“Can you tell me the answers to the test?” Penny asks.
I sigh, not even looking up from my textbook. “It doesn’t work like that and you know it, Pen.”
“But are you sure?”
“I think I know how my own...weird thing works.”
She looks at me over her glasses. “You mean psychic visions.”
My mouth instinctively twists at those words. There’s so much baggage attached to them, socially and personally. All I can think of is the psychiatrist who told me psychics were all delusional narcissists. And the neurologist who said my visions were probably just seizures. Then I get to gleefully recollect all the taunts and names and anger that’s followed me since I started seeing bloody ghosts. Life as a “sensitive” person has never been easy.
“They’re only dreams most of the time,” I mumble.
“And you haven’t dreamt the answers?”
She sighs and leans against me, arm winding around mine. “Sorry, Si. I’m nervous.”
“I know. Wish my...thing could help, Pen.”
“It’s okay.” She pats my hand with a brilliant smile. It always makes me feel better. “It’s just one review quiz. I’ll survive.”
“Not sure I will,” I sigh. “Was half this stuff even in the lecture? How does she expect us to remember shit after one class?”
Penny shrugs, something usually reserved for me. I just grumble and go back to revising. Well, I try. But after unpacking a bunch more boxes in Penny’s room (mostly books), I’m bloody knackered. And we’re outstretched on my new bed. And it’s so comfy...
Before I know it, I’ve slipped into sleep.
A gunshot rings through the air.
Silver glinting in the moonlight.
Tears down cheeks.
Screaming and screaming all the damn screaming.
Pain pain blood so much blood and it’s everywhere.
“Mum! Mummy, wake up! Please!”
I bolt upright with a huge gasp, heart racing so much it bruises my rib cage. I press my hand to my chest and Penelope’s falls on top of it.
“Breathe, Si, breathe,” she says slowly. “It was just a dream, okay?”
“Just a dream,” I repeat, “just a dream.”
We breathe together slowly until my pulse goes back to normal. Penny keeps holding my hand. She’s gotten good at this over the years. Even when she thought they were just nightmares, she’s always taken them seriously. After learning what they are (what I am), she started asking an extra question.
“Wanna talk about it?”
I shrug, leaning back against the headboard. “Not much to talk about. There wasn’t a specific moment or person. Just...pain, blood, screaming. More a bunch of feelings than an actual event.”
Penny frowns in contemplation. (She does that a lot). “Is it a ghost trying to communicate?”
I shrug again. “Dunno. Maybe. Could just be bad energy floating around from a living person or the area. I can’t make heads or tails of it either way.”
“That sucks. Well, wanna get some supper?”
I look down at my slightly glitching digital watch. “I slept for over three hours? Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“You needed a nap after all your hard work today.” She pinches my cheek like some doting grandma. “Plus you just looked so cute.”
“Oh shut up.” I bat her away. But I am smiling. “Let’s get food, please.”
“Gladly.” She grabs my hand and pulls me off the bed to follow her. I’m still not exactly sure how my “thing” works (it’s not like I was born with a manual), but it seems when I’m around someone for long enough, their thoughts and feelings become less shocking. They don’t mentally slap me in the face like a new person’s can. But I can still feel the glee and care radiating off Penny. It’s an invisible warm blanket around me. Sometimes this “thing” has its benefits. Sometimes.
“Hurry up, Si!” Penny yells from the foyer.
“Coming!” I reply, scooping up my school stuff. But something is missing. “Pen, where is my knapsack?”
“In the kitchen!” I dash into our tiny sitting room, which is currently filled with a labyrinth of moving boxes. “Come on, we’re going to be late for the second class!”
“It won’t be the end of the world if we’re late, right?” I riffle through the boxes and clutter in the kitchen. It takes me throwing a lot of tea towels to find my backpack. (Ms. Bunce seemed to think we’re going to be drying a lot of dishes.)
“Don’t care, let’s go.”
I dash to our front door, which has its own twin towers of boxes framing it. We may have finished bringing in boxes yesterday but unpacking them is a whole different story. We’ll get to it eventually. After we settle into uni life a little more. Penny’s arms are crossed and her foot is rapidly tapping against the hardwood floor. She’s made to be some sort of cross school teacher, I swear.
“Let’s go,” I say with a gleeful smile.
“Finally.” Penny throws open the door and I quickly follow behind.
Watford University is an absolutely beautiful campus. Nestled in the English countryside, there’s lots of rolling hills, a small forest, and even a river running right through it. Best of all, it’s small and quiet. That’s why I picked it. It’s a great school, yeah, but it’s also far away from a lot of people. Less people means less chance of ghosts or weird feelings, hopefully.
That’s all I can think of as Penny and I walk across Watford’s lush green lawns. This is a fresh start. I can live here. I might even have a little peace for once.
We go to the main hall, a place weirdly named White Chapel, where our Psych 101 class is held. Other students file in with us, all so different yet similar. I can feel the wisps of eagerness off of some, the dread of others, and definitely a lot of worry. But it’s not as overwhelming as crowded London streets. Just normal teenage anxiety about uni classes and this stupid pop quiz. Fuck, I hope I don’t fuck it-
“Bloody hell!” The person shouts as we both hurtle down toward the floor. Sharp pain shoots up my spine, making my head spin. But once the world starts to slow down, I get a good look at the guy I walked right into. And my breath stops.
He’s objectively pretty. Sharp cheekbones, wavy black hair, beautiful grey eyes, dressed in a sharp button down and black slacks. But that’s not all I see. No, my brain gets bombarded with a tidal wave of feelings, thoughts, and images, so fast and strong I can barely sort through them. I see this man’s face scowling, grinning, pouting, laughing, crying, sleeping, even some possibly X-rated expressions that threaten to make my cheeks heat up. Moments flash before my eyes in a lightspeed slideshow. We’re wrapped in each other’s arms and swaying together in a kitchen. My head rests comfortably on his lap as we watch telly. He’s carrying a moving box into a flat I don’t recognise. We’re kissing on a beach, under some mistletoe, in a king sized bed, and at a flower covered altar, matching gold rings on our left hands. And those are just the ones I can understand.
I can feel a callused hand laced together with mine. For some reason I know it’s his. And for some reason I know we fit together perfectly.
“Hello? Are you there? You didn’t hit your head, right?” His voice snaps my back into reality. It’s just as pretty as the rest of him. I’m still reeling from all the things I saw and felt just looking at him for the first time. And the words are out of my mouth before I can stop them.
“We’re gonna get married,” I blurt out.
I can feel my face turn the brightest shade of scarlet. Of course, the guy looks at me like I’m absolutely mental. And unfortunately he’s probably right. Being like this, I’ve always felt sort of insane. Now I also feel like I want to crawl into a hole in the ground and never come out.
“Simon!” I turn to see Penny rushing towards me from inside the classroom. “There you are! You okay?”
“Y-Yeah, I’m fine.”
Penny grabs my arm and helps haul me to my feet. “What happened?”
“I ran into-” I turn back to where the pretty guy was, but all I see are the ends of black hair going into the classroom. Well. Shit.
“Ran into what, Si?”
“N-Nevermind. I’ll tell you later, Pen.”
She still looks concerned, but Penny has long learned to not push me when I don’t want to talk. Plus we do have a review quiz to get to. Nothing could get Penny to ignore schoolwork. So we just go into our class, but when Penny tries to get us to sit where we did last week, I pull a bit more to the left.
“What are you doing?” she hisses.
“Uh, these seats look better,” I say.
“They look the same.”
“No, no, they’re better.” I conveniently don’t mention that they’re right behind the black haired bloke. A few rows away of course, I don’t want to be creepy. “See? Better.”
“Whatever you say, Si.”
We sit down. Penny takes out her pencils and notes, but I’m looking a t him. No new images or feelings show up. At least none that aren’t just my own. I’m feeling a lot of things. Worry, surprise, confusion, and maybe even a little bit of excitement? I’m not sure.
If what I saw was right, I’m going to fall in love with this guy. This guy is going to fall in love with me. I can’t even fathom it. He’s so gorgeous and put together looking and I’m just...me. How could that ever happen?
“Si, stop staring,” Penny hisses, snapping me out of my wondering. “I don’t think that guy likes it.”
Oh shit. She’s right. The guy is glaring and scowling at me with barely concealed malice. I can almost feel his anger towards me, with tinges of disgust and anxiety. I immediately look down and away, face burning. Of course he’s weirded out. I ran into him, announced our future matrimony, and have now stared at him creepily twice.
So my future husband already hates me. Great...
“So let me get this straight.” Penny rubs just under her glasses’ nose piece. “You bump into this guy, and you instantly know you two are going to be together?”
I shrug, head lowered a bit. “I mean, unless we’re BFFs who kiss and look at each other with dreamy eyes, then yeah. We might even get married.”
She sighs deeply and moves her fingers to her probably aching temples. “Only you would literally bump into your future spouse. Have you done anything besides stare at him creepily?”
“Have you even talked to him yet?”
“Define that, please.”
I slip further down into my jumper. “I, uh, may have said something about us getting married one day...right after I bumped into him...”
“It just came out!”
She sighs in that very particular way she can. Where she sounds both disappointed and loving. That’s something I adore about Penny; no matter how much I fuck up, she’s still here. I’m not sure what I’d do without her and I don’t want to think about that.
“Well, let’s hope your future husband stays your future husband. You may have scared him off, Si.”
My heart aches in worry. I frown at Penny. “But I already saw it happen...”
Penny gives me a look over her glasses. “Weren’t you the one who told me that not everything you see comes true? That sometimes it’s only one possibility, or even just a metaphor?”
I sink into my chair even more, my chin nearly touching my chest. “Stop using my own words against me.”
“Don’t make it so easy then.”
She goes back to her quinoa salad thing, while I just push the remaining cafeteria pasta around my plate. Our uni meal plans obviously don’t guarantee quality food. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either, just sort of meh. Like how I feel right now. I’m stuck in this weird middle where I know the guy I’m apparently supposed to love but I have no idea who he actually is or, how I’m supposed to make our relationship happen. Destiny is too confusing.
I stuff the leftover napkins in my pocket (old habit from the group homes), then pick up my half finished linguine and walk towards the compost. For once, I’m not that hungry. All I can do is worry about him. Fuck, I don’t even know his name and he’s already consumed my thoughts. How could I even start asking him-
“Hey!” I stumble backwards, luckily saving my pasta plate from falling to the ground. Unfortunately, some sauce does get on my collision partner’s sleeve.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry! I-” I look up, and my face goes red. “Oh, it’s you.”
Future Husband scowls deeply at me. “Yes, it’s me again. Do you ever watch where you’re going?”
I naturally shrink away at the venom in his voice. “I’m sorry, I just get lost in thought sometimes...”
“Doesn’t mean the rest of us have to suffer.” He looks at his sleeve with utter disgust. “Bloody hell. This better come off”
“Uh, it should. It’s just alfredo sauce. Here let me-” I get a napkin from my pocket, but when I almost touch his sleeve, he backs away.
“Piss off!” he snarls. I step back from the sheer force of his anger.
“I-I’m sorry, I just wanted to help...”
“You’ve helped well enough, you bloody weirdo.”
Memories slam into me like a truck. The group homes, the older kids’ taunts, crying alone in my bed almost every night, wishing I wasn’t so weird. My blood instantly starts to boil. “Hey! You don’t get to talk to me like that, arsehole.”
He glares at me harshly. “You’re the one staring at me in class and blurting out bloody proposals upon our first meeting. Excuse me if I give you an appropriate moniker.” I gape at him for a second, trying to gather my thoughts. He scoffs. “What, cat got your tongue, you numpty?”
His voice is just dripping with utter contempt. I can feel it radiating off him. And his ridiculously posh accent just makes it sting even more. Once again, I’m the poor orphan scholarship kid being picked on by the rich pricks at school. All that old pain gets dredged up and fills my body with pure anger. I fucking see red.
“Fuck you!” I shout, making sure to check his shoulder before stomping to the compost bin. I keep stomping out of the cafeteria. My emotions are so tangled up and confused. How could this guy and the guy in my visions be the same person? How could I ever fall in love with such an annoying posh prick?!
“Simon! Hey, Si, slow down!” I can hear Penny but I don’t stop. I keep stomping pashing against doorways when I can. (Anyone who says stomping and bashing things doesn’t help hasn’t stomped or bashed things enough.) Eventually though, she gets in front of me, hands on her hips. “What the fuck is going on?”
“Don’t wanna talk about it,” I grumble, scuffing my trainers against the wall next to me.
“Tough toenails, Simon. What’s wrong?”
I cross my arms tightly. “Bumped into him again. Pretty sure we’re not getting married ever.”
“You don’t know that-”
“He just called me a weirdo and a numpty! Why would I ever want to be with him?!”
Penny sighs, tapping her foot. “That does put a hitch in things for the two of you.”
“More like a screeching halt. He’s a total fucking posh arsehole. Where does he get off talking to me like that?!”
“Well, you did open with a declaration of future marriage, Si.”
“It was an accident!” I scowl more and kick a wooden pillar. “That’s never going to happen now, anyway. Like hell I’d want to be with that tosser!”
I lift my hand to punch the wall, but Penny grabs it in time. Her touch calms me down. Penny has almost always had that effect on me, her calm flowing directly into me. She tugs my arm down, and I slowly follow, the remaining anger seeping out.
“Let’s go back to our dorm, alright?” The way she says it tells me I don’t have much say in the matter. I don’t mind. She’s taking care of me like she always has. I absolutely love her for it.
“Okay,” I sigh. I wrap my arm around Penny’s shoulders, hugging her to me. She holds my waist in return. Thoughts of my now former future husband are pushed down. I don’t need him. I’m a newly minted uni student, ready to learn, ready to start my adult life. One posh arsehole won’t ruin that. Visions won’t dictate my life, dammit. I’m fine.
His name is Basilton. What a stupidly posh name. He sounds like a bloody Downton Abbey character.
Penny told me to avoid him, and I’ve really tried but it’s absolutely impossible. Basilton and I not only share two classes and a tutorial group, but we live in the same dorm building. He’s on the other side of it, sure, but I run into him all the time in communal spaces. The cafeteria, lounge, study rooms, the bloody hallway. Everywhere I go, there he is. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something. The universe can be a real prick sometimes. Or I just have the worst luck ever.
“What are you doing, Si?” Penny asks.
“Taking notes,” I say, glancing up to the board again, “like I’m supposed to.”
“Then why do you keep staring at him?”
I frown and hunker down over my desk. “I’m not.”
Penny makes a “hm” noise but doesn’t keep going. I wasn’t staring at him. Just...looking over for a second. He’s still beautiful, of course, not a hair out of place. It’s infuriating. How can a person be so perfect? It’s not fair. He can’t actually be like that.
Finding his Instagram is easy enough. There aren’t a lot of Basiltons in the world, thankfully. However it’s exactly the opposite of what I want. Turns out Basilton is a photographer, and not one of those shitty pretentious Insta ones. He’s really fucking good. He seems to like nature, lots of sunlight in the tree branches and fields of flowers. He makes use of every bit of the photograph’s space, drawing my eye to various points.
“Even his selfies are amazing!” I groan and hang my head off of the couch. “How can such a prick be so good at everything?!”
“Do your homework,” Penny says for the third time tonight.
I keep scrolling down his profile. He seems to have a few friends. There’s a red haired bloke and a guy who looks a bit like him, maybe a cousin or something. No sign of a partner, so I don’t know if straight or...not straight. Not that I care. Whatever future I saw between us is long gone, or wasn’t even real to begin with. Prick can be with whoever he wants.
“He went to Greece for summer break! He must be rich, I knew it!”
He wears silk dress shirts. What kind of uni student wears silk fucking dress shirts?! And they’re alway perfectly pressed too. Does he do it himself or does he have a maid who does it for him? Rich prick probably has a whole staff or something.
I’m sitting across from him during our tutorial group. He’s making some comment about the first rise of digital media art. He’s making gestures with his hands as he talks. Half of what Basilton says is through hand gestures. He’s got long bony fingers like a zombie or something, but they move all graceful and shit. Maybe he plays piano. He would, the pretentious twat.
The tutorial ends and we all make our hasty escape from the stuffy classroom. Basilton scoops up his book bag and turns around in one fluid motion. I fumble with my own rucksack before doing the same. He walks down the hall with a slight swing in his hips, like he’s a fashion model or something. He could be. Definitely got the face for it. I can almost picture his sharp cheekbones and wavy hair gracing the cover of Vogue. He wouldn’t need a lot of makeup either, he’s pretty much perfect already.
“Are you following me?”
I stop just before running straight into Basilton. His perfect face is twisted in a deep scowl, fists clenched at his side.
“N-No,” I manage to get out, “I’m going to my dorm. We live in the same building...”
He narrows those stormy eyes at me, and I feel like a bug under a microscope. Every muscle in my body is so fucking tense. But eventually, he scoffs and looks away.
“I’m going to the library.”
He struts away, nose in the air. I flip him off from behind his back.
“What are you doing here?” I growl. Basilton doesn’t even show me the courtesy of looking up from his book.
“Last I checked I’m allowed to go where I want in our dorm building.” He takes a long sip from his mug like some dramatic Bond villain. I roll my eyes.
“Yeah, but you’re never in here. I thought we had an agreement that the west common room was mine.”
He quirks up one eyebrow. (How can he do that so perfectly?) “I never agreed to anything of the sort, last I checked.”
“It was unspoken.”
“And also imaginary, apparently.”
I growl as I shove the coffee pot into the machine. I may need the entire pot. My dreams have been getting worse lately. They’re still not coherent, mostly just a lot of blood and a general sense of anguish, but the intensity is ratcheting up. I’ll jolt awake up to three times a night. Something awful happened, and that sucks, but I really want one full night of sleep. Is that too much to ask for?
“It seems I’m here for the same reason you are,” Basilton says smoothly. (His voice is so melodic and it’s so fucking annoying.) He lifts his mug a little.
“What,” I scoff, “you can’t get coffee anywhere else?”
“Can’t you?” He shakes his head, crossing one long leg over the other. “Not my fault if you need to stay up all night revising because you don’t pay attention in class.”
My blood boils to a fever pitch. I scowl incredibly deeply at the stupid bastard. “I pay attention!”
“Hm, if you say so.” He keeps looking at his book nonchalantly. My fists clenches so hard it hurts. Basilton is so good at calmly ripping me apart. It’s the absolute worst, because I have no idea how to counter it. My mouth feels like it’s filled with cotton now. I can’t think of what to say. He wipes out all my defenses.
The coffee is done, so I just slam my mug on the counter and pour my cup. And I make sure to slam the door on my way out. I hope his perfect fucking teeth rattle from the force of it.
Oh, Simon, even when you can see the future you can't see what's coming lol. This should be about 4 chapters, but we'll see. Next chapter will be out in a week or so.
Chapter 2: The Project from Hell
Oblivious Simon in 3, 2, 1...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Blood blood blood, so much blood everywhere.
The blood runs around my shoes, staining the small white trainers bright red. I run through the puddle, splashing crimson everywhere. I’m panting so hard. But it’s not my breath. It’s high pitched and teary and so young sounding.
“Mum!” the little voice screams. The effort scratches my already raw throat.
I keep running. The room is unstable, incomprehensible, like the fuzzy edges of a memory. My feet, the child’s feet, stop. I fall forward onto my (his) little knees. There’s something in front of me but my vision is blurry, possibly from tears. It’s vaguely human shaped and red. Red with blood.
“Mum, please wake up!” I shake the bloody person. “I’m sorry, Mummy, please don’t go. Please!”
I bolt up coughing, tears streaming down my face. It takes awhile to calm myself, to parse out the little boy’s emotions from mine. I furiously rub at my stinging eyes. As my hand lowers, my breath hitches.
A shadowy figure is at the end of my bed. I wish I could say this was the first time.
“Who are you?” I say weakly. “What do you want? I-I’m not sure I can help but I’ll try.”
The figure moves in a vague way. I can’t see an arm or a hand, but I think they’re reaching out. I gulp down the small lump in my throat. This used to scare me. It took years for me to realise the spirits can’t hurt me. Most of the time...
I go up on my knees and shuffle forward. Slowly, shakily, I reach back. I ignore the way my heart is roaring in my ears. If they’re manifesting physically, this person must be desperate. And I’m probably the only one around who can help. But when the tips of my fingers touch the shadow figure’s, it bursts into a cloud of black smoke.
“Great,” I sigh. “Fantastic. Totally worth waking up for.”
I click my phone on and groan into my pillow. Bloody 4am. Early enough to be annoying, but late enough that I’ll miss class if I go back to sleep. It’s a miracle my abilities haven’t driven me completely insane solely due to sleep deprivation. And it’ll be another miracle today if I can survive class.
I keep nodding off, nearly face planting the desk more than once. I wish Penny were here to poke me awake every once in a while. It’s not like the lecture is interesting enough to keep me from dozing. It’s a lot of bullocks about design and aesthetics, blah blah blah. I only took this course because I needed a professional elective and digital media didn’t sound too excruciating. Boy was I wrong.
“What does this style of media say about our society?” Professor Walters asks, pacing at the front of the classroom with his hands behind his back. What a dumb question. It seems that whenever uni professors run out of ideas they ask us about ‘society.’ I roll my eyes. Unfortunately, the prof notices. “What do you think, Mr. Snow?”
I immediately sit up, tongue suddenly feeling heavy and useless. “Uh, I dunno. I guess it says...it represents- um...”
Fuck, I know the answer but I just can’t get the words to line up right in my brain. They’re a jumbled mess I can’t parse through. Sometimes speaking is even harder to deal with than my visions. Professor Walters just looks at me with thinly veiled disappointment. He turns away from me. “Anyone else have the answer?”
Of course, Basilton’s hand shoots straight up. Professor Walters points at him with his stupid fancy pen he’s always waving around. “Yes, Basil?”
“It shows,” he says, “that our society tends to put aesthetics over depth. While pretty, if you look beyond that, there isn’t much substance to the piece.”
“Very good, Basil. Thank you.” Professor Walters gives me a very deadpan expression. I resist the urge to stick my tongue out at the prick.
He continues with his boring lecture, but I’m paying attention even less. I stare at the back of Basilton’s stupid pretty head and wish I had telekinesis or something instead of stupid ghost crap. That would be way more fun. But when he turns slightly towards me, my head snaps down to my own notebook.
The world around me disappears in an instant. Suddenly I’m not in class anymore, and it’s not my notebook in front of me. I’m looking down at an acceptance letter, but certainly not mine, considering it’s on a pristine mahogany table. There’s a deep, unfamiliar male sounding voice in the background.
“Your mother would have preferred Oxford,” he says.
“Mother isn’t here, Father,” an annoyingly posh voice replies. Sounds familiar, but I can’t quite place it. “I’m going to Watford.”
“I hope you don’t expect me to pay for-”
This person I’m seeing through, whoever the fuck they are, scoffs very dismissively. “I don’t need your money. The trust fund has kicked in. And there’s more than enough since I’m the only heir, remember? No matter how much you pretend I’m not your child, I’m still hers.”
“Do not speak to me like that!”
“Goodbye, Father.” The letter is snatched off the table, and the person walks towards a giant wooden staircase. The man’s shouting gets further away.
“You get back here,” he yells. “Are you listening?! You will come back here right now, Tyrannus-”
“Basilton,” Professor Walters says. His piercing voice snaps me back into reality. Christ, I hope I didn’t miss too much while stuck in a vision. (Unlikely.) “You’ll be working with Mr. Snow on this assignment. I have a feeling you’ll work well together.”
“What?!” I stand up in my seat, hands on the desk to steady myself. Post-vision dizziness is a dickhead. “Professor, I-I don’t want to do the final with him.”
“Neither do I,” Basilton says perfectly evenly.
Professor Walters looks at us like we’re a pair of rowdy toddlers. “In my experience, I find it’s good to put my best performing student with my...less well performing students. They tend to work well off each other and get a very good grade. Or would both of you like to challenge my decades of teaching experience?”
I slowly sink back into my seat, shoulders slumped forward. Basilton gives me a single eyed glare over his shoulder. Fucking great.
“Please spend the last ten minutes of class discussing with your partners,” Professor Walters says, and everyone peels off or shuffles their desks. Basilton doesn’t move an inch. Stupid prick expects me to go to him. If my grade wasn’t at stake I’d let him stew. Instead I have to hop over my desk and take the one next to him.
“So,” I say, “looks like we’re stuck together.”
“Unfortunately,” he replies.
“Any ideas for the project?”
“What, can’t come up with any of your own?”
I scowl deeply. “Is everything you say an insult?”
“Is everything you say idiotic?”
“Y’know what?! You-” An icy glare from Professor Walters makes me deflate. I groan and rub my forehead. “Look, I don’t want to fail this class, and I don’t think you do either. So how about we just try to get along until this is over, okay?”
His deep sea grey eyes flick over and look me up and down. “Are you proposing a truce?”
“I-I guess, yeah.”
Basilton looks me over a little more, and for some reason I feel like I’m on fire. His gaze is just so intense. ( He’s pretty intense, period.) Eventually he sighs and nods. “Fine,” he holds out his hand, “truce.”
“Truce.” I immediately take his hand. His skin is rough, but his fingers in particular are strange. The tips have thick calluses with divots in the middle. I hear slow, soft classical music in the distance. My head inclines towards it.
“Do you hear that?” I ask.
Basilton’s brow furrows. “Hear what?”
“Music. Sounds like a violin maybe?”
“I don’t hear anything.”
He snatches his hand away, and the music comes to a screeching halt. Oh. No wonder he couldn’t hear it. Stupid psychic shit, making him think I’m even weirder than he already does. Violin sounds posh enough for him though, I’m not surprised. I wonder what he’d look like playing it. Probably all graceful and shit.
“We should do modern internet photography,” Basilton says.
“Hey, what if I have an idea?”
He lifts a singular eyebrow. (How does he do that so easily?) “Do you have any other ideas?”
I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. Shit. I lean my cheek on my palm in defeat. “Fine, we’ll do your thing. You just wanna do it because you already do photography.”
“How do you know that?”
There’s that fire feeling again. I rub at the back of my heated neck. “Uh, heard about it. Around the dorm and all.”
Basilton narrows his eyes. I gulp down a lump in my throat. And when he finally looks away, I let out a small sigh of relief. “Alright. Yes, that is part of the reason. It’ll make things much easier for us since I already have a good camera.”
“Okay, yeah, that makes sense. What’re we gonna take pictures of?”
“Things that are found in most modern online photography.”
“...bikini models?” He glares at me even harder. “Am I wrong?”
Basilton lets out a long sigh. He looks down at his wristwatch because of course he has a bloody wristwatch. Pretentious twat. “We’ll have to discuss this later. I’ve got another class. Are you free later tonight?”
“Uh, no, I’m making supper. You free tomorrow?”
“No.” He frowns at his watch. “Dammit, I have to go.”
“Give me your mobile number, then.” Basilton looks extremely taken aback. Plus I can feel the shock directed at me. I roll my eyes like Penny does. “We’re gonna be working on this project for awhile, so we’re gonna need to communicate somehow. Why not just do it now?”
Basilton glares at me for another few seconds, but in the end, holds his hand out. It takes me a minute to figure out he wants me to hand over my mobile. I scramble to get mine out of my pocket. With deft violin fingers, he taps out his information, then hands it back. “There, happy?”
I frown a little in confusion. “Why Baz Pitch?”
Basilton scoffs. “It’s my name .”
“Your name is Basilton.”
He rubs the bridge of his nose. Huh, Penny does that too. “Yes, but I go by Baz. Basilton is a ridiculous name. Far too much of a mouthful.”
“Oh. That makes sense, I guess.”
“Glad I have your approval.” He pulls out a sleek black smartphone from his pocket, easily spinning it to me between his thumb and forefinger. “Your turn.”
“O-Okay.” I hesitantly take the device from him. The second my fingers touch it, a wave of fury and dread crashes into me like a bloody tsunami. It hits me so hard it makes me physically lurch in my seat. I clutch my head tightly.
“What’s wrong? Are you going to be sick?” Basilt- Baz sounds as snotty as ever, but when I look up, he appears maybe a tiny eensy bit actually concerned. Interesting.
I shake my head, the feelings dissipating quickly. “No, no, just...got a little dizzy for a second. Uh, gimme a sec.”
I open his contacts, and my eyes drift to someone in his recents. Someone called Malcolm Grimm. I nearly click it before stopping myself. Dammit, Simon, stop being a weird nosy psychic. I enter in my own info before I try to do something even dumber and quickly hand it back to Baz.
“Here. Um, text me when you can...”
“Fine.” He snatches it back. “Goodbye, Snow.”
Baz gathers all his stuff at lightning speed. I barely get my mouth open before his book bag is completely packed. Before I know it he’s gone again. I sigh heavily. Well, hopefully this isn’t a total disaster.
heyyyyy baz it’s me
Baz [14: 28]
Yes, Simon, I know it’s you. There are no other Simon’s in my life.
aw i’m special lol
More like I’m lucky that the universe has decided to torture me with only one of you.
wow rude baz :(
Enough small talk. I assume you’re texting me to talk about the project.
we should meet up to plan it out and shit right?
Yes, that would be good.
ok so when r u free?
Until next week, yes.
alright well i can do that wanna meet in the west common room?
Fine by me. I’ll be there at 2.
I’m late, and Baz isn’t happy. Even though his face always looks like it’s naturally made for pouting and frowning, I have the unique pleasure of feeling the annoyance rolling off him. It’s an invisible set of needles pricking the back of my neck. Isn’t being a mind reader so wonderful?
“Sorry,” I say, sitting across from him on the opposite couch. “I overslept.”
He blinks at me like I just said the sky is chartreuse. “It’s past 2 in the afternoon.”
I rub my neck nervously. “I, uh, don’t sleep well a lot. Sometimes I take naps later and I oversleep.”
Of course I can’t bring up the nightmares. It's been the same things over and over for weeks. Someone bleeding out, the blood getting everywhere, and a child screaming for their mother. I wish I could say it’s the most horrifying thing I’ve seen, but the fact it’s non-stop makes it worse than the others. At least the shadowy figure hasn’t shown up again. Not looking forward to that happening anytime soon.
“Fine,” he sighs, “let’s just get started.” He pulls a pencil out from behind his ear, twirling it between his violinist fingers. “So we have to do a research paper and a digital exhibition. I’ll do photography for the digital exhibition, so I suppose you’ll do the research.”
I snort somewhat unkindly. “Wow you’re bossy.”
He glares. I’d be upset if I wasn’t so used to it already. “I’m efficient.”
“Alright.” I look over our long assignment sheet, and my pulse increases. “There’s a lot to do...”
“It’s a research paper,” Baz says like I’m a dimwit. I scowl at him.
“I know. I just mean...there’s a lot of parts, and I’m not great at small details.” I rub the back of my neck, which is heating up with embarrassment. “I-It’s not that I don’t get it. Just...trying to organize all the little things gets overwhelming. I’m better at broader kinds of stuff, y’know?”
I don’t mention that it’s because I have massive gaps in my education due to being a group home orphan and my “abilities” distracting me. There’s only so much of my guts I’m willing to spill. Baz is rightfully confused. I feel it clear as day. I can’t blame him. He’s trying to read a book with half the words missing. Eventually, the crinkled line in his forehead smooths out and he lets out a sigh.
“Alright,” he says, “I can help with the small details, I suppose. But I don’t want to be stuck with doing the whole thing, Snow.”
“No, no, you won’t, I promise.”
“I’ll hold you to that.” Baz opens his black leather notebook and finally puts that pencil to use. “For the digital exhibition, I’ll make a mock photography blog. Each photo will have to tie into our research somehow without looking too obvious.”
He sketches out a rough diagram, and I’m a little astounded how good it looks for something so quick. The lines are crisp and neat. I can kind of picture what this thing will look like already. But it’s missing something...
“What’s with that face?” Baz asks. His eyes are narrowed but for once there’s no contempt behind them, just curiosity.
I bounce my hand up and down (old habit, I kinda miss that dirty red ball) and my brain is working through the ideas. Before I know it, my hand is shooting forward and I start drawing around his sketch. My art is far more messy than his of course, but I need to get this down before it all fizzles from my head.
“What are you doing?” Baz sounds annoyed, but he doesn’t make any effort to stop me.
“This.” I sit down again, admiring my handiwork. “We shouldn’t just post photos. We’ve got to give this, y’know, personality.”
“With flowers?” His long fingers trace over my hastily drawn roses. The petals are wonky but the idea is still clear, thankfully.
“Yeah! Not just flowers, but like...a theme maybe? Something that brings it all together. Make it a believable blog.”
“It’s not a real blog, it’s just a school project.”
“Well, duh,” I sigh, “I know that. But we’re supposed to create a digital exhibition of modern media, right? A lot of modern media is based around influencers. So if we want to be accurate, we should give it a theme, pretend a real person is behind it. Prof will like that, I think.”
Baz’s face does that scrunched up thing, bringing all his features together in contemplation. Part of me just wants to smooth out his skin but I also kind of like the furrow between his brows. It’s kinda..cute? No, no, that can’t be right. Nothing about this arsehole is cute.
“Okay,” Baz says slowly, “that’s...a well thought out idea. We could certainly use that.”
A wave of warmth flows over and through me. I can’t tell if it’s coming from me or Baz’s satisfaction with my idea. Doesn’t matter, I guess. We’re both happy, and more importantly, not at each other’s throats. Maybe this project won’t be such a nightmare afterall.
Simon Snow [07:09]
BAZ BAZ I HAVE A GREAT IDEA FOR THE PROJECT
Simon Snow [07:09]
long story short we gotta find some good lo-fi music
Baz Pitch [07:13]
Snow, what the everloving fuck are you doing awake at this ungodly hour?
Simon Snow [07:14]
i woke up duh
Baz Pitch [07:14]
Let me rephrase that
Baz Pitch [07:15]
Why are you waking me up at this ungodly hour?
Simon Snow [07:16]
cause i had a great idea!
Simon Snow [07:17]
i was checking out photo blogs for research and a lot of them have like photo spotify playlists for different themes
Simon Snow [07:17]
so we need some really cool music to pair with the blog!
Simon Snow [07:18]
i’ve got some ideas but if you’ve got some that’d be chill
Simon Snow [07:18]
i’m good with violin music if you want lol
Simon Snow [07:21]
Simon Snow [07:25]
baaaaaaz where’d you gooooooo
Simon Snow [07:33]
Simon Snow [07:33]
Simon Snow [07:33]
Simon Snow [07:34]
Simon Snow [07:35]
Simon Snow [07:35]
Baz Pitch [07:36]
For christ’s sake, Snow, I’m trying to sleep!
Baz Pitch [07:37]
Not all of us are bloody early birds like you seem to be
Simon Snow [07:37]
Simon Snow [07:38]
but what do you think of the music??
Baz Pitch [07:39]
It sounds like an interesting idea, but I’m not thinking about the music right now. You know what I’m thinking about?
Simon Snow [07:40]
Baz Pitch [07:41]
Going to your dorm and super gluing your hands together so I can fucking SLEEP
Simon Snow [07:41]
Simon Snow [07:41]
Baz Pitch [07:43]
Do not message me until at least 11am, okay?
Simon Snow [07:44]
okay i’ll ttyl!
Simon Snow [10:58]
hey are you up yet?
Baz Pitch [18:12]
The source you cited isn’t scholarly
Simon Snow [18:13]
but i found it at the library???
Baz Pitch [18:13]
In a library =/= scholarly
Baz Pitch [18:13]
Bloody Twilight is in the library
Simon Snow [18:14]
twilight isn’t THAT bad
Simon Snow [18:14]
it’s like gross and racist
Simon Snow [18:14]
but it’s not evil incarnate
Baz Pitch [18:17]
Of course I know that, Snow. I simply view it as a vastly inferior member of the vampire romance genre. Even with their flaws, Interview with a Vampire and it’s sequels are much more interesting
Simon Snow [18:18]
is that the one with brad pitt and tom cruise being gay but not gay?
Baz Pitch [18:18]
The movie is, yes, but the books are better, as always
Simon Snow [18:19]
ooooooo i’ll try to read them sometime then
Simon Snow [18:20]
tbh i only watched the movie cause i had a crush on tom cruise
Simon Snow [18:20]
Simon Snow [18:20]
even tho he’s in a cult
Baz Pitch [18:23]
You have somewhat questionable taste in men
Simon Snow [18:24]
yeah i know lol
Simon Snow [18:24]
so what kind of sources should I use?
Baz Pitch [18:25]
Give me a moment, I’ll send you some good sites
Baz Pitch [14:20]
This is the blog theme we should go with
Simon Snow [14:20]
Baz Pitch [14:21]
Nah? That’s it? Do you have anything else to add?
Simon Snow [14:24]
i mean like that’s a really typical blog format and i think we should go for something more interesting and original and shit y’know?
Baz Pitch [14:25]
We’re supposed to be representing online digital media. Therefore using a typical kind of blog style found online would make sense
Simon Snow [14:30]
yeaaaaaah i know but that sounds boring and too easy
Simon Snow [14:30]
we should try to be different!
Baz Pitch [14:31]
I’d rather have a good grade than be different
Simon Snow [14:32]
Baz Pitch [14:35]
You did not just respond to my serious concerns about our shared grade with a gif
Simon Snow [14:36]
i’m being a shit i know lol but i really mean it
Simon Snow [14:37]
walters put us together cause he hoped we’d play well off each other
Simon Snow [14:37]
so let’s do that! use your more trad photos and my more out there design ideas
Simon Snow [14:38]
mix and match y’know?
Baz Pitch [14:40]
That’s actually a pretty good idea
Simon Snow [14:41]
i think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me lol
Baz Pitch [14:43]
Don’t get used to it, Snow
“Why are we out here?” I ask as I swing around a tree, staring up at the hazy grey sky. Red and yellow leaves crunch beneath my feet. I love autumn. It’s the season where everything starts to sleep. Plants, animals, even people slow down a bit. Everything gets so much more quiet. Sometimes I wish I could live in the quiet forever.
“We’re going to need photographs for a photo blog,” he says like I’m the biggest idiot ever. I stick my tongue out at him. Baz scoffs, but I think he’s smiling a little. Just a little.
“Yeah, but why do we need photos out here in the cold?”
“Because nature photography is one of the most popular things online. Plus it’s what I know, so we’ll be able to do this quickly.”
“But isn’t the most popular internet photography still hot people in swimsuits?”
Baz narrows his eyes at me, turning them into sword grey slits. “Unless you’re willing to wear a mankini in bloody October, Snow, we’ll stick with the trees.”
“Fine,” I groan. Baz marches ahead of me, bringing the fancy camera up to his eyes. He fiddles with all these knobs and shit that I don’t understand the purpose of. Fancy photographer stuff. Baz really knows his stuff, it seems. Where does he get the time though? From what I can tell, he studies non-stop and finishes all his assignments a week in advance. In between that., he somehow manages to dress perfect, probably work out, and learn sophisticated photography? Bloody hell, he really does make the rest of us look bad.
“What are you taking pictures of?” I ask, because I really am that bored.
“Nature,” Baz replies.
“Yeah, but what part of nature?”
He glares at me from the side, not even moving his camera. “Do you actually care?”
“I mean, I’m curious. I don’t know anything about real photography. I barely use my phone as a camera.”
Baz looks at me for a little longer, both of us locked in a position that gets more awkward by the moment. Just as I’m about to tell him to forget it and walk off, Baz moves his camera in between them.
“I’m trying to capture the same scene using different camera methods,” he says “Then we can create collages of them.”
“Oh,” I reply. “That’s cool. What camera methods?”
“Right now, I’m just playing with the exposure.”
My face scrunches together. “What’s exposure?”
“It’s how much light the camera lets into the photo.”
“But the amount of light outside can’t change...”
Baz sighs, and I can feel the annoyance radiating off him. But to my complete surprise, it actually tapers off. “You know how your pupil expands and retracts?”
“Do you know why?” I shake my head. I nearly failed the biology unit in secondary school. “It’s because your eye lets in different amounts of light depending on how bright or dark it is where you are.”
“So you don’t go blind on a sunny day or bash into furniture too much while walking in the dark.”
“Oh,” I chuckle. “Yeah, that would suck.”
“Agreed. Lenses work the same way.” He lifts up his fancy camera and points to a dial sort of thing on the long lens. “This here lets me do what a pupil does. I can change how much light is in the photo. The same picture can look completely different depending on exposure. Some people don’t like messing with it too much but I certainly do.”
An uncharacteristic smirk crosses Baz’s mouth, a devilish glint in his eye. Though it doesn’t seem uncharacteristic, really. It actually fits his face perfectly. “Where’s the fun in being boring, Snow?”
Part of me wants to say that I wish I was boring. That I don’t like other people’s thoughts rattling around in my head or ghosts popping up to ask me to solve their problems. But being the way I am, I not only can see the smug delight on Baz’s face, but I can also feel how it radiates off him like sunshine on a summer day. And...it feels weirdly good.
I’m very used to feeling others emotions, but this is different. Baz’s happiness warmly falls over me in a way nothing else ever has before. He must be really smug and happy, I guess. It gets so overwhelming I can feel my whole body start to heat up.
“Cool!” I say, sound probably too chipper. “Yeah, really cool, awesome stuff. Get some good shots. I’m, uh, kinda tired, so I’m just gonna go...lean against the tree.”
“Alright...” Baz looks at me like I’m crazy (he’s not wrong), but the corner of his lips is still turned up a bit. Bloody hell, I’m on fire.
I briskly walk over to the tree and lean hard against it. Bit by bit, Baz’s emotions stop flooding my over sensitive third eye, yet my skin is still a bit flushed. Strong emotions leave strong impressions, I learned that early on. Baz’s are so strong that I don’t notice the prickly feeling on the back of my neck at first. It’s a sensation I know well. I get it when I’m being watched.
I whip my head around, but I don’t see anyone close by. Just some couple in the distance and a guy with his dog, all way too far for me to pick up on. My abilities do have their limits. The only person close enough would be Baz, but he’s got his camera up facing in the exact opposite direction. Okay, weird. Maybe there’s a spirit here. I bloody well hope not. Life is hard enough right now with the nightmares and the project. I don’t need another wayward spirit, thank you very much.
yo i’ve got some of the report done wanna look at it??
I will later tonight. Want to go over the blog tomorrow?
online or irl?
We could meet in the west common room tomorrow afternoon. It would be more efficient to do things in person. That alright?
yah sounds good!
Oop Simon....I think you may be catching Feelings TM. Thanks for reading, see you next time!
Chapter 3: Life's a Fucking Rollercoaster
Sorry this is late! I meant to post this on Thursday, but then I may or may not have played Stardew Valley for two days straight... Oops lol. Anyway, here's more psychic shenanigans!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Simon,” Penny shouts from the kitchen, “are you going to want any of these leftovers? If not, I’m gonna eat them all!”
“It’s alright, go ahead!”
“Don’t worry, Pen, go ahead. I’ll be with Baz all night. We’ll probably order pizza or something. There it is!”
I snatch up my notebook and stuff it in my knapsack. With that, my pencil case, and my laptop, I should be fine. Most of the stuff is online anyway. Baz has been helping me sort through the sources, and now he’s got them all in a fancy table. I think he’s one of those weirdos who enjoys making spreadsheets. Truly terrifying but I’m also not complaining.
Out in the hallway, Penny is leaning on the wall, a container of half finished fries in her hand. Her eyes are very narrow behind her glasses. “You’ve been spending a lot of time with Baz lately.”
“Uh, yeah, we have a project together,” I chuckle.
“I know, but this is what, the third time you two are meeting up this week?”
“I guess. It’s not like I’m keeping track. I’m not sure what you’re getting at, Pen.”
Penny sighs, hand on her hip. “I’m not ‘getting’ at anything, Si. I’m just saying that you’ve been hanging out with him a lot, more than a school project normally demands.”
“And I’m wondering if a project isn’t the only reason you want to be around him?”
My face immediately flushes way too much. “Penny!”
She holds up her hands in seeming deference or surrender. “Hey, it’s just a question, Si. You spent weeks hating him and now you’re spending a lot of time with him.”
Is Penny trying to make my skin melt off? Because it’s about to. “Because we have a project , Pen! Once it’s over, we’ll stop hanging out alright?”
There’s a little twist in my gut for some reason. Not important, I’m going to be late. I start walking past Penny, but she follows behind. “I’m not saying that hanging out with Baz is bad! I”m just confused about what’s going on! I mean, is Baz actually nice?”
“No!” It’s my automatic response, but it only takes a few seconds to give the real answer. “I mean...kind of? He can be rude sometimes, and he’s a bit of a snob, but he’s not as much of a tosser as I thought he was. We work well together at least.”
“Yeah, really! He listens to my dumb ideas and works with them. And he’s been really helpful with the research. I’ve got way more stuff to work with now because of him. Plus Baz makes sure my writing is coherent. I may actually do well in this class!”
I grin hard, trying to rid Penny of all her worries, but it doesn’t. Dammit. I just continue packing my stuff.
“Again,” Penny says, “I’m not saying that hanging out with Baz is a bad thing. I just want you to be cautious. Baz was a total prick to you before and he could be again. I know you saw you two together in a vision-”
“That’s not important,” I blurt out. My face is still too hot. “The vision was total bullocks, Pen. I don’t want to be with him anyway. He’s a good project partner, yeah, but that doesn’t mean I want to date him!”
Penny is still suspicious and worried, I can feel it as clear as day. But they’ve both gone down somwhat. I’ll take it. “Alright,” Penny sighs. “Whatever you say. Have fun with your tumblr blog.”
“It’s not a tumblr blog! And it’s a project, of course I’m not having fun!”
“Mofe thif paragraph down,” Baz says, all garbled because of the pen still in this mouth. “Fits better af the end.”
I scratch my head with my own writing utensil. “You think? It seems better near the middle.”
“Mm, maybe.” He narrows his eyes at my computer. He finally takes the stupid pen out and taps the screen. “This part doesn’t make sense.”
“Yeah. The phrasing is off. Change up the wording.”
I groan, leaning my head back on the sofa. “I suck arse at wording. Words and me don’t get along.”
I glare at his stupid posh hair, currently tied up in a messy man bun. (Of course it looks good on him though.) “Oh, fuck off, you twat.”
He chuckles, not even looking up from his laptop. “Case and point.”
Before I realise what I’m doing, I’m tossing an old throw pillow right at his stupid pretty face. It hits him with a very satisfying thwack.
“Hey!” Baz snaps. His face is bright red and his equally stupid pretty hair is now all flopped to the side in a deformed Leia bun. Oh my god. I literally fall on the floor laughing, clutching my stomach with actual tears in my eyes.
“What’s so funny?” Baz growls. It makes me laugh any harder.
“You’re-You’re trying to be cross,” I manage to sputter out. “But man, I really can’t take you seriously when you look like that!”
He makes a low growl in his throat again like some animal. I quickly receive a face full of scratchy dorm pillow. I’m not surprised, but not because I’m psychic. I’ve just learned that Baz isn’t one to let any slight go without a retort. Always has to have the last word. It’d be endearing if it wasn’t also annoying, I guess.
“Aw, thank you, I needed a pillow,” I say, still laughing a bit as I put it under my head. Seriously, even with the carpet this floor is the worst.
“What do you think of this?” Baz holds his laptop towards me. There’s a picture of a tree in the breeze open in photoshop. Branches are swaying in the breeze, blurred out by some editing effect to make it all soft and dreamlike.
“Nice, like it. Maybe add a pink tint? Since I’m making the blog all pink”
“Since when is the blog pink?”
I shrug. “Dunno. Pink would look good, I think.” I chuckle, a stupid smile on my face. “Hey, that rhymes.”
“Very good, Snow. Time to switch your major to English.” I flip him off, and Baz lets out a truly amused sounding small laugh. “And I’ll make the photo yellow tinted. Yellow and pink go well together.”
“Oh yeah, true! Time for you to switch your major to digital art?”
“Dear lord, no. You’re highly overestimating my photoshop skills.”
“Well, maybe just photography?” Baz doesn’t respond. “I don’t think you ever told me what your major is.”
Baz scoffs. “You’ve never asked, Snow.”
I sit up on my elbows. He still looks serious, but his body is more relaxed, leaning into the corner of the old sofa. I can’t feel much from him. No anger, maybe a little annoyance, but mostly just...calm, I think. Huh. Baz has never been this calm near me. That’s nice. It’s not healthy to be tense and angry all the time.
“So what are you doing?” I ask. He looks to the side at me. “Hey, you said I’ve never asked, so I’m asking now. Are you gonna answer or what?”
He sighs, looking back at his computer. Okay, don’t answer, twat. It’s not like I care.
“Economics and english double major,” Baz says. “With a minor in music theory.”
My eyes must be bigger than saucer plates right now. “Whoa. No wonder you never stop doing homework, you must have a crap ton!”
He waves his hand dismissively. “It’s fine, I can handle it.”
Though I’m still not completely sure how my “thing” works (not sure I ever will), I’ve learned to parse out sensations. The little tickles in the back of my brain that warn me of danger or a spirit being nearby. Unfortunately, the most familiar one is the itch at the tips of my fingers. Happens when people are lying.
“You don’t have to do that, you know,” I say.
Baz’s eyebrows go all scrunchy as he turns to me. “Do what?”
“Pretend it’s fine. It’s a lot of work, I get it. Must be really stressful. That sucks. It’s okay to say it’s hard. I-It’s okay that you’re not.”
He glares hard at me. A deep scowl pulls down on his mouth. His contempt hits me like a truck. I even flinch a bit from the force of it, his anger twisting in my gut. Fuck, I haven’t felt something like this from him since the mess hall incident. It somehow hurts even more than before.
“Sorry,” I blurt out. “Sorry, that was probably the wrong thing to say. We both know I’m not good with words...”
I chuckle in a miserably failed attempt to break the awkward tension. Baz glares and glares. I’m pinned in place by his eyes. Baz has really interesting eyes. They’re not just grey, but dark blue and dark green mixed together. Deep-water grey. How can someone naturally have eyes like that?
Finally, the lines in his face start to smooth out. “It’s not easy,” he says slowly. It seems he’s chewing on each word. “Juggling all three can be a lot. But I manage, most of the time.”
There’s no itch of lying this time. Baz relaxes back back into his sofa corner, and instead of the gut punch of contempt, I start to feel that calm nothing again. For some reason, I’m smiling back at him. “Cool. glad you can manage it most of the time.”
“Thank you for the approval, Snow,” he scoffs again and looks back at the laptop screen. The soft blue light illuminates the little bit of teeth showing in his smug smirk. But, I swear I’m not imagining, he looks a bit happy too.
I fall onto my back, staring at the dreary concrete ceiling. I’m too tired to do anymore work. Lately my sleep has been, well, an absolute nightmare. Still no shadow figure though, not that I’m complaining. I’ll take any little scrap of piece I can. I’m counting bumps in the cement when my vision gets blurry. And everything goes dark.
I’m sitting on a rug. Not me, he is, the little boy. Blocks are in his chubby little hands. He’s a bit clearer. His skin is darker than mine, but I can’t figure out how much exactly. A lock of black hair falls in my (his) face. It only confirms how much this isn’t me.
“Time for snacks, everyone,” a voice says, distant and undescernable in the dream. The boy stands and toddles to a small stained table. There are other children, but I can’t focus on any of their faces. Everything is so foggy. Nothing makes sense. But when a loud bang rings through, everything suddenly becomes so much more harsh.
Walls are now jagged and dark, collapsing in on my small body. The air itself feels too heavy, tinged red with fear. All the kids start crying, but they could never hope to drown out the sound of more bangs and yelling. It’s so loud, so scary. I’m panting, panicking, it’s too loud, too loud, too loud, too loud!
“Where’s my mum?” the boy whimpers.
“Shh, little puff,” a tall woman says. “She’s alright, don’t worry.”
“Stay quiet, please, love.” She brings me into her lap, holding me tight. The boy whimpers and struggles to get away. He just wants his mother. But as an adult, I know that she’s just trying to keep me safe.
We listen to the noise of struggles getting closer with every second. We all cry louder. The boy is shaking like a leaf. Somehow through all the clamour, I can hear a familiar voice. I’ve never heard it before, but the boy knows. His heart races with joy.
“Mummy!” he shouts.
“Wait, no, don’t!” The woman tries to stop him, stop me, but we’re running towards the door already at excited child speed. As I touch the doorknob, there’s a particularly loud bang. The boy doesn’t know what it is, but I do. A gunshot that was far too close. The sound makes my little ears ring so much I can’t hear anything else. So I’m left in horrible, agonising silence as I open the big door. My breath becomes short. My little lungs take even less air than before. The little white shoes are dyed red in the puddle I’m standing in. The smell of iron invades my nose.
I look into a pair of eyes, ones the boy knows. But he’s never seen them like this; wide, empty of life, glued open in the horrific state of recent death.
I bolt up with a horrible shout, sweat running down my shaking body and tears in my eyes.
“Bloody hell!” Baz shouts in return. He’s staring at me with confused, scared eyes. “What the fuck, Snow?!”
I frantically try to wipe away the tears and regain my breathing. “Sorry, sorry, didn’t mean to do that, fuck.”
“I hope not. You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
“Sorry, Baz.” I put my face in my hands, trying to even out my shaky breaths. Damn, that’s the most vivid it’s ever been. No wonder the dreams have been so intense. I can’t imagine being that boy, going through what he did. I’m only getting a fraction of his pain. Fuck.
“Nightmare?” My head snaps up. Baz’s face is his usual neutral boredom, but also relaxed. Maybe this is his version of sympathetic.
“Yeah,” I sigh. “Really bad one today.”
“Do you get them often?”
“Mhm. Ever since I was little.” I pull my knees to my chest, trying to ignore how much I’m still shaking.
My mouth falls open slightly. I wait for a laugh, some sort of mockery. But Baz just keeps looking at me with that calm, neutral expression. Oh my. He’s serious. “R-Really? You?”
His thin lips press together in a hard line for a few moments. He nods slowly. “Since I was a kid too. Sometimes they’re worse, sometimes they’re better, but they never fully go away, do they?”
I shake my head automatically. A sharp stab of pain hits me in the heart. But it’s not my own.
“Yeah,” he sighs, relaxing more into the sofa. “Me too.”
“What do you do about them?”
“Lots of things. Meditation, tea, therapy, medication, even counting bloody sheep. Nothing has gotten rid of them. You?”
“Some stuff. They don’t usually work...”
“That’s unfortunate.” He drums his long violinist fingers on his thigh. How can he make something so simple look so graceful? “I’ve found distraction is the most helpful after a nightmare. It keeps me from dwelling on what I saw. I usually read books.”
I giggle, just a bit. “Yeah, sounds about right. You’re such a bookworm.”
Baz snorts, but he has that small smile too. “Certainly not the worst thing I’ve been called.” He glances at his wristwatch. “Bloody hell, it’s really that late already?”
I look down at my dying phone. Fuck, he’s not wrong, it’s almost midnight. Baz let me sleep for a while. That’s pretty nice of him. (Never thought I’d associate Baz Pitch with nice, wow.)
“We should probably go attempt to have a good night’s sleep,” Baz says. He gathers up his things efficiently as usual. He’s like a well oiled robot. Except robots don’t have chronic nightmares. I guess he’s more human than I thought.
I gather up my far more messy things too, yawning too much. Even with the nap, I’m still exhausted. I’m so behind on my sleep at this point someone should just put me in a fucking coma, honestly.
“Snow.” I look up. Baz seems odd. He has his shoulders tensed, laptop clutched to his chest, and head lowered slightly so strands of raven hair fall in his face in a lazy wave. When I get hit with a wave of anxiety, I understand, but also still confused how Baz could be nervous. “I said distraction can help after a bad nightmare.”
“Yeah, I remember,” I chuckle. “My memory isn’t that bad, Baz.”
He scoffs and I bet he’s rolling his eyes. “What I mean is that if you ever need a distraction after a nightmare...well, you have my number.”
And I thought I was confused before. I blink wildly as my brain plays catch up. Is...is Baz offering to talk me down after a nightmare? Like Penny? But Penny’s my friend! Baz isn’t my friend, he’s just the arsehole I thought I was going to marry for less than a day who I’m now working on a school project with. Is he messing with me? I try to parse the feelings I’m getting off of him, and I can’t find any deception or mockery. I’m so bloody confused,
“You’re serious?” I blurt out.
Baz finally looks at me, but only to glare daggers. “Fuck off, Snow.”
He starts stomping off. I immediately start chasing after him. “Wait, no, Baz! I didn’t mean it like that! I was just surprised!” I grab his arm and smacked in the face with anger, but also hurt. A lot more hurt. “I’m sorry, Baz. That’s, uh, really cool of you. So...thanks.”
Surprisingly, Baz doesn’t pull away from me. He stands there like a statue for a long moment. But his skin is too warm and his heart is too fast to actually be made of stone.
“Good night, Snow,” he says completely evenly. No anger, no contempt, no pain, just calm. He turns just enough that I can see the corner of his lip pulled up. “Sleep well.”
My hand falls from him, and I smile back. “You too, Baz.”
He nods once, then walks off with his head held high, as usual. Only Baz can make walking down a uni dorm hall look like a fashion week runway. A smile is plastered to my face and it won’t go away. Maybe there really was something to those visions...
I shake the thought out of my head. No, Simon, no! Don’t do that! Baz isn’t interested in me like that, and I’m certainly not interested either! He’s still a prick. A gorgeous prick who’s been really good with me on this project and has now offered to help with nightmares because he gets how bad they are, yeah, but still a prick! Mostly. Kind of...
Whatever, I already cocked it all up anyway. No use in dwelling on what could never happen. I walk back to my room, furiously trying to ignore the rapid beating of my heart.
Baz said he wanted to do nature stuff, but apparently that was sort of a lie. He wanted to start with nature stuff. Now he’s doing “cityscapes,” whatever the fuck that means.
“You’re just taking pictures of buildings!” I shout from my bench, laptop balanced on my crossed legs. “What’s so interesting about buildings?!”
“It’s called ‘compare and contrast,’ Snow,” he replies haughtily. “The blog will be about showing what traits the natural and modern world share, and the simple beauty within both. Very romantic, if you ask me.”
My cheeks flare red. Hopefully I can write them off as the chilly wind. “R-Romantic?”
“Sort of. Byron and Shelley wouldn’t have approved of saying anything good about the modern world though, so I suppose it’s more modified Romanticism.”
“Oh.” I try to hide my disappointment, which I certainly don’t have, not at all. “Byron is the one who wrote the angsty and horny poetry?”
Baz lets out a surprisingly loud laugh. It’s the kind that comes deep from your belly. I didn’t know that calm, cold Baz could laugh like that. It’s nice. He sounds nice.
“Yes,” Baz says. “That’s probably the most accurate description I’ve ever heard for Lord Byron. Nice job, Snow.”
“Um, thanks, Baz.” He goes back to his photos, while I try to ignore how much my face is burning. Praises from Baz shouldn’t mean anything. In fact, they should mean nothing. He’s just my project partner, a classmate, no one important, visions be damned.
Maybe if I tell myself that enough times I’ll stop imagining how it would feel to kiss him.
I go back to my laptop, but suddenly I’m somewhere else. Fucking awake visions. They come out of nowhere. I’m sitting on a chair facing a very angry looking man. He’s older, probably in his forties, wearing a crisp black suit. His hair is stark white with a sharp widow’s peak like an old movie vampire. From the scowl on his face, I’m almost sure he’s going to kill me in a second.
“This is getting ridiculous,” he says. I know that voice. It’s the one from the vision I had in class over a month ago. Well, at least the grumpy voice matches the grumpy man. “I’ve told you to behave yourself. Is that so hard?”
Whoever I’m seeing through doesn’t answer. But I can feel the way they clutch the arms of the chair so hard their fingers hurt.
“How could you make such a spectacle of yourself?!”
“I was just drunk,” the person replies. Again, same voice from before, posh and calmly angry. It feels even more familiar.
“You were drunk and belligerent towards police officers outside of a bar for...”
I can feel their grip get even tighter. The rage is roiling in their gut. “A bar for what, father?”
He leans back in his stupidly large office chair, eyes narrowed. “You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t think I do.” They stand up and slam both hands on the desk. “What do you want to say? A bar for queers? For freaks?!”
“I did not say that.”
“But you wanted to, right? That’s the worst part for you. Not that I was drunk or got arrested by a pair of overzealous bobbies, but because I went to a blood gay bar! Stop dancing around it, for Christ’s sake! Just come right out with it and call me a fa-”
My head snaps up. When did Baz get right in front of me? His face is all scrunchy, and the concern radiating off him is palpable. “Are you here, Snow?”
“O-Oh yeah.” I hope my embarrassment isn’t too obvious. Christ, I must’ve really been out of it. “Sorry, zoned out for a sec.”
“Obviously. Lost in thought?”
“Yeah...” That’s the closest normal description, I suppose. I just wish the thoughts were my own.
“How’s the paper going?”
“It, uh, exists. Mostly.”
Baz leans down. A strong smell hits my nose, strange in it’s mixture, but really not bad. Not bad at all. “Well, you’ve definitely got a lot more than last time. There are a few run-on sentences though. Can’t have those in academic writing.”
I frown at the screen. “Why not?”
“Ask the stuffy professors who decided so. Walters is definitely among them.”
“I thought you liked Walters.”
“That pompous arse?” Baz scoffs, mouth morphing in a wry smile. “He may think I do, but I simply grew up around pretentious old academics and know what they want to hear. Have to get participation marks out of that bastard somehow.”
“Oh, that’s...pretty smart.”
Baz puts an arm across his stomach and bows so deeply his hair nearly touches the pavement. “Why thank you, Snow,” he says like some Victorian lord. “I aspire to fool all old professors that I care what they think.”
I laugh so hard a loud snort comes out instead. I immediately cover my mouth. Oh my god, that’s embarrassing. But Baz doesn’t make a snide comment or even laugh at me in return. He just...grins, playfully devilish, showing all his pearly white teeth showing, a glint in his grey eyes. It’s a look made of trouble with promises of fun. Bloody hell, how can he get even prettier?
“I’ll try to finish this paragraph.” I face the computer again and try to slow my stupid heart to match the blinking of the cursor. I need to get a hold of myself. Think about other things. “Then, uh...”
“How about a drink?” Baz says it so casually. He’s looking down, fiddling with his fancy camera. “I could certainly go for a pint, what with being in the middle of finals. You, Snow?”
Oh fuck. Don’t do it, Simon, don’t fucking do it. You’ve already got enough jumbled shit in your head between the visions and this project. Hanging out with him outside the project is dangerous. It would mean we’d be acting like...like friends. Or like something more that I don’t even want to pretend to think about. No, I have to turn him down. I have to-
“Sure,” I say, “I’d be up for that.”
I assumed Baz would pick the one fancy hipster place in all of Watford Town, but we end up at a pub instead. It’s cramped and loud and smells like beer and fresh chips. Honestly, it’s bloody perfect. But I never expected Baz to want to be here.
“You sure this is good?” I ask, yelling a bit over the crowd.
Baz looks at me with those adorably furrowed brows again. “Why wouldn’t it be? Got something against good ol’ English pubs, Snow?”
“N-No! Nothing at all! Actually, I...I thought you would.”
“Yeah. I mean, aren’t you too fancy for this?”
Baz stays confused for only one more second, then throws his head back laughing. The way his glossy black hair falls does things to me. I hate it so much.
“Oh, Snow,” he sighs. “Do you really think I’m that snobbish?”
“I dunno, maybe? You do wear fancy clothes.”
“Fair enough.” He pulls on the collar of his crisp white button down. “I don’t exactly look like I fit in here, I suppose.”
As we walk over to the bar, Baz shrugs off his fancy wool coat and flicks open an extra button on his shirt. Oh my god, how can one button make such a difference? There’s just a hint of a toned chest peeking out, and my mouth goes very dry. Fuck, this is so not fair. Thankfully Baz isn’t psychic. (At least I hope not.) (Bloody hell, he better not be.)
We take our spots on the old stools and Baz flags down the bartender. Despite his talk of going for a pint earlier, Baz requests some fancy sounding red wine. I look at the menu. Well, there’s a beer listed I know has a low percentage, so it wouldn’t be too risky. But I’m already completely frazzled by, well, the person right next to me. So that may not be a good idea.
“Coke, please,” I say. The bartender gives me a weird look. I give her a sheepish smile. She just shrugs and gows to fill our orders. I can feel Baz’s confusion before I even turn to see his wide eyes.
“Don’t gimme that,” I nervously chuckle. “I can not drink if I don’t want to.”
“I know.” Baz’s voice is high pitched, nervous. He thinks I’m accusing him of something but I can’t parse out exactly what. “I know, I know. I’m just a bit...baffled. A uni student in the middle of finals who doesn’t want to drink? Unheard of.”
I snort out a laugh again before quickly covering my mouth. Baz is smiling again, but softer than before. Just a careful curling of his mouth. Be still my beating heart, fucking hell.
“I know,” I sigh. I start fiddling with a coaster, spinning slowly on the table. The story is bubbling up out of me before I can stop it. “I, uh, actually had a drinking problem in secondary. More than just the normal British teen stuff, y’know? So now I’ve gotta be careful with when I drink and how much. If I’m not, Penny will kill me.”
I laugh to try to break the enormous tension I can feel. Baz at least has the courtesy to chuckle too even when I’m not giving him half the story. However, explaining that alcohol numbed my abilities and made ghosts quiet leads to a whole other conversation. He leans his cheek on his palm, elbow propped up on the worn bar. “I understand, actually. I went through the same.”
My eyes go wide. Not a hint of deception, not even a whiff of fake sympathy. “Really?”
He sighs and nods. “Most secondary students drink a lot, yes, but they usually don’t drink to numb the pain of not living up to my conservative family’s expectations.”
“A bit of an understatement, Snow,” he chuckles. “It was hard to acknowledge at first. But once I stopped contact with my father, I had an easier time getting a handle on it. Haven’t binge drank since I started here. Mind you, all the schoolwork is a good distraction.”
“I can guess, yeah.” I drag my finger over the bumps and ridges of the coaster. Each scratch on my skin is so potent and real. When I drank too much, I felt nothing. It took so long to readjust to my world as well as the real one. “My friend, Penny, she’s the first one that saw how bad I was getting. But I didn’t listen at first. It took both her and a woman at the school to get me to finally admit I had a problem. They helped me get better.”
“Glad you had them.”
The bartender thankfully arrives with our drinks, saving me from this incredibly embarrassing topic. I’ve never talked to anyone other than Penny and Ebb about that time. I still feel so much shame around it. But I can’t feel disgust or disappointment from Baz, or any strong enough I’d notice. I guess he wouldn’t, having gone through something similar. I thought we were completely different at first but we’re really not. We actually kind of match in some ways.
Baz delicately sips on his red wine. He looks like some fancy restaurant critic, or a rich vampire drinking his daily blood. His slick black hair certainly adds to the effect. Christ, he’s even crossing his legs all proper like. I stare at the bar and take a deep sip of my coke. I am so glad I got soda instead of a pint.
“What’s your family like, Snow? I hope they’re not as nightmarish as mine.”
My body locks up. For a second, I really do consider lying. But that quickly dissipates. “I, uh...don’t actually have a family. Not a blood one. I-I’m an orphan...”
Baz’s pretty eyes get bigger than saucer plates. I try not to focus on his pouty lips separating slightly. “Oh. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked-”
“It’s alright! You didn’t know. It’s not like I advertise that I was abandoned as a baby.”
My laugh is high and nervous, matching my horrific anxiety perfectly. I take as many deep gulps of my soda as I can without choking to death. Though right now, I’m not sure I’d mind that.
“My father hates me.” Baz speaks faster than I’ve ever heard him. My head snaps up. He’s staring at his wine glass, slowly spinning it between his elegant fingers.
“If we’re admitting horrifically painful secrets, I’d thought I’d mention that my father genuinely, truly despises me. He’d be happier if I were dead.”
“T-That can’t be true.”
His laugh is dark, sad. “Oh, it is. I may be smart, but I’m also defiant, rude, and homosexual. In short, not the golden son he wants. It’s why we don’t talk anymore. I finally got fed up with his bollocks. I’m better off without him.”
There’s so many conflicting emotions emanating from Baz. A lot of understandable anger, but so much deep pain and sorrow too. It’s so overwhelming I’m about to cry. Really, I want to touch his hand, but my abilities are already about to short circuit.
“It’s okay,” I blurt out. “Whatever you’re feeling is okay. I-It’s okay that you’re not.”
“Who says I’m not okay?!” Baz’s voice is sharper than a razor blade, mouth pulled in a horrible scowl. I flinch, but I don’t think there’s real anger towards me. I still mostly just feel pain. So, so much pain.
Baz quickly lets out all the tension in one breath. “Sorry, Snow” he sighs. He leans heavily on his palm. “Is it wrong that I miss him sometimes?”
I shake my head vigorously. “Definitely not. I mean, I hated the group homes, and I’d never go back. But there are still things and people I miss, y’know? A-And my headmaster back in grade school, he was super controlling and probably fueled my drinking. But he also got me my scholarship, so without him I wouldn’t have met Penny! It’s so confusing.”
I groan and slump forward onto the bar. Okay, now I’m wishing I did get some alcohol. Even with my eyes covered, I can feel and hear Baz shift around. Guess he’s leaving. Not the first time it’s happened. I know I’m a lot, and not everyone can handle that. Baz could be-
“He has a nice laugh,” Baz says, barely above a whisper. “He doesn’t laugh a lot, but when he does, it’s deep and genuine. Whenever I heard it, I knew he was happy for once. Well, most of the time.” He chuckles quietly. I lift my head up just enough to his small, slightly sad smile. “One time, when I was seven, I somehow got my hands on a bunch of markers. Of course I decided to draw squiggles all over the priceless antique wallpaper. A mini Picasso in the making, obviously.”
I snort, but don’t even make a move to cover my mouth. Huh. Never done that before. I don’t need to hide it around Baz, really. He hasn’t cared yet.
“Father was so mad, but he also thought it was hilarious. He sounded ridiculous.” Baz sits straight, furrowing his brow but with a big grin on his face. “‘Of all the darn things you could draw on, you choose this?” He makes his voice lower yet kind of jovial, swinging his hand around in what I guess is an approximation of an angry father. “I-I am pleased with your creativity, b-but this may not be the best place to express it! Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch, you are in so much trouble!”
Baz throws his head back laughing. At least I assume he’s laughing. I can’t hear anything except my rapid heartbeat in my own ears. Holy fuck, holy fuck, holy fuck. Tyrannus can’t be a common name to begin with, and all the other stuff just fits too well. How could I have not made the connection before literally right now? Baz’s posh voice should’ve tipped me off sooner. And Baz doesn’t look a lot like his dad, but they have the same wavy hair with a sharp widow’s peak, and the same bored expression. I should’ve noticed , bloody hell.
I’ve never actually known someone who was in my visions. Sure, they were acquaintances or people I ran into, but never my actual friends. Is that what we Baz and I are now? Friends? I don’t know about that. But I sure know that friends don’t go snooping in each other’s pasts via psychic visions. Why though? Why is God or the universe or whatever the fuck dictates my visions showing me Baz’s past? What’s the point?
“Snow? You in there?”
I shake off my haze. “Sorry, zoned out for a minute.”
Baz chuckles, that little smirk on his thin mouth. “You do that often, Snow. What’s going on in that big golden head of yours?”
I shrug. “A lot of things. I think a lot for someone so dumb, for some reason.”
“You’re not dumb.”
His face is absolute stone, completely serious, but it’s not a bad thing. I think. “Huh?”
“You’re not dumb, Snow.” He sets his glass down, deep sea eyes still fixed on mine. “You may be a little...scattered sometimes, but you’re very intelligent.” Baz looks down at his glass. I watch as he slowly traces the base with his long fingers. I can’t tell what he’s feeling. My own emotions are way too confused to pick up on his. “I know I would still do well on the project without you but...” His lip quirks up, eyes flicking over to mine. “It wouldn’t be half as fun.”
Baz’s smile is so small yet it hits me harder than a pound of bloody bricks. Baz is nothing like I thought before. No no, that’s not right. He’s more than what I thought. Before he was this kind of flat 2D image of my potential husband turned annoying posh arsehole. But now he’s just...Baz. And looking at him, at his gorgeous face and twinkling grey eyes and sly mouth that just actually fucking complimented me, I feel-
I take a long, deep drink of my Coke before I say something really stupid. And I hope it hides how red my face feels. “T-Thanks,” I manage to get out. “Uh, I wouldn’t have been able to do all the research on my own.”
“You might’ve referenced Twilight without me.”
“Hey! I wasn’t that bad!”
Baz’s little smirk and raised eyebrow show his mocking doubt all too well. I resist the urge to kiss that stupid beautiful smirk. Stop it, Simon. He’s obviously not into you. The vision doesn’t mean anything. You’ve been wrong before. (I hope I’m not). (No! Stop it!)
“Christ, look at the time,” Baz says. “We should get back to campus.”
I glance at my mobile and mentally curse the concept of time itself. “Yeah, guess we should.”
We pay off our respective tabs. I hear a whisper of Baz’s thoughts; him considering paying mine as well, but it dissipates too quickly for me to get a good hold on the emotions there. Why would he want to? It’s not like I can’t pay for myself. And it’s not like this is a da- I stop that thought before my face bursts into flames.
The sky’s gone dark already. Christ, it’s winter, isn’t it? Two more weeks and we’re on break. Has the semester really gone by that fast?
“Wow,” Baz sighs, voice painfully innocent. “You really can see all the stars out here.”
He’s right. They’re all twinkling above us. “Yeah, you can.”
“I never saw this many before coming here.” He flashes that little half smile and I nearly melt into the pavement. “I’m glad I came here.” His eyes flick to me, just for a moment. “I’m really quite glad.”
Christ, I’m going to die.
We start walking towards our dorm building. Baz keeps his hands in his pockets, occasionally humming something probably classical. I’m not picking up anything from him right now. A blessing and curse right now, honestly. Of course I desperately want to know what he’s thinking, but I’ll be crushed when it’s inevitably something I really won’t like. Baz only tolerates me. Right?
All too soon, our dorm building is in front of us. Baz opens the door and I follow him up the stairs. It’s only when we reach my floor that I remember that Baz’s room is on the floor below me. Bloody hell, he’s walking me home. Don’t let me think this really is a date, Baz, please.
“Good work today, Snow,” he says. “Everything should be finished up soon.”
“Oh, okay. Awesome.”
“Meet up on Saturday to do the last finishing touches?”
“Yeah, sure thing.”
“Alright.” he smiles, but it’s not his usual sharp smirk. Instead, he’s all soft, the most relaxed I’ve ever seen him actually. And if his face was clue enough, I can feel the calm rolling off him in waves. “Sleep well, Simon.”
He turns and walks away before I can fully comprehend that he’s called me by my first name twice today. I go inside my room and rush past Penny before she can start asking me questions I can’t answer right now. For once, I look forward to going to sleep. And the second my head hits the pillow, I’m out like a light.
I’m small. I’m young. I’m sitting on someone’s lap, playing with their hands. The skin of their palms is rough but not in an unpleasant way. Less worn and old, more well used and well loved.
“You’re scratchy,” I giggle. Oh. Is that the boy’s voice?
“Yes, I am. People in our family always have rough hands, little puff.” And that’s the mother. The nickname destroys any doubt in my mind.
“Why are you so scratchy, Mummy?”
“Well, my grandmother used to say it’s because we’re descended from fire handlers.”
She laughs, petting my hair. It’s nice. I’ve never felt this before, but the boy has. He’s showered with her love. “It means we’re strong, darling. We can take something that hurts and make it ours. You’ll understand one day. Trust me.”
“Okay, Mummy,” he yawns. He snuggles against her. The warmth of her body washes over me. The boy is being lulled into sleep. His mother keeps petting his hair.
“You’re so strong, darling,” she says, voice so unbelievably sad. “Even after everything, you’ve become such a good man. I wish you would allow yourself to see that.” Her hand cradles the back of my head. “That goes for you too, Simon.”
His eyes- my eyes snap open. “What?”
“You heard me. In spite of all the pain and loneliness, you’ve become a wonderful person, Simon. I only wish you had gotten more care as a child. I wish I could’ve cared for my son more.”
“Your son? This boy?”
She starts shifting me, sitting me back. “Yes. He lost so much so young. And saw things no one, especially a child, should ever have to.”
She tilts my head up. I know she has a face, she has to, but all I can see is the blood gushing from the bullet wound in her neck. I scream.
I bolt up with a gasp. Once again, tears are running down my cheeks. I fruitlessly try to wipe them away and catch my breath. Fuck, my heart is still beating like a rabbit’s. What the hell was that? How did she know my name?
“Gah!” I scramble back, pressing myself against the wall. This may not be the first time a stranger has appeared at the end of my bed, but it still freaks me out. At least I know why now.
Contrary to popular belief, ghosts aren’t ghoulish spectres or even flickering spirits. Most of the time, they look like perfectly normal people, provided they died in a normal outfit. (One time I met a guy who died in a mascot costume.) (That was a weird Tuesday.) The woman here now looks pretty normal. Dressed in a nice red skirt suit, curly black hair pulled into a severe bun, sitting with her ankles crossed and hands in her lap like a proper lady. But what catches my attention the most are her eyes. Dark blue and dark green mixed together, like deep ocean water.
Well, Baz takes a lot after his mum, it seems.
“H-Hello, Ms. Grimm-Pitch,” I manage to say.
She smiles softly, so similar to Baz it hurts. “Please, call me Natasha.”
“Okay then...” I slowly slide down from the wall. I’m assuming she’s not here to hurt me. “Hello, Natasha.”
“Good evening, Simon. It’s good to finally talk. Apologies that it’s taken me so long to reach you.”
“I-It’s okay. Getting through from the other side can be hard.” For both of us, I don’t say. Again, it’s not the first time this has happened. From what Penny has figured out over the years, the most intense dreams are sometimes actually spirits trying to contact me. Sending nightmares seems to be one of the easier ways for them to communicate, for some fucking reason.
“Quite.” She links her hands in her lap. I think it’s the posh version of fidgeting. “I need you to do me a favour, please.”
“I’ll try to do my best.”
Natasha looks me in the eye. I feel like she’s piercing my soul. “Please tell my little puff that it’s not his fault. I never blamed him and I never will, so he needs to stop blaming himself. And...” Her face twists in anguish, for just a second before she schools her expression again. “Let him know that I love him. I’ll always love him, no matter who he is or what he does. He doesn’t have to keep worrying what I think.”
“Oh...okay, I’ll try.” How the fuck do I tell Baz that I had a midnight chat with his dead mum?
“And if you can.” Before I can figure out what’s going on, she leans forward and kisses my temple, but I can’t feel it exactly. Ghost touches are weird. It’s more like a small gust of wind against my skin. “Give him that too, please.”
She gives me one more smile, and then she disappears. It’s like she was never here at all. I instinctively brush against where he kissed me. There’s still a prickly sensation left. Huh. No one’s ever kissed me anywhere other than my mouth. It’s, well, it’s not bad, I can say that. And now I’m supposed to give that to Baz...
I’m so screwed.
“Let’s move the rose down here,” Baz says, already dragging the picture to the left.
“Sure,” I reply.
“Text block will have to be moved too.”
“Maybe the theme colour should be tweaked slightly.”
“We could also murder our professor and take over campus in order to make all uni final projects illegal.”
“Yeah- Wait, what?”
Baz chuckles and shakes his head, making his wavy hair move so beautifully. “Are you going to start paying attention now, Snow?”
“Are you alright?”
“I’m just tired...” It’s only sort of a lie. I really am tired, but it’s definitely not just that. The nightmares are finally gone, but now I’ve had Natasha’s request rattling around in my brain for two days. Tell Basil it’s not his fault. How am I supposed to do that, huh? ‘Hey Baz, so I know about the horrible trauma you suffered as a child through my dreams, and your mum’s ghost told me to tell you it’s not your fault she died! Isn’t that great?’ That’s a one way trip back to the psych ward.
But I owe it to Ms.Grimm-Pitch to try, right? She worked hard to get the message to me. And Baz deserves to know too. It’s from his mum. I can only hope he understands.
“Um...” I start, swallowing down the lump in my throat, “I actually have something to tell you, Baz.”
He quirks an eyebrow in that perfect way he can, then leans his sharp cheek on his fist. “Oh really?”
I start pulling at my hair, an old habit I still haven’t gotten rid of. “It’s gonna sound really weird and stupid and you might get mad at mebut I really need you to listen-”
“Come on, Snow, spit it out. You’re leaving me in far too much suspense here.”
A few more deep breaths. Three, two, one. “I’m a psychic who gets visions and sometimes talks to spirits.”
The following silence is absolutely crushing. My eyes stay frozen on him while my leg keeps jittering. Baz stares at me like a complete deer in the headlights. Definitely not unexpected or unreasonable. He blinks at me while otherwise staying perfectly still, but his mind is nowhere near that calm. It’s a bloody hurricane that sucks me in. He’s radiating a tangle of emotions, each one mentally punching me in the gut every time they switch. Baz blinks at me for seconds, minutes, maybe an eternity for all I know. Time only resumes when he finally speaks.
I nod vigorously. “Y-Yeah, I am.”
“As in, you can read minds? Tell the future?”
“Uh, sometimes, yeah.”
“I see. And should I call you if I spot a ghost in New York?”
He’s smirking, voice sarcastic as hell. Doesn’t take a psychic to realise he’s not believing me one bit. “I’m serious, Baz!”
“Mhm, sure you are.” He straightens up and turns back to the laptop to his laptop. “Now, let’s try to sort out the conclusion. I think-”
“Baz, I talked to your mother Saturday night.”
That gets him to completely stop in his tracks, body completely frozen. I watch his hands hover over the keyboard. His fingertips shake ever so slightly, the only movement I see for another impossibly long stretch of time. My heartbeat is a roaring dragon in my ears.
“What?” Baz’s voice is so low it’s almost a growl.
I look down at my own fidgeting hands. They’re all I can handle right now. “On Saturday, I woke up a-and there was a ghost which sadly isn’t super weird for me. She looked a lot like you, so it wasn’t hard to figure out who she was. And then she told me I had to give her ‘little puff’ a message, and I’m 99% sure that’s you. At least I hope!” I awkwardly chuckle. “So she said-”
“Simon!” he barks, so loud it fills the entire common room. I stop in my tracks. I even squeak at the sharpness of his tone. “Snow, just- fucking hell, shut up!”
Slowly, I lift my head, though I don’t really need to. Baz is seething . The rage is so fucking palpable I can actually taste it. The iron flavour permeates my tongue, giving me the real urge to retch. I’ve felt anger before but never like this. So raw and deep and utterly destroying. My brain is sinking into this place of cold, black fire, and it’s definitely not my own.
It’s the hurt that gets me the most. The absolute agony that’s almost hidden by the anger. It’s burrowing a hole deep in my stomach, making it drop impossibly low.
“Didn’t I just tell you to shut it!?” He balls his fists, scowling so hard I fear he’s going to break his pretty face. “I don’t know if this is your sick idea of humour or something, but it is certainly not funny.”
“I’m not joking! I wouldn’t joke about this-”
He slams his laptop close. The noise is so loud it bounces off the wall. “So I’m supposed to believe you spoke to my mother, who has been dead since I was five years old, and she told you of all people to give me a message?”
“Um, I guess?”
“Bullocks.” He starts furiously packing. Every movement radiates anger. “I really cannot believe you, Snow. Pulling this crazy shite again. I was just starting to think our first meeting was just some odd slip of the tongue and you weren’t insane. But no, you are completely batshit and a total arsehole!”
His words and overflowing emotions hit me like a pile of bricks. The disgust, the pain, the absolute rage, they’re so strong. And they’re all directed at me. I’m drowning in the tidal wave and my own feelings are a thunderstorm and I can’t think, can’t think-
Baz slings his rucksack over his shoulders. He’s walking away, no, I can’t let him. I reach out towards through my haze. “Baz, I-”
He violently shrugs me off, fixing me with a venomous glare over his shoulder. “Fuck off. Don’t talk to me, don’t come near me, don’t even fucking look at me anymore, Snow. Once this stupid project is over, I never want to see your face again. Got it?!”
All I can do is stare at him with my mouth open. The words are all too clogged up in my throat, none can escape. I just watch him stomp away, hands shaking and heart hammering. His crushing cloud of anger is gone. So now I’m just left with my own horrible, crippling despair.
Uh oh. Angsty cliffhanger! I promise I'll upload the next chapter in a more timely fashion. I'm trying to pay attention to the world outside of Stardew. Working on it, not there, but close :D See you next time!
Chapter 4: Well, It's Not All Bad
Home stretch, my dudes!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
I haven’t gotten out of bed in four days. Penny has been bringing me food, sitting with me when she can. I think she’s been putting on shows, but I really can’t tell. Everything is kind of...fuzzy for me. Like the whole world has turned into dead air. I’m not getting any dreams either. First time in a while, but I don’t like it. This isn’t peace, it’s emptiness. All my sadness and guilt and shame have hollowed me out.
“Simon?” Penny says. “You want some soup?”
“No,” I grumble from under my hovel. I’ve built a practical nest of blankets, old clothes, and dirty tissues from crying. It’s filthy. I don’t care.
“Well, tough, you’re going to drink it. You need food.”
I groan, but know there’s no fighting with her on this. I heave myself up and lean back against the wall. Penny sits next to me and hands over a mug full of chicken noodle soup. It smells and tastes good, but both sensations still feel far away, like they’re happening to someone else a million miles away.
“We have an important class tomorrow,” she says.
“I know,” I reply through a mouth full of noodles.
“Are you going to go?” I shug. She sighs. “Si, I know things are hard right now, but you can’t stop your entire life over Baz.”
“It’s not just about him.” She looks at me over her glasses. “Okay, it’s not all about him. I do mostly feel bad about how I hurt him, because I really did. But I’m also just...wondering. This whole thing has caused me so much bullshit, and now I’ve really hurt someone else trying to help. So what am I supposed to do with it? Why am I like this? What’s the point of being fucking psychic when I can’t see everything going to utter shit?!”
I wipe my nose with my hoodie and put down my half empty mug. I’m really not hungry anymore. When I glance at Penny, she’s looking at me with such sadness. Part of me really wants to turn away, to tell her I don’t need her pity, I’ve got enough of my own. But I’m so tired. Any pride I had left is well and truly gone. So I just slump forward and let her gather me up in her arms. My tears are back again, wetting her jumper. I don’t think she minds though, and I truly love her for it.
“It’s okay, Si,,” she says quietly. “You tried to do a good thing. It didn’t go well, but you tried. It’s a lot more than anyone else would do. That’s why you’re like this. Because you’re good, and you want to help.”
I snort. “Fat lot of help I am.”
She sighs, stroking my hair. “You tried. That counts.”
“If you say so...”
Penny keeps hugging me until the tears fully stop, then a bit longer. “If I heat up one of those gross oven pizzas, could I persuade you to eat a slice?”
“Good enough for me.”
She gives me one more pat, and I feel her weight lift off the bed. I turn her words over in my head. Is that really why? Am I somehow so nice and special that the universe gave me this...well, it’s a bit much to call it a curse, but I certainly wouldn’t call it a blessing either. I’m more partial to the idea that it’s just genetic, that my unknown parents passed this on but with no instruction manual.
Maybe Pen has a point. Maybe there is some better reason. I hope so.
I grab my phone, ignoring any notifications I have. I haven’t touched it since that day in case Baz berated me over text too. My browser is still open, and unfortunately, the last thing I did was make some final touches on the blog. My stomach completely drops out. Fuck, how can a baby pink background and lo-fi music and some artsy picture all rip my heart out and stomp on it? The fact that the photos are amazing makes it even worse. He's amazing.
No, no, stop torturing yourself Simon. It’s stupid to think about that now. And Baz isn’t that great. He’s a snob! And a bully! And...a fucking gorgeous genius with a smile that turns me into a puddle. Whatever. I’m a loser, it's not like he would ever like me too. I’m just-
I stop mindlessly scrolling at one particular photo. It’s the park we went to, except this isn’t a picture of trees or flowers. Its...I think it’s me. I’m mostly turned away, lost in my own tangled thoughts at the time. Just a sliver of my face is visible, perfectly lit up with the way Baz took and edited it. He makes me look nice, way better than I really am. The caption reads: there’s beauty in human nature as well.
Fuck. I’m going to start crying again.
“Get out of here!” Penny can be loud sometimes, but right now, her voice is uncharacteristically angry. I’ve never heard her this rageful.
“Please, Bunce, I just want to talk to him for a minute.” Holy shit. That’s Baz, who’s here, and wants to talk to me.
I jump and run out of bed, moving faster than I have all week. Penny is standing at our door, one hand on her hip and the other ready to slam said door closed. Her anger is suffocating. It fills the entire bloody room, but I stumble through anyway. Penny notices me and her eyes go wide
“Simon, you don’t-”
“It’s alright, Pen,” I say, putting a hand on her shoulder. “I’m okay.”
I turn to Baz, and my breath stops. He almost looks as bad as me. Bags under his eyes, messy clothes, usually perfect hair a total mess. It’s the most disheveled I’ve ever seen him. And what’s worse is what I can feel from him. Stress, sadness, and nerves all pooled together in a horrible gut wrenching storm. I don’t need to be a psychic to know that though, I think. His tense, wide eyed expression says it well enough.
“H-Hi, Baz,” I manage to get out.
“Hello, Snow,” he replies. His voice breaks ever so slightly. “Could we talk,” his eyes briefly flick over Penny, “in private?”
Penny scowls deeply. “You’ve got a lot of nerve-”
“It’s okay.” I hold her back again. “I can talk to him, Pen. I want to. Alright?”
She takes a very frustrated, very annoyed deep breath, but nods in the end. Penny is protective of me, but she also knows to let me make my own decisions. No matter how boneheaded they might be. I just hope this isn’t one of them.
Pen keeps glaring even as I step into the hall and close the door behind me. I stay pressed up against it, while Baz leans back on the wall. It’s only a couple metres, but it feels like there’s a whole fucking canyon between us. Baz is still radiating more tension than a tectonic fault line, but I’m not getting anything else. Thoughts have always been tougher for me. Not sure how much I would want to know right now though.
“Hi,” I blurt out, desperate to fill the heavy silence. Baz blows a little air out of his nose, a whisper of a laugh that still gets my pulse to speed up.
“Hello,” he says.
“It’s, uh, it’s been a while.”
He lifts one eyebrow easily. “It’s been less than a week, Snow.”
“Y-Yeah, I know. It just...feels like a long time.”
“I can understand that.” He sighs and scrubs his hand over his face. “Look, I should just cut to the chase here.”
“Okay...” Breathe, Simon, breathe.
“I’m sorry, Snow. I’m sorry for everything I said.”
My whole body tenses up. Well, I honestly wasn’t expecting that. I could tell Baz felt bad, but I didn’t think he’d apologize outright. He had every right to be pissed. And he still should, right?
“Oh,” I squeak, then awkwardly clear my throat. “Um, thanks, but it’s okay.”
“No, it’s not, I was very mean to you. And...I’m starting to think it wasn’t justified.”
I blink at him silently. I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. His thoughts are so tangled right now I couldn’t even read them if I tried.
“Huh?” Way to go, Simon, way to sound like a dumbarse.
Baz sighs again, tipping his head back against the bland grey wall. “What was the nickname you said my...my mother called me?”
“What? I already told you-”
“Just tell me again. Please.”
“Okay...?” He’s annoyed, but there’s this tinge of desperation too. “She said ‘Please tell Basil, my little puff.’ Is that what you meant?” He squeezes his eyes shut tightly and takes a slow, deep breath. He’s radiating so much tension it kind of hurts. The undercurrent of sadness only makes it worse. “Was that wrong? I’m sorry-”
“No,” Baz sighs, “I’m not mad at you. I’m just trying to figure some things out.”
“Alright...” That was unbelievably vague and unhelpful, but okay.
Baz keeps staring at the ceiling for a long, silent moment. His index finger taps his bicep in a steady rhythm. He’s trying to calm himself down. I can feel it warring with his indiscernible thunderstorm of other emotions.
“My aunt told me,” he says, “that when I was very little, instead of crying, I would stomp around and huff when I was mad. My mum thought it was adorable, apparently. She would call it my ‘little huffing and puffing fits.’ Which eventually was shortened to-”
“Little puff, right?”
“Mhm. It’s what she always called me. One of the few solid things I remember about her.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright. A five year old isn't able to remember much anyway.” Baz massages his temple. Migraine. Yeah, that’s honestly fair right now. “The thing is, my mother died when I was 5, and no one has called me that ever since. Not even my family. I think they couldn’t bring themselves to use it after she was gone.”
“Oh.” This seems to be my favourite word today. My brain is seriously short circuiting right now.
“Yeah. The only people who know about the nickname are myself, my father, my aunt, and my old nursery worker. So the question becomes,” he finally looks at me, eyes serious yet also wondering, “how the fuck do you know it, Snow?”
My cheeks flush bright red under his piercing gaze. I feel like a bug under a very precise, very pretty microscope. I avoid his eyes, trying to slow my heartbeat down somewhat. What can I say? Can I even talk? My tongue feels too big and useless in my mouth.
“At first I thought you just Googled me,” Baz continues. “My mother was relatively well known and her death was publicized. There are articles about it still online. Maybe you thought you were being funny or comforting in some sick way. But you said ‘little puff,’ and that truly shocked me. I scoured all the articles for mention of my nickname, even just a throwaway remark by someone. But there was absolutely nothing. So I decided there were only three possibilities.
“One,” he holds up one finger, “somehow, you guessed my mother’s extremely odd and specific pet name for me, which would make you either a super genius or someone with astronomically good luck.
“Two,” second finger goes up, both perfectly straight, “you secretly contacted my aunt or father and got them to admit the one thing about my mother they’ve never told anyone else, not even the rest of our family. Or you got it out of my nursery worker, who has been in a nursing home with catatonia for the past nine years.
“Or three,” third finger now. He presses his lips together tight for a moment, taking a deep breath. I watch the way his nostrils flare and relax far more than I should. “You were telling me the truth before, and you really spoke to my mother’s spirit. Which is somehow the most plausible option here.” He crosses his arms tight again. “So please tell me, Snow, which is it?”
I take a few long deep breaths, then look him in the eye. He’s serious, that’s apparent, but not judgemental the way he was before. This all feels very different than before.
“Door number three, ding ding,” I chuckle. Christ, I’m so nervous I want to peel my own skin off.
Baz’s eyes widen just a bit. “Seriously?”
“Still don’t believe me?” Can’t really blame him, but it stings a little.
“It’s more a matter of ‘can’t’ than ‘don’t.’ Psychics aren’t real as far as I know.”
I shrug, shoving my hands in my trackie pockets. “Most are probably fake, yeah, but I don’t know what else to tell you. Psychic is the best way to describe me and what I can do.”
“What can you do?” He sounds genuinely interested instead of disbelieving. It makes my stomach feel warmer than it probably should.
“Lots of different stuff.”
He sighs heavily. Exasperation, I know it well. “I meant specifically, Snow. Can you read minds or something?”
Baz sounds truly worried, maybe even a little panicked. I stifle back a laugh. “Sometimes, yeah. Thoughts are hard for me though, honestly.”
“In what way?”
“People’s brains are so,” I make some wild gestures around my head, which makes me look even less sane than usual. “We all think about so many different things at once, so it’s really hard to parse out just one solid thought. Even when I try to focus, it’s like...TV static, y’know? Just a lot of noise. Feelings are easier.”
“What on Earth does that mean?”
“I can kind of uh...feel other people’s feelings sometimes. Know they’re emotions and stuff.”
Baz inhales sharply. The fear and nerves come off him in waves. “You know what other people are feeling?”
It doesn’t take a psychic to see the panic consuming him. I wave my hands wildly. “Not all the time! I can’t control it very well, so I just get bits and pieces. I’m not like, an emotion reader, if that’s even a thing. It’s more...” I rub my forehead furiously and groan. Stupid words. There’s never enough for what I mean, or a right order for them to make full sense. “Sometimes I just know things I shouldn’t, Baz. That’s the best way to put it, honestly. I know when someone is lying, when Penny is actually feeling okay or not no matter what she says, and the strong emotions of people near me usually jump out.”
“Can you...feel mine now?”
For a moment, I consider just not answering. It wouldn’t be lying per se. But who am I kidding? I can’t do it. I’ve been half lying to Baz for months, and it’s not fair to him. He shouldn’t be in the dark anymore. He doesn’t have to be.
“Yeah,” I say. “You're confused by what I’m saying, which is totally fair. You’re worried about me knowing what you feel, which is also understandable, it’s not something people usually want to share. And yet...” I furrow my eyebrows in concentration, parsing through the emotions. Baz’s are a bit easier than usual, weirdly enough. “You’re curious, because you’re a big smarty pants who likes to figure things out, even when they shouldn’t make sense.”
He blinks at me silently for a drawn out moment, then tries to school his expression back to bored, though I can tell he’s still curious. “You could figure that out without being ‘psychic’ though. It just sounds like you’re very empathic and intuitive.”
I blush just a little. Whether the embarrassment is from Baz doubting me or him saying I’m intuitive and empathic, well, even I can’t tell, honestly. “I mean, yeah, you’re right, that’s most of it. But there’s weirder stuff.”
“Like communing with the dead.”
“Yeah that’s definitely one of them,” I laugh awkwardly. “I know things I shouldn't. Not just emotions."
"First time I touched you, I knew you played the violin."
Baz's eyes widened slightly. "You did?"
"Remember I said something about hearing violin music?" He nods slowly. "Yeah, that was it. Figured it out after. Been playing since you were 9, right? With your great grandfather's violin?" He nods again. "Stuff like that."
"That's one word for it," I laugh. "The visions are the really weird ones though.”
“Visions? As in glimpses of the future, oracle of Delphi style?”
I shift my weight from foot to foot and shrug my shoulders up to my ears. “I guess? They’re like movies but in my brain. To other people it just looks like I’m zoning out.”
He lets out a soft, quiet laugh. “And here I was assuming you just got lost in thought easily.”
I smile sheepishly, red definitely colouring my cheeks. “Well, that happens too. But sometimes I also get visions of the future. Or the past, depending on whatever controls my visions.” A heavy weight grows right in the pit of my stomach. From the worry coming off Baz, my face must show it. “In the name of full honesty, Baz, all my visions lately have been about you.”
His shock hits me so hard I can feel a prickle on the back of my neck. “What have you seen?”
“Only a few things. I saw you fight with your dad about going to Watford. And the argument about you getting arrested and being gay.”
“Why would you want to see that?” he asks. I shrug. “So God or the universe or whatever decides what you see, in an effort to probably teach you more about me, showed my father and I arguing?”
Surprisingly, Baz laughs softly, grinning wide. He looks...actually amused. He is actually amused. It’s a soft, warm aura around him with none of his usual tension. “Of course. Most of my life has been spent fighting with my father. I’ll give your unknown force this, Snow, it’s at least accurate.”
I laugh so hard in return that I snort loudly out my nose. And I don’t feel embarrassed, because Baz keeps grinning at me, radiating that wonderful aura. I would honestly bask in it forever if I could.
“Has the universe deigned to show you anything else about my life? If so, I hope you haven’t been subjected to my My Chemical Romance phase.”
He shuckles more, but I freeze in place, heart freezing and stomach dropping tot he centre of the fucking planet. Fuck, I knew I wouldn’t be able to avoid this, but it still rips into my soul like a rabid wolf. And from the grave expression on Baz’s face, he can tell.
“What was it?” he says darkly.
I gulp heavily, hands shaking in my pockets again. A few deep breaths later, the words finally decide to bubble out. “I saw...what happened to your mum, Baz. I saw it through your eyes.”
Baz inhales sharply. His panic and fear are skyrocketing. “All of it?”
“I-I think so, yeah. I didn’t know it was you at first, but after I met your mum’s spirit, well...I put two and two together.”
“I see,” Baz sighs, rubbing his face again. “That’s something I would’ve preferred to have told you myself, Snow.”
I flinch, both at the comment and the sharp anger behind it. “I know, and I’m really sorry, Baz. Sometimes when ghosts have a hard time reaching me, they send me dreams to...to try to make me understand what they want, I think?” I groan, pulling at my hair and covering my angry, flushed face. “I’m sorry, I don’t really know how this works. It’s a lot of guessing and assuming and-”
“What did she say?”
My head snaps up. Holy shit, Baz is so close. Well, not really, he just stepped into the middle of the hall, but it feels like he’s enveloping me. (I must be a fucking tomato by now, I swear.) My own feelings are too muddled to read his, but it doesn’t take a psychic to see the desperation in his eyes, maybe even hope. I clear my throat, but my voice still cracks when I speak.
“She said...” I link my hands together in hopes they’ll stop shaking. No luck. “She said, ‘tell Basil, my little puff, that it’s not his fault. I never blamed him and I never will, so he needs to stop blaming himself.’” I gulp, looking away from Baz’s wide eyes. It’s too much right now. “A-And she said that she loves you, no matter what you do or who you are.” I scratch at the back of my neck. “I’m not sure what that means. I can guess, but really I’m just the messenger.”
I chuckle awkwardly and of course it does absolutely nothing to relieve the tension between us. Baz is feeling so much. About what I said, about his mum, about me, I can’t sort through the storm of it all. The silence stretches far too long to be comfortable. I’m so close to saying something (or just running away), but then I see the tears. They’re just a few little droplets running down his cheeks, leaving tiny trails that reflect in our flickering LED lights. My hand freezes halfway up. I want to comfort him so badly, but I don’t think I’m allowed. Hell, what is the social courtesy for this? Can there be any? All of this runs through my mind as Baz cries silently with that stone face.
“Thank you,” he says, voice strained, even choked up a bit. “For telling me what she said. It really means more than you can imagine. So, thank you, Simon.”
In spite of the tears, his smile, his face, his...everything is soft. All so unbelievably, wonderfully happy and satisfied and soft. It makes my heart beat double time and breath impossibly short. I try to hide my horrible panic behind a smile in return.
“Well, uh-” My voice definitely doesn’t crack, and I definitely don’t cough to cover it up. “You’re welcome, I guess. All in a day’s work for a psychic teenager.”
Baz’s small, breathy laugh means the world to me. He finally brushes the tears off his face, flicking them off with grace, which I didn’t think was possible. But then a wave of confusion and concern washes over me, coming off of Baz. I open my mouth, fully prepared to ask him what’s wrong, until I notice his smirk.
“The day we first met,” he says slowly, a hint of amusement in his tone, “when you said we were going to get married.” I’m probably blushing down to my bloody chest now. “Was that a psychic thing?”
I furiously rub the back of my very heated neck. “Um, yeah, it was. Got a flood of visions when I bumped into you..”
“I see.” His voice is smoother than butter and it threatens to melt me into a puddle.
“I-It’s not certain!” I wave my hands furiously. “When I get visions of the future, I mean. Pen calls it ‘seeing a future rather than the future.’ Not everything I see actually happens. S-Sometimes I’m being shown it in order to stop it from happening, which are the really weird ones.”
“Mhm. So do you think you’re supposed to stop us from getting married?”
I gulp down the massive lump in my throat that suddenly appeared. “I don’t know,” I squeak.
“Alright then,” he chuckles. “And here I thought it was a bizarre form of flirting.”
“Well, if it was, it failed. Just made you hate me...”
His face falls, but only slightly. The left corner of his mouth is still pulled up. “I didn’t hate you, Snow.”
My mouth drops open in genuine shock. “You didn’t!? But, you were so mean!” I wince at my own words. “Sorry, didn’t mean it like that-”
“It’s okay,” he sighs. “You’re right, I was mean, and I’m sorry about that. I was a bit perplexed when we met, yes, but the bigger problem was that you were, well...you’re the psychic. You tell me, Snow.” The way Baz looks at me, the emotions I’m getting off of him, I can’t mistake them for anything else; affection, caring, and honest to God attraction. I even pull out a thought from him.
Baz likes me. He’s liked me almost since the moment we met.
“Oh.” Goddamn voice cracks. It’s even worse than puberty now. “R-Really? You felt- You feel...that way? About me?”
His eyes flick down. And I swear, his cheeks are turning the colour of cherries. “I was in denial for quite a bit. As you apparently know, my sexuality has never been an easy subject. Honestly, I’ve only started to fully accept myself in the past six months. There’s still a lot of self hatred. Then I literally ran into you, and...well, it caused me some issues.” He chuckles under his breath, meeting my eyes for a moment. “Seeing you, feeling what I felt, it scared the crap out of me. Lashing out was much easier than acknowledgment. Which I am truly sorry about, Simon. You didn’t deserve my shite.”
I nod along like I’m not internally screaming. “O-Okay, well, thank you?” I laugh in that awful high pitched awkward way I always do when I’m extremely nervous. “To be honest, I did kind of hate you for a bit. But it was because you were so pretty and smart and sharp witted while I got even more tongue tied talking to you. And-” I sigh heavily, tugging at my hair. “I guess I just hated how amazing you were...”
Okay, the tips of Baz’s ears are definitely red now. And I’m pretty sure mine are too. We’re both a pair of blushing disasters, it seems. We really do match.
A thought starts ringing through my head, but it’s not mine. It’s Baz’s clear and precise. Oh fuck. He’s thinking about kissing me. And that’s only reinforced with the way Baz’s beautiful eyes flick down to my lips.
Before I realise what I’m doing, I’ve leaned around to kiss his temple. His skin is smooth, a bit tepid, and smells faintly of cedar and bergamot. Baz inhales sharply. It lasts less than a second but feels like an infinity. I scurry back against the door. Baz’s mouth hangs open and his eyes are wide. Oh what the fuck did I just do?
“Sorry,” I blurt out. “S-Sorry, for doing that without asking. I just thought- Well, your thoughts, I heard-” I scratch my neck and nearly set my fingertips on fire from the heat of the skin. “Um, your mum, she told me to give that to you. Almost forgot...”
Once again, my awkward laughing makes me feel even worse. Baz still looks incredibly awestruck. But little by little, his face softens, then settles on a small smile. If there’s an extra tear or two on his face, well, I’m not going to say anything.
“Thank you, then,” he says, “for passing it on.” Baz steps back, hands in his jean pockets. “I should probably get back to my dorm. It’s getting late, after all.”
“Right, right, that makes sense.”
He nods once, still smiling with soft eyes. “Farewell, Simon.”
Baz turns and starts walking away. His each step punches me in the heart. No, no, he isn’t supposed to leave. The images from that first vision run through my head on repeat. Baz smiling, laughing, crying with me at that altar. It’s not the future, yes, but I so desperately want it to be our future. Some voice in the back of my head is screaming that this is the moment I choose. Is this the psychic force of the universe? Or just me being utterly smitten? Oh, fuck it. Fucking fuck it.
He stops and pivots on his heels, perfect brows all scrunched together. I nearly crash into him, leaving only an inch between us. Fuck, I can feel his breath on my face, and it’s just as heavy as mine. I slowly lift my hands up, and when he makes no move to stop me, I cup his face. His cheekbones are sharper than razor blades but his skin is so soft. He’s looking me right in the eye. His own are wide, pupils pretty much covering all of the deep water grey. I doubt I’m much different.
“Can I?” I ask very quietly. Psychic or not, I want to be sure this time.
“Yes,” he replies. And with no hesitation, I kiss him properly.
Kissing Baz is both exactly what I expected and not. His mouth is colder and softer than anyone I’ve kissed before (not that I have much reference). But he’s not frozen like the statue he always resembles. Instead, he’s moving his lips in time with mine, arms wrapping around my waist and pulling us together. I hold his neck in turn, running my fingers through his silky black hair. My head is swimming in such pure joy, and I can’t tell if it’s from me or Baz. But honestly it doesn’t matter. We’re both smiling between every stupidly wonderful kiss.
I don’t get any visions, not in the usual sense for me, but I think I’m seeing a glimpse of my future again in the way Baz kisses me. And I absolutely love it.
“If you two are going to snog, can you at least not do it in the hallway?”
Baz and I unfortunately separate, both looking at Pen glaring at us from our dorm door.
“Mind your business, Bunce,” Baz says haughtily.
“You’re in my hallway, Basilton. This is my business!”
“Both of you,” I sigh. “Please don’t.” Luckily, they both listen to me for once. “I’m starving. Let’s have some oven pizza.”
Penny nods, but still with a frown. “But no snogging with me in the room!”
I put a hand over my heart. “Promise, Pen.” She walks back in, and Baz and I follow. “Y’know,” I whisper to Baz, “she’s actually really happy for us.”
Baz chuckles under his breath, squeezing my hand just a bit. “I’ll take your word for it, love.”
My whole body melts at that last word. I lean against him, head tucked against his shoulder. Both his physical and mental warmth wrap around me. And I’m so happy.
Maybe being psychic isn’t that bad after all.
Mushy ending, just how I like it :D That's it for now, folks! I do have follow ups to this planned and some are already half written. When they'll be up is a mystery to you and me. We'll see. Thanks for reading, hope to see y'all again soon!