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one

For every thousand shitty things about working at The Library, it’s usually a pretty fun job. Gideon gets to make herself as much coffee as she wants, and when it’s not busy, Camilla lets her study—or goof off—while she’s still clocked in. There are a few cats that have made somewhat of a home behind the shop, and Camilla doesn’t even mind that Gideon’s stocked up on cat food and treats to feed them. And other than all of her nagging—for Gideon to study more, and to eat three proper meals every day and to drink more water than coffee, Nav— Camilla’s a great boss.

And sure, the pay isn’t the greatest, and the busy hours between classes can be a bitch, but it’s fun. It’s fun, and Gideon generally enjoys it. She’s made plenty of new friends from it too, people she never would’ve even spoken to if not for this job: there’s Coronabeth Tridentarius (who orders the same medium caramel frappe with extra caramel drizzle and two shots of espresso on her way to every Business Management classes) and who Gideon had a crush on for a solid four months. There's Abigail Pent and Magnus Quinn, professors that have been married for more than three years now but still buy each other coffee between classes and argue about whose turn it is to pay. Gideon slips them a free pastry or two as often as she can, even though Camilla always threatens to take it out of her paycheck. And then there are the kids: Gideon's freshman babies, Jeannemary Chatur and Isaac Tettares. Neither of them have picked their major yet, and they hang around The Library, drinking far too much coffee, but they've always got a mountain of textbooks with them, and Gideon secretly thinks of them like her own little siblings. Which—yuck, gross. She loves them.

Anyway, the point is that Gideon's met a lot of people, and even more cute girls. So she's not really all that surprised that when she sees a tiny girl burst through the doors, swathed entirely in black, her heart skips a beat on the spot. There’s no line, and barely anyone in the shop at all: for now it’s just the kids in their usual spot. Gideon glances over at them to see Isaac muttering to himself as he works through his calculus, and Jeannemary’s head bobbing in time to whatever music she’s listening to as she types something up—hopefully her English essay and not starting another ship discourse argument on twitter.

By the time she looks back, the girl has made her way up to the counter, and is squinting up at the menu, looking altogether unimpressed. Somehow, Gideon manages to clear her throat, and as the girl’s gaze flicks to her, she says, “Welcome to The Library. First time here?” and, duh. “Uh. Never mind. What’s your name?”

The girl raises a brow, very unimpressed now, and says in a flat voice, “Harrow. Aren’t you supposed to ask for my order?”

Gideon all but blushes—Isaac snickers in the background—and pinches herself just to keep her hands busy. “Uh—yeah. What would—”

“Large black.”

It’s a simple enough order (though Gideon is so distracted by Harrow’s wicked sharp eyeliner that she almost misses it) and Gideon’s finger slips as she tries to punch it into the register when Harrow cocks her hip, lowers her gaze, and bites her lip. And sure, it wasn’t exactly like she was flirting, or even giving Gideon the time of day, but still.

Camilla pointedly clears her throat and Gideon startles, whips around to see her boss staring pointedly at her. When Gideon turns around again, she sees Harrow holding out a wad of cash. The corners of her lips are quirked up into an amused—if not exasperated—grin, and Gideon all but shivers when their fingers brush as she accepts the cash. She’s well aware that she didn’t even get to read the total out (thank god for signs) and carefully counts out the change so Camilla won’t beat her ass over it later.

Camilla is the lucky one that gets to hand Harrow her drink, and apologizes profusely for Gideon’s behavior, claiming that she’s a trainee. By now, Isaac has kicked Jeannemary under the table, and now they’re both laughing over themselves as they watch Gideon fuck up. Gideon doesn’t even wait for Harrow to leave (or for Camilla to turn away) before throwing them a middle finger, and promptly receives two middle fingers and a heavy sigh in response.

At least Camilla waits for Harrow to leave before advancing on Gideon; she’s not even frowning, but Gideon can see how pissed she is in her eyes alone. “Gideon Nav .”

“I know, I know— but you saw them! They started it!”

They are freshmen, and students. You are a junior, and an employee. Behave. And please stop drooling over every girl that comes through those doors.”

Gideon wants to respond, but she can tell that Camilla means business today, and bites back her snark to just nod instead. Even Jeannemary and Isaac look chastised for once, and once Camilla flips the sign on the door to closed, they gather their books and head out immediately, murmuring little apologies as they pass by her.

And then it is just Gideon, and Camilla, and an all too quiet coffee shop. Gideon fidgets with her necklace, at a loss for words as Camilla begins to sweep up. After a mere two minutes of awkward silence, Camills sighs and looks up at Gideon before shaking her head. “I’m not mad at you, Gideon. It’s just been a long day.”

“You’re just scary when you’re upset,” Gideon mutters, “not that you scared me. Just the kids.”

The kids? You make it sound like they’re yours.”

“Ugh! No, never. They’re just... you know.”

Camilla rolls her eyes, but doesn’t disagree. There is silence for a beat or two more as Gideon begins to wipe down the counter, and then, “What about that girl?”

For a moment, Gideon isn’t sure who she’s talking about, but then she remembers: Harrow. How could she have ever forgotten? “She’s just cute. Did you see her smile?”

“No,” Camilla says dryly, “because she didn’t smile.”

“She did! It was a little one, but it was there. Do you think she’ll be back soon?”

“Not if she has any sense, no. Okay, enough talk, let’s finish up so we can both go home.”

Gideon salutes, just because she knows Camilla hates it, and spends the rest of her shift thinking about Harrow’s corner-mouthed smile, and her night-dark stare, and how warm her hands had been when they touched.

 

two

Evidently, Harrow must not have a lot of sense, because she’s back the following night. This time, she comes just a bit after the dinner rush, so the shop is crowded, but not nearly as bad as it had been just an hour ago. Something in Gideon’s chest lurches when she glances up at the next customer, and she stutters out her greeting when her brain realizes that it’s Harrow standing in front of her. But she’s calm, she’s cool, she’s fine. She’s going to be casual, and Harrow’s not going to give her any condescending looks or exasperated smiles.

“Harrow! Hi!”

And that plan is ruined. Gideon casts a glance to the side to see that it’s just Jeannemary for now, and that she’s openly staring, a wide grin on her lips. Gideon cannot stand her.

“Hi…?” Harrow squints at Gideon’s name tag, and Gideon’s heart skips a beat when their gazes meet again. “Gideon.”

And. Hell. Hell. “Holy shit—I mean. Large black again?”

Harrow slowly looks Gideon up and down, the corner of her mouth quirking up again in the barest hint of a smile as she says, “That sounds about right, Gideon.”

And surely, Harrow must know what she’s doing, how much it affects Gideon to hear her name come from those lips like that. If she does, she certainly gives no indication, just arches a brow and waits silently for Gideon to ring up her order. “Anything else?”

Harrow glances at the display of pastries for a long few moments, but then shakes her head decisively and turns her midnight gaze back to Gideon, who totally does not feel her knees go a bit weak. “Just the coffee,” she says, and then, almost playfully now, “thank you, Gideon.”

Luckily, Camilla has ducked into the back room to grab a fresh batch of muffins, and after taking a furtive glance around the shop to make sure no one is paying too much attention to them, Gideon grabs a paper bag and a set of tongs and stuffs a muffin and croissant in, then shoves the bag over to Harrow. Her heartbeat thuds in her ears, and Gideon barely notices the brush of their fingertips this time. All she knows is that Harrow is looking at her like she’s trying to puzzle something out, and that she really wants to see her again. Maybe even talk to her properly, when there aren’t other people around, and this time, she won’t stutter or give any indication that she’s even mildly flustered.

Before Gideon opens her mouth to suggest that maybe they could hang out sometime, Harrow’s gaze wanders somewhere behind Gideon, and she sidesteps and heads over to the other end of the counter to wait for Camilla—who has reappeared and is now asking what Harrow ordered—to make her drink.

But when Camilla’s back is turned, Harrow raises the paper bag and mouths two words that make Gideon’s heart melt just a bit in her chest: “Thank you.”

Gideon forces herself to give her best boyish grin and wink, hoping to god that it masks how flustered she is. Harow just shakes her head and laughs, a startled, quickly snuffed sound that is music to Gideon’s ears. When she gets her drink, Harrow gives Camilla a full smile—which, lucky —then heads to one of the empty tables in the back of the shop, and spends a full twenty minutes sipping on her coffee, munching on her croissant, and paging through a thick book.

After Gideon cranes her neck to peak at Harrow for the third time in between taking orders, Camilla steps closer and pinches her side beneath the counter where no one will see. Gideon, who is by now, very used to this, just huffs as Camilla says under her breath, “I don’t care if you moon over yet another girl that you don’t even know, Gideon, but do it once you’re off the clock.”

“I am not mooning, ” Gideon hisses back at her, “I’m just—I’m looking, okay? Let me look in peace, no one’s even trying to—welcome to The Library—oh, never mind, it’s just you.”

Just me?” Ianthe has never looked more offended in her life, and Gideon wishes to god that she could take a picture of her affronted face now. “I’m giving this place a one star rating.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. What do you want?”

Ianthe rolls her eyes and tucks a lock of thin hair behind her ear as she pursues the menu despite coming here almost daily. “You know what, I feel like trying something new. Get me a venti—”

“This is not a Starbucks. Small, medium or large?”

“A venti, ” Ianthe says again, “mocha frappuccino. Half whole milk, half two percent, two extra pumps of vanilla, and a shot of espresso. Extra whipped cream, extra chocolate chips, chocolate syrup pumped inside the cup before you add the drink, and caramel syrup on top of the whipped cream. Got all that, goblin?”

As she puts Ianthe’s hellish order into the register, Gideon genuinely contemplates committing a murder. “I hope you know how much I despise you.”

“Oh, the feeling is very mutual,” Ianthe says, and then, “Hurry up with my drink, gonad.”

“That isn’t even close—

“Well, gasp! Is that Harry sitting all alone over there? Bring my drink over there, got it?”

“Maybe if you’d pay for your hell drink, I’d—” Camilla pointedly clears her throat, and Gideon takes in a long, steadying breath before putting on her customer service voice. “I’d be more than happy to make your drink.”

Ianthe scoffs and shakes her head, but obediently swipes her card. “Two stars,” she huffs, then all but snatches her receipt out of Gideon’s hand before heading over to Harrow’s table and inviting herself to the chair opposite her. Harrow at least looks offended, and Gideon takes great pleasure in watching her scoot away, her body language showing how displeased she is by Ianthe’s intrusion. And then Harrow glances up, and their gazes meet, and Gideon spins around to watch Camilla as she begins to make Ianthe’s drink.

“Y’know, you should—

“No,” Camilla sighs, “I will not put decaf in just to fuck with her.”

“Come on, Cammy!”

“She could have an allergic reaction. She could sue.

“You know she wouldn’t. She’s ordered regular shit before, she just wants to fuck with me.”

Even without seeing Camilla’s face, Gideon just knows that she’s rolling her eyes. “I’m staying out of this. But maybe if you decided not to be lazy and make drinks today, you’d be able to fuck with Ianthe yourself. And that is not me giving you permission.”

“Oh, it totally was. Caught your meaning, boss!” Gideon throws Camilla a theatrical wink, and to her surprise and delight, Camilla lets out a bark of laughter. Out of the corner of her eye, Gideon sees Harrow look up and over, and this time, Gideon tracks Harrow’s gaze as if it is in slow motion, as she looks first at Camilla, then at Gideon herself, then back to Camilla. And Gideon can practically see the gears turning in her head, but she is helpless to watch as Harrow abruptly gathers her things, stands, and leaves.

 

three

This time, Gideon is prepared. She’d spent an embarrassing amount of time googling subtle—but not too subtle—ways to flirt while at work, and has decided that she’s going to go with something tried but true: she’s going to leave her phone number on Harrow’s coffee cup.

But Harrow doesn’t come back to the coffee shop, not Wednesday, or Thursday, or even Friday. Ianthe does, much to Gideon’s displeasure, and every day, she asks if Harry has come in yet, with a pleased tilt to her lips that suggests that she knows full well that she hasn’t. By the time Saturday morning rolls around, Gideon is just about to give up and hope that she’ll have a chance encounter with Harrow somewhere on campus, but then a miracle happens: Harrow walks into the shop.

She looks almost relieved when she sees Gideon at the counter, even if she wipes away the soft expression when Gideon winks at her, and why the hell did she just wink at Harrow? Anyway.

Here is Harrow, up close now, and she’s not wearing makeup today. Gideon is extremely endeared when she notices the beauty marks scattered across her face: one just between the bridge of her nose and her eye, another just under her eye, a third by the corner of her mouth, yet another on her jawline. Without her eyeliner, she looks marginally less intimidating too, and she has glasses on, thin and black (of course) and stupidly endearing.

“How are you?” 

“Aren’t you going to ask for my order?” Harrow asks . It is the second time she’s said it, but this time, she doesn’t seem annoyed, just…

“It’s been a while,” Gideon shrugs, “can’t I check up on my favorite customer?”

Harrow scoffs, but leans against the counter, looking at all the pastries as she answers. “Well, I had a bitch of a project due yesterday—it counted for a quarter of my grade, so I spent way too much time finishing up my project and practicing for my presentation.”

“Hey! You’ve gotta celebrate, right? It went well, and you’re done.”

“How do you know it went well? I won't get my grades for another week or so.”

Gideon shrugs, suddenly flustered beneath Harrow’s searching gaze, but Harrow is expecting an answer, so Gideon gives the only thing she can: the truth. “It’s you .”

Harrow actually laughs at that. (and Gideon would drown in that sound, if she could) then shakes her head, looking so unbelievably fond that if she didn’t know better, Gideon might’ve convinced herself that perhaps…?

“Well, I’m here, fueling my inevitable caffeine addiction, so we’ll count that as celebration enough.”

“And I’m here, uh...enabling you—that’s gotta count for something, right? Don’t answer that. What’ll it be today?”

Harrow shrugs, looking up at Gideon expectantly. “Why don’t you pick? What do you think I’d like?”

And. Hell. Fuck. “Uh—okay. It’ll...sure! Yeah.” Smooth.

“I’ll just sit over there,” Harrow says between another little laugh, and Gideon nods and gives her a thumbs up. She’s actually biting her tongue to keep from saying something else, sure that if she does, Harrow will give her a look and decide that Gideon’s idiocracy isn’t worth the coffee, and that she’ll head to an overpriced Starbucks, or god forbid, the campus cafeteria.

Which means that Harrow’s drink has to be good. Like, “better than Starbucks” good, and...well, anything is better than the campus cafeteria. So just better than Starbucks. Which honestly isn’t all that hard. It’s just figuring out what to surprise Harrow with, and Gideon spends a stupid amount of time just staring at the menu, trying to figure out what Harrow—who only ever orders coffee black—will like.

“Can you at least tell me what ingredients you like or don’t like?” she calls out. Harrow glances up from her phone, and arches a brow as the corner of her mouth quirks up again.

“No caramel, no matcha, and nothing overly sweet. That’s all you’re getting from me, Griddle.”

While Gideon is a bit disappointed that Harrow hadn’t said her name again, Griddle is actually...kind of nice. Anyway. “Can I at least know if you want something hot or cold?”

“I think it’ll be fine either way, Gideon.”

Gideon’s knees actually buckle a bit when Harrow says her name, and she’s glad that Harrow had gone back to looking at her phone, because she knows to god that she’d never live that one down. Or worse, Harrow would call her weird and leave.

But—the drink. Nothing overly sweet, and something hot, so she can leave her number without the ink getting smudged. There are a few drink ideas swirling around her head, but Gideon eventually decides on something she’d made herself a while back: a cinnamon macchiato. It’s a bit on the sweeter side, and she always adds a generous helping of caramel syrup to her own drink, but without sugar or whipped cream, it should hold up to Harrow’s standards.

Gideon takes her time making the drink, partially because she needs it to be perfect, but mostly because the longer she takes, the more time Harrow will spend in her presence. She keeps glancing up and over at her too: Harrow is sitting right in her field of vision this time, hunched over, her focus entirely on her phone. She looks... cute, and Gideon wishes she could stay in this moment forever. But all too soon, the drink is done, and her number is scrawled on the side of the cup. She’d written it big enough that there’s no way Harrow will miss it, unless she’s blind, or completely uninterested. And Gideon has a hunch that neither of those options will ring true.

Since no one else is in the store so far, Gideon moves to deliver the drink to Harrow’s table, but Harrow must hear her coming, because she glances up, startles a bit, then stands too. “I’ve gotta run,” she says a bit weakly, almost apologetically .

“Oh. Well uh...enjoy your drink. And the rest of your day. And good job with your project.”

This time, when their hands touch, Harrow stills, and Gideon tracks her gaze as it flicks between the cup, somewhere just below her eyes, and the cup again. A thousand what ifs play out in her head, and Gideon wants so badly to—she doesn’t even know what, just that she wants Harrow to stay, even if it’s for just a second more.

But then the moment breaks, and Harrow has the cup in her hand. She opens her mouth to speak, but must think better of it, because she closes it and shakes her head, then gives Gideon a tiny, half-moon smile. “I’ll see you later.”

If she sees the number, Gideon can’t tell, and she can’t make herself hint at Harrow to look, just look at the cup. She can’t say anything at all, and watches helplessly as Harrow leaves yet again.

Gideon spends the rest of the day checking her phone every few seconds and jumping every time it vibrates against her thigh, but the day stretches on, and there is nothing, and when she eventually gets home, there is nothing, and when she wakes up the next morning, there is still nothing.

 

four

Though she already told Camilla weeks in advance, Gideon still feels guilty about running late to her shift the day she helps Dulcinea move. She knows that Camilla won’t really mind, and that she’d probably offer to help with the move too if she could, but it still wears on her nerves even as she carries box after box up to Dulcinea’s new apartment. Dulcinea herself is unpacking said boxes, and watches worriedly as Gideon and her friend Protesilaus maneuver around her heavier furniture.

Gideon herself almost laughs when Dulcinea offers to help: she has twigs for arms, and her face is flushed from exhaustion already. Besides, it isn’t often that she gets to help a cute girl and get to show off her muscles in the process, and with Pro, it is easy work. He’s even bulkier than she is, and Gideon wonders briefly if he’d be able to do all of this on his own. He certainly looks like it; he hasn’t even broken a sweat yet.

So, yeah. It is almost time for her shift to start, and Gideon hasn’t even left yet. She checks her phone for what must be the fiftieth time, but there are no angry messages yet, so she thinks she’ll be okay.

Just then, an ice cold touch to the back of her neck. Gideon flinches away and whirls around to see Dulcinea standing there, swamped in a hoodie and holding two glasses of lemonade. “We can handle it from here, baby,” she says through an impish little grin, “I know you have work.”

Just a year ago, the pet name would have sent Gideon into a spiral. Even now, even though she’s completely over her, Gideon still feels herself begin to bend to Dulcinea’s soft charm, and she has to force herself away from her just to breathe. Because Dulcinea still smiles like she has a secret, and she smells so strongly of roses, and her cheeks are flushed such a lovely pink…

But. Harrow.

And then, why did the image of Harrow pop into her mind? Gideon decides to file that question away for later, and takes the lemonade before Dulcinea can look at her and realize that something is off, because if she asks, Gideon will have to answer. She always does.

“Thanks, Dulcie. Are you sure it’s okay for me to leave like this…?”

Dulcinea waves her away and gives the second glass of lemonade to Protesilaus as he comes lumbering back into the room. Her hand is warm and gentle on Gideon’s arm as she guides her to the couch, and Gideon sits down with a huff, already just a bit sore from all of the lifting and moving. Dulcinea sits next to her, prim and so tiny, and she spreads her legs out over Gideon’s lap like they belong there. “We’ve got it, I promise. Just tell me you’ll come to my housewarming?”

“Only if you agree not to spike the punch again,” Gideon grumbles. “I’m not staying for dinner, so don’t even order anything. I told Cam I’d be late, not that I’d get high and end up spending the night.”

Gideon has always loved the way Dulcinea laughs: loud and unrestrained, her head tossed back in a show of her pure, unadulterated joy. It’s one of the things that drew Gideon to her, and she still feels so fond when Dulcinea is happy. But that is...all she feels. There is no fluttering in her chest, and she does not trip over her words, and she does not want to keep Dulcinea held close.

Instead, her mind drifts back to dark skin and darker hair, to a crescent-thin smile and a sharp voice, to Harrow. Gideon sighs and leans her head back against the wall, going over her choices even as the words spill out of her mouth: “I think I like someone.”

Dulcinea goes oddly still, and when Gideon opens her eyes and tilts her head over to look her in the eye, she sees that Dulcinea looks confused, and almost wistful. But her eyes are shining and after a beat, that wicked grin comes back, and Dulcinea asks, “Well, who is she?”

The story spills out on its own: how they met, how Harrow came back, her unsteady half smile, the warmth of her hands, and how she never texted back. Dulcinea is rapt, and even Protesilaus looks intrigued from where he is sitting hunched on one the loveseats piled high with pillows, and when Gideon finishes, Dulcinea just laughs again. Her hand is clammy when it comes to rest against Gideon’s cheek, and Gideon involuntarily leans into the touch as she listens to Dulcinea coo, “Gideon, poor darling, you’re going to be fine. It’s not the end of the world if she doesn’t like you, is it?”

Gideon shakes her head instead of saying what she really wants to say: that it may as well be. “I guess we’d still see each other around. Maybe she’ll even want to be my friend.”

“You should really think more highly of yourself.” Dulcinea pats Gideon’s cheek, then leans back to stretch. She makes a pleased little sound as her back cracks, and Gideon wonders what she really thinks, because she knows that there is something else she’s not saying.

“I should get going,” Gideon retorts. “You know traffic is going to be brutal, and Cam will have my head if I leave her alone during the dinner rush.”

“Fine, fine,” Dulcinea withdraws her legs, and Gideon misses her warmth already. But she stands, and grabs her jacket with Protesilaus and Dulcinea on her heels. When they reach the door, Gideon turns around and gives Dulcinea a tight hug and nods to Protesilaus.

“Nice meeting you,” she says to him, and he offers up a smile that is more like a grimace. 

“Be seeing you,” he replies, and then, to Dulcinea, “I’ll pick up something to eat, then come back to finish up.”

Dulcinea flashes her starbeam smile at the both of them, and to Gideon, says, "Good luck with that girl, darling. And don't be a stranger, okay?"

"I won't, Dulcie. And thank you." And Gideon's not sure why exactly she does it, but she leans down and kisses Dulcinea on her forehead. When she pulls back, Dulcinea looks almost like she is going to faint, and Gideon throws her a wink before heading back to her bike.

For some reason, Gideon feels lighter, as if a weight has been removed from her chest, and though she is indeed stuck in rush hour traffic, Gideon can’t even bring herself to get mad, because she knows that at the end of her long drive, she will see Harrow. And it’s stupid to be so happy over such a small thing, but at this point, Gideon really can’t help it. Because there is the memory of Harrow’s startled laugh, and the phantom warmth of their fingers brushing, and Harrow’s voice, quiet around those four little words: I’ll see you later. It was a promise, one Gideon fully intends to keep, no matter how late she is.

 But by the time she gets back onto campus, the sun has already begun to set, and Cam’s going to be pissed, so Gideon all but runs bursts through the front doors of the shop, ignoring all the odd looks she gets. “I’m here, I'm here!” she calls out as she ducks behind the counter. "Cam, please don't fire me."

Thankfully, Camilla doesn't look angry, just a bit annoyed that Gideon isn't in uniform. "I knew you'd be late, and I'm not going to fire you. Just thank Isaac for covering for you."

"He doesn't even work here!"

"Yeah, well, I may as well," Isaac grumps, "and you never seem to mind me helping with cleanup at the end of the night."

Gideon pinches him as she passes him on the way to the time clock, and ignores how he sticks his tongue out at her in response. “I’ll thank him when he stops being such a wretched teen,” she mutters, mostly to herself. But of course, Camilla’s heard, and throws Gideon a look that makes her hastily apologize. Not to Isaac, who is still being absolutely horrid.

But after he heads back to his usual table, and Gideon takes his place at the register, the first person she serves is Ianthe. Smug, loathsome Ianthe, who has the nerve to curl her lip when she sees Gideon.

Yuck ,” Gideon says on sight.

Without even batting an eye, Ianthe replies with a bland, “Yes, that is what I thought when I saw you.” And then, as Gideon is in the middle of rolling her eyes back as far as they can go, “A half caf americano with whipped cream and caramel syrup, and an oat latte with chocolate syrup, both venti. And hurry it up, I’ve got places to be.”

Just for that, Gideon takes her sweet time punching the order in, and languidly asks who the drinks are for just to take up more time. But far from looking annoyed, Ianthe just seems smug, and Gideon all but freezes when Ianthe says: “The americano is for me, the oat latte is for Harry.”

And Gideon knows that it’s on purpose by the smug tilt to Ianthe’s lips, but she can’t help how annoyed she feels, hearing Harrow’s name come so familiarly from Ianthe’s mouth. And then the assumptions come pouring in: the drinks are together, so perhaps Ianthe is going to meet Harrow somewhere? Are they going on a date? Are they already dating?

“You actually just missed her,” Ianthe continues, still smug, “isn’t that a shame?”

Gideon knows Ianthe is just trying to get under her skin, but god damn she is good at it, and it takes all of her self control not to react the way she knows Ianthe wants her to. “She’s just a customer, just like you are.” And before Ianthe can speak again, “Your drinks will be out soon.”

But now, and for the rest of the night, all Gideon can think of is how close she’d come to seeing Harrow again. And that she and Ianthe are close enough to get drinks together. And that if she’d spent just a moment less with Dulcinea, perhaps she would have been able to see Harrow.

 

five

Gideon doesn’t fall ill often, but when she does, it’s always bad.

Luckily, Camilla is more understanding than exasperated. She comes over every night after she closes up shop, griping even as she helps tidy up Gideon’s apartment: “Did you really have to fall ill during one of the busiest times of the year?” and “ Eat the goddamned soup, Nav!” and “When was the last time you did laundry—actually, do not answer that.”

It’s...kind of nice , being cared for even if Camilla scowls and frowns at her all the while. It’s probably— definitely —because of her that Gideon is only sick for just about two weeks. Her first day back to class is hell; Gideon spends so much time after every class talking to her professors about making up work and getting extra notes that she ends up running late to her shift at The Library. Of course, Camilla is likely expecting that, but Gideon still feels just a bit guilty, and hurries to punch in and put her apron on.

It feels a bit weird to be back, but there are the kids at their usual table (Jeannemary’s jaw drops when she sees Gideon, and she kicks Isaac under the table until he looks up, turns around and waves when he sees her too) and Magnus Quinn comes in after his last class, greeting her with a wink and a, “Nice to see you back, Gideon!”

Even Ianthe has the nerve to look surprised when she sees Gideon, and as she hands over her cold brew with hazelnut creamer and almond milk (which, first of all, ew, and second of all, ew?) Ianthe gives Gideon a look and a snide little, “And here I was, thinking you’d finally quit.”

“What, and give you the satisfaction?”

Ianthe rolls her eyes, but for once, there is no bite in her voice, only an odd kind of friendliness, and something that is almost like resignation. “Oh, believe me, I’d never miss you.” and after a beat, “Harry might, though.”

And it is...unbelievably embarrassing, that just the mention of Harrow makes Gideon’s heart do flips in her chest. “Has she uh...been in recently?” Gideon asks; she tries for casual but clearly fails, by the way Ianthe scoffs and tosses her hair.

“Now that is an excellent question,” Ianthe says through a knife-sharp grin. Before Gideon can even think of what to say to that, she spins on her heel to leave. And just like that, their odd little moment of camaraderie comes to an abrupt end.

But if Ianthe is that annoyed, that is an answer in and of itself: Harrow has come, and more than once, at that. Perhaps just for a coffee, but perhaps she was looking for Gideon, and Gideon sits on that thought for a whole ten minutes as she makes drink after drink. As soon as the line thins out to a mere few stragglers, Gideon grabs Camilla’s arm to get her attention.

“Camilla, Cam. Cam, this is serious. Urgent, even.”

Camilla’s expression is guarded, and she’s squinting like she already knows that this is going to be a stupid question, but Gideon can’t wait anymore. “Did Harrow come in at all? Short, almost permanent scowl, wears all black—”

“I know who Harrow is,” Camilla sighs, “and Gideon, that is not an urgent question. But yes, she did. And I would appreciate it if you kept your little romance for after your shift.”

Romance. Romance? “ Romance?

Camilla rolls her eyes and does not answer, instead turning back to the register as the bell above the door jingles yet again. And thus, Gideon is left to stew in her thoughts yet again. But not for long, because after making Isaac’s third drink from hell (he’d walked up to her before with the most smug grin and asked, “can I get three shots on ice?” and Gideon almost fainted on the spot) and whining to Camilla about how stuffed her nose still is (“Cam, if I blow my nose any harder, I think my brains will come out.”), Gideon heads to the back room to sneeze no less than five times, and when she finally finishes, she looks up, and—

Harrow is there.

Harrow actually doesn’t see her at first. She’s very clearly looking for someone, and Gideon wishes to god that Harrow was looking for her. If Ianthe hadn’t already come in today, she might’ve thought that Harrow was looking for her, and it is stupid how happy she is that that isn’t true.

From the back room, Gideon watches Harrow for a long few minutes, then sighs and washes her hands before heading back out to the front. She’s honestly not expecting anything to happen, but when Harrow sees her, she visibly sags in relief. Then she scowls, and stomps up to the counter, heading straight towards Gideon instead of giving Camilla her order. She looks angry, but her voice is flat when she eventually says: “You weren’t here.”

“Hi,” is all Gideon can say, and then, “I was sick—I’m mostly fine now, though. Promise.”

Harrow shakes her head and gives Gideon a truly unreadable look, then looks down, sighs, and says, quiet now, “I thought you’d left.” There is something, some heavy undercurrent in her voice, but Gideon is unable to tell just what exactly she means, so she just shrugs, and ignores Camilla’s gaze burning into her back.

“I’m here to stay,” And that is supposed to be all, but Gideon suddenly remembers Ianthe’s comment, and feels a sudden surge of bitterness, and she can’t stop the nickname from spilling out: “ Harry .”

Harrow all but flinches outright, and rears back with an almost frightful amount of vindication in her eyes. “And what is that supposed to mean ?

“You and Ianthe.” It feels like an accusation, and maybe it is one. Harrow certainly takes it like it is, and Gideon knows she’s gone too far even as the words leave her lips.

A thousand expressions cross Harrow’s face, and she eventually settles on pure, unadulterated rage. “You really think—are you stupid?

It’s Camilla that answers before Gideon can even open her mouth, with a pointed, “ Yes, ” that makes Gideon feel completely and utterly betrayed.

Cam!

“You are, ” Camilla sighs, “and please, if you’re going to fight, do it after you clock out.

Harrow just scoffs, and tells Gideon, “The only association I have with Ianthe Tridentarius,” and there is disgust in her voice when she says that name, Gideon realizes with glee, “is that we unfortunately have the same major. That’s it, Griddle.”

There is another implication there, Gideon knows it, but all she can come up with is, “Are you sure?”

“Very.”

Now, Harrow looks like she’s waiting for something. When Gideon doesn’t immediately answer, she just sighs and holds her hand out. “Your phone, ” she sighs as Gideon reaches out to hold her hand, and oh. Duh. She takes her phone out her pocket and unlocks it, glancing over at Camilla to gauge how fucked she is. Luckily, Camilla is taking someone’s order, so Gideon has about five more seconds with Harrow.

And Harrow seems to realize this too, because she gives Gideon her phone back a moment later before spinning abruptly on her heel and heading out of the shop without even ordering.

It takes Gideon an embarrassing amount of time (the whole rest of her shift, at that!) to realize that Harrow had given her her number. She forces herself to wait until she gets home and ready for bed to text Harrow, just a simple hey its gideon that she immediately wishes she could take back.

But Harrow reads it almost immediately, and begins typing back just a moment later. ( goodnight, gideon is all she says, but Gideon’s heart still skips several beats, and when she asks if Harrow will come to The Library tomorrow, Harrow says yes. )

 

one

It is mid-December now, the week of peace between finals and Christmas. Gideon is more than grateful for the new silence in the coffee shop, though she knows it won’t last for much longer. Finals meant that the little cafe had been crowded practically from open till close, and Christmas is always a rush of fancy gingerbread and peppermint and eggnog drinks. Gideon all but despises Christmas now, just because of the rush, and tells Camilla very gravely that she might quit on the spot if she comes in and sees anything with eggnog on the menu.

Even Harrow is no help anymore. She’s come in practically every day, a steady presence despite the cold that she so clearly hates. (Gideon always has a small cup of hot chocolate ready to sneak for Harrow, and despite Camilla’s glares and sighs, she never says anything about it.)

Harrow always gives Gideon a little smile when their gazes meet, and the hidden little gesture never fails to make Gideon’s heart stutter in her chest. She wishes that she weren’t trapped by the counter and the time clock and Camilla’s icy stares, wishes she were brave enough to pull Harrow into a hug whenever they meet up on campus, wishes that she could just bite the bullet and just ask Harrow what this was.

Because sometimes Harrow looks at her almost like she wants to kiss her, but then she will shake her head or roll her eyes or scoff and Gideon just knows that Harrow would rather die than kiss her. She always keeps her distance, and sighs in exasperation whenever Gideon flirts with her, but—she smiles at Gideon almost fondly when they see each other across a room, and she makes her way over to her whenever they find themselves at the same kickback, and she’s invited herself to Gideon’s shitty off-campus apartment to study more than once.

And that is enough, Gideon tells herself every day, this has to be enough.

And now today: Harrow has come for her hot chocolate, and ordered a drink and a pastry to go, has talked to Camilla about the latest book she’s read, has even stopped by the kids’ table to look over their schoolwork like she’s their older sister. Gideon doesn’t notice exactly when it’d started, but it hits her now: that Harrow has carved her little spot into The Library, and that she’s made her home in Gideon’s heart as well.

Once Harrow is done helping Jeannemary with her latest physics assignment, she heads to her next class, and that is it. Or, it should be it. But fifteen minutes passed closing, and after the kids have finally finished messing with the spotify playlist and ran out the door before Gideon could towel whip them, there is a knock on the door.

Camilla is in the back room, fixing said spotify playlist, and usually doesn’t mind if Gideon gives away the leftover pastries to anyone that comes knocking just after closing, so Gideon barely bats an eye when she hears the knocking, more insistent now. But when she looks up, and sees Harrow standing there, she all but runs to the door, unlocking it to let her inside.

“Shit, Harrow! Sit down, you’re freezing —”

Harrow grabs both of Gideon’s hands with both of hers (and she’s freezing, and there are snowflakes dotting her shoulders and head, and did she seriously walk through the snow just for...for what? ) and shakes her head, exasperated like always. “Griddle, would you just listen to me?”

Gideon nods, confused and worried now, but sits just so Harrow will sit too. Harrow takes the hint, but she looks vaguely sick now, and Gideon worries for a moment that maybe she left her phone here? Perhaps her ID fell out of her wallet when she tried to pay? But Harrow just shakes her head like she can tell what Gideon is thinking, and wrings her hands before finally bursting out with, “You are so annoying, Gideon Nav. Do you realize that?”

Gideon doesn’t even have a chance to answer; Harrow takes a breath and leans in and kisses her, so quick that Gideon barely even registers the touch against her lips before it is gone. Harrow is breathing heavily, and she’s biting her lip so hard it blooms white against her teeth. “Ask me out.”

And that. That is. “You like me?”

Harrow laughs, almost hysterical now, but she nods. She nods. Yes, you utter moron, I like you. Now would you please ask me out so I can go home in peace?”

“Hey now, what makes you think that I like you?

Harrow laughs that frantic little laugh again, and she looks like she can’t decide if she’d rather punch Gideon in the face or kiss her again, so Gideon decides for her and kisses her again. This time it is almost better, even if Harrow’s lips stay startled frozen against hers for a long moment, and Gideon is just starting to think that she could die happy like this when Camilla clears her throat, and all the blood in her veins turns to ice on the spot.

“Gideon Nav,” Camilla’s tone is sepulchral now, and Gideon jumps to her feet, taking Harrow with her, “ what did I say about your romance?”

“Harrow said she likes me though!”

Camilla glances between Gideon, and Harrow, and to their joined hands, and back to Gideon. Then she just sighs, and shakes her head, and says, “You two go home then, I’ll finish up here.”

Harrow starts to refuse, but Gideon squeezes her hand tight and all but drags her out of the shop before Camilla can change her mind. It’s still snowing, and it’s freezing out, but Harrow’s hand stays warm in hers all the way back to her apartment, and Harrow follows her in without even having to be told.

Harrow fits into her bed like she’s meant to lie there, and Gideon rolls away from her just to send a text: will u go out with me? A moment later, there comes the rustling of the sheets as Harrow grabs her phone, and then she snorts, and then: yes, genius. now go to bed.

Gideon can’t help how hard she’s smiling, how could she? Before she puts her phone away for good, she sends a quick goodnight, sugarlips, and just as quickly, Harrow rolls over and kisses the nape of her neck. Her voice is sleepy and fond and Gideon cannot fucking believe that she’s here, like this, and hers. “Goodnight, Gideon Nav.”

(Harrow makes a startled little noise when Gideon turns around to hold her close, but melts into her grip, as tiny and bony as she is. Gideon holds Harrow tight, all through the night, and in the morning, when she wakes with Harrow still warm and sleepy against her side, Gideon realizes that she’s honestly never slept better in her life. Even Harrow agrees, with an almost timid softness in her voice that implies that they’ll have this, again and again, for as long as they both want. And all Gideon knows, is that’s going to be a pretty long fucking time.)