Food was a comfort, Queenie had told them. She believed unequivocally in the healing power of a simple home-cooked meal. There was peace to be found over a candlelit table. And so, after Queenie had sobbed unashamedly into Tina's shoulder, after Tina and Queenie had had a long, heartfelt discussion on their living room couch, after Newt had gone to feed his creatures and make sure they were well looked-after - the three of them had gathered in the Goldsteins' kitchen. The two sisters were now working on the food, both of them gathered near the sink, facing the wall. The quiet sounds of a chopping knife on wood and the delicate clinking of cooking utensils floated over to Newt as he endeavored to set the table. Candles lit, the magizoologist turned to the cabinets, and with a swish and a flick, plates rose into the air, and began to drift to their places at the table.
And then it struck him, quite literally - an unforgiving bolt of agony that drove its way down his spine. And for just a moment, he was back in the subway tunnel, breathing in the dirt and the grime and the smoke and the crackling, searing ozone. The world was ablaze in blue and white, the very universe afire with torturous tendrils of electric fury, and-
The tinkling cacophony of breaking ceramic brought him back to the Goldsteins' pleasant (and decidedly electric-free) apartment. The plates he had been smoothly levitating onto the dinner table were now in pieces on the floor, and Newt found that he had placed a hand on the table to keep himself upright. Swallowing, he turned to look at the sisters, surreptitiously removing his hand from the table; Tina was quite perceptive, and it wouldn't do to have her notice that. Thankfully, the witch in question seemed to have missed it; she was only watching him in slight surprise, as if dropping the plates had been a normal, if somewhat unexpected, accident.
It was Queenie, however, that Newt had to worry about. The blonde was standing stiffly erect, staring at him with wide eyes that glinted in the dim apartment lights. Her knuckles were white from her grip on her wand, the momentarily-forgotten loaf of bread she had been levitating bumping softly against the kitchen cabinet. The magizoologist had no doubt that Queenie now understood what had happened in the subway tunnels.
"So sorry," Newt muttered, looking away and turning his attention to the dishes on the floor. With a simple flourish of his wand, they were repairing themselves and resuming their gentle journey to the kitchen table. He looked up and grinned reassuringly at Tina, who smiled back fondly and returned to preparing their meal. But her sister remained motionless, watching him carefully, deciding. She opened her mouth to speak.
"Please," Newt breathed, soft enough so that only Queenie would hear. He tried to infuse that one word with all of the sincerity and urgency he was feeling, and all the reasons for wanting Tina to remain unaware rushed through his mind in a steady stream. I'm fine, I promise. There's nothing to worry about. Tina doesn't need to know. She's stressed enough. She's had too much bad news. A good night's sleep, and it'll only be a memory.
Something in his voice, or perhaps his thoughts, seemed to placate Queenie. Though perhaps still a shade paler than normal, she followed her sister's example and turned back to the food as well - but not before casting Newt a quick look that could only mean We'll talk later.
With both sisters safely facing the other direction, Newt slumped soundlessly into the nearby chair. He ran a hand through his hair, taking deep, steadying breaths. The pain had faded with the memory, but it was nonetheless disconcerting. He hoped it wouldn't happen again - at least, he was fairly sure it wouldn't. But even if it did, he was positive that a restful sleep would heal him up just fine. He was a magizoologist; he'd had worse. Hadn't he?
"Accio napkins," he muttered under his breath, watching as they zoomed obediently to the table. He picked up the first one and began to fold them manually, glad to give his hands something to do.
The Goldstein sisters stood before their fireplace, each watching the dancing flames, relishing the comforting warmth. Tina sighed, looking down at her socked feet. After a moment, her eyes darted to the heavy wooden doors that hid the bedroom - and Newt - from view.
"Good idea," Queenie agreed quickly, although her sister hadn't spoken. "It probably will get colder tonight. I'll take him some." She scooped up a small pile of blankets from the couch.
"Queenie," Tina protested half-heartedly, but her sister was already at the faded wooden doors. She knocked lightly.
"Newt?" she called, easing the door open carefully. The wizard was seated on the same bed he had occupied before, a hand resting on one of the clasps of his suitcase. He looked up at her approach.
"It's going to get cold tonight," Queenie explained, a bit louder than necessary, so that her voice floated over to Tina in the other room. "I thought I'd bring you some blankets," she continued, slipping through the door and shutting it behind her.
"Thank you," Newt replied gratefully, polite smile curving the corners of his lips. Queenie strode forward, set the blankets at the foot of his bed, and frowned. Despite the smile and the warmth in his voice, the magizoologist was obviously exhausted. His tired eyes tracked her movements as she twirled her wand, conjuring a small drinking glass.
"Aguamenti." The glass filled with water, and she handed it to Newt, who accepted it with another grateful grin.
"Thank you," he repeated earnestly, taking a sip. But Queenie did not smile back.
"Newt," she began seriously. At her tone, the smile melted slowly off the wizard's face, until he was left looking haggard and worn. He knew what she was going to bring up. Queenie bit her lip, and sat down on the other bed, across from him. "Back before dinner-" She stopped. "In the subway tunnels…" She frowned and picked at a loose thread on her pajamas, not entirely sure what to say. But maybe she didn't need to say anything; the most important thing was something she needed to ask. She raised her eyes, stared searchingly into his. "Newt, are you okay?"
"Quite fine," he replied immediately, disarming smile back again. Queenie was instantly reminded of their conversation in his suitcase, mere hours ago. The same grin. The light tone. The easy dismissals. I'm not hurting, he had told her. Queenie tilted her head, considering him.
"I think I'm beginning to understand you, Mr. Scamander." Her knowing smile made Newt flush slightly, and he looked away, intently studying the scuff marks on the bedside table. "I've never been very good with healing spells," she admitted, watching him redden further. "But if you need anything, please ask. There are bandages in the bathroom cabinet, as well as a few medicinal potions ingredients. I'm sure you've got a cauldron in your workshop, right?" A quick nod from Newt, so fast she almost missed it. Queenie grinned, encouraged.
"Good," she said. "I guess you know how to take care of yourself by now, anyway, what with all the dangerous creatures you work with. Jacob told me you worked with dragons," she relished.
Newt looked up at her, surprised, and it was a moment before her words caught up with her. Jacob. Are there other no-majs like you? His wide grin. His eager willingness. One last kiss. The rain. Queenie's eyes welled with tears, and she brushed them away quickly.
"Sorry," she murmured. But when she looked up, Newt's eyes were red-rimmed as well.
"I'm sorry, too," he said. They sat like that in silence for a while, and Queenie cast her mind around for a happier thought. They had all experienced quite enough sadness and pain in the last several hours.
"Newt," she spoke up suddenly. She had almost forgotten the other thing she had wanted to tell him. "Tina told me about…" she faltered, swallowed hard. "The- the execution."
"Ah." The magizoologist shifted awkwardly. "Yes."
"You saved Tina's life," Queenie breathed. "I've explained how our parents died when we were young, how we kind of looked after each other. And, well, she's all I have. And if - if you hadn't-" Her voice broke, and she wiped the tears from her eyes in frustration. Couldn't she just convey her gratitude without falling all to pieces? She took a deep breath in and exhaled slowly, trying to compose herself. And then she stood, took a couple of strides until she was standing right in front of Newt. "Thank you."
"It was really all because of Pickett," he explained, blushing. "My Bowtruckle. He picked the lock on my handcuffs. Without him, I'd've been completely useless, and-"
"Newt." He stopped babbling, looked up at her. "Stop making excuses, okay?" Queenie told him, with a watery laugh. "You saved her." She met his eyes and held his gaze, trying to show him just how deep her appreciation was. Mere words could never explain it. She leaned forward, grasped his forearms in her hands. "Thank you," she repeated. He must have felt her sincerity, because this time he only nodded, in acceptance.
"You're welcome," he said. Queenie smiled in response, and then stood up, strolling slowly to the door. She stopped with her hand on the doorknob, turned back to face him.
"Good night, Mr. Scamander."
"Good night, Miss Goldstein."
Dougal the Demiguise considered himself to be rather good at care-taking, something in which he took pride. He often spent his time wandering about the other habitats of the suitcase in which he lived, happily attending to the other creatures in any way he could. He had hidden shiny things throughout the case to keep the Niffler entertained; he had respectfully watered the trees the Bowtruckles so carefully guarded; he had even looked after the Occamy when it had hidden away in that strange building. Yes, Dougal considered himself to be very knowledgable in taking care of many different kinds of creatures - even wizards. Well, his wizard, anyway.
But tonight, these skills had yet to be used. The day had been a long one, scavenging for food and keeping vigil over the significantly larger Occamy. But then the two of them had been returned home, tucked safely away in the comfortingly-familiar grounds of Newt's suitcase. Apparently, several of the other creatures had managed to escape as well, and all the ensuing excitement had left most of the animals tired and cautious. So tonight, wherever the Demiguise wandered, the creatures were either asleep or blatantly disinterested in his presence (the Mooncalves, with the glowing full moon tonight, had not even deigned to spare him a glance).
What was a bored Demiguise to do? He didn't want to sleep, that was for sure. So, there was only one option left. In his customary silence and easy grace, the Demiguise sloped into Newt's workshop. Plants, tools, books, and vials littered the many shelves, but Dougal passed all of these; he had inspected them before. Instead, he headed to the back of the room, made a quick jump, and then smoothly scaled the ladder until he had reached the top of the case. Clinging to the wooden rungs, he raised his silver head to the ceiling, and listened for his wizard.
There. Close by. It was breathing - quick, shaky breaths, through the mouth. Some creatures breathed quickly like this all the time, Dougal knew. But not his wizard. Newt's breaths were slow and even, calm and consistent. They didn't sound like this.
Uneasy now, the Demiguise banged once on the top of the suitcase, hoping to get Newt's attention. No response. A swooping feeling filled Dougal's insides, like the sensation he felt when jumping from a great height to the floor, except that this did not feel fun, or enjoyable in any way. Gathering his strength, the creature banged against the case again, harder this time, and was met with a rewarding click: one of the latches had snapped open.
"Dougal, is that you?" There was a slight strain to the voice, but it was nonetheless his wizard's voice. A blessed cool ran through the Demiguise's veins, like the caress of windswept snow on a mountaintop. Dougal bumped against the case in response.
A shaky sigh. A rustle of fabric. The dull click of the other latch. And then the lid was lifted, and Dougal was met with a gentle but restraining hand. His wizard was regarding him carefully, arm outstretched over a tangle of soft and inviting blankets.
"You have to be very well-behaved if I'm to let you out. No running off." Newt's voice was firm, and there was a trace of the same strain Dougal had heard earlier, and yet the Demiguise could still hear the undercurrent of Newt's invariable kindness. Dougal stared up at his wizard, eyes wide and body still, to show his obedience, until Newt nodded and pulled his hand back, granting his permission. As Newt drew his hand back, Dougal noticed that it was shaking almost imperceptibly. This, too, was not his wizard's normal behavior; his hands were steady, deft, experienced.
Climbing the rest of the way out of the case, Dougal turned and closed it behind him, locking both latches the way Newt had taught him. As he was doing this, the sounds of rustling fabric and the creaking of weight being redistributed told him that Newt was returning to his former position. Having finished locking the case, the Demiguise looked around to find that Newt's position was unnatural, too. In fact, the more Dougal studied him, the more his appearance screamed that something was definitely not right.
The wizard was sitting with his back against the headboard of the bed, knees drawn up to his chest. His eyes were closed, but his face was pallid, and Dougal could see beads of sweat that shone on his forehead and darkened the mess of hair that threatened to fall in his eyes. His hands, on either side of him, were clenched around fistfuls of blanket. Newt's breathing was slower now, Dougal noted. Closer to normal, but still different, like it was forced.
The Demiguise turned his detailed stare to the room around them. It was time, yet again, to scavenge. Hopping noiselessly onto the bedside table, Dougal wrapped his long fingers around a promising glass, and peered inside. Water. Perfect. Dougal moved back onto the bed, taking the glass with him, and sat down directly in front of Newt, whose eyes were still closed. The Demiguise placed a hand lightly on one of his wizard's knees. Immediately, Newt flinched, eyes flying open. This close, the Demiguise could hear his heartbeat increase suddenly and drastically. But then Newt's light eyes focused on the creature before him, and his heartbeat slowed to a more normal rate.
"Sorry, Dougal," he apologized quietly, with a small smile. "You startled me."
The Demiguise held out the cup of water expectantly.
"Oh. I see. Thank you," Newt replied, taking the cup. A real smile crossed his face this time, and he drank the remaining water under Dougal's watchful gaze. When he had finished, he handed the empty glass back to the Demiguise with a knowing look, and laughed lightly as Dougal happily set it back on the bedside table and then returned to sit in front of him again.
The Demiguise contemplated his wizard, pleased with the changes so far. Newt's posture was now much more relaxed, closer to the quiet calm he usually exuded. He was no longer curled in on himself, but sat with his legs criss-crossed, hands unclenched and resting easy in his lap. It was good progress. But, Dougal noted, Newt was still pale and marginally shivery. So the Demiguise crawled forward until he was sitting in Newt's lap, and reached his long arms up to rest on the wizard's shoulders. He fixed his intense stare upon Newt's face, looking questioningly up into his eyes. The wizard flushed at the attention, and ran a hand affectionately through Dougal's silky fur.
"I'm all right," he explained softly. "Just had a bad dream is all."
Dougal clambered back out of Newt's lap and stood up on the bed. He knew exactly what to do. He reached out, took one of Newt's hands in his own, and tugged, turning pointedly towards the suitcase.
"You want to go back in now?" the wizard asked kindly, moving towards the case. He undid the latches and lifted the lid in one fluid movement. "Go ahead," he encouraged, when Dougal did not go in. Undaunted, the Demiguise walked around behind his wizard instead, and pushed him gently towards the suitcase.
"You want me to come with you?" Newt wondered. Pleased, Dougal grabbed the jumble of blankets in one hand, and the edge of Newt's coat in the other, and climbed into the case. He let the blankets drop to the floor, and then looked back up at his wizard. Newt was looking uncertain, and he glanced at the bedroom door thoughtfully. But Dougal grabbed his hand again, tugged him emphatically towards the case, and Newt gave in.
"Oh, very well," he relented. And with a quiet rustling, a small thump, and two sharp clicks, they were inside.
The rich, heavy scent of freshly-brewed coffee filled the apartment, accompanied by the quiet crackling of eggs being cooked, and Queenie's soft, tuneless humming. Tina smiled; it was nice to see her sister in such a pleasant mood this morning. The night's sleep and the promise of a hearty breakfast must have done her some good. Indeed, the sleep had helped Tina herself. She hoped the night had been kind to Newt as well.
Approaching his door, she cleared her throat, and knocked loudly.
"Newt?" she called. No sound greeted her in response, so she turned the doorknob and swung the door open slowly and quietly. What was the best way to wake him? Was he a heavy sleeper? Should she touch his shoulder, or would that startle him? Stepping quietly into the room, every thought of the best way to wake a magizoologist vanished from her mind.
The bed was empty. The room was empty. Except for his case. Tina frowned; if she knew anything about Newt, it was that he would never go anywhere without his case. Not willingly, her brain supplied. Visions of a crazed Grindelwald breaking out of MACUSA and vowing revenge on the wizard who had captured him stole her breath for a moment. But she shook her head, chasing the irrational thoughts from her mind. She was an Auror, after all - or at least, she had been.
Once cursory glance around the room told her all she needed to know. There were no signs of a struggle, no signs of forced entry. The only things missing, besides Newt himself, were the blankets Queenie had brought him last night. Evidently, he had elected to sleep in his case.
Having determined that, Tina crossed the room and approached the case confidently. Three quick knocks.
"Newt?" she called again, unsure whether or not he would be able to hear her. Again, there was no response, and so she undid both latches and lifted the lid. She would just go in and get him.
Descending carefully, Tina found herself in Newt's strangely cozy and inviting workshop for the second time. She glanced around with interest at the books, plants, vials of mysterious liquids, and stray sketches that took up nearly every inch of shelving, desk space, and wall space. She smiled to herself; the room was so very him. Continuing forward cautiously, she stopped as a strange sight greeted her eyes.
There on the floor, not too far away, was a pile of magical creatures. Sleeping magical creatures. Peering at them, she noticed the edge of a blanket peeking out from beneath the furry, scaly, and feathered mass. It was one of hers. Perhaps Newt had laid a blanket down for them? How curious. She hadn't imagined all those species to sleep so close together, piled on top of one another, and looking oddly at peace. Wouldn't it make more sense for them to sleep in their respective habitats?
Brow crinkled in confusion, Tina stepped silently forward, inching towards the living, breathing mass. Closer now, she could recognize the mischievous Niffler, the secretive Demiguise, two thankfully-small Occamies, and a half-hidden sliver of bright green that she assumed to be a Bowtruckle. Most of the creatures she couldn't even guess at. Bewildered, she continued to creep forward, intending to sneak around the bizarre group and find Newt. But another glance stopped her short in surprise. Was that… a human hand? Slowly, her eyes readjusted to the sight, like finding that one overlooked word in a word search puzzle.
"Newt?" she breathed finally, for there he was, in the midst of all the creatures. His eyes were closed, expression smooth and peaceful in a sleep as deep as that of the animals around him. The Demiguise - Dougal, she remembered - was curled comfortably atop Newt's chest, and rose and fell in time with the wizard's slow, even breaths. A pleasant warmth spread through Tina's body at the sight, and she grinned, wanting more than anything to be able to capture this moment, just as it was. She had only begun to understand the depth of Newt's love and care for his magical creatures, but never had she considered their love for him. It was endearing, beautiful, magical. She was loath to ruin the moment, but Queenie had likely finished making breakfast, and the day would not wait for them no matter how much she wished it. So, feeling distinctly disappointed, she cleared her throat, and spoke up.
"Newt," she said, vainly attempting to find a volume that would wake Newt without startling the animals. But most of the creatures got up immediately at the sound of her voice, several of the smaller ones even scurrying off through the door, presumably to their own habitats. All the movement woke Newt, who blinked blearily and raised himself up slightly, dislodging a few animals and earning disapproving squeaks and grunts.
"What's wrong?" he asked quietly, seemingly addressing his creatures, and he met eyes with Dougal, still clinging to his chest. The Demiguise turned to watch Tina with his wide, innocent eyes. She smiled at him.
"Hi, Dougal," she said kindly, with a small wave.
"Tina!" Newt exclaimed, scrambling to his feet and offending several more of his creatures. "Good gracious! What time is it? Have I slept late?"
"No, not at all," Tina placated quickly, feeling guilty for startling him and upsetting his animals.
"Oh. Good," Newt breathed, visibly relaxing. The Demiguise had wrapped his arms around Newt's neck, and was hanging there calmly and patiently; Newt brought his arms up to hold him, and Dougal shifted into a more comfortable position. The magizoologist smiled at Tina, seeming to glow, and then knelt down to address the remaining creatures assembled at his feet.
"Good morning, everyone," Tina heard him say softly. "Thank you very much," he told them, offering affectionate pats and well-appreciated scratches. One by one, they turned and left, until only Dougal remained. Newt straightened up and walked over to Tina, the Demiguise still in his arms.
"Do you remember Tina, Dougal?" he asked the creature, who looked again at the witch in question. Tina fancied she saw a flash of recognition in the animal's eyes. "Tina helped me get you home safe," Newt reminded him. "I couldn't have done it without her." The fondness in his tone was unmistakable, and Tina shifted her gaze from Dougal to Newt. The magizoologist was watching her, a wide grin lighting up his eyes. The ex-Auror smiled back, feeling blood rushing to her cheeks. Here was another moment Tina wished would last forever. Happy, warm, calm. Just enjoying the company.
But then Dougal reached up and tugged on Newt's shirt, and the magizoologist looked down, breaking their eye contact. The Demiguise gestured at the floor.
"D'you want to go now?" Newt asked, kneeling again and depositing the creature on the floor. But before Dougal could run off, the wizard reached out and ran a hand through the silvery fur atop the Demiguise's head. "Thank you," he said quietly, low voice steeped in gratitude. "You really helped me out, Dougal." The Demiguise leaned in and held on to Newt for a moment before pulling back. His large eyes raised upward to study Tina again, and then he sloped off, movements easy and well-coordinated. Newt stood, and together, he and Tina watched the creature disappear.
"Queenie made breakfast," Tina informed him. "We thought you'd like to eat with us."
"Of course," Newt replied, without hesitation. "Thank you."
Food was a comfort, Newt agreed. One of many.