“You really should be resting,” Graves said pointedly. “Take a break.”
Daisy set up a place for supper, just as pointedly. “I’ve seen what happens when I do.”
“It was a small fire,” Graves grumbled, as Daisy brought him soup and cold meats and bread, “and only once.”
“Only once, he says.”
“Where’s Newt?” Graves asked, eating mechanically without even looking at the soup. Food was just fuel to Daisy’s charge, and always had been, try as she might. Some people were just innately incapable of enjoying the finer parts of life.
“In his case. The unicorn’s still very weak, and some of the other creatures injured themselves in their panic. ‘Least there wasn’t any major structural damage, other than to the charms. Would’ve been far worse if the monkey thing hadn’t run out with all the flying snakes, apparently. How was Congress?”
“Excruciating. You’d think that I personally loosed Grindelwald on New York instead of stopping him single-handedly,” Graves grumbled. He looked tired, as though he’d aged a few years, though whether it was the case finally taking his toll or what Grindelwald had done, Daisy wasn’t sure. “And it’s been days of back-to-back inquests even after the No-Maj President left the city safely. I fucking hate politics.”
“Maybe you should quit,” Daisy said, an old refrain, a likely story. She smirked as Graves rolled his eyes. “I have high hopes about Newt.”
“This again? Really?”
“Granted, you two probably have to adopt, but you have some distant cousins who might have spare kids and—”
Daisy retreated to the kitchen, still smirking, a smugness that only faded when Graves was struck with an uncommon fever of helpfulness and tried to bring his own bowls and plates back to the kitchen.
“Oh, for God’s sake. Give them here.” She deposited the cutlery and plates carefully in the sink before he could break them. “Yes? Is there something else? Still hungry?”
“No, I…” Graves hesitated, another novelty. “Are you… all right?”
“Do I look dead to you?”
“That’s a rather extreme metric.”
“You mean, do I wish that I shot that bastard in the head, or alternatively, in the balls?” Daisy shrugged, ignoring Graves’ grimace. “Eh. It all worked out in the end.”
“I think Newt’s a bad influence on you.” Graves said, though he thankfully started to retreat from the kitchen. Annoyingly, he paused at the door. “Daisy… thanks. For everything.”
Daisy stared at him with some surprise. Then, frowning, she reached slowly for the meat cleaver.
“Goddamn it, it really is me, all right?” Graves glowered at her. “Nevermind. Christ.” He left, and by the sounds of it, was storming off upstairs. In the silence of the kitchen, Daisy smiled to herself, closing her eyes. Then she huffed, wiped her hands down on the tea towels that she wore, and went to wash the dishes.
Newt shrugged. Pickett was on his shoulder, watching with interest as he pushed chairs into place at the dining area in the new townhouse that he had bought for Tina and Queenie, his bound case left on the table. “I wasn’t poor to begin with, because of my family. And besides, I don’t really know what to do with all the royalties that are pouring in. Thanks to your work with the press.”
“Newt Scamander, world-famous magizoologist,” Tina teased, even as the curtains fit themselves in place over the windows with a flick of her wand. “Your book’s going to be a required text in all the schools, so I’ve heard. President Picquery wanted to have you listed on MACUSA’s payroll as a consultant, but the Ministry of Magic objected.”
“They probably would’ve.” Newt said wryly.
“But you’re set to consult MACUSA on re-evaluating their approach to poaching and trafficking tomorrow, right?” Queenie smiled encouragingly at him from the doorway. “Don’t worry! You’ll do great. Just remember what I told you.”
“Don’t get mad, get even?” Newt wrinkled his nose.
“And the words?”
Newt folded his fingers together, and assumed a serious expression. “’That’s an interesting point, but…’”
“‘I understand where you’re coming from, but have you considered…’”
“There,” Queenie said cheerfully, clapping her hands. “Knock’em down.”
“Besides, you won’t be without friends. The Director will also be in that meeting,” Tina said lightly, with a mischievous grin. Newt coughed, colouring as he pretended to busy himself unpacking the cutlery into drawers. “This house is pretty big even for the two of us,” Tina continued playfully. “You could have one of the guest rooms.”
Newt had turned a bright shade of red. “Ah… that’s quite all right.”
They took a break from unpacking for tea, with Queenie waving the kettle to boil and Tina opening a box of assorted pastries. “From a mutual friend,” Tina told Newt with a faint smile.
“How’s he doing?” Newt asked, selecting a muffin. “I didn’t think it would be safe to visit, just in case, uh, you know, Percy got wind of it, I mean the Director.”
Queenie giggled, though Tina pretended not to notice. “The shop’s very successful. He’s thinking of expanding his store or starting a franchise,” Queenie said earnestly.
“You’ve been…?” Newt trailed off, when Queenie merely smiled, a little sadly. “Well,” Newt said uncomfortably, “if you ever, well, would ever consider moving to England, perhaps, I could help.”
“You’re a real sweetheart,” Queenie said gently. “But it’s all right. Don’t worry about us. We’ll figure something out. That’s what people do.”
“What about you?” Tina asked, just as gently. “After the consultation with MACUSA, what next?”
“I’ve always wanted to travel inland,” Newt admitted. “I’ve been privileged—a Sičháŋǧu friend in South Dakota asked me to come and visit him. That’ll be a learning experience. I think that’s what my next book will be about. I don’t just want people to learn about magical creatures. I want them to understand how we can live with them, how we have lived with them without killing them and the land. Why we should protect all of them. Not just the dragons and unicorns.”
“It’ll be a great new book,” Queenie squeezed his wrist lightly. “And if you still need a publicist after you publish it, you know where we are.”
“Actually,” Newt said, with a tentative smile, “I was wondering whether you’d like to work as my agent full time. Manager. Publicist. Uh, what you’re doing right now, really. You can pay yourself out of the royalties and I think, I don’t want to presume, but it looked like you were enjoying yourself more than at your usual work at the Woolworth Building and… oh…” Newt trailed off as Queenie let out a whoop of joy. “I guess… that’s a yes?”
“She was hoping that you’d ask,” Tina said dryly.
“Well… if you would like to as well—”
“No, no.” Tina smiled. “Magical Security needs all the Aurors it can get.”
After Newt left and Queenie had calmed down, Tina helped tidy up the remains of tea. “Do you think he’ll really be all right?” Queenie asked out aloud.
“You’re the one who can look into his head.”
“He always doubts himself. Where people are concerned.”
“He’ll be fine,” Tina said, and amended, “they’ll be fine.”
“I think we should announce the new book. Get a research grant, at least, either from the Ministry of Magic or Hogwarts or Ilvermorny, somewhere. We might give the Daily Prophet the scoop instead of the New York Ghost, they sent a reporter here to talk to Newt. Besides, we haven’t quite forgiven the Ghost for that article that they did.”
“Can’t ignore the Ghost, though,” Tina said absently. This part of the wizarding world was well out of her usual sphere of expertise, but Queenie was in her element. “I’m glad things worked out the way they did.”
“Well,” Queenie said, with a faint smile, “thanks to us in part, at the very least. Now, what would you like to have for dinner?”
“Of what?” Behind him, Newt was busy setting up camp, the tent building itself to rights, the campfire assembling.
“I suppose you’re here for a professional reason,” Graves scanned the fading horizon. “But I know people who like to travel out to the middle of nowhere, where they won’t meet anyone for miles. Sign of an imminent mental breakdown, if you ask me.”
Newt started to laugh, tried to stifle it into a cough, ended up hiccuping and had to have a drink of water. “I like it. It’s peaceful.”
“Nothing in your life’s peaceful, with your case of creatures.” It had been more than four days since they’d made their way down to Arizona by train, and Graves was already wondering what might have burned down in MACUSA. Had Abernathy solemnly read the list of instructions that Graves had left in full—
“You’re stressing yourself again.” Newt pressed his cheek over Graves’ shoulders, curling his arms around his waist. “You said that you were due to have a vacation.”
“I’m trying to ease myself into the shock of it.”
Newt’s laughter was silent, folded against Graves’ back. “Of finally being able to relax?”
“Relax? I was nearly trampled by one of your Graphorns this morning!”
“The word is ‘nearly’ and she was very sorry about it,” Newt said soothingly, nuzzling the back of his neck. Graves allowed himself to be turned around, and they kissed, slow and easy, with the tender familiarity of practice.
“I refuse to be lectured by someone with ‘Artemis’ and ‘Fido’ as middle names.”
“My mother wanted her second child to be a girl. She’d named my brother after her favourite hippogriff, and had already planned to name me after her second favourite. I might’ve been named ‘Artemis Scamander’ regardless, had my father not put his foot down.”
“I’m beginning to understand how you got to this point,” Graves said, amused. Instead of setting up for dinner they ended up in the tent, on the bedroll, kicking off shoes, shucking coats.
“Why are you still wearing a tie all the way out here?” Newt murmured, as he undid the offending object.
“I don’t see why I have to lower any standards just because we’re far away from civilisation,” Graves told him, frowning as Newt chuckled. “I still don’t understand. You like to live like this for weeks at a time? Away from cities?” At least magic made maintaining hygiene easier, but—
“Months at a time, on occasion.” Newt corrected, and grinned when Graves shook his head wonderingly. “I don’t normally miss having human company.” He curled a hand lightly over the nape of Graves’ neck, tugging him down, to breathe, “Normally,” between them before closing in the rest of the way, eagerly. A year had bled away the rest of Newt’s nervousness between them and much of his reserve. Newt was demanding as they kissed, his fingers as impatient on Graves’ clothes as Graves was with Newt’s.
Groans hissed out between them as vests and belts joined the pile of coats, Graves nipping down the skin he bared as he worked on Newt’s union suit, resetting the marks he’d left just this morning. They’d been in a forgettable hotel in Phoenix, Graves’ hand pressed over Newt’s mouth, his lips buried against Newt’s neck, those pretty, freckled thighs tight around his waist. Now Newt squirmed in his arms, twisting over onto his elbows and knees as he was stripped down, red-faced but arching with a gasp as Graves kissed his shoulders, the nape of his neck, the elegant arch of his spine.
“Percy,” Newt complained, then he yelped as Graves spat in his palm and reached for him, stroking slowly, ignoring how Newt pushed his hips into his grip. He reached for his wand with his free hand, and Newt made a faint, shocked sound as a hasty spell got them both cleaned up, enough for what Graves had planned next, anyway. As he licked a wet line up the cleft of Newt’s pert rump, Newt buried his face in his hands and his cry in his wrist.
“I don’t know why you’re still embarrassed by this,” Graves observed smugly, even as Newt whined deep in his throat as Graves followed his comments by lapping lazily over the furled muscle. Newt said nothing, though he pushed his hips back tentatively, and muffled another cry as Graves started to lick into him, opening him up nice and slow and wet. The more he took, the higher Newt’s muffled cries hitched, until he was keening, wordless. The cock in Graves’ hand was flushed dark, and by the sudden tension in Newt’s thighs Graves knew that he was close. He pulled up, kissing the bowed spine, chuckling at Newt’s abortive, frustrated groan, following scars with his tongue until Newt grabbed one of the still-bound sleeping rolls, propping it under his hips.
Graves worked Newt open with oil and fingers, deliberately taking his time, until Newt was writhing impatiently, hands clutching at tent fabric, his eyes squeezed shut. “That’s, that’s really enough,” Newt said, his plea broken by shreds of propriety.
“Oh? For what?” Graves asked, with mock innocence, and Newt frowned, bucking pointedly into the fingers pressed within him. “More fingers?” He was up to three.
“No, your, just, please,” Newt begged, his voice wracked by gasps and cored down to pleas and nonsense words. “Please.” Obedience felt inexorable. It might be Newt beneath him, Newt squirming and whining as Graves pressed slowly into him, but it was Graves who was now helpless, hyper-aware of the gift of trust that was offered to him, over and over. He was always more dazed by wonder than lust.
As Graves pressed deep, all the way in, it felt like they had both been scoured raw by tenderness, their sighs and gasps going stuttered, wounded. Newt groped up until he had his fingers curled over the back of Graves’ neck, and Graves nuzzled the soft underside of Newt’s arm, grazing skin with his teeth until fingertips dug into his neck, silently urging him to move. As always, Graves let Newt dictate the pace, here with the silent clench and ease of his fingers. Despite Newt’s prior impatience tonight he wanted it slow, but deep. Graves braced an arm on the fabric beside Newt’s shoulders and curled fingers over Newt’s hip, his own groans shuddering into gasps each time he buried himself. He gave—he always gave. Newt’s fingers slipped against his throat, shivering as Graves pressed inside at the perfect angle.
“Oh!” Nails dug higher against the nape of his neck, scratching for purchase. “Harder,” Newt gasped, “now, harder.”
Graves gave him what he wanted with a growl, pinning Newt’s free hand down before Newt could stifle himself again. “I want to hear you today,” Graves panted against his ear. Newt gasped, but his moans quickly notched into cries, then he yowled as Graves took him roughly, out of rhythm. Completion left Newt dazed and pliant. Graves wasn’t far behind, dizzy with urgency, thrusting until shaky fingers tightened on the back of his neck, the final spur that he needed.
“See,” Newt said, as they curled up later in the sleeping roll, everything refreshed with a little magic. “Being all the way out here isn’t too bad.”
“I’m pretty sure sleeping rough like this is going to be awful for my back,” Graves told him, though he tucked his head over Newt’s shoulder and closed his eyes, yawning. Yes. Maybe this wasn’t so bad.
As if to contradict him, above, there was the sudden barreling roar of thunder. Graves groaned, shifting closer. At least it was already night and the tent was set up, even if there was a weird sound, like a vast cloak being shaken out—
“Ah,” Newt said, sounding a little surprised. “I do believe Frank might’ve found us.”
“Frank? Who the hell is Frank?”
“He’s a Thunderbird, and very friendly—”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.”
“Dusty. Hot. A nearly offensive number of flies.” Newt smiled warmly at her. “How have you been?”
“The usual.” Daisy eyed his case. “Anything new?”
“No. The Bunyips are fine where they are, but we spelled up a reserve under consultation with the elders.” Newt was yawning as Daisy fixed him up a late lunch. “There’s really no need to bother,” he kept trying to tell her.
“It’s been five years, I keep telling you it’s a pleasure. Just eat. Make my day. At least you’ll be enjoying the food. I made pie in the morning just in case. Thought the steamship might be coming in today.” Daisy cut him a generous slice, made tea, then bustled around, ostensibly dusting.
“How’s Percy been?” Newt asked. Once, he’d absently asked Daisy to sit with him at the dining table, and her look of mild reproach had ensured that it was the first time and the last.
“Grumpy. Overworked. The usual.”
“Didn’t Picquery retire? I heard a rumour in Pago Pago.”
“Not yet. She was thinking about it. Nearly lost a vote of no confidence over whether to lift the ban against marrying No-Majs.” Daisy grinned knowingly. “The Goldstein Bill, eh?”
“Yes, I heard,” Newt said, trying for innocence.
Daisy wasn’t fooled. “Wonder where all the money behind that came from. Full court press through all the major papers, hm?”
Newt sighed. “Well, I rather thought—”
“I’m joking. Besides, that No-Maj whom Queenie’s so sweet on makes excellent scones. I got his recipe.”
“You’ve met him?” Newt tried not to sound aghast. “He came to this house?” He looked around on reflex, as though Graves was going to loom out from behind the bookshelves at any moment.
“We haven’t met,” Daisy told him. “Queenie got me the recipe. Someone who’s that good at making pastries can’t be a bad person.”
“… Somehow, I can’t seem to come up with the words to refute that argument,” Newt admitted.
He was feeding his creatures when he heard a faint clatter from the lab, then Graves emerged, glancing around, then striding purposefully towards Newt. Even now, with half a decade between them, Newt still felt struck dumb; life had so abruptly dealt him a lucky hand after so many bitter years. Graves was pretending to scowl, though his mouth kept curling up at the edges, and on his shoulders, Diana trilled a greeting.
“You’re meant to file for a permit before taking your case into the city,” Graves said dryly, waiting until Pickett scrambled free and to the nearest branch before pulling Newt into his arms.
“I wanted my return to be a surprise,” Newt admitted sheepishly. “But then Daisy wasn’t surprised at all, and then we talked for a bit, then I had to feed everybody and I forgot.”
“You’re impossible,” Graves told him, taking a folded piece of paper from within his coat and tapping it against Newt’s chest.
Newt pocketed it gratefully. “Diana hasn’t been any trouble, has she? Daisy said she briefly had a bad turn earlier this year.”
Graves rolled his eyes. “Got into the habit of eating pigeons, of all goddamned things. Rats of the sky. Queenie was the one who figured out how to wean her off it by bribery, but now she’s getting fat off treats from the department and is only useful as a very heavy scarf.” Diana cheeped, as though in disagreement. “You can have her back anytime,” Graves added, though he never really meant it.
Newt kissed him instead, impatient for a taste, his first in months. Graves purred, pulling Newt even closer, and they kissed to make up the days, as though the days had wound to a stop, as though they needed each other to breathe, bound together by consequence, tenderness stealing away time. Graves broke for air eventually, reluctant. “How long can you stay this time?” Graves asked quietly, no reproach, only trust.
“I do have to get around to writing my second book,” Newt said lightly, and tucked his fingers under Graves’ tie, rubbing a thumb over the knot. “If you don’t mind the imposition.”
Graves kissed his cheek, then his temple, and pressed his mouth to Newt’s throat, breathing deeply, as though he was trying to drink Newt in, all of him, the best of him and the worst, for the days yet to come. This was love to Newt, a most particular madness. Newt’s hands, playing restlessly up and down Graves’ arms in stroking circles, curled and settled to rest over the small of his back. Home. He was finally home.