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They’re not even married yet when the moment comes that Nathan will someday, sometimes, in the dark of night, think of as the beginning of the end for him and Olivia. There will be good days in between, but from this moment on, their relationship is already slowly moving towards its end.

They’re lying on fancy, teak deck chairs on his balcony, pretending to be stargazing when in reality New York City is way too bright, drowning out the sky. The bowl of strawberries he’s been feeding her contains more stalks than fruit by now, but the champagne is still plentiful, little golden bubbles bursting on his tongue with every mouthful.

It sloshes around in Olivia’s flute as she giggles, a flush high on her cheeks, silky hair falling attractively around her face as she leans forward, resting her forehead against his shoulder. She’s beautiful, and he gently tucks her hair back behind her ear, movements loose and slightly sluggish with tipsiness.

“Chad from high school, huh?” he asks, amused, teasing. “Guess I’ll have to watch out the next time your class does a reunion.”

Olivia hums in agreement and giggles again, champagne on her breath. “You’ll get it once you see him. God, those arms… Okay, your turn now. Who do you want as your freebie?”

A part of him, somewhere behind the buzz of champagne, already knows that he shouldn’t say it, that he should lie, should pick absolutely anyone else. “Harold.” he says anyway, too quickly, too softly, because there’s no one else he could possibly choose.

And next to him, Olivia pretends to agree, lets him feed her another strawberry and pretends that this is all in good fun, but the flush fades a little, and the sudden tension in her doesn’t, and maybe, this is where it all starts to fall apart.


The thing is, he’s being unfair and he knows it. There is a chance that Chad from high school wouldn’t be interested and even if, as Olivia has told him on more than one occasion, the arms were always way more impressive than his brain or personality.

And it isn’t like Harold wouldn’t be interested, they’ve slept with each other before, have had this occasional, on and off thing they’ve never really felt the need to talk about since college. It’s simple and casual and it has never affected their friendship, and maybe that’s part of the problem.

Because Harold is Harold. Nathan’s no half-wit, but he knows he has nothing on Harold’s brilliance. More often than he wants to admit, he’ll find himself just standing there, basking in his friend’s presence, awe-struck while Harold is too absorbed into whatever work of genius he is cooking up at that time. Sharing dinner with Harold after a project is completed is always one of his personal highlights and he forgets about the existence of time when they’re spending it together like that, talking about anything and everything. Harold is too bright and too brilliant, familiar and beautiful in an entirely different way from Olivia, with a sweet smile that always has something flutter in Nathan’s stomach.

So it’s not fair to Olivia, but he still tells himself that she wouldn’t mind when he comes into Harold’s hidden office and sees the frustration in his frame. He uses his joking agreement with her as an excuse to place a hand on Harold’s shoulder like he has done so many times before in the past, gives him a flirtatious smile that has Harold raising a sceptical eyebrow at him.

“Come on, I know what’ll get your mind off this” he gestures to the code where Harold seems to have gotten stuck, “for a while. It’d do you some good.”

They know each other far too well, and so Harold immediately knows what he’s suggesting, scepticism becoming even clearer in his intelligent blue eyes. “Given your current relationship status, I’m not sure this would be such a wise course of action, Nathan.” he admonishes because he knows Nathan and his tendency towards infidelity, because he’s Nathan’s best friend and of course, of course he’ll try to make sure that his relationship with Olivia lasts, and Nathan wishes it’d do anything other than make him love Harold for it all the more.

Still, he moves his hand towards Harold’s tie – he sometimes regrets getting Harold to start wearing suits, they look way too good on him – and Harold doesn’t stop him.

“It’s fine. She knows, and she doesn’t mind.” It’s not a lie exactly, there is just enough truth in it that Nathan knows he can get away with this, because even with how familiar they are with each other, Harold, in all his brilliance, will always be better with computers than with people. “You’re my freebie.”

That makes Harold’s eyebrows inch a little higher, amusement tugging at his lips and Nathan watches them part softly, but he doesn’t want to hear the questions that are undoubtedly rattling around in Harold’s brilliant head. So he simply takes the opportunity to kiss him, falling into the old familiarity and comfort of it, almost sighing in relief when he feels Harold’s clever hands find the buttons on his own shirt.


“Oh, of course!” Harold says to himself afterwards and gets up, ignores the neat little pile of his clothes – he has turned into such a fussy bastard after college, but Nathan is too far gone for him, so he can only think that he loves him for this, too – and sits back at his desk without so much as one more glance at Nathan. Nathan watches him with amusement and a lazy sort of faint arousal, gets dressed to the sound of Harold’s typing, who is already fully absorbed in his work again, this time with the enthusiasm of having found the solution.

He watches him for a while, until he realises how late it is. He gets up and indulges himself by pressing a kiss to Harold’s head, the soft and affectionate kind he’d never give him when Harold isn’t so completely distracted.

“You’re welcome.” he murmurs, teasing, predictably only getting a distracted hum in return. He shakes his head fondly when Harold doesn’t even notice him leaving.

Olivia’ll be waiting for him, and he tells himself that the uncomfortable tightness in his chest is probably just indigestion.