Ask and ye shall receive, my lovely red hots! This was already written (this was written in my head before the season was even done, another bunny inspired by a random Wendy email), but I have particular affection for it.
This takes place after episode four of Red and Bad, Serial Two, and about a year and a half after Surrender the Past.
What happens when Will and Red show up on Nick and Bernie’s doorstep, to pick up Nick for Bottom’s Brunch?
Nick answered the door and froze.
“Hey, Nick. This is Red. Red, Nick.”
“Shit. Hey, Will.” Nick didn’t take Red’s outstretched hand, which was weird. “You gotta tell me when we’re having company, Willie. I’ll be right back.” He turned toward the stairs, but Bernie was already coming down. “Bern, look, Will brought a friend.”
What the fuck was happening? Will wanted to record the whole thing so he could go over it again because he didn’t know if he should look at Nick or at Bernie. (And poor Red, who was just standing there awkwardly, probably feeling like shit. He’d taken back his hand.)
“Hello,” Bernie said. He nodded to Will and reached out to Red. “I’m Bernie.”
“Bernie, this is Red. Red, Bernie.” Holy shit. This is intense. Why is this intense right now?
“Good to meet you,” Red said, shaking hands.
“You too. Nick.”
Nick rolled his eyes in Will’s direction and followed Bernie into the living room.
“Company,” they heard Bernie say.
“Unplanned. Hey, Will doesn’t know the fuckin’ rules, Bern, he didn’t know to call first.”
“When we discussed these breakfasts, we discussed Will.”
Red’s wide eyes communicated something between What the fuck? and Rules?
Also: what does that mean, they discussed him? Discussed him how? If he wasn’t so afraid of being caught, he’d totally text Hugh right now. Or no, Truman. Truman would tell him more.
“You didn’t tell him about the exception?”
“Jesus, Bern, no. I didn’t realize you wanted me to.”
“I expect you to take precautions so situations like this don’t happen, Nicholas.”
“Yeah, you know, my psychic gift isn’t working today for some reason—“”
Holy fuck. Will edged closer to Red. Maybe they didn’t know each other that well, really, but both of them knew that silence. Both of them knew what it sounded like when they’d done something wrong and were in trouble for it.
Something deep in Will’s bones heated at the thought. He didn’t feel like a little kid around Hugh, not ever, but still—no one could make him feel like he was in trouble quite as well as Hugh could, and he wanted to think that wasn’t hot, but it was.
“Sorry,” Nick said.
Ha. Weak, Nick. No way Bernie lets you off that easily.
“Call them in, please.”
“Bern, could you just—“”
“Are you asking for an exception for Red?”
“I don’t even fucking know, it just happened like a second ago!”
“Call them in, please, Nick.”
Nick cursed and reappeared, cheeks red, jaw clenched. “Welcome to our happy home, boys. Will, Red’s cool, right? I assume you wouldn’t be bringing him to Bottoms’ Brunch if he wasn’t.”
Cool? “Uh, yeah. Red’s cool.”
“Great. Okay, then, follow me.”
They followed. And Nick went straight to Bernie and stood beside him. When Bernie put his hand on the back of Nick’s neck, Nick took a breath.
Yeah. Yeah, Will knew that feeling, too. I fucked up, I’m sorry, I hate myself for it. He didn’t know Nick knew that feeling.
“Under normal circumstances, Nick isn’t permitted to speak to people I don’t know unless they’re at the gym,” Bernie said, eyeing both of them.
OH MY GOD.
“I don’t know you, Red, which is why he didn’t shake your hand. I’m very sorry for the awkwardness.”
“Sure,” Red said. “It’s okay.”
“Nick isn’t permitted to speak freely to people when I’m not present, again, unless he’s at the gym. There are very few exceptions to this rule, but Will and Eddie are two of them. Now so are you.”
Red didn’t say anything, and Will sucked in a breath, staring at Nick. He was an exception? What did that mean? Talk freely to people? Dammit, he had nothing but questions now.
“Did I leave anything out, Nicky?”
“Can I apologize?”
Nick stepped forward and held out his hand. “Hey, good to meet you. You’re the one from down south, right? Hot story, Red.”
Red laughed nervously. “Uh, yeah. That’s me. Well, me and Bad.”
“Yeah, I’m not gonna rush introducing Bern to your boyfriend. Hugh seemed way too excited by the idea.” They shook hands and Nick half-turned back. “We good, Bern?”
Bernie just looked at him.
“Ha.” Nick walked back and stood right in front of him. “I didn’t know you wanted me to tell him. That was an honest mistake, not evasion. I’m not ashamed of Will knowing, Bern.”
Will wasn’t exactly sure what the expression on Bernie’s face meant, but after a minute, he nodded.
“Good. I’ll see you in a few hours.”
“Yep.” Nick kissed Bernie, casually, like nothing, and Bernie let him. “See ya.”
Then they were walking out, and Nick was doing something on his phone, which he tested by turning the knob of the door.
“You lock the door from your phone?”
“Bern’s a paranoid freak.” Nick grinned. “See, I can technically say that now. I couldn’t have ten minutes ago. Though it’s way more fun to say that shit around Eddie. Let’s go, boys.”
Will and Red exchanged looks.
“Uh, so—I’m an exception?”
“You, Hugh, Truman, Lucy, Leo, Eddie. And now Red.”
Red cleared his throat. “Not—not your family?”
Nick stopped walking in the middle of the path back to the sidewalk and turned toward them. His eyes took in the house, then returned, looking first at Will, then at Red. “Bernie is my family. If this is gonna be a thing, I can stay home today.”
“Sorry, no, I didn’t mean—I didn’t mean anything. And it’s not—we have friends who I think do something like this, just I’ve never heard them talk about it.”
“Well, that’s the whole point of Bottoms’ Brunch, right, Will? Let’s go before Eddie has a heart attack that we’re late.” But before he turned back to the car he raised a hand in the direction of the house.
Will couldn’t look back, that’d be too obvious. But he got in the car and managed a casual glance back.
Bernie was standing in the windows, one hand still raised.
Holy shit. So. Many. Questions.
Nick laughed out loud. “Oh man, Will. You really gotta make your face stop broadcasting all of your emotions. It’s so funny.”
“Shut up, jerk.”
“You can ask. I’ll tell you if I can’t answer. Or you can wait and ask Hugh, but you already know everything he knows.”
“Plus, he’d probably say he can’t answer,” Will mumbled.
“Yeah, he probably would. Whew, boys, I’m fuckin’ tired now. Advance warning for guests, new rule, Will.”
“Yeah, sorry. I had no idea.”
Nick adjusted the mirror so he could see Red in the back seat. “So. Tell me about this boyfriend. How’s the mop flogger going? I fucking love a good mop flogger.”
Will listened to them talk on the drive to Lucy’s. Every time he thought he’d figured out all the different configurations people could have in relationships, something happened that blew open his mind even more. He thought he liked the feeling. Maybe he was still working out what he wanted, what he needed, but it was kind of cool to think the possibilities were basically infinite.