Day 40—Nikki is Sleeping In
The next morning, Leonard woke up suddenly without knowing why he was wide awake and ready to go. There was no grey cat rubbing insistently at his blanketed side. No angry Sara wanting to complain to someone. No sounds of Henna or Burnett clanging around in the kitchen. He was usually like Theo, who could sleep through a marching band performance, but was easier to wake up.
Then he realized that today was the day Nikolas said he could go bother him again. And that made him feel so much happier.
Monty wanted to apologize for his rather…incongruous behavior at Homecoming a week ago. Unfortunately, Nikolas had refused to talk to him the days following after Homecoming and then he had a project that he refused to tell Monty about.
Now that Nikolas’ project was finished, however, (and disregarding how Monty knew that Nikolas was done with the project), Monty was determined to make amends. He’d even gelled his hair up. With flowers in one hand and a new sketchbook underneath his arm, he knocked on the door of the Faure household, only to be answered by Jessie, who looked him up and down with a raised eyebrow.
“Um, you do know that Nikki is still asleep, right?” she asked skeptically, retying the belt of her robe so that it fit more snugly and warmly around her body.
Monty’s face twisted into a wry smile. “Yeah. But I wanted to surprise him. Do you want to wake him up, or shall I?”
Jessie appraised him for a moment. “Are those purple hyacinths and a new watercolor sketchpad?” she asked carefully, pointing to his gifts.
“Um, yeah? The flower lady said that it would be a good choice for what I had in mind.” Monty shifted uncertainly on the front step. “Can I come in? I feel kind of awkward just standing here.”
Jessie wordless stood aside and Monty stepped in. She let the door swing shut behind him. “Well,” she said. “Good luck getting yourself back onto Nikki’s good side. He might be more willing to forgive you now, especially because he’s catching back up on his sleep. You know the way to Nikki’s room.”
Monty nodded. Jessie left him and went into the kitchen to find something that looked relatively like breakfast to eat. Monty headed up the stairs to Nikolas’ room. On the way up, he passed Marissa, who looked decidedly rumpled and grumpy enough for him to just nod politely and take the glare that she shot his way. As he approached Nikolas’ door, he began to slow down, uncertain as to whether or not he should just walk in and surprise his boyfriend, or knock and hope to God that Nikolas would hear it. He stood, hand resting gently on the door, poised to knock or to slip down the two feet and open the door itself.
In the end, he decided to just walk in. Closing the door gently behind him, he took a moment to drink in what his boyfriend’s room looked like. There were no posters taped up on the walls. In fact, the walls were totally bare, bar certain areas that seemed to have explosions of color in random places. There were abstract configurations and more solid traditional forms. Diagrams on lighting and anatomy were sketched onto walls, plus personal notes and reminders in odd corners. There was a closet and a desk covered in books on various subjects and genres, plus a black laptop that was currently closed. Then there was Nikolas, curled up in his bed underneath his covers like an over-sized cat. The weak morning sunlight slanted through the wooden slats of the window that his bed stood beneath, striping Nikolas’ covers with measured brightness.
Monty moved silently over to Nikolas’ bed and pulled up the blinds, letting sunlight into Nikolas’ dim room. Nikolas didn’t react, other than to let out a quiet noise of discontent and to pull his covers over his head and to try to hide from the light that was detracting from his peaceful sleep, only to pull it back because he couldn’t breathe. Monty chuckled. He was just too cute sometimes.
Carefully, Monty put his peacemaking gifts on the bedside table and sat down next to Nikolas’ lumpy form. He leaned over and placed one hand on the free space next to the pillow and used his other to gently stroke his boyfriend’s hair away from his face. Nikolas nuzzled unconsciously into the feather-light touch, letting out a soft noise of contentment. Monty’s face melted into one of gentle affection.
Why, oh why, did he have to ruin everything by homecoming? he wondered silently to himself, stroking Nikolas’ pale cheek with the back of his knuckles. He was so sweet all the time, when they were together. He never pushed for anything, preferring to go at a naturally developing pace. Sometimes, Monty admitted to himself, it was frustrating that when he wanted to go further, Nikolas would let him. But at the same time, it was endearing that, though Nikolas appeared cynical and wise to the wiles of men, he still retained the romantic view of love that was so popular amongst teens.
“Wake up, Sleeping Beauty,” he whispered softly, threading his fingers into Nikolas’ hair and kissing him softly on the lips. For a minute, Nikolas kissed him back, nudging softly at Monty’s lips with his own. Then his eyes shot open, and with a startled yelp, he violently pushed him away.
“Hey!” he yelled hoarsely, voice rough from just having woken up. “I have a boy—Oh my God, Monty!” He grabbed Monty’s face with the tips of his fingers, concern and apology radiating from his eyes. “I’m so sorry! That wasn’t supposed to happen!” He gently kissed the welt that was forming underneath Monty’s eye. “I thought you were Lenny, with that hair, and it was dark, and I wasn’t awake yet…I’m so sorry!” he cried, burying his face in Monty’s neck.
“Hey, hey, hey, calm down, babe,” Monty soothed, wrapping his arms around Nikolas’ waist. “It was an honest mistake.”
“No buts,” Monty said firmly. “Besides, this makes us even now,” he joked.
“I’m sorry!” Nikolas apologized again, kissing him on the crux of his jaw.
“Well, anyway, on a happier note, I brought you an apology present in an attempt to get me back in your good books. Seeing as we’re even now, it can just be a present,” Monty said cheerfully. He let go of Nikolas and grabbed the flowers and the new sketchpad.
Nikolas took the flowers first with a raised eyebrow. “Purple hyacinths?” he asked, squinting slightly at the flower petals in the low light. “And a new watercolor pad. You know me too well.”
“Do you know what they mean?” Monty asked.
“Oh, yeah, don’t worry. Consider yourself forgiven,” Nikolas sweetly kissed Monty on the cheek, just as the doorbell rang.
Leonard waited patiently after ringing the doorbell, observing the non-spidery corners of the door way. He shoved his hands into his jacket pockets, guitar over one shoulder and recently completed music score underneath his arm. He couldn’t wait to show Nikolas.
Leonard paused, finally realizing that he had been bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet like a little excited child. Well, his general train of thought had been that of a six-year-old discovering something new for the first time. It’s not like anything was that unusual.
“Ah, fuck it,” he muttered to himself, and resumed bouncing. “It’s cold after all,” he added to himself. He rang the doorbell again, which was followed a few seconds later by a muffled voice shouting, “Oi! Will someone please get the door?”
Another voice, deeper than the last answered in the same tone, “I will, dammit! Just give me a mo’!”
The first voice answered back, “Stop making out with Nikki and just go answer the fricking door! Or at least make Nikki do it!”
“Why should I?” Leonard finally tagged the voice as Monty’s. “You do it! You’re closer!”
“Fine!” A rather grumpy-looking Marissa in a robe and warm-looking flannel pants with Technicolor penguins on them opened the door and glared at Leonard. “Oh,” she said sourly. “It’s you.”
“Yes,” Leonard repeated pleasantly. “It’s me.”
“Well, come in, then,” Marissa said turning around and marching quickly back into the kitchen. “And shut the door behind you,” she called back.
Leonard stepped in, closing the door as instructed. “You know what I’ve noticed?” he asked, following her into the kitchen.
“You mean, other than the fact that you seem to come over here far too often?” Marissa asked sarcastically, walking into the pantry to find something to eat for her breakfast.
“No,” Leonard deadpanned. “I’ve noticed that you’re a lot like Nikki.”
Marissa paused in her hunt for something edible. She looked at him levelly. “With all the time you spend over at our house,” she said in an even voice, “did you honestly never realize that? I mean, other people have figured out by the third or fourth time they’ve met me and my brother, but you?” She shook her head incredulously. “I can’t believe it.”
She walked into the pantry and picked up a box of crackers. Then she took out a plate from the cupboard and opened the refrigerator to find something that would go with the crackers. She grabbed a cup of blueberry yogurt and a spoon. She opened the box and dumped some crackers onto the plate. “If you want some, take some,” she told Leonard, pushing the plate of crackers towards Leonard.
“Thanks,” Leonard said, taking a cracker and fitting it into his mouth. Marissa peeled off the top and licked it.
“Mm, blueberry,” she commented absently, throwing the top away. She grabbed a cracker and dipped it into the yogurt. “So,” she said, after eating the yogurt-covered cracker, “Why are you here with a bunch of paper and a guitar? I don’t recall Nikki complaining about any new projects at school to me.”
“Well, no,” Leonard admitted. “It’s not a school project. It’s more of a pet project that I promised Nikki I would let him see when I was done.”
“Oh,” Marissa said with a little interest. “Can I hear, then? Nikki’s busy with the boyfriend anyway.” She rolled her eyes.
“The boyfriend?” Leonard smiled amusedly. “You really are like Nikki. I wonder how I didn’t notice sooner.”
“I do, too, Leonard. I do, too,” she said condescendingly, patting Leonard’s hand.
“Okay, anyway…” Leonard cleared a space on the counter, spreading his sheet music out. Then he laid his guitar case on the floor and flicked open the latches. “Do you play?” he asked Marissa, who was watching his set up with curious eyes.
“No,” Marissa said, slightly regretfully. “I’m in orchestra.”
“What do you play?”
“Viola. ‘Cause I’ll always get a job,” she said, smiling cheerfully and giving him a thumbs up. “I kind of wish I could play harp, though,” she added thoughtfully. “It sounds way cool.”
“Yeah, but harps are huge,” Leonard pointed out, putting the guitar strap over his head and tuning the strings.
“That’s why I didn’t choose it,” Marissa said wisely.
Nikolas was curled up in bed with Monty, having been too lazy to actually get out of bed and go find something to eat. He cuddled closer to his boyfriend’s body, relishing in the extra warmth that he had brought with him.
“Mm,” he sighed. “You’re always so warm, it’s unfair.”
Monty ran his hand through Nikolas’ hair. “I don’t get why you’re always so cold,” he replied teasingly, wincing when Nikolas’ cold foot touched his calf. “Damn!”
“Sorry,” Nikolas apologized. “My feet are cold.”
“I can feel that,” Monty said wryly.
Nikolas’ stomach rumbled with hunger. “…I’m hungry,” Nikolas commented, putting a hand over his stomach.
“Then you should go get something to eat,” Monty told him, gently tracing Nikolas’ jaw with feather-light fingers.
“But I’m too cold. Too lazy,” Nikolas protested, snuggling closer to Monty.
“Theeen…” Monty slid his fingers underneath the hem of Nikolas’ shirt, brushing them gently along Nikolas’ sides. “I’ll make you.”
Nikolas’ eyes widened, and he let out a surprised yelp. “Oh my God! Monty!” He smacked Monty’s hand away and tried to wiggle away from him, to no avail. Monty attacked Nikolas’ unprotected sides with ticklish vengeance.
“Are you going to get up and get food?” he asked teasingly.
“All right! I will! S-stop!” Nikolas shouted between breathless laughter, trying to protect his sides from Monty’s seeking fingertips. He grabbed Monty’s wrists and held them together and away from his body. “You’re so mean,” he pouted, letting go of Monty’s hands when they stopped trying to tickle him.
Monty put his hands so that they framed Nikolas’ head. He leaned in and gave him a brief kiss. “So, are you going to get food, or what?”
Nikolas opened his mouth to speak, and then froze.
“What?” Monty asked, confused, still hovering over Nikolas’ prone form.
“Shh,” Nikolas hushed him. “I hear music.”
The dulcet sounds of a guitar wended its way into Nikolas’ room. Gentle picking and melodic strains that fell back into more harmonious chords to make way for something that was more indistinct.
Monty frowned. “I didn’t know your sisters played.”
“I didn’t either,” Nikolas replied honestly. “But maybe it’s not my sisters.” He sat up from his position underneath Monty and wiggled out, sliding out of bed and slipping his feet into slippers.
“Wait, are you just going to go downstairs like that?” Monty asked, eyeing Nikolas’ black t-shirt and shorts.
Nikolas looked himself up and down. “Yeah. Why not? It’s my house after all.”
“Well, won’t you be cold?”
“No,” Nikolas answered. “I think I’ll be fine.” He walked out of his room, leaving Monty in his wake.
Leonard and Marissa were still in the kitchen, sitting on the bar stools next to the kitchen counter. Leonard had his guitar out and his sheet music laid out in front of him. Marissa watched him intently and he settled comfortably into his playing position.
“Okay, just to be fair,” Leonard stated, “I’ve played this in its entirety, like, once, so if it sounds like crap it’s because I wrote it and I don’t actually know exactly how it goes yet.”
He took a deep breath and thrashed out the first chords of the song. Marissa winced.
“Are you sure you’re reading the music right?” she asked as Leonard began to warble in an extremely off-key voice. Leonard stopped, breaking down into laughter.
“I knew you’d catch on quick,” he said between gasps for air, laughing uncontrollably. “Yeah, no. I was just screwing with you. This is the real music.” He began the song with a gentle Spanish-style flourish. Marissa listened with interest as Leonard began to sing, eyes half-lidded as he lost himself to the music he had composed himself.
Directly behind him, Marissa could see that Nikolas had crept in, attracted as he always had been to pleasant sounds of music. Her eyes flickered between him and Leonard, but she decided not to say anything that would ruin the mood.
Nikolas watched, unseen from behind by Leonard. He crossed his arms and leaned against the door frame, and soon became aware of a presence behind him. He leaned back, warning him not to say anything. Monty wrapped his arms around his boyfriend’s waist, holding him close to his body.
When Leonard finished his rather soulful tune, Nikolas unwrapped himself silently from Monty’s embrace, saying, “Makes you wonder how Jessie can stand to miss an opportunity like this, doesn’t it? Where is she, anyway?” He walked in and began, in a way that was reminiscent of Marissa, to search for the easiest edible food.
Leonard jumped and swore in surprise. “Jesus shit! You scared the hell out of me!” he exclaimed, clutching his chest. Nikolas laughed.
“Good. I was going for that.” He settled on an apple that he took from the refrigerator. Leonard couldn’t help but notice long, scantily-clad legs. He frowned.
“Nikolas, it’s, like, sixty-eight degrees.”
“That’s what I told him,” Monty said with an amused smile. “See, Nikolas? Even Leonard thinks you’re going to die of cold.”
Leaning against the counter, Nikolas took a bite of out his apple and rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to die, guys. You’re overreacting. But now that I’m awake, what are you doing here?”
“Remember when you made me promise you that I would play the song I wrote when I finished with it?” Leonard asked.
“Oh right. And judging by the looks of things, you just did. Cool.”
“What’d you think?”
“I liked it,” Nikolas and Marissa said immediately.
“It’s different from your usual stuff,” Monty commented. “More soulful.”
Leonard shrugged. “I’ve kind of wanted to move away from the entire edgy, sexy, mainstream pop genre for a while. Taking a break and reassessing it all is kind of helping. Plus, this is seriously relaxing.” He plucked a few chords.
There was a moment of silence, broken only Nikolas’ measured decimation of his apple and Leonard’s broken chords. Then, the front door opened, followed by the pattering of feet into the kitchen.
“Oh my GOD!” Jessie screamed, dropping the bag of vegetables she had had in her arms. “Leonard Astor! In the kitchen!” She swooned and leaned against Monty for support.
“Yes,” Leonard agreed calmly. “I’m in the kitchen. Yay.”
“Oh my God,” Jessie murmured, half to herself.
The rest of the occupants besides Leonard—who merely stared amusedly at her overreaction— rolled their eyes exasperatedly at the young girl.