"Hey." he smiled as a sense of ease flowed through his body upon seeing here there in her familiar rubber ducky pajamas.
"Hi!" She said, surprised to see him. She noticed he was freshly showered with a duffle bag over his shoulder, and quick math told her he had come here straight after cleaning up after the show. Her pulse quickening with every nanosecond, he looked at her, standing there in his white tee-shirt, hair still a little damp and messy.
"Are you about to go to sleep?" He cringed, hoping the answer was no.
She shook her head. "Nope, just hanging out." She stepped aside to let him in. "I've been in my pajamas since seven…" She laughed. "Again, I'm like, really excellent at being young and in Europe. Also, I took a nap in the middle of the day, so…" She explained.
"Mind if I join you?"
She felt the butterflies taking flight in her belly. "Of course not." She said.
"Full disclosure, A.J. might show up to hang, too."
"Oh, cool." She replied a small twinge of disappointment banged inside her chest.
"Sorry, I guess I did just crash your night … again…and invite him into it, too." He laughed lightly.
"You didn't crash anything." She said.
"How was your night?" He asked as he flopped down on her bed, making himself comfortable, which immediately made her feel weak throughout her body.
"It was nice. Relaxing. Stayed out of trouble…" So far, anyway. "How was the show?"
"Good. I think?"
She smiled. "Are there still one million girls who are so jealous of me right now?"
"Definitely. Maybe even two million."
She nodded, "Maybe." She propped her arm up on the pillows and turned to face him.
"Kind of surprised you're not with one of them right now." She teased.
It was a joke, but it felt heavy, "Hilarious."
She smirked at him, and he quickly changed the subject by telling her about something funny that happened at soundcheck and about some botched dance moves. As he was recounting the minor events of the evening, there was a knock at her door. He got up to answer it.
"What up," A.J. said as he entered the room with several bottles in his arms.
"Oh good, you brought the party," Coll said as she made herself comfortable sitting against the headboard of her bed.
"That is something you can always count on." He exclaimed as he set the bottles down on the desk in Coll's room.
"Are you surprised A.J. isn't with one of them either?" Nick asked with a light laugh looking at Coll as he slid back into his reclining position on her bed.
"One of who?" A.J. asked as he began prepping three drinks.
"Nicky, you invited me here, Coll is sane, I'm down. Can't do crazy every night."
Coll didn't answer immediately, just smiled, and accepted a solo cup from A.J. when he handed it to her.
"Happy to be recognized as sane, at least," Coll said as she lifted her cup, taking a sip.
"Thank God someone has some, honestly."
"Speaking of honest!" Coll perked up a bit, looking at A.J., "You need to start paying better attention." She narrowed her eyes at him.
"Yes, you. Telling Angela I'm a virgin and waiting for marriage." She reminded.
"Well, isn't that true?" He asked as he took a seat in one of the armchairs in Coll's room.
"No. I haven't slept with anyone, but I never said I'm waiting for marriage." She clarified, "Not like that would be so horrible either if I was."
"What are you waiting for?" A.J. asked, genuinely confused.
"I know you clearly missed it, but you were sitting right there when I explained it!"
Nick sat quietly, his imagination running wild thinking of the main players in this narrative: Coll, sex, marriage…
Coll looked at Nick, but she couldn't look for long.
"I'm waiting for the right … situation." She explained, looking now at A.J. again.
"Okay, so you're waiting for the person you're gonna marry. Same thing." A.J. commented.
"Not necessarily." She said. "Just something more than anything I've ever had."
As they spoke, Nick ran his hand through his hair, he remembered exactly what Coll said that morning at breakfast, even though he had yet to sort out precisely what it meant. All in.
"But don't you want to just… do it? For fun?" A.J. asked.
"Look, I get it, it's unusual. But no, at this point, I don't want to just do it for fun, or to get it out of the way, or to see how great it is, or to get more experience or whatever other reasons people love to give me to do it."
The two of them were listening intently.
"It's not about that for me. There are plenty of other things I can do for fun. Also, I think a lot of the fun is in finding the person to begin with. Figuring it out. I mean, clearly, I wouldn't know, but … if it's your right person, then the fun you have in bed is even better... I have to assume. Just like with anything else… I mean, if it's the right person, you could sit there and do nothing together and it's better than it would be with someone else."
Nick's body temperature was rising with every word she said. He remembered the distinct feeling of the realization he had the previous night: knowing for sure he was in love with her and suddenly understanding that he would have to be accountable to his sordid past with women. He remembered apologizing to Coll for his behavior while with Mandy. He remembered the guilty feelings. It felt like he had already cheated somehow - like he cheated himself out of the experience Coll was talking about.
A.J. looked at her, then at Nick, who was staring intently at Coll as she looked at A.J.
"Yeah, maybe. But very few things are as much fun as having sex, pretty much no matter who it's with."
Nick and Coll both shrugged. Surprised, A.J. looked at Nick, narrowing his eyes. "Bro."
Coll's heart rate was so high she could hear the beats in her ears. It felt like anything Nick said in this conversation had the potential to ruin her or give her hope she wasn't entitled to. She almost didn't want to hear it.
"Maybe she's on to something," Nick said and quickly took a sip of his drink. "Maybe it's better that way… we wouldn't know… any of us." He laughed.
His words triggered an immediate fever inside of her. Was he joking? Was he serious? She couldn't help herself, she looked at him, and they made eye contact as a smile was trying to spread across her face, but she bit her lip to stop it from happening fully.
A.J. sat there, observing, suddenly feeling very much outside of whatever was happening.
Coll looked away from Nick and back to A.J., "Yeah, maybe I'm right." She shrugged, "But it's not about fun or no fun, or what's more fun or anything about fun. Fun is inevitable. For me, I want something more than fun - deeper than fun."
"You're missing out." A.J. shook his head.
"How can I be missing out?" She narrowed her eyes at him, "What I don't yet have, can only exist for me. No one else has it - they have their thing, not mine. That's what I'm looking for. My experience with that person. I'm not looking to just have sex. I'm not missing out, it just hasn't happened yet."
As the words rolled out of her mouth, Nick shivered visibly. Surprised by himself, he sat incredibly, still hoping no one had noticed.
"Are you okay?" Coll asked, turning to face him again.
"It's cold in here."
She smiled at him, "No it's not."
As the night wore on, and the conversation changed, Coll relaxed into their hang out. The three of them spent a couple hours watching T.V. and talking about everything from the next city they would be in to recap of the pranks they wanted to play on the rest of the guys or the band in the next few weeks. They even discussed the dinner options available in the cafeteria at B.U.
It was 3 am when a movie they had put on ended. Coll had fallen asleep about halfway through it, and A.J. left around two o'clock to go smoke a cigarette and go to bed.
Nick sat there quietly, staring at the screen as it rolled through credits, realizing his options and weighing them.
He could turn the T.V. off and go back to his room, or he could stay.
Leave or stay.
He looked at Coll, sleeping soundly beside him. Her breathing was steady, her body was still. His mind wandered.
He thought about her that night in London, watching her spin around on the sidewalk, lingering at her door, hugging her for longer than he should have. He thought about the feel of her skin under his hand. He thought about the massive feeling of relief and comfort he felt that first night in Germany and the panic he felt when he thought something had happened to her.
He got up quietly, turned the T.V. off, turned the lights off, and got back on the bed with Coll.
"I swear I won't sleep in your bed every night," Nick promised as they left Coll's room the following morning for breakfast.
"Nick, it's fine." She giggled. a lot better than fine. "It's nice to have a roommate again." She continued as she followed Nick out into the hallway.
"Oh, Melanie sleeps in your bed too?" He asked jokingly.
"Not usually, though it has happened."
Nick raised his eyebrows at her.
"Sorry to tell you it was nothing dirty or fun. When men suck, we women have to stick together. And men have been particularly sucky in the past two years. So yeah, she's ended up in my bed a few times after some shitty things happened."
"Men are shitty to her or you?" He asked as they approached the elevator, and he pushed the call button.
"Both!" Coll replied, "But anyway, no, I don't mind you sleeping in my bed." She explained again, as the elevator arrived. She kept her tone of voice even, trying to be subtle about exactly how much she did not mind it.
"Alright. Well, promise I will sleep in my own bed sometimes." He said, not necessarily wanting to do that but knowing it was the right thing to say. Only sometimes? Does he realize he is torturing me? "Listen, since we have the day off, do you want to do one of those day trips I promised you finally? Probably should have planned that…"
Coll wrinkled her nose as the elevator doors opened again and they exited, Billy promptly joining them as he had been waiting for their arrival. "Yeah, in all your free time, you totally should have planned a day trip." She said sarcastically. "Honestly, It's kind of hot to do much touring around the city. I was kind of thinking to sit by the pool all day and read a book. Any interest in that?"
"I can do that," Nick said quickly, trying to hide his excitement at the prospect of spending the day lounging poolside in her scantily clad presence.
She smiled, "Okay."