“Just think of it like dressing up for the Goblin Market,” persuaded Mae. She made a feeble, grabby-hands attempt at confiscating the sheathed knife that Nick had just selected from his rather haphazard collection of weapons in a trunk in his bedroom. Shooting her a condescending glance, Nick stashed it in his jacket.
“I don’t see the reason of wearing something so restrictive to a dance, even if the dancing is hardly even dancing,” Nick reasoned, although at least now he seemed to have gotten over his urge to change clothes. He rolled his shoulders under the tight black fabric of the suit that Mae had smuggled from her dad’s closet during her last visit, and she saw the seams stretch a little.
“It’s not my fault you’re so ripped that nothing fits you right,” Mae responded. It was true, but the too-tight suit still happened to look amazing on him. The perks of being insanely attractive, she guessed. “Besides, you’re the one who agreed to this, you didn’t have to say yes.”
A smile crossed her face as she remembered Jamie’s awkward proposal and Nick’s surprising answer.
“Do I have to make threats of physical violence that I couldn’t possibly inflict upon you if you break my baby brother’s heart?" she continued. "Because I will.”
“You can if you want to,” Nick shrugged. “I’m going to go pick up said baby brother. Don’t wait up.”
Mae watched the tall, dark teen march out of his bedroom and past his brother, who raised spectacled eyes from a dusty book to see him leave through the front door. Alan directed his gaze towards Mae.
“I wasn’t sure if he was going to go.”
She smiled, leaning contentedly against the doorframe. “I knew he would.”
Jamie swallowed nervously as he saw Nick’s perfectly restored car kick up dust as it sped down his long driveway. He’d been standing in front of his house for half an hour now, but suddenly, the nervous excitement he’d been harboring all day vanished, and all he wanted to do was run inside and hide. But instead, he speed-walked to the side door of the car as it halted in front of him, knowing Nick wouldn’t get out and open the door for him or anything chivalrous like that. Not that he’d expected Nick to. It’s not like he was his date or anything, no! They were just going as friends, he repeated in his head, trying to dissuade the fact that he had no idea what to expect from this night with Nick and that the idea half-thrilled, half-terrified him.
“Hey,” he greeted Nick shakily, as the other boy immediately turned and sped down the driveway.
“Hi,” returned Nick, with an half smirk on his face. Jamie wondered if that was his default expression or just his perpetual condescendingly amused attitude towards humanity. His thoughts were interrupted. “Nice suit."
Shocked into a wide grin, Jamie ducked his head, then glanced back over at Nick. “Thanks. You look like you’ve been stuffed into a fancy suit by a fluffy pink monster- oh, wait. It’s a good look though!”
Nick laughed genuinely. “Your sister is perhaps the least menacing monster I’ve ever encountered.”
The next pause was comfortable, and as Jamie rolled down the window he relaxed into the warm atmosphere that he always managed to find with the cold and seemingly unfeeling teen. The sunset-soaked breeze ruffled up his hair into its natural spiky texture, erasing the half-hour’s worth of work attempting to get it to lie flat. That had been a futile endeavor anyway.
“Have you ever been to prom before?” he asked loudly, so he could be heard over the wind rushing past.
“I was Mae’s date last year,” Jamie continued. “But I left after like, thirty minutes. It was pretty dull.”
“Why come this year if you didn’t like it?” asked Nick. His voice as as black as his eyes, but if one listened closely, one could detect a certain kind of warmth. Or at least Jamie could. He smiled.
“I have a feeling this year will be better.”
Nick pulled into the mostly-filled parking lot by the gymnasium just as the sun was slipping below the horizon.
“Does it count as fashionably late if neither of us are particularly fashionable?” quipped Jamie, unbuckling his seat belt and opening the door to exit the car. Nick cracked a small smile. Lately Jamie’s incessant jokes had been becoming not as annoying.
“Wait,” said Nick, snapping open the glove compartment. He pushed aside a few maps and small knifes, and then drew out two slightly wilted flowers.
Jamie raised a blond eyebrow. “Are those..?”
Nick pinned a fever blossom to his jacket and then handed the other to Jamie. “It is a dance after all.” Jamie grinned back.
“Yes, it is.”
Nick had heard of proms held in fancy halls or rented hotel ballrooms (by “heard of” he meant “had been told about by Mae”) but this one was not as classy, held in the darkened and balloon-adorned gymnasium of their school, and lit by a few feeble colored lights. As they entered and presented their tickets to the student-workers at the front door (whose questioning glances confirmed that Nick and Jamie would be on the receiving end of a lot of attention that night) he headed straight for the jerky mass of glitzed-up teenagers, otherwise known as the dancefloor. But Jamie seemed to be frozen, stuck in the rectangle of light provided by the open gym door.
“Isn’t the point of prom supposed to be dancing?” Nick asked, striding back towards Jamie. Jamie nodded but still didn’t move an inch.
“I think… I think this was a bad idea,” he stammered, barely audible over the blasting music.
“Why?” demanded Nick. “You’re the one who wanted to go.”
“Did you want to go or is this just like, a pity date?” Jamie mumbled.
Nick ignored him. “I want to dance. Dancing is fun.”
“I thought you didn’t dance for fun.”
“I’m making an exception.” Nick glanced around them, his eyes already fully adjusted to the dark. Faces were beginning to stare in their direction.
"I don't know." Jamie huffed, still pale-faced. " I don't think I thought this through... if they see us dancing... together...
"What else do they expect us to do? Juggle? Swordfight? As if you even could." said Nick exasperatedly. And with that he dragged Jamie into the crowd. Truthfully, Nick was sort of excited to dance, for once. Surrounded by people and weak colored lights and top forty hits ringing in his ears, he allowed himself to dance like he never had before at the Goblin Market. Somehow this was easier, moving without the intent to summon. He could see Jamie slowly get more into it, mimicking Nick a little but mostly hopping and waving his arms in an increasingly enthusiastic and somewhat elegant way. His earring sparkled in the thin light as he began to nod his head, eyes down-turned towards a growing smile. Nick moved closer, feeling a connection almost like when he danced with Mae, but this time he felt high without the fever fruit and sure of his motions even though in this instance they had no purpose. Jamie widened his eyes at Nick, and Nick flashed him a grin.
"Fun, right?" It was strange dancing with a voice. Almost a reckless kind of freedom.
"Yeah!" Jamie shouted back breathlessly. He glanced around at the people around them, in grinding clusters, whose faces turned in their direction intermittently. Following his glance around, Nick saw the faces quickly look away as soon as he met their eyes. Jamie’s expression shifted in a way that Nick couldn’t quite understand until he saw Jamie shrink in on himself.
"Forget them. I could kill them all, easy. They're nothing."
Despite looking shocked, Jamie laughed. "You can't just shout about killing people, Nick. Rumors start! That's almost as bad as me yelling about how gay I am."
Nick shrugged. "What can I say? I'm a bad boy apparently." He found a strange sort of pride in making Jamie laugh.
Jamie laughed again, still moving his body to the electric beat. "Says who?"
Nick just moved closer and picked up his elegantly intense dance. "Says everybody."
Jamie had to tilt his head back to look into the much-taller boy's eyes. As they danced together, Nick could feel the heat radiating from Jamie, and for once didn't feel repulsed at the close contact. Somehow, he found Jamie’s hands and took them in his, making the smaller boy his partner. Jamie's expression shook, cracked. He drew his hands back and surveyed Nick's face with eyes that shimmered with steel magic and interrogation that Nick could not understand before withdrawing. Seeing the slight figure dash out of the door to the parking lot, Nick quickly pursued.
The parking lot held a few sickly golden streetlights and Jamie whirled around to face Nick as soon as he reached the one nearest to the entrance. The incandescent light soaked and warmed his unruly hair.
"What are you doing, Nick?" he shouted, looking small and angry.
"I was dancing. What do you think I was doing?" snapped Nick, quietly slipping onto the defensive, even though a tiny voice of reason in his head questioned why he thought he could be threatened by little Jamie. Jamie slumped against the streetlamp, and for a split second Nick thought he might be hurt.
"No," said Jamie. "What are you doing here, with me? Because it's pretty obvious I'm in love with you and if you're just here because we're friends, or if Mae made you, or if you like the attention or something then I'm not sure you should be here, Nick."
"We are friends," growled Nick. The word "love" bounced around his head with annoying speed.
"Is that it?" Jamie said, an exasperated and helpless smile stretching his mouth. "Because honestly, you're giving me some mixed signals here, and I know you probably don't realize it..."
In an instant, Nick took in the image of Jamie, bathed in light and a sheen of sweat dotting his flushed cheeks. He wasn't just someone he could want, he realized. And then the image was gone, replaced with the feeling of his lips against Jamie's, pressing Jamie back a step so his back leaned on the lamp post as Nick kissed him with closed eyes. Defenseless, but not caring because Jamie was kissing him back and it was like nothing he had ever experienced with any nameless girl and for a split second Nick wondered why had never kissed a boy before before his thoughts were completely taken over by Jamie, Jamie, Jamie.
"Was that for real?" murmured Jamie, as they broke apart for air. Nick kissed him again.