Levi remembers the very first character he created when he was a kid, and the first campaign he DM-ed. He remembers the exact number of questions he rehearsed for his internship interview, and how many days it took to remember the layout of the hospital. He still gets lost some days.
Whatever he's doing, and whether he needs to or not, Levi can picture every poster that covers his basement walls. He knows exactly where he keeps old pairs of glasses just in case he breaks his current ones. He knows which stool at the bar in Joe's to avoid for the leather wearing away from the seat, and the button that keeps sticking on the vending machine in the cafeteria every time he needs a candy fix. There are all kinds of details Levi collects from the world around him, unintentionally storing them up to dwell on at a later time.
But ever since Nico walked into the hospital, Levi has been cataloging some very different things entirely. He can tell a nervous smile from a cocky one, knows Nico's favorite jacket from watching him leave at the end of his shift. Levi sees how carefully Nico listens when speaking to a patient, and how he'll sometimes need to take a step back from work if things go wrong.
And now, Levi thinks, berating himself for being distracted as he works, he knows a few other things about Nico as well. The taste of his smile, the feel of his skin, and the look on his face when he's… overwhelmed. He can't think about that right now, though it's near impossible not to. Levi tunes back in to the case being presented giving a reassuring smile to the patient laid out in front of him; even if he is lost in his own head.
"So. You gonna buy me that drink?"
Levi's eyes stop on the V of dark blue scrubs. His mind is whirring before he can look up, sure he was just elsewhere. Nico smiles back at him; that small, gleeful smile that Levi had first thought meant Nico was mocking him. He knows better now. Though the way that smile widens when his eyes fall to Nico's mouth is bordering on teasing. Levi licks his lips in distraction, shouting a reminder in his head that now is not really the time.
"Are you gonna answer me, or just keep staring?"
20-sided die, side quests that have beat him, those world-building sites he's bookmarked and is yet to use; so many useless facts and memories sneak into Levi's thoughts on a daily basis meaning his mind is never quiet. Except in the presence of Nico, who leaves him dumbstruck half the time, and jittery with something the rest of it.
"Not Joe's," Levi blurts out, pushing his glasses back up his nose and gripping the edge of the water cooler for support. When did he come here to get a drink?
"No," Nico agrees, his eyes widening in that way they do when he's pleased. "Definitely not Joe's."
"We should probably not do anything like that where everyone from here goes all the time," Levi adds, smoothing down the front of his scrubs like that would make any difference to his appearance.
Doubt flickers on Nico's face making Levi's thoughts tumble from his mouth in a bid to undo it.
"Only because this is private. I wanna go someplace that's just us. That's if you're okay with that. I mean, I just thought, maybe you didn't want anyone to—"
Cold seeps into Levi's lab coat pocket from where Nico has just slotted his fingers in to pull out his cell. He unlocks it when Nico holds it up for him to, then watches him thumb at the screen in a daze. Nico slides the phone back into his pocket when he's done and presses his hand there against Levi's chest, probably for a second longer than he needs to. And then he winks, and Levi can't quite breathe, and Levi doesn't like that he's flustered. But with Nico, he doesn't know how else he's supposed to feel. Or have any choice.
He feels many things when he's with Nico. Flustered isn't the only thing. At least, it's his least favorite thing to be feeling. And if—
"I miss-called myself," Nico tells him, still smiling. "So I have your number if you… forget, to message me about tonight."
For all his bravado, and blustering, and experience, Levi thinks, Nico sure does look a little worried that he might. How could he forget, when the only thoughts Levi can hold in his head for any length of time these days involve Nico?
"I won't forget," he says, and because he's feeling brave, makes sure nobody is watching before quickly reaching out to squeeze his hand. "I'll message, soon as I'm done."
"Well. Good," Nico replies, smiling back at him so hard Levi is again dazed for it. Dazed. But never confused. That's how he feels about Nico. Dazed but not confused. And he'd like to stand here looking at him a little longer, but if he doesn't get back to work now Levi thinks he might forget how.
Levi forces himself to walk away, though isn't strong enough not to look back over his shoulder. Nico hasn't moved. He's smiling at his hand.
Levi smiles, happy because he's the one that's stopped Nico in his tracks for once. Now all he has to do is get through an afternoon of work and figure out where they should go tonight.
Levi catches the hand waving to get his attention and sees Nico leaning out of a booth. He slides into the seat opposite monitoring the caution in his eyes, noticing the screen light on his cell go out where it's laid on the table as he settles.
"Am I late?" Levi asks, watching Nico turn the phone over and push it to one side.
"No. Not at all. I was just… checking to make sure you were still coming."
There it is again. That show of vulnerability beneath Nico's outward confidence. Levi is sure he's going to lose sleep tonight for thinking about how it's him that is managing to do this to him.
"Why wouldn't I be?" Levi asks, curling both hands over Nico's forearm where he's crossed his arms against the table.
"Don't know," Nico shrugs. "I thought maybe after yesterday, you'd have wanted to… I don't know. Talk, or something."
Yesterday. The ambulance. How they'd fought to remove lab coats and scrub tops, shoved pants down to mid thigh and—
"I did. Want to talk," Levi says, shifting because his jeans are now uncomfortable. "But every time I saw you, either you were busy or I was. I kept thinking maybe I should just stick around to see you after your shift. But I ran into Link and he said you'd gone."
"You went looking for me?"
That Nico is so surprised drops some of the tension from Levi's shoulders. He squeezes Nico's arm again before withdrawing his fingers, smiling when Nico's hand darts out.
"Of course I did."
"I should've stayed," Nico says, raising Levi's hand so he can slot his fingers through. "But I was… I should've stayed."
"Well," Levi says, squeezing his hand back, "we're here now."
"We are. You maybe want to order something?"
Nico's smiling at him again, that adoring one that says he thinks Levi's done something amusing. Levi clasps his hand tighter, determined not to be the stuttering idiot he worries he's coming across as. "I meant, what do you feel like?"
Nico nods, sitting back a little though not enough to let go of his hand. "You come here a lot?"
"Maybe more than anywhere else. Not all of the time or anything. But I can vouch for the food."
"Then… how about you order? Surprise me. I eat pretty much anything."
He trusts him. It's probably weird to feel so elated for something so simple but Levi does, grabbing his wallet and making for the bar before he can say anything about it. Even as he waits to be served and quickly orders he keeps glancing back over his shoulder to their booth. Nico doesn't reach for his phone, or look around the bar in interest, just keeps on staring back at him. Which means Levi can't stop smiling. Crushes are the worst, Levi thinks, for seeing everything through tunnel vision.
"So this Sunsword," Nico says when Levi sits back down and slides a beer across to him. "Is it like that… remade one of that guy from Lord of the Rings? The Anvil, or Anthill, or something?"
"Andúril," Levi replies, not sure he's believing his own ears. "You mean Aragon's sword. Reforged from the shards of Narsil."
"If you say so. Aragorn's the broody guy, right?"
"Well, he's a leader," Levi says, really not sure where this conversation is going. Or how Nico thought to even bring it up. "And he's a king. A descendant of kings, really, who is afraid to make the same mistakes of his ancestors."
"But the Sunsword isn't anything like Andúril. Like, for one, you can't just… remake it. You just have to try really hard to find it. And why are you asking about the Sunsword, anyway?"
"Back in the ambulance. You talked about it."
He's probably imagining it, but Levi could swear Nico's eyes darken for what has to be a shared memory. He quickly takes a mouthful of beer to compose himself, thinking about what to say. "I did. But I didn't really think you were listening."
"I've listened to you every time you've spoken to me ever since we met," Nico argues. "And if this is something that interests you, well. Maybe I can't know everything about it. Or will even be into it. But if it's something that makes you happy, I want to know more about it."
"I'm just saying. That as much as I enjoyed—really enjoyed—what we did back there," Nico says, nudging against Levi's leg beneath the table, "I'd be open to getting to know you better, so we can be more than that. With that, obviously."
Levi's stomach gives an excited swoop, and he squirms under the weight of how hard Nico is staring back at him. "You mean like… relationship stuff?"
"It would be great for us to work up to that, sure," Nico replies, reaching across the table to brush a thumb over the back of Levi's knuckles. "I just didn't want you to think it didn't mean anything to me, what we did. Because it did. I don't normally—it means a lot. That okay?"
It's more than okay. Levi is half tempted to lean across the table to kiss him, but has the feeling if he does that it will be the exact moment their food shows up, or he'll do something stupid like knock over their beer. He settles for smiling instead, raising his glass for Nico to clink against, and playing with the salt shaker for something to do with his nervous hands.
"So. Maybe you should tell me something you like," Levi says, picturing sports he doesn't know all too many rules about but enjoys all the same. He drops his gaze to the table when Nico wedges a knee between his, immediately squeezing back.
When Levi looks up Nico nods, also toying with his glass. "I like… crime novels. Mystery. People like… Lee Childs and Carlos Ruiz Zafón."
"I liked The Shadow Of The Wind." Levi replies, searching for snippets he remembers from the book. "I thought it was… a really clever way to tell a story."
"Like a story within a story."
"Exactly," Levi agrees, smiling for how pleased Nico seems.
"Uh. I like sports. Some, anyway. Football. Hockey. Baseball. I don't really follow any particular team, but. I like to watch."
"Do you play any?"
"Basketball sometimes. I wish I could play hockey," Nico adds, smoothing his hand out against the table.
"Why can't you?"
"Just… no coordination at all," Nico says, laughing at himself. "I only have to look at ice and I slip."
"Actually, I'm a pretty good skater," Levi replies, sitting up a little straighter.
"Enough to keep me up?"
"I think so. Maybe. Definitely, yes," Levi says, already picturing the two of them skating around a rink. Which shouldn't be making his heart skip quite like it is, but, it is.
"Then. Maybe we could go sometime," Nico says, snagging Levi's finger as he reaches across the table again.
"We could. Or the movies, or… anything."
"We could watch something. Maybe at the weekend?"
"That'd be great."
Is he really smiling as hard as he feels like he is, Levi thinks, then has it confirmed when their waitress appears with food, and she gives him a knowing wink.
"This looks good," Nico says, handing Levi cutlery before turning his plate inspecting it.
"Everything is here," Levi agrees, his stomach rumbling for the lasagne they're about to tuck into, realizing he's not eaten much all day.
They talk over dinner, conversation flowing naturally between them meaning neither one of them seems awkward, and they never run out of things to say. Which Levi is relieved for. There has been a something between them for weeks, even in those few strained days when they weren't talking. But without much time to get to know one another until now, he'd worried things might be strained. Clearly, he'd been worrying over nothing.
Nico laughs at his jokes, groaning at the punchline of one when it's more than a little corny. Though he grabs Levi's hand as he does, running his thumb over the back of it. He goes up to order them another beer, surprising Levi when he returns by sliding into the booth beside him, throwing an arm around his shoulders.
"What for?" Levi asks, squeezing Nico's thigh.
"Why are you thanking me, when I wanted to be here too? Wanted this?"
"Just being polite," Nico replies, and for the first time all evening leans in for a kiss. Levi slides a hand up Nico's cheek and into his hair, tugging him closer. Nico pulls him tighter, pressing Levi back into the corner of the booth.
This, if he's honest, is what Levi has been waiting for all night. It's the first kiss they've shared since the ambulance, and though only a day has passed really, it feels like far too much time. So it's hard resisting the urge to climb into Nico's lap as he had done then. Though the only real reason it doesn't happen is due to a lack of space.
Levi has a moment of wondering what Nico would think if he saw his basement apartment if he invited him to continue this, though gets distracted for the swirl of thumb sneaked over his skin beneath his shirt. Nico just keeps pulling him closer, splaying his fingers wide and grabbing his hip. Just like he'd done in that ambulance. Which Levi would really like a replay of right now.
"We could go some place."
"Eager," Nico teases, though there is the same look of want on his face that Levi feels. He only kisses him harder, continuing that grip at his hip.
"Aren't you?" Levi asks, pulling back.
"Well, yeah. Of course," Nico says, nudging against Levi's upper lip with his own before kissing him again. "I just… I meant what I said earlier. About wanting us to be more than—I don't want us to just hook up."
Levi is okay with just this—for now. He turns further in Nico's grasp so he can get both hands up in his hair. Nico groans for it, and there isn't another noise that has ever made Levi's heart race quite so fast. He chases Nico's mouth when he moves enough to get both hands beneath his shirt, pausing only to smile before kissing him again.
It's an amused clearing of a throat that pulls them apart. Levi looks up to see one of the regular waitresses smiling down at him, winking before loading up their plates on to her tray.
"Everything okay with your meal?" she asks, with a purposeful look at the way he and Nico are still tangled together.
"Perfect. Thank you," Levi replies, frozen with his hands still in Nico's hair.
Nico snorts laughter into Levi's forearm as she walks away. He looks unbothered by the interruption, leaning in to kiss him quickly again. "How would you feel about maybe… taking a walk?"
"Right now?" Levi asks, already missing the warmth of Nico's hands on his skin.
Levi considers this while claiming yet another kiss, nodding in agreement only when he's had his fill.
Nico holds his hand for their entire walk through the city, stealing kisses any time they have reason to pause. They only break apart to avoid a puddle on a narrow path, at which point Nico wraps an arm around Levi's waist and nuzzles against his cheek.
"It's getting late," Nico says, soft and mumbled into his ear. Levi shivers for it, tucking in closer.
"I guess so."
"What time are you on tomorrow?"
"Earlier than I want to think about," Levi replies, turning his face into Nico's shoulder.
"Then. Perhaps I could walk you home?"
Levi likes the idea so much he stops them from going anywhere by kissing him again. And once they are finally stood outside his mom's they can't keep their hands off one another. They pull apart laughing when Nico stumbles for trying to catch his breath, holding on to each other's hands.
"I have a suggestion. You'll have to tell me if you think it's a good one or not," Nico says, playing with his fingers.
"What is it?"
"When is your next day off?"
Nico nods, before giving him an absent kiss. "Okay. So how about this? I ask if I can swap my shifts so I'm off Monday too. And then you, if you want, can maybe come stay at mine Sunday night?"
Levi's stomach knots so hard in excitement he's sure Nico must see him twitch. He nods in eager agreement, unslotting his fingers so he can grip Nico's waist. "I'd love that, if you can."
"I should be able to. But if for any reason I can't then we can make the same plan for another day. If you want to?"
Nico is uncertain again. Levi has to kiss him for it, hard and pressed up so insistently against him that Nico stumbles backward.
"Then yes," Levi says, "whenever. Soon."
"I'll let you know for sure tomorrow. And if not we'll… I wanna see you before then anyway. That okay?"
"More than okay," Levi agrees, kissing him harder.
Replaying melees, strategizing initiatives, the spell components he kicks himself for not picking up during his last campaign. These are the things Levi falls asleep to when he isn't reciting medical texts into the middle of the night. But these are not the details replaying for Levi this evening. When he climbs into bed, all Levi imagines is the softness of Nico's smile, and the warmth of him holding on tight. Tonight when Levi falls asleep, he does it replaying every moment they've shared together. Half-convinced he might never stop smiling again.