Prince Charming

Prince Charming

Fall

Tommy collapsed in a wet sobbing pile in the hallway of his dorm; his clothes and books were strewn around him, having been chucked unceremoniously out the door of his ex-room. Some had even hit him as they catapulted through he air.  He could barely even register the events of the past five minutes.  It still didn’t seem like they could have really happened.

What the hell was he supposed to do? 

He’d been in the shower trying to erase the stress of a long week when his roommate had come storming in holding the notebook that he usually kept carefully hidden.  He must have been tired enough to leave it out in the open because it was clenched in Mark’s angry red hands.

“You’re a fucking fag?” He’d shouted, making Tommy jump and almost slip on the stream of shampoo he was rinsing from his hair.  Tommy went from shocked to angry in about two seconds flat.

“What the hell are you doing with my journal?”

“Looking for our biology notes!  Instead I find a description of some guy’s perfect ass that you can’t stop thinking of! It’s just fucking wrong.”

“It’s the twenty-first century Mark.  People are allowed to be gay now.”

Tommy tried to sound reasonable but he was seethingly mad and truthfully a little scared.  Mark looked pretty irrational and he was a hell of a lot bigger than him. Most guys were a lot bigger than him. Tommy had never been in a physical fight and he didn’t want to start on this dark wet Friday. He slicked his hair back and squeezed the water out slowly, trying to calm down.  He hoped that him and Mark could talk about things rationally.  They weren’t best friends or anything but Mark had been an okay roommate so far.

He glanced out of the steamy glass and saw absolute rage engulfing what he usually knew to be a pretty low-key face. Reason didn’t seem too likely. At least not on Mark’s side. He was huffing and puffing, literally, and his face was tomato red.

“I don’t care if people are fags.  I just don’t want that shit in my room with me when I’m asleep. What if you tried to jump on me?”

Tommy nearly gasped at the injustice of that accusation. 

“Oh, Jesus Christ, Mark! Get over yourself.  You’re not even my type.”

Instead of reassuring Mark, that comment, which Tommy hadn’t even meant to say aloud, seemed to enrage him. 

“I’m tossing your shit out and I want you to follow it. You have five minutes then you’re finding a new dorm room.”

“It’s Friday night. Can we deal with this in the morning?”

“Two minutes.”

Tommy’s mouth hung wide as Mark stormed into their bedroom.  He could hear the sound of drawers being yanked open and his things being thrown into the hallway.  Tommy dragged the legs of his pajamas over his still wet body and nearly ran into their room to try and talk some sense into his roommate. 

Before he could utter one word, he was dragged bodily into the hallway.  The door slammed behind him, and he could hear the loud thunk of the deadbolt.  His keys were in the room and he was locked out. His phone was in there too.  Fucking great.  This was college?  This was what he’d been looking forward to for so long?

Tommy hated the tears that were streaming down his face as he tried to gather his belongings into somewhat of a pile. He hated the fact that he had to try and find a place to sleep that night when most of his friends were probably all asleep already.  He hated Mark and his asshole beliefs about sexuality.  Mostly he hated himself for keeping it a secret (which in retrospect he must have somehow known he needed to). It would have been a hell of a lot easier to get this whole obnoxious scene over with a month and a half before when school first started.

He sat there like a little wet doll, sagging against the hallway wall and tried to think of what the hell his next step would be.

“Are you okay?” The question came from above, deep and resonant.  He wasn’t the type that usually needed, or wanted, rescuing but it was such a relief to hear a friendly voice. He’d been in the hall for close to an hour, trying to figure out his next move.   

Tommy looked up to see what he could swear must be his guardian angel.  Michelangelo beautiful, with a smile that made his breath get all short and squirrelly in his chest.  He was even bathed in a backlit glow from the hallway fluorescents that made everyone else look like they were about to puke.  Of course it made him look like he had a halo like in one of those old renaissance paintings. Like he was Saint Gorgeous or whatever. St. Gorgeous…I like it.

When the newly dubbed St. Gorgeous stuck out his hand to help Tommy up, all he could do was nod.  Then inexplicably he broke down crying again, feeling stupid but unable to stop the hysterical tears.

“Hey, buddy, what’s wrong?”

“My roommate and I got in a fight and he kicked me out,” Tommy hiccuped, embarrassed as hell. “I don’t have any-anywhere to go.”  He was still hiccuping and angrily wiping tears from his face.  He felt like such a pansy, crying in front of such a perfect man.

“You want me to go in and talk to him?” St. Gorgeous asked. Tommy’s eyes widened in horror.  No, he couldn’t talk to Mark. The last thing he needed was someone else hating him for something he couldn’t help.

“No! I mean, no thanks.  It won’t help.” He took deep breaths. The guy smiled at him again, that sexy as hell smile that did crazy things to his insides.  Stop it Tommy! Hasn’t there been enough trouble tonight?  He tried to lecture himself silently, but it didn’t much work. The stranger was kind and beautiful and he was instantly smitten.

“Well, here’s the thing.  I have a friend whose roommate never showed in September.  I think he’d be cool with letting you stay over.  Especially when he hears about your problem.” Tommy was desperate.  Compared to sleeping on his coat in the hallway, a stranger with an empty bed sounded perfect.

“Thank you so much…” He hesitated.

“Chase.  My name is Chase.” He has a name.

“Well, thank you very much Chase.  I’m Tommy.”

“It’s no big deal. C’mon Tommy.  I’ll take you to meet Nick.”

After a few minutes of desperately scrambling his stuff together, Chase led a hiccuping and bedraggled Tommy up five flights of stairs to the top floor of their dorm.  Finally, they stopped in front of a door with a sign in blue and green marker proclaiming it to be Nick’s room.  Tommy’s legs shook, not only from practically sprinting after the much taller Chase up five flights of stairs, but also from fear.  What if this guy hated him too? He’d had such a crap night that he didn’t know if he could handle any more rejection, even if it was from a total stranger.

“Hey, Chase, don’t you think we should have called first?  What if he isn’t cool with this?”

“Nick’ll be fine.  He’s the nicest guy I know. Don’t worry so much. You’re worse than my mom.” Chase gave him a brotherly hair shuffle then knocked authoritatively on the door.  It was silent for a few moments, then Tommy heard the distinct sounds of shuffling as whoever was on the other side got out of bed and came to open the door. 

As soon as the door opened, Tommy got yet another shock. 

Jesus! Who the hell were these people?

In a striking foil to Chase’s healthy honey and wheat beauty, Nick was the moon—a gorgeous night creature with flaxen hair and glowy pale skin.  His eyes could only be described as silver, a gray that had metallic flecks in it that seemed to glitter in the light.  Compared to those two, Tommy felt like a little brown mouse, boring and average.  The incredible silver eyes he had just been admiring were sleepy and half closed, but they managed to give Chase an impatient look that made Tommy’s stomach churn. This was a horrible idea.

“God, Chase. Do you know what time it is?  What do you want now?”  Tommy was about to say ‘forget it’ and bolt down the hallway, when Chase spoke.

“Listen Nick, this is Tommy.  His roommate is an asshole and decided to kick him out really late at night.  I found him out in the hallway when I was leaving Parker’s room. He has no where to go and I know you’ve got an empty bed.”

Nick’s face did an instant transformation.  The impatient aloofness disappeared and he seemed to notice Tommy for the first time. After briefly looking him over, Nick gave him a reassuring smile that made Tommy feel all of a sudden like everything was going to be okay.

“Yeah, no problem.  I’m sorry.  Sounds like you had a rough night.  Come on in.” Tommy was surprised at the quick change in Nick’s behavior.  First that icy irritation with Chase, now this warm graciousness with him?  He didn’t get it, but he was happy to be welcome. He did however catch Nick giving Chase another look as he sidled past him into the room.  Tommy figured there must be some history between the two.  Probably the two hottest guys at their high school or something, always competing for the same girls.

Tommy said goodnight to Chase, who didn’t seem to be too interested in lingering, then followed him with slightly star struck eyes as he walked to the door and closed it behind him.  He knew the look on his face was probably a bit ridiculous, but he’d had such a trying night that he really didn’t have the strength to hide his admiration. Nick chuckled, a bit sarcastically it seemed, and pointed to the closet next to the empty bed.

“I have a few boxes in there, but I’ll deal with them in the morning.  That can be your closet.” Tommy’s mouth dropped open.

“You mean I can stay? Like more than tonight?”

“Sure.” Nick smiled, his expression friendly and open. “They would’ve given me a roommate eventually anyway and you seem like a nice enough guy. You’re not a mass murderer or anything, are you?” Tommy gulped. Truth time.  He had to get this over with before it came out in few weeks and he was sitting in the hallway again under a pile of his stuff.

“Hey, listen Nick. I have to be honest.  It’s really cool you letting me crash here and everything. I just need to let you know what happened with me and my old roommate.”

“Chase said you got in a fight and he kicked you out.  I get it.  Shit happens, right?”

Tommy cringed.  Why did he have to be so nice? “No, it’s what we fought about.  I just want you to know before you offer to let me stay.” He hesitated, feeling awkward. “It’s just, well, I’m gay and he just found out… So if you’re not okay with that, I’ll go to the housing place in the morning.  I just really need-” He broke off when he saw Nick’s grin. “What?”

“Tommy.  It’s fine.  I’m gay too.” He couldn’t help his mouth dropping open. The beautiful boy was gay? Nick chuckled lightly. “I promise I won’t bite. Unpack your stuff.”

“Is Chase…?” He hated to sound desperate, but he needed to know. Maybe if one was than the other…  Nick rolled his eyes.

“Chase.  It’s happened already, huh?” He had a look on his face that said ‘this is the oldest story in the book’. It was that same impatient look that he had the entire time Chase had been in the room. Nick took a deep breath, obviously deciding what to say. “Chase is…open to opportunity.  I guess you could call it bi.” He looked like he’d like to call it something a whole lot less flattering. “You’ll have to come to your own conclusions about him.”

“How well do you know him?”

“I’ve known him since I was born.  Our dads work together.” Tommy opened and shut his mouth silently.

He wanted to drill Nick for details but figured it would be in bad taste seeing as though he just met the guy. He was fascinated with Chase though and wanted to know more. It was hard to hold his tongue but he figured it would be a good idea until he got a better idea of who his roommate was and what kind of relationship he had with Chase. So he managed to not ask any more questions…barely.

Instead, he craned his neck, studying the array of paintings and drawings that were splashed all over the walls.  Some were detailed and delicate, others bold and filled with intense colors.  They were all beautiful.

“Is this all yours?”  Nick actually looked embarrassed.

“Yeah. It’s what I do when I’m procrastinating.  Guess it’s better than beer pong and video games.” His smile was slightly bitter. “I’ll take the ones down on this side so you can put your own stuff up.”

“No, don’t!” Tommy protested. “I love your work.  It’s fantastic. Are you an art major?” Nick’s laugh, if anything, was more bitter than the smile. Tommy found himself wanting to know the story behind that ironic laugh.

“No.  Don’t think my dear ol’ dad would want to pay for an art major.” He held up a book titled Gaining Market Share, looking anything but thrilled. “Business school. What about you?” Tommy shrugged.

“Undecided.  I’m interested in too many things, I guess.  Don’t have any all consuming passions.”

“You’ll find one.  It’s not like gaining market share is my all consuming passion.” They both laughed. “Hey is this all your stuff?” Nick looked at the pathetic little pile at Tommy’s feet.

“No.  Mark kicked me out and locked the door before I could get the rest of it.”

“I’ll help you deal with him tomorrow.  We’ll get the rest of your stuff and go to the housing office to move you officially.” 

Tommy found himself smiling genuinely and able to breathe for the first time since his old door slammed behind him. “Thank you for being so nice.  It’s…refreshing after the night I had.” Nick smiled at him again but remained quiet, letting him sort through the jumble of belongings.

After Tommy put away the few things he had with him (which unfortunately didn’t include his sheets or blankets), he cuddled up on his new bed with a borrowed comforter and fell asleep with the feeling that hopefully things were going to work out all right.

Nick had felt a punch to the gut the second he’d stopped being annoyed with Chase’s existence long enough to notice the broken little puppy he had in tow.  Puppy was the only word that Nick could think of for the sad sweet thing with huge liquid eyes that looked like they were on the verge of tears. He was adorable and more than a little heartbreaking. 

His first instinct was to take the kid in his arms and tell him everything was going to be okay.  His second instinct was to knee Chase in the balls because he obviously had worked his charms on yet another victim who didn’t have the strength to deal with the fallout when they realized how he really was—which was shallow and full of himself.

Nick didn’t want to examine the third and final instinctual reaction he’d had in those quick seconds before he invited Tommy into his room. That’s because it was attraction, inconvenient, irritating attraction.  Of course it was.  One of Nick’s best skills was falling for people he couldn’t have.  He wasn’t sure what it was about Tommy. Maybe it was the sad eyes or the soft porcelain skin. Perhaps it was the hint of high cheekbones or the sensual plumpness of his lower lip.  Whatever it was, Nick was drawn to him instantly.  Drawn harder than he’d ever remembered being drawn before.

Instantly attracted to someone who was already ass in the air over Chase Hamilton. Story of his fucking life.

Nick sighed and helped sweet faced Tommy put blankets and pillows on the spare bed. He wondered if it had been a bad idea to ask if he wanted to stay permanently. Probably was.  The words had flown out of his mouth before he gave himself a chance to think about it. Didn’t mean he was going to take them back.  He already didn’t ever want to be the one to make puppy-eyed Tommy sad. Unfortunately It was going to happen anyway. The hopefulness on Tommy’s face when he’d asked about Chase was sweet, but spoke of an inevitable conclusion. Heartbreak.

There was no way in hell Nick was going to tell him the truth.  They never believed him anyway.  Beautiful Chase looked so nice at first, with his angelic face and easy well-bred manners. He liked to be the one everyone paid attention to and no matter how hot you are if you act like a dick people will stop adoring you.  So he had the nice guy act down. It never lasted though.

Nick knew in weeks, though, maybe even days if Chase worked quickly, he’d be holding onto a crying roommate and telling him there was someone else out there who would be better (like him, damn it!). It had happened a million times before, girls and guys, crying on his shoulder and asking him why they weren’t good enough for his “best friend”.  Some day he’d like to tell one of them that Chase wasn’t his friend at all.

Like he told Tommy he’d known Chase for years.  Their fathers did work together…sort of.  What he hadn’t told Tommy, or anyone else at the school, was that Chase’s dad worked for his father. Thousands of people worked for his father.  Nick’s father, Michael Logan, owned one of the biggest software companies in the world. 

Synonymous with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Paul Allen, Michael Logan was famous, obscenely rich, and as far as Nick was concerned, a complete pain in his ass.  He was controlling and image conscious, egotistical, impossible to please.  He wanted Nick to follow in his footsteps and he’d spent eighteen years trying to shove his artistic and sensitive son into the suffocating square little box that he found acceptable.

Nick hated him. Plus he’d spent his entire life so far being referred to as “Michael Logan’s son”, paid attention to because of his money, and never sure if anybody really liked him for himself.  He didn’t want that to happen ever again. He had decided years ago that when he finally got to leave home, he was going to disappear.  Literally. Apply at some out of the way state school where no one knew him (or cared about his rich father) and just be normal.  It was a dream he’d been nurturing for a long time-the day when someone would smile at him and they’d just be smiling at Nick, not ‘Nick Logan’. The day when he could wake up, put on some old jeans and a t-shirt, and walk out the door without security detail tailing him.

The day when he might finally get to openly date a guy and not worry about his father locking him up for eternity.

He had been so excited. Just when it had been about to happen he’d learned that Chase decided to follow him to the same school.  Furious wasn’t even close to how he felt the day he’d gone over pounding on the door of Chase’s house. He’d demanded to know why Chase was following him to college, why he couldn’t just leave him alone. Chase hadn’t had any concrete answers but Nick had known after about one minute of watching him shuffle back and forth and look uncomfortable.  His father.  Chase couldn’t say no to him any more than anyone else could.

For some reason Michael Logan wanted Chase keeping an eye on Nick- probably so that he didn’t become some unwashed hippy or something. If only his father had a clue.  Nick becoming some bongo drumming campus granola would be the least of his worries. It irritated the hell out of him that his father wanted to control him still, when he finally had a chance to be free.  He’d wanted to go running home from Chase’s house that day and scream that he was gay and leaving home and that he was never going to be some stuffy businessman.  Too bad there wouldn’t have been anyone there to hear it.

He finally decided the best thing he could do was keep his mouth shut until it was time to go to college. Unfortunately, he knew there wasn’t much he could do about Chase. His only hope was to stay as far away from him as possible, bribe the hell out of him to keep his secret, and hope nothing of consequence got back to the big man.

When they finally got to college, Nick made Chase promise not to tell anyone who he was.  If someone figured it out, there wasn’t much he could do about it but as much as possible, he wanted to be a normal guy for once.  Chase was allowed to flaunt his rich kid money as much as he wanted. All Nick asked was that he be kind of general about the details.  As far as he knew, Chase had kept his word so far. He figured that would stay true, since the spotlight would be shifted if his identity were known—and that wouldn’t be good for either of them. They also talked about keeping their dating activities a secret.  Chase wasn’t exactly on the corporate America straight and narrow with his equal opportunity shagging.  They both had dirt on each other.  It was best that way.

Unfortunately Nick had a new problem. Well, an old problem in a new place at least. He saw where this whole thing with Tommy was going, at least for him.  When Nick was really into someone it usually happened right away.  And it only got worse. He knew the best thing to do was ignore it.  He’d already opened his big mouth and told the guy he could move in.  He wasn’t going to be an asshole and take it back.  He just needed to be careful.

  He found himself trusting those sincere eyes, wanting to open up to him, to tell him all his secrets and hope he understood.  But even more than that, he wanted Tommy to like him for himself.  He cared about it more than he should after only a short time.  He was falling fast for the soft eyes and sweet smile.  He wished to hell Tommy had never met Chase.  More than anything, he really just wanted to kiss him.  And that scared Nick more than anything.

“Thanks for doing this with me,” Tommy said, for at least the tenth time.  He knew it was probably annoying, but he honestly didn’t know how to handle the fact that Nick was being so nice to him.  It wasn’t like he had been abused, but he hadn’t exactly grown up in happy kingdom and after that scene with Mark he’d basically lost his faith in peoples’ kindness.

“I swear to god, Tommy.  If you thank me one more time I’m going to punch you.” Nick said it with a smile and a ruffle to his hair, so he knew he wasn’t serious.  Tommy smiled back and took a deep breath as they entered the hallway that had been his until the night before. In the little corner of his mind that wasn’t nervous about the confrontation to come, he wondered what Chase was doing.  Would they run into him?  Did he even live in this dorm? He didn’t want to ask Nick, still unsure of their relationship.

Tommy lifted a shaky hand to knock on Mark’s door.  He was torn, both hoping that Mark wouldn’t be there and knowing it was best to get the whole thing over with. The door cracked open and a surly looking Mark surfaced.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” He asked, his voice gravelly. At that moment, Tommy’s nerves disappeared and he got annoyed.

“What do you think?  You locked me out without most of my stuff.  This is my new roommate, and we’re here to get it.” Tommy was proud of his voice.  It was inconvenienced, bored, and completely cool. Mark looked like he was about to protest but then he took a big sigh and opened the door.

“Fine.  Just hurry up and then get your fag ass out of here.” Tommy could see Nick’s gaskets about to blow, but he put a hand on his chest to stop him. Mark misread Nick’s angry look. “What? Didn’t know the new roomie was a butt pirate? Better duct tape your ass shut at night.”

Nick, who wasn’t considerably smaller than Mark, stepped really close and put his face right in Mark’s.

“Yeah, I know he’s gay.” He let a deliberately satisfied smile creep onto his face. “He’s kinda hot too, isn’t he?  You know, Tommy told me you weren’t his type. Too bad you’re not really my type either.  We could’ve all had some fun together.” Nick ran his finger down Mark’s chest all the way to the waistband of his shorts. “I suppose I can make an exception for you, though.” He murmured.

Tommy was torn between laughing out loud and giving Nick a huge sloppy kiss after he saw the horrified look on Mark’s face.  Hell yeah!  It was time for the homophobic asshole to get a taste of his own medicine. It took Mark a second to realize that Nick was completely messing with him. His face turned red.

“You know what.  Fuck you both.” Mark’s face turned red when he realized what he’d both said. “I didn’t-” He stammered. “Oh fuck it.  I’m outta here.”  He pushed past them and stomped down the hall. “Lock my door after you get all your shit,” He called from the doorway as he went into the stairwell.

Nick and Tommy collapsed into laughter the second the metal door slammed shut.

“Oh my god that was fun,” Nick croaked when he could finally breathe.

“This is the last time, I promise, but thank you, thank you, thank you.  The look on his face was priceless.”

“You are very, very, welcome.  Now let’s get your stuff and get out of here.”

That first day with Nick was the best Tommy had had in years.  They got his things put away and had him officially transferred him to Nick’s room at the campus housing department.   It made him feel really good that not only did Nick have no problems with Tommy but he actually seemed to want to be friends.  Tommy hadn’t had a hard time making friends ever, at least not the surface level kind, but he’d had nothing but trouble with the people he lived with. He hoped that Nick was really going to be someone he could trust.

After waiting in the long line at the housing department, where Nick made up funny stories about the people in line and whispered them to Tommy, they went to the dining hall to grab lunch.  Pizza was on the menu, luckily, since that was probably one of the least adventurous things to eat there.  Tommy learned the hard way not to have the chicken patties.  Medium rare is never a good thing when it comes to poultry.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing in their room and getting to know each other.  Tommy couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so comfortable with anyone.  Probably his father-although, being with Nick didn’t feel anything like he remembered feeling when he’d been with his father.  Nick was more like the best friend he’d never really had before.  Gone was the sarcasm and bitterness he’d sensed the night before.  In its place were laughter, wit, and understanding.

Tommy told him about his dead parents and growing up with his conservative aunt and her three bitchy daughters.  He’d been so happy to be out of that house that he’d nearly passed out from the relief.  That scene with Mark had caught him so off guard because he had finally been letting down the walls he’d been reinforcing for so many years.  He sensed Nick would understand based on the little hints he’d gotten about Nick’s relationship with his father and whatever weirdness was going on with Chase.

“I’m so glad I met you,” He told Nick when they were getting lounging on their beds watching TV. “It feels like I can just be myself for probably the first time ever.”

“So you mean at home they don’t know you’re gay?”

“That’s not all I meant but no. Absolutely not.  As long as I was living there I was so far in the closet I was sitting on the boxes of baby clothes shoved in the back.”

Nick laughed. “Yeah, me too.  My dad would probably have me assassinated or something if he found out. Didn’t you ever date anyone?”

  “Uh, yeah.  I had a girlfriend.  I made sure I picked the most conservative churchy girl in school.  The one that would be more than happy with hand holding and little grandma pecks.” Nick laughed. Tommy did too even though he felt a little like the butt of the joke. “What? What did you do?”

“Drive and date.  I had a few not very serious boyfriends from towns where no one knew me.  Hence the appeal of this school. No one knows me here…or at least they didn’t until Chase got here.” He grumbled the last part. Tommy restrained himself from asking about Chase.

“I figured you weren’t from around here. You sound different. Where’s home?”

“California.  I wanted to go far away.  I would have gone to Europe if that wasn’t taking it over the top.”

“So instead you came to Massachusetts?  I guess this is about as far from California as you can be without getting an ocean involved.”

“Exactly.” Nick grinned.

“I still would have picked Florida.  You haven’t known the meaning of cold until you try to walk to class during one of our winters.” He shivered just thinking about it.

“I’ll risk it.” Tommy laughed. “What else did you mean about being yourself?” He felt his face grow pink.

“I’m not sure what I meant exactly, other than I feel like maybe we have a lot in common. I was so afraid of people at home finding out that I was gay that I boxed in lots of different aspects of my personality. I already look like—well, you know what I look like. So I felt like I had to cover up any part of me that made me seem more gay. Oh, Jesus. I don’t know how to explain what I’m talking about.”

“No, I get it. It’s like the business major for me, instead of art. Or how I played sports every season so I blended in. It makes sense.”

Tommy knew that Nick would get it. Tommy had a feeling there wouldn’t be much about him that Nick didn’t get.

It started to rain in the afternoon, and they popped in an old sci-fi movie while Tommy set up his computer and stereo on his new desk. That inexplicable feeling of comfort seeped through him again. He knew he was probably imagining it but even the room itself seemed nicer than his old one.  The ceilings were vaulted which was the benefit of being on the top floor but other than that he knew the room had to be the same.  It just felt so much better.  Maybe because he was already comfortable with Nick, Nick who had fallen asleep on his bed watching the movie that was playing in the background.

Tommy smiled, his stuff put away as much as it possibly could be for the time being. A nap seemed like the perfect idea…

* * * 

Tommy couldn’t believe it was already almost winter break. Just a few more short hours and finals would be done and campus would be emptying out by the busload. He knew it sounded like the biggest cliché in the world, but the fall had simply flown by—even more so since he’d been living with Nick. He couldn’t remember ever being so comfortable with anyone in his life. His friends and Nick’s had started to mesh in the past few weeks, and more often than not they all hung out in a big group, the art kids and Tommy’s friends from the film club he’d joined when he first got to campus.  People liked hanging out in their room, watching movies or just listening to music. Tommy thought it was ironic that for the first time in his life he was kinda-sorta pseudo popular. He had to say that he liked it.

He scooted around until he could hang his head off the bed and look at Nick’s new painting. It was upside down, of course, but that didn’t make it any less stunning. Tommy couldn’t believe how amazing it was. Nick had been working on it in the art studio after class for close to a month. He’d been able to work out a deal with his father that he could take one night art class if he filled his regular schedule with the general university requirements and the business classes that his father wanted him to take. Tommy couldn’t believe how narrow-minded Nick’s father was. If he had a son that was such a brilliant artist…Tommy stopped fuming and went back to admiring the painting, a play on Botticelli’s Primavera (at least according to Nick—Tommy had never heard of the thing) it was a wildly colored abstract of students dancing in the trees that lined the outside of campus. Tommy may not have been able to analyze it in relation of the old renaissance painting but he knew he loved it.

He’d flopped down on his bed about thirty minutes before, right after getting back from an essay final for freshman lit. The test hadn’t been a huge deal, and he thought the questions were pretty easy, but all that writing was draining, especially for the last test of fall finals. He was going to be glad for the break.  Most of Tommy’s friends were going home for Christmas, but he’d elected to stay at the school, and luckily theirs was the one dorm on campus that stayed open for the international students who couldn’t afford to fly home.  He didn’t want to spend his holidays with his aunt, and her two pushy daughters. He didn’t like them and they were more than happy to return the favor. It was best for Tommy to stay where he was. He planned to read, fill up on junk food, watch movies and just relax.  It probably wouldn’t be the most memorable holiday, but it would be stress free and easy—exactly what he needed.

Tommy picked his head up off of his pillow when he heard the door to the room open. It was Nick, of course, his gorgeous face pale and tired from the long week of testing. He dumped his backpack on the floor.

“Hey, how’d your last test go? Okay?”

Nick smiled tiredly and sank onto his own bed, sighing. He kicked his shoes off and laid out on his bed. “Yeah, it wasn’t nearly as big of a deal as I had myself thinking it was going to be. I freaked out over nothing.”

“You gonna start packing now?”

Nick rolled over onto his stomach. “Well, about that…how would you feel about me not going?”

Tommy grinned. “Really? Why?”

“Well my dad just agreed to go speak at some international finance convention in Zurich. He’d have the actual day of Christmas off, but the rest of the time he’d be working. My choices are: go to Switzerland and sit in some fancy hotel by myself, go home and have Christmas alone or at the stupid country club with my dad’s friends…or stay here.”

“With me,” Tommy finished. “You want in on the three week long junk food and movie binge?”

Nick chuckled. “Only to be broken by the occasional video game or walk in the snow.”

“Ugh. Snow. That one’s all you.”

“I like snow! We don’t see much of it in Newport Beach.”

“Must be tough.” Tommy rolled his eyes and Nick threw a pillow at him.

“So what’s on for tonight?  Horror, sci-fi, rooomance?”

“No romance, please! That’s the last thing I want to watch.”

“Oh, c’mon, are you still talking about Math boy? It wasn’t that bad.” Nick flashed him an impudent smile.

“Uh, yes it was.”

A few weeks before, Tommy had been the recipient of a phone number, passed to him shyly at the end of Math class. He’d called the boy, Oliver, and they’d gone on one excruciatingly awkward and quiet date. Tommy had vowed never to do that to himself again. Not that mooning over the barely seen Chase Hamilton was much better. At least he could do that in his head—without the painful social interaction.

“I have apparently never learned the art of small talk. Put me around a guy and I’m all tongue twisted.”

“What, you talk to me just fine!”

“I know you.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t at first.”

“I don’t know. You’re my friend, not a guy guy. It’s easy to talk to you.”

Way to stab me in the heart. Nick knew he wasn’t a guy guy to Tommy. Hated it, but knew it all the same. Didn’t mean he wanted to hear it out loud. There was such a thing as denial after all. He’d tried to not think about Tommy that way. Really, he did. He’d had six long weeks to practice. Unfortunately, his crush had gotten worse, not better. And every time he’d looked at Tommy and told himself ‘he’s just a friend’ his brain countered with ‘yeah, a friend you’re falling in love with’. He couldn’t remember a time when he’d been happier or more miserable.

The first day of their break it started to snow…and snow, and snow, and snow.  They’d gotten up and walked to Starbucks for coffee and muffins early, but by the time they reached campus, they were running and slipping, trying to get to the dorms before they were practically buried in the whiteout.

“Holy shit!” Nick exclaimed, shaking out his jacket and hat in the hallway so it didn’t melt into a huge puddle on the floor of their room. “I think I take back that comment about loving the snow.”

“No kidding.” Tommy was de-mummifying himself as well, unwinding the miles of navy and light blue striped scarf that were wound around him. He stomped his feet and tried to get as much of the snow off as he could. “We should’ve gone to your house instead of staying here. Christmas on the beach in California.” Tommy sighed.

Nick felt a quick stab of panic. There was no way he was bringing Tommy to the palace of a house his father had built for them back in Newport Beach. He was still struggling with the need to keep his identity secret versus the desire to share everything with his new best friend.

“Nah, it’s best here. No annoying airports, no nosey housekeepers. Trust me.”

Tommy shivered and raised his eyebrows. “I’ll take your word for it. Turn the thermostat up!”

Nick chuckled and reached over to turn up the heat in their room. “You know what you need?”

“A beach umbrella and a bottle of sunscreen?”

“You need practice.”

Tommy looked perplexed. “Practice?”

“Yeah, practice talking to dates. You’re not going to spend all of college in this room just because you get nervous around guys.”

Nick grabbed the throw from his bed and spread it on the floor in between the two sides of their room. He sat their coffees and muffins on the throw and lit a candle, which he placed in the middle of the blanket.

“Voila, dinner is served. Now sit down and be my date.”

Tommy snorted. “This is dumb. I’ve already said that I have no problems talking to you.”

Nick reached out and snagged a hat from his desk. He shoved it down so it covered as much of his blond hair as possible and put on a pair of sunglasses that was sitting on his desk.

Tommy giggled. “You look like inspector gadget.”

“That’s your date, inspector gadget thank you very much.” He reached out and poked Tommy on the side. “Sit.”

“All right, inspector, what are we supposed to do here?” Tommy asked when they were both sitting. He reached out and grabbed another scarf to wrap around his neck. The dark burgundy made his pale skin, pink cheeks, and sandy hair glow—and those big brown eyes. Nick gulped and tried to focus on their little game.

“You’re supposed to ask your date questions. Get him talking. For example, I can ask you—what are your favorite parts about college so far, Tommy? And you’d say?”

“My favorite part of college so far is the friends I’ve made. Especially my roommate, even if he is a big dork.”

Nick smiled. “Your turn. Ask a question.”

“What are your favorite parts of college so far?”

“Getting away from my father’s house.” Nick made a face. “Oh, and this boy that I’m in love with from afar.” He swooned theatrically. “He barely knows I exist but I know someday he’s going to come rescue me from this tower and take me to his chalet deep in the enchanted mountains.” Nick finished with a flourish.

Tommy snorted, sending little bits of coffee flying from the corner of his mouth. “See, I’d have been fine the other night if that guy had been funny like you. All he did was sit there and stare.”

“Then, my young padawan, you must do the talking. Ask me another question.”

“Um, what’s your major?”

Nick scoffed. “That’s about as good as ‘Haven’t I seen you here before.’ Try again.”

“Okay, then tell me about your favorite childhood toy.”

“That’s better. My first bike was my favorite toy. Until I had that thing I felt trapped at my parents’ house. I’d take it and sneak out at all hours of the day and night just to ride and feel the wind in my hair.”

“Wait, you said parents. Like plural. I thought you just lived with your dad.”

Nick looked down at the blueberry muffin he’d been playing with. “I do, now. My mom disappeared when I was ten. Left a ‘Dear John’ and was never seen or heard from again, other than to file for divorce.”

“Really?” Tommy scooted around to Nick’s side of the blanket, game obviously forgotten. He laid his head on Nick’s shoulder. “That must have been hard for you.”

Nick shrugged, but not enough to bump Tommy’s head from his shoulder. Then he laid his own cheek against Tommy’s soft waves. “It kinda sucked, but she’d never been around much anyway. Mom was a trophy wife who’d never wanted to get pregnant. She did the ten years required in the prenup and then booked. Dad got served papers from some town on the French Riviera.”

Tommy laid his hand on Nick’s thigh and squeezed. The small gesture, meant as comfort, made Nick’s cheeks heat. His body couldn’t take too much more of that kind of proximity to Tommy before it started showing its interest.

“I’m really sorry, Nicky. I know what it’s like not to have a mom. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.”

Nicky?  Nick just let it go and breathed in the soft apple smell of Tommy’s shampoo.

“It’s okay, short stuff. You done practicing?”

            Tommy nodded. “Yeah, I’m always going to be useless with guys. Let’s watch a movie.” He hopped up on Nick’s bed, which had the best view of the TV. “What do you want to watch?”

“Horror! I say we do the Saw movies.”

“I might scream.”

Nick chuckled. “I’ll hold your hand.”

Nick got a tongue and a rude noise for that comment. He chuckled as he set up the DVD and closed their curtains to cut off the blinding white of the snow outside.

They watched the movie in silence for a while. Tommy cuddled close to Nick and sighed happily when Nick draped an arm around Tommy’s shoulders. They’d been doing that since the very first weekend. There was something about their friendship that made touching comfortable. Tommy liked the closeness, how they were totally platonic but he could love on Nick all the wanted. It was like the best of all worlds. He could fantasize all he wanted about the gorgeous Chase, who popped in to smile and flirt every few days and have his equally gorgeous but non-threatening best friend to snuggle with and talk to.

Tommy tried to pay attention to the movie but Nick’s little game earlier had brought up a ton of questions in his head. He scooted down so he could lay his head on Nick’s lap and pulled the blanket from the floor to cover himself with. After that he stared blankly at the TV and let his thoughts run wild. He wanted to date, he really did, but the idea of suffering through another awkward date made him want to say ‘forget it’ and become a priest or something, not that he was Catholic. It was easier to drool over Chase and cuddle with Nick—at least until Nick found a boyfriend. And he probably would soon because the boy was beautiful. Tommy hoped Nick’s soon to be boyfriend, whoever he was, would be okay with roommate cuddling time. He would seriously miss it.

“Hey, Nick,” he whispered about halfway into the movie. Nick jumped. Tommy probably would have been tense too if he’d been paying any attention to the screen.

“You scared me. What’s up?”

“Have you ever kissed a guy?”

Nick looked surprised. “Well, yeah, haven’t you?”

Tommy shook his head.

“Not even in the back of your little closet?”

“No, not at all.”

Nick chuckled. “A gay guy who’s only kissed girls. You’d think it was the fifties or something.”

Tommy pinched Nick and fell silent again. It was too late to pay attention to the movie. He had no idea what was going on. He just closed his eyes and kind of draped his arm across Nick’s thighs. Nothing wrong with taking a nap.

When he woke, the TV was off and Nick had moved from under his head to curled up behind him. The blanket was over both of them and Nick’s arm was circling his waist. He was warm and comfortable but he thought that if he didn’t get up, he’d end up sleeping the whole day away. Tommy went to sit up but the arm around his waist tightened.

“Go back to sleep, T. I’m comfortable.”

“It’s already nearly one.”

“So? It’s break. What’s it for it not sleeping?”

“True.” Tommy lay back down and snuggled into Nick’s warmth. “Nick?”

“Talking is not sleeping.”

“How many guys have you kissed?”

“Five million. Close your eyes.”

Tommy snuffed down a giggle. “I’m awake now.”

Nick brushed a kiss across the back of his neck and tightened his arm. “You only think you are. Close your eyes.”

“Why is it so easy with you?”

Nick groaned and kissed the back of Tommy’s neck again. Tommy shivered, the kiss causing pleasant chills. Sometimes the cuddling felt a little bit more than platonic. “It just is. Will you please go back to sleep? I just laid down a little while ago.”

“Yeah. I’ll try.”

“Thank you.”

Those warm arms tightened again, and Tommy closed his eyes, surprised when they started to feel heavy again.

Christmas day in the dorms with only Nick and a handful of exchange students had to be the best Christmas that Tommy ever had. They decorated the common room with a throwaway tree that someone had found out on the street somewhere and little cut out paper snowflakes. They made hot cocoa and cider, and one of the Finnish kids brought out a bottle of hard alcohol to mix with the cider that Tommy thought had to be illegal in the states. They made silly paper Christmas hats and danced, more than a little tipsy, to boy band hits of the late ’90s.

Later in their room, Tommy and Nick exchanged presents that they’d bought for each other: a new sweater and some fantasy books for Tommy, and a thick spiral pad of nice art paper and some fresh watercolor pencils for Nick. They relaxed on Nick’s bed and watched The Nightmare Before Christmas and Elf with Will Farrell instead of the steady diet of horror and sci-fi that they’d been living on. They were lying in their own beds trying to fall asleep when Nick’s voice broke the silence.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if school were like this and we never had to go to class?”

Tommy chuckled. “Just us and some crazy exchange students drinking and dancing? It would be fun, but probably not very productive.”

“Probably not. Plus I think I’d be hungover all the time. I’m already getting a headache.”

“Yeah, me too. How many cups of that cider did you have?”

“Too many.”

“Me too.” He shivered. “Must be wearing off though. It’s cold in here.”

“Come over here then. I’m cold too.” Tommy got up eagerly, shivering, and crawled into Nick’s warm bed, happily snuggling himself into Nick’s body heat. “See, that’s better.”

“Yeah, it is. Is it still snowing?”

Nick laughed softly. “I don’t know. I can’t see out the window either.” He roped his arm around Tommy’s shoulder and kissed the back of his head. “Night Tommy.”

“Night Nick.”

There was silence in the room for a few minutes. Tommy could hear Nick breathing but he knew he wasn’t asleep.

“Hey Nick?”

“Yeah?”

“You know what I really want for Christmas?”

He could hear Nick’s sigh. “What do you really want?”

“To kiss a guy. Just once, I swear. I’ll never bring it up again.”

Nick sat up. “Wait, you want to kiss a guy, like right now?”

Tommy nodded. “I want it to be with someone I feel safe with. It has to be you Nicky.”

“You know nobody’s ever called me that?”

“Sorry.”

“No, it’s okay from you. I don’t mind. You really want me to kiss you?”

Tommy nodded. The idea had come out of nowhere but once he’d made up his mind he wasn’t going to change it. It made sense anyway, Nick would help him, tell him what to do right.

“And things aren’t going to get all weird because we’ve kissed?”

“No, just think of it as more dating training.”

Nick breathed out slowly, shaking his head. “I must still be drunk. I think I’m actually going to kiss you.”

Tommy felt stupid all of a sudden. “Nick, if you really don’t want to—“

“Shhhhh. Just follow my lead.”

And then Nick’s lips were on his and it felt amazing. Nothing like those weird little kisses he used to share with Nicole, his virginal ex-girlfriend, nothing like he’d even imagined. Nick cupped his chin and ran his fingers through his hair. Satiny lips traced over his jaw, to his ear, back to his thirsting lips. He nibbled a bit on Tommy’s lower lip. Tommy arched up into Nick’s body, wanting more.

“Open your mouth,” Nick whispered.

Tommy opened his lips and Nick’s tongue slipped in warm and soft. Tentatively, Tommy slipped his own tongue out to stroke Nick’s and shivered when the kiss deepened. He reached up to thread his fingers through silky white-blond hair and smiled when he felt Nick shiver too. So that was what kissing was all about—making the other person get all shivery from feeling good. He liked it, more than liked it truthfully.

Slowly Nick’s lips drew away from his, brushing one more little peck across his mouth before complete separation. “So?” He asked softly. “What did you think?”

Tommy let out a ragged breath. “Better than I thought possible.”

Nick closed his eyes for a second, then brushed Tommy’s hair out of his face before lying back down behind him like they’d been before.

“Remember, no weirdness.”

“I promise. Night Nicky.”

“Night, T. Love you.”

“Love you too, Nicky. Couldn’t ask for a better best friend.”

It was the first time they’d ever said it, but it made Tommy’s insides all warm and happy. He wanted to be friends with Nick, just like they were, for the rest of his life. He didn’t want anything to change…

Winter

Winter quarter sucked. That was Nick’s official verdict. The introductory business classes in the fall hadn’t been so bad, but the second round of them were flat out awful. He was mired in business math, marketing, statistics (blech!), and his two general ed classes, geology and abnormal psych. Out of the five that he took, only the last one was actually interesting. His schedule was so full he didn’t even have room for art, but his professor from first quarter had been nice enough to tell him he could come to the studio on weekends until he was able to sign up for another class. What she actually told him was that he should be showing his work locally, and he had the talent to make a career out of painting, but it was only frustrating to hear that. His father’s checkbook had halted that plan.

Nick was seriously considering telling his father to shove the business degree where the sun didn’t shine and just get a job to pay for the classes he wanted to take. Too bad he’d never in a million years qualify for financial aid.  They’d take one look at a statement from his personal bank account alone and laugh his ass right out of the office. They would never understand that that account could disappear in a heartbeat the second he pissed his father off and while it was his money to spend, the activity was closely monitored. Just like everything else he did. The money, and the free ride, were only his as long as he behaved. So Nick kept on with the horrible business classes and tried to figure out a way to make himself happier.

The only thing that Nick had liked about college since winter break were being away from his father, the rare time he had with his friends…and of course Tommy. Always Tommy.  He tried to forget their exploratory Christmas day kiss, but every time he closed his eyes, there it was—those soft lips and sweet little whimpers, the way he slipped that shy tongue into Nick’s mouth to play…

Nick nearly groaned out loud before he realized that he was in the middle of a geology lecture and he was supposed to be taking notes on igneous rock formations instead of dreaming about Tommy’s lips and how much he wanted to be in that moment again.  He couldn’t really do anything about the fact that every time his mind wandered he was right back in that moment living it again and again.

That night, as he stumbled back to the dorm over the icy crust that was all there was left of the Christmas blizzard, he smiled with the news he wanted to tell Tommy about the independent film marathon they were playing at the small theater in town that weekend. They needed a roomie date anyway. Tommy’s schedule wasn’t any better than Nick’s and it seemed like weeks since they’d done anything alone together other than sleep. Of course he always wanted to be alone with Tommy…or not alone with Tommy. He wasn’t that picky. As long as he could touch him, everything was fine. Luckily that hadn’t changed. Tommy, in the few times they’d managed to just hang out, was still as cuddly as ever. He had no idea how that started in the first place but, Nick wasn’t about to start complaining.

Nick gratefully opened the door to their building, glad to be out of the punishing wind, and trudged up the stairs to their top floor room. It was such a relief to finally not be in class. He was hoping that Tommy hadn’t gone to the cafeteria yet cause he was hungry and he didn’t feel like walking alone.

His appetite disappeared as soon as he opened the door to their room. Tommy was at his computer, playing a game but he wasn’t alone. There, draped over the back of Tommy’s chair, disgustingly pretty and as annoying as hell, was Chase. He was laughing and pointing to the computer screen.

“Hi Nicky!” Tommy exclaimed happily as soon as he heard the door shut. “Chase stopped by to see if you wanted to go to dinner with him.”

“Hey, T… Hi Chase.”

“Hey, Shorty.”

“Why do you still call me that? I haven’t been short since junior high.”

“I know, but it drives you crazy, so it’s fun. Maybe I’ll start calling you Nicky too like this one does.” He fluffed Tommy’s hair flirtatiously, which caused no small amount of giggling.

“Uh, no you won’t. T, you coming to dinner?”

“Am I invited?”

Nick shot Chase a hard look. “Of course, right Chase?”

“Yeah. Of course the little guy can come.”

“Okay, hold on. I’ve only got thirty seconds left on this level.”

It was freezing outside. Still. Nick hadn’t expected that to change in the five minutes that he’d been in the dorm, but it never hurt to dream. Tommy didn’t seem to mind the icy stabbing wind and the newest addition of little splinters of ice that seemed to cut into the skin of Nick’s face. Tommy scampered around Nick and Chase excitedly, talking a mile a minute. It was the opposite of the problem he’d had with Math boy. Around Chase, he couldn’t seem to shut up. Chase looked like he was a little annoyed by the chatterbox fluttering back and forth in front of him. Nick, perversely, just found it adorable.

His feelings for Tommy had only grown since that one sweet little kiss they’d shared on Christmas. Things hadn’t gotten awkward between them since that night. Nick had made sure of it. It would’ve killed him if their relationship descended into silence and just being….well, roommates instead of the best friends that they’d become. Of course, he wanted to kiss Tommy again, so bad it made his mouth water every time his soft little puppy of a roommate cuddled up close to watch TV or a movie. It was killing him but he tried not to show it.

“Man, there’s a huge line.”  Chase’s irritated voice broke through the stream of Tommy’s nervous chatter. “That’s why I always go to the cafeteria on the other side of campus.”

“I’ll run ahead and hold you guys a spot,” Tommy offered, smiling at Chase. Nick wanted to take the pencil in his pocket and shove it in Chase’s neck.

“Tommy, you don’t have to,” Nick protested.

“It’s okay, I don’t mind.” Another grin in Chase’s direction.

“You go do that, shorty. We’ll be right behind you.”

Tommy ran off to hold them a spot in line. Nick chuckled under his breath as he watched him prance. He still wanted to strangle Chase but there was no point in dwelling on it.

“So you hittin’ that yet?”

Nick’s irritation boiled up instantly. “No. He’s a really good friend. It’s not like that between us.”

Chase chuckled. “I’ve known you too long, Logan. You wanna fuck him into the mattress so bad you can taste it.”

“I’m seriously going to kick your ass if you ever say anything like that about Tommy again. He’s my friend.”

“Well, hey if you’re not claiming, can I have some? He’d be cute if he shut up every few seconds.”

“Don’t you dare, Chase,” Nick growled softly. Chase gave him a sharp look.

“Oh my god, you don’t just want to fuck the kid. You’re like in love with him and shit.”

“Fuck off.”

“You aren’t seriously into that little boy, aren’t you?”

“He’s the same age as us.”

“Yeah, but…” Chase gestured at himself and then at Tommy in the distance. He looked perplexed. Nick didn’t know how to explain real feelings to someone who didn’t seem to have them. Besides, Tommy was adorable, and not just because Nick was hopeless over him. The girls in their group always talked about his big melty eyes and how he was such a cutie. Nick didn’t want to hear anything negative about him.

“Just leave it Chase. Let’s go have dinner and then say goodnight. I’ve got shit to do for class.”

“Yeah, I know what you’d rather be doing.” Chase made an obnoxious humping motion with his hips. Nick socked him on the shoulder. “Ow, fucker. That hurt.”

“Quit being an asshole then.”

Chase chuckled and rushed up to meet Tommy, who’d managed to scoot his way up to the front of the line.

* * * 

Tommy floated through the door into their dorm. He would have danced and twirled around in circles if it wouldn’t have made Nick look at him like he’d gone totally nuts. He had dinner with Chase—and Chase laughed at his jokes and smiled and ruffled his hair and it was soooo amazing. He giggled giddily as he draped his coat and hat over the footboard of his bed.

Nick shut the door to their room and looked at Tommy with a tired smile. Then he shook his head and draped his coat and scarf over the back of his desk chair.

“What, Nicky, I can’t be happy?”

“Yeah, T. You can be happy. I’m just tired. Don’t mean to be a downer at your Chase Hamilton party.”

Tommy felt bad. Nick’s face did look completely worn out. He went over and pushed Nick until he was sitting, slouched over, on the edge of his bed. Then he wrapped Nick’s arms around his waist and hugged him, hunching to kiss Nick on the head.

“I’m sorry you had a crappy day. You want me to make you some cocoa or tea?”

Nick mumbled something unintelligible into Tommy’s stomach.

“What?”

“I said that’s sweet but no thanks.” Nick lifted his head, droopy silver eyes looked right at Tommy. He didn’t loosen his arms though, just kept hugging. “I meant to tell you, there’s an indie marathon at the Roxie this weekend. Wanna go on a roommate date?”

“Roommate date? Of course I want to! What movies are they showing?”

“I know for sure they’re showing Shelter, which is awesome, and I think one about a dancing school, and one with lesbians.” Tommy made a skeptical face at that one. “It’s only like eight bucks for all three. ” Nick shrugged.

“Doesn’t really matter, I guess.” Tommy grinned. “I’ll go no matter what. Seems like all we ever do around each other anymore is pass out.”

Nick rubbed his face against Tommy’s stomach then sat up. Tommy’s heart broke by how worn down he looked.

“Why don’t you lay down and let me rub your back. It seems like you’ve had the crappiest week ever.”

“Are you serious?” Nick smiled at him incredulously.

“Yeah, I’m serious. Put your PJ bottoms on and lay down.”

“This sounds like the beginning of a porno.”

Tommy snorted. “Wouldn’t know.” He tugged at Nick. “C’mon, I promise I’ll put you to sleep.”

“All right, you talked me into it.” Nick gave him another smile, this one sleepy and soft. Then he pulled his sweater and t-shirt over his head. Tommy rubbed at his flat lightly muscled stomach for a second as he walked to the bathroom, before he realized just how touchy and intimate he was being. He hoped Nick didn’t mind all the constant cuddling. He hadn’t ever realized it was part of his personality. He’d certainly never  been touchy like that with his family or any of his high school friends. Tommy didn’t even think with Nick. He simply felt warm and friendly. Like he said at Christmas, it was…easy.

Nick came in from their bathroom, plaid flannel pants on, jeans in his hand ready to toss into the washbasket.

“Okay, magic fingers. I’m ready to be relaxed to the point of  insensibility.”

Tommy giggled, still feeling a bit giddy from earlier. He shut all the lights off other than the lamp that was on Nick’s desk, then quickly changed into his own pajama bottoms so that he could move easier than he did in his jeans. Then he snagged the one bottle of lotion he had in his stuff and sat on the corner of Nick’s bed.

“This’ll be easier if I straddle you.”

Nick snorted. “That’s what she said.”

Tommy tugged at his hair. “I’m serious. Do you care?”

Nick was still chuckling. “No, it’s fine.”

Tommy went to work on Nick’s back, humming to himself as he tried to stretch out the tight muscles in his shoulders and around his spine. Tommy wasn’t going to try any complicated physical therapy maneuvers that he’d probably do wrong, he just wanted to help Nick relax, so he kept his touch light and tried to loosen Nick’s muscles until he’d be able to fall asleep.

Nick was silent for a few minutes, but he groaned when Tommy went for the tightness in his lower back.

“That’s awesome, T. Those old wooden chairs in Halliwell suck.”

“You’re telling me. I had math in there last quarter and I swear my ass went numb by the end of class.”

“That’s cause you don’t have padding like I do,” Nick muttered with a chuckle.

All of a sudden the round, muscular butt that he’d been sitting on was the only thing he could notice. Tommy gulped. No, no, no. Don’t think about that, for christ sakes It was Nick. Yeah, Tommy had noticed how hot his best friend was–he wasn’t effing blind after all. But he couldn’t let himself look at Nick that way ever. Not when one weird moment could potentially ruin their new but instantly essential friendship. It could’ve happened after that drunk bad idea of a kiss on Christmas.  Sexy, consuming, amazing, bad idea–

“Ow!” Nick complained. Tommy realized he’d been digging into his back with tense thumbs.

“Sorry, just working a knot out.”

“It’s okay. I feel way better already.’ Nick reached behind him and tugged on Tommy’s arm. “C’mere and lay down.”

Tommy allowed himself to be  pulled off of Nick’s back and dragged around until they were face to face. Nick tugged his throw blanket up and over them. He took a long look at Tommy’s face.

“What’s up, babe? You look worried about something.”

Tommy gritted his teeth. “Nah, it’s nothin.”

“Doesn’t look like nothing. Did I do something? Is it Chase?”

He sounded so resigned at that thought that Tommy had to laugh. “No it’s not Chase, and I promise I’m not going to be stupid about him. I know he drives you crazy. I guess I was just worried that I annoy you. I mean, I’m all over you all the time and–” He didn’t know how to finish.

Nick reached up and cupped Tommy’s face, kissing him on the forehead. “I wouldn’t let you do it if I didn’t like it.”

“But what if there’s some other guy around. He could totally take it the wrong way.”

“There isn’t anyone here except us.” Nick chuckled and wiped at the worry lines on Tommy’s face. “I’ll let you know if you’re ever cockblocking, okay?”

“Cockblocking? Do I even want to know?”

Nick smiled. “I always forget that you’re from 1950 or something. It just means getting in the way, like if I wanted to go after some guy’s…you know.” He shrugged.

“Oh.” Tommy ducked his head into his chest, embarrassed. “Yeah, uh, wouldn’t want to, uh, cockblock anyone.” He tried out the new vocabulary word tentatively.

Nick chuckled. “You’re such a dork. Go to sleep, yeah?” Tommy went to get up. “No. Just stay here. I’m warm for the first time all day. It’s nice.”

“You sure?”

Nick rolled his eyes and pulled the comforter out from under his feet to tuck around them both. “Yeah, I’m sure.”

* * * 

The theater was packed on Saturday. Apparently, the fliers that they’d posted around campus had done some good since by the time they got there, the line was nearly ten feet out the door from the ticket counter inside.  Nick just tugged Tommy into line, happy simply to be off campus, with his best friend, and–oh, shit. Really?

He saw Chase beckoning enthusiastically at him from near the front of the line. He was with a crowd of…actually those were Nick’s friends Chase was with. Where were his frat buddies? Nick found himself being childishly annoyed that Chase had insinuated himself in with people he’d usually have nothing to do with. One of the girls they hung out with, Susan, noticed them standing in the back of the line and waved for them to come up as well.

“Hey, T. Everyone’s up there and they’re going to let us cut in with them. You wanna go?”

Tommy shrugged. “Kinda thought today was just going to be us, but whatever you want.”

Nick couldn’t believe it. “You sure? Chase is up there.”

Tommy pinched him. “I’m not that big of an idiot. Let’s just stay back here.”

Nick nodded, then waved and shook his head indicating that they weren’t going to move. He was really impressed that Tommy didn’t ditch their plans for a crush.

They weaved their way into the theater after standing in line for armfulls of candy, popcorn, and soda. It was packed, but they managed to find a few seats in an empty section near the front. Nick juggled the snacks as Tommy sat, then passed them over so he could get comfortable. They put the armrest between them up and balanced the popcorn in the space between the two chairs. It took some shuffling, but finally they were comfortable. The theater was a little chilly, too old to be well heated. Tommy cuddled up to Nick, just like he always did, making sure that all the snacks were spread out so they could both get to them. Nick didn’t care what was happening on the screen. He was happy exactly where he was for the rest of the day.

The first movie wasn’t anything he’d ever pick, about some older lady who’d always wanted to be a gymnast but got hurt and then somehow ended up falling in love with a chick. He wasn’t much into the girl on girl action but he had to admit it wasn’t a bad movie. The best part was Tommy of course. After he’d gotten tired of the candy and popcorn, he’d wound his hand around Nick’s leg and was leaning on his shoulder. Nick smiled and thought of the other night when Tommy had apologized for being so touchy-feely. He had no idea how much Nick loved it. He’d probably stop in a heartbeat.

Tommy got up in the intermission and said he needed to use the rest room. Nick stayed back to hold their seats, and was surprised when a big guy nearly pounced him, dropping into Tommy’s seat like he lived there. Nick, who’d been staring off into space, pretending not to think about Tommy, turned to tell the guy that the seat was taken, but had to hold back a groan when he saw it was Chase.

“Hey, homo. I won’t interrupt your date. Just saying hi. I promise I’ll clear out when your dorky boyfriend comes back.”

“God, Chase, can’t you just go back to stealing my friends and leave me alone?”

“What’s your issue, yo? What have I ever done to you?”

“Other than drive me nuts since we were five?” Nick shook his head. The guy didn’t have a clue how much he hurt people–or he really just didn’t give a shit. “You have any idea how many broken hearts I’ve put back together cause of you? I don’t want to do it again.”

“Never asked you to.”

“It just happens. So leave Tommy alone. And stop calling him my boyfriend. No matter what I feel, and I’m not saying I do, it’s just not like that between him and I.”

Chase shook his head. “Then he’s an idiot.”

“You’re not allowed to say stuff like that to me. I know you don’t mean it.”

“You don’t know what I mean. It’s been so long since you’d even talk to me that we barely know each other. Too bad, really.” With that, Chase ruffled Nick’s hair and vaulted over the back of the chair to get back to his own seat.

Nick stared at the blank screen, bemused. Just when he thought he had Chase all figured out…

* * * 

“How come you don’t date, Nicky?”

The question came out of nowhere, floating in the dark from Tommy’s bed. Nick had almost been asleep, but he’d jerked under the covers when Tommy’s voice had startled him. Too late to pretend.

What is this? Weird awkward conversation day? Nick didn’t know what to say. ‘I don’t date anyone else because I’m in love with you’, didn’t seem to be the best choice.

“Haven’t met anyone that I want to be with, I guess,” he lied.

“This college is huge.”

“Then why aren’t you dating anyone?”

Tommy shot him a glare. “You know the answer to that.”

“You’re conversationally challenged, and you want to jump on my ape of an ex-friend who’s not worth the dirt on your shoes?” Oops…Didn’t mean to say all that.

“Ex friend?” Shit. Nick was hoping he’d missed that part of the mini-rant. “Something did happen between you guys. I’d pretty much convinced myself it was just clashing personalities.”

“Yeah, something happened.” Nick tried to hold in the giant sigh that really wanted to escape.

Tommy chuckled. “You gonna tell me or do I have to pull out your toenails one by one.”

“It’s old news. Baggage between me and him. Really not a big deal.” Nick heard Tommy’s bed squeak, and suddenly there was a weight next to him.

“Not a big deal enough that you hate the guy? We’re best friends, right? I just want to understand. Whatever is between you two it seems important.”

“And you won’t accept ‘Chase is a douche’ and go back to bed?”

“Nope.”

Tommy lay down behind him and wriggled around until he was under Nick’s covers. Nick sighed but scooted over to make room for him, then turned and wrapped his arms around Tommy’s slender waist, resting their foreheads together.

“Chase was my first.” Tommy’s mouth dropped open and he leaned back. Nick huffed tiredly at the disbelief on Tommy’s face. “What, you never guessed?”

“Does that make me an idiot? No, I never guessed. Didn’t have a clue. When you said you had to put people back together after he hurt them, I didn’t think you meant you.”

“Alright, Oprah. Don’t turn this into something it’s not. I never said I was in love with the guy. It’s just that he refused to even admit he liked it. Right afterwards he was all ‘I’m not gay’ and pushed me away, like literally pushed. I didn’t ever have feelings feelings for him, but I thought that was shitty. We were actually friends. Until then. It made me so mad.”

“How old were you?”

Nick made a face. “Don’t ask. Let’s just say I’ve had plenty of time to get over it. But then I’ve watched him with other people–people that did have real feelings for him. And maybe he’s evolved to the point were he’s admitted that he likes guys now. I don’t think he’s evolved enough to have a real relationship with anyone. Not even himself.”

“Does he really have no clue why you don’t like him?”

Tommy snuggled closer to Nick, like he wanted to comfort him. Nick smiled and took the gift, holding Tommy just as close. He wasn’t upset though. He really was over what had happened all those years ago. Didn’t mean he wanted to be friends with Chase, no matter how much Chase pushed for it, but he wasn’t angry–not really at least.

“He really does seem to care about you. Maybe he’s grown up a little,” Tommy murmured into Nick’s neck.

And that’s why I still hate the bastard. Happens every damn time.

* * *      

Tommy had to go back to his Aunt’s house in the beginning of February for the dreaded trust fund talk. At first he didn’t notice that he’d not even called the place ‘home’. It wasn’t though–home. If it ever had been, it wasn’t anymore. Home was the cluttered, overdecorated, warm cozy room that he couldn’t imagine not living in.

“This sucks,” He mumbled, to himself mostly, but Nick was there to hear it.

“You’re not missing much, T. Just a movie party. Why is it you have to go home again?”

“My dad left me some money, but it’s in a trust. I have to have annual meetings with the firm that manages it. Since I’m legal now, my aunt can’t even be there. Drives her fucking nuts.” Tommy grinned. “I’m pretty sure she feels like that money should be hers for putting up with me.”

“Why do you have to go this weekend?”

“Honestly, I was supposed to go last month. I was avoiding his calls.”

“Are you allowed to use it?”

“Not till I’m twenty-five–except to pay for college. That’s what we have to meet about. To talk about tuition and other expenses. Of course, our spring break trip to the Bahamas will be on my budget.”

Nick chuckled. “St. Maarten is nicer in April.” 

Tommy pinched him. “You’re such a snob.”

“Hey, don’t stay longer than you have to. Maybe we can still do family dinner on Sunday night.”

“Like I’d stay there. I really hope I can be back for dinner. I’ll try, okay?”

Sunday dinners off campus were one of Tommy’s favorite things. Sometimes their other friends came but more and more often, it was just Tommy and Nick, hanging out and talking a mile a minute. They usually picked a great pizza place or somewhere with gourmet burgers and fries. He’d hate to miss it for the awkwardness and blistering silence at his aunt’s dinner table.

“Okay,” Nick ruffled his hair. “Drive safe. It’s supposed to snow again tonight.”

Tommy detested his aunt’s house. In truth, it was his house, the deed was in his name, but after his father had died, she’d come in and under the guise of taking care of him she’d overrun the house with her stuff and her daughters and her stupid little shitzus with their pink sweaters. Tommy had been too young and too hurt over his father’s death to say anything about it. Before he knew what was happening, the only place in his own house that he felt even remotely secure was his own room–and honestly, that wasn’t even that great.

As he sat in his old room, which had been cleaned of much of his stuff, ready for guests even though there were five other empty bedrooms, he started to get angry. It was his house. His fucking house. He didn’t really want it, the place had no good memories after his father died, but he shouldn’t feel unwelcome. Nothing about the house, nothing about his room, none of it said ‘Tommy’ any more. He figured he might as well give up on the place and bring the rest of his stuff to school. It wasn’t in his room anymore, but his aunt must have boxed it up somewhere.

Tommy thought of his book collection, one of his favorite things but also something he’d thought there probably wasn’t room for in the college dorms. Nick would like the books though. He always complained there weren’t enough good books available in the library. Tommy’s bookshelf was empty, though, other than a rather off-putting collection of pink ceramic cats. There wasn’t any boxes in the closet either, none of his old pictures, none of his summer clothes. The whole place was empty. Tommy stuck his head out into the hallway.

“Aunt Summer!” He called. “What did you do with my stuff?”

His aunt came bustling around the hallway from her upstairs TV room.

“Thomas James Thurston, what have I told you about shouting in my house.”

“Sorry, Summer. Where is all my stuff, my books, my extra clothes?”

She shrugged, the shoulders of her velour track jacket bunching up. “You didn’t take them to school with you, so I figured you didn’t want them. I gave everything in here to the homeless shelter.”

“Even all my books? Even the autographed ones?” He’d kept those ones in individual cases so they wouldn’t lose value. They were noticeably important.

She shrugged again. “You should’ve taken them when you moved out if you wanted them.” Tommy’s aunt turned on her heel and walked purposefully back to her room, conversation over in her mind.

Bitch.”

Tommy’s rage exploded in his head. The clothes could be replaced, even most of the books if he really needed to, but his pictures? He had a few at school, ones that he couldn’t live without, but there had been years of memories in that box of pictures that he’d kept on his desk. He couldn’t believe it was gone. Tommy couldn’t remember being so mad in ages. She’d come into his room and thrown his stuff away. Without even asking! Who the fuck did something like that? Tommy sat on his old bed hands clenched, trying not to scream. When his younger cousin shouted up the stairs at him that the men from the trust fund were there he stomped out of his room and down the stairs, mind made up. No more bullshit.

“Good afternoon Mr. Thur–”

“I want to sell it,” Tommy interrupted, voice resolute.

“Pardon?”

“I want to sell the house. I’ll give my aunt a third of the profits for a downpayment on a new home for her, but I don’t live here any more, my father’s dead, and I can’t see the point of continuing to maintain the old beast. It’s time for it to go.”

“Thomas, are you sure?”

Tommy nodded. “Yep. Give her five months to be out. I want papers drawn up, signed, and I want her out and this house sold. After that I want no contact with her.”

“And what will you do with your part of it?”

“I want to buy an apartment near campus. The rest can be sunk back into the trust. Is that something you guys can handle?”

“Of course, sir, if that’s what you want.”

“It is. And I’m serious about being done with her. There isn’t going to be any legal reason I have to deal with her after this is there?”

“None at all.”

“Good. Now, what regular business do we need to cover? I have a long drive ahead of me tonight.” Tommy wasn’t going to spend a single night in that old house where he felt so wretchedly uncomfortable. After he was done dealing with his shit, he was going home.

“Just the usual.”

“Then let’s get started.”

It was late when he got back to the dorms, nearly morning by the clock but still pitch black and starry. The threatening snow had never fallen,but the night was cold. Tommy didn’t care; he was so euphoric his body felt warm all over. Even the two hour drive hadn’t dimmed his excitement. He was free. Tommy had always known that he hated the house, hated being there without his father and with his controlling, hateful aunt, but until he’d left and tried to go back he didn’t have a clear picture of just how awful it was.  But it didn’t matter any more. Never again. He’d told the lawyers that his aunt wasn’t to contact him unless she wanted to lose her third of the profit that he’d so generously given her–mainly with the purpose of shutting her up. He hoped to never see the bitch again. As far as he was concerned, the only family he had left was his grandmother,who lived up on Martha’s Vineyard. He saw her maybe once or twice a year, sometimes less. For all practical purposes, Tommy was alone.

Their room was dark when he got there, not even lit by the habitual small lamp that Nick and him usually left on in the corner.  He tried to move quietly, but a lump in the far corner shifted.

“Tommy?”

Nick’s sleepy voice was the best thing Tommy could imagine hearing.

“Yeah, it’s me Nicky. Go back to sleep.”

“Whadaya doing here? It’s still Friday.”

Tommy grinned. “Saturday morning. It’s a long story. I’ll tell you when we both wake up. I just couldn’t stand being there any more.”

“Glad you’re back, T.” Nick was silent for a few moments. “Want to come over here?”

Tommy did. So much. He needed the warmth of someone who cared about him, a strong hug and the familiar soft smell of Nick that was so comforting. He slipped into Nick’s bed and snuggled his back up against Nick’s wonderfully warm chest.

“You okay, Tommy?” Nick asked softly.

“I am now. What do you think about living in a house next year? Or a condo? I’m thinking of buying one.”

“Can we get a dog?”

“Only if it’s tiny and white and wears pink sparkly collars,” Tommy answered with a grin.

“I’ve always liked mastiffs.”

“I have a feeling that doesn’t fit into the tiny category.”

Nick chuckled. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Tommy shrugged. “There’s not much to say. My aunt’s a big bitch, I decided to sell my dad’s house, this is home now…” His voice petered out, unsure and a bit sad.

“It’s been home for me since the day you moved in,” Nick whispered against his neck. Tommy couldn’t help his smile.

“You say the awesomest things Nicky. Love you.”

“Love you too, T. Sleep now?”

“Yeah. Time to sleep. Wanna go look at places tomorrow?”

Tommy could feel Nick’s smile on his skin. “Sure, just not too early, yeah? I had a hard time falling asleep.”

“How come?”

“Room felt empty.”

“Not anymore.”

“No, not anymore.”

Tommy closed his eyes, and fell asleep, exhausted, to the even familiar sound of Nick’s breathing.

Spring

“Nick! Check this out. The GSA is throwing a big masked ball next month. Do you want to go?”

Nick laughed as he struggled his suitcase into their dorm room. The place was becoming more and more crowded as the weeks went by.

“Can I get all the way into the room before we start discussing social events?” Tommy grabbed Nick’s messenger bag from him and sat it on the desk chair. Then he flopped down on his bed, colorful flyer in hand, and practically vibrated. “All right, T, tell me about the dance. But first tell me about spring break with your grandma.”

“Break was cool. Way too cold to swim or anything, but we walked on the beach and cooked crab. She wants to meet you this summer.”

“Me?”

“Yeah. I’ve never had a really good friend before. I think I talked her ear off about you, like, the whole time.”

Nick reached over to ruffle Tommy’s hair and tried to ignore the warmth melting in his stomach. “So tell me about this big dance.”

“It’s a masked ball, right, and everybody who’s going puts their name in a box, you know boys for boys, girls for girls, and so on, and then they make mystery dates from the box and you meet your date there. You’ll have a mask on, and so will they, but when you get your date assigned they’ll assign you some sort of a marker too so you can tell who you’re meeting.”

Nick cringed. “And you want to go to this?”

Tommy hopped off the bed and spun around with the flyer. “Yes. Don’t you think it would be romantic? You know, candles and music, and a stranger in a mask, which you can’t take off like ever, and…Nicky?”

Nick couldn’t help it. He burst into uncontrollable laughter. “Seriously, T. What were you eating up at the cape? Magic Mushrooms?”

“You don’t think it sounds like fun?”

Nick shook his head slightly. “I’ll go if you want me to, but I think it sounds like the blind date from hell.”

Tommy stuck out his tongue. “Spoilsport. You don’t have to. It just seemed like fun.”

“Then go, babe. I don’t want to ruin it for you. And who knows, maybe in May I’ll be more in the mood for a mystery date.”

Tommy pinched Nick in the stomach, then pushed him onto his bed before crawling right next to him. “Did I tell you I found a few more places that might work?”

“Do you want to go look tomorrow before we get our books and stuff?”

“Yeah, there’s one that even has a fenced in yard so you can get that dog you were wanting.”

“Any of them going to be open by June? I really don’t want to go back to California.”

Tommy’s eyes instantly got concerned. “Oh, Nicky, what happened?”

Nick grunted and rubbed his forehead against Tommy’s shoulder. “Nothing different than my dad’s usual shit. He insisted I come all the way home instead of going with you, then once I get there he’s in meetings forever and I barely saw him. He kept dragging me to dinners at the country club too. There was this girl there that he was blatantly trying to hook me up with.”

Tommy snickered at the last part. “Was she hot?”

“Shut up, dork. I actually pulled her aside a couple nights in and told her I was gay. She said thank god because she was seeing a mechanic at the BMW shop where she took her car and had no idea how to tell her parents.”

“So it worked out well?”

“Yeah, we ‘dated’ for the rest of break, both of our parents were happy, and at least I got to come back here. She’s still stuck hiding.”

“Ouch. That sucks.”

“Yeah. So you got any flyers for the houses?”

Tommy scrambled off of Nick’s bed to his desk, where he withdrew a few slightly water-damaged flyers.

“Sorry, it was raining earlier.”

Nick shrugged off the apology. “Hey, I like this one.” It was a little white house with an honest to god picket fence, so cute and quaint it practically screamed ‘newlywed love nest’.

“Yeah, I liked that one too. I was hoping you wouldn’t think it was too, like, just married-ish.”

Nick chuckled. “That’s exactly what I was thinking, but who cares? It’s a great place, it’s right down the street, and check it out, it’s got three bedrooms so we can have a study room and no one has to feel bad about watching TV.”

“So that one first? I’ll call the agent and set it up.”

“Sweet.”

It only took them about an hour to decide that they wanted the house. Probably less than that, but Nick could tell Tommy didn’t want to seem too impulsive. He loved it on sight–the yard and the wood floors, the big bay window that looked out onto a garden. Tommy told Nick that he couldn’t believe that he was actually purchasing property, but his Grandmother had agreed it was a good financial move and he wanted more than anything to have somewhere that actually felt like home. So scary or not, he was going to become a property owner–which he’d technically been for years, just not on his own. There were some repairs and remodels that needed to be done before they could even consider moving in, the house was old and the kitchen and bathrooms hadn’t been renovated since the sixties judging by the decor, but luckily the house was way under any budget that he could’ve set so there was plenty of money for materials and hiring a contractor.

The first month or so after the house closed and it was theirs, Nick and Tommy were there practically every weekend, every second they could spare actually, picking paint colors and granite for countertops, watching with excitement as new cabinets went in the kitchen and a big gorgeous tiled shower stall replaced the old cracked tub in the bathroom. It was their entertainment, watching the house they’d be sharing come to life. Nick knew that Tommy was thrilled, under his fear, to have somewhere that was finally his–not his bitchy aunt, not just a rented room on campus, but his house. Nick was glad that Tommy hand’t even considered not sharing it with him.

Nick’s father had been on his case ever since spring break, sending texts and e-mails about the business school at Stanford and how Tiffany, the girl he’d met over break, kept asking about him. He knew that was total bullshit because he’d e-mailed her and she told him otherwise, and he didn’t appreciate his father’s heavy-handed hints that perhaps he’d be happier in California, where good lo’ dad could control him better of course. His father was a bit skeptical about Nick moving into a house with ‘some boy’ that he’d met at school and even went so far as to say that the boy better not be one of the ‘art school fags’. Since Tommy wasn’t an art student, Nick could honestly tell his father that wasn’t the case. He played up Tommy’s science classes and told him that Tommy was from a money family in Boston, which was true. His father had been mollified enough that he dropped the argument.

After that, Nick went back to being excited about the renovations, planning how he was going to organize his room and the new furniture he’d talked his father into letting him purchase. Tommy said that of course he totally didn’t care if Nick wanted to paint a mural in his room, so he spent many happy hours there on his own after class sketching and painting the designs he’d chosen for his walls. It wasn’t a picture, really, just kind of his emotions swirling all over the walls, all the colors that represented him and the way he felt when he was with Tommy. He hadn’t even really thought when he was sketching it out, just…felt. It wasn’t anything that he could, or would, ever explain but the painting was love. Ridiculous, pain in the ass, unrequited love.

“Nicky, that’s gorgeous!” Tommy exclaimed, scaring the crap out of Nick and nearly knocking him off the step stool he’d borrowed from the contractors. 

“When did you get here?” He asked after he’d righted himself and the tub of acrylic paint he had balanced precariously on his hand. He’d been slowly filling in the black outlines with bursts of color, shaded jewel tones of blues and purples and bright pink-toned red.

“About five minutes ago, but I was out in the kitchen talking to Rodrigo.”

“The cabinets look amazing, don’t they? I can’t believe the place is almost done.”

“Yeah, it’s amazing what can happen if you throw enough money into the mix,” Tommy said with a snicker. “He told me we should be able to move in by the twelfth.”

“Only two weeks?” Nick grinned. “But isn’t that the night of your dance?”

Our dance. I haven’t given up on you going yet. And that’s on a Friday. The first of our furniture is being delivered on Sunday, I think.”

“Couches first, right?” Nick made a face.

“Yeah. I tried to get the beds first but no go. We’ll probably have to stick it out another week in the dorms. As long as we’re not moving during finals I don’t care. That would suck.”

“Yes it would!” Nick couldn’t imagine trying to deal with packing their room up and moving it while cramming for finals.

“Hey, I’ll let you get back to your painting. I’m going to head back to the dorm room and work on my chem lab essay questions.”

“‘Kay. I’ll probably stay here for another hour or so, at least until the sun starts to set.”

“Want me to wait for you for dinner?”

“Yeah, wait for me. I’ll be back.”

Tommy had just finished the last of his Chemistry work when he heard the door rattle. There was a soft knock. He chuckled.

“Did you forget your keys again, dork?” Nick was brilliant and an amazing artist but he had to be the most forgetful person ever. He was constantly leaving things around and losing them.

Tommy opened the door smiling but was surprised when instead of Nick, it was Chase standing out in the hall. He was bronzed from being out in the spring sun playing frisbee or football or whatever it was that the jocks did. He was smiling too, but his smile drooped a bit when he saw Tommy at the door. He recovered quickly though.

“Hey little bit, is Nick around?”

“No, but he should be here soon if you wanna sit and wait.”

Chase looked around, but the whole room was decorated with Nick’s paintings. There wasn’t any sort of side boundaries, at least visually. “Sure, which one is his bed again?”

Tommy pointed to Nick’s side before he sat back down at his computer chair. He didn’t want to act like the biggest chatterbox dork in the world in front of Chase but that seemed to be his lot. Tommy looked at his chemistry lab book and tried to pretend he was still working on it.

“So you going to the mask dance?” Chase asked, breaking the silence that Tommy had been determined not to fill with endless babbling.

“I think so. I’m trying to get Nicky to go with me.”

Chase chuckled. “It’s supposed to be a blind date, not a date with your roommate.”

“I know, I just wanted him to do something fun. He’s seemed a little down lately. I mean, he’s happy about our house but–” He broke off before he started talking too much. Besides, he knew Nick wouldn’t appreciate him spilling things to Chase.

“Your house?” Chase looked taken aback.

“Yeah, I bought a house near campus with, well it’s a long story, but anyway it’s getting a few things done to it and then we’re going to move in so we don’t have to live in the dorms next year.”

“Like in together, together?”

“Oh, no. Nicky and I are just friends. We’ll have our own rooms.” Tommy realized that he might not like it as much, sleeping without being able to hear Nick breathe.

“Does his father know?”

Tommy shrugged. “I assume so, since he paid for Nick to get new bedroom furniture. What’s with his dad? He seems like such a dick.”

Chase snorted. “Don’t you think he’s allowed to be?”

“What do you mean?” Tommy was perplexed.

Chase’s eyes went wide for a minute. “I thought–oh. Well, he’s just really rich and has a powerful job, you know. Nick should have more respect for him.”

“I think he should have more respect for Nick.”

“Whatever short stuff. So I think you should go to the dance. Get Nick to put his name in too. It’ll be more fun if more people come.”

“What box are you putting your name in, girls or boys?”

Chase shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m sure Nick’s told you I’m happy with either.”

Tommy kind of had a feeling that Chase really wished he could put his name in the box that said Nick Logan Only. There wasn’t any other reason for him to be so persistent about coming around. Tommy wished it was for him instead.

“Well, I’ll try to get him to come. We’ve both been pretty busy getting the place ready to move in.”

“You should get Nick to sign up.”

“I’ll try.”

“Listen, I’m going to bounce. Tell him I stopped in to say hi, and maybe I’ll come by next week, okay?”

“Yeah, sure.” Tommy tried to keep the eager to please sound out of his voice.

“Hey, kid, you wanna go get dinner with me?”

“Sure!” Tommy answered hopping up out of his computer chair, all pretense of not being eager lost.

He pulled his coat on and without any hesitation he followed Chase out the door.

Tommy was walking home from dinner on his own. It hadn’t been the intimate date that he’d hoped–a few of Chase’s buddies had shown up and he spent most of dinner crowded into the corner of the table against the wall. He’d gone a few times to refill Chase’s soda for him. When he’d gotten up to clear his tray, he came back to find Chase and his friends gone. Tommy had shrugged and headed for the door and back to his dorm.

When he got back in, Nick was sitting at his desk doing homework. Tommy could tell before he even got all the way in the room that Nick was mad. He knew why too. Him and Nick always went to dinner together. Shit. He’d ditched Nick for Chase, even after he’d told Nick he wasn’t going to be an idiot over Chase, he’d gone ahead and done it. And for what? So he could be ignored and treated like an errand boy and an idiot? Tommy felt like a fool. He closed the door behind himself softly.

“Hey,” he said quietly, apology at the ready.

Nick didn’t reply.

“Nick–”

“Save it.”

Nick’s terse set down made Tommy’s throat tighten.

“I’m sor-”

“How was your dinner with Chase?” Nick asked, interrupting him. Tommy’s stomach coiled. He felt awful for being so thoughtless.

“Okay.”

“I thought you were going to be the smart one. I can’t believe you’re going after him just like everyone else.” Nick made a disgusted face.

Tommy already felt like a moron after what’d happened at dinner. Nick’s scorn didn’t help. He reacted, and probably not the best way.

“You’re just jealous!”

Jealous?

“Yeah, jealous. You’re mad that Chase wouldn’t be gay for you and now every time someone else likes him you try to sabotage it so they can’t have him!”

Nick’s face bloomed into mask of incredulity. “Are you fucking serious?”

Tommy was on a roll, the anger from his night coursing out and aimed unfairly and directly at Nick.

“Yeah, I’m serious. I mean, you don’t date, you’re all bitter over the guy, and whenever anyone else is interested in him you get all pissy and protective, like you’re marking your territory. It’s pathetic Nick.”

“I can’t fucking believe this Tommy, especially not coming from you.”

“What you can’t believe that Chase could want someone else, or you can’t believe that I’ve finally figured out your game?”

Tommy had no idea what the hell he was saying. He was just opening his mouth and all these ridiculous anger fueled things were flying out. Shit.

“Nick–”

“Fuck. You. I’m getting the hell outta here. You’re not the friend I thought you were.”

Nick slammed out of the room and Tommy sank onto his bed. He wanted to cry but felt like a moron doing it. He wanted to throw things, but didn’t have anything that he cared so little about that he’d be okay with ruining it. Fuck. He knew that was just about the stupidest thing he’d ever done.

* * * *

Nick knew what he was doing was mean but he didn’t know how to stop himself. He had this kid Gavin from the art building over. They were watching a movie and both sitting on his bed because that really was the best place to see from. Nick knew that Gavin liked him, he also knew that Tommy was due back from class any minute. Nick would show Tommy fucking pathetic. He was still so mad at Tommy. Mad that Tommy was so into Chase, that he’d dared to insinuate that Nick was jealous over Chase’s time, had dared to tell Nick how he felt about Chase and Tommy and Argh. Like the little moron knew. Of course he doesn’t cause you never told him. It had been three days since their fight and he hadn’t said a word about it. About anything actually. There had been nothing in their room but silence. Nick hated it. But he hated the way that Tommy had looked at him more. Fucking pathetic. He didn’t think so.

Nick pushed his thoughts down and slung an arm around Gavin’s shoulders. Gavin smiled tentatively at him and put a hand on Nick’s knee. Nick felt like a raging asshole. Gavin wiggled a little closer and laid his head down on Nick’s shoulder. He had nice shiny black hair that smelled like strawberries and he was great with oil pastels. He’d have made a nice boyfriend for Nick. Nick wanted to shove him away, tell him to get the hell out. It felt all wrong to have anyone that close to him who wasn’t Tommy. No one else was hardly ever in their room anymore. It was their space. He was ruining it over what? Jealousy? He gritted his teeth and dropped a small kiss on Gavin’s head. What am I doing?

It was during that short caress that the door popped open and a tired looking Tommy plodded in. Nick’s heart wrenched but then he remembered Tommy calling him pathetic, he saw those big dumb eyes staring at him and accusing him of being a loser. He kissed Gavin again, this time on the mouth, slow and soft.

“Hey, Tommy, would you mind clearing out for a few hours?” He made his voice sound as sleepy and sexy as he could, like it would just be a matter of time before he was in Gavin’s pants. Then he looked up and gave Tommy the coldest glare he could muster over Gavin’s head. One that said Get Out.

Tommy’s soft little mouth opened and his backpack slithered out of his hands onto the floor. His keys clattered noisy and awkward onto the linoleum floor. Tommy just stared until he took a breath and seemed to shock himself out of silence.

“S-sure,” He mumbled and turned leave without bothering to pick up his keys or his backpack. He rushed as fast as he could to get out, but he didn’t get through the door without Nick noticing the defeated look on his face. Nick had done it, shown Tommy that he could date on his own and not be fucking waiting around for Tommy’s affection twenty four hours a day. Tommy? No, he thought Nick was in love with Chase. God, the whole thing was such a mess. He didn’t even know what the hell he was trying to prove. Whatever it was, that sad little look on Tommy’s face told him he’d proved it.

It should have been victory coursing through him, the sweetness of hurting Tommy like Tommy had hurt him, but instead he just felt miserable. He made a pretense of tucking Gavin’s face into his chest, hoping that it seemed intimate. Mostly he just didn’t want the poor guy to see his face.

Nick got through the movie, and he gave Gavin a kiss goodnight, hoping he hadn’t just created another awkward situation but knowing he probably had. He felt like the biggest jerk on the face of the planet. What he’d just done was a total Chase move. He couldn’t believe that he’d even done it. Nick got out his phone to call Tommy and tell him to come home, to say he was sorry. He pressed talk and waited for Tommy to pick up. In a moment though, Tommy’s backpack started vibrating. Shit. He was who the hell knew where Tommy was or when he’d return. Nick squeezed his forehead with his hands and winced. Fuck. He’d just taken the most uncomfortable situation ever and made it way worse. What the hell had he been thinking?

* * * 

Nick felt awful.  He wasn’t mad anymore, he hadn’t been for days, but he didn’t know how to tell Tommy that. Even if he knew how, it didn’t matter. He hadn’t had a chance to talk to Tommy at all. The  boy was barely ever in their room. He came in most nights after Nick had finally tossed and turned himself to sleep and he left early in the morning before Nick ever woke up. The fight had been stupid. Still was. And yeah Tommy was right, it was caused by his jealousy, but not over Chase, never over Chase. He wished more than anything that he could take back what he’d said and done and pull Tommy into his bed so they could hold each other and Nick could quit being stupid and just tell Tommy how he felt already, tell him everything–about his father, who he really was and wished that he wasn’t, how Tommy was the most important person he’d ever had in his life. But he didn’t say a word.

He just watched Tommy get ready for that dance, the first time he’d really seen him in days, silently slipping the orange mask into his pocket and walking out the door. He couldn’t believe it had been so long since they’d talked, other than that disastrous day with Gavin it had been nearly a week. It was killing Nick. After the dance, when Tommy got home probably elated since Nick had managed to fix the names at the GSA drawing so that Chase would be his date, he would break the silence, say he was sorry for his part in the fight and that he just wished Tommy the best and wanted to be his friend again. Nick couldn’t say that he was going to spill his guts out and say everything that should be said.

He wanted to tell Tommy everything. But he didn’t at the same time. It fucking sucked and there didn’t seem to be an end of any sort in sight.

The dance sucked. Everything had sucked since that stupid ass fight. Tommy wanted to tell Nick he was sorry so bad, but after what he’d said, because he was stupid and fucking jealous that Chase wanted Nick instead of him, he didn’t think that Nick was ever gonna talk to him again.

Oh, and yesterday, when he’d walked in and Nick had been in there flirting with that guy and just coldly asked him to leave so they could have privacy–It was the first thing Nick had said to him in days. And the last. God, it had hurt. Tommy didn’t want to examine that hurt too closely. He knew the answer that he’d probably find, that the bottom of that answer was how he really felt about Nick, that Chase had been a distraction and that those feelings were nothing but trouble. He was miserable.

Even the prospect of moving into his own house wasn’t the same as it had been only a week before. It was going to be so lame if he had to do it on his own. He could only hope that Nick would forgive him enough to not want to look for another place.

Tommy sat in the corner with his itchy orange mask and his stupid orange flower. He wanted to leave, hadn’t wanted to come in the first place, but it wouldn’t be nice to let some poor guy hang even if he had no interest in being anyone’s date. After what seemed like ages of waiting, he finally saw another guy wearing the same orange mask, with an orange flower in his pocket. Tommy sighed. His date.

The guy walked closer and Tommy started to notice things that were familiar, the chiseled jaw line, the honey blond curl against his collar. Oh, shit. Like the night couldn’t get any weirder. Chase freaking Hamilton was his date and he was probably going to want to know where Nicky was.  Just looking at Chase made Tommy sick to his stomach. He reminded Tommy of the fight and everything that was so so wrong with his life at the present.

“Hey, I’m–”

“Hi Chase.”

“Short stuff? You’re my date?”

“Yeah, it appears so.” Tommy tried to sound excited but he felt like he was going to puke.

“Hey, I’m gonna go get us some drinks. I’ll be back in a few.”

“Sure. I’ll be here.”

Since the pretense of mystery was useless, Tommy pulled off his itchy mask and the way too fragrant flower went in the trash can behind him. He stuffed his mask into his pants pocket and waited for Chase to get back. He was going to make some kind of excuse and leave. Tommy sat there for a while, stewing over Nick and what he felt for his best friend, and whether or not that best friend would ever talk to him again long enough for him to say he’d been a big idiot and he was sorry. He sat there for a long time thinking of Nick before he realized that Chase had been gone for nearly a half an hour ‘getting drinks’.  Tommy shrugged and stood, thinking he’d leave anyway if Chase was off wandering around. A guy meandered past, wearing the same mask he had in his pocket.

“Chase? That’s not you is it?” Tommy was pretty sure it wasn’t him but he had to ask.

“No dude, Chase is over with that chick from Gamma Psi. He said his date was this little loser who’s been hardin’ over him all year so he gave me his mask instead. I’m cool with it if the kid will give me some play.” It was then that the guy noticed the orange mask hanging from Tommy’s pocket. “Aw, shit. I’m sorry man. I never know when to shut up.”

Tommy shook the whole thing off. He was pissed that Chase had talked about him that way but he figured he shouldn’t have been surprised. “Don’t worry about it. You’re just the messenger. Do me a favor though. Tell Chase that Nick’s been right about him all along. He’s just an asshole with a pretty face. I’m leaving.”

Tommy burst out of the dance at a run, heading back towards the dorm. He hand’t gotten fifty feet when Chase flew out of the doors behind him.

“Tommy!”

Shit. What now? Tommy didn’t stop jogging. He didn’t want to talk to Chase. He needed to get Nick back. However Nick would take him.

“Tommy, wait!”

“What, Chase?”

“I’m sorry. You were never supposed to hear that.”

“And you care that I did?”

“It’s just–Don’t tell Nick, okay?”

Of course. “We’re done here. I’m going home.”

Without giving Chase an answer Tommy turned and jogged off into the night, towards Nick, who, after Tommy begged and pleaded, would hopefully be his best friend again. Or maybe even more.

Tommy just hoped it wasn’t too late.

Summer

An Ending for Now

Tommy ran, faster than he ever thought he could run, back towards their dorm room. He hoped like hell that Nick was there, he hoped even harder that Nick was alone. The thought of the other day, when Nick had kissed that boy right in front of him. He’d not understood at the time why he felt like his body was imploding on itself, why he’d run out and puked in the trees in the back of the building and spent all night sitting on a bench in the quad, crying and shivering and wishing he could scream, wanting more than anything to run back up the stairs and tear that dumb boy out of Nick’s arms and yell mine!. Oh, he understood now for sure. There were no problems there.

How could I have been so fucking blind?

Now, the only thing Tommy could see was Nick’s smile, feel the way that muscular warmth curled around him when they ended up in the same bed. He heard Nick’s laugh and most of all, oh, most of all he felt that kiss. That one amazing, magical kiss that changed Tommy’s world. He’d tried to push it down, tried not to feel it again and again when the image had jumped unbidden into his mind. But it was there. Nick’s kiss had imprinted itself on Tommy’s body and Nick himself had wrapped his way around Tommy’s heart until he finally saw what had been right in front of him the entire time.

Love.

I love him. And not like a friend, certainly not like a brother, but love him, love him. For real. I want to crawl into his skin and stay there, wake up with his taste on my lips, I want to never ever feel again like I do right now. Like I might have lost him for good.

Tommy’s head reeled. He rounded the bend where he could finally see the windows of their dorm. His eyes lifted to the top floor, the room on the right corner where there was usually a dim light on no matter how late. The room was black. Shit, I’m too late!

He slowed to a dejected walk, eyes never leaving the darkened window. It seemed like a sign. Failure. Nick was gone, maybe with that boy, maybe with someone new. Gone. Tommy’s heart wrenched in his chest. He picked his pace up to a slow, sad, jog, just wanting to be in his room, in his pajamas, feeling sorry for himself.

If he’d been paying any attention to where he was going, he probably wouldn’t have run blindly into someone jogging in the opposite direction with a resounding thud and ended up sprawled on his ass on the sidewalk. Like the night could get any better. And then he looked up and it did. Thank fucking God.

“Nick? What–” Tommy couldn’t finish the sentence. His voice clogged in his throat. Nick. There was no one in the world Tommy would rather see.

“What are you doing here, Tommy?” Nick sounded like he was halfway between laughter and concern.

“Coming home from the dance. What are you doing?”

“Coming to look for you.”

Tommy thought he must have jarred his head when he fell. “Why?”

He might have imagined it but it seemed like Nick deflated a bit. Tommy hopped up and went to put his arms around his best friend, but then remembered that Nick might still be mad at him. Nick solved that by reaching out and pulling Tommy close for a long tight hug.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered in Tommy’s ear.

“No. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean all that dumb shit that I said. I was the jealous one, not you. I could tell Chase was after you and I wanted–shit. It doesn’t matter any more.”

Nick looked at Tommy sharply. “Why? What happened at the dance?”

“Nothing. Like, literally. Nothing. Chase is an asshole just like you said. It doesn’t matter, though. I don’t care. Nicky…” Tommy reached up and dragged the pad of his thumb down  Nick’s cheek. “I’ve been such a idiot.”

“No you–” Tommy put his fingertips over Nick’s lips.

“Yes I have. Seriously. I–” Tommy didn’t know what to say. It was too soon, too scary, he was just realizing how much he felt for the beautiful guy in front of him. He leaned his forehead against Nick’s chin. “I’m just so glad you don’t hate me.”

Nick lifted his face up so they were eye to eye. “I’ll never hate you. I love you. We’re family, right?”

That was enough to make Tommy lose control. He hated crying, hated having Nick see him all broken and shaky but the utter relief that came with those words had undone him. “Love you too, Nicky. I’m sorry.” His shoulders trembled.

“Nothin to be sorry about. C’mon, T. Let’s go home.”

That was enough to get a small smile from Tommy. “Not home for much longer, right?” He was happy that he could look forward to moving into their house again.

“Not for much longer,” Nick agreed with a smile.

* * * 

It was sweltering, hot, god-awful East Coast summer and Nick hated it. He longed for the cool breezes of the California coast, wished he could step outside without feeling like he was getting hit with a wall of humidity. But that wasn’t the worst part about the summer that never seemed to end even though it had just begun. The worst part, the part that tortured him, was the watching. The watching was killing him. And he couldn’t bring himself to stop.

Tommy had taken it into his head right after finals were done that he needed to fix their yard. It had become slightly overgrown in the months that the home had been on the market, and starting with the afternoon that Tommy had come home with a new lawnmower and some simple yard tools wedged into the back of his car he’d been out there day in and day out bringing their yard up to his standards.  Nick would help sometimes, but he got the impression that it was something Tommy really wanted to do on his own, so a lot of the time he just sat back and watched. He watched as Tommy dug and weeded, mowed and edged, planted and grew tanner and more muscular as the summer went on.

His hair had gotten highlights–and the real kind, not those ridiculous stripes that came from a bottle. His skin had taken on a golden hue, and his shoulders and torso, while still slight, had well defined curves and planes from all of the work he’d been putting in out in the yard. Sometimes Nick wondered if he needed to wipe the drool from his face.

But he didn’t get Tommy. There was something up with his boy and Nick, for the life of him, couldn’t figure out what it was. For a while there after the night of the dance, Nick thought that things had gone back to the way they always were between him and his roommate. It took him a while to notice that there was something different. Before, Tommy would smile and laugh and hop on top of Nick like it was no big deal. The cuddling had been part of them. It was different though, since they’d fought and made up. Tommy still touched him, still came and sat close to him on the couch, but it was…tentative? Like maybe he wasn’t sure if it was still okay. Nick tried to be as reassuring and touchy as he could be without telling Tommy right out that he’d be just fine with it if Tommy wanted to get naked and hop right into his bed. Shit. Not the kind of thought that led to watching Tommy in the yard and not getting a hard on.

Nick wriggled down into the cushion of one of their new lawn chairs and tried to concentrate on the book he was reading. He still wished he know what was going on in his best friend’s pretty head. Soon, though, the sun and the heat and the effort of focusing on his book made his eyes close. Eh, might as well close my eyes. Watching Tommy all the time isn’t helping anything.

* * * 

“You are such a lobster!” Tommy giggled.

They were sitting on the couch watching TV. Nick had slept on the deck chair longer than he’d planned without any sunscreen and was paying the price royally. He felt hot and his skin was tight and sore.

“You could’ve always woken me up, you know.”

“I didn’t know you were asleep. I had my music on and was all zoned out digging holes for those maple trees.”

“Fine, fine.” Nick smiled anyway.

They sat there for a while in quiet, watching Clone Wars cartoons and basking in the breeze of the fan. Tommy was doing it again–sitting close and halfway cuddling but all hesitant like they were still fighting. Nick decided he’d had enough.

“T, what’s up with you? You’ve been acting weird for weeks. We’re cool, you know that right?”

“What are you talking about?” Tommy’s big eyes went innocent and wide.

He was so full of shit. Nick saw past it in a second. “You know you’re acting weird. Good try with the innocent look though.”

Tommy blushed but he scooted closer on the couch and wrapped himself around Nick like he always used to. Nick hugged him back and trembled. Since Tommy had stripped everything off except his cargo shorts, he got to run his fingers over the bare silky skin of Tommy’s back. Nick shuddered again, loving how good it felt to touch him.

“Ugh. Only you would get to touch me in this heat” He grumbled, trying to cover up his obvious shiver.

“Is this okay? Do you want me to move?” Tommy went to shuffle away but Nick tightened his arms.

“No, don’t move. I’ve missed holding you.”

Ever since they’d had separate bedrooms, Tommy hadn’t gotten into his bed in the middle of the night. Nick did miss it. He hadn’t meant to confess that out loud though.

Tommy made a happy grunting noise and wriggled closer. “I’ve missed it too.” His fingers snuck up under Nick’s shirt and ran along the waistband of his shorts.

“Tommy?” He whispered. The question came out like a breathy moan.

“Yeah?” His hand slipped around to cup Nick’s hip, followed by a leg slung across Nick’s thighs and lips nuzzling his neck and…Oh my god was that a lick?

“Wh-what are you doing?”

Tommy sucked gently on the curve of his neck. Nick’s whole body burst into shivers.

“I’m showing you what was wrong with me.”

“You–?”

“Have been going crazy. I thought it was only me until just a few minutes ago.  It isn’t only me, is it?”

Nick shook his head slowly, reeling from what he was pretty sure Tommy was trying to tell him.

Tommy shifted until he was straddling Nick and he could sling his arms over Nick’s shoulders. He leaned forward and brushed his nose against Nick’s, back and forth soft and sweet. Nick couldn’t take the teasing. He cupped Tommy’s hips in his hands and pulled him closer then slip them up his back, loving the texture of Tommy’s skin and how his touch made Tommy’s breath catch. Their noses brushed again, he could feel Tommy’s breath on his face, fingers in his hair, the touches teasing, so close, but…ohhhh. The soft brush of lips against his shot through his system like velvet lighting. Nick moaned and tightened his fingers on Tommy’s hips.

“Nick, you gotta tell me now if this isn’t what you want. I’ll stop.” The words were mumbled against his mouth between kisses.

“No stopping.” Nick brought his hands up to cup Tommy’s head, scratching gently at his scalp. Tommy shuddered and parted his lips, tentatively licking out and tasting Nick.

Yes, yes, yes!

The kisses were sweet, tasting, nibbling, brushing, touches that made Nick want more. Fuck that. He needed more. Needed to dive in deeper, to keep kissing Tommy forever. But when did everything change?

Don’t ask questions, moron, just go with it.

But when they separated Nick found himself talking, the words coming out unbidden.

“When did it happen, T?” He paired the question with a kiss. Couldn’t help it. Tommy sighed against his lips.

“I don’t know. Always, maybe. I’ve never wanted to touch anyone else all the time like I do with you.”

“Not even Chase?” Nick couldn’t help teasing.

Tommy chuckled and shoved at Nick. “Shut up,” he mumbled turning pink. “That was…I don’t know what that was. Ridiculous?”

Nick chuckled, able to laugh at it since it was over. “Yeah. It was pretty ridiculous.” He leaned his forehead against Tommy’s again.

“I guess Chase was…just Chase. He was hot, totally unavailable and therefore safe as a distraction from wanting what I thought I shouldn’t want.”

“Shouldn’t?”

Tommy gave Nick a tender kiss, slow and full of emotion. “Couldn’t? I don’t know. You’re my best friend, my roommate. I was allowed to notice how gorgeous you are but other than that, guess my brain put you off limits.” He smiled. “Except for the touching. Couldn’t help that.”

“Don’t worry. I wasn’t complaining.”

Tommy trailed a light touch down Nick’s arms until he could twine their fingers together. Nick shivered. He couldn’t help the odd feeling that perhaps he was dreaming. Only the return of Tommy’s lips to his, the physical, tangible connection made everything feel real.

“So what now?” Tommy’s question was quiet, like he was afraid to ask.

“I guess that depends on what you want. I want you. I have for a long time.”

“I want you, too, Nicky. I mean, I-I  love you. I don’t know what happens when you fall for someone you already loved as a friend. Or maybe I always loved you as more…I don’t know.” He giggled. “I’m babbling aren’t I?”

“Am I making you nervous?” Nick was both flattered and dismayed.

“A little. More the situation than you, I think.”

“T, it’s just me. And the feelings might be new, or at least newly noticed…but us? We’re just like always. Kiss me?” Tommy leaned forward and parted his lips, tasting Nick, winding their tongues together. The kiss was long, deep, deliciously emotional. It left them both breathing hard and grinning. “See? We fit perfectly, don’t we?”

“Yeah, we do.”

“So what now?” Nick repeated Tommy’s earlier question.

“Um, now I get to kiss you whenever I want?” Nick nodded. “And you come to the fourth of July with me up at the cape?” Nick nodded again, smile growing. “And–

Tommy was interrupted by the startling ring of Nick’s phone. “Shit.” He started shuffling them around. “Lemme turn this thing off.” He reached in his pocket and silenced the call before settling Tommy back on his lap. “Where were we?”

“Deciding which bedroom to sleep in.”

Nick grinned and went for a kiss, only to be interrupted by his phone ringing again, insistent and frustrating. He laughed and went for his pocket a second time.

“God this thing drives me nuts!” He was still smiling until he noticed the name on the caller id. “Shit, it’s my house. I better answer.”

* * * 

Tommy stood in the baggage claim, waving at Nick who’d just given him his tenth, no make that fifteenth, kiss goodbye. A heart attack. The phone call had been Nick’s housekeeper calling to say that his father had a heart attack. He was in stable condition but Nick needed to go home and see him in the hospital.

“Call me tonight, let me know how he is.”

“I will, T.” Nick came back and enveloped Tommy in one more long hard hug. “I don’t want to go.”

“It’s your father, Nicky. You go make sure he’s fine, then come up and meet me at my grandma’s house for the fourth.”

He was leaving for the cape straight from the airport. It would’ve been weird to be in their house without Nick even if they had yet to spend the night in the same room together.

He missed sleeping in a room with Nick. Really missed it.

Sometimes he lay awake at night trying to hear the sounds of Nick moving around in his room across the hall. A few times he’d even been out of bed and creeping across the hallway before he told himself not to be a jerk and just go back to bed. Moron. He could’ve had Nick weeks before, instead of prancing around with his shirt off hoping Nick would make the first move. Now he was going to have to wait again. Sit up at the beach with nothing to do except count the days until Nick was his again.

“I’ll be there. Wish I was going with you today.”

Tommy grinned. “If you weren’t leaving for California, we wouldn’t be on the road to my grandmother’s house tonight.”

Nick’s sunburnt cheeks flushed even pinker. “Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting for you to look at me like that?” He groaned. “The injustice…”

“Hey, I’ll still be here when you get back and I’ll be looking at you like this the second you pull up to the cabin, and when you kiss me again, and the first night we get to really be together, and–”

Nick cut him off with an exasperated kiss. “I’ve gotta sit on the plane for hours. I can’t have that picture in my head, it’ll be torture.”

“At least it would be some interesting inflight entertainment.” Tommy knew it was all he was going to be thinking about during the long drive to his grandma’s.

“T? There’s something I gotta tell you before I go.” Tommy’s stomach plummeted.

“Please don’t say you have a boyfriend at home.”

Nick smiled and cupped Tommy’s face with his free hand. “Nope. Just one boyfriend. Right?”

Tommy’s stomach fluttered happily. Nick was calling him his boyfriend. “Right.” He couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face. “What is it?”

“It’s not a big deal. It’s just my fath–”

“Flight 674 non-stop to Los Angeles is boarding now. Last call.” The announcement came over the loud speaker.

Nick’s eyes popped. “Oh, shit! I’ve gotta run or I’ll never make it to the gate.”

“What were you going to tell me?”

“It’s nothing. I’ll tell you tonight.” Nick leaned in, gave him one more quick kiss, and took off running for his terminal.

“Love you,” Tommy whispered to Nick’s retreating form.

The drive to the cape was long, only about two hours in reality, but all Tommy could think about was Nick and how much he wished they were together that night. He wasn’t sure exactly how much that ‘together’ would’ve entailed. He knew what he wanted for sure. God, he wanted it. Had for weeks–a whole lot longer if he was honest with himself. He wanted their kiss from that afternoon with nothing in between them, no clothes no awkwardness, no misconceptions. Just them. But he’d have to wait.

Tommy pulled up to his grandmother’s cabin around ten. Cabin was a pretty loose term for the nearly six thousand square foot sprawling seaside home. He’d always loved coming there when he was a kid, and even though he wished he could be driving up with Nick by his side he did feel better just being somewhere where he was so comfortable. Since his father died, this place had been more of a home then the house he shared with his aunt and his cousins. The only thing that had eclipsed it was the little house he and Nick were making their own. Nick again. Tommy wondered it he was going to make it ten minutes at a time without thinking of Nick. It was only going to be a week or so before he saw him again. Hopefully. It would seem like forever.

* * * 

Nick stood in the door of his father’s hospital room and tried to talk himself into going in. He didn’t want to. At all. Melanie, the woman his father had been seeing for a year or so sat in one of the hard plastic chairs next to his bed. She’d been reading a magazine but it had slid to her knees when she fell asleep. Poor lady looked exhausted. Nick liked Melanie, a whole lot more than he liked his father actually. He wondered if she was waiting for a ring from his father. It wasn’t going to happen. Michael Logan was way too protective of his money. He’d always said one marriage was more than enough.

“Mel,” Nick whispered. She woke with a start, the magazine that had been propped on her knees slid to the floor.

Blinking sleepily, she arched her back and stretched her arms over her head. “Hey, Nick. When did you get in?”

“Late last night. I just went home instead of waking him up.” Nick gestured towards his father, who was asleep.

“He’s been very tired but the doctors say he can go home in a few days. He’s going to have to change a lot of things–not work so many hours.”

Nick snorted. “That’s going to be impossible to get him to agree to.”

Mel nodded wryly. “You know, he’s hoping that you’ll move closer to home.”

Nick shook his head. “I’m really happy there, Mel. I don’t want to come back.”

His father stirred and opened his eyes. “Nicholas?” his voice sounded weak. It was disconcerting.

“Yeah, Dad. I’m here.”

“Good. Let’s talk about Tiffany.”

Nick nearly groaned. “For Christ’s sake, Dad. You’re in the hospital. Why are we talking about some girl that I live thousands of miles away from?”

“Well you won’t as of September. I thought we could enroll you at Chapman.”

Nick thought of all the people from his high school that were going there. Even if Tommy wasn’t in his life there was no way he’d want to be a part of that scene again.

“Dad, I’m doing really well in Massachusetts. What is so wrong with me being there?” You can’t watch me and it’s killing you.

“I don’t like you living with that boy. People are going to talk.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Dad. Guys share apartments and stuff all the time. Tommy’s really nice and he takes as many classes as I do. He’s nearly always at the library.”

“What was wrong with the dorms?”

“Nothing really, but this is way better. I really like having my own room.” He didn’t actually, and wasn’t going to much longer, but that was something his dad would never know.

“If this house is so great why didn’t you tell Chase about it. He said this Tommy boy was the one who told him.”

“I don’t really like Chase, Dad. I’ve told you about a hundred times that we’re not friends anymore.”

“So you’d rather be friends with a little fag? Oh yes, Chase told me about that too.” Oh, fuck you, Chase Hamilton. Fuck you.

“Dad, I don’t care who Tommy likes. He’s a nice guy and we get along. He doesn’t bring his dates in front of me or anything. We’re just sharing a house.” Nick hated lying but he was willing to do anything to get out of that hospital room and back on a plane to Tommy. “Is that why you’re worried about what people will think?”

His dad’s face started to get red. “I don’t want my son living with a fag! People will think you’re one of them.”

Melanie leaned over the bed. “Michael, you need to calm down. The doctor said stress isn’t good for you!”

“Do you think it’s right, him living in the same house with a fag?”

Melanie shrugged. “My brother’s gay, not that you knew that. If Nick says Tommy’s a nice boy maybe we should take his word for it. You raised a smart son, Michael.” Nick could’ve kissed her.

Just then his father’s doctor came in for his daily check-up. Melanie stood.

“Do you want to go to the cafeteria with me, Nick?”

Nick nodded.

“I’m not done with our conversation, son,” his father warned.

Nick sighed. “I’ll be here until you get released, Dad. We’ll have plenty of time to  talk about it.”

Not that it’s going to make any difference. You can’t tell me who to love…

* * * 

“Nick!” Tommy’s heart sped up at the sound of a car pulling into the driveway. It had to be him. And it was. Thank God. Tommy didn’t know if he was going to last another day with just a phone call…albeit phone calls that had gotten increasingly sexy as the days went on. He’d just about combusted after the one the night before.

Tommy raced out the front door towards the rental car just as the headlights flicked off. The door opened and Nick got out, dragging a duffel bag from the passenger seat and slinging over his shoulder. He looked tired but happy to see Tommy.

“Hey, T,” He murmured and enveloped Tommy in a long hug. Tommy breathed in deep. He’d been waiting for that smell.

“I missed you. I’m so glad you’re here,” Tommy mumbled into his neck.

“Missed you too.” Nick smiled softly and leaned over to give Tommy a kiss. He pulled back after a second and looked sharply at the house. “Where’s your grandma?”

“In the kitchen. We were making chocolate pudding when you pulled up. But don’t worry.”

“What do you mean?”

“I told her. All of it. She knows I’m gay, she knows I have a boyfriend, she knows he’s the most amazing, gorgeous, talented guy in the world.”

Nick chuckled. “And?”

Tommy shrugged. “She’s fine with it. I was a bit worried but it was for nothing.” He winked at Nick. “She still wants to meet you by the way.”

“After all that talking I’m not going to live up to the hype.”

Tommy gave him another kiss. This one longer and quite a big more steamy than the last. “Yes you will.”

“Okay, go meet your Grandmother?”

“Yeah, then bed time.” Tommy waggled his eyebrows. “It is awfully late after all.” Nick gave him this sexy and intimate smile that Tommy had never seen before. It made his stomach quake with desire. “C’mon, let’s go get this meet and greet over with.”

Tommy tugged Nick through the front door and towards the kitchen, where his Grandmother was pouring chocolate pudding into a big glass bowl.

“Ah, you must be Nick,” She said with a soft smile.

“Yes, nice to meet you Ma’am.”

Tommy’s grandmother chuckled. “No, ma’ams here. Call me Gloria.”

“Thank you, Gloria, for having me here. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this place all year.”

“I’ve been waiting to meet you. Tommy hasn’t stopped talking about you since you first met.”

“Grandma.” Tommy was embarrassed but Nick’s smile and the hand that rubbed for a moment on his lower back made the embarrassment worth it. Besides, he’d basically already admitted to gushing about Nick anyway.

“The pudding will be ready tomorrow boys, and there are eggs and bacon in the refrigerator. Remember I have to go into the city tomorrow for the hospital wing committee meeting. I’m leaving early, so I should be back for dinner.”

Tommy pulled Nick towards the back stairwell that went from the kitchen to the converted servants quarters that had a great view of the garden. “Night, Grandma. I’m going to show Nick our room.”

Nick’s eyes grew wide. “We’re…sharing?”

Gloria chuckled. “I figured there was no point in making up another room. You’d sneak into each other’s beds after about an hour anyway. I’m not so old that I don’t remember doing that a time or two myself.”

Tommy was caught between laughter and shock. He ended up with a sputtering half laugh. Nick grinned.

“I like your grandma,” Nick whispered as they headed up the stairs.

“I like her, too. I remember my dad saying he had a great time growing up. I couldn’t believe how cool she was when I asked if we could share a room. I expected at least a small fight. She just said ‘sure’ like it was nothing. Here we are.”

Tommy swung the door open to the room he always picked when he was at his grandmother’s house. The ceilings were low, slanted, and painted white and everything was decorated with white and navy blue. Besides, his aunt would never lower herself to sleeping in what used to be the servants’ quarters so he was guaranteed distance from her. Thank goodness she wasn’t planning on coming up for the fourth. He was glad to be rid of her.

As soon as the door was closed behind them, Tommy took Nick’s bag from his shoulder and dropped it to the floor. Then he wrapped his arms around Nick’s neck and kissed him. It had only been a few minutes but he was already missing the taste of that kiss. He tugged at the hem of Nick’s t-shirt. He wanted it out of the way already. Tommy managed to get Nick’s shirt off and then his too before tumbling them onto the big wrought iron bed with the blue and white quilt.

They kissed for a long time, touching and stroking with more intensity than Tommy thought possible. He reached for the button on Nick’s cargo shorts. Nick stilled Tommy’s hand with his own.

“T, what are we doing, here?

Tommy was surprised. “What we said last night?” The night before, they’d practically had phone sex, talking about how much they both wanted to be naked and inside each other.

“You sure you’re ready for that?”

Tommy nearly laughed. Ready? He’d been just plain ready three weeks ago. After all that waiting he was about to burst into a million pieces if he didn’t get touched soon.

“Yes, I’m ready.” He tried to open Nick’s pants again but was thwarted by a strong hand holding them shut. “What, Nicky? Don’t you want me?”

Nick choked. “Are you kidding me? Yes. There’s just something I have to tell you first.”

“Is this what you were trying to tell me at the airport?”

Nick nodded and reached up to cup Tommy’s face. “There’s something about me that you don’t know.”

Tommy grinned. “Please tell me you’re a super hero. I’d totally believe it.”

That got a chuckle out of Nick. “Nothing that cool. Listen, it’s just that…well, my dad–”

“Is he okay?” Tommy was immediately worried.

“Yeah, just let me finish this before I lose my nerve.”

“Sorry, Nicky. Keep going.”

“I’m just going to say it. My dad is Michael Logan.”

Tommy sputtered.  Michael Logan? That’s impossible! “The computer billionaire? You’re kidding, right?”

Nick shook his head. He pulled out his phone and did an internet search for Michael Logan. Then he took out his wallet and pulled a folded photo from it and handed the photo to Tommy. It was clearly Nick in the picture, and judging from it, the picture wasn’t taken too long ago. He was with a man, stern and wearing an expensive looking suit.  Nick handed over his phone and Tommy compared the press photo of Michael Logan to the one in the picture with Nick. It was clearly him. Tommy didn’t know what to say.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Tommy was trying not to be hurt but he was.

Nick wrung his hands together. “At home, in California, the fact that I was Michael Logan’s son…it was the only thing anyone knew about me. I couldn’t tell if my friends really liked me, or if they liked my dad’s huge pool. Even the few guys I dated eventually found out. When I came here, I just wanted to be a guy, not a cog in my dad’s fame wheel.”

“Did you think I would judge you?”

“Not judge me, I just wanted to know for sure that you liked me because I was me not because I was Nick Logan.”

That hurt. “And you really think that I would be friends with you because your dad, who you hate by the way, is famous and rich?”

“No. Not after I got to know you. But by then I felt stupid because I hadn’t told you and I didn’t know how.”

“Was it really that hard just now?”

Nick sighed. “Yes. I don’t want to be Michael Logan’s son. We don’t get along, and because of him I never know what people really think of me.”

Tommy scooted closer. He decided to ignore his hurt. Nick needed him more than he needed to be pissy over not being told. “You know what I think of you.”

“Do you still? You don’t hate me for not telling you right away?”

Tommy shook his head. “Don’t hate you.” He leaned over and kissed Nick slowly, then rubbed noses with him. “I’ll keep your secret if you want. No one else has to know.”

Nick nodded. “I’d rather have it that way. The only one who knows is Chase and he promised.” Tommy made a face when Nick said Chase’s name. He still felt so stupid for how he’d acted over that self-involved jerk. “Sorry, T. Didn’t mean to bring him up.”

“No, it’s fine Nicky. I just feel dumb, that’s all. I still can’t believe I didn’t see him, and you, for what you guys were all along.”

“What was he?”

Tommy smiled ironically. “A jerk.”

Nick shrugged and nodded. “He has his moments, but yeah, pretty much.” Nick gave Tommy a sly smile. “So if he’s a jerk, what am I?”

Tommy’s heart thunked. “You’re everything.”

With that, Nick kissed him. Long and hard, filled with tongues and little bites and more touching and stroking. Their chests rubbed together, setting Tommy’s nipples tingling happily.  He wanted more skin, more contact. Tommy started the journey back towards Nick’s zipper. It was bold, bolder than anything he’d even thought he’d do, but he needed to feel all of Nick. The grate of Nick’s zipper was loud in the near silence. Tommy froze, thinking Nick would stop him again but he didn’t. Only arched his back and whispered Yes, T. He loved the harsh intake of breath when his hand slipped under Nick’s waistband but after that he was busy exploring, circling his hand around Nick’s cock and loving everything he got to touch.

“Oh, God…Me too, T. I want to feel you too.”  Nick started pushing his shorts off his hips, impatient and grinning. Tommy grinned too and kneeled up so he could go to work on the drawstring of the board shorts he’d been wearing all day.  His fingers were shaky and the knot seemed impossible but finally it was loosened and he could pull his shorts off and toss them on the floor.

Tommy crawled back into Nick’s arms naked and trembling a bit. He felt breathless, nervous, turned on as hell. Everything he was supposed to feel. Nick smiled and cupped his face.

“Hey, Tommy, you know I love you too, right? I mean I hadn’t actually said it, not  the way I mean it. I mean I did as friends but–” He broke off looking frustrated and horny and tongue tied.

His obvious nerves helped to calm Tommy’s some. “I know, Nicky. Me too.”

And then he could barely breathe because he was naked and lying next to Nick and they were touching each other everywhere and damn it was amazing. He kissed Nick’s neck and arched his back, rubbing his cock against Nick’s. He wished he knew more what to do. The basics were all there but Tommy wanted to give Nick the kind of pleasure that would make Nick never want to leave his bed again.

“What do you like, Nicky?” He whispered. He skimmed his palm over Nick’s nipple and down his abdomen all the way until he could curl it around the thick hardness that he was already addicted to. Nick’s breath quickened and he moaned.

“What do you mean?

“I want to make you feel good but I don’t know what you like.”

Nick let out a shaky breath. “I like you touching me, T. I don’t care how.”

“But I don’t know what to d-do.” Tommy’s voice caught when he felt a warm hand curl around his own painfully hard erection. He moaned and arched into Nick’s touch.

“What do you want to do, babe?”

“I want to kiss you and taste you and, and, f-feel you inside me.”

Nick gulped visibly. “Yes,” he moaned. “Hold on.” He scooted off of the bed and tiptoed to his duffel.  He came back to the bed with condoms and a bottle of liquid.

“Do we need those? The condoms?” Tommy didn’t know why, but the idea of Nick and him with nothing between them made his stomach tighten.

“Probably not, but I want to make sure first, okay?” He sat the condoms and the bottle of lube on the bed near them. Tommy nodded and bit on his lip. “I’ve gotta get you ready for this. I want to take my time. But first I want to kiss you some more. I’ve been waiting all year for this. I don’t want to rush it.”

They started kissing again, both of them stroking skin, tasting, tugging with arms and legs trying to get as close as they could. Tommy couldn’t believe it was really happening. He didn’t want to rush it either, wanted make it last as long as possible.

He jumped a little when he felt Nick’s fingers against his entrance, warm and dry just testing the waters.

“You okay?”

Tommy nodded. He was nervous but he still wanted Nick so badly. “Yeah, I’m fine. Keep going.”

Nick reached for the bottle of lube and poured some on his fingers. Then he rubbed against Tommy’s entrance again. It felt good this time but not enough. He wanted more pressure, he wanted Nick inside. Tommy lifted his hips and pushed against Nick’s fingers.

“More,” He whispered.

Nick nodded and sank slowly inside with one slender finger. “Does that feel good?”

Tommy wasn’t sure until Nick brushed up against something that made tremors go through his body. “Oh shit,” was his only answer. He assumed his face would tell Nick anything he needed to know.

Nick grinned. “That’s your prostate. Feels pretty nice, huh?”

“Are you kidding me?” Tommy panted. “More.”

Nick gave him more, working him with his finger, adding digits, until Tommy felt stretched and full and dying to feel Nick himself inside.  He clutched at Nick’s shoulders and tried to tell him with motions what he didn’t have the breath to say aloud.

“Ready, love?”

Tommy’s heart tripped happily. He was swimming in lust and love and feeling so much for Nick that he could barely keep himself from flying apart. “Yeah,” He moaned. He lifted his knees so they were hugging Nick’s flanks. “Like this?”

“Just like that.” Nick leaned over and kissed Tommy long and slow, then reached between them with one long fingered graceful hand and guided himself to Tommy’s entrance. He pushed, gently at first, then with more force until he’d breached the muscle and was sinking into Tommy. The whole time he dropped small, wet kisses all over Tommy’s face. “Does it hurt, T?”

It burned for sure, but Nick had taken so much time to get him ready that he barely noticed. All he noticed was how full, how amazing he felt having Nick inside of him.

“It’s good, Nicky. More.” He arched up and tightened his inner muscles on Nicky’s shaft making him moan.

“You feel amazing, babe,” Nick murmured before kissing him one last time. Then he sat up and pulled Tommy close so his legs were splayed over Nick’s thighs, open and vulnerable. Nick ran his hands reverently up Tommy’s abs, played gently with his straining nipples. Tommy had never felt so sexy, so wanted, in his life. Nick started to move, thrusting gently into Tommy’s body and nudging up against that amazing little spot that Nick had introduced him to just minutes before.

“Oh, God, Nicky.  Please.” Tommy felt his body start to shake. Nick wrapped his hand, still slick with lube, around Tommy’s cock and started to pull in time with his deep thrusts. Tommy thought he was going to die from the pleasure. Nick leaned over to kiss him and Tommy slung his arms around Nick’s neck and squeezed hard, then he reached down and hauled Nick closer, as close as he could get.

“It never felt like this,” Nick whispered on a groan. “Never.”

Tommy reached up and grabbed at one of the wrought iron posts on the headboard. “I couldn’t have even imagined…Nicky, I think I’m close.”

Nick started to stroke him harder both inside and with his hand. “Come for me, love. I want to feel you lose control.”

It didn’t take much more after that. Just a few more strokes and Tommy started to tremble uncontrollably. The thundering stampede of his orgasm rushed down his spine with enough force to make him arch his back and cry out. Wet heat spilled from his body, dripping down Nick’s hand and onto his stomach. Nick cried out and froze, trembling and  with a look of pure pleasure painting his features. After long moments of breathing hard, propped up on his elbows, Nick withdrew from Tommy’s body gently and flopped to the side, drawing Tommy in close. Tommy covered Nick’s hand with his own and lay his forehead on Nick’s chest.

“You okay, T?” Nick sounded concerned, sweet. Tommy loved it.

“Okay? That was amazing.”

“Yeah, me too. I meant what I said. It’s never felt that good before. That close to someone.”

Tommy wanted to growl. He didn’t like hearing about Nick and other guys. Nick must have seen something on his face because he started to chuckle.

“I’m not going to do it again, silly. Only with you from now on. C’mon, let’s go to sleep. We have the house to ourselves all day tomorrow.” The grin Nick gave him was sexy and sly and made Tommy want to start everything they’d just done all over.

“Okay, sleep. But no pajamas. I want to feel your skin.”

Nick nodded. “Me too.”

* * * *

“You know, if we weren’t like this by now, I mean together, I was going to pull the same move I pulled at Christmas.”

Nick propped himself up on his elbow and peered down at Tommy who was cuddled against him. He ran his free hand down Tommy’s abdomen, shoulder to thigh loving the feel of his silky skin. He’d thought Tommy was nearly asleep but he must have been wrong.

“What do you mean?”

“I wanted this, wanted you so badly that I was going to tell you I didn’t want to start next year a virgin and that you were the only one I trusted to help me with that problem. I’m not sure what my plan was after that. Maybe I was hoping you’d like it enough to want me again.”

Nick sputtered, laughing softly. “I would’ve passed out from shock if you asked me to do that.”

“Would you have? Done it I mean?”

Nick nodded ruefully. “Yeah. There’s no way I could’ve said no to you. I probably would’ve told myself it was an awful idea but I’d have still done it–and loved it the whole time.”

Tommy giggled but then a concerned look washed over his face. “Is this an awful idea? Nicky, I don’t want to lose you. What if ?–”

Those big brown eyes killed him. “Shhhh.” He rubbed little kisses all over Tommy’s face ending with a nuzzling kiss on his lips. “T, I love you. As a friend, as a boyfriend…as everything.Just like you said. You’ve gotta know that I felt it all along. It’s been too late for me to be just friends since the night I met you.”

“I love you too, Nicky.” Tommy’s smile trembled and he reached up to tug on Nick’s hair. Nick loved that he already knew what that meant. Tommy wanted another kiss. He was more than happy to oblige.

“So we’re good?” He asked when they came up for air.

“Yeah, we’re good. You don’t have any more secrets do you?”

Nick chuckled. “Well, Cher is my grandmother.”

Tommy shoved laughingly at Nick’s chest. “You’re a dork.”

Nick grinned. “You love me anyway.”

“Yeah,” Tommy said with a smile. “I do.”

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