fifty-four

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"I WILL TIE YOU TO THE BED," threatened Celestia. "Sit down."

Theo merely raised his eyebrows. "Kinky."

"You think I'm joking, but I'm not," she said. "You're not getting out of this room. Literally don't even think about it."

He let out an overdramatic sigh, plopping down on the bed. "I'm sitting."

"Thank fuck," she said on a relieved exhale.

She yanked his wand from his hand, and he let her take it willingly. Recovering, he looked up at her where she stood before him. "I'm fine, Celestia. Let's head over to Mary's; that's why we're here. We don't need to stay here because of me."

"You're fine?" she repeated dubiously.

"I'm fine," he confirmed.

"It's sweet that you believe that you can lie to me. Sorry, but you murdered your fucking dad last night. If you want me to believe you're perfectly fine, then you're going to need much better words than I'm fine, you dumb fuck."

"Considering all that, shouldn't you be nice to me, then?" he retorted.

With a roll of her eyes, she pretended he hadn't spoken. They had woken up this morning, and Theo had attempted to pretend like nothing had happened. She had let him get away with it through breakfast, but when he had begun insisting they go visit Mary like they originally planned, she had put her foot down.

Had the roles been reversed, she doubted Theo would have let her get away with it for as long as he had. She was more than happy to stay in today, especially since it would just be the two of them.

He surprised her when he grasped her hands, yanking her forward. Her knees knocked against his, and she struggled to steady herself before she went toppling forward onto him.

"Merlin, would it kill you to give me a little warning?" she muttered.

He shrugged shamelessly. "I needed your attention."

You always have it, she thought.

"Celestia," he said, and the tone of his voice was enough to draw her eyes down to his. "I don't regret what I did last night. I'd do it again. He touched you, threatened you. You would be dead if I hadn't gotten there in time. Losing his life was worth keeping yours."

She shook her head. "He was still your dad," she whispered. "Sure, you might not regret it in its entirety, but Theo, I know what it's like to lose a shitty father. It still hurts, and you can admit it. You don't have to admit that to everyone, but you can admit to me."

It was his turn to shake his head, and she knew that there was nothing she could say to make him stop being stubborn and confess to her. His words sounded utterly truthful, but something curdled low in her stomach and she just knew that he wasn't completely okay. There was no other way to explain other than it was a bone-deep knowledge.

"Theo. . ." she started, hoping that somehow she might be able to change his mind.

"No," he interjected. "There is no reason to keep me here."

She knew his weakness, though. And she sure as shit was going to exploit it, if it meant that it would benefit him in the long run.

Crouching down, her chin became level with his knees. She placed her hands on them to keep balance, and tried not to think about the position she was now in. She looked up at him, finding him staring at her intensely.

"Can we please just stay in?" she whispered. "I thought I was going to die last night. I just—I need some time before we go out there again. And I don't want to be here alone. Dray and Reggie are already going ahead to talk with Mary. So, please; stay here. With me."

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