“—vicious, stubborn, ignorant—”
“—insipid little popinjay!”
“I could find thirty men in Florence who would treat me better than you!”
“And no doubt they would all tire of you as quickly as I!”
Even as he searches for more cutting words, Paris struggles to remember how their quarrel started. This all happened so quickly… “I wish you had let me die when you stabbed me! Then at least I wouldn’t have to suffer your presence any longer!”
“If that’s what you wish, then I’ll spare you any further suffering!”
Paris watches blankly, unable to make himself move, as Tybalt storms out of the clearing, kicking blossoms off the flowers as he goes. Slowly, he sinks to his knees amid the flowers.
This wasn’t how today was supposed to go…
The day started perfectly normally, or as normally as all of them had become used to for the Prince of Verona’s palace. A month after Romeo and Juliet’s public wedding, their new residence in the neutral sector of the town is still incomplete, and while both Houses offered to make room for the couple, the Prince refuses to risk sending them back to their families so soon—barely more than six weeks before, both Houses would have refused to allow one of their rivals onto their estate without bloodshed, after all.
Thus, the newlyweds are still staying in one of the palace’s guest rooms, and with them added to all three permanent residents, and Tybalt and Benvolio usually spending most of their spare time there as well, the huge building has never seemed so crowded.
Romeo and Juliet don’t mean any harm, of course. Their enthusiastic attempts at behaving like any other properly married couple would be endearing if they didn’t cause such chaos, chaos that Paris usually ends up having to resolve.
The morning Juliet decides she is going to learn to bake, Paris takes one look inside the floury mess she and her husband are turning the kitchen into and flees the estate, thinking he might have hung up his mask too early.
“Tybalt!” he shouts up at his lover’s window, throwing a nearby pebble at the glass, and then a few more when Tybalt doesn’t open it right away. He could climb up, of course, but it was hard enough getting out of his own window wearing his best coat and his favorite shoes, and there would have been little point in wearing them at all if he ruined them climbing up to Tybalt’s window.
The window up above finally opens, and Paris drops the cobblestone he had picked up. “What do you want?” Tybalt calls down in a loud whisper. “Isotta is sleeping!”
“Sorry!” Paris lowers his voice slightly. “I want you to get me out of here before I lose my mind!”
“Alright, alright, wait there.” Tybalt turns away from the window. “Isotta, sweetheart, your blanket...here, let me fix that, princess…”
“Sometimes,” Paris says as Tybalt rounds the corner a few minutes later, leading a black horse, “I think you love that cat more than me.”
“Well.” Tybalt lifts Paris up to sit in front of the saddle. “Isotta is perfect.”
Paris looks down at him expectantly. Tybalt glances up from adjusting one of the stirrups, the breeze just catching some of the red cords in his hair. “What?”
Tybalt blinks, pushing his hair out of his face. “And what? She’s perfect.”
“I can’t believe you,” Paris grumbles as Tybalt mounts behind him, putting one hand around his waist and grasping the reins with the other.
“So what do you want me to say?” Tybalt laughs, kissing Paris’ hair gently as he pulls him back against his chest.
“Tybalt, darling, I have had a very long week and right now I just want someone to tell me I’m devastatingly beautiful.”
“Do you now.”
“You are cruel,” Paris laughs as Tybalt nudges the horse into motion.
By the time they ride out of Verona, saddlebags full of wine and food, Paris has nearly managed to put the furor that is surely brewing at the palace out of his mind. While the day is still warm, it’s much more bearable now that they are outside the stone walls of the city, and Paris closes his eyes with a sigh to enjoy the cool breeze blowing off the river.
“How is Juliet?” Tybalt asks as the horse wades slowly across to a bank of flowers leading into the forest.
“You saw her two days ago,” Paris points out. “She’s doing well. I can’t say the same for our kitchen, though...or the laundry, or the garden, or the duck pond…”
“She said she was determined to learn how to keep house,” Tybalt says. “I think she’s afraid her mother will swoop down on her otherwise.”
“I can’t blame her for not wanting that, then,” Paris says, “and I can’t fault Romeo for wanting to help, but…” he sighs. “They’re certainly perfect for each other, judging by the amount of trouble they can make.”
“Something you have no experience with, I’m sure.”
“But you love me for it, don’t you.”
Tybalt hums softly in response, halting the horse just inside the forest. “Juliet showed me this place,” he says, dismounting lightly and reaching his hands up for Paris. “...Oh,” he murmurs as Paris scrambles down by himself.
“Alright, lead on,” Paris says after opening the saddlebags and taking out a bottle of wine and one of the baskets of food.
Tybalt makes an elaborate bow, holding aside a curtain of ivy so Paris can get through. Paris has to bend down to duck under the low-hanging branch, and his eyes go wide as he stands up and looks around. “Tybalt, this is…”
“I thought you might like it,” Tybalt says from behind him.
Paris sets the food down on a log and runs into the middle of the circular clearing full of flowers, twirling around and falling back into the ocean of white blossoms. The sky is as blue as sapphires, with painting-perfect clouds drifting across as he gazes up through the frame of dense evergreen trees. “It’s wonderful! Like a whole world just for us…”
Tybalt sinks down beside him, resting his head on one hand and toying idly with Paris’ hair. “Feeling less like you’re going to go mad now?”
Paris throws a few petals at him, smiling as they catch on his curls. Rolling over, he tries to catch Tybalt in a kiss, but Tybalt moves faster and Paris finds himself pinned on his back in the flower bed with Tybalt’s lips on his.
Paris closes his eyes. I wish this moment could last forever…
But it didn’t, of course.
Paris struggles to remember what had happened after that—after lunching on the food and wine they brought, they had fallen asleep amidst the flowers. When they woke up...Paris can’t even remember what spurred their quarrel, but he can vaguely remember being full of a strange anger that would not be quelled until he had revealed all his secret frustrations and annoyances, and said all the cruelest things he could think of, words he knows he would never dream of saying if it weren’t for the fact that he can remember saying them.
Paris stares down at his empty hands. Everything gleams golden in the first rays of sunset, and Paris knows he should think the flower field is beautiful, but it makes him sick to look at the pool of white blossoms any longer.
Slowly, he gets to his feet, brushing petals off his clothes. Tybalt took the horse, no doubt, so I’ll have to walk back to the city...it’s not as if I’m in any hurry to get there, anyway.
The third time he tries and fails to find the curtain of ivy through which they had entered the flower clearing, Paris begins to think that there is more wrong than he already knows. I can’t find my way out, and he went even deeper into the forest. “Tybalt?” Paris calls, feeling very small as his voice is swallowed up by the surrounding trees. Surely it wasn’t this dark before—how long has it been since he left? “Tybalt, where are you? I’m sorry!”
There’s no sound in reply, not even a whinny from the horse that should still be close by. Paris stares into the darkness of the forest, searching for a glimpse of red leather or gold fringe. He shivers, pulling his coat tighter as a cold wind blows through the trees. “Please, Tybalt…” he whispers, stepping into the edge of the forest.
At first he feels, more than sees, the light that suddenly appears behind him. Paris turns, having to shield his eyes at the brightness as he stares at the fractals of light that coalesce to form a vaguely human-shaped figure, like a crystal statue of a fiery Artemis standing among the flowers.
“What is your business in our forest, child?” The light speaks, although Paris cannot see a face, in a slow, languid voice like dripping moonlight.
Paris tries not to think of the fate of the unfortunate Actaeon. “I’m looking for my…” He pauses, wondering what relationship he has a right to claim with Tybalt after the way they parted. “I’m looking for someone.” The light drifts closer and Paris approaches warily.
“Do you mean the other young mortal? But he came with us quite happily…”
“You saw Tybalt? Where is—”
Lights begin to swirl around the glowing form from the ground up, and Paris gapes as they slowly reveal a red-and-gold gown, pale skin, and a pile of bronze curls. “L...Lady Capulet?”
“I found this form in your companion’s memories,” the spirit says in Lady Capulet’s voice, although the languid speech patterns have not changed, and her eyes still glow gold with inner flame. “It pleases me.” She spins around, floating a few inches off the ground as petals float around the base of her skirt. “Do you think me beautiful?” she asks, floating closer and bending down towards Paris’ face.
Paris takes a step back. “I...you...you’re alright, I guess.”
She laughs, and it sounds like rainwater over bells. “What an honest child! Such a rare sort of mortal…”
“Thanks?” Paris turns slowly as she floats around him, some primitive instinct warning him not to turn his back on her.
“I am Titania, the fairies’ queen,” she says, sinking down against a moonlit cloud that appears below her.
“You took Tybalt!” Paris’ hands tighten into fists at his sides—he finds himself almost wishing he had taken Tybalt’s advice and started carrying a knife, but what good would that do against a fairy, anyway? “I want him back!”
Titania laughs again, holding the back of one hand delicately in front of her mouth. “Just this afternoon, you never wanted to see him again! We’ve only granted your wish.”
“I didn’t mean...I never actually wanted...you tricked us!” Paris protests.
“But you said you’d rather die than have him.” Titania smiles coldly. Paris had never before noticed how much Lady Capulet actually resembles her nephew. “You mortals are so fickle…”
I did say that, Paris thinks miserably. I did drive him away. “I didn’t think anything would actually happen to him! Please,” he begs desperately, falling to his knees in the flowers, “please, I can’t go back without him…”
Titania in Lady Capulet’s form stretches out a delicate gold-slippered foot to tip his chin up so he has to look at her. “Then could you love me, forever, if it would set him free?”
“I…” Paris tries to stop his voice from shaking. “I could do my best,” he says weakly.
Titania’s form shifts again as she laughs, and suddenly she’s standing on the ground in front of him. “You amuse me, child,” she says, taking his hands and pulling him to his feet. Paris looks down at the flowers instead of meeting those gleaming golden eyes. “My husband Oberon has stolen my new pet, anyway, so it would only serve him right. I will show you the way to him—but that is all I will offer you, and none has ever brought anyone back from our realm, even if they found the way there. Do you still want this mortal of yours so much, after he rejected you?”
The beautiful one kisses him, and Tybalt lets him. He loves him, he thinks.
Why else would he be there?
“I...please,” Paris breathes.
Titania laughs softly. “I will grant your request, then. But do not complain afterwards if you do not find what you seek.”
As Titania turns away, Lady Capulet’s form explodes into a dazzling shower of flaming light, and Paris has to shield his face with his hands until the glow fades. When he takes his hands away, the trees at one side of the flower clearing have vanished, revealing a steep road leading up a hill that he’s certain has never existed near Verona before.
Wrapping his scarf more securely around his neck as protection against the cold wind, Paris starts to walk, trying not to trip on rocks in the dim moonlight. As he comes to the first rise, he looks back over his shoulder, but the flower clearing he left behind has vanished, and all he can see is the forest, not even the walls of Verona rising in the distance.
I guess she was serious about nobody coming back, Paris thinks, suddenly feeling even more alone, though he can’t get away from the feeling that he’s being watched. “Hello? Is anyone there?”
There is no reply, and Paris keeps on, pulling his coat free of a thorny bush next to the path.
He has no real way of telling how long he’s been walking, or how far he has gone—every time he turns to look back, he finds that everything behind him has been swallowed up by the forest, and there is nowhere to go but further along the road into the fairy hill.
Finally, he reaches the door of a great hall half-sunk into the hill—the wood forms strange patterns, designs that look as if he should be able to read them in the moonlight, but don’t quite form any shapes that he can recognize. Paris reaches out to touch one of the patterns, wondering if it’s carved or if the wood grew that way. The doors swing open silently at his touch, and Paris can see what looks like candles springing to light one by one along a long table inside.
“Tybalt?” he calls as he steps over the threshold, but his voice only echoes around the vast room with no reply.
As Paris steps forward, he comes up short with a gasp as his scarf pulls tight around his neck, nearly choking him.Tugging at the loop until he can breathe again, he turns around as far as he can to find that the doors have shut behind him as silently as they opened to let him in, catching the ends of the scarf between them. The doors refuse to open again, and no matter how he pulls at it the scarf won’t come out, so in the end the only thing he can do is loosen it enough that he can wriggle free. Several hairpins come loose in the process, and Paris’ hair is falling half-undone around his shoulders by the time he begins walking through the hall.
Paris keeps to the edge of the hall, gazing warily at the feast table illuminated by candles that stretch on and on into the distance. He half-imagines he can see the apples growing redder as he looks, the meat more tender, the grapes plumper. He hasn’t eaten since he and Tybalt first arrived in the forest—it feels like weeks now.
As a wine glass appears and fills itself, Paris looks away and hurries on, eager to escape the hall. Strange feasts have held little allure for him after the way his parents died—the fairies may have meant to tempt him, but all they’ve done is corner him with the memories he’s been running from for eight years. Considering the manner in which Tybalt and Volpe first met at the bar, Paris realizes Tybalt may have been more trusting and bound himself further under enchantment.
It feels as if the hall gets longer as he walks further, but finally he reaches another set of doors and rushes for them gladly, eager to get back into the fresh air and the moonlight.
But when the doors swing open, it isn’t the rocky path that Paris steps out onto, but a huge bower of roses, the branches intertwining over his head and dripping down heavy with blossoms all around him. He turns to look back at the doors, but they are already nearly buried in winding vines bearing buds of blood-red and dove-white.
The bower is full of light, and the sweet scent of the roses swirls around Paris as he walks on, trampling red petals as he searches for the path that will lead to what he needs.
Surely he loves the beautiful one, Tybalt thinks. There was never anyone else, never someone with gray eyes, not gold, so he has no reason to feel unsatisfied.
Just one… Paris pauses for a moment as he has to push through a waterfall curtain of trailing white rose vines. They wouldn’t miss just one, would they?
“God, don’t be stupid,” Paris mutters to himself, taking a deep breath as he steps through the curtain of roses, ignoring how they cling heavily to his shoulders. Think how that ended for Persephone.
The bower narrows down to a small archway, leading back out onto the moonlit path. As Paris steps towards it, the lace at his wrist catches on a thorn and he yanks it free, then freezes as he hears a sharp snap.
One of the red roses falls slowly to the ground at his feet.
Paris stares at it blankly for a moment, then runs for the archway, but it’s already gone, swallowed up in black thorns. The rest of the bower of roses transforms as he turns back, looking for an escape, but there are only the sharp clutching vines cornering him as he is forced to back towards the wall of thorns.
A vine winding around the ankle of his boot pulls his feet out from under him, and Paris falls to his knees, struggling to kick free as thorns tear at his coat. More vines reach for him, twining around his waist and gashing one wrist, and Paris reaches out instinctively for something secure to pull himself up, even though there’s nothing to grasp hold of besides the thorns.
As Paris looks down at the thorns preparing to smother him, he feels a warm hand grab his arm. “Tyba—” Paris turns to look, but what he sees is another form of light, twined around with flowers and bearing great shining wings. “Who—”
The wings beat once, and everything around Paris vanishes, the thorns dissolving until he finds himself kneeling on a marble floor, gasping. “What just—”
“Puck!” Someone shouts as Paris struggles to his feet and looks around. “Who told you you could interfere?”
The fairy who rescued Paris bursts into a shower of light and reforms on the other side of the room behind Titania, who has retained the image of Lady Capulet. Paris ignores her: all he can look at is the two figures by the throne.
What must be Titania’s husband, the fairy king Oberon, lounges on a throne grown out of wood in the same patterns as the doors of the feast hall. He has assumed the form of Benvolio, but Benvolio has never worn such a sharp, predatory smile, or possessed those cold, cat-slitted golden eyes. Kneeling at Oberon’s feet, half-draped across one leg and toying idly with the laces of his boot, is— “Tybalt!” Paris cries, starting to run forward.
“Hold, mortal,” Oberon hisses.
Paris stops. “I found him!” he declares. “Give him back!”
Tybalt looks up with an expression of vague curiosity at the noise, but there is no recognition in his face as he gazes vacantly in Paris’ direction. His eyes are wide, and clouded with a golden haze obscuring the warm brown. An incongruous wreath of red flowers sits on his curls, shifting slightly as he looks down again.
“You have been very naughty, haven’t you, my queen,” Oberon says.
Titania leans on the back of the throne. “Oh, but it’s more fun to give the child a chance at least, don’t you think?”
“I did what you wanted,” Paris says again. “Let me take him back to Verona. Your Majesties,” he adds appeasingly.
Oberon tilts his head to one side slowly, like a fox preparing to pounce. “There is nothing in the arrangements about having help…”
“If I find him, I get him back, right?” Paris tries to remember what Titania told him in the flower field. “I’m here, aren’t I? And there was nothing about not having help, either. Let Tybalt go!”
“The mortal child has a point,” Titania says, smiling to match her husband. Paris immediately begins wondering where he’s tripped up.
“Why should we release him?” Oberon sits up, wrapping long fingers around Tybalt’s neck as he tilts his face up to look at Paris again. “He doesn’t want you—he doesn’t know you, now does he?”
“You’ve enchanted him—let me have him! That was the deal!”
“...so it was.” Oberon smiles, slow and dangerous. “If you want him so much, then, have him.” He shakes Tybalt’s shoulder until he looks up at him, then snaps his fingers and gestures towards Paris. “Kill him, my pet.”
“Tybalt?” Paris tries to smile, taking a step back as Tybalt rises slowly, drawing his gold-hilted knife. “Tybalt, it’s me...I’m sorry for what I said…”
Tybalt pauses for a moment with that vacantly curious expression, then strides forward. Paris winces as Tybalt grabs him roughly by one wrist and drags him closer so their bodies are pressed together, resting the cold tip of the knife at the base of his throat. So it is to be Actaeon after all, then… Paris closes his eyes and waits.
“I wish you had let me—”
Tybalt remembers gray eyes and a silver mask, and blood on white silk.
Paris opens his eyes to meet Tybalt’s brown eyes, staring at him in confusion. “What the hell is...where is this?” Tybalt looks down and gasps as he sees the knife. “What was I…”
Tybalt lets out a startled breath as Paris pushes his knife hand aside and throws his arms around him. “Tybalt! Thank god, I’m so sorry, please don’t hate me, I thought I’d never see you again!”
“Why would I hate you? I’m sorry I shouted at you—what on earth happened to you?” Tybalt says as he gently frees himself from Paris’ embrace, looking at his loose hair and tattered coat. He glances at the knife he is still holding and sheathes it with a shudder. “What the devil is going on?”
“...so this is all very charming,” Oberon’s voice says behind them.
Tybalt turns, pushing Paris behind him as Paris grabs his arm and tries to pull him back, even though there is nowhere left for them to go. “What is going—” he falters as he sees Oberon and Titania. “What the hell.”
“I’ve done everything you wanted, and you gave him back,” Paris declares. “Send us home!”
“If you wish.”
Paris realizes before the smile spreads across Oberon’s face that he’s made far too open-ended a request, but there’s nothing he can do except cling to Tybalt as the fairies burst into light again and a wind swirls around them, evaporating the throne room.
Paris sighs with relief as the wind dies down and he realizes they’re standing in a narrow alley between stone buildings, lit by the morning sun. “Oh, thank God,” he murmurs. “Verona.” He takes a step and winces as his ankle flares with pain that he had been too preoccupied to acknowledge in the throne room.
“Can you explain…” Tybalt pulls the flower wreath off slowly and stares at it.
Paris grabs it from his hand and hurls it away, trying not to shudder as he touches it. “What do you remember from…” he look up at the sky. “From yesterday, I guess.”
“I remember being angry with you, and saying…” Tybalt glances away for a moment. “And then running off into the forest. But very little after that until. Until I came to holding a knife to your throat—Paris, believe me, I would never...I couldn’t bear to…”
Paris leans on Tybalt’s shoulder to kiss his cheek softly. “I’m starving—let’s get home first, and then I’ll explain everything that I can.”
“We should be closest to the Capulet estate,” Tybalt says. “You can at least get...cleaned...was that my aunt, back there!?”
“Well…” Paris pauses. “No. But also kind of. It’s...I can explain better after I’ve had a bit of a rest.” Pulling at Tybalt’s sleeve, Paris steps out of the alley.
Tybalt pulls Paris back, sweeping him into his arms as a strange machine flashes past and its rider yells something angrily back at them.
“What…” Paris stares around as Tybalt sets him down again, taking in the noise, the machines, the strange lights, and the unusual clothing everyone in the street is wearing. “This isn’t…This is Verona, but...” Oberon tricked us again! How do we get home now?
“This way,” Tybalt says, leading him towards the Capulet estate a few blocks away. Some of the oddly-dressed people stare at them as they brush past, but many seem far more interested in strange little glowing tablets. Paris stumbles as he stares around at the strange sights, and gasps as his ankle nearly buckles under him. “You’re hurt?” Tybalt picks him up again. “Here, it’s not much farther.”
“I’ll be fine,” Paris says—more people are looking at them now. “It’s not like you stabbed me or anything…” he trails off weakly as Tybalt looks down at him with a wince. “Sorry. Bad joke.”
“What are you apologizing for? You weren’t the one who. Who nearly...oh no.”
They both stare up at the worn and dilapidated tower of the Capulet mansion, now completely exposed—the surrounding wall is gone with only a vague outline remaining in the pavement. Tybalt sets Paris down as he slowly reads the plaque posted at eye level underneath Juliet’s balcony. “ ‘A rose by any other name… Here Juliet Capulet and Romeo Montague first pledged their love to each other.’ ...What on—”
“Over here!” Paris pulls Tybalt across the street towards a bookshop, the front window filled with volumes that say ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with elaborate illuminations. A bell jingles softly as they step inside. Like the street outside, the shop is full of strange globes of light, but there are also brightly colored candles scattered around the shelves, and Paris sighs in relief at seeing something that makes sense again.
He picks up one of the books, but finds it’s printed in a language he doesn’t understand, and all he can make out are the illustrations. He pauses on a richly colored print of a young man and woman holding hands on a balcony—they look nothing like the Romeo and Juliet he knows, but he can see their names in the caption.
Tybalt picks up another volume. “Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona…” Paris looks up as he glances down the page. “...Do with their deaths…? But that’s not—where are we?”
Paris flips to one of the final illustrations, then slams the book closed before Tybalt can look over at it. “I...I don’t…”
“Really, my husband, what a cruel trick to play upon the children.” Titania’s voice echoes around them and Paris drops the book to grab Tybalt’s arm again. “They’ve won our little game fair enough—forget them, and let us find something else to amuse ourselves.”
A wind full of flower petals swirls around them as the shop vanishes from sight.
The shopkeeper steps out of the back room and stares at the fallen book and the heap of rose petals. “Marcia?” she calls as she searches for a broom. “Marcia, have you been making TikToks in the store again? We’ve talked about this!”
Paris falls on top of Tybalt as the wind releases them again. He closes his eyes in exhaustion, not wanting to see where the fairies have abandoned them this time. At least we’re together… he thinks, clinging to Tybalt’s jacket.
“Paris?” Tybalt nudges him gently as he sits up. “Paris, look.”
“Tybalt, please, I can’t—” Paris opens his eyes as Tybalt shakes his shoulder. “Oh!”
They’re back in the clearing in the forest, lying in the field of white flowers, and it’s the golden afternoon sun shining down on them, not the moonlight or the bright light of morning. Paris almost wonders whether they dreamed the whole thing, but his wrist and ankle still ache, and his coat is still shredded from the thorns. “Are we really…?”
“I think so.” Tybalt stands again, helping Paris to his feet, and walks toward the edge of the clearing. “Look,” he says, holding the curtain of ivy aside.
Paris ducks through the ivy and runs through the field of flowers to the river bank, Tybalt’s black horse looking up with a bunch of daisies hanging from its mouth as he passes. The familiar walls of Verona rise a short distance away across the river, and even from here he can see the pennants flying from the Prince’s palace and the mansions of the two Houses.
“Thank god,” he sighs, sitting down on a log and slowly pulling his boots off so he can cool his feet in the water. The fairies may have frozen time, or turned it back, but he still feels as if he’s been walking for an entire night. Tybalt approaches slowly behind him, but doesn’t sit down. Paris stares down into the water, wrapping his arms around himself. He’s still angry after all—after what I said, I can’t expect things to just go back to the way they were. “Tybalt, I—”
Tybalt sits down on the log, leaving space between them. “I don’t...I know you want me to say nice things to you, and I don’t. I don’t mean to be cold to you, it’s just.” He shrugs. “It’s hard—among the Capulets, anything like that would...but I’m trying. But I thought you didn’t realize—and then after everything I said you still would have...would have let me kill you, to save me…”
Paris shifts closer to wrap his arm around Tybalt’s and rest his head against his sleeve. “I’m sorry, too—it’s hardly fair of me to ask different things of you after that’s what I fell in love with you for, now is it?”
Tybalt pulls his arm free, letting Paris rest against his chest as he runs a hand through his hair. “You...you are beautiful, you know,” he says.
Paris laughs, gesturing at his ruined clothes. “You do know how to make me feel better.”
“I’m not—I mean it!” Tybalt takes Paris’ hand, gently kissing his scratched palm. “I don’t care about any of that. From the first time you turned up at my window, I thought…” He gently turns Paris’ face towards him. “Let’s go home,” he says, and leans in.