Title: New Year's (2005 Gift for VATERGrrl)

Series: Strokes (original character series)

Rating: R

Summary: It’s New Year’s Eve at Strokes and Nik’s a bit under the weather but doesn’t want to go home.

Notes: Written as a gift fic for VATERGrrl during the 2005 holiday season. She was sweet enough to request a Strokes fic from me :-)


New Year's
(2005 Gift for VATERGrrl)

             It increased to a fever pitch with the man(Ronald?)’s thrusts coming at him stronger and faster than ever. Nik’s hands were hooked around the edge of his desk, holding tightly, as he kept himself steady, face-down on the desk during the strong thrusts. His cheek rubbed against the blotter and his eyes briefly fell on the bare spot of desk where the tissue box would have sat, as usual, had they not swept most of the items on the desk off in order to have sex.


            Not that Nik was complaining, of course. There was no question about this man’s talents in that particular area. The man (Ryan?) was tall, a good inch or an inch and a half taller than Nik. He was the quintessential Italian. He had long black hair which was pulled into a ponytail and he was quite handsome with a firm jaw, olive skin, and smoldering, dark eyes. And, to Nik, he was irresistible.


            He might have liked to have the tissue box back within reach, however, as his nose was running again. He sniffed and instantly knew it was a terrible mistake. His body tensed up and then shook, but not in the manner he would have preferred. IHHHChhh!


            “You all right?” asked the guy (Richard?), who had not missed a beat.


            Nik nodded. “Justht keep… ahhh… going…” The sneeze was completely forgotten in an instant as Nik groaned into the blotter.


            When it was over, he (Roy?) buttoned up and grinned down at Nik. It took Nik a few moments to regain his composure, but he nodded his appreciation and saw the man (Robert?) to the door.


            Heading down the stairs from the office, the man (Roger?) passed a security guard who stood about halfway down and passed a good-looking brown-haired man who stood closer to the bottom of the stairs. “How was he?”


            The man (Reilly?) stopped just too steps from the floor and turned. “That’s kind of a personal question. And I don’t think it’s any of your business.”


            Making a face, Sweetie shook his head. “Not that. For God’s sake I don’t want to know about that! I meant how was he health-wise? Did he sneeze at all?”


            Shrugging, “Couple of times. Why? Is something wrong?”


            Sweetie sighed and pulled his hands out of his pockets. “There will be, now. Thanks, ah…?”


            “Romeo,” the man replied.


            Sweetie laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” The man shrugged and his head shook ‘no’. From his expression, it looked like Romeo must get that sort of reaction a lot, so Sweetie quickly wiped an amused smile from his face. “Thanks, then, Romeo.”


            He headed up the stairs, trying not to let his amusement get in the way of what needed to be done. Sweetie should not have been worried, however. When he opened the door, he found Nik fully dressed and sitting on his rather bare desk with tissues hovering somewhere around chest-level. “ihhh-HIHTChhhh!” In one swift, graceful movement, he wiped his nose and stuffed the tissues into the pockets of his too-tight black pants, the sort of pants that were better to take things out of.


            Sweetie stood at the doorway, arms crossed over his chest. “I distinctly remember you telling me that if you thought you might have a cold, you would go home and rest up.”


            If I thought I had a cold.” He rubbed at his nose. “Thing isth, I don’t.” He went from rubbing his nose to cupping his hand over his nose. “hihhhh-hihhhShhh!” He snapped forward. Then he pulled a few tissues out of the box which was on the desk again where it belonged. Sniffling and snuffling, he rubbed his nose into them.


            Shaking his head and walking over, “Right. You don’t sound like you have a cold. Not in the least. Nope, not you. Not sick at all.”


            Nik cleared his throat and avoided Sweetie’s gaze. “You going to call Olly on me?”


            Sweetie jumped up onto the desk, sitting beside him. “Of course not.” He wrapped his arm around the man. “But I might call Julia.”


            Cough! No, pleasthe, Sthweetie. There’sth no reasthon to. And I have work to do. The plansth for New Year’sth—”


            “Ohhhhh,” Sweetie nodded, rubbing the back of his neck. “So that’s what that trick was doing up here? Helping you with the plans and preparations?”


            Nik chuckled. “He wasth helping me, all right.” Chuckling was just an instant away from coughing, and he bent forward and shook with each cough, wincing until they passed.


            Sweetie reached up and petted the man’s head, fingers playing with the blond bangs a moment, before sweeping them back and kissing Nik’s cheek. “I can help you, too. You can go home and get into bed and I can work on the arrangements for tonight.”


            More than just a chuckle or two, Nik let out a loud laugh. He wrapped his arm around Sweetie’s waist, just as Sweetie was still doing to him, and he rested his head on Sweetie’s shoulder. “I love you, you know that, right?”


            “Course,” Sweetie said casually, not shrugging as he might usually because he did not want to shake Nik off.


            “And you know I think you’re a genius with computers and there’s absolutely no one else I would trust with the house or the club’s accounting.” Sweetie nodded. Nik pulled away, smiling slyly. “But when it comes to managing a club you’re hopeless.”


            “Oh, thank you ever so much,” he said with mock sarcasm.


            Nik rubbed his nose, then covered it. “hihhh-ihhhSchhhh! H’Shhhh!” He ran the tissues back and forth beneath his nose, blinking as he tried to decide if he needed to sneeze again or blow his nose. He finally shook his head and lowered his hand. “What I mean isth, there isth a lot of work yet to do. I need to be here.”


            “Oh my God! Sweetie gasped and gave Nik a playful shove. “You are so full of yourself!” He pulled Nik close again, giving him a tight hug, guiding his head back onto Sweetie’s shoulder. “Of course no one manages this place as well as you, but the hardest parts have been done. It’s going to be a fabulous event. It might not be perfect, but Turbo, Yo and I can pull this night off without you being here.”


            Nik shook his head. “No… I mean, I need to be here.” He put a hand on Sweetie’s thigh and looked down, then closed his eyes. “I need to be here when the new year sthtartsth. I need to welcome it in and sthee my friendsth happy.” His breath caught, and he raised the tissues up again. “heh-ihh-Shehhh! hihhShihh! ehhh-Shhhh! Sniff! Sniff! Pleasthe, Sthweetie…”


            Sweetie hugged Nik, then petted his head in soft, soothing strokes. “All right. I won’t make you go home. But I want you to take it easy.” Sweetie ran his hand up and down Nik’s back, then he hopped down from the desk. “I want you to lie down and rest for a little while.” Nik looked hesitant. “Please, Nik…”


            With a sniffle, Nik nodded and gave in. “All right. But justht until sthound check or sthomething comesth up.”


            “Agreed.” Grabbing the tissue box, Sweetie pulled Nik across the office to the couch and made him lie down. “Now do I need to stay, or are you actually going to try to get some rest?”


            “I’m going to restht,” Nik assured him, curling up on the couch with his head on a cushion. His brown eyes slowly closed. “Thanksth.”


            “No problem.” Sweetie leaned over and kissed Nik’s forehead, using it to soothe the man as well as gauge for fever. “Rest well.” On his way out of the office, Sweetie cleaned up the desk, placing the items on the floor back on top, and then he switched off the lights.


            Not three seconds alone, Nik curled in on himself more and tensed up with a strong sneeze. HEHShhhhh! He pulled a couple tissues out and blew his nose, then crumpled them up and tossed them over the side of the couch uncaringly.


            After that, he tried to fall asleep. He tried his very best, but the sneezes kept coming. Glad for the tissue box, Nik repeatedly dipped into it to cover sneezes or to blow his nose. He barely had a chance to yawn, let alone sleep.


            HihhhTChhhh! IhhKShhhhh! He wiped his nose quickly as he heard the door to his office open. He sat up to make his presence known to whoever might be entering.


            It ended up being Rich. “Sorry to bother. But, Nik, we’ve got a bit of a problem downstairs. There’s a guy who says he’s with one of the bands but I don’t recognize him and he doesn’t have idea and Turbo’s not here yet to vouch for him…”


            So much for resting. At least he wouldn’t be breaking his word to Sweetie. Nik cleared his throat. “I’ll take care of it.” He headed over to the desk and picked up the phone.


            It rang once. Twice. Thrice. And then it went to voice mail. “Hi, you’ve reached Turbo. I’m probably tied up at the moment… literally, so leave a message and I’ll get back to you when I’m free. “


            “Turbo,” said Nik, clearing his throat just after. “It’sth a quarter until stheven and we’ve got a sthituation. Sthee that you get yoursthelf down here right-quick.” With a sigh and another nose rub, Nik headed out of the office and down the stairs with Rich on his heels, to work things out.




            Nik pulled the other shirt on, then ran his hand over the top of his short, blond, spiky hair. He heard footsteps and stepped to the side so that, in the mirror, he could see Sweetie walking over to him across the otherwise deserted bathroom. In less than an hour, even this part of the club would be full.


            Nik made eye-contact, through the mirror, and then cupped his hand to his face, falling forward. “hihhhTChahh! hihhhShhhh!” He sniffed weakly and straightened up, thanks to the counter in front of him. Then he stared critically at himself in the mirror. “Do I look asth bad asth I feel?” he asked as Sweetie came up beside him.


            “Nah,” Sweetie said, shaking his head. He put an arm around Nik’s middle and drew him close with a kiss to the temple. In a whisper, “But, remember, I’ve seen you look a lot worse.”


            That was as close as they ever came to speaking of those times, long ago, and Nik nodded in remembrance, not wanting to say a word about it now. “Thisth will be a good year,” he said, looking desperately at Sweetie for confirmation of the fact.


            “I hope so,” he said. He gave Nik a good squeeze of a hug then stepped back to look him over from head to toe, taking in the tight, black, leather pants and the revealing black and white button-down shirt which was mostly unbuttoned and which puffed in the right places. It was hard to notice it, however, because of the attention-grabbing tie which was screaming with pride and festivity in a bright rainbow with a silver fireworks pattern on top. Sweetie handed him the black tuxedo jacket with tails which was on the counter between them. Nik pulled it on examined himself critically in the mirror from a few angles. “You look fabulous, by the way. When you’re not sneezing every five seconds, it’s easier to tell.”


            “Thanksth,” Nik said with a chuckle.


            “Are you sure you don’t want to go home? I could put Turbo and Pit in charge and go home with you. Make some root beer floats and a bowl of popcorn…” Sweetie trailed off. He could already tell he wasn’t going to win this one, but it didn’t hurt to ask just in case.


            Nik rubbed the back of his hand at his nose, fingers splayed. He sniffed hard and shook his head. “I need to sthtay. And I want to sthtay.”


            They headed out to finish up the last of the plans.




            Apart from the fact that the club’s manager and host had a head cold, the celebration went off without another hitch. All members of the staff and the bands were present and accounted for, and the first hour had been two-for-one drinks and Turbo as the DJ. He had played a perfect assortment of songs which had been popular throughout the last year. The crowd drank and danced to their hearts’ contents in a sea of white and black. Along with the purchase of an advance ticket had been notification about a strict dress code, and the Strokes security turned away those who did not meet it. Everyone had to wear tuxedos or suits of white and-or black.


            “We should think about making this a regular event,” Sweetie said in Nik’s ear, sure to be heard over the music. “The boys certainly look delicious in formal wear, don’t they?”


            Nik nodded in agreement. Then he pulled out a few tissues from the box he held beneath his arm. He blew his nose heartily and leaned to the side into Pit, who was already more than happy to help support the man as the group stood at the back of the club, just opposite the stage. Pit looked a bit out of sorts in a tuxedo, and the music wasn’t exactly his style, but he seemed to be enjoying himself anyway around his friends. Nik checked his watch and cleared his throat. “It’sth nearly eleven-thirty,” he announced, his voice sounding tired.


            “You know, someone else could have kept the time, Nik. And you could have gone home to bed.”


            They all looked over to see Olly striding over, hastily fastening his cummerbund.


            “Thought you weren’t able to make it!” Sweetie said, breaking away from his spot between Nik and his Jamie in order to give Olly a greeting in the form of a hug and kiss on the cheek. “You managed to ditch the midget for a little while?”


            Olly nodded. “I love my family, I do. But I wanted to be with my other family tonight.” There was more hugging as they all said their hellos. Olly ended with Nik, frowning and feeling his forehead. “I mean it. You could have gone home to bed. Maybe you should…” He glanced over at Julia, who was standing on the far side of their group, leaning back against the wall. Once inside, no one needed a ride home as no one had any intention of leaving before midnight.


            Including Nik. “I’m sthick, but I’m sthtaying.” He looked from one side to the other at the group of friends surrounding him. “I’m well looked after here.” He gave a smile which faded fast. “ihhhTChhh! hihhhChuhh!


            “And while I’d love to stay, too,” said Coyote, who was standing so close to Marty that he was nearly on top of the man. “I’ve got to go round up the band and warm up.” He and Marty kissed deeply, and Marty wished him the best of luck. Then Coyote disappeared into the thick, boisterous crowd.


            Regarding his watch again, Nik cleared his throat. He headed over towards the soundboard where Turbo stood, surrounded by electronics. Scrubbing at his nose while he waited for the current song to end, Nik hid the tissue box behind the equipment. Tony was well aware of Nik’s head cold, which most surely meant the whole place knew about it by now. Nonetheless, Nik had a certain persona to maintain and a sick club owner wasn’t much fun to listen to, even with the news Nik came bearing.


            When the song finished, Nik took his cue from Turbo to lean into the microphone. “Half an hour to go, boysth…” he said in a sultry voice. At least his cold was good for something. “We’re glad to have you all here tonight. From now until twelve-thirty, champagne isth free here at Sthrokesth. Stho feel free to loosthen your tiesth, take off your coatth and get ready to bring the New Year in with The Ravishers!” He just finished when he cupped his hand to his face and closed his eyes. “huhh-hehhhkshhhh! Hih-hihhhChshhhh! He straightened up, feeling Turbo’s hand on his back, patting comfortingly. “The mic wasthn’t on, right?”


            “Right,” Turbo said. “No one heard it but me.” He pulled a few tissues out of the box and handed them over to Nik. “Are you sure you’re all right, Boss?”


            Nik nodded, then held up a hand. “And before you tell me to go home, let me justht sthay I’d rather be sthick here around friendsth than alone at home.”


            Chuckling, “All right. But take it easy. And take care of yourself.”


            Nik promised to, and headed back over to the spot where his friends stood. Or where most of them stood, that is. “What happened to Pit?” Nik asked, claiming his spot against the wall between Sweetie and Olly.


            “Some lovely stud asked him to dance. And he actually accepted!” Sweetie answered, pointing out towards the dance floor.


            It took Nik a few moments to spot the Pit amidst the crowd. The man he was with really was a looker. He wasn’t a hot, young thing, but he was quite striking nonetheless. And he looked quite pleased to be there with Pit, despite the fact that Pit was possibly the worst dancer in the entire world. “Well, I’ll be,” Nik said, smiling. “Good for… for him. hihh-Chhhhh! IhhhChuhh!” He shivered and coughed and crossed his arms over his chest.


            The band finished tuning up and the lights went out all around the club. Apart from glowing exit signs and a few blacklights over the bar, Strokes was blanketed in darkness. There were a few startled shouts and then a confused murmur in the air. Then the lights came back on over the stage, shining stunningly down at the band.


            The members of The Ravishers had stripped down to just their underwear and instruments. Given the appearance of said members, this was met with an outpouring of enthusiastic shouts and applause from everywhere in the club, including Nik and his group of friends. Even Marty was laughing and clapping, though his cheeks were flushed red, which indicated that Coyote had not informed him about this.


            “Hello, boys,” Coyote said into the microphone on its stand. His bright blue hair flopped into his eyes but he looked out into his audience with a charming smile. “Anybody care to give me a howl?” In bare feet, he spun around, showing the large coyote tattoo on his back. The sound of men howling back at him was almost deafening. Coyote turned back around, gesturing for them to quiet, and grinning broadly. “Thank you. And now…”


            The drummer counted up to four, clicking his drumsticks together, and on the fifth beat the band started up. It was one of their most popular songs and the crowd was thrilled.


            Nik was, as well, but mostly because he’d spotted someone fighting through the crowd of dancing, cheering men. “Ducky!” he exclaimed a bit too loudly. It made his throat hurt and he turned and coughed into a fist. Sweetie patted his back and Ducky came over and hugged them both.


            “Sorry I’m late,” he said, talking fast as always. “Lots of late-night deliveries. Speaking of which…” He held up a small brown paper bag. “In honor of the occasion, I’ve got fortune cookies for all!” His eyes narrowed even more than usual as he grinned at their happy reactions. The group hurriedly distributed the cookies and opened them up.


            Once read, fortunes were announced and passed around, with much laughter at the results of adding the standard “in bed” to each. Nik’s read, simply: EXPECT NOTHING; BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING He liked it and was quite glad to have such good luck. Well, apart from having a head cold on the holiday. “ihhhChihhh! Ihh-hihhChahh! hihhSchhh!” He shivered again.


            “Did you take something for your cold, Nik?” Olly asked concernedly. “If you won’t go home, maybe I should take you up to your office to take some medicine and lie down a little…”


            “I took sthomething about an hour ago,” Nik said, rubbing his nose. He would have protested more, yet again, insisting that he wanted to stay there to see the job done and the ball drop and to stay with his friends. He was getting a bit tired of repeating it, but he was ready to do so.  However, this time he did not need to.


            A hand fell upon Olly’s shoulder and Olly looked back, surprised to see… “Sam! What are you doing here? I thought you said you couldn’t come.”


            “That’s what I thought, as well,” Sam said, placing a kiss on Olly’s cheek. “I thought Strokes was all booked up, but someone found me an extra ticket at the last minute.” He gave Nik an appreciative smile, and Nik was beaming back at him. “I thought I’d surprise you by showing up. Did it work?”


            “Absolutely!” exclaimed Olly. He leaned into Sam as Sam wrapped an arm around Olly’s waist. “I’m so glad you came. You look even more handsome than usual.”


            “You look wonderful, too, Doc. So, what would you like to do?” Sam asked, standing with his front pressing into Olly’s side and his lips upon Olly’s temple. “Would you like to get a drink? Or… perhaps dance?” He paused, but Olly did not answer. “Or head over to the bathrooms, find a nice spot, and fuck our way into the New Year?”


            “There,” Olly said, nodding emphatically. “There, yes, that’s the one.” He quickly looked over at Nik, though, and the worry flooded back. “But are you sure you’ll be all ri—”


            “Go!” Nik laughed, waving his hand, limp at the wrist, in a dismissive sort of way. “Go have fun. I’ll be fine here.”


            “Okay, but if you need me, you know where I’ll be.” So Olly let himself be dragged off to the bathroom and, deep down, Nik was glad to see him go to have fun. He looked around at his friends, then at the sea of well-dressed club patrons, and then up at the stage where the band was playing one of its slower songs.


            “Aw no!” Ducky cried not a minute later, digging his cell phone out of his pocket. He flipped it open and read the text message on the screen. He immediately went pale and serious. “I know I just got here but I’ve got to go,” he said softly, gravely. “I’m so sorry.”


            It was about fifteen until midnight now, and a terrible time to have to leave a New Year’s Eve party, but Ducky had absolutely no choice. “We understand. Our heartsth are with you,” Nik told him. “We hope your grandfather’sth all right thisth time.” Ducky stayed long enough to hug most everyone and wish them a Happy New Year before heading out to drive over to the hospital.


            “Poor kid. He’s got enough on his plate without having to rush off to take care of his family every ten seconds,” Sweetie said, and Jamie squeezed his hand in agreement.


            The band struck up another song, this one a cover of something very familiar. Coyote had switched from his electric guitar to his regular one, and the gentle melody was building up towards the more fast-paced part of the song. Sweetie both just melted into each other on the spot. “He’s playing our song,” Jamie said, his voice low as he nuzzled his face into Sweetie’s hair and wrapped his arms tightly around the man beneath Sweetie’s tuxedo jacket. The beat kicked in, thumping so loudly they could all feel it in their chests. Sweetie was mouthing along with the words in the chorus of ‘Escape’. Jamie hugged him tighter. “How about a dance, Love?”


            Sweetie looked over at Nik, worried and reluctant to leave him. But Nik shook his head. “You have to you dancthe to thisth. Have fun for me,” he said, waving them off.


            He was left there, standing with his back against the wall, with Marty on one side and Julia on the other. And some strange man just next to her.


            “Hello gorgeous,” he said amorously, leaning against the wall with his arm bent. “What’s a pretty little thing like you doing here?”


            “Sorry,” she said to him, sounding bored from having been approached this way at least a dozen times before. She barely looked in his direction. “I’m not a drag queen, I’m a woman. With real breasts and a vagina and absolutely no penis.”


            “That’s good,” the man said, nodding. “I prefer my women to be actual women.”


            Immediately she looked at him. He was dashingly handsome, tall, dark-haired, muscular and well-built.  “Excuse me?” She ran her hand through her raven-black hair nervously. “Are you actually hitting on me?


            He nodded. “I can’t possibly be doing that bad a job at it. I got your attention, didn’t I?”


            Her hand slid down and rubbed the back of her neck nervously. “The fact that you’re coming onto me in a gay nightclub got my attention, actually. What…?” She trailed off, not knowing how to phrase a question for such a strange circumstance.


            “My friend dragged me here,” he explained finally. “I was having an all right time, but now I think things might be looking up. I’m not gay, but at least I fit in. You sort of stand out as the only woman in the joint. What are you doing here?”


            “I work here,” she told him. And then when he looked doubtful she repeated it with a much more forceful tone. “I’m working.”


            “Ah,” the man said, leaning a little closer. “What’s your job, then?”


            Julia replied with. “I’m a driver.”


            “And you’re working right now?”


            She nodded. “Yes.”


            “Funny…” he said, breaking into a grin. He reached out to take the end of the tie she was wearing along with a slimming black suit, and he fingered it playfully. “I don’t see you doing any driving.”


            She rolled her eyes. “Ha ha,” she said flatly. “No one’s ready to leave the celebration yet.” She glanced at Nik while saying this. “But I’m on duty right now.”


            The man continued to press her. “Then how about a quick dance with me before midnight?”


            With a sigh, “You’re relentless, aren’t you?”


            He grinned widely, his hazel eyes sparkling, and nodded. “I always get my way. And right now, I want you.” He moved in and forced a kiss on her. She looked as thought she might protest at first, but then gave in completely to the sensation, coming out breathless on the other side. She glanced over at Nik again with a question in her eyes.


            “We’ll call Robert firstht and beep you when we need you. You shouldn’t have to sthick around here waiting all night. Go have sthome fun.” He smiled and rubbed at his nose.


            “Thank you,” she said, moving past the man to place a quick kiss on Nik’s forehead. She paused a moment, looking confused, however. “Are you getting a fe—


            “I’m fine,” he insisted. “Go enjoy yourself like everyone else.” He patted her arm, then gave her a small push in the direction of the man.


            “I’m Kevin, by the way,” he said, putting an arm around her shoulders. “And thanks for agreeing to a dance.”


            “Here I’m called Julia,” she said, a hand on her chest. “And it’s not every day I get asked out in a gay club. In fact, it’s never before…”


            “I’ll have to make sure you enjoy yourself, then,” he said, mischief in his eyes as he led her onto the dance floor.


            “Wow,” Marty said to Nik when they were alone together. “I didn’t expect that to happen. New Year’s Eve really is a magical night around here, isn’t it?”


            Marty looked at Nik, who nodded, smiled, then buried his nose into a handful of tissues. “hihTchhh! hihShooo!” He lifted his head for a moment, but then it snapped back down again. “ihhhShhh! ihhhChuhh! Sniff! hih-ihhhShhh!” Nik dissolved into light coughs, shaking a bit.


            “Hey, Nik,” said Marty, sounding sympathetic. “Can I go get you some water… or champagne maybe?”


            “Water might be nicthe, to be honestht. But I don’t think I should have champagne with the medicine.”


            Marty left, casting a few nervous glances towards the stage as he went. Coyote was finishing up his set and there was quite a lot of shouting up towards the stage. It was not rare for the audience to shout out requests, but Marty wasn’t sure that’s all they were shouting this time.


            True enough, when he returned to Nik with an ice water and champagne for himself, Coyote was engaged in a conversation with some of the audience members.


            “I’m right here if you’re looking for someone to kiss at midnight, Coyote!” called out one man from somewhere close to the front of the room.


            “If you want to do more than kiss, I’m your man!” shouted another.


            Coyote beamed happily at the offers. It was Nik’s turn to look sympathetically towards Marty. Marty looked uncomfortable as he watched the nearly-naked Coyote up on the stage.


            “Sorry, Darlings,” Coyote said finally. “This lady’s spoken for.” He looked out into the audience for a moment, as though trying to locate Marty. There were quite a few shouts back to him, suggesting he ditch his beau and try them instead. Coyote shook his head. “Sorry. But if you’ve got one last song for me, we can knock it out before midnight…”


            A number of songs were suggested, but the consensus seemed to be ‘The Little Prince’, one of the band’s most popular ones. And so Coyote and The Ravishers started it up at once, without a moment to lose.


            Beside Nik, Marty gave a deep sigh. “I’ve heard that who you kiss at midnight is who you’re to spend the rest of your year with.”


            “That’sth what they sthay,” Nik said with a nod. But he noticed the way Marty looked up at the stage and quickly cleared his throat. “But what do they know, right?” He patted Marty’s back reassuringly.


            Marty did not look very reassured, however. In fact, he looked more uneasy now than he had when Coyote was getting propositions. “I’m…” He shifted from one foot to the other, then rubbed the toe of one shoe against the back of one of his calves. “I, uh, think I’m going to move a little closer…” He looked over at Nik. “You with me?”


            But Nik shook his head. “I think I should sthtay here.” He took a sip of his water and nodded appreciatively towards it. “I’ll be fine, though. Don’t worry about me. It’sth justht a little cold.”


            So Marty headed into the great crowd, slowly making his way towards the stage.


            Finding himself completely alone, Nik sighed. His shoulders rose and fell as he relaxed back against the wall. He pulled another few tissues out of the box crunched beneath his arm. He blew his nose softly, but then needed to sneeze. “ihhh-ihhChuhh!


            As he rubbed his nose, he felt his own cell phone go off in his pocket. It was set on vibrate and, with where it was in the pocket of his tight pants, it made him smile among other things. He took it out and saw, first, that it was 11:59. The lights were beginning to dim again and, just as the band’s song ended, the curtains behind the stage pulled back to reveal a large disco ball.


            There was cheering and hollering from everywhere in the club the moment the ball was lit. Turbo, through the microphone on his soundboard, began the countdown. From the sound of it, every single person in Strokes was counting along.




            Nik looked down at his cell phone again, seeing that he had received a text message from Ducky. He smiled in relief. It was short but sweet:







            Nik glanced around in order to see his friends. He looked over at Turbo, who was standing at his soundboard, but who was now surrounded by several men on each side, arms across each other’s shoulders as they helped him count down into the microphone.




            Up on stage, Coyote was giving his guitar a strum for effect as each second went by. His band-mates did similarly with their own instruments, careful not to rush the count in their anticipation.




            Marty stood in the center of the crowd, counting along but not looking particularly excited about it. His eyes were trained on the stage, as though he and Coyote were the only two men there. But he crossed his arms over his chest.




            Julia could easily be spotted on the dance floor as well. She was still with Kevin, who stood behind her with his arms wrapped around her.




            The door to the bathroom was still closed, and Nik was certain Olly and Sam were still inside, ringing in the new year with the sort of intimacy that only came when friends (and occasional lovers) got together again for the first time in months.




            Pit was with a man, but it was not the same one he had been dancing with before. This one was just as handsome, though, if not more-so. They were nuzzling each other, lips coming close to touching but pulling away before contact, saving the kiss until the right moment.




            Sweetie and Jamie were not far away from there, one arm wrapped around the other’s back. They were practically bouncing with the force of yelling along with the crowd.




            The dropping ball had nearly reached the bottom of the platform above which it was suspended, and the shouted numbers were impossibly louder and the whole place was overflowing with excitement.




            Rubbing at his nose, Nik smiled and gave a deep sigh, thinking about where he was and what the last year had been like. There had been pain and sorrow, but also plenty of happiness and love as well. Another year over.


            “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”


            Sparklers went off on both sides of the stage and the lights all came on with a brilliant white. The disco ball spun, sending all colors of the rainbow spinning around the room. The moment the sparklers had burned out, black and white balloons dropped from the ceiling over everyone. The band struck up their very own version of Auld Lang Syne There was cheering and laughing and, naturally, kissing of every kind throughout Strokes.


            However, Nik wasn’t in a position to kiss anyone. He hadn’t wanted to miss the moment, but now that it was over, he turned and covered his nose and mouth with both hands. “ehhhShihh!” No one was there with him to watch, so he let himself go. “hah-ihh-ITCh! EhShh! He snapped forward weakly with each sneeze. “ihhChh! IhhShhh! hih-ihhh-IHShhhh!


            Nik felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Sweetie. And Jamie. And Turbo and Pit and Olly and everyone. “Happy New Year, Nik,” Sweetie said warmly, and he kissed Nik’s cheek.


            “I’m going to go bring a limo around to drive you home,” Julia said, kissing him as well and disappearing before he could say anything to her about it.


            “We want you well,” Pit said, putting his arm around Nik and holding him close. He let Nik lean against him again. Nik shivered and half-snuggled into the larger, stronger man.


            “So we’re going to make sure you get better,” Olly said, feeling Nik’s forehead again to find it warmer now.


            “And we’re not leaving you alone again until you are,” said Coyote at the back of the pack, his arm around Marty.


            “I’ll stay and look after the club, but you’re to stay warm,” Turbo said, pulling off his black scarf and carefully wrapping it around Nik’s neck.


            “Come on,” Sweetie said, taking Nik’s arm opposite Pit. Jamie took off his black jacket, broad in the shoulders, and put it around Nik’s. “We’re going home.”


            Nik shook his head, finally working up the energy to break in. “No… I want you all to enjoy yoursthelvesth tonight.”


            “We have,” Sweetie assured him. “It’s a wonderful celebration. And now we want to go home with you.”


            It did not take any more persuading to get Nik to the car. He stretched out on one seat with his head in Pit’s lap and the tissue box in front of him. And he fell asleep on the ride home, surrounded by his friends and covered like a blanket with all their tuxedo jackets.