Finding the Courage
It didn’t take any effort at all to slip past Andrew and Maddie, who had gone back to their room to talk with family or sleep or thankfully not feel each other up on the couch. It took a lot more effort for Nick to stop his hands from shaking nervously in the same way that they used to do before he spoke in front of the class in high school.
Nick had probably checked Vincent’s message ten times in the past minute as he came to a stop on a street corner. He was sure that he had the right place, but his heart was still jumping around in his chest at the thought of seeing Vincent again.
Never in Nick’s life did he think that his heart would give a leap when he saw a man wearing a sweater-vest and glasses, but the second he caught sight of Vincent, it did.
“So, how many sweater-vests do you own?” Nick asked, partly as a joke and partly because he was curious.
Vincent thankfully didn’t look insulted by the question. “A lot.” He shrugged. “They come in a lot of colors and I can wear them at work. Am I not pulling it off?” He said it with a smile on his face and a lilt in his voice.
Nick chuckled. “No, no, you look great.”
“People think I’m smarter just automatically too, so that’s a plus.”
“Oh, that’s the glasses.” Nick found himself smiling. He hadn’t even realized that a smile had crept onto his face.
The late afternoon Sunday sun reflected off of those glasses as Vincent pushed them back up his nose. His green eyes seemed even brighter during the day. “Glad that they were worth the money I spent on them.”
Nick started walking with Vincent by his side. He had no legitimate idea of where they were going, so he let Vincent lead the way. “Yeah, I hear glasses are expensive, but no one in my family wears them.”
“Wow, you kiss well and have good eyesight? I think you’re out of my league, Nick,” Vincent joked, turning a corner.
Nick knew it was a joke, but he still felt a little warm. He also knew that it wasn’t because of the setting sun. “Are you sure? With the glasses and the sweater-vests, I think you’re smarter than me.”
He felt accomplished when he heard Vincent laugh at his silly joke. “Do you always like to flatter people?” Vincent asked, turning to him with those glittering green eyes.
Nick needed a second to put his thoughts together. “What’s the phrase? ‘It’s not flattery if it’s true?’ I really meant it when I said that you look great too, you know.”
Vincent’s eyes crinkled in amusement. With a touch to Nick’s arm, he directed him to turn so they could cross the street. Nick felt his skin tingle even though that touch had only lasted for probably about a second.
“Alright, Nick, tell me: are you lactose-intolerant?”
Nick blinked at the sudden change in topic. “Thankfully, no.”
Vincent gestured to the building in front of them, the one Nick hadn’t even been paying attention to. “That’s good. This would have been slightly awkward otherwise.”
Nick had to admit that getting ice cream and walking around wasn’t a bad way to cheer up. He couldn’t stay feeling sad when he had sprinkles in his mouth, or when he had Vincent to talk to.
“Ugh, sorry, but no.”
“Really, Vincent? You’ll eat every other fish besides salmon?”
“Nick, if you had been there the night that I got sick, you would understand why. Actually, no, I’m glad that there was no one there to witness that.” Vincent made a face at the memory. He looked relieved to have the mint chocolate ice cream to distract him.
“Yeah, there’s a special kind of humiliation that comes with getting sick in front of other people. It’s like delayed humiliation that hits you when you feel well enough to care,” Nick mused, recalling a few times when Andrew and Maddie had made it a point to take care of him when he was sick. Contrary to Andrew saying that he wouldn’t sit with him while he puked, the man had done it once or twice before.
Nick swallowed a spoonful of his vanilla ice cream, adding, “It’s… kind of nice to have people there though.”
Vincent smiled lightly. “Reminds me of when my dad drove up while I was in grad school—literally like ten hours—because I had the flu. Jeez, that was like six years ago.” He shook his head. “And now, I feel old.”
Nick chuckled around the spoon in his mouth. “Nonsense. Thirty isn’t old, and you…” He had a flash of a memory when he’d been drunk, of saying something about Vincent’s hair and eyes. Looking at him now, both his dark hair and green eyes seemed to sparkle even without the sun.
He should have finished his sentence, but the words left him. Something about Vincent had him absolutely mesmerized.
Vincent took a seat on a nearby bench, Nick following suit. A streetlight had come on above them to light up the city’s darkness that had begun to descend in full. Vincent’s hair was full of blue shimmers again.
“And I…?” Vincent prompted gently, his gaze calm.
Nick had to clear his throat to speak. “And you’re just… you’re… you jumble up all my thoughts,” he settled on saying, laughing awkwardly.
Vincent’s smile was fond. “You sure do know how to flatter a guy,” he said in a would-be joking tone, but which sounded more like that hypnotic lilt that made Nick want to grab him and pull him close.
Nick could feel his Adam’s apple bob in his throat as he swallowed and resisted the urge. “Vincent, I… I’m sorry that it took me two weeks to message you. I was a little confused and I… I kissed a few girls. Well, one kind of kissed me and then laughed at me, but still…”
He winced at his own rambling, but Vincent wasn’t looking at him judgmentally. The man’s gaze stayed careful and calm. “We’re not dating, Nick. You don’t have any obligations towards me.”
“I know,” Nick said, nodding, “but… I want to.”
It felt like he had literally just stepped off a cliff with the way those words tumbled out of his mouth. Nick rushed to explain. “I’ve never been with a man. I’ve never even looked twice at a man, really, except for I guess Andrew because we’ve lived together for a while—oh, but I never looked at him romantically, and—”
“Okay, I’m going to need you to take a little breath here,” Vincent interrupted, his lips quirked into a sympathetic smile and his cup of ice cream completely forgotten in his hands. “I think you’re speaking more quickly with every word.”
“Right,” Nick breathed, huffing out a weak laugh. He took a deep breath—in and out—before he kept speaking, “I’ve never thought I’d be romantically attracted to a man, but every time you kiss me, all I can think about is kissing you again. Those girls that I kissed… well, they didn’t make me feel like you do. I was being stupid, but I just wanted to be sure of how I felt before I… before I told you…”
When he paused, Vincent gave him a second. When the words seemed to get caught in his throat, Vincent placed a cautious hand on his forearm, as if to shake his thoughts free.
That simple touch gave Nick the courage to look into Vincent’s green-eyed gaze with determination. “Before I told you that I don’t care what gender you are. It doesn’t matter to me because you make me laugh and I like talking to you and all I want to do is kiss you again.”
Nick didn’t realize that he was doing it, but he was leaning forward. Vincent was smiling, and his smile widened as he shifted to be closer.
The light reflected off of his glasses before Nick was kissing him, pressing their lips together with a sigh of relief. Nick practically melted into the soft feeling of their lips together and the easy press of pressure between them. He could feel the hard plastic of Vincent’s glasses for a second as he opened his mouth, feeling Vincent do the same.
Nick was pretty sure that his body temperature had gone up at least ten degrees, because he suddenly felt very warm. He shifted to be just a little closer and then, just as suddenly, he felt cold.
“Shit!” Vincent exclaimed, both of them separating. “Damn, I’m sorry, Nick.”
It shouldn’t have been so funny that Nick had distracted Vincent enough to accidentally end up with melted ice cream all over his pants, but it was. Nick laughed even while Vincent winced and tried to wipe them clean with their meager napkin rations. He took hold of Vincent’s wrists to stop him.
“Vincent, it’s okay,” he kept laughing. “At least you missed my crotch.”
Vincent huffed out a laugh, shaking his head. “Yeah, there’s that,” he agreed, meeting his eyes. “I like kissing you too, if that wasn’t clear. You’ve been on my mind a lot lately, Nick.”
“Nickolas,” Nick corrected, his heart beating quickly in his chest. He felt his face grow hot. “Most people call me Nick, but I wouldn’t mind you using my full name. Sometimes. If you wanted.”
The man smiled softly, this secretive, fond smile. “Alright, Nickolas. Please don’t call me Vince or Vinny though.”
The horrible, corny line came out of his mouth before his brain had a chance to screen it, “Would I be able to call you my boyfriend?” Nick winced immediately, wondering why he had to just be a complete fail at finding the right words.
Vincent raised his eyebrows. “Wow, smooth.”
“Wow, I’m a dork,” Nick bemoaned, putting a hand over his eyes to hide his shame.
He felt Vincent’s cold hand on his wrist, pulling his hand down so that Nick could see the man smile. “Maybe, but you make me smile too. And you’re very smart despite your lack of glasses and sweaters. I’m glad that you wanted to meet up, Nick, and not just about the bookmark.”
Nick could have smacked himself. “Damn, I forgot to bring that. I really did mean to return it to you.”
He had earned himself another laugh from Vincent, this one hearty. “I hope you know that you’re quite the guy. I’d be happy to be your boyfriend, Nickolas.”
Nick would swear that he felt a shiver run through him from the way Vincent said his full name. His face broke out into a wide smile and he surged forward to give Vincent another kiss. Those tingles were definitely in his fingertips again, and running through his lips and down into his chest too. He smiled into their kiss, opening his mouth to feel the heat between them again.
He was definitely unfocused after they broke apart and stood up, and probably would have walked right into the streetlight if Vincent hadn’t pulled him away.
Vincent’s hand was cold from the now-abandoned ice cream, but Nick intertwined their fingers. He felt the other man give his hand a squeeze.
This feeling that Nick got with Vincent—it was definitely unlike anything he had felt before. The thought made him smile the entire walk back home.