“I wonder what kind of girls they got for us, huh Nick? They are coming soon. You can be my wingman since you are a bachelor again.”AJ said, elbowing him. Nick smiled but rolled his eyes when he wasn't looking. He became aware Brian was watching suddenly and he coughed.
“I didn't know you and Mandy split. I thought you liked her.” Brian said.
“Nick wants to play the field.” AJ said. Nick wanted to hit him, he'd told him that he wasn't interested in a relationship and needed to be on his own for a while. This lie was so good he believed it. The truth was, he wasn't sure what he wanted.
“Uh…I'm not really looking for anyone. Mandy and I just broke up like…last weekend.” Nick lied. He hadn't totally fibbed but in fact they'd broken up two days ago. It was messy because Nick had told her he just wasn't interested in a relationship right now. He was still figuring things out and a girl would just get in the way.
“Lame.” AJ said, shaking his head.
Brian and Kevin played catch until the girls got there, and he dropped the ball when he saw Leighanne Wallace. She was blonde and fair, long hair down past her shoulders. Kevin smiled as he watched his cousin walk over. Nick watched, feeling a little bit jealous and then shaking it away.
He doesn't belong to you. He's just your friend.
The voice in his head came and went.
Nick knew that things were about to change, and he had a feeling that it was not going to be good.
As the months passed, Brian and Leighanne started to get more serious. Nick went back to Mandy and gave her a second chance just because Brian had suggested that he should. Nick wasn't ready to settle down but Brian seemed like he was more than anything…he and Leighanne were attached at the hip. Late night phone calls were a common thing. Nick hated when they happened, as he and Brian usually shared a room. Gone were the days of ordering pizza and playing video games until the sun came up…Nick was often left alone. He started to gain weight and stop caring about himself. Everyone noticed his attitude changing. It got worse as time went on and Brian drifted away. He was angrier and kept to himself.
The tour was going on a second leg overseas and as they arrived at the hotel, they got their room arrangements.
“Nick, you'll be with AJ.”
“Because he’s bringing his girlfriend.”
The word “girlfriend” sounded almost foreign to Nick now, especially after his relationship with Mandy ended….and he was still coming to terms with his sexuality. Things were not going well for him but he noticed over time that Brian was changing.
Nick honestly didn't care, but the difference surprised him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Brian and Leighanne, his hand on her waist as they laughed. They looked so happy and it only made Nick feel worse.
“Are you okay?” Kevin asked. Nick was struggling with a bag and had thrown it to the ground. It popped open and clothes fell out…Nick yelled in frustration.
“This suitcase is a piece of shit. I got it.” he snapped. Kevin jumped at the tone of his voice. Nick had never spoken to him like that. Nick continued to struggle with his luggage, having trouble with lifting it.
“Maybe you should work out a bit more, and stop eating so much.“ Leighanne winked. Brian began cracking up and Nick turned red. Why was his best friend acting like this? It didn't make any sense. Brian would always defend him. Nick was hurt. He was silent on the ride in the elevator up to their rooms. When he got there, AJ was already looking in the mini bar.
“Whoa, who's dog died?” he said suddenly, noticing Nick's expression.
“It's nothing.” Nick said, flopping down on the bed and burying his face in the pillow. He hated rooming with AJ.
“Maybe this will mellow you out.” AJ offered, holding out a beer.
“I'm not old enough.”
“This is not America, Nick. You look like shit. Have a drink. It will make you feel better.”
Nick looked at the beer, hesitating. He knew how alcohol had messed up his family. He had sworn to stay away from it but seeing as he was upset…what could it hurt?
Brian stood in the shower, trying to relax enough to maybe take a short nap. He let the hot water run over his back, allowing his muscles to relax. The water felt good, being alone with his thoughts was even better. He was in need of some Brian time.
The tour was going great, but Nick's attitude was starting to kill it. Having Leighanne there was a great distraction. He loved being around her and she helped keep him grounded. Nick, however… well Nick was starting to get a bit cocky, at least Brian thought so. He seemed to enjoy the attention the new album was bringing. Brian had been watching Nick change. The kid was growing up, but he wasn't acting like the Nick everyone knew. He was heading down a dark road. Brian knew he should help but he also knew that Nick was holding him back. He wanted a family. A family would make him feel normal again, and get rid of the strange feelings he'd been having.
“Don't let him drag you down…” the little voice said to him often when Nick would be over sleeping, or causing some kind of trouble. He'd stopped defending him and kept to himself.
That night, the guys were supposed to be going out to dinner, as a group….but when it came time to meet in the lobby downstairs, Nick and AJ were nowhere to be found. Kevin was getting angry, he hated being late for anything.
“Brian, we gotta go see what's keeping them.”
Brian rolled his eyes. He was already annoyed that his girlfriend couldn't come. He didn't want to play babysitter too.
“Why don't you bring Howie?”
“I don't know what is going on with you and Nick, but fine. Howie…you coming?” Kevin said, his hands up in exasperation. Howie nodded and they went upstairs.
Nick was not feeling good.
He didn't know where AJ had gone but he knew one thing, that he wanted to vomit. Then someone was knocking on their door but he ignored it. He and AJ had been drinking for a while and he felt woozy but not totally wasted yet. Nick figured it was housekeeping and ignored it.
“AJ? Where are you? I think we are supposed to be downstairs.” he said a bit louder this time. He opened the bathroom to find him slumped against the bathtub on the floor, a empty beer bottle next to him.
The pounding on the door got louder and Nick heard Kevin yell so he went to open it, finding Kevin and Howie standing there looking highly annoyed.
“What is wrong with you two? You knew we had reservations and you're up here fucking around.”
Nick hiccuped and Kevin sighed in frustration.
“Are you drunk?” Kevin hissed. Nick shrugged and looked down at the floor.
“Where the fuck is AJ?” he asked when he came into the room. There were beer bottles strewn around the room and Howie picked one of them up, looking disappointed.
“I dunno we had a couple of beers. He's passed out.”
“Please tell me you're joking.” Kevin said in an oddly calm voice, his hands pressed together and resting in front of his nose like he was trying not to blow up.
“I'm not dude. He's in there. I'm not his fucking babysitter.”
Kevin walked away and Nick could hear him trying to wake up AJ.
“Why were you drinking, Nick? You're underage.” Howie said disapprovingly.
“I was pissed off and AJ said it would help. “ Nick answered, realizing how dumb he sounded. Drinking wasn't a way to help the feelings go away, but it helped for a little while. It couldn't be that bad. Maybe there was something to it after all.
“Pissed off about what?” Howie asked, but Nick ignored him.
“Nothing that matters anymore.”
Nick listened to Kevin yell at AJ, leaving his own thoughts to marinate. He'd figure it all out eventually.