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The ties that bind (can be found in chapter two)

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“Can you still feel your arms?” Nicky says, brow furrowed. 

His face, Joe thinks, while lovely as alway, seems way too serious right now.

“No, I don’t think so,” he says innocently, which earns him an impatient look, so he feels compelled to add, “I’m kidding. I’m also fine.”

“Tell me if anything starts to go numb,” Nicky says, still way too seriously. 

Joe nods, a bit exasperated, because he’d be lying if he said he understood why that would be necessary. It’s not like there’s going to be any lasting damage either way. That being said – this has turned out to be a lot more comfortable than he expected it to be. Nicky’s eyeing the open book on top of the bedding critically once again, eyes narrowed, before he gives Joe a pointed once-over, like somebody who just finished assembling some furniture might compare it to the blueprint to see if it looks the same, making sure they did an adequate job. 

It took them a solid twenty minutes to get here, because Nicky miscalculated at some point, cursed under his breath and undid his work to start all over again. 

Joe can’t say he paid much attention to what he was doing – too busy watching the ten minute summaries of yesterday’s qualification matches, eyes glued to the TV while Nicky was busy winding rope around his arms and upper body. He has to admit, he misses Booker for this. The Euros tend to be a lot more fun if there’s somebody around who is equally invested. Unfortunately, the way things are, they’re stuck in this safe house for the next few days, until they get the all-clear from Andy. It’s not half bad – the bungalow is more than big enough for two people, even if they haven’t gone out much.

It’s not exactly a necessity to lay low right now, but it can’t hurt. 

So Nicky has spent most of the last two days reading his book on Shibari with the same determined focus he applies to any new skill, whether it is actually useful or not. That thing must’ve been stuck in the bottom of one of their bags for at least three months, Joe thinks, which isn’t anybody’s fault; it’s just been a busy year so far. 

“Right,” Nicky’d said about half an hour ago and sat up on his haunches in bed, where they were currently lazing about. “May I try something?” 

He’d been practising on pieces of rope the entire morning, just tying knots and then untying them again, frowning and browsing through the pages. It shouldn’t have been endearing, Joe’d thought, given the subject matter, but it was Nicky being ridiculously focused on something inconsequential, so naturally, it was. 

“Right now…?” Joe had said, a bit torn, because… well. They’d just announced the first recap and it wasn’t like Joe didn’t want to be helpful… but he also wanted to watch this. Nicky had rolled his eyes, looking amused. 

“I don’t actually need your attention for this,” he said, “Just your cooperation.”

“Well, in that case,” Joe had said, smiling back at him. “Do you need me to take anything off?”

“No, it’s fine,” Nicky’d said. “This will work for now.”

Then he’d actually started to tie him up, moving Joe’s arms around, pulling him this way and that, fumbling with the rope and muttering under his breath, which was always a sign of fierce concentration.

“All done?” Joe says now. 

It seems to be obvious from the way Nicky is sitting back, both arms straight out behind him, looking satisfied and maybe a little bit smug as he’s surveying his work, and also from the way, Joe is… well, tied up. It’s clear Nicky didn’t go for something complicated right away, at least not judging by some of the other helpful illustrations in the book Joe has seen, and it feels… nice, almost, which is a bit strange. Far from the worst Joe’s ever had, and he’s been tied up quite a few times. They both have. This seems sustainable for a while too; both of his arms behind his back, tied securely in place and to each other.

“I am,” Nicky says, then does a little flourish with his left hand. Ta-da. “It’s supposed to be a harness.”

“Huh,” Joe says. The white rope cutting across his chest in two thick lines is a stark contrast to the dark blue t-shirt he’s wearing, he can admit that much. He tilts his head. “I can… I think I can see that.”

“You think?” Nicky says, mock-offended.

Joe grins at him, can’t even help himself. Says, in his best condescending tone, “Forgive me. It is very impressive, Nicolo.”

Nicky moves towards him then. Sways into his personal space and stops just short of actually kissing him, sly twist to his mouth. 

“I know,” he says, then adds, solemnly “Still. Thank you.”

“You’re most welcome,” Joe says.

“Can you move?”

“Well, I mean… I’m somewhat certain I could just get up and walk out of this room,” Joe says seriously, because it’s true, the only thing immobilized right now are his arms and hands, “so… yes, I can move” which makes Nicky roll his eyes again, fondly bump their foreheads together.

“Try,” he says. “To see if I did it right.”

Joe sighs, pretending to be put out. The TV is still going in the background, playing some advertisement neither one of them paying any attention to. He does as he’s asked and actually, seriously tries – takes the methodical approach, which doesn’t go unnoticed, Nicky watching him thoughtfully – rolls his shoulders first before trying to twist his arms around and then his wrists, systematically testing his mobility. 

“You know,” he says out loud, because it bears repeating. “This is actually pretty comfortable.” 

Apart from comfortable, it is also pretty fucking effective, he thinks. There’s absolutely no way he’s getting out of this by himself anytime soon, at least not without investing a ton of time and effort.

“Good,” Nicky says, very satisfied. 

“Also, very effective,” Joe adds, because Nicky actually seems to have done a decent job, as far as Joe can tell. He himself might not be an expert or spent days reading up on the subject matter, but he does know a thing or two about restraints. 

“Yes?” Nicky says, more of a pleased murmur than an actual word. 

Joe blinks at him, surprised, only now starting to pay actual attention. Nicky’s gaze has dropped, he realizes, down to Joe’s chest, where the rope cuts across like some kind of barrier. When Joe tries to roll his shoulders again in the limited range he actually has, Nicky’s eyes get drawn there, the movement clearly capturing his attention.

“Yeah,” Joe confirms, suddenly a bit breathless.

Nicky kisses him then, leans the rest of the way forward and captures his mouth with a low noise, slow and insistent. Joe welcomes him, easy as breathing, because there never seems to be much of a difference anymore, both of those things completely natural by now. Nicky’s hand lands on his shoulder, warm and sure, two fingers slipping underneath the hem of his neckline. At the casual touch, Joe licks at Nicky’s lower lip before gently biting down. Nicky takes a deep breath, his hand slipping down and over Joe’s chest, curling around one of the ropes and then he tugs. 

Joe sways forward, a bit off-balance until he’s got his knees under him, and lets himself be pulled until he’s practically sitting in Nicky’s lap, straddling his thighs. Both of Nicky’s hands land on his hips and slip underneath the fabric of the t-shirt as far as they can go, fingers splayed wide. Joe immediately twitches with the need to touch him back, an automatic, instinctive reaction, stopped dead in his tracks by the rope holding him in place. Nicky, of course, notices; eyes bright like stars, focused exclusively on him. Joe will never be sure what he did to deserve the attention, even if he lives another millenia. 

“Still comfortable?” Nicky murmurs.

“Yes,” Joe mutters back, demonstratively pulling at his bounds so Nicky can see, and maybe get distracted by the shift of muscle again. Joe is feeling generous. “Although there appear to be some obvious… downsides.”

That earns him a smile and another kiss, slick slide of their mouths together; he can feel Nicky bending his knees, drawing his own legs up a bit for balance. Can’t help the low hum he makes when Nicky’s grip tightens on his hips, pushing him down a bit, at the same time as Nicky’s grinding upwards, a languid, almost lazy move. 

It’s a question more than anything, a suggestion, a proposal, and Joe’s heartbeat is hammering out an answer of yes, yes, anything you want- against his ribcage instantly, before he can even really consider what’s being asked of him. Been a while, he thinks, arousal dripping down his spine like honey, memory and anticipation mixing together. When was the last time he let Nicky claim him?

Nicky makes a soft, pleased sound when Joe slides his tongue into his mouth, digging his fingers in on reflex. They kiss for a long moment that drips like syrup. When they separate, he looks as dazed as Joe feels, satisfied curl to the corner of his mouth. Joe wants to put his thumb there, suddenly, to touch that exact spot. Can’t do that, naturally, but his mind seems to have forgotten all about that fact, muscle memory kicking in before he can help himself, the movement stopped dead before it’s even begun. He gives a graceless little jerk, and then he’s swaying forward with the momentum, only for Nicky to catch him before he can topple them both.

Nicky looks surprised and, after a long second, extraordinarily pleased with this result; long, shaky exhale escaping him before he’s tonguing his lower lip. Joe knows he’s staring at his mouth, couldn’t bring himself to stop if the world ended. 

“Yes?” Nicky asks, low and breathy. There’s desire written all over him – he wants this, Joe thinks, eyelids heavy and pupils gone dark, kneading at Joe’s hips absentmindedly. How could Joe ever deny him anything, especially something he wants just as much?

“Well,” he murmurs. “You’ll have to do all the work, I’m afraid... ” which is as far as he gets before Nicky flips them sideways. It’s a telegraphed move, so it doesn’t come as a surprise at all – gives Joe a second to notice the tension in his body, the way he’s planted his feet more securely against the mattress before he actually does anything. Joe rolls with him, effortless, careful about his arms and the distribution of his weight as he lands flat on his back. 

This would definitely be painful on a more unforgiving surface, he thinks, but the mattress is soft and with enough give to it he should be fine for a while. Nicky’s carefully keeping his weight off as well, hovering above him braced on his underarms; only pressing close further down, where he’s nestled comfortably between Joe’s legs. 

His gaze is more alert now, clearly checking Joe’s face for any signs of discomfort. Joe raises an eyebrow at him to signal that he’s still fine, equal parts answer and challenge. Well? What now? Nicky grins at him, looking pleased. He still seems fascinated by the ropes that are cutting across Joe’s chest, braided around his biceps. Shifts, so he’s supporting himself with only one arm, his free hand starting to roam all over. 

They’re both watching him do it – the way his fingers slip back underneath the hem of Joe’s t-shirt for long seconds before dipping into the hollow of Joe’s throat. Then he goes back to plucking at the ropes like he can’t help himself. Traces them with two fingers, pushes a thumb underneath. Nicky actually could just... move him around like this, Joe thinks, could just grip him tight and pull him this way and that, like some piece of luggage with no mind of its own. 

Joe could try and stop him, probably, if he were so inclined, kick him away or something along those lines, but it would be far from easy. Like this, he’d be at a clear disadvantage – and for whatever reason, the thought is fucking thrilling.

Except Nicky’s face has gone distant and wary all of a sudden, gaze directed inwards, mind apparently a thousand miles away. 

“Hey,” Joe says. Resists the urge to try and reach out for him, because… well, he can’t.   “What is it?”

“I…” Nicky said. “Nothing. Nothing. I just remembered…”

He trails off, looking apologetic more than actually upset.

“What?” Joe says softly. 

Nicky is shaking his head now, clearly annoyed at himself. 

“Norway,” he says. “What was it… four years ago? At the Russian border, do you remember the-”

“I do,” Joe says, relieved despite himself, because he can see where this is going, now. 

It had been an unfortunate situation, part of the mission gone wrong, so Andy and him had ended up strung up by their wrists with the help of rope that looked much dirtier than the one they’re using now; to be gutted like fucking fish, which is a direct quote used during the event, if Joe remembers correctly. In the end, Andy got the worst of it; they’d barely even started slicing Joe open before the head of the man twisting the knife had popped like a watermelon hitting the asphalt. 

Nicky’d been slightly out of breath even ten minutes later, because there’d been only one suitable sniper location – the bare bones of an apartment building across the street, still very much under construction – and he’d had to sprint up eleven flights of stairs to get a clear line of sight. By then, he’d had to wait for a solid thirty seconds to get his breathing back under control and calm down enough to take the first shot, which was something he felt guilty about for weeks after. 

“I do vaguely remember that, yes,” Joe says, because it’s true, though he doubts he’s harboring the same negative feelings towards the whole thing. Not that he was having fun, exactly, but by now he’s mostly indifferent. It was something unpleasant that happened, they got through it, it’s over and done with. Nothing about that situation even remotely resembles the one they’re in now – tucked away together in this room, safe and comfortable, with Nicky right here on top of him. “Not a great weekend.”

Nicky snorts, amused despite himself. “No,” he says, “I’m sure it wasn’t.”

“I’ve had better.”

“I’m sure you have.”

“As a matter of fact, I’m having a much better one right now.”

Nicky’s eyes are cast downwards, focused on Joe’s collarbone, but his mouth curves into a slow, hesitant smile at the certainty of the admission.

“It’s Thursday,” he says then.

“Oh, is it?”

“Not even the weekend yet.”

“C’mere,” Joe says, smiling, and Nicky obliges him, sinks down to kiss him again. It’s gentler this time, short and sweet. Joe noses at his cheek afterwards, presses a kiss or two against the corner of his mouth. Can feel him relax by increments, unnecessary tension in his shoulders disappearing. 

“You really like this, huh,” he murmurs eventually.

“Yes,” Nicky says, sounding a bit sheepish, but completely sure of himself at the same time, admitting it freely and without hesitation. Joe can feel a careful thumb dragging down his jaw. Not ashamed, he thinks, heart swelling with emotion, never ashamed. “Yes, I think I do.”

“I think I do, too,” Joe says. 

“Oh, is that right,” Nicky says, amused and maybe a bit sceptical at the same time. He looks endearingly eager, the expression on his face open and fond and achingly, beautifully familiar. Beloved, Joe thinks. 

“I like you liking things,” he says, very seriously, because Nicky definitely thinks Joe is simply indulging him, which… not like that would have to be a bad thing, either; but Joe’d be lying if he said that this was doing nothing for him. Nicky is touching the rope again, his initial, hesitant wonder replaced by easy confidence and curiosity. 

“Can I…?” he murmurs. Doesn’t even need to finish the question, because they both know what he’s asking. Have you? Fuck you? Not that it’s at all necessary, Joe thinks, not like they haven’t done this a million times already, but maybe Nicky feels he ought to, given the circumstances. 

“Oh, I don’t know,” Joe says, grinning, which in itself is answer enough. “Can you?”

That earns him hard kiss, Nicky nipping at his lower lip in retaliation until Joe stops chuckling. 

“You’re hilarious,” he mutters.

“So I’ve been told,” Joe says, breathless.

Nicky’s hand is at his hip now, fisted in the fabric of Joe’s sweatpants, not quite pulling them down yet, just holding on.

“You swear you’ll tell me if something starts to hurt?” he says, which makes Joe roll his eyes towards the ceiling with a dramatic sigh. 

“Sure.”

“Swear it,” Nicky says, stern.

“You have my most solemn oath,” Joe says, very sarcastically. Nicky looks satisfied nonetheless, because sarcasm or not, Joe won’t break that kind of promise if he can help it, and they’re both well aware of that, even if he’s just doing it for Nicky’s sake.

“Good,” Nicky says and starts removing their clothes. Joe unabashedly stares at him as his body peels into view – perfectly proportioned limbs, lean and strong at the same time, hair all askew from taking his shirt off. He’s still got a bit of a tan from being outside for long stretches of time during the past month and the most lovely knees any person has ever had. 

“What should we do with this,” Nicky murmurs, gently plucking at the t-shirt Joe’s still wearing, because at the moment, it is impossible to remove. Then he adds, clearly joking, “Should I cut it off?” 

“Fuck it,” Joe says absentmindedly, because he’s momentarily distracted by Nicky’s dick, curving pink and fucking perfect between his thighs, most of the way hard already, thinking about how he wants that, any way he can get it. “Just, leave it. Doesn’t matter.”

Nicky’s thighs are a bit paler than the rest of him, just enough to be noticeable. Joe flushes at the sight of them, whole body going hot with the desire to put his mouth there, with the need to spread him wide and suck where the skin is soft and delicate; with the desire to bury his face between his thighs and never come back up again. 

Nicky has realized he’s staring. He looks… neither self-satisfied nor amused by the attention, by the open adoration that must be written all over Joe’s face; instead there’s a desperately helpless expression on his face all of a sudden, like they’re kilometers apart instead of literally right on top of each other, and for one long second Joe’s not sure whether he wants to hug him close or kiss him stupid. Can’t do either of those things at the moment, and the thought of that shouldn’t make arousal unfurl in the pit of his stomach, but it does. 

“Nico,” he says instead, trying to curl his legs around him. “Just… come here, yes?”

Nicky sinks back down again, catching himself on his elbows. Rocks down, almost involuntarily it seems, and the first casual slide of their dicks together makes both of their breath hitch. Joe can’t touch him, can’t do anything at all, but it doesn’t matter because Nicky is on him, crushing their mouths together for one long, deep kiss before he starts sliding downwards. 

“Oh, fuck,” Joe tells the ceiling, and then he hisses “fuck” again, a shaky inhale, because Nicky has just pressed a kiss to the very base of his dick, and then another one and another, open-mouthed and hungry. 

He seems determined to take his sweet time with this, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Interrupts himself after the first few minutes to get the lube out of the nightstand and then just goes back to what he was doing, sucking at Joe carefully, leisurely, like he’s enjoying himself way too much to make this quick, working Joe open on his fingers almost like an afterthought.

Joe can’t do anything but lie there and take it. It’s excruciating. It’s bliss. It is a bit strange in itself, too, because it’s not like they wouldn’t do this under normal circumstances – not like Joe wouldn’t let him do this without being tied up first, but for whatever reason, the fact that he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it even in theory makes everything… different. More intense. Makes him feel breathless in a whole new way. 

He knows he’s being uncharacteristically non-verbal, because usually he tends to ramble his way through these things, but he just can’t collect his thoughts enough to actually manage anything coherent. When Nicky finally, mercifully, decides they’ve had enough and pulls off, Joe can’t stop the whine that catches in the back of his throat, just feeling way too good already. Lifts his head because he just can’t seem to help himself, he has to look, and the sight of his own erection, glistening wet with spit, helplessly twitching on his own stomach, makes him take a long, shuddering breath.

Nicky, braced above him now, looks down, watches Joe watch himself. Reaches out with one hand, slow and glassy-eyed like he’s mesmerized by the whole display, and wraps his fingers around Joe’s dick. Pumps his hand up and down three times, very precise, making a show out of it. Joe can’t help his head falling back, eyes squeezing shut as the sensation floods through him, moaning shamelessly, not sure if he’s more turned on by how good it feels or by the look on Nicky’s face – distant and fascinated at the same time, like Joe is a fucking toy or something, his to do with whatever he pleases. 

Can’t help one of his legs coming up immediately, as soon as he feels the head of Nicky’s dick catch at his rim, curling itself around the back of Nicky’s thighs, as if to compensate for the fact he can’t use his hands, trying to draw him in even as he already sinks inside. 

“Ffffffuck,” Nicky breathes, lower lip caught between his teeth. 

Joe wants to see him, wants to watch the way the pleasure transforms his face, but his eyes keep fluttering shut. He forces his breathing slow and even, tries to relax into it. Can feel sweat break out in his hairline at the intrusion, prickling along the back of his neck and in the hollows of his knees. The discomfort is barely even worth mentioning, because it is inconsequential and it won’t last, and at the other side of it, waiting for them, is ecstasy. 

He exists for Nicky’s pleasure, he thinks, dazed and overwhelmed, he is there to be used – doesn’t even need to move to do that, because he has no say in the matter anyway, Nicky will to do with him whatever he wants, whatever he feels like-

“Yusuf?” Nicky pants above him, a question. Are you alright? Are you still with me? 

Joe manages to blink his eyes open. He’s not sure what’s showing on his face, but he feels fantastic, a deep calm underneath the thick layer of arousal that’s currently making his head swim. Fuck, but he wants this man – has never desired anybody more, or wanted anything as much. Wants to give him all the happiness in the world, will gladly hand over everything he has to offer and hope it will be enough.

“I’d give you my heart if I could, Nico” he murmurs, basking in the way Nicky glows at the words, gaze gone soft. “You know that, yes?” Then he can’t help but add, “If I had the use of my hands, which is a bit difficult at the moment-” and then he can’t continue anymore, too busy groaning, low and shocked and caught completely off guard, because Nicky has just pulled most of the way out and is pushing back into him, slow but hard. 

“Yes-” Joe hisses, legs tensing around Nicky’s waist. “That, oh-” and then Nicky’s tongue is in his mouth and he forgets what he was going to say entirely. Loses himself in the give and take of it all, not even sure he’s getting enough oxygen and not caring in the slightest; they’re kissing, deep and messy and perfect. Nicky’s hand is on his thigh, helping him keep his leg up, and he’s shifting around like he’s trying to get his knees under him, distribute his weight a bit better and then-

“Oh,” Joe says, surprised again, because he wasn’t expecting him to get the angle right, almost keening it. “Oh. Fuck-”

“Of course,” Nicky pants, “If you insist,” and fucks into him again, in exactly the same way, and Joe can feel his back curve into an arch without his permission. He’s trying to move his arms out of reflex – to touch him, hold on, do something, he’s not entirely sure – and gets caught by the ropes again. There is a gleam to Nicky’s eye, something wild and hungry at the sight of Joe squirming around, not getting anywhere at all.

He sets a pace, hard and steady, methodical like a fucking metronome, because this is how he always gets and it’s also what’s going to get to Joe the most, and they’re both well aware of it. Joe can already feel his knees go weak, thigh sliding uselessly against Nicky’s flank. Fuck, but it feels good.

“Nicky,” he manages hoarsely. “Can you- faster? Please?”

Isn’t the least bit surprised when Nicky shakes his head, lower lip caught between his teeth again. There’s that tell-tale flush on his face, creeping down his neck, the one that always makes an appearance when he’s fucking Joe; almost feverish, with his ears gone red. 

“Not yet,” he says and Joe can’t help but laugh, breathless with it.

“No?”

“No,” Nicky says. “I like you like this.”

Joe swallows heavily, and then has to swallow again. Thinks, I like that you like me like this, I love being like this for you, but doesn’t say it out loud because he can’t; Nicky is already kissing him again, and Joe’s too busy biting at his lower lip, licking into his mouth, trying to moan at the same time, because he can’t not, it feels impossible to keep quiet. Nicky is going to take him apart and they both know it, precise and ruthless like everything else he sets his mind to; and Joe will have to let him, Joe doesn’t have a say in the matter, Joe fucking wants him to. 

Nicky manages to keep his pace for a very long time – until Joe feels half-delirious, pleasure soaking through every nerve-ending he has until he’s drenched, positively glowing with it. Feels like he could come at any second, making a soft, helpless sound every single time Nicky fucks back into him, an endless upwards trajectory. His legs are shaking by now, gone completely weak and useless, and Nicky’s shaking too, damp with exertion, trembling with the strain of holding back. Hasn’t sped up once so far, even though he’s dying to, Joe can tell, inexorable rhythm getting to him as well.

“Nico,” Joe rasps. 

Not even sure what he’s asking for, but Nicky nods like he just got asked a question, nonsensically murmuring “shh, yes, God- hnn, you’re so, you-” and leans down to kiss him again. Joe’s eyes close automatically, which is how he misses that Nicky is about to touch him – fists his dick, firm and sure this time, and Joe bucks into his grip with a shocked noise. 

“Yes,” he pants, breath hitching in the back of his throat. “Yes, please, please, I want to-”

Nicky doesn’t even let him finish, just crushes their mouths together again, and he’s really stroking him off now, palm twisting over the head of Joe’s dick until Joe is trembling with it, trying to fuck his fist. His other hand finds its way into Joe’s hair, clutching at the curls on top of his head. He’s not even fucking him anymore, because he doesn’t seem to have the coordination for that, just grinding into him desperately, and it doesn’t matter at all, it’s too good, it’s fucking perfect- Joe is unraveling right then and there, head thrown back as far as Nicky’s grip will allow, moaning up at the ceiling. It pulses through him, devastating and exquisite. 

Nicky has started fucking him again, he realizes right in the middle of it, fast and graceless, chasing his own climax. 

“Fuck,” Joe groans, clenching down around his dick helplessly, can’t do anything but take it, and he’s still coming, God, he can’t stop, he might never stop – the thought of Nicky using him for his own pleasure, taking whatever he wants, wanting that from Joe, wanting to use him – is stuck in the back of his mind, making him shudder and tighten his legs around Nicky’s waist and spend. 

Nicky comes with their foreheads pressed together, mouth bitten red and open and panting. He buries down right after, rides it out with his face hidden against Joe’s neck, still clutching at his hair. Joe wants to hold him and can’t, he fucking can’t, so he wraps his legs around him to pull him in, as close as he’ll go while still feebly rocking his hips. 

They lie there for a while, coming down together. 

“Joe?” Nicky says eventually, voice muffled by Joe’s shoulder.

“Yes?” 

“Thank you.”

“A great sacrifice on my part,” Joe says solemnly. He feels breathless, and completely boneless as well, satisfied and sated to his very core. Nicky giggles, Joe can feel the air ghost over his neck. Then he heaves himself upright with a sigh, to look down on Joe with bright, beautiful eyes. His hair is a complete mess, his face flushed and happy. 

“I mean it,” he says. Hooks a thumb underneath one of the ropes again and gently tugs at it, like he honestly can’t help himself. Joe loves him so much he might expire on the spot. “Thank you.”

“Anytime,” Joe says. “You know where to find me.”

“True,” says Nicky, smiling. “Very true.” Then he adds airily, “No plans to move out, then? Find a bigger television for the finale, maybe?”

Joe narrows his eyes at him. “You know as well as I do that the finale isn’t for another three weeks.”

“Hmm,” Nicky says, pensive. “Got some time left to practice, then.”

Joe grins at him, can’t even help himself. Realize just then that maybe his right arm has gone a little numb, but oh well. Nicky will have to forgive him. 

After all, it’s not a broken promise if he honestly didn’t notice.