“Okay, so we know that we’re not fancy people.”
“You clean up well though—not that your usual wardrobe isn’t nice to look at.”
“I still stand by my opinion that you look good in the vests. But I do see what Maddie means when she says that she likes it when men roll up the sleeves on their dress shirts.”
Vincent laughed lowly. His lips were still curved into a smile when he looked back at Nick. “Oh, so you like the fact that I’m a moron who should have worn something cooler?”
“Only if you like the fact that I’m the idiot who thought we should try a fancy restaurant,” Nick quipped in response, swinging their hands between them for a second.
“I find idiots very attractive, just so you know.”
“Oh, I know—you agreed to date me after I drunkenly fell on top of you.”
Nick felt happiness blossom in his chest as he laughed and Vincent pulled them along to a different, and far more casual, restaurant. His hand felt chilly when Vincent needed to let go to undo the top buttons to his shirt—just to cool off—and he also understood why Maddie said it was sexy when a man loosened up his clothing.
Vincent raised a curious eyebrow. Nick shrugged. “I like looking at you,” he said bluntly.
“Good thing that we’ll be staring at each other all night then,” Vincent answered with a distinctly pleased note in his tone.
They were definitely better off in a more casual restaurant, which may have lacked the romantic atmosphere, and which they were both overdressed for, but Nick got to hold Vincent’s hand atop the table, so he felt that it had all evened out. It was also nice that they didn’t have to mispronounce all the fancy items on the menu.
“So, you grew up with mostly English until your dad got serious about you guys learning Spanish?” Nick asked between bites of pasta.
Vincent nodded, taking a drink. “My grandparents were always pissed about us not knowing Spanish when we were little—they still don’t know a bunch of English. My dad finally got on the Spanish train when my oldest sister wanted to be fluent. Suddenly, our house was like a high school classroom,” he chuckled. “Sticky notes on objects, we had to ask for things in Spanish—the whole nine yards.”
Nick laughed at the mental image. “How old were you when this happened?”
“Oh, I was… six? I picked it up pretty easily. My oldest sister finally got the hang of it, and my two younger sisters always grew up with two languages. My other older sister gets me to translate sometimes for her.” He hummed at the taste of his lasagna, making a bit of a mess of it.
Vincent needed to remove his hand to wipe his face, but Nick felt his heart grow warm when the man replaced his hand there on top of Nick’s so casually, like it was the easiest thing in the world.
Nick resisted the urge to lean forward for a kiss over the table and kept speaking instead, “I did a poor job of Spanish in high school like all the other white kids.”
Vincent had this expression on his face like he was trying not to laugh and spit out his water everywhere. It was silly, but Nick felt a wave of pride wash over him for getting his boyfriend to look like that.
“This is nice,” Nick said, unaware that he’d said it aloud until Vincent squeezed his hand.
“It is,” Vincent agreed, his green eyes reflecting the lights of the restaurant. His glasses got a glare for a moment when he shifted.
Resolved to kiss Vincent the minute that they got up, Nick asked, “Okay, so Spanish and English. Is that it?”
The other man shrugged. “I can read German. Not fluently, but well enough.”
“I am really attracted to you right now,” Nick said, trying to sound like he was teasing, but not entirely hiding the fact that yes, he did find his boyfriend’s intelligence very attractive.
Vincent smiled secretively, and Nick just knew that he would certainly get a nice kiss later. “I’m guessing that you didn’t need to learn a bunch of languages to be an accountant?”
Nick blinked to get his brain back in working order. “No, but I did have to take all sorts of complex math classes. I took a lot of history electives though; they always had such interesting topics.”
“Just not the sort of thing you’d want to work in, huh?” his boyfriend asked understandingly.
“Exactly,” Nick agreed with a curt nod. “But I remember this one book I read—it was all about how people in the Soviet Union stopped sort of paying attention to ideology and stuff, and there was this one chapter on how people used to print records on x-rays because they didn’t have the plastic for vinyl… and this must not be the most interesting thing. I’m sorry.”
He smiled sheepishly, surprised that he’d even gotten that far. Andrew and Maddie usually cut him off before he could get too into it.
Vincent was looking at him curiously though. “Nick, my entire life is reading books like that. I’d love to hear more about what you think.”
Nick could practically feel his heart burst in his chest. “If you’re trying to make me not want to make out with you right now, you’re doing a really bad job of it.”
His boyfriend chuckled softly and placed his chin in his hand. He had to withdraw his other hand to eat. “Tell me about the books you like, Nickolas.”
The combination of Vincent’s soft voice and fond gaze and genuine interest mixed in with his full name was almost enough to make Nick melt. It was almost a little overwhelming to realize that he had Vincent’s undivided attention to talk about anything he wanted.
Somehow, a conversation about languages, jobs, and books ended with them kissing back at Vincent’s apartment. It was an extremely tiny place, but a cozy sort of tiny rather than a cramped sort of tiny.
Not that Nick was paying a huge amount of attention to the apartment. He was more focused on Vincent’s lips on his and the way the man grabbed his shirt to pull him closer atop his couch.
Nick groaned into their kiss, reaching a hand up to run it through Vincent’s dark hair. Something about kissing Vincent was entirely unlike kissing his past girlfriends, and it wasn’t just because of the fact that his hair was shorter and his chest was decidedly flat.
There was just something there, something that made Nick make a whining noise he’d never made in his entire twenty-seven years of life when Vincent kissed his neck.
“Sorry, was that too much?” Vincent breathed, pulling back right away.
Nick had to swallow before he could speak. “Please don’t stop kissing me.”
His boyfriend’s smirk was imprinted on his brain as Vincent leaned back in. Nick shivered at the feeling of Vincent’s nose right on his pulse point and the pull of the man’s hands in his shirt. He shut his eyes at the hot tingles that ran down his spine and the heat that was pooling in his stomach.
It was impossible to resist pulling Vincent back up so that he could kiss him right on the lips in some effort to convey what he was feeling in that moment. Maybe a little too hard, since he felt Vincent’s glasses bump against his nose for a second.
“It’s this moment that makes me happy that you don’t have roommates,” Nick murmured as he pulled back for a breath. He leaned in again for a long kiss, feeling his chest swell when Vincent groaned at the feeling of his fingers running over his scalp.
Vincent kissed him on the lips with just as much fervor. He green eyes were a little unfocused when he pulled back wearing a smile on his lips. “Not ready to tell your friends?”
An apology sprang to Nick’s tongue, but Vincent silenced it with a peck on the lips. “Hey, I came out when I was a teenager—I’m not assuming your sexuality, but I get it. It’s not always easy to show people that you’re not exactly the person that they think you are.”
Relief flooded him. Vincent had somehow known exactly why it was so hard for him to admit to Andrew and Maddie that he was currently very much enjoying making out with a guy who happened to be his boyfriend.
“I’m not ashamed of you or anything,” Nick added, his breathing slowly calming down. “I just… I really want you to know that—and to know that I love kissing you no matter where we are, and holding your hand over dinner.”
Vincent smiled sympathetically at him. “I know that you’re not. I’ve never had a boyfriend so happy to hold my hand and kiss my cheek and be so affectionate.”
Nick blinked. “Oh, is all that too much? I don’t mean to. I guess I just like being close, but my last girlfriend said that it was too much.”
He was aware that he was rambling, wondering if he would be able to take it if Vincent said that it was too much—that he was too much.
But the man leaned in for a sweet kiss on the cheek. “Nickolas, it’s certainly not too much. I, uh,” he stammered uncharacteristically, his cheeks coloring only lightly thanks to his skin tone, “it makes me feel special to have your attention like that.”
Nick swallowed. “I’m not too much?” he asked softly, just to be sure.
Vincent smiled. “You’re not too much,” he confirmed surely. “You’re more than I could ask for.”
Nick could feel his emotions somewhere in his throat and piling up in his chest. There was something just… just… amazing about hearing those words. “Amazing” wasn’t even the right word for it, but it was the only one that came to mind.
“Can I kiss you again?” Nick asked, wondering if that would help him find the right word for his feelings.
Vincent smirked. “Come here.”
And he did. He pressed his mouth to Vincent’s, feeling his soft lips and the pull of the man’s fingers in his hair. When he leaned down to kiss up the line of Vincent’s throat, he could feel heat again running through him. He smiled on his way up to Vincent’s mouth, content at the feeling of the man’s arms wrapping around his neck.
Nick had never done anything like this with a man before, and based on the heat he felt running through his veins, he had a feeling that he wouldn’t mind doing more than kissing.
They didn’t go any farther that night though; as embarrassed as he was by his admittance, Nick needed more time. Vincent understood, kissing him gently again and again and again...
Overall, Nick would call it a successful date. So successful that, an hour later when he and Vincent figured that they should call it a night to give them a fighting chance to stay awake at work the next day, Andrew and Maddie clearly noticed that he was feeling more cheerful than usual.
He was also overdressed for a bar or any other casual night out, so it wasn’t surprising at all that they each shot him a questioning look when he walked in.
“And what did you do tonight?” Andrew asked suggestively from his place on the couch, an arm slung around Maddie’s shoulders.
Nick couldn’t hide the smile on his face this time. “Just a work thing. Team bonding nonsense and all that,” he lied. It was a poor lie considering that he couldn’t stop smiling, but he didn’t care all that much in that moment.
Andrew gave him a disbelieving look while Maddie raised an eyebrow at him. “You’re that happy to go to some work thing?”
“Your shirt’s all wrinkled too,” Maddie observed.
Nick felt his heart skip at the memory of Vincent’s hands bunched up in his shirt. “Must have forgotten to iron it this morning. Oops. I’ll have to remember that for work tomorrow, but it’s late, so I should go to bed.”
“Okay, but if you’re drunk, make sure that you don’t miss the toilet when you puke!” Andrew called behind him.
Nick rolled his eyes at his friend and shut his bedroom door. His mind kept running back to those kisses as he changed his clothing and crawled into bed, recalling the way fire had run through his veins and heat had pooled low in his gut. The smile wouldn’t leave his face.
Waking up early for work had a way of making him frown though. Nick yawned as he got out of bed, stretching tiredly and mussing up his already rumpled hair. He rubbed his eyes and gulped down his coffee with gusto in the simple effort to prevent his eyes from closing.
He was seriously contemplating a third cup when his phone vibrated in his hand. It was Vincent. So, I may be a little flighty for a few days here. We’re doing a big summer fundraiser thing and I’ve got to help.
Nick typed back: You said that your friend Colleen usually does the fundraising? Did she rope you into it?
Vincent must have been rushing around to get ready, because it took him a few minutes to respond again. It makes me happy that you remember things like that. But yeah—she wasn’t given much time, so she got clearance to pull me in. The rest of this week is going to be… ugh.
Nick’s lips quirked up into a smile. Sorry, honey. At least it’s already Wednesday.
I’ll be thankful when it’s the weekend and I get to spend it with you. But I expect some kisses when my desk isn’t covered in paperwork.
Are we kissing on your desk then?
Nick could genuinely imagine his boyfriend laughing when he read his response. As hot as that would be, I sadly don’t have my own individual office. When you clear your desk at home, I’ll be ready.
I suddenly have so much incentive to clean up, Nick typed, smiling and going for another sip of his coffee. He pouted when he remembered that he’d already had two cups and sighed deeply. He probably shouldn’t overdo it with the caffeine.
“Don’t call me that,” Nick said automatically, giving Andrew a half-hearted glare. He couldn’t pinpoint the difference, but it wasn’t the same as when Vincent used his full name.
His friend smirked at him, reaching over for his own coffee mug. “Maddie’s doing something with her sister this weekend—want to hang with me? Feels like it’s been a while since we’ve hung out.”
It had probably been a little more than a month, Nick realized, and he couldn’t deny that he missed his friend—just his friend, without all the wedding planning and PDA. “This weekend?”
Andrew looked back at him curiously, coffee now in hand. “Yeah, on Saturday. That okay?”
Nick wanted to pout at the fact that he wouldn’t be able to spend time with his very attractive boyfriend on Saturday now, but he hadn’t exactly told Andrew about Vincent yet. Telling him randomly over morning coffee didn’t quite seem right either. Abandoning his friend for his boyfriend didn’t feel right anyway.
So, he cracked a smile and said, “Saturday’s fine. As long as you don’t cook anything.”
“You got sick once—and not even from my food!”
“Yeah, but you and cooking go together negatively in my brain now.” Nick earned himself a playful shove for that.
Andrew gave him his most unimpressed look. “Yeah, whatever. We’ll go out and get drinks or something.”
He seemed genuinely excited about the prospect. Nick was looking forward to it himself, but as much as he really did want to spend time with his friend, he also really wanted to kiss his boyfriend again—which he figured would have to wait an extra day now.
He texted Vincent the moment he got back to his room. Can we spend the day together on Sunday? Colleen roped you into work, Andrew roped me into drinks on Saturday.
Vincent took a minute to reply. We’ll have a sleepy Sunday together then. And I mean that literally, because I’ll be tired.
I promise not to make it a hungover Sunday.
Aw, I appreciate it.
Nick clutched his phone, feeling some kind of emotion in his chest that he didn’t understand. It was like… reassurance or trust or appreciation or something. Vincent was always so easygoing about shifting plans or about Nick not telling his friends about their relationship yet. It made Nick feel… safe. Like he could trust that this relationship was strong enough to withstand all the little intricacies of life and work and friends.
He felt the need to tell Vincent some of this, although even after showering and dressing, Nick had a hard time putting it into coherent words. He ended up typing his jumbled word mess into his phone on his way to work.
I know that we haven’t been dating for all that long, Vincent, but you mean a lot to me. You’re always so accepting and I’m not sure what to do with that because it’s like it’s not like my exes were bad people, but they never made me feel like I could make a bunch of stupid mistakes and still be together. Like, you make me feel secure, I guess, but I also kind of want to kiss you all the time.
Nick was pretty sure that he ended up rambling, and wasn’t sure that it all made sense—to him or to Vincent, because it wasn’t until an hour later when he was at his desk that he got a reply.
Damnit, Nickolas, you made me blush at work and now I’ve got Colleen being nosy. For the record, you make me feel the same, and without the insecurity I usually feel because of my age or what my younger sister calls “my dorkiness.” You’d better be ready for a kiss on Sunday for this.
Nick had never smiled so much while doing taxes.
Still, he was pleased when the weekend rolled around. He got the feeling that Vincent was too based on how tired he sounded over the phone—and even via text.
Nick shook his head fondly at his messages, pocketing his phone as he walked into the bar. Andrew had told him that he would meet him there, so he ordered a drink and took a seat, relaxing back into his booth.
He flipped his phone a few times in his hand, watching people for a little while. A guy was talking animatedly to a girl at the bar, and this group of guys was being rowdy in the corner. There were a few servers walking around, deftly dodging in between people with a certain amount of grace. Servers didn’t get enough credit, he thought; his brother had been one.
Nick checked his phone after fifteen minutes, frowning when he saw nothing from Andrew. He texted his friend and placed his chin in his hand, waiting another five minutes before he messaged Vincent.
How much time has to pass for me to be acceptably mad that my friend is late?
Vincent had been taking hours to respond sometimes with all the work he had this week—not that Nick minded; no one had any obligation to be always available—so it was nice that he must have been looking at his phone.
Without him telling you? Maybe ten minutes?
It’s been twenty. Nick sighed, wondering how pathetic that sounded.
I can’t claim to be great company right now since I’m already nodding off, but you’re always welcome here.
Very tempting. I make a great pillow.
Nick was about to leave—after thirty minutes now—when he finally did see Andrew outside through the windows. Looks like he showed up though. Get some rest, honey.
Make him pay for food for being late, Vincent suggested, and Nick chuckled.
It only took Andrew’s whirlwind entrance and that sheepish “it totally wasn’t my fault” smile that replaced Nick’s smile with an annoyed frown.
“I know, I know—I’m late,” Andrew said, reaching over for his drink.
Nick smacked his hand away. “You’re half an hour late and didn’t even text me.”
Andrew huffed, still not looking apologetic. “I was trying to get away from Maddie’s sister. I love her, but she kept dragging me back into the conversation whenever I got up to leave. I didn’t want to be rude,” he shrugged. “You don’t have anything else going on anyway, right?”
Something about the way Andrew said that, like he was absolutely convinced that Nick was alone with no other possible plans, irked him. Nick would have most certainly preferred to be his boyfriend’s pillow than to sit in a bar alone for half an hour, but he held his tongue.
He pushed down his annoyance, just letting it go for now. “You’re paying for food tonight,” he said in lieu of answering Andrew, ordering when the waitress walked by.
Andrew chuckled brightly. “Yeah, yeah. You know, me and Maddie could still set you up though if you want something to do in the evenings.”
Nick rolled his eyes. “I have enough to do as it is. Like eat the burger that you’re paying for.”
His friend gave him this amused smirk. “Yeah, because that really compares to kissing a woman,” he drawled sarcastically.
“It depends on the woman, honestly,” Nick mused. Having a burger definitely would have been better than kissing those few women back before he’d started dating Vincent.
“You’re clearly finding the wrong women then,” Andrew commented, thanking the waitress when she dropped off his drink. “Can you blame me though for wanting to set you up, Nick? I found Maddie—I want you to find your Maddie too. Metaphorically, because it would be so weird if you found a girlfriend with the same name.”
Nick felt his annoyance bleed out of him in one breath. As irritating as Andrew could be, it was obvious that the man cared. “After the amount of times I’ve heard you use Maddie’s name, I could never date someone by the same name anyway,” he quipped. “But I appreciate you caring, Andrew. Even though the answer to you setting me up is still no.”
“Love works in mysterious ways,” Andrew shrugged. “Maybe I’d set you up with the right person.”
“Or maybe you’d get me murdered. I think I’ll take my chances on my own,” Nick said. His mind was already wandering to Vincent though, wondering if maybe he’d already found the right person.
“Suit yourself. You’d better not get murdered though.”
“I’ll work on that,” he responded dryly. “So, did you put any more thought into studying to be a dentist rather than a dental assistant?”
Andrew exhaled. “I did. But if I’m a dentist, I get all the direct hate. I kind of like being the funny guy who makes the patients feel less like they’re being tortured.”
Nick shook his head in amusement, listening to his friend talk about work, including a guy who had needed some handholding when the dentist stuck a needle in his mouth. Truly, Nick had never understood any patient more.
He smiled faintly. Andrew really was like another brother: slightly annoying, always around, and easy to spend time with.
Nick hoped that he found the courage to be honest with him about Vincent, because as he texted Vincent a quick goodnight, he thought that it would be nice for his friend to know how happy he really was.