Nick can be charming.

Oh, it's a nebbishy sort of charm, a puppy-dog ripoff of Woody Allen. He's not even that big of a fan of Woody Allen. He gets his ouvre and everything, but... Yeah. When he does it right, something in that barrage of words and twitching wins him friends with surprising regularity. Lovers are harder to catch, but that's a different story entirely.

He had shitloads of friends back home. It was awesome. He got drunk all the time and lived above his parent's garage and did open mikes and made people laugh. He even got laid occasionally. It was probably the best time of his life and he fucking hates that, hates that he's twenty-six and already reminiscing, hyper-aware of his whole deal, too old in his head and too green in every other aspect of his life.

But that charm. That stupid charm, his poetic downfall. That inoffensive brotherly energy that emasculates him before every woman he wants nothing more than to fuck. That's right, fuck. Not make love to. Fuck. Because he is a man, even if there seems to be no evidence of that fact.

He really wants to fuck Abby, and he's pretty sure that it's never going to happen. He's going to be her friend. A really good friend. A great friend, a great guy, wonderful guy, so sweet and she can't believe how he listens and how he really gets her unlike her boyfriend.

He understands. It's a familiar purgatory.

He doesn't fucking want to be her friend.

His kind, the asexual guy pals of the world, are crack to girls like Abby. Girls who can melt a room with their smiles, who can twist men around their fingers despite seeming to be entirely unaware of it. She's an adorable fuckup, and it will always going to be just a few more days here and a few more days there and she will stand around cringing while he pays the bill.

He likes her as a person, though, and therein lies the rub. No, actually, the rub is that she likes him. She thinks he's funny, and now he'll never be able to win, always dancing the herky-jerky dance of witty banter before her, trying to find the magic quip that would peel down her panties.

She's cute. She's funny, too. She's sweet despite her melt-ray smile and moocher ways. She is exactly what he wants, and she's probably terrible for him. He doesn't care.

Another dubious blessing of his kind: an ability to subsist for years on nothing more than stubborn hope and platonic hugs.

He has it bad. Might as well learn to live with it, like rheumatoid arthritis or some other incurable disease.

He walks off stage elated, truly elated with his set for maybe the first time since he'd left home. It feels like the first time he'd gone onstage, blinking in the light and somehow managing to kill, or feel like he'd killed, blissfully unaware he was going to eat it for the next three months straight chasing that high.

Another comic slaps him on the back. "You were actually funny, dude!"

"Yeah. Thanks for the backhanded compliment," he replies, almost on autopilot. He's unlocked the next level somehow, and maybe he can't do it again and maybe it's just a fluke, but it suddenly makes all the shit he's been through recently worth it. Take that, Paul F. Tompkins, you smug fucking prick. And seriously, fuck that guy. Now he can never again watch Tenacious D without getting major douche chills.

He has to find Abby, to bask in the warm, warm waters of victory with someone who's genuinely in his corner. Hell, he just needs to savor the fact that she is not going to outright pity him like he was one hundred percent expecting.

He worms his way though the dark of the crowd while this guy Dylan does lukewarm crowdwork to scattered chuckles. Thankfully, he manages to avoid the landmines of the staff. Luck is on his side tonight. About time.

Abby throws her arms around his neck. "Omigod, Nick, that was great!" she whisper-squeals into his ear. She smells like cheap beer and his own shampoo, which is confusing but somehow enchanting.

"Trust me, it's an anomaly," he says as she pulls back.

Fond exasperation twists her features. "Come on, don't be self-deprecating for two seconds."

"It's kind of my thing, though. Seems to be working."

She giggles, and he gets a sweet bump on his laugh-high. "Can't argue with results," she says, and takes a sip of beer.

"Hey, uh, you ready to go?"

"What, already?"

"Yeah, I think the entire waitstaff might hate my guts for selling out one of their own, so..."

"Wait, that was all true?"

"Very much so. Why would I make that up?"

Her eyes widen in horrified delight. "When did all that happen?"

"Oh, yesterday," he says, playing super-casual and totally failing.

She claps a hand over her mouth, then drags it away. "Yeah, let's totally get out of here. Lemme finish my beer."

She gulps it down and he feels wonderfully conspiratorial as they slip away, out into the fitful Southern Californian night.

The water glints teal and lights them ethereally as they dangle their bare legs over the edge. Say what you want about the Lux, that pool almost makes everything worthwhile. If you can ignore the fact that it's a soup of diluted urine and jizz and lots and lots of chemicals.

"I dunno," Nick is saying, staring into the watery lights because it's easier than facing her on so many levels. "I kind of feel like I always wanted to do it. I mean, I watched the Comedy Network all the time, and late night shows and stuff, when I was younger. It seemed like the best thing. Pure, you know? You just have words and ideas and you make people laugh. That's all you need. Once I saw Comedians of Comedy, that was it for me. I knew I was going to do that. And... Well, look at me now, Mom." He chuckles at his own joke.

His mythology sounds better this way, the sad, dull truths of boredom and bending over backwards to make his weird friends laugh, to make anyone like him at school, the long loneliness of his childhood, the parental inattention that led to being raised by TV and getting four hours of sleep a night from staying up to watch talk shows all airbrushed into an ideological glow.

"I get that," she says. "I totally get that."

"What about you, then? With acting?"

"Same deal. I loved plays, I loved movies, I loved glamour. Still waiting on any of those to actually happen."

He laughs, and it echoes too loud off the stone. He cuts it off immediately, embarrassed.

"I hope it's worth it," she says, somewhere between tired and hopeful.

"Let's just keep telling ourselves that it is. Everyone else here is delusional. Why shouldn't we be, too?"

She looks over at him, beaming that goddamn wonderful smile of hers on him, and for a moment, he lets himself pretend that in the next second he is going to lean over and kiss her and she isn't going to jerk back and things won't be weird and they'll stagger upstairs between fits of making out and have sex in his bed and it will be exactly as amazing as he's imagined, if not moreso.

For that one moment, it's as possible as anything else in this big, dumb city of theirs. It could totally, totally happen.

A/N: A one-shot that tumbled out without planning. Nick is my favorite, but then again, I'm a comedy nerd who only got hooked on the show because I heard Paul F. Tompkins was going to have a part on the first episode, so I guess I'm predisposed. But, oh, I really love this show! I'm surprised that I couldn't find any fic for it, but hey, the derth make me write one my own damn self. Anyway, I've only seen up to episode three because it is only just airing now in the US (where I am), so some of the stuff I totally made up may not be true later. Such is life.