The Boiling Isles is pretty different at night. A few things happen to it as time slinks by:
- The sky goes from a pale, tired orange to a midnight blue. It's Luz's favorite color.
- Amity starts to get bored.
- When Amity gets bored, she rambles like Luz on her worst days. It's funny.
"Yeah, the Isles suck," said witch says, yanking up a bunch of grass like it's offended her somehow. "It's like all there is to do is attract danger, grow up, or be boring and watch the stars. Why'd you come here again?"
Luz is not sure how she roped Amity Blight into stargazing with her on New Year's Eve, but it's not the worst way she could be spending time. The grass feels cool under her arms, and the stars are pretty beautiful. Also Amity. Amity is pretty beautiful, so there's that.
"Obviously to hang out with you," she answers. "I practically belong here, y'know?"
"Right," Amity says, fingers still coiled around the ground. She points at the sky. "Nah, you belong up there."
"With the stars."
"Yeah. Far away from me."
"Ouch," Luz laughs. "I should be with Eda right now instead of getting bullied by a girl half my height."
"I'm taller than you in heels, shut up," Amity grins, and finally settles back onto the grass next to her. If Luz turned her head, she'd be a few inches away - that awkward distance that says, we could kiss but it would be kinda unwieldy. "Isn't your Owl mom passed out on the couch? Might as well spend tonight with your least favorite person."
Then, because of course she does, she turns her head and Luz, by the unspoken social rulebook here, is forced to as well. Up close, her amber eyes are flecked with black- God, what is the best way to not be so obvious about her stupid little crush. Luz says: "You're not my least favorite person."
"Sure," Amity says, and after a few seconds, turns her annoyingly pretty face back to the stars. "Are we gonna do something fun, or...?
"We are doing something fun. This is fun."
"Yeah, if you consider staring at a bunch of dead rocks fun-"
"They are not dead rocks, they're masses of fiery stuff that we're seeing lightyears away. Isn't that amazing? They're-" Luz trails off. "Never mind."
"Seriously? You're just gonna leave it at that? Lame," Amity rolls her eyes. "No, see, I know how to compromise with people - so we are gonna get off this stupid hill and walk upstream but you are gonna tell me about the stars. Deal?"
Luz considers that. "Nope," she says. "I'm good right here."
"Ew," Amity replies, but she does relax.
But Luz can't stay still for this long, so she tries to go to sleep, then realizes that's probably a bad idea out here. Amity notices her fidgeting, because she notices everything, and elbows her. "You wanna get out of here?"
"That's the most cliche line I've ever- where the heck are you going."
It's hard to tell, but she thinks she sees Amity shrug. She's gotten up and started heading down the hill, towards the tree line. Terrible idea. The forest is one of those places that is not good in the daytime and is even worse in the nighttime. "If we can't find our fun here, we can find it somewhere else. I wanna show you something."
So Luz is left with two options: stay on this hill and stare at the stars alone until she feels like going back, or join Amity Blight and most likely die in the woods on New Year's Eve.
"You coming, Noceda?" she shouts (how the fuck is she already at the foot of it. Superhuman speed, she swears).
Luz considers being a sensible person for once. She really does. She could go home and wake Eda up and celebrate and go to sleep early and wake up with a solid eight hours.
"Yeah," she says, and trips down the hill.
Turns out, the forest isn't so scary after all. Trees shaking in the wind. Vines in odd places. Creepy plants that look like they're about to turn into monsters and eat-
Okay. It's a little scary, and also Luz's baseball bat is safely stowed under her bed back home. Why, why, why did she do that. Great decision, Noceda, because now she's gonna have to rely on the girl next to her to protect her in case something tries to eat them.
As if on cue, Amity lights her hand on fire (Luz will never, ever get used to that), and when Luz jumps a little, she raises a brow. "Uh. You alright?"
That is not how the game works, Amity, you're supposed to make fun of me for it. "Um. Yeah." Luz says. Awkwardly. Like she's thirteen years old and has a puppy crush on Akarsha from the cafeteria again. (What is it with her and the A-names, seriously.)
"Ooookay," Amity goes, giving her a strange look, and proceeds to take a sharp turn in a completely different direction from where the path leads. If Luz is looking at it right, it'll lead them into a shadowy patch of trees that she can barely even see through.
"Eda's gonna kill me if we die," Luz says, and follows her. It should not affect her as much as it does when Amity laughs, but damn, it's pretty.
She knows she won't be able to see the stars down here, but she looks up to the forest canopy anyway. It settles her nerves a bit, makes her feel like maybe they won't suddenly tumble into a pit of monsters while they're doing this.
"Just trust me," Amity settles on.
Which is stupid, right, because why would Luz trust some random girl from the grudgby team who's had it out for her since day one. Who probably doesn't even know what her favorite color is or what she sings when she's alone in the house. And it's stupid, so stupid, that she really does trust her.
"What's my favorite color?" Luz asks, just out of curiosity.
"I don't know what this has to do with your concerning lack of trust in me," she says, shoving a branch aside, "But it's blue. Obviously."
"How do you-"
"You said it in abominations class. The first day," Amity says, turning to look at her, branch in one hand and fire in the other. It lights her eyes up neon orange. Luz stares back. "Don't look at me like that. You know how good my memory is. Okay, ready?"
Luz yawns. "This better be impressive."
"Or what, you're gonna tell people I bored you to death in the woods? Quit showboating," Amity steps forward, holding the branch away from the path for her. "And go ahead."
"So chivalrous," Luz smirks, and wrestles her way out from between the trees, not quite escaping a few of the brambles in the process. And when she sees it- "Damn."
She emerges from the tree line and walks her way around the circumference of the clearing, dipping a hand into the thin brook that cuts through it. It's warm for some reason, probably because of how close they are to the Titan's heart, and against the cold of the night, it heats her up pretty well. And when she looks up, there is no tangle of branches above her - she can see the stars glittering in their places.
She hasn't had a moment of peace since she stumbled through the portal, or maybe even before that, and for once, it is safe here- feels like lazy family dinners with her mom, feet up on the table when her back is turned. It makes something stick in her throat.
When she turns back, Amity is rubbing the back of her head, timid. Luz would call it out as fake modesty if Amity wasn't trying to hide the gesture. "I know it's probably not what you were expecting."
Here's the thing: she knows how to deal with Amity when they're insulting each other, or dueling, or slinging the grudgby ball at each other with unrivaled ferocity. She knows how to deal with rambly Amity and sarcastic Amity but she decidedly does not know how to deal with sincere Amity who knows what her favorite color is and gets nervous about what Luz thinks.
So she doesn't deal with it. She says, "Didn't think this was your style."
Amity keeps her eyes on Luz for a second and then nods. "It's not. Usually." Then she crouches down by the brook, pats the space across from her, and says, "I was promised fun."
"You realize we could have just done this back there, right?"
"Oh come on, you could barely stand that place. Now come on. Tell me about the stars. Or whatever you want, I don't care."
Luz doesn't sit down. She paces up and down the brook, wondering where it leads and if the place where it leads would be nice to put on a postcard, if she had a camera. She could send it to her mom. If she could rebuild a portal and explain a lot of odd things, obviously. But she could do it- she could.
And the reflection of the stars in the water gets her thinking.
"You were wrong," she starts. "When you look at a star, you're looking at something alive. But if I'm right, there's a few that probably already burned themselves out a million years ago. And we still see those stars. It's like when you hear an old song on the radio. The singer's gone, but their memory isn't."
"Dunno what a radio is, but I'm sorta following."
"And it's weird, right, because that gets me thinking about how you don't have to be dead to be gone. You still miss someone when they're gone, but at least you know they're fine, but someone on the other side might not be able to know that, right?"
Amity blinks. "I think you lost me."
"-and it's almost midnight and I'm supposed to be at home putting earplugs in my ears so I don't have to hear the fireworks but now I'm in an alternate universe late at night with a girl who either hates me or likes me and I don't know how to get home."
"-hey," Amity says, and then she's right in front of her (okay, there is no way witches do not have superhuman speed), hands hovering in the air like they want to do something but don't know how. "I do not hate you, first of all, and second of all, are you doing okay. Because that. Did not sound okay."
Luz stands there for a little bit, and Amity finally puts her hands back to her sides, then seems to realize that's awkward and crosses her arms instead, looks away. "I'm not gonna ask you if you wanna talk about it more."
"Please don't. It's New Years Eve."
"Yeah. Gotta ring it in right. But... I have tickets to the carnival next week."
Despite herself, Luz laughs. "Are you asking me out after I just went off in front of you?"
"Get over yourself," Amity says, but she smiles- one of those expressions that's scarce on her face. "I was going to say we could just talk about stuff. If you wanted to. You know. Cause I imagine it's pretty hard keeping everything to yourself."
"Okay, yeah. I'm just gonna yell my life story at you while we're on the rollercoaster."
It's the kind of joke Luz would want to punch someone for making, but Amity laughs. It's a nice sound, and she seems a lot friendlier all of a sudden, idling near the brook with her unruly hair. Luz thinks she wants to hear it more often. "Are you in or not?"
She looks over, and says, "Yeah. That sounds nice."
"So," Amity says, "Is this where you wanna spend tonight?"
Luz shakes her head. "I promised Eda I'd spend New Years with her, so I have to be home in... maybe half an hour."
"Right, okay." She gets that look on her face where Luz isn't sure if she's plotting a murder or a little kid's birthday party. Luz stares at it for only a moment before ripping her gaze away. "So. We have an hour."
"I wouldn't say we, I mean, there's." Luz pauses. She has no idea how she was going to finish that sentence.
The witch tilts her head and says, "Okay? You have an hour with me, then. Where do you wanna go?"
A question should not make someone panic as much as Luz does when Amity asks her that. There are so many places and so little time and how is she even supposed to answer that without knowing all of them. There's the carnival, which is probably abandoned by now, occupied only by the security guard dozing at her post near the fried orb stand. They could probably sneak over the fence. There's the library, which is boring but she has a lot of studying to do. There's-
"Luz?" Amity prompts. Which- no, she has to stop doing that. Stop being patient. She's spaced out, like, three times tonight and Amity still says her name like that, like Luz is someone to be trusted. God.
"I don't know," Luz admits. She doesn't know why it bothers her; everything seems so visceral today, every emotion heightened. She's not normally like this - hoping for the best instead of the worst, expecting good tidings and good feelings.
Amity drags her eyes away from Luz, says, "Cool."
A tentative few seconds later find Luz sitting in the grass across from her, immediately getting mud all over her jeans that doesn't seem like it matters. "Who were you gonna spend New Year's with?"
"It's not really a big thing in the Boiling Isles," Amity confesses, "So I guess the way I spend every night."
"And what's that like?"
"I don't know? I stay up late on Penstagram. Why are you asking me this?"
"It's just a question."
"Okay," Amity drawls out. "Okay, so how do you spend every night, then?"
Not with pretty girls in the woods.
"Huh?" Amity asks.
Luz tips her head back so she can see the sky again and groans. Okay, this is why she doesn't relax around people, because at some point the connection between her brain and her mouth turns into a waterslide and everything tumbles out before she wants it to and everything goes banana bread. And that didn't even make sense. "Nothing."
And it would be fine. It would be okay, if Amity would just be a normal person for once and blush a little, maybe, and leave it. She goes for the kill, instead: "Damn, you call a girl pretty and don't even follow it up. I'm a little hurt, Noceda."
"I did not call you pretty," Luz says, clenching her jaw. She's probably going to crack a tooth again. "I called you objectively pretty. There's a difference."
Her freaking worst-enemy-at-this-point pulls up a wad of grass from the ground and acts all nonchalant about it. "No, youuuu kinda just called me a pretty girl. Something you wanna say?"
"I hate you."
"Not it, boss."
"You're the worst."
"I can't stop thinking about your stupid eyes."
Amity's entire face turns blotchy red in the span of five seconds, but she goes, "Getting there."
Luz shifts closer. Their noses are level, she notes. "Why are you being so nice to me?"
"That's the wrong question to ask," Wipe that stupid smirk off your face. "Really thought we were getting somewhere. What a shame."
Luz does the absolute stupidest thing she's ever done in her life and kisses her. It's pretty easy to do, really, because Amity acts like she was expecting it, goes with it. Tilts her head perfectly to meet it. Which is kind of annoying, but hey, it is what it is. She'll take it.
And when Luz pulls away to actually look at this girl in the woods, feeling softer and more vulnerable than ever, heart beating so hard it hurts, Amity looks back and says, "Don't- give me that look. I only came out here because I-"
"Wanted to stargaze with your favorite person on New Years' Eve. I know."
Stare. Stare, stare, stare at each other until the clearing seems to fall away around her and her face warms up. "This will complicate things," Amity says.
Luz quirks an eyebrow, says: "And you're, what, scared of that?"
They sit there. The stars do not seem half as bright, suddenly, as the girl across from her does. They're not as rare; something she can see from her window every night does not hold much light compared to Amity, who she sees half as often and understands even less.
"I have to go soon," she says, finally. She knows it's a chance to run away for both of them- if this goes a certain way, Amity can go home and trawl Penstagram, and Luz can have enough time to try and convince Eda to give her the hard Apple Blood and still get a full night's sleep. They can forget this ever happened.
"Can I walk you home?" Amity asks, and that decides it pretty nicely.
Luz jams her hands into her pockets for lack of a better activity. Unsure, she takes one out to help Amity up, and decidedly does not notice the way her hand only seems to have grown warmer. Her companion lights a finger on fire and lights their path forward.
She's pretty sure they get lost a few times. Actually, maybe more than a few times. There's enough double-backs and wrong turns that she's starting to doubt if she'll get home on time, or if they'll be able to get out ever, or if this was a good idea at all. The forest's uncomfortably sticky at night, humid even in the colder season, and she doesn't particularly like the feeling of who-knows-what vegetation brushing her fingertips.
So when Amity shoves a batch of leaves aside and it reveals not more forest but actual fresh air, and the yellow lights of Bonesborough cut visibly through the night, Luz whoops. Holds her hand up so that Amity can high-five it.
Amity looks a little surprised, a little confused, but she slaps her palm anyway. "Told you you could trust me," she says. Like Luz hadn't trusted her just by following her through all these fucking woods.
"'Course," Luz says. She feels oddly shy, tugs her beanie to one side and then the other. "The Owl House is pretty close by, so, um. I can go it alone from here." she pauses. "Um, if you ever wanna come visit, there's a shortcut through the fields east of here. I think we're pretty close to Blight Manor. Uh-"
"Yeah. I'll pop over," Amity glances at her. Luz knows she probably looks stupid, hair disheveled and beanie at an odd angle, distant lights putting her in a neon haze. It doesn't seem to matter to Amity, who grins messily, hair glinting an odd kind of Technicolor.
Luz sticks her hands back into her jacket pockets and gets lost trying to spot the sign for the entrance of town. It feels like a weird kind of infinite right now, being out in the Boiling Isles past curfew. She doesn't feel like going back just yet. After her friend leaves, the hill where they started the night might look inviting, but there will be an Amity-shaped hole in the grass that'll make Luz miss her. Jeez. Way to ruin it.
"Distracted?" Amity goes, snapping Luz back to reality. "Thought the woods would have cleared your head or something."
"Yeah, no. You made it so much worse."
"Well, everything's easier during the daytime," Amity strolls past her, casual, like Luz didn't just kiss her fifteen minutes ago. Luz spins around, almost on instinct. Watches her shrink towards Bonesborough's lights, hears her call behind her shoulder: "I'll stop by in the morning, pretty girl."
"I'll tell Hooty not to open the door for you," she shouts, futilely - she won't, of course she won't. She thinks she hears a laugh, but it's not a given. Amity's gone, navigating the landscape somewhere below. The feeling of her hand in Luz's still lingers.
The glow of the town makes her wonder what her mom's doing right now. One of the Titan's ribs juts out from the distance, marring the sky. If she squints, she can see the river cutting past it, twisting around and between the next one. Can just make out the way the light plays across the water.
She doesn't get her mother, not yet. But she gets tonight- gets the woods spreading across the red soil in a way they don't back in the human realm, gets the stars painted haphazard above her, and gets Amity, strolling through the streets of Bonesborough somewhere beyond.
Luz rocks back on her heels and enjoys the view. The days to follow will be difficult, Belos still at large and an unfamiliar world around her. Tonight is just a reprieve.
But for the first time in a while, she feels like she can breathe.