First Time For Everything
high school AU

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"You're getting better," Howie says.

Nick sighs under his breath, and his floppy hair scrinches on the pillow as he turns and gives Howie an overbearing look. "Howie," he says, too calmly. "It's Saturday."

"I'm just saying-" Howie starts, but Nick just shakes his head and pulls the Spanish tests out of Howie's hands.

"It's Saturday," he repeats, and picks his comic back up from his stomach. "And if I don't save you from yourself, no one will."

Howie scrunches up his nose. He looks at the TV, the rerun of Full House that neither of them are watching. Howie's sitting with his back against the bed while Nick, immediately upon arriving, had toed off his sneakers and sprawled out on the floor with his legs flopped haphazardly on the mattress. He takes up much more room than he did a month ago, and Howie still hasn't grown an inch in the last six months.

He adjusts his too-big glasses. "I just think your mom's crazy, is all," he says, pushing Nick's foot away from his ear. "You don't need a tutor. Your Spanish is much better now than it was last year."

Nick smacks his Jolly Rancher a little too loudly and shrugs, not taking his eyes off the comic page.

Howie sighs very lightly. He looks at Nick for another moment before he scoots around and lies down next to him, getting comfortable on their shared pillow. "Which one are you reading?" he asks, putting his feet up on the bed next to Nick's.

Nick turns his head and gives Howie a small smile that makes his eyes crinkle. He squirms closer and says, "The one where he marries Lois Lane," pointing at a square illustration. "I don't think I've ever read it before. I don't know where you have all these comics from, but it's really cool."

Howie snorts. "They're Caroline's old ones." He turns and watches Nick shift the candy from one cheek to the other, the glare from the TV bouncing off his face. "Did you know that Superman was originally a villain?" he blurts before he can think.

People usually groan when he tells them useless facts like that, but Nick always turns to him like he's genuinely interested. "Yeah?" he asks. This close Howie can see the freckles on his nose.

"Yeah." He clears his throat. "He, uh - he was this bald guy at first. Out to take over the world."

Nick laughs. "How do you know stuff like that?"

"Comes with the nerd territory," Howie says, smiling a little. Nick starts crunching his Jolly Rancher and Howie's eyes glide inadvertently down to his mouth. His lips are stained red by the candy. Red, and kind of sticky. Howie can feel his stomach start to tingle in that weird way that he doesn't understand. The back of his neck is warm and he ducks his head, muttering, "Hey, Nick?"

"Yeah?" Nick says distractedly, turning another page.

Howie is suddenly really fascinated by their row of feet up on the bed, two with plain black socks, two with bright orange ones. "You know that Christmas dance is tonight?" he asks, attempting casual.

Nick gives him a funny look. "Yeah, the high school one," he says. "It's not like we're old enough to - um. Why, did you want to go?"

"No," Howie snorts. The idea of himself at a high school dance is enough that even he would make fun of himself, and that's really not the kind of extra stress he needs. "No, I was just - I, uh, I was in the bathroom today? And a bunch of guys were talking about how they were gonna crash the party and find some cute high school girls to kiss, and - I just, it got me thinking."

Nick frowns lightly. "About - how you wanna kiss high school girls?"

Howie is most definitely blushing now. He pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose and shrugs. "I ... anyone, you know?"

"Oh. Oh." Nick pushes up on his elbows, staring down at Howie with eyes that are growing wider by the second. "You want - oh. I. Um."

Howie sits up as well, scooting back an inch just in case Nick needs the space. "I was thinking - just for practice, you know?" he mumbles. "I don't know if you have...?"

Nick ducks his head, but Howie knows he's blushing anyway from the way he's wringing his hands. "Um, no," he murmurs, shaking his head.

"Okay." Howie nods. "Me neither, so." He goes back to the logistic mode he's so familiar with. "I was just thinking it might be nice to get that first try over and done with." He falters, wiping his clammy hands off on his pants. "Unless you don't want-?"

"No, I." Nick looks up at him, eyes wide and chewing on his lower lip. Even in the semi-darkness Howie can see the way his cheeks are flushed, probably from embarrassment. "I want to," he says after a second, even though he still sounds unsure. "For practice, right?"

The mood's changed, weighing down heavily on them both, and Howie almost wants to take the whole thing back, pretend he'd never said anything in the first place. But it isn't new, this -- wondering. He watches people more now. Keeps having to excuse himself to the bathroom if he's had one of those dreams while Nick is staying over. And if Nick pets the nape of his neck for too long while they're watching a movie, he'll get that strange sensation in his belly again. Everything's changing, and he doesn't understand why he keeps watching Nick's mouth while he talks, but just sitting around thinking about it isn't going to answer any questions for him.

"Right," he says, and pretends his voice doesn't crack. He squirms closer, until their knobbly knees are pressed together, and folds his hands in his lap. "So ... do you know how?" he asks carefully. "I've kinda ... I've read some stuff."

"Okay." Nick nods, his fingers clenching into the fabric of his jeans. "Let's - we'll do that, then."

Howie clears his throat and nods. "Okay, so ... first you have to--" He tilts his neck awkwardly. "So the noses don't get in the way, see?"

Nick mimics him, and for a second they just sit there with their necks craned until Nick suddenly breaks into what sounds like nervous laughter.

"Nick, come on!" Howie says, but once Nick has doubled over he's laughing too, and that finally seems to break that enormous bubble of tension between them. Howie buries his head in his hands and groans. "God, I hate you," he chuckles.

"You love me," Nick says, and when Howie looks up he finds Nick grinning at him in that infuriatingly confident way that Howie will never be able to imitate. He puts his hand on top of Howie's, just as they always do, and seems to pull himself together. "Okay," he says. "Let's try this again. Heads tilted."

"Nick," Howie says, smiling fondly.

"No, Howie, come on." Nick squeezes the top of Howie's hand and smiles back. "What's the next step?"

He should've known that Nick wasn't going to let this go once he actually agreed. Howie sighs, looking at a point over Nick's shoulder. "I guess you just ... lean in," he says, somewhat helplessly.

"'Kay." Nick's voice is quieter now, his face inching closer. "Leaning."

Howie fixes his eyes on Nick's quickly. Nick is really leaning in, and suddenly this isn't funny at all anymore. "Nick," he manages to say.

Nick shakes his head. "Can't talk," he murmurs, so close now that the tip of his nose brushes Howie's cheek. "Leaning."

Suddenly Howie's heart is galloping in his chest. His eyes do that accidental slip down to Nick's mouth again, and this time he can't tell himself that Nick didn't see it. He can almost feel the shape of Nick's smile this close. "Are you sure you-?" he whispers, but Nick shakes his head again.

"You're gonna ruin it," he murmurs. The words buzz gently against Howie's lips. A warm, really pleasant shiver trickles down Howie's spine and his breath catches in his throat. He lets his eyes fall closed, thinking for a split second that this all reminds him a little of being seasick. "Howie," Nick says quietly. Howie hears a faint tremor of uncertainty there. "You're supposed to lean."

"Right," Howie croaks. Nick must be a master at disguise or Howie is just lamer than he thought any person could be, because he already sounds like he's got a frog stuck in his throat. He wets his lips unconsciously and feels a frightening lurch in his chest just before he covers that last inch between them. He presses his lips to Nick's tentatively, not daring to move. It's wet, he thinks distractedly, just as Nick pulls back and Howie has a deep flash of disappointment that he didn't have time to remember anything else about it.

Nick stays close, his lips once again that frustrating inch again. "Think we need to," he murmurs, sounding oddly breathless, "um ... move. You know, and. And breathe."

"Oh," Howie manages. His eyes are still closed, but he nods, tipping his head forward a slight fraction. It's a second before there's that press of lips again, but it's firmer now, more determined, and Howie has absolutely no clue what to do. His glasses are pressing into his nose awkwardly, but he doesn't want to break this up again so he can take them off. No one's told him there would have to go so much thought into kissing. The books told him to breathe through his nose, sure, because of course that would be the only thing he'd need to know. Do they just let anyone write books these days?

Then something happens. Nick's lips part just a bit, enough that he can slide them gently across Howie's. Careful. Searching. Howie tilts his head a little again and does the same, his pulse fluttering oddly once the wetness translates into soft and warm and can't think. Nick catches his bottom lip between his own for a second, somewhat clumsily, but Howie shivers anyway. All he can hear is Nick's breaths, somehow louder than anything else and much too fast. Their lips catch in another perfect slide and Howie's neck is heating up again, but this time he can feel it spreading to his face and even down to his chest.

When they break apart it's with a slightly wet sound that would make Howie flush if it were possible for him to get any redder. His breathing's slightly labored, and he has to blink a few times before he can focus. Nick's eyes are hooded, even though he's watching Howie intently. His lips are even redder than before, and there's a light sheen on them now. When Howie licks his own he can taste the sugar from Nick's candy on them.

"Um," Nick says quietly. His voice usually only gets that low after he's been sleeping. "I ... don't think you need to practice all that much."

Their knees are still pushed together. Howie looks down and wonders if it's possible for his knees to actually feel sweaty. "You don't either," he says, once he finds his voice. He rubs the back of his flushed neck and looks up at Nick again. "Maybe ... maybe once more sometime. Just for good measure."

Nick's eyes roam his face for a second before he breaks into a small grin. "Yeah," he agrees quietly. "Yeah, for - just to be sure." He lets out a shaky breath. "Um, I'm gonna - bathroom."

Howie nods, watching Nick get up somewhat unsteadily. He reaches for the pillow and places it discreetly across his lap, hoping more than anything that a Howie-shaped hole would appear in the floor right now. He watches Nick hit the bathroom light and suddenly says, "Nick?"

Nick looks back. In the sudden harsh light from the bathroom it's even more clear how bright-faced he is, and Howie feels a weird stirring in his chest at the thought that maybe ... maybe he's the reason for that. "Yeah?" he asks hesitantly.

Howie manages a wobbly half-smile. "You're still staying over tonight, right?" he asks.

Nick breaks into a sudden wide, relieved grin. His eyes are gleaming just before he slips into the bathroom. "Depends on if you've got any more good comics for me."

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