Newt wakes surrounded by warmth, something quietly breathing, every exhale tickling the hair beside his ear. He yawns and opens his eyes, squinting into the sunlight, sees the expanse of an unclothed chest before him, and follows it up to - oh, no. Not again.
Newt grabs his wand off the nightstand, spelling his clothes on as he throws open Theseus's spare bedroom door. "Theseus!" he shouts into the corridor. "I come to visit you for one night and - "
"You shack up with my very handsome, very single friend?" Theseus suggests, holding a cup of tea like a shield. He smiles. "My little brother has to grow up sometime. Percy's not a bad sort, really."
"'Percy'," Newt says, very loudly, "is in that bed! Naked! Because you put him there!"
Theseus looks offended. "Not completely naked, I hope. I didn't go quite that far." He pauses, considering. "Though if he was naked because you got up to something, that's fine. Has he even woken up yet?"
Newt closes his eyes for a moment and takes a step back into the doorway. Sure enough, Percival Graves is still asleep, deep enough through all this noise it must be enchanted. "What did you give him?" Newt sighs, resigned.
"That's for me to know and you to work out," Theseus says, grinning. "Oh, look at the time - "
Newt casts a petrificus, but he's too late to stop Theseus from Apparating out. The spell splashes against the wall and dissipates into the air.
Which leaves him in Theseus's flat, alone, with a sleeping Graves for company. Newt rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.
It turns out to be a sleeping potion, or some variant thereof. Newt spends two hours digging ingredients out of his case and Theseus's stores and brewing up an antidote, by which time he's wondering if there might have been an easier solution to this - tracking down Theseus and forcing him to hand over the antidote, or just leaving on the boat to South America like he had planned - but then he looks down at Graves, expression still tight and worried in sleep, and sighs.
So when Percival Graves finally wakes it's to Newt's face, furrowed in concentration as he leans over the man, his wand between his teeth and his whole body holding him down, and the first thing Graves says is, "Theseus fucking Scamander."
Newt smiles, awkward and commiserating, and gets off as Graves wipes a hand over his face. "Unfortunately so," he says. "Sorry."
Graves shakes his head, his wand coming to his hand from across the room. "No, I should have noticed. What was it this time?"
"Sleeping potion," Newt says, "an uncommon variant, actually, and I think Theseus did some modification because you didn't react to generic snake fangs, I had to recover some from the Ashwinder stores - " and he stops, feeling self-conscious. Graves, rubbing his temples, raises his eyebrows. "Probably in your food," Newt says quickly, and Graves raises his shoulders and drops them.
"My drink, I think." He sighs and waves his wand in a lazy swish, his clothing coming to him in a far neater procession than Newt's ever managed. Newt feels suddenly rather unkempt, given his state of haphazard dress and bed-hair, and hides it by shuffling around to grab his case and straighten his waistcoat.
"Well," Newt says, "I'll try not to stay at Theseus's any longer, I'm very sorry - "
"Somehow," Graves says, "I don't think you have much sway over Theseus's plans. No, it's not your fault." He sighs. "Your asshole of a brother mentioned you were leaving this morning. I have an International Portkey permit, if you..."
"Oh, no," Newt says, "I might have missed my ship today, but there's always... tomorrow..." He trails off, and Graves smiles, wry. "On second thought."
"Where were you headed?"
"Brazil. The terminal at Sao Paolo would be fine, thank you."
Graves accios some of Theseus's lovely but impractical house decorations - wherever did he get that bottomless vase from? - to turn into portkeys, and hands Newt the spinning magnifier after a tap of his wand. "Well," Graves says, picking himself up, "no offense meant, but I hope it's some time before I see you again, Mr. Scamander."
Awkwardly, Newt says, "Yes - no - I mean," and Graves's mouth curls into a familiar smile. Newt can feel his face heat and he drops his gaze. "Thank you."
Graves's huff of laughter lingers even after he's gone, and Newt takes some time to have a cup of tea, magic up some breakfast, and let his Niffler loose in Theseus's flat, pointedly not looking back at the bedroom they'd shared.
"Theseus, where are you," Newt mutters to himself, crouched behind a very large, very transfigured stone. He's disillusioned and spelled silent, but he's not really the ideal person to go in wands-blazing considering there are far more smugglers in this thunderbird operation than he expected. He'd sent a letter by owl a few days ago with coordinates and a time, but he thinks if his brother doesn't show up soon, he'll have to pull up his courage and make do.
The thunderbird screeches, a terrible sound that makes Newt's chest hurt in sympathetic pain. The cage is open to the air now, out of that dreadful warehouse, but there's a boat on the dock and Newt knows he'll have to free it before it gets that far. He's starting a mental run-through of all the hexes he knows when someone taps his shoulder.
"Theseus!" Next exclaims, widening his silencing ward with a wave of his wand, "It's about time," but when he turns around the camouflaged form isn't his brother, but - "Oh, no."
"I'm sorry to disappoint you," Percival Graves says, looking rather more put-upon than sorry. "Theseus said there was some sort of situation."
"Yes, but he was supposed to come himself, the bastard," Newt ends in a mutter, and shakes his head. "I need to rescue that thunderbird." He peers out around his transfigured rock, to see the way its head is drooping, trying to catalog the broken bones. "Smugglers, you know. It's disgusting."
"Ah," says Graves, "I see."
Newt's lost in thought - an alohomora, obviously, but the lock might be more complicated, and then there's coaxing it out for treatment - but notices when Graves renews his disillusionment charm, far more steady than Newt's wavering form. "Here," Graves says, his wand at hand, and tosses Newt a pendant. "A protection charm, just a simple shield."
The pendant is in the form of a phoenix. Newt feels curiously strange.
"Put it on," Graves says. He rises to his feet, slowly as to not draw attention, and his wand grip is relaxed. Newt clasps the pendant around his neck, and when he looks up Graves is smiling, just a bit. "I'll take care of the smugglers."
"Oh," Newt says, "thank you," and starts walking, slow enough to avoid notice, toward his goal.
The thunderbird is trying, so hard, to whip up a storm. Without its wings it's a localised cloud, some fog and water and nothing that will stop anyone with magic, and Newt taps his wand against the cage, whispering unlocking spell after unlocking spell until finally the lock clicks open. The steel bars are hard and unforgiving and the bird too large for it, crushed in the space and Newt takes a step forward until its gaze snaps to his disillusioned form.
Newt drops it, not paying attention to the spellfire around them. "Hello," he says, quietly, meeting its gaze. It's in the nature of magical birds to want eye contact, and he holds it for a long moment before ducking his head in respect. "I'm here to help."
A long moment later, the thunderbird drops its sharp beak and Newt approaches it carefully, cutting away steel bars as he goes. "You're beautiful, you know," he says conversationally, and the bird lifts its head slightly, makes a tiny noise. "Oh, would you prefer handsome?" He waves his wand at the last few bars, levitating the roof of the cage away and doesn't pay much attention to where it lands. "Come on, now," he coaxes, and runs his hand and wand down the length of the thunderbird's body, healing abrasions as he goes. "Can you show me?"
Its wings are broken, in multiple places, some not so easy to fix. Net murmurs soothingly, conjures up bandages and splints, healing what he can. "Good," he says, "good boy," and the thunderbird nudges him, careful. Newt runs a hand down its head, brings his nose to its beak, and it gentles at his touch.
"Now," Newt says, "I have a place for you, if you want it. This isn't your home, and you've suffered so much here - if you come with me, I'll take care of you, and take you back home once you're healed." He summons his suitcase from beyond where he started, where he left it safe and warded behind a tree. "I made a place just for you," he says, with a gentle smile. "What do you think?"
The thunderbird croons, bumps its head against Newt's own and knocking him back, almost laughing. "Careful, now," he says, as the bird rises shakily to its feet; he leans down to unlatch his suitcase and it steps forward once, twice, and is gone.
Newt closes the case, checking the latches, and only then looks up to see Graves standing a careful distance away, surrounded by unconscious-or-groaning smugglers. "A thunderbird!" Newt says with enthusiasm, as soon as he gets close enough for conversation. "Can you imagine? I haven't had the chance to study them in their natural habitat yet, but with Frank I'll be able to study his magic, too - they say they can call up storms, and wind, and lightning, but how specific their abilities are and - "
Newt stops when Graves touches his arm. "Not that it isn't interesting," Graves says, "but you look exhausted."
Newt feels it too. It comes on him like a rush, all the adrenaline of the last few days, staking out and spying on the smugglers from a distance, the jittery, closed-in feeling he had whenever he saw the poor thunderbird's cage. That and the magic he's expended suddenly feels like far too much, and he looks down at his hands and unclenches his fingers from the hilt of his wand. "Y-yes," he says, suddenly unsteady. "I - I think I am."
"Where are you staying?"
"Oh, I have a room at the - inn, Muggle, it's," and Newt's voice trails off as Graves gently presses his hand to Newt's chin, lifting his head. Newt meets his eyes for just a moment and Graves says, "Yes, I see the place."
"Ah," Newt says, as his legs wobble slightly, "good."
Graves steadies him with a hand on his hip and gives him an assessing look before glancing around the area. "I'll call the Aurors on these idiots," he says. "Side-Along?"
Newt only manages a brief nod before they're off to the small bedsit Newt's renting, and he collapses on the bed with a sigh. He lets his suitcase settle to the ground from his hand, mumbles something about Frank, and drops off to sleep.
Graves isn't there in the morning, but Newt still has a phoenix-shaped pendant around his neck.
"Not again," groans a too-familiar voice, from some distance away. Newt feels sluggish, dazed, and when he manages to open his eyes he sees the scrolling information of a diagnostic spell right above his head. His head aches, and Newt mumbles something incoherent; when he tries to lift himself to his elbows it is, confusingly, Percival Graves's face that appears to set him back down. "No, keep still. What did you even do to yourself?"
Newt tries to remember. He'd been - "It wasn't Rosie's fault," he says, "she didn't mean to, I shouldn't have startled her - "
Graves's expression turns disbelieving. "You managed to contract more than five different diseases from something named Rosie? What is she, a... Merlin, no."
"A Nundu," Newt corrects. She must have held back, if he was only sick and not dead - he even remembered scribbling out a quick note to his brother before he collapsed from a high fever. "She's perfectly lovely, you know."
Graves sends a wary look to Newt's suitcase, sitting right by the wall in his line of view. "Vastly illegal," he mutters under his breath. "I don't know what Theseus was thinking, leaving you here." He summons a whole rack of potions, vials carefully labelled, and says, "You don't have an antidote somewhere in that suitcase of yours?"
Newt thinks for a moment, lifting a hand to rub at his temples. Oh, he's got some sort of pox. "That's interesting," he says, studying the light blue tinge to his arm and the spots there, sore like a wound. "I've had dragon pox before, but this isn't - "
"Here." He's interrupted by a vial at his lips, and he opens his mouth to swallow it down. It tastes terrible, coating his tongue like flobberworm mucus, but he keeps it down and squints as the sparkling auras of his vision seem to fade away. Another removes the spots, and three and four turn his skin a rather bewildering shade of orange before it works its way through his system and he's back to his normal colour again.
Newt struggles to sit up, and while his head is still spinning slightly, he manages it without too much difficulty. Graves is studying diagnostic spells again, and Newt says, "I - I think I'm all right, now." Then, despite himself, "Did you really have all those cures in your potions stores?"
Graves looks startled. "Theseus left some," he says, "but, uh, I - had a few." He busies himself with sending the stacks of potions away, sticking a note to the empty vials, and curiously, his cheeks are slightly pink. "He gave you a fever-reducer and who knows what else before dropping you here, but..." Graves rubs a hand over his face and looks between the suitcase and Newt. "I can't let you stay here, Mr. Scamander."
"Of course," Newt says, though his mind is a whirlpool of aching confusion. "I... where is here, exactly?"
Graves says, heavily, "My house."
"Your house," Newt repeats. "In... Mexico?"
"In New York," Graves says. "You were in Mexico?"
"Theseus moved me to New York?" Newt shakes his head, and then clutches it as it aches again. "Oh, you wouldn't happen to have a pain-reducer...?"
"Adverse interactions, I'm afraid," Graves says, and looks sorry about it. "But that means you've crossed international borders, and your permits..." He sighs. "I can get you a wand permit exception, and an International Portkey, but your suitcase." He stares at it, as though willing it to disappear, and Newt worries his lower lip with his teeth and summons it to his side.
"You can't take it," Newt says quickly, clutching it to his chest. "I'll - I'll go."
Graves looks at him for a long moment. "No," he says, "no, it's fine. I'll organise a set of permits for you for the next time this happens. What do you have in there? Besides," and he grimaces, "a Nundu."
"Nothing dangerous," Newt says, his grip on the case relaxing slightly. "I swear, none of them are dangerous at all - even Rosie's the sweetest thing, really, she doesn't want to hurt anyone at all, it was just an accident - "
"I'm not going to take it from you," Graves says. He approaches Newt slowly, like Newt's a cornered animal, and Newt tries to be less of one as Graves puts his hand, gently, on Newt's arm. "Mr. Scamander," Graves starts, then, "Newt."
"I swear," Graves says, "I will do anything in my power to keep your case in your possession. All right?"
Newt glances at him, then settles his gaze on his chin. It looks quite sincere. "Yes."
"But," Graves says, "to do that, you need your permits in order - at least when you come here through the regular channels." He grimaces. "I'll have to let it slide this time, but if you could draw me up a list of what you have - yes, even the Nundu - I'll see what I can do. Damn it, Theseus," he mutters under his breath and it makes Newt crack a small smile.
"I'll get out of your hair," Newt says, "and, er, owl it to you?" He relaxes his grip on his case with a sigh, and reaches for his wand again. "I'm sorry."
Graves says, "It's hardly your fault. At least stay for breakfast."
Newt stays for breakfast, but he doesn't linger long.
The knock on Newt's suitcase is extremely brief and Newt, feeding occamies, is startled by the body that starts to float down from the entrance, swearing loudly. "Theseus, you asshole - "
"No, you're staying here," Theseus's voice says from above.
"What?" Newt shouts. "Theseus, what are you doing?" but his brother's already closed the lid and disappeared. "What's going on?" Newt turns his gaze to Percival Graves, who looks significantly worse for wear. "Oh."
"He was going to a meeting," Graves says, faster than usual. "Some witch attacked us - him, I suppose, and I was hit by a curse." His cheeks are flushed, his breathing quickened, and Newt brushes his hair off his forehead to press the back of his hand to it. Graves exhales, almost leaning toward him, before he suddenly stiffens and backs a step away. "Ah. No touching, please."
Newt says, "If you're sick," and Graves shakes his head.
"I know the spell," he says. "It's..." and he stares up at the ceiling of Newt's suitcase like he's willing it to open.
"You can leave if you like," Newt offers.
"I shouldn't," Graves says, reluctantly. "There are occasional side-effects. If I start turning green or vomiting..."
"I'll watch out," Newt assures him. "Do you need - tea, coffee, water? A fever reducer? You felt quite warm." Newt starts to reach out again before catching himself, his hand falling uselessly to his side.
"No," Graves says. "I..."
He doesn't seem inclined to finish the sentence, watching Newt and then looking away, and Newt finds himself feeling even more awkward. "Ah, well, I was just feeding the Occamies - I don't know if you'd like to come, but I probably shouldn't leave them with that bucket of rats for too long, they tend to gorge themselves if I don't watch out."
Sounding resigned, Graves says, "Yes, all right."
Newt leads them out. He's already thinking of the rest of his rounds - Annabelle, for one, who's just out of mating season and hasn't been feeling well - but he can't put Graves out of his mind, even when the man conjures a chair near the Occamy nest as Newt shoos them all out of the bucket. After some fussing and hissing at the younglings, imitating their mother's tone of voice to make them do as he says, Newt looks over to him again; the man's crouched over himself, faintly shaking. "Are you sure," Newt says, hesitantly, "I can't get you anything? Some ice, at least?"
Graves doesn't look up. "Time," he says. "Or..." He shakes his head, expression turning dark, but after a moment manages to give Newt a fraction of a smile. "No, thank you."
"Tea," Newt says, feeling the urge to do something, and he's already summoned the pot, boiling water and cups. "You don't have to - have any, but it's for me, and it'll be here if you like." He pauses it in the air, quickly transfigures a small tea table from some of the dirt on the ground, and sets the tea set down carefully. "I'll, um, be around."
Newt's cup of tea is charmed to float around after him, and occasionally bumps at his hand when he's stopped, watching the mooncalves frolic or the graphorns play. He takes it and and can't help but sneak glances back at Graves, whose cup is still as full as it was when Newt poured it, who's currently looking terrible on his conjured chair. A cooling charm, Newt thinks, or at least he could take Graves's coat. Graves has his tie partially unwound and his top button undone but is still fully dressed, and Newt can't ignore the similarity of his symptoms to some kind of heat stroke.
With that thought in mind he heads back to Graves, who barely tilts his head in Newt's direction. He looks deep in some sort of meditation, and Newt hovers over him for a moment before he just decides to go for it; no touching he remembers, but he's absolute pants at dressing (and undressing) spells. He'll just have to be careful, that's all.
He manages to edge off one sleeve of Graves's coat before Graves startles, and Newt's reflexes can't keep up. The breath is knocked out of his lungs as Graves pins him to the chair, his wand under Newt's chin and his hand around Newt's throat; Newt coughs a little and notices that this close, Graves's eyes are dark, pupils blown wide, and there's a light sheen of sweat at his temples. Newt shifts slightly, licks his lips and can't miss the way Graves's gaze fixes on his mouth, his expression almost - hungry. "Mr. Graves," Newt says carefully.
It's barely a moment before Graves comes back to himself, and his face goes flat and worried as he jerks himself away. Oh, Newt thinks, "Oh," and Graves squeezes his eyes shut as he puts his wand away.
"My apologies," Graves says, and seems to notice the state of his coat; he tugs the lost sleeve up over his shoulder again. "But - "
"Oh, no, it's fine," Newt says, smiling with some relief at the realisation. "That curse, what it did - it started you in heat, correct?" At Graves's bemused stare, Newt says quickly, "Or, the human version, at least. You should have mentioned it, I can help!"
"You can," Graves says, sounding disbelieving; there's a very odd expression on his face. Newt nods, raising his wand and casting a quick accio.
"Yes, you see, I was in Australia a few months ago, and they have this plant there that mitigates the effects. I used it on Annabelle just last week, and it's non-toxic to humans - obviously we don't have regulated sexual reproduction cycles as such, but it works cross-species and I don't see a reason why it wouldn't here, either." He cuts and dries a portion, shredding it into pieces, and cleans out the teapot before brewing a new plant-infused pot. "Here," he says, pouring a cup, "it's quite effective, Dougal loves the stuff. I mean..." and he trails off as Graves stares at him. "It couldn't hurt."
"No," Graves says, and scrubs a hand over his face. He laughs a bit to himself. "No, it couldn't." He takes the cup carefully from the table, curling his fingers around it, and takes a sip. His nose scrunches. "This tastes disgusting."
"Do you think it's working?" Newt says, leaning forward, unable to keep his curiosity quiet - indeed, as Graves drains the cup, his colour seems to improve. "Here, have some more."
Newt relinquishes Graves's chair as Graves settles into it again, and he seems much less sensitive to touch after two cups, enough to shake his head and sigh at Newt standing a measured distance away. "Come here," Graves says, and extends the chair into a sofa, "then maybe you can stop staring at me like a science experiment."
"I don't mean to," Newt says, but Graves is smiling, a little soft and wry, and Newt goes. Graves is still warm, slightly pink-cheeked, but he no longer looks on the verge of imminent collapse. Newt pulls his hand back and realises Graves is watching him, and he can feel his face warm as he ducks his head and retreats. But as soon as he does Newt remembers Annabelle without a mate, wanting touch; he tentatively settles beside Graves, their legs pressed together, and can almost feel the way Graves slowly relaxes.
The occamies come to him, wanting to play, and Pickett is never satisfied without attention; Newt feeds the mooncalves with his feet curled up on the sofa and the pellets falling from his wand in the air, and Graves slowly drinks more tea. It's comfortable, almost. They stay there for hours.
Eventually Graves says quietly, "Thank you."
Newt's just finished a Floo call with his publisher when there's a knock on the door to his flat. Theseus lets himself in, announces, "We're going to the Leaky Cauldron - no, don't give me that face."
"What face?" Newt says, and Theseus's eyes narrow as he grabs Newt's elbow. "This, this isn't a face."
"It's a face," Theseus says. "A face I see far too often - come on, you need to lighten up."
Newt protests, but it's lost in in the rush to "lock my door, Theseus, you didn't even close it and my case is still there, what if - " as Theseus spins on his heel and Apparates them both. "Anyone could come in and what then?" Newt finishes, a little breathless, and Theseus sighs.
"Just wait here, I'll check your locks."
Newt scowls at the place of air where he was, shoving his hands into his pockets as he looks around. He hasn't been in London for long, and he won't be staying either, so there doesn't necessarily need to be an ulterior motive for Theseus dragging him out - but with Theseus, Newt thinks, there usually is.
He's pacing on the Diagon Alley side of the Leaky, near the wall, when he hears the unmistakable sound of an animal in pain. A Kneazle, he thinks, young, and he follows the sound through to Knockturn Alley and the poor creature hiding behind a bin. Newt crouches close to the ground, making soothing noises as he pulls out his wand, and gently removes the splinter from the Kneazle's paw. "There you go," he coaxes, running his wand over the wound and watching it close, "you're good now, aren't you?"
The Kneazle mewls, rubbing its head against his hand, and Newt smiles.
"And what's this?"
Newt looks up to the voice. The wizard's one of those rough types, practically radiating that magical supremacy aura, and Newt shoos the Kneazle away as he rises to his feet. "I don't want trouble," he says, quietly. "I'm just - "
The Kneazle winds its way around Newt's leg, hissing, fur on end. "That little pest - " the other wizard spits, and Newt's eyes narrow and he tightens his grip on his wand, " - won't ever stay dead." He points his wand at her, and whatever spell he was going to say is cut off at the first syllable as he collapses from Newt's stupefy.
"Really, now," he says to the Kneazle, who gazes up at him with wide, innocent eyes before she trots off, tail in the air. Newt steps over the unfortunate man's body absentmindedly, and nearly runs into - oh. "Mr. Graves."
"That was well handled," Graves says, and Newt ducks his head and feels immensely awkward. "I don't suppose it wasn't Theseus inviting you out for drinks?"
"No," Newt says, "it was him." He offers Graves a tentative, commiserating smile, and is rewarded by Graves's own. Graves looks tired, Newt realises, dark shadows under his eyes, and says, abruptly, "I can leave now, if you like."
Graves looks at him curiously. "I just mean," Newt says, quickly, "you probably hoped for a relaxing evening, you know, but as soon as I'm here Theseus just gets these ideas and you know he'll spend the entire night just trying to set us up again."
"You say that like Theseus doesn't talk about you at every other opportunity as well," Graves says, but he's smiling. "He's glad I like him."
"Yes, well," Newt says, "it'll surely be worse. Remember the last time?" It still makes Newt a little paranoid when he goes out to bars. Theseus had tried a dozen tricks, from spiking their drinks to trying to physically stick them together - Newt shudders at the thought - and they'd barely escaped by the skin of their teeth. If he's trying to make them friendly through extreme opposition, Newt thinks, but it's obvious he... means well. For some definition of it.
Graves looks just as haunted as he. "I remember."
"Obviously it's better without both of us there at once," Newt says, "so, I can go."
"Theseus said you only just came back from Sudan," Graves says, eyeing him. "If anything - "
"You only see each other every few months," Newt protests. "Theseus is always bringing up how busy you are."
They have a silent stand-off there, Graves watching him and Newt looking around and then fixing his gaze on Graves's boots, shoving his hands deeper into his pockets. "I did have an idea," Graves says slowly, "for stopping Theseus's... attempts."
"Really?" Newt says, incredulous. "One that would actually work?"
"I believe so," Graves says. "It would require a small sacrifice on your part, though."
Newt's mind spins through the possibilities. "Blood? Hair? I don't - is this really magic an Auror should be practicing?"
Graves looks amused. "Nothing like that," he says. "You'd have to call me by my given name, to start."
"Percival," Newt tries, and Graves's smile turns sly and conspiratorial.
"Good," he says, and suddenly his arm is around Newt's waist, his mouth near Newt's ear as he whispers, "Play along."
Newt frowns, confused, but when he opens his mouth to say something Graves makes a quiet noise, presses his thumb to Newt's lip. Newt exhales, looks up into Graves's expression hidden in shadow, presses his tongue to his teeth. He's suddenly overaware of how close they are as Graves leans forward, and can't help but wonder if -
"Newt?" Theseus's voice, and Newt immediately scrambles for some space while Graves - Percival's hand lingers around his waist before falling away. He couldn't have meant to - no.
When Theseus comes closer he continues, "Oh, Percy found you! Wait, weren't you..." He looks between them, curious.
Newt shoves his hands in his pockets and says, in a voice a little too high and fast, "No, nothing, let's - ah, let's go."
Theseus seems to take something from his flustered bearing, Newt's desperate glance up at Percival for some assistance, any, and suddenly he's smiling, bright and delighted. "No," Theseus says, "of course not. Let's go."
Percival bumps his elbow as they walk on the way back, says quietly, "My apologies, but," and Newt realises that that was what he was trying to do all along. If Theseus thinks they're hiding a secret relationship from him, he'll surely let up on the endless matchmaking and overall terrifyingly-good subterfuge, and what can Newt say to that?
"No," Newt says, and manages a smile. "It's perfectly fine."
And Percival's right, for all that. Newt intentionally stumbles over his name a few times: "Percy - I mean, Mr. Graves - said," and tries to look a little less overwhelmingly bewildered whenever Percival initates a small affection, linking their hands under the table or softening his gaze with a tiny smile when Theseus's attention is (supposedly) otherwise occupied. It means Theseus raises his eyebrows at them and keeps the topics on things other than their fated compatibility, means Newt can talk dragons and griffins and enjoy Theseus's shared enthusiasm, means Percival and Theseus can go on a long debate about the proper classification of dark magic. Newt excuses himself to the bathroom, thankfully empty, and stares at his face in the mirror, his messy hair and flushed cheeks and wide eyes, and ignores the mirror's suggestion that he just get a brush, dearie. Percival was right, so why...
The door opens, and Newt turns away when Percival looks at him in the mirror. "I haven't been that long," Newt says, shoving his hands in his pockets, chancing a look at Percival's expression.
"No," says Percival. He's watching Newt with the temerity of a hippogriff, and Newt drops his gaze almost immediately. "I wanted to apologise, again. I didn't mean to pressure you," but Newt's shaking his head.
"It's fine," Newt says. "I, I'm just not very good at acting, you know. It's rather tiring."
"Ah," says Percival, "I see."
Newt has the distinct feeling he's messed something up again, and he shakes his head again, uncertain. "I don't mean - that is, it's not that I mind it in principle, but Theseus and I have always been close, you know, and I'm pants at lying to him when he asks - "
"Shh," Percival steps forward, his hip bumping Newt's, his hand settling on Newt's arm. Newt stops talking. "It's all right," Percival says. His smile is small and slightly crooked. "I think I understand."
He's really far too close. Newt can feel the heat of his body all up one side and he shoots a moderately terrified glance at the door. What if someone comes in? What if it's Theseus? Newt wonders if that's what Percival is lingering for, voice oddly gentle, and Newt says, on the edge of panicky, "Understand - understand what?"
Percival follows his gaze to the door, then looks back to Newt, but doesn't move even an inch further away. "I know," he says, carefully, "this isn't what you would have wanted, but for Theseus's meddling..."
Newt sighs. "He's happy, isn't he?"
"Ecstatic," Percival says dryly. "And... it's hardly a chore, to be with you."
"Oh." Newt feels flustered, though the word doesn't quite cover the way his heartbeat quickens, his face warms. "Well. Thank you." He ducks his head. "I suppose my acting isn't quite as terrible as I thought it was."
Percival closes his eyes and exhales. "That wasn't really what I meant."
"Then what did you mean?" Newt asks him, confused; it's then that the mirror interjects a will you two ever stop canoodling? and Newt springs back just as the door opens, some stranger looking at them and dismissing them in a single glance. Newt swallows and mumbles something, maybe an apology, as he heads to the door.
Percival catches his elbow on the way back into the crowded pub, but all he does is say, "Perhaps next time."
"Do you really want to encourage him?" Newt asks, his voice nearly lost in the crowd, and Percival smiles, sudden and almost mischievous, and runs his fingers through Newt's hair. Newt makes an indignant sound and Percival pulls his hand away.
"Maybe I do."
Whatever that means, Newt doesn't get an answer. Theseus is waiting at their tucked-away table, bright-eyed with another round of Firewhiskey, flirting heavily but unseriously with the barmaid. "I was wondering where you two had gotten to," he says, giving Newt a significant look from under his eyebrows, and Newt ducks his head and can't meet his gaze.
Percival taps his foot against Newt's own, gives him a smile on the edge of wry, and says to Theseus, "So you were saying...?"
Hours later, it's just Newt and Theseus, walking back to Newt's flat. Theseus is louder, more outgoing when he's tipsy, but he's already a loud, outgoing sort of person. Newt keeps a hand on his arm and doesn't let him wander too far. "And you!" Theseus says, after a trail of some thought has finished. "And Percy! I can't believe you actually..."
Newt doesn't know what his expression looks like, but Theseus takes one look at it and says, "Oh. You're not, are you?"
Newt, uncomfortable, can't even lie. "Ah. No."
Theseus actually droops, like a deflated Puffskein. "I thought it was too good to be true," he mumbles, "but you should, Newt. Percy's a great guy."
"Yes," Newt says, "you've told me."
Theseus, insightful into Newt's mood even when he's half-falling over his feet, says, "Was it me?"
"You just," Newt says in a rush, "keep doing this! I know Percival - Graves - is exhausted at work because you keep telling me, but as soon as we come into any sort of contact we have to fend off all your schemes, which is hardly relaxing. I've started - I've started checking my drinks and you could've accidentally sent him into something I needed your help on, or might be just slightly illegal, and Theseus, just, please - "
"It's too much," Theseus says, quietly, and Newt ducks his head and blinks, hard.
"That's not, I don't think that's how relationships work, anyway," he offers as some sort of peace. "You can't just - push people together until they stick."
Theseus sighs. "Yeah," he says, "I know." When Newt looks at him, he has his head tilted back to look at the sky. The stars are bright past the dim light of the streetlamps. "But... you're my little brother, Newt. And you're always haring off and getting into danger," and Newt has to duck the hair-ruffle, "and, you know, I think a relationship, someone to come home to, might help."
"I have you," Newt says, and Theseus shoves him gently.
"You know what I mean," he says. "But you deserve the best. And Percy's the best man I know." He pauses, grins. "Apart from me."
"Then," Newt says tentatively, "you'll stop?"
"I suppose I could let up on the sabotage," Theseus says, after a moment, "but surely you'd miss hearing all about how my handsome and single American friend is doing, I couldn't deprive you of that."
Fingering his wand pointedly, Newt says, "Don't make me tell Pickett."
"Oh, not the bowtruckle!" Theseus exclaims, laughing. "I think your lovely Niffler - whatshisname - would be a better threat, he's an absolute menace - "
"Don't you say that!" Newt chases after him as Theseus starts dodging, running away; Newt's spells splash against the pavement. He catches up to him at the door to his flat, where they spill in, still laughing, and Newt cancels the few charms that managed to hit Theseus, dulling his hair back to its normal red from a bright neon green.
"You don't really mind, do you?" Theseus asks, peering down at him, and Newt closes his eyes and sighs.
"Just, try to keep it down?"
"It's because I care," Theseus tells him seriously, and Newt makes a face that has him grinning. "What are you going to do, set your bowtruckle on me?"
Newt does. Theseus finds leaves in strange places for a month afterward, at least.
The instant Newt comes out of his suitcase he knows something's wrong: Percival doesn't seem to recognise him at all.
"Is that really Mr. Graves?" he hisses to Tina as they're lead down to the dungeons, wincing at the tightness of the binds around his wrists.
Tina stares at him, confused. "What do you mean?"
"I mean," Newt says, "has he been acting strangely? Memory loss? Polyjuice? Anyone want to cast a revelio or two?" He glances back at the Auror holding him, whose steps have slowed. "I just don't believe - he promised he'd do his best to keep my case from being impounded, and now - "
"You know Mr. Graves?" Tina asks, looking startled. "Personally?"
"Well," Newt says, awkwardly, "he's friends with my brother, you see, and Theseus is, well, and every time we see each other there's always something - I mean, I don't know if we're friends, exactly, but when you wake up in the same bed enough times it's - "
"You've slept with Graves?" asks the Auror escorting Tina, giving up all pretense of not listening in. "Graves?"
"That angry guy, with the," and Jacob makes a tilt-of-the-head gesture that doesn't quite work with his hands bound behind his back.
"No!" Newt exclaims. "I mean, I suppose technically, but not in the - carnal sense, though not for Theseus's lack of trying. My brother's been trying to set us up for," and he pauses to think about it. "It must be years."
"Set you up," says Tina's Auror. "With Graves?"
"He's not all bad," Newt says, feeling a little ruffled at the extent of this disbelief. "I mean, objectively, he's quite handsome, and kind enough if nothing's breaking his bloody laws - all that fuss about permits, honestly! - but out of his jurisdiction he's far less uptight. He's very clever, and a good conversationalist, and he always seems interested in hearing about my new creatures. And he's very good with a wand. Or without one," Newt adds, remembering the pieces of wandless magic he's seen, nothing flashy but still astounding in his complete control. "Quite amazing, really."
"Newt," Tina says. Her expression is a cross between a smile and outright disbelief. "Goodness."
"Are you sure you're not sleeping with him?" asks Jacob's Auror. Newt narrows his eyes at him. "I'm just saying..."
"Saying what?" Newt says huffily. "Just because I realise Percival isn't quite as bad as you lot make him out to be - "
Newt's Auror stops suddenly. The three exchange glances. "Percival," Newt's Auror says.
Newt can feel his face warm. Tina's practically staring at him open-mouthed. It can't be that much of a surprise that Percival has - acquaintances who call him by his first name, for Merlin's sake. Theseus even calls him 'Percy'. He opens his mouth to say something of that sort but is interrupted by Tina's Auror, who says, "There have been a lot of inter-department reshuffles lately."
"McMahon's been transferred to desk-work, customs."
"And Goldstein - sorry, Goldstein - "
"You don't think..."
"Well," Newt says, "if you could get me my wand," and they exchange glances again. Jacob's Auror sighs.
"Fine, I'll do it."
They start walking again, but if Newt's not mistaken, with far less hostility; when the Aurors lock them in their cell, they give him an almost-friendly nod. "We'll be coming by later, for your questioning," says Jacob's Auror, and raises his eyebrows significantly at Newt. "I'll have you."
"Yes," Newt says, and at a nudge from Tina, "yes, thank you."
"If he has been replaced," Tina's Auror says, on the way out, and is quickly quieted by her fellow's elbow.
Tina herself, in the cell, has no such silencer. "You really think Mr. Graves has been replaced?" she wonders. "How did I not know you were dating?"
"We're not - dating," Newt says. "And, I don't know. But it's really very strange. He would at least be blaming Theseus for this all prematurely."
Tina shakes her head, obviously paying no attention. "Dating," she repeats, amazed.
"So," Jacob says, looking utterly lost, "what's all this about Mr. Graves? And what was all that about an obscurus, or obscurial, or whatever?"
Newt takes a slow breath, and explains.
It's more than an hour before they get called back upstairs for questioning. Newt, led by the Auror who previously guarded Jacob, falls into a the chair with his wand slipped up his sleeve. Someone's told him, is the first thing Newt thinks, because the man wearing Percival's face gives him a quick smile, too wrong and completely insincere. It's like he's watching one of those Muggle rubber masks over his face, the strangeness of it, and Newt fixes his gaze on the man's shoulder and doesn't meet his eyes.
"Yes," Newt says, quietly.
The man follows with a list of Newt's - many problems, his expulsion (as though Percival hasn't once seen the photograph of Leta in Newt's suitcase, as though he hasn't heard Theseus calling foul on it far and wide), and Newt lets his wand slip into his palm and closes his fingers around the hilt. He's not the best at silent spells, but Newt thinks the tight, tense feeling in his chest, his magic stirring around his fingers with the growing ball of panic stuck in the back of his throat, will make him good enough. Revelio, he thinks, and then meets the man's gaze as his disguise slides away.
Newt drops to the floor, Pickett's tug strong for a bowtruckle, and just in time as Grindelwald's expression turns dark and spells start flying through the air. A spell splashes against a shield he didn't cast as he retreats to Tina's position, her wand in hand as she casts another incarcerous, overdone with the Dark Lord wrapped in a half-dozen chains.
But if the man playing at being Percival is Grindelwald - then where is Percival himself? The Aurors are calling in back-up, Grindelwald levitating wandless in the air, and Newt steps not-too-close and says, "Where is he? Where is Percival Graves?"
Grindelwald looks at him and laughs.
He doesn't stop laughing until they drag him away. Newt's pacing, thinking of locator spells, magical creature tracking and trying not to think of Percival pale and cold and dead. "It was Polyjuice," Tina reports, when she returns to him in the corridor.
"Then," Newt says, and she nods, mouth firmed in a thin line.
"Mr. Graves might still be alive."
Newt has - things, of his, but his suitcase is still impounded somewhere, his creatures shut away. He could owl Theseus - should owl Theseus, but in the middle of that thought Pickett climbs up to his shoulder and tugs on Newt's hair. Newt frowns at him. "What is it, Pickett?"
Pickett makes a quiet chirping noise and plucks at the chain around Newt's neck, then goes back to pulling on his hair. "Alright, alright, I'm going!" Newt tells him, and Pickett gentles his grip slightly even as Newt speeds up his pace. "I don't - this pendant, he wouldn't have made it himself, you know, it's probably some sort of standard Auror issue or something, Pickett, you're just going to get me in trouble again - "
"Pendant?" Tina asks, jogging along next to him, and Newt pulls it out from under his shirt. "Oh," she says. "Um. Wow."
Newt slants her a look. "Wow?"
"Definitely not Auror issue," she says. "Is that real platinum?"
Newt examines it. "Maybe?"
Tina's eyebrows are raised, but when Newt glances at her she just shakes her head and smiles. "Newt," she says, and then, as Pickett's tugging comes to a stop, "Wait. We're at the Apparition point."
Newt looks around the room, the crack of people coming and going, and then to Pickett, tugging at his pendant. "Pickett," Newt says, slowly. "You're not saying..."
Pickett chitters, tugging on the pendant again, and Newt gives Tina a beseeching look. "I think he wants me to Apparate, but I'll be doing it blind," he says, and she bites her lip and sighs.
"Side-Along me? You know I can't let you go alone."
Newt nods and closes his eyes, wrapping his hand around the pendant and trying to feel out the magic in it. He's hardly as good as Pickett, who could probably trace someone across an entire city, but Newt's learned some tricks in tracking down creatures, and he thinks he can feel it out. Tina's hand lands on his arm and Newt remembers destination, and he spins on his heel and lets the tug of magic pull them away.
Wherever they land, it's dark. Tina lights up her wand and as soon as they see the figure, reeling away from the light Newt hisses, "Nox, nox!" and Tina extinguishes it. Newt feels a tiny tendril of magic into his own wand, until its tip shines with a low fluorescent glow, and Tina follows his example as he steps forward and crouches down at Percival's feet.
Percival blinks at him in the low light, his hair scraggly, his face thin, and Newt swallows around the sudden lump in his throat. "Hello," he says, quietly, "sorry about the wait."
"Let me guess," Percival says, his voice hoarse. "Theseus again?"
"No," Newt says. "All me this time, I'm afraid."
He taps his wand against Percival's chains, but Percival shakes his head, then looks like he's already regretting having done so. "Magic-proof," he says, and Newt glances down at his coat sleeve but Pickett's two steps ahead of him already, clicking open the latches of his handcuffs.
"Not bowtruckle-proof, luckily," Newt says. "Come on." He helps Percival's hands out of the cuffs, and murmurs quiet numbing and healing charms over his shoulders as Percival grits his teeth and wrenches them back in place; he offers a hand, then an arm, then a shoulder as Percival struggles to his feet. Pickett jumps to Newt's hand and then to his head, and Newt says, "It's because of Pickett that we found you, truly. Bowtruckles are fantastic at picking out individual magic traces. I didn't realise he was so fond of you."
"Really," Percival says, quiet. He studies Pickett, who stares right back at him. "Well. Thank you."
Pickett makes a chirping noise and hides himself in Newt's hair. Newt tries to give him a reproachful look, aiming it over his shoulder, but thinks he misses. "I've found the exit," Tina calls out, her wand a slightly brighter point in the room, and Newt takes most of Percival's weight as they take the stairs up careful and slow.
"It's good to see you, sir," she tells Percival, and he inclines his head.
When they finally exit it's from a tiny silver pillbox in Percival's living room. Newt's unspeakably glad he's there holding up Percival's weight for the way he stumbles at the sudden bright lights, the rush of noise, the change in perspective, and catches him before he falls. The house is teeming with Aurors and they're held at wandpoint in a sudden silence. Percival tilts his head at Newt, the tug of his mouth wry, and Newt coughs to hide his smile.
"Yes," Tina says, voice raised, "this is the real Director Graves, medical would be great, anytime - "
She's lost in the sudden din, people rushing back and forth, and Newt steps back when Percival's carted off to proper healers and thinks, longingly, of the house before: open and quiet, Percival with his sleeves rolled up and a pan minding itself on the stove.
It's a thought that makes him want to trace his steps back there, to Percival's kitchen and his comfortable bedroom, to his small library of interesting books. There's a place for his case there, enough room for a Niffler's small den and a nest of baby diricawls and a bowtruckle who thinks Newt's his home tree - but it's a silly thought, Newt knows. His case is impounded, and he still needs to send Theseus an owl.
It's a very long week later when Newt's pulled out of Percival's guest-room by Pickett tugging on his ear. "What now?" Newt says, feeling faintly exasperated; certainly he was a great help in the rescue, but since then he's been making a nuisance out of himself, taking Newt all over the house and insisting on spending hours watching Percival like he's about to turn into an imposter or disappear. Percival is technically on mandatory recovery leave, but he's had stacks of paperwork and Aurors in and out and Theseus, in meetings about Grindelwald with the ICW, hasn't been around enough to stop him. Newt, helping hide an Obscurial in the Goldstein's apartment and an un-obliviated Muggle on the streets, hasn't particularly wanted to raise any questions and so has been conceding quietly to Pickett's strange whims.
Pickett leads Newt out of the bedroom and down the hall, where Newt hears Theseus's voice from the kitchen. " - should just tell him, Percy, it's not like Newt'll catch on otherwise."
Newt's step forward is halted by Pickett's grip on his ear. Percival's voice says, "I can't just say it - he doesn't - " and Newt tunes him out, something about this feeling all-too familiar. He narrows his eyes at Pickett, who waves his arms and clambers up into Newt's hair.
"Pickett," Newt hisses sharply, and tries to grab him; Pickett climbs over Newt's head and tugs painfully at his hair. Newt tries to soften his tone. "Pickett, you know I won't hurt you, but if you won't tell me what's going on - "
Pickett suddenly jumps and Newt scrambles to catch him; he crawls up Newt's sleeve and Newt shakes his arms, trying to extract him. "Pickett," he says, volume rising, "you're behaving just like Bandit now, I might have to stop indulging your attachment problems - " and as Pickett makes a leap to the side table Newt just manages to catch him - and falls, crashing, through the kitchen door.
Newt can already hear Theseus's choked laugh as he picks himself up. He holds Pickett out between finger and thumb and turns his glare on his brother. "You!" Newt says. "You're the reason he's been acting so strangely. What did you bribe him with?"
"Nothing!" Newt frowns at him, and Theseus relents. "Well, we might have had a chat."
"A chat," Newt says doubtfully, and turns his frown on Pickett. "You need to stop this. Whatever Theseus told you, he's wrong."
"Hey!" Theseus protests. Newt ignores him.
Pickett chitters, and Newt says, "No! No, that's not right at all." Pickett's pose turns slightly regretful, and Newt sighs and lets him clamber onto his wrist. "You behave yourself now, all right?" He climbs up Newt's sleeve and into his pocket, and it's then that Newt realises he's interrupted a - probably private conversation. Percival has his head in his hands. "Ah, I - I'm sorry about that, really. I didn't hear anything, really, I can just go - "
"No," says Theseus, with the air of someone who definitely arranged this terribly coincidental meeting, "we were just talking about you, Newt. Come on, sit down and have some tea."
"Talking about me," Newt says warily, sliding a glance to Percival who is studying his tea like he's looking for his future in the dregs. Newt approaches the table, taking the chair gingerly as the teapot pours him a cup. "Theseus - "
"What were we talking about, Percy?" Theseus asks brightly. Percival makes a quiet, choked sound from behind his teacup. "Right, the first time you two met? Do you remember it, Newt?"
Newt - doesn't think he does, honestly. All the times Theseus has arranged for them to be together, and he can't pinpoint the time he hadn't known Percival, then Graves. Long evenings and shared nights have blurred together in his memory, and Newt wonders if there's a point to all this. "That small magical place you liked?" Newt hazards. "After..."
Theseus's smile gentles a little with the recollection. "After we got back from the war."
That's right. Newt remembers, now, the smoky air, the still-pervasive sense of relief. He was still feeling lost; he'd left all his dragons behind. "But," Newt says, and shakes his head. "I don't understand."
Percival says, "Theseus."
Theseus rises from his chair, the sound of it scraping against the floor loud and jarring against the silence. Newt opens his mouth, closes it as Theseus crosses the room and leaves, the door clicking shut behind him. He doesn't know what to say to break the fragile quiet and Percival sighs, closing his eyes.
"Did I forget something important?" Newt asks, hesitant. Percival's mouth twitches and he shakes his head, his gaze fixed over Newt's shoulder.
"Probably not," Percival says, "for you. You might remember, though, that I approached you first. I bought you a drink." His smile turns self-deprecating, and Newt says, "Oh."
Because he does remember, now.
Someone had said something, American, but Newt, sitting alone in tucked-away booth, was lost in the arithmetic properties of the Undetectable Extension Charm he was researching. He still said, "Oh, thank you," at the drink pressed into his hand. It was the same as the one he'd had earlier. "I'm sorry, but I'm - quite busy right now."
"Extension charms," said the stranger, and Newt glanced up; an Auror, by the looks of it, about Theseus's age. "Are you making a living space?"
"Oh, no," Newt said, "something much more complicated than that." He'd done his research on habitat preservation but that was another thing he'd have to incorporate - climate controls, partitioned. "Well. It's quite niche, really."
"The friend I was meeting is running late," said the other man. "I have time."
So Newt, slowly, started to talk. The stranger was surprisingly good company, clever and better educated than Newt, though unboastful about it; they delved into charms theory and pored over his calculations, discussed all the charms he'd need to interweave to get the habitats he wanted. Newt tried ideas on him and he responded with applications, and he offered some surprising flashes of insight that Newt started working into his spell. Sometime, Newt realised, he'd finished his drink and the stranger had sat down next to him, the press of his thigh a long line against Newt's own; sometime, Newt realised, he'd started to categorise the shades of his rare smiles. "...and it's good to be prepared for any eventuality," Newt finished, his point feeling a little muddled. "Dragons aren't quite as rare as the Ministry likes to pretend, you know."
"I have no doubt," the man said dryly, with a touch of a smile. "But keeping one?"
"Temporarily," Newt corrected, "keeping one temporarily. He worried his lower lip with his teeth, looking down at the sketches filling his notebook next to pages of calculations. "Just in case. I don't really know what I might stumble over."
"I'm sure you'll manage," said the man. He put his hand over Newt's, where he was fiddling with the edge of the page of his notebook, and Newt stopped, glancing at him to realise he was being watched with a startling intensity. Newt ducked his head, face warming. "In fact, if you're available, later..."
The man's attention was caught by the door. He'd been glancing up every time it opened, checking for his friend - "great man, terrible at time management," he'd said - but this time lasted longer than all of the last, and Newt jumped at the distraction, followed his gaze.
"Is that your - oh, Theseus!"
The man went still beside him. "Theseus," he repeated, and Newt waved his hand, smiling as Theseus caught sight of him.
"Yes," Newt said, "my older brother, you know - "
By the time he'd finished saying it, Theseus was already there, his hair mussed and robes slightly askew. "Newt! Oh, Percy, I see you've already met my little brother." There was something odd in his tone, and Newt frowned slightly up at him. "Newt, this is the friend I told you about, the Director at MACUSA, Percival Graves."
"Mr. Graves," Newt said. Hadn't he been closer? When Newt looked at him his back was straight, his expression carefully closed, and the man Newt had been talking to - wasn't gone, exactly, but hiding in the soft corners of his eyes. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Mr. Scamander," Graves said. His gaze passed from Newt to Theseus. "I should have known."
Newt remembers. But he's still - he doesn't know what to make of it, with Percival watching him over a tea set and a kitchen table, with the odd curl of confused anticipation in his chest. He says, slowly, "You helped me with my case. I remember."
"Then," Percival says, "perhaps you remember I was also approximately five seconds away from asking you to come home with me."
Newt's brain halts. "I - I'm sorry?"
Percival slides him a glance, the tilt of his mouth amused. "Of course, then Theseus came along, and I realised you were the little brother he'd sworn vengeance for on literally anyone who tried to touch him - "
"He wasn't that bad," Newt protests weakly. He feels strangely warm, and he can't look at Percival's face.
" - so I must admit I thought he was putting me through some sort of trial." Percival taps his fingers on the rim of his cup. "Of course, by the time I realised it was genuine, we'd already come to an accord. And I didn't think... well."
"You don't mean," Newt says, tentative and quietly disbelieving, "all this time..."
"You frustrate me," Percival says, quiet. "You ignore all laws when it suits you, you rush recklessly headlong into danger without any regard for your personal safety if something's hurt or in trouble - the way you treat creatures that could kill you is frankly disturbing - and that's not to mention your disregard for the chaos you leave in your wake. And all this time... yes."
Newt guiltily glances up. Percival's expression is gentle. He reaches out and takes the teacup from Newt's trembling hands and clasps them in his own. He leans forward, meeting Newt's eyes, and Newt feels caught, unable to look away.
"Newt," Percival says, "would you come home with me?"
Newt's heart is pounding, a slow unfurling happiness in the flush of his cheeks and the catch of his breath. He wants to lean forward and close the distance between them, to press Percival down against his mattress until he can only say Newt's name. He wants to fall asleep beside him and wake up there again; he wants to learn the intricacies of his magic and settle creatures in his house and - someone to come home to, Theseus had said, and Newt - Newt wants that, too.
Instead, Newt says, a spark of mischief in his smile, "You do realise that we're already here. At your home."
He leans forward and catches Percival's huff of a laugh between them. Percival's mouth opens under his own but Newt isn't expecting the pull around his waist that sends him stumbling, laughing, into Percival's lap, where Percival winds his hands into Newt's hair and keeps him there. When Newt can catch his breath again Percival's smiling at him. "You know, it can be yours, too."
"Oh," Newt says. There's a giddy sort of delight in his chest, and he can't seem to stop smiling. "Yes. That would be lovely."
They're interrupted by a disgruntled chittering coming from his pocket. Newt squints down as Pickett sticks his head out, and Percival sighs when Newt detaches himself to let Pickett climb up to his hand. "Yes, all right," Newt says to Pickett. "Really? After all this time? Oh, I see." He unbuttons his waistcoat and leaves it over his chair, Pickett safe in a pocket.
"I suppose I'll get used to them," Percival says, and slides his hand under Newt's jaw, drawing him into a kiss. "Will he be all right there?"
"He'll be fine," Newt says. "So, how do you feel about diricawls?"
"In the house?"
"They're very docile," Newt says, cajoling, "if you hand-raise them, they hardly ever knock things over - "
"Newt," Percival says. Newt closes his mouth and glances up at him pleadingly through his eyelashes. Percival sighs. "Diricawls are fine. But - " he starts, before Newt can interject, "Theseus has promised me he won't be back until morning. That means we have the house to ourselves. Do you really want to spend it talking about diricawls?"
"Oh," Newt says. Percival's smile is familiar, fondly amused. "Well, it wouldn't be a complete waste of an evening but - I'm sure we can find something more interesting to do."
Diricawls, Newt's still thinking, a tree for bowtruckles outside the window, his Niffler in a den and maybe a small nest of Ashwinders in the fireplace - and then Percival kisses him, and he can't think of anything else at all.