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a stillness in the rain

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“It’s freezing,” Hamid complains, blowing into his hands. The snow is falling down around them as they walk back to Hamid’s from the pub, and in the light from the street lamps, it looks nearly magical out. It’s nice and all, but it’s got to be nearly -5 degrees Celsius out and Hamid doesn’t feel as able to appreciate the sight as he usually does. 

He’d give anything to be sitting by the fire right now, wrapped in a warm jumper and with a mug of tea warming his hands. Zolf could be there as well, Campbell book in hand, and Azu and Sasha could be cuddling by the hearth as Azu quietly knit and Sasha took a nap. He can see it all so clearly in his mind, and for a moment swears he stops shivering - at least, until there’s another sweeping cold wind that brushes past him, and he clenches his fists before shoving them into his pockets. 

“Honestly, I know it’s winter and this is England and it’s damned cold but this seems like… I don’t know! A lot,” Hamid says, teeth chattering together. The pub isn’t even that far from his house - Zolf had parked there beforehand so that they could walk over together - but even the ten minutes it takes seems like too much for him. “Can it be summer again? Please?” 

Zolf chuckles at his side. “Remind me to bring this up the next time you tell Grizzop to stop calling you pretentious.”

Hamid’s mouth works for a moment, before scoffing. “You’re supposed to be on my side, Zolf,” he accuses, taking his hand out of his pocket for half a second so that he can shove at Zolf’s shoulder. Zolf doesn’t even move , which, frankly, is rude. Hamid could shove at him again, but his hands are already cold enough, and them being out in the frozen air won’t help. 

“Right, then. Since you won’t stop complaining ,” Zolf finally says, but there’s so much fondness in his tone that Hamid can’t really call him on it. He does anyway, of course, sticking his tongue out at Zolf, but Zolf just rolls his eyes and pulls one of his gloves off with his teeth before grabbing the other as well. They’re tucked away in one of his pockets, and then he takes Hamid’s hands in his own. “This is why we wear gloves .”

Hamid… wants to respond, he really does, maybe with a funny comeback to tease Zolf, but Zolf’s hands are large and rough and warm around his, and he doesn’t actually feel capable of doing anything but staring at where their hands are linked. Zolf starts to rub them, friction starting to return to his fingers, and Hamid’s heart skips a beat.

The light from the lone street lamp above them shines down, casting shadows over both of their faces as they stand facing each other, Zolf looking intently down at their hands. Hamid looks up, and something in Zolf’s face, the way his tongue sticks slightly out of his mouth in concentration, the way he’s so focused, makes something warm curl in Hamid’s chest, and he can’t help the soft smile that pulls at the corner of his lips. 

Zolf looks up at him, then, and something seems to register in his gaze. He drops Hamid’s hands unceremoniously but gently, almost like he’s been burned (which, Hamid realises, isn’t an impossible occurrence) and his cheeks are a bright red from the cold. 

“Er, we - we should - getting back would - yeah,” Zolf stammers, and takes a step back, shoving his gloves back on his hands. He isn’t looking at Hamid anymore, staring daggers down at the sidewalk, and then he turns on his heel and starts heading down the path toward Hamid’s house, hands shoved in his pockets and shoulders hunched. 

Hamid watches Zolf walk away, following behind at a slower pace as he stares down at his hands. He can still feel Zolf’s hands wrapping around his, warmer than anything. It’s still cold out, of course, but Hamid feels warmed to his core, a blush slowly creeping up his neck. He tucks a lock of hair behind his ears, and then puts his hands back in his pockets. Above them, the snow keeps falling, illuminated in the light, and Hamid turns his face up for a moment, feeling the little pinpricks of cold against his cheeks. He wonders if there’s a way that he could plausibly hold Zolf’s hand as they walk back; if he could pretend to be a little more tipsy than he was, and use Zolf as a way to keep himself steady. 

He banishes the thought almost instantly; it just feels disingenuous, tricking Zolf like that, just because Hamid has some funny little feelings in his chest. So, instead, he catches up with Zolf, walking next to him. And if both of their hands come out of their pockets as they walk and slowly brush against each other, well. Hamid won’t say anything if Zolf won’t. 

 

 

Dust and small pieces of debris rain down from the cabinet in front of him as Hamid finishes dusting off the top, and he coughs, throwing an arm over his mouth. He waves away the offending particles and gives them a bit of a glare as they settle on the floor, ready to be swept up by the broom. 

It’s a clean-out day in the shop - he and Zolf have been working for a few hours, just making sure everything is as presentable as possible. Hamid makes sure to clean the shop every day, of course, but some less integral spots get ignored in favour of making the rest of the shop look nice. It’s not just dusting and sweeping, though; there are a number of empty boxes sitting around that Hamid needs to either re-stock or toss, and he thinks that they might be almost done.

He glances around the shop; the top of all the cabinets and shelves have been dusted, and Zolf’s been getting to work setting things back up for the shop to open tomorrow. 

A quick glance around the room, and Hamid spies a lone box sitting atop a cupboard that they must have missed in the initial clean-out. He heads over and tries to reach it, but falls a few inches short, even when jumping. Sighing, he looks around for the step stool that he’d bought back when the shop opened, but can’t find it anywhere. 

“Zolf, do you know where the step stool is?” Hamid asks, giving up on the search and frowning up at the package sitting atop the cupboard. He needs to check how full it is (or, if it’s empty, chuck it in the bin) so that they can finish restocking - they always keep the extras up out of the way, but considering neither Zolf nor Hamid are able to reach the top, they usually keep the step stool nearby to help. Hamid glances around again, but it’s still nowhere to be seen.

“Er - no, I haven’t,” Zolf says from somewhere across the shop, sounding distracted. “Check under the cabinet?” 

Hamid shakes his head. “Already tried there.”

“Closet?” 

“Checked there as well,” Hamid says, tapping his chin as he tries to remember where he’d last used it. He’d brought it in the house to change out some light bulbs last week but then he’d had to bring it back out to grab something from the top shelf for a customer. He doesn’t remember where it had gone after that, though. And he still needs to get up to grab the box so that they can finish it today. 

“Here,” Hamid hears, and then arms wrap around Hamid’s waist out of nowhere and physically hoist him up into the air. He gives a surprised shout, more than a little shocked, and glances down to see Zolf holding him up, giving him just enough height to grab the box. His arms are corded with muscle, and his chest is solid against Hamid’s back. Zolf catches him looking down and raises his eyebrow. “Don’t have all day, Hamid.”

His face is on fire . “R - right!” he squeaks, and grabs the box, knuckles white where he clutches at it. “Er - got it!” 

With a grunt, Zolf sets him on the ground, and waits until Hamid’s steady on his feet before letting go of him. His hands rest on Hamid’s waist for a moment, and then he steps away, heading back to work on whatever he’d been doing before. Hamid doesn’t move for a moment, still a bit lost in the feeling of Zolf just… wrapping him in his arms, and he knows that it was - was just to help him reach a box, but he’s still - well, Hamid can feel the blush refusing to leave, and he isn’t going to turn around so that Zolf can see. 

He breathes in and out for a moment, trying to center himself. His face feels less on fire after a moment, so it’s clearly working, but he still can’t get the feelings out of his head.

“You alright, Hamid?” Zolf asks, sounding a mix of confused and concerned, and Hamid whirls around, holding the box up in front of him and pretending it’s the most interesting thing he's seen since learning he has magic. 

“Me? Yes, of course! Completely fine!” Hamid says, adding a little laugh on the end. 

“Right,” Zolf says slowly, and he doesn’t sound like he completely believes him but he doesn’t push further. Hamid’s grateful for that, at least, because his entire chest is still a bright ball of fire and awkward nervous fluttering, as much as he’s trying to hide it. 

They continue working in silence, and Hamid thinks the furious blush reddening his cheeks finally disappears after a few minutes. The feeling of Zolf’s arms around his waist don’t, though, and Hamid pushes it down in his mind as he tries to focus on finishing the dusting. 

 

 

“Here, mate,” Sasha says, handing Hamid his ticket. “Where’s - Zolf, this is yours. Azu, here you go.”

“Thank you,” Hamid says, and tucks the ticket into his pocket. “Is Grizzop coming after all?”

She shakes her head. “Can’t make it. Was hoping to get away for the day, but had a last-minute emergency call and doesn’t think he’ll be able to make it here in time. Told us to go on ahead.”

“Oh. Well, we’ll miss him!” Hamid says, and Sasha nods.

They all head into the cinema, handing their ticket to the attendant, who gives them half a stub back with a smile. “Theater two,” they say, and then lean in, a conspiratorial look on their face. “Heard it’s well good. Have fun!” 

“Er - thanks,” Zolf says, and then they all head to the middle of the room, glancing around. 

None of them have actually been here before; a month or so ago, Dunnock Town decided to get its own cinema so that people could go to the movies without having to drive an hour to the nearest one, but this is all of their first visit. Hamid doesn’t even remember the last time he’d gone to the cinema; it hadn’t been something Liliana or Gideon enjoyed doing, so they’d mostly avoided it. Both of them preferred to wait for it to come out so they could watch it in the comfort of their own flat, the one they all shared, and Hamid… well, Hamid never really spoke up against them. He frowns briefly; thinking about the two of them always brings a bundle of confusing emotions to the front, a mix of hurt and anger and bitterness and fondness, and Hamid never really knows what to do with any of it. So he does what he always does, and tamps it all down again. 

“Are you okay, Hamid?” Azu asks, tilting her head, and Hamid snaps out of the brief trip down memory lane. 

“Yes, sorry, er - just thinking how it’s been a while since I’ve seen a film! This should be lovely,” Hamid says, a bit more brightly than he feels, and if anyone catches him, they don’t call him on it. 

“I hope there aren’t many jump scares,” Azu says, with a bit of a sheepish smile. “I like slow, creeping horror.”

“Should be pretty scary, based on what the reviews said,” Zolf says, and tucks his ticket into his pocket. “Sasha? Popcorn?” 

“Are you buying?” Sasha asks, and Zolf thumbs through his wallet to pull out a few more pounds  rolling his eyes. She smirks, and follows him off to the concession stand, leaving Hamid and Azu back as his words slowly filter through Hamid’s brain. 

“Wait, what?” Hamid says, turning to look at Zolf. He’s busy picking out what size of popcorn to order with Sasha, so Hamid gives him up as a lost cause and turns to Azu instead. “This is a horror movie?”

Azu gives him a bit of a weird look. “Did… you not look the movie up when we told you about it?”

“It’s called Us, I thought it would be -“ Hamid starts to pace back and forth, wringing his hands together. “I don’t know! About… about a family , or something!”

Azu puts a hand on his shoulder to stop his pacing and pulls him a bit to the side, out of earshot of Zolf and Sasha. Hamid doesn’t think they’re listening anyway, but he appreciates the gesture. He looks up at Azu, trying to seem less panicked than he actually is, but he thinks it may be a lost cause already. 

“Would you like us all to see a different film?” Azu asks, concern evident on her face. “I’m sure neither of them would mind. We can come see it at a different time.”

“...No,” Hamid says eventually, rubbing awkwardly at the back of his neck. At least his pulse seems to have calmed a bit, even if he still isn’t enthused to see the film. “The three of you were so excited to see it, I don’t want to make everyone miss it.”

“Don’t worry about us,” Azu says, with a gentle smile. “We all want you to enjoy yourself as well, Hamid.”

Gods. She’s so good, Hamid sometimes wonders what any of them did to deserve her. 

“It’s fine,” he says, instead of taking the obvious out. He pastes on what he hopes looks like a genuine smile. “I’m sure I won’t be affected too badly. I don’t - I don’t hate scary movies, after all, I was just… unprepared. It’s okay!” 

Azu doesn't look all that convinced, but she does stop asking him about it. It’s just in time as well; Sasha appears behind Hamid’s shoulder, tapping him, and he just manages to not jump a mile high. Zolf is following behind her a bit more slowly, juggling a large popcorn and two drinks. Hamid reaches out and carefully takes the drinks from him to help, and Zolf gives him a grateful smile.

“Cheers,” he says, and Hamid smiles back, and then they all set off for the theater. Sasha holds the door open for all of them, and Hamid and Zolf follow behind Azu as they all head in. There’s a bit of an awkward shuffle as Sasha catches up to Azu, and then she glances down at their tickets.

“Right, seats should be… here,” she says, and glances down the aisle. 

“Would you like to sit between me and Zolf?” Azu asks, giving Hamid a knowing look, and Hamid can feel himself slump a bit in relief. 

“Yes, please,” he says, and he knows it’s a bit silly considering it’s just a movie, but Zolf and Azu are both strong and can protect him, just in case. Sasha shuffles in first, and Azu follows, with Hamid and Zolf bringing up the rear. They all sit down, Azu leaning over and pressing a kiss to Sasha’s temple. 

“Thank you for the popcorn, love,” Azu says, and Hamid can’t hear Sasha’s response properly, but whatever it is, she sounds fond.  

The lights dim, and everyone quiets, eventually. Hamid can feel a small pit forming in his stomach as the opening music starts. It doesn’t get better as the movie goes, and the anxiety creeping along his spine just gets worse and worse the further in they go without anything bad happening. Hamid is tempted to just close his eyes throughout the entire thing, but the story at least seems to be interesting, and the main actress is, well, gorgeous. 

And then it hits, spooky family standing at the end of the driveway, and Hamid lets out a quiet scream before he can hold it back. The music changes, again, and Hamid can feel his heartbeat picking up as the adrenaline starts to run through his veins. 

Much of the movie goes the same, with Hamid trying not to yell any more, averting his eyes from the gore, and wishing that they were watching anything other than this. 

There’s a beat of silence that seems to stretch on forever as Hamid silently reassures himself, knowing that a jump scare is coming, but all the reassurance is for naught when the music spikes and one of the killers jumps out from behind a closet door. He doesn’t scream, but it’s a near thing, and his hand shoots out and grabs Zolf’s, squeezing it tightly as Hamid tries not to lose it in the middle of the theater. 

It takes him a moment to realise that he’s basically holding Zolf’s hand, and his heart does a stutter-stop in time with the music on the screen as it hits him. 

“Oh - oh, sorry -“ Hamid whispers, trying to pull his hand back, but Zolf just holds onto it, turning his own palm up and sliding their fingers together. 

“Hey, you okay?” he whispers back, and Hamid leans a bit closer, squeezing his eyes shut finally at the… sheer amount of gore on the screen. He doesn’t respond, just shakes his head, and Zolf squeezes his hand a little tighter. “I’ll tell you when you can open your eyes, yeah?”

Hamid nods, and at a particularly loud swell in the music, tightens his grip on Zolf’s hand. He wishes he could cover his ears as well, as the fight continues on the screen, and Zolf pulls his hand a bit closer until Hamid follows. The arm of the chair digs into his side, almost a welcome distraction as his arm presses against Zolf’s. He curls closer, head nearly buried in Zolf’s shoulder as he pulls his legs up and wraps his free arms around them. Zolf sighs, exasperated and fond.

“You should have told me you don’t like scary movies,” Zolf whispers. Hamid opens his eyes, shivering a bit at how close Zolf is to his ear, but doesn’t back away. Zolf sounds a bit disappointed, or maybe concerned, or a mix of the two.

“Sorry,” Hamid whispers back, quiet enough that no one around them will hear.

“No, that’s -“ Zolf stammers for a bit. “I didn’t mean - it’s not your fault , I - we could have picked something else.”

“It’s - it’s -“

Someone sitting in the row behind them shushes them, and Hamid gives them a weak, apologetic smile. They don’t seem that forgiving, but must catch how nervous and on-edge Hamid looks, since they just sigh and turn back to the film. 

“Do you need to leave?” Zolf whispers, glaring daggers at the person even as he focuses on Hamid, concerned, and Hamid shakes his head.

“No, I - I’m fine,” Hamid says, quieter than before. “I’m just - I’m going to stay here?” 

Zolf nods. “Shouldn’t have too much longer, yeah?” he whispers, lips almost brushing Hamid’s skin with how close he is, and Hamid can’t do anything but nod. Zolf’s thumb strokes absently against his skin, a repetitive motion that Hamid finds calming, and it helps him get through the rest. The movie lasts longer than Hamid likes, but it’s… easier, with Zolf there. Eventually, the movie closes and the credits start to roll. Hamid cracks an eye open, and then drops Zolf’s hand, settling back in his own seat before the lights completely come up. 

Azu leans over with a hand on Hamid’s shoulder. “Are you alright? You were very quiet during the film.”

Hamid smiles up at her. “It was - it was fine,” he says, demure as anything, and it’s technically not a lie. Azu doesn’t seem to buy it, not completely, but she doesn’t pry.

“Next time, you can choose what we see,” she promises, and Hamid perks up a bit. He’s already got some ideas.

They all file out of the cinema and start making their way back to Zolf’s truck. As they’re on their way back, Hamid pulls up short, tugging at the sleeve of Zolf’s shirt to get him to stop for a moment. Zolf does, turning and giving him a confused look. 

“Thank you, Zolf,” Hamid says, before anything else, resting his hand on Zolf’s arm. Sasha and Azu keep walking ahead of them, arguing fondly about the ending of the film. 

“Anytime,” Zolf says, and a corner of his mouth curves up before he turns around and heads off after Azu and Sasha. Hamid smiles to himself as Zolf walks away, and bites his lip, wrapping an arm around his waist. He’s… in this a bit deeper than he thought. 

 

 

Couples laugh and spin together, all dancing in the meadow as the sun begins to set over the hills in the distance. Hamid rests his chin on his cheek, watching them all with a soft grin on his face. He’s not properly drunk, really, but he’s happily tipsy and having a lovely time as he sways slightly to the music in his chair.

“Having fun?” he hears, and nearly falls as he spins around to see Zolf taking the empty chair next to him, champagne in hand. He looks stunning in an all-black suit, with a small red camellia flower tucked into his jacket pocket. 

“Zolf!” Hamid exclaims, and leans over to give him a hug. It’s brief, but Hamid can feel his heart doing the same pitter-patter it always does when he’s around Zolf; honestly, he’s mostly become used to it at this point. “Is that mine?”

Zolf nods and hands him the second glass of champagne, which Hamid accepts gratefully, taking a sip. It’s sweeter than he expected, and he finishes the drink, setting the glass down on the table. 

“Do you remember what you promised me last year?” he asks, kicking one leg over the other as he stares at Zolf. 

Zolf makes a show out of looking like he’s thinking hard and then shakes his head. “Can’t say I do, why?”

Hamid gently kicks Zolf in the calf - it’s his prosthetic leg, and Hamid rolls his eyes when Zolf pretends like it hurts. “Zolf! You know what it is. You promised to dance with me this year.”

“Couldn’t be me,” Zolf says, shaking his head. 

“Zoooooolf,” Hamid pouts, crossing his arms, and Zolf leans back, fingers tapping on the table as he considers Hamid. “Please?”

“...Fine,” Zolf relents, and stands, holding his hand out to Hamid. “May I have this dance?” 

Hamid beams at him, and reaches out, sliding his hand into Zolf’s. “I thought you’d never ask.”

He takes the lead, tugging Zolf after him into the throng. Zolf stumbles after, a little awkward with his prosthetic, but falls into the rhythm of it easily enough. They dance together for what feels like hours, even though it can’t have been that long and the sun hasn’t yet fully set. Hamid laughs, breathless, and Zolf twirls him, catching him again and again with his hands. Sasha and Azu find them in the meadow at one point, and Hamid finds Sasha’s hands, spinning around and around in a circle as he laughs. Sasha does a complicated dip, supporting Hamid with an arm, and Hamid throws his hands up, one up straight and one arcing over his face, leaning into the bit. Azu’s next, nearly lifting Hamid off the ground with her enthusiasm and Hamid wraps his arms around her neck as they both get into an elaborate two-step while Zolf and Sasha do a complicated jig. Hamid loses track of who he’s dancing with and where, letting the music carry him, and it builds and builds to a crescendo as he runs a hand through his hair, throwing his arms out to the side. 

He spins once, and once more, and then stumbles into Zolf again, both breathing heavily. Zolf’s eyes are shining, and Hamid feels his breath hitch as his lips flick to Zolf’s lips before moving back up. The song changes to something slow and sweet, a gentle melody that tugs at his heartstrings.

“Hey, Hamid,” Zolf says, no louder than a whisper, and Hamid wants nothing more than to pull him down into a kiss.

“Hi,” he murmurs back, and it’s like the world around them melts away as Zolf reaches out and takes Hamid’s hands in his. Hamid’s pulled in, a gravitational orbit that he doesn’t think he ever wants to leave, and they spin slowly in place. Hamid leans in, closer, ever closer, until his head is nearly resting on Zolf’s shoulder. His one hand is still linked with Zolf’s, and his other slides down from Zolf’s shoulder to rest against his chest.

He swears he can feel Zolf’s heartbeat quicken under his palm, and Hamid looks up at him, eyes half-lidded. They move, slowly, swaying back and forth to the beat of the song, fancy moves all but forgotten as their fingers entwine. Hamid rests his head on Zolf’s shoulder, and after a moment he feels Zolf’s cheek press gently against the side of his head as they spin, slowly. 

Time seems to stretch as the song keeps going, and it feels longer to Hamid than it should be, but he’s not going to complain if it means he gets to still feel his hand in Zolf’s, feel Zolf’s hand resting on the small of his back. He slides his own hand up, now, wrapping his arm around Zolf’s neck with his fingers brushing against Zolf’s spine, and breathes out, trying to memorise how all of this feels. 

He - he wants to be able to have this. Not only for a dance, for - for forever, and there’s a small burning ember in Hamid’s chest that keeps growing and growing anytime he’s close to Zolf. Soon, he’s not going to be able to keep it all in; still, he… doesn’t want to ruin this, not really, and that’s reason enough for him to keep it a bit locked up. 

(He doesn’t think Zolf would be rude to him about it, not really. Zolf isn’t the type. He just… doesn’t want to deal with potential awkwardness that inevitably comes with w confession, especially one where Hamid is nearly certain that the other person doesn’t feel the same.)

The song fades away, eventually, and the world swims back into focus. People laugh and chat with each other, a few couples begin to kiss on the floor, and some others run up to the DJ station to request different songs. Hamid tries to stay in the moment for as long as he can, but all things have to come to an end. 

Zolf’s hand tightens on his back as the new song playing starts to pick up, and Hamid takes one last second just for himself before pushing himself away from Zolf. His hand slips out from Zolf’s grip, and it’s a lovely, warm night out, but Hamid feels suddenly, strangely, cold and bereft. A ship drifting without any heading, feeling suddenly unsettled and unsure. He glances up to see Zolf watching him, and their eyes meet for a moment before both of them look away.

“Ha -“ Zolf starts to say, mouth pressing together in a determined line. 

“Thank you for the dance,” Hamid cuts him off before he can finish what he’s saying, and Zolf closes his mouth.

“Er - yeah, it - didn't realise you were that good at dancing,” Zolf asks, and the note of curiosity is clear enough that Hamid picks up on it.

“That’s sweet of you,” Hamid says, smiling. “I took classes with my older sisters. My parents made all of us take classes. although Saleh was so inflexible that they didn’t make him continue for long. I think the twins still take some classes, although not as many as they used to.”

Zolf laughs. “That would explain it. Kept me on my toes.”

Hamid bites the inside of his cheek. Zolf is… giving him a soft look, one Hamid can’t completely decipher, but something in his chest is yelling at him to - to take a chance on something, for once. He unceremoniously pushes it down, as much as he can, and wraps one of his arms across his torso, grabbing and holding tightly onto his other arm’s elbow.

“I should, erm - I should really get going, you know, work tomorrow and all. Lots to - more stocking needs to be done, so I was going to get an early start of it,” Hamid says, trying to sound as casual as he can. He takes another step back, putting distance between himself and Zolf, and he knows he’s just imagining the slightly hurt and confused look on Zolf’s face but it doesn’t mean that his heart doesn’t give a sudden painful twinge when he does so. 

“Right, er - night,” Zolf says, and Hamid swears there’s something else there, but Zolf just reaches out before pulling his hand back. It falls to his side, and Zolf watches Hamid for a moment more before giving him a little wave. He turns, heading back toward where Hamid saw Feryn beforehand.

“Night,” Hamid whispers, mentally kicking himself and wishing he had just a little bit more courage. 

 

 

“Yes, yes! Good! Keep doing that!” Einstein calls, clapping in time as Hamid concentrates on feeling the magic flowing through his veins. 

The fireball that Hamid is moving around the meadow is larger than any he’s worked with before, and it’s taking nearly all his concentration to not set any of the flowers or grass on fire as he manipulates it. His control has improved drastically since he’d started training with Einstein’s few months ago, but as confident as Hamid feels now, he has zero desire to make a return trip to the mines anytime soon. 

They’ve started branching out into different kinds of magic, teaching Hamid more than just control, and Einstein 

Zolf’s here, as well, because Einstein had asked Hamid to bring a partner for some new spell practice, and there wasn’t anyone else Hamid could ask (not that he wanted to, honestly). Sasha’s got a delivery for the antiques shop to handle, and seasonal allergies are out in full force so Azu and Grizzop are stuck at the clinic. Plus, Hamid… wants to spend more time with Zolf, even if it does mean he’s having to think more about how he feels. He’s more or less come to terms with the fact that he has romantic feelings for Zolf, now. It’s - it almost felt inevitable, in a way, even if he hadn’t really realised it until they’d both been sitting on a dock alone together and Zolf had given him his coat and Hamid had seen how soft and beautiful he looked in the moonlight. 

He… doesn’t know whether or not Zolf feels the same in return, and he doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or their working relationship with something as silly as a confession. It’s - it’s not even that Hamid fears that Zolf would laugh at him or would stop speaking to him, he just… he likes what they have now, enjoys how they can spend endless amounts of time together, and he doesn’t want to have to tiptoe around each other. Anything further… Hamid can leave that to his hopes and dreams, he supposes.

Not that it makes it any easier when he catches Zolf watching him with a hint of something on his face, something Hamid can’t identify. Which he’s doing now, which is proper distracting, and Hamid lets the fireball revert to nothingness before it can grow too much as his cheeks heat. 

“Okay! Very good, you’re doing better than last week. Which is good for me, considering my eyebrows have only just grown back,” Einstein says, clapping his hands. “Now, we bring in the partner. Your concentration is very important to this exercise, yes? I need you to promise Einstein. Promise you will focus.”

Hamid nods. “I promise, professor.”

Einstein stares at him for a moment longer, gaze intense, and Hamid feels himself shrinking. It doesn’t last, though, and then Einstein is leaning back as he snaps his hand.

“Good!” he exclaims, and then spins on his heel to look over at Zolf. “Nice farm boy! Over here, please, come now - yes, good!”

Zolf raises an eyebrow at him but trudges over, careful not to step on the flowers that are starting to bloom throughout the meadow. He comes to a stop a bit away from Hamid, and then Einstein reaches out and grabs his shoulders, moving Zolf around until he’s standing right in front of him, close enough for Hamid to touch. 

“Hands out,” Einstein commands, and Zolf sticks his hands out, and Einstein comes over, clucking his tongue. “No, no, like this!” He grabs Zolf’s wrists and turns them so that his palms are facing the sky, and then takes Hamid’s hands and positions them so that his fingers are resting against Zolf’s palm. “Perfect!”

Hamid can already feel himself blushing, and hopes against hope that Zolf can’t see it on his face. He’s less worried about Einstein noticing, honestly, but still continues looking steadfastly down at their hands just in case.

“Now! Hamid, just like I taught you. You know what to do,” Einstein says, and Hamid nods. The entire point is that he doesn’t really know what to do, which is why he’s training for it today, but he does understand the concept behind it, at least. Einstein takes a few steps back, large ones, until he’s nearly on the other side of the meadow. “I totally believe in you!”

Hamid laughs, and Zolf chuckles.

“Funny way of showing it,” Zolf says, and Hamid grins. 

“Promise not to turn us both into a fireball,” Hamid responds, and Zolf sighs overdramatically.

“Thank the gods, was worried you had a secret plan to get rid of me,” he teases, and Hamid’s fingers press gently into Zolf’s skin at the implication.

“I don’t want you to go anywhere,” Hamid says, quiet, and maybe it’s too vulnerable, maybe it’s too soft, but the look in Zolf’s eyes is -

“Get on with it!” Einstein yells, hands cupped around his mouth, and Hamid starts, leaning back a bit.

There’s a beat of silence, both him and Zolf looking away from each other, and then their eyes meet again as both of them let out a soft laugh. 

Hamid moves his hand until his fingers are wrapping around Zolf’s wrist, and Zolf does the same, holding tightly onto him. 

“Do you trust me?” Hamid asks, giving Zolf a final chance to back out of this. He looks up, finally, to see Zolf looking at him with nothing but belief in his gaze, and Hamid feels a little breathless with it. 

“Always,” Zolf says, and squeezes Hamid’s wrist as he gives him a quick reassuring smile. Hamid… really needs to get his heartbeat in order, because it constantly skipping beats anytime Zolf smiles at him is starting to be a bit of an inconvenience. 

Hamid shuts his eyes. It’s a bit different to focus when Zolf is smiling at him like that, open and trusting, and he’d promised Einstein not to get distracted. Instead, he concentrates on the magic flowing through his veins, and they lift up off the ground together, no more than a few inches. Zolf’s hands grip his a bit more tightly when their feet leave the ground, and Hamid can feel his pulse speeding up under his fingers. Hamid holds the spell for as long as he can, and cracks his eyes open. 

A soft, brassy glow surrounds the two of them, tendrils snaking all around them and curling up along their arms. It feels like static against his skin, and Hamid recognises the essence of his magic as it presses against him. The glow brightens steadily, shadows dancing across their skin, and Hamid looks up at Zolf. He’s - okay, Hamid should really stop being surprised by this, but… he’s beautiful

Hamid lets the spell fade slowly as they gently sink back down to the ground, grass tickling their ankles once more. 

“What did you think?” he asks, smiling shyly.

“It was amazing , Hamid,” Zolf says, sounding almost breathless himself, and his eyes are shining as he looks up at Hamid. There’s something else there, something Hamid can’t puzzle out. “ You were amazing.”

Hamid laughs, quiet, looking through his lashes at Zolf. They’re so close, now, that Hamid could just lean forward a bit , and -

“Wow!” he hears Einstein call over, and the moment, thin as anything, fades. They both look down, noticing that they’re still holding on to each other, and both of them let go at the same time. 

Zolf gives a bit of an awkward laugh, rubbing his hand along the back of his neck. He glances at Hamid for a second, and then away again, pinpricks of red obvious on his cheeks. 

“I’m glad it worked, er - do you… want to stay?” Hamid asks, suddenly feeling very shy as he tucks a lock of hair back behind his ears. and Zolf glances between him and Einstein for a moment. “It shouldn’t be too much longer, just a few more drills.”

Zolf shrugs. “Sure. Not doing much else.”

Einstein nods. “Wonderful! Now! You go over there,” he shoos Zolf off until he’s about twenty paces away, and then comes back, instructing Hamid on what he has to do next.

Hamid glances over once Zolf has finished, and Zolf shoots him a thumbs up from where he’s leaning against a tree just at the edge of the meadow, and Hamid can’t help the grin that spreads across his face. 

He looks away and takes a breath, closing his eyes. The magic flows through him, feeling as comfortable as a second skin. He reaches a hand out, and casts. 

 

 

Hamid is warm and cosy, wrapped up in one of Zolf’s overlarge jumpers with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. It’s nearly summer, now, but the chill in the air comes back with a vengeance at night. Azu, Sasha, Zolf, Grizzop, and himself are all sitting out in one of the fields on Zolf’s farm for a start-of-summer bonfire to celebrate the new season. Hamid had come slightly unprepared - he’d brought all the fixings to make s’mores, but forgotten to bring a coat, and the fire can only do so much. 

The fire is crackling away, smoke billowing up through the trees. It’s a clear night out, and if Hamid looks up, he swears he can see every star in the night sky. He’s been in Dunnock Town for nearly a year and a half now, and he still gets the same sense of amazement every time he sees just how many stars there are. After years of living in the city, seeing the night sky this unclouded by light pollution is nothing short of gorgeous. 

He and Zolf are sitting together on a small log, and Sasha and Azu are cuddling up on a blanket across from them. Grizzop has commandeered the only chair out there, sitting sideways in it with his legs hanging over the arm. He and Sasha are arguing about… something inconsequential, probably something to do with daggers - Hamid had lost track a few minutes ago. 

It’s getting to be late - past midnight late, which is fine because tomorrow is a bank holiday, so they can all sleep in and make a day of it. Hamid can feel the exhaustion starting to take hold; it’s been a long day working the shop. A new season always brings in a wealth of new customers, and today hadn’t been any different. 

“‘m tired,” Hamid yawns, and leans against Zolf, not awake enough to think about the potential reasons why he should probably not rest his head against Zolf’s shoulder. Zolf makes a startled little noise for a moment but automatically adjusts how he’s sitting to make room for Hamid. He shuts his eyes, feeling safe and secure as Zolf’s arm wraps around his shoulders, fingers brushing comfortably against his side. 

Sasha continues telling a story about one of her mates from when she was young, hand gestures and all. Hamid watches her tell the story, as animated as Sasha ever is, and can’t help the flare of happiness in his chest when he sees how much love and adoration is in Azu’s gaze as she watches her. Sasha finishes with a flourish; Zolf’s chest rumbles as he laughs, and Hamid smiles absently, falling a bit further into him. This is… it’s nice. Zolf is a steady, solid surface for Hamid to lean on, and he’s helping stave off the chill just as much as the fire and his coat and blanket are doing. 

Speaking of the blanket. Hamid pushes himself up for a bit, and Zolf turns to look at him, confused, but Hamid just reaches around his shoulder, tucking the blanket around him as well. Zolf grabs it with the hand not around Hamid’s waist, pulling it tight so that it’s secure around both of their shoulders. 

Hamid leans back into him, head falling comfortably onto Zolf’s shoulder, and he feels more than sees Zolf pull him a bit closer. He smiles, content, and shuts his eyes against the glow of the fire. He’ll only keep his eyes closed for another minute, and then maybe he’ll convince everyone to leave so that he can go to sleep. Just a few moments, Hamid thinks, and yawns.

The next thing he feels is a slight rocking sensation, and he scrunches up his face as he makes a slight noise of confusion. He’s colder than he remembers, and he can’t hear anyone else speaking or the crackle of the fire. 

“Hey, Hamid,” Zolf says, and Hamid blinks awake to see Zolf looking down at him. It takes him a moment to realise that Zolf is carrying him into the house, and that his head is nestled perfectly against Zolf’s warm and sturdy shoulder.

“Did I…” Hamid trails off, brain still needing a moment to catch up. 

“Yeah, you fell asleep. Didn’t want to wake you, figured you could crash here for the night,” Zolf explains, still not louder than a whisper, and Hamid yawns. “Sasha and Azu headed out with Grizzop a few minutes ago. Figured you could just crash here and then I could drive you back tomorrow.”

Hamid nods, hair brushing against Zolf’s collarbone. “You’re warm,” he mumbles sleepily, and lets his eyes slip shut again as he tries to cuddle even closer. It’s not easy, considering how close he already is, but his fingers wrap around Zolf’s shirt, knuckles resting against Zolf’s chest as Hamid feels his faint heartbeat pick up. 

He hears the screen door open, and then Zolf takes a step up into the house. Hamid’s jostled a bit as Zolf gently nudges the door closed with his foot, and he cracks his eyes open to see Zolf heading into the living room. 

“Down you get,” Zolf grunts, and carefully crouches in front of the couch as he sets Hamid down. He straightens, bones cracking, and points at a small chest just on the other end of the couch. “Er - blankets are in here, pillows too. Anything else, just, er - let me know.”

Hamid nods, still a bit too tired to really parse much. “Thank you,” he says, and could swear that Zolf’s cheeks got a bit pinker at that. “Really.”

“I’m gonna go get ready, er - need to. Brush my teeth, and. Yeah. You’ll be alright out here?” Zolf asks. “You could take the bed if you want, but -“

“This is perfect , ” Hamid murmurs, sitting up on the couch as he stretches. Zolf’s lips quirk up in a smile. 

“Night, Hamid. Sleep well,” he says, and turns to leave. Hamid catches his hand as Zolf starts to walk away, fingers brushing against his wrist as Zolf pauses, turning back to look at him. 

“Yeah?” he asks, and Hamid swears there’s something there, something hopeful , and, gods, Hamid could pull him in, could just… take a leap of faith.

“Thank you,” Hamid says, and it’s not what he wanted to say, not really, but the nerves have curled up in his stomach again, and he can’t bring himself to say what he really means. 

“Of course,” Zolf says, without hesitation, and Hamid’s hand slips down Zolf’s wrist until their fingers are tangled again. 

It’s dim, in the room, and both of them are outlined in shadow, lit only by the light of the moon streaming in from the open window. They look at each other, spellbound, and Hamid brushes his thumb across Zolf’s knuckles. The silence stretches between them, a tenuous thread that Hamid doesn’t know what to do with except keep watching Zolf, who’s staring at him as though he’s working up the courage to do… Hamid doesn’t know, something, and Hamid is wondering if maybe he should make a move, and then - 

There’s a skittering sound from outside, most likely a squirrel running across the top of the roof, but just like that the moment snaps, and Hamid drops Zolf’s hand at the same time that Zolf almost stumbles back, unsteady. He swallows heavily, and runs a hand through his hair. 

“Night,” Zolf says, voice carefully neutral, and Hamid echoes him as he turns and leaves the room, leaving Hamid alone on the couch in the dark. 

He moves methodically after that, pulling off his shoes and socks and letting them fall to the ground with a quiet thud. Everything feels… off, somehow, unbalanced even, and Hamid doesn’t know… why. He runs a hand through his hair and curses softly under his breath, heartbeat finally calming down to a more appropriate rhythm. Pushing it to the back of his mind for now, he reaches over to the chest and digs through, pulling out a soft blanket and pillow that he lays out on the couch before laying down himself with a small huff. 

He throws his arm over his eyes, and in the silence, he can’t keep the thoughts at bay. For a moment there, when his hand grabbed Zolf’s, he thought Zolf was going to kiss him, or… maybe it was the other way around? Maybe he was going to pull Zolf to him and pull him down, and Zolf would kiss him back and it would be - Hamid runs fingers over his lips, and then shakes his head as he feels the blush spreading across his cheeks. 

Oh, dear.