Title: Wanting

Series: BACCANO!

Characters & Pairing: Jacuzzi x Nice, Donny, Nick, and various cameos

Genre: Romance, angst

Rating: T

Length: 6,216

Spoilers: Minor for Jacuzzi and Nice's history

Warnings: Implications and some language

Status: Complete

Summary: "The first time Jacuzzi Splot thinks about kissing Nice – properly kissing her, firmly on the mouth rather than bussing her cheek – he is fourteen (and a quarter) and she is radiant." In which Jacuzzi waits, and wants, and perhaps finally finds the right sort of bravery.




The first time Jacuzzi Splot thinks about kissing Nice – properly kissing her, firmly on the mouth rather than bussing her cheek – he is fourteen (and a quarter) and she is radiant. It isn't exactly news to the boy because he's always thought of her as the prettiest girl in the world, but when he looks up, still out of breath and sweaty from their dash for safety (the same dash they always have to make when Nice decides to test one of her new babies on an empty and unsuspecting warehouse), and sees her laughing, her hair mussed, cheeks flushed, an elated look in her eye and her lovely hands shaking, something in his head just clicks into place. For a brief moment he isn't a young teenager – and certainly not one who cries at everything from a lost scarf to a corpse – but a man looking straight at a beautiful young woman whose mouth may well be more tempting than… Well. Anything Jacuzzi has ever known, that's for sure. So much so that he's reaching out for her before he knows it.

It's at this point, this moment of realisation as he watches his hand move as though it belongs to someone else, that he crumples into tears. His Nice, his beautiful Nice, doesn't so much as twitch – just reaches out to grasp his hand in both of hers. The boy can't decide if her belief in his upset being the reason for his hand's movement is a form of salvation or makes him feel more pathetic. She's so used to his crying? So used to it that it's the only explanation for his reaching out towards her that she considers?

In fairness, he does cry at least once a day. He stands by his decision to cry as much as he wants, though – the idea of it meaning that he can be braver when he desperately needs to be may have been a naive one but it has proven true time and again. The time he rescued that poor old dog from a sadistic gang of older boys (he'd been black and blue when they were done with him, but the dog had escaped and Nice had been so proud through her worry); the horrible moment when a man Jacuzzi wouldn't trust regardless of his ability to throw him had grabbed Nice in the street (he'd chased them two blocks before he managed to clamber over a fence and cut the bastard off, punching him in the balls and hauling a terrified Nice into the first crowd he saw); the incident just last month when they discovered that one of the warehouses torched by the blonde had been purchased by the Gandor family just days before (who had turned out to be a fair enough bunch, especially the younger brother, once he managed to get them to listen to their apology and explanation – they even gave Nice a chocolate bar in addition to the price of one of her strings of poppers). Each time, his tears had dried up and he'd been braver than he'd ever imagined he could be. Yes, it is worth it.


Every so often he sees something in Nice's face to make him question himself. There's a twist to her smile, one he can't quite place – certainly not disappointment, and not quite pity. It's usually accompanied by a sigh and a squeeze of her hand, and makes him think of the way she treats younger children with scraped knees and lost toys.

He hasn't scraped his knee. Not this time at least – this time he's caught himself less than a second before stealing the pretty blonde's first kiss without so much as a word, which he's very sure is the move of a total bastard. They may have promised to stay together forever that night he appeared at her bedroom window with a sword crudely engraved onto his face, but that was over a year ago, which feels like an age to the young brunette. And whilst Jacuzzi meant those words and any reference to them as an "I love you" (because she was his princess even when she was held together with bandages and failing willpower, just as she is now that she's strong enough to show off her beautiful face and wear her scars like fine jewellery), he's not sure how Nice means it. They've never really discussed being sweethearts or her allowing Jacuzzi to maybe court her one day, although there was one silly day when they were eight and he told her he would marry her when they grew up (she had giggled and agreed, but the next day nothing had changed at all and he has a feeling the girl doesn't remember). He's hopeful some mornings, when he pretends to still be sleeping whilst she pets his hair and traces the tattoo he isn't sure he'll ever quite grow into, but then she ruffles his hair when he cries or encourages him to make friends with yet another stray and he is left feeling like some disgusting brat mooning after his favourite cousin.

And now, now, he wants to kiss her. Really wants to kiss her, the way they do in the talkies she sometimes manages to get them in to with a sad, adorable smile and a quiet plea to a particularly soft-hearted usher (the latest even brought them a small bag of boiled sweets to share, he was so charmed). He wants to kiss her the way the heroes kiss those on-screen princesses who aren't nearly so lovely as the scarred girl sat next to him in the dark, and who definitely can't compare in terms of smarts and courage.

Jacuzzi isn't a brave hero – or rather, Jacuzzi doesn't think of himself as such. Nice calls him "courageous" sometimes and he would love to believe her, but he only manages the act once in a while and the instances of his belief are rarer still. He definitely doesn't think that laying his heart bare and facing the possibility of Nice telling him she loves him as a brother or that she wants to wait for a real prince, the rich and handsome type she deserves, requires quite the same bravery as saving that dog or protecting the girl he loves (he thinks that last one is half selfish anyway). He's not certain of which variety he would need, but he doubts he has any.

Better to keep quiet. That's it. Enjoy the feel of her holding his hand and stroking his hair, and let her smiles make him feel like he can fly, or explode like one of the blonde's brightest fireworks. Stay at her side, where he can negotiate with mafia, dodge police, and take down perverts who think hurting a cute little blonde would be fun with a single punch (or headbutt, as he seems to do better with those recently), because his Nice needs him and has faith in him. Just always be sure to keep quiet about it.

And for the love of god, try not to think about kissing her. Ever.


Unfortunately, knowing that he shouldn't be thinking of something just seems to make him more likely to do so.


When he is fifteen (and a half), Jacuzzi Splot is pretty sure he's going insane. Or has, quite possibly, already lost it. These days he dreams in kisses, even when he's awake – sweet, close-lipped ones and seductively slow ones; ones that travel wetly down pale throats and ones that make scars feel as beautiful as a pair of fine pearl earrings; gentle, chaste ones brushed against the fabric of an eye-patch and princely ones pressed to the back of lovely hands with promises of "always". He cries more often than ever recently, much as he tries not to, and Nice can't always find a convenient explanation for the cause. She worries, he knows, which upsets him even more but can't make him stop no matter how much he tries – because the thoughts will have to stop before his tears can, and he has no idea how to force that. The tears come immediately alongside the guilt, because each and every time he fantasizes (oh, god help him) about his mouth on her is the most hideous betrayal. She trusts him and even loves him (one way or another) and here he is, barely hearing a word she says when her head is tilted at that perfect angle, he's so submerged in the thought of her soft, slightly chapped lips under his. Damn it all.

He can't tell her. He just can't.

Especially after they end up bunking in a flophouse thanks to a kind Madame, and Jacuzzi, during a short wander down the corridor to take their empty plates back to the kitchen, sees rather more than he had known about until that very moment.


The blonde prostitute is nowhere near as beautiful as Nice is – she's pretty but in a decidedly typical way, whereas Nice has her blushing scars and a gleam of intelligence and defiance in her eye to show just how unique she is – but she has the same pale skin and the kind of womanly figure Nice has very nearly finished developing. The man has a mop of fluffy chocolate hair and his hands all over her (oh god, oh god, her-dress-is-almost-off-and-he-can-see-her-underthings) as they tumble into another bedroom with a hungry growl and a throaty laugh, and Jacuzzi can only stand there in the now empty corridor with frozen limbs and wide eyes.

Nice has seen these things before, he realises. When things were at their roughest last winter (they really did choose the worst possible moment to become teenaged runaways) and he took on odd jobs for the local restaurants and speakeasies, Nice had come to the brothels to clean the rooms or help the working girls with their dresses and such. Nice has a wonderful smile, the kind that makes people trust her, and there was not one instance of her being turned away – when a Madame was faced with the thin, scarred girl shivering on her doorstep and offering her help in return for, "just a little food and perhaps an old blanket if there happens to be one going spare, ma'am?" the answer was always a motherly yes and she would return to a worried Jacuzzi only a few hours later, safe and sound with a couple of bread rolls and another threadbare bedspread to add to their collection. Their temporary hideout had resembled a nest by the end of those awful few months, and whilst he had left it with a reasonably thick blue blanket and all sorts of lessons in business and caution, Nice had very obviously taken away something completely different. She changed the clothes she wore as soon as they had the money to spare, citing a growth spurt he knew was mostly non-existent (and her clothes had been a little loose anyway), and insisted upon taking better care of her hair and skin. She leaned forward a little more when they negotiated, laughed a little lower and walked more smoothly and deliberately.

He'd thought it was a girl thing. Just a silly girl thing that he'd appreciate but never understand – a part of her growing up the way his stretched out limbs, quicker movements and cracking voice had been. But all that time she'd been using what she'd seen working so well in places like this.

The brunette isn't too sure how he feels about that. There's no harm done, not really, but it means that Nice – his beautiful, sweet (if just a teensy bit crazy) Nice – has been flirting and tempting her way through their more recent business transactions. It means that the reason those men give her discounts on the groceries she insists she must be the one to buy ("Because you keep us safe, so I'll keep us healthy," she'd told him) was that they thought they could get something extra out of her in return. Even though he's the one who loves her, who's promised her forever – and they aren't even close to being the princes he'd give her up to.

The very idea burns him, unlocking his joints in a flood of lava and propelling him forwards, back to their tiny storeroom.

"Nice," he cries as her bursts through the door, only to cut himself off when she shifts under the duvet and turns bleary eyes his way, mumbling something about him taking forever and not meaning to doze off without him. Jacuzzi just nods and offers his own soothing platitudes for her to go back to sleep whilst trying not to notice the way she's pushed the small, make-shift beds closer together. The blonde fixes him with a look instead and orders him into his own bed immediately – he hauls his boots off, discards his jacket, and keeps a wary eye on her respectfully closed one as he changes before he snuggles down, wriggling awkwardly to warm the cold cotton a little.

Once he's settled, he tangles his hand into Nice's in the five centimetres of open space between their mattresses, and for a long moment all is right in his world.

In fact it's right for hours, until he jolts awake with a quiet cry and an ache he wishes he wasn't so used to coiling in his abdomen. He remembers that it didn't stop at a clash of mouths this time – that there was far too much pale skin, and a daring smirk that slid flame down his spine. He remembers being that chocolate haired John, only with a different blonde in his arms, and he feels tense and hot and so very, very sick. He dares glance her way, and then he twists to bury his face in his pillow and bawls.


It isn't too long after that awful night that they find Donny and Nick, and by the time Jacuzzi's sixteenth birthday rolls around they've started to become a true gang. They gain a few more members, pull off a couple of big bootlegging runs and invest most of their profits in to materials for Nice, and then they're away. The Gandors apparently remember them (not too difficult considering Nice is a cute blonde with burns and one eye and Jacuzzi has a sword tattooed on his face) and buy a sizable amount of explosives from them without a second thought, promising to pass their names on to other Families with whom they're on good terms as long as the Cabaret agrees not to do business with the Runoratas or Dallas Genoard and his thugs. It's a good deal.

A very good deal.

The Martillos insist on seeing the goods for themselves first, and Nice huffs at the thought of giving away any of her precious creations but acquiesces after Jacuzzi asks her rather more politely than the Family's chauvinist messenger does. A different representative returns a day later (making no mention of the multiple bruises on his brother-in-arms – which all three of the other men in the room appreciate, as Nice wouldn't be pleased about having her battles fought for her) and offers his compliments and those of the Family to "the talented young woman who creates such marvellous weaponry" before placing an order equal to that of the Gandors. They even order a case of fireworks, citing an upcoming anniversary and asking that she make them as colourful as possible. Nice throws herself into her work, and within a week the skies are filled with the very brightest sparks and she and the Cabaret gang are the toast of the city. Every theatre company and event organiser in New York State places repeat orders for her beautiful fireworks (Jacuzzi thinks the fact they aren't trying to make too much of a profit from what is, honestly, their side-line probably helps), and the interest shown by the Families and gangs increases exponentially.

The work comes in so thick and fast that, when combined with their original bootlegging work, Jacuzzi barely has a moment to breathe, never mind think, for which he's grateful. Some night's he's even too tired to dream, and most mornings he hasn't the time to dwell on the images his unconscious mind conjures, so his crying lessens a little. Right up until the moment he finds himself in a room with his childhood sweetheart for more than five minutes.

He'd avoid her if he could, but the one time he tries it she only lasts a week before she cracks, sneaking into his room after the others go to bed and begging him with a hoarse voice and tears to tell her what she did so that she can fix it. Nice doesn't beg, and hearing such a broken plea from her has him dropping to his knees and wailing, apologising until his throat is sore and using every excuse he has to assure her that it isn't her fault. The next morning he finds Donny and Nick and demands that they each hit him – somewhere that Nice won't see, however will hurt enough that he never acts so selfishly again. They're reluctant, but when he tells them she cried and begged the sore marks on his stomach and ribs don't fade for three weeks.

He never avoids her after that, making sure that he has time to eat with her every evening no matter what or who else demands his attention. The guilt and ripping agony of his betrayals are borne with an almost proud edge – his body may have no decency, but he is the master of it and will take the weight of his shame without complaint and without running away. Doing so hurts his Nice, and he'd rather feel that awful sense of want tugging at his every breath than do that ever again.


The worst is when they're travelling with just Nick and Donny (and occasionally Jon and Fan, when there's promise of adventure and a half-decent kitchen) for a bootlegging run or a delivery to one of their further-afield clients. Nick, especially, seems determined to force the issue of his boss' relationship. It doesn't matter how many times Jacuzzi asks him not to interfere, he and Nice always end up bunking together on the trans-continental and at every motel they hole up in for a night or two. He books tables for just the two of them, persuades the others to split up and force them to spend time alone, and generally gets Jacuzzi to the strange and rather upsetting point of both fury and abject misery mixed with utter delight.

The brunette would take over the responsibility of making bookings himself (really, he would, no matter how much he loves waking in the gloom to the dim sight of his explosives expert dreaming away just across the room) but if the pattern was to change after Nick has mentioned the convenience and expense so often Nice would be far too suspicious. The blonde man is right about the cost of three rooms being a luxury they can ill-afford unless necessary anyway, and if Nice has to share a room with a man then Jacuzzi is happy for it to be him. At least he knows he has himself on a very secure leash.

He could always explain to Nick that he hasn't even kissed the lovely young woman yet, no matter how long he's wanted to – the man would back off immediately. But Jacuzzi likes Nick, likes him a lot, to the extent that the thought of telling him and losing even the tiniest amount of his respect is completely unacceptable. Nick isn't quite like Donny, who listens calmly before giving the tearful seventeen year-old a hug and telling him not to worry – the huge Mexican only kissed a woman (who wasn't his mother) after he made it all the way to Washington State at the age of twenty, and even then it hadn't been for love. Jacuzzi should apparently go at his own pace; maybe, however, think of Nice's feelings a little more though, as he's sure the pretty blonde would very much like to be kissed and in making her wait so long the boy could be hurting her feelings.

Jacuzzi doubts that, although the very thought is pure torture. Nice isn't a cute little girl anymore – she's a beautiful, interesting and astonishing woman who can (and does) catch the eye of any man with half-decent taste, and if she wanted to be kissed she would have plenty of offers to choose from. Even the most shallow bastards clearly find her attractive, as her scars have healed amazingly well over the years. Her skin is tugged and wrinkled in places, but mostly the flushed remains of the scars are just a little puckered around the edges and dappled a slightly deeper red where they're widest.

Jacuzzi doesn't have girls following him with their eyes or inviting him to dine with them. He's grown up, but not nearly as wonderfully as Nice. His body is pretty damn masculine – a fact he's quite proud of – with strong, lean musculature clinging to his bones, but his face feels like that of a thirteen year-old. The baby fat is gone (it's been gone since those months of only just scraping together enough food to survive) however his eyes are too large (and often too watery), his lips are commonly seen replicated in portraits of spoilt little rich boys, and he has never yet needed to shave.

Nick shaves. Nick shaves and flirts and has the eyes of all sorts of women following him when they walk through the city, and that is why Nick wouldn't understand – why Jacuzzi can't run to the second man he sees as a brother and beg for advice. He'd never tease of course, not after seeing how much all this gets to the brunette, but he'd sigh and shake his head. For Jacuzzi, even that would be too much.

Besides, there is a little voice in the back of Jacuzzi's head, a hateful little voice, which is terrified that, if Nick knew the brunette doesn't have any claim over Nice except a woefully vague childhood promise and most likely unrequited longing, the older man's attitude to her might change a little. Not on purpose, he trusts him, but Nick is very good at unconsciously treating unattached women rather differently to those with partners. It's subtle, but it's there and it works very well for him.

Jacuzzi keeps his mouth shut.


He doesn't really know what's come over him. He can't remember ever being so furious, not once in seventeen and a half years, and it doesn't help that he's never seen the usually easy-going Jon angry like this before either.

Then again, he's never known of someone purposely harming Nice prior to this ugly afternoon.

She insists that she is fine, tells them that all she wants is to go get cleaned up and then sleep the worst of it off and, although it almost physically pains him to do so, Jacuzzi lets her leave with a motherly woman who arrived three months ago – Elaine, he thinks. As soon as she's out of his sight, the awful panic that had gripped him earlier after the call that had every free member of the gang running to the disused townhouse they've… appropriated for the last little while… returns with a vengeance.

It's completely illogical. He knows exactly where she is (the stairs heading up to his room) and how she is (badbadbad), but he's still terrified and flinching at every sound. He wants to be next to her, holding her hand, whilst Elaine helps to bandage all the cuts and scrapes. At least her scars had looked the same as always, so the bastards hadn't hurt her that way. Will she need to bandage the bruises as well though? They were bloody awful – the handprints had been so clear on her lovely skin.

Handprints. Oh God, oh Jesus, oh fucking Hell. Their hands on his lovely Nice. The thought has his knuckles itching. Of course they would have had to hold her still – Nice is strong and brave and terrifyingly fierce, not to mention her lack of hesitation to use explosives in close range of herself, and would not have just sat there and taken a goddamn beating. She probably beat the shit out of one of them after the first punch, so the rest had to pile in and hold her still. And then they hit her and cut her and hurled abuse…

He'll fucking kill the bastards. He doesn't like killing (there's never yet been any, as they've stuck to bootlegging and producing explosives, and they've yet to claim any territory aside from wherever they're hanging their collective hat at any given time) but god-fucking-damn-it there will be after this. He would be angry if any of the gang were hurt like this, but Nice is an entirely different story. This is the girl he's known for almost ten years; his childhood sweetheart; whose bedroom window he used to climb up to because her Daddy didn't let her play out with little boys; for whom he permanently marked his face; who didn't even hesitate to run away with him; whose blankets they shared when it was so goddamn cold; his first gang member and second-in-command; the brilliant woman whose creations make them enough money to feed everyone; the girl Jacuzzi has loved for as long as he can remember. He would die for her, kill for her, offer his soul on a platter to save hers.

Jon gives him a very subtle nudge to bring him back to the present, and nods towards the five young lads still standing before them. Some of the youngest and scrawniest in the gang, probably ranging from thirteen to sixteen at the most and all definitely runaways, and yet they laid into seven big men without any hesitation for the sake of dear Nice. They're bruised and their clothes are filthy (and missing sleeves torn to make temporary bandages), but they're standing firm with fiercely concerned expressions. He takes two steps forwards before doing the only thing he can think of to show enough respect – he bows. "Thank you. Thank you so much; I'm so lucky to have guys like you with me."

Jon follows suit, and when Jacuzzi straightens his spine he can see the rest of those gathered bowing or nodding firmly in agreement, some calling out their own thanks and praise. Nice is well liked, to the point that many of their number refer to her as "Boss" alongside Jacuzzi. They're all grateful – these boys won't want for anything whilst they're with the Cabaret. However there isn't much anyone can do for them right now aside from offer their thanks and respect, and possibly a hot shower and clean shirts. Jacuzzi directs them to his own "suite" (in fact the attic room, however there is a small bathroom and it's his and only his whereas the others have to share; even Nice bunks with the four other women) and instructs them to look after the young blonde he knows will still be staggering up the final flight of stairs – as well as giving orders to wash and change, although he phrases it more as, "Feel free to use the bathroom up there and borrow some shirts." They nod and grin, promising to guard her with their lives (Jacuzzi has a feeling they're absolutely serious, more people won over by his lovely girl) before almost running from the room, calling up the stairs even though Nice couldn't possibly hear them yet.

As soon as the gang's current heroes are gone, the mood tangibly shifts. The relief and gratitude evaporate, with blinding rage taking over; each individual's fury seems to haul more from the rest, until the bloody mist clogging the room is very nearly real.

It's into this that Nick and Donny come sprinting, obviously just relieved of duties elsewhere. One quick glance around the room and they're at Jacuzzi's side, ready and willing. The brunette looks up at them and offers a tight smile and nod, but it's Jon who thinks to inform them of her safety. The taller of the two simply nods, smiling slightly for a moment as he sets his jaw and cracks his knuckles, but Nick isn't so easily appeased and heads straight for a question Jacuzzi hadn't even considered, hadn't wanted to consider, because she's Nice, Nice, and… Dammit, she'd been dressed – mussed, sure, but dressed.

"Did they rape her?"

Jacuzzi chokes on air (shewasdressedshewasdressed) and whirls to stare pleadingly at Jon. Jon is calm and knowledgeable, a man of the world, and probably knows – can probably tell him that, no, it was a beating, and no one could ever bear to harm Nice like that anyway. The slender man casts a cautious look around the room, finally settling his eyes on Jacuzzi himself, and tells them quietly, "It was probably their intention, but I don't think so. Her clothes were all intact aside from where they cut her, and she would have been reacting differently to so many men around her, I'm certain, if they'd managed it."

It's hollow comfort, and doesn't change the fact that the fucking scumbags tried.

The meeting takes less than ten minutes, including one of the young men being called down to give descriptions. No one has to ask the plan, and it's all over in four hours flat.

Jacuzzi shoots three of them himself. The guilt lasts only until he walks into his room and sees Nice tucked up in his blankets, squirming her way through nightmares the boys aren't sure what to do about. He's told they've already woken her three times, and that Elaine has given strict instructions not to do so again – the girl needs her rest, unpleasant as it may be. He thanks them one last time as they leave to rest their own heads, but they pause in the doorway and nervously ask what happened to the bastards. Jacuzzi feels the lump in his throat as he tells them, but the tears don't come and the last shreds of regret are blown away by the boys' ardent looks and snarls of approval. He wasn't there – he didn't see the scumbags crowding her and pinning her down whilst one of them kicked the hell out of her, they tell him, somehow knowing his uncertainty and clearing it desperately. Jacuzzi offers a nod and slumps into an armchair by the bed to watch her sleep.

She's beautiful.

He can't help himself, much as he knows he should – she's been hurt and is in his care, this should be the very last thing on his mind – and leans in to press his lips to the corner of her mouth. It's just the one touch, much as he drags it out, and he tells himself that it was the corner of her mouth, not her lips, so it is alright. It is. He's just… He's worried. It's not really her first kiss, not quite, and he's worried.

His dreams twist and turn, becoming agonised imaginings of her being hurt so badly before morphing into fantasies of proper kisses and back again. When he wakes at some time before dawn he gives in, tugging off his shoes and curling up against her on the bed, carefully atop the duvet but with his fingers threaded through hers.


The next time, it's Jacuzzi who takes the beating and Nice who leads the charge. He doesn't much care that he's hurt – they're a gang for crying out loud, and although he sniffles his way through it he's always known this would happen to him one day. He does, however, make sure to call Nick and Donny to his room before the troops head out and orders them to look after the explosives expert, even if it means letting the gits who tried to rub him out escape. His two "big brothers" aren't pleased by the prospect, but they are all too aware of what losing Nice would likely do to not only the three of them but also the entire gang. Even those who've never really met the woman rely on her explosives to put food on the table.

He worries for hours before eventually drifting off. When he wakes it's still with a start and a panicked glance around the room, until he sees her curled up behind him on the bed, the only difference compared to his position all those weeks back being her fingers tangled into his hair rather than gripping his injured hand.

He likes to pretend that she had kissed him too, exactly the same as he did her, and even the thought makes his skin tingle.


The Flying Pussyfoot is Hell on Earth, he's sure of it. There's death and danger welded into the fucking thing, and it has him terrified. He's still not quite recovered from tangling with the Russo's (and they have obviously decided not to forget him even if he is a small fry, if that psycho-bastard in the white suit is any indication), however there's no time to think of that, to consider his already bruised ribs and the ache in his right wrist that seems to only get worse no matter how careful he is. Right now, Jacuzzi feels heroic and courageous, especially with his gang backing him up.

In this moment, he is one of the heroes from the talkies, facing terrible odds but determined to fight the good fight regardless. He has his beautiful, incredible heroine and his unfaltering allies at his side, with friends to protect and evil (or, at the very least, insanity) to defeat. And he is an idiot with no idea what he's getting in to, and he has no plan, but he will make it work.

When he steps up to Nice and instructs her to be careful, he isn't thinking of kissing her. For the first time in over six months, his eighteen-year-old mind doesn't have a fantasy reel running at the back of his mind and he is absolutely focused. He has to be – if he isn't they could all die here, including Jon and Fan, although those two should still be relatively safe in the dining car. The Cabaret has a lot riding on them – it terrifies him and thrills him all at once, with the impossibility of an escape forcing him to work past his tears.

There's no flash of something undefined across her face. She's looking at him exactly as she always does, with love and pride and unwavering loyalty. She's nothing more than she always is, much as she is always glorious. There isn't any trigger. He isn't thinking that he may never get another chance (though perhaps he should be) and there isn't any kind of desperation.

He simply leans forward, pressing his body against hers and finally stealing her first real kiss with his own. It probably won't be the best kiss of her life – it may even be a bit of a disappointment to her if she really has been waiting so long for it, be it from him or her long lost prince… Heck, for all the brunette knows she may have let someone else kiss her before now, and much as the thought makes him want to hit something he will simply have to accept all complications. Nice is worth them. She is worth every second of awkward embarrassment and shame he'll undoubtedly have to drag himself through when he explains himself later (he'll have to explain himself after this, fantasies and devotion and hopelessness and all).

It was the most amazing kiss he could ever have dreamed of. That's what he'll tell her at the end of all this, when they have a second to just breathe. He'll tell her that none of his many and varied fantasies could even come close to matching one brief, close-lipped and stolen kiss in reality. It was unimaginative, and Jacuzzi knows that he trembled. However. He will not take it back.

Not unless taking it back means that she kisses him.

He will stop hiding behind their friendship and the status quo and that damned promise and he'll tell her what he really means – that he doesn't just love her, but that he's in love with her and never has been with anyone else. He'll tell her that she's radiant… The prettiest girl in the world, and far more brilliant than any of those women in the talkies. She saves him over and over with everything that she is, and he will do whatever it takes to become what she needs.

He didn't quite catch her expression as he turned to run, but he's sure he saw her blush. Nice doesn't blush for anyone but Jacuzzi – even his most fumbling compliments bring a flush to her face, whereas he remembers others paying her the most poetic and flirtatious tributes and failing to cause even a twitch. With that and Donny's mumbled congratulations and "about damn time," as they dash towards more trouble, Jacuzzi thinks he might just have a chance. And even if he doesn't, he thinks he can still tell her.

He might just have found that particular sort of bravery he didn't have at fourteen and a quarter.



Thank you so much for reading this, and hopefully you enjoyed it! If you have the time and/or inclination, a review would be greatly appreciated. No flames please, but I love concrit as much as praise. Thank you!