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“Hey.” 

 

Levi turns quickly, pushing away from the balcony. “Oh, hi,” he mutters and turns back to leaning on the railing. 

 

Nico makes his way over to join him, keeping his step light. He’s got about a dozen things on his mind, things he wants to say and how he wants to do it. He’d been thinking about it all day, a way to get just a little bit closer without having to make either of them worry, he’d been wanting to find Levi to ask. 

 

Levi talks first though, and in typical fashion he starts and doesn’t really stop. “I feel, I feel like I can’t breathe, and not in a ‘I might have covid’ way but in a ‘the crushing weight of not being able to do anything more than I already am’ kind of way. Y’know? There are people in and out of here so fast we can barely figure out what’s wrong with them.” Levi takes a shaky breath, pinching the metal over his nose a little tighter. It’s all Nico can do to stand there and listen knowing he feels just as helpless. “I mean you remember what I said probably, I’ve lost more patients now than I did the entirety of my internship.” 

 

“Yeah...” is all he can muster, always a man of elegant words. Nico groans at himself internally. 

 

“I’m not detached enough for this I know it,” Levi mumbles almost to himself, wiping away the tears from his face. The wiping turns into scrubbing at his eyes with a frustrated chuckle having irritated his contacts no doubt. “I just want to be able to stop feeling for a little while. Fuck.” 

 

His face scrunches in on itself, shining pulling at the corners of his eyes from where Nico is looking. He sighs though, and looks just about done talking. 

 

“Yeah. Yeah me too. Listen I know I was a terrible boyfriend but,” he stops himself short, crossing his arms and not quite meeting Levi’s eyes. It looks like he’s glaring, or maybe his contacts are still fucked from him fidgeting. Whatever the case, Nico mentions it to remind Levi, to remind himself, that there’s about every reason to hate him right now. 

 

And Levi chokes on something between a laugh and a sob, forcing his hands away from his face by wiping them down on his pants. “Yeah, yeah maybe, but can we... can we still get along? Cause I don’t think I can handle you hating me right now and I really don’t want to hate you.” Levi is looking at him hesitantly, and Nico knows his face is far from telling as he stares back. 

 

“I could really use a fucking friend right now,” Levi finally says and leans back against the metal to look out at the streets. 

 

Every word he’d been saving dies on his tongue. Yes, that right there had answered his question without him ever asking, but that’s not why. It’s midday in Seattle, which means it’s far too noisy even amidst a lockdown. It means that it’s windy and bright and the light shines on Levi’s shifting hair in a way that’s almost distracting. His face isn’t nearly as pained anymore, just tired. They’re all tired. If he looks Nico can see the vague imprint of a few damp fingers on the pant leg in view. He can see the redness in his eyes that he’s still touching too much- Nico should probably tell him to go rinse his face and fix his lenses- and the redness has traveled to every inch of the man’s face he can see above his mask. 

 

It’s exactly what he hadn’t been wanting, but in that moment all he can think is “don’t let him go.” Nico turns to watch the streets himself, glaring at the cars that pass. 

 

“Okay. I think I need that too.” 

 

Nico doesn’t need to look over to see the relief on Levi’s face. He does it anyway though. 

 

In the following weeks Nico keeps his distance, while they’re at work at least. It’s better that way, it’s what he keeps telling himself, he won’t be distracted and it lets Levi set the pace for what’s comfortable. Reasonable. Part of him realizes that he’s falling into old habits this way. Shifted glances and neutral posture and bland comments add up. He knows Levi sees it too, and it hurts a little more than he’d think every time the man pinches his brows or frowns with irritation. It finally builds over to a breaking point during one of their breaks some otherwise meaningless afternoon. 

 

They’re outside sitting on the wall at the front of the hospital. For a long while they’re quiet, taking the chance to not stress over the weight of the world. The sun is bolder and warmer but nothing is enough to fight a Seattle wind. Luckily it’s not enough to blow down telephone poles, no just enough to rattle the leaves overhead. 

 

“Did I piss you off?” 

 

The question catches Nico off guard, looking over to see Levi still staring at the passing pedestrians. His fingers tug at the sleeve of his undershirt but otherwise he’s hard to read. 

 

“No, why do you think you should have?” It seems like there’s always something he can’t quite catch. A thin wall of ice between them so he’s always there but never enough to really get it. Briefly he thinks that Levi’s metaphors have rubbed off on him and not in a good way before focusing back in on the question. 

 

Levi shakes his head and Nico thinks he hears a chuckle. “Not that I know of, I just wanted to make sure because it seems like it but you’re still you so it’s hard to tell.” Ouch, however right that was there’s a bite to the words. 

 

Nico wants to... apologize maybe. Or explain? What he really wants to do is to force the words from the back of his head to his mouth for once but the thought of even trying makes him want to paint the sidewalk (actually the inside of his mask) with his lunch and that’s far from appealing. What he eventually decides on is “that wasn’t my goal, I’m sorry man.” He places his hand on top of Levi’s, hoping his eyes show his honesty. 

 

It must work as well, Levi smiles and places his other hand over the top of theirs and squeezes before letting go. “Okay, cool.” He goes back to leaning on his hands and watching the shadows from the leaves cast on the pavement, but he’s not done talking. Never done talking, he missed that. 

 

“There was, when you,” he hesitates probably to chase his thought and force it into coherence, “you didn’t bail me out of practicing central lines, cause you knew I needed it, but you were there and you got food cause you knew it would make it more bearable right? You helped too. I mean there was a time I lost a patient and there wasn’t anything I could do but I felt miserable and you said ‘that sucks’ and yeah it really did. And then when you stayed with me all day in a room with a dead man you’d never met just so I wasn’t alone. I mean you were uncomfortable and antsy but you stayed.” Levi gestures at nothing, looks so intently at his hands Nico could be convinced there’s a real tangible object there that he just can’t see. Much like Levi’s point. Curse this. 

 

“And there was a night where we fought, I was at your house and I was pissed and I left. You followed me but you didn’t just let me walk away, and you didn’t stop me either. No you, you,” he stops to chuckle and turns his gaze to meet Nico’s. It’s burning. “You just passed me your jacket, you said it was cold outside and you told me to be safe. I have to think that stands for something.” 

 

Nico doesn’t get the chance to respond before Levi’s pager is going off and he’s hopping from the wall and running through the doors. For a brief second though, the Seattle sun was warmer and its Seattle breeze was cooler and the ice seemed to have disappeared. He really needs a nap. 

 

“Hey Levi, you free after work?” 

 

Levi doesn’t turn around but he acknowledges the man with a shrug, trying not to jostle the supplies he’s sorting. “If I’m not here I’m at home, so yeah I guess. What’s up?” 

 

Nico catches one of the packages before it can fall; he thinks it’s a sanitation kit, maybe PPE, he’s not paying too much attention. “You can come over if you want, shower and watch some movies. Figure it would be a nice break from trying to convince people to stay home from the benches out front.” The last part earns him a chuckle and a smile, Levi turning around now that his arms are empty. 

 

“Totally, I don’t think I ever got you to sit down and finish that sci-fi film with me.” Levi starts walking in another direction and Nico follows close behind. 

 

“Which one?” 

 

“Prospect, the one with the freaky green space planet.” 

 

Of course, because that’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Sounds like a plan, see you later,” Nico pats his shoulder and turns back to where he had come from, just a little bit lighter. 

 

Some force must be on his side today too because he has an hour before Levi is coming over. Jo had stolen him for a little longer at work but she promised to drive him herself so he supposes that evens the score. It’s not that Nico needs time to prepare, they’re not doing anything really, but there’s an urge to prepare in some way or form. He decides that setting out a change for once he showers and cuing the movie is enough to keep his hands busy. Not his mind though. 

 

Last time Levi had been at his place hadn’t been on good terms. Not that much had changed since then, void of all of his things being removed. It was a little more messy maybe, he wasn’t immune to the fuzz that comes with quarantine. Now half the reason anything had changed at all was on hold indefinitely. 

 

An hour passes quickly if you’re trying not to think, Nico decides, because there’s a knock at his door and his thoughts are allowed to rest again. Levi is practically bouncing at the door, complaining about having to stay longer and dropping his bag right against the couch and noticing that he’d remembered the movie and asking about the shower. It’s all rapid fire and just as comfortable as it had always been. If his home hadn’t remembered clearly it wasn’t as important as he thought. 

 

Nico takes the liberty of ordering food while he’s showering, once again the world is on his side because it arrives just a few minutes before Levi comes wandering back down the hall with a loose pair of shorts on and a towel in his hair. “Oh please tell me that’s from the Thai place a few streets over,” he says, plopping onto the couch next to him. 

 

“Yup, here,” Nico offers him one of the bags, the towel in hand immediately being abandoned over the back of the couch. Neither one hesitates to get comfortable, Levi settling against the arm of the couch with his knees up and the bowl balanced between them, and Nico practically laying down with his legs hanging off the front. He’s ready to start the movie but Levi snickers at his chopsticks with a weird look on his face. “Everything good?” 

 

“Huh?” He lowers his knees carefully so he can see, “oh yeah I was just expecting them to glow it threw me off guard.” 

 

Nico blinks a few times, “to glow?” 

 

Levi chuckles again, “yeah okay so Jo got me these lightsaber chopsticks as a joke, and I’ve been using them anyway cause why not. But they light up in different colors and I forgot for a second.” He looks a little sheepish but, glowing or not, it doesn’t stop him from eating. The movie starts and Nico can’t help the baffled smile on his face before he lays back again to watch.  

 

Sometime between then and the end of the evening, amongst discussing whether the movie had crystals made to look like eggs or eggs made to look like crystals, fighting over the throw blanket, and teasing each other over Levi’s still damp hair, Nico had ended up curled over his shoulder. He takes the chance to look down and brush still damp strands of hair away from Levi’s face. He’s scrolling through his phone, an occasional smile falling onto his face, but doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to him. For one time too many since the balcony he just watches. 

 

It’s not like they paint the picture of perfection in that moment, Nico knows he looks like he hasn’t slept in days. The dull blue glow from Levi’s phone is harsh on his angles and casts shadows on the rest, his hair is darker and not quite soft or shiny since he hadn’t taken the effort to finish toweling it off. Even hours later- no wonder he was so tired. Nico spares one last glance to the bright reflection of text in his eyes before sitting up and stretching. 

 

“You should probably head home, I don’t trust Jo not to lock you out,” Nico says, nudging Levi in the side and glancing at the clock across the room. It was only a little past eleven but morning shifts wait for no one. 

 

Levi groans but drags himself off the couch anyway. “She’d do it just to spite me.” Nico leans over the side of the couch to pass him his bag, grabbing their takeout trash to toss on the way. “Alright, see ya.” 

 

“Stay safe,” Nico offers a two fingered wave. He waits a few seconds after the door closes, then collapses backwards back onto the couch and drags his hands down his face. All he can see is slivers of orange on the ceiling, the hallway light casting into the room. He is so tragically screwed. 

 

Come a week or so later, Nico has yet to learn his lesson. He’d invited Levi over a couple more times, reasoning there was more they could do to relax in the comfort of his place. It’s not like they would be dropping by any bars or restaurants any time soon. They watched more weird movies, lamented their patients, slept, a lot, Levi even convinced him to play a few rounds of some card game. And he didn’t do half bad. It was good considering. 

 

“You wanna head over to mine and Jo’s after work?” Fuck. 

 

Nico looks at him curiously, but Levi is distracted sorting through charts. “Think she’d mind me being there,” he tries, and he’s not sure why he feels so weird about it. 

 

Levi turns to place two of the clipboards on the shelf, “no she’s gonna be at Jackson’s probably for the next few days, they’ve got a thing going on,” he turns quickly, “technically that wasn’t mine to share sorry.” 

 

Guilt rides his face in the form of a grimace but Nico makes a point to wave it off. Jo had her own shit going on, it’s why she’d invited Levi to move in he was fairly sure. It’s not everyday your husband leaves you right before a deadly pandemic. 

 

“Anyway, point being I wanted to take advantage of an empty place and try to cook something nice, figured you might wanna come?” The look in his eyes is enough to make him melt, wide and bright and questioning. “You can tell me about the lady who’s been pestering you all day and you’ll get a free meal out of it. Also me.” 

 

He knows it’s not a date, they never really went on dates when they were together, not often. Still he feels his shoulders tense and twitches the tip of his shoes. “Sure, someone has to stop you from burning the place down,” he says despite his better judgment. Levi chuckles and puts the rest of the clipboards back in their place. 

 

“Cool, alright,” he finger guns and it would be awkward if it were anyone else, but it’s not so he just walks away. Fuck. 

 

The first thing he notices when he gets inside is the scuff marks on the door. The paint is faded and chipped, scratched in some places. He nearly trips on a basket of Jo’s fidgets, tearing his gaze away from the door to the rest of the place. Levi is already set to the kitchen, pans and cutting boards and ingredients covering just about every inch of their small counter space. 

 

Nico takes a spot at the counter, sitting on one of the barstools pulled a little far back. “So, what’s the plan?” 

 

“I don’t know, roasted veggies, maybe some kind of seared chicken and sauce,” Levi says over the water, “I’m just gonna throw some stuff at a wall and see what sticks.” 

 

“Wait so you’re going into this blind?” It’s not that he doubts Levi but plans and preparation are just about the only thing keeping him from stumbling his way off the edge of the world. 

 

He dries his hands off with a towel before tossing it aside. “Sure, cooking isn’t like baking, you can kinda do whatever you want so long as you know what flavors are good.” He shrugs, “I know enough to feel my way through it.” 

 

Nico makes a noncommittal noise, watching Levi head for the knives. There’s a full set, and a sharpener attached to one of the cabinet doors. The logical side of him says that sharper knives are easier to work with, they make quick work of just about any food. The doctor side reminds him that the sharper the knife the safer it is. Despite the fear that comes with a sharp blade, they make cleaner cuts and are less likely to cause damage if you do manage to cut yourself. 

 

Levi doesn’t seem all too concerned, slicing what he thinks are sweet peppers while the oven preheats. Watching him work is surprisingly easy for Nico, he’s not doing anything himself but he’s not exactly needed. He keeps his eye on him for the most part, watching as he switches back and forth stumbling for steps. All things considered he doesn’t make a mess, doesn’t get hurt, and what’s cooking smells great at the least. It’s probably a half hour later when he gets pulled from his daze. 

 

“Alright I just have to wait for the timer, let what’s on the stove simmer,” Levi announces, Rinsing his hands off again. Nico tosses him the towel from before which he barely catches. “I’m gonna put on the tv, but honestly I don’t want to pay attention to it. It’ll probably just be background noise so feel free to fuck with it.” 

 

He hums in what he thinks is agreement, settling onto their couch with crossed legs. Briefly it registers that most of these things are Jo’s, from the sweater strewn across the back of the couch to the books stacked on the side table. The throw pillow smells vaguely like her honey shampoo and Nico can’t help but wonder why he knows that. The place feels lived in and warm, far cry from what he was expecting from an abandoned wife and a sleepless intern turned resident. 

 

A blanket falls half into his lap, the couch dipping beside him. Levi is leaning back against the arm of the couch, palms of his hands digging into his eyes. They’re tired, both stressed and overworked. If it weren’t for the looming alarm in the kitchen he’s sure they’d both be asleep right now. Not sure how long until it goes off, Nico lets himself fall into the comfortable silence. He leans his head back into the plush and closes his eyes, the sound from the tv just low enough to be indecipherable and instead forming a quiet, pleasant buzz filling the room. 

 

It doesn’t take long for the stress to melt away. So many things had happened lately, so much grief... neither had fully processed it. Trying to only ends in a headache. Nico wants to keep it that way for the evening, opting to focus on the full sizzle from behind him and the fuzzy fabric over his knee instead. 

 

He figures he must have drifted in and out of sleep in that time, hearing the alarm go off for only a second before it's silenced. Levi is already in the kitchen, and Nico can hear him shifting things around. The dull clunk of a pot, a wooden spoon, water from the sink, glass on the counter. He wants to turn around but at the same time can’t bring himself to move an inch. So he waits, only a minute or so, until Levi walks back to the couch. 

 

Nico opens his eyes to see him sitting rather excited next to him, a plate placed on the coffee table waiting for him. When Levi had invited him over for breakfast he figured there must’ve been a lot he hadn’t seen. His guess being several failed attempts and the luck of a fluke accident on his side. It seemed to be the best explanation for why somehow french toast tasted like heaven on a plate. Now? Now he suspects witchery. 

 

Licking the sauce off his fork Nico asks “how did you learn to cook man, this feels fake.” 

 

For a second it sounds harsh but Levi laughs and nearly chokes on the vegetable he just put in his mouth. “Well I mean ninety percent of our holidays are ‘thank god we survived, let’s eat’ I didn’t have much of a choice,” he offers, being sure to take a smaller bite this time. 

 

It’s Nico’s turn to nearly choke on his dinner, holding his hand in front of his mouth. When he catches his breath to look up he notices Levi had switched to his glasses at some point after they got there. He chuckles to himself one more time before it fades into a smile, going back to eating. 

 

For one time too many Nico gets caught in staring. The lighting from the tv contrasts with the kitchen light making Levi look almost a cherry red color. The soft smile, ruffled curls, and crooked glasses all a reminder of when they’d first met. It’s all the awkward confidence that he loves- loved about the man. An uncomfortable feeling creeps back up his shoulders and he focuses on halfheartedly skewering the food on his plate.  

 

Overall it had turned out as an easy night. They unloaded patient stories, ate a very nice meal, and at the least Nico was able to stop worrying about everything for a little while. All of that comes crashing down hours after he gets home. He had cleaned up, changed, even settled down to relax for a while longer. Fifteen minutes had turned into a few hours before he convinced himself to get up and brush his teeth so he could actually go to sleep. That’s when the dam breaks. 

 

Nestled among the brushes and the gel and the pins and the toothpaste is a wide toothed comb. It’s not Nico’s, not that he knows of he’d have little use for it himself. It’s bright blue and stands out against the counter so he’s not sure how he hadn’t noticed sooner. Something Levi had left one of the few times he’d showered maybe? He moves it to the bedside table so he can lay down, acting as a reminder to give it back to the man. Trying not to let it stress him out too much by brushing his teeth doesn’t help though. 

 

The thought nags at his mind for far longer than it has any right to. Nico remembers it as early as being in Seattle, which means it’s likely from when he and Levi had started dating. Hanging around for convenience then since none of Nico’s own combs stood a chance against thick hair or curls.

 

 Begrudgingly he plucks it off the side table, turning it over in his hands a few times. Anything of Levi’s had left with their relationship, Nico had made sure of it. One or two mementos were in a photo box at the top of his closet but that’s how it went with all the people he cared about. A couple printed pictures and movie stubs, maybe a sweater that his intern class had gotten for a holiday of some sort. He’s frustrated that he can’t remember why it’s there and even more frustrated that it bothers him so much. 

 

All it is is a comb, a convenience that had become of use again lately, something to hold on to just in case. And if their arrangement ever changed he could just give it back. It still smelled like mint which meant it had been used recently. It’s just a comb. Except Levi had his own didn’t he? Nico recalls a set of two black ones that he’d seen the man use, although he can’t pinpoint where they’d been at the time. So why would he have a third, exactly the same? Nico must have bought it then, to assuage the endless complaints after nights over. 

 

Nico comes to the conclusion to keep it around, placing it into the holder on his counter for later. Technically it was his, and on the chance that Levi needed it it would be there. It’s a lot of convincing for something so small but it’s a bright blue reminder of all that had happened since he moved to Seattle, to Grey Sloan Memorial. And in a small way it’s a trophy. Even if it is his, it’s not really, he doesn’t need it, it doesn’t need to be there. But it is. 

 

Falling back onto his pillows with a loud groan, scrubbing his face with his hands. He may as well be trying to jam the blue plastic into his brain. He makes a split decision as a last resort and clicks into his phone. It rings for barely a split second before a groggy “I hate you,” comes from the other side. 

 

“Sorry, kid asleep?” Nico has the nerve to feel guilty, but not enough to hang up. He hadn’t spoken to Link properly in ages. Between the man being stuck at home taking care of between four and six kids at any given moment there wasn’t much room. 

 

“As he should be it's three in the morning,” Link stage whispers. 

 

Nico winces and pulls the phone away from his face to check the time. Low and behold it’s 3:27 am, “sorry, shit-“ he tries to say, and gets cut off. 

 

There’s a little shuffling in the background, “no no it’s fine, I mean it’s not fine but we haven’t properly talked in weeks and I would appreciate the break.” He sounds tired but still bright as ever. Nico thinks he hears more shuffling and a whisper but he’s also tossing his phone onto the bed on speaker so he can take his fingers through his hair. 

 

“All good?” 

 

There’s a “no go to bed,” followed by “Ame’ it’s fine you go get some rest.” Nico sits in silence for a few moments before Link’s voice returns. “Alrighty, all good. Hit me, I have a feeling you called because you needed help.” 

 

“Rude,” Nico says playfully. 

 

Link laughs quietly, “but true?” 

 

“Yeah, yeah true,” a sigh, “I got caught up in my head, that's all, lot to think about lately.” It’s a vague answer at best but if he doesn’t have to outright say he called his mentor and friend over relationship problems then he’s not going to. 

 

“Hospital stuff or personal? No one else died right?” Link’s voice is a little more tense than before and the fact that him admitting defeat raises alarm bells is probably very telling. 

 

Nico cycles through a few thoughts in his head, huffing and glaring at his sheets. What he eventually says is “Link it’s just a comb,” although it’s not what he was going for. A baffled silence follows. 

 

“Okay I like to think I’m pretty good at reading you at this point, I’ve had a shit ton of practice, but you lost me.” There’s a hint of amusement there but nothing much else. He sounds like a dad. 

 

Nico smears his hands over his face again and takes a deep breath. He counts over in fours, taking a few breaths before he speaks again. “I still really like him Link, I want to try again.” 

 

There’s a beat of silence. “How did we get here from combs?” 

 

“Ignore the comb I’m freaking out here,” and while he doesn’t sound like it, Nico certainly feels like it. Every part of him is tense and his bed squeaks each time his foot thumps against it when his leg shakes. 

 

“Alright, okay, so why now? At three in the morning on a Thursday,” Link asks. 

 

Why was he? “To be fair the comb started it-“ 

 

“Combs are picking fights now? Got it.” 

 

“-but it’s been building up for a while now.” Nico thinks back to the balcony again and all he can see is damp blue fingerprints. “Honestly I don’t think it ever went away.” Nico watches as seconds add up on his screen. He knew they’d both be chewing on a lot. 

 

Link sighs over the phone in the form of a dull crackle, “I hope this isn’t news to you, I’m fairly sure it isn’t. You two split when you started the travel program, that was a defensive thing right?” 

 

Discomfort crawls up Nico’s spine. “I like to think we’re not the people we were two years ago, but I was never really good at reading him.” he can practically hear the resigned look on Link’s face. 

 

“You two have different love languages, sometimes it made sense and sometimes it didn’t. It's not that you can’t, I know you can, it’s just hard. It’s hard as hell especially for you.” There's another crackle through the phone, this time a laugh. Nico picks it back up. “Levi seems willing he just has to know where to start.” 

 

Nico’s lip stings between his teeth. Link is hardly ever wrong, even now he knows it. He breathes in until his chest feels heavy. “For the first time I feel like I’m exactly where I want to be... I don’t know what to do with it.” 

 

“Can I share my thoughts?” 

 

“Mm.” 

 

“I’ve never seen you like this for someone. My advice is to just, take your time. Start small? And go to bed cause while I love that you called I’m half asleep as we speak.” Link yawns as if to prove his point. 

 

Nico takes a glance at the clock and cringes. “Yeah, shit yeah of course.” A pause and then, “you’re such a dad.” 

 

“Yeah, yeah, I’m a tired old grump. You call me again though, I’m not done with you yet man.” 

 

“I’ll talk to you tomorrow or something, night Link.” Nico smiles and hangs up the phone before falling backwards onto hit pillows with a soft “thump.” 

 

For all intents and purposes, Nico doesn’t take Links advice. He lets over two months roll by without making much of a dent in their routine. Maybe they cuddle more than before but some things are too heavy to handle on your own. So he lets it settle, doesn’t let anything on. It’s easier that way, he thinks in a mocking way as they pull up to his place. 

 

There’s a twinkle in Levi’s eyes as he steps into the main room. He does a spin, looking at the vast empty space. “This place is nice, are you planning on moving in?” 

 

“Already renting the place actually, I’ve been meaning to for a while,” Nico explains, dropping the keys on the kitchen bar. “What do you think?” There’s not much inside it, a couch and a few scattered boxes, he still wants to paint it. 

 

“It’s bigger than your last place,” Levi leans against the back of the sofa, tilting forward to look down the hallway, “it’s nice.” 

 

Nico beams, a burst of pride filling to his fingers. He stretches them and shakes it off. “Yeah well, that was the point.” A soft chuckle falls out, eyes trained on his hands as he takes a few steps closer. 

 

Smiling right back Levi looks oblivious. His head is tilted to the side. “I didn’t think you’d need a bigger place to be honest, you last one was nice. Didn’t think you’d want one.” He’s still examining what he can, gaze trailing along the walls and scattered boxes with interest. 

 

Nico shuffles his feet and clears his throat, “yeah...” he stumbles for where to start in his head. “Levi.” 

 

“Hm?” Finally Levi looks back up at him and catches his eye. For a split second his eyebrows scrunch. “Everything okay?” 

 

“Yes, yeah no I just,” shifting his balance from one foot to another Nico catches the back of his neck with his hand. “I know I’ve said this already but I wasn’t the best boyfriend-“ 

 

“Nico-“ 

 

“No it’s okay. I got, I got scared I think. Protective and defensive, I did some shitty things that I’m sorry for.” He breathes in until he can’t anymore, trying not to see what Levi is thinking. “But that doesn’t mean I stopped caring I, I never stopped and I still do. A lot. And I want to be able to be who we both deserve.” 

 

For a brief second, Nico can see the furrow on Levi’s face behind the glint of his glasses. Nico looks away. 

 

“I love you, that never changed. And I didn’t say it the way you needed to hear it but I...” stepping back to gesture at the room around them, Nico shrugs. Finally he meets Levi’s gaze and keeps it. “I’m not asking you to move in we’ve got a long way to go but if you’re willing, if you want to. I’m willing to make the space, I want to make the space. I want you to be in it.” 

 

Nico’s hands make fists at his sides while he tries to read Levi’s face. It’s almost sad, with his eyes squinted and his lip between his teeth. But then he laughs. He laughs so bright and soft that he’s leaning half over and his eyes are lost to his cheeks. When he does look up they’re sparkling again, hopeful. 

 

Levi takes a step forward, Nico still standing hesitant and still. “Can I kiss you?” Levi finally asks

 

“Yes.” 

 

Before Nico can do or say anything else Levi is in his arms. Everything narrows down to Levi. A gentle kiss on his lips, one soft hand on the nape of his neck, the other holding his own firm and tight, the subtle smell of honey, what he thinks is peanut brittle. Nico catches the side of his jaw with his free hand and decides that he doesn’t want to let go. 

 

When the world starts turning again everything feels just a little bit lighter. Nico frees his other hand so he can hold Levi’s face with both, rubbing his cheeks with his thumbs gently. 

 

“So is that a yes?” He can’t help but ask. 

 

“Yes. Yes that was a yes. I’m not going anywhere.” 

 

And maybe, just maybe, Nico doesn’t feel so scared this time.