Prisons looked a hell of a lot different from the inside, Kevin reflected dimly, sitting slumped against a wall of the holding cell. At first he'd occupied himself with rolling his head slowly from side to side, feeling the minute tugs as his hair caught on the wall's imperfections...at least until he'd stopped feeling numb and drunk and started feeling numb and vaguely ill. There was a toilet in the far corner, and he'd been weighing the relief of vomiting against his inability to brush his teeth afterwards. So far, hygiene had won out over his stomach.
His weary gaze traced the pattern of the bars--up, down, up, down; a relentless grey-black progression. Eventually even that small motion got to be too much of an effort, and he let his eyes slide shut.
The rattle of keys turning in a lock made him open them again, though of course the noise was coming from the first set of doors down the length of the corridor from his cell, and he couldn't actually see who was there. Another rattle as the door was relocked. Two pairs of footsteps echoed in the enclosed space, steadily approaching his cell. First to come into view was the taciturn guard who'd escorted him to the cell an hour before. A familiar face was smiling over the guard's shoulder.
Kevin groaned very softly to himself and let his head drop back against the cinderblock. Nick's grin broadened, so he supposed he hadn't been as quiet as he'd thought.
"Brian said he was going to call Howie," he said accusatorily.
"He did," Nick answered. "But Howie's in Texas for some fundraiser, so I get to do the actual honors."
"Honors?" Kevin asked, wondering if he could knock himself unconscious quickly enough that he wouldn't feel it over the pain already throbbing in his temples.
"Of springing you," Nick explained.
As they spoke, the guard had been fitting his key into the lock and sliding the bars open. He gestured for Kevin to come out.
"Thanks, Pete," Nick said cheerfully.
Pete grunted in acknowledgement.
Kevin wondered for a moment if it would be worth the attendant loss of dignity to ask Nick's help in getting to his feet. Then he sighed and struggled to stand by himself, using the rough wall at his back as support.
His steps out of the cell were shaky, but in a reasonably straight line, and once there Nick slipped a strong arm around his waist. Kevin relaxed slightly. He might get teased within an inch of his life by the last person on earth he'd want to see him like this, but at least he could trust Nick to take good care of him while he did it.
They walked slowly back the way he'd been brought in, several hours before--or, rather, Nick walked and Kevin shuffled--the fluorescent lights flickering in time with his pounding head. The only things keeping him going were Nick's supportive half-embrace and the guarantee that soon he'd be someplace clean and quiet where he could turn off the fucking lights and go to sleep.
They were within sight of the exit when Nick tugged him suddenly to one side. Kevin barely swerved from his course.
"Stop," Nick said. "Where are you going? We have to--"
"You're going the wrong way," Kevin said, very reasonably.
"No, I'm not. There's still all these forms and shit for me to fill out. Right here." Nick pointed to a nearby desk.
"You couldn't have finished filling out the paperwork before making we walk all the way out here?" Kevin demanded, hoping he sounded less petulant outside his own head.
Nick shrugged. "I was a little...concerned. I wanted to make sure you were all right first. And they made me fill out most of them before they'd let me see you, so this shouldn't take too long."
"Fine," Kevin said. "Wake me up when you're done," and he dropped into a nearby chair, tipped his head back and stretched his legs out, and closed his eyes resolutely.
Nick sighed. The squeak of his sneakers on the linoleum floor became increasingly faint as he walked away.
Ten minutes later, Nick's sneakers came back. Kevin thought for a moment about opening his eyes. He was glad he hadn't gone to the effort when Nick sat heavily in the chair beside him. There was a rustle of paper, followed by the steady scritch of a pencil.
The sound, coupled with that of Nick's breathing, was astonishingly restful. Kevin could feel himself beginning to drift.
"So, where were you when all this happened?" Nick asked, voice pitched low enough to be ignorable if Kevin were really asleep.
"Shouldn't you be writing?"
"I just finished. We can leave in a second. I was only wondering if it were the same club I got arrested at. In which case, this might be karmic retribution for all of those lectures you gave me after that."
"I wasn't at a club at all," Kevin said, finally opening his eyes.
"Where were you?"
"tghnfjdi," he mumbled.
"T.G.I. Friday's," he repeated, more clearly.
"Seriously?" Nick asked, giggling. "Oh, man. That's perfect! All Brian told me was that you were in jail for being drunk and disorderly. I didn't know you were disturbing the peace at a family restaurant."
"I wasn't 'in jail,'" Kevin said stiffly.
Nick raised an eyebrow at him. "Where do you think you are, the White House?"
He sighed. "We're obviously at the jail. But saying that I'm in jail implies that I was arrested, and I wasn't."
"You weren't?" Nick's voice was a strange amalgamation of disappointed and relieved.
"Nope. The police officer who was called to the restaurant tried to make me call someone to pick me up from there, but I...uh...pretended I couldn't remember any of my friends' phone numbers." Nick snorted with laughter again. "So he brought me here."
"And then how long did it take you to break down and call Brian?" Nick asked, and Kevin reflected once again how well Nick really knew him, at times.
"About an hour."
"Well, come on. Let's get you home now."
Kevin shook Nick's hand off his arm in sudden and inexplicable irritation. "I can't go home. Kristin and I...we kind of had a fight. I think we're maybe getting a divorce."
"Oh, man." Nick's face lost all traces of humor. "Kevin, I'm so sorry. That sucks."
Kevin shrugged, trying not to let what he felt show on his face. It really, really did.
"You wanna come back to my place, or should I book you a flight to Georgia? Or you could stay with AJ, I guess. Or a hotel? If you didn't want--"
"Nick," Kevin interrupted, half exasperated and half touched.
"Just take me home."
"Okay," Nick said. "Wait, home as in your place? Or--"
Kevin shook his head. "I just told you I couldn't go back there. I'll go home with you."
After spending the first two days basically hiding under the covers of Nick's comfortable bed, Kevin emerged to take a shower. He cleaned the bathroom afterwards, because that was only polite. Then he cleaned the kitchen, and the dining room, and the den, and finally he finished up with a second shower.
"Nice," Nick said when he came back from visiting his family in the big house. "You know you didn't have to do this, though, right?"
"Sure," Kevin said agreeably. "I just wanted to."
He kept wanting to every day after that, too, so he did. He didn't make himself crazy over it--some of Nick's boyfriends hadn't been happy unless the hut was more sterile than an operating room, and there was no way that he was going to commit himself to that level of obsession--but it was almost something to look forward to: having an hour or two of each day set aside for doing chores.
Then he baked peanut butter cookies one Saturday morning. "These are delicious," Nick crooned around a fresh-from-the-oven mouthful. Kevin was fairly impressed, himself. He made chocolate chip cookies two days later, and lemon bars the day after that.
He'd just finished printing the Mexican wedding cake recipe he'd asked Howie to email him when Nick came into the room and said, the faintest note of hesitation in his voice, "You know, I love your baking, and I'm really grateful that you've been doing so much of it, but...I can't exactly be eating cookies every couple of days without regretting it eventually. I mean, not everyone's got a body like yours, and I happen to be one of the people who really doesn't. You can keep baking them," he added hastily. "Just...don't, like, be offended if I don't eat any, okay?"
"Nah," Kevin said easily, slipping the recipe into his notebook. "I was getting kind of bored with all that baking, anyway. I think the cookies are only going to be for special occasions from now on."
Nick grinned at him. "Okay. Cool." He turned to go.
"Hey, Nick?" Kevin called after him.
"My mom just forwarded a bunch of her favorite recipes to the family, so I was wondering: what do you want for dinner tonight? Meatloaf or artichoke quiche?"
"I was thinking of buying a boat," Kevin said contemplatively.
Nick stared at him. "You were what?"
They were lying out on the beach; in direct sunlight, at Nick's request, but fully slathered with sunblock at Kevin's insistence. "Boats are peaceful."
"Yeah, peaceful until you run aground. You don't know anything about boating."
Kevin waved his hand dismissively. "I can learn."
"Are you expecting me to be your boat teacher?" Nick asked suspiciously.
"Damn, I knew that sounded wrong the second after I said it. What is it, boating instructor? Whatever, your boat guru."
"Not unless you want to," Kevin said. "I'm sure I can find someone to teach me if you're not interested."
"First I want to know how you got this idea into your head."
Kevin shrugged. "I read Moby Dick last month."
Nick's gaze became incredulous. "Isn't that book, like, two thousand pages long?"
"My edition was only eight hundred," Kevin said dryly.
"Oh. Wait, isn't that the one where the boat sinks, and practically everyone drowns?" Kevin cocked an eyebrow at him, and he flushed. "I watched the movie on A&E."
"I learned how to fly a plane, I'm pretty sure I can learn to manage a boat," Kevin said.
"Yeah," Nick said, sounding distracted. Then, hesitantly, "Hey, Kevin, did you ever think that you might be having a...a mid-life crisis?"
Kevin turned over to glare at him. "I am not having a mid-life crisis!"
"It looks to me like you are."
"I'm only thirty-two."
"You're a thirty-two year-old popstar," Nick corrected. "That's a little different from being, like, a thirty-two year-old lawyer."
"Why, because random strangers don't want me to drop off the face of this earth on account of my profession?"
Nick rolled his eyes. "Dude, don't even argue with me. You had a huge fight with your wife, got taken to jail for disorderly conduct, moved out of your own home, and now you're thinking of buying a boat? Where are you not seeing a mid-life crisis in all this?"
"In the fact that it isn't one," Kevin said as calmly as he could manage. And through gritted teeth. "Everything you named is interconnected, anyway. Kristin and I had a disagreement; she decided she wanted a divorce; I got a little upset and maybe didn't handle it as best as I could; and now we're giving each other some space while the lawyers handle everything."
"Things are really that serious," Nick said softly.
Kevin took a slow, deep breath. "Yeah, they are," he said.
Nick made a helpless gesture with his hands. "I don't want to, like, pry, or anything--"
"oh, of course not," Kevin muttered.
"--but you guys always seemed like you were doing great together. What happened to you?"
"Irreconcilable differences," Kevin said shortly. He could feel the precipice looming before him--the urge to tell Nick had been present almost since the fight with Kristin had happened, and was only getting stronger.
"What, irreconcilable differences like one of you wants kids and the other doesn't? Or irreconcilable differences like you squeeze toothpaste from opposite ends of the tube?"
"Kristin found out that I'm gay," Kevin said, half-reluctant and half-relieved.
Nick's mouth dropped open.
"I told her I didn't think it was reason enough for us to get a divorce. She disagreed."
"You're gay," Nick stated flatly.
"Yes." He couldn't look away from Nick's troubled, accusatory eyes.
"You can't be gay."
"I really am, Nick. Swear to God."
"Then what... Why the hell didn't you say anything to me before? Like back when I was coming out, maybe? I thought you were, like, the coolest and most supportive straight guy ever, and now you're telling me that it's 'cause you weren't even straight?"
"Nick, that's not..." Kevin paused, took a deep breath. "I didn't know I was gay then," he admitted. "I knew I was attracted to guys, but the only people I'd fallen in love with were women, so I figured I was bi. Plus, by then Kristin and I were starting to get really serious, so I didn't think it was ever going to be an issue. And the only reason I never came out to you was that I thought it might confuse you even more."
"Like how?" Nick asked, sounding less hurt and more curious.
"Like you expecting me to be some sort of gay role model, when I'd never been in a relationship with--hell, when I'd never even kissed--another guy. Maybe even like you requestioning your own identity. And I know what a struggle it was for you to come out at all, I didn't want to make you second-guess yourself like that."
"I wouldn't have done that," Nick said, though he didn't seem entirely certain.
"I couldn't take the chance," Kevin said simply. His heart thudded painfully in his chest. "And...also...I was scared. I'm sorry, Nick."
"It's okay." Nick grabbed him suddenly in a close hug, and Kevin willed his tense muscles to relax. "I should have said this already, but...thanks for telling me. And don't worry about not coming out before. It doesn't matter.
"Promise." Nick looked at him slyly. "I never told you, but I used to have the hugest crush on you back then. If you'd come out to me you'd have had me hanging on you 24/7."
Kevin dropped his head back onto the towel and forced his voice to remain steady. "It's probably a good thing I waited so long, then."
Kevin was watching Gigi in the den when Nick wandered in and sat beside him on the couch. "Hey, Kevin?"
"Yeah?" Kevin asked absently.
Silence. Kevin turned to look at Nick, who leaned forward to kiss him on the mouth. It was only an instant of warm pressure and Nick's tongue trying to lick past his lips, and Kevin shivered. Then he recoiled faster than he'd thought possible.
"What the hell are you doing?" he demanded, his accent broadening despite himself.
Nick flinched. "I was, uh, just trying to help you out with your mid-life crisis."
"What?" Kevin asked incredulously. "And I'm not having a mid-life crisis," he added as an afterthought.
"Okay, we're not having this argument again. It's just...you've done everything except get a trophy wife. I figured, under the circumstances, a blond boytoy might be a better idea."
Kevin chuckled softly to himself, unable to help it, even as he curled his hands into fists to keep from throttling Nick.
"Why don't you just leave that decision to me? Especially since I'm the one who has to live with it."
"And I don't?" Nick asked harshly.
Kevin frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that this is the first time in fucking forever that you've been available, and it just occurred to me that I'd kick my ass for the rest of my life if I didn't at least try before you found some gorgeous boyfriend to take the place of your gorgeous ex-wife." He scooted closer. "Come on," he encouraged. "I can make it good for you, I swear."
There was a lump in Kevin's throat, and he swallowed hard. "You don't have to make it good for me."
Nick's face fell and he started to draw away. Kevin placed a hand on his forearm. "I didn't mean it like that. I only meant...even if the sex were awful, I'd want you anyway."
"oh." Nick glowed suddenly, and he leaned in for another kiss. This time Kevin let him.
Then he pulled away a fraction of an inch to whisper, "The sex won't be awful."
Kevin smiled. "Great. Let's go prove it."