“How are you feeling? Excited? Nervous?” Nick asked him when they arrived at the venue. Brian had stopped to wave at the fans waiting outside and he stopped for some fans that found their buses outside the arena. Nick had joined in too, keeping an eye on him from afar. Nick could see that Brian was feeling anxious. He’d thrown up twice the night before and had to take an anxiety pill to go to sleep, Nick rubbing his back until his eyes were closed. He almost didn’t eat breakfast that morning but Nick insisted. Brian protested that he was fine but Nick wouldn’t hear any of it.
“I can’t eat, Nick. I feel like I want to blow chunks as you would put it.”
“You either eat or I won’t have fun with you tonight after the show like I promised you when we woke up.” Nick said, raising an eyebrow at him while he pouted.
“That’s not fair.”
“I don’t give a shit, now eat.” Nick demanded with a smile as he ate his own breakfast. Brian chuckled at him and went to eat his toast.
At the venue, the other guys all greeted Brian. There was an ambulance waiting outside in case Brian needed it because nobody knew what was going to happen with his first show. The ambulance being present did not ease Brian’s feelings about the whole thing. He wondered if he was doing the right thing going back so soon, it had only been two months. Was he ready to do this? What if something happened while he was performing?
“How are you feeling, bro?” AJ asked, interrupting Brian’s thoughts.
“Like I want to barf.” Brian confessed.
“You’ll be fine, the paramedics are backstage and we are all here in case something goes wrong.” Howie added, patting Brian on the back. Brian gave them a weak smile as Kevin came over and also asked him how he was doing. He was doing his best to hold it together, but he couldn’t take his mind off of the fact that it was his first show back and something could possibly happen. Luckily Kevin provided a welcome distraction by changing the subject of the conversation backstage.
“So where did you two go off to last weekend?” Kevin whispered, nodding towards Nick’s direction when AJ and Howie were out of ear shot. Nick was sitting on the couch in the dressing room playing on his game boy.
“We went to Myrtle Beach. I got a hotel room for the weekend.” Brian whispered.
“Really? What about Leighanne? Did she know you went with him?” Kevin asked.
“There’s something I need to tell you guys about that, but it’s gonna have to wait until later.” Brian said. He knew that he and Nick would not be able to hide the fact that they were together from AJ and Howie for long, so he wanted to talk to Nick before addressing the situation with the group.
“Hey, Nick...before we go on, can I talk to you?” Brian asked while they were waiting for the others to get ready to go out on stage.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I wanted to talk to you about something else. I was thinking tonight we could tell the other guys about what happened between me and Leighanne. I just wanted to ask how you felt about that first because I know how important all of this is to you and I don’t want to out you if you aren’t comfortable.” Brian said softly, making sure nobody was within earshot. Nick sighed and looked at his feet, his eyes searching. Brian was worried he'd offended him but after a minute he spoke.
“I don’t know, Brian. I mean, I know Kevin accepted me and he accepted you. What if they don’t?" Nick asked shakily. He was afraid that everything would be ruined and it would be his fault, as Leighanne had told him in New York. Ever since New York, Nick had become afraid of anyone finding out. He hadn't told his family, either because he knew his parents would never be okay with him being gay.
"Do you want me to leave out the part of your letter where you told me you loved me and stuff? I will do that if you want. I can change the story a little bit and we can keep this secret."
Nick made sure nobody was around to see before leaning in and giving Brian a quick kiss.
"No, I think I'm ready to tell them."
"Are you sure? Just the guys, right? Not everyone?" Brian asked in surprise. Nick nodded and took Brian's hand in his, giving it a little squeeze.
"Just AJ and Howie for now. I can't live in fear anymore. If they don't accept me then that's their problem. I should really take my own advice. I guess all that stuff with Leighanne- I just forgot that I could be brave. I needed you to remind me."
"After the show we will tell them on the bus." Brian smiled.
The show went along as well as Brian could have hoped it would go. He was very anxious the whole time but having the guys looking out for him really did make it a lot better for him. Seeing all the fans happy to see him, hearing their reactions when he sang and seeing their faces really gave him the boost of serotonin and confidence that Brian needed. He was genuinely happy and it showed through his performance that night. When they all left the stage that night and went to the tour bus, Brian couldn’t stop smiling the whole time.
“That was a great show, Rok.” AJ commented, patting him on the back when they got on the bus.
“Thank you, AJ. It felt so good to be up there again.” Brian grinned as he grabbed a bottle of water and began to head towards the back of the bus.
“Are we going to do this now?” Nick whispered, appearing from the bunk area. Brian took a deep breath and nodded, taking Nick’s hand in his and closing his eyes. Nick smiled at him reassuringly. They gathered everyone and went to the lounge area at the back of the bus, everyone looking a little confused.
“What’s going on?” Howie asked when they were all in the lounge area and Nick had closed the door behind them.
“I wanted to talk to you guys about some stuff. Since we were apart for two months and all that. There’s just some stuff that happened.” Brian said softly. He looked over at Nick again, who nodded to reassure him things were okay and to continue.
“It’s nothing about your surgery, is it?” AJ asked.
“No, no. It’s nothing like that. I’m sure you guys are wondering why I didn’t bring Leighanne on the road with us this time. The thing is, me and Leigh-“ Brian started, feeling a rush of nerves wash over him.
“Leighanne and I are not together anymore.”
“I know that was hard for you, but it was for the best.” Kevin smiled. Nick chuckled at the sight of Kevin smiling because Kevin knew the truth.
“The best? She was using him.” Nick laughed. Brian laughed too and the others joined in.”
“We didn’t want to say anything, we knew you liked her.” Howie pointed out. Privately Nick was a little annoyed that he was always the one to point out when Brian was being stupid and the others just wanted to be yes men.
“Honestly, I wish that you’d have told me sooner. I was just so into being in a real relationship with someone that I pushed things that I wanted aside, that I acted like someone that I wasn’t. I pushed my best friend away and I said some really mean things that weren’t true. I am so sorry to all of you and I hope you forgive me.”
A collective agreement that nobody blamed Brian rang through the five of them and Brian smiled. Nick patted him on the back.
“The next thing I want to talk about is...well- the reason that I broke up with her is because someone opened my eyes to some things that I was blind to for the last year or so. I found a letter that Leighanne was hiding from me. In the letter was someone’s true feelings for me. That letter made me realize I was making a huge mistake and I need to stop denying who I am. That it’s okay to feel different and not to worry what anyone thinks.” Brian smiled.
“Who was the letter from?” Howie asked. Nick licked his lips, feeling nervous himself.
“It was from Nick, telling me that he loved me. Over the last year, I realized that I also love Nick. I realized that the two of us had even more in common than we thought and that I am in love with him.” Brian said, taking another breath. Nick stepped towards him and held his hand, expecting the backlash from the others.
“I love Brian and he loves me, and if anyone has a problem with it….that’s too bad. I don’t ask you to approve but just for you to accept us.” Nick replied sternly.
Kevin stood up and started clapping. AJ and Howie joined in.
“Wait, you aren’t upset about this?” Nick asked, bewildered. He had envisioned being thrown off the tour bus in the middle of the highway, and had even made sure his bags were packed in case he had to leave after the discussion.
“Nick, you are our baby brother. Of course we support you.” Kevin said, hugging him.
“Yeah, exactly. You are our brothers. I accept you and I love you just the same.” Howie agreed. A rush of relief washed over Nick and Brian as the other guys congratulated them and hugged them. For the first time in years Nick felt free. He didn’t have to keep his secret from them anymore. They all knew and understood. He would have to keep things secret from the rest of the world but for now, this was good enough for him.
“So is this why Nick was crying in the bathroom that one night you asked me to leave the hotel room and I said you weren’t my type? You made this face and made me leave the room? I kinda had a feeling something was going on but I didn’t want to assume.” AJ pointed out, laughing.
“Is that why you were so insistent to talk to Nick when you said you were going to room with me because you were jealous he was staying with AJ?” Howie added.
Nick looked at Brian and laughed. “Did you do that?”
“Yes, that is what happened. Nick and I had an argument that night. I didn’t know that Leighanne was threatening the group to tell everyone he was gay. I didn’t understand that was why Nick was pushing me away. He was doing it to save everything we’ve been working for. I wish I had known then what I know now. If I knew then...I wouldn’t have acted the way I did about the whole thing.” Brian said, putting his arm around Nick’s waist and hugging him sideways. Nick rested his head on top of Brian’s and simply smiled. He smiled because he was so happy. Happy that things were looking to be just fine and he wouldn’t have to worry.
“It didn’t help that you’re as stubborn as a mule either, Brian.” Nick giggled.
They all laughed and finished their bottles of water before getting ready for bed.
“Joining me?” Nick asked, motioning towards his bunk. Brian smiled because it was the first time they’d been together on the tour bus and wouldn’t have to hide anything from their bandmates.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
The two of them climbed in the bed and closed the curtains, Brian resting on Nick because he was shorter. They cuddled behind the curtains and talked until they fell asleep. Nick was grateful to have such good friends and Brian was even more grateful to have them too, because he didn’t know how he would have gotten through anything if it wasn’t for them being by his side.
He listened to Nick sleeping and smiled because he was so happy. Happy to be alive, happy to be successful and happy to be in love with the right person.
He was never going to let Nick go again.