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It’s not like fourth year, when Baz threw a punch, and Snow went sprawling down step after step like a cartoon cat or coyote. At fourteen with hair growing past his ears, he’d been quick to rise with steaming cheeks, clenched fists, and a gawking audience. Disheveled and livid but perfectly fine.

This time, no one comes running. It’s winter, and the bulk of the student body has already left for Christmas, and the dark patch of ice glazing the courtyard steps is near invisible.

This time, Baz barely even touches him. Snow slips, and Baz smirks, and— then there’s a snap like bone and horror. Then he’s not smirking.

This time, Snow doesn’t move.

Baz feels pale. Paler than usual, paler than dead. He feels ice-sculpture-still, even as his feet crack towards limp golden limbs, towards closed eyelids muting a blue more constant than the sky.

Taking three steps at a time, he’s almost flying. Gravity and chills ground him; he’s colder than usual, colder than dead, colder than snow.

Snow.

Chimeras cannot kill Simon Snow. Magic cannot kill Simon Snow. The Insidious fucking Humdrum cannot kill Simon Snow, so a staircase certainly shouldn’t be up to the challenge.

Yet there Snow is at the bottom of the stone stairs, with a neck too bent and a chest too still and a mouth too quiet. Snow should be yelling. Honing his self-righteous glare. Accusing Baz of attempted manslaughter and evil intent and general villainy.

Manslaughter.

If he had meant to kill Snow -- if he’d had to -- he’d have given him a better death than a staircase. He would have given him a battle and a kiss and a legend. Not a bloody accident.

Snow wasn’t supposed to die, and that’s the only thought running through Baz’s head when his knees scrape the ground, sagging his trousers wet against the icy path. Snow wasn’t supposed to die, so Baz’s palm beats against his still chest.

“Snow. Wake up, you moronic--”

(He’s thought about touching Simon Snow’s chest a hundred times. Several hundred. Usually, there’s less clothing involved; more heaving breaths and thumping heartbeats.) (Some breaths. Any heartbeat.)

“Baz,” his name scratches Snow’s throat, barely audible even to a vampire’s ears. His eyes don’t open. His fingers don’t clench around his throat. Baz is hunched over him, kneeling for him, blurry-eyed for him, and he doesn’t even have the decency to appreciate the imagery. To fucking move.

“Right as rain,” he casts.

(Simon Snow wasn’t supposed to die.)

“Good as new.”

(He’s always wondered if his name would be Snow’s last word, always assumed Snow’s would be his.)

“Get well soon.”

(He still looks golden. He still won’t move.)

Water freckles one of Snow’s cheek. Relief swells ragged in Baz’s gut, only to wilt queasy into a curse, when he recognizes the tears as his own.

Simon Snow wasn’t supposed to die. Huddled around his body, it’s easy for Baz to lower his teeth -- idiotically easy, unavoidably easy – to Snow’s throat, and to make sure he doesn’t.

When he’s not thinking about Snow’s naked chest, he’s thinking about this – his mouth filling with fangs, his throat filling with Snow. A few steps in the middle of the night, any night, and he’d be close enough to swallow his sleep.   To ease into his bed, puncture his skin, and drink until he’s consumed every ounce of the Mage’s Heir.

Snow’s blood tastes like sunlight, too hot and blinding and necessary.

Baz sucks until he’s warm with Snow’s blood, until Snow is warm with him.

*

A good man wouldn’t turn the – unrequited, pathetically unrequited -- love of his unlife into a vampire; Baz thanks Chomsky that he’s not quite a man, that Simon Snow is as much his nemesis as his soulmate.

Snow has always called Baz a villain, so Baz might as well do the selfish thing, and keep him.

*

Simon Snow’s body convulses on the ground.

It moves, but doesn’t warm.

Baz’s dark hair shudders against the red staining Snow's curls. Fuck, what has he done?

*

It’s dark when Snow wakes. Baz doesn’t turn on a light, because – well, neither of them need it now, do they.

Snow will figure that out eventually enough.

Eventually comes more quickly than Baz would have liked, jumbling Snow out of bed and into a pace across the floorboards. Into a glower and a stammer.

Vampire.”

“Forgive me, Snow, was that your best imitation of a pot or a kettle?”

“You…”

“Pot, it is. I’ll take the kettle. More dignified.”

“You—I—What did you—You killed—I—“

His every vein feels suddenly braided, so Baz tries to roll them loose with his eyes. “Crowley, if you’re going to waste breath speaking, use your words.”

“You killed me.”

Baz sneers. It’s easier than earnestness. “Brute clumsiness killed you. I restored your mind-numbing heroism to the universe, tragically depriving myself of a single.”

“A single prison cell.” Simon’s muttered retort sounds more automatic than sincere.

If it were less uncouth a sound, he’d snort annoyance and gratitude for the routine. “Pity that death hasn’t dimmed your rosy-eyed delusion. No Pitch would go to prison because the Mage’s Heir can’t properly descend a staircase.”

“You pushed me.”

“Bravo, Snow, you’ve cracked my evil plan. Push you down the stairs for a nice laugh, then bring you back to life for an encore.”

Snow’s bare foot knocks a hard kick against the wall. “As a vampire.”

“Yes, I believe the fangs do establish that.”

“You… You can’t…” He breathes. Baz counts. “The Mage will throw you out of Watford.”

“No, he won’t.”

Snow’s mouth looks too clunky with fangs, too much like his. “Now who’s optimistic?” He can’t stop staring. Gulping.

“Oh, I know the Mage gleefully would turn me out of Watford and cut my fangs out with his own ridiculous sword. But he won’t, because you won’t ruin yourself in his eyes.”

Simon snorts a step towards the door. Stumbles. His knees buckle and Baz has to leap a stride and an arm around his shoulders to keep the rest of him from following. (Falling.) (Again.)

Dead weight in his grip, Snow’s chest lugs against Baz’s. “I didn’t have to save you,” he feels like he’s repeating himself, though he’d planned to leave these words unsaid. They’re implied. Demonstrated. Baz shouldn’t have to articulate them. He wouldn’t have to, if Snow weren’t as thick as molasses and twice as slow. “I didn’t have to save you, so you’re not going to destroy me.” His mouth is a hair – a bronze curl, to be precise -- from Snow’s ear, and his voice quiet enough that it needs to be.

By the time he hoists his roommate’s hulking shoulders back into bed, they’re already slumping into sleep and darkness.

Baz wishes he could follow, wishes he could do anything but watch Simon Snow breathe through the fangs he gave him.

Fuck him. He curses Snow and his glare and his tunnel vision, and himself for not knowing how to turn away.  

Snow wasn’t supposed to die.

*

He doesn’t sleep, but he must close his eyes at some point in the night, because he opens them to find Snow looking at him. Snow’s eyes are still blue, blue, blue, and Baz has to blink himself from drowning.

“You didn’t push me,” he says, as though the words are a jigsaw puzzle his tongue has only just pieced together.

“Didn’t need Bunce to think that one out for you?” Crowley, he dreads the day he tells Bunce a word of this. Christmas holidays can only ensure so much leeway before Snow remembers to locate the frizzy-haired, better half of his brain.

“You…” Snow’s brow furrows in an eerie mirror of his girlfriend’s perpetually wrinkled forehead “You tried to help me.”

Baz rolls over towards the window, its whisper of snowflakes and wind.

(Feet away from him, Simon makes a stammering noise that might have become speech, but doesn’t.)


 

The cherry scone hits Snow in the face, between a mole and a freckle.

Inspecting the pale lines of his palms, Baz curves his lips and the crumbs from his skin. “If you starve yourself, the Mage will claim I tricked you into it.”

It’s the first time he’s ever seen Snow frown at a scone. Grin and yearn and barbarically devour often enough, but his grimaces, he saves for Baz. Not for baked goods.

(Another tally for the utterly pathetic list of utterly pathetic things he knows about Simon Snow.)

“I can still eat?”

A sneer. Aleister Crowley. “I masticate three meals a day, don’t I?”

Snow blinks. Takes a bite. Near swallows it whole with in his second.

Baz laments the lack of a second scone to pitch at him. The kitchen only keeps so many over winter holidays, and he’s not about to test Cook Prichard’s goodwill by demanding she whisk herself to Watford for the sake of Simon Snow’s stomach.

“I still have to tell the Mage. When he gets back.”

Of course he bloody does. “And where is your precious Mage now, Snow? Off waving his sword about, and horrifying small children? Styling his mustache?”

Where was he when you weren’t bloody breathing? Baz could spat, but doesn’t. Not out of consideration for Snow’s devotion to the Mage -- he’d be thrilled to see the tyrant totter from his pedestal. But death and fangs and vampires make for just as unappealing conversational topics as they did before Snow’s death.

(He hasn’t dared examine the mark on Snow’s neck yet. The mark he left. He won’t.)

Doesn’t matter that Snow’s mouth will fill with fangs now through his nightmares. Baz still hates his own mouth for doing the same. Any mage would.

(Though if anyone could turn vampirism into a trend, he reckons Snow would manage it.) (The Mage would spin it for him. Ostracize Baz for it. Manipulative fucking lunatic.)

“The Mage--” for a vampire, Snow can still turn remarkably red “—he has things he has to do. Important responsibilities--”

“Like indulging his blind, delusional prejudice, yes, I know. Yet here you are about to disrupt his work with your personal life.”

“I wouldn’t call vampirism my personal--”

“The bastard probably spends his every spare moment worrying over you as it is -- when you’re apt to go off next, how to channel the explosion -- and you want to inform him that you’ve decided to add bloodlust to the equation?”

“I didn’t decide--”

“Crowley, Snow, I’d have thought the Mage’s Heir would have straighter priorities.”

A growl. A beat. “Rich, you calling the Mage prejudiced.”

“Fascinating, you not protesting delusional.”

It’s more fascinating to watch Snow’s jaw clench, more troubling to see his freckles starker against dead pale skin than they’d ever been against ‘savior’ gold. Baz flings himself onto his comforter, reminds himself that Snow is still the Chosen One. The Mage’s Heir. Not as though this changes anything. (He darts a glance at the impression his fangs left on Snow’s bulging neck. This has to change something.)

Not as though this can change anything.

He can still rile Snow to a boiling point. That’s a consolation.

Or it is until a wisp of smoke and burnt wood mutes the aroma of gingerbread and candy canes that enchants Watford near Christmas, charring sickly sweet comforts.

“Snow.”

Baz feels the magic pulling ragged at Snow’s limbs before he sees it. It hums. It singes. It could burn the both of them to ash if he doesn’t quell it.

Fuck.

*

Everything is cold.

Simon had opened his eyes, thought his room had frozen over with frost and ice from the open window (damn Baz for being right this once on closing it), wondered how he’d gotten back to his room at all. Remembered stone and steps and a smirk and a stuttering pain. Remembered ‘Baz’ on his tongue and dark hair hanging over his forehead – didn’t think Baz’d really kill him, knew it, dreamed it, but didn’t think – and then nothing.

He had blinked a look towards the window. Closed. Huh.

Then some comment about sleeping like the dead had come drawling from the bed next to his, and the puncture marks on his neck had registered, the fangs in his mouth had pricked his tongue, and—

Vampire.

For all the times, he’s snarled the word at Baz’s face, hissed it in Penelope’s ear between darted looks at his roommate’s languid saunter, and bothered Agatha to eye-rolls with it, Simon had never wondered how it would feel. Not really.

He knows now. He’s – cold. And empty. And he could eat a baker’s dozen more scones. (Or a straight dozen.) (He doesn’t actually know the difference.) Simon is still thinking about baker’s dozens when his fists clench closed. He’s wondering if Baz always feels like this, stretched thin from hunger like he’s about to snap.

Vampire. Bloodsucker. Dead. Baz. Vampirevampirevampirevampir--

Simon doesn’t know how many times Baz must have spat his name before it registers. From the irritated volume of the “Snow” that finally cracks his trance, he’d wager a fair few.

Baz. Baz saved him. Baz killed him. Baz saved him. Dangerously. Stupidly. Simon could ruin him for this, as long as he didn’t mind destroying himself in the same stride. And, as Baz has scratched a record insinuating, he’s never had much sense of self-preservation.

Magic is screaming under his skin, raging red, the only warm thing he has left, begging to take and consume, and he could almost let it.

“If you set yourself on fire, I’ll make sure you die a laughing stock,” Baz threatens, with heavy lashes and narrowed eyes.

Simon clenches his own eyes shut again and everything but the pulse of his magic from his senses. Heaves a breath. Heaves another. Curses Baz with his next.

He doesn’t go off. He still wants another scone.

From beside him, Baz mutters something that sounds like moronic.

Simon grits, “I’m so fucking hungry” right back. Panic is only a pace away, and everything is still too muddled for him to think through. If he thinks, he’ll go off. There’s only the growl in his stomach, the growl in his throat, the hollow tug for something more than the aftertaste of cherries and sugar—

Baz doesn’t so much help him from the wrinkled mess of his sheets, as shove him.

“Anathema,” the word comes automatically, between sputtering steps towards balance.

“I’m not attacking you, Snow.” Perfectly balanced and perfectly bored, Baz – perfect Baz, always so fucking perfect -- curls the word moronic anew and silent on his lips. “I’m trying to feed you. Crowley knows what you’ll do to my side of the suite if you go hungry.”

Despite himself, Simon perks his spine straight as though a second scone might come spiraling towards his nose.

But Baz’s leather shoes steer towards the doorway, Simon remembers his fangs, and his mouth turns as sour as his roommate’s. Sicker, maybe.

Feed.

Everything is too unthinkably strange to be a nightmare. Wrong. The kind of thing his brain isn’t perverse enough to twist into being.

Baz tilts a glare at him. Simon grounds one back. (His brain doesn’t have to be.)

 *

He’s followed Baz down to the Catacombs – Simon squints through the too-clear dark – dozens of times. More than he can count. Granted, this would be the first time they’ve ever kept so close in stride; that Penny couldn’t dub ‘stalking.’ (It’s not stalking, Simon maintains, if he’s doing it for the wellbeing of Watford. Vampires are dangerous. Baz is dangerous.)

He is dangerous.

Simon should be able to drag his thumb against the fangs hiding beneath his upper lip. He raises his hand towards his mouth. Drops it. He can’t.

Knocking his feet against the snowy paths – first time all month he hasn’t thought of casting some like it hot on his toes – and stones, Simon gulps at each staircase. Each patch of ice.

“Don’t trip,” the warning Baz tosses over his shoulder is all smirked ice. Simon clings to its perfectly articulated nonchalance. Easier to think Baz wouldn’t care if he broke his neck. Easier to think he’d be amused. Easier not to remember the tear that hit Simon’s cheek like rain.

It’s the same staircase he thudded down the night before, so Simon keeps his eyes on each step, and his mind otherwise occupied. He’s always figured Baz would be there at the end. It’s fitting. Penelope might call it Shakespearean. (Has. Penny has called it Shakespearean, and Simon doesn’t think she meant it as a compliment.) Whenever he imagines death, there’s Baz sneering, biting, watching.

Baz wasn’t supposed to save him. Whatever game they’ve been playing for the last seven years, its levels of cat got your tongue and fists to the face and voice theft and a fucking chimera, that’s not in the rulebook.

But here Baz is, leading him into bones and darkness for the sake of a meal. Here Simon is, trusting him to mean it.

(Maybe trust is the wrong word.) (He’s always gone for Baz’s traps; it’s their way.) A tail and a squeak dart past them. Reflexes quick as on the football field, Baz kneels to catch the rat’s squeal. (He doesn’t think this is a trap.)

A jerk of his wrist, and the rat stops squirming its tiny feet and beady pupils, stops making any noise at all. “Hungry?” Baz passes it to him with all the attention he’d give an apple. “Or would you prefer a demonstration?”

Simon wishes he could pretend that he’s only following Baz through the Catacombs again, wishes he could wish himself back to last year. (Not enough to try. Penelope would murder him if his magic actually managed it. He might wind up murdering himself.)

“This is what you live on?” Simon still can’t move his arm. “Rats?”

“I’ve seen you eat, Snow. I wouldn’t throw stones.”

The darkness feels heavy around him, thick as the looming walls and dank as the leaking ceiling. Baz hasn’t seen him eat like this. Neither of them have. And Simon wants to keep it that way, doesn’t want to prove that he can eat like this.

Yet his fangs feel heavier in the dark than his limbs, so he pulls the rat from Baz’s grip and towards his teeth in one jerk.

He thinks he might vomit. But Baz is watching. And maybe this was Baz’s plan all along, rat-poisoning, but—

Hunger wins.

*

He’s never actually seen a vampire feed before.

Baz can’t say ever particularly wanted to see a vampire feed. It’s enough to see the blood that smears occasionally on his palms and mouth, once he finishes his own meals. Enough to feel his fangs crowding his gums.

But Simon Snow is stuffing himself on a rat’s carcass, and Baz doesn’t know how not to watch.

Bronze hair muted dim beneath the shadows of forgotten bones, he looks every bit like something out of one of the gothic romances Wellbelove thinks she’d like to live. Golden and ruined. Grotesque.

Several gulps later, Snow jumbles the rodent back to the ground, slack-jawed and bleary-eyed.

He doesn’t look at Baz. He doesn’t have to. Baz can still see the sliver of red seeping across his chin, the glaze of it between his lips. He’d only need to move a stride to lick it clean. Half a stride. It’s grotesque that he still wants to lick Snow’s face after seeing it cleave to a rat’s neck, but what can he say. Vampire. ‘Grotesque’ is an unfortunate given.

“You still eat like a barbarian. Group homes must teach abysmal table manners.”

Snow’s face is still muddled with blood when he raises his darkened pupils to trade glares. He’s still panting when a growl scratches the silence of the Catacombs, when his knees bend and his fists lunge for Baz in one ragged inhale.

Baz raises an eyebrow. Catches Snow’s flailing arm. Throws his own right back, feels Snow’s second punch in his nose, blinks at the novelty of tasting his own blood.

If Snow would rather fight than flee or fraternize, fine. Baz’s skin has been twitching on the bone since he tasted his blood, and he could use the diversion.

Snow is leaping at him again, and he knows this game, needs the normalcy of it. Needs to pretend that they’re second years again, roughhousing without a true notion of bloodlust.

A sneer itches at his lips.

Also, it’s been too fucking long since he’s punched Simon Snow in the face.

 *

Only. It’s not as satisfying attacking Snow now that he’s seen him die.

Tumbling onto the dust-choked floor, their limbs grapple for black eyes or bent noses, and Baz will never ignore the opportunity to give Snow either, but—

It doesn’t feel like the release Baz wants. More staged. Too forced.

Snow apparently thinks the same, because he shoves away from him a moment late to scramble slumped against a wall of bones.

(Or thinks something like it.) (Crowley knows what goes on in Snow’s head.)

He’s still panting when Baz drawls, “Do you feel better for desecrating a tomb?”

Simon turns one bruised cheek towards him. Blinks. Squints. “Do you?”

Baz sneers. Everything is still fucking cockeyed, and Snow still has a rat’s blood dribbling across his chin. He looks down at the few specks of red that passed from Simon Snow’s face to his knobbed fists.

No.

 *

Things cool down after that.

(Not literally. Simon actually feels rather hot, with warm blood still sticky inside his throat.)

“We’re declaring a truce,” Baz decides, once they’ve taken their turns in the shower, washing dust and rust from their skin.

Lying flat on his bed, Simon closes his eyes. He still can’t get fucking used to reading the lines of Baz’s face in the pitch black. “I think a truce needs more cooperation than that.”

“So, cooperate. You need me for food. I need you not to go running off to the Mage first chance you find. Ergo truce.”

“I don’t need you for food.” Simon doesn’t know why he’s arguing this. Baz is right – a truce does make sense. Whatever his reasons, Baz chose not to leave Simon’s body to rot on ice-slicked steps, and that has to mean something. Simon doesn’t know exactly what -- a slump of his head; add it to the list – but it’s still something.

Both their lives are fucked. Maybe that’s all it means.

“Fine. You need me for advice, un-life coaching, a sheer fucking debt of gratitude, insert your term of choice here. You need me.”

“You need me,” Simon adds, just to remind him. Because even when they’re both horizontal, even when he’s not looking at him, it still feels like Baz is looming over him. Looking down at him. Asserting his every inch of superior height for every ounce it’s worth.

“Tragically,” he sounds like he’s sneering again. “I repeat, ergo truce.”

Simon opens his eyes. He should be the one sneering. Spatting a firm no and spelling a light to write to the Mage without wasting another minute. “Swear it.” But he doesn’t want to. But the Mage is always occupied lately. But Simon doesn’t know what the Mage would do with the information that Baz turned him, worries it wouldn’t be anything good. For either of them. And he never wants to disappoint the Mage, would feel guilty if he got Baz defanged or declawed or decapitated or whatever is it the Mage does to vampires.

(He doesn’t really think the Mage would kill him. Villainous widow’s peak and bloodsucking aside, Baz is still a student.)

(But just in case—)

Truce.

Baz is still sneering when he grabs his wand from his bedside table. He’s still sneering when he binds them together by words and magic.


“You’re mad.”

Simon almost wishes Baz would fight him on the open window like he used to – the frosted breeze isn’t as soothing as it should be, now that his skin doesn’t always feel fiery with magic. It’s more feverish. Chilled and burning.

But the window isn’t the point right now.

Beneath a pile of blankets, Baz shifts onto his pale forearms and arches one eyebrow. “I’m suggesting we leave an empty school for a warm mansion with an unlocked, fully-stocked kitchen. You’re insisting on staying here, to break into Cook Pritchard’s stores like delinquents or bloody raccoons. Tell me, did you ever have a firm grip on sanity, Snow, or is the Mage’s lunacy contagious?”

Your mansion.”

“Obviously.”

“With your family.”

“Yes,” a bored sneer, “those of us with families do typically spend winter holidays with them.”

His own eyebrows don’t so much arch – he’s never been able to raise one eyebrow, Crowley forbid Baz ever find out – as hike straight towards his curls. “Your family, who wants to kill me.”

“We’re not storybook monsters or HBO villains. We don’t bloody the floor with our guests over Christmas. Besides, you already died this week, rendering that particular mission officially redundant.”

Simon stares. Repeats, “You’re mad.”

“Glass houses,” Baz murmurs. The bold lines of his cheeks look charcoal-sketched in the dark. “My house, for the record, is made of stone, not glass, and has rooms enough that you could go weeks without encountering anyone but wraiths.”

A shake of his head, because Baz must be mad, and he’s not about to change his mind, and wraiths are not a selling point. The disgust must show in some squirm of his mouth or furrow of his brow, because Baz rolls his eyes a moment later.

(Still so fucking weird that Simon can see that in the black.)

“You were a menace to society long before you were a vampire. The wraiths will stumble away in terror.”

Simon shakes his head, as though he can scatter Baz’s words straight from his ears. “Can’t, anyway. I’m going to the Wellbeloves’ for Christmas.”

Until meeting Baz, Simon didn’t know it was possible to giggle through a sneer. “You must be joking.”

“I always go. They’d worry if I backed out now.”

Baz’s eyebrow spikes higher. “They’ll worry if they find you draining the neighbor’s dog, too. Say you’re sick. Say you’re contagious. Tell Wellbelove stalking me through the school year isn’t enough, and you’ve decided to follow me home on break for good measure.”

“I always go,” Simon repeats. And maybe he is mad for insisting on this, but the Wellbeloves are the only family he’s ever had through Christmas. The only family who’s ever wanted him, or at least had pity enough to pretend at it. He wouldn’t hurt them. Couldn’t. “And I’m not a stalker.”

“Vigilante, unlicensed private investigator, delusional superhero – I don’t give a fuck what you call yourself, Snow, I’m not about to let you go off on your own within a week of dying. Merlin knows what you could do, but I know that I’ll somehow end up with the blame for it.”

“No one knows you’re a vampire, Baz,” the corner of his mouth molds to his mattress. “Nobody anyone would believe, anyway. I think you’re safe.”

“And I think you’ve fed a grand total of once. Haven’t even hunted yet, without me there to strangle your meal for you. What will you tell Wellbelove when she finds you skulking around mouse-holes for a midnight snack?”

Simon doesn’t reckon he’ll have to say much of anything. The Wellbeloves have plenty of room, and he spends plenty of time off on his own, deciding which Doctor to watch next. Agatha has friends to see, and he always feels vaguely intrusive when he tags along. Blundering. Like the clumsy golden retriever Mrs. Bunce makes him out to be. He’ll have time to find a—a rodent or something.

(But if they did catch him--)

(But if he did go off--)

Simon’s shoulders shrug indents into his mattress. “I’ll figure something out.”

"I can imagine the verdict now. ‘Pitch heir – from miles away from the scene of the crime, mind you – plots Simon Snow’s brutal massacre of the beloved Wellbelove clan.’ Do you reckon your Mage will proclaim it himself, or have one of his puppets judge for him?”

“The Mage doesn’t have puppets,” Simon argues automatically.

Baz sighs a Greek tragedy’s worth of melodrama. “If you go to Wellbelove, I’ll have to follow, and that will be much more difficult to explain than your mysterious absence, I swear.”

“And why would you have to follow?” Simon feels qualified to confirm that vampires can in fact suffer headaches.

“To make sure that you don’t do anything more moronic than usual. Obviously. And to see if I can get Wellbelove under a sprig of mistletoe.”

“I wouldn’t--”

“You’re always doing something moronic. When some future historian sits down in his study with a cup of earl gray to chronicle your time at Watford, he’ll title it: ‘Simon Snow and Eight Years of Poor Decision Making.”

It’s not the rat’s blood that flushes his neck pink and blazing. He didn’t drink enough of it. And it’s not any sudden midnight heat either, since it’s fucking frigid outside. Inhaling icy breezes and (trying to) exhale annoyance, Simon’s fingers dig into his flannel pajama bottoms. Scrape.

Magic spritzes his fingertips, clenches his eyes shut. “The Wellbeloves don’t hang mistletoe.” Easier to focus on that than the fangs sharp in his mouth, the energy begging to burst from his skin.

“Pity.” Easier to focus on the familiar

“And I wouldn’t let you kiss my girlfriend underneath it, if they did.”

And Baz’s voice is so damn easy to focus on in the dark. Indolent as a sloth, if sloths had aristocracies. “And if your girlfriend kissed me?”

Simon growls. Then laughs. And laughs some more, laughs jagged spurts through sharp fangs – fangs -- until Baz interrupts, “Don’t tell me you managed to cast mad as a hatter on yourself.”

He keeps laughing. It’s not the easy laugh that Penelope knows how to pull from him, nor Penelope’s own spiraling laughter. Not the upturned corners of Agatha’s mouth, half-hidden behind the mask of her hair. Not Baz’s harsh giggle. It’s insanity dying his breath and spilling out of him, bit by mad bit.

He’s a bloody vampire, and they’re arguing about Baz pulling his girlfriend.

He’s a vampire, and he’s still pretending that he can cozy up underneath his favorite of the Wellbeloves’ blankets, and talk Doctor Who with Helen, between sips of hot chocolate.

He’s a vampire, and he doesn’t know what that means. A week ago, it meant darkness and evil and plotting – because Baz meant darkness and evil and plotting.  He thought. But then, Simon thought Baz was evil longer before he ever suspected his pointed teeth and Catacomb meals. (He thought Baz was evil before dark hair hung above his bent neck and cool palms thudded a pulse against his chest. Before tossed scones and dinner out among bones and rodents. Before.)

Simon doesn’t know what he thinks now, so he keeps vomiting laughter. Better than going off.

“I don’t think the Anathema will mind if I pitch a pillow at your head to shut you up,” Baz threatens. “Not all of us wrought the benefits of a post-mortom coma.”

Another snort of laughter, and then finally: “Oh, fuck off.” It’s a stupid retort, and it settles nothing, but it makes his tongue feel less strange in his mouth. Less aware of his mouth.

And it silences Baz, just this once.

Simon shifts to his side, and doesn’t open his eyes again for the rest of the night.

*

Simon doesn’t have much to pack. He never does. It still hangs heavy on back all the way to Hampshire.

*

Simon Snow is coming home with him for the holidays.

And if that didn’t sound like the title of a fucking Christmas special, Baz would call it a horror movie. The sort that Mordelia still isn’t allowed to see. Spurting blood. Dark lighting. Ominous music.

Simon Snow is coming home with him for the holidays.

Baz’s lips twitch, and he understands Snow’s hysteric laughter. (Even if he has common sense and composure enough not to indulge it.) (It appears that, without Bunce’s stern looks and book-smarts, Snow has neither.) (Honestly.)

Spine drawling against the window of the cab his father booked, Baz swallows his frown. Best not to admit that Snow has good reasons for hysterics and blunted commonsense and the like. Best not to think about Snow’s limp body, best not to think what Snow might be thinking.

Because – he lurks a look over at Simon, face blank with anything but boredom – if their situations had been reversed…

All he sees is bronze hair and tight back muscles poking through a wrinkled Watford shirt. On the other side of the cab, Snow tilts slumps forehead against the frosted window like a golden retriever.

If the situations had been reversed, if Snow had turned him to keep him alive and annoying – Baz would have destroyed him. Would have had to. Would have to bite him and kiss him and bite him again.

His stare lingers on the moles spotting Snow’s slumped neck, before jerking away. He revises his earlier assessment – Snow resembles a drugged golden retriever.

Tilting his eyes down at the book spread open on his lap, Baz doesn’t plan to look up again until the cabdriver parks in Hampshire and seeks payment.

*

Snow thwarts that plan. Of course. Because Snow bloody lives to thwart his bloody plans.

“Baz.” He’s slanted towards him now, hair crumpled against the glass and Adam’s apple narrating his every gulp. Baz’s eyes narrow, before blinking the sight away, and the rising blood from his neck. (Thank Chomsky he didn’t drink enough blood last night to blush.) It’s borderline obscene.

He settles on an arched eyebrow. “Snow.”

“You don’t – you don’t really think we’re dead.” The words puzzle the corners of his mouth, as though he’s kept them crunched there since midnight conversations and Mummer’s House. Chewed and digested and vomited and chewed again.

“Don’t I?”

Simon’s shoulders spike into a shrug, even as he answers, “We’re not dead.”

“Careful, Snow.” Baz closes his eyes, even though he’s never liked sleeping in taxi cabs. “Keep talking that way, and you won’t be able to accuse me of slaying you.”

He hears Snow’s limbs tapping and jerking and restless. Even when he’s not bursting with magic, he’s exploding with energy, full of everything Baz wants. Hungers for. “If I were dead, I wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

He can always feel Snow’s presence like an overactive lighthouse, and he can’t tell if that’s magic or obsession. Both probably, with his luck. “You’re so literal,” Baz mutters, doing his best to ignore the cab’s dirt-road stumbling. “Does Bunce write all your essays for you, or only the abstract ones?”

Snow growls a curse at him; Baz inhales it between his teeth.

Maybe Snow is still alive. Maybe. Baz clenches his eyelids into a shrivel. The rules are different for Snow – everything is different for Snow – so it wouldn’t change a bloody thing for him.

He casts “time flies” again. Hopes it will make a difference.

A blur of moments later, Snow mumbles, “Can’t do magic, if you’re not alive.”

Baz pretends to dream.

(When he does dream, hills and miles later, Snow is lying contorted on the ground again, succumbing to snowflakes and death and frostbite. Baz is leaning besides him again, fangs a twitch from his skin –

--and then everything jumbles, and Baz is left with the lens flare of fang marks on Snow’s Adam’s Apple.

Another blur.

Blood on Snow’s lips, a rabbit’s limp body between Snow’s fingers and teeth, Snow looking up at Baz as he drinks and drinks and drinks.

It’s a dream, but Baz feels breathless at the sight of the marks he gave him. The vampire he made him. Everything that he’d bury were he conscious freezes his brain like a slushie or a spell.

The marks he gave him, the creature he made him.

Snow is more his than ever, and Baz knows that’s faulty logic at its finest, since he damn well doesn’t belong to the monsters who turned him, but-- Simon Snow is a vampire. Simon Snow is his vampire. And Baz isn’t about to let anyone – not his family, not the Mage, not his council-- touch either of them.

 *

(Baz wakes to a chill fogging the windows, a curious glance from Snow, and the aftertaste of resolve on his tongue.)

(He sneers, naturally.)