If You Must Wait

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When Baz and I get home from a perfect winter day's worth of ice skating, shopping, and (most importantly) drinking cocoa and snuggling at his flat, we find Penelope in a right snit about something.

I mean, Penny's usually in a snit of varying intensity about something or other, but this feels... different. More brooding and worried than normal. She's got this extra-bright shine to her typically serene brown eyes that looks something like fear. And Penny is never afraid. No, this is a look that usually means...

"Who died?" I ask, pausing in the action of untangling my knotted scarf from around my neck. I didn't mean for the words to come out, but the pit of my stomach feels like it's visiting our downstairs neighbour. Beside me, Baz fails to conceal a wince at my blunt words before leaning close to me to help with my damned scarf.

Penny's eyes flash to mine, one dark brow raising over the rim of her glasses. A loose curl of lilac-coloured hair flounces into her face, coming free from her ponytail.

"No one died, Simon," she huffs, some of her usual exasperation at everything returning. I study her, staying still, barely registering the fact that Baz has finished with my scarf and is tugging on the buttons of my jacket. If no one died, then what's going on? Her mum might be giving her trouble again-- she did for an entire year after I defeated the Humdrum (and nearly died in the process). But it's been another year since she's stopped bugging Penny about it. What else could it be...?

"Bunce, you look more morose than usual. What's going on?" Baz asks, giving up on my buttons with a light swat at my arm. Without really thinking, I catch his fingers before he has a chance to pull them away entirely, wrapping his ice-cold hand in mine. Penny bites her lip, fidgeting with the hem of her shirt (it's her favorite; it says "ringmaster of the shitshow" on it)(Baz got it for her last Christmas and got us matching ones that say "shitshow" on them).

"Well... I just got off the phone with Agatha," she says slowly, rubbing her neck. Baz and I exchange a surprised look. "And, well... long story short, she whinged about Baz for an hour, then she whinged about Simon for another thirty minutes, and then... she sort of... invited herself over?"

"What?"The incredulous word drops from my mouth like a brick at the same time that Baz splutters, "When?".

Penny looks miserable. She tears her fingers through her purple hair, her brow creased and her mouth all pouty (an expression she usually chastises me for).

"Don't explode at me, either of you! It just sort of... happened! She's coming to England a week from tomorrow to visit her mum, and she didn't think her mum would let her stay at her house, so she sort of... prodded me into letting her stay here?"

My jaw hangs open, my eyes big and staring at Penelope. Baz has a similar expression on his face, those pearly grey eyes boring into Penny. Since when does anyone prod Penny into doing anything?

"She's coming here? Next week?" I stammer. Penny nods gravely, then plants her hands on her hips, resolve sharpening in her face.

"I don't understand why you two are getting so worked up about it! She was our friend, and we haven't seen her in two years, boys." Baz pushes the fingers of his free hand through his silky black hair.

"Bunce, a lot of things were different two years ago!" He argues. Penny just throws up her hands and turns on her heel.

"It'll be fine! And if it isn't, then you two can bunker down at Baz's flat, and I can deal with her! We'll just have to wait and see, okay?" She looks at the two of us, silently begging us to suck it up and just roll with it. There's pity behind the look, and more than a little guilt.

"Penny's right..." I soften my voice, though not believing the words, "We'll just have to wait and see." Baz huffs a sigh through his nose.

"I suppose."

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