This is a bad idea, this is a horrible idea . Even John’s inner voice wailed with despair. Why oh why did he let Nick talk him into a roller rink date? The bastard probably just wanted to show off; and John was a sucker. A stupid, pathetic, lovestruck loser. He sat in resignation on a bench, staring disdainfully at the roller skates on the floor between his sock feet as nearly-forgotten pop music from the early 2000s assaulted his ears. Damn you, Nick. Damn you straight to the deepest depths of Hell. Pretty heavy insult coming from an Irish-Catholic boy.
“I know I’m late, but could you at least pretend to be happy to see me?” Nick’s voice caused John to sit up and turn around, staring at him with half-hearted hate in his eyes. “Aww, c’mon. Don’t look like that. It’ll be fun. I promise.”
“Nick, I haven’t been on skates in years. And the last time I was, I’m pretty sure I was almost definitely probably drunk.”
“So you’ll be fine! You’re sober. You should be a pro in no time.”
“Putting me on skates is like putting wheels on a giraffe, Nick. It’s a perversion of nature. The proportions are all wrong,” John complained. “Why are you doing this to me?”
“You’re so cute when you exaggerate. Put your skates on. You can’t go out on the rink in sockies. I’ll be back.” Nick left John alone to go trade in his own shoes for skates and returned to join him on the bench. John had put the skates on his feet, but hadn’t tied them. He still looked like he wished he could just disappear. Affectionately, Nick bumped John with his shoulder. “Don’t make me get on my knees in front of everyone and tie them for you.”
Exhaling a deep, long-suffering sigh, John reluctantly secured and tied the laces of his skates. “There. Are you happy? I don’t know why I let you torment me like this.”
Nick tied the laces of his own skates and stood up with ease, stepping down onto the slick floor of the rink and engaging his toe brake, holding his hand out to help John off the safety of the carpeted floor. “Well, obviously it’s because you love me.”
John didn’t answer right away, carefully stepping down with Nick’s help. His delay might have been worrying if Nick didn’t already know better. “You know, I’m really questioning whether I do or not right now.” John wavered a bit in his balance, but Nick held him up.
“You’re good. I’ve gotcha.” Nick showed John how to use his toe brakes and how to hold still in a T-stop. “Safety first, right?”
“Nicky, if we were practicing safety first, I would not be here at all. I can’t believe I let you get me to a secondary location. Detective Bittenbinder would be so disappointed!”
Nick laughed hard at that. “That’s ridiculous. You did agree to meet me here after all. You should be more afraid of where I get you to go after this. Now… just glide.” He backed up slightly, skating backwards, but keeping John within arm’s length, hands linked.
“Wait, where are you taking me after this,” John asked, almost worried.
“Iunno. Ice cream, maybe?”
“You’re lactose intolerant.”
“Hence why you should be afraid.”
John laughed a little, but still locked up his knees, effectively making Nick drag him around.
Nick stopped suddenly, causing John to bump into him. “Oof. See, you can’t skate if you lock your legs like that. You’re not a Ken doll. You have flexibility.”
“And don’t you know it,” John alluded facetiously.
“Okay. Not now. Be serious,” Nick laughed softly. “I’m trying to teach you something here. This is supposed to be cute. Romantic.”
“Look, I don’t know romantic. I feel like I’ve been tossed in the ocean with the world’s shittiest life preserver.”
“I’ll try not to take offense to that. Look, just relax and move… kind of like you’re walking, but with bigger, more determined strides. Once you have momentum, you just glide.” Nick gestured around at some of the other skaters. “See?”
John looked around at the other skaters, some were teenagers who looked like near experts, some were children with PVC pipe structures to hold onto. Some were couples, skating freely hand in hand. He looked back at Nick. “Nick, I’ve never done anything with an ounce of determination in my life except maybe drink. I have a vague sense of impending death right now.”
Nick sighed. “Okay, okay. Here.” He guided John to the wall and put one of John’s hands against it. “Hold on to the wall. And just work on getting yourself around. As you start to relax and feel more comfortable, try actually skating. Watch me.” He moved away after making sure John was steady and began skating a lap around the rink, gracefully and with ease. Once he neared John again, he slowed to a stop, braking with the rubber knob on his toe. “Like that. The trick is keeping your feet pointed in the same direction so they don’t fly out from under you.”
Sighing, John wiggled vaguely, enough to make his feet move as he used the wall to push himself forward. Nick remained at his side with one arm gently around John’s waist, ready to catch him if he fell. That didn’t last however, because the music shifted from early millennium pop to a mix of throwbacks from the 90s and earlier and as soon as 'Super Freak' by Rick James began playing, Nick looked delighted. “Ooh! This is a good song.” He began dancing, really hamming it up. Even if it wasn’t for the sheer fun of it, it was a good way to make John laugh and forget his nerves, easing some of the tension that was keeping him from skating.
Nick moved in front of John, shaking his butt to the song and spun around just to pelvic thrust and roll his arms. He was so confident on the skates that John couldn’t help but hate him just a little bit. Nick’s dorky antics did make him laugh, however, and he felt a little better, relaxing noticeably. When the song ended, Nick kissed John on the cheek. “Don’t move. I’m gonna go find out if the deejay takes requests.” And off he went, leaving John to cling to the wall, trying to convince himself to just go.
“Listen, man, I know it’s not the best, but it’s-- I’m trying to make my boyfriend laugh and relax a little,” Nick tried convincing the deejay. He even slid him five bucks. The deejay finally rolled his eyes and accepted it.
“Fine, man. Once this disco shit ends.”
Nick thanked him and skated back over to John who had amazingly let go of the wall and was making progress. Nick’s cat-that-ate-the-canary grin turned into something much more genuine and warm. “Heyyyy, look at you. You’re almost a pro.”
Caught off guard, John wobbled and almost fell, but Nick caught him quickly. Lacing his fingers with John’s long, elegant ones, Nick just skated side by side with him slowly. “You’re getting it. And it’s a good thing too because you may or may not want to kill me when you find out what song I requested.”
John looked at him, alarmed. “What did you do?”
“You’ll find out. We’ve got time. There’s still, like, two minutes left in ‘Night Fever’. Just focus on skating and improving.”
John practically clung to Nick for the remainder of the song but luckily improved enough that he skated in perfect harmony with him. And a good thing too, because everyone knows that Tom Jones’ ‘What’s New Pussycat’ does not start out subtly at all. And as soon as it did, a look of horror crossed John’s face, causing Nick to release his hand.
“You… you motherfucker. You didn’t!”
“I did,” Nick laughed, skating away. “If you wanna kill me, you’ll have to catch me!”
John huffed and skated after him. Most of the other skaters saw this song as their chance to take a break and get snacks or drinks or even just sit for a moment, so the rink was nearly empty save for two full-grown comedians and some small children and the occasional parent.
As John gained on him, Nick turned around and skated backwards, still grinning. “Pussycat, pussycat, I love you. Yes I do,” he sang in time- but not in tune- with the song playing over the speakers, almost as if he were mocking John. The closer John got, the more Nick slowed down until he finally opened his arms and caught him, braking and stopping the both of them, stumbling only slightly.
“I hate you so fucking much, Nicholas,” John accused without an ounce of edge or malice.
“I know,” Nick chuckled, kissing him softly and slowly. “But your skating has improved drastically. I’d call that a win.”