"How are you doing?" Brian asked when he caught Nick in the elevator of the hotel they were staying at one night in Dublin, Ireland. Nick looked particularly exhausted that day as if something had been weighing him down and he was holding it in.
"I'm fine." Nick said coldly. He was getting tired of these nightly attempts by Brian to make conversation. All he wanted to do was take a hot shower and go to bed. Brian was even more insistent today than he was usually. Nick didn't even have the energy, he was exhausted. He had even blown off Kevin, who he usually confided in. He was just so tired. All he wanted to do was sleep. He even wished he had his own room because now AJ was asking questions. It had to be bad if AJ was worrying, but Nick just put on a fake smile as he always did and pretended everything was fine. It worked for Brian. Brian was great at lying and pretending. It would work for him too.
"You don't look fine."
"I said that I'm fine, okay?" Nick hissed.
"You know you are really not a good liar, Nick. What is wrong? You don't talk to me or any of the other guys anymore. You've shut out me. You shut out Kevin this morning. You've gotten so withdrawn. Have I done something wrong? Everyone's worried about you." Brian asked, the elevator dinging. He wasn't lying, because everyone was noticing a change in Nick's behavior. He had become moody and didn't talk much, if at all. They got off and Nick sighed as he stepped out.
"I'm just tired. Okay. I'm tired. " Nick lied. Leighanne's voice echoed in his head and he shook her away. Brian was just too much for him right now.
Oh, how Nick wanted to tell him everything and lay next to him in bed…feeling his heartbeat like he used to. There were no longer peaceful nights for Nick now. He had nightmares about people discovering his secret and his friends hating him. Nightmares of things that Lou had done to him, things he’d never told anyone about and was afraid people would find out. He often wanted to tell someone about Lou, the movies that Lou had him watch, and even things he had said or tried to do. Lou had never actually touched him but he had come close a couple times. The most recent was after breakfast when Brian confronted Lou about their money those months ago. Luckily Kevin came and knocked on the door before anything had happened but Nick wondered if just a few more minutes had gone by…..
He wished there was someone else that understood. Brian almost understood at one time but he was so far in denial right now that Nick doubted he would ever come to his senses.
"I thought we were best friends. You used to tell me everything. Is it Lou? One of the guys? Is it your parents?" Brian asked, almost jogging to keep up with Nick's long strides down the hallway. Nick was almost running to get away from him. He turned around when he got to the room, sliding the room key in the slot while he faced Brian. He looked completely exhausted.
"It's none of that. Please just leave me alone. It's for the best." Nick said softly, opening the door to his and AJ's room. Brian put his hand in the doorway and stepped in front of him, blocking his way inside. Nick rolled his eyes.
"Brian, get out of the door. Leave me alone."
"No. I'm not leaving you alone. Ever. You're stuck with me." Brian snapped. He stood his ground.
"Move." Nick said again, pushing against him with his chest.
"No." Brian said, forcefully this time. Nick forced himself past and made a beeline for the bathroom.
When Brian entered the room , AJ was sitting on the floor, checking out the mini bar. He'd gotten into some of the snacks and was busily eating while he opened a bottle of Coke. He nearly dropped the bottle when the door to the bathroom slammed behind Nick.
"Shit, you scared the fuck out of me.”
"AJ, can we be alone for a while?" Brian asked.
“No offense, but you aren’t my type.”
“I mean with Nick. He won’t talk to me.” Brian said, rolling his eyes.
"What's with Nick? Is everything okay?" AJ asked, his mouth full of some kind of potato chips.
Brian looked at him desperately.
"Fine, fine. I'm going. I'll go find Howie." AJ said, holding his hands up and leaving the room, holding the potato chip bag with his teeth. Brian shook his head and then went back to the bathroom door that was now locked.
Locking bathroom doors was definitely a Nick thing to do, he'd been doing it since he was twelve. Whenever he was upset or was angry he'd lock himself in the bathroom until someone finally talked him out. Brian lost count of how many times Nick hid in bathrooms.
"Nick, please talk to me. It's just me. AJ left. Come out of there." Brian called from behind the locked door. He heard Nick sniffling on the other side.
"You need….you have to go." Nick said from behind the door. His chest felt tight. Even being near Brian was hard for him right now.
"Please open the door."
Nick sighed and opened the door to see Brian still standing there waiting.
"Brian, we can't be together. Don't you get it? You have your girlfriend. You chose her. You love her. You don't need me, okay? If anyone finds out about us the group is over. It's done. All that work we did-" Nick started, but he was cut off by Brian's lips being pressed against his. He was pushed against the bathroom door before he could react. He was so surprised by the force Brian used that he didn't do anything. He just stood there, allowing the kiss to happen. He wanted to push Brian off, tell him no…but he didn't move. He continued to kiss him. He hated himself for wanting more. He was addicted and needed his fix. So he returned Brian's passion with his own passion.
After a few minutes, the two of them finally stopped to catch their breaths because it got heavy very quickly as if nothing had ever changed between them. Nick finally broke free and tried to stop him from kissing him again.
"I can't…" Nick gasped, feeling ashamed of himself.
"Why can’t you? I thought you wanted to be with me? I missed you, Nick. You hanging with AJ was driving me crazy. I miss you. I need you…" Brian said, ignoring Nick and kissing him anyway. Nick almost chuckled at the fact that Brian was jealous of AJ.
Brian pressed a finger against Nick's lips to stop him from talking and kissed him again.
"I don't care about the fucking group right now, okay? I don’t care about Leigh. This is between you and me. Not talking to you has been killing me. You hanging out with AJ instead of me is killing me. Not being with you is killing me. I can't be without you, Nick." he said between breaths. Nick stood there in stunned silence, his heart pounding…blinking at him.
Nick wanted to say so many things but all of a sudden he heard her voice again. It was deafening. He saw Brian's mouth moving but all he heard was Leighanne's disembodied voice. An image of her from the coffee shop in New York appeared before him where Brian stood but it was grotesque and looked nothing like her.
"Stay away from him or I'll tell everyone. I'll ruin everything. You'll be finished. It will be your fault."
Nick's eyes started to well up with tears and his heart beat even faster. His face turned red and he was shaking, trying not to cry.
"I-c-can't…..we can't do th-this…." he sputtered shakily. Brian looked at him with concern. This was the first time he'd been assertive and Nick broke down completely. The coldness melted away. Brian put his hand down and watched in disbelief as Nick started to cry. He went to hug Nick, but Nick shrank away from him and slumped to the floor, crying into his knees.
Nick didn't answer. He only heard Leighanne telling him to stay away. Stay away or everyone would be destroyed.
Nick missed Brian too and it was killing him just as much, but feeling his lips on his own again only broke his heart more because he knew that they couldn't be together. Not as long as Brian was with Leighanne.
"Don't cry," Brian whispered, kneeling down next to him and putting his hand on Nick's shoulder. Nick was still shaking.
"I miss y-you t-too…I'm sorry. I just can't help you cheat anymore."
"Then why don't we see if AJ will just room with Howie and things can be like they were? I just want to be happy again, I just want us both to be happy." Brian asked, his voice breaking.
"Aren't you h-happy with Leigh-Leighanne? What do you need me for?"
Brian sat on the floor next to Nick, putting his hands on Nick's shoulders and made Nick look at him by shaking him gently.
"Nothing makes sense with her, Nick. It only makes sense when I'm with you. Please just help me. Help me figure things out. I'm so lost right now. You're the only person who understands." he said, his eyes boring into Nick's. Nick sniffed and nodded because he understood. Sometimes he was lost too, even though it appeared he had a handle on things. Brian didn't need to know that though.
"I know that, but you said you love her. We can't be together...she's your girlfriend. I won't help you cheat on her, I told you that."
"I get that. We can still be friends, can't we? We don't have to do all the other stuff. Just be friends. Help me figure all of this out. I don't want to lose you." Brian said, hugging him. He stayed there with Nick until he started to calm down.
Nick sat there with his head on Brian's shoulder and felt like he wanted to throw up. Could they really just be friends and still share a room, with those feelings they had still present. Nick wasn't sure if he could. He still very much loved Brian.
"Are you sure? You just kissed me….you said that it killed you to be away from me-" Nick started.
"If you don't want us to continue like before, we don't have to. I respect your wishes. I won't force you to do anything that you don't want to do. I just want us to be able to talk and be friends like we were. Can't we do that at least?" Brian interrupted. He almost sounded disappointed.
Nick pushed his hair out of his face and wiped his eyes again, feeling a little bad for giving Brian false hope. He knew this was a horrible idea, but there was no harm in them just being friends. Leighanne surely wouldn't mind that, as long as Nick kept his distance. Yes…that would be just fine.
"Okay." Nick said, getting up off of the floor.
"Okay?" Brian asked hopefully.
"We can share rooms but as friends. Friends and nothing else." Nick told him, even though he knew this was going to end horribly wrong. He knew that they'd end up doing something but for some reason he went along with it anyway. When AJ came back to the room they all talked and he agreed to room with Howie while the rehearsals in Dublin were going on, at least for now. Things finally got a little less awkward with Brian and Nick, at least for the moment. For the moment, everyone was happy. Happy for mending friendships and happy for the new tour, but little did they know that their happiness would be short lived.