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a strike of lightning

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Damen doesn’t love him.

There’s a list that Nikandros keeps in his mind of all his best friend’s flaws. He’s self-absorbed, and possessive; he’s promiscuous and arrogant. He’s beautiful. Fuck, he’s so beautiful. Sometimes there are days when Nikandros feels as if he will melt in the heat of the light that Damen gives off. He has a smile that buries itself in the soul of everyone who has the pleasure of witnessing it. He hates suffering and he actually does something about it - all those charities and donations.

Nikandros has a list of flaws for Damen, but God is it hard to keep track of them as flaws when he loves everything about the man.

Almost everything.

Because Damen doesn’t love him.


Nikandros gets married when he’s just twenty-six to a woman named Kyrina. He proposes on their second anniversary of dating because people are starting to ask him when he plans to, and Kyrina keeps casting longing looks at jewellery stores and wedding magazines. His mother loves her - she’s smart and ambitious, but also gentle. He loves her too.

The night after their engagement (because the night-of is covered in champagne soaked kisses and sex), Kyrina sits down with him and says, “There’s just one thing I have to ask you, before we get married, and you have to be honest with me.”

“Okay,” Nikandros says, and it’s an easy promise because he has never lied to her before.

“Don’t get upset. I know you love me,” she says. “But do you think you might also be in love with Damen?”

At this point in his life, it has never occurred to him before. It’s never been a thing he’s tried to think about. So it’s not a lie when he says, “No,”. He’s shocked but not defensive. Does he think he might be? It hasn’t crossed his mind.

It isn’t a lie until eight months after their wedding, when Damen is sitting next to him at a bar one evening, pleasantly drunk and even more pleasantly beautiful, and he turns to Nikandros. “I miss you,” he says.

Nik looks at him. “I didn’t go anywhere?”

“You’re married,” Damen makes it sound like a tragedy. “I’m used to having you all to myself.”

It’s true that Nik hasn’t been spending much time with his friends, but he has a new wife and a new house and a busy job. He’s been trying to settle into his perfect cookie cutter life. He’s been trying to figure out why it feels like such a chore.

He wants to say something about how his wife deserves his time. “I miss you too,” he says, instead.

Damen smiles. “I think I was less prepared for you to get engaged than you were.”

“You’ll be married soon. What about Jokaste?”

“Over. It was a fling.” It’s always a fling with Damen. There’s always someone else out there waiting for their chance with him. He’s not shallow, he’s just free.

“Onto the next one then,” Nik says, casually - or maybe not, the words don’t sound right.

“I’ve never needed to get married,” Damen says. “You’ve always been the best support in my life.”

Nik puts down his drink. “Okay.”

Damen kisses him. It’s so unexpected that Nik just lets it happen. Their mouths meet, his eyes close, it’s a line of actions that follow one another. Damen kisses him, and it’s that lightning bolt moment in his chest. Frankenstein’s monster, come to life. Something new has been created in him - or perhaps it is something old, that has only just been exposed. It wasn’t a lie when Nikandros told Kyrina that he didn’t love Damen. It is a lie now.

It is a line of actions - they kiss, and Damen pulls away and laughs a joyous sound after Nik kisses him back. He says, “I’ve always wondered what that would feel like,” and then he kisses Nik again. Somewhere in the midst of the kissing, Damen takes his hand and they duck into the bathroom - the disabled stall because it’s private and it has a lock, and Nikandros has never used one of these stalls before not even at a concert when the line to the men’s room is too long because he thinks it’s wrong. But Damen pulls him in and he goes. Damen kisses him. He kisses back. Then Damen drops to his knees, unzips Nik’s fly, and opens his mouth.

Damianos isn’t a bad person, but he is self-centered. He grew up wealthy, and gifted in things like sports and intelligence (which people always forget to notice, beyond all of his other attributes, he’s a year younger than Nik but graduated at the same time because he skipped a grade). He’s spoilt. No one has never said no to him, and so sometimes it doesn’t occur to him that someone should say no.

Nikandros drops his head back against the wall of a dirty bathroom stall, while his best friend sucks his cock and his wife waits at home. It does occur to Nik that he should say no. He simply doesn’t want to.

Afterwards, Damen is sweet. Nikandros takes him in hand, and Damen says things like “You’re doing so well”, and “Am I your first time with a man?” (he isn’t, there was one fumbling attempt in highschool and a few more in college, but the thought of telling Damen had felt like exposing a raw nerve for some reason and so he’s never told him). Damen kisses him after he comes, open mouthed and sloppy.

“Thank you,” Damen says, and then they go out into the bar again and order another round of drinks and Damen tells him about work and what their friends have gotten up to lately. Nikandros feels odd - giddily happy but also very aware of Damen. Sex with Damen is like taking ecstasy, and isn’t that an odd comparison? His heart is doing odd things in his chest.

After that round, Damen flags him down a cab, and smiles and tells him to get home safe. Don’t forget about me again, is what he actually says, and he says it in a tone that implies the knowledge that Nikandros will never forget this night.


What happened hits him when he gets home and takes off his shoes and he has to put them on the little shoe shelf that Kyrina bought, right next to her heels. The drinks with Damen were a last minute plan that he hadn’t told her about. He could just tell her that work ran late or something like that. He steps into the joint dining-kitchen area, and Kyrina is there, reheating the leftover pasta sauce he made from last night. She always reheats what she can on the stove, and says it tastes better than the microwave.

“Welcome home, darling,” she says, when she notices him.

He sits down at the table. He can’t look at her, and he can’t think of something to say that isn’t an apology. He looks at the candle centrepiece that they got as a wedding gift from her mother, and then next to it is Kyrina’s handbag, and poking out of the top of that is a pregnancy test, box unopened.

Nikandros picks it up. He is cold all over.

“Oh,” Kyrina says. She must have turned back to look at him. He hears her turn off the stove and then she’s coming over and pulling out the seat next to his and touching his arm. “I’m only a week late, but I thought I’d check instead of just stressing about it. It’s okay, isn’t it? I know we wanted to wait a bit longer before we had a baby, but maybe the time is never going to be perfect and we should just go for it, you know?”

Nikandros covers his face with his hands. He is married. He is married to a woman that he loves, and they have a home, and a dog, and they’ll have children one day, and he... He has ruined it for a cheap bathroom fling with a man that he didn’t know he wanted until about ten minutes before he’d been fucking his mouth. He is crying.

“Nik?” Kyrina sounds alarmed. “Babe, talk to me. Did something happen? This isn’t about the test, is it?”

Nikandros could lie. She would never know. Damen would never tell her, and Nikandros will never do it again. It will save them all so much pain if he lies. Nikandros has never lied to his wife before. “I fucked someone,” he says, lifting his face up.


Drinks tonight? Reads the text from Damen.

No. Nik types back. Dinner with Kyrina.

He can see the little dot dot dot typing symbol that means Damen is writing a reply, before it disappears entirely, potential message erased. He has not seen Damen in one month, and it feels like his heart is breaking when all he’s trying to do is keep it together.

Kyrina had been upset, of course she had been. She’d asked for no details, and Nik privately thinks she has assumed that it was a random one night stand with a stranger. She thinks that what he did was a panic response in reaction to how fast they’d gotten married. He was stressed, or something like it. She doesn’t forgive him yet, but they’re working on it.

Are you at work rn? Damen’s response finally buzzes through after eight minutes of nothing.

Kyrina wants him to consider counselling, but he can’t do it because he’s afraid the therapist will take one look at him and say “you’re in love with your best friend.” and Nikandros will reply, “yes, I always have been.” and then he’ll have to face that as the truth.

Yes. Nik replies.

He should expect Damen to appear, twenty minutes later, knocking on his office door and wearing gym clothes.

“Hey,” Damen says, smiling. He must have come straight from his own work, as a personal trainer. Usually he changes his clothes first. “Happy Anniversary.”

“Anniversary?” The date they met, messily recorded in their fourth grade diaries, is not for another five months.

Damen closes the door behind him. It’s just them in the office. “Yes,” Damen says, and now there’s bit of tension to his stance. “Happy one month anniversary since the last time you deigned to speak to me in person.”

“Deigned.” Nik repeats.

“You’ll answer my texts but only to say no, and every time I call you’re too busy. You’ve never done this to me before.”

That’s a line that Nik really wants to repeat. You’ve never done this to me before. What he actually says is, “I have a wife.”

Damen is so fucking self absorbed that he actually looks surprised by Nik bringing it up. “I know.”

Nik closes his eyes. He’s meeting Kyrina in three hours for dinner, at a restaurant, and they’re going to discuss the future. She wants to bring up having a baby again. She has four sisters and they all have babies, even the younger ones. He can’t sit alone with Damen in this office, and then go tell her that yes, they should get pregnant.

“Is this…” Damen hesitates. “A gay thing? You’d like, considered being with a guy before, right?”

Why does everyone assume that he’s acting out of panic, when he does something they don’t like? “No,” Nik says. “I’ve fucked men before.”

“Oh,” Damen says.

“I just fucked all of them when I was single.”

Damen looks at him, silent, shocked. “Oh,” he says again. “Of course. Right. You wouldn’t just -- I know you’re not the type of person who…” he stops, probably because he’s realising he now has firsthand knowledge that Nik actually is the type of person who cheats on their partner.

Nik sighs. “Damen,” he says, and he knows that frustration is leaking into his tone.

“Look,” Damen says. “It’s just that -- you’re my best friend. We’ve always relied on each other for everything, and I don’t want anything to come in between that.”

“Neither do I,” Nikandros agrees.

“Okay.” Damen smiles slowly. “So, drinks. When are you free?”

Nikandros looks down at his desk, where there’s a framed picture of his and Kyrina’s wedding day. The picture is entirely unposed for, taken on someone’s phone, but it was his favourite out of them all. They’re both grinning at each other, unaware of the world around them.

Next to it is a picture of him and Damen, in their graduation caps and gowns, arms around each other’s shoulders. Nik closes his eyes. He can’t refuse Damen. “Thursday,” he says.


Dinner that evening is actually really nice. The food is great, there’s a little instrumental band playing live jazz, and they share two bottles of wine and talk until the waitresses are packing up around them. When they get home, joyfully drunk and stumbling, Kyrina kicks off her heels in the hallway and then turns back towards him.

“I haven’t forgiven you,” she says, and then she leans in close to him and whines, “but it’s been so long since we’ve had sex and I really want you.”

He takes her up to their bedroom and undresses her slowly, kisses all the places where she’s sensitive. He trails his lips along her upper thighs until she’s squirming and she grabs his hair with her hands and puts his mouth where she really wants it. He still feels so fucking guilty, but with that comes the desperate need to make amends. This is something he can do, until her toes are curling and her hands are clenched in the sheets. And then he does it again.


He tries three times to cancel drinks with Damen. The first attempt is stopped as the thought even forms. The second attempt he gets as far as typing Something came up, before he deletes all the letters. The third attempt is when he calls Damen and Damen doesn’t pick up, so Nik can’t really cancel.

Or he tells himself that.

They go to a different bar this time, Damen’s choice again. Damen is excited, drawing everyone around him in with how bright his smile is. He had a good day at the gym, he tells Nik. Even though he got a new customer who is apparently unbearable. “His name is Laurent,” Damen says, mournfully. “And he is the worst person I’ve ever met.”

Nik laughs, and then catches Damen up on what’s been happening at Delpha lately. He is suddenly passionately thankful that he didn’t cancel on this. He has missed Damen. And just because he now knows that he has all these complicated feelings for him, doesn’t mean he should take the cowards way out and avoid him. They’ll work past this. Their friendship is worth it.
His phone buzzes, and Nik checks the screen. It’s Kyrina. Her contact name is followed by the little emoji of a diamond ring. Are you still at work? It says.

No, I’m with Damen. He types back, and then messages her the name of the bar, and invites her to join them.

I’m going to go to bed soon. Have fun! She messages back.

Two drinks later, and Damen puts a hand on Nik’s thigh. Nik tenses and then forces himself to relax. It’s a casual gesture, and Damen has always been a little handsy. It doesn’t mean anything. If the hand moves any higher then he’ll shift away and make an excuse to leave.

They’re sitting on stools at the actual bar, and Damen is talking to the bartender now. She’s a pretty girl, dark and shapely. Her name badge says Kashel and she is smiling at Damen flirtatiously. There’s no one but the three of them left in the bar.

Damen’s hand moves a little higher up his thigh, perhaps unintentionally. Nik doesn’t move.

Kashel looks between them, eyes keen, and asks, “Are you two a couple?”

“Would you like that?” Damen asks back.

“There’s a certain appeal,” she replies, shamelessly. “In two strong, beautiful men together.”

“Hmm,” Damen murmurs. He’s looking at Nik speculatively. He leans in closer, under Kashel’s watchful eye, and pecks Nikandros on the corner of his mouth.

She makes a scoffing noise. Nikandros closes his eyes. He knows Damen is receptive to challenges, and this is definitely one to him. Their lips press together again, properly this time, and then Damen is gently coaxing Nik’s mouth open with his tongue. His eyes open again when they seperate, and he sees Damen looking to Kashel for her reaction.

“If you want,” she says, and it’s directed at both of them, “I can flip the closed sign and show you the very comfortable couch in the staff room.”

Damen turns to Nik, a question in his raised eyebrow. This, Nikandros knows, is the exact moment where he has to make a choice. He’s lucky that Kyrina is willing to move past his first indiscretion, but it will ruin their marriage if he fucks Damen and a random bar girl in a back room just a month later. Damen’s hand is still on his thigh.

“I have to go home,” Nikandros says. He stands up. Damen looks surprised, probably because Nik had never refused him before, and Nik feels a little flare of anger about that. His infidelity shouldn’t seem like a sure thing to Damen.

“If you’re sure,” Kashel says, sounding unbothered.

“I have a wife,” Nik replies, but he’s looking at Damen when he says it. He leaves.


“You’re home,” Kyrina says, sleepily, when he carefully slides into their bed. She wraps her arms around him.

“I think you’re right,” Nik says, suddenly.

“What about?”

“We shouldn’t keep planning everything so meticulously.” he’s sobered up enough from the taxi home that the words are clear. “Let’s have a baby.”

This wakes her up properly. “Really?” Kyrina says. Her smile is so beautiful.


She rolls on top of him then, and he laughs, and then she kisses him. There’s no burn of stubble, just her soft mouth and softer cheeks. She unbuttons his shirt, and Nik wonders if Kashel is doing the same for Damen in the back room.


He calls in sick to work the next morning, and spends the entire day rolling around in bed with his wife. She triumphantly throws out her birth control medication and they only stop when the need for food gets too strong.

Nikandros is so happy with her. He loves her so much, and nothing is as wonderful as her smile. When she’s there, it’s unfathomable to him that he could ever want someone else. But he still remembers the feeling from last night of Damen’s mouth on his. He can still recall the jolt of temptation to say yes. Had Kashel not been there, he thinks he might have.


Damen shows up at his work again, when he knows it’s Nik’s lunch break. He waltzes into the office and closes the door behind him. He’s still in the singlet and shorts that he works out in. Entirely shameless to be showing so much skin in an office environment.

“I’m going to burn the entire business down and claim the insurance money. Do you want to run away with me?”

“Bad day at work?” Nik asks, dryly.

“Yes,” Damen replies, emphatically. “I swear to God I didn’t know one person could be so infuriating.”

Nik stands up, comes around the desk to stand with Damen. “Do you want to get lunch at the cafe downstairs?”

That’s what these visits used to mean. That’s what he thinks is happening here. Instead, Damen fists his hands into Nik’s business shirt and pushes him back against the wall. They’re kissing.

“Damen,” Nik says. “What--”

“He’s so annoying,” Damen groans. “Distract me, please.”

It’s easier to say yes when it’s already happening. He unbuckles Damen’s pants, and this time he’s the one that goes down to his knees.


He’s having an affair. There’s a point when it has to be acknowledged, and that point is the fourth time they fuck, when they actually fuck, in Damen’s apartment, in his bed. Nikandros clutches the bed frame, wraps his legs around Damen’s waist and tips his head back. He accepts it, accepts all of what is happening. It’s a car crash in slow motion that he’s powerless to stop.

The worst part is that despite the way he feels in his heart, the certainty that he is in love with Damen on a level he has never before experienced, he knows Damen sees it as a fling. They get together and they have sex and they drink and they talk about work and sports. It’s the same as their friendship always was except this time they touch each other’s dicks and don’t talk about it.

Damen doesn’t love him. Nikandros kisses him anyway.


Damen smiles a lot in bed. Sometimes it’s joyous and quick, or slow and smoldering, or a look of such unrestricted pleasure that it makes Nikandros lose his mind. He’s always attentive and generous. He seems to find as much joy in making his partner come as he does in coming himself.

He sweeps Nikandros hair out of his eyes and drops down next to him on the bed. His grin is endearingly idiotic after he’s gotten off.

“Do you know what my mother said when you got married?” Damen is actually referring to his step-mother, but his own mother had died when he was a baby so Nessa is all he’s had.

Nik closes his eyes. “What?” he asks.

“She said she’d always thought you and I would be the ones to end up together,” he says. “She said we have good chemistry.”

Nik looks at him. Damen is still smiling. Nik can’t tell what he’s thinking or why he’d bring up something like that. “What did you say?”

Damen shrugs, “That I’d never properly thought about it. I’ve always thought you were straight.”

“So did I,” Nik says, and then reconsiders, “Straight-ish, at least.”

Damen laughs and kisses him and keeps stroking his hair. And Nikandros is happy. This isn’t something he should do, but it’s something he wants to do.


They stand in line together at the cinemas, waiting to pay for an insane amount of snacks and drinks, and Nikandros throws individual pieces of popcorn up in the air while Damen catches them with his mouth. They’re both laughing.

Nikandros turns around to pay, and when he turns back to Damen, Damen isn’t laughing anymore. He’s looking at Nik in an odd way, head tilted.

“What?” Nikandros asks.

“Do you think it’s too late?”

Nikandros looks at his watch. “No?” he says. “The film doesn’t start for another ten minutes.”

Slowly, Damen smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Great,” he says. “Let’s go in.”


Sometimes it’s just moments. They leave a bar together and Damen throws an arm over his shoulder. Nikandros goes to the gym when Damen is working and when he looks up, he catches Damen across the room, watching him. Damen sends him a text, a picture of a grumpy looking border collie with a caption that just says “It’s you”, and Nikandros has to smile because it feels good to be thought of. It feels good to be with Damen, it always has, that’s why he’s so dangerous.


Damen invites him to a bar, and they pick a corner table and get beers. Damen tells him about some woman who came to the gym and totally outlifted most of the guys there.

“Even you?” Nik asks, smiling.

“No, not me,” Damen says.

They look at each other for a moment and then Damen goes to get them another round. Nikandros feels soft with love.

His phone buzzes. Kyrina has only just finished work, and she’s asking if he wants to get take out tonight.

Nik texts back that he's with Damen, and invites her to join them for a drink. He always invites her but she very rarely shows. He doesn’t know why he does it, maybe a terrible part of him just wants to blame her for what he’s doing with Damen -- I did it because you weren’t there to stop me.

When Damen comes back, he’s holding two drinks and bringing a blonde man with him.

“Nik,” Damen says, “You’ll never guess -- this is Laurent, from the gym.”

Laurent, also known as: the worst customer ever, is beautiful. He looks maybe twenty, and his hair is golden. He’s drinking what looks like a tall glass of coke. “Hi,” Laurent says. Even his voice is nice.

“Nice to meet you,” Nikandros says.

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Laurent says, sitting down with them. “I imagine Damen has been complaining about what a terror I am.”

“Well you are one,” Damen says, but he doesn’t sound defensive, he sounds...endeared.

Nikandros watches them smile at each other, in that slow secretive way that Damen has that promises a lot of sex at the end of the night.

Ah, Nik thinks. He remembers all the times that Damen has complained about this guy, usually while pressing kisses to Nik’s jawline and growling about how infuriating Laurent is. In hindsight, he’s been even stupider than he’d already thought.

The thing about Nikandros is that he does what people want him to. That’s his own, personal flaw. He helped raise his siblings because he was the eldest and his father died when they were young. He follows after Damen, because Damen is wonderfully reckless and needs someone to steady him. He started dating Kyrina, even, because she had asked and she’d told him about her dreams -- of finding a man who would love her and start a family with her -- and he thought, “I could do that.”

He’s never thought of himself as weak, but rather, dedicated. Giving. He looks across the table at Damen, who is smiling at Laurent, and he thinks that he has given him too much.

He can’t be mad at Damen for being interested in someone else, it is too hypocritical for words, but the easy way that he invited Laurent over grates on Nikandros. He loves Damen, and Damen doesn’t even give what they’re doing enough regard to be concerned about calling over someone he’s interested in. In making Nikandros watch that. In confirming that he has ruined his relationship for a fever dream.

“Nikandros,” Laurent says, politely. He looks pretty and young and a little awkward. He’s the ideal lover for Damen, who likes to cut himself on rough edges until they learn to soften at his touch. “You and Damen are childhood friends, right?”

He remembers being fifteen, and Damen sneaking in through his bedroom window one night, a few days after Nikandros’ father had died. Nik had been distraught, and locked himself in his room and refused to talk to anyone. And Damen had simply pried open the window from the outside and crawled in. “I know you’re sad,” Damen had said, “but let’s be sad together.”

“Yes,” Nikandros says.

“Best friends,” Damen corrects them, smiling sweetly at Nikandros.

Maybe this is Nikandros’ fault, for always nipping at Damen’s heels and cleaning up his messes. He’s stayed kind and happy, but there’s also a naivety to him. He does whatever he wants and believes that things will just work out in the end, like they always do.

Laurent makes an amused sound, “I thought titles like ‘best’ friend were kept exclusively in the school yard.”

“No,” Damen says, and Nikandros knows he is about to say something awful, like that it just means that they’ll be friends always, and so he cuts in and says,

“I’m beginning to think that they should be,” he says.

Damen’s smile flickers. “What?”

Nikandros knows that he could keep his mouth shut. He should be encouraging whatever is blossoming between Damen and Laurent. Damen can fall in love with someone else, and stop asking Nikandros for things he cannot say no to. Nikandros can pretend to forget about all that they’ve done and go back to his wife for real.

Nikandros looks to Laurent. “So, how long have you two been flirting?”

Laurent glances between him and Damen, his shoulders go back slightly. “He’s just my PT,” Laurent says. “Actually, maybe I should go.”

“No,” Damen says, shooting Nikandros a confused look. “He’s just being protective, he always has been.” Damen turns to him, “Laurent and I are going out for dinner on Friday. I was about to tell you all about it when I saw he was here.”

“Were you?” Nikandros asks.

Damen, finally, frowns. It took him twenty-four years before he even felt an inkling of hostility from his elder brother, so him figuring out that Nikandros is upset now is actually quicker than usual. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t know,” Nikandros says. “What did you think I’d say? Good luck on the date, I’ll just go back to being unable to look my wife in the eye.”

“She’ll forgive you,” Damen says. He really believes it, too. Damen and his ever expanding capacity for forgiveness expects the same from others. “She already has, after the first time.”

Nikandros closes his eyes. “I love you,” he says, “I really fucking love you, Damen.”

“I love you too,” Damen replies automatically, sounding hurt. “I promise Kyrina won’t--”

“No, Damen,” Nikandros says, and when he opens his eyes, he stares right at him. “I love you.”

Damen hears the gravity in the words this time because he suddenly looks lost. “I don’t…” Damen blinks.

“I know,” Nikandros says, steadily. He does know. Damen doesn’t love him.

“Listen,” Laurent cuts in, pushing back his chair. “As awful as this has been, I’m going to--”

“There you are!” Kyrina says, pulling out a chair. “Why are you guys sitting in the corner like this?” She presses a kiss to Nik’s cheek. “Hi Damen.”

“Hi,” Damen sounds shaky. He’s a bad liar.

Kyrina reaches across the table to Laurent. “I’m Kyrina, Nik’s wife,” she says.

“Laurent.” They shake hands. Laurent has a much better poker face than the rest of them. He smiles pleasantly at Kyrina, and says, “Actually, I was just leaving. But it was nice to meet you, Kyrina. You deserve better.”

“Thank you?” Kyrina replies.

Laurent stands up and looks down at Damen. “I’m busy on Friday,” he says, simple, and then -- without even a glance at Nikandros -- he leaves.

“He was weird,” Kyrina comments. “Are you feeling okay, Damen? You’re kind of pale.”

“No,” Damen says.

There’s a pause, then Damen adds, “I’m sorry.”

“You can leave if you’re sick, hon, don’t worry about it.”

Nik takes a deep breath. “How was work?”

Kyrina smiles at him. “Awful,” she says, sipping her wine. “Elena was being such a bitch today, I nearly quit. And then to top it all off, my period started so--” she gestures to her drink, “I can at least have some wine.”

Oh thank God, Nikandros thinks.

“You guys are…” Damen says slowly, “I mean, a baby? Already?”

Kyrina shrugs. “Well that’s the plan,” she says. She looks at Nik. “You didn’t tell him?”

“I was waiting until it happened,” Nikandros tells her, faintly.

“Isn’t it kind of soon?” Damen asks.

“Our anniversary is in two weeks.” Kyrina frowns, slightly.

“Great,” Damen says, a little too fast. “Right, of course it is. You’ll be great parents. That’s just, great news.”

Kyrina gives Nik a look. “Is he okay?” she mouths.

“It’s Damen,” Nikandros says. He feels sick.

Damen freezes.

“What is?”

“The affair,” Nikandros says. “The person I-- It was Damen. It still is.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I think,” Nikandros tells her, “you need to divorce me.”

Kyrina is blinking a lot. “I asked you before we got married,” she says. “I asked you if you were in love with him. You lied to me.”

“No,” Nikandros says. Well... “Yes. But I didn’t know then. I hadn’t realised.”

“I should’ve known,” she whispers, “I’ve always known you’d choose him over me if you had to.”

“No,” he says again. “It’s not your fault.”

“I know it’s not my fault!” Kyrina stands up. Half the room is looking over with how loud she is.

She picks up her wine glass and tosses the contents at Damen, and the red immediately clings to his white shirt. “Fuck you, Damen,” she hisses. “You spoke at our wedding. Fuck you.”

“I wasn’t trying to hurt you,” Damen says. There’s wine dripping down his neck, but he doesn’t seem to notice.

“No, you just ignored my feelings entirely.”

When she turns back to Nik, he sees that she’s crying. Silent tears run smoothly down her cheeks, cheeks that he’s kissed a million times. “I was almost relieved when you told me,” she says. “You’d always seemed too good to be true, and I thought, maybe he’s flawed but at least he didn’t lie to me about it.”

“I’m sorry, Kyrina.”

“But not sorry enough to not have done it.”

He owes her honesty. “No,” he says.

She takes off her wedding ring and sets it on the table. Gold clicks against wood. “Don’t come home,” she says. Then she leaves.

“Nik,” Damen says, and to his credit he sounds absolutely wrecked. “Nik.”

“You’ve always been the most important person in my life, Damen,” he says. “She’s right. I would always choose you, if you wanted me.”

“Nikandros,” Damen says, and he’s reaching out across the table to him. “What if I do? What if we try?”

He doesn’t know if Damen means it, or if he’s panicking because he can see Nik pulling away -- something that has never happened before. It doesn’t really matter.

“You were right, at the cinema,” Nikandros says. He stands up. He puts Kyrina’s ring in his pocket. “It is too late.”