If At First You Don't Succeed
Chapter Seven

Jesse's lips part and he's about to say something, another little grin creeping over his face, when Nicky's phone rings in his pocket. They both stop, disconcerted, and Nicky takes it out awkwardly to silence it—but when he glances at the caller ID, it's Dave. Nicky's heart does a weird little flipflop, and when he looks up at Jesse, his dark eyes have zeroed in on Nicky's face.

All of Nicky's better judgment tells him to answer. Dave's calls are usually pretty rare in general, and when they do come it's always later at night. But then he glances back at Jesse—impassive but obviously watching him—and he crushes the feelings. They've had enough interruptions for one day. His thumb silences the phone.

"Sorry," he manages to smile.

"No worries." Jesse smiles back, dropping his eyes down to his orange juice as he stabs the straw into it a few times. "I was starting to wonder if we'd ever have a minute to talk."

Was that flirting? It looked and sounded, vocally speaking, like flirting. But his words didn't point much in either direction. Nicky bites his lip. And then he decides to end this.

"Jess," he says, startling Jesse into looking up with his suddenly direct tone—and probably the usage of a nickname. "You look really good in that shirt. Like hot, I mean."

But Jesse barely reacts. He just blinks and glances at his shirt, treating Nicky to a crooked little half-smile. "Oh. Yeah? Thanks, it's kind of old."

Nicky suddenly feels lame about how much time he'd spent on his own clothes, but he presses on determinedly. "Yeah, it's pretty tight. In a good way. I can see every—" he breaks off for the split second it takes him to reach across the table, concluding as his hand falls firmly against one side of Jesse's chest. "—muscle." His fingertips splay against his collarbone, palm over his heart, and even from here he can hear Cokey's curse. Nicky's heartbeat is pounding nervously in his ears—but there's only the slightest hitch in Jesse's.

"Guess I need a new one, then," he answers, low. He's not smiling, but he doesn't look disgusted. Nicky watches in a daze as his hand comes up slowly and settles over his own. Jesse squeezes it before he pushes it back toward him, and then suddenly, his grin appears in full force. "Maybe you can help me take it off later."

Just like that, Nicky loses his poise, his confidence, and his uncertainty all at once. He bites down hard on his lower lip. It hurts so much, he has to bring his abandoned hand up to rub a knuckle against it slowly.

"I," is all he manages to say.

"You don't know, do you?"

"Don't know what?" Nicky manages to say it coherently enough. He puts his arm down, and he nearly sticks his wrist in a pool of syrup on the plate in front of him, but he catches it in time. Jesse's dark eyes are locked on him.

Nicky wonders if this ever gets easier. He'd fallen so hard for Dave, been such a spaz around him, and now he's doing the same thing with Jesse. Kay isn't stupid like this with Josh. Not frequently, anyway.

"I thought Josh would have told you." Jesse cuts another piece of pancake and puts it in his mouth. He's chewing so slowly Nicky wants to jump across the table and shake him, but finally he swallows. He doesn't speak, though, just looks at Nicky expectantly, and Nicky loses patience.

"Tell me," he half-demands.

"I'm bi," Jesse says. There's absolutely nothing special about his voice, and Nicky's ears ring slightly as his mind wavers over what he'd said. "I thought you knew. But from the way you're acting, I'm guessing not."

"No," Nicky says between slightly numbed lips. He clears his throat. He grabs his water and drinks. "Um. Cool." He drinks again.

"I was asking you out," Jesse says, and Nicky nearly spits on him. Twice in one night, ugh.

"Oh. Oh." Nicky puts his glass down with a clunk. "I was, I was hoping you were. Um, but yeah, I wasn't sure, I thought maybe..." He trails off, then looks at Jesse with new eyes, evaluating him as a bi guy who had asked him out as opposed to an incredibly touchable but possibly unattainable guy. He really could give him head in a theater now.

Nicky's neck gets hot instantly.

"I'm glad," he says finally. Jesse smiles at him. He's so beautiful Nicky can't fully comprehend that he would want this too. "Um. So. Bi? My dad is bi. My real dad, Kay, I mean, because obviously Josh is basically as gay as it gets without doing showtunes, I inherited it from him or something..." Babbling. He cuts it off again, feeling a little tug of satisfaction that he's getting better at stopping himself. "Did you always know?"

"No. It's kind of a new thing. My parents are really traditional." Jesse forks another bite of pancake into his mouth. Nicky copies him, hardly noticing the sugary sting in his throat. "I moved to Claringdale, you know Claringdale?"


"I moved to Claringdale with a friend when I first turned eighteen. He was a bad roommate, but a good kisser, as I found out." Jesse's grin is a little crooked this time. Nicky is fighting down an unexpected surge of jealousy, which is confusingly mixed in with interest.

"That was your first time?"

"Yeah. We were watching TV one night and just... started messing around. It was crazy. I didn't even know I liked guys."

"That is crazy." Nicky chews a sodden lump of syrupy pancake slowly. "But you like girls, too?"

"Yeah. Broke up with my girlfriend Kim before the move. We were together three years."

"Three years?" Nicky can't help but be impressed, foreign as the idea of wanting a girlfriend is to him. "You're so young."

"Yeah, well, two sets of old-school Chinese parents. Breaking up is hard to do." Jesse laughs and pushes his emptied plate forward a little so he can rest his forearms on the table behind it. Nicky looks, absently, at the watch on Jesse's tanned wrist. He'd changed it. The lime green one he'd had on earlier has been replaced with a thick red one. Nicky doesn't know anyone else who wears a watch, except for his Grandpa, who really uses one, and Kay, who seems to do it more out of a need to maintain some image than anything else.

"Do you miss her?"

"I guess, kind of. We grew up together. But we're still in touch. She's dating my little brother now."


"It's not as weird as it sounds," Jesse smiles, but Nicky doesn't see how it could be. "How about you? Did you always know? Have you had any torrid affairs?" Torrid affairs. Nicky likes the way Jesse talks, using words Nicky never hears in the halls at school without sounding like a douche.

"Uh... not really." He's not sure which question he's answering. He pushes his own half-eaten pancakes away, and his phone starts going off in his pocket again. A quick glance shows Dave is calling back. Nicky hits the silencer without particular attention, nodding down at his pocket. "This is my ex calling, um, my only ex."

Jesse's eyebrows shoot up.


"It's not as weird as it sounds," Nicky parrots him. His hand is still in his pocket, resting over his phone; he pulls it out and rubs his palms together absently. "I really, really didn't think I was gay. I grew up with everyone being so annoying, always thinking I had to be, and I hated it—Josh says it kind of road-blocked me figuring out who I really am or whatever. When I met Dave, Dave's my ex, I sorta figured it out."

"When was that?"

"In October."If possibly, Jesse's eyebrows go even higher. Nicky is a little surprised himself, as he always is when he realizes how fast things with Dave went downhill, and how long he hasn't been gone. The five months that have passed seem like nothing compared to how long it feels like it's been since he'd moved away. "Yeah, you kinda showed up right after he left."

"So you're... rebounding," Jesse sums up. He looks disappointed, and Nicky's heart gives a sudden, excited thud at the sight of it.

"Not really. Dave and I could never get it together. We went on like, three dates."

"Oh." Jesse's shoulders relax a little, and Nicky smiles. The waitress comes by and clears their plates, dropping the bill on the table, but Nicky's in no hurry to leave yet. He leans back in his seat and sips at his dwindling glass of water.

"So um, you have a brother?"

"Three brothers. One older, he's married, and two younger ones—Justin is the one dating Kim, he's almost seventeen, and Jerry is fourteen."

"All Js?" Nicky smiles again, a little heartened to hear this so early on. Dave had had a pack of siblings hiding out at home, and he hadn't even figured it out till he was moving away.

"Yeah. Justin, Jerry, me, and Joe. Joseph. My mom likes it all to match."

"Josh's mom did that, too, the all J thing. I didn't know it was so popular. I think it's kinda weird." Too late Nicky realizes what he's said, and he flinches in embarrassment. "I mean—"

"It is weird," Jesse interrupts, shaking his head with a little grin. "Our Chinese names all match, too."

"You have a Chinese name?" Nicky's sort of surprised. What's the difference? "Why not just go by it? Like Mai Ling?"

"Mai Ling's kind of... an unusually English-friendly name. My Chinese name is—" Jesse says something Nicky can't even begin to follow, and he grins at the sight of Nicky's expression. "See?"

"It's kind of cool," Nicky says. "So what do you do you use it for? Do your parents call you that?"

"Only when they're mad," Jesse laughs. "Or sometimes if they're talking to the rest of our family. I don't know. It's hard to explain. But no one calls you Nicholas, right?"

"Only my Grandpa."

"It's not that different."

"Oh—" Nicky is cut short by the sound of his phone ringing, again, in his pocket. In consternation he pulls it out to shut it off, but it's Dave again, and an unexplained feeling of dread suddenly settles into his stomach. Dave barely ever even calls, let alone three times in half an hour, and the sickening sense that something is wrong is pretty hard to ignore. He looks up at Jesse with a twisted expression.

"You can get it," Jesse says.

"He just, he never even calls. It's sort of worrying me." He pauses for a second. "Do you mind a lot?"

"Nope. Go ahead, we're done here anyway." Jesse stands up and puts his hand on his back pocket. "Do you want to stay here and finish up while I go get some movie tickets?"

"Yeah. Sure. I'll get it," Nicky says, when Jesse starts to pull his wallet out of the pocket. He's overly conscious of his ringing phone. "I'll meet you there?"

"Sure. Thanks," Jesse says. He turns and heads for the front of the restaurant, and his fingers trembling unaccountably, Nicky takes his phone out and answers Dave's call.


God, here I am! I know it's been a very, very long time, and I'm sorry. I don't really know what the crossover between people who read this and people who read LION is, but in case you don't, I'll explain again. I started writing my Complications series when I was fourteen and full of time and energy and impetus, but alas, ten years have gone by and I am an old post-grad with a career and volunteer stuff. I do still try really hard to work on stuff! Unfortunately, my energies have been put into LION for quite some time, but I always planned to come back to FYD one day, and finally, I have.

I so appreciate those of you who have stuck by, waiting for an update, and please know that I really do understand what it's like to have a fic you like or connect with be abandoned. I always try to avoid this! So I will tentatively promise that FYD will always continue, short of true peril, even if it takes me forever. In the meantime, please welcome me back! -heart-