They pile onto the tube, rowdy, hyped up from pre-drinks and ready to head down to Cubana, the brazilian cocktail bar near Waterloo, which is the only place in London that isn’t completely overpriced. It’s their favourite place to order a pitcher and lounge around outside, taking up all the chairs in the vicinity. Coincidentally, it’s also the only bar where one of them hasn’t thrown up at one point. It’s 4 stops away from casa del Laura on the Northern line, where they’d all got a little merry with some shots beforehand. Unfortunately, living actual adult lives means that the LIC hardly ever meets up with the full contingent. It’s just Natalia, Laura, Eoghan and Bressie with him tonight.
The tube’s fairly empty. In their carriage, there’s a couple full on making out in one corner, a man with shopping bags piled up at his feet and a guy with some headphones on, reading a kindle. Niall sits with Bressie in the opposite corner, people watching, whilst the rest of the LIC chatter by the doors.
“It’s our stop guys!” Eoghan yells as he barrels off the tube, the girls following him with bright laughs.
“Cmon Bressie.” Niall says, giving apologetic looks to the passengers Eoghan just deafened.
Bressie remains slumped against the pole so Niall grabs his hand in an attempt to chivvy him along.
As they get out of the carriage, Bressie turns towards him: “You’been practicing wit’the guitar I gave you?” He focuses slowly on Niall’s face before he slurs out, “Can’feel the calluses.”
Bressie strokes Niall’s fingertips. Niall’s breath hitches and the world goes static. Bressie’s eyes are still hazy but locked on Niall’s face.
“We shou’play ‘gether sometime.”
They stop walking, just outside of the ticket machines. Bressie sways slightly, but he’s still stroking his fingertips. Niall can’t think of what to say, his reply frozen in his throat. He remains there holding Bressie’s hand until once again Eoghan cuts through.
“Cmon lovebirds, cocktails wait for no man!”
With that, the bubble is burst. Niall moves swiftly towards the exit. Once he’s out in the cool air, he takes a deep breath, he feels oddly sober. The rest of the group bustle past him, heading to the bar. Their loud voices fill the air. Natalia’s saying something about two for one cocktails and Bressie enthusiastically agrees. As he goes past him, Bressie’s hand brushes his and he blushes inexplicably. He rushes after the others, face hot and skin tingling.
Niall hurries around his house, casting a critical eye over all his belongings, making sure everything’s as neat as ever. Dinner is prepped; a whole chicken, cauliflower, coriander, potatoes, natural yoghurt, tikka paste as well as various other herbs and spices are all laid out on his counter for later. He’s lit one of his special Diptyque candles. The TV’s ready to go with season 2 of Murder She Wrote and he’s got a soft grey blanket laid out on the sofa already.
He cranks up his speakers, finally ready to begin cooking. Humming along to Hozier, Niall methodically prepares his ingredients, checking the next steps from the Jamie Oliver recipe. Bressie had teasingly requested a roast for the next time they met up and he’s definitely going to deliver.
They’ve had this dinner planned for just the two of them for a while. With their ridiculous conflicting schedules, it’s taken forever to set a concrete date, but they’ve managed it now. Their last meet up was at Bressie’s and they’ve been in constant communication since.
His phone buzzes with a message.
With a smile, Niall heads to his front door. Through the peephole, he can see Bressie standing in his doorway, absolutely swaddled in clothing. The star patterned jumper he’s wearing is barely visible under a massive navy scarf that envelops practically his entire face and a coat that could probably fit Niall comfortably inside too.
Bressie looks so cute in a way that makes him want to simultaneously show him off to the world and pin him down to his bed.
“You’re in luck, I’m doing you a roast.”
“You absolute star.” Bressie wraps him up in a tight hug, right there in the hallway with the front door still wide open. “How on Earth has no one snapped you up yet? Such a domestic goddess.”
“Well, maybe I don’t cook for just anyone.”
“Maybe I’m glad about that.”
They linger in the embrace for just a second too long. The draft coming in brings Niall abruptly back to himself. Niall shuts the front door firmly, shaking off the scent of Bressie’s cologne. He steers Bressie into the sitting room, taking his coat and scarf as he goes. He pushes Bressie onto the sofa, giving him a stern admonishment to stay there and relax.
“I’ll be through in a sec, just setting my timer.” Washing his hands, he calls through, “We’ve got enough time to watch an episode before dinner’s ready.”
They curl up together on the couch. Bressie’s immediately engrossed in the episode. Niall on the other hand, is barely paying attention. The curve of Bressie’s bicep, visible even underneath his jumper, is far more captivating. Besides, he’s always been more of a Poirot man. Still, Niall’s incredibly grateful for the winter weather that means they huddle up under the blanket for warmth. And if he accidentally on purpose only brought down one blanket so they have to share? No one needs to know.
Clearly though, Niall hasn’t thought everything through. Jessica Fletcher is nowhere near solving the murder, and he’s being driven mad by the way their thighs keep brushing against each other. It’s such sweet, sweet torture. He makes an excuse to get up and leave, the pretense of checking on the food saving him. Niall practically leaps to his feet in desperation.
Once he’s safely away, he presses his forehead against the kitchen tiles. Niall closes his eyes and breathes for five. They are friends. Friends and nothing more, right? Right. Just because they always seem to be dancing around something, like they're on bloody Strictly, doesn’t mean that anything will actually come of it. Keeping his distance is fine. Absolutely fine. He runs through the motions, absentmindedly opening the oven. Everything is fine.
Niall returns with a breezy smile. He slots in next to Bressie although with his legs carefully kept away. Despite that, when Bressie moves to cover him more with the blanket, he ends up moving even closer. This time, their thighs are completely pressed together. Niall’s nerves instantly ratchet up. He’s overthinking everything, wondering whether Bressie can hear his heart fluttering or if he’s noticed how often he’s nervously swiped his lips.
Something's got to give soon. Niall absolutely cannot take this anymore. His leg jitters with the tension building up inside him. Bressie places his hand on Niall’s thigh, stilling it instantly. The warmth of his hand is scorching. He’s so aware of the presence beside him, all the tiny points they’re connected. Hyper aware of their shoulders brushing, their legs pressed against each other, and above all, that damn hand.
Niall waits for him to move his hand like they always do, to pull away at the very last instant. The moment seems to stretch forever but his hand still remains there. That’s enough for Niall to give in. He gathers up his courage and places his hand on top, interlinking their fingers. He chances a glimpse of Bressie and he’s already looking back at him with a gentle smile on his face. Bressie strokes his finger, and his hand tingles just like the first time.
Jessica Fletcher solves the murder. Crooked cop. Figures. The credits run, yet neither of them move to put the next episode on. Instead, Bressie’s kissing him. Niall shoves the blanket out of the way, eager to get even closer. He hears the remote fall, but his mind is immediately occupied with the feel of Bressie’s slightly chapped lips on his. He moves to sit in Bressie’s lap. Niall slips his hands up Bressie’s jumper. The chill of his touch causes Bressie to shiver deliciously. Niall continues to let his hands roam Bressie’s back, eventually reaching the junction just above his arse. Bressie breaks away slightly to let out a moan. Niall chases that moan with his tongue, kneading that sensitive spot all the while.
He’s having fun finding out precisely how sensitive Bressie’s neck is, when a persistent dinging noise breaks him out of the spell. There goes the timer. Niall leans back from Bressie, panting slightly. Well fuck.
Laura and Bressie are chatting happily as they walk. Niall on the other hand is dragging his steps, well aware of the interrogation that’s awaiting him.
It’s a longstanding tradition, entrenched in years of friendship, that him and Laura have a coffee date every fortnight in this cute family run cafe. Normally, it’s just the two of them. A chance to catch up on everything that’s been going on in their busy lives. Unfortunately, when she’d swung by, Niall had been a tad preoccupied with Bressie. Since he was already there, Bressie had been invited to come along too. He’d offered to go elsewhere but Laura had got that glint in her eye. Niall’d acquiesced immediately, knowing there was no way to get out of it.
Niall’s barely even taken a sip of his tea when Laura starts questioning him. Bressie’s safely away, waiting in the queue.
“So spill, who’ve you been seeing the past couple of weeks?”
Niall begins to shrug off the question with a non-committal murmur. Of course, she refuses to let it go. She’s as stubborn as he is when she wants to be.
“Don’t you lie to me! Clearly someone. You’ve been way too happy even for golf season.”
She nods her head at Bressie.
“Do I have to get it out of him? He obviously knows, you two have been exchanging far too many knowing looks, don’t think I haven’t noticed.”
Bressie’s talking pleasantly to the barista, easily making them laugh as he looks at some muffins in their counter. Absentmindedly, Niall continues to watch Bressie peruse the display. It’s just strange because he’s sure Bressie’s training for the Staffordshire Ironman in June. He’s helped Bressie with his meal prep many a time. Or rather, Niall had draped himself over Bressie’s shoulders whining about the lack of attention whilst Bressie was meal prepping. Of course Bressie had then felt sorry enough for him that he’d proceeded to kis Niall senseless. The point being, Niall’s sure that muffins, particularly, gigantic raspberry and white chocolate ones aren’t part of his diet.
Laura’s shout snaps him back to attention. He sighs, clearly the honeymoon phase wouldn’t last much longer, with friends like Laura. She should work for bloody Guantanamo Bay with her interrogative skills.
“Look, it’s nothing serious. I’m just enjoying this, okay?”
Niall glances at Bressie, seeing him pay and heading towards them. He hisses quickly “And leave head out of this!”
Laura quirks an eyebrow, but Bressie’s approach prevents her saying from more. Bressie gives an inquisitive smile. He places his green tea- ‘It’s good for you Niall!'- by his coat. Pressing his body against Niall’s back, he reaches down to put the muffin next to his mug instead. Bressie clasps his shoulder before sitting down.
“I’m grand, yeah.”
Laura’s eyes flit between them both, but thankfully she seems to let the subject drop, moving on to chatter about her nightmare neighbour. He learns all about his hideous fashion sense and how he keeps trying to come in under the pretense of ‘needing a cup of sugar’, like anyone does that in this day and age. Niall relaxes into the conversation, letting the complaints wash over him. He looks over to see Bressie barely paying attention to Laura. When he realises he’s been caught, he winks quickly. Bressie leans slightly towards him and squeezes his hand twice under the table, before holding it in a gentle grip. Niall starts to pick at the muffin, raspberry and white chocolate tasting more sweet than ever.
By the time they leave, Laura’s managed to talk the hind leg off an elephant, never mind a bloody donkey. Bressie leaves early with a tight hug and a whispered promise to come round again that night.
Niall meanders back with Laura, heading towards her flat. They do their usual hug and kiss goodbye, but Laura pins him with a hard stare.
“It’s Bressie, isn’t it?”
For a split second, Niall is tempted to deny it. They’ve been remarkably casual up ‘til then, the weeks going by in a haze of tender kisses and frenzied fucking. It’d be a shame to ruin that bliss by telling people, inviting them into their cosy little world. He can’t quite bring himself not to though. Something about the taste of raspberry still in his mouth and Laura’s uncharacteristically serious expression makes him confess.
“You got me.”
Laura unexpectedly beams, tackle hugging him in a way that’s impressive for someone wearing 5 inch heeled boots and weighing no more than 50 kilograms soaking wet.
“I’m so happy for you!” Laura exclaims. She pinches his cheek in a way that definitely shows she’s met his mother before. “I think you two will be good for each other.”
Niall basks in the hug, taking in the smell of her Daisy perfume. His muscles unclench.
“I think so too.”
Niall can’t sleep. Despite Bressie lying peacefully beside him, usually the most comforting presence, his mind is whirring and he’s desperate to spill everything. For the past couple of weeks he’s been buzzing out of his skin. So fidgety that even his Da has commented on it. Every nerve in him is humming with words unsaid.
He can pinpoint the exact moment he started feeling like this. Two weeks ago, Bressie had offhand mentioned them taking a holiday to Croatia together some time in the summer and that, that was it. He’s been silently freaking out about it ever since. It’s like he’s sleepwalking into a long-term, serious relationship. Of course, part of Niall has always kind of known where this was going. It’s just that for such a long time, he’s been carefully constructing barriers. The fact that Bressie has slipped under them so easily terrifies him. Bressie knows him too well to have not noticed anything. That’s exactly why he needs to get these words out somehow.
In the silent space between them, sitting up, Niall traces a hand along Bressie’s jaw, working his way down his side, finally grabbing his hand. He clutches it to his chest like a lifeline against his rapidly beating heart. Bressie stirs, blinking slowly before his eyes focus on him. Still sleep soft and rumpled, he smiles. That’s all it takes for Niall’s heart to soar.
“I want to get old with you Bres,” he breathes out. “I’ve never wanted this with anyone before, but god, I want it with you. I want it all, the bloody white picket fence, everything.”
Bressie squeezes his hand.
“I-I just wanted to you to know. You’re not some dalliance for me.” Niall shakily breathes, “I’m in it for the long run and it scares me how much I fuckin’ love you.”
There’s silence for a moment, the only noises to be heard are his shaky breathing, Bressie’s steady exhales and the ticking of their clock.
Bressie sits up too, leaning against the headboard.
“I love you too chief. I know you’re serious about us. I’ve never doubted that, don’t you worry.” Bressie brushes a kiss onto his lips and pulls him into his arms. “Now go to sleep. I’m an old man who needs his rest.”
They both lie down, Niall tucking his face into Bressie’s chest. He idly traces patterns on the mattress, eventually making his way onto Bressie’s skin, his very own canvas.
“Celebratory sex for us having an adult conversation?”
“Celebratory morning sex.”
Niall gets on the tube after Bressie, choosing a spot across from him. They exchange tiny smiles. The rock of the carriage allows them to press up close. It’s a marvellous thing to subtly link hands in the crowd of strangers. Even though when it’s busy their bodies are pressed up tight against each other anyway, that infinitesimal connection is something special.
There’s a quiet joy about having something small, almost inconsequential, just for themselves. He's never been particularly demonstrative, but this? This is something he can do.
Tonight, they’re dressed up just a little bit more than usual. Bressie’s wearing a burgundy button-up that clings to his biceps in the perfect way, with black trousers that make it very clear why leg day in the gym is so important. Niall’s dressed similarly, except in a sky blue shirt that brings out his eyes. They’re headed to a restaurant, the same place they went for their very first official date.
He knows exactly how the night will go: They’ll get off at Moorgate and walk the 13 minutes it takes to get to the restaurant, still hand in hand. The owner will greet them with a smile and lead them to their favourite table. It’s off to one side, slightly hidden in an alcove, but brightly lit with candles. The menu changes every couple of months, so they’ll order something different than on their first date. They’ll get a dessert to split between them. And towards the end of the night, when every last delicious morsel has been eaten, Bressie will hold his hand, kiss him gently and he’ll glow like he’s the star from Stardust.
“This is Moorgate.”
“It’s our stop.”
Bressie jolts him out of his reveries. They exit the carriage, hand in hand. Nothing’s ever felt so right.
He always feels especially at ease on Tube. Niall gets the same feeling listening to the hum of the train as Bressie does from a long bike ride. Today though, Niall doesn’t feel quite as grounded. In fact, he feels distinctly like he’s floating away. They hold hands as usual, fingers entwining, but this time, his fingers run over a solid band, the cool of metal such a welcome contrast to the warmth. Bressie bumps his shoulder and glances down at him with such soft, loving eyes that Niall can’t help the smile bubbling onto his lips.