"So she's in the video?" Nick asked, trying not to sound disappointed. Leighanne glared at him because she saw right through him.
"Yes, we all have scenes with girls so I thought it would be perfect for her." Brian beamed. Nick wanted to throw up. He wasn't crazy about the intimate scenes with girls himself, he was very nervous.
"What's wrong, Nick?" Kevin asked over the buffet table. They'd had lunch set out for them, and Nick was busily eyeing the foot long sub sandwich. AJ was in hair and makeup still so everyone was waiting on him.
"I don't know about these girls."
Kevin nodded thoughtfully.
"I forgot to take that in consideration when we accepted the video treatment, I'm sorry we didn't talk about it first, Nick."
"It's fine. I just haven't been this close with a girl since before I knew…before.."
Nick was talking about his ex girlfriend Mandy, who he'd broken up with almost a year ago. He had only been close with Brian since. Part of him was okay with that, but another part longed to be with someone and hated being alone. He felt empty and alone.
"It's normal to feel like that, but you can't let that stop you from finding someone that truly appreciates you. I know you like Brian but you can't wait for him forever." Kevin said, echoing Lance's advice. Nick watched Brian and Leighanne kiss across the room and felt sick to his stomach. He knew that Lance and Kevin were right. He couldn't wait forever because Brian would never leave her.
"So what do you guys think?" AJ asked as he walked over towards them. Howie laughed and the others joined in.
"You look like a skunk." Nick giggled as AJ rolled his eyes.
His hair looked like they tried to dye it but stopped halfway, part of his hair was brown and the top was blonde in a large stripe across his head. Nick kept cracking jokes at it during the shoot.
"They ran out of bleach, I'll make it work. It looks cool. I mean it looks better than yours, Nick." AJ said, also laughing. None of them had the heart to tell him AJ it didn't look cool at all and hoped that years later he would look back and realize how stupid he looked today.
The video shoot ended up going pretty well and they worked late into the evening, everyone was hungry and tired. They were all discussing if they wanted to grab food but Nick was distracted by his phone. He and Lance had been texting off and on all day. Brian pretended he didn't notice but he wondered who Nick was talking to.
"Why are you smiling? Something funny?" AJ asked, as Nick pocketed his phone and blushed.
"N-nothing. I was just talking to one of my friends." Nick said, which wasn't a lie because nothing was going on between him and Lance. Not yet, anyway. Right now they were friends, but occasionally they'd flirt. It felt refreshing to talk to someone new, that was comfortable with themselves and wouldn't judge him.
"You have other friends?" Leighanne said, and Brian laughed with her. Everyone was suddenly uncomfortable. Nick wanted to punch her in the throat.
"Why is that so hard to believe?" he asked.
"Because you're so obsessed with Brian that I didn't think you talked to anyone else." Leighanne sneered. Nick felt the anger boiling up but took a breath instead. She was trying to get a rise out of him and he wasn't giving her the satisfaction. Nick wanted to burst out and tell everyone how she threatened him but he didn't want to open that bag of worms today.
"That's not true." Brian half mumbled. Leighanne ignored him.
"I'm not obsessed-" Nick started before she cut him off.
"That's not what he told me on the phone. I know you all work together, but you don't need to be together 24 hours a day. Isn't that a little excessive?"
"We are like a family. We work together and live together on the road. That's how it's been since we all started." Kevin replied.
"So what are we doing about food?" Howie asked, desperate to change the conversation. Nick went back to his phone and asked Lance if he wanted to meet up because he wasn't in the mood to hang out with everyone tonight, especially with how Leighanne was acting. The sight of her was making him sick to his stomach.
"I'm not really hungry," Nick mumbled. Everyone went their separate ways and Brian watched Nick leave, wondering what he was up to.
"What are you looking at?" Leighanne asked, walking up next to him.
"Nothing, I just thought Nick was acting kind of strange."
"No more strange than he usually is. I'm sure he's fine, let's go eat." she said.
"Is everything okay with you two? I thought you guys were friends. What happened?" Brian asked once they got in the car and were headed to the apartment. Leighanne didn't answer right away and now Brian knew something definitely was going on.
"Honey, don't you think this obsession he has with you is a bit much? You told me last year how you felt about that, and I'm just looking out for you. The least you could do is stand by what you said when you told me he was annoying and clingy."
Except that wasn't the case and Brian had different feelings, much different than he had a year ago. He didn't know what they were but he couldn't stay away from Nick. He couldn't stop thinking about him.
"Yes, at the time that's how I felt-"
"Now you don't feel that way?" Leighanne interrupted, extremely displeased.
"No, I don't. He's my….my best friend and I care about him. I can't just stop talking to him. We work together. We share hotel rooms together. He's like family. You don't understand."
Brian turned left at the traffic light, getting lost in his thoughts. Was Nick really just family to him? There were other feelings there for sure, they'd been intimate together many times. They'd shared a lot more than just simple friendship. He was in love with Nick, had been for a while but never admitted it to anyone. He had a big decision to make. They stopped at a diner and were about to get out of the car when Leighanne tapped Brian's shoulder.
"Isn't that Nick in there?" Leighanne said suddenly. Brian stopped and they looked in the window, it was Nick sitting at a booth alone.
"Yeah, that's him. Think we should ask if he wants to eat with us?" Brian asked. Nick looked like he was waiting for someone. Leighanne scoffed at the suggestion.
"Let's eat somewhere else. He can be on his own for one night."
Brian sighed and put his seat belt back on, but when he looked up he saw Lance Bass from NSYNC sitting down at the table with Nick, the two of them hugging as if Nick were expecting him. Like they were old friends, or something more. Brian felt like bursting in there and asking what the hell Nick was thinking but he couldn't do that with Leighanne there. He couldn't say anything. He didn't even know Nick was talking to any of them after that night they hung out with Justin and JC. Why hadn't Nick told him?
"Babe, are you okay?" Leighanne asked when she noticed Brian staring for a long time.
"Oh….yeah. I'm fine. I'm kinda tired. Maybe we can just go home instead. I don't think I'm hungry after all. I- I uh, lost my appetite."
"Hm, I suppose Nick isn't alone after all." Leighanne smiled, enjoying how angry Brian was. Brian didn't say anything, he pulled out of the parking lot of the diner and left, not speaking for the rest of the night.
Leighanne's plan to drive Brian away from Nick was working.
Brian thought about Nick hanging out with Lance all night to the point where he couldn't sleep. He didn't understand why this bothered him so much. The next morning, everyone was supposed to meet at the recording studio to do some more recording for the new album. Brian was the first one there, and Nick showed up second looking tired.
"Good morning." Nick said with a smile. Brian felt pissed as soon as he walked in.
"Morning. You look tired. Have a late night with your friend?" he demanded.
"Excuse me? What's that supposed to mean?" Nick asked. He took off his jacket and placed it on a chair and went back to drinking the coffee he had set down on the table.
Brian rounded on him again, not even thinking to keep his anger in check. He just kept picturing Nick and Lance together. Laughing, hugging. It was making him see red.
"I asked if you were out late. So who did you hang out with?"
"Why is that any of your business?" Nick asked. He sat down and drank from the coffee cup as if he didn't care, which only made Brian more angry.
"I saw you out with Lance."
"Okay. You saw me with Lance. So what? We were just having dinner. He's my friend. Why do you care anyway? I'm not your boyfriend. You don't own me. I can hang out with anyone I want." Nick snapped.
Brian snatched the coffee out of Nick's hand and threw it, the contents spilling everywhere. Nick got up, licking his lips and trying to stay calm. He wanted to punch him in the face.
"So you're just gonna act like nothing happened? Stealing our gigs wasn't enough for those guys, now they want to take you too?" Brian yelled.
"What the hell do you mean? Brian, I don't know what bug crawled up your ass and fucking died…but you are acting completely out of line right now and I suggest you fucking chill."
"So why were you out with him? Just answer the goddamn question. You know how I feel about that group and you hung out with him anyway."
"I don't owe you an answer. Why are you so jealous of Lance? You were jealous of AJ and I hanging out too. I thought I didn't mean anything to you. Why are you acting like this?" Nick pointed out, almost smirking. He loved seeing Brian so jealous.
"Fuck you, Nick."
"Oh yeah, fuck me. Yes. Fuck Nick because he is the only one who calls your ass out on your fucking bullshit, Brian. The only one who tells you what you need to hear, but fuck me. I bet you'd listen to HER. So what is it? Do you want to be with me, or not? It's either her or me, Brian. I'm not playing this fucking game anymore." Nick snapped.
"You're making me choose?"
"Yes. Right now."
"What is your problem with her? She's been nothing but nice to you from day one, and you have been an asshole." Brian pointed out. Nick threw his head back and laughed. He scoffed so loudly that Brian was sure anyone outside could hear him.
"She's nice? You really don't have a clue, do you? You don't know her. She is NOT a nice person, Brian. She hates me. She doesn't even love you. She wants your money. She wants your name. You only want to be with her because being with me scares the shit out of you, doesn't it? You don't love her."
"I can't believe you are talking about her like that. So is he gay? Did you finally get someone to be like you because it didn't work on me?" Brian asked. He hated that Nick was absolutely right. He hated that he was jealous Nick was spending time with other people. His chest hurt like hell right now from all the anxiety and stress that their argument was causing.
"I never made you do anything that you didn't want to. There's nothing going on with me and him. We are just friends. He understands me. He doesn't tell me to hide who I am."
"He understands? Did you tell him how much you hate Leigh?"
Nick was half crying and half yelling because he was so frustrated. Brian was just not listening.
"You are just so blind that you don't see how evil that woman is. I am just looking out for you before you get hurt. She-"
Brian got right in Nick's face, shaking with anger because he was about to explode. He'd never heard Nick talk about anyone like this.
"I don't need you to look out for me, Nick. I don't need you to fucking tell me shit, because I know who she is. She's the best thing that ever happened to me and I cannot believe you're so jealous of her that you want to break us up. Maybe she's right about you, Nick. Something is wrong with you. No wonder nobody wants to be with you. Maybe the problem is you, it's not me. You're pathetic.” Brian snarled. The door to the studio opened and Kevin walked in just as Nick leapt onto Brian, knocking him to the floor. He started yelling incoherently and neither of them noticed that they now had company.
“What the hell are you two doing?” Kevin shouted, running over to pull them apart. Nick was just lost in a rage. He wanted to hurt Brian, make him feel what he felt.
"Get him off of me! He's insane!" Brian screamed through a bloody nose.
“Fuck you!” Nick yelled between tears as Kevin tried desperately to get him off of Brian.
AJ and Howie walked in, stunned to see the scuffle that was taking place inside the studio as their management walked in behind them. Johnny looked very displeased when he saw Brian’s bloody nose and Nick’s black eye.
“Are the two of you finished?”
"I am if he is." Brian mumbled.
"Nick?" Johnny asked, and everyone turned to look at him. He was crying. He didn't know what else to say.
"I hope you're satisfied, Brian." Nick wiped his face and broke free of Kevin’s grip, picking up his coat and walking out of the room. They all watched the door slam and then all eyes were on Brian.
“What in the hell was that all about?” Howie asked, still stunned. Brian held a wad of tissues up to his nose, it was already starting to bruise.
“I-I don’t know.” Brian said. He kept looking at the door and expecting Nick to walk back in, but he never came back to the studio that night despite their management calling him, and Kevin calling him. He refused to talk to anybody and Brian only had himself to blame. He had finally made his choice and now he had to deal with it. He was on his own.