The chilled air blew gently against Mike’s back as he waited outside the semi small sports bar. He pulled his collar up a little higher on his dark wool coat to try and combat the brisk fall air that had already, in the short amount of time he had been outside, made his nose and fingers turn slightly pink.
He pulled out his phone to check his last message from Nick just in case, in the 20 or so seconds that he hadn’t looked at the message, it could have changed. Just as before the “can’t wait, see you at 7 then!” looked back at him.
He sighed as he put his phone away. 15 minutes wasn’t a big deal to wait for someone but with each passing second, he grew more and more paranoid. They had really hit it off last week and had been texting almost nonstop since. So of course, he had no reason to fear Nick would blow him off, but still the thought buzzed around in his brain. He had been blown off by dates before but he knew deep down Nick was different, or at least he hoped so.
He turned and looked through the window into the semi full bar again. They had agreed to meet outside the bar but he had to triple check just to make sure he hadn’t somehow missed Nick.
The sound of a car slowing down pulled Mike’s attention back to the street. The back door opened of said car and Mike let out a held back sigh as Nick popped out from the back seat.
Nick smiled an obviously embarrassed smile as he closed the door and waved to the driver. “Mike” he called out as he jogged the couple steps from the curb to said man “I am so so sorry I’m late” he said in leu of a real greeting.
Mike smiled a happy smile just at being in Nick’s presence again and let out a small chuckle at the apology “it’s okay. Not gonna lie I was a little worried for a second, but you’re here now and that’s what matters”.
Nick smiled warmly as the embarrassment slowly started to fade away “again, I’m really sorry it’s a long stupid story...”.
Mike held up a hand cutting the other man off “trust me when I say I wanna hear all about it but I’ve been standing out in the cold for a while now and I am freezing. So, can we go in first?”.
The embarrassment form earlier came rushing back as Nick quickly nodded “yes, yes of course! I was about to mention your slightly pink nose, so yes let’s go in”.
The ex-detective stepped over to the door and pulled it open motioning for his date to step across the threshold and into the warm bar.
While Mike had seen the bar through the window it was different stepping into it. It was a decent sized sports bar with booths and tables besides the main bar area. The walls were covered in different team flags and other sports memorabilia. It was obviously full of a lot of history and Mike was kinda surprised that he’d never even heard of the place before Nick suggested it.
Nick motioned to the booth side of the bar “why don’t you grab us a booth and I’ll grab us some drinks. So, we can warm you up and give you a chance to look at the menu”.
“Yes to the booth, and yes to you getting us drinks, but I already know what I want,” Mike said as he looked from the bar back to Nick.
Nick slightly bit at his lower lip as he looked Mike up and down “you already know what you want you say?” he asked slightly suggestively.
Mike huffed out a laugh “not like that you perv. I was told this place has the most disgusting, yet most delicious, burgers ever and I would like to test that for myself”.
A humorous smile grew on Nick’s lips “a man who knows what he wants, I like it. One burger coming up”. He started to step towards the bar but stopped “you aren’t wanting the most expensive drink they serve this time, though are you?”.
Mike rolled his eyes at the ridiculous man and shook his head “no, just as I hope you won’t need an energy infused drink to get through the evening. I’ll just take a normal beer”.
Nick placed his hands over his heart and sighed “just a normal beer? A man after my own heart! One beer and burger coming up!”.
Mike chuckled at the charming man as Nick headed over to the bar to place their order. He himself, taking Nick's suggestion, walked to the other side of the room and slid into an open wooden booth.
He was just pulling off his coat when his date sauntered over and slid in on the other side.
“One beer for you” Nick said as he slid the bottle towards Mike “and one for me with a pair of burgers on their way in a little bit”.
Mike picked up his bottle and held it out towards Nick so they could clink glasses “I’ll cheers to that”. The two men cheered then took a sip. “Now” Mike said motioning lightly with his bottle “that that’s all settled, why don’t you tell me the amazing story of why you were almost twenty minutes late”.
Nick took a long sip of his beer, as his cheeks turned a slightly embarrassed pink color, before nodding “firstly, I was only about fifteen minutes late so don’t start lying”.
Mike playfully rolled his eyes “fifteen twenty same thing”.
Nick shook his head “no it’s not, but I did leave you out in the cold making your nose go all pink and cute so I guess I’ll let you have the extra five”.
Mike lightly blushed.
Nick pulled off his caramel colored coat as he began “now for my tail of woe” he lightly joked out. “As you know Gil, my son, was going to take Zara out to the movies”.
The other man nodded slowly as he vaguely remembered a text message about said activity.
“Well, he got caught up in this school project for one of his classes and lost track of time. So, he got to my place about thirty minutes later than scheduled. Now that’s not such a big deal as he usually runs a little late or as we like to call it ‘Amaro time’”.
Mike chuckled into his beer “I think I can see where he gets that from”.
Nick playfully glared at him “haha you’re very funny”. He took another sip of his beer then continued “when he finally gets to the house he tells me his car’s on the fritz and asks if he can borrow mine. I obviously don’t want my kids driving around at night without me in a bad car so I say fine. So, they finally leave and it’s only after they leave I realize I don’t have a way to get here. Now I could use the subway, but there isn’t a stop super close to my place so I decided to use Uber”.
He sighed as he ran his hands over his face and into his hair exhaustedly “let me tell you walking the mile or so trek over to the station would have been a million time easier as no one apparently wanted to answer my cry for help. Finally, someone says yes but they’re about twenty minutes away. I figure I still have decent enough time so I don’t text you, which is another mistake. I’m finally on my way and we’re hitting every single red light, it’s ridiculous. I finally decided to shoot you a text and wouldn’t you know it T Mobil’s tower must be down or something as my phone refuses to send my text. It says Imessage won’t send so I try sending it as a text and no, nothing works”.
He reached out and lightly touched the top of Mike’s hand “again I am so sorry. The universe just wanted to be against me tonight”.
Mike turned his hand over so he and Nick were slightly holding hands and lightly chuckled “like I said it’s okay. At least you actually showed up, which is more than I can say for some other dates I’ve had, so I’ll still call this a win”.
“You are probably the sweetest man in the world” Nick said as he lightly stroked his thumb over Mike’s palm. “Most people would just call me an idiot but you’re totally chill”.
Mike shrugged “oh don’t think I’m not calling you an idiot it my head” he fondly laughed “but also know I like idiots”.
Before Nick could respond two burger baskets were set down in front of them by the guy who had taken Nick’s order at the bar. “Two burger specials for a mister Amaro. Is there anything else I can do for you two?”.
Mike looked down at the delicious smelling burger and shook his head “no I’m good”.
Nick shook his head just the same “we’re all good. Thank you so much”.
The bar man nodded before walking away.
Nick motioned to the burger “I’m interested to hear your thoughts. Just because I think this is the best burger around doesn’t mean you will”.
“Oh, trust me you’ll get my opinion, but I have to start with a fry first” Mike said picking up a decently long one. “I find if a fry’s good then the burger will be amazing. If a fry's so-so then it’s a toss-up of if the burger will be good or not”.
Nick watched, with interest, as Mike slowly bit into said fry and chewed on it for a second “well?!”.
Mike let out a quiet moan “delicious!”.
Nick let out a small happy, yet nervous, breath he had been holding back as he smiled “oh thank goodness. I don’t know if we could move forward if you hated their food”.
Mike laughed “well I’m glad this date can continue then as I’m having a really good time”.
Nick lightly blushed as he bit into his burger.
The two men ate in semi happy silence for a while as they enjoyed each other's company and also watched the Ravens vs. Cowboys game playing on the big tv across the bar from them.
“So, why this bar?” Mike finally asked, breaking the happy silence, as he swallowed down a fry “I mean you said this used to be your favorite bar back in the day yet I’ve never heard of it and the squads never mentioned it. And as you know they’re not very good at keeping places like this hidden, especially Sonny” he lightly joked.
Nick let out a small huff of a laugh as chewed a bite of his burger “well there is a reason for that, I mean the squad not knowing about it. I have no control of your knowings”.
The two men quietly laughed.
“This was my little get away” Nick said as he looked around the bar almost as if he was taking it in for the first time. “I found this place one night after work. I can’t even remember what horrible thing had happened but I was upset about a case. Also, Maria, Zara’s mom, and I were at each other’s throats again and I didn’t want to go home in my mood as I would have just made things worse. So, I went for a drive to calm down and I found this place. I figured I could go for a beer so I came in and I fell in love with it”.
He motioned to the bar around them then at their food and drinks “I don’t remember much, but I remember some game was on and I sat at the bar and watched it and that mixed with the beer and good food just helped calm me down. Ever since then when I was in a mood and I just needed an escape from the wife or the squad I would come down here”.
Mike nodded as he looked around the small bar looking at it now in a slightly different light “I obviously knew this bar had a special meaning for you but I had no idea how special it was”. He picked up a fry and looked at it for a minute as his mind kept bringing up the same thought “so this was your alone time place kinda, right?”.
The other man thought for a second before nodding “yeah I guess you could call it that”.
Mike nodded “... so that makes me wonder... and maybe I’m kinda looking into this with my detective brain, so I apologize for that, but why did you bring me here? I’m not saying I don’t like it or anything. I'm having a great time and all it just kinda struck me that this was your alone place but you brought me here... aren’t I kinda ruining it now?”.
Nick looked down at his food for a moment before picking up his beer and taking a long sip. He bit at his cheek as he looked at the tv for another moment before looking up at Mike “I hadn’t actually given that much though... but I can see why you’d ask''. He paused as he thought some more “when I used to live here, back then, I was kind of an angry guy... all the time. I mean just ask Sonny or Barba I’m sure they’ll have a lot of things to tell you about it, especially Barba… We didn’t really get along back then… it wasn’t until I left and they got married that we actually realized we’re more similar than not”.
He let out an almost sad little laugh as he thought “anyway, back then I just wasn’t in a good place mentally. Maria had just accepted a position overseas for a couple years with the military and with us already being in a bad place it put even more strain on us/me. Then I moved over to SVU, and you know how hard that job is... I was just coming off of a stint undercover for narcotics and I was in no way mental prepared for that...”. He sighed as he rubbed at his throat “everything in my life just kept adding up and adding up and I never tried to actually deal with any of it in a constructive way. So, I would just get angrier and angrier and besides exploding and punching the wall closest to me this was one of my only real outlets...”.
He let out an almost happy sigh as he looked around the bar again “but now? Coming back to New York I’m a different person. I know a lot of people say that but it’s true. I go to therapy, I have great relationships with my kids and their moms, and I’m a lot calmer. So, I guess subconsciously I know I don’t need this place like I did back then. I don’t need a place to hide away and be happy because... I am happy. I guess I wanted to kinda reclaim this place, you know? It was a part of my past and I want to make it part of my future... with you”.
He paused for a moment “I’m not trying to do some big ‘you are my future’ speech or anything like that as this is only our second date, technically our first real date, but I know you’re going to be in my life. In whatever capacity long term who knows. I mean you’re a part of the squad of course, but we’re also figuring stuff out... but I don’t see the need to keep this place a hide away... if that makes sense”.
Mike nodded as he took in everything Nick had just said “I get it, honestly I do. Reclaiming things with new context is a really important thing to do. When my ex Alice and I broke off our engagement, after my second shooting, I was left kinda lost and angry at the world. But as I slowly worked on myself I was able to take stuff back like eating at my favorite Thai place and stuff like that... it’s the little things, but it shows growth”. He paused and shrugged “or at least that’s what my old therapist used to say”.
Nick chuckled at Mike’s attempt to slightly bring up the mood of the booth “yeah, I’m sorry for just throwing all that at you” he said as he lightly touched Mike’s hand again “you did ask, but I shouldn’t have just opened up like that and dumped that on you”.
Mike shook his head “no, I’m glad that we can be so open about our pasts. If we can’t talk about ourselves and our pasts that’s not much of a relationship I would say”.
“That’s true” Nick said as he lightly rubbed his thumb over Mike’s knuckle “although I’ve never gone into detail about my ex-wife or my anger issues on a second date before...”.
Mike smiled “and I’ve never talked about my ex fiancé or my past issues on a second date either... but I don’t hate it... I really like having everything out in the open... it feels... weirdly nice”.
Nick nodded “do you now want me to go into detail about some of the cases I’ve worked and how many perp’s I’ve shot?” he asked jokingly.
Mike shook his head as he laughed happily “no, I think we’re good. We talked about getting shot on our first date, we’ve talked about our exes and our anger issues on the second, let’s leave a little room for mystery on our third”.
Both men laughed happily at how perfect/ridiculous they were for each other.
“You could tell me about your kids though” Mike said a little quietly “I mean I’ve met Zara and all but I’m kinda clueless about Gil’s whole story, besides the fact that he takes after his dad in lateness”.
Nick rolled his eyes as he swallowed down a gulp of beer “I would love nothing more”.
The two men talked, ate, and drank for the rest of the night until the game was finally over. Nick talked about Gil and Zara and a little about his mother. Mike also talked about his family a little by telling stories about his dad and brother. They then swapped happy squad stories and some of their favorite New York memories.
Once the game was over, and the bar began to clear out, the new couple decided it was best to head out. Mike saw Nick grab for his phone and quickly offered, more so insisted, that he take Nick home. Nick, of course, happily accepted so they walked the couple blocks to where Mike had parked and headed out.
“It’s the white and gray two story up here on the right” Nick pointed when Mike finally turned onto his street.
Mike nodded as he slowed down the car to park on the street in front of the house.
“Oh no...” Nick whispered as Mike killed the engine.
Mike shot him a confused look “oh no?”.
Nick sighed as he pointed to his house. On the porch sat a younger man who looked a lot like Nick and also Zara. “I didn’t realize there would be a welcoming committee” he said semi embarrassedly as he rubbed his hands over his face.
Mike looked down at his hands as he started to feel a little awkward “I can just drop you off here then if you want... you know... keep us a separate thing or whatever”. He knew it was dumb to feel rejected as this was just a second date and he knew how messy relationships could get when kids were semi involved but he couldn’t help it that he still felt slightly rejected, especially with how open they had been.
Nick shook his head “no... no you should come up to the house see Zara again and meet Gil. I was just hoping their movie would run long so we could... talk some more”.
A small breath, he didn’t realize he had been holding back, left Mike as he smiled “oh... I see”.
Nick let out a small laugh as he pat Mike’s hand “yeah... and you shouldn’t worry about my kids. They’re both old enough to deal with me dating. Also, Zara’s already crazy about you since you gave her your seat anyway”.
Mike smiled “well, I’m glad”.
Nick pushed open his door and motioned his head “well come on let’s see what’s going on”.
The two men got out of Mike’s car and slowly made their way towards the house.
Zara jumped up from the steps as the two men got closer and smiled happily “hi dad! Hi Mike!”.
Mike gave a small wave back “hi Zara”.
“Hi sweetie, so... why are you two on the porch and not in the house... or still at the movies?” Nick asked, more so to Gil than Zara.
The younger Amaro smiled a small embarrassed smile “when I took your keys you took the house key and... I kinda left the one you gave me back at my dorm...”.
A small laugh left Nick as he shook his head “of course you did”.
Gil gave a sorry smile as he held out his hand for the house key “sorry dad...”. He leaned a little to look at Mike “sorry as well Mike... I’m Gil by the way”.
Mike let out a chuckle as he shook Gil’s hand “nice to meet you, your dad has said a lot of good things about you”.
Gil smiled a more knowing smile “he’s said a lot of good things about you too”.
Nick’s cheeks turned a dark red as he slightly pushed his son towards the door “thank you Gil. Why don’t you take your sister up to her room and help her get ready for bed. I’ll be up in a minute”.
Gil waved him off as he walked towards the front door “yeah yeah you two have fun”.
Mike let out a surprised laugh as Gil walked into the house.
Zara walked into the house after her brother “bye Mike!”.
Mike again waved as the front door closed “bye Zara”.
“Sorry about that” Nick said very embarrassedly as he shoved his hands in his coat pockets and turned to Mike.
“Don’t be embarrassed. I like you and I like your kids and I know they only want what’s best for you” Mike said as he stepped closer to Nick and gently touched his arm.
Nick laughed as he sighed into the other man’s touch “it’s just another sign of the universe being against me today I guess”.
“I wouldn’t say that” Mike said softly “I see it as your kids giving us the nod of approval, in Gil’s case literally, so I think it’s a great thing. And I know you’re feeling embarrassed and all which means next time you’ll probably go above and beyond to make our third date even better”.
Nick smiled a shy smile as he looked up into Mike’s light eyes “oh yeah, I’ll treat you right. I’ll be on time and everything I mean isn’t that what every man wants?”.
Mike playfully punched Nick’s arm as he laughed “it’s definitely high up on my list of the perfect man”.
“So, speaking of next time... when I can I see you again?” Nick asked as he casually stepped closer into Mike’s space.
“Umm...” Mike said as his mind went blank as Nick leaned in a little closer. “..... how about Saturday?” he asked, finally regaining his mental capacity. “Kat, our newest detective, is a boxer and is having a big fight this coming Saturday. The whole squad’s going, you know circumstances permitting, and I would love of you would be my date”.
Nick’s eyes widened at Mike’s response “you want me to go to a squad outing with you?... that’s kinda serious you realize...”.
Mike nodded as he slowly wrapped his arms loosely around Nick’s waist pulling the slightly shorter man closer “I know... I just... I really like you Nick... and maybe I’m being presumptuous but something about us just feels... right... plus I’ve met your kids and you already know my best friends... so I don’t see why not...”. He paused his little rambling speech “that is... unless you think we’re moving too fast or something...”.
Nick shook his head as he lightly pulled on Mike’s lapels “no... I’m just surprised... happily so might I add. In my last few big relationships I’ve always kinda been hidden away in a way... like us being together had to be a separate thing from normal life...”. He paused as he smiled up a dimple filled grin at Mike “I know we’ve both said this already but it’s really nice to be so open”.
“You can probably tell I’m not very good at keeping secrets” the sergeant smirked as he pulled Nick even closer “like the fact that I’ve wanted to kiss you since I laid eyes on you last week”.
The other man smiled a small coy smile “well you’ll quickly find that I’m not a fan of secrets anyway” he said as he leaned up and pulled the taller man into a kiss.
The minute their lips touched Mike’s body felt like it was floating and drowning all at the same time. The feeling almost couldn’t be put into words as if there wasn’t a part of speech yet written to describe it. It was like nothing in the world existed except him and Nick.
While he may have thought that, it wasn’t exactly the case. A quiet “awww” floated down around the men making them pull away even though the instant they pulled away they both missed the touch of the other.
They looked up to where the sound had fallen from and saw the youngest Amaro, who was supposed to be in bed, looking out the window and grinning happily. As soon as they spotted her though she disappeared from the window and a loud “sorry dad!” from Gil rang down from the window.
Nick leaned his head against Mike’s chest and laughed “I believe that’s universe 7 Amaro... 1”.
Mike’s body lightly shook with laughter “I would say that’s another yes for me though. So that’s good”. He placed his hand under Nick’s chin and lightly lifted his head up to look into the other man’s eyes “would you like to make it Amaro 2 universe 7?”.
Nick smiled as he nodded and leaned up to capture Mike’s lips in another kiss. This one was a little quicker, but no less enjoyable, as their lips molded against each other’s almost like they were carved to be that way.
“So, wanna kiss me at least 5 more times to make me equal with the universe?” Nick asked a spark of playfulness in his eyes.
Mike laughed “we do have to save something to look forward to with date three”.
Nick let out a small groan “who knew you’d be such a spoilt sport”.
“Hey, I’m not the one who has a 14 and 19-year-old looking down at us from a second story window” Mike said fondly rolling his eyes.
Nick groaned again “true”. He sighed as he slowly pulled himself out of Mike’s space “well, I can’t wait till Saturday... but I also don’t want to wait till Saturday... I know your schedule is crazy, as is mine, but maybe we could grab coffee before then?”.
Mike nodded enthusiastically making himself look like a dog whose owner just said the t.r.e.a.t word “yes, I would love that so much!”.
“Good, and maybe after the fight we could go grab some dinner,” Nick said coyly.
Mike nodded again “I would love nothing more”.
Nick took a small step towards the house “okay, good. Until then”.
“I’ll text you…” Mike said grinning like a literal fool in love “... or you know you could text me... or we could just text each other like normal adults”.
Nick laughed at the adorable man before him “sounds like a plan... until I can see you again”.
Mike couldn’t handle the distance and took two large steps so he was back in Nick’s personal space and gave him a quick peck before finally pulling himself away and leaving.