Chapter 32: Guide me home
Christmas hats, Aldi parking lot, condoms, the Royal Ballet School hoodie and how to fix jet lag, according to Simon Snow. (Spoiler alert, it doesn’t really work on Baz.) British Nationals T-minus one week.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve been jet lagged. Usually, I can handle time changes pretty well, but I guess even my sleep schedule gets messed up from being on three different continents within less than a week, especially if you throw a major competition in the mix. We’ve been in London for a few days now and I’m still so tired that all I do is eat, practice and sleep.
I’m nowhere near as fucked up as Baz, though. He actually fell asleep on the changing room bench the other day. I can’t imagine how bad it must be for him to willingly sleep in public, especially on the uncomfortable benches at Mitali’s rink, but I imagine that’s pretty high up on the “Baz Pitch Sleep Deprivation Scale.” (We’re both training at Mitali’s during the week leading up to Nationals. Penny’s mum offered to watch over us since Ebb can’t be here, so it works out.)
In retrospect, Baz falling asleep was kind of adorable. Penny found a Christmas hat and put it on his head while he was dead to the world, which Baz was not pleased about when he woke up. The next training session, he retaliated by stealing both of our skate guards so we were stuck on the ice, presumably left to his mercy until we apologised, but I just took my skates off and walked to the changing room in my socks. (This prompted him to call me a menace to society, but what else are you supposed to do when your boyfriend is a grudge-holding prick?)
It hasn’t been like this since we all trained back at Watford together. Actually, I don’t think it’s ever been like this. The atmosphere at the rink is probably one of the few things keeping me from keeling over from exhaustion these days – both mental and physical. This is my third competition in the span of a month and at this point, I’d just like a break .
Baz seems to think so too, as he settles himself on the bench after yet another training session.
“Fuck this,” he sighs. “I’m not doing any quads this weekend. In fact, I might not even do any jumps. What are they going to do, not send me to Worlds? I might just go on the ice and take a nap for four minutes.”
It makes me laugh and causes Penny to roll her eyes at him.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Basil,” she says.
“I’m as serious as a heart attack, Bunce. It’s their fault for scheduling Nationals so soon after the Final, really.”
“They did it last year too and you ended up being just fine,” Penny objects.
“Yes, because last year, the Final was held in Italy . I know you don’t excel at geography, Bunce, but Italy’s a bit closer to England than China is.”
I should be mad at Baz for slandering Penny, but the truth is, she is remarkably bad at geography. As in “doesn’t know how big America is” bad. She used to visit Micah’s rink for a training camp every summer when they were still together, and when Agatha moved to San Diego, she thought she could make a day trip to visit her. It was the only time I’ve ever seen Penny be so catastrophically wrong about something.
She hates it when it’s brought up, though, as evidenced by her chucking her gloves at Baz just now.
“Bunce, I would appreciate it if you didn’t throw your stinky belongings at me,” he says, throwing them right back at her.
“Drama queen,” Penny scoffs. “Are you seriously going to tone down your program, though? Because there are going to be a lot of people watching and I think they wouldn’t appreciate you just taking a nap on the ice.”
“Well, they should enjoy me in all my glory. Snow watches me sleep all the time so I must look remarkable whilst I do it.”
His comment makes me blush and Penny groan.
“I’m happy for you two but I don’t need to hear about it,” she complains. “And I’m serious, Baz. Nationals are sold out.”
I nearly spit out the sip of water I just took. “Nationals are sold out?!
“Wait, don’t you two know about that?” Penny asks, confused. “People here have been taking interest in figure skating ever since Baz won Europeans last year, and now that Simon won Rostelecom, the press is talking about this big great rivalry between you two. And it’s the first time either of you will be skating on home ice since winning all those medals. I guess people want to see it.”
“And you planned on telling us this when exactly?” Baz cuts in.
“I honestly thought you guys knew! It’s not my fault you don’t follow the news!” Penny defends herself. “I’m just saying; I know you two are tired, but you know there are no high-end competitions in England. This might be someone’s only chance to see skating at such a high level, so just do one quad. Please?”
Baz sighs and begins untying his skates. “Fine. Snow, how many quads are you going to do? If the media is advertising a showdown, I want to give it to them fair and square.”
“Oh, um…” I pause for a second. Baz isn’t going to like my answer. “Uh, I was thinking a full layout?”
I was right, Baz doesn’t like my answer. “Full layout? As in two quads in the short, four in the free?”
I shrug. “Uh, yeah.”
Baz groans and falls back on the bench theatrically. “You’re going to be the death of me, Snow.”
“I mean, I can tone it down if you want to,” I add.
“No, no. Six quads it is.” He extends his arm towards me. “Shake on it?”
It feels weird to be shaking hands with my boyfriend and I think Baz thinks so too because he smirks when we do it.
“Alright, Snow, six quads. I’m going to destroy you.”
I smirk. “I’d like to see you try.”
Baz apparently took this as a challenge, because he kept fucking pushing me the whole session. Well, he didn’t actually push me – he was just doing some crazy jump combinations right in front of me and I’m not one to back down from a challenge. (With the look he sent me, it was definitely a challenge.)
In the end, Mitali called us to the boards and told us off for jumping too much and Baz practically wiggled his eyebrows at me. I had to bite my lip not to laugh (or snog him against the boards.)
It’s for the best, though, because if we’d have kept our battle up, I don’t know if I’d have lived to see the end of our training day. I vaguely wonder how Penny has enough energy to go help her mum with coaching the littluns after our practice, because I’m absolutely knackered. (Although I suppose Penny isn’t dealing with an annoying case of jet lag.)
The three of us do our post-practice stretching together and then I watch as Penny gets back on the ice to coach Priya’s group.
“Snow.” Baz’s voice suddenly sounds behind me and I nearly jump. “The weather is horrible today.”
I turn around and furrow my eyebrows at him. “Are you seriously talking to me about the weather? ”
Baz rolls his eyes mightily. “I was going to offer you a ride home, but if you’re planning on being difficult—” he starts.
“No, no, I’ll take the ride home,” I cut him off quickly. I don’t even care about the weather, but Baz and I haven’t been alone together since we got back to London and it’s becoming increasingly difficult not to think about kissing him, especially when he’s testing my patience like he was today. It would do him good to shut up for once.
A small smile flashes across Baz’s face before he composes himself again. “Very well. But no feet on the dashboard.”
“When have I ever put my feet on the dashboard? I’ve only been in your car twice!”
“And I know you were thinking about it the whole time,” Baz concludes. Well, technically, he’s not wrong. There are few greater joys in life than putting your feet on the dashboard.
Once we’re in his car, I make the motion of putting my feet up just to mess with him. Baz sighs theatrically as he starts the car.
“You’re insufferable,” he says.
“I learned from the best,” I grin at him.
“Who, Bunce? Shepard?” Baz asks while backing up his car. It’s oddly mesmerizing.
“Shut up,” I huff.
“Or what, Snow?” he raises his eyebrow at me and I swear if he wasn’t driving right now, he’d be done for. (I won’t snog my boyfriend in the middle of the road, even if he is being an insufferable prick; I do have respect for basic road safety.)
“I’m hungry, can we get something to eat?” I quickly change the subject. Baz rolls his eyes.
“Anything for you, my dear,” he says sarcastically. I scoff and roll my eyes.
As soon as he parks in front of Aldi, I lean over the console and smash my face onto his. Baz makes a small noise of surprise against my lips before grabbing my face and pushing against me.
It’s so good. We’ve not kissed since the night we left Beijing and it’s been driving me up the wall to be honest. Especially when Baz is being a right knobhead like he was today.
“You’re not really hungry, are you?” Baz asks as he pulls away. (Too fucking soon if you ask me.) I kiss him once more before answering.
“I’m always hungry,” I say. “But I can manage.”
“You’re a fucking menace, Simon Snow. Did you seriously just make me pull over so that you could kiss me?”
“Are you complaining?”
“Yes. You smell disgusting.”
“Shut up,” I say, poking him in the stomach. Baz squirms. “Oh my god, are you ticklish?”
“ No ,” Baz says, sending me his glariest glare, but it doesn’t matter because he so is ticklish. I poke again and he squirms and fucking giggles . I might’ve just discovered my greatest weapon against Baz.
Or maybe not, because the next moment, he’s holding my wrist and kissing me. And I guess that’s an effective counterattack because I’d much rather be doing this than ticking him. (It’s a narrow win, though.)
“You’re a fucking nightmare,” Baz breathes in between kisses.
“You like it,” I retort.
“I fucking adore it,” he says against my lips and I nearly melt from it all. My hand breaks free from his grip and I cup his face, pulling him closer to me. Baz kisses me harder for a second, then suddenly pulls away.
“Simon,” he says, sounding out of breath. (I am too.) “We’re not snogging in an Aldi parking lot in broad daylight.”
I stare at him, suddenly embarrassed. I mean, the rain is falling so hard that I’m sure nobody can see us, but he’s still right.
Baz puts his seatbelt back on (I hadn’t even noticed when he undid it), and starts the engine. “My aunt isn’t home,” he says as he backs the car out of the parking spot. “We’re going to mine.”
By the time Baz drops me off at home, it’s getting dark already and I’m wearing a Royal Ballet School hoodie that he let me borrow because my practice clothes did actually stink. My hair is probably all mussed, either from snogging or from us taking a nap together.
I’m feeling infinitely more human than I have since coming back to London. Who knew all I needed to combat my jet lag was a good nap and an even better snog?
Mum’s already home when I walk through the door, watching the telly in the lounge. Merlin is curled up on an empty armchair, fast asleep. He blinks awake as I retract the handle on my skating bag.
My mum puts the telly on mute and pats the sofa, motioning me to sit next to her. I do.
“You’re home late,” she says. Fuck. I still haven’t told her about Baz. I’ve been meaning to, but I’ve been going to bed extra early every night because of jet-lag and I just haven’t found the time.
“Yeah, I, um… I was hanging out with Baz,” I stammer. Should I tell her now? I know my mum wouldn’t react badly, but the thought of telling her still makes my chest tighten with anxiety.
Mum smiles again. “Ah, that’s lovely. I’m glad to hear you and Baz are friends. I remember how you couldn’t stand each other when you were younger,” she laughs.
We’re more than friends is practically on the tip of my tongue. My heart is hammering in my chest. Yeah, funny story, mum, Baz has actually fancied me since he was fifteen and I’m home late because we were busy snogging in his bed at his aunt’s flat.
“Yeah, um, well… things have changed,” I choke out. I’m not sure how my mum doesn’t pick up on how nervous I am – or maybe she does and doesn’t want to say anything.
What if she already knows? That prospect somehow seems equally mortifying. God, I should just tell her.
“We, um—” I start, but my mum cuts me off.
“Oh, are you getting ballet classes from the Royal Ballet School?” she asks, feeling the sleeve of my hoodie. Fuck, I’m still wearing Baz’s hoodie. Well, that makes it really obvious then, doesn’t it?
“Um, no, this is Baz’s. He went to the school for a bit before he moved to Russia,” I say.
“Oh right! Sometimes I wonder how this boy has time for everything. I mean, what? Ballet, violin, skating, football…” she starts counting on her fingers. “Am I missing anything?”
“He’s also taking a full course at uni,” I fill her in. And he’s dating me. (God, I’m dating Baz Pitch. Sometimes the realisation hits me all over again, causing a swarm of butterflies to rise in my stomach.) “Um, actually, now it’s mainly just uni and skating for him,” I add. And me.
“Yes, that’s good. Having too much on his plate can’t be good for his mental health,” mum nods. “Speaking of which, you’re doing okay, aren’t you? Any nerves for Nationals?”
I smile as she puts her arm around me. “Yeah, I’m doing fine. The therapy is really helping and so is the whole team in Montreal. It’s just much less stressful. Ebb has this rule, I guess, where she wants us to prioritise having fun while skating over our results. So that’s helped.”
“Simon, I don’t care what you say, this woman deserves a thousand Christmas presents.”
I laugh dryly and swallow hard. I’m going to tell her. “Actually, Baz has been helping a lot too,” I say.
“Yeah, I… he… um. Before we left for Rostelecom, er, you know how I really wanted to qualify for the Final and I had to beat the Chinese bloke to do it?” I ask. Mum nods and I continue. “Well, Baz is a massive swot for scores and all the math behind it. He, um, helped me analyse my program and showed me where I can get extra points to beat Huang and uh. I don’t think I’d be able to skate as well as I did if it wasn’t for him,” I say. I don’t say how he held me in his arms while I was on the brink of tears and shaking from anxiety and the realisation that I loved him. (I still haven’t told him I love him.)
My mum tsks. “Well now I’m going to have to get him a Christmas present too.”
I start laughing. “Mum, no. ”
“Sorry, Simon, good friends deserve presents. Those are the rules.”
I swallow hard. “We’re actually a bit more than friends,” I mumble. There, I said it. My heart feels like it’s about to race out of my chest and I’m fairly positive my face is burning.
“Oh?” my mum asks. She sounds surprised but not in a bad way. “Since when?”
God, I wish I knew how to answer that. “It’s a bit complicated,” I say, focusing on the hem of Baz’s hoodie. “Officially, it’s only been like a month, but um… we’ve sorta been going back and forth on it since September. We put it on probation for a bit. And then after Rostelecom, I asked him to be my boyfriend.” I’m definitely blushing now. “I didn’t say anything because I wanted to tell you in person,” I add.
She pulls me into a tight hug. “I’m glad you’ve told me at all,” she says. “This can’t have been easy, but you know I love you all the same, no matter the gender of the person you’re dating, right?”
And yes, I knew that, but I still feel my eyes prickling from relief. “I know,” I choke out.
“And you know that no matter who you’re dating, you have to practice safe sex, right?”
All the emotions I was feeling just a second ago are instantly replaced by mortification. “Mum! We’re not there yet!” I exclaim, my cheeks burning with embarrassment. It’s true; Baz and I have never gone any further than that morning in Moscow. Our practices are so physically draining that most of the time Baz and I are in bed together, we just kiss lazily or sleep.
I mean, it’s not that I don’t want more but…
No, I’m not having this train of thought with my mother right there, giving me the talk.
“Well, just remember it when you are there. I have some condoms upstairs if—”
I shuffle away quickly. “Oh my god, mum, no! We’re good!” (Are we good, though? I mean, I don’t have any condoms…) (Baz probably has them.) (I hope Baz has them.) (Why would Baz have them, though? It’s not like we’ve explicitly talked about sex.) (Maybe I should take the condoms.)
“Well, if you change your mind…” mum’s voice trails off. “Did you eat at Baz’s?” she swiftly changes the subject.
“Yeah, but it was a few hours ago.”
My mum grins. “Do you want pasta?”
I always want fucking pasta.
I’m just crawling into bed when Simon calls me. I startle a bit when my phone rings and his name flashes across the screen. Simon doesn’t usually call me, and I immediately think something’s wrong.
My heart is racing as I answer the call. “Snow,” I say, trying to keep my voice as calm as possible.
“Hey,” Simon says from the other side. His voice sounds different over the phone, but the softness of it doesn’t escape me. I breathe out a sigh of relief; maybe he just wanted to talk to me. Maybe Snow never usually calls me because we’re neighbours and he can just pop by my flat whenever he wants to talk.
“Why are you calling at such an ungodly hour?” I ask, settling my pillow against the headboard and leaning back on it.
“It’s nine in the evening,” Snow objects.
“You know I’m still on Beijing time.”
“Did I wake you up? We can talk tomorrow if you’re tired.”
“Simon. It’s fine, I’m not tired. Why did you call me?”
“The hoodie smells like you,” he says and my heart just about fucking melts. I imagine him now, laying in his bed, wearing my hoodie and it’s too much for me to handle. He looked so adorable when I put it on him earlier today.
“And my pillow smells like your sweaty head,” I say, because I’m awful and I ruin everything good.
“Shut up,” he laughs. “Today was nice. I missed that.”
I swallow my heart beating in my throat. “It was adequate, yes.”
“I told my mum about us.”
I nearly drop my phone out of my hand in surprise. “And?” I ask, hesitantly.
“She was fine with it,” he says and I can hear the smile in his voice. I smile too.
“I’m happy to hear that,” I say earnestly, because I am. Simon deserves all the supportive parents in the world and I already know his dad is a prick, so I’m happy that at least his mum is a decent person.
“She offered me condoms,” Simon blurts out and Christ, he really does have a way of springing things on you out of the blue.
“Um.” I’m not entirely sure what to say to that. “Did you take them?”
God fucking dammit, Basil. Now he’s going to think you’re perverse.
“I, uh… no.”
I’m not sure why my heart sinks at that. I guess we’ve never really talked about sex or about what Simon wants. And he did spend the majority of his life thinking he was straight, so maybe he hasn’t even had the chance to think about that aspect of our relationship yet. (I’ve thought about it. Excessively.)
“Very well then,” I manage to say, pleased that my voice doesn’t give away anything that I’m feeling.
“I just… um. Figured that you probably have them.”
I nearly drop my phone for the second time this evening. “Why would I have condoms?” It comes out sharper than I intended.
I can hear Snow’s shrug over the phone. “I don’t know,” he says. “You like to be prepared.”
“We’ve not even talked about it! I don’t even know if you want that or not!”
“What? Baz of course I want that. I’ve just never done it before, that’s all.”
“You haven’t?” In retrospect, I should’ve known that Simon was a virgin. I knew there wasn’t anyone other than Agatha for him and I’m sure Agatha would’ve told me if they went anywhere past kissing because that girl can’t keep her mouth shut and I’m her “gay best friend” or whatever she calls it. But still, there was always a part of my mind wondering, what if?
“ No. ”
“Okay.” My heart is racing. I realise I probably should’ve focused on of course I want that instead of on I’ve never done it before. Fucking hell, Simon wants that. The thought itself is doing things to my insides. “I haven’t either. In case that wasn’t clear before,” I say, like an idiot. Simon knows he was my first kiss, so of course it’s obvious that I haven’t slept with anyone either.
“Um, yeah, I figured,” he says, and he sounds kind of choked. Like he’s embarrassed. “It still isn’t entirely clear to me how you managed to do that but okay.”
“Excuse me, what?” I sputter. “How I managed to do what? ”
“Y’know, like… ugh, how do I say this? You’re just, um, fit,” he stammers. I take it back. This is what embarrassed Simon sounds like.
I laugh. “Snow, are you saying I’m too fit to be a virgin?”
I hear a scrambling noise from the other side and I can only assume Simon has dropped his phone. I’m thoroughly amused. (And a bit flushed.)
“I um. I mean,” Simon starts blustering. “I—”
I can’t help it; he sounds so panicked that I start laughing.
“Stop laughing at me!” Simon exclaims, which only makes me laugh harder. “Baz!”
“You’re a fucking disaster, Snow, you know that?”
“Shut up,” he grumbles.
“ Shut up. ” He seems to be laughing now too, and my heart swells with warm feelings for him. This whole conversation has been an awkward mess and I want nothing more right now than to pull him close and cover his ridiculous face with kisses.
“Or what?” I ask, to see how far he’ll go.
“Or I’ll beat you at Nationals,” he deadpans. I scoff.
“Alright, Snow. It’s on. If you beat me at Nationals, I’ll stop saying you’re adorable.”
“Wait, no, now I want to lose,” he says and it sends me into a fit of laughter again. “You don’t even call me adorable that often!”
“Then you won’t be losing much.”
“You can stop calling me adorable if Premal wins,” he says.
“Snow, we’ll be attempting six quads each and Premal’s only going to be attempting one. If he wins, we should just quit the sport.”
“I mean, you never know what might happen. I’m sure neither of us expected me to win Rostelecom Cup, but it still happened,” he says.
“You had all the means to win Rostelecom Cup. I did tell you that before we left,” I remind him.
“Yeah, but the chances were very low,” he objects. I’m wondering if I can smack him through the phone.
“No, they weren’t. Your program had the same difficulty as mine and Huang’s.”
“Simon, stop talking yourself out of your godly displays of skating. You deserved to win that competition,” I cut him off. I’m not entirely sure how the conversation even took this turn, but I’m not just going to sit here and listen to him not giving himself enough credit.
“Okay,” he says and I can hear him smiling. “Well, either way, you should call me adorable more—”
“Vain, are we?” I cut in.
“—so I’m going to get some rest now,” Simon continues, ignoring my comment. “So that I can beat you this weekend.”
“Very well, Snow. I’d like to see you try.”
He huffs out a laugh. “Night, Baz.”
He hangs up the phone and I lean back, staring at the ceiling. My bed sheets still smell like him, bringing back the memory of having him propped up above me, his hand under my shirt, from earlier today.
I shuffle into a lying position and press my nose against the pillow, breathing in his scent. I replay our conversation in my head while I’m drifting off to sleep, a smile creeping onto my face.
I’m so fucking in love with him it almost hurts.