They’ve spilled out of the club and the sweat on his neck stings. He thinks it was a good night. It had felt like a good night. Aimee is still laughing behind him, hair dark as the night they’re stepping into. But Nick feels...he doesn’t know what he feels.
Because he’s pretty sure that he’s completely in love with her and somehow falling more in love with her all the time. And he’s been in love with men before, with women before, but nothing has been like being in love with Aimee. That’s what he’s thinking as his eyes tear up a little when a gust catches him square in the face while he tries to focus on her.
Aimee is unreal and the most real and she’s still laughing.
And then she’s dragging him towards a cab, London just a blur out the window once they pull away from the kerb. He watches the fog come up and then down on the lenses of her glasses and wishes it was legal to crack the window and smoke a cigarette or two on the ride. Aimee’s on her phone, he guesses looking at pictures from how she’s pressing on it, and Nick can still hear the bassline, faintly, pulsing in his ears.
It’s familiar. Comforting even. All of it is comforting, even trying to keep Aimee’s nails away from his eyes as she touches his face, phone seemingly forgotten. Comforting in its discomfort.
He’s maybe drunk.
He’s going to know Aimee forever and love her exponentially and that’s all there is.
He’s only 23 and doesn’t want to go home alone.
Which is why he gets out of the cab at hers, invitation always open, and pays their fare while Aimee hunts for her hidden key under the mat. “I couldn’t find the right purse,” she explains and Nick doesn’t know if she means while she was getting ready or in the club.
Inside, Aimee’s left the lights on.
Thurston yawns at him lazily from the couch and he takes a few moments to scratch him behind the ears. Aimee’s busy shedding bits of her outfit throughout the flat. Stumbles a little into the doorframe to the kitchen. “I’m having water. You should have water,” she calls. “And maybe a Tylenol.”
“It’s called Paracetamol,” he answers, stepping over one of her neon pumps on the way to the kitchen.
“I am never going to call it that.” She’s got two glasses in her hands and the pain reliever bottle tucked into her cleavage. “Bed?”
He nods and loves her.
Aimee scrubs multiple cotton wool rounds over her eyes while he sits down to piss for what feels like ages. The flannel hanging to dry across from him still for some reason is covered in mascara. “Does using the loo make you more drunk or is that just me?”
“It just makes you feel more drunk. And yeah. Of course. It’s science. My turn.”
Nick shucks his trousers into the corner and switches places with her. Only drops the cap to the Colgate twice while trying to use it.
As she pulls down the duvet, Nick takes in how soft she is without her makeup. Her hair loose. “Take those,” she says and Nick notices the pills on what will be his nightstand. “And do you need a contacts case?”
He swallows them before saying. “Yeah, I don’t need my eyes glued shut tomorrow.”
“You’re going to make a really good mum one day,” he realizes, holding a travel sized bottle of solution in his hand.
Aimee answers by laughing at him, loud and sharp. “Oh, fuck that.”
But Nick feels it. He’s feeling everything tonight apparently. And he’s going to tell her when Aimee mentions, “I think I’m going to dye my hair,” the last words getting caught in a yawn. “What do you think of orange?”
Orange, warm and bright. “Love,” he murmurs, breathing deep. Feeling sleep coming to get him. “Absolutely love.”
He can hear Aimee’s nod against the pillowcase and then he’s gone.
“Yeah, that is unlikely, but you’ve still got to get up.”
It’s Aimee. And it’s Christmas. He’s dozed off in front of the telly and a quick glance over at Pete in his chair shows he’s suffered the same fate.
“Your mom says it’s almost time to eat.”
“Again?” Nick rubs at his eyes. “I feel like I haven’t even digested all of breakfast yet.”
She says, “These are your traditions,” while he stretches.
“Oh please, don’t try to make it like gluttony is something your culture is unfamiliar with.”
“Get your dad, please, I’m supposed to be putting out the Christmas crackers.”
“Just resting my eyes,” Pete says from across the room. “Go on then, help your mother.”
In the hallway, Nick nudges her with his elbow. “I want you to know that I too was just resting my eyes.”
“Bullshit. You need way more grays and some kids before you can claim that.”
“Excuse you, I have no grays!”
“No one is fighting in my kitchen,” Eileen chides them. “Nick, put the turkey on the table. Aimee, the sprouts. And if you could tear Liv away from her phone, that would be a Christmas miracle.”
They do their tasks, glancing with little smiles at one another during it. Aimee’s got on a garish Christmas jumper and everything smells like gravy. “I’m happy you’re here.”
Jane comes in carrying a bottle of wine in each hand to add to the two already on the table. “In your seats. If we wait any longer, we might start sobering up.”
“Wouldn’t want that now,” Pete tells her, taking his place at the head of the table. “Come on then, fill ‘er up.”
“Before we start, I’d just like to say how wonderful it is to have you all here. Aimee, thank you for joining us.”
When Nick glances over at her, it would be hard to miss how quickly she was blinking. “But what about me? No personal thank you for your own flesh and blood?”
Eileen rolls her eyes then assures him, “Of course, thank you to Nick and to Jane and Liv who aren’t so desperate to make me say that out loud,” and Aimee squeezes his hand.
“Thank you for having me,” she says. “I can’t tell you how much it means to be included.”
“You’re always welcome. With or without Nick.”
“Without would be fine,” Pete says and Nick guesses it’s not so bad if she has to wipe her cheeks after nearly doubling over with laughter. Even if it’s at his expense.
He was explicitly told legal action would be taken against him if news about the Breakfast show leaked, and it was implied that any press would be dismissed as rumor after the fact when they released him from his contract as retribution, but that that can’t mean he can’t tell...anyone.
“You’ve got to come to lunch today,” Nick says when Aimee answers his call. “Whatever you’ve got on, cancel it.”
Nick expects her to argue with him, to remind him she’s important too and other people have obligations, and my God, Grim, I’m never going to make it to the West End by lunch, but instead she whispers, “They gave it to you, didn’t they?”
He’s nodding and grinning, and feels like he might honestly start to cry. “Yeah, yeah. I’m going to do it.”
It meaning hosting the Breakfast Show, and being terrified, and achieving a childhood dream and getting a break for maybe just a second from worrying that all the rest of this was just a fluke.
“We’ve got so much to plan!”
Nick laughs, wetly, and scrubs at his hair. “Yeah, I guess we do.”
Who to invite to the last night show, and where to take the celebratory holiday, and what he should wear that first morning. They’d planned it all.
Except for Ian.
They’ve both slept with people and dated people, obviously, but Nick knows there’s something different when she meets Ian.
Because Ian’s different. He’s quieter than the rest of them. Less messy. And Nick likes him, it’s not that, it’s just...
“Who do you love more? Me or Ian?” he asks, while she puts on another coat of mascara.
“I love you differently.”
Nick flops back onto the bed. “Oh my God, so not me! And you do love him, I can’t believe you hadn’t told me!”
“I haven’t even told him yet.”
“But you do? You love him?”
“I love him,” she says, and her eyes are so bright and it has nothing to do with the make up.
Nick sighs. “I think he loves you too.”
She comes to sit beside his splayed body. “He doesn’t talk about me at the office. I know he doesn’t.”
“No, he’s too professional for that.”
“I know you like him,” Aimee plays with his hair.
With his eyes closing, he says, “I do. Ian’s great. And it could be worse. It could be Finchy.”
“It would never be Finchy.”
“Do you have to go out tonight?” Nick knows he sounds whiny and desperate but he’s both of those things right now. “Maybe I don’t feel well.”
“I think you’ll live. But should I get a sitter for you? Maybe Daisy would like to earn a few extra dollars.”
“Pounds,” he clarifies, because she’s been here for years, but she never learns.
“Oh, there’s no way Daisy will want any extra pounds. Guess you’ll have to baby-sit yourself.”
Aimee gets up from the bed and starts to pick up her purse.
“‘M not a baby.”
“You just love acting like one sometimes. And if I’m going to have a baby with anyone, I’m going to have babies with Ian. Not...however I came upon you.”
Pushing himself up onto his elbows, Nick says, “You don’t want to have babies at all.”
“Maybe I do now.” She fluffs her hair once more in the mirror and turns to look at him. “You really think he’s in love with me?”
Everything in him wants to deny it, but he mutters out, “Yes, he’d be stupid not to be.”
“DJ our wedding?”
“Oh, get out, go.”
She smiles at him real big. “Feed the dog.”
Behind the decks, he has time to remember lots of other things too. Going with Ian to look at rings, and the phone call after he’d actually asked, and the first night Ian had been there in the flat in the morning. The somewhat tearful phone call the night before New York when she confided in him she couldn’t believe she was getting married without him there. The three of them making dinners and yelling at the TV and taking stupid photographs.
Aimee whoops from the dance floor and points at him with both hands while he transitions into the next track. “This is everything,” she screams and Ian kisses her and Nick keeps playing the songs.
“Who’s touring?” Nick asks. “Where do we have to go?”
“It’s not that.”
“Are you near a fit guy? How fit? Send a picture.”
He can hear Aimee take a deep breath. “I’m pregnant,” she says, and Nick knows that he heard her but he’s having trouble processing it.
“You weed on a stick?”
“And went to the doctor. And had the blood test.”
She laughs. “Of course Ian knows! Ian bought me the test.”
“And he’s happy? You’re happy?”
“I am weirdly maybe the happiest I’ve ever been. And terrified. And vaguely nauseous.”
“I’m really happy for you, Aims.”
“Nicholas is a good strong name, you know,” and she just groans at him.
Aimee looks down at the bottle of Gaviscon next to her lipstick. “Well, because so much of this has been about what I want.”
“That’s just your back pain talking. Now, let’s go, shoes on, want to take some pictures.”
“What if I just stand on tiptoe? But you’re going to have to hold the belly regardless.”
Putting his hand under the bump, he says, “Oh God, she’s massive,” just before Aimee slaps him on the back of the head.
“She did not in any way feel tiny.” Aimee adjusts herself in the hospital bed, but she’s smiling. “You can pick her up if you want.”
“Hey, little smoosh. Aren’t you just the sweetest thing? Yes, you are, smooshie, smooshie, smoosh.” She yawns up at him and scrunches her little face. “Aimee, you did so good.”
“We decided to call her Sunday.”
He bends down and kisses her on the forehead, right under her little hat. “I love you, Sunday. We’re going to be best mates, you and me. Been practicing with your mum for years.”