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It's the thing they don't tell you

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Simon

Graduation is so close I can almost taste it. It’s been three long, painful years of homework assignments, tutorials, and late nights spent wanting to throw my textbooks at the wall of my flat. If it weren’t for Penny and her everlasting patience and her excellent tutoring skills, I’d have flunked out of Watford University after my first term. Now I only have one more. One more term. That’s all that’s standing between me and my degree. All that’s standing between me and my future. This is everything I’ve worked so hard for, everything I set my mind to. It’s uncertain, but it’s so real I can almost reach out and touch it, almost reach out and grab it between my fingers, if I just—

“Mr. Snow?” A voice calls. It’s breaks me out of my train of thought, and I realize I’ve been muttering to myself in the middle of a lecture. Looking up, I see everyone’s eyes have settled on me, mostly bored faces and raised eyebrows, and I feel my face heat under their collective gaze. 

“Sorry,” I mutter, sinking lower in my chair. My professor nods once, a concise movement, and dives seamlessly back into whatever it was he was going on about before I decided to act like a fucking lunatic in the middle of his class.

“I haven’t the slightest idea how it is that you’ve made it this far,” someone whispers from behind me. “I don’t think I’ve seen you take a single note since you started here.”

I turn sharply to find none other than Basilton Grimm-Pitch smirking viciously in the seat behind me. Why did it have to be him? Why does it always have to be him?  

“It’s only the first week, it’s nothing important yet,” I tell him. 

“How would you even know? You aren’t listening,” he says. 

“Is there something you actually need, or are you just being a prat?” I snap, and he raises an eyebrow. 

“I need only for you to keep the babbling to a minimum this time, Snow. Some of us are actually trying to learn,” 

“Come off it, Baz,” I sigh, before turning back around in my seat. I can practically feel the daggers he’s glaring into the back of my head, but I refuse to give him the satisfaction of turning around again. 

I’ve shared at least one class with Baz Pitch every term at Watford, unfortunately for the both of us. I don’t know what I ever did to make him hate me, but it got so bad last term that just before Christmas we ended up in a full blown brawl on the football pitch. The lads had to dive in and break it up, but I’m pretty sure I broke his nose, and it wasn’t like he didn’t deserve it. Funny enough, I don’t even remember what we were fighting about, but I do know that everytime he opens his mouth I want to knock his teeth out. He’s such a pompous twat, walking around campus with his perfect hair and his well tailored trousers and his richly colored jumpers. Must be nice to come from family money. Must be nice to not have a single care in the world, skating through life like you own it. Like every person owes you something just for existing. Well I don’t owe Baz Pitch fucking anything, and I’ll make sure he knows it. 

Our professor releases us about ten minutes later, and as usual I’m practically out the door before he’s even finished talking. This class ends at three, and I have to be in town by three-thirty to meet Penny at the bookstore we’re both employed at. It’s a cozy place, with not a ton of traffic, but it’s home and it has been for the last three years. Ebb hired us our first year at Watford, and it’s basically the perfect student job. She lets us study while we work as long as everything gets done before we leave, and sometimes she’ll even let Penny throw open mic nights where other students can gather to share the stuff they’ve been working on. It’s really great. 

My shoes are wet with rain by the time I reach the shop, and Penny’s already inside when I come sweeping through the door. 

“Oi, don’t get water on the books, Simon,” Ebb scolds. “Where’s your umbrella?” 

“Didn’t have it with me,” I reply sheepishly. Ebb and Penny are always getting on me about not wearing a rain jacket or carrying an umbrella, and they’re both shocked that I’ve managed to survive in London for this long without either one. Ebb frowns at me and complains when I hang my wet coat on the rack by the door, but I just shrug my shoulders and walk further into the comfortable heat of the store. 

“Here, I brought you coffee,” Penny says, handing me a cup. 

“Thanks,” I smile at her as I accept it. She just nods, directing her attention back to Ebb. 

“Simon, I was just telling Penny that a new shipment of YA books just arrived, so if you two could have those sorted before you close up, that would be wonderful,” she smiles. 

“Of course, no problem,” I nod, and her smile grows. 

“Okay, I’ll be off then,” she says and turns to leave. “See you tomorrow!” she calls, and shuts the door softly behind her. Penny and I sit quietly for a few minutes in companionable silence before she breaks into a grin. It’s devious. 

“What?” I frown at her. 

“I brought you coffee which means you have to deal with the books,” 

“That’s not fair! I didn’t know we were going to have a shipment, otherwise I would have skipped class early to buy you coffee!” 

“We both know you wouldn’t have risked running into Baz or Agatha,” Penny smirks. “She was on register.” I try to suppress a groan but it finds its way up my throat anyway, and Penny shouts a laugh. “I knew it!” 

“That shop is literally my worst fucking nightmare,” I sigh. “My ex-girlfriend and my worst enemy working in a place that not only has great coffee, but also the best cherry scones on this side of London. It’s torture, Pen.” 

“I know Simon, you tell me everytime I bring it up,” she laughs. “Baz wasn’t there today, though!” 

“I know, he was in my Am Lit class being a fucking twat,” I groan and slump back against the dark wooden desk that houses the register. “Why can’t I ever seem to get away from him?” 

“You have another class with him? Christ Simon, it’s like you’re cursed.” Penny asks. 

“You’re telling me. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he’s following me.” 

“Did his nose look okay?” She grimaces. I can tell she’s trying not to laugh. 

“His nose looked fucking perfect, of course. He’s probably got world-class plastic surgeons at the ready for when he inevitably gets punched in the face for being a dick.” I say, and Penny bursts into laughter. I shortly follow suit, because her laugh is entirely contagious, until we’re both crying and trying to use the desk to keep ourselves from falling over. 

“I still cannot believe you two came to blows last term,” she says between giggles. “I always knew it would happen, but it was shocking nonetheless.” 

“He deserved it,” I reply. “He needed to be brought down a peg.” 

“I just don’t understand why he’s so awful towards you, Si. He’s never anything but polite, if not actually nice to me. And seeing him interact with Agatha is like watching daytime tv drama. You must have really done a number,” Penny says, shrugging and pulling another sip of her coffee. 

“I never did anything,” I shrug. “But the feeling is mutual, I guess.” 

“Do you think you guys could ever work it out? You know, be friends? It’d be nice to hang out with Agatha again.” Penny asks.

“You know you can hang out with Aggie whenever you want, Penny. Just because she’s my ex doesn’t mean she’s not still your friend.” 

“I know that, Simon, but please consider it?” 

“Why? Trying to have a friendship with him would probably end up in my death.”

“If you say so,” Penny sighs. 

 

We settle into our regular duties as Penny mans the register and I unpack the shipment. The book Ebb ordered is some cheesy new YA fiction about some half human-half dragon bloke, and it looks entirely too overdone for my taste. But it’ll sell, which in the end is really the goal. Ebb’s bookshop, E & N Petty’s Books and Wares, is old and has been owned by her family for generations. We get a wide range of customers from students to tourists, but also long time locals and friends who know us by name. I love this store, and I love Ebb as if she was my own mother, and in a way, she has kind of become that. She lives in a flat down the street, and Penny and I live above the shop because she doesn't want us walking alone through the city at night after we close up. She’s sweet, and her and her bookstore are some of the best things that have ever happened to me. 

The rain is pouring away outside, and on evenings when the thunder is cracking across the sky, we don’t often see too many customers come through. So when the bell rings above the door, I nearly drop the stack of books I’m bringing up for the display, startled by the sound. I’ve just rounded the corner from the back room, and as I look up I see Penny conversing brightly with a dark haired man, whose face is hidden behind the long strands. After a few more steps, I’ve been noticed, and as Penny turns to look at me, so does the customer. 

It’s Baz fucking Pitch. Again. 

“Hey,” I say, greeting Baz like I would any other chap from school. He looks alarmed, but the expression quickly fades back to it’s normal hardness. 

“Hi,” he says. It’s not sharp, it’s not biting, it’s just normal. It makes me uneasy. 

“What was it that you said you were looking for again?” Penny asks, drawing his attention back to her. “Simon can go look for it.” 

“There’s no need, just point me in the right direction and I’ll browse,” He smiles down at Penny, and I feel myself staring, confused as to why of all places, Baz is in our bookstore, and of all things, he’s being nice.

“Non-fiction is to the left upstairs,” Penny chirps, and he nods his thanks before brushing past me. He doesn’t say anything, but I can see a hint of a smile on his mouth as he passes. I’m stunned silent for a minute, before Penny snaps her fingers in my face. 

“Earth to Simon,” she says with her eyebrow raised. 

“Why is he here?” is all I manage to say back. 

“Because he’s an adult with the ability to comprehend written word?” she shrugs and turns her attention back to her book. “I think he said he needed something for class.” 

“There’s like five other bookstores in London,” I tell her, setting the stack of books down on the counter. “He’s here for a reason.”

“Not everything Baz does is solely to take a hit at you, Simon,” Penny sighs. “He probably didn’t even know we work here.”

“I don’t want him here,” I whisper. 

“Too bad, Simon. It’s a public place, he can do whatever he wants as long as he behaves. And he seemed like he was in a good mood, right? Didn’t say anything mean to you.” 

“I’m sure he wanted to,” I reply. “I’m gonna go talk to him.” 

She responds, but I’m not listening as I climb the spiral stairs to the second floor. Baz is easy to find, crouching behind a shelf three rows in.  I lean against the shelf, watching him. He doesn’t answer, instead choosing to continue moving his long, elegant fingers across the titles. In fact, he doesn’t even blink, as if he hadn't noticed me at all. 

“Baz,” I say, and he still doesn’t move. 

“You know, Snow, usually when people enter bookstores, they don’t wish to be berated by the employees,” he answers. 

“I’m not berating you,” I huff. “I’m asking why you’ve come into my shop of all places.” 

“Call it a stroke of bad luck,” he sighs, finally standing and turning towards me. “I didn’t know you worked here. It’s not like you and I often exchange conversation over tea.” 

He’s just standing there, so calm and collected, looking like a fucking work of art in his black trousers and cream sweater, and he’s mocking me. 

“Get out,” I mutter. He arches a single eyebrow, and crosses his arms. 

“Why would I leave? I haven’t done anything,” 

“Get your book and leave, Pitch. This is the one place I can escape you, and now you’ve gone and ruined it. Please do me a favor and find your books elsewhere from now on.” I tell him before dashing back down the stairs and into the office. I hear him say something, but I’m too far out of earshot when I close the door. I can feel the angry redness creep up my face. 

 

I wish Baz Pitch would get out of my life. 

 



Chapter Text

Baz

 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the warmest person. I don’t keep a close group of friends, and those I do have, know that I’m not affectionate, gentle, or kind. The simple fact is that I’m too busy with school, and with building a strong future for myself outside of the expectations my father has for me. I don’t have the time to maintain intensely personal relationships. With that being said, it was never my intention to make enemies. Especially not with Simon Snow. 

Why would anyone in their right mind want that? He’s quite literally the embodiment of sunshine. A golden, cinnamon speckled, messy, and semi-illiterate beacon of joy. It’s infuriating. Everything Simon Snow does is purely out of the kindness of his heart, and his acts of kindness are done without a second thought or single hesitation. He’s just a good person, and his light and laughter is sickeningly contagious. It hurts to be around him almost all of the time — which is exactly why I push him away.  

Unfortunately, and by no fault of my own, I’ve shared a class with him every term since first year, and sometimes even that’s too much exposure. He’s entirely too distracting — the way he pulls on his bronze curls or the way he absently chews on his pencils. I can’t focus on my work or get anything done because I’m too busy watching Snow behave like a fucking basket case. I asked my advisor to keep me out of classes with him under the guise of pure disgust, but she said that’s nearly impossible because we’re pursuing the same degree. So I grin and I bear it. 

 

With my lack of friendships, I tend to spend a lot of time in bookstores. But the one by Fiona’s flat is closed for renovations, and the one by mine is closed on Tuesdays. So, I’m left with my third choice, one I’ve only been to once, E & N Petty’s Books and Wares. It’s cute, charming in its history, and is nestled inconspicuously onto a quiet street corner across town. It’s pouring rain, so I grab my umbrella before I head out into the storm. The bookshop isn’t too far from my place, so I arrive fairly quickly despite the storm. The light from inside glistens softly against the wet pavement, and when I open the door, the whimsical sound of a bell rings out above me. 

At the desk, stands the familiar face of none other than Penelope Bunce, coffee shop regular and Simon Snow expert. She looks up, and visibly winces when she sees me. 

“Baz, hi. Welcome in,” she greets, her smile not nearly reaching her eyes. 

“Bunce,” I nod. 

“Anything I can help you find?” She asks kindly, her voice even, but she seems distracted by something happening in the back room. 

“Actually, yes, I need a book for class. It’s non-fiction—“ I start, but I’m interrupted by the sudden, alarming appearance of Simon Snow. Fuck. 

“Hey,” he says, nearly losing his grip on a stack of books he’s holding. My heart is pounding so loudly in my head I forget to school my expression into something tame, and I pray he doesn’t notice the visible heat on my cheeks. 

“Hi,” I respond. It’s too soft. The softest I’ve ever been towards him. Surely he’ll notice. 

“What was it that you said you were looking for again?” Penny asks me, drawing my attention away from Snow. “Simon can go look for it.” 

“There’s no need, just point me in the right direction and I’ll browse,” I smile, forcing myself not to imagine what it would be like to follow Snow upstairs and press him against a stack of books and kiss him senseless. To hear his voice echoed off the dark wood—

“Non-fiction is to the left upstairs,” Penny informs me, pulling me out of my revere. I nod my thanks, indeed very thankful for the excuse to remove myself from the situation, and try to hide my guilty, self indulgent smile as I brush past Snow on my way towards the stairs. I practically sprint up them, and attempt to hide myself away amongst the tall shelves. I didn’t know Snow had a job, let alone job in a bookstore. This is both a blessing and a curse, and much to my surprise. Maybe he’s not all that illiterate after all. 

I can hear him muttering to Bunce down below, but I try to focus my attention on finding something to read. I’m not actually looking for anything in particular, but I do enjoy a good conversation with Bunce every once in awhile. Had Snow not so rudely interrupted, I might have instigated a chat. 

Suddenly, the muttering stops, and before I can even blink, I can hear Snow’s heavy footsteps on the staircase. He appears next to me in a matter of seconds, leaning all too casually against the bookcase. The images I’d created only moments earlier come flooding back into my mind, and I force myself to keep looking forward.

 “Baz,” he says, managing to break through my untimely thoughts.  

“You know, Snow, usually when people enter bookstores, they don’t wish to be berated by the employees,” I reply. 

“I’m not berating you,” he huffs. “I’m asking why you’ve come into my shop of all places.” 

“Call it a stroke of bad luck,” I sigh, before I resign and stand up straight to face him. “I didn’t know you worked here.” I admit. “It’s not like you and I often exchange conversation over tea.” 

He’s still leaning, looking beautiful and furious. I wish things didn’t have to be this way. But I know for certain that Simon Snow could never feel the same things for me that I feel for him. He would never think I look beautiful, or like the embodiment of warm tea and gentle embraces. He thinks I’m cold and cruel, and out to get him. 

“Get out,” he snaps. It catches me by surprise, and I raise an eyebrow at him. 

“Why would I leave? I haven’t done anything,” I ask, feeling myself get defensive. I just want to scream at him. I just want to tell him that I’m sorry, that I shouldn’t have pushed him about his family before Christmas. That I feel like a fucking twat for all the things I’ve done to hurt him. 

“Get your book and leave, Pitch. This is the one place I can escape you, and now you’ve gone and ruined it. Please do me a favor and find your books elsewhere from now on.” he says before pushing away from the shelf and making to leave. 

“Simon, I—“ I start, but he’s already down the stairs when his name leaves my mouth. I feel defeated. I never meant to take it this far. I never intended to have my life revolve around him, despite my best attempts to prevent it. I grab a random book nearest my hand, and make my way back down to Bunce at the register. 

“I’m sorry,” she says. “He’s easily angered and you’re a sore spot for him.” 

“I understand,” I answer quietly. “I honestly didn’t know you two worked here, otherwise I wouldn’t have come.” 

“It’s okay, Basil. You’re allowed to do whatever you want. Simons just well petty about personal space,” She shrugs, taking the card from my outstretched hand. “He’ll get over it.” 

She hands my card back to me, and then wraps my book neatly in a paper bag before sliding across the counter towards me. 

“Enjoy your reading,” she says with a bright smile, and it surprisingly manages to slightly heal the deep aching that’s started in my stomach. 

“Thank you, Bunce.” I say, before turning around and exiting the shop. I want to linger, because I know I’ll probably never see it again, but I know it’s better to just go. 

I keep my distance from people because the only people who have ever hurt me are the ones I’ve let get too close. My mother was my best friend. She died in front of me and there was nothing I could do about it. I can’t handle that kind of pain again. I’m pretty sure it would kill me if I ever had to experience something like that for a second time. But when Simon Snow came bursting into my life, a flurry of bronze and blue, I knew my chances of surviving were thin. 

It’s not like I had planned on falling for him. I hadn’t anticipated his goofy smile, the way it crinkles the corners of his eyes. I hadn’t expected his laugh, a sound washing over me like warm butter on a summer day. And I certainly hadn’t prepared for the piecing blue of his ocean eyes, and how they sparkle like the night sky. I don’t get the treat of looking at Simon too often, but when I do I find it increasingly harder to look away. I’m completely mesmerized by him. And also completely, and thoroughly fucked. 

My aunt Fiona is sitting on the floor beside my door when I arrive back at my flat, and she’s smoking a cigarette. 

“You can’t smoke those inside, Fi. How many times do I have to tell you?” I ask, exasperated. 

“Oi, I’ll do whatever I want. I’m an adult.” She barks. 

“Could have fooled me,” I answer, unlocking the door and swinging it open. I place my new book gently on the table, and let out a deep sigh. 

“What’s got you all tied up, eh?” Fi asks, flopping down onto the couch. 

“Nothing,” I tell her. “Want tea?” 

“Do you have beer?” 

“No, only red wine.” 

“Tea’s fine then.” 

I busy myself with the cups and the kettle, and I can feel my aunt watching me from the living room. The woman can read me like a book, it’s intensely frustrating. She’s the closest family member I have besides my younger sister Mordelia. They annoy me endlessly, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love them fiercely, though I would never admit to it. 

“Please stop staring at me,” I say to her.

“Tell me what’s got you bothered, then,” she replies. I groan, but bring the tray of tea over to her anyway. I sit beside her on the couch and she throws her feet into my lap before I even have a chance to settle in. 

“Tell me your sorrows, nephew,” She says, pretending to sound old and wise. “I will give you guidance.” 

“You’d guide me off a cliff if I listened to you,” I say, and she sighs before rolling her eyes. 

“Just tell me what’s wrong, Baz. It’ll make you feel better.” 

“Simon Snow.” I huff after a minute. She knows. She’s always known. I don’t even have to explain. 

“Ah,” she nods sagely, taking a sip of her tea. “Simon Snow.” 

“He works at that old bookstore across town.” 

“Ebbs?” Fiona perks up. “I love that place.” 

“Yeah,” I sigh. 

“You could just be, you know, nice to him.” She shrugs. “Would save you a lot of trouble.”

“And risk letting him get close to me? Yeah right.” 

“Basil,” she sighs and rests a gentle hand on my arm. “It’s okay to let people in.” 

“I can’t let him in, Fi. He would tear me apart. He hates my guts and I don’t need to hear him say that to know it’s the truth. I’m perfectly fine suffering in silence.” 

“You want to suffer for the rest of your life?” 

“It’s not the rest of my life, it’s just until summer, and then after that I never have to see him again.” 

“Basil…” she sighs. “You can’t just bury the feelings you have for him. They’ll find their way out whether you like it or not, and if they have to force themselves out of you, you’re not going to like it.” 

“Fiona,” I groan. “You underestimate my ability to bottle my emotions.” 

“Do I?”

“I’ve been keeping them in for three years, have I not?” 

“What’s the worst thing that could happen if he knew?” she asks. 

“Kill me and spit on my freshly dug grave?” I shrug. 

“Baz,” she snaps. 

“No, Fiona. I’m never going to tell him. It’s not worth the emotional turmoil.” 

“What if he likes you back?” 

“He punched me in the face before Christmas.” 

“Well you started that,” she shrugs. “I’m surprised it took so long.”

“And it’s not even possible! He’s straight.” 

“You sure about that?” 

“Yes? He dated Wellbelove for almost 2 years.” 

“That doesn’t mean he’s straight, Baz.” 

“It doesn’t matter, Fiona.” 

“Yes it does! Don’t let him be the one that gets away.” 

“Stop. It’s not happening. I’m done talking about this.” 

“Fine, whatever say, boyo. But heed my advice,” she says. “And turn on the game, yeah?” 

 

I don’t have class the next morning. On Wednesday, I’m usually working at the coffee shop across the street from my flat. The one Penelope Bunce frequents. The one Simon Snow avoids like the plague. 

It takes a lot of sheer force of will to pull myself from my bed, and I get ready for my day as usual. I throw my hair into a makeshift bun, pull on my maroon jumper with jeans, and walk across the street through the brisk morning air. 

It’s always beautiful out the morning after a rainstorm. The air is crisp, and I actually feel like I can breathe for once. Agatha is already waiting outside the store when I pull out my keys. 

“Good morning,” she chirps. 

“Morning,” I reply. 

“Alright?” She asks, frowning at me. She’s too pretty to frown, so I just nod my hair and push the door open. The stale nighttime air hits us, and Agatha bee-lines for the unit. 

“It’s so stuffy, I’ll open the windows.” She says. 

I let her flutter around the room while I start up the machines and put away dry mugs and carafes. It’s nice to work with Agatha. She’s patient, doesn’t talk much, and even when she does she can hold a conversation by herself. It takes the pressure off me to actually have to function before 6 am. So I put myself on autopilot, and get to work. 

 

Around 11 we quiet down, and Agatha comes to lean against the counter next to me. 

“So what’s up? You’ve been frowning.” She asks. 

“I’d rather not get into it.” I tell her, absently wiping the countertop with a rag. 

“Come on, Baz! You know I love to live vicariously through the drama in your life.” 

“I don’t have drama, Aggie.” 

“Yes you do. I know beneath that dark and brooding exterior there’s a big ol teddy bear filled to the brim with emotions.” 

“Couldn’t be further from the truth.” 

“Can I guess?” 

“Knock yourself out.” I roll my eyes and sigh. 

“It’s…” she pauses, looking at me with narrowed eyes. “About a boy.” 

I still. She’s not going to want to get to the bottom of this. Agatha Wellbelove is not going to want to know I’ve been pining after her ex-boyfriend since long before she even dated him. We don’t talk about Simon in reference to me. We talk about how he was a bad boyfriend to her. Inattentive, distracted, easily angered. He wasn’t affectionate, cared more about football, and they never had sex once in the year and a half they were together. He was boring, he was plain, and she felt like they were overcomplicated friends at the most. 

So we don’t talk about Simon. 

“Baz! Tell me!” She shouts, grabbing at my arm. “Please please please,” 

“Agatha—“ 

“C’mon, we never talk about boys! Can’t we just this once?” 

“No, I don’t—“

“Baz,” 

“Agatha please,” I groan, but she just smirks maniacally. 

“Don’t even try to make me guess who it is. We both know I’ll figure it out.” 

“I sincerely don’t think you’ll be pleased if you do.” 

“Why not?” 

“Aggie, really,” 

“Just tell me who you have a crush on!” She shouts as the door dings. We both turn, only to see Simon and Penelope entering the shop. I still again, and she notices, because she still has a firm grip on my sleeve. She looks up at me, and I pray she can’t tell why I’ve done it. But she knows. She has to. Her gaze keeps switching between me and Snow, and realization dawns on her face. 

“Simon?” She asks me, and realization turns into hurt. 

“Hey,” he greets, forcing a small smile as they approach the counter. Agatha lets go of my arm, and backs away from me. 

“What can we get started for you guys?” She asks. Her bubbly mood from earlier is lost, replaced by what I know is calm anger and the inability to yell at me like she must want to. She’ll scold me, I know she will. 

“The usual, please!” Penny answers, smiling brightly at Agatha. She nods, and turns to get started, leaving me to ring them up and make conversation. 

Make conversation with Penelope Bunce and Simon Snow, who’s looking absolutely plush in a green jumper and a big coat. His curls have been haphazardly shoved under a hat, and it’s a travesty to witness. 

“Anything else?” I ask, keeping my tone neutral. I at least, will keep my customer service skills above the bar. 

“Four sour cherry scones, please! For Simon,” Bunce adds. Simon blushes and looks away. 

“Alright,” I nod and look down at my screen. “That’ll be £7.85, please.” 

Penny hands me her card, still smiling. I feel like everyone in this room knows something that I don’t, but I push the feeling down and keep my eyes on the screen. 

Thankfully, Agatha then brings their coffee and scones up. I write their names on their cups, and push them across the counter. 

“Thanks, Baz! You guys have a good day!” Penny says cheerfully, before turning to leave the store. Snow takes his cup, frowns, looks at me quizzically, then follows Penny to the door. 

We stay quiet for a few moments after they leave and I know Agatha is seething. 

“You wrote ‘Simon’ on his cup.” She says quietly. 

“What?” I turn towards her, confused. 

“You wrote his name. You usually write ‘Snow’, you dimwit.” She says, gently punching me in the arm. “That’s why he looked at you that way.” 

“Oh,” Shit

“How long?” she asks. 

“Hmm?” 

“How long have you liked Simon?” 

“Agatha, we don’t have to talk about it—“ 

“Oh, hush, Basilton. He’s not my boyfriend anymore, but even though things are awkward between us, he’s still my friend and I still want him to be happy. So tell me how long you’ve had a crush on our little golden boy, hmm?” She chirps. Her mood has lifted, and I’m confused. Why isn’t she angry? She should be angry. 

“You’re—what? How’re you okay with this?” 

“Because you’re my friend too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s weird. But I’m not going to tell you that you can’t like him just because he’s my ex. Just because things didn’t work out between him and I, doesn’t mean something couldn’t work between you two. He has always been obsessed with you.” 

“You said he was boring and inattentive.” 

“Yeah, to me,” she shrugs. 

“What are you implying, Aggie?” 

“You should ask him out,” 

“No. No way. He hates me,” 

“No he doesn’t?”

“He kicked me out of the bookstore!” I shout, feeling frustrated. “He doesn’t want to be anywhere near me.” 

“Simon acts like he hates you because you’re mean to him, Baz! You’ve seen the way his expression changes when you’re nice. Would it hurt to try?” 

“Yes, it would. It would be pure agony.” 

“Don’t be dramatic.” She rolls her eyes. “I can talk to him if you want,” 

“Agatha NO.” 

“Fine fine,” she waves me off. “You do you.” 

“I will, thank you.” I say, turning back to the counter. She just laughs and walks away, patting me gently on the shoulder. 

 

Simon Snow hates me. I hate Simon Snow for the way we makes me feel. I can’t get my hopes up about this. That’s how hearts get broken. Again. 



Chapter Text

Simon (Previous night)

 

“Simon,” Penny says from the doorway. I’m angrily stacking books into makeshift piles, avoiding her gaze. “We need to talk about what just happened.” 

“No we don’t, Pen.” I sigh. 

“You can’t kick him out of the shop, Si. He didn’t do anything. He was just looking for a book, where’s the harm in that?”

“The harm?” I shout, slamming a book down. “This is my safe place, Penny. To get away from him. He somehow manages to be everywhere else in my life, so the only time I can escape him is at work. I know he has other shops closer to his flat. There’s no reason for him to come here other than to torture me.” 

“Simon,” Penny whispers. “He didn’t come here to torture you. He seemed really upset when he was leaving.”

“I—” I stammer. “He’s so—” 

“Did he do something so horrible that you can’t even fathom the possibility of being his friend? It would save you so much pain and energy if you weren’t at each other's necks all the time.” she tells me. I stop, slumping against a shelf. 

“He never did anything specifically…” I shrug.

“Wait, what?” Penny’s jaw drops. “So what made you hate him, then?” 

“It’s just how he acts. He’s so arrogant and mean, and everything he says to me is a snarky comment or a jab at me. He’s never once been nice and I don’t know what I did to make him hate me, but it’s always been that way. I don’t understand why he’s so nice to you and Agatha but horrible towards me.” 

“I’m so confused…” she frowns, and begins pacing around the room. I can practically hear the gears turning in her head. “So there’s not any specific event prior to the Christmas fist fight that triggered the war between you two?” 

“Not that I can think of, no,” I shrug. “He’s hated me since day one.” 

“Simon, tell me something.” she pauses, and smirks. “Do you think Baz is fit?” 

“What? Why would you ask me that?” I start. 

“Well, it’s just that—”

“Penny, he’s my worst enemy,” I press. 

“Si, listen,” she sighs and rolls her eyes at me. “You’re hot-headed, we know that.”

“Your point is?” 

“My point is, that when you don’t understand things, you get angry. And nothing makes you angrier than Baz Pitch.” 

“Damn right, I don’t understand Baz in the slightest.”

“That’s not what I mean,” she laughs. “You’re coming with me to get coffee tomorrow morning.” she says, stopping. 

“What?” I straighten. “Why?” 

“Because I need to assess the situation.” 

“What situation?” 

“We’re going to pull on Baz, what he pulled on you today,” she says. “Although, I do think he did it accidentally.” 

“Penny, explain,” I sigh, getting annoyed. 

“We’re going to catch him in his natural environment. Catch him off guard and see how he acts.” 

“Why?” 

“Because we can, Simon! Because it’s fun!” 

“Penny, that doesn’t make sense.” I groan. 

“It will, I promise!” she says, bouncing on her toes back towards the door. “There’s just something I need to see.”

“Wait, Penny!” I call after her. “Why did you ask if I think Baz is fit?!” 



Wednesday 

 

Penny and I head out to get coffee around 11, and the air is still chilled from the rain the night before. It feels good on my perpetually hot face as we walk through town toward the coffee shop. When we enter, Baz looks relaxed and soft. Softer than I’ve ever seen him. His hair is tied back and he’s wearing glasses. I’ve never seen Baz wear glasses. I had just assumed his vision was perfect, just like the rest of him. He’s glaring at me as Penny and I walk toward the counter, but his expression isn’t one I recognize. He looks...flustered? Agatha greets us awkwardly, looking between Baz and I and clutching viciously onto his arm. She let’s go as Penny tells her our order, shoving Baz away like she’s upset. Actually, she does look upset. I watch her absently as she makes our drinks, observing how her delicate hands dance across the confusing machinery, but she doesn't say anything to me.Then, I hear Baz ask if we need anything else, and I hear Penny mention the scones. 

“For Simon,” she giggles. Fuck , now Baz is going to know I have a weakness for those scones, and he’ll probably stop making them just to spite me. I shift my gaze back to Baz, and watch as he rings us up like it’s the most important thing he’s done all morning, his eyes not leaving the tablet in front of him. Penny hands over her card and when our order is ready, Baz writes our names on our cups and slides the coffee and scones across the counter toward us. The exchange feels forced and awkward, and Penny is being so sickeningly pleasant it makes me want to pull my hair out. I take one of the cups from the counter and check that it’s mine. 

Wait. I feel myself frown as I lift my gaze up to Baz, who’s still staring at me. Maybe we did catch him off guard. Penny nudges me in the shoulder as she passes and I follow her back out onto the street.

“Alright?” She asks, taking a sip of her coffee. 

“It says my name, Pen.” I tell her, 

“Hmm?” 

“The cup, it says Simon.” 

“What?” she stops, taking my cup and turning it in her hands. Her face then lights up excitedly. “Oh, my god.” 

“I know,” I reply. 

“Oh, my god. Simon!” she shouts, as she jumps up and down in her spot. 

“What?” I ask, confused by her outburst. 

“He likes you!” she says, a wide grin splitting across her face. 

“What?!” I say again. She shoves the cup, name-first back into my hand, and points at it. 

“He wrote your first name, Simon! We caught him off guard, so he didn’t have an opportunity to put his walls up!" She shouts gleefully. "Honestly, I’ve suspected it for awhile, but this has definitely confirmed my suspicions.”

“Penny, no way, that’s not—” 

“And you like him too, you bloody fucking prat! I saw the way you looked at him when we walked in!” 

“Penny, please slow down! This doesn’t make any sense,” I try to stop her, bringing my hands up to her shoulders. 

“It makes so much sense, Simon, you just needed someone to point it out to you.” She grabs my wrists and shakes me. 

“Explain it to me, then? Because I’m confused and I think you’ve gone mad.” 

“All those times when you complained about him, ‘Baz’s cologne smells like cedar, it’s so overwhelming, Penny,’ or ‘Baz had his hair slicked back today, he’s so pretentious’, were actually, ‘Wow, Baz smells really good, Penny,’ and ‘Baz looked really fit today, but I don’t know how to combat my preconceived heterosexuality,’ It’s been right there, under our noses, the whole time! You’ve got a crush on Baz Pitch, and it makes you angry because you don’t know how to deal with it!” 

Holy shit. Holy shit . Is she right? 

“Penny,” I warn, holding my free hand up. “I don’t think—” 

“Simon Snow you bloody mess, you,” she says. She wraps an arm around me, and starts pulling me toward the bookshop. “We’re going to figure you out together.” 



Thursday, the following week: 

 

Penny’s been pestering me with questions and comments about Baz constantly since last Wednesday. From ‘what is your favorite color that he wears?’ to ‘I think you’d made a really good fit, don’t you think?’ and I’ve about had it. It’s bad enough that she had to be the one to point it out to me, as it should have been something that was obvious. Of course it makes sense that I have a whopping crush on Baz Pitch, I’ve been obsessed with him since the middle of our first year at Uni. But now, I have a crush on my worst enemy, and I have no idea what to do with that information. I’ve been avoiding him now more than ever, and I think he’s beginning to catch on. He watches me warily when I enter and leave class, but he doesn’t make any attempts to talk to me or make any snide remarks. If anything it should be peaceful, but instead, I’m having an internal battle about how to tell Basilton Grimm-Pitch that I have a huge gay crush on him and pray to God that the feelings are mutual. Penny seems to think they are, but I’ve never known Baz to be one for emotions. He’s all prickly comments and tough exterior. Never really been much of a conversationalist, and prior to last Wednesday, I’d never even seen him make physical contact with another human being. 

My solution? I’m never going to tell him. Nope. Never. 

“Simon!” someone calls as I leave class. I whirl around to see Agatha bounding towards me. 

“Hey, Aggie, what’s up?” I say as casually as possible as she reaches me. 

“I’m throwing a party in my flat tomorrow, would you and Penny want to come?”

“Really?" I gape. "You’d want me there?” 

“Of course, silly. Why wouldn’t I?” 

“Um, I don't know. Sure, okay.” I shrug, confused. “What time?”

“Nine!” she tells me, her smile becoming overwhelming. 

“Okay, sure. I’ll let Penny know. We’ll see you there.” 

“Great! It should be lots of fun!” she says and bounces away. I watch, confused, as she meets up with Baz, and before I turn I see him run a hand across his face. Great, she must have told him. Can’t wait to deal with that. 

 

Friday

 

“I don’t want to go to this party, Pen.” I whine from where I'm laying on Penny's bed as she finishes getting ready.

“Too bad. You’re the one that opened your mouth and told Agatha that we’d be there, so now we have to go. Think of this as a good opportunity to put feelers out,” Penny says as she pins back her hair. 

“Feelers out?” 

“With Baz,” 

“With Baz?!” I sit up abruptly. 

“Simon, seriously, I can’t hold your hand through this entire process. You’re going to have to face him eventually.” 

“But at a party, with alcohol, seem like the worst place to make that second first impression,” I whine, throwing myself back down.

“What do you mean? It’s the perfect environment. You’ll have a couple drinks, loosen up a little, and then hit on him profusely until he admits his undying love for you. I don’t see where you’re confused?” she turns, an eyebrow raised at me. “We have to get you out there somehow.” 

“Penny, what if Baz isn’t even gay?” 

“Baz is 100% gay, Simon,” she deadpans. “Don’t be daft.” 

“Alright, so what if I do flirt with him, and he isn’t into me?” 

“Simon, he is into you, of that I’m absolutely positive.” 

“Penny, nooooooo,” I groan again. “I don’t want to. Don’t you think he would have hit on me already if he wanted to?” 

“As far as he knows, you’re straight.” 

“Don’t you think it’ll seem a little weird to him if I just start flirting with him out of the blue?” 

“Only one way to find out.” she shrugs, before standing up and reaching behind me for her bag. “Ready?” 

“As I’ll ever be.” 



When we get to Agatha’s, the party is already in full swing. We’ve arrived at her flat at almost 10, and I can already smell alcohol on people’s breath as we pass by. 

“We should find Aggie!” I shout to Penny over the blaring music. 

“Good idea, but we should also get drinks!” she replies, wiggling her brows at me. She pulls me toward the kitchen, which has been turned into a makeshift bar, and begins pouring mysterious liquids into plastic cups. She hands one to me, and it smells vile. 

“Drink it, maybe you’ll grow a pair!” she barks, laughing. 

“Hey!” I reply, then spot a dark haired figure moving through the room. “Look,” I nudge Penny. 

“You should go talk to him,” she tells me, pushing me gently on the back. 

“No, I think I need to be drunk first,” I answer, before downing the horrible concoction in my hand. Penny raises an eyebrow at me, then grins wickedly, refilling my cup. I down it again. 

“You’ll be there in no time.” she laughs, then pushes me further into the party. There seems to be people on every surface, from couch to counter-top, chatting, making out, or playing drinking games. I didn’t know Agatha could throw a party like this. I didn’t know she knew so many people. Maybe if I had actually been present during our relationship, I would have noticed.

Before long, Penny is pulling me onto the balcony where Agatha is standing, chatting animatedly with a short, dark haired guy who’s smoking a cigarette. She quickly spots us, and waves us over. 

“Hi, guys! I’m so glad you could make it,” she says, pulling Penny into a hug, and smiling up at me. “What do you think?” 

“It’s really awesome Agatha, it’s a total blowout.” Penny replies. I nod in agreement and let them chat as I take a look around. Agatha’s flat is massive, and the balcony itself is bigger than my flat entirely. There’s blokes all around us smoking, and a few people gossiping here and there. It’s certainly a party, I’ll give her that, but in all honesty I feel a bit out of place. Agatha comes from family money, like Baz, and you can always kind of tell that they people they surround themselves with do as well. Everyone around us is wearing nice trousers and well-tailored dresses, while I’m in jeans and a jumper Penny picked out for me. This party feels like something exclusive that I’m severely not apart of. 

“Simon,” I hear my name and turn, to see Agatha staring up at me. “Can I talk to you?” 

“Um, sure?” I shrug, my nerves crawling up my spine. Penny isn’t standing with us anymore. When did she leave? Is Agatha going to yell at me? 

“It’s just that…” she pauses, and an expression of softness alters her features. “I want you to be happy. And I want you to know that I don’t harness any resentment towards you, I never have. I just want us to be friends. I miss hanging out with you and Penny.” 

“Agatha,” I sigh, relief washing over me. “I miss hanging out with you too. Being friends would be awesome,” 

“Good! That’s good. Okay,” she laughs. “I was kind of worried that you hated me.” 

“I could never hate you, Aggie.” I smile, and she laughs again before pulling me into a hug. 

“You’re a really great guy, Simon. Sometimes I wish we had worked out, but I think it’s better that we didn’t,” she says, still smiling. 

“Why do you say that?” I ask her. Her smile widens. 

“I just think there’s something better out there for you.” She says vaguely, before her gaze shifts to something behind me. I don’t have to look, I already know who it is. 

“Basil!” Agatha shouts, and waves her hand wildly at him. I cringe, knowing I’m not nearly pissed enough, and brace myself for his inevitable snark. 

“Wellbelove, Snow,” he regards us, and I briefly catch his eyes looking me up and down. 

“Baz,” I reply, avoiding eye contact. He’s staring at me, and I can feel my face heat under the attention. “Enjoying the party?” 

He raises an eyebrow at me, and takes a sip from his cup. I do the same, and notice that I’ve already almost reached the bottom again. I look over at Baz, who’s looking fucking exquisite of course, though more so than usual. His black trousers are flattering on his long legs, and his floral shirt is unbuttoned at the neck. It’s just a few buttons. It’s just a neck. Why is it so sexy? 

“I am, actually. Wellbelove knows her liquor.” he replies. 

“That I do!” She chimes, and I start, having almost completely forgotten that she was there. “I’m gonna go find Penny, you two have fun!” she chirps, pats me gently on the arm, and then dashes away before I can even begin to stop her. She knows what she just did. She let me alone, half tipsy, with Baz Pitch, who’s looking like a five star, four course meal. Bloody hell. I must look like a fucking plastic bag standing next to him. How could Penny imagine us as a couple, even for a second? The whole concept seems like a load of bollocks to me.

“Drunk already, Snow?” he asks. 

“What?” I start, looking back at him. He looks bored, his expression blank. 

“You’ve been here what, twenty minutes? Pissed already?” 

“Hardly,” I snort. “You?” 

“I don’t get drunk, thank you. It’s rather unbecoming.” 

“Then why are you here?” I ask, and it comes out sharper than I’d intended. He frowns. 

“Because she asked me to come,” he answers, gesturing vaguely toward where Agatha ran off to. “I don’t know how she managed to convince me, but here I am.” 

“Yeah, Aggie has that effect on people.” I laugh. I think this is the most words Baz and I have ever exchanged that weren’t laced with hatred. 

“Though I will say, I am surprised to see you. You don’t normally show up to these kinds of things. Have you and Wellbelove gotten back together?” he sneers, and it makes my stomach drop. 

“No, what? Baz, no we--” 

“Use your words, Snow,” he snaps, and I feel the rage begin to boil in my veins. Why did I think for a second that we could be nice to each other? 

“Oi, fuck off,” I say, before turning around and leaving the balcony. I almost run into Agatha and Penny, who are standing right by the window. 

“Simon?” Penny asks, her hands coming up to my shoulders. “Are you alright?” 

“I’m leaving,” I tell her. “Baz is being a fucking ass, obviously. I’m ready to go.” 

“You haven’t even been here that long,” Agatha pleads. “Stay a little while longer, there’s so many people here you should have no problem avoiding him.”

“Fine, but I need a shot.” I grumble, and Agatha grins. 

“Easy enough.” 

 

Around 1:30, Penny and I go stumbling back to my flat across town. Well actually, I’m stumbling, and Penny is attempting to hold me upright. I got way more drunk than I’d intended to, but I’m not the one to blame for that. This is Baz’s fault. 

“Fuck him, Penny,” I mumble into her shoulder as we walk. 

“Who?” 

“Baz,” I sigh. “He’s such an arse.”

“Well, that’s true.” 

“He looked so good tonight, I hate him,” 

“No you don’t, Simon,” 

“Yes, I do. I hate him for the way he makes me feel,” I tell her. “Like I want to scream and laugh at the same time.”

“That’s odd,” she frowns. 

“I wish we could get along,” I sigh. 

“Me too, Simon, me too.” 

“Do you really think he likes me?” 

“I think he could,” she sighs, before leaning me up against the wall outside my flat. She digs around in my pockets for my keys, and unlocks the door. “Just give it some time.” 

“I should text him,” I mumble, and she just laughs. 

“You should absolutely not, by any means, text Basil right now.” 

“But I want him to know,” I whine as she pulls me inside. 

“Know what, Simon? That you’re extremely skilled at making a fool of yourself?” 

“He already knows that,” I laugh, slumping into my couch. “I want to tell him I think he’s pretty.” 

“He’s very pretty. In the morning if you’re still feeling that way, you can text him and tell him that.” 

“No, right now,” 

“No, Simon,” Penny laughs and I can hear her turning on my kettle. I pull my phone from my pocket and search through my contacts for Baz’s number. I know I have it saved because we were forced to exchange numbers during our English class in first year. 

One text won’t hurt, right? 

 

SS (1:45 am): Hey. 

 

Penny comes back over with two cups of tea, and her eyes go wide when she sees my phone in my hand. 

“Simon, did you just text him?” 

“...No.” I lie. She rolls her eyes, and hands me one of the mugs. I set my phone down to take it. 

“You’re going to hate yourself in the morning,” she laughs. “But I guess drunk Simon is doing sober Simon some favors right now.” 

“I’m tired of waiting,”

“Waiting for what?” 

“To be happy,” I sigh. Penny’s expression falls, and she reaches a hand out to grip my knee. 

“Oh, Simon. You’ll be happy, I promise. But drunk texting Basil in the middle of the night may not be the best course of action for that.” 

“He probably won’t even reply,” I shrug. As if on cue, my phone buzzes on the couch beside me. Penny and I stare at it, long enough for it to go off again with a reminder that I have any notifications at all. 

“Are you going to check it?” she asks quietly. 

“I’m scared,” 

“What’s the worst thing he could say?” 

“He could tell me to go die,” I offer.  

“Well yes, I imagine that is a possibility,” she laughs. I set my mug down on the table and reach for my phone. I open the text. 

 

BP (1:51 am): You should be asleep.  

 

“Oh,” Penny gasps. “That’s...good?” 

I type out a reply. 

 

SS (1:55 am): So should you. 

 

After I few beats, I set my phone down beside me. 

"He's not replying," I whine. 

"He's probably asleep," Penny whispers.

"Already?" 

"I don't know! Maybe he's on the phone, or texting a friend, or maybe he's been captured by goblins and thrown in a coffin under a bridge." 

"Not funny, Penny." 

"I'm sorry," she giggles. "Come on, let's get you to bed." 

I let Penny lead me into my bedroom and I slump down into my bed as she slides off my shoes. My phone buzzes again in my hand. 

 

BP (2:05 am): I’m helping Agatha clean up. 

 

I reply. 

 

SS (2:06 am): That’s nice of you. You looked really good tonight.

 

Simon ,” Penny sigh, reading my text from behind. “Too forward.” 

“I’m drunk, Pen. Shut up,” I brush her off. 

“You’re going to scare him off,” she tells me and I yawn, shrugging. I close my eyes and roll over, sinking down into the pillows.  

“Doesn’t strike me as the type to be easily scared,” I tell her. My phone buzzes again. 

 

BP (2:11 am): Go to sleep, Simon.

 

So I do



Chapter Text

Baz (Friday)

 

This is bad. This is very, very bad. Simon Snow is at Wellbelove’s party, and he looks good. He looks too good. It’s clear that he didn’t dress himself, which is honestly for the best. If he had, he’d be wearing trackies and a football pullover and he’d look far too comfortable for a party such as this. But he’s wearing jeans. And a jumper. A soft looking jumper in a fabulous off-white color that’s complementary to his copper curls. Clearly something of Bunce’s creation, judging by the fact that he actually looks dressed and not like he just rolled out of bed. 

This is so bad. He hasn’t seen me yet, or he has, and hasn’t made it obvious. Either way, I’m standing like a creep in the corner watching him like he’s prey, and I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty. He’s been avoiding me all week, more so than usual, so I’m taking any opportunity I can get to stare at him indulgently, even while he’s throwing back alcohol like it’s water. 

The cup thing was an accident. They’d caught me off guard and I let my act slip, and now there’s no doubt in my mind that Bunce is onto me. She’s too sharp to not have picked up on the meaning behind his first name. I saw the way he panicked outside, I saw the way she flamboyantly jumped about on the pavement. Agatha thinks they know. I can only assume they know. Which means I’m royally, completely, undoubtedly fucked. And it explains perfectly why he’s been avoiding me for over a week. 

Simon Snow is at this party. I am also at this party. Simon Snow is at this party looking fucking delectable, and there’s nothing I can do about it. So I lurk, and I watch him look anxious and beautiful, and I hate myself for being uncontrollably in love with a straight bloke. 

I spot Dev and Niall across the room, so I push away from the wall and force myself to take my eyes off Snow. He’s going to see me cross the room, so I keep my eyes down and make my way through the crowded room to my friends. 

“Hey,” Niall mumbles into his cup as I approach.  “Alright?” 

“Yes, why wouldn’t I be?” I snap. 

“Who pissed in your tea, bruv?” Dev asks, nudging me with his elbow. I roll my eyes and take another sip of my water, before glancing back at where Snow was standing in the kitchen with Bunce. They’ve moved, and are walking arm in arm to the balcony door. 

“Oi, you’re watching Snow like a hawk. Think he’ll get pissed and pick a fight?” Niall asks, following my gaze. 

“No, that’s not what I’m concerned about.” I tell him, turning back. 

“Did you two get into it again?” Dev asks. 

“No,” I sneer. “We’re fine.” 

“Christ, loosen up would you, mate?” Niall laughs. “It’s a party.” 

“He’s not thick enough to pick a fight with Baz in a place like this. He’s got his girlfriends to keep him in check.” 

“They’re not his girlfriends.” I huff. 

“Aren’t they?” Dev laughs. “Cling to him like they are. He’s talking to Agatha right now as a matter of fact.” 

I turn, looking back through the glass door, and see Wellbelove and Snow chatting near the railing. Bunce is nowhere to be seen. Wellbelove’s got a bit of an ambivalent look on her face, and she looks like she might cry. 

“Excuse me, I need some air.” I tell Dev and Niall before quietly maneuvering my way onto the balcony. 

Wellbelove sees me right away, over Snow’s shoulder as they exit an embrace, and waves me over. I can do this. It’s just Snow. I’ve kept a wall up around him for almost 3 years. How hard can one more night of close proximity be? 

“Wellbelove, Snow,” I nod at them, and I indulgently check him out. It’s not subtle. 

“Baz,” Snow replies, but he won’t look at me. “Enjoying the party?” He asks. He’s blushing. Fuck. He knows. 

I raise an eyebrow at him, and he glances at me quickly over the rim of his cup. Is he...checking me out? “I am, actually. Wellbelove knows her liquor.” I tell him. 

“That I do!” Wellbelove laughs, and reaches up to pat Snow on the arm. “I’m gonna go find Penny, you two have fun!” She says, before gracefully removing herself from what feels like the most inconvenient situation I’ve ever been in. Snow’s blushing harder now, and he glances frantically after Agatha as she walks away.

“Drunk already, Snow?” I ask, my voice patronizing. 

“What?” He jumps. He looks at me, bewildered. I don’t know why I’m being difficult, why I can’t just open myself up to him. 

“You’ve been here what, twenty minutes? Pissed already?” I say. 

“Hardly,” He snorts. “You?” 

“I don’t get drunk, thank you. It’s rather unbecoming.” I tell him, smirking. His expression hardens. 

“Then why are you here?” He asks, and I frown. This is the rudest he’s ever been. I’m impressed. 

“Because she asked me to come,” I answer, waving noncommittally towards the balcony door. “I don’t know how she managed to convince me, but here I am.” 

“Yeah, Aggie has that effect on people.” He laughs. It’s bright, and the sound of it hits me right in my chest. I want to reach out and brush his curls from his eyes, but we are definitely not there. I’m not sure if we’ll ever be. 

“Though I will say, I am surprised to see you. You don’t normally show up to these kinds of things. Have you and Wellbelove gotten back together?” I’m not sure why I say it. It’s laced with venom. His eyes widen at me, and he shakes his head. 

“No, what? Baz, no we--” 

“Use your words, Snow,” I snap, and I immediately regret it as soon as the words pass my lips. 

“Oi, fuck off,” he sighs, and his expression changes into something akin to pain. He doesn’t look at me he moves away, back toward the door. My heart clenches in my chest as I watch him walk away. Why couldn’t I just be nice? Now would have been the perfect opportunity to flirt, for fucks sake, he already knows I’m into him. He gave me the opportunity, he opened the door, and I slammed it in his face. Tonight could have been so different. I could have been nice, I could have flirted, maybe I could have even lured him in enough to kiss me. He checked me out, I checked him out, there’s something there. But I’m the Pitch Bitch, I have a reputation to uphold. I can’t let some boy with speckled skin and auburn hair break that down and shatter it. 

So I watch him until the door closes, and then I turn, and grip the railing to keep myself from screaming. 

 

I stay outside for awhile to cool down. I know Simon is inside with Bunce and Wellbelove, and I can’t show my face around them just yet, if at all. 

Dev and Niall find me eventually, and Niall looks at me sadly. I must look utterly crestfallen for my best friend to look at me like that. 

“Mate?” He says, nudging me with his elbow. “What’s going on?” 

“I don’t want to talk about it.” 

“Might make you feel better,” Dev adds. 

“Why does everyone keep saying that to me?” I almost shout. “Talking about this isn’t going to make me feel better. Nothing except falling off this balcony or getting piss drunk is going to improve my current situation and I don’t have the strong desire to do either of those things.” 

“Is it Snow?” Niall asks gently. He knows. He’s always known. I came out to him our 6th year of high school, and last year when I got too drunk over Christmas break I told him about Snow. He’s been unwaveringly supportive about the whole thing, and though I’ve never said it, I’m extremely grateful to have someone other than my family and now Agatha, apparently, in on my secret. 

“It’s fine,” I wave him off. 

“It’s not fine, Baz.” He says. 

“This is a party, let’s get drunk, lads.” I tell them, before turning, throwing my arms over their shoulders, and letting them lead me back inside. Good men. 

 

I manage to avoid Snow for the rest of the night, thankfully. I watch him from the corner of my eye the whole time, but I know it’s best not to approach him. I watch as he takes shot after shot, and I know for a fact he’ll probably be out of commission tomorrow. 

I’m drunk. I’m not piss-drunk, but I’m not sober. I’ve been letting Niall refill my vodka soda as he wishes, and I’ve been drinking leisurely as I lazily view the catastrophe that is Simon Snow. He doesn’t notice me watching him, and I don’t know if at this point I’d care if he did. If he wanted to fight me, I’d let him. If he wanted to scream at me until his voice was hoarse, I’d let him do that too. I’ve let him hate me for as long as I can remember, and nothing compares to that, so he could do his worst and it still wouldn’t matter. Nothing could calm the ache in my chest. I know that. 

 

After the party, I stay behind to help Wellbelove pick up the mess. She’s not drunk, not even remotely, which is a shame since it was her party.  

“Don’t fret over it, Basil. I’m not a big drinker, you know that. I more enjoy the game of it.” She tells me after I express it to her. 

“Fair enough, still a shame.” 

“I didn’t think you were either, though.” She raises as eyebrow. After a beat, she glances over at me and squares her shoulders. “Simon likes you, you know. He kind of always has. I guess Penny and him had a long conversation about it and he was gonna come here tonight and try to see how it felt to be around you if you two weren’t fighting. But then you went and acted like a dick and he got upset.” 

“It’s not my fault, Agatha.” I sigh. “I can’t be nice to him.” 

“Yes you can.” 

“It’s too hard. It hurts. If I let him break my heart, I’ll lose my mind.” 

“He won’t break your heart. If you give him a chance to love you, he won’t.” 

“He broke yours.” 

“No, I broke his. But he didn’t love me that way. Sure, we love each other, but it’s different. He’s my friend.” 

“I just can’t,” I groan, falling back into the couch. I take a deep breath and my phone buzzes from my pocket. It’s probably Niall, wondering if I made it home okay.  

 

SS (1:45 am): Hey. 

 

“Fuck,” I whisper. 

“What? Who is it?” 

“It’s Simon,” I tell her. “He’s texting me.” 

“Are you going to reply?” 

“Should I?” 

“What? Of course you should! He’s opening another door,” 

“He’s drunk, Agatha.” 

“So? Be nice to him now. He’ll wake up, read the messages, and realize you were being kind. Maybe he’ll text you again.” 

“You’re optimistic.” 

“Brutally.” She winks. 

 

BP (1:51 am): You should be asleep. 

 

“Nice enough,” Agatha giggles, looking over my shoulder from behind the couch. 

“This is new to me, give me a break.” I huff. 

“I believe in you!” Agatha calls as she walks into the kitchen to gather more cups. I should really keep helping, so I stand, grab my bin, and shove my phone into my pocket. It buzzes again after a few minutes. 

 

SS (1:55 am): So should you. 

 

I feel the air leave my body in one large gust. Why does he have to be so gentle, and so far away? I decide to ignore him until all of the cups and cans are gone from the living room, and then I text him back. 

 

BP (2:05 am): I’m helping Agatha clean up. 

 

SS (2:06 am): That’s nice of you. You looked really good tonight.

“Fuck me,” I whine, collapsing back onto the couch. 

“What did he say?” Agatha gasps, running back into the room. She rips my phone from my hand and lets out a shrill yelp. “Oh my god! He’s flirting with you!” 

“How are you possibly okay with this?” 

“Shut up and revel in this, Basilton. Simon Snow, the boy you’ve had a crush on since we started at this god forsaken school, is flirting with you!” 

“He’s drunk, Agatha! This isn’t really him.” 

“Drunk words are sober thoughts, Basilton!” She shouts, throwing plastic cups at me from the table. 

“Not true!” I shout back, holding my arms in front of my face to deflect the cups. 

“It is! You do look good! I know you picked that shirt on purpose because you know it makes you look hot,” she glares. “You wore that shirt for him.” 

“I did not wear this shirt for him,” 

“You so did,” 

“I’m telling him to go to bed,” 

“Fine,” 

 

BP (2:11 am): Go to bed, Simon. 

 

“You said his name again.” Agatha whispers from behind me again. 

FUCK ,” 

 

Saturday 

 

SS (11:45 am): Sorry I drunk texted you 

SS (11:46 am): I didn’t mean to 

SS (11:46 am): I mean I did mean to text you 

SS (11:47 am): But I didn’t mean to be drunk while doing it 

SS (11:50 am): So 

SS (11:50 am): Sorry 

SS (11:51 am): Also 

SS (11:51 am): Hi 

 

Bloody hell. Simon Snow is texting me in the morning. Well, it’s almost noon, but it’s morning to him. And he’s texted me eight times in the span of 6 minutes. So I reply. 

 

BP (11:55 am): Oh, you’re alive?

 

SS (12:00 pm): Only barely 

SS (12:00 pm): Wasn’t planning on drinking that much 

 

BP (12:01 pm): Neither was I. 

 

SS (12:02 pm:) I thought you didn’t drink? 

 

BP (12:05 pm): I wasn’t exactly behaving properly last night. 

 

SS (12:06 pm): You seemed like yourself to me 

 

BP (12:10 pm): And yet, here we are. 

 

SS (12:11 pm): You can just tell me to stop texting you, you know 

 

BP (12:14 pm): You’re right, I could. 

 

SS (12:15 pm): Aren’t going to? 

 

BP (12:17 pm): Colour me intrigued. 

 

SS (12:20 pm): ? 

SS (12:21 pm): how is it that you can possibly sound pretentious even through texting? You’re something else, pitch  

 

BP (12:25 pm): Pretty easy when you’re texting with someone whose grammar is atrocious. 

 

SS (12:28 pm): Wow, you’re a dick 

 

BP (12:31 pm): And yet…

 

SS (12:32 pm): yeah yeah, alright

SS (12:33 pm): Any hangover tips? 

 

BP (12:35 pm): Can’t say I have any. Now quit bothering me, I have to work. 

 

SS (12:37 pm): Fine, I’m gonna take a shower. 

SS: (12:38 pm): Talk to you l8r 

 

BP (12:40): Goodbye, Snow. 

I cannot believe I’m texting Simon Snow. I’m texting Simon Snow politely, if not pleasantly, and he’s replying. He said he’d talk to me later . Simon Snow is going to text me later . Which is great, and we’ve somehow made miraculous progress, but now I can’t stop thinking about him in the shower while I’m trying not to spill lattes, and it’s not working. It’s going to be a very long shift. 

 

3 pm rolls around and so does the end of my shift. Agatha comes in, ties her apron on, and nudges me with her hip as she brushes past me. 

“Heard from Simon today?” she asks brightly. She’s grinning. It’s unsettling. 

“Yes,” I reply, ignoring her gaze and keeping busy washing mugs. 

“What did you talk about? Did he say anything about what he said last night?” 

“No, neither of us mentioned it.” 

“Oh, so you just...chatted?” 

“Casually,” I shrug. “I’d say it’s an improvement.” 

“An improvement? I’ll fucking say! You and Simon are texting,” she sniggers quietly. “You should ask him on a date. He’d say yes.” 

“No, no way,” 

“Why not?” 

“Because that’s too much too soon, Aggie.” 

“Fine, fine,” she sighs. “But at the very least, consider it. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Coffee or lunch is fine too!” 

“I’m leaving now,” I roll my eyes, and she laughs as I throw my apron into the back room. 

“Byeee,” she waves me out the door. 

I start walking toward my flat and my phone buzzes against my hip. 

 

SS (3:10 pm): Done with work? 

 

BP (3:11 pm): Stalking me? 

 

SS (3:12 pm): No 

SS (3:13 pm): I just assumed you’d be done by now

 

BP (3:15 pm): Relax, I don’t actually think you’re stalking me. Though I wouldn’t put it past you. I just left. What are you doing? 

 

SS (3:17 pm): Heading to 

 

BP: (3:18 pm): Work? 

 

SS (3:20 pm): Yeah 

 

BP (3:25 pm): Have fun with that. 

 

SS (3:35 pm): Sorry about kicking you out last week

SS (3:36 pm): It was pretty shitty of me 

 

Oh. That was unexpected. Is he really wanting to make amends? Be friends? Could I even handle being friends, let alone more than friends, with Simon Snow? Sometimes the thought of it overwhelms me so much it gives me a headache. 

 

BP (3:41 pm): I understand why you did it. It won’t happen again. 

 

SS (3:42 pm): It’s cool if it does

SS (3:43 pm): I mean

SS (3:44 pm): It’s cool if you come by again 

SS (3:45 pm): Penny said I’m not allowed to kick you out unless you do something bad anyway

 

I hold my fingers over my screen. I don’t even know how to respond to that. 

 

SS (3:47 pm): You should btw

SS (3:48 pm): Come by again 

 

I nearly drop my phone onto my face when I read his last text. Is Snow telling me to come by the shop? No way. That’s fucking insane. He’s insane. He probably just wants another opportunity to shout at me and embarrass me. 

Although, I could. I could swing by with coffee for him and Bunce. A peace offering. I could pick up a book for class. The one we have to do a project on next week. It would be easy. Casual, even. 

 

BP (3:51 pm): Are you sure you aren’t armed with a pitchfork? 

 

SS (3:52 pm): No weapons allowed in the store 

SS (3:53 pm): Stapler count? 

 

Did Snow just...joke with me? I’m fucked. I’m so fucked. 

 

BP (3:54 pm): I might be able to handle a stapler. 

 

SS (3:56 pm): Does this mean you will? 

 

BP (3:57 pm): I’ll consider it. But not today. I have things to get done. 

 

SS (4:10 pm): Cool. Penny yelled at me for being on my phone. L8r 

 

BP (4:11 pm): Goodbye 

 

Monday 

 

SS (10:14 am): We have new arrivals

SS (10:14 am): You might be interested in some of them 

 

Christ. Snow doesn’t text me at all yesterday, but then texts me in the middle of my shift today. Fantastic. Just great. He didn’t even come with Bunce to get coffee this morning. 

I waited. I wasn’t going to be the first to send a text. I’m the one playing hard to get, I’ve been after him for years. It’s his turn to pine. 

 

BP (10:17 am): I’m working. 

 

SS (10:20 am): Come by after

 

I want to reply, but we get a rush, and I know he must be feeling ignored. Is this how my life is now? Waiting until I have a free moment to text Snow again? 

When I finally catch a break, I text him back. 

 

BP (11:34 am): It's out of my way. 

 

A few hours go by without a response. I know the bookshop doesn’t get that busy. He must think I’m being mean. I’m not trying to. Honestly, I’d go see him if I thought I could emotionally handle it, but I know I’m not ready. I’m not ready to have his blinding smile aimed right at me. I don’t deserve that smile, not yet. It’s bad enough that I have to see him in class tomorrow, and on Thursday. If tomorrow doesn’t kill me first. 

 

I’m home watching football when my phone buzzes again. 

 

SS (5:12 pm): You’re really not going to come, are you?

 

BP (5:13 pm): Were you waiting for me? 

 

SS (5:14 pm): Kinda 

 

Oh, well shit. 

 

BP (5:15 pm): I’m sorry. I didn’t know. 

 

SS (5:17 pm): It’s alright

SS (5:18 pm): See you tomorrow

 

Fuck. 

 

Tuesday 

 

When my second class gets out, I have just enough time to run back into town and stop for coffee. Agatha will be working, which will expedite the process, and I should have no trouble getting back in time for American Literature. The one I share with Snow. 

 

“Vanilla latte and a coffee with milk and sugar, please,” I tell Agatha, and she looks up at me. 

“Two drinks?” 

“I’m going to my third hour.” 

“Why do you need two coffees for third hour?” 

“Don’t be thick, Agatha.” I sigh, pinching the bridge of my nose. 

“Wait...are you bringing coffee for Simon?!” 

“Maybe,” I snap under my breath. “Could you keep it down? I don’t need all of London to know.” 

She laughs and smiles at me the entire time she’s making our drinks, then slides them over the counter to me. Then she flicks her marker at my chest. 

“Feel free to write his name,” 

“Fuck off,” I grumble. 

 

I hustle back to campus and when I enter the lecture hall, Simon is already in his seat, staring at his phone on his desk. We haven’t texted all day, and he looks sad. He doesn’t look up when I enter, so he must either have zoned out entirely, or be super focused on something. I approach slowly, as not to spook him, and place his cup gently on his desk. 

“With cream and sugar,” I grin, and take my seat behind him. 

“Baz?” He looks up, turning, surprise written on his face. “You brought me coffee?” 

“To make up for not coming to the shop yesterday.” 

“Th--thank you,” he laughs. And then he smiles. 

 

Simon Snow is going to be the death of me. 









Chapter Text

Simon (Tuesday)

 

I shouldn’t be upset. Baz isn’t required to come by the shop just because we’ve been texting for a couple of days. He’s not my boyfriend. Hell, he’s not even my friend. But I want to see him in an environment that’s not accompanied by alcohol, and the idea of Baz looking that good in the bookstore again has its own appeal. 

“With cream and sugar,” a voice says, a dark hand placing a to-go cup on the corner of my desk. It pulls me out of my thoughts and I swing my head up. 

“Baz?” He’s looking down at me as he sits at his desk. “You brought me coffee?” 

“To make up for not coming to the shop yesterday.” He says nonchalantly. 

“Th--thank you,” I smile, and his eyebrows shoot up. 

“You’re welcome.” He replies as he looks away. I see a blush sneak up his neck but I choose not the comment on it, even though I’m pretty sure he’d let me. 

“You look nice today,” I choose instead. The blush deepens, and he frowns at me. 

“Turn around, Snow,” 

I bite my lip and turn around again, trying to hold in my laugh. I can feel Baz kick the back of my chair, but I don’t feel daggers on my neck anymore. 

 

Towards the end of lecture, our professor reminds us that we have a project due the following Thursday, and that we should pick our partners now to get started as soon as possible. 

This is great. Baz and I can totally be partners! We can hang out, under the cover of working on a project, and it’s totally neutral territory! 

I try to school my face into a calm and natural expression as I turn around in my seat again, only to find that Baz is already looking at me. 

“You want to be partners, don’t you?” He sighs. 

“What?” I laugh guiltily. “That’s not—“

“If we’re partners I’ll be stuck doing all the work,” he says. 

“That’s not true! I work hard!” 

“Really?” 

“Yeah, really, it’ll be fun!” 

“Class projects and ‘fun’ aren’t exactly synonymous,” 

“Come on, Baz. We could get takeout and make a whole thing of it,” I plea.  

“A whole thing of it?” He asks, narrowing his eyes at me. 

“Would you prefer to meet in the library with our books and our laptops, or would you rather be able to sit on a couch with Indian food while we discuss Hawthorne and Fitzgerald?” I offer, tilting my head flirtatiously. I’m definitely putting on the charm. I want to know what it’s like to have Baz on my couch, in joggers, while we eat food and banter about literature. It’s practically erotic. 

“Fine,” he resigns. “We can be partners.” 

“Really?” I laugh. “That was easier than I thought.” 

“You make a compelling argument.” 

“It’s the Indian food that sold you, huh?” 

“Perhaps,” he smirks. Baz doesn’t smile. At least, not at me. I wonder what it would look like to be on the receiving end of something other than a smirk or a sneer. He’s got perfect teeth, of course, so it’s probably beautiful. 

“When should we get started?” I ask him. 

“I’ll be out of town until Friday,” he tells me. Something flashes behind his eyes as he says it but I can’t identify it, and he breaks eye contact. “So I’m free that evening or over the weekend.” 

“Okay, I work until five on Friday, we can get together after?” 

“That should be fine,” he nods. 

“So you’re missing class on Thursday, then?” I ask. Where is he going? Why does he look worried about it? 

“Yes, unfortunately. It’s my mother’s birthday.” 

“Wait,” Baz’s mother…

“My stepmother,” he clarifies. “I’ll be visiting family in Hampshire.” 

“Oh,” I whisper. “Will you have service?” 

“It’s Hampshire, Snow, not a black hole.” 

“Right, sure,” I nod. I turn around in my seat to gather my things. 

“I’ll text you,” he says, making me pause. 

“You really don’t have to, I know it’s probably annoying…” I start, but he cracks a small grin. 

“Trust me, texting you might be the only thing that gets me through it,” 

“What?” I ask, swinging my bag over my shoulder. He does the same, and we head for the door together. 

“My family can be a bit much. My father is very controlling, and my half siblings are very young and very energetic. Except Mordelia. She’s much more like me than my father and Daphne are willing to admit.” He looks down and smiles fondly. We exit the building and head back towards town, walking side by side on the pavement. It feels normal, comfortable even.

“I didn’t know you had such a large family.” I say, after a while of walking in companionable silence. 

“Well,” he shrugs. “I’m not very close with them. But I have to attend Daphne’s party to keep up appearances with my father and his peers.” 

“Sounds like a business arrangement,” I say. 

“In a way, it is.” He agrees, shrugging again. “Staying in their good graces will benefit me in the future,” 

“For work?” 

“Precisely.” He nods. “My father has a lot of friends in high places.” 

“That’s lucky.” I tell him, and his brow furrows. 

“In some sense of the word, I suppose.” He says. 

I turn my head to look at him fully, and his expression isn’t sharp or restrained. It’s relaxed, almost wistful, and it looks like he’s thinking about something. 

“Well, I’ve gotta get to work,” I mention, as casually as possible. I don’t want him to think I’m dismissing him or our conversation. I’d talk to him all day if he’d let me, but we’re coming up on the street Ebb’s shop is on. 

“Right,” he frowns again. “Have a good night, Snow.” He says, before turning sharply and walking away. 

“Have a safe trip!” I call after him, but I’m not sure he hears me. 

 

BAZ (Wednesday)

 

My drive to Hampshire is uneventful, boring in its simplicity, and I’m anxious to read the messages I know Simon has been acosting my cell phone with. It’s been buzzing all morning, which means he’s probably been texting me during work again. I would scold him for it, but I’m fairly certain Bunce has already, and I’d prefer this to not hearing from him at all. 

My parents house in Hampshire is just as extravagant as it’s always been, and the warm lights from inside look far more inviting than I know them to be. 

I park behind Daphne and grab my duffle before I swing my car door open. Unfortunately, my phone will have to go ignored until later, whilst I entertain my family. 

 

Usually I’d let myself in, but it’s been awhile since I’ve been home and Daphne loves being a perfect housewife. I knock loudly on the hard mahogany door, and it only takes a moment before it’s being pulled open. 

“Oh, Basilton! You don’t have to knock, sweetheart.” Daphne laughs, ushering me inside. “You’re looking healthy.” 

“Thank you mother, you’re looking lovely as well.” I greet her, leaning in to kiss her cheek. I drop my bag in the hall, knowing someone will take it up to my room for me. 

“Thank you, dear.” She smiles. “Will you join us for tea?” 

“Of course,” I reply, and I follow as she leads me through the expansive entrance and sitting room, and out into the enclosed sunroom. My father and Mordelia are already sitting around the table, and father is grimacing at something Mordelia must have said. 

“Basilton’s just arrived, Malcolm.” Daphne announces as we enter. 

“Good morning, son,” 

“Hello, father.” I say as I take a seat beside my sister. 

“I trust the drive was pleasant?” He asks. 

“Yes, it was.” 

“Hey Baz,” Mordelia grunts quietly beside me. 

“Hey kid,” I laugh, bumping her with my shoulder. 

 

I spent most of tea answering Daphne’s questions about classes and tutorials, and all things considered she seemed happy enough, and eventually let the subject drop. Then, after a long, dreadful lunch, filled with more questions from my father about future career paths, I watched the twins play in the garden while Mordy recounted all of her primary school qualms. When they finally let me go in the late afternoon, I excused myself to my room to unpack and check my phone, as I knew I had about 100 messages from Snow. 

 

SS (9:34 am): Good morning 

SS (9:36 am): Hope you got to Hampshire safe 

SS (9:45 am): I’m headed into work

SS (9:51 am): Did you want me to let you know what you miss tomorrow? 

 

Christ. 

 

SS (11:33 am): Hey, did you make it ok? 

SS (11:50 am): Baz? 

 

Oh. 

 

SS (3:10 pm): Oi 

SS (3:11 pm): I’ll just assume you’re fine 

SS (3:12 pm): You'd be all over the news if you were dead 

SS (3:15 pm): be nice to hear from you though 

 

Is this what it’s going to be like? Is this how he texts Bunce? Or how he used to text Agatha? It seems almost as though he’s worried about me, but I can’t even fathom why he would be. 

 

BP (4:02 pm): Hi 

 

I hit send, but it doesn’t seem like enough. Not after the ten messages I’d already received from him today. 

 

BP (4:04 pm): Much to my chagrin, I remain alive. My family figured it was the perfect time to learn everything there is to know about me in the span of 5 hours. How are you? 

 

He doesn’t reply right away, and I don’t expect him to. I know he’s working, and probably not paying much attention to his phone. I busy myself with organizing my things and watching television until my phone buzzes on the table. 

 

SS (4:48 pm): I’m fine. How’s your family? 

 

BP (4:50 pm): They’re as magniloquent as ever. 

 

SS (4:55 pm): Are you ok?

 

BP (4:57 pm): Yes, I’m fine. Being around them exhausts me. 

 

SS (5:00 pm): Need a distraction? 

 

SS (5:01 pm): Desperately. 

 

*image received* 

 

Oh god. Snow sent me a photo. I don’t know what it is, because I haven’t opened it, and I’m afraid to do so because what if it’s a picture of him? What if it’s a picture of him at the bookstore? What if it’s a picture of him looking soft and ruffled and beautiful? 

 

I should open it. My thumb hesitates over the file, but then I click it anyway. 

 

Surprisingly, it’s a picture of a large stack of old, damaged looking books, piled high against a dark wooden shelf. 

 

BP (5:10 pm): What is it exactly that I’m looking at? 

 

SS (5:11 pm): A collection of Ebb’s timeless yet horribly fragile first editions of British and American literature 

 

Holy fuck. 

 

BP (5:12 pm): Excuse me? 

BP (5:12 pm): You have first editions in that shop? 

BP (5:13 pm): And you didn’t think to tell me that prior to this moment? 

 

SS (5:15 pm): Three texts from Baz Pitch? I’m honoured. 

 

BP (5:16 pm): SNOW 

 

SS (5:17 pm): Brontë, Plath, and Dickens to name a few 

 

BP (5:18 pm): You’re killing me. This is the worst distraction ever. 

 

SS (5:19 pm): you’re welcome 

 

BP (5:20 pm): What does she do with them?

 

SS (5:22  pm): we restore them 

 

Oh, bloody Christ on a candlestick. They restore timeless first editions. Besides being utterly gorgeous and hopelessly charming, Simon Snow works in a bookstore and restores books and is basically my walking Shakespearean fantasy. Did he emerge from my psyche while I was daydreaming about unrealistic expectations in men? 

 

BP (5:25 pm): Pardon me while I go jump off a bridge. 

 

SS (5:26 pm): not to press the matter 

SS (5:27 pm): but you could come see them 

SS (5:28 pm): I’m not really supposed to let anyone touch them or breathe on them or even look at them wrong but 

SS (5:28 pm): I’d be willing to make an exception 

 

BP (5:30 pm): No, I couldn’t. They’re precious. They must be so fragile. 

 

SS (5:31 pm): No one would appreciate them more than you, though

 

BP (5: 32 pm): Wouldn’t Ebb be angry?

 

SS (5:33 pm): Nah

SS (5:33 pm): She’s cool 

SS (5:34 pm): wait you know ebb? 

 

BP (5:35 pm): She went to school with my Aunt and my mother. 

 

SS (5:36 pm): oh, cool 

SS (5:37 pm): she’d definitely be cool with you coming then, if she knew your mum 

 

BP (5:39 pm): Fine. If this some elaborate ploy to get me to come by the shop, you’re dead to me. 

 

SS (5:40 pm): I thought I was dead to you already? 

 

BP (5:45 pm): Fair point. 

 

I hear a soft knock on my door followed shortly by my younger sister letting herself into my room. 

 

“Why’re you grinning like that?” Mordelia asks, frowning at me as she walks over. 

“No reason,” I lie, shoving my phone under a pillow. “Did I say you could come in?” 

“It’s not like this is your room, you don’t live here anymore, remember?” 

“Privacy is still a thing that exists despite my relocation, Mordelia,” I sigh, glaring at her. She’s leaning against the bedpost, looking bored. 

“Mother says dinner will be ready within an hour,” she says, ignoring me entirely. “Wants us to be down and ready by six-thirty.” 

“Then be down and ready we shall,” I reply, and I hear my phone buzz under the pillow. Mordelia’s brow furrows as she hears it too, then her eyes flicker back to me. 

“Who are you texting?” she grins mischievously. 

“No one,” I lie again, and I practically have to throw myself across the bed to stop her from taking my phone. 

“You’re blushing, you liar!” she yelps, trying to wrestle the phone from my grip.

“I’m not blushing! I’m flushed from being exhausted by you!” I grunt, successfully pulling my phone and hand away from her tiny grip. Mordelia is small, being that she’s barely eleven years old, but she’s strong and viciously persistent. She’s learned that from Daphne. 

    “If you tell me who you’re texting, I’ll leave you alone,” 

    “That’s not true, you won’t leave me alone until we’re both old and grey,” 

    “Fine, if you tell me who you’re texting I promise I won’t give you food poisoning,” 

    “Mordelia,” I sigh. “That’s actually sinister.” 

    “You’re fine. You’ll survive it.” she shrugs. Is my sister evil? 

    “I’m not telling you,” 

    “Better hope you still have an iron stomach then,” she shrugs again, then makes to climb off the bed. 

    “His name is Simon,” I relent. “He’s a guy from school.” 

    “Ha!” she yelps, bouncing on the pillow-top. “You’ve never told me about a boy.” 

    “Well, in all fairness, you are eleven.” 

    “We both know I’m wise beyond my years and I’m one of the only friends that you have so...cough it up,” she waves her hand at me. “I wanna hear all about him.” 

    “I am not gushing to my little sister about a boy,” 

    “What? Why not?” 

    “Because you’re my little sister!” 

    “And I’m the only one in this family besides Fiona that is willing to acknowledge your preference for men, so can we move this along, please?” 

    “God, how do you sound like a teenager already?”    

    “Because education is a sham, Basilton, keep up,” 

    Mordelia ,” I groan. “Education is important.” 

    “Yes, yes, I must be educated properly to ensure a bright future,” she rolls her eyes, then picks up a decorative pillow. “Tell,” she hits me with it, “Me,” again, “About,” and again, “The boy!” 

    I snatch the pillow from her on her final swing and toss it across the room. “No,” 

    “Baz! Come on,” 

    “Why does everyone always want to talk to me about the men in my life? Is the existence of them not torture enough?” 

    “He’s...mean to you?” 

    “No, he’s fine,” I wave my hand. 

    “Is he cute?” 

    “Very,” I nod, and feel the heat on my face again. Mordelia giggles as I try to hide my face in another pillow. 

    “Is he nice?” 

    “To a fault,” 

    “Then what’s the problem?” she asks quietly. 

    “There’s more than just being cute and nice, Mordy,” 

    “But why?” 

    “Because nothing is that simple,” 

    “But...why?” she asks again, now shaking her head at me. “If he’s cute and he’s nice and you like him, what else is there?” 

    “Oh, my sweet naive child. The world has so much to teach you,” I sigh, before running a finger through her fine chocolate hair. “What I would give to be as blissfully ignorant as an eleven-year-old,” 

    “Don’t be rude, Baz,” she slaps my hand away from her face. 

    “I’m not,” I shrug. “It’s just a fact.” 

    “Well then blissfully ignorant I will remain because you’re not giving me anything that I asked for,” 

    “I already told you I’m not gushing to my sister,” 

    “Who else are you gonna gush to? That statue?” she points, indicating a large marble bust of some British aristocrat. 

    “No, definitely not him,” 

    “I didn’t think so,” she sighs. “Fine, if you really don’t want to talk about him, I’ll go. But, you know you’re going to have a hard time staying off your phone tomorrow, and you’ll need someone to distract you,” 

    “What are you saying?” 

    “I’ll ignore you. Leave you to father and his associates ,” she emphasizes a posh accent on the word, and I cringe. 

    “Fine, I’ll tell you,” I say. She almost falls off the bed with glee. 

 

Thursday  

 

    Right when I wake up, Daphne comes striding into the room holding a black garment bag, saying something about me wearing whatever was inside with no questions asked, before sweeping from the room as quickly as she came. It’s her birthday...shouldn’t she be relaxing? 

    I rise from the blankets and stretch fully before investigating the bag, only to find a beautiful maroon suit that I’m sure will fit perfectly. Daphne, nor my father, would have anything less. It seems it is a formal event, then. 

    After breakfast, the children are excused to go get ready for the party as it will be beginning at noon sharp, and we are all expected to be downstairs when guests arrive. I consider texting Snow to let him know I’ll be busy for most of the day, but I figure he’s smart enough to figure it out on his own. I’m buttoning up my shirt as my phone buzzes on the end table. 

 

SS (10:48 am): Go woo those businessmen.  

 

Of course he would say something witty, making me regret the decision not to text him. It’s like he knew. 

 

BP (10:50 am): I’ll try not to pull all of my hair out. 

 

SS (10:51 am): We’d all like you back in one piece, please 

 

The air leaves my lungs as I read it, and I have to remember that he’s probably just being polite. Or, I could indulge myself and believe he’s flirting. 

 

BP (10:53 am): Ah yes, you and all of my other friends. 

 

SS (10:54 am): Hey, you said we’re friends, not me 

 

A knock on my door signals Mordelia’s arrival, and her impending request for me to plait her hair. 

 

BP (10:55 am): Sorry, a plait situation calls. 

 

I hear my phone buzz again from it’s spot on the desk, as Mordelia comes to sit in front of me. 

 

    “Is that Simon?” 

    “Most likely, yes,” I sigh, brushing through her hair gingerly. “How would you like your hair?” 

    “Crown, please,” she giggles, when she notices me avoiding the subject. 

 

    I finish doing Mordelia’s hair quickly, but she lingers around the room while I finish getting dressed. I pull my jacket up on my shoulders before assessing myself in the mirror. 

    “It’ll do,” I sigh, and when I look up, Mordelia has my phone in her hand. “What are you doing?” 

    “Sending a picture to Simon of you in your suit,” 

    “Mordelia, no,” I groan, my stomach dropping. 

    “Already done, brother,” Mordelia laughs, handing my phone back to me. 

    “Please tell me you’re joking,” 

    “No, he said he wanted a picture. He probably meant of my hair, but I took advantage of the opportunity.” 

    “I’m going to slaughter you, Mordelia,” 

    “Why? I just did you a favour. Now, come on, mother will want us waiting.” 

 

My phone buzzes in my hand. 

 

SS (11:36 am): Red is definitely your colour. 

 

Well, shit. 

 

Simon

 

“I fucked up,” I tell Penny as I enter the shop after class. She’s leaning over the counter reading a textbook, and frowning down at it. 

“Why? What did you do?” she asks without looking up. 

“I kind of blatantly hit on Baz,” 

“What do you mean by ‘kind of’?” 

“I basically told him he looks fit in red,” I cringe, and she rolls her eyes at me. 

“I’m sure you have nothing to worry about, Simon, it probably went over his head,” 

“But Penny...he’s coming over tomorrow to work on our project for Am Lit. I need to be on my best behavior or he’ll never come over again,” I whine. “I really want him to come over again.” 

“Wait, you’re working on the project at your flat? Your internet is shit, Simon. You should go to his.” 

“Well, yeah, I guess you’re right. We haven’t even really discussed logistics yet. Either way, I’d like to step foot in each other’s flats after this. For reasons...other than this.” 

“You could just ask him out,” she shrugs. 

“You know, you keep saying that, and it’s still not going to happen,” 

“Then don’t blame me when you end up alone with a dozen cats,” 

“Who said anything about cats?” 

“Look Simon, all I’m saying is if you want action, you have to start action. You can’t just putz around waiting for him to make the first move. Also, you hated him a week ago and now you want him round your flat? Have you seen the way you live? He’d go running at first glance,” 

“Okay...mean. You know I’d clean.” 

“Shoving clothes under your bed doesn’t count as cleaning, but I digress. What I’m trying to say is, don’t get ahead of yourself. There’s always the possibility that you guys don’t actually get along, and this could all be for naught. Just don’t get your hopes up...okay?” she asks, gently placing a hand on my arm. “Don’t let him get under your skin.” 

“I can handle Baz, Penny,” I snort.

“And handle him, you will,” she laughs. My phone buzzes in my pocket, and I smile down at it when I see the name on my screen. 

 

BP (3:37 pm): How does 6:30 work for you tomorrow? My place? 

 

SS (3:40 pm): Works for me 

 

BP (3:44 pm): Great. I’ll send you my address when I get back into town tomorrow. 

 

SS (3:45 pm): Cool 

SS (3:47 pm): How’s the party? 

 

BP (3:50 pm): Shows no sign of stopping. I have to go. I’ll see you tomorrow. 

 

SS (3:53 pm): See you tomorrow! 

 

Excitement floods over me and down my spine as I slide my phone back into my pocket. I’m going to see Baz tomorrow. I’m going to hang out with Baz tomorrow . In his flat. To work on a project. Alone. Together. Ah, fuck. 

 

    “Alright?” 

    “This project is going to be a nightmare,” I sigh, crushing my face into my hands. 

    “Well,” Penny laughs. “I could have told you that.” 






Chapter Text

Simon  

 

My nerves are on high alert the second I open my eyes Friday morning. How am I going to make it through a full shift at work today, knowing that I’ll be in Baz’s flat in a few hours, and we’ll be talking and laughing and doing homework together? 

When did this change? When did I go from hating him to crushing on him so hard I can barely breathe? Was the hatred ever even real, or was I just avoiding the truth all along? 

I have no idea. I wish I did. I wish I had an explanation for how things have gotten so turned around, but I just don’t. I guess sometimes things don’t make sense, and you just have to take the leap and trust how they play out. 

Penny is right, though. It could be a fucking disaster. Everything I’ve made up in my head could be wrong, and then this fragile friendship I’ve built with Baz could be ruined. We could fight, we could argue, we could still perfectly well hate each other, and maybe all it will take to find out is some curry and a horribly boring school assignment. 

 

Baz 

 

I’m eager to get on the road back to London but my father and Daphne insisted on me staying through lunch at the very least. My phone is lodged somewhere in one of the pockets of my bag, and it’s surely filled to the brim with messages from Snow. 

At least I hope it is. We didn’t get the opportunity to talk much yesterday due to Daphne’s party, but I somehow managed to sneak away and invite him over to my place to work on the project, which means that now once I get home I have to clean while simultaneously trying not to vomit from nerves. 

I’ve never had a boy in my flat. I’ve never had anyone but Fiona, Dev, Niall, and on one occasion by accident, Wellbelove, in my flat. I don’t know the protocol for this. Do I go get some beer? Do I make sure to know what channel a football game will be on? Where does he like the curry from? Should I order it before he arrives or are we going to get it and bring it back? Do I dress up or should I just wear joggers? It’s just a school assignment, surely it’s a casual affair. Right? 

There’s a reason I keep people at a distance. I tried having a boyfriend once, last year. It...didn’t work out. I’m a bit too sharp around the edges, it seems. Do I even want a boyfriend? Does Snow even want to be my boyfriend? Has the thought crossed his mind as many times as it’s crossed mine over the years? Maybe I’m content with being alone, not letting people in. It’s easier this way. But it gets lonely from time to time, and I could really enjoy the company of someone with auburn hair and patterned moles during the chilly winter nights. 

Christ, I’m fucked. 

 

Simon 

 

The jitters are running through me like a current and I can tell it’s driving Penny mad. She’s thrown more pens at me today than in all our years working for Ebb, and at this rate her aim is near perfect. The last one nearly got me square in the eye. I just can’t help it. I’m so nervous, but also so excited to spend the evening with Baz. I know it’s not a date, that much is clear, but it’s a great opportunity to set the groundwork for what could potentially be many future dates! I can only imagine Baz’s flat is as immaculate and pristine as his every day appearance, and I just know I’ll probably feel entirely out of place among his state-of-the-art stovetop and talking refrigerator, but I couldn’t care less. I’m just eager to see him and get some unadulterated alone time.  

“Have you even done any work today?” Penny asks, coming to lean against the desk. She’s been in the back room running inventory for the last hour, while I’ve been manning the front. 

“Yes,” I shrug. “Sort of,” 

“Liar,” she smirks. “I know you’re waxing poetic in your head about Baz, but there’s nothing you can do but wait for him to get back so you might as well put that nervous energy to good use and go reorganize the children’s section or something. You’re putting me on edge with all the tapping,” 

“Sorry,” I cringe. “I didn’t think you could hear me back there. This day is dragging.” 

“Well of course it is, you need something to get your mind off it. I need you to get your mind off it. I’m out of pens and it’s barely three,” I laugh, and she rolls her eyes at me. “You know it’s just an assignment, right?”

“Yes, I know that. And I’ve been through every possible scenario in my head, even the ones where we still in fact hate each other and he kicks me out of his flat, but only after throwing curry at me.” 

“Good, just had to check,” Penny laughs, and then her gaze shifts down. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot, actually,” 

“What?” I straighten. 

“I don’t want to stir the pot, Simon, but I think you need to tread carefully in regards to these feelings you think you have for Baz,” 

“What?” I repeat. 

“Before you do anything stupid, like flirt or make a move, just make sure it’s what you really want,” she shrugs, but her eyes are on her knotted fingers. 

“Penny, what are you on about?”

“Just...don’t be impulsive about this, okay?” 

“Why does it seem like you know something I don’t?” I ask apprehensively, and she bites her lip nervously. 

“Look, Si, I mean this in the nicest way possible. You get attached to people really easily, especially when they’re nice to you. You’re quick to forgive, because you don’t like conflict and I think it would be wise for you to not rush things with Baz if they end up going well later, okay? Don’t get me wrong, I’m in full support of this, because I want to see you happy, but you’ve both been through a lot of stuff and I think that needs to be taken into consideration before you jump headlong into a relationship.” 

“Whoa, I never said anything about a relationship. Why does it sound like you’ve been trying to talk me out of this the last few days? You were full steam ahead last week! Did Agatha or Baz say something to you?”

“Maybe…” She shrugs. “Agatha might have mentioned something at her party.” 

“What did she say?” 

“It’s really not my place, Simon.” 

“Pen,” I groan. “You can’t bring it up and then not tell me.” 

She looks up at me, and then shifts uncomfortably under my gaze. 

“Fine. Agatha had mentioned that Baz doesn’t have the best track record with interpersonal relationships. So, just be careful. That’s all I’ll say on the matter.” 

“You think I’m going to hurt him?” 

“I don’t know Simon, I think you might have the potential to hurt each other.”

“That’s not specific to us, you know.” 

“I know, but Agatha seems to think you two are a perfect match, so for everyone’s sake I hope this works out.” 

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Pen.” 

“You know I don’t mean it like that, Simon.” 

“It’s whatever, I’m going for a walk,” I shrug, brushing past her and walking toward the front door. “I’ll be back in a little.” 

 

The air hits me like a brick wall when I step outside. It’s cold, as it usually is this time of year, and I can almost smell the impending rainstorm. I know Penny means well. She always does. She’s worried about me, and it sounds like Agatha is worried about me and Baz, too. But it’s not like we’re rushing into anything. A first name on a cup, complimentary cup of coffee, and a flirtatious remark about a dashing suit doesn’t exactly make for a budding romantic relationship. It’s somewhere between friendly and romantic, but it’s not distinctly one or the other, and this is a line I’m perfectly fine with walking for awhile. At least until things make more sense. At least until we establish a friendship. At least until we know we don’t hate each other. 

 

My phone buzzes in my pocket as I cross the street, and I hope it’s not Penny, asking me to come back to the shop. I need just a minute more. 

 

I glance down at my phone, and it’s Baz. 

 

BP (3:46 pm): Heading back to London now. Still good for tonight? 

 

Thank god. 

 

SS (3:46 pm): Yeah. Where do you want food from? I’ll pick it up on my way over after work. 

 

BP (3:47 pm): I don’t have a preference. 

BP (3:48 pm): Surprise me. 

 

SS (3:48 pm): Okay :) 

 

Why does that sound so...flirtatious? Is Baz flirting with me? I mean, I flirted with him last night, and on Tuesday, and over text last week. I’m not above it. But I didn’t expect him to do it back. 

 

What the fuck am I gonna get us to eat? 

 

I stroll back into the shop and Penny has her eyes focused downward on something in front of her, and she doesn’t look up when the door bell rings, which means she knows it’s me. 

 

“Simon,” she says as I hang my coat up, and I want to cringe at the tone of her voice. It’s apprehensive, but apologetic, which means she probably wants to finish our conversation from earlier. 

“Yeah?” I reply as I slowly walk over to the desk. I rest my elbows on it and try to keep my shoulders relaxed, even though I want to go hide myself away upstairs. 

“I’m sorry for what I said. You know I want to see you happy. I know we’re all kind of jumping the gun on the Baz situation because it’s new and it’s exciting, but I also don’t want you to get your hopes up if he turns out to be exactly who you always thought he was.” 

“I know, Pen. I’m sorry for storming out, too. I know you care.” 

“Of course I do, you’re my best friend.” 

“And you’re the only family I’ve got, so I reckon I better not fuck this up,” I say and it makes her laugh, relief washing over her features. She takes her glasses off and runs a hand through her fluffy curls, and then sighs lightly. 

“It’s almost time,” she smirks at me.  

“I know. I’m practically chomping at the bit. He asked me to surprise him with dinner,” 

“Oh, now you’re bringing dinner?” She wiggles eyebrows at me. “This is starting to sound like more than homework.”

“We need to eat, Penny!” I laugh. “Brain fuel or whatever.” 

“You’re right. No possible way you’ll get carried away chatting and not get the assignment done.” 

“Hush,” I flush. She knows me way to well. 

“Simon Snow! Is that the plan?!” She shouts, playfully punching me with a small fist. 

“No!” 

“Liar! Simon!” She howls. “You need to work on the project!” 

“Stop!” I laugh. “I know! We will! But I want to get to know him, Pen.” 

“Get to know him after you finish your assignment, Simon.” 

“Why not both?” I wink, and she laughs brightly and covers her face with her hands. 

“Bloody hell, you’re someone else today.” She remarks and I laugh, and then a few customers come through the door. 

 

After work, Penny and I walk toward our respective flats, and she’s rambling on about some professor of hers, but I’m not listening. I should be listening, but I can’t stop thinking about Baz. I’m leaning more towards nervous and less towards excited even though it’s just homework, and I’m nearly digging my nails into my palms in the pockets of my jacket. 

“Simon, are you listening?” Penny asks, drawing my attention back to her. 

“Uh, yeah,” I nod. 

“No you weren’t. Thinking about Baz again?” 

“Maybe,” I flush, and Penny shoves me with her shoulder. 

“Alright you mess, go freshen up and call me later to tell me how it goes. I want to hear everything and before you ask, it can’t wait until tomorrow!” Penny laughs as we part, and I see her devilish smirk as she turns around and walks away from me. I guess it’s showtime, then.  

 

I arrive at Baz’s flat at six-thirty, sharp. I’ve a plastic bag full of curry and samosas and I can feel the steam rising up into my hand, increasing the clamminess tenfold. I raise my hand to knock, but I can’t seem to make it move. It’s just stuck, hanging in front of Baz’s fancy door, and suddenly I feel like I’m made of stone. Fuck. 

It’s just homework, Simon. It’s just curry, Simon. It’s just Baz and his posh flat, Simon. But it’s not. It’s an assignment that’ll be so easy for Baz to do on his own he could do it in his sleep, and it’s a meal we’re sharing that we clearly both enjoy, and it’s Baz, the guy I have a huge bloody crush on inviting me into his home, inviting me into his private space, when we very well could have done this at a cafe or a library. This is so much more than just homework and curry. This is so much more than just kicking back with Baz Pitch. It’s so much more than everything. And I’m completely screwed. 

I just have to knock. 

That’s it. 

First step. 

Easy. 

I look at my watch. 

It’s fucking six thirty five. I’ve been standing outside Baz’s door for five whole minutes fretting over this bloke. Bloody hell. 

I rest my knuckles against the door, but it doesn’t make any noise. So I lift, and let the weight of my arm carry my fist back into the wood. I’ve done it. I’ve knocked. Once. 

The door swings open after a matter of seconds, and there he is. Holy shit.  

Baz is wearing joggers, and I’m one wrong look and a heartbeat away from passing out. If I thought he looked comfortable at the shop last week, this is a whole new kind of monster. Baz looks positively plush

 

Baz 

 

He’s here. He’s actually here, at my flat. And he’s...staring at me? I opened the door to see him standing pin-straight with a bag of food in his hands, and a blush creeping up his neck. The second he saw me, his eyes trailed down my body as slow as molasses, and now he’s staring at me with the most bizarre expression with his mouth hanging open. Mouth breather

“Snow,” I say, and it seems to startle him. “Are you going to work from the hallway or would you like to come in?” 

“Uh--yeah, sorry. I’ll come in.” He nods, and I open the door wider to allow him room to enter. He looks around my flat, and if his mouth hangs open any longer, bugs will fly in. 

“You can set the food on the table, I’ll get some plates.” 

“Oh, yeah okay, sure. I got red curry and samosas.” 

“Sounds good. Want something to drink?”

“Whatever you’re having is fine,” he nods, awkwardly standing by the table, his hand still resting on the bag. Good, then. He’s nervous too. It’s not just me. 

I gather plates from the cupboard as well as a cold pitcher of water from the fridge, and join Snow at the table. He sits, finally, and I sit across from him. We don’t speak as we split the food between us, and we’re still quiet as we take a few bites. Snow pours himself some water, takes a sip, and then clears his throat. 

“How was Hampshire?” he asks. 

“Riveting,” I reply, smirking. 

“Do you not like spending time with your family?” 

“I told you they can be exhausting. I suppose it’s not their fault, though. My siblings can’t help that they’re all a decade or more younger than me, and I know my parents mean well. You know how it is,” I shrug and wave my hand aimlessly. Snow frowns and then looks down at his food for a moment, playing with a piece of chicken, but not eating it. 

“I don’t actually,” he shrugs noncommittally. “I don’t have any family.” 

Oh my god. He’s been here a total of ten minutes and I’ve already fucked up. There’s no coming back from this. “I’m sorry, I had no idea.” I tell him. 

“No, not your fault at all. Not exactly a conversation starter, is it?” He laughs. “I grew up in care homes. Moved around a lot as a kid, and I even lived with a foster family for a bit, but it didn’t work out. When I was eighteen, I signed myself out and got my own flat when I started working for Ebb.” 

“Oh,” I say, but it comes out as a whisper. Simon Snow, the orphan. I never would have thought with the way he acts. I imagined he had a huge family with tons of siblings that were raised somewhere perfect, where the sun always shines and they eat rainbows and warm hugs for breakfast. Anyone else would be dreadfully jaded from a childhood spent in care homes. 

“Oi, it’s nothing, Baz. Really,” he shakes his head. “I don’t mind.” 

“You just seem so...okay,” I frown, irritated with my own response. “I mean--”

“I am okay.” he starts. “It’s taken a really long time, especially after my experience with my foster family, but with the structure of school, work, and my friendship with Penny, I’m really happy with where I’m at, you know? I don’t need a family to complete me.” 

“I feel like such a twat for complaining about my family now,” I grumble. 

“Don’t,” he laughs. “It’s funny, really. I like it.” 

What?  

“What? Why?” 

“I think it’s cute that you have that kind of relationship with your sister. It reminds me of the way Penny is with her brothers. It’s fun to watch, you know? Even with the other boys in care, I was always the odd ball and I got into fights so no one ever really wanted to hang out with me, so I like hearing stories or watching siblings interact. Is that weird?” he smiles crookedly, and it’s so charming

“No, not at all.” I say and his smile straightens, and it’s like he’s put on the high beams. “Well, I have plenty of stories so I’ve got hours of entertainment for you whenever you want it.” 

“Hahaha, thanks,” he laughs, and the sounds comes from deep within his chest. It’s a warm sound, a summer afternoon, and I can practically see my own flush form on my cheeks. Our plates are clear, but neither of us are moving, and it’s nearing seven. I don’t want to break this fragile rapport, but we really should work on the assignment. Regretfully, I stand. 

“So...I’ll just do these dishes really quick and then we can get started, yeah?” 

“Let me help, it’ll be faster.” He smiles, and I find myself willing to do pretty much anything for it at this point. 

“Alright then. I’ll rinse, you dry.” 

“Deal, hand me a towel.” 

 

After washing the dishes, which was so gut-wrenchingly domestic I almost passed away, we’ve settled ourselves into my fine leather couch. While he plugs in his computer and rummages around in his bag, I take the opportunity to get a good look at Simon Snow. 

He’s wearing trackies, of course, but he’s also wearing a soft-looking hoodie and his hair is ruffled in just a way I can almost see where he’s run his fingers through it. There’s a line of moles that trail in a line up his neck and onto his cheek, and I absently wonder what it would be like to kiss those moles one by one...

He clears his throat, and I know I’ve been caught. I try to play it off like I’ve zoned out, but I think I fail miserably, because he’s flushing again. 

“So, what should we analyze? I was thinking about The Great Gatsby and The Scarlet Letter.” 

“No way, we are not doing Gatsby,” I laugh incredulously. “Everyone will be doing Gatsby.” 

Snow rolls his eyes at me. I decide I love it. “Well, what would you have us do, then?” 

“This Side of Paradise,” I say. “Still a romance, but the themes aren’t nearly as dark, and no one gets hit by a car or bleeds out in a pool.” 

“I haven’t read that one, though,” he frowns and his eyes fall to his lap. 

“Well then, you’re in luck Simon Snow. I happen to have read it many times.” 

“Of course you have,” he laughs. “Shouldn’t surprise me.” 

“You work in a bookshop, I’m surprised you haven’ t read it.” 

“Eh, I prefer fantasy.” 

“Dragons and magic more your speed?” 

“Exactly,” he smiles. “The American classics don’t really butter my scones, you know?” 

“When you put it that way I know exactly what you mean,” I laugh. Maybe this project won’t be so horrible after all. 

 

We buckle down and wring out the powerpoint to its fullest potential, and at nine-thirty, we’re finally done. I shut my laptop with a click, and place it gently on the table. 

I look at Snow. He’s still got his computer in his lap, but his eyes are closed and his head is resting against the back of the couch. Did Simon Snow fall asleep on my couch? 

He must feel my staring, because he opens one eye to look at me. “What?” he asks. 

“Just want to make sure you haven’t fallen asleep. It would require a lot of my strength to remove you from my flat if that were the case.” I smirk. He closes his eye again and huffs a small laugh.

“You would let me sleep in your hallway?” 

“Yes, I would.” I reply. 

“You’re too kind. Most would throw me out the window.” 

“Well, I don’t particularly want a murder case on my hands, so the hallway will do.” I joke. “Would you like some tea?” 

“Ha, sure.” Snow answers, still without opening his eyes. I didn’t think my couch was that comfortable, and I certainly never imagined Simon Snow sinking down into it with pleasure. 

I busy myself with the kettle, and I hear him finally start to put his things into his bag. 

I bring the tea over to the couch like I always do with Fiona, and set it on the table in front of us. 

“You’re such a gracious host,” he laughs. 

“Don’t insult me, I still reserve the right to have you removed, you know, and I’m beginning to seriously consider it.” 

“Fine, fine. I’ll be nice.” he smiles, and pours some cream into his tea. 

I find myself eager to know more about him. About his childhood. About this mysterious foster family. About how he ended up as an English Literature major at a good school with a perfect job and a fabulous best friend, and for a short period of time, a girlfriend like Wellbelove. 

“Can I ask you a question?” I say, before I can stop myself. 

“Sure,” he shrugs at looks at me expectantly. 

“What happened with your foster family?” I ask carefully. His eyes widen, and he coughs into his tea. 

“Wow, you cut straight to the point,” 

“Sorry, oh my god, you don’t have to answer that.” 

“No, no, it’s fine actually,” he smiles softly. “No one ever really asks.” He brings his legs up underneath him, and clears his throat. “My foster father was kind of a twat. He was super controlling and abusive, both physically and emotionally. I wasn’t allowed to have friends or do anything unless he gave me specific instructions to do so. There were no other kids in the house and his wife had died, so he always took his anger out on me. I was only with him for eight months, but I was miserable. I don’t know how he got approved for foster care, the guy was a monster.”

Holy shit. I shouldn’t have asked. I really, really, shouldn’t have asked. 

“I spent the first part of my eighteenth year with Penny’s family, since I didn’t have enough money saved to afford my own place, and that’s when she and I got really close. We’d known each other during secondary, and were pretty much fast friends, but living together really solidified the relationship.” he smiles fondly, staring down at his hands. “I don’t talk about my childhood much, you know? Makes people uncomfortable, so, sorry if it did..” 

“Simon, no. I’m really sorry I asked. I didn’t mean to cross a line.” 

“Baz I told you, it’s really fine, I promise. I wouldn’t have answered you if I didn’t want to,” he looks at me, emotion swimming behind his eyes. “It’s nice to talk to someone about it. It’s been awhile. Living with David isn’t a fond memory, but care wasn’t all bad. And things have only gotten better since, so there’s really nothing to complain about.” 

“Well, thank you for telling me then, I suppose,” I smile, and he smiles brightly back at me. 

“You’re welcome. Thanks for caring enough to ask.” he says. “I should get going, though. It’s getting kind of late.” 

“Are you sure? If you’re tired you can sleep on my couch, I was only joking about the hallway.” Shut up, Basilton

“No, I’ve intruded enough for one night I reckon,” he laughs. “Thanks, though.” 

“Well thanks for making this work, I’m glad we got it done early. Saves us the trouble of rushing on it later.” 

“That’s true.” Snow says, swinging his bag over his shoulder. I follow him to the door, and he pauses, as if he’s waiting for me to say something. “Well, see you Tuesday, Baz.” 

He turns, and as he starts walking down the hallway, I feel myself follow him. 

“Snow,” I call, and he turns, looking at me expectantly. 

“Yeah?” 

“Do you want to meet for coffee on Sunday?” Please say yes. 

“Yes--Yeah, yes.” he laughs. “That sounds great--yeah, I mean--sounds good.” 

“Good--I mean. Cool, yeah. I’ll text you.” 

“Okay, goodnight, Baz.” he smiles, and then walks around the corner. 

“Goodnight, Simon,” I reply, and my heart feels like it’s going to beat it’s way right through my ribs. 

 

Simon 

 

Penny answers on the second ring. 

“How’d it go?” 

“We’re getting coffee Sunday morning,” 

“That’s awesome, Si!” 

“And,” I breathe. “He called me Simon. Twice .”