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It was hard knowing how to behave. Ever since she'd spoken to Lucy and Hilarion on the hill a week ago, Molly had been out of sorts with herself and everything around her. Everything felt wrong. She wasn't used to feeling wrong. She didn't care for the experience much, but she didn't know what to do to make it stop.

She tried to carry on as if everything were normal, but the week wore hard on her, watching Fitz pace and shout while she blocked the Quaffle over and over, her only respite when Jinks would fly past to crack jokes with her and make her laugh. Though she never would have believed it, Jinks was turning out to be her closest friend on the team, and had even taken her to dinner one night because he thought she needed cheering. He hadn't asked why, and for that she was deeply appreciative. Taking her mind off of Fitz for an evening was something of a relief, though she went right back to thinking about him as soon as she'd got home to her empty, quiet, spotlessly clean flat.

The team followed Fitz to the locker room on Friday after training, and he stretched out on the couch while they got changed, scribbling in his notes with his feet propped up on a chair in front of him. Molly watched him while she shrugged out of her team robes and into a clean top, trying to be surreptitious.

His face was relaxed, the stress lines around his mouth lessened, and he looked so unbearably fit that she let out a silent sigh.

It wasn't fair that he should look so delectable when she couldn't do anything about it.

Fitz seemed to have no idea she was watching him, concentrated on his notes. “Right, you lot,” he said when everyone was back in their street clothes. “Listen up.”

Molly sat on a bench beside Zara and wrapped her arms around herself while she listened to him lecturing the team about their work that week in training, rubbing her hands slowly up and down her tired upper arms.

I love you. Why was it so hard to get the words out? Whenever she thought maybe she would say it, there was someone around to hear, and when they were alone, she couldn't seem to bring the words to her lips. I love you. She'd said it before to boyfriends, but it felt so different now, so much more pressure for her to get it right this time. It had never been this strong, this consuming.

Say it and move on, she told herself. Once you get it out, and hear him say he's sorry but he doesn't feel the same, then it'll all be over.

And one day maybe it wouldn't hurt any more.

She rolled her eyes at herself. Molly hated being maudlin, even if it was only in her own mind.

“Next Saturday we play Holyhead,” Fitz was saying now, scrawling something on his clipboard. “I'm looking for somewhere for us to stay near the pitch the night before the match. Weasley, any recommendations? You used to live there, you must know somewhere good.”

Her stomach flipped at the thought of going back to Holyhead, her nerves going cold. Thinking of traveling back to Holy Island made it seem far more immediate, where thoughts of playing her old team had always come second to the immediate needs of their next match. She nodded, keeping her face calm. “The visiting teams usually stay at a wizarding hotel in Trearrdur Bay. It's decent enough for a night or two, plenty of rooms.”

He nodded, his attention still on the clipboard. “You'll probably have to spell it for me. Welsh is beyond me. Can't pronounce any of it.”

“Not enough bloody vowels,” Jinks said helpfully.

“I'll write the address for you, you can Floo them,” Molly told him, ignoring Jinks.

“Good. So. Monday it's expected to storm, which means we'll most likely lose the day for training, but try not to get too drunk Sunday night,” he added, giving Duff and Declan a stern look. “If you see any lightning, go ahead and stay home, but if the rain's light enough, we'll give it a half-day. Now get the hell out of here and have a good weekend.” He got to his feet and gave them a wave, then left the locker room, turning down the corridor toward his office.

The team shuffled out cheerfully, leaving in twos and threes until only Molly remained, standing in front of her locker and staring at her team robes hanging on their hook.

She'd got so used to Holyhead green once upon a time, but the purple of Portree seemed more familiar now. There was a small mirror attached to the back of her locker, and she looked at herself blindly for a moment, her own blue eyes staring back at her helplessly.

They were going back to Holyhead. She would have to play against indestructibly sturdy Lyra Brownyard and the rest of her former team, her old life competing against the new.

Blowing out a long breath, Molly focused on her face again, the slightly smudged navy-blue eyeliner and the blonde and purple dreads with just a hint of red growing in at the roots. She fixed the smudges as best she could, and grabbed her dragonhide jacket, shrugging into the comfortably soft red leather, but she didn't head for home as she should have done.

Instead she went down the hall to Fitz's office, and knocked on the open door, leaning against the jamb.

He looked up from the usual piles of paper in front of him and gave her a smile that was somewhere between hopeful and wary. Tentative, she settled on. He looked tentative.

“Hi Molly.” He gestured to the chair in front of his desk. “Have a seat.”

She curled her legs up as she sat down, hugging her knees to her chest. “Were you busy?”

“I was about to go home. Not busy, I've got time.” He leaned back in his own chair, and cocked her head at her. “What's wrong?”

“I'm worried about playing Holyhead,” she confessed, pulling a face. “It seems stupid. No one else has been concerned about going up against their old teams.”

“I was worried about playing Montrose both times, and I wasn't even on the pitch,” Fitz told her. “I think it's normal. The others probably just kept it to themselves.”

“Duff liked going back to Falmouth and playing his old team,” she pointed out.

“Duff is not normal.”

Molly smiled despite the fluttering of nerves running through her. “I'll give you that one.”

“I would tell you not to worry, but I think you will anyway,” Fitz said then. His gaze was focused on her with a steady intensity that made her heart beat a little faster. “I'm pretty confident about our chances against the Harpies. If we don't win, we'll at least show up well. Try not to stress too much about it.”

“No promises,” she said dryly.

He was still watching her closely. “There's something else on your mind too.”

“I'll be all right.” She hugged her knees a little tighter, and Fitz got up to come round his desk and sit beside her. He grabbed the arms of her chair as he sat down, turning it so they were facing each other.

“You don't look all right. You look... I don't know.” He reached over to brush her cheek with his hand. “Sad maybe. It's not just nerves over the Harpies, is it?”

Rip off the bandage, she told herself, looking at the concern in his eyes. But what if you have it wrong?

“I like to analyze people,” she began, unsure how to go about this discussion, but there was something in his eyes, in his expression, that was open and accepting, and she started talking. “I'm usually spot-on with it, too. I've sort of got used to always being right. I can tell what they're thinking and why they do things, and it's sort of... how I understand them and how I decide how to deal with them. My dad says it's leadership, my cousin Dominique says it's politics, and my cousin Albus says it's manipulation.”

“Maybe it's all of those,” Fitz suggested quietly.

She shrugged. “Maybe. But it's what I do. I'm good at figuring out other people's emotions. I thought I had you figured out, and sometimes I know I do, and sometimes I just don't understand you at all.”

He looked down at his hands. “I might be too much of a mess for you to figure out.”

“Don't say that.” She made a small noise of frustration. “I keep wanting to tell you – look, I'm not good at talking about my feelings. I don't like it. Sometimes people think I don't have any, but-”

“Of course you do,” Fitz responded, his voice firm. He leaned forward with a frown, resting his elbows on his arms, his eyebrows drawn together. “Who says that?”

She quirked an eyebrow. “Half of my relatives, actually.”

He didn't respond to that, only pressed his lips together with annoyance. They stared at each other in silence for what felt like endless minutes, and then Molly asked softly, “Riordan, do you think we have anything like a chance?”

He pulled back, rubbing his chin. “Molly...”

Tell him, she urged herself wildly, but he didn't look like he wanted to hear it, and she was afraid to say it and be wrong about him. He looked regretful, and rather sad.


“I know what McCormack thinks,” she interrupted him, her voice sharper than she'd intended. “I want to know what you think.”

“I don't want to hurt you,” he said in a low voice.

Molly put her feet down, leaning closer to him, mirroring his former posture. “Why are you so sure you will?”

He stared at her, and his expression was shuttered now. Her stomach fluttered. Maybe he was so sure because he knew she was in love and he wasn't. She didn't like that thought. He didn't kiss you like he wasn't in love.

“Please, just... say something.” She put a hand on his knee, trying to get through to him. “Tell me.”

He looked down, not meeting her eyes now. “I think we have a lot riding on this season, and we should concentrate on that right now.”

She wanted to shake him. “Funny thing, I'm capable of concentrating on more than just my job.”

He got up and went back behind his desk again. Retreating, she thought, and defeat was almost overwhelming, choking her. Whatever he felt, if there was anything there, he wasn't going to try.

“It's better that we ended things before it was too late,” he said then, and she looked up at him.

“Was it?”

His expression became wary, and he didn't respond, only looking down at the papers on his desk. Molly thought of that kiss in Falmouth again, and how Lucy said she didn't think Fitz had any idea that Molly loved him, and so she threw caution and her dignity to the wind, betting on her sister's advice when she couldn't trust herself, and finally ripped off the bandage.

“You know,” she said quietly, “it's already too late. I love you. With your bad temper and your refusal to apologize when you're an arsehole and your bloody damn shoulder, and even if you think we can never work out together, I don't care. I would have tried all my life to make it work. You're mine, and I'm yours. I love you.”

She rose and turned to leave, and he was around the desk so fast he might have Apparated. He grabbed her hand to stop her.

“Don't go.” He reached up, cupping her face in his hands, his fingertips gently stroking her cheek. “I love you. I love you, Molly.”

She gave him a small shove, but he didn't budge. “Now you say it, I needed you to say it before-”

“I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I should have said it the first time I felt it. I'm an arse. I love you.” He kissed her, long and sweet, his hands stroking down her arms until they wound round his neck. “In fairness though, you didn't say it before either-”

“Do you want to argue over that or do you want to kiss me?”

There was hardly a contest between those options. “Kiss.”

“Good,” she said, and kissed him, and the kiss swiftly turned from sweet to something far more urgent.

His hands settled on her waist, lifting her up a few inches to pin her against the wall, and she wrapped her legs around his hips, her hands braced on his shoulders. She tugged at his shirt, trying to get the buttons opened, her mouth still fastened on his.

He tore his lips from hers long enough to grin at her. “Don't rip it, I like this shirt-”

“Lock the door.” She gave another sharp tug on the shirt and two buttons popped off, but he didn't care really, because he was kissing her again and she was pulling her own shirt off now.

He reached over and locked the door.


“I hope no one was in the building, because they definitely would've heard that.”

Molly stretched languorously beside him. “You really ought to sound-proof your office.”

He was flat on his back on the floor, one arm thrown over his eyes, still breathing heavily. His face was relaxed and content, and she smiled softly at how handsome he was. She threw one leg over his thighs, enjoying the feel of her skin against his, and he gathered her closer, moving his arm to stroke her leg, his eyes still closed.

“I love your legs,” he murmured drowsily.

“We should get up and get dressed,” Molly said, but she made no move to get up or find her clothes.

“Let's be naked forever.”

“You're such an arse.”

He turned his head to kiss her. “I know. But you still love me.”

“I do love you.” She curled up against him, resting her head on his chest. “We didn't really finish talking, you know.”

“Can't talk, brain starved of oxygen. Need sleep.”

She poked him in the ribs. “I'm serious.”

He went quiet, and she took that as acknowledgment that they still needed to talk. Molly stayed where she was, closing her eyes and running her fingertips idly across his chest. “When you came to my flat that day-”

Fitz heaved a sigh. “McCormack had just chewed me out, I didn't think I had a lot of choice. I should've told her to stuff it. Wish I had.”

“You said you knew we were never going to last.”

“I know,” he said, so quietly she might not have heard him if her ear hadn't been pressed to his bare chest.

“I'm sorry if I made you feel that I... that we...” She couldn't get the words out, but he hushed her softly and kissed the top of her head.

“You didn't. It wasn't about you really, it was about me.”

Molly lifted her head to look at him. He was staring up at the ceiling with an almost pained expression on his face. “Fitz?”

He blew out his breath, but he turned to look at her. “I was afraid, all right?”

“Well, why didn't you just say so?”

“It's not that easy to just say that,” he said, nettled. “I was afraid if we got together, you’d get sick of me and chuck me in a year or so, once you’d realized how awful it was with the arm, and seeing my ex-wife at work every day.”

“And your bad temper,” she added helpfully. “Don’t forget that. You curse at everyone. And I saw you smash your broom that one time. Maybe some anger management classes-”

He kissed her to shut her up. “Yeah, all of that. I knew I was falling in love with you then, and I thought when you left me, it would probably wreck me completely. My life's already been shite the past few years, I didn't need to deliberately make it worse. And when McCormack came shouting at me for it, I... I didn't want to ruin either of our careers when it was only going to end badly anyway.”

“You should have talked to me.” Molly frowned at him, shaking her head. “And trusted me.”

“I didn't know how you felt, only how I felt and that McCormack was pissed and threatening me and I didn't have time to think, so I... chickened out and cocked everything up. I didn't want you to lose your position over it. You're good and you deserve to play.”

She knew exactly what that last bit meant: he'd been willing to take the fall for their relationship so that she could keep her job. She turned toward him, propping her head up on her hand, and dropped a kiss on his shoulder. “You bloody idiotic, sweet man. There's not going to be a when I leave you. I don't ever want to leave you.”

He smiled at that, a slow smile that gave her butterflies. “Good.”

“Let's figure this out, then.”

Fitz let out a long groan. “What, now? My brain's not even fully operational yet-”

“There's got to be a way to make us work and still have our careers as well,” Molly said over his protests.

“All right, all right.” He turned onto his side, his right arm propped up. The scars on his left shoulder and arm showed in stark relief in the artificial light of his office, and Molly ran her hand down them. He'd already lost one career over a woman, even if it hadn't been his fault or his choice, and she was determined not to let him lose another one.

“I could go back to Holyhead,” she offered.

He shook his head. “No. You'd be back on the reserve team. Not an option. I could try for an assistant coach position-”

“Assistant. That's a step down.”

“The other teams already have coaches,” he pointed out. “No one's going to chuck their current coach for me. I'm a first-year coach, I barely know what I'm doing. Might be good to be an assistant, to learn how to do the job. It's what I meant to do here in Portree.”

“You know what you're doing better than you think. You shouldn't have to be an assistant coach. Not an option. Neither of us takes a step down, career-wise.”

Fitz lay down again, his back flat on the carpet, and threw one arm over his forehead with a sigh. “I could retire. Putter around the house watching garden gnomes like my dad.”

She pulled a face. “You would hate that. You wouldn't last a week.”

“What the hell are we going to do?”

This time Molly sighed. “I don't know. Talk to McCormack together?”

“Not sure that'll get us anywhere. Except sacked maybe when she realizes we didn't stop when she told me to put a stop to it.”

“And we have matches coming up. It could mess up the team dynamic, if this gets out and McCormack disapproves. We can't let on in front of any of them unless we do try talking to McCormack.”

They both stared at the ceiling for a few moments. Fitz wasn't so sure he was thinking clearly just yet, but it seemed they weren't getting out of this without giving up something to be together. “Damn,” he said softly.

She leaned over him, resting one arm on his chest to look him in the eyes. “What?”

He kissed her, just because he could, and because he never wanted to stop kissing her. “This rots.”

“Can't have everything.”

“You're always so goddamn reasonable. It's very annoying.”

She laughed, and it made him smile just to hear her, especially since she was still naked in his arms. “It's true, though.”

“So long as I have you.”

She curled back up against him, resting her head on his chest so the blonde and purple dreads fell over his shoulder. “No more worrying about down the line when I get tired of your bullshit?”

Only a little, but he didn't want to admit that. “I'll convince you I'm still interesting.”

“What if you get tired of me?” she asked in a whisper. “I'm pretty neurotic. I might not be able to stand your things being disorganized. And I overthink everything. I've had men chuck me for being too controlling. What if I drive you insane?”

“I'm never going to be tired of you.” He turned onto his side and propped his head up on his hand again, reaching out to trail gentle fingers down her hip. “Be as neurotic as you like. You'll probably have to sort out my clothes and my cupboards how you like them, but I won't mind. And you are pretty controlling, but I can handle your bullshit if you can handle mine.”

Her eyes wary as she looked at him, pleading him to reassure her. “Are you sure?”

“If you take off your clothes, you can order me around whenever you like.”

The worry disappeared from her face, and with a laugh, she gave him a playful thwack on the chest. “You numpty.”

He kissed her again, and she inched closer, pressing the long line of her body against his. He wrapped an arm around her, pulling her tight against him, and felt her hand on his shoulder, squeezing, and a distant pain registered. Once it got his attention, it came roaring down on him with a vengeance. He'd almost forgot about his arm this evening, but it was time to pay the piper now, it seemed.

Molly seemed to realize and drew her hand back swiftly. “I'm sorry, I forgot – did I hurt you?”

“It's all right. I didn't even notice before. I might have overdid it today, though,” he admitted, wincing.

“We should get up and get you a pain potion. And not have sex standing up again, I don't know what we were thinking. You were holding all my weight.” Her eyes had gone a little wide.

He didn't want her to start regretting it. Fitz was willing to suffer through quite a lot to repeat that performance against the wall, even if now his shoulder was throbbing insistently. “Completely worth it. Let's do it again tomorrow.”

She smiled at that, but then she was up and moving, gathering up their clothes and picking up a few framed photos that had fallen from the walls. She hung the pictures again, still nude and utterly at ease with her body. He sat up, resting one arm on his knees to watch her, and she seemed to feel his gaze on her and turned as she replaced an old award of Rodan's that he'd never removed from the office.

“Get dressed,” she told him over her shoulder. “We ought to get out of here before someone sees us. We've probably tempted fate enough.”

“True.” He slid into his shirt, which was wrinkled horribly from being crumpled on the ground, and the top two buttons were gone, leaving a small tear in the fabric. “You are hard on my wardrobe, you know.”

“I can fix it.” She crouched down to draw her wand from the pocket of her trousers.

He had no doubt she could, but he had half a mind to keep the damaged shirt as a souvenir. But then, she was bound to rip more shirts off him later. One could only hope. He let her mend the fabric and reattach the buttons, and then held out her trousers to her. She put her hands on his shoulders as she stepped into them and he drew them up her legs.

“If I've never told you this before-” he paused to press a kiss to her hip “-I love your tight trousers.”

She ruffled his hair, smiling. “Hand me my bra, and put on your trousers.”

Once they were both dressed, Fitz opened the door and looked down the corridor. The building had an empty feel to it, and he was fairly sure no one knew they were there.

“Try Homenum revelio,” Molly said behind him. She was wrapping her hair into a knot on top of her head, leaning against his desk.

He cast the spell, looking down the corridor still. “Coast's clear.”

“Good. Let's get the hell out of here before someone does show up. The cleaning staff will be in the locker room soon.”

“Right.” He watched her pinning her hair in place, and wished they could stay right where they were, stretching out the evening in his office forever.

She looked up and smiled when she saw him looking at her. He smiled back, and crossed to the desk in two strides to lean against it beside her.

“What about...” Molly waved her hands vaguely. “The future? What are we going to do?”

“Table it for now, I suppose. Focus on the match with the Harpies. We can think about this later.”

“I don't want to sneak around.” She gave him a pleading look. “We shouldn't keep doing this when we know it's not allowed.”

“That's what makes it fun,” he tried, unwilling to let go of their time together, if only temporarily, but she frowned at him.

“Fitz, you hate sneaking around.”

“Yeah, I do. All right then, everything's on hold until after the Harpies game. But after that, we figure this out somehow. I don't want to be without you. If I have to quit, I will. We'll play out the season and then I'll resign and we can be together. I'd rather have you than any job.”

“We'll find a way without you resigning your position.” She cupped a hand against his stubbly cheek, smiling tenderly. “But thanks for offering, you self-sacrificing idiot.”

He grinned at her and pulled her closer, wrapping an arm around her waist. “Come back to my place and stay the night. We don't have to be at the pitch tomorrow.”

“I thought we said no sneaking around?”

“One night, Molly.” His eyes were searching, and his arms tightened around her. “Please.”

She didn't want to say no. More than anything, she wanted to sleep in his arms again. And, maybe not sleep as well. “One night. But then nothing until we get things sorted. I don't like going against the manager's rules.”

“Come on.” He glanced out the door to the open corridor, making sure it was still empty, then kissed her soundly.

They went outside past the Anti-Apparition wards of the pitch. Night had fallen completely, and the grounds were empty and dark with the lights of the pitch off. There was no one to see them, so he took her hand and drew her close before Disapparating, and she went into his arms willingly, putting her hand on his waist to hold tight as the crushing, airless darkness engulfed them.

When they reappeared, it was in a narrow alley between two stone buildings, and Fitz led her around back to a wooden staircase.

“I live on the top floor,” he said over his shoulder. “There's a Muggle bloke living beneath me, and the landlord's Muggle as well, so I usually keep pretty quiet at home.”

“We're right near the Rowan Mansion,” Molly realized, looking out over the street as they climbed.

“Stumbling distance.”

“Well, that's handy.”

He drew his wand to unlock the door, running the tip of it down the center of the blue-painted door, then pushed it open and motioned her inside.

She stepped inside, looking round at his flat. There was a small kitchen that looked fairly well-used. Somehow Molly wasn't surprised at the thought he could cook. She walked slowly into the living room, taking in her surroundings. He had a very masculine style, with heavy wooden furniture upholstered in navy blue twill and leather in a deep shade of brown, steel shelves with a collection of antique Quidditch equipment, and a great deal of plaid blankets strewn about. But the shelves were dusty, the floors and carpets needed to be cleaned, and there was an empty beer bottle on the coffee table alongside a few dirty dishes that were probably last night's dinner. She shook her head in dismay at this and repressed the urge to start cleaning, mentally calculating how long it would take to have the place spotless.

“I didn't know anyone would be coming over, so it's a bit of a mess,” Fitz said as he closed the door behind them and went to the kitchen, pulling a vial out of a cupboard that she recognized as a pain potion, and downing it quickly. “I would say it's normally cleaner than this, but you'd soon find me a liar. I tidy up for company. I'm not a slob, but I'm not neat like you. What do you think?”

She wrinkled her nose at him as he returned to her side. “I'm having second thoughts about this relationship.”

Fitz wrapped an arm around her waist and kissed her neck. “Ha ha, very funny, Miss Perfect.”

Molly laughed and tilted her head to encourage him. “It would look nice in here if you tidied up a bit.”

“Thanks very much.” He took her hand and gave her a tug. “Come and have a look at the view out the balcony. It's why I took this flat.”

He brushed the fallen leaves and dust from a lawn chair and waved her to sit in it, and started a fire in the little stone firepit while she sat and took in the view. It really was spectacular, as if all of Portree was laid out at their feet, straight to the ocean. It was late enough that most of the houses and buildings were dark, but there was enough starlight to see by, since for once the night was clear.

“Oh, I like this,” she told him, settling back into the chair. “I bet it's wonderful during the day. You could meditate out here. It would be good for your temper.”

Fitz slid her a sidelong look at that remark, but he seemed pleased that she approved, and settled into his chair as well, putting his feet up next to the fire. “I sit out here all the time. Well, not lately, actually. The last time I was out here, Max came by and told me I was a coward for not going for it with you, and I didn't like coming back out. Reminded me of you after that.”

“Really?” Molly smiled with pleasure. “Maybe I'll go by and pay some of your tab as a thank you to him.”

“It's a pretty hefty tab,” he admitted. “I'll be turning over my immortal soul soon.”

She laughed at that, setting her feet alongside the firepit to warm her toes. It felt so right to sit here beside him, even if they were going against McCormack's wishes. She couldn't bring herself to care about that at the moment, though, because she felt completely and utterly relaxed. She looked over at Fitz, his tall form stretched out in his chair, dark hair still mussed from earlier and the lines of pain on his face softened. He looks happy, she thought. Really, truly, honestly happy, and it occurred to her that she hadn't seen that look very often on him.

And she had put that look on his face.

He glanced over and caught her watching him, but he only smiled. “Want a drink?”


He got up and leaned over to kiss her before going to the kitchen. He returned with two bottles of Hebridean Black Lager and handed her one, then tossed himself back into his seat, putting his feet up to the fire again. They drank in companionable silence for a few minutes, then Fitz cleared his throat.

“Your dad came to see me, you know,” he said, taking a sip of his beer. “Just before the Wigtown match.”

Her eyes widened in horror. “You’re joking. What did he want?”

“To tell me off about you.”

Molly covered her eyes with one hand. “Oh my god. I’m so sorry, he’s just awful sometimes-”

“It’s all right,” Fitz reassured her with a grin. “He's only looking out for you.”

“Honestly, I’m almost thirty years old,” she grumbled. “You’d think he could leave off meddling in my life.”

“You’re his little girl, meddling is his job.”

“You sound like him. He said that to you, didn’t he?”

Fitz laughed. “Basically. I thought he was going to hit me at first.”

She rolled her eyes. “He is unbelievable. I really am sorry he did that, I specifically told him not to get involved.”

“I wasn't sure if I ought to tell you. He didn't tell me not to, though. Actually, I sort of got the impression he was looking out for both of us,” he added thoughtfully, remembering the look of pity on Percy Weasley's face when he'd said he'd guessed why Fitz had chucked his daughter unceremoniously. “I think he felt a bit sorry for me.”

“Dad hates to see people messing up their lives unnecessarily,” Molly said, and he shot her a look. “It's one of his hang-ups. And it's why he's an uncontrollable meddler.”

“I liked him,” Fitz said, smiling at her. She looked adorably exasperated by her father and his interference. “He loves you a lot. And so do I, so we have that in common.”

She smiled, shaking her head. “He'll like you once he gets to know you. Lucy and Hilarion both like you, you know.”

“What about your mum?” he asked, taking another sip.

“She doesn't like you.”

He laughed, nearly snorting his beer. “She doesn't even know me.”

Molly winced. “I lost it a bit, when you broke things off, and I think I scared all of them. So she doesn't like you. You'll have to win her over.”

He thought he ought to apologize again, but she didn't seem to need it. She was drinking her beer with a thoughtful look.

“What about your parents?” she asked then. “Will they like me?”

He grinned, thinking of his mother's likely reaction to Molly. “You, yes. Your hair, no.”

This time she was the one who laughed and snorted her beer out her nose. “My parents don't like my hair either. Although Dad did say this was better than the mohawk.”

“I like it better than the mohawk. I liked it red and curly, too.” He reached over to stroke her hair, and she smiled.

“I'll put it back to natural before I meet them, then. Then I can put it up in liberty spikes or something,” she said thoughtfully.

“Jesus Christ,” Fitz said, shaking his head. He could hear her musical chuckle, but he didn't care if she laughed at him a bit. He leaned his head back and let out a loud sigh. “This is perfect. Exactly how I've been wanting.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Molly asked, looking over at him with a smile.

“You and me. Just... together.”

She drew a deep breath, the smile still on her face, and nodded.

They watched the town slowly darken as one by one, lights went out, businesses closed, and people went to bed. The stars glittered on the water of the bay, bouncing off the glass windows in houses and showing the sleepy little town in repose for the night.

Eventually, Molly set her beer on the floor, got to her feet, and held a hand out to him. “Show me the bedroom.”

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