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Nico knows how lucky he is to have Marti. For many reasons that he often finds himself listing in his head when he is looking for something. Something to grasp onto for comfort. Something to look for a silver lining in.

Marti knows when to be serious, but he doesn't take everything seriously. Marti knows how to lighten the mood. Marti knows how to pick him up from his lows. He's known it since the very first day, when his thoughts led him into a dark corner that put a lump in his throat, but Marti, back of his fingers stroking his cheek, unexpected and yet already so impossibly familiar, cracked a joke and snapped him back into the present, back into the light.

How he knew how to do it, when they were still so new to each other they might as well have had a plastic film on to peel off carefully, sometimes Nico still wonders.

Marti teases and mocks, relentlessly, brings out Nico's playful nature. He’s snarky and sharp, sometimes to the point of abrasive, coating his words with layers of sarcasm that Nico is lucky enough to have the map to dig under. Not everyone does. But he's intuitive and attentive. He's a good listener and a better watcher. And sometimes he is boring, in ways Nico needs when he feels a bit reckless.

Marti is brave. The bravest person he knows. Not the kind of bravery that you wear pinned to your chest, the kind that it takes to walk into school every day and not hide who you are. To go out at night and hold Nico’s hand, to let the dirty looks and the slurs slide off him because they aren’t worth his time. To shrug the hurt off when his father calls to ask him to babysit his stepbrother, please Marti, something came up and we can't find anyone else, and saying yes through clenched teeth. To knowing the answer, but asking anyway, if Nico can come too. To take care of his mother when it's so easy for her to forget to, and to take care of him when his days are blue.

There are less of those days, now, but there will never be none, and Marti knows that, but he carries the weight of this knowledge like it's easy. Ask him if he thinks he's brave, if he thinks he's strong, he's going to smile and shrug. He doesn't know. He doesn’t think so.

Marti is the best hugger he’s ever known. When he's in Marti's arms it feels like nothing else in the world matters. Marti's hands stroke his back, big and comforting, and he feels warm and safe, like every worry melts off him just as easily as he melts into Marti's body. With his face hidden in Marti’s shoulder or tucked under his chin, nose pressed against his neck and arms tight around Marti's torso, he feels like he’s at home, somewhere he always wants to go back to, engulfed by the broadness of Marti's shoulders. He tries to get as many as those hugs as he can. Marti has called him a cuddle monster once or twice. But when Nico asks for one, he scoops him into his arms and sweeps him off his feet.

Marti is a bottle of sunshine that Nico's afraid he is gonna run out of, or even worse that he is going to trip on his own feet and spill.

Sometimes Nico thinks about meeting Marti in another life. He doesn’t know why, it seems to be a recurring thought.

He talks to Marti about this one early autumn day when they're smoking in his new old apartment (their new old apartment). There's still so much left to do to make it look like his place and not his grandma’s, but Nico brought half the junk in his room over, and it starts to feel like home. When he gets the new bed frame and mattress delivered tomorrow, he can start sleeping here. And Marti can start sleeping here too.

Lying opposite on the old mattress they threw on the floor with their heads meeting in the middle, it feels somewhat similar to the very first day Marti lay on his bed in his borrowed t-shirt and shorts. Like a rehearsed stage position, in a theater only both of them have access to.

“What if we had met when we were older?”

“How much older? Like thirty and I still have all my hair and a cool beard, or wrinkly-old?”

Nico snorts. He scratches Marti’s jaw, his three-day scruff tickling his fingertips and his palm. Marti takes a drag, inhales the smoke and holds it in for a long couple of seconds before blowing it from his nose. He puts the joint to Nico’s mouth, the pads of his index and middle fingers brushing his lips like a kiss. He smiles as Nico sucks the smoke in, and scoots closer, replacing the joint with his open lips, that Nico gently blows the smoke into.

Marti inhales as much as he can but doesn’t hold it for long, kisses Nico instead, slow and light, his free hand on Nico’s neck sending shivers down his spine. When he pulls back, he purses his lips in thought, then he lights up. “What if we had met on the gay street?”

“Filo would have hit on you before I could.”

It makes Marti laugh, and, “that technically already happened in this reality,” he clarifies.

Nico chuckles. He feels hazy, but at the same time strangely focused. There is a myriad of possibilities that crowd his head. He picks one out, just to keep the game going.

“What if we had been tourists in a foreign city, destined to never meet again?

Marti is watching the cloud of smoke twirling up above their heads. Nico turns his head and Marti follows, their eyes meeting and the tip of their noses touching. Marti smiles, easy, and he says, “I think we found each other exactly when and where we needed to.”

Nico closes his eyes. The words make him feel lightheaded, more than the weed does, more than Marti’s smell does. When he opens them again, Marti is looking at him, his brown eyes soft and huge, the hint of the same smile curling up the corners of his lips. Nico's hand comes up to hold Marti's nape, and he strokes the soft auburn curls, the slightest bit of sweat making the short hair on Marti's neck stick to his fingertips. Marti licks his lips. From this angle his eyelashes look so long, they seem to brush the top of his cheeks.

He's only ever seen beauty like this in his art history books.

“Do you think there's a universe where we haven't met each other?”, he asks.

“Maybe,” Marti says. He looks up and bites his bottom lip. “Maybe there are a lot of universes like that. Where I don't know you exist, and you don't know I exist. Two parallel lines that are never going to meet.”

Nico's fingers unconsciously twitch in Marti's hair, like just the thought of Marti not knowing or loving him makes him want to hold him closer. He feels something ugly lodge itself in his throat.

“Maybe there's a lonely Marti and a lonely Nico somewhere out there. Or maybe they're happy with someone else,” Marti continues. He looks at Nico and his brows twitch, like he’s noticed something’s wrong. “I don't know, Ni. I don't even know if I believe in this stuff.”

Nico hums, and doesn't dare to say anything. He knows how that lonely Nico feels, somewhere in another universe. It doesn’t feel too far away, nor too long ago.

He thinks he should have stopped this train of thought before they got here. He doesn't want Marti to feel how much it saddens him, the weight of the loneliness his imaginary other selves must feel. He feels silly for the mood swing, how quickly it came and turned their game into a reason to be sad. To make Marti feel guilty that he made him sad, when he didn't do anything at all.

Marti passes him the joint. He looks up at the ceiling and takes another long drag, watches the smoke he blows out rise, up and around.

Marti must notice his weird silence. He feels his eyes on him, those big brown eyes that search and search and seem to always find an escape route to free him from his thoughts. Marti's fingers on his chin make him move his head back towards him, and he’s looking at him with a small side smile.

“Makes me grateful we ended up in this one.”

Nico smiles, wide and toothy and making his watery eyes wrinkle. It’s a rush of relief, of comfort. He kisses Marti, another one in a long list of upside-down kisses. It never gets less clumsy, despite the practice, both of them smiling too much into it to make it work. Nico pulls back and sits up quickly, Marti following his lips for another kiss with his eyes still closed. Nico sits back on his heels and hovers over him, holding himself up with his hands on both sides of Marti's head and grinning down at him. When Marti opens his eyes, he blinks up at him and then squints.

“What do you want?” he teases.

“Remember the antidote?” Nico says, doesn't know what prompted the memory before it had already bounced off the tip of his tongue.

Marti seems surprised, too, but he chuckles. “Yes. Yes, the blue Powerade for your impossible personality,” he shakes his head fondly. Reminiscing.

Nico punches him lightly on the shoulder, making Marti fake-whine. It feels good that they can joke about this now. That he can joke about it. It took a lot for him to write that message back then. How he missed Marti when he did. And now, he never has to miss him anymore.

He leans down, until the tip of one of his dark curls brushes the red curls on Marti's forehead. He blinks down at Marti and strokes his cheek lightly with his thumb, Marti leaning into the touch. “You don't need it anymore.”

“No?” Marti asks, tipping his chin up for a kiss.

“No,” Nico leans down to give him just that. They’re both smiling when he pulls back.

“You are my antidote.”