Exhaustion settles deep in my bones. It’s an unfamiliar feeling, The culmination of years of forced rivalry paired with the summer-long involvement in the Old Families’ scheming against the Mage has left me drained and jaded towards the life that I’ve constructed for myself. I spend much of my time in the Catacombs, having one-sided conversations with my mother and feeling sorry for myself in the cold damp of the underground. The room is cold as well when I enter. Snow has left the window open again and his bonfire magic isn’t even sloshing about to take the edge off of the chill. In fact, Snow isn’t in the room at all and something in my chest pangs in concern. It’s not unheard of that he’s late to bed. Sometimes he spends entire nights doing the Mage’s dirty work, even on school nights. It’s not a school night now, so Snow could be just about anywhere. That’s the part that concerns me.
If I’m nearing the end of my rope, then it seems like Snow has been hanging off the edge of his by the fingertips. I would hazard a guess that he’s been barely holding on for a lot longer than he’s ever let on. He hasn’t been hiding it as well lately, though. He’s heartbreaking. He walks through the halls like he’s being dragged along by sheer force of will. He stands propped up on his own bones and his laugh now is dark and bitter when I hear it float across the dining hall. Bunce seems concerned, but there’s only so much one can do against the force of the Mage when it comes to Simon Snow. If I thought I could succeed, I would have slaughtered the Mage ages ago for the way he treats Snow. I may not have the warmest relationship with my father but at least he makes sure I’m fed and housed and taken care of. I’ve seen the way that Snow looks after the Summer. I know the Mage isn’t caring for him. It doesn’t seem like anyone is. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mage just dumps him on some London street at the end of every term. I wouldn’t be surprised if Snow would see it as some noble test to prove his mettle. The thought alone boils my blood.
I can only imagine what he’s getting up to now. I try not to, I really do, but no force on this earth can stop me from thinking about Simon Snow.
Resigning myself to a night of worrying, I sigh and deposit my blazer onto the back of the terribly uncomfortable wooden chairs that the Mage has kitted each and every room with, despite their threat to the backs and bums of young students. I make my way over to the open window, intending on closing it to try to conserve some amount of heat before Snow inevitably bumbles in and throws it open again. However, as I approach, the distinct scent of stricken matches and radiator heat wafts over my face, warming my cheeks enough to pink them from my earlier hunt. Leaning out of the window, I look around at the surrounding moat and fields beyond, trying to catch a glimpse of Snow. I can’t imagine his magic reaching our window from the ground, but if he’s about to go off then the prospect is not impossible. I don’t see a thing, however, and almost retreat when I hear the sounds of shoes scuffing stone. Wildly, I look around to try to catch Snow climbing the walls of Mummers or something equally as stupid, but a moment later I pinpoint the sound as coming from the roof, of all things.
It’s not unheard of for one of us to scramble onto the roof. I can usually cast a Buckle up or some other safety spell to ensure that I won’t plummet into the moat were a stone to slip under my shoe, but Snow-- the pillock he is-- will simply scramble over the awning with only sheer determination and grit keeping him from the merwolves. He hasn’t been on the roof in some time, however. The last time I remember seeing him claw his way up the cobblestone was when he was trying to catch me up there in year five. To my knowledge he doesn’t make it a habit.
I cast a quick Safety first on myself and heave my still aching body into the cool night air. Immediately I realise I should have snatched my blazer before doing this, but it’s too late when my head breaches the side of the roof and Snow is looking directly at me.
He looks gutted.
He also looks completely plastered.
This surprises more than anything. I’m frozen, stuck with one leg hiked onto the sloped roof, feeling the spell keeping me from completely toppling backwards. It’s a shaky thing, though, as I finally pull myself the rest of the way up with a grimace. Snow seems to thaw as well, scrambling backwards a bit as I settle onto my knees. His eyes are wide and ringed in red and he has a bottle of gin clutched in his hand. It’s a little more than a quarter gone and I wonder how he even got it in the first place. Knowing Snow, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d wished it into existence. I’m curious about his choice, but not enough to question him about it.
I raise a hand in surrender, or maybe truce. He eyes it, eyes the wand in my other hand and I go to shove it into my sock (there’s no way I’m throwing it into the open window, not when Snow is wobbling on top of the highest tower at Watford) and hold up the other hand to show I mean no harm. He’s breathing hard, a terrified expression twisting his features. I try to smile at him.
“Snow,” I say, injecting as much tenderness into it as I can. He just squints at me before his face sort of sags along with his body and my heart nearly jumps out of my throat at the threat of him tumbling over, but his hand shoots out and he steadies himself.
“What are you doing here, Baz?” He asks and his voice is tired and wrecked and he slurs the words together more so than he usually does. It comes out like “Wh’r’ye doin’ere, Baz? ” and it breaks my heart more than I care to admit.
“Making sure you’re not offing yourself before I can get to you,” I say before I can think better of it. He scoffs, rolling his eyes wide and deep in a way that shouldn’t be attractive for how messy it is, but I have always been weak.
“It’d make it easy on you, though, wouldn’t it?” He asks and it’s not nearly as biting as I would like. It’s resigned in a way that scares me.
I shake my head as I slowly move towards the spire structure he’s been leaning against. He doesn’t seem to notice and lets out an unattractive snort.
“It’s not about it being easy, Snow. You and I both know that I wouldn’t let you do that. You’ll die by my hand and my hand only. I’ve got bagsy on ending you.”
He snorts again and tips the bottle back, taking a healthy swig of the gin. If I weren’t so terrified for him, I would have taken this opportunity to admire the smooth column of his throat, the showy way his Adam’s apple bobs with his laboured swallow. I still do, a bit, but I’m only human. (Or, not-human. I’m in love, I suppose, is more accurate.)
“Alright, then. Take up your bagsy with everyone else on the planet, aye? You and the Humdrum can arm wrestle for it.”
I frown and scoot closer, feeling the way his radiant heat washes over me and eases the sting of the cold on my cheeks and fingertips.
“The Humdrum has nothing on me,” I say and it comes out a bit like a snarl. He glances at me out of the corner of his eyes and, thank Snakes , smiles just a bit. It’s watery and wobbly, but it’s a smile. He doesn’t reply, though, just looks out across the moat and towards the Wavering Woods. His jaw is set and I notice his eyes are a bit glassy. I can’t tell if it’s from the wind, or the drink, or something else, but after a moment he sniffles loudly and rubs his sleeve viciously against his nose.
“Snow,” I try again, ducking my head further into his space, “did something happen?”
I can see as he pushes his tongue against the inside of his cheek, his face going pinched. He shudders before his head falls again.
“The Mage--” he pauses to shake his head and suck on his teeth, “he told me that I had to go. That he wanted to take me to some… some bloody safehouse or sommat. Said I was a… a liability,” he spits the word out like it’s poison, “told me I’m putting my friends in danger.”
Rage builds inside of me as he speaks. Of course the Mage would want to squirrel him away to some unknown location, keep him away from the people he loves the most. Train him up into a proper weapon. Teach him how to be the perfect nuclear bomb. He’s worried that the Old Families are going to try to poach Snow. I know because they are, because they’ve brought it up up to me. They asked me to do it myself and only let up when I was able to convince them that Snow hates me, that he’d never come to my side. It was true, it still is. He would never choose me over the Mage, over Bunce. Over Wellbelove.
“That’s bollocks,” I hiss and Snow actually looks at me then, surprised at my use of the curse, “that is utter fucking bollocks and he knows it. You are not a ‘liability’, Snow. You are our insurance policy. Do you truly believe that Watford is safer without you? Crowley, you’ve saved everyone here more times than I care to say, more than you probably realise! You have saved me, and you bloody hate me!”
Snow is outright staring at me, the gin bottle loose in his hand, lips parted prettily. I should be more affronted by his gaping, but I’ve always been partial to anything to do with Snow’s mouth. I’m panting a little, leaning forward towards him, hand planted near his scuffed shoes to steady myself and I need him to understand the ridiculousness of the Mage’s suggestion. That he is needed. That he is wanted.
Without much of a warning, a huge, delighted grin spreads over his lips before he guffaws, honking like a donkey. I blink away my surprise, leaning back as he cackles and slaps his knee. His eyes crinkle so much that he just closes them, throwing his head back. It’s a sight, watching him laugh like this, until the laughter transforms into sobs and I can see shiny tear trails down his freckled face.
I don’t think before reaching out and wrapping my hand around his ankle, relishing in how it thaws my fingertips. It’s enough to bring him back a bit and he reaches up to scrub at his eyes, breath shuddering.
“I cannae-- I cannae believe you just said bollocks,” he says through gasps. I feel a fond smile crack my frozen face a bit and quickly school it into a smirk. I may be trying to keep Snow from jumping off of our roof, but I refuse to be that transparent.
“You are a truly hideous influence on me,” I say and that does come out fond, but Snow doesn’t seem to be listening anyway. He’s breathing shakily, eyes averted to the sky where I notice-- for the first time-- that it’s clear and full of stars. I find myself looking up at them, as well, and we both settle into a comfortable silence.
“I don’t hate you,” he says after a bit and my head snaps to look at him. He’s still staring at the sky, but his breath is even again and his eyes are wide with a sort of wonder.
“You’re lashed, Snow,” I say because I have to, because he doesn’t know what he’s saying. Because I have no clue what to do with a Snow who doesn’t hate me.
He hums, lifting a shoulder in a half shrug, and his head rolls to look at me. His gaze is clear, despite the drink, and there’s a twinkle behind his unremarkable blue eyes.
“Cheers,” he says with a cheeky smile, “aye, but I already knew I didn’t hate you. Known for a long time.”
I can feel my heart smashing against my chest and it knocks the breath out of me.
He shakes his head, interrupting me somehow without even speaking. His expression is still soft and it feels awful, it’s wrenching. He would never look at me like this without half a bottle of gin soaking his brain. I want to tell him to stop, but I’m desperate and I’m weak.
“No, I really do, Baz,” he says, “I haven’t hated you in ages. That was-- Merlin, he asked me to leave Penny, Baz. He told me leave Ags, everyone. But he wanted to get me away from you most of all. I couldn’t… Christ, I couldn’t do that. He would have to drag me away from you in a fucking body bag. You would have to kill me first.”
I have to get him off of this fucking roof, is what I have to do.
“I don’t hate you, either,” I say and I can’t get myself to say it any louder than a whisper, but he seems to have heard. His face breaks a bit, and then cracks open into a grin. He flings his arms out, gin sloshing about in the bottle.
“Then what the bloody hell are we fucking fighting for?” He’s cursing so much, but he looks delighted. I don’t have an answer for him so I just shake my head, eying the way his body sways precariously towards the edge of the roof. I can see the moment where the weight of the bottle tips him too far and his face melts into panic.
I whip my wand out from my sock and cast the first spell I can think of,
“The wind beneath my wings!”
In a sweet smelling gust, Snow is gently lifted from the roof and deposited back down against my chest and I instinctively wrap my arms around his middle. It was a stupid, obvious spell to use, but I doubt Snow will realise the implications in his current state.
“Crowley, Snow, what did I just say about dying?” I snap, but the blow is softened slightly by the way I’m holding him. He makes a wounded noise just as I notice the sound of a bottle rolling and look up to see the gin sliding off the edge of the roof, plummeting towards the moat.
“Gareth gave me that…” Snow says, pouting after the bottle. I roll my eyes, adjusting my grip on him and tap my wand against the crown of his head. “Light as a feather, stiff as a board,” I cast, trying to keep the irritation out of my voice and Snow immediately freezes, his body going weightless.
He protests a bit as I manoeuvre him in through our still-open window, but his words are weak-willed and when I swing myself in after him, he’s giggling at the way his body bumps up against our ceiling. I sigh through my nose and cast a quick As you were and ease him from the ceiling onto his bed. He falls back with a quiet oof when my cold, aching arms give out a little and it careens me forward, my shoulder colliding with his chest.
He’s still snickering as I right myself, feeling a blush rise to my cheeks.
“Go to sleep, Snow,” I say as I straighten myself out, pushing my hair back out of my eyes, “you’re going to be a wreck in the morning.”
I don’t look at him as I enter the bathroom and fill a glass with water, searching our cabinets for some pain medication. I’m certain he’s stored some somewhere, even though Bunce always spells away any pain for him. I could do the same, but I would like to pretend that I’m not so far gone on him that I will waste my magic on something so trivial as a hangover.
There’s a bottle of paracetamol sitting at the back of the bottom drawer and I shake a few out, trying to convince myself that what I’m doing now doesn’t have exactly the same implications.
When I return to the room, I’m half expecting Snow to have passed out. He must be knackered. However, I’m met with his gaze as I round the doorframe towards his bed. It stops me, and I can’t help the way it makes my stomach flutter. I steel my expression and shove the paracetamol and the water into his hands.
“Take these. They’ll tide you over until Bunce can get her hands on you.”
He doesn’t say anything, but dutifully slips the pills between his lips and chases them with long, deep gulps of the water, his eyes never leaving mine the entire time. I feel locked in place by them and I want, more than anything, to turn around and shut myself in our bathroom until he falls asleep, but I can’t seem to get my feet to move. It’s unfair how he can make something so mundane as drinking water seem obscene.
He places the empty glass on the nightstand and props himself up on his elbows, his head lolling to the side. He’s regarding me, his eyes darting around in a hurried sort of way. I should go, before I do something about the way his shirt is riding up on his stomach or the way he licks the excess water from his lips.
It feels like I’m tearing a wound open when I turn around, but I don’t even get far because his hand darts out to grab my wrist.
“Baz,” he says, quiet and less slurred than before. I can feel that every muscle in my body is tensed and I think I might be shaking. I’m tired and broken down and I’ve seen his face look soft and open far too much tonight. I don’t want to turn around. I can’t let myself.
“Go to sleep, Simon,” I say, and the use of his name surprises him enough that he loosens his grip on my wrist. I pull away, dashing into the bathroom and staying there until I can hear the sounds of his snoring.
I’m almost certain that I’ve been cursed.
The feeling of absolute horror behind my eyes, pounding against my skull on all sides might be worse than most of the major flesh wounds I’ve received in the last few years.
I can’t help moaning in pain as I bury my face further into my pillow. I barely register the shuffling sounds from across the room, a door opening, the faucet running, and I only look up when I hear the soft thunk of something being set down on my bedside table.
Baz looks caught when I see him, paused in motion and eyes wide. He doesn’t move for a moment before he straightens and crosses his arms over his chest and schools his face into something more Baz-like.
“Thought you might need hydration after the stunt you pulled last night,” he says, voice tight. I frown at him but reach for the glass, draining it in only a few gulps.
“You mean the gin?” I ask, because I’m certain that’s what he must be talking about. I wasn’t so far gone as to wipe the entirety of my memories of last night away.
I’d gone into it all with the intention of getting thoroughly plastered, and I remember being in a state enough to think that hoisting myself onto the roof was a dead romantic thing to do.
At the mention of the gin, Baz winces away from me, going to fold himself back onto his bed.
“Right, the gin,” he says, and for a moment I’m terrified that I’d done something, or said something to make him so squirrely. Bits and pieces return to me and I remember him finding me on our roof. I’m sure it looked terribly pathetic, because I know I’d been crying. The whole thing was pathetic. I’m certain I’d confessed something to him, and I hope to all higher beings that it wasn’t the realisation I’d come to before I pulled the hidden gin from under my bed.
The Mage had asked me to leave. He’d been quite polite about it, telling me that the frequency of the Humdrum attacks increased with my presence, explained that I was putting my friends in danger. I was nearly to packing my bags when he continued on, saying that it was good to get me away from ‘that Pitch boy’. He said the words with such revulsion that it made me sick, a bit, just hearing it. He mentioned that his intel had informed him of plans of poaching me onto the side of the Old Families, that he was certain that they’d try to use Baz to get to me. I tried to convince him that Baz would be the last person they’d try to recruit, that Baz hated me, and they knew I would never join him. The Mage just seemed comforted by that and told me that he would find a few decent lethal duelling spells to teach me, for when Baz and I finally faced off.
I’d never had anyone else spell it out for me before. I’d never heard the words ‘duel’ and ‘Baz’ used in the same sentence if I weren’t the one speaking them (or if Penny wasn’t mocking me, or making innuendo). Of course, the Mage had called him Basilton and said his name with such disdain that it rivalled even my own tone.
It made it clear, in that moment, that I couldn’t fight Baz. Not for someone else. Not for some sodding war that I had no hand in. If I were to fight Baz, it would be for us and us alone.
The us had given me pause.
Why would I fight him for us? What use is fighting him at all? I don’t even hate him, I thought.
I don’t hate him at all.
The influence of others has always been a weakness of mine.
Being constantly told what to do and how and why and told never to question it was a constant in my life ever since I could remember. It was an expectation that I would go off and do my duty to whomever had hold of me. The Mage got to me first, I’d realised with sudden clarity. It was a struggle, thinking it through, but the way the Mage huffed and threw the few belongings I have to my name into my old, ratty duffel without much care at all steeped my magic more than anything Baz had ever done.
The Mage only left when he thought I was about to go off.
Maybe I was.
He could convince me to leave my friends behind for their safety. He could rip me away (again) from the one place that has ever felt like home with promise to teach me how to save the world. But the moment he spoke about Baz, it all went sour. His words felt rehearsed and false in my ears until he told me to kill Baz.
Despite the evidence to the contrary, I bloody hate being told what to do. I hate knowing that someone has a plan for me. I’ve gone along with him this long because the fate of the world depended on it, because my friend’s lives were in danger. But I’d be arsed if someone told me to kill my fucking roommate because of some stupid ancient infighting. I draw the line at that.
I draw the line at killing Baz.
As my magic calmed and I knew the Mage wouldn’t be back, I wondered if I ever actually thought I’d have to kill Baz. Of course I said it, of course I told others (told him ) that I would, but I couldn’t imagine a world without Baz in it. He’d thwart me, somehow, I always told myself. He’d figure out how to stop whatever plan I had, and then I’d figure out his plotting and stop him, and then rinse and repeat. For the rest of our lives.
I couldn’t think of a world where I didn’t have Baz. The thought, the real thought, the image of him bloody on my sword, sent waves of nausea through me. The idea of our inevitable duel had been a nebulous thing for so long, but I would never turn my sword on him. I couldn’t.
I couldn’t kill him because there’s no me without him.
I couldn’t kill him and I don’t hate him.
So, what does that mean, I’d thought?
What does it mean not to hate Baz?
My immediate, unexpected, gut answer was to love him.
The force of the thought had pushed me onto my bed. The residual heat of my magic made my fingertips tingle and blood rush to my ears.
If I don’t hate Baz, if I don’t want to kill him, then I must love him, right?
Part of me (the part of me that sounds like Penny), reminded me that love and hate are not the only two emotions one can feel for another, but I couldn’t think of a single other thing. It had to be one or the other.
It feels more dangerous to love him than it ever felt to hate him. It feels better, too. Hating him was safe, it was what was expected of me. An attack dog pointed towards him with snapping teeth. But, already, I liked the idea of loving him far more than the act of hating him.
I’d considered Baz, the way I think about him, the fact that I can’t stop thinking about him half the time. Most of the time. All, perhaps. I’d looked over at his bed, perfectly made, and thought about the nights that he’s woken me from nightmares with gentle, whispered words that I’m never able to remember anything of the next morning. His cool, soft fingertips grazing my overheated forehead and bringing me back to myself, more tender than he’d ever let himself be in the light of day.
He can’t be evil. Evil, dark creatures don’t comfort their arch-nemesis after a nightmare. He wouldn’t get me water for a hangover, or make sure I don’t throw myself off a roof if he was truly evil, if he truly wanted me dead. Sure, he’s sent a chimera after me, he’s pushed me down stairs, he’s probably a vampire, but I’ve not been good to him, either. And lately… lately he’s been quieter, less argumentative. He barely responds when I try to agitate him nowadays. Fuck, he hardly sneered the other day when I was practicing with my sword in our room until I’d wound him up enough.
I’d considered how obsessed with him I’ve been since that first night, when the Crucible had shoved us together and he’d been so shuttered and condescending, refusing to shake my hand and it had boiled my blood. All I’ve ever wanted was his attention, for him to look at me, maybe be intimidated (impressed) or shocked (amazed) at how much better I was than him (for him). When he’d barely met my eye after I’d purposefully knocked myself against his bed-frame during my sword practice, it infuriated me. It made me want to grab him by his shirt and force him to look at me, to see me…
So, I’m in love with him. I know this now. But it doesn’t quite matter, does it? If the outright hatred hadn’t been enough of an indicator that the feeling isn’t mutual, then the indifference he’s shown lately certainly is. I’d had this revelation, knowing what I wanted from him finally, and just as quickly it had been dashed. So I drank. The feelings had felt too big, too much, and for once I couldn’t stop bloody thinking. So I drank and I’d climbed onto our roof because the room felt too stuffy and hot and I needed to feel the sting of the cold against my cheeks and I needed-- I needed something. Something to distract me, something to keep my mind from wandering to images of his hands, his throat, his jaw…
And then he’d found me.
It felt a bit like fate, maybe, but it could have also just been the fact that we share a room. I’d expected him to stay out longer, maybe even all night like he has been lately, but of course he’d returned early. He’d found me, plastered and pathetic, and possibly cracked open enough to have revealed my shiny new secret.
If only I could bloody remember.
“Did… did I say something? Last night, I mean?” I ask, wincing at how rough my voice sounds. Baz is still sitting on his bed, a book open in his lap but he doesn’t seem to be actually reading it. I wonder why he hasn’t left yet. It’s Saturday, but breakfast should be nearly over. Maybe he already went… but he’s still in his pyjamas and his hair is piled into a messy bun at the top of his head. It’s dead gorgeous. He looks perfect. I’ve always liked him better when he was still soft with morning, his edges dulled with sleep and warm blankets. He rarely lets himself stay so undignified this long after waking. He’s usually quick to the loo to get ready, not one to stew in his silk sleep clothes.
He glances over at me, eyebrows creased, worrying at his lip like he’s debating even responding to me. After a moment he huffs a short sigh and looks back at his book. A strand of hair escapes his bun and falls next to his eye. He tucks it behind his ear as he takes a breath to reply. My mouth is dry. He’s so bloody fit, I cannot believe it took me this long to realise.
“You said a lot of things last night, Snow. None of which were of much substance.”
I narrow my eyes at him. That could mean close to anything, knowing Baz. It’s not like he would take anything I said seriously, considering how pissed up I was.
“Nothing I said?” I ask, sitting up a bit more and wishing I had more water. My mouth tastes like a dog’s backend and my head feels swimmy and it’s pounding. But Baz is avoiding saying something and I need to know if I’d confessed my newfound love for him.
He rolls his eyes and turns the page of his book though I’m now certain he’s not reading it. His eyes aren’t moving across the page, just staring a hole in the paper.
“Nothing. You put our lifelong rivalry into question, which means you were truly and completely hammered. Nothing you said was to be taken seriously.”
Ah… so I told him. I must have. I can’t imagine that I’d be able to tell him that I don’t hate him without also telling him that I love him. The two things go hand in hand in my head, both meaning the exact same thing.
So he knows. He knows and he’s… disgusted. He’s only stuck around to make sure that I know that he would never feel the same way. I knew, of course, that he didn’t. How could he? I’ve been nothing but cruel to him for years, antagonising him, shouting and accusing him. It still hurts, hearing it. Having it confirmed in words.
I push the blankets off of me, hurling myself out of bed. Standing makes my head swim and I nearly topple over as my vision whites out. I press a hand to my eye as I stumble over to my dresser and gather clothes into my arm, hoping I can at least drown my feelings in the crumbs left from breakfast.
When I turn back around, Baz is watching me, his brows pinched and his book fallen closed. I wince, glancing away as I make my way towards the loo.
“Sorry,” I mumble, “I won’t be bothering you then.”
I’m about to step into the bathroom when cool fingers catch my wrist.
“What in Merlin’s name are you on about, Snow?” He doesn’t sound angry, just confused, and I resist the urge to pull my arm from his grasp. I didn’t know skin that cold could burn.
“It’s alright, I don’t regret telling you, but I get it. S’not like I had a chance with you, anyway. You probably don’t even go for blokes, much less your bloody nemesis.”
That should be the end of it. He should let me go, say something insulting and leave me to wallow.
But he doesn’t do any of that. He squeezes my wrist and I’m surprised enough that I look back at him and he… he looks stricken.
“Snow,” he says, his voice breaking a bit, “what the fuck are you on about?”
I can feel my face twist, embarrassed and hurting and my head is still pounding so hard I can barely think.
“Don’t make me say it again, Baz. It’s embarrassing enough as it is.”
“Please, humour me.” He doesn’t look angry. Why doesn’t he look angry?
“Fuck! How bloody full of yourself are you? Just because I fancy you doesn’t mean I’ll feed your ego whenever you ask! Fuck,” I can feel my cheeks heat, humiliated and angry, and I try to tug my arm away, “let go of me, Baz.”
“What do you mean you fancy me, Snow?” His voice is low, quiet. Dangerous. I shiver.
“I told you last night, didn’t I?”
Baz shakes his head and more hair comes loose from his bun. I want to reach out and tuck it away, or perhaps mess it up even more.
“You only told me that you no longer hate me. You made no mention of… of anything more than that.”
I swallow back a wave of nausea. I don’t regret it, I didn’t regret it when I thought I’d confessed it last night, and I don’t regret it now, but the admission still makes my heart pound against my chest and my skin flush uncomfortably hot. He’s still not let go of my wrist and I think about trying to tug it away again. I think he might let me, if I did, but something stops me. I shrug with one shoulder, staring a hole into the ground.
“Well, I do. I figured it out yesterday. When the Mage tried to take me away, he kept saying all this bollocks about you poaching me to the side of the Families, said he’d teach me how to kill you. It made me so bloody angry I almost went off on him. It made me realised that I can’t actually kill you, not for real, and I don’t hate you. I don’t hate you, which means that I--” I stop myself, “which means I must like you.”
I can hear a sharp inhale and Baz finally drops my wrist, but I’m not going anywhere. I don’t want to hear the words, but I’ve never been one to back down from him.
“Snow,” he says, slowly and carefully, “you do know that you can feel things other than hate and… and liking someone, right? Surely even a dolt like you understands the basic concept of emotions.”
So he’s still insulting me. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad sign.
I sigh, rolling my eyes towards the ceiling.
“Aye, I mean obviously I know that. But it’s like that for us, yeah? I can’t… fuck, it’s hard to explain, but if I don’t hate you then what else could all of this be? All of the… feelings I have for you? Baz, I’ve been obsessed with you for ages. How can that not be l-- liking you? A lot?”
He doesn’t respond for a long moment, and when I look up at him, he’s staring at me, jaw hanging open. I’m not sure if I’ve ever managed to leave Baz speechless before. It feels sort of good, being able to do that to him. It feels like a victory.
When our eyes meet, he doesn’t look away like I expect him to. He stares straight back, slowly closing his mouth and seemingly formulating a respond. He swallows, showy like and pretty, and I watch the movement of his throat self-indulgently.
“I have to say,” he says, finally, “that you make… a sound argument, Snow. I’m not sure I ever put it together, but I suppose I should trust you to know how you feel and all of the evidence is… compelling.”
I nod, and the action jostles my brain a bit, making me wince as pain shoots through my skull. Baz sighs, but it almost sounds… fond.
“Go shower, please. You smell like a distillery. We can talk when you’ve finished.”
Talk? So he’s going to stay? Maybe he wants to put down ground rules, since he’s living in the same room as the bloke that fancies him. He probably feels well awkward about all of this and wants to make sure I won’t jump him in his sleep. I spare one last look at him, gorgeous and lovely and messier than I’ve seen him in some time, and retreat into the bathroom.
I take my time in the shower, making sure to scrub the scent of stale liquor from my skin. No one told me that you sweat it out apparently, because Baz is right, it’s minging.
I brush my teeth as well, much longer than I usually do. It feels like my mouth is coated in a layer of slime and I gag several times on my toothbrush, nausea rolling through me. I almost puke, but manage to keep it down, and use the cup in our bathroom to swallow down as much water as I can handle before my stomach starts hurting.
By the time I’m done, Baz has settled back into his bed again, leaning into his pillows and staring straight ahead. He startles when the door creaks and when he looks at me, he almost seems… scared. Or nervous. I offer a weak smile and it gets him to scrunch up his nose. It’s adorable.
“Take a seat, Snow,” he says, gesturing to the end of his bed. I lower myself slowly, pressing myself into the baseboard and as far away from him as I can. He pulls himself up onto his knees and reaches over towards his nightstand, snatching his wand from the fancy glass holder he keeps it in. It looks a bit like one of those fountain pen stands, the slick kind that politicians and business men have, but it’s more delicate and ornamental than that.
He turns his wand around in his fingers for a moment, that nervous expression still twisting up his features. I can tell he’s chewing on the inside of his lip and he’s just sort of staring off to the side, like he’s lost in thought.
“Baz?” I ask, frowning slightly. He’s acting strange, not at all like I’d been expecting once he learned about his feelings. Maybe he’s about to spell me and he’s worried he’ll get in trouble, or trigger the anathema. I wonder if I should be preparing to fight him (I don’t want to, and I don’t think I even could).
His eyes snap to me and his mouth hangs open again, just a bit, just enough for it to be pretty. After a moment, his jaw clicks shut and he takes a long breath in through his nose.
“You’ve said your piece, Snow, now it’s my turn to say mine,” He says, finally, and suddenly his eyes turn a bit soft, “do you still have a headache?”
I press my hand to my temple and nod, not wanting to speak and interrupt him from whatever he’s about to say. My heart is pounding frantically against my chest and I feel like I can’t breathe and, yes , my head still bloody hurts.
“Alright, well… this is my response to what you have said. Take it how you will.”
And with that, he turns his wand on himself, pressing the tip of it against his lush bottom lip, and says almost too quietly to hear, “Kiss it better”
My eyes widen as he lowers his wand (I can see that his hand is shaking) and he leans his body forward, stabilising himself with a hand planted near my thigh, and brushes his lips against my forehead, and again near my temple, and the throbbing pain burns up and disintegrates in Baz’s grease fire magic.
Penny has used that one on me a few times. She says that it’s a family spell, one usually used by mothers for scraped knees and splinters, but the only thing it truly relies on is for the caster to wish for the pain to go away and for them to have an instinctive, inherent, honest adoration for the recipient of the spell.
When Baz pulls away, he has the audacity to look embarrassed. His eyes are averted again and he’s white-knuckling his grip on his wand.
“I know… you only said that you fancy me. This might be a bit more than you had expected. But I thought it only fair, after what you’ve told me. Do not feel obligated to do any--”
I cut him off with a kiss, because I want to. Because he found the most romantic way to confess his feelings after I bumbled my way into telling him amidst a drunken haze and consequent hangover. Because he still figured out a way to one-up me, somehow, and I only love him even more for it.
He makes a deliciously sweet sound against my mouth and I can’t help but grin against him, breaking the kiss. He pulls back just a few centimetres, grey eyes wide with wonder and lips parted again (maybe I’ve been a bad influence on him) and his hair is messy where it falls around his face. He blinks a few times before surging forward and kissing me . I hear his wand clatter onto the floor as he flings his arms around my neck, dragging me down against him. I meet him in kind, pushing him back against the mattress and bracketing his body with my hands and knees. He’s not a fantastic kisser, quick and a bit wet and unsure of what to do, but it lights my insides on fire and makes my heart clench with every little gasp and smile pressed against my lips.
I break away for a moment, panting against his mouth, pressing our foreheads together.
“I thought you were going tell me to stay away from you. I thought you’d be afraid I’d try to do gay shite to you or sommat.”
He laughs, breathy and beautiful.
“That would be rather hypocritical of me, wouldn’t it?”
I reach down to brush hair from his forehead, tucking it behind his ear like I’ve always wanted to. His breath catches in his throat and his smile drops into a look of awe.
“I suppose it would be,” I say, leaning down to kiss along his jaw, slightly rough with morning stubble, “so you’re gay then?”
“Properly,” he gasps, arching slightly against me in a way that makes my insides ignite, “are you?”
“‘Dunno,” I mumble against his throat, “for you, yeah, I am. It’s really only been you, I think.”
He whimpers as I tease a spot just under his ear with my teeth and he wraps his arms around my back, fingernails digging into my shoulders.
“Wellbelove?” He asks and he sounds hesitant, maybe scared. I shake my head, lifting myself up so I can look at him properly. He needs to understand exactly what I mean when I tell him this.
“I love her,” I say and he winces, looking away. I place my hand against his cheek, easing him back to look at me again, “I love her, and I love Penny. I… just have a hard time knowing which kind of love is which, but I know how this feels, and it feels right. More than it ever did with her. I think I had it all mixed around, all the different types of love. I’ve got it figured out now, but I was confused for so long, Baz, I can’t believe I was so dense. But I’ve figured it out now. This is right.”
He looks a bit like he’s going to cry, and I try to ignore the fact that I’ve basically just told him that I love him. He pulls me down against him and kisses me with a tenderness that nearly breaks my heart, like he can’t help it, like maybe he understands.
Later, he sneaks us down to the kitchens and we bring breakfast leftovers back to our room, eating together quietly and reveling in this brand new thing we have now. Sometimes he’ll reach over and take my hand, and I’ll trace the lines of his face with my fingers, and it feels a bit like a dream, still.
After we brave dinner and I tell Penny everything and she shouts at me for several minutes straight on several accounts of self-endangerment, tomfoolery, and stupidity; after she marches up to Baz and warns him that she will be watching to make sure he doesn’t hurt me (dead embarrassing, honestly); after we do a bit more kissing against the closed door of our room, Baz pulls me over to our window. He spells us both with safety charms and pulls me up onto our roof. We sit against the spire and hold hands and he points out stars and tells me their stories as he traces his fingers against my arms and hands (I think he’s tracing the constellations on my skin). It feels big and dangerous and sweet and lovely and I’ve felt light as a feather all day. He never said anything about my accidental confession of love, but I don’t think it really matters.
Because I love him, and he doesn’t hate me, and that’s sort of the same thing, in the end.