All In by elleinad
Chapter 8 by elleinad
Author's Notes:

Leaning on the countertop, with his hands on either side of the sink in the bathroom the next morning, Nick looked himself over in the mirror.

He looked and felt tired. He stood there - slightly hungover - pensive, and in deep thought.

He recounted the last few moments of the night before. It was three o'clock when he and Coll arrived at the door of her suite. They lingered for several minutes, he hung on her door jam, trying to prolong the night, she smiled and pushed her hand through her hair, and they hugged for an extended period of time. It took every ounce of self-control he could muster to not try anything with her, but it also felt like he was finally doing something responsible. Still, he had allowed himself to indulge in what remained of that perfume he was so drawn to, and to put his hand on the part of her back that her dress didn’t cover. He knew he had stepped into dangerous territory, and now he had to sort out what it meant that he had and that he enjoyed it.

Looking into his own eyes, he began to convince himself that whatever he wanted last night with Coll was a product of being intoxicated. That was a likely enough actuality, he could believe that.

He convinced himself that there was no possible way he could have had a bad time with her.

So that part didn’t count, really. He told himself.

She was the only person untouched by celebrity - or who was not wrapped up in the fantasy of fame - that he had spent any time with at all in the past year or more. She was just there for him, there was no threat of her wanting him for any selfish reason, so his guard could come down. And that, of course, had to be the reason he had as much fun as he did and felt the things he felt, whatever they were. That’s what he calculated. It was a simple equation.

While all of that was true, his subconscious mind was working on the other truth: because of those same reasons, he was falling for her. He just wasn’t ready to know that yet. His defenses were building up, creating cognitive darkness around the full truth.

The time he had to contemplate, everything was cut short by an aggressive knock on his door.

He left the bathroom and his reverie behind and went to the door. Upon opening it, he saw Billy standing in the hallway looking incredibly pissed off.

Down the hall, Coll didn’t wake until eleven, when her phone began to ring. In a daze, she made her way to the device to see that it was Eric calling. She silenced the call and sat back down on the bed. She began to gather her thoughts about the previous night and the day going forward.

Last night almost felt like a dream, but as she checked herself this morning without the influence of any substances, she knew she was waking up into a new reality: a reality where she was fully aware of and admitting to herself that she was falling for Nick. In this reality, she knew she held on to him for longer than she should have when he hugged her at the door last night. In this reality, she was obsessed with the feel of his hand on the exposed skin of her back. In this reality, she was totally and utterly clueless as to what to do.

She would go on hiding the truth from everyone else, and even trying to talk herself out of it, but she had to be honest - at least with herself that this was more than innocent curiosity and simple attraction. She genuinely enjoyed their talks no matter how random or juvenile they were, she enjoyed the heat that rushed through her body when he put his hand on her thigh, and she felt more a sense of adventure sneaking off with him four miles from their hotel than she did even coming all the way to Europe to begin with. He excited her in ways she hadn’t felt before. It was the most excellent feeling, but it also terrified her.

What an epic fucking mess.

If what had happened last night had happened with anyone else, she would not be waking up alone. The mountain of history and the cherished past between them was either going to be the glue that held them together as they had been or the thing that kept them apart in the way she really wanted them to be.

She spent the rest of the day consumed by her own thoughts.

He said I looked hot, what did that mean? And “to seeing where we end up” … ? was that REALLY related to fictional travel plans?

And then, of course, there was the way he looked at her - no, into her. It was a crazy revelation, but at least now she knew what she was working with, and she knew she had to continue to try and get herself past it. It had to be a fleeting phase.

Maybe it will wear off. It can’t be this way… you can’t fall for your best friend.

In an attempt to avoid as many people as possible, Coll ate a granola bar she found in her bag and stayed in her room most of the day. She spent time checking emails and trying to distract herself with writing projects that had been untouched for weeks, though very little progress was made.


Coll, can’t come out till the 21st. It’s just easiest that way, where will you be then? Ugh, that’s SOOO long from now. Miss you too much. How is everything? The apartment search is alright. Meh. I need to get out of here ASAP though, dad is obsessed with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - and the dad jokes just don’t stop. “is that your final answer??”’ he just doesn’t get tired of it… SAVE ME.



ColleeeeenPea my baby bee, miss you so much, please send me photos from your magical summer in europe. -Mel


Colleen, please call when possible. Do you have enough money? dad.



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My life is even more mundane than I had originally thought, She considered the sad fact as she pressed her hand to her forehead and opened a neglected word document as she sighed heavily.

The cursor flashed at her, marking the middle of an unfinished sentence. She stared at it for several minutes before hanging her head in defeat. So boring.

That evening, Coll was watching a British drama on TV when Nick knocked on her door. As she opened the door and saw him there, she willed herself to act as she normally would despite her newly semi-understood feelings about him.

As Coll opened the door, Nick felt that similar wave of relief he felt the first night she was with them in Germany, seeing her for the first time in so many months. She was so normal, and he was reminded that being in her presence was relaxing, especially after the day he had.

“Cute outfit,” he commented with a smile.

She looked down to remind herself what she was wearing and blushed a little as she giggled at herself, standing there wearing a matching pajama set covered in rubber duckies.

“Thanks, I try.” She replied. “Anyway, what’s up?” She asked.

“I got reamed out about last night.” He explained as he came inside.

She swallowed hard, trying to hide any emotion that might bubble up. The feeling of last night being something of a dream still remained even after a long day of talking herself in circles about it.

“Billy was... angry. If there is a word bigger than angry… maybe that.” He laughed lightly, remembering the look on Billy’s face earlier that morning.

“Enraged? Incensed ...” Coll offered as she followed him into her suite.

“Like a combination of those.” He sighed as he crashed down onto her bed, reclining into her pillows. Her heart skipped a beat.

“I guess I understand that.” She nodded.

“It wasn’t dangerous at all.” He defended himself again.

She tilted her head at him. “A little risky, though...”

“It was worth it.” He smiled at her, and she felt her heart in her throat. What does that mean?

She nodded slowly with a conservative smile, “It was really fun. And we didn’t get trampled, so that was a plus.”

“So what did you do all day? I didn’t see you.” He asked as she sat on the edge of the bed opposite him.

Nick listened as Coll reiterated what Becka said in her email and relaxed further into the comfort of the pillows on her bed as she spoke. It was easy being with her; she was uncomplicated, drama free, and constant. Do not corrupt her. Do not corrupt her.

His world outside of this room was a rush of madness, he was always in motion, operating at a high energy level. But in this moment, he was able to breathe. He didn’t have to be “on,” which he enjoyed greatly. He didn’t have to pretend, or act, or follow any scripts... he could just sit there and enjoy the fact that it wasn’t all about him for a minute.

He watched her talking, watched as her hair fell over her shoulder, and she picked at one of her nails. He watched her closely, falling into a state of distraction - she was familiar, but she also felt new.

“Nick?” She asked, looking at him curiously.


“What’s up? You zoned out for a minute.”

“Sorry, so what did …?” He trailed off. Had she mentioned Melanie?

She smiled at him, “Melanie, yeah, she wanted pictures - and my dad is worried I’m going to run out of money.” She recounted both stories, not sure where she lost him the first time.

“Do you need money?” He asked, concerned.

“No. He’s just being a dad.” She giggled, “Are you seriously okay?”

“I’m great. It’s just nice to chill.” He sighed, “You’re easy to chill with.”

They made casual conversation, she told him about her unfinished writing projects, he elaborated more on what Billy said, she told him about a funny story she saw on AOL that morning, and he mentioned that Mandy would be out in a few days to visit.

They flipped through the channels and talked about the immediate future for a few hours until they both fell asleep on her bed.

Waking up in the middle of the night to see Nick asleep next to her was a bit startling at first. As she remembered what had brought them to being asleep in her bed, the shock wore off, and a natural sense of comfort and security took over, which she loved and also hated. As she laid there in the dark, she could feel it deeply that unless she could move past these feelings, she was most certainly setting herself up for a profound heartbreak that would result in a tainted friendship - if one remained at all - and the death of romantic possibility. But having him there next to her was so good.

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