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Maple Sugar

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Nigel takes a slow drag of his cigarette, his other hand fisted into his jacket pocket as he strides along the sidewalk. It's finally starting to cool down a bit outside, which he's fully in favor of. It gets too fucking hot in California, makes him feel like he's choking every time he steps out the front door. He much prefers it like this, the quiet little neighborhood swirling with fallen leaves and stray pinecones and people already setting out pumpkins that will certainly be rotten two full weeks before Halloween.

The walk is familiar, now. Soothing, as fucking corny as it sounds. He could have taken his bike, but with the weather how it is he found himself wanting those extra minutes outdoors.

"Hello Nigel."

Nigel smiles when he sees Adam perched on his front porch. The warm colors of the leaves and his dark orange sweater make his eyes look even bluer than usual. And they crinkle just a bit at their edges when Adam smiles at him, pulling at his pretty pink lips. His curls are a little less tamed than usual, and the urge to lean over and ruffle them is almost unbearable.

Fucking stunning, he is. As usual.

"Hey, gorgeous," he says, coming to sit beside him on the front steps.

"Thank you for coming to see me."

Nigel nods, taking another drag of his cigarette and making sure to blow it away from Adam. "Any time, you know that."

The two of them had become friends entirely by accident. Nigel was still getting used to life in a new place, and his sense of direction has always being fucking awful. He happened to get turned around one night, found himself lost with a dead cell phone and no clue how to get home. It was the biggest stroke of luck Nigel had encountered since he'd ended up bleeding out right above Gabi's favorite place to play her cello, though he hadn't realized it at the time.

Adam was out late, tracking the path of a passing comet. Nigel ran over to him, interrupting his stargazing to beg for directions. He figures that all Adam saw was some asshole who was getting in the way of his precious Telescope Time, but Nigel was head over heels from the fucking second he saw him. The other man tried to brush him off- jotted down some incredibly precise directions on a sheet of notebook paper, tore it out and handed it to him with a slight huff. Nigel wasn't having it.

"Doin' some stargazing, eh gorgeous? What are you looking for up there?"

And that was all it took.

Fast forward six months, and the two of them speak nearly every day, at least by text. And Nigel is still nuts about him. Not just that beautiful face of his, but his honesty and his passion and his intelligence- just about everything that makes Adam Adam.

Not that he'd ever get the guts to fucking tell him that.

So yeah, if he wakes up at around noon to a text from Adam Raki sent at nine-thirty that just says 'Could you come over? I'm unhappy and I want to talk to you', he's gonna be rolling out of bed faster than you can fucking think.

"So do you want to talk about what's got you feeling so unhappy?" He asks, and Adam just shrugs.

He tries to take that in stride. Adam hates being pressured to do anything in particular, doubly so when it comes to social settings. Sometimes he just likes to sit in silence when he's upset, and frown at the house across the street that never takes in their fucking garbage cans, and watch Nigel smoke with furrowed brows. Kid despises cigarettes. He mentions it often.

Nigel doesn't really get why Adam would want to have him around if they're just going to sit there, but at least the view isn't bad.

Sometimes he wants to find a distraction in Nigel, though. Some tiny hook that can catch on the velcro of his brain and keep him from getting too swallowed up by whatever's on his mind.

Nigel goes for option B first.

"So, I met the craziest bitch at the liquor store yesterday-"

"Nigel?"

He stops in his tracks. Plan A, then. "Sorry, I'll shut my trap," he mumbles, inhaling another puff from his cigarette. Adam's eyes flick down to the object in Nigel's mouth, and he frowns again. He sits back and prepares for another long afternoon of companionable silence.

"Have you ever been in love?" Adam asks abruptly.

Nigel almost chokes. Well, that's unexpected.

"Yeah," He says, observing the way Adam's lashes cast little shadows on his cheeks. "Couple times, actually."

"How does it feel?"

Nigel narrows his eyes at him. Adam's gaze is fixed on the flower bushes outside the neighbor's living room window. "Why do you wanna know?"

Adam shrugs again, bringing his elbows to rest on his knees. "I wanted to know if it's different, for you," he mutters.

"It's different for everybody, Adam."

Adam sighs, and the silence takes root between them again. After a few tense minutes, Adam speaks quietly.

"...I once heard Beth say that...if I told her that I loved her, she wouldn't know what it meant, coming from someone like me."

Nigel grits his jaw. Adam's fucking cunt ex-girlfriend. The baggage the younger man carried from their relationship wasn't quite as exciting as Nigel's- none of it left a bigass fucking scar, at the very least- but it still made the protective pieces of Nigel rally in defense. He wanted to erase everything she'd done- to take the little ways she'd made Adam doubt himself and feel like he needed to change in order to be worth loving, and cover them up like footprints in a snowstorm until Adam felt secure.

"I was just wondering if she was right. If the way I feel love is different from yours."

He watches as Adam chews his lip awkwardly, pale hands fiddling with the sleeves of his sweater. Nigel takes a long breath under the guise of being deep in thought. Underneath cigarette smoke and clean autumn air, he smells Adam. Warm and sweet, like Maple Sugar.

"It aches," he says at last. "It's a nonstop ache that feels like it digs down to the fucking core of you. It grabs on and doesn't let go, and every single day it gets a little bit worse."

He chuckles, shaking his head. "And the fucked up thing is that you end up liking it. Praying for it to get worse, because it only gets worse when they're nearby."

Adam gives Nigel a confused little frown and it makes his heart flip. He coughs. "That's how it is for me, anyway," he finishes lamely.

Adam thinks that over for a minute, then shakes his head dismissively. "I must not be in love, then. It doesn't feel like that at all."

He practically hears the impact of how quickly his heart falls into the pit of his stomach. "You're in love?" he asks, trying to keep the desperation from leaking into his voice.

Good for Adam. He's happy for Adam, like any good friend should be. Whoever's caught his eye is a lucky fucking bitch, though.

"I thought that I was, but It doesn't hurt. It's nice. It makes me feel...safe, like I don't need to worry about how I'm acting or speaking. I can just be myself."

Nigel laughs bitterly. God, what he'd fucking give to make Adam Raki feel that way, even for a fucking second. "It's gotta hurt, at least sometimes."

"Maybe..." Adam hums, lost in thought. After a minute, he gasps softly.

"Wait, yes. I think...I think it does hurt a little, sometimes."

Nigel offers up a sad smile, urging him onward even though it kills him. "When?"

Adam frowns to himself, looking back to Nigel.

"When you smoke," he says at last.

Nigel's pulse goes cold for a moment, then makes up for it by fucking skyrocketing. "When...when I-"

"I watch you lift a cigarette to your lips, and I feel a...a tightness, here," Adam explains, placing a hand near his heart. "And a different one, when you stand up from your spot on my couch and I know that you're about to leave for the evening, here." His hand moves to his stomach. "A-And it hurts when you come very close to me- like you are now."

Nigel leans closer. "Where does that one hurt, angel?"

Adam's breath catches. His eyes flick down to Nigel's lips. "Everywhere," he whispers. "Does that...does that sound like being in love to you?"

Nigel can't resist. He's wanted this for so long, he can't make himself hesitate for another moment. He closes the space between them, brings his palm to Adam's jaw. The kiss is soft, slow. Warm and sweet, like maple fucking sugar. His whole body feels like it could dissolve when Adam sighs softly into the kiss, a hand reaching out to rest on Nigel's knee.

When they part, Nigel's smile feels like it could rip his face. "Yeah, gorgeous. Yeah that sounds like fucking love to me."