Nico is perfect.
Not physically– although, Nico’s stature does look like it was crafted by Michelangelo himself, like he’s a work of art with his chiseled jaw and defined features, worthy of a spot in a museum that lauds Greek and Renaissance art and okay, okay, Levi is definitely getting distracted, the way he always does when he starts to think about Nico’s body.
No, Nico, his boyfriend, his first love, is perfect physically, of course, but also in other ways. He always knows when Levi’s had a rough day, even on days when Levi isn’t tagging along with the Ortho fellow and attending pair; somehow, he also knows whether it’s a “let’s go get a drink at Joe’s after work” kind of rough day or a “as soon as you’re done, we can cuddle in the on-call room” kind of rough day. He smiles at the kids who come in with broken bones, shoots them one of his perfect smiles and winks at them like they’re in on some secret with him so they feel included because god knows being surrounded by intimidating doctors saying intimidating, complicated words can make a 10-year-old feel lost. Nico doesn’t talk as much as Levi does, doesn’t usually ramble his feelings out, but because he picks his words so carefully, it makes Levi’s heart clench up when he uses them to tell Levi how he feels. He’s perfect because although he’s an asshole who loves seeing his boyfriend flustered and nervous, he’s also the first to notice when Levi is stressed or upset, or cold. And he doesn’t try to instantly fix it, unless you count taking off his jacket and wrapping it around Levi’s much smaller frame. He just stays, silently, his thumb rubbing against Levi’s knuckles in a quiet display of reassurance.
Nico’s perfect. So it’s only natural that his family is also perfect. Because of course, Nico’s family is big, and successful and happy. Of course, his parents are retired professors. Of course, he has an older sister who is a pediatrician and a younger brother who is studying law and of fucking course they all meet every year to have Christmas dinner together while talking and laughing about their perfect, happy lives.
“Oh! Oops, I’m so sorry, Mrs. Kim, or- uh, Dr. Kim? I- I assume you have a Phd, I’m not sure, I’m sorry, I – should shut up…” Levi retracts his hand from the table where he’d just knocked over Nico’s mother’s empty wine glass and then picked it back up, before making a fool of himself. Of course he made a fool of himself.
Mrs. Kim doesn’t seem to notice or care, since she just laughs good-naturedly. “It’s fine, don’t worry. And Mrs. Kim is fine, can’t call myself a doctor when two real ones are sitting right here, no?”
Levi shakes his head. “Oh, I’m hardly a doctor, the intern exam is yet to happen and –”
Nico cuts him off with a chuckle. “You’re definitely still a doctor, Dr. Schmitt.” He reaches forward to grab the bottle of red wine. “Some more wine, Ma?”
Right. Levi is still a doctor. He’s a doctor, and although he lives in his mom’s basement, he’s still a grown man, so then why – why is he acting like a 16-year-old, constantly making a fool of himself in front of Nico’s perfect family? Just earlier, during dinner, he’d said something about the kimchi being really good which had made everyone at the table, including Nico’s demure, elegant sister to laugh out loud. Apparently the dish was called bulgogi, and Levi knew that, he knew that kimchi was something entirely different but he was nervous and it had slipped out of his mouth, and god, it was just really hard not to be his awkward, rambly self around these very sophisticated people. They were probably wondering why their perfect, Greek statue-esque son who was on his way to becoming a magical Ortho God, was dating this short, weird man who couldn’t keep his hands from flailing around and knocking things over when he talked.
“Huh – y-yes, sir?”
Nico’s father looks amused, but continues. “Ah, I was saying, thank you for the chocolates. They’re so tasty.”
A murmur of agreement goes around the table, and Levi realizes that all the members of the Kim family are nibbling on the Hanukkah gelts that he’d brought with himself.
“I’ve never had one of these, what did you say they’re called? God, they’re really so good, wow.” Nico’s sister asks.
“Oh! Hanukkah gelts. On Hanukkah, it’s customary to receive money and so, well, money-shaped chocolates happened.” Levi explains, his back straightening slightly with pride. He’d debated for hours what he should bring to Christmas dinner with Nico’s parents, since it was also their first time meeting him, and then he’d remembered – one year ago at the hospital, last Christmas, when Nico had told him that he wished Levi was there for Christmas dinner with his parents. He’d remembered promising Nico that he’d come the next year, with Hanukkah gelts.
“Perfect Christmas dessert. Thank you, babe.” Nico leans in, and promptly places a brief kiss on Levi’s (now flaming) cheek. In the process, his hand reaches to find Levi’s thigh, and squeezes gently.
“It’s… no problem!” Levi squeaks, although he sounds far more high-pitched than was his intention.
Nico, to his credit, hides his wicked chuckle under his palm as he bites into the chocolate.
Aside from the at least three (or maybe four) times that Levi makes a complete fool of himself, the night goes quite smoothly. Smoothly? Hah, Levi thinks later at night, snorting as he shifts a little in bed, sighing loudly.
Almost instantly, he can feel Nico’s frown against his neck. “What’s wrong?”
Nico chuckles. Of course he chuckles. Why does he always chuckle?! And – oh. A gentle peck on Levi’s shoulder. “You said that too quickly for it to actually be nothing. Tell me. What, did you hate my family?”
“What? No! No, your family is… perfect. They’re perfect, your parents, your siblings, they were so nice! Just… too perfect…”
“Forget it. I’m tired, I just wanna sleep.”
“Mhm.” Nico’s leg rests, heavy, around Levi’s waist, pulling him closer into his chest. “It’s Christmas night. I can think of a few things we could do that are more interesting than sleep. Besides, I have a- ”
“Oh, no. No, no, we are not having,” Levi’s voice drops to a hush, “sex-! in your childhood bed. Plus your siblings are literally in the next room.”
“Which is why I had booked us a flight back to Seattle for tonight.”
“I know, but your mom, she really wanted us to spend the night and have breakfast before leaving and how can you say no to someone that… nice? And kind- and… and she doesn’t ask a million questions about everything you do, and she was so respectful and polite to me even when I called that dish by the wrong name and probably fucked up by calling her Mrs.Kim instead of Dr.Kim and – ”
Nico cuts him off, shifting so he’s facing his boyfriend. “You didn’t fuck up.”
“I totally did, Nico. And now your perfect family probably thinks that their son is dating a total loser, because, well, look at me. And look at you.”
“Okay.” There’s a definitive tone to his breathy ‘okay’, his voice sounding the way it sounds in surgery when he’s telling an intern to move over so he can fix the mess they’ve made. It sounds like ‘here we go again’.
Nico continues. “I don’t know what you mean by that, but my family is not… perfect. No family is perfect, Levi. My mom came to The States to study, so how do you think her parents felt when she fell in love with an Italian and got pregnant and never went back to Seoul? Yeah, it was not pleasant. My brother tried med school and failed, over and over again until he found his true calling as a malpractice lawyer. My dad? He got fired because he showed up to class drunk, more than once. He’s retired now and sober, but he had a rough time. It was not perfect.”
Although Nico’s leg is still around his waist, and their bodies are still touching, pressed closed together, Levi feels the ground shift beneath him. Feels his breath quicken, a knot in his chest, as he stares silently at Nico.
“And you’re not a loser because you called a Korean dish that you were having for the first time by the wrong name. My family isn’t shallow enough to judge you based on that.”
“I – I didn’t mean…”
“I know. But how long, Nico, before you believe that I’m not better than you? I’m dating you, I… I love you. And you, you love me, right? I’m not perfect. I’m short tempered, I get annoyed at things I can’t control and sometimes I make you cry when I’m frustrated about other things. I eat all the ice cream you bring, and I don’t save any for you. I’m bad at remembering things, and I get busy sometimes and forget to text, or call. But you still love me?”
“Of course.” Levi gasps, like the breath he’s been holding for so long has been punched out of him. “Of course. I love you so much…”
“And I love you, too. This is… an equal relationship. Nobody’s perfect. Families are always messy. But all that doesn’t really matter, does it?”
An equal relationship. Levi nods, slowly. Nico’s dating him… so it means he, too, wants him and loves him and adores him as much as Levi does. “I love you.” he says, in awe of this man in front of him.
Nico smiles, his stupid little smile. “And I love you. And before you so rudely interrupted me with your silly rant,” he laughs softly, “I was going to give you something.”
“Give me… something? Is this ‘something’ your dick because I already said we are not –”
“No, stop thinking about my dick all the time.” Nico teases, playfully placing a gentle kiss on Levi’s lips. “I have a second Christmas present for you. Okay, well, I don’t have it right now because we were supposed to be back in Seattle by dawn so I left it back at home but, uh…”
Levi frowns. Nico looks slightly tensed, the way he very rarely does. “What? What is it?”
“It’s a key.”
“A – a key. To… my apartment.”
“So I can walk in without knocking or…?”
“No! So you can… um. Move in with me.”
“Levi, I want you to move in with me. I mean, we’ve been dating for a year and god, I don’t want your mom to walk in on us again when we’re at your place.”
“Okay, that was one time! And I always lock the basement door, you know this, I just forgot on that day and she just wanted to ask if we would like cookies and –”
Nico shakes his head and laughs. “I’m kidding, babe, please. No, I want you to move in with me because… well, I – I love you. And I don’t want to spend more time apart than we have to. I want to go to sleep like this every night, you know? So… yeah, that’s why I…”
Levi grins at his boyfriend, throwing his arms around his neck. “Yes, you idiot, I’ll move in with you!”
Nico grins back in excitement, his lips meeting Levi’s in an embrace of celebration. Between kisses, he mumbles. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas, babe.”