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learning how to be (with you by my side)

Chapter Text

The first time she meets Luz, she ends up running down the street in a budget Halloween costume.

Rewind.

So her parents refused to pay for her living arrangements - yes, she'd pissed them off that much - so now she's stuck in a cramped third-floor flat with no elevator. As if that wasn't bad enough, she's been saddled with a roommate. Who is absolutely and utterly terrible.

Whoever it is, they're a total mess. They left their stupid crayons all over the living room floor, and now Amity's stuck cleaning it up because Boscha is coming over and her roommate is never home. The worst part is that Amity literally doesn't know anything about them, since they were late to their moving in. She doesn't have their number. She doesn't know their name. If their apartment suddenly burst into flames, she'd probably be clueless about it. The only thing she can even guess about is their major - arts - which isn't even a given anyway.

"Crayons," she mutters, scooping them into the trash can. "Nobody uses crayons. What are you, five?"

God, she is looking forward to the day when after all these months she actually finds out who her roommate is so she can throttle them.

Boscha arrives ten minutes late, thankfully, which gives Amity time to get rid of the paint on the walls, the empty noodle cups on the counter, the wax stains on the floor, and the random stuffed animals scattered over the couch (her roommate is so dead).

"Oh my god, you have to spice this place up, it's so boring!" Boscha exclaims. She's pulling random drawers in the kitchen, going through all the cupboards, and Amity would stop her if she wasn't so tired.

"I can't without asking my roommate, and she's dead to me," Amity says, lying flat on her back on the couch. She's really not in the mood to deal with Boscha today. She's nice-ish (to her, at least), but talking to her drains her energy.

"Dead to you? Why, what'd she do? Did she kiss your girlfriend?"

"I don't have a girlfriend," she replies, bemused.

"Then who's leaving these cute notes on your fridge?"

"Cute-"

Wait a minute.

Amity launches herself from the couch and skids into the kitchen.

"Jeez, what's got you so flustered? Didn't you know about these?" Boscha peels a Post-It note off of the fridge. "Ew, is this written in crayon?"

"Give me that," Amity demands, plucking it out of her hands. There's words scrawled onto the note in dark blue. It reads:

SORRY FOR MESS

PLEASE DONT THROW CRAYONS AWAY

XX LUZ

"How did you not notice these, they're like right there," her friend gestures to the side of the fridge, which is practically covered in little yellow notes.

"I don't know," Amity admits in disbelief, eyes now taking in the assortment of other Post-Its scattered across the surface.

There's some inconspicuous ones, like:

HAVE A GOOD DAY TODAY

LUZ

Or apology ones, like:

SORRY FOR THE PAINT I LOST CONTROL :( ILL CLEAN IT I PROMISE

XOXO LUZ

There's even ones that are kind of sweet, if she ignores the hastily written apologies:

THERE IS CAKE IN THE FRIDGE FOR YOU PLEASE DONT BE MAD ABOUT ALL THE PAPER MACHE

-LUZ

That last one catches her eye, and she yanks the fridge open with a growing sense of dread. Sure enough, there's a vanilla ice cream cake - with rainbow sprinkles, might she add - on the top shelf. When she takes it out, she notices that there's a HELLO written on it in dark red icing.

"What the fuck," Amity curses.

"Whoa," says Boscha. "Your roommate actually kind of rules."

Amity shakes her head, putting the ice cream cake back in the fridge. "No, she's the worst. She makes a mess out of our apartment every day and cake isn't going to fix that." If Boscha notices how Amity doesn't throw the notes away, she doesn't mention it.

Later, when she's alone in the apartment, she looks around furtively (even though nobody has the key except the landlord and Luz) and approaches the fridge. Uncapping the red Sharpie with her teeth, she scribbles out a quick message on an orange sticky note and slaps it onto the counter.

After all, it's not like anything is going to come out of it.

 

When she wanders into the kitchen the next morning, yawning, the note is still on the counter. It has her handwriting on it, but below that is Luz's messy scrawl, bled into the paper in black permanent marker.

If you want to keep your crayons, stop leaving them in the living room, is what Amity had written the day before.

Luz, in response, has drawn a crude stick figure that's... crying? And there's a message, too:

YOU MADE THE STICK MAN SAD

WHATS YOUR NAME IM LUZ

Against her will, Amity snorts.

You're so immature, she writes. After some hesitation, she signs her name below it.

The next morning, when she gets to the kitchen, there's a doodle of a dragon and a note waiting for her that reads:

HI AMITY NO I'M NOT IMMATURE

DID YOU EAT THE CAKE I GOT YOU

No, she scribbles, and leaves for class.

And thus the notes continue. They're always brief; goodmorning or have a good day or did you eat my cake (the answer is always no). It's starting to drive Amity crazy, not seeing who her roommate is (she'll never admit it), but at least she stops coming home to random crap all over the floor. So maybe she's starting to warm up to her mysterious pen pal.

...

Okay, it's really not her fault, alright? Like, logically, she knows that Luz is her delinquent dorm-mate who used to straight-up trash their apartment for three months straight. But realistically, she cracks a huge smile whenever she sees a Post-It note on the counter. Realistically, she maybe, sorta, kind of wants to meet the weirdo who leaves the cutest little scrawls in messy handwriting on their kitchen counter.

 

She gets her wish on the last day of the semester.

The classes are draining and long, but luckily her professors feel the same way, and she gets out of her last lecture well before their allotted time is up. The December chill seems to have seeped into everyone's bones, and the air is filled with a sense of drab relief. So when she arrives at her flat early and the door is unlocked, she's so exhausted that she doesn't really think anything of it.

"Hey!" says Luz from the kitchen doorway.

"Hi," says Amity absently, turning to drop her bag and nap for six hours when she stops in her tracks.

She whirls around.

Oh my God.

It's Luz. Terrible, messy, and apparently very cute Luz.

She's dressed lowkey, wearing a hoodie, sweatpants, and these really fucking stupid bunny slippers that Amity immediately wants. Luz is casual - leaning against the doorframe with a goofy smile on her face, arms crossed like nothing in the world can faze her. Amity is actually kind of impressed by how cool this girl seems to be for someone so messy, until she trips over nothing and falls onto the floor with a THUMP.

"I'm okay," comes a muffled voice from the kitchen floor.

Amity groans, lets her backpack slide off her shoulders. "I can't believe I'm actually stuck in here with you." She flops onto the couch. She doesn't even care if Luz sees her like this because what is she gonna do? Make fun of her? "Crayon girl."

"That was one time, okay?" Luz says, picking herself off the floor and flopping onto the couch with Amity. Well, there goes her nap. "And what do you mean stuck with me? You're staying here over Christmas break?"

"Yeah, no duh." Mostly because her family despises her right now, but Luz doesn't need to know that.

Luz stares at her for a very uncomfortable split-second before breaking out into a grin. "This is gonna be amazing! We can do actual, y'know, roommate stuff."

"Roommate stuff," Amity deadpans sarcastically. "Like what, paint each other's toenails?"

"Oh my gosh, please," Luz relaxes into the couch and starts bouncing one knee restlessly. "What color should we get? Blue? Green? No, let's get both. Let's go to Walgreens."

Amity's met people from all walks of life, and she's taken all of them in stride. But in her experience? Everyone had been jaded, sarcastic, like life had leeched the positivity from them. People like this - trusting, open, warm - just didn't exist without conditions.

She narrows her eyes.

"I'm not going to Walgreens with you," she says, watching how Luz's face drops from a smile to a frown.

"What? Why not?" and honestly, this would be hilarious to Amity if Luz didn't look so legitimately sad, what the heck?

Amity is waffling between Go away and You're crazy and she really does intend to reply, but instead she lets out a giant yawn.

Dead silence. The bouncing stops.

She's starting to wonder what's taking Luz so long to say something, and when she turns her head to look, Luz is practically an inch away, wide-eyed. She's also staring at her, so yeah, that's interesting.

"Your yawn," she whispers, almost reverently. "Is so cute."

Her eyes are brown, Amity notes. Not that that's important.

Also, what the fuck?

"Ugh, can you get away from me?" she says, shoving Luz away and grabbing the remote to turn on the TV. Her roommate falls back onto the other end of the couch (where she belongs, Amity thinks) with a betrayed expression on her face.

"I can't believe you just pushed me! What if I died?" Luz pretends to swoon dramatically, but only succeeds in falling off the couch. "Imagine the news. Luz Noceda tragically died from a wound to the heart caused by-"

"-being a dumbass. Please stop talking," Amity turns the TV off - the news anchor's incessant rambling is almost as annoying as Luz's - and pulls out her phone so she can watch Netflix.

Luz, surprisingly, actually shuts up for around a minute. And then she gasps, leaning over to look over Amity's shoulder. "Is that the new live action Azura show?"

"Don't yell in my ear," Amity pauses the episode, does a double take. "Wait, you know about Azura?"

"Do I know about Azura? Girl, I live Azura. I breathe Azura. I dressed up as Azura all ten years I went trick-or-treating," she's making little gestures in the air, drawing imaginary pictures in the space between them. Cute, Amity thinks, then shoves the thought down deep into the recesses of her mind.

"Me too, actually," she says, and it's true. There were years of green wigs, cheap plastic staffs, drawing chalk circles on the sidewalk and pretending it was magic. "I mean, not that I went trick-or-treating that many times. I stopped after the 3rd grade." The day she dyed her hair was the day she trashed her costume. Irony like that always makes her head hurt.

"Really? Why?" Luz asks, and she sounds genuinely interested.

Amity shrugs. "My parents thought it was childish. Plus, candy gives you cavities."

She glances up. Luz looks horrified at first, but then a slow smile spreads over her face. Oh no.

"Let's do it now," she says quietly, clandestine, like she's divulging an important secret.

"What?" There is no way that Luz is actually implying what she's implying.

"Go trick-or-treating." And yeah, never mind, this girl is dumber than a doorknob.

Amity snorts. "Luz, it's December and we're way too old. Nobody is going to give us candy."

"It can't hurt to try, right?" Luz pleads, giving her what's probably supposed to be puppy dog eyes.

Her parents would definitely disapprove of this. Hanging out with a stranger in her apartment, going trick-or-treating as a college student in the middle of December. Foolish, they'd say, childish and unnecessary.

Naturally, Amity agrees.

 

As it turns out, it does hurt to try.

They go out into the wintry cold with white bedsheets draped over them that have holes cutout for eyes. Luz is taller - her ankles stick out past the white of the costume, and when Amity tries to make fun of her for it Luz calls her a "shortcake".

"Because you're short and you're really mean, so it's like sarcasm," Luz explains, smugly, like she's discovered the secret to the universe or something.

"I can't believe I agreed to do this," Amity grumbles, kicking a pebble. It skitters down the sidewalk and disappears from her line of sight. "With you. What are we even going to say?"

"You know, I actually didn't think about that," says Luz, and even though her face is covered, Amity can imagine her sheepish expression. "I guess we just hope for the best?"

So dumb.

The first door they knock on opens to reveal a wizened old man who does not look happy to see them.

"Halloween was two months ago," he snaps, clutching at a mug of coffee that says WORLD'S #1 DAD. "What are you kids doing here?"

Amity looks at Luz in a panic, who doesn't say anything, just shoves her basket out for him to put candy in. But rather than give in, he yanks the 'ghost costume' off Luz. It falls to the ground in a heap of white fabric, revealing that she is in fact not a little kid.

Oh, shoot.

There's a terribly long, stretching moment, where the guy just stares at them like he's trying to understand what reality this is, and then they're running down the stairs and they're leaving, costumes and candy baskets abandoned on his front lawn.

"HEY!" he shouts as they sprint down the street. "WHAT THE HE-"

Amity feels kinda bad for interrupting his evening, but she doesn't have time to think about it because Luz grabs her hand to tug her around the street corner and there's a burst of adrenaline through her, hot and intense.

When they reach their apartment building, they trundle up the stairs and collapse just outside their flat's door, out of breath and sweaty. The air-conditioning is the best feeling ever as she tries to breathe properly again.

"I hate you," says Amity as soon as the burn of her lungs lets up.

Luz has her head tipped back so it leans against their door, and she's still panting with the exertion, but she turns her head to smile at Amity. It crinkles up the corners of her eyes. Which isn't important. Nope. "Hey, don't blame me! You're the one who agreed to do this!"

"Whatever," she doesn't want to let Luz make a point, but she's out of breath and exhausted, so she lets it slide. That's when it hits her. She pats her pockets down. "Wait, do you have your key?"

Her roommate's eyes widen. "Uh."

"You forgot."

"...maybe."

"Well," Amity sighs. "I wanted to get started on coursework, but it looks like that's not happening."

"Oh, come on," says Luz, rolling her eyes. "We have the entire break for that. Wanna call a locksmith and get dinner? I know this place that has the best ramen noodles, and they even have boba. One time I went there with Gus and Willow - they're my friends - and then I accidentally choked on a pearl because I didn't know what boba was, I thought it was just liquid all the way through, and they were about to do CPR on me but then-"

She should snap at her. She should cut her off with a sarcastic remark and then go get dinner with Boscha. She should run far, far away and apply for a new roommate and never see crazy Halloween girl again.

Instead, a giggle bubbles its way up out of her throat. "You didn't even ask what boba was? You just tried it?"

Luz laughs, loud and raucous. "I dunno. I'm an adventurous person."

"You're a crazy person."

She gasps, mock offended. "Why, Amity Blight! You wound me!"

She remembered my last name.

Amity blinks.

"So... dinner?" asks Luz.

She's saved from answering when their RA, Ivy, steps into the hallway, swiping through her phone. She's tall, with curly hair, and doesn't seem at all surprised to see Luz and Amity sitting outside their door.

"Hi, Ivy!" Luz exclaims. "So, funny story-"

She pops her gum. "You locked yourself out again. Whatever. Give me a minute." Ivy disappears around the corner again, presumably towards her office.

So this isn't the first time Luz forgot her key. Honestly, she shouldn't even be surprised at this point.

When Ivy gets back and unlocks the door, she says, "If this happens again, I'm going to commit a murder. You-" she pokes Amity in the chest. "Make sure your girlfriend doesn't forget her key again."

"I-wh-" Amity splutters.

"Yeah, we're the best girl friends!" Luz grins, flashes finger guns (who even does that). "Even though Amity won't paint my nails."

Why is her roommate like this.

Ivy arches one eyebrow. "Um. Okay?"

"We're not girlfriends. Friends. Whatever." Amity explains, trying to salvage the situation and her reputation. "I'm her roommate." That stupid oh my god they were roommates Vine plays in her head. Murder is starting to sound like a good idea right about now.

"Not getting involved in whatever this is," the RA says, gesturing to both of them. "But have a nice day." Ivy turns and walks away, still scrolling on her phone. Amity catches a glance of Instagram, and wonders idly if Luz has an account on there.

When they get inside, Luz dives onto the couch without even taking her shoes off.

(Which is just weird, like, they're slip-on shoes? It takes literally two seconds to kick them off?)

"This bad boy is gonna take a nap," Luz mutters, voice muffled in the couch pillows. Amity wrinkles her nose, takes off her shoes like a civilized person, and goes into the kitchen to make herself dinner.

Just as she's pouring the noodles into the boiling water, her phone buzzes with a call. She pulls it out of her pocket.

Mom is calling.

Her heart speeds up, and not in a good way. She tries to lengthen her breaths, her nails clenching so hard into her palms they hurt, and contemplates letting it ring. She entertains the idea of simply cutting it off with a sharp press of her thumb. But Amity's a coward, and so she hits the green button.

"Hi, mom."

"Hello, Amity," her mother says. "Let's talk."

When she finally hangs up, her noodles have burned, her hands are shaking, and Luz is standing in the doorway.

She's slouched against the frame, scrolling through something on her phone. "Hey, so I found some awesome recipes and- Amity?"

Amity opens her mouth, but nothing comes out. She probably looks crazy, with her phone in one hand and the other hand clenched into a fist and her face twisted into a crumpled frown. Luz sidles up beside her. "Are you okay?" she asks, peering into the pot of burnt noodles. "Ouch. It's okay, Amity, I burn stuff all the time-"

"It's not the noodles," she cuts Luz off, shakes her head to clear it. "Just. Help me make this." Her finger jabs at a random recipe on Luz's phone screen, and she hopes Luz doesn't notice the trembling in her hands.

Luz raises an eyebrow. "Empanadas? You want to make empanadas?"

"Yes! Those!" It's not like she has any idea what those are, but whatever will take her mind off that is fine. Even if it's with her annoying roommate who apparently doesn't know what the implications of the word girlfriend are.

 

Luz fills up the kitchen like she's a thousand people.

It sounds dramatic, stupid - but Luz makes the space whole again. The echoes of her mother's razor voice fall apart in comparison to the knead of her fingers through the dough, the sound of her laugh lighting up the cold kitchen even as the sky fades to black. Amity doesn't believe in magic, but something about tonight is a little bit magic. Maybe.

And man, they mess up. They don't whisk the ingredients together well enough. They rush when they knead the dough. A lot of the ingredients are left out, because, well, their fridge isn't very well-stocked. It's kinda okay, though, even if Amity gets flour all over her shirt. Even if Luz throws an entire tomato at her. Even if her phone buzzes on the counter the whole time with messages from her mother.

So maybe the empanadas turn out misshapen and burnt and bland at the end. Whatever.

"Sorry, Luz," Amity says. She's kind of upset, stupid as it sounds, but Luz just grins.

"It's okay," she says, waving one of their smashed-looking creations around. There's a tiny bit of flour near the corner of her mouth, and Amity hates the way she actually notices that. "We can make grilled cheese tonight. Just don't burn it like you burned those noodles, 'kay?"

"Shut up- oh my god, put that thing down," Amity makes a grab for the empanada Luz is flailing, but Luz holds it up just out of her reach. Curse her for being so damn tall.

"Make me," she teases. Amity tries again, teetering on her tippy-toes, but Luz just leans back across the counter. Her competitive side flares up - no way is Luz winning whatever this is - and she climbs up onto the counter to snatch it and toss it into the garbage. "Amity, that's cheating."

"Your height is cheating," Amity mutters, heading over to the fridge.

But then they're both giggling like dumbasses, and the kitchen feels like the warmest place she's ever been in, and not even in a bad way. Just... a warm way. She feels like she could run a marathon. While Boscha saps her energy, Luz just seems to replenish it.

(She thinks that maybe she should find more friends that are less sane.)

The grilled cheese sandwiches turn out fine, even if they're more bread than cheese (they used up most of it on the empanadas). They sit on the couch, and she lets Luz coax her into setting up her tablet so they can watch Azura.

Luz talks way too much. Seriously, the way she prattles on and on about the show would be very annoying if it wasn't also amazing. She talks about the translation from the books to the series, the framing of the scenes, the lighting, the colors in a way that leaves Amity wide-eyed and grudgingly impressed. She learns that Luz's major is film, not art. She learns that Luz is terrible at coursework but absolutely brilliant at what she does, and she admires that. She learns that Luz's eyes light up whenever Azura and Hecate are on screen together.

Watching Azura with her roommate is... nice.

And it goes fine, too. It goes great, until they're midway through episode 9. Luz is in the middle of a ramble that fades away just as Hecate speaks a line that rattles her to the core.

"I need to confront them. They're my family."

The voice acting is spot on. The pain on the actress' face is almost genuine. Everything about the scene is so perfect, except it's not, because then her chest swells with the feeling of too much too soon and her vision blurs with tears and before she knows it she's crying.

She tucks her knees up to her chest and buries her face in them, taking deep breaths to get herself under control. The backs of her eyelids aren't exactly a comforting picture, but it's fine. She's not used to someone else being here, though, and she hopes it won't make a difference. Please don't let Luz notice, please don't let Luz notice-

The sound from the tablet stops. Amity swears under her breath.

"Are you okay?" asks Luz. She sounds worried. Probably because her roommate just had a mood swing in the span of, like, 30 seconds and now she thinks Amity's a weirdo. Whatever.

"Yes," says Amity, but her voice wavers dangerously.

"You're crying, oh my gosh, Amity," her roommate rambles.

"...yeah, so?" she replies. Okay, she thinks. She's having a breakdown in front of a girl she met, like, twelve hours ago. Cool. This is fine.

"Okay... do you wanna talk about it?" Something soft is pressed into her hand, and when she lifts her head up she realizes it's a tissue. How dare she be so thoughtful. "I know it always helps for me."

And she realizes, bringing the tissue to her face, that she could, yeah. She could tell Luz all about the million problems her family has, all the bad blood pulsing beneath the porcelain surface. The girl is scarily charismatic, not with the sleazy charm of the people she meets at all the fancy parties, not with sarcastic derision like Boscha or herself, but genuine. It's hard not to like her. Except Amity's known her in person for not even a day. It makes her a little wary, the way she's managed to insinuate herself so snugly into her schedule.

More importantly, it's scary.

"Nah," she says. "Just play the episode, Luz."

Luz plays the episode, shifts closer to her as she shoves her face deeper into her arms. She wishes she could say she minds.

Thankfully, Azura is an incredible show, and it's enough to distract her from her racing thoughts. Soon, Amity's better - not okay, but better. She and Luz argue about some stupid technicality relating to the show's magic system until they realize how tired they both are.

"Wait," Luz yawns when Amity finally starts to retreat to her room. "Give me your number."

"You're gonna send me dumb stuff," says Amity, but tells her anyway. Luz turns to her own phone, and a few seconds later hers lights up with a message. Her eyes are drawn to the time - 5:01 AM, which means she's spent around fourteen hours with her crazy roommate. What the fuck.

Unknown Number (5:01 AM): hey roomie 😏

She scoffs, saves Luz's number in her phone. "Goodnight, Luz."

"Night, Amity."

Amity turns to walk back to her room, then pauses. "Are you just gonna sleep on the couch like a weirdo?"

"Too tired," Luz mumbles, head already swaying to the side with sleep. 

"Fine, suit yourself," Amity says, ignoring the smile that's crept its way across her face. "See you in the morning."

Roommates aren't so bad, she thinks.

Chapter Text

She's woken up by the buzzing of her phone.

Her eyes are bleary, her throat hurts, and she still feels like she needs to sleep for ten hours or so.

But coursework. But rugby training. With a groan, she pushes herself off of the bed. Her phone is still buzzing with notifications as she yanks the blinds open.

Mom (9:30 AM): Why is your grade in Political Science so low? Do you need a tutor? I will find you one. Don't come home until you've apologized, though.

Boscha (10:01 AM): haaahahhahh I tripped this idiot on the subway you should've seen it

Skara (10:32 AM): Boscha wants to go to Sephora ~1, u better come

Amity sighs. Okay, so nothing's changed.

Out of the corner of her eye, though, she notices more messages.

Here's what she sees:

Luz (11:17 AM): hey sleepyhead im at starbucks do u want food

Luz (11:57 AM): i got you croissants! theyre on the table

Luz (11:58 AM): going gym+work cya later

On the table: three croissants, still warm (and very good).

On the door: a sticky note with a smiley face on it.

On the carpet: a single crayon.

Amity (12:51 PM): You left a crayon on the floor.

She hesitates before she leaves for Sephora.

Amity (12:52 PM): Also, thanks. :)

She takes a shower when she gets back to the flat. Her coursework over the holidays is extensive, and soon she's flying through primary and secondary sources, switching between tabs and diving into the work. This paper is going down by the end of the weekend if she can help it.

Except midway through the first paragraph, she goes to the kitchen to grab some water and checks her Instagram on an impulse.

luzuranoceda is now following you.

Amity rolls her eyes and follows her back. Which would have been fine. It would have been perfect, if she hadn't maybe-kinda-sorta spent 15 minutes scrolling through Luz's Instagram.

...

It's not her fault. She obviously has to do some background checks to make sure her crazy roommate isn't actually sketchy.

The thing is, Luz looks totally normal in her Instagram pictures. Her friends look kinda nice. It's just that Amity's a little concerned because all of her smiles are forced as hell. And because the slump of Luz's shoulders makes her look tired, and that's a posture she's all too familiar with, if only because she sees it in the mirror a lot.

Her phone buzzes.

Luz (1:40 PM): anything for my trick or treating buddy!!

She thinks, I'm overthinking it.

Skara calls her up for a late lunch, and then they go to the gym with Boscha, who brags about how she's going to win them all their rugby games (a lie). Midway through her workout, her phone buzzes.

Luz (3:33 PM): r u home? i might drop by to say hi

Luz (3:40 PM): guess not! oh yeah wanna go ice skating tomorrow @ like 10 AM? i know its early but i got 2 tickets

Her heart swells.

Amity (3:50 PM): I was at the gym. Gotta stay in shape for rugby season.

Amity (3:50 PM): Also, sure.

Luz (3:55 PM): you're a jock!!!!?? omg please dont shove me into a locker

Amity (3:57 PM): That's a stereotype.

Luz (3:58 PM): awww, so you wouldn't :)

 

When she arrives back, the apartment is still empty, so she sits on the couch and opens her laptop again. The thesis comes alive under her typing fingers, and soon she's gotten a sizable chunk out of the way. Nevertheless, she's still tired, and the words are starting to blur together by the time the door swings open. Except it's not just Luz's voice that greets her.

"I told Kieran, but it's not like they'd listen-"

She spins around to see Luz, a girl with round glasses, and a shorter boy with curly hair. Luz's friends, she assumes. They look harmless enough, so she relaxes.

"Hey?" says Amity.

Luz's eyes widen. "Oh. Guys, this is Amity! Amity, these are Gus and Willow, my friends." Her smile is sheepish. Amity feels inexplicably, irritatingly happy.

"Nice to meet you," says WIllow with a warm smile.

"Yeah, same!" Gus does a weird double point gesture at her instead of just waving like a normal person. Yeah, these are definitely Luz's friends.

"So-" Luz starts, but then her eyes narrow at Amity's computer screen. "How long have you been working on that?"

"Four hours," says Amity.

"Come out with us!" exclaims Luz, holding the door open a little wider. "We were gonna go to this place that does karaoke nights, it'll be fun. And you need a break anyway, right?"

Amity shakes her head. She's not good around large groups of people - they remind her of the galas she's always forced to attend, everyone always too close, too oppressive. "Thanks, but I'm too tired tonight."

Luz's expression cycles from disappointed, to thoughtful, to excited, and finally settles on determined. "Then I'll stay here with you."

Willow and Gus glance at each other.

"That's sweet of you," Amity says tentatively, "But you should go with your friends. I'll still be here."

"Actually," says Gus carefully. "I just realized I have something to work on."

"Yeah, we should work in here!" Willow exclaims, just a little too fast, too awkward, and her face flushes red. It hits Amity all of a sudden - they're trying to accommodate her. Luz's friends are trying to keep her company.

She guesses it would be rude to refuse. Plus, she's kind of going stir-crazy on her own.

"Oh," she says. "Yeah, I don't mind. The couch is a little tight, though."

That's when Luz charges at her and vaults over the back of the sofa, momentum carrying her so that she slams into the cushions right in front of Amity. The girl almost rolls off the sofa, but manages to steady herself at the last second, hoodie askew. Amity just stares at her (why is she even surprised at this point).

Luz smirks, which is not an expression that belongs on her face. "Stole the couch."

"Wow," says Gus.

 

Amity finds she likes Luz's friends. Gus is very into Dungeons and Dragons. Willow talks about botany. Both of them are kind - different from what Amity's used to, but good different. It puts her at ease.

And fine, maybe she's eventually drawn into their conversation. Doesn't mean anything. It especially doesn't mean anything when Amity closes her laptop and starts to commiserate with Willow about how terrible the food on campus is. Nope.

She doesn't miss the way Luz lights up whenever she says something. It annoys her, and she doesn't know why, and that just annoys her more.

"It's, like, doughy," says Willow, situated on the carpet in front of the couch with pillows and blankets. "Pretty sure I'm going to get food poisoning one of these days." Amity barks out a laugh.

"Doughy stuff can be good," Luz notes. "Cookie dough is good. And empanada dough."

Willow wrinkles her nose. Gus frowns. "That's... kinda gross."

"No, it's not," says Luz.

"Yeah, it is," says Amity. Luz stares at her with a betrayed expression, which she ignores, snickering.

Gus smirks and continues typing up his first draft. Amity opens her laptop back up to do the same, only for Luz to reach over and close it. "Uh uh uh. It's night time. Essays are bad for your sleep, you know."

"What are you, my mom?" Amity snaps, though there's really no bite to it. "Gus is doing the exact same thing."

"Yeah, but Gus isn't the person I wanna go ice skating with tomorrow morning."

"Jeez guys, flirt somewhere else?" Gus says. Willow giggles.

Amity scoffs. "Like I'd waste my pickup lines on her." Maybe she would, though. Because Luz looks really good in the fuzzy light of the room - her hair is kind of wispy, and the soft blue light of her phone accentuates her smile in a weird, ethereal way. So yeah, maybe Amity thinks Luz is attractive.

But she doesn't have time to contemplate whether or not that's problematic, because Luz actually looks sort of upset. Crap.

"I was kidding, Luz," she explains softly, wondering how she messed up this early.

A slow grin spreads across her face, though. "So you would waste your pickup lines on me."

"Screw you," says Amity, though she exhales in relief afterwards when Luz giggles.

Willow and Gus doze off fast. Luz, in the meantime, shows no signs of slowing down. Her fingers fly across her phone's keyboard, and she wonders, briefly, who is texting her this late. Who's making her look like that, brow furrowed, mouth downturned-

"Luz, are you okay?" she blurts.

Luz blinks up at her. "Uh huh," she says. It doesn't sound right, but she lets it go.

 

The next morning, Luz's friends are still there. Amity's set her alarm for 9 AM sharp, and she manages to share a quick breakfast with them and Luz. She's pretty sure the Cheerios are stale, but it's whatever. It turns out Luz and Gus are the only morning people at the table, and they chatter to each other while Willow and Amity sit there with their heads dipping towards the table.

"Mmmrgh," says Willow to Amity, who nods understandingly.

"Liven up, buttercup!" Luz exclaims. Amity's head snaps up from her cereal bowl so fast her head spins. "How are we gonna skate if you're falling asleep?"

"What did you just call me?" she asks. There's a feeling in her gut like a tensed string, and it's odd but not entirely unpleasant.

"Uh... buttercup?" her roommate replies, squinting at her. "It's like a flower, and also the name of a Powerpuff Girl-"

Amity blinks and shakes her head, attributing it to sleep. "No, I know what a buttercup is. I'm just- tired. Sorry."

"Awww, Amity Blight? Apologizing to me?" Luz teases. Amity groans.

The ice skating rink is barely a quarter of a mile away, so they leave one set of keys with Gus and walk all the way there. It's barely ten AM, but there's already little kids running towards the entrance, breaking apart from disgruntled parents and laughing siblings. That's when she starts to get a little nervous.

The sky is blank white, the kind that signals precipitation, but she's still surprised when a single snowflake lands on the back of her gloved hand.

She stops to watch as the pattern melts into the material. "Amity?" Luz asks, slowing to a stop and turning around.

"It's snowing," says Amity reverently.

Luz blinks at her.

She somehow feels the need to justify herself as she speedwalks to catch up with Luz. "It's just- it didn't snow where I'm from. But my parents would let me and my siblings go on ski trips alone sometimes. To different places. That's why I like it."

When she looks over, there's a smile on Luz's face.

It's the kind of fond smile that her ex-girlfriend used to give her before everything went wrong. It's the kind of smile that crinkles up the corners of her eyes, says, Hey, I like you with a crooked little tilt. It's the kind of smile that makes little gremlins do cartwheels in her stomach. The only difference is that this is not a girlfriend, and Luz doesn't like her. And she doesn't like Luz. Okay. Whew.

"That's cute," Luz drops casually, and Amity feels like she got hit by a train. Wow, she needs to sleep more.

They step through the sliding doors and make it past the reception. Luz wobbles around on her skates like she has no control over her feet, but when they get onto the ice it's Amity who's falling all over herself.

The scene goes like this:

Amity loses control and falls backwards onto the ice, except she doesn't, because-

Luz catches her mittened hands with her own, and Amity can feel the warmth through the fabric, and-

She's yanked up from the ice, and their noses kinda boop together, and they're barely an inch apart, but-

Luz laughs and says, "That was weird!" and Amity's face grows unreasonably warm as she snaps back to reality. She thinks maybe Luz is a witch or something, because she feels feverishly hot. 

So maybe Luz doesn't let go of her mittened hand as they skate around the rink. Maybe Amity falls, like, seventy-five times and gets angrier every time, and maybe it disintegrates when Luz makes a dumb joke or says something stupidly encouraging like, you'll get it! 

And when they trip out of the sliding doors laughing, and Luz asks her if she wants to go get lunch, Amity says, yeah, okay.

It's just a one-time thing, after all.

 

Luz brings her ramen noodles on the nights that she's studying. Luz plays overly-enthusiastic bubble pop when they're together, but won't show Amity the rest of her playlist. Luz watches Azura with her and comments on every single design choice. Luz goes to Sephora with her and Amity can't stop laughing at the stupid things she says. There's times where she can't decide whether to say go away or please stay, and she realizes the awkward medium in between is a good feeling.

If Amity falls for her, she doesn't realize it.

Now she's spending almost every night with Luz in their cramped little flat on their cramped little street, and she's still not sure how she feels about that. Okay, she thinks sometimes, after nights tucked into the couch, this has gone too far. But she never really acts on that feeling, and she doesn't think she ever will.

There's a sense of mounting dread in the air as the looming semester grows closer and closer. Week by week, they inch towards hell again.

And more and more often, she gets the sense that her roommate is not okay.

She walks into the kitchen one morning after a study session with Luz's friends. Willow and Gus are gone, and she's alone in the room with Luz.

The blinds are open, tossing sunlight across the floor. The sticky notes are still on the fridge, a colorful if haphazard tapestry of paper. Luz is shaking a saucepan back and forth, stirring it occasionally with a wooden spoon. It smells like scrambled eggs.

The light falls across her face through the slits in the blinds. She hasn't noticed Amity, too busy with the food, tongue poking out in concentration. It's rather picturesque for the shitty little kitchen in her shitty little flat, but she's not complaining.

It doesn't take long for her to notice that it's not the kitchen she's staring at.

Brown eyes flick over brown cupboards and then over to Amity, who freezes. She's no film major, but she can imagine how this would play out in a movie scene: The camera pans to Amity Blight, who gets caught staring at her roommate, Luz Noceda. The cheery music stops. Awkward silence ensues, and the scene cuts to a shot of Luz leaving the apartment.

That's not what happens.

Luz smiles weakly and says, "Hey, Amity." In a voice that's too dead to be quite Luz, and Amity steps forward tentatively and Luz turns the stove off. Her phone buzzes. It's her mom. She presses the red button viciously, cutting the ringer off.

"You ignored the call," Luz notes. "You never do that."

"Well, I'm doing it now," Amity mutters. Seriously, enough is enough. "You okay?"

She's always gotten the sense that Luz isn't always the type of person who expresses herself through her words. Luz is tactile - she brushes past, nudges, slings her arm around people's shoulders, high fives her every time they pass each other. Luz draws in crayon swirls and charcoal stories, and maybe that's one of the things Amity likes about her. Maybe. Possibly.

Denial, sings a voice in her head, but an idea starts to formulate in her mind. It's not a comfortable one, but it's a damn good one.

"I'm fine!" says Luz. "Wanna get ice cream at 4?"

"You're an awful liar," Amity checks her nails, even though they're immaculate as usual, trying to work up the nerve to just do it.

Luz just stands there and doesn't say anything, which is awkward and so unlike her that Amity decides she has to. DO IT OR THE EGGS ARE GOING TO BURN, Amity tells herself. So she does. She steps forward and wraps Luz in a hug.

She barely has time to register what she's doing when Luz drops like a sack of potatoes. Amity goes down with her, and they crash against the oven door. Luz has her face buried into Amity's shoulder and Amity has no idea what the fuck is going on, but she figures it's at least polite to ask.

"Um," she says intelligently. "Luz?"

"Mfsmfdfmffm," says Luz.

"I... literally can't understand what you're saying," Amity responds gently, even though this is the least ideal position ever. Not because Luz's conditioner smells like jasmine. Definitely not because there's 0 distance between them.

(She convinces herself it's the hard kitchen floor under her)

Luz pulls away. Amity can still feel the ghost of her face on her collarbone.

"My mom's girlfriend got kidnapped by her sister," says Luz. Okay. That is not what Amity was expecting to hear. Then again, this is Luz. "She's been missing for weeks. They haven't found her."

"Wait," Amity says, trying to wrap her mind around this. "Why didn't you tell me all these days?"

"I didn't want you to worry!" Luz exclaims, expression sincere with something that Amity can't quite identify. "You're always so calm all the time and I'm-" She exhales hard, glancing away towards the sticky-note covered fridge. "Just a mess. You know I'm almost failing American Lit?"

"You're not a mess," Amity says sharply, grabbing her hands and wow her hands are soft and wow this is not the time. "Luz, you said she's been missing for weeks? You've spent most of that time at home with me. How did you-?"

It hits her that this is the first time she's called this place home. She doesn't dwell on it, though. She's not sure she could handle that right now.

"I don't know, I guess I've just been ignoring it," Luz groans. "Ami, I don't know what to do."

Amity doesn't know what to do either.

But she says, "We'll figure it out." and pulls Luz closer to her, her roommate's head fit into the crook of her neck. They stay like that for a while, tucked into each other on the kitchen floor, and that's when she realizes the steady thrum of her heartbeat doesn't quite feel platonic.

Fuck.

There's a pause, during which Amity reconsiders every single life decision she's ever made.

"I think I wanna go home," says Luz, and what feels like an arrow lances through her heart.

"If that's what you need," Amity replies. She doesn't like it, but she understands. And if this is what helps Luz become herself again, then she's all for it.

 

Luz leaves on the last day of December.

The sky is painfully blue, and it's snowing, just like that rose-tinted morning when they went ice skating.

Amity stands there in boots and her comfiest jacket. It doesn't make her any less cold.

When Luz boards the bus, she smiles back at Amity, gives her a frenzied wave, and she swears her heart stops.

The apartment's not quite the same after that.

But university starts, and she gets busy again. She hangs out with Willow and Gus, just like before, and realizes she doesn't have to do it alone. Gus tells her story after story about the crazy misadventures they got into as kids, and she laughs until her stomach hurts.

She teaches herself to brew perfect tea. She goes on long, winding walks when she can, stopping when the cold air starts to hurt her lungs. She learns to make not-half-bad empanadas, even if the sticky notes on the fridge remind her of Luz. Slowly, Amity learns to live with herself again.

Of course, that doesn't stop her from blasting Girl in Red at 2 AM while she's doing coursework. It doesn't stop her from thinking about the (figurative) ghost in her apartment.

Luz texts her every day with pictures: hey amity, whats new?

I like you, is what Amity wants to type. She never quite manages to hit the Send button, though.

She gets a call one day, and when she picks up, it's Luz's voice over the phone, talking so fast she can barely understand the words.

"You're gonna have to slow down," says Amity.

"They found her," breathes Luz. "She's okay."

Her heart starts to beat faster, an erratic tap tap tap in the depth of her chest.

"Luz, that's fantastic," she says, and she means it. "So that means-"

"I'm coming home," Luz says. "Yeah."

Amity frowns. "But- you are home."

Luz laughs, and wow Amity missed that sound. "No, silly. I meant our home."

She's going to fucking combust. She's going to melt into the kitchen floor and Luz is going to come home to a puddle of Amity.

"I adore you ," she wants to say.

Except she doesn't. She says, "Cool. See you soon." And hangs up the phone. And throws it against the wall.

Chapter Text

Luz (10:30 AM): im coming home on feb 12th

Your text was not delivered.

Luz (3:21 PM): omg what

Your text was not delivered.

Luz (9:03 PM): i guess you can't see these then

Your text was not delivered.

Luz (1:02 AM): don't watch azura without me!

Your text was not delivered.

Luz (3:32 AM): i miss you

Your text was not delivered.

 

It's freezing inside the apartment.

"Heating's broken right now," says Ivy, when Amity complains. "Please don't whine about it."

She looks worn and tired, so Amity decides to defer to her. The semester's really amping up, after all, and everyone on the campus has this sort of look to them - ragged and sleepy, like the world's slowed by a few degrees. Maybe a few months ago she would've harassed her about it, but now the thought just makes her feel guilty.

"Can I use the landline?" she asks instead. She's shivering slightly in the January cold, and she hopes that if she looks pathetic it's at least enough to get her a free call.

"You better not put silly putty on it," the RA says, brown eyes narrowed.

"Why would I- never mind," Amity shakes her head. "Just let me use it. Please."

The girl regards her for a moment, glaring, and pops her gum. "Okay. Fine. But I get to walk you."

She stomps past Amity in her combat boots, probably waking up everyone on the second floor. Amity rolls her eyes and follows her.

When they reach the RA's office, Ivy (surprisingly) stays outside to give her some privacy.

She takes a deep breath. Exhales the tension out of her lungs, fast. She doesn't know how to handle the nerves sometimes when they're like this, gnawing at her gut in the way that only one person can cause - it won't be easy, but she's gotten this far.

Amity dials the number. The phone is cold against her ear.

"Hello," She waits for the voice on the other end of the line.

"Amity," her mother says without missing a beat, tone thin and cold. "I don't recognize this number. Lost your phone?"

She thinks of long walks in weak winter sunlight. She thinks of ice under her blades, frost on the kitchen windows. The fear in her stomach unravels ever so slightly. It's not enough, but - it's enough.

"Broke it," she replies. "Surprised?"

Her mother's quiet for a moment, leaving Amity with just the starburst rush of adrenaline in her veins. "Was that sass?"

"Nah," says Amity. Her mother waits for her to say more, but she doesn't.

"What- what is this new plebeian language, Amity? Did I not raise you to use your vocabulary? Are you unable to do better than that? Are you that pathet-"

"Shut up," Amity snaps, and she's almost surprised by the sudden swell of rage that shows up in her chest. Her mom's not just insulting her; she's pretending she's above everyone else, too, and that's a façade she's done with. "Or I'm telling everyone what you said about Chairman Belos."

"You would drive our reputation even lower, Amity?" the woman asks. "After what you said at the Summer Gala?"

"If telling the boy trying to hit on me that I'm gay was wrong," Amity says, deadpan, though her heart's nearly beating out of her ribcage. "Then maybe you're just inviting the wrong people, mother."

There's a long silence, like a string about to snap, and she thinks, I fucked up, I'm dead, put me in the ground-

"Fine," her mother says. "But this attitude will not stand. Fix it. I will send you a phone."

She holds the receiver away from her face and releases a long, relieved breath, then pulls it back towards her. "Yes, mother. You know my address?"

"Of course," the lady says contemptuously. "I keep tabs on all of my projects."

Amity says nothing.

"Your father says he loves you," she continues, doesn't add the I love you after it.

Amity doesn't say it back. Instead, she slams the phone back onto the handset and says, "Fuck you," loud enough that Ivy jumps away from the doorframe. There's an aching dent of what seems like fearprideache sandwiched between her ribs, and she exhales, hard, to try and dislodge the feeling.

It's not like this has been a quick process; but she thinks she's making progress, now that there's no longer saltwater in the wound.

Ivy blinks at her when she strides outside, and Amity raises an eyebrow like, yeah?

"Cool hair," Ivy says. "We have movie nights on Fridays in the rec room. Invite your friends."

"What-" Amity starts, but the girl's already down the hall, yelling at some errant freshmen about Super Soakers in the apartments.

She commits it to memory, and then she goes to her flat and cries.

 

Some days, her mother's voice is still the loudest thing in her head. But it's more muffled now, faded just slightly behind a hundred new rose-tinted memories.

The package with her phone arrives a week later. There's a little slip of paper attached, so snugly fit between the layers of packaging that Amity wouldn't have found it if she hadn't known to look. It doesn't say anything, but there's two green hearts inked into the corner. She swipes the back of her hand across her eyes and dials her sister's number.

 

Movie night is different. Ivy has a strict no-drinks policy ("What's the point of the movie if you're just gonna get shitfaced?"), but Willow manages to sweet-talk a senior into sneaking them a few. God, she loves her friends so much- no, Luz's friends, she reminds herself. Except Willow elbows her playfully as she makes a sarcastic comment, and Gus tries to convince a junior that this is actually all a dream, and she realizes that huh, maybe this is fine too.

The movie is terrible. She enjoys every minute of it.

"Ping pong next Wednesday?" Ivy asks, blocking their way out with one arm. She's glancing up and down in an odd way and wait, holy shit-

"Are you going to let us out if we say no?" Willow counters, as Amity glances, wide-eyed, between them.

"I mean, yeah," the girl says incredulously. "Do you know how buff you are? You could probably drop me in one hit."

"Uh... that's not exactly what I meant," Willow says. "But sure, I'll come."

"Sick," she drawls, taking her palm off the doorframe. "You're a botany major, right? Bring me flowers."

Willow blushes violently and shoulders past her. Amity smirks.

"Bring me flowers," Gus mimics once they're out of earshot, and Willow glares at him.

It's only once she gets back to the flat that she realizes she forgot to text Luz. Her phone is lying on her bed. A square of moonlight from the window frames it almost perfectly, and Amity can't help but think of her voice, swathed in blue light, describing props and setup and shots to her like it was easy as breathing.

And so the scene goes like this:

The girl stands in a dark, empty room, enclosed in moonlight.

She picks her phone up, fingers hovering over the right digits. She knows the number by heart.

But the girl is afraid, so she goes to Instagram instead.

Luz has posted three things:

  1. A picture of her dog.
  2. A picture of her mom.
  3. A picture of herself, captioned with a very specific line.

It's unfiltered. She's slouched against the wall like she always is. Amity narrows her eyes, reading and rereading the quote until the words seem to blur together.

"'With someone by your side, or without.' -Hecate"

That quote hasn't come up in the show yet. It's definitely not in the books.

A headache pounds at the back of her vision, low and pulsing but definitely there. No- it's more likely that Luz just found the quote online, because Luz - sweet, kind, honest Luz - would never watch episodes without her. She knows how much the show means to Amity.

But, as usual, she's overthinking everything.

Amity turns off her phone, puts it under her pillow, and brews herself the perfect cup of tea. The realization comes when she's staring down at the dregs in her cup, caffeine pooling around the bottom.

She switches the light in her room on and grabs the phone out from under the pillow. She has this somewhere, she knows it-

On Netflix, she searches: The Good Witch Azura 2: Field of Deadly Fate.

Skipping to around 40 minutes in, she finds it. She doesn't know how she forgot this line - or this movie. On the screen: Hecate and Azura, facing off as always, a flaming grudgby ball situated on the dewy field between them. When the whistle blows, Azura's carried away by thick vines and crashes hard onto the field. Hecate gains a point.

"You think you can win?" Hecate asks Azura, standing over her, and the sun cuts a shadow across part of her face. "You think being undefeated is something you can learn?"

"Well, yes," the green-haired witch pushes herself up to her feet. "It's why you never lose."

Hecate and Azura regard each other for a long moment, and Hecate places a hand on Azura's shoulder, and says, "That's not it. I believe that the most important thing to learn, first, is how to live."

Azura has a wary look on her face. "That sounds more like life advice than sports advice."

"It's the art of being equally at home in a castle or a cottage," says Hecate, ignoring her. "There exist people in the world who are just as comfortable with a prince as with a pauper. It's not about the place, or the people, always; it's about-"

"Having a home in your own heart to come back to," Amity finishes, because she remembers, now.

"I'm not joining your Coven, Hecate," Azura scoffs.

"Just take it as friendly advice," says Hecate. "Learn how to be, Azura, with someone by your side or without, and you will learn how to win."

"With someone by my side, or without," Azura echoes grudgingly, and that's when Amity pauses the movie, a chill going down her spine.

Her head really hurts.

Amity (1:02 AM): Hey. Broke my phone. New number.

She types, I miss you.

Deletes it at the last second.

 

She meets the Twins outside a small coffeeshop near campus.

There's only one outdoor table left, and they've snatched it for themselves with a paper bag between them. There's a third chair, empty, and she slides into it like she belongs there, because, well, it's her family. The good part of her family.

It's cold out, and Emira makes fun of Amity's jacket until she threatens to get up and leave.

"So," says Edric. "Heard you told mom to fuck off."

"I never said that," Amity scoffs, even though she kind of did.

"Uh huh," Emira says. "So, what's been going on with you? Same old?"

Amity thinks of responding sarcastically: yeah, you know me, partying, movie nights- except all those things are kind of true, now, and she's never been that great at lying to the Twins. So she's honest as she says, "Just hanging out. Waiting for my roommate to get back."

"Roommate," says Edric. "Who's this roommate?"

"Ugh," she groans. "Are you gonna be weird about this?"

"Mhm," says Emira.

"Okay, well," Amity starts, and she hasn't thought about Luz for a while, but the memories come rushing back as soon as it comes up. "She's... crazy. Kind of. But the good kind! Not, like, the running around doing crazy things kind. Well, actually, she does do that a lot- but she's good! A good person. A good friend. And she's at home right now. And she's coming back. Sometime soon. We used to do stuff together. I'm, um, waiting for her."

Then her face flushes as she realizes all that she's said and, well, fuck.

Edric glances at Emira, who cracks a smirk. "Something you wanna tell us?"

"Not a word to anyone," Amity says, trying to sound threatening.

"Like we would ever," says Emira, handing her a napkin-wrapped scone. She takes it grudgingly.

She tells them about makeshift ghost costumes, nights wrapped in couch cushions, cold afternoons made warm. It kind of strikes her, then, how ridiculous she's being, acting like Luz is gone forever when she's literally coming back in a few weeks. It might not be the same, though, she thinks, and tells the Twins the same.

"Huh," says Edric when she finishes.

"Huh? Seriously? I spill my guts to you and that's all you can say?" Amity asks, annoyed.

"Huh," Emira parrots.

"Oh my God," Amity mutters. "Should I just leave?"

"No, it's sweet," Edric notes. "We're happy for you."

"Yeah," Emira nods. "What's her name, though?"

"Not telling you," Amity pushes herself up from the table, tossing the napkin out. "You'll call?"

"Sure, Mittens," Edric waves lazily, and Emira gives her a two-finger salute like she did when they were kids.

It's nice. Her phone buzzes.

Luz (12:23 PM): i missed you

Her breath catches in her chest.

 

Amity checks her phone. She has a few texts from Boscha, who apparently has moved on to harassing professors now, and Skara, who wants to know if she's okay. Someone left their shoe in the hallway. She kicks it to the side as she unlocks the door.

"Hey!" says Luz from the kitchen doorway.

"Hi," says Amity absently, turning to drop her bag when she stops in her tracks.

She whirls around, eyes wide, and all she can think is-

Oh my God.

It's Luz.

Beautiful, funny, cute, smart Luz who feels like home. Luz who won't show Amity her Spotify playlist. Dumbass Luz who left crayon notes on her fridge what seems like ages ago. Luz who has bags under her eyes now but seems happier than ever, the tired slump of her shoulders turned into a confident lean. Luz with the ruffled hair and rumpled clothes and reckless abandon.

Luz who she Missed, so much, with a capital M.

She's wearing her stupid fucking bunny slippers and her stupid fucking indigo hoodie and she's missing one earring. Amity might faint or die or something but she can't because there's a lump in her throat and moisture in her eyes, and Luz fucking Noceda is in her apartment.

Said girl looks to her left, then her right, like there's someone else in here that Amity might want to stare at like an idiot, and says, "Yeah, so, I'm home. What's up, roomie?"

"I," says Amity, then swallows, throat dry. "You-"

"Me," says Luz, casual, but with a tremor in her voice. "Do I get a hug?"

Something pricks behind her eyes, and her stomach swoops, and something wells up in her, heavy and warm. "I'm- happy you're back."

Luz's eyes widen, and she says, "Really?" like she really can't believe that Amity Blight missed her, and Amity sprints forward, closes the gap between them and wraps her in the tightest hug she possibly can, and Luz wraps her arms around her, and-

Amity pulls back and says, "I can cook now," and Luz says, "No way!" all incredulous and Amity responds, "Yeah, I can-"

"I missed you," Luz says like she can't quite believe it, and Amity doesn't say it back because she's a coward except-

Luz pulls her back in for another hug, and Amity tears up midway through it, but-

She thinks, this. Please.

She drops the hug, reluctantly, and floats her fingers down to grab Luz's hand. Keep it platonic, she tells herself, and says, "Let me make you dinner."

 

"You know how to do it now," Luz notes, watching Amity knead her fingers through the empanada dough. There's a tiny, smug smile on her face. It's not a look that Amity can handle.

"I taught myself," Amity says, then catches Luz's expression, grinning. "Stop making that face."

"Nope," Luz teases. "You taught yourself how to make empanadas for meeee, don't deny it, you love meeee and you wanna marry meeeee."

Amity's face flushes deep red, and she almost drops the dough on the floor as she stumbles back, stammering excuses about needing to go to the restroom or get some fresh air or something, and Luz laughs and waves her off like she legitimately has no idea she's lying. She staggers out to the hallway, takes a few deep breaths, then goes back inside.

Luz asks her where she went, and Amity says nowhere, and she doesn't pry.

When Luz takes a bite out of the food, her eyes light up. She looks like someone just handed her the moon. Amity would if she could.

The next morning, Luz burns the eggs. Amity wants to kiss her. She plates it anyway and flops down in front of her, cross-legged, to eat it and Amity, ridiculously, wants to cry.

Luz goes out again. Luz starts keeping more regular class hours, coming home at around the same time she does. Luz studies with her. Luz is Luz, honest and bright and Amity falls for her hard.

And nothing really changes. Amity takes wandering walks and hangs out with Ivy and Gus and Willow. Amity ditches Boscha. Amity studies and blasts music and cooks for her roommate every Tuesday night. Except it kinda does change, because now Luz is there by her side, pointing out weirdly-shaped leaves on long walks, or complaining at textbooks, or watching Azura with her.

They have signals now, too, wordless ones for the days that neither of them feel up to talking. Tap my elbow, and I'll hold your hand. Tap my shoulder, and I wanna do something together. Tap my palm, and I'll lean into you.

It doesn't actually take long before her friends notice. Amity's sitting in a beanbag chair during Movie Night, and Luz (unintentionally?) brushes the back of her shoulder with her hand. Amity jumps, like, a foot in the air. Gus notices, almost falls off of the armchair he's in.

"See? I called it," her RA mumbles smugly.

Amity's still kind of out of it, but she manages, "Called what?"

"Oh my god, you guys are so fucking stupid," Ivy says.

"Be nice," Willow admonishes, and she rolls her eyes.

"Okay, I'll spell it out," Ivy gives a dramatic pause for effect. "You two... are gay."

"No?" But there's a lilt at the end that gives her away, and Ivy picks up on it because she's way too sly for her own good.

Ivy snorts. "Was that a question or an answer?"

Luz flops down onto the beanbag next to Amity then, thankfully saving her from any more grilling. Ivy, who she thought was chill, is annoying when she wants to be. "Hey, gang. What are we talking about?"

"Y-" starts Ivy, but Willow puts a hand over her mouth.

"Video games," says Gus.

"Cool! What movie is this?" she asks, squinting at the screen. "I think we've seen this. Amity, you wanna go?"

"How do you even know she's seen it," Ivy grumbles, apparently still disgruntled.

"She told me," says Luz. Gus gives the glance to Ivy, who yawns and pops her gum like she's over it.

"Okay time to go bye everyone!" Amity snaps before anyone can say anything else, grabbing Luz's hand and leading her out of the rec room.

 

Luz screams when (spoilers) Hecate kisses Azura. Amity almost chokes on her green tea, not just because this is the scene she's been waiting for since episode 1 (enemies-to-lovers is superior), but because she thinks she's getting the slightest hint of not straight from Luz's reaction. Or maybe it's just her imagination.

She gets her answer sooner than she expected.

She's playing Monopoly with Luz, and Luz is trying to decide whether or not to buy Vermont Avenue, and she clicks her phone on to check her messages but accidentally hits the green button on her Spotify playlist instead.

"I DON'T WANNA BE YOUR FRIEND, I WANNA-" yells Girl in Red. Don't get her wrong, Amity fucking loves Girl in Red, but god damnit, NOW IS NOT THE TIME. She scrambles to grab the phone, pauses it, but it's a little too late for that. Luz's eyes widen. Fuck.

Except she doesn't talk about it. Or even mention it, really. She just drops the dice into Amity's palm. "Okay, I'll pass. Your turn."

A few days later, they're playing poker on the couch and Luz taps a button on her phone. The opening words of Sweater Weather catch her ears, and she blinks.

Luz just shrugs, though, and flashes her a grin. "Thought this was coming out week."

"I hate you so much," says Amity, though butterflies are flip flopping all over her stomach.

"No, you don't," Luz snarks, and she doesn't argue.

 

She decides the least she can do is something nice, for once.

She goes out and buys an ice cream cake (Luz's favorite) and asks the dude at the counter to decorate it with words, and puts it in the fridge when she gets home. Then she leaves their apartment and hopes, prays that Luz will see it. The butterflies in her stomach work overtime, and she pretends not to notice as she browses the hair product aisle at Walgreens.

"Wow, I need a dye job," she says to Skara.

"Yeah, you kinda do," Skara's running her fingers along the hair products to find the right one. Walgreens is almost empty, harsh lighting out of place cutting through the evening sunlight. "What's the color called? It might be in here."

"It's like, aquamarine green, I think? Something like that, I'm not sure," she reaches up for some conditioner, squinting at the overhead lights, but her phone buzzes before her fingers can grasp it. And she pulls the phone out of her pocket because, well, Luz is her first priority whether she wants her to be or not.

Luz (5:43 PM): whos this cake for

"Who's that?" Skara asks.

"My, uh, my roommate," Amity says, distracted with typing out a response.

Amity (5:43 PM): Luz what does it say on the cake.

Luz (5:44 PM): it says hey roomie

Luz (5:44 PM): OH

Luz (5:44 PM): you did this for me

Amity (5:44 PM): Yes?

Luz (5:44 PM): <333333333333333333333333333333333333333333

Amity (5:44 PM): Ew, I knew you would get all weird about it.

Luz (5:44 PM): <33333333333333333333333333333

Amity (5:44 PM): sigh

Luz (5:45 PM): when are u coming homeeee

There's that word again. Luz has to stop.

Amity (5:45 PM): I dunno I'm kinda busy right now.

Luz (5:45 PM): :(

"AMITY!" Skara calls, snapping her out of her reverie. "Think I found your dye." She holds up a riptide-green bottle, shaking it slightly.

"I have to go home right now," says Amity.

Skara raises an eyebrow and holds up the container of hair dye. "Wait, what about your-?"

Amity plucks the bottle from Skara's fingers and glances it over. It's almost exactly the same shade she's worn ever since she was a little kid, a mixture between aquamarine and mint. It's perfect.

"Thanks, Skara," she sets it back onto the shelf gingerly. "But I don't think I need this anymore."

 

Luz shares the cake with her. Their fingers knock together as she helps her with the lid.

Amity falls asleep on the couch and she swears she feels the brush of lips over her forehead and a quiet mumble of a different language, but it fades back into her dreams and when she wakes up she's not sure it even happened at all. Luz left her phone on the carpet, so Amity picks it up and cracks her bedroom door open, tiptoes inside.

It's still dark inside, but the moonlight falls in slits across her face.

Don't stare don't stare don't stare don't stare don't stare-

She sets the phone down on her nightstand, gently.

"Amity?" comes a mutter from under the covers, and she freezes.

"You left your phone in the living room." She should really get mad at her for this because she does it all the time, leaves stuff lying around like crayons or paper or pieces of Amity's heart and soul.

"Thanks," Luz's voice is muffled by her pillow. "5 more minutes."

Amity sits down on the edge of the bed, as far from her roommate as possible. Luz untangles her hand from the blanket and taps her on the arm twice, slowly and sleepily, and Amity threads her fingers through Luz's. It's so familiar to her at this point; makes her go soft all over in a way that she can't quite articulate. She runs her thumb over her knuckles, and it makes her want to break her phone again.

"I'm not gonna wake you up, loser. It's Saturday, remember?"

"Okay," Luz mumbles. "Night."

"Night. Love you," says Amity, and then tenses because it just slipped out, holy shit she's panicking because Luz has talked her ear off time and time again about the romantic implications of Hecazura and there's no way that she of all people thinks this is platonic. Amity always makes jokes about her dumb ass, but Luz is so much smarter than anyone ever gives her credit for.

Except-

"Love you too," says Luz, and her eyes drift closed.

 

 

Amity (5:42 AM): h

Amity (6:38 AM): h s djncxcjke

 

Gus (8:01 AM): r u ok?

 

 

She doesn't get any more sleep that night.

Chapter Text

Azura is on hiatus. It's cold, and Amity hates the cold sometimes.

 

(She huddles in on herself, shivering even under her blankets because the heating's down again and it's, like, below freezing out. "Fuck winter."

"Are you kidding me? I can't believe you just said that," Luz says, reclining against a stack of Amity's pillows. Her eyes light up, and she hops up from her bed. "No, no, I have an idea - wait here." She runs out of the room to do whatever Luz Noceda thing she wants to do now (Amity's given up at this point).

She comes back with dark green wool spilling out between her fingers, holds it out to her with a smug smile. Luz likes sweaters. She wears them chunky or threadbare but hand-knitted, and they get worse with every passing day.

"Oh, hell no," says Amity with a lump in her throat. "Not happening."

"Come on, you'd look good in anything," says Luz, and shoves it into her hands. Inadvertently, Amity closes her fists around the sweater, trapping their fingers together through the wool. "Well, I've never seen that technique before. Making me share my stuff with you just because you wanna hold hands. What happened to elbow taps?"

"Whatever," says Amity, and no, she's not blushing because that would be dumb. She pulls the sweater over her head anyway.

As revenge, she steals Luz's bunny slippers. They're way too comfy, so she kind of just keeps them.)

 

When the cold weather melts away, the last rugby game of the season ends not with a trophy but with a hug.

They didn't really have a chance anyway, with Boscha's endless hubris and the team's general lack of dedication. Selene slouches against a bench, dehydrated and demoralized, and Amity starts over to her, to do what their captain never does and say something that will take the edge off. Except she doesn't get to, because Luz runs up to her from the stands in jeans and a jersey and literally sweeps her off her feet in a hug. She blushes all the way to the tips of her ears and mumbles something incoherent and everyone notices except for the reason why. It's so familiar by now, it doesn't even hurt. Much.

The winter memories form like Polaroid pictures, ending up slightly fuzzy but still warm under her fingertips.

Without a dye job, the roots of her hair start to fade to brown just as the snow does. She had no idea how much she'd missed it, not looking like a budget version of her mother. Reckless, she'd probably say, wild child. But wild children aren't so bad, really.

The second time it happens, she's pretty sure she imagined it.

Luz walks into the kitchen with wispy-messy hair, hops onto the counter like Amity's told her not to a million times, and yawns, "Morning."

"Good morning," says Amity, smile tugging up a corner of her mouth. "Pineapple pizza, right?"

"Yeah, we ordering tonight?" Luz fidgets with the edge of a dish towel.

Amity shrugs, notes the we with not a bit of resistance. "Your taste is gross, but sure." The toast is still in the toaster; she wishes it wouldn't come up at all, so they could have an excuse to stay a little longer. God, she's so screwed.

Luz doesn't even argue with her, really, just kinda sits there with a dopey grin and morning sunlight on her face and says, "Wow, Ami. Still judgy as ever, I guess."

It's perfect. It's horrible. Amity wants to perform a swan dive out the window, so she does a half-glance back and says, "Ha, you know me," like an idiot instead.

"Honestly," says Luz, looking up from the towel and straight at her. Brown eyes meet hers, and Amity lets herself grip the counter's edge a little tighter. "I kinda do."

There's something in the air today, light and static. She takes a tentative step forward to do- something. She doesn't get the opportunity to, anyway. When the toast pops up, they both jump. The name Luz has always been an adventure to her - frenetic, chaotic, fun - except it's never meant awkward, and now her tongue is heavy in her mouth with all the things she could never say and it won't fucking move.

"You should get to class," says Amity, finally, because the alternative to that is I love you which is slightly more embarrassing.

"I'm gonna be so late," Luz agrees, and then she grabs the toast and speedwalks out of the room. "Byeseeyoulaterloveyou!"

"Love..." Amity lets the last syllable drift into silence, and then, when the door closes behind her, she tugs on a strand of brown fading into turquoise and murmurs: "What the fuck."

Though she doesn't have a fever, she convinces herself she does, 'cause there's no way she just heard what she heard. Just like that, this morning never happened.

 

Luz (12:23 PM): (1 image attachment)

Amity (12:49 PM): You look nice

Amity (12:51 PM): Not nice

Amity (12:51 PM): But you look very nice.

Luz (12:52 PM): girl make up your mind?? lmao

Amity (12:54 PM): Gtg.

 

That evening, when she gets home from class, she hears Luz's voice. Which is fine, because it's definitely Gus, or Willow or someone from the rotating cast of people they seem to hang around with these days. Or maybe she's just talking to herself (yeah, she does that sometimes. It's not adorable at all).

"Ami, come meet my mom!" she says, waving her phone around haphazardly, and Amity freezes. "Mami, this is Amity."

She recovers, takes her shoes off, slides onto the couch next to her. Luz shifts closer to her, and at least that's familiar. "Uh, hi."

"Hi!" Luz's mother's face is just slightly out of frame, and the camera wobbles. It's kind of comforting - her own mother uses a fucking tripod for FaceTime calls. "The roommate, right?"

Camila Noceda is inordinately kind, with square-rimmed glasses that do nothing to dampen the smile on her face. Amity can see where Luz gets it from, and she tries not to think about the fact that she's having a conversation with her roommate-turned-crush-turned-something's mom.

"So you're helping Luz with class?" Camila asks.

"Just with American Lit," she finds herself saying. "She's kind of a genius at her major, though, I could never do half of the- Luz, don't look at me like that, you know it's true. It's, uh, nice to meet you, Ms. Noceda." Sorry about the ramble; I might be in love with your daughter, she doesn't add.

"A genius, huh?" Luz's mom finally manages to fit her face into the frame. Amity should be rolling her eyes right now, but she smiles instead. "Mija, you never told me she was so nice, I would have asked to meet her before." There's the sound of a door slamming closed from her end.

"Didn't know she talked about me that often," she dares, stealing a smirk at Luz.

"Oh, she does," says some lady with gray hair who shoves her head into the camera. "All the time. It would be annoying if it wasn't so-"

"Eda!" Luz interrupts excitedly. "You're back?"

"Hah, shop wasn't doing too well today so I just closed up early. On an unrelated note, did you know selling vaguely threatening-looking weaponry is enough to get you arrested?"

The fuck?

"You got what?" Camila pushes back into view and narrows her eyes at Eda. "First you go and get kidnapped by that sister of yours, and now you-"

After it's clear that neither of them are even paying attention anymore, Luz hangs up with a shrug. "Why am I surprised," Amity deadpans. "They're both exactly like you."

"Ha, yeah. I love them," says Luz. She's fidgeting with the hem of her hoodie. She seems to be fidgeting a lot lately. "Hey, we really are a pretty good team, when you think about it, right? Kinda like Azura and Hecate, actually!"

Amity opens her mouth to say where did that come from or hello that was very gay or the worst one of all, yeah we make a great couple when she realizes just how close Luz is to her. She could probably count her eyelashes if. If she was capable of any sort of counting right now.

They've been in this position before, a few hours or weeks or months ago, except this time Amity doesn't shove her away, doesn't do anything except sit there and gaze into Luz's dark-brown eyes like some dumbass in a romcom (god, she hates those so much. some remind her of indigo hoodies and movie nights).

"'Sup," says Luz without moving a single centimeter. She quirks an eyebrow - it's a habit Amity gave her. "You going soft on me, Blight?"

"Uh," says Amity, throat dry, and then she remembers where she is. Roommate. Apartment. Thursday. "In your dreams," she blurts. It comes out sounding flirty instead of mean like she wanted it to, because the entire universe is against her, apparently.

"In my dreams? Really?"

"Shut up," she breathes, but it comes out airy and insignificant-sounding. She feels like she might pass out.

And yeah, okay, she shouldn't be panicking as much as she is because they've been here a thousand times before. Luz and Amity and everything in between, on this little threadbare couch in this place that's supposed to be nothing, a transitional space between college and Blight Manor and everywhere else. But it's the opposite of liminal, and that's what keeps her up at night.

A long time ago, someone called it home.

Amity wants to ask: who was your Instagram caption about.

Amity wants to say: you're such a nerd.

Amity wants to kiss her.

Luz squints like she's trying to puzzle something out, and Amity leans forward to close the gap-

Someone raps on the door, a quick knockknock-knock beat. She falls off the couch. "I'LL GET IT," Amity says, face on fire, and scrambles up across the floor to yank it open, studiously avoiding meeting her roommate's gaze.

At the door is a woman in a tailored suit. She looks innocuous enough, loose black hair tumbling across her shoulders, but one of her knuckles clenches almost white around something. Amity reads body language very well, and this woman is not here because of a lost dog.

"Hi," says Amity. She's a little distracted still, because what the fuck, Amity, you were about to kiss her, what.

"Hello, Ms. Blight," the lady says, and holds a piece of paper out to her. Something cold settles in her stomach, not really at the sight of it as much as the Ms. Blight. "For you."

"We have a mailbox, you know," Amity says, attempting to keep her tone polite, but something about this person puts her on edge so it doesn't exactly work. "You didn't have to climb all the way up here."

"I'm aware of that," the woman smiles. It's tinted sharp. "Your mother wanted this delivered to you personally."

Amity takes it from her grasp. The manila feels cool under the pads of her fingers.

The woman nods to her and leaves. Amity closes the door and flips the letter over.

"Who was that?" Luz asks.

Ms. Amity Blight,

You are formally invited to attend the annual Boiling Isles & Co. Summer Gala on June 16th. Please be sure to wear formal clothing and-

"Oh," she traces the lettering, handwritten in ornate cursive, and her mood deflates a little. Knowing how to prepare for these stupid things comes with being a Blight, but. "Oh."

But it's never really easy.

"Amity?"

Of course she'd find a way to get under her skin like this - even in the place she calls home, she feels fifteen again, surrounded by faces she doesn't know. It's not easy at all. Nothing's ever been easy for her, of course, but this-

"Are you okay?"

And God knows Ed and Em aren't forced to attend these things. Or if they do, they don't have to do anything - they just stand on the sidelines and make their own brands of rebellion, tip whiskey into the punch bowl and get the whole party drunk. Golden children aren't meant to be useful, so they sit there and rust on the shelves.

Amity curls her fingers around it, crushes it to pieces, wishes it was a dream, but shooting stars never brought her anything and neither will this.

"Woah, that letter must be super interesting-"

She drops the now-deformed piece of paper and crumples against the closed door. Luz is at her side in five seconds, holding one hand up like she's waiting for permission. Amity wants to swear like she's never sworn in her entire life. Not because of the stupid gala, but because as much as she ignores calls and takes long walks and lets her hair fade to brown, this letter still brings sickly-green echoes of feeling with it.

"It's not interesting," she says, and her voice caves halfway through. "I don't want it to be interesting." And then she reaches over to tap Luz's elbow.

Luz sinks down next to her, scoots herself closer and holds her hand, and it's so much feeling, all at once, that Amity lets herself start talking.

Underneath the current of her voice, something taps against the window. She spent the first snowfall of winter with Luz; she guesses it would've been weird if she didn't share a rainfall, too.

She doesn't look at her with pity when she's finished, just unlocks Amity's tablet with the passcode she knows by heart and draws her a little picture of a rabbit. Amity names it Otabin and is maybe, possibly, extremely in love with her roommate.

 

When her mother calls the next day, she hands the phone to Luz, who talks to Odalia in rapid-fire Spanish until she hangs up. Amity has no idea what she said, but she does get a lot of angry text messages about it.

 

The third time it happens, it's under quieter circumstances.

Her coursework is over and done with, so she's working her way through another round of the most tedious exam prep ever. It'll end in a few months - she's not sure whether to look forward to that or not. The sun's hidden just below the skyline, and it's orange light that floods the room today. They haven't bothered to turn the lights on yet. Amity has the migraine of all migraines.

There's a brush across her shoulder, and she turns to see Luz with a cup in her hand. It's full of something dark brown and translucent.

"Your favorite," she says, holding out the mug with a smug grin that she should hate.

Their fingers touch on the handle, sending electric tingling down her spine. She takes a sip and groans, "Noceda, I love you," and then nearly drops the green tea because wow, how many times is this going to happen before she stops feeling like someone shoved her face into an incinerator?

"Yeah, I know, you too!" says Luz, leaning forward across the back of the couch. Amity would envy her perpetual ease if she was capable of it. "I just thought I would help you out. I mean, you have everything going on with... you know."

"Ugh, don't remind me," she mumbles, turning back to her notes. It's too dark to read the lettering now. "They could have at least let me finish the year in peace. Turn a light on for me?"

Her roommate reaches out and flips the switch, and Amity winces at the flood of light. "I'm going to give your mom a piece of my mind," she mutters.

"Luz Noceda. Threatening violence. Never thought I'd see the day."

"I don't like how she treats you. It's not right."

"I- Luz, you don't have to worry about that."

"'Course I do. Anyway, I'm sure you'll be able to handle it. I have faith in you."

"I know you do," You always have, she doesn't add. "But things aren't always that easy."

"Come on, Amity," Luz says, leaning over her shoulder to glance at the textbook. "I mean, if you ask me, you're literally like a real-life Azura! With no powers and cooler hair, I guess. If anyone can do it, you can. And I'll help you- you know, if you want me to. Not like I'm gonna force you or anything. We'll fix this thing."

Amity blushes.

I love you, she repeats in her head, IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou, until they don't sound like words anymore. So maybe Operation get-over-Luz is a no-go.

Out loud, she says, "Don't stay up too late, Luz."

It's in the scratch of her ballpoint pen, the TV remote on the carpet, the circle of moisture on the table forming where the mug of tea rests. It's in the little haunts - the dip in the couch where Luz always sits, fluorescent sticky notes falling off a steel fridge. It's the little things that make a place home, and this cramped third-floor flat with no elevator is no exception.

"Only if you stop stealing my bunny slippers," says Luz.

 

So the second semester inches by - she fills out her planner twice and double-checks it, juggles with her coursework, barters for deadlines with unerring professors and comes out generally on top of things. The consequences: lack of sleep and no more Movie Nights. Caffeine is a godsend. So are her friends. They stop through the apartment sometimes, climb three flights of stairs just to say creepy things through the door and scare Luz out of her mind.

But when it comes down to the wire, it's Luz's fingers snaked through her own, sketching out something crude and messy on scrap paper as Amity dials a number she's never called before. It's unfamiliar territory, but Amity's been familiar with unfamiliarity for a while now.

"You're supposed to call your mother," he says, static layering over his voice. "Not me. You still owe her that apology for the way you acted before."

"She's not getting an apology, dad," says Amity. Her grip hasn't grown any looser around the hand in hers. Luz pokes her tongue out in concentration as she carves out another line. "This is about the letter the courier gave me. Remember?"

Another crackle of static - he's sighing into the speaker. "What of it?"

"I just wanted to let you know that, um. I might not be going."

Amity wonders if he's shaking his head right now, disappointed that she's too nearsighted, too mistake-prone. She doesn't know; it's not him she grew up near. She barely saw him at all, holed up in his little study.

"It would be highly frowned upon if you didn't come. I don't know why you have a problem with this all of a sudden. Your mother is adamant."

"Don't I get a choice?"

"Not according to her," her father says, "The Twins are very public about their... affairs. They would never survive these things. And please don't try that little blackmail stunt again. She is already considering disinheriting you if you don't cooperate. Nobody, Blight or not, would trust a girl without knowing there is a family name behind her."

I did, she thinks, just a tad bitterly, running her thumb across rough knuckles.

"See now, Amity. Your mother has connections among the best of the best. She could make life very difficult for you if you don't take these responsibilities seriously. Do you realize that?"

Amity snorts. It's unladylike as fuck, and something she never used to do in public. Her mother would have called her out on it, but her father doesn't complain. "Mom's not part of the mob. She's a socialite."

"I'm not trying to argue with you. I'm just asking you to respect our wishes. I don't want you to have a hard time."

The golden statue's put on a pedestal, but it's the iron that pays for it. She wonders if either of her parents know what it's like to be that child, fourteen years old and flanked by strangers, expected to work a crowd instead of hide on the sidelines.

"That's bullshit," she decides, and Luz huffs a laugh next to her, which kind of wrecks her concentration for half a second. "Look, dad. This isn't what I want. I've gone to your- party things like ten years in a row. Please. I'm done."

"You're a Blight," he says, but he's just reading off a script. It's all he knows how to do. "When we were your age, we attended every gala, every party. This is where you belong."

She narrows her eyes at a wax stain on the floor, fading-blue and just barely there. "I don't think it is."

"Is this really what you want?" A raindrop splashes against the window. "If you don't show up, your mother will do her best to ruin you. You will never get to work under Belos."

"It's always about my mother or money with you," Amity pleads, and her voice strains a little because it feels like she's talking to a brick wall. "Why do you always back her up?"

He's silent for a long time. Luz taps her foot against the carpet, tightens her warm grip while Amity sinks into the couch and waits for him to go off script.

He doesn't say I wanted to or I never had a choice. He doesn't say because she's my priority or because I love her, either, because he's always been an honest man and all four of those statements are lies.

"She might not let you come back home," he says, dodging the question. Very Blightlike of him. "And don't expect any job offers from the coast."

"Sure. Just don't let her disown me or she'll probably toss my stuff."

"Why can't you just come to the gala? I wish you had more faith in me, Amity." It sounds a little like regret. Amity doesn't know whether to be relieved or resigned that he didn't use the word us.

"I don't know how you expect me to have that."

"Well, if it helps. I can tell you more about it."

The form on the paper is starting to take shape. Amity thinks she recognizes something in the sweep of pen strokes, but Luz tucks it back towards herself and she loses sight of it.

"Yeah," she says. "That'd be nice."

That night, she learns a thing or two about Odalia Blight- hair in a bun and the world at her fingertips, who grew out of the concept of kindness the year she stopped spiking the punch. Her high-school sweetheart, stone-hearted Alador, who ended up in an empty manor with the woman he loved and shout-downs in the sitting room he pretends he doesn't see.

And sure, she understands, except some people shouldn't ever be forgiven.

But she learns something about herself, too, as Luz traces patterns on the back of her hand.

The Blights know kindness, and they know power, and they chose the latter because they thought the former brought nothing. Amity knows what power brings, though: stone-edged staring contests in the living room. Anxiety-ridden soirées with strangers. Small, secret meltdowns that end in composed smiles and twice-broken knuckles.

Amity knows what power brings, but she knows kindness, too, and that will make all the difference when she learns how to use it.

So in the end, it's not her father's honeyed words that drive her to agree. When she says, "Fine, I'll be there", he sighs in relief.

She hopes he won't be too pissed off when she's done. Maybe she doesn't really care.

(At some point, Luz finishes her drawing and holds it up to show her. It takes her a moment to see it, but it's undeniably a picture of Amity, hair loose and messy across her shoulders, a hand with black-painted nails holding her phone to her ear. It's sketchy and rough and blotchy in places. Amity finds herself surprised but smiling, blinks something out of her eyes and focuses back in on the call.)

"So... I guess it went good?" she asks, once Amity's hung up and had a few minutes to think about what the hell she's doing here.

"Yup," says Amity, turning to look at Luz. "It went good. Wait, that doesn't sound right."

"Okay, it went well," Luz groans. "Same thing. Jeez, you should beta read my fanfiction or something."

"Didn't know you wrote, too," She lets her eyes stray to the scrap paper on the table. "Is it as good as your Amity Blight fanart?"

"Even better," her roommate promises. "Wait, who said I was a fan of you?"

Amity raises an eyebrow. Luz just does that stupidly attractive thing she does with her face. Wait, no, it's called a smile. God damnit.

 

It's already hit 2 AM by the time she and her dad are done talking. There's too many thoughts in her head to sleep, so Luz takes Amity's car and drives her out far past campus, away from square-edged buildings and modern architecture and suburban sprawl, down winding roads past sketchy woods that probably have serial killers in them. She tells Luz about the time Boscha got into a fistfight with a rival player.

They pass by a streetlamp. Luz's face comes into view under it, the soft glint of her eyes and the curl of her hands around the leather steering wheel, and Amity swallows the feeling down. "You should probably be sleeping," she says. "Not driving around in the middle of nowhere with me. I'm sorry."

"Oh, totally," agrees Luz. "The things I do for you."

"My hero."

Luz winks at her and turns back to the road and Amity thinks that maybe saying that was a bad idea.

Amity has her mother's eyes but just a little bit of her father's doormat personality, and so she rambles something about being done and turns her head to stare out the window. The scenery whirs along beside them, shapeless black forms that are supposed to be trees, and sometimes a sliver of ink-blue sky. Her forehead is pressed against the cool glass, and for a long second it's just the rush of wind and road beside her.

The fourth time it happens is in Amity's car on a starry night.

By the time Luz says it, Amity is already asleep.

(She doesn't know it, but Luz drives for a few more hours. Luz drives until the sun comes up and then she pulls into the parking lot near their building and passes out right there.)

Amity wakes up in the car the next morning with a bad taste in her mouth, and there's a seatbelt across her shoulders and a hand in hers.

 

Amity (2:42 PM): When does ur lecture end? I bought banana bread

Luz (2:42 PM): hehe soon im on twitter rn

Luz (2:42 PM): omg this malingazura shipper is trying so hard to convert me pls i am a multishipper??

Amity (2:43 PM): LMAO PAY ATTENTION SMH

Luz (2:43 PM): u pay attention

Luz (2:43 PM): to me

Amity (2:44 PM): That's all I do loser

Luz (2:45 PM): haha u love me

Amity (2:45 PM): God not this again

Amity (2:45 PM): But sure and also pay attention

Luz (2:46 PM): fine

 

Amity (2:50 PM): Malingazura sucks tho

Luz (2:51 PM): AMITY

 

"Truth or dare," says Luz, on a day in mid-April. There's a thousand things Amity should be doing right now, and she can't bring herself to do any of them. Her priority is sitting on the rug in front of her.

It's too hot on the back of her neck where her hair cut off before, and she wishes for like the 30th time tonight that she had a hair tie or something. But turning on the light to go get one would kinda ruin the vibe - she gets that.

"Truth?" she says, a little tentatively, but she's pretty sure Luz won't ask anything incriminating.

"Who's the person you like?" Luz asks. Never mind, yup, there it is. Amity's thankful for the dim blue light, because she's pretty sure she's a tomato right now. What is this, high school? Fuck's sake.

"You think I have time for crushes?" Bullllshiiittt, her brain says.

Luz just waits expectantly, sitting back on her hands and giving her that look that drives her crazy because it always works.

"It's you," says Amity casually, half to see if she calls her out on it and half because she wants her to. She tries not to notice the way Luz's eyebrows knit together before smoothing out.

"Riiight," There's a noise, fabric against fabric, as Luz shifts on the carpet. "No, really."

"You know what, I changed my mind. Dare."

"Heh, like that'll stop me. Text your crush right now."

"Okay," says Amity, because it's midnight, she's tired of this, and Luz doesn't quite seem to get it. She's faced down Odalia Blight and everything else the universe has thrown at her, so she can handle this like an adult. "Sure." She braces herself and hits Send.

Amity (12:18 AM): hi

Luz laughs and turns off her phone, dousing the room in almost total darkness once again. Amity's strangely relieved because, well, as odd as it is to laugh when someone tells you they like you, she'll take it over disgust. Except- "You could've just said you didn't want to tell me! You didn't have to text me."

Amity thinks: holy fuck???

"Truth or dare," she says. And her voice comes out steady, because even if she agonizes over Luz more than her grades, this is still firmly under her control. (Besides the times she's turned into a rambling mess. Those never happened.)

"Truth, duh."

"Scared?" Amity teases, and decidedly doesn't watch her trace figure-8 patterns on the floor.

"No, I'm just too lazy to do daring stuff right now."

So Amity holds her breath and bites the bullet. "Who do you like?"

Luz pauses and just as Amity's beginning to breathe through the airless moment, she says, "Azura."

Amity waits a moment, torn between laughing and somehow keysmashing out loud, before replying, "Azura isn't even real."

"She is to me!"

"Okay, you don't have to tell me," Amity mimics in her best impression of Luz's voice, but she gets the feeling she's missing something here. She's just not exactly sure what it is.

 

She's blasting some very gay music when she realizes it's not entirely plugged into her phone.

"Yeesh," Luz sets her juice box down. "You pining or something? Who is it?"

Amity plugs her stupid earbuds all the way in.

 

Basically, the situation's like this:

  • Amity's things have always been sequestered away from her roommate's, but now there's a stray sock on the couch and one of her textbooks is on the coffee table.
  • Luz draws her on a napkin when she thinks Amity isn't looking, and Amity steals the napkins when she thinks Luz isn't.
  • It's always fun with her. And hey, if she's a coward, at least she's enjoying it.
  • The end of the year approaches like an oncoming storm.

So when Luz studies, bent over the coffee table, Amity almost tells her, aware of the press of time on either side of them, but the words stick in the back of her throat and don't come out after that.

At some point, they marathon Azura. There's a sort of cruel irony in the way Luz immediately points out the tenderness Azura has for Hecate in the episodes leading up to their kiss, or the way Koro interlaces their fingers with Malingale's, and then doesn't notice the way Amity never lets go of her hand.

She shoves the sense of urgency to the side and focuses on finals. Her plan for the gala comes together easily enough. It's not half as complicated as the knot in her chest.

These days, it's all rewatches and seventy-degree nights and (possibly) unrequited love. Amity can't say she minds.

Luz flips the calendar to June. Amity holds her hand and helps her study and does everything but kiss her.

Chapter Text

Things reach a boiling point. In the end, all it comes down to is fight or flight. Tell her, or keep going with this, and Amity can't keep going like this. So she runs, both literally and metaphorically.

In the mornings, she leaves early and sprints laps on campus, when dew-slicked grass is still dripping onto the track. In the evenings, she doesn't come home. She goes to the grocery store or the library or the nearby mall. Sometimes, she'll go to one of the campus greenhouses and breathe in the warm air there. Willow comes with her sometimes, and usually doesn't pry.

She feels bad about it, so she leaves sticky notes on the counter every morning with little doodles. She almost has a heart attack when she comes home and the doodle of Luz she's left on the counter has a full-color Amity standing next to it, flashing a peace sign. It goes straight into her dresser drawer and she tries not to look at it.

 

Luz (5:46 PM): i miss u! :l wanna get dinner sometime?

 

One day, Willow's crouched over some violently pink orchids, fiberglass throwing malachite shadows across her face, and she says, "People usually come here to look at plants, Amity."

"Yeah. Same, here for the plants," lies Amity, the back of her hand gliding across a fern. When she pulls her hand away, there's a few droplets of water on her knuckles. She doesn't shake them off.

Willow looks up and narrows her eyes, so Amity lets her own gaze slide away towards the roof. "They don't usually come here to hide."

"Hiding? Me? Ha, no, I'm just..." but she trails off, because she realizes just as quickly as she says it that she kinda is, has been for a long time now. "Waiting."

Sitting on the dirt on the other end of the greenhouse, Ivy snorts and swipes her thumb across the screen of her phone. "Waiting for what?" Willow prompts.

"Just waiting." What else is she supposed to do, she's tried, it's not like she's been sitting around staring at her and waiting for her to pick up on it.

Tell her? Her brain supplies.

(Which, unhelpful, okay, she's not gonna go and tell some girl who's described her as a friend like 39 times that Hey, I've been in love with you for a little while!)

Willow straightens, scrunches her nose up like she's encountered a particularly hard biology problem, and grabs a rusty watering can from a shelf. She doesn't need to say anything; Amity gets the point. But that's the nice thing about Willow. She asks the hard questions without really asking them.

Ivy is kind of the opposite, unfortunately. "Amity, you're a dumbass. Willow, what are these?"

"Ooh, those are chrysanthemums!" she says while Amity opens and closes her mouth like a fish, crossing over to see them more clearly. "They're so cute! I won't be there to see them bloom, though, they flower in July-"

The shadows lengthen, and almost unconsciously, her phone is in her hands.

Amity (5:52 PM): I'm at the greenhouse with willow. I've been kind of busy.

It's true, but not true enough to be honest.

Luz (5:52 PM): got it wait r u into plants now?? :o cuz my mom is too u 2 should talk sometime ima give you her number

Amity (5:52 PM): OH

Amity (5:52 PM): Okay

Luz (5:52 PM): >:)

When she gets back from the chrysanthemums, Willow places a hand on her shoulder and says, "Look. Luz isn't really- sensitive to this stuff. And it's not like you were the friendliest to her the first time you guys met, either. It's hard to tell sometimes. You wanna let her know, right? Bring her a flower from here, or something. I have some that I can give you."

"Seriously?" For the first time, Amity's less than grateful for the way she doesn't mince her words. Because now she'll sound dumb saying anything other than, "Okay, I'll... try to do my best. Thanks, Willow."

"No, I'm not done," Willow says, turning to some other type of flower Amity doesn't know the name of. "Ami, my motto used to be out of sight, out of mind, too. But that didn't work at all. The problem was still there when I got back. Sometimes you just have to rip off the band-aid."

"What she said," Ivy turns her phone off (whoa, that's a first). "Get her those flowers. Like Bolin with Korra!"

"He got his heart broken," Amity points out. "Not the best comparison."

"Well, at least he did it," Ivy rolls her eyes. "Also, irrelevant. As long as you go for it, you'll be fine. Like, I know it's hard, but you gotta make the words come out of your mouth. You got this."

"I did not understand those references," Willow says. "But, yeah, Amity. Tell her. If you want."

Ivy yawns. Amity makes a mental note to do something really nice for her friends sometime.

Before they leave, Willow presses it into Amity's palm with a, "See you later!" and an encouraging smile.

She almost throws it into a garbage can on her way up to the third floor, but the moisture on her hands makes it stick to her fingers for a second, and that's all the hesitation she needs to curl her fingers back around it. Amity shoulders the door open, and it's exactly what she imagined, her roommate dozing on the couch, hair tousled, but that doesn't make it any easier.

Okay, she thinks, what the fuck do I do now.

In the end, she sits down on the couch next to her, pulls out her phone when it buzzes, and waits.

Unknown Number (8:32 PM): Hello! Is this Amity? This is Luz's mother, she gave me your number because she wanted us to, according to her message

Unknown Number (8:33 PM): "geek out over plant stuff together!!!"

Amity (8:35 PM): Hi, Ms. Noceda! I'm not actually very knowledgeable about 'plant stuff', but luz seemed really excited haha. Also that is super cool

Camila (8:36 PM): Well, that's my daughter. What can I do. How was your day?

Amity (8:37 PM): It was good, we actually did look at plants.

Luz sits up, blinking sleep out of her eyes.

Amity (8:39 PM): I'm with Luz rn but I can tell you about them later..?

Camila (8:40 PM): As always. Yes of course!! :) Call me Camila please

Amity's never really been sure of what to do in situations like this, so she puts her phone away and extends the red rose out to her. Luz doesn't notice the way she crosses her fingers behind her back, or if she does, she doesn't say anything about it.

"For being such a shitty roommate lately," she adds hastily, averting her eyes. She knows it's just a cop-out, to play it off as an apology. But this is so hard, because Luz Noceda evades any and all logic and Amity would rather still be friends with her than have everything tugged out from under her feet. Even if she feels something crack whenever something like this happens.

"Woah, thanks Amity! I needed this, like, a lot," she says, takes it, and it's such a quiet little thing that her heart almost forgets to ache. "Te quiero."

"That means... what, exactly?" Amity prompts. Luz does a kind of double take, like she didn't expect Amity to actually ask that. She's holding the rose close to her, almost guardedly. The red looks a little more faded against the indigo of her hoodie. "Uh, hello? Sorry, still don't know Spanish."

"It- um, means I love you, Amity," she says, finally, smile curling up a corner of her mouth. Amity's heart skips a quarter-beat, but- no, she doesn't mean it that way. "Hey, you should try it out! Te quiero."

Ohhhhhh fuck, okay, okay, okay, okay, cool, Amity, you got this.

Okay, cool, so despite having a roommate who speaks it fluently, she only knows one phrase in Spanish now: what she finds out later is the platonic version of I love you. That's not weird.

That's not weird.

"Te quiero?" she tries, butchering the pronunciation, but Luz smiles wider and it crinkles up the corners of her eyes so she assumes it wasn't that bad.

"That was pretty bad," says Luz, so maybe not. "But we can work on it next year."

"Oh, yeah, totally," Amity says. "Senior year. Wait, huh?"

"You aren't quitting on me, right?" Luz asks, jokingly. "I mean, we might not get the same apartment, but it'll be close. Same building, same people... same dude on the corner selling banana splits. Hey, should we grab one?"

"Um. No, no, hold on. Wait," she pauses. Waits. Processes, amber-slow, as it hits her. "Wait, you want to get an apartment together? Again?"

"That's what I said. I mean, unless you don't want to-"

Maybe once upon a time, she didn't: crayon takes a lot of scrubbing to clean up. It's weird just how much can change in a year.

"Nah, I think I want to," she says.

She should be doing something right now instead of locking eyes with her roommate. Something about ripping off a band-aid, and a- oh, yeah. She should be telling her roommate that she's in love with her.

She doesn't, because she quite enjoys gazing into Luz's eyes as she talks and the way their hands fit together and she doesn't want to ruin the moment. Even if they're kind of always having a moment.

"We gotta find somewhere to put this," Luz says, holding the rose between her fingers like it's the most fragile thing in the world. "It's so pretty."

"Pretty flower for a pretty girl," Amity says, then laughs so awkwardly she wants to be part of the sofa.

 

So maybe she didn't manage to tell her, but at least she stops avoiding Luz at every opportunity. Later on, Willow sighs and looks disappointed, but she's too compassionate a person to press it.

It's June 7th, and she's staring at her textbook and all she can think about is Luz with her hand around the rose, and this is ridiculous is what it is.

 

It's a cool, cloudy Friday evening. Amity's in the kitchen doorway checking her Instagram and thinking about buying those Azura graphic novels when-

"Guess who nailed her American Lit final!"

It's Luz, bursting through the door and wrapping her in a hug that feels warm, sunny. And Amity tries to say congratulations but what she thinks instead is ice skating and bunny slippers and forgotten keys, what comes out instead is-

"I'm really gonna miss you, you know," she says, voice muffled in Luz's shoulder. "Like, a lot. I'm pretty sure you already knew that, but, uh. I just wanted to say that. Because we're moving out soon, and I-" am rambling like a loser because I still haven't gotten over this.

Luz steps away with a crooked quirk of her mouth. "It's okay, we always have next year."

In this familiar place, Amity lets herself believe it.

It's that same Friday evening, too, when they get the gang and belatedly find that the rickety fire escape outside their apartment is accessible. Luz tugs her up with both hands. Amity reaches out to steady her as she nearly trips over the top step. Ivy complains about how this is not how the fire escape should be used and that she wanted to have at least one rule-following year, but they know she doesn't really mean it.

While the rest talk about the lost iguana in the dean's office (or something like that. Amity literally only knows one thing about the school, and that's rugby), Luz elbows her in the ribs, friendly. "Can't believe you're going to that party."

"Well," Amity looks, determinedly, at a cherry-red Civic pulling out of the parking lot 50 feet below. "Can't let them think they've won, right?"

"Hey," Luz says, and when Amity turns to her, "I'm gonna miss you too."

If there were ever a perfect moment to kiss her, if they were in some high-budget blockbuster romance, this would be it: overcast sky, cooler side of 70 degrees, surrounded by the best people she'll ever meet. If this were a scene in one of Luz's movie scripts, their silhouettes would meet in the middle, embracing to an upbeat soundtrack. Amity's always been an opportunist, but she reaches out and takes Luz's hand instead. She doesn't look to see the expression on her face that will scream platonic platonic platonic.

This is the thing: when she and her roommate are high up on the roof of a building and swathed in weak sunlight, she does not tell her, because living with your dumb crush on your best friend is far better than losing her to a gaping chasm of awkward.

Next year, she vows. Categorizes this promise into its own little box as she and Luz join the larger conversation.

A few minutes later, Gus almost drops a pencil into the lot, but Willow catches it just in time with one hand (why do all her friends have insane reflexes???) and gets a fist bump in return. Ivy snorts into the waterbottle that Amity knows actually has Monster in it.

God, what the fuck. She's gonna miss them.

 

The month inches by, bringing exams and heat advisories and then, finally, it happens. One moment she's saying goodbye at Movie Night and the next she's cramming her shirts into a box and stretching packing tape across the top.

Moving out of her room in Blight Manor was nothing. She had a windowsill that she sat and watched the stars on, and that was the only thing she ever missed from there. So Blight Manor wasn't ever home, not to her.

Here, she finds that home can be a complicated concept when you've stripped it to it's bare essentials: wooden floor and paper-white walls and no scattered papers or utensils on the ground anywhere. It's the same, in a way, but not really a place anymore.

That's how it happens, though- you go somewhere and find a home, and you're not sure when it turned into that but it hurts all the more when you have to leave it. All she can really do is find an orange crayon under the couch, one that they missed during cleaning last week, and feel the nostalgia, heavy, as she puts it into her pocket.

She's not angry about that, of course, and she doesn't snap something sarcastic when the peeling Post-Its leave sticky adhesive on the fridge, and she doesn't get annoyed when they raid said fridge and Luz reaches out to tuck a hair behind her ear and accidentally gets ice cream cake onto her face. It was easier to be someone else when the separation wasn't quite so close.

And it's even harder when it's this quiet, only the hum of the air-conditioner and the creak of cardboard in the space between them.

"Nothing left to talk about?" Amity teases, to fill it.

Luz does the best shrug she can, still holding a box labeled stuff2. "I'm just not feeling it, Ami. I'm gonna miss our home over the summer." And Amity doesn't say anything to that. She's not sure she can, through the lump in her throat. Luckily, Luz continues: "Um, anything you're gonna miss?"

She swallows past it, lets herself smile. "Movie Nights."

"Fire escape," Luz counters, almost dropping the box as she stubs her toe on the coffee table. "Ow."

"We literally only found that last Sunday."

"My point stands! I'm gonna miss it."

"Okay. Gus."

"Willow, and-"

"You," Amity blurts, but it sounds like she's talking double, and she realizes as soon as it comes out- they said it at the same time.

Luz smiles, eyes soft over the edge of the box, and Amity wants, wants, wants, to be looked at like that for the rest of her life.

 

And so: the car trunk clicks closed with a finality. The movie is coming to a close- at least for a little while. It's only a few months, but she's afraid that the sequel won't be the same.

"Great," Amity pulls away from the hot metal, makes a dusting off motion with her hands that doesn't help at all with that foreboding feeling. "That's the last one. You should get going, I'm a hundred percent sure the bus leaves in like five minutes."

"You're totally right," says Luz, leant against the car door. "I should."

She doesn't move. A jogger passing by gives them a fleeting glance, smiling awkwardly when he makes eye contact. It's a nice summer day, sun against robin's-egg blue, but everything is tempered by emotion, and today her sky feels very gray.

Amity sighs, and she knows her roommate well enough to pick up on it. Talking without talking is a familiar concept. "You want me to walk with you, don't you."

"Pretty please?" Luz asks, and Amity pretends to think about it, even though she's a huge loser and would probably say yes if a giant komodo dragon came over and started eating the sidewalk. Just so it's not too obvious.

"Okay, whatever," she shrugs, and on the inside, her heart leaps and plummets- more time, less time. "Lead the way, Luzura."

They fill the silence, this time: someone hid a bunch of plastic spiders in the dean's office! - ha, his fault for cutting the botany budget - I bet it was Willow-

She is so tired of all the things she's never been able to say. They sit there in the pit of her heart, and not for the first time around Luz, Amity feels the telltale strain of nerves. When they reach the bus stop, in a lull in their conversation, she says, "Luz, wait."

Something lurches. Amity thinks for a second that the world is crumbling around her feet (jeez, dramatic much), but it's just the sound of the bus arriving. It rolls to a halt in front of them, wheezing smoke.

Luz turns.

"Don't forget about me," she settles.

A grin cracks through Luz's face, sunlight seeping through the edges, and Amity wants to cry, sort of. "Like I could. Love ya."

Luz makes a motion with her hand like she's reaching out, and for a second Amity thinks, okay: Luz will grasp her hand and tug her in, gentle, and Amity will ask the question like she knows the words.

Instead, the hand retracts back to Luz's side, and she shifts her weight to her back foot, steadying herself against her suitcase. Luz doesn't know, and she will never know, no matter how many times and how many ways Amity tries to tell her.

"You should get on the bus," Amity says.

The sidewalk is hard under her rubber soles. There's no rose tint, no soft edges as the bus doors open. Just Luz. And Luz-

"I should," Luz agrees, but she turns to the impatient driver and says, "Sorry, go ahead! I changed my mind."

Amity stands there, blinking in the afternoon sunlight, as the bus doors close, as it drives away, as her roommate steps forward and says, "Oops."

 

That's just the start of it, really.

"Okay, so you missed the bus on purpose why? Do you just... not like buses?" Amity asks, sitting in the driver's seat, though she doesn't really believe it herself. She wants to. It would make things easier. "I'm fine with dropping you off, I just wanna know."

Luz stretches in her seat and fidgets with the hem of her shirt. Nervous habit. "Just wanted to spend more time with you."

And yeah, there's really nothing she can say to that that won't come out sounding gay, so she turns her eyes back to the road and taps a beat on the wheel and thinks about what it would be like if she had been less of a coward.

"You're so quiet today," Luz says

"I'm not the only one," snarks Amity, softly, because she doesn't want to disturb that careful peace. "Seriously, though, it's because you're leaving. I told you I was going to miss you, dude."

"Didn't know you cared that much."

Amity blinks- God, she cares so much, what the hell, Luz.

(Except she knows it's not Luz's fault. Amity can empathize: sometimes she's not sure how many people actually appreciate her for the person she is, and not the family she's in. Luz is kind of like that, too, except she doesn't know if people appreciate her at all. Amity tries to let her know, really, with ice cream cake and sticky notes and elbow taps. She knows it's not gonna happen that easily but she'll try, damnit.)

Luz doesn't seem to mind her silence. She turns from the window, reaches to fiddle with the air-conditioning. "Are you gonna be okay on your own?"

That's a yes-or-no question Amity doesn't know how to answer- then it hits her.

It's that selfish thought that creeps into the back of her mind, unfolds into the rest of her plan. It should just be icing on the cake, but it feels like a lot more than that all of a sudden. The year has gone by in no more than a slow blink. Maybe she can stretch it out a little longer.

"How do you feel about parties? Like, formal ones?"

"They're cool, I guess," Luz barely looks surprised at the non-sequitur. Then again, they've both said weirder things around each other. "I mean, other than the time I got kicked out of Prom for dressing like an otter."

"Ha, your school sucks for that," Don't look at her face, Amity, eyes on the road. "...um, do you wanna help me piss my family off?"

"Huh," she leans back into her seat, considering. "That'd be fun, I wanna see the looks on their faces."

"Okay," Amity says. She can't say she wasn't expecting that. "Here, listen closely."

The road ribbons out ahead of them. 

 

5:02 PM, says her phone. They're an hour late.

Outside the double doors of the Summer Gala, Amity pauses to take a breath. Luz stops and turns to her, taking her hand, and even though it's not that way, it feels so familiar, so right that Amity can't help but run her thumb over her knuckles. They're rough, as usual, but it's not like she minds.

"You ready?" Luz asks. Amity pats the pocket of her jacket just to make sure, feels the shape under the pads of her fingers, and nods.

"As ready as I'll ever be."

In and out, she reminds herself. Luz shoves a single door open.

The first thing she notices about the room is its high, arched ceiling. There's a chandelier hanging from the center of it, glittering with something way too expensive and way too bright. There's white marble everywhere - under her sneakers, making up the walls, the raised podium at the front of the room. Odalia Blight's taste is impeccable as always, and it makes her eyes hurt.

Some places just have terrible vibes.

It's packed - too many people for Amity's taste, but then, she didn't expect this to be comfortable. Luz squeezes her hand as they stride through the room. Amity captures the feeling and braces herself against it. Behind them, the door closes almost silently.

She maneuvers them around the people she knows and slips by the people she doesn't. No one notices them - two girls holding hands as they walk through the ballroom, wearing very not-ballroom-appropriate clothing. Except-

Through the cracks in the crowd, as they turn to make another sweep, Odalia Blight is staring at them with golden eyes.

That's never a good thing. Amity swallows, starts to whisper something in Luz's ear, but then the lights go off.

Oh great.

"Is that supposed to happen?" Luz asks her, invisible in the dark.

"Unfortunately," Amity mutters, staring up at the ceiling as they start to glow again, this time a weak red. "My parents do this every year. Make them dim the lights to make this whole thing seem dramatic. It's dumb."

When she looks back, Luz is still transfixed by the lights.

Looking at her, Amity's heart climbs another notch. The people around them get into position, a mass of interlinked hands and serious gazes. She's never liked the dancing part of the events, but this will be different. "We can do the plan later. It's too dark right now."

In the dimness, Luz looks at her. "You wanna dance with me?"

Her tone is strangely serious - it gives her butterflies. This is happening, and it's not something she can hide behind a smile and 3-AM Azura.

It makes Amity inhale a little too sharply, and she huffs to hide it. "Just- follow my lead, okay?"

Don'tfreakoutdon'tfreakout.

The tall man to her right dips his partner, red catching on the back of blue suede. It'd be funny, the fact that they're the only ones wearing cargo jackets and T-shirts while everyone else is in their suits and dresses. It'd be funny if it wasn't so stressful. "Are you ready?"

"You bet!" Luz exclaims, rallying herself. "Get ready to have your mind blown. I took dance classes for an entire year in high school."

"It's ballroom dancing, not a breakdance."

"Ballroom dancing that I am going to win-"

Someone to their left shushes them. Time's up.

"Here goes," Luz shrugs. "Wanna dance with me, roomie?"

Crap. Breathe.

"We're not really dressed for the occasion," Amity muses, looking down at the neon tips of her sneakers. "But we can make it work."

It's a familiar strain of cello that plays as they move, mind-numbingly saccharine. They didn't do a great job with the lighting this year- the shade of purple's too dark now. She can barely see her own shoes in the wash of maroon. She can't tell if it's a grin or a grimace on Luz's face. 

It doesn't make much of a difference, it turns out. Not when Luz is still there, present as ever. Not when they're inches apart and her face is something Amity can imagine as vividly as she can feel their hands twined together.

Slow dancing with her roommate is awkward, and clumsy at first, 'cause slow dancing is heteronormative and neither of them are sure who's gonna lead the other, who's stepping there and moving here. But Amity stumbles into doing it properly, dipping here and twirling there and though her brain's a giant mess of half-fried nerves right now, it's... kind of pleasant.

She dips Luz for the second time, hastily- the violins have sped up. It's throwing her off.

"This is fun," Luz says after Amity gets her back up. It's the first thing she's said since the lights went out. Her voice is breathless enough that Amity can't really tell if she's being genuine.

Luz is right, though - "Fun," Amity agrees. Effortless to spin her around, second nature to share a snort as blue-suit guy trips over nothing again, too easy to dance in the middle of what's almost dead-dark. Nothing's ever been easy in places like this. It shouldn't be, especially not with her mother prowling the floor like a panther.

(She remembers this: It's about having a home in your heart to come back to. Hecate's home was a lie, a glass fortress that collapsed the moment her opponent spoke her mind. And Hecate was brave to go it alone for so long, but Azura had a point, too: it's easier, learning how to be with someone by your side.)

And if that someone is Luz, slowdancing with her at the Summer Gala in her neon sneakers. Well.

That's okay, too.

At some point, they forget about the music. They don't notice when the orchestra slows down, stops. The lights go back on and they're mid-dip.

They both have to squint a little to gain their vision back through the harsh white glow and then they're close enough that Amity could lean forward and make the gap nothing, just like that. She'd ask to, but words don't seem to form right in her brain right now.

Luz's eyes twinkle in the light, but she doesn't blink. "Hi?"

Amity realizes belatedly that they've been like this for a few seconds too long and lifts her back up gently, murmuring incoherent apologies. This wasn't the time for that, anyway.

"It's okay," Luz says, and the empty platitude sounds real in her voice. She's staring pretty intently at- wait, where's she- into space? At Amity?  "Um- look, they have cookies!"

"They- you are so lying," she turns around and woah, there is an honest-to-God box of chocolate chip cookies nestled behind the sparkling punch bowl. "...never mind?"

When she turns back, her roommate's smiling smugly. "Told ya. I'm an expert on these things. That's Eda's favorite brand."

Amity rolls her eyes. "Fine, whatever. You win this one."

Luz grins. Amity'll probably freak out about this later on, but right now she's warm in her jacket, and it feels like it's Movie Night and the space heater's working overtime.

Too late, she realizes the low burble of conversation around them's faded to nothing.

"Amity," her mother's voice goes from behind her, and she pulls her hands away from Luz's like she's been burned. "What is the meaning of this?"

They have a plan to carry out. Amity should be playing it cool, keeping it subtle like she's always done.

But God, she hates so much that she always has to restrain herself around this woman. That the telltale acrid burn, the lump of rage in her throat is in danger every time of breaking, but she's somehow not allowed to let it. Because she's a Blight, and none of them show anger, or emotion, or anything human at all.

Except: Amity isn't a Blight. Not in that way, not anymore. She isn't afraid of anger, or sadness, or the soul-splitting sort of love she's in right now. Somewhere along the line, she got the good genes. Or maybe it was never the genes at all.

Her hair is not so green anymore.

The decision comes impulse-quick. It brings with it that adrenaline rush that only arrives when you've shattered something critical.

"God," she says, dripping with not sarcasm but anger, real anger, not the feigned kind- the kind that narrows your vision and curls your hands into fists. "Could you be any more stereotypical?"

Her mother's fingers tighten around the stem of her glass. Good. That's real anger, too, so maybe they're getting somewhere. "What?"

The crowd's fallen to a hush, but the silence is unsteady, fragile. Her vision tunnels; she can do this.

"What I said," she answers. "I don't know how you see yourself, but I see you as a monster. God, just- you can't be anything but the richest girl at the party, can you?"

"I am your mother-"

"Yeah. I wish you weren't."

"That-"

Amity cuts her off. Odalia has nothing important to say, anyway. There is nothing that will fix things here; breaking them completely is the only thing appealing right now. It will hurt, but it will be worth it.

"We're the best of the best, right mom? We have our parties, our- dances, whatever makes you feel better, but we never actually cared about the stuff that matters, did we?" Amity continues, not sure where she's going with this but trusting herself to lead it somewhere. "You didn't care about people. You still don't. All you care about is your mansion and your trust fund, like- like that'll make you any more of a person."

Her mother blinks a few times, caught off guard. Amity searches desperately for a trace of remorse in her eyes and doesn't find it. She's known it for a while, but it hurts: that someone she's known her whole life is well and truly lost like that. She knows it's a good thing, cutting her off completely. The sense of loss is still acute.

Alador shoves through the crowd to tower over everyone, leveling her with a glare, and after a few seconds she registers Luz stepping up beside her. Amity doesn't look at her, afraid that if she sees anything good in the next five minutes she's gonna break down completely.

The backs of their hands brush. Amity pulls hers away. Not right now, roomie.

"Go do whatever it is you do when everyone hates you," she tells the woman. "And maybe one day I'll learn to forget everything you taught me."

Alador decides that's a good moment to cut in and defend everyone but her, as usual. "Amity, please do not talk to your mother like this at my gala-"

She senses more than sees Luz opens her mouth to say something, before-

"Your gala?"

If she was a little less adrenaline-ridden right now, she'd be gratified at the expression on her dad's face before he wheels around to look at the podium.

The podium is occupied. Chairman Belos is standing there, not a hair out of place.

He has always cut an imposing figure, but never quite like this. His eyes are an unnatural type of blue when he gets angry - less YA novel protagonist and more a run-for-your-life neon shade of azure.

It's very apparent how he obtained his rank once he starts to speak: they're all captivated.

"Who organized this event, Alador?" he says, low and dangerous. He doesn't seem to care that the entire gala can hear him.

For a while, Amity's attentive, too. She listens to him talk, lets the adrenaline leech out of her and ignores the glances she's getting. And after some time, she realizes Luz isn't there anymore.

She tells herself it doesn't matter, but she's still relieved when Luz comes back a few seconds later, and Belos is distraction enough for her to shift closer. Amity taps her elbow. Despite the reaming going on at the front of the room, Odalia's eyes snap to the space between them when their hands intertwine, because of course that's what she cares about.

"Can we get out of here," Amity whispers, once she's turned back around.

"What about the rest of the plan?" Luz asks, leaning forward as Amity leans back.

"I'm not feeling it," she says honestly, toeing the marble floor with a sneaker. "We came here to mess up my parent's reputation, right? Belos is doing that for us, I think."

Luz nods slowly, hooking an arm around hers as they turn to leave. "We should grab him a Christmas card."

"The Chairman?"

"He's doing our job for us. That's nice of him."

"You are something else, Noceda," Amity teases as they shoulder the doors open. It's evening at this point, and this is when the city looks the best- dressed in peach and fading color. In this part of town, there are barely any people left walking the streets - only a lone crow sitting on the trash bin. She pats her jacket pocket, but it's flat and empty under her palm. "Where did the-"

Luz holds up her hand to reveal a hollow container of Mentos, grinning. "Who's your favorite roommate?"

I've only had one, but if I didn't, it would still be you.

"When did you- ?"

"A magician never reveals her secrets," she says, dropping the box into the trash. It scares the crow off for good, and it glides into the horizon without hesitation.

"I- never mind," she decides. "Mission accomplished. Time to head home?"

Luz glances out at the horizon, squinting straight into the brightness like she's challenging the sun. She looks good. Happy. Amity gauges the blue-orange sky, decides that yes, they have time, and takes her hand.

Chapter Text

Her car's parked right outside, but they end up bypassing it entirely and just walking the streets of Amity's hometown. She wishes she could say it's a nostalgic experience, but it's not. Pretty much the opposite. The pizza place with the pretentious name is just as pristine as it was. The chalk sign for the daily menu's not even chalk, it's an LCD, and the display advertises an expensive special involving ostrich eggs. A block away, the library's bricks are barely faded.

Luz is strangely quiet. Amity finds a pebble on the street and lobs it towards the middle of a road, where a violet SUV proceeds to run it over. Rude.

It's humid - the digital sign outside the local convenience store slash gas station loudly proclaims 87-degree-Farenheit weather. The air-conditioning is on inside - stretching summer afternoons taught her that. (The Twins are banned from all their locations.)

She tells Luz: "They have pretty good cookies in there."

Luz says, "Oh my gosh can we please get some I'll literally marry you," which has her speedwalking across the parking lot and through the sliding doors before she has time to get all weird and flustered again.

The cookies are bought with only a suspicious once-over from the store's owner. Cars sound cramped right now and she doesn't want to go back, so they ignore the No Loitering sign, sneak around behind the store. There's nothing there but a chainlink fenced-off area. Discarded ashtray, generator, cramped square of sunbaked concrete that high-school-Amity would not step foot on in a million years.

Just Luz, Amity, and a slowly descending sun. Unsightly? Definitely. Unpleasant? Nah. Not exactly. Her jacket's warm on her shoulders, and cold won't seep into the evening until it's been a couple hours.

If someone had told Amity she'd choose to spend an evening eating a cookie near a No-Loitering sign behind a random convenience store with her roommate, she'd probably have a hard time believing them. She'd make a list, point by point, of why that sounds terrible and risky and not Amity-like at all.

Lists are tiring and Amity just roasted her mom in front of a gazillion people. She sits down, closing her eyes and tipping her head back against hot brick and trying to breathe the last traces of panic away.

Time, time, time.

"You were amazing, y'know," Luz says, sinking down beside her, and Amity cannot handle the way she looks at her when she opens her eyes, like she just singlehandedly invented the sky or something, so she turns it back.

"You were too."

"I didn't-"

"Oh, you totally did," she grins. "You came through, Luz. Having, like, a hundred people stare at you while you slip away to cause mischief is pretty nerve-wracking. You handled it like a pro. So... thank you. I'm glad we're friends. Not just because of that, obviously, but everything. You know?"

"Yup." Luz says. Her fingers are perfectly still on the concrete. "Me too."

Amity does a weird sort of shuffle on her knees, turns to her. Luz looks up.

"Are you gonna tell me what's wrong?"

Luz shifts, and for a second Amity thinks great, she messed up, she's misread this despite everything that's happened-

"Eda was at that party, Amity," Luz blurts, instead.

Oh.

Amity raises an eyebrow. Luz slouches against the wall. She's silhouetted by evening colors, kind of beautiful against the - okay, literally not the time to have gay thoughts, Amity, stop.

"I dunno what she was doing, but it was... weird. You know how people kinda slink around when they're somewhere they aren't supposed to be?"

"I know," Amity says, and she does. That's how she's tried not to be her entire life. "Wait, she was acting like that? Are you sure it was her?"

"I grew up with her, I'd recognize her anywhere," Luz takes a bite out of her cookie, pauses before continuing. "Before she went missing, my mom said she was involved in some wild stuff with your parents' company. And it's not just that, it's that she didn't tell us. She didn't even tell me, and she's told me everything that goes on since she met me. I don't want her to get lost again."

Luz looks at her hands, and looks, and looks, and Amity thinks and thinks and thinks and she comes to one conclusion.

This isn't their kitchen, and it isn't December. No assumptions this time.

Just a question. "Want help figuring it out? Emira has all my mom's passwords saved. She probably has some info Eda would want."

"I don't want you to get in trouble." Just an answer, but it sends something warm between her ribs.

"I'm already in trouble. Can I..." Amity trails. She doesn't know how to finish the sentence because she doesn't even know how she started it. If her brain would stop making dumb decisions for her, that'd be cool.

"You know what? If you're sure it won't screw you over, yeah. Knock yourself out, no one hurts Eda and gets away with it," she punches into her hand with a fist like some stereotypical high-school bully. "But. No getting yourself in trouble."

"Deal," Amity says, then teeters on her knees, unsure. When she looks up, sure enough, she's being looked at back.

"You have nice eyes," Luz notes.

"Don't, um," she swallows, throat dry all of a sudden. "Change the subject."

"Why not?" Luz asks, playful. So playful. She's not serious, of course she isn't.

Amity stares her dead in the eyes, feels so sure all of a sudden that some part of her just knows it's going to end up badly. Flowers in the dumpster. Post-Its on the floor. She probably won't be able to watch the Hecazura kiss for months.

"Never mind," she says.

Which is so lame, right, who says that. Luz blinks, tugs on the hem of her T-shirt, and breaks eye contact. "Oh."

Sensing a change, Amity looks away as well. She's panicking, yeah, but it's the kind of muted panic that will only show itself when it's far too late to do anything about it. Maybe in a few hours, days, weeks, she'll be in a Dunkin' Donuts drinking coffee too deep into the night, wondering if it's too late to say something. For now, she can sit on the concrete and wait.

She thinks please don't think I'm weird, and then, fuck, she's gonna think I'm weird, and then, when did this get so complicated.

In the distance, a car honks its horn. A newspaper skitters across the pavement, advertising a used tire sale a few streets away. Despite the traffic, it feels peaceful, the sky mellowing out into something darker. Peaceful and just the right atmosphere for an impending lazy summer.

And then she thinks nothing at all, because she looks back at her, and for once, it's not Luz the crush or Luz the roommate. It's just Luz, staring at the sky. Just like that, her bravado fades.

She opens her mouth to explain, or apologize, she doesn't know what, and then closes it again. There is nothing she could say that wouldn't be too much of lie or too much of a truth.

It's a fleeting second of eye contact, and then Luz is back to staring up as the sky sinks to dark-red. Something flares in her chest - warm, nervous - and when Luz makes a movement, it knocks the breath from her lungs.

All she does, though, is get to her feet, jaw set. Amity draws a shallow breath and says, "Where are you-"

"We should get to the the car, Ami," Luz says, already heading around the corner.

The sky does not seem so hopeful, all of a sudden. Amity's heart drops to her feet. She scrambles until she's standing, until Luz's gaze is almost level with hers. "Are you sure? If you wanna spend more time here-"

"It's fine," she goes, in that easy way that still manages to sound strained, says, thanks for trying. "You okay?"

"I could be a lot better," Amity says, and they start to walk. She does not watch the light catch on Luz's face as they step off the curb. "You?"

"Same," Luz says. She kicks a pebble across the street.

The colors silhouetting the town are familiar, but they're old. And when she presses a sneaker to the gas pedal, she finds there's nothing left but a murmur.

 

Everything sucks today, but here's what sucks the most: after something like this, Luz and Amity could always slide back into their flat and make popcorn and play board games and watch Azura. But no - tonight's the night they're leaving, and it's just one more sucker punch to the gut. Nobody told Amity that having a roommate would hurt this bad.

Also, she doesn't really know where she's going.

"I swear we passed this like five minutes ago," she snaps at the stupid freaking Google Maps app (seriously, it has one job and still manages to fail). "I swear- Luz, is your town in the demon realm or something?"

"Nah, it's just weird to navigate to," Luz says from the passenger, fiddling with the air conditioning. If she thinks Amity doesn't notice how she's just been turning it to the same setting over and over again, she's wrong. "I can drive if you want."

"It's fine. I just need a sec," and on the next exit she yanks on the wheel, peeling off the freeway and into a rest stop.

Once they're settled in place, parked crooked between the yellow lines, Luz reaches back and flicks the light on. She looks tired - she and Eda have been texting back and forth since the moment her seatbelt clicked in. Still, her mouth curls into something vaguely positive when she sees Amity. Amity still doesn't really get that, but there's always been a lot she doesn't get about Luz.

The lights are on inside the rest-stop building, but the green on the neon sign says it's closed. Amity wonders if the employees are still up, or if someone forgot to switch the power off in a sleepy haze. It doesn't matter right now.

Amity taps the location into the app again, makes sure that all the lefts and rights lead to the place they're trying to go. Wind rushes past the car's window for a minute, but then it's just silence. Luz breaks it first: "...pretty great year, huh."

"I miss our friends already," Amity groans. And then, because she's tired of skirting around it and what even is self-restraint at night: "I miss you already."

"I don't think you can miss someone who's right next to you," Luz goes, and the smile in the way her voice moves around the word you makes something under the ribs ache, pulse against its cage.

She clicks her seatbelt off and leans back. "What am I doing right now, then?"

Luz blinks at her, sleepy with those eyes that always get her somehow, but doesn't answer. Amity thinks about asking. Getting permission. Leaning in. Asking would probably ruin their friendship. No more Azura. No more dumb games.

Screw that. She shoves the key into the ignition, too hasty to be natural. Luz doesn't even like her, God, what has she been doing.

"Amity, wait," says Luz. Amity freezes, then turns, fingers still wrapped loosely around the keyring. (Something she definitely notes: It should be illegal to look like that at midnight when everything feels like a fever dream.) "Um, I wanted to say-"

Time goes honey-slow for a moment. Her fingers tug tighter around the metal - she is aware, sort of, that she is interrupting Luz in the middle of her sentence, but this is something that she will not be able to say ever again.

For once. For once, she doesn't trip on her words. It's autopilot, controlled, the way the words slide out.

"Can I kiss you?" Amity asks.

The surreality of the night warps, sharpens. Not a fever dream anymore.

Amity blinks slowly to try and process it: she just said that. She really just said that. Fuck.

When she opens her eyes, Luz is looking at her with whatever that look on her face is. She is not smiling anymore, and yes, Amity reads people like she reads law codes, but deciphering this is making her head hurt. The air-conditioning's turned to medium. The moon's high, a crescent in the sky. She just asked her roommate if she could kiss her. It feels uncomfortably stuffy all of a sudden.

Apologize, demands her brain. Do something.

This atmosphere - heavy, cotton-thick - is too much, so she does something. She fumbles with the child lock under the window. It's too late when Luz realizes what she's doing, when Amity cracks the door open and sprints towards the building.

The night's cooler than she thought it would be, and windy; they did not need the AC on. And under the noise of the road, there are crickets, forming their own little melodies - it's calming, a little bit, so there's that.

She stops at the rest-stop's glass door and knocks, hoping someone's still inside.

"Amity, I-" Luz calls, half out of the car already. The rest of her words are lost in a swell of wind. Amity hesitates for a precious second.

"That was really stupid, sorry," she yells back, doesn't hear her voice crack over the rush of the breeze. "I just need some time. Five minutes. I won't be weird about it, promise."

"Hello?" comes a girl's voice, and then someone's swinging the door open. Her green eyes glance up and down. She blinks. "Um, we're closed."

"Sorry," Amity says, voice shaking but only slightly, "Can I come in for a sec? It's cold outside."

She only glances back once before the door closes behind her.

 

Two of them, both brown-haired and tired-seeming, are inside. Apparently, someone hotwired the girl's car and the guy is staying in solidiarity. She offers a vague sort of sympathy, the kind that belies distraction more than warmth, but they take it with easy small-talk.

Luz doesn't knock - if Amity tells her she needs time, she'll give it to her. But she does text, and Amity's phone buzzes on the countertop once (only once) before going silent.

can we talk?

No emoticons, nothing. Just a question.

No, she types. Then, yes. Then, um maybe next yr? lol. Then - this is probably a huge mistake - she hits the call button.

Luz's voice over the phone is soft. Staticky, but it makes the tiniest butterfly glide through her stomach. "Amity, you know we could just talk in person, right? Like, it's fine, but I'm kinda alone in your car and it's creepy."

Holy shit. The butterfly pops away. "I didn't even think of that," she exhales, pushing up from the table. "I'm sor-"

"It's okay," says Luz, cutting her off. "It's just that I really wanna talk to you about this. And I wanna see you."

She wants to see me. Something hopeful in the back of her mind. Tingles on the backs of her fingers.

It's probably so she can let Amity down easy. Rejection is pretty difficult over the phone.

"Okay," she answers, trying to keep it light, though her hands tremble on the counter.

She says goodbye to the employees with the sensation of concrete in her mouth. The girl, though: she types their numbers into Amity's phone, so at least she got friends out of this whole thing.

 

So Amity opens the door and breathes in the night air, sees the moon cast a glow across her car's roof, tries her hardest to keep the butterflies out of her stomach and her head on straight.

She thought telling her would feel better than this. Honesty is the best policy and all that, so it'd be like a weight off her back, or the sunlight that filters through the blinds in the morning after a bad night. But it's heavy.

She's only taken a step off the curb before she realizes there is someone standing by the entrance.

Amity wouldn't be able to see the profile of her face at all if it weren't for the light through the rest stop windows. Luz turns; Amity freezes.

Before she knows it, she's approached tentatively, and then she's being towered over by her roommate (the curb adds an extra couple inches).

Amity tries to keep it relaxed: "Hey." She can't see her roommate's face too well. She can't see much of anything, really, except her fluorescent-framed silhouette. "Didn't know you were out here."

"Hey you," says Luz, just as casual. She steps off the curb, bringing them level, and Amity forgets to breathe for a second when her face comes into the light. "I needed some air."

She tips her face up to look more closely. Sure enough, Luz is staring right back, and if she strains her eyes, the expression on her face is still unreadable.

Just a girl like her. Just a crush. Just a girl who draws with crayon and has a stellar film reel and who's been through a lot and has terrible taste in sweaters and makes her heart race at the worst moments.

The fifth time it happens goes like this:

"Did you mean it?" is what Luz asks. "What you asked?"

"Yeah," is what Amity says. "Why wouldn't I?"

Luz's expression twists, and Amity identifies what it is, finally: unsure. "Prove it?"

Her mind goes blank, but when it clears the only thought in her head is that: "Um, no, you prove it."

Which is just so smooth, right, wow, but-

Luz does.

Luz leans forward and kisses her and they kinda fit together, somehow, in the middle of nowhere, and it's soft and light but still so, so real, and it takes a few seconds through the jumble of conflicting feelings for her to finally realize that: wait.

She feels like she may pass out or something because this is Luz, and this is Amity, and both of them are here. Doing this. In her mind, something reorients: maybe, possibly, she's got the story all wrong.

And all the while, she's not thinking of Odalia Blight's stupid fancy parties or her father's infuriating apathy or farewells on a rooftop. She's letting herself melt into it like she's wanted to for half a year, because for once, there is nothing to think about- it's just her, and Luz, and the ground is finally steady under her feet. There are still so many things she wants to say, but this. This is a start.

Faced with everything, it's not the perfect end to the year, but it's better: the car, headlights cutting through the night. The parking lot, asphalt-black and moonlit. Luz, who somehow, some way, is kissing her back.

It feels like home. A second home. A smaller home, but no less a home.

It's only when they pull away that the feeling blooms: she doesn't care to know what it is, endearment and exasperation and appreciation stirred into something that makes her feel toasty in the chill of a summer night. She wants to say it, wants to express it. She says, "Love you."

"You do," Luz stammers, stumbles on her words. Amity is patient. She steps back to give her some space, waits for her to go through the stages she did. They have time for this, and they will have time after the summer. They will have time for a while, she considers. "Wait we're literally the oh my god they were roommates meme, you realize that right?"

Amity laughs. Raises an eyebrow. "Is that the first thing you thought of?"

"Second," Luz says. "The first is this-" she twists her hand to intertwine their fingers and says: "Nice to meet you. I'm Luz Noceda, and I love you too."

"Woah," says Amity intelligently, still a little absent, still reeling a little. She stares at their fingers all tangled together and breathes. The night does not dissolve around her; the air's just as sharp, just as cold. It's not a dream. "Same."

They stare at each other for a second and it all comes out in a rush. But not from her- Luz: "I wanted to tell you way back in, like, February but we had this thing going on where you said hi and I said hi and then you made me breakfast and it was so nice I looked forward to it every day and then one day you were like doing that thing where you laugh with your mouth open and I was like wait, oh no but I felt like if I told you you'd stop and it would be super awkward because obviously you wouldn't like me back, right. Except. No. You do. That's so wild."

Amity blinks.

"-and believe it or not, I was super mad at you for a while after the truth or dare thing because I was like, wait, why would she joke about that. That's so mean. Especially since she knows about all my stuff. Like. That's rude. And then I was kind of upset at you earlier today because I thought you were joking about it again-"

"Oh my god," Amity groans. "This is so dumb. I should've told you."

"Bro, same. Do you regret it, though? This year?"

Amity shifts her gaze to the improperly parked car, the glow behind the windows like a Jack-o-Lantern, and then this Luz, shy and rambly and understanding. She thinks of phones slammed onto receivers. Missing people and missing places. "I don't think I do."

Luz glances at the star-streaked sky. Tonight will linger for the rest of summer.

 

Everything is the same, after that: the parking lot, the moonlight, the car. But everything is different, too, because the next time they slide into the seats, it's not Amity and her crush. It's Amity and her girlfriend.

She wraps her fingers around the steering wheel and clicks her seatbelt in, and it doesn't feel so much like a time bomb anymore. This is an adventure now, long and sweet, like the kiss they shared in the parking lot.

It feels so much better, all at once, when holding Luz's hand doesn't make her feel like an impostor. When she can sneak glances at her and not have to blush and turn away. When it's so easy to be together, with everything laid out like this.

And sometimes she thinks, it should be complicated. It should be Amity waking up in the car from some wild dream where she kissed Luz Noceda. It should be Amity passing out in the parking lot or something. Should be different, somehow. Dramatic. Orchestral.

For bite-sized moments in between, it feels sleepy and illogical, like a dream. But when the sun creeps up enough to illuminate their faces, and Amity finally passes the sign for Luz's hometown, she is still there, pointing out the weirdly-shaped tree she climbed every Saturday and the high school she hated and eventually, Amity's roommate falls asleep with the window rolled down.

It's a sticky, stretching moment as the car rolls to a halt. Amity puts the car into park and sits there, lets the moment go on. She tries not to stare at Luz, sleeping on the dashboard, then realizes she can and then decides no, she should probably wake her up.

Probably.

They should not make car seats this comfortable. Amity lets her eyes close.

She wakes up a few hours later. The sun's blazing like it's midday but it feels earlier than that, and Amity's mouth tastes like dry sand, and Luz is playing Angry Birds on her phone. Amity watches her sink a perfect shot into the pile of crates, feels so at home she almost wants to melt back into the leather and pretend to be asleep again.

Instead, she stretches, grabs her phone off the dashboard. 9:02 AM.

Luz doesn't notice. Amity smiles - she can wait - and opens her messages app.

 

mom (5:32 PM): Are you aware of the amount of damage you've caused to the Blight family mantle? This is unacceptable. Call me immediately.

 

Gus (11:06 PM): just got home!!! Miss u guys already

Skara (3:38 AM): u too ig

Ivy (11:07 PM): ok

Gus (11:07 PM): :(

Ivy (11:09 PM): lol jk miss u too

Willow (11:11 PM): miss you too Gus! my dads say hi btw

Gus (11:12 PM): :)

 

Edric (8:39 AM): YOOOOOOOO LMAO AMITY

Emira (8:40 AM): HELP I DIDNT THINK UD ACTUALLY DO IT IM AGSDFKSFJA

Edric (8:41 AM): MOM CALLED US AT LIKE 4 AM

Edric (8:41 AM): MITTENS U LEGEND

Emira (8:42 AM): i bet 400 dollars she still hasnt asked her gf out tho

 

Amity (9:03 AM): where's my money emira

Emira (9:04 AM): WDYM WHERES MY MONEY YOU TWO GOT TOGETHER???? hgvgbfdnbszfbchdxzjbchdsb

Emira (9:04 AM): ur telling me everything later!! 2 o clock don't be late!

Amity (9:04 AM): Are u under the impression that I can't remember times bc you told me this yesterday....

Emira (9:05 AM): no

Emira (9:05 AM): actually maybe lmao

 

It's when she's smiling at her phone that Luz notices her. She blinks a few times, like she's still processing the situation, and then grins back.

Amity's phone camera is angled the wrong way when she takes the picture. Luz's arm is slung around her at an awkward angle, and their faces are tired at the edges. Messy hair and bloodshot eyes and shadowy lighting. She hits the little camera button anyway, and their combined laughter at the product is enough to scare away the fly on the other side of the window.

"You're not forgetting about me anytime soon, right?" she asks, after it's settled, after they've settled, still crooked together like that. It's not a genuine question; she knows the answer, after so many months of hearing it. "Three months is a while."

"Sure, let me just forget about one of my favorite people," Luz says, voice still light with the remnants of laughter. "Yep, there's the blush. Are you a-"

"I swear to god if you call me a tomato."

"I was gonna ask if you were allergic to pollen." Amity stares at her until she cracks and laughs again. "Kidding."

Her laugh is a nice sound, even after so much time spent getting familiar with the rhythm of it. She thinks she wants to hear it again. And again and again and again and again and-

"I think what I'm really allergic to is driving away from here," she notes.

Luz shrugs. "You could come in for a bit?"

She worries her lip. Considers it, but says, "Nah. I have plans."

"'Kay," her roommate goes, and stops halfway out the car to point at Amity. "Hey. Be home in a few. We still on?"

She's pretty sure people use 'a few' for, like, hours, not months, but it doesn't matter to her: "I'd never leave you hanging like that."

"Great. It's a deal," she starts to back out of the door, but stops like she forgot something. "Boop," she says, and Amity meets her in the middle.

Luz heads up the brick path towards her house, and there is a rose poking out of her suitcase. Amity snorts the way she's not supposed to, turns to the road and calls Emira. She has one brunch reservation, two enemies, and three months.

The year is over, but they have only begun.