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Lakes and Laps

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There’s nothing that says it’s the off-season more than getting out on a boat, hanging out at a lake or at someone’s cabin with a bunch of the guys.

They’d been up early to work out before it got too hot; Nick’s got a decent weight room set up by this point, and there’s enough space that a couple of them can work around each other anyway. They’d sunk a few beers the night before but he’s not hungover, and Saader and Mikey and Connor all seem to be about the same. Jason’s a bit quieter, but that’s normal for him, Nick’s not seeing anything out of the ordinary there. No one has a whole lot to say until they’re getting set to take the boat out, breakfast and a post-workout snack both a distant memory. Maybe they’ll catch enough for dinner, but if not, Nick’s pretty sure there’s enough steaks in the freezer still.

They filled up a cooler with a few drinks and some snacks, and it’s only when they’ve all piled in off the jetty that Nick looks around and realizes that now they’re all adults—professional athletes to boot—the boat is… not actually all that big. They fit, barely, but it’s going to be tight. There’s definitely not going to be any stretching out to tan until they get back to the jetty and the deck chairs that Nick hopes are all still piled up around the patio.

Mikey takes the wheel out of habit, and Nick leans back against the side of the handrail, trying not to loom over his shoulder too obviously. Saader’s right beside him—admittedly, with four of them crammed in the cockpit around two chairs it’s more like he’s half on top of Saader, but it’s no big deal. Him and Saader are good, they’ve wound up in tighter proximity than this before. It’s fine. If Nick’s appreciating the way it feels to have Saader tucked up against his side, well, no one else needs to know that. And if he starts enjoying it too much, well, the lake is warm but it’s not that warm.

They drop anchor a few hundred yards out—arguably they could swim back to shore easily enough, Nick thinks, and he’s pretty sure if they run out of snacks someone would, but it’s a good place to settle down and drop a few lines. It’s not the best time of day for the fish to be biting—if Nick wanted to be guaranteed dinner he’d have come out around sun up—but they’ll probably get a few. The guys all settle down and start divvying up lines, jostling for space as they perch on the gunwales. Nick ruthlessly evicts Connor from the copilot’s seat and leans back, legs stretched out in front of him, enjoying the heat of the sun on his skin, letting the quiet sounds of the other guys chirping and trash-talking each other wash over him.

“Gonna fall asleep like that, Leds,” Saader says, leaning against the windscreen, his shin casually knocking into Nick’s. “Not worried about dinner?”

“What do you think I brought you idiots for, huh?” Nick replies, barely opening his eyes. His sunglasses are sliding down his nose, and he catches a glimpse over the top of the lenses; Saader looks relaxed and pleased, somehow already more tan after like half an hour in the sun. Nick’s only a little jealous.

It’s the first time he’s had this many people staying out at his place on the lake; last summer it had mostly been him and Mikey and Jason, Connor off doing his own thing and vacationing with his girl, and it had been fun, but not quite the same as the long weekends with a ton of friends that Nick remembers from high school. Though the boat definitely had not seemed so small with just the three of them. Maybe Nick should put some of his new contract towards upgrading that, too, at some point. Something to think about, anyway. If nothing else, it’s a distraction from what he shouldn’t be spending too long dwelling on. Nick scratches the back of his neck, resettles the baseball cap on his head and hopes he doesn’t look too obviously like he’s fidgeting.

He’s pretty sure he hadn’t fallen asleep, but if he had, Connor kicking at his ankle and demanding he move would have woken him up again. Grumbling, Nick lets him sit down again—just because he’s technically a guest shouldn’t mean he gets dibs, although for a white dude he’s looking pretty pink, and the cockpit is at least shaded by the roof. Nick’s a good host, and he definitely doesn’t want to have to deal with anyone getting sunstroke, that’s for sure.

When Nick looks over it’s to see Brandon’s stolen Connor’s spot along the bench seat at the side of the boat, knees knocking against the cooler, flipflops dangling off his feet as he stretches out, a perfect mirror of how Nick had been sitting moments ago. Great minds think alike and all that. There’s also no room for Nick to sit down again; Mikey is hogging the majority of the space along the stern, tackle and bait boxes either side of him, leaving Brandon maybe a third of the bench to sit on. Brandon isn’t even bothering to pretend to fish, which puts him ahead of Jason, who’s claimed the other chair and has a hand casually resting on his rod while he does something on his phone with the other. Nick’s gonna laugh if he drops it in again this summer, since apparently he just does not learn.

“C’mon, I don’t wanna stand here until we’re done,” Nick complains, expecting Brandon and Mikey to shuffle over, but instead Brandon just reaches out for him, wraps one big hand around his hip and tugs him back.

Nick goes, because he’s too surprised to do anything but follow along as Brandon settles with him in his lap, his ass firmly planted over Brandon’s thighs, the backs of his knees tucked against Brandon’s. He’s so fucking warm and Nick can hardly breathe at first, too conscious of how close they are, how the heat of Brandon’s skin is radiating through their swimsuits, and Brandon’s hand is still on his hip. He’s pretty sure he could draw a map with his eyes closed of every millimeter of skin that’s covered by Brandon’s palm.

Nick gets a shallow breath in eventually, which is good, because passing out then and there would be really fucking embarrassing. Although at least Saader would probably haul him out of the lake before he drowned if he did fall in mid-faint. He’s overly conscious of every tiny movement, every breath, because Brandon has to be able to feel everything. It’s been a while since Nick had anyone sit in his lap, but he remembers what it’s like, doesn’t want to move too much in case that makes it weird, in case the inevitable result of heat and friction puts them both into an embarrassing situation.

Although—

If Brandon wanted to avoid that, why did he just let Nick sit on him in the first place?

Nick’s no lightweight, and yet Brandon doesn’t seem to even notice the extra weight. Nick’s not sure what he’s benching these days but it’s clearly more than enough. Nick shifts and then bites his lip, because all that had done was make him all the more aware—overly aware—that he was pretty sure he could feel Brandon’s dick, starting to chub up a little, reacting to that movement in the most predictable way. Nick tenses up and prepares to try to make a mostly-dignified escape, he can say something and go check up on—something on the other side of the boat, maybe whatever Connor is doing, since he’s totally lost track of what anyone else on the damn boat is doing.

But Brandon’s fingers tighten on his hip, and—

His thumb has slipped above the waistband of Nick’s trunks, is rubbing slow circles into Nick’s skin, and Nick feels a roaring in his ears, blinks hard as he tries to figure out what’s going on. Brandon is—

Is sliding his fingers under the waistband of Nick’s trunks?

Nick stops breathing again for a moment, giving Brandon a second to back off once he realizes what he’s doing, but he doesn’t, Brandon just reaches around him to grab a drink from the cooler, his chest firm and warm against Nick’s back for a long second. Brandon leans back once he’s got it, pops the tab and brings the can up to his mouth before taking a gulp and setting it back by his foot, sliding on the metal grating of the floor. And then, like it’s nothing, he just fucking casually rests his other hand on Nick’s thigh, shifts enough that his palm catches on the leg of Nick’s trunks and drags the fabric up a little. Nick is taking short, shallow breaths in through his mouth and mentally floundering, not sure what to make of this.

He’s—fuck, he’s getting turned on by this, by this little, and how sad is it that it takes so little to get him this wound up. And then he shifts his weight and Brandon makes a tiny sound that probably only Nick is close enough to hear, and Nick breathes out, “Oh,” because Brandon is definitely also getting turned on by this. Getting turned on by Nick. This has to be on purpose, because Nick can’t imagine any other way they’d wind up in this position that didn’t end with Brandon making an excuse to move or at the very least shoving Nick off him. Brandon’s getting off on this, and Nick feels like he’s going to explode with the effort of trying to hide what that’s doing to him.

Brandon’s turned on enough that Nick can feel it for sure, and he wishes like hell it was just the two of them there. As much as he loves Mikey and Jason and Connor he would, quite happily at this point, see them all on the moon or at the very least anywhere but this boat. God, he wants to turn around and push Brandon flat on the—well, maybe not on the damp and slightly fish-guts-y metal of the floor, but anywhere else flat and mostly clean would do.

He turns a little, maybe on purpose grinding a little, just to feel the way Brandon sucks in a fast breath, tries to catch his eyes. He wants to—they need to talk about this, but they can’t, right then, all Nick can do is feel impatience burning along his veins, desperate for a chance to make an excuse to drag Brandon off into a quiet corner where they can talk. Where Nick can touch him like he’s dying to.

“Later,” Brandon murmurs into Nick’s ear, and he shudders, because that’s as good a promise as anything, even if he has no clue what made this the time, why they’re here all of a sudden, rather than any other day in any other way.

“Hang on, I gotta insta this,” Jason says, and his voice breaks into the bubble around them, and Nick looks up just in time to catch the phone angled toward them all, notices the guys all crowding into the shot, and he does his best to wear a normal looking smile as he perches over Brandon’s lap.

Apparently for once there’s actually okay cell coverage out at the lake, because Jason messes around with his phone for a few seconds and then shoves it into his back pocket, apparently satisfied. Nick pulls out his phone to check what it looks like posted, and shit, Brandon’s hand was in frame, too, which was good—Nick is totally fucking saving this picture—and also bad, because fuck, everyone else could see it too.

Then again, thinking back on some of the pics that have wound up on twitter and insta over the years, well.

His friends have definitely seen and done worse, that’s for sure.

“After lunch?” Nick mutters, quiet enough for Brandon’s ears alone. They’ll probably all wind up going for a nap after lunch; it’s too ingrained a habit to shift if they don’t have to, and Nick’s got a room to himself, the benefit to it being his house. He hadn’t thought about it as much more than no one else getting a chance to drip lakewater all over his stuff, but now he’s thinking about that double bed and the door that closes and locks and about Brandon’s thumb, still tracing tiny circles on his skin and yeah, Nick’s going to have a good day.

It does mean that he’s lost any interest in fishing for the day, which is potentially out of character enough that someone might say something, but then again—Nick leans down, enjoying the way Brandon’s thighs tense under him as Nick’s weight shifts, and swipes Brandon’s beer, picking it up and tipping it back to drink the better part of what’s left in it. Yeah, then again: Nick doesn’t care.

Brandon pokes at his side with one hand and complains as expected, calls Nick a lazy jerk and threatens to dump him in the lake, but he doesn’t actually move, and he does still say thank you when Nick leans forward to grab them a bottle each from the cooler, half-turning to press the chilled bottle into Brandon’s hand. He gets a tiny glimpse of Brandon’s face at that point, can see the cool, cheerful mask that he’s wearing, an easy smile pulling at the dimples in his cheeks, radiating warmth and simple friendly affection, but the hand on Nick’s hip hasn’t moved in long minutes, his fingers just about welded to Nick’s skin, and there’s a heat banked in the back of Brandon’s expression that Nick doesn’t think he’s imagining.

They sit quietly like that while Connor and Mikey shove each other, while Jason tells them both to quit scaring the fish away, although honestly they’re all making enough noise that Nick doesn’t think his preoccupation is going to be what robs them of a fresh dinner. Nick slowly works his way through the beer, can feel Brandon shift a little behind him as he drinks his own, and it’s just good to be out in the fresh air, sun warm above them, reflecting off the calm water of the lake. Nick can feel sweat beading up on his forehead, around where his cap’s sitting close to his skin, can feel it over his back and shoulders where he’s so close to Brandon, body warmth and the heat of the day combined to ratchet up his temperature.

He’s more and more sure as the morning ticks along that Brandon’s into this, into him. He moves just a little, experimentally, and yep, maybe it’s been a while—longer than he quite wants to admit—but Nick knows what a boner pressed up against the small of his back feels like, and Brandon’s movements then were definitely more of the ‘trying to hide how turned on he was’ variety than anything like leg cramps or pins and needles.

“I can give you a massage later if that’d help,” Nick offers, quietly, and fully aware that Brandon will know what he means by that if the other three don’t, and Brandon makes a muffled choking noise and just says, “No, I’m good, thanks,” and hisses into Nick’s ear, “Fucking hell, Leds.”

Fucking hopefully, Nick thinks, and rubs his palm over Brandon’s knee. Brandon’s not the only one trying to discreetly adjust a hard-on by that point, and there’s only so long he can casually rest an empty beer bottle dangling from one carefully-angled hand over his lap.

The other three get bored with Nick and Brandon more or less ignoring them then, and the chirping gets a lot less fishing focused and a bit more vicious, and that actually helps, takes Nick’s mind off it as the sun rises higher and the day heats up even more. He’s still not moving out of Brandon’s lap, though, desperately relieved that no one seems to think anything of it. There really isn’t a whole lot of room in the boat.

Nick’s about to itch out of his skin with impatience as it gets closer to noon; he’s been ready to call it a day on the boat for a good hour now, and squirming is only going to make that worse. For both of them.

“You guys about ready to head back in?” he suggests diffidently, expecting agreement, but Connor snorts and says, “c’mon, we almost had a second one there, I wanna give this another half hour at least.”

“Yeah,” Mikey agrees, “Maybe you’d be less bored if you actually tried to fish?”

Nick shakes his head. “Not feeling it today,” he says easily, shrugging. “You guys seriously want to sit out here another hour?”

“I’m good,” Connor says, and “Me too,” Jason adds, half his attention on his phone and not on his line or the rest of them. Nick just shakes his head, abruptly impatient and ready to get moving. Maybe he can talk them into it.

“Seriously? What if we run back in for a minute, you guys can go out again…” he trails off invitingly, but him and Mikey have been coming out here for years now, and Mikey’s having none of that.

“Leds, if you wanna go back in that badly, we’re like 300 feet out, swim back.” Mikey tosses it out there as a challenge, half-meant, but they’ve done it occasionally, and hell, the idea of getting in the water sounds pretty appealing. Maybe some exercise will get him back on an even keel.

“Yeah, I think I will,” Nick says, and he gets to his feet, doesn’t make eye contact with Brandon who’s moved, slow like he’s a little stiff—fuck, what a choice of words, Nick thinks, and hopes his blush isn’t noticeable under the tan. “Anyone else wanna get back early?”

Brandon waits a couple of seconds—just long enough for Nick to really start sweating again—and then says, almost idly, “Yeah, a swim sounds good to me, actually.”

Nick kicks off his flipflops, he’s lost enough pairs by now to know there’s no benefit to trying to swim with them on, and he can hop across the gravel barefoot, it’ll be fine. It’s not nearly hot enough out to pick up a burn from that.

“Well, Saader, race you back,” he says, and pulls his t-shirt over his head, dropping it and his baseball cap over top of the cooler, and without any further adieu he steps up onto the gunwale beside Mikey, braces himself with a hand on his shoulder and then dives neatly in.

It’s deep enough that he can’t quite see the bottom when he opens his eyes, although he does see the wave of disturbed water that signals Brandon following him. He hadn’t lost much time at all in stripping off his own shirt, and Nick gives himself a split-second to notice that before kicking strongly and heading back to the surface for a breath. He wants to get back to the cabin, sure, and he wants to get back there with Brandon, but, well. They’re professional athletes. And Nick had said, ‘Race you,’ and frankly?

He wants to win.

Nick’s spent his whole life swimming in lakes over summer; there’s nothing new about that, and nothing to fear, either. He’s kicked enough pondweed in his time to be wary of getting a foot caught, but doesn’t notice or care for more than a second about the faintly slimy way it trails over his calf while he swims.

There shouldn’t be any eels down this end of the lake either, although they had been talking that up before heading out on the boat. Maybe it’ll slow Saader down a touch, remembering. Nick’s a strong swimmer, and he’s had enough training to settle into a fast, tidy crawl, the stroke coming back to him easily as muscle memory takes over. When he turns his head to take a breath, it’s to see Brandon more or less keeping pace with him, which Nick wasn’t quite expecting. Then again, Brandon’s probably spent most of his summers in the water when he’s not training, too. They’re an even match in most ways, Nick thinks, but then tells himself he needs to stop getting distracted if he’s going to win this race.

Brandon keeps his face out of the water for a couple of strokes, which throws Nick off his, too, especially when he keeps his ears clear long enough to hear Brandon call him a dirty cheater before kicking harder and starting to pull slightly ahead of Nick.

There’s no way he’s getting away with that so Nick gets his head down and concentrates on catching him, pulls close enough to Brandon they’re both churning up the water enough to make it more difficult to breathe and to judge how close they are to the rocky pebbled beach in front of the lake house.

Nick sneaks a glance behind himself back at the boat where the others are, as expected, yelling encouragement and chirping but are also probably far enough away now that they won’t be able to see everything, so Nick takes a deep breath and duck-dives, eeling sideways for a moment to hook his fingers into the waistband of Brandon’s trunks and tugging hard. Brandon’s momentum takes him past Nick for a second, but that also helps Nick, because the cloth stays closer to him while Brandon keeps moving forward. Nick hangs on right up until Brandon twists hard to get away from him, treading water and then—with a disgusted look that has laughter hiding around the edges—standing up in what turns out to be waist-deep water trying to pull his trunks back up over his ass.

Nick hadn’t got them the whole way off, and it’s probably no more skin than he would’ve shown sometimes with loose sweats sagging at the end of a season, but there’s some raucous whooping coming from the boat, and Mikey yells something about being blinded, because while most of Brandon’s skin has tanned already, picking up color from time spent out in the sun, his ass is as pale as most other hockey players that Nick’s ever seen, and the contrast was fairly fucking obvious.

And on display for more than a couple of seconds, because the only thing worse than trying to peel off wet clothes is trying to pull them back on again.

“You fucking dick,” Brandon yells in his direction, but Nick had only paused long enough to appreciate the fruits of his labors, before kicking out and making his way to water shallow enough that it was easier to stand up and jog than to try and keep swimming.

He makes it over the smooth water-worn pebbles and collapses onto the grass, browning and short in the summer sun, waiting for Brandon to catch up, which he does fairly quickly. He drops down to sprawl out beside Nick only a few moments later, soaking wet and dripping where his shoulder brushes Nick’s, where his hip is lined up warm and solid beside Nick’s forearm, just barely touching.

“I win,” Nick says smugly, enjoying the way Brandon’s eyes spark with competitive fire, and the way Brandon knocks their shoulders together—not lightly at all—and says, “Yeah, we’ll see about that.”

There’s a heat in his words that promises a lot for later, and Nick tells himself to just catch his breath first and then see about going inside. And then see about what Brandon’s actually putting on the table there.

“Bring it on, Saader,” Nick says, fighting to keep the easy, playful tone. He’s pretty sure he’s been reading this right, but if he’s wrong—well, he wants a fallback plan. And not looking like he cares too much is about the best one he can come up with on short notice.

Brandon elbows him, rolls onto his side, lifting up on his elbow and forearm to look down at Nick. He’s blocking the sun on that angle, which Nick mostly appreciates, but it also means he’s backlit, that Nick really can’t read his expression.

He’s also still dripping wet, and Nick blinks hard as a few drops of water roll down from Brandon’s hair and come off the point of his chin, a cool touch on Nick’s cheeks where he’s already starting to dry out again in the sun.

Brandon sounds the slightest bit uncertain when he starts to speak again, and his voice is low, deliberately making sure it doesn’t carry across the water.

“Just now, on the boat,” Brandon starts to say. “Did you—uh, you wanted me to come back to the cabin with you, right?” You wanted me, he doesn’t say, but might as well. Nick does. Nick really fucking does.

“Yeah,” Nick says, throat dry, knows his voice doesn’t sound quite right.
Maybe it’s better that they’re having this conversation out in the open. They’ve both got a way to retreat if they need it, and while they’re still in sight of the others—which means Nick can’t grab Brandon and tug him closer to see if kissing works out as well as he hopes it will—it also means no one can sneak up on them without them noticing. No one’s getting close enough to hear them by accident. It’s safer, and Nick likes that; likes that Brandon seems to understand it, too.

“I jumped in and then halfway to shore I started wondering if you were actually trying to get some alone time,” Brandon admits; quiet, rueful. “Figured I should check before anything else… happens.”

“I think what happens next is going to be better with you than it would be alone,” Nick says, and then blushes, realizing how that sounds. It’s true enough, and he means it just like that, too, but—well, at least Brandon is laughing as well, his shoulders shaking, and Nick’s eyes must be adjusting because he can see the curve of Brandon’s smile well enough now, easy and warm and inviting.

“You wanna go inside and leave them to it?” Brandon asks, shifting so that he’s sitting up, still looking at Nick.

“Yes,” Nick says definitively. “I would like that. Uh, how much noise do you think, um.” It’s not like Nick hasn’t had sex before; it’s not even like Nick hasn’t slept with friends before, but he still finds himself quailing a little at the prospect of asking Brandon how loud he usually gets.

“I can be quiet,” Brandon says. “How about you?”

“I can try,” Nick says, and wonders if he should maybe put the TV on when they get inside.

Would it be better or worse to not hear the others when they come back in, he wonders, because now that he is thinking about it, Nick’s pretty sure he’d got shit from Andy afterward almost every time he’d picked up and gone home to their apartment. Did Andy say something to Brandon? Nick’s not sure if that’s flattering or not.

“Guess we’ll find out,” Brandon says, lightly, but the tension in his shoulders belies that, and he’s still looking intently at Nick, in a way that’s making him blush harder, feel warmer.

“I mean, I can keep my mouth shut,” Nick starts to say, “I mean, wow, no, no saving that, is there?”

“Not really,” Brandon says, and gets to his feet, waiting impatiently for Nick to follow. “C’mon, Leds. I’m kind of—we’ve already had like an hour of foreplay, can we please just go somewhere I can touch you already?”

Nick gets to his feet so fast that he practically levitates. He doesn’t need to be asked twice. “Fuck, yes.”

They don’t run back to the cabin, but it’s close enough.

Nick insists that they stop and towel off roughly, at least so they’re not dripping all over the floor when they go in, and if nothing else, he doesn’t really want a trail of water leading to his room. That only takes a minute or two, and then Nick hits the stairs, can feel Brandon following him so closely that if he stopped abruptly they’d be touching. Brandon’s solid, Brandon has momentum; if Nick stopped suddenly Brandon would knock him flat.

There’s probably an irony in that somewhere.

Probably best not to think too much about it.

He pushes the door to his room open wide, steps inside and then spins on his heel to face Brandon, reaching out to steady him in the doorway, hands falling naturally to his hips.

Brandon’s skin is smooth, sparsely covered with dark hair, displaying muscle definition that speaks to good habits but not obsessing over it. His skin is still cool from the lake, water evaporating off, and Nick feels so overheated that he can’t even think straight.

Nothing Nick is thinking is particularly straight, then.

“You’re so hot,” he says, dumbly, and it’s like his brain has shorted out, the cord for the controller yanked out by a careless motion. His palms are stuck to Brandon’s sides but not taking any further input, not letting him do anything more than just hold him, because this is everything Nick’s never let himself know he wanted, and he’s afraid that if he reaches out to take it he’ll lose everything.

They already play for different teams, they have for a year now. It’s not like that could get worse.

(Not being friends would be worse. It would be much worse. Nick’s chest aches.)

“Nick,” Brandon says, helplessly, just staring at him, and maybe Nick’s contagious, because Brandon’s not moving either, just looking at him, frozen.

“We don’t have time for this,” Brandon says, a moment later, and Nick braces himself to step away, to go shower and wrestle with his conscience over whether he can jerk off to this or not, starts marshaling his resources to pretend like nothing even happened by the time the other guys get back for lunch.

He gets as far as letting go of Brandon when he makes a frustrated noise and says, “they’ll be back soon, Leds, come on,” and launches himself at Nick.

The thud that follows is either Brandon kicking the door closed behind them, or it’s Nick kicking the foot of the bed, and that’s going to bruise, his heel is going to hurt like shit later, actually, but the next thud is definitely Nick’s weight hitting the mattress with Brandon on top of him, and the creak is the slats under it complaining about that fact.

“Oh,” Nick says, and then, “fuck,” in a very different tone, muffled against Brandon’s mouth.

Kissing is a good way to keep things quiet, Nick thinks, letting his tongue brush Brandon’s, lips moving, wordlessly telling him how good this is, how much he likes it, how much he likes him. Brandon makes a sound that Nick might categorize as a whimper and gets more aggressive, pushes the envelope, pushes Nick.

Pushes his hand inside Nick’s trunks, and Nick makes a choked off noise, because Brandon’s hand is cold or at least relatively feels like it is, especially where he’s touching.

“Too fast?” Brandon asks, wide-eyed, yanking his hand back. Nick doesn’t want to give him the wrong impression, because that’s the opposite of his problem, really.

He braces himself and rolls them over; Brandon lets him, patient like Nick’s forgotten how to be now. “Gotta warm you up first,” Nick says, almost apologetically, and he captures Brandon’s hand in between his, holds it up to his face and breathes over his fingers, over his palm, presses a butterfly light kiss to his knuckles. “Wanna show you a good time.” And Nick’s not going to be at his best if his dick is trying to go south for the winter.

He rubs his hands over Brandon’s, trying to get the blood circulating more, friction working to warm them both up again. It’s not going to be a good look if he recoils the second Brandon touches his junk. And ditto for whenever Nick gets a chance to get into Brandon’s shorts.

“Pretty much don’t need to worry about that,” Brandon says, and when Nick raises an eyebrow and makes a “hrm?” noise, Brandon adds, “I nearly came in my pants on the boat. You were fucking killing me there, Leds.”

“You dragged me into your lap,” Nick points out, and then decides that he may as well commit all the way, so he leans the last inch or so in to get Brandon’s fingers in his mouth. He’s as filthy as he knows how to be as he sucks on Brandon’s fingers, curling his tongue around them, lips sealed up tight, and the analogy is clear enough that he can feel his dick twitch, amiably trying to get even harder than he was to start with.

Brandon’s staring at his own hand as he pulls it slowly out, a little disbelieving, fingers damp with Nick’s saliva. Nick gets a hand free to curl around Brandon’s wrist, holds his hand there so he can do it again, filling his mouth up, Brandon’s nails pressing lightly against the roof of his mouth, knuckles dragging over the backs of Nick’s teeth. It makes him want more, reminds him how long it’s been since he’s had this, how much longer since he’s had more than this.

“Fuck, Leds,” Brandon says, a little brokenly, like he’s about to go to pieces, and Nick lets go of his wrist and goes for his pants, fumbling as he tries to shove the wet material down over his hips.

“God, I want,” Nick says, and then self corrects. “I need this, Brandon, fuck, why didn’t we get naked first,” and that was indeed a huge strategic error, not just because wet bathing suits are fucking awful to get off even when you’re not fumbling and clumsy with arousal and need and nerves, but also because Nick’s starting to realize that they are also getting his sheets wet all over, and not even in the fun way.

They manage to do a good enough job eventually though, and Nick gives up entirely on pretending to be cool or couth or any of those other things he should maybe be aiming for and just slides down Brandon’s stomach to get his hand and then his mouth on Brandon’s dick.

Brandon arches up with a shout, and Nick can sympathize; after how cool his hand must have been the heat of his mouth has to have been almost shocking, but he’s not pulling off to apologize, not when instead he can suck hard and let his tongue catch in the slit, tasting cool water and salt and the first few spurts of precome, Brandon’s dick getting with the program fast.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Brandon is saying—breathing, really, barely audible even to Nick, who’s maybe three feet away from his mouth, although he is very distracted. “Leds, fuck, oh god, please, don’t stop.”

Nick has no intention of stopping. He tightens his fingers, pulls a little harder, presses his thumb in and his tongue flat, sucks and slurps and teases, and even if only ten percent of his attention is tracking noises from outside, he’s still a hundred percent certain that they’re still the only two people in the cabin when Brandon gasps and arches up silently, coming thick and inexorably in his mouth.

They might as well be the only two people on the planet.

Nick sits up and wipes his mouth, swallows carefully. So that—happened, he thinks, and presses the heel of his palm over his dick, tells himself to wait; wait and see, wait to see.

Brandon’s still panting hard, dick softening, smaller against his thigh as he lies there, bathed in the sunlight slanting through the windows, the all-too human curves of him stark against the perfectly uniform cotton sheets, outlined by the darker patches where their bodies have left the bedding damp, the break in the pattern where Nick had let his forehead rest while he tried to catch his breath afterward, where his hair had dripped and he hadn’t managed to swallow everything.

Nick probably isn’t going to be able to sleep here later, not unless he does laundry first or bunks in with Brandon.

That would probably be a little bit obvious. Either of those options.

Nick’s not sure how much he minds being obvious. Brandon might, though. And Nick cares a lot more about what Brandon thinks than is probably good for him.

It’s hard to mind that, though; there in the middle of summer. The ice seems a long way off, even if Nick knows very well that they’ll be back to training and skating again in maybe a week at most.

This is a temporary vacation, it’s a vacation from reality in almost every sense.

“Stop thinking,” Brandon says, sitting up, reaching out for Nick. “This doesn’t have to be, you know. A thing. Leds. C’mon, let’s just have fun.”

Nick frowns. That was pretty much what he’d been telling himself, but it wasn’t exactly in character for Brandon. Brandon’s not an impulsive guy. Brandon does things like double-check dress codes, and wear napkins when he’s in a nice suit, and puts all of his appointments into a calendar, with alarms, so he’s not late and so he doesn’t miss things.

Brandon doesn’t do things he hasn’t thought through anywhere but on the ice, and even then Nick gets the impression sometimes he’s a couple of steps ahead of most of the rest of them sometimes anyway.

“I’m having fun,” he says. Brandon gives him a significant look, eyebrow raised. Okay, fine, so Nick’s sitting here with an obvious boner, breathing hard, and honestly he’s not real sure why he’s not just lying back and waiting to see what Brandon’s going to do for him.

It’s not like he doesn’t want it.

“I feel like I should ask some questions at this point,” Nick says. He’s thinking about the boat again, about how definite Brandon was in touching him, deliberate and calm and—premeditated, Nick thinks. He definitely has some questions.

…except thinking about the boat makes him remember Brandon’s dick pressed hot against him, and maybe some of these questions can wait till he gets off. He’s not demanding exact reciprocation or anything like that, but if Brandon could at least get a hand on his dick then that’d more than tide him over. Nick swallows hard, licks his lips, and—okay, the lingering taste of dick isn’t doing much to talk his down either. Nick hasn’t gotten laid in so fucking long.

“Can they wait?” Brandon asks, reaching out. He gets his hands on Nick’s forearms, thumbs stroking the thin skin on the insides of his wrists. “You’re kind of—you’re right here, and I just want to, Nick, please. You know they’ll be back any minute.”

“Okay,” Nick says, giving in fast. He should probably not do this, but they both know he’s not going to resist much longer, and Brandon looks so pleased; smug and heated and triumphant, micro-expressions flickering over his face before he takes a deep breath and lunges forward, pressing Nick down onto his back.

“We’re talking later, right?” Nick says, but he trails off before he even finishes asking, because Brandon is right there again, in easy touching distance, his breath hot and a little sour as he leans in to kiss Nick again.

The kissing is nice, it’s definitely good, Nick would like to do more of it, but Brandon is a man with a mission, and his hands are already moving, reaching down to cup Nick’s ass. Nick arches up, tries to rub off against Brandon’s hip, but he can’t get enough friction, doesn’t have the leverage to do more than squirm with futility. Brandon’s made it clear he wants Nick and he wants him now, and Nick getting him off hasn’t made him any less determined to do so.

“Fuck, ow,” Brandon says, stilling for a moment and Nick blinks, worried.

“Saader?” he asks, a little uncertain, but Brandon’s sitting up again, kneeling over Nick’s thighs, yanking at his shorts where they’re halfway down his hips, the drawstring already undone and flies open from Brandon’s first attempt to get him naked.

“Fucking velcro,” Brandon says, breathless. “That was not, I’m not into that, I don’t need friction burn on my dick.”

Nick muffles a snort. It’s funny, mostly because it hadn’t happened to him, and it’s not like he’s perfectly comfortable either. He’s been hard for what feels like forever. “I dunno, what if you were really into it?”

“Sure thing,” Brandon says. “Let’s see how much you like rubbing your junk on velcro right after I blow you. That was not a fun sensation, Leds.”

Nick should probably have some kind of snappy comeback for that, but he’s actually just stuck on, “You’re going to blow me?”

“Um, yeah,” Brandon says, and he climbs off Nick as he finally manages to get his trunks down to his knees, and Nick moves on automatic to kick them off from that point, doesn’t even think twice about the wet slap as they hit the floor by the bed, because Brandon’s already climbing back on top of him, kissing his mouth, and then his jaw, licking down his throat and dragging his teeth over the tendon in his neck.

“Fuck,” Nick says, eyes widening. “Fuck, fuck, oh god, Saader.”

Brandon flicks his tongue over Nick’s nipple, makes a pleased sound as it pebbles up tight, getting a hand up so he can drag his thumb in circles over it, pausing to lick the tip of his finger first. Something about that—the simple, basic demonstration of desire goes right to Nick’s gut, turns him on even more. Brandon goes back to sliding down his body then, noses through the dark hair that thickens underneath Nick’s bellybutton, breathes hotly over the base of his dick.

“Come on, please,” Nick says. Brandon’s so close, almost touching him, and Nick wants him so bad, wants him to get his mouth on his dick, wants to lose himself in heat and warmth, trusting Brandon to take care of him, to get him there and make it good. Pretty soon he’s going to know what it’s like to have Brandon suck him off, an entirely satisfying thing to pair with the novel and deeply gratifying experience of watching Brandon come.

“It’s been a while,” Brandon says, a tiny edge of sheepishness in his tone. Nick can’t imagine how; Brandon looks like that and he hasn’t got any in long enough that he’s going to mention it? That’s almost unbelieveable. “So, like, cut me a break if it’s not great.”

“Fuck, Brandon,” Nick says, compelled to reassure him, reaching down to stroke damp strands of hair back from Brandon’s forehead, thumb tracing the outer curve of his ear. “You’re putting your mouth on my dick, it’s gonna be fucking amazing.”

“So no pressure, then,” Brandon jokes, but he does also look a little reassured.

“Exactly,” Nick says, and that trails off into a moan as Brandon just goes for it, licks up the shaft of Nick’s cock and closes his lips around the head, sucking gently.

He wasn’t wrong, exactly; Nick can definitely kind of tell it’s been a while, or that Brandon hasn’t done this much, or maybe both. He’s enthusiastic enough, all heat and warmth and kind of drooling in a way that should be gross but honestly just turns Nick on more. But he pauses a little more than Nick’s used to from the guys he’s done this with, stopping to catch his breath, stretching out his jaw before going down again. Nick actually kind of likes that, in a way. It draws it out more, a slow tease, and there’s something about the way his breath is hot against wet skin that is really doing it for Nick.

Brandon’s hands feel good on Nick’s skin, too; he’s got one settled warmly over Nick’s hip, leaning in enough to make sure Nick can’t buck up, can’t move too much. Nick’s trying not to as well, he doesn’t want Brandon to choke, and not just because that seems like a bad idea to do to someone whose teeth are that close to his junk. He’s using his other hand to hold Nick’s dick, fingers curled tight around it, stroking up to meet his his mouth. Nick’s going to come soon, can feel it all over, hair prickling with goosebumps, stomach twisting and knotting up as the pressure builds.

“I’m gonna, I’m close,” he manages to say, and Nick’s hands are still in Brandon’s hair, palm curving around the back of his head. He’s trying not to be an asshole, not to be that guy, but he can’t quite restrain the urge to pull just a little, to encourage Brandon to take him deeper, suck harder.

Brandon tries, gamely, makes an appreciative noise that goes right through Nick, the vibration just enough to tip him over the edge, his balls drawing up tight as he comes. Nick makes a few noises of his own, hopes desperately that the guys are still out on the boat, because there’s no way that sounded like anything but someone getting off, but even if he’d, say, heard them talking outside the door to his room he would still be coming his brains out, because even unpracticed, Brandon’s hands and mouth on him felt that good.

Brandon makes a face and rubs at his mouth as he sits up, crawls up the bed again to lie down right beside Nick, tucked into his side. Nick slings an arm over his side and just lies there, sweating in the summer heat and shivering a little with the aftershocks still, already thinking about when they can do this again, and how, and maybe how often.

“That was okay, right?” Brandon asks a moment later, and Nick doesn’t think he should have had to; it should have been blindingly obvious how good that was, but he can give Brandon some reassurance if he needs it.

“It was great,” Nick says, and he means it, too. It doesn’t have to have been the best blowjob of his life to still be great, and, well. It was Brandon.

That counts for more than it maybe should.

Nick doesn’t want to think about that right then, though, so instead he rolls onto his side, reaches out and kisses Brandon again. They do that for a while, easy and familiar, not needing more than the slow slide of their mouths together. Brandon tastes cool, and, okay, it’s not like Nick can’t tell what they were just doing, but he loses track of that fast, eyes closed, conscious more of the way that Brandon’s almost aggressive as they kiss, of the roughness of his teeth again the tip of Nick’s tongue.

Reality has to intrude eventually and finally it does; the slam that heralds Mikey’s overenthusiastic closing of the front door echoing through the cabin, the loud conversation that he and Connor and Jason are having drifting through the walls like they’re cardboard and wow, that’s something Nick should maybe have thought about earlier.

He doesn’t think this is any kind of loud conversation to make it obvious they’re back to give Nick and Brandon some plausible deniability. He doesn’t think any of them are good enough at being subtle to pull that off, really. It’s sort of a relief. Although it does mean they need to figure out a way to get Brandon out of his room and both of them cleaned up enough that they don’t smell like sex. Nick’s room is safe enough, no one else is gonna go in there, and if challenged he can just claim to have jerked it, it’s not like the others have any moral high ground there.

This might be the first time Nick’s actually hooked up at the cottage in a few years, but he’s got off there more than enough; there’s no way a group of guys just barely out of their teens are going to be any different. Nick would—well, he’d eat something, not his hat—but Nick would be surprised if him going down on Brandon was even the first time even this trip that someone had gotten off. Nick hadn’t last night when they’d finally got in after the drive up, but he’d thought about it. He’d shoved his hand inside his pants, pressed his palm firmly over his dick and thought, ‘maybe’, and it had felt good, but he wasn’t really in the mood so he’d just rolled over and gone to sleep.

He definitely doesn’t regret it now, especially since even with the Reillys clomping around the house making a ton of noise Nick’s just thinking again about the weight of Brandon’s dick against his tongue, how hot it had been, and how good it had felt to sink back into the mattress and have Brandon suck him off in turn.

This was not helping get them out of this situation without potentially raising too many questions, Nick reminds himself, and tries to get back on task.

Brandon pulls apart from him eventually, as Connor stomps loudly past the closed door. He leans in to rest his forehead against Nick’s for a moment, and then opens his eyes, giving Nick a rueful smile.

“We should probably go see what they actually caught, huh?” Brandon says.

Nick is going to have to take his hands off Brandon any second now, and he’s almost surprised by how reluctant he is to do so.

“Yeah,” he says. “We really should. Uh,” and he trails off then, because he wants to ask what this makes them, what they are now, what they do next. He’s not sure how to ask that, though, and if this was a one-time thing, if this was Brandon scratching an itch, whatever, then—

Well, Nick isn’t sure he wants to open himself up to that if it’s never going to happen again.

“How do we do this?” Nick asks, eventually. It’s about as delicate as he can get, really.

“Clean up, wander back in?” Brandon suggests. “We can synchronize our watches, if you like.”

Nick laughs, like Brandon clearly means him to. Neither of them is even wearing a watch; Nick had taken his off last night and left it on the nightstand, because watertight and water resistant are not the same thing, and he wasn’t going to risk a really nice watch against the chance that he was going to wind up spending as much time in the lake as on top of it. It wasn’t like he couldn’t buy a new one, but Nick’s not the type to just throw his money around that way.

“The bathroom’s just through there,” Nick says, jerking his chin in the direction of the en suite, the door mostly closed over. So there’s a couple of benefits to having the master bedroom.

“We’ll talk later, yeah?” Brandon says, and Nick feels a tiny flutter of hope; Brandon doesn’t sound like someone who’s going to give him the brushoff. If nothing else, maybe they’ll get to do this again.

“Yeah,” Nick says, and can’t quite resist the urge to lean in for one more kiss, a quick brush of their lips together.

Brandon rolls out of bed and makes his way into the bathroom, and Nick stretches out, watches him go. It’s nice to have the en suite, but it’s not the biggest bathroom in the world; he can just wait till Brandon’s done.

Nick doesn’t hear the shower start or anything like that, not that he would’ve minded if Brandon had wanted to rinse off. They had gotten pretty dirty. He can’t help the smile tugging at his lips at that; a terrible, totally lame joke, something that Brandon would probably make fun of him for saying. Not that it wasn’t true.

There’s a few quiet noises that Nick can identify as drawers opening and closing, and then Brandon shuffles back in, his hair towelled dry, cleaned off everywhere Nick can see. And that’s pretty much everywhere; Brandon is just as naked then as he’d been in bed, and it’s not like Nick doesn’t enjoy the view. That’s something he’s never been able to do before. He’s seen Brandon naked countless times; twice a day if not more often. Locker room etiquette means you can look, but not closely; you can even comment, or at least throw back and forth all the same tired comments and jokes, but that’s just not quite the same. Not what Nick’s interested in doing in this situation, anyway.

Brandon’s as unflappable as a guy who’s spent most of his life getting changed in front of an audience, however uninterested, and he just gives Nick the same smile as always; soft and slow and appreciative, dimples flashing before he bends over to pick up his wet trunks, making a face at the damp material.

“Oh, you want to borrow—?” Nick starts to offer; he can’t exactly expect Brandon to put those back on now, and it’s not like anyone that they’re vacationing with knows their wardrobes well enough to spot Brandon wearing a pair of Nick’s sweats. They’re pretty much the same size, it won’t be obvious.

“Uh, yeah,” Brandon says. “Or just a towel maybe?”

That’s probably smarter again, but Nick’s not sure he trusts their timing enough to not think he’ll be sending Brandon out of his room just wearing a towel, and, like. There’s only one thing that means.

Mikey knows he likes guys, too, so that’s a conclusion he’d jump to. Mikey knows exactly what Nick looks like when he's getting laid, and that's—that might be a problem. Probably best not to examine too closely just why he doesn’t want anyone else to know what he and Brandon have been doing. It’s not like any of them are jerks about it. They would probably chirp them both about it and tell them not to fuck in the living room, but—

That would probably be it.

Brandon had disappeared back into the bathroom while Nick was thinking and when he comes back he’s got a towel knotted loosely around his waist, low enough on his hips that Nick’s eye is drawn helplessly down. Thirty seconds ago he’d been completely naked, everything on show, and yet this glimpse of the cut of his hips, the arrow of dark hair thickening and disappearing beneath the cotton—that’s what gets Nick’s mouth watering again, what makes him itch to have the time and privacy to reach out and touch again, to just drag Brandon back to bed then, not wait until later, till a maybe that might never come.

“You planning to nap some first, or what?” Brandon asks, eyebrow quirked. There’s a little something extra to his smile that tells Nick that the way his dick is stirring and starting to get hard again has not actually escaped Brandon’s notice. Brandon swallows, licks his lips—unconsciously, Nick thinks—and yeah, maybe Nick should nap. He should definitely give Brandon a head start on leaving his room.

He should maybe have pulled the sheet back over himself, but it’s not like Brandon hadn’t seen everything already either. Not like he hadn’t had his hands and mouth there, too, and—fuck, yeah, Nick’s definitely on board for round two whenever they can manage it.

“Mmm, maybe,” Nick says.

As if Nick had asked—he hadn’t, wasn’t sure he should—Brandon comes back over to the bed anyway, gives him a warm look.

Brandon stops just in arm’s reach and that’s enough, that’s all the invitation Nick needs, really. He reaches out, hooks his fingertips in the top of the towel, urges Brandon to step closer.

Nick sits up straighter, tips his chin back and Brandon ducks down to meet him, kisses him soft and easy. Their lips brush, move familiarly; this is already a well-worn path, reassuring and comfortable and right. Nick parts his lips in invitation and Brandon’s tongue pushes between them, welcomed. Nick makes a pleased sound low in his throat, all yes and heat and want.

His eyes open when Brandon pauses for a split-second, checking in. Brandon’s expression is something Nick can’t quite read, although that goes as soon as Brandon realizes Nick is looking at him, leaving him wearing the same look he had been moments ago, warmth shading into heat.

Brandon kisses him harder for a second, catches Nick’s lip between his teeth and tugs before pulling back, straightening up. Pulling his composure back into place so well that after his breath catches he wouldn’t even guess that Brandon had just been so close, that they’d kissed, that they’d done anything more.

“Sweet dreams, Leds,” Brandon says, and he opens the door just a crack, waits—listening, Nick realizes, for the telltale slap of bare feet or flipflops on wood—and then steps out, closing the door behind him again.

Nick slumps back down, stretches out on his bed, flexing and relaxing muscles all over. He should definitely nap before they throw something together for a late lunch or dinner.

He doesn’t think he’ll have any trouble falling asleep, either.

* * *

Nick drops off to sleep more easily than he quite expects; he usually falls asleep after sex anyway so he probably should have guessed that would be how this worked out for him, even with a day that had gone a little differently than planned.

A lot different, really.

He wakes up under a thin sheet, can see the sun’s a little lower already from the angle of the shadows creeping across the room from the picture window that looks out onto the scrappy patch of woods by the lakefront. It’s not that late, and the sun’ll be up for hours and hours still, but it’s definitely well past lunch time, as Nick’s growling stomach reminds him.

He scratches his stomach automatically, which is enough to remind him that he badly needs to shower, or at least rinse off, and taking care of that and dressing again means it’s even later again by the time he finally ventures out. He follows his ears and his nose to the kitchen, where Mikey’s digging in the fridge.

“You guys eat yet?” Nick asks, leaning against the counter. Acting normal. Trying to remember what to do with his hands.

“Just about to,” Mikey says. “Way to get out of doing all the hard work, you dick.”

“It’s my fucking cabin,” Nick points out. “I was tired, okay. You guys slept half the drive up here, too.”

That all has the benefit of being true, too, which helps.

“Yeah, yeah,” Mikey says. “Saader’s taking plates and shit out, you should go make sure Connor isn’t about to burn down your patio or something, you know what he’s like with the grill.”

“Yeah, I’ll do that,” Nick says hurriedly. He does know what Connor is like with the grill. Connor is a fucking menace, although he does also grill a mean steak. The fish might wind up overdone, though.

Nick leans around Mikey to snag a couple bottles of beer out of box inside the drinks fridge, fingers slipping a little in the condensation. He grabs the bottle opener from Mikey’s outstretched hand and pops both tops, hooking his fingers just inside the neck of the bottles to carry them with him.

When he steps out onto the roughly paved courtyard where the grill’s set up Brandon is setting out plates and an armful of condiments. He pauses for just a fraction when he catches Nick with his peripheral vision, a tiny pause that Nick doesn’t think anyone else would even notice, isn’t sure even he would, usually.

“Hey,” Nick says, hoping he’s hitting normal with his tone. “Beer? Uh, sorry about the—” He looks down at the bottles, gives an illustrative shrug that he’s pretty sure indicates the fact he’s aware that this isn’t the most hygienic way to carry a drink.

Then again, as they’re both well aware, it’s not the only place Nick’s stuck his fingers today, and Jesus, Nick sits down fast, hoping that the picnic table is enough to hide his body’s reaction to thinking about that again.

“Thanks,” Brandon says, sitting down beside him and taking the bottle, shoulder and hip and thigh pressed up against Nick. He’s so warm, part exertion and part the way he’s clearly been outside in the sun long enough to pick up the heat of the day, working deep into skin and muscle.

“Where’s mine?” Connor complains, looking back over his shoulder at them, still busy at the grill. His concession to chef duties is apparently the plastic apron he’d donned over top of his trunks, although Nick can see the tops of his shoulders starting to go a little pink with sunburn.

“Lazy,” Nick says. “Get it yourself.”

“I see how it is,” Connor replies. “You see us every summer, we’re just part of the furniture.” He turns to Brandon, grinning easily. “He’s not normally this nice, you’re getting the special treatment. Don’t believe it for a second.”

“You’re such a dick,” Nick says cheerfully. “This is not making me more inclined to go get you a drink, by the way.”

“I’ll get you one in a sec,” Brandon says, leaning into Nick harder for a second, shooting him a quick private smile. It warms Nick all the way through, and he has to hide an answering smile behind his beer, tipping it back to take another gulp. Something about a cold beer on a hot day really is so damn satisfying.

“Don’t give in to his cheap emotional blackmail,” Nick advises. He knows his part in this exchange, and not following it through is going to stand out far more than anything stupid he might say without thinking.

“Well they did catch our lunch,” Brandon says, trying to be fair. “It’s the least I can do.”

“I guess,” Nick says, and then Brandon shifts and is gone, striding easily back through the ranch slider and indoors.

“He’s a good guy,” Connor says, a little more quietly than he had been. “I like him.”

Nick tries very hard not to go tense. He’s pretty sure Connor just means that it’s Saader’s first time hanging out with them for more than a few minutes stolen after the end of a tough playoff game, an environment that doesn’t really lend itself to good or lasting first impressions. Especially not when they’d just knocked the home team out of the playoffs to boot. Nick’s friends are still Minnesotan, first and foremost.

“That’s why I invited him,” Nick says. He glances out over the lake, still and about as calm as it ever gets, the currents barely noticeable from shore but for the slow lapping of the waves against the pillars of the floating dock, over the rocky beach closer to the house.

“I’m sure,” Connor says amiably, and he turns his attention back to the grill, turning something over with a hiss of oil on hot metal. Nick hopes that means there’s steak as well as the fish, he’s suddenly starving. The swim and everything after it had taken a bit more out of him than he’d quite realized until he was this close to an actual meal.

“What do you guys want to do this afternoon?” Nick asks.

They’re technically his guests, even if they’ve spent just about as much time out here as he has. They know everything there is to do out at the lake, anyway, and most of it involves being outdoors. Aside from a few board games--which have mostly been banned since half of them cheat and the other half are incredibly poor losers--there’s not a whole lot to do. Nick brought his tablet and a few movies, and they can set stuff up on the TV if they need to—the satellite probably won’t go out so long as the weather holds—but mostly all they do is eat, fish, drink, work out and fuck around out on the water.

…Nick should probably look at phrasing that differently next time.

Mess around out on the water. That’s better. Sort of.

“Mikey wants to take the jet ski out,” Connor says, speaking for his brother as confidently as ever. “I’m just planning on taking a cold one or three to the hammock and trying to even out my tan.”

Laying out on the sun loungers sounds pretty good to Nick, too, even if technically he’s already napped today, and he hadn’t done much more than lie around in the sun when they were on the boat anyway.

“Sounds like a plan,” Nick says, and then Brandon comes back out with a few more bottles, leaning around Connor at the grill to hand him one, and setting the rest down in the middle of the picnic table.

“Mikey said he’s fixing up the sides, and we shouldn’t get used to being waited on hand and foot,” Brandon reports, sliding back onto the bench seat, his knee pressed to Nick’s.

Nick takes another mouthful of his beer, hums thoughtfully. “Does that mean he bought them, or did he make them and we should worry?”

“Bought ‘em,” Connor confirms, snickering. “All he’s doing is sticking spoons in a bunch of containers from Byerlys.”

“Well, on the plus side, we probably won’t die,” Nick says, and he turns his head to catch Brandon’s eye, and the two of them grin at each other.

“What’s so funny?” Jason asks, dropping onto the bench opposite them, setting a salad bowl on the table with a thunk before snagging one of the beers Brandon had brought out.

“Mikey’s being dramatic about bean salad,” Connor explains, and without turning around, adds, “So how do you want your steaks?”

“Rare,” Nick says, and Brandon echoes him.

“Still mooing,” Jason says, straight-faced, and he doesn’t flinch when Nick rolls his eyes or when he tries to kick him under the table. That joke had been old when they were kids, let alone now.

“Done and done,” Connor says, and he starts transferring the steak to plates. “Fish is almost up too; anyone who has a complaint can fillet it themselves next time.”

“Who died and made you the king?” Jason asks, but he claps Connor on the arm and says, “Thanks,” anyway when he gets up to grab his own steak.

Mikey comes out with an armful of sides a few moments later, setting them in the middle of the table so they can all serve themselves.

“Good work, guys,” he says, and helps himself to the lion’s share of the potato salad. He’s welcome to it. Nick thinks they put too much dill in, anyway.

They fall into their usual easy, casual chatter over their late lunch, and in the back of his mind Nick is relieved, keeps noting that Brandon fits in, that everyone’s getting on, that they all seem content. Admittedly, it would be difficult to be anything but given they’re all a drink or two in on the day and the sun is shining, the lake sparkling and refreshingly cool, but Nick’s been part of enough awkward weekend trips to know just how easy it is for one person to throw the whole group off. Most of his friends are laid-back enough to just roll with most things anyway, so it hasn’t happened a lot, but… it’s happened enough.

Connor’s in the middle of hotly claiming something to Jason, his hands cupped and about eight inches apart, and his voice rises so that the only thing Nick does hear is “—this big, so fuck you.”

He and Mikey exchange looks, but Nick’s got a mouth full of his dinner, which means it’s Mikey who goes in for the kill, raising an eyebrow and drawling, “Oh please, your dick is nowhere near that big.”

“You’re a terrible brother,” Connor tells him, and adds, “also, you don’t know that. It’s easily as big as Leds’,” and he drops that like it’s a winning play. Nick promptly chokes on his fish.

“Leave my dick out of this,” Nick manages to say, after he’s caught his breath, wildly indignant, because it’s not as if any of them have really measured anything since they were teenagers—and none of them are even going to admit to that—but he’s doing just fine in that department, thanks. And definitely better than Connor. Not that Nick’s been looking.

He does realize that there’s an eloquent silence coming from Brandon’s side of the table, and glances over, to see that his lips twitching as he desperately tries not to laugh, and oh, yeah, Brandon would also be in a position to comment there. Nick looks back at his plate, fast. He’s not going to be able to keep any of his thoughts off his face if he’s not careful.

“I was talking about fish,” Connor tries to say, desperately clutching after dignity with both hands, but at that point all five of them dissolve into laughter, because apparently they are all still twelve years old at heart. Could be worse, Nick thinks.

“No, but for real,” he says, when they’ve finally stopped snickering, and Jason has had to get up and fill all of their water glasses again so no one chokes or gets the hiccups, “this perch I got the other week was huge, c’mon.”

That boast somewhat inevitably leads to everyone’s phones coming out, because the upside to smartphones is that ‘pics or it didn’t happen’ makes it quite clear whose tall tales are just that. Connor gets some pride back by demonstrating he wasn’t actually exaggerating all that much—about the perch, Nick’s not going to comment on anything else—and then that means the rest of them have to pull up pics of their own for bragging rights.

Nick contributes enough that he doesn’t think it’s standing out, but mostly all he’s conscious of is Brandon’s ankle pressed warm against his, their thighs touching from hip to knee. It makes it more difficult to focus on rock bass and pike.

Mikey negotiates first rights to the jet ski, and Jason elects to go with him, which works out nicely for all concerned, really. Nick’s pretty sure they’re by far the two most sober people at the table, which is the only reason he’s even remotely happy to give up the keys to the shed they’re in. At least none of his friends are young and dumb enough these days to go out without life jackets. They’d probably all gotten awfully lucky when they were in their teens and thought they were bulletproof.

Connor reiterates his plan to hit the hammock and does just that, dropping a copy of Sports Illustrated over his face while he stretches out, leaving the arms of his sunglasses and the pinking skin of his ear as all that Nick can see of his expression.

Nick takes that as tacit encouragement from the universe to join Brandon on the double-size chaise on the cobblestones, sitting up long enough to peel his shirt off again before lying down beside him, arm slung over his forehead to shade his eyes. Faint wisps of cloud scud along high in the deep blue sky, and Nick feels himself relax even more, muscles loosening as the heat of the day sinks in.

“This is really nice,” Brandon says softly, pitched so that just Nick can hear him, probably. Connor doesn’t stir, at any rate. “Thanks for inviting me.”

“Any time,” Nick says, meaning it maybe a little more than he quite wants to admit.

“You should come to our place down in the Outer Banks some time,” Brandon adds.

Nick freezes for a second and realizes he’s holding his breath. He wants to roll onto his side to look at Brandon because he can’t tell if that was just politeness for politeness sake—and Brandon is one of the most polite people Nick knows—or if he meant that the way it sounded, like an invitation that was really an invitation, like he was maybe angling for something more than just whatever it was they were doing. Flirting heavily lubricated by beer and summer. Casual. Friends with benefits. Nick lets himself have a half second of imagining what it might be like to get this all the time and wants it so bad it makes his throat hurt.

Shit, he really, really shouldn’t have gone along with this. If Brandon was just up for fooling around—and neither of them have done or said anything that gives Nick the impression this is anything more than that—then knowing what it was like to touch him is going to make the part where Nick has to stop doing that so, so much worse. He’s an idiot. This was a terrible idea, and—

Nick has to bite back a startled sound just then, losing his train of thought abruptly. Brandon has stretched his hand out, neatly hidden between their bodies where no one could see unless they were standing right in front of them, and slid cool fingertips just inside the waistband of Nick’s shorts, stroking downward in a tiny suggestive motion that is shockingly effective and sending Nick right back to painfully turned on before he can even catch his breath.

“Saader,” he breathes, and lets his own hand move down to cover Brandon’s hand, not pushing him away, but not letting him move any further either. “We can’t—later, yeah?”

“Mmmm,” Brandon hums.

Nick’s not sure if that technically counts as agreement or not, but when Nick lifts his own hand away Brandon doesn’t push for anything else. He does just leave his hand there, though, hooked into the waist of Nick’s shorts. It’s nice, if by nice Nick means ‘is leaving him too wound up to fall back to sleep again’.

Turnabout is fair play, Nick figures, so he rolls onto his side and lets his face rest against the curve of Brandon’s biceps. He can feel the heat of his own breath reflecting back from Brandon’s skin, too close for the faint breeze that’s rippling over the lake to cool it off, and he shifts enough to let the back of his hand and his knuckles graze Brandon’s abs, hardly, barely, almost touching.

Brandon swallows a choking sound, and Nick grins to himself. Yeah, it’s going to suck when this weekend is all he can get but at the same time—even if it’s a smarter choice he knows he’s not going to even try to stop himself from getting everything he can.

Nick shifting like that also means that Brandon’s hand has moved, and actually, this whole plan is potentially going to backfire on him in the best possible way, because instead of brushing over his hip, Brandon’s fingers are now tucked under the flies of Nick’s shorts, fingertips rubbing over the thickening arrow of hair coming down from his bellybutton. Nick sucks in a fast, silent breath, mouth open and trying not to pant audibly.

“Leds,” Brandon murmurs, and then twists his wrist, his hand sliding deeper into Nick’s shorts, and Nick bites his lip and tries not to make a sound.

God, Brandon’s fingers are so close to his dick, it would only take the smallest effort to let him get his hand all the way in, and then he’d be touching it. Nick’s past half-chubbed and all the way to hard now, and the idea of having to keep still and silent enough that Connor doesn’t see or hear anything—it’s kind of hot in a way he hadn’t expected. Nick’s not usually much of an exhibitionist.

Nick doesn’t usually have Brandon’s fingers just out of reach of his dick.

“Fuck, do it,” Nick says, so quietly that it feels like he’s mouthing the words more than saying them.

It’s apparently clear enough, because Brandon’s gaze shifts from his mouth back up to look him in the eyes for one startlingly hot moment. Then his gaze drops again, and Nick has to swallow hard around a suddenly very dry mouth as he realizes that Brandon’s watching, Brandon is staring determinedly at the way he can see his hand moving under the fabric of Nick’s shorts, and that’s somehow almost as hot as the extremely competent handjob Brandon’s busy giving him.

Nick wants to watch, too, really, but that feels like it might be too much, like he’d lose what little control he has left. So instead he screws his eyes closed and leans in so his forehead is pressed against Brandon’s, their breath mingling. He can’t keep totally still, either, but he’s pretty sure Brandon’s body is shielding his from anyone out on the lake or over in the hammock being able to see him, or to see the tiny thrusts he can’t seem to stop himself making into Brandon’s hand, hips pushing forward. God, Nick wants to take him back indoors and do this properly again, do this fully naked, where he can see Brandon’s hand moving so confidently on his dick.

“Fuck, you feel good,” Brandon murmurs, almost soundlessly. He tightens his fingers just under the crown, runs his thumb up over the curve of the head, spreading around the first slow pulse of precome, getting his hand and Nick’s cock good and wet.

Nick has to swallow another moan at that; it’s hot to hear how much Brandon is getting off on this, and when Nick lets one of his hands drift down to press over the front of his shorts he can feel that Brandon’s hard again too.

Brandon keeps his hand moving, slow and steady, wrist pressing into the side of Nick’s stomach while he moves, trying to make it subtle, non-obvious. Nick’s sweating, partly from the heat of the day, partly from arousal and the extra edge of doing this out in the open, where they could get caught, where someone could see. He can feel sweat beading along his forehead, rolling down the back of his neck, around his ears. Maybe they should take another dip in the lake after this.

Actually, they should definitely hit the lake again after, Nick thinks after a moment, belatedly putting together that he’s moments away from being uncomfortable in a whole different way. Jumping in the lake is going to be a much less obvious way to deal with the part where he’s pretty sure Brandon’s about to make him come in his shorts than having to go inside and change would be.

“Saader, oh god,” Nick manages to say, maybe a little too loud, because Brandon exhales hard, impatient, and then his lips are pressed against Nick's, kissing him softly.

That’s nice, it’s a good way to keep Nick quiet, too, all the sighs and gasps he doesn’t think he could hold back swallowed up in the soft motion of Brandon’s mouth against his. Brandon’s lips are parted, tongue moving easily against Nick’s, and it’s nice, it’s good, it’s a really good kiss, and Nick manages to stay almost entirely silent as he shakes and comes, dick jerking in Brandon’s fist, making a mess of both of them.

Brandon pulls back, wipes his hand off on Nick’s stomach and—okay, fine, he deserved that, probably. He maybe shouldn’t find it hot. He’s not sure he can get Brandon off without drawing attention, though. Nick’s good at effective, he’s not good at subtle.

Brandon licks his lips, crooks another smile at Nick. Nick can’t help but feel a little curl of heat in his stomach at that, even as he’s still shaking in the comedown, still hasn’t entirely caught his breath.

“I want,” Nick starts to say and then pauses, interrupts himself. “Do you want me to…?”

He trails off before he can quite finish the sentence. If Connor hears, if Connor asks, then Nick’s going to claim he was going in for another drink. Will sneak into the bathroom to clean up as best as he can and then come back out with a few more bottles. Would try not to think about Brandon right there, turned on and waiting.

Nick loves his friends, but at the same time, he could cheerfully wish them to the other side of the planet right now.

Nick turns his head like he’s stretching, sneaks a casual glance over at the hammock. Connor’s chest is rising and falling in a slow, regular rhythm, the magazine still resting open on his face. The pink sunburn on his shoulders is starting to go a deeper red. Nick’s pretty sure they’ll all be hitting the aloe later that night. But in every respect, it does indeed look like Connor is still fast asleep, and relief trickles through Nick, tangles into the pleasure he wouldn’t have been able to stop feeling even if they had gotten caught.

“I can wait,” Brandon says unexpectedly, and Nick raises an eyebrow before he can think twice.

“You sure about that?” Nick asks, reaching out to brush his knuckles over the obvious bulge in Brandon’s shorts. Nick’s not sure he’d want to wait, if it were him.

In answer, Brandon just leans in enough to kiss Nick again, soft and lingering.

“We can pick this up again tonight?” he asks. “I just don’t want to get interrupted again.”

A chill that is one hundred percent due to heated desire rolls along Nick’s spine at that, because that’s—

That’s Brandon promising a lot, if he’s right.

“Yeah,” Nick says, a little hoarsely. “Yeah, we can. Come to my room again?” Not that he’d object to sneaking into Brandon’s room, but Brandon’s shares walls with two of the other bedrooms. Nick’s backs onto the gym and the room no one’s sleeping in this trip. Nick’s room is much safer.

Then again, Nick’s about one handjob away from not giving a shit about safe any more. Best to step on that impulse, he thinks.

“You bet,” Brandon says.

He takes a deep breath, rolls onto his back and then sits up, shifting a little to make himself more comfortable, knees spread. Nick bites his own lip and then follows suit, sitting up on the other side of the lounger.

“What did you want to do, uh, now?” Nick says.

He still doesn’t sound normal, although at least he probably also doesn’t sound like a guy who’s more and more aware with every passing moment of the way his shorts are sticking to him, messy with jizz and sweat, and he hopes like hell it’s just the sweat that he can feel crawling down the back of his thigh. He doesn’t really want to have to clean off the lounger before anyone else comes out to the cabin, that’s for sure.

Brandon gives him a long look, considering, looking a little more serious than Nick expects considering a minute or two ago he’d been jacking Nick off in broad daylight. “Let’s hit the lake,” he suggests, amiably in tune with Nick’s thinking. “I don’t know about you, but I think I need to cool off for a bit.”

“Yeah,” Nick agrees.

Brandon takes another couple of deep breaths, does a mostly-subtle job of adjusting himself and then stands, not bothering to wait for Nick.

“Last one in is… a rotten egg?” he says, grinning, and then he’s walking fast over the paved area, hissing as his bare feet hit some of the darker rocks which retain more heat. Nick watches him go for a second and then clicks to what he’d said, following as fast as he can.

“You’re a fucking cheater, Saader,” he yells, because there’s no need to try and keep it down now, and Brandon just turns, shin deep in the lake, and grins at him, shrugging a ‘whaddaya gonna do?’

Nick follows him in, and after some half-hearted splashing around and semi-serious attempts to duck each other, they swim out deeper, settling into a proper crawl, wordlessly agreeing to aim for the pontoon a few hundred feet out.

They’d probably swum further coming in from the boat, but it’s far enough to go on a hot afternoon, maybe a little drunk still, definitely still feeling the post-orgasm buzz. Nick is, at any rate. When he looks over at Brandon, who’d hauled himself onto the pontoon beside Nick, and then spread out to dry off some more, Brandon also looks like he’s still feeling good, a tiny smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, eyes closed, forehead uncreased.

Nick takes a quick look around, and while the jet skis are definitely audible, they’re far enough away that they won’t be able to hear anything Nick says, so with the best moment of true privacy they’re likely to get for a while, Nick rolls up onto his elbow and turns to speak to Brandon.

“Tonight,” Nick starts to say. “I figure we put on a movie after dinner, something loud, with a lot of explosions, and then, well. It’s been a long day.” He pauses, puts plenty of emphasis on his next words. “I’m probably gonna be pretty tired. How about you?”

Brandon tenses up for a second, and then relaxes again all at once. “You don’t—oh, something loud, huh?”

Nick grins at him. Brandon pushes hair out of his eyes and beams back.

“Yeah,” Brandon says. “I think I might be kinda tired, too.”

“Give me about five minutes,” Nick says. "Before you leave too."

“What am I, new?” Brandon scoffs.

“I’m pretty sure I have condoms, anyway,” Nick says, like they’re carrying on the most normal conversation in the world. “Because I really want you to fuck me.”

Brandon sits up too fast, and manages to tip them both off the pontoon as he over-balances.

“Jesus, Leds,” he says, treading water while they wait for the pontoon to settle back onto its flotation barrels. “Fucking—warn a guy.”

“You’re right,” Nick says, smirking. “I am warning you. What if you’d fallen out of bed when I asked? This is much quieter.”

“You’re a dick,” Brandon says, helplessly fond, as he and Nick swim to opposite sides of the pontoon and then simultaneously haul themselves back up onto it, dripping water all over again. He’s matter of fact as he keeps talking, like this is any other conversation about the weather or construction or the relative value of the Canadian dollar. “I would not have fallen out of bed. I do really want to fuck you, though.”

This time it’s Nick who nearly swallows his own tongue.

* * *

The rest of the afternoon doesn’t really pass any slower than usual, and Nick even enjoys himself a lot; they swim and fool around in the lake until they get tired of it, head back indoors to shower and start thinking about dinner. Everything about it feels almost bizarrely normal as Nick steps around Connor and Mikey in the kitchen, argues with Jason about how to cook their dinner, and chirps Brandon about how inefficiently he stacks the dishwasher.

They take care of another couple of beers over dinner, spread around the living room to eat with plates on their laps, because the table outside is nice and all, and the still evening air is gorgeous, but unfortunately the mosquitoes are also just as fond of the weather, and even fonder of Nick at the very least. Even with liberal application of bug spray he always picks up a few bites, and Brandon’s about the only one of them who isn’t even mildly sunburned.

Not that they don’t have plenty of aloe and after-sun lotion on hand, of course. Nick has been doing this for a while, he knows what to expect.

It’s still easy to just fool around and give each other shit like normal as they finish up dinner, and clean up, head back to the living room to sprawl out on the couches and start arguing over what else to do for the evening. Card games and drinking games are both generally on the table at this point in the summer, but Nick manages to subtly—or so he hopes—guide the conversation back to the latest Mission Impossible movie, and no one has any real objection, so that gives them another hour. Nick’s on one couch, feet up on the coffee table, and Brandon’s just sitting beside him, close enough that their hands brush occasionally, but not so close as anyone would notice. Nick doesn’t think so, anyway, and he is a little embarrassed by how much his body reacts to even such casual, ordinary touches. He shouldn’t feel his heartbeat jump just because his thumb grazed Brandon’s wrist, fuck.

It’s probably that it’s been a while—excluding earlier in the day of course, and fuck, when was the last time Nick had gotten off twice in one day, let alone probably three times?—and that he’s amped up, ready, too focused on getting laid to think of much else. He’s been worried all evening he’ll accidentally blurt out one of the things he’s thinking—almost uniformly filthy thoughts about what he wants to do to Brandon—instead of the actual answer to questions any of the other guys have asked.

He tries not to fidget too noticeably, and he’s glad for the clock on the DVD player, the little LED numbers ticking over incredibly slowly, but clear enough that he’s not being too obvious in checking his phone or his watch every ten seconds to see if it’s late enough that he can plausibly be going to bed.

There's a good hour left in the movie when Nick decides he's been waiting long enough, and swings his feet down from the coffee table, forcing another yawn that's wide enough his jaw cracks. He's been making sure to do that a couple of times earlier, too, making it convincing, and hell, he's a little tired anyway. It's been a pretty fucking eventful day so far.

"I think I'm gonna hit the hay," Nick says, to no one in particular. "Someone make sure the TV's off before you go to bed this time, huh?"

A chorus of groans and good-natured bitching follows that; Nick's particular and, okay, kind of fussy about that kind of thing, and the guys expect him to give them shit for it just as much as he expects them to do stuff just to wind him up sometimes. It's habit, routine, and focusing on that gets Nick out of the living room and down the hall to his room.

He pulls the door almost the whole way closed behind himself, just a crack ajar, enough that Brandon can slip in soundlessly but no one else could look in without making a deliberate effort. He makes a cursory attempt at straightening up the bedclothes and then gives it up as a bad job, just turning the covers down enough that whatever they wind up doing is well clear of the light blanket. Nick likes a little weight on him when he sleeps, even if it is the middle of summer. A sheet's not quite enough.

He does look at his watch again then, and a grand total of three minutes have ticked off. Even if Brandon's suddenly stopped being the quiet, subtle guy that Nick's known for the last few years, he's not going to turn up this fast. Nick glances at the attached bathroom and then thinks, yeah, he should brush his teeth. That's just good manners.

That doesn't take long at all, and Nick's at loose ends, sits down on the end of his bed again. He kind of wants to check his phone, but that seems like it might look weird. He's not sure if he should start getting undressed either. It's not like Brandon hasn't seen everything, but it also seems like it might be—presumptuous, maybe. Something along those lines.

Waiting is giving Nick too much time to think. He keeps catching himself fidgeting, picking at the loose thread at the hem of his shorts, running his hands through his hair. It's not that he's not sure Brandon's going to show up, that he hasn't second-guessed himself either, although—maybe he is, just a little.

It feels like it takes forever until the door creaks open again, just wide enough for Brandon to slip in, bare feet quiet on the wooden floors, silhouetted by the hall light. Nick's breath catches in his throat, looking at him. This is not at all where he thought his day would go, waking up this morning. He would not have dared to hope, really.

It's not why he invited Brandon on this trip. They've been close for a few years, have spent more time together than Nick's sure he could actually quantify. And he's had moments where he's felt this potential between them, curling in around the edges, careless touches and half-caught glances that hint maybe, someday; maybe this isn't just in his head, not just futile helpless hope. But even so, this is more than he's ever quite thought he'd be able to have. Even if this weekend is all they get.

"Hi," Brandon says softly, pausing just by the door, like he's maybe as uncertain as Nick is.

It seems foolish, that they're awkward with each other now rather than earlier, but something about Nick's unmade bed and what they're going to do in it seems to loom even larger now the sun's down, now their friends are two rooms away, unknowing.

Nick wants to get up and wrap himself around Brandon again, maybe kiss him, work his way down Brandon's body, get him all fired up and ready to go. Readier. Something keeps him sitting just where he is, though, just looking over at Brandon, wanting and not sure how to ask for it.

"So, you still, uh. This is cool, right?"

Nick is not cool in the slightest; Nick is barely not stumbling over his words. Maybe there's a reason he doesn't usually have friends-with-benefits arrangements anymore, because planning this and then having to cool off and wait to actually have anything happen has him totally off-balance. He's better off when he can just go with the flow and read the situation rather than getting all up in his own head and overthinking it.

Brandon gives him another one of those tiny smiles that ricochets through Nick's equilibrium, sends his head spinning. "Yeah," he says. "This is good."

"You wanna come here, then?" Nick asks. "I think we were in the middle of something earlier."

Brandon raises an eyebrow and Nick can feel that he's tempted to make the obvious joke about just what they were in the middle of. What Brandon's about to be—well. That.

"Yeah," Brandon says, softly as ever, and Nick can't help but smile back at him, warmed through.

Brandon peels his t-shirt off, pulling it over his head and dropping it onto the floor, takes another couple of steps, thumbs tucked inside the waistband of his shorts. Nick goes from vaguely turned on and appreciative to seriously turned on and unraveling, flashing hot all over. The master bedroom is not really all that big as rooms go, it's just the biggest one in the house, and in the few steps between the door and the bed, Brandon doesn't quite get his pants off, just gets as far as unbuttoning and unzipping before climbing into Nick's lap, knees either side of his waist, pushing him back down flat onto the mattress.

"Hi," Brandon says again, breathless, and then he kisses Nick.

It's hot and demanding, Brandon's mouth as insistent as his hands had been earlier, a clear indication that this is going exactly where Nick wants it to.

Brandon's weight feels so good on Nick, pressed together from thigh to chest, and by the time Nick's head clears enough to start actually tracking whose hands are where, Brandon has his fingers twisted into Nick's hair behind his ears, cradling his face, kissing almost desperately. Nick's right there with him, going all the way, and he lets Brandon lead, opens his mouth to Brandon's and lets his own fingers dig into the solid muscle of Brandon's shoulders. It's not as if Brandon's trying to get away—more or less the opposite—but if he had been, Nick would've had to work to let go of him. It's too good, too hot, too right. Nick's going up in flames and they haven't even got their pants off yet.

Nick pulls away for a couple of seconds, panting hard, acutely aware of the warmth of Brandon's breath on his neck.

"I wanted to do that all through dinner," Brandon admits, licking his lips, and Nick watches with way too much attention on his mouth, on the movement of his throat as he swallows.

"Probably good you waited," Nick replies. "I don't think we want to know what Jason thinks the Russian judge would have given us."

Brandon snickers a little, which is probably more than that dumb joke really deserved, but Nick appreciates it. It's good that Brandon thinks he's funny. And if that isn't the most high school thought that Nick's had all day, well.

He's hooked up with people under much more dubious circumstances, that's for sure.

"So," Brandon says, after they've caught their breath, once he's stopped laughing at Nick. "You kinda said, before…"

Brandon trails off invitingly, runs his hand down Nick's side as well, toys with the button of his shorts, his meaning very clear even if he's not using his words. Nick's been hard the whole time they've been on the bed, and having Brandon's palm hovering right over where his dick's trapped in the confines of his pants doesn't help at all. He bites back the involuntary whimper, but doesn't quite manage to stop himself from squirming obviously, trying to arch up and get Brandon's hand on him instead of just hinting at it.

"Yeah," Nick says again, less patiently this time. "Let's—do that."

"Awesome," Brandon says, and his hands get tangled with Nick's as they both try to push Nick's shorts down and off, getting in each other's way until Nick protests breathlessly, "Hey, wait a sec."

Brandon pauses immediately, hands off; rolls off Nick so that he's lying beside him instead of on him, giving him some space. If Nick wasn't busy going out of his mind with how bad he wants to get off already he'd appreciate how responsive Brandon is, but instead all he can feel is hot and impatient and like he's wearing way too many clothes. Now that he's not trying to simultaneously rub off on Brandon and yank his shorts off it becomes a much more streamlined effort. It's easy enough to arch his back and push his shorts and briefs over his hips and thighs and past his knees, kicking them in the general direction of his suitcase. He can pick up dirty clothes later.

"Nice," Brandon says, not even bothering to pretend like he's doing anything but looking at his dick, his gaze steady and assessing, appreciative. Heated.

"Yeah, yeah," Nick says, much more casually than he'd usually manage in this kind of situation. "You saw it earlier today too, remember?" He reaches out, shoves Brandon's hip pointedly. "Why aren't you naked yet, there's only like half an hour left in the movie. Come on, Saader."

"I don't remember you being this bossy earlier," Brandon says, but he says it while he's stripping, so that's good enough for Nick, especially now that he's uncovering all the skin Nick didn't get nearly enough time to look at and touch earlier.

"Yeah, well, I had my mouth full—" Nick starts to say, and then realizes just how that sounds. Especially since it's true.

He makes the mistake of catching Brandon's eyes and they both dissolve into helpless laughter again. Nick's shaking with it, has to stuff his hand into his mouth so that he doesn't make more noise than he thinks the volume of the movie can easily cover, and it takes the pressure of his teeth against the side of his hand to give him something to focus on long enough to calm down again.

"You definitely did," Brandon agrees, mouth twitching, and Nick smacks his hip and does his best to glare lest that set him off again.

"Right, right, sorry," Brandon says, looking a little contrite at least, and he scrambles back to his feet beside the bed, finishes peeling the rest of his clothes off, and crawls back into bed, reaching out for Nick right away.

That involuntary break for laughter probably hadn't taken all that long, and Nick throws a glance at the clock radio on the nightstand, reassures himself that they've still got a while. More than enough time for what Nick wants, at any rate.

His eyes go right back to Brandon as soon as he's done that though, and he wants to burn this image into his mind forever, leave himself something he can take out and think about afterward; Brandon's goofy tan lines, the curve of his biceps when he shifts and reaches out for Nick, the toned muscles of his abs, the dark hair on his legs, his chest, his groin. The way that he's confident as he moves, as he touches Nick, now that this isn't wholly new for them any more, now that he knows Nick wants this just as badly as he does, and isn't going to be too fussy about how they get there. The dimples in his cheeks as he grins helplessly at Nick, licking his lips and looking so intensely pleased as his eyes run over Nick's body in turn.

Nick's always thought Brandon has a nice face; friendly and open and attractive, quick to smile, about as conventionally attractive as anyone Nick's ever met, and he spent three years playing on a team with Patrick Sharp. Then again, maybe Nick's just a tiny bit biased.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Brandon's dick is pretty, too; curving up against his stomach, all the way hard after the way they've been teasing each other all day, with the promise of the night ahead, shiny-wet at the head.

Nick can't stand looking without touching any longer than that, and as much as he wants Brandon to just fuck him already, looking at him like this is just making his mouth water. Nick steals another look at the illuminated numbers on the clock, tries to stop thinking about sex long enough to double check his mental math, and yeah, there's probably enough time for this—

"Oh, fuck," Brandon breathes as Nick pounces; shoving at his shoulder until Brandon's flat on his back, letting Nick settle between his thighs, his back curving as he bends over and strokes a hand along Brandon's dick from root to tip, slipping back down just enough to steady them both before Nick gets his mouth on him too, sucking lightly at the head.

Nick works his lips and tongue over Brandon carefully, teasing and tasting and enjoying him, loving the way Brandon shudders and jerks under him, the tiny subvocalizations he can't quite bite back when Nick gets the tip of his tongue into the slit, when he rubs the ball of his thumb just under the head.

"Mmm," Brandon says, and Nick doesn't realize at first he's trying to say anything more than that until Brandon clears his throat and then says, half desperately, "Nick."

Nick sits up, can feel his lips buzzing still from the phantom pressure of Brandon's dick, just a little out of practice himself if he's being honest. It's been awhile for him, too. "Saader?"

"You still want me to fuck you, right?" Brandon says, and the straight-forward way he says that cuts right through Nick, turns him on even more. "Because you gotta stop, like, now, if you do."

"Huh?" Nick says first, still kind of dumb with arousal, and then, "Oh, right. Yeah. Fuck." He really, really does want that. And it's not like Brandon's going anywhere. Nick can blow him again properly later if he wants.

"You have no idea how good you are at that," Brandon says, grabbing for Nick, pulling him up so they can kiss again, half-desperate and clumsy with it. "I mean, okay, you probably do, but, fuck. I can't think."

"You're welcome," Nick says with a grin.

He does know he's pretty damn good at that, but it's always nice to be appreciated. And Brandon is so fucking responsive, although now that Nick doesn't have his mouth on him any more it's getting harder and harder to remind himself why he has to wait, why they can't just rub off on each other. Nick would really like someone to touch his dick some time soon. Brandon's hands are warm and steady as he touches Nick, smoothing down his sides, grabbing his ass, thumbs digging into the muscle. Nick bites back a low groan at that, tries not to squirm too much.

"You have lube?" Brandon asks, rolling off Nick and shuffling down the mattress on his knees, his hands still moving over Nick's skin.

"Uh, yeah," Nick says. He reaches over, digs through the shallow drawer in the night stand. He'd grabbed everything out of his bag earlier, but just leaving it out on the bed seemed kind of presumptuous, or just like it was begging to have someone walk in for some reason and start asking questions. So Nick had taken the easy option and just dumped a bottle of lube on top of the strip of condoms in there, left his shaving gear scattered on top like some kind of camouflage.

"You're prepared," Brandon says, raising an eyebrow when Nick tears a packet off the end of the strip, dropping the rest onto the sheet beside them. If someone walked in now it's not like the condoms would be the hard part to explain.

"Like you're not the same," Nick points out logically, and Brandon ducks his head, has to give him that point. Nick hasn't exactly dug through Brandon's suitcase at any point, but if he knows Brandon—and he does—then he'd put money on him having a few tucked neatly into his toiletries bag, too. Brandon’s so fucking responsible all the time.

"It's not like I don't appreciate it," Brandon adds, and Nick might normally have some kind of smart reply there, but Brandon's efficient as well as thorough, and before Nick can even open his mouth again Brandon's pushing at Nick's thigh with his palm to get him to bend his knee and make space for Brandon between his legs, sliding slick fingers down from the inside of his thigh to circle around behind his balls, rubbing lightly at the sensitive skin there.

Nick hisses, arching his back, aching for Brandon to give him more than that, and he doesn't have to wait for long, because Brandon brings his hand back to pick up more lube and then stops teasing. His fingers are cool but not remotely cold, and after how hot it's been all day—after how much heat they're generating already—it's almost a relief, makes Nick shiver appreciatively. Brandon gets one finger and then a second in him easily, pushing inside him, twisting his wrist so that his knuckles press into Nick's perineum, angling his fingers so they brush tantalizingly over Nick's prostate, making him suck in a deep breath, fast.

"Fuck, oh, fuck, Brandon," Nick mutters, trying not to tense up when Brandon tries to stretch him out a little more, starting to push a third finger in as well. Nick's biting his lip with the effort not to make too much more noise, sweating like he's been running around in the sun again instead of just writhing on Brandon's fingers, going hot and cold all over, too turned on to think of anything other than ‘more, more, more.’

"Nick, you're so—fuck, you feel good," Brandon says, a little nonsensically, and when Nick manages to turn his attention back to Brandon's face instead of what he's doing with his hands it's to see that Brandon's frowning in rapt concentration, teeth digging into his lip, brows drawn together, and he's flushed pink, his face a few shades lighter than his dick, which is kind of funny, but mostly just making Nick want it in him already.

"I'm good," Nick tries to assure him. "You can just, you know. Get on with it."

"Hmmm?" Brandon asks, twisting his wrist, and Nick makes a shocked moan that's a lot louder than he'd meant it to be, bears down automatically as Brandon keeps fucking him with his fingers, better practiced at that than Nick would have expected.

"Brandon," Nick says again, voice going high on the second syllable as Brandon adds that little twist in again, makes it even more excruciatingly good as he strokes the thumb and forefinger of his free hand up Nick's dick, giving him something to fuck up into, too. "Oh fuck, please, I can't wait much longer."

He will, of course; he'll wait as long as Brandon needs him to, but fuck, he doesn't want to, he wants it fast, and hard, and now. God, Nick wants him so much.

"Okay, okay," Brandon says, and he must be almost as impatient as Nick is; Nick sure can't remember the last time he'd managed to make himself wait that long to stick his dick in when that was on the table, so no matter what he's already pretty fucking impressed by Brandon's self-control.

That's apparently as long as he's going to make himself wait, though, because Brandon withdraws his fingers and picks up the condom packet, tears it open and then gloves up, biting his own lip as he gets the rubber on, guides his dick to the entrance to Nick's body, pausing for a moment with the head just touching Nick's skin, promising so much and so close and not fucking moving.

"Come on," Nick whines, and Brandon tugs at his dick meaningfully, makes Nick arch up to follow the touch, even though that means Brandon's dick isn't exactly lined up any more, and then Brandon says, "You can be quiet, right?"

Heat crashes through Nick's body, sends him reeling, because that shouldn't really be hot and yet—

And yet.

"Maybe," Nick says, and then, fast and wide-eyed and stumbling over his words, "Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck, Brandon," as Brandon takes that as 'good enough' and pushes into him in one hard, fast motion.

"Fuck," Brandon says, and he stares down at Nick, their eyes meeting, shock and pleasure echoing back and forth between them, because this is real, they're really doing this, this is happening, and fuck, it's so good.

"C'mon, fuck me," Nick says, breathless, and Brandon leans in, braces himself on his hands, lets Nick wrap his legs around his waist and does just that.

It's fast, and hard, and Brandon is fucking merciless, and it's all going to Nick's head in the best possible way, sending him reeling. Maybe a minute later Nick has to stuff his hand into his own mouth, biting down on the fleshy part of his palm, because it's that or fucking yell, because Brandon is fucking him so good, and Nick's going to come, hard, and he definitely didn't pick a loud enough movie for them to get away with this. Not if he's not careful.

"One day," Brandon says, "one day we're gonna do this, with—fuck—no one else around, Leds."

Nick moves with him, gets just enough of a grip on his own self-control to try and bear down, tightening around Brandon's dick, and he loves the way it makes Brandon go non-verbal in turn, panting, making tiny helpless noises as he thrusts deeper into Nick's body. Brandon might not have done this a lot, but he's done it enough, enough to be confident in the way he moves, the way he leans in harder and freezes for a long minute, poised above Nick, grinning down at him while Nick tries futilely to get him to start moving again.

Nick makes a frustrated noise, then has to dig his teeth harder into his hand as Brandon grinds in. He's uncomfortably aware of the way his hand's slick with saliva around his teeth, damp and hot where his breath is coming in short sobs. Brandon doesn't seem to mind, at least, or maybe he thinks it's hot, because Brandon pulls almost the whole way out, and Nick lets his hand fall away to protest, he's not even close to done, he wants Brandon to come in him, or at least as close as they can get to that using a condom.

"That is so fucking hot," Brandon says, and then he thrusts back in again, and Nick arches up, shifts enough that he's got one heel digging into the meat of Brandon's ass, encouraging him to find a rhythm and keep moving, pushing Nick closer and closer to coming.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck," Nick repeats, just breathing out the words, and Brandon's pink with exertion and arousal, sweating hard, drops of sweat running down the side of his face, dripping onto Nick's chest, his cheeks, and Nick can't remember ever seeing anything he's liked more.

"Nick, oh my god," Brandon says, staring down at him, eyes wide, not even trying to hide how this is affecting him too.

"Just—don't stop," Nick grits out, and Brandon starts moving faster again. Nick moans as Brandon moves in him, hitting exactly the right spot so that he can feel himself tense all over, wound up tight and closer and closer to coming.

"Shhh," Brandon murmurs, and Nick tries to keep it down, he really does, but he's got his hands clenched in the sheets beside his hips now, his whole body straining up, toes curling.

"I can't, Saader, please," Nick says, desperately; too desperately to even really know what he's saying, the words spilling out of him. "This is so good, you're so good, please, fuck, I want—"

Brandon at least seems to have enough control to notice the way Nick's voice had been rising, probably carrying even as breathlessly as he was speaking, and rather than just trying to shush Nick again or doing anything that was likely to make him protest even louder, like stopping, he lets his upper body fall forward, heavy over Nick's ribcage, and finds Nick's mouth with his own. Nick's knees are practically at his shoulders now, the way Brandon's moving in him, with him, and he can definitely feel the stretch in his quads now that Brandon's leaning in to kiss him, swallowing every sound that Nick wants to make. This is probably not quite what of his trainers meant when they suggested he should work on his flexibility some more.

Then again, if all his workouts felt this good he'd probably never leave the gym.

It's actually Brandon who breaks the kiss in the end, breathing hard.

"You should tell me how you want to come," Brandon says, almost conversationally, and Nick blinks, because fuck, who has the self-possession to say that when they're in someone else?

"What?" Nick says, kind of dumbly.

"I'm gonna," Brandon says, "I'm so fucking close, you want to get off first, or can I get you after?"

Nick blinks, losing track of what they're doing for a few seconds, because he really wasn't expecting questions in the middle of this. Brandon's next thrust takes him almost by surprise; Nick had lost the rhythm they were moving in and Brandon nailing his prostate then pretty much whites out what's left of his higher reasoning skills.

"Nick?" Brandon says again, and somehow gets a hand free, runs his palm down over Nick's stomach and curls his fingers around his dick, giving it a friendly tug. His hand's slippery enough still with lube and what’s probably sweat that it only feels good, and Nick bites his lip hard enough that he's momentarily worried about drawing blood.

"Oh fuck, I don't care," Nick manages to say, "just, soon, c'mon, I wanna feel you come, Saader, come on."

"You bet," Brandon says, and Nick couldn't pinpoint exactly what it is that changes—maybe it's just Brandon's focus—but something does, Brandon's expression gone inward, considering, brows drawn together as he chases his own orgasm first. Nick can see the tension in his body, feel it in the way that he moves, and it's incredibly hot in its own way, to watch as Brandon gets closer and closer, and Nick finds himself holding his own breath as Brandon's hips stutter, as he sucks in a deep breath and drives deep into Nick, one last thrust as he loses it, eyes closed and his head falling forward, until he's forehead to forehead with Nick, sweaty and wrecked and basically the hottest thing Nick's seen in years.

"Fuck," Nick says, very quietly, when he thinks that Brandon might actually hear him. He's trying to ignore how overwhelmingly turned on he is, letting Brandon have a few seconds of afterglow first, but it's increasingly difficult to do so, his dick sending unmistakable messages to his brain that suggest that he needs to come now, thanks, before his head explodes.

Brandon seems to steady then, coming back to himself more clearly, and he's careful as he pulls out of Nick, as he disposes of the condom, as he rubs one hand gently over Nick's hip.

Nick's hip is about six inches too far to the left for where he wants Brandon's hands, thanks.

Brandon right after he gets off is apparently almost giggly, relaxed and brightly cheerful in a way that is almost annoying, but mostly just serves to remind Nick how long he's been hard, how long he's been waiting.

"You're not going to be able to be quiet, are you?" Brandon asks after a long moment, his fingertips slipping wetly on Nick's skin, moving from his hip to the crease of his thigh, teasingly close to where Nick wants him to touch again.

"…probably not," Nick admits.

"Do you want to be?" Brandon asks, like he's curious, and in a way, sure, it's a question that's more for Nick than it is for Brandon; this is his cabin, his place, his friends, as much as he'd like them to be Brandon's friends too. Nick's the one with more on the line here, the one who should probably be discreet. If Nick knew whether this was just for the weekend, or even just for the summer—then maybe he'd risk it. He almost wants to, anyway. He trusts his friends, he loves them, albeit not quite the same way that he lo—

Not the same way he likes Brandon. That's all.

"It's not gonna take much," Nick says, matter-of-factly. "That was so fucking good, fuck. Just—give me your hand," and without waiting for Brandon to reply, Nick reaches over to grab the hand nearest him, and then rather than wrapping it around his dick—much as he's tempted—and clearly to Brandon's surprise too, he brings it up to his mouth, closes his lips around Brandon's index and middle fingers, pressing his tongue hard against the back of his teeth so he doesn't bite down on Brandon's skin.

"Fuck," Brandon says, his eyes wide, and then he seems to get with the program, getting his other hand on Nick's cock, stripping it fast and steady and just tight enough.

Nick arches up under Brandon's touch, his hips shifting, chasing the heat and pressure of his grip as Brandon keeps jerking him off. It feels just as good as it did earlier in the afternoon, maybe even better, because with every tiny motion Nick can feel the phantom echo of Brandon's hands on him, what it had been like to have Brandon's dick in him, stretched and full and worn out in the best possible way. His own orgasm is an inevitability, something he's just along for the ride on, lying back and trusting Brandon to get him there.

He can't help the noises he wants to make as Brandon tightens his grip, speeds up his hand, closer and closer and closer. Brandon's fingers in his mouth do a good enough job of muffling the sounds Nick can't hold back, and the moan he can't swallow as Brandon hooks his fingers under Nick's lip and tugs is wholly for how hot that had been in its own right, an almost-good-enough simulacrum of the other things Nick would like to do with his mouth then, or in the very near future.

"Actually, wait, I wanna," Brandon starts to say, and he carefully pulls his fingers out of Nick's mouth—Nick bites his lip against the automatic protest he wants to make—and takes his other hand off Nick's cock, and this time Nick does make a frustrated noise, embarrassingly close to a wail, because fuck, he's almost there and if Brandon leaves him hanging—

"Shh, trust me," Brandon says, and Nick does, so he tries to make a grab for some last iota of self-control, and doesn't go for his own dick, or glare at Brandon, or do anything short-sighted. "This is better, right?" Brandon says, and manages somehow to get the hand that had just been in Nick's mouth on his dick, wet with his own saliva and sliding easily, and he presses the thumb of his other hand in between Nick's lips, curled so that it's pushed right up against the inside of Nick's cheek. It must be visible, obscenely reminiscent of what it'd look like if Nick was sucking Brandon's dick again, and shit, that is hotter than Nick was prepared for.

He curls his tongue around Brandon's thumb, swipes the tip over a smooth part that must be the nail, catching a little on the side where his skin is rougher. Nick swallows hard, just as Brandon rubs wet fingers over the head of his dick, teases over the crown with his thumb and that's it, Nick can't wait any more, can't do anything but lie there and shake as he comes, getting Brandon's hand and his own thighs and stomach filthy.

Brandon's thumb slips out of his mouth with an audible pop, and Nick has to swallow hard again, still trying to catch his breath. His mouth feels bizarrely empty all of a sudden, and even though he's damn sure he's not getting it up again any time soon, short of a miracle, Nick has a moment where he just yearns. Apparently he's not going to be getting sick of doing this with Brandon any time soon. He's not sure if that's good or bad.

"That was, uh," Brandon says softly, and he trails off mid-sentence, too, like he's not sure what to say. How honest to be, Nick suspects, and that makes his chest ache a little. He has to say something then, doesn't want to leave Brandon hanging.

"That was really good," Nick says, and then he has to clear his throat, because he sounds croaky and a little fucked up still, even though it's not like he was actually doing anything. Not anything that he wants to, still. Nick likes men, and Nick likes women, too, and Nick really fucking loves giving head, regardless of who he's in bed with. He's pretty fucking good at it, too. Wouldn't mind another chance to prove that to Brandon, either.

"You think we got that in under the wire?" Brandon asks, still keeping his voice low, stretching out so he's lying down beside Nick, almost touching.

"Huh?" Nick says, and then remembers the movie, and they both freeze for a long minute or two, trying to see if they can catch any sounds at all from the rest of the house. Nick turns his head to check the clock on the night stand, and he's not completely sure but he thinks the movie has to still be going. "We're probably safe, yeah," he says.

"Oh, good," Brandon says. "Uh, do you want me to go?"

No, Nick thinks instantly, and he only just manages not to reach out and grab Brandon to try and hold him in place, too.

"Might be hard to explain coming out of my room," Nick says, and that's logical, that's a good objection to make, that's not giving away how Nick wants to curl up with Brandon and go to sleep and then wake up like that too. Maybe touch him some more in the morning.

"Yeah, that's about what I figured," Brandon says, and Nick blinks, realizing that Brandon hadn't tensed up at all, hadn't looked like he had any intention of moving. That's good. "By the way," Brandon goes on. "I messed up the bed in my room and shoved pillows under the quilt and closed the door, so, like. Even if someone looks in there it'll look like I'm asleep."

Brandon is an evil genius, Nick thinks appreciatively. Or at least a kid that had to sneak out more than once. Damn.

Brandon also looks sheepish, like that's something he should be worrying about. "I mean, obviously I wasn't expecting to stay here if you don't want me to, I just thought it was better safe than sorr—" and then the rest of that sentence gets lost because Nick rolls over and kisses him hard.

That goes on for a while before Nick can convince himself to pull away long enough to say, "You're amazing. I mean. That was a great idea, I'm glad you had it, I want you—uh, I mean. To stay. If you're cool with that. Fuck, can we just keep doing this so I don't say anything else stupid?"

"Um, yeah," Brandon says, like Nick's an idiot for even wanting to stop and check this is still okay with him, and he wraps himself around Nick and they kiss and kiss until Nick's eyes are starting to feel heavy, his brain foggy with exhaustion after what has been a very long day.

Nick rolls off Brandon about then, but keeps an arm slung over him, ducks his head so that their heads are close together on the same pillow, sharing breath.

"Stay," Nick says, simply, because that's what it boils down to, even if probably they could sleep for an hour or two and then Brandon could sneak back to his own room. But Nick doesn't want him to. Even if it's embarrassing and stupid and giving away too much—Nick wants to wake up with Brandon in his bed, just once. At least once, if that's all he can have. It's summer and everything is warm and light and easy, and Nick isn't going to let this go if he can help it.

"Okay," Brandon says, and when Nick forces his own eyes open one more time to check he can see that Brandon's are closed, lashes soft and dark against his cheek, lips parted, his whole face looking smooth and relaxed and open.

God, Nick had fucking missed him.

* * *

Nick wakes up too warm, like he's under too many blankets for the temperature, sticky and sweaty and thirsty. He reaches blindly over to the nightstand—he usually has a glass of water there—and doesn't find anything, but before he can open his eyes to see where it's gone, the mattress shifts and he remembers he's not alone, that he's in bed with Brandon.

That also explains why he feels overheated; not only are they under a blanket that's probably heavier than they need in midsummer, but Brandon is wrapped around him, breath hot on the back of his neck, an arm and leg thrown over Nick.

"Since when are you part octopus?" Nick asks, not awake enough to think any better of it.

Luckily for him, Brandon just snorts and tightens his grip pointedly, before saying, "Are you complaining?"

"I'm really not," Nick says. It seems like they're going to be just fine this morning; joking as easily as ever, even if the way they're touching now is brand new. Nick's not feeling any awkwardness at least, which had been a worry in the back of his mind, however much he might not want to admit it.

What Nick is feeling is the fairly unmistakable evidence that Brandon's feeling just as good this morning as he is. Brandon doesn't seem to be self-conscious at all, either; it can't have escaped his notice that his morning wood is pressed firmly into the small of Nick's back, but he hasn't bothered moving, not to roll away or to let his hand shift from where it’s curled familiarly over his abs.

"That's good," Brandon says lightly, still keeping his voice low.

That's right, Nick remembers, they need to be careful still. More careful, even, since it feels early enough that sound will carry and there's every chance that someone else could wake up soon.

"That's good too," Nick says, bringing one hand up to cover Brandon's, arching his back to push back into Brandon, making it clear that he's talking about Brandon's dick, or at the very least his hard on. Nick can feel the stretch in his hips and lower back as he moves, aching in the best possible way, and yeah, he wants more of that. In every sense of the phrase.

"Your lines are terrible," Brandon murmurs, but he tilts his head down to press a kiss to Nick's shoulder blade, and his hand slides down Nick's chest and over his stomach, slides down to cup his dick, fingertips pushing through the hair at his groin, practiced and affectionate and easy. The complete lack of hesitation as Brandon's hand moves suggests to Nick that his own erection isn't exactly a surprise to either of them, and now Brandon knows for sure that Nick's just as—awake as he is. Awake's probably putting it mildly.

"They seem to be working on you," Nick says, shrugging a little, and he can feel the warm puff of air that is Brandon's breath on his bare skin as his shoulder moves, as Brandon laughs quietly.

"I guess I have to give you that one," Brandon says a moment later.

Nick's enjoying having Brandon draped all over him, even if he is kind of overheated still, but he's also starting to feel silly about having this conversation without any other visual clues, and more than anything else, he wants to look at Brandon too. He shifts carefully on the mattress, trying not to jostle Brandon too much as he rolls over, turns under Brandon's arm, makes a point of shuffling closer so they're still touching from knee to ankle, hip to hip, or, well. Parts of Nick are certainly pressing firmly into Brandon's hip.

It's easier to see in the early morning light too, they're far enough out of the city that Nick never really bothers to draw the curtains; it's more than dark enough once the sun goes down, and he likes being able to look out at the stars on a clear night. Likes being up early enough to fish, or read, or just quietly get his morning routines started. Nick's an early bird, always has been. And he's known Brandon long enough to know that Brandon very much is not a morning person, so the fact he's willingly up and awake now rather than trying to bury himself under a pillow—under Nick's pillows—well, that means something. If nothing else, Nick's going to take advantage of this opportunity to just look at him, memorize the fond expression that Brandon's wearing, run his eyes over the skin he'd spent last night touching, burning all of this into his memory.

"Sleep okay?" Nick asks carefully. It's polite, that's one thing. And he wants to check in with Brandon, for want of a better word. "Sorry about the light, I forgot to close the curtains."

Admittedly, they'd both been pretty fucking distracted last night.

"Nah, it's okay. I can always nap later," Brandon says, gives Nick a tiny smile. That seems like another good sign.

"Cool," Nick says, a little lamely. He wants—

He wants everything he wanted last night, really. Except this time he knows just how good it can be, and it sure doesn't make him want Brandon any less.

"How do you feel—" Nick starts to say, his words overlapping Brandon's as he asks, "So, do you wanna—" and they both trail off into silence, false start as they both try to speak again, and then Nick rubs his thumb along Brandon's side as he smooths his hand from ribcage to hip, just quietly appreciating the way he feels under Nick's touch.

Nick lifts his hand off Brandon long enough to wiggle his fingers, making a 'no, you first' gesture, and Brandon takes a deep breath, ribs lifting and expanding as he does, hips shifting just enough with the motion that the head of his dick nudges at Nick's belly, hot and blood-dark. Nick's mouth goes dry as he catalogs the sensation; the brush of warmth, and wetness, and fuck, Nick really, really doesn't want to get out of bed. Doesn't want to let Brandon out of his bed any time soon.

Brandon licks his lips, and Nick watches raptly, arousal twisting and superheating in his belly. God, he's so easy for Brandon.

"Is there anything you want to do first thing?" Brandon asks after a moment, his cheeks going pink, teeth digging into his lower lip. Nick's a heartbeat away from being incredibly uncool and just answering 'You,' before Brandon keeps going. "Because unless you're desperate for, I dunno, first shower or a really early breakfast then I'd kind of like to stay in bed."

"I was going to ask how you felt about morning sex," Nick says. "Uh, please tell me by stay in bed you meant—"

"Yeah, that's exactly what I meant," Brandon interrupts, trailing his fingertips down Nick's side again, and Nick shivers.

Brandon reaches around to grab his ass and somehow it's that which is the last thing Nick needed, the final tiny spark before he gets it. Before he realizes that Brandon's just as eager as he is; careful and worried about the repercussions but just as desperate for more. It's both deeply reassuring and wildly frustrating, because they're still wasting time dancing around the subject rather than just being blunt and going for it.

Then again, they're got plenty of morning left.

"I have more condoms," Nick says, because better late than never, right? Metaphors about early birds seem a tad on the nose, in comparison. "If you wanna fuck me again."

"Fuck," Brandon says with feeling. "Yeah, I really do."

"Great," and Nick leans in to kiss Brandon; hard and fast and with a lot of tongue, saying everything he can't quite manage to put into words then and there.

Brandon responds just as eagerly, which Nick's going to take as a point in his favor too. That ties them both up nicely for a few minutes until Nick has to pull away, panting, and achingly desperate for Brandon's hands or his mouth or something, anything more than just simple friction.

"Top drawer?" Brandon asks, as Nick rolls onto his back, staring up at the ceiling and trying to catch his breath.

Nick blinks, and then clarity dawns. "Oh, yeah. Yes."

"Too fast?" Brandon asks, hovering over him, brows drawn together in a tiny frown.

"Not fast enough," Nick answers, maybe a little too fast himself, but Brandon just grins at him and says, "Okay, okay, message received," and then he's gone, sitting up and then leaning half out of the bed while he reaches over to yank the top drawer of the nightstand open, rummaging through it to pull out a few condoms and the lube Nick had dumped back in there last night, hazy with endorphins and a little drunk on it all still.

"Ambitious much?" Nick asks, as Brandon's looking thoughtfully at the strip of foiled packets, drawing them between thumb and forefinger.

"These are just about expired," Brandon says.

Nick feels his own cheeks go hot, hopes he's not noticeably pink.

"Making fun of how often I get laid isn't actually going to get me in the mood," he says, mostly sure it's landing as a joke, that he can laugh at himself. He doesn't think Brandon really would laugh at him about that, not really. "I think they're left over from, uh. When we came out here right after I got my first contract." He shrugs again, a little embarrassed. Hopes Brandon isn't going to press him right then on just exactly who 'we' is.

It's not that Nick doesn't want to tell him, it just seems like a weird time to talk about other people Nick's hooked up with, right when they're about to—hopefully about to—have sex again.

"I was just gonna say," Brandon says, and now he's definitely blushing, the darkest pink Nick's seen him go maybe ever, and Nick's fascinated, stops thinking about his own ridiculous dating history and just tries to trace how far down Brandon's blush goes. "That, you know. We should use them all up now, just to be safe."

Nick makes an incredibly uncool and obvious choked-off sound at that, because—fuck, Brandon just saying things like that goes right to his head. Goes right to his dick, too, and fuck, Nick needs Brandon to touch him now or he's going to scream.

"We should definitely do that," he says, once he's more certain his voice is under control. "Like, now. Right away. Please."

Brandon drops the condoms onto Nick's chest and climbs on top of him, leaning in for a kiss that's as rough around the edges as Nick suddenly feels, shaky and desperate. His weight feels good on top of Nick, although he has a mad moment where he wonders if they should stop long enough to brush their teeth, or something—Nick's breath has to be morning sour, and since they couldn't be bothered to do more than a cursory clean up the night before he's pretty sure neither of them can smell that great in general—but Brandon doesn't seem to have any complaints, and Nick just wants, wants, wants.

They're still kissing when Brandon reaches blindly over to the side of the mattress again, flailing around until he finds the lube where he'd dropped it, and he gets as far as sitting up and popping the cap before the logistics dawn on him about the same time as they do Nick.

"I can, uh. Do that part," Nick offers carefully, and it's Brandon who makes a choked off noise at that, eyes wide.

"Yes, please," Brandon says, and hands Nick the lube, delicately peeling one of the condom packets off Nick's chest where they'd got stuck when Brandon jumped him; tearing it open and getting it on with exaggerated care. He's not looking at his own hands or dick, though; what he is doing is watching with clear fascination as Nick gets his fingers good and wet, as he shifts and flexes and bends, reaching back to push two and then three fingers inside himself.

He's quick with it, as thorough as he needs to be, equal parts practice and eagerness, because sure, he's feeling it a little from last night, and he'll be feeling it more after this, but he likes that too, likes feeling it after just as much as he does the sensation of someone else's fingers or dick inside him. Loves the heat in Brandon's gaze as he watches Nick open himself up, doesn't miss the way Brandon's hand shakes a little before he steadies himself, reaching over to touch Nick again.

"You want some more?" Brandon asks, looking the tiniest bit dubious, like he wasn't right there with Nick when they did this last night; hard and fast and so fucking good.

Nick stretches out, curls wet fingers around Brandon's latex-covered dick, gives it a stroke that's equal parts teasing and practicality. Brandon makes a tiny, muffled noise that Nick's going to be hearing in his mind every time he jerks off for the next forever, that makes his own dick literally twitch, futilely like he could possibly be any more turned on than he already is.

"I'm good, come on," Nick urges as Brandon moves carefully, lines them both up again, settling in between Nick's legs, hands gentle on his knees while he shifts Nick around to his liking.

"Right," Brandon says, and he gets a hand on his own dick, pushes inside Nick, steady and hot and exactly what Nick's wanted since he woke up. Exactly what he's wanted for a lot longer than that if he's being honest.

Nick exhales long and low, mouth open, trying not to make too much noise. Brandon feels so good in him, and Nick's pretty much blissed out already, picking up Brandon's rhythm and moving with him, letting him do most of the work. Nick might be a morning person, but that doesn't mean he's going to do more than he has to, especially not if Brandon's going to do this so well, exactly how Nick wants it. He rocks with Brandon's motions, lets that push him higher and higher, wound up more, closer and closer to coming with every thrust of Brandon's hips.

The bed is solidly built enough that it's not really moving under them, and Nick has a moment to be glad of that, to be even gladder that the mattress and bed frame are flush to the outside wall and not an internal one, that there's no headboard to rattle, because if there was he's pretty sure they'd have the whole house awake by now. That thought has him muffling a helpless, careless snicker, and Brandon stops moving for a moment, rubs a hand over the back of his neck as he frowns at Nick and asks, "What?"

"Just thinking," Nick says, more breathless than he quite expected to be. "Just. If there was a headboard, I think we'd be getting complaints."

"Oh," Brandon says, and he laughs for a few seconds, almost silently, mouth open, eyes bright and Nick—

Nick kind of loves him, if he's being honest.

That might be more of a problem when he's not high on endorphins and in the middle of getting spectacularly laid.

"I'm not sure about the complaints," Brandon says, and Nick's still trying to wrap his mind around his own thoughts so all he can say to that is, "Huh?"

Brandon pushes back inside him, relentless, sensation sparking sharply along Nick's nerves, a counterpoint to the sounds of skin on skin and their ragged uneven breathing, echoing louder than it feels like it should in the quiet morning.

"I'm just saying," Brandon manages to say, and Nick doesn't even know how he can talk normally, Nick feels like his every intelligent thought has melted down into a sticky yearning mass of 'yes, this, more'. "I think we'd also get fistbumps for picking up. Without even having to go to a bar or anything. You're a cheap date, Leds," and Brandon grins, offering the joke, softening it with the way his hands are still moving over Nick's skin, sweeping slow arcs over his stomach and chest, teasing at his nipples, his navel, slipping down to brush featherlight over his balls.

"I was always going to say yes," Nick says, without stopping to think. "If you asked. I'm so fucking easy for you, Saader."

Brandon's rhythm hitches, just a little, but enough that it's noticeable for Nick. "I could make a joke here," he says, wrapping his fingers around Nick's cock, stroking lightly, tugging up, in time with the way he's fucking Nick. "But, like. Same. Same here."

"Oh," is all Nick can manage to that, because while it's kind of a shock to admit to himself just how gone for Brandon he's been for a while now, he didn't quite anticipate that Brandon would feel the same. That he'd tell Nick that. Nick's sweating, and he's not sure how much of that is due to the temperature, to the exertion or—and?—to what Brandon's saying. It's too much to take in right then, with his attention mostly focused on getting off, his ability to focus and think analytically shredded pleasantly with every sharp movement of Brandon's hips, his dick dragging just the right way inside Nick, getting him tangled up inside his own head.

"I'm gonna come, like, fuck, any second," Brandon warns him not long after, more tension audible in his voice then. "I—fuck, Nick, I can't—"

Nick tightens his grip on Brandon's hips, urges him to keep moving, catches his gaze and tries to broadcast his sincerity, watching Brandon's face as he gets closer and closer. "C'mon, Saader," Nick says. "You're, oh shit, you're so good, just—fucking go for it, wanna feel you."

"Okay. Oh, god," Brandon says, intensely, and he thrusts into Nick a couple more times before his breath catches and he freezes, eyes closed and face twisting. He doesn't cry out, or moan, or anything obvious, anything loud, and by then Nick's close enough himself that he couldn't find it in himself to care even if Brandon had been loud enough to wake the other side of the lake. Instead, Brandon shudders, inhales sharply, and then goes boneless, all his weight landing on Nick all of a sudden.

Nick runs a hand gently along the length of Brandon's spine, fingertips bumping over the vertebrae as he waits for Brandon to recover, trying to remind himself that he can wait, he doesn't need to get off right then and there, no matter what his dick is urgently reporting. Nick's a grown up, Nick is considerate in bed, Nick can wait.

Nick's going to scream if he has to wait much longer.

"Wow," Brandon says, blinking hard as he starts to sit up, flailing a little as he tries to move without accidentally crushing any of Nick's more sensitive parts, even though he's still clearly a little wobbly. "Hi," and his grin is exactly the same as he catches Nick's eye then as it has been every time they've ever hung out, or watched movies together, or fooled around on the ice at practice, or slumped together tired after wins and losses on planes and buses. It's the last four years of Nick's life in a microcosm, and for a second he forgets entirely about sex and how turned on he is and just lets the so-familiar affection flood through him, suffusing everything.

Nick's always rolled his eyes at guys claiming they 'accidentally' said the wrong name in bed, or pulled the 'I love you' card with a girl they weren't actually sure about, all that kind of thing. It always seemed like making excuses, or at least being able to walk back something that hadn't necessarily worked out how they wanted it to, but in that moment Nick comes closer than he's ever done to just blurting out his feelings, almost overwhelmed by how good this is, how right and necessary it feels to be doing this with Brandon, how—yeah, how he's kind of topsy-turvy head-spinningly stupid in love with him.

Nick's not supposed to hook up with guys he feels that way about. Historically, it hasn't ended well for him.

Then again, the decidedly dopey expression that Brandon's wearing as he looks down at Nick—

Well, Nick might not be the only one in this boat, that's for sure.

It's probably fair game if they're in this together.

"I—" Nick starts to say, and then Brandon interrupts him to say, "Hey, so, can I blow you now? I just really want to suck your dick."

Overwhelming, all-encompassing base lust just wipes Nick's brain clean of anything more sensible that he could say in that moment, because having a deep and meaningful emotional conversation is important, and it seems like it's something they're going to have to do eventually. But it can definitely wait now that Brandon going down on him again is back on the table. Nick's just prioritizing. He'll be able to deal with all of this better after he gets off.

"Uh, yeah," Nick says after a second, when it's clear that Brandon isn't taking the way that had made him choke on his words as a guaranteed yes. "You can definitely do that. Like, any time."

Brandon raises an eyebrow at him, a warm lazy grin playing over his lips, and Nick doesn't even need him to chirp him out loud to correct, "Okay, almost any time, but now is definitely good. Please."

"Cool," Brandon says, giving him another approving look, and then he's trailing his hands down Nick's sides again to rest on his hips, squirming and shifting so that he's in a better position, nudging Nick to shuffle up the mattress a bit so that Brandon can stay mostly sprawled out on top of him, ankles dangling over the side of the bed.

Nick nearly chokes again a few seconds later as Brandon finally bends in close enough to mouth over the head of his dick, lips soft and wet on sensitive skin. His breath is hot, and Nick feels goosebumps break out all over his body as Brandon shifts again, taking more in. He gets a hand on the shaft and lets his tongue move against the head, stroking while he sucks, and Nick shivers, the urge to come already surging through him, gone from an eventuality to imminent, stealing his breath.

It's probably good he can't seem to do more than pant roughly, pushing his fingers through Brandon's hair, sliding gently over the curve of his skull, because if Nick was just a shade less desperate right then he'd probably be yelling, and he's not sure how Brandon would take that. Brandon's taking him perfectly, though; Nick can't focus on much other than how good he feels, hot-cold-intense, shaking with it, muscles twitching, back arching.

Brandon works him over like that for a regrettably short amount of time, but he seems to realize that Nick's too strung out for anything fancy, for anything like drawing it out, and then he pulls off long enough to inhale quickly before going much further down than Nick thinks he had yesterday. It's too much and it'll never be enough at the same time, and Nick manages to give him a courtesy warning about two whole seconds before he's coming hard.

Brandon keeps his mouth on Nick as he goes soft, and the way his throat works as he tries to swallow goes scatter-shot right through Nick's nervous system, makes his dick throb, like he's trying to come again, or more. Brandon manages to get most of it, wiping his mouth carefully, reaching over for a corner of the sheet to clean Nick up some as well. He crawls up the bed again to collapse onto his stomach beside Nick, forehead leaning against Nick's shoulder, lips brushing his the curve of muscle just above his elbow.

"Fuck," Nick says softly, still reeling just a little. That had been a lot. Overwhelming. He's going to need some time to process, he thinks. Probably a good thing they're going to have to leave his room and at least make a partial attempt at being around other people, at not just gorging themselves on touching and kissing and getting off again and again. "That was really good. Did I say that yet? That was so. Fuck."

"I had fun too," Brandon says, and Nick can hear the smile in his voice even if he can't see Brandon's face just then.

Even if he's starting to suspect that unless they get up really soon Brandon's just going to fall back to sleep, well, Nick thinks he can live with that. Brandon sounds happy, though, pleased and maybe a little smug, and more importantly for Nick's libido, more than a little wrecked, like there's a growl in his voice that isn't usually there. 'I did that,' Nick thinks, with more than a little wonder, even if the strictest truth is really more that Brandon did him. However he wants to frame it, it was so fucking good, and Nick's going to be getting inappropriately turned on all day if Brandon keeps sounding like that. That might make swimming a bit more hazardous than usual. Maybe they should just take the canoes out instead or something. Cargo shorts and life jackets will probably hide a lot, Nick thinks.

It's only then that it occurs to him to actually glance over at the clock again, and it's even earlier than he'd thought. Definitely earlier than anyone's likely to be up, especially since they're all in vacation mode for the most part, not aiming to get much of anything done other than relaxing. Maybe they do have time to nap before making an appearance for breakfast. Nick's maybe making excuses for himself too, the seductive appeal of drifting off to sleep again all tangled up with Brandon more than he can quite say no to.

"You wanna nap for a bit?" Nick asks, lazily bringing one hand up to card through Brandon's hair, just letting himself drift as he keeps touching him, a lodestone, not really asking for anything more than that. "We've got time."

Brandon wriggles closer and Nick thinks again, yeah, they don't need to retrieve the covers from where they'd kicked them off. It's plenty warm with the sun still coming up, angling in through the gap in the curtains, and Brandon's radiating heat too. Nick had almost forgotten how he always seems to run hot, the way he'd always noticed how warm Brandon was with their knees touching in too-small bus seats, the way he could trace the muscular curve of Brandon's thigh even inches away when they were on the same couch. Or maybe Nick just pays too much attention to Brandon and always has. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

"Sounds good to me," Brandon says. "Wake me up for breakfast?"

"You bet," Nick says. Breakfast also sounds appealing, but not quite as much as a nap. Nick's worked up a pretty good appetite already, if nothing else.

* * *
Nick wakes up a little later to the sounds of people banging doors and half-yelling across the house, which is pretty normal for their vacations, really. It suggests someone is up and making a start on getting food ready, and Nick definitely isn't going to complain about this being one of the few times that person isn't him. The guys can definitely figure out the kitchen for themselves if they're hungry.

Brandon is still out cold as Nick sits up carefully, the sheet falling away. He's sprawled out on his stomach, taking up more than his fair share of the bed, mouth open, face mashed into the pillow. It's a little funny, Nick thinks; Brandon's so careful about what he does and says and the space he takes up in the world when he's awake, and then when he's asleep it's a completely different story. Not that Nick would have any qualms about elbowing him to get a little more space, of course. He totally would. If he wanted to.

He kind of likes waking up with Brandon pressed up against him like that, though. Brandon's unselfconscious trust and affection, the way he'd curled around Nick and relaxed…

Nick would be lying if he didn't say that it made him feel good.

Nick just watches him sleep for a couple of minutes before it dawns on him that it's probably a little creepy. Brandon doesn't stir as he gets out of bed, and after stretching carefully and then realizing just exactly how filthy he is, Nick admits defeat and closes the bathroom door quietly, runs the shower. If Brandon wakes up, maybe he'll join him. Nick would definitely be okay with that.

Nick rinses off, and takes a careful look in the mirror, reassured that there's nothing particularly incriminating in terms of marks or bruises. He ties a towel around his waist and trims his beard carefully; it's almost warm enough that he's tempted to just shave anyway, but that would definitely prompt comments.

He's careful again opening the door back into the bedroom proper, steamy humid air following him, and Nick can feel himself starting to sweat again. That at least won't stand out, as hot as it's been this week. He starts towards the dresser but gets distracted halfway there, his eye drawn back to the bed like clockwork. Brandon is still asleep, mouth open, curled around Nick's pillow, and the sheet's shoved down just far enough that even if Nick wasn't well aware they'd both slept naked he'd be able to tell that Brandon wasn't wearing anything.

Nick's feet veer in that direction, and, well, whoops, he's staring again. He stops beside the bed, not sure whether he wants to make sure Brandon gets some more sleep or whether he wants to drag that sheet down even further, caught at Brandon's hip and baring pretty much everything. It's probably about the time where they're going to need to make an appearance before someone comes looking for one or both of them, though, so Nick stomps firmly on the part of himself that doesn't want to disturb Brandon and reaches out to lay a hand lightly on his shoulder, thumb rubbing over the tendon running from his neck to his collar.

"Mrph," Brandon says, blinking slowly, rolling onto his back to look up at Nick.

"Hi," Nick says softly. "It's probably breakfast time."

"Right," Brandon says, still blinking, and definitely only half awake. "Come back to bed first?"

Nick is tempted—god, is Nick ever tempted—but what was risky earlier in the morning is a fully fledged Bad Idea by then, and so he reluctantly shakes his head, scoots a little further away so his traitorous body won't actually give in to the invitation that Brandon is telegraphing.

"Unless we want those idiots busting in to wake me up already we should really get moving," Nick says.

Brandon pouts a little, and Nick tries to pretend that doesn't have any effect on him, but he does give in enough to crawl back into bed to kiss Brandon one more time. That kiss turns into Brandon's hands on his ass while Nick lets his weight push Brandon flat against the mattress, one kiss stretching out into more, slow and sweet and scorchingly hot. Nick's tempted despite himself to just go with the flow again. He knows that if he'd been completely serious about not fooling around then he really should have stopped to put clothes on before waking Brandon up, because all that he can feel then is the easy, confident path of Brandon's hands over his bare skin. The sheets tangle underneath them as they slowly move together, rasping against bare skin and hair, and Nick's very conscious of the way his dick is pushing against the smooth plane of Brandon's stomach through the towel that's already come undone. It would be so easy to just slide back to doing all of that again, but right before Nick can think, 'okay, fuck it' there's a particularly loud crash from the direction of the kitchen, and Nick winces, and Brandon muffles laughter into his shoulder, and lets him roll off again.

"You wanna go check if he broke something, huh?" Brandon asks, just letting the tiniest edge of amusement into his tone. Nick can't exactly argue; Brandon knows him too well.

"You can shower in my bathroom if you want," Nick says. "I just got out."

"Yeah, the towel was a clue," Brandon says, fighting a grin. "Trying to tell me I smell, huh, Leds?"

"We got kind of, uh. Everywhere," Nick says, stumbling over his words a little. He doesn't exactly want to just come out and say, 'it would've been pretty obvious if we'd walked out there in last night's clothes reeking of sex', even if that's the truth, and it's only then that he realizes Brandon was just making a joke, probably knew full well what Nick meant by all of that.

"Hey, come on, I only just woke up too," Nick says, and Brandon kisses him fast and then shoves him gently off, swinging his legs over the other side of the mattress and standing up.

"It's fine," Brandon reassures him, scratching automatically at his stomach and then making a face at the sensation, the dark hair at his groin tangled and smeared with dried come. It's gross, and pretty much that feeling is exactly why Nick hit the shower first thing, but at the same time seeing Brandon covered in the unmistakable evidence of the sex they'd had—

It's kind of turning Nick on again. Maybe he doesn't need to see whatever Mikey and Connor have decided to do to his kitchen right away.

Fuck, this is going to be the longest day if he can't get his mind out of the gutter—off Brandon—for more than two minutes at a time.

"I'm going to shower," Brandon says. "Go check up on them already, I know you want to."

"I'm going, I'm going," Nick says, and Brandon pauses in the doorway to the en suite, looking back over his shoulder—Nick is not staring at his ass, he's just glancing, the morning light is very flattering and Brandon's built in exactly the way Nick likes, and shit, he has to stop doing this—and adds, "Uh, maybe put clothes on first, though."

"Oh fuck off," Nick grumbles, but they both know he doesn't really mean it.

He does get enough of a grip on his self control then to actually go back towards his dresser and start digging through it to find fresh clothes. The bathroom door closes behind Brandon and Nick relaxes just a little more, now that there's definitely no chance of being distracted further. He balls up his towel and tosses it in the general direction of his laundry basket—he's probably going to have to deal with that sooner rather than later—and steps into a clean pair of shorts, finding a thin t-shirt that'll be comfortable enough for pretty much anything they choose to do later in the day.

He's delayed long enough at that point that he hears the shower shut off again, and so Nick slips carefully out of his room, pulling the door most of the way closed behind him, and heads for the kitchen to see just what disaster his friends have managed to facilitate this time. They can clear that up and finish making breakfast, and if Nick's really lucky then he'll be able to keep everyone distracted enough that they won't realize Brandon's coming out of Nick's room down the hall and not his own.

Nick's friends are, for the most part, not exactly the most observant guys on the planet when it comes to anything happening off the ice. He's pretty confident that's going to go just fine.

* * *

Nothing was actually broken in the kitchen, which was something of a relief, but Nick was pretty sure he was going to be making fun of Connor for being incapable of working a toaster without help for the next three summers. Which was, coincidentally enough, also probably about how long it had been since anyone had—on purpose—emptied the crumb tray under it. Nick had got to the kitchen just in time to see them unearth the brush and pan, which meant he'd gotten to supervise the cleanup and hadn't actually had to do anything.

After they'd finished chirping Connor, Nick had helped dig out the rest of the breakfast ingredients from where they'd shoved them the day before. It took a little longer than maybe it should, since they'd just jammed them in without much care, too focused on getting out onto the lake before the sun got too much higher, and Nick had to hunt around for longer than he'd expected before he remembered where he had shoved the cooking spray.

With a distinctly lazier day stretching out ahead of them, Jason lets them talk him into making omelets, dishing them up one by one, although he was also insisting on serving in the order they'd arrived in the kitchen, which meant all of them got to watch him stuff his face while poking at the pan with a spatula in his other hand. Nothing burned, at least, and by the time Jason was dishing up Nick's plate, Brandon had made his own way into the kitchen, hair damp and freshly washed, t-shirt sticking to him where he hadn't dried off all the way. Nick tries to unstick his tongue from the roof of his mouth, taking that in, and then pays much more attention to his knife and fork than they really need.

"Leds wasn't kidding about how much you sleep, huh?" Jason jokes, sitting down at the table beside Brandon, grinning easily at him.

Brandon just shrugs at him and gives him a sunny, guileless smile right back. "Guess all that healthy Minnesota air got to me," he jokes, and the others all laugh, probably more than such a weak joke deserves.

"Well, you and Leds were the last ones up," Connor says. "Which means you get to clean up."

Nick can't protest that; it's fair enough and it's not like they hadn't stuck Mikey and Jason with clean up yesterday while the rest of them got the boat out of storage. Nick thinks they actually got the easier job, but it's a bit late to argue by then.

"Sure," Nick says with a shrug, scraping the last pieces of his egg off the plate. "What do you guys want to do today, anyway?"

"Boat?" Jason suggests, at the same time as Connor pipes up, "Jet-skiing?" and Brandon says, "Swimming?"

"So… the lake," Nick deadpans, like it's not the reason they come up every year.

Mikey's been weirdly quiet ever since Nick had got into the kitchen, which is really not like him. Nick glances over at him to see what he's thinking, and rather than arguing with his brother like he usually would, he's still contemplating his coffee, brows drawn together in a faint frown. Nick kicks at his ankle under the table to get his attention, raising an inquiring brow at him in return.

"Eh, maybe later for me," Mikey says. "You guys can go out first, I'm gonna work out some more for a bit first, maybe."

"Ooh, someone wants to make the opening day roster," Connor chirps, and Mikey kicks him, a lot harder than Nick had done. Nick's going to stay out of that, he knows better than to get in the middle of a Reilly-on-Reilly scuffle.

"Hey, if you want to go hit the water already I can help Leds clean up," Mikey offers, turning to Brandon, and ignoring Connor with as much dignity as he can manage, considering by then he's trying to keep himself out of kicking range by sitting with his legs bent in an increasingly ridiculous angle.

"Uh, sure," Brandon says, looking a little confused. Not that he's going to turn it down, of course; Nick can't blame him. And as good a guy as Brandon is, putting up too much of a fight over getting out of doing work would definitely seem weird to the others, Nick's not going to question it. He is going to have some questions for Mikey, though. "Thanks," Brandon says, "I'll get you later, yeah?"

"Sounds good," Mikey says, and he gets the last word with Connor, too, standing up and then leaning over the table to swipe his plate—and the last piece of bacon on it before he could get his fork back into it.

"Aw, c'mon," Connor protests, and Mikey just gives him a smug, "You snooze, you lose," and heads to the sink.

The others make their way back to their rooms for various items, or head straight out to the pier where the boat and jet skis are all tied up, towels and snacks to hand. Jason's the only one who goes to change, since the rest of them had all just worn their trunks for breakfast in the first place. Nick wasn't paying a whole lot of attention—too busy trying not to stare anywhere he shouldn't, which meant he'd more or less seen a whole lot of a his mug of tea and plate and not much else—but he was pretty sure Jason had been wearing jeans which it was definitely too hot for, even if it wasn't quite ten yet.

"So," Nick says, starting to load the dishwasher with glasses, dish towel slung over his shoulder. He took a couple of speculative looks at Mikey, who was in front of the sink rinsing plates off before turning to hand them to Nick to stack. "What's up with you?"

He's probably a lot closer to Mikey than he is to Connor, always has been, and most summers since they finished high school Nick's spent more time with him or Jason than he has anyone else bar maybe Tyler. At least, until this year. He hasn't exactly been avoiding Mikey, but he hasn't found as many reasons to hang out with it being just the two of them. Not that he'd really been thinking about it in those terms until it had occurred to him just then. Nick's subconscious is clearly three steps ahead of the rest of him.

"You tell me," Mikey says, leaning on the sink, hip cocked as he narrows his eyes at Nick.

Nick opens his mouth to protest that, and then takes a second, slower glance, lets himself actually think before speaking this time. Mikey doesn't actually look or sound mad; he's not calling Nick out—or at least, he's not doing anything that should make Nick defensive, even if he's finding himself braced for that. He just looks—curious. Focused.

Like he's got a very good suspicion about just what exactly is up with Nick.

"Uh," Nick says, frozen for a moment.

He's not sure whether to prevaricate or not; Mikey will be able to tell if he's lying, that's for sure, but Nick doesn't want to say anything he can't take back. Doesn't want to say anything he hasn't cleared with Brandon, either. If whatever it is between them is something that's going to continue when they go back home, then Nick can't do anything stupid just then.

"So does Saader know you're totally gone on him, or what?" Mikey asks, and Nick bites his lip hard enough he's surprised it doesn't draw blood.

"Mikey," he protests, but he really doesn't have much more of an argument past, "I don't want to talk about this," and given the way that Mikey had pushed to give them a chance for a private conversation, Nick doesn't think he's going to take that as much of an answer.

He's not wrong about that.

"Look," Mikey says gently. "You're not subtle, okay, Nick? I know you, and so do the other guys, and if they haven't noticed yet it's mostly just because you keep managing to go off with Brandon by yourself, so they don't see it yet."

Whoops. Nick had thought he'd been a little more subtle than that.

"I mean, I guess it helps that I know what it looks like when you're into someone," he adds wryly, and that's it, the closest that they've come to talking about the couple of weeks right after Nick first made the NHL when he and Mikey had added benefits to their friendship. They'd been too young and dumb to be able to work out fast enough what was sexual frustration and a temporary crush versus anything more serious.

It had burned hot and burned out fast, and they'd had a painfully awkward month of avoiding each other before mutually deciding to just never talk about it again. It usually wasn't too difficult; Nick loved Mikey and he'd be the first to defend him—any place other than on NHL ice, at least—but most of the time he also managed to forget that he knew exactly what Mikey looked like when he came, how he liked to kiss, what he liked in bed. Most of the time, it didn't matter, or it just added that extra layer of intimacy to their friendship, knowing each other down to the bedrock.

Which meant that Nick opened his mouth to try and change the subject, and what actually came out was, "I think I want to date him."

"And how does he feel about that?" Mikey asks. "I mean, I know what I think. But you know him better, I guess."

That's interesting, Nick thinks. Brandon's the type who looks like an open book, but isn't; he's not sure whether Mikey's got a better read on him because he doesn't have to worry about all the same things Nick is, or if Mikey's reading too much into things just as much as Nick is. As Nick thinks he might be. As Nick is nervous as hell that he might be.

"I—we didn't talk about that yet," Nick admits, and Mikey latches onto that admission like dog with a bone. "Yet?"

"Uh," Nick says, because he really didn't mean to admit that, especially not if that means that Mikey's going to notice whenever Nick gets Brandon alone again, which he has to be honest enough to admit he was really hoping to do. "Stuff happened."

Mikey snorts, and rolls his eyes, and gives up entirely on even pretending to be doing anything like clearing up after breakfast. Instead, he leans back against the countertop and pins Nick with an understanding, absolutely merciless look.

"Nick," he says. "Did you tell him how you feel, or did you just stick your hands in his pants when none of the rest of us were looking?"

"Where's my option C?" Nick asks, a little petulant. He knows the latter option is pretty much, well, what happened, but it doesn't mean he has to admit it. And it makes it sound so much worse, too, it's not like—

Not like he's at all okay with letting Brandon think this is just a hook-up for the summer. Maybe he's been telling himself he'd be okay with that, and maybe he'd even almost believed it, but in the cold light of day, Nick is really not ready to give up on this. Not unless that's what Brandon wants. Shit, Nick really needs to talk to him. Without anyone else around.

"So, B then?" Mikey says, and it's just not fucking fair, why does Nick have to have friends who figure this stuff out before he does?

"Ugh," Nick says, and sits back down at the kitchen table, letting himself slump forward, forehead on the table and eyes closed.

Mikey pats his shoulder and then sits down next to him, waiting till Nick's ready to say anything else.

"How did you even guess?" he asks, mumbling into his forearm without raising his head or opening his eyes, not sure if he wants that to be a rhetorical question or not.

"You sat in his lap, challenged him to a race and then tried to pants him when he beat you," Mikey points out. "Elementary school might've been a while back but I know what pigtail pulling looks like."

Nick wants to point out that they've done the same or worse to pretty much everyone that spends time out at the lake regularly, but considering he's now slept with half the people on this trip that might not be the most winning argument he's ever come up with. He's not sure he even wants to argue, it's not like Mikey's wrong. Not that Nick wants to need advice from someone two years younger than him.

Nick sighs again.

"I'm not giving you any details—" "Good," Mikey interrupts, and Nick doesn't need to open his eyes to be able to reach over and slug him in the arm for that one, "—but, uh. Yeah, I think I want to see where this goes."

"If it's any help, I think he feels the same," Mikey says, very carefully, and Nick does sit up and open his eyes at that.

"Really?" he asks.

"Leds," Mikey says with a sigh, "every moment you weren't looking at him with little cartoon hearts in your eyes he was pretty much doing the same thing back to you. It was almost impressive that neither of you seemed to notice, honestly."

"We're not that smart," Nick says glumly. Then he thinks about going to bed with Brandon again—about kicking everyone else out early and holing up in the cabin for another week just the two of them, even if it is a pipe dream considering he knows damn well they can't really afford to skip out on all their other commitments—and he brightens up again. "The sex was really good, though."

Mikey makes a pained expression. "I don't need to know that," he complains. "And for future reference, disappearing halfway through a movie is not subtle."

"Fuck, you could hear?" Nick asks, mildly horrified.

"Oh my god, no," Mikey said. "There was stuff we could have heard?"

"Uh," says Nick, because this conversation is probably not going to end well for him.

"I thought you'd fooled around when we were out fishing," Mikey says.

"Well yeah," Nick says. There's no point in even trying to deny that, apparently. "I don't know how long it's been since you hooked up, but you can actually have sex more than once a day."

"I'm sure you weren't this annoying when I was sleeping with you," Mikey grumbles, and Nick relaxes a little, at last, because that kind of teasing probably means that they are okay, even if Mikey's giving him a rough ride now. He's at least not going to freak out if, say, next time Brandon hangs out with all of them Nick's introducing him as something more than just a friend.

Then again, Nick is very much putting the cart before his metaphorical horses here. It's all very well to talk to Mikey and go red up to his ears when he teases Nick about how obvious his crush on Brandon is; that doesn't actually mean that Brandon's going to want to date him. Or let Nick tell other people about them if they do.

"We're good now, yeah?" Nick asks. He has to check, just in case.

Mikey gives him a solid punch to the upper arm, and Nick rubs the spot and gives him an only slightly exaggerated glare. Mikey's definitely put on a lot of muscle since he and Nick hooked up, that's for sure. "Yeah, we're good," he says. "And because I am a much better friend than you—" Nick makes a protesting noise but Mikey just keeps talking over top of him—"I will even keep the other two away from the house for an hour so you can talk to your boy."

"I don't know if we can really call him my boy," Nick says, and Mikey rolls his eyes at him again. He's about to say something else, but the sound of flip-flops on the deck outside is audible then, and Mikey shuts up fast as Jason yanks open the screen door and yells, "Are you two done yet? Come the fuck on."

"Yeah, in a minute," Nick yells back, and then looks at Mikey again and shrugs. "I can finish up in here if you go help them load up the boat."

"Cool," Mikey says, and he gives Nick a quick hug around the shoulders before pushing the chair back with an audible screech, and yelling, "I'll be out in a second, hold your horses."

Nick makes quick work of the rest of the clean up—there really wasn't all that much to do, and he's uncomfortably aware that if it had just been him and Brandon taking care of it they probably wouldn't even have got as far as he and Mikey did before getting distracted, which just means he also has to thank Mikey for saving him from having Jason walk in on Nick groping Brandon in front of the kitchen sink. Well, Mikey probably doesn't need to hear that much about Nick's theoretical sex life, but Nick appreciates the save any way. He bumps the dishwasher drawer closed with his hip and sets it running, thinking hard as he does. They're going to need to act normal for the rest of the morning, but after lunch…

Yeah, he'll take Mikey up on that offer.

And this time he's not going to let himself put off actually talking to Brandon in favor of hooking up.

Well, probably not.

* * *

Despite half a dozen last minute things that they just have to do before heading out onto the lake, it really doesn't take long to get out there, the wind picking up a bit more than it had been yesterday. Nick nearly loses his hat, tipped back to cover his neck, grabbing it before it winds up in the water. Mikey had waved them off before heading into the gym, so Nick figured his comments over breakfast hadn't just been about getting Nick alone for a conversation. That was reassuring, in a way.

There was a lot more room on the boat with just Jason, Brandon and Nick there, and Nick played gracious host and let Jason take them out. It wasn't entirely a ploy to get to sprawl out next to Brandon on the bench seat, but he wasn't going to turn down the opportunity. Connor buzzed them a couple times in the jet ski until Nick threatened to toss one of the cans in the cooler at him if he did it again, which just meant he raced off towards the other side of the lake laughing hysterically. Nick had to admit it had been an empty threat; the cooler was only so big, and if they finished everything in there they weren't going to get more without heading back to the house.

Since they're just fucking around on the water rather than fishing Jason takes them out a little further, waiting till they're far enough from the shore to really open up the throttle. Nick finds himself squinting as they come around, looking right into the sun. He flips his hat around—sunglasses were apparently the thing he'd forgotten that morning, what with everything else going on—and then rubs at the back of his neck as Jason curls the boat around one of the buoys, putting the sun at their backs again.

"I think Connor threw sunscreen in the cooler too?" Brandon suggests, the first actual words either of them have spoken in a while. Whooping while Jason takes a corner a little too fast doesn't really count as talking, Nick figures, although it's also pretty much compulsory.

"Good call," Nick says, and bends over to dig through and find it. He slathers it on over his neck and face, and after a moment's thought, his shoulders as well. "You want it next?" he asks Brandon, and frowns as Brandon bites his lip, clearly trying not to laugh.

Brandon's got dark-lensed sunglasses on, which means Nick can't read him quite as well as he'd like, his eyes hidden, although the way his lip is still twitching suggests that whatever it is, Nick hasn't fixed it yet.

"Yeah," Brandon says, but instead of reaching out to take the bottle from Nick he adds, a little more softly, "You've got a little—" and he reaches over, thumb rubbing circles over Nick's cheek, the lightest pressure possible as he gets the sunscreen rubbed in all the way.

Nick finds himself holding his breath until Brandon stops touching him, and he knows he sounds rough when he says, "Thanks."

"Eh, you've looked worse," Brandon says with a shrug, still looking very amused as he starts to apply his own sunscreen, and Nick takes a moment to imagine what he must've looked like, a smear of white on his face, and his face goes hot like he's picked up a worse burn than any of the guys yesterday when he realizes what Brandon is implying.

"Oh, fuck you," Nick hisses, and elbows Brandon in the side, and then nearly falls in the lake when Brandon glances quickly at Jason—who still has his back to them and is probably not even listening, really—and mouths, "Maybe later."

Nick's really going to have to work on his self control if he wants to talk to Brandon and not just jump him.

And he's probably also going to have to get a better poker face, because Brandon elbows him and then shoves a can of soda into his hands before standing up and leaning in around the wheel to hand Jason the sunscreen.

"Yeah, good idea, thanks," Jason yells, since none of them had missed how pink he'd gotten, and he'd complained through half of dinner last night too. "Oh hey, Saader, can you take the wheel for a bit," and he doesn't even wait for Brandon to reply before stepping back, sitting down next to Nick as Brandon takes over.

Brandon's probably spent as much time messing about on boats as Nick has, so he doesn't have any worries on that score, just lets himself lean back against the side of the boat and relax, enjoying the weather and the scenery. The prime angle that gives him on Brandon's shoulders and the flex of muscles in his arms as he easily handles the boat around a couple of the marker buoys doesn't hurt, either.

"You wanna do some fishing today as well?" Jason asks, pitching his voice so Nick can hear him over the engine noise and the wind.

Nick stops to think about it for a second, but they've got enough food to feed an army and he doesn't really fancy having to repack and drag it all home with him again either, so he's not that bothered. Not unless the guys want to catch enough to take home for later. He's pretty sure the second fridge in the garage is still working fine, though maybe that's a thing they should check first.

"I'm good, but don't let me stop you," he says eventually. "Think I'm gonna work out for a bit after lunch, maybe catch a nap."

Jason snorts. "Maybe? Yeah, like we don't all know you're out for the count by 2pm most days."

"Routines are good," Nick protests, although he's probably going to be breaking with his if talking to Brandon goes well.

If it doesn't, well.

He'll cross that bridge if he comes to it, he figures.

They trade off a few more times with the boat, and Connor comes back over to demand company on the jet skis, which turns out to be Mikey—done with his workouts—and Jason, which leaves Nick and Brandon with sole custody of the boat. Nick glances over to the other three, well off-shore and making plenty of noise, and figures that then is as good a time as any. It's not like they're going to be overheard, that's for sure.

"You wanna head back in?" Nick asks, raising an eyebrow significantly. He hopes Brandon gets that it's significant, although given everything that's happened over the past 24 hours he doesn't see how it could not be.

"Sounds good," Brandon says.

Nick waves his arm overhead to get Mikey's attention and then jerks a thumb in the direction of the jetty, indicating they're going back in. He's pretty sure the gesture he gets in response is a thumbs up. He takes them in carefully, bumping up against the tires on the side of the piles and keeping his hand on the wheel steady while Brandon jumps out and ties the boat up. Just like always, they work together well, moving easily and not bumping into each other. Nick could get used to this.

"You want to swim now, or...?" Nick asks, just checking. It's hot out and it's only going to get hotter, and he's almost tempted to try and have the conversation they need to have out in the water anyway. It doesn't exactly leave either of them with an easy line of retreat though, and Nick doesn't want to do that to Brandon.

Brandon shakes his head.

"After lunch, I think."

Without really discussing it, they wander back to the loungers set up by the patio, overlooking the lake. It's shaded enough that neither of them is going to be half-blinded by the sun, or the way it's bouncing off the tiny little waves on the lake, fracturing all over the open possibilities of the morning.

Nick sits down on one lounger, and Brandon makes himself comfortable on another, facing him, just out of reach. Just close enough that he could touch him if he leaned over, if he shuffled in, scraping the metal legs of the lounger over the cobblestones. That would really get everyone's attention.

"So," Nick starts, and then trails off into nothing.

The ground beneath him doesn't feel as steady as it once did, not now that he's right there in the moment, a breath from making himself more vulnerable that he's been for a long time. Possibly ever. Their eyes meet again, Brandon's sunglasses pushed up over his forehead, the arms buried in his hair, where Nick had his hands only a couple hours ago.

Out in the bright morning that seems even more unreal than it had when Nick's hip was tucked against Brandon's, their thighs warm where they'd sat pressed together in the boat. Nick's had his hands and mouth on the skin hidden by Brandon's trunks, and that thought doesn't feel any less incendiary now that it's a memory and not just his imagination. It's sharper now, more dangerous in every sense of the word. Nick can't open his mouth, frozen suddenly, words drying up.

How can he ask Brandon this? They don't live in the same city any more, they can't; Nick should leave this behind in the stretched out days and lingering heat of June and July, part of his summer wardrobe that he'll put away again before the preseason.

"We should talk about this," Brandon says, and the pause before he says 'this' tells Nick that he's just as unsteady as he is, as unsure about what to label it.

"Saader, what are we even doing?" Nick asks.

Breaking it down into small pieces should help, right? He can't think of any other approach.

Brandon gives him a tiny smile, licks his lips and Nick's body reacts like he's been training for weeks on that, too, and not just his edge work and his plyos and his shot. Nick could set a new All-Star record for the speed with which he can go from zero to painfully aroused, apparently. Probably no one's ever going to put that on a hockey card, though.

"We're having fun, right?" Brandon asks, mostly rhetorically. Nick tries his best to look like that doesn’t make his chest feel hollow. "No one's getting hurt, and it's summer and I like spending time with you. With or without pants."

Nick snorts at that last, can't help it. "Romantic," he says.

Brandon fixes him with a look, and this time he's not laughing. Nick's mouth goes dry, tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth. "Do you want flowers and chocolates? I could do that."

"Saader," Nick says again, helplessly.

"Do you not want that?" Brandon asks, and Nick doesn't know what to say.

It seems like he and Brandon are on the same wavelength still, which is good, that helps enormously, but it's such a big thing; this weighty possibility that could roll right over top of both of their lives. He's settled in New York, he's happy there, and on almost every level—professionally, at least—life is good.

Being with Brandon would shift the whole of that out of alignment.

Being with Brandon would still make it better, Nick thinks, and he feels that certainty lock into place, tilting him right back to where he'd been before he started second-guessing himself.

"I want whatever you can give me," he says, and maybe that was too honest, because Brandon looks poleaxed. Nick's reminded of his grandmother's saying about being slapped in the face with a wet fish.

"Leds," Brandon says, and then changes tack. "Nick. I don't—I don't know what you want. I thought we were doing pretty well with, uh, everything—"

"The ridiculously hot sex," Nick interjects, and Brandon nods agreement but doesn't let himself get distracted.

"You've come right back with everything that's happened this weekend, you keep meeting me in the middle, and I just figured, well. That we're doing this. So… are we? Are we calling this a few beers and some sketchy decision making, just fooling around, or—" It's Brandon's turn to trail off then, and Nick can hardly hear him over the way his pulse is racing, echoing loudly in his ears, making him feel like his head is stuffed with salt water. "Do we call it something else."

"Dating?" Nick suggests. "I mean, I want to. Date you. It's okay if you don't want to move too fast, we've kind of. Done that, already. But I can dial it back if you want me to."

Brandon looks down at his feet for a long moment, and then back up again to meet Nick's gaze.

"I wasn't joking when I said I wanted you to fuck me," and it takes every ounce of self control Nick's ever possessed not to dive across the foot of empty space between them and jump Brandon then and there. In front of god and everybody and most especially everybody else staying in the same place as them. They really have to work on their timing.

"You've got to stop saying stuff like that when I can't touch you," Nick says helplessly. "I—fuck, Saader."

Brandon's cheeks are pink, like he doesn't quite believe he dared to say it out loud—outside, even—but he looks like he's sure of himself, the same steady, even determination in his expression that Nick's seen a hundred times before in various situations on and off the ice. This is the first time, he thinks, that it's been about something like this, though. That Nick's seen, at any rate.

Brandon shrugs, his voice still low, soft as ever. "You asked what I was thinking."

"And I'm definitely, uh, on board with that," Nick says. "How do you want to do this? Not the sex, obviously, just. Everything else."

"I guess we keep going with the flow," Brandon says. "It's worked out pretty well so far, I think."

"That's fine with me," Nick says carefully, trying to think about anything else they need to discuss then and there, any obvious pitfalls he's missing. It's a little hard to focus on practical things or even on the emotional impact when all that he's got running in circles around his head is Brandon's voice saying 'I want you to fuck me' and the mental images are… distracting.

"You want to go in and start lunch?" Brandon says, after Nick's been quiet for probably a bit too long, fingers picking at the seam on the sides of his trunks, trying to put more than two thoughts together.

"I—yeah, actually," Nick says, and he stands up, suiting action to his words. "And after that?"

Brandon's still faintly pink, but hopefully anyone else would just think it's sunburn if he still looks like that by the time the others come back in. "I think maybe swim and then a… nap."

Nick's not dumb, he can translate that just fine. If they can get away with it, they're only going to need one bed to 'nap'. And Nick's probably not going to be getting much extra sleep today.

He's pretty sure he's okay with that, really.

* * *

Nick hopes he's the only one who thinks that things feel fraught over lunch. He sits between Connor and Mikey in an effort to at least try not to look like Brandon's the only person he's really paying attention to, and he tries not to look at him too much. It doesn't help that every time he accidentally catches Brandon's eyes one of them blushes a little.

He's not sure if Mikey has noticed as well or if he's just being a good wingman like he promised, because he keeps the conversation moving—and argues cheerfully with Connor for a good five minutes while the rest of them just stuff their faces and laugh at them both—and then talks him and Jason into going wakeboarding after lunch. Nick's deeply grateful, because he's still going in circles thinking about getting his hands on Brandon again.

"Don't we have to wait an hour or something?" Connor asks, mostly rhetorically if Nick's any judge.

"Old wives tale," Jason says.

"Besides, that's only swimming, anyway," Mikey argues. "Wakeboarding is totally different."

"Not when you're so bad at it," Connor says immediately. "How many times did you have to swim back to the boat last time?"

"Fuck you, you're so full of shit," Mikey protests, and that descends into another argument about who's actually any good—as if they haven't all been spending every summer since they were allowed out without supervision out on various lakes and messing around with boats.

"You guys gonna show Mikey about how wrong he is?" Jason asks, looking at Brandon. "I mean, I think Leds is worse, but it's only fair to give them both a chance to eat it when we go out."

"Maybe I'll catch the later showing of that one," Brandon says, sounding pretty normal to Nick's ears. That's good. "I think I'm gonna nap first."

"Me too," Nick adds, grateful for the pause in conversation where he could put that in without feeling like it was out of place, not hurrying to make excuses.

"Weak," Jason says, but he doesn't push either of them.

"Right, like you guys won't be back and sacked out with a six pack before 3pm," Brandon jokes, and the other three predictably all bite on that, assuring him that they are, in fact, fucking awesome at wakeboarding and there's no way they'll even be swinging back near the shore to pick up anyone who's done napping until well after that, thank you very much.

"You're a fucking genius," Nick says to Brandon, about half an hour later, when the other three have taken the boat out, and they're lingering in the hall outside Nick's bedroom, not quite committed yet to going inside. Nick's not sure about Brandon, but he's half-afraid the others will come back because they've forgotten something, and keeping an ear out for the boat engine is making him all kinds of antsy. "I can't believe you managed to get them to say they'd stay out that long."

Brandon shrugs, but looks pleased by Nick's comment. "Hockey players are the same everywhere, you know?"

"Oh, this is something you do a lot, huh?" Nick asks. He doesn't remember Brandon subtly persuading him to do anything, but then he's always been happy to go along with pretty much anything Brandon suggests anyway. That should maybe have been a bigger clue.

"What?" Brandon says, and when Nick casually points his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the lake, and their friends who are out there on it, he adds, "Oh. Nick. I have a brother."

"…good point," Nick says, because okay, yes, he's honed a few skills over the years as a direct result of trying to get around Tyler, so yeah, he can see how Brandon's probably done the same. Especially as the youngest.

"I don't think they're gonna be back any time soon, anyway," Brandon says. "So, uh, you want to—?"

"Nap?" Nick says, and he can't help but enjoy the expression that crosses Brandon's face for a fleeting moment before he blurts out, "Fuck, did you really want to nap?"

"Nope," Nick says, and he takes that last step forward to cover the artificial distance he and Brandon have been keeping between themselves since before lunch, the hands-off no touching zone, and then he crowds Brandon back against the wall by the door jamb, settles his hands on Brandon's hips and leans in to kiss him, the lightest possible brush of their lips together.

Brandon sighs, and opens up for him, the kiss getting heated and dirty in no time at all. Nick's trying to get his hands under Brandon's shirt, scrabbling a little to find the hem so he can push it up, getting his thumbs under the waistband of Brandon's trunks, tugging the elastic away from his skin. Brandon mumbles something against Nick's mouth, and Nick pulls back for a second, saying "What?"

"Don't stop," Brandon says instantly, following suit and grabbing at the waistband of Nick's shorts, letting his palm trail down to brush over the obvious outline of his dick, getting hard already, just from this. From waiting and wanting this all day.

Nick hisses sharply, trying to catch his breath, using every scrap of willpower he has not to press forward, chasing Brandon's touch.

"We should, uh. Not do this in the hall," he says, and wishes he'd sounded more sure of himself, rather than a little plaintive. Nick actually wouldn't mind doing it in the hall, or at least right now he wouldn't, too turned on to really care about being patient or considerate or anything like that. Then again, if they're wakeboarding later in the day he probably needs to make sure not to leave any obvious marks on Brandon, and rug burn would be very, very obvious.

"Okay, yeah," Brandon says, and he pushes off the wall where he'd been leaning, letting Nick think that he was the one in control, Nick realizes belatedly. It's Brandon who gets them both to take a step back, and then another to the side, so the open doorway is now behind them, and then he turns, not letting go of Nick, one hand shifting to grasp his wrist, tugging him towards the bed.

It's not like Nick needs the direction, he's more than willing to go, ready to, but he likes the casually possessive way Brandon handles him. They stop just beside the bed, covers still shoved down from where they'd got up that morning, and let go of each other long enough to strip off, in unspoken agreement.

Nick looks down at his own hands as he yanks at the fastening of his shorts, kicks them off, shrugs his t-shirt over his shoulders and drops it onto the floor. If he looks at Brandon he's going to get distracted, so he keeps his eyes and his hands to himself for long enough to get totally naked, and then he looks over at Brandon—standing just far enough away that they're not touching, although Nick thinks he can feel the heat of his skin even over that distance—and nearly swallows his tongue.

It's not like he doesn't know what Brandon looks like naked; he's seen him naked more times than he can even count. Normally tries not to look. But even so, he's been able to look over the past day or so, and that doesn't seem to have slaked this thirst for more in the slightest, it just makes him more determined to keep touching, to look again and again, running his hands and eyes and mouth over Brandon's skin, appreciating every inch as he bares it.

And maybe he's kind of a caricature of himself, because that thought's enough to get Nick to drop his gaze the last few crucial inches, letting himself stare at Brandon's dick, blood-dark and hard, straining up towards his stomach. Nick flashes back to how good it had felt to have Brandon fuck him, about how he’d tasted, the shape and weight of him in his mouth. And fuck, Nick wants to touch him again, wants to bury himself in Brandon's body, see if he can make Brandon feel as good as Brandon had done for him.

"How do you want to do this?" Brandon asks, a little unsure again for the first time in a while.

It makes Nick wonder, remembering the cautious way Brandon had touched him, like this wasn't entirely familiar. Not entirely brand new, he's sure about that. But now Nick's wondering if anyone else has done this before, has put their hands on Brandon and touched him with the kind of intent that's driving Nick. If anyone else has put their fingers in him, felt his body give under theirs, pushed inside and made him lose his mind with how good it could be. Nick wants to make it so, so good for him.

"I think that's up to you," Nick says carefully, considering and discarding a couple of other things to say just then. "We can see how this works out, I'm not—no pressure, you know?"

"So getting in bed would be a good start," Brandon suggests, and does so, sliding over on the mattress to make room for Nick, rolling onto his side to watch him.

Nick spends most of his time with other athletes, guys who are fit and well-built, who're comfortable in their bodies and know how to use them. Well-defined musculature is kind of the bare minimum, but even going by what he's used to, he can't help but think that Brandon's something more. Or maybe it's just how much Nick likes looking at him, and the way that colors everything else. Nick can't imagine he's going to get tired of looking any time soon. But then again, they've only got so much time before the others head back in, and while they've got the house to themselves, well.

Nick kind of wants to see what noises he can get Brandon to make.

He has to press his hand over his dick for a second to let the sharp spike of heat that thought sends through him subside, and it's counter-productive because the heated look that Brandon gives him when he does that just makes matters worse. More acute, anyhow.

"Fuck," Nick breathes out, and doesn't give a damn about grace or dignity as he climbs into the bed, too desperate to touch Brandon again already to let himself over-think any of that.

He shoves gently at Brandon's shoulder and Brandon gives easily again this time, rolling onto his back and letting Nick cover him from top to toes, craning his neck as he reaches up to kiss him again and again and again. He can feel how solid Brandon is underneath him, the warmth of his skin, the faint rasp of hair, the buzz of pleasure as they let gravity work on them both. Nick's acutely conscious of the way his own dick is pressing into the firm muscle of Brandon's abs, smearing precome over his skin as Brandon breathes in and out, as he squirms under Nick's weight. He's equally conscious of how hot Brandon's dick is, pressing into the bowl of his hip, a constant presence as Brandon's hips move restlessly, like Brandon's subconsciously trying to rub off on him, preempting anything Nick's got planned.

That's not how Nick wants this to play out today, though, and so he shifts carefully, sliding down the bed so his knees are either side of Brandon's thighs, pinning him in place, and then sitting up, letting the afternoon light pick up highlights over Brandon's cheekbones, the point of his jaw, the mussed curls of too-long hair splayed out over Nick's pillow, the jut of his hips. Nick lets his gaze take it all in, greedy for every scrap and piece, his eyes taking in everything he hasn't been able to touch yet, can't do all at the same time. There's so much he wants to do with him, it's a little overwhelming.

The only flaw in the plan is now he can't kiss Brandon, and taking in the way his lips are pinker from pressure and the faintest touch of beard burn just goes through Nick, hits him like a shot of adrenaline. He hadn't thought he could get any more turned on. And yet.

"Can we get back to the part where you don't stop," Brandon complains, his eyes steady, fixed on Nick's. "C'mon, please. Touch me."

Nick can't turn that down.

He leans in again for a long moment to kiss Brandon again, taking and taking as their mouths move together, lips and tongues and just the faintest hint of teeth.

"Where did I-?" Nick asks rhetorically, about half an inch away from Brandon's mouth, eyes opening for a split-second to see that Brandon has his closed, dark lashes brushing against the upper curves of his cheeks, more delicate than anything else, robbing Nick of his breath as he aches to touch more, more, never enough.

"Mmm, what?" Brandon asks, breathless and lazy with it, lingering over the consonants as he interrupts himself by kissing Nick some more in between words. "What've you lost, Leds?"

"There's lube somewhere," Nick says, with some certainty. He'd been in a position to know yesterday, that was for sure. "Did I throw it back in my suitcase, or?"

"I think you just shoved it on the other side of the bed," Brandon says. "You said 'let me just' and took it out of my hands and, uh, did. It was pretty memorable."

Nick feels his cheeks heat up, which is amazingly stupid given he's naked in bed with Brandon already, and it's pretty clear that they're having sex. After having had sex already. More than once. But something about Brandon's matter-of-fact recounting of how he'd liked to watch Nick finger himself was—

It was hot and a little embarrassing and weirdly satisfying. But mostly hot, and Nick feels his grip on self-control slip just a notch further. God, he wants to watch Brandon do the same. Maybe later. He isn't going to take any chances on making sure this is good, and that means—

"Okay, give me a sec," Nick says, and kisses Brandon once more, hard and fast and almost satisfying enough, before making himself roll off and then sit up, running his hands over the parts of the bed where the sheet had crumpled up under them, under the pillow on the far side, in the general direction he vaguely recalled shoving the bottle last night before grabbing at Brandon and encouraging him to just get to it already.

He closes his eyes for a second and resolutely tells himself to stop getting distracted, before trying to bring up a clearer memory of what they'd done last night. Without letting himself skip forward to the crystal clear memory of how good Brandon had been at fucking him.

"Ha," he says, and leans over the side of the bed, brushing his hand over the floor under the bed, and that pays off in a moment, his fingers hitting plastic as well as the thin film of dust, and when he sits up again it's with the half-empty bottle in his hand.

"Yeah, well done," Brandon says impatiently, and arches his back a little, showing off. "Come on, please, I want—"

"Give me a second," Nick says, patting his hip and flipping the cap of the bottle open with his thumbnail, squeezing a more than generous amount of liquid into his palm.

He gets his fingers good and wet, trails the tip of his index finger along the crease of Brandon's thigh, enjoying the shine of the liquid on Brandon's skin, the way he shudders ever so slightly, the way his thighs splay further apart in response, silently begging, drawing Nick's touch in and down and back.

Brandon's not quiet at all when Nick finally takes him up on that invitation, letting his fingertips press and catch at his rim, rubbing in circles before pushing inside carefully. Brandon inhales sharply and pushes back, trying to get more of Nick's touch, chasing his hands. It's a good sign, and Nick takes the hint, too, presses another finger in much sooner than he would have expected to. Brandon's hot around him, tight and so fucking responsive, murmuring encouragement in low tones, over and over again like he can't stop while Nick's touching him like this.

Nick's careful as he adds another finger, gaze flicking up to read Brandon's expression, making sure this is still okay. The way Brandon moans ricochets right through Nick, makes his head spin and his dick twitch, greedily drinking in the sight of Brandon's head falling back into the pillow as his neck arches, the tendons standing out in sharp relief. If Nick wasn't more than busy enough between his spread legs, he wouldn't be able to resist biting down. Even if it did make a mark everyone else would've seen later.

"C'mon," Brandon urges him, shifting impatiently. "That's good, it's enough, Nick. Please, I want it."

Nick twists his wrist, fingers moving just enough to surprise a sharp moan out of Brandon as he brushes his prostate, but Nick's not made of stone. He doesn't want to wait any more, either, and if Brandon says he's ready, Nick's going to believe him.

"Oh, wait," Nick says, feeling tremendously silly as he freezes with a slick hand on his own dick, thumb swiping the slow drip of precome off the head. He'd been going to wipe his hand off on the sheet and then put a condom on, but—

"Way ahead of you," Brandon says, still sounding breathless, almost panting, but he reaches down and presses a condom packet into Nick's hand, the corner half torn off already.

"Fuck, you're so good," Nick says, grateful and turned on even more by the thought of Brandon thinking ahead to this, planning it and asking and—if Nick's guess is correct, which he thinks it probably is—stashing condoms under the pillow for whenever they'd get a chance to come back to bed. It's not like Nick really thinks they would've lost the mood if he'd had to get up and go to the bathroom to dig through his toiletries bag, but there isn't a whole lot of dignity involved in watching a guy with a raging hard-on walk around anywhere in a hurry. And Nick would have damn well been in a hurry.

"You're welcome," Brandon says, always so fucking polite, but before he can tell Nick again to get moving already—Nick can see his mouth moving to form the words—Nick gets a firm grip on his hips, and pushes carefully inside him. "You—oh, fuck," Brandon says, very clearly, eyes wide, mouth open as he tries to get enough air in.

Brandon feels even better like this, and Nick wants to just bury himself in him, wants to fuck him till neither of them can walk straight, wants to take it so slow that both of them will be half-blind with want and sobbing with it before they get off, and all those conflicting desires get tangled up in his head and make it harder to breathe, difficult to move, loath to do anything but appreciate the moment, Brandon's body hot and yielding under him.

"Okay?" Nick asks, just checking, and Brandon manages to roll his eyes despite being so turned on and desperate that Nick can see his dick twitch on his belly when Nick moves, starts to thrust into him, steady and careful.

"Taking that as a yes," Nick says, even though he's braced to stop if Brandon needs him to. If Brandon even looks like he's about to want him to.

"Mmm," Brandon says, and it's not really an answer, it's hardly even a word, but Nick can read him just fine there, lets his hips start to move a bit faster, chasing the way the sensation builds and builds in him.

He's been this turned on before, he's even been this turned on recently, the sheer physical need creeping up along his spine, twisting and curling in the pit of his stomach, but he wants Brandon to get to feel that too, and so he keeps pushing away his own own orgasm, hanging onto control by the skin of his teeth.

Brandon's soft moans get louder as Nick keeps fucking him, take on a new pitch when Nick gets a hand on his knee and pushes it up and to the side, giving himself a better angle, so he can sink deeper into him. Nick realizes after a minute that he's making just as much noise, breathing coming fast and harsh and echoing in his own ears, broken up around a guttural moan as Brandon clenches down on him, digs his heel into the swell of Nick's ass, trying to get him to move more, more.

He's close to coming almost before he even realizes it, despite digging his nails into his own palm as he clenches his fist on top of the sheets by Brandon's shoulders. He bites his own lip, hopes the tiny burst of pain will help, but it doesn't, it's more like the opposite.

"Brandon, I can't," he manages to get out, "I'm gonna—fuck, gonna come."

Brandon reaches out, gets a hand on Nick's jaw, sweeps his thumb gently over NIck's lower lip, and his expression is fucking blissful as he looks up at Nick, as Nick opens his mouth and sucks on the tip of his finger, can't resist.

"You should, I want you to," he says, speaking just as urgently as Nick had done.

That's all it takes, it turns out, and Nick lets himself thrust wildly, arms trembling as he tries to hold himself up, not just collapse right onto Brandon, who's still hard under him. His orgasm rushes through him, sweet and hot and overwhelming, and Nick shudders again, freezes for a long moment as he comes, and stays like that while he tries to catch his breath immediately after. He's careful as he pulls out, sheepish as he pats Brandon's thigh before sitting up and dealing with the condom.

"Sorry, I meant—I wanted to," Nick says, feeling that words were somewhat inadequate. He feels amazing and kind of tired and definitely ready for a nap some time soon, but he had wanted to get Brandon off, wanted to feel him come, and he hasn't. "Let me get you, what do you want?"

He's not making any promises, but if Brandon wants to get fucked again then Nick's pretty sure he can get it up again at some point. Maybe not all that soon, but. Brandon's a pretty good encouragement.

"I, fuck, I don't know," Brandon says, breathing almost as hard as Nick is. "That was—I nearly, just from that."

Nick's stomach flips at that, if Brandon's suggesting what Nick thinks he is. That's so fucking hot. "You nearly came just from that?" he asks, licking his lips, trying to get some moisture back into his mouth.

"Yeah," Brandon says, and Nick might've thought that he'd be a little embarrassed by that, the way Brandon's normally so soft and polite and carefully chooses his words. Instead, Brandon's still looking at him steadily, his eyes hot, gaze direct.

Brandon knows what he wants and fuck, Nick wants to give it to him.

"So, you wanna see if you can?" Nick asks, reaching down between Brandon's legs, trailing his fingertips lightly over his balls, teasing there before nudging at his hole, where he's still slick and so hot, right back where Nick was a minute ago.

"Please," Brandon says, and this time he squirms under Nick, very deliberately, trying to get Nick's fingers back inside. "Maybe, I mean, I want you too, fuck, Nick, your hands."

Nick has to stretch up then to kiss him again, and Brandon's mouth opens easily to his, tongue pushing inside, pressing against Nick's, completely unhesitating.

He couples that with pushing two fingers back into Brandon's body, crooking them up, moving slowly. The heat of Brandon's body isn't quite so overwhelming when it's surrounding his fingers rather than his dick, but it still feels good, feels even better when he brushes over Brandon's sweet spot, makes him clench down and shudder hard.

Nick keeps his kisses light as he finger-fucks Brandon, just brushing their lips together, breathing going ragged as Brandon gets closer and closer. Nick does want to see if he can get off like that, his dick totally untouched, but he's also conscious of how much time is passing and that the others might be back soon, and that makes him greedier. He wants to get Brandon off now, and he wants to do it again, later, a lot, but for now, he's going to take the tried and true route.

"Hey," Nick says, pulling back a little, letting his hand still so that Brandon actually blinks his eyes open again to look at him, confusion warring with arousal in his expression.

He can see that Brandon's about to ask Nick what he thinks he's doing, but Nick's got a plan here, he has a very specific plan—so long as Brandon's good with it, of course.

"Hey, so," Nick says, quicker than is probably necessary, but he wants. "Can I suck your dick again now? I fucking, I really want to. We can try the other thing another day, maybe, I just—I wanna feel you come."

"Oh, shit," Brandon says, fervently. "I. Yeah, oh god, Leds, it isn't going to take much, okay?"

Brandon looks strung out, like he's even closer than Nick had thought, and that's well and truly obvious when Nick slides a hand down from Brandon's hip, steadying them both before he wraps his lips around the head of his dick, sucking hard.

He's hardly even got to enjoy that for more than a minute or two before Brandon's breath hitches and he says, "Nick, Nick, oh god," and comes in a long, slow pulse, shivering hard as his muscles contract, back arching and toes curling into the sheets.

Nick swallows some, wipes off his lips and chin before letting himself roll off Brandon and just collapsing flat on the sheets beside him, breathing hard, running his tongue over the back of his teeth and not thinking about anything much at all other than how fucking good that had been.

He's just starting to feel calmer, his heart rate slowing down when Brandon reaches over and pushes his fingers into Nick's hair, smoothing it back from his face, nails dragging over his scalp in a way that feels really good.

"Mmmm," Nick says, trying to be encouraging. He had been thinking about moving—his ankles are dangling over the side of the mattress, which is a little disconcerting, and also he'd like to be able to kiss Brandon again sometime soon—but that's pleasant enough that he doesn't actually want Brandon to stop.

"Thanks," Brandon says softly. "That was—that, um, was good."

"It was pretty good for me, too," Nick says, rolling his shoulders, turning his head so that Brandon's fingers can move behind his ear, too. He wouldn't call it an erogenous zone or whatever, but he really, really likes to be touched there, feels that ripple down his spine, slowing down his thoughts and his reactions as he stretches, curls into Brandon's warmth without bothering to sit up or even move properly. He's even sleepier now, Brandon's fingers trailing through his hair, down to rub at the back of his neck.

"Just pretty good?" Brandon asks, but his fingers don't stop moving, so Nick's almost certain he's being teased. That's fine, he likes Brandon teasing him.

"Blew my mind," Nick says, without letting himself pause to second-guess that description. It's true enough.

"You know, that joke is too easy," Brandon says, half-laughing to himself. "You wanna nap now, huh?"

"Yep," Nick says, letting his eyes close, pressing his nose into the warm curve of Brandon's hip. Nick swallowed enough that there shouldn't really be a wet spot for either of them to be lying in, so he's perfectly content to just sack out where he is, curled on his side, knees bent, head tucked into Brandon's side. Brandon smells like sex, still, but Nick's pretty sure that the room will air out a bit while they sleep, and they can shower again after anyway, so. No big deal. It's not going to keep him awake, that's for sure.

"There is a perfectly good pillow up here still," Brandon says softly, sounding deeply amused. He's still petting Nick's hair, so Nick doesn't really care.

"I'm good," Nick says. "Go to sleep. "

"Okay," Brandon says, and Nick falls asleep like that, Brandon's fingers buried in his hair, stroking over the thin skin behind his ear. If he dreams anything, he doesn't remember it.

* * *

He regrets it a little when he wakes up, more for the way it feels like his back creaks as he stretches out than anything else. Brandon's hand is loosely on the mattress by him still, like it had just fallen away when Brandon fell asleep, and when Nick sits up carefully it's to see that he's still fast asleep, mouth slack and eyes closed. Nick just lets himself look for a long moment, his eyes tracing the lean muscle and dusting of chest hair, the slow steady rise and fall of his chest as he breathes.

It's not like it's news that Brandon's good looking, that Nick appreciates the way he's put together just as much as he likes the person that Brandon is. But there's a deep and satisfying pleasure in letting himself look now, in getting his fill, taking the most complete mental image to keep warm and safe in his memory for later. They still haven't really talked in any kind of specifics about where they're going with this, or about anything much at all, but Nick doesn't think he's reading too much into things to expect that there's going to be a later.

They both want this, and it's not like they can undo anything that's happened.

In theory of course Brandon could tell him that he actually just wanted to be friends, that dating is too hard and long distance is worse, and Nick even thinks that, maybe, they could go back to being friends, even now that he knows what Brandon tastes like, how it feels to touch him, what it looks like when he comes. But he doesn't think that's going to be an issue, not really. Nick's stubborn, and Brandon's actually worse, and probably they're going to find more to fight about than they ever had as just friends, but being able to do it—Nick's never had any doubts about that.

He'd just not wanted to assume that Brandon would want to, necessarily. It's a lot to ask. Nick knows that, right down to his bones. Any relationship needs time and compromise and energy, and their jobs take a lot of that by sheer virtue of what they do, what drives them. The fact they're going to have to be cautious about who knows and where they are… that's a whole other factor, and one that Nick's not usually felt was worth the trade off.

This time, he does.

He feels much more clear-headed than he'd expected considering they can't have been asleep for too long, one of the shortest actual naps Nick's had in years. He'll make that tradeoff any day though, if it means having Brandon curled up next to him, warm and welcoming and everything Nick's been wanting.

Nick checks his watch and figures that yeah, they should probably get up about then if they want to make an appearance out on the lake before the guys get bored and come back in. And as good as getting laid is, summer only lasts so long and he does want to get some more time out on the water, too. Theoretically, combining those two things should be appealing, but Nick's heard enough horror stories from friends and friends' older brothers about capsizing canoes and awkward places to stand on an eel to really want to take those thoughts out of the 'fantasy' cupboard and try to put them into real life.

"Saader," he murmurs, trying to keep his voice down in case someone's come back in before he woke up. Better safe than sorry, really. "Hey, Saader, wake up."

Brandon makes a disapproving sound and tries to bury his face into the pillow, rolling over onto his side and knocking into Nick as he does. Nick bites back the way that makes him want to laugh and instead shifts enough that he can lay his hand gently on Brandon's side, fingertips rubbing lightly over his ribcage.

"C'mon, Brandon, you'll never sleep tonight if you don't get up now."

Brandon still doesn't open his eyes, but the way he screws up his face in response hints to Nick that he is awake now, even if he's silently protesting that.

"Your face will stick like that," Nick tells him.

"No it won't," Brandon replies, voice sleep-rough, and Nick feels a shiver run down his spine at that, can't help but think about what they were doing earlier to make Brandon sound like that then, and—shit, no, he really can't jump Brandon again then. No matter how much he might like to.

"You don't know that," Nick replies, and Brandon sighs again, and then does open his eyes, blinking a few times.

The smile that tugs at his lips the second his gaze fixes on Nick is enormously reassuring, and the way it looks like pure helpless reflex makes Nick feel warm all over. His ears have probably gone red again. At least Brandon isn't going to give him shit for that.

"I feel like I do," Brandon says. "What time is it, anyway?"

"After three," Nick admits.

"So we should probably get back out there," Brandon says.

"Well, unless you want to have a pretty awkward conversation with Connor and Jason, probably," Nick says.

"…not Mikey?" Brandon asks, raising one eyebrow, and Nick bites his lip.

It's not like he could have lied to Mikey since he'd seen enough to ask—to know, Nick corrects himself—but he probably should have leveled with Brandon about that earlier, too. Even if Nick trusts Mikey implicitly, Brandon's got enough of a stake in this that he should know where the limits are, where boundaries that they're going to be circling go.

"He, uh. Kind of guessed," Nick says.

"Ah," Brandon says, not looking all that surprised, Nick doesn't think. "Is that why he insisted on helping with breakfast?"

"Pretty much," Nick says. He pauses for a second, not sure if he should actually disclose this or not. It might be more of a problem if he doesn't, he thinks; if it feels like something he's trying to keep from Brandon then he'd have to mind that more than he might just hearing about what Nick's done in the past. It's not like Nick doesn't know that Brandon's slept with other people, too. "We, uh. A few years ago, we kind of—" Even bearing all of that in mind, as smart as it is, some part of Nick's mind just hiccups on the idea of saying the words.

"Dated?" Brandon suggests.

Nick frowns. "Not—not exactly, really. More like we, uh, fucked around for a couple of weeks, and then I went back to Chicago and it was weird for a bit, but. You know, we worked it out."

"But he knows what it's like when you're, uh. Interested in someone?" Brandon asks, fishing a little.

"Basically," Nick says.

"He seems like a good guy," Brandon says.

"He wouldn't—he's not going to tell anyone, or anything," Nick reassures him. He wouldn't blame Brandon if he's worried about that.

"Yeah, no, I mean—I figured," Brandon says, and then he sits up, getting on a level with Nick again. He looks unfairly good that close, even if his hair is standing all on end, and he's got a pillow crease on his cheek. Nick definitely needs to exercise some willpower here. He pauses for a second and then looks briefly illuminated. "Oh, is that why there were—the condoms in the drawer."

Brandon is just unfairly quick sometimes, Nick thinks, not for the first time. Not since he's had to see Brandon on the other side of the ice to him more than once now, not since he's had to defend against him instead of working with him.

"Yeaaah," Nick says slowly. "I mean, I've hooked up with other people since then, it's just not, you know. Here."

Brandon's unsuccessfully fighting back a smile at Nick trying to find a delicate middle ground between pointing out it's not like he's gone three years without getting laid but without potentially pissing off the guy he is now sleeping with, and he pats Nick's knee as mock-patronisingly as he can when Nick's words finally stumble to a halt.

"Sure thing, Leds. But you were saying we should get up, yeah?"

"Yeah," Nick says, seizing on that change of subject gratefully. "You wanna take the canoes out?"

"Sounds good to me," Brandon says, and swings his legs over the side of the mattress, standing up and walking over to the pile of his discarded clothing.

Nick should really follow suit, but he does take a moment to just watch him first. It's sure as hell a good view.

* * *

They only get distracted a little bit before managing to pull clothes back on, and Nick's pretty sure they both look normal by the time he cracks the door open, listens for a second and then steps out.

It feels silly to be sneaking around like this; they're both grown adults, it's Nick's place, even, so it's not as if it would be anything more than an exquisitely awkward conversation and probably a whole lot of chirping to follow. At least, he thinks that's all it would be. It's not as if he hasn't been wrong, sometimes, about how people he knows—even people he knows well—are going to react to things.

Especially since he's not sure they ever knew about him and Mikey back when that happened. With the benefit of hindsight, Nick can say that they probably weren't even half as stealthy as they thought they were, but he's also pretty sure if it was him, he wouldn't guess that his little brother was sleeping with one of his friends. And Nick's picked up a few times since then, sure, but he hasn't exactly dated guys.

He hasn't exactly dated many girls, either, but there's been a few girlfriends who stuck around long enough to meet his friends.

…and now that he's thinking about that, it's becoming more than a little obvious how he'd introduced Brandon to Jason and Connor and Mikey pretty much exactly the same way he had Jenny and Sasha and Liv. Maybe it won't be as big a surprise to them as he thinks after all.

"So is the coast clear?" Brandon asks, voice low. He raises an ironic eyebrow at Nick as he says it, though, and yeah, Brandon's definitely alive to the nuance of just how ridiculous this is.

"Yeah, I think we're good," Nick says, and Brandon follows him out, tugging at the hem of his t-shirt so that it lies flat over the waistband of his shorts. So that the collar isn't all pulled out of shape from where Nick had mouthed down the column of his neck, touched and tasted him all over.

Nick is absolutely in the mood to hit the water again soon. It might be summer but the water's pleasantly cool, and—he definitely needs to cool off.

"Great," is all Brandon says, and he follows Nick back outside to the lake, snagging a cap on their way out, and grabbing his sunglasses from the table where Nick hadn't even seen him leave them on their way back into the house. Nick had been pretty distracted at the time.

"Where'd you leave your shades?" Brandon asks, catching Nick's look, and Nick stops for a second and tries to remember.

"I'll be out in a second," he says, just a little sheepishly.

When he gets back to his room his sunglasses are indeed on the nightstand where he'd left them, so Nick shoves them on top of his head and then—after surveying the room for a second—straightens up the covers, dumps the lube back into the drawer and tosses the condom wrapper that had wound up on the floor into the bathroom trash. At least it wasn't stuck to one of them, he thinks with a shrug, and then lopes back outside to where Brandon's waiting more or less patiently for him, leaning against one of the pillars on the jetty that they tie up to, just lazily surveying the lake, looking entirely relaxed, not a scrap of tension in his posture. God, he looks good, Nick thinks, and has to adjust himself discreetly before Brandon hears his feet on the gravel and turns to grin at him.

"Took you long enough," Brandon says.

"I had to, uh. Clean up a bit," Nick says, putting some meaningful emphasis on that, and he's pleased to note that while Brandon doesn't really blush all that noticeably, his cheeks do get a little pinker in response.

"So, uh. Canoes?" Brandon says, and Nick agrees, fast. The longer they stand around just talking the more likely Nick is to forget himself and do something stupid.

"They're in the shed here," Nick says, and leads the way.

They'd put things away in pretty good order last summer, which always felt like a hassle at the time but Nick more than appreciated every time they opened up the shed again at the start of summer, and so it was the work of moments to drag out the two closest, and—after a moment—Nick grabbed a couple of the lifejackets and dumped them on top of the oars before picking up his end and carrying them both down to the water.

Brandon raises an eyebrow but doesn't question it, and he shrugs his on without any hesitation, clearly familiar as he clips it into place before climbing onto the closest canoe. Nick follows suit, starting to walk his canoe out a little deeper before getting in. The water feels just as good as he'd hoped; cool and refreshing and helping to clear his head. Getting some exercise—some outdoor exercise, he hurriedly self-corrects—will be good for him, too. He's always done better processing things and thinking them through when he's busy doing something else at the same time. Working up a sweat or building something is usually how he works, and it's not like that's going to be much different when the things he's thinking about are relationship based rather than hockey or school or whatever else.

"Hey, so," Brandon says, breaking into Nick's reverie.

Nick looks up, catches his gaze. "Hrm?"

"Race you back out to the buoy," Brandon says, and then he starts paddling, settling into a comfortable fast rhythm quickly enough that even if Nick didn't know how much time he spends out on the water in summer himself, he'd be able to guess this wasn't exactly his first time.

"Cheater," Nick yells back at him, and scrambles into his own vessel, trying to make up the ground Brandon's already gained.

* * *

They all stay out on the lake a little later than maybe they should, and pay for it with various degrees of sun and windburn, and the descending swarm of mosquitoes as the sun goes down is what it takes to finally chase them back inside.

Nick's shoulders are pleasantly achy from paddling; racing to get after Brandon had definitely worked to get them both going, and not wanting to be the first one to quit had meant it took a while for them to flag down the other three and demand their turns on the wakeboard. No one said anything, or seemed to notice anything amiss, and Nick made sure not to meet Mikey's eyes until they'd been out long enough to all be thoroughly distracted and only focused on trash-talking each other.

As they'd finally turned back towards the shore that turned naturally into an argument over who was going to be responsible for making dinner. They'd caught enough yesterday to get another meal or two easy, and Nick doesn't mind chopping vegetables, so he'd felt like he was getting away with something when Jason said he'd fillet the fish and bake it if someone else did salads.

"I can help out," Brandon offers, stealing a quick glance in Nick's direction. Nick's stomach twists pleasantly and he feels warmer than he has any right to, not with the sun starting to sink below the horizon, the wind picking up over the lake. Not like he and Brandon haven't spent most of the day in each other's pockets already, but he likes the attention, the closeness. And it's not like they're going to do anything in the kitchen where anyone could walk in at any point.

"I guess you can peel potatoes or whatever," Nick says, trying not to grin too stupidly back at him. If the way Mikey's theatrically rolling his eyes just behind Brandon is any indication, he's not really succeeding.

Dinner feels like an easy routine; they all chirp each other as they move around the kitchen, mostly managing not to knock into each other and trying not to open cupboards that other people are standing in front of. Nick takes a chance and grabs Brandon’s ass while he’s reaching past him to pick up another salad bowl, and Brandon elbows him in the side, and tries to glare. It doesn’t quite seem convincing when a moment later he’s leaning into Nick anyway, talking easily over his shoulder to Mikey at the table, all the while tucking his thumb just under the waistband of Nick’s shorts, his nail scraping lightly over Nick’s hip. It’s barely sexual, but it also feels incredibly intimate, and Nick’s not sure what to do. Other than just stand there until Brandon’s ready to let go of him, that is.

If Mikey can see, he doesn’t give any indication of it, and Jason’s absorbed enough in micro-managing their dinner that he probably wouldn’t notice if the rest of the fish they’d caught yesterday reanimated and headed back for the lake. Nick imagines zombie fish for a moment longer, and then tells himself he probably needs to watch a better class of movie if that’s what he’s getting distracted by in the offseason.

They all drift into the living room again after dinner; winding down with a couple of drinks and the ice cream Nick stashed in the freezer first thing. Jason picks out a DVD and sprawls in the armchair, remote in hand and feet up on the coffee table, and Nick shrugs and goes along with it, because at least this’ll save them arguing over what to do. Mikey and Jason lay claim to one couch, and Nick winds up with Brandon’s feet in his lap on the other. It’s kind of a carbon copy of the night before—and Nick’s definitely hoping it ends the same way for him as that had—but either way, it’s a pleasant way to finish off the day.

“Fuck, I’m wiped,” Jason says, not even all that much later. “I’m going to bed,” and he waves over his shoulder while padding out of the room. “Night, guys.”

“Ugh, you know what, I’ve seen this before, actually. I’m gonna head off too,” and that’s Mikey gone as well. He pauses in the doorway and looks back at them, catching Nick’s eye for a moment before adding. “Don’t stay up too late, we should get some fishing in tomorrow before heading back, yeah?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Nick says, as casually as he ever would, and hopes Mikey’s getting the silent accompaniment of “We’re fine, don’t worry” that he’s trying to telegraph with his eyes along with that. They’ve done the pack up and head home thing a million times before, they know how long it takes. And it’s not like Nick’s going to oversleep, no matter when he gets to bed.

No matter who he goes to bed with. His hand stills then, as he catches himself idly rubbing Brandon’s feet, thumbs working into the instep and around his ankles, exactly the way Nick likes it when it’s his feet getting massaged. Connor doesn’t seem to have noticed anything awry, because he just calls a goodnight back to Mikey and doesn’t look away from the TV, sprawled out over the entire couch to himself now. He’d have to sit up and walk past to see what Nick and Brandon are doing, so Nick takes a slow deep breath in and lets himself start rubbing Brandon’s feet again.

Brandon makes a soft pleased sound as Nick’s hands move over his skin again, pressing into muscle and massaging around the joints, working up over his ankle and onto his calves. When Nick turns his head he can see that Brandon’s sinking into the couch, all loose-limbed appreciation and warm and inviting. It just makes Nick want to touch him even more.

He loses track of the movie, narrows his focus down to the way that Brandon shifts on the couch, the way all the tension is slowly bleeding out of him as he relaxes, and they both jump when Nick’s hand works up to the back of his knee and Brandon makes a muffled, involuntary sound.

“That’s—augh, sorry,” Brandon says quietly, looking sheepish.

Nick raises an eyebrow. “Ticklish?”

“Apparently,” Brandon grumbles, but he relaxes under Nick’s hands again almost immediately, and Nick’s careful where he touches him next, works his way back down Brandon’s calves until he’s just resting his palm over Brandon’s ankle bone, fingers curled around the top of his foot.

Connor snorts at something in the movie then—at least, Nick kinda hopes it was in the movie—and then stretches obviously, arms over his head and back cracking loud enough that Nick can hear it over the end credits. And whoops, apparently they’ve just been off in their own little world for, well. The entire movie.
Nick sneaks a look over at Connor, who’s messing around with his phone and not paying a whole lot of attention to anything else. It doesn’t seem like the exaggerated ‘not looking’ posture that Nick’s seen before, from guys who’ve seen something they know they’re not supposed to or don’t want to see, and it’s not affected in any way, he just looks. Well. Like there’s nothing going on he hasn’t seen before or expected to see. Nick’s not quite sure which one of those options is better.

“Yeaaaah,” Connor says, after a moment, finally looking up from his phone and over at Nick and Brandon. “I think I’m done for tonight too. What time are we going out tomorrow?”

“Uh, half seven I guess?” Nick suggests, pulling a time out almost at random. That’s still kind of early, but enough for them to sleep in, even if it’s well and truly after dawn. If they were more interested in fishing than in just fucking around on the boat then they’d be up earlier, of course. Nick’s a morning person but even he draws the line at getting up that unnecessarily early when he doesn’t have to.

“Sounds good,” Connor says, and he starts picking up his stuff, scratching the back of his head, and looking around as if he’s missing something. “Night. Try to get some sleep, huh, Leds? I don’t wanna have to do the driving tomorrow.”

“So fucking lazy,” Nick says, shaking his head sadly and hoping the smart-ass grin he’d normally have in response to that looks normal. He can’t tell if Connor’s actually trying to hint something or if he’s just talking shit for the sake of it.

“Yeah, yeah,” Connor says, waving a hand back at them over his shoulder, and not even bothering to stop for a comeback. He must be pretty tired, it’s not actually all that late when Nick checks the time.

“So,” Brandon says, as the DVD goes back to its menu screen, and it’s just the two of them left, sitting quietly. “Just us now, huh?”

“Yeah,” Nick says. There’s a beat of silence.

Nick realizes he’s still looking down at his lap, focused on his hands on Brandon’s skin, and as the silence builds he tells himself to stop making it weird and sits up straighter, looks up and over to catch Brandon’s gaze. Brandon’s just looking back at him, quiet, a tiny smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“Did you wanna—” Nick starts to say, the words ‘go to bed’ lingering unsaid. He’s not sure if he should; not entirely sure if they should. They’ve established where they want this to go; how they want to grow together, maybe, if they can. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Nick should be taking for granted that Brandon’ll come back to his room with him again, that they should just carelessly fall into bed again. Whether Brandon might want to actually catch up on his sleep, especially if they’re going to be up early the next morning.

They’re going to have to talk more about this, Nick thinks. Talk more, and without getting distracted, and preferably without other people around who’ll make them overly conscious of what they’re saying and how fast they have to say it.

Nick really doesn’t want to do that over the phone.

“Change your flight,” he says, a moment later. Asks, really, more intensely than he thinks he’s said anything else for a while. “I know, training, you’ve got stuff—there’s things you need to do. But could you stay here for a couple extra days?”

Nick’s got his own place in Minneapolis, now. He was going to swing by with Brandon before he went back to Pittsburgh anyway, just for a couple hours, so he could see it. But now that he’s thought of it, the idea of getting to have Brandon there with him for longer than that is incredibly attractive. They can actually talk then, see how this could work out for them.

And they could do other things, too. Nick’s not made of stone. Nick’s bed is really comfortable. He’s not sure if that’s an argument he should actually deploy to persuade Brandon though.

“I—yeah,” Brandon says, sitting up straighter. He’s looking at Nick still, and Nick’s not sure he’s absolutely correct in what he thinks he sees in his expression, but it’s promising. “I can do that. At least a couple days.”

Brandon shifts his weight a little, digs his heel into the muscle of Nick’s quads, pointedly. Suggestively.

“You saying you want to take me home with you, huh, Leds?”

Nick knows the grin on his face then is huge, that he probably looks kind of stupid with it, and he doesn’t care. “Yeah, I guess I am,” he replies.

“Cool,” Brandon says, and Nick feels like he’s anything but. “Bed?”

“Fuck yeah,” Nick says. “Uh, if you want—we don’t have to, but I’d like. I liked waking up with you.”

“Me too,” Brandon says, softly. “We should probably get more sleep tonight, but—” He swings his feet out of Nick’s lap, and sits up, but before Nick can really mourn the loss, Brandon’s shuffling closer on the couch and leaning in, kisses him soft and insistent. “You know, we’ve got options.”

“Sounds good to me,” Nick mumbles, and he kisses Brandon back.

It doesn’t take them all that much longer before Nick’s pulling away—reluctant to stop, but they’ve made a plan and now they need to stick to it—and getting up, taking a few minutes to clean up the room a little, tossing empties into the recycling, turning off the TV, all the little end-of-the-evening things he usually does without even thinking twice. It goes twice as fast, too, because Brandon helps out, picks up what he can without Nick needing to ask.

Nick waits for Brandon to step into the hall before flicking the lights off, follows him the whole way back to Nick’s room, turning off lights as he goes. Brandon slips through the doorway to Nick’s room, and Nick pauses in the doorway, murmurs, “I’ll just be a sec,” and then pads down to the kitchen just to check on that, too.

There’s nothing sitting out to attract ants overnight, all the plates scraped clean and loaded into the dishwasher, ready for one last post-breakfast wash cycle before they go on to putting the place in order before they leave. It’s been a good break, Nick thinks, flipping that light off as well before picking his way back to his room contentedly. He knows the way well enough that he doesn’t need lights, is even pretty good at stepping around the one floorboard in the hall that creaks ominously every time. There’s a warm glow of light around the outline of his door, and Nick’s grinning automatically by the time he reaches it and pushes the door open, steps inside and closes the door firmly behind him.

“Everything okay?” Brandon asks, turning his head. He’s just sitting on the side of Nick’s bed, still fully clothed, but the naked want in his face is giving Nick every reassurance he could ever possibly want.

“Yeah,” Nick says. “All good. You didn’t have to wait for me, you know.”

Brandon shrugs, doesn’t take his eyes off Nick. “I wanted to.” He doesn’t have to say that maybe applies to more than just waiting for Nick to come to bed, wanting to watch Nick strip off and climb into bed with him.

He doesn’t have to say that it feels like this is getting serious fast, because Brandon’s always been serious, and Nick’s not all that different.

They’ve always had more in common than they didn’t, and Nick’s throat feels thick with feeling as Brandon gives him another one of those tiny, desperately sincere and affectionate grins, and then pulls his shirt over his head, folding it carefully and dropping it onto the chair by the dresser.

Nick reminds himself that they’re just sleeping, tonight; they’re not doing anything too energetic and it’s not even like he hasn’t already gotten off today, so his dick can take a number and back the hell off for a minute, and he bites his lip, starts undressing as well. His clothes go on top of the dresser; he can wear everything he’d had on for dinner again tomorrow morning and save himself some time in packing. It’s not like they won’t all be hitting the shower and dumping absolutely everything into the laundry as soon as they get back home, and if anyone complains on the drive back, well. They’ll just wind down the windows.

It doesn’t take long to strip off completely, and he tugs the sheet down and slides in underneath it almost without pausing, studiedly casual. Brandon’s moving just a touch slower, which means Nick gets a good look at his ass as he steps out of his shorts, but his eyes move back up again when Brandon gets into the bed to join him.

“Enjoy the show?” Brandon asks, challenging, enough of a laugh in his eyes and his voice that Nick can read it just fine, just smirks back at him in response.

“You bet,” Nick says, and they should go to sleep, but he can’t quite talk himself out of rolling over and pressing his mouth to Brandon’s one more time, breathing him in.

Brandon kisses him back for a long time, has his ankle hooked over Nick’s and a hand firm on the back of his neck by the time they break apart again, breathing fast, but despite the fact he’s just as turned on as Nick is, Brandon settles back onto his own pillow after that, gives Nick a slow, tired smile. “We’ve got plenty of time tomorrow,” he says.

Nick can’t argue with that. They’ll have plenty to time to hang out with their friends, maybe catch a few more fish and then head back to Nick’s house downtown to hole up for a bit. And then they can figure out exactly what they’re looking at and where they’re going and how they can get there together. And they’ll probably spend even more time in bed then, too. Nick’s not sorry to have any of that in his immediate future.

“Do me one favor, though,” Nick says, thinking about it for a moment—which is just long enough to get uncomfortably turned on again. Kind of proving the point he’s about to make, really. “If it’s all of us on the boat again tomorrow morning, just remember I’ve got dibs.”

“On what?” Brandon asks, raising an eyebrow.

Nick shoves at his shoulder and rolls his eyes.

“On sitting in your lap again, obviously,” Nick says. “Keep up, Saader.”

Brandon mutters something about other things being up that Nick doesn’t quite catch but could certainly guess at, but he also leans in to kiss Nick again, patting a soothing hand over his hip to keep him close enough for the angle Brandon likes, so on the balance, Nick’s going to call it a win.

“Thanks again for inviting me,” Brandon says after a moment, after they just grin at each other for a while; warm and comfortable and content.

“Any time,” Nick says softly. “Not just—because of this. It’d be good to see you even if we weren’t—you know.”

“Yeah,” Brandon replies. “Same here. I mean. I’m glad we did this. All of this.”

“Same,” Nick says. “I mean. Yeah. Obviously. Pretend I said that better.”

“That’s good enough for me,” Brandon says, the sheet slipping a little over his shoulder when he shrugs.

Nick quirks a grin at him and then reaches over to flip the lamp off, wriggling a little to get settled. He’s gotten used to sharing a bed again fast, he thinks; can feel Brandon’s warmth beside him, and doesn’t feel the slightest bit crowded by the way their legs are touching, or by the way that Brandon stretches out, then rolls over and wraps an arm over his waist. It’s comfortable, just the same—if not more so—as it was when Brandon had pulled him into his lap and sparked this change in their relationship. It feels right, and that’s what Nick is half-thinking about by the time he drifts off to sleep shortly after.

It feels good, and it feels right, and if they’re going to just take the rest of this one day at a time, well. It’s not like they’re not both more than used to that already, either.

There’s nothing that says this off-season change is going to stick, but Nick—well. Nick has a feeling it’s going to turn out just fine.