Zelda circled the grade on her last exam and filed it away in her desk. As she closed the drawer, she breathed a sigh of relief. The term was finally over. Outside her window snow had begun to fall and she pulled on her jacket, not looking forward to the walk home. Taking her bag, she walked out and locked her office. The other professors’ offices were already dark, they must have all elected to take their grading home with them. Before she stepped out into the cold, she passed the High Priest’s door where light still filtered out through the stained glass.
She paused and decided to knock. A gruff, “Come in” reached her and she opened the door.
When she stepped inside, he looked up from packing his briefcase. “Sister Zelda.” He smiled slightly in greeting.
“No need to bother with that. We are the last ones here.” His smile broadened.
“In that case, can I offer you a drink?”
“I shouldn’t, I need to get back to the mortuary.” His face fell before she continued, “But I will let you walk me home.”
“Let me?” She smirked and nodded. Abandoning his briefcase, he stepped out from behind his desk and walked up to her, so close she thought he might pull her to him. “Or we could go to my place. I could cook dinner…” he offered suggestively.
She raised a brow and hid a knowing smile.
“The weather is only getting worse and my house is closer. We could wait out the storm and after I promise to make sure you arrive home safely.” He suggested it innocently enough but she knew better. She told herself she needed to go home but when he looked at her like that, he was hard to refuse. Not to mention she no longer wanted to. He was an excellent cook and a night with him sounded far more appealing than listening to Sabrina and Ambrose talk about the party happening later that evening.
She found herself returning his smile and agreeing. Besides they’d be pulled apart over for the holidays and wouldn’t have time to see one another. If she wasn’t going to see him until school resumed in the new year she might as well take the opportunity now.
“Let me call Hilda.” She turned to the mirror in his office and licked her finger.
Hilda wiped her hands on her apron before she sat down in front of the mirror showing her sister’s visage.
“Hilda, I am going to be late at the Academy. I want to finish grading my final exams before the holiday.” Hilda nodded but could see her sister was most definitely not in her own office. Though she recognized the High Priest’s desk, she didn’t mention it and played dumb.
“Of course. How, um, how late will you be?” Zelda glanced behind her and Hilda swallowed a knowing smile.
“I am not sure. Probably late.” Hilda nodded.
“I will save you a plate then.” Ambrose wandered into the kitchen and raised a brow when he saw Zelda still was not home despite the advancing hour.
“Thank you, sister,” she muttered hurriedly before ending the call. Ambrose walked up to his aunt.
“Where’s Aunt Z, Auntie?” Unsure how she wanted to answer the question she bit at her lip.
“She’s, uh, grading papers.” He raised a brow and stole an apple out of a bowl on the counter.
“Aunt Zee isn’t one to take long grading, certainly not before Yule…” he led, hoping his aunt would buckle. Instead, she stood and resumed chopping vegetables. He leaned on the counter in front of her.
“She’s going home with Blackwood, isn’t she?” Hilda looked up sharply and he broke into a wide smile.
“She is, isn’t she?” Instead of answering him, she turned to add the veggies into a steaming pot. He started laughing and walked out of the kitchen.
After she hung up on her sister, she turned back to Faustus who did his best to look like he hadn’t been listening to the entire conversation by flicking through a large book on his desk.
“Everything all right at home?” She rolled her eyes at his antics.
“Yes, it seems I am off the hook. Ready?” He flipped the book shut and put on his coat.
As they left the Academy thick fluffy snowflakes kissed at her cheeks and she smiled at the blanket of white already covering the ground. She loved winter and the woods were breathtaking with all the trees laden with snow. He had been right though; the snow was getting heavier. When she looked up from admiring the scene around them, she caught him watching her with a soft smile on his lips.
He couldn’t help it she looked beautiful. Her face had practically lit up the second they stepped outside. Snowflakes dotted her hair and the cold made her cheeks rosy.
“What is it?”
“Nothing.” Her eyes narrowed but she didn’t press it. The wind picked up around them, tugging at her skirt and his scarf. She shivered and he was about to offer her his coat when she took his arm and tucked against him for warmth.
Secretly pleased she’d reached for him, he steadied her as they sidestepped a large snowdrift on the path. Despite the hushed quiet of the woods, he didn’t hear her ask him a question, still too focused on having her so near.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” He asked once he realized she was waiting for an answer.
“Your final exams. Did you finish grading them?”
He nodded. “I finished them just before you walked in.” He turned them down the path that led to his house and slowed their pace, knowing he would have a limited amount of time with her before she returned to her family and he didn’t want to squander it.
Despite the weather, he enjoyed their walk. He couldn’t remember the last time they’d done this. If they ever had it would have been when they were at the Academy centuries ago. The temperature dropped noticeably and she pulled in tighter to him. Normally she would rather suffer the cold than cozy up to him for warmth, but he wasn’t complaining. She smiled up at him as he tightened his arm around her.
He still wondered how he’d gotten lucky enough to have her walk back into his life.
“Do you have any plans for the break?”
“As usual most of my holiday will be taken up by preparations for the Yule mass and coven celebrations.” Yule was one of his favorite holidays, however, it was also one of the busiest times of the year. “Although Prudence is coming to stay with me this year.”
After the death of his wife and their unborn children, he had been trying to slowly make amends with Prudence now that she knew he was her father. In the year since Constance passed, things had improved but this would be the longest time she had been at the manor with him. He had half a mind to ask Zelda for her advice on having a teenager in the house but decided against it.
Though surprised, she squeezed his arm and smiled at him, glad he was still making an effort with his daughter.
“You know, she earned the highest grade in the class on my Latin exam this term.” Prudence had quickly become one of Zelda’s top students.
He found some pleasure in hearing about his daughter’s success. “Am I detecting a favorite, Professor Spellman?”
“She earned the grade herself, but she is bright and I enjoyed having her in class. She could go far in linguistics if she wanted to.” He filed that information away to talk to Prudence about it over the break. It would at least be something they could find common ground on. He might even let her assist with the Yule sermon if she wanted to put some of her Latin to work.
“Only kidding Zee. But it is good to hear.” Though he already knew what the answer would be he asked, “Will the Spellmans be celebrating Yule with the coven this year?”
“Unlikely,” she sighed. She missed Yule, a proper Yule. One spent with the coven but she wouldn’t celebrate Yule without Sabrina. These days it felt like the Spellmans were never all together as a family, but Yule meant everyone would be home. As much as she missed a proper witch Yule, she wouldn’t trade time with her family.
Despite knowing that would be her answer, he still felt disappointed. He knew why, with Hilda excommunicated, Sabrina’s irritating habit of shirking tradition, and with Ambrose still limited with where he could travel to, Zelda would have to leave her family behind to come to the Church of Night’s festivities. Still, he missed the days of seeing her there.
One of the great oaks above them released its burden of snow and ripped him out of his memories of Yuletides past. Zelda shrieked and dropped his arm. They both looked up at the offending tree and then back at one another, simultaneously bursting into laughter at the sight of each other covered in snow. She shook the snow out of her hair before coming to brush the snow off his shoulders. When she ran her fingers through his hair to get the last of the snow, some of it fell down his collar and he jumped out of her reach. While he tried to get the ice off his neck, she struggled to not laugh. He shook his head but it was hard to be stern seeing her so unreserved and dare he say happy.
“I’m sorry,” she finally got out.
“You are not,” he said but still wrapped an arm around her, she moved even closer to him as they started to walk again. She rested her cheek on his shoulder as his house came into view. No longer under the shelter of the trees, the wind picked up and whipped at her legs and hair. She untangled herself from him to catch her skirt as the wind lifted it.
“Easy there, Marilyn,” he chuckled. She glared at him while she tamed her dress but lost it and started laughing as well. She took his hand as they walked up the steps to his door. Another gust of wind sent snowflakes billowing around them and they hurried into the house, forcing the door shut against the wind and snow.
While the flurries that followed them in settled, she ran her hand through her hair in an attempt to look presentable again. She exhaled heavily after their dash to the door but smiled up at him, trying to remember the last time she’d genuinely laughed that much.
He closed the distance between them and kissed her. She cupped his face in her hands and deepened the kiss. When he finally ended it, she stayed pressed against him.
“Your rule of not seeing or kissing you at school is torturous, my dear.” She broke off from him and started to unbutton her coat.
“The last thing I need is a student or another professor catching us.” He took the fur off her shoulders and hung it up before starting on his coat.
“I’m their High Priest. There isn’t anything they can do about it.”
“Not for you no. For me I will get called a whore and everyone will talk about how I slept my way into a job.”
“That is ridiculous. You were a professor long before we started… whatever this is.” She hung up her coat and leaned against the wall.
“Gossip rarely cares about the truth.” He rolled his eyes as he hung his cape up beside hers and followed her into the kitchen to start cooking.
After they finished with dinner they retired to his parlor, outside of the large windows heavy snow continued to fall. She stood at the window looking out watching it while he poured her a drink, already dreading the trip home.
“We might get snowed in,” he commented as he walked up and held out a glass of bourbon for her.
“I will have to make it home one way or another.” He took a sip to hide his frown. A fire crackled in the hearth and suddenly cold she moved over to the settee with her drink. He followed her and it didn’t take long for her to get comfortable against him.
They talked over the end of the term and some of the worst term papers they’d been forced to read. At last, she finished her drink and set the empty glass aside as she moved from her perch.
“I should head home.” He put a hand on her thigh.
“At least let me finish my drink before you go.” She looked back at him before she settled back against him.
“Fine but after I really need to get back to my family.”
He put his hand around her and breathed in the faint scent of her perfume. Truthfully it wasn’t far from his house to hers but it did require a walk through the woods and she wasn’t dressed for it. While he could offer to drive her home, he’d prefer it if she just stayed with him tonight. There was no better way to start the holiday in his mind.
His warm embrace only made the thought of going outside worse, and she knew if he kept this up, she wouldn’t be willing to face the cold outside. She hazarded a glance towards the windows where the flakes hadn’t let up. There would be several inches of snow waiting for her. His arm around her wandered lower.
“Faustus, I can’t.”
“You can leave them to their own devices for one night.”
“I told them I was grading papers, not going home with you.”
“That was your mistake. I don’t see why I should be punished for your lie.” She shook her head at him but rested her head on his shoulder.
“My family has a habit of getting excommunicated when I am not around.” He snorted.
“I’ve noticed. But it is a risk I am willing to take.” She pulled out her cigarette holder and lit a cigarette. At least it bought him some more time. He shifted her so she had to lean against the couch and stood refilling his glass and picking up the ashtray he kept on his desk. Once he returned to her, she moved back into his arms. He relaxed back on the couch and she moved with him. With her head against his chest she smoked through her cigarette, he’d long since grown used to her bad habit and when she finished, he set the ashtray aside along with his empty glass but she didn’t move. He waved a hand and the record player in the corner began to play.
The wind howled outside but she stretched out beside him, a content smile on her face. His hand trailed along her back and they shared several lazy kisses.
“Snow is still coming down out there. Do you really want to go back out in the cold?”
“I really can’t stay tonight.”
“No I can’t, Faustus. You know that. If I don’t come home, they are going to find out about this. About us.” He opened his eyes to look at her. To his knowledge, she had never referred to them as anything official. Never even hinted at it. She certainly had never implied they were more than the odd tryst.
“And if I say I don’t care if they know?”
“But you do.” His hand at her back stilled.
“I don’t, I never have.” If he were completely honest with himself, he wanted them to know. No more sneaking around behind everyone’s backs. In an effort to avoid mentioning his feelings on the matter, he continued. “You’re the one who is afraid of commitment.” She raised her brows just as he knew she would.
“I beg your pardon?” He smiled and closed his eyes again.
“I’ve been married before. You are the one who fiercely protects their single status.” She rolled her eyes. “Think about it, Zee, it's freezing outside.”
He made a good point but all she could think about was what her family would think. Especially Sabrina.
“This evening has been lovely but I need to get back. They will worry.”
“You’re a grown witch. You should be able to do as you please. Besides I can’t name a single thing in Greendale scarier than you, dear.” He draped his arm across her back in what he likely thought was a subtle way to keep her there.
“Other than you, you mean?” He chuckled under her.
“I have full confidence you could fight me off if you wanted to. But considering how long I have convinced you to stay I don’t think you want to.” She glanced at the clock on the mantle and bit her lip. He was right it was very late and the prospect of facing the storm outside made her shiver, even still enveloped in his warm embrace. However, that still didn’t change the fact that she needed to return home.
“Do you really want to go?” She bit her lip knowing the answer she had to give was different from the truth. Her gaze turned pleading,
“Please don’t make me answer that.” She settled back against him, telling herself that every passing moment would be her last.
Reluctantly she unentangled herself from him and stood. His eyes snapped open and he tried to catch her before she danced out of reach. He chased her to the foyer, where she tried to put on her coat. But he kept taking it off her shoulders. She shot a glare over her shoulder and finally got the coat buttoned. The fur proved to be more challenging, it was easier for him to take off and hang back up on the hook.
“Faustus!” But she couldn’t keep the laughter out of her voice as she reached for the stole again.
“How can you do this to me, Zee?” he said, faking a wounded tone. She put a hand on his chest as he advanced towards her again.
“I’m protecting your reputation, Faustus. Saving you from scandal,” she joked as he finally allowed her to wrap the fur around her neck.
“It’s a blizzard out there, you’ll freeze.”
“I’ll be fine—Hey! Let me go!” His arms encircled her waist as she tried to open the door. “Faustus!” She shrieked with laughter as he lifted her off the ground.
“My family is at home. I have to go!” He kissed her soundly and she allowed herself to be pulled into it, cupping his face in her gloved hands. When they pulled apart his lips remained inches from hers.
“It’s well after midnight, your family will all be in bed when you get there. You may as well get into mine.” She leaned forward and kissed him again as the last of her resolve evaporated.
“Someone’s forward this evening.”
“What can I say, I have good reason to be.” She stepped back and he held his breath waiting to see if she would reach for the door. Instead, she began to undo the buttons of her coat and he broke into a bright smile.
“Oh, stop grinning, you.” He put his arms back around her and gave her a quick peck on the lips.
“I don’t think I will, I just got exactly what I wanted for Yule.” She kissed him again. This time more passionately and he carried her up the steps to bed.