Baz and I head to our room in Mummers House once we’ve gotten our sandwiches from Cook Pritchard.
Well, I got sandwiches. Baz said that he wasn’t hungry, that he had dinner before the ceremony. And also that he fed before the ball, which would explain why I could see him blush—just a bit—when I asked if we could come up here.
Thing is, there were too many people at that ball. I came here for Baz, not everyone else. And I wanted to be alone with him, just the two of us. (I think I’ve started understanding what Penelope means when she says it exhausts her to be around too many people. These last months, I’ve really only wanted to be around her and Baz.)
Anyway, we walk to Mummers House in silence. (I’ve found it’s easy to be comfortably silent with Baz these last months, too.) I take his hand because I want to, lacing our fingers together gently. Holding hands with Baz is one of my favourite things. It feels like home.
It’s true what I said, earlier. That I don’t care about doing gay stuff in public. I want to. And I don’t want Baz feeling like he has to hide anything.
I have to let go of his hand when we get to the stairs inside Mummers House. I let Baz go first, partly so I don’t accidentally trip him with my tail, and partly because I get to watch him this way. The way the fabric of his suit shifts across his body as he moves. His body in general.
I don’t have to give our room any blood to get in. Baz is here, so the door opens for him, and he holds it open for me. I hesitate, just for a second, and then I step over the threshold.
The room’s the same, somehow, but different, too. Or maybe it’s not the room that’s different; maybe it’s just Baz and me. Or just me.
I’ve not been here since the day that...well. The day all the shit hit the fucking fan. We came up here, afterwards, and…
I can’t remember much of it, honestly. My therapist says maybe I’ve blocked it out, that it’s too painful. I know there was tea, a lot of it, and that we slept, Penelope, Baz, and me. I know I felt like the world was going to drop out from under me if I let go of Baz. So I didn’t. I just held onto him, because I had to know that something was real. I had to know that everything that happened between us was real, because everything else seemed like a dream.
And, well. I don’t know. Maybe I thought that I wouldn’t be able to hold onto him for much longer, not without my magic. Not as a Normal.
Anyway, the place looks almost exactly the same. Even my bed’s still unmade, just the way I left it.
I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel.
It doesn’t hurt as much as I thought it might, being here. I suppose that’s good. My therapist would probably say I’m processing my trauma. Or something.
I’m not sure where to set the paper bag with my sandwiches.
You’d think I would; I mean, I did live here for nearly eight years. But Baz and I never ate together in here. Not that Baz is going to eat now, but.
I wonder if he really isn’t hungry, or if he’s just saying so because he doesn’t want me seeing his fangs.
“Hm?” When I look up, Baz is stood in the space between our beds.
He raises an eyebrow at me. “You were so keen on those sandwiches. It’s a miracle they’ve lasted this long.”
“Oh.” I shrug. My paper bag crinkles. “Dunno where to sit I guess.”
Baz sits on the floor, right between our beds.
I huff a laugh. “Right,” I say, and I sit with him, just like I did in his bedroom at Christmas. The bedroom he can never go home to. I try not to think about that.
I open my bag. “Y’sure you don’t want one? S’been a long day. You’ve got to be hungry.”
Baz lets out a long sigh. “Fine, then. Give us a sandwich.”
I smile at him and his eyes go soft. Baz really is soft, when he isn’t holding his walls up against the world. I like him this way. It’s so much better than fighting.
I take a bite of my sandwich. It’s ham and cheese, one of my favourites. (It’s hard to pick a favourite sandwich, anyway.) (I wonder what Baz’s favourite is.)
He takes a bite, too, covering his mouth as he does. He’s not looking at me.
“Hey,” I say around my mouthful of food. (A bit of chewed-up bread goes flying, and I hope he doesn’t notice.)
Baz looks up but doesn’t drop his hand.
I reach out and take his hand. Move it away from his face. Much better.
“Y’don’t have to do that.”
“Old habits,” Baz says, eyes narrowed. “Close your mouth.”
I roll my eyes.
Then I close my mouth.
It’s true what I said, about old habits.
Because what I told my mother earlier was true, too. I’m alright. And I’m going to carry on as I am.
Which doesn’t mean I’m completely used to eating in front of people. Not even Simon.
He’s decimated two whole sandwiches before I’ve even finished my first. There’s a third in the bag, and he’s fidgeting with the paper, crinkling it.
I swallow my last bite. “You can have it,” I say.
His face lights up. He’s like a child on Christmas morning. (Well. Any Christmas morning besides the last.)
He pulls the sandwich out, goes to take a bite, then drops his hand. His brow furrows like he’s thinking about something—which looks like it hurts, honestly—and then he tears the sandwich and offers me half, crumbs falling to the carpet in between us.
I take it, finger imprints and all.
He grins at me. “How’d your speech go?” he asks, shoving his sandwich into his gaping maw. Crowley, he’s like a bottomless pit.
“Well enough,” I say, my words slurring around my fangs. “Nothing exciting. You don’t want to hear about it.” I bite into my sandwich, as if that’ll make him drop the subject. Of course it doesn’t.
“Sure I do,” Simon says. It’s muffled by all the bread and cheese and ham he’s stuffed into his mouth. I’m disgusted with myself for not finding him more disgusting. He’s giving me a look—a disgustingly endearing one—like he’s not going to let me get away with not talking about it.
I swallow before I answer him. I’m not a barbarian. “It was my mother’s,” I say. “Some of it, anyway. I read from her speech, the one she gave at her leaving ceremony.” I need to tread lightly here, so I gloss over how much she talked about magic. The gift. The responsibility. Even though Simon Snow is the epitome of both of those things. He saved our world. He gave us our future. It’s still so bloody difficult to knock that into his thick head—to make him believe it—most of the time. That moment on the dance floor was a bit of a breakthrough, honestly. I don’t need to send him backpedaling now.
He laughs when I tell him about how my mother said she’d miss the sour cherry scones, then he pulls one out of his paper bag and shoves it in his mouth for emphasis, mumbling something about butter around his crumbs.
“I went to see her, afterward,” I say. “To read her the speech.” I sigh. “I know she couldn’t actually hear, but—”
“‘Course she could,” Simon says, wiping his mouth roughly with the back of his hand. His naiveté is endearing, annoyingly so, and I wish he were right. Of course I do. But .
“She could, Baz. I know she could.” He shifts to his knees and sits back on his heels. “She’s proud of you.”
I hate how hopeful that makes me feel.
“Don’t argue,” Simon says. “Just. C’mere.”
“Here.” Then he’s shuffling towards me on his knees, pressing all his scattered crumbs into the carpet and Dr Wellbelove’s trousers.
I almost think he’s about to start snogging me. I wouldn’t argue with that , even if I haven’t finished my sandwich yet.
He takes my face in his hands, gently, before smoothing his palms along my shoulders. Then he bends and presses a lingering kiss into my temple. He smells like hair product and ham and cheese.
“That’s from your mum,” he whispers when he pulls back. “She asked me to give it to you.”
I think Baz nearly cried after I told him about his mum, but then he ended up snogging me on the floor instead. (I wouldn’t have minded if he’d cried, but I didn’t mind the snogging, either.)
It’s been good, being alone with him tonight, just the two of us. So good.
Baz visited me at the Bunces’ at the weekend when he could during the term, but we never really had time to ourselves. We haven’t been alone— truly alone—since Christmas. And now that we are, I’m a little nervous.
I’ve thought about being alone with Baz more times than I can count by now. Really and truly thought about it. It’s something I want, but also I’m terrified. Terrified of mucking it up. Terrified of being bad at it. Terrified of not being bad at it. I’ve tried not to think about how terrified I am, but it hasn’t really worked, and also my therapist says I really should think about the things I don’t want to think about, because you can’t move on otherwise. Or something.
She also said not to do anything I wasn’t ready to do.
I don’t know. I mean, I want to. And Baz says he chooses me, so. That’s a relief. I just…
I want to feel good. And I want Baz to feel good, too. The truth is…
Well, the truth is that I’m in love with him, isn’t it?
That is terrifying.
I’m not ready to tell him yet. I mean, I want him to know. He needs to know that he’s loved. That I love him. But I’m still not ready. Not yet.
I'm not sure if that means we shouldn't have sex yet, but I'm trying not to think about that too much either.
I just want to be close to him, I think. I think it's always been that.
We’re done snogging now. We were both out of breath when we stopped, and Baz practically jumped up to get a drink of water from our bathroom. I ended up finishing the rest of his sandwich while he was gone. Then I got a drink, too, and splashed some water on my face. My cheeks were flushed when I looked at myself in the mirror.
Baz is stood at the window when I come out of the bathroom, looking out at something. I don’t know what. Maybe he doesn’t, either.
He’s lovely, in any case, with the moonlight shining on his skin the way it is. Merlin, I never felt like I wanted Agatha like this. I feel like I’m being pulled towards him, almost like that very first day. The day the Crucible cast us together. The Crucible gave me you, he said, earlier. Sounded like a load of tosh at the time, but now I’m thinking maybe that’s sort of romantic. Or something.
"Baz?" I say.
He turns his head and the light from the window catches in his hair. "Yeah?"
I swallow. "Would it. I mean. D'you."
Baz raises an eyebrow at me, the wanker.
I run a hand through my hair. (It feels weird , slicked back the way it is.) I can tell my tail's thrashing, but it's still invisible so I don't think Baz knows. He's stood too far away to get hit with it.
"Would it be alright if I stayed? The night, I mean. Just."
Baz walks over to me, and my tail knocks into him. (Not too hard.) He takes it and lets me coil it around his forearm, then he leans in and kisses me at the corner of my mouth.
I'll take that as a yes, then.
Simon disappears into our bathroom to change after I hand him a pair of my pyjamas.
We’ve still never dressed—or undressed—in front of each other.
Is he going to sleep in his bed? Am I?
We’ve never slept in a bed together, either.
I suppose we could have, when he stayed at mine over Christmas, but I think we both silently agreed that it was too intimate. Too tentative. Not yet.
So Snow slept on my couch that first night. And I slept on it with him the second. And the third…Crowley, the third . Neither of us slept much at all that night, did we?
I didn't expect him to want to stay tonight. I didn't expect him to show up at all, much less ask to see our room. It's painful for him here, it has to be.
Which is why I didn't know what to say when he asked if he could stay. (Not that he had to ask at all.)
I think we were headed towards something as we were kissing just a while ago. Something new. Something terrifying and delightful, all at once. The something that was the reason we didn’t sleep together in my bed over Christmas. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking on my part, but I don’t think so. Not with the noises he was making as he kissed me, or the way he loosened my tie. Not with the way he tugged at my hair, or the way he trailed wet, open-mouthed kisses along my throat. He has to know what that was doing to me. All of it. I’m the fire magician, and yet Simon Snow never ceases to set my nerves alight with his hands. His lips. His tongue. With every sound that comes out of his mouth.
Simon Snow sets me alight, full stop.
I’ve not told him that I love him, not yet. I wonder if he knows. I don’t know that he does. (Is it possible for him to be that thick? Probably.) And I don’t know if Bunce told him about how I cast On love’s light wings to get to him that night in the Chapel. I’ve been too afraid to ask. Because I’m weak.
It’s hard for us to talk, like I said. Tonight’s the most we’ve talked—really talked—in months. Telling him I love him, actually saying those words…
I don’t want to scare him away. And I don’t want to add to the heaping pile of problems he has to sort out. I’ve tried showing him, instead, pouring everything I have into being here for him. Pouring everything I have into my kisses, too.
There's a noise from the bathroom, like all my products have just been knocked from the counter and onto the floor. And also a muttered shit. I smile, just a bit. Snow was already clumsy enough without that blasted tail; it's a wonder he can function with it at all.
I snap the clasp of my watch undone and set it on my bedside table. (It takes a few tries; my hands are shaking.) "Alright in there Snow?" I call. I'm sure he can hear the hint of amusement in my voice. Probably the hint of nerves, too.
There's a growl from the other side of the door, a playful one.
I smile as I slip my jacket off and hang it in my wardrobe—along with my already-loosened tie—then I figure I might as well help Simon with the mess he's made.
He opens our bathroom door before I have the chance to knock.
He's folded all the pieces of his suit over his forearm like he's not sure what to do with them. (I suppose he probably isn't.) He's staring at me, and he swallows that showy fucking swallow that always makes me want to bite his Adam's apple.
I guess Baz started undressing while I was in the bathroom, because he's stood there without his jacket and I guess I didn't realize how good a bloke could look in just his waistcoat and shirtsleeves. How good Baz could look.
I shouldn't be surprised anymore, really, about the things just looking at Baz does to me. But.
"Hey," I say, which is stupid.
He raises an eyebrow at me. "Hey yourself, Snow."
“Did you let Bunce know you’re staying?” Thank magic Baz knows what to say right now, because I sure as fuck don’t.
“Yeah. Texted her.” I got myself a mobile earlier this year, mostly so I could talk to Baz while he was at school. (Professor Bunce lifted the mobile ban at Watford as soon as she was appointed headmistress. I thanked her for that myself, actually, but she just said it was a stupid rule anyway.)
He steps towards me. “Here, Snow; let’s hang this up.”
Baz helps me properly hang Dr Wellbelove’s suit in my old wardrobe. (I know Dr Wellbelove could just magick the wrinkles out, but I still want to give it back looking like I took care of it. Nice of him, to lend me a suit to wear to Baz’s leavers ball. A bit awkward, too.)
Then Baz gets another pair of his fancy pyjamas from his wardrobe and locks himself in the bathroom to change.
I'm wearing some of his pyjamas, too. They're soft and they smell like him, like cedar and bergamot. Like our room. Home. I just hope my wings don't come undone and rip them. (They're still folded neatly against my back, just the way Penny spelled them for me earlier.) (I tucked the waistband beneath my tail, and it probably looks naff, if I'm honest, but it's better than shoving the damn thing down my trouser leg.)
I pace around our room while Baz gets ready for bed.
I'm not really sure what to do now.
Probably waiting for him in his bed would be too forward. Also I shouldn't make assumptions. Maybe he expects me to be in my bed when he comes out of the bathroom, and then we'll say goodnight and turn off the lamp and that'll be that.
I don't want that to happen.
Also I don't want to sleep in my old bed.
What if the sheets smell like it, like my magic? I can't smell magic, not since I lost mine, but I don't really want to take the chance. At least if we sleep in Baz's bed it'll smell like something familiar, something comforting. Like cedar and bergamot.
I jump when the bathroom door opens.
Baz crosses the room in a few easy strides—his legs are so bloody long —and starts hanging his suit in his wardrobe.
I'm not sure how to ask him if I can sleep in his bed.
"Where do you want to sleep, Snow?"
"Um. Can we…?"
He closes his wardrobe and turns around, sees me shrugging at his bed.
"Alright," he says, then he walks around to the other side.
I’m not sure how to do this, how to just get in his bed.
Baz turns down the covers. “Come on, Snow,” he says, and he gets into bed like it’s just another normal night. Well, not Normal, but.
“Right,” I say, and I crawl in beside him.
It’s not a big bed.
It seemed a lot bigger, when I was eleven, when the only beds I had to compare it to were the ones in care. My bed here at Watford stayed the same as I grew, but it was still just right for me.
I think about Trixie and Keris pushing Trixie and Penny’s beds together, back when Penny slept up here with me. Back when Baz was missing. I can see the appeal now, even if I do love Baz and want to be close. We’re shoulder-to-shoulder, on our backs. He’s cool, which is good, honestly; if he were warm like a regular person I’d probably be burning up already. We both have our hands clasped on top of the blankets. My tail keeps sliding to the floor, so I coil it around my ankle to keep it in place. I’m looking at the ceiling, so I assume he is, too.
We’re quiet for a few minutes, so quiet I wonder if he can hear my heart hammering in my chest.
“Baz?” I whisper.
“Yeah?” he whispers back.
I roll on my side to face him. His head turns languidly until he’s looking at me. Fuck , he’s so lovely.
My lips quirk up; I can’t help it. Then my eyes slip closed, and I lean in, and I kiss him.