tonic [ˈtä-nik] n. anything that restores happiness to a person
"I know you," the dark-haired boy says as Simon stands in the doorway. "You're Simon Snow...the Mage's Heir." He sticks out a hand. "I'm Tyrannus Basilton Pitch. But you can call me Baz - we're going to be roommates."
Simon stares. Looks at the boy, at the swathe of dark black hair. Looks back at the hand.
God, he thinks, why does it always have to be me?
It is the second week of Simon's transfer to a fancy school in the City and he is already tired of it. All the other kids look at him funny because he joined in Year 5 (it wasn't his fault the orphanage got a grant) and he sits alone at lunch.
He sits alone on the train, too. They sent a member of staff with him for the first few weeks, but have since deemed the venture a waste of resources. The teaching doesn't even seem to be that different here; Simon can stare out the window just the same in a fancy school.
It is during one of these daydreams that Simon hears the music. The school is next to some music academy, and maths classroom borders right onto one of the practice rooms. If he tunes in, he can hear the notes of a piano drifting out across the street below. He can't quite see the player, but he does catch sight a small figure with a head of shoulder length black hair one time.
Whatever the player looks like, the music is a welcome distraction – even when the teacher asks him a question about percentages and he has no idea what’s going on.
Of course, this is before Watford.
But back before all that, maths is starting to be Simon's favourite lesson. It's got nothing to do with the teacher, or even the actual subject; it's just because every Tuesday afternoon, there is the same boy with the same music. Sometimes he plays trumpet as well as piano, but all of it is soothing.
Simon doesn't know any of the pieces he plays, but he knows enough to tell that the boy is good. Really good. He struggles for several weeks on a fast up and down thing and then a slide on the trumpet, but everything else, he plays with a confidence Simon has not seen except on CDs. Simon hates to admit it, but is entranced by his playing.
Though Simon is pretty sure that said piano player takes the same train as him every Tuesday, Simon has not yet attempted to make contact. It would be an utterly embarrassing experience in which he would end up spilling out all his cursed admiration and piano boy would probably ask to move rooms and then Simon would never hear him play again and that would mean that school was absolute hell.
Anyway, piano boy doesn't seem like to kind of person to be pleased by eavesdropping. Whenever he has brought along a group of friends, it has been evident to Simon that he is the leader of the group. (He is already making witty remarks the likes of Simon has never seen from another child.) Sometimes one of the other kids tease him a little because he doesn't seem to take these things called 'grades' (Simon doesn't really understand; don't they all get grades?) but piano boy silences them quickly and is cold towards the offender for the remainder of the journey,
Yes, Simon doesn't think piano boy would take too kindly to his eavesdropping. After all, it would be unfair if he were both talented and nice, wouldn't it?
It turns out that Simon isn't taking the 11+ exam like all the other kids at his fancy school. He gets a letter from a place called Watford offering him a spot for free because of the orphanage. The staff (unsurprisingly) agree. Simon, for his part, is dubious, not least because of the suspicious lack of fees but also because it’s a boarding school. It isn't like he's going to get homesick or anything - what has he got to miss? - but he isn't looking forward to sharing a room. And, though it’s a little bit stalker-ish, he’s going to miss the piano playing too; it’s not like he can just go and ask for a CD without even knowing piano boy’s name. He could be listening to a crazy famous player for all he knows. But he has, for most part, resigned himself to his fate. At least he isn’t sticking around London any longer.
The summer before he leaves for Watford, Simon is caught looking through trumpet CDs at the library. These communal trips with the other orphanage kids are only times he gets to actually browse music - health and safety means that he has to be supervised practically everywhere he goes, including the local library.
He still hasn’t found a CD to match the boy's playing, despite having got through almost all of them by now. If he’s quick, he manages to sneak them out without any of the other kids noticing; it’s embarrassing to be seen by the staff, but at least they keep his use of the CD player to themselves. He’d stop if he could, but he misses his window playing like nothing else and he – well, he just needs something to keep him going.
So it’s mortifying when one of the girls (a girl) named Miranda catches him taking a pile of CDs out at the desk.
“Watchya listening to, Simon?” she giggles, and then before Simon can stop her leans over to take a look.. “What’s this – con – con –“
“Concerto,” Simon snaps, and snatches the CDs off the desk with his face on fire. He hurries away from the desk as fast as he can and refuses to make eye contact with anyone for the rest of the journey, even when there are titters in the bus seats behind him.
You would have thought not much could surprise Simon after discovering the existence of magic. However, he did not prepare for the eventuality of his new roommate, who in Simon’s mind is not really his new roommate at all.
The outstretched hand is still in front of him. The most coherent thought that Simon’s brain can now process in this jumble of trumpethandslipsbazroommate is, “What did you think you were doing with her cat?”
Because bloody hell, he has no idea how anyone could manage to balance a scratching, writhing creature that high in the air.
It is two weeks into term, and Simon has seen no sign of Baz’s (though it still feels odd to call him that) music. He starts to wonder if he’s made a mistake, even though his rational brain tells him that they have the same facial features and the same hair and the same bloody voice, for God’s sake.
That same voice that slices apart Simon’s every action with its seemingly-unfathomable wit, just the same as – not as, Simon orders himself. They’re the same person.
It’s just such a shame that Baz seems to hate him.
“What are you doing, Snow?”
Simon looks up from where he’s crouching to look under his roommate’s bed. “Uh,” he says intelligently. Baz raises an eyebrow and leans against the doorframe.
“Because it looks to me like you’re snooping around my stuff for something. Is that what you’re doing?”
Simon looks down at his hands like they’re not his own, and realises that he’s probably not going to be able to look for any of Baz’s instruments again anytime soon. “No. I just – I just…”
“Dropped something?” Baz supplies.
Simon squeezes his eyes together. “Yeah,” he says and heaves himself up, making sure to avoid looking at Baz.
Simon is still in the same stiff position when Baz comes over to put his hand on Simon’s shoulder. Simon flinches. “I don’t know what you’re hoping to find,” the other boy says, “but you’re not going to find it there.”
And then Baz goes and reads his Chemistry textbook like nothing is wrong. Simon remains frozen. Damn right I’m not going to find it.
Despite what Baz says, Simon actually does find something of his fallen down the back of their cupboard. Ironically, Simon wasn’t actually looking for it this time; after that incident, he mostly gave up his search for the boy that he heard through the open window. He has been consoling himself with the company of Penelope and Agatha, whose hair is almost as good as the music but not quite.
Anyway, the object: it is a small black box with a digital display, and several buttons that when pressed increase both the number on the screen and the speed of the clicking. Simon isn’t entirely sure what it is, but he hopes that it’s a sign that Baz is more than he seems. (He isn’t going to give up on this, okay?)
Christmas comes and goes. So does Easter. Simon hates going back to the orphanage, but loves coming back to Watford – is there anything he doesn’t miss about it? (Apart from his sulking-slash-possible-musical-prodigy roommate, naturally. That’s still a sore spot.)
But Simon comes back half a day early because of logistics to find Baz hunched at his desk across the room.
“Baz?” he says, the syllable more an expression of surprise than anything else.
Baz looks up from his desk, his eyes wide. He immediately snaps his book shut and turns around to lean against the table. “What are you doing back, Snow?” he says, and Simon swears he hears a slight shaking in the other boy’s voice.
Naturally, Baz’s discomfort only serves to intrigue Simon more. “This was the only train I could get,” he says, dumping his backs on the desk and attempting to amble towards his roommate. “I think the question’s more what are you’re doing back early, though.”
Baz arches his back further over the table in another effort to obscure the books on its surface. He looks more flustered than Simon’s ever seen him before, a blush just starting to creep across his cheeks. He looks less pale than before the holiday, too, Simon notes. (No, Simon. Concentrate.)
“I just – I just –“ Baz stammers, and then looks away. There is a short moment of silence before he sighs. “I had to come back to take this exam, okay? Happy?”
Finally. Finally, finally, finally, something. Simon shrugs like it doesn’t mean anything, but he’s having to fight to hide his smile.“Yeah. Whatever.” He takes another step towards Baz. “What’s the exam?”
Baz bites his lip; he is still avoiding eye contact. His next words come out in rush: “It’s just – I’ve got some - some music exam. They didn’t, uh, do it at any other times, so I guess - well, I guess here I am.”
Simon looks down at Baz, whose eyes are still turned to the floor. He tries to make his voice neutral, but is extremely thankful that Baz is turned away because he doesn’t think he’d be able to fight the happiness creeping across his face. “Cool.”
Baz’s shoulders relax, and he turns back to his studying – no, his music studying. (Simon isn’t exactly sure how you can study music from a book, but it’s apparently so.) His roommate continues oblivious to Simon, and obviously mortified because he is rambling. “Crowley, Snow, don’t surprise me like that. I am actually trying to get stuff done here. And it’s not helped by you bursting in like that – in fact, I’m probably not going to get any work done now because of –“
Simon silences him with a “Shut up”. He is in a complete state of astonishment (and happiness?), but he can still manage to be amused by Baz’s embarrassment. “Thought I’d never see the day,” he says.
When Baz spins around demands what he means by that, Simon only chuckles. Nothing is going to break his good mood.
Nothing, apparently, except for the realisation that he has forgotten his Histori of Magick project.
“Dammit,” he breathes, as the professor comes round to collect the pamphlets. The ten page pamphlets. Normally he’d be cool with it, but his grades were getting kind of low last term and -Crowley, this isn’t going to be something that he can conjure up in an evening.
Baz touches him on the arm (because obviously, they sit with roommates; whoever invented this school system was evidently out to screw up Simon’s life). But instead of his usual scathing comment, Baz’s voice is soft – concerned, even: “You okay?”
Simon runs his hand through his hair as the professor moves along the row towards him. “No,” he says forcefully. “I haven’t done the stupid project. Goddammit, I just forgot. The Mage is going to –“
“The Mage isn’t going to do anything,” Baz interrupts, ignoring the slightly irritated looks from the adjacent pupils. “He loves you, you know that? I mean, you’re the Mage’s Heir. Everyone loves you.”
Simon slumps back at his desk. He gets what Baz is saying, but he knows that the Mage will still be disappointed, and it’s just so bloody hard not to feel guilty when he could have easily averted this. (Well, not that easily, but whatever.) “You don’t love me,” he mutters and rests his face on his elbows.
There’s a moment of silence from Baz. Longer than it normally takes for him to make a snarky reply – even if he doesn’t seem to be that into the snarky replies since he told Simon about the exam. Maybe it’s bribery, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.
Simon looks across at Baz, and is very surprised when he does so. The other boy is flushed and wide-eyed, and it is only then that Simon realises what he said.
They stare at each other for a second until the professor’s voice cuts in. “I hate to break you up, boys, but could you hand me your projects?”
Simon blinks furiously and looks back at the desk. “I – uh –“ he begins, but it’s Baz’s voice who finishes his sentence.
“I’m afraid I’ve forgotten it, Professor.”
What? No, this isn’t right; Baz has his homework, and Simon knows it. In fact, it’s right under the desk.
But the professor can’t see that. She narrows her eyes. A wisp of her dark hair falls across her face, but she doesn’t blow it away.
The class waits in silence. “Excuse me, Mr. Pitch?”
Baz’s voice loses confidence a little. Simon is still bemused. “I don’t have it. Sorry. I forgot to do it. I’ll – I’ll have it by Friday.”
Four days. What is Baz doing? Is he – oh. Simon’s brows raise in surprise at the other boy. Baz is trying to buy him time, though Simon doesn’t know why. If Simon isn’t the only one without homework, it’ll make things much easier for him. Baz is the one who will have to bear the most of the glaring and the punishments. (Especially since it will taint his impossibly high grades.)
“Fine,” the professor spits out eventually, though she sounds far from it. “You too, Mr. Snow?” she asks, glancing down at Simon’s empty desk.
“Yes – uh, sorry, Miss.” He cuts a quick glance at Baz, who is looking away. “I’ll have it by Friday as well.”
The professor sighs. “Very well, you two. But I want it by Friday, otherwise it will be detention for both of you on top of the late mark.”
Simon breathes out a sigh of release. He’s eternally grateful to Baz, but he doesn’t think about why his normally eager to sabotage roommate might have done it. He doesn’t.
Once, the professor has moved on to the next row, Baz moves in closer to Simon. “I don’t hate you,” he says under his breath so that only Simon can hear it. Simon’s head spins around in shock, but Baz is pointedly avoiding his gaze and fiddling with his worksheet.
Simon doesn’t know if he should be elated or confused, but it feels like he’s a combination of both.
The brief sense of camaraderie Simon felt after that is slightly broken in the run-up to Christmas, second year, when Baz starts going out with Agatha. It’s not because Simon is exactly jealous – Jesus, he’s not jealous – but he misses hanging out with Agatha, and he kind of misses how everyone assumed he and her were always together. (In a way that they never did with Penelope.) It shielded him from all the gossip, and now that shield is gone, Simon finds himself being interrogated more and more: “Are you free?” “Who’s your top ten?” “Are you with anyone now?”
Simon doesn’t know why everyone is so obsessed with having a relationship. They’re only, like, just teenagers. And most of them aren’t even that yet. He doesn’t get why it’s such a big deal.
But obviously, not many of the other pupils get that. He isn’t going to pretend that he hasn’t heard the gossip from the back of the class: “No, he’s not interested in anyone” – “Turns out he wasn’t even dating Agatha” - "Wow, really?"
He tries to ignore all this. People aren't going to judge him on his lack of relationships, right? Ha. Yeah, right.
Agatha breaks up with Baz after the Christmas holidays. A part of Simon is upset, because the things that upset Agatha upset him, but the bigger part of him is pleased. He likes having his friend back. And he also likes not having his roommate sneak into the room in the wee hours of the morning after doing God-knows-what.
When Baz catches Simon humming and asks what he’s so happy about, Simon just grins. He grins even wider when he spots the freckled notes of music across a stave on Baz’s desk.
A little way into the spring term of third year, Simon finds a small case by his roommate’s bed. (What, you thought he was going to give up on the searching? Baz has probably forgotten that by now. Probably.)
He looks up to check if anyone is there, even though he knows nobody is, and then clicks open the case. Inside is a brass instrument, broken up into pieces and laid down in red fabric - a trumpet, he realises.
Yes. He clicks it closed at fast as he can, but not before reaching out and touching the cool metal. It burns his hand. He rushed back to doing homework on his bed and stays there until the time Baz comes back from whatever sports practice he attends now.
“What’s that by your bed?” Simon asks before Baz even gets from the door. He tries to act normal, not looking at Baz in case he betray his intentions or anything like that, but his words still come out a little rushed.
He doesn’t think Baz notices, though, because he stands frozen in the door, his eyes wide and mouth slightly open.
“‘Scuse?” he gets out eventually.
Simon looks up. He isn’t reading his textbook, anyway; how could he? He tries to put on an air of casualness as he says, “That box thing, by your bed. I can see it, you know.” Despite the clear efforts to hide it.
Baz still looks shocked, but his facial features are slightly less slack than before. He mutters something under his breath for a second, before practically stomping over to the wardrobe to dump his rucksack. “It’s a trumpet,” he says, his voice a monotone.
“Cool. I, uh, didn’t know you played.” Simon fiddles with his cuffs. Yeah, right.
“Well, that was the point. It would have stayed that way if you weren’t such a nosy git.”
Simon stops playing with his cuffs and looks down at his hands. “Didn’t realise you were so touchy about it. Dunno what you have to hide.” He looks up, an idea alighting in his head. “Are you any good?”
“I’m okay,” Baz says, rubbing the back of his neck.
“I’m not stupid. I still remember that exam. I bet newbies don’t have to take that, right?”
“Crowley, Snow, I didn’t know when you became such a musical genius.”
Simon flushes. “Are you, though?”
“Am I what?”
Baz smirks a little as Simon’s eyes narrow. He damn well knows what Simon means.
“Are you any good at playing the trumpet, then?”
After finishing with his books, Baz slides down onto the chair at the end of his bed. He shuts his eyes. “Yeah. I’m pretty good.”
“Must be a change to be the modest one for once.”
Baz opens one eye to glare at Simon, who really isn’t reading his textbook at all. “Shut up, Snow. Okay, I admit it, I’m better than that.”
Simon grins. “Will you play?” Because this is the thing that he wants. If he can just get Baz to play, then he’ll finally know - he’ll finally know, for sure.
This isn’t that moment, though. “No,” Baz says flatly.
Simon tries to hide how his face falls as he goes back to his homework.
At the end of the year, though, Simon does get his chance to hear Baz. The trumpet has been much more visible around the room since Simon found it, and Simon admits that he has taken it upon himself to check inside a couple of times. He was greeted by a complicated mess of dots and lines that lead him to believe that Baz wasn’t lying about his ability,
One time, he comes back to find some of his papers on a stand. Baz stands in front of them, trumpet in left hand and pencil in right. He is scribbling something onto the paper, only keeping the stand where it is by holding it down with his foot.
“Baz?” Simon says from the doorway.
Baz spins around and the pencil drops on the floor. He gives Simon the evil eye. “Didn’t you have to stay behind today?”
“Yeah, but turns out it wasn’t about the test. The professor just wanted to see me to talk about options next year.”
Baz curses under his breath. “Well, I have a concert tomorrow evening and I’m trying to learn this piece. I recommend that if you want to keep your side of the wardrobe intact, you leave.”
At this, Simon raises an eyebrow. “So shy? Crowley, Baz, I can just stay in the room. Your playing isn’t going to bother me.”
Baz narrows his eyes. “You would say that, wouldn’t you? I’m not playing in front of you.” He gestures to the paper on the stand. “And I’m definitely not playing this. I’m goddamned awful.”
“What, you worried I’m not gonna be impressed?”
“If I wanted you to be impressed, Snow, I wouldn’t have been hiding my instruments for the last three years.”
To hide his hurt, Simon huffs. A too-long moment passes before he realises that he’s only supposed to know about the trumpet; if he hadn’t heard Baz playing before, then he would have jumped on this opportunity. “Uh – wait, instruments? You play more than one instrument? What are the, um, others?”
Baz gives him a pointed look, as if to say what the hell is up with you? Simon ignores it. “Piano. And voice.”
Simon snorts and leans back onto the doorframe. “You sing? Crowley, why didn’t you mention this before?”
“I’m an excellent singer.”
Simon grins at his roommate, and is rewarded with a smile of his own.
“I told you that you were going to distract me,” Baz says, turning back around and re-arranging his music. “Now shoo.”
“Please, Baz?” Simon makes puppy eyes at his back.
“Impersonating a dying cat is not going to aid your situation.”
Simon dumps his rucksack on the floor. A couple of books slide out under the bed (he really needs to zip his bag up) but he ignores them. “Can I at least come to the concert then?”
Baz stops moving suddenly. The sounds of rustling paper and breathing and music-stand-moving are gone. He waits before he speaks again. “I suppose…I can’t stop you.”
The corner of Simon’s mouth ekes up into a smile. “You can bet I’ll be there.”
“As long as you don’t video me from the back, Snow. I won’t have you putting it up on YouTube.”
“O ye of little faith," Simon laughs as he leaves the room. "Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.”
True to his word, Simon does come to see Baz play, and he doesn’t record it on his phone. In fact, he stands very piously at the back of the church hall in the town just outside Watford. Though he is the youngest person in attendance by far, he feels less conspicuous in a long time. Here, he is not identified first as the Mage's Heir; he is just a slightly odd boy from the school down the road with far too informal clothes for the occasion. It is a weight lifted from his shoulders.
Baz is third in the line-up, but Simon's opinion he is of course the best. He plays piano to begin with, keys moving in a beautiful harmony of ebony and ivory. The tune is expressive but simple; the piano stand is empty from papers. The left hand moves up and down the piano in waves.
But it his trumpet playing that Simon enjoys the most. He was excited for it, but he realises now that his memories are rather faded and he really doesn’t think he’ll recognise the playing.
He’s right; he doesn’t.
But Baz still sounds a heck of a lot of awesome, and that’s fine with Simon. At this stage, does it really matter?
Baz doesn’t meet Simon after the concert. He avoids Simon until Monday, when he they have to come back and take class together.
“Baz?” Simon whispers as his roommate takes the adjacent seat in assembly. (Yes, that seating thing is still happening.)
“What?” Baz hisses, practically throwing his books for period one onto the floor.
Simon nudges his shoulder. “You were awesome,” he says.
Baz looks away, but Simon sees a hint of red creeping up his neck and face and smiles.
Fourth year, Baz starts to crave blood.
Simon doesn’t ask what is causing Baz’s seclusion and dark mood until Baz hasn’t done anything in class for three days straight.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” he fumes as his roommate moans and presses his face into the pillow. Baz mutters something into the pillow that sounds suspiciously like go away.
Simon ignores him and stalks over to the bed. He has to practically force Baz away from his pillow. “I’m not kidding. Great Crimea, you’re even getting me into a mood.”
Baz’s eyebrows crease together. His face is pale and his face flushed with a light colouring of fever.
“Are you ill?”
Baz turns back over. “No. I said go away.” Simon sighs and reaches out for Baz’s shoulder. The other boy flinches and pushes him away.
“If you’re ill, then just go to the nurse. Heck, I know we’re not exactly best buds but in case you haven’t noticed, we do sleep in the same room, and I sure as hell don’t want to catch whatever you’ve got.”
“I’m not ill.”
Simon throws his arms out. Baz is really starting to get on his nerves now. “Well, what are you then?”
Baz stops moving for a second. He lifts himself off the bed slightly and faces the wall so that Simon can hear (but not see). “Blood,” he mutters.
Simon blinks. “What?”
Baz is - blood?
Baz makes another indistinguishable sound. Simon notices at his pale skin and the drawn curtain for the first time. “Okay,” he says shakily, even though he is the complete opposite. It takes a long time for him to be okay with it – with how Baz lies a little over two metres away from him in what must be a constant state of bloodlust.
Simon watches Baz a lot that year, and he doesn’t like what he sees. He doesn’t know how to help his roommate, and it makes him feel useless– but he doesn’t want to ask his roommate anything too sensitive. (He does refrain from wearing revealing clothing for a couple of weeks, though.)
Baz starts to even before the summer holidays, but Simon still feels protective of him, checking for fever or shaking or anything. He notes that Baz doesn’t disintegrate into dust in sunlight, and also asks about garlic but is met with a harsh glare.
“Great to know you want to get rid of me, Snow.”
“So does that mean you don’t like garlic?”
Baz glares at him. Simon leaves a garlic in the wardrobe and finds it in the bin the day after, so assumes that it doesn’t necessarily repel vampires but does repel Baz.
Music is somewhat scant in fourth year.
All the pressure over the Mage’s Heir starts to get to Simon when they come back after the summer holidays. He was okay with it, you know, in the beginning – let's face it, who hasn’t imagined themselves as the hero? – but right now he wishes he was anything but. He knows that it’s selfish, but he justs wants to disappear into the darkness and never come back. He just wants to not exist for a little while.
Baz tells him to stop being such a prat.
“It’s easy for you to say,” Simon mutters, clutching his pillow to his chest, “You’ve got everything I’ve got, apart from – oh yes – the small business of saving the entire world from a shadow of yourself.”
Baz’s pen scribbles on. “That’s a pretty big part of you that I don’t have.”
“I was being sarcastic.”
“I am aware.”
Simon scowls. “Gee, thanks for the encouragement.”
For the first time in their conversation, Baz turns around in his chair. (Crowley, those spinny chair shouldn’t be allowed in rooms). He faces Simon with an earnest expression. “You’ll come out of it, Simon. Don’t worry, okay?”
Simon pauses in his destruction of the pillow. Feathers flutter over the mattress. “You called me Simon,” he says. “You haven’t called me that before?”
Baz blushes and turns back around in his chair. “I’m sure I must’ve. It – doesn’t mean anything. Just thought it might make a change. You know, from same old same old?”
Simon gives a sad smile at Baz’s back. He doesn’t think he can handle these confusing signs right now, this dance between them both that has been going on for far longer than Baz knows. “Sure,” he whispers. He doesn't mean it.
Simon switches off the light at turns onto his side, towards Baz. (He's always slept better this way.) He is just gearing up to make an attempt at letting his thoughts go when Baz's voice breaks the silence in the room: "Simon?"
Simon gives a small smile at the use of his first name. Baz has doing that more and more lately, and it makes a positive change from his Baz’s usual Eton-esque nickname-surname-mockery-whatever-the-hell-it-was. He hasn't yet had the time to work out what it might mean, but he hasn't had much time for anything lately.
"Yeah?" Simon replies.
"What are you going to do after this is all over? With the Insidious Humdrum and stuff?"
This forward question surprises Simon, but he understands the confidence the night can bring to normally tight tongues. "If I don't die, you mean?"
There is a rustling of covers. When he speaks, Baz's voice is strained. "Please. Don’t talk about… But yeah, that was what I meant."
Simon thinks for a moment. "I don't know," he says. "Fall in love, I guess? Isn't that what always happens at the end of the story?"
Baz pauses again, longer this time. "I guess," he echoes eventually, before turning back over. Simon can see enough in the dim lighting to know that the conversation is done, and he wonders what he said that was so wrong.
Simon finds it easier to hang around Baz now. They keep each other from falling apart in a way that they didn’t ever have to before, which is nice, but it does provoke some speculation from the other students – Penelope in particular. She doesn’t seem to understand how Baz could go from being Simon’s enemy to his friend all of a sudden.
“It just doesn’t make sense, you know?" Penelope says in between the scribbling revision notes. The dim light of the library casts dramatuc shadows over her face so that it is obscured from Simon's view. "It’s like in Merlin, you know, when Morgana left for a year and then came back all evil. It makes me wonder what happened in between.”
Simon elbows Penelope’s arm. The librarian glares at him, and he lowers his voice. “Baz isn’t an evil witch,” he says.
Penelope elbows Simon right back, in the ribs this time. Simon yelps and rubs his wounded chest. “He may as well be. And you’re avoiding the question.”
“I’m not going to answer a question based off a false analogy.”
Penelope rolls her eyes and scoops her books off the desk. “Fine. But let me know if we’ll be expecting a happy announcement soon.”
Simon almost coughs up his lunch. He starts protesting, but Penelope is already gone. She calls a goodbye over her shoulder in a voice that is far too bright and sing-song for Simon’s liking. And, to add to that, the librarian glares at him again even though Simon’s voice evidently isn’t that high. He makes a mental note to do something awful to Penelope sometime.
Simon returns to his room to find a keyboard placed in Baz’s corner of the room.
“What. The. Hell,” he seethes. There is no sign of Baz. “Baz?” he calls. “Baz, where on earth are you?”
The door to the balcony clicks open and a wet figure pushes past the curtains. A frigid blast of air blasts onto Simon. “The balcony door opens?”
Baz sniffs and rubs his shoes on the mat, sliding his phone into his back pocket. “How else would we get outside?”
Simon shrugs, eyebrows creasing together. “I don’t know,” he says. “I never really thought about it. I mean, health and safety, you know?”
Baz removes his raincoat and hangs it over the bedpost. “We’re in a school for magic. I don’t think a balcony is going to be a big concern to the school board.” He doesn’t seem to be troubled by the presence of a miniature piano in their room, which is still glaringly out of place to Simon’s eyes.
Baz must have followed Simon’s eyeline, because soon he too is looking at the damned thing. “Yes?” he asks, like Simon said anything.
Simon frowns for a second, then splutters, “There’s a freaking piano in our room.”
“It’s not a piano, it’s a keyboard.”
“Whatever, you idiot. Don’t be a smartypants.”
Baz wiggles his eyebrows. Simon feels his brows lowering even more. “Well excuse you, my pants are very smart.”
Simon tries to push down the heat rising on his face. “Can you just treat this like a mature adult, for once?”
The temperature in the room drops further, even though the door is no longer open. Simon scowls at Baz, who sighs. “Do you have a problem with it?”
“Yes,” Simon hisses, “I have a problem with it. You haven’t played anything for weeks and suddenly you’re all like ‘Surprise, piano!’ I’m not going to be able to use my room for God knows how long because you’ll get all sensitive, and I-“ Baz opens his mouth to interrupt, but Simon just throws up his hands. “I just wished you’d fucking told me!”
Baz looks stricken. Simon glares at him, but it’s without venom. His shoulders deflate, but Baz is the one riled up now.
“Well, I’m sorry,” he says in a monotone. “I didn’t realise it was going to be so trouble. I’ll remove it immediately.”
Simon’s features go slack. “What? No – I didn’t mean –“
Baz hauls the keyboard up and pushes past Simon. His voice is dull and devoid of emotion. “It’s fine. I can take it back to the music school now.”
Crowley, no. This isn’t what Simon wanted. He just needed to get his anger out; he didn’t mean for Baz to react like that, to completely shatter the careful friendship Simon thought they had constructed.
Simon reaches out for his roommate in a weak attempt to stop him. Baz pulls away roughly. “Leave me be, Snow.” He uses Simon’s name like a curse, knowing full well how much it will hurt him; sure enough, Simon’s mouth falls open and he stumbles back.
So much for a happy announcement, he thinks, as Baz hauls the keyboard out of the room without a second glance.
Simon doesn’t say anything to Baz at dinner, or before they go to bed. He pretends to immerse himself in his homework (essay, not yet started, one; coursework, unfinished, two; vocab revision, also not yet started, three) but it doesn’t work.
They have left an argument unsolved between them, and it leaves the room tense. Whilst Simon is still finishing up in the bathroom, he rips out a piece from the toothpaste instruction booklet and takes out his pen. In what he will view later as a moment of madness, he scribbles a quick note and leaves it on the sink before hurrying out the bathroom and back to bed.
He finds it hard to sleep that night.
Baz is already up when Simon wakes. He sits curled up on the chair in a school shirt and pyjama bottoms, reading. His head jerks up when Simon mumbles a noise of surprise at the time displayed on his phone.
“You’re awake,” he says carefully.
Simon wipes his eyes from sleep dust and winces at the cold as he slides out of bed. “Just.”
Baz regard Simon warily, like he is something different and not to be trusted. It is then that Simon remembers the note. Shit, he thinks, stopping in his tracks. What is wrong with me?
He falls back into the bed and covers his face with his hands. This was not supposed to happen. Oh, God,” he moans. “I’m so sorry –“
There is a light touch on his elbow. Simon inches his face up out of fingers.
Baz’s is biting his lip, but he doesn’t look angry. Simon allows himself to wonder for a second if he might not have fucked everything up. “You…did you really listen to my piano playing? At the Royal Academy?”
Simon flushes. “Yeah.”
Baz reaches for Simon’s arm again. Simon lets him pull it closer to his chest, and tries not to be distracted by the sensation of his fingers on Simon’s skin. “That’s…you should have told me.” He shakes his head. “That would have made everything a lot easier.”
Simon frowns. “What?”
Baz laughs, and Simon feels it on his arm. “Everything. Not hating each other. This.”
Simon squints up at him, the light streaming in from behind and surrounding Baz like a halo. "You mean, we wouldn't have been arch enemies for the last five years?" he jokes.
Baz elbows Simon. The contact is easy, natural, and Simon wonders at how it hasn't happened before. "We weren't exactly enemies... We were sometimes nice to each other."
"I don't remember that."
"Well, you wouldn't."
Simon glances again at his phone. He has seven minutes. Much as he likes sitting here with Baz, he needs to get a move on if he wants to have some semblance of being pulled together. “I’m going to be late for class."
Baz mumbles something. He doesn't look like he's heard Simon, his eyes fixed with Simon's. Then he leans forward, and Simon mirrors him before he realises what's happening and holy shit they're kissing and -
Simon pulls back. "Really. I can't be late." Baz looks disgruntled at Simon's retreat. "Can't you be late for class just this once?" he grumbles.
His dark-framed face is the same as it always is, but Simon finds that he can't look away. "I suppose..." he mumbles. "I suppose that would be okay."
Baz smirks at the victory. He reaches for Simon, and Simon doesn't pull away this time.
They are late to class.
Penelope pokes Simon as they walk down the hall. “Simon!” She hasn’t stopped asking him about Baz since she picked up on how they keep making excuses to touch each other slightly more than one might expect.
Simon scowls. “Shut up, Pen. I don’t know what you’re complaining about – you don’t exactly seem to be pushing Agatha away.”
Penelope blushes and looks away. Simon can hardly contain his grin.
“Baz?” Simon turns to face his roommate, and the warm smell of grass fills his nostrils. The ebbing background noises of the other pupils in the gardens soothe his ears.
Baz’s eyes remain shut, soaking in sunshine. “Mm?”
“You remember that exam you took one time?”
“I’ve taken a lot of exams. We attend school.”
Simon huffs. “That music exam, then.”
“What about it?”
“Did you pass?”
Baz makes an offended noise. “Of course I passed.”
“Did you get good marks?”
“Yeah. Missed out on a question about supertonic chords, but that was pretty much it.”
Simon shakes his head at the musical jargon. “What’re they?”
Baz reaches for Simon’s hand and strokes it absent-mindedly. He pauses for a second, as if considering his words but then shakes his head. “Don’t worry about it.”
Simon starts to protest, but Baz’s lips press onto his own and he is silenced.
Simon lies with his head against the foot of Baz's bed, observing his roommate. Baz is currently facing the window, hands gliding across keyboard and monstrously yellow headphones plugged in so that Simon can't hear. (Simon’s grudge towards that keyboard is not helped by its awful colour combinations.) He hopes that Baz will one day be okay to play with him around, but old habits are hard to break and this one certainly won't be going away anytime soon.
"Baz," he whines, tugging on Baz's shirt. Baz allows one of his hands to come down and brush Simon away.
Simon scowls and reaches forward. He puts his arms around Baz's middle and yanks.
Baz almost falls off the chair, but just manages to regain his balance with an “oompf”. He removes his headphones. "What is it?"
"I'm bored," Simon complains. "Will you play for me?" This question is one of the rare things that makes Baz uncomfortable, which is possible the most adorable thing ever. Simon will find any way he can to make his roommate blush.
Baz sighs. "I don't think I'm going to get much choice, am I?"
Simon grins in agreement, and stands up. "Scoot along," he says, pushing Baz across the chair.
"There really isn't enough room here," Baz grumbles, but Simon knows he doesn't mind how they're half-sitting on the chair with their legs pressed into each other.
Simon leans his head on Baz's shoulder. "Play me something," he says.
Baz shifts under Simon. "I can't play anything with you like that."
"Pshh, sure you can."
"My arms will be moving. It'll be uncomfortable."
Baz exhales. "Fine, then. Just this once." He hands reach out to the keyboard and flutter around for a moment, as if they're not quite sure where to go. Then, they settle into a position and begin to play.
Simon is hypnotised by Baz's hands. The left starts with playing two simple chords, and then the right comes in with a simple melody. It's a song, Simon realises. He wasn't expecting that. Is Baz going to - ?
Yes. Baz's voice comes in, and it is not beautiful but it is strong, the rumbling beneath Simon's ear a comfort above all else.
"You don't have to," Simon whispers between two of the lines.
"Mm," is Baz's only reply, but Simon guesses that it's a sign of assent because he keeps singing. The piano chords change shape slightly, gaining an extra move between the two, but the right hand is as steady as ever.
"If you're lost and you're alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Simon tears his eyes away from the keyboard to look up at Baz's face. It is angular, pointed; one that Simon thought fit his cutting words for years. Now, he draws parallels between Baz and the piano and sees that they are not so different after all - it all depends on the music played.
The piano line drops out. Simon thinks he sort of knows the words now, and despite the cynical voice inside screaming romcom, he joins in with Baz's voice as it sails loud in the otherwise loud rooms.
"May the past be the sound of your feet upon the ground and
Baz stops and turns back to Simon. They are close now, faces inches apart. "You're beautiful," Simon says before he can stop himself. He flushes, but Baz smiles.
"So are you."
Baz leans in and they kiss in front of the keyboard, brought right back to how they first met.