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Septimus kept his arm around Sweet, sighing as the light dismissed his panic fully. This time, when he spoke, his voice came out evenly. “Yeah, I wanna drop my stuff off first of all. It’s not heavy or anything but I don’t have to haul my laptop around, right?”
“Right,” Sweet agreed. He started to pull away.
“Where’re you going?” Septimus protested softly. “Haven’t said hello properly yet.” He tugged Sweet back, leaning in close as Sweet’s confusion changed to realization.
Septimus kissed Sweet gently, a soft brush of lips on lips, swallowing the hot gust of Sweet’s breath as his mouth opened slightly. Sweet was always a bit shy about kissing—not unwilling, never that. But he acted as though it was a surprise each time. As though, each time, he was never quite sure what to do with his mouth at first. Sweet had assured him before that he had no problem with it—that he liked kissing, and definitely didn’t want Septimus to stop doing it, and would like one right now, actually—but Septimus still liked to be gentle and careful about it, at least at first, to get Sweet past that first moment of surprise and shyness.
The kiss between them grew heated, Sweet’s teeth catching briefly at Septimus’s lip, a hot wet press of tongue tasting Septimus before he pulled back.
“Hi,” Septimus muttered.
“Hi,” Sweet said back, a little breathless. He drew a great lungful of air, then let it out slowly as his mouth found a smile again, eyes fixed on Septimus’s. “So. Let’s go drop off your stuff?”
“Let’s,” Septimus agreed. He swallowed, willing his heart to find its normal pace again, though this time for another reason. “Why don’t you show me around the house as you go? Looks old. 1920s maybe?”
Sweet shrugged a shoulder. “Thereabouts,” he said. “When it was built, anyway. It’s been kept up to date, though.” He pulled away, Septimus’s arm falling from around him.
And something shifted.
For a moment, Septimus couldn’t even register what was happening. It was like the floor had fallen away beneath him, like some great yawning maw had opened under his feet, gravity pulling him away as up became down and down became up and sideways became something else altogether, something impossible. He didn’t recall making any kind of sound, but he must have, because the world righted itself abruptly again around a point of connection, Sweet’s hand suddenly squeezing his.
“You okay?” Sweet asked, brows furrowed.
“Vertigo,” Septimus gasped. He drew a deep breath, and another, but the world had fully stopped spinning. Still, he found himself reluctant to let go of Sweet’s hand. “I’m okay now. Guess I’m hungrier than I realized.”
“We’ll get you something to eat once we’ve dropped your stuff off,” Sweet said, still concerned. “Think you can manage the stairs?”
Nodding, half to triple check that his sense of balance wasn’t going to desert him, Septimus said, “Yeah. I think I’ll be fine. Hope I’m not getting sick.”
“Hope so too,” Sweet said, and tugged him out of the room.
The laundry room led to an odd hallway, bent and crooked in a boxy S-shape, with several doors off it at its various bends. The strangeness of the design, along with the woodwork that spoke of a different age, did lend to a sense of creepiness, though how much of that was Septimus’s expectations was hard to say. Especially while still alarmed by what had just happened.
Sweet pointed as they went. “The open doorway at the end leads to the living room,” he said. “This door leads to the kitchen. There’s a dining room connected to both the living room and the kitchen on the other side, but there isn’t a table in it anymore so we’re going to eat in the kitchen itself. This door leads to the basement steps—don’t go down there, okay? It’s a mess and not really safe if you don’t know your way around, exposed wires and nails and stuff. Don’t want to have to drive a few hours to the hospital in the middle of the night.”
He couldn’t imagine wanting to go rooting around in a strange basement anyway. Though he did find himself curious to check out the rest of the house, open doors and see what little mementos of Sweet’s childhood might be around. A basketball in the front hall, or childhood photos on the walls—something like that. Maybe later, he concluded, when he’d got more settled. “Right,” Septimus said.
The certainty in his tone had earned him a grin. “And these are the stairs up. C’mon, I’ll spot you.”
Sweet kept hold of one of his hands, while Septimus held the wooden banister with the other. The lacquered wood steps creaked under him but were secure, and the vertigo didn’t return.
The hallway on the second floor was, thankfully, straight. “Bathroom’s there,” Sweet said, pointing. “The door at the end is the master bedroom. Mom doesn’t come back here any more so if you’d rather not share a bed with me, I can take that room. I don’t want to, uh, assume. You can stay in my room either way, though, it’s a lot more comfy. Let me know after you’ve had a chance to think about, I, you know, what you want.”
Septimus didn’t have a chance to respond to the stammered request, as Sweet had continued to lead him to his own bedroom door as he talked, then opened it, bringing him in. It looked clean and warm, the light already on. The window overlooked dark trees. There was a double bed, a closet with a few hangers though no clothes hanging in it, a bookshelf with just a couple of books sitting on it, and a dresser with an old mirror covered by a dust cloth. Though, Septimus noted, there didn’t seem to be any dust around, no cobwebs or spiders. He knew that Sweet lived two hours away in the city, but it looked like this place was kept ready to come back to at any time.
“Did you tell me to come separately so you could get here early and clean up?” Septimus demanded.
Grinning at him, Sweet gestured at the bed, a go on then gesture. “Unpack already. You can use my dresser or closet if you want, but since you only have a backpack with you, I can’t figure you’ll want to.” At that, Sweet pulled away, moving to sit at his desk chair.
As Sweet’s hand slipped from his, Septimus felt a moment of panic. But the vertigo didn’t reoccur, and he felt a little silly for thinking it might. Physical contact could hardly prevent dizziness.
To cover up his embarrassment, he dumped his backpack out on the bed, then slipped his phone into his pocket and hooked his flashlight onto his belt. Even with his phone’s flashlight function, it was better to be safe than sorry—especially given his dizzy spell earlier, he had no desire to be stuck in the dark if the power went out unexpectedly. Sweet’s eyebrows raised, but he nodded a moment later, like he’d made sense of the choice.
“Food now?” Sweet asked, when Septimus was done. “Do you need to rest up while I cook or will you be all right? I’ve got a variety of canned goods I can heat up for you. We will all dine like gourmets tonight.”
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[Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Conclusion | Author’s Notes]