I awoke with a thick feeling in my mouth, my eyes sore and itchy. The ghost of soreness tugged at my joints, and I turned over in my overfuffed bed in a feeble attempt to rid myself of the dull pain. The blankets grew too heavy on my chest, hot and suffocating. Kicking them off in a flurry of thrashing legs, I noticed that the clock read 6:49, an hour much, much too early into the morning for my liking. Slowly, a warm, pleasant scent drifted through the cracks in the doorway, filling the room with the hominess of roasted coffee beans. The smell alone sharpened my mind and coaxed me off of the mattress to wobble unsteadily on my feet, toes burrowing into the soft carpet.
The promise of a steaming cup of caffeinated goodness gave me a burst of energy, and I was able to make it down the stairs and into the kitchen without fail. The thin fabric of my pajama pants brushed the floor and the skin of my bare heel, and I soon became chilled from naked chest to waistband from the ever-cold air that circulated through the house.
Turning corner into the kitchen, I found Lukas sitting on a stool at the counter, his hair neatly combed despite the ridiculous hour, one small curl jumping out from the nape of his neck, refusing to be tamed by any hair product. The little blonde was still in his pajamas: one of my old button-up shirts and a pair of short boxers that I couldn't help but glance at once or twice. He turned at the sound of my feet swishing on the tiled floor, and I ran a hand through my spiked bedhead, expecting that it was worse than usual.
"Morning, Norge," I mumbled groggily, slightly cheered by the mere sight of my housemate. Lukas leaned away when my lips moved in to apply a kiss to his soft, pale cheek, rejecting it with a hand shoved against my face and mutters about morning breath. Laughing, I settled for squeezing his hand.
I made a beeline for the coffeepot, my initial destination, only to find it emptied.
I whirled to face Lukas. "You did not drink all the coffee," I said, facing him on the opposite side of the counter. "You did not, because that would mean I'd have to kill you."
Lukas raised his mug in a taunting salute. "Wake up earlier next time."
"Can't you make another pot?" I whined.
"I'm not your wife!"
"Make it yourself," Luke grumbled, setting his mug back down. I eyed it jealously, then reached out to snatch it off the counter and bring it to my lips. My little Norwegian shot me a death glare. "Don't you dare."
The warmth radiating from the bittersweet liquid made my face pink slightly, comfortably heating my lips and icy nose. Sucking in a mouthful, I resisted my strong urge to down the whole cup and leave Lukas with nothing.
"That's it!" he said, prying the mug from my now-warm hands, careful not to spill any of his precious breakfast. "I'm never making you coffee again."
"You say that like you made it special for me this morning," I laughed, propping my head up on my elbows. "How about all the times I've made it for you, huh?" I teased him lightly, but he scowled darkly at me.
"You never make it right anyways."
"Oh, come on," I chimed, grinning. "You couldn't go a week without coffee, could you?"
"You couldn't either," he accused, taking another bitter sip.
"I bet I could last longer than you could," I boasted. "You ready for this? No more coffee. Or any other caffeine, you're going without it. Whoever sneaks some first loses."
Lukas pondered that for a moment, looking me over as if he could deduct my need for coffee just by examining my face. "Alright," he agreed finally, a dark and determined look glazing over his eyes. "But if you lose, you're making me breakfast in bed. For a week."
My grin spread even wider. "Deal." I thrust my hand out to make it a formal bet, and Lukas shook it firmly. While his hand was busy, I grabbed for his mug and chugged the rest of his drink in one fluid motion. "Starting now."
"Fuck work. I'm not going in today." Lukas groaned irritably as I tried to shake him out of bed. "Go the fuck away, Mathias, I'm staying in bed."
I threw the covers off of him, exposing his legs to the biting air. "A stupid bet isn't going to keep you away from work, is it?" I singsonged. "It wouldn't be fair to leave you alone in the house with all these coffee beans lying around, would it?"
"Shut up." It had been two days without caffeine, and Lukas was beginning to feel the harsh effects of morning. I wasn't exactly a morning person either, but the thought of seeing him glaring at me from his pillow, hair mussed and eyes bloodshot, was too irresistible. When he rolled over onto his stomach, pressing his face into the softness of his pillow, I shook my head and shifted my hands underneath his arms, pulling him into a sitting position. He gave me the evil eye, but I kept smiling and scooped him up, bridal-style, laughing when he struggled to free himself.
Lukas was carried out into the hallway, hands pushing at my chest and sleep-slurred voice mumbling that I was going to receive a hearty punch in the jaw if he was not set down this instant, but his words were ignored. I finally placed his bare feet on the hardwood outside of the bathroom, letting my hands slide up his sides as he dropped out of my grasp. He was giving me another "I hate your guts" face, pouting adorably underneath his ash-blonde bangs. He wasn't making any moves to get ready for his day.
"Are you going to take a shower, or do I need to help you with that, too?" I hummed, leaning down to his level. Lukas simply grumbled some creative Norwegian cuss, turned on his heel, and stormed into the bathroom.
I was feeling light for the hundred-pound tiredness that pulled at my limbs, so I dashed down the stairs to grab myself some quick cereal before work. I was pouring Lukas a bowl, complete with strawberries mixed in and orange juice on the side, when he stomped down the stairs, hair still wet and dripping onto the shoulders of his shirt. He studied the juice with eyes that could have cracked the glass.
"Is that shit supposed to replace coffee?" he asked.
"It's natural energy, Norge, try it!" I encouraged, taking an experimental sip of my own to try to convince him that maybe the pulp wouldn't kill him. He just dug into the cereal.
By the time he had finished eating and I had gotten dressed, it was time for us to head to work. Lukas was waiting by the door impatiently, slumped against the door frame with his eyes closed. I smiled, wrapping his parka around him and tucking his bangs behind his ear. Pulling a silver hairpin in the shape of a cross out of his coat pocket, I used it to hold them back from his face.
He looked a little bit more awake as I did so, indigo eyes focused on mine with quiet fascination. He leaned away from my kiss again. I grinned, happy that he had become more alert and more like himself again.
"Hej! Are ya comin' 'r not?" a gruff voice called out from the sidewalk. We both turned, me eagerly and Lukas just expectantly, to see Berwald, our neighbor and closest friend with Tino clinging to his arm. The two blondes were opposite in size, Berwald towering over the round-faced Tino and staring down at him lovingly with shining glasses and hard features. Tino grinned at us, unaware of the massive Swede giving him a once-over.
"You're going to make us late again, Mathias!" he added, waving. I hooked arms with Luke, towing him over to the pair.
"It really wasn't my fault this time," I defended myself. "Luke's having a bad morning."
"What's wrong?" Tino asked, concerned. He studied the bags under the Norwegian's eyes.
"A stupid bet," Lukas explained as we began to walk. He pulled his arm from my grasp. "We're not gonna drink coffee, I guess."
"Give ya one more day," Berwald muttered, leaning foreward to look past Tino and I. We laughed, but Lukas just dipped his head to think of some witty retort.
Instead, a high-pitched, jaw-creaking yawn escaped his mouth, and he shut up.
"It's not actual coffee! It's just a bean!" Lukas shouted, his hands thrown roughly on the countertop. He'd been without his precious beverage for five days now, and each morning seemed to grow more difficult for the both of us. I had to admit, my mind was growing fuzzy and groggy as well.
"Rules are rules," I said, a smile toying on my lips almost maniacally. "No caffeine at all."
"God dammit!" he hollered at me, physically slamming his little fists into my chest. I held the bag over his head, and he reached up in an attempt to steal it from between my fingers. "I just like the taste! The caffeine doesn't matter."
I shook my head fiercely, carrying the beans above the tufts of my hair. "You're not getting any coffee unless you want to lose the bet."
"Well, you can't keep the beans where only you can reach them. Give 'em here."
"Mathias, let me see them." His voice was dark, demanding. I frowned, dropping the bag into his awaiting arms.
"What're you going to do, bathe in them?" I teased.
"No, idiot. I like the smell," he explained, bringing the beans over to the grinder. I watched him intently, grinning as he turned the seeds to powder, and then poured them into our coffee maker.
"Is this you giving up the bet?" I asked triumphantly when he switched the power on.
"No. This is my way of making you give up."
The deep, familiar smell of coffee filled the room, filled my nostrils, filled my mind to the brim. I wanted to moan aloud, because my God, it smelled so good.
I fidgeted against the counter, Lukas watching my facial expressions for signs of weakness—and finding them. My pouting face seemed to please him, but as the tense minutes stretched on, and I didn't make a run for the oh-so-tempting coffee pot, he seemed to grow frustrated. In the end, the coffee was dumped down the sink as we both watched it swirl down the drain, scowling deeply and wishing we could have shared it.
"I'm taking a nap." Lukas walked away briskly.
My head was propped up on one elbow, supporting it in my sleep. The creak of our stairs made me stir lightly, then the brush of feet against the hardwood and the way my body could just sense a presence jolted me awake, blinking to see Lukas making his way towards me.
"Nmm... Luke?" My words were thick and dripping with sleepiness. He didn't answer, but instead sat himself on the sofa next to me, so close that the tops of our arms and the sides of our thighs brushed. "What time is it?"
"Dunno," he said, half-sighing and half-yawning. He sounded as tired as I felt. "Mathias?"
"Yeah?" I reached out and took his hand out of his lap, placing it palm-up on my knee and running my fingers over the creases in his skin. This tips of his fingers twitched with every touch, and out of nowhere, he leaned his head on my shoulder to bury his face into my arm.
"M'tired," he mumbled into the sleeve of my shirt, using his free arm to grab onto mine and pull himself closer. The hand on my knee entwined with my fingers, squeezing lightly.
I turned my head to look at him through sleep-fogged eyes. I couldn't see his face at all, but his hair was ruffled from his nap and he'd left his hairpin in. It now dangled loosely from a few locks of soft blondeness, and if it wouldn't have deprived me of the warmth of his hand clasped in mine, I would have reached up to fix it. His nose pushed against my arm, burrowing itself deeper into my warmth.
"Well, aren't you cuddly today?" I chuckled, stroking my thumb over his knuckles. He turned his face to press his cheek against me.
"Sure," he said flatly, and I couldn't help the rushing feeling that suddenly gave me butterflies in my stomach. Lukas was almost never willingly cute; he was known to scoot away whenever I tried to embrace him just for the sake of snuggling, so this was definitely a pleasant surprise. My heart thudded too loudly in my chest as he drew his legs up onto the couch and settled himself into my lap, legs folded and his head resting against my chest. He could obviously hear the obnoxious beating of my heart, but didn't seem to care about its volume and strength.
"I like you without coffee," I said, wrapping an arm around him to rest in the middle of his back. He shivered, and a grin broke across my face.
"Don't get too used to it," he grumbled. "'Cause I cave."
"You win, for once, Mathias. You could go longer than me without coffee." My chest felt light despite his weight pressing on top of it. My smile was buried in his hair—he still smelled like coffee from when he'd brewed some—and my arm tightened, pulling him even closer.
"We never decided what would happen if I won, did we?" I asked, chin resting on the top of his head.
"I just assumed you'd go back to being your usual idiot self." He sounded unamused by my utter excitement.
"Oh, no. You're not getting off that easily," I warned him, and he began to squirm in my grasp. Our hands were still together, but I pulled mine away to encircle his waist in order to keep him anchored. "I've got an idea."
"There will be no cosplay."
I laughed. "Alright, but that's not exactly what I had in mind." I scanned his eyes even though he wasn't looking at me. "You're going to let me hug you like this as much as I want..."
"Let's make this a week-long condition," he suggested, cheeks turning a light shade of pink. I grinned widely, because he was just so damn cute when he blushed like that.
"And..." I said slowly, putting two fingers underneath his chin to tip his face towards mine, letting my eyes stare into his brightly. "You're going to let me do this."
Our lips touched as I pulled him foreward, and I was thrilled to find that he willingly kissed me back, his hands resting on my chest and gripping my shirt the smallest bit.
We finally drifted apart, breathless. "I think I can deal with that for a week."