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11 February 2008 @ 09:17 am
Charlie and Nicci: Charlie's Birthday  
Who: Charlie Dickens and Nicci Ingres
Where: Their nest
When: Charlie's birthday (February 7)

Nicci is freezing - it seems even colder out after the night spent curled up with Charlie, limbs tangled completely, shared warmth between them. He shivers slightly, his arm curled around the plastic lid covering the cake. It's a nice one, chocolate cake with a layer of cherry preserves and red roses made of icing on top. Something he could never have afforded if he tried to actually pay for it. Luckily, Nicci is very good at making off with just about anything. He smiles when he sees Charlie, still sleeping against the warm window of the factory, and he goes over to him. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a hot pink blowout - also stolen - and kneels down next to Charlie. He blows hard on the end of the horn, making it uncurl and waking Charlie with the loud honk. "Surprise!"

Charlie jerks awake, waking up with a start and sitting up, pulling the blankets up around him and pressing back against the window. His hair is horribly tousled, dark curls everywhere. He'd slept deeply-- deeper than he usually does when he's on his own, and it's left him a bit disoriented. It takes him a moment to get his bearings and figure out what's going on. When he does, he bursts into an enormous grin and laughs. "Nicci! You remembered!"

"Of course I did," Nicci scoffs, as if Charlie's being absurd. He uncurls his arms from around the cake, setting it down between them. He rifles through their pile of blankets until he finds two lumpy gifts, wrapped in newspaper and twine. He sets those down between them too, and leans in to kiss Charlie lightly on the lips. "Happy birthday, Charlie."

Charlie looks down at the cake and the presents, grinning from ear to ear. "Oh, Nicci." He presses his finger tips to his mouth and actually bounces a bit where he's sitting. He looks up at Nicci with an excited squeak, then leans across the gifts and cake, throwing his arms around him and hugging him tightly, his mouth crushed against his cheek. He releases him after a moment. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Nicci laughs, pleased to see Charlie so excited. It feels good to give things to Charlie. His gratitude his so genuine, his excitement infectious. And Nicci cares for him, in a way that he's never been able to care for anyone else. In a selfless way. Nicci's always put himself first, but not where Charlie is concerned. "You're welcome. I hope you like them." He reaches into his pocket, drawing out two forks and then lifting the lid off the cake, handing a fork to Charlie. "Dig in. Cake is a wonderful breakfast food, I think."

Charlie laughs. "It's the best breakfast food. No better way to start the day than with chocolate cake." He digs his fork into the cake and gets a big bite of it. He shuts his eyes the moment it hits his tongue, letting out a bit of a moan. "Oh. This is the best cake ever." Chocolate and cherries. His favorite. He opens his eyes and gets another big bite-- a bit too big. He looks something like a chipmunk. He grins at Nicci.

Nicci laughs, delighted, licking frosting off his fork. His tongue ring gets caught, and he pouts, sticking out his tongue and letting the plastic fork dangle there for a moment before he pulls it free. "Sometimes this thing is so inconvenient."

Charlie's still grinning, showing that slight gap between his teeth. "But it's cute. I mean sexy. And cute." Sometimes he wonders what it would be like to kiss Nicci with that tongue stud. Really kiss him. Not just their little kisses. He takes another big bite of cake and reaches out to wipe a bit of icing from Nicci's lip. "You're making a mess." He says it around his mouthful of cake, muffled, dropping crumbs. He brushes them off. "Can I open my presents now?"

Nicci giggles, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. "I'm making a mess?" he says playfully, reaching across to shove Charlie lightly. "Yeah, open them. No, actually, they're pieces of art, can't you tell? It's a modern thing. A statement about the war in Sudan. Of course you can open them."

Charlie laughs and reaches for one of the packages, squishing it, squinting his eyes and trying to figure it out before he opens it. He pulls the bow on the twine loose and unravels it, then tears the newspaper open.

The first one is the practical gift - something Charlie actually needs. A nice sweater. It's definitely not from the GoodWill - it's soft, dark blue and very warm. Nicci didn't want to steal Charlie's gifts - that seemed meaningless to him - so he actually bought the sweater, along with the little box of three different flavors of chapstick and the pair of dark gloves to match the lining of Charlie's coat tucked into the package.

"Ooooh, Nicci." He examines each gift carefully, lifting the sweater to rub it against his cheek, turning to gloves over and studying them. He looks at the box of chapstick and laughs, looking up at Nicci and beaming. "Is this because you're sick of kissing my nasty lips all the time?

"Well honestly, I'm afraid you're going to crack down the middle, they're so chapped," Nicci laughs, shaking his head. "Besides, it's bad for business, and I can't have you starving to death on me."

Charlie opens the box and pulls out one of the chapsticks. He looks for the flavor and then put it back in the box. He pulls out the second. Cherry. That's the one he was after. He pulls the top off and smoothes it over his lips, then rubs them together and makes a kissy face. "That better?"

Nicci leans in and kisses his lips lightly, then nods and nips at the tip of Charlie's nose. "Much," he grins, and takes another forkful of the cake. It's a pretty big cake - the biggest Nicci could steal. He wanted it to last them a while, to not have to worry about eating it all in one sitting.

"I'm gonna make a miiiillion dollars now, me and my pretty lips." He giggles, giddy, and puts the chapstick back in the box. He rubs his lips together again and reaches for the second package. "Okay. Ready?" He unties the twine and sets it aside, then tears into the newspaper.

This one's a bit more fun - a few things found rooting around in the discount bin at Wal-Mart. A little box of Valentines chocolates, a tiny electronic game, and Polaroid Izone camera with a roll of the colorful sticker film that it uses.

Charlie actually squeals. "OHMYGOSHACAMERA." He's never had a camera of his own. He's never been able to take pictures of what he wants to. He fumbles with the box, so excited to get it open that he drops it a couple of times. He finally gets it open and takes the camera out. "And I don't even have to take it in to get it developed or anything." He looks at Nicci. "Can I take a picture of you?"

Nicci laughs and nods, his smile wide, his cheeks dimpling. He loves to see Charlie's reactions. He loves how happy these things make Charlie. He has his legs drawn up to his chest, sitting in front of the cake. "We should take one together."

"Yes! Oh, I probably look horrible. I don't care. I can look horrible today, it's my birthday." He pushes the blankets back and crawls toward Nicci, sitting beside him and holding up the camera. "Okay, are you ready?" He puts his face close to Nicci's.

Nicci's still grinning wide, and he nods, his arm crossing over Charlie's back. He turns his face to kiss Charlie's cheek quickly before he looks back to the camera, still giggling. He can't help it. Charlie's energy makes him so very giddy.

Charlie grins at the camera and presses the button to take the picture. He drops the camera and looks at it, pulling the little picture out of it. "And now I'll forever have proof that my best friend is the best ever. And prettier than me." He grins at Nicci. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Nicci says, and wraps his arms around Charlie, hugging him and nuzzling into his curls. Charlie always manages to smell so good, even when they've been outside for too long. Sweet and warm, like a child. Nicci kisses the top of his head and squeezes him a bit. "You're my favorite, you know."

Charlie closes his eyes, smiling, and wraps his arms around Nicci. "Mmm. You're my favorite too." He squeezes him back, then pulls back a little to smile at him. "I love you." It's just that simple. Childish in its simplicity. It's the love of a best friend, a brother, a kindred spirit.

Nicci's never let himself love anyone before, but he knows he loves Charlie. He wouldn't do these things if he didn't. Wouldn't share his warmth, share his territory, spend his money to make Charlie smile. He wouldn't let his guard down this way if he didn't. "I love you," Nicci returns, just as sweet and simple. "Since it's your birthday, what do you want to do? We can stay here or go somewhere or... sneak into a movie or something."

Charlie draws away from Nicci, turning and crawling back under the blankets. "It's kind of cold." He laughs a bit, giving a shiver, and makes room for Nicci under the heap of blankets. "I think we should eat chocolate cake and then cuddle and sleep in for a little bit." He can't seem to stop smiling. "And then we can sneak into a movie." He pushes his hair back from his forehead. "I don't even care what movie. And maybe we can trick someone into buying us popcorn."

"Oh, we definitely could, we're so cute," Nicci laughs, crawling over to Charlie. He steals another bite of the cake and then moves in, curling up under the blankets, snuggling close to Charlie. They got extra blankets from the GoodWill, and Nicci stole pillows and two thick comforters for them from the motel that he works out of some nights. They've made themselves a rather cozy little nest of blankets, laying one comforter down on the ground for padding. Nicci rests his cheek on the pillow, yawning. He never had a bed like this, either. He moved around a lot. Now this little window is like home to them - they always can return to this spot to find one another.

Charlie curls close to Nicci, curling his arms up between them. He smiles, face close to his. He likes their little nest. It's warmer than the one he'd had outside the laundromat, especially when Nicci's spending the night too. He likes that sometimes he'll be sleeping and Nicci will crawl under the blankets with him early in the morning, or when he comes back after working and has someone nice to be close to. It's almost like home. "You and your sexy-slash-cute tongue ring and me and my pretty cherry lips. There's no way anyone could turn us down."

Nicci laughs, his hands wrapping around Charlie's, their arms curled between them for the warmth. "No way. We're the prettiest boys in this damn town. One of my johns the other day saw us together and asked if he could get a package deal." Nicci giggles, shaking his head. "Buy one, get one free? I was like, uhhh, we're not laundry detergent."

Charlie giggles. "Laundry detergent. No, we're not laundry detergent, or gallons of milk. I had someone ask me that too, actually. I didn't know what to say. I just kind of stood there for a second, 'cause you know how I get nervous. And then I said 'I don't think so?' Just like that. Like it was a question." He's giggling still. He works one of his hands free from Nicci's and opens it, lifting it up out of the blanket. He smiles and shows Nicci the developed picture of the two of them.

Nicci smiles, the two of their faces squished into the frame, laughing and happy. No one would ever look at that photo and guess who they really are - homeless, abandoned children, selling sex for money. Nicci really is happy, though. He has Charlie to keep him company, to be his friend and ally, to come home to at night. "See how gorgeous we are? I love that you said that, I don't think so. You're really adorable," Nicci laughs, and kisses Charlie's forehead.

Charlie closes his eyes at the kiss, making a pleased sound. He opens his eyes again when Nicci pulls back, looking at the picture of them. He grins at it and then tucks it under his pillow. He fits his hands into Nicci's again and sighs, content. This is the best birthday he's had in years. It's ridiculous, really. He's homeless. A prostitute, living on the streets. But he has a camera and a chocolate cake and a family... a real-live family who he loves. He smiles at Nicci, then yawns, turning his face away. He looks back at him.

Nicci grins and then closes his eyes, sleepy and content. "You should have seen your face when I woke you up. You nearly pissed yourself," he murmurs, smirking.

Charlie giggles, his own eyes closed. "You woke me up with a stupid... screaming blow thing. How would you have woken up? You probably would have slapped me or something out of reflex."

"I probably would have knifed you, really," Nicci laughs. Their conversation is soft, murmured across the pillow at each other. "I startle easy. I almost gutted one of the boys at Max's who mistook my bed for his and tried to climb in. Hey... if you ever meet one of Max's boys, you shouldn't even talk to them, but if you do... never ever ever tell them you know me. You know that, right?"

Charlie opens his eyes, looking at Nicci. He nods. "I know that." He doesn't know the whole story. He knows he doesn't. But Nicci will tell him things when he's ready to.

"Max would do anything to get me. He has boys everywhere, and if they ever saw me..." Nicci shakes his head. "That'd be that." He doesn't quite realize that Charlie might care to know the whole story. It seems odd to him that someone might want the details of his life, that someone might care about what happened in his past.

Charlie nods again. He slides his hand loose from Nicci's to brush at the hair at Nicci's temple, then draws his hand back under the blanket. "I won't tell any of his boys. I promise." He would never in a million years put Nicci in danger.

"I trust you," Nicci says, nodding. "I've never trusted anyone before you. I've never had a friend before you. At Max's, they all hated me. Because I was his favorite, and I would do anything to stay that way. I had to, to stay alive. I didn't want any friends, I just wanted to be on top. But I think even if I did have a friend back then, they'd never have been as good as you."

Charlie smiles. "Really? I'm... I'm sorry you didn't have friends before. But I'm glad you have one now. I'm glad it's me. I've never had a friend like you before, either. I've had friend, but never anyone... never someone like you. Someone who takes care of me and watches out for me. No one's done that for me before except you."

"That's what friends do, right? Stick together. Take care of each other," Nicci says, and opens his eyes. "I'm glad I found you that night. Can you imagine if I hadn't?" Max would have got him, Nicci has no doubt. Charlie would already be ruined, or he'd be dead. You either play Max's game, or you drown. Nicci was a lot like Charlie, once. Charlie brings it back out of him - a sweetness that he thought was long gone.

Charlie's face is serious. He nods. "Yeah." He can imagine what would have happened if Nicci hadn't run into him. He would have died. He wouldn't have had a coat. Someone probably would have come along and hurt him, because he wouldn't know how to sort the good johns from the bad ones. He probably never would have gone with Tennessee, so he never would have met him, and when he'd gotten his cold, he would have stayed outside instead of staying warm and having someone feed him and take care of him. Or else he would have been picked up by someone like Max, who would hurt him and make him do things he didn't want to do. But Nicci did find him. And now here he is, celebrating his sixteenth birthday, warm and content. He brings his face forward and kisses Nicci gently. It might be the first time he's ever initiated a kiss on his lips.

Nicci smiles against Charlie's lips. He's always wondered what it would feel like to have a sibling, a twin, another half of himself. That's exactly what Charlie feels like to him. There's a union between them, something that bloomed fast and is stronger than anything Nicci knows. Like being bound by blood. "Hmm," Nicci hums. He reaches down, curling in slightly, his fingers wiggling into his boot and finding the little bag there. He's never done this in front of Charlie before, never even let on that he does it at all, but he feels warm and content and forgets himself. Forgets that he doesn't want Charlie to see this, that he should ignore that craving until Charlie falls asleep. He draws back, shaking out a little bit of powder onto the side of his hand, just between his thumb and forefinger, and rubs it into his nose, sniffing.

Charlie is staring at Nicci's hand-- staring like he can't possibly believe what he just saw. His lips are parted slightly. He shuts them after a moment. He had no idea-- never thought for a moment that Nicci did things like that. He's never done it before. Not once. He looks at his eyes. "Did you..." He trails off.

Nicci swipes his thumb under his nose, and then looks down at the bag in his hand. His eyes go back up to Charlie, and he shakes his head. "I don't like it, I just... have to. Never try it, okay?"

Charlie's eyebrows are drawn together, mouth pouted a bit, turned down at the corners. He looks at the little bag of powder. There's a stone in his stomach. He looks up at Nicci's eyes again. "Why?" It's just above a whisper.

"Why can you never try it?" Nicci says, and then shakes his head and looks at the powder himself. "Because it'll kill you. And it makes you weak. You need it. You'll do anything to get it. It makes you... dependent."

Because it'll kill you. Charlie looks down at the baggie. His eyes are burning a little. "Then why do you do it? Why don't you stop?"

"I can't. I need it," Nicci murmurs, and closes his eyes. "Max made me take it. He makes all his boys take it, so they can't run away. Like a leash. They always have to come back for it. He'll beat you until you take it, until you're hooked. I tried going off of it, and I got so sick... I thought I was going to die."

Charlie looks up at Nicci's face, his closed eyes. "But what happens if you die? If you keep taking it and you take too much and you die?" It's a whisper, edged with tears. His eyes are bright. "Nicci, what would I do?"

Nicci opens his eyes, searching Charlie's with his own. "I don't know," he whispers. "But never ever go to Max. I never want these things to happen to you, Charlie. I don't want you to end up like me."

Charlie nods. He looks away, lowering his lashes. A tear falls from the corner of his eye, tracing across the bridge of his nose and dripping onto the pillow. He would die. If Nicci went away, if Nicci died, Charlie's heart would break and he would die. "Okay," he whispers.

Nicci lifts his hand, wiping the track of Charlie's tear. "Don't cry," he whispers. "I'd stop if I could. I hate it. If I knew how to stop, I would."

Charlie nods. He looks up at Nicci's eyes again and sniffles a bit, his eyes shining. "Just be careful, okay?" It's such an intimate little thing, the two boys curled close, whispering to each other beneath the heavy blankets. "Be really really careful." He wants Nicci to stop, but he doesn't know how. He doesn't know how to help him. "You can't leave me, okay? I'm not going to leave you, so you can't leave me."

"Okay," Nicci murmurs, nodding. "I never take more than I need. I don't take it to get high, just... to function. I'll always be careful. I won't leave you, Charlie."

Charlie nods again. "Okay." He doesn't ask for him to promise. He believes every word Nicci says. Every single word is a promise. He takes the bag gently from Nicci's fingers and reaches down, tucking it into Nicci's boot. His hand slides into Nicci's, replacing the weight of the bag. He wriggles closer and presses a soft kiss to his cheek, then closes his eyes.

Nicci wishes he could stop. Even though he never takes extra, he knows accidents can happen. He might get something too strong, or someone might lace it. Sometimes he waits too long between hits, until he's delirious and greedy. But when he tried to stop, it felt like he was dying, and for all Nicci knows maybe he was - he never went to school, took health classes, learned about these things. He doesn't know how it works, but he knows that he needs it. "If we find out how I can stop, I'll stop," Nicci murmurs sleepily. "I just don't know how."

Charlie opens his heavy eyelids and looks at Nicci again. A promise. Charlie will find out how. He'll go to the library. He'll ask Tennessee. He'll find out. And then Nicci will stop. He closes his eyes and leans his forehead against Nicci's, the blanket pulled up high on their shoulders, trapping in the heat of their shared breath. He'll figure it out.