deliver me to destiny
Joe/Nick, PG-13

A/N: So I don't even know what's up with this story. It started life as "possessiveness fic" in GDocs and seriously, I feel like it's five thousand words of not much happening. How did I get five thousand words of out of this? An unanswerable question. (Or rather, that is what happens with the Jonas Brothers.) Thanks to [personal profile] rsadelle for reading this as I wrote it and editing it yesterday and attempting to convince me that it works. I'm still not convinced, but I feel better about it today than I did last night.

A/N 2: I should probably also note that this is all the fault of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" song, because "if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it" seems such a JoBros motto to me. (Nick J. isn't gonna sleep with anyone on the first date, not even his brother.) But I already wrote ring-swapping, so there are no rings in this. Just belonging. Wow, that doesn't make sense. I'll shut up now.

***
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***



"What do I have that really belongs to just me?" Nick asks, sitting on the edge of the hotel bed and yawning.

"Me," Joe says without thinking, shoving another wrinkled shirt into his bag, pausing only long enough to make sure it's not wet. There had been a problem once with wet clothes and mold, and he likes this shirt; he doesn't want to take any chances. Then he feels Nick's hand on his lower back and looks over his shoulder.

"Really, Joe?" Nick is staring up at him and there's something unreadable in his eyes.

"Yeah, of course," Joe says. He frowns at a t-shirt he really likes but that has gotten progressively more gross and threadbare over the course of the tour. It's still soft underneath his fingertips, though. He doesn't really want to throw it away. Nick's touch returns, a little more insistent, and Joe drops the t-shirt onto the bed. "You okay?" he asks Nick, turning around. Nick's hand stays on his hip.

"Most people wouldn't agree to that so easily."

For a second Joe is confused and has to remember what they're talking about. He shrugs. "Most people aren't us."

"Will you be what I need?" Nick asks then.

Joe's still puzzled at the exact motivation behind this conversation, but there's a set to Nick's jaw and a slight tension in the way he holds his shoulders, that suggests he needs something. Joe smiles at him, squeezes his wrist, and promises without reservation, "Always."

Nick smiles back, one of those rare ones where Joe can actually see his teeth, and they finish jamming their stuff back into their bags. Tour's almost over and Joe is tired. He loves it, loves it a lot, but he's reached the point where he needs a couple of days at home to recharge. There's two more shows and a long flight back to the States to get through first.

On the way out of the room, Nick holds the door for him. If Joe was smart, he'd stop thinking of home as a place, and think of it as people instead. He'd always be home if he did.

They share a pair of earbuds on the way to the venue, Nick's leg draped over his. Joe leans against him with half-closed eyes, resting. Kevin seems to be working out a melody on his other side, fingers tapping on his thigh. It's still early. Joe takes a minute to appreciate the stillness, knowing it won't last.

*

The whole tour departs immediately after the show is done, minus the two hours or so spent signing autographs and posing for pictures. Nick is at his side the whole time, never more than two or three steps away, always within arm's reach. Joe likes that he can put his hand out and Nick is there. Sometimes the screams are too loud and he needs to be able to do so.

It's a short flight from Manchester to Dublin, and for most of it he slumps in the ridiculously plush leather seat, eyes closed. Then something cool slips into his hand and he jumps, but it's only Nick bringing him a bottle of water. "Oh, hey, thanks."

"Sure thing, bro." Nick perches on the arm of the next seat over, looking down at him. His expression is tired, a little closed-off. A little like he's working something out.

Joe raises an eyebrow. "Everything cool?"

"Yeah."

Nick, being Nick, would say that everything was all right even when it wasn't and Joe knows this. But he doesn't push. Sometimes it's better when Nick tells him things on his own time.

They sit there without talking as the plane descends and lands. There are cars waiting to take them to their hotel. It's dark, and Joe can't see anything of Ireland as it speeds by.

*

Joe is standing backstage, wiping the sweat off his face and chatting with the venue crew girl who'd handed him the towel and a bottle of water. It's simple small talk, but she's sort of cute, she's got an accent, and she isn't at all fazed by who he is. It's something Joe has learned to appreciate in people. He's only opened his mouth to ask her name when Nick appears at his side and puts his hand on Joe's lower back, fingers spread wide and palm a hot, heavy pressure. Joe looks at him in surprise. Nick leans in, tilts his mouth towards Joe's ear in a way that makes Joe's stomach do an uncomfortable and unexpected flip-flop, and says, "C'mon, it's time to go."

Joe manages a half-wave toward the girl as Nick steers him away with the firm touch on his back. "What is it?" he asks when they're halfway down the concrete corridor leading out to where the cars are waiting to take them to the airport. "Is something wrong?"

"No," Nick says. But it's his liar voice. Joe doesn't know why he bothers; they've never been any good at lying to each other.

He stops walking. Crew members give them weird looks. "Nick, come on, what is it?"

Nick grabs his hand and pulls him along, his fingers damp where they're wrapped awkwardly around Joe's thumb. Joe follows because there's nothing else he can do, Nick has such a grip on him. "What?" he asks again, but this time he doesn't really expect an answer.

They end up in a mostly secluded hallway, one guy down at the other end stacking some crates, and Joe finds his back against the wall with Nick still holding his hand and looking seriously at him. Joe squeezes his hand. "Nick?"

"Remember the other day when you said you were mine?" Nick asks. Joe nods. "Then be mine, Joe," he whispers.

"Oh," Joe breathes. His stomach twists with something weird, something he can't define and something he definitely can't ignore. There's a weird electricity in the air that's not quite all regular post-show buzz, as heady as that always is. Nick is still looking at him. Joe decides right now that he doesn't ever want to let go of Nick's hand. "Okay."

Nick relaxes back away from him and smiles. "Okay. Come on, we should go," he says, like he wasn't the one who steered them here.

Joe follows him out of the venue. Usually he turns around and says what's sort of a goodbye to the last venue on a tour, but tonight he curls his fingers in Nick's sweaty white t-shirt as they're flanked by security and lets himself be led out to the car that's waiting for them in the shadows. This, he can do.

*

By the time they've boarded the jet, Joe is ready to fall asleep. Nick hasn't let go of his hand, which has prompted some confused looks from their mom and Big Rob. It's been years since they've held hands where anyone else could see. Nick hasn't downplayed the fact that he is holding Joe's hand, either. Joe shrugged off their mom's raised eyebrow, mouthing I dunno in an exaggerated fashion, and basically pretended he was simply humoring Nick's bizarre mood.

He wasn't, of course. When no one else was looking, he would rub his thumb along the edge of Nick's hand, sweep it over Nick's wrist, finding himself eager for Nick's nearly imperceptible shiver, wanting to feel what whatever they're doing is doing to Nick. He wonders why Nick hadn't suggested this sooner, hadn't asked him for this before now. But since it's Nick, there's probably a reason.

They bypass the comfortable seats that their mom and Kevin and Frankie are curled up in, starting a movie probably just to fall asleep to, and go straight back to the bunks. Joe takes off his shoes. He looks at Nick, who's standing there in his jeans and thin t-shirt, a near-empty bottle of orange juice in one hand, his eyes never leaving Joe. "What now?" he asks, yawning.

Nick spins the cap to the bottle on and off. "Are you ready to go to sleep?"

Joe shrugs. "I could," he says. He's pretty beat, and the flight will be long enough that he's totally not missing out on anything by sleeping a couple hours. The idea of a bed, even his airplane one, is pretty appealing.

"Then let's go to bed."

"You don't have to if you're not tired..." Joe frowns at his brother.

Nick smiles, and reaches out with two fingers to push the corners of Joe's mouth back up. "I am," he says while manipulating Joe's face. Joe can't help but laugh.

He shoves Nick's hand away. "Okay."

He finds some sleep pants in his backpack that still smell mostly fresh and changes into them while Nick does the same. Joe shoves all their dirty clothes into his bunk, and climbs into Nick's. They've done this before. What's different now is Nick is urging him forward into his embrace, versus Joe pouting and wiggling until Nick lets him close.

They fit together comfortably in the small space. Joe can feel Nick's fingertips tracing lazy swirling designs along his side. "So," he yawns; his mouth is in the vicinity of Nick's collarbone. "What's new?"

Nick hums, chuckles. The feeling of it vibrates through Joe. "This, this is pretty new," Nick says, echoing what Joe is feeling. It's not entirely weird, it's just a little different. Like a couple degrees left of their normal. Or maybe a couple degrees right. Joe's not sure.

He shifts a little more into Nick's touch. "What is it you want, Nicky?"

"Just you, Joe."

Joe might not be the smartest kid ever to come out of Wyckoff, New Jersey, but he knows his brother. Nick hasn't had a motivation that Joe hasn't at least understood, much less shared, for as long as Joe can remember. If there were a job in being an expert in Nick Jonas, Joe would own that job. He would own it like an owning thing.

So he's a little bit confused at Nick's sudden urge to stake a claim. Not that he minds said claim-staking. It's not like Nick hasn't had him wrapped around his finger since they were kids - that's no secret.

But Nick's hands on him, here, no, that's definitely a secret.

As he drifts toward sleep, Joe lets himself focus on the gentle drag of Nick's fingertips over the skin above his pajama pants. The touch is rhythmic and soothing, and he's asleep before he can ask Nick what this really means.

*

They're still a few hours out when Joe wakes up, alone in the bunk. The place where Nick was is still warm, though, so he knows he hasn't been alone for long. He stretches the best he can in the space, then swings his feet down to the floor and maneuvers out. He puts on some socks since it's chilly, and goes looking to see who is all awake.

He finds Nick and Frankie watching A Hard Day's Night in the lounge. Frankie's eyelids are drooping, but Nick's gaze is bright and awake when it lights on Joe. "You're up," he murmurs, smiling.

"I am."

"You slept through refueling. Come sit with me."

It's sort of a tight fit and they start laughing helplessly trying to make it work. Joe ends up sort of... across Nick's lap, head against Nick's shoulder, Nick's hand in his hair. He watches for a few minutes as Frank blinks sleepily at them and then dozes off. And for a few more minutes, he watches the antics on screen. Then he says softly in Nick's ear, "I like to snuggle," as if it's a big secret, and Nick grins hugely and hugs him tight.

"Don't tell anyone, but I do too."

"Yeah, your reputation would be ruined if that got out," Joe scoffs.

"It would," Nick says, fingers moving lazily in Joe's hair. It feels good, relaxing his already sleep-loose body even more. He could fall asleep like this. He pats Nick's face and says as much. "Okay," Nick replies, "but if someone even starts to come out here, or Frankie wakes up again, I'm dumping you off my lap onto the floor."

Joe mumbles, "Not nice."

Nick turns his head, his face close enough that his nose brushes Joe's cheek. His voice is quiet when he says, "Joe, you should tell me now if you're not okay with this. Because I'm not going to be able to stop."

Joe feels Nick's hands tighten on his body as he speaks. I'm not going to be able to stop.

If they were alone, Joe would entertain the thought of fitting his mouth to Nick's as the way he says yes, but instead he nods, remembering their conversation in the hotel, and says, "I want to be what you need."

*

What Nick needs, it seems, is to carry Joe's bag for him from the plane to the car. To open the car door for him, let him slide in first. To curl their fingers together in the back seat, even with their mom in the front. Joe squints against the sunlight and fumbles for sunglasses, only to have Nick press a pair into his hand. When he says "Thanks," Nick says, "Of course."

Everyone drops what they're carrying the minute they walk into the house, even Mom. "We'll deal with it later," she says. "Now, food or sleep?"

Kevin's already on the phone with Danielle, and Nick's checking his levels. Joe waits to see what Nick says, because it really doesn't matter to him. Both are good in his book. "Food," Nick announces. "Then we're just gonna stay up, try to get our sleep schedules back to something sorta normal. Right, Joe?"

"Right," Joe agrees, holding his breath a little to see if Mom notices Nick's choice of pronouns, but she only nods and goes into the kitchen, wondering out loud what the housekeeper might have left.

Fifteen minutes later they're sacked out on the couch, bellies full of sandwiches, Elvis chasing the paper plates around the floor. "So what now?" Joe asks, licking a spot of mayonnaise off his thumb as Nick watches with an interested look on his face. Joe raises his eyebrows. "Um? Do I have, like, tomato on my face or something?"

"No," Nick says. He swallows. "Yeah, I don't know what to do, either."

Frankie wanders past, looking like a zombie, with Mom behind him. "I'm going upstairs for a nap," she tells them, yawning. "Frank, too. Since he insisted on staying awake almost the whole flight and has started walking into the walls. Leave a note if you go somewhere, all right?"

She looks exhausted, Joe realizes. "Sure, Mom."

Nick looks at him. Joe looks back. Then Nick is pushing himself up off the couch, hand held out to Joe. Not watching to see if he takes it, just expecting that he will.

*

"You don't know where we're going, do you, " Joe says, once they're on the highway.

"No faith, none at all," Nick replies. "I'm hurt."

Joe grins at him and then leans back in the seat, closing his eyes. The radio is on but soft, old country-western flowing from the Mustang's speakers. He knows the melody for this one but not the words and he hums along under his breath, content to simply be here and share the ride with Nick.

Nick drives them to a dingy-looking burger joint, and buys him a peanut butter and jelly milkshake. Joe sucks down half of it with barely a breath, then says, "Remember when you asked me to be yours?"

Nick simply looks at him expectantly. "This milkshake is totally you cheating your way to my heart," Joe finishes. He holds it out, offering Nick a sip.

"Sure," Nick says. He wraps his lips around the straw and heat starts to pool in Joe's stomach. He drops his gaze to the lid of the cup for a second. Nick swallows, then wipes his mouth with his fingers. "'s good."

"Yup." Joe doesn't trust himself to say much else right now. Nick offers his own frozen-yogurt shake for Joe to try, but he shakes his head.

The parking lot is mostly deserted, only a few cars this late, and a couple of the lights are burned out. So Joe is sure that no one is seeing them as Nick reaches out and touches his hair briefly, then pulls Joe in so that their foreheads bump. "I'll kiss you when we get home," Nick whispers, promising.

"Drive fast," Joe replies, his heart beating faster now, "but don't get pulled over."

*

In the dark car parked on the dark driveway, in front of the dark house, Nick kisses him for the first time. His lips are sticky and he tastes like Dreamsicles, creamy vanilla cut with orange, just enough for Joe to want to seek out all the flavor in his mouth. He follows when Nick pulls back, but Nick presses a gentle hand to his chest. "Don't need to rush," Nick says, dropping a soft kiss high up on his cheek. Then Nick unbuckles his seatbelt and gets out of the car. Joe follows.

Inside, they say a good night and go to their separate bedrooms. All of it feels awkward to Joe as he changes into pajamas and slips between his own cool sheets. Like they should have kissed good night, like the room is too empty after night after night of sharing. He punches the pillow into shape and twists his fingers into the light blanket.

Two hours of sleeplessness later, he gets up again in search of a glass of water, almost stabbing himself in the eye with his glasses as he fumbles them onto his face. He shrugs on a hoodie and goes downstairs. As he's waiting for the tap to get cold, he looks out the kitchen window towards the pool. Someone is out there. A shape that looks like Nick, sitting at the edge of the pool. Joe turns off the tap without filling his glass and goes out through the sliding patio doors. It's bordering on chilly, too cool to actually swim.

"You're not going in, are you?" he asks.

Nick's shoulders tense and then relax again at the surprise, then he grins over his shoulder at Joe. "I wasn't exactly planning on it, but Dad cranked up the heater as opposed to turning it down before he left, so the water's really warm. We could go in."

Joe thinks he understands. "Do you want to go swimming?"

Nick only takes a second before he says, "Yes," in a decisive tone. Then he unfolds himself up from the deck and walks quickly to the pool house. That's when Joe realizes that the door to the small structure is open and the light is on already. Like Nick was waiting.

He was right; the water is really warm, and Joe swims a few lazy laps around the pool before turning on his back and floating. Nick floats, too, and every so often they bump into each other. The last time, Nick's fingers curl around his ankle, so they stay drifting like that, linked together.

*

Nick gets out of the pool first, and when Joe exits the pool house, dressed again in thin pajamas and his hoodie, toweling furiously at his hair, Nick is stretched out on one of the deck chairs. He's in a Northwestern sweatshirt and pajama pants, a towel wrapped around his head. "Sexy, Nicholas," Joe says, unable to keep from laughing.

"Shut up," Nick says and throws the towel at him. "C'mere. You're totally cold."

Well, he is a little bit chilly and Nick is holding out his arms. Joe pads over and lies down next to him, pulling his hood up over his head as he goes, and snuggles in to Nick's embrace. "You smell like chlorine," he mumbles. Nick chuckles tiredly, squeezes his arms a little tighter around Joe.

Their bare feet tangle together, seeking warmth against each other's legs. Joe presses his face into the curve of Nick's shoulder, breathing him in.

"Do you want me, Joe?" Nick whispers, barely loud enough for Joe to hear him. Nick curls his fingers in the waistband of his pajama pants, backs of his knuckles pressed against Joe's lower back. "Like this?"

Joe opens his mouth to breathe damp against Nick's skin, a shiver running through him. Heat curls lazily in his belly, sort of shocking, yet mostly not. The small part of his brain that is still thinking objectively and rationally about this is pointing out that what they're doing is strange and unnatural, not to mention how society would frown very deeply at them. The rest of him is convinced that laying in Nick's embrace like this is the most right thing in the world. "Yeah."

"Honestly?"

Joe opens his eyes. Not that he can actually see Nick's face, but it feels like he can. "I don't lie to you."

"Because I need you."

"How many times do you want me to say yes, Nicholas?" Joe asks, and kisses the spot where Nick's pulse is throbbing wildly in his neck.

"A lot. You're going to have to say yes a lot."

"I can do that," Joe promises. Nick makes a noise that seems to signify that he's not entirely believing Joe right now. "I can," Joe insists, "let me prove it." He tilts his head and brushes his lips over the corner of Nick's mouth.

"I want you," Nick says again, "and I almost always get what I want."

Joe can't stop the giddy half-laugh that escapes him when Nick says it. "I know. And this is a lot of talking about wanting and needing, maybe you could just kiss me?"

Nick does, pressing him halfway onto his back and claiming his mouth with determination. Joe lets himself be kissed. "Mine," Nick breathes, hot against his lips, in between kisses, "mine, mine."

He clutches at Nick, a thrill speeding through him when Nick says it, trying to get even closer on the ridiculous lounge chair that's not built for two guys to make out in. He slides a hand through Nick's damp hair, winds Nick's curls around his fingers and sucks on Nick's lower lip. The answering groan vibrates through them both.

Then Nick pulls away, "Enough," and sits up. Joe makes his best sad face, but Nick shakes his head. "We've been reckless enough today. C'mon. Time for bed."

Joe sighs, but he gets up. Nick holds his hand all the way into the house and upstairs to their rooms, then kisses Joe quickly on the cheek and says good night.

*

"Were you out by the pool last night?" Kevin asks the next morning, looking through the kitchen cupboards for Joe doesn't even know what.

Joe freezes with a spoon of Frosted Flakes halfway to his mouth, milk dripping back into the bowl. His blood's already pumping from the run he just finished; it can't be good the way his heart is speeding up again. "Um. Yeah."

"You didn't go in, did you? I bet the water was freezing."

His stomach unclenches a little. "No, Dad turned the heater up, I guess. It was warm."

"Oh. Maybe I'll go out later." Kevin unearths a box of Pop-Tarts. "Excellent."

Joe shrugs and finishes his cereal, convinced that Kevin didn't see anything incriminating. He rinses out the bowl and sticks it in the dishwasher. "I'm gonna go wake up Nick."

"I promised Frankie a Scrabble battle sometime today, if you guys are in," Kevin says.

"'Kay, I'll see what Nick's plans are." Joe backs out of the kitchen and takes the stairs two at a time.

This is the first time in a long time that they've had more than two or three days to hang out at home, and while Joe could probably laze around most of the day playing video games and watching mindless television, he's not sure he wants to. He really gets more than enough of that kind of thing on tour, and there's an itch under his skin that had been there when he woke up this morning. It propelled him into a long run, pushing him an extra couple miles. He wants to relax, enjoy this time with no obligations, but instead his body is insisting that he move and keep moving.

Nick's in bed with his laptop. There's a plate with a muffin and some half-eaten fruit on the nightstand, so obviously he'd gotten up while Joe was out running. Joe climbs in next to him, knees sinking into the mattress, and lays his head on Nick's shoulder - something he does all the time. Nick keeps typing. He's writing his Simple Wins blog for the month. "Y'know," Joe says, "I'm sure there's a bunch of assistants who would compete for the chance to write that for you."

"I like doing it myself," Nick replies, as he types something about how one of this wins for this month is completing the European leg of the tour.

Joe laughs. "I love that your wins are always huge things, Nicky. You make them sound normal and ordinary while they're totally things these kids who read this blog would never get to do."

Nick makes his stubborn face. "I like showing people that if I can do what we do every day, they can do whatever they put their minds to."

Joe rubs his cheek against the bare skin of Nick's shoulder. "Are you going to stay in bed all day?"

"Only until I'm done writing this." Nick adds a few lines about the things he feels were highlights in Europe, then signs his name, waits for the email to send, and closes the laptop. He moves it off his lap onto the bed. "There. Done."

Lips brush over Joe's forehead, then Nick's warm hand is cupping his jaw. "Kevin said something about Scrabble later," Joe murmurs before he forgets. He lets Nick tilt his head at the right angle for a soft kiss, closing his eyes.

"Scrabble, huh?" Nick says, pulling back after a moment but leaving his arm around Joe. "We'll kick their butts."

*

Joe has barely settled down for that most self-indulgent of pastimes, the nap, when his door opens and Nick slips through the gap. "Did you come to take a nap with me?" Joe asks, moving over in the warm tangle of sheets and blankets so that Nick's got room. He's pleased at this idea, curling up with Nick and falling asleep together.

The door makes a soft click as Nick shuts it and then he crawls up onto the bed and into Joe's space, putting one hand on either side of Joe's hips. Not leaning heavily, just there. Joe feels like the small amount of air actually between them is vibrating. "I wasn't really planning on napping," Nick says, and his gaze drops to Joe's mouth.

Joe holds his breath as Nick leans in and fits ther mouths together, lips sliding against Joe's until he decides it's right. This is already different than their earlier kisses, the number of which Joe can count on two hands. Nick's hand clutches almost painfully at his waist, and his kiss quickly turns demanding.

Joe pulls back a few seconds later, his chest tight with the need to breathe, and reaches up to touch his thumb to Nick's red cheek. The skin is hot. "You okay?" he asks, and Nick's squirm is impossible to miss. "Nick?"

"I just - I need you."

"I'm right here," Joe replies without hesitation.

Nick's grip loosens a little, and Joe moves the hand still on his face to his hair. "I'm here," he says again, sliding his fingers through Nick's curls, searching Nick's face to try and figure out what brought this on. Nick's not really giving anything away, though. Joe relaxes back against the pillowcases as Nick leans over him again, dropping kisses along his jaw and down his neck. Joe can't stop the tiny jerk of his hips as Nick's teeth scrape at the spot where his neck and shoulder meet. Then he struggles to keep his moan quiet as Nick bites and sucks the same spot, worrying the skin until Joe knows there's going to be a visible mark.

Nick kisses him on the lips again, softly, then rolls to the side to curl against Joe. "You're mine, right?" he asks, like the hickey he brought to life on Joe's neck three seconds ago isn't proof enough.

"Duh," Joe replies, trying and failing to imagine belonging to anyone else the way he's belonged to Nick all along. "And quit asking, because I'm gonna say yes every time."

"I didn't figure out that I wanted you like this until after you said you'd be what I need." It's spoken quietly. "But I keep feeling like I should have known it before."

Joe's not sure what to say to that, so he doesn't say anything.

"I love you," Nick murmurs and pulls the blanket up over them, creating a dark, quiet space where only they exist.

*

"I think I want to major in something that doesn't have anything to do with music," Nick tells him, setting the hammock swinging gently with a push of his foot.

Joe, curled up in a hoodie on the opposite side, raises both eyebrows at him.

"Really," Nick says.

"Like what?" Joe asks. He carefully stretches out his legs and lays them across Nick's lap. From the house, it won't look like they're doing anything different from their usual, but goosebumps prickle his skin as Nick curls a warm palm over his ankle.

"I want to take some classes first, get a feel for what I might be good at."

Joe grins and scoffs at him. "But that's everything, Nicholas."

"Shut up," Nick grumbles, but he's grinning back. Joe feels warm and comfortable, even though it's chillier than normal outside. It took a few days for him to feel like it was okay to chill out and relax, and now they only have a handful more before leaving for California to shoot another season of the show. He's looking forward to seeing everyone again and catching up on everything they've missed in each other's lives, but already he misses these slow days of nothing but hanging out.

Nick's eyes drop to his neck, where Joe has been trying to hide the purple-red mark from yesterday. He feels his cheeks heat up and Nick's smile changes into something darker and more possessive.

The hammock slows. Joe expects Nick to reach down with his foot and push off again, but he doesn't. He's staring at Joe. "What?" Joe asks, reaching up to feel at his face. "Is there lunch stuck to my face? Is my nose crooked?"

Nick opens and closes his mouth a few times before he asks, "What are you going to do while I'm in Chicago?"

He could laugh at Nick neglecting to think about this before now. "I'm sure I'll find something," Joe says, his heart speeding up as he watches at least three different emotions rush across Nick's face before he finishes with, "...in Chicago."

"Well, good," Nick replies, his voice cracking a tiny bit, and then he tips himself over to wrap his arms around Joe's waist, and sets them swinging again.

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