Adrien threw his hands up in the air. “But you haven’t even heard what I have to say!”
“I know exactly what you’re going to say because you said it last week when you came by,” Felix argued, keying something into the computer on the counter. “And keep your voice down. This is a bookstore, not a park.”
“Sorry, but you’re not listening.”
“I’m at work, Adrien.” Felix pointedly grabbed two books from the reshelving cart and walked away but his younger brother stayed on his heels with his best friend in tow.
“It’s Christmas, Fe! You have to at least come to dinner.” Adrien turned to Nino with a hopeful smile. “Nino, tell Felix he needs to spend Christmas with his family.”
Felix glanced at Nino. “Who are you?”
“He’s Nino,” Adrien replied with a frown. “He’s been my best friend forever now. You know that.”
“You’ve met me like five times, dude.” Nino offered him a couple of books he’d grabbed from the cart as they passed it and Felix eyed him for a moment before taking them.
“I see. Well, I really need to get back to work.”
“Please say you’ll think about it. It’d be really nice to have the four of us together for the holiday this year.”
Felix clenched his jaw and very purposefully didn’t meet his brother’s earnest gaze. “The four of us?”
Adrien faltered. “Well, Father and Nathalie have made it official now so…”
“I can’t make it.” Felix brushed past Adrien and Nino without another word and disappeared through the curtain behind the counter. Within moments, another employee stumbled out with a surprised look on his face and sheepishly waved in their direction.
“Felix is on break now so he says goodbye.”
Adrien stood at the edge of the counter and cupped his hands around his mouth. “This isn’t over, Fe,” he called out. “I’ll be back in a few days to try again.”
With a determined smile and the nod of his head, Adrien moved towards the front door. Nino looked back to see the curtain shift enough to catch a glimpse of Felix watching them before it fell back into place and then he was following Adrien outside.
“I think I’m wearing him down,” Adrien announced confidently.
“I’m not so sure.”
“You don’t know Felix like I do. He’ll give in soon.”
“Yeah, I think that’s the first time we’ve even spoken to each other.”
“I don’t know why he acted like he didn’t remember you. We’ve talked about you before.” Adrien opened the car door and slipped inside.
Nino wasn’t sure how that made him feel. “When?”
“A few times,” Adrien shrugged. “I always told him he could come hang out with us when you were over but he never did.”
“I didn’t know.”
“Maybe you’ll get to know him now,” he smiled. “Are you hungry? I’m starving.”
Nino found himself wandering by the bookstore he visited with Adrien two days after their last visit. Before he could talk himself out of it, he walked inside and winced as the little bell attached to the doorframe heralded his arrival. He hadn’t noticed that the last time.
“Hi. Can I help you find something today?” A pretty girl with a bright and cheery smile blinked up at him politely.
“Just looking, I think,” he managed to say before slipping down one of the rows of books. He wasn’t even sure why he’d come. He looked along the unfamiliar titles as he passed and turned around to leave when he found himself face to face with a decidedly unimpressed Felix.
“It’s not like Ren to send someone else to do his dirty work,” he said dryly. “So either he’s learning from Father or you’re here on your own.”
Nino bristled. “Who said I was here to see you? This is a store. Am I not allowed to shop here?”
Felix stepped back but his eyes narrowed. “What can I help you find then?”
His mind raced through possibilities quickly. Something on music theory. That would make sense for him and surely there would be at least a few books here on it. Sure, that would be plausible. He would just ask Felix if there were any good books on music theory and then escape as soon as he had the chance. He should’ve never let his curiosity get the best of him anyway.
Even when he’d still lived in the same house as Adrien, Felix had been a mystery. He was rarely seen around the mansion and even if Nino did manage to bump into him, he never seemed to recognize him, whether through Nino being that forgettable or Felix being that disinterested. It was frustrating at best. Maybe that’s why he’d come back here.
“Are you just going to keep looking at me or are you going to tell me why you’re here?”
Nino blinked, shaking himself out of his thoughts. “A cookbook.” He felt his cheeks darken. Where had that come from?! A cookbook?! What was he thinking?
Felix seemed to accept that and turned on his heel. “Do you need a specific kind of cookbook or are you just hoping to make something edible?”
“My family, uh…” Nino grasped at every thought flying around his mind until one made sense. “Moroccan. I need a Moroccan cookbook.”
“Oh. That might be a challenge.”
Nino was surprised to see what almost looked like a smile before Felix was leading him across the store.
“We have a lot of different ethnic cookbooks obviously but I can’t recall if we have Moroccan, for sure. And even if we do have it, it might not be the best one available. I can check the database and see if we can get another one in for you.” He stopped abruptly and Nino had to catch himself before he plowed into him. “Your family doesn’t have a cookbook?”
Felix looked him up and down. “You’re Moroccan, aren’t you?”
“Well, technically I’m French,” Nino frowned. “But my parents are from Morocco, yeah.”
“That was rude.”
Felix nodded. “It’s something I’m working on.”
“Good to know.” Nino wasn’t sure what to make of Felix. He wasn’t much like Adrien at all. He watched him peruse a long row of cookbook titles. He didn’t even really look like Adrien. If anything, he looked more like Gabriel. He acted more like him too, cold and judgmental. That may be harsh. This was only their second real interaction after all. Nino begrudgingly admitted to himself that there was still something attractive about him.
As if Felix could read his thoughts, he paused and glanced over at Nino. “You’re wondering why I keep telling Adrien no.”
“Not exactly,” Nino shrugged. “Maybe you didn’t realize but Gabriel Agreste is not my biggest fan. We don’t have the warm fuzzies for each other. I’m not going to wonder why anyone doesn’t want to spend Christmas with him.”
That pulled another small smile from Felix and Nino felt a certain sense of accomplishment.
“Be that as it may, I know my brother means well.”
“He always does.”
“You say that like someone who has been on the end of Adrien’s good intentions.” Felix pulled two books from the shelf and balanced them on a lower shelf before continuing his search.
“There was an event where Adrien took it upon himself to find me the perfect date. It went on for a month leading up to the thing,” Nino sighed. “There were accidental meet-ups that were carefully planned and orchestrated, surprise blind dates, the works.”
“And did he?”
“Did he what?”
Felix pulled a third book. “Find you the perfect date.”
“Oh.” Nino waved a hand carelessly. “Not really. I ended up taking a friend and that seemed to satisfy him enough since she’d been one of his top picks anyway.”
“Yeah.” Nino gestured to the stack of books. “You really have that many Moroccan cookbooks on hand?”
“Well, no. The one we have is rubbish. I flipped through it but you’d have better luck finding recipes online. These are decent general cookbooks though, in case you wanted to take a look while I go see if there are any good Moroccan ones to order. When do you need it by?”
“I’m having my family over for Christmas,” Nino lied. He wasn’t sure what made him say that. If anything, he would end up going to his parents’ house for Christmas to sit through another family get together, single and questioned by every extended family member who showed up for his father’s infamous cooking.
“Then you’ll want it soon enough to practice a few dishes?” Felix gathered the stack of books and was walking again without giving Nino any indication beforehand. Nino quickly fell into step behind him.
“Probably a good idea.”
“I’ve been learning to cook for myself.” Felix rounded the counter and set the stack of books down beside the computer. He pointed to the top of the stack. “This one is really great if you have no idea what you’re doing, which is unfortunately where I was.”
“Your use of past tense is hopeful then,” Nino smiled.
There was another small smile and Nino mentally marked it down as the third one he’d gotten from Felix today. It felt like a good record since he’d never seen him smile before in their few interactions.
“I’ll admit that I won’t be inviting anyone over for dinner anytime soon but I’m surviving on what I’ve learned, at least.”
“I think I’ll take it then.” Nino pulled his wallet out and said a silent prayer that there was enough money in his bank account to cover it. He wasn’t exactly the living the high life currently.
Felix slid the book off the pile. “It looks like I can order this other book and have it in by next Wednesday. Does that give you enough time?”
Nino felt like a deer in headlights as soon as Felix looked back at him. He couldn’t even afford this book; the last thing he needed to do was agree to come back and buy another one in less than a week. Why was he doing this? Why was he even here?
“Sorry, uh, I’m just trying to think. Maybe I shouldn’t attempt the whole hosting my entire family for Christmas when I don’t even know how to cook.”
“It does sound like a bit of pressure,” Felix admitted. “Personally I’m looking forward to making a small dinner for myself and spending all Christmas day reading the discount books I got from here.”
“So you really aren’t going to do dinner with Adrien?” Nino watched Felix’s pleasant expression shut down and he picked the cookbook up and scanned it without answer. He woefully handed over his card and breathed a sigh of relief when the transaction was approved.
Felix bagged his purchase and handed it to him with a robotic “Have a nice day.”
“Now Father is saying Felix isn’t even invited to Christmas dinner which is so stupid!” Adrien huffed and paced the length of Nino’s small studio apartment. “So even if I get Felix to agree to come, Father is saying he doesn’t want him there.”
“Maybe it’s best to just leave things the way they are, dude.” Nino placed another post-it note on an interesting recipe and flipped to the next page of his new cookbook. “They’re both pretty stubborn.”
“Yeah, well, I’m stubborner. More stubborn?” He crossed his arms. “I’m the most stubborn Agreste and that’s that.”
“I would not disagree with that statement.”
“I just don’t think it’s a lot to ask for them to play nice one day out of the year. It’s bad enough Felix moved out without telling anybody.” Adrien flopped down on the secondhand couch beside Nino. “Want to come back to the bookstore with me to talk to him again?”
The way his last interaction with Felix ended flashed in his mind. “I think I’ll pass this time.”
“What are you doing?”
“Looking up recipes.”
Nino glanced at him. “To cook?”
Nino rolled his eyes at him. “What?”
Adrien shrugged. “I’ve just never seen you as much of a chef. That’s all.”
“I’m not opening a restaurant or anything. It’s just something I’m trying out.”
They lapsed into silence and Nino found two more recipes he marked with blue post-it notes.
“On a scale of one to ten, how much begging do I have to do to get you to come with me to see Felix?”
“Adrien,” Nino whined. “I’m in the zone here.”
“I can wait until you’re done!”
“Why do you need me to come with you?”
He blinked big green eyes at his best friend. “I get lonely.”
“You can’t even walk outside without someone wanting to talk to you,” Nino sighed, already closing his book.
Adrien saw his clear victory but continued on. “But you’re my best friend and in that capacity, I believe--
“Just hush. I’m already coming.” Nino reached for his shoes and pulled them on. “Why does this mean so much to you? Last year you didn’t even want to have dinner with your dad.”
“It’s not really about him. Felix and I have never missed a Christmas together. Even when he was in boarding school, he snuck out and rode a train back home three years in a row. Our parents were mad at him but it didn’t matter because we were all together.” Adrien zipped up his coat, keeping his eyes on the task. “I know it sounds childish but it feels really important that we don’t break that tradition.”
“Okay,” Nino nodded. “I’ll try to help you convince him. I don’t think he likes me very much but I’ll give it a shot.”
“What do you mean he’s sick? Felix doesn’t get sick.”
The polite smile pasted on the face of the girl behind the counter faltered. “I’m sorry, sir. He called in sick this morning.”
“Is he at home? I haven’t gotten his new address since he moved.”
The girl’s smile dropped but her face stayed pleasantly blank. “I’m sorry. I can’t give out that kind of information.”
Nino watched Adrien’s expression transition from concerned and slightly irritated to full-blown charming. He’d seen the show hundreds of times before but it never ceased to amaze him. He could see the moment the girl realized just how handsome Adrien could be. Nino watched him dip his head expertly and use his eyes to his advantage. He wasn’t needed for this. He stepped away and went to the nearest table of books.
There were little placards with employee names and recommendations. He found himself searching the names until he found Felix’s set of books. He didn’t recognize any of the titles and that bothered him for some reason. He took a quick picture of each one on his phone so he could look them up later. He wasn’t sure why it mattered. Knowing the kind of books Felix liked wasn’t going to make him any less of a mystery but Nino was curious all the same.
“Want to come with me to see Fe?” Adrien appeared by his side with a bright smile.
“You got the address?”
He nodded happily. “A phone number too.”
“You went for the gold,” Nino said dryly. “Sure, I’ll come with you.”
Felix took one look at the both of them and tried to close the door in their faces but Adrien already had his foot in the door. He shouldered it open with a laugh. “Look at all Mom’s Christmas stuff!” A thin but nicely decorated tree was in the corner of the small apartment and other decorations covered most of the surfaces throughout the room. “I can’t believe you still have some of this stuff.”
“Why are you here, Ren?” Felix rubbed a tissue against his pink nose miserably and tightened the blanket around his shoulders. “I was almost asleep.” He eyed Nino without comment and wiped at his nose more.
Adrien had the decency to look sorry. “I went to see you at work and they said you were sick so I wanted to check on you.”
“Now you can see I’m not dead yet so please go.”
“Please say you’ll come to Christmas dinner,” Adrien challenged.
“Have you eaten?” Nino interjected.
Both Agreste men looked at him in surprise. “What?”
“You should probably eat something to keep your strength up if you can. And I don’t see any cups. Have you been drinking enough?”
“I…” Felix trailed off and looked around. “Probably not.”
“Go sit on the couch and I’ll get you something,” Nino instructed, already striding towards the kitchen.
“You may as well listen. His mom’s a nurse and Nino gets it honest. He’s taken care of me loads of times.” Adrien shot his brother a gleeful smile. “I should’ve thought of this earlier!”
“You take way too much joy in my pain,” Felix muttered, dropping to the couch.
“You should spend more time with Nino. I think you’d like him.”
“My head feels like it’s going to split in two at any given moment.”
“He’s really smart. He is even working on creating his own music app.”
“Great,” Felix sniffed miserably.
“He’s handsome too, but you can see that.”
“Ren, I swear…”
Adrien’s voice lowered as he glanced towards the kitchen. “He’s single…”
“Then you should date him.”
“Our love is one of friendship and runs much deeper than any kind of romantic love ever could,” Adrien said haughtily.
“Adrien, I am literally sitting on a box worth of my mucus-filled tissues. Do not try to set me up with your friend right now.” Felix curled on his side and rested his head against the arm of the couch.
“You’re right. Now’s not the time.” Adrien patted his knee and joined Nino in the kitchen. “So I think I have to go.”
Nino glanced back in surprise. “Oh. Uh, okay, give me a few minutes. I was trying to warm up some soup.”
“You’re fine.” Adrien waved a hand. “I forgot I have an appointment. I really appreciate you taking care of Felix.” He leaned in and lowered his voice. “And I told him how great you are so you don’t have to worry about any of that.”
Nino felt the sudden need to shake his best friend. “What do you mean you told him how great I am?” he hissed.
Adrien beamed at him. “Take good care of my brother, Nino.”
“Adrien, don’t you dare leave me like this!” Nino kept his voice low. “Did you make it weird? Why do you do that?!”
“It’s not weird,” he promised. “I just think you guys should hang out and I’m in the way.”
Nino narrowed his eyes. “There’s no appointment, is there?”
“An appointment for love maybe.”
“Friendship over,” Nino growled.
“I’m eighty-seven percent sure you would miss me too much,” Adrien replied confidentially. “Even if there’s no spark there— which for the record, I think there is— it’s still cool for you guys to hang out. Felix’s never had a lot of friends.” He patted Nino’s shoulder. “Call me later and we’ll talk.”
“Cool. You can tell me where you are so I can come beat you up for this.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Adrien moved towards the door. “I hope you feel better soon, Felix. Don’t forget about dinner with Father and Nathalie at six on Sunday.”
Felix growled and threw a pillow at the door as it closed behind his brother.
Nino shifted his weight uneasily, unsure if he should keep working or make a hasty excuse to get out of the apartment. He heard a sniffle and the shuffle of cloth behind him and turned to find Felix standing in the doorway between the living room and kitchen.
“He is trying to set us up,” he muttered.
“Yeah, I feel like I should’ve seen that coming. Sorry.”
Felix shrugged, the hem of the blanket dropping back to the floor as his shoulders fell. “You can go.”
Nino glanced back at the counter. “I, uh, I was going to make you some soup if you feel like you could eat it.”
“What kind of soup?”
“You have a can of chicken noodle and I found a carrot in the fridge. It’s not going to be anything special. You’re the one who had to sell me a cookbook, remember?”
Felix rubbed at his nose with a crumpled tissue. “You don’t mind?”
“Not at all.”
“Then thanks, I guess.” Felix turned and shuffled back into the living room to collapse on the couch with a groan.
Nino took a deep breath and fished his phone out of his pocket. He slipped only one earbud in his ear so he could hear if Felix called for him and started his calming tunes playlist. He opened the can of soup and poured it into a pot to warm. He quietly rummaged through drawers until he found a peeler and let slivers of carrot drop into the pot as it warmed.
He decided he liked Felix’s kitchen. It was small but there was something cozy about it. Better than the glorified kitchenette he had in his studio. There were touches of Christmas all around that he’d missed when he first came in. A penguin on a sled held a sponge by the sink and there were matching salt and pepper shakers of cats in Santa hats above the stove. Garland lined a bookcase crammed into the space by the tiny pantry. It was filled with cookbooks. All the spines still shined as if they hadn’t been cracked open except for one that Nino recognized instantly. It was the cookbook Felix sold him earlier in the week. Something about that felt endearing but Nino couldn’t put his finger on exactly why.
He checked on the soup and found it warm enough. He spooned out enough for two bowls and took them into the living area. “Soup’s on.”
“Quite literally.” Felix sat up with a cough and sagged. “I detest being sick.”
“I don’t think anyone likes being sick, dude.” Nino was pleased to see that warranted a small smile.
“No, I don’t suppose they do. Did you make yourself some too?”
Nino tried to ignore the warmth spreading across his face. “I figured I might as well. Hope that was okay. I’ll grab us some drinks.” He went back into the kitchen and found two glasses and filled them with water.
Felix took one of the bowls Nino offered and settled back in his blankets. “Thank you. This was very nice.”
“It was no problem. I don’t think Adrien was going to let me leave with him anyway.”
“Yes, he can be quite persistent when he gets an idea in his head. It’s infuriating.” Felix blew on a spoonful of soup.
They ate to the clinking of the spoons against the side of the bowls until Nino felt warm and sated. He set the bowl on the edge of the coffee table and waited for Felix to finish his. “He told me you guys have spent every Christmas together.”
Felix sighed and leaned forward enough to set his bowl on the table. “That’s true.”
“So what’s the deal with this year? You don’t like Nathalie?”
“Nathalie’s fine. I’ve never had a problem with her.”
Felix glowered at him. “I don’t even know you.”
“You’re right.” Nino held up his hands in surrender and stood, picking up both bowls. “It’s none of my business.” He walked the bowls to the kitchen and turned on the water at the sink.
Felix shuffled in after him, blankets still draped over his shoulders. “You don’t have to do that.”
“I don’t mind.” Nino rinsed them out and reached for the sponge on the sledding penguin. “I like all your Christmas stuff. It’s nice. I don’t think I have anything Christmas up at my place.”
“Christmas is my favorite time of year. A lot of these belonged to my mom but I’ve picked up a few things myself.”
Felix quirked an eyebrow. “That I’m not a grumpy asshole all the time?”
Nino snorted in surprise. “A little bit.”
He nodded thoughtfully. “That’s fair, I suppose.”
“It probably isn’t.”
Felix leaned against the counter and watched Nino put the bowls in the drainer by the sink. “My father and I got into a huge fight about a month ago.”
Nino paused for a moment to take in the change in conversation but gave a nod of understanding so Felix would continue.
“I wanted to bring Mom’s Christmas stuff here. He’s never used it anyway since she died, but he didn’t want me to have it for his own unfathomable reasons. It devolved into hashing out years’ worth of stuff on both sides and ended with him telling me I was welcome to no longer consider myself an Agreste and he could have paperwork drawn up stating so.”
Nino frowned. “I know he’s the worst but that’s so wrong.”
“To be fair, I said some pretty heinous things to him,” Felix admitted. “I didn’t hold anything back and there was no mincing words. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have reacted exactly the same way in his position.”
He shrugged. “Adrien’s always tried to play peacekeeper between us as it is. I didn’t really want him knowing about everything that went down so it’s been easier to let him think I’m mad about Father remarrying. It was hard enough when he found out I moved out.”
“And now you’re going to spend Christmas by yourself,” Nino finished.
“There are worse fates. Besides, I really do enjoy being on my own, for the most part.”
“I can definitely see the merits. I’m already dreading answering questions about why I’m still single and what I’m going to do with my life. My family is great but sometimes it’s a bit much.”
“You could…” Felix trailed off and shook his head. “Nevermind.”
Nino was curious but something about Felix’s body language told him not to press. He nodded. “So I guess I should head out.”
“Oh, uh, sure, okay. Thanks for the soup.”
“No problem. You going to be okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I think I’ll just put on a movie and be miserable on the couch the rest of the night.” Felix let out half a laugh but there was no humor in it.
Nino found it hard to move towards the door. “What movie?”
Felix looked surprised. “I’m not sure. I only have a few DVDs and I don’t really have the income to pay for any streaming services yet.” He pursed his lips. “Did you want to stay and watch something?”
“I could if you want. I mean, I don’t want to bother you when you’re feeling sick.”
He frowned. “Yeah, I don’t want to get you sick.”
“I’m not really worried about that at this point, to be honest,” Nino chuckled.
“I suppose we have passed that threshold. Well, if you want to stay, you’re more than welcome to. I don’t know what kind of company I’ll be but it’d be nice not to be alone.”
Nino took in Felix’s pale face and matted hair and red nose and realized he’d already gotten himself in deep because he had no desire to leave. “I’d like to stay.”
“Adrien would be much too smug if he found out you stayed the night so let’s just keep that between us, okay?” Felix handed Nino a mug with a picture of a cat tangled in Christmas lights on it.
“It’s a deal,” Nino chuckled, taking a long sip of coffee. “I can’t believe I passed out like that last night. Sorry again.”
“Don’t be. You didn’t bother me at all. I just hate you spent the whole night on that couch. It isn’t the easiest on the back.”
“I’ve slept on worse. You seem like you feel a bit better today,” he noted, noticing more color in the other man’s cheeks.
“I do. I think I have you to thank for that.” Felix ducked his head shyly and Nino felt his breath catch when he saw a blush race across his cheeks.
“It was my pleasure.”
A charged silence fell between them and then Felix was clearing his throat. “Well, I think I might actually try to make my shift at work today. I don’t have a fever anymore and I could definitely use the money.”
“Yeah, I should get home and get started on my stuff for today.” Nino grabbed his jacket and pulled it on. “It feels weird to say since you were sick for most of it, but I had a really good time hanging out.”
“I did too.”
There was another awkward pause as Felix trailed Nino to the door. “Would you want to do it again sometime?”
Nino felt a blush beginning but he smirked. “You already planning on getting sick so soon?” He was delighted to see Felix’s cheek turn pink as he ducked his head and cleared his throat once more.
“I meant us doing something together. Your company is…nice.”
Nino realized with a start how wrong his assessment of Felix had been before. His face was softer than his father’s and his eyes a few shades warmer. And where Adrien knew how to use his looks to get what he wanted, Felix seemed entirely unaware that he had the same power. Nino was such a goner.
“Well, if you change your mind and end up doing Christmas with your family, that’s totally fine, but if not, maybe we could hang out that night?” Nino scratched the back of his neck anxiously. “I’m pretty busy until then. I would invite you over to my parents’ house but my family is big and loud and they would hound you endlessly.”
“That does sound like a bit much,” he admitted shyly. “But it would be nice to have someone here for Christmas.”
“I’ll be shocked if Adrien doesn’t show up,” Nino warned him with a short laugh. “But I’d love to come over too.”
“He wouldn’t be Adrien if he didn’t. And you’re still welcome to come over even if he does. Maybe I’ll splurge and get a new DVD.”
“I’ll bring something over to watch. Food too. My dad always makes enough for leftovers to last a week. You should save your money for a new book instead,” he winked.
Felix blushed harder. “You shouldn’t know me that well yet.”
“You left a mansion and trust fund to work in a bookstore and live in an apartment with at least five visible bookcases and I haven’t even seen the bedroom,” Nino shrugged, feigning nonchalance to disguise his delight at guessing correctly. “It wasn’t a big leap.”
“If you say so,” he muttered, still not meeting Nino’s eyes. His face was a vibrant red and he crossed his arms in exasperation.
Nino took mercy on him even though he was tempted to keep teasing Felix to see how much more he could blush. “Christmas then,” he smiled.
“Christmas,” Felix nodded. “I’m looking forward to it.” He opened the door and Nino stepped out into the hall. “Maybe I should get some mistletoe,” he said offhandedly before quirking an eyebrow and closing the door on Nino’s shocked and rapidly darkening face.
“Please do,” he finally replied and then turned on his heel, whistling happily as he did.
I meant to write this weeks ago but it just didn't happen but Chapter 2 is here now so yay! :)
Nino balanced the casserole dish and plastic food containers with one hand as he knocked on Felix’s door. He’d forgotten to ask for his phone number and although he did get it from Adrien later, he felt weird about actually using it since he didn’t get it directly from Felix and now he was standing outside his apartment, loaded down with leftovers and a backpack full of DVDs and hoping that Felix had actually meant it when he invited him over for Christmas night.
“That’s a lot of stuff. Are you moving in?” Felix asked simply as soon as the door was open.
“Are you wearing a Christmas sweater covered in cats?” Nino laughed.
“Does it light up?”
“Well, I’m not moving in but I like your sweater,” he answered with a wide grin.
Felix chuckled and took some of the food containers before he stepped aside to let Nino in. “I wasn’t sure if you were still coming or not.”
“Sorry. I realized that we didn’t exchange numbers.”
“Adrien told me he gave you mine.”
Nino flushed and heavily dropped the casserole dish on the counter with a wince. “Uh, yeah, he did but since I didn’t ask you for it, I felt kind of weird about it.”
“Well, don’t feel weird because I asked him for yours too so now we both have each other’s and it’s not weird.” Felix opened one of the containers and peered inside. “What is this?”
“Seffa,” he answered with a quick glance. “The way my dad makes it gives it kind of a sweet taste to it so we could save that for dessert.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever had it.”
“It’s good,” Nino shrugged. “It’s not a five-layer chocolate cake, but it’s nice. And don’t feel pressured to eat any of this if you don’t want it. I know Moroccan isn’t for everyone. This didn’t even put a dent in the leftovers. There’s some lamb that is pretty good in the casserole dish.”
“I want to try it all. It smells good at any rate.”
They worked together, spooning out the food until they each had a full plate and then they moved to the living room.
“I wasn’t really sure what you like so I brought us a few options.” Nino opened his backpack and shuffled the cases around.
“I’m content with whatever you chose,” Felix shrugged and then took a bite of lamb. “Wow, this is really good.”
“I’ll let my dad know. He was very curious as to who was getting all these leftovers.” Nino frowned down at the movies. None of them felt right at the moment so he pushed the bag away and picked up his plate once more. “Have you had a good Christmas so far?”
Felix nodded. “It’s been nice. I slept in and then I spent most of the morning and early afternoon catching up on some reading.”
“So then the light-up cat sweater is completely for my benefit?”
“It’s Christmas. I like wearing this ridiculous thing on Christmas,” he sniffed. “Besides, you said you like it.”
“I do. It fits you somehow.”
“I’m going to take that as a compliment.”
Felix pushed some food around his plate. “How was the day with your family?”
“Pretty much what I expected. Lots of asking why I don’t have a girlfriend yet and what I’m doing with my life. Grandbabies were also mentioned which is just yikes,” Nino shivered. “But besides my little brother, I’m the only one of the cousins not married so I get the brunt of all that.”
“Yeah,” Nino sighed, “but they mean well, I think. No one is mean about it so it seems silly to let it bother me.”
“But it does?”
“I guess a little,” he admitted. “It was nice to see everyone though. Some of my aunts and uncles and cousins just came over for the holiday so I usually only see them once a year.”
“I feel bad taking you away from them then.”
Nino chuckled. “Don’t, please. Believe me when I say I love them all but I got my fill. I’ve been looking forward to coming here all day.”
Felix ducked his head to hide his pleased smile. “I was looking forward to you coming over as well.”
Nino felt his cheeks warm and busied himself with separating his lamb from the steamed vegetables on his plate. “I’m a little surprised Adrien isn’t here already.”
“I think he’s on his way. He texted a while ago saying that he needed to stop by a friend’s house first.”
“I’m not sure.”
Nino rolled his eyes. “If it’s who I’m thinking of, he’ll probably be there a while.”
Felix raised an eyebrow. “Is he seeing someone?”
“Not if you ask him, but in my opinion, pretty much. He’s got this whole thing going on in his head about why he can’t date her though.” He shook his head. “You know how he convinces himself of something and then he’s got to work through it on his own because if you try to help him, you may as well just be running headlong into a wall?”
“Ah, yes. I know that feeling well.”
“Yeah,” Nino snorted. “I just try to stay out of it.”
“I’m sure he’ll make it here eventually.”
Nino studied him for a minute as something clicked into place. “It bothered you to miss Christmas with him today, didn’t it?”
“A little more than I expected it to,” he sighed. “I feel like it was a bad precedent to start but I wasn’t really sure how to fix it. I didn’t want to show up at the house and have Father turn me away.”
“Do you think he would have?”
“I didn’t want to find out,” he confessed. “I’m honestly not sure. He was so angry the last time we talked and he isn’t one to drop a grudge.”
“I wish I could argue the fact but Gabriel’s an asshole.”
Felix snorted. “Yes, I suppose he is.”
A heavy but not entirely awkward pause settled between them and they finished eating in mostly silence. Felix took the plates to the kitchen to rinse off and Nino tried in vain to find the right movie to put in to no avail. He finally settled on a mindless comedy that he was sure would make Felix think less of him but he knew Adrien enjoyed.
When Felix returned from the kitchen, instead of taking his seat in the armchair like before, he sat down on the couch with only half a seat left between himself and Nino. “Would it be entirely rude to ask you what your sexual preferences are?”
Nino choked on air at the abrupt question. “What?”
“That probably seemed out of nowhere.”
“A little.” Nino reached for his glass of water and took a long drink.
Felix tugged on the sleeve of his sweater, pressing the pads of his fingers into the grooves. “It’s only that you mentioned your family asking you about your girlfriend and grandchildren and I suppose I was having certain…thoughts and it might be best to put our cards on the table before things go any further.”
“You just say whatever is on your mind, huh?” Nino teased, trying to catch up and gain his bearings.
He cleared his throat. “I, uh, I just like people. I don’t really have a preference. It’s about the individual, you know? It’s just easier to let my family think what they want for now, that’s all.”
Felix nodded as if that answer satisfied him. “What movie is this?”
“Wait, you don’t get to just skip over the awkwardness of this!” Nino exclaimed. “What about you?”
“What about me?” he echoed.
“Do you…who do you like?”
There was a loud banging on the door and Felix stood, passing by Nino to get to the door. Nino had the sudden temptation to reach out and grab his hand to stop him so he hugged himself. He felt embarrassed but also a little excited. He’d been having his own thoughts about Felix and it felt validating to know that it was possible Felix had been thinking similar things.
The door opened and Adrien barged in to flop down on the couch and prop his feet on Nino’s lap. “I don’t understand women,” he lamented, putting a hand to his head.
“Merry Christmas to you too, Adrien.”
He frowned. “I’m sorry. That was rude. Merry Christmas, Nino.” He tilted his head back to look at Felix who had taken up a seat in the armchair once more. “Merry Christmas, Fe.”
“Merry Christmas, Ren. What was this about women?”
“I don’t understand them.”
“I’m not sure you’re supposed to.”
“That’s not helpful,” Adrien groaned. He rolled on his side and popped his forehead with the heel of his hand. “And I just realized I left your gifts over there! Dang it!”
“You’re not having a good day, huh? Did something happen with Marinette?” Nino unceremoniously pushed his feet off his lap and Adrien grunted as he tried to keep from rolling off the couch.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he pouted, glaring at the television screen. His eyes lit up after a moment. “Hey, I love this movie.”
Nino and Felix shared a look of complete understanding and then they turned their attention to the movie too.
“I think it’s officially not Christmas anymore,” Nino said quietly before stretching his arms above his head. “I should get going.”
Felix stood and glanced down at Adrien splayed out along the couch, mouth slightly open as he snored. He’d hardly stirred when Nino disentangled himself. “Yeah, I guess it’s over. Are you sure you don’t want to stay? It’s late.”
“Nah, I’ve actually tried sharing a couch Adrien and I ended up on the floor,” he answered with a small smile.
“You could still stay…” Felix trailed off and looked toward his bedroom.
Nino’s heart jumped into his throat as his mind logically followed the rest of the sentence. He also glanced to the closed door of Felix’s bedroom.
“The end of Christmas always makes me sad. I don’t really want to take all of this down,” Felix said, following a completely different train of thought than the one Nino was on. He watched him look around the apartment before settling his gaze on the twinkling lights of the tree.
“I guess you could be that weird guy who keeps it up all year but then I don’t think it feels as special.”
“Yeah, I guess it wouldn’t.”
“Do you mind if I pick up all my stuff later? I don’t really want to be hauling everything around this late.”
Felix frowned. “Are you sure you won’t stay? It might be too late to find a ride back.”
“I don’t know,” Nino faltered.
“I can wake Adrien up and make him share my bed with me if that makes you more comfortable,” he offered. “Although my bed is a lot nicer than the couch.”
“Are you trying to get me into bed with you?” Nino asked in an attempt to be funny to cover his nervousness.
He swallowed loudly. “Oh, okay then.”
Nino followed Felix into the bedroom with butterflies in his stomach. He didn’t expect anything other than sleep to happen but this just wasn’t something he did. He didn’t go into the bedrooms of people he liked. He didn’t crawl into their beds and sleep beside them as if that was a completely normal thing. Adrien was the only person he’d ever shared a bed with who wasn’t an actual blood relative and the feelings Nino was having about sharing Felix’s bed were a completely different animal from his feeling about trying to survive a night sharing a bed with Adrien I’ll-take-all-the-covers-and-kick-you-for-it Agreste.
“Do you want to borrow some pants?” Felix offered a pair of dark green lounge pants and Nino nodded, still unable to find his voice. “Bathroom’s there.”
He slipped into the bathroom and took a deep breath. He was making this into a much bigger deal than it was. Felix was going to think he was a freak. They were just going to sleep in the same space. It wasn’t such a big thing.
He quickly changed his pants and took a deep breath before opening the bathroom door. The room was dark but the light of a phone screen suddenly appeared from the bed.
“Sorry. I didn’t think before I turned off the light.”
“It’s fine,” Nino whispered, feeling his way around the bed. He carefully slid beneath the sheet and heavy quilt and turned on his side stiffly, afraid to move too much and bump into Felix while at the same time wanting to do nothing more than reach out to know he was really there.
“Merry Christmas,” Felix said quietly. “Thank you for spending it here.”
Nino felt himself relax a little. “Merry Christmas, Felix. Thanks for letting me.”
“So here’s what I’m thinking, you guys.”
Nino groaned and rolled over, keeping his eyes stubbornly closed. “Go away, dude.”
Adrien wormed his way up the middle of the bed and rolled onto his back, shouldering in enough space between Nino and Felix and receiving agitated grunts in reply. “I think we should all three spend the day together. We can start with breakfast and then maybe go see a movie or something.”
“Personal space, Ren,” Felix growled as he snapped his heel back to kick Adrien’s leg.
“Ow! Don’t do that!” Adrien struggled to kick him back from his position and gave up after a second. “So are you guys dating or what?”
Nino’s eyes popped open and he stared at the door, his back to the brothers. He held his breath and internally panicked between pretending he’d fallen back asleep or simply rolling off the bed and out the door and hiding in a hole somewhere for the next few years.
“That’s none of your business,” Felix answered simply, keeping his back to his brother.
“He’s my best friend, of course it’s my business.” Adrien had lowered his voice and Nino strained to hear him as he felt him shift behind him, their backs pressing together. “Why did he sleep in here?”
“Because you were hogging the couch. It was late and this isn’t the best part of town.” There was a pause. “And I knew Chat Noir wouldn’t be out to watch his back.”
“Probably a good call. Do you like him?”
Nino felt his bladder wake up and protest its current state. He shifted as minutely as he could while staying as still as possible trying to listen to Felix’s answer. He wondered if Felix realized Adrien was Chat Noir. It sure seemed like it but Adrien never told him anyone else knew. As far as Nino knew, he’d been the only one.
“Well, yeah,” Adrien scoffed, “but do you like him? I’ve decided you guys should date.”
“When have I ever given in to your demands?” Felix asked dryly.
“You would really not date him just to spite me? That’s so petty, Fe. So very petty,” Adrien teased, his voice just above a whisper. “I can disappear if you guys want some time to yourself.”
“I’m not having this conversation with you, especially not right now.”
“Because he’s in the bed?”
“If Nino wasn’t on the other side of you, I would literally knock you to the floor. You’re being a brat.”
Adrien chuckled softly. “I miss having you at home, Fe. It’s all different now.” He made a content humming sound. “I miss your bed too. It’s always been comfier than mine.”
“We have the same exact mattress. They were bought at the same time.”
“Yours is better.”
“I should move in here with you.”
“Into my one-bedroom apartment? You are absolutely not doing that,” Felix shot back. When he got no reply, he half-turned his head to look back at Adrien. “But you know you could if you really need to.”
Adrien nodded, his hair rustling against the pillowcase. “I know. I’m okay for now.”
Nino let the silence stretch out for a few seconds and then let out an exaggerated yawn. “I think I dozed off again.” He rolled off the bed with little grace and caught himself. He gave half a wave towards the brothers and shuffled to the bathroom while rubbing his eyes for emphasis. As soon as he had the door closed behind him and he was able to release the pressure on his bladder, he let out a sigh of relief.
Until he looked in the mirror.
He had a very defined cowlick on the left side of his hair and his cheek was darkened with pillow creases. He realized belatedly that he had no toothbrush either and he doubted his breath smelled very good after everything he’d eaten the day before. He shifted his weight for a few moments before going closer to the door.
“Hey, is it okay if I take a quick shower?” he called.
“Sure,” Felix replied, voice closer than Nino expected. “Towels are in the cabinet under the sink.”
Nino pulled out a fresh towel and washcloth and pushed aside the cat mosaic shower curtain to turn on the water. He studied the design and felt another Felix fact slide into the growing collection in his mind as he undressed.
Felix really liked cats.
It didn’t even seem to matter what kind of cat. There were cats all over the place. Well, pictures of cats, at least. Nino hadn’t seen an actual cat. Maybe the building didn’t allow them.
As he stepped under the hot water, he tried to remember Felix’s room in the Agreste home. He’d never been invited in, of course, but he’d passed it countless times and had stood in the doorway when Adrien went in to take whatever he wanted. He couldn’t recall anything with cats though. In fact, he couldn’t recall anything remarkable at all. Felix’s room had been as bland as Adrien’s had been exciting.
And now there were cats everywhere.
He reached for the shampoo and took a quick whiff before pouring out a dollop and working it into his hair. It smelled nice enough and Nino wasn’t very picky. If it got him clean, it was good enough for him.
The body wash had posed an entirely different train of thought though. It had a woodsy smell and Nino realized this was the scent he paired with Felix. He’d never given it much thought as to where the scent came from but here it was in a green plastic bottle. He stared at the bottle and wasn’t sure what to do. On the one hand, he could use the body wash and smell like Felix all day, which definitely had its appeal. However, on the other hand, he was going to smell like Felix all day and he was already finding it difficult enough not to make a fool of himself in front of the other man.
The whispered conversation between Felix and Adrien pushed its way to the front of his mind. Felix hadn’t actually said if he liked him or not, though the fact that he’d allowed him to sleep in his bed seemed like a good indicator. He’d felt like a goofy preteen again, holding his breath while listening to his crush talk and hoping to hear his name. Of course it could be a moot point. Felix had never answered about his sexual orientation the night before. Adrien seemed to easily accept that Nino and Felix could be dating though so perhaps that was a good sign. He wondered if he should try bringing it up again just so he knew for sure.
There was a quick knock and then the door was opening. “You take the longest showers,” Adrien complained. “I have to use the bathroom.”
“I’ll be quick.”
Nino hastily put the bottle of body wash back on the shelf and looked for another option but found none as he tried to ignore Adrien.
“Do you want me to get some of Fe’s clothes for you to wear? I know how you get about putting dirty clothes back on.”
Nino blushed and huddled in the dim shower, barely making out Adrien’s shadow through the curtain of cats. “I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure? He probably wouldn’t mind.”
“I’m good. I’ll go home and change soon.”
The toilet flushed and the shower curtain moved as Adrien gave it a light smack. “Do you wanna go get breakfast with me first?”
“This can’t wait until I’m done with the shower?”
“I guess it could but I thought I’d ask now anyway.”
Nino laughed in spite of himself as he reached for the washcloth. “You drive me crazy, you know that?”
“But in a good way, right?”
“Yeah, man, in a good way.” He heard Adrien laugh in reply and then the door was opening and closing once more. He shook his head. Adrien had little respect for personal space but somehow he made it endearing more than annoying most days.
The interaction had made Nino feel lighter and with a small smile, he grabbed the body wash again.
“I, uh…if you’d like to borrow these, you can.” Felix stood as soon as the bathroom door opened and awkwardly held out a stack of clothes. “Adrien said you might like to.”
“I told him I was okay,” Nino answered even as he reached out for what looked like a shirt, a pair of boxer briefs, and a roll of socks. “But thank you.”
“It’s fine if you don’t want to or if they don’t fit or…”
“I can try them on.”
“Only if you want to.” Felix quickly turned away but not before Nino caught the pink of his cheeks.
“I’ll be right back,” he said as he stepped back into the bathroom. The air felt warm and the scent of the body wash permeated the small room. He set the stack on the counter and looked down at it, feeling his face grow hot. Trying not to think too much, he undressed once more and put on all of Felix’s clothes and then his own jeans once more. The deep purple shirt was a little too tight but the boxer briefs were fine and that was all the thinking he was going to allow himself on that subject for the moment.
“Thanks,” Nino said as he stepped back out with his bundle of clothes. “That does feel better.”
Felix stared at him for a long second before his cheeks darkened further and he dropped his gaze with a nod. “I’m glad. Uh, if you want to wait in the living room with Adrien, I’ll just take a quick shower and then I think we’re being dragged to breakfast.”
“Good, I was hoping you were coming,” Nino smiled. Felix’s blushing made him feel a bit more confident and he held onto that feeling with both hands.
He hummed as he went into the living room and was happy to see the Christmas tree still lit up and twinkling. Adrien was curled up on the couch and scowling at his phone. “Okay, dude, what’s going on with you guys?”
“What do you mean?”
“You came here upset last night and now you’re trying to vaporize your phone with your eyes.” Nino quirked an eyebrow in his direction as he dropped into the armchair. “What’s up?”
“I think Marinette might be into to someone else and it’s bothering me but I don’t feel like it’s allowed to bother me since I’m the one who said we shouldn’t date so…”
“So?” Nino prodded.
“So I’m acting like an ass about the dumbest stuff and picking fights,” he sighed, slumping down further on the couch and dropping his phone on his stomach. “And I know I’m doing it but I can’t seem to stop myself so then I try to avoid her and that makes more problems when we finally see each other. Like last night.” He draped his arm over his face. “I probably ruined her Christmas.”
“You might be giving yourself too much credit.”
Nino pulled his own phone out and frowned at the drained battery. “You guys just need to talk it out. Stop being an ass. If it works, it works and if it doesn’t, well…”
“Super uplifting, thanks.”
“Sorry. You know I’ve got your back.”
“I know.” He leaned his head against the armrest. “I should just call the girl Felix works with and move on.”
“Do you even remember her name?”
“No. I don’t think I have her phone number anymore either. I felt guilty and tossed it out. I’m single and I felt guilty.”
“Adrien, for the love of everything, just talk to Marinette and tell her you want to date her. You’re making it so difficult and it really doesn’t have to be.”
“But internalizing all my feelings only to word vomit them to you at inopportune times is working so well,” he replied with a wry smile. “What about you and Fe, hmm?”
“So what did you want to do today?”
“No way. You aren’t going to try to ignore me.” He shot a glance toward the closed bedroom door. “You guys slept together last night.”
“Don’t say it like that. We didn’t sleep together, we…” Nino pursed his lips thoughtfully. “We just happened to sleep in the same bed at the same time.”
“And that’s different how?”
“Stop trying to be cute.”
“It’s a curse,” he grinned. “So you hung out with him the other day and took care of him when he was sick and then came back for Christmas and spent the night…”
“Adrien,” Nino warned, his eyes darting to the door. He couldn’t tell if the shower was still running or not.
“It’s just funny, that’s all. You guys have never really talked much and suddenly I find you in his bed.”
“Stop making it sound weird.”
“I’m just saying it exactly how it happened. I didn’t even realize you were still here when I went in there this morning.”
Nino slumped down in his seat but met his best friend’s eyes. “Would it be okay if something happened with me and Felix?”
Adrien’s face lit up. “Are you kidding? That would be the coolest thing ever.”
“Yeah, man. I still have to be your favorite though.”
“Ah yeah, naturally.”
“I mean, you’ve known me a lot longer,” Adrien pointed out, “so there’s that.”
“I guess you and I should just date.”
“That’ll work for me. I’ve been thinking about switching sides anyway.” Adrien stretched out and put his arms behind his head.
“As if you even a have a side to begin with,” Nino laughed. “Besides, I’m too pretty for you.”
“You really are. It’ll give me a complex.”
“I’m not saying anything’s going to happen. I probably shouldn’t have said any of that just now.” Nino felt his face grow warm. “Please don’t say anything to him, okay? I just want to keep getting to know him.”
“I can’t wait to talk about this at your wedding reception when I give the best man speech.”
“You definitely wouldn’t be invited,” Nino shot back.
“That is the meanest thing you’ve ever said to me.” Adrien stuck out his lip in a pout but his face lit up seconds later at the sound of the bedroom door opening. “You’re ready! Let’s go!”
Nino looked back to see Felix tug at the bottom of the gray vest he wore to adjust it. His hair was still wet but brushed back and he’d apparently opted out of shaving because he had the thin layer of stubble Nino had spied after his own shower. All things considered, Nino had a feeling he was going to have trouble concentrating on anything during their outing for the day with Felix looking the way he did. The other man met his eyes but quickly dropped his gaze and cleared his throat.
“Your hair is getting so long, Fe.” Adrien reached over to tug at his brother’s loose ponytail and Felix slapped his hand away.
“Don’t you have any manners at all?”
“I didn’t say it looked bad! I like it long.” Adrien grinned across the table at his best friend. “Nino does too, don’t you, Nino?”
Nino cleared his throat as he dropped his gaze to the menu in front of him and tried to ignore the burning of his cheeks. “Yeah, it looks really good like that. I mean, it looked really good before too but I like you growing it out. Not to say that…that if you cut it, it wouldn’t still look good.” He sank down in his seat a little more and glared at the menu. “What’s everyone ordering?”
“I think I’m in the mood for something sweet.” Felix glanced toward the bakery case at the front of the dining room. Adrien opened his mouth to reply and froze as the bell over the door of the small café rang to announce a new customer. “Uh oh,” he whispered as his smirk slid away.
Alya spotted him immediately and made her way to their table with a fierce smile. “You guys don’t mind if I borrow him for a few minutes, do you? We need to have a little chat.” Her smile grew brittle as she bit off the last word and Adrien visibly shrank back.
“Uh, can we maybe talk another time, Alya? I’m hanging out with—“
“This will just take a minute.” She yanked on the back of his chair and Adrien jumped up guiltily. He hung his head and followed her back out of the café.
Felix and Nino watched them go until they disappeared past the view of the windows. “One of the few he’s not able to sweet talk?” Felix asked curiously.
“I don’t know that he’s ever really tried with Alya. She’s not exactly the kind of woman you can sweet talk.” Nino chuckled and felt a bit more relaxed as he sat back in his chair. “She’s Marinette’s best friend.”
“Ah.” He gave a knowing nod. “So definitely off limits.”
“Who knows with them? He makes things more complicated than they need to be. She might actually be able to straighten him out.” He glanced back toward the window in case they’d remerged but they were still hidden from sight. “But I doubt they’d ever date. Alya really is great though.”
“Have you two ever…” Felix trailed off with a small frown.
“Me and Alya?” Nino blinked. “Uh, a little bit back in school, yeah. It was nice but we realized we were more friends than anything.”
“You know, on the subject of dating, you never told me about your, uh, preferences.” Nino’s voice wavered slightly but overall he was happy with the tone he’d managed.
“I’m gay,” Felix answered bluntly. “I thought you knew that.”
“I…well, I thought but I wasn’t going to assume…”
“I’ve never been in a relationship though so that might be something else you want to know.” Felix’s lips were pursed as if he’d stopped himself from saying more.
“Oh, uh, yeah, that’s fine.”
“I know it is,” he replied stiffly.
“Right,” Nino winced. “Sorry. That didn’t come out at all like I meant. It’s not like I’ve been in a lot of relationships either.”
He chuckled and it had an edge of nervousness to it. “Did you think I had?”
Felix shrugged. “I’m not sure. You’re attractive and have a nice personality. It stands to reason that you’d have dated a good bit.”
“You’re attractive too.”
“Ah, but the personality is where I fall.” There was a shadow of a self-deprecating smile on Felix’s face. “I’m not the most personable and when there is another available Agreste who is seen as sunshine incarnate…” He trailed off with a shrug.
“Believe me when I say that happens to anyone in Adrien’s company. He becomes the only one in the room.” Nino shifted in his seat. “But, uh, actually there have been…I mean, not that a lot of people want to date me or anything but I’ve had offers, I guess. There just hadn’t been anyone who interested me before now.”
“I picked up on the past tense.”
Nino blushed. “I was hoping you would.” He was pleased to see light pink wash across Felix’s cheeks.
“So maybe we should go on a date and see how things go.”
“I’d really like that.”
“Good. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, are you hungry? I’m going to need coffee if we’re having a whole day of Adrien-type fun.”
“Starving,” Nino grinned.
The bell over the door rang again and Adrien trudged back inside with Alya right behind him. He slumped down in his chair and Alya leaned down to kiss Nino’s cheek. “Did you have a good Christmas?”
“Pretty good. Just this side of family overload.” He smiled up at her. “You?”
“You know I was hiding in my room by lunch. Nora’s got a girlfriend who is even more hardcore than she is,” she laughed. “I’ve been sent to grab sweets here for after lunch though since Tom and Sabine stayed closed today so I better get to it or I’m going to have angry twins to deal with.” She squeezed his shoulder. “Call me later; we should talk.”
He studied her face for any hint but she gave him a pleasantly blank, expectant smile so he nodded. “Yeah, sure.”
“Cool. See you guys later.” She waved vaguely in Adrien and Felix’s direction before heading back towards the front counter.
“Did she destroy you?” Nino asked after watching her for a moment.
Adrien sighed. “Believe me, I deserved it. It’ll be fine but I should probably go take care of things with Marinette. I really was an ass last night.”
“Will you please tell me what’s going on?”
“Yes, and speak loud enough for us both to hear. I’m going to get bored if I can only keep up with half the drama,” Felix added.
Adrien shot his brother an unfriendly look. “I guess it might help to talk about it,” he admitted. “And it makes it easier that you both know.” The implication hung in the air and Nino and Felix evaluated each other silently as if trying to gauge if they knew the same thing. Adrien looked between them and let out an impatient huff. “That I’m Chat,” he hissed.
“Oh, right, of course.” Felix lowered his face so he could hide the smile threatening to show.
The younger Agreste eyed him suspiciously before continuing, keeping his voice low. “Okay, so as Chat, I may have attempted to woo Ladybug pretty hard in the past.”
“That is shocking, brand new information,” Nino replied in monotone.
“Shut up. Anyway, so when we found out about each other—“
Nino glanced up quickly to see Felix nod, showing he knew about Marinette too. Adrien really was bad at the whole ‘keeping secrets’ thing. He wondered who else knew. Alya, for sure. Possibly other people from their old class. It hadn’t been hard to figure out after a while. Half of Paris might be in on the charade of pretending not to know at this point.
“At first, I wanted to start dating. It was a great idea, right? We’ve liked each other in some way for years and we know each other really well and it would’ve been nice.”
“I’m sure you’ll get to the problem if we keep waiting,” Felix interjected.
“Impatient.” Adrien shook his head. “Okay, so yeah, that all sounds great but then I started getting scared because what if Hawkmoth tries to use me against her?”
“Uh, dude, he’s done that like a million times.”
“This day is just great for my ego,” he mumbled. “But think about it. She’s held her own when it’s just Chat Noir, her partner, all those times, but don’t you think it will be different when it’s Adrien, her boyfriend? I feel like it would be different for me but maybe not. I’ve always been in love with her.” He slumped down further. “And you’re right. Hawkmoth has taken me over so many times, he’s even akumatized me…I can’t be strong enough for her and she’ll just end up getting hurt. I don’t want to be that weakness to her.”
“I don’t think you’re giving Marinette enough credit.” Nino tore at the corner of the napkin in front of him on the table. “She takes being LB seriously. And besides that, she already cares about you so I don’t think you guys not dating is changing how she would react in that situation.”
“Perhaps I’m missing something but what did Alya have to do with any of this?” Felix’s attention wandered to the counter but the woman in question was already gone.
“There’s this guy that’s been making it apparent he wants to date Marinette and Alya was basically tell me to either ask her out or step away completely.”
Adrien frowned. “Pretty much leave her alone except when we have hero business, I guess. I don’t blame her. I’ve been picking fights with Mari nonstop lately.”
“Maybe a little.”
“Ah, a fine Agreste trait,” Felix nodded. “Father would be proud.”
“That would mean admitting he’s flawed which I think we all know he wouldn’t do,” Nino added.
Adrien groaned and dragged his palms down his face. “I need to go make this right.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. I’ll figure it out on the way there.” He stood and cast one longing look towards the bakery case before going back out the door.
“Despite how he acts, sometimes I think he thrives on drama,” Felix sighed as Adrien disappeared from sight.
“I don’t know about thriving but he has a knack for it,” Nino agreed.
“Well then, I guess it’s just us for the day.”
“I guess it is.”
“If you would like, perhaps we could have our date today. Unless that wouldn’t work for you now.”
“No! I mean, yes! Sorry,” he winced. “That’d be great. Do you still want to eat here?”
Felix nodded, seemingly unbothered. “We may as well. We can discuss what we should do with the rest of our time.”
Nino tried not to squirm as he nodded. It suddenly felt like a lot of pressure to come up with a date idea for the rest of the day. What if they didn’t end up having a good time together? What if they didn’t enjoy doing the same things? A first date should’ve been dinner and chatting and easy. Spending an entire day together with no plan after sleeping in the same bed the previous night felt like disaster looking for a place to happen. At least before, he’d been sure Adrien would be dictating where they went. Did Felix expect him to decide now?
“Would you like me to grab you anything from the case?” Felix stood and gestured towards the display of baked items.
“I’m not sure; I’ll come with you.” Nino wracked his brain as he followed the other man to the front. He doubted Felix would want to come to the music store with him and spend hours going through old vinyl and it was too cold to spend much time in the park. A movie might be nice but what if he didn’t like any of the options Nino gave him? What kind of movies did Felix like? He said anything was fine the night before but everyone had some kind of preference.
Maybe he should pretend he got a call to go into work. It would be believable and then they could reschedule and Nino could be prepared. He didn’t want to mess this up. Something about Felix felt…real. He didn’t know how else to describe it and he definitely didn’t want to blow his chance to discover if it worked.
He looked up to check their place in line and saw Felix frowning at his phone. “Is everything okay?”
“It seems that my coworker is sick.” His frown deepened. “She was the only one scheduled for the store today but she’s asking me to come in so she can go to the doctor.”
Nino tried not to show his relief. “That’s too bad.”
“Yes, it is. I was rather looking forward to spending the day with you.” His lips puckered into a sour expression as he glowered at his phone.
Nino watched him text in a reply and felt his anxiety flip on him. What if this day had been his only chance with Felix? What if somehow their schedules never matched up again and they missed their window and a year from now they would pass each other on the street and only give a polite nod hello before going on their way?
“You’ve got to calm down, dude. You’re worse than Adrien,” he mentally chastised. He looked up to realize Felix was speaking to him and he’s missed the beginning.
“There’s no one else to call,” Felix repeated, a wrinkle forming between his eyebrows. “The owner is on vacation and we’re the only two employees right now. I really am sorry.”
“It’s okay. It’s not like you planned it.” Nino felt a flash of guilt that he’d been mentally planning a way out of the date himself. This was karma; he just knew it.
“No, I suppose not.” He slipped his phone into his pocket with a sigh. “It would be extremely uncool to ask if you want to come over when I get off, wouldn’t it?” He fidgeted with the button at the end of his sleeve. “Actually, that probably is too much. You just spent the last night with me. Might be a relief to get some time away.”
He turned to give his order to the waiting barista and realization hit Nino like an anvil dropping from the sky. Felix was just as anxious about the situation as he was. Some couples began relationships jumping in feet first and wanting to drown in each other. Apparently they were going to begin theirs by walking on eggshells and hoping they didn’t freak each other out. It had felt so much simpler before and Nino wasn’t sure what had shifted between them. Maybe it was some kind of awkward morning after deal, but without the sex, everything just felt off for no apparent reason.
He tugged on the hem of the slightly too snug shirt Felix had lent him. “Actually, I’ll need to return this so maybe I can do that tonight, you know, unless that would be extremely uncool.”
“You’re teasing me,” Felix accused.
The barista was waiting for Nino’s order and Felix stepped aside with a murmured apology and a blush. Nino hurried through an order without paying much attention to what he was getting and joined Felix further down the counter.
“It might be late,” Felix warned as his cheeks darkened. “I mean, I’ll need dinner.”
“I eat dinner,” Nino shrugged, trying not to smile too wide as he played along.
“And it wouldn’t be right to ask you to eat and run so perhaps…” Felix trailed off when his name was called and he grabbed his coffee and to-go scone.
“Perhaps I should plan on staying so I’m not out late?” Nino finished hopefully.
“Only if you don’t think that’s extremely uncool.”
“And now you’re teasing me,” Nino grinned as it felt like things between them settled back into their proper place.
Feeling brave, Nino leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Here’s to being uncool.”
It has been so long since the last update but please enjoy some fluff! <3
“Favorite color?” Nino asked. He was stretched out on his side on Felix’s couch and the lit Christmas tree was the only thing keeping them from the dark. It made the small living room feel more like a cozy cave and he was really digging the ambiance. Being in Felix’s apartment felt like somewhere special where only the two of them mattered and the rest of the world melted away. He’d never felt like that anywhere before.
Felix was curled under a blanket in the armchair across from the couch. More of his hair had fallen out of the loose ponytail at the nape of his neck and his eyes kept closing for longer periods of time between talking. “Mmm, gray,” he slurred and then yawned.
“Nobody’s favorite color is gray,” Nino teased and then he was yawning too. He let the yawn roll into a stretch and felt his body sink a little more into the couch.
“Mine is. Gray is nice.” Felix gave him a sleepy smile. “Yours is blue.”
“Sometimes it’s green.”
“Apologies.” Felix made a soft sound that wasn’t quite a laugh. “I don’t think I’m going to make it much longer.”
“Yeah, I’m about there too.”
Nino hummed in a agreement and tried to motivate himself to move from the couch. He was afraid to look at his phone. It had to be the early hours of the morning by now. Once Felix got off work, they’d had dinner together and watched some TV before falling into a conversation about each of their favorite things. It had been nice and comfortable and easy, such an opposite feeling of the anxiety and nervousness he’d started the morning with in the same place.
He pushed himself up and trudged behind Felix into the bedroom as if it was the most natural thing in the world. They didn’t speak as they undressed and slid beneath the blanket. The dim lights from the tree cast a pale glow from the doorway. Nino rolled onto his side to find Felix looking at him with heavy eyes.
“I really like you being in my bed,” he whispered and blinked so slowly that Nino wasn’t sure if he’d fallen asleep already.
“I really like being in your bed,” Nino answered, voice just as quiet. “It’s crazy how…how right it feels.”
“Just what I…” Felix trailed off into a yawn and was quiet for a few minutes. Nino felt sleep pulling him under and then heard a slurred “…was thinking…” before he finally gave in.
“Would it be weird if I bought you a toothbrush?” Felix stepped out of the bathroom in a white shirt and blue boxer briefs. He held his toothbrush to the side of his mouth. “Or is it way too early in our relationship for that? Wait, are we in a relationship?”
Nino looked up from his phone. He was still in bed, leaning against the headboard and hugging a pillow to his chest as he scrolled through his messages. “I…”
“Is that too much to ask on five hours of sleep?”
He blinked. “I…um…are you saying my breath stinks?”
Felix looked surprised and held his toothbrush out. “It doesn’t smell great but no worse than anyone’s in the morning. Do you want a toothbrush here?”
“Did you ask if we’re dating?”
Nino smiled down at his phone and then looked up again. “Just like that?”
“Well, if we aren’t, there probably isn’t much reason to buy you a toothbrush,” Felix reasoned.
“I didn’t realize there were rules.”
“You’re teasing me,” he huffed and turned back into the bathroom. “Fine, no toothbrush for you!”
“But I want a toothbrush!”
Nino grinned and slid out of the bed, tossing his phone back on the pillow. He went to the bathroom doorway and leaned in the frame, watching Felix’s reflection in the mirror. “Felix, will you please get me a toothbrush to have here?”
Felix spit into the sink and ran his toothbrush under the water. He held his chin high in a dignified manner and sniffed. “I suppose that could be arranged.”
He felt giddy and moved more into the bathroom so he could stand behind the other man. He saw Felix’s eyes widen slightly and watched his Adam’s apple bob in a swallowing motion. Gauging his reaction, Nino stepped closer until his chest was pressing against Felix’s back and he looped his arms loosely around his waist. They both stared into the mirror for a long moment.
“I don’t know how to do this,” Felix warned him. “Be a boyfriend, that is.”
“Technically we’ve only been doing this for a few seconds but I think you’re doing just fine.” Nino inhaled deeply and caught the woodsy scent of his body wash. It was intoxicating.
“I know this is probably going too fast. I do that sometimes, with things I like. So…so if it gets to be too much,” he looked down at the counter, “if I get to be too much, just let me know and I can back off.”
Nino furrowed his brow. “I don’t want you to back off.”
Felix met his reflected eyes hesitantly. “Really?”
“If anything, you might have to tell me to back off. I’m the one hanging all over you right now.” He laughed but there was a nervous edge to it and he could feel his muscles tensing up.
“I actually really like this.” Felix covered Nino’s clasped hands with his own. “It’s nice. I’ve never…it’s just really nice.”
Nino relaxed again and tilted his face down to kiss Felix’s shoulder. He sighed happily and their eyes met in the mirror again. “So we’re dating.”
A beautiful smile spread across Felix’s lips and he nodded as his hands tightened over Nino’s. “We’re dating,” he agreed.
“Adrien’s going to be impossible about this.”
“Most likely.” Felix pursed his lips and reached out to straighten the already neatly organized things on the counter. “Are people going to think it’s weird? We just started hanging out.”
Nino reluctantly released his hold on the other man and stepped back. “I don’t know. It’s no one’s business anyway. Does that bother you? I didn’t really take you for the type to care what people thought.”
“I guess I just wonder if you’re going to rethink things.”
“You really are a worrier, huh?” Nino crossed his arms over his chest. “Fe, I think you’re amazing and you’re hot as hell. Believe me when I say I’m very happy with how things are going.” He was rewarded with a furious blush and Felix ducked his head.
“Please leave me to die in peace,” he groaned and pushed Nino out of the bathroom door and pushed it closed.
“Did you really just kick me out because I made you blush?” Nino cackled and knocked on the door. “Felix, let me back in.”
“Felix isn’t here right now.”
“Felix…I just realized I don’t know your middle name-Agreste!”
The door cracked open and a blue eye peered out. “You can’t just say stuff like that,” he mumbled.
“You say whatever you want all the time.” Nino tried to reign in his glee.
“Well, that’s different.”
“Oh, I see.”
“No, you don’t.”
“I guess I’ll just have to compliment you more so you grow accustomed to it.”
Felix blew out a puff of air. “And it’s Gabriel, my middle name.”
“Yeah.” He laughed humorlessly. “The man named his company after himself, of course he would name me the same. I’m just lucky Mom had been holding onto my first name for so long. I don’t love Felix but it’s better than Gabe Jr.”
Nino’s laugh had more joy in it and he slung an arm around his boyfriend’s waist to pull him closer. “I think Felix is the perfect name for you.”
“Did you find one you wanna try for dinner?” Felix leaned over Nino’s shoulder and peered at the cookbook.
“I wish I had my copy. I’d been marking all the recipes that sounded good and now I can’t remember which ones I marked.” He leaned his head back and got another whiff of Felix’s body wash. It made him smile even as the other man pulled away to walk around the couch. “We could go to my place if you wanted.”
“I’ve never been before and we do have to go out to get groceries anyway,” he reasoned.
Nino nodded. “You can bring some stuff if you want to stay over.”
Felix blinked. “I don’t think I’ve ever stayed over at anyone’s house before.”
“Wait, really? Not even when you were a kid?”
He shook his head. “I never had many friends. I would get invited to parties because Adrien did but father rarely let us go and never to overnight events.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know that I would’ve been much for it anyway.”
“You don’t have to stay tonight if you don’t want to, but I’d like you to if you’re into it.”
“I think it’d be nice to see what it’s like to sleep in your bed.”
Nino felt his face warm and knew his boyfriend saw the blush. He squeezed his eyes shut and bit his lip. “Okay, you win that round, Agreste.” When he finally looked up, he saw a pleased expression on Felix’s face. “Yeah, yeah, eat it up, why don’t ya?”
“Brown sugar, really? With the meat?”
“That’s what it says.” Nino looked at the recipe again. “It says we spray the bottom of the pan with nonstick spray and then cover the bottom of it in brown sugar before we put the meat mixture in.”
“I’m not sure I’m going to like this.” Felix frowned and measured out the brown sugar.
“Maybe it’ll surprise us.”
Nino read ahead. “Did you already add the bread crumbs to the mixture?”
“I can do that then.”
They used the small space of Nino’s kitchen to their advantage, sliding by each other with gentle caresses and stolen kisses. They followed the rest of the recipe with flowing commentary and retired to the living room when the meatloaf was finally in the oven.
A month ago, Nino would’ve laughed if someone told him he would be having the best night simply cooking in his kitchen with his boyfriend but here he was, wondering how he’d made it this long without this in his life. He turned his head so he could watch Felix watch TV and realized he was happier than he could ever remember being before just by being in his presence. His chest felt warm and full and he leaned into Felix with a content sigh. Felix gave him a surprised blink and then he was lifting his arm to bring him in closer and they settled together comfortably.