"So what's everyone doing after the show?" Brian asked backstage when they were getting ready to leave.
"Nick and I are hanging out, right roomie?" AJ said brightly, putting his arm around Nick. Nick gave a half hearted smile.
"That's cool." Brian said. He couldn't help but feel a little bit jealous that Nick was going to be spending time with someone else.
"Hanging out responsibly, I hope?" Kevin asked, raising an eyebrow at them. Everyone knew as soon as they'd get to Europe AJ would be partying since he couldn't at home.
"Of course! Would I lie to you?"
Kevin and Brian exchanged looks because AJ was the worst liar in the whole group. Nick smiled nervously again and disappeared along with AJ to the van that would bring them back to the hotel.
"I don't like the sounds of that." Kevin muttered when he and Brian were in the other van with Howie.
"Sound of what? They're just going to be in the room. How much trouble could they possibly get into?" Howie laughed.
"I think you're being paranoid again."
"Well I didn't like the sound of it either. The three of us know AJ doesn't hold his word and now he's going to drag Nick down with him? I don't think this is a good idea. Especially because Nick is depressed right now-" Kevin said before he stopped himself. Brian looked at him incredulously.
"Nick's depressed? Did he tell you that?" he asked.
"I…well, er- he didn't really say-"
"Did he say so, or didn't he?"
They got to the hotel and Kevin didn’t answer until the two of them were in the elevator. Howie had stayed behind to have a drink at the bar downstairs.
“You didn’t answer my question.” Brian said after a minute of awkward silence.
“He didn’t say. I just assumed cause you two are avoiding each other right now. So please don’t shoot the messenger. I worry about both of you. He’s been going through a lot of stuff and so have you, I don’t think alcohol is the answer.” Kevin explained.
“Did he tell you why he’s been avoiding me since my birthday? I keep having this feeling like something happened and I don’t know what it is. He won’t even talk to me. Should I just go talk to him? He wouldn’t say anything this morning when I confronted him about it.”
“I think you should just leave it alone until he’s ready to talk, you know how he gets when you push him. He’s like you.” Kevin chuckled.
“No, I think I need to talk to him before he does something stupid. I don’t like him hanging out with AJ.” Brian said, jamming his finger on the button for their floor after realizing he had never pushed it in the first place.
“Do I sense a little jealousy, perhaps?”
Brian’s face turned several shades of red.
In reality, that’s exactly what it was and Brian hated every second of it. He hated the fact that Nick wanted to spend time with someone else, especially AJ. Sure, AJ was closer to him in age but they didn’t have much in common except that they came from shitty family backgrounds. What would Nick possibly find attractive in him?
Don’t go into those thoughts, those are dangerous.
That nagging voice in the back of his mind came and went just as it usually did when he was trying to convince himself that he was not falling for Nick. The voice that told him he was in love with his girlfriend and not his best friend. The voice that reasoned it was not normal to love another man. He had been pushing that voice aside until Nick stopped paying attention to him. Nick ignoring him was driving him crazy and he knew it, he just didn’t want to admit that to himself until now. He wanted to take Nick and remind him who he was.
Now he just had to convince himself to actually go and do it.
“So what are we going to start with first, AJ? I am not the drinker here. I mean, my parents owned that bar when I was like two...but I was two. I didn’t know what I was doing.” Nick said, looking at the various bottles of alcohol laid in front of them.
“I usually go for the one in front of me and go from there. There’s not much to think about it.” AJ shrugged. He took the beer bottle in front of him and chugged it before sighing contentedly. He gave Nick a funny look when it finally registered what he said.
“Two? You drank at two? You serious?”
“Mhm. I mean, it was an accident. I would sometimes crawl downstairs from our apartment over the bar and play the arcade games. One of their customers left something out and I drank it. I never told anyone about that, actually. My parents would rather nobody know, so I guess that’s a secret between you and me.” Nick chuckled, taking the beer in front of himself and drinking from it. AJ was already on his second.
“I hope you know I’m not good at keeping secrets, bro.”
“I know that, but if we get drunk enough tonight, chances are we won’t remember this conversation anyway.” Nick laughed.
“I’ll drink to that.” AJ said, and they clinked their bottles together.
"We both kind of have shitty parents."
"At least your dad is around."
Nick took a drink and looked at his feet because AJ wasn't wrong. He had recently found his birth father but their meeting didn't go as planned.
"I'm sorry that didn't work out the way you wanted." Nick offered.
“It is what it is. I try not to think about it. That’s what these are for. They help me to not think about anything.” AJ said, reaching for another beer.
They continued drinking, silent for a few minutes.
“We never really get to hang out like this, just you and me.” AJ said finally, his words starting to slur a little bit. Nick had lost count a while ago at how many they'd had. He knew what he had to do but he knew it would take him a couple more beers before he brought himself to actually do it.
A couple hours later, Kevin was getting ready for bed when he heard someone at his door. He was fully expecting Brian to be on the other side but instead, it was Nick. Nick was clearly drunk and hardly able to stand so Kevin helped him into the room and got him some water.
“Nick, what are you doing here? You shouldn’t have left AJ by himself.” Kevin said, when Nick had finished his water and relaxed a little. He looked as if he’d been crying again.
“I know, but I had to talk to you….I-um...I lied to you at the airport.” Nick mumbled.
“You lied about what?”
Nick wiped his eyes because he started tearing again. Kevin handed him a napkin.
“I told you that everything is fine between me….and Brian…..but I lied.” Nick whispered, half laughing. He was so intoxicated that he could hardly get out full sentences but Kevin let him continue because he was curious. He also worried how drunk AJ was if Nick was this hammered.
“Nick, it’s okay. I promise.”
“No. It’s not o-okay. Leigh….she told me...she said…”
Nick stopped and belched right in Kevin’s face. He wanted to throw up. It smelled awful.
“Don’t push yourself. Do you need to lie down? Here. Let’s go over here to the bed.” Kevin said, leading Nick to the bed across the room. He stumbled but Kevin managed to get him into the bed and take his shoes off.
“Klevin...Lee said that…she saw me and Ryan kiss….and that...that...she’s gonna tell everyyybodyyy.”
“Leighanne threatened you?” Kevin asked. He tossed the shoes on the ground and sat on the other side of the bed, listening to Nick mumble. He was surprised when he started crying.
“No...shhh. No It’s okay. Don’t get upset, you’re just drunk right now. You just need to sleep it off and then figure things out in the morning.” Kevin said, consoling him. He let Nick cry until he finally fell asleep. They had to fly back to LA the following day so Kevin made a point to sit with Nick, who was still nursing his hangover.
“Kevin, I don’t really feel like talking right now. I feel like I’m going to hurl.” Nick said, his head against the seat to keep himself from throwing up.
“Do you remember anything from last night?”
Kevin made sure nobody was listening before continued.
“Is it true Leighanne threatened you?”
Nick sat up, feeling even more nauseous than he had been a few moments ago. He kept hearing her words echo in the back of his mind every time he even got near Brian, and all he was doing was making himself more and more upset.
“Yes. She saw Brian and I kiss after I told her I helped him cheat on her. She said that I needed to back off of him, or she is going to tell everyone that Brian and I are gay and having a fling. Kevin, do you know how bad that would be for everyone if she tells people I’m gay? That would ruin everything. I don’t want to be responsible for that.” Nick said softly, holding back tears.
“Honestly, fuck her. I can’t believe she is doing this to you. I know you feel you are doing what is best for the group but I don’t want to see you like this.”
Nick excused himself to go to the bathroom and on his way he exchanged looks with Brian, yes his heart was hurting but he’d worked way too hard to get to where he was to throw it all away now. Love would have to wait. Whether he liked it or not.