Amity can’t answer the question. It’s not that she doesn’t know the answer–she does, she absolutely knows the answer, she’s studied this chapter for an entire week–it’s that she can’t say the answer. Between watching Luz in mortal danger on a crystal ball, seeing her mentor get stripped of her rank and being unable to talk to her due to her judgmental parents, and trying to get used to being back in class now that her leg’s all healed, she was just overwhelmed. Everything was too much, all at once, and she just… she couldn’t…
“S-sorry,” Amity forced out quickly, “I-I n-need to use the restroom. I’ll be back shortly.”
Her teacher tried to interrupt her but it was too late–Amity had stood and clambered out of the classroom, her book bag in tow. Her teacher sighed as the door closed behind her–she could hear the muttered “You need a hall pass” behind the door, which she quickly ignored, darting down the hallway as quick as she could.
It was a routine she’d practiced before. She didn’t clam up like this often, but when it happened, she had a plan, she knew how to be normal again. She just needed to follow the lines–left and down the hallway, forward through the door, right and past the bushes, another right into the space between buildings. Hide, calm down, go back. No longer than 10 minutes. She could do this. She’d done it before.
Having arrived at her chosen hiding spot, Amity nearly collapsed, throwing her book bag to the floor before curling into herself, rocking back and forth in frustration. She was angry at herself, face bright red and eyes locked shut. How could this happen again? She knew better than to just stop talking. She couldn’t keep doing this! Couldn’t she have just grown out of this by now? Tears gathered at the fringes of her eyes and she wiped them away quickly with a sleeve, wet eyeliner smearing against pink fabric.
Just breathe, Amity. Focus on talking again. Try saying something, anything at all. She opened her mouth, tried to make a sound–all that came out was a small whine. Pathetic. She curled up tighter, then, trying to ignore how badly she wanted to punch her own head. She didn’t need this to be one of those days, too–the part where she hit herself could wait until she was locked up in her room after class. This would go away like it always did. It had to. No one would see her shame, no one would know she was here, and no one would know she was anything but normal.
Trying again to calm down, Amity tried an old technique she’d relied on many times in the past. She took in a breath and tried to take stock of the things she saw around her. This hiding space was familiar, and she’d performed this exercise so many times that she could recite the things from memory, but this had a tendency to work no matter what. Bricks–grey and worn, the make up of the walls of Hexside. Glass–windows into classrooms she was unfamiliar with. Pavement, cement–the foundation of the school, bricks laid over it. Grass–pushing lightly into her leggings, surrounding the school and her curled up form. Metal–a door on the ground in the space between the buildings, withholding access to some basement she’d never been into. She always assumed it was some sort of maintenance entry, and she’d never seen it opened, but it was always there. Sky–the ever pink and purple hue, a sort of perpetual twilight, soft and– [grass metal bush tree sky metal]
Wait. Hang on, wait. Did the metal just… move? Did the metal trap door just–what?
The door opened, pushed from below, and out popped the familiar and inquisitive face of one Luz the Human, looking as confused and curious as ever. “Huh! So that led outside! Neat! I’ve gotta tell Viney about this.”
Amity shook, frightened by the sudden interjection. Luz? How did she get here? Where did she come from? Why was she here? Why now? Why, why, why? Of all people, of all places, Luz?! She curled up, trying to hide herself so that Luz wouldn’t see her, so that she’d go back through the trap door in the ground to whatever strange B-plot she’d popped out of and not notice that she was here at all.
“Wait, hang on, is that… Amity!,” Luz exclaimed, clearly very surprised to see a familiar face here–or, at least, a familiar body, as her face was quite hidden at the moment. “You’ll never believe what I’ve been up to today! Viney and Jerbo were showing me more secret hallways, and…”
Luz trailed off, then, noticing that Amity was still hiding her face away, curled up against herself. Was she… shaking?
“Hey, Amity, are you okay?”
No. No no no no no no no. Go away. Not right now, go away, go back in your hole, go away.
Luz gave it another try, softening her voice. “Amity, if you’re not alright, that’s okay, I can help! Just let me know how I can help, okay?”
Amity just shook harder, tears slipping out of her eyes again, eyeliner staining her hidden face. She made a soft whine, near involuntarily. She can’t… she can’t just tell Luz what’s wrong, because she can’t say anything at all! How do you let someone know that you can’t talk?!
Luz leaned down softly, trying to give Amity space. Maybe… maybe Amity couldn’t tell her what was wrong at all? She sat on the floor across from Amity, close enough but giving her plenty of space. Amity kept shaking, clearly trying to keep her distance. “Hey, hey,” Luz said softly, “it’s okay Amity. Are you having trouble talking right now?”
Amity’s pointed ear peeked up just a bit. She couldn’t know, could she? Hearing the question, she tried to speak up, to defy Luz’s assumptions, but when she opened her mouth, still nothing came out. She was stuck.
Luz placed a hand on the grass in front of her, trying to bridge the gap between them without getting any closer. “Sometimes I have trouble talking too,” she explained. “It’s okay to not talk. Here–do you wanna borrow the paper I use for glyphs?”
Amity, still shaking, looked up to see Luz’s face, as bright and earnest as ever, and Luz’s hands, extended towards her, pen and stack of paper held out invitingly. She uncurled herself enough to grab the pen and paper. She couldn’t look at Luz, not directly–she looked at Luz’s arms, at her chest, examined her multi-colored leggings and sleeves, looked for stray hairs on her head, anywhere but her eyes.
Luz tried to prompt Amity to use the pen and paper she’d handed off. “You can just write down what you need to say, okay? I can wait as long as you need.”
Amity placed the paper in front of her, then. No one had ever given her the chance to communicate without having to talk before. She played with the pen for a moment, trying to think of what to “say,” anything at all. And then, a quick scribble later, she had a note to pass off to the girl in front of her.
How did you know I can’t talk?
Amity handed the paper back to Luz with a look of concern and shock, as if Luz had uncovered a dangerous secret about her that no one could ever know about.
“…I dunno,” Luz replied out loud. “You just… reminded me of me when I get nonverbal,” she explained. “You looked… scared and overwhelmed, and you weren’t really making any noise, so I just… sorta figured.”
Amity reached for the pencil again, cutting Luz off with more quick scribbles. She was shaking less now–being able to communicate was absolutely helpful, even if she couldn’t comprehend how in the isles Luz picked up on what was going on.
Luz gave the paper a quick read and nodded, figuring Amity hadn’t heard the clinical term for it before. “Mhm. It’s… I get nonverbal usually when I’m…. overstimulated. At least, that’s what my mom and my doctor tell me. I used to be nonverbal a lot more when I was little, but I’ve gotten a whole lot better at talking as I’ve gotten older.”
Amity listened carefully to Luz, her attention rapt at every word even if she couldn’t bear looking Luz directly in the eyes at the moment. She got caught on the “when I was little” bit, though. Amity suddenly reminisced on childhood memories, when she was little enough that she hadn’t even met Willow yet, a time when she had a whole lot of trouble communicating with other people in her family. Frustrated asks to “just use your words!” from her parents, faces full of disdain when she couldn’t just speak. She’d fought it back for years, had forced herself to hide these moments when she couldn’t, pushed herself to be better at speaking for them, so they wouldn’t be mad at her anymore.
Luz noticed Amity hadn’t picked up the pencil in a while, and wasn’t sure how to fill in the space. She didn’t think anything bad of it, of course–she had no doubt that Amity had paid her attention, and figured the witchling was probably just deep in thought, processing what she’d explained before. She understood, instinctively–comprehending what other people told her, important things especially, took time and silence when she was nonverbal herself, and so she gave Amity a moment to digest before speaking again.
“Amity,” she began, prompting the witchling to just barely look up, enough for their eyes to meet for a brief moment before Amity turned her glance away, “have… have you heard of autism before, Amity,” Luz asked carefully, her voice only slightly fearful, “does that exist here?”
Amity shook her head no, her ears drooped slightly low at the fear she caught in Luz’s voice.
Luz sighed softly in reply. She always hated this conversation, but she’d never had to have this particular version of it, certainly not with someone like Amity Blight. “It’s… it’s a word for what… what I am. Being autistic means… your brain just works… differently. Especially when it comes to communicating with other people. Sometimes I have trouble looking at people in the eye,” she said, preparing to go into an explanation she’d given many times before, “and sometimes I have trouble talking. Sometimes I talk about the same thing that I’m super excited about for like ever even if the person I’m talking to doesn’t care at all.
“It also changes the way you react to… like, external inputs? Or stimuli?,” she said, struggling to find another way to explain the more clinical bits. “Like, sometimes, when there’s too much noise in a room, I feel super overwhelmed and I just need to go to another room or do something else to make myself feel more in control. Or if I’m in a room that’s too quiet, where there’s just no noise at all, my brain fills in the gaps and it’s really really bad and so I need some sort of noise so that I don’t get overwhelmed by just… brain… fuzz.”
She trailed off then, searching Amity’s face for any trace of understanding. This is the part that made her feel like an alien, and she was desperate to know if Amity was anywhere near the same wavelength.
“Sorry, I um, I sorta tend to ramble when I’m talking about this,” Luz admitted, blushing. “Does this make, any sense? Like at all?”
Amity nodded very quickly, sensing the fear in Luz’s voice again. She grabbed her pencil and jotted down, in a quick scribble,
Yes. Keep going.
Luz nodded, relieved that Amity wasn’t bored of her explanation.
“And I tend to have issues with certain textures? Like there are certain kinds of food I just really can’t eat. But then there are textures that I really like? I really like the rain, at least the rain back on Earth–well, in the human realm, at least, I think we’re still on Earth, but like, y’know, not this part of Earth, uh… anyway, I just, like the texture of the rain on my skin. It’s cold and it’s wet and I like the way it makes little patterns on my arms and I just, really like being in the rain. I like sand a lot too, and cat fur, and also King’s fur because he’s super soft, and I really like clay and putty and… yeah. I also really like certain things, like I get super excited about magic and anime and certain books I read and–“
Amity cut her off then, feeling brave enough suddenly to use her voice, if only for a moment. “Azura!,” she said triumphantly, as if she’d discovered something. She couldn’t say much else, but she could say that. Needed to say that.
Luz nodded excitedly. “Mhm! I’m… my mom said it’s called ‘hyperfixation’. I’m, uh, hyperfixated on Azura. And certain ships in Azura, like I spent an entire day once reading Hezura fanfic and doing nothing else and my mom got super concerned because I needed to do homework but all I wanted to do was read Hezura fics and cry about how cute they were and…”
Amity paused her, tapping at Luz’s hand with a paper she’d written while Luz was going off about her OTP. Luz took the paper, blushing at the thought that she’d spoken too much, and was taken aback at the three words she saw on the page.
You’re like me.
Amity handed her another paper while she was still considering the implications of the paper she’d just finished, and she grabbed that one and placed it down right next to the first.
Or, I’m like you.
Luz looked up from the papers to see Amity’s eyes, all bright and shiny and gold, looking straight into hers for the first time since they’d hidden behind the school earlier. Amity’s expression was full with hope and wonder, like something had clicked, puzzle pieces coming together in her head. She looked so… pretty… and Luz shook that thought from her head, long enough to nod back at Amity, acknowledging what she’d written down.
“Yeah. I think you might be like me too.”
Amity just stared at Luz for a while, taking it all in. Her flushed cheeks, her soft brown hair, her dark eyes looking back into her own. The fact that, finally, for once in her life, she didn’t feel so… broken. Everything Luz had said made sense. All of it. Every single word. The way she’d had trouble talking to people when things got too much, the way she liked to squish abomination goo between her fingers just because it felt right, the way she had to hide the fact that there were entire meals she just couldn’t eat. Finally, finally, finally. Someone else understood. She wasn’t alone. And, more than that, she might have a whole word for the way she’d felt her entire life.
Amity took a deep breath and closed her eyes, counting to ten like she had many times at the Manor when she needed to pretend things were okay long enough to say something to her expectant parents. She was ready to try again.
“I,” she croaked out with a dry throat, swallowing in before giving it another go, “I think I’m ready to go back to class.”
Luz smiled back at her brightly, glad to hear her talking again. “You sure? I don’t mind hiding with you out here a little longer.”
Amity nodded. “Yeah, I’m sure. Thanks for this… I really needed it.”
Luz’s grin only got larger. “Of course, Amity! Anytime.”
Luz leaned back on her hands and propped herself back up, then, brushing her leggings off before reaching her hand down to help Amity up. Amity took it carefully, trying not to think too much about their hands touching, and stood up alongside her friend, gathering her books from the floor.
As they walked back to class together, Luz launched back into the little tirade about Hezura she’d started previously. Amity didn’t mind–she liked listening to Luz talk about how much she liked the “rivals-to-friends-to-lovers” trope. Before they got back to class, though, Amity wanted to make sure the conversation they’d had wasn’t going to end with them going back into the classroom as if that conversation hadn’t just happened.
“Hey, Luz?,” Amity interjected, trying to ask without making Luz feel put off.
Luz paused her fandom ramble and made a little “Mhm?” noise in response.
“Can we hang out soon? At the Owl House? I… I wanna know more about… what you mentioned outside,” she said softly, acknowledging they were in the hallway at this point, surrounded by other students.
Luz nodded, returning her question with an enthusiastic smile. “Yeah, totally! Just let me know when you wanna come over and I’ll tell you everything I know, okay?”
Amity smiled back, a blush dotting both cheeks, her eyes pointedly avoiding Luz’s own once more. “Okay.”