Tina threw herself into a chair, her teeth chattering loudly as she clawed the damp coat from her shoulders. Her socks were frozen to her ankles, and she was fairly certain her fingers should not be that shade of blue.
"Do they usually act that way?" she asked breathlessly, attempting to pry the black cloche hat from her head. Her hair, when she finally managed to free it, resembled a cluster of icicles.
Newt was rummaging around at his desk – grabbing, tossing, and pushing things out of his way as he searched for the supplies he needed.
"That was the first time I have ever seen this particular Valcross act that way, but they can be rather aggressive." He hurried over to her, a cup of something gray and steaming in one hand and two large blue pills in the other. He handed her the cup. "Take this, it will help with the chill. And these," he tipped the pills into her palm, "will help with the shortness of breath and accompanying pain."
Tina, who had been leaning slightly to the left in an attempt to favor her sore side, took the pills gratefully, once again amazed at Newt's perceptiveness. She watched him move around the shack, completely at ease in the mess of books, plants, raw meat and discarded notes, lighting candles as he went.
"I'm sorry if I startled her," she said, tossing the pills into her mouth. They tasted like grass and dirt and while it wasn't an awful taste, it also wasn't altogether enjoyable either. She choked. "I suppose even animals find be a bit too gruff and abrasive sometimes."
Newt, who had stopped throwing random items around in a panic and was now scribbling something into a notebook on his workbench, glanced over his shoulder, meeting her eyes briefly before turning back to his work.
"I don't think you're too gruff or abrasive," he said after a moment.
Newt nodded, his back still facing her. She followed the lines of him, hidden beneath his yellowed dress shirt, dirtied from long days spent tending to his creatures. She knew there were scars under there, mapping his career and criss-crossing at the most pivotal and dangerous parts of his life. She had seen one once; he had pushed up his sleeves and there it was, traveling up the length of his forearm and disappearing beneath the cloth. It looked old and faded, but she had been transfixed by it, by the life he had lived before New York, a life she knew very little about. She had asked him the details of it, and any others she saw. The one on his arm was from a rouge dragon in Egypt, distrusting of humans after a lengthy and torturous captivity. There was a small one on the right side of his mouth, just above his upper lip from the poisonous bite of a Doxy. She had touched it once, while Newt was explaining the finer details of that particular encounter, and the action had taken both of them by surprise. They were each very red in the face when she finally regained her faculties enough to remove her fingers, and Newt could only mumble through the rest of his story, unable to look her in the eye.
And then there was the one slashing across his right collarbone, deep and angry-looking, a souvenir from his battle with Grindelwald in the subway. The dark wizard had aimed spell after spell at Newt as he fought to protect Credence, and Tina knew Newt was lucky to have survived. She wanted to kiss him the day he told her the story behind that one.
Just as she wanted to kiss him now.
In her silence, a blush had begun creeping up Newt's neck, spreading to his ears and into his hairline. Tina resisted the urge to pull him toward her and run her fingers through his unruly locks.
"Thank you, Newt," she said instead.
They lapsed into silence again, but this time it was more companionable and less charged, though Tina could still see the tension in Newt's posture and felt the rapid beating of her own heart. Deciding that staring at his back was unhealthy for the butterflies in her stomach, she turned her gaze to the many drawings and diagrams tacked to the walls around her. Having spent copious amounts of time with Newt and his creatures in the last year, she could recognize many of the faces staring back at her. There was Dougal, drawn in the middle of his disappearing act so that only the left half of his body was visible, and Pickett, who had many depictions of himself on display because, despite Newt's protestations, Tina knew the animated Bowtruckle was his favorite. The Erumpent was there, as well as the Valcross, the object of Tina's most recent encounter.
"Why do they belch fog?" She asked curiously, reliving the horrifying moment once again. Newt had been showing her around some of his newer habitats and she had mistakenly stepped too close to a very large, hairy, walrus-like creature that had been eying her up since she had arrived. Newt had managed to shoo the creature away, but not before it opened its mouth and engulfed Tina in a blast of thick, cold fog, chilling her to the bone.
"She does it when she's feeling threatened," Newt explained. "The fog is meant to freeze her attacker in place so that she has time to escape. Or stomp them into the ground, depending on how she's feeling that day. Not that I would have let her do that to you," Newt added, glancing over his shoulder and seeing her stricken look. His attention suddenly caught by something on her face, he turned and stepped closer, peering at her with worry. "Your lips are blue."
"Yes. How are you feeling?"
"Cold," she admitted.
"One moment." Newt grabbed his long blue coat, which he had thrown over the back of a chair in his haste to get Tina into the shack, and wrapped it around her shoulders, enveloping her in warmth. His scent was all around her immediately, the smell of earth and dung and sweat, and this made it extremely difficult to not focus on his lips as he pulled a chair over and sat down in front of her, taking her hands in his and inspecting them closely. She was shaking all over—from the cold, from his touch—and she couldn't decide whether she wanted to wrap herself up into his scent further, or to throw the coat off, grab him by the shirt front and kiss him until he blushed.
Instead, she let out a breathless, choked laugh which only seemed to alarm him further. She settled on watching him inspect her fingers, rubbing at a bit of frost that had settled on the tip of her thumb.
"I thought you said I didn't startle her," Tina said after a moment. She still sounded a bit breathless.
"You didn't. It was my fault."
"Female Valcross can get very attached to their caregivers. Especially if the caregivers are male. I expect she became a bit, er... jealous."
"Jealous? Whatever for?"
"I've never brought anyone inside to meet my creatures until recently, let alone a... a woman. So I expect she just – ah... Valcross are very, very clever... she might have misinterpreted your presence and... lashed out."
Tina didn't know what to do with this information.
"Are you saying that creature thinks you're her mate?" She asked incredulously.
"I suppose, in a broad and rather strange sense, er... yes."
Tina couldn't help it; she laughed. The sound, while taking Newt by surprise, seemed to please him. He met her gaze, smiling sheepishly. Neither of them seemed to notice that his inspection of her fingers had turned into him tenderly rubbing the warmth back into her hands.
"Newt Scamander, has anyone ever told you that you have a strange relationship with your creatures?"
He smiled, glancing up at her through long, brown eyelashes. "Every day of my life since I was a boy."
They sat there, grinning at one another, Newt's calloused hands rubbing circles onto the back of her small ones. Tina was beginning to feel much better, but she didn't want to break this spell. Not when there were wars and heartbreak, dark wizards and a territorial walrus waiting for them on the other side.
"So she thought I was stealing you away or something?" Tina asked after a moment.
"I suppose so."
Tina watched him, a cacophony of thoughts at war inside her head. She steeled herself and asked: "Am I?"
Newt met her hesitant gaze. The blush was back, creeping its way along his cheeks, but his eyes were serious, contemplative. She found that she adored this side of Newt; the softly studious and quietly alert Newt Scamander, who seemed to see right through her prickly exterior to all of the best and worst parts of the person beneath.
"I suppose... yes, you have. All of you have." He added that last part quickly, as though afraid he had admitted too much. The butterflies in her stomach did a little dance.
His hands had stopped moving and were instead wrapped around her own in a gentle and gloriously intimate embrace. She was fascinated by how small her hands were in comparison and how their fingers and palms fit together so easily. Newt, who had been watching her shyly, noticed where her gaze had landed and released her quickly. "So sorry," he muttered, but before he could pull away, she caught his fingers, drawing them back and wrapping them around her own once again.
"It's okay," she whispered, dragging his embarrassed gaze back to her own. "Keep going. And tell me about that Boggart you met in Romania. You never did finish that one."
Newt hesitated for only a moment before placing her hands between his own once again. As he picked up the story from where he left off, Tina smiled, closing her eyes and leaning forward – so close that his warm breath stirred the frosty hair around her face – feeling anchored and at ease for the first time in a long time. If fighting evil wizards and getting attacked by hormonal magical creatures meant she would spend her evenings wrapped up in the comfort of Newt Scamander, it was worth the ache and seemingly endless chill any day.