Brian had disappeared into the back of the bus and was mulling over his journal, rubbing his forehead and staring at the pages, rather than actually writing on them. He was deep in thought, consulting his own words for answers to questions he couldn't quite wrap his mouth around. He kept glancing up front at Nick's head, wondering what was going on inside it, if Nick's thoughts were as tangled as his own were.
The tension was evident most in Nick's body language, though. He gripped the steering wheel at ten and two with white knuckles, his jaw set and eyes glued to the road directly ahead of them. Amanda was willing to bet that Nick was staring but unseeing. She was relieved when he parked the bus and cut the engine, because it was one less danger that she had to worry about.
"I'm taking a shower," he announced once the engine's roar died. He got up and walked to the back of the bus where the dinky shower and toilet was.
He closed the bathroom door behind him and leaned against it, closing his eyes and trying to remember how to breathe normally, steadily. He looked into the mirror at his own reflection, and felt a piece of his heart break. He hadn’t meant to get mad at Brian like that. Getting mad at his best friend had been the last thing he’d wanted to do. Getting angry wasn’t what the trip was supposed to be about. But then again, neither was getting depressed.
For as long as Nick could remember, he’d struggled with feeling as though he was truly wanted. He’d always second guessed the fans’ devotion to him, convinced that if they knew the real him they’d abandon him faster than he could blink his eyes. The only person he’d ever truly believed accepted him for who he was … was Brian.
Nick imagined telling Amanda, confessing why Brian had wanted her to come along, why he’d been outback of the hotel smoking that day when they first met, what had made him put all the effort into planning the perfect road trip… but he couldn’t imagine the reaction she’d have. Angry, for one, for not telling her sooner, Brian was right about that. But how else would she react?
A part of him was jealous. But he wasn’t quite sure of what.
Amanda sighed and stood up as the door clicked shut behind Nick. She slid between the driver and passenger seats. She leaned against the back of the passenger seat, and looked at Brian, who was sitting at the little table by the kitchenette, directly behind Nick's seat.
He looked up, and she recognized the look of defeat on his face. "Hey," he said.
"That was awkward," she said.
"We had a fight," he admitted.
"Nick told me," Amanda said. She fidgeted with a ring on her finger for a moment, then said, "I'm gonna go outside."
Amanda climbed off the bus and found herself in another breath-taking desert landscape. She sat down on a rock and pulled her pack of cigarettes from her pocket on her hip. The lighter was tucked inside. She made a mental note to actually go into the next gas station and restock her nicotine supply. Lighting up, she leaned back so that she was laying across the rock, looking up into the sky, her hair splayed on the ground below.
The door to the bus opened, then closed. "There's something I want to tell you," Brian said.
Amanda sat up, shaking the dust out of her hair and lowering the cigarette from her mouth, exhaling the smoke. "What?"
Brian stood by the bus, not meeting her eyes, "I think you should know. Nick doesn't want me to tell you. But I'm not sure if it's up to him."
"Why wouldn't Nick want you to tell me?" she asked.
Brian sighed, "He doesn't like thinking about it."
Amanda bit her lip and flicked ash from the end of the light. "Does my knowing mean he'd have to think about it?" she asked.
"He thinks so," Brian answered.
"Well, you could tell me, and we could not tell Nick that you told me," she suggested.
Brian's eyes met hers and she could tell he was really struggling with the decision. "I-" he paused. His nose flared, and she could tell whatever it was, it was huge, and it was hurting him to speak the words.
"What is it, Brian?"
"I really think I should tell you,” he said, “But… he’s my best friend…so I don’t know if I can.”
Recognizing the thick emotion in his voice, Amanda tossed the cigarette down and stomped it out. She stood up, now fully intrigued as Brian wove his fingers together and pressed his bonded hands to his face like he was praying. They were shaking.
"You can tell me anything, Brian. I won’t tell him you told me," she said. “He can think he told me himself whenever he gets around to it.” Her heart was pounding.
Brian looked her square in the eyes. He wanted to tell her. He was right, after all, she had a right to know, and it wasn’t really up to Nick to decide whether to tell her or not. He opened his mouth, the words on the cusp of coming out of his mouth, when the bus door opened.
Nick stood in the doorway, his hair still wet from the shower. “Hey,” he said slowly. His eyes looked from Brian to Amanda.
“We were just talking,” Amanda said quickly, smoothly, “About what the next stop is. Does it have something to do with the motorcycles?”
Nick’s smile cracked like dawn, slowly but worth the wait, and he laughed. “No, the bikes go with the rig when we hand it off. But we’ll use the bikes, don’t worry.”
Amanda looked at Brian and smiled, shaking her head, “Damn and I thought we had it that time.”
Brian nodded, “Yeah. I did, too.”