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By the time Nick poked by, Amanda had fallen asleep. He laughed when he saw she'd taken the folded sheet of paper with the crap picture on it out of her jeans pocket and left it under her watch on the night stand. Nick sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed, wishing she'd sense him there and wake-up, but feeling too bad to actually wake her up himself.

She'd fallen asleep writing. A notebook laid under her wrist, her pen having fallen and rolled away across the sheets. Nick picked up the pen so it wouldn't leak on Jackie's bed dressings and tossed it onto the nightstand. He picked up the notebook and was about to close it, when he spotted his name scrawled across the top of the page, underlined; the title of a poem that followed below it.

Feeling a little bit guilty, he started reading it.

Nick
Because of the freckles
- laid scattered on your nose -
I know that you are real,
As though these tiny spots of imperfection
- impeccably small, in comparison -
Make it impossible that I have dreamed you.
The imperfect details form you
- make you uniquely you -
Like tell-tale signs God broke you while still in the mold;
Freckles make you infinitely more precious
- priceless, impossible to replace -
Like a flawless diamond not yet refined.


Below the poem, she'd written one more sentence, in a messier hand writing, crooked across the page. This was obviously after she’d started falling asleep… And don't even get me started on the sex.

Nick smiled, feeling pretty full of himself and closed the notebook -- but not before stealing the page. He laid it on the floor by her bag, which was gaping open. He could see her lingerie just inside and snickered. He kissed her cheek softly and got up, headed back to his own room.



Nick woke up early mainly because he could smell bacon. (Note to anyone who may be interested in waking Nick up - cook bacon, it works much better than actually trying to wake him up). He meandered downstairs in his pajamas, following the smell to the kitchen. Brian and Amanda were already seated at the table in the kitchen, eating bacon and scrambled eggs with orange juice.

"I told ya bacon would do the trick mum," Brian hooted when Nick came into the room.

"We knocked like four times," Amanda said as Nick ducked down to kiss her cheek and steal her bacon.

Nick smirked, "I only wake up for pork fat," he said, crunching away on the bacon strip.

"Pork fat it is," Jackie sang, "I'm making a glazed ham for dinner." Nick's mouth could hardly contain the drool that sentence inspired. "So what are you kids up to today?" she asked.

Brian smiled, "I'm going to show Amanda's the horses."

Nick groaned. "I don't wanna look at the horses, they're gonna beat the crap out of me."

"You can stay and help me cook the ham," Jackie teased, winking at Brian.

"Me? Cook?" Nick shook his head, "It's probably safer if I go see the horses."



After they'd eaten, they all changed into jeans and old t-shirts and walked across the grass towards the brown house. About halfway between the two houses ran an old-fashioned country fence. "Uncle Jerald built this fence," Brian said proudly, "He made Kevin and Harold help. I was too young to help, which they resented," he laughed, "But I liked it." Brian climbed up on the fence so that he was standing on the lower rung and whistled loudly, sticking two fingers into his mouth.

Amanda had always wished she could do that.

Nick was a few feet away from the fence. "You're such a baby," Amanda laughed, loving the quirkiness of his fear, as he sat down in the grass at a point he figured was safe. Nick stuck out his tongue.

A few seconds after Brian whistled, a beautiful reddish-brown mare came galloping up to the fence. Brian's face broke out into a smile as she pushed her face into his chest, nearly knocking him off the fence. He stroked her nose. "This is Derby," he said.

"Hey Derby," Amanda grinned, her fingers running over the warm horse's hair. "Oh Derby, you are beautiful," she whispered.

Brian smiled, "C'mon up on the fence, she'll let you ride her if you want."

"Without a saddle?" Amanda's eyes widened.

Brian laughed, "Derby's gentle."

"Gentle like a serial killer," muttered Nick from the grass.

“Here,” Brian cupped his hands together, lacing his fingers, and nodded for Amanda to step up. She laid a hand on his shoulder and put her foot carefully in his hand, almost afraid of breaking him. Apparently Nick thought the same thing because he leaped up and braced her backside. Between the two Boys, they hoisted her up onto Derby’s back. Amanda’s leg swung over the horse and she wrapped her arms around it’s neck.

“Oh, she’s beautiful,” she breathed. Her fingers combed into Derby’s mane, feeling the soft hair glide between them. The horse tossed it’s head gently, making Nick jump back away from the fence again and land on his ass on the ground.

Brian laughed, “You do it to yourself, Nick.”

Derby whinnied. “The horse thinks it’s funny, see?” Nick looked at Amanda. “I’m so serious.”

Brian smiled, “You wanna go for a ride?” he asked Amanda.

“I’m a little afraid without a saddle,” she admitted.

Brian smiled, “I promise, she’s gentle.”

Amanda took a deep breath. “Okay.”

Brian gently smacked Derby’s back and the horse galloped gently across the grass. Amanda’s hair flew out behind her as the horse moved, sleek and smooth, her hooves kicking up grass behind them. The air rushed into Amanda’s face and she felt exhilarated. Amazingly enough, this was more exciting than the free fall had been two days before.

Once Amanda had been carried a little ways away, Brian squinted into the sun. “I didn’t tell them yet.”

“Why?” Nick looked up at him from the grass where he was still sitting.

Brian shrugged. He dropped down off the fence, but stayed by it, picking at it. “I started to, but… They’ve had to go through so much with me already, I’m afraid.”

Nick frowned, “If I told my parents I was dying they’d probably throw a party or somethin’,” he looked up at Bri, “You’re lucky they care so much.”

“They wouldn’t throw a party,” Brian reprimanded him.

They were quiet a few moments, then Nick said, “I’m gonna ask her to move in with me when we get back to LA.” He nodded toward Amanda and the horse.

Brian turned around, “You’re what?”

“I’m gonna ask Amanda to move in with me,” Nick repeated. “I love being around her, and we’re perfect together. Don’t you think we’re perfect together?”

Brian hesitated. “You barely know her,” he said.

“Yeah,” Nick shrugged, “So we’ll get to know each other more.” He squinted up at Brian, “Besides, you’re the one that said I should trust her.”

“I just think you should maybe get to know her more first,” Brian said. “Moving in is a big step.”

Nick laughed, “I just don’t think there’s anything in the world that this woman could tell me that would make me stop loving her. She’s so…” he sighed.

Brian could feel himself wincing. He leaned against the fence, taking deep breaths, trying to will himself not to tell Nick right there. If I tell him, they’ll have a snowball’s chance in hell of making it work, Brian reminded himself.

“Isn’t she great Brian?” Nick asked, grinning at Brian’s back, “I mean, seriously. I’ve really found a good one. After all those other bad news chicks I’ve dated, I finally, finally found one who loves me and gets me and can handle a joke… And she knows I’m not perfect.” He was thinking about the poem.

Brian didn’t want to hear anymore. He whistled for Derby, and the horse turned and started back toward them. She returned to Brian’s hand, her nose nuzzling him. He held out his hand for Amanda and she slid off the horse, a smile the size of Texas plastered to her face.



Brian had finally gone in to tell his parents.

Nick and Amanda lay in the back yard, far away from the house, in a field of sunflowers. The sunflowers were towering over them, stretching away into the sky. They were six feet tall, even Nick could only barely see over the tops of them standing up. They were wrapped around their stems in strange positions.

“This is what it would be like to be an ant,” Nick laughed.

Amanda giggled, “I love your imagination,” she said.

Nick grinned, “It’s cos I’m ADHD you know,” he said laughing.

“I don’t care, I love it. And I love you.”

Somewhere in the distance, a rumble of thunder rolled off the hills.

“I love you, too.” Nick rolled over onto his stomach and looked at her. Why wait ‘til LA? he wondered. “Amanda?”

“Hmmm?” she’d closed her eyes.

“When we get back to LA…”

“Yeah?” Amanda sat up, looking at Nick.

“Will you move in with me?” he asked.

Amanda could hear her heart pounding in her neck. “Move in with you?” she stuttered. “What do you mean?”

“I mean my stuff’s your stuff, its our stuff, cos we both live there.” Nick could hear the nervous in his own voice and, afraid he sounded stupid, quickly said, “If you don’t wanna…”

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” Amanda assured him. “God, no, more than anything else in the world, I want to live with you so I can be with you every single day of my life. But—“ she paused. “Nick, there’s something you need to know about first.”

“What is it?”

But she didn’t get the words out, yet again, as torrential rain began to fall. She screamed as it poured through the tall flowers, and struggled to her feet as the ground beneath her became instant mud. Nick, too, leaped up, laughing and holding his hands up to the sky, “Shit that’s cold!” he yelped. “C’mon.” He took her hand and started pulling her toward the house.

As they bolted across the large field, Amanda could feel her t-shirt clinging to her body. Her hair matted to the back of her neck and she was even wetter than she would’ve been having just taken a shower. The air around them seemed white from the rain. She felt blind. She reached out her hand for Nick, but couldn’t find him. It was raining so hard that she had no idea which way the house was. She started to panic.

Then Nick appeared out of the rain, his shirt and jeans plastered to him, too, a sultry look in his eyes. It was like an updated version of the Quit Playing Games video – and this time it was not cheesy. He grabbed her, pulled her to him, their thin-from-the-water shirts provided basically no separation and she could feel the definition of his chest and abs against her.,

He smirked. “It’s raining a little,” he laughed.

“Just a little,” she agreed.

Neither of them could keep their eyes open. The rain kept falling into it. Amanda felt like a newborn kitten with the hazy eyes. She blinked up at him. “Actually its more like tsunami of the sky or something,” he laughed.

“I do kind of feel like I’m drowning,” she admitted.

Another roll of thunder echoed across the sky, and the rain was suddenly alight with a flash of lightening. Nick looked up, “Shit, we’re gonna end up electrocuted or something,” he laughed. “C’mon.” He took her hand this time, their fingers locked firmly together, and ran through the rain.

Only dense shapes were visible because of the way they had to squint in it, but soon they’d come up to the house. The barn door was slamming open and closed to their right, and the ducks could be heard quacking loudly, panicking because of the storm. Nick ran for the barn instead of the house, ducks and all, and Amanda followed him. Once they’d stepped out of the rain, Nick pulled the barn doors closed and slid the latch across them to keep them closed, locking them from the inside.

The ducks scattered away at the velocity of their entrance, running into a couple of the empty horse stalls, honking and quacking all the way. Nick turned to Amanda and shook like a dog, sending water flying in every direction. She just stood there, feeling heavy, waterlogged, and cold. Nick laughed, “Aw, you’re soaked. C’mere.” He stepped closer to her and reached for her shirt, “Let’s get this wet stuff off you.” He winked.

Amanda laughed, “What if they come out here?” she asked.

“Through the frickin’ typhoon?” Nick pointed at the window – the rain was still pouring just as hard as it had been before.

He pulled his own shirt off and laid it over a saw horse, then kicked off his sneakers, which had started sloshing as they filled with water. Amanda kicked her shoes off, too, though they hadn’t been sloshing. Nick had made her pick a really good pair. He turned to her. “There’s some hay over there,” he pointed, “We could use it.”

Amanda laughed, “You wanna romp in the hay?”

Nick smirked, “Uh-huh…” His hands flew to the bottom of her shirt again, “I wanna have sex on it, too,” he said, his voice again low and sultry.

Amanda laughed, “That’s what romp in the hay means.”

Nick kissed her neck softly, “I was being cute,” he said.

“In that case, it worked,” she whispered.

He pulled her shirt off and laid it over the saw horse next to his, then kicked off his soaking wet jeans. He stood there in just boxers while she struggled with the button of her own jeans. He stepped over, “Troubles, bubbles?” he asked. She giggled. He reached down and undid the button himself. She stepped out of the jeans and laid them across the saw horse, too. She was painfully aware of being in just underwear, and of a donkey peering over his corral at them.

Nick scooped her up into his arms fireman style and carried her into an empty stall, where a pile of hay was leaning against the wall. A pitchfork stuck out of one side of it. Nick lay Amanda into the hay and lifted the pitchfork, putting it into the next corral. “That didn’t seem like a good idea to keep that there,” he explained.

“You’d probably stab yourself with it,” Amanda laughed, “Imagine that emergency room trip? ‘I got stabbed with a pitchfork while having a romp in the hay’?”

Nick laughed, “That’s almost as bad as the 4-hour erection.”

“What?” she laughed, “You didn’t.”

I didn’t,” Nick laughed, “I’ve never taken that crap. But…” he smirked, “AJ wanted to see if it was a high once, a long time ago, and he took it without planning to have sex or anything and I mean…” Nick paused, “This is really not a story for foreplay,” he laughed.

Amanda laughed and reached up, wrapping her arms around his neck, “Well, I definitely wanna hear it later.”

“Okay.”
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