“Hey, hun, do you mind if I borrow these?”
“They’ll look better on you than they ever looked on me.”
Nick smirked, unable to help himself. “I mean, you do look your best with just nothing on.”
Vincent’s green eyes sparkled in amusement as he rummaged around for something to wear, currently only dressed in his boxers. “Sadly, I’ve got to put something on if we’re going out for breakfast.” He looked Nick over from top to bottom, nodding. “You fill those pants out nicely.”
Nick smoothed his hands over the extra soft flannel pants, which he genuinely hadn’t planned on stealing, but they were soft and warm and he’d kind of grabbed them by mistake before his brain had turned on fully.
He watched Vincent dress comfortably in front of him, zipping up his own sweatshirt before leaning over for a sudden kiss.
Vincent chuckled against his lips. “Don’t distract me, Nickolas, or we’ll never leave.” Even as he said that, he still leaned back to hit Nick with a striking look that really tried his willpower.
“You’re the one with the hypnotizing eyes,” Nick pointed out.
Vincent raised a curious eyebrow. “Says a man who looks much too good in sweats,” he replied playfully, pulling on a sweater over his collared shirt and fixing up his messy hair. “Okay, I’m ready to go.”
“You’re sure that you’re not forgetting anything?” Nick asked, amused.
Vincent frowned at him. “Oh,” he murmured, taking a step forward to pull Nick into a soft kiss.
Nick sighed at the drag of their lips together and Vincent’s long fingers gliding up his neck and over his jawbone. He really had to remind himself that they were going out for breakfast to stop himself from pushing Vincent down on the bed and just ripping that sweater off.
Vincent smiled up at him. “For encouragement,” he said kindly, “I know you’re nervous about going back to your place today.”
That was true, and Nick felt a spike of anxiety hit him at the thought of handling this argument with Andrew, but that wasn’t what he’d meant. “Thanks, honey,” he said genuinely, “but I was actually talking about your glasses.”
“Ah,” Vincent breathed, realization falling over his features as he walked to his bedside. “Slipped my mind,” he murmured, cleaning them and pushing them onto his nose.
“I think I distracted you, after all,” Nick quipped, following Vincent to his front door.
“Like I said—you fill out those pants really well,” Vincent smirked, grabbing his keys and a book and locking the door behind them.
Nick brought him to a diner near his apartment. Whenever he went there with Andrew and Maddie, he would inevitably have to scrunch up his legs to stop Maddie from accidentally finding his leg by accident.
With Vincent, he was able to stretch out a little and relax at the simple pleasure of being so easily close to another person.
As always though, Nick took one sip of his coffee and made a face at the lack of sugar. “I already put a few packets in too,” he murmured, tasting the bitterness on his tongue.
Vincent was stirring his own cup of coffee after having dumped milk in. “Not sweet enough?” he asked, obviously rhetorically.
“Care to give me a little sugar?” Nick joked, leaning forward.
“Sugar, huh?” Vincent smirked. His green eyes were deep and alluring, and—shaded by the sunlight behind him—they seemed to shine even brighter.
Nick could recall when they had first met—when he was sober anyway. That was when Vincent had given him his number on that bookmark, which by the way, Nick still hadn’t remembered to give back. But just like back then, Vincent leaned over the table to give him a slow kiss. His glasses knocked against Nick’s nose. His lips were warm and soft, but now, they were familiar too.
It was impossible not to smile into that kiss, and Nick was sure that he was still sporting a lovestruck smile on his face when Vincent pulled back with a smile of his own.
Wordlessly, Vincent placed the sugar packets in front of him, settling back into his chair. “Sweet enough for you?”
“Oh, definitely,” Nick smirked. “My coffee still needs some help though.”
Vincent chuckled, picking up his book. They settled into a comfortable silence, Nick scrolling through his phone for recipes and Vincent looking increasingly bothered by whatever the main character of his book was doing.
Nick would have enjoyed spending the whole day like that, but he knew that he should probably stop avoiding his own apartment. At least he had Vincent to walk him there and give him another kiss “for encouragement,” as he said.
“You’re sure you don’t want me to come with you?” Vincent asked, looking over idly at his apartment building as the wind whistled by.
Nick smiled down at him. “I should probably handle this one on my own. You should get some actual rest too.”
“Well, it’s true that we didn’t sleep the whole night,” his boyfriend smirked, kissing his cheek. “I love you, Nickolas.”
Nick had been battling his anxiety all morning, but with those words, he took a breath and let it bleed out of him. “I love you too, honey.” He watched Vincent walk away—something that his boyfriend was obviously aware of as he turned around to smile before turning the corner and walking out of sight.
With his own smile, Nick made his way back upstairs, forgetting entirely about Andrew until he had his key in the door and was walking in. He wasn’t sure if he was relieved or disappointed to see both Andrew and Maddie sitting on the couch with the TV on.
He didn’t even know how to start this conversation, but it wasn’t like he could sneak into his room with the both of them staring at him.
Apparently, Nick didn’t have to worry about that; the moment that he stopped by the couch, Andrew stood up and said, “I’m sorry, Nick.” He spoke in a rush, as if he was worried that he would be interrupted. “I said some terrible things to you yesterday because… you struck a nerve, I guess. I knew that we were cancelling on you a lot, but I guess it was easier to think that you were fine with it than to think that I was being a bad friend.”
He took a breath and met Nick’s eyes. “I got defensive when you pointed it out. I shouldn’t have. You’re not boring, and I know that your free time matters and that you work hard. I… shouldn’t have taken advantage of how loyal you are.”
Silence followed his apology; only the low drone of the TV kept on in the background.
Nick let out a breath, letting the tension in his shoulders drain out of him. “I’m sorry too. I should have said something a lot earlier. Maybe then it wouldn’t have ended up with me so frustrated that I said things I shouldn’t have.”
Andrew’s relief was palpable as exhaled. Nick quirked his lips up into a smile, accepting a hug and a pat on the back from his old friend.
Maddie peeked out from behind Andrew when they separated. “For the record, I’m sorry about all this too. Andrew and I get a little too wrapped up in ourselves sometimes.”
“You’re both forgiven,” Nick said, feeling relieved when the words were out of his mouth—and to find that he genuinely meant them. “Just text me when you’re busy?”
“Deal,” Andrew replied, smiling now. His smile went from reassured to somewhat hesitant in about ten seconds though. Maddie nudged him pointedly, and Nick had to wonder what else he could possibly have to say.
Then Andrew pointed to his flannel pants. “Those aren’t yours.”
Nick looked down. He had completely forgotten about Vincent’s pants. His heart flipped in his chest, although he couldn’t tell if it was due to anxiety or due to thoughts of his boyfriend.
Once again, Andrew spoke first in a rushed sort of voice. “I went to that diner this morning to get takeout for Maddie and me. And I kind of saw you, uh, kissing a guy?”
Nick raised his eyebrows. After so much time trying to figure out how to tell his friends that he was dating Vincent, he didn’t exactly expect them to find out like this. To his surprise, he didn’t feel panicked or worried though.
He simply smiled and let out a chuckle. “His name is Vincent. He’s my boyfriend.”
There was a moment of heavy silence wherein Andrew said absolutely nothing, but Nick continued smiling calmly. As much as he valued his friends’ opinions, he was confident about his relationship with Vincent.
He couldn’t stop the traitorous skip of his heart though. It was difficult to finally tell two of the most important people in his life that he wasn’t exactly as straight as everyone, including himself, had always thought.
Andrew nodded slowly. Maddie rolled her eyes at him and cut right to the point, “He’s fine with whatever your sexuality is, he’s just been spending all morning processing this.”
“Maddie!” Andrew admonished, reddening in embarrassment.
Nick shook his head, amused. “I’m surprised you didn’t find out sooner, to be honest. Vincent and I have been dating for five months now, and I haven’t been all that subtle.”
“Five months?!” Andrew exclaimed, sighing. “Jeez, I really must have been a bad friend not to notice that,” he mumbled guiltily. “I mean, you seemed happier lately, but I figured that if you had a girlfriend, you would tell us.”
“Yeah, I had to process the fact that I had a boyfriend too,” Nick quipped dryly by way of explanation. “I’m not gay, but Vincent is… really special,” he said, unable to halt the breathless quality in his voice. “I love him, you know.”
He had known that he didn’t need to worry about Andrew hating him for dating a man, but it was still relieving to see his friend’s expression relax into a calm sort of smile. “You look happy,” was all he said, as if that was the only thing that mattered.
“I am,” Nick confirmed, letting the calm silence wash over them.
That silence lasted for about a second before Andrew asked, “So, guys in sweaters do it for you?”
Nick rolled his eyes. “He looks good in sweaters!” he defended with a laugh.
“Does he like you in his pants?” Maddie asked slyly.
“Did you mean that literally or metaphorically? The answer is yes to both, by the way,” Nick answered.
Andrew shook his head. “Wow, yeah, I’m going to need more time to process this. Has he been over here—uh, Vincent, you said?”
“Yeah,” Nick said slowly, fairly sure that Andrew didn’t want the play-by-play of Vincent’s visits.
“When we were here?” Andrew asked curiously.
“You guys really weren’t paying much attention,” Nick said sheepishly. “He kissed me once when I was out to dinner with you guys too and gave me his number.”
“You know that you have to fill us in now, right?” Maddie said matter-of-factly.
Andrew got this determined look on his face. “I swear though, if you get married, we’ll definitely notice.”
Nick barked out a sudden laugh, relieved that the tension between them had completely disappeared. “Good to know,” he chuckled, “but I don’t plan on getting married before you two.”
“Would you totally marry Vincent though?” Maddie asked with this glint in her eye.
Nick rolled his eyes at the two of them, but his smile was likely enough indication that yes, he had thought about marrying Vincent. He would prefer to continue that line of conversation with his actual boyfriend though.
But he did tell his two friends more about the man that he loved—about how they met when he was drunk and how they kissed in the dark and how Vincent was the most intelligent, alluring man that he had ever met.
Well, Nick didn’t go into that much detail with them. He figured that Andrew very much didn’t want to hear him waxing poetry about how Vincent’s green eyes seemed to glow in the dark while the light made his dark hair sparkle blue.
Considering that they had agreed to meet Vincent at dinner next weekend, they could see for themselves anyway. If they would stop whispering to themselves in their room.
“Your friends aren’t very subtle, huh?” Vincent asked from the dining table in the kitchen, leaning back idly in his chair.
“Not really,” Nick agreed, shaking his head at them. “They’re just weird because they want to know if you’re good enough for me.” He rolled his eyes at the very thought.
“Are either of them as intimidating as Bella?”
“Oh, god no,” Nick huffed. “She’s what—eight months along now—and I’m sure she could still kick my ass.”
Vincent shifted to sit up, resting his elbow in his palm. “That woman is more or less superhuman, so don’t feel bad.” He turned his head to Andrew’s and Maddie’s door. “Is this the part where we make out until they show up?”
Nick chuckled, reaching forward to hold Vincent’s hand. Regardless of how casual Vincent appeared, Nick knew that his boyfriend was at least a little nervous at the thought of finally meeting the two friends that he knew so much about; the fidgeting was a dead giveaway.
“I know a way to get them to come out,” Nick said slyly. In a purposely loud voice, he called, “Wow, my friends are pretty stupid, huh?”
Vincent chuckled and shook his head. “Really now?” he said in the same fake-loud voice.
“Yeah—they’re really obvious about standing behind their door and whispering.” As expected, it took only a few seconds for Andrew and Maddie to appear, Andrew with a sheepish expression and Maddie holding out her hand for Vincent to shake.
Nick had this odd feeling of his two worlds colliding, but it wasn’t a bad feeling necessarily. It was just a little strange to be so aware of his friends watching them holding hands.
For about ten minutes anyway. After ten minutes, Nick completely forgot about being nervous and held Vincent close to him with the same amount of ease as he always had. It was nice to be able to keep holding onto his hand too when they were seated on the same side of the booth.
“So, what makes Nick so special?” Andrew asked Vincent after the usual polite conversation about jobs and hobbies and vague comments about Halloween and weather.
Vincent had to swallow the bite of his burger before he could answer. “He’s clever. Obviously, he’s easy on the eyes. Very sweet—”
“Okay, I don’t need all of that,” Andrew interrupted waving him off, “I meant like, you’ve dated other men, right? So, why Nick?”
“Jeez, Andrew, are you my mom?” Nick sighed with a roll of his eyes.
Andrew didn’t look ashamed at all. Maddie nudged him. “Cool it, Andrew. To be honest, I’m surprised that Vincent was cool with dating a guy who’s only dated women before.”
Nick was sure that his eyes really would get stuck if he kept rolling them—as his mother had always threatened—but it was clear to him that Maddie had more or less just asked the same question in the “good cop” way.
For his part, Vincent didn’t flinch. “Nickolas is special. I don’t care that I’m the only man he’s dated.” He turned to Nick with a small smile. “I could go on about him if you want,” he teased lightly, and Nick just knew that Vincent had noticed how he flushed when the man poured compliments on him.
Nick couldn’t resist leaning down to give him a chaste kiss on the cheek. “It’s nice to know that I’m better than all of your exes, honey,” he quipped.
“You don’t have to say ‘all’ like I dated tons of people,” Vincent joked, smiling gently.
Nick turned back to Andrew and Maddie to find Andrew gazing at them with some slight confusion. He ignored his friend in favor of taking another bite of his raviolis. Vincent’s were better when he made them from scratch one time, but these were pretty okay too.
When he told Vincent that, the man smirked and said, “You’re sweet, Nickolas. You might need to taste Gracie’s though—as much as she hates it, she’s a good cook.”
“Why does she hate it?” Nick asked, taking another bite.
“She says that she dislikes the gendered construct that as a woman, people expect her to be a good cook,” Vincent said, shrugging. “She’s right, but I think she actually hates it because our grandma used to force her to help cook when she was little—and our grandma was… strict.”
“Your other sisters didn’t have to help?”
“Marianne staged a ‘workers’ strike’ after ten years of grandma forcing her. She actually made picket signs and everything about her right as a woman to be a shitty cook if she wanted. Luce was too clumsy, and Bella was too headstrong to follow grandma’s recipes exactly.”
Nick could only blink at that story. “Marianne is really her own person, huh?”
Vincent shook his head. “You have no idea,” he muttered.
Nick shot an apologetic look at Andrew and Maddie, who obviously had no idea who they were talking about. He supposed that he could understand how the two of them got lost in their own world sometimes now.
Andrew waved him off, interjecting, “So, Nickolas—”
“You’re still not calling me that,” Nick interrupted with barely a thought, taking another bite.
“I’ve been your friend for eleven years and I can’t use your full name, but you’ve been dating him for like five months and he can?” Andrew pouted.
Nick shrugged unconcernedly. “Vincent is different.”
“I don’t know. But I like the way he says my name. He also hasn’t made tons of stupid Christmas jokes with my name,” Nick said dryly, shooting Andrew a pointed look.
Andrew huffed at him, unable to argue against that.
Vincent pressed their thighs together underneath the table, reaching over for Nick’s hand. Nick smiled to himself at the warmth of him so close, rubbing his thumb over his knuckles.
He had the urge to pull Vincent close to kiss him deeply, but he resisted that urge until they were back at Vincent’s apartment and kissing with reckless abandon on his bed.
Nick wouldn’t have minded returning to his own place, regardless of what Andrew and Maddie would hear, although he couldn’t deny that he enjoyed all the noise they were currently making in the comfort of their own space.
He idly thought that the next time they were at his place, he wanted to see Vincent atop his desk. The thought was pushed from his mind as his hand moved lower and Vincent made a noise that had Nick smiling when he pressed their lips together again.