Chapter 1: I just want to dance among the stars
Simon and Baz run into each other at the club.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
There's nothing in the world like watching Simon Snow dance.
You would think he'd be awful at it—he's a clumsy fuck. In our bedroom, he's always bumping into every surface and knocking over everything that's not nailed down, waking me up at ungodly hours. At the welcome mixer at the beginning of the year, he tripped and spilled red wine all down the front of Agatha Wellbelove's white dress. (It was hilarious, but God only knows why she agreed to date him afterwards.) (Okay. His face might have a thing or two to do with that.)
Bottom line, he's a total mess.
But not when he's dancing.
Can you get drunk on lust? I think I'm getting more intoxicated just watching him. My head is spinning watching him move to the beat of this TroyBoi song. Watching his biceps flex in the multi-colored strobe lights, his hips sway and thrust, his fingers run through his curls in an almost shy gesture. Seeing his face light up with unabashed smiles at his friends.
As if I wasn't already horribly in love with him.
"Sorry about the wait." Dev claps me on the back and hands me my glass. "The line at the bar's mad."
I wrench my gaze away from Snow and take a sip of my gin martini. It's not quite dirty enough—it never is, not unless my Aunt Fiona makes it—but I sip it down greedily anyways. All I need tonight is to get stupidly drunk, and this cocktail will certainly get the job started, if nothing else.
"So," Dev says with a lopsided smile. He's already a bit tipsy from our pregaming, the lightweight. "See any blokes you like?"
"Of course that's the first thing you ask," I reply. Dev is the thirstiest bastard I've ever met.
"Look how fit Agatha looks," he says with an over-exaggerated sigh. "I heard her and Ginger broke up last weekend."
Agatha is known to date around a lot casually. After Simon, there's been a few others—most recently, Ginger, a pretty foreign exchange student from America—but her relationships never last long.
"She's still never going to go for you, Dev."
"Your lack of confidence wounds me," he deadpans and I huff out a laugh.
"She's only ever single for a week at a time," I remind him.
"Today marks a week. I could be next."
Dev looks so sincerely hopeful that I can't bring myself to say something shitty. He's been crushing on Wellbelove since move-in day. I don't get everyone's infatuation with her. I mean, she looks like a Disney princess, sure. But she seems as one-dimensional as a Disney princess, as well.
But I'm gay and pining for her ex-boyfriend, so. I'm biased.
"I should go ask her to dance, yeah?" Dev asks, looking over my shoulder.
I follow Dev's line of vision. I mean to look over at Agatha, but my gaze slips back over to Simon again. His wild hair, his blue jumper, his tight jeans. He looks so goddamned fit tonight—probably thanks to Wellbelove, who came over to our bedroom to dress him this evening. (If she or Bunce don't pick out his outfit, he takes it upon himself to show up to everything in ratty joggers. I'm convinced the man would wear a lacrosse jersey to his own wedding if someone let him.)
I've got an early wave of nostalgia watching him. I don't know when I'm going to see him again; it's our last night in the room. We had our finals today, and now we're all done with our first year at Imperial College London. After two hundred and seventy-three days of sharing a room with the messiest, thickest, chavviest prat I've ever met, I'll never have to see him again.
I'm absolutely miserable about it.
I don't take my eyes off Simon when I say to Dev, "Where's the harm in that?"
Dev pretends not to hear the heavy sarcasm in my tone. "Right? Let's go over there."
I sigh. I think about the time we were eight, and Dev's mum said he couldn't have any apple pie before Christmas dinner. He ate the whole thing, and then threw up all over his place setting before the first course was even served. I know he's not going to be deterred.
And, if I'm being honest, I want to take advantage of this last night in Simon Snow's presence. Even if we spend the entire night snarling insults at one another, it's better than nothing.
If this is my last chance, I better take it.
My mouth drops when I spot him in the corner of the club. "What is Baz Pitch doing here?"
"Uh, celebrating? You know we just finished our first year of uni, right?" Aggie asks with a flip of her hair. I look away from him to roll my eyes at her.
"But he's Baz," I say for clarification, but Penny and Agatha are staring at me like they aren't following my point.
Baz is an uptight, callous, posh bastard. He wouldn't know good time if it sauntered up to him and gave him a lap dance. He spends most of his time studying—sometimes even into the early hours of the morning. (We fight like mad about it when he tries to get his reading done late, because he insists on pointing his desk lamp right at my bed so I can't sleep.) The last place I'd expect to find him is at a trashy club.
But, for some reason, he's here. And he's… "He's coming over here," I hiss to Penny and Agatha.
"Oh no. People we know are coming over to talk to us. Phone the police," Agatha deadpans.
I cut her a look. "Look, Agatha, you're really overdoing the sarcasm today."
"Sorry, bad mood. My Chemistry final was today and I totally ballsed it up. Just need something to get my mind off of it," she says suggestively, her eyes in Baz's direction. My pulse jumps to my throat.
"Don't hook up with Baz," I hiss.
"Okaaay." Agatha raises both her eyebrows at me. "I was looking at Dev, but your preferences are noted."
I feel my face heat up. I stammer out, "S-sorry."
It's not like I care who Aggie hooks up with in general. Our breakup was for the best, really—when she realised she was aromantic, we both agreed that we wanted different things. We work much better as friends; there's none of the pressure there was those months we were dating. But that doesn't mean I want her sleeping with Baz.
"Be polite," Penny says. "I invited Shepard to meet us here, and I don't want you scaring him off with your hostility."
"He knows that Baz and I hate each other. Everyone knows. Rhys started running that hall-wide betting pool on who would punch the other one first just three weeks into term." (It was me.)
"Yes, but Shepard is so… American. He'll be smiley and awkward and try to fix it, and that'll be annoying."
"That would literally be impossible," I tell her.
And it's true—Baz and I are unfixable. We've been fighting from day one. He swaggered into our bedroom with his Rolex watch and five-hundred pound haircut and fleet of suitcases, took one look at my hand-me-down clothes and scuffed trainers and solitary backpack of belongings, and decided on the spot I was scum under his Oxfords. I tried to be friendly—I smiled at him, held out my hand to shake his, and he got this pinched expression on his face. He was only cold and standoffish, at first, but he got right hostile quick enough.
It's been a year of fighting and insults and tense silences. I was so naively excited to meet my freshman year roommate. I thought it'd be just like the movies, and we'd be best mates. But Baz has been the most unhappy surprise of uni—and I once walked into the communal loo at 3 a.m. to find Gareth openly and drunkenly wanking over the sink at his own reflection.
"Wouldn't stop Shep. He's persistent." Penny's trying to sound miffed, but her voice is inexplicably fond. Despite her frequent put-downs, I've suspected she has a crush on Shepard for a while now. She's just got a funny way of showing it.
"I'll be nice if he's nice," I say, knowing that Baz won't be nice. (He's not a nice person—he's the sort of bloke who'd make a toddler cry and then laugh about it.)
Penny takes my compromise as a victory—that, or she realises we don't have any more time to talk about it, because Baz and Dev are already over here.
"Hey," Dev greets us all (though, he's really just looking at Agatha). I think he's trying to do the devil without a care smirk thing that Baz specializes in, but it doesn't look quite as provocative when Dev does it. Agatha smiles back, and I can tell by the sparkle in Dev's eye that she already has him.
Baz doesn't say hi. No one else seems to notice or care that he's being rude—Penny's looking at her phone, and Agatha's looking at Dev—except for me.
"Well, hello," I say to him, my voice harsher than I intended.
He raises a single eyebrow at me in response. That's his signature move. His silences don't mean what mine do when we fight. When I get quiet, it means I've run out of comebacks. When he gets quiet, it means I'm not worth his breath.
I'm gritting my teeth in irritation, and about to say the sort of thing Penny's already warned me against, when she says, "Oh, Shepard's here! He's just waiting in line outside; he said he'd meet us on the third floor."
The third floor is where the band's playing. Shepard is really into live music—he's always inviting us to see underground DJs with him. Penny went once, claimed she got too much 'glitter and other unmentionables' in her hair, and refused to ever go with him again. Penny's in a good mood tonight though; she doesn't even mention that fateful outing as we make our way up the stairs. (Though, it's possible she's just waiting to roast him about it to his face.)
It feels like a different world when we get out of the stairwell. It's part of this club's charm; every floor has a different theme. A traditional bar on the first floor, a florescent dance party on the second floor, a pop punk live band on the third floor, and a chill smoke spot on the roof. Whenever you're sick of one kind of party, you just switch floors to the next.
It seems they've got a band covering The Killers on tonight. The lead singer's crooning theatrically into the mic: He doesn't look a thing like Jesus, but he talks like a gentleman. He's not half as handsome as Brandon Flowers, but he's got a decent voice. I nudge Penny on the shoulder and nod my chin over to the band. She grabs my hand, and we head past the bar, over to an empty patch of space to the right of the stage.
"You sit there in your heartache!" Penny yells into an imaginary mic in her hand and I laugh. She's been so stressed about school this week; it's nice to see her carefree and smiling.
"Waiting on some beautiful boy to, to save you from your old ways!" I sing back to her. I've got a God-awful singing voice, but the bass guitar drowns it out.
My favourite part of coming to these clubs is the dancing. Sure, the places are always overcrowded and the drinks are overpriced and half the people here are just trying to get a good Instagram picture. It's cliche, but there's never a time where I'm happier than when I'm dancing like nobody's watching.
Except someone is watching—Baz.
He's walked over with Agatha and Dev, who are dancing alongside me and Penny. But Baz is stiff and awkward, nodding offbeat to the song with his narrowed eyes on me.
It's so uncomfortable it almost makes me want to stop dancing. ( Almost. I don't, because there's nothing better than scream-singing to songs you loved in secondary school with your best friend.)
I close my eyes to stop myself from staring at Baz. I spend the whole song looking at the back of my eyelids, letting myself feel the drums and bass in my bones, yelling the lyrics at the top of my lungs to drown out my thoughts.
When the song ends and I open my eyes, Baz is still looking at me with a blank expression.
I frown at him as I try to gauge what that particular look means. He only really has a few: angry, sadistically amused, bored, fixated. This one's close to fixated… but different somehow. He seems almost taken aback at being caught staring—his eyes widen slightly and his lips part for just a moment—before his face falls cleanly into a bored, haughty look.
"Got a problem with The Killers, mate?" I ask, though it doesn't really come out as a question. (Because, who the fuck doesn't like The Killers?) I forget to wait for a response, because that's the moment that Mr. Brightside starts playing, and listening to Mr. Brightside is literally a religious experience.
All of us dance and sing and jump around to the fast-paced drum beat with matching grins on our faces. All of us, of course, except Baz.
During the guitar solo after the chorus, I yell at him, "Lighten up, Pitch! Dancing won't kill you, you know. You can't possibly enjoy being such a boring git."
He glares at me and opens his mouth to speak, but I cut him off by singing along with the song's lyrics.
"I'm coming out of my cage, and I've been doing just fine!"
"I'm plenty light enough, thank you very much—"
"It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss!"
"This is just not my idea of a good time, and quite frankly, I believe that—"
"Now they're going to bed, and my stomach is sick—"
"Jesus fucking Christ, are you even listening to me?"
"'Cause I just can't look, it's killing me! And taking control..."
Baz doesn't try to talk to me for the rest of the song.
After the outro, the song gets a huge applause from the audience. The lead singer announces they'll be taking a quick break at the bar, and the lights are turned up. In the newfound brightness, I can clearly see Baz's scowling face.
I should just ignore him.
"What?" I snap.
"I just think," he starts, self righteousness dripping from his tongue, "that Mr. Brightside is overrated and cliche."
I gape at him, and swiftly forget all of my promises to Penny. "Did you hit your head, mate?"
"You sure? I feel like that's the only reasonable explanation for disliking Mr. Brightside, " I say. "It's a classic."
Baz huffs. "That means nothing. Just because something is classic doesn't mean it's good. It can still be an awful song."
Several people look over to give us dirty looks. (Probably because they know Mr. Brightside is a national treasure, and saying otherwise is slander.) Baz doesn't notice; he's too busy glaring down his nose at me.
"Why do you hate me so much?" I'm afraid my voice comes out more vulnerable than I intend it to, but if it does, Baz doesn't notice (that, or he just doesn't care).
"I don't know," he sneers. "Maybe because you're insufferable."
My blood boils, and I have to clench my fists to keep from punching him square in the nose. (It hasn't really healed right since I last succumbed to that urge, and he said the next time I maim him, he's sticking me with the hospital bill.) "Thank God I won't have to see your self-righteous arse any more after tomorrow," I snap.
Baz opens his mouth to respond, but he's interrupted by a jolly, American voice.
"Hey, guys!" Shep greets us all with a smile (plus a wink for Penny).
I turn my back on Baz. He turns me into a time bomb—he lights me up from the inside, electrifies my every cell with a furious energy, and doesn't stop until I explode. I can't stand it any longer—this unstable tension between us.
"Hey, mate," I say to Shepard. "Let's go get you a drink, yeah?"
Shep agrees, and we head over to the bar. Over my shoulder, I spot Baz glaring furiously at me. My stomach churns with indignant rage.
Fuck it, I think. I'm going to get sloshed.
When last call rolls around, I'm alone on the roof smoking a cigarette. It's a nasty habit of mine—one I only really indulge in when I'm drunk or feeling self-destructive. Tonight, I'm two for two.
I absent-mindedly check my cell phone and see I've got three unread messages from Dev.
Dev Grimm (2:46 A.M.): Getting our last round of drinks! We're calling an uber after
Dev Grimm (2:54 A.M.): Where are you??
Dev Grimm (2:57 A.M.): Don't tell me you're smoking cigs. You know that shit'll kill you
Me (3:04 A.M.): I'll meet you out front.
I stomp out the light with the heel of my Oxfords and sigh deeply. Dev will definitely smell the nicotine smoke on my breath and fingertips, and bitch at me the whole Uber ride back to Kensington. ( 'Haven't you read the labels, Baz?' He'll say, like anyone could miss them. 'They've got photos of black lungs all over the damn things! You've got to know they're awful for you!' ) Then, Snow will have that gorgeous, infuriating, self-satisfied smirk on his face, and I'll be hopelessly torn between punching him and kissing him, but I'll end up just saying something else irrevocably cruel and impossibly stupid.
I'm too drunk to deal with all my feelings right now (not that I'm much better with them when sober).
Why, I wonder as I walk down the stairs and head towards the exit of the club, do I have to be such a tremendous arsehole?
I've always been bad with crushes. Back at boarding school, I had an awful crush on my English teacher—Mr. Lamb—and I acted properly pretentious around him, trying to win his attention with controversial takes on classic literature. (I should be banned from England after all the slander I threw on Jane Austen's good name.) I didn't even mind looking like a right prat around him—I would purposefully get detention just so I could stare at him. It was truly pitiful.
But that was just an adolescent crush, back when I was in the closet and young and stupid, I thought to myself, walking into Beit Hall with my suitcases. Things will be different in uni.
Then I walked into my assigned room and the most beautiful motherfucker in England was sitting on the bed by the window. And I got tongue-tied like I was that same confused, scared, fifteen-year-old boy all over again. It was worse than when I was a kid, because this time around I wasn't just haughty—I was downright cruel. I was hopelessly jealous when he immediately started dating Agatha, and being mean was the only way to get his eyes off of her and onto me.
It was a ridiculously short-sighted plan. I'm not sure what I hoped to accomplish with it. I still don't know what the fuck is coming out of my mouth when I'm around Simon Snow.
I find my group a little ways to the left of the club. Dev's easy to spot in a crowd—the fucker's even taller than me, and he's loud. He's got his arm draped over Agatha Wellbelove with a radiant smile on his face. They've been laughing and flirting all night, and they're definitely going home together. I sigh a little at the thought—not because I'm not happy for Dev, but because I'm going to owe Niall fifty pounds now.
Snow's frowning when I walk up. We haven't spoken since our spat—we both just went to different floors of the club to get spectacularly drunk.
"Angela will arrive in four minutes," Wellbelove announces.
Bunce nods and rubs her hands together. I can tell the night air is crisp and chilly—but I've got the heat of five gin martinis running through my veins, so I can't quite feel it.
Shepard takes a step closer to Bunce and puts his arm around her. "For warmth," he says shyly, and it's quite obvious (to me, at least) that his intentions are less practical and more romantic. But Bunce smiles, so I guess she's into false displays of chivalry.
I steal a glance at Simon, whose nodding along to whatever song he's hearing in his head. It's a weird habit I've noticed of his—whenever he's forced to wait for something, he's always bobbing his head like that. I realised what he was doing once when I heard him singing Bohemian Rhapsody under his breath, and I'm disgusted by how charming I find it.
He seems a little unsteady on his feet, swaying a bit like he's standing on a boat. I want to comment on it, but—for once—I bite my tongue, remembering the loathing in his voice when he said, "Thank God I won't have to see your self-righteous arse any more after tomorrow."
I'm going to miss him so much.
"There it is!" Agatha says happily, pointing out a Volkswagen Golf.
I see the problem as quickly as Snow does.
"Agatha! You were supposed to get an Uber XL, " Snow cries, his voice whiny and indignant.
"Oh. Oops. I thought I did," Agatha says, glancing at her phone (too quickly to really be checking).
Angela pulls up and says, "Agatha?" Agatha nods, and gets in the front seat, to Dev's apparent disappointment as he gets into the back.
"Dibs!" Shep calls.
"Same," says Penny.
"Yeah, me too," Simon chimes in last.
"Too late, Si," Penny says sympathetically, as she and Shep climb into the five seater.
Leaving just me and Snow standing together on the pavement.
"You guys can just, like, get the next one?" Agatha suggests, and Simon looks utterly betrayed.
"No," I say. "Absolutely not."
"I can't get an Uber with Baz!" Snow complains, and though I just protested the very same thing, I'm still offended by his objection. He sends a pleading look to the Uber driver, and asks in a pathetic voice, "Can't we all just, like, squeeze in?"
But Angela shakes her head. "Sorry, no. That's a firing offense."
"Dev, you wait with me," I say, but Dev gives me a look that says, very plainly, absolutely fucking not. "Literally anyone else switch with Snow."
No one moves. I realise everyone in the car is coupled up—no one's going to stay with us.
Snow lets out a groan of frustration and I scowl at the dark night sky.
"Oh, boys! One car ride won't kill you," Penny chides, looking annoyed. "Simon, I'll come by your room tomorrow morning to help you finish packing, okay?"
He nods, though he's still pouting childishly. Then, Penny closes the car door, and their Uber drives off down the street.
"Call the Uber," Snow says.
"You call the Uber," I snarl. I sound petulant in my bitterness.
To my suprise, Snow doesn't argue—he just pulls out his phone and begins tapping on the screen. I'm not sure if he obliged because he's drunk and suggestable, or if he just has a burning desire to get out of here as soon as possible so we can ignore each other on our own sides of our room. (I hope it's the former.)
I'm itching to take a cigarette out of my pocket, but I've already had three tonight, so I just ball my fists angrily.
We soak in the angry silence, both fiddling with our phones to avoid talking to each other. I play Candy Crush, despite the fact that it's a battery suck, because I think I might finally be sick of fighting with Snow, and I don't trust myself not to rip him to shreds if he so much as voices one complaint.
After ten minutes, he says tersely, "Red Toyota Auris. Two minutes."
When a red car pulls up onto the empty street, I fast walk over to the front seat so that I can have control of the radio. I put my hand on the door handle and pull roughly on it—to find there's already a dark-skinned girl in the front, startled by my sudden intrusion into the car.
"Oh," Snow says when he sees the girl, plus another pink-haired girl in the back. "I ordered an Uber Pool."
I slam the car door and turn to Snow. "What."
"Uber Pool? It's where you share a ride with other—"
"I know what Uber Pool is," I snap. "Why would you do that?"
"They usually show up empty!"
"You're taking the middle seat, Snow." I huff out a long-suffering sigh. "Fucking Uber Pool."
Snow's cheeks flush red, but he gets into the car wordlessly.
"Hello," the pink-haired girl says, too cheerily considering it's 3 a.m. and we're strangers. "I'm Trixie, and this is Keris."
Simon smiles and introduces himself. Trixie looks at me expectantly, but I just huff and turn my attention out the window.
"Sorry," Simon stage-whispers. "Baz is cranky. It's past his bedtime."
Trixie giggles, and the dainty sound twists and sours in my gut. Of course I'd have to sit here and listen to him charm some pretty girl. Just my luck.
Then, because the universe truly hates me, Mr. Brightside starts playing on the radio.
"Oh, turn it up," Snow says. His voice is mostly pleasant, but with a slight edge I know is just for me. "I love this song."
He's looking at me defiantly, his eyes daring me to say something about how much I hate The Killers. The problem with that is: I don't hate The Killers. I was just too embarrassed to admit the real reason I wasn't dancing—which is that I have no sense of rhythm whatsoever.
"That's because you have no taste, Snow," I respond, incomprehensibly deciding to make this anti-Killers stance my hill to die on.
Trixie laughs at that too. This girl is certainly giggly. But that might have something to do with the fact that her eyes are bloodshot and she smells like a rap concert.
"You guys are cute," she says with a wide smile. "How long have you been together?"
At this question, Snow looks stunned. "I—we—uh—what—" he begins to stammer, so I cut him off.
"We're just roommates," I snap, sounding as angry as I feel. (Did he really have to sound so horrified by the idea?)
"Oh. Sorry, you two tease each other like you're married," Trixie replies bluntly, unperturbed by either of our unhappy reactions to her question. "You sure there's no sexual chemistry there?"
"Darling," the girl in the front seat—Keris—says, "not everyone is gay."
Trixie sighs, seeming put out. "No. But they should be."
Well. I agree with you there, Trixie.
Trixie, Keris, and Snow fall into a conversation about Snape from Harry Potter until the Uber driver gets to the girls' destination. Keris and Trixie think he's the worst, but Snow plays devil's advocate, claiming Snape's just misunderstood. (He's wrong, but I don't bother telling him. I just keep swiping multi-colored candies.)
The Uber pulls up to a brick building and the girls start unbuckling their seatbelts. As Trixie is leaving the car, she pops her head back in to wink and say suggestively, "Have fun, boys, and use a condom." She laughs wickedly before running after Keris and throwing her arm around her shoulder.
The image of going home and throwing Snow onto my bed pops into my head instantly. Of how he would sound, how he would look, how he would feel.
I look over at Snow, and—because of Trixie's comment—I think he might be thinking about it too.
He's always a little ruddy, but he's blushing wildly now. The tension between us is suffocating in such close proximity. I need to break it— now.
"Scoot over, Snow," I say, gesturing to the empty seat Trixie was sitting in. "There's no reason for you to practically be sitting on top of me anymore."
He scoffs, but slides over. The Uber driver sends him a glare in the rearview mirror. "Keep your seatbelt on."
He mumbles a shy apology to the Uber driver and sends me a dirty look. Then, he takes a flask out his back pocket and takes a long swig.
I think, I could use a drink, too.
I say, "Really, Snow? You brought a flask to a bar?"
"It's cheaper that way," he says, an edge to his voice. "Want some?"
He holds the flask up to my nose and the smell of Fireball assaults my senses. Niall—my best friend from boarding school—and I drank so much of this on a night out in Ibiza last summer that the smell of it triggers my gag reflex. I throw my hands up to push the flask away. "Oh my fucking god, ew."
"Don't be dramatic," Snow says, looking amused by my disgust. "Have a swig, then maybe we won't all be able to tell you've got such a massive stick up your arse—"
"No, no, God no," I respond emphatically. "I'm going to throw up."
This exclamation makes the Uber driver slam on his brakes—and since Snow apparently didn't actually put his seatbelt back on when he scooted over, he goes flying forward into the driver's seat. He grabs the headrest to break the impact—but, unfortunately, he does so with the hand holding his flask of Fireball, which then goes pouring into our Uber driver's lap.
The car is deadly silent for a moment.
Then our Uber driver turns around in his seat, looking furious. "Get out!"
"But we're not at our—" Snow starts.
"I don't care! You didn't wear your seatbelt, this lad is about to puke, and you just ruined my car!" he yells, and points at my car door. "Out!"
With all of our ride-sharing crimes laid out like that, we don't really have a leg to stand out. We get out of the car without argument.
"Well," Snow says slowly as the red Toyota Auris drives off, leaving us stranded on the pavement. "That's going to hurt my Uber rating."
I'm going to kill Simon Snow.
Nooooo Baz don't kill Simon he's so sexy aha
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned to watch our boys do crimes!
Come find me on Tumblr
Chapter 2: Living for the night like it is golden
Simon and Baz commit a crime or two.
Baz doesn't appreciate my Uber rating joke. I don't think I've ever seen him so angry—he may be legitimately livid right now.
"You fucking idiot!" he screeches. (Yep, definitely livid.) "This is all your fault!"
"I think you have to admit this is at least half your fault." I can't help my smug grin; it's always funny when cool and collected Baz Pitch goes mad. Maybe that's why I push his buttons so often. “I mean, everyone knows you can’t throw up in an Uber. That's Uber 101.”
“I didn’t throw up in the Uber!” he protests indignantly.
“You threatened to," I remind him, "and that's just as bad.”
“It is not !” he insists, his tone petulant and slightly whiny. “And what about you? You just had to go and spill your disgusting cinnamon poison all over him!”
“One, Fireball is like alcoholic candy; it's delicious.” I take the last sip out of my flask to prove my point, and Baz scrunches up his nose like a bunny rabbit. (It’s almost cute.) “Second, you’re the one who made me undo my seatbelt and switch seats, so, again, this is kind of on you.”
Baz lets out a growl of frustration. I laugh.
"Call another Uber," he demands.
I look around, and catch sight of a street sign: Clarendon Place. Recognizing where we are, I shake my head. "Nah, let's just walk the rest of the way."
"Walk? Why the fuck would we do that?"
"We're really not that far from home, now." I point over to the gates. "We're just straight across Hyde Park."
"Call the Uber. Now," Baz orders through gritted teeth.
I don't want to tell him I really can't afford another Uber. I've already spent too much money tonight: first on too many Jack and cokes, then on the disastrous Uber ride. Who knows how much our Uber driver will charge me for spilling all that Fireball on him?
"If you want an Uber so bad, call it yourself," I snap.
"Fine, I wi—" Baz pulls out his phone from his back pocket, and then frowns at it like it's personally offended him. "It's dead."
"Well, then." I throw my hands up. "You're welcome to walk with me."
He obviously doesn't appreciate my sarcasm, but he doesn't argue. He just sighs, resigned, as I pull up my maps app to figure out the fastest way to walk home.
Damn. We are really all the way on the other side. Hyde Park is shaped like a rectangle, so going around will take a while. Though… going through would take a third of the time, so…
I look over to the park. It's the middle of the night—practically early morning, now—so it's closed. But the fence isn't too high. If I take a running jump…
I go for it, using my upper body strength to force myself on top of the fence. Baz screams at me, "What the fuck are you doing?"
"Short cut," I say, grinning down at him. (It's a nice change of pace; he's usually always three inches above me.) "C'mon, you're a bloody beanpole. If I can do it, you can do it."
"Do what? Breaking and entering?" His voice is uncharacteristically high-pitched in his horror. It's amusing—it makes me want to keep teasing him.
"I haven't broken anything." I gesture around me. "This is really just entering."
"I'm not sure the cops actually care about that distinction, funnily enough," he says, bitterly sarcastic.
"Suit yourself," I say, jumping down from the fence and into Hyde Park. "Have fun taking the long way home alone."
Baz groans, rubbing his face in irritation. I think he's going to stomp away and tell me to go fuck myself.
But then, all of a sudden, he's running towards the fence and leaping with stunning height. Expertly, he swings his leg around the top and lands beside me as gracefully as a butterfly.
I'm taken aback for a moment—that was the prettiest thing I've ever seen.
"Close your mouth and start walking, Snow. I want to get back before sunrise," he says, taking off down a path cutting through a grassy meadow.
"Why do you always call me by my last name?" I call after him, jogging to keep up with his long legs. "I'm not one of your footie mates."
"Of course you're not," Baz replies cooly. "You're nowhere near talented enough to play on our team."
"You don't need to be such a prat all the time, you know."
"Yes, I do. It's my personal brand."
I laugh at the sincerity in his voice. Despite what a shite turn the night's taken (and despite the fact that most of that is his fault), I'm feeling benevolent. There's something about the excitement of breaking into Hyde Park that has me a bit jazzed. Maybe it's the Fireball's warming me up inside, making me feel a little less angry and annoyed with him. Or maybe I just don't want to spend my last night with Baz Pitch fighting like we always do.
"How about this," I propose, "just for tonight, we pretend we don't hate each other."
He looks over to me. "You're calling for a ceasefire?"
"Yeah. Let's have a truce." I shrug. "At least until we get back to our bedroom."
He pauses, considering. Finally he says, "Alright."
"Alright," I repeat.
We fall into step together, though I'm nearly jogging to keep up with him. It's dead quiet in the park, and all I can hear is the clicks of his shoes on the pavement. I steal a look at him out of the corner of my eye and see that he's biting his bottom lip absentmindedly; it's a nervous habit I only ever see from him during exam season.
My brain is scrambling for something—anything—to say. I just ask the first question that pops into my head. "So. Have you got a roommate for next term?"
He raises his eyebrow at me. "You don't want to fight, but you're bringing up roommates?"
"If you can't manage not to start a fight at the mention of roommates, I can't help you."
A smile is threatening to break his face, but he's suppressing it. It desperately makes me want to find a way to get him to laugh somehow. "I'm moving in with my Aunt Fiona. She's the worst."
"Worse than me?" I ask, unable to help myself.
He smirks. "Oh, much worse," he says, though his tone is almost fond. "It's like I'm the adult and she's the kid. She's thirty-nine going on twenty. It'll be a bloody miracle if I survive it."
"Why don't you live with Dev, then? He's your best friend, right?" He's one of the only people I ever see Baz with—he's a bit of loner, now that I think of it.
"He's my cousin, and he's an even worse menace to society." Again, the affectionate tone coupled with the insults. Maybe Baz is just kind of a dick to everyone, even if he likes them. "Where are you living?"
"Penny, Agatha, and I got a flat together," I say happily. We're moving into the place tomorrow, and I'm thrilled about it—though, admittedly, I will miss living in the halls, just a little bit. It was like a big slumber party (not that I've ever had one before, but, still.)
Baz's eyebrows scrunch so far together that he looks like he's got a unibrow. "You're getting a flat with your ex-girlfriend?"
"Yeah," I say slowly, cautious of his judgey tone. "She's one of my best friends."
"Are you still in love with her or something?" He's looking straight ahead at the trees on the path. From this profile angle, I can see how tightly he's clenching his jaw.
"No… But, wait." Something occurs to me—the weird way he always acts when Agatha is in our bedroom, how much he looks at us when we're together, his sour mood tonight—and my stomach twists. I grab him by the arm to stop him walking. "Are you?"
He stares at my hand around his bicep. "Am I what?" Baz asks.
"In love with her!" I huff.
"What?" He gapes at me. I was genuinely afraid the answer might be yes—but he's looking at me like I've gone absolutely mad. "I'm very clearly gay."
"You—" I start, before I process what he just said. "What?"
"How did you not know that?" he scoffs. "We've lived together for a year."
"I—" I feel like I'm on unstable ground. "You didn't tell me!"
He shakes his head at me. "Yeah… but…" he says meaningfully, gesturing to himself.
"What?" I ask, not catching his meaning.
He raises an eyebrow at me—like that's an answer. I throw my hands up, because it's not.
"Snow… come on." He points at himself again, more forcefully this time.
I look at him—really look at him. His shoulder length black hair was slicked back at the beginning of the night, but it's fallen out and is resting in soft waves over the tops of his cheekbones. I let my eyes fall lower over his body; he's wearing a light pink button up, a blazer covered with pink roses, and dark blue slacks. It's all clean and tailored and fashionable.
"Baz, I'm not going to assume a bloke is gay just because he dresses well," I say, finally realising what he meant. "That's just not on."
Baz smiles at me, just a little bit. I feel a little dizzy—the Fireball must really be affecting me.
I shake my head to clear it, and keep walking. "That's like you assuming I'm straight just because I like to wear trackies and snapbacks."
Is he kidding?
I think he must be kidding.
He doesn't look like he's kidding.
I shouldn't comment on this.
"Are you gay?" I blurt out.
Damn my traitorous mouth and damn my stupid drunk brain.
“Not exactly.” He shrugs. "I mean, I don't put a label on it. But I'm not straight."
My brain can't form one coherent thought. Not one.
“Ace,” I reply, though I don’t think I’ve ever used the word 'ace' in my entire life.
A hush falls over us. I'm used to being quiet with him—we really don't talk much in the room, unless it's to snipe about his cleanliness or my lamp. But this silence feels heavier—meaningful. I have the irresistible urge to break it, though I struggle to find something interesting to say next.
A gust of wind suddenly causes me to shiver, which prompts me to comment, "It's—uh—cold tonight."
The weather, Basil? I think to myself. That's really the best you could come up with? What is it about Simon Snow that destroys my ability to speak?
"Oh, do you want my coat?" he asks, so earnestly that my heart jumps up my throat. I shake my head no; though a part of me really wants to say yes, so I can smell his cologne around me.
"Are you sure? You're a bit of a baby about the weather," he says, grinning slyly.
"I am not!"
He laughs. "Yes you are! The window?"
I glare at him. "You want that thing open when it's raining. That is literally insane."
He laughs again, and then points in front of him. I realise that we've somehow already made it halfway through the park; we're coming up on the Serpentine lake. "What are the odds you jump in there right now?"
"Pardon me?" I say to his retreating backside; he's strayed off the path, down towards the lake.
"What are the odds? You know, that game where you say what the odds are of you doing something, and then we both say a number, and if it's the same number you have to do it."
"I know how to play what are the odds. I'm just appalled that you think I'd risk frostbite for a childish game."
"So the odds aren't good?" he asks, with his best rakish smile.
"One in ten thousand."
"I'll take those odds." He nods seriously. "One… two… three!"
"Five thousand, seven hundred, and twenty one," I say.
"Seven!... Damn it!” He yells, looking genuinely disappointed when he realises that seven is not my number.
“Did you really think you were going to win when the odds were one in ten thousand?” I ask, struggling not to laugh at him.
“Wishful thinking,” he says, and the devious light in his eyes grabs me by the throat, making it harder to breathe. “Now, ask me.”
“Ask you what?”
“What are the odds I jump into the lake?”
Heat rushes up my neck to my ears. Despite being roommates, we don't ever change in front of one another. Our first week of fall term, he came back from his rugby club practice, tearing off his jersey before the door behind him had shut all the way around. I spun around in my chair so fast, I knocked my Hydro Flask onto the ground. After that, he never tried undressing in front of me—something I've always been grateful for. I'm afraid the lust would have been written all over my face if he had (which would have mortified both of us).
"Would you really skinny dip in there right now? It's got to be fifteen degrees."
"So?" he asks. "I'm thinking one in ten."
I swallow. A ten percent chance of seeing Simon Snow naked. "Alright. One, two, three."
"Seven!" he yells just as I say, "Seven."
"Fuck!" he curses.
I throw my head back and laugh at the sky. "Do you always pick seven, Snow?" I ask through chuckles.
Under the moonlight, I can see the deep scarlet blush colouring his ears and cheeks. "It's my lucky number."
"Not tonight it isn't," I quip. "Tonight, it's the reason you're getting hypothermia."
I think he's going to back down—that he's going to say that there's no way in hell that he's actually jumping into that lake.
He doesn't; he just starts shrugging off his coat.
"You're not really going to—" I start, panic and excitement warring in my lower stomach.
"A bet's a bet," he says. He kicks his shoes off, not breaking eye contact with me. He unbuttons his jeans and shoves them down with his thumbs through his belt loops, so that he's in front of me in just his pants. I swallow so loudly, I'm afraid he can hear it.
I don't know what I was thinking—Simon Snow never backs down from a fight.
"Okay, okay," he says, like he's bracing himself. Then he reaches to the back of his neck to tug off his T-shirt, and I'm gifted with the sight of his tawny golden skin in the moonlight. He's got a mole on top of his hip bone that I've never seen before, and I have to force myself not to stare at it. I know it's not the alcohol that's got my skin feeling warm.
Oh god. Is he going to take his pants off?
I'm not sure if I'm relieved or disappointed when he doesn't continue to undress. Instead, he just turns around and sprints into Serpentine Lake in his pants, the water splashing his calves before he dives underwater.
When he comes up for air, he screams like a child. "It's cold!"
"What an unexpected turn of events!" I yell back, giggling to myself. I don't think I've ever laughed this much around him. (But I've also never seen him in just his pants before, so apparently there's a first for everything.)
He comes running out of the water, and the sight of him half naked is even more staggering when he's soaking wet. The lake water clings to his torso and leaves his curls in a soggy mess on his forehead.
Not kissing him takes every ounce of my will power. He looks so endearing and sexy and good right now, and he's ' not straight,' and maybe, just maybe, he'd like it if I grabbed him by the back of the neck and—
That lustful train of thought is drowned out by total indignation when he starts shaking like a dog, getting droplets of dirty water all over me.
"Snow!" I protest.
"What?" he asks sweetly. His teeth are audibly chattering. "It's like not like I've got a towel."
"That doesn't mean I want to be your towel, you git."
That, unfortunately, sparks a mental image of myself wrapped around Simon Snow, being able to feel every inch of his skin, touching his soft curls and tracing his moles and—
Nope, not going there.
Snow is already mercifully throwing all of his clothes back on. The T-shirt sticks to his chest, and it's a lovely sight; I'm selfishly disappointed when he zips up his coat over it.
"Are you done being ridiculous yet?" I ask, and his eyes light up at my teasing.
"Not sure," he says playfully. "Let's see where the night takes us."
Anywhere you want, Simon Snow.
I'm shivering from the chilly lake water, but I can barely actually feel the cold. There's a happy buzz vibrating across my skin that has me practically skipping down the path.
We cross the bridge, and I spot a bronze gold building among the thicket of trees. I point it out to Baz. "Hey, doesn't that look like a cowboy hat?"
"What?" Baz says, before following my gaze. "Are you talking about the coffee house? It's not shaped like a cowboy hat, Snow. That's just a fresh take on pagoda architecture."
I have no idea what that means. "I think it looks like a cowboy hat. Or a sting-ray—you know, with the way it's all wavy like that?"
"Your brain seems like a really weird place to live."
"Shut up," I say. "Let's go check it out."
"Check it out? What are you—are you serious?" he splutters as I hop the five foot fence, careful to avoid the pointed spikes.
"We're already breaking and entering by being here. In for a penny, in for a pound." I shrug—casually, like I don't care what he does.
Except—I kind of do care. He's been almost nice to me since we got to Hyde Park. Like the magic of a 4 a.m. adventure is turning him into a different person. Like it's turning us into different people—the kind who laugh and talk and dare each other to do stupid things. I don't want the night to end, and I'm not above dragging it out.
He sighs like it's a sacrifice, but he puts his hands on the fence with an approximation of a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. He throws his leg over, and he's so tall that he barely has to jump to get over the short fence.
I want to ask him if he was a Russian gymnast in a past life, but I swallow the stupid question down as we approach the building.
"I've never been here," I comment.
"Makes sense, considering it's not open yet. It's still under construction."
The coffee house is covered in glass windows, except the front, which is missing a wall altogether. Inside, it looks like a café in progress—there's a white shop counter with empty glass containers atop it. There's something spooky about being in this half-finished building in the middle of the night, and something distinctly wrong about breaking in that makes it all the more fun.
By the way Baz's eyes are gleaming, I can tell he thinks this place is intoxicating. He'd never say it—though that doesn't stop me from trying to goad him into it. "Wicked, huh?"
He hums and walks behind the shop counter. "It's perfectly adequ— Oh." He huffs a laugh at whatever he's looking at.
"What?" I ask, and follow him around the counter to see what's got him so amused.
Under the countertop, there's a fridge full of beer and wine.
I pull on the fridge handle to find it's not locked. "Oh my god," I say. "Do you want a pint?"
"Yeah, sure," he responds, his voice dripping in sarcasm. "Why not add larceny to our list of crimes tonight?"
"Right! Why not?" I use the countertop to pop the cap off a Guinness, and take a chug. "I need the alcohol blanket; I'm still cold. "
"Then you shouldn't have jumped into the lake," he deadpans, arching a dark eyebrow at me.
"Come off it, you liked that." My voice comes out far more flirty than I intended it to; I don't know who it shocks more—me or Baz. I catch a faint blush on the tops of his cheekbones and it sends a thrill through my chest. "Plus, you're always cold, and always uptight, so you could use the alcohol."
He frowns at me. "I'm not uptight. "
I scoff. "Please. Three weeks into our first term, you took duct tape and split our desk in half so I wouldn't take up more than exactly fifty percent of the table."
"Before I did that, you were taking up at least eighty percent of what is supposed to be a shared desk!" he complains petulantly. "I could barely do my homework!"
"Still super extra of you," I argue.
"I think it was a perfectly reasonable response. If I'm forced to live with a human tornado, I need to at least have my boundaries," he says, sounding totally sincere. I shake my head. He's such an arsehole. (Though, I think I'm starting to like it.) (Or maybe I'm just sleep deprived.)
"If I make this a bet, will you drink then?" I ask, with a roll of my eyes. "I bet you that I can down a beer faster than you."
"I'm not drinking beer," Baz scoffs.
I'm about to argue with him—but then he reaches into the fridge and pulls out a bottle of rosé. I grin, happy I've won this round (and found a way to keep him here longer).
"Let's see if you can chug for longer than it takes me to finish this beer?" I suggest.
"Oh, I know I can." He smirks, characteristically cocky.
"On three?" I ask, and he nods. I count down, and we bring our bottles to our lips at the same time.
When I finish the Guinness, I slam it down on the counter. He's still going, with his head thrown back, eyes closed, and his lips wrapped around the neck of the wine bottle. The image is almost sensuous.
Before I can dwell on that thought, he stops drinking with a slight cough; the bottle's a third empty now. "I can't believe I just drank wine with a twist off cap," he says, wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve.
"Is that against the Posh Prats' Rules of Conduct?" I ask, leaning against the counter.
"Yes," he says. "Rule 61: only drink French vintage wines from the good years."
"I can't even tell whether you're joking right now."
"Only halfway. By the way, this whole situation," he says, gesturing to his wine and my beer, "is worse than you bringing a flask to a bar. It's proper chavvy."
"Having a flask is practical, you fucking twat," I snarl. "Some of us need to do shit like that to save money."
He doesn't have a response to that; he just looks at me, surprised by my sudden hostility.
I should just drop it. We're on a truce, and this night is going so well. But once the bitter feeling wells inside of me, I'm not sure how to suppress it. So I decide to just let it all out.
"You know..." My voice is a bit rough, so I clear my throat, and then take a deep swig of beer for liquid courage. "You're kind of an elitist?" It comes out more of a question than I intend; so I keep explaining myself. "That's why you hate me, right? Because I'm a poor scholarship kid and you're…" I gesture to him. "Rich and posh and fit." I did not have to add the part about him being handsome; I bite my tongue to stop myself from talking anymore.
Baz doesn't reply, so I look over to him to gauge his reaction. He looks shocked—his pink lips parted in surprise and a worried set to his eyebrows.
"You really think that?" he asks. I'm not sure exactly which part he's referring to—but I meant all of it, so I nod.
"Simon," he says, and the sound of my name in his mouth is like a shot of whiskey in my veins. Strong and invigorating. "I'm sorry. I never meant to make you feel that way. That's not… I don't think less of you for any of that."
"Oh, so you think less of me for another reason?" I mean for it to come out teasing, but it falls flat, so the hurt in my tone is plainly evident.
To my surprise, he shakes his head vigorously. "No, I don't, honestly. I'm just… kind of a git. Especially with… new people, I guess. It's not… I don't hate you."
Baz's expression is so open and vulnerable I can't help but believe him. (Plus, I don't think I've ever heard him struggle so much to find words. That's usually my problem.) His eyes are filled with some kind of emotion I can't put my finger on.
I feel like we're on the edge of a cliff. One false move and we'll fall off. I kind of want to see what happens if we do.
But the moment is shattered by a loud crash in the near distance. We both freeze and look up over the counter to see several figures coming towards us.
Baz curses and immediately starts sprinting. I get up to follow him, lagging behind by ten seconds so I can take the time to shove a couple beers in my coat pocket. With the wine bottle still in his right hand, Baz jumps one-handedly, gripping the flat part of the fence and kicking his legs up to his side. I run at the fence full speed, grabbing the top with both my hands. I accidentally grab the fence by its pointed spike with my right hand, and when I put my weight on it, it pierces skin. I let out a pained sound involuntarily, and it makes Baz stop in his tracks.
"Are you okay?" he asks. His eyes widen at the sight of my bleeding hand. "Shit."
"I'm fine, I'm fine," I assure him. "Let's go. Now."
As nonchalant as I've been about all of our crimes tonight, I don't actually feel like spending the night in jail. But when I look over to the approaching individuals, expecting to see the old bill in black vests, I notice the three people are covered in blood. And smiling.
What the hell?
A girlish voice calls out from the darkness, "All right, boys?"
The group comes into the light of the lamp post. I realise they're all young—maybe just a year or two older than me and Baz—and that one of the boys is lugging a bulky video camera over his shoulder.
"You guys break in, too?" the girl asks, and I realise the blood on her neck and clothing must be fake. The boy next to her has pale makeup on and fake fangs in. "We're filming a short horror film here. Place is cool, yeah?"
I laugh, relieved that we've not been caught by police officers—just some fellow trespassers. "Totally. Someone—maybe the construction workers? I don't know—has left alcohol in the fridge over there if you guys' are interested."
"Snow," Baz warns me—like he's not standing there holding the evidence of our theft clearly in his hand.
"Wicked," the girl says with a cheeky smile. Then, she notices the blood on my palm—the real blood—and her grin falters. "You okay, mate?"
"Yeah," I say. "It looks worse than it feels."
"We need to go find a first aid kit," Baz says, frowning at the blood trail that trickled down my forearm. "It's going to get infected."
"Think we're gonna stumble upon an A&E in here?" I tease.
His eyebrows are still knitted together in concern. I think he's being overdramatic—it's just a superficial cut—but I don't take the piss out of him for it anymore, because his anxiety over me is unexpectedly sweet.
"Here," the camera guy says. He ruffles through his backpack and pulls out a plain white T-shirt. "Use this to wrap it up."
I thank Camera Guy, and Baz takes the shirt from him. He sets the wine bottle onto the floor for a moment to wrap a makeshift bandage around my hand. I'm glad he's looking down so he can't tell I'm blushing from the proximity (though, if he called me on it, I'd blame the alcohol).
As we walk away from the cafe and film students, I turn to Baz and say, "You know, I think you'd look better as a vampire than that guy."
He laughs, and it fills me with warmth.
I vow to find a way to play the sound on a loop all night.
Thanks for reading :) Let me know what you thought if you have a minute!
Don't tell me any of this is unrealistic; I can confirm all of this is very possible. (...if a London police officer is reading this, this is not a confession.)
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Chapter 3: These afterhours got me charged
The tension between Simon and Baz breaks.
Back with the final chapter! It took me a minute to make the ending feel right to me, but finally got something close to happy with this.
& thanks to you for reading! Hope you enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Simon's got a self-satisfied smile lighting up his face, and on a scale from dying to punch him to dying to snog him, I'm resolutely on the side of snogging.
"I'm serious; you'd make a great vampire," he teases. "You've got the whole dark and brooding thing going for you."
I raise a single eyebrow at him. "The whole dark and brooding thing?"
"You know what I mean. You have that vibe, with your black hair, and your widow's peak, and your nose."
"You're the one who cocked up my nose, Snow," I growl.
"I like your nose," he says earnestly. "It gives your face character."
"Character is a code word for unattractive." I scowl at him, suppressing the instinctive urge to cover my face. My nose was large before he punched me, but now it's large and crooked—taking over my face, leaving a permanent scar to remember Simon Snow by.
He guffaws, and I'm even more offended. That is, until he says, "Unattractive is the last word I'd use to describe you, Baz."
I can't help the blush that crawls up my neck. He's smiling from ear to ear, his single dimple prominently cratered on his right cheek. His delight is contagious; it's nearly impossible to fight my grin.
He's so bright, so beautiful, I can hardly stand to look at him. I look up instead; the sky is starting to shift from black to blue. We've surely loitered in the park for at least an hour now—a criminal detour I would have scoffed at before the events of tonight. But, for once, I have no complaints. Nothing—not the cold, the late hour, or even the larceny—has a chance of dampening my good mood.
I take a deep swig from the wine bottle. I'm fighting my urge to say something shitty or run from him or do any of the other foolish things I always do. "Surprisingly," I say slowly, the sweet wine loosening my tongue, "tonight actually turned out to be halfway decent fun."
"Yeah?" he asks, searching my face to check for sincerity. When he decides I mean it, his eyes light up like Father Christmas's appeared in front of him with a bag of loot. "I knew I could get you to like me," he says with a huff of laughter, not at all realising what a tremendous understatement that is.
I'm afraid the words I love you might slip off my tongue. There's been a hundred times I've been tempted to tell him how I really feel about him—but the instinct feels almost urgent now. Why am I even bothering to try to hide how happy he makes me anymore? This night has been better than I ever could have hoped for—the Uber mixup and this crazy detour through Hyde Park with Simon Snow is the very definition of a blessing in disguise. It's the one last chance I was hoping for.
I should tell him the truth. That I'm just bad with my emotions, that I never meant any of my cruelty, that all my bullshit was just a shitty defense mechanism.
I should say: Simon, I fancy you something rotten.
I clear my throat, and take a steadying breath. "Simon, I—"
He cuts me off. "Shhh!" he hisses, grabbing my forearm roughly.
"Wha—" I start, but he throws his uninjured hand over my mouth. I try to complain against his palm, but he clamps his hand tighter over me and shushes me again.
"Come here," he demands, gripping at my shirtsleeve with his other hand. I follow his eyeline to a tall man in black with a flashlight and "Security" emblazoned across his chest, and let Simon pull me out of sight, into the shadows. He drags me—one hand still covering my mouth, the other wrapped around my wrist—behind an oak tree, a grand one with low-hanging branches and forest green leaves.
"Quiet!" he insists in a poor attempt at hushed tones.
I push his hand off my mouth. "Bit rich coming from you," I whisper. (I can't help being contrary.) "Aren't you banned from the campus library because you insist on making a theatrical production out of reading?"
He pushes me against the tree by my shoulders, and then he's leaning against me, touching me everywhere—from our knees to our hips to our chests.
My heartbeat pounds in my eardrums. We've never been pressed so close together. My body is reacting to the proximity, and I'm sure he can feel me shaking against him. I hope he attributes it to the cold and not what it really is—a mixed cocktail of nerves and excitement and anticipation burning through my veins.
"Be quiet," he growls, low and breathy.
Before I can stop myself, I whisper back the single most sexually charged phrase in the English language: "Make me."
The oxygen between us has gone electric, and the passion overwhelms me. Fuck, that was forward , I think. Is he going to realise I want him to shut me up with his mouth on mine?
He licks his bottom lip and my gaze catches on the movement. I'm aching to close the gap between us, damn the consequences.
The way he's looking at me right now… I think he might just let me.
I'm still gathering my courage to lean in when the brave motherfucker sticks his tongue in my mouth.
Baz tastes like strawberries and sweetness.
I've got my good hand resting on the tree bark beside his head and my wrapped hand cupping his sharp jawline, feeling his stubble under my thumb. He usually shaves first thing in the morning, so feeling the rough prickle on my fingertips is a surprise. Everything about this kiss is a surprise—a revelation. The chemistry between us is crackling with such dynamite passion feels like it might light me on fire.
I've always felt like I might explode around him, but this is the first time it's been a good thing. Such a good thing. Like the answer to the question I didn't realise I needed to ask.
I don't know how I ever thought Baz was uptight—he certainly doesn't snog like a prude. Right now, it's like I can taste his hunger, his desperation, his want, and I'm right there with him. I want him.
Have I always wanted him?
An image of the first time I saw him pops into my head—I remember the tightness of his trousers and the way his hair was tied in a loose bun and the feeling I got in my stomach when I held out my hand to shake his and saw how pretty his grey eyes were—and I think yes, I've always wanted him.
If the way his hands are searching my body—eager and frenzied and determined—are anything to go off, I'd bet he wants me too.
Simon Snow is kissing me like it's his final move on a battlefield—an impulsive, bold last chance at a truce. And I've completely surrendered over to him, laid down my weapons and waved the white flag. I'm totally, completely his.
When he pulls back, he's gasping for air (right in my face, the damned mouth breather). I'd comment on his disheveled appearance—except I doubt I look much better.
I'm not sure what to say—what statement could possibly follow up the best kiss I've ever had?
Luckily, Snow can always be trusted to prattle on.
"So, uh," he starts, his voice a seductive rasp. He swallows the roughness of his throat down in a showy gesture, his Adam's apple bobbing on his neck. "I think the coast is clear by now. The security guard's probably gone."
I can't help it; that unexpected follow-up shocks a genuine laugh out of me—an unattractive, snorty sound that only my family is accustomed to hearing. It gets Snow chuckling too, and a wide grin breaks his face in two.
He brushes a strand of hair behind my hair and kisses me again—soft and slow this time. I know it's probably just wishful thinking, but it almost feels like a promise.
"C'mon," Simon whispers against my lips. "Let's go back home."
We keep walking, hopping the park fence and making our way down the empty streets of Kensington. We stop more than once to snog along the way, so it takes us twice as long to close the distance. When we finally make it to the arched entrance of Beit Hall, it's nearly dawn. I almost ask Baz if he wants to go up to the roof and wait for the sunrise; but the last time we kissed, he yawned directly into my mouth, so I'm guessing he'd rather sleep.
I hit the button for our floor in the lift, and then reach for his hand. He lets me interlace our fingers—and in the yellow fluorescent light, I can see he's blushing about it. I get a rush of pride that I can affect him like this—I've always liked that I'm able to get a rise out of him, but this is so much better. I massage little circles over his thumb while we wait for our floor.
I won't let go of his hand, even after I've opened our door and led us inside our shared bedroom. I pull him in for one more kiss, and he snogs me back instantly. (He has, every time I've done it. It keeps taking my breath away with awe.)
We go into our ensuite together, because Baz insists I redress my cut with an actual bandage rather than a random bloke's T-shirt. (He's being overdramatic, it's just a scratch—but I let him play doctor anyways, because I like it when he's touching me.) Afterwards, we brush our teeth side by side. It's something we've not done in the ten months we've lived together, and I'm taken aback by the casual domesticity of it all.
While Baz is still washing his face in the loo, I quickly change and then crawl into my bed. The night catches up with me as my head hits the pillow. When Baz finishes up in the ensuite, I'm only seconds from drifting off, but his footsteps jolt me back from the edge of dreaming.
I lift my arm and stretch my hand towards him, even though he's out of reach. "C'mere," I slur, my voice thick with sleepiness.
"Snow," I hear him say, "you only have a twin bed."
"Don't care," I respond, opening my eyes. He's changed into his pajamas, and all the gel has been shaken loose from his hair (most of which was my doing). He looks so handsome it twists at my heart and forces the truth out of me. "Want you."
He sighs, seemingly exasperated. But he's got this amused glint in his eye, and with a swoop in my stomach like I'm on a roller coaster, I realise he looks genuinely enamored—with me.
"Fine," he says. He doesn't manage to sound very reluctant, since he's smiling softly. I pull back the covers and he lets me envelop him into my arms. I fall asleep in moments with my arm around his waist.
I'm woken by the sound of girlish screaming.
"Holy fucking shit!" Penny curses, startling me out of sleep. She's standing at our door, in long overalls and her curly hair tied up on a bun, with her hand over her mouth in a show of shock.
Baz jerks away from me so hard that he rolls straight off the bed and onto the carpet.
Penny bursts out into uncontrollable giggles, clutching her stomach as the sound spills out of her. Baz responds with a nasty scowl.
"Bunce, why have you broken into our bedroom?"" Baz says, his tone dripping with contempt. (Pretty bold coming from the guy that broke into Hyde Park with me just last night, who's now sprawled out on the floor with bedhead and the imprint of my arm on his cheek.)
Penny just holds up her key card—the copy I gave her a month into autumn term last year. I had locked myself out of my room about a half dozen times when I decided to just get a spare from tech support. I never told Baz about it, because I was sure he'd be miffed—and I was clearly right on that, considering he's turned his glare onto me.
"Replicating key cards is against the Beit Hall Code of Conduct," he says haughtily, before standing up from the ground and dusting off his knees.
I'm scrambling for a response, but before I can think of one, he storms off into the ensuite, slamming the door shut behind him.
Penny clears her throat, and when I turn my gaze over to her, she gives me her Cheshire Cat smile.
"Told you getting an Uber with Baz wouldn't kill you," she says smugly, plopping down on Baz's bed. (He hates when she does that—which is probably why she insists on doing it. She's just as contrary as he is.)
"Y-yeah, I guess so," I say, running a hand through my hair. I blush crimson as I recall the taste of Baz's tongue.
Penny gives me a searching look. Then, she holds out the palm of her hand to reveal two white tablets. The paracetamol reminds me that the pain in my temple isn't just confusion over the fact the world has spun on its axis—I'm also tremendously hungover.
I groan in relief and hold out my hand, but she pulls her arm away. She's got a mischievous glint in her eyes. "First," she says, "explain how and why I found you cuddling with Baz Pitch."
"Penny," I whine. I lean forward, my torso hanging over the bed, straining to reach closer to her. She just takes a step back.
"Tell me everything—well, not everything, maybe leave out the more crass details—"
"Shhh! Keep your voice down," I hiss. I can hear the water running in the loo, so Baz must be already showering, but still. I'd be mortified if he heard us talking about him—about us—like this. I blurt out, "We only slept together."
Penny grins wolfishly, and I rush to correct her. "No, no, ugh. I just meant. We fell asleep together, that's it."
She raises her eyebrows. "That's it?" she asks skeptically.
"And, you know. We also kissed." A lot. And I want to do it again.
Fuck, I want to do it again.
"You know, Shep guessed this would happen last night. He said he always thought you guys had serious vibes ." She mimics his accent, which usually amuses me, but I'm sort of in the middle of an earth-shattering revelation here.
I think everything's changed.
Or... Has nothing changed?
I need to find out.
I get up out of bed, and Penny throws her hands over her eyes and curses "Jesus, Si!"—reminding me that I slept just in my pants. I ignore her, and just start throwing on trackies.
"Listen, Pen, can you come back later?" I ask, as I pull a jumper over my head. "We don't need to be moved out until three, and I'm nearly packed." Penny looks around my room meaningfully, clearly noting that literally nothing has been packed. "Just… Please?"
Penny sighs heavily, but she can't quite keep the amusement off her face. Then she hands over the paracetamol, and I grab it greedily, swallowing it down dry. "Be ready and dressed at two o'clock, and not a moment later," she says sternly.
I agree, and she gets up to leave—but not before fishing a condom out of her wallet and tossing it at me. "Be safe!" she advises me through her chuckling.
I feel the heat burning at my cheeks, but I shake off the embarrassment when I catch a glance at the clock. It's nearly ten.
I'm not sure if four hours is enough to convince Basilton Pitch to be my boyfriend, but I'm damn well going to try.
Steam clouds the air of our small ensuite. I turned the shower handle all the way to the left, so that the water was scalding hot. I stood under the shower head until my olive skin turned red, until the oppressive heat began to burn me, and still it couldn't wash away my anxiety over last night.
I kissed Simon Snow.
And I'm aching to do it again.
I twist shut the cap of my hair gel, packing it into the toiletry suitcase I kept by the sink. I've already brushed my teeth, flossed, washed my face, showered, shaved, dried and gelled my hair—I've gone through all the motions of my morning routine as languidly as possible, and now I have no choice but to leave this bathroom. Simon's already knocked three separate times; I'm just being rude now (not like that's new).
I forgot to grab clothing before I marched into the loo, determined to get away from Penelope Bunce and her gleeful smirking. So I'm going to have to go back into our bedroom in just a towel—something I've never done, not in all the months we've lived together. Just like he doesn't change in front of me, I don't undress in front of him.
This will be fine, I tell myself. He slept in just his pants last night. This is almost the same thing.
The thought doesn't calm me down; if anything, the memory of his bare skin on mine makes me more nervous. But I square my shoulders like I'm preparing for battle, and then I twist the door handle to the ensuite.
Simon jumps to his feet as soon as the door opens. He's dressed in his usual attire—worn grey trackies and an Imperial College London rugby jumper. The domestic image sends an unbidden rush of affection through me. His curls are sitting in a wild and unruly mop on his head; when he runs a nervous hand through his hair, I see just why.
Simon doesn't seem to know where to look. He's trying and failing to maintain eye contact, his eyes darting down my body repeatedly. I know I'm blushing wildly; he's seen me flush more times in the last twelve hours than in the year he's known me. I pretend shyness and vulnerability isn't making my hands shake as I march over to my dresser and grab trousers and a button up.
Without being told to, he turns around (though, I notice, a bit reluctantly). I'm grateful for the courtesy. I wasn't going to back down from the challenge; I would've changed in front of him. But I'm happy not to be forced to. (If Simon ever sees me naked, I'd want it to be under different circumstances.)
I clear my throat when I've finished doing up the buttons on my shirt, and Simon turns around to face me.
I planned out a whole speech in the shower—one full of meaningless phrases like we can pretend this never happened and I know you were just drunk and it was just a mistake. I was going to feign nonchalance, laugh it off, maybe make him feel stupid for thinking I would even care.
But I look into his deep blue eyes, and I forget all my words.
"Good morning," he says softly, with a sheepish smile that hints at secrets between us.
With all the self-discipline I possess, I force my facial expression to remain stoic. "Snow," I greet him coolly.
"I thought—uh—I was thinking maybe—" Snow starts, and then stops. "What are you doing?"
"Packing," I say, refusing to meet his gaze as I shove assorted knick knacks from my nightstand into a duffel bag. "What are you doing?"
"Uh, well, I was wondering— " I involuntarily turn my head towards him, just in time to see him swallow showily. My mind gets stuck on the movement, and I can't make myself look away from his throat. "Uh. Do you want to go to Nico's?"
That makes me drop the sunglasses I was packing onto the floor. "Nico's?"
"Ye-yeah! The place, 'round the corner? I really like the woman who owns it—Ebb—she's a saint, she actually named it after her brother—long story, that—but anyways, they've got—"
I interrupt him; I'm really not interested in getting the backstory on a café I've never been to. "You're asking me to get breakfast with you?"
"Uh—" He musses up his curls again. "Well, technically, by now, we'd have to call it brunch."
Simon Snow wants to get brunch with me.
I do not understand what's happening.
He blinks at me. "Aren't you hungry? They have great food—blueberry pancakes, and crepes with apples and brie, and these sour cherry scones that are to die for, and—"
I cut him off before he can continue rambling the menu off to me. Truthfully, I'm starving, and all of that sounds delicious, but that's not my point. "Why would you want to get breakfast with me?"
Now he's looking at me like he doesn't understand what's happening either.
I need to get this conversation back on track.
"We don't need to do the whole morning-after thing," I snap.
"I know we don't have to, I just thought—"
"Since when do you think?" I snap. It's a predictable insult—a cruel reflex—and I want to blanch when it makes Simon flinch.
He crosses his arms, ready to join the battle I've been waging alone. "Why are you being such an awful git? I thought—after last night—well. You'd wanna."
Flashes of last night come to me: the mole on Simon's hipbone, his lips around a Guinness bottle, the soft texture of his curls. The fondness flooding my chest feels shameful in the cold light of day—especially with Simon here, offering everything I want without realising it.
"I know last night didn't mean anything," I say, making a Herculean effort to keep my voice steady and detached. "You don't have to pretend."
His brows furrow. "How am I pretending?"
"You're just being polite!" I growl. "Offering breakfast because you're chivalrous and you think you have to because we snogged. Why else would you want to get brunch with me?"
Simon blinks at me. "Because I fancy you?" he says slowly.
My heart skips a beat before speeding up to double time. "Is that a question?"
"No." He huffs out a nervous laugh, musses up his hair again. "It's a statement."
"That's impossible." It can't be this simple. "You hate me."
"I don't usually snog people I hate." He cocks his head at me. "Do you?"
It's my instinct to snap and say ' yes, sometimes.' But there's something like hope in his voice, and it makes me want to be optimistic for once. It makes me want to say the right thing.
But I'm lousy at saying the right thing. So, instead, I push him up against his wardrobe and snog him hard.
He responds immediately, giving as good as he gets. His hips surge forward against me and his hands snake up around my neck. He tastes like mint chewing gum and destiny. In this moment, with his tongue in my mouth, we feel inevitable. Like fate itself intervened to get us here, to make sure we didn't leave this room without fixing this.
When we come up for air, the grin that splits his face is so wide it looks like it hurts. His happiness seems to be bursting out of him. The show of honest vulnerability prompts me to confess, "I didn't think you'd fancy me back."
"Yeah?" he asks, running his thumb over my cheekbone. (I have to suppress the urge to shiver with satisfaction.) "Well, I do."
"Not sure. I realised it when I kissed you." He grins. "How long have you fancied me?"
"A while," I admit.
"How long's a while?" He asks, self satisfied.
It feels melodramatic to say ' from the moment I laid eyes on you' —even if that is the truth.
"It won't be for much longer if you don't get me those pancakes I was promised," I retort with a raise of my eyebrow.
He smiles and reaches for my hand. I let him take it, delighting in the simple joy of lacing our fingertips together. "Alright," he says, before his face lights up in a sly smile. "But I'm requesting Ebb play Mr. Brightside."
I laugh at that, and he joins in like my joy is contagious.
I thought there was nothing in the world like watching Simon Snow dance. But this might rival it—making Simon Snow laugh.
"We'll play what are the odds for it," I say. "Let's go, I'm sure you're starving."
Simon tugs on my hand and leads me out the bedroom door so we can go on our breakfast date.
Fuck, I'm living a charmed life.
And the lesson here is: crime pays.
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