If I Knew Then by DelphinaCarter
Chapter 1 by DelphinaCarter
The room was filled with people and Nick never felt more alone in his life. It was his birthday and they were celebrating, but celebrating what? To Nick it was just another way to feel like he didn't belong. Lou kept bringing over pretty girls to talk to him but he wasn't interested. He kept excusing himself, hiding in corners of the room or outside by the pool…but people kept finding him and bringing him to be the center of attention. He didn't want to be the center of anything. Especially not today. Not one person in that room even cared to know the real Nick, just Nick Carter the Backstreet Boy. The teen heartthrob. The one who sold records. The cute one. Nick looked bitterly at the lavish party and sulked. He just wanted to be alone.

"Are you okay?" Brian asked when he noticed that Nick wasn't having any fun at his own birthday party.

"Would I be lying if I said yes?"

"You never have been a very good liar, you know."

Nick half smiled and looked at his feet. He was seventeen today but he looked so much older, as if something had been weighing down on his mind for years. Brian looked at him skeptically and Nick looked at his feet again.

“Fine, you caught me. No, Bri. I'm not okay."

Brian sat down on the couch next to him and put a hand on Nick's knee, smiling.

"Want to get out of here for a while? It looks like you want to be alone." he offered. Nick turned his head sideways and looked at him, the same way a dog would. Brian chuckled. It was one of Nick's quirks that made him endearing.

"But if you come, it doesn't count as being alone."

"We can be alone together. Come on. We can shoot hoops." Brian said with a small smile. Nick agreed and without anyone noticing they were gone, they'd slipped out of the party that Lou had thrown for Nick in New York...going to the nearest basketball court. Nobody else was around and they decided to just toss around the ball for fun.

"So...are you going to ask me what is wrong with me, or are we going to pretend we want to play Horse?" Nick asked, chuckling at Brian.

They’d been on tour for months and Nick had definitely been acting differently, at least Brian had noticed because they were so close.

“I don't know. Depends on you.” He said.

Nick smiled and passed him the ball. Brian dribbled it before passing it back. He loved playing basketball together, it was relaxing and he liked to spend time with Nick. They listened to the sound of the city traffic nearby and continued their game.

"I would have gotten to that eventually. So you wanna tell me why we ditched the party? There were a lot of cute girls there."

Nick took a few running steps and shot the ball into the basket, missing. The ball bounced and Brian picked it up.

"I wasn't interested."

Brian dropped the ball in surprise, Nick Carter not interested in pretty girls? He never thought he would see this happen, as many times when girls were around Nick put on a show for them. He loved attention. His mother always told the guys stories about how girls would gather at the fence in front of their house to watch Nick sing in their yard or play on the trampoline.

"Why not?"

"Brian, if I told you something....would you think any different of me? We are best friends, right?" Nick said. Brian walked over and put his arm around his friend's neck, hugging him. Nick's eyes were watering and he looked down in shame.

“Of course we are.”

“Cause when I tell you, you might not want to be my friend anymore.”

Brian looked at him in confusion but his face softened when he saw him crying. He was visibly upset and this was such a change from a half hour ago. What could he possibly have to tell him that would make him so upset?

"Hey, don't cry. . It's your birthday....and why wouldn't I be friends with you anymore? I could never stop being your friend, Nick. That's what best friends are for. We are here for each other. Forever."

Nick wiped his eyes and stared into Brian's, their blue pupils reflecting each other. Nick truly wanted to believe Brian but he knew that this information would probably end up destroying their friendship. He’d spent a good amount of time thinking about who he could talk to and eventually decided that Brian was the best choice. Nobody else would have understood. Or so he thought.

Brian shook his head. He was really worried now, wondering what Nick could possibly be getting at.

“Really? You mean that?”

"Nick there's no way I would ever stop being your friend."

"You promise?"

"I swear."

Nick held out his hand. "We need to shake on it."

"Frack, you're being ridiculous. I would never abandon you. Now what is it you're so upset about?"

"Just shake. Please."

Although he didn't see a need to, Brian took his hand and they firmly shook them before Nick's hands retreated to his pockets. Nick seemed to be satisfied. Brian opened his mouth to speak but before he could Nick blurted....

"I think I might be gay."

Brian felt his eyes widen but it suddenly made sense. All those times Nick was avoiding him or acting strangely around him. Avoiding the girls at the party. Dodging questions from the press about relationships. He wasn't sure how to feel about any of this and he was even questioning his own thoughts on the subject. Nick didn't seem the type to be gay. This had to be a dream, but Brian knew he wasn't imagining anything. This was real. Nick kept looking at him, expecting some sort of reply. Brian didn't know what to do. Things got very awkward and quiet and neither of them spoke.

Brian didn't say anything for a long time, they just stood there in silence, Nick chewing at his lip, his chest heaving faster with anxiety from not talking. The silence was almost deafening. He eventually picked up the ball out of nervousness and threw it at the hoop. It missed and angrily fell to the ground. Nick's eyes were watering again with unshed tears because Brian didn’t answer fast enough. He knew Brian would not accept him. He knew nobody would.

"You hate me." he whispered.

Brian felt a surge of rage rush through him, followed by disappointment. Disappointed with himself for not speaking or reacting at Nick's confession. He grabbed Nick's shoulders and looked up at him, watching tears roll down Nick's face.

"Nick. I never want to hear you say that again. I don't hate you. I could never hate you. You're my best friend. Okay?" he said. Nick nodded and wiped his eyes.

"I….I had to tell somebody. I just been feeling so weird about it and I don't know what to do. What if Lou finds out? What if the guys find out, the fans? I'll get kicked out of the group. I can't be gay…” he started rambling and punishing himself, all while crying, saying he was going to be the reason the group failed and that it wasn't normal. He said that he was ashamed and sorry.

"Look, this doesn't have to leave this basketball court. Just don't tell anyone. Your secret is safe with me until you want to talk to everyone about it." Brian offered hastily, trying to smooth things over. Nick's eyes narrowed.

"But Brian, I can't just lie. Don't you see that's why I'm not happy? I'm not happy pretending to be something I am not. I have been miserable keeping this. You heard Lou at the party. I'm the group’s meal ticket. The golden boy. I can't like boys. Please help me. Help me be normal.”

“I don't know how to do that.”

Brian knew deep down that Nick was right. Lou would always say that Nick was very marketable and would be even more so when he got older. That he was the group’s shining star. Brian didn't like that idea. He could see the pressure it was putting on all of them. He wanted to tell Nick that he accepted him, that nothing would change but be knew this was a lie. This would ruin everything and he had to think quickly.

"Nick...trust me. It's better if you didn't tell anyone. I won't say anything. Just act like you've always been and maybe it will just go away."

Nick frowned, feeling sick to his stomach. He had left out the most important detail about his confession. This feeling wouldn’t simply go away no matter how much Brian tried to convince him otherwise.

That he was in love with Brian.

Nick and Brian finished their game and went back to the party, which was dwindling down. Brian seemed distant after they'd gotten back so Nick didn't tell him anything else. He kept to himself and just thought about what Brian said. Yes, maybe it was better to just hide and pretend- to play his role like Lou wanted. He was miserable but at least he wouldn't be responsible for the group breaking up.

Brian had made it perfectly clear he didn't accept him and Nick knew this would be for the best in the end. It had to be.

He didn't know that Brian had a secret of his own.

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