Written as a birthday fic for telperion_15 . Happy birthday!
Title: Christmas Wish
Pairing/characters: Stephen/Nick, Connor.
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 1350
Summary: Stephen gets a surprise at the department Christmas party.
“Come on, Stephen, pleeease.” Connor was looking more and more desperate, fidgeting and casting repeated glances at the dance floor, but Stephen was unmoved. Or in this case, unmoving.
“No.” Stephen drank a little more of his pint and tried not to glance across the room to where Nick stood talking with a couple of the other department lecturers.
Connor slid into the seat next to him and adopted what Stephen could only assume was supposed to be a puppy-eyed expression.
“Please Stephen. Have you seen who’s on the dance floor? Those two fit girls from the palaeoecology department. They won’t look at me twice, but if you were there with me then they’d come over and talk, I’m sure of it.”
“What about Abby?” Stephen raised his eyebrows slightly. “I thought she was the one you were interested in?” Stephen didn’t particularly care about Connor’s love life, other than as a vague source of amusement.
“Abby isn’t here. Kim and Sarah are.”
Stephen rolled his eyes and finished off the rest of his pint.
“What’s wrong with you anyway?” Connor asked, having apparently finally caught onto Stephen’s mood. “This is supposed to be the Christmas party, not a wet weekend in Blackpool.” He followed Stephen’s gaze across the room before Stephen could turn his attention elsewhere. A sudden look of understanding dawned on Connor’s face.
“I’m sure Cutter isn’t ignoring you,” Connor said in a slightly quieter voice. “He’s just hob-nobbing with the department bigwigs. You know, social networking and all that.”
“Yeah. That’ll be it.” Even to his own ears, Stephen knew he sounded even less convincing than one of Connor’s chat-up lines. He sighed and pulled himself together. Connor was right, it was supposed to be a party, and so far all he’d done all night was mope. Possibly with a side order of sulking.
“Tell you what, Connor, you head over to the dance floor and strut your stuff, I’ll get another drink and join you in a bit.”
Connor glanced over at Cutter, and then back at Stephen, hesitating briefly. “Okay.” He squeezed Stephen’s shoulder as he got up. “Just cheer up, eh?”
Good advice, Stephen thought to himself as Connor headed off. Pity it was so hard to take. He sighed, and went to the bar for another drink before sitting back down at his table in the corner.
He knew he was being ridiculous. What else had he been expecting? Nick to sweep him off his feet under the mistletoe? Yeah, right.
He could still hear Nick’s voice in his head, talking about how it would be better not to let people know about their relationship, how it might harm Stephen’s promotion prospects if word got round that he was sleeping with the professor. And Nick had been careful to remind him that they didn’t want to risk any accusations of favouritism if Stephen applied for that special research grant they knew was coming up. Nick was right about all of that, and Stephen knew it.
It didn’t make it any easier to accept when all he wanted to do was give his partner a Christmas kiss, right in front of everyone, and damn the consequences.
He sighed. Maybe Connor had the right idea, after all. He should at least attempt to look like he was having a good time, then perhaps he’d be able to drag Nick away early and they could just go home and curl up in bed together.
He glanced across again to where Nick... wasn’t. What the hell?
Stephen scanned the room, his gaze briefly settling on the dance floor where Connor seemed to have ended up in the centre of a three foot radius clearing, no doubt due to the fact that his idea of ‘dancing’ seemed to be more akin to an impression of an epileptic spider. Which was kind of amusing, but Nick sure as hell wouldn’t be anywhere near that, so where had he gone?
“May I have this dance?” The sexy Scottish accent was accompanied by a tickling of breath on the back of Stephen’s neck, and he twisted round to see Nick standing there smiling at him.
Stephen could have kicked himself. That was so not the appropriate response to being offered the one thing that he had been wishing for all night.
Nick held a hand out to him. “I believe the night is winding down and they’re playing the slow Christmas songs, so what better way to end the night?” His eyes held a sparkle that might have been to do with the beers he’d been drinking all night, or might just have been something else.
“But, what about...?” Stephen waved a hand in a vague gesture towards where the group of lecturers had been standing earlier. He had no idea if they were actually still standing there, because he couldn’t take his eyes off Nick’s face. “I thought... not in public?”
“Why don’t we just assume that we’ve had the conversation where you tell me I’m an idiot and this is the twenty-first century, and that I’ve finally given in and agreed with you, and let’s just move on from there, shall we?”
Stephen took a moment to process what Nick was saying. Then he began to smile.
“In that case, lead on.”
He took Nick’s hand and stood up, and they walked to the dance floor, still hand-in-hand. Stephen caught sight of the other lecturers, at least half of them staring and poking the ones who hadn’t noticed with their elbows. Stephen couldn’t help flashing them a cheeky smile as he walked past.
“I should probably warn you, I have two left feet,” Nick murmured in Stephen’s ear as he took Stephen into his arms for the slow song.
“From the look of things, I think Connor has two right feet. Maybe you could trade on the way out.”
Stephen leaned close, his arms slipping around Nick’s waist as they slowly swayed together. Over Nick’s shoulder he saw Connor grinning at him like a madman. As soon as the young man realised he had caught Stephen’s eye, he gave him an enthusiastic thumbs up and a particularly unsubtle exaggerated wink. Stephen couldn’t help smiling back.
He rested his chin on Nick’s shoulder, and asked in a quiet voice, “So why now? What happened to keeping it secret?”
Nick didn’t immediately answer, and when he did it was in an equally quiet voice.
“I saw you sitting there alone, and I finally realised that you were right. And that I care about you far more than I care about academic reputation.”
Stephen’s insides squirmed and he closed his eyes against the sudden rush of emotion. After a moment he composed himself enough to reply.
“Took you long enough, idiot.” He nuzzled Nick’s ear affectionately.
The song was coming to an end, and Stephen wondered what their chances were of making a break for the exit. He was suddenly distracted by Connor waving frantically and pointing upwards. Stephen glanced up and smirked. Some joker (and he wasn’t ruling out the possibility that it had been Connor) had hung mistletoe over the centre of the dance floor, and he and Nick were standing right beneath it. Stephen nudged Nick and glanced up until the older man followed his gaze.
Nick chuckled and leaned close, his mouth right beside Stephen’s ear.
“I’ll let you into a secret,” Nick whispered. “I think Connor needs that more than you do.”
Stephen pulled back far enough to see the expression of unconcealed happiness on Nick’s face, his eyes still sparkling with humour. He ran a hand through Nick’s hair, making it stand up, and then, right there in front of everyone, he tugged him into a long, lingering kiss.
They pulled apart when the music ended. Nick seemed stunned, his expression not quite knowing what it wanted to be for a moment, and Stephen wondered if he had gone too far, whether Nick was ready for public kissing yet. Then he felt his lover’s fingers interlocking with his own, and Nick nodded towards the exit.
“Merry Christmas, Stephen. Now let’s go home.”