a VALENCE vignette, written by Katie Youmans
[Author’s Note: I will not be changing this title. It will remain The Smoochening.]
Liam stretched his hand out, swirling the grey-blue smoke from his cigarette as it curled in the cold air. If he unfocused his eyes enough, it reminded him of storm clouds rolling in. And the glowing tip, almost to his fingers now, could be the lightning if he pretended hard enough. He sighed, stubbed it out in the stolen diner mug they used as an ashtray, and dropped the butt in.
“Hey Vamps, you want some?” Nico held out the bottle of some awful pink wine he’d showed up with.
Liam wrinkled his nose and made a small grumble of disapproval. It looked fizzy and sweet, and nothing at all like the dark, dry reds he preferred that clung to the walls of the glass when he swirled them, that sucked even the memory of water from his mouth when he drank them, that made him feel —
“No, thank you. I’m . . . I’m drinking much less lately.”
Nico set the bottle down on his other side, farther away from Liam.
The last few wisps of smoke drifting up from the cup weren’t interesting enough to keep his attention from the bottle, and Nico — damn him — noticed.
“You sure? It’s fuckin’ trash, but it’s trash that I’m gonna have to waste if neither of us–”
Nico sighed and let his hand fall on Liam’s thigh, giving it a quick squeeze.
“So why’d you wanna come out here? It’s uhhh pretty goddamn cold and the fire escape offers precisely zero of the creature comforts of indoors.”
Liam laughed at that. “Creature comforts? What happened to ‘you own none shit’ and ‘a place you have here’?”
“Oh, I’m still right. Vamps, your apartment is beyond Spartan – it would make Spartans say ‘fuck this sadbitch’ and dip. And they’d be right too. But like. Walls have their upsides. And beds. Beds definitely have their upsides,” Nico said, dropping his voice at the last part and giving Liam’s leg another, longer squeeze.
Liam grumbled in a sort of noncommittal way.
“What, are you gonna try and argue me on that?” Nico took a small swig of the wine and grimaced.
Liam snatched the bottle from him to read the label. “Ruby Grapefruit Moscato,” he laughed as he read. “Nico, where the hell did you even find this?”
Nico pulled the bottle from Liam’s fingers, rolling his eyes. “I did tell you it was trash.”
“Mmm.” Liam watched the pink liquid swirl slowly in the bottle. “I’d just assumed . . . I think I assumed you had better taste?”
Nico let out a sudden, sharp bark of a laugh, obviously surprised at that.
“Why?” he asked, still laughing. And then, he wasn’t laughing anymore. Instead, he was looking at Liam with a focus that, more than once, had made Liam wonder if Nico could pull his thoughts out of thin air and read them like the slips of paper inside fortune cookies. Nico raked his gaze up and down Liam and his lips stretched in a lopsided grin. “What gave you that impression?”
“I–well, I–that is . . . “ Liam stumbled over his words, his face hot even with the wind snaking through their alley. “You know what I meant!”
“Uh-huh. Sounds like someone’s got a pretty high opinion of himself all of a sudden. Nooo, don’t blush at that. Or maybe do. You’re real cute when you’re scrambling for words to throw at me, Vamps.”
Liam spluttered, wracking his brain for a comeback that didn’t just prove Nico right, while Nico picked up the bottle and took another swig.
“Give me a taste.”
“Mmm?” Nico swallowed and gave him a Look. “What happened to drinking less?”
“Just a taste — I need to see how awful your swill is to see how questionable your taste is.”
He paused, drumming his fingertips on the bottle in thought. “Yeah, alright.”
He nodded, and Liam held out his hand expectantly. Instead of handing over the bottle, Nico raised it to his lips again, taking a much larger mouthful than before. Liam rolled his eyes and reached to take the bottle, but Nico leaned away, holding up a finger in a “just a second” motion.
“If your plan is to drink it all before I can have any in some misguided attempt to save me from mys–mmph!”
Nico had darted forward, faster than Liam could react, and pulled him by his coat into a kiss. Liam’s lips had already been parted while talking, and Nico opened his just enough to let the wine spill through. Bright, sharp, fizzing, sweet, pink, bombarding him as Nico pulled him even closer, as Liam curled his own fingers in the too-thin sweater Nico was wearing to drag him halfway into his lap, as Nico was quick to catch on and oblige.
And then, as suddenly as it had begun, the kiss was over. Liam had pulled back for a gasp of air, and Nico had dragged the back of his hand across his mouth, wiping away any lingering traces of wine with a slow, obscene, self-satisfied smile.
“That was. Utterly appalling,” Liam drawled, the sickly taste still clinging to his mouth.
Nico pulled a face. “Well shit, I can always leave if you hate it that much,” he said, moving to get up.
“No!” Liam laughed, “No, I can assure you, I didn’t mean that.”
He tugged at Nico’s sweater, dragging him back down, and Nico let him.