The Screech-In

Nick and Diane arrive at the Legion to find the place already full to bursting, despite neither of them having been fashionably late in their lives. It appears that everyone else is simply unfashionably early and really, who could blame them? A night off from all of this is a very welcome idea.

A man who turns out to be the Mayor of Gander – Claude, Diane says his name is – welcomes them both and makes some small talk and a faux-pas about their presumed marriage. Nick turns bright red, but Diane simply laughs it off, answering Claude's question about whether she'd like to be married to Nick with "Well, why not?"

Nick feels the sudden need for a drink.

They both squeeze their way to the bar and after some toing and froing about drinks orders and who is paying, Nick finally orders two beers.

They sip them, each nervously aware of the other. They watch one another when they think the other isn't looking, blushing and glancing away with a quick smile when caught. This dance plays out throughout the entirety of their first beer and part way through their second.

It is around this time that the band kicks up and people begin to dance. Diane asks if he'd like to and to his eternal shame and regret Nick says no. He cites his heart condition and additional left foot as excuses, but he can't help but notice the disappointment in her eyes.

Diane gets up anyway and one of the Kevins twirls her out onto the dance floor. Nick is captivated as she spins and dances and laughs and shines. He can't remember the last time he was so drawn to somebody – especially somebody he's only known for two days.

He instantly regrets his decision to remain where he is, slumping down into a chair with a sigh. He's never exactly been a social butterfly – too caught up in his work to have time for anything like that – but seeing Diane, being with her (around her, not with her Nick corrects in his head) makes him want to try. Makes him wish he were more courageous. Makes him wish that he were the kind of man to get up and dance with the woman he… Nick gulps, not quite ready to finish that sentence, even in his own head.

After a while, the dancing troupe returns to where he's been holding the fort at a small table. Both the Kevins and someone that Nick later discovers is called Bob slide into the remaining seats, leaving Diane without a chair.

"I'm sure Mr. Stuffy here won't mind if you share," one of the Kevins declares snarkily.

"Kevin! Be nice," the other Kevin replies, hitting him playfully in the chest with the back of his hand.

"Oh, no that's quite… I mean I don't…" Nick begins to stammer and then promptly shuts right up as Diane plops down into his lap with a giggle.

He notices her falling almost before it happens and puts out a hand to steady her. It seems those two beers are taking effect.

Nick thinks he'd best keep his arms there, one hand snaked securely around her waist.

For safety.

They both secretly thrill at the closeness and try to keep the flushes and grins from their face as conversation carries on around them, each holding their body rigid so as not to give away too much. If they were to relax fully into the embrace, that would mean acknowledging this fragile thing out loud and neither seems ready to do that just yet.

But they can't help clocking each warm smile thrown their way by a passing local and indulging in the momentary fantasy of what it would be like if they really were here together.

After a while, Claude-the-Mayor starts going on about making everybody Newfoundlanders and Diane very kindly volunteers them both for the process.

Maybe it is the screech still burning in his throat and now warming his belly or maybe it is the way Diane keeps smiling at him and finding excuses to tap his shoulder or rest a hand gently on his knee, but Nick decides that tonight he will be the kind of man to try.

To take chances.

To kiss the fish.

And then, the absolute hypocrite, Diane refuses to do the same.

Nick is so busy making his protests known that he almost doesn't hear Claude-the-Mayor's offer of an alternative and it's only when the words "Englishman" and "kiss" seep down into his subconscious that he once again feels the tips of his ears turn pink and he turns with a splutter.

"But we're not…No, I … but…"

But then he feels a small, warm hand slide around to cup the back of his neck and everything stops as two perfect lips press against his.

He hears the roar of the crowd surrounding them as if underwater – it is distant and untroubling. Nick remains frozen for a moment too long and can feel Diane starting to pull away. It is then that his brain kicks back into gear, his hands settle on her waist and his mouth moves against hers in return.

After a moment, they pull away from each other, both blushing profusely but unable to keep the grins from their faces.

For the remainder of the evening, they drink, talk and dance; Diane circulating and getting to know the other locals, Nick following behind like a lovesick puppy, uncertain of his place, but never wanting to leave Diane's side.

"I can't believe you two," says one of the Kevins – Nick thinks this one is Kevin J, that seems to be how everyone refers to them.

"That screech is strong stuff, huh! I wish I'd thought of your move to get out of kissing the fish too," added Kevin T.

Diane laughed, but couldn't help but feel Nick stiffen beside her and a glance at his expression revealed the hurt and uncertainty in his eyes.

She gently slips her hand into his and leads them outside.

The cool night breeze is a sobering shock after the heat and noise of the overcrowded pub and Diane feels herself shiver.

Nick immediately offers her the bomber jacket he'd borrowed from the shelter, but she shakes her head.

"You know it wasn't the screech, right?" she asks.

"…I'm sorry?" he glances up at her uncertainly.

"The reason I kissed you. It wasn't just the screech and it certainly wasn't just to get out of kissing the fish." Diane chucked "although, I can't deny that was a nice bonus!"

He smiled ruefully at her.

"But no, I kissed you because, well… I've been wanting to do that for about 2 days now."

"Really?" he gasps.

She smiles, sliding both her hands into his once more.

"Really."

Her eyes drop to the hesitant smile slowly spreading across his face and she leans in close to kiss him once more. This one is different to the ceremony – gentler, softer but somehow more certain as well.

This time, Nick doesn't freeze. He lets go of her hands to wrap one arm around her waist and slide the other up to cup her cheek, deepening the angle of the kiss. He's so lost in the heady feel of her that he hasn't realised she's been walking them backwards until he feels the cold brick wall of the alley against his back.

They pass a delightful who-knew-how-many-more minutes (or maybe hours?) out there and it's only when Nick feels Diane shiver against him that he stops, opens up his bomber jacket pulls her close, wrapping her up in it as her arms snake around his waist.

He plants a kiss to the top of her head and asks "Shall we go?"

With a nod, she turns and begins slowly walking back towards the school, never once letting go of his waist.

They discuss some of the highlights from the Legion on the way back, including Claude-the-Mayor's offer of marriage.

"Perhaps we should have let him marry us after all," teases Diane, mostly to get a rise out of Nick (and to see if his ears turn that delightful shade of pink again).

But, to her shock, Nick stops, turns to her and takes her hand.

"Maybe not tonight, but perhaps we'll return here in a year or two and take him up on the offer."

He starts off down the road, tossing a roguish smile back over his shoulder at her frozen state.

"Well, are you coming?"

Diane pushes down the butterflies in her stomach and hurries after him.

The following morning, not a single person is surprised to see the two of them asleep, hand in hand, cots pushed together and a matching smile spread across their face, excited for the future.

After that, Nick is different. Not noticeably, not shockingly, merely a subtle shift in confidence and self-assuredness.

He stammers less and smiles more. He makes decisions more easily and shares his thoughts with those around him.

He is now the kind of man who tries.

Who kisses not only the fish, but the woman he loves.

In short, he is happy.

And so is she.