Joe stood outside the restaurant, nervously tapping his fingers. He couldn’t help the nervous fidgeting as he waited anxiously for Nicky to show. Tonight was important. Tonight was when he would finally tell Nicky that he was a wizard. He had gotten permission from the Ministry. There had been what felt like a million hoops to jump through to finalize it. While Joe understood the need for secrecy, he had still been annoyed at how hard the process was.
Truthfully though the stress of getting the permit had been a welcome distraction from his true fear of Nicky rejecting him. Which meant that now Joe was agonizing over how exactly he should tell him. This was too important to get it wrong. He obviously can’t do it at the restaurant. He would be unable to do magic in the muggle restaurant to prove its existence to Nicky. He knew Nicky loved him but even the most open minded of muggles would need proof for something like this. And although Joe loved Nicky, he was not truly very open minded about such things. He would probably think that Joe was joking at first. He hoped desperately that once it had been proven not to be a joke that he would be understanding of the situation.
He would tell Nicky when they got home, he decided. They would be relaxed, and Nicky would hopefully be in a state of mind to accept such an upheaval to his world. At home he would also be able to immediately show Nicky some magic, as well as explain the necessity behind his deception.
The process of telling him would indubitably be made harder by the simple fact that Nicky did not believe in magic. He was a man of science. A Biology professor at a university. Joe had tried subtly over the years to push at Nicky’s beliefs, but Nicky had always laughed at his suggestions that magic might be real. Joe trusted, had to trust as the opposite was unthinkable, that Nicky would come around. Joe would do all he could though to make it as simple for him as possible. Hence telling him needed to go perfectly.
In all honesty Joe was less worried about Nicky coming around to the magic then him coming around to the fact that Joe had been lying to him for the entirety of their relationship. Truth and trust were the foundation of a relationship. He hoped that theirs’ would not shatter completely with the revelation.
Joe shook himself from his dark thoughts by planning how he would ask Nicky to marry him after all this was done. He had wanted to for so long but was adamant in the belief that Nicky should know that Joe was a wizard first. Not for the first time Joe internally cursed the Ministry for their five-year rule.
Joe lit up when he saw Nicky across the street. They caught each other's eyes. Joe felt that slight thrill of electricity that he always felt when looking at Nicky. No matter how many years passed he knew that he would never tire of admiring him.
Nicky jogged across the street to where Joe was standing and pulled him into a kiss. They parted breathlessly moments later.
“I hope you weren’t waiting too long.” Nicky says.
“No wait is too long, so long as I am waiting for you Habibi.” is Joe's instant reply. Nicky laughs, blushing prettily at his words as he always does.
“You are an insufferable romantic.” He retorts. His smile and warm eyes bely his statement though. As do his actions when he takes Joe’s hand to lead him into the restaurant. Nicky looks nearly as excited as him. He is practically vibrating with energy. He must have caught on to some of Joe's nervous energy he thinks fondly. They have always been sympathetic.
Once inside, Joe can’t help but notice how nice the restaurant really is. Nicky of course has a reservation. They are led to a slightly secluded table with a beautiful view of the fountain outside the restaurant. Joe idly thinks that perhaps if the restaurant’s food is as nice as the ambiance he might propose to Nicky here in the future,
Once they are seated Joe is unable to resist gently ribbing Nicky. “Have a big night planned?” he asks, wiggling his eyebrows at Nicky suggestively. It is not so much that they never go out but that they are more likely to end up in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant rather than a place like this.
Nicky takes his jest in stride, and smirkingly asks, “What, I can’t treat my boyfriend to a nice meal without ulterior motives?”
Joe is unable to stop his groan of discontent over Nicky’s use of the word boyfriend. “The word boyfriend is not nearly enough to encompass the way I feel for you beloved. As you well know.”
Nicky is aware of how much he hates the word ‘boyfriend. He enjoys riling Joe about his romanticism. Which is why it is so surprising when Nicky responds with a simple “I do.” Nicky then gives a little laugh. Like he has made a joke.
Joe raises an eyebrow at him and asks, “Are you going to share the joke?”
“Of course, amore.” Nicky grins at him in response. He is radiant in his joy. Then in a graceful motion, he kneels in front of Joe and takes a small jewelry box from his pocket. He looks up at Joe, still smiling and says teasingly “I know you are normally the one for big romantic gestures, but I thought I’d take the initiative with this, because I want you to be my husband and to be yours. Yusuf, will you do me the honor of marrying me?”
Joe is frozen in horror though. Has been since the moment Nicky slid to his knees. He does not know how to respond. He wants to say yes. He wants to marry Nicolo, but he can’t not until Nicky knows the truth.
Nicky laughs at his stunned expression, taking his horror for simple shock. “Have I finally shocked you speechless? I didn't know such a thing was possible Tesoro.”
Joe unsticks his mouth long enough to whisper “No.”
Nicky stares at him in disbelief before repeating “No” questioningly like maybe he is wrong.
Joe doesn’t say anything. He can’t explain here. This has all gone so wrong. It was not supposed to be like this he thinks despairingly.
Nicky’s expression is wounded as he looks at Joe as if searching for the answer Joe cannot give him. Not seeing it he stands up.
Joe grabs his hand, but Nicky pulls away from him. His expression is broken as if his heart had been ripped in two. He turns from Joe and walks out of the restaurant.
Joe sinks into the chair next to Andy. She takes one look at him and sighs, believing she already knows the reason for the look of agony on his face.
Andy remembers the day that Joe had told her nervously that he was seeing a muggle. She had chided him for his decision then, not because she had anything against muggles, but rather because she knew how hard it was. The statute of secrecy in England was strict. It did not let you tell someone you were dating. You had to have been with them for years before you could get a permit for that. Even then it was a complicated procedure.
Andy’s father had been a muggle who had not been able to accept the wizarding world. She knew better than most that the world could be cruel. Her mother had not told her father. He had found out due to her own accidental magic as a child. Her censure had stemmed from the simple fact that she did not want to see Joe get hurt.
Joe had known that she would disapprove but he had stubbornly worn her down until she agreed to meet him. She had, and of course, in the intervening years Nicky had managed to worm his way into her heart. No, that was a terrible analogy for how he had won her over. He had fought tooth and nail for her reluctant approval; from there he had then found the chinks in her armor and had become nearly as dear a friend as Joe.
Anyway, it was safe to say that Andy had a stake when it came to Joe telling Nicky. He had kept her updated in his progress in getting the requisite approval; so, she knew that he had planned to tell Nicky last night. Taking into account his expression she came to the logical conclusion. She could not help the anger that she felt though she knew it was not completely fair to Nicky, but fairness be damned, he had broken her little brother’s heart.
She turns her attention back to the man next to her. “It will be alright Joe.” She says as reassuringly as possible. She is not entirely sure she believes that though. Somewhere along the way Joe and Nicky had become JoeAndNicky. They were nearly an inseparable pair in her mind. To think about one without the other was inconceivable.
Joe just shakes his head. He looks close to tears though he has not yet managed to look her in the eyes. Andy does what she always has when faced with a problem, which is cutting it off at the root. “Have you obliviated him yet or do you need me to do it?” she inquiries; not unsympathetically.
Joe finally looks at her, he is clearly horrified by her question. “Why the hell would I obliviate Nicky?”
Andy sighs mildly exasperated though she should have seen it coming. Joe, the eternal optimist, would hardly have prepared for the worst-case scenario, especially one so disturbing. “I know it is difficult Joe but in the long run it will be better for everyone, besides, it is what you agreed to when you got the permit. If they don’t agree to marry you then they have to forget about magic.”
Joe just shakes his head looking defeated. The expression is disconcerting to see on someone with such a sunny disposition. She doesn’t believe that she has ever seen him more distraught than he is currently. Finally, he looks at her and says, “I haven’t told him.”
Andy glares at him. “What do you mean you haven’t told him yet? Also, seriously you come in here looking like your heart was trampled by a herd of horses the morning after you say you are going to tell him. I reached a reasonable conclusion.” She says chagrined. Though she mostly feels relief at the knowledge that whatever has gone wrong the situation is likely salvageable.
“I was going to tell him.”
Andy grits her teeth and takes a breath before saying “but you didn’t, so what happened?” as calmly as she possibly can. She emphasizes the second part of her sentence though.
“He asked me.” Joe says. He looks shaken.
Andy stops for a moment, frozen in surprise. Joe has gotten exceptionally good over the years at hiding his magic. The fact that Nicky had become so suspicious about the oddities of their life that he had asked Joe about magic was shocking. Finally, she recovers enough to clarify, “he asked if you were a wizard?”
“No. He asked me to marry him.” Joe says before collapsing again, his head in his hands.
Andy nods in understanding. She at least knows why Joe was so upset. He has wanted to ask Nicky to marry him for years now. The only thing that was keeping him from doing it was that he felt he needed to come clean about the wizard thing before he asked. She couldn’t help feeling at least partially responsible for this current predicament. The reason he felt so strongly about it was because he knew how her family had fallen apart. She had emphasized many times that Joe should absolutely not marry Nicky until he knew about the wizarding world.
At an outside glance the situation might not seem so bad, but she already knew that if he was here, he must have done something rather stupid, but better to know what form his idiocy had taken. She asks him, with every ounce of empathy she still possesses after the scare earlier “What did you do Joe?”
“I panicked.” He admits, face drawn in shame and guilt. “I said no. I can’t marry him until I tell him I’m a wizard and I just couldn’t do it then. I just let him walk away. I’m such a coward.”
“You're not a coward Joe.” Andy says forcefully. Joe was not wrong to be nervous of telling Nicky the truth. “Of course you're scared of telling him. There are certainly enough horror stories about it going wrong. Anyone would be nervous.”
“I feel like one. He must be so hurt. Allah, this is such a mess.”
“Certainly, that was not the best reaction.” Andy agrees not able to help the slightly amused huff that escapes. “But of course you’re scared to tell him. Anyone in your position would be. No matter how open minded someone is, magic can be a lot to accept. You’ll fix it. I know you will, and I might not have ever actually said this before and if you ever mention it to anyone, I will make sure you never tell anyone anything again, but I was wrong about Nicky in the beginning. He is good for you and I do believe he’ll come around. It might take him a minute, but he will. He loves you Joe.”
“I know he does. I wish it were just the magic though. Sometimes I wish I had broken the damned statute and told him when we’d first started dating. Now it just feels like everything he knows about me is a lie.” Joe confesses.
“That's not true. There may be some lies but they are all based in truth Joe.”
“Yes. But even if he can get over the fact that there is a whole other magical world will he be able to forgive the fact that I've been lying about it for years? Would you be able to forgive someone who had lied to you for so long?” Joe asks, looking close to tears again.
“I don’t know,” Andy admits. “But Nicky’s not me. He is a hell of a lot nicer than I’ll ever be. It will all work out” Andy says patting his shoulder in an attempt to comfort him.
Nicky wandered around London in a daze. Pressed he could not say how long it had been. Time had seemed to blur together. Even after the fog lifted and the true weight of the situation settled on him, he continued to drift while trying to decide what to do. He didn’t want to go home to talk to Joe. Or worse maybe Joe wouldn’t even be there.
Nicky had worried over asking Joe to marry him but only in the sense that he wanted it to be perfect for Joe. For once he had wanted to be the one with the romantic gesture. He had not even considered that Joe would say no. How could it have when Joe was so ardent in expressing his love. But perhaps that had all been a lie. Nicky shook his head at that thought. No, it wasn’t a lie. It couldn't be. Bad enough that Joe did not wish to marry him. It was too much to consider that he no longer wished for them to be together. Nicky would eventually get over this hurt he just needed a moment.
The stress of the past couple hours had drained his emotions. He felt like an observer watching his life fall apart. He still felt the hurt and pain but there was a detachment that came at times like this when there was too much.
He eventually ended up in front of Nile’s home. He supposed there might be something to say for subconscious awareness considering he hadn’t meant to end up here. He definitely needed to talk to her though. She was the only one he had confided in about the proposal. Plus, she always knew what to say to make him feel better. He really could not have wished for a better friend.
He knocked on her door and was nearly immediately confronted with an overexcited Nile who immediately asked “Oh my gosh how did it go. He said yes, what am I saying of course he did, but what happened. I need details. Was there crying. I bet he cried.”
Nile stopped her monologue suddenly, looking at him. “Fuck, what happened?” she asked.
“He said no.” Nicky answered monotonously.
“No?” Nile repeats confused.
“He doesn’t want to marry me, Nile.” He clarifies for her.
Nile immediately says “Well fuck him then. Come in. I’m making us some Hot Chocolate so we can plot our revenge.” He had never doubted that Nile would support him, but it was always nice to be reminded of her love Nicky thought.
Nicky sits at the table in the kitchen while Nile prepares their drinks. He still feels the numbness that comes with his emotional detachment. Soon enough Nile approaches carrying two steaming mugs. She sets one in front of him before taking the seat across from him.
“Do you want to talk about it?” She asks, taking a sip from her mug.
Nicky honestly doesn’t know. He supposes he should. It would likely make him feel better but also if he didn’t talk about it then he could pretend that nothing had happened. He defers answering for a moment by taking a drink of the Hot Cocoa. He promptly chokes as the liquid burns going down.
“What did you put Fire whiskey in here?” Nicky sputters.
“Of course. Did you think we were going to have this talk sober?” Niles says with a smirk.
Nicky cannot stop the slight laugh that escapes him at that.
“Finally, a real reaction. I was afraid I was going to have to resort to more drastic measures to knock you out of your fog.”
“I’m sorry. I know that it makes you nervous.”
“Not your fault Nicky. It’s just been a while.”
Nicky of course can read the subtext of her words. It had been a while because of Joe. Joe made him feel safer than he ever had before. His family may have not been abusive in a physical sense but there had been no love to be had there, at least not for him. It had been a place where it was better, safer to not feel. Meeting Nile had helped but it was Joe who had helped him turn the corner. Joe who he had never worried whether it was safe to laugh around or to tease.
Nicky took a sip this time of the spiked hot chocolate. It had been a while since he indulged in such things. Nicky generally tries to have as little to do with the wizarding world as possible. He had only become more distanced from it since meeting Joe. Nile was the only Magical friend that Nicky had. Even that had been more through happenstance then any desire to keep in contact with the world that he had left behind. At least he liked to think that he had left rather than being thrown out for lacking any magical ability. Truth be told he was lucky. As his father had been fond of reminding him, they were not so far removed from the times when they killed children such as him rather than letting them sully their family names.
Nile had been a breath of fresh air when he met her, a muggle-born, with no great reverence for the traditional ways. She laughed at the use of quills and parchment. She had even found ways to make technology interact with magic. She was truly brilliant. Best of all she lacked the normal disgust at his status that most born to the magical world possessed. Even those who were not disgusted usually pitied him. Perhaps slightly better but Nicolo refused to consider himself broken.
He had long since decided that he did not wish to remain in a world in which he would not be accepted. Perhaps if he had not met Joe he might have fought harder to remain, but Joe was a muggle and Nicky had never doubted after their first contentious meeting that they belonged together.
“I’ll be fine Nile.” He says. As he says it, he knows it is the truth. Even if this is the end with Joe, he will not let it break him. That is not to say he will just let it happen. He plans to fight for the man he loves.
Even now he knew that there must be some reason for Joe to say no. Joe had looked so heartbroken when he had answered. Nicky had not been able to process it then but looking back he could see the pain and guilt in Joe’s eyes.
Tomorrow they will talk. He would let Joe explain. He owes Joe at least that much.
When Joe returns home after having been verbally fisticuffed by Andromache. He is met by the sight of a somber Nicky sitting in the kitchen. He looks nearly as bad as Joe feels. His beautiful eyes are red rimmed. He looks like he didn’t sleep at all. His stare though cut Joe nearly in two. He doesn’t say a word just looks at him in a way he hasn’t since well ever.
“Nicolo. Please beloved, let me explain.” Joe says desperately.
Joe waits for a moment, as if to assure himself that Nicky was not about to walk out on him before saying “I wish to marry you more than anything.” Nicky’s disbelieving scoff is like a crucio to his soul.
“It is true. I know you have no reason to believe me right now. It is to my eternal shame that I reacted so poorly. I don’t expect your forgiveness Nicolo, but I hope you might let me earn it.” He says as earnestly as possible.
“You said you would explain why you could not agree to marry me Joe. Your words, pretty as they may be, are not a reason.” Nicky says not unkindly.
“Yes, of course Nicky but you see It is not that I could not agree to marry you, rather I could not in good conscience let you agree to marry me. There is something that I have been meaning to tell you. Something I must tell you before I could agree to marry you.” Joe says even now hopelessly worried about telling him the truth. Perhaps he should wait, tell him when the wound of rejection is not nearly so open.
He is torn from that contemplation by Nicky asking sharply “Then what is it Yusuf? What is so important that you would say no? That you would cause both of us both such pain.”
Joe takes a shuddering breath and releasing it says, “I’m a wizard.”
Joe can hardly bear to look at Nicky. He knows this may be the moment he loses him forever. Finally, he forces himself to look at Nicky. Nicolo is staring at him, clearly shocked. His eyes wide, perhaps even a bit bulging. He is of course still terribly handsome.
“You’re a Wizard.” Nicky says shocked. He then bursts into near hysterical laughter. “Merlin. I’m such an idiota.”
Joe rushes to reassure him that he was most certainly not an idiot. How could Nicky have possibly known such a thing. When he realized that Nicky believed him.
It was Joe's turn to be shocked. “You believe me?”
Nicky gives him an impish smile. “I do indeed believe you Joe. I already knew about the wizarding world.”
Joe gapes at him. “You realize I have spent years terrified about telling you about something you apparently already knew about.”
“I am sure you will find it funny eventually.” Nicky responds.