Notes: Fluffy little sequel to Never Could Be Sweeter Than With You that I finally got around to writing. This fic will make a bit more sense if you read the original first but it's not required, they both work fine as standalones.
Here's (half) a link to the original story - /s/8650578/1/Never-Could-Be-Sweeter-Than-With-You. Just add it to the end of the fanfiction url manually or you can find the story on my profile. I tried everything to get the site to show it as a proper link but it reformats it every time. If anyone has any advice on how to solve this please feel free to drop me a message!
Title once again from the song Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
"For God's sake, Joel, Mojito's spelled with a J not a H. Get me the sponge - "
"Sorry, Brendan, I thought - "
" - 'Cause that's how it's pronounced - "
"Yeah, I'll just – sponge - "
Ste sees Joel fly into view at the top of the club stairs from where he's stood leaning, stifling his giggles, actually, against the railings at the bottom. He scurries down the steps, not looking where he's going, and ploughs straight into him, almost knocking the styrofoam cup he's holding out of his hand.
"Woah, watch it," Ste laughs, steadies him with a hand, "everything alright up there?"
Joel looks at him with haunted eyes, grips both his shoulders tightly and gives him a firm shake. "Help me, please."
"He still on the warpath?"
"You have to get him out of here," he whispers frantically, "or I'm gonna have to drug his drink or hit him over the head or something."
"Okay, well, don't do any of that, please," Ste says, a little worried since Joel actually looks like he might be on the brink of a nervous breakdown. "I'll deal with it, you go and sit down or summat."
Joel nods, dazedly, and wanders off and Ste braces himself before climbing the stairs.
When he gets to the top, his heart melts a little; Brendan's stood behind the bar, head buried in his folded arms on top of the counter. He peers up, eyes all big and blue and mournful, at the noise of Ste's shoes on the wood floor and for about two seconds he looks like a kicked puppy before he brushes himself off and stands up straight, all business. An effect which is then destroyed by his pathetic sniffle.
"Don't - " Ste preempts with a stern finger as Brendan opens his mouth to most likely say I'm okay even though he really isn't, " - I've just brought you somethin', that's all."
Brendan rolls his eyes dramatically when he spots the steaming cup.
"Please don't tell me that's soup," he says dryly, voice thick and raspy from his swollen throat.
"You're welcome. Don't act like you don't love my soup, you'd slurp it up through a straw if it'd fit." He puts the cup down on the bar, hauls himself up onto it and swings his legs over the other side to box Brendan in just in case he tries to do a runner like he had this morning when Ste had attempted to persuade him not to go to work. He'd literally turned around for five seconds to get some toast out of the toaster and Brendan had vanished in a cloud of dust like a Looney Tunes cartoon character. For a bloke with the flu, he sure can move fast but Ste's ready for him this time.
"You bring soup to the old and the infirm, Steven, and I am neither of those things," he states haughtily. Ste hooks his legs around Brendan's hips before he can go anywhere and drags him closer.
"Fine, let's skip lunch then," he says softly, low and breathless, "I can think of a much better way to spend the hour."
Brendan's eyes drop to his mouth briefly and then he swallows thickly, screws up his face in pain and starts coughing until he's slumped all over Ste with his face buried in his shoulder, shivering. Ste rubs the back of his neck soothingly and the skin under his fingers burns worryingly hot.
"Yeah, didn't think so. Come on, let's get you sat down." He hops down off the counter, grabs the soup and Brendan's hand and leads him over to the office. He comes semi-quietly, still recovering from his coughing fit and grumbling a bit and Ste feels a tiny bit of guilt about manipulating him when he's vulnerable but it's for his own bloody good. He fishes about in Brendan's pocket for the keys to the door and locks it behind them. It's mostly for show, there's nobody here except Joel and there's no way he'd barge in but Ste knows that Brendan won't let his guard down unless he feels secure that there's noone else around to see it.
"Sooo - why are you still wearing pants?" Brendan asks and Ste turns around to see him peering up through one squinting eye from where he's sprawled on the sofa in a sickly heap.
"If I take my pants off will you drink the soup?"
"You gonna ride me while I drink the soup?"
"Sounds a bit messy," he replies thoughtfully, "and painful, it's hot is this stuff." He takes the lid off and the smell of it rolls through the room, sweet and delicious.
"Is that - " Brendan starts, looks suddenly wide-eyed and amazed. "Is that onion soup?"
"Yeah, I know it's probably not gonna be as nice as what your mum used to make, but - "
"Come here." He gestures out with his hand and grabs Ste's wrist when he gets close enough to pull him down onto the sofa. He takes the cup of soup and smells it, puts his lips to the edge and takes a small sip. He looks at Ste softly. "It's perfect, thank you for remembering."
Against his will, Ste's face tries to split into a ridiculously wide smile that not even viciously gnawing on his bottom lip can deter.
Giving Brendan a small piece of home, letting him know that Ste understands how important the little things are to him, gives him this huge sense of pride. Brendan stands in front of bullets and buys whole blocks of flats for Ste, grand gestures that leave him reeling and adored, feeling more important than he has any right to feel and in return Ste commits every word and gesture Brendan has ever given him to memory. He becomes a living biography of Brendan Brady, cherishes every detail of him because it's something precious and he's one of the only people on Earth who will ever get to have it.
Ste pulls his legs up onto the sofa and stretches an arm across the back so he can turn to face Brendan, so he can finally satisfy the urge he's had all day to just sit and stare him into getting better and he can stop thinking about how he might pass out onto the pointy end of a corkscrew or accidentally stumble into a stack of crates and get himself crushed to death by lager bottles.
"You can thank me by drinkin' all of it. You haven't eaten a thing since yesterday morning, I dunno how you're still walkin' about," Ste tuts and fusses, touches the back of his neck again in the hope that he might have been over-exaggerating earlier. He wasn't, Brendan's still burning up.
"Stop worrying about me, I'm fine," he protests.
"I know you're not fine. I was the one who gave you this, wasn't I? It was bloody awful."
"You had the flu," he says with a sweeping gesture at Ste. "I'm way too manly for that."
"Thanks," he deadpans, "was I also this annoying?"
"Then let me take you home and I'll stop witterin'."
"It's tempting, but no," Brendan sighs. "I have a club to run and I don't even feel that bad."
"And I had a deli to run if you remember, didn't stop me from going to bed and resting like a good boy."
Brendan scoffs and splutters into his soup and looks at him, completely offended. "Do you remember? I had to drug your arse into bed!"
There's a beat of silence and then Ste sniggers.
"Okay, that sounded bad. Point still stands, though - "
Brendan suddenly groans and squeezes his eyes shut and Ste quickly takes the cup off him as his hands go loose around it. A great shiver wracks his body and Ste touches the side of his face, shuffles closer until he's straddling one of his knees, practically in Brendan's lap, and nuzzles his nose and lips into his throat, kisses where he knows it's swollen. He craves being close, wants to touch and soothe. It's a weird instinctual reaction that he hadn't even been able to control when they weren't in a relationship. Worrying about Brendan, helping him, comforting him when he needed someone.
Sometimes Ste thinks that part of the reason he wanted them to be together so badly was so he could keep a permanent eye glued on the reckless git at all times and actually, maybe, get some restful sleep at night. If Brendan's in his bed then he's not out getting himself murdered or arrested or blown up.
"Please, Brendan. I'm really worried about you," he pleads softly against his skin, knows Brendan can't resist him begging, not for anything. "You need rest or you'll never get better. Please." He feels the vibration of Brendan's pained mumble of acceptance under his mouth, breathes a sigh of relief and trails his kisses up Brendan's throat and chin, the corner of his mouth, his lips, the tip of his nose. "Thank you."
He pulls back and looks into Brendan's pale face, dark smudges under his eyes like someone's swiped soot covered thumbs under them. He's so uncharacteristically still, no fidgeting hands, no rapidly bouncing knee, and it's eerie how much it diminishes him. This morning he'd clearly been suffering but he'd still fought tooth and nail with Ste over everything from taking a day off work to taking a fucking paracetamol; now it looks like he's reached the edge of his limits, like he's about to completely crash.
Ste gets up and pulls Brendan unsteadily to his feet, braces them both when Brendan sways and leans against Ste heavily. He gets the door unlocked and spots Joel milling around apprehensively behind the bar.
"Joel, can you - "
"Watch the bar? Yeah, totally, you go home, get better, take as long as you need, days," Joel blurts, "y'know, if you need days."
Ste prods an oblivious Brendan past him and catches Joel's eye. He mouths 'thank you' and looks grateful enough that Ste's half expecting him to hop over the bar and try to hug him. As they leave he spares a private chuckle for the sponge in Joel's hand.
Brendan flails his jacket off inside the doorway to the flat and lets it fall to the floor, slips off his shoes, tosses the contents of his pockets every which way, phone, keys, chewing gum, wallet, and collapses face down into the sofa with a muffled groan.
Ste follows him inside, picks up the jacket and hangs it up neatly on a hook, kicks the shoes into the corner where noone can trip over them, gathers up the assorted objects and redistributes them - phone on the coffee table, keys in the bowl by the door, wallet safely in a drawer.
When he's finished tidying he perches down next to Brendan on the sofa and spreads both palms over his shoulders, presses his thumbs into the muscles of his back and kneads lightly, knows how sore he must be feeling right now, until he moans.
The sound of it does things to him and he'd really like to get his hands under Brendan's shirt and touch him properly but it makes him feel like a bit of a disgusting, advantage-taking pervert so he tries to ignore it. Instead, he leans forward and presses a soft kiss into the back of Brendan's neck. He finds it bodes well for their relationship that even pale and sickly and coughing his guts up all over the place, Ste still wants to jump his bones.
"Want me to do you a Lemsip?" he mumbles against him.
"Back in a sec." He hauls himself up and heads into the kitchen, puts the kettle on and empties a sachet of yellow powder into the moustache mug that Ste had gotten Brendan weeks ago. He'd damn near wet himself laughing at it in the supermarket until Brendan had actually left him there, doubled up in the aisle, on his own and giggling at a cup like a raving lunatic. When he'd calmed himself down he'd sneaked off to buy it, waited until they'd gotten back to the flat and whipped Brendan up a coffee in it as his grand unveiling.
Now, Brendan won't drink his hot drinks out of anything else. He'd actually thrown what Ste will forever refer to as a tantrum when Cheryl had made herself some hot chocolate in it last weekend.
When they'd argued two weeks ago Ste had been two seconds from throwing it at full force against the kitchen wall until Brendan had stopped his side of their shouted conversation and stared, wide-eyed like a frightened little boy, at the mug and Ste had been horrified. They'd made up on the draining board, Ste's legs wrapped around Brendan's body, hands scrabbling into the cabinets above his head for something to cling on to as he came apart with whispered apologies against both their lips.
At the start, Ste had clung to every little moment between them like a kid with a shiny new toy. Every quiet moment of domesticity was like gold to him, every time they had sex, every kiss and hug and argument they had meant the world because he'd assumed that at some point it would all fall apart. People like Ste and Brendan didn't get happy endings. Yet time had gone on and so had they. They'd filled in the missing spaces of each other, cemented the cracks firmly shut, made a concrete foundation and built on it and now Ste can look at every day of his life and see that they're filled with little moments, every one of them treasured but no longer jealously guarded. He lets them breathe and in his thoughtful moments they come back to him.
Nowadays, he can actually stand and think fondly about a cup for at least half an hour.
The kettle startles him out of his reverie with a click and Ste tries not to gip at the harsh smell of lemon when he stirs hot water into the mug. He takes it into the living room and prods Brendan until he rolls over onto his back and sits up to hold the cup.
The clock on the wall glares at Ste, he'd promised Doug he'd only be gone half an hour. Although, to his credit, Doug had been extremely skeptic. The words 'I'm sure you will' were definitely uttered and they were definitely sarcastic.
"You can head back to work if you want," Brendan says quietly and Ste realises he's been watching him stare at the clock.
"No, it's fine. I 'ave ages yet," he lies and gets up to fuss with the pillows in an effort to hide his guilty face.
He squeezes himself into the space Brendan created when he sat up and tugs on him until he leans back, one arm balanced across Ste's thighs. Brendan swallows down the hot lemon with some difficulty and closes his eyes, lets out a noise halfway between a whimper and a sigh. His face pinches in pain and he leans heavily into Ste to tuck his head against his chest.
"Headache?" he whispers softly and feels a tiny nod against him.
Ste cups one hand around Brendan's neck and threads his fingers into his hair, scratches his nails across his scalp until he shivers and sighs. When he's finished his drink, Ste takes the cup from him and puts it on the table at the side of the sofa. Brendan shuffles to lay down properly, head pillowed in his lap.
He carries on dragging his fingers through Brendan's hair, working out the gel until it's all fluffy and soft and he can pull on the strands lightly. Eventually, Ste feels Brendan's body relax against him, feels his head get heavier and watches the rise and fall of his chest slow out until he's breathing deep and even. When he's sure that Brendan's asleep he toes off his shoes and puts his feet up on the coffee table to get comfortable. As carefully as he can, he wriggles his phone out of his pocket.
"Hiya, Doug, look I'm sorry but I'm not gonna be back today. I know, I'm sorry. Alright, go on then, say it. Yes, you told me so, you know everything, very funny. Really? Thanks so much, Doug. Yeah, I know, I owe you, I won't forget it. Bye."