“Yo, Kev. Do you mind?” Nick held up his tie and looked pathetic. The fingers of his right hand were taped together due to a sprain and he held his hand awkwardly. “It'll be just like old times.”
Kevin smiled and grabbed the tie, spinning Nick around in front of the mirror. “Yeah, if you weren't a foot taller and a foot wider than before.”
“Sorry, man. My manhood is blossoming.”
“Your ego is more like it.”
Nick laughed comfortably and Kevin peered over his shoulder. It took a few tries to get it right; it was harder now that Nick was so much taller and bulkier. When they'd first done this, Nick's head hadn't even touched Kevin's shoulder and his neck had been delicate, like a baby birds.
“How's that?” Kevin smoothed the tie down, feeling the solid bulk that Nick had become. He watched Nick play with the knot and wondered when had he grown up? It seemed like just yesterday he was a gawky boy with pouty lips that always smelled faintly of strawberry lollipops.
Kevin blinked. “What?”
“They were cherry, I don't like strawberry.”
He could feel the flush climbing his cheeks. “Sorry, I was…” he started but Nick cut him off.
“Nah, that's okay. I understand.” Nick ran his hands over his tie, looking at himself in the mirror, tilting his head from side to side before turning back to him. “I'll always be little Nicky, won't I.” It wasn't a question, just a statement of fact.
Kevin deftly buttoned his vest and gave it a tug. “Yeah, I guess. Some things never change.” He was adjusting the knot at Nick's throat when the younger man grabbed one of his hands.
“But I'm not little anymore, Kevin. I'm all grown up.”
Kevin was about to object but he realized it as true. They stared at each other for long moments. Two men. Nick's eyes were level with his, his shoulders broader than Kevin's own, and the innocence that used to shine out from Nick's face was gone, replaced by something darker. Nick had grown up and he hadn't seen it. Hadn't wanted to see it. He tugged at his hand.
Nick tightened his fingers and Kevin could feel the strength in them. “But you're right. No matter how much time goes by, some things never change.”
And Kevin remembered the hesitant, sticky kiss on his lips and the frightened flutter of Nick's pulse in his throat, the whispered “I love you”. How Nick had looked up at him with adoring eyes and Kevin had simply turned and walked away. “I couldn't… I can't…”
Nick released his hand, “just like old times.” He stepped back, his face sliding into the easy grin he always had for the crowd outside. It wasn't real and Kevin knew it. “Thanks, man,” and he turned away.
“Nick,” but Kevin didn't know what else to say.
It didn't matter, because Nick didn't look back and the door clicked softly shut behind him.