"Penny, Can't we leave yet?"
"No, Simon. I still need to put in good face with the higher ups." Penny sighed. A waiter with a plate of hors d'oeuvres passed them. She grabbed two, put them on a red and green napkin, and handed it over. He took the napkin with a frown.
"You can't bribe me with food." He said, shoving one in his mouth. It was something wrapped in dough, wrapped in bacon. He paused mid-chew and looked down at the second. Simon's frown lines vanished as he picked it up and ate it.
"Yes I can," said Penny with a grin. Simon groaned. Simon and Penny had already been here well over two hours and he was done. Yeah the open bar and buffet were cool, not to mention taken advantage of, but Simon was ready to go home. The Watford Card Company's Christmas Party was in full swing, everyone Simon had ever seen in his two years of working here was in attendance tonight. Which wasn’t ideal.
It wasn’t that Simon didn’t love his job, he did. He did love his job. Sure, he wasn't one of the writers, he's not as creative in the layout department, but he still felt like part of the process. Part of the team. He still felt like he got to bring little doses of good into people's lives.
Not everyone agreed. Some assholes thought only the creative team were worthwhile at Watford. Some pompous dicks thought unless you literally were the ones writing the card, then you were a waste of space. Some talented, arrogant pricks thought their job, the one they only had because their mother founded the company, thought Simon was a useless fuckup. That asshole was currently standing over by the bar.
"I'm getting a drink." Simon told Penny, and started walking toward the bar.
She grabbed his arm, "Oh Simon. Come on. Don't go over there."
"You want anything while I'm over there?" He asked, continuing forward, tugging against the resistance. Baz looked smug and impeccably dressed. But worse than that, he was talking Agatha. Yeah, sure, she and Simon had broken up at the beginning of the year, but it was still weird.
"He's only going to piss you off." Penny said. Simon pulled away from her and mumbled, "Yeah, probably."
Simon made his way across the room. Agatha glanced over and saw him approach. She blushed when she saw him, Simon counted that as a little win. Baz, of course, ignored him. Baz didn't so much as glance at Simon as he walked over. Instead, he turned away to pour another drink.
"Hey Agatha." Simon said, reaching for the vodka and pouring it over ice.
"Hi Simon," Agatha nodded at him. Simon took a sip. He winced as he swallowed. It burned going down. God, couldn't they afford better booze for this party? Couldn't they get something a little more high quality, with the illustrious Tyrannus Basilton on their writing staff?
"You'd think they could spring for at least the mid-shelf stuff." Simon frowned pointedly at the back of Baz’s head.
"Yeah" Agatha shrugged. She looked uncomfortable. Probably because she had been stuck talking to Baz for god knows how long. She met Simon's gaze one last time before wandering off.
Simon sighed heavily and glanced around the room. Penelope was chatting up her boss's wife. The two were laughing together. It looked like Penny was scoring some serious points, so Simon decided he might as well keep the liquor company.
He couldn't very well leave without Penny anyway. She had promised to split a cab home together. That's the only reason he stayed at the party, the only reason he stayed by the bar, sipping his drink. Tinny Christmas music flowed through the speakers as Simon reached for the bottle to top off his drink.
"So, uh. You having a nice time?" Baz asked and Simon nearly choked on his vodka.
"Huh?" He turned to Baz, sputtering and coughing.
"God, Snow. I'm just trying to make conversation." Baz said, rolling his eyes, "Unless you're so-"
"Oh, fuck off."
"Watch it, Snow," Baz smirked. Simon wanted to punch that cocky smile off his face. "This is a work function."
God, he was just the worst. Simon wasn't even sure if Baz knew his first name. It was always just Snow. It drove Simon up a wall.
Simon threw back the rest of the vodka and slammed the empty glass on the counter. Baz ticked his eyebrow up at him. The only thing Simon wanted to do was clock Baz on the jaw. Baz took a step closer. Simon swallowed.
"What are you doing?" Simon inhaled and thought he caught a whiff of something nice, something like cedar. It was probably the open bottle of gin on the bar. Simon stepped back until he bumped into the bar. He gulped. Nervous. Which was ridiculous. He looked back up at Baz. "Do you, uh, can I get you a drink?"
Baz shrugged and set his glass down next to Simon's elbow. He swayed into Simon's space and said, "Bourbon. Rocks."
He's a little sloshed, Simon realized. Baz just grinned at him while Simon poured two fingers into his glass. His soft, loopy smile made something settle uneasily in Simon's stomach. He was looking at Simon. Baz was looking at Simon like he wanted to-- who knows. He stifled the thought and passed the glass back to Baz.
Simon glanced around the room, looking for something else to do besides stand here by Baz. Penny was still talking to her boss and her wife. Damn. Maybe he could find Agatha to small talk with. At least it would be something to do. But she had vanished. Simon poured another for himself and looked back at Baz. He was leaning one elbow on the bar and staring down at his drink.
"Is it, uh, is it okay?" He asked, nodding down to Baz's glass, "I didn't screw it up, did I?"
Baz giggled, which was unnerving, "No. It's great. It's perfect. You're.." and then he mumbled something Simon didn't quite catch. Something sharp and insulting, Simon guessed.
"You know," Simon said, taking another swallow, "You write the most beautiful stuff. Poetic. It's honestly disgustingly beautiful. How?"
"You? You read my stuff?"
"Oh my god. Yes. I mean. Even when I'm not assigned to. Even when I don't have to." Simon needed to stop talking. He recognized that he needed to stop talking. This was getting embarrassing but he just took another sip, and Baz matched the action. "It's so. You're so cold and mean. How do you-- you're such a dick, but you make me want to believe in love in two sentences on a fucking greeting card man." Simon finished his glass.
He stepped back, away from Baz. Baz's eyes were wide. Simon swallowed. Baz set his glass down. He blinked. In that slow, droopy way people blink after they've had one too many. Simon blinked back, probably in the same way.
Definitely in the same way.
"You like the stuff I write?" Baz took another step closer. He reached out and took Simon's empty glass and placed it down on that bar. Their fingers brushed as he did so and Simon's heart jumped up into his throat. He gulped. And Baz tracked the movement with his eyes. Down and then back up again. His gaze lingered somewhere near Simon's mouth on the way back up to his eyes.
The lapels of Baz's suit jacket were silky smooth under Simon's thumb, which was a weird thing to notice in the moment. He couldn’t even remember reaching up to touch them. Simon tugged forward and even softer than the lapels were Baz's lips on his.
Simon kissed Baz. Which struck Simon as completely unhinged. Why was he kissing Baz. Why were Baz's fingers tangled in his hair. Why was Simon sighing into the kiss. Why was he moaning?
"I-" Baz whispered, pulling back. For a moment, neither of them said a word. Then Baz leaned away.
"I gotta go," Simon muttered. He quickly scanned the room until he found Penny, still talking to her boss, and made his way over to her. He hated to interrupt but this took precedence. Simon had potentially caused an HR disaster by full on kissing the former company president's son. He gestured wildly a few feet behind her boss until Penny noticed him. She glared at Simon like he’d lost his mind, which, to be fair, he might have.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" She whispered harshly, striding over to him.
"Nothing." Simon said. "I just. I don't feel very good. I might try to catch a cab on my own instead of waiting. You stay though."
Penny observed him quietly for a moment. Simon wished she would hurry. He just wanted to leave as quickly as possible, but Penny held his gaze. "Okay," she said, "Let's get out of here."
She followed him through the mass of people and Simon resisted the urge to glance back at the bar. When he couldn't fight it anymore and found his eyes looking back to where he had been a minute ago, Baz was gone. They hailed a cab right outside of the catering hall, and Simon watched the city lights drift by on the drive back to their little two bedroom. When they got home Simon crawled into bed and passed out before his head hit the pillow.
The next morning found Simon awake too early, and unable to fall back asleep. It was still an hour before his alarm was meant to go off. He rolled out of bed and made his way to the kitchen. His headache wasn't too bad but his stomach was feeling a little uncomfortable. Nothing a little coffee couldn't fix.
He set the coffee to brew and poured himself a bowl of cereal. While the pot brewed away Simon decided to clear out the dishes in the sink. Usually dishes were Penny's job. Simon would clean and vacuum and sweep, but dishwater made his hands all pruney and it grossed him out.
Simon heard Penny's alarm go off while he was doing the dishes. She came in, sat down, poured herself some of the same cereal. Then she crossed her hands on the table and said, "Okay. What's wrong?"
"Simon. You're doing the dishes."
Simon rolled his eyes and continued drying the casserole dish, "Nothing's wrong."
Penny sighed, it was laced with judgement, but she had no idea. She had no idea how bad it was. Simon carefully inhaled and exhaled, (not too deep, not too shallow) nothing to arouse suspicion. Nothing that would make Penny press the issue.
Simon sat down and finished his pops. When the coffee was gone he left to go get changed for work. It was a half day before the company closed for Christmas. A half day meant Simon only had to spend half the normal amount of time avoiding Baz.
Baz, whom he had kissed.
Maybe Simon could drown himself in his leftover cereal milk.
He got dressed anyway and Penny drove them to work. Simon's heart thudded in his chest as Penny parked in their assigned spot. Just a half day. Then they could go home and Simon could watch Christmas movies with a mug of warm eggnog until the whole damn season was over.
Simon sat at his desk and got to work. The weirdest thing about working for a card company was that they were never working on something for the current holiday. It made sense. They had to get everything finalized, printed, and shipped well before the holiday. It was still a little odd to hear Brenda at the desk next to him, humming along to All I Want For Christmas Is You, while his desk was covered in layouts for the St. Patrick's Day cards they would print in a few weeks.
Simon actively avoided looking over the desks towards the writer's corner. He kept his head down. He didn't want to check if Baz was here today. He definitely didn't want to know if Baz was looking over at him. He didn't need to know if Baz looked as flustered as Simon felt.
Simon lasted two hours. Which, honestly, felt like enough of a win. So as reward he decided to casually glance in the direction of the writer’s corner. He stood and looked over and..
Baz wasn't there.
Simon frowned. He sat back down and crossed his arms. There was no evidence that Baz had even been there today. His desk looked the same as it had when they all left for the party last night. There was no sweater draped over the back of his chair like there usually was. No cup of fancy store-bought coffee. No half-eaten scone. No trace of Baz at all.
Simon pushed his chair back and headed for the kitchen. Might as well take an extended coffee break if the writers couldn't even be bothered to show up today.
It's just like him too, Simon thought, stirring sugar into his mug, not even bothering to show up on a half day. Far too valuable to waste time on a half day. Simon thought of all the things he would say to Baz if he were here. All the things that would really put him in his place.
Simon grabbed his mug off the counter. Upon turning to head back to his desk, he promptly ran right into someone. The coffee sloshed out of his mug and onto the aforementioned someone's cardigan.
"Snow!" Baz growled, a coffee stain forming on his shirt.
"Shit. Watch it! Are you okay?" Simon put his mug back on the counter and pulled off a handful of paper towels. He gave half the pile to Baz who started wiping at the bit spilled on his sleeve. Simon started dabbing at the spreading stain on Baz's chest.
There was one last little drop from the spill on the bottom of Baz's shirt. He grabbed the bottom hem and pulled it forward, sliding his hand underneath. Simon licked the paper towel and rubbed at the spot.
"Simon, what the hell are you doing?" Baz asked and Simon startled. He looked down at the edge of Baz's shirt he was holding on to. He had lifted it enough that there was a good three inches of pale skin exposed under Simon's fingers. He dropped the shirt like it was on fire and stepped back.
"Don't stand directly behind people if you don't want to get bumped into!" He snapped, sounding more embarrassed than annoyed, as Baz fixed his shirt and sweater. Baz frowned and looked down. He opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, but stopped himself. He looked over at Simon's mug on the counter. Baz reached out and rubbed his thumb along the red handle. Simon watched him do it.
"I-" Simon started. He wasn't sure what he was planning on telling Baz. But it didn't matter anyway.
Baz interrupted, "Mistletoe."
"Don't stand there gaping like a fish, Snow," He said, "The mistletoe. At the party. The sprig you saw before you kissed me."
Baz's voice sounded tight, pained almost, to say the big K word, but his expression didn't change. Simon frowned, "I didn't-"
"Of course mistletoe at an office party is one hell of an HR disaster. I mean what were they thinking." Baz shrugged and turned to lean back on the counter.
"What are you talking about?" Simon said, looking at his long profile.
"I'm trying to cut you some slack, Snow. The mistletoe. It wasn't your fault. I'm not going to file any sort of complaint. It was the mistletoe. It was a wholly undignified situation, but it was the mistletoe. We don't have to talk about it, if you were worried." Baz coughed and pushed himself off the counter.
"I wasn't-" worried. But Baz was already gone. It didn't even occur to Simon until later that Baz called him Simon.
At noon, Penny drove them home. She was headed off to her parents home as soon as she finished packing. She insisted that Simon was welcome to come along to Christmas. But Simon was fine. Plus, Penny was only staying for three days. She'd be back on Friday and they'd have the whole weekend to do whatever the hell they wanted.
Penny packed as Simon lounged on the couch with a bag of fried green beans. Or maybe they were dried green beans. Either way, they were crispy and good.
"So" Simon said, trying to sound as casual as possible, "You hear anything about anyone embarrassing themselves last night?"
"What?" Penny said, folding up an assortment of extremely vibrant sweaters and placing them neatly in her duffle. Penny was always an extremely tidy packer. She could get a month's worth of supplies in an overnight bag.
"Did you hear about anyone get into any HR trouble?" Simon repeated, but Penny just raised her eyebrow at him. "What, with the mistletoe and all."
"Oh. You mean the drama with the decorations?" Penny asked. Simon shrugged, so she continued. "Oh yeah. Well Harry in writing and Brenda in your department were both there setting up for last night. I mean it was them and me and few others. But those two both made a big push for mistletoe. But Trixie," Penny groaned. "Trixie said Oh No! No mistletoe! Because it's toxic. Which is fair, it is. But-"
"Wait." Simon interrupted, "There was no mistletoe at the party last night? At all?"
"I know!" Penny said, zipping up her bag, "Harry said, Well I don't think anyone is going to eat the mistletoe. As long as it's not near the buffet. And then Trixie started complaining about Oh No! Her dog! Or something. And I asked her Trixie is your dog coming? And No! Her dog is Not coming! So? What's the deal?"
"And she never relented? There was no mistletoe put up for the party?" It was too warm. The living room was suddenly stiflingly hot. Simon was finding it just a little hard to breathe.
"No! I was so mad! I didn't care that much about it. The mistletoe. But she always does this!" Penny put on her jacket and threw her duffle over her shoulder. She sighed, "You sure you don't want to come?"
Simon shook his head and Penny kissed him on the cheek and waltzed out the front door, like she hadn’t just blow the ship out of the water. She drove away and Simon quietly melted.
Why would Baz lie about the mistletoe. What would be the point. Why would he?
Simon was determined not to think about it. It was Christmas Eve. Not at all the time to worry about Baz Pitch. And Simon didn't have to be back at work until Monday morning. Simon wouldn't have to spare Baz a single thought for the next four days. He simply wouldn't think about it.
He would just not think about it. He didn't want to think about it. Simon didn't think about the situation while he made himself dinner. Simon didn't think about mistletoe at all while he watched movies on the couch. Simon definitely didn't think about Baz Pitch while he got ready for bed.
Simon slid under his quilt without a single thought of Baz in his head. He closed his eyes.
He couldn't sleep.
Simon rolled over, and then rolled back. He screwed his eyes up tight. He got up and made some sleepy-time tea. Because he was trying to fall asleep. Agatha used to hate when he heated water with the microwave. Whatever.
Baz didn't drink tea. At least, Simon has never seen him drink tea. No, Baz always had a to-go cup from a place call Joey's Bean. Or John. Jack's Bean. Baz drank coffee from Jack's Bean every morning.
It wasn't near the office. Simon hadn't looked for it or anything. He just knew it wasn't in a three block radius of Watford's downtown office. It was probably close to where Baz lived.
Simon took his mug of sleepy-time tea back to his room. He sat on his bed and sipped at it.
Baz is the worst, Simon thought as he slid on his shoes. He threw a scarf over his head and pulled his laptop open. At least it didn't look like Jack's Beans was a chain. Just one location. Simon wasn't about to go running around the whole city looking for the one particular coffee shop his annoying lying coworker frequents.
Simon wasn't going anywhere. He flopped back on his mattress. He pulled the blanket up over himself and rolled over. His shoes were still on.
Simon groaned and rolled out of bed. He stomped to the door.
Jack's Beans was on Simon's train line. At least it was convenient if he and Baz- at least it was convenient to get there tonight. Simon waited at the bus stop for about ten minutes before the next one ambled slowly down the street. Simon wrapped the scarf closer around himself. He had forgotten to grab a jacket and the scarf was his only warmth. He thought about running upstairs for his coat, but the bus was already here and wasn't about to miss it.
The bus was empty except for Simon. It felt like they hit every single red light on the way. When the bus finally approached the stop closest to the coffee shop Simon tugged on the rope and the bus pulled over. It wasn't too late but the shop itself was probably closed. Even if it was open, what did Simon expect to happen. Did he think he was just going to stroll in and ask for Baz?
He jogged around the corner just before the Jack's Beans. Simon was right, it was closed. Or closing. The lights were off and there was a woman locking the front door. She was chewing and blowing bubble gum loudly as Simon approached.
He stood a few feet behind her on the sidewalk, looking up at the store. Without turning, or acknowledging that she’d seen him, she said, "Can I help you?"
The woman heavily enunciated 'help'. She sounded like she really really didn't want him to ask for help. Simon went for it anyway. "Um. I’m looking for someone."
"I can only help if you're looking for coffee. And I will only help if you're here between 7am and 9:30pm."
Simon shrugged it off, "I think he comes here a lot? In the mornings. If you're here..." He trailed off but she just continued staring at him. She was kind of scary. This woman had more piercings than Simon thought a person could fit in their ears. And her hair was shaved on one side and alarmingly purple on the ends. Simon was used to colors in hair. He even helped dye Penny's hair red in the bathroom once. But the purple was very purple.
"I'm looking for Baz Pitch?" Simon said.
Her eyes narrowed, "What's your name, kid?"
"Simon? Simon Snow."
"You're Simon?" Simon felt like he should be a little offended at her shocked tone. But he was too focused on how she seemed to know him. She rolled her eyes and gestured over her shoulder, "Come on."
He followed her. Next to the café was a door leading to a staircase in the building. On the first floor landing she turned back to Simon and said, "He's one more floor up."
She shook her head at him and he scrambled up the stairs. He reached the second floor panting slightly. There was only one door on the landing and Simon slammed his fist into it before he could talk himself out if it.
There was no answer right away. Simon frowned at the door. He knocked again and this time the door swung open.
"What the hell do you want, Fiona?" Baz was already speaking as he pulled open the door. He was holding a dark red mug that looked like it was from the same collection of Target homeware that Simon and Penny had for their kitchen. Baz was wearing soft-looking dark grey sweatpants and a black t-shirt. It looked more like something Simon would wear. That is to say, it looked more casual than anything Simon would have expected Baz Pitch to be in. His hair was mussed and falling over his forehead. He stopped short when he saw Simon on the other side of the door. "You're not- Snow. What are you doing here?"
"Sweatpants," Simon mumbled.
"Mistletoe." Simon shook his head. What the hell was he doing. He focused, "There was no mistletoe at the party last night."
Baz just stared at him. Which was fair. Simon repeated himself, "There was no mistletoe last night. I know there was no mistletoe because there was this whole thing about Trixie and her dog and poison and mistletoe but there was no mistletoe. I kissed you and there was no mistletoe."
Simon felt a little dizzy. Baz's brow furrowed as he stepped back.
"You feeling okay, Snow?" Baz asked.
"I'm fine." At least he hoped he was.
"Do you want to come in?" Baz pulled the door open further. Simon shrugged and stepped in. Baz lead Simon through the apartment. It was really nice. Simon didn't know much about interior design or anything, but he liked it. It was filled with rich, warm colors without being overbearingly dark. There were jars filled with strings of lights on the mantle in the living room where they were now standing.
"Do you want any coco?" Baz asked, nodding to his own mug.
Simon shrugged, "Sure, as long as it's not too much trouble."
Baz turned and left toward the kitchen, "No trouble. Have a seat, Snow. You're making me nervous."
Simon plopped down on the plush couch in front of him. He sat right down in the middle, wringing his hands in his lap. He thought about sliding over towards one of the armrests. To lean on, or at least be closer to the door if he needed to make a quick exit. But he wasn't sure if Baz had a favorite spot on the couch. So he stayed put.
Plus, in the middle of the couch, Simon could see into the kitchen. There was a big open window in the wall between the living room and the kitchen. It was like watching TV. The kitchen channel with an episode of Baz Making Cocoa. Simon saw Baz wipe the back of his hand over his brow. He glanced up through the window at Simon and grinned. It was an awkward little smile, but it wasn't forced. Shy and honest. Simon felt his stomach drop out. What the hell was he doing here.
He stood and made for the door just as Baz came back around the corner holding two mugs.
"I should go." He said.
"What? I just make hot chocolate. Don't be a dick, this is very special hot chocolate."
Simon looked down at the mugs. It did smell incredible. "It is?"
Baz held out the mug in his left hand and Simon reached out to take it. They were standing a little too close in the hallway and their fingers brush during the trade. Simon took a sip.
It was unfairly delicious. The most intense rich chocolatey thing he had ever put inside his mouth. Simon thought he might’ve moaned as he took a second sip.
"It's got a truffle on the bottom." Baz told him. His voice was higher than normal and a little strained. When Simon tore his gaze away from the mug to look at him, he saw that Baz’s cheeks were tinged red.
"It is really good." Simon said.
Baz rolled his eyes, "I know it's really good. I just told you it was really good. You can admit I'm right, it won't kill you."
Instead of pouring the hot chocolate down Baz's shirt, wasting the precious cocoa, Simon took the mug back to the living room. He sat back down in the middle of the couch. Which was a gross miscalculation. If Simon sat in the middle of the couch, it forced Baz to sit right next to him. The couch had looked so big a moment ago when he arrived. Now, the space between them seemed practically nonexistent.
"Why did you make me special hot chocolate?" Simon asked. Because it's not something you just do for random late night visitors you don't even like.
"Why did you kiss me?" Baz countered. Which was fair.
"There wasn't any mistletoe."
"I know there wasn't any mistletoe." Baz took one last sip of his own cocoa and set the mug down on the coffee table. He took Simon's mug too and Simon let him. Everything felt a little too familiar.
Then, carefully, Baz took Simon's face in his hands. His cold palms pressed against Simon's cheeks. It felt nice, the little bit of coolness from those fingertips against his jaw after drinking the hot chocolate. Baz's eyes were open as he shifted closer and leaned in, slowly.
Simon surged forward, sealing their lips together before Baz was even halfway across the expanse between them. They held the kiss for a breath. Then Baz leaned back.
Baz was breathing deep. He looked down at the table, at the mugs. He touched his own bottom lip. Simon just sat there, feeling like a idiot. Baz's gaze slowly shifted back to Simon and he said, "There's no mistletoe in here either. Just so you know."
Simon nodded. Abruptly, they both stood. Simon's shin bumped into the coffee table, but nothing shattered. Baz grabbed his face again and kissed him. Simon held himself steady by grabbing onto Baz's hips. He pulled Baz forward, closer, and Baz gasped. With the other boy's mouth already half open in surprise Simon kissed him again. And again. And again. They kissed until they were pretty much just panting against each other’s mouths. Baz's hands kept drifting up and down Simon's back.
Simon pulled back and rested his face in the crook where Baz's long neck met his collarbone. Simon thought his unruly, unkempt hair must be tickling Baz's nose, but neither of them moved away. One of Baz's fingers toyed with the hair at the back of Simon's head. Baz sighed heavily.
"What's up?" Simon asked.
"Just trying to figure out when I'm going to wake up," He breathed out.
"This must be your worst nightmare," Simon said.
Baz barked out a sharp laugh, "You have no idea. It keeps me up at night."
Simon grinned, teeth pressing against Baz's neck, "Really?"
Baz pulled back just enough to lean down and kiss Simon just under his jaw. Then he kissed a little further down his neck. Then he kissed him again on the mouth. And Simon kissed him back.
Because he wanted to.