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The One that Starts at the Beginning

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June, 2016

Nixon poured the beer into the chilled mug, trying not to mind that his newest hire, a redhead by the name of Babe (Babe, really?), was about to spill Tequila all over the bar that Nixon had just wiped down. The kid meant well and tried his hardest, so he could ignore his occasional clumsy fumbling.

"Nixon," a voice greeted as a tall body slid onto the stool in front of him. Nixon looked up and met the dark eyes of Ronald Spiers. "Whiskey. Neat."

Nixon nodded, reaching to pluck a glass and get the order out. He placed the drink on a coaster, trying to keep the bar from getting any stickier. The blood on Ron's tie was hard to miss. "Rough night?"

Ron knocked back the drink and pushed it towards Nixon, watching as his friend refilled the glass. Bringing it back to his lips, Ron paused and furrowed his eyebrows. "No. Why do you ask?"

"No reason," Nixon smirked, shaking his head. "Never change, Spiers."

Ron grunted, taking a sip of his drink, savoring it this time. There was a high pitched laugh from down the bar and they both turned to look at Babe. "Is that the kid who moved in with Guarnere and Toye?"

"Yep."

"What's he doing here?"

"I needed a bartender. He needed a job. He's not a bad worker." Nixon shrugged. Babe was moving down the line, handing out beers and hard liquor to those who asked, giving Nixon the time to chat. "Speaking of new guys, you met the new renter in apartment 2A? I think his name is Carson or something."

"Carwood Lipton," Ron connected. "I haven't met him formally."

"Yet, you know his name?"

"He moved into my building. Of course I'm going to know who he is," Ron leaned back in his chair, finishing off his drink. "While we're on the topic of people moving in and out, I recommended 3B to a friend of mine. He's in the process of negotiating terms with Sobel."

The pair made matching sounds of disgust at the mention of their landlord. Not an incident went by where someone wasn't cursing Sobel. He had a habit of ignoring his tennants and the problems of Curahee, unless it was something he could issue out a discipline for.

"Which friend?" Nixon asked, reaching behind the bar to pull out a bottle of Vat 69. Before Spiers could answer, Nixon swiveled to face Babe, whistling to get the redheads attention. "Hey, Kid," he held up the bottle of Vat and shook it. "We don't sell this stuff, got it?"

"Yeah, sure," Babe nodded, going back to filling a mug.

"Dick," Spiers said, reaching into his pockets to pull out a packet of cigarrettes, neglecting to offer one to Nix (not that he would have accepted).

"Yeah, I could use some," Nix nodded absentmindedly, turning to grab a glass for his drink. "It's been awhile. Why? You offering?"

Spiers leveled Nix with a glare that had sent lesser men running for the hills. Luckily, Nixon was immune to Spiers intimidation techniques. "No, Dick Winters is the friend who is trying to get the apartment."

"Oh, I was thinking of something else entirely," Nixon said, earning an eyeroll from Spiers. Nixon filled the glass up with Vat and took a long pull. Looking up, he caught the critical eye of Ron, the man glaring at Nixon like he was one of his suspects. "What?"

"How many of those have you had today?" Spiers' gaze flicked to the drink in Lewis' hand.

"I don't know," Nixon shrugged, giving an uncomfortable smile. "Jesus, lay off, Ron. We were talking about your friend here."

Spiers glared for a long moment, watching as Nixon shifted from foot to foot like a child in front of a principal. "Right," he finally conceded. "I'll introduce you if he gets the place."

July, 2016

"Nixon," The firm voice of Spiers broke Nixon from his hungover-haze as he stumbled through the hallway, aviator glasses on and a thicker-than usual beard covering his cheeks. Nixon grunted, taking a sip of the ridiculously sweet latte the girl at the cafe had given him when he was too tired to choose. His glass-protected eyes looked up, catching sight of Ronald Spiers standing outside the door to apartment 3B.

"Christ, Spiers," Nixon groaned, walking over to where the man was, looking far too alert for nine in-the-goddamn-morning. "What?"

Spiers gave him a once over. "You smell like a brewery."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Shall I go spray on the Chanel?"

"I was never very fond of their stuff," a new voice came to the mix. Nixon stopped the glaring he was aiming at Spiers to actually look inside the open apartment. Inside was a possibly the hottest man Nixon had seen since he met his ex-wife's divorce attorney. Tall and kind-faced, the stranger was in the middle of unloading a box of books into a bookshelf. The open windows and early light lit up his ginger hair like some stained glass angel.

"Nixon," Spiers pulled Lewis' attention back to him, suspicious glance still on him. "This is Richard Winters."

"Please, call me 'Dick'," the angel-man was approaching now, sticking his hand out for Nixon to shake. Nix quickly clasped the offered hand, lingering just a moment too long.

"Lewis Nixon," he answered, wishing that he had the forethought to at least clean up after passing out in his office in the bar. He was lucky that Babe had called to wake him up this morning or he would have gone to work looking like a wreck. "I live next door. 3D."

"Nice to meet you, Lew," Dick smiled like the sun, making Nixon's chest feel uncomfortably tight.

"So, how do you know Spiers?"

"We served in the army together." Dick explained. "I went home to Lancaster for awhile, but I just got a job with the FBI. So I'm here in the city."

"You're FBI, Spiers is NSA, Buck is an ADA, and Martin and Bull run security," Nixon whistled low. "With all the law in this complex I should probably tell Malarkey to move his stash out of here."

"I'm sorry?" Dick frowned.

Nix hastily waved his free hand. "Never mind."

"Well, it was nice meeting you, Lew, but I gotta get back to moving."

"Need any help?"

"No, thank you. I'm just unpacking now."

Nixon nodded. "Well, I'll see you around, Dick."

Neither noticed that Spiers had left.

February, 2017

Nixon made another Fuzzy Naval, passing it over to Babe to take to the booth with two college girls, both looking a little tipsy and eyeing Joe Toye at the end of the bar like he was a buffet. Of course, his eyes were focused on George Luz, Perconte's new roommate, as the short man told a story with wild hand movements. Bill and Perconte both cracked up laughing when he was done, but Nixon could see George looking for Toye's reaction, rewarded with a bark of laugh.

"Evening, Lew."

It was an act of God, Nixon turning to find Dick Winters sitting at his bar. In all the months they had known eachother, all the time they had been friends, he had only seen Dick in the bar once and that was when it was closed and he was bringing Lewis breakfast (another night of passing out in the office being the reason).

"Hey, Dick," Lewis smiled, as he always did when he saw Winters. "What brings you to Toccoa? You want a Fuzzy Naval?"

"I'll pass, thank you." Dick laughed. "I'll take a soda, though."

Nixon set about grabbing a can of Dr Pepper and pouring it in a chilled glass for Dick. From across the room, Babe marched over. "One of those college chicks wants a sex on the beach. 'Course, she was looking at Toye at the time, so that may not be a drink order. The old guy in the corner wants an old fashioned, then the guys want another round. Oh, and George has gotten to the cocktail portion of his evening and wants a tequila sunrise with two cherries."

Dick whistled at the order, looking over for Nixon's reaction, but found the bar owner already taking things out. He had never seen Nixon bartend (though everyone in Curahee said he was the best), but it seemed effortless, the way that Nix moved around behind the bar. Dick was sure he wouldn't remember how to make all those drinks.

"You can get the boys their beers and make the old fashioned. I want you to get the experience making cocktails too," Nixon told Babe. Dick watched him work on the other two drinks, pouring and mixing like it was second nature. "Where'd you learn to bartend, Lew?"

Nixon hummed, looking up while pouring the syrup in George's tequila sunrise. He shrugged his shoulders, finishing off the drink and adding the requested cherries before sliding them down to where Babe was. Dick got the feeling that Babe functioned as both a bartender and a cocktail waitress. "Drinking is a Nixon family tradition. I sometimes ended up behind the bar at my father's parties, though he hated me doing that. That's where I learned most of it. Sure, those pretentious old bastards pretend that they only drink bourbon and whiskey, but their wives will order a thousand different drinks just to get through an evening with them."

"So, you just stuck with it?"

"No, I actually went to college, if you can believe it," Nixon finished up the sex on the beach and took it over to the table himself, since Babe was still trying to pass out all the beers to the group from Curahee. Nixon loved it when those boys came in. He was pretty sure that they paid most of his bills, but he also like having them around. It was like having family come to visit you. That, in itself, was a strange feeling for him.

"Really?" Dick was embarrassed at how surprised he sound, the apples of his cheeks reddening. But Nixon took it in good nature, scoffing and giving a smirk.

"Don't sound so shocked, Dick. I was a Yale man."

"Yale? Wow."

Nixon shook his head, waving off the impressed look Dick gave him. "Yeah, for all of two semesters. I dropped out after that. It just wasn't for me. I had more fun at the parties than I did in class."

"Why doesn't that surprise me? Then what happened?" When Nixon looked up from the glass he was cleaning, he was surprised to find that Dick actually looked interested. He couldn't remember the last time someone had asked him about his career choice without it just being polite small talk. Sure, the other guys at Curahee were friendly and genuinely interested in Nix, but he was pretty sure they thought he was just born in the bar, slinging out vodka shots while in diapers.

It was odd, but not unwelcome. He answered anyway. "Well, I spent most of my early twenties working two jobs, one as a waiter at some upscale restaurant. Then I worked nights at a dive bar downtown. First chance I got, I bought this place. Took a few business classes at a community college and that was it. Been doing it ever since."

"Do you like it?"

Nixon pursed his lips, looking around at the dimly lit room. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was coming through the speakers, soft lyrics about New Orleans filling in what little sound was left around the shouting and laughter. The two college girls were giggling to themselves, forgotten Joe and just enjoying themselves. The old man was finishing off his drink and laying down some cash. An amazing man was sitting across from Nixon and his boys were roaring with laughter at the end of the bar. Nixon smiled and leaned on the countertop. "I love it."

He didn't have a drink the whole night.

October, 2017

"You look like you had a good time," Carwood Lipton smiled at Nixon as he stepped inside Curahee Complex. His angry pout seemed to do nothing but amuse the VA counselor, only increasing Nixon's irritation.

"Oh, I had a fucking parade," Nixon groused, pulling off his sunglasses and following Lipton up the stairs. The other man had come down to grab his mail, having neglected to do it that morning. Bill had gotten dumped and Carwood had dedicated a few extra moments to giving advice. Nixon thought it was no wonder that the man had been coined 'Mama Lipton'. "Stanhope praised me for dropping out of college and made me the sole beneficiery in his will. Then a unicorn shot out of my mother's ass."

"I'm no stranger to sarcasm, Nix," Carwood frowned at him. Before Nixon could answer, there was the sound of two unfamilar voices shouting from the bottom of the stairwell.

"Jesus-fucking-Christ, Web!" One of the voices cursed. "Where the hell do you get off, needing all these fucking books?"

"These are work related," another voice justified. "They're my marine biology books."

"This whole box is just your dumbass shark books?"

"Well, I may have a few whale books in there."

"You're lucky you're cute as shit," the first voice groaned. "Otherwise I'd of left all this shit behind."

Two men came up the stairs, both carrying boxes. One was skinny and slightly shorter than the other, his hair slicked back and a hockey jersey on. In his arms was a box labed 'books' in hasty scrawl.

"You wouldn't dare!" The second one accused. He had dark curls, thick and bouncy. He wore a SeaWorld shirt and a pair of expensive looking jeans. He seemed to be holding a much smaller box labeled 'silverware'. "You love me too much."

"Yeah, I guess I do," the first one said it with such exhasperated fondness, a roll of his eyes accompanying the words.

"Oh, excuse us," the second one finally seemed to notice Lewis and Carwood, squeezing by after the first one had already went. Both Nixon and Lip lagged back to watch the pair go up the stairs, now bickering about manners.

"Who the hell were they?" Nixon arched an eyebrow at where the pair had been.

"They took Hoobler's old place. I guess they were buddies of his and when he left he told them to come take it," Carwood explained. "I think their names are Webster and Leibgott. At least, that's what Ron told me."

"That guy is always scoping out whoever moves in here," Nixon shook his head and started back up the stairs again. When he passed by the second floor he could hear the pair still arguing. "So I guess Harry is no longer the new guy."

"Guess not."

"Well, I think they're gonna fit right in at Curahee."

December, 2017

Lewis held tightly to the cup of hot chocolate in his grasp, praising the warmth that kept his fingers from turning to ice. He could hear the laugher as the inhabitants of Curahee Complex ran through the road, the streetlamps lighting them up in the darkness. Snowballs flew freely, shrieks filling the space between car horns.

"They're adorable," a voice said from next to Nix. It was a so very familiar sound and Nixon knew who it was even before he turned, catching that familiar red hair. In the middle of the road Babe shrieked, dodging a snowball from Ralph Spina, one of two of the new renters of 2E. The other was Gene Roe, a doctor who's current prescription was hot chocolate passed out to fight the cold.

"Adorable like baby jackels," Nixon agreed, watching the vicious way that Bill pelted both Joes with a frenzy of snowballs. No one seemed to notice the stealthy way that Spiers snuck behind the cars for a better vantage point. At least not until he landed a rather large snowball right in Johnny's face. "Oh, shit!"

All out war had begun. Johnny and Bull joined the fray, along with Buck Compton who was being chased by Malarkey and Muck. George was taken to the ground by a truly astounding offense from Perconte and Penkala, though he then dramatically started to mourn his own demise. Babe was tugging on Roe's sleeve, trying to recruit him in a fight against Bill and Toye (Nix was pretty sure Babe had a crush on the doc). In the background, Leibgott could be seen chasing Webster around in an attempt to stuff him face-first into a snowpile. A stray snowball from Harry Welsh managed to wing Carwood who stood next to Nixon, prompting Spiers to give the man a revenge pelting on Carwood's behalf.

"You know," Dick started, watching the scene with an amused smile. "I'm actually gonna miss these guys."

"Are you leaving?" Nixon asked, snapping his gaze to Dick. There was some alarm in his tone and Dick was quick to reassure him.

"Just for the holidays. I'll be back."

"I hope for New Year," Nixon said, earning a questioning gaze from Dick. "There's gonna be a big shindig at Toccoa."

Dick nodded in understanding. They watched Leibgott tug Webster in for a kiss only to slam a handful of snow into the back of his thick curls, sending the shark expert into a fit of squirming and cursing as it ran down his back. Dick didn't even bother asking about Nixon's family. He knew for a fact that Nixon didn't want to subject himself to that horror.

Scratching the back of his neck, Dick tried his best to come up with a way to ask this. When it came to Lewis, it was best to just get it out in the open. "So, you're free for Christmas? 'Cause I was thinking you could come with me to Lancaster."

"What?"

"I already talked to my parents and they'd love to have you there. I mean," Dick paused, shrugging his shoulders before looking up at Lewis. There was a sort of sincerity in his eyes, his smile crooked and nervous. "I'd love to have you there."

Nixon watched him for a long moment, his chest tight and his face hot. His throat felt dry, so he quickly took a sip of the hot chocolate. "You know, that may not be such a bad idea. Might be nice to get out of the city for a few days."

"Yeah?" Dick brightened.

"Yeah," Nix nodded. They smiled at eachother for longer than they should have, snowflakes falling and catching in their hair until one lone snowflake landed on Nixon's nose. Without thinking, Dick reached up and brushed the snowflake off, his hand lingering near Lewis' face.

"Jesus, Babe, look out for the ice!" Bill warned just as Babe slipped, grabbing onto Bill and bringing the two of them to the ground. Doc Roe sighed and went over to check on the two of them. The moment was effectively broken by the fiasco.

Clearing his throat, Nixon looked up at the sky. "You think it's clearing up?"

"No," Dick shook his head.

"I think it's clearing up," Nixon affirmed. He took one sip of his hot chocolate, watching as a stray snowball barely missed them. An idea clicked in his head and he quickly handed his cup of hot chocolate to Dick. "Here, hold this."

Dick took the cup with little thought, not noticing as Nix walked over to a snowpile. Dick completely dropped the cup when a snowball hit the side of his head with surprising force. Nixon's laughter came from his left and Dick turned to look at him, a stunned smile coming to his face before it turned devious. "Oh! Oh, ho!"

The chase was on.

Present Day, 2018

"A pina coloda?" Lewis raised an eyebrow at George's choice in drink. "I thought you were trying to cut your sugar."

"I haven't had a candy bar all day," George justified. "I'm entitled, no matter what Joe says!"

Nixon threw his hands up in surrender. "Hey, I'm not one to judge. I'll get you one, Luz."

"Oh, then the guys want another round," George told him, turning around to head back to the two tables that were smashed together to fit most of Curahee. Although Webster had some emergency with a sick shark and Harry was on a date.

"Hey, have Babe come back here and get it!" Nixon called, shaking his head at them all. They were the loudest ones in the bar and he secretly loved it, like he did everytime they came in. As asked, Babe got up from is seat and grabbed the next round from behind the bar.

"Lew," Dick greeted, coming through the front door and sitting in one of the bar stools. Nixon smiled at Dick, reaching to grab a soda and pour it into a chilled glass. "How's it going today?"

"Well, some bikers that looked straight out of Sons of Anarchy came in and drank most of my scotch, but they tipped damn well," Nixon answered with a shrug. "Then these little bastards came in."

"And you love them," Dick smiled, earning a scoff and some muttered denial from Nixon.

"What about you? Arrest any art theives today?"

"That's white collar crime," Dick reminded him for the hundredth time. Moving on from that, Dick proceeded to tell Nixon everything he could about his day, from some misplaced paperwork that caused a whole fiasco and the trouble he had writing a report.

Lewis nodded absent-mindedly, watching the gorgeous man across from him talk about his day. It happened a lot. Almost everyday, actually. It was strangely domestic, but at the same time, completely natural. Lewis and Dick had spent the better part of two years invading eachothers space, spending days off together. Hell, Dick's mother was calling Nixon at least once a week just to check up on him.

Across the room, George stood on a chair and began making strange gestures and wiggling his butt, earning laughter from the group. Dick broke off mid-speech at the sound and turned to them with a fond smile. "I see the kids are having fun."

"Yeah, we raised a good bunch," the words earned laughter from Dick, music to Nixon's ear. He watched the redhead, feeling fondness rise up in his chest as it always did when he was with Dick. It was the best feeling. "Hey, Dick?"

"Yeah?" Dick turned back to Lewis. He always gave his complete attention to Nixon when he was talking.

"Let's go out for dinner," Nixon suggested, no fear. There was no room for fear when it came to Dick Winters.

"When does your shift end? We could get takeout from that Italian place on-"

"No," Nixon cut him off, waving his hand. "I mean, yes that would be good too. But I was talking about dinner as in a date. You and me. You know, where we talk and flirt and kiss at the end?"

Dick smiled, looking down for a moment before raising his head again. There was the faintest bit of pink on his cheeks as he nodded. "Yeah, Lew. Of course."

"Yo, Nix!" George called from across the bar, dragging the owners attention to him instead of the glorious redhead in front of him. "I need another pina coloda. Babe drank half of mine."

With a shake of his head and a true smile on his face, Nixon went back to work, but not without sending Dick a wink. He was glad as hell that he was living in Curahee with all these miscreants. It just felt right.