If You Must Breathe

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We spend the next week cleaning relentlessly, room-by-room. Baz and I conquer the disaster area that is my room; Penny takes on the rampant disorganization in the kitchen; we straighten up the sitting room; Penelope fine-tunes her bedroom. On and on, until we're finally done. With only one night to spare.

Agatha is arriving early tomorrow morning after flying through tonight. Pen is driving to the airport to pick her up at 4:30 in the morning (why the hell Agatha picked a one-layover 13 hour flight at 3:30 in the afternoon is beyond me)(bloody Americans), which should give Baz and I a bit of extra time to mentally prepare ourselves for her arrival.

Penny keeps whinging about picking her up that early. ("Should I try and get some sleep, or stay up all night? Honestly, boys, Baz is an insomniac, so if he were picking her up, it would be just fine"). Which is true, but honestly, Penny and I aren't much better; we both get horrible nightmares that keep us awake most the night. And lately I've been talking in my sleep. Incessantly. Which is a weird new development in the Ridiculous Life of Simon Snow, and a partial reason for Baz's insomnia. So really, it would make sense for any one of us to fetch Agatha (so there, Penny).

Anyway, now that we're finished straightening up the flat, I don't know what to do with myself. I haven't left the sitting room today. Just pacing back and forth, back and forth. Back at Watford I would've taken the Sword of Mages out to the Wavering Wood and swung it around (probably pissing off more than a few dryads). Here, all of my nervous energy has nowhere to go. So I just pace, running my fingers through my unkempt hair.

I think I might be having a panic attack, too. Everything is blurry and too loud; grating on my senses like sandpaper. And my chest feels like someone's sitting on it-- like that one time I wouldn't give Baz his book back (I was reading it! It's not my fault he left it sitting open on the couch...) and he tackled me and sat on my chest until I gave it back (my boyfriend the actual five year old). Breathing doesn't work so well when some barmy tosser is sitting on your chest-- or when you have a panic attack. Even my heartbeat feels wrong-- too fast and frantic against my sternum.

I have to get out of here, or I'm going to fucking explode. This feels like Going Off, but worse, because there's no magic to discharge and release the tension.

With a groan, I break my monotonous pacing and stumble from the room, looking for Baz.

"Baz!" I holler out, ducking my head into every room I pass. Penny's in her room, phoning someone (probably Micah). I pop in, knocking my hip painfully against the doorframe as I go.

"Penny, have you seen Baz? I'm going out and I might take him along." The words are a fast stream, almost impossible to differentiate from one another.

"Shh, Simon. Baz is in the basement, putting in the wash," she says, rolling her eyes at me. I smile at her, and her face softens (it always does).

"Thanks, Pen." She waves me away, gripping her mobile a little tighter against her ear.

"Yes, Micah, I'm still here... No, it was just Si," As I'm leaving, she glances back up at me, calling out, "Micah says hi!"

"Tell him I said hey!" I tell her, not looking back.

Quicker than anything, my feet skid along the slick floor of our flat, carrying me haphazardly towards the door. I throw on some shoes, fling open the door, and careen out into the chilly hallway.

I practically fly down the stairs, taking them two at a time. And then I'm finally (finally) at the basement door. Before I can open it, it swings towards me, and Baz steps out, empty wash basket in hand.

"Baz," I say, more relieved than anything. Now that I'm not running, I can feel my heart hammering against my ribs again. Not good.

Baz looks up, hair falling lazily into his pearl grey eyes with the movement.

"Simon? What's the matter? Why do you look like you just lost a marathon?" He demands, brow furrowing. I want to kiss him right between the eyebrows, right where that little crevice forms.

"You have to take me out of here, Baz. I'm losing my mind," I plead, looking up at him. One eyebrow quirks up, dark and perfect.

I try to focus on the lazy swoop of slightly wavy black hair across his pale forehead. Try to ignore the way it hurts to breathe. Ever so slightly, my heart rate begins to settle.

"What's going on, Simon?" He repeats, voice softer this time-- tinged with fear around the edges. I shake my head.

"I think I'm having a panic attack and I don't know what to do with myself and I feel all wrong and I just have to go," I blurt out, tearing my fingers through my hair. Crowley, I must look like a complete madman.

"Okay. We'll go up and grab your coat, and I'll put this thing away," Baz replies, without hesitation. I let out a huff of relief. Tipping forward, I place a short kiss on his neck.

"Thank you."

With the smallest of smiles, Baz wraps his arm around my waist. We walk slowly back up to the flat. I count the steps, telling myself to breathe. Willing my heart to calm down. For the sharp edges of the world to soften. Baz's thumb rubs slow, soothing circles on my side.

Just breathe, Simon.

By the time we're back at the flat, I feel almost fine.

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