Nick knew that he was fidgeting. He didn’t fidget often, but there was a special kind of awkwardness that accompanied standing in front of an unfamiliar front door—even if that door happened to belong to his younger brother.
“Nick!” Jacob exclaimed the moment he had it open. He reached forward for a quick hug and pat on the back.
“Hey, Jacob,” Nick said, giving his own brother a squeeze and stepping inside of his tiny home. With the increasingly cold weather that accompanied the new month of November, he had to unbutton his jacket, which Jacob took from him. Nick raised his eyebrows. “I know you guys moved in not that long ago, but am I like your first guest or something?”
Jacob gave him an unimpressed look with those brown eyes of his. “Very funny. What, I can’t act like an adult?”
“Considering that I’m two years older than you—no,” Nick said, chuckling when Jacob shoved him. That was more like it.
Nick exhaled, looking around. His brother and sister-in-law had gotten themselves a small townhome a few hours from Nick, which meant an annoyingly long ride, but it was nice to see his brother.
Even if his heart was currently flipping at the thought of telling said brother that he was dating and in love with a man, which somehow felt more difficult than when he’d told Andrew.
“You’ve always got to point out that you’re older than me,” Jacob was saying, leading him past the living area and to the kitchen, “or that you’re taller than me. Well, the joke’s on you, Nick, because my wife is the perfect height for me.”
In truth, Jacob wasn’t even that short. Being around him again, Nick realized that he was around Vincent’s height. Cassidy did look good next to him though when she stood up straight after checking something in the oven.
“Get over the fact that you’re shorter than your brother, Jacob,” she said matter-of-factly, in a voice that suggested that she had heard him complain about it before. She turned to Nick with a smile on her face, flicking her blonde hair behind her ears. “What’s up, Nick?” she greeted.
“Hey, Cass,” he answered, leaning down to accept a hug from her.
When Cassidy pulled back to twirl a spatula in her hand, she looked very much like a general ready to lead an army. Apparently, her army was Jacob, because she only had to point to the bowl left on the counter for him to grab the spatula from her to mix it up.
“Jacob wanted to help,” she shrugged. “Hey, thanks for helping him not fail that chocolate cake for my birthday.”
“That came out really good if I do say so myself,” Jacob bragged. “Messy, but it’s not like anyone can actually get frosting to look good anyway.”
Nick politely didn’t mention that he had figured out the trick to not destroying a cake with frosting, instead taking a seat at one of the stools under the counter. It really had been too long since he’d seen his brother, a thought that made his chest hurt.
Of course, he knew that they all had their own lives, and Jacob was married and would likely have a kid at some point too, but sometimes Nick still thought about how much fun it had been to grow up together—and how much had changed.
“So, Nick, why the sudden visit?” Jacob asked, finishing his mixing and pouring the batter in a pan. “I figured that you wouldn’t want to make the extra trip when Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away.”
Nick knew that it was silly to be nervous. Jacob and Cassidy were good people, not to mention that Jacob was his brother.
Their lives were just so separate now though, which is why Nick wasn’t perfectly aware of what Jacob would do when he found out that Nick was dating Vincent—beautiful, smart, wonderful Vincent, who had offered to come along, but this was something Nick had needed to do himself. No matter how much it pained him to miss out on a weekend with his boyfriend.
“Actually, I was planning on bringing someone to Thanksgiving this year,” Nick said in what he hoped was an off-handed voice. That was the whole reason for visiting these two to tell them separately: he was hoping for a few allies to have his back in case his parents were a little less accepting.
Both Jacob and Cassidy stopped what they were doing to stare at him, which Nick tried not to be disgruntled about. “Why is everyone so surprised when I say I’m dating someone?” he murmured.
Jacob let out a guffaw. “Probably because you haven’t been with anyone in over two years when Penny broke it off with you.”
“Yeah, yeah, we hate her,” Cassidy said, not even looking at Jacob. All of her attention was on Nick. “You have a girlfriend now? What’s her name?”
Nick couldn’t look at her excited eyes or at his brother’s curious ones. He fiddled with his phone in his hand, wishing that he had asked Vincent to come along after all. It would have been comforting to have his hand to hold.
In that moment, with these two looking at him, Nick could finally appreciate how difficult it must have been for Vincent to come out when he was seventeen. There was just something heavy about the moment of silence between when Nick took a breath and when he finally spoke.
“His name is Vincent.” It was impossible not to practically hear the silence that accompanied his words. Nick waited a very long second before he looked up to see his brother staring at him in shock.
Jacob shifted in place, clearing his throat in a ploy to give him a second to find his words—Nick would know; he used to do the same thing when he was younger.
“I didn’t know that you were gay,” Jacob said carefully.
“I’m not,” Nick answered casually. “I’ve never really looked at guys, to be honest. But Vincent is…” He never knew the words to say here, but he smirked, remembering something that Isabella had said months ago when she interrogated him. “Vincent is my guy—he’s my person. And he just happens to be a guy.”
There was another moment of silence wherein Jacob and Cassidy shared a long look. Cassidy looked back to him with a gentle smile. “He must be a great guy then,” she said softly.
“It must be serious with him, I guess,” Jacob added on, “for you to bring him to meet mom and dad.”
Nick exhaled, smiling tiredly. “Yeah, it is. He’s one of the best people I know,” he said proudly, almost relieved when the timer went off on whatever was in the oven. He itched to call Vincent just to hear his voice, but he kept his gaze on his brother as Cassidy grabbed a hot pan of ziti with some oven mitts. “Jacob?”
His brother took a breath and nodded to himself. “If Vincent makes you happy, then good—I’ve seen you spend the past few years being all mopey, and I’ve got to tell you, it gets really annoying,” he said with a smirk. “We’re still going to judge the hell out of him though.”
“I didn’t expect anything less,” Nick said dryly, his whole body relaxing all at once. “Help me out if mom and dad are weird? I mean, I’ll call them and tell them that I’m bringing Vincent, but still,” he shrugged.
“You came to the right place, Nick,” Cassidy butted in, “because Jacob and I are excellent at conversation.”
“And at making a scene,” Jacob added.
Nick rolled his eyes, remembering all their theatrics at their own wedding. Still, he said, “Thanks. For… everything.”
“You’re my brother,” Jacob said simply, as if that was the only explanation that was required. “So, did you actually care about coming to see us or were you just coming over here to tell us about your boyfriend?”
Nick very politely said nothing about his slight stammer on the word “boyfriend.” He simply shrugged. “Both. I also recall both of you texting me at separate times to ask about recipes that you can make for Thanksgiving, so I figure I can be the taste-tester,” he joked in an attempt to lighten the mood.
Cassidy chuckled, sprinkling extra cheese atop the ziti. “Sadly, my mom would give me a look if I made ziti for Thanksgiving, but if you’re offering to help us, I’m not complaining.”
Nick hadn’t planned on cooking, but he did bake cookies to thank his brother and sister-in-law, and to take a few back for Vincent when he arrived at the man’s apartment late at night. So late at night that he only had time to undress before he was falling into bed with Vincent by his side and cookies forgotten on the tiny circular table.
Vincent kissed him soundly when Nick told him about his talk with Jacob and Cassidy while they were in bed the next morning. “I’m so proud of you, Nickolas. I know how hard that was.”
“You’re sure that you actually want to meet these people?” Nick quipped, flushing when Vincent continued to kiss his cheek and jaw.
Vincent chuckled lowly; his voice was still pleasantly groggy from sleep. “You mean your family? Yes, I think I’d like to meet them.”
“I think I’d like to keep you all to myself,” Nick murmured, sighing at the sensation of Vincent’s fingers dragging down his chest. “They’re going to be weird about it.”
“I’ll just have to be on my best behavior then,” Vincent went on, pushing him back into the pillows and laying on top of him.
Nick moaned. “Not like now then, huh?”
Vincent smirked at him devilishly. “Definitely not,” he said, kissing Nick again feverishly.
If Nick received kisses like that every time that he made Vincent proud, he would never stop trying to be a better person. The thought made him smile, kissing Vincent back with just as much fervor, pulling the man down to have him as close as possible.
It certainly took them a while to get out of bed, by which time, it was no longer time for breakfast when Vincent got into the cookies on the table.
“You’re sure that I’m not interrupting anything with your family if you come with me for Thanksgiving?” Nick asked, watching in amusement as Vincent picked apart cookies.
Vincent shook his head. “You know that Bella just gave birth to Eve. Our parents are just going to her place to see the new baby and give her and Richard a day off, so we’re not doing much this year.”
Nick smiled, remembering all the many, many, many messages Vincent had gotten on the group chat as soon as there were baby pictures to send. Eve was so far a cute baby too, at least for being only a few days old.
“You still have to tell your parents that I’m coming, right?” Vincent asked him, holding his hand with a little squeeze and breaking off another piece of chocolate chip cookie.
“Can I procrastinate for a little while?” Nick quipped, stealing some for himself.
Vincent chuckled. “You have time. Whenever your parents call, let them bring up Thanksgiving first so that you can sound more casual.”
“I always knew you were smart,” Nick said, both serious yet joking. He gave Vincent a quick kiss, humming. “You taste good.”
“You make delicious cookies,” his boyfriend complimented, leaning over for a deeper kiss.
Nick also made delicious pies, which is why he preemptively volunteered to make a few when his mother finally did call. She had sounded so awkward when he’d told her about Vincent, yet with such attempted cheer that he honestly had no idea what the reaction would be when he and Vincent made the few-hour trip to see his parents.
“Are you less nervous than me?” Nick asked Vincent when they were in front of his old home in Pennsylvania. He smoothed down his coat, which was annoying as far as nervous habits went since he would be taking it off in a few minutes anyway.
Vincent took a hold of his hand to keep it still. “To be honest, I’m pretty nervous too. But you said your brother was okay with us, and your parents can’t hate me too much when I hand them a pie that I helped with.”
Somehow, Vincent always knew the right thing to say, even when he was fidgeting uncharacteristically in place and trying not to drop said pie.
Nick smiled down at him, clutching his hand. “You helped with the decorations on top, and all the mixing. I couldn’t have baked them without you.” He leaned down to peck Vincent on the cheek. “We’ll be okay, I think. I think…”
He pulled Vincent up the front walk bravely in some effort to hide the painfully quick beating of his heart. He clutched Vincent’s free hand maybe too tightly, thankful at least that even if this whole thing went up in flames, at least he would have Vincent right by his side.
Nick was so nervous that he was able to ignore the nostalgia that accompanied being back at his parents’ home, walking up to the door and pulling out an old key. “Our parents always insist on us having keys. Like your sister,” he remembered, earning himself a small smile.
Over the years, his parents had tried valiantly to make their holidays more “adult,” which basically meant getting rid of all of that homemade kid stuff that parents put out so that they didn’t hurt their children’s feelings.
Over the years, his parents had epically failed. Nick walked through the front door and shook his head at the dining room, immediately noticing the pinecone turkeys that he and Jacob had made probably twenty years ago. They bought the same window-stick leaves every single year too, and used the same fall-scented candles as when Nick was a kid. Come Christmas, they would most certainly hang up the same homemade ornaments too.
“Nick!” his mother said before he could even call out a greeting, wrapping him up in a huge hug. Nick had to keep his hand steady to stop himself from dropping the pie that he was holding too.
“Mom,” he greeted warmly, grateful when Vincent took the pie from him so that he could wrap his arms around her fully. No matter how old he got, it would always be comforting to get a hug from his mother.
“It’s been so long since I’ve seen my handsome boy,” she went on, continuing to squeeze him heartily as if she was much stronger than her short frame would suggest.
Nick could already feel some level of embarrassment at the way his mother reached up to touch his cheeks, but it was kind of nice too—to have a mother who cared for him so much. Vincent was also kind enough to stand there politely, or perhaps somewhat awkwardly, until Nick could get a word in.
“Mom? This is Vincent,” he introduced, placing a hand on Vincent’s back.
There was a moment of profound silence as his mother looked Vincent over, as if one look would tell her all that she needed to know.
Vincent shifted uncomfortably. “I would shake your hand, but…” He held up the pies with a lopsided smile.
“Oh,” his mother said, pushing a lock of brown hair behind her ear. “Nick, take those, would you? Put them on the table.”
Nick was already grabbing them before she spoke, and was back by Vincent’s side right on time for his mother to say, “It’s um, so nice to meet you, Vincent. Nick speaks very highly of you.”
“I hope he didn’t oversell me,” Vincent quipped lightly.
“I’m sure he didn’t,” she said politely. There was a second of silence where she obviously had to consider her next words. “Do you like to cook, Vincent?”
“I’m afraid that I’m not as good as Nick, but I like cooking every now and again.”
“Okay then,” the woman said, clapping her hands together as if for emphasis. “Would you mind helping me in the kitchen for a little while then?” Her smile was a little bit forced. Maybe that was why she didn’t wait for his answer—she simply grabbed his hand and pulled him along.
That was an old habit of his mother’s: the hand holding. While most people would just point or grab someone’s wrist, his mother always took people by their hands. It was actually how she’d first met his dad when they were younger.
Nick gave Vincent an apologetic look, but Vincent just smiled, allowing himself to be dragged through the house and to the kitchen. He would have followed after them if his dad didn’t appear from the top of the stairs with a smile on his jovial face.
“Hey, you beat your brother here,” his dad said, giving him a crushing hug and a huge smile. Nick still found it odd that he was a few inches taller than his dad as he returned the gesture, taking in the increased grey in his father’s previously brown hair.
Just like his mother, his father gave him a moment of silence as he tried to phrase his next words. Unlike his mother, his dad gave up with a sigh. “We’re sorry, Nick, we’re trying. I know that we’re being awkward about your, uh, your boyfriend, but we do still love you!” he was quick to say, pushing his thin glasses up his nose. “It might have been a little shortsighted of us to just assume both of our boys would end up with women,” he muttered.
Nick let out a breath that he hadn’t realized he had been holding. “You really don’t hate me for this?”
“Of course not,” his dad said with this surprised expression. “We’ll just need some time. You didn’t exactly give us much of a heads-up here, son.”
That was true enough. Nick had put off telling his parents about Vincent for so long that they’d only actually found out about him about a week ago. He smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, dad. Vincent’s a great guy though. Give him a chance?”
His dad patted him on the shoulder. “If he makes you happy, then I’ll be glad to get to know him. How’s he doing with your mother?”
They walked to the kitchen to find Vincent idly explaining to his mother what he did for a living, chopping up onions while he did so.
Nick gave him a sympathetic look, reaching for a tissue to wipe his eyes underneath his glasses. Vincent hated it, but he was one of those people that cried with onions.
He smiled at Nick, holding still. “Thank you, Nickolas.”
This time, Nick was aware of his parents sharing a look at Vincent’s usage of his full name. He ignored it. “Want me to do the onions, hun?”
He was still looking into Vincent’s beautiful green eyes when the man shook his head. “I’m just about done. Where do you want these, Nina?”
Nick watched Vincent for a while, his mother resolutely not allowing him to help. While they set the table, his father let him know that it was mostly because she wanted time to figure out Vincent without any interference. She didn’t have much time once Jacob and Cassidy arrived, both very interested in finally meeting Vincent themselves.
Before dinner, Nick pulled his boyfriend aside to the living room to give him a moment of peace. “Holding up okay?”
Vincent sighed, shutting his eyes momentarily. “It’s been a while since I’ve met a boyfriend’s family.” He reopened his eyes with a tired smile. “How am I doing?”
“Pretty good considering how awkward they’re all being,” Nick said with a roll of his eyes. “I promise that they’re usually not this weird, although Cassidy and Jacob are more or less this exuberant all the time.”
“They’d get along well with my sisters,” Vincent smirked, pushing his glasses back up his nose.
“Need some encouragement?” Nick suggested, leaning down to press their lips together for a few long moments.
He sighed at the familiar nudge of Vincent’s glasses against his nose and the pressure of the man’s lips against his.
They kept it chaste, obviously, but Nick was still nonplussed to pull away from Vincent only to find Jacob looking at them both with raised eyebrows.
“I was told to find you guys,” Jacob said, raising his hands in surrender.
“I’m suddenly reminded of you bothering me in high school all over again,” Nick murmured, taking Vincent’s hand.
“I’m just glad that you were only kissing and not—”
“Okay, okay, stop,” Nick requested. “Vincent already knows that story anyway.”
“You’re making it less fun to embarrass you, Nick,” Jacob pouted, leaving them alone.
“Siblings,” Nick murmured, disgruntled.
Vincent nudged him. “At least he seems okay with us.” He was smiling kindly, the light reflecting off of his glasses. Once again, it appeared as though he had blue sparkles in his black hair.
Nick smiled back at him, giving his hand a squeeze. “They might just get used to us after all,” he said lightly, pulling Vincent along with him to have dinner with his family.
The anxiety had disappeared. His parents and brother were trying, and that was enough for now.
It helped that whenever Vincent gazed at him with that calm smile, Nick could relax knowing that he had a pretty great guy by his side.