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Please Look After This Bear. Thank You.

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Father Christmas

I must have been very, very bad this year to not get anything from Father Christmas. I feel like I’ve been very bad this year—Father hasn’t looked me in the eye since August. I haven’t seen anyone, really, since August... I guess I can’t be on the nice list if there’s no one to be nice to.

Or the naughty list.

If Mummy was here, she would have called Father Christmas to make sure I was on the nice list like she does every year.

“Hello, Father Christmas, I just wanted to check in to see if Basil is on the nice list? Oh, really? The nicest boy all year? I’m sure he can expect a lot of well-deserved gifts then, huh? Thank you, Father Christmas, have a good night.

“Did you hear that, little puff? You were the nicest boy all year! I’m so proud of you.”

Maybe it was because we didn’t leave out mince pie and sherry this year.

Maybe Father Christmas isn’t real after all.

There’s a knock on the front door, and I go to see who it is (Father isn’t downstairs, again). Maybe it’s Father Christmas. Maybe he remembered that he didn’t stop by. Maybe he had to be late because he was going to bring Mummy back and he couldn’t wrap her up in gift-wrap. I know that’s what I asked for.

When Vera opens the door, however, Aunt Fiona is the one standing in the doorway with a large gift box that she’s having trouble getting her arms around. Aunt Fiona pushes her way into the foyer and drops the box in the middle of the floor, putting her hands on her hips, and smiling at me. “Happy Christmas, Baz. Give me a moment to grab your father and then you can open up your gift.”

I nod to her as she walks past me up the stairs, ruffling my hair as she goes by. When she’s out of sight, I carefully approach the gift on the floor. It’s near half my height (and I’m tall for my age), and, when I try to push it to the living room, it moves easily. The bright red shine of the paper is covered in childish drawings of reindeer in Christmas jumpers and goofy smiles—I want to keep it.

I hear yelling upstairs. Aunt Fiona’s saying something along the lines of “you’re failing your child when he needs you the most” and “Nat would never forgive you if you let that boy suffer without a father” and “grieving is okay, but ignoring your responsibility as a father never is—he’s suffering too”.

I sit on the floor in front of the gift box and try to ignore the fight upstairs. I take my hand and put it up to one of the little reindeer on the wrapping to pet it, pretending that I’m the one giving it that goofy smile. I name him Ollie. When Aunt Fiona starts yelling about “practically leaving Baz an orphan because of your neglect of his needs”, I pull back my hand and lean forward to press my lips to the packaging. I hope Ollie knows that he is loved. Closing my eyes, I rest my hands and forehead against the box for a moment before sitting back and waiting for Aunt Fiona to return (I have no idea if she’ll manage to convince Father or not).

I turn around when I hear thudding on the stairwell to see Aunt Fiona putting on a (clearly forced) large smile and Father trailing just behind in a bathrobe with bags under his eyes.

He isn’t even pretending to be happy.

He doesn’t look in my direction.

I look at Ollie and smile.

Aunt Fiona plops down next to me and throws an arm around my shoulder. “Ready to open your present, boyo? Hope you like it—picked it out myself.”

I nod and begin to open the gift, being extra careful not to tear Ollie or his friends. The box they were so good at protecting is just brown, so I stand to open it from above.

Inside is a large stuffed bear in a red bucket hat and a blue duffle coat that matches the Burberry one Mummy got me for Christmas last year. There’s a little tag on his coat that reads “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”   I lift him out of the box and fall back into a sitting position with him nestled on my lap. He’s so big that when I give him a hug, I press my face into his shoulder rather than the top of his head. I breath him in for a moment, enjoying the warmth he gives me before loosening my grip to spin him around so he can hug me back too.

Aunt Fiona puts a hand on my shoulder as I squeeze my eyes shut to stop myself from crying into his coat. I haven’t felt this warm, this comforted, since August. “Do you like it, Baz? That’s Paddington Bear—there’s a couple of books about him in the box. We can read them after lunch, if you want.” I nod without lifting up my head. Her hand stays there for a minute longer. When she sees I’m no closer to loosening my grip around him than I was when I first pulled him into my arms, she gets up with the claim of eating lunch.

I hear Father get up too.

I hear the crumpling of wrapping paper.

I hug Paddington tighter, and the tears begin to force their way out. It’s almost like he’s hugging me back, telling me it’s okay. Telling me that Ollie loved me too and that he knew I loved him. That we could go see if we could save Ollie from the trash, at least. I sniffle and, without releasing my hold on Paddington, stumble into the kitchen.

Aunt Fiona is munching on a roast beef sandwich when I walk in—face red, stained with tears, and the tips of Paddington’s toes dragging on the ground as I move. She stops eating as soon as she sees me, and lowers the sandwich from her mouth, “What wrong, boyo? Did something happen?”

I sniffle again and point towards the living room and then the bin. Fiona gives me a confused look, and my expression shifts into one of distress. I hug tighter onto Paddington and put my nose back down to his coat, breathing deeply. I can feel my heart rate steadying as I continue to hold him to my face. His head drapes over my shoulder like this, covering me, protecting me from everything sad and scary. 

“Is this what you want, Baz?” Fiona asks, holding crumpled Olllie and his friends with her thumb and forefinger over the trash can. I nod frantically and she grimaces, “It’s been in the trash, boyo. I can cut you off another piece? I have the whole roll in the boot.” I shake my head. The other reindeer won’t be Ollie. He must not have liked them, anyway, since they weren’t with him on the box and all his friends were with him on the box. He ran away with his friends to get away from the rest of the reindeer.

I bet all the other reindeer that weren’t with Ollie aren’t smiling as silly as he is.

“I don’t think I can wash this, Baz. It got wet in the bin. Just let me cut you a new piece.” I shake my head harder and squeeze Paddington. “I’m sorry, it’s too dirty; I can’t give this to you. I would if I could. You can always let me know, and I’ll bring you some more, okay?” I nod slowly before making my way up to my room.

When I push open my door, I immediately make my way to my bed and set Paddington down so he’s lying against the pillows before going back to close it. I’m not tired; I just wanted to make sure he wasn’t, and I don’t want to leave him alone. I wander back to my bed and tuck Paddington and myself in.

I turn him so one arm is acting as my pillow and the other one covers me. I hug him around the middle and press my face back against him. He’s so soft, so comforting.

So… familiar.

I lean up to press a kiss on his cheek, so he knows that I love him. I give him twenty more just to be especially sure. I pretend he kisses my forehead by pressing it against his mouth and then squish my entire body against him so all of me can feel like I’m loved.

At some point, Vera comes in with Aunt Fiona to read, but they both think I’m asleep. Aunt Fiona presses a lingering kiss to my cheek and tucks my hair behind my ear. “Happy Christmas, boyo. I’m sorry I have to go.”

When the door closes, I hold Paddington tighter and try to calm myself down again.

 

 

Mages Don’t Need Stuffed Bears

If that boy doesn’t get down here in thirty seconds, I’m leaving without him.

“Baz, get down here you little shit, or you’re walking all the way to Watford!”

I wait a couple of seconds for anything. The slightest sign of movement and I would be satisfied because at the very least he’d be doing something , but no. The little shit is going to be late for his first day of school. Just my luck, he’ll probably miss the Crucible, end up without a roommate, and call me crying after they kick him out. I will not be making two trips to Watford today.

I storm to his room and throw open the door, mouth open to start yelling at him again, but what I was going to say gets lost when I realize what I’m seeing. My dear nephew is sitting on the floor, hugging a goddamn stuffed bear, his face pressed down into its head. The slam startles him, and he stares up at me like I’ve caught him wanking. That’s when I notice that it’s not just any stuffed bear, either. No, I recognize this one...

I feel a wicked smile form on my face. “Basilton Pitch, is that the Paddington I gave you?” 

The tops of his cheeks begin to pink, and my grin only grows. “It is! Crowley, boyo, I haven’t seen that thing in years! Saying goodbye before you have to go be a big kid?” I walk over and try to snatch it from him, at which point he finally seems to get it together.

He sends a scathing glare my way and yanks the bear away from me, twisting his whole body to protect it. “Fuck off, Fiona! I’ll be down soon.”

“Oi! Who taught you words like that?”

The little shit has the gall to look unamused. “You did, Fi.” Oh. Well, can’t say I’m surprised. I try to reach around him and take the bear again.

“Naughty words are for little boys who don’t still need stuffed animals,” I tease.

Baz hugs the bear tightly to him and kicks me in the ribs as a final layer of defense. It hurts more than it should, considering how lanky the boy is. He’s tall for his age, but he sure as hell doesn’t have any meat on those bones. I swear, Malcolm must be starving him. Lucky for him, I’m still thinking about how he might be late. “Ouch, you shit! Keep the bear, Christ. Didn’t realize it was that big of a deal.”

He glares at me again from the ball he is in on the floor, but doesn’t move. I raise an eyebrow at him, and the bastard raises one back at me. If I wasn’t so annoyed, I’d be proud. “I’m giving you two minutes to get in the MG. If you’re not there, I’m leaving and you can walk to Watford. Don’t expect me to come pick you up when they turn you away at the gates, either!”

That seems to finally get into his thick skull because his eyes widen in cartoonish fear. I cackle as he jumps up and starts running around to pack the last of his things.

I spin my keys between my fingers while I walk to my car and can’t help but smile to myself. The numpty still has that ridiculous bear, after all these years . It had been a miracle I’d managed to get it. I’d stopped on the way to Hampshire to pick it up at a mall just outside London and wrapped it in my car. It had been a last minute decision I’d made after getting off the call with Malcolm (the bastard). There was no way in seven hells I’d let Nat’s kid go without Christmas just because his father is a spineless coward. 

Back then, it had been bigger than he was, and they were damn near inseparable. He would hold onto it in the car (and insist that it be buckled in; as if that did anything). On more than one occasion, I’d come out and find him asleep on the couch, hugging its arm like a lifeline. 

I didn’t know he still had it, after all these years (I certainly hadn’t seen it in the past few). Guess I did something right after all. Sometimes I worry that I’ve failed him. I’m certainly no Natasha, but I work my ass off to try and be there for him. The world fucked him over, but he deserves to be loved. He sure as hell deserves more than me or Malcolm can give him.

I grumble a bit to myself at how sappy I’m feeling, as I climb into the driver’s seat. When did I get so soft, Nat? I swear, your boy will be the death of me.

Baz slides into the car, panting and clutching the only bag that hasn’t been tucked away in the boot. I adjust the rearview mirror so that I can see him and shoot him a grin.

“Ready to become a mage, boyo?”

 

 

Unhappy Birthday

Who would have thought that getting totally pissed would be this fucking depressing?

I guess, under normal circumstances, being sozzled is supposed to be a fun, rebellious thing you do with friends rather than something you do to try and drown out your intensifying lust for blood and the fact that the boy who you like, even though you aren’t supposed to, is following you everywhere, while also grieving over your dead mother on her birthday.

Though, I guess I don’t have a standard for drinking yet. This could be what it is.

Crowley, life is disappointing.

My head is pounding and my heart is in my throat. I sit between the rats that lie dead in fuzzy little piles next to the already empty bottle of wine. I take a swig of the one in my hand before pouring some on my mother’s grave. 

“Cheers, mother.” 

I’m sure she’d be thrilled knowing that her son is both a vampire and queer. 

I empty the last of my bottle and let my head fall forward to my chest. My bones feel like jello. I figure, at this point, Snow has had more than enough time to say something. I’ve smelt him behind me since I was halfway through my second bottle. 

“You know, Snow, it’s rude to stalk people.” Snow startles at my acknowledgement. I let out a short, cruel laugh. “What, did you not think I knew you were here?” I turn around to face him. He’s got his sword pulled out and his eyebrows furrowed.

“I— Baz, you’re drunk!”

“I wasn’t aware,” I deadpan. I can feel my throat tightening and a deep unease growing in my gut. My breath goes shallow, and I try to hide it from Snow by holding in my breath and only breathing in small gasps. The sudden realization that he probably knows the truth about my vampirism accompanied with my disorientation has brought up an overwhelming panic deep within me. I can’t help the short, spotty laughs that rip their way out of my throat. Snow looks completely unnerved. I sound deranged.

“Baz, I…”

“You what, Snow? You what? You going to run off and tell the Mage that you saw me pissed off my ass in the Catacombs?”

“I, Baz, no—”

“Just leave, Snow. Leave. I’ll tell you what I’m really doing. It’s my mother’s birthday, and I’m grieving. So leave it be, and leave me be.” I bend a leg up to my chest, wrapping my arms around it and putting my lips to my knee. “Do me a favor for once in your life, and allow me to wallow in peace.”

I drag my eyes back up to him. Snow looks stunned. “I, uh… yeah.” He allows his sword to disappear at his hip before turning around and leaving.

As soon as he’s gone I press a kiss into my knee and pretend like I’m hugging onto Paddington. I close my eyes tightly and choke out a sob. I kiss my knee a few more times before my breathing gets too shallow and the panic becomes too much. I pull out my phone and text the only person my inebriated brain can think of to help.

 

Baz: Hey Mrodelia can yoi help me out

Baz: I need pictureds of paddington

Baz: Please

Baz: Mordy hplease

Mordelia: Fine, fine, alright. Give me a minute.

Baz: Okau

Mordelia: [img] He misses you, Baz. How could you leave him all alone in the room like this?

 

I click on the image to see a picture of Paddington tucked into my bed, just like I left him when I left for Watford earlier in the year. Mordelia has crumpled up tissues and thrown them haphazardly over my duvet to make it look like Paddington has been crying. I like to think he does miss me when I’m away; I know I miss him. I can feel my breathing start to even out and a small, fond smile begin to form just from looking at him.

 

Mordelia: [img] You’ve been neglecting him, Basilton! He’s absolutely filthy!

 

This picture features Paddington laying in my bathtub. I haven’t washed Paddington in a while, and I know he needs it (I’m too scared that he’ll fall apart in the wash). Paddington is well-loved, and it shows. He has a distinctly “me” smell, and his once fuzzy fur is now shorter and soft, like the inside of a sweatshirt, from both picking at it and pressing my face against it. As gross as it is, the smell never fails to calm me down.

 

Mordelia: [img] He’s better company than you, anyway.

 

Mordelia has Paddington sat at the table with a cup of tea in front of him. She even put a napkin on his lap and set out a small plate of biscuits! I can feel a full smile on my lips now.

 

Mordelia: [img] You made him a swot?! >:0 I thought he was cool!

 

Now Paddington is holding a book, sat in my favorite chair in the library. Mordelia’s shoved Daphne’s reading glasses onto his face (they look like they’re about to snap in half—she really stretched them out). I snort at her emoji.

 

Mordelia: [img] This is the twins’ big brother now.

 

This picture I examine more closely. The twins were born while I was away at school, and I still haven’t gotten to meet them in person yet (they’re only about two months old). Mordelia is holding Paddington so that he’s looking down into the cradles at my sleeping baby sisters. They already look so much like Daphne.

 

Mordelia: [img] He’s tired after all his adventuring. You’ll have to come home soon and bring him out again. He wants to give you a hug and a kiss so that you know you’re loved.

 

He’s just tucked back into bed, but I’d be lying if I said this one didn’t affect me the most. I scroll down to look at the message Mordelia sent alongside the image. I stare at her last sentence and feel a knot forming in my stomach. I press my lips back down to my knee and close my eyes tightly.

Paddington loves me, even if I don’t love myself.

Paddigton cares. He doesn’t want me to hurt myself.

He doesn’t want me to die.

Sometimes it’s hard not to think about hurting myself, about killing myself, but then I remember that it would make Paddington upset. Paddington is always there for me, so I want to make sure I’m there for him too.

I can’t be there for him if I’m dead.

I’d like to think that if I did die, they would bury us together. That would make things easier.

Knowing my family, though, they wouldn’t.

I’m too old for stuffed animals.

Paddington isn’t just a stuffed animal, though.

I don’t think anyone will ever understand why Paddington means so much to me or what he’s helped me get through. He’s always helped me through my worst. He’s there for me to give me a hug whenever I need it and to love me when I feel like no one else does. 

 

Baz: Thank you Mordy for the cpitures I lovy hou

Mordelia: Love you too, Baz <3

 

 

I Miss You

I am going to throttle Baz. It’s midnight, and he has just sent his fourth text in a row. I planned to ignore the first few when I glanced at my phone and saw his name (I just want to read my book and listen to my music until I get tired enough to sleep), but he seems intent on taking all my time. I groan and roll onto my stomach, unlocking my phone.

 

Baz: Hey Mrodelia can yoi help me out

Baz: I need pictureds of paddington

Baz: Please

Baz: Mordy hplease

 

My heart sinks as I read each word. He’s drunk , I realize. I’m actually surprised. Baz is a lot of things, but he never seemed like the type to drink before he was old enough—certainly not on a school night, at the very least. I stare at the words for a bit while I try to process what’s happening. Paddington . I furrow my brows and frown at my phone. Something is very, very wrong. Baz only carries around Paddington when he’s upset. Even then, I haven’t seen him with it since I was little. It doesn’t take too long for me to decide what I’m going to do.

 

Mordelia: Fine, fine, alright. Give me a minute.

Baz: Okau

 

I climb out of bed and creep to Baz’s room. I push open the door and flick on the lights. I expected to have to search for it, but Paddington is lying on the bed, tucked under the covers like he was a baby. I raise my eyebrow at that. Really, Baz? How old are you? Despite how ridiculous this all seems to me, I pull out a handful of tissues from the box on his bedside table and crumple them up, tossing them like confetti in front of Paddington. I place the tissue box under its arm for good measure and step back to admire my work before snapping a couple pictures.

 

Mordelia: [img] He misses you, Baz. How could you leave him all alone in the room like this?

 

I pull Paddington out from under the blankets and scrunch up my face in disgust. It smells terrible . Has he ever let this thing be washed? I know I haven’t seen Baz with it in a while, but I’m fairly certain it wasn’t this color the last time I saw it. I frown at the bear for a few seconds before I come up with the perfect thing for the next picture. I throw open the door to Baz’s bathroom and plop the bear into the bathtub. I debate doing something more with it, but eventually just shrug and snap the picture.

 

Mordelia: [img] You’ve been neglecting him, Basilton! He’s absolutely filthy!

 

I’m debating whether to bring it outside or not when I realize how hungry I am. We had dinner hours ago, and my stomach is rather offended. I hoist Paddington up on my hip and make my way to the kitchen. I place it down in a chair at the table and grab some biscuits for myself. My eyes catch on the tea set, and I grin to myself. I eat a biscuit while I wait for the kettle. Once it’s done, I set up the table in front of Paddington to my liking. I take a couple of it by itself before deciding to take a selfie, too. I think Baz could really use seeing family right now. As much as he likes to pretend he doesn’t, I know he loves me. He loves all of us, even if he is a jerk about it. I don’t know what’s going on with him right now, but maybe this will help. No harm in sending it, either way. It does have Paddington in it.

 

Mordelia: [img] He’s better company than you, anyway.

 

I wonder through the halls for a bit, peeking into rooms and debating how good of a picture I could get there. I end up stopping in the library. Mum’s left her reading glasses on a side table, so I plop Paddington down on the seat and shove her glasses onto it. I grab the book Mum was reading and place it between it’s paws.

 

Mordelia: [img] You made him a swot?! >:0 I thought he was cool!

 

I’ve decided I’m done for the night and have started heading back to Baz’s room when I pass the nursery. One more stop can’t hurt

I tiptoe inside and place Paddington so its arms are hanging into the cradles and tilt its head down toward the twins. It almost falls back onto the floor, but I catch it in time. The last thing I need tonight is to wake them up. That’d be a nightmare.

 

Mordelia: [img] This is the twins’s big brother now.

 

When I get back to Baz’s room, I tuck Paddington back in where Baz had it. I step back and decide to send him one more picture for the night.

 

Mordelia: [img] He’s tired after all his adventuring. You’ll have to come home soon and bring him out again. He wants to give you a hug and a kiss so that you know you’re loved.

 

There. It’s cheesy, but I know Baz secretly loves that stuff. I miss him a lot. I know he has to get an education, but I wish he could come home once in a while. I really miss my brother. As much as I make fun of him, it’s hard without him. I’ve asked Mum to drive me to Watford before so I could visit, but she always says he needs “space”. I guess the only thing I can do is wait for him to come home over the breaks, though this summer he seemed so sad. I tried to ask him what was wrong, but he always elected to tickle me in lieu of an actual answer (I went to his room more often after I noticed; he always seems happier when I’m around). 

My phone buzzes one more time, once I’ve shut the door and climbed into bed for the night. 

 

Baz: Thank you Mordy for the cpitures I lovy hou

 

I smile at the screen. I can’t wait for you to come back home .

 

Mordelia: Love you too, Baz <3



 

For the Kids

Am I an idiot for thinking this was a good idea?

Maybe a little.

Do I regret doing this?

Not really, no.

Am I still absolutely chuffed at the fact that this is happening, to the point that I’m squirming in my seat like a four year old?

Absolutely.

Father sits to my right, looking at me like I’ve pledged my allegiance to the Mage before shitting on my mother’s grave. I’m surprised he even decided to come along, but I guess he’ll take any opportunity to experience the little moments with my half-siblings (he missed all of mine after I turned five). It was probably stupid of me to drag them along, but it’s a lot less depressing going out with family (including toddlers!) who will make fun of you and then get over it than going out on your own.

I’m almost eighteen; I’ll watch whatever I goddamn please.

Daphne saw right through the text I sent her about going to see the Paddington movie. I tried to play it off as a family outing to see a movie the twins might enjoy.

She had the audacity to respond with a wink.

I still managed to drag them all to the theater, so I’ll count it as a win. Now I have an excuse if Dev and Niall suddenly feel the urge to interrogate me.

“Baz, why do you look like you need to use the loo?” Bless the youthful ignorance of these children. Ophelia doesn’t know about all the emotional baggage that has led to this depraved display of childlike wonder.

“I do not.” Mordelia snorts on my left, so I quickly turn to slap her leg.

An indignant “Basilton!” from Daphne followed by an eye roll from me and a “Children!” from Father and our group falls silent until the start of the film.

I think it goes without saying that I both cry and smile until my cheeks hurt.

The entire movie just feels like a hug; there’s no other explanation.

Crowley, I know it’s childish, but I can’t help it. I even laugh at the marmalade sandwich (for emergencies—marmalade is his favorite) and the flock of pigeons on Ms. Bird (truly, the foreshadowing is impressive).

It’s just surreal, too, to see him on screen. Moving, talking, living. If I wasn’t in the theater, I think I’d be bawling like a baby (Mordelia’s snickers and nudges are also inhibiting my ability to really let loose). I think I still will later. It’s sweet and witty and has all these jokes for the older audience. Honestly, I’d bet money Daphne is enjoying it (she and I both snort at the innuendos). 

Crowley, if I ever meet Ben Whishaw I think I may hug him instinctively. Would he mind?

Yes, Baz. What a stupid question .

When the lights go up, my entire family is staring at me. Even fucking Juniper, the traitor.

I school my features to the best of my ability. “What?” Crowley, my voice cracked. Mordelia smiles and puts a hand on my shoulder.

“Do you want us to bring Paddington with us when you inevitably text asking to watch it again next weekend?”

I shove her gently. Yes, please .

 

 

The Most Vulnerable Parts of Me

I turn the key to Baz’s apartment in the door and push it open. Baz has been stressed the fuck out lately, so I probably shouldn’t be here, but I miss him. He’s been isolating himself for the past two weeks so that he can prepare for exams, and I’m tired of it. I brought a bag of peace offerings to hopefully appease the monster I am about to unleash for showing up unannounced (I really hope his aunt’s not here. Why didn’t I think of that before? I’m a dead man if she is).

He’s not in the living room, so I toe off my shoes and walk as quietly as I can towards his room. I know I’m not exactly graceful, but he doesn’t call out to me, so he must not hear it. I knew he was being dramatic when he complained about how loud I am. Why do I love this posh fuck?

I’m starting to wonder if he’s home, honestly. It would be just my luck to break in when he’s not here. The light is on in his room when I round the corner, though, so I guess I don’t have to worry about that. I step into the doorframe, about to knock so that I don’t spook him too badly, but my fist freezes midair when I see what’s in front of me.

Baz is sitting cross-legged in his bed, dressed like he just woke up. His hair is a frazzled mess that he’s pulled back into a messy bun. He’s wearing headphones, which I guess explains how he hasn’t heard me yet. What really catches my attention, though, is the giant stuffed animal he has his nose pressed into. He’s holding onto it tightly, glaring at his notes as if they’ve personally wronged him. I’m torn between finding the whole situation adorable or downright hilarious.

My body makes the decision for me and I can’t hold back the laugh that escapes me. Baz’s head whips around so fast that I’d be afraid he gave himself whiplash if I could focus on anything besides pulling myself together. Any hope of that is trashed by the look of mortification on his face that doubles me over.

“What the fuck are you doing here, Snow?!” he shouts, voice cracking in the middle. I laugh harder, clutching my stomach, which is starting to hurt already.

Baz still hasn’t moved, but his horror is morphing into rage very quickly. It sobers me up enough that I can hold out the bag I brought with everything in it. “I was going to surprise you,” I manage to get out, a smile straining my cheeks.

He snatches the bag, still glaring at me. “I told you I have exams, Snow.” Fuck, his voice is shaking. My smile falters and my brows furrow in concern.

“I mean, sorry I interrupted and all that, but I thought you might want a break.” I approach the bed.

“You could have at least warned me you were coming!” he yells at me, eyes starting to water. I flinch and stumble back a bit from the outburst. I don’t know what I’ve done exactly, but I’ve really fucked up if he’s getting like this. Baz doesn’t cry in front of me. Ever.

“Baz? What’s wrong?” I ask, reaching out to cup his cheek. He jerks his head away and glares down at the blanket where the bear sits.

“You weren’t supposed to know.”

“Is this about the stuffed animal? Baz, I don’t actually care about that.”

“You laughed at me, Snow. A bit late to try and cover your ass.”

“It just surprised me; that’s all. It’s a little funny, yeah. The great Baz Pitch hugging a stuffed bear the size of a toddler. But it’s not like I have a problem with it.”

He sighs and mutters something I can’t hear.

“What’s that, darling?” I move my head so that he can see me better.

“Paddington. His name is Paddington.”

I grin again, relieved that he’s opening up a bit. “Is this the Paddington Bear your aunt got you for Christmas when you were a kid?”

“The very same.”

I chance putting a hand on his shoulder. They slump slightly. He just looks exhausted. I pull him to my chest in a tight hug. “I think it’s cute that you still have it.”

He sighs and wraps his arms around my waist, closing his eyes and leaning into me. “You don’t have to say that just to make me feel better, you know. I’m aware that it’s childish.”

“It’s childish, but it’s still cute. Definitely funny, too.”

He hums in response. I start rubbing circles over his back. “Why don’t you open up what I brought?”

“I suppose it would only be appropriate.” He extracts himself from my arms, looking mostly back to normal, if not a little red in the eyes. He grabs the bag from where he put it on the floor and pulls out the slightly crushed flowers. He looks up at me and raises an eyebrow.

“What made you think putting flowers in a bag was a good idea, Snow?”

“Oi, fuck off. I didn’t know what else to do with them.”

“Maybe next time try holding them. It’s a novel concept, I’m sure.”

I roll my eyes, but I’m just glad he’s going back to normal. He pulls out the rest of the items one-by-one, making snarky comments the whole time. I think he’s trying to gather his dignity back up after the outburst. I want to tell him he doesn’t have to, but I don’t want to make him upset again. 

“Do you want me to put a kettle on?” I ask, picking up the tea I brought him.

“That would be lovely.” His gaze softens, and I feel like the luckiest man in the world to be able to see it. 

Life has been hell lately, but today has made me feel happy again. It’s the first time I’ve laughed in a month. And the first time I’ve held Baz in a month, too, I guess. I don’t want to think about that right now, so I shut down my brain by kissing him. When I break away, I whisper a promise that I’ll be back with my forehead pressed to his, eyes closed so I can savor the moment. I want to stay here forever, in this little bubble where everything is okay with us and I can pretend for a moment that I haven’t been having doubts about our relationship for months now. I want to stay here forever, Baz in my arms, and listen to him grumble about his stuffed bear, kissing him until my lips are sore.

I get up.

I go to the kitchen.

I make our tea.

Paddington is gone when I get back.

 

 

Miscommunication

There is something to be said about how low life can get.

Simon’s out on the couch with a shitty warm cider in his hand and shitty action movies blaring on his shitty TV. Penny tells me just to stay in Simon’s room because it’s getting late. When I ask him if that’s okay, he completely ignores me. I reach my hand out to touch his shoulder…

Then I let it fall down to my side when I see him flinch.

I go into his room and change into a pair of his old trackies and a white t-shirt. I take one look at the bed that he hasn’t touched in months and decide that I cannot imagine getting in it alone.

I throw open the door to Simon’s closet and  grab my box from the top cubby. I dig around, past my spare pants and an old Watford football sweatshirt to find my Paddington.

Well, not my Paddington, the one Fiona got for me—that one is tucked in my bed back at my flat.

This is the Paddington Simon got me for our one year. Our Paddington.

It was only a couple of weeks after he caught me in a compromising position (in the self-image and emotional way, not a suggestive way). When I opened his gift, wrapped in shitty red hearts, I froze. Simon oh-so adorably thought he had managed to do something wrong in buying him for me.

“I, uh. I just thought I thought it would be nice if, you know, you, uh, you left him at my flat? I don’t know, it sounds kinda silly talking about it now, but, for when you visit, if you, you know, need him? He’ll be there.”

“Simon, I ” I choke on a sob and bring a hand up to my mouth. “He’s perfect,” I whisper.

Simon’s look of uncertainty slips into a bright grin. His blue eyes are sparkling as he looks at me. He pushes my hair behind my ear, wipes a tear away with his thumb, and then plants a tender kiss on my cheek. “I’m glad you like it, darling. You have no idea how worried I was about this.”

“You had no reason to be. You know how I feel about Paddington,” I kiss Simon once on the lips before kissing the top of Paddington’s head a few times. He’s smaller than the one Fiona got me, but I love him just the same.

Simon laughs, “Do I need to worry about Paddington stealing my boyfriend? I am the type to get jealous.”

“I know. It’s unbecoming.”

“You love that I get jealous, you prick.”

“I do,” I kiss him (Simon) once more.

Paddington’s obviously not the same as my Paddington, but he’s still just what I need.

Little did I know then exactly how much I’d need him.

I immediately pull Paddington tight in my arms and press my face down into his bucket hat. I try to breathe him in, to breathe at all. I have loved Simon Snow through much worse, but it’s absurd how much more noticeable the loneliness is when you’ve gotten used to being adored.

Simon is still technically mine, but that doesn’t change that he flinches at the sight of me and dodges my touch like the plague. Simon Snow is giving up on me just as much as he’s given up on himself.

Simon Snow, how fucking dare you give up on yourself.

I climb into bed and pull his sheet over my head, effectively burying Paddington with me. I curl up tightly and try to ignore the fact that Simon’s own bed doesn’t even smell like him anymore. I run my hand over Paddington’s back and kiss his forehead between short, shallow breaths.

I’m shaking. 

“I love you… I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you I love you I love you I love you I—” my voice breaks, and I let out a sob, curling up tighter before continuing in a whisper until I fall asleep.

“I love you…”

“I love you…”

“I love you…”

I love you…

 

When I wake up, my face feels tight and Paddington’s bucket hat feels damp against my nose. I grimace and push Simon’s sheets off of myself.

If I had to describe how I feel this morning in one word, it’d be “exhausted”.

I try not to think about it too much as I grab a spare pair of pants from my box and change back into the clothes that I wore over yesterday. I brush my teeth and wash my face to get rid of the salty tear tracks left there. I look a right mess. I’ve got Paddington propped up on the counter watching me as I get ready. I throw him a couple of funny expressions and pretend that he’s laughing at them. It makes me feel a bit better.

I make Simon’s bed, knowing he’ll probably not use it again before I get the opportunity to wash my shame from his sheets. I head out into his and Bunce’s kitchenette after I’m satisfied with how everything looks, Paddington still in hand.

Once I stride out of Simon’s room, that familiar feeling of dread pools in my gut. I go to the living room and sit on the coffee table, directly in front of Simon. He’s awake. I’m not sure if it’s because he hasn’t slept or because he’s just an early riser (his eyes would be red either way). I’m blocking his view of the television, so he actually has to acknowledge me.

“What the hell, Baz! I was watching—” he cuts himself off at the sight of the bear in my hand.

“Look, Snow, I—” I take a deep breath, “here.”

I shove Paddington into his chest. His arms automatically reach up to wrap around him. Simon doesn’t say anything, just stares at me for a moment in disbelief. I decide I can’t take it any longer, so I stand up and head out the door, leaving him in silence behind me.

I hope he knows what he means to me. What Paddington makes me feel.

I hope it feels the same for him.

Because it’s true.

Simon Snow, you are loved.

 

 

Where We Belong

Maybe I fucked up.

It’s way too late to back out now, though. I can hear his key turning in the lock. There is no way I could hide it before he gets to our room. The box is huge and colorful and has these cute little bears all over it and fuck this was a terrible idea.

“Simon, I’m home,” Baz calls. I start fidgeting with the ring on my finger ( I really need to break that habit ). 

I swallow my nerves and straighten up. “I’m in the bedroom,” I call back.

Baz pads into the room, devoid of his suit jacket, tie, and shoes. I briefly let my attention fall to his socks, and feel some of the stress fall off my shoulders in favor of fondness. He’s wearing the fuzzy goat socks I got him for his birthday.

When my attention returns to his face, he’s quirking an eyebrow at me. “What’s the package for?”

I swallow and go back to fidgeting again. “Well, I dunno, I just… Well, I had this idea, but it’s kinda dumb, and now I’m regretting it because I don’t know if you’ll hate it—” 

“Simon,” he cuts me off. I can tell the bastard is trying his hardest not to laugh at my bumbling. I’m really cocking this whole thing up .

I give him a crooked smile and rub the back of my neck. “Why don’t you just open it?”

He walks over to the package, placing a hand on my shoulder and kissing my temple before starting to delicately unwrap the wrapping paper. How does he manage to make unwrapping a gift box look graceful? He already has that stupidly soft smile on his face as his hand passes over one of the bears on the paper. At least I did something right (as if Baz liking the paper will help me if this goes south). Once the wrapping paper is off (how he managed to not rip it at all is beyond me), I pass him my pocket knife so he can cut the tape on the actual box.

He places the knife on his bedside table and opens the box, revealing the unmistakable red bucket hat of Paddington Bear. He’s frozen, staring down at it, and my leg can’t stop shaking with my bottled-up, nervous energy.

“I, uh, just thought you might want one for the nursery. I know you already have a couple, but I didn’t want you to have to give either of them up. I guess I probably shouldn’t have assumed that you wouldn’t want to give her one of them. Or if you wanted to get her one yourself, I can return this one. I just know how important Paddington is to you and all that—” I stop my rambling when I notice the tear tracks on Baz’s face. My hand freezes from where it was tugging on my curls and my stomach drops.

“Baz?” I whisper gently, taking him by the shoulders and turning him to face me. “I’m sorry, darling. I didn’t mean to make you upset…”

He finally tears his gaze away from the bear and meets my eyes. He stares at me for a split second before he lets out a sob and buries his face in my shoulder, his whole body shaking. I rub firm circles into his back and start to massage out the tension in his shoulders. “It’s alright, baby. Let it out.”

It takes a few minutes for him to calm down, but he keeps holding me like I’m a lifeline. He finally whispers, so quietly I can barely hear it, “I love you so much, Simon.”

I chuckle and kiss away the drying tears on his cheek. “Guess I didn’t cock it up, then?”

He shakes his head. “No, you beautiful nightmare. You just took me by surprise.”

“Mm…” I hum, rocking us back and forth slowly. “Do you want to go put him in the nursery?”

“I… Yes, I’d like that.”

I smile and let him extract himself from my embrace. He pulls Paddington out of the box and smiles at him with a softness I rarely see in his features when he’s not looking at me. He presses his face into his bucket hat and places a kiss there. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. I trust you’ll make our daughter feel just loved as I did.”

My heart feels like it’s in my throat. I can’t pretend I understand exactly what Paddington means to Baz (or even why), but seeing him like this makes me fall in love with him all over again. I made sure I got everything right for him when I was getting the bear. I even texted Fiona to make sure it was the right size. I wanted it to be a perfect match to the one she got him as a kid. Maybe it’s a bit weird, but it felt significant.

When Baz lifts his face and smiles at me, I hold out my hand to him. “Come on, darling. Let’s go put Paddington where he belongs.”

 


 

When I saw the package Simon had set out, I was nearly positive that it was going to be one of those high-tech car seats he’s been looking at based on how he was acting, not Paddington. What did I do to deserve him ? It was so unbelievably thoughtful and, honestly, a little funny considering how nervous he was. Does the numpty not remember how I reacted when he got me a Paddington for his flat nearly ten years before?

Simon has always made my heart feel full, but this was something else entirely. He knows about Paddington. He knows how I cling to him nearly as much as I do to Simon himself. He knows how, when I’m really struggling, I’ll bring Paddington and a fuzzy blanket with me to snuggle together with Simon on the couch while we all watch Great British Bake Off .

Simon knows how important he is.

When I opened that box and saw Paddington, I swear my heart jumped straight into my throat. Once he explained exactly why he got Paddington, my stupid, soft self could not hold back much longer. He didn’t know how much it meant when he got Paddington for our (soon-to-be) daughter, for Natasha. He didn’t know that he was telling his daughter that she was loved, forever and always. He didn’t know that he was giving Paddington to the little girl who shares a name with the woman he helped me grieve for. It was all too much, especially considering how far my barriers have come down since Simon and I got properly married (we were practically married for years—as soon as we made things official, and I knew he couldn’t leave without a shit-ton of paperwork he wouldn’t be willing to sit through, I allowed him to see all of me without any of my usual reservations).

It turns out that that was something I should have been doing all along because when I go soft now he calls me baby and rocks me in his arms.

Crowley, I’m smitten.

It’d be a travesty if he weren’t so kind about it.

Simon and I walk to the nursery hand-in-hand. I’ve got my spare arm wrapped around Paddington, pressing him up to my face to try and give him as much love as I can before he becomes Natasha’s (Simon somehow managed to get us matching Paddingtons—it’s the exact one Fiona got me all those years ago). He opens the door quietly like the careful, loving father he is going to be, to reveal the calm of Natasha’s room.

Simon flicks on the lights and holds open the door for me. I walk over to her bed and pull back the sheets to tuck Paddington in. I smooth them out and lean down to press one last kiss on his forehead. I feel a hand, warm and solid, grab my shoulder as I do. When I stand back up, he grabs my other shoulder as well and trails both hands down my arms, stopping at and then wrapping around my waist. His chin nestles on my shoulder and he turns his head ever so slightly to kiss my neck.

“Thank you so much, love. For all of this, Simon, truly.”

“Any time, sweetheart,” another kiss. “I’m glad I did something right for once.”

“Oh hush, you,” I laugh. I can feel his smile on my skin.

We sit in silence for a while—Simon’s arms around my middle and a soft smile playing at my lips. Staring at the bed that will belong to our daughter in the next few days (Paddington and all) makes me finally realize where I’m at in my life.

I’m happy.

I’m content with where I am, completely.

I wouldn’t trade any of this for the world.

I look back to Paddington with an incomparable fondness.

Thank you for helping me get here, friend. Crowley knows I wouldn’t have made it this far without you there, helping me get through it. I love you.

But for once…

I don’t need you.

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”