Paper Courage

An Avenue Q fan fiction

Rod X Nicky

I don't own the characters. I just came up with the story. Oh, and, everyone should see Avenue Q, or at least buy the CD! It's awesome!

~Chapter 1~

"And so we just stopped for coffee." Rod said. The intention was to perhaps impress his roommate or insight some jealousy, but that seemed to fly right over Nicky's head as he smiled and nodded, enjoying the conversation, merely taking it at face value. The red-haired banker suppressed his urge to grimace in disappointment. Nicky took a noisy swig of his beer, the cold liquid making a rich "kathug" sound within the narrow neck of the brown glass bottle. Nicky had already removed the label, having wadded it up on the table. Rod was idly smoothing the creases out, folding the trash neatly as he conversed with his best friend.

"So, do you think you two'll start dating?" Nicky asked genuinely. Rod blushed. The fact of the matter was, Rod was not actively pursuing a relationship with anyone. He had embellished a casual lunch appointment to give Nicky a different impression. Truth be told, Rod's boyfriends now that he was "out of the closet" were just as fake as his girlfriends when he was still "in." The biggest difference was, though, that this time Nicky actually believed him. Rod wasn't sure if he liked that or not.

His roommate, his best friend, was the exact opposite of him. They were like The Odd Couple together. Nicky was messy, casual, relaxed. Rod was neat, professional, and up tight. The black haired man-child drove Rod insane! And he couldn't love him more. He'd never told him. Oh, he'd tried to, but he could never get the words passed his lips.

Nicky wasn't gay. He'd made that perfectly clear. Oh, he was tolerant, even supportive, but just because he was okay with the idea of guys in relationships with guys, it didn't mean he was interested in participating. The thought was heart-breaking to Rod, but he couldn't bring himself to give up hope. He was always making subtle statements or suggestions and gauging Nicky's reaction - always searching for that glimmer of hope that the one and only man he would ever love might reciprocate his feelings in some way.

"Well, I was thinking that I might get coffee with him again some time." Rod replied nervously. "I mean, if nothing else, you know how much I like coffee."

"Yep. You sure do." Nicky agreed. Rod smiled, loving how well his friend knew him. Nicky took another swig. Rod nursed a cup of now-luke-warm tea.

"You like coffee, right?" Rod was trying to make small talk, but, as always, trying to put ideas in Nicky's innocent mind.

"Yeah, if it's really sweet."

The conversation was going nowhere. Rod pulled his legs up into the dining room chair he was sitting in, folding them lotus-style under him. Nicky continued his own lounging posture with one arm flat on the table, the other looped protectively around his drink. Rod stared expectantly at his roommate for a couple of seconds before continuing, animatedly.

"Well, I just have so many guys asking me out all the time… I can't very well date them all." he laughed, rolling his eyes and tossing his head back in a carefree sort of way. Nicky just smiled pleasantly at him, emptying his bottle before standing from the table. He grabbed the beer label that Rod had folded and walked to the kitchen to throw them away. It was a new thing Nicky had been doing lately - cleaning up after himself. Not much. He still didn't do his own laundry and he still left dirty dishes in the bedroom, and didn't ever clean the hair out of the shower, but he threw his trash away usually and that was good enough for now.

"Well," Nick started as he walked away from his friend the short distance into the kitchen, "maybe if you did try to date them all, you might end up falling for one of 'em. You never know! Love could be hiding behind the next cappuccino."

"Oh, I couldn't do that." Rod countered, turning in his chair to face the other man.

"Oh, Rod. Don't be shy!" Nicky walked back into the dining area, mussing up the conservatively combed hair of his buddy as he moved back to his chair with a bag of mini-bagels. "Just give one of 'em a call!"

"Nicholas! I couldn't do something like that! It's not proper!"

"Why not?"

"That's just not how it's done. I can't call someone for a date. That would make me seem desperate. They have to call me." Rod looked snobby and indignant as he closed his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. Nicky laughed at the almost antebellum attitude of his roommate.

A playful spark glimmered in Nicky's eye. He drew half his mouth into a smile, his cheeks creasing his eyes with the grin. He lunged around the table, fingers out.

"Aw, come on Roddy! Call one of 'em." He tickled and tackled the petite conservative, reaching for Rod's phone in his khaki slacks.

"No, Nicky!" Rod tried to protest, fighting back, almost tipping backward in his chair under the good-natured assault. "I don't want to! Would you stop!" he batted at Nicky's hands, writhing and squirming in a very undignified manner in the chair. Nick just laughed. Rod had to admit, that goofy giggle was infectious, and he found himself laughing and screaming too, enjoying the game.

Rod tried to turn his mind off, tried to enjoy the row for what it was, tried not to get too caught up in…

He was surrounding him. He smelled like Old Spice deodorant and dryer-sheets. The faint hint of beer still on his breath, adding a warm, bready scent to the mix. He focused on the panting sounds of Nicky's breathing as he gasped in after laughing. He could feel the subtle heat radiating from his body. His hair was a mess and his face wore the unmistakable stubble of a day without shaving. Rod grabbed Nicky's hand, trying to protect his ticklish ribs from further attack. They were soft, meaty, with wisps of black hair over the backs of the hands and knuckles. Nicky was the picture of manliness to Rod, but also sweet, playful, and gentle.

He had to stop. He was going to do something he'd regret if Nicky continued to invade his space so intimately. Still smiling, but calming his own laughter, he tried to explain himself over his heavy breaths.

"Nicky, I'm not going to call some guys and go out on dates." Nicky settled down also, moving back to his own chair, tossing Rod his phone back with the smile still spread across his face.

"Oh, don't be so shy." Nicky started before Rod cut him off again.

"No. It's not that. Well, maybe it is that. But it's not that I don't want to go on dates."

Nicky's face started to show signs of his puzzlement. Rod sat there for a moment, mouth hanging open as if he were frozen in the middle of his explanation. Mulling over what to say, he pushed on.

"I'm just," he began again, shaking his head a little and letting his eyes glide up to look toward the ceiling over the tops of his glasses, "I'm just kind of holding out for someone."

"Just someone? As in, anyone?" Nicky was adorably clueless.

"No, Nicky. I have feelings for a particular person and I just don't know how to put them into words. I don't know how to tell this person that I care about them. So I guess I'm waiting on them. I'm not really interested in anybody else." It was the most bold statement Rod had ever made about anything in his life. It was definitely the closest he'd ever come to confessing. Rod sat there, tense, for an incalculable amount of time. He felt so open and exposed. Surely Nicky had understood. He must certainly know, now, that the one Rod pined for was him, right? Right?

Nicky sat silently for a time, looking at Rod and his rigid but almost cowardly posture. Shoulders up, back slouched, head down, eyes nervously looking up at him. Nick's own expression softened. Poor Rod.

"Aw buddy," Nicky murmured softly, reaching out and placing a hand on his friend's shoulder. "unrequited love and all that. Maybe you should just come right out and tell the guy! I could help you! Give me his number! I'll talk to him! I won't tell him you know. I'll take the guy out for drinks or something. I'll talk you up real good. That guy will be beating the door down to go on a date with you when I'm done."

And there it was. The apparently obvious was lost on the blissfully ignorant. A strange mixture of relief and disappointment filled his body as if he were a vessel being filled with water. It was a tight, dreadful feeling and he suddenly felt very weary.

"Thanks Nicky." Rod smiled weakly, patting the hand on his shoulder. He stood up, moving a step away from the table in the direction of the bedroom. Back turned to his still-seated friend, Rod reached behind him to pat Nicky on the back. "Night."

"Night buddy." Nicky craned his neck to look back at Rod's zombie-like form shuffling slowly to their shared room. Nick took a bite of one of his bagels, chewing on it carefully - his mind occupied. "Aw, poor Rod." he said only after his roommate had disappeared into the room and closed the door behind him. "He must really, really love this guy." Nicky's musings continued as he carried himself to the couch, laying out on it, kicking his shoes off in the process.

The thought did occur to him that his pal, Rod, did occasionally seem like he was longing for someone. He did sometimes seem a little love-sick. It was all coming together. Nicky had let the latent clues slip past him all this time! How could he have been so naive? The jobless friend turned himself over on the sofa where, despite having a bed of his own, he slept most nights - and days. Not bothering to change into sleep-attire, Nicky reached out to turn off the lamp beside the couch. He murmured into his arm as his body relaxed for sleep. "I'm gonna help Rod snag this guy of his, if it's the last thing I do."