Percival Graves asks him if he wants to stay in the Graves estate with a quiet desperation in his eyes. He looks like he is drowning, barely able to tread the waters of his life that Grindelwald had disturbed. He looks like someone who doesn't have a giant squid to push him back up and out of the deep waters, and Newt can't say no. Can't help but think of how secure he'd felt, diving into the Black Lake at Hogwarts, knowing the giant squid was looking after him, ready to help if he ever needs it.
So he accepts. He thinks of how he has helped over a hundred different creatures get their feet back under them. He thinks if no one else was bothering to help Graves, then Newt would be the one to step up.
Newt's supposed to stay in a hotel when he returned to America, has already booked a room, but the Graves estate is massive and empty of people save Newt and Graves. Newt prefers it, really.
He also understands, now. If someone attacks Graves here, as Grindelwald had, no one in the outside world would know. The neighbors are miles away. Newt wonders at the man's bravery, to keep living here after everything.
"Make yourself at home. The grounds aren't being used for anything, I don't have the time to take care of it, I barely even notice it, so you can let your creatures roam. As long as they stay within the boundaries," Graves says, surprising Newt.
"Ah... You don't mind?" Newt asks. Just for sure. Hardly anyone would want to have Newt's creatures running amok in their backyard. But it would be good for his nundu, graphorns, mooncalves and erumpent. They need land to roam, although they've been very understanding of the limited space in Newt's case.
"I don't mind," Graves states quite firmly.
And so before Newt takes even a step towards the huge mansion, he detours to the grounds. Graves hangs back, just watching silently as Newt lets out his larger beasts. Newt observes him in the corner of his eyes, noting that Graves looks content, more than anything.
It's weird, but good. He keeps expecting the man to say something, to complain about how the young graphorn was frolicking in the tall grass, but Graves doesn't.
"There's also a greenhouse. The plants in there, if not dead, would have developed brains already, but you're welcome to use it. You're welcome to any part of the house, Scamander," Graves says instead.
"Thank you. You didn't have to do this, really," Newt replies. Graves just shakes his head.
"I want to. I'm heading in, had a long day at the office. Help yourself to whichever room you like. If there's any food in the pantry, you can help yourself, although I can't remember when I last got groceries. I usually eat out."
"O-Okay. Er, good night then, Mister Graves."
"We're gonna be living together. Don't call me Mister," Percival demands, "Percival is fine. I'll even tolerate Percy occasionally." He waves a hand before making his retreat without waiting for Newt's answer.
"Percival. Right. Um..." Newt mumbles. Pickett peeps out of Newt's breast pocket, chittering.
"I really can't imagine calling him Percy. But you're right. Let's go explore that greenhouse. And there's a few trees over there..."
There are numerous silverware on display in the kitchen. They're all dusty, and perfect for his occamies to play with. Newt is very experienced with casting Reparo anyway.
His niffler is very happy with all the loose change he keeps finding everywhere. He's getting fatter with each one he adds to his pouch.
The diricawls claim the main staircase as their territory, and haven't stopped apparating from one stair to another ad infinitum since they found it.
His dungbeetles achieve dungball sizes of magnificent proportions from all the dirt on the grounds.
His fwooper is happily hoarding apples in one tree. The rest of his bowtruckles, save for Pickett, have found four other suitable trees to inhabit.
His Swooping Evil has taken to hanging about on the numerous shadowy alcoves in the corridors or the high ceilings. It seems to be waiting for anyone stupid enough to invade the Graves estate.
Newt knows, after the first week, that it was going to be hard to leave. He's never really been able to care for his beasts in the open. Percival honestly, truly doesn't mind. Sometimes a puffskein takes to making a nest in his hair and he just lets it, uncaring about looking ridiculous.
Newt has the feeling that if Percival wasn't run ragged from his work, the man would gladly help Newt look after them. Percival always leaves early and comes home late, always exhausted. Newt is itching to take care of him. If only Newt knew how.
One morning, Dougal pulls Percival's hand, and pushes him until he sat down by the kitchen table. Dougal then forces an apple into Percival's hand and proceeds to stare at him, unblinking, waiting for Percival finish eating it.
Newt's standing by the corner, dumbstruck. Is it really that simple?
Percival doesn't utter a word until he's done. "Satisfied?"
Dougal nods and does his best impression of a smile. There's a barely noticeable upturn of Percival's lips as he leaves for work.
"Dougal, where would I be without you?" Newt asks, hugging the demiguise. Newt has an idea of what to do, now.
Dougal gives his version of a laugh.
Newt takes maybe two steps in Queenie's direction, before she's rushing to hug him happily and agreeing to teach him how to cook properly.
Because he tailors a lot of his beasts' food to suit their needs, but he's not so sure that Percival would appreciate eating dry, floating pellets.
Queenie giggles. "Don't you worry, you'll be an expert cook in no time with my help!"
So they practice cooking in Tina and Queenie's apartment in the afternoons after Queenie comes home from work, hours before Tina or Percival even think of leaving the office.
In the meantime, Dougal makes sure to give Percival some fruit in the mornings, and Percival stays a couple of minutes longer each time.
"You didn't have to," Percival declares, the first morning Newt cooks a proper breakfast spread: pancakes, bangers and mash, bacon, French toast. Not really the healthiest, Newt acknowledges, but these are things he's used to eating. These are easy to master. Experimentation for variety would come later. He's not even sure if Percival would trust him enough to take a bite. On that note...
"I wanted to. It's not poisoned. I practiced, and Queenie assured me they tasted good," Newt promises, wringing his hands on his apron nervously.
Percival stares at him, making him fidget. Newt averts his eyes, cheeks flushing in embarrassment.
When he glances back at Percival, the man's eyes are alight with amusement.
"I believe you, Newt. Thank you," Percival emphasizes, before helping himself to some pancakes. He tops them with raspberries and honey. Newt relaxes and joins him at the table.
Percival leaves a full thirty minutes later than usual.
Newt and Tina are eating lunch together in one of the Auror division's rare slow days.
"Queenie sees you more often than I do these days," Tina points out in between bites of her taco. Newt hurries to swallow his own mouthful, but Tina waves him off. "It's fine, don't apologize. I'm very busy, now that I'm an Auror again. You know, I always thought there would be something between us, when you came back."
"Tina..." Newt starts hesitantly. Tina flashes him a reassuring smile.
"I realized that... I wouldn't fit you, not really. You need someone to take care of, and I'm much too independent. I relish being able to take care of myself and my sister. But I'd love it if we stayed friends, Newt. What do you think?"
"Of course!" Newt declares, all hesitation gone. Tina's smile turns mischievous.
"Besides, Queenie says you're halfway to being Mister Graves' housewife."
Newt, having resumed eating his taco, swallows wrong and chokes. Tina doesn't stop laughing until their lunch is finished. When she goes back to the office and sees her boss, she bursts out laughing again, much to the confusion of her coworkers.
Eating breakfast together turns into eating dinner together once Newt is able to decently cook different dishes, and Percival starts coming home earlier. He finds out that Percival likes medium rare steak, and resolves to cook it more often.
After dinner, Dougal starts the tradition of sitting by the fire in the living room. Newt would commandeer the low table for his manuscripts of the second edition of his book. He sits on the floor, back to the couch where Percival is brushing Dougal's hair.
Dougal, in turn, would groom Newt's hair. Newt is used to it so he doesn't really pay it that much attention.
He's lost in his musings about fire crabs when he realizes that the hand going through his hair is much too large to be Dougal's. He turns to look, and it's Percival's hand.
Dougal is curled up in Percival's chest, sleeping deeply and snoring softly. Percival is leaning back on the couch, posture totally relaxed. His eyes are half-lidded and unfocused. His hand, it seems, is only moving automatically and without Percival's conscious thought. Newt wonders how long Percival's been stroking his hair.
The couch grooming becomes an honest-to-Merlin cuddle pile.
The niffler gets jealous of Dougal, because that man was his amazing and very generous benefactor and the niffler was way softer and cuddlier and the niffler's black coat was far superior to Dougal's.
So the niffler climbs up to Percival's shoulder and stays there.
The seven diricawls, tired from playing on the stairs the whole day, are next to claim their positions. They squirm their way next to Dougal, chirping in chorus.
Three occamies wind their way around Percival's neck like living, breathing scarves. The other three occamies settle on Newt.
Only one puffskein ends up in Percival's hair because it fiercely discourages all the others. Newt quickly snatches the other puffskeins away before they start a turf war on Percival's head, and settles them on his own lap.
Somehow one of the mooncalves always manages to get into the house. And it ends up sitting beside Newt on the floor, its head resting on Percival's knees.
Percival has this small smile on his face and he looks happier than Newt's ever seen him.
Newt feels warm. He feels undeniably fond of this man who opened his home to Newt and his babies. He knows it would hit him the hardest when it was time to leave.
The change in Percival Graves is gradual, but very welcome.
The first thing to go, his Aurors note, was the hunted look. It's awful, really. Especially because all of them are guilty and ashamed of not noticing when he was replaced, and none of them dared make an offer of a shoulder to cry on, or a sympathetic ear, or even an offer to get some drinks. They're scared that their offers would be rejected or thrown back to their faces. They focus on being professional and efficient so that Mister Graves would not have any misgivings about any of them. So that Mister Graves would learn to trust them again.
It doesn't work at all. Mister Graves remains tense and wary, jumping at any too loud noise, shying away from touch and maintaining a very large bubble of personal space.
They're all relieved when the hunted look goes away, and the bags under Mister Graves' eyes diminish bit by bit before vanishing completely.
The tension in the man's posture goes away slower, but he does stop flinching at every little thing.
He starts coming and going at normal hours, instead of ass o'clock in the morning and evening.
"Good food," Goldstein remarks, to the astonishment of many. But it does seem plausible, especially since Mister Graves visibly gains back the weight he lost before and his suits stop hanging loosely on his frame.
The biggest change, perhaps, was this:
One morning, Mister Graves comes to work with only three minutes to spare, his hair in disarray. His clothes are, of course, impeccable and he's wearing a different blue scarf today, haven't seen that before, but his hair!
It looks suspiciously like bedhead. Like a bird's nest. But no, Mister Graves would never come to work with bedhead. That's impossible.
Goldstein, bless her brave soul, walks up to Mister Graves while the rest of the Aurors cringe in their chairs.
"Sir, you've got..." Goldstein getures to Mister Graves' new scarf. The man looks down, and breaks down laughing. Tina joins him, while the rest only watch in stunned silence.
The scarf suddenly hisses, as though it was offended that they were laughing at it. As if it was alive.
It spreads its wings. Wings. Are those wings? That can't be right. Mister Graves strokes it, calming it down.
"I've read about those! That's an occamy!" Rosenthal, over by the other desk, cries in amazement.
"Indeed it is. Good to know you've been keeping up with your magical creatures, Rosenthal," Mister Graves acknowledges. In good humor, even. Rosenthal blushes.
"Scamander's book is very informative, sir!"
Mister Graves nods. Goldstein, however, pushes her luck as she always does. She gestures to Mister Graves' mussed hair.
"And is that because of a diricawl, or...?" She quips, complete with a teasing wink. The woman has balls of steel, really.
Mister Graves huffs. "Puffskein, Goldstein. If you must know, I fell asleep on the couch last night buried under a whole lot of very fluffy and comfortable beasts. Woke up late."
"I bet it's gonna be even better when you're sleeping buried in N--"
With a flick of Mister Graves' wand, Goldstein loses her voice. Her only reaction is an epic pout.
"Back to work, Goldstein! And the rest of you, don't think I don't see you not doing anything!" Mister Graves growled. They all scramble to look busy, minds reeling at what happened. Goldstein definitely knows something they don't, but how? They're gonna grill her for information later til she squeaks.
The conversation goes something like this, in a very loose sense:
Mummy wants to mate with that man.
That man wants to mate with Mummy too. I've smelled it on him.
Why don't they get on with it? I'd like a Daddy. That man gives excellent cuddles, so he can be our Daddy!
They're being stupid.
Then it's up to us!
This is how Operation Mating Season started. It's very simple. The plan is to keep pushing Mummy and that man together until they get on with it.
The main operatives are the diricawls, seeing as they can apparate directly into just the right place to make Mummy trip and fall into that man.
They don't attempt it on that man, because that man had very sharp instincts.
"Newt," Percival drawls. "I think your beasts are trying to tell us something."
Newt looks up from Percival's arms. He's just been tripped again. For the fifth time in two days. By his traitorous diricawls.
"By my beasts? Not just the diricawls?" Newt asks. He doesn't make any move to get off of Percival. He loves it here, thank you very much.
"Dougal is watching very intently. He'd have stopped it by now if he wasn't in on it," Percival whispers into Newt's ear. Newt bites his lip to keep from moaning.
Percival was going to say something else, but the bravest diricawl, it recognized an opportunity. That man had his guard down. It barreled into the back of Percival's knees, sending Percival tumbling down to floor, flat on his back and Newt on top of him.
There's a happy cry from Dougal's direction, followed by the sound of footsteps hurrying out the kitchen.
Newt and Percival meet each other's gaze and burst into raucous laughter. Newt laughs until he's in tears. Percival rubs Newt's back until Newt calms down.
"Hey. You okay?" Percival asks.
"I-I'm fine," Newt mumbles, wiping his tears. "You're the one who took a hard fall. How's your head?"
"It's fine," Percival assures him, smiling softly. Newt looks away.
"I'm sorry about them. Sometimes they get these horrible ideas..."
"You're in my arms, Newt. I don't see anything horrible about that," Percival admits, sincerity evident in his voice. Newt gapes at him.
Percival hugs Newt closer, making Newt hyperaware of his position atop Percival's body. The sudden rush of his jumbled emotions make him dizzy, and he's glad he's already lying down.
It's quite possible that he zones out for an hour. Or just a few seconds. Really, he loses track of time, just gazing at Percival.
Percival doesn't rush him, perfectly content to just hold Newt in his arms.
It's... It's something he's hoped for, Percival wanting him back.
I need to leave
I'll get hurt
What if it doesn't work
I'll have to leave sooner or later
His thoughts go round and round. He searches for something, anything to hang on to--
One hand is cupping his cheek gently, and another hand is carding through his hair. Petting him.
He's seen Percival do it to his beasts so many times. So gentle. So careful. Always treating each one like the precious living being that it is.
This is a man with a reputation so fearsome, Grindelwald went for him first. This is a man who fights so hard, and, Newt suspects, will never stop fighting for what he loves, for what he believes in.
This is a man that Newt trusts with the lives of his babies.
The decision doesn't seem so hard, then. His heart is a fragile little thing, but he'll trust this man to take care of it.
"Percival..." Newt breathes out. "Will you kiss me?"
Percival beams. Their first kiss is a simple, chaste peck. The succeeding ones are decidedly less so.
Are they mated yet?
No, they're still just wriggling and licking and humping...
I told you, humans only mate when they're alone! Let's go!
Mummy doesn't know we're watching. Mummy never does!
But Daddy has good instincts, remember? Maybe he's waiting for us to leave.
Let's come back in a couple of hours.