changes the subject, pointing out places to store my belongings in the room. Then she shows me around the house before leaving me to unpack and shower. I send Baz a quick text to tell him I've arrived and after a quick shower, Agatha and I (and the dog) head out for a walk. She's excited to show me around, and she also looks a little relived that I'm not carrying on about the dog.

"You're the first visitor I've had from home in a very long time . . . apart from Mother and Father that is."

"Yeah?"

"Yes. Penny and Micah came once, but that was a few years ago now. I suppose it is frightfully far from London isn't it?"

"Yeah it is." It is far from home. It's about as far from home as I could get. I know that's not true though, that would be somewhere like, I dunno, Australia and it's eighteen and a half hour flights to London or New Zealand or somewhere around there. I realise now why she was so keen for us all to come and stay. No one else from home has visited her in all these years, not even her Normal friend Monty or Mint tea or something.

We finish our walk and eat dinner with Josh and then I head to my temporary room while Agatha does some study and Josh marks some papers. It's late when I finally call Baz, and I'm patting the dog – that's what I call it now – while I talk to him. The dog seems to have taken to me, she followed me into my room and she's been trying to grab my tail the whole time even though it's still invisible. I tell Baz about the dog and how Agatha found her outside Watford that night.

"It's not a Cavalier spaniel is it?" He sounds like he's laughing.

"Yeah? How did you know that?" How can he know what sort of dog she is? Can he tell by her bark? Can he hear her panting through the mobile? Is that another weird vampire mind thing or something?

He's really laughing now. "That's the dog Bunce possessed. To tell me you went to the Mage."

I don't believe it. Baz and Penny told me everything that happened that night, like when Baz went to talk to the Numpties, and Nicodemus told him that it was the Mage who had him kidnapped, and how Penny possessed a dog because he wouldn't give her his mobile number. (He was such a cagey bastard back then.) "Do you think we should tell Agatha?"

"I'm sure Bunce will tell her when she arrives." He sounds like he's enjoying this.

"I can't believe she named her dog after my mum."

-oOo-

I spend the first couple of days seeing the sights with Agatha. We go to the beach and she shows me where she rollerblades with Emma, and she even talks me into trying it, which is a complete disaster but at least I don't die.

She takes me to a really big park where we take a ball and play with the dog, and Josh takes me to another beach and mountain bike ride along the coast. He's done it with his mates a few times and wanted to show me. It's pretty cool riding along the cliffs next to the beach. I stop to take a few photos and send them to Baz.

At night, Josh and Agatha and I go out to different places to eat. I don't know if they eat out like this all the time or just because I'm here but I'm not complaining – the food's pretty good. We go to different cafés and fill up on fish tacos and pizza.

I get to have a few days by myself when they both have work or uni, so I do a little exploring on my own. I end up flying around the city and the harbour one day, and spend another day walking around and getting lost downtown for a good few hours and eat a shit load of tacos before I spell myself invisible and fly back to their place. At least I get to see a lot of the city. (And eat a lot of tacos.)

At night I call Baz and tell him where I've been and what we've been doing. He tells me what he's been working on, (getting me home) and where he's been going (to the club, to talk with people about getting me home) (or Oxford to hunt and talk to Fiona and Daphne about getting me home), and I hate the fact that I'm here sightseeing while he's working like a maniac. It feels all wrong.

"Don't worry about that," Baz insists. "You may as well do something with your time. What's the alternative love?"

What is the alternative? Shouldn't I be using this time to help them rather than riding bikes and going to the beach and eating tacos? I start to feel guilty.

-oOo-

"And how are you doing with this dreadful banishment business Simon?"

I've been here five nights and Penny and Micah arrive tomorrow. Joshua is working late, coaching the football team so it's just Agatha and I sitting out on the lawn playing with the dog. I throw the tennis ball and the dog brings it back and sits in front of me, alternating between staring me down and nipping at my tail until I throw the ball again.

"All right I suppose," I tell her as I lob the ball across the back yard. I wipe my hand on the lawn because the ball's pretty slimy. "But I want to go home."

"That's understandable. But hang in there, it sounds like it won't be much longer. Baz is working very hard."

"Yeah. I know," I say, throwing the ball again.

"And I'm sorry about what I said that time . . . that you could be the cause of the holes staying open. I shouldn't have said that." She sounds sincere and I turn to face her and she stops pulling at the lawn and meets my eyes.

The dog brings the ball back to me and drops it next to my hand, it's a right slimy mess now so there's no way I'm touching it. I point my wand at the ball instead. "Clean as a whistle!" I mumble, and a big gloop of slobber drips off the ball and onto the lawn. It's pretty disgusting but it works, the ball is spotless and dry.

"Nah it's all right Agatha. For all I know you could be right."

Agatha frowns at the lawn. "No Simon. I don't think I was. I had nothing to base that on."

"Yeah but, no one know whether I'm the cause or not," I tell her. "You just said out loud what everyone else was probably thinking."

She turns back to me. "Penny and Baz don't believe it. And Professor Bunce doesn't either, and he's been studying the dead spots for years."

"I know . . . but . . . it's just . . . what if I am Agatha? What if I'm the reason they're not closing?" I blurt out. It's been on my mind for ages and Penny and Baz won't have a bar of it so I've had no one to talk to about it. Agatha seems as good as anyone to talk about it. At least she's open to looking at another point of view.

She watches me for a long time, frowning as she decides what to say. Then she kind of nods to herself and gives me a small smile. "If you are the cause Simon, then surely the holes would start to close now that you're away."

I look at her. I'm surprised that she's actually willing to discuss it, and surprised by her answer. It sounds like she's given this some thought.

"And are they?"

I shake my head. "Not as far as I know."

"See? You can't be the cause then."

"But maybe . . . maybe I'm the one that has to close them?" I've been thinking about this for a while as well. Penny won't have a bar of it whenever I bring it up, and Baz definitely wouldn't, so I've kept my thoughts to myself.

She scrunches up her nose and I can tell she's thinking about the possibility. "I don't know. That would require an enormous amount of magic to close all the holes, there are so many of them. And aren't some of them quite large? You don't have that sort of magic anymore do you?"

"Nah, not anymore. I'm pretty powerful now with my mum's wand, but nowhere near like I was."

I am pretty powerful. Penny and Baz and I even tested my powers once. My magic isn't as potent as theirs but it's close. I guess having such powerful mages as the Mage and Lucy as my parents means I was bound to get a load of power. My normal power that is, once I got rid of all that magic the Mage gave me with his evil plan to bring forth his fucking Chosen One.

"And thank magic for that," she jokes, but I can tell she's also relieved. She knows better than anyone how disastrous my old magic was.

I really did have a lot of power before I gave all to the Humdrum. I think about how Baz thought the Humdrum was like a hole, and it wanted to get bigger. But I thought it just wanted to be filled. That's how I ended it; I just filled it with my magic. All of it. Maybe my old magic would have been enough to fill the holes as well. Pity I didn't think of that before I gave it all away.

"Or maybe you just need the right spell rather than a lot of magic. I don't really know how it all works," Agatha goes on, pulling me from my thoughts.

"Yeah me neither. I really should have paid more attention in Magic Words."

"You and me both," she mumbles.

The dog is getting agitated waiting for me so I decide to try one of the new spells I read on the way here. I pick up my wand and point it at the ball.

"Fetch!" I yell, and the ball lobs in air across the lawn. She runs to retrieve it and brings it back to me, her tail wagging happily as she drops it next to my hand. I do it again. At least my hand isn't going to get all slimy this way.

I start reading those spell books again after everyone goes to sleep.

BAZ

I know it will be good for Simon to spend the week with Wellbelove rather than spend it alone in Bunce's cramped apartment – he'll be glad for the company and it will keep his mind off his banishment– but I'm still not happy about it. Wellbelove is his ex-girlfriend for Crowley's sake, and that fact alone has kept me awake at night since he first told me he was going to spend the week. I was sorely tempted to board the first flight out of London to be with him, even though I know they're not interested in each other. (At all.) But I'm pathetic, and sick in love, and I miss him terribly.

It's also just another excuse to despise Wellbelove a little more.

Wellbelove has been nothing but a pain in the neck ever since this started. I swear if she starts filling Simon's head with rubbish while he's there I'll be a pain in her neck (literally). The last thing we need is for her to blame Simon again for the dead spots. He blames himself already.

Bunce had a chat with her before they left to make sure she doesn't fill his mind with her ridiculous theories. She said that Wellbelove agreed, but still she irritates me.

The fact that Simon is in Wellbelove's home irritates me. Or it's more that she gets to spend time with him while I'm stuck here in London, away from him. I think that's what irritates me the most.

Everything about this mess irritates me; the inordinate amount of time it's taking to resolve, the fact that I can't find one irregularity in the law to use to our advantage, that no one has resigned from the Coven in shame yet, that my father steadfastly refuses to talk to the media in support of Simon, that Simon is currently staying in Wellbelove's house . . .

I drive much too fast to Oxford to hunt before our meeting and drive my fangs into the nearest a deer with a violent satisfaction. (I do well to resist calling the deer Agatha in my mind.) (For a while anyway.)

PENNY

Micah and I connect to the meeting from Los Angeles, and Agatha and Simon connect from San Diego. Everyone else is in London in Baz's parent's fancy dining room.

"Hi," Baz says to Simon, so soft and sweet that I feel like I'm going to gag. He greets Micah and me next and then adds a curt, "Wellbelove." It's difficult to tell on my screen but I'm pretty sure he's sneering at her. I roll my eyes but don't say anything, and Baz starts the meeting anyway, ignoring any further pleasantries.

Velma's two boys were interviewed at length today and they openly said they opposed their mother's view. But more than that, they questioned the very right of the Coven to be able to effect such a monumental decision. Fiona may have fed the journalist some question but the result was brilliant. It became the story's headline; "Next Generation of Mages call for Limits to Coven's Powers!"

"What's the fallout from the interview Professor?" Baz asks mum.

"It's too early to tell I'm afraid," mum admits, shaking her head. "But I hope to see some movement at the next Coven meeting Simon." She sounds as disappointed as I feel.

"Yeah me too," Simon says from San Diego. It comes out muffled. Is he eating a taco?

"Especially after the footage of the last rally and the petition hit the papers," mum goes on. "It was all very positively presented in The Magickal Record."

"Public opinion for you is at an all-time high Simon," dad says, giving us an encouraging nod. His thick glasses and messy hair make him look like a little owl through my computer, and I realise I miss mum and dad a little.

"That's great," Simon says in a flat tone. I study his picture on my screen. It's definitely a taco. He's been sending me pictures of food all week.

"I think it's time to give a report to the Coven regarding the dead spots, or rather their lack of movement," Baz pushes on. "Martin, are you prepared to do that?"

"Yes Basil," dad says. "We're visiting the spots again over the next week. That will give us enough time to prepare the data ready to present at the next Coven meeting."

That gives me a rather brilliant idea. "Hmm, can we leak that report before it's presented to the Coven? That might put the pressure on Velma at the very least?"

"I don't think that's entirely appropriate Penelope," mum says, and she gives me a look that's somewhere between exasperation and curiosity. I bet she was thinking the exact same thing.

"But you need to send Simon a copy of the report Martin, he's still a part of your team," Baz says, not missing a beat.

"Yes, he will need a copy of the report of course," dad agrees, understanding immediately where Baz is going with this. Good, if dad's in on it I won't have to explain myself to anyone. Especially mum. "All right Simon?"

"What? Oh yeah, okay," Simon mumbles. He sounds distracted and I'm worried about him even though he's with Agatha. At least Micah and I are seeing him in a few days.

It could just be the taco.

Mum checks that I'm still talking with Trixie (I am), and then Lady Salisbury gives her position regarding Odella and Luella (there's no change), and then Daphne talks briefly about the next rally outside the next Coven meeting ("You have so much support, Simon!"), and the petition that's growing every day.

The meeting ends fairly quickly after that, and I decide to give Simon a call. Maybe staying at Agatha's hasn't cheered him up like I'd hoped.

We have a quick chat and he fills me in on what he's been doing and the different foods he's been eating. He seems to be keeping himself busy enough so I tell him I'll see him in a few days and he mumbles his goodbye.

I call Agatha and ask her to keep an eye on Simon until we arrive. She agrees readily and I'm relieved he's with her rather than at our apartment all alone.

BAZ

Once the meeting is over I turn my laptop to face me.

"Hi," Simon says, a small smile breaking out on his face. It looks like he's sitting up against his bed head. I can see his wings and tail in the background and I briefly wonder if he spelled them before the meeting.

"Hi," I reach out to touch his cheek on the screen and then I wait until everyone clears the room before I speak again. "All right love?"

"Yeah." His voice is flat.

"How's San Diego?" I ask, even though we talk twice a day.

"Warm. Sunny," he grumbles. "I'd rather be in London where it's cold and miserable."

"I know. It won't be too much longer. It's all coming together now."

"I know," he echoes.

Crowley I miss him. The flat is empty without him and his dragon parts and the trail of mess he leaves from room to room. The fridge is empty as well but that's because he hasn't been here to bring home half the supermarket whenever he shops. . . I stare at his image on the screen. "I miss you."

"I miss you too Baz, like fucking mad."

I huff out a laugh at my eloquent husband. "I'll call you when I get back to London." And I'm just about to disconnect when Simon interrupts.

"Baz?"

"Yes love?"

"Can you . . . can you make me another list?"

I stare at his image. He's giving me a tentative half smile and my heart melts for him.

We've been doing this for a few weeks now and it seems to help him sleep, nightmare free. It's ridiculous and juvenile but of course I indulge him. I'll do anything to appease him. I feel like I'm back in high school with these ridiculous lists but they help Simon sleep without nightmares, and I sleep a better as a result. Crowley I really am a disaster.

We've done a bunch of trivial, childish topics including favourite food, songs and people, places we want to visit, and books. (Comics are not books I argued.) (I lost.)

We listed the most interesting people we'd like to invite to dinner (alive or dead) and I thought long and hard about that one and came up with a well thought out list of eminent mages throughout history, only to be completely derailed by Simon's list: me, Bunce, Micah, Wellbelove, Alex, Marco and Olivia.

He came up with a few topics of his own too, including each other's most ridiculous personal habits. (I managed to contain my list to ten items as agreed, even though his list went on for quite a while.) (And colour coding my wardrobe is not ridiculous.) But the whole list business ended after he listed his top ten favourite vampire jokes. (Bloody Fiona.) And that was right after I refused to list the top ten best tasting animals to suck blood from.

"Whatever you want love," I agree, because I'm weak. "Any particular topic?"

"Well . . ." he starts. "How about weirdest spells? There's bound to be loads of those."

"All right," I smile despite myself. I really would cross any line for him. "I'll call you when I get home."

He nods in reply and with that I snap the laptop closed and drive home, working on my list as I floor it down the M40.

Chapter Text

SIMON

Penny's still laughing about the dog.

She and Micah arrive late Friday afternoon, after they finished their work in Los Angeles, and after they say their hello's and take over my room, the five of us head out to town for dinner. It's lovely to be together again– it's the first time in years, but it feels weird without Baz. We all notice his absence.

We end up doing that walking tour of the cities pubs, restaurants and brothels thing. Micah says it reminds him of the haunted pub tour of London we did a few years back, but I think it's nothing like it – there are no fucking ghosts for one thing. And I'm more please about that than I care to admit, two visiting back at Watford in one night was enough to scare the shit out of me.

We have lunch at a taco place nearby, and now we're sitting in the shade on the back lawn while Agatha and Josh busy themselves inside with some afternoon tea. Penny's been laughing about the dog since she arrived. I don't know what she finds funnier; that this is the dog she possessed or that Agatha named her after my mum.

"Oh come on Simon, you have to admit, it is a little funny," she snorts as she tries to pat the dog's head. The dog ducks away from her and wanders over to me instead. She seems to like me and Micah well enough but she hasn't taken to Penny yet. I wonder if the dog knows it was Penny who possessed her and is still holding a grudge.

I pat the dog again, scratching behind her big floppy ears. The dog wags her tail happily. "She could have at least changed the name once she found out."

"I think it's a great name for a dog," Micah says. "I mean, it's a great way to remember your mum," he corrects after I give him a funny look. He shrugs in that easy going Micah way.

I let out a resigned huff as I pat the dog again. She's friendly enough, and cute enough in a dumb, frumpy dog sort of way, and she seems to like my tail even though it's invisible. I don't mind dogs as long as they're not were or anything, and I haven't had to kill one for ages.

I start to wonder if Baz would like a dog, but quickly decide it's not the greatest idea seeing we live in a small, two bedroom flat. And also because he's a vampire. He'd probably suck it dry if he couldn't go out hunting one night, or if it ate one of his expensive boots. I send Baz a picture of me and the dog anyway, just in case I can change his mind one day.

It's a good weekend, easy and relaxing, but all too soon it's over and we have to fly back so Penny and Micah can get back to their work. By the time we get back to New Haven I only have a few days before my visa expires, so I spend my last few days packing and flying and cooking a whole load of dishes for Penny's freezer. Packing takes a lot longer than usual because my stuff's managed to get strewn across the entire apartment over the last few months. Penny keeps finding my tee shirts and socks mixed in with Micah's lot.

When Baz came to America, he brought over my winter waterproof jacket from home, as well as a brand new posh looking wool coat and a new hat and scarf and his gloves that I've taken to wearing. He also left me a few of his (my) jumpers when he came over because I didn't pack much winter gear– I didn't think I'd be away long enough to need any. I shove all of the new stuff into my duffle along with the rest of my belongings.

I check my connections and confirm with Alex exactly where she lives and get ready to move again.

Moving again. I haven't moved this much since I was a teenager when I was shifted between Watford and all those orphanages the Mage stuck me in each summer. I don't like how each move makes me feel like I'm right back there again– alone and homeless. I try not to think about it.

"Do you want me to meet you in Florence?" Baz asks over the phone for what feels like the hundredth time.

I'm sitting on my very tidy bed, shaking the Paris snow dome lazily, watching the snowflakes drop over the night time scene. My bag is packed and ready to go, parked by the bedroom door. The room is neat and tidy without my stuff sprawled all around, like it was when I first arrived. When I'm gone it won't look like I was ever here.

"No Baz, you can't keep flying around the place to meet me," I tell him even though that's exactly what I would love him to do.

"Why not?"

"Because . . . Because you've got so much to get on with," I reason. "I don't want to distract you."

"I can't think of anyone better to distract me."

It comes out sounding salacious and I laugh at his audacity. I love that about him, that it never bothers him to say exactly what he's thinking. Other people find it intimidating but I've learned over the years that it's just Baz's way. "Better save that for when this is over yeah? We've got a duvet fucking month ahead of us."

"Of course," he's murmurs in an outrageously seductive tone that makes me get all hot under the collar. He says it as if he's just remembered, even though I know there is absolutely no way he'd ever forget about it. (I wonder if all vampires are that horny, if it's another one of those vampire traits or if it's only Baz.) "I'm looking forward to that Simon."

I can feel myself turning red. "Maybe you should meet me after all." I tug at my collar as if that will help.

This time he snorts out a laugh. "I don't think Alex and Marco would appreciate us shagging our days away in their flat."

"Yeah, you're probably right," I agree. I'm thankful they're letting me stay with them, so we'd better not. And I'm supposed to be working while I'm there anyway. That's what I told Alex. I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to pull that off.

Penny and Micah and I head out for our final dinner. We have a nice enough time even though she asks me repeatedly if I'm going to be all right and I assure her just as many times that I will. I don't think she believes me because she insists I call her every day from Florence. I tell her she needs to work and she doesn't need to be bothered by me all the time, but she keeps on at me until I smell her sage magic swirling around and I agree just to keep the peace.

"At least call me to tell me you've arrived safely and you've made it to Alex and Marco's apartment without getting lost. All right?"

"Merlin Penny, all right. Anyone would think I've never travelled before."

"Well you haven't really. Not without Baz."

"I flew to America on my own," I remind her, trying not to sound too indignant. "And San Diego."

"Yes, and you were met at the airport both times," she throws back at me, looking more worried than ever now. "This time you have a few flights and a train to catch, and you're going to have to make your own way to their place. Are you sure you'll be all right?"

"Yes Penny. Of course I will." I don't tell her that her worry is starting to rub off on me.

I've do have two flights and then a train to catch to get to Florence, and then I have to take a taxi to Alex's flat. Baz mapped everything out for me and he reminded me where to get the train and where to get off, and where to get a taxi and he explained everything at least five times. I think he's a little worried as well.

"Maybe I should meet you in Zurich. Or Pisa," he says again when I can't remember where to get the train.

"No Baz, I've been making my way around on my own since I was eleven. I can do this." I try to sound confident even though I'm starting to feel a little anxious. I've never travelled alone in another country where I don't speak the language.

"All right, but call me if you're not sure of anything."

PENNY

As we drive Simon to the airport, I can't help worry about what will happen next. Just how long will he have to remain away from England? And how will he cope on his own? How will Baz cope? Who'll be there to sort out those two idiots if they fall apart again? Shit, I'm starting to panic. I take a few calming breaths.

We don't say goodbye because I hate goodbyes. Instead we hug quickly and then Micah and I wave him off. We watch as Simon makes his way through customs, waving forlornly at us again as he heads though the door, then Micah and I drive back to New Haven in silence.

I miss him already.

"Maybe I should go back to London," I think aloud. We've been driving for a while and Micah has graciously left me alone with my thoughts. "I could keep an eye on Baz. And help him, he's been working non-stop trying to get Simon home."

Micah glances my way before turning his eyes back to the road. "You could Penny. But I don't know what you can do there that you can't do here." He takes my hand and gives is squeeze.

What will I do if I go back to London? Storm the Coven? Join the protestors? I've already given an interview and I can give another one from here if I need to. Baz has his family and especially Fiona to keep an eye on him. And he's working relentlessly these days, coordinating the information to the newspapers, coordinating everyone else's activities, reviewing the laws, working with mum and dad, keeping Fiona on track. We meet every week and everyone is doing what they have to do, and I realise grudgingly that there isn't anything for me to do. "You know, I think you're right Micah. Things are moving as fast as they can."

"Maybe you've done your bit. You know, looking after Simon these last three months, making sure he was fed and didn't get lost in his head. Or lost out there." He waves his arm vaguely towards the window. "And saving him from all his admirers."

I snort out a laugh.

"Merlin knows they're such suckers for a hot British accent," he adds, giving me a quick wink before turning back to the road.

"Like you?"

He grins. "Yes. Exactly like me."

I let the joke slide. "Maybe." But I don't know. I don't feel like I've actually done anything worthwhile apart from babysit Simon.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I'm checking Baz's instructions again on how to get to Alex's apartment. I made it to Florence without a problem, but as I stand outside the train station I'm at a bit of a loss because I can't see any taxis.

I stand outside the train station for a while, shifting awkwardly around my duffle that I placed on the ground between my feet. I've been on planes and trains and in airport lounges for more hours than I care to remember today, and what I really want right now is a shower and a bed.

Maybe all the taxis left already? Maybe I have to wait for another train before another load of taxis arrive? I wonder how long that's going to be.

Maybe I'll just spell myself invisible and fly to Alex's place. That would be the easiest way to get there, except I don't know where their flat is. I have Alex's address, but have no clue where in Florence that is. I sit on my duffle and wait instead, eating my way through the last of my stash of mint Aero bars Penny bought for the trip.

Finally I see a few taxis start to roll up so I get up and hail the first one down. I load my bag into the boot and slide into the seat next to him and rest my head on the headrest. The taxi driver says something in Italian that I don't understand, but I assume he's asking me where I want to go so I hand over the address.

"Ah," he says, giving me a decisive nod which I take to mean he knows where he's going. Alex already warned me that the trip to her place should only take about fifteen minutes in traffic, twenty tops so I put on my seat belt (which the driver scoffs) and sit back and try to relax while he dodges the bonkers Italian traffic. I'm dead tired and I want to close my eyes but I can't because the driver is driving like a maniac. I hold onto the seat and think about reaching for my wand.

Is there a spell to stop a car crash? I don't think so, but I reckon there is a spell to make the driver drive safely. What is it? Safe driving is no accident or is it Safety doesn't happen by accident or Safe and Sound? I wish I could remember because he's scaring the shit out of me right now. I think about trying one of the spells but I don't know how to do it without him seeing me wave my wand, and by the time I decide to do it he slams on the breaks abruptly.

"Arrivato!" he says, smiling at me politely like that wasn't just the ride from hell. I check my phone– we made it in ten minutes.

I pay the driver and get out as fast as I can, before he takes off again with me still in it. Then I drag my bag to what I hope is the right apartment building and knock on the door. I'm a little nervous because I'm not sure if I have the right place and the taxi bloke took off as soon as I pulled my bag out of the boot so I'm relieved when Alex answers the door.

"Simon!" she yells. "You made it! How are you? Good to see you!"

She pulls me in for a big hug, wrapping her tiny arms around my waist because she can't reach much higher, and I manage to get my wings out of the way just in time. Penny used to joke that she looks like a pixie because she's small and has boundless energy. But she's not, she's definitely a Normal – there's no pixie dust for one thing, and her ears aren't pointy. I hug her back and grin. It's so good to see her, to see someone else from home after all this time.

She pulls back and gives me a once over. "Christ Simon, isn't Baz feeding you? You're too skinny."

"Of course he is," I half lie. She has no idea I spent the last three months in America with Penny. (And Penny still can't cook for shit.) "And I can cook too you know."

"I know, I know." she says, waving me away with her hand. She taught me how make loads of things when I worked with her, and Marco gave me a whole bunch of different recipes as well. I'm eternally grateful for the both of them expanding my culinary capabilities – sausages and eggs and bacon butties are alright for a while, but a bloke can't be expected to live on that.

"But I've missed your pies Alex . . ." My stomach grumbles as I say it and I feel a blush coming on. No one can make pies like Alex.

She lets out a loud laugh. "We'll make some while you're here," she yells over her shoulder as she heads to the stairs. "You need fattening up."

The foyer is light and airy and filled with big arch windows that provide a view of the lush gardens outside. There's a load of wrought iron on the stairs and latticework around the windows and earthy coloured travertine tiles on the floor and exposed beams on the ceiling and it all looks very Tuscan and warm and pretty. It reminds me of the villa Baz and I stayed at for our honeymoon.

Alex bounds up the stairs to her apartment as quick as ever and I have to practically run to keep up with her. She's talking the whole way up and I'm only catching some of what she's saying. Every now and then she points at a door that we pass and I think she's telling me about the neighbours.

We enter her apartment and she immediately turns on the kettle for some tea. I drop my bags and slouch into the nearest chair and wonder if she has any biscuits.

I take a look around the apartment. It's a decent enough size, and it's clean and light and earthy like the foyer. There are big arched windows that look out over the garden and parts of the city. There's a kitchen to the left and a dining room with a timber dining table, and they must do a lot of cooking because they're both overloaded with all sorts of interesting stuff; there are herbs growing in pots, pots and pans hanging from hooks above the island, baskets holding potatoes and onions, a fruit bowl full to the brim, fresh bread on the counter and a basket of scones and freshly baked biscuits cooling on a wire rack on the bench and I reckon I'm in heaven.

"So, how was the trip?" she yells from the kitchen.

I tear my eyes away from the scones and follow her voice. "Long." My eyes shift immediately back to the biscuits.

"Ha ha Simon, it's a short flight from London," she reminds me as she pours the hot water from the kettle into the tea pot. She adds two scoops of tea and sets it on the table to let it steep.

"Oh yeah." She thinks I came from London, not New Haven. Shit. I hate lying to Alex– I hate lying to anyone, and I'm usually crap at it. "The train trip was long," I throw in.

"Well it's so good to see you," she says, busying herself gathering cups and saucers for the tea. She plates up some biscuits and then piles a few scones next to tubs of jam and cream on a separate platter. She grabs the butter from the bench and gives me a knowing smile as she sticks the full tub in front of me.

While Alex is fussing in the kitchen I decide to call Baz, otherwise I know he'll worry. I tell him I made it no problem and we chat for a while, and then text Penny and tell her the same. Alex finally joins me at the table after she finishes fussing around the kitchen and we catch up while we drink tea. I manage devour the entire plate of homemade biscuits on my own and knock back a fair few scones as well.

We talk for ages, chatting about her time in Italy and her work, and I tell her a about my job and Baz until she looks at her watch and says she needs to get to the restaurant. She hand me a key and shows me around the apartment and my room and hands me a map of Florence.

"It's easy peasy to find your way around here. Just start walking. It's a very walkable city and there's loads to see and do– when you're not working that is," she says. "See you tonight, I'll bring supper," she yells on her way out.

And with that she out the door and I sag onto my bed and fall asleep for a few hours without bothering to unpack.

-oOo-

I'm in Florence for a full week before I get to spend a day with Alex and Marco. I've spent most of my time walking around the city and reading spell books, but today, they took it upon themselves to act as my tour guides because they had the day off. I'm filling Baz in on all the things we did.

"We went to that museum again and saw that statue of David. You know, the tall naked bloke. It was brilliant how that Michelangelo fella carved him out of marble. And without magic."

"It's quite a masterpiece," he agrees.

"And then we walked around for a bit and climbed that big cathedral – you know the one with the huge dome, like our postcard. It took ages and I was really hungry after that so Marco found a place to eat. It had the best pasta with this ragu made with wild boar. Wild boar Baz! It tasted bloody brilliant."

"Mmmm," he hums, and I reckon he's thinking about draining one of those wild boars, not eating it with pasta.

"Marco also says I have to try the tripe sandwich, but I said no bloody way. Tripe Baz, that's cow's stomach. Can you believe it?"

"Sounds delicious," he says, his voice dripping with sarcasm. I bet he's scrunching up his nose at the thought. (This from a vampire who sucks blood out of rats.)

"And nearly everyone here in our apartment block has a dog. A dog in an apartment. And not just small ones Baz, big dogs too, and they all have English names. One of the dogs here is called 'Penny'. Do you think I should tell Penny?"

"Definitely," he drawls. "Is there one named Agatha?"

"Ha ha." I roll my eyes even though he can't see me. "Oh, and we went to see another couple of churches. There are a lot of churches here you know."

"I know." His voice is quiet, reticent.

Baz and I didn't visit any churches or cathedrals when we came last time. Seeing as he's a vampire we're fairly sure he'll burst into a ball of fire if he tries to enter one, and we've had enough near-death-by-fire experiences to last us a life time. We didn't chance it.

I'm starting to feel more comfortable here, more so than in America, even with Penny and Micah around. Maybe it's the fact that everything is so close so don't need a car or to fly to get around, or maybe it's that it's a little closer to home. Closer to Baz.

Or maybe it's the fact that there's so much fucking food around. It's everywhere. And it's all so bloody good. Alex gave me a list things to do and see and loads of restaurants and cafes to try. I've made it my goal while I'm here to make it through the entire list.

"Hey Baz, do you want to get a dog?" I blurt out. "Or a cat even? I mean, when all this is sorted. If it ever is sorted." It comes out before I even think, but then I do think, and I think better of it. "Nah don't worry about it," I say hastily. "That was thoughtless. It's not really that smart to get a pet when you have a vampire in the house is it?"

Baz goes quiet for a minute.

"Don't worry about it Baz. I know it's stupid. Forget I said anything."

"Simon, I–"

"Don't worry about it Baz," I repeat. "I'll see you at the Oxford meeting. Go hunt."

BAZ

I didn't know what to say. My perpetually optimistic husband is already planning for when this is all over, while I can't think past the next week. My mind is entirely focused on bringing him home as soon as possible. And it's almost Christmas for Crowley's sake, and I'll be staked through the heart before we spend that apart.

And now he wants to get a dog.

If we ever get a dog I'm going to call it Agatha.

I'm driving to Oxford early, so I can hunt before our meeting. The Coven doesn't meet until next week so I need to make sure we have enough to keep Simon in the news until then. We're going release the findings on the dead spots so it hits the paper right before the meeting – that should put enough pressure on Velma or one of the other seven idiots to finally resign.

Or I'll call it Sid. Sid Vicious. Fiona would love that. I had a pair of goldfish when I was young named Sid and Nancy. They died.

I pull up in the driveway and head to the forest to hunt. I cast Doe, a deer and wait for my prey to wander close, seizing the doe when it does and sinking my fangs expertly into its pulsing neck. Thank magic for hunting spells, this would be a lot more tedious if I had to hunt like a Normal vampire. I'd never have the patience. Then I shudder at the thought of what prey they hunt. I finish up and head to the house where my family is waiting to have dinner.

Or I'll name it Spotty. As in The Spotty Dogs. Terrible musicians but Aunt Fiona raved about them for years for some inexplicable reason.

I make a quick detour to the bathroom to wash up before dinner. I didn't get any blood on me but I like to check, just to make sure.

Agatha. I really want to name our dog Agatha.

I wash my hands and head to the dining room where my family is seated for dinner.

Simon will never let me name our dog Agatha.

"Father, Mother." I greet my parents as I take my seat.

"What am I, bloody invisible?" Fiona complains, and I wonder again what she ever saw in that terrible band.

"Fiona," my father cautions. My siblings are at the table so bad language is not tolerated.

"Hello Fiona," I drawl. I remember now; she dated the drummer. Another Normal loser in her long line of Normal loser boyfriends.

"Sooo, how's your Chosen One doing?" She coos at me. She still finds the label amusing, I find it irritating as hell.

"As well as can be expected. He's in Florence."

"With the Normals?" she scoffs.

"Yes Fiona, where else can he stay? He's been bloody banished, remember?"

"Basilton," Father admonishes me this time.

I run my fingers through my hair and huff in exasperation. I'm running out of patience with everything, and everyone. This is taking far too long to resolve.

"Maybe Simon can stay with Aunty Fiona next!" Mordelia gushes. "In Prague!"

"Not bloody likely!" I snap. It comes out harsher than I meant it to, but the mere thought of those two together is enough to send a stream of disturbing images through my mind; Simon hexing Fiona, Fiona cursing Simon, Simon getting tanked on Fiona's illicit stash of Russian vodka, both of them plotting for hours to come up with more idiotic vampire jokes. . .

"Basilton." Father rebukes me again, dropping his cutlery with a clatter.

"Yeah. Not bloody likely," Fiona snorts. "Although it would be interesting. . ."

"Fiona," Father sighs, still trying to reign in the language. He shakes his head wearily while the twins giggle.

I glare at her. "That is never going to happen."

"It's nearly Christmas Basil," Daphne interrupts, steering the conversation to safer ground. "What are you plans?"

I turn my eyes to her and soften my gaze. She's watching at me with her kind brown eyes and I can see she's trying to keep things civil – for Father's sake more than anything.

"I'll be wherever Simon is. If things move quickly enough he could be back by then." I try to sound confident not desperate, but I doubt I pull it off. And Daphne can see through me when it comes to Simon anyway so there's really no point.

I catch Daphne and my father sharing a look, and Fiona is watching them with a guarded expression. I study the three of them for a moment; it's obvious they know something so I ready myself for whatever's coming. It can't be good. "What now?"

Fiona places her cutlery down and shifts in her seat uncomfortably. "We're going to wait for the meeting tonight to discuss the latest development," she starts, and I narrow my eyes at her until she continues. "It appears the Coven meeting has been postponed, until after Christmas."

"Why?" That definitely came out desperate, but I don't give a fuck right now.

"Word on the street is that the Senseless Seven are feeling the heat. They're worried that some of the less fanatical of their group will cave, so they're delaying."

"Fuck," I hiss. How is Simon going to take this news? And what is he going to do for Christmas? He's only meant to stay with Alex and Marco for four weeks, we couldn't come up with an excuse for longer – no one works over the Christmas holidays. He can't stay with them forever anyway, they're friends, not family. And they're Normals for Crowley's sake.

"Basilton," Father rebukes, louder this time.

I thought this would be sorted by Christmas.

"Fuck," my little brother echoes and my twin sister's giggle.

"Good one Basil!" Fiona snorts. "At least it's you being a bad influence on the littluns and not me for a change." She turns to my siblings and winks. "Don't listen to your big brother, he has a potty mouth."

I roll my eyes as I push my out my chair. "You're a fine one to talk."

"Basil is a potty!" the twins giggle.

"You're a potty Bazoow!" my brother repeats.

"This is a conversation for later," Father says, effectively ending any further discussion. He's looking between the twins and my little brother affectionately but I hardly notice, I'm already out of my chair, my mobile out. I have to tell Simon.

I hear Father calling my name as I head out the door.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I shouldn't have mentioned getting a dog – that's probably one of the more stupid ideas I've had recently. I just opened my big mouth and didn't think as usual. That's my problem, I never think.

Anyway, we live (I lived?) in a two bedroom flat, and I'm away at work every day and Baz will start working soon and you can't leave a dog alone all day long. It would get lonely, or tear the place apart. Maybe a cat would be okay. A cat sleeps almost all the time and only demands attention every now and again. A cat could cope with our lifestyle.

If I had a cat I'd call it Buffy.

I'm sitting on Alex's couch with my laptop open, ready to connect to the meeting. Alex and Marco are at the restaurant most nights so I have a lot of free time on my hands, like tonight. They've had a few nights off during the week and we've had some great dinners on those nights, dinners reminiscent of the ones Alex used to host at her flat in London. But mostly I'm alone.

Or I'd call it Fang.

Alex and Marco think I go off to the university to work every day. They have no clue that I go out and wander around the city or sit in their apartment and read spell books all day. Or fly. I've been here for two weeks and I've have to lie to them every single day. I hate doing it but they're Normals so I can't tell them anything. How do you explain you've been banished from the UK for being the greatest threat to magic that ever existed when they don't even know magic exists?

Batty?

The dogs in the apartment building know something's up though– they try to bite my tail whenever I meet them on the stairs even though I spell it invisible every day.

If I had a dog I'd call it Pyro. I like that name. It has an ominous ring to it, dangerous and tough. I take another one of Alex's biscuits from the plate on the coffee table and mull over names for a while. Or maybe Tyrannus– that's tough as well, and it's not as if Baz is using it. Or even Rex.

Tyrannus Rex?

What is it about dogs? I thought they could hear things that humans can't. Can they see what humans can't see as well? Or can they see magic? I'll have to ask Baz later, or Penny.

I don't think Baz would ever let me call our dog Tyrannus.

I've been going over Baz's spell books again, trying to find something that could help close the holes. I've been searching for weeks now but I haven't found anything. I even asked Baz to list some of the more weird spells he knows in case he mentioned one that would do the trick. Those spells were pretty fucking disturbing, especially the ones invented by some distant Pitch relative eons ago, but none of them do what I want them to do. What I need them to do. I knew this was a long shot.

I wave my wand at the pile of books and cast a half-hearted, "A place for everything, and everything in its place!" watching on as the books fly back to my room and stack themselves neatly on the dresser. I cast the same spell in the kitchen and spell some laundry away as I wait for the meeting to start– I figure I may as well make myself useful while Alex lets me stay here. When I'm done I turn on the telly for something to do because I still have some time before the meeting, and then I turn it off because I can't understand what they're on about.

I need to start running again, the food is so good here that I'm sure to be stacking on the weight. And the gelato is bloody brilliant. I try a different flavour every day while I'm out, sometimes two. And the coffee, Merlin the coffee . . .

My phone rings and Baz's face appears on the screen. I'm already smiling as I answer.

"Hi," I say. "I had the Stracciatella gelato today. What did you do?"

"Simon," Baz breathes. There's an edge to his voice so I'm instantly wary.

"What?"

"There's . . ." he stops to let out a loud breath. "There's been a delay."

"What do you mean a delay?"

"We don't know for sure yet, but there's talk that those bastards that had you banished are planning to delay the Coven meeting. Until after Christmas."

"What? Why?" I don't mean to yell but I can't help it. A delay? How can they fucking delay this? It's already taking far too long. My heart starts beating too fast and I remind myself to breathe to try and keep pace. This can't be happening.

"I don't know any of the details yet, Fiona only decided to tell me at dinner. We'll find out more at the meeting. I wanted you to know before . . ." Baz trails off.

My heart races faster. "Fuck Baz, what am I going to do? I can't stay here forever. I told Alex four weeks and it's already been two."

"I know Simon. I know."

I rake my free hand through my hair. "Fuck Baz," I whisper again. I can't. I can't believe this. I'm never going to get home the way things are going. "Fucking January! What am I going to do until fucking January?"

"Simon." he says. "I'm coming to Italy."

BAZ

I have to go. I need to be with Simon. I can work just as effectively from there as I can from here. And if the Coven don't meet for the next month then it's pointless staying in London. There's nothing more to be done here.

All right, that's not entirely true, I have enough to be getting on with but I can't leave Simon to face this alone any longer. I can't.

"I'm coming to Florence, we'll work it out when I get there."

"Wha– Are you sure?"

"Yes love, of course I'm sure." And I am. I've never been so sure of anything.

SIMON

What a fucking mess.

Nothing is going to happen now until after Christmas. Christmas! I'm pissed off with the Coven and their stupid fucking delaying tactics, but Baz is coming here and no matter how mad I am at the Coven, I can't be mad about Baz coming here. Can I be pissed off and happy at the same time? Is that even possible?

I'm anxious as all hell when I connect to our meeting, and sure enough, Penny's mum tells us that most of the Senseless Seven have put in their apologies to the Coven so the Coven has postponed their meeting until January.

Fucking January.

"I'm sorry Simon," Dr Wellbelove says, sounding full of remorse like all this is his fault. "I know this is not what you want to hear right now, but this means they're feeling the pressure and that's exactly what we want."

I know the Doc's right, but it doesn't make me feel any better about it.

"My report into the dead spots made the front page," Penny's dad says. "The holes haven't reduced at all since you left Simon."

He sounds pretty chuffed that he's finally made the front page of The Record, and I can't help feeling a little pleased for him despite everything. Normally all he gets is a small piece around page eleven in the 'In Other Events' section because there's never anything new to report. Although right now, the fact that there's nothing to report is newsworthy itself.

"That's why the Coven is delaying," Fiona chips in. "That's the word on the street."

"Yes, the reaction from the public has been quite extraordinary," Penny's dad says. He looks like he's almost smiling at Fiona, which is a whole new level of weird in itself– Fiona and Penny's dad have never directly agreed on anything before. "My office has been inundated with calls and visitors since the story hit the paper. Everyone wants to know what it means. I gave an interview with The Record today and told them exactly what it means; that you're not to blame Simon, that none of this is your fault. The evidence is overwhelming."

"That's wonderful Martin," Daphne says, sounding just as pleased. "Thank you."

A few of the others agree and start to second guess the public's reaction to Professor Bunce's latest interview but I switch off, I've heard enough. I don't want to listen anymore because all I can think of is that nothing is going to happen this year. It doesn't matter that the holes haven't reduced in size because I'm still can't step foot in the UK without my feet being spelled into the fucking dirt, permanently.

When everyone says their goodbyes, I close my laptop and sink back into the couch. I drop my head into my hands and concentrate on breathing. I can't stand this. I can't stand the feeling of helplessness, isolation, homelessness. Of standing still. My phone rings.

"Baz," I sigh.

"I know this feels hopeless right now love, but it's not. Those idiots on the Coven are feeling the pressure now so it's only a matter of time before one of them caves."

He launches straight into his flawless reasoning and I can tell what he's doing; he's trying to stop me from spiralling into some deep dark pit of despair, but I think I might already be there. "I don't know . . ."

"It is Simon. The newspaper articles have been consistently on your side for the last few months. Public opinion is overwhelmingly in your favour. Things are happening."

I ignore what he's saying because I'm not sure it's going to make any difference. Instead I ask what is going to make a difference.

"Are you still coming here?" I hate how desperate I sound but I'm sick of feeling so fucking alone in all of this.

"Of course I am, just give me a few days to sort things out and then I'll be there," he says, and I can tell his mind is already racing with what he has to do. There's probably a whole load of stuff he has to sort out and it's probably a huge inconvenience to come here to be with me. Maybe he shouldn't come here at all.

"Are you sure you can come? I mean, shouldn't you stay there to sort this out?" I blurt out, holding my breath for his answer. I have to let him know that he doesn't have to do this even though it's exactly what I want. I want him here with me. I've wanted him with me ever since I left London.

"I can do it from Italy," he insists. "Don't worry love."

But I do worry. I worry about how long this is taking to fix. I worry that someone on the Coven might never resign and this might never be resolved. I worry that Baz is coming here instead of staying in London where he can get things done a hell of a lot quicker and easier. I worry that people will always blame me for the dead spots while they exist. I worry that I'll never be let back into the UK. I worry that Baz will keep delaying his studies.

And I worry that maybe the holes will never close unless I do something about it.

BAZ

My father is standing by the library door, waiting for me to finish my call. When I hang up he strides purposefully towards the empty chair next to me.

"Basilton," he nods, his voice is earnest rather than the usual, dispassionate tone.

"Yes Father?"

He's still wearing his suit from work, dark blue with fine pinstripes, and an equally dark tie. It looks impressive against his snow white hair and serious demeanour. He takes a seat next to me and clears his throat, crossing one leg over the other and brushing his trouser leg down with his hand. His face masks his real feelings as usual, so I can't read what's happening behind his eyes. It's a practiced look.

"You're going to be with Simon." It's more a statement than a question.

"Yes Father. I'm going to Italy."

He watches me for a moment before giving me a single nod. "I thought as much." His tone is back to what I'm used to, clipped and impartial. I have no idea of his current mood so I watch in silence, waiting for him to go on.

He clasps his hands together in front of him and looks down at the polished parquetry floor. He's always like this, taking his time to speak, thinking through what he wants to say. Some people think he's planning or scheming, but I've learned it's just in his nature to be reticent.

He lifts his eyes to meet mine. "Your mother and I have a place. For you and Simon . . . if you need."

"A place?" I keep my face schooled and my voice flat because I'm not sure where my father is going with this.

"An apartment–"

"Where?"

"In Paris . . . It was a business opportunity. We've been looking for a while . . . You know how your mother despises hotels."

"You purchased an apartment?" That didn't come out flat. I try to settle my face again but I'm having a hard time of it because I can't quite believe what he's telling me. I try to wipe off the look of disbelief that's currently residing there.

"Yes. The refurbishments are complete. You and Simon are welcome to it, for as long as you need."

I stare at my father, not saying anything because I don't honestly know what to say. Father purchased an apartment, for us. This is not an everyday occurrence in either the Grimm or Pitch households – all of the properties we own have been in our families for years, centuries even. It's completely unlike my father to do something so impulsive. It took him the better part of five years to get over the move to Oxford.

He's still watching me and I realise he's waiting for an answer, an acknowledgement of some form.

"Thank you Father," I say eventually. I don't know what else to say. It's overwhelming.

He nods again, satisfied with my response. He stands then, gracefully shooting his cuffs as he brings himself to his full height. "You're welcome Basilton." He nods once more, turns and strides gracefully out of the room.

I remain seated as I watch my father leave. Daphne is standing in the doorway, watching the exchange. She pats my father's shoulder as he passes, then enters the library closing the door behind her. She makes her way to the same seat my father recently vacated, sits.

"Your father planned for this eventuality from the start, Basil." Her voice is soft and kind, motherly. I find myself wondering, not for the first time, what my mother's voice would have sounded like in these circumstances, what she would have thought about this wretched situation. "He's been concerned from the start that this would not be resolved as quick as everyone hoped."

I give her a silent nod. I don't know what to say, I thought Father was being pessimistic and difficult but now I'm starting to believe he's the only one that's been realistic. When this nightmare started I didn't believe for a moment it would take this long to sort out. But Father knew. And not only was he right, he foresaw the need for a longer term solution rather than our makeshift approach. I realise now he wasn't merely being cynical, he was actually trying to be helpful, supportive.

"Although things are moving a lot faster than we first anticipated," she adds. "Thanks to you Basil."

I nod again.

She hands me a set of keys. "Stay at the apartment as long as you need."

I frown down at the keys in my hand, and realise at this point I haven't actually said anything to Daphne. I lift my eyes to meet hers. She's smiling back at me and all at once I'm overwhelmingly grateful for my family.

"But. . . Isn't it your apartment?" I finally blurt out.

"The children are in school," she says, waving her hand airily. "We may use it, later perhaps, when there's more time. But for now it's yours, and Simon's."

Relief washes over me as I realise this is actually happening. Simon and I have a place to stay– a base that we won't have to move from again. At least until this is over and he can come home.

"Thank you Mother," I manage to choke out.

She takes my hand and she doesn't flinch at all at my cold touch. "Your father loves you very much Basil. As do I. And we want you to be happy. We want both you and Simon to be happy."

All I can do is nod.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I don't know how I'm supposed to feel right now.

Baz calls me again from our flat with the news he has a place for us to stay, for as long as we want. He sounds relieved more than anything, a little chuffed as well, but all I hear is another move, how those bastards have delayed the meeting until next year, how I still can't go home.

I'm so fucking pissed at the Coven that it takes me a long while before I even think about the fact that Baz's dad bought a flat in Paris. And when I do start thinking about it, I struggle to get my head around it. His dad bought a bleeding flat. In Paris. And we can stay there as long as we want. I mean, who even does that?

I know it's stupidly generous of Baz's parents, and it means I won't have to worry about moving until this is sorted, but it still feels wrong. It all feels a little too fixed, too permanent. I don't want it to be permanent, I want to go home.

And now Baz is coming here to be with me. How the hell is he supposed work on getting me home while he's stuck in Paris? And what the bloody hell am I supposed to do there? How long are we both going to be stuck there? And Baz is going to have to start studying soon, can he even do that in Paris? Surely he needs to be in London . . .

All these thoughts are doing laps in my head, they're starting to give me a headache. I rub my palms into my eyes.

"Aren't you happy love?" Baz asks. I can't see him because we didn't Face Time, but he sounds like he's pouting. I can hear it in his voice, the way it dips when he says love and I miss it like mad, both the voice and the pout. I always thought he had a mouth designed for pouting.

And snogging.

Snogging and pouting.

And smiling.

And laughing come to think of it – his mouth definitely looks good when he does that.

My hand moves towards my mobile, as if to poke at his mouth or brush away the pout with my thumb. I let my hand drop back to my lap. I'm getting side tracked, I need to stay focused.

"Yeah Baz, of course I am. It's just . . . I'd rather be home in London." Merlin I sound like a petulant child and I hate it. I worry at a loose thread on my jeans.

"I know. But we'll be together, and Christmas in Paris won't be that bad."

He's trying to make me feel better and I appreciate his efforts, I really do, but I can't help the feeling of frustration that's welling up inside me.

"And then what?" It comes out angrier than I mean it to and I'm instantly ashamed. I know I should be more grateful for everything he's done, that he's still doing to get me home, but I can't keep the bitterness out of my voice.

Baz and Penny keep telling me this is all going to be sorted soon and to just hang in there, but I don't know if I believe it anymore. I've tried to look to the future like they do, but I can't see anything other than me being stuck in a place that's not home. I feel isolated, like I did when I was back in the orphanages over the summers as a kid. Absent. Like I'm nowhere, like I've got no place.

"I don't know Simon, but we'll deal with it. Together." He sounds just as sure and determined as ever. He's always like this– so sure that this mess will be sorted soon, so certain things will work out. "I just need to finish up some things here and then I'll meet you in Florence."

I wish I could feel the same.

I rake my fingers though my hair again. I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and start appreciating what everyone's doing for me. I have a place to stay, regardless how long this is going to take to fix, and Baz is coming to be with me, that's something.

"Okay. But why don't I meet you in Paris then? Save you coming all the way to Florence?" I don't actually want this but it seems like the right thing to say. There's no point him coming all the way here just to leave again. He's done more than enough. "And where will you hunt while you're here?"

"I'll be fine love. There's plenty of game around, and rats of course. There are always rats." His voice goes quiet at the mention of rats. I know he doesn't like to talk about hunting.

"And pigeons?" I offer, trying to lighten the mood. "There are loads of them around here. I feel like I'm going to be swooped every time I go to the piazza."

"Yes, pigeons as well," he agrees. "I'll let you know when I'm coming."

I let out a resigned sigh. "Okay."

I hang up the phone and think how nothing is going to happen this year. Nothing.

I wish I could hurry this along somehow. If only I knew how. I've gone through every spell book that Baz left me and a fair few of Penny and Micah's too while I was there. Micah even leant me A Magickal History of the United States 1492-Present and it's pretty interesting reading, even if it's a little weird in parts. (I mean, why make a spell to take the alcohol out of larger?) But I can't find anything remotely like a spell to put magic back where there isn't any.

I even checked the marriage rites records to see if anyone came up with anything similar. There's a whole load of charm work on mage wedding rings and other jewellery, and some unbelievably violent duels between mages or fancy showy magic to win someone over. And then there's Penny's time stopping spell, and Baz's fucking brilliant finding my birthday spell and even some multi-dimensional conjuring that made absolutely no sense, but nothing like what I need. I guess it's never been done before. It's never been needed before.

Maybe I need to find a new spell. Isn't that what the Mage said; new spells for new problems or some shit? Penny and Baz always thought it was a load of bollocks, both preferring the classics to the new stuff the Mage was trying to get us to learn, but what if there's something in it?

But how the hell do you find a new spell? They can come from anywhere. Penny says that songs and catchphrases are risky because mundane people get sick of saying them and move on. And she says a spell needs to be practical and enduring. How in Merlin's name do you know if a song or a saying or a line from fucking Shakespeare or anyone else is going to be enduring? And Miss Possibelf says you have to summon their meaning. How am I supposed to do that? My vocabulary's shit at the best of times and half the time I don't even understand what the phrases and lines even mean.

This all sounds too hard.

I give up on the spell books and start watching the telly while I wait for Alex and Marco to return from the restaurant. Then I get sick of that and I listen to music on my phone for a while. Maybe I'll pick up something useful.

I'm not hopeful.

BAZ

I start to make preparations to leave as soon as I return to our flat. I manage to get a flight that departs in a few days. There's a short stopover in Rome, it's going to take hours to get to Florence, but it's the best I can do at such short notice.

Now that I've made the decision to be with Simon I question why I didn't leave earlier. Have I really achieved anything by staying behind? Perhaps I should have gone to America as he asked. I don't feel like I've achieved a single bloody positive outcome in the last three and a half months he's been in exile.

But that's not entirely true. We've managed to get Lady Salisbury on the Coven, and we've turned public opinion entirely in his favour. It's been a slow slog but we've managed it thanks to well-timed interviews and Fiona steadfastly feeding information to her journalist ex-boyfriend. And the rally and petitions have had an enormous influence on an otherwise undecided public. Velma has all but caved, her sons are clearly on Simon's side. Disunity among the seven is inevitable.

But it's still not enough. It won't be enough until Simon is home.

I go over some magickal law amendments for a few hours and then fall asleep on the sofa. I haven't slept in our bed since returning from America. It doesn't feel the same without Simon. I miss his sounds, his smell. That sweet delectable Simon smell is entirely gone from our room now, and I despise the way it reminds me of when he left last time, when he left me.

I cast my eyes around our flat, at all the things that remind me of him. His sketches, roughly stuck on the walls between the rather more expensive pieces that Daphne selected, the cushion he bought in Paris, the drawings from my brother and sisters, random photos of the two of us, postcards from Olivia and Alex stuck on our refrigerator with a strange collection of fridge magnets, his messy side of our wardrobe, (No matter how many times I tidy it with magic it always seems to end up in the same.) his bedside table with the empty space that once held the framed photograph from our wedding. I remember him placing it carefully into his duffle between layers of clothing so it wouldn't get damaged on the flight. (He didn't think to spell it unbreakable.) (I did that.)

Our flat. It used to feel like home when Simon was here. Now it feels like a collection of rooms and random things, nothing more, and I finally understand what Simon meant all those years ago when he found his mother, when he'd been away for months and wanted to come home. He said home wasn't his flat or his room or any other place, he said home was me.

And Simon is my home, no matter where we are.

SIMON

Alex, Marco and I have a late supper when they return from the restaurant. We've made a habit of this since I arrived and I really enjoy these nights– they're always overflowing with interesting stories from their days at the restaurant and from whatever sights I've seen or food I've tried. And tonight I get to tell them that Baz is coming.

They always bring supper with them from the restaurant, and it's usually something so good that I wolf it down. Tonight's no exception– Tagliatelle with Porcini mushrooms and Florentine bread. Last night it was Pici pasta with another sauce made from wild boar. They really love their wild boar here, I wonder if Baz can hunt them?

While we prepare to eat I tell them that Baz is coming next week, to spend a week in Florence together before I go home. They don't know about Paris and I'm not about to tell them, it'll just lead to more questions as to why we're not spending Christmas at Oxford with Baz's family.

"Baz is coming here?" Alex repeats as she places three plates of pasta on the table. "That's great!"

"Basilico is coming next week eh?" Marco repeats as he pours the wine. (He's been calling Baz that since he's been back in Italy, he thinks it's funny.) (Alex rolls her eyes whenever he says it.) "Very good. He will try our Bistecca yes?" Marco and Baz both love a steak, and both love it the same way– rare to the point of bloody.

"Yes. And he really wants to try that tripe sandwich. Dotty Lamp or something," I say as we start eating. Alex is trying to hold back a laugh.

"Ah, si, Lampredotto." Marco grins as he gives us an excited nod. He's probably thinking about what else he can feed Baz. He loves any opportunity to get people to try something new. "We will take him to the chioschi to try, yes?"

"Yes definitely," I nod, trying to ignore Alex who is mouthing You're evil behind his back. "And he's really interested in that wild boar pasta."

"Ah the Parpardelle Cinghiale," he confirms, picking up his wine.

"Yeah that's the one. Where do you find the boar?" I figure I may as well see if I can help Baz hunt while he's here.

"From the farms nowadays," he says, waving one hand vaguely as he sips his wine. "There is still some wild boar around. . ." He adds, but doesn't elaborate. He has a faraway look in his eyes and I think he's thinking of more local dishes for Baz and me to try. I'll ask Alex later.

"Oooh. There's an opera at the Palazzo," Alex says. "I can get us tickets. Baz will love it!" She's practically bouncing off her chair. She and Baz haven't been to a show together since she left London. I think she misses his company.

"Is that a church?" Baz can't go into a church but how am I going to explain that to her. My vampire husband can't go into a church for the opera because he'll spontaneously burst into flames if he does?

"Not a church. A palace," she grins, shovelling more pasta into her mouth.

I tell Alex that Baz would love the opera, and we finish dinner discussing what else we should do while Baz is here. They already know he's been here a load of times so he doesn't need to see all the regular sites, and I told them he's already been to every church in Europe loads of times with his family so he doesn't need to do any of that again. I don't like lying to them but there's really no other way to explain his aversion to churches.

Later, I FaceTime Baz and tell him about the opera, (Not about the cow stomach sandwich Marco is going to feed him.) (I'll leave that one for Marco.) and he insists on buying the tickets for all of us right there and then. Then he starts muttering about which suits to pack.

"Really Baz? It's just the opera." It's late and dark and I'm in bed, staring at his perfect face on my screen. At least our time zones are closer now so it's easier to catch each other before we go to sleep. We talk like this most nights now, me in bed and him lying on our couch, until we're too tired to talk any more.

It looks like there's a bunch of books strewn across the coffee table next to him, magickal law books I expect. Even though the law that got me banished is watertight, he's still reviewing every single one to ensure they're fair and reasonable so this can't happen to anyone ever again.

"It's opera," he says resolutely. "And it's in Italy. Double the reason we need suits."

I don't argue. He's coming to Florence to be with me. I'll wear a suit every fucking day if he wants me to.

Chapter Text

BAZ

"I really don't want to eat that."

Marco ignores my reluctance and holds two loaded panini in front of me. I'm not sure if he's oblivious to my discomfort or he's chosen to overlook it.

The four of us were chatting idly, enjoying a bottle of Chianti at an outdoor café in Piazza Santo Spirito. We were seated below a large umbrella that was keeping the sun at bay when Marco decided he needed to showcase the local street cuisine. Alex and Simon abruptly got up and took off around the corner "to spot some souvenirs." But I'm suspicious, I wouldn't put it past either of them to plan this.

"Yes. Try Basilico. You will love it," Marco insists, shoving one of the panini into my hand. I give him a tight smile, my upbringing and impeccable manners overshadowing my desire to sneer at his over enthusiastic hospitality. I resolve, as I delay the inevitable for as long as politely possible, that I'm going to kill Simon and Alex. Well, maybe not the Normal, but Simon will pay for this somehow.

I wait until Marco is distracted before I take a small bite, covering my mouth as I do. My fangs shoot out a as I start chewing so I try to be discreet. Lucky for me Marco is oblivious to everything when it comes to food.

The texture is . . . interesting to say the least, and if I don't think about what I am actually eating the taste is quite good. But the idea of eating cow's stomach is turning my stomach so I wait as long as possible, and it's not until Marco is biting down on his own panino before I take another small bite. Luckily Marco has the good grace to order two beers to help wash it down and I take a long drink from mine after I finally swallow the offending offal down. I think I'll order another beer.

I make it through a third, smaller bite when Simon and Alex finally wander back. Simon's smiling and talking animatedly, and he's carrying a shopping bag.

"I found an art shop Baz," he says, lifting his paper shopping bag up to my face. "Did you know Florence is full of artists?"

My fangs finally disappear to wherever they go so I can speak without a lisp. "Who would have thought?" I tease, smiling a closed mouth smile as I slide up next to him. "Planning another evening of body art?" I may have purposely let my lips brush his ear.

His eyes widen for a moment and he blushes as he recalls that night. He splutters and coughs as he tries to regain his composure and it's nothing short of adorable how easily I can make him blush.

"Here." I change the subject, otherwise he'll start stammering and blustering even more, and then we'll have to explain ourselves to Alex and Marco. (They still think we're the model house guests.) (How naïve.) "I know you've been dying to try this again." I shove the rest of my roll into his hands.

"Um." He glances at Marco who is looking at him eagerly. He'd lied outright to Marco, telling him he'd already tried the delicacy, and he embellished the lie even more by declaring he'd liked it, so now he has no choice but to eat it else his ruse will be exposed. That will always be Simon's downfall – he has no strategy.

I could spell it away I suppose, but I'm rather enjoying this. (I realise now that I could have spelled it away before I was forced to taste it.) (But I didn't, so there's no way I'm doing that for Simon.)

"Yes Simone" Marco nods. He pronounces Simon's name the Italian way; Si-mon-eh. I like it. "Eat."

Simon is still staring at Marco, who's watching him with a broad grin on his face. When it comes to food, Marco knows Simon is an enthusiastic understudy and Simon won't want to let him down. Simon gives him a meek smile.

"Yes Si-mon-eh," I echo. "Eat." I can't help feeling rather pleased with his predicament.

Simon turns to face me and narrows his eyes as he takes the half eaten panino from my hand. He squares his shoulders in that way of his and raises his chin towards me, silently accepting the challenge. I only smirk a little as he takes a small bite. It's uncharacteristically small for Simon, normally he's shovelling as much food as he can into his gaping maw, but not this time – this time he's extremely cautious. He furrows his brow and chews gingerly until he finally swallows the offending substance down.

And then his mouth breaking into the cheekiest grin I've ever seen.

He takes a bigger bite and chews it with more confidence this time, mumbling something that sounds like not bloody bad, but it comes out garbled because his mouth is full. He finishes the remainder in one enormous bite and orders another without hesitation.

Typical, he'd eat just about any bloody thing anyone put in front of him, and he'd definitely do it if I challenge him. Marco grins at him and gives him an encouraging whack on the back as he orders another for himself as well.

I've been in Florence for a few days now and I'm enjoying it, despite the reason we're both here, and despite the pigeons I've been forced to drain. Simon was right, there's an inordinate amount of them around thanks to all the bloody tourists throwing bread around the piazzas. The pigeons are fine enough, but a little on the gamey side, and they're annoyingly fiddly– the feathers keep getting caught between my teeth. But they'll do for the short time we're here.

Simon flew to the airport to meet me and I was grateful he did. I'd missed him so much that I don't think I could have gone another moment without seeing him. I tried to convince him to take the somewhat slower and less scenic train to the airport rather than fly – I thought it would be safer, (What with all the planes around.) (And the fact that he can't read the road signs.) but the sound of his laughter rang through the phone as he assured me it'd be a piece of cake. I was so worried.

When I finally made it through the gate I was so bloody desperate to see him I had to physically hold myself back, otherwise I would have jumped him right there and then and pinned him to the floor and kissed every delicious inch of him. I managed to restrain myself though, and was about to settle for a hug and a chaste kiss, but Simon had a different idea and he pinned me against the wall, eyes glinting mischievously. I've never pulled out my wand so fast.

When we finally broke apart we picked up the hire car and drove back to Alex and Marco's flat, hand in hand and grinning like lovesick idiots the entire way. He introduced me to Penny the dog, (who seems to have a bit of a thing for his tail) and some of the neighbours he's gotten to know over the last few weeks, waving and shouting Signora in a solid British accent. (I wonder if I can teach him how to pronounce the vowels correctly?) Once inside the flat, I hardly had time to drop my suitcase before we were back in each other's arms, desperately kissing away the last seven and a half weeks, not that I was counting.

"Simon." Barely a whisper between kisses. "Your room. Now."

We stumbled toward his room, fumbling impatiently with each other's layers and leaving a trail of discarded clothes on our way. Thankfully Alex and Marco were at work because neither of us was in any state to remember to cast a soundproofing spell.

We didn't emerge for hours.

SIMON

We're kitted out in our finest, looking right posh because we're going to the opera tonight. Bas is wearing that dark suit that he always looks so good in – the one with that hint of violet when the light hits it just right, and he's wearing a violet shirt and a tie. He packed my dark grey suit and a blue shirt, and he packed a blue tie for me too.

Merlin he looks handsome, especially with his dark hair falling around his face in soft waves, slightly longer than he usually wears it. I want to shove my fists in it and feel it slip through my fingers and snog him stupid, and then I want to rip that posh suit right if off him and shag him senseless. But I won't, he's spent way too long fixing his tie and fussing with his hair to mess it up now. I decide to save that thought for later.

When Baz arrived I met him at the airport and practically jumped him there and then, right in the middle of the arrivals lounge. I grabbed him and snogged him against the wall, and he whipped out his wand to cast that spell so no one could see us, and then I snogged him some more. It's been seven and a half fucking weeks since I last saw him (I've been counting) and I've missed him like mental.

At least we didn't lose it like last time. I still missed him everyday like mad, but we didn't go off and do anything stupid while we were apart this time. I drew a lot and cooked for Micah and Penny, and then spent time with Alex and Marco when I arrived in Florence. And I flew a lot more, flying a little further every time until I managed an easy hundred and fifty mile round trip. I managed to tire myself out every day so I slept a lot better too. And we spoke on the phone at least twice every day, sometimes more, and properly talked this time rather than just going through the motions. It was easier than when I first went to America without him. Maybe we've gotten used to it?

"You look very handsome in that suit Baz," I tell him. He's facing me, tying my tie because I still can't get them right. You'd think having to wear a tie at Watford every day for seven and a half years I could do it by now, but Penny used to fix it for me whenever I messed it up, which was most of the time. And that was a schoolboy knot anyway, a half-Windsor, and Baz says I can't use that knot anymore.

I haven't had that much practice with this knot that Baz says I should use now, so I can't do it right yet. Baz usually ends up tying it for me instead, like now. "Devilishly handsome," I say, waggling my eyebrows at him.

"I know I do," he smirks and I can't help rolling my eyes at him. My husband may be fit as fuck but he's also a smug git. "So do you," he adds, looking me up and down. Something warm pools in my stomach that I try to ignore. "Once I get this tie sorted that is."

I give his nose a little tweak while he fusses with my tie, just for something to do. He tries not to smile but fails as usual and I get that warm feeling again. I really love it when he smiles, even more when I'm the reason.

I lift my chin a little higher. "Isn't there an easier knot Baz? Does it have to be a Full Windsor every time?" I ask him this question every single time he ties my tie for me.

"Yes and yes. The Full Windsor is a knot with pedigree," he says as if he's lecturing on the subject of tie protocol. "Like me," he adds like the pretentious prat he is.

I try to roll my eyes at him again but it's difficult because I'm also trying not to smile.

"Crowley Simon, you're so adorable when you do that," he says as he finishes my tie. He straightens it one last time and smooths it down with the palm of his hand.

"Do what?"

"You know." His voice is soft as he slides his hands down to my waist and holds me.

"Roll my eyes?" I wrap my arms around his neck, twisting my fingers through his long hair as I go. I pull him a little closer.

"Yes. Rolling one's eyes is an arrogant gesture," he says. "And you're too nice, you can't be nice and arrogant."

"What like you?" I pull him closer still.

"Yes. I'm not nice, so I can roll my eyes as often as I like."

I pull him down and kiss his cool lips. "I think you're very nice Baz."

He kisses me back, and I get that warm feeling again as he slides his mouth against mine. "And I think you'll say anything to get into my pants Simon," he whispers against my mouth. He dips his mouth to my jaw, leaving a cool trail of kisses along the way.

I smile at that. "You're kind of a sure thing Baz. I don't really have to say anything."

He kisses me just below my ear, ignoring my comment as his lips make their way down my neck– he tends to get a little distracted when he's kissing me there. His lips trace their way back up and I can feel them linger just under my ear. My heart starts to race.

He pulls back a little, but keeps his lips on my skin. "Like you're not," he retorts, but it has no bite because his voice is soft, and he's grazing his mouth down my neck as he speaks.

My body gives an involuntary shiver.

He presses his lips back to my neck for another series of kisses, and then he starts dragging his mouth in soft lines – up to just below my ear, and then back to down my throat. I shiver again and I can feel his lips move into a smile. I know he can hear my heart race and that makes him even more smug than usual.

I shrug because what he said is true, and also because it helps me to compose myself. He lets out a soft laugh against my neck because he knows it's true too. He really knows me too well.

"And you look stunning in that suit Simon," he whispers again, lips brushing my jaw now. "Impossibly handsome as always."

"Mmmm."

"Criminally good looking," he adds, his voice breathy.

I hum again. I'm struggling to find my words so I take a deep breath instead, trying not to let his mouth – that's moving torturously slow along my jaw – distract me anymore than it already has. "Do we have to go out?"

He groans softly as he pulls away, leaving a void that I don't like. "Yes we do. We have to thank Alex and Marco for feeding you and putting up with you, and your mess, and your atrocious table manners these last few weeks."

"What about you?"

"I'm the model guest," he shrugs. "They should be thanking me."

I let out a laugh. "You really are a prat you know."

"You married me," he shrugs with a smirk, pulling me back for one last kiss before we head out. "Now let's go, before I throw you down on this ridiculously uncomfortable bed and have my way with you."

BAZ

Simon eyes are wide as he takes in the palazzo. It's impressive for a veteran of the arts like myself, but for someone like Simon it must be astounding. It's obvious he's never seen anything like it, and I think about reminding him to close his mouth but I decide to let it go.

We take our seats and I purchase a programme from the usher and hand it to Simon. He takes his seat to my right and Alex takes a seat on my left and then Marco seats himself next to her.

Alex is wearing an ink blue evening dress that suits her small frame, it's rather charming for a Normal, and Marco is sporting a decidedly well cut navy blue suit. We talk briefly about his tailor and I resolve to pay them a visit before we leave. It's nearly Christmas after all, and Simon and I are in need of some new attire.

We stopped for dinner earlier, at a restaurant that Marco selected. After a few Negroni's and a deliciously rare Bistecca alla Fiorentina and a 2016 Rosso id Montalcino, we made our way here.

When Simon first mentioned the opera, he said that Alex wanted to see Bellini's Norma. I balked at the very idea – there's no way in this realm or the next that I was going to see an opera about a woman immolating herself on a pyre while begging for her children to be saved. I managed to obtain tickets to Verdi's La Traviata instead.

"But this one's also about sacrifice?" Simon asks as we take our seats.

He unbuttons his jacket and starts messing with his tie, I take his hand in mine to stop him fidgeting. "Yes. Violetta sacrifices her love for Alfredo to preserve his family's honour."

"Sounds bloody depressing," he mutters to no one in particular. "Are all operas about sacrifice?"

"Not necessarily. Opera is drama set to music. It can be comedy, tragedy, romance, fantasy. Anything."

Marco leans in towards us to join the conversation. "Firenze is the birthplace of opera," he states, proudly puffing out his chest.

Alex nods in agreement. "There's one on practically every week. We come all the time."

"The Ancient Greeks combined music and poetic drama," I tell them. "But most historians believe opera as it is accepted today began in Italy."

"Yes. Right here in Firenze," Marco says, waving his hand around the magnificent palace.

Alex smiles at him as she bounces on her seat, impatient for the opera to start. I turn to study Simon's face. He looks relaxed but also a little nervous, excited perhaps. I hope that's it. Even in my wildest dreams, I'd never thought I'd ever attend the opera with Simon by my side. (My husband Simon by my side.) I'm definitely living a charmed life.

"You know Simon, your life could be an opera," I whisper, rubbing the back of his hand with my thumb. "There's been plenty of drama."

"Too bloody right," he agrees.

We've talked a lot over the years about everything that happened in his life; growing up between the orphanages and Watford, the night at the White Chapel, and later, when he found out the Mage was his father. We both thought that was the end of all the drama in his life and he'd finally be able to live the quiet normal life he so desperately craved. But here we are again, Simon banished from his home, from the realm he single-handedly saved. It seems like misfortune and drama continues to follow him around like a truly great operatic tragedy.

I squeeze his hand again and quirk my eyebrow. "And Romance," I add, to lighten the mood.

"Mmmm," he smiles, his tail wrapping around my wrist.

"And comedy."

He frowns at me and I give my wrist a pointed look. "Cartoon devils tail?" I give his tail a little tug.

He smiles easily and huffs out a laugh as he settles back in his seat. I don't think I'll ever stop mocking his tail, no matter how much I adore it.

"And sacrifice," I add, serious this time.

"Huh?" He looks at me and I can't miss the surprise registering on his face.

"Yes. You sacrificed your magic to save the World of Mages. It doesn't get any more sacrificial than that."

"I didn't," he huffs. "I was just cleaning up my own mess Baz. I told you already."

I give him an incredulous look and Simon huffs again. We've been through this so many times as well. He still doesn't believe he did anything remotely brave or selfless, and he always looks abashed and uncomfortable whenever I bring it up. I give him a small smile and squeeze his hand as I nod to the stage. The opera is about to start and I don't want to him to feel as if he needs to explain his actions of long ago yet again– he's done that enough. I squeeze his hand again and this time he squeezes back.

SIMON

The opera is really good. I don't actually understand a word they're singing but Baz bought a programme, which I read before the opera started, and Alex and Marco explained the story earlier today so I have a fairly good idea.

But as we sit in this magnificent palazzo place, I can't help thinking about what Baz said. I still don't think I sacrificed anything to save anything. Like I said, I was cleaning up my own mess. And giving up my magic to end the Humdrum? I didn't even think about what I was doing at the time, I just knew that the Humdrum was like a hole and I needed to fill it. I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants that night. Thank Merlin everything worked out.

Well, everything except not being able to save Ebb, or close the holes in the magickal atmosphere that is. Or killing the Mage with a bunch of words.

And with the Mage gone, Baz and I didn't have to fight in that stupid war and neither of us had to die, so giving up my magic didn't seem like a sacrifice at all.

And then I got my magic back when I found my mum's wand, so I really didn't sacrifice anything. I don't think my life is anything like an opera.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I've finally convinced Baz to bake a batch of sour cherry scones. Alex left us the ingredients so we're spending the afternoon baking, the Normal way, because Cook Pritchard said that's the only way to make them. Baz is making them while I sit on the counter opposite, watching. He fusses over the recipe, measuring everything precisely and double checking the temperature of the oven while I watch on, twirling my wand.

It's been a good week; we've have the days to ourselves while Alex and Marco work, and we've spent those days out and about visiting art galleries and museums, eating our way through a rainbow of gelato and drinking far too much espresso.

After he places the raw scones in the oven, he leans back against the counter and wipes his hands on a tea towel. I jump down from my spot opposite him and nestle between his legs and proceed to snog him for the entire twelve minutes.

We took a trip out to where the wild boar graze one day so Baz could hunt. He made me wait in the car the entire time and came back tantalisingly warm and all flushed and pretty, which only made me want to watch him hunt even more. I don't know why he still won't let me, it's not as if I don't know he's sucking blood out of animals or anything. And I have seen him hunt before, only once though, on that night with the Mage. Every other night he goes out after Marco and Alex are asleep and drains a bunch of rats. He says there are loads of rats here, he says all old cities have loads of rats.

Our snogging is interrupted by the timer, and I move back so he can take the scones out of the oven. He places them on the rack to cool and I pull him back to me and snog him for another five minutes. When the scones have cooled enough I do my usual taste-test. I spread a slab of butter on top of one, ignoring his predictable eye roll, and eat it in two bites. (Before the butter fully melts.) It's really good.

Baz is watching me, waiting for my verdict. "So? How are they?"

I give him my usual response, furrowing my brow to make my subterfuge believable. "Hmm, not bad Baz. But there's still something not exactly the same as Cook Pritchard's . . ."

Really they're brilliant– they're soft and light and a little salty, exactly like Cook Pritchard's. But I don't tell him that, I'm never telling him that in case he stops making them.

"I don't know what I'm doing differently," he mutters as he tastes one. His fangs pop as soon as he brings the scone to his lips and they make him look formidable as ever, even though he's wearing Marco's Fiorentina Football Club apron and has flour on his nose. "I followed the recipe exactly and measured the ingredients precisely, just like every other time."

"Dunno Baz," I shrug, averting my eyes because I'm a terrible liar. "Maybe next time."

I sneak another one– I don't think it's lying exactly, more like stretching the truth.

When Marco and Alex come home, we share a late supper. It's a routine we continued when Baz arrived, and I find myself looking forward to spending time with them and eating whatever dish they bring back. Tonight we're having truffle gnocchi. It's brilliant.

Marco and I have just finished off a long discussion about the origins of pasta. (He insists it's Italy but Baz tells him that it's highly probable Marco Polo brought it back from China in the thirteenth century). (I don't really give a shit as long as I can eat it as much as I want.) I finish the rest of Baz's gnocchi and the remainder of the wine, then carry the empty dishes into the kitchen. I find Baz and Alex leaning over the basket of scones, Alex has half a scone in her hand and is chewing it thoughtfully. They have the recipe between them. I stop to watch.

"Did you use cold butter?"

"Of course."

"Did you rub it in with your fingers?"

"Yes."

"Quickly?"

"Yes Alexandra," Baz says, looking slightly bemused. She's the only Normal Baz would ever tolerate questioning his cooking skills. (I can't even do that, and I'm a way better cook.) And Marco I suppose. And Baz is the only person she allows to call her by her full name whenever he feels like it, probably because he'd do it anyway.

"Did you flour the scone cutter?"

"Yes."

"And press it down straight? Not twist?"

"Yes of course Alex. I followed every step precisely. I don't know why they taste different."

"They don't though, these are perfect," she shrugs. "They're exactly like the ones Simon had me try."

"They are?" His eyes widen in surprise for the briefest moment, and then narrow suspiciously. Oh shit. I bet he's worked it out already. If he's worked it out, then I'm busted good and proper so where am I going to get my scones from now? I wonder if I sneak out back the way I came he won't notice I'm here. And then I remember he's a vampire so of course he's bloody noticed me– he can smell me a mile off, and I'm not exactly light on my feet.

Alex gives him a wry nod. "Yes definitely. I should know, I tried them so bloody often. He brought one in for me every week, wanted me to put them on my menu at the café."

"Really?" he says. It comes out dry and there's no question about it – he's definitely worked it out. He's so fucking smart I don't know how I pulled it off for this long.

She's grinning at him now. "Yep they're perfect. I reckon Simon's having a lend of you mate."

My eyes go wide and I can feel a traitorous blush spread across my face. "Shit."

They both turn to look at me, Baz not taking his eyes off me as I place the empty dishes on the sink. He straightens and leans back against the kitchen counter opposite me. He doesn't say a word at first, just folds his arms across his chest and crosses his ankles and arches one bloody know-it-all eyebrow at me. "I believe you owe me some dance lessons."

I figured that's a small price to pay for two years' worth of Baz's scones so I smile and shrug.

"Sure thing Baz," I tell him as I grab another scone, "Whatever you want."

-oOo-

It's our last day in Florence.

Marco announces over coffee that he and Alex have the night off and we're having a dinner party with two surprise guests. Alex comes in a few minutes later and accidentally lets the cat out of the bag and tells us that Olivia and Emily are coming to stay for a few nights on their way back to London. Then Marco and Alex leave to pick up dinner supplies, arguing about who spilled the beans first.

We decide to head out and spend the day wandering around the city one last time. Baz says he wants to visit that tailor that Marco recommended and before you know it we end up with two brand new Italian suits, tailor made and magicked to be finished the same day.

"Baz, why do I need a new suit? I'm in exile."

"Just because one in in exile doesn't mean one shouldn't dress appropriately," he insists as we leave the tailor. "And Christmas is coming Simon. Its tradition."

"This is one tradition that's stupid to follow while I'm in exile," I huff. But the suits are really nice and I suppose I don't really mind, I'm just glad he's here.

We head to Ponte Vecchio and we wander aimlessly through the goldsmiths and jewellery shops for a while before I drag him out to lunch. It's either that or he's going to spend an inordinate amount of money in those shops. Sometimes he forgets that neither of us are working.

We find a decent enough trattoria that's dark enough for Baz to feel comfortable in, and pick a table that's been left forgotten in a gloomy corner where we make our way through a long, slow lunch and a bottle of wine. I brought my sketch pad with me so when we finish eating I start drawing. Baz orders coffee and I order a load of cakes to take back to Alex's and only sneak a few, and by the time we pick up our suits and make it back to the apartment it's late and Olivia and Emily have already arrived.

"Simon!" Olivia shrieks. "Good to see you!" she beams as she yanks me in for a hug. I only just manage to shift my wings out of her grasp.

She lets me go eventually and I pull back and take a look at her. "Hi Olivia," I say when she stops choking me.

Her hair's longer than ever and she's dressed in a flowy white lace top and faded blue jeans and she looks every bit like the Amazonian wanderer she's been over the last year or so. It's a good look. "You look great!" I tell her. Then I turn to Emily, I haven't seen her much since uni even though she and Oliva are good mates. "Hiya Emily." She gives me a small wave hello.

"Baz," Olivia says, pulling him in for a quick hug.

"Olivia," He responds graciously. Emily gives him a timid hello, she doesn't know him very well and I think she's a little scared of him– most Normals are– and she probably still remembers that time Baz almost beat up that bloke Tom. He was a friend of hers.

Alex and Marco make up some pre-dinner drinks and we toast our group of expatriates and immediately start talking about everything at once.

"So, Simon, how's your job?" Olivia asks. Oh hells bells, here we go. I've been so excited to see Olivia I didn't even think about what I was going to say to her. I'm going to have to do some serious lying to get through tonight. Shit, why don't I ever think.

"Yeah it's good, really good," I tell her. It comes out slightly strained and I hope she doesn't notice. I don't elaborate either, and I hope to hell she's not interested because I don't have anything to tell her. I change the subject instead, it seems like the safest thing to do. "How's the travelling been?" I look between the two of them, hopeful that one of them will start talking.

"Brilliant!" They both chime, and they start telling us about the places they've visited and some of the more interesting things they've seen and done over the last year. They've loads of stories to tell and not one of them is like Dev and Niall's endless accounts of getting smashed in foreign pubs.

After a load of anecdotes and a couple more drinks the conversation eventually peters out and Olivia turns her attention back to me. "So Simon, tell me all about the research you been doing here."

Shit. What am I supposed to tell her? The same thing I told Alex and Marco I suppose, but Olivia is more astute about this stuff because we studied together, so she can pick a lie a mile away. My palms start to sweat as I mumble something my department was working on when I left. I throw in feasibility study and joint project and prattle on a number of project themes and hope she can't see through it.

"That's right up your alley," she says, giving me an enthusiastic nod. I give a non-committal hum and take another swig of my drink.

"Alex, what's it like working in Italy?" Emily cuts in and I let out a not too subtle sigh in relief. If no one piped up soon I was planning to bore them into changing the subject.

"It's brilliant," she enthuses. "The restaurant is doing really well, but I've eaten so much pasta. I'm going to have to start going to the gym."

"You are a beautiful goddess," Marco says, ever the romantic, and she whacks him on the arm but beams at him at the same time.

Marco and Alex talk about the restaurant for a while and I tell them about all the good food I've eaten whilst in Italy, and all the different gelato flavours I've discovered. And then I tell them about that tripe sandwich we had and Marco starts raving about how good it is and how Olivia and Emily really have to try it. Olivia looks really grossed out so she changes the subject before Marco drags them out to try one straight away.

"What about you Baz?" Olivia asks. "How are your studies going?"

"Fine," he says with a wave of his hand, but he doesn't elaborate. "Are you going to look for work when you return to London?" he asks both of them instead, neatly deflecting the conversation away from us. Neither of us can talk about what's been happening with us so we keep changing the subject. So far they haven't noticed, or if they have they're too polite to say anything.

We manage to make it through the entire dinner without getting into detail about my 'work' here. Baz and I tell them about our life before I left home but we steer clear of the last four months. Shit, has it really been four months already since I left London? And five months since all this shit started? I never thought I'd be away from home this long. Merlin this sucks so much.

We do talk a little about my work (before I was banished) and our wedding anniversary which we tell them we spent in New York. Better keep as close to the truth as possible I figure. ("How romantic!" Olivia cries) ("That's so sweet!" Emily echoes.) And we tell them about Penny and Micah in America and Baz's family. We steer the conversation back to them or Alex and Marco as much as we can without looking suspicious.

I hate lying like this, and especially to my friends. I squirm uncomfortably in my seat every time I say something evasive or Baz changes the subject to save me from putting my foot in it, but Baz seems like an old hand at it– he's smooth and relaxed and they don't suspect a thing. He'll definitely make a brilliant barrister one day.

-oOo-

We manage to get in a last breakfast together and then we say our goodbyes and head off to catch our flight to Paris. They think we're going back to London and Olivia suggests we catch up soon. I start to stammer until Baz takes over and explains we're going to spend some time with his family in Oxford over the Christmas break. At least that way I won't have to come up with an excuse when she gets back home.

We thank Marco and Alex for having us and then head off to the airport, and I can't help feeling downcast as the taxi drives off (at breakneck speed) that I have to leave our mates again. I feel like that's all I've been doing lately; saying goodbye to people I care about. First back in London, then Penny and Micah, even Agatha and Josh after San Diego, and now Alex and Marco and Olivia and Emily. And I only got to see Olivia for a day.

Baz must sense how I'm feeling because he takes my hand in his and rubs his thumb across the back in soothing circles, and I silently thank Merlin he's here with me. Leaving would have been a whole lot more difficult if I was alone.

He nudges my shoulder with his. "All right love?" he asks after we wave them off from the taxi.

I nudge his shoulder back. "Yeah. I just, don't like saying goodbye to everyone again. You?"

"I'm fine," he says, squeezing my hand again. I squeeze back.

Chapter Text

BAZ

The flat is typical of Daphne and my father. It's large and luxurious, nestled discreetly in the fashionable 8th Arrondissement, just a stone's throw from Avenue Montaigne. It has a quiet sophistication to it, yet still feels comfortable. I let out an involuntary sigh as we enter. After a week of sharing residence with Alex and Marco, and Bunce and Micah before that, it's a relief to finally have a place of our own.

"How fucking big is this place Baz?" Simon whispers. I drop our bags in the foyer, ignoring the question as we commence our tour.

Father and Daphne clearly plan to accommodate the entire family. There's a generous entrance hall and a large living room with a comfortable looking modular lounge taking up an entire wall, a state of the art kitchen with adjoining dining room and a playroom off to the right for my siblings. My father's study is toward the back along with a bathroom and utility room. Each room is tastefully decorated in shades of grey and white, with a few steel blue highlights. Simon whistles through his teeth as we wander from room to room.

We head upstairs and Simon grows quiet as we continue to look around. We take a quick peek in the master bedroom; it's large and spacious and has a private ornate bathroom, Father and Daphne's rooms by the opulent way they're decorated in a palette of red and gold. We poke our heads into the multitude of other bedrooms and bathrooms that must belong to my siblings, (One room is clearly Fiona's judging by the way it's decorated.) and discover a well appointed guest room in between.

We eventually find our room, thankfully at the opposite end of the flat from Fathers and Daphne's. Our room is a more modest version of the master bedroom, that has been decorated in muted shades of blue. It's all very tasteful, very Daphne. I think we'll be quite comfortable here for a while.

I give a perfunctory nod. "It's decent."

Simon gapes at the room and shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot. He gives me a questioning look.

"Decent?" he cries. "It's a fucking palace is what it is." He throws himself heavily onto our brand new bed and hassles his hair, as he does whenever something is troubling him. "All this just for us?"

"Technically it's for the entire family," I remind him. "But it's just us now."

I give him a reassuring smile but I don't know if it helps because he closes his eyes and doesn't say anything more. Simon has been quiet all day, and he was especially quiet during the flight, which is unusual in itself. He normally prattles on constantly in flight, a nervous habit of his due to his mistrust of aeroplanes. Perhaps all the moving is starting to taking its toll. At least we don't have to move from here any time soon. That must be a load off his mind.

I pull my wand from my sleeve and magic our bags up to our room. They hit the floor with a two thuds and Simon almost trips over them as he retrieves his carryon bag from next to the bed where he dumped it. He digs around his bag, emptying most of it's contents on the floor, until he finds two mint Aero bars that he bought at the airport. He tosses one to me and tears the other open for himself.

I take mine and head to the French doors, pushing them open and stepping outside. The air is cold and biting but I put up with it to take in the magnificent view. My Father's room should have a clear view of the Tour Eiffel and the river, quite spectacular I bet. I bite into the Aero bar and watch the lights twinkle over Paris. It's early in the evening, but after a day of taxis and flights and more taxis, I'm more than a little weary. A cold breeze ruffles my hair, making me shiver involuntarily. Even in my heavy wool coat and scarf I can feel as the chill start to seep through to my bones and I'm about to head back inside but I hear Simon's shuffling steps as he makes his way onto the balcony. He wraps his arms around my waist and presses his nose briefly into my scarf before placing his chin onto my shoulder. He must be standing on tip toes to reach. I can feel the warmth from his body through my coat and I lean back into him, smiling.

SIMON

This place is fucking huge. It makes our flat in London look piss small, and it makes Penny and Micah's apartment look like a worn out student flat.

Not that our flat is crap, it's not at all. It's in the posh side of town and a hell of a lot nicer than anything I thought I'd ever live in, and loads bigger than Penny's and my old flat. And nicer too. Daphne redecorated it right before Baz moved in, after Fiona moved out, so it's pretty grand really. But it still looks like nothing compared to this.

This is classy and modern and so bloody elegant, it feels like it belongs in one of those magazine for the rich and famous. Everything is new, big, posh. There's a fancy built in espresso machine in the even fancier kitchen downstairs (that's almost entirely white marble), a massive modular in the family room that could easily seat twelve, and it has an enormous rug that looks so soft I could sleep on it. There's even a big Christmas tree for Merlin's sake. No one's even here and there's Christmas tree. Baz let out a sigh of relief when we arrived, and he smiled in approval– in appreciation– as he took it all in. I can't help thinking that Baz looks so perfect here, like he belongs here. I stick out like a sore thumb.

My minds drifts back to Hampshire, the House of Pitch, his childhood home. I think about how palatial that house is, and how it's so much more than a house. I recall his dad once calling it the estate. It's been so long since anyone in his family has been there that I sometimes forget that's how Baz grew up.

And then there's Oxford. It's not as big or as extravagant as Hampshire but it has loads more rooms than I've ever been in– more than they'd ever actually need. And they have staff that cook for them and do the cleaning and gardeners to look after the expansive gardens and the big lawn and they even have a nanny for the kids.

I never thought of it before but Baz probably thinks our flat is crap. I wonder why he's never said anything. I wonder if it's because of me. I wonder if it's my fault that he lives in a small two bedroom flat in Chelsea when he should be in some fucking Pitch palace or manor or something – somewhere more befitting him. I need to ask him, I need to know.

I finish my Aero in two bites and head out to the balcony where he's standing. He's got his back to me so I wrap my arms around him and reach up to kiss his neck. His scarf is in the way so I nuzzle into it instead, and I lean into him and relish in the solidity of him. I stand on tip toe and pop my chin on his shoulder and take in this stupidly stunning view, which just makes me feel worse so I drop my head from his shoulder and press my cheek against it instead. I huff out a breath and wonder how I'm supposed to talk to him about this.

"Baz?"

"Yes love?" Baz slides his arms across mine until our fingers are linked. I can feel the cool metal of our wedding rings press against each other and I curl my fingers around his. I want to stay like this before I ask him, before I find out exactly how much of a burden I am to him.

I still don't know how to start so I let out an involuntary huff into his shoulder. I shift my feet nervously.

His body stiffens before he turns around in my arms. I'm still looking down and shuffling my feet and he knocks up my chin so I'll look at him. He pulls back and folds himself down until he can meet my eyes. "What is it?" His voice is soft.

"Do you . . ." I take a breath and exhale slowly. "Do you like living in our flat?"

"What?" He's blinking at me, and he's frowning as well. He looks a little bewildered actually. "Why do you ask?"

"Because, because it's not that big. It's quite small really. And you're used to big gothic mansions where your bedroom was bigger than our entire flat, and. . . and places like this," I wave my hand around behind me. My tail is thrashing around behind me causing a gust of freezing air to blow around us, Baz grabs hold of it and tucks the end in his pocket. "All new and posh and everything and–"

"Simon stop," he says, cutting me off mid-sentence. He doesn't take his eyes off mine as he wraps his arms back around my waist and pulls me in close. "Where is this coming from? I love our flat."

I place my hands on his biceps and stare back at him. "You do? But, it's so small compared to where you grew up."

His eyes are steady as he answers. "Of course I love it. It's our home."

"But–"

"But nothing Simon," he says. "Yes it is small, but that's one of the things I love about it. I grew up in a house so big I could go for days without seeing anyone other than my nanny. And it was so formal I couldn't change anything in my room or even hang posters up on my walls–"

"Didn't stop Fiona," I huff but he ignores me.

"–and I had a bed so big I needed a step stool to climb into it for the first few years–"

I huff again.

"–first five years, six actually. And my bed had gargoyles on it for Crowley's sake. Hardly a child's bedroom." He sounds a little frustrated now. "I don't know where this is coming from Simon, I thought you'd be happy not to have to move around anymore."

He's still frowning, and he looks a little confused as well, like this is the last thing he expected to hear. And of course it is, I don't know where this is coming from either. Maybe I'm just tired from the flight, or maybe I'm tired from all the moving, or maybe I'm just really, really worried that Baz is going to get tired of all this before it's sorted. Tired of me before it's sorted.

"I am. It's just . . . so big." I wave my arms around vaguely again. "And so bloody fancy."

He takes my face into his hands and locks his eyes with mine. His fingers are cool as he brushes them across my cheeks and jaw. "That's Father and Daphne's doing," he says. His voice is soft but his eyes are like steel, he doesn't stop staring at me. "Crowley Simon, I'd live in an igloo in the arctic if that's what you want."

I drop my hands back to his biceps. "An igloo's pretty cold Baz, you wouldn't last five minutes with that heat challenged body of yours."

His mouth quirks up in the beginning of a smile, the gaze of his blue-green-grey eyes softening slightly. "Well, a hovel like Bunce's then." My tail slides out of his pocket and wraps around his wrist.

"You would?" I don't think Penny and Micah's place is a hovel, I think it's kind of small and cramped with all of their magickal and Normal books and research papers taking up every available space. And even Penny says it has a crap view and is kind of in the middle of nowhere suburbia that you need a car to get everywhere, or wings. It's not as nice as the flat we shared in London but it's nice enough.

"Of course I would." He stops rubbing my cheeks and fixes his beautiful eyes firmly on mine. "Do you remember what you said to me that night I proposed to you?"

I'm not sure what he's on about right now but I decide to go with it. Sometimes when we're talking he changes the subject so fast I feel like I'm going to get whiplash. "Which bit? I said a lot."

"When you said 'I was your home.' Remember?" He starts brushing my jaw with his thumbs again. His eyes have softened again and they crinkle just so in the corners which makes him look even more handsome.

I give a slow nod. Of course I remember that night, I thought he was going to break up with me but he proposed to me instead. How could I ever forget? It's one of the best nights of my life. I have a list of favourite days (and nights) with Baz– that night and the day of our wedding pretty much top the list, along with that night in the forest when we first kissed, and then there was the day I learned to fly and later when I practically ripped his clothes off and we touched each other for the first time . . .

I know what he's on about now. I said that to him that night– that it was him that I missed when I was away, not my flat or my room. Baz is home to me. Merlin, even when we were sharing our room at Watford and I thought he was a complete wanker, and a git, and my sworn enemy, (and a vampire) (which turned out to be true) it was still him that I wanted to come back to, not the room. I reckon it's always been him.

"Well you're my home Simon, and wherever you are is where I want to be." His voice is quiet but I feel the full force of his words at the same time.

He presses his forehead against mine and wraps his arms back around my waist, tugging me toward him. My tail unwinds from his wrist and slowly snakes its way under his coat and around his middle and I exhale a breath I didn't realise I was holding. I let go of his arms and slide mine around his neck, pulling him closer so I can press my lips to his. He holds me tight as he places a series of tiny kisses in my hair and I can't help sinking into it.

Merlin I love him. And as I lean against him, I realise just how incredible it is that he wants to be here with me as much as I want to be with him. That he's the smartest mage I know and he's here with me, helping me fight this bloody banishment. And he's been doing that for the last five months.

We've been at this for over five months already. Five month of not working or doing anything except plotting and worrying and being forced to live apart. And all this time Baz has been fighting for me. He's spent all his time on this instead of studying for the bar. He's wasted almost half a year dealing with my banishment and his career has all but stalled. So has mine for that matter but I couldn't give a shit about my career right now, it's Baz I'm thinking about.

He must feel me tense up again because he pulls back instantly.

"What is it now Simon?"

I drop my hands to my side as I shift my feet. He doesn't say anything, just grips my waist tighter, waiting for me to speak. I look up into his eyes, they're searching mine and I start to shift my feet again.

"What love?"

"I'm sorry about all of this Baz. I've messed up everything haven't I? Your studies, my work, Christmas with your family, everything."

"You haven't messed anything up–"

"I have–"

"You haven't Simon. You've done nothing wrong."

"But, your studies, and your family, and Christmas. And then your dad goes and buys this place and . . ." I trail off, not quite sure how to finish. I look up at him instead.

He pulls me towards him again and wraps his arms around me. "Hey, it's all right. I can finish my pupillage any time, I'm in no hurry. And I think I can handle one Christmas away from my family and my annoying sisters and brother. Not to mention Fiona. It will be nice and peaceful for a change. And at least we won't be late to Christmas lunch this year." His mouth quirks up into a hint of a smile and I let out an involuntary laugh. We've been late to every single Christmas lunch since we first became boyfriends, and a fair few Christmas Eve's as well, even when they were at my flat.

"And this is Father and Daphne's place anyway. They didn't buy it for us, we're just borrowing it for a while." He's trying to make me feel better but I wouldn't put it past his dad to do just that. I'm starting to think that his dad would do just about anything for him. "I love you Simon. And I want to be with you. Only you. No matter where."

His eyes are steadfast, sure, and even though I still don't get why he's so okay with all of the trouble I've caused, I believe him. I don't know what I did to deserve this beautiful man. I don't know why he puts up with me and the stupid mess I made, but I know I love him and will always love him. Shit, I've probably always loved him.

"I love you Baz. I love you so fucking much."

He chuckles at my response. "Mmmm, there's my Simon," he says as he tugs me closer. He presses his forehead to mine and rubs my back in long, slow lines, and he keeps rubbing until I can feel the tension I've been carrying in my shoulders finally start to dissolve.

I don't let go of him for a long time.

Eventually, I don't have a choice because my stomach growls loud enough for both of us to hear.

"Baz?" I say, pulling back so I can see his face. We've been standing outside for a while now, and the evening sky has changed from winter grey to deep blue to inky black. The night lights of Paris are twinkling all around us and I'm sure it's a spectacular view, but not nearly as stunning as the one right in front of me.

"Mmmm?"

"Do you reckon this place has any food?"

Chapter Text

SIMON

We stop at a nondescript bistro on the way to the supermarket. We've already passed a whole load of crowded ones, and my stomach growls louder with each one Baz dismisses so I grab his hand and drag him inside the very next one that has an empty table in a dark enough corner.

We order quickly and when dinner arrives and we eat without speaking. It's a comfortable silence after all that was said at the apartment, and I devour my lamb shank and a pile of green beans and Brussels sprouts in record time. Once I knock off the rest of Baz's trout, I decide I need to say something about my behaviour before, so I place my cutlery down and take another gulp of wine, readying myself to speak.

Baz finished eating a while ago and he's holding his wine glass in his hand, swirling it around in small circles. It's something I've seen him do whenever we share a bottle and I have no clue why, I usually guzzle mine down.

"Sorry about before," I tell him.

He places his wine glass on the table and meets my eyes with his. Soft light grey. "Before what?"

"Before. At the apartment. I kind of lost it a bit. 'm sorry about that."

"You didn't lose it Simon. And it would be all right if you did. You've been under a lot of strain these past few months."

I stare at the table and fiddle with my napkin, working it with my fingers into a paper knot as I work up the courage to go on. I feel like I need to explain myself.

"It's more than that. It's just . . ." I'm struggling to tell him what's on my mind because this is something I haven't talked about with anyone yet. Not even Penny. I told him a lot of stuff tonight but not this. I've never told anyone how it actually feels to be banished, I just got on with it. I take a deep breath and decide to dive right in. "Being banished. I kind of feel like I'm back in care, you know?" I know I'm mumbling but I also know he can hear me. I sneak a peek at him, he's studying me, watching me, but he stays silent. He's waiting for me to get it out. "Like, moving around all the time and living out of my duffel . . . being alone. It kind of feels the same," I shrug.

Baz reaches across the table for my hand. "Shit Simon, I had no idea. You should have told me, I would have come sooner." His eyes are kind of soft and fierce at the same time, the intensity of his gaze is a little unnerving. "But you're not alone love, you have me. Always."

"I know," I mumble. My eyes flick back to the remains of my twisted napkin on the table.

"And this is the last move. I promise," he says, squeezing my hand. "This will be over soon and you'll be home before you know it."

He always sounds so sure but I still don't know if it's true so I don't say anything. All I do is nod.

-oOo-

"Baz?"

"Hmmm?"

We're shopping for groceries at the supermarket that's around the corner from where we're staying. No one has actually stayed in the apartment yet so the fridge and larder are empty. We did a quick stocktake of the place before we headed out for dinner, and realised pretty fast that while it was well stocked with things like washing powder and loo paper, it has absolutely nothing to eat.

Baz is pushing the trolley up and down the aisles while I load it. I pick up some fruit and vegetables and salad and pasta, Earl Grey tea, hot chocolate mix, eggs and our usual breakfast supplies, as well as the ingredients for pancakes and French toast. I grab a few sticks of butter and sneak in the ingredients for sour cherry scones because I hope Baz will forget what happened in Florence and make another batch.

I feel a lot better than when we first arrived, when I was worried that Baz would get sick of all this and decide to go back to live his giant posh country manor like he used to. (Like he's used to.) I think I was tired from the flight, and I was hungry.

We've almost finished shopping and I've managed to fill the trolley with so much food that I'm starting to wonder how we're going to carry it all back. I think of something else I need to tell him.

"I don't really want a dog," I tell him as I try and fail to find some salt and vinegar crisps. "I shouldn't have brought it up that time." I grab a few brioche buns with chocolate chips instead. Not really a replacement but we're in France, so.

He stops pushing the trolley and gives me questioning look. "Why not?"

"I checked online. There's a website that checks your compatibility for certain breeds and whether you're better suited to dogs or cats."

He starts pushing the trolley again. "How'd we fare?"

"Okay I guess. We're better suited to a cat than a dog, because of the flat, and work," I tell him. "But it was a Normal checklist. If you add 'Have you ever killed a domesticated pet, believing it to be a dark creature?' or 'Are you at risk of draining your pet dry from unassailable thirst?' then I'm pretty sure we'd fail."

"Hm, I suppose I can see that," he says absently. He throws a couple of blocks of Chocolat Noir into the trolley after not finding any mint Aero bars and I decide I'm going to have to find another supermarket.

We drop the groceries home and then head out again for more supplies. We find a decent boulangerie and boucherie, (Baz insists on using their French names because he's a pretentious twat.) and pick up a few baguettes and croissants as well as beef for my pasta sauce, some veal, sausages and bacon and chicken. He's going to try his hand at Beef bourguignon and Coq au vin, and he reckons both dishes have enough butter to satiate my cravings. I have to go into the butcher shop as usual, and order with my crap French while Baz waits outside because the smell of all that raw meat and blood could make his fangs pop. Then we pick up a few bottles of red wine from the bottle shop around the corner, some fancy French cheeses from the fromagerie next door and finally head back to the apartment just as it starts to rain.

Maybe it's because I'm closer than ever to England, or maybe because it's just me and Baz doing domestic things like shopping for groceries together, or maybe because it's raining and miserable out, but being here is starting to feel a bit more like home.

BAZ

It's raining again. It hasn't stopped since that first night we arrived after our initial (ridiculously expensive) food shop. Simon doesn't want to leave the apartment any time soon, so we've stayed inside and done little for the last three days but watch the telly, play cards, cook, and eat. (And hunt) (Rats again, Paris has so many rats).

We're going to have to stock up on supplies soon, Simon's managed to eat every single brioche we bought in the first two days. I caught him one night at the refrigerator when I returned from hunting. He had a brioche in each hand, (Simon's idea of a balanced diet is usually a scone in each hand but since we're in France he's made the switch.) and was poking around for more food.

"You're not meant to eat at night," I reminded him. "It gives you nightmares." I don't know if it's true or not but it sounds like something Simon would believe.

"If you're not meant to eat at night Baz, why's there a light in the refrigerator?" he shot straight back, giving me a cheeky grin. He's such an idiot.

I gave up after that and went to bed and he followed not long after, smelling like butter and chocolate.

I taught Simon how to play Cribbage and he taught me how to play Stop the Bus. We've played every afternoon while it rains steadily outside. He's useless at both.

After Simon admitted how the banishment has affected him, I felt terrible. I had no idea he equated his moving to being in care but in hindsight it's ridiculously similar and I was too busy burying myself in his case to notice. I mentally rebuke myself for failing to grasp how great a toll this has taken on him, and I make a silent promise to pay more attention to his emotional state from now on.

At least we're together, and he seems more at ease now than when we first arrived. When we returned from shopping and unloaded our groceries, I found the ingredients for sour cherry scones had mysteriously made their way into our supplies. It's wishful thinking on Simon's part, unless he agrees to an inordinate amount dance lessons. Then Simon showered and changed into my red and gold striped pyjama bottoms and a faded yellow Sex Pistols tee shirt that Fiona gave me one Christmas, and he's worn them every day since. I must be getting soft because I followed suit and pulled on a pair of his less slovenly track suits bottoms, his faded Stranglers tee shirts and a hoodie I bought him in America and have little desire to change.

It's warm and comfortable in the apartment, we have a deck of cards and Netflix, the fridge is still half full and we have wine so there's little reason to leave. We've hardly discussed the Coven or the next meeting. We've exhausted that topic to death and I think we're both enjoying the break.

Before I left London I left Fiona a number of files to pass onto The Magickal Record. One covers the outdated or unjust law that the Coven used to banish Simon, with my notes calling for change, and another details other laws that are outmoded, barbaric or simply idiotic. I also left a long history of all of the Mage's murderous deeds (the ones they know about anyway) because I'll take every opportunity to remind our realm what he did. There have been ongoing articles since I left so Fiona is obviously utilising her contact. It's comforting to see Simon continue to make the front page while we're here.

Bunce called on the first day and talked with both Simon and me, mainly about his case but also to talk about Florence, Alex and Paris. Mitali called to fill me in on progress with the Coven and to discuss some of the more ambiguous law amendments. Martin called to tell Simon that he continues to be inundated with queries regarding the dead spots, and to tell us he gave another interview. Daphne called to see how we were enjoying the apartment. Mordelia called to talk to Simon but wouldn't say what about. (Thick as thieves those two.) Fiona called and discussed the flow of information I left with her for The Record, and with another appalling vampire joke.

"Hey Basil, what do you get if you cross a vampire with a snowflake?"

I remained silent but she was undeterred.

"Frostbite," she cackled into my ear. "Behave yourselves and stay warm. Au revoir. "

We've been playing Stop the Bus for a few hours and I've just about had enough. I've beaten him so many times now he must be reaching the limit of his patience very soon. (But he's a stubborn idiot, so I don't like my chances.)

"You really suck at this," I smirk as he's about to lose again.

"You're the vampire, you suck," he says without missing a beat.

I bark out a laugh, it comes out loud and unrestrained and he stops glaring at his cards and blinks at me. He looks deep in thought, biting his bottom lip and a small smile playing on his lips. I smirk and raise my eyebrow, thinking he finally has a winning move. Instead he throws the cards across the coffee table and lunges at me, kissing me hard on my mouth and pushing me back until I'm pressed against the sofa and he's on top of me, his legs straddling my track suit clad thighs. He doesn't stop kissing me.

I gasp his name.

"Mmhmm?" he murmurs, not stopping his attack on my mouth. His hands are on my cheeks and his kisses are hard and rough and I'm still reeling from the sudden change of events – one minute we were quietly playing cards, Simon frowning in concentration and trying to work out how I keep beating him, (He thinks I'm using vampire mind reading or x-ray vision.) (I'm not, I can see his cards in the reflection of the windows behind him.) and the next his mouth is on mine and his tongue is sliding against my own and . . .

I bring my hands to his thighs and hold him in place. "What happened to our game?"

He kisses me harder. "Fuck the game. I'm losing, and it's raining."

He's definitely losing, but what's the rain got to do with anything. "Raining?"

"Only two things to do when it rains," he whispers into my mouth, He pushes his hands into my hair, clenching his fists into it as he pulls me closer. I tremble involuntarily.

"What?" It comes out as a gasp between hungry kisses. I can't help it, he's staged a relentless attack on my mouth and I don't want him to stop because I'm weak. Because I'm so far gone for him. Because we've been playing cards for long enough and I'm horny as fuck.

"Sleep," he breathes, kissing me again, "and fuck."

He pulls back just enough to watch me. His eyes are dark and hungry and his breathing is ragged and I don't need any more encouragement because I want him right the fuck now. I wrap my arms around his waist and twist him onto his back so I'm above him, grinning as I start my quest. A soft kiss on his lips to start– they're already red and swollen from our first bout but I kiss them anyway, and then again, pressing harder as I let myself get lost in the deliciousness of his tongue gliding against mine. I work on his neck next, kissing and licking meticulously as I make my way to my favourite pair of moles. I slide my fingers under his tee shirt and touch warm skin and he tries to slide his fingers under my hoodie but he gets tangled in between the layers.

"Too many clothes Baz."

I don't stop my assault on his neck. "Then do something about it."

He removes my hoodie and tee shirt in one swift move and brings his lips immediately back to mine. Our mouths and tongues are working in furious rhythm and it feels so good, too good, so I tear off his tee shirt without breaking our kiss. I hear the seams rip and decide it's seen better days anyway. I toss the shredded garment away without a second thought and focus on the feel of him; our mouths moving together, the slide of our tongues, the warmth of his hands as they skate along my back, the searing heat of his body against my skin.

We fumble together for our tracksuits and pyjama bottoms, kicking them off as they tangle around our feet and I can't help laugh at the urgency of it all.

Simon looks at me and furrows his brow. "What?" he pants, bringing his hand back to my face. My hair is falling forward and he tucks the wayward strands behind my ears. It's careful, gentle– nothing at all like the urgency of his mouth, and the softness of it burns me to my core.

I grin at my gorgeous, insatiable, husband. "You're right," I tell him, placing feather light kisses on his lips, his unshaven jaw, his throat. Oh fuck, his throat. I suck gently at his neck until I elicit a soft moan from him, then I trail my lips to his jaw, revelling in in the roughness of his four day old growth.

"'bout what?" It comes out breathy as he's panting even harder now. He wraps his arms around my neck and reaches up for my mouth for another kiss, open mouthed, wet.

"The rain."

He pulls back, just enough to grin at me. "I'm always right."

"You are," I agree. I take his top lip between my own, kiss it slowly, then his bottom lip, caressing it with my mouth. I kiss the dip beneath his mouth, the corner, the top. "And I like this better than beating you at cards."

"Me too," he breathes, pressing his mouth to mine for another searing kiss.

He flips me until he's above me again, releasing his wings from the pressure of our combined weight on them. They flap idly behind him, casting a light breeze across our bodies. His tail thrashes as Simon crashes his mouth into mine again and again, kissing me hungrily for what could be minutes or hours. We take our time, lips moving across skin, touching and caressing as the rain fall steadily outside. And when we're both ready, I close my eyes, breathe, sink into the carpet as he steadily, lovingly and with a certainty he only possesses when we fuck, sinks into me.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I wake before Baz but for once I don't get up straight away, event though it's later than usual. We don't have that much to do today so I stay in bed and watch him sleep. I reckon he must need the extra sleep– today is Christmas Eve and for the last few days Baz has gone into some sort of weird magickal overdrive, casting spells to clean the apartment whenever he has a spare moment and making more notes in his notebook than usual. And he's been frowning a lot and muttering things I can't hear under his breath. Whenever I ask him what he's up to, he stops what he's doing, smooths his brow and says he's stuck on a particularly magickal law amendment.

I don't buy it.

Christmas Eve also means it's our other anniversary– the anniversary of when we first kissed in the forest. And even though we're married now, he still insists we do something to acknowledge it. He also insists on giving me a present every year even though I say not to, and because he gives me something I usually end up getting him something, but this time I put my foot down.

"I haven't even been shopping without you Baz," I argued yesterday. "And we're married now, so no presents for our boyfriend anniversary this year, okay?"

He frowned at me and then his mouth turned into a pout and I almost gave in until I worked out what he was doing. I held out and it took every inch of my resolve not to give in and kiss that gorgeous conniving mouth of his.

"Oh all right," he finally agreed when he realised I wasn't going to cave. "If you insist."

And then I tried to get him to skip Christmas presents as well but he wouldn't have a bar of that.

"Absolutely not," he said, sounding as pompous as ever. "We'll shop tomorrow."

I reminded him that we already bought new suits in Italy and he said, "They're to wear at Christmas, Simon. You need something to unwrap on Christmas day. It's tradition."

Baz and his bloody traditions. I swear he's taking advantage of the fact that I don't know shit about any Christmas traditions because of the way I grew up, and I reckon he's making half of them up as he goes along. I roll my eyes at the sentimental prat, even though he's still asleep.

It will be just the two of us this year. Every year we've had Christmas Eve dinner at our flat, or my flat with Penny when I was living with her. We've spent every Christmas Eve with Penny and Micah and sometimes Agatha and Josh too when they came to London, and every Christmas day at Oxford. We kind of created our own traditions without even realising it. This will be our first Christmas without all of them.

We're heading out to the shops in a while but there's no hurry, I'm an extremely fast shopper and there's not that much to buy, so for now I've nothing to do but watch Baz sleep.

Baz is a infuriatingly slow shopper though. He'll drag me to as many shops as we have time for and make me try on a load of shit in a range of colours and take ages to pick something for me. And even though I don't need anything and I'll tell him that more times that we both want to hear, he'll have a load of things and shops already planned out in that big vampire brain of his. And then we'll have to do it all again so he can pick something out for himself. We've been through this so many times and no matter how much I complain that I'm hungry/tired/bored/leaving him, he doesn't relent.

Maybe that's what he's been up to the last few days, researching posh gifts that I don't need. It doesn't explain the cleaning though, but then again he is a neat freak and we've been a little distracted since we arrived.

I want to reach out and touch his hair, a few strands have fallen across his face and are resting on his cheek, but I hold myself back because I know it'll wake him if I do. He's a light sleeper as it is, and with all the hunting and cleaning and muttering lately, he needs as much sleep as he can get. He went out last night to hunt further afield and was gone a good hour and a half before he returned, sneering and muttering about pigeon shit and feathers. I know he misses the deer at Oxford, and I know all these pigeons and rats are a right pain to have to pick through every night. He doesn't say much about it but I know it's true.

I watch him sleep some more. He looks younger when he's asleep, and even more beautiful than usual. I could watch him for hours. . .

His shoulders shift slightly and he drags his arm around my waist, pulling me closer. It means he's waking and I can't help smiling, waking Baz is almost as good to witness as sleeping Baz. He groans into my hair as I push myself up against him. I love it when he's like this, all warm and fuzzy and still groggy with sleep.

"Happy boyfriend anniversary Baz," I whisper.

"Mmmm. Happy anniversary Simon," he mumbles back, kissing my hair. His voice still thick and deep and sexy as all hell. "Thank fuck you had the courage to kiss me that night."

His breath is tickling my hair so I pull back a little. I bring my hand up and finally brush that hair away from his cheek, combing it back with my fingers. He lets out a satisfied hum as I tuck it behind his ear. He keeps his eyes closed.

"Got sick of waiting for you to do it."

"I was getting there," he mumbles, a hint of a smile playing on his lips.

I thread my fingers through the long, silky strands at the back of his neck. "Was that before or after we burned to death?"

He opens one eye and stares at me. I think he's trying to glare but it's not working, his eyes are way too soft. I try not to smile but I can't help it and give him a self-satisfied smirk. I think he's going to say something biting but he closes his eyes and pulls me closer instead, the corner of his mouth curling up just so. "Before, I believe. I admit it wasn't one of my best thought-out plans."

I tug at his hair just a little. His mouth curls into even more of a smile. "You always did think too much."

He raises his eyebrow at me, still smiling. Even with his eyes closed he can still pull that off, the talented prat. "As opposed to not thinking at all?"

"That's right," I agree, brushing his cheek with my thumb.

He opens his eyes and locks them onto mine. "I told you we match," he murmurs. His eyes have darkened to almost black and I'm starting to feel a little breathless.

"Opposites attract?" I breathe. I let my thumb brush across his lips, they part and I hear a breath escape. He looks hungry now and not for blood.

"Exactly," he whispers.

He rolls us now, slowly and being careful with my wings, until he's hovering over me. He stares down at me with his ocean eyes and I let myself get lost in the dark depth of them. And I wait, remind myself to breath, until he gradually brings his mouth down to mine.

Chapter Text

BAZ

"Simon, you really should get changed."

"Why? I like your pyjamas."

"It's Christmas Eve, you should dress for it."

"I am," he insists, rubbing his eyes sleepily after waking from his afternoon nap. "Red and gold, very Christmassy."

"Perhaps we should shave. It's Christmas after all," I think out loud as I scratch my chin. Last week, Simon and I bet each other we couldn't last until the New Year without shaving. Ever since he drew that fake goatee and moustache on my face he's been on at me to grow a proper one. I didn't want to, but then he came up with this bet and I'm never one to back down from a challenge, even one as ridiculous as this. And there's the prize of course. If I win, Simon has to suit up and go out dancing with me on New Year's Eve, and if he wins I have to make sour cherry scones on New Year's Day. We've lasted eight days and neither has relented. Yet.

"Oh no, you're not getting out of this," Simon grins, scratching at his scruffy stubble. There's hardly anything on his cheeks but there's a decent amount of light gold growth on his chin and he's sporting a ridiculously sexy beginnings of a moustache. "A bet's a bet."

Mine's not much better, it's a good deal shorter and quite a lot neater, but it itches tremendously. It's going to irritate me no end to win this bet but I won't let that stop me. As Simon said; a bet's a bet. But there's no time to worry about it now because we're interrupted by the doorbell. I scratch my slightly more distinguished looking week old growth and check my watch. They're right on time.

We had a busy morning shopping for Christmas gifts for each other, and then I managed to convince Simon I needed to hunt in the afternoon. I used the time to sort out last minute arrangements for tonight and tomorrow. The week prior, I ordered one very large turkey with chestnut stuffing, a ham, a large shoulder of beef (all cryopacked and completely sealed for my sake), numerous desserts, ingredients for a mountain of Yorkshire puddings as well as a variety of vegetables and other sides. I headed out this afternoon to pick up the orders, and to select a few last minute gifts for our visitors. (And I did manage to hunt as well so I don't have to leave again tonight.)

Simon was asleep on the sofa when I returned so he didn't hear me magic the turkey and vegetables into the oven and the rest into the refrigerator for tomorrow, nor did he hear me place some last minute gifts for our guests under the tree. I don't actually know how to cook a turkey, or any of the other Christmas fare, but the butcher explained about the long silver thermometer that will pop when the turkey is cooked. It's rather ingenious of the Normals to come up with something so clever. It's a little like magic.

And Daphne will take over shortly anyway.

He's back in my pyjama bottoms again. At least the Sex Pistols tee shirt is no longer wearable otherwise he'd be in that ridiculous get up when they arrive. He's only just woken up and his hair is all over the place and his chin is covered in a light bronze growth and he looks a bloody mess. A gorgeous, unkempt, intoxicating mess, but a bloody mess all the same.

"You might change your mind when I open this door," I tell him.

He gives me a confused look. He has absolutely no idea what's about to happen, he still thinks I'm cooking just for the two of us.

I open the door and there's a flurry of hello! and good to see you! and Merry Christmas Basilton! from my family as they make their way inside. Behind them I can see a purple headed Bunce grinning manically, (she's changed the colour again) and Micah bouncing up and down on his heels, smiling his usual blinding American smile. Wellbelove is standing rather timidly at the rear in matching baby pink hat and scarf, a stylish suitcase by her side.

"Yes, yes. Do come in," I welcome, opening the door wide. I back into the entrance hall and gesture for everyone to enter.

They hustle inside quickly, some with luggage and others carrying gifts and bags and an array of alcohol and sweets.

I take my father's hand and give it a firm shake. "Merry Christmas Father."

"Merry Christmas Basilton," Father replies somewhat stiffly. He pats my shoulder and gives me a nod as he enters, inspecting the apartment, my casual attire, my unshaven face.

"Merry Christmas Basil!" Daphne repeats. "Where's Simon?"

My little brother squeals in delight and launches himself at me. He jumps up into my arms and my twin sisters hang off my sides, giggling incessantly, their hands tugging my sleeves as we make our way further inside. Mordelia glares at me as she passes, which I take as a greeting because she's thirteen. I'm sure I was never that obnoxious.

I shift my brother onto my back and lead everyone into the family room, coming face to face with a very surprised Simon. He's standing completely still with his mouth open and eyes wide. He's unmoving – utterly dumbfounded, and I grin as I watch the realisation dawn on him.

I wonder if I should close his mouth for him. "Merry Christmas love." I take his hand and give it a light squeeze instead.

"What? . . . Why? . . . What are you all doing here?" he finally manages to splutter.

Penny is the first to rush up to him, pushing me aside as she grabs his arm. "Merry Christmas Simon. We came to spend Christmas with you of course!" She wacks his arm with her hand. "What did you think, we'd forget about you?"

He blinks in confusion as he gives Penny an awkward hug.

"We've come to spend Christmas in Paris," Daphne explains, giving Simon a kiss on the cheek as she passes. "Merry Christmas Simon."

That seems to wake him from his reverie and his eyes light up, much like all his Christmases have come at once. His face breaks into a wide grin.

"Merry Christmas Simon!" My brother and sisters chime at once. My brother extricates himself from my back and jumps into Simon's arms, grabbing his tail as it thrashes around.

"Hey little guy, you've grown," Simon says as he ruffles my brother's long hair. It's not as long or dark as mine but has a similar wave to it. "You're gonna be a giant like your brother." My brother giggles in response.

The twins jump at his feet until he kneels and gives them a hug, which ends up being an awkward one armed hug each because he's still holding my brother. They giggle as they poke at the growth on his face.

"Hey Ruffnut, Tuffnut. You've grown too," he says to both of them at once.

They giggle again and pull him into a choke hold before finally letting him go. Simon stands up and stares at the group, still holding my brother and not at all fussed that my brother is hitting him on his head with the end of his tail and rubbing his chin gingerly.

Mordelia strolls up to him and punches his arm. "Merry Christmas Simon," she says, a little standoffish.

Simon's not fooled and he punches her shoulder gently. "Thanks Mordy. Merry Christmas."

She grins and punches him back and he punches her shoulder again, grinning harder. This could go on for hours.

"Merry Christmas Simon," Agatha interrupts, smiling a tentative smile.

He gives her a one arm hug and wishes her a merry Christmas as well.

Lastly Micah gives Simon a strong hug and manages to squeeze half the air out of Simon's lungs at the same time. "Hey, Simon my man. Merry Christmas, good to see you again."

"Oof. Yeah, Merry Christmas Micah," Simon managed to puff. For a small man the American is surprisingly strong.

Simon splutters and stammers his way through more hellos' and explanations, and he manages to shake my father's hand without blustering even though Father gives his face and his attire an exaggerated look.

Once all salutations are complete, we give the new arrivals a quick tour of the apartment's lower level, Father nodding in approval at the renovations and Daphne running her hands over the furniture as we go from room to room. Eventually Daphne heads to the kitchen to take over magickally cooking dinner and we head upstairs to show our guests to their rooms. Penny and Micah have the guest room while Mordelia and Wellbelove have to share. Wellbelove looks more than a little put out at the news.

We're standing outside our respective bedrooms, about to part ways when my brother tugs at Simon's pyjamas. "Simon. Why are you wearing Bazoow's pyjama bottoms?"

"Um. I had a nap before you came," Simon answers, his face turning bright red even though what he said is the truth.

Bunce crouches down to his level. "Simon doesn't own pyjamas."

"He thinks they're pants," Mordelia says.

"They're not pants, they're pyjama bottoms," my brother answers, furrowing his tiny brow in confusion.

"Not pants, pants," Mordelia explains, rolling her eyes, "As in rubbish. Like you," She clarifies haughtily as she follows Agatha into her room and shuts the door.

PENNY

I dump our bags unceremoniously in our room and drag Micah straight over to Simon and Baz's room, I want to catch up with them before dinner. On the way I knock on Agatha's door and tell her to join us. Baz's sister Mordelia follows close behind as we make ourselves comfortable on Simon and Baz's plush sofa. Baz leaves to talk with his father in the study downstairs so it's just Simon and us.

"All right Simon?" I ask once we're all inside. His room is a lot bigger than the guest room, and a hell of a lot fancier, but our room is still extremely nice.

He flops onto his bed and grins at us. "Yeah, just surprised. Baz didn't let on at all."

Mordelia jumps up onto the bed next to Simon and starts swinging his tail in wide circles above her head. "Mum told me not to tell." Merlin, I think she misses that bloody tail like her brother.

"Yeah, we've been planning this for a couple of weeks now," Micah explains. "Baz arranged everything."

"He did?" Simon beams, scratching at his chin. It looks like he hasn't shaved in a while, I wonder if he's just being lazy or is trying to grow some sort of beard. If it's the latter then he's doing a pretty shit job of it – it's a bit of a mess. (I wonder what Micah would look like with one?)

"Yes, we couldn't very well have Christmas in England while you were stuck here so we decided to join you," I grin. It's so good to see him again. "Baz okayed it with his family so we could stay here."

"There's plenty of room," Simon shrugs. "This place is huge."

I nod in agreement, this place is positively huge, but I leave it at that. I'm not about to discuss exactly when and why Baz's parents purchased the apartment in front of Mordelia. Although I think it's pretty obvious. Sometimes I wonder if there's anything Mr Grimm wouldn't do for his family.

"Except me," Agatha adds. "I'm staying in a hotel nearby."

"You're not staying in my room?" Mordelia asks. The disappointment is obvious in her eyes, and in that pout.

Agatha shakes her head. "No."

"But you can stay Agatha! I have twin beds. It will be like a sleepover!" Mordelia pleads. She's spinning Simon's tail even faster now, around in fast tight circles. I don't think she even realises that she's doing it. And neither does Simon, he doesn't seem to notice it at all.

Agatha frowns and shifts uncomfortably next to me. "I don't think so." Is all she says. I don't think she knows quite what to make of Mordelia.

"Where's Josh this Christmas?" Simon asks. I think Simon genuinely likes Joshua, especially since he stayed with them. They spent some time together when Agatha was in class and went on some epic mountain bike ride. He said he had a good time. And Josh is extremely easy going, much like Simon but without the crappy life.

Agatha waves her hand in the air, happy for the change of subject. "Oh, he's on a two week road trip with some friends, they're driving down the coast of Mexico. Winter surfing and drinking I suspect."

Agatha goes on to tell us about Josh's trip and her studies and Lucy the dog, which she just calls 'the dog' in front of Simon. Micah and Simon nod while they listen, asking questions occasionally, I take the opportunity while Simon's distracted to watch him. He seems relaxed enough, and happy enough and a still more than a little surprised that were all here with him in his room.

Agatha is finishing up telling us about latest class when the twins knock on the door, they tell us that dinner will be served in an hour. Simon jumps up from his bed at that and starts hunting around in his wardrobe. He digs out a fancy looking suit and is just about to pull down his pyjamas when he remembers we're all still here. Talk about eager, he must be hungry.

"Um, I have to get ready for dinner. . . Meet you downstairs?"

"Yes of course, I need to shower anyway," Agatha says, quickly heading out the door. Mordelia follows close behind and I snort out a laugh to myself. I think Agatha might have an admirer.

"Me too," Micah says, giving me a playful grin as he follows them out. "Gotta suit up now." Baz warned us that we should dress up for dinner when he extended the invitation a fortnight ago. Micah thinks it's hilarious.

I stand up as well but hang back for a minute. I look Simon over again.

"What?" he asks, over his shoulder. He's decided to shower and heads over to the fancy en-suite, closing the door behind him. I hear the water start running.

"Nothing. I'm just making sure you're all right," I yell through the door.

He does look good, loads better than he did when he left New Haven anyway. The lines around his eyes have smoothed somewhat and he looks like he's almost back to his normal weight. As much as I hate to admit it, he's way better off here with Baz than in New Haven with Micah and me. It doesn't mean I don't miss him though. I do. I liked having him around.

I wait for him to finish before I go on. He wanders out a few minutes later with a towel around his middle and his hair dripping. "You look okay I guess, and better fed. Alex and Marco must have loaded you up on pasta while you well in Italy."

"Yeah they did. It was good staying with them, even though I had to lie about everything that's been going on. That was a bit shit . . . Baz came for the last week anyway," he grins idiotically at that. (What a complete mush ball.) "You gotta stop worrying about me Penny, I'm fine. How's your family?" he asks, sliding his pants on under his towel. He rubs the towel over his head and then discards it on the floor as he pulls on his suit trousers.

"They're fine. Mum's pissed off at me for coming here for Christmas instead of staying with them. But dad said I should come and spend it with you and he even suggested to mum that they all come to Paris, but Premal's back from Bristol with his fiancée and they'd already organised to have Christmas at ours. Then Pip was angry when she found out I was staying at Mordelia's house because she wanted to come, and then Pacey got involved and said that 'mindless consumerism has taken over the true meaning of Christmas these days' and Priya opened her big mouth and said he doesn't even believe in God anyway so what's his problem with doing a bit of shopping and giving out presents to his long suffering family for once in his useless life and they got into a big argument about it so no one's talking to anyone at the moment," I shrug. "The usual really."

He snorts out a laugh as he finishes buttoning his shirt. He knows my family is crazy, he lived with us for six months and saw it all. I sometimes wonder how he survived it. (I sometimes wonder how I survived it.)

"Is that a new suit?" I ask, eyeing off his trousers. It's a lovely soft light charcoal colour with some sort of large check, and he's wearing an exquisite blue shirt. Baz must have picked it.

He grabs his tie and slides it around his neck. That's also a pretty blue silk, it all looks rather smashing. "Yeah, Baz got wind of a new tailor in Florence from Marco so of course we had to go there," he gives an exaggerated eye roll but I can tell he's not bothered by it.

"It's very nice."

"Thanks, you should see Baz's," Simon says, flushing pink across his cheeks. Merlin, just look at him! It's good to see him happy, and it's good to know he's just as ridiculously in love with Baz as ever. It means they haven't gone and done anything stupid. (Yet, my mind reasons.)

"Anyway, mum said you should never mix Christmas and friends," I go on, back to my original discussion. "I reckon she was still trying to get me to go home. She said it's the easiest way to ruin a friendship. She says you should always spend the day with your family because you're stuck with them for life so it doesn't matter how much you piss each other off at Christmas." I roll my eyes at mum's logic.

He snorts out another laugh. "Well I'm glad you're here anyway." He's standing in the middle of the room, grinning at me stupidly.

"Thanks." I know I'm grinning at back just as stupid because my cheeks are starting to hurt. "So am I. My family always goes a bit mental at Christmas time."

We stand there grinning at each other.

"So," he says, changing the subject as he fusses with his tie. "How's your research going?"

I pull my chin in and give him an incredulous look. "Do you really want me to tell you?"

Simon has absolutely no idea about our research and whenever I start talking about it his eyes tend to glaze over after about two minutes. Probably best leave it to Baz to hear me out. He huffs out a laugh and shakes his head, still trying to tie his expensive looking blue tie.

"So, what's with all that?" I ask, waving my hand around his face.

He scratches at his chin absently. "Bet."

He doesn't elaborate and I let it go for now, it likely has something to do with Baz. I shake my head but I can't stop smiling at him, it's just so good to see him again.

He shakes his head and huffs and finally gives up on his tie, mumbling something about Baz doing it later. I figure it's my cue to leave so I get up and head out the door. "Time for me to go and get ready for this fancy arsed Christmas Eve."

Simon grins again as I head out the door.

SIMON

I still can't believe Baz organised Christmas. He really is the most incredible person, husband, that I could ever wish for. I'm still surprised sometimes, how I got him so wrong all those years. How could I ever have thought him to be evil and plotting when he's so thoughtful? And a hopelessly romantic.

And it still shocks me stupid that he's mine, even though we've been together for years now. I don't think I could have made it through all this banishment shite without him.

He says he didn't do anything special to arrange all this, that Daphne did most of it, but I know he organised almost everything. At least it explains the muttering, and the cleaning and the afternoons out. And I know he organised for Penny and Micah to come, and even Agatha, which was pretty nice because I don't even think he likes her half the time.

I tie my shoes and head downstairs with my tie hanging loose because I can't do that fancy knot. I wander around the apartment for a bit because it's so fucking big before I find Baz in the study. He's talking with his parents about how long they're staying. (A week by the sounds of it.) He gives me a covert once over and his mouth twitches into his trademark smirk. He comes over and ties my tie for me as they finish up their conversation. Actually he and Daphne were chatting, his dad was quiet and just nodded occasionally.

"Mmmm," Baz hums softly as he knots my tie. His mouth is close to my ear and his voice is just above a whisper, probably so Daphne and his dad can't hear. "You look gorgeous in this suit Simon, and this tie really brings out your eyes. I must thank Marco again for giving us the name of his tailor."

I lift my chin higher. "I don't know why we needed another suit Baz," I try to complain but it comes out half-hearted. "We could have just worn the other one."

"Nonsense," he disagrees. That's a magickal spell but he doesn't say it with magic and he hasn't got his wand out so it doesn't go anywhere. "It's Christmas and we have guests. . . And it's high time I got you out of my pyjama bottoms."

I grin and raise my eyebrows, just about to retort with something wildly inappropriate with his parents in the same room, but I'm saved from embarrassing myself by the doorbell.

"Oh," Daphne says, moving to the dining room where she starts magicking the table settings into place. "Malcolm could you please get that, it will be our other guests."

I look at Baz as I pull out my wand. "Other guests?" I cast the droids spell to make my wings and tail invisible.

"Mmhm," Baz says, sounding more than a little distracted. He finishes my tie and smooths it down, letting his hand linger on my stomach for a moment. It makes my breath hitch. (Still, after all this time.) "I'll go change," he murmurs, his fingers lightly brushing mine as he turns to head upstairs.

"Welcome," I hear his dad say jovially. "Come in, come in, won't you."

I've never heard Baz's dad speak so genially to anyone other than his family before. It sounds weird. Maybe it's the holidays that have got him so cheery, or maybe it's just those bloody impeccable manners of his. (Or maybe he's already started on the G&T's.) I wonder who else is coming.

"Yeah, yeah Malcolm. Move out the way, will ya?" Oh, Fiona's here. "Old lady coming through."

"You're not that old." My uncle too.

"Watch it smart arse. I was talking about your mother."

"I'm not that old either Fiona dear," I hear Gran say. Gran's here as well?

I start to wonder exactly how Fiona's managed to endeared herself to my Gran, but I let the thought go and head out to the family room to say hi. Behind my Gran are Dr and Mrs Wellbelove, the Doc is chuckling to himself.

"Yeah, well you're older than me," Fiona retorts, pushing her way past everyone.

"Gran!" I say, a little louder than I meant. "Doc! Unc! What are all you doing here?" I know I'm grinning stupidly.

"We've come to celebrate Christmas, what do you think?" Fiona says, shaking her head. "Christ, I always thought you were smarter than that. Can end the Humdrum and save the realm but still with the daft questions."

She walks up to me and punches my arm in her familiar aunt to favourite-nephew-in-law sort of way. She's never actually said that, that I'm her favourite nephew-in-law, but given Baz is her favourite nephew and I'm her only nephew-in-law, I figure it stands to reason.

"Hey Snow."

I rub my arm where she punched me. It wasn't gentle. "Hey Fee."

"Hello Simon," Gran says. "Merry Christmas dear." She pulls me in for one of her robust hugs.

"Simon," my uncle says, giving me a warm smile and strong handshake. His eyes move over my shit attempt at growing facial hair. "How're you doing?"

"Yeah good," I say, grinning at him and rubbing my stubble. I still can't believe they're all here.

"Hello Simon. My my, don't you look handsome in that suit?" Mrs Wellbelove says, giving me a quick half sort of hug. She pats my shoulder and brings her cheek towards mine and then pulls back before making contact.

Dr Wellbelove gives me a warm smile and a nod as he shakes my hand. "Simon. How are you keeping up?"

"Yeah good." I can't stop smiling.

Baz's dad is shaking everyone's hands as they discuss travel delays, airport executive club and the best spells to use to speed up a flight as he ushers everyone inside and takes their coats. Daphne comes out from the kitchen tucking her wand away and welcomes everyone, and then and Penny and Micha and Agatha (followed closely by Mordy) come down stairs all dressed for dinner.

They make their way to the family room to greet the new arrivals. The twins and Baz's little brother turn off the telly and come in to greet everyone way too formally for such little kids and they let everyone pat their heads and tell them how much they've grown. Fiona picks up each one in turn and lets them hug her neck and search her pockets for lollies, which they sneak into their own pockets with a wink and a giggle, and Daphne gives her a half-hearted reproachful look before taking them upstairs to dress.

Baz is the last one down and I can't help staring as he makes his way slowly down toward us. He looks like the bloody king of the manor borne as he descends the stairs, more gracefully than I ever could. His hair is hanging loose and framing his face just the way I like it, and he's wearing that new suit with the blue sheen and an orange silk shirt and a lilac silk tie that we bought in Florence and I can't help gawking at him. He's bloody gorgeous.

He brushes past me and lightly touches my back before confidently greeting everyone in turn, asking politely about their trip, their accommodation, the traffic and whatnot. He really looks at home hosting this gig, even more so than his dad who's always perfectly polite but a bit on the quiet side. I start to wonder if his dad is a little shy and whether that's why he always appears so standoffish.

"Mother, Father," Agatha says as they pull her in for a quick hug. "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas darling. Don't you look lovely?" Mrs Wellbelove says, eyeing Agatha's dress. She does look lovey in that soft pink cashmere dress. Agatha always looks lovely. "Did you have a good flight?" Agatha nods and tells them yes and both of her parents are grinning at her, obviously pleased to see her.

"Oh by the way Agatha darling," Mrs Wellbelove says, "Would it be all right if you stay here with the Grimm's instead of the hotel? We've decided to give Lady Salisbury your room rather than leave her all alone."

"Yes!" Mordelia cheers, and Agatha looks like a little put out from being sidelined by my gran.

PENNY

Christmas Eve dinner is nothing like my house. The table has been magickally decorated with a fancy red and gold tablecloth and there are thick cloth napkins tied with deep red poinsettias and a massive Christmas garland running down the centre of the entire table with ivory candles floating above it. And there's at least three sets of cutlery per person and five different glasses and cranberry sauce in a fancy silver bowl (we scoop it straight out of the jar at home) and gravy in a matching silver gravy boat (we use a glass jug) and platters and platters of food covered with heavy silver lids. I have no idea how Daphne pulled all of this together so quickly, she must have used magic.

The children are incredibly well behaved and they all contribute to the conversation in a very grown up way. I think back to my family dinners and Christmas where everyone is yelling over everyone else and I can't help wonder how Daphne manages to maintain such a semblance of order with all these children. It's mind boggling.

"Stuffing?" Micah asks, his tone formal as he hands around the fourth platter. He has a bemused look on his face and he's slightly flushed, probably from the wine. I can tell he's enjoying the show.

"Thank you," I answer just as formally. I take some chestnut stuffing and pass the platter to Simon who's sitting next to me, raising my eyebrow as I do. I can tell he's holding back a snort so I avert my eyes as I await the next platter.

The food is amazing; there's roast turkey and chestnut stuffing, and honey mustard parsnips and honey-roast carrots, roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts and braised cabbage, and entire platters of and Yorkshire puddings and pigs-in-blankets that the children and Simon devour.

We toast our gathering with fancy Champagne before the meal and Lady Salisbury says a few words of thanks that we could all be together in such 'trying times'. She doesn't mention Simon's banishment directly but we all understand what she means. And then that was it for the formalities and the food came out and Baz's dad keeps offering more and more wine until I have to say no. After the platters make their second and third round everyone's finally had enough and we've slowed down drinking as well.

Well, everyone except Fiona that is, she's still knocking back the booze like there's no tomorrow.

I think Lady Salisbury is half cut as well.

Daphne uses magic to clear the table, and after a break she brings in a range of delicious looking desserts. Baz's dad brings out the dessert wine and I groan as I think about more food.

"You have to pace yourself," Simon whispers into my ear.

I raise my eyebrow and snort back. "As if you know the meaning of the word."

He had at least three helpings of turkey and ate almost the entire platter of pigs-in-blankets on his own. I don't know how he does it.

Lady Salisbury has been holding fort at her end of the table for most of the night, laughing raucously at Fiona's jokes and telling a few interesting stories of her own, mainly about her younger years at Watford. I catch the end of one of her stories. I think she's talking about her husband, Simon's grandfather.

". . . got so drunk on dandelion wine that he gave his entire speech at our leaving ceremony without his trousers on!" she roars, clapping her hands in front of her. "Headmistress Birtwistle was positively beside herself!"

"Dandelion wine?" Daphne questions. I reckon she doesn't like it because I can see her mouth turn down. I don't like it either; it's a bit too sickly for me.

"It was either that or the Elderberry Schnapps we smuggled in in sixth year," Lady Salisbury hoots.

Fiona is howling like a banshee and Simon's uncle is laughing almost as hard. Even Mr Grimm is chuckling softly and shaking his head.

She takes a few moments to regain her composure, wiping the tears from her eyes as she stifles a few final cackles. Fiona's still snorting as she refills their drinks and she and Lady Salisbury take another large swig from their glasses. Lady Salisbury pauses for a moment before looking squarely at Simon.

"So, Simon dear," she sighs, wheezing back the last of her laughter, "When did you decide to grow that?" She's smiling and swaying slightly as she points to his face.

"My beard?" he says proudly, stroking his chin.

"It's hardly a beard," his uncle snorts. "More like you forgot to shave for a few days."

I agree, it looks ridiculous.

"Eight days actually," Simon says, sounding a little indignant. He's rubbing his hand back and forth across his chin in an absent way. "Like Baz."

"Nice work boys," Fiona snorts. "Good to see you've put your time here to good use."

I can't help laughing at that. Knowing those two, they've probably done nothing but snog and shag themselves senseless since they got here. They probably didn't have time to shave.

"And when," Lady Salisbury continues, as if not interrupted at all, "are you going to explain those rather interesting appendages you have hidden back there?"

Everyone at the table goes completely silent, and I realise that she and her son are the only people here that don't know about Simon's wings and tail. Actually I think Agatha's mum might not know about them either but she's too busy chatting with Daphne to know what's going on. Either that or she's just had a few too many, her cheeks are more flushed than usual.

Given all the time he's spent with his Gran, not to mention all the meetings about his banishment that Lady Salisbury has been a part of, I assumed Simon had told her about them by now. It looks like he hasn't.

"How – how did you know?" Simon splutters. I haven't heard him splutter for quite a while and it's kind of fun to watch. He used to splutter a lot around Baz back at school, but that was probably because he was afraid Baz was going to drain him dry, or most likely because he was madly in love with him.

"I've spent enough time with you now to notice certain things," she says, as astute as ever. Her eyes are twinkling. "And I believe you forgot to spell them away at our last meeting. I have the eyes of a hawk you know."

"Shit," Simon mumbles. He looks at Baz who gives him a small shrug.

"It's your call Simon, they are family," he says, gazing at Simon like the love sick idiot he is.

Simon glances around the table, his eyes settling on me last. I smile and shrug and he removes his wand and reverses the invisibility spell he placed on them earlier. Then he slowly unfurls his wings, letting them spread out wide behind us. Their span takes up the entire length of the table and the light filtering through them cast us and the table in a faint red glow. His tail unravels itself from Baz's wrist and waves itself gently behind him. Lady Salisbury, Mrs Wellbelove and Simon's uncle's eyes go wide.

"Holy fuck!" his uncle cries before he remembers to contain himself. And with that, all of Baz's siblings start giggling uncontrollably. Fiona lets out a snort and Agatha tries to stifle a giggle behind her hand.

Agatha's mum's eyes go so wide they look like they're going to pop right out of her head. She coughs politely behind her hand.

"I think they're lovely," Daphne says. She's beaming at Simon like a proud mum and a warm feeling spreads though my heart for him.

"Yeah, lovely until they knock you off the couch," I throw in, and the kids burst out laughing. Looks like I'm not the only one who's suffered the wrath of Simon's wings.

Simon glances nervously around the table. Everyone is staring back at him, expectant, so he takes a deep breath and explains while we eat Daphne's desserts (trifle, mince pies and fresh fruit) how he gave them to himself when he had all that explosive magic and then couldn't get rid of them.

Lady Salisbury and Simon's uncle are absolutely fascinated and ask a lot of questions about how he's hidden them for so long. We all contribute an anecdote or two, especially me and Baz, about how many things he's knocked over, and Mordelia tells them how she thinks she's identified the breed of dragon they belong to. (A Welsh Red most likely, or maybe even a Crimson Wyvern.) And Daphne is smiling like a proud mum even though Simon is technically her step-son-in-law if that's even a thing, and Baz is absolutely beaming, especially when Simon's tail automatically moves towards him and wraps around his wrist again.

"And the tail?" she asks finally, looking down at Baz's wrist.

"Er. Yeah. Don't know why I gave myself that," Simon shrugs. "I think it's part and parcel of the whole wing thing. It. Er. Kind of has a mind of its own."

Baz and I both let out an involuntary snort at that one. Don't we know it.

By the time we've finished dessert, the three of them are quite accepting of his extra appendages, they're even a little in awe of him. Conversation shifts to less fantastic topics until Mordy can't contain herself any longer and blabs about the flying.

"Yeah, and he can fly too!" Mordelia shouts across the table, and Mrs Wellbelove yelps in surprise. "He does it all the time. He flew all the way from New Haven to New York and back!"

"Really?" Simon's uncle asks, looking impressed.

"Yeah," Mordelia gushes, excited to have the room's attention now. "In two hours! He was really flying."

"Literally," Micah says, amused. His face is flushed from all the wine and he's grinning like a mad man.

Mordy rolls her eyes at him. "I meant he was going really fast. Right Simon?"

"Yeah," Simon shrugs. "I was bored."

I rub his arm. I know his time in New Haven wasn't the best. He was so lonely with us at work all the time, and he was bored because he couldn't do anything, and Simon is used to doing things.

The whole flying admission sparks another round of cries of disbelief and a lot of ooh's and aah's as Simon explains how he learned to fly at Oxford one day and Mordelia tells them how fast he can fly and Simon tells them he uses invisibility spells and warming spells and he lets on that he can even carry people. Daphne lets out a small cough at this bit of information, making it extremely clear that Baz's dad has no idea that Mordy and Baz's other siblings have all flown with him. Simon's uncle's eyes grow wide as we talk and Lady Salisbury is beaming at Simon the entire time.

Then Agatha tells everyone the first time she saw Simon fly, which leads to a whole other discussion about how Simon's wings got those faint silver scars and the cottage when he found his mother and got his magic back. Dr Wellbelove makes a lovely comment about how clever Baz and I were to heal most of the burns before we made it back to London, and Lady Salisbury smiles fondly at him the entire time and even Baz's dad looks like he has a tear in his eyes when he realises that's when Simon saved Baz's arse from a fiery death (again).

Eventually we exhaust the topic of Simon's wings and tail enough and the conversation finally turns to other things, including Christmas day tomorrow. Daphne reminds everyone what time they need to be back for lunch and Mrs Wellbelove makes as if she couldn't possibly eat again, but agrees wholeheartedly because it's Christmas.

Chapter Text

SIMON

The oldies commandeer the living room and Baz's dad pulls out some fancy French Cognac from a cabinet I'd never noticed before. We take this as our cue to leave, and the rest of us head upstairs to our room. Daphne follows us up, and puts the littluns to bed before joining the others downstairs. The kids go to bed easily because it's Christmas Eve and they're excited about Father Christmas, but Mordy argues with her mum to hang out with us for a while. Daphne relents, but insists she can only stay for half an hour otherwise she'll be awful in the morning. (Which is true, she's an absolute horror most mornings, doubly so if she doesn't get enough sleep.)

I kick off my shoes and flop down next to Baz on our bed and Mordy jumps up next to me. She grabs my tail and starts swatting Baz on the legs with it, making a muffled thwack sound on his trousers. Penny, Micah and Agatha flop onto the couch. Agatha relaxes into it, kicking off her high heels and tucking her feet up under her. She pulls out her mobile and starts scrolling through it, smiling occasionally. Penny groans, rubs her stomach and complains about how much she ate and Micah kicks off his shoes and sits back, looking comfortable and relaxed with his stockinged feet on the coffee table. They immediately start talking about how Lady Salisbury worked out I have wings and a tail.

"You must have forgotten to spell them at the last meeting," Agatha says, lifting her eyes briefly from her phone. "But normally we can only see your face on the screen."

"She reckons she felt them too," I shrug. "Makes sense since she's always hugging me."

"She's a mage, and a pretty clever one at that. I'm surprised it's taken her this long to work it out," Micah says. "Especially given the amount of time you've spent with her."

I shrug again and turn to Mordy. "I thought she was going to keel over in shock once you told her I could fly."

"Nah, she's a tough old bird," she shrugs, slapping Baz with my tail. Thwack, thwack, thwack.

"Mordelia I don't think you should be calling Lady Salisbury a tough old bird," Baz admonishes. He's staring at my tail as it hits his leg. Thwack, thwack, thwack.

"But she is," I shrug. Mordy and I share a conspiratorial glance.

"Yeah," she grins. Thwack. "And that's what Aunty Fiona calls her." Thwack. "Either that or 'Ruthy babe,' or is it 'Babe Ruth'?" Thwack, thwack.

Micah snorts out a laugh while Penny raises her eyebrow curiously. "Speaking of, is your uncle staying here with her?"

"Dunno," I shrug. "Suppose." I have no idea what Fiona and my uncle get up to, and I'm not about to ask her what they do when they're together. (And she's never going to tell me anyway.)

Thwack, thwack, thwack. "Are they getting married?" Mordy asks the room. No one answers straight away, but Penny and I snort at the thought of Baz's crazy aunt marrying anyone.

"Perhaps you should ask her that," Baz grits through his teeth. He hasn't moved his eyes from Mordy thwacking his leg and I'm waiting for him to snap at her. It usually doesn't take him this long.

"I did," Mordy huffs. Thwack. "She told me to mind my own bees wax." Thwack, thwack.

"Right you," Baz snaps, snatching my tail from her hands. "Off to bed." I knew it wouldn't take him long.

"Why!" she whines. "It hasn't been half an hour yet! Mum said I could stay for half an hour!"

"It's been long enough," Baz shoots back. "Go away."

She groans as she gets off the bed and stomps loudly out of our room, slamming the door behind her. She opens the door again and gives Agatha a hopeful look. "Want me to wait up for you Agatha?"

"Go!" Baz barks, throwing a pillow at the door. She ducks the pillow by slamming the door closed.

"I think you have an admirer," Penny grins at Agatha. Agatha doesn't answer, instead she puts her mobile away and turns to me.

"So Simon," she says, her brow creasing into a frown. I don't think she's gotten over being kicked out of her hotel by her parents because she hasn't stopped frowning since we came upstairs. "How long are you staying here?"

I shrug but don't answer. I don't know how to answer anyway, I don't know how long I'll be here.

"As long as it takes to sort this out," Baz says when I don't say anything.

"Which should happen at the next Coven meeting," Penny says, confident as always.

"If Velma or someone else resigns that is," I mumble. Baz tugs at my hand until I look up at him, and when I do, he gives me a small, half smile.

"She will. She has to," Micah says from the couch. "Her own family is against her. I don't see how she can continue to support your banishment."

"It must be very interesting in their house these days," Penny nods, smirking in that wicked way of hers that reminds me never to get on her wrong side.

"Yeah, especially since her boys are friends with Mordy and Pip," I say. "The rally ringleader and her faithful sidekick." Penny snorts at this, probably remembering when I once referred to her as my sidekick. (And I never made that mistake again. She said she's not and never will be anyone's 'sidekick'.)

Baz's head snaps up. "They're what?"

Penny rolls her eyes at him. "They go to the same school Baz, it makes sense they're friends."

He gives her is best scowl. "Those boys are three years ahead of Mordelia. Can't they be friends with people their own age?"

"Oooh, maybe we can get Mordy to spy on them," Penny says, rubbing her hands together.

Baz sneers at her. "We are not going to use my younger sister to spy for us."

"The younger brother's only two years ahead. He's fifteen," I tell them.

Baz stops sneering at Penny and turns to me. "How do you know all this?"

They're both staring at me now and I glance between them, shaking my head. "Mordy told me. Honestly Baz you need to talk to your family more. Sometimes I think I know more about what's going on than you do."

He grumbles at that. "Still too old."

"And they're only friends," I remind him. "No one's dating anyone yet."

"Yet! What do you mean yet? She's thirteen!" Baz snaps back.

It looks like his protective big brother mode has finally kicked in. And it's about time too. I've been the pseudo big brother ever since Baz and I became boyfriends. Not that I mind, I love Baz's sisters and brother. I give his hand a squeeze to try to calm him down a bit, he huffs back and Penny snorts back a laugh. She loves seeing Baz lose his cool.

"Exactly. Like I said, they're just friends. No one's dating anyone," I remind him. "Except for Priya that is."

Penny's head snaps back to me. "What? What are you talking about Simon?"

"Still too young," Baz mutters, oblivious to this latest piece of news. "I think I'll have a chat with her in the morning."

I roll my eyes at Penny this time. Honestly she and Baz are more alike than either of them is prepared to admit. Both shit at being the big sibling. I try not to smile. "Mordy told me that Priya's dating the older one," I shrug. "Priya is sixteen you know."

"Since when?" Penny demands.

"Since her last birthday?"

"Don't be cute with me Simon," Penny huffs, jabbing her big purple ring finger towards me. "I mean since when did she start dating someone?"

It's kind of funny watching Penny when she doesn't know everything. "Dunno."

Baz snorts out a laugh this time. "Maybe we should get Priya to spy for us, hmm?" He sneers at her for good measure and I roll my eyes at him this time. I swear he's just as bad as Penny.

"She will not!" Penny barks at him. "Really Simon, do you think you could have told me?"

"I'm telling you now!"

Baz is shaking his head.

"She's your sister Penny. Why do I have to be the one to tell you and Baz what's going on in your own families?" I try not to smile, both of them are literally the worst older siblings I've ever met. They never ring their brothers and sisters for a chat, and they hardly ever talk to them when they visit. I don't know if this is how older siblings are supposed to act but it seems pretty stupid to me. They sit in silence, staring at the carpet, brooding.

"I don't know what all the fuss is about," Agatha says, sounding thoroughly bored. "They can date whoever they want. It's not as if there's a war going on anymore."

"Mordelia is not dating anyone," Baz sneers at her this time.

I make a mental note to tell Mordy to let me know before Baz when she finally does start dating someone. I reckon I'll need to soften him up for it, prepare him for the news. Maybe get the person to answer a list of questions I know he'll hound them with.

"Not yet," Agatha smirks, quirking up an eyebrow at him. I feel him bristle against me and I try not to smile at Agatha. I never thought Agatha had it in her but she's doing quite a good job of goading Baz tonight. I'm a little impressed.

"Anyway," Micah cuts in, "If Velma doesn't resign at the next Coven meeting, maybe Luella or Odella will have had enough by then. It's surely going to be one or the other," he says, effectively ending the discussion about who is or isn't dating who.

"Yeah, Lady Salisbury says they're tired of all the negative attention," Penny pipes up. She looks relieved at the change of subject. "So it's only a matter of time."

Penny and Micah immediately recount what happened at the last meeting and then launch into an in depth analysis of the newspaper reports. They seem intent on discussing every detail, no matter how minor or mind-numbingly boring. Baz adds a few well timed comments here and there, and even Agatha adds a comment or two while I sit and listen on in silence. And no matter what they say and how they try to talk it up, it feels like things have stalled. I can't even remember the last bit of meaningful progress we made and I'm starting to lose hope. I huff out a breath.

"Hey," Baz says, squeezing my hand. "It will be over soon." I clench my jaw but don't say anything, so he says it again, more insistent this time. "It will."

"Will it?" I finally blurt out, unable to contain myself any longer. "It's been six months Baz and I'm still stuck here, and now you're stuck here with me. I thought. I thought maybe I could find a spell or something, you know, to close the holes, but I haven't found anything. There's nothing–"

"What?" Baz demands. "Why would you think a spell could close them Simon, they're enormous, and there are too many of them to even consider–"

"Simon," Penny cuts Baz off and says in that voice of hers, the you're being an idiot one. The one she uses when I'm fixed on an idea (usually a really stupid or highly dangerous one) and she's trying to talk me out of it. "You know you don't have anywhere near the magic to close the holes. We've been through this already."

Baz narrows his eyes and fixes them on Penny. "You have?"

"Yes. No spell exists for this sort of thing," Penny goes on, ignoring him. "This is a completely new and unique problem so why would a spell exist?"

"There isn't," I mumble. "I've looked."

"Simon," Baz says, a little calmer this time. "We've talked about this. They dead spots are not your fault. And you would need a great deal of magic to be able to pull off something like closing them, even if a spell did exist, which it doesn't of course."

I shrug but go on, determined to talk about this now that everyone's here. "Not a lot of magic then but maybe I just need to find the right spell. Agatha said–"

"What did Wellbelove say?" Baz says through his teeth, glaring at Agatha now.

Agatha looks up from her phone, startled. She looks like she was a million miles away. "What?" I'm not sure she was even listening.

"Nothing," I say quickly. "We were just talking, and we, I thought what if I don't need a lot of magic, just the right spell."

Agatha looks at Baz and shrugs like she doesn't see what all the fuss is about. "We were only talking," she says coolly. Baz sneers at her.

"I'm sure some of the mages whose houses have been affected have already tried to find spells to fix this," Micah adds, trying to soften the tension.

Penny turns to Micah. "That's right Micah. Dad says they've tried all sorts of spells and so far nothing has worked. Dad and his team have tried a few of the more obscure ones as well. Nothing." She shakes her head and gives me a sympathetic look. "And I don't think that's the way this works Simon. Regardless of the spell, you would still need a shit load of magic and you just don't have that anymore."

I huff out a frustrated breath but decide to let it go, for now. They're never going to agree with me, and they're the magickal experts so if they don't think there's a spell then I should probably listen to them. And I didn't mean to bring Agatha into it. Baz hates the fact that I stayed with her in San Diego as it is, and now he's found out we were talking about how to close the dead spots. I know he'll be pissed off with her for this, he's always looking for an excuse to be pissed off with her. I squeeze his hand again and he responds by dragging his thumb across my knuckles.

It's late and everyone's tired from the day so we decide to call it a night. Penny, Agatha and Micah get up to go to bed but I stop them before they head out the door.

"Don't get up too late," I tell them. "Baz is making French toast tomorrow for breakfast."

"I am?"

"Yes Baz, it's Christmas, you always make French toast at Christmas," I grin at him. "It's tradition."

He mutters something under his breath which I choose to ignore, and Penny groans as she heads out the door. "I don't think I'll be able to eat another thing."

"Who are you kidding, of course you will," Micah says as he follows her out. She swats his arm as they head back to their room.

I close the door and turn to see Baz staring at me from our bed, he's scratching at his perfect week old stubble, rubbing his chin absently. And even though he's still pouting at my insistence that he make French toast for everyone, and at me discussing the dead spots with Agatha in San Diego, he looks cool and mysterious and as sexy as fuck. He removed his jacket a while ago but he still has the rest of his suit on, He looks stunning.

"Tradition huh?" he says, raising his eyebrow at me.

I turn the lock on the door.

"Yes," I say as I climb back onto the bed. He pulls me onto his lap and I start to undo his tie as I straddle him. He holds my thighs in place. "And I know how much you love your traditions."

"Mmmm," he murmurs as I slide the tie off his neck.

BAZ

"Happy boyfriend anniversary Baz," Simon whisper as he finishes undoing my tie and shirt. He pushes my shirt off my shoulders and then throws it and the tie unceremoniously on the floor. They land in a heap next to the bed. He proceeds to take my face in his hands and brush his thumbs lightly across my lips. I shiver involuntarily as he leans in for a long, slow kiss.

He's still far too dressed, so I push him back and remove his tie, pulling the silk smoothly from his neck before discarding it onto the floor. His eyes are on me the entire time as I unbutton his shirt. I take my time.

"Happy boyfriend anniversary Simon," I whisper back, pushing his shirt off his shoulders and dropping it onto the growing pile next to our bed.

I stare at Simon for a moment, taking him in. His tail is waving gently in the air behind him and his wings are spread wide. I can just make out the silver scars through the thin scarlet membrane, evoking the memory of when he saved me from that fire. That day is etched into my memory forever– it was the second time I almost lost Simon.

His golden curls are falling onto his forehead and I brush them aside, running the tips of my fingers lightly down his cheek and neck, across his collarbone and down his chest, resting on his stomach, my movements slow and deliberate. I drag my eyes back to his and watch as his blue eyes darken. His chest rises and falls in line with his quickening breaths. My breathing mirrors his.

I trace my eyes over his form, marvelling at his perfection. With his gorgeous face, those ridiculous curls, his golden skin and those mighty wings he looks like a God– like Hermes sent down from the heavens, sent to mediate between adversaries, to unify the opposites. Just like Simon has been doing all his life. I can't help staring at him in wonder as I discover this secret truth of him.

He leans in to kiss me and I reach up to meet his mouth, our kiss slow and tender. His hands are back on my face now, his thumbs graze over the stubble on my jaw before coming to rest on my mouth. I wrap my arms around his waist and revel in his warmth as I pull him closer. I could kiss Simon forever like this.

I pull back slightly and rest our foreheads together, our breaths mingle. "Time for your present," I murmur, my hands trailing down to his waist. He watches me undo his belt and slide it through the belt loops of his trousers before discarding it on the floor. My hands are on his button and zip next, and they're down in an instant.

"I thought we weren't doing presents Baz?" His hands trail down my chest, to my stomach where he smiles as he rubs small circles around my belly button. He moves his hands to my belt. "We agreed."

"Mmhmm," I hum as he kisses me again, tracing my lips with his tongue. I do recall agreeing to something, but it's a little hazy because his tongue brushes mine and my stomach plummets to the floor.

His hands work quickly to undo my belt and he whips it through the belt loops and tosses it on the floor before he tugs at my button and zip.

"Oh, I'm going to give you your present right now," I whisper as I wrap my arms around his waist and twist him onto his back. I'm above him now, with one arm firmly wrapped around his waist. I place small kisses on his throat and his stubbly jaw as my other hand works to remove his trousers. "And you're going to love it."

I bring my mouth back to his and kiss him harder, more insistent this time, and for longer until we both need to break for air. And then his mouth is instantly back on mine and our kisses are hot and fast and when our tongues meet one of us lets out a low moan, I think it might be me. I'm starting to lose control fast and I don't know how much longer I can drag this out but I'm going to bloody well try to make it last as long as I can.

It seems Simon is just as needy as I am because he shoves my trousers off quickly and tosses them away, and as I push my leg between his I elicit a long, low moan from him. It excites me even more so I press into him harder, aligning our bodies so there's nothing between us. Simon shivers and moans again and it's music to my ears.

"I'm definitely going to love it," he whispers. He's starting to lose patience because he removes both our pants at the same time and tosses them on the floor before capturing my lips for a deliciously wet kiss. He mouths at my jaw and throat and my stomach clenches again. I go to kiss him again but he suddenly pulls back, eyes wide and questioning. "But didn't we do this already this morning?"

My grin is wicked. "Who cares?"

He barely has time to grin before I crush my mouth onto his. He lets out another long moan which turns me on even more and I press into him even harder, our hands leaving trail of heat and cold as they roam over each other.

I can't hold back any longer, so I release his beautiful lips and kiss his cheek, his jaw, his neck. Oh Crowley his neck. I make my way across his chest and stomach, trailing feather light kisses on my way down, making sure to not leave any part of skin untouched.

He's coming undone under my hands, body trembling, gasping through swollen lips. And I watch on, transfixed, as Simon melts into the bedspread as I thoroughly take him apart.

Chapter Text

SIMON

Baz and Daphne magic up a mountain of French toast while Fiona and I make the eggnog. Fiona talks me into doubling the amount of rum because it's Christmas, and everyone must like it because everyone's been knocking it back like there's no tomorrow and now they're all half cut and we haven't even got around to unwrapping presents.

When we run out we make another batch even stronger than the last.

Once we're done exchanging gifts, everyone retreats to different parts of the apartment to do their own thing: Daphne heads back to the kitchen, the kids sit next to the Christmas tree to sort through their haul, Penny and Agatha chat quietly on the sofa, Micah plays catch with Baz's little brother in the hallway upstairs and Baz and I help Daphne with lunch. Well, I'm helping Daphne, Baz is leaning against the kitchen counter pretending to look at his phone. Whenever I look at him I catch him watching me and I think about last night, and that makes me blush because vampires, apparently, really are good at everything.

Anyway, I'm helping Daphne because there's a shit load of people coming for lunch today, and because I want to learn how to make her roast beef with all the trimmings, with and without magic. I've missed their roast beef like mad so I'm going to make sure I figure out how to make it for myself. She's already shown me how to make Yorkshire puddings and how to cook the ham with magic, and she also talked me through how their cook does it the Normal way. Baz thinks it's funny that I want to learn both ways, I think it's a life skill.

I watch Daphne magickally stir the gravy as Fiona saunters back into the kitchen. She's got a cigarette between her lips and an empty jug of eggnog in her hand. She starts scouring the room.

"Where are the bloody ashtrays in this place, Daff?" she mumbles, somehow balancing that cigarette between her lips and talking at the same time.

Everyone else is dressed for Christmas lunch but no one bat's an eye at what Fiona's wearing. She's got her trademark leather trousers and boots on, but she's put on a silk shirt instead of her usual get up. The shirt is black like everything else she owns and looks nice, even if it is a tad revealing. I reckon Daphne's finally given up trying to get her to conform, she usually tries to ignore her these days. Fiona eyes a saucer behind Baz and moves to reach past him and I step in front of Baz without thinking.

Daphne stops waving her wand and places her hands on her hips. "Fiona, can you please refrain from smoking while you're here? It's not good for the children, and you know how flammable Basil is."

"Oh, righto," she mumbles, quickly stubbing the cigarette out in the saucer by the sink. "Sorry Basil."

"When are you going to give up Fiona?" I growl. Honestly one day she's going to set my husband alight and there won't be a thing I'll be able to do about it. (Torched by Aunt Fiona in the kitchen with a rogue cigarette.) (Like a warped vampire version of Cluedo.)

"Yeah yeah, all right. Merry Christmas to you too," she huffs as she busies herself making another batch of eggnog, and when she pours a generous amount of rum into the jug I stand in front of her so Daphne can't see. (Because it is Christmas.) She finishes mixing it and gives me a quick wink as she refills everyone's glass. "Righto Daff. Need any help?"

The doorbell chimes and Fiona turns before Daphne has time to answer. She saunters off to answer the door, jug of eggnog and a load of empty glasses in hand. "That'll be them."

I glance at Baz and he grins at me. "I don't think we'll be seeing her again before lunch. So much for her help."

"Probably for the best Basil," Daphne sighs as she ditches the butted cigarette into the rubbish. She magicks the table settings to the dining room with an elegant wave of her wand.

PENNY

Christmas lunch today is just as extravagant as last night's Christmas Eve dinner, even without the overly formal dress. We had a lovely breakfast that Baz and Simon pulled together, and I'm already feeling a little tipsy from the eggnog. I think Fiona may have loaded it.

After breakfast we sat around their enormous Christmas tree and traded presents. It was lovely and civilised and Micah is definitely in the good books with Baz's brother since we gave him a real baseball glove and ball. Although I don't think it pipped the stuffed dragon Simon and Baz gave him– he hasn't let go of it all morning, even while he and Micah tossed the ball to each other in the hallway upstairs. (The ball magicked to go straight so as to avoid Mr and Mrs Grimm's newly painted walls.)

"His name is Puff," Baz told his little brother when he and Simon gave it to him, "And it's a magic dragon."

His brother beamed at him and almost choked Simon with hugs and I wouldn't mind taking a look at it one day, to see exactly what sort of magic Baz and Simon poured into it.

Simon and Baz are acting like complete love sick idiots as usual, gazing into each other's eyes and holding hands and brushing against each other whenever the opportunity arises. They think no one notices when they do it but I'm positive everyone does. At one point Simon caught me rolling my eyes and blushed like a teenager, and Baz is all puppy eyes and is doting on him like the lovesick sappy husband that he is. Christmas always brings out the worst in them.

When we're seated for lunch, Baz's dad welcomes everyone with a toast, then we pop the Christmas crackers and the lunch extravaganza well and truly begins. Daphne serves a lovely leek and potato soup for starters, and those silver platters are passed around again. This time there's an enormous glazed ham and a huge roast beef and more roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes and Yorkshire puddings and gravy. We gorge ourselves again as the platters make their way around the table at least four times.

Everyone's laughing and enjoying themselves and talking at once. Simon places a purple paper hat on Baz's head and Baz hasn't even taken it off. ("It matches your shirt Baz.") Simon's wearing a blue one that Baz made Mordelia trade with him, ("It matches your eyes Simon.") and even Agatha is wearing a pink one. Micah has a purple one, which he swapped with me because it clashed with my hair, so I have a green one instead. Fiona's is black. I'm sure it was red to start with but she must have magicked it. Lady Salisbury has an orange one with multi coloured flowers on it and a large pink Chrysanthemum springing from the top. She added the extra flourishes herself.

The drinks are flowing and everyone's laughing and chatting and it's is getting so rowdy that Baz's dad doesn't quite know what to make of all the noise. I can hear about five different conversations going on at once and I catch a bit of Mrs Wellbelove telling Agatha that Dr Natterjack is planning to retire soon. He's the magickal vet that works out of Bedfordshire.

". . . he's currently looking for someone to take over his practice dear," Mrs Wellbelove says.

"That's right," Dr Wellbelove joins in. "This could be right up your alley Agatha. When you finish your studies that is."

It's obvious they miss her and want her to come back to England at some point. I'm not entirely sure this is the best approach.

"I haven't studied magickal creatures Father," Agatha says, frowning.

"That's not a problem Agatha, he'll need to train whoever he takes on," her dad says, undeterred and completely oblivious to her discomfort. His face is flushed and he hasn't stopped smiling since the wine did the last round.

"I don't know," Agatha grumbles. She hates being put on the spot, or cornered.

"And Josh could get a job at Watford," Mrs Wellbelove beams. "Coach Mac is going to retire one day, they'll be looking for a new sports teacher."

"An American sports teacher at Watford." Micah grins. "Can you imagine?"

"Well they already have a minotaur," Baz drawls. "I suppose an American isn't too much of a stretch."

Fiona scoffs and Simon frowns and elbows Baz in the ribs. Baz looks at Simon like he's the bees knees which makes Simon blush and Baz takes Simon's hand and kisses his fingertips and I think I'm going to be sick. Dr Wellbelove lets out a long-suffering sigh and shakes his head.

"Does he even know how to play football?" Baz teases. He doesn't look perturbed at all by the news of an American at Watford. "Or cricket?"

"Of course he does," Agatha snaps, and then immediately looks like she regrets it because her parents give each other a meaningful look.

"How long are you staying in London, Agatha?" I ask, trying to save Agatha any more distress. She looks relieved and I give her a knowing grin. My dad's exactly the same– he'd love for Micah and me to move back to London one day.

The conversation stays in more neutral territory for the rest of lunch and Agatha's parents don't push her any further. And once the Christmas pudding and mince pies are demolished, along with another healthy couple of glasses of fancy French dessert wine, and the kids run off to play with their new toys, the conversation turns abruptly back to the reason why we're all here.

BAZ

"Er hem." Father is calling everyone to attention and I think he's going to make another toast. (I think he's had too much red.) Everyone stops and looks to him.

"What is it Malcolm?" Dr Wellbelove asks.

He stands slowly and takes his glass in his hand. His cheeks are slightly flushed and he's wearing a rare, slightly whimsical smile as he scans the table. (Definitely too much red.) His eyes settle on Simon and me for a moment before continuing around the table. He looks at Daphne and she gives him an encouraging nod.

"I would like to thank you all for joining my family for Christmas," Father starts, eyes moving around the table again. "I know that these are not the most ideal of circumstances, and we are again facing trying times." His eyes flick over to Simon and then me before they settle back on the group. "It was only a few years ago that we were on the brink of war, but thankfully that was averted, and we all have Basil and Penelope, and of course Simon to thank for that." He pauses for a moment and there's a murmur of agreement around the table. Micah is looking proud as punch at Bunce and I do believe her face is looking slightly flushed, but it's most likely the wine. "Daphne and I would like to take this moment to thank you all – including Mitali and Martin Bunce who couldn't make it today – for your hard work and continued support to bring Simon home."

"Here here," Dr Wellbelove approves, almost soberly.

Lady Salisbury raises her glass in solidarity. "To bringing my grandson home."

"Well said," Micah echoes, raising his glass.

Everyone raises their glasses then and toasts to bringing Simon home, and we're quiet as Father takes his seat. Daphne places her hand on his shoulder and squeezes and Father gives her a discreet smile.

I can't tell if Simon is shocked by the impromptu speech or embarrassed at being the focus of attention, but he's turned a lovely shade of pink. I decide on the latter, although I think I'm in shock. Apart from our wedding, I don't think I've ever heard Father say as many nice words about my husband so publicly. It's just not like him, Daphne really has softened him up over the years.

"And to six years of peace," Fiona adds, cutting through the silence. She's waving her glass around, back on the eggnog again. I don't know where she stashed it during lunch.

"Here here," Dr Wellbelove says again, grinning foolishly. I think he's had a few too many as well.

"Six years since that bastard Mage stopped ruining our lives and murdering innocent people," Fiona rambles. She takes another noisy swig from her glass. It looks like she has the eggnog stashed under the table.

"All right Fiona," I cut in. I don't need her bringing Simon down on Christmas day. It's enough that today is the anniversary of the Mage's death, (Of which Simon still hasn't completely forgiven himself.) and Ebb's death, but today is also the anniversary of Simon ending the Humdrum and ending the wars. Christmas day has always been balancing scale of emotions for Simon.

"It's all right Baz," Simon says, turning to face me. "We can talk about everything that happened. It's been years."

"Yeah," Fiona slurs. "We should be celebrating! Six glorious years without that bastard. Thank Christ the Coven saw fit to snap his wand–"

"Fiona!" Father cuts her off quickly. "It's really not appropriate to discuss this in front of the children."

Fiona's drunk as a lord and looks as if she's about to go off on a rant. I suppose it was only a matter of time, it wouldn't be Christmas lunch without one of her tirades. I'm surprised we've made it this far.

"What children?" Fiona argues. "Mordy's old enough."

"Yeah!" Mordelia cries from across the table. She's sat herself next to Wellbelove at the start of lunch and has been hanging off her every word, much to Wellbelove's annoyance. "I'm old enough!" She sits up, excited to be part of the conversation for once instead of being sent away with my other siblings.

"Mordelia," Daphne says, quiet but firm. My sister huffs and slumps back in her seat, annoyed at being reprimanded in front of the adults so I take the opportunity to smirk at her like all big brothers ought to.

"Oh come on Malcolm, the war's over," Fiona says, waving her glass unsteadily in front of her. "We should be able to discuss these things. And the Coven's gone to shit anyway . . ."

"They're not going to do that to you are they Simon?" Mordelia asks, her eyes wide, "Snap your wand?"

"Of course not!" I bark at her. "He's not a criminal."

"Look at that Fiona," Father says, exasperated. "You've upset Mordelia."

Mordelia ignores me and Father and turns to Simon again. "Anyway, they'd have to catch you first. You could outrun them, or outfly them if you had to, huh Simon?"

Simon frowns and shrugs. "I s'pose."

"Now that's enough of that," Daphne says, smiling graciously around the table. "It's Christmas."

"I don't know why you don't just fly back home anyway. It's not as if you couldn't," Mordelia goes on, warming to her idea. She's always going on about Simon's flying. Sometimes I think she wishes she could fly.

"That's enough thank you Mordelia," Father says, his patience growing thin.

"You wouldn't even have to stop!" she cries, ignoring Father. "So technically you wouldn't be stepping foot in the UK!"

"Enough Mordelia!" Father says, reprimanding her more firmly this time. Mordelia looks as if she is about to argue again, but Father silences her with a look and she slumps back in her seat with her arms crossed, glaring murderously at the tablecloth. "More wine, Doctor? It's a fine drop."

The Doctor holds out his glass. "Yes thank you. A fine drop indeed."

Mordelia huffs but stays silent, and the conversation returns to more banal topics. I turn to watch Simon, to gauge his reaction to Mordelia's outburst. He's looking down at the tablecloth, lost in thought.

I squeeze his hand. "All right Simon?"

"Huh?" He looks up at me, momentarily confused, then gives me a warm smile. "Yeah Baz, I'm fine."

SIMON

I've been thinking about it for years.

Ever since Baz and Penny discovered it was me who made the holes in the magickal atmosphere, I've wondered if I could do something to fix them. And then when Baz let it slip that Hampshire was his house I started thinking about it even more. And since the Coven banished me that's all I have been thinking about. Thinking about doing something – anything – to close the holes. Close them so Baz can have his house back (even if it is a haunted gothic mansion), close them so other mages can move back into their homes, close them so I can go home.

But I never got anywhere, no matter how much time I spent looking through spell books, endlessly searching for the right spell. All I could think of was that even if I could find a spell to fix them, I wouldn't be able to cast it from fucking exile anyway.

But Mordy said something that kind of brought everything together– every unfinished thought and half-baked idea I've had since this all started. I may not be allowed to step foot back home but I can fly for snake's sake. Surely that's got to be useful. Surely that's the answer to all this. Why didn't I ever think of that before?

Baz is talking to me, saying something.

"Huh?" I say absently, turning to look at him. He's staring at me with a worried look so I give him a warm smile. It's Christmas day and for the first time in months we're all together. I want to spend right now with Baz and our family and friends, not thinking about the dead spots and how to fix them and how I never ever thought about using my wings to help.

"Yeah Baz, I'm fine," I tell him.

And I am fine, now.

Chapter Text

SIMON

The rest of the day passes easily, except for that bit after lunch when Fiona (who was completely shitfaced by this time), climbed up onto the dining table as Daphne cleared it and started an impromptu dance party with the twins. She magicked her playlist of punk Christmas songs to blare out through Baz's speaker and then the twins were jumping and bumping with her to a bootleg version of the Sex Pistols 'Jingle Bells'.

It was entertaining enough, and the littluns were laughing like mental at their mad aunt until Fiona skidded on a left over Yorkshire pudding and toppled over mid bounce, smashing her arm on the corner of the table. Dr Wellbelove chuckled as he spelled the bone back together and then magicked her arm into a cast before he, Mrs Wellbelove and Gran went back to their hotel. Fiona whined about the cast but shut up when the Doc explained that "While I can reset the bone easily enough, at your age it needs time to regain its strength." Gran hooted with laughter the whole time and Mr Grimm just shook his head.

All the while my mind kept returning to what Mordy said. I can fly.

We're having a late Christmas supper of leftovers in our room. Baz and I are sitting up on our bed and Penny, Micah and Agatha have commandeered the sofa again. Mordelia joined us for a while, but Baz kicked her out when she called him a drama queen. She called him that because he lost it and snatched my tail out of her hand and whacked her over the head with it, and he did that because she kept smacking his thigh with it, getting precariously close to his bollocks.

Baz grabbed my hand a while ago and he's brushing his thumb across my knuckles absently while we talk about what to do tomorrow. I'm only half listening because my mind is somewhere else. It's still on what Mordy said at lunch. I can fly. I can fly practically anywhere. I can fly to the UK and back and never touch the ground. Why didn't I ever think of that before?

I must have been really zoned out or something because I realise everyone is looking at me, waiting for me to answer.

"Huh?"

"Merlin Simon, what's with you?" Penny asks. "You've been lost in your head for since lunch."

"Have I?"

"Yes you have," Baz says, tugging at my hand. "Come on, out with it."

"I asked what was bothering you," Penny says, apparently for the second time. I must have been lost in thought because I didn't hear her the first time at all.

I look at them and they're all looking back at me expectantly. I shrug.

"Simon," Agatha says in her uniquely Agatha way. "You're frowning. What is it?"

"It's just . . . I have this idea," I start, and then I stop again and look at each of them. They're all staring at me and I know they're waiting for me to speak, to get it out, but I hesitate because I know they'll shoot it down straight away, like they have every other time I've talked about the holes. I take a deep breath, scratch at my stubble and go for it anyway. "On how to maybe close the holes in the magickal atmosphere."

"Didn't we already talk about this last night?" Baz starts, but I ignore him and push on.

"Mordy sort of gave me the idea–"

"Oh for the love of Merlin," Baz mutters, shaking his head at the ceiling, but I cut him off.

"–and Agatha–"

Baz turns to Agatha now and sneers at her. "I knew it. You and you're meddling, Wellbelove."

"I haven't done anything!" Agatha snaps back, but I don't let either of them finish.

"And Penny and Micah, when I was staying there–"

"What?" Penny and Baz say at the same time.

"And you Baz," I say. "All of you really, have sort of helped me come up with this idea."

"What idea?" Baz demands, narrowing his eyes at me. I don't think he realises it but he's squeezing my hand kind of hard and I peel his fingers back one at a time until he loosens his grip. He looks mortified for the briefest moment before his mask slips back and he goes back to narrowing his eyes at me. I take this as my cue to go on.

"But what Mordy said today kind of pulled it all together . . ." I look around the room. They're all watching me, waiting. I scratch the back of my neck while I think how to start. Finally I drop my hand and turn back to Baz. "Just, hear me out. Okay?" I wait for him to nod before I go on, then take a deep breath and start. "For months I've been looking for a spell, any kind of spell that I could cast to close the dead spots–"

"Simon!" Penny cries. "Not this again. We've been through this already. There is no spell!"

"–but I never had a way of doing it, even if I found the right spell." I push on, ignoring her outburst.

"Mages have already tried and failed Simon–" Baz starts, but I cut him off as well.

"But what if it has to be me?" I argue. "I made them so it makes sense that I have to close them."

"That doesn't make any bloody sense," Baz snaps.

I push on. "But what if, what if it does have to be me? So what I thought was . . . I could fly over the dead spots and cast a spell. No, hear me out Baz." I shake my head to stop him from interrupting. "I could find where the dead spot ends, if it ends – like up in the sky somewhere – and cast a spell from above, like at the dead centre so to speak, and then fly back. No one's ever tried from the top, from the centre of a dead spot, they've only tried from the ground, standing at the periphery. I wouldn't even have to land, and I could fly from here, well not from Paris but from somewhere closer and over the water and into England and over a hole and cast a spell or two and then fly back without ever having touched UK soil. So my feet can't be like, spelled into the ground or whatever the Coven has cursed me with . . ."

Everyone is staring at me, dumbfounded, or like I'm some sort of idiot. I don't know which one it is so I just stare back. I know it's a bit of a hazy plan at best and I think I'm missing something important but I don't care. I keep my chin up and wait, nervous for their reaction.

Penny pulls her chin in and glares at me. "That's your idea Simon? Fly over a dead spot and cast some spells? How in Merlin's name did we help you come up with that?"

"Um, dunno really. Just bits and pieces of everything we've talked about I suppose?"

"Simon," Baz says, sounding more than a little frustrated. "That's too dangerous. You can't fly back to the UK, it's too great a distance for one thing, and countless things could go wrong. And where would you go anyway?"

"Um, I thought Hampshire?"

"Hampshire?" he scoffs. "That hole is enormous. You might want to start with something a little smaller, and closer. Even if you were to try this. Which you won't. Because it's completely bloody insane."

"It's not completely insane Baz. And it's worth a shot. Nothing else is closing them."

"Simon," Penny says, a little more calm this time. "We've been through this before. They're going to take time to close."

"Are they Penny? The more I think about it the more I think it's not time they need, it's magic. It's a magickal problem and maybe a magickal problem needs a magickal solution."

"That's an interesting hypothesis." Micah says. He's rubbing his chin thoughtfully, looking like he's thinking it through, scientifically, which is what I was hoping for. "But Hampshire? It's the largest dead spot of them all."

"But it's also the closest. The only one I can reach," I tell him. "And it's Baz's house," I add, knowing full well that that's the real reason I want to try Hampshire. I figure if I'm going to do this, I may as well make it somewhere meaningful.

"But that hole is far too large," Penny maintains. "And it's too far."

"Penny, aren't there a number of smaller holes in and around London?" Micah again. I can see he's intrigued by the idea already. I knew I could count on his curious scientific mind. I was banking on it.

"Yes that's right," Penny says. "Some small ones over Stratford and Croydon . . . there's even one in Dartford." Her eyes flick over to Baz at the mention of Dartford.

I glance between them. "What?"

"We went there looking for you," Penny says in a quiet voice. "When you left Hampshire. But you were at the cottage."

That was when I took off after I found out the Mage was my father. I stayed at Hampshire for months, until I thought the cops were there to arrest me and I took off to the cottage. I had no magic back then so being at Hampshire didn't bother me, and I thought no one would come looking for me there. Penny and Baz did though, and then they searched a load of other dead spots looking for me.

Baz is frowning and staring at the duvet, lost in thought.

"Oh." I squeeze his hand. When he looks at me I try to give him a reassuring smile. I know he's remembering that time; it wasn't a good time for either of us.

"And I already told you," Penny goes on, straining to keep her voice calm. "Mages have tried to close the holes with magic, and it hasn't worked."

"Maybe that's because it wasn't me," I argue. "Maybe I have to be the one to close them."

Baz sighs again. "I really don't think it works that way."

"I think you should wait," Agatha says. She's been quiet for so long I almost forgot she was here. "The Coven will meet next week. Velma could resign and then Baz or Trixie could be voted in."

I was hoping that Agatha would support me. I didn't think she'd side with Baz.

"Wellbelove's right," Baz agrees, clearly pleased with the change of direction. "We should wait until the meeting."

"She might not resign," I argue. "She hasn't yet so what makes you think she will at all?"

"Well it's high time she did," Penny smirks. "Her kids aren't speaking to her according to Pip and Priya."

"How do you know that?"

"Mum called to wish us a Merry Christmas this morning, and after I talked with mum I spoke to Priya about her boyfriend–"

"Yelled at her more like it," Micah chuckles.

"Yes all right yelled. Well she's still young, and I just wanted to make sure she was being safe, and smart and wasn't doing anything she didn't want to do and all that. Anyway she told me that Terry and Perry–"

"Terry and Perry?"

"Velma's boys. Their names are Terrance and Peregrine, but that's what everyone calls them. Anyway she told me that the boys are firmly on your side Simon, and it's causing all sorts of family issues. Velma's quite vexed about it all."

"See Simon," Baz nods, looking annoyingly pleased with himself. "Family issues. It's only a matter of time now." He nods at the group, scratching at his stubble with his free hand, as if waiting for the group to back him.

"Baz come on, it's been almost six months. Six fucking months our lives have been on hold. I'm going mental doing nothing," I plead. "I have to try something!"

He narrows his eyes at me. "The fuck you do."

"And what if Velma does resign? What then?" I push on, more determined than ever. "It's still another month until you or Trixie is voted in, if one of you is voted in, and then it'll still be another month before the new Coven can vote on my banishment. That's two months minimum Baz. And that's if Reggie and Alfie don't cancel more meetings or put someone up themselves, which they probably will . . ."

"It might not take that long Simon," Penny argues. "And Trixie is quite keen."

"But she still might not get voted in. She's a pixie. There's never been a pixie on the Coven before," I argue right back. Daphne said as much at one of our meetings, and everyone else agreed. "And there's no way Baz will be voted in while this is going on."

"We should still wait until after the Coven meet," Baz insists.

I shake my head and huff out a frustrated breath. "They've delayed once before."

"It doesn't mean they're going to delay again," he counters, as stubborn as ever.

"Baz," I growl.

"Simon," he growls right back.

"And even if Velma resigns and Trixie is voted in and they vote for me to be un-banished or whatever. What then? The holes will stay open forever and you'll never be able to go home to Hampshire."

Baz rubs his thumb across my knuckles. "That's not important."

"Well, what if the holes are closing from the top and we don't even know it? No one's ever measured them before," I push on, recalling the discussion in New Haven. Micah came up with that idea back then and I've been thinking about it ever since. "I could do that while I'm up there. See where they end, if they do end somewhere, you know?" I know I'm grasping at straws here, no one probably could care less whether they're closing from the top or not. They're only concerned that they can't use magic from their homes on the ground.

"That is an interesting idea," Micah says. He drops his feet to the carpet and sits forward, rubbing his chin.

"Yeah, it was your idea Micah," I add, a bit too eager but I don't really care right now. "Although I don't think they are closing, I still think they need a magickal solution."

"I can see your point Simon," Micah nods, thinking it through. He looks like he's warming to the idea. "I think it's worth a try."

"It's just a quick flight for me," I nod back, looking at Penny and Baz in turn. "And casting a few spells. No big deal."

Penny frowns at Micah. She sits back and huffs, annoyed, but now that Micah is on side I can see she's relenting. "I still don't agree with this. I can't see how this could possible work Simon. The holes are too big," she grumbles. "But if you're determined to try this stupid plan of yours, then I suppose I'm in."

I knew she would be. Penny's stupidly brave, (that's the only stupid thing about her) and she loves an adventure. And it's been way too long between adventures. There's only so much living in the Normal world Penny can take in any given period of time. Now I just need to get Baz to agree.

"Good," I nod. "Baz?"

"What?" Agatha pipes up. "Are you all completely mental?"

Shit. I forgot about Agatha.

"What's wrong Agatha?" I didn't think she'd be that bothered with all this– I mean, it's not like I'm asking her to follow me down a rapidly filling well or anything, but she looks mad and she's frowning so hard I reckon she's going to have a permanent wrinkle between her eyebrows before the year's out.

"That's the most ridiculous plan I've ever heard!" Agatha shrieks. "It's dangerous and not very well thought out, and I'm pretty sure it's illegal. The Coven will never allow it."

But then I remember that Agatha always hated all of the dangerous stuff we did, and she didn't give a toss about the quests we went on and the mysteries we solved and the battles we fought. She always said it was a load of rubbish and a complete waste of our youth.

"It's not that ridiculous," I mumble. I thought the plan was pretty good, and I thought Penny or Baz would be the ones to discount it, not Agatha.

"And no one is telling the Coven," Penny adds, giving Agatha a serious look.

Agatha glares at me and then at Penny. She crosses her arms and huffs. "I thought we were here to celebrate Christmas with Simon. Not go off and break a whole load of Coven laws."

"We've been celebrating since yesterday. And we still are celebrating," Penny says, waving her hand at the largely untouched plate of leftovers.

"By plotting against the Coven?"

"We're not plotting against the Coven!" Penny argues. "We're just working apart from them."

"That's a load of rubbish Penny and you know it. We've been plotting against the Coven since they first banished Simon," Agatha reminds us. "But at least we weren't breaking any laws then."

"We're not really breaking any laws here, just skirting around them–"

"Penny!"

"The Coven laws are shite," I say, grabbing a sandwich. "Please Agatha?" I know I sound desperate but I don't care. I need to do this.

Agatha uncrosses her arms and throws her hands in the air. "Simon! You can't do this. You've already been banished. If they catch you in the UK, they'll lock you in the tower for sure."

"How are they going to catch me? I can fly." I waggle my eyebrows at her. I try giving her a cheeky grin at the same time but I think it comes off slightly idiotic. I finish the sandwich in a few bites.

"Well, they'll lock the rest of us up then!"

"No they won't. No one will even know you're involved."

She stares at me.

"C'mon Agatha." I plead again, softer this time.

She crosses her arms again and huffs as she slams herself back against the couch, but this time she stays silent. Good. That's her reluctantly agreeing pose. I've seen it loads of times back at school whenever Penny and I came up with a wildly dangerous plan.

So now it's just up to Baz and he knows it. We all turn to him. Well, everyone except Agatha, she's staring at the carpet like she wants to murder it. The rest of us wait for his response.

He stares at me for a long time, saying nothing. He knows I won't do this without him, and I know he doesn't want me to do this at all because he thinks it's too dangerous or stupid. (It's probably both but I don't care right now.) I hold his gaze.

His eyes flick over to Agatha for a moment before they settle back on me and I wonder if her outburst did anything to sway him. Knowing Baz, he'll agree with me just to piss her off. Not that I'm complaining.

The silence stretches, and I think he's not going to say anything at all but then he lets out a long sigh. It comes out a tad dramatic.

"All right," he finally relents. "I know you're going to do this anyway, so I suppose someone has to be there to make sure you don't kill yourself in the process." His face falls into a pout and I grin at him and squeeze his hand.

"Excellent!" Micah says, clapping and rubbing his hands together. His face morphs into a manic grin and his eyes are gleaming. I think he's excited at the prospect of being involved in one of our clandestine adventures for a change rather than hearing about them from Penny after the fact. "So, what spell will you cast Simon?"

My face falls then and I scratch the back of my neck uncomfortably. "Yeah, well, about that. That's where I'm a bit stuck," I tell them. "I haven't actually found one yet. I thought maybe you could help me with that?"

BAZ

This is the stupidest plan in the history of stupid plans.

This is the Swiss cheese of plans – it's weak and soft and so bloody full of holes there's no way it can possibly work.

It's foolish and irresponsible and definitely dangerous. It's also absolutely prohibited under mage law. And there's not even a backup plan if things go wrong, which they will of course. When do things ever not go wrong when it comes to Simon and his plans to save the world?

I don't know why I ever agreed to this idiotic plan.

Yes I do. I agreed to this half-baked idiotic plan because Simon is going to do it with or without my help. I could tell from the look in his eyes. He had the very same look when he found out that he was the Humdrum and thought the best course of action was to go to the Mage. I couldn't talk him out of that then and I sure as hell can't talk him out of this now.

And I agreed to it because Bunce and Micah are in. I know Simon well enough to know he'll do any manner of stupid things as long as he has Bunce by his side.

And because Agatha hates the plan, which is an added bonus.

I'm starting to panic with the thought of everything that could possibly go wrong. And when I panic I plan, meticulously. Which is probably for the best because it's bloody obvious Simon isn't going to.

I'm making a mental list of all the things that can go wrong:

We don't find a spell. That's the most obvious problem. But it's one we're going to work on before we go ahead with this stupid idea.

Simon can't make it all the way. Definitely concerning but he can fly great distances now so I'll let this one pass, for now.

The hole in Hampshire is too big. Obviously a major problem. I try to talk him out of Hampshire, but he insists it has to be there.

"If it works in Hampshire it will work anywhere Baz. Think about it." he said through a mouthful of turkey sandwich. And then he reminded us how secluded Hampshire estate is, so no one will see what we're up to.

I try to argue that the flight from Cherbourg to Hampshire will be too far but he'd already calculated the distance and scoffed at the suggestion. I try to argue that the ferry ride for Bunce and myself to Portsmouth would be too slow but he reminded us we can do magic, and can cast a Hurry Up on the ferry. He had a counter argument for every one of mine. It was infuriating. When did he become so clever?

I think of more things that can go wrong instead:

There's no end to the hole so he can't fly above it. Could be tricky.

Simon can't make it all the way back out of UK territory and he's cursed into the ground and stuck for eternity or until the Coven sees fit to release him. Definitely problematic.

The spell doesn't work. This is the most likely scenario.

Then what?

Chapter Text

SIMON

Penny and Micah spend all their time pouring over magickal books they find in the Grimm library, (Grisly, Gruesome and Ghastly and Dark Curses for Dark Times kind of freak me out but the rest are interesting enough.) the magickal books they brought with them and the few Baz and I brought with us, as well as some Normal books. They work though a load of classical literary works that have provided enduring spells in the past and even give a few contemporary authors a go.

Baz is delving deep into Shakespeare while I go through his ridiculously long music list and my much shorter one.

Agatha splits her time between helping us and spending time with her parents before they head back to London. Even though she's not that keen on the plan she said she'd help, which is something.

Baz tries to talk me out of going to Hampshire a few more times but I don't back down. I can't stand the thought of going to all this trouble for a couple of semi-detached houses and a pissy park in Dartford. When he works out he can't talk me out of it, Baz finally relents and he says he and Penny will meet me in Hampshire just in case. Just in case of what I don't know exactly, but in the end I'm just relieved they agreed to go along with my plan and I'm not doing this alone.

Baz is still not entirely comfortable with the idea, but he's worked out a plan to minimise my alone time. He and Penny will be with me in Hampshire, and Micah will be back in Portsmouth with the ferry in case I have trouble with the distance, and Agatha will wait in France, in Cherbourg where I'm supposed to land, and where we'll all meet up to take the train back to Paris.

I'm glad Baz came up with all that. I never would have thought of any of it, I'd have started flying from Paris and simply hoped for the best. I probably never would have even made it out of France come to think of it. (That's my problem, I never think much about anything before I act.)

So now we're compiling a list of spells and song lines and turns of phrase that could be used to return something or put something back or close something, but we don't find anything really useful. We all started with our own lists on paper and then Baz went and Up, up and away-ed a whiteboard from his dad's study, (His dad has a whiteboard, here in Paris.) and now Penny and Baz have commandeered it and are arguing over the whiteboard markers and the merits of that old saying 'A blot on the landscape' versus Shakespeare's 'The be all and end all'.

Micah is drawing a series of bell curves on the other side of the whiteboard after calculating the likelihood the dead spots taper off (68.1%), my ability to fly over one and still be able to breathe (55.5%) and the probability that one of these spells will actually work (17.3%). He also calculated the probability of me getting caught and spelled into the dirt (36.6%), and of me dying on the way or on the way back or while casting these spells from a great height (95.7%) but I decide to ignore the last one and scrub it out before Baz gets wind of it.

I've been listening to songs from everyone's playlist with no real luck, and when I finally add 'Sing it back' to the whiteboard Penny pulls her chin in and looks at me like I'm thick.

"Sing it back is all wrong," Penny argues. "What's that got to do with anything?"

"But the next line, 'Bring it back' Penny," I argue. "That makes sense doesn't it? Bring the magic back?"

"Hmf," she says, unconvinced. "Bring what back? That's what you need to understand. You have to summon the meaning of the words Simon, not just say them," Penny says, trying to explain how spells are created again. "That's just a song, I barely remember it. And it wasn't even that good," she adds, trying to make it sound like the song is not enduring enough. I reckon it's more because she really, really hated that song.

I remind her how I couldn't get it out of my head for months after I heard it. And I wasn't the only one, I sang it so much it got into her head. It drove her barmy back then, she even threatened to spell my mouth shut to stop me singing it. (Zip it is a nasty spell so I don't think she really would have done it.) (But I'm never absolutely sure with Penny.)

"Annoying is not enduring," she mutters, when I don't relent. She shakes her head one more time, turns back to the whiteboard and continues arguing with Baz.

I decide to keep that one for myself. I like it and it makes sense to me.

I'm still surprised they didn't just shut me down after I came up with this idea. I thought for sure they would talk me out of my plan, but they came on board and are helping to find a spell. At least with Penny and Micah, once you present them with a problem or a question they can't help but try to answer it. And with Baz, well . . .

At the start I think Baz went along with me because he couldn't talk me out of it. So I told him that I have to try, and that I need his help, and that I promised never to fly away from him again so I need him to be okay with this, to support me. He relented then and started looking for spells in earnest.

Baz can see how determined I am to do this, so now he's spending half his time looking for a spell and the other half reviewing the plan to make sure I'm safe. He's been going over things like who's going to be there to help if something goes wrong, and the quickest route so I don't waste unnecessary flying energy, and what to do if I can't make it all the way back, and most importantly, who's making the sandwiches. In other words, all the things I didn't think of.

Gran heads back to London after a few days to catch up with her friends. I swear she's got more friends than me and Baz and Penny put together, and she's had most of them for longer than I've been alive. When I told her that she waved her hand airily and said, "Friends come and go like the waves of the ocean but the true ones stick like a water sprite on your face." I didn't have a clue what she's on about but Baz and Penny nodded solemnly.

Fiona spends most of her time in her bedroom, nursing her broken arm with a bottle of single malt Scotch whisky and my uncle, and Baz's family spends most of their time visiting their Parisian friends so they're out most days. So that just leaves us working uninterrupted on my grand plan, and after a couple of days of trawling through books and songs I'm getting frustrated. I've had enough of them arguing over catchphrases and sayings and I want to get moving. I need to do something, before they change their minds.

"Come on," I tell them, not hiding the urgency in my voice. "The list of spells is long enough, and Baz has given you all jobs so we all know what we're doing. We need to act now."

"We can't rush this Simon," Baz says. "We don't know if we've found the correct spell yet. We don't know if any of these will actually work. We don't even know if any of these are spells." He's working himself up into a state now, pacing around the room and waving his arms in the air. I don't know if he's trying to talk me or himself out of this. I grab him by his arms to stop him from pacing.

"We'll never know Baz. Not until I try them. And everyone will be gone in a few days," I tip my head at Penny and Micah and Agatha. (Agatha still looks reluctant to be a part of this but she doesn't say anything.) I slide my hands down his arms and into his hands, giving them a quick squeeze before I let go. He's itching to get back to the whiteboard.

"And we'll need to supercharge them," Baz goes on, ignoring my insistence to get moving. (It's infuriating.) "The words are not going to be powerful enough on their own."

This sparks Penny and Micah's interest and Penny inches closer to Baz, and the whiteboard. "How are you going to do that?"

"Pump up the volume," he says, his eyes turned down to the carpet. "It's how Fiona souped up the finding spell to find me."

He says it so quietly I almost don't hear him. He doesn't say anything more and neither do we. Instead I take his hand and give it a squeeze and Penny squeezes his arm. We hardly ever talk about that time, but I know from his nightmares and his aversion to absolute darkness and bendy straws that he's still very traumatised by what happened with the numpties.

Micah clears his throat, like he's politely trying to keep things moving. "So, um, Simon could jack up the spells with that?" This pulls Baz from his thoughts and he nods at Micah. "Impressive," Micah nods back, he turns to Penny. "Sounds like a plan, Pen."

"I suppose. And there is nowhere to test out our spells but on a real dead spot." She sounds reluctant but resigned. "But I still agree with Baz, we're not ready."

I let out a frustrated growl. We've been here for days and have researched likely spells to death. If there is a spell out there then I think there's a good chance that it's on that whiteboard. "I think we are."

BAZ

We've been at it for days and I'm still terribly uncomfortable with the whole idea, but Simon is becoming more and more frustrated as time passes, and if we don't move soon he's just as likely to take off on his own. Mordelia keeps interrupting us, and the last time she found an excuse to come in she asked why we have Father's whiteboard in our room. Bunce and Simon managed to hide the contents but she's not an imbecile, and she's taken quite a liking to Wellbelove since they've been sharing a room so she's hovering. We can't keep this under wraps forever, and my father wants his whiteboard back.

We've talked Simon through each of the phrases and quotes in an effort to have him understand their meaning and how they could translate into magic. This is vitally important, or who knows what he'll end up casting. Father will never forgive him if he casts something that causes Hampshire to disappear, or swallow itself up. (Or explode, or catch fire.) (Again.)

Simon insists on going ahead with the abysmal plan tomorrow. Wellbelove's resigned herself to the reality that she's involved in this whether she's an active participant or not, I'm dubious that any part of this plan will actually work, (or at least end without Simon running out of energy and falling from the sky somewhere over Winchester) and Bunce is somewhat wary. But Micah is as enthusiastic as ever, excited by the promise of something new to research at the end of all this. I think he's excited by the prospect of Simon testing his theories. Bloody scientists.

All we can do is try I suppose. And hope no one gets killed in the process.

Chapter Text

PENNY

I have to say, with Baz helping us, Simon's half-baked plan is turning out rather decent. And even though it's biting cold outside, I can't help feeling a little excited as we make our way to the Métro station. After a long discussion, and Baz sulking over not being able to drive, we decided the best approach would be to take the fast train out of Paris. We wouldn't all fit in the ridiculously small sports car Baz hired anyway, and I don't want to waste magic to spell it bigger; we need to save our magic for what's ahead.

The train departs at some ungodly hour of the morning so it's still dark and well below zero as we head out, but we have to get moving, we need the all the time we can get so Simon can fly during daylight hours.

I go over the first part of the plan in my mind: Simon and Agatha will disembark in Cherbourg, while Baz, Micah and I continue on the ferry back to England, and Baz and I will take a hire car on to Hampshire. That way we'll be there when Simon flies in, in case anything goes wrong. Simon will take flight while Agatha stays at Cherbourg, (with her father on speed dial just in case) and Micah will wait in Portsmouth at the ferry terminal. If necessary he'll cast In the nick of time to hold the ferry for Simon in case he can't fly any farther. Simon has his mobile and Bluetooth headset so he can talk to any of us when we call. I'll keep Micah on the phone just in case.

It's bloody lucky Simon has Baz around to think through all the finer points, else I suspect he would have charged off, half-arsed and cocky as all hell, and simply hoped for the best. It's how we used to roll back at school. (Thinking back to those times, I don't know how we ever survived.)

The train pulls up at Cherbourg and we disembark into the chilly, grey morning. We nervously say our goodbyes to Simon and Agatha at the dock, then Baz, Micah and I continue on the ferry back into England.

After a torturously slow ferry ride, we disembark in Portsmouth. Baz phones Simon twice from the ferry, it's painful to listen to.

On the first call, Simon tells Baz he and Agatha have stopped for coffee and a ham and cheese baguette. Baz pinches the bridge of his nose and tells him (with a great deal of restraint and only a few Normal expletives) that he needs to get moving. On the second call they're both yelling and saying 'what?' a lot, so Simon must be on his way.

I end up casting Hurry-up on the ferry because Baz is starting to lose it. It would be funny under any other circumstances, but not today with so much at stake.

"Good luck Penny," Micah says with a kiss to my forehead. I give him a quick hug and then jump into the hire car.

We arrive in Hampshire in record time thanks to Baz's reckless driving and a few Make Way for the King-s, and Baz pulls up at the edge of the forest where the road and the dead spot meet. He turns off the engine and now we have nothing to do but sit and wait for Simon to arrive. Every now and then Baz exits the car and paces back and forth, stomping anxiously through the snow, stopping occasionally to squint at the sky. Then he gets back in the car and turns on the engine so the heater can warm us. I try not to use warming spells, I need to save my magic.

Baz is calling Simon again, muttering something that sounds like he should be here by now under his breath. It's odd to watch – he's calm and collected in almost every situation I've ever seen him in, unflappable really, but when something has to do with Simon he's a complete mess. He hangs up when Simon doesn't answer, mutters something else under his breath as he climbs out of the car again. At least he had the good sense to leave the engine running this time because it's freezing outside. I crank up the heater as he starts pacing back and forth next to the car and after a while I think about spelling his feet into the ground.

He climbs back into the car and turns to me. His eyes are lined with worry.

"What if the curse applies to the airspace over England?" he says as soon as he closes the door. "Why didn't I think of this before? I must have been out of my mind to agree to this." I knew this would happen. He's starting to second guess himself, just as I'd anticipated. He's going to worry himself to an early grave if Simon doesn't get here soon. (Or wherever it is vampires go when they cease to exist.)

"It won't," I assure him, shivering in the cold despite the layers I'm wearing and the fact that the engine's still running and the heater is blasting. "These are old laws, put in place well before flying and aeroplanes so they don't apply to airspace." I rub my hands together and rearrange my wool scarf over my face. I forgot how cold it gets in Hampshire.

"How do you know that?" he snaps. It's only because he's worried sick about Simon that I let it slide.

I rub my gloved hands together again. "I checked with mum last night. Gave her a call and asked a hypothetical," I smirk, feeling a little smug at my own brilliance. "She said it only works if he steps foot on UK soil. I don't know why we didn't think of it before."

Baz looks at me sideways and I can tell he's impressed, (not that he'd ever admit it) but he calls Simon again. This time Simon answers and they yell at each other for a bit before hanging up.

Baz gets out of the car and trudges back and forth through the snow again.

The wait seems endless but finally, a few hours after we parted ways, Simon calls Baz and tells him he's here. He's hovering somewhere near the dead spot. We can't see him because we cast invisibility spells on him before he left, we cast a bunch of warming spells as well before he hopped off the train because it's so cold out. It sounds like those spells lasted the distance, which is a relief because we didn't want him to use his own magic – he'll need as much of his own magic as possible for this to work.

I turn off the engine and get out of the car, tucking the keys into my bag as I make my way over towards a stomping Baz. I jump up and down a few times to keep warm.

"I'm here," Simon's voice says from somewhere above us. And about time too, I thought Baz was going to have a heart attack if Simon didn't appear soon. (I'm trying to remember if there's a spell to fix that.) (And would it even work on a vampire?) We look up but can't see anything. "Right above you," he says.

I remove my glove and wave my ring hand in his general direction, casting the spell to reverse the invisibility, hoping my aim is close. Baz insisted that he needs to be visible while he does this so we can see him in case anything goes wrong. (It's the only reason Baz finally agreed to Hampshire, there's no one around for miles.) I didn't disagree – I'll feel a lot better about this plan of Simon's if I can see what's going on.

Simon's invisibility is spelled away and he appears above us, grinning like a kid doing something they shouldn't be doing, which is exactly the case today. I shudder to think exactly how many Coven laws we're breaking right now, but I grin back, relieved that he's made it this far. He shifts his eyes to Baz.

"Simon," Baz says, visibly relieved.

"Baz," Simon answers. He has a cheeky grin on his face and his wings are flapping idly. He looks happy, not at all like he's just flown across the English Channel and is about to do something stupidly dangerous. (And highly illegal.)

Baz lets out a loud sigh as he calls Simon's phone again. That was another part of the plan, that they stay connected at all times.

"Righto, I'll be off then," Simon says. He gives Baz another cheeky grin before he flies straight up, following the edge of the dead spot. He starts flying back and forth as he climbs, trying to find where (if) the dead spot ends and magic starts. We watch him go higher and higher, until he's nothing but a small speck in the sky, and then he's gone. Baz watches for a while longer than I do, probably still able to see him with his vampire super-vision or something, but eventually he too drops his eyes.

And now we wait.

SIMON

I can't believe I've made it this far without being spelled in the ground. That was my biggest worry. Actually that's not true, it was one of my worries in a long list of worries after getting everyone to agree with my grand plan in the first place.

And then getting lost, because everything looks the same with all this snow.

And then being spelled into the ground.

Even though Penny said that her mum said that the curse doesn't apply to the air, some part of me still thought I would never make it back into England. I can't believe I didn't think of checking that before we started working on this.

I started feeling homesick when I flew over Portsmouth. Even though I've never been to Portsmouth before, it looked decidedly British. The road signs and buildings and houses looked so familiar and I wanted to land and just sit and enjoy it a bit, but I didn't, because I couldn't, so I kept flying.

And now I'm in Hampshire, at Baz's house, and being here is bringing back a flood of memories. Memories of the first time I came here that Christmas, of that night I kissed Baz, and Baz kissing me back until we couldn't anymore, and the Humdrum emptying Baz of everything, creating that void in him that I filled with my magic. (And made this dead spot in the process.) And memories of those months I spent here, alone, after I found out about the Mage being my dad. It's a confusion of wonderful and terrible memories all rolled into one and I'm not sure how I feel about it all, except I know I want to bring the magic back here. If I can.

I'm flying around the edges of the dead spot, between the forest and the gothic mansion of a house, (Baz's house.) and I remember when I wished for wings and flew away because Baz told me to. I didn't understand what was going on that night– everything was burning and it felt like the world was ending. But that was then, and this is now. At least nothing's on fire this time.

I focus on what I have to do and keep flying higher, just outside where the magic ends. I have to be careful not to enter the dead spot, otherwise I'll start to feel drained, and I need to save my magic if I'm going to pull this off. At least I'll still be able to fly if I do accidentally cross into it, my flying is not magic, it's a skill I learned before I got my magic back.

Baz and Penny looked relieved when they saw me. I think they still worry about me flying even though they shouldn't, after all these years it's the one thing I'm really good at. And I love it. Even this trip has been a lot of fun so far. But now I have to get to business. Baz has this plan all set out and he'll kill me if I don't stick to it.

He's going to be mad enough when he works out what I'm planning to do.

I edge my way higher and higher, poking my arm into the edge of the dead spot every now and again. Yep, it's still there, and it still feels just as awful as ever, even when I only poke my arm or head into it. It's a vacuum, a nothing. It's fucking horrible.

I'm starting to wonder if Micah's theory about the dead spots not going all the way into the atmosphere is complete bollocks because I'm quite high – higher than I've ever flown before, and I'm starting to think this won't work. I start to think this entire plan may be a complete waste of everyone's time and I've turned everyone into magickal law-breakers for no good reason and that Agatha was right all along, but then I notice the hole is starting to taper off. It's slight at first, hardly noticeable at all, but there's a definite tapering so I follow it up and around in a wide arc until it starts to flatten out. Eventually it flattens out completely and I think I'm directly above it. I let out a breath in relief, and take a moment to look at the view.

It's really pretty up here, especially with the snow-capped trees and the roof and window peaks of Baz's house covered in snow. The house looks minuscule from up here, like the twins' doll house left forgotten on a plush white carpet. It's quiet too, with just the muffled sound of my wings flapping and nothing else. I take a moment to enjoy the solitude and the view as I hover.

Eventually it's time to get to work so I pull out my list of spells. Penny had the clever idea to magickally waterproof it and spell it Stuck like glue to me so I wouldn't drop it, because knowing me I would've done exactly that. (Agatha said she could have just laminated it and used a lanyard but Penny said why do it the Normal way when we have magic? And then they got into an argument about magickal methods versus Normal practices that threatened to make us late if Micah hadn't stepped in and agreed that both methods "have their uses when used appropriately".)

Baz wants me to start with Shakespeare and Penny wants me to try her spells first. They argued about it on the train the whole way here. I put my head against the window and had a kip so I didn't have to listen to them bicker. It doesn't matter because I'm going to start with my spell instead. I tell Baz I'm ready.

"Tell Penny to tell Micah that he's right. I'm above it. The dead spot is like a giant dome."

"A what?"

"A DOME!" I yell. I'm going to have to remember to speak up if I want him to hear me.

"All right," Baz yells back.

Micah set me up with an altimeter app so we can see how high I fly. It measures my entire flight. I reckon he'll be downloading the data live and analysing it as we speak.

"READY?" I yell into the phone. Baz and Penny are going to take turns entering the dead spot after each spell to see if anything works. As far as plans go, this one's pretty basic.

"Ready!" Baz yells back. I take a deep breath and ready myself to cast the first spell. I point my wand straight into the dead spot and try to pull as much magic as I can from that place deep inside.

Drawing on your magic is meant to feel like drawing water from a stream or something, according to Miss Possibelf, or pulling water from a deep well deep inside you according to Penny, or lighting a match somewhere inside your heart according to Baz. But for me, since I got my magic back, it's always felt like a rush of energy rocketing up straight through me, like a surge of electricity from deep inside rushing up to meet me. It feels pretty good actually.

I cast Pump Up The Volume first. This is supposed to ramp up the effect the spells I'm about to cast. (I reckon I understand how it works after Baz explained it a few times.) I've also been saving up my magic since Christmas day, just to make sure I have enough. I don't know if it will help but I figure it can't hurt.

I cast my first spell.

"Bring it back!" I shout at the dead spot, as if it can hear me.

At least it doesn't feel like it did when I had all that explosive magic. Back then it felt like I was sucking the magic right out of the centre of the earth, and I felt more like a bomb going off, like I had no edges, no start or end. It was pretty scary. Baz used to call me the Mage's nuclear option back at school. I bet he has no idea how right he was.

I point my wand and shout at the dead spot again. "Bring it back!"

"What happened to Shakespeare?" Baz yells when I repeat the song.

I shrug but then realise he can't see me. "Just thought I'd try this one first!"

He mutters something that I can't make out. I think he's swearing but I don't ask for clarification.

I flap around in silence above the dead spot while I wait for their verdict. I'm glad the warming spells and weatherization spells are lasting, it would be fucking freezing up here otherwise. I remember that first time I flew to Oxford, when all that shit with the Will started. It was so cold, I nearly froze to death on the way.

Penny and Baz blasted me with warming and weatherization spells as well as the invisibility spell before I got off the train today, and Micah and Agatha gave me an extra boost too, just in case. And I'm pretty good at them too these days so I'll be fine if I need to top up. Thank magic we've all gotten really good at them over the years.

"Nothing Simon. No change," Baz yells after a while.

I try the next spell. "Bring the magic home!" It's something I heard a load of times while I was living in America with Penny and Micah. I remembered it on the train and thought it sounded on point. I figure it can't hurt to give it a go. I flap and wait.

"Nothing Simon. I told you that wouldn't work here," I hear Baz grumble-yell. He said it might work in America but not in the UK. I hate it when he's right. (Which is most of the time.)

I start on their list in earnest now, taking in a deep breath as I cast the next spell. "Even at the turning of the tide!" I shout into the middle of the dead spot.

I still don't fully understand this one even though Baz explained it a few times. He was insistent that it was relevant and that it could work. I wait for his reply, flying in lazy circles to pass the time.

"No change," he yells after a while. "It was a long shot."

I point my wand and try another, feeling my magic rush up to meet me. "From strength to strength!"

I wait, flapping and hovering.

"Nope."

And another. "Start from scratch!"

I fly a few loop de loops while I wait for their answer. I like this spell, it made the most sense to me.

"No," he yells, "No change."

I point my wand and try another. "An Englishman's home is his castle!"

I wasn't too sure about this one but Penny said it couldn't hurt.

"Nothing."

I try one of Penny's. "Back to basics!" And wait.

"No."

And another. "Back to start!"

"Nope."

"Back to square one!" I ponder, while I wait for their answer, why we spent so much time on the "B's".

"Nothing."

"Blot on the landscape!" I was a little worried about this one, I don't want the house to disappear on me but Baz assured me this spell isn't anything like Into thin air.

I fly in a lazy spiral down to the edge of the dead spot, then back up again.

"No."

I point my wand and try the next spell. "Mint condition!" I yell, and then wait again. This one made a fair bit of sense as well.

"No." I hear him let out a disappointed sigh. Everyone liked that spell, even Agatha. Things aren't looking too good for us right now.

I point my wand and try the next one. "The buck stops here!" I fly another few loop de loops while I wait, and then I do a giant figure eight for the hell of it.

"No."

I'm starting to lose hope but I keep working my way down the list. "The salt of the earth!"

"Nothing Simon," he says, resigned.

Finally I try Baz's last resort. He wanted to save this one until last because Penny was worried about it, but since none of the others have worked I have to give it a go. I point my wand again at the centre of the dead spot and yell, "The be all and end all!" and then wait, hope. There's a bunch of muffled sounds and I assume he and Penny are talking. I fly around in a big circle and take in the snow covered view.

"Nothing," Baz yells after a time. "That's it Simon, that was the last one. It didn't work. Come back down now, please."

I let out a frustrated huff as I flap around. "Wait, I've got a couple more."

I didn't tell any of them about these spells because I know they would have never ever agreed to me trying this. (He's going to be so mad at me.)

But I just couldn't help thinking what if I need to give my magic back, like I did with the Humdrum? Like how Baz said I sacrificed my magic to save the realm, (even though I've never believed that) and like that baseball sacrificial bunt thing that Micah told me about, like all those operas where someone always sacrifices themselves for their true love or their kids the fate of the world or some shit.

I've been thinking about this for months, ever since I was first banished. But that's not entirely true, I was thinking about this way before that. I first thought of it when we told Baz's parents that I made the hole over Hampshire and Baz let slip that Hampshire is his house, his inheritance.

That's the night I realised that the holes are my responsibility, and that I have to do something to fix the mess I made. So I have to. I have to try everything to bring the magic back to Hampshire, to Baz's house, to all the houses that lost their magic.

Before they can answer me or talk me out if it I cast Pump Up The Volume again, readying myself to cast another spell.

I point my wand at the centre of the dead spot and draw on my magic. It rushes up like a current; strong, warm, powerful. "Give it away, give it away, give it away now!" I shout right into the centre of that fucker.

BAZ

What the fuck?

SIMON

It takes less than half a second before Baz is yelling at me through the earpiece.

"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING SIMON?"

He's so fucking smart, he's worked it out already. I knew it wouldn't take long. I'm surprised he didn't figure it out before we left Paris.

"Just trying something else!" I yell back. "Give it away, give it away, give it away now!" I shout again, pushing as much magic as I can into the spell.

"STOP THAT!"

"No!"

He starts to curse.

BAZ

Micah and his fucking playlist. I'm going to drain that little American dry when we get back.

SIMON

I ignore Baz and try again. "Give it away, give it away, give it away now!"

"Aleister Crowley Simon, STOP CASTING THAT FUCKING SPELL!"

Yeah, I reckon Baz is pretty mad.

BAZ

That's it. He's going to die, I know it. He's going to fall out of the fucking sky, right into a dead spot and I won't be able to do a bloody thing about it.

I kick a nearby tree in frustration.

SIMON

"I have to try Baz!" I yell.

"No you bloody well don't!" he yells right back.

BAZ

He doesn't. He absolutely does not have to do anything of the sort. He just can't help himself.

I slaughter the tree with my boot.

SIMON

It's probably not the best time to explain it right now. But I do, I have to try. This is all I've been thinking about, and ever since they agreed to go along with my plan I knew I'll only ever have this one chance, so I have to take it. I have to.

And so far nothing else has worked.

I try one more time. "Give it away, give it away, give it away now!"

"STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!" Baz screams in my ear.

Yeah, he's really pissed.

Baz

He's going to die. He's going to fall out of the fucking sky and die right in front of me and I'm going to be widowed – all before my twenty-fourth birthday. Married for only two years to the love of my life and it's going to end today when he plummets to his death before my very eyes and I'll be left to wander the hallways of my magickally-revived Victorian mansion all alone. . .

"Baz?"

For all eternity. . .

"Baz."

I can't believe our time together is over so soon. Over before we ever really began. . .

"Basil?"

He's not supposed to die like this– falling out of the sky, trying to save the fucking world. Simon Snow is supposed to die kissing me.

I may as well strike a match right now and spare myself the agony.

"Basilton!"

Bloody Bunce. Can't she leave me well enough alone for once in her annoying, meddling life? Can't she give me a single moment of solace? Why won't she leave me to suffer the agony alone?

"Pull it together Basilton, so help me. And GIVE ME THAT BLOODY PHONE!" She snatches my mobile from my hand before I have a chance to stop her.

Bloody Bunce. I stomp on the fallen tree.

SIMON

That should do it. If it was ever going to work that should be enough.

"All right, I'm done!" I yell into the headset. "Go check!"

Baz doesn't answer so I fly a few more loops and wait. He sounded pretty mad once he worked out what I was doing so I'm fairly sure I'm going to be in deep shit when we get back to Paris, but it's too late to worry about that now.

I flap around and wait. I still feel like I've have all of my magic so I don't think it actually worked, but I wait anyway. I wonder just how hacked off Baz is with me.

"Nothing Simon," Penny huffs.

"Where's Baz?"

"He doesn't want to talk to you."

"Where is he?"

"Just over there a bit, taking out his frustration on a tree . . . with his boot . . . I don't think it's going to make it." She says it in a clipped tone, I think she might be pissed off as well. "He's quite angry with you. And I'm furious Simon!" she yells. Yep, I knew it. "Why didn't you tell us you were going to do that? What if you lost your magic again? What were you thinking?" She's working herself up into a full snit the more she yells. I'm fairly sure I'm going to be in trouble with both of them when I get back.

But I have to keep going. This is my last chance so I'm not stopping now.

"I've got one more Penny."

"No Simon, that's enough!"

I ignore her and cast my last spell, giving it one more Pump Up The Volume for good measure. I cast the spell quickly, before she can bite my ear off, like, literally through the phone. (Is there a spell for that?)

"Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, now!"

"Simon, I said that's enough!"

I ignore Penny even though I know I'm going to suffer for it later. "Baby give it up, Give it up!" I push as much magic as I can into this last spell. It's the last one I have, it has to work.

"Shit Simon! What are you doing?"

"Baby give it up!"

"STOP SINGING THAT BLOODY SONG!"

"Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, now"

"SIMON!"

"Baby give it up, Give it up. Baby give it up!"

"That's it. I'm telling Baz."

I sing the same lines a few more times before I stop. I don't know anymore and I reckon that's enough anyway. "Go check Penny. . . Please?"

There's no answer so I assume she's gone to check. It's either that or she's not talking to me anymore. I fly around and wait.

Eventually I hear some muffled talking but I can't make out what they're saying.

"Penny? . . . Baz?"

No one answers me. I can hear their voices, a rapid succession of words rising and falling but I can't make out what they're saying. They sound like they're arguing. I hope they're not arguing. Shit, they're probably arguing.

I flap around nervously and wait.

Finally I hear rustling. It sounds like someone's grappling with the phone. Someone's voice. "I swear, the next time you pull a FUCKING STUNT LIKE THAT I'll FUCKING–"

"Baz?"

More muffled voices, more sounds, it sounds like tussling this time. I wonder what's going on.

"Give me that phone Baz . . . hmf . . ."

"Penny?"

"It didn't work Simon," Penny huffs in my ear. She sounds a bit breathless, like she's just wrestled a phone from a vampire breathless. (Stupidly brave.) "None of them worked. Fly down right now! All right?"

She yells the last part at me so I reckon she's mad at me, and Baz sounded pretty pissed off as well. I'm definitely going to be in trouble with the two of them when I get back.

I was so sure one of those spells would work, especially since I pumped all that extra magic into them. I so wanted one of them to work, even the last ones. I didn't actually want to lose my magic but I would have, I would have given it all away if that was the answer. It seems kind of wrong that I got my magic back but left all this mess behind.

But they didn't work. None of them did.

"Yeah all right," I grumble. I hang up before she can yell at me some more.

I've spent the last six months trying to find some way to bring the magic back to the dead spots. Months scouring through every fucking spell book and magickal marriage rite book and novel and film and song I could get my hands on to try and find something to fix this. I've tried everything, all the spells the other mages tried as well as a bunch of new ones we thought might do it and the songs I came up with but nothing worked. The dead spot is still dead.

I choke out a strangled cry in the silence, whether it's in frustration or anger or resignation I don't exactly know. Maybe it's the realisation that none of this was ever going to work no matter what spell I cast, that Penny and Baz were right all along, that they're going to take time to close. Time, not magic.

I flap around, aimless and alone as I accept the truth of it.

Finally, I resign myself to the fact that my grand plan didn't work and it's time to go back. It's over now and I need to get moving. It's not as if I can hover around up here forever and the warming spells won't last much longer. (And I'm going to have to face them eventually.) I start flying down and around the dead spot. I need to find Baz and Penny so they can cast another load of warming spells on me before I head off.

And I'm a bit thirsty, and hungry as well, so I fly down towards the ground and look for them. After a while I spot them at the edge of the forest in the same spot I left them. Baz is stomping around, trying to straighten a bent over tree with his wand and Penny is next to him with her hands on her hips. They look like they're arguing. I fly a little closer and hover for a bit.

"Um, hi," I call out. I wait for them to stop what they're doing (arguing) before I go on. "Um, have either of you got any sandwiches by any chance?"

They both turn their heads up towards me, looking murderous. Yep, they're angry all right. I fly a little higher, further away from them just in case. I scratch at the stubble on my cheek, it's getting itchy.

Baz glares at me. "What the actual fuck Simon?"

I haven't heard him speak to me like that since school. It's a little worrying to hear.

"Yeah Baz, I was just wondering if you have any sandwiches. It's a long flight back–"

"Excuse me?" One of his eyebrows arches so high up his forehead, it looks like it's going to disappear. It's his signature move when he's really pissed off, it's unnerving how effective it still is.

"Um, sandwiches?" My voice falters a little. I fly a little higher.

He looks at me for a long minute, like he can't believe what I'm asking. I mean, it's just sandwiches– nothing difficult or dangerous. I decide to stay quiet.

He starts cursing under his breath as he rummages around the backpack he's carrying. Penny is standing a little apart from him with her hands on her hips, looking like she's ready to dish out a world full of hurt on me if only she could reach me. I fly a little higher still. Baz finally digs out some sandwiches out of the backpack and Up, up and away-s them into the air. I catch them on the first go.

"Any chance of a bottle of water as well?" All this spell casting is thirsty work.

He gives me another incredulous look and then makes a noise that sounds a lot like 'harrumph' as he flings a bottle of water up at me. He doesn't spell it, and I catch it easily, even though he did throw it harder than strictly necessary. I decide not to mention it, it's probably best not to provoke him right now.

Penny removes her glove and points her ring at me and I start to worry that she's going to curse me.

"Out of sight out of mind!" she says, casting our standard invisibility spell for when I fly. I fly a little lower. "Warm as toast!" she goes on, casting the warming spell I like the most. "High and dry!" she finishes, casting the weatherization spell for good measure. The last one works particularly well for me when I'm flying.

"Thanks." I say, relieved that she didn't curse me. "See you on the other side."

I fly off before either of them can yell in my general direction.

Chapter Text

BAZ

I'm going to kill him. I'm actually going to kill him this time. And forget biting him, he'll be expecting that. No. Instead I'm going to wrap my cold dead hands around his warm fucking throat and strangle the bloody life out of him . . .

All right, I'm not actually going to kill him. Perhaps maim him just a little.

All right, probably not even that. It's bloody lucky for Simon that I'm madly in love with him, otherwise he'd definitely be a dead man. Crowley, I must be getting soft.

I can't believe he did that. I can't believe he was ready to give away his magic like that. Give everything away to save the realm. Again.

Actually I can believe it– it's exactly the kind of stupidly daring, idiotically brave thing he'd do. What I can't believe is I was stupid enough to think he would do something remotely intelligent for a change, like actually follow the plan. I can't believe I agreed to that disaster of a plan in the first place. There's no way I ever would have agreed to something like this a few years ago. I would have presented him with every glaring fault and fatal flaw and argued him into submission. And I would have won.

I'm definitely getting soft.

That was an absolute fucking disaster, it was the biggest waste of time and magic I've ever been a party to. Not to mention it was reckless, and dangerous, and most definitely prohibited under mage law.

I don't know what we were thinking.

I don't know why Bunce agreed to this. She of all people should have known it wouldn't work, and she should have known he'd go off and do something that foolish without another thought. But she always agrees with his plans– she's just as idiotically brave as Simon. Once those two set their mind to something they're completely relentless, they have no sense of self-preservation. I know, I've watched them uncover plots and fight off all manner of beasts and dark creatures more times than I care to remember.

I thought all of that was behind us.

I thought they'd mellowed over the years, lost that impulse to charge headfirst into battle without a care or thought for their personal safety. I can't believe I was so wrong.

At least Simon wasn't hurt this time, or spelled into the dirt. At least he didn't lose his magic after pulling that bloody stunt of his.

I should have cast Safe and sound on him. Why didn't I think of that? Crowley I really must be getting soft. Maybe it's all the time we spend in the Normal world these days, or the fact that we're no longer at opposite ends of a war. It was so much easier back at Watford when I was constantly on the alert for rogue curses he'd throw at me. Or punches. I'd always have an arsenal of spells at the ready, set to protect myself or hurl at him at a moment's notice.

I tell Bunce to wait in the car while I head into the forest. I wave my wand angrily and cast Doe, a deer and stomp around the snow covered forest while I await my prey. When a deer appears, I sink my fangs recklessly into it's warm neck, in part out of hunger at being so close to my family's forest, and in part due to their smell. I could smell their overwhelming scent the entire time Simon was executing this fiasco of a plan, and after feeding on nothing but rats and pigeons for the last few weeks I'm famished for their sweet blood. But mostly I hunt in frustration, at Simon and his flagrant disregard for his own bloody personal safety.

I drive back to Portsmouth in silence and when we meet up with Micah, Bunce recounts our time in Hampshire in agonising detail as we take the excruciatingly slow ferry back to France. I sit in silence, seething, while Micah and Bunce cast a few Hurry Up-s and discuss the events of the day between themselves.

I can't decide whether I want to throttle Simon or kiss him when we finally regroup in Cherbourg, I end up doing neither as we meet him and Agatha at the station. Instead, I brood in silence as we make our way back to Paris.

Bunce berates Simon the entire way. "Nicks and Slick Simon! What was that?"

He shrugs at her, which is clearly the wrong thing to do.

Micah has the good sense to cast a soundproofing spell on our carriage.

"I'll tell you what it was Simon. It was dangerous! Stupidly dangerous," she slams at him.

"It wasn't that dangerous–"

"Yes it was! Not to mention completely mental! You could have done irreversible damage to your magic! What were you thinking? You could have hurt yourself, seriously hurt yourself. Maybe even died!"

Simon sits forward, ready to argue his point. "I'm not sure about the last one Penny–"

"You definitely could have died!" she snaps at him, cutting him off. "It was stupid."

"Not that stupid," he huffs.

She glares at him. "It was incredibly stupid!"

He sits back. "Okay, maybe a little–"

"And dangerous!"

"You said that–"

"And not part of the plan!"

"Well I knew you wouldn't agree to that part if I'd told you–"

"Simon!"

He sinks lower into his seat.

I let Bunce go while I rage in silence. She could go for hours when she's on a rant like this. I don't stop her. He deserves it.

It's late by the time we return to the apartment and everyone is exhausted from the long day. Daphne text to say she left dinner so I leave our group at the entrance to the apartment and head out to hunt. I'm still not able to look at my husband.

PENNY

Baz takes off as soon as we arrived at the apartment. He just hops into his hire car (Jaguar F-Type Convertible) (Typical Pitch) and drives off. We all know what he's about to do so no one looks twice. I don't tell anyone he already hunted in Hampshire. He doesn't say goodbye to Simon.

I don't blame him for being angry. I'm angry.

I was so angry I laid into Simon the entire trip back to Paris. Even Micah and Agatha had the good grace to stay quiet and let me go. And thank Merlin for that, the way I feel right now, I probably would have snapped at everyone if they so much as looked at me.

We shake off our coats and gloves and hats and scarves and trudge into the kitchen in silence. Daphne left dinner for all of us and I make a mental note to thank her tomorrow, she's been entirely hospitable the entire time we've been here. (I can't believe we ever thought the Grimm's were evil.) (They're nicer than my family.)

We eat in silence, and when we're done, we head back to our individual rooms to shower and rest and generally be away from each other. No one wants to talk anymore tonight.

AGATHA

I don't know what all the fuss is about. Simon told me what happened and it doesn't sound like that big a deal. He was very brave as usual, and he tried all the spells we found, (and a few we didn't) and none of them worked.

And nothing caught on fire and no one got hurt for a change, so Penny and Baz should be pleased. Why can't they just be pleased?

At least he came back. And he didn't lose his magic– that's got to count for something.

Penny gave Simon such a hard time the entire train ride back. I felt so sorry for him but I know better than to try and stop Penny when she's on one of her tirades.

I never thought this stupid plan of theirs would actually work anyway. I went along with it because it was easier than arguing with that lot. They should have just waited for someone on the Coven to resign– that's what we've been working towards for the last six month. I tried to tell them when Simon first came up with this idea but no one listened to me.

He never did listen to me back at school either. Simon has absolutely no patience when it comes to saving the realm, and Penny was just as bad– always ploughing head long from one catastrophe to the next. Even Baz went along with them this time, although I think it was to keep an eye on Simon so he wouldn't get up to any mischief. (Which didn't work anyway because Simon still did exactly what he pleased.)

They never stopped to think about the alternative, like what would happen if they don't act for once in their brave and selfless lives. It would have saved a lot of headaches back at school. I mean, I'm not even sure we achieved anything with all those stupid missions that the Mage sent us on.

No one wanted to hear my opinion anyway, and I get that. I haven't been around that much over the last few years so my opinion doesn't carry that much weight. And I didn't have to do that much, just hang around boring Cherbourg all day. I spent my time in a café by the dock, drinking awful French coffee, eating croissants and chatting with friends back home.

BAZ

I stay away for hours, hiding in the catacombs, alternating between hunting and brooding. As I track through the events of the day, images of a hundred different outcomes flash through my mind; Simon losing his magic, Simon setting the forest on fire again, Simon setting all of bloody Hampshire on fire, Simon falling from the sky to his death. . . My heart stutters on the last one but I'm powerless to stop the images. And when that gets too much, I gorge myself on every rat that crosses my path. I gorge myself until I'm so full of blood my stomach sloshes.

It's late when I head back to the apartment and most of the lights are out so I enter soundlessly, removing my coat and hanging it in the hall. I remove my gloves, hat and scarf as I climb the stairs to our room and drop them onto the already large pile on the hall table at the top of the stairs. All the lights are out upstairs, with the exception of Fiona's room, and as I walk down the hall I hear the faint sound of Led Zeppelin and clinking glasses as I pass. I automatically roll my eyes but keep walking until I reach the end of the hall, taking a moment to settle my face before I open the door.

Our room is dark but I can see Simon clearly. He's sitting up on our bed with his back against the headboard and his legs straight out in front of him. He's showered and dressed in my pyjama bottoms and an old Joy Division tee shirt. He's staring at me, his brow creased into a deep frown. He looks tired.

I grab my pyjamas from the dresser and avoid his eyes as I walk to the bathroom, closing the door behind me. I need to clean off and compose myself before I wake the whole apartment with the anger that's welling inside me. No matter how much I try to tamper the anger down, it bubbles just below the surface, barely contained and threatening to burst through my skin.

I take a long hot shower to try to wash away some of the rage. It doesn't help at all because I'm just as angry at him now as I was when he first pulled that bloody stunt of his. How could he? How could he do something so dangerous? So stupid?

He's Simon Snow. That's how.

Of course he was going to do something stupid and dangerous. If it means he can save the bloody realm, why wouldn't he?

I turn off the shower, taking time to dry off and put my pyjamas on. I take my time brushing my teeth and when I done I'm convinced he's given up waiting up for me and has fallen asleep. That's what part of me is hoping, but another part is hoping he's still awake so we can have this out.

When I re-enter our bedroom, Simon is still sitting right where I left him. He turns on the lamp and picks up his wand from the bedside table, soundproofing the room with a quick wave. He's preparing for a fight.

I stare at him, saying nothing. I'm still seething with resentment and anger and frustration and I don't know what else. He climbs off the bed and stands opposite me, watching, waiting. Neither of us speak.

Finally Simon runs his hand through his hair and huffs out a breath. "Just say it Baz–" he starts and I explode.

"Fuck you Simon! How could you?"

"I just–"

"That wasn't part of the plan!"

"I know–"

"It was so stupid!"

"It wasn't that stupid–"

"It was beyond stupid. It was idiotic, and reckless, and dangerous!" I throw my hands in the air.

"That's–"

"And so fucking selfish!" I start pacing the room, back and forth across the foot of our bed.

"I didn't mean for–"

"Did you even stop to think what would have happened if you were successful?"

"Sort of–"

I stop pacing to glare at him. "I really doubt that. You could have lost your magic!"

"Not–"

I start to pace again. "Minimum. Lost your magic, probably passed out in the process, which means you could have fallen out of the fucking sky. We couldn't even see you from that height so how the fuck were we supposed to save you?"

"Um–"

"And even if we could see you, you could have lost your magic without making any difference to that hole because of its sheer fucking size! You could have given away your magic and had fuck all impact on the dead spot, Simon!"

"Er–"

"Which means we wouldn't have been able to use magic to save you!"

"Curses. I never thought of that–"

"Of course you bloody well didn't. Crowley Simon, you were in a fucking dead spot," I yell. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm thankful that Simon had the foresight to cast the soundproofing spell because I can't stop myself. "If you fell, Bunce and I couldn't have done anything except watch. You could have been seriously hurt!" I pace faster.

"Not–"

"Yes," I seethe. "More than hurt, you could have died!" I jab my finger at him as I pace. I'm going to wear a hole in the carpet soon.

"Um–"

"Think about it Simon. Falling out of the fucking sky with no magic to save you. What the fuck do you think would happened?"

"I dunno–"

"That's your problem!" I scream at him, throwing my arms into the air again. "You never fucking think!" He flinches at my words and pain spikes in my chest, but I keep going. "Chomsky knows why I agreed to this disaster of a plan to begin with. It was bound to fail, there was nothing remotely logical about it."

He stares at me and doesn't say anything.

"What if something happened to you?"

He doesn't answer so I let loose with another round of accusations. He doesn't argue this time, just listens and watches as I pace the room. He doesn't try to stop me, he takes it all.

"You never think what could happen to you, you just go off Simon. That's why you wanted to go to Hampshire isn't it? To give it your magic?" I stop pacing and stare at him as the realisation dawns on me. "You wanted to give it your magic." I'm talking more to myself now than to Simon. I can't believe I didn't see this before. It's so fucking obvious. Of course he had to go to Hampshire, and it had nothing at all to do with the flying distance or any other reason he gave me. He planned this all along. I shake my head as I let the revelation sink in. "You could have lost your magic with those two fucking spells, lost your life even." My voice cracks traitorously on those last few words and he raises his hands towards me but I scowl and he drops them back to his sides. "And all for what? A house?" I glare at him, the weight of the realisation stopping me in my tracks.

He was prepared to give it all up, all of his magic, for fucking Hampshire.

As if he hasn't given up enough in his life. A mother who died, a pathetic excuse for a father that abandoned him to the public care system, a childhood lost to the Mage's evil bidding. He already lost his magic once to save the realm and he's been banished from his home for having the honesty to admit to it. And now this. How many mages would be prepared to give up their magic not once, but twice, in order to fix something that wasn't even their fault?

None.

I slump forward, my body heavy with fatigue and something else as well. (Resignation?) (Acceptance?) I married a fucking super hero, why the bloody hell did I think he'd ever behave any different? Crowley, I'm such an idiot.

He huffs out a loud breath. "You're right Baz," he says. He sits down heavily on the end of the bed, dropping his head into his hands.

SIMON

Penny went off on at me on the train because I tried to give back my magic. She hardly ever goes off like that so I know she was mad. (Usually Agatha is the one to go off on a rant, or Baz.) But Penny yelled at me good and proper, she yelled at me practically the entire way back to Paris. It was a long trip. I cast a few Hurry up-s myself but she still had loads of time to yell.

And Baz is so fucking pissed off with me as well. He didn't say a word on the train, or on the way back to the apartment, and then he took off to hunt and didn't come back for a long time. I was starting to worry and I sent him a load of texts. He hates my texts at the best of times, he says I should always use full words, correct punctuation and should never leave out Articles and Conjunctions just because it's a text. (I don't know what articles and conjunctions even are so he's fighting a losing battle.)

I started off the way I always text him (ruok? and bbs?) and then (r u on your way back), and then I decided to text him the way he prefers, (Baz, I get it that you're really pissed off with what I did, but it's really late and I'm starting to worry.) but he still didn't answer.

He finally came back, hours later. I soundproofed the room and he let loose.

I let him get it out of his system. It took half the night.

He threw his hands in the air a lot and swore a lot more. He said 'bloody hell Simon' and 'don't you ever pull an idiotic stunt like that again' and 'what if something happened to you?' and 'fuck' an awful lot.

But it's late now and he's been yelling for a long time. And pacing. Yelling and pacing. I've never heard him go off like this before so I know he's beyond angry, he's livid. But I can also see he's tired, his eyes have dark purple shadows under them and he's pale even though he just hunted. He needs to sleep. This whole day has taken a lot out of him.

"You're right Baz," I tell him. I sit on the end of our bed and drop my head into my hands.

He's right about everything. I did want to go to Hampshire to give it my magic. And yeah, it was reckless, and stupid and it was definitely dangerous. But it didn't work and I didn't lose my magic and I want to stop fighting now. I'm tired and he's tired and I want to wrap my arms around him and tell him that I'm sorry and that I love him. But he won't let me. Not yet anyway. He's not ready for that. But I still need to stop this.

I stand up again and square my shoulders. "I know you're mad at me."

"You think?" He throws his hands in the air again and gives me an incredulous look, and then he shakes his head from side to side so fast it's practically a blur. "What a fucking genius."

He's not going to make this easy for me so I just go for it. "Do you want to break up with me?" This used to be my biggest fear when we were boyfriends, back when I was a Normal. I was sure he'd wake up one day and work out that he could do much better than me. It used to keep me awake at night.

He turns and look at me, confused. "What?"

But then he asked me to marry him and that's when I finally believed that he wanted to be with me forever. I haven't thought about it in ages.

I'm thinking about it now though. "Magickally divorce me or whatever the fuck mages do?"

He looks kind of shocked now. I wasn't actually going for shocked– I was just trying to stop the rant, but at least I got his attention. I don't flinch or back down, I just stare back at him. I know he's mad but this has gone on long enough. He'll carry on all night if I let him.

And I need to give him an out if he wants it. I don't think he does but Merlin knows I've put him through enough shit this year. So he might.

"Do you?" I question again. I keep my voice as steady as I can, I don't want him to know how much it scares me.

"No, of course not Simon. Crowley, how could you even ask that?" He's rubbing his temple with his fingers in short, jerky movements. At least he's stopped yelling.

"It's just that . . . I've haven't seen you this mad before."

"That's because you haven't done anything this idiotic before." He scowls as he says it, but there's no bite in it. I think I even see him relax a little. "Well not for a long time anyway . . . But no, I do not want to break up with you. Honestly Simon, how thick can you be?"

I almost smile at the insult but stop myself just in time, letting out a steadying breath instead. I'm relieved beyond imagining but I don't give anything away. Not yet. "Good. Do you want to hit me then?"

His stops rubbing his temple and his eyes flick up to meet mine. "Are you offering?" he asks, frowning like he's seriously considering it.

I try not to roll my eyes, shrugging instead. "Push me down some stairs maybe?"

"I did not push you Simon, it was a lucky punch," he huffs. "When are you going to let that go?"

I shrug again, and this time the corner of his mouth quirks up into the smallest hint of a smile. It's miniscule but I see it. He tips his head to the side and stares at me for a long time before he finally lets out a long sigh. I watch his shoulders sag.

I take a tentative step forward, just a small one, and lift my hands toward his. He doesn't recoil this time so I take his hands in mine and tug him towards me and down until we're both sitting on the edge of our bed. We don't take our eyes off each other.

I take a deep breath and rub the back of his hands with my thumbs. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to worry you, or scare you or anything."

He huffs but doesn't say anything. He doesn't let go of my hands.

"But I'm not sorry I tried those spells. I had to try something." I can see his body stiffen as he starts to shake his head, but I go on. "I don't have a death wish or anything, and I really don't want to lose my magic again. But it's been killing me Baz, killing me, knowing that I caused the dead spots–"

He starts to interrupt, probably to tell me that they're not my fault and all that shit, but I plough on.

"–and that you lost your home because of me. And all those other mages lost their homes because of me. It's been on my mind for years. And since I was banished I realise a lot of other mages feel the same about them, so I had to do something. I had to try something."

He watches me but doesn't say anything.

"And I hate being away from home, from our home, and from you." I'm tired and it's all threatening to come out, all of the stuff I've held in since all this shit started. "And I hate that your life is on hold while you work like a maniac trying to sort out my mess."

"It's not your mess Simon–"

I shake my head. "And I hate living like a fucking nomad, moving from place to place, living out of a fucking suitcase." It's going to come out, I know it. I'm tired of keeping it all inside.

"You don't have to move anymore–"

"And I hate that your dad had to buy this place so I don't have to move anymore. Even though he'd never admit that he did this for us, for you, because that's the sort of shit he does for you. But it's not only that . . ." My voice drops to a whisper. I'm going to tell him the rest now, what I swore I wouldn't tell him.

I let out a breath and scrub my face with my palm before taking his hand again. "I haven't done anything for six fucking months Baz. I haven't been able to work, to fend for myself and even earn money to buy food."

"We have enough money Simon–"

I wave our joined hands to shut him up. "I know that. But you know I've always worked, ever since Watford. That's been my safety net, my security, you know? So I know I can always have enough to eat and have a place to live and stuff, without having to rely on anyone. And now all of that's been taken away. . ."

I stop talking, drop my head and stare at my lap and let out a shaky breath. There. I said it. Now he knows everything. How I hate being the cause of the dead spots – accidentally or not – and how hate the moving and living out of my duffel and how I hate that I can't fucking fend for myself for the first time since I got my life back together after everything happened. I swore I would never let myself live like I had to as a kid ever again, when I was reliant on others for everything, and yet here I am. And I've been living like this since fucking July.

I don't even realise the tears that are falling until Baz lifts our joined hands and brushes them away from my cheek with his thumb. He tries to smile.

"You're not alone anymore." His voice is soft with affection, but it's also as determined as ever. "You have family now who'll always be there for you, and you have me."

I know this, I do. But sometimes I still forget the simple truth of it, especially when I'm stuck thousands of kilometres from home.

"I know that Baz, but I still can't let go of before, when I had no one. . ."

"Fuck Simon. I get it. I do," he whispers. "I understand why you thought you had to try–"

"Not thought Baz. I had to try."

"All right love, had to try," he agrees grudgingly. He pulls me into him and wraps his arms around me tight, they're still a little warm from his shower and it feels so good. "But you scared the absolute shit out of me. You're a bloody courageous fuck, do you know that? An absolute nightmare," he whispers into my hair. "I was so worried about you. I don't ever want to lose you."

I snake my arms around his waist and pull him closer.

"I know. I'm sorry I scared you," I tell him as I hold him tight, because that's what this is really about. I scared the living shit out of him and it made him feel helpless. He hates feeling like that, like he can't always be there for me, to protect me or save me or something.

And I get that, because I feel exactly the same about him. I probably would have taken a swing at him if he pulled a stunt like this. He's always had much more self-control than me.

"You won't lose me Baz." It comes out muffled because my face is pressed into his shoulder. "I won't do that again." And I mean it. After months of thinking and reading and talking about it, I tried to close the dead spots with a load of spells and I failed. And now I have to come to terms with the fact that there's nothing I can do and there's no magic out there to close the holes in the magickal atmosphere.

And he's right about that other stuff as well. I'm not alone anymore. I have family and I have him. For ever. I have to keep reminding myself of that, especially when I'm alone and stuck in some place without him. I may not be able to work and support myself right now but I have to believe I will be able to again, and it's going to be soon if I listen to Baz and Penny and everyone else.

Baz stifles a yawn into my hair so I let go of his hands and scramble over the duvet to the head of our bed. He follows me and we climb under the sheets together, wrapping ourselves around each other.

"Everything's going to be all right love." His mouth is in my hair and I can feel his breath on my scalp as he whispers the words. "Everything's going to be fine." He kisses the top of my head and starts rubbing my back, right between my wings, in small circles. It feels good, and warm and right and I tuck my head into the crook of his neck and breathe in the fresh scent of him.

I slide my hand over his silk pyjama top until I find his heart, place my hand against it so I can feel the steady pulse of him. "As long as we're together."

He places his hand over mine and intertwines our fingers. "Forever," he murmurs.

I trace circles over his heart with our fingers. "Stuck with me."

He squeezes my hand. "So fucking brave. . ."

I squeeze back. "Stupid. . ."

We're both so exhausted, our words become disjointed and rambling as we let ourselves drift off.

". . . absolute nightmare."

". . . fucking mess."

". . . going to ruin me. . ."

I smile against his skin. "Love you Baz." My lips graze his throat.

"Love you, love," he murmurs into my hair. I let out a quiet sigh at his words and finally let myself go.

Chapter Text

PENNY

We've commandeered Baz and Simon's room again. Mordelia followed us in but Baz kicked her out a while ago after he had enough of her hounding us with questions about where we went yesterday and what we were doing with their father's whiteboard and where Agatha disappeared to this morning. Now Micah, Baz and I are sitting around the coffee table drinking tea while Simon makes his way through a stack of fresh brioche and a plate of butter biscuits.

I dunk my biscuit into my tea, careful not to let it get too soggy. (It's a habit I've picked up from Fiona this week.) (Timing the dunk so the biscuit absorbs exactly the right amount of tea without breaking and falling into a clump in the bottom of the cup is practically a science.) I've spent most of the afternoon going over the events of yesterday in my mind, trying to come up with a sound enough theory as to why none of the spells worked yesterday. "Perhaps none were the right spell," I offer.

No one agrees or disagrees, preferring to sit in silence and do their own thing. Simon is ripping apart his brioche absently, lost in thought and completely unaware of the trail of buttery flakes he's leaving on the carpet, Micah is frowning in concentration as he analyses the altimeter data, and Baz is flicking idly through Micah's A Magickal History of the United States 1492-Present, stopping to scoff occasionally. The entire day feels like a mission hangover– everyone is quiet and unmotivated, inert.

I take a bite of my soggy biscuit just before it falls into my tea, more pleased than I ought to be with my precision. "Or perhaps you're just not powerful enough anymore Simon, seeing as you're a normal mage now."

Micah at least nods at me this time, which encourages me to continue. "And maybe the holes are just too big for a normal magic to fix."

Simon grumbles something incoherent, scratches at the stubble on his chin and bites into another brioche. I wave my ring to clean up his crumbs before Baz notices the mess. Baz continues to scoff at Micah's book, shaking his head occasionally.

"Perhaps we should have started with a smaller hole, something less intimidating," I suggest, trying again to engage the silent group.

"Maybe," Micah agrees without much conviction. He's reviewing the altimeter data that he transferred to his laptop and every now and again lifts his head and report a random fact to Simon. "You flew one hundred and fifteen miles each way," also, "You reached one thousand five hundred and sixteen metres above sea level," and, "You topped seventy five miles per hour on the way, right over Lower Upham– that's one hundred and twenty kilometres per hour Simon."  He keeps switching between the two systems of measurement, something he's done subconsciously ever since he lived in the UK.

"Or maybe a spell was never going to work. Maybe they really will just take time. Like dad says. . ." I dunk my biscuit into my tea again and catch the soggy bit right before it drops.

"And given the House of Pitch is. . ." Micah looks at his phone again, his glasses slipping down and balancing precariously on the tip of his nose, ". . . two hundred and twenty metres above sea level, that means you were . . ." he furiously smashes out the calculation on his mobile, ". . . one thousand two hundred and ninety six metres above the ground. That's how high you were above the dead spot." He lets out a soft whistle under his breath, nodding and grinning at the room. He pushes his glasses back up his nose.

"Or maybe it will be a combination of magic and time. . ."

"Almost at the limit of where humans can breathe unassisted," Micah muses to himself, grabbing the last brioche before Simon devours that one as well. "I wonder if that's why the dead spot ended there. Perhaps the words can't reach where there's not enough oxygen."

". . . or maybe just time. . ."

"And it's approximately twenty of your degrees colder at that height than on the ground. And it was what, two degrees Celsius that day so it was minus eighteen degrees up there," Micah continues, nodding to himself, "Which means our warming spells worked remarkably well."

". . . like the hole in the ozone layer."

Eventually both Simon and Baz tell me to stop over analysing it and to let it go. They're more interested in Micah's research and the height that Simon could ascend than any of my theories. And really, I'm surprised Simon is talking to me at all at the moment because I had another go at him over breakfast this morning until Agatha and Micah told me to give it a rest. I guess everyone had had enough by then.

Agatha clearly had enough because she announced after breakfast that she was leaving, telling us that her parents had arranged for her to fly back to London with them. I think she secretly organised it when we returned last night, she probably doesn't want to be around to deal with the fallout.

It was either that or she'd had enough of Baz's sister following her around. It was probably both.

"Take care Simon," she said, squeezing his arm and kissing his cheek. "Don't take it too hard. You tried. That's the main thing."

Simon mumbled his thanks and Baz watched on, covetous and impatient as ever.

"And good luck with that, er, beard?" she added, giving him a soft smile.

Simon almost managed a laugh and Baz rolled his eyes and I stomped on Baz's foot to stop him acting like a jealous prat. Honestly, is he ever going to get over the fact that they dated? It was years ago for snake's sake.

She said her goodbyes to the rest of us and we hugged and I told her we'll catch up in London before we all fly back to America.

"And pat Luse, er, your dog for us," Micah added, looking sheepish as he caught himself. Micah and Simon were quite taken with that dog, and the dog liked both of them well enough, although it never quite warmed to me. I wonder if that's because I possessed it once. Do dogs remember that? Do they hold grudges?

Simon grunted at Micah's mention of Lucy but didn't say anything. I don't think he'll ever forgive Agatha for naming her dog after his mother.

-oOo-

Micah and Baz are in the living room downstairs, whiling away the evening with Mr Grimm and Daphne, chatting about magickal archival seed stock and Micah's father's research into magickal genetics. Mr Grimm is very interested in Micah's father's work, although he's politely disinterested in our research. I swear to Merlin, the Grimms and Pitches really are a bunch of speciesist – not that they'll ever admit it.

Simon and I are in his room, sitting on his sofa with our stockinged feet on the coffee table. He's trying to find a film to watch but he's not really looking, he's just scrolling aimlessly through Netflix.

I nudge his shoulder with mine. I'm still upset at what Simon did yesterday, but now that I've calmed down I've started feeling a little guilty at having a go at Simon, and not only on the train ride back to Paris, but again this morning. It's time to make amends. "Sorry I got so mad at you."

He nudges me back. "It's all right Penny. It was kind of dangerous. I get that now."

"It was extremely dangerous," I grumble but stop myself going any further. I don't want to get into it again, we've discussed what Simon did enough. And I've berated him enough. "But you tried and it didn't work. At least we know now."

He shrugs but doesn't say anything. He keeps flicking through Netflix.

"Are we good?"

He stops scrolling through the list of films and tips his head sideways at me, squinting his eyes. "Of course we are Pen."

That makes me smile and he grins back at me and bumps my shoulder again. He scratches at the stubble on his chin and jaw.

"And when are you going to get rid of that stupid excuse for a beard?" I can't help having a go at him; that stupid growth on his face is scruffy and patchy and nothing at all like Baz's designer looking stubble. It looks ridiculous.

He turns back to the telly and starts scrolling through the film list again. "When I win the bet."

I roll my eyes. I should have known he'd say that. "What are you playing for?" I ask before I can stop myself. I'm not sure I want to know the answer but I can't help myself. Knowing those two it could be anything; a snogfest, a shagfest, an erotic bloody gropefest . . . who knows.

"Scones," he says, not taking his eyes from the screen.

I snort out a laugh and shake my head. It figures. Only Simon would put up with this much discomfort for food. I wonder what Baz gets if he wins. "Did Baz go off at you?"

He drops the remote on the sofa next to him and runs his fingers through his hair, pushing his unruly curls in all different directions. He needs a hair cut. "Yeah. But we're fine. He was just worried, you know."

"I know Simon. You don't have to tell me, I was there," I remind him. I'm not surprised to hear him say Baz went off at him. If there's one thing I know, it's that Baz will always worry about Simon. It's like Baz has taken a vow to protect Simon at all times. And in truth, Baz is the only reason I felt comfortable leaving Simon behind when Micah and I moved to America, otherwise I probably would have dragged him along with us. (That, and mum said he's too old to be adopted.) "You know, I think you're handling all of this really well."

He furrows his brow. "What, my new life of magickal crime or my failed attempt at closing the holes?"

"No, I mean the whole thing. Your banishment, being away from home, all this moving around, and our failed attempt at closing the holes. I know it hasn't been easy for you."

He shrugs but doesn't say anything.

"And it's hardly a life of magickal crime. You're the most honest person I know. And no one caught us so. . ." I waggle my eyebrows and he huffs out a laugh. I sigh out a breath. "I just wish I could do more to help."

He nudges my shoulder again with his own. "You've done loads Penny. You're here, you helped me in Hampshire, and you're helping get me home. And you let me live with you for three months. That wasn't nothing."

"It wasn't much, and living with you is easy– it was just like old times." I shrug. "I like having you around. I didn't realise how much I missed it until you came to stay."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah, I miss you." I lean into his side and poke him with my elbow. He elbows me back.

"I miss you too," he grins, picking up the remote again. "So are you and Micah ever going to go back to England or are you going to stay in America?"

"I don't know. That depends where the work is," I tell him truthfully. "But I do miss home sometimes. New Haven's hardly bloody London is it?"

"I know what you mean," he mumbles, scrolling back through the list of films.

Chapter Text

BAZ

Fiona is knocking on our door. I can tell it's Fiona because the door reeks of whisky and cigarettes.

We've had a blissfully quiet two days since our failed attempt at closing the dead spots, two days since Simon risked his life trying to save the realm because he's a stupid brave fuck, two days since Simon and I fought into the night about said stupidity and bravery.

Not that it was really a fight; it wasn't like some of our other, more memorable fights over matters unimportant, where neither of us wants to be the first to back down because we're both as stubborn as each other. I once promised Simon I'll always tell him if I'm angry with him, and he makes a point to let me know whenever I piss him off so yes, we fight sometimes.

This was something different; this was me yelling at Simon relentlessly and Simon taking it. Me, condemning his actions, castigating him in a way that was reminiscent of our days as enemies. Me taking all of my anxiety and fear of losing him out on him, the one person I love more than anything, more than anyone. Me, behaving like a bloody idiot.

He accepted everything I threw at him without question, he even agreed with the terrible things I said to him, and then he told me how lost and alone he's felt since all this banishment business started and I felt like shit afterwards. Crowley I'm an arse. He's the love of my life, even if he is a reckless idiot half the time and a misguided superhero the rest, and I despise myself for not picking up on it. I could reduce myself to ashes for my thoughtlessness.

We made up straight after we fought. We always make up immediately after we fight. It works for us because neither Simon or I can stay angry with each other for very long– Simon can never hold a grudge against anyone, and he never fails to see the good in everyone, even me, and I'm too in love with him to ever stay angry at him for long. When you've witnessed the near death of the love of your life on three separate occasions, any fight seems rather inconsequential these days. So no matter what we might do or say in the heat of the moment, we always make up, we always forgive. Love is like that.

After we made up he cried on my shoulder for his failure, for not having enough magic to fix this, for not being enough. It's been a long time since I've seen Simon shed a tear, he's usually so strong and confident and always so optimistic, but the last six months have worn him down. It's heartbreaking to witness, and it's wrong. If only he knew how so much more than enough he really is.

I understand now why he thought he had to try those spells– the desperation he felt, the guilt. He still blames himself for the holes in the magickal atmosphere, and since he's been banished, he's stuck miles away from home, moving from place to place as he did when he was a child. And he's had nothing to do with his time but think and worry, he's not even been allowed to support himself. He's been stateless, powerless. I understand his motives better now, but I still shudder every time I let my mind linger over what may have gone wrong.

I'm just glad it's over and he's finally resigned himself to wait for the outcome of the next Coven meeting. Nowhere near as thrilling but a lot bloody safer.

Wellbelove must have had enough of all of us (and Mordelia) because she hot tailed it back to London with her parents the very next day, but not before she admonished Bunce for being too hard on Simon. Bunce and Micah went back to London a few days later to spend some time with Bunce's family before they fly back to America. So now it's just my family, and Fiona.

I shift my eyes from the television to the door. "Come in Fiona."

We're watching How to Train your Dragon with my siblings for what feels like the hundredth time. They insist on watching it whenever Simon's up for a film, and they've been begging us since Christmas to watch it with them here in Paris. They've missed Simon, they've miss him a hell of a lot more than they've miss me it seems. The way they're sitting on him or leaning against him, playing with his wings or tail makes it pretty obvious.

I wrap the blanket tighter around my shoulders to keep out the chill.

Fiona saunters in, glass of whisky in one hand and the cast Dr Wellbelove magicked up on the other arm. She's spelled the cast black, of course.

She waves her hand at my siblings. "Scoot you lot. I need to talk to Messer's Grimm-Pitch-Snow alone."

I roll my eyes. "You know that's not our name."

The children giggle but don't move, their eyes stay fixed on the screen. Simon snorts and shakes his head, we came up with so many silly iterations of our names while we were engaged that in the end we decided to keep our own once married. My name is ridiculous enough, I wasn't going to make it into more of a joke than it already is.

"Out!" she demands this time.

"Aw, Aunty Fee!" they complain in unison.

She waves them away. "Shoo!"

They grumble but comply, making a show of climbing off our bed and heading out the door. They complain loudly as they stomp downstairs to finish watching the film in the living room. Simon gives me a knowing look, he says they take after me.

"They're only half related." I retort before turning back to Fiona. I nod at the glass once she closes the door. "What's with the whisky?"

She raises her cast arm slightly. "Medicinal."

I scoff at her. "Surely Doctor Wellbelove spelled the pain away?"

She shrugs and drops herself on the couch, hauling her Doc Martens onto the coffee table. They land with a heavy thud and I shake my head, Daphne will be beside herself if she saw. (The shoes on the coffee table, not the whisky.) "I don't need the Doc for that, I'm self-medicating."

I raise my eyebrow but she dismisses me with a shake of her head. She takes a sip of her whiskey and point the glass at us. Her eyes move between Simon and me, the corner of her mouth lifting into a smirk. "So, what did you kiddies get up to the other day?"

Here we go. Nothing much gets passed Fiona no matter how drunk she is, I wonder how much she knows. "None of your business," I try anyway. It's not beneath me to be insolent, and I'm not in the mood for her games.

"Well according to your dad's whiteboard, me thinks you were up to something you shouldn't have been." Her eyes twinkle mischievously as she sips her drink. "Tell me your secrets is a wonderful compelling spell."

"Compelling spells are illegal."

"Only on Normals and mages. Not whiteboards."

I sigh and glance at Simon, this will be less painful if we tell her what she wants to know. She already knows anyway judging by the smug look on her face.

"It didn't work," Simon tells her, his eyes not shifting from the television.

"Of course it didn't," she scoffs. "You can't fix the dead spots with a spell, Snow."

"What's your point Fiona?" I know she has one otherwise she wouldn't have bothered coming here. She's been holed up in her room with Simon's uncle and my father's booze since Christmas and she doesn't stop her binges unless there's good reason.

"I know you and your little A-team broke a whole bunch of Coven laws the other day, probably cast a few spells back home to try to close the dead spots." She gives Simon a pointed look before continuing. "I'm assuming you flew there Dragon Boy, just as Mordy suggested. Hmm?"

I raise my eyebrow. She might be a pain in the arse but she's as bloody smart as they come. She is a Pitch after all.

Simon flicks his eyes briefly towards her before turning his attention back to the television and Fiona nods, as if confirming to herself. "But you should know that they can't be closed with a few nice little Shakespearean spells."

"We figured that."

"Or some crappy trip hop."

Simon grumbles something under his breath but keeps his eyes fixed on the television. He flicks around the channels with the remote, settling on the French news that he definitely does not understand. I think he's developed a thing for the syllable timing.

Fiona places her glass onto the coffee table and sits back, watching us. She looks almost sober. "Dark magic," she whispers.

"What?"

"You heard me."

"We're not using dark magic to close them," I blurt out. Is she completely off her tree? Dark magic is the stuff we don't touch, no matter how desperate we Pitches might be. (We're not that stupid.) And the Pitches haven't actually used dark magic for centuries, other mages just think we do.

"Not use, dear nephew," she drawls, rolling her eyes pointedly. "I'm not an idiot. I don't have a death wish, nor do I want to be banished by the Coven as well– one outlaw in the family is enough. Kidding Snow, don't be so sensitive . . . I'm just telling you, that's what made the holes."

Simon sit up and turns to face Fiona, interested now. "What do you mean? I thought I made them."

"You did," she nods, her dark eyes twinkling. "And what made you?"

Simon looks confused. No one knows about our theory that the Mage gave Simon his magic somehow. When we found the cottage and all of the Mage's crazy ramblings written on the walls it was obvious, but along with Bunce we've never told anyone else. It's too dangerous. And once Simon set fire to the place, we thought our secret was safe. For good.

But it looks like Fiona's worked it out. Bloody advanced Pitch brains.

"I'm guessing it was your dad," she declares outright.

We both stare at her, not blinking, not saying anything. I wonder how long we can pretend we don't know what she's on about?

"With dark magic," she adds, rolling her eyes when she realises we're not going to confirm or deny her suspicions. "Ergo, the holes were made with the same magic."

"What?" Simon splutters. "I . . . I didn't–"

"Not you Snow, just the magic," she says, dismissing him with her hand. "Sheesh, you've got to learn to calm down a little. Thank Christ you can't go off anymore."

I'm about to protest but she puts her hand up, stopping me.

"Look, I know mages, dark mages, and dark creatures too – undesirables." She turns her head from side to side, as if one of those undesirables is going to jump out from behind the couch and hex her. "I did a bit of digging back when your hubby here confessed to being the Humdrum and the cause of the dead spots. Didn't take me long to put two and two together so I spoke with a few of those undesirables. Heard about some missing dragon eggs, four leaf clovers that were stolen from the Leprechauns, strange requests for unicorn blood and a load of other sacred artefacts back in '96, and after a bit of questioning–"

"Questioning?"

"Persuading then, after a bit of persuading, they gave it up. Told me it was the Mage who asked for the stuff. After that, it was pretty easy to figure out it must have been that bastard Mage who created a magickal nuke, A.K.A. Snow here." She tips her head in Simon's direction.

"Shit," Simon mumbles.

"Lucky for you I laid waste to those undesirables after they gave up the intel. They were dark anyway, perks of the job so don't sweat it," she says easily, "So your secret's safe. For now."

Simon lets out a loud breath. I'm not sure if it's due to Fiona laying waste to some undesirables or because his secret is still safe.

So, fine then, Fiona's worked it out. I decide to hurry things along. "Your point?"

"Hold your horses," she huffs at me, taking another swig of her drink. She turns back to Simon. "Look. The entire realm thinks you're still the golden boy– the Chosen One, and that you were born that way. A fluke mage. And that it was just an unfortunate accident that you were so powerful you created the Humdrum and made the dead spots along the way."

"That's what happened Fiona," I sigh. "Your point?"

"I'm getting there," she huffs again. "It's is all very well and good that everyone believes that, that no one knows you had your magic thrust upon you by that madman, because that means that no one has linked the holes to dark magic . . . yet."

"What do you mean yet?" I demand. I'm impatient for her to finish even though I don't like where this conversation is heading. "And why do you still keep going on about dark magic?"

"It's only a matter of time Basil, when the holes don't close because of Snow's banishment, some of those morons on the Coven and quite a few idiots in the rest of the realm will start looking a little more closely at your Chosen One here. And then they may decide that he's the dark one."

"What?" Simon cries. He drops the remote and sits forward, both palms flat on the duvet as if he's going to jump off the bed. I place my hand on his and lace our fingers together in an attempt to placate him.

I glare at Fiona while keeping my hand locked on Simon's. I can feel the tension rolling off him. Thank bloody Christ he can't go off anymore, Father would never forgive him if he demolished the Paris apartment as well. "That's a bit of a leap. Why on earth would they think that?"

"It's a logical conclusion."

"No it isn't. It's your opinion. . . What makes you so sure?"

She ignores my question and turns back to Simon. "Listen, you need to make sure the rest of the realm never finds out that that bastard is your father," she tells him earnestly. "Otherwise it's only a matter of time before some mage who's had to move house jumps to the conclusion that you're as dark as he was."

Simon leans forward, towards Fiona. "What?"

"And then they'll banish you all over again. Or lock you in the tower," she shrugs, taking another sip of her drink. "Oh, and try to snap your wand."

He leans even further forward. "What?"

"That doesn't make sense Fiona. No one's going to snap his wand. He's not dark!" I glare at her and add a sneer for good measure. I just want to her to shut up and go away. "Your theory suggests everything Simon did with that old magic was dark, and it wasn't." I rub the back of Simon's hand with my thumb.

"I know, I know," she says, waiving her glass unsteadily in front of her. "But think about it, the thing that caused those holes was Simon drawing on the magickal atmosphere. And the only thing that allowed him to do that was the power he was given."

"So?"

"Power given to him by the Mage."

"We know that." There's no sense denying it anymore so I decide to roll with it.

"With dark magic," she says, taking another swig of whisky. Her glass is almost empty.

"Will you stop saying 'dark magic'?" I snap, throwing both hands into the air. "It's giving me the creeps."

"The Coven snapped that bastard Mage's wand," she continues, oblivious to my irritation. "That's what they did when they found him guilty of his crimes. Snapped his wand." She snaps the fingers of her broken arm in the air. (Obviously not so broken anymore.)

I take Simon's hand again and give it a squeeze. I know he doesn't want to discuss the Mage and his crimes any more than we already have this Christmas. "We know this already," I remind her.

"Because it's supposed to stop dark magic. Stop it returning or reproducing or some shit. . ."

"We already know that," Simon says this time. He sound just as frustrated as I am. At least he's no longer leaning forward and looking like he want's to hex Fiona. He's sat back against the headboard now, furiously tearing his free hand through his hair.

"Exactly," she agrees. "And snapping his wand didn't close the holes. . ."

"Know already," I sigh. This conversation is going around in circles now. I blame the whisky.

"So a bunch of stupid spells was never going to do it," she nods. "As you well know because you've already tried."

"We know!" I bawl. I've had enough of her drunken ramblings, I want her to get out of our room. Now.

"Against Coven law," she winks.

She gets up to leave, swaying slightly. I'm sure she won't even remember this conversation tomorrow, and I make a mental note to spell the whiteboard innocent before anyone else gets wind of what we did.

She stops at the door, fumbles with the door handle with the empty whisky glass between her fingers and turns back to face us. She gives us an lopsided shrug. "I would have thought the holes would close once they snapped his wand," she frowns at Simon. "So that's why I think they'll go for yours next. If they ever get wind about your dad."

She shakes her head unsteadily and takes her empty whisky glass and broken arm back to her room.

SIMON

I can't help thinking about what Fiona said. That they may go for my wand next if they ever find out.

They can never find out the Mage was my father now, not since they know I was the Humdrum and made the dead spots. I think she's right, it's not that much of a leap.

We were never going to tell anyone in the magickal realm that the Mage was my father anyway, or tell that he gave me my magic somehow. It will always be too risky for mages to find out that there's some spell or (dark) ritual that can give someone untold power. But it still worries me.

I think about the rest. Fiona laid waste to the dark creatures who told her what the Mage was procuring back when I was born, so my secret's safe. For now.

I wonder how she laid waste to those dark creatures. I know she's not averse to killing vampires, and she's not at all bothered about killing the odd numpty that kidnaps her nephew either, or the odd goblin that still think he can become king by getting rid of me. I'm not sure what other dark creatures she's murdered in the name of keeping the realm safe but I reckon there's a whole load we don't know about. And I really don't want to know when it comes down to it.

I turn my thoughts to the Mage. They snapped his wand because of his crimes. Or was it to stop dark magic returning. I'm still not entirely sure how that works. I mean, how can snapping a wand do that? Magic obviously, but how? It's not as if dark magic is going to return without the mage who cast those spells in the first place. What's a wand without a mage really?

Would they really want to snap my wand if they found out? I'd be nothing without it – not a mage anymore, not anything, Just another Normal. I've already been there and I don't want to go there again. Hell's bells, this wand wasn't even my wand until a few years ago. It was my mother's wand. I didn't even use it when I had all that magic and made the dead spots. I had the other wand that the Mage gave me, the one that's buried in my wardrobe somewhere in our flat in Chelsea. And that wand was a dud, it never worked right for me.

I stop thinking about my old wand and turn my mind to the dead spots. I wonder if they really were created by dark magic. I thought they were created by me, drawing on the magickal atmosphere, but Fiona reckons I could do that because of the dark magic that the Mage performed on me to give me all that power.

The more I think about everything Fiona said about dark magic and the dead spots the more I get confused. All that wand snapping shite also sounds like bollocks to me. And I don't give a shit what they did to the Mage's wand, he deserved it.

But I can't help thinking, what if there is something to it?

Chapter Text

BAZ

"Baz!" Simon yells.

I look up from the book I've been trying to read all afternoon. "Yes love?"

Simon has a manic look about him. He's been pacing the living room for the last hour, mumbling to himself and stopping every once in a while to stare into space. I've tried to get his attention on several occasions but he only glances my way, frowns then continues pounding his way across the carpet. He's still wearing my pyjama bottoms despite it being mid-afternoon.

At least he's clean shaven again. And so am I. In the end we'd both had enough of our respective attempts at growing a beard. He'd had enough of the itching and I missed Simon's soft, smooth cheeks, so we relented, called it a draw and agreed to go out dancing and make sour cherry scones. In the end I was just happy to shave that blasted thing off.

We went out dancing last night and I made a batch of sour cherry scones this morning. In the past, Bunce and either Micah or Agatha or both would join us on New Year's Eve, along with Agatha's boyfriend and a few of Simon's Normal friends. Even Dev and Niall surprised us one year and fronted up to the very gay nightclub we danced the old year away to, but this year it was just Simon and I. I didn't mind, actually I preferred it; this way I could dance all night with Simon without any interruptions. He still owes me a lot of dances.

We headed out to a fashionable club just around the corner from our apartment. I managed to get Simon to wear the suit we bought in Florence again, (Twice in one week.) (I really am living a charmed life.) and I wore the same suit I wore on Christmas Eve. (Simon asked me to wear it and I was not going to say no to that request.) I have to say, we looked cool and mysterious together, not to mention bloody good looking.

I drank Champagne while Simon downed a few foreign ales, and then we spent the rest of the night on the dance floor, slow dancing and kissing our way into the New Year. We snogged like lustful teenagers while everyone else counted down the last seconds of the year, which is nothing unusual. I don't think we've ever made it until the countdown reaches zero. All in all, it was a good night.

And it was a late night. After we stumbled in around two a.m., Simon decided he was hungry for pasta so he raided the fridge and magicked up a tasty Carbonara. It was well after three before we went to bed. Thank magic for hangover spells.

Both my family and Fiona left yesterday, something about a New Year's Eve rave in Prague for Fiona, and Father has a business meeting he needs to attend in person. My brother and sisters didn't want to leave– I think they enjoyed having us around for the entire week almost entirely uninterrupted. While they were here, it almost felt like being back at Oxford before all this shit started.

Fiona acted as if she didn't remember our conversation at all, so she was either very drunk or was avoiding us, or perhaps she realised she'd said too much. Either way, Simon has been lost in his head since that night. I could set her on fire for this.

"Okay, so I need to talk to you?" Simon says, pulling me from my thoughts. He's standing in front of me, staring me down with those stunningly ordinary blue eyes of his, which are currently very wide and extra bright. His hair is tousled from running his fingers through it and his (my) pyjamas are rumpled. He looks even more gorgeous than usual in this state. "And you can't get mad."

I wonder what that mind of his has cooked up this time. He gives me an anxious look and I nod my head once, slowly. "All right," I mumble, which is all the encouragement he needs because he sits down next to me, grabs the book from my hand and tosses it carelessly onto the coffee table. It lands face down, open, and I mentally curse him for damaging the spine. It's is one of my favourites.

His eyes twinkle as he nods at me. "I think I've got it."

I glance back at the book. I wish he'd close it properly, with a bookmark so I don't lose my place. I sigh and let it go. "Got what?"

He hassles his curls with his hand and frowns for a moment, like he's gathering his thoughts. Then he looks up at me and gives me a cocky grin. He even tries (and fails) to lift an eyebrow. "I reckon I know how to close the holes."

I groan outwardly. "Not this again." Ever since our failed attempt last week Simon has been quiet and withdrawn. I thought he'd finally resigned himself to the fact that the dead spots will take time to close, and nothing he or anyone else does will speed up the process.

And then Fiona's drunken ramblings got him worked up again. It took me another two days to calm him down and remind him that he's not dark.

"You're not dark. You're light and good," I told him.

"How do you know Baz?"

"Because I know you better than anyone. Crowley if anyone is dark and evil, it's me, not you Simon."

"But Fiona said–"

"Fiona was drunk." I reminded him. "She wasn't making any sense. She doesn't even remember what she said."

"But–"

"And if you recall, she said the magic that bastard Mage used to give you your power was dark. Not you."

"Oh yeah," he finally agreed, albeit reluctantly.

Next time I'll steal her voice rather than have her upset Simon like that. Or hide the whisky at the very least.

"Yes, this again," he says with more than a note of determination.

I hold his gaze. "There's no way to close the holes. We need to wait for the Coven meeting. Velma will resign, or perhaps Odella or Luella, Trixie will be voted in and then we'll have the votes necessary to repeal your banishment. We've been through this already."

I reach for my book again and he pulls it from my fingers and throws it on the coffee table again. He ignores my huff and climbs onto my lap, straddling me with his legs. I huff at him again and give him my best, most exasperated look.

Simon stares at me, waits until he has my full attention, then smiles. In that moment he looks so beautiful, I can feel my lifeless heart stutters and leap. Crowley I've got it bad for him.

"Gotta get the Coven to snap my wand," he says, calm as ever.

"What?"

"You heard."

"You cannot be serious?"

A wand is a mage's magickal instrument, passed down through families for generations. Without a magickal instrument we can't get our magic out, and then we're nothing but a Normal. And he's already been that.

I blink at him.

"Baz?" he says when I don't answer.

I let out a noisy breath. "I'm not even going to dignify that with an answer."

"Why not."

"Because it's even more idiotic than your last plan, Simon."

"No it isn't."

"It most certainly is."

"Hear me out."

"No.

"Please?"

"Not a chance."

"I'll do that thing you like," he teases, wriggling his eyebrows suggestively.

Aleister Crowley, my husband looks so innocent when he's trying to be seductive, it's bloody adorable. And incredibly persuasive. I give him what I hope passes for a stern look, but I'm not sure I've pulled it off so I go for incredulous instead. "Are you really trying to bribe me? With sex?"

"Yes," he declares unabashed, kissing the tip of my nose.

I shake my head. "You're unashamedly honest. Not to mention exceptionally easy."

"C'mon Baz," he teases again as he wriggles higher up my lap. There's a hint of a smile on his lips as he leans into me and he's so close that I can see the multi-faceted blue of his eye. I'm momentarily distracted by them. They remind me of a swirling nebula, like he has an entire star system in each eye, which reminds me of that time we shared his magic and I took us to the stars. I hitch in a breath, let myself get lost in his eyes and forget how to speak. Or think. He tucks my hair behind my ears with both hands and places his palms on my cheeks, his sweet breath fans my face.

The bastard is using my own tactics against me.

He leans down to press his mouth against mine and I reach up to the kiss, bringing my hands to his waist. He knows how weak I am when it comes to his mouth so this really isn't fair.

His lips are soft and warm as he brushes them gently against mine. He does this a few torturous times before he kisses me fully, keeping his hands pressed against my cheeks all the while. I wrap my arms around his waist to pull him close as we deepen the kiss. It's good, it's always so fucking good, and I start to lose myself in the kiss but he pulls back too soon and I have to stifle a whimper at the loss.

"Not mine Baz," he whispers, "The one the Mage gave me."

I raise my eyebrow. My lips are still tingling with the memory of his touch and I want it back.

His grin is playful, mischievous. "And it has to happen while I'm still banished."

"You are trying to persuade me with sex," I mutter as I pull him back for another kiss. His mouth is instantly back on mine and he kisses me eagerly, pressing into my lap until I groan with pleasure. My husband is an absolute tease when he wants to be. Not that I'm complaining– how could I possibly complain about this?

"Mmhmm," he agrees, placing soft kisses along my jaw. I lift my chin and angle my jaw towards him as I pull him closer. He kisses are soft as he makes his way leisurely to that delicate spot just below my ear where he lingers for a few seconds or an hour. He makes his way back just as torturously slow.

"You'll do it anyway," I tell him when I can breathe again. I bring my mouth back to his to capture his lips again.

"Hmm?" He runs his tongue along the length of my bottom lip. It makes my insides twist pleasantly.

"That thing." I reach for his mouth again.

"I know," he whispers. His tongue caresses mine as he kisses me harder.

I pull back for a breath, resting our foreheads together. "You like it too."

"I do," he breathes, lifting his neck for me. I trail kisses along his jaw.

I move my mouth down to his throat, to that sweet spot where his neck meets his collarbone. I kiss him there until he lets out a quiet moan, and decide two can play at this game. I start to suck.

He whimpers quietly.

I finish leaving my mark, and give it a final kiss before drag my tongue up along his jaw to his mouth. His lips are ready for me, warm, wet and open and I plunge in, kissing him deeply. I'm losing myself entirely in the feel of his mouth against mine, and his tongue is taking me into another realm entirely, until he abruptly pulls back. I reach toward him without thinking, chasing his mouth again, but he stops me with his palm flat against my heaving chest. He must be able to feel my erratic heart beat through my shirt, it feels like it's going to leap out of my chest.

He's grinning as he pulls back. Not far, but far enough so we can look at each other. I grin back.

"Think about it Baz, it never worked for me, did it?" His voice is breathless, panting. I can hear his heart thrumming and see his chest rising and falling. He may be trying to sexually manipulate me but he's getting himself entirely worked up in the process. Good.

I try to focus on what he's saying– he has the willpower of a puppy so I know he wouldn't stop snogging unless it's terribly important. ". . . and the Mage gave it to me, right? And it was his dad's, and he's my, you know, so it should have worked for me, right?"

"Mmmm." I brush his curls away from his face before I return my hand to his waist. I'm only half listening. He's pressing down on me in a way that's spectacularly diverting.

"So there must be something wrong with it. Otherwise it should have worked for me. And it didn't. It clearly didn't so . . ."

"So what?" I murmur, still distracted by his weight pressing down on me. I brush my hands up and down his back. He wriggles at my touch and that deposits even more pressure down there. I close my eyes for a moment as I let out an involuntary moan. All the borrowed blood I have in me has headed south and I'm having trouble concentrating.

"So what if he used that wand when he cast the black magic–"

"Dark magic–"

"–dark magic that gave me my powers?"

I want to kiss Simon again, desperately, but I force myself to stop thinking about the pressure in my pants and consider his words because I think he's making an important point. It's true the wand never worked for Simon. I always thought he was terrible at magic but he's always been fine with his mother's wand. More than fine, he's quiet the powerful mage these days.

And I wouldn't put it past the murderous Mage to do something so cowardly– to not even use his own wand for his dark deeds. It's a definite possibility.

But what Simon is saying is ludicrous. How can we get the Coven to snap the wand without discovering that it may or may not have performed dark deeds? The Coven must have a valid reason to snap a wand – it's Coven law – but they can never know the Mage is Simon's father because then they'll work out that the Mage gave Simon his power, that you can give someone untold power, that there's a spell out there for that, that dark magic can do that. And they can never know any of that.

"But, no one can ever know, that the Mage is your. . ."

"My dad, right," he says, waving his hand. "So this can't be about him."

Crowley, he must be distracted to say that outright. He hardly ever admits it out loud. "Go on." I'm intrigued now. I think I can see where he's going with this.

"And they don't know I have my mum's wand."

"Yes." I'm smiling now.

"So what if . . . what if we get them to snap my wand for some other reason."

"Your wand?"

"My other wand."

"The one the Mage gave you."

"Yes," he agrees. He presses down on me again, accidentally this time, but it shifts my focus from what he's saying. I suppress another groan. It's becoming increasingly difficult to concentrate and I need to concentrate on what Simon's saying.

"For what reason?" I move my hands to Simon's hips, holding him in place, which doesn't help my concentration but it feels too good to worry about right now.

"Like, perhaps, entering the UK while being banished maybe?" he says, grinning madly. "That's why it has to happen while I'm banished."

I try to think this through, although it's difficult with Simon straddling me and bearing his weight down on me. It's entirely plausible I suppose. The Coven has the power to snap someone's wand, and Reggie and Alfie are both very anti Simon at the moment so they'll definitely be incensed if he breaks the banishment laws. (Which he's already done, unbeknownst to them.)

But what he's saying still doesn't make sense. He would have to attend to a Coven meeting. "How? You'll be spelled into the dirt if you try."

"Not if I fly," he counters, giving me his cheekiest grin yet. "We already know I can enter the UK as long as I don't touch the ground."

"But your wings Simon," I remind him. "They'll spell you dead if they see your wings, not just out of the country. They'll think you've gone full Lucifer."

"Not if they can't see them. And if the meeting is upstairs, say, at Gran's house, I can fly right through her big fancy French doors." He grins and presses down against me again and this time I do not suppress a moan.

Great snakes. I think my husband is a genius.

Simon doesn't wait for an answer, instead he lunges at me and presses his mouth against mine, kissing me with a ferocity that makes me lose all train of thought. I feel like I'm on fire, like I'm being scorched from the inside. We hold each other and kiss for a long time, until the fire becomes all consuming, so I forget all about the Coven snapping his old wand as he unbuttons my shirt and slides his hands across my chest. I don't think about flying through second story windows as I grab at the hem of his tee shirt, hardly hearing the seams pop as I wrench it over his head and discard it on the floor. And I don't think about dead spots and dark magic as Simon places soft kisses across my jaw, my neck, my chest, or as he makes his way slow and steady down my stomach.

And I definitely don't think about this rather ludicrous plan and all the things that could go wrong as he unbuttons my trousers, kisses along the line of my pants and grins up at me as he expertly tugs them down.

Chapter Text

SIMON

I thought I had Baz convinced yesterday and I want to start planning exactly how we should go about executing my plan, but as soon as he wakes it's obvious he's changed his mind. He reckons my new plan is risky, and dangerous, and smacks of desperation. (And is absolutely illegal, but we've already crossed that bridge.) He also says it's fatally flawed.

I don't agree. I think my plan is brilliant.

He says it has more holes in it than the last plan and there's no way that we're going ahead with it. (Actually, he says we'll go ahead with it over his dead body but I don't think it's a good time to agree with him.)

"It's a terrible plan," he says again, turning to face me. His hair is splayed on the pillow, surrounding his face like a black halo. It contrasts strikingly against his pale skin and makes him look like some sort of mythical dark angel. Some of it falls into his eyes. I brush it away automatically.

"No it isn't. It's brilliant."

"It's diabolical," Baz maintains. He still has his morning voice, all soft and low and husky. I melt a little when I hear it.

"You thought it was okay yesterday," I remind him. I run my fingers absently through his hair, combing it through. It's soft and silky smooth as usual, and getting quite long. I like it like this, a lot.

He raises his eyebrow. "You were seducing me at the time."

"I was," I grin, savouring the memory of our lazy afternoon on the couch. "That was also a good plan."

"Mmmm," he hums, a hint of a smile on his lips. I know he agrees with me. Judging by the noises he made yesterday, he definitely agrees with me.

"And actually, I meant I'd dance with you, not shag you Baz," I tease. "You really have to get your mind out of your pants sometimes."

He snorts and shakes his head, not believing me for a second. Sometimes it's infuriaing how well Baz can read me, but most of the time I like it. I don't mind at all today, I definitely didn't mind yesterday.

"So, my brilliant plan?" I remind him.

"It's not ready."

"Yes it is. You agreed yesterday it was a good plan."

The corner of his mouth lifts slightly. "I never said that."

I rack my brain and go through our conversation again and realise he's bloody right, he didn't say that. We got distracted on the couch for the rest of the afternoon and I realise now that I didn't clinch the deal before we got side-tracked. I really should have clinched the deal, I can't help it if he distracts me all the time.

"There are too many risks. Too many gaps," he reasons.

"Where?"

"Everywhere."

I prop myself up on my elbow and stare down at him, Baz rolls onto his back so he can look up at me. He's still trying not to smile.

"Righto which bit?" I run my fingers through his hair and he closes his eyes and hums, but I don't want to get distracted again so I stop.

He opens his eyes when I stop playing with his hair and pouts at me, but I don't start again and he sighs when he realises I'm not going to be side tracked again. He props himself up on his elbow instead and faces me. He smiles in earnest this time and he's so beautiful that I want to kiss him, like really snog him stupid, but I don't because I need to focus. He brushes my hair away from my forehead with his cool fingers, runs his fingers down my cheek and across my jaw.

He holds my chin between his thumb and finger and strokes his thumb along the new stubble there. "They may not decide to snap your wand. It's a very serious action love, one that is not taken lightly. They may decide to banish you permanently instead. Or lock you in the tower."

I frown at his words. "I didn't think of that."

He runs his fingers across my throat. "They see you hovering above the ground and think you're made of dark magic. And you'll be banished permanently, or locked in the tower."

"Shit."

He moves his fingers back to my cheek. "If they actually do snap your wand, and it does work, and the holes do start to close, then every mage will assume you were dark all along. And you'll be banished permanently, or locked in the tower." His fingers brush my temple.

"Fuck. Why didn't I think of that?"

"Or they just banish you, or lock you in the tower as soon as soon as they see you," he finishes, brushing my hair out of my eyes again.

"Fuck Baz, do you always have to be such a pessimist?"

He twirls my hair around his finger. "I'm a realist."

I huff at him. "C'mon Baz. There's got to be some way."

"There is," he says, tugging lightly at my curls. "We wait for the Coven meeting. Velma resigns, or Odella or Luella, then Trixie will be voted in and we'll have the numbers to repeal your banishment."

"And we'll all live happily ever after," I grumble as I flop back onto the bed.

"Exactly," he grins, planting a mushy kiss on my cheek.

BAZ

We've been stuck inside due to the blustery weather and except for trips to the local Carrefour, (to stock up on more brioche buns) the boucherie and boulangerie, Simon is happy to stay indoors. All he's talked about since yesterday, however, is his rather dubious (and incomplete and dangerous and not very well thought out) plan to have the Coven snap his other wand.

I need to get his mind off things. It's only one week until the Coven meets and I need to somehow make him hold out until then so he doesn't go off and do something idiotic. I suggest a day out.

"But it's raining," he whines. I don't think he wants to get out of my pyjama bottoms.

"No it isn't." It stopped raining a while ago. I checked.

"It's cold then."

I give him an incredulous look. "You're a mage. You can do magic. I think you're rather good at warming spells these days."

He huffs and frowns at me and even tries to growl, but relents when he realises I'm not about to give in. "Yeah, okay. What do you want to do?"

"Hmmm, I'm not entirely sure." I didn't think he was going to agree so I haven't thought of anything he'd like to do. I'd like to go to the National library but I don't think that will hold Simon's attention. We decide to scroll through the web to decide.

"We could visit the catacombs?" he suggests, stopping on a page titled One Hundred and Thirty Six Obscure Things to do in Paris.

"Absolutely not." He knows there is no way I'm going to do that. It would hardly be a pleasant day out.

"Or the Vampire museum?"

I give him a look. "You have got to be joking."

"No really, it says right here 'A unique and macabre collection of the undead and all their trappings.'"

"No."

"You could learn something?"

"Hah."

After more research and a fair bit of disagreement, we decide to visit Le mur des je t'aime in Paris' Jehan-Rictus Square. It's a famous artwork created for lovers. Perfect.

-oOo-

"It has 'I love you' written in over three hundred languages." I tell Simon as we stroll languorously along the length of the artwork. We sit on an empty park bench for a while to stare at the wall, basking in the warmth of my Warm as toast spell. He takes my hand in his and strokes his thumb across the back as we stare at the unusual artwork. Eventually he's had enough because he stands in front of me and extends his hands. I place my hands in his and he pulls me to my feet before dragging me back towards the wall.

He's smiling as he tugs me closer and I fall into him. Maybe it's the wall or maybe it's Paris in winter, or maybe it's just Simon but I think I might be swooning. Crowley, almost six years together and Simon can still make me swoon, and I'm not even tanked this time. I'm definitely leading a charmed life.

He waves his hand in the direction of the wall. "Read some to me?"

So I do. I start from the far left and scan the words until I find a language I can understand. There's je t'aime in French, of course, as well as English I love you, Greek Σε αγαπώ and Italian ti amo. Beyond that I'm a little lost. I scan further along and eventually find أنا أحبك in Arabic.

"How do you know that last one?"

"My mother."

Simon doesn't say anything, instead he stares at me for a moment before he lifts his chin and presses his lips to mine. I pull him close and kiss him again, not caring this time if anyone sees. I run my fingertips across his barely exposed cheeks and kiss him again and again, deciding once and for all that I'll kiss my husband wherever the fuck I like.

It's cold in Paris today, and it's already late afternoon, so we decide to leave the art wall and head off to our next destination.

He has his gloved hand wrapped around my arm and it's warming me more than any weatherization spell ever could. He's also wearing his new wool coat, which is a marked improvement from the puffy mac he's insisted on wearing every winter since Watford. I took the opportunity while I was alone in London to purchase a few essentials for Simon, and today he looks extremely handsome in the coat, his check hat and scarf and leather gloves.

He insisted I buy a blue hat and scarf for myself, getting tired of my monochrome winter attire. And I have to say I quite like the colour on me. It reminds me of his eyes.

We skip the Musee de la Magie that Simon wanted to visit, (A magic museum of all things.) (And a factually incorrect one at that.) deciding instead on the Musee de al Vie Romantique. It's quiet and romantic and the paved courtyard has a quaint seating area for couples and central garden is full and lush despite the cold, making it a pleasant enough diversion.

Eventually we've both had enough and decide to leave. We find a restaurant on our way back to the apartment, and after Simon orders enough (and eats enough) for the both of us we head back home.

It's been a good day, a relaxed, romantic day. I've managed to wash and dry his (my) pyjama bottoms as well as distract Simon enough that he hasn't mentioned his ridiculous plan the entire time.

I head out to hunt as soon as we make it back to the apartment and by the time I return, Simon is asleep on the sofa. Reruns of Doctor Who are flashing across the television screen unwatched, bathing him in a soft blue hue. He's back to wearing my pyjama bottoms again and an old Joy Division tee shirt Fiona gave him one year. (Or is it mine? I don't remember.) (She gave us each a whole horde one Christmas.) I wake him with his name on my lips and a kiss on his cheek and we head upstairs together.

The apartment is quiet without our friends wandering its rooms and hallways, without Daphne on the phone or pottering around the kitchen and my father reading his papers in the lounge room or his study, without my siblings squealing and running up and down the stairs or Fiona smoking up a storm and raiding the liquor cabinet. It's a large apartment, and the décor reflects Daphne and Father's refined tastes. It's far too large and extravagant for just Simon and I, and it's devoid of our own furnishings and trinkets – our memories – but as we head upstairs together, fingers intertwined and shoulders lightly brushing against each other, it feels more like home than anywhere else I've been in the last six months.

Chapter Text

SIMON

Baz strolls into the kitchen dressed in a blue long sleeve cashmere jumper, black trainers and his black jeans – the snug ones, my favourite ones. His hair is still damp from his shower and his hanging lose around his face in soft waves. He smells like his fancy products; cedar and bergamot and expensive aftershave. All are familiar scents and I smile to myself as I breathe him in.

He's poking around the hob, most likely looking to see what's for breakfast but I haven't started that yet, I've had other things on my mind. I feel his arms slide around my waist as he wraps them around me from behind, reaching around my wings to give me a light peck on my cheek.

"Morning love. What are you doing?"

"Making pasta," I tell him as I tip my cheek up to him for another kiss. "From scratch." He rubs his nose into my cheek and kisses it again.

I'm kneading the dough, alternately working it with my palms and turning it until it's smooth and elastic. The rhythmic pounding of dough against my hands is relaxing and helps distract my mind from the Coven and the holes and the Mage's wand and everything Fiona said.

He takes a peek, resting his chin on my shoulder. His damp hair brushes against my face. "How do you know how to do that?" He sounds impressed.

"Marco showed me. In Florence."

"Mmmm," he hums and kisses my cheek again. "I think you've missed your calling."

"Huh?"

"Your calling," he repeats, squeezing my waist a little tighter. "You should have been a chef."

"Hmf," I shrug as I knead the dough. Kneading and thinking. I turn the dough and knead again. Knead, turn, holes. Knead, turn wand. Knead, turn, Coven. Knead, turn, spells. My mind has been doing this all morning. Wake up, think about the holes. Brush my teeth, think about my old wand. Head downstairs, think about dark magic. Turn on the espresso machine and think about the Coven.

I can't help rationalising there must be something I've missed in all this. There must be a way this will work, and there must be a way to get Baz to go along with my idea.

He lets go of my waist and wanders off looking for breakfast supplies. I hear him get the fry pan out of the cupboard and pop it on the hob, then he starts poking around the fridge. I frown again and go back to kneading the dough and thinking about holes. I think and think and think about what Fiona said, about dark magic and snapping wands. Dark magic-holes-wands-Coven-spells, stretching and pushing the dough over and over until it feel elastic and smooth.

"You're frowning," Baz says. He's back next to me, leaning against the counter with his arms crossed against his chest and his legs crossed at the ankles. When did he get there? I must have been deep in thought not to notice, but then again he can move pretty stealthily when he wants to. It's another vampire trait of his that I know for a fact exists, unlike the rest he emphatically denies. I've seen this one often enough. "You've got to let this go Simon. What you need is a diversion, perhaps join that gym nearby."

"Mmmm," I hum, not really listening. The dough's getting pretty silky and smooth now and feels about right. I'm not really sure if it's ready but Marco said it should look and feel something like how it does now. I try to think about what Baz is saying but then it hits me and I stop kneading abruptly. I wrap it in cling film and put it aside to rest. I wash my hands.

I turn to face him. "I've got it Baz," I say, leaning back against the kitchen counter. I grab a tea towel and dry my hands, throwing it aside when I finish.

"Got what?" he asks, momentarily distracted. I know he's trying very hard to ignore the wet, scrunched up tea towel on the bench. He manages it (only just), and turns to stand in front of me, placing one hand on my waist and the other on my face. He brushes his fingers against my cheek. "You have a little flour. . ."

I let him brush the flour from my face before I speak. (It feels nice and he smells good.)

"Diversion spells," I tell him.

"Hmmm?" He brushes my cheek again.

"Diversion spells, so they can't see me hovering. Just like they can't see my wings and tail."

"All right." He ponders this as he brushes my cheek. "That could work. But then what?"

"The protesters."

"The protesters?"

"Yes. We can use the protesters somehow. They support me. They could, like, I don't know, create a barrier or something, so they don't banish again me or lock me in the tower."

He scrunches up his nose at that, which looks incredibly sexy on him. "Storm the Coven? Are we up to that now Simon?" He drops his head to meet my eyes and moves his other hand to my waist. "We can't ask your supporters to break the law for you."

I'm surprised by his train of thought but I must admit, I didn't really think about what I was saying until the words came out of my mouth. I was just thinking of what Mordy said about the protesters.

"That's not what I meant," I mumble, more to myself. "I guess I didn't think it through."

"And once the protesters see you fly through the second story window, they'll banish you themselves. Or lock–"

"I know, I know," I huff, feeling more like an idiot than usual. "They'll lock me in the tower."

"And involving other mages would be risky," he adds. "We can't rely on them."

Shit, he's thought of everything. Of course he has, he's so fucking smart. I should have known he'd find a flaw in my new plan. He always finds a flaw.

"I don't even know what I wanted them to do," I grumble and drop my eyes to the floor. "It was just a thought. Don't worry about it, it's a stupid idea."

"You said it," he snorts. He tugs lightly on my (his) pyjama bottoms, pulling me towards him. I go willingly and wrap my arms around his neck.

"There's got to be a way Baz." I huff, looking up at him. His eyes are blue-green-grey this morning, like the ocean, and I try not to get lost in them. He's also got that indulgent look on his face, like he's humouring me, and it would really piss me off if he wasn't so bloody good looking.

"There is," he says, trying to hold back a smile. "Wait for the Coven meeting. Someone resigns. Trixie is voted in. You're banishment is reversed."

"You're repeating yourself," I tell him.

"Because you're not listening," he tells me right back.

He smirks and kisses the tip of my nose, then turns and makes a start on breakfast. I start on the ragu, huffing noisily at the hob.

Chapter Text

BAZ

"Okay so what if–"

"Nope."

"But I didn't even tell you what I was thinking."

"You don't have to. I know its's a terrible idea."

"But Baz–"

"It won't work."

"But–"

"No."

"Hmf."

Simon lets out a grumpy huff and rolls over, swatting me in the head with one of his wings. It's most likely deliberate. I grab his tail, wrap it around my wrist and try to go back to sleep.

SIMON

Baz wouldn't even hear me out this time, he just tells me to go back to sleep. When I roll over, one of my wings accidently clocks him in the head, eliciting a quiet 'ow' from him. It wasn't intentional but he's being a prat so I don't mind. I try to go back to sleep but my mind is working overtime thinking about my old wand, so after a while I sit up and turn on the bedside lamp next to me. My tail unfurls from Baz's wrist.

"Baz?" I whisper.

No answer. I think about poking him in the ribs, but last time I did that he bared his fangs at me.

"Baz?" I try again, my tail lightly brushing the tip of his nose. That's new, I've only just worked out how to do that since we came to Paris. I can tickle the end of his nose while he's reading or watching telly or even pretending to sleep, like now. I pretend I can't control it and he pretends to hate it.

"Ugh. What Simon?" His nose is twitching as he swats my tail from his face. It moves just out of his reach and then drifts back down and tickles his nose again. This time he reaches up and grabs it.

I take a big breath and go for it. "Why don't we just get Penny's mum or Dr Wellbelove or my gran to snap the wand, they're all on the Coven so we don't even have to go to a Coven meeting so I won't have to fly anywhere and they could just do it and then it will be done and the holes would close maybe and, well, yeah . . . that's it. What do you think?" I blurt out in one breath before he can stop me.

He doesn't even bother to open his eyes. "Because they don't have any reason to snap it," he grunts into his pillow.

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"The Coven can't snap any old wand without a valid reason. There has to be an absolute belief that a mage is dark or their instrument has been used for dark magic, otherwise the magic won't work."

"What magic?"

He opens one eye and stares at me for a lot longer than I feel comfortable with, so I reckon I'm missing something important. He opens the other eye and gives me a pointed look. "The magic that ends the cursed instrument. Don't you know the basic principles of magic?"

"Um. . ."

"And it's against mage law to snap a mage's wand without a valid reason."

"What are you even talking about?"

"Clearly you haven't read the Coven by-laws yet."

"There are by-laws?"

"Go to sleep."

BAZ

There's no way Simon read the Coven by-laws. When he first joined the Coven, Mitali handed him an ancient black leather bound book with gold leaf fleur-de-lis on the cover. He brought it home after his first meeting and placed it carefully, almost reverently on his bedside table. It sat there for weeks before he moved it to our coffee table, and it sat there untouched for another month before he shifted it again, this time into the study we never used. I don't think he ever opened it.

They're not really by-laws, they're more a set of governing principles, or magickal rules. But they've been in place for centuries, at least since the Pendle Hill Uprising of 1615 where the Coven failed to act after an assembly of mages were tried and burned at the stake for witchcraft. (The one time the Normals actually got it right for a change instead of torching a bunch of their own like they usually did.)

No mage has ever tried to rebel against them, there are magickal safeguards in place to protect against such an event. Any member of the Coven caught in the act of rebellion will be stripped of their magickal instrument and banished for life. Not dissimilar to the punishment inflicted upon Simon. The only way rebellion can occur is when the members of the Coven deem the safety of the realm at stake.

I've read the by-laws cover to cover. There's nothing that will help Simon out of this but it has enabled me to become extremely well versed in all Coven related matters.

The Mage obviously read the Coven by-laws. He managed to skulk his way into the position of utmost power without ever once breaking any of them. He skirted around the edges and used other creatures to do his bidding and managed to stay in power for years without being exposed– until we finally brought him down. The world of mages may have rules and laws, but no one ever said they were perfect.

I wrap my arm around Simon and pull him towards me. He comes willingly, lays his head against my shoulder and rests his hand on my heart. I lace my fingers with his and wait for him to relax again. The warmth of his body on my side and chest is soothing and I nestle against him, letting the radiating heat lull me toward sleep. My fingers finding his wedding ring and I twist it around his finger and listen to him breathe. I wait until his breaths come slow and even, and once they do, I close my eyes and finally let myself drift off to sleep.

SIMON

I wake with a start, and with my old wand at the forefront of my mind. It's still early but I can't get back to sleep, I'm still pissed off with the latest piece of information Baz expounded last night, I'm still trying to get my head around it. Every time I think I've come up with a way forward, Baz counters it with some bloody reason why my new plan won't work, or some magickal principle or rule or governance fucking by-law that I have no clue about.

Things are very different now that I'm with Baz; In the old days I would have charged headlong into battle and simply hoped for the best. Of course that's when I was off fighting dark creatures or trying to solve some mystery or on a mission to save the school or the realm or some shit, not just trying to save my own arse. And Penny was usually there to help me if things didn't go to plan, which was often. Come to think of it, things hardly ever went to plan– we usually escaped near death by the seat of our pants.

Maybe that's my problem. The realm isn't in danger anymore, and there aren't any dark creatures trying to kill us or kidnap us or tear out our hearts to use in some evil initiation ritual or dark coming-of-age ceremony. It's just me that's in trouble this time. And I'm not really in trouble, (Apart from the odd goblin that's still trying to take me down.) I'm just banished. (Which is still kind of in trouble, just not die-a-painful-death-in-a-ball-of-fire kind of trouble.)

Maybe Penny's dad and Penny and Baz have been right all along. Maybe the holes are going to take time to close and nothing I do, magickal or otherwise, will change that.

And maybe I've been so desperate to get home that I've talked myself into believing that I could do something about it – that I need to do something about it.

And maybe, just maybe, I really did believe all that bollocks about being the Chosen One, and I haven't completely let go of that idea, even after all these years.

I always told myself that I didn't buy into the whole prophecy rubbish but haven't I been acting exactly as a chosen one would? Trying to save the day even though I don't have anywhere near the magic I had back then?

The more I think about it the more I think Baz is right; that it's not up to me to close the holes, that I won't be able to do anything to fix this by myself, that I'm going to have to sit back and let everyone else do it, peacefully and legally, like they have been doing all along, with no one flying off and doing anything life threatening or dangerous.

I reckon all those years in therapy have taught me a fair bit of introspection. It kind of sucks being this self-aware.

It must be early because it's still dark outside. I watch Baz for a while, he's so still when he sleeps he looks like a statue. He reminds me of those statues we saw at the art galleries in Florence, grey marble perfection that look like they could come to life any moment. Except Baz is alive, I can see his chest rise and fall steadily and hear his shallow breaths. His heart might beat slower than most but it still beats.

He's sleeping soundly so I'm careful not to wake him when I eventually climb out of bed. I pad quietly to the bathroom to brush my teeth and take a piss, and when I come out I glance over at Baz again. He's still fast asleep so I shuffle out of our room and down stairs to the kitchen.

I yawn and hassle my messy hair as I turn on the espresso machine. My hair's gotten pretty long and it's a bit of a mess so I give up trying to tame it and stare out of the window while the coffee machine warms up. I think about getting a haircut. I should probably do it before Baz leaves so he can explain to the hairdresser what I want. My French is so shit I'd probably end up looking like Penny.

The sun is coming up but the sky is still dark but it looks like it's going to be another grey, cloudy day. I think we might head out for a bit, give Baz another chance to wash these pyjama bottoms I've taken to living in lately.

I down a shot of coffee while I stand at the sink and stare outside. I rinse the cup and decide that today I'm going to make my first ever Shepherd's Pie. I've had enough soul searching for one morning and I think I've finally resigned myself to the fact that there's nothing I can do about the holes. I need to put my faith in Baz and Professor Bunce and Dr Wellbelove and Baz's family and everyone else to sort it out.

It's like a release in a way, to let go of all that responsibility. I can't decide if I feel lighter or empty because of it but as I exhale a long, slow breath, I feel the last remnants of the self-induced obligation I've been carrying around disappear for good. The window in front of me fogs momentarily, and then it clears and I see a hint of blue sky in the distance.

I decide to keep busy, and I decide that cooking is a good way of doing that. It also has the added bonus of feeding us so it's kind of a win-win. I made a Shepherd's Pie with Daphne before she left and it wasn't that difficult, just a bunch of steps. I get the ingredients from the fridge and larder and start preparing, whistling to my self as I go.

BAZ

"Morning love." I press my lips to Simon's hair as I wrap my arms around his waist, soaking in his warmth. I kiss his cheek and he gives me a beautiful smile in return. I kiss the three little moles on his right cheek next, the ones that I've been obsessed with since I was twelve, and I want to kiss the two on his neck next, right below his left ear but can't reach from this angle. I settle for his earlobe instead. I give it a little nibble. "What are you making?"

Simon's working frantically in the kitchen, with various pots and fry pans on the hob and the smell of all sorts of wonderful things cooking. He seems more relaxed this morning so I wonder if he's given up on his latest idea. I can only hope.

"Shepherd's Pie."

"For breakfast?"

"For tonight," he clarifies, frowning in concentration and smiling like he's trying not to. It's so fucking adorable that I think about the logistics of having him right here in the kitchen. "Bacon and eggs for breakfast. Can you get the toast started?"

There are probably too many obstacles in the way to make that a reality, (not to mention the extremely hot pans on the hob) so I let the thought go for now.

"All right." I reluctantly let him go and drop a few pieces of sourdough into the toaster. I grab a two plates and some cutlery from the drawers and set the table.

"Can you make a pot of tea?" he asks without turning from the hob.

"Okay."

"Want beans?"

"Sure."

"And mushrooms?"

"All right."

"Tomatoes?

"Yes."

"Sausages."

"Mmhm."

"How about baby spinach."

"Sounds good."

"And kippers?"

"Crowley Simon, don't you think that's enough?"

He turns and gives me a distracted look. "Oh, yeah, maybe skip the kippers," he shrugs and returns to his cooking. He doesn't say anything more until he's finished making breakfast and is serving up two extremely full plates. I pour the tea.

"I thought I might get a haircut today," he says as he starts shovelling food into his mouth. I take a moment to watch the destruction.

"All right." I sip my tea.

"And maybe join that gym down the road. Seeing as it's too cold to run or fly." He's demolished a couple of eggs already and starts on his sausages next.

"Good idea. What else do you want to do?" I take a bite of the eggs. They're perfectly cooked as usual.

"Nothin' much. Thought I might draw something," he shrugs and annihilates a couple of rashers of bacon in one enormous mouthful. "You?" It comes out muffled.

I smile at the question. I'm still thinking about having him right here in the kitchen but I try to shake the thought from my mind. I'll save that thought for later otherwise I'll end up blurting out "I want to shag you right here in Daphne's kitchen while you make Shepherd's Pie." Crowley I'm disturbed.

I like the thought of Simon drawing again. He's always so focused when he does so it should keep his mind off the dead spots, and it will give me some time to go over some of my proposed changes to Coven laws that Professor Bunce made comment on.

"I have some papers to review. Professor Bunce sent annotations."

Simon has taken up cooking with a vengeance lately, probably to make up for the lack of everything else in his life. For as long as I've been with him he's always kept himself busy, apart from those first few months after everything happened when he spent a lot of time staring at nothing in the distance. Since then though, he's either been studying or working or cooking or flying or running or drawing or all of those things. But with not being able to work, no longer studying and it being too cold to fly he's left with cooking and drawing. Joining the gym sounds like an excellent idea.

These new hobbies are not bad trade considering the alternative. I've had enough of breaking magickal laws and covert operations to try and save the realm for one Christmas.

Chapter Text

BAZ

"Crowley Simon, we don't even know if the wand the Mage gave you is dark," I say for what feels like the hundredth time today as I turn to face him. "It's just a theory you came up with. There's no proof."

Simon is not deterred. "But it must be dark Baz. Think about it, the Mage gave it to me and it never worked properly."

I sigh and shake my head. We've been at this for a while now.

"Look love. I think it's a very interesting theory." I try to make my words sound reassuring but it's not exactly my nature. "But it's just that. A theory." I brush his cheek with my thumb in an effort to convey the words not said – I love you but you're being particularly stubborn today.

He juts out his chin in a show of defiance. "It's the best we've got Baz."

I drop my hand and give him a non-committal shrug. Even though I agree with Simon's assessment, there is absolutely no way I'm going to encourage this line of thought. It may be the best theory we have at the moment, but there's nothing we can do to test it without breaking an entirely new set of Coven laws and there's no way I'm going there again. I don't think my cold dead heart could take another one of Simon's death-defying stunts.

I thought he'd given up on the whole dark wand theory a few days ago, after he found out about he Coven by-laws, but he brought it up again this morning when I started packing. The Coven is meeting in a few days and I need to be in London. I'm leaving tomorrow and I need Simon to stop thinking about this before I leave, before he decides to do something stupid.

He's had a haircut, joined the local gym, and we've been to the supermarket and stocked up on enough butter and brioche buns to keep him well fed while I'm gone. I even made another batch of sour cherry scones this morning to appease him. I don't know why I thought that would work, he's as hard-headed as they come. I should have realised he wouldn't let this go so easily.

"And Fiona's whole premise that the holes were caused by dark magic because the Mage performed some sort of dark magic to give you that power, is just another crackpot theory of hers. It's not proven either." I stand by my reasoning, I can be just as stubborn as him.

"But it makes sense!"

"No it doesn't. Not really." I'm not going to encourage him.

"But we already know that the Mage gave me that power when he wanted to bring forth the Chosen One."

"I know that, love."

"So it makes sense that when I drew on the magickal atmosphere, the holes were made by dark magic."

"No it doesn't," I maintain. "One does not preclude the other."

"Lawyer speak," he growls.

I try to hold back a smile. "Logical speak. Look, Simon." I take his hands in mine and wait until he looks at me before I continue. "I'm leaving tomorrow and I need to make sure you don't go off and do something stupid, or reckless, or stupidly reckless. Or dangerous."

"I won't Baz."

"Promise me."

"Promise you what?"

"Promise me that you won't try to fix this on your own. Promise me you will not, under any circumstances, fly back to the UK and try to enter the Coven meeting or any other place. You will not go to our flat to seek out your old wand, and you will not . . ." I stop and consider all the possible scenarios Simon could get himself into. It takes me a moment because my mind provides an exhausting list. "You will not engage in any illegal activity under your banishment rules, whatsoever. You will not leave Paris at all."

He scrunches up his face and I can see his mind working, searching for a loophole or anything I've left out.

"And you will not," I go on, "cast any spell, curse, hex or charm or anything else to try to end your banishment in any way, shape or form."

He narrows his eyes at me.

"And you will not engage any other person or persons, magickal or otherwise, to help you or act on your behalf with regards to your banishment and/or your old wand and the Coven–"

"All right, all right. I get it!" he huffs, throwing himself back onto our bed. He rubs his palms into his eyes.

"Promise?"

He stops rubbing his eyes and looks at me. "You want to do it with magic?" He reaches for his wand, about to get up but I put my hand up to stop him.

"That won't be necessary. Just promise me."

"Yes Baz I promise," he huffs again, throwing his wand back on the bedside table.

"Good." I reach down for a quick kiss before going back to my packing. I magic my clothes into my suitcase and then disappear into the en-suite to pack my shower and hair products and shaving kit. I wander out with my bag only half full, deciding to leave most of it here for Simon because still refuses to buy his own. (And it will save him smelling like cheap supermarket soap.)

"And while we're at it, you will not, under any circumstances, go to that nightclub we went to on New Year's Eve without me."

He pushes himself up on his elbows and blinks at me. "What?"

"I saw the way those men were looking at you. You're too adorable Simon, and these French are not averse to propositioning a perfect stranger, or a married man, even an Englishman."

"Well not everyone's happy to wait seven years like you," he mumbles under his breath. I hear him perfectly but let the lame joke slide. "And anyway, they were looking at you Baz. Not me."

"Well yes, of course they were," I shrug because it's true, they were looking at me. "But they were also looking at you. You're criminally good looking you know." I drag my eyes along the length of him and back up to his face, where I let my eyes linger.

"Yeah right," he snorts, shaking his head but I continue to stare at him, waiting for his answer. I know it's pathetic and childish to be so covetous but I can't help it. I'm madly in love with Simon and I'll fight anyone to the death to keep him.

He opens his eyes and catches me watching him, and he must see the earnestness in my face because he pushes himself off the bed and shuffles towards me. He wraps his arms around my waist and brings me in close. His tail wraps around my waist.

"Okay," he shrugs, kissing the end of my nose. "I promise I will not go to that or any other nightclub without you Baz."

"Good," I whisper. "Because you're mine."

"I am," he agrees, and his words makes me feel both invincible and weak at the knees all at once.

I kiss him. It's a slow, tender kiss that he responds to immediately. And as we kiss in the middle of our bedroom I revel in the taste of him and the feel of him, his strong arms around me, his tail around my waist, his broad frame pressed against mine, his soft, warm lips against my own.

When I finally pull away Simon's cheeks are flushed and his eyes are bright and beautiful.

"I have to finish packing," I say. It comes out breathless.

"Okay." So does his response.

His tail unfurls from my waist and he sits back on the bed with his back against the headboard, watching me. I reluctantly turn away.

I love moments like these; quiet, tranquil moments where it's just us, together with our thoughts and each other. Uninterrupted moments where I can dedicate myself fully to him, give myself to him completely, where I'm bold enough to say things like that, like you're mine. That's exactly how I feel about Simon, how I've always felt about him. He's always been mine, even when he didn't know it and I thought I had no hope of him ever realising it.

And I'm his too– completely and utterly his. I would do anything for him, be anything he wants me to be, cross any line for him. I'm so in love with him, even more than yesterday, or the month before, or the year before that. Sometimes I wonder if he knows how completely in his thrall I am.

I take a few more items out of the wardrobe and I turn to find Simon pulling out my blue pyjamas from my suitcase He's wearing my red and gold pyjama bottoms again. (I managed to steal them from him a few times to wash them but he's become quite attached to them.) I shrug when he throws the blue ones onto the sofa, at least this way he can alternate.

I close my suitcase and leave it by the door. When I turn around I find Simon standing behind me. He shouldn't be able to sneak up on me like that but I must have been distracted.

"You have to promise me something as well Baz." I can tell he's being serious by the tone of his voice.

"Anything love."

He steps closer and takes my hands in his. His hands are smooth and soft and warm as he gently squeezes. I squeeze back.

He watches me for a moment. "Promise me you'll re-enrol to finish your studies when you get back to London. Don't delay it again."

"But you're not home yet–"

"It doesn't matter. I want you to finish your lawyer bar thingo."

I huff out a laugh. One day he'll actually learn the name of what I'm doing, but I decide that's not important right now. "I will finish it," I tell him. "Another six months won't matter."

"It matters to me," he insists, squeezing my hands again. "I want you to sort it out as soon as you get back."

I know I could do it. I have the time now that I've finished reviewing and updating every fucking magickal law in existence. They're all ready for approval, for whenever Professor Bunce arranges to present them to the Coven, whenever the Coven no longer has members that want to keep my husband away.

But I don't know if I want to do it. For the last six months the only thing that's held my concentration is bringing Simon home. I've been immersed so far in the magickal realm and in magickal law lately that I haven't given Normal law a moment's thought. I don't even know if I would be able to focus on it while Simon is still banished. I've always studied with Simon in our room, by my side, ever since we were eleven, even when we were pretending to be enemies.

I think again about what he asked me to promise; to re-enrol when I get back to London. I can at least do that. I watch him for a moment before giving him the answer I know he wants. And I wonder, fleetingly, how upset he will be with me when he works it out. I decide to take the chance regardless.

"All right. I promise to enrol as soon as I return to London," I agree and he beams happily back at me. Crowley he really is the most selfless person in existence if this is all it takes to makes him happy. I really am the luckiest man in the realm.

"Good," he nods, and he plants a quick kiss on my lips before dragging me out of our room. "Now let's eat. All this packing and promising is making me hungry."

I smile idiotically and let him lead me down the stairs into the kitchen.

SIMON

Baz made me promise not to do anything while he's back in London. And I won't, because there's nothing to do. It's driving me mental but I can't come up with one decent plan that will get the wand snapped by the Coven without me being locked in the fucking tower.

And he's right too, in a way. We don't even know if snapping that wand will have any effect at all. It is just a theory, one that I came up with after listening to a very drunk Fiona ramble on one night, so it could all be complete bollocks. I hate it that he's so fucking smart all the time, but I guess I should be glad too, otherwise I would definitely be in deep shit right about now. (Deeper than I already am, anyway.)

So that means I'm stuck here, doing nothing until this all gets sorted by our friends and family and by Baz, who really has been instrumental in running this whole shebang.

At least he promises to go back to his studies. He's already wasted six months on me and I won't have him wasting any more of his time. He's going to be a brilliant barrister one day and I want the world to know it.

Baz has an early flight so I make a quick dinner and then clean up with magic so we can spend the rest of our time together. I've taken to drawing him again, mainly because there's nothing else to fucking do, but also because I love drawing him. I get out my charcoals and sketch pad and make myself comfortable next to him on Daphne's plush modular sofa. He's reading through some of Professor Bunce's notes on outdated Coven rules again, scribbling notes in the margins and humming to himself as he goes.

We sit for an hour without speaking, just quietly going about our business before I drop my sketchbook on the coffee table and stretch a long, slow stretch. Baz looks up at me.

"Finished?"

"Yes." I turn the sketchbook in his direction so he can take a look. He smiles when he sees it. "What about you?"

"Almost," he says, and I wait a little longer for him to close his books. When he's done he places them carefully on his lap.

"So," I say, raising my eyebrows in question . "Can I interest you in a dance?" I figure I owe him one, or a hundred for all the shit he's done for me. And for all the sour cherry