April 13, 2024

Jeff laughs. "The keys are on the bedroom table. You put them there when you got home. When we..." Nick's face scrunches together for a second, and his eyes look glazed over. "You weren't about to have sex with keys in your hand," Jeff says, and Nick's face lights up with realization.

"Oh. Oh, I remember that now." He shakes his head and blushes. "Of course. Wow, well, I feel like an idiot." Jeff reaches over, ruffling his hair and pressing a kiss to his cheek.

"It's okay. You're my forgetful idiot." Nick yelps as his hand wraps around his waist.

"Jeffie, that tickles!" Jeff laughs, only encouraged by that, and he reaches out, his fingers curling around his side, tickling him. Nick reaches out, trying to push away, and Jeff moves him closer, pressing kisses down his neck and laughing. "Stop it! Stop it!"

"Never." The keys are left forgotten on the bedside table, and they decide to get the groceries tomorrow.

May 17, 2024

"Jeff! Jeff!"

Jeff runs into the bedroom, alarmed. "What's wrong?" He moves over to Nick quickly, laying a hand on his shoulder as Nick glances about wildly.

"I can't find them. I can't. I've looked everywhere, and I've lost them." He looks like he's about to cry, and Jeff shakes his head, trying to look around, only to realize he doesn't know what Nick is talking about.

"Lost what, exactly?" He runs his fingers through Nick's hair soothingly. "Deep breaths. I'll help. We'll find it. I promise."

"My glasses. I lost two pairs in the past month, and I just - I can't find them." He looks near tears, so when Jeff bursts out laughing, Nick can't help but turn red and flail his arms. "It's not funny!" Leaning forward, Jeff presses a light kiss to his lips. Nick struggles for a moment before relaxing into the kiss. Slowly, Jeff turns him around to face a mirror, and Nick bursts out laughing as well.

"See, on your nose. Problem solved."

Nick groans. "Okay, now, that's embarrassing."

Jeff wraps his arms around him and can't help but notice the heavy bags under Nick's eyes as he peers at the both of them in the mirror. "Just a little. Hey, you okay?" Nick turns around, burying his face in his chest.

"What do you mean?" His voice is muffled as he speaks into the fabric, and his fingers clench around Jeff's shirt.

"You just look tired."

"I just haven't been sleeping well," Nick mutters, his eyes closing as he falls into Jeff's touch. Jeff leans down, pressing a kiss to his forehead.

"All right." He moves Nick's hair from his eyes and smiles. "Now, you'd better hurry up for work before you're late."

June 23, 2024

"Jeff, come out. I'm sorry." Jeff perches on the edge of the bed, a part of him wanting to get up and open the door for Nick. He does sound like he honestly feels bad. He continues knocking. "Jeffie, Jeffie, please, I love you. I'm an idiot. Just open this door. Talk to me." Jeff's head falls in his hands, and he lets out a dry sob. "I never meant to forget your birthday."

Nick has never forgotten his birthday before. Sure, there is an element of hurt in that it was his birthday that Nick had forgotten, but more than that; it's the fact Nick's forgetting an awful lot recently. It had just been the little things at first, but Jeff had had to remind him of his dentist's appointment last month. Not to mention that losing his keys was becoming a near-daily occurrence. Jeff had to implement a special place to hang them, though Nick didn't always even remember to hang them up there either.

"Jeff?" There is a pause before Jeff hears footsteps echoing down the hall of their apartment. Jeff pauses before going over and unlocking the door. On the ground is a wrapped package with a card on it. He slowly bends down, slipping his finger under the envelope and opening it carefully, trying to avoid ripping the paper.

Dear Jeffie,

I am buying you these presents and writing you this card in advance, so I'm sorry if it doesn't really fit when you read it. You know me and my obsession with doing things way in advance. Besides, I seem to be forgetting things a lot recently, so maybe it's better that I do this now.

Remember when those people teased us at that mall when we were little, and I held your hand and cried, and you told me to ignore them and kissed me? Remember how you told me that it didn't matter because we both knew that when we were thirty and married, they wouldn't matter. I suppose we're not married, unless something changes in the next month, that is, but you are thirty, and we're still together.

I love you so much, Jeff. You mean everything to me. You put up with a lot too; I know I'm not always easy to deal with. But we work together. You're my world. You're why I laugh and smile and why I'm so happy every day. Happy birthday. I hope I can make it special.

Lots and lots and lots of love,

Nick

P.S. Okay, so the gifts are really silly and stupid, but they made me think of you.

Jeff trembles, tears welling up in his eyes as sets the card down. He lets out a sob and brings his sleeve to his eyes, wiping his tears away before opening the presents. He starts with the one that's obviously some sort of piece of clothing. It's soft and makes a crinkling sound as he opens it, and he pulls out a black shirt with Mario and Peach on it.

A laugh breaks through the sobs and he sniffles, reading the white text under it: Will you be the Peach to my Mario? As kids they'd always played games on the N64, and just as Nick had always insisted on playing Mario, he'd always chosen Peach as his default character. Nick had never teased him for it either. He was probably the only one who hadn't.

He smiles and reaches towards the other package. It's in a little cardboard box, and he lifts the lid to see a Time Turner. His sniffles again, and pulls it out, looking at it and sighing before slipping it over his neck. Quickly, he places the box on the table in his room and throws away the wrapping paper before going out.

Nick's sitting on the living room couch, curled up, his arms around his legs. He cries quietly, and his eyes are closed. Jeff stops several feet away from him, and Nick's eyes slowly open as he turns his head over to look at Jeff. "What's wrong with me?" he finally asks, his voice small, breaking. Jeff's breath seems to catch in his throat, and he falls down next to him.

"There's nothing wrong with you. We're going to go to the doctor's soon and get it checked out, okay? You'll see. It'll be fine." Jeff sits wraps his arms around him, pressing a kiss to his neck. Nick shakes his head wildly.

"But I can't… Sometimes I can't remember things, and I even forgot your birthday. I've known your birthday since I was four." He presses another kiss behind his ear.

"Whatever it is, we'll make it through together. I'm here for you." He holds out his hand, and Nick lays his on top. Their fingers lace together, and they sit there for a moment longer before Jeff speaks again.

"Thank you for the presents. The Time Turner's gorgeous, and the shirt… Well, let's just say that I'll always be your Princess Peach." Nick lets out a strangled laugh and faces Jeff.

"They made me think of you." Nick turns towards him, leaning his head against Jeff's chest and closing his eyes, his breathing unsteady at first but slowly calming down. "I love you, Jeffie."

Jeff reaches out, running his fingers through Nick's hair and smiling slightly, willing himself to relax. "Love you too, Nicky."

July 2, 2024

It takes a week before results from Nick's tests come back. The doctor's office seems barren except for the simple, cartoon painting in the background and the magazines on the corner. They both shift uncomfortably as the doctors walk in. The doctors say he's sick. Jeff figures that he doesn't need a doctor to tell him that much. What he wants to know is how to make Nick better, but they keep on throwing words around – words beyond his pronunciation capabilities that all slur together.

"Accumulation of aggregated amyloid fibrils…" They might as well be spouting gibberish, but all Jeff wants to hear is that he's okay. They continue on like that for the next five minutes, and everyone seems to increase in volume, speaking to him from all sides. Nick's grip on his around his hand tightens, and he looked around at all of them.

"But what does it mean?" Jeff finally asks, his voice quiet, afraid to hear the answer.

"We're afraid that Nick has early onset Alzheimer's. It's really rare among patients this young, though, almost unheard of." The doctor's faces are solemn, and they cross their hands politely in front of them, looking away as if that's enough privacy. Nick looks blankly straight on with such a dead look that it nearly kills Jeff. And Jeff, Jeff doesn't understand. Alzheimer's is a disease for sixty or seventy year-olds. People who have lives to forget…

But Nick's just thirty, and they haven't even done anything yet. There's no way that Nick can forget everything about him – forget him. He can't let that happen, but he doesn't know how to stop it, and the doctor's faces are grim and foreboding. A wave of nausea overcomes him, and he runs out of the room, looking for the bathroom. When he wildly turns into it, he drops to the group, not bothering to close the door behind him as he throws up into the toilet.

"No, no, please…"

He sits there for some time – he's unsure exactly how long – with his head pressed against the cold tiled floor, his legs curled up underneath him. It's a light tap on his shoulder that makes him finally sit up, and he doesn't need to turn around to know it's Nick, who says nothing to him – only gives him that emotionally void stare and holds out his hand.

Something in him registers that he shouldn't be the one being comforted when Nick's just found out that his world is falling apart and fading away, but Jeff can't pull himself together. There's so much he wanted to do, but that's all become impossible. They've had a whole life taken away from them.

"Help him, please," Jeff begs when they return to the room and sit down next to each other, their fingers linked. The doctors give him an apologetic look.

"I'm sorry. There's no cure." It's impossible not to wonder how life can be so unfair. Why Nick, Jeff can't help but wonder.

"Is there anything we can do to slow it down?" Jeff asks, and he feels Nick's hand tremble in his, though he remains stoic and mute.

"They're not one hundred percent effective, and early onset Alzheimer's progresses faster than regular..."

They spend the next twenty minutes telling him potential ways of delaying the progression. By the end, Jeff is sick of the phrase "no guarantee," and his hand hurts from Nick's grip. Still, other than nodding his head a few times and making small non-committal sounds, Nick doesn't respond at all.

In fact, it's only when they get to the car that Nick breaks down. Jeff hasn't even put the keys in the ignition when he hears a broken sob, and he looks over to see Nick bent over, his fists balled up tightly. "Fuck!" His voice is a hoarse scream, and he starts shaking violently. Jeff's eyes prickle, and his chest tightens. He starts reaching out, but before he's even halfway towards Nick, Nick turns around, falling into Jeff and clutching him tightly.

"I can't do this. I can't." He sobs, and Jeff breaks down again as well, tightening around him.

"I love you so much." Jeff doesn't know what else to say, and Nick's fingers dig into him as they move closer. His head tilts up, and their lips brush together. The kiss is desperate, and Nick bites down as if trying to bite through Jeff's lips. His hands go up, and he pulls through Jeff's hair, and Jeff lets out a yelp as Nick's fingers pull through the knots. When they finally pull back, Nick curls back up against him.

Jeff's arms wrap around him, and he lets out a shaky sigh. "Jeffie, Jeffie," Nick murmurs, his voice broken. "I'll never forget you."

July 3, 2024

The next day when Jeff gets back home, he finds the apartment filled with an amazing aroma. Nick's home far earlier than he usually is. Though he rarely cooks, when Jeff walks into the kitchen, he's greeted by Nick wearing an apron, smiling and pulling something out of the stove. "What is this?"

"Tuna."

Jeff nods, remembering what they said yesterday about how cold-water fish that are rich in omega-3 are beneficial. As soon as Nick sets it down on the table, the bowl full of vegetables following, Jeff pulls him into a hug and a light kiss.

"You know that I love you, right?" How many times will he get to say that where Nick will still remember? He presses their cheeks together, and their fingers link. Nick leans into him, and they sit there for a moment, not caring that the food's getting cold. Nick's hand trembles, and Jeff gives it a light squeeze. There's a moment where Nick looks sadly at him, and then they pull apart, tense smiles back on their faces.

"Of course I know that you love me. Just like you know that I love you." The reply's late, but it relaxes them again. It's nearly impossible to ease back into a normal rhythm, and still they can't help but be afraid of every minute they're losing. Slowly, they sit back down in their own seats to eat.

"The tuna's really good," Jeff says, taking a bite. Nick nods, thankful for the change of subject. "Yeah, it's a new recipe. You always said that I was a good at it and should cook more." He laughs, and Jeff feels his stomach fall. That makes him sound so demanding and needy. When his mouth opens and nothing comes out, Nick realizes his mistake. "I didn't mean it –"

"I know." Jeff swallows thickly, and his fork falls to the plate. His head falls into his empty hands. It's never been this awkward between them. Everything is coming out wrong, and Jeff just wants to pretend like yesterday never happened, like it isn't true. He shakes and his fingers dig into his scalp.

"Please don't cry." Nick's voice cracks, and Jeff looks up to see him crying. He still holds his fork loosely in his hands, though the piece of tuna on it has fallen off. "I hate it when you cry."

Jeff moves out of his chair, a lump in his throat, and he moves into the chair next to Nick, scooting it over so that they're pressed together. His hand reaches up, brushing the hair out of Nick's face before running his fingers down Nick's cheeks to brush the tears away. Though he has every right to cry, he knows that he can't; Nick needs him to be strong.

"It'll be okay," he murmurs, holding onto Nick and rocking him back and forth. Nick looks at him with wide eyes and shakes his head.

"But it won't." Nick said, his head falling to Jeff's chest. He lets out a sob, and Jeff pulls him closer, his grip tightening.

"We can pretend that we get that happily ever after," Jeff tries, his voice low and begging.

"Fine. We'll live until we're ninety. We'll have two point five children, and a house with a white fucking picket fence. Is that what you want?" Jeff knows Nick's only lashing out because he's afraid, but the words still sting. He lets his head fall down on top of Nick's.

"Please," Jeff tries again, deflated and defeated.

"No, I'm not going to lie for you. It isn't going to happen. I'm dying, Jeff. I'm going to forget you and think I'm all alone, and then I'm going to be dead, and you're going to have to go on, and it isn't fucking fair."

Jeff feels like his heart his shattering, but he doesn't say anything. Instead he holds Nick closely, running his fingers through his hair carefully and slowly. He hears Nick's breath hitch as he breaks down, and he rocks him back and forth, a small, quiet hum escaping his lips.

It takes a long time before Nick calms down, and when he does, he looks up at Jeff with wide, scared eyes before kissing him gently. Jeff's hand wraps around his neck, pulling him closer before peppering his jaw and cheek with more kisses. "My Nicky. My everything," he breathes, feeling himself start to relax.

Though it's quiet, that's what they both need, and they slowly rock against each other as their fingers lace together. "It'll be okay," Jeff murmurs, and this time Nick doesn't challenge him. Instead he agrees with a slight nod of his head.

"You're perfect," Nick replies after a long while. Jeff can't help but smile, moving back and stifling a small chuckle.

"No, but I try. Close enough," he teases.

"Shush, you." They sit there for a few more minutes in pure silence before Jeff's brow furrows. There's the faintest whiff of something that shouldn't be there. He turns his head, looking around the kitchen.

"Is something burning?" Jeff asks, his head turning around. Nick's eyes widen, and he scrambles away from Jeff.

"Shit! I forgot about the cookies." He grabs an oven mitt, pulling the cookies out and setting them on the counter. "I can't believe I forgot the cookies," he says with a small pout. Jeff can't help but burst out laughing.

Perhaps it's the subject that does it. He isn't even fully aware why, but Nick's joining in after a moment. They sit there, clutching the table, laughing to the point of tears. There is a pain with every raggedy breath, and he doubles over, clutching his side.

The two of them continue laughing until they are both reduced to whimpers, their sides sore. "I love you," Jeff says, wrapping his hands around Nick's waist again. Nick nods.

"I love you too." They sit curled up against each other again, afraid to pull back. Neither says anything of much importance, and their breathing slows down, back to normal. There's nothing about the moment that doesn't seem perfect if Jeff could learn to weed out the main… issue and have a selective memory. That doesn't matter, though. What matters is that they're both dealing with it together. And each moment he can make Nick happy is worth something.

When it comes time to it, they eat the cookies cold and burnt, but neither of them seems to notice.

August 21, 2024

"Smile for the camera," Jeff says, snapping a picture. Nick instead turns around, sticking his tongue out and laughing. "Oh, fabulous. Real model-shot, there." Jeff shows Nick the picture – Nick looks a little cross-eyed, and his face is slightly blurred, caught with his tongue midway out.

"Hey, give that back! Delete it!" Nick flails, and Jeff holds it out of reach before scampering off. He hears footsteps behind him, and turns around just as Nick lunges out at him. They fall backwards to the grassy ground, and Jeff groans.

"Ow." He pulls his head up and rubs at the back of his head. "I'm still not deleting the photo."

"Pretty please with kisses on top?" Slowly he bends down and presses his lips to Jeff's. The camera falls from Jeff's hand and he wraps his arms around Nick. There a moment of quiet followed by a soft moan from Nick as one of Jeff's hands finds its way to his hair.

"Gorgeous."

"Uh-huh, yeah, look who's tal – oh…" Nick groans as Jeff rolls his hips and his other hand slips underneath the hem of Nick's shirt, tracing his hip bone.

"You were saying?" Jeff's slightly out of breath as he nips at Nick's lips, and his eyes widen as Nick eyes close and he lets out another low moan.

"Maybe we shouldn't do it here. Anyone could find us. It's a public park, after all," Nick mumbles, looking hesitant to say it. After a moment, Jeff nods and slips his hand out from under Nick's shirt. His eyes trace down Nick's body and he presses a final, light kiss to his lips.

"When we get home?"

"When we get home," Nick agrees.

September 09, 2024

Jeff turns the stove off after Nick leaves the room, though he doesn't say anything to Nick. He doesn't want to worry him. Part of him always worries when he's out that Nick will decide to cook but leave the stove on, do something wrong and let the apartment catch on fire. It's not so much the apartment that he's worried about as much as Nick, but he decides not to bring it up.

"You coming?" Nick calls from the living room. "I'm going to start without you."

"You'd better not!" Jeff grabs the bowl of popcorn and darts out of the room, setting it on the table before jumping at the couch, finding his way under the covers and pressing up next to Nick. They press the play button and let the trailers and commercials for movies already long-released play through as they turn and press kisses to each other's lips and neck.

"Wait a second," Nick mutters, pulling back and staring at The Little Mermaid trailer. "Which movie are we watching again?" Jeff's heart dips, and he take Nick's hand under the covers, giving it a light squeeze.

"Aladdin, remember?" Jeff murmurs, and his hand pulls up to brush the hair out of Nick's forehead. A look of remembrance sparks in Nick's eyes.

"Oh, right, right… Yeah, that's it." There's a small pause before Nick adds, "Because it's your favorite Disney movie." Jeff's lips curl up into a small smile. Maybe things aren't quite that bad.

"Yup. It's clearly superior to The Little Mermaid," he teases, sticking his tongue out.

"Hey!" Nick pouts before leaning over, taking Jeff's tongue in his mouth and sucking lightly. His hand reaches up behind Jeff's neck, and he pulls the blond closer. "My Jeffie." Jeff feels his face flush as he nods, leaning back into the kiss.

The start menu runs through its little song a total of eighteen times before they finally press play.