Songs Tell Our Stories by Stephy
Summary:

Scratch what I said before after the first 1.5 chapters, this is a completely different story.

Vanessa is a girl with trust issues trying to be normal again. Nick is a guy with near unbelievable patience just waiting for his chance. This isn't a boy saves girl story, that would be impractical. This is more of a girl learns to be herself fearlessly story.

This story will be written with a new song in every chapter. These songs do not belong to me, I claim no ownership over them. I just felt like writing.


Categories: Jonas Brothers, Jonas Brothers > Friendship, Jonas Brothers > Romance Characters: Nick Jonas, O/c Character
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 20 Completed: No Word count: 87361 Read: 35164 Published: 06/23/2020 Updated: 06/11/2021
Story Notes:

All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author.  The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise.  No copyright infringement is intended.

1. I've Got a Feeling by Stephy

2. Save the Last Dance for Me by Stephy

3. Lean On Me by Stephy

4. Jump Around by Stephy

5. Just the Way You Are by Stephy

6. If I Ain't Got You by Stephy

7. Partners in Crime by Stephy

8. Hollywood by Stephy

9. We Are Young by Stephy

10. Pomp And Circumstance by Stephy

11. Thatís Just The Way We Roll by Stephy

12. Fly With Me by Stephy

13. Thinking Out Loud by Stephy

14. 7 Weeks by Stephy

15. First Date by Stephy

16. Happy Birthday, Mr. President by Stephy

17. 6 Months by Stephy

18. Summertime Sadness by Stephy

19. The Beautiful and the Damned by Stephy

20. Breaking Down by Stephy

I've Got a Feeling by Stephy
Author's Notes:

I've got a feeling


that tonight's gonna be a good night


-Black Eyed Peas

 

Vanessa’s POV:

I woke up on Saturday. I rubbed my eyes and waited for my vision to adjust. I checked my phone; 8:15… I’m late.

Suddenly I hear my mom yelling across the house, “Nessa, are you ready?! Your cousin is waiting outside!” 

I jumped out of bed and rushed around the room trying to get dressed in my work out gear. I threw on my spandex and a loose, white Hanes t-shirt. I ran to the other side of the house through the living room and sprinted past the kitchen so that my mom wouldn’t see me, straight to my restroom. I brushed my teeth while I rushed back to my room in search of my shoes.

My mom caught me this time and noticed I wasn’t ready. “Bruja (witch), hurry up!!”

I found my track shoes in my gym bag and ran back to the bathroom to rinse out my mouth. By the time I rinsed and splashed water on my face I could hear the honking coming from outside. I grabbed my shoes and made a run for the car in my socks. When I got in I laced up my shoes and searched the seat for my iPod.

No IPod? Panic flashed across my face and I heard my cousin Berry giggling. I looked up at her and she had a wide-toothed grin that revealed her braces…

“Why are you laughing?” I asked obviously in the dark about the laughing matter. 

She raised her right hand out to my view, her thin fingers held my iPod. 

“You lost it, again.”

“You hid it?”

She laughed, “no, you loser, you left it here, it was under the seat cover.” 

Once I plugged in my headphones and let the music drown out my attention span, thoughts flew through my mind at the same speed with which we passed the houses by the highway. Finally, a particular song came on my iPod; the chords of the guitar were far too familiar… Rose Garden.

I moved my lips to form the words of the song but I didn’t sing, singing was not made for people like me.

Once the song came to a close, my brain reminded me of the date; today would be the day I met the Jonas Brothers. The instant my brain adapted to the thought the next song came to my iPod,

 “I gotta feeling, that tonight’s gonna be a good night, that tonight’s gonna be a good good night…” A smile permanently etched itself onto my face, I couldn’t help it. I put the song on repeat and locked my iPod. I looked up with the same goofy grin only to find that Berry had been staring at me.

She flashed an odd smile before asking, “What’s wrong with you?”

I kept my smile, unable to clear it and simply stated. “I’m excited to run.” 

So I lied, in reality I couldn’t wait for tonight’s events. I would meet my celebrity crush. He would finally know that I existed, heck I might even dance with him. 

Once we arrived at Griffith Park, we made our climb up the hill and back down in record time… for us at least. The entire time the Black Eyed Peas blared through my earphones. Tonight would definitely be a good night.

I spent that afternoon getting ready. It took me over an hour to curl my freshly dyed hair just right. I pinned my hair over to one side.

I kept my makeup simple, mostly because I didn't know any other way to do it. I cleaned up my brows and applied enough mascara to make mmy eyes look alive. It took me much longer than it should have to fix my liner. Lastly, I paired everything with a soft peach lip. I think this is about as good as I get, honestly.

Berry raided my closet and picked out a Peach colored summer dress with white stitching designs, for herself.

I stared at my options for a while before deciding on a blue floral dress with some nude strappy heels. I picked up a few dainty pieces of jewelry before deciding I was finished.

I didn't look awful and it was comfortable enough, really (her outfit).

 I listened to Pandora for a while waiting in the living room for my mom and Berry to get ready. You would not believe which song came through my speakers. “I’ve gotta feeling…” I laughed to myself and sang along this time, causing my brother to make an appearance. 

He opened his door, poked his shaved head out and said “you can’t sing. Ness; just stop trying.” 

He followed his comment with a chuckle and receded into his room closing his door behind him. Although embarrassed, I sang louder simply to annoy him.

When we arrived I greeted my amazingly loud and festive aunts and my crazy little nieces and nephews. I sat at a table with Berry and my cousin Jennifer discussing her wedding which happened to be just a few weeks away.

The sun was just beginning it’s journey towards the horizon when a black Escalade pulled up in the front. We looked at the vehicle expectantly, as far as we were concerned, we didn’t know anyone in the family who drove in an escalade.

Suddenly the doors opened and 4 guys stepped out. Three of them had fairly short hair, perhaps just long enough to notice the texture of it: curly. The last man was much larger, taller, bald, and significantly older. It was them. The Jonas Brothers. 

Everything began moving slowly: their walk up the driveway, their introduction, even their performance. All I could do was stare in awe and absolute amazement.

They finished performing and stayed a while longer as the sun was savoring its last minutes in the sky. The party really began then.

My cousin Berry, being indifferent about the boys and who they were, approached them and asked Joe to dance. I envied her watching her teach him the steps for salsa, cumbia and merengue. Joe was lost for the first 3 or 4 songs. I watched them dance and laugh, like the friends they never were.

I looked over at Nick and found him and Kevin looking directly at me, their lips moved to form words that never reached me. They looked away as soon as they noticed me watching them.

I decided I would be as brave as Berry and ask Nick to dance. I tried not to think about it as I managed to stand up. I looked directly at him just as he looked back at me and I lost my nerve.

A single look was all it took as I pretended to flatten out my dress only to sit right back down. What was I thinking? Nick Jonas was just across the dance floor yet there was no way in the world he would ever dance with me. 

I watched him and Kevin carefully and they looked to me and away from me constantly while conversing. Could they possibly be talking about me??

Finally, Nick stood up and I eyed him carefully without making myself too obvious. He crossed the dance floor and walked in my direction.

I looked behind me to see what it was that he could possibly want only to turn back around and find a body standing in front of me. Nick! He was standing right in front of me.

“Hi” he said with a somewhat friendly tone.

I looked at him unable to speak and nodded. 

He scratched the back of his neck before he continued, “Um, would you like to dance with me?”

 

End Notes:

First chapter is up... again! Let me know what you guys think. Good, bad, ugly? Since summer is here and I've got nothing on my slate, I'll likely be posting twice a week or so. Thanks for reading.

Save the Last Dance for Me by Stephy
Author's Notes:

Don't forget who's taking you home


and in whose arms you're gonna be


Save the Last Dance for Me


-Michael Bublé

I looked behind me again to see who it was that he was talking to. No one was there. Could he really mean me?? I turned back around, confusion bore into my face. 

“Me?”

He flashed an encouraging tight-lipped smile.

“Yeah, did you not want to?”

I snapped out of befuddlement,  “Oh no it’s not that, I just don’t usually dance…”

“Neither do I,” he said holding the same smile “but I figured, ‘why not?’ and I noticed you sitting here so I thought I’d ask you. You seemed a bit bored.”

By now he had his hand held out to me. I couldn’t really say no, could I? Without further thought I took his hand and he led us to the dance floor. Just as we found our spot in the middle of the dance floor the track stopped and I heard my aunt yell.

“Un disco para los gringos!!!”

I giggled to myself. Nick raised an eyebrow in question. 

“Um, they’re changing the song for you and Joe.”

Nick let out a small chuckle.

Just then the song started. I knew this song by heart. 

“Now this I know.”

Nick placed a hand on my back and led while my family encircled us and chanted.

I pretended I wasn’t blushing and focused all of my attention on his feet as he set the pace. It took me a minute to figure out how to dance with a partner but as soon as I showed any semblance of proficiency Nick began to twirl me around.

I ignored the fact that my entire body felt overwhelmed with the need to jump up and down like a small child and prayed that I wouldn’t step on him.

“You can dance, go and carry on, ‘til the night is gone and it’s time to go….. Save the last dance for me.”

The song didn’t last very long. Spanish music began blasting through the speakers again. I took Nick’s hands and taught him the basics which he managed to pick up fairly quickly. He fit in quite well at the party. 

Eventually, my high heels, which almost made me look average height, tired me out and Nick accompanied me to sit down.

“I thought you didn’t dance?” He mentioned as I directed my eyes to the floor again.

“I think most of that was you, leading me into… not your feet?” 

Was that a sentence? I don’t think that was a sentence. Why am I talking in not sentences?

Nick chuckled beside me, “well, you were very good at dancing on ‘not my feet.’”

I kept my eyes down and tried to avoid the embarrassment of letting him see the bright color on my cheeks. 

“So, what is your relation to the birthday girl?”

I looked up and saw an encouraging smile playing on his features. I couldn’t help but return the smile.

“She’s my niece.” I responded, shyly.

“Oh, are you Vanessa?”

“Um, yeah, that’s me.”

“You’re the one who hired us, right?”

I thought about it for a moment and pondered the strangeness of the fact that Nick was technically working for me.

“I suppose I did,” I answered with a shrug.

“That’s a very kind thing to do for your niece. What made you decide to call us.”

“Well, I kind of got her into your music? Everytime I babysit and stuff. I promised her last year I’d take her to a Jonas Brothers concert, but then there wasn’t one and then I just felt like I owed it to her.”

“Sorry about that,” Nick laughed nervously, “we’re still working on that, actually.”

It was nearing nine when Kevin approached us. 

“Nick, I think it’s about time we head on out. Joe left his location settings on, it’s been up on twitter for about an hour, if our fans show up, it could ruin the party.” 

Nick nodded and looked over at me. “I’m very sorry to have to leave so soon, Vanessa, it was great getting to talk with you.” 

By now, Joe had walked over, “great party, your cousin is super fun!”

I smiled, “I can’t argue with you there, she’s pretty cool.”

“Can we be invited to the next family function?”

“Joe, that’s not okay, you can’t just invite yourself,” Kevin scolded him.

“I know, that’s why I’m asking her to invite me. I’m Joe by the way,” he introduced himself as he shoved a hand past his brothers out to me.

I giggled slightly, “I never would have guessed that. I’m Vanessa,” I gladly accepted his handshake.

“Hey, can you give me your twitter handle so you can keep me posted on the next party?”
“Joe, seriously?” Nick and Kevin both remarked in unison.

“Sorry, I’m not on twitter.”

“Instagram?”
Nick and Kevin both shot incredulous looks at their ridiculous brother.

“I’m not on any social media, really.” I shrugged.

Joe mouthed a ‘wow’ before I continued.

“I do write a mean letter, though, my penmanship is fire, if I do say so myself.” I joked.

From the corner of my eye I saw Nick’s eyes on me and I wondered if my joke was only funny to me.

“Joe, let’s go,” Kevin urged him, placing his hand on his shoulder.

“Wait, I’m not finished, yet. Can I get your number? Address? Where should I send the smoke signals?”

I giggled again, “I can walk you guys out, if you’d like?”

“Yes, please!” Joe insisted.

We made our way back up the driveway and I ran into my mom, “Nessa, can you put my heels in the trunk for me, I don’t want to forget them.”

A pair of strappy sandals adorned her feet as she reached the high heels out to me.

I took my mother’s shoes as we continued walking up the driveway.

“Change of shoes and everything, your family means business, huh?” 

“Excuse Joe, he’s not allowed out very often, since he doesn’t know how to act,” Nick teased him.

I giggled as Joe stood up for himself.

“Bro, its a hardcore party, you know that’s cool!”

The boys were parked right in front of my Mini Cooper so I said goodbye while I popped the trunk and dropped my mother’s shoes inside.

I heard Joe calling me over to their vehicle. Was he hoping to get Berry’s number or something?

“Hey, thanks again for having us, it’s been really cool being a part of an event this big.”

I tried to hide a smile at the implication that this was by any means a big event.

Joe looked ahead of him and found a group of about eight girls approaching quickly.

“Oh my god, look!”

I heard the voice but I couldn’t match it to one that I was familiar with.

“Uh, can you please get in the car?” Joe asked suddenly.

“I’m sorry?”

“Just- please? I’ll explain it later,” he pleaded.

“ Who is that girl? It’s them, look!” I heard another girl speak.

I figured there would be no harm in doing so. I don’t recall anyone being kidnapped by the Jonas Brothers in recent news, “… okay?”

I opened the door and hopped in the back. I had to climb over Joe and I sat in the middle next to Nick. Joe closed the door the instant I was in and their security guard took off.

“Where are we going?” I asked, feeling disoriented by my current predicament.

Joe must have sensed my current state of discomfort because when he spoke again he was more relaxed. 

“Sorry about that but we had to leave before our fans arrived and things got out of hand.”

“And I had to come with you?”

Kevin and Joe shared a look I didn’t fully comprehend.

“We love our fans,” Kevin started.

“They’re the best in the world.” Joe continued

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them,” Nick tagged on.

This seems excessively rehearsed.

“But…”

Kevin looked around at his brothers as Joe sighed.

“They can be a little intense at times.”

“Not all of them, I mean most of them are just amazing.” Nick reminded me.

“The ones who try to pinpoint us at every location, though,” Kevin’s mouth pressed together as he avoided saying whatever was about to come out of his mouth.

“Those can be a little more… excessive?” Joe finished.

“Excessive?”

“They’re great, though!” Nick threw in, again.

“So… like stalkers?” I asked.

“Not stalkers, no. They’re just… enthusiastic?” Joe tried again.

I nodded feeling slightly confused by their wording. Are they putting up a facade because I’m a fan?

“... so what happens to me?”

The guys all looked around at each other until Big Rob spoke up.

“For your safety, we need to drive around for a while to be sure we weren’t followed and then we can drop you off at home.”

“Can you drop me off at my car?”

“Afraid not, there’s no telling how long they’ll be waiting around for.”

“Oh,” I let out quietly.

I could feel the tension. These guys were no longer on the clock to be who I had paid them to be. This was supposed to be their settling time and still their entire space seemed uneasy.

I didn’t know what to say to fix the situation. I was an intruder. 

I focused my eyes on the hem of my dress and traced it with my fingers trying to push away the thought that I was now far beyond the scope of my comfort zone. 

‘Once you get out of your comfort zone, you start to see growth,’ my coach lectured me inside my head.

I shook my head clearly uncomfortable and clearly not growing the slightest bit. I knew he was lying.

I must have caught his attention because Joe’s head whipped around toward me, “So Vanessa… Nessa?” He asked not knowing what to call me.

I shrugged, “either is fine.”

“Nessa, what do you do?”

I saw Nick’s focus shift toward me as well as I kept my eyes steady on my dress.

Would it be more awkward if I stumbled through this or if I don’t respond? If I don’t respond will they think I’m a jerk? Am I a jerk?

I shook the thoughts out of my head, certain I was overthinking again.

“Um, I do school, I guess… After school stuff, too?...”

Why am I talking like my whole life revolves around school? Stop talking like you’re a child with no social life or responsibilities.

“I do non-school stuff.” I pressed my brows together, really hating the words that were coming out of my mouth.

“Are you nervous?” Joe finally asked.

I let out the breath that I didn’t recall holding in and just nodded.

“What if I was one of your school friends?” Joe asked before slipping into character. “Oh, my gosh, Nessa! Like what do you do?” His voice was animated and high enough to make Big Rob chuckle as he drove us around.

I giggled slightly and shook my head, “my friends don’t sound like that.”

I saw Nick smile out of the corner of my eye.

Joe gasped, “Can we go with it, though? I think it’s kind of fun!” He cleared his throat before proceeding, “Nessa, that math test was like, super hard!”

I laughed a little louder this time before looking up to see Joe’s encouraging smile. He lifted his eyebrows at me, encouraging me to speak up.

“I’m still, in high school, I guess. I’m graduating this year.”

“Did you make the cheer squad this year?” He tried again.

I shook my head trying not to laugh too hard, “I didn’t try out for the cheer squad. I’m on the Varsity track team, though.”

“Ugh, track? Like running, no thank you.” Kevin spoke up.

“I don’t disagree. I’m actually a sprinter… so my job is to run the least amount possible.”

“So are you fast?” Joe asked in his regular voice.

“My coaches seem to think so.”

“Coaches? Do you have one for the right foot and one for the left foot?”

I smiled up at Joe, “I have one for the running part and one for the jumping part.”

“Oh, you do the hurdle race?” Kevin asked again.

“No, just the 100 meter, the pit jumps and the high jump.”

“Nice, you’ve got hops?”

“My coaches seemed to think so.”

“Explain,” Joe demanded.

I finally stopped fidgeting with my dress. I was still careful to squeeze in, not wanting to invade anyone’s space. “They pulled me aside after a match to ask me to join the team.”

Nick scrunched his eyebrows together, “I thought they were called track meets?”

I blushed, “they are, or sometimes invitationals for the big ones. I just meant, they asked me to join after a volleyball match.”

“You play volleyball, too?”

“I did in the fall,” I shrugged.

“How many sports do you play?”

“Right now it's just Track, and I coach a little league softball team a few times a week.”

“Softball? You hear that, Nick?” Kevin cut in.

Nick scowled at Kevin and turned back toward the window.

“Can you take him out?” Joe asked, ticking his head toward Nick.

Take him out? On a date or something? I’m confused.

“Um…”
“It’d be great if we could find someone to take him down a peg.” Kevin added.

Sports! They’re talking about sports.

“I really wouldn’t know. I don’t know how good he is.”

“You know how good you are.”

Technically Joe is right, but I don’t really want to keep talking all about myself.

“I’d rather not say.”

“That’s a yes, you hear that, Nick? You’re not the best at everything.” Joe called out to him as he wrapped an arm around me.

My entire body stiffened feeling overwhelmed by the amount of contact going on between the two of us.

Nick turned to look at me before speaking up again, “let her go, Joe.”

Joe took his arm from around me before redirecting his attention toward me. I took the opportunity to lean away from him back to dead center away from both of them.

“If we invited you to a game next week, would you come?”

A game? “Dodgers or Angels?”

“No, we have a softball game next week with a couple of friends, and I need someone who can show Nick what’s what.” Joe smiled at me.

Are they inviting me because they’re doing ‘damage control’ for their previous comments on their fans? Do they think I’d tell?

“You don’t have to do that,” I promised.

“Nonsense, it's the least we can do after kidnapping you from a family event,” Kevin assured.

Oh right, that. This, rather, given we’re still here waiting for Big Rob to give us the all clear.

“Come on, you can’t come in here fronting like you’re the ultimate jock and not take Nick down,” Joe demanded.

I looked over at Nick as he shook his head, “even if you can’t take me, you’re still welcome.”

“See what we mean!” Kevin cut in. “This guy is the worst! You’ve got to put him in his place.”
“Worst part is he dances every time he crosses home plate.” Big Rob spoke up.

I tried not to laugh, as Nick tried to defend himself.

“I definitely don’t dance.”

Joe rolled his eyes, “he does this super annoying strut back to the box like he owns the place.”

“Looks like a dance to me.” Kevin mentioned.

Is this a real invite? Only one way to find out right?

“Well I guess you should save the last dance for me.”

Joe’s eyes widened as his mouth formed a perfect ‘ooh.’

I heard Kevin chuckle in the front seat.

Nick looked over at me again with raised eyebrows, “it’s on.”

End Notes:

This chapter had a major rewrite as I'm rethinking a lot of the events in this story. Maybe its not so much like the original one?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy. If you do please leave a comment behind. If you hate it let me know that, too. I work very well with criticism... despite what critics might say. ;p

Lean On Me by Stephy
Author's Notes:

Lean on Me


When You're not Strong


- Bill Withers

Friday evening I loaded the practice balls and bats into my trunk as my girls slowly dwindled down to one.

“Coach Nessie, my mom isn’t answering her phone.”

“Okay, love, give me one second and I’ll try giving her a call, okay?”

I made my way to the driver’s side to grab my phone from the center console. I scrolled through my contacts before finding Lara’s mom’s number. She didn’t answer.

Voicemail? I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do in this situation.

Lara and I sat on the curb for a while waiting for her parents. I’d have taken her home myself but it’s against policy so here I am later than I ever anticipated.

About half an hour after practice had ended, I was finally in my car headed home.

I pulled up to my street to find a black vintage Mustang sitting outside my house… I’d kill for that car.

As I got closer to my home I noticed the driver wearing raybans and perfect curls. Is that?

He looked over at me with a look that clearly said ‘you’re late.’

I pulled into my driveway before hopping out of my car. Nick began walking up my driveway with his raybans still firmly over his eyes.

“Nick?”

“You’re late.”

“I had a kid who-”

I could have sworn I saw him scan my outfit. But then again, I could be delusional.

“Where’s your gear?”

“My softball stuff?”

Nick looked at me deadeyed… I think… he’s still wearing the shades.

“It’s in the trunk?”

He walked toward the trunk of my car. “Open up, we’re late.”

“Late for what?” I asked, confused.

“The game you signed up for?”

He smirked like I was suddenly chickening out.

“No one told me when the game would be.”

Nick sighed, “of course, that’s why you don’t leave things up to Joe.”

I didn’t think Nick would be so easily agitated.

He pulled his shades off before tucking them into his shirt. “Can you please open the trunk?”

“Right, sorry.”

I pressed the button on my key fob as the trunk popped open.

Nick looked in to see my practice ball bucket had knocked over in transit and now my trunk looked like an unfinished game of “Hungry, Hungry Hippo.”

“What should I grab?” he asked.

“I can get it, I just need my bat and my glove,” I reached into my monogrammed bag for my tools.

I turned around and for a split second I could have sworn I saw Nick watching me. Then again, I could be imagining things, right? I mean really?

I closed my trunk and followed behind Nick back down the driveway to his vehicle parked outside.

He opened the trunk. “Just drop your items in there.”

I did as he instructed and made my way to the driver’s side to wait for him to unlock the car.

Nick walked over toward me and stared at me for a moment before he spoke up. “I need you to take a step back.”

I did as he asked and he unlocked the door before opening it himself.

“Oh, thank you,” I mumbled.

Nick made sure I was all the way in before closing and walking over to the driver’s side.

He started the car and handed me the aux cord. I held it for a minute when he started driving.

“Play something.”

“Right… sorry.”

I’m honestly a little terrified to share my music preferences with a musician but I might be more terrified of sitting in silence with one.

What should I play? ‘When in doubt run it out,’ my coach reminded me. Would that apply in this situation?

As soon as the first song came on Nick looked over at my phone to see the name of the playlist.

“I Just Felt Like Runnin’?”

“Yeah, like Forrest Gump?”

Nick’s lip twitched up in the slightest… I think.

Should have known, that joke never lands.

“I thought you said you didn’t like running?”

He remembered that?

“It’s a love hate relationship. In that, I hate it but it does the body good so I have to suck it up… or so I’m told.”

Nick looked over at my legs almost as if deciding whether or not that was true. Are my legs toned enough? Are they too big? Are my calves too skinny?

Stop thinking about your legs, you’re being weird!

The Arctic Monkeys began pouring through the speakers and was reminded that I had heard this playlist today… when I was running, during track practice… and I haven’t showered since.

I tried to sniff myself subtly to see if I smelled as bad as I imagined. Could Nick smell me? I rolled down the window and leaned against the door to try to get as far away from him as possible. The further I am, the less he can smell me.

“Is everything okay?”

I looked over at Nick surprised by his question.

“I think so?”

Nick kept his eyes on the road highly focused on whatever was going on in his brain.

“What do you like about the Arctic Monkeys?”

Are they a bad band? Do I have bad taste?
Nick looked over at me for an instant and gave me a reassuring glance, “I personally think Alex Turner is a lyrical genius.”

“Oh, yeah… um, I just like running to the beat. Keeps me going… makes me feel tough.”

Nick smiled a closed smile, “really, tough, huh?”

I’m confused, “you don’t think I’m tough?”

My brows pressed together in concern that I might be coming across as wimpy.

“Can’t say I’ve seen tough from you, yet.”

“I’m very tough,” I tried to assure him in a voice a few keys higher than necessary.

“Prove it,” he dared me with a smirk.

“I’m so tough, one time I got a papercut and I didn’t even cry!”

Nick let out a small chuckle and I blushed. He thinks I’m funny!

“I stand corrected,” he agreed looking over at me.

I couldn’t help but smile back.


As soon as the game started nice Nick vanished into thin air and was replaced with a middle-aged coach with a heart condition and an anger issue.

“That’s bullshit! That was safe and you know it!” He yelled out as one of his players was sent back to the box without scoring.

As we headed in from the field to the box Joe caught up to me and placed an arm around my shoulder. I walked slightly to the right and out of his grasp as his arm slipped right off.

“Hey, I know Nick can be a little-”
“Grumpy?”

“I was going to say ‘dick,’ but… that just brings me back to my point, would it be possible to compensate you for your discretion?”

Compensate? Wait, is he offering to pay me?

“Oh, no.”

Joe’s eyes widened in fear.

“No, I mean. It’s not necessary. I won’t tell.” I promised.

“It’s just we’re still contracted with-”

“You don’t have to explain, I won't tell.”

“Thanks, Nessa.”

He smiled before patting my shoulder. Why does he keep touching me?

“Hey, shortstop!” A female voice shouted behind me.

I turned around to see one of the members from our team rushing toward me.

“Hey sorry, about that I don’t know your name.”
“Vanessa,” I responded quietly, not sure if I was in trouble for something.

“I’m Rochelle, nice to meet you,” she smiled.

So I’m not in trouble.

“Anyway, I just wanted to let you know you’re killing it out there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a redder shade of Nick,” she laughed.

“Is he always that angry?”

“He’s a totally cool guy… except in sports… then he’s…”

“A middle-aged man with anger issues?”

“Exactly!” She laughed. “Also just thought you should know that I’m out in right field and the view is quite grand.”

I looked around confused. Was I too focused on the game to realize what was going on around me?

“Where?”

“Behind you, obviously!”

My eyes widened in shock. “What?”

“Oh, come on, I can’t be the first person to tell you this! That ass has got some real class.”

I shook my head, “you kind of are, most girls just kind of smack me,” I admitted.

“I’ll keep that in mind for next time.”

Nick was an ultra focused short stop when his team was up for defense. He was not afraid to roll around. His pants were a completely different color by the end of the game.


The last play came down to Kevin at bat with me on second one strike, one out, tied game. I could see Joe coaching from behind third. He rolled his fists and his body before patting his head with closed fists. I think he’s reminding me to run.

I started to move toward third waiting for the pitcher to release the ball.

“Don’t even try, you’re not going to get it,” Nick called out beside me.

“I don’t know I might go for it anyway.”

Nick rolled his eyes, “if you want to throw the game away, by all means.”

The pitcher heard our conversation and threw it to second. I dove for it, putting the first stain on my white shirt and shoving unnecessary amounts of red dirt into my bra.

“Safe!”

I smiled over at Nick just to tease him. “You don’t mind a little dirt in your car right?”

“Keep it up and you’ll be riding in the trunk.”

I took a step off base and began inching toward third again.

“Imma do it, you know why?” I asked him, my eyes still set on the pitcher.

He wound up to pitch.

“Because I felt like runnin’!” As soon as the ball left his hand, I took off full speed.

“Watch it!” he called out as the ball came straight in between us.

I ducked and lost my balance but I kept running, hoping I’d make it to third before catching a face full of dirt.

“Shit, I’m so sorry Nessa!” I heard Kevin somewhere in the background.

I dove and hoped for the best while Nick rushed back to get the ball.

“Run Kevin!!” I heard a crowd shouting behind me as my three fingers gripped the base.

“Move Nessa, move!!” Joe shouted as he jumped up and down.

I got up and took off as fast as I could aiming for the home plate.

“Out!” I heard from first base.

“Go, Nessa, go!!!”

I ran as fast as I could as I saw the catcher come in to crowd the plate.

I saw the ball I was racing against as it zoomed past me.

I couldn’t let Nick win after all the things I’d just said.

I slid in feet first hoping to knock the pitcher out of the way.

“Safe!” My team cheered from the box as I got up to jump around.

Joe came and lifted me over his shoulder as he jumped around the home plate with me.

I covered my face and prayed it would be over soon.

Eventually Joe put me down and Rochelle rushed over to smack my butt.

“Way to go, Nessa!” She cheered before wrapping me up in a hug that I had no qualms returning.

I turned around to see Nick coming in to home plate to admit his defeat. “Check it out, the last dance!”

I turned my back to him and copied his strut for a few steps.

“What happened to your leg?”

I looked down at my sliding leg to find it covered in dirt and small amounts of blood. Raspberries. I forgot I wasn’t wearing my sliding shorts.

If you don’t know what raspberries are, imagine throwing yourself onto a “Slip n Slide,” but instead of watered down plastic, you do it on a grainy, dirt-filled field. It’s not pretty.

“Ooh, Nessa, that looks rough!”

Rochelle used her water bottle to try and rinse off as much of the dirt as currently possible.

Nick and Rochelle worked on getting me cleaned up while Kevin and Joe dismissed the teams.

My leg trembled slightly as Rochelle kept pouring ice water over raw skin.

“Can you admit that I’m tough now?” I asked Nick who chuckled.

“That’s gotta be painful.”

“I’m all out of water.”

“Thanks, Rochelle. I can clean it up when I get home.”

“I’m gonna head out, I promised my boyfriend we could grab dinner after the game.”

“Thank you, Rochelle.” Nick nodded at her.

“Great game, Nessa. You are the best shortstop I’ve ever seen.”

I looked over at Nick with a smile to gauge his reaction. There wasn’t one. He was more focused on my leg. I guess nice Nick is back.

“Will it need to be cut off?”

Nick looked up with a smirk, “I really didn’t think, you’d sacrifice a leg just to beat me.”

“Hey, whatever it takes, right?”

“I think you might be more competitive than me.”

“Only when I’m losing,” I shrugged.

“Let’s go get you cleaned up.”

I rose to my feet and Nick eyed me carefully. 

“Need a hand?” He held his hand out to me.

“I think I’m good,” I limped slowly beside him.

Until reaching the steps to exit the box. I looked around to see how I might use my surroundings to hop out onto the field.

“I’ll help you, lean on me” Nick insisted before wrapping a hand around me to rest low near my hip bone.

I froze momentarily before Nick’s hand readjusted higher up near my ribcage.

“Thank you,” I whispered quietly.

Joe and Kevin were in the parking lot waiting for us as Nick walked me to his car.

“How do you feel, Nessa?” Kevin asked with concern in his voice.

“I’ll be fine. It’s just a scratch.”

“Pretty big scratch,” Joe noted staring at the raw flesh on my leg.

“Worth it,” I smiled at him.

Joe reached a hand out for a high five which I gladly returned.

“What are you guys going to do right now? Dani is making dinner if you guys want to come,” Kevin offered.

“I’m in for sure. Dani makes the best meatballs.”

“I’m gonna take Vanessa home and get her cleaned up, maybe next time, Kev,” Nick answered.

“I’m sorry. I can just call a ride, it’s no big deal if you want to go.”

“Absolutely not,” Kevin refused. “You guys can come over some other time. You’ve gotta take care of the leg first.”

“Sorry, again.”

“Don’t even apologize, you’re the MVP!” Joe hyped me up.


Nick helped me into his car as carefully as possible to avoid inflicting any further pain.

He rushed over to the other side and hopped in before grabbing a sweater from the back seat.

“Here, this might stop some of the bleeding.”

“I really don’t want to get blood on your clothes.”
“Your bleeding leg takes precedence over my sweater.”

He pushed the sweater toward me again and I didn’t refuse.

“Thank you,” I whispered.

Nick smirked at me. “You’re welcome.”


Nick drove past my freeway exit on the way home.

“Um, Nick?”

“Hm?”

He didn’t take his eyes off the road.

“I think you missed my exit.”

“We’re not going to your house,” he looked over quickly before turning back to the road. “I want to get you cleaned up before sending you home.”

“I really don’t think I need to go to a hospital for this.”

“I’m taking you to my place, I hope that’s okay?”

He looked over at me with raised eyebrows.

“We’re going to your parents house? Dressed like this?” I looked down and immediately regretted rolling around in the dirt for a silly game.

“No, my house.”

“You have a house?”

Nick hid a smile from me.

Is that a stupid question? Do most people have houses at his age? What is his age?

“How old are you?”

“I’ll be twenty, soon.” September 16th I know that much. “How old are you?”

“I just turned 18 a few weeks ago.”

I saw Nick visibly relax.

“Great so this isn’t kidnapping, just plain old abduction.”

I laughed, “I don’t think that’s how it goes.”

We pulled up to a home slightly bigger than my own, or rather my mother’s.

“You live here by yourself?”

Nick stepped out of the car and closed the door behind him without a word.

I took my seat belt off and leaned over to open the door to find it already opening.

“How?”

Nick smirked, “I beat you to it this time.”
I raised an eyebrow in question. “This time?”

“You jumped out much faster than I expected at the park.”

I didn’t even know he was going to open it.

He reached in to help me out of the vehicle again. “Do you want to put your hands around my neck?”

I did so against every instinct of mine screaming, ‘stop!’

“I’m gonna put a hand on your back to help you up, okay?” I felt his hand on the small of my back and tried not to flinch.

He lifted me out of the car easily and I quickly turned away from him to hold on to the frame of the car.

Nick shut the door before turning his attention to me again. “Ready?”

I nodded nervously as he kept his hand as high on my back as possible and I found it infinitely easier not to turn away from his touch.

“You smell nice,” he commented.

I became instantly self conscious knowing I was covered in sweat and dirt and who knows what else.

“Like dirt and… something fruity, or fresh…” Wait was he being serious?

I gave him a shy thank you

Nick helped me into the house and down the hall to the guest bedroom. “There are fresh towels in the bathroom and a bathrobe in the closet.” I limped into the big fresh room. Why is everything so pristinely clean?

“I don’t have any clothes that would fit you, you’re really small. But we can wash yours.”

I looked around awkwardly.

“I’ll leave you to it and come back to check on you in a minute.”


After my bath, I stepped out of the bathroom in my bathrobe with my dirty clothes neatly folded in my hands. It seemed like a cardinal sin to leave any sort of mess anywhere. I placed my clothes on top of the dresser and checked my phone to find a text and two missed calls from my mom. I sent her a quick text explaining that I had gone out to a game with friends. I made no mention of the fact that these ‘friends’ were actually the Jonas Brothers doing me a favor for kidnapping me last weekend.

I heard a knock at the door followed by a muffled, “Nessa, may I come in?”

“Yes?”

Nick opened the door slowly, “Can I put your clothes in the wash?”

“I can do that,'' I insisted, grabbing my items from on top of the dresser.

“I’d rather not make you hop around the house,” Nick smiled apologetically.

Nick helped me to the couch in the living room before making his way to the laundry room with my items. I’m essentially naked in the middle of Nick Jonas’ living room. This is definitely not where I expected to end up.

Nick returned after some time with a first aid kit in his hand. “Can I clean your leg up for you?”

But I’m naked… “um, that’s not necessary.”

“I’d really rather avoid infection.”

But I’m naked. I looked up at him not knowing what else to say. He sat beside me with at least a foot and a half of distance between us. “You can stop me if it gets too painful,” he offered.

I nodded nervously, biting my lip.

“Do you want to lay down?”

My heart was racing as I layed on my side. “Can I move this, or do you want to?”

My shaking hand moved part of the bathrobe aside so that Nick would have better access to the scratches on my leg.

Nick soaked a cotton pad in alcohol before pressing it against the scratch on the lowest part of my skin. I flinched slightly.

“Hurts?”

“I’m fine,” I lied.

“Why’d you dye your hair that color?” He asked as he continued to tend to my wound.

“I don’t know…”

“Suits you,” he noted. “What color are your eyes?”

“Brown?”

Nick blew lightly on the freshly cleaned area of skin before moving up my leg slightly.

“Not brown, mine are brown, yours are… different.”

He looked up at me while I tried to hide the fact that I was holding my breath.

“Kind of like honey… gold… it matches perfectly with your hair, though”

“Thank you,” I mumbled.

“Are you hungry?” As soon as he said that my stomach finally remembered it hadn’t been fed in hours and retaliated in a vicious cry.

He chuckled, “what are you in the mood for?”

I shrugged, “Anything.”

“How do you feel about wings?”

“Redbull gives you wings.”

Nick smiled, “so it does. More importantly, however, if I gave you wings, would you eat them?”

I nodded timidly. 

“What kind of wings would you like?”

“Chicken…”

Nick looked up at me while he blew on my leg again. 

“Boneless, bone in?”

“Boneless, the other kind slows me down too much,” I joked.

Nick smiled again, “What kind of sauce would you like?”

“Lemon pepper.”

“What’s your favorite subject in school?”

“I haven’t decided, lately it's been based on the cooler teachers.”

“Which one is the coolest?”

“Mr. Roberts.”

“Why is he the coolest.”

“He’s funny, he introduced me to the Arctic Monkeys, he’s really nice… he’s so smart.”

I noticed Nick’s eyes observing me and I blushed.

“Do you have a crush on Mr. Roberts?”
I bit my lip and shrugged.

“Does he know?”

I shook my head, “not a chance.”

“Is he good looking?”

“He’s average.”

Nick nodded taking in the information I provided.

“Have you ever had a boyfriend?”

I nodded, “It didn’t really work out, though.”

“Why is that?”

I furrowed my brows, “he was… kind of controlling. He didn’t really let me have ‘unsupervised friends’ or male friends in general.”

“That sounds awful.”

“I actually lost my best friend because of him… most of my friends, honestly.”

“I’ll be your friend,”

Is he serious? Is this a real offer?

Nick used a q-tip to apply some sort of ointment.

“So what do you do?”

“Stay home? Study, work, training, just stuff, I guess. Between school, Track and work, I don’t have a lot of free time left.”

“So your first day out and you end up tearing up half your leg?”

“Yeah, maybe my ex was right after all, huh?”

Nick put a few pieces of gauze on my leg and sealed it with tape.

“Definitely not, look at that, like new.”

I looked down at the giant white square that covered my leg. “It looks exactly as before. Thank you.”

“Of course. What are friends for?” He pulled the fabric back over my leg as I sat up again.

“You’ll be my friend?”

Nick looked at me confused.

“Why?”

“Because everyone needs somebody to lean on. Besides, sooner or later, when I need somebody to lean on, I’ll put that burden on you,” he joked.

I smiled back at him. Am I really making a friend? I thought he couldn’t stand me.

“So let's order those wings shall we?”

 

End Notes:

Hey there reader,

What are your thoughts so far? Interesting? Boring? I should stop writing altogether?

Leave a comment.

Jump Around by Stephy
Author's Notes:

I came to get down


I came to get down


So get out your feet and jump around


-House of Pain

I sat in my physics class trying to figure out how to craft the most buoyant ship from tin foil when I felt my phone buzz in my pocket.

I checked my phone as stealthily as I could manage.


From: Nick

Hey a couple of us were going to a trampoline park later today. Would you care to join?


To: Nick

Depends, I have Track practice today. What time?


I saw three dots appear on my screen and I stared at them intently.

“Ms. Echavarria!”

My head snapped up to see Mr. Baltik at the end of the table staring directly at me.

“I understand that senior year is the greatest drag, but while you’re in my class, I expect you to continue to participate. Put it away or you won’t see it again until graduation.”

“Sorry,” I muttered, shoving my phone back in my pocket.

I felt it buzz but decided against checking it for the rest of this period.

During Mr. Roberts class I finally checked my phone. 


From: Nick

We were thinking 7. I can pick you up early and grab dinner first.


To: Nick

I should be home around 3:30


After I finished Track practice and started walking toward my car, I found a text from Nick.


From: Nick

On my way.


Oh, no. I rushed home to find Nick already parked outside my home again. I pulled over to let him into my car before continuing up the driveway.


“I didn’t expect you’d be here so soon.”

“You said 3:30, I like to be on time.”

“I just finished practice, I need a shower.”

“No worries, I can wait.”

Nick carried my backpack and my gym bag for me as we walked into the house.

“Nice place you’ve got.”

“Thanks, I cleaned it myself.”

I began moving up the staircase to my room with Nick in tow.

“That explains all the cobwebs up top.”

I turned around shocked, “did you just call me short?”

Nick smirked, “that can’t be the first time you’ve heard that.”

“I’m taller than you right now.”

“You’re two steps up.”

I squinted my eyes at him before turning on my heels to keep moving up the stairs to lead

him down the hall toward my room. I opened my room and went straight for the closet.

What should I wear today?

I decided on my white chucks, a pair of distressed shorts and a slightly transparent, loose fitting, white tank top. I grabbed a matching set of black lace bra and panty before walking back into my bedroom toward my bathroom.

“You have so many trophies.”

“I try not to disappoint,” I answered a little too honestly.


An hour later I walked back in my room to find Nick flipping through my scrapbook.

“You travel an awful lot.”

“Just a few times a year, really.”

“Nice penmanship. Is this that cursive thingy?”

“Calligraphy.”

“What made you decide to scrapbook?”

Don’t tell him that. He doesn’t need to know. 

I shrugged, “too much free time?”

Nick looked up and stared at me for a moment until his eyes trailed down to my outfit.

“Might get a little cold,” he reminded me with his eyes focused on my legs.

I went back into my closet to grab my loosely fitting track cardigan. I tucked the front part of my shirt and cardigan into my shorts to make sure people knew I did in fact have bottoms.

“So where are we all meeting for food?”

Nick watched me as I emerged. He looked me up and down again focused on the barely healing scratch on my left leg before speaking up.

“Just us actually.”

I tilted my head to the right quizzically. “I thought you said-”

“You assumed.”

‘When you assume, you make an ass of u and me.’ My brother scolded me in some dark corner of my mind.

“Sorry.”

Nick pressed his eyebrows together but didn’t say anything. Did I do something wrong?

“Shall we go?”

I nodded softly as I grabbed my purse and followed Nick out the door.

We were stopped at the front door by my brother coming home from work.

“What did I tell you about having guys over unsupervised?” He yelled at me.

“You didn’t?”

“Shut up!” He teased.

“Hello, nice to meet you, my name is Nick.”

Nick extended a hand out to my brother who stared intently at him before taking his hand.

“Aren’t you that Jonas Brother from the party last week?”

Nick cleared his throat… does he not like to be called a Jonas Brother?

“Yes, that’s me.”

“Eric,” my brother introduced himself, finally shaking his hand. “I’m military trained, just so you know.”

I rolled my eyes and tried not to blush.

“We’re just friends.”

My brother shifted his eyes between Nick and I trying to figure out if I was telling the truth or not.

“Why are you hanging out with this Doofus, anyway?”

“She helped beat my team at Softball last week, her team wants to keep her around.”

My brother looked over at me with a dumb smile.

“Can we go?” I asked shyly.

My brother finally stepped aside to let Nick and I through. I followed behind him down the driveway toward his car.

“Later, loser!” My brother called out from behind me.

Nick looked over at me with a smirk. “Your brother is funny.”

“Agree to disagree.”


Nick had a turkey club placed before him while I waited for my caesar salad.

“Can I ask you something?”

I looked up from the paper cover of the straw I’d been playing with.

“Why do you scrapbook?”

Did he not hear me the first time?

“Kills time.”

He shook his head. “You said that,”

So he was listening.

“But on Friday you didn’t mention it and I’m wondering if there’s a reason behind it.”

Oh no, he listens too much. Don’t tell him he doesn’t need to know. Don’t do it.

“Um, my therapist…” you’re doing it. “He recommended I give it a try to help manage…”

I cleared my throat and focused my attention back on my little straw cover. “Symptoms.”

“Anxiety?”

My face flooded with all of the red that my body owned.

“I noticed you don’t respond well to touch.”

He’s far more observant than I anticipated. I shrugged as the waitress came back with my salad.

“Thank you,” I whispered.

“So you’re a jumper?” He asked, changing the subject.

I nodded.

“I’d like to see what you’re made of.”

“Legs mostly… like a frog.” I answered quietly.

Nick smiled, “A frog is your best estimate?”

I shrugged, “don’t sleep on the frog, he could be a prince.”

“Oh, so you’re a prince now?”

“I didn’t think that through.”

“So you’re waiting for someone to come along and turn you back into a prince?”

I shook my head, “I’m not looking for anyone right now.”

Nick chuckled and I looked up, “you’re 18! I really don’t think that qualifies for prime quitting years.”

“Maybe I’m just ahead of the curve.”

“Maybe you’ve just been doing it wrong.”

I looked up at him with a mouthful of lettuce.

“If you’re looking for a life partner, they’re often the same person you spend all of your time with; your best friend.”

“I spend all of my time alone.”

Nick chuckled, “I mean, you’re here with me so obviously not.”

“What makes you so sure best friends are the way to go? My last one got engaged to the head cheerleader.”

Nick shrugged. “My parents were best friends, they’ve been happily married for longer than I’ve been alive.”

“I heard it's almost hereditary… An example of a good or bad marriage gives you the blueprint for how you should behave in your good or bad marriage.”

“Well how are your parents doing?”

“Divorced, actually,” I admitted.

Nick’s smile fell slightly, “marry your best friend and you can’t go wrong. That’s my motto.”

“Well you can do that, I’ll just be alone.”


We arrived at the trampoline park at 6:50 to find the same group from last Friday waiting for us.

I took off my seatbelt and opened the door just as Nick rushed over to open it the rest of the way. “Sorry, I’m still getting used to that.”

I stepped out to see Rochelle coming toward me. “Hey, Nessa, it’s great to see you again.”

Her bright smile was beaming and appeared genuine. Did she actually like me?

“Hi, Rochelle,” I smiled back, not knowing what more to say. Why are you so awkward?

She took my hand and pulled me into the group of people, “Guys, you remember Nessa from Friday’s game.”

I got more greetings than I could remember and believe me… I tried.

“Great game, Nessa.”

“Never thought we’d find someone more competitive than Nick.”

“Ouch, that’s quite the battle scar,” one girl mentioned looking down at my scraped leg.

“I’m hoping it’s just temporary.”

“Try mixing almond oil and aloe vera, it’s great for scar reduction.”

“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Yo, Nick, is she up for grabs?”

I turned toward the voice to find a displeased Nick talking to one of his team members.

Rochelle placed her arm around my neck, and led me toward the building entrance. “I forgot to ask you, what do you do?”

“I go to school and I coach a little league team.”

Rochelle laughed, “no, girl, I meant for the band.”

“For the band?”

“Are you a new backup vocalist?”

“I don’t have a band.”

“Oh, you’re not going on tour with us?”

Wait... this is their band. I guess they do fun band stuff before going on tour?

“No?”

“Don’t tell me that! I was hoping you’d be my tour friend!”

“I didn’t know this was a band thing.” I apologized.

“How did you get on the team if you’re not travelling with the band?”

“Joe and Kevin asked if I’d help them beat Nick?”

Rochelle laughed, “well you certainly did that.”

“Rochelle!” A guy called out behind us.

Rochelle turned back at him and smiled before sliding her arm off of me.

“I’ll catch up with you in a few,” Rochelle smacked my ass before falling behind to speak to whoever had called her attention.

“Nessa!” Joe came over and wrapped me up in a hug, “How’s your leg doing?”

I tried not to push him away.

“It still works, mostly.”

Joe kept his arm around me as he walked us up to the counter to get our socks, “hopefully, you can avoid injury this time.”

I tried to make myself small hoping to fall out of his grasp. “Two pairs, large and small.” 

The guy at the front desk handed us the socks while Joe led me toward the benches.

“Joe, let her go.” I heard a familiar voice behind us.

Joe turned around to smirk at his brother, “oh, I’m sorry, am I intruding?”

Nick returned a serious look as Joe finally slipped his arm off of me.

I took that as my opportunity to sit down and start putting on the grip socks.

Nick sat on the bench across from mine, “sorry, he’s less mindful of personal space.”

“I’d imagine most girls don’t mind it.”

Nick smiled at me, “that’s been his experience so far.”

I leaned over to put on my socks and came up to find Nick’s eyes focused on the gap between my tank top and my chest.

He quickly looked away and straightened out his own socks before rising to his feet.

“Shall we?” He reached a hand out to me and quickly stuck it in his pocket.

He’s really making an effort to make me feel comfortable.

Just as Nick and I reached the entrance to the larger trampoline square an old school rap song came on.

“I came to get down, I came to get down, so get out your seat and jump around!”

Nick looked over at me with a small smile.

“Fitting,” I laughed.

I watched Joe hop across the runway trampoline like a flopping fish and failed to hold back a laugh.

“You can always count on Joe to be the entertainment.”

I looked around, “where’s Kevin?”

Nick's smile slipped right off his face, he’s home with Danielle today. Won’t be joining us.”

I stepped onto the trampoline just as Joe came around. 

“Runway train! Line it up, we’re doing this!” He pulled on my hand and dragged me behind him toward the end of the runway where four people had already been lined up and cheering for those going down the runway.

Nick followed behind me, walking through the matted areas rather than jumping. I don’t think this place was his idea.

I saw Rochelle jump her way down the runway with a new pose at every leap. She is so cute!

When Joe’s turn came around Missy Elliot had come on the speakers.

“Ooh, watch me throw it back for Missy!”

Joe turned to face me and began jumping in reverse, using his butt to scoot him back after every leap.

My turn finally came around and I unbuttoned my cardigan.

“I’ll hold it for you,” Nick grabbed my cardigan before it hit the floor.

“Thank you.”
“Go Nessa! Show us what you got!” I heard Rochelle calling out over everyone’s cheers.

I started running down the runway before rotating into a cartwheel and two back-to-back front flips. I felt my shirt flying around me and prayed that no one could see too much before smashing into the trampoline wall on the other side and falling onto my back. I bounced back up to stand, completely embarrassed and terrified to turn around.

“Shake it off!” I got off the runway and saw the next person coming down while Nick walked toward me with a smile and a cardigan.

“That was great!”

I tried to hide my red face, “Aside from crashing into the wall.”

“I think that was a great recovery,” Nick offered.

“Thank you,” I mumbled.

The guy finished his turn on the runway and bounced toward us, “yo, Nessa! You’re real bendy!”

I stared after him with wide eyes as Nick scowled.

“When is it your turn?”

Nick smirked, “It won't be, I’m not really one for twerking.”

I giggled, “Are you opposed to fun?”

“I’m having fun,” he promised.

“I’ll go put this away, so you don’t have to keep babysitting it.”

I turned to bounce away from him and noticed someone bouncing behind me.

“Yo, Nessa!”

I turned to find the guy from earlier jumping toward me. I don’t know his name.

“Jacob,” he introduced.

“Hi, Jacob.”

“Are you leaving already?”

“No, just going to put my cardigan away.” I reached the end of the trampoline set up and stepped onto solid ground.

“I’ll walk you!” He placed his hand low on my back and walked me toward the benches where everyone had left their items.

I tried to step further left and out of his grasp but he simply followed me.

“So what is your position?”

“Oh, I’m not in the band. I’m just a tagalong.”

“A groupie?” he teased.

I shook my head, “a regular fan, I think.”

“That’s cool, I’m the lighting guy. The show cannot go on without me.”

I tried again to slip out of his grasp as I bent down to slip my cardigan under my purse. His hand slid down… over my ass and lingered there for a minute before sliding off completely. I don’t like this.

I squat down completely out of his grasp to check my phone in my purse. Two missed calls from dad and a text from my brother.

“Lighting you up, would be so easy, you’re so beautiful you probably don’t even have any bad angles, huh?”


From : Eric

Dad’s looking for you. I told him you were out with friends but he wants you to call him back.


I sighed to myself. “I’m sorry I have to make a call.” I rose to my feet and slipped on my chucks before heading outside.

My dad spent a few minutes lecturing me on how ungrateful I was for not answering his calls. He insisted that he was still my parent despite the fact that I hadn’t seen him in months. He ended the call with the reminder that my mother would be nothing and that we’d have nothing if it weren’t for everything he sacrificed for her.

I ended the call and took a few minutes to practice deep breathing before heading back in.

“Hey girl! Dodgeball is next and I’m sticking with you!” Rochelle snuck up behind me wrapping her arms over my shoulders.

“Let’s get in there shall we?”


Joe and Nick stood on opposite sides of the dodgeball court as they picked team members.

“I’ve got Jacob this time,” Joe called out as Rochelle and I joined the herd of unpicked players.

Nick smirked when he saw me, “Nessa’s on my team!”

I walked over to his side where we high fived and waited for Joe to pick next. “Jazmin, you can dodge, right?”

“Can I dodge,” she laughed as she walked over to him.

The unpicked players began to dwindle before Nick picked Rochelle.

“Yes! I told you we’d be on the same team!” Rochelle yelled as she ran towards me for an embrace.

I returned her hug and she kissed my cheek, “we’re going to kick ass, baby girl!”

Nick looked over at the two of us confused.

Once the game began, “Jump around” came back on the speakers.

“Nick!” Joe called out to his brother. “I came to get down!” he sang along with the song before launching a ball directly at him.

Nick tried to run out of the way but the ball hit him square in the back.

The game came down to me versus Jacob.

I reached for a ball when I turned back to see Jacob smirking, “bet you can't dodge my balls!”

He threw two in my direction aiming for my feet. I jumped up into a split dodging both before aiming for his crotch in mid air.

He dipped down to try to avoid my throw only to put his face in the direct path of my ball… I won… and he deserved it.

“Ooh!” A few people called out watching Jacob’s face starting to turn red.

“You had that coming, though.” Jazmin excused.

Rochelle charged at me full speed and knocked us both over, “You’re my hero for sure.”


Nick drove me home at the end of the night, “I didn’t know you and Rochelle were so close.”

“Neither did I,” I giggled.

“It doesn’t bother you when she hugs you?”

I shrugged, “not really, most of my female teammates are like that too.”

I watched Nick press his eyebrows together in confusion. “Did your…”

He trailed off and I was too afraid of what the question might be to allow him to continue.

“Why don’t I ask you questions instead?”

Nick offered the faintest smile before I proceeded. “... I don’t actually know what I’m allowed to ask you.”

“Allowed?” Nick looked over at me momentarily.

“I don’t want to be intrusive.”

“I’ll let you know if you cross a line.” He offered kindly.

I scraped through my brain for the most innocuous  question I could think to ask.

“What’s your favorite food?”

“Unacceptable! That’s too personal, the line has been crossed.”

Shock. Absolute shock. “I’m sorry.”

Nick chuckled, “I’m just messing with you, I’m a slob for pasta.”

I blushed feeling overly gullible, “what kind?”

“All kinds, if it has carbs, I will devour it. That reminds me...”

I looked over at the beauty marks that trailed down Nick’s cheek past his neck and disappeared into his shirt.

“Thursday we have a soccer game and then Kevin invited us over for dinner.”

“That sounds like fun.”

“Can I pick you up at the same time?”

Oh he meant me, too. “No, sorry, I have a Meet on Thursday.”

“What time is it over?”

“We usually make it back to campus around 6:30-7:00.”

“I can be at your house at seven.”

“Please don’t, I don’t want to go to Kevin’s house in my Track uniform.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll all be in sports attire.”

“That’s not necessary.”

“It’ll be great, Danielle makes great pasta.”

 

I didn’t respond since it seemed like nothing I could say would change his mind.

 

End Notes:

Hey everyone. I hope you're enjoying my story. I had to up the rating due to some sensitive topics coming up in future topics. I'll warn you when the time comes.

Anyway, I just posted another story called Let's Fall in Love for the Night. It's a little different from this but I hope you get a chance to check it out.

Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Happy Reading!

Just the Way You Are by Stephy
Author's Notes:

Her eyes make the stars look like they're not shining


-Bruno Mars

I pulled up to find Nick outside my house leaning against his car before jumping into mine.

“Can I just grab a quick minute to shower and change?”

“If I have to wear my soccer stuff, you’ve got to wear your Track stuff.”

“I really don’t want to go dressed like this.”

“Don’t worry about it, you look great the way you are.”

I blushed and tried to pretend he didn’t actually say that about me.

“I have sand in my shoes.”

“You can change your shoes,” he permitted.

I parked the car and we both hopped out. I grabbed my black vans from the trunk and kicked off my spikes.

“These are spiky,” Nick noted grabbing my shoe to observe the shiny silver spikes sticking out the bottom end.

“I just changed the spikes about two weeks ago.”

I saw Nick testing the sharpness of the spike before looking down and watching me change.

I grabbed my letterman cardigan before closing the trunk. My spandex uniform is too tight to walk around in casually.

“Skin tight,” he muttered.

“We don’t get to pick it, I just have to wear it.” I hid the pink shade that consumed my face as I slipped on the looser cardigan.

“I don't think Usain Bolt wears it like that.”

“Usain Bolt isn’t a female. He doesn’t require extra support.”

His eyes shot up from my hands to my breast for only half a second, “oh…”

“This is the worst thing I could possibly wear to eat pasta you know that?”

“How so?”

“I’m going to walk out of there with a food baby and no place to hide it.”

Nick chuckled, “you’ll be fine, don’t sweat it.”


Kevin welcomed us into his home still wearing a jersey similar to Nick’s. “Nessa, great to see you again!”

“Hello,” I greeted shyly.

“I heard you killed it at dodgeball on Tuesday.”

“You should have seen her, Kev, she’s a stone-cold killer. Almost knocked Jacob’s tooth out!” Joe exaggerated. As he stepped in to hug me.

I saw Nick step forward and impede his path.

Thank you so much!

“He had it coming, though.” Nick mentioned, “you know how Jacob can be.”

“What did he say to you,” Kevin asked with an apologetic look on his face.

“N-nothing. I mean… who cares, I got the last word anyway.”

“Kevin, can you please set the table?” I heard Dani call out from some unseen corner of the house.

“Come on in, make yourselves at home.” Kevin looked over at Nick, “can you show her around while I set up?”

Nick nodded as he placed a hand between my shoulder blades and lightly nudged me forward.

“This is the entrance,” Joe announced as we walked further into the foyer.

“I’ve got it, Joe. You can go help Kevin.” Nick dismissed his brother as he removed his hand from my back and walked me around again.

“This is a really nice house.”

“Kevin uses this home for business purposes. He usually keeps on the East Coast.”

I saw the giant glass wall on the other end that led out to a giant pool that could easily fit over 50 people.

Nick led me down a few empty hallways, opening various doors to show me different rooms. I could see him watching me every time I brushed past him through a doorway.

We walked into the kitchen to find a perfectly coiffed Dani pulling a dish out from the oven.

“Dani,” Nick greeted.

Dani turned to see us, “Nicholas, how are you?”

She placed the dish on the center island before removing the oven mitt and moving toward us.

“Good, just preparing for battle.” he responded as she moved in to hug him. They embraced before Nick redirected her attention toward me.

“This is-”

“Vanessa, hi!” She greeted as she offered me a hand.

“Hello,” I responded shyly.

“Kevin has told me so much about you! You’re so cute,” she gushed.

I blushed, “Oh, thank you, your hair is so beautiful.”

She giggled, “You’re too sweet. Nick, will you give me a hand with these dishes, Kevin should be done by now.”

“Of course.”


We gathered around the Dinner table and Nick quickly dismissed himself to test his sugar levels before eating. Joe took that as an opportunity to swoop in and steal Nick’s seat next to me. 

He offered me a cheesy grin, “Dani makes the best italian food.”

I smiled softly at him not knowing what to say.

Nick came back and saw Joe in his seat. He certainly didn’t seem happy. He took the seat across from me without saying a word.

Joe reached for the lasagna before Kevin spoke up, “Joe you know the deal.”

Joe retracted his hand and reached out for mine instead. I looked around and noticed everyone holding hands and a sympathetic smile on Nick’s lips.

I took a deep breath as I held both Joe and Kevin’s hands.

Dani began the prayer, “dear lord, thank you for everything you’ve given us. Not only in this meal but the amazing life you’ve gifted us. Thank you for bringing us a new friend.”

Joe squeezed my hand and I saw Nick offer me a smile.

“Thank you for giving my husband and my new brothers the chance to tour again. We ask that you look over us, our loved ones, that you may guide us and keep us safe. Amen.”

“Amen,” the guys whispered.

Finally Joe and Kevin let go of my hand as everyone began to pass around the plates at the center of the table.

After dinner, Joe, Dani and Kevin sat around sipping their wine while Nick excused himself to test his sugar levels.

“So, what are your thoughts on, Nick,” Joe smirked down at me.

My thoughts?

“Drop it, Joe, it's none of your business,” Kevin scolded him.

“Um, what?”

“Do you think he’s dreamy?” Joe pressed.

“He’s not going to be happy if he hears you, Joe,” Dani warned him.

I looked around trying to decipher what part of the conversation I was missing.

Joe turned his attention back to Dani, “come on, at Nick’s speed? They’ve probably been on half a dozen dates by now.”

Dates? With me?

“Joe,” Kevin spoke again.

“Seriously, she’s like a clone of Nick, you really think he’s just going to let her slip away?”

“Joe…” Nick’s voice was lower than I had ever heard it as he re-entered the room.

Joe ducked his head and fell immediately silent.

Dani smirked as she sipped her wine and Nick came back to the table.

Kevin raised his eyebrows at Joe as if to say, ‘I told you so.’

Dani cleared her throat before continuing.

“So, Vanessa, what does your family do for a living?”

Wait, does Joe think that Nick likes me? Why on Earth would Nick ever like someone like me? 

This is not the time; focus.

“Um, my brother is an Army veteran… just got back. He’s working as an electrical engineer now.”

“Tell him I said ‘thank you for your service,’” Joe whispered beside me.

I giggled, “he’ll love that, he lives for it.”

“What about your mom?” Kevin asked.

“She works for EY. She’s the VP of Finance there.”

“No way, we use that company to help us manage payroll and expenses on tour,” Kevin smiled.

“Yeah, she just runs the budget for the company.”

“She runs the budget for a company who runs budgets?” Joe looked completely shocked. “Does this mean she is the one true math wizard?”

Dani and Kevin both laughed at Joe’s assumption.

I shrugged with a smile, “I never really thought about it. I’d have to ask her.”

“What about your dad?”

I bit my lip. I really don’t want to talk about him.

I inhaled sharply, “he’s a truck driver?”

“He has a driving company?”

“No, he just drives for someone else.”

“That reminds me we have not contracted a driver for the tour.” Nick mentioned.

The group went off talking about the excitement of touring and being back on the road.

I placed my elbow on the table and rested my face on my left hand.

Nick glanced over at me and a smile spread across his face. Was Joe serious about the Nick thing?


When I helped Dani clean up, I caught the slightest bit of Nick and Joe arguing.

“Shut up, Joe, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Come on, Nick, just hear me out…”

A few minutes later, Nick and I drove back with Bruno Mars playing in the background.


“And when you smile, the whole world stops and stares for a while, cause girl you’re amazing just the way you are,” he sang quietly.


I blushed and tried not to completely lose my mind at the fact that Nick was hosting a private show just for me.

Nick looked over and saw me trying my best to hide the giant smile on my face.

“How was your Track Meet?”

“I was about an inch and a half short from my PR.”

Nick raised an eyebrow in question.

“Personal Record.”

“Hm, we have very different PRs.”

You should know that, stupid!

“When did you get your tattoo?”

Don’t panic. Don’t give too many details.

“Just after my birthday.”

“It's a flower right?”

“Um, yeah.”

“What does it mean?”

Avoid the question.

“I had to wait until my 18th birthday to get it. My mom isn’t particularly fond of them.”

“Isn’t your brother covered in them?”

“Just the sleeves. He also had to wait until he was 18.”

I felt my phone vibrate. I checked the screen to find a call from my dad.

I sighed. I can’t do this right now.

“You need to take that?”

“It can wait.”

Nick looked over at me with a look of concern.

“Is it your dad?”

How could he possibly know that?

“I noticed you didn’t really want to talk about him at dinner. I figured it might be a sensitive subject.”

I shrugged not wanting to discuss it.

“You don’t have to explain. Just know I’m here if you ever need to talk about it.”

“Thank you,” I whispered.

Nick breathed out a soft chuckle. I looked up at him confused.

“You know you have a tendency to whisper every time you say ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’?”

I blushed not even realizing I’d been doing it.

“Why is that?”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “I think I’m just trying to stay out of people’s way.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t like inconveniencing people, I don’t want to be a roadblock for anyone.”

Nick reached for my hand beside me and gave it a gentle squeeze, “I promise you, Nessa, you will never, ever, be in my way.”

I smiled shyly as Nick stroked the back of my hand a few times before letting go again.

“So what do you have planned this weekend?”

“Um, Berry asked me to go shopping with her on Friday after work. She has an interview for medical school coming up and she said she needs the ‘spiffiest suit.’”

“Do you have anything going on for Saturday?”

“Cleaning?”

“You don’t have any big exams coming up?”
“None that I’m not prepared for.”

“Saturday Kevin is hosting the band at his place.”

“That’s cool.”

“Pool party and Karaoke.”

“Sounds like fun.” I thought back to the size of Kevin’s pool and came to the conclusion that they still wouldn’t have enough people to fill it.

“I’m glad you think so, cause I think you should come.”

Bikinis and singing. This is a terrible idea. Tell him you can’t make it.

“I can’t.”

“I think we’ve established that’s not true. Plus, Rochelle, has requested you specifically.”

“I can’t swim.”

Nick rolled his eyes, “I get the sense that isn’t true. You have a pool in your backyard. If not, we can get you some floaties and keep you on the shallow end.”

“I can’t sing.”

“That’s irrelevant, it’s karaoke, talent is not a prerequisite.”

Think of an excuse!

“I’ll keep Jacob as far away from you as possible. Come on, Nessa, you said yourself, it’d be fun.”

What’s a good excuse?

“I…” don’t have one.

“Say yes?”

 

“...okay.”

 

End Notes:

I'm realizing this story is completely different from the one I first wrote... I don't know how I feel about that yet.

Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts, deams, and aspirations.

If I Ain't Got You by Stephy
Author's Notes:

Some people want it all


but I don't want nothing at all


if it ain't you


-Alicia Keys

“What do you think of this one?”

Berry held up a peach colored suit.

“Absolutely gorgeous, but not what you should be looking for.”

“Being professional, sucks,” Berry whined. “Why can’t professional also be cute?”

“So that people can keep telling you the cake thing.”

“About eating your cake.”

I nodded as I swiped through the clothes racks trying to find some sort of medium.

“I’d still eat the cake,” she grumbled.

“I think that’s why we’re in this mess.”

“What about plaid?”

“It's kind of rad,” I smirked.

She looked up at me too frustrated to laugh. “Can I wear a lab coat and just say I’m dressing for the job I want?”

I shrugged, “I don’t think I’ve ever turned down service from a Doctor for not looking professional enough.”

“Right? Isn’t the lab coat the end all be all of authority? This is bullshit.”

“On the bright side, this could be the last time you buy a suit. From here on out it’ll be all about lab coats.”

“I’m getting one in every color. I’d like to see them try and stop me.”

I smiled at Berry’s stubbornness.

“Where did you go after Sandra’s party two weeks ago?”

“A drive,” I answered honestly.

She raised an eyebrow at me. “With those Jonas kids?”

I kept my focus on the clothing in front of me.”

“I stopped by your house this week. Eric said you were out with your boyfriend.”

I grabbed the closest item, “what about this one?”

“It’s cute, but you’re not changing the subject.”

I sighed, “he’s not my boyfriend, he’s a friend… I think.”

“A friend?”

I shrugged.

“How did that happen?”

“I have no idea.”

“Vans?”

“I really don’t know. They keep inviting me to stuff and most of it sounds really cool.”

Berry watched me carefully, “you’re not dating any of them?”

“Not that I know of.”

Berry pulled a gorgeous cream satin top out from the rack to my line of sight.

“I think this could work.”

I sat outside the dressing room while Berry tried on her items.

“So what have they invited you to?”

“We played softball last weekend. Tuesday we went to a trampoline park. Thursday they had dinner at Kevin’s house.”

“Is Kevin also in the Jonas Brothers?”

I saw one of the employees head snap over in our direction.

“Yes, he’s the oldest.”

Berry walked out in her cute suit with the satin top underneath.

“I like it.”

“You think so?” She asked, not quite convinced.

“Yeah I think the satin underneath really softens the look. So you have a professional suit with an extra dose of feminine.”

“I think so, too.”

She walked back into the dressing room to change back into her clothes.

“So when’s the next Jonas soiree?”

I could see the employee eyeing us from a distance.

“You can’t keep saying that name.” I whispered.

“Why not?”

“Because people can hear you.”

“Are you not supposed to be associated with them?”

“I don’t know, but this is not how I intend to find out.”

Berry and I shared some nachos in the food court.

“So when’s your next date?”

“It’s not a date. They’re doing a bunch of group events before going back on tour.”

“So now, after you spent how many thousands of dollars trying to make it up to Sandra, they decide to go on tour?”

“I don’t decide their schedule.”

Berry rolled her eyes, “you know what they should be inviting you everywhere, they kind of owe you for that one.”

“Pretty sure that’s not how a business transaction works.”

“Who cares! Take advantage of the opportunity. You’ve been losing your mind over this band for years and for whatever reason you’re finally on their radar. Make sure they know you. Make them love you.”

“Love me?”

How would I even begin…

“You’re more loveable than you realize,” Berry promised me. “I love you.”

“I think that’s just ‘cause you’ve been stuck with me for so long.”

“Give yourself a little more credit, Vans. I promise, there is so much to love about you.”

I offered her a weak smile.

“So?”

So what? I raised an eyebrow in confusion.

“Don’t make me ask again, Vans.”

“They’re having a pool party tomorrow.”

“That sounds like fun.”

“Come with me?” I begged.

“Hello, crazy, I have an interview that I am nowhere near ready for. I’m housebound.”

Berry layered a jalapeño on her chip, “what are you going to wear?” She shoved the chip in her mouth.

“I don’t even know,” I reached into the nacho plate to grab a chip when Berry pulled it out of my reach.

“Bitch, please, you have a pool party tomorrow, you cannot afford to load up on sodium right now.”

What? “Berry, you’re just saying that because you don’t want to share.” I tried reaching in again and she swatted my hand away.

“You’re gonna wear the bathing suit I got you for our trip to Cancun last summer that you conveniently ‘forgot.’” She beamed.

“It doesn’t fit me,” I lied.

“Girl that bikini was tailor made for you. Besides if it wasn’t a date before it will be now.” 

“My ass is out, though.”

Berry squinted her eyes in incredulity. “You’re telling me you spent four years, climbing bleachers, jumping, running and doing god knows what else to not enjoy the fruits of your labors?”

“Berry, I don’t think-”

“Trust me, Vans, your ass will never again look as great as it does right this second. This is the time to enjoy that fruit.” She beamed, “it’s a peach.”


I stared at my reflection in the mirror for a while, wondering if this was really a good idea. I wore the cheeky olive bottoms with a thin black trim that  swooped in a slight U shape from my hip bones down toward my pelvis and back up. I mean, I can’t see any cellulite. And it does make me look a little longer. I played with the black zipper on the matching Olive top, testing its resilience. It seemed just a tad loose for my liking and wondered if I should change it. My doorbell rang alerting me of Nick’s arrival. I slipped on my white Ralph Lauren cover up and buttoned up the three buttons near my abs. I grabbed my white sun hat and my go bag before rushing down the stairs.

“Where are you guys going?” My mom questioned Nick.

“My brother is hosting a pool party for some friends. We’ll have some karaoke going on.”

“I expect there won’t be any drinking.”

“No ma’am, none at all.”

I slipped past my mom out the door. “I’ll be home later, momma.”

“Be good. Take care of her.”

“I will,” Nick and I spoke in unison as we made the walk down the driveway.

“You look very fresh,” Nick commented on my long sleeve shirt.

“It's very breezy,” I promised, throwing my hair over to the left side to swing my bag over my right shoulder.

I felt Nick’s right hand reach around my back as he slipped the bag right off, “I’ll take it.”

He flung the bag over his shoulder before I could protest. 

“Thank you,” I was a little louder this time, as I flashed him a quick smile.

“Not a problem,” he smirked. “None at all.”

He placed a hand on my upper back leading me over to his car.

“Have you ever sung before?” Nick asked as we got onto the freeway.

“Never,” I lied.

Nick looked over at me and I looked away. “I know you’re lying to me.”

I bit my lip. “I did one semester my junior year. My professor said I needed to project more.”

“What did you sing?”

“He was relatively opposed to anything that didn’t require a piano.”

“Sounds like an awful lot of Elton John.”

“A lot of Alicia Keys, too.”

“Are you ready to sing today?”

“Did you know that octopuses have 3 hearts?”

Nick shook his head with a chuckle, “that won’t work.”

“Works quite well apparently. So well in fact, that they also have 9 brains.”

“Be ready, cause you can’t avoid it.”

We pulled up to Kevin’s home seeing a driveway filled to the brim with cars. I guess everyone is here.

Nick opened my door and grabbed my bag out of the trunk before standing beside me again. “Ready?”

I shook my head nervously, “no.”

Nick gave me a soft smile and his hand, “promise I won’t let you drown.”

I took his hand while he led us through the maze of cars toward the front door.

Nick released my hand to open the door and find a completely empty home and a colorful display of bathing suits and swim trunks in the backyard. He placed a hand on my mid back before leading me into the home.

I walked ahead of him timidly as he turned to close the door behind him. Dani walked in from the backyard with an empty bottle of wine.

“Hi, Vanessa, so glad you could make it!”

I flashed a shy smile in her direction before I felt Nick’s hand on my back again.

“It’ll be fun, you just need to get out there,” he whispered behind me.

“Nick, glad I caught you,” Dani called out from inside the refrigerator. “Can you take this out to Joe?”

She flashed a chilled bottle of fireball as Nick went over to collect it from her. I inched closer to the back door with curiosity. I saw Rochelle in a bright coral colored two-piece that made her dark brown skin sparkle beautifully. She saw me and flashed me a huge smile before calling me over with a flick of her wrist.

I took a deep breath and stepped out into Kevin’s massive backyard cautiously.

“Hey girl, how are you?” She greeted me with a hug.

“You look so beautiful in this color.”

“Girl, don’t I know it!” She laughed.

“I’m about to hop back in the pool right now, care to join me?”

I didn’t expect to shed my coverup so soon. I looked around debating my options before I saw Jacob heading over with two red cups and a cocky strut.

“Yes, absolutely.”

Rochelle finished the last of her drink as I unbuttoned my shirt.

“Ladies, I’ve got-”

Rochelle handed him her empty red cup before he could finish, “Can you hold this for me, Jacob? We’re about to go for a dip.”

I slid off my coverup leaving it on one of the sun chairs before pulling my hair up into a ponytail. I could see Jacob’s dumb face as he stared at me with an open mouth.

“Ooh, Nessie, you are working wonders for that bathing suit!”

She turned me around and pushed me in the direction of the pool after smacking my bare ass again. I probably should have seen that one coming honestly.

We sat on the edge of the pool before sliding into the water below.

The water came up to around my ribs as Rochelle and I walked around on the shallow end.

“Where are you from originally?”

“I was born and raised in LA. What about you?”

“Maryland. I used to dream about coming out here, being in a band, living this life,” she laughed, scooping water in her hands to pour over her shoulders.

“Look at you now.”

“Shit, tell me about it. I can’t believe LA is selfish enough to keep this experience to itself,” she joked.

“Um, as someone from LA, I’ve also been excluded.”

She laughed. “So, how did you meet the guys.”

“They kidnapped me.”

“What?” Rochelle smacked her lips with a small smile clearly not believing me.

“They were performing at a private event and on the way out-”

“Oh, say no more. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been taken hostage after home shows because fans tried to follow us home.”
That’s insane! That should not be happening to people. Does the same thing happen to other celebrities?

“Chelle!”

Rochelle and I turned to see Joe holding up a frosty bottle of fireball with Nick beside him.

“Absolutely!” She confirmed as she waded toward them.

I followed loosely behind because I didn't really know where else to go.

“Not in the pool,” Joe informed her as he poured out a shot for her.

Rochelle let out an offended scoff.

“Not my rules,” Joe pointed at Kevin who sat under the shaded patio with Dani on his lap and a few band members around them.

“Nick, give me a hand will you?” Rochelle asked, reaching out to him.

Nick walked over, held her forearm and pulled her out in the blink of an eye. I stood against the edge of the pool looking up at Rochelle as she walked toward the shot that Joe held out for her.

Nick looked over at me through his dark shades again and I could have sworn I saw him visibly blush. “Need a hand?”

I looked around to make sure Jacob wasn’t nearby before nodding and reaching out to Nick. He pulled me out just as easily as he had with Rochelle.

“Thank you,” I whispered.
“Can’t hear you,” Nick smirked.

I smiled up at him, “thank you.” 

I said it louder this time, reminding myself that I was supposed to speak up.

“Nessa, would you care for a shot?”

I thought about it for a moment before shaking my head, “I don’t think I should.”

“Did you drive here?”

I looked over at Nick.

“He can take you home.”

I bit my lip, “not this time, thanks.”

“Non-alcoholic beverages are that way,” Joe ticked his head somewhere to the right of him but all I saw was another group gathered and socializing.

“I can show you,” Nick spoke up behind me.

He placed his hand on my back again as he led me to the promised ice chest. I lifted the lid to find an assortment of drinks.

“Did you want anything?”

Nick flashed me the Coke Zero in his hand, “I’m good.”

I reached in for bottled water when I heard a quiet “damn.”

I grabbed the bottle quickly and looked around to see a group of guys; all who happened to be looking away at the same time. That means it was one of them right? I saw Nick ball his hand up into a fist as I walked back over to him.

We began walking back toward Joe and Rochelle. “Are you going to get in the pool?”

I tugged on Nick’s grey Harley Davidson tank when he didn’t respond.

“Can’t swim.” He smirked.

“Don’t we have floaties for exactly this?” I asked, referring to the conversation we’d had a few days prior.

His smirk grew into a smile. “They’ve all been slashed… wonder what that’s about,” he said nonchalantly while taking another sip of his drink.

I turned toward him with crossed arms. “Failing all else, there’s always the shallow end.”

Nick’s glasses slid down the bridge of his nose ever so slightly and I saw his eyes on my breasts. I’m pretty sure I didn’t imagine it that time.

“So there is,” he smiled as he fixed his shades and looked up again.

He looked over my head and placed his hand behind my back to usher me toward Joe and Rochelle.

“Yo, Nessa!” I heard Jacob call out.

I heard him but I really didn’t want to so I pretended not to. I sat in the nearest seat of our circle, where I’d sat before getting up to grab a water with Rochelle on my right and Joe on my left.

I turned to find Nick talking to Jacob and interlocking in one of those handshakes where you pull someone in for a hug… minus the hug. Jacob turned around and retreated in whatever direction he’d come from. Before Nick turned to walk toward us again.

Nick sat in the seat across from me and took a sip of his drink.

“Oh, Mr. Cool Guy over here has to wear his sunglasses in the shade,” Joe teased him.

Nick certainly did not look amused. I offered him a small smile uncertain as to whether or not he was even looking at me.

Joe nudged his arm, “come on, man, it’s a party, relax.”

Nick finally lifted his sunglasses from off his eyes before holding them in his hand that hung between his legs.

“How many shows are you guys doing this time?” I tried changing the subject hoping it would give Nick a chance to cool down.

“Forty-six, right?” Joe asked.

Rochelle nodded.

“Thirty two cities,” Nick responded.

“How many are you coming to?”

I blushed. “I only got two tickets to the one in LA. I had promised my niece I’d take her.”

“What? Why don’t you come on tour with us?” Rochelle asked.

I bit my lip and shrugged. “I don’t think you guys need extra luggage,” I joked.
“What we do need is a solid shortstop that can take Nick down a notch,” Joe teased as he knocked back a shot.

“Speaking of, how’s your leg?”

“Jazmin’s advice really helped,” I got up and turned to show Rochelle my leg. “It’s a little light where the new skin came in but I think it should be gone by the end of summer.”

I pointed out the white spots to Rochelle.

“Is that a lotus on your wrist?” She asked as she took hold of my hand.

“Oh, yeah, I just got it last month for my birthday.”

“That is so beautiful, what does it mean?”

“Um-”

“Nick, I think you'd be better off putting your sunglasses back on.”

I turned around and realized I had been waving my ass in front of Nick this whole time. For a minute I forgot that I had even been wearing such a small bikini. My face exploded in red as Nick put his sunglasses back on and bolted from his seat.

I sat in his old seat completely mortified.

“I’d think that’s a compliment,” Rochelle assured me.

“I agree, of all the asses on display, yours was the only one to make him turn his head.”

I covered my face in my hands, while the music stopped and a speaker whined.

“Ladies and gentlemen… slobs of all ages,” Jacob slurred over the microphone. I heard a few voices chuckle in the background while I practiced my deep breathing.

“I’d like to introduce you to our host, our boss… one of our bosses,” he laughed.

“One third of the reason we’re all here… Kevin.”

Kevin walked up to take the mic from Jacob as everyone, including Rochelle and Joe cheered. I mustered just enough courage to look up and see an enthused Kevin standing at the mic.

“Hello, everyone, I hope you’re all having a great time. Welcome back to another tour season. I know it’s been a while since the last one but we’re very grateful for all of you who stuck by us, waited patiently… very patiently,” he chuckled. “My brothers and I wanted to host these events not only to allow everyone to bond and get to know each other but also to thank all of you for everything you do for us. Without you guys, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Everyone cheered except for Joe who shouted, “take your top off!”

“I won’t do that,” Kevin shook his head. “Let’s not ruin a good thing. Without further ado, I’d like to let you know that the karaoke machine is set up and ready to go. Jazmin, I believe you agreed to go first. And I think we all remembered what happened the last time no one stepped up and I had to sing. I don’t think anyone wants to live through that again, so step, sing, let’s keep this party going shall we?”

Jazmin stepped to the mic, and cleared her throat, “I might be a little rusty, don’t tell the boss.” There was a scattered chuckle, “I’m kidding, Nick…” She giggled, “I hope.”

She sang the most beautiful rendition of Summertime Sadness that captivated just about everyone at the party. I took this as my cue to run over to the other side of the pool to grab my cover up.

I went the long way round to avoid running past the crowds and nearly slipped on a puddle. I caught myself before going down and proceeded to power walk over to my abandoned garment. I slipped it on and buttoned the middle button before rolling up the sleeves a little to walk back toward the area where Rochelle and Joe were sitting and listening to Jazmin finish up her song.

Rochelle went up next, “You know I’m a sucker for a good throwback so bear with me here.” 

Jacob pressed play on the song and we saw a four-count go off before Rochelle sang the first line, “This is how we do it…”

Everyone started dancing around to Rochelle’s song.

Joe grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the mic where Rochelle was singing. I fought the urge to pull away from him as I unwillingly followed behind him into the crowd. Finally he released my hand and brought his hands up as he danced beside me. I stood there and watched Rochelle rap through the song until Joe started bumping me with his hip, reminding that I should be dancing. I copied Joe and stuck with a simple two step while swaying my hips from left to right.

When she finished, Rochelle came toward us and accepted my high five while the next person stepped up to the mic.

Rochelle stood behind me and held onto my waist while we danced to some of the other songs.

Jacob took the mic to introduce the next person, “Up next, give it up for Nessa!”

Joe and Rochelle lost their minds screaming as Rochelle rushed me up to the stage. I looked around totally freaked out to see Nick standing next to Jacob with a small smile on his lips. Did he sign me up for this?

The song began playing with a piano intro and I instantly knew what song it was. The lyrics started but I didn’t. I was frozen completely unable to make any sort of sound.

Rochelle ran up behind me and started singing over my shoulder.

“Some people live just for the fame,” she shook me by the waist to remind me that I should be singing.

“Some people live for the power,” I finally let out quietly to be met with cheers.

“A little louder, girl, you’ve got this.”

“Some people live just to play the game,” Rochelle rocked my hips from side to side.

“You’re doing great, just loosen up.”

I shut my eyes forcefully to try to ignore the fact that there were about 20-30 people out there who knew music so much better than I ever could who could and were somehow listening to me.

“Some people want it all,” I sang much louder this time.

“Yes, girl!” I heard Rochelle as she finally released me.

I giggled and missed a few notes but everyone’s cheers were so loud, I don’t even think they noticed.

“Want nothing at all, If it ain’t you, baby. If I ain’t got you, baby. Some people want diamond rings, some just want everything, but everything means nothing if I ain’t got you!”

I continued to sing with trembling hands and a body that had turned into absolute jello as I heard Rochelle cheer me on above the crowd.

I got off that stage with the brightest shade of red on my face. Rochelle engulfed me in the largest hug and I took full advantage of the opportunity to hide my face.

Joe gave me the tightest hug I’ve likely ever had and I did my best to fight off the panic setting in. He finally released me in time for a hand to pull me through the crowd of people patting my back.

I started hyperventilating in the midst of the crowd and started pulling back against the person dragging me along.

“Nessa, trust me,” I heard Nick call out as he continued to pull me along.

I kept my head down as Nick led me away from the crowd past the pool to the garden on the other end. We sat behind the patio away from everyone else while I tried to pull myself together.

“Are you okay?”
“The roses, the grass, the pool,” I looked around frantically, “the sky...” My eyes watered as I struggled to find another item, “the tree. The concrete, my shirt, my hair, the wind. Music… uh…” I tried to breathe again but I felt like oxygen simply wasn’t getting through.

“You can do this,”

“Nick… the leaves.” I took a deep breath finally feeling the air come back through my lungs, “cologne… flowers. Um,” I bit my lip before i found it, “my lip gloss.”

I took a deep breath and opened my eyes again as Nick sat beside me.

“I’m really sorry about that, Nessa, I guess I didn’t think it through.”

I shook my head, “it’s not your fault, this is on me.”

“I’ll grab the rest of your things so we can get you home,” Nick stood up to leave and I was reminded that I was ruining what should be a fun event.

“No, please don’t,” I begged.

Nick turned to look at me, “Are you sure? We don’t have to stay here.”

“I’m fine, I feel better now.”

Nick sat with me for a while longer in silence. I worked on taking deep breaths and every time I could smell his cologne. I think I need to tell him. I don’t want to tell him. Only my therapist knows and he asked too many questions. He deserves an explanation if he’s going to sit here and put up with it. Don’t do it. You should tell him. Don’t tell him.

The thoughts in my head argued back and forth growing louder and louder. I closed my eyes, “I don’t like being touched by men.”

I opened my eyes and kept my eyes fixed on the grass beneath my bare feet.

I could see Nick looking at me from the corner of my eye.

“I…” I swallowed the tension growing in my throat. “When I- I was nine when it happened.” Nick didn’t move beside me and it made me even more nervous.

“I had a relative staying the night… Um, he- he… you know… he touched me.” I felt tears in my eyes and I couldn’t understand why since they weren’t present in my therapist’s office. I bit my lip as I cleared my throat again. “I didn’t try to stop him… I thought that if I pretended to be asleep he’d go away, or it’d just stop,or-or if I pretended to be asleep I might actually fall asleep and not have to know what was happening.” My voice cracked at the end and my hand reached up to swat away the tears lingering on the edge.

“I don’t know, but for a few years I just pretended that I was asleep so it didn’t happen and it didn’t count,” I laughed miserably. “It didn’t really work out, though. My ex… he wasn’t a fan of... there’s just some things I haven’t learned to do, yet.” I shrugged.

‘I’m so sorry,’ my therapist sounded off in my head again. I hated hearing those words and I prayed that Nick wouldn’t say the same.

I felt Nick’s hand rest over my own reassuringly and my body finally relaxed and compressed under its own weight. I leaned onto Nick lightly trying not to think about the fact that I just shared my darkest secret with him. We sat in silence while my face pressed against his shoulder suddenly feeling starved of any affection. He’s warm and he smells good. 

After a while of sitting in silence Nick finally broke the silence. “Dani is calling us over.”

I pulled away and looked over at a smiling Dani waving us over. Nick looked down at me to gauge my reaction. I offered him a weak smile before getting to my feet. Nick took his glasses from off his shirt and placed them over my eyes. “Ready?”

I nodded my head as Nick turned and began walking toward Dani. I reached out for his hand again. Nick looked back at me before giving my hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Hey Mr. Big Shot, signing your next talent,” Dani teased.

Nick chuckled.

“Can you give me a hand turning on the pool heater? The sun should be setting soon and I don’t see this ending any time soon.”

Nick let go of my hand and followed Dani to help her figure out the pool heater.

I sat on the edge of the pool dipping my feet in while I waited for him. I watched Joe losing his mind in the crowd while Rochelle sang another throwback.

“How are you doing over here?” Nick asked, walking back to check on me.

“Still waiting to teach you how to swim.”

Nick chuckled and looked around before discarding his tank on the nearest sun chair. He sat beside me before sliding into the pool and wading out into the center.

I blushed  when Nick turned around and ticked his head inviting me to join him. I unbuttoned my coverup and discarded it beside the pool before sliding in and wading toward him.

Nick dunked his perfect curls into the water before resurfacing a second later. He shook out the extra water in his curls, some of which I could feel on my skin.

“Stop you’re ruining my glasses,” I joked. Nick moved toward me before taking his glasses back and placing them back on his face. He reached for my hands before getting a little closer. There was about two feet of distance between us before my body tensed up and I squeezed his hands.

He offered me a soft smile before backing up again, “I can do that.”

Nick swam around me in circles for a minute before I spoke up, “What’s touring like?”

He stopped and crouched down slightly to remain eye level with me. “Its great, except for when it isn’t.”

What does that mean?

“There’s so much to see and explore and it's great. But sometimes, you start to miss sleeping in your own bed. You miss eating home cooked meals, you miss getting a full night’s sleep, you miss the privacy.”

 

After the party was over, Nick and I stayed behind and helped Kevin and Danielle tidy up before heading home. I picked up empty cups and bottles and tossed them into the bag that Nick held for me. We finally headed home some time around midnight. I fell asleep listening to Nick’s music in the car.

End Notes:

Hello everyone, or rather someone... anyone?

I have one more chapter already written but I'm starting to run out of steam. If you're interested in this story let me know if you feel I should continue. If not I may just phaze this story out and focus my energy on other projects.

Thank you,

Stephy

Partners in Crime by Stephy
Author's Notes:

I said you look pretty


all strug out on coke


you said it's not funny


but it wasn't a joke


-FINNEAS

I woke up the next morning in a strange bed with a scratching on my door.

“Elvis come on, buddy, I’ll take you for a walk.”

Was that Nick’s voice? Am I in Nick’s house? I looked around the room before realizing that I was in fact in the same room I’d been in just a week before. My mom will be mad that I never made it back home.

I stretched my body and felt a pinch on my shoulder. Oh, no, my bathing suit. I’m still wearing it. I rolled out of bed and slipped it off before reaching into the closet for the bathroom. Except the closet was empty this time. I checked the dresser and the bathroom but I couldn’t find anything else to wear.I looked back at the clothes I had discarded as I ran my fingers along the dark red creases in my skin. Maybe I can just wear the cover up? 

I slipped it back on and buttoned it leaving just one button open on the bottom and two on top. I rolled up my sleeves again and brought my hair down from the ponytail I had put in the night before. I ran my fingers through my scalp massaging where the tension used to be as I yawned. Ugh, what is that? I went into the bathroom and found some mouthwash to help me get rid of the awful taste in my mouth. I rinsed my face so I wouldn’t look like a dead zombie and I ran my fingers through my hair to get out any big knots.

When I was ready my bare feet ventured out into the rest of Nick’s house toward the kitchen. I opened a few cabinet doors searching for a cup. I found one on the second shelf of the top cabinet.

I climbed onto the counter and reached up to grab the cup.

“You look pretty,” I heard a voice closely behind me.

I panicked and dropped the cup to shatter on the floor.
Shit. 

“I’m so sorry.”

“Stay there, I’m gonna get a broom.”

I sat on the counter like a child in time out while Nick swept up the broken glass. After he finished cleaning up, he walked back in my direction.

“I’m really sorry, Nick.”

“If only you dropped balls like you dropped cups,” He teased.

“It’s not funny,” I muttered.

He didn’t say another word before reaching behind me. I was inches away from his neck and all I could smell was his cologne again. I closed my eyes and tried to pretend the distance between us was much greater than what it currently was.

“Water, juice, or coffee?” I opened my eyes to see Nick at least a foot away again. 

I exhaled the stress my anxiety had created, “Water’s fine.”

Nick handed me the glass of water before taking a step back to lean on the island behind him, “Good morning.”

I saw the smallest hint of a smile on his lips. I bit my lip and tried to ignore the blush creeping over my cheeks, “Hi.”

“How did you sleep?”

“Very well, the last thing I remember was the R&B playlist singing me to sleep.”

“I figured you wouldn’t remember, I carried you home. I thought about taking you home, but once you were asleep…”

I nodded before checking the floor to make sure there wasn’t any more broken glass anywhere.

“Careful, I’ll give you a hand.”

Nick reached a hand out to me as he led me out of the danger zone and around to the other side of the island where I could sit on a stool. I brought my foot up on the stool with me and rested my chin on my knee.

“So are you hungry?”

I shook my head, “it takes my stomach a while to wake up.”

Elvis jumped up onto my stool and watched me with those giant eyes of his. I smiled and scratched the top of his head.

“He’s a little too comfortable around strangers.”

“A mark of the trade?”

Nick smiled softly, “ something like that.”

Nick checked the watch on his wrist.

“Am I keeping you from something?”

“No, not at all… I just need to check my levels.”

Nick excused himself while Elvis rested his head on my lap.

“You’re so cute!”

He licked my leg while keeping his eyes focused on me as if to make sure I was okay with puppy kisses. He took my giggle as a good sign before beginning to pounce on me. I got up before he knocked the chair over and he started to taunt me. He kept his hind legs up while coming down on his front paws. He hopped around like this a few times before I copied him and hopped in his direction.

He barked before jumping onto me and running around the open floor plan.

He stopped on the other end of the couch and taunted me again. I laughed before I started running in his direction. He barked and took off on another lap around the home.

“You’re so silly,” I teased him but I didn’t run after him this time. He barked at me a few times before running across the room to pounce on me again. Can I say, he’s kind of a big dog. I definitely did not anticipate fifty pounds of fluff to come barrelling toward me at full speed. If I break another item of Nick’s he’s going to hate me. I ran out of the living room space away from the coffee table in search of the back yard.

Elvis barked behind me and I turned back to see him about 10 feet away. I ran face first into Nick’s chest. He stumbled back a bit upon impact and wrapped his hands around me when Elvis caught up and sandwiched me in. 

I felt him chuckle before he spoke, “you okay?”

“He’s fast,” I turned my attention back to Elvis who had his paws pressed against my back pinning me in place.

“Elvis, down.”

He dropped immediately and wagged his tail beside me. I felt Nick’s hands roam from my shoulders down my arms before releasing me.

My skin broke out in chills and although I knew it was because of his touch, I didn’t know if they were good chills or bad chills… strange.

“Sorry,” I apologized for crashing into him at such a high speed.

“Don’t worry about it, he forgets he’s not a puppy anymore,” he smiled while patting Elvis’ head a few times before heading back toward the kitchen.

“Breakfast?”

I wasn’t really hungry, and I had just explained that to him a few minutes ago. However, given that he had just checked his sugar levels, I assumed breakfast was less about me being hungry and more about him eating to stay alive.

“Sure,” I followed behind him with Elvis still by my side.

“What are you in the mood for, I’ve got waffles, I’ve got bagels, I’ve got eggs…” Nick trailed off as he opened the door to the fridge. “... I don’t have bagels.”

“Do you cook?”

“Only the bare essentials.”

“Essentials?”

He looked back at me with a cocked eyebrow while Elvis thumped his tail against my thigh. “Tuna and eggs.”

I giggled, “eggs it is then.”

Nick stood at the island beating the eggs, “toppings”

“Whipped cream and cherries.”

Nick chuckled, “unfortunately, cherries aren’t in season yet.”

“What is in season?”

Nick motioned his head toward the fridge, “bottom drawer.”

I walked over the fridge and checked the bottom fridge to find celery, spring mix, mushrooms, shredded carrots, and spinach.

“Mushrooms and spinach?” I held up both items for him to see.

He looked over, “that’s f-” he did a double take with his eyes focused on me. His mouth hung slightly open before biting his lip and turning a light shade of pink. Am I missing something? I looked down at my feet and legs and tried to find out what I didn’t see but he so clearly did. I looked behind me into the fridge wondering if there was something behind me.

Nick cleared his throat and put the bowl of eggs down before walking out of the room. I ran to the mirror hanging in the foyer to inspect myself… I saw the tan silhouette behind my white shirt. My arms flew across my chest in sheer humiliation. What do I do?

I heard Nick clear his throat behind me and I turned my head in his direction. He extended a grey hoodie out to me.

“Thank you,” I whispered shyly.

He turned around to give me privacy while I slipped it on.



I sat across from Mr. Roberts getting ahead in my assignments while he graded student assignments. I read through the history book when my phone vibrated beside me.


From: Nick

Hey how did it go with your mom?


To: Nick

She says I’m grounded for the rest of the month but I’m hoping she’ll forget it.


From: Nick

So you can’t join us for soccer on Friday?


To: Nick

Even if I could, I don’t think anyone would want me on their team. Soccer isn’t my sport.


From: Nick

:O


I giggled at Nick’s message.

“I thought we agreed that you could only ditch fifth period if you used that time to study?” Mr. Roberts reminded me.

I blushed, “sorry, I was just texting a friend.”

He tilted his head and spoke in a higher voice to tease me, “a friend?”

I laughed as he leaned back in his seat. “Is this an off campus friend, yet?”

“I met him off campus.”

“Ooh!” He smiled, “He’s an off-campus friend is he?”

“We’re just friends.”

“That’s how it begins.”

“We just play sports and stuff,” I blushed.

“Will I be seeing him around campus, too?”

“No, he graduated a while ago.”

“How long ago?”

I thought about it for a minute but I didn’t have an answer. I think he graduated. I think I remember seeing it in an interview. 

“I don’t know,” I shrugged.

Mr. Roberts' tone turned to one of concern, “How old is this guy?”

“He said he’s nineteen.”

“So he graduated a year ago, maybe two?”

“I’m not certain, he was homeschooled.”

“Where’s he going to college?”

“He isn’t.”

Mr. Roberts pressed his lips into a straight line, “does he have a job, perhaps?”

“Um, I guess… I think it’s still a job.”

“Target?”

“No, he’s in a band.”

Mr. Roberts chuckled, “you have to get paid to call it a job.”

“He does get paid.”

“What’s the name of the band?”

I bit my lip, “... Jonas Brothers.”

He squinted at me, “why does that sound familiar?”

I don’t know how to answer that.

“Were they on tv recently?”

“... I think so?”

“Where have I heard of them?”

How do I answer that? “They’ve been a few places.”

“Wait, Jonas Brothers, is that the Christian group with the ‘purity vows’?”

“...not a Christian group.”

Mr. Roberts laughed and shook his head, “leave it to you...”

“I don’t know what that means?”

Mr. Roberts shrugged, “you have an heir about you, you’re a magnet for the...” He paused for a moment looking for the right word, “virtuous?”

“Why does that sound like a bad thing?”

“If you’re constantly surrounding yourself with people who never do anything wrong, how can you grow? How can they grow?”

“Isn’t the fact that they make good decisions proof that they are further along in their growth?”

“That’s the argument for a puritanical society,” he allowed.

“I don’t know what that means?”

He began to twist left to right in his spinning chair as he looked up at the ceiling tiles in thought.

“A big part of christianity is centered on keeping people pure; keeping them from making any mistakes, almost like trying to preserve them in an infantile state.”

I’m not religious, though. “And that’s bad?”

“Do you think it’s bad that you skip English from time to time to hang out here.”

“That’s because Mr. Malik gives off creepy guy vibes.”

Mr. Roberts raised an eyebrow, “you’re not the first student to say that.” He shook away the thought before he continued, “the point is, by most standards, many people would consider your skipping class as a bad thing.”

Jerry the security popped his head in the door when he heard the word “skipping.”

“You’re in here, again?”

I blushed knowing that he could mark me for truancy at any time.

“I’m learning about… making mistakes?” I asked Mr. Roberts.

He nodded permissively.

“It’s educational,” I promised.

“Whose class are you skipping, again?”

“Mr. Malik.”

Jerry and Mr. Roberts shared a look before Jerry spoke again, “and what are you learning here?”

“Societal values on absolute good and how they can negatively impact human development.”

Jerry raised his eyebrows, “Good shit.” He nodded his head in my direction, “You know how to read, right?”

“I know all twenty eight letters,” I assured him.

He rolled his eyes, “I’d better not see you in here tomorrow.”

“Do you have any input on the topic?” Mr. Roberts asked him.

He shrugged, pulling his hands out of his pockets, “gotta fuck up every once in a while to get life’s full experience.”

Mr. Roberts nodded in agreement before turning back toward me, “do you feel like you’ve received any benefits from skipping class and coming here?”

“I get time to study,” I shrugged. “I guess I also learned more about human interaction, music and societal behavior structures.”

“All things you wouldn’t have accomplished in Mr. Malik’s class; where you were supposed to be.”

“That doesn’t mean you can skip his class forever, you still have to show up,” Jerry inserted.

I smiled and shook my head.

“I’m serious, I’m going to check up on you tomorrow. Don’t make me send you to detention,” he threatened before leaving.

“How bad do I need to mess up?”

Mr. Roberts shook his head, “it’s not about messing up, it's about taking on new experiences.”

“Like skiing?”

“Like something that scares you, something that makes you reconsider what you know.”

“Like drugs?”

Mr. Roberts hummed before speaking, “the school’s policy is hugs not drugs.”

I looked at him confused, is he really suggesting-

“Not drugs, new experiences, walk in someone else's shoes, get out there, break a rule every once in a while.”

I grabbed my phone and sent out a text in front of him.


To: Nick

Do you want to come over to my house today?


Mr. Roberts smirked as I put my phone back in my pocket. “I hope you realize this isn’t what I meant.”

I thought about it for a moment, I mean inviting someone over when I’m grounded is against the rules, that’s got to count for something, right?

“I think it is.”


I tiptoed through the living room checking to see if my mom was anywhere to be seen. I heard the blender turn on and took that as my cue to rush to the door.

I opened the door to see Nick standing there with his hands in his pockets.

“Hey, how-”
“Shh!”

I grabbed his wrist and rushed him up the stairs before my mom could see us.

I got us both into my room and locked the door behind us before anyone noticed.

“What’s going on?” Nick whispered.

I turned my study playlist up before answering him, “you don’t have to whisper anymore, I doubt she’ll hear you from all the way over there.”

“Am I not supposed to be here?”

“You’re supposed to be here, in that I invited you here?”

“But your mom says I’m not supposed to be here?”

“She can’t say that if she doesn’t know.”

Nick eyed me carefully and licked his lip before speaking again.

“Why am I here, Nessa?”
“I wanted to try something new,” I shrugged.

His eyes focused on the mess before him. Papers, pictures, decorations, all scattered on the floor in a circle around a large pink book.

“Burn book?” He smirked.

“Scrap book… although similar concepts, I guess? The pictures, the note that follows.”

I moved to sit in the center of the mess before opening up my book. I looked through my polaroids before noticing that Nick stood awkwardly by my door.

“You can sit on the bed if you’d like.”

He bit his lip momentarily before deciding to sit on the bed.

“How do you decide what pictures go where?”

I laughed, “that’s why my therapist recommended it. It’s meant to be open-ended. No right answers means no wrong way to do something.”

I looked up at him to watch his face confused.

“He believes that I need to learn to stop looking for the right way to do things and allow myself to be wrong without penalty every once in a while.”

I used my markers to draw a pattern around the white border of the image.

“What do you mean by wrong without penalty?”

I sighed before closing my marker and looking up at him. “I don’t know. Mr. Roberts says it's about doing things that don’t carry any severe impacts simply because I can.”

“Mr. Roberts? Isn’t that your math teacher?”

I nodded while picking out the right background to paste my picture to.

“The one you have a crush on?”

I blushed forgetting that I had admitted that to him.

“What kind of wrongdoings is he promoting?” Nick asked with notable concern.

“He didn’t specify. I figured this would be a good place to start.” I looked up at him with a small smile.

He became visibly tense, “by this you mean?”

“I’ve never snuck someone into my room before.”

He cleared his throat and I saw his Adam's Apple bob in his throat.

I scrawled a small note to the right of the image before sliding it into place in my scrapbook and storing my supplies again.

Finally I turned my attention back to Nick.

“What now?” he asked nervously.

I shrugged, “I don’t know. I didn’t think this far ahead.”

He exhaled an unsteady breath as I sat on the bed beside him.

“A movie perhaps?”

Nick’s face turned a soft pink. What is going on?

“I have all the seasons of Parks and Rec so far?”

He bit his lip and nodded nervously.

I popped the movie in and turned to find Nick sitting rigidly on the bed, “You can lay down if you’d be more comfortable like that?”

“I’m fine here, thanks.”

I laid on the other side of the bed and rested my chin on my elbows.

Halfway through the episode I noticed Nick’s hyperfocus on the screen.

“Which character do you think you resemble most?”

“Hm… oh, I-I don’t know.”

I’m definitely missing something here. “Is everything okay?”

Nick sighed before finally looking over at me, “listen, I’m just- I don’t think I’m ready for this just yet.”

“Ready for what?”

“For s-” Nick’s face turned red again. “Why am I here, Nessa?”

I sat up and pushed my hair behind my shoulders, “I don’t know. Mr. Roberts said to break some rules and I thought of you.”

“To do what?”

“Sneak in, hang out… sneak you back out? I don’t know, I’ve never been grounded before.”

He visibly relaxed before a small crooked smile crept onto his face. “Your idea of doing something wrong is sneaking someone in?”

Is that not the way to do it? Am I doing this wrong?

“... yes.”

His lips pressed together as he tried to hide his expanding smile.

“If you wanted to break rules you should have just told me. We should get out while we still could.”


Around 11:30, an hour after I was supposed to be sleeping I found myself in Nick’s car driving down the 10 toward Santa Monica. I laid my head on the frame of the open window as the fresh spring breeze brushed my hair back.

Nick and I sat on the hood of his car feeling the ocean breeze sweep in while the ferris wheel displayed its light show in the distant background. A few bystanders walked by every so often. I wondered what they might think of us? Did he look like mine? Did we look like fools?

I looked over at Nick who tucked his left hand under his head and just watched the waves roll in.

“Nick?”

He turned his attention toward me with a soft smile.

“Have you ever done a bad thing?”

“A bad thing?”

I stared back at him with wide eyes and open ears.

“I’ve made mistakes, but I don’t think I’ve done anything inherently bad.”

I licked my lips before speaking up, “what’s the difference?”

“Intentions mostly.” He turned his sight back to the rolling waves. “I can do something wrong and mean no harm. I think doing a bad thing implies an intention to hurt or negatively impact another person.”

“Would you be friends with someone who is always wrong?”

“There’s no such thing as always wrong. I think the bigger issue is being friends with someone who is always right, can you imagine the self-righteousness of a person like that?” He chuckled softly.

He turned on his side to face me, “don’t stress so much on being right all the time, those people are never fun.”

“I think it has less to do with being right and more to do with the fear of being wrong… I freeze. I end up not choosing, not reacting… I just let it happen.”

His brows pressed together as he listened.

“I didn’t scream, or push him away, I didn’t say a word because I was afraid to do the wrong thing… I just let it happen.”

His hand reached for mine, “when it comes to you, there is no wrong answer, you do whatever you need to do to make sure you’re safe, okay?”

“When people touch me… I don’t know how I’m supposed to respond. I don’t want to make them uncomfortable.”

“Their comfort does not come before your own.”

I looked into his soft almond colored eyes, “how did you know?... How did you know to give me space?”

Nick watched me intently before tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear. “I paid attention.”

I don’t know what that means. My brows pressed together in confusion.

“When I danced with you, your frame locked every time my hand slipped below your shoulder blades.”

I don’t remember doing that.

“When we were in the car, you kept watching the threading on the seats like it was absolutely necessary to stay within those boundaries.”

“Do you think I’m crazy?”

Nick smiled warmly, “I think you have every right to be weary.”

My eyes diverted to his hand in mine. What if this is all I’m ever capable of? What if I keep everyone at arm's-length for the rest of my life?

“...What happens if I never change?”

I looked up to see Nick’s kind eyes watching me with a small smile. “Did you notice that you didn’t flinch when I touched your hair? I think you just need more time to trust people...”

Did I really not flinch?

“And if not… I’ll still be here, holding your hand… being your friend and on occasion I’ll be more.”

“...Like,” lovers? Or…

“Partners in crime.”

End Notes:

If y'all have kept up with my writing you'd notice I've been really into FINNEAS lately. I just found his album Blood Harmony two days ago and I've been vibing to him Alina Baraz and Billie Eilish.

Anyway, my favorite songs so far are Let's Fall in Love for the Night, Partners in Crime and I Don't Miss You at All. I already wrote about the first two we'll see what happens with the last one.

Back to the story, does anyone find this Vanessa teetering between adorable and pathetic? She's got a lot of personal growth to achieve. Especially if she wants to end up with Nick.

What are your thoughts?

Hollywood by Stephy
Author's Notes:

Some say when it rains it pours,


Hollywood ain't no place for lovers anymore,


And it ain't no place for us.


-Shwayze

After lunch I felt myself dozing off during fifth period. I heard the people at my table quietly laughing at me.

“Damn, who are we supposed to copy off of now?”

“For real, I don’t understand half of the topics in this class.”
“Do you think she’s high?”

“I’m not high.” I looked down at the worksheet scanning through the questions. “Examples of symbolism include the faded and chipping green walls that the dead bodies are leaning against. It’s the vanishing hope after each new person drops dead.”

“Well, fuck,” the guy next to me, Gilbert, chuckled.

“Does the green thing also expand to Justin Timberlake’s eyes?” Jacklyn laughed.

I looked up exhausted, glancing at the screen. “It could, it's really faint so it would fit his character, but I suspect that’s just a lucky coincidence.”

“But his eyes are blue in real life.”

I looked over at the screen again, “are they? That’s some good costume design.”

Mr. Malik placed a hand on my shoulder causing me to flinch, “what a fucking nerd, can’t even sleep in class right,” he teased me.

His hand grazed across my back as he walked away and I resisted the urge to shudder.

“Ugh, he’s fucking creepy,” Jacklyn whispered.

Gilbert laughed beside me, “damn, that’s hella shady. Who do you think is worse, him or Ms. Gilliam?”

I rolled my eyes, “Ms. Gilliam is a blind art teacher who gave me a B on my toothpick sculpture because I finished too soon.”

Jacklyn frowned, “what the fuck, why?”

Gilbert smirked, “cause Daniel was too busy lining up toothpicks for her to do his own work and everyone else just fucked around too much.”

“Whose Daniel?”
“The soccer player from art class last year who had a crush on Vanessa.”

“He did not,” I argued.

Joshua raised his eyebrows with a grin, “Dang, first Angel in the fifth grade, then Daniel, and now Mr. Malik? What a tease!”

I rolled my eyes, “y’all are dumb, shut up!”

“Hey, you buttheads, keep it down, don’t make me fail you,” Mr. Malik teased.

“For a guy in his thirties, he’s trying too hard to be relatable,” Jacklyn whispered.

There was a knock at the door before Jerry poked his head in.

He scanned the room before his eyes landed on me and he smiled warmly.

“Can I help you?” Mr. Malik asked.

“Just making sure everyone is where they should be,” Jerry responded before stepping back out.

“He’s cute,” Jacklyn noted as Jerry left the room.

“He’s gay!” Joshua’s face twisted in disgust.

Gilbert laughed, “no way! How do you know?”

“Dude! He’s the wrestling coach! He’s been wrestling with guys since he was in high school like 15 years ago? That’s highly suspect.”

I rolled my eyes, “Jerry’s not gay!”

Gilbert laughed, “I heard he’s been trying to get it in with that math teacher, Ms…. What was her name? The one with the fat ass…”
Jacklyn tried to disguise her smile, “you guys are so nasty!”

“Why me, he’s the one trying to take her for a spin,” Gilbert defended himself.

Joshua shook his head with a chuckle while Jacklyn and I shared a look of disappointment.

“Hey did you guys get your Grad Nite tickets, yet? I heard they changed it from Disney to Six Flags so it's going to be cheaper now.” Gilbert asked the group but his eyes focused on Jacklyn.

“I’m out,” Joshua responded, “I’ve got plans.”
“What plans?” Jacklyn turned her attention to him.

“Extra curriculars,” Joshua raised a pinched thumb and index finger to his lips.

Gilbert laughed, “you’re gonna miss Grad Nite to get high? Bro, you’re dumb as hell.”

“I’m going, I’m hanging out with my friends from Drill.”

Gilbert elbowed me, “what about you?”

I shrugged, “I don’t know, I don’t have anyone to hang out with.”

Gilbert sucked his teeth, “Ah, come on you can hang out with me and Victor.”

I laughed, “I haven’t talked to Victor since freshman year!”

“Who cares, it's one of the last events before graduation, don’t you want to spend it with your old homies?”

Did I have old homies?

“Just take a guest,” Jacklyn reminded me.

“I’m taking my cousin, man, Hector has been asking about her since that kickback last month.”

There was a kickback last month?

“Take someone hot so the baseball team has someone to fight over,” Joshua laughed.

“Man, fuck you!” Gilbert laughed at him incredulously.

Jacklyn smiled, “true though, all of you guys always crush on the same girl.”

“Y’all on some bullshit, I swear,” he laughed knowing it was true.

He saw Mr. Malik looking in our direction before getting super serious. That’s our cue, all of us were immediately silent before turning our attention back to the screen.


I woke up the next morning after sleeping twelve hours to find that I had received a text from Nick the previous night that was still waiting for me.


From: Nick

Howdy Partner,

Up for more rule breaking? 


To: Nick

If the rule was: no sleeping

I did a great job :P


I got dressed for school and packed up my track uniform for today’s meet. On the way to school my music was interrupted with a loud ringing and Nick’s name flashing on my car’s dash.

I pressed the answer button on my steering wheel.

“Hello?”

I heard some shuffling on the other end before Nick’s groggy voice broke through.

“Good morning,” his voice was rough and husky, I’d never heard him sound so decomposed. “What are your plans this afternoon?”

“Sorry, Nick, I can’t make it, I’ve got a Meet today.”

Nick chuckled breathily through the surround sound… have you ever heard him laugh on surround sound? It’s… an experience.

“No plans today, partner. Just thought we could do something just the two of us.”

I bit my lip and tried not to blush. I feel stupid. I heard my brother’s voice in my head reminding me I was making an ass of myself.

“Um, I’m not sure, we’re going out to Hollywood so I’m not certain what time we’ll be back.”

“Hollywood, huh?”
“Yeah, they’re hosting an invitational so it’ll be an all day thing.”

“What about school?”

“Well, since our school got into the semi finals, they’re hoping an invitational at a division one might push us to PR and get us prepared.”

“PR… alright, I’ll talk to you later, then. Good luck out there.”


I stood against the fence with Analy and Christine swinging our legs back and forth to stretch out our hip flexors after taking a few laps to warm up.

“These first div people seem kind of snobby,” Christine pointed out as she looked around.

“I don’t think it's because they’re division one, I think it's ‘cause they are Hollywood people.” Analy noted.

I looked around at everyone walking around in different team uniforms, “What do you mean? What’s wrong with Hollywood people?”

Analy rolled her eyes, “most of these kids are from out of state, they’re only here to get into the industry.”

“Which industry?” Christine asked.

“Take your pick, this is where they all converge. Film, acting, music, dance, writing… Just a giant sinkhole of wannabes.”

“Wouldn’t we be a wannabe? I mean we’re one of the few division two schools here,” I reminded her.

She scowled at me, “the difference is you got into NYU on a scholarship. I won’t be pursuing this any further and Christine only joined the cross country team to lose a few extra pounds. She’s done that, we’re not here to claw our way in, we’re here to let them know the next gen will be here next year.”

Christine grimaced in disgust, “how often do you think they have predators coming on campus swearing they’re talent scouts for paramount pictures or something?”

“I doubt it happens that often; it's a school they’re bound to have some sort of security measures.”

Analy turned to look in the same direction as Christine, “then why is that creep here?”

I turned to see a guy in a leather jacket with dark shades and a yankees cap. If he was a talent scout in Hollywood, why would he wear NY gear? He turned in our direction and all three of us diverted our attention instantly.

“Do you think he saw us?” I asked.

Analy peeked over again, “he’s coming, pretend we’re talking about something else.”

“Grad Nite!” Christine blurted out.

“No!” I whispered harshly. Grad Nite implies we’re graduating which implies we’re of legal age or close to it.

“Oh, no! You’re not going why?” Analy feigned concern.

“Yeah, why?” the guy asked behind me.

I felt my body break out in chills wishing I could just run from this guy. I turned slowly to see a smirk on his face before skimming him entirely. He wore a pair of plaid red and black shorts and beat up black high tops.

“I’m sorry?”

He licked his lips, “Nice outfit, how do you like mine, partner?”

My head shot up to his face again to see a smile spread across it.

“Back off, pervert!” Analy shouted at him.

My brows pressed together in confusion, “Nick?”

He chuckled, “Actually, I go by pervert now.”

My eyes widened in shock, “what are you doing here?”

“Nessie, you know this guy?” Christine asked, confused.

“Yeah, this is my friend Nick J-”

I saw Nick’s smile fall instantly and realized why he was dressed the way he was.

“Jones…” I lied. That was a terrible lie. I should’ve done better than that.

Analy looked at him suspiciously, “he doesn’t go to school with us.”
“No, he’s in my… softball league.”

Christine and Analy both eyed him carefully.

“Family league,” Nick smiled.

“You're not going to Grad Nite?” Nick asked with concern. I bit the inside of my cheek trying to figure out what would make this a winning argument. I came up with… a shrug.

“Is it because you think you’re a bad dancer?”

I pressed my brows together in confusion, “Grad Nite isn’t a dance.”

Analy watched us with distrust, “where did you say you went to school again?”

“Um, he was out of state, they didn’t have Grad Nite, there.”

Nick smiled at her innocently. She poked a finger in my side and motioned for us to move into the football field away from the stranger on this side of the fence. I smiled softly, “I’ll go in a bit.”

She scowled at Nick before she and Christine retreated to the inside of the field. “We’re going to start stretching and tape our starts before we start logging jumps.”

“Can you mark me and 69’7.5”?”

Analy pursed her lips while Christine smiled as she spoke up, “I got you girlie.”

I turned back to Nick to see him smirking, “you’ve got interrogators for friends?”

I giggled softly, “I mean, I guess perverts just get a cold shoulder.”

Nick shook his head, “so what’s this about a Grad Nite?”

“Um, it’s a night for grads?” I laughed, “Seniors go to a theme park for the night. It’s an all night thing. From 9 to 7.”

Nick’s eyebrows lifted, “that’s pretty cool. Why aren’t you going?”

I shrugged, “I don’t know. Maybe I already had my fair share of staying out all night?”

Nick chuckled, “One night only? Come on, Nessa, what happened to my partner in crime?”

He leaned his shoulder against mine teasingly.

“I’s a chicken… Besides you won’t even be there; I’ll be partnerless.”

Nick smirked down at me, “I’d never abandon my partner, I’m an honest criminal.”

I smiled and averted my gaze to try and hide my blush. He really knows how to make me feel special.

“Hey, Nessie!” Charles wrapped an arm around me.

Oh no.

“How did you do on your jumps?”

“I haven’t,”I tried to shrug him off as he reached a hand out to Nick.

“Charlie, Nessie’s boyfriend,” he introduced himself as he reached out to him.

I saw Nick eyeing me carefully. I don’t know how to respond in this situation.

Nick took his hand, “that’s funny, Vanessa told me she had dumped her useless ex.”

Charles shook Nick’s hand a little too long, “... clever… see, here I thought it was the other way around.”

I saw Nick smirk, “firm grip you’ve got there, trying to establish dominance? Over an ex that you claimed to want nothing to do with? Seems kind of pitiful don’t you think?”

Charles tried to swerve around me to get in Nick’s face, “wanna say that again?”

“I’m sorry, you didn’t hear it from over there?”

He was inches away while I tried to pull him away.

“Question: of the two of us here, which of us has more to lose? The guy in the audience who’d lose out on five bucks or the guy with semi-finals coming up?” Nick redirected his gaze upon me. “I’m kind of new at this, Nessa, is there a penalty for unsportsman-like conduct?”

I saw Charles ball up his fists angrily. I tugged on his wrist. “Go away, Charlie,” I begged.

He stared Nick down for a few more seconds trying to intimidate him before turning to leave.

I kept my eyes on my track shoes too ashamed to look up at Nick, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be, you’re not responsible for someone else’s actions,” Nick excused.

I looked up shyly only to find a smiling Nick, “so what time is your race?”

“We’re scheduled for 11:30.”

“What about the field events?”

“Those are on a get it done before the end of day basis.”

“So what time do you expect to be finished?”

I shrugged, “we usually end up doing this from 8:30 to 9:00.”

Nick gave me a sly smile, “would they notice a missing athlete?”

I smiled back.


I walked back to Nick around noon with my second place medal and a giant smile.

“Look at you, champ, taking on the big guys like it's nothing.”

I laughed, “definitely not nothing, I had to PR for this medal.”
NIck smirked, “to let you in on a little secret, we PR for our awards, too.”

I giggled at Nick’s reminder that PR was not the same between our two worlds. “What now?”

“Have you spent a lot of time in Hollywood?”

“Not really,” I answered honestly. “Didn’t really seem like a city I belonged in.”

“Why’s that?” Nick raised an eyebrow in question.

I shrugged not wanting to admit my real feelings.

Nick smirked, “I let you get away with a lot you know?”

I sighed knowing he was right, “it seems a little desperate? A lot of people have talent, doesn’t mean they get what they aspire to. Plus there’s tons of people without talent who have no business being in that industry and yet…”

Nick put my bag in the trunk of his car before opening the door for me and hopping into the driver’s side.

“You guys made it and your talent is undeniable, but how many people do you think have comparable abilities and didn’t make it. I’m not certain you’d be in your position if you didn’t look the way you do.”

Nick chuckled, “I don’t know if I should be flattered or offended.”

“You know it’s true Nick, there’s a reason why this creeper look makes you virtually unrecognizable, someone of your status wouldn’t dress like this. People who dress like this don’t get a second look.”

Nick nodded in agreement and I wondered if I went too far, “...sorry.”

“Don’t apologize for being right,” he dismissed before turning on the music.

The rest of the ride was quiet while I overanalyzed our conversation and worried over the demise of our budding friendship. En route to our unknown destination it began to drizzle.

Nick pulled up to a recording studio just off sunset boulevard.

“What are we doing here?”

“Thought you’d like to take a look behind a curtain.”

I raised an eyebrow in confusion, “are we going to see the great and powerful Oz?”

Nick chuckled, “something like that.”

Nick and I stepped into a production room to find a small space. There was a giant switchboard type thing that took up half the room with buttons and knobs and lights and sliding items that I couldn’t make sense of. In front of the board there were two rolling chairs and one small loveseat. Beyond the switchboard, past the glass there was a small room just slightly bigger than a walk-in pantry.

“What do you think?”

“It’s... underwhelming. I always imagined it’d be like some oversized sound stage with… I don’t know instruments and… music stuff?”

Nick chuckled, “it can be, but it usually isn’t. Those types of sound studios are a lot more expensive and harder to book.”

“How does it work?”

“Why don’t you go in there and give it a shot and we’ll go from there.”
“What do I do?”

“Sing.”

“Sing what?” I asked, confused.

Nick smiled, “that’s the beauty of it, you can sing whatever you want.”

I stepped into the booth and saw the recording light turn on while Nick offered me a thumbs up.

I took a minute to think about which songs I could sing without a tune to string me along. I remembered when my music teacher told us the beauty of standard jazz was that you could sing it any way you damn well pleased. So I did. I sang in a quiet whisper.

“Stars shining bright above you, night breezes seem to whisper I love you. Birds singing in the sycamore tree, dream a little dream of me.”

I looked up at Nick to see an encouraging smile on his face. I sang a little louder.

“Say nighty night and kiss me, just hold me tight and tell me you’ll miss me. While I’m alone and blue as can be, dream a little dream of me.”

I sang in a higher pitch.

“Stars fading but I linger on dear, still craving your kiss. I’m longing to linger till dawn dear, just saying this. Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you, sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you. But in your dreams whatever they be, dream a little dream of me.”

I sawNick’s overly enthusiastic face and I started laughing. He paused the recording before speaking through the mic. “Why’d you stop? That was so good!”

“You made me laugh!”

“Okay, I won’t look at you this time, let’s try it again.”

“No, it’s your turn,” I stepped out of the booth to sit next to Nick at the sound thing. “Which one am I allowed to touch?”

Nick laughed, “this one is to start or stop recording, that’s all you need right now.”

Nick got in the booth and I pushed the only button I knew the function of.

“Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars. Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.”

I watched Nick come back in with a huge smile on his face.

“What made you decide on Sinatra?”

Nick laughed, “I guess I was inspired. I didn’t know you liked Jazz standards.”

I shrugged, “they relax me, make me feel,” I shimmied my shoulders not knowing how to explain.

A tight-lipped smile spread across Nick’s face, “well you’re pretty cool when you’re,” Nick repeated my motion causing me to squint my eyes and hide a laugh.

Nick and I walked around on Sunset boulevard doing very little more than walking through the drizzle. “So why aren’t you dating?”

I looked up at Nick surprised by his question, “you saw the last guy I dated. I don’t think I should be trusted to do such a thing ever again.”

“What do you mean, Charlie is such a nice guy!”

I looked over at him unamused to see the smirk on his face. “It wasn’t just a few bad things, it felt like it was all bad. He demanded a lot, most of which I couldn’t give him. Whatever I did give him, wasn’t good enough and it was detrimental to… well me. I’m friendless, I’m verging on agoraphobe it’s just… I should quit while I’m behind.”

Nick patted my back while we continued walking, “well chances are it can’t get worse right?”

I shrugged. “Why aren’t you dating?”

“Hollywood is no place for lovers. It’s exhausting. Its two competing schedules and competing careers, it’s long distance and mostly it's just a little depressing. Normal dating is usually more… one on one, maybe? I don’t know there’s a lot of dating for a spotlight rather than dating for love.”

“Don’t you have to date before falling in love?”

“That’s usually how it goes. I just mean, in my position it's hard to tell if someone is dating me for me or for fame or money or some ulterior motive.”

“What if you were to date someone not in Hollywood?”

Nick smiled while looking down at me, “I’ve thought about that. The only thing is, the person I’m interested in is hard to pin down.”

“Pin down?”

He looked away as we continued walking, “I don’t know what she wants. She’s hard to read.”

“Why not just ask her?”

Nick chuckled, “I get the feeling that won’t work.”

“Why is that?”

Nick bit his lip while he blushed, he must really like this girl. “She’s… different.”

I rolled my eyes at his words, “how different could she be?”

Nick let out a breathy laugh, “I’m still trying to figure that out actually.”

We walked by a restaurant that had some expensive looking people shopping inside.

“Wanna check it out?” Nick asked.

I shook my head. “This place looks too expensive and semi fancy, and since i’m wearing this, I try to avoid big meals. Besides, this looks like the kind of place that would charge you just for sniffing their air.”

“No kidding,” a stranger agreed as he walked by.

Nick chuckled and I tried not to blush.

We ended up stopping by a hole in the wall bar and grill. Nick tested his blood before even looking at the menu. After we received our food I asked the question.

“Do you wish you didn’t have diabetes?”
Nick looked up from his fajitas. Is that too personal? “I used to… when I was first diagnosed. But over time… I learned to get around it and just… be myself again. Now, I think of all the good that has come from it. All the awareness raised, the funding for research, even just bonding with fans so they don’t feel alone.”

I was surprised by his response, but he made sense. If you go through dark times, the good times shine brighter. While we wouldn’t wish for the darkness, we cannot deny that those of us who have suffered can best appreciate the good times. We’ve seen the other side, we know it could hit us in an instant; why would we waste the experience while we have it.

Nick and I walked along Sunset boulevard just talking and sharing stories. I was reminded what it was like to have an off-campus friend. Someone who wants to see you after 3 beyond the boundaries of a classroom. As the day rolled on, more people began to crowd the streets, Nick walked closer to me, our hands brushing against each other ever so casually. I didn’t think twice about it. I wasn’t panicked or afraid; I was comfortable.

We walked past a tattoo shop and I saw Nick take a peek inside. I took his hand and walked in with him in tow. We looked at the designs on the walls and the ones in the books before I looked back at him with a smirk.

“What?”

“Partner in crime,” I started.

Nick chuckled, “you’re crazy, this is no place for us.”

“Nicholas, my dearest friend,” I continued.

Nick pulled away from me still laughing, “no, we can’t get away with it if I don’t get you back in one piece.”

I flashed him giant doe eyes, “please.”

Nick shook his head and sighed, “what are you going to get.”

I grinned as I explained the concept. We spoke to the tattoo artist and he crafted the trace.

“Where do you want it? He asked.

I pointed toward my ribcage on my left side. He glanced at my tight track uniform under my cardigan, “that’s going to have to come off.”

I removed my cardigan before Nick spoke up beside me, “are you sure about this?”

I nodded, “you’ve seen my brother, I have to catch up,” I joked.

I quickly peeled off my shirt while Nick’s eyes focused on me. This part makes me a little uncomfortable.

“Where exactly were you hoping to get it?”

I turned my bra up slightly to show him the exact space. The tattoo artist sucked his teeth, “that’s going to have to come off, too. Bathrooms over there if you need some privacy.”

I took a deep breath before exiting the bathroom using my cardigan as a blanket over my breasts. It took a few tries to line it up just right before the artists started the needle. It was a lot more painful than I realized and Nick held my hand while I laid on the table. He maintained eye contact for the most part. Every once in a while he’d glance down when I flinched.

“How’s it looking?”

Nick nodded as he watched the artist stick the needle back into my skin and I gripped his hand a little tighter, “looks good.”

“Just a few more minutes, and you can check it out for yourself,” the tattoo artist assured me.

Finally I was able to see the red and slightly swollen skin on my ribs with the new message: ‘but without the dark, we’d never see the stars.’

The tattoo artist cleaned me up and bandaged my tattoo before I slipped my cardigan back on. He recommended that I refrain from wearing tight clothes for a few days before sending me back on my way.

Nick and I walked out of the shop to find that the light drizzle had turned into a heavy downpour and we were at least a half mile from the car.

“When it rains, it pours.”

“What do we do now?”

Nick looked down at me with a smirk. “Hey, there partner.”

No, definitely not. I shook my head at him and he shrugged. “Our options are limited. “

I looked out at the empty streets and the heavy rains incredulously. “On the count of three,” he began. “One,” he took my hand and gave it a tight squeeze. “Two,” he fixed his eyes back on the street trying to pull together the ultimate path of least hydration. “Three!”

We ran through the raining streets of sunset boulevard stopping under and awning or two to catch our breath before finally making it back to his car.

He opened the door for me even in the torrential downpour, before making his way to the driver’s side. He cranked on the heater while I shivered in my seat cursing myself for not bringing a change of clothes.

“What time are you supposed to get home?”

“Usually around 10 on days like this.”

Nick watched the clock blinking 6:07 on his dashboard. “My house it is.” 

“That’s not-”

“Unless you want to sit here and catch pneumonia, we’re going home to get dry clothes and warm blankets.”


After I cleaned up my soaked dressing and changed into an oversized t-shirt and flannel bottoms that Nick lent me, I sat on the couch with Elvis’ head on my lap keeping me warm.

Nick walked in with a blanket and a veggie bowl, “I got you a blanket in case you get cold as well as a snack in case you get hungry.”

He extended the blanket over both of us and flipped on the tv in search of something to watch.

I wrapped my cold fingers around Nick’s bicep. He flexed instinctively before looking over at me.

“My hands are still cold, is this okay?”

Nick smiled at me, taking my hands in his and blowing warm breaths on them, “I’m gonna have Nick germs now.”

Nick laughed at my whining voice, “I’ll just hold them then.”

I leaned my head on Nick’s shoulder while my hands were in his before drifting in and out of consciousness. I tried not to dwell on the thought that this was the first time I had managed to fall asleep with another person in the room.

 

End Notes:

Hi friends!

What do you guys think about Hollywood? What do you guys think about Vanessa, or Nick, or Vanessa and Nick? Please leave your thoughts.

We Are Young by Stephy
Author's Notes:

Tonight, we are young


-Fun

“Berry, you really can’t come?” I asked again hoping her answer would magically change.

“So sorry, buttercup, but I can’t say I’m in the mood to run around Six Flags with a bunch of teenagers. Plus, I do have finals coming up. Why don’t you ask your Jonas Brother?”

I sighed, “I really don’t think that’s his thing.”

Berry rolled her eyes, “have you asked him? You won’t know until you ask.”

She looked over at me from her position on my bed, “you have a tendency to assume people will answer negatively, you know that?”

I shrugged, “you just said no.”

Berry laughed, “I’m 21 and I went to Disneyland for my grad nite. I’ve been there, done that. He hasn’t.”

“How would you know?”

“Didn’t you say he was homeschooled? I’m pretty sure they don’t get grad nite.”

I looked over at the color-coded notes on my desk.

“It won’t hurt to ask. Worst case, he says no. Is that so terrible?”

I pondered her words for a moment. She’s got a point, right?”

Berry went home around 10. I waited until I saw her hop into her car before I made the call. The phone rang a few times and I wondered if perhaps I’d made a mistake by calling. 

Maybe he doesn’t want to talk to me. What if I bug him too much? Maybe he thinks I’m annoying? I should hang up.

I was about to disconnect the line when I heard the line become active.

“Was epic!” a guy shouted in the background.

“Hey partner,” Nick greeted me.

“H-Hi Nick,” I stuttered. Why am I stuttering? Be cool!

“Nick is that your new girlfriend?” A guy asked in the background. “Send her a kiss from me!”

“Shut up, Joe!” Nick scolded his brother. “Nessa, what’s up?”

“Um, I can call back if you’re busy.”

“Hey, Vans, why won’t you give Nick a chance already!” Joe shouted.

Then the line went dead.

Give Nick a chance? To do what? Does Joe think Nick likes me? I shook the thought out of my head and turned on the tv instead.

I laid in bed watching Parks and Rec much later than I should have when I got a call. Nick.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Nessa, sorry about earlier. We had just finished bowling and Joe was… being Joe.”

I laughed lightly, “Joe being Joe, I think I’ve heard of that.”

Nick chuckled, “yeah, anyone who knows Joe has heard of it.”

The line went silent for a moment. Is this awkward? Am I being awkward? Say something!

“Something!” I blurted out.

No, stupid!

Nick laughed on the other end, “that’s something alright.”

“Um, no sorry I didn’t mean- I meant, uh… grad nite is this week?”

“Are you asking me?”

“Yes?”

“I don’t know when your grad nite is, Nessa.”

“Oh, no. It’s this week, I just meant… do you grad nite- do you want to go with me to grad nite?”

“That’s the rollercoaster thing right?”

“Yeah, Six Flags. You don’t have to, I just thought because you said you hadn’t gone but if you don’t-”

“I’d love to.”

“Really?” 

“Yeah, when is it?”

“Thursday night, we’d come back Friday morning.”

“Oh, it's all night?”

“If that doesn’t work that’s okay, I just-”

“No, no that’s fine. Just- can we grab dinner first?”

“Um, yeah that’s fine, the bus leaves at 9 so we just need to be on campus by then.”

“Cool so I’ll pick you up at 6:30.”


Thursday evening Nick picked me up, except this time I waited for him out on the street.

“Hey, how did it go with your mom? Are you still grounded?”

“Um, yeah, kind of. She’s allowing for senior events and such but no other outings.”

Nick’s brows pressed together, “so where does she think you’re going now?”

“Dinner with friends from track.”

He smirked, “is that why you waited out here for me? You’re allowed to go out just not with me.”

I bit my lip shyly, “sorry, I just… I know she doesn’t want me hanging out with you so I didn’t tell her you’d be there.”

Nick smiled and shook his head, “now you’ve got me committing crimes without telling me?”

I breathed out a sigh of relief realizing he was kidding, “So sorry, partner. If it makes you feel better you can do the same to me so we’re even.”

He scratched his chin and chuckled, “funny that you’d say that; I’m invoking my pass now.”

Wait, what? I looked over at him confused. He glanced over at me momentarily before turning his attention back to the road, “about dinner tonight, it’s not just a friend dinner like you may have thought.”

What is happening? Was Joe right? Is Nick into me? Why would Nick be into me? Is this supposed to be a date?

“My parents just got in today and they were hoping to meet you. So we’ll be joining them for dinner.”

Huh? So not a date. Not interested. Joe’s dumb. I’m dumb for listening to Joe. Scratch the stupid date thing… His parents?... What do you know about his parents? This seems like a terrible idea. “Dinner with your family?”

“Just my parents and Frankie. It won’t be so bad, I mean Joe’s the worst one and you already met him. Really the only way to go is up.”

I spent the rest of the drive overthinking everything. I’m about to meet his parents. I don’t know anything about his parents. What if they hate me? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I’m too annoying? I don’t know how to behave. Just breathe. Can’t freak out until you meet them.

‘Don’t be afraid to meet new people,’ my therapist rattled off in my brain. Why does everyone seem to have advice for how I’m supposed to be living my life? Why am I the only one afraid of everything?

Nick walked into the restaurant with me in tow. Off to the side I could see his parents sitting at a table with Frankie. As soon as they saw us, his father shined a bright smile in our direction while his mother whispered something to him. Was that about me? Am I self-centered for thinking it was?

Nick hugged his parents and his brother before introducing me. “This is Vanessa, my new friend.”

Nick’s dad offered me a big smile and a strong handshake. “How are you, Vanessa?”

I smiled shyly, “Hi, good.” I shook my head at my error. It’s too soon to be making these mistakes. “I’m well, and you?”

Mr. Jonas chuckled as he pushed his glasses up, “I’m very well, especially now that we’re on the west coast with our boys. This is my wife, Denise.”

I shook her hand and averted her eyes, “Mrs. Jonas, hello.”

“Denise is fine, dear.”

Frankie popped up beside his mom, “You’re really pretty.”

I blushed as I searched for the right response. I came up with a useless quote from Mean Girls before redirecting my thoughts to the most innocuous statement I could think of. “Oh, th-thank you.”

The five of us sat down and ordered our items before the conversation picked up again. Nick’s dad had a temperament very similar to Kevin’s. He seemed very friendly and generally happy. His face, however, was 100% Nick’s. From the freckles to the almond eyes with a seemingly permanent squint. His mother looked more like Kevin, with the rounder features and colored eyes. But her temperament reminded me of Nick’s when we first met. She was very serious. Like she was observing me before deciding if I was good enough to be Nick’s friend. Her watchful eye made me nervous. I began tracing the thread of my jeans hoping to take my mind off the situation at hand.

“So, Vanessa, what do you do?”

I stared down and my jeans nervously before Nick reached my my and hand stopped me mid-trace. He gave me a reassuring squeeze and I turned my attention back to the group in front of me.

“I study school,” I closed my eyes completely baffled by my endless ability to make a fool of myself. “No, not that. I’m in high school. I’m a student. I’m learning.”

I looked around the group to find an amused smile on Mr. Jonas’ face and a concerned one on Mrs. Jonas.

“Are you nervous,” he asked with a friendly smile still plastered on his face.

I nodded as I let out a shaky breath. You’re bombing, stupid!

“Don’t be, we’re not here with bad intentions, we’re just here to meet our son’s new friend.”

“So you’re in school now. What will you be doing after? Modeling? Acting? Singing?”

I chuckled nervously, “I don’t think I’m cut out for any of that. I’m not particularly-”

‘Don’t talk yourself down, people can see your flaws without you pointing them out,’ Berry reminded me.

“Um, I’m going to college to study psychology.”

“Wow, that’s interesting. So you’re not one for fortune and fame?” Denise asked.

“Uh, well, psychologists make a strong upper middle class wage and I’m not really designed to have all eyes on me. I’m just a little, too… myself for that.”

Mrs. Jonas lips turned up slightly. Perhaps she hated me less now? I took that as a reminder to be more myself and stop worrying so much. 

“Where will you be going to college?”

“Um, I got accepted into NYU, and some wise people have recommended leaving the nest and finding adventures so, off I go,” I smiled.

“NYU? Wow, you’re a smart girl.”

Not smart, I just memorize a bunch of stuff. Pretty sure I’ve been learning wrong my whole life. Can’t say that. Just take the compliment and go.

“Um, thank you.”

We sat and discussed a slew of topics before Nick stepped in to remind them that we had to get going. Mrs. Jonas nudged her husband before he spoke.

“Vanessa, I’m sure you’re familiar with the vows that our boys have made. Now it is not our responsibility to enforce those vows. Those are the promises they’ve personally made with God.”

Is this a sex talk? Am I talking to Nick’s parents about sex? My face flushed a bright red.

“All I can ask is that you respect-”

“Dad, please, this is not necessary. She’s my friend.”

I avoided eye contact with everyone at the table while he proceeded, “I’m just saying, this is a very serious promise that he’s made. Please respect his-”

“Got it, dad. Thanks!” Nick quickly tugged me around the table as we said goodbye to his family before rushing out of the restaurant.

Nick and I sat in his car again bound for my campus when he spoke up again. “Sorry about my dad. He’s just being a dad and you know how they get.”

I thought about my own father and realized I couldn’t actually relate to what he said. I fought off the sadness that began to creep in. I hadn’t spoken to my dad in over a week. I couldn’t even remember the last time we had a reasonable conversation, even when he still lived at home.

I cleared my throat to shake the knot building and wrapped my cardigan tighter around my body.

“Sorry… I wasn’t thinking when I said that,” Nick apologized.

“Not your fault; your dad is really cool… mostly,” I blushed.

Nick chuckled, “yeah every now and again he has to slip back into his dad role but most of the time he’s just one of my best friends.”

“That’s awesome. I wish he was my dad.” I dropped my head to hide my face instantly. I probably shouldn’t have said that. That’s a weird thing to say.

Nick chuckled, “If you mean it, I’m sure they’d be interested. My mom always wanted a girl to help even out the score.”

I shook my head, “I’m not certain your mom likes me.”

Nick paused for a moment before nodding, “she’s slow to warm up to people. She’s very protective so she wants to be sure that new people can be trusted. She does like you, she just wanted to make sure that you were genuine.”

“Genuine as in… not selling your hair on ebay?”

NIck shook his head and hid a smile, “yeah, that could be part of it. That or wanting to sell family secrets, embarrassing pictures.”

I rolled my eyes, “you didn’t even notice the last time I got a piece of your hair. Three more curls and I’d have enough for that new Canon I’ve always wanted.”

Nick laughed out loud, “you’re ridiculous.”

A few classmates recognized Nick when we got on campus and asked for pictures. A few asked for career advice. Some just capitalized on the opportunity to talk to him about anything.

I sat beside him on the bus with my head pressed against the window while Nick was a social butterfly. I felt a tug on my hair before I turned to find Gilbert and Victor behind me.

Gilbert flashed me a guilty smile, “I didn’t know you were dating a Jonas Brother. This is why you won’t give Mr. Malik and shot, huh?”

I saw Victor laugh incredulously, “dick, that guy is nasty! I wouldn’t trust him for shit!”

I rolled my eyes, “not my boyfriend, just did what Jacklyn said and brought someone for you guys to fight over.”

Gilbert and Victor both looked at each other before cracking up.

“This some bullshit! We liked two girls that were the same!” Victor corrected me.

“In like ten plus years! This is pure ass man!”

I smiled at both of them, “well he can be number three. I hear he’s really into baseball.”

Victor’s face got really serious for a second, “wait what’s his team though?”

I raised my eyebrows at him, “you’ll never believe it.”

Gilbert started laughing again while shoving Victor from side to side, “Damn, this fool’s gonna suck dick for another Yankee fan!”

Victor nudged Gilbert off of him, “damn, calma (relax)!” He redirected his attention to me, “so you guys are chilling with us today?”

I shrugged, “I guess so, it’s just the two of us.”

“That’s perfect, though! All the rides are for a four squad.”

I nodded in approval while the guys fell back into their regularly scheduled conversation and leaned back against the window.

Nick poked my side to get my attention, “how’s it going, partner?”

I looked over at him apologetically, “I’m sorry, I forgot that people can get like this around you.”

Nick chuckled, “it’s fine. I wouldn’t have agreed to come if I couldn’t handle it.”

I pressed my brows together in confusion, “doesn’t it seem kind of rude?”
“Haven’t you ever approached a celebrity?”

I shook my head, “I figured they were busy and didn’t need me invading their space.”

Nick rolled his eyes, “of course you feel that way. You feel like that about everyone.”

“Is it a bad thing to want to give others their space?”

“It’s bad to always feel like you’re intruding in other people’s space. How else would you carve out your own space?”

I shrugged, not feeling particularly interested in jumping into this discussion. Just as we were pulling up to the theme park our senior song came on. As soon as the drum beat hit, everyone lost their minds and Nick shot me a confused look.

“Give me a second, I need to get my story straight. My friends are in the bathroom getting higher than the empire state.”

Nick looked around at the 200 high school seniors who were suddenly breaking out in song. “Senior song.”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“It’s this,” I shrugged.

He smiled before joining the rest of the bus in song and nudging me consistently until I sang it too. “Tonight, we are young!”

As soon as I stepped off the bus goosebumps covered every inch of skin on my body. A t-shirt and cardigan were not acceptable late-night desert attire. I tried to shake off the cold.

If you keep moving you can’t be cold I reasoned. As soon as they stepped off VIctor and Gilbert recommended running up to the top of the hill to ride X-2 before the other schools arrived and we had to face long lines. The jog through the parking lot across the park, up the hill to the ride was enough to get all of us nice and warmed up. Ha, I knew it! Problem solved. 

Nick strapped in beside me and Victor and Gilbert were strapped in behind us. The operator released us mid-countdown and I heard screams erupt across the ride. While tossing my stomach around like a hacky sack was fun, being stabbed in the eye with my own hair and the cold air coming at me from what seemed like every direction, was less fun.

I got off the ride shivering all over again, “where to next?” I asked, trying to hide my chattering teeth.

“Which one is closest?”

We worked our way back down the hill to find the next ride. So much for beating the other schools, the lines had started to grow and we waited for about twenty minutes. Nick and Victor talked about the Yankees’ performance so far and who they thought made valuable additions to the team.

Gilbert pulled a flask out from his pocket and took a sip before he noticed me watching. He flashed me a cheeky grin, “It keeps me warm… like a scarf.”

I smiled and shook my head at him.

“I’d offer you some but… you know… you’re too goody two-shoes,” he teased.

Am not! I’ve broken all the rules lately. Mr. Roberts said to break the rules that wouldn’t be too big of an impact. This counts, right?

Just then our senior song came on through the speakers: ‘our friends are back, so let's raise a toast.’ Is that a sign?

I bit my lip before extending a hand out to him. Gilbert flashed me a face of sheer surprise. “Oh, what? I haven’t seen you break a rule since the first grade!”

His excitement caught Victor and Nick’s attention as he offered me his flask. 

“Ooh, she bad now!” Victor hyped me up.

Nick simply watched me while I tried to avoid his gaze. I had a feeling this was a bad choice and I didn’t need to see his judgement.

I sniffed the rim of the flask and caught a strong whiff of alcohol. I took a tiny sip and hated the taste.

“Ah, whack! Take a real shot!” Victor demanded.

“It’s not a money shot if it’s not a full mouth,” Gilbert agreed.

I knew that was something dirty but I wasn’t entirely sure how. I avoided the thought and decided to take a full shot as they’d instructed. It burned on the way down and the taste was far from pleasing. I think my goosebumps had goosebumps. Nick put a warm hand on the middle of my back.

“How was that?”

I shook my head disapprovingly, “I think I’m even colder now.”

Victor chuckled, “give it a minute, it’ll kick in.”

I leaned closer to Nick, using his body heat to keep my left arm warm.

I looked up to see Nick watching me curiously, “It’s cold up here.”

He smiled down at me before wrapping his arm around my shoulder, “what if we get you a sweater after this?”

“I have a sweater.”

“A few more shots of this, she’ll be her own sweater,” Gilbert promised.

“She’s probably a lightweight, she likely only needs like two more shots and she’s set.”

I took a second shot in line at the next ride again, still wondering when it would kick in. 

“What happens if I overdo it and end up puking?”

“If by the time the bar closes, you feel like falling down, I’ll carry you home.” Nick whispered behind me.

I laughed at his use of the lyrics and tried to ignore the blush creeping on my face.

We stood in line for about half an hour while the guys talked about classic cars. I rolled my eyes at their subject, Victor noticed.

“What car do you like, Ness?”

I shook my head before Nick’s chin came to rest on the top of it. “I like my car.”

Gilbert smacked his lips at me, “nah, a classic one.”

“Most American made ones, from the Model-T  to the Impala. My favorite is between the Chevy Bel-Air and the Shelby Cobra.”

Victor and Gilbert both gave me that ridiculous ‘not bad’ face. You know, the one from the memes?

“Those are some good picks,” Nick agreed.

I smiled proudly, feeling like I had passed their test before a cold wind came through and knocked me down to size. I shivered and leaned back into Nick. I think he got the message because his hands quickly reached up to run their way up and down my arms. How is he this warm?

Gilbert and Victor shared a look between them before smiling at me and then quickly resuming their conversation.

At the next ride I took the third shot and I was finally starting to feel less cold. The guys talked about girls they’d dated in the past and whatever quirks led to breakups or fights. Nick laughed behind me while Victor explained how one of his exes got mad at him for playing basketball with his friends instead of answering her texts.

Although I wasn’t cold I still reached for Nick’s hands before wrapping them around me instinctively. It kept me extra toasty.

“What about you, Nessa?” Nick asked me.

“Why did it not work out with my last girlfriend? It never really started,” I shrugged. “I don’t think she even knew I was interested.”

By the look on Victor and Gilbert’s faces I knew I’d said too much.

“Wait who the fuck was this?” Victor asked.

Gilbert put his hand in the center of our circle, “hold up, for real though?”

I closed my eyes and shook my head. Nick squeezed his arms around me a  little tighter. I guess I’d might as well speak up.

“Remember the student aid for Ms. Ngim?”

Gilbert and Victor’s eyes both widened with shock, “her?”

I shrugged, “she was really smart and she knew it, I thought that was attractive.”

Nick leaned over to whisper in my ear, “is that why you like Mr. Roberts?”

I blushed feeling like I’d revealed way more than I ever expected to.

“I don’t know why I’m saying any of this.”

Gilbert flashed his flask in front of me, “last shot,” he offered.

“Fuck it, what else could I possibly confess to.”

“We’re about to find out,” Victor noted as I took a fourth shot.

I didn’t feel drunk. If anything I just felt like I could use the alcohol as an excuse to be more blunt.

“Do you feel okay?” Nick whispered in my ear as a shiver went down my spine. Was I cold again? I nodded before leaning further into him.

Victor and Gilbert spent the next twenty minutes trying to figure out what they could get me to confess to.

“Have you ever had a home run?” Gilbert asked.

“Well, yeah. They wouldn’t keep me on the team otherwise.”

“No, no!” Nick cut in quickly, “that’s not the one they’re talking about.”

“Oh,” I laughed at myself feeling like a fool. “Then no.”

“Third base?” Victor asked.

“I don’t know what that is.”

“It depends, it could be hands or mouth,” he clarified.

“Think of it as foreplay.”

I shook my head, “no, no foreplay.”

“Second?” Nick asked.

I blushed immediately, “um, what’s that, again?”

Victor and Gilbert both grinned, “nah, look at her face, she knows.”

I shook my head, “another topic.”

“Have you ever done drugs?”

“Nope!... Or yes now? That thing,” I motioned to the flask in Gilbert’s pocket.

“This doesn’t count.”

“Then no.”

“Have you ever snuck out?”

I blushed before looking up at Nick.

“Where did you guys go?”

“Santa Monica,” Nick replied.

Victor and I sat at a table while Nick and Gilbert waited for our food to be ready. He looked over at me curiously before speaking up.

“For real, Ness, are you guys dating?”

I looked at him confused.

“I’ve known you since we were a couple of kids in Ms. Ibarra’s class. I’ve seen you with Charles. You’ve never been so lovey dovey with anyone.”

“Lovey dovey?”

“Come on, you guys are cuddling and shit.”

I don’t think that counts as cuddling does it? 

“We’re friends,” I excused. “I was just cold.”

Victor shook his head, “no, we’re friends! You’re not cuddling up to me or Gilbert even though we’ve known you longer. I think you know why.”

“No, he’s just my friend. I just...” Just what? I think he may have a point.

“Just what, Ness?”

I shrugged not knowing how to respond as Nick and Gilbert walked over with two trays filled with food.

As the night progressed a few individuals approached Nick asking for a picture or an autograph of some sort. Some even went as far as to try and kiss him. Was I one of these girls? Was I invading his space simply because it benefitted me? I stopped hugging him and instead resorted to sitting on the rails while the guys continued to talk throughout the night.

We piled back into the bus around the break of dawn. I didn’t want to admit it but I was feeling the effects of an all-nighter. My eyelids felt heavy.

Nick leaned in toward me, “you okay?”

I nodded but that didn’t seem to satisfy him. He kept his eyes trained on me. I turned to look at him and found a cute smile playing on his lips.

“What?”

“You hugged me today.”

I blushed at his words.

“I mean, technically, I hugged you. But still, I thought it’d be years before we got this far. Should I feel special,” he teased.

“I was just cold.”

Nick’s smile widened, “I’m going to keep pretending that I’m special.”

I felt my eyelids getting too heavy to keep open.

“You tired?”

“I’m crashing fast,” I admitted.

Nick shimmied his shoulder in my direction. “I’ve got a warm pillow right here,” he offered.

I laughed before leaning away toward the window, “that’s okay, I’m sure you’re sick of people hugging you all night.”

“Nuh-uh, partner, you never actually hugged me today. Plus I’d never say no to you remember?”

He tugged on my hand and I leaned back in his direction. To be honest I didn’t really fight him on it. Maybe that was because I was tired. Maybe because it felt nice knowing he didn’t mind me leaning on him. Maybe because I thought he smelled nicer than the window. For whatever reason it may have been, I interlaced one hand in his and wrapped the other hand around his bicep before falling asleep on his shoulder.

I flinched awake when Nick ran his fingers through my hair.

“Sorry,” he whispered. “We’re here.”

I stretched my limbs trying to restore blood flow before I had to get back on my feet. The sun shone brightly in my face reminding me that it was in fact eight in the morning. I forced myself to my feet to see Gilbert and Victor chatting, alert and in a good mood.

“What’s up, baddie?” They teased.

I shook my head as I pushed my hair behind my ears. “We’re going to get breakfast after the cap and gown pickup, you guys down?”

Am I being invited to a non-school sanctioned event? Are they asking me to hang out with them outside of school? Say yes! Say yes!

Nick nudged me to get my attention. Oh no! Nick! I can’t just drag him around, that’s not what he signed up for.

“Um, I think Nick needs to get going.”

Nick shook his head, “I’m up for it if you are.”

“Are you sure?”

“Are you, you look like you desperately need sleep.”

“For real, look at her. I’ve never seen her so ugly,” Gilbert teased.

“Dang, you hear him? You’re going to take that disrespect?” Victor egged me on.

I rolled my eyes, “you guys are jerks.”

“But are we breakfast jerks?”

I looked over at Nick unsure. I wanted to go but my exhaustion seemed to be winning.

“Come on, everyone is going!”

“We are young! This is the time to lose sleep!”

This is the event I’ve been waiting for all this time, right? “Okay.”

Nick and I walked up to Mr. Roberts to collect my cap and gown. He smirked at me, “size?”

“Small.”

He looked over at Nick. “You’re the off-campus friend?”

Nick looked between the two of us confused and I tried not to blush. “Uh, I’m Nick.”

Mr. Roberts nodded before marking my name off the list, “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Nick reached out to shake his hand, “You must be Mr. Roberts. Vanessa says you’re her favorite teacher.”

My face turned a dark shade of red as Mr. Roberts eyed me while handing me my cap and gown. “Really? That’s news to me.”

He shook Nick’s hand, “how was Six Flags?”

“Full of trouble,” I mumbled before retreating with Nick in tow.

We sat in Nick’s car enroute to the diner when Nick brought it up again.

“You know, when you said you had a crush on your teacher I pictured a middle aged man with gray hair and glasses.”

I shook my head at him, “he’s about 23. He does have glasses, though.”

Nick’s inflection changed and I couldn’t understand why, “If he’s only twenty three why not just tell him you like him?”

I shrugged, “he’s still my teacher, so it would still be weird and possibly illegal… Also, I think part of why I like him is because there’s a desk between us? The thought of touching him in any way just-” my entire body shivered. “I don’t think I could do it.”

I watched Nick scowl at the road ahead while his jaw flexed. “What?”

Nick looked over at me surprised. Did he forget I could see him? He shook his head, “no, I think my sugar levels are just dipping a little low.”

I get the feeling he’s lying. I think he might be upset about something. Is he mad that I signed him up for breakfast?

“We don’t have to go to the diner if you don’t want to.”
He looked over at me confused, “I thought you wanted to go?”

“I don’t want to make you do something you don’t want to do.”

He offered me a tight-lipped smile, “you’re not, your friends seem cool.”

I rolled my eyes, “you’re just saying that because you weren’t the one being grilled by them.”

Nick chuckled, “you’re more than welcome to put me on the grill. Serve me up medium.”

“Medium? It’s gotta be well done, verging on extra crispy!”

Nick shook his head before agreeing, “what do you want to know?”

“Have you ever snuck someone into your house?”

Nick raised an eyebrow at me, “I live alone.”

“You know what I mean, when you lived with your parents.”

Nick thought about it for a moment, “not into their house, but I did sneak someone into my hotel room once.”

My mouth became a perfect circle in response to his words. Nick saw my face and laughed, “you’re morphing into Joe.”

I blushed and hid my face from him.

“Have you ever drank alcohol?”

“On rare occasions, not very often, though, I find it has a lot more sugar than I can tolerate.”

I nodded and tried not to give any sign of surprise again. I guess he’s not as clean cut as he has everyone believe. I thought back to the conversation I had with Mr. Roberts a few weeks back. Could I really judge Nick for breaking a few rules? He wasn’t hurting anyone.

“What’s the longest you’ve gone without showering?”

Nick chuckled and eyed me cautiously, “The plumbing on the tour bus was busted and we couldn’t stop or we’d fall behind schedule so…”

“So?”

“Two and a half days.”

I tried my best not to show any reaction but based on Nick’s laugh, I think I was failing miserably.

“Believe me, it definitely wasn’t by choice.”

I bit my lip before asking the next question. Was this a safe question to ask? It seems too invasive. Then again he asked me so I guess it’s fine?

“What’s the furthest you’ve gone?”

Nick raised his eyebrows in confusion, “Like on tour?”

“In baseball?” I asked.

Nick cleared his throat, “um, I don’t know if… I definitely won't name names. But since you volunteered the same information I suppose I should do the same…”

He seemed to consider it for a minute, “I don’t think there’s a definitive base? It’s kind of like third yet not quite… two and three quarters maybe?”

I’m confused? What does that mean?

Nick looked over at me amused, “trying to figure it out?”

I blushed and shook the thought out of my head. I don’t think I should be considering his sex life, or rather his almost sex life? How would it be classified? Is he allowed to have a sex life?

“Are you allowed to have a sex life?” The words rolled out of my mouth before I could even consider them.

Oh, no! No, no, no! This was a mistake.

Nick pressed his lips together to hide a smile, “I’m allowed to do whatever I want. I just made a decision to wait when I was 12.”

“How did you decide so young?”

“Peer pressure mostly, all the adults in our congregation pressed for it and at the age of 12 it didn’t seem like such a big deal yet.”

“What about now?”

He let out a breathy laugh, “It’s a bigger deal now. It’s not as easy as it was then and I question it sometimes. I’m not perfect, but I’m still trying,” he shrugged.

“That’s not the answer I expected.”

“I’m still human. Still want…”

I held my breath feeling uncomfortable with how intense this conversation had become.

“Anyway, I feel like you’d know what I mean.”

“I’m not religious, I don’t think I can relate.”

“I have to assume that as, at least a partial human,” he nudged me to remind me he was teasing me.

“You sometimes want the intimacy that comes from human connection. Hugs, kissing, hand holding…” he reached out to hold my hand.

My heart was racing and I felt like I was overheating before I pulled away.

“I mean… it’s scary. Even if I wanted to sometimes I just… I feel like I can’t.”

I took a deep breath to try and push out the nervousness in my body. “I like the feeling of being hugged. I just… it feels wrong.”

Nick kept his eyes on the road, “that’s fine, you go at your own pace just like everyone else does. You’re allowed to decide what you want and when,” he reminded me.

I turned my focus to the window beside me, trying to shake the heavy conversation we’d just had. I think Nick noticed my discomfort because he turned the music a little higher. We used the rest of the drive to cool down and be peaceful before jumping back into social mode at the diner.

We got a big table for 10 at the diner. Victor and Gilbert were there with Jacklyn and two of the girls from the drill team. Christine was there with Charles and a kid I had nicknamed Freshman.

Gilbert spent the entire time focused on Jacklyn finally trying to shoot his shot. I smiled to myself and hoped for the best for him. Nick leaned in to whisper in my ear, “what’s so funny?”

“Gilbert has been crushing on Jacklyn since sophomore year. I think he might finally go for it.”

Nick looked between the two and saw Jacklyn laugh and lean into Gilbert while he blushed. “I think he’ll be successful.”

Victor and Nick somehow still hadn’t run out of things to talk about. I played with the stitching of my jeans somehow feeling like the odd one out before Christine addressed me.

“Hey, girlie, I didn’t see you at Six Flags! How did it go for you?”

I smiled at her, “I was with the guys.” I ticked my head toward Nick and Victor and she laughed while rolling her eyes. 

“Oh, right. With Nick Jones!” She shook her head at me, “I swear Analy and I thought you had been kidnapped. We thought we’d have to call the police and end up on one of those cold case shows.”

I giggled, “it could still happen. I got into a strangers van just last week!”

Charles rolled his before staring me down, “please, like you’d ever do anything even remotely risky.”

Christine nudged him, “you don’t know my friend, do you see the sleep deprivation, she’s been up all night!”

“Come to think of it, that’s the same way you looked that one time in Malik’s class!” Jacklyn noted.

“Damn, for real!” Gilbert placed a closed fist over his mouth at the realization. “Is that the time the two of you snuck out?”

Nick nodded while I brought both my hands up to hide my burning cheeks.

“You snuck past her mother with no fear? That’s ballsy, yo! Nessie’s mom has been terrifying us since before we learned to read!” Victor reached out to give Nick one of those cool guy handshakes.

“She’s not that bad, she’s kind of chill,” Nick lied.

The guys all turned to look at Charles, the one person that my mom vehemently hated.

“Whatever,” he shrugged off, clearly irked.

Nick rested his arm on the back of my chair before staring down Charles with a smirk. I noticed Victor smirking at me and wiggling his eyebrows when he noticed Nick’s arm.

“Shut up!”

Nick noticed my reaction and cocked his eyebrows at me. I shook my head at his questioning glance while Victor chuckled in the background.

Gilbert checked his phone to find a text from Joshua, “Hey Joshua’s asking if we’ll meet him at the beach?”

Jacklyn rolled her eyes, “now he shows up.”

I laughed while Christine shook her head, “I’m out, I have not slept in over 24 hours now, I was not made for this lifestyle.”

“I’m in; I haven’t seen Josh since that kickback last time,” Victor agreed.

Jacklyn smiled, “I’m down!”

Her friends immediately cut in, “We can’t go, Stacey is tired and I was supposed to go home as soon as the bus dropped us off.”

“We can take you!” Gilbert jumped in as he volunteered Victor to drive them.

“Yeah, I got you guys,” he agreed.

“If you guys can take me, I’ll go! I already skipped school anyway, might as well,” Freshman volunteered.

“Fuck off, Mikey! I’m not taking you anywhere, I’m out!” Charles cut in.

“I got you, Miguel!” Victor assured him.

“What about you two?” Jacklyn grinned at us.

“I don’t know, Nick’s probably busy and-”

“Yeah, Rent-a-Jonas-Brother over here has better things to do with his time,” Charles scoffed.

“I’ve got my whole day set aside for you, Nessa. Your call,” Nick smiled down at me.

“Come on!” Gilbert urged me.

“It could be fifth period for the last time,” Jacklyn begged.

“Except without Malik,” Gilbert chuckled.

“We are young,” Victor peer pressured me.

“Um,” I looked over at Nick to see him smiling encouragingly. Am I too tired for this? Then again, do I ever get to do anything fun like this? “O-okay.”

Freshman, Nick and I played a card game while Gilbert and Jacklyn walked along the beach and Victor and Joshua took a break to take part in recreational drug use.

“Uh, bam!”

I rolled my eyes, “relax, Freshman, this is barely your first time beating me,”

“First of all, I’m a junior now. Second of all, if you weren’t aware that was the passing of the flame. I will carry on your card playing legacy in future track meets.”

I giggled while Nick looked confused, “why Freshman?”

“He was my assigned track buddy his freshman year. For a while he kept trying to act cool and not give me his name so I started calling him Freshman. By the time he tried to correct me it was too late.”

Freshman shook his curly head, “biggest mistake of my life.”

Victor and Joshua came back to join us with bright red eyes. “What’s up?”

Is this what Fun meant when he said his friends were higher than the empire state?

Joshua looked between Nick and I with a creepy smirk, “so, Ness, I heard you upgraded your sweater?”

I blushed a deep red as all eyes were on me again. How do I change the topic? Just then a breeze came in and swept away the cards we were playing with. Thank you, mother nature. I got up to chase down the cards while Freshman and Joshua laughed at me.

A few minutes later I saw Nick walking toward me with a few cards in hand and a small smile.

“How’s it going over here?”

“It depends on how many cards you’ve found.” Just as I finished my statement I saw a red card flying around behind him. I tried to catch it before it took off again. Instead I found myself slipping into a previously dug hole and crashing into Nick.

He laughed, “you know, for someone so sporty, you’re kind of uncoordinated.”

I sat in Nick’s car trying my hardest to stay awake. His hand shook my leg to keep me awake but it wasn’t really working. I struggled to even keep my eyes open. Nick pulled up on the street before opening my door to find that after over thirty hours of no sleep I was extremely uncooperative. I stumbled out of his car and up the driveway while an arm around his shoulders to keep me walking straight. “Bet you didn’t think you’d actually have to carry me home.”

Nick chuckled, “not technically carrying you, but I can if you want.”

Before I could consider his words I saw my mom’s car parked in the driveway.

“Oh, no! I told her I’d come home after the diner!”

Nick looked between the car and the front door while calculating in his head. “What time does she get home?”

“She works downtown, she usually gets home around 7:30.”
“Where would she be around 7:50?”

“She’s either watering the backyard or showering.”

“Okay, let’s get you back in quietly.”

Nick snuck me into my house and up to my room without my mom noticing. I sat in my bed feeling completely exhausted and honestly kind of gross; I hadn’t showered in at least 24 hours. 

“I need to shower,” I breathed out as I fell back onto my bed.

Nick sat at my desk and yawned, “I think you’re going the wrong way.”

I forced myself to sit up and noticed Nick’s hand twitching in his lap. “Is that normal?”

He shook out his hand before pulling it out of my view, “just low sugar. We haven’t really eaten anything since breakfast.”

I’m an asshole. I really put his health at risk just so I could hang out with friends? I’d better fix this before he realizes what a terrible friend I am.

I quickly got off the bed with Nick’s eyes following me across the room, “wait here, I’ll be right back.”

I went downstairs to find my mom coming in from the backyard.

“How did it go last night?”

“Hey momma, it was cool. I was hanging out with Christine, Gilbert and Victor.”
“Aren’t those the boys who kept throwing lemons against the house?”

I giggled at the memory, “momma, that was in the fifth grade!”

“I don’t think that’s funny, I'd just had the windows washed.”

I reached into the fridge for whatever left over I could find before shoving it into the microwave.

“That’s too much for just one person.”

“Not if I missed lunch and dinner,” I countered.

My mom rolled her eyes, “it definitely doesn’t work that way okay. You didn’t even work out today, you just slept all day.”

“Momma, I’m hungry.”

She squinted at me, “Fine I guess you won’t have lunch tomorrow.”

I shrugged, “I can always cook tomorrow.”

I grabbed two forks when my mom wasn’t noticing and grabbed one of my brother’s sodas from the fridge.

“Eric’s going to be upset that you’re taking his stuff.”

“It’s just a soda, momma.”

“You don’t drink soda.”

“I do today.”

I grabbed a tray and placed the soda, water and the big plate of leftovers on it before rushing back up the stairs before my mom could ask any more questions.

I walked in to find a half asleep Nick.

“I hope you like eating yesterday’s dinner?”

Nick smiled, “I live off of leftovers, diet coke and children’s smiles,”

“What do you know, I’ve brought two of those things.”

Nick chuckled as I set everything on the floor. He sat on the floor while I turned on my iPod.

We sat on my floor eating yesterday’s grilled chicken and asparagus while Fun played through the speakers.

“Your friends are pretty cool.”

“I’d hope so, I’ve known them since we were around 5 years old. It’s a little too late to send them back now.”

“You think so, what does the warranty say?”

“I believe it said 10 years or 100,000 sex jokes. They hit both marks a very long time ago.”

Nick stuffed chicken in his mouth while I chewed my way through my asparagus. “So how come you said you didn’t have friends anymore?”

I shrugged, “I still talk to them at school and stuff. It’s just… after I started dating Charles, it really restricted my social life. Eventually I said no one too many times and I stopped being invited to things. This was the first time in over two years where we really hung out.”

Nick smirked, “you did seem kind of nervous around them.”

“I get nervous around everyone.”

“Even me?”

“On occasion.”

“What kind of occasion?”

“I don’t know,” I lied. Really anything that seemed to even remotely suggest that this could be more than a friendship made me nervous. I don’t know why. Was it just my general fear of dating? Was it the idea of losing a friendship over dating? Was it because I might be interested in dating him? I really couldn’t pinpoint what was going on in my brain.

Nick smirked, “I think you do know, ‘cause I think even I know.”

Change the topic.

“What makes you nervous?”

“Uncomfortable situations.”

“What counts as uncomfortable for you?”

“Things I might not be prepared for, mostly. On occasion, things other people might not be prepared for.”

“Like what?”

Nick smiled at me, “it’s not really something you’d want to get into.”

What does that mean?

“You spent the last twenty four hours with normal people. Did anyone catch your eye?”

Nick smirked, “one or two.”

“Why didn’t you do anything about it?”

He raised his eyebrows, “didn’t think she’d want me to.”

I gave him the most deadpanned face I could muster, “why would any girl not want you to?”

He sighed, “it happens, you didn’t want Joe to hug you.”

“That’s different. I’m just a weirdo.”

“I think you’re pretty cool.”

Nick and I sat around for a while before he began to yawn again. “Mind if I use your shower? I’m hoping the water will wake me up.”

“You know where it is, be quick, I need to shower, too.”

I handed him the shirt, hoodie and flannel pants he’d lent me over the past few weeks.

“Didn’t think I’d see these again.”

“I’m full of surprises.”

Nick walked out of the bathroom in flannel pants and a white t-shirt before crashing down onto my bed.

“All yours.”

I walked past him to get to the bathroom. “Hmm, you smell like an Endless Weekend.”

He breathed out a chuckle, “that’s all they’ve got around here apparently.”

“Excellent selection, I think I’ll try it for myself.” I shut the door behind me but not before catching Nick’s smirk.

I came out of the bathroom to find a suddenly shirtless Nick passed out on my bed. This I did not see coming. I checked my closet hoping to find some spare blankets so I could at least form a makeshift bed on the floor for myself. I had no such luck. As terrifying as it seemed to me, It seemed I’d be stuck sharing a bed with Nick. I took three deep breaths before crawling onto my bed as slinking up as close to the wall and as far away from Nick as possible. I placed a pillow between the two of us and kept an eye on him. Taking a nap on his shoulder was one thing but I’d never shared a bed with anyone before. I kept my eyes trained on him through the darkness of the room and tried to focus on my deep breathing. My fears got the best of me for much of the night. I don’t remember how long I held my position before finally succumbing to exhaustion.

 

End Notes:

So Nick and Vanessa got pretty close this time around. Physically.

What do you guys think of them?

Where is Nick's focus?

Does Vanessa understand Nick? Does she understand his implications?

Do you understand his implications?

Am I not doing this right?

Will Nick ask her out ever? Would they make a good couple?

What's going to happen to them when Nick goes on tour?

I have so many questions and approximately zero answers.

Also I apologize for the extensive length of this chapter. It was supposed to be two chapters in my feeble attempt to get ahead... it didn't work out that way.

Please leave a comment if you're enjoying this story. I feel like the writing with a song concept was so much easier eight years ago when the songs led the story. But now it's getting harder to keep up with the concept since I'm trying to put more focus on character development over story arc.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

Pomp And Circumstance by Stephy

I cuddled the pillow beside me in my sleep before I felt a hand on my arm and I immediately jumped out of bed at full speed. My heart was pounding as I struggled to find any oxygen in the room. I could see Nick through the morning light as my jump shook him awake. He squinted as he looked around the room. His eyes finally landed on me.

“Nessa?”

I tried to fight back the hyperventilating that seemed to be inevitable. I tucked my head in my knees and closed my eyes. I tried taking deep breaths but somehow I had lost all ability to force my lungs to expand and contract. Where is the air? 

She could hear Nick’s voice but she couldn’t understand a word he was saying. Her brain had gone into overdrive checking every inch of her body for some sign of injury. Is she hurt? Did he hurt her? Why is he here? She tried to ascertain the situation but with her inability to even move, she struggled to produce anything more than tears. She sat frozen in a state of seemingly perpetual panic before her brain function returned.

Oxygen started to fill my lungs again after a while and I took that as an opportunity to finally pull my head out from between my legs. I inspected my arms and legs carefully. Not a scratch. I don’t remember anything before someone touched my arm. That means I’m okay, right?

I looked around my room to see my door still locked and a worried Nick sitting beside me on the floor. It took me a moment to recall that I had let him in here. As soon as I did, I felt guilt wash over me. I really put him through all of this even though he hadn’t done anything wrong.

“Hey,” he whispered cautiously.

I shook my head before eyeing the bed. The pillow was still in place. The entire space was completely undisturbed except for the now empty bed.

“You slept in my room,” I mumbled.

Nick eyed me nervously, “I didn’t mean to. I just kind of… fell asleep. I’m sorry.”

I thought back to the fact that I had kept him out all night and all day. Really, it was my fault.

I shook my head, “I’m sorry I’m being so weird.” I looked out my window to see the barely rising sun. It is way too early to be awake. It is way too early to be in this position.

“It’s okay, I’ll get out of your hair.”

“No, don’t,” I whispered. Even though I did want him to leave. I was afraid that if I kicked him out he’d stop being my friend after something like this.

Nick sat beside me awkwardly for a moment before a yawn slipped past his lips. His yawn provoked mine and reminded me that it was definitely too early for any of this.

I took a deep breath before crawling back into bed where I used to be. Nick watched me carefully from his space on the floor. I stared at him for a moment wondering how to say the words without actually saying the words.

“Um, can you-” I looked over at the space on the other side of the pillow where Nick used to rest.

He offered me a concerned tight lip smile before coming to sit beside me. I took a deep breath as the bed shifted under his weight. “Sorry, I just… never shared a bed with anyone before.”

Nick nodded sadly at me.

“What’s wrong?”

His head dipped as he slumped down, collapsing into himself like a dying star, “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

I shook my head, “It’s not your fault, I’m just weird.”

He bit his lip as he leaned on his right hand beside me. I reached across the pillow divider to hold his hand. He looked over at me with those sad brown eyes and I desperately wanted to give him a reassuring hug. And yet, at the same time, I didn’t. I was stuck between what I wanted and what I was too scared to do.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.

He breathed out a silent, humorless laugh, “this definitely wasn’t your fault.”

I bit my lip honestly wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep. I tugged on his hand hoping I wouldn’t have to ask. He looked at my hand before his eyes shot up to me. I watched him swallow hard.

“Um, Ness, I don’t think you know what you’re asking right now.”

I looked up at him with more certainty, “I do.”

He cleared his throat and his cheeks turned pink. What am I missing here? He shook his head, “I don’t- uh… we should just…” He bit his lip and furrowed his brow momentarily in thought.

I watched him as my eyes began to close without my permission. I saw him look over at me and I tugged on his hand again as a relieved smile spread across his face. “You want me to lay down?”

I looked at him confused, is that not what I asked before?

Nick leaned back and held my hand swiping his thumb across the back of it as my heart rate elevated again. This time, instead of twisting my stomach around my other organs to the point of retching, My stomach suddenly felt like it had it’s very own hoverboard. Just casually drifting through my body in a swift and oddly peaceful motion. This is strange.

I bit my lip trying to figure out what was going on. I’m pretty sure panic attacks are meant to be a lot less pleasant than this.

“What’s wrong?”

I shook my head, “I feel weird.”

“I can still go,” he offered.

I blushed, “I like this weird. It’s kind of a good weird?”

I watched Nick’s eyes light up as a smile spread across his freckled face.


I woke up hours later to find Nick sleeping in the same position as before. My stomach started floating again. I smiled at my small victory. Maybe if he had moved again things would have gone differently, but they didn’t and I was pleased with my win. I shook the hand still wrapped in Nick’s to wake him up.

“Mm,” he moaned as he stirred awake.

“Good morning,” I smiled.

Nick opened his eyes and focused his eyes on me. His usually squinty eyes were even squintier now. He smiled at me and squeezed my hand without a word.

“Good morning part two, I guess?” I corrected myself.

“I like this morning better than the last one.”

His voice was raspy and it reminded me of the time he called me on my way to school.

“You sound kind of tough in the mornings.”

Nick rubbed his eyes with an amused smile, “is that a bad thing?”

I giggled, “I like it. It makes you sound like you’ve lived a hard life.”

Nick chuckled, “is that so?”

I shimmied with joy beside him, “just like a big tough guy, John Wayne-ish maybe?”

His eyes darted from my eyes to my lips before he bit his. Does my breath stink? Stupid question; everyone’s does in the morning. I blushed feeling embarrassed by the fact that I’d been shucking my morning breath at him.

“John Wayne, huh? Is that your type?”

I shrugged as I crawled out of bed and toward the bathroom to brush my teeth. “Honestly, I don’t know what my type is.”

“At all?”

I squeezed toothpaste onto my toothbrush, “I know I like when someone is smart.”

I brushed my teeth while Nick moved to stand at the frame of the bathroom with a small smirk, “any other prerequisites?”

“I ike a I ooh is ory,” I responded with a toothbrush in my mouth.

“I think I got about two words of that,” he smiled.

I spit out the paste that had built up in my mouth, “I like a guy who is worldly.”

“What do you mean by that?”
I shrugged as I wiped my mouth, “I don’t know. I like when he knows things. It makes me feel like I can trust him.”

“What kind of things?”

“Anything really, I just like the idea of a guy who, I don’t know…” I answered honestly.

“Well what do you picture as your ideal mate?”

I leaned against the bathroom counter as I thought about it for a moment, “I think I’ve always wanted someone good at life. Did you see that John Wayne movie where he strolled into town and he was the outcast but he just seemed to know something that no one else did? He just kind of had this way about him?”
“So a black and white cowboy?”

“No,” I giggled. “I just like the idea of a guy who is who he is and he’s open-minded and protective but not possessive? I don’t know how to define it! I’ve never really thought about it. I figured if I wasn’t looking, I didn’t really need a picture of it, you know?”

“Well what about physically, what do you find attractive?”

I blushed, “what do you find attractive?”

“You first.”

I bit my lip, “What I like looking at or?”

“However you’d define that.”

“I used to think Freshman was cute when I first met him. He looked very similar to the Kooks lead singer. You know with the curly hair? He also has brown eyes, but not my brown, more like a reddish, warm brown, I guess? But, you know, he was a baby so that was weird.”

Nick chuckled.

“Um, I’ve always been a sucker for dimples. I kind of like it when a guy is taller than me. I don’t know I feel like I could use him as a cocoon? You know if it weren’t for the whole me being me thing?”

Nick blushed at my words.

“Um, oh there’s this thing. You know how everyone just sort of loses it over a six pack or whatever?”

Nick cleared his throat and slightly flexed his abs.

“I actually like it more when their arms do that thing?” I used my index fingers to draw out a v shape. “Maybe it’s more of a shoulder thing? I don’t know.”

“That’s what you find attractive?”

I blushed. Thoughts of having someone to bite those muscles on had crossed my mind in the past. I shrugged away the thought, “it’s shallow but most of the physical stuff is. I don’t think it should really be a deciding factor in anything.”

Nick raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“Your turn.”

He smiled, “well not to sound shallow…” he teased. “But I think a great smile is just-”

“No! You can’t just say a smile after everything I just said.”

He chuckled, “ can I finish? I also like full lips. Big eyes, you know. I like when girls are strong. Nothing crazy, don’t have to lift a car or anything, but just enough to hold her own. Um, I really like toned legs and you know…”

I know what? “I know?”

He blushed as he diverted his eyes to the floor, “I like a girl with good assets.”

“Assets?” As in monetary?

He looked up with bright pink cheeks, “um,” he scratched the back of his neck and I watched the muscles on his arm before blushing all over again.

“I don’t know how I should say this but… an ass… I guess?”

“Doesn’t everyone have an ass?”

He looked up at me, “technically, I just kind of meant…”

“Like Kim Kardashian?”

“Um, sort of. Not really.”

“Can you use an example?”

Nick blushed, “I’d rather not. I’m not one to name names.”

“Can you use it in a sentence?”

Nick chuckled and shook his head, “funny.”


I sat in Mr. Robert’s class on Monday. He and I just sat around hanging out while the rest of the senior class practiced their entrance walk for the graduation ceremony tomorrow.

“So, how did it go with your friend?”

“It went fine, we went to the beach with some of my on-campus friends.”

Mr.Roberts brows perked up in surprise, “oh?”

“I went with Jacklyn, Joshua, Victor and Gilbert.”

“Wait which Victor?”

“Puertorican Victor? Freckled like a Jackson Pollock? Obsessed with baseball?”

“Victor and Gilbert… those are those two baseball players who connected to my speaker a few years ago and kept playing pornography during my lesson.”

I shrugged, “they never told me about that.”

“I’m surprised you’d be friends with them.”

“Well, I knew them prior to their verging on creepy phase. Since kinder.”

Mr. Roberts nodded with a look of surprise, “didn’t expect you’d be friends with them.”

I tucked my hair behind my ear, “well, you know… can’t pick your friends.”

He rolled his eyes, “really? My whole life must be a lie, then.”

I giggled at his reaction. “Where is your first period?”

“Practicing for graduation, like you should be doing.”

“I’m good, I know how to walk.”

He shot me a look that said ‘yeah, okay.’

“Most of the time.”

“Well most of the time, I know math. That’s how I got this job.”

I giggled at his comparison. “I figured it was my last chance to ditch.”

“How’s that going for you by the way?”

I’m confused.

“The whole, living outside the law thing.”

I nodded, “well, I ain’t dead yet… It’s fun, but also kind of exhausting. I feel like you lose a lot of sleep like that.”

Mr. Roberts shrugged, “meh, you could, but not necessarily.”

My brain tried to figure out his implication before jumping to another topic altogether. “How do you know the difference between a good relationship and a bad one?”

He sighed, “it depends. That’s a very open-ended question. What are your thoughts?”

I pushed out my lower lip in thought, “I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve had a good one. I’m not sure what it might look like.”

“Well what was the bad one like?”

I shrugged, “he was kind of mean. He was controlling and… demanding? It felt like if he wanted it done, it had to happen, regardless of what I might be feeling toward it.”

Mr.Robert’s pushed up his glasses, “based on that, what do you think a good relationship would look like?”

I thought about it for a minute. What would make me feel happy? “I guess one where he doesn’t tell me what to do, doesn’t make me do things I don’t want to do? I think you should be able to trust your partner.”

He shrugged, “not bad. I think it’s not so much about not pushing you to do things. I think with open communication you can set firm boundaries and still do some things that scare you.”

I stared at him confused.

“I don’t mean do everything your partner insists on. It’s still hugs not drugs, and no means no, just… maybe don’t be so quick to say no when he suggests a road trip or bungee jumping or something crazy that you wouldn’t imagine for yourself.”

Before I could respond the PA came on, “students, the seniors have just finished their rehearsal, you are free to go, have a great summer.”

I looked over at Mr. Roberts who flashed me an encouraging smile, “it’s been a pleasure having you as a student these past 2 years… now get out.”

I smiled at his humor, “will you be at the graduation?”

“Why? I’m not graduating,” he smirked.

“Well thanks for… you know, teaching me how to count and stuff. You learned me good,” I joked.

He rolled his eyes and threw his head back exasperated, “ugh, the education system in California is a freaking joke!”

I giggled and gave him one last wave before leaving his classroom.


Nick picked me up on Thursday for a party at Kevin’s place again. Now that I’d graduated, my mom had lifted her ban on Nick, even if she did so begrudgingly.

“So what’s the theme again?”

Nick smiled, “no theme, just a small hang with the band and stuff before we hit the road.”

“I kind of miss Rochelle,” I admitted.

“Well when you see her, tell her you missed her a lot ‘cause she hasn’t stopped talking about you.”

I giggled imagining Rochelle talking Nick’s ear off. I’d come to learn that, like me, Nick was not a social butterfly by birth and he really had to make an effort to engage with others. So the thought of Rochelle, in all her bubbliness, following Nick to ask him about me while he silently takes it all in for the last two months was nothing short of hilarious.

We made the familiar walk up Kevin’s overflowing driveway to his front door. Nick rang the doorbell and waited a few moments before opening the door.

Why would he ring if he knew the door was open?

As soon as I walked in I was assaulted by a booming, “surprise!”

I looked around in shock while the entire band and crew all stood at the end of the foyer with a banner that read ‘Congrats Grad!’

“What?”

Rochelle charged at me and engulfed me in a hug, “congratulations my little bookworm!”

I giggled in surprise while I adjusted to the idea that all of these people were celebrating me. Everyone in this room made an effort to be here for me. I forced myself not to cry and believe me, it wasn’t easy.

“How did you know?”

Rochelle looked behind me at Nick. He flashed me a small smile as he buried his hands in his pockets.

He planned a surprise party for me? The guy with a million things to do and he carved out time for me? A mix of guilt and joy washed over me knowing that this was already a stressful time for him since he was going back on tour after a long hiatus. The corners of my mouth turned down against my will and the tears that I’d been holding back broke free.

I wrapped my arms around him and buried my face in his chest as I tried to hide my tears.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to see you walk. I just wanted to make sure you knew how big your accomplishment was,” he whispered into my hair as his arms encircled me.

“Aww!” Joe cried out from somewhere behind me before the rest of the crowd joined in.

I held on to Nick for a little longer than I should have after the initial tears just to avoid the awkwardness of the obvious blush on my face. I tried to collect myself but it wasn’t the easiest with Joe egging me on.

When I finally did release him I found that everyone was waiting to give me a high five instead of a hug. I sighed in relief knowing I wouldn’t be ambushed. Even Joe accepted a high five instead of squeezing me in a death grip.

Eventually after greeting everyone, we made our way outside to the backyard. The rest of the day proceeded like a normal event. Everyone just hung out and listened to music. A few setup a game table where they played drinking games. I stood beside Rochelle on the sideline while a few guys played a game called stack cup. When the game ended more people jumped in.

Joe wiggles his eyebrows, “what do you say, grad; wanna play?”

I thought about it for a moment before looking back at Nick who was chatting with some of the musicians. This is a reasonable rule to break right? Everyone else is doing it. That might be terrible reasoning but also I kind of want to.

Joe smirked at me, “that face looks like a yes to me.”

A few of the guys set up the red cups in the center of the table while Joe explained the rules.

“Once you bounce the ball into the cup you need to stack it on the person to your left. If someone stacks you, you’ve got to take a cup from the middle and drink. If you get the ball in the cup on the first try you can pass the stack to whoever you want.”

I nodded as he went through the motions. Based on his description it sounds like I’d want someone awful at bouncing the ball on my right. I looked around the group and picked a spot next to the guy who seemed a little buzzed already. I figured if he was seeing double, he’d have a harder time making his shot. As soon as we were about to begin Joe stepped in between me and the buzzed guy. I looked up at him confused and he just smirked at me.

“Hope you’re thirsty, grad.”

I won’t lie, I was worried that Joe might stack me. Once the game started the cups moved quickly down the line until it reached Joe. He pretended not to see it until the other cup got a little closer.

“Oh, my bad. Didn’t see it,” he smiled. He moved very slowly to set up his shot. He bounced the ball and missed. “Damn, thought I’d be better at this.”

I watched as the other cup reached the person next to him. He watched the guy take two shots before finally trying again. The ball went in and he slid the cup over to me.

“No pressure, grad,” he smirked at me.

Before I knew it, I had consumed about half of the cups throughout the game. This is definitely not how I expected this game to go for me.

After chugging what seemed to be the equivalent of two beers, I still got stuck with the bitch cup.

“Chug, chug, chug!”

I bitterly took the drink as fast as I could as I fought against my gag reflex. Beer wasn’t really part of my palate but my competitiveness had put me in this position. I finally walked away suppressing the need to vomit and feeling more bloated than ever before.

I made my way over to Nick when the game was done figuring that I should call it quits on drinking for a while. Nick looked over at me with a smile before his brows pressed in confusion.

“What happened to your shirt?”

I looked down and found wet spots on my shirt from when I had been downing beer and struggling to get it all to fit in my mouth at once.

“Joe. My mouth isn’t very big,” I explained.

I saw some of the bandmates cover their laughs while Nick squinted his eyes. Am I missing something?

“Do you want to try that again?” one of the band mates offered.

I looked back at the game table, “they said it was called stack cup, and I didn’t do so well.”

“Rage cage,” Nick smirked.

“I don’t know what that is,” I shook my head.

“Hey, grad, come say hi to my parents!” Joe ordered from besides Mr. and Mrs. Jonas.

Oh no. I don’t want them to see me covered in beer. This looks bad. I looked over at Nick with a face that said ‘please help me.’

He smiled, “it’s fine. You look great.”

He took my hand and led me toward them even though every part of me wished I could just be invisible for a little while.

“Mom, dad, you guys met the grad,” Joe introduced me.

“Vanessa, so nice to see you again,” Mr. Jonas greeted as he extended a hand out to me.

I accepted his handshake despite the bright red color that I felt spreading across my face.

“Hi,” I whispered.

As I shook Mrs. Jonas’ hand I noticed her eyes on my shirt and I felt like dying.

“I’m sorry,” I let out quietly.

I heard Joe chuckling before Mrs. Jonas adjusted her eyes on him. “Leave her alone, Joe.”

“It wasn’t me,” he whined.

I looked up at her mortified. 

“Don’t let him bully you again,” she instructed me with a small smile.

I let out a sigh of relief before Mr. Jonas called over the rest of the band and crew members.

Nick smiled immediately and rubbed my mid back excitedly. I looked over at him to find the biggest smile on his face.

After everyone had gathered around us, Mr. Jonas took the time to speak.

“Well, Vanessa, I know we’re a little late but we just wanted to say congratulations on your accomplishment.”

I felt my entire body begin to overheat with everyone’s attention on me again. Why is this so excessive?

“We actually managed to get a little present together for you. We heard that you were highly requested on the softball team and a few of our tour members really took a liking to you.”

I set my eyes toward the ground, hoping that the attention would soon be directed away from me.

“Actually the reason we were a little late is because we were meeting with your mother.”

Wait, what? How do they know my mom?

“After promising her that we’d treat you with the utmost care and respect, not just for you but also for your family, she agreed to allow us to share our gift with you.”

Mrs. Jonas gave me an envelope with a larger smile than the one she’d given me before.

“Now, this does come with rules and stipulations, not just on your mother’s end but ours as well but for now, more than anything we just want to say congratulations to you.”

I stared at the envelope in shock trying to figure out what was going on. Joe quickly nudged me, “open it up already.”

I slowly opened the envelope to find two backstage passes for the show I was going to with my niece this weekend.

“Wow!” was all I could think to say.

“There’s more,” Joe grinned at me.

I looked over at him confused.

“We were wondering how you might feel about going on tour with us this summer?”

Mrs. Jonas asked me.

My mouth dropped in absolute shock, “what?”

“Come on, Grad! We need a good shortstop for the tour league,” Joe insisted.

“I-I can’t I have a wedding and-”

“We spoke to your mother and we will be coordinating with her to have you back in time for any big family events and this would only be through the summer before you start college,” Mrs. Jonas notified me.

I looked over at Nick absolutely shocked.

He smiled at me, “what do you say, Ness?”

“I… yes?”

There was a booming cheer all over again as I was tackled in a hug from behind.

“Yes, my baby girl is going on tour with me afterall,” Rochelle cheered into my ear.


At the end of the night I sat in Nick’s car with him as he started the car.

“So, how was your night?” He smiled at me.

My brows shot up while I tried to piece together a response, “very surprising. I didn’t expect… any of it, really.”

Nick looked over at me, “are you in the mood for another surprise?”

What? I watched him nervously as he reached into the backseat and pulled out a box with really loose-fitting wrapping paper and handed it to me. I held it in my hand not really sure what to do with it.

“Um…”

“Don’t make fun of the wrapping; I tried my best.”

“It's not bad,” I lied.

“Open it up!”

I did as Nick instructed not really knowing what to expect anymore. I mean they already invited me on tour, what more could they possibly give me.

I unwrapped it to find a Canon Rebel T4i. How is this happening?

“I kind of had to guess ‘cause you only said Canon. Did I get the right one?”

“Nick, I- I can’t take this.”

“Was it the wrong one? I can get-”

“No, Nick, I mean I can’t accept this gift.” My eyes began to tear up feeling overwhelmed.

“Wait, what’s wrong?”

“I shouldn’t be getting any of this, I mean the party, the tour, the camera… I don’t deserve any of this.”

Nick pulled over before turning his full attention on me, “what do you mean? You graduated, that’s a big deal.”

I sniffled and my face started to turn red knowing that at this moment I looked like an absolute mess. “I don’t like this, I don’t want to be that person that just takes things. I shouldn’t be going on tour with you, I shouldn’t even be your friend, I’m just a mess and all of this is just- I’m just- people keep sliding over to make room for me and they shouldn’t! I’m fucking useless! I’m wasted space!”

I noticed Nick’s eyes widen after hearing me curse for the first time and somehow that triggered me to cry harder. His arms quickly wrapped around me without another word.

He held me as I cried at full volume feeling completely hopeless and frustrated in myself. It took a few minutes before my cries started to die down. Nick stroked my hair as he whispered in my ear.

“You’re amazing and beautiful and funny. You’re kind and brilliant and a great shortstop.”

I giggled through my tears at his words.

“You’re a wonderful person and you deserve the world. I know nothing that I say or do will ever make you believe any of what I’m saying but I’ll pray for you. I’ll pray that you find peace within yourself, I hope you learn to be happy.”

 

End Notes:

So Vanessa seems to be getting worse. She disassociated for a minute during her panic attack there. What did you think of her mini graduation party or her graduation gifts. Or her shifting relationship with Joe? What do you think Nick thinks of all of this? Do you think they're a good fit as they are? Do they have a healthy relationship? Should they be together at this stage?

I have another story if you're interested, it's more... adult content-based? It's called Let's Fall in Love for the Night. Check it out if you think it might be interesting... or if you feel sorry for me, either is fine... I'm not picky.

Either way, happy reading and have a good weekend,

Stephy

Thatís Just The Way We Roll by Stephy
Author's Notes:

We are wild

We are free

so call us freaks

but that's just the way we roll

 On Friday, I drove up to my other brother’s house to pick up my niece. She came bouncing out of her home dressed in little black flats, and ruffled black skirt and a purple shirt. Her outfit was complete with jewelry and a purple bow in her hair.

I could see her mother laughing from the door as Sandra rushed over to me with the largest smile I’d ever seen.

She tore my door open before hopping in.

“Hey buttercup, are you ready for today?”

She nodded enthusiastically, “do you think Joe will be able to see me?”

I hid a smile knowing that Joe would absolutely bend over backwards to make her happy.

“Absolutely,” I promised. “In fact, I have a surprise for you.”

Her eyes widened in delight, “what is it?”

Her chunky cheeks could not be redder and I wondered how long she could hold a smile before her cheeks gave out on her.

“It’s a surprise,” I reminded her.

It took me longer than I’d care to admit to find the back access to the venue. When I finally did security kept trying to shoo me away before I could even speak to them. 

“Tia Nena, I don’t think we’re supposed to go through here?” Sandra spoke up with concern beside me.

I bit my lip nervously feeling as though it might be best to do what they say. I stayed in my car not moving forward or backing up trying to calculate the best course of action. I heard a car honking behind me before I snapped out of the internal war going on in my head. I tried backing up before realizing the guy hadn’t given me much space. I got out of my car to ask him to back up and he rolled down his window.

“Nessa? Can you just drive up, I’m a little late and Nick is going to lose it.”

I felt awful for not having learned his name, yet, “I can’t they’re telling me to turn around.”

The guy got out of his car to address security before they got on the phone with the production team and finally waved me in.

“Who is that?” Sandra asked watching as the guy got back into his car.

“Uh,” I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know the guy who just got us into the back end parking lot so I lied. “He’s a friend.”

I pulled in to see the tour buses and production trucks lined up while everyone seemed too busy to notice anything around them.

I parked my car beside the guy who’s name I still hadn’t learned and followed him inside to the best of my ability. He really jogged his way in and out of sight while Sandra was still looking around confused by her surroundings.  Honestly, I was kind of lost, too.

It took some wandering around before we ran into Nick’s younger brother in the hallway

“Hi, Vanessa!”

“Hi, Franklin,” I greeted.

His face twisted instantly, “people don’t call me that, I’m Frankie,” he corrected me.

“Sorry, Frankie.” I apologized. “Do you know where we’re supposed to go?”

He shrugged, “Nick’s still in his room getting ready if you want to go there.”

Sandra pressed up against my arm and looked up at me shyly. “Do you want to go to Nick’s room?”

She nodded as a blush crept over her face.

“What’s your name?” Frankie asked her.

She looked up at me and I saw her cheeks expanding into a smile again.

I nudged her lightly, “what’s your name?”
She kept her eyes on me as she whispered, “Sandra.”
“Don’t tell me, tell him,” I encouraged her.

She looked over at him before speaking a little louder, “Sandra.”

“Cool name, mine’s Frankie,” he waved at her.

She hid behind me again and I tried to hold back a giggle.

“Nick’s room is this way.”

We walked through what seemed like a maze and I wondered how I’d find my way out. We finally knocked on Nick’s door and our last conversation flooded my brain. I was reminded of what a mess I was the last time I saw him and suddenly my stomach turned and I began to feel nauseous. Nick opened the door as his eyes fell on me and immediately drifted to Sandra.

“Hey, there birthday girl!” He smiled at her.

The grin on her face looked like it would be there forever.

“Sandra, say hi,” I reminded her.

She whispered out a greeting before hiding behind me.

Nick looked up at me with a small smile, “are you guys excited for the show?”

“Oh, yeah, my sister-in-law says ‘someone’,” I ticked my head toward Sandra. “Has been dancing around the house and practicing her moves for today.”

Nick chuckled, “no way, is that true?”

Sandra’s face was bright red at this point as she continued to hide behind me.

“Hey buttercup, you can’t hide forever. Speak up.”

Nick looked up at me again as I peeled my niece off from my body.

“How are you feeling today?”

I tried to ignore the embarrassment creeping in on my face. “Um, I’m… fine. I’m good.”

Nick gave me a tight lipped smile, “well, I gotta get going to the meet and greet so I’ll see you guys out there?”

Sandra looked at me shocked, like she hadn’t seen them just two months ago. I giggled at her reaction.

“Um, do you know where we're supposed to be?” 

Nick stared at me for a while before leading the way. We stood in the meet and greet line for about ten minutes before we heard loud squeals moving up the line behind us. I turned to see Joe heading in our direction toward the meet and greet room.

Huh. Is he late or is Nick early? I’d imagine, given that Nick hates tardiness he was just a few minutes early. I wondered what would actually happen if Joe was ever late to something involving Nick. Is he as temperamental about timeliness as he is about sports? In the admittedly short time that I’d known him, I’d never seen him angry. I’d seen him frustrated and annoyed from time to time but even then, it was hardly more than an eyeroll. No raised voice, no punches, nothing.

Even after Joe had arrived, the line still hadn’t started moving. I looked up to the front of the line to try and figure out what was going on. It didn’t seem like anyone was going in there yet. It was another fifteen minutes before the squeals picked up again. I looked back to see Kevin walking by with a very serious look on his face. He’s gotta be late right? I mean, Nick wouldn’t be almost half an hour early would he? Finally the line started moving as fans were being ushered in for pictures.

I used my new camera to snap a picture of Sandra with the guys before we were ushered out toward the arena seating. We found our seat in the third row waiting for the concert to begin while Sandra bounced around in her seat excitedly. Half an hour after start time, the band still hadn’t come on stage.

“Tia Nena, I’m getting hungry.”

I looked at my watch wondering what was going on before I decided to just get her some nachos. As soon as we walked out of our row, the lights turned down and music started playing. I looked over and saw two people standing on stage before a pop song came on. Pretty sure that’s not the Jonas Brothers.

I got some nachos for Sandra and two waters before heading back to our seats. Sandra danced around to Karmin songs during their set.

Finally, when they came on stage, their first song came through the speakers. The opening chords instantly made me smile. My mind flashed back to the first time I heard this song. This was when I first started crushing on Nick.

“When you look me in the eyes, and tell me that you love me, everything’s alright.”

I took pictures of the guys on stage while everyone around me screamed at the top of their lungs.The majority of their set I knew by heart aside from a few songs that were likely from the new album that they’d yet to release. I saw Nick look down at me every once in a while with a smirk as I snapped a few pictures of him. I tried to ignore the bubbling feeling my insides would produce every time he looked at me. Joe found me in the crowd and shot me a wink while I rolled my eyes at him. After some time I put my camera away and decided to enjoy the show. I danced along with Sandra beside me, I even learned her moves so we could do them together. I jumped around with her and just allowed myself to be excited and not feel the need to hide it for once.

Toward the end of the set Joe started searching the crowd before smiling down at Sandra. He asked security to bring her up to the stage so that he and Nick would be able to serenade her.

I watched her wiggle around on stage completely excited and blown away as they sang Hello, Beautiful to her. When it was over they helped her back off the stage before Nick looked over at me with a huge smile. The girls around me were louder than I assumed possible at the sight of an open mouthed smile from him. I could hardly hear the strumming of his guitar over their screams. 

I understood the smile he sent me when Joe started singing, “Tonight, we are young.”

I beamed up at Nick remembering the adventure we’d been on just last week.

After the show, security escorted Sandra and I backstage again toward Nick’s dressing room. We got in his room just as he was getting in the shower. It was about 10 already and I noticed Sandra starting to yawn.

We sat on the couch to wait for Nick while she began to nod off. Nick stepped out of the bathroom fully dressed before reaching for a juice from his minifridge.

“Hey, partner, what did you think?”

“Shhh,” I whispered as I ran my fingers through Sandra’s hair as she slept.

Nick looked back at us and whispered, “she’s had a long day.”

I smiled, “No kidding, she’s burned off a week's supply of energy in two hours.”

He took a sip from his juice, “do you want to head into the green room? Hang out with the crew for a bit.”

I shook my head, “you can go ahead, I should get her home.”

Nick eyed Sandra, “she’s safe here. We have security, we can just let her sleep for a while. Frankie does it all the time.”

“I’m sorry, but while she’s in my care, I can’t let her out of my sight.”

Nick was silent for a moment before he smiled, “you’re cute with her.”

“As opposed to my regular ugly self without her?”

He shook his head, “no, I just mean, you’re almost maternal. It’s sweet.”

Honestly, it wasn’t about being sweet to her or being a fun aunt or any of that. I just felt like I needed to keep an eye on her and keep her safe. The last time I let my guard down it didn’t end well for me. I couldn’t risk making that mistake again. Especially not with Sandra at stake.

“Thanks for having us, Nick. But I think I have to get her home.”

“I’ll go with you.”

I slid out from under Sandra and rose to my feet

“That’s not necessary,” I assured him as I got up. “I’m sure you’ve had an exhausting day and you just want to celebrate with your team. We’ll just get out of your hair.”

I tried to slip my hands under Sandra's sleeping form to try and carry her but I found myself struggling. It would seem that a ten year old child is just outside of my range of abilities.

“I’ll give you a hand,” Nick quickly scooped her up before turning back toward me. “Lead the way.”
I bit my lip, “I can’t.”

His lips turned up slightly at the ends before he turned toward the door, “can you give me a hand?”

I opened the door and followed behind him as he led me out into the backlot. “Where did you park?”

“Next to Matt,” I responded, finally knowing his name after Joe introduced him during the show.

I opened the door and slid the seat forward so that Sandra could sleep in the back. Nick put her in before turning to look at the closed fence. “Uh, do you maybe want to wait for a bit? Just ‘cause Some fans might still be waiting out there and it might not be entirely safe to leave yet.”

I looked over at my sleeping niece, “I need to get her home, I can’t just leave her lying around.”

“I’ll go with you, then.”

I shook my head, “stay, enjoy your opening night.”

Nick looked over at me wearily, “it’s not very safe right now, Ness. I’d rather not send you out there alone.”

I bit my lip knowing that Nick was stubborn and wouldn’t let me get my way. Is that such a bad thing, though? I mean, I kind of do want to be around him, didn’t get much of a chance to hang out earlier.

I handed him my keys, “careful, the clutch is getting a little finicky. I suspect it’s going to give out soon.”

He slid the driver’s seat all the way back, “what kind of Tinkerbell-sized…”

He smirked at me as he slid into the seat, “stop, I have short legs and the clutch has to go all the way in.”

He squeezed my thigh, and my stomach did the floating thing again, “I don’t think you can call it short legs when the entire body is proportionally-sized. I think at that point, we’d just call you short.”

I shook my head as the security opened the fence to let us out onto the street. I was surprised to find people on the street screeching at the sight of Nick driving my car. Girls started snapping pictures and I started to wish my windows were tinted.

“This is crazy,” I whispered.

Nick chuckled quietly, “yeah, it can get to be a bit much.”

We got onto the freeway and I kept my eyes on the rearview mirror trying to figure out if someone was in fact following us or just headed in the same direction.

“So how did you learn to drive stick?”

My attention was snapped away from the mirror and toward Nick. “Oh, my brother. I insisted because I really wanted to make sure I knew how to drive one in case I found a vintage model that I really wanted.”

Nick nodded, “that’s pretty cool, most people only know how to drive automatic nowadays.”

I shrugged, “well, I haven’t learned how to drive that one, yet.”

He looked over at me with a smile, “you’re funny.”

“I’m serious, I’ve accidentally shifted into reverse or neutral at a stop, it drives my mom insane.”

“Well, it takes some getting used to,” he allowed.

The car fell into silence and I immediately felt uncomfortable, “I’m sorry about… last time.”

I peeked over at Nick to try and gauge his reaction. There wasn’t one.

“I didn’t mean to do any of that in front of you. I just… I lost control for a bit and… I’m not usually like that- I’m never like that.”

Nick didn’t take his eyes off the road, “when you say that, are you referring to the state of mind you were in or the vulnerability you displayed?”

I didn’t know how to respond.

“I’m not someone who would get upset over your bad days. I might not be able to understand why you feel the way you do, but I can respect your feelings and support you through them.”

I looked away and out the window hoping this conversation could be avoided altogether.

“I worry about you, Vanessa. I get the feeling that’s a side of you that no one knows. I don’t want you to suffer alone.”

“I don’t,” I lied. “That’s never happened before. I think it was just- I was overwhelmed by the stuff and everything and I was drunk from the Joe thing and-”

“Stop lying.” His voice was low and heavy. The gravity of it sent everything in my brain into a screeching halt.

I bit my lip trying to figure out what he wanted to hear from me. How am I supposed to make this go away? My fingers traced the threading on my jeans while I tried to piece together some sort of explanation.

“For this to work, you need to stop lying. Stop hiding things from me. I can’t help you if you won’t let me in.”

I looked out my window feeling conflicted. Am I really supposed to tell him the truth? What happens if I tell him and it’s too much? What if I’m too big of a mess?
Nick reached for my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Talk to me.”

I can’t. I sat silently before Nick turned the music off completely. He was trying to make the environment so uncomfortable that I was cornered into talking. We sat in absolute silence for a few minutes and I felt completely out of my element. My nerves were twisting and squeezing my insides. My palms started sweating and there’s no way he didn’t notice. I sighed in defeat.

“I’m a mess.”

I pulled my hand away from Nick before wiping both of my palms on my jeans. “I feel like I’m terrified of everything. Everything makes me nervous.”

I looked over in his direction but explicitly avoided his face and instead set my eyes on his hand on the wheel. “I know you told me not to, but I still feel like I’m intruding in other people’s lives. I feel like I’m taking opportunities from others. I feel so selfish and self-involved whenever anything is focused on me. I hide during my own birthday parties. I don’t really join a conversation, I just sit and listen.”

This is too much. Tell him you’re doing better! Give him proof! Build a wall that he can’t get through. “ I- I want to study psychology because I feel like it might fix me and at the very least I can help others and then I won’t be in other people’s way so much? I’ll be doing more good than harm?”

I saw Nick look over at me from the corner of my eye and whatever wall I was trying to rebuild just came tumbling back down. “I want to leave a good impact on the people around me but whenever I’m not doing that I feel this extreme guilt. I don’t think I deserve to be your friend, or anyone’s friend really. My dad is just-”

Tears began to form, “when he left, I didn’t hear from him for a whole year. I haven’t even seen him since he left over two years ago. He used to talk about me like I was this thing that his world revolved around. But when they separated… he forgot I existed.”

I wiped my tears but they were quickly replaced with more, “he left the day before my sixteenth birthday. I didn’t hear from him until after September of the following year. I tried calling him, so did my mom. But I never heard from him… He said he loved me but he disappeared overnight. If my own father can do that, what does that say about me?”

I wiped away the tears again before bringing my knees up to my chest. I rested my head on my knees and directed my eyes out the window. For a minute, I was able to breathe deeply and just relax. I pretended I was the only one in the car. I pretended that entire jumble hadn’t just come out of my mouth. I closed my eyes and just focused on my ability to breathe. How did he get me to say all of this outloud? I’d never done that before.

After a few moments I felt Nick’s hand stroking my hair. I felt more at ease in the moment than I’d felt in a really long time. We drove around in silence for a while before Nick spoke up.

“Um, where are we dropping off Sandra?”

I smiled thankful that Nick was allowing my confessions to slip past, “Remember the party?”

He nodded, “got it.”

After we dropped off Sandra we sat parked outside Nick’s home, “wanna come in for a bit?”

I looked over at him and bit my lip. Yes I want to be around him but also, I’m kind of afraid of what is happening with our friendship. I had never allowed myself to be this open or honest with anyone. I don’t know what to say in that situation.

Nick pressed his lips together, “I can see you debating in your head, you know?”

My mouth widened in shock, “wha- how?”

He chuckled before undoing his seatbelt and stepping out of the car. He walked over to open my door and held a hand out for me, “need a hand?”

I took his hand as he led me into the house.

We sat on his couch eating celery sticks while the tv was set to a music channel.

“I know you’re probably hoping I’ll let this go but I have to say something.” He confessed.

I quickly averted my gaze and held my breath afraid of what was coming next.

“I think you’re a good person. I think you’re something special and I think you could be brilliant but you keep letting things dull your shine. I know I’ll never understand the pain you’ve gone through but…”
He took my celery free hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “I want you to stop carrying the weight of everyone else on your shoulders. You’re not responsible for everything that happens around you. You are entitled to all the happiness in the world. As your friend, I’ll help you carry the load if that is what it takes. I’m here for you, no matter what.”

What? Why would he even want to do any of this?

Nick stroked my hair and kissed my forehead, sending my stomach back into zero-gravity. “Because I like you, Vanessa; and more than anything I just want to see you happy.”

My eyes widened as my brows raised in confusion. “How are you reading my mind?”

He chuckled, “I don’t need to, your face says it all.”

“It’s unsettling that you can read me so well,” I admitted.

He shrugged, “I’ve been paying attention.”
“That sounds exhausting,” who would ever want to put that much effort into me?

He smirked, “it’s not nearly as bad as you might think.”

I licked my lips, “well, you’re by far the best friend I’ve ever had.”

His smirk slowly stretched into a smile, “you’re my best friend, too.”

That wasn’t actually what I meant to imply although I suppose it is true.

I took a bite of my celery stick feeling unsatisfied and wishing I had gotten some nachos for myself at the concert.

“Hey Nick?”

He raised his eyebrows to let me know I had his attention.

“How would you feel about a midnight taco run? I’ll buy.”

He chuckled, “yeah, being healthy sucks, this celery just makes me sad.”

I beamed at him before wrapping my arms around him, “I’m happy right now.”

He chuckled before wrapping his arms around me. It felt like a relief to not be afraid to be this close to someone. My stomach had another moment of free fall and I tried to hide the blush creeping onto my face.

I opened the door for Nick while he chuckled, “so where is this taco place anyway?”

I bit my lip, “I worry that if I tell you, you’ll back out.”

I closed the door after he slid into the passenger’s seat before making my way to the driver’s side of my car.

“Can’t do that now, I already have my seatbelt on.”

I got in and slid my seat forward again, but not before getting even. “Some crazy giant…” Nick breathed out a laugh.

“It’s in East LA.”

Nick raised his eyebrows at me, “that’s a drive, you sure you’re up for it?”

“I’d do anything for tacos.”

I started the car and took off. I saw Nick gripping the strap of his seatbelt as I drove.

“I thought you didn’t want to be a part of Hollywood?”

I looked over at him confused, “what?”

“I’m just trying to figure out why you’re driving like this is an audition for Fast and The Furious.”

I rolled my eyes, “very funny, so funny I forgot to laugh.”

He chuckled, “geez that’s gotta be from like the nineties?”

“Stop picking on me,” I whined.

He reached for my hand that rested on the gear shift before pulling it up to his lips and giving it a kiss. “Sorry, Ness.”

I blushed before pulling my hand away from him; the floating stomach thing can’t be normal, can it? Is this what a crush is supposed to feel like? I looked over at him and saw a small smile on his face that made my heart forget how to function. He looked over at me as the smile on his face expanded.

I turned back to the road as my face began to feel warmer and I was thankful for the dark night that hid the hue on my face.

“What’s up?”

I shook my head, “nothing?”

I could see him watching me from the corner of my eye before biting his lip and shaking his head and turning his attention back to the road.


I sat in my therapist’s office staring at the clock not sure whether I wanted it to speed up or slow down.

“So, Vanessa, I know you graduated recently. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about that?”

I took a deep breath, “um, I did it, I guess. My mom and my siblings and my niece and nephews were there… my dad didn’t make it. We tried but…” I shrugged.

“How did that make you feel?”

I shook my head, “Um, Nick threw me a surprise party later in the week. There were a bunch of people and they were all happy for me. They invited me on tour with them.”
“That’s a big gift.”

I bit my lip nervously.

“How do you feel about it?”

“I feel like if I can’t figure out how to be happy on this tour it might never happen for me.”

He nodded before jotting a quick note, “why do you feel like you wouldn’t be happy?”

I started to trace the stitching of my purse, “um, I don’t know. I feel like I’ve been unhappy for so long and it’s just… what if I’m like my dad? What if I’m incapable of ever being happy?”

I looked up to see him writing again, “so you feel that if this doesn’t make you happy nothing will.”

I started at the clock again still not sure which way I wanted it to go.

“If I may, don’t spend too much time worrying about being happy. Live in the moment, without worrying about what happens next. Just appreciate the time for what it is.”


I looked around my room at the clothes piled on the floor, on my bed, on my closet floor… really everywhere but the hooks on which they belong. I did not expect packing to be this difficult. I heard a knock at my door and turned to find my mom standing in the entryway.

“Hey momma.”

“What time are you leaving?”

“Nick said he’d pick me up in an hour.”

She nodded before scanning my room, “you’ve got a lot of work to do before then.”

“I’m almost done. When I finish packing I’ll start putting the other clothes back.”

She walked into my room and sat at my desk chair while I stuffed as much clothes as possible into my bag.

“Be careful out there okay?”

“I will, I promise,” I smiled. I was too far from being anywhere near reckless.

“Call me if you need anything or for any reason.”

I nodded while I tried to zip up my luggage. I looked over at my mom to see a slightly sad look on her face.

“I’ll be okay, momma. I’ll be back in a few weeks for Jenny’s wedding.”

She nodded with a sad smile, “did you talk to your therapist?”

I sighed, “yeah.”

“And?”

“It was good. I’m fine, I feel better,” I lied.

My mom nodded, “okay, well I hope you’ll have fun.”

With that she got up and left my room again. 

An hour later there was a knock at my door. “Vanessa?”

“Come in.”

Nick walked in and looked around at my now almost-tidy room before shoving his hands in his pockets, “I expected a bigger mess.”

I smirked, “I’m never messy.”

“That may be but packing for tour is a whole other monster.”
“Not for me,” I lied.

His brows raised in surprise, “does this count as a superpower?”

I laughed, “it definitely doesn’t.”

I hung up the last of my items to turn and find Nick holding my luggage... Both bags… big bags.

“Did I overdo it?”

“For two weeks? Not at all.”


End Notes:

Hey all, I meant to post sooner but I got distracted. Got caught up with family.

Im going to make this quick since I'm a little busy right now. I shave an extra chapter for this story so if I can get enough reviews by the end of the weekend (California time), I can post the extra chapter on Monday instead of having you guys wait until next Friday. Happy weekend, Stephy.

Fly With Me by Stephy
Author's Notes:

If it's you and me forever


You and me right now


that'd be alright

I hid behind Joe and Nick, holding his hand, as I trailed behind them through the airport. I could see cameras flashing at the exit and held my breath.

“Not to worry, grad,” Joe called back to me, “It’ll be weeks before they notice you.”

I kept my eyes on the floor, hoping that if I couldn’t see the cameras they wouldn’t be able to see me.

“That is if you keep your hands to yourself,” Joe mentioned eyeing my hand in Nick’s.

It’s not even a question at this point, I let go of Nick’s hand instantly and he looked back reactively.

“Don’t worry about it, it'll be over in seconds,” he assured me.

As soon as we stepped out of the airport there were cameras everywhere. People were screaming at Nick and Joe. All asking them a slew of questions that I was unable to distinguish. Before I knew it, we were being herded onto a black SUV with security. The door closed behind us and the voices became muffled again.

“See, over in an instant,” Nick smiled beside me.

We sat in the back row while Joe sat in the middle row with security. I let out the breath I’d been holding in before forcing a smile.

Nick shook his head, “you didn’t like that.”

Joe chuckled, “don’t worry about it, by the end of the tour, you won’t even notice them.”
“I don’t mind it, it’s fine,” I lied.

Nick squeezed my hand to call my attention. I looked over to see a very concerned look on his face. I really don’t like that he knows me as well as he does.

“The faster we stop talking about it, the faster I can forget about it,” I tried to bargain with him.

“That’s the spirit!” Joe agreed. “So, grad, you ever been in Arizona before?”

“Joe, I told you she travels a lot, she’s been a lot of places,” Nick responded dully.

“Uh, I’ve been to Red Rock, once. I think I was only ten, though, so I don’t remember too much about it. Oh, I’ve also been in Bullshead… we went to Lake Mead.”

“Do you remember the heat?” Joe Smirked back at me.

I looked around the vehicle wondering why Joe had so many questions, “uh, kind of… but we were in the lake so… we’d just jump back in.”

Joe quirked an eyebrow at Nick. What am I missing? “Did you bring your swimsuit?”

I bit my lip before nodding. Joe smirked over at Nick. “You hear that Nick, we’re going for a swim!”

I looked over at Nick to see him blushing. The memory of waving my ass in front of him at Kevin’s pool party came flooding into my brain causing me to blush. I turned my face away from both of them and set my sights on the window beside me. Half of me was just trying to hide my face while the other half was hoping this window would roll down so I could jump out of it.

I kept my eyes on the city that passed me by. Had it not been for the occasional cactus, I would never be able to tell we were in the middle of the desert. The cool AC seemed to be out to get me as I wrapped my oversized cardigan tighter to my form.

“Are you cold?” Nick asked.

I turned around to find his eyes on me and shook my head, “I’m okay.”

Nick spoke louder as he directed his voice to the front of the vehicle, “can you turn the air down a bit?”

The security up front obliged and turned the air down two notches. That was my fault. If people start to get sweaty and uncomfortable it’s going to be my fault. I need to dress warmer to make up for the cool air constantly blasting. Did I bring warmer clothes? I don’t think I did. Is the cardigan as warm as it gets? Did I pack two weeks worth of clothes and not even consider air conditioning?

“What’s wrong?”

I looked over at Nick wondering if this was really the kind of struggle he was interested in hearing about. I mean it’s really not a big deal anyway. Still his eyes watched me inquisitive, might as well just say it.

“I just realized I didn’t pack anything warm.” 

Nick smiled at me, “we can stop by the shops and pick something up.”
“No, we definitely shouldn’t do that. This is just a lesson learned for the next part of the tour.”

“It’s gonna be a long two weeks like that.”

I shrugged, “the punishment for being dumb.”

He smirked as his arm wrapped around my shoulder, “you’re far from dumb.”

His arm gave off the extra warmth that my cardigan failed to provide. My stomach did the airborne thing again and I wondered if Nick could read that, too. I think it’s safe to say I’m crushing on my friend. I just hope he doesn’t notice. My hope was that I could sail through this crush under the radar with this friendship intact and undisturbed.

Joe looked back at us with a smirk again and I played with the threading on my shorts while setting my eyes on the window again.

“Kev says he and Dani are in… Why are you stroking yourself?”

My face turned bright red as all eyes were on me. I knew the implication behind his words and I’m certain everyone else did, too.

“Joe, leave her alone,” Nick instructed beside me.

I tucked my hands under my legs and tried to avoid eye contact, maybe if I don’t look at them they’ll stop looking at me. I tried taking deep breaths while my legs started to bounce uncontrollably. Nick placed a weighted hand on my knee to stop my movement and catch my attention.

“Don’t worry about Joe. He’s just messing with you.”

I looked over to see a menacing smile on Joe’s face, “we don’t get a lot of new people on tour.”

That seems highly unlikely. “Not for the long run anyway.” … That makes more sense.

“Is it going to be like this the whole time?” I asked him.

He shrugged, “just until it stops being fun.”

I looked at him puzzled. What would it take to not make this fun for him? I guess Nick is right, I just need to ignore him and eventually he’ll stop. We pulled up to the hotel and were shown to our rooms. I looked around at the huge room they had assigned to me. This is definitely fancier than I ever anticipated. I crash landed onto my bed after the hotel staff brought up my luggage. I managed to squeeze in a fifteen minute nap before there was a knock on my door. I got up to answer to find Joe.

“What are you doing here?”

“Did you check the hole before opening?”

“What?”

“Always gotta check the hole, better safe than sorry, you know.”

I’m confused. 

Joe walked right past me into my room to sit on my bed. “On the off-chance a fan gets into the hotel you need to check before you open the door.”

Didn’t think about that. New dangers have arisen… fun. I watched Joe turn on the tv while making himself at home in my bed.

“What are you doing?”
“Well, I have to wait for you don’t I?”

“You do?”

“Get your swimsuit on, we’re going to the pool.”

“Who is?”

“You, me, Nick,” he wiggled his eyebrows at me. “Kevin and Dani are going. I think I also saw some other band members already hanging out by the pool.”

I stared at him trying to recall when I had agreed to this. Then again, do I get to have a say? I mean it’s not my trip. I must’ve stood around debating with myself for too long because before I knew it Joe was snapping me out of my thoughts.

“Chop, chop, grad! Time’s a-wastin.”

I figured it was in my best interest to start trying to get along with Joe. How bad can it be? If anything, he might stop teasing me.

I started searching through my luggage before finding my black two piece suit. Joe eyed me with a smirk, “what happened to the green one?”

I rolled my eyes, grateful that Nick wasn’t around this time. “I’ve burned it,” I lied.

Joe chuckled, “Why? It was Nick’s favorite! How are you going to get his attention without the green one?”

“I don’t want to get his attention,” I lied again, as I made my way into the bathroom to change.

I walked out to find Joe still on my bed. His brows lifted as he looked me up and down, “that could work.”

I tried to ignore his words hoping he’d drop the subject. “So you’re really not interested in Nick?”

I pulled out the printed black sarong and tied it around my waist still ignoring his words.

“Why not? Is he not your type?”

I sighed, “my silence means I don’t want to talk about it.”

Joe raised his brows again, “you know that’s not the reaction that someone who doesn’t have a crush would have.” 

I finally turned to him, “I don’t know you, Joe. You don’t know me. I don’t owe an explanation to someone I don’t know.”

The corners of his lips turned down, “well I’m trying to get to know you. New tattoo?”

He nodded toward the new ink on my ribcage, “I didn’t see it at the pool party.”

I wanted to tell him to fuck off. That his teasing and prodding wasn’t anywhere near cute. But it wasn’t in my nature. So I held my tongue and responded with a nod.

Joe bit his lip momentarily before coming to some conclusion. “You’ll be miserable if we fight all the time.”

I zipped up my luggage before looking up at him. “I’m not fighting you.”

“Well, you are, just… in a different way.”

I slipped on my shoes without another word.

“Can I make you a deal?”

I looked over at him to find he still hadn’t gotten up from my bed. He patted the space beside him, inviting me to sit beside him.

I don’t want to do that. I crossed my arms over my chest.

He smirked, “I may not be as observant as Nick but I know what that means.”

“Can we go now?” I asked, motioning toward the door.

“You haven’t heard my offer… I’ll stop bugging you for the rest of the day if you tell me three things about you.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t know you, and since we’re going to be spending a good amount of time together it seems like a good idea to try and change that.”

What three things? What does he want to know?

“What do you want me to tell you?”

He shrugged, “anything you’d like to volunteer.”

I thought about it for a moment, “I like to keep my distance from most people.”

He nodded, “Nick mentioned that part but I’ll accept it anyway.”

Duh! That explains why everyone was so good about giving me space at the graduation party. I bit my lip trying to think, “I like watching superhero shows and movies. I think it’s because I like the idea of something beyond human.”

Joe chuckled, “yeah, you’re not the only one.”

I looked up at him surprised, “you like superheroes?”

He shook his head, “no, Nick does.”

Hmm, that I did not expect. Joe motioned for me to continue. “Um, I don’t like drinking.”

He laughed, “what do you mean?”

I shrugged, “the times I tried it, it wasn’t particularly… anything? It tastes gross and I don’t think I’ve ever actually been drunk.”

Joe shook his head, “well you’re just not doing it right! I’ll show you how it’s done.”

With that he got up and moved to the door, “let’s go, slowpoke. I’ve got much to teach you!”

“Teach me about what?”

He smiled in my direction, “come with me and find out.”

We made our way down to the pool to find Matt and Jacob already in the pool with Rochelle and Jazmin. They looked over at us and waved us in.

Joe dumped his shirt on a sun chair before kicking off his sandals and heading for the pool.

“Let’s go, little one,” he smiled at me.

Joe’s fit… possibly more so than Nick? That’s kind of weird. Never thought I’d know that about them. I discarded my shoes, sarong and room key on the same chair where Joe left his items before following him in.

“Hey, there Nessa!” Rochelle hugged me. “How are you liking tour life so far?”

I smiled, “it’s very different, I haven’t decided, yet.”

Jazmin laughed, “I’ve been doing this for years and I still haven’t decided. Somehow it’s really good and really bad at the same time.”

Matt smiled and raised an arm as a waitress came by, “here comes the good part.”

The waitress walked over with a smile on her face, “hi, can I get you guys anything?”

“Yeah, can we get…” Matt looked around at the group before deciding on a quantity, “six shots of Patrón. And a Mexican Mule.”

“Make that two mules,” Jacob cut in.

“Whiskey neat,” Joe ordered.

“Martini!”

“Long Island Iced Tea.”

The waitress looked over at me waiting for me to order. “Um.”

“Do you have any sweet drinks?” Joe cut in.

“Yes, we have the midori sours, piña colada, we’ve got flavored margaritas…”

Joe looked over at me, “take your pick.”

“Uh, the first… one?”

The waitress looked over at me with concern, “is everyone 21?”

“Yeah, just turned twenty one actually,” Joe lied. “Still trying to figure out what she’s got a taste for.”

The waitress looked at me, not entirely convinced before choosing to ignore it and walk away.

Joe handed me a mixed drink and a shot. “You’re gonna hate this one,” he motioned to the shot, “but you’ve got yourself a chaser.”

We all took our shots together and he wasn’t wrong, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as what Gilbert had offered me.

I was three shots and two midori sours in before Nick showed up.

“Hey, guys,” he greeted as he approached a now significantly larger group of intoxicated individuals.

I looked over to see him sporting shades and a black tank top. Why is he so good looking? I smiled up at him as he stripped his shirt to join us. Well damn.

My eyes widened at the sight of him before Joe nudged me. I looked over to see him smirking in my direction. I blushed immediately before turning away from both of them and swimming back toward the girls.

Dani smiled at me as she saw me coming, “my goodness, what would your mom say if she could see you now?”

I shrugged, “she always said I could drink while at home or with family… I just never did.”

Rochelle smiled, “well, I guess we’re your family now!”

I laughed, “that’s what I’ll tell my mom if she finds out.”

“Finds out what?”

I turned around to find Nick standing behind me with a smirk. I’m starting to think I’m a little drunk.

I smiled as my hand reached out to pat his strong shoulder… was that always there? “I heard you like comic books.”

He gave me a look of amusement, “I like Spiderman.”

“Spiderman, really? That’s your favorite?”

His amused smile quickly became a smirk. “Who is your favorite?”

I pouted my lips in thought, “Are we talking Marvel, DC, Avengers, X-Men, Justice League, Birds of Prey, Suicide Sq-”

Nick laughed, “you definitely know more about it than I do. What about your top three?”

My hand slowly slid off his shoulder and down his arm. Did I leave that there the entire time? Is that why he was smirking at me? How drunk am I? Is it normal to be this weird when drunk? Are people seeing me be this weird? I looked around and realized that most people weren’t concerned with what I was doing.

Nick looked at me concerned, “are you okay?”

“Uh, I think I might have drank too much.”

“Are you seeing double?”

I shook my head, “don’t think so.”

“Do you feel dizzy? Off-balance?”

I squinted my eyes at him, “I’m kind of always off balance?”

He chuckled, “you seem relatively sober to me, sounds like you might be right in the zone.”

I took his sunglasses right off his face before putting them on myself and smirking back at him. “I don’t think so, I think I’m about,” I eyed the distance between us, “two feet away from the zone.” Wait, did I just flirt? With Nick? What is happening, this is not like me at all! I do not flirt!

Nick smiled down at me, “the zone is when you feel it just enough to loosen up but not enough to get sloppy.”

Oh! That’s what’s happening. I smiled back up at him, “I was wondering what was wrong with me.”

Nick raised his eyebrows, “I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s something wrong with you. I think you’re just coming out of your shell a little bit. That’s not something you do often.”

Often? As in I’ve done it before? Can someone please explain when?

My look must have said it all because he did explain, “mostly when you’re competitive, like sports or games on rare occasions outside of the competitive world.”

“Like now?”

He smiled, “Like now.”

I smiled up at him just as Joe decided to butt-bump me. I tipped over into Nick pouring the last of my drink on him.

“Oh, no!”

“Hey, little one, are you in for another round?”

I quickly scooped water into my free hand to try and wipe the sugary drink off of Nick. I poured the water over his chest before running my hand down his chest and past his abs before realizing what I was doing. I quickly pulled away and noticed Nick biting his lip.

I turned around to avoid that awkward confrontation to see a look of shock on Joe’s face, “I’ll take that as a yes; Nick, you, too? Wonderful!” He didn’t even wait for a response as he quickly retreated away from us.

I tried to fight off the bright red color on my face before turning back to face him.

“I’m sorry,” I blurted out before I was even fully turned.

Nick shook his head, “don’t be, it wasn’t your fault.”

“I should not have done that, I don’t know what I was thinking. I make such a huge deal about personal space and then I just-”

Nick placed both hands on my shoulders to steady me and capture my attention, “don’t worry about it. Invade my space, it doesn’t bother me at all,” he assured me.

“Our personal space is virtually non-existent when we’re touring. You touching me is far from a problem.”

My face was overheating at the thought of his invitation to touch him. He cleared his throat, “anyway… you, uh, you had a top three?”

I shut my eyes tightly and scrunched my nose trying to shake all the wiggles of nervousness, embarrassment and possibly attraction that had piled up in my body. “Right, that. Um, I like Captain America, Batman… and Jean Grey.”

He squinted his eyes at me, “Jean Grey?”

“X-Men? Phoenix? She’s like the strongest one plus she’s in everyone’s head which is… awesome… in theory?”

“In theory?”

“The theory being that I’m Jean Grey and I can read minds as opposed to the other way around. No one should have to hear my thoughts, it’s a mess in here,” I pointed to my brain.

Nick chuckled, “I don’t know, I think your brain is kind of cool. I’d be Jean Grey.”

He definitely does not need to know the jumble of thoughts going through my brain at any given moment.

Nick took my glass from me and retreated to the edge of the pool to collect our shots. Everyone gathered on the edge to take the shots together.

“Cheers to another tour!” Kevin called out.

Everyone clinked glasses before knocking back the shot. I reached for my drink immediately after hoping to wash away the taste. Nick reached for his glass filled with a brown liquid.

“What is that?” I asked, pointing to his glass.

“Whiskey. Wanna try it?” He extended his glass out to me. Might as well, right?

I took the glass from him and took a small sip; instant regret. My face twisted in disgust as I tried my best not to gag.

“Oh, god, that is awful!”

Nick chuckled quietly, “it’s an acquired taste, it definitely takes some getting used to.”

“How can you drink that?”

“I don’t consume sugar beforehand, that tends to make it worse.”

“You like that?”

He shrugged, “I’m still searching for a drink of choice, but for now this is it.”

“Wanna try mine?”

Nick put his hand up to reject my offer, “no, thanks, that looks like more sugar than I can currently handle.”

As the drinks kept flowing I started to feel bolder. I started to stand a little closer to Nick when we hung out with different groups. I reached out to touch his shoulder more than I ever would have sober. Every so often I would catch a glimpse of Joe smirking at me. Eventually the drinks became too much for me to handle and I started to slip out of ‘the zone.’

I looked over at Nick.

“What's up?”

“I think I’ve been drinking too much.”

“Do you feel sick?”

I shook my head, “my face is numb and also everything is slow but fast. Like lag on a video, maybe?”

He chuckled, “how about we get you some food?”

My brows perked up at his words, “I like food.”

He breathed out a laugh as he placed his hand on my back to lead me out of the pool. After downing a side of fries, a turkey club and a pineapple juice, the bloating had begun. Thank god my swimsuit is high-waisted and covers up to my belly button.

“You were hungry,” Nick smiled beside me. “I think this is the most I’ve ever seen you eat.”

I shrugged, “I don’t know how it happened. The whole thing was a blur.”

He laughed, “to be fair, I don’t think we’d fed you all day.”

I smiled, “I probably don’t need to be fed for the rest of the week.”

Nick let out a chuckle, “I had no idea that’s how it worked.”

I heard a knock on my door around ten which made me jump. I got out of bed in my short pink satin pajama shorts with a white lace trim and matching white satin top to open the door. I opened the door to find Nick standing on the other side. He wore basketball shorts and a loose tank with his defined arms on display.

“Nick?”

He stood at my door as his eyes slowly scanned from the floor up to my face, “hey, I was just coming to see if you were busy?”

Am I supposed to be? Am I lame if I say no? Should I lie? “Uh… no?”

Nick cleared his throat, “the rest of the band went out for the night… I was going to head down to the bus and work on some recording stuff if you want to come?”

“The bus? But we came on a plane?”

“That’s true,” he nodded. “But we actually do have a tour bus that transports a lot of our equipment as well as our makeshift studio, in case inspiration strikes.”

“Inspiration struck you today?”

Nick exhaled, “not yet, but you never know. I might get lucky. So, wanna join us?”

I get to see Nick in action? This is amazing! How is this my life? “Um, yeah, I just need to grab my cardigan.”

I grabbed the cardigan I had hung up in the closet to turn back around and find Nick was still watching me. Am I missing something? “Should I change?”

“Um, no you look great! I mean, you look- or, as long as you’re comfortable.”

I bit my lip as I tried to hold back a smile. I’m not crazy, right? That was almost a compliment? I wrapped my cardigan tightly around my form as I followed Nick’s lead toward the studio bus.

I sat on the couch while Nick set up shop. I watched as he lifted sound machines and moved them around. I could see the muscles in his arms at work. Was he always that strong? I must’ve known that already, right?

Nick turned to see me watching him and the blush on my face was instantaneous. He smiled at me, “you’re cute.”

My eyes widened in shock. That was a compliment! Like a real compliment! I’m sure of it, it’s got to be! Shit, what do I say to that? Should I say a compliment back? Is that too creepy? I’ve gotta say something.

“I, yeah, what?” Oh, no. That wasn’t it.

Nick let out a breathy laugh.

I shook my head, “that didn’t come out right.”

“Wanna try again?” He offered.

I bit my lip trying to contemplate what I should say. “Um, thank you. I think you’re pretty, or handsome… you’re nice to me?” Why am I so bad at this? Why was this easier when I was drunk? I started tugging on the sleeves of my cardigan feeling frustrated with myself.

Nick chuckled, “thanks, I work very hard to be all of those things.”

I exhaled and pushed my hair out of my face semi-viciously. “I’m bad at this.”

Nick watched me with amusement, “bad at what?”

“I’m bad at fl-” I stopped myself mid sentence.  I shouldn’t tell him I was trying to flirt with him. What if he’s not interested and Joe’s just a liar? I mean he kind of lied about Nick being into superheroes and- let’s be honest, me? Why on Earth would he ever pick me? “I don’t know, talking?”

Nick stared at me for a moment with a smile so minimal I might have imagined it. What is he thinking? Why can’t I read his mind like he reads mine? He shook his head at whatever he was thinking before speaking.

“Do you wanna hear a new song?”

What? How am I getting this kind of offer? Why is this even a question? “Y-Yeah! Yes!”

Nick offered me a tight lipped smile, “it’s not done, yet. I was hoping I might get your opinion on it.”

Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. I don’t want to do that.

One song somehow became the whole album. Before I knew it his entire focus was on me. “What do you think?”

“Um, well…” I bit my lip trying to figure out what to say.

“Be honest, I’d rather hear it from you than from critics when we release it.”

“Oh, uh… There’s a lot of really good songs in there. I just…”

Nick nodded for me to continue. “They don’t fit… together.” He didn’t respond. “‘First Time’ sounds like a well crafted piece with double entendres and it’s almost universally sentimental. ‘The World’ is in a similar sound space and in a way so is ‘Neon’ and ‘Pom Poms’- although, ‘Pom Poms’ is kind of- I don’t know. But then ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ fits in a similar space to ‘What Do I Mean To You' and ‘Wedding Bells’ doesn’t really fit in with the others. ‘Wedding Bells’ is clearly sentimental to you, but it’s different. It’s almost dipping into Hall and Oates territory, maybe? Sort of electronic new wave-y. And Pom Poms kind of sounds like a high school band thing? But it’s weirdly catchy and annoying at the same time, like it was formulated to be a radio hit without anything particularly special added to it? The whole album is swinging between sentimental and insignificant while also shifting from electronic to rock to pop and new wave and it’s… it feels like most of these songs should not be sharing the same album.”

I finally stopped talking and regretted every word out of my mouth. Still Nick stared at me without another word. Can we go back to the part where he was complimenting me again? I’d really prefer that part. Can he kick me off the tour for this? Will he stop being my friend?

Nick finally sighed, “I think you’re right.”

What?

“I’ve been telling Kevin and Joe but they still think that it’s good enough.”

“They’re not bad songs, it’s just-”

“Yeah, that’s what I’ve been trying to explain to them but they seem convinced that we have 12 good songs and that’s enough to make an album.”

I mean they’re not wrong, it’s just… maybe not as cohesive as it could be?

Nick sighed as he ran a hand through his curls. “I don’t know what to do anymore.”

About what? This all feels like an extremely personal moment for Nick and I don’t know how to respond to any of it.

“I’m trying so hard to make this work and they don’t seem to care,” he buried his face in his hands.

I’m pretty sure this is my turn to step up as a friend. I got up from the couch and slowly moved toward him to rest a hand on his strong shoulder. How had I not noticed the size of his arms before? I definitely shouldn’t be thinking about his arms right now. I tried to search for something to say to him but really what can I say? I’ve never been in this position.

Before I could think of something to say Nick wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me into him. His head rested against my stomach while his arms encircled me. I froze not knowing how to proceed. 

My instinct was to push him away even though I knew I couldn’t do that. I closed my eyes and tried to process what was happening. I took deep breaths while I talked myself through it.

You’re safe. Nick isn’t hurting you. He’s your friend and he’s struggling. Help him. How? What should I do?

I kept my hand on his shoulder while the other rested in his hair. I ran my fingers through his hair not wanting to really hug him back at this time.

Technically, I’ve hugged him before but that was me hugging him on my terms, not his. I kept running my hand through his hair before I started to feel like I was petting a dog. I should probably stop. If I feel like I’m petting him he probably feels like he’s being petted. I resorted to just keeping my hand steady on his head. I’m doing this wrong, I’m pretty sure I’m doing this wrong. He probably knows I’m doing this wrong.

My nerves got the best of me and my hand began absentmindedly tracing the valleys on his arm. Just breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Just keep breathing, just keep breathing, just keep breathing, breathing, breathing… Why is my brain reciting Finding Nemo? What am I thinking?

Nick chuckled and I felt his warm breath through my satin pajama top as it drew my attention away from the mess in my mind. I looked down at Nick to see him redirecting his attention to me.

“Did I make you nervous?”

What? He didn’t even see my face, how does he know?

He smirked up at me, “you trace when you’re nervous. You’ve been tracing my arm.”

My eyes widened as a pink hue covered my face again. I stopped moving my hand and rested a flat palm on his bicep, “sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

“I know,” he smiled. “I’m not mad about it.”

I bit my lip realizing Nick’s face was only about a foot away from mine. Is this normal? Is this a normal friend space? Are friends usually this close?

His eyes focused on my lips and I forgot how to breathe. Nick sat up a little straighter and his face got a little closer. My stomach did that stomach thing again. What is happening? Am I imagining things? Am I reading this wrong?

His arms seemed to wrap around me a little tighter like he was pulling me in. Is this real? Is he going to kiss me? He’s about six inches away now. His smile slowly vanished as the space between us started to shrink further. Oh, my god, how is this possible? Can I even do this? Do I want to do this?

I shut my eyes as my lips parted in preparation. As soon as they did I inhaled sharply as my body reminded me that I had stopped breathing some time ago. It took a few seconds before I felt Nick’s grip loosen around me before releasing me altogether. I opened my eyes to find a larger space between us as he leaned back in his seat away from me. What just happened?

I exhaled slowly while my entire face felt like it was boiling in embarrassment. What was I thinking? I’m so dumb! I shook my head trying to get myself together before I stopped to look at Nick. He’d been watching my face with furrowed brows. Is he confused? Why is he confused? I’m confused.

“I thought that-” he shook his head before muttering under his breath, “I see what you mean by yes and no.”

I looked down at my feet wondering what I was supposed to do in this situation before Nick cleared his throat.

“I should get you back to your room, tomorrow is going to be a long day.”


End Notes:

Hello all, sorry I skipped out last week. I've had family visiting so I kind of fell behind. But I should be back on this soon. I'm working on the next chapter now. As for my other story it is on temporary writers block as my story is stuck between where I want it to go and where the characters are leading it. Anyway, please leave your thoughts on this story. Some thing happened here... kind of... almost... but not really. Are they ready? Can they pull this off? Please leave word so I know I'm not alone in this story. See you soon, Stephy

Thinking Out Loud by Stephy
Author's Notes:

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I'm thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are

Mrs. Jonas flew with me back to LA a few days before my cousin’s wedding. Nick said he’d be here the day of and fly back with me after the wedding.

“I hope you had fun touring with us?”

I smiled at her, “yeah, it was so amazing and not at all what I had envisioned.”

“I know it can get a little hectic and exhausting but we really love having you on tour with us.”

I definitely learned a lot about touring these last two weeks. For example, a summer tour does not imply that I won’t get cold. Additionally, sleeping in hotels is kind of difficult, it wakes me up every time I hear someone in the hallway. Also, the Jonas Brothers have some big issues that they need to resolve as a band.

Mrs. Jonas walked me all the way up to the front door of my mother’s villa suite to deliver me to my mom. She’s taking this whole guardianship thing very seriously. “Thank you, for everything, Mrs. Jonas.”

She smiled at me, “Vanessa, we talked about this, call me Denise.”

I bit the inside of my cheek still feeling nervous around most of Nick’s family. The only person I’d grown closer to in the last week was Joe. He made fun of me less, so that was nice. But the rest of Nick’s relatives still put me on edge.

“Right, sorry,” I knocked on my mother's door and waited semi-impatiently for her to answer.

She opened the door with a look of surprise on her face, “you’re early, I didn’t think you’d be here so soon.”

Mrs. Jonas smiled beside me, “we agreed to have her back in time for the wedding so here she is all on one piece.”

My mother laughed lightly, “come in, you two must be exhausted.”

We made our way into my mom’s air conditioned suite while my mom got us some ice waters from the mini-fridge.

“How was the flight? I hope the drive wasn’t too bad, it’s just there aren’t too many public airports near here.”

“Oh it wasn’t too bad, we had to stop in Panama for a bit but otherwise it was great. It’s so beautiful out here. Like a city in the jungle.”

“Yes, we had been planning a vacation out here for some time so it’s kind of great that the wedding just perfectly coincided with that.”

“I mean we knew Colombia was a beautiful country but we’d never really made it past the city so this is all new,” Mrs. Jonas motioned to her surroundings.

My mom nodded in agreement, “well this is actually my ex husband's grandfather’s ranch. He built this entire villa himself so it meant a lot to the bride and our family to have the wedding here.”

Mrs. Jonas' mouth dropped in shock, “this is your family’s land? Wow, this place is utterly beautiful. Like a beautiful vacation destination.”

“Would you care to stay a while? We have a lot of empty rooms since most relatives won't be in until the end of the week for the wedding.”

Mrs. Jonas shook her head, “oh, that is very kind, but no thank you, I wouldn’t want to intrude.”

“Are you sure? It’s no problem at all.”

“No, really I have to be heading back to my family in the morning, besides my son will be by to pick Vanessa up again at the end of the week.”

“Well, we will just add him to the guest list,” my mom noted.

My mom and Mrs. Jonas chatted for a while longer before Mrs. Jonas excused herself to head back to her hotel.

“You need to get ready,” my mom directed me. “The girls are going out for the bachelorette party in an hour.”

“All my clothes are dirty, though.”

“I packed some stuff for you, it’s in your room.”

“My room?” 

“Down the hall to the left, room nineteen.”
I took my luggage and rolled it out of her room toward mine. I walked along the courtyard, careful to stay under the canopy as I circled the central garden and fountain.

I walked into my room to find it was similar to my mother’s. On the left was a large bathroom with a shower and vanity. On the right was the rest of the bedroom with a king size bed, two accent chairs, and a mini fridge. I definitely don’t remember any of this from the last time around. Then again, I was two.

I saw a third suitcase waiting for me in the foyer and I wondered what my mom had packed for me. First things first, I need a shower. I showered, blow dried and styled my hair before finally venturing into the mystery case.

It was filled with tons of casual clothes and nothing to really dress up with. I decided on a pair of shorts and a loose-fitting white v-neck shirt. I paired it with a pair of white chuck taylors and decided it would have to suffice.

As soon as I finished, there was a knock at my door. I opened it to find Jennifer, Berry and Viviana standing there with big smiles and bigger bottles.

“Ella como sabia que se tenía que vestir casual (how did she know to dress casually)?” Berry whined in her plum-colored minidress.

Viviana chuckled, “porque las Colombianas no se visten para los hombres que no les interesa (because Colombian women don’t dress for men they have no interest in)!”

“Pero como sabe si no le van ha interesar si no los ha visto (but how does she know she won’t be interested if she hasn’t seen them?)”

Viviana and Jennifer were dressed in strappy sandals and loose fitting dresses and I was thankful that the dress code was so lax.

I shrugged at Berry, “esto es lo único que encontré en mi maleta (this is all I could find in my luggage).”

Berry rolled her eyes before pushing past me to enter my room. We all pregamed in my room before my uncle came to pick us up twenty minutes later.

He drove us into town and dropped us off at the nearest bar with a promise to pick us up at 3. While drinking around Joe and Nick was easy and fun, drinking with family was a whole other ball game. They kept watching me every time I took a shot of aguardiente with menacing smiles like they were finally corrupting me. I felt like I couldn’t really let loose around them so I settled for being the designated babysitter and making sure no girl was left behind.

I didn’t realize it would be so difficult. Berry and I had never drank aguardiente and it showed. Around 1:30 I was babysitting a crying Berry because she had lost one of her heels and she couldn’t find it. At the same time Viviana was buying drinks for other girls and our group had grown from 4 to around 8.

At some point, a few guys tried to join our group but Jennifer and Berry quickly shooed them away. Jennifer was clearly not interested, given she’d be married by the end of the week and Berry spouted something along the lines of ‘if you don’t have my shoe, don’t talk to me.’

Eventually we all made it home unscathed… aside from Berry’s missing shoe that is. I know it’s not my bachelorette party or my call to make, but personally… I did not have fun. Suddenly I felt like I could have more fun with Nick than with Berry. Even Joe was more fun than her, which is surprising given that we only started getting along two weeks ago and Berry had been like my big sister my whole life. I tried not to dwell on the thought as it was still rather perplexing to me.


I spent the rest of the week with my cousins prepping, gossiping and dodging questions about my new ‘friend’ as they liked to refer to him. Hair appointments, manicures, pedicures, facials, laser hair removal from head to toe. We spent a good amount of time tanning to try and undo or reduce any tan lines that might look ugly with the bridesmaid dresses. I felt pampered and also slightly over-produced… is that a thing?

It felt as though I had started to slip out of my human form and into a mannequin. My skin was perfectly smooth and hairless from the eyebrows down. I’d never been in a stage of all fresh everything before. It was kind of exhilarating. I felt powerful and exposed at the same time… also like I could make squeaking sounds with my skin if I tried hard enough. Looking at my skin when I got out of the water kind of made me think of a dolphin or a seal even though I’d never seen either one of those up close.




I walked up the aisle with my cousin by my side in the red maxi dress that Jennifer had picked out for us. I kept my eyes on the carpet that had been rolled out until my cousin reminded me to look up for the photographer. I looked up in time for him to snap a picture before making my way to the bride’s side of the aisle. I looked out at the small  gathering of people and found that no one was even looking at me… thank god. I tried to limit my fidgeting throughout the ceremony and hoped no one could see how uncomfortable I was in this dress. This bright red dress that begged for attention and then put everything on display with a plunging neckline, a plunging back and a high leg slit. How could this dress have so much fabric and still cover so little?

As we walked back down the aisle at the end of the ceremony, I caught sight of Nick in the back row. He flashed me a bright smile that made my whole body overheat. Why is it so easy for him to do that to me? 

The bridesmaids and groomsmen stood beside the carriage as the husband and wife were loading into it and the rest of the crowd began to exit the small dock seating area. I watched as they struggled to squeeze in the entirety of Jennifer’s wedding dress still wondering how she ended up with such a large dress. For her quinceanera she wore high tops and a black dress for crying out loud.

“Where are they headed?” Nick’s voice was a low whisper in my ear.

I jumped up, slightly startled, before turning around to face him and see him standing fairly close. “There’s a park nearby, named after my great grandpa with a mural of him so they’re going to take pictures there before we all take a few pictures here.”

Nick nodded with a small smile, “you look stunning.”

My face likely matched the color of my hair at this point, a deep red, “I- thank you… it took a lot of work.”

He chuckled lightly, “I doubt it.”

My stomach felt like it wasn’t even part of my body. For a minute I wondered if it had disappeared completely. All of my insides were casually floating around, none were in their designated areas. Don’t screw up this time, compliment him!

“You look- woah… I mean-”

Nick let out a clear laugh and I averted my gaze to the bouquet in my hand, “that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

I looked up quickly hoping he might try to kiss me again. Maybe again? I think that’s what he was doing last time. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.

He held my eye with a small teasing smile before he spoke up, “how about we grab a drink before the bride and groom come back?”

That’s not really what I was hoping for, but also, maybe once I’ve had a few drinks I can be a little more courageous?

I bit my lip to try and hide any looks of displeasure before nodding and leading the way to the reception hall.

Nick ordered a diet coke and I felt strange about being the only person drinking so early on so I settled on water.

“So how has your week away been treating you?”

I thought about it for a moment, “warmer… kind of like a heated barbie doll slash pin cushion?”

Nick’s lips turned up slightly as he watched me, “a lot of people have been missing you on tour.”

I rolled my eyes knowing that a lot of people meant Rochelle, “she’s probably just sick of you acting like you own the field all the time.”

“First of all, it’s not just Rochelle who misses you, and second of all, I do own the field.”

I bobbed up and down in my seat to tease his little victory dance, “oh, look at me. I’m Nick Jonas. I’m only good at sports when Vanessa isn’t looking.”

His eyes widened in surprise, “excuse me, I’m good at sports, always!”

I giggled, “if you say so.”

He squinted his eyes at me playfully, “It’s on, partner!”

I blushed for reasons I didn’t fully comprehend. Am I imagining things, is this flirting? 

Nick smirked at me, “so…”

“So…” My nose scrunched up as I tried to hide my growing smile.

He leaned forward toward me, “so, how do you feel?”

“About what?”

He bit his lip as his eyes flashed down to my one exposed leg, “you’re very tan.”

I crossed my leg over the other and brought my fists up to my face to try and hide from him.

His eyes scanned their way up to meet my eyes before I averted my gaze and started fidgeting with my hands. “Nervous?”

I turned back toward him and nodded. Why am I suddenly feeling so… wiggly? Everything in my body feels tense and I feel like my whole body just wants to wiggle every last nerve out of my body.

“Is it because of me?”

I bit my lip and shrugged not really wanting to admit that he was the sole cause for how I was currently feeling.

“Ask me something, that usually gets your mind off of things.”

I looked up to meet his eye and he leaned back again with a gentle, inviting smile.

I took a deep breath and exhaled quickly, “uh, how do you like Colombia?”

“It’s absolutely beautiful. Everything about it. The jungles, the architecture, everything.”

My brows raised, “wait until you see the people. Man, oh, man! Did you know that Colombia is the country with the second highest rate of cosmetic surgeries… ahead of the US! And these women… absolutely beautiful,” I promised him.

His smile spread, “it’s really cool that you know that, you’re just kind of filled with fun facts aren’t you?”

I shook my head, “no, Nick, once you see these women, you’ll understand. All of them are drop dead gorgeous!”

His eyes seemed overjoyed, “I believe you.”

I shrugged, “who knows, you might meet your ‘regular’ girl here. Then it’ll be perfect because she’ll still look jaw-droppingly, awe-inspiringly, amazing, like everyone else in hollywood… except with a more normal life.”

He let out a quick laugh, “that’s quite a proposition, but I actually already had my eye on someone.”

I looked around the room trying to figure out who could have caught his attention to see my cousin Val entering the hall.

“Is it-”

Nick shook his head, “you’d never guess.”

I thought about it for the moment, “is it the same girl from a few months ago?”

He smirked, “it might be.”

Would it be ridiculous of me to imagine that I was the girl? I shook the thought immediately. You can’t think like that about your friend!

“So why not just ask her out already?”

He cocked an eyebrow at me, “I was thinking I might have to do that soon.”

We’ve been friends for about 4 months now, I think I’m allowed to ask now, right? “So who is this girl?”

He stared at me for a moment and I wondered if I had crossed a boundary. “I mean… if that’s okay… or can I ask… nevermind.”

He shook his head, “you can absolutely ask, I just don’t know if I should tell you.”

Why not? My brows pressed together in confusion.

“See you kind of know this girl and I’m worried you might spill the secret.”

Could it be Jazmine? Maybe one of the girls from the band? One of the girls from the track team? From Gradnite? 

I shook my head, “I won’t tell her.”

Nick chuckled softly and shook his head. Am I missing something?

“You are something special.”

I don’t know what that means, or even why he would say that. What am I missing?

He laughed at my inability to piece together who he was crushing on before I was called away for pictures.


We came back and shared a table with some of my other relatives. My younger cousin Val beamed at Nick with the brightest smile I’d ever seen on her face.

“You’re Vanessa’s new friend?”

Nick offered her a half smile and a nod.

She threw her head back slightly in surprise, “My cousin knows Nick Jonas? Why aren’t you two dating!”

“Val, stop!” I begged her.

“Vans, I’m just asking a question,” she retorted.

“Well, I would but she’s not particularly interested,” Nick shrugged.

Wait, what? I looked over at him shocked while Val giggled. Is he being serious? It’s got to be a joke right?

Val leaned in immediately, “so you were friendzoned? I wouldn’t put you in the friendzone!”

Nick offered her a bright smile that seemed excessively rehearsed, “that’s very kind of you.”

“What are you doing tomorrow?”

Nick shook his head with what appeared to be feigned disappointment, “I’m flying back to the states to get back to the tour tomorrow.”

Am I reading this right? Am I reading Nick? The feel of this conversation reminds me of the speech that he gave about his fans the first day I met him. It’s contrived and rehearsed. Am I reading him like he reads me? Is he only pretending with Val or was he also kidding when he said he would date someone like me?

“Darn!” She snapped her fingers. “Well when are you coming back around?”

I resorted to downing the last of my champagne as I watched Val flirt with my friend.

“Uh, I’m not sure actually, I’d have to check the schedule to see when I’m free, when Vanessa has her next family event, all of that.”

“Well, why don’t you give me your number now and I’ll text you for the next one?” Val reached into her purse in search of her cell phone as Nick rubbed the back of his neck.

“Yeah, let me- I’ll just-”

“Nick, can you give me a hand, actually? Jennifer asked me to give her a hand with the mementos.”

Nick jumped out of his seat instantly, “yeah, sure!”

I rose to my feet as Nick quickly placed a hand on my back. HIs hand rested lower than the usual mid-back grip and dipped down toward the small of my back where the fabric began on my open-back dress. “Sorry, Val, I’ll be right back.”

Nick and I made our way out of the reception hall and grabbed two champagne glasses on the way out toward the rooms again before he spoke up, “what are we getting again?”

“Nothing, just seemed like you needed an out.”

Nick chuckled, “that obvious, huh? What about you, I saw you taking down that champagne like it was water. I take it Val isn’t your favorite relative?”

I shrugged, “I don’t know, I feel like our grandmother has put us in constant competition. It doesn’t help that we’re just months apart and we have similar names. ‘Vale,’ ‘Vane’ it’s like we were designed to be in constant combat.”

He nodded beside me, “care to vent?”

“She’s not a bad person, she’s just still playing the chess game that my grandma set up for us.”

He smiled at me, “I find it really endearing that you refuse to speak poorly of people. Charles, Jacob, Val… it’s not a common trait to have.”

I felt his thumb slip up slightly and graze the bare skin on my back as I wobbled across the cobblestone path in my heels and I broke out in chills. Suddenly I remembered that he didn’t normally touch me like this. No one did. I bit my lip as my entire insides squeezed together before ricocheting around my body. Why does he have this effect on me? Should I pull away? I almost want to be closer, except for the part where I’m scared.

I continued to walk beside him, past the rooms, out the courtyard toward the pond. Be cool, pretend you don’t even notice, pretend it's not a big deal. As we walked out of the courtyard I felt his thumb begin to stroke my skin in a steady up and down motion and my entire body froze as my face turned bright red.

Nick noticed me stop and quickly turned toward me. “You okay?”

What I wanted to do was jump into his arms and kiss him and tell him to keep touching my back. Still, the fear of jumping into this new territory with him, with anyone, was terrifying. Before I could think it through his hand fell away from my waist and the opportunity had vanished. I can’t decide if this is good or bad.

“I’m, yeah, sorry,” I mumbled out as I turned my attention back toward the parked carriage. I saw my dad emerge from behind the carriage with a beer in hand.

He smiled at me and spread his arms out to hug me. I don’t want to do this. “Ay, mi princesa!”

I begrudgingly held my breath as I braced for impact. He wrapped his arms around me while his dirty hand cupped my face and ran through my hair harshly causing me to spill some of my drink. I hated that he was like this when he was drunk. Pulling away wasn’t an option.

He spent an unnecessary amount of time explaining to Nick, in Spanish, how I was the greatest treasure of his life. Lie. How he’d give his life for me. Lie. How if it weren’t for my mother getting set in her ways, we’d be a happy family. Lie. How he’d done everything for her and she paid him back by turning her back on him and becoming a lesbian. Lie.

Nick stood beside us silently watching me while I did everything in my power to avoid eye contact until the moment it ended and he made his way back to the party.

I stood there feeling completely disheveled and humiliated in front of Nick with no idea how to explain any of what just happened.

I turned on my heel trying to escape the conversation only to lose my balance on a loose cobblestone and feel my ankle collapse beneath me. Nick quickly reached out to steady me. I closed my eyes as I began to sweat with nervousness. This isn’t something I want to discuss right now. I tried to keep walking only to be met with a sharp pain radiating from my ankle.

“Let me give you a hand,” Nick swooped an arm around my waist and helped me to the seats still sitting on the dock of the pond.

I sat down and stretched my ankle in the dark space while Nick sat quietly beside me. The music from the party was clearly present in the open space and masked the silence between Nick and I while a thousand stars lit up the sky above us.

“Is it bad?”

I shook my head, “It’s not that bad. Just needed a minute to recoup.”

“It seems like these floors aren’t made for those shoes,” he nodded toward my high heels.

“Maybe, but also it could just be me.”

Nick nodded with a smile, “I had also considered that, yes.”

We fell back into silence and I felt the need to finally explain everything. “My dad, he’s… I just-”

“Don’t do that,” he stopped me.

I looked up at him surprised by his response.

“You’ll tell me about it when you’re ready… you don’t need to do something just because you think it’s what I’d expect from you.”

The relief that came over me was instantaneous. Yes, he had lectured me on learning to do what I want in the past, but allowing that to apply even to him… it’s astounding. I fought back the overwhelming urge to cry with relief and just set my eyes on the pond.

I wanted to express how emotional it made me that he was allowing me to take my time with this. I wanted to tell him that no one had ever expressly given me permission to move at my own pace. I wanted him to know how much this one act of kindness meant to me. Still all I could expressly say was: “thank you.”

He nodded silently and sat beside me sipping on his drink as we looked out at the pond. In this quiet moment all I wanted to do was talk to him. About anything and everything and I couldn’t stop running through a slew of questions in my head. Maybe this is the time to ask him if he did mean me? I mean, I’m halfway inebriated and this is likely as courageous as I get. I gulped what was left of my champagne before finally trying to get the words out.

“So…”

“So,” he turned to face me.

“So, how do you feel?”

He smiled, “about what?”

I shrugged, “I had the exact same question, actually.”

He raised his eyebrows as his smile grew wider, “I somehow get the feeling you know exactly what I’m talking about.”

Why is he doing this? Does he want me to say it first? What if I’m wrong? Shut up! Just do it!

“Do you-” I stopped when I realized that I was virtually shouting my question at him. 

Nick gave me that amused smile again and for a second I wondered if this was part of some elaborate plan to humiliate me. Stop! Just do it!

“Nick, do you…” Does he what? How do I say this? “... think I’m pretty?”

He made direct eye contact and spoke with absolute certainty and sincerity, “I think you’re beautiful.”

His words caught me off guard and I lost my breath. At this moment I want nothing more than to kiss him. I longed to know what it would feel like to feel his soft lips on mine. My eyes drifted to his lips while my brain processed how I could proceed from where we were to where I wanted to be. I bit my lip nervously still lost in another universe of planning and scheming when Nick cleared his throat.

“Um, sorry.”

I saw Nick smirk and I blushed, was he reading my mind again? Does he know everything that is just going on in here? Is that even possible? Despite all these doubts creeping in, the alcohol kept them away long enough for my primary instinct to press forward. But only for so long, I could feel them encroaching and I knew I had to act fast.

“I- can I-” I blushed at the thought of where I was headed with my question and diverted on another path. “Um…”

Nick nodded for me to proceed, reminding me that I had his attention.

“Remember you said that you wanted to date someone plain?”

He chuckled, “I definitely didn’t say plain.”

I shook my head brushing away the correction, “um, well what if I was plain- or I am- I just- I meant- am I- uh…”

My face felt hot like I was running a fever, It was quite possible that I was about to start sweating.

“You’re definitely not plain,” Nick spoke up.

Do I not qualify? Am I stupid to think that I could? Did I just ruin a friendship?

“I’m sorry, it’s just earlier you told Val that- I mean…” Frustrations began to build and before I knew it, I’d forgotten how to breathe again. My heart started racing and my breath quickened. Tears started to grow knowing that a panic attack was imminent.

Nick caught my attention as he slid my hair behind my ear and brushed his thumb against my cheek, “you’re spectacular.”

Before I could process what was going on, his lips were converging with mine. It was gentle and amazing and the complete opposite of everything going on inside my brain. My entire body exploded internally, I could feel goosebumps sweep across my skin like a wave rolls onto the shore and dresses the sand, quickly and wholly. Within moments all internal battles had seized leaving no trace of panic or fear or frustration. My body vanished as I became a floating cloud of nothingness.

The kiss lasted only moments before I felt him detach from me. I opened my eyes to see him watching me with caution.

“Is that what you were getting at?”

I blushed as I tried to hide the smile that was completely engulfing my face. I bit my lip hoping I wouldn’t have to ask him to do it again.

He smirked, “what do you need, Nessa?”

I was too embarrassed to get the words out so I resorted to wrapping my fingers around his tie and pulling him in again. He let out a breathy laugh before his lips met mine again.

My hands roamed from his tie up to his collar as I pulled him in closer. His other hand wrapped around my back as he did the same. His whole hand on my bare skin set off an exothermic reaction inside of me that shut off my brain. Suddenly, I was craving his hands on every inch of my skin. My entire body trembled with excitement before my brain kicked in again and fear was back in control of my actions. I pulled away from him instantly.

He looked at me with confusion, “did I do something wrong?”

I shook my head, “no, I just… it’s just me, I panicked.”

Nick offered me a sympathetic smile, “did you want to take a minute or-”
The thought of being alone with Nick suddenly was more terrifying than it was appealing, “we can just go back.”

He nodded as he rose to his feet and extended his hand out to me. “Let’s get back in there, partner.”

 

End Notes:

So... that happened...

What do you think this means for their relationship? Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Is this a good story? Is there anything you feel should change? Is the font too squished together and annoying? Let me know.

Stephy

7 Weeks by Stephy
Author's Notes:

Tired boys with wired eyes, exposing imperfections


to the public eye, we're perfect


-Gym Class Heroes

I sat in the private plane with Nick and his security. This time I slipped on the hoodie that my mom had packed for me. It wasn’t my favorite but, you know, beggars can’t be choosers. 

I tried to avoid Nick’s eye. After we had kissed last night, I didn’t really know how to act around him. I popped in my earbuds and rested my head against the window beside me. A few hours into the flight Nick approached me with two sandwiches. I took one earbud out and looked up to meet his gaze.

“Figured you’d be hungry.”

As soon as he said it my stomach decided to join the conversation and remind me that I was, in fact, hungry. “Thank you,” I mumbled.

Nick took the seat across from me and put both sandwiches on the table before sliding one across to me. “Are you dreading being away from your family again?”

While this was sort of true, I didn’t want to admit it. I shook my head, “no, I think it’s good practice for when I go to college.”

He nodded, as he unwrapped his sandwich. We ate the majority of our sandwiches in silence before he spoke up again, “did I do something wrong?”

I looked out the window at the endless clouds hoping that this conversation would magically disappear.

“Ness? Can you talk to me?”

I shrugged, “I don’t know what to say.”

“Was I not supposed to kiss you?”

I could feel my face growing red at his words. They triggered the memories of the previous night. “I don’t know.”

“Did you want me to kiss you?”

I held my breath as my whole body began to feel really hot. I could feel him staring me down and I hoped he’d look away. “Talk to me.”

I shrugged again, “I- I don’t know. I wanted to- and then I just… Im scared. It’s really hard.” My fingers traced the seam on my cuffs nervously.

Nick watched me carefully for a moment, “you’re scared of me?”

I shrugged, “I- sometimes… I try not to because...but I can’t help it… you’re intimidating and… I don’t know...”

Nick processed my words to the best of his abilities before he nodded. “I understand.” He paused for a moment before he spoke up again, “do you like me, Nessa?”

I looked up to meet his eyes with a bright red color consuming my face. I felt like I should deny it and hope that our friendship would survive unscathed but the smile growing on my face had other plans.

He let out a soft chuckle, “so we’ll just go slow.”

What does that mean? Does he like me? I looked up at him confused to see him smirking. I brought my knees up to my chest feeling completely embarrassed and hoping that if I shriveled up into a ball, I might disappear.

He watched me with a small smile before speaking, “my partner is the cutest.”


A couple of weeks later I sat in Nick’s dressing room with him while he paced back and forth. “We’ve been doing these songs for years, how could he just forget the riff? Seriously? And Joe, what is his problem? Over and over again he keeps forgetting these songs like he’s never heard them before.”

I watched him drive himself crazy with frustration as he continued to go over every mistake his brothers had made during the show that night. My phone buzzed in my pocket and I peeked to find a message.

From: Joe

How bad is it?

Nick watched me expectantly, “what does he want?”

“He’s asking if we’re going to join them for the after party,” I lied.

Nick sighed and rolled his eyes before checking his watch. “We should get going.”

We walked into the larger green room where the band had been hanging out and branched out.

I ran into Joe who offered me a side hug, “hey, little one, what’s the verdict?”

I looked around to make sure Nick wasn’t nearby, “he feels like you guys are not providing the quality performance that he would like it to be.”

“People make mistakes, what am I supposed to do?”

I shrugged, “maybe he wants you to show him that you’re willing to put in effort to be better.”

Joe pouted in thought, “thanks, loch-Ness… um, you know the deal… don’t tell Nick.”

“Goes without saying,” I agreed.

I moved to sit beside Rochelle as she wrapped an arm around me, “hey girl, how’s the boss doing?”

I took a deep breath, “he’s fine.”

She raised her eyebrows in concern, “was he mad at us?”

I shook my head, “he didn’t like that the backup vocals made it more obvious that Joe was off key, but… that’s not really the fault of the singers on key.”

She sighed, “well, let’s just pretend none of that is happening because there is nothing we can do about it. What we can do is grab a drink and have a great time.”

She got up and tugged on my hand to lead us toward the cooler. John stood beside the cooler pulling out drinks for people.

“Hey, John can I get a Mike’s?”

He pulled the drink from the cooler and twisted it open before handing it to her and then turning his attention toward me.

“Can I get one, too?”

“ID?” He asked with a serious face.

I patted my pockets a few times for dramatic effect, “Oh, no! I left them in my other skin suit!”

John let out a confused laugh before reaching in to grab my drink, “you’ve been spending too much time with Joe.”

I nodded as I accepted the drink, “that is a very real possibility.”

I turned to find Nick standing behind me while John handed him a beer. “Hey, how’s it going?”

“John says I need to detox from Joe.”

He raised an eyebrow at me, “well that sounds serious.”

“Apparently, I’m becoming just like him.”

Nick smirked, “can’t have that.”

“No, we cannot!” Jacob cut in, “Nick cannot date his brother!”

My face began overheating from Jacob’s teasing. I knew if they saw me it would only get worse so I  walked away toward Jazmine.

“Hey, Nessie, how are you doing?”

“I feel like I haven’t slept in the last three weeks,” I admitted bluntly.

She laughed, “yeah, I feel that, too.”

We all hung out for a bit until Rochelle excused herself to facetime her boyfriend. Then Kevin and Danni left.

Nick asked me to join him in the studio bus and we headed for the door when Joe stepped up to stop us. “Hey, guys, where are you off to?”

Nick scowled at his brother, “I’ve got work to do in the studio.”

“Actually, I was going to ask you about that. I was hoping I might be able to join you.”

Nick eyed his brother skeptically, “why?”

Joe shrugged, “I just thought I could put in some more time in the studio, get some more practice, get back to the music… I know you said the album needed work, maybe I can help you?”

Nick’s eyes shifted to me and back to his brother, “yeah, that’s...cool.”

I sat on the couch watching as Joe and Nick went back and forth discussing the album, rerecording the same vocals over and over again trying to get them completely perfect. I fell asleep while they continued working.

I was awakened when Joe spoke up, “Nick, it’s late. We should call it a night and get back to it tomorrow.”

“I just want to get this part right,” Nick pressed on.

Joe nudged his brother, “your girlfriend is asleep, you’ve got to call it. Don’t make her sleep on the couch.”

Nick looked over at me and saw me stretch while I tried to wake myself up. I saw him nod before the two of them cleaned up the space.

He stood before me, “ready to go?”

I nodded, before standing up and taking his hand. I walked with Nick and Joe back to the hotel and up the elevator. Nick and I stopped on my floor before Joe continued on his way up. He walked me to my door, “sorry to keep you out so late.”

I shook my head, “I don’t really mind. I kind of like that couch better than my hotel.

Nick chuckled, “all this time we kept booking you a room when a couch would have sufficed.”

“I’ve discovered that I don’t like sleeping in hotels,” I admitted.

I watched him frown, “you’d prefer a couch?”

I shrugged, “it’s quieter.”

He raised an eyebrow, “what do you mean?”

“I can hear people walking down the halls or when a neighbor opens their door… It sounds like it’s in my room… it’s really hard to sleep like that.”

I saw a pout grow on Nick’s face, “Joe and I were making so much noise, though.”

I nodded, “I think your voices are familiar so it's kind of soothing… but footsteps, doors, knocking… it’s really menacing.”

“I’ve got some noise cancelling headphones,” he offered.

I shook my head, “I’d be too worried about breaking them or losing them or… something… I don’t know.”

Nick offered me a small smile, “is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?”

I shook my head, “it’s just part of the struggle. Honestly, if that’s the price to pay to be part of all of this, it’s totally worth it.”

Nick looked up and down the hall, “come with me to my room.”

My brows pressed together confused, “what?”

“Joe and I are the only ones on the floor so you won’t hear people walking around all night. If you want we can switch rooms and I’ll sleep down here.”

I shook my head, “I can’t take your room.”

“So we’ll share it. I’ve got a couch.”

I mean, would that be the worst idea? I might finally be able to get some sleep. I bit my lip before nodding. “Okay, but can I change first?”

Nick smiled, “of course.”

I opened the door and we both walked into my room. Nick stood by the door while I scavenged through my suitcase for pjs. Right about now I began to regret not wearing pants to bed. I don’t know why it suddenly became such a big deal, he’d seen me wearing less. Still, somehow, I felt like I needed to be completely wrapped up from the neck down. I ended up with some sleep shorts and an oversized shirt. I went into the bathroom to change and brush my teeth before coming back out to grab my sweater. I slipped it on and stood by the door waiting for Nick to let us out.

He smiled down at me before speaking, “is it okay if I kiss you?”

I could feel the hot blood rushing from all of my vital organs up to my face. Of course I wanted that! But I was too chicken to actually do it. “Um…” I shrugged not knowing what else to do.

Nick studied me for a moment before placing one hand under my chin and reaching down to place a soft kiss on my cheek.

I felt a jolt of pure joy coursing through my entire body as a smile permanently etched itself onto my face. He smiled down at me before taking my hand and leading the way to his room. We got back on the elevator and moved up a few floors before they opened to a small corridor that separated the two rooms. He opened the door and stepped aside to let me in first. His room seemed to be miles larger than mine. 

“Woah.”

Nick smiled, “yeah, I thought so, too.”

I walked in to see a large room with a couch on one side and a huge bed on the other. “I didn’t know they came this big.”

“Would you believe me if I said there were bigger ones?”

I looked back at him shocked and he chuckled at my expression.

“Have a seat, make yourself at home.”

I sat on the couch while Nick sat on the side of the bed. He picked up the in room phone and ordered more pillows and blankets. When he finished he went to the bathroom to brush his teeth before he came to sit beside me on the couch.

“One to ten?” He asked referring to the anxiety scale he’d set for me.

“Four?”

Nick nodded, “that’s not so bad.”

He took my hand in his and I moved up to a 4.5. I tried to breathe normally, but there’s a very good chance I was failing miserably.

“What’s the coolest place you’ve been to?”

I thought about it for a moment. “I don’t know. I remember we went to Puerto Vallarta once and we took a mini cruise, I guess, to a small island and we were horseback racing. But last summer when we went to Cancun and we got to swim in these giant pits that are kind of like huge bottomless swimming pools. Except they have bottoms and the bottoms are covered with human corpses of all the Mayan sacrifices made in the olden days.”

Nick laughed, “that’s really creepy.”

“Absolutely, but it’s also really beautiful and…” I shimmied trying to explain, “indescribable.”

He smiled down at me, “you’re really cute, you know that?”

My stomach started doing as it does whenever I'm around Nick and I tried to hide my face knowing a blush was imminent.

Nick got up when there was a knock at the door. He received the blankets and pillows before tipping the guy and closing the door behind him. He helped me assemble the bed on the couch.

“Well, guess it’s time for bed.”

I nodded.

“I’ll take the couch, you take the bed.”

What? I shook my head, “no.”

“Nessa, you need to get some sleep.”

“I can sleep on the couch.”

“We can’t both sleep on the couch,” he joked.

“Nick, of the two of us, you’re the taller one who would be squeezed into the couch and you’re the one who has work early in the morning. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

“Nessa,” I placed my hands on his chest to push him back toward the bed. He chuckled as he took a few steps back. The back of his knees met the side of the mattress before he sat down on it. “This isn’t how we’re supposed to come to an agreement,” he laughed.

“But it worked,” I smiled as I removed my hands.

He took my hands in his with a small smile, “I’ll sleep on the bed on one condition.”

I knew exactly what he wanted and I was too shy to actually do it.

“Just one? On the cheek?”

I blushed and tucked my face into his neck. I felt him wrap his arms around me and hold me tightly in place. He held me for a few moments while I worked up the courage to actually kiss him.

Stop being a chicken! Just do it already! I scolded myself. I closed my eyes and pressed my lips to the skin on his neck. His grip around me grew a little tighter and my arms wrapped themselves around his shoulders.

After he held me for a while longer I felt a little braver. I pulled away slightly and he looked down at me for just a moment before my lips crashed onto his. He smiled as my lips struggled to figure out what they were meant to do. He took my bottom lip between his and I felt heat being diverted from my face to other areas. What I really wanted was to push him back onto the bed and lay beside him doing this forever but I knew I’d never actually be brave enough. One of his hands released my waist and found its way up to my face. He cupped my cheek softly and I felt like my knees were buckling under me. I pulled away slightly as my forehead met his. He placed a quick kiss on my nose.

“You’re really good at that,” I admitted, knowing I was definitely out of my league.

He smiled, “practice makes perfect.”

You heard the man! I giggled as I leaned back in for another kiss. My mind began to wander as to what would happen if the situation escalated. My brain scanned through all the thoughts of what his hands would touch, what I’d have to do, where we’d end up. It wasn’t long before I made myself nervous and I had to pull away again.

“You okay?”

I nodded, “I just freaked myself out.”

He kissed my forehead, “we should get some sleep anyway.”


I awoke with a flinch when I heard Nick getting out of bed in the morning. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

I looked around the dark room, “what time is it?”

“4:30.”

I sat up and started stretching even though I knew that what I really wanted was to go back to bed.

“Don’t get up, just get some sleep today. We’ll be back around lunch and we can go out then.”

“Are you sure?” I asked as a yawn hijacked my body.

He smiled and kissed my forehead, “positive. Go back to bed and I’ll see you when the sun is up.”

It didn’t take much convincing on his part. I was asleep in no time. I woke up again a few minutes later when I heard the door close behind Nick as he left the room. I knew I probably shouldn’t, but he wouldn’t be back for a while so I got up from the couch and slipped into his bed. It smelled so good. I pulled the covers up to my chin and made myself at home in his bed before passing out all over again.

I woke up around 9:30 and sent Nick a text.

To: Nick

I’m awake for real this time.

I crawled out of his bed and made both his bed and my couch and then I made my way back to my own room before I got a reply.

From: Nick

One more interview and then I’m all yours, I’ll be back around 11:30

I smiled at his words. All mine? Even when he’s not around he still makes me blush. I sighed as I walked through the door of my cold, dead room. What am I supposed to do for the next two hours? I changed into some spandex, a sports bra and a v-neck shirt before grabbing my running shoes and my earbuds and heading out the door. I got out of the hotel put on my ‘I Just Felt Like Runnin’ playlist and hit the road. I came back to the hotel about an hour later, overheating and cursing myself for not being smart enough to bring water with me on a summer run.

I got up to my room and jumped in the shower. I stayed in the shower for a while just singing, washing my hair, reliving the previous night, thinking about the kiss I shared with Nick. It wasn’t long before I was feeling the heat of my blood as it redistributed itself to the nonessential areas. I turned the knob in the shower until the water was ice cold. I definitely shouldn’t be having these thoughts.

I got out of the shower and wrapped a towel around me before I heard a knock at the door. I got out of the bathroom and cracked the front door open to see Nick standing there, “hey, partner.”

“You’re here?” I opened the door to let him in.

HIs eyes scanned me from top to bottom and took in my wet form. “I am here.”

He closed the door behind him before turning to look between me and the door again. “Do you check the peephole before opening the door?”

Right, Joe had told me about that before. “I tried it when Joe first mentioned it but sometimes I don’t really reach the little hole thingy.”

Nick frowned, “we need to figure something out, it’s not safe to open the door without checking.”

The room’s AC kicked on and I felt a blast of cold air on my wet skin. I was covered in goosebumps instantly. “I need to change.”


I sat at an outdoor cafe with Nick eating the best caesar dressing I’ve ever had with a chicken salad on the side. Nick eyed my plate, “I think you’ve got more dressing than salad there, partner.”

“This dressing is the most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted, look!!”

I offered him a forkload of chicken and lettuce that had been slathered in dressing. He leaned across the table to take a bite. He chewed for a few moments before nodding, “you’re not wrong, that’s good dressing.”

“By the way, don’t tell my mom I had a 700 calorie salad for lunch. She’d lecture me for all of eternity.”

Nick shook his head, “you can eat whatever you want. Eat the whole restaurant if you want, I won't stop you.”

I laughed, “I can be Hannibal Lecter and eat the people, too.”

“Eat me, I wish you would,” his eyes widened immediately when he realized what he’d said.

I burst out laughing absolutely grateful that for once I wasn’t the one making a fool of myself.

“I didn’t mean that.”

I shrugged, “say more things like that. It makes me feel better about myself.”

Nick laughed, “Well, maybe this will help, too. Thanks for talking to Joe.”

He wasn’t supposed to know that. Deny, deny, deny. “About what?”

He shook his head, “I’ve known my brother a long time, he’s not one to give up fun for work. Thank you for getting him to come around.”

“I didn’t do anything. But if I had I’d say: what are friends for,” I shrugged. “When you first promised to be my friend you said it was conditional upon me being someone that you could lean on.”

He stared at me for a moment, “friends?”

I’m confused, are we not friends? “Partners?”

He sighed, “I thought…” he shook his head. “I thought we were dating.”

Um, what? “We are?”

He was silent for a moment, “I mean, I don’t know, I guess I just figured since… I thought you wanted to be my girlfriend.”

“I am?” Nick looked up at me with sad eyes. “I mean, I do- or I… I just didn’t know.”

His brows pressed together, “what did you think was happening?”

I shrugged, “I don’t know, I just thought it was a thing that we sort of… I never got that far.” Is this why people kept calling me his girlfriend? I thought they were just teasing me.

He stared at me for a moment before a smile started to appear, “Vanessa, would you like to go on a date with me?”

“A date?”

He nodded, “our first date. Just so there’s no more doubts.”

I bit my lip and pretended I wasn’t completely flabbergasted by his proposition, “okay.”

He flashed me that big, bright smile, “great… how about when we get to Texas next week?”

I nodded while my face turned bright red again. Is this real? Am I imagining things? How cruel would my life be if I woke up from a dream at this very moment?


That night after the show, Nick and I were in the studio bus while he set up shop before Joe walked in, “what’s up lovebirds?”

I hid my face feeling stupid for not realizing what was going on between Nick and I sooner. “Joe, I’m glad you’re here, so for the song Neon, I think we should move it up a half step for the chorus and see how that works.”

Joe nodded, “if we do that we’d need Kevin to lay down a new back track.”

“I can go get Kevin,” I volunteered.

Joe bit his lip while Nick rolled his eyes, “don’t waste your time.”

Am I missing something?

“Kevin isn’t going to be doing any more recordings for the album. He thinks it’s finished,” Joe filled me in.

“Okay, but-”

“He’s not focused on music anymore, it’s all about living the married life now,” Nick mentioned bitterly.

“Yeah, but it’s his job?”

Joe sighed, “I’ve tried telling him that, he firmly believes that with regards to the album his job is done.”

I sat on the couch silently as I realized the band that I’d idolized for so long was dysfunctional. I had this nervous feeling this band couldn’t continue to thrive under these conditions.

I played games on my phone while Joe scrolled through his social media and worked with Nick as they tried to put together a new song. It was kind of funny to see Nick teaching an unfinished song to Joe while Joe nods along and tries to mimic Nick’s vocals. Nick messed with the sound board trying to create a basic rhythm for the lyrics before implementing any instruments.

“Oh. My. God,” Joe let out sarcastically getting both of our attention. Joe kept his eyes on his phone as he read to us. “Nick Jonas’ new groupie! Rockstar is seen walking out of a cafe holding hands with an unknown, tanned, little mermaid hottie. Hashtag Banana dress Hashtag who is she Hashtag Nick’s new girl hashtag the little mermaid.”

Joe looked up at Nick and I with raised eyebrows. Nick shrugged it off while I stared at him puzzled. “I don’t know how to feel about hundreds of strangers seeing my picture online.”

Nick looked over at me with an amused smile while Joe fought back the urge to laugh, “yeah, it’s a little bit more than hundreds.”

He showed me his screen that showed the post had already been retweeted 87,000 times. “Hey, remember I said it would be weeks before they noticed you?”

“Nessa, how are you feeling?” Nick watched me nervously.

“I don’t know,” I admitted.

Joe waved me off, “don’t worry about it, you’re a banana mermaid. As far as social media goes, this is highly positive.”

Nick kept his eyes on me before shutting down the studio and calling it an early night.

We walked into my room before he spoke up, “please don’t panic. I swear it’s not as bad as you think. It’ll be fine.”

“It’s fine,” I lied.

He looked at me with sad eyes before pulling me in for a hug, “I’m really sorry.”

My arms found their way around him as I held onto him for a while. “It’s fine. Like Joe said, they like me so it’s not that bad.”



I stood my ground between second and third base while Nick stood at second getting ready to charge.

“Hey, Nessie…” he called out to me.

I felt a smile growing on my face as I tried to ignore him. Jacob was up at bat and there’s a reason he was always the first to get picked for any team events; he doesn’t suck.

“Nessie,” he sang. “I know you can hear me.”

I refused to look at him. As Kevin wound up to pitch.

“Guess, what?”

I heard the smack of the ball as Jacob smacked it out to left field.

“I just felt like runnin!” He yelled as he blazed past me.

I couldn’t hold back the laugh as he ran off and Marco ran toward the ball to send it back into the infield. It was too late, though, Nick was already scoring. His team ended up winning this time around and he made sure I knew it.

He strut around in front of me, “what was that thing you said about me not being good at sports, Ness?”

I tried to hold back a smile but it was useless.

“You can’t say I’m only good when you’re not looking because I know you saw that.”

I laughed as he wrapped his arms around me and tossed me over his shoulder. He paraded around in front of Joe and Kevin to prove his point.

“Nick, stop!” I scolded him with a laugh, “You’re embarrassing me in front of my friends!!”

Both teams erupted in cheers, “yeah, you tell him!” “Embarrass her more!” “Listen to your girlfriend!”

Nick finally put me down and flashed me a menacing smile. He grabbed my face and kissed my cheek animatedly while everyone cheered him on and I turned into a freaking tomato.

 

End Notes:

Hello all,

so what are your guys thoughts so far? How cute is Nick in this episode? There's some character development happening. There's some ticking time bombs. Personally I'm getting really hyped up for this story. Let me know what you think this is all leading to. I look forward to hearing for you all.

Stephy

First Date by Stephy
Author's Notes:

Do you like my stupid hair?


Would you guess that I didn't know what to wear?


I'm just scared of what you think


You make me nervous so I really can't eat


- Blink 182

The first day we arrived in Texas I felt all of my insides scrambling and re-scrambling themselves over and over again. My nerves were through the roof as we walked off the plane. I didn’t realize I had been tracing the hem of my cuffs until Nick took my hand in his to stop me.

“Hey, this is going to be fun, Nessa,” he kissed the back of my hand. “Don’t even worry about it.”

I forced a smile and hoped he wouldn’t notice… he did. He wrapped his arm around me and pulled me into him before kissing the top of my head. I wrapped my arm around his waist as we continued walking through the tarmac into the airport. After about a month of practicing, since the wedding, I was finally starting to feel comfortable in his grasp. It still freaked me out, but in a better way and, on occasion,  it made me feel more calm. I was starting to feel more confident around him.

Joe sped up to walk beside me while I held on to Nick, “hey, little one, you ever been in Texas?”

Nick looked over at Joe with a face that said ‘we’ve been over this.’

“I’ve been to San Antonio, El Paso, and we have family here in Dallas, Fort Worth so we visited at least once every other year.”

Joe's face showed sheer defeat before a thought crossed his mind and he gave me a menacing smile, “you ever been to Abilene?”

I thought about it for a moment, “no, my cousins used to make a weekend trip out of it when we’d come visit but I’m not really old enough.”

Joe waved me off, “girl, please. We’ve got you!”

Nick shook his head, “just let it go, Joe.”

He smirked, “never.” He quickly picked up speed and walked away from us to catch up to Jacob.

I looked over at Nick nervously, “Jacob is planning this outing?”

He smiled, “Jacob is the go-to guy for fun.”

As we approached the exit toward the cars waiting for us outside Nick lent me his sunglasses. “Put them on.”

I took his sunglasses and slid them on, confused, “why?”

“So we can protect your privacy just a little longer.”

I felt nervous all over again but I held Nick’s hand as he led me through the crowd of photographers and into the black van where Joe and Jacob had already been waiting.

I could hardly distinguish what the photographers were all saying but I did catch something along the lines of “what’s your girlfriends name?”

We sat in the middle row this time while Joe and Jacob sat in the back. Nick held my hand while I rested my head on his shoulder. I liked the contact that existed between the two of us, that is, until Joe and Jacob got involved.

I could hear kissing noises behind us and the blush on my face was imminent.

“Joe, I don’t want to get Nick’s attention,” Joe squealed behind me, reminding me what I’d said just two months before.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Jacob. We’re just friends,” Jacob let out grumpily… I’d assume that’s what Nick had said.

I tucked my face into his shoulder while Nick chuckled and kissed the top of my head, “don’t let them get to you, they’ll never let it go.”

That evening, a group of about fifteen of us gathered in the lobby to catch a party bus to Abilene. Jacob approached me with a smirk which honestly still creeped me out a little bit. I know he got along with the guys and our initial meeting was just a bad attempt at flirting but I really didn’t feel comfortable with him.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a white rectangle as he extended it out to me, “one fake ID for Mrs. Vanessa Jonas.”

I cringed at the name as I took the card from him. I’m 18, I really don’t think I would be ready to get married any time soon. Especially with someone that I haven’t even had a first date with. Joe and Nick came down together. Joe wore a dollar store crown with the word ‘Birthday Princess’ scrawled across it in pink rhinestones. I didn’t know today was his birthday.

Jacob called everyone’s attention, “ladies and gentlemen, the birthday boy has arrived! Let’s get on the bus and hit the road!”

We all went out the back exit to the giant-sized party bus. Inside it had all kinds of LED track lights and a stripper pole down the middle of it.

Little plastic shot glasses were passed out to us as Jacob came down the aisle filling, and spilling, Patron into them. Everyone held their shot glass out and waited until Jacob reached the other end of the bus and filled his own shot, “to Joe!”

“To Joe!” Everyone shouted in unison before clinking their shots together and knocking them back.

Nick turned his attention toward me, “did Jacob get you your ID?”

I nodded with a blush and he smirked in return, “what?”

“He said my name was Vanessa Jonas.”

His smirk grew into a smile, “really?”

I pulled out my ID to show him.

“Married by twenty three, huh?” He asked, noting the age listed on the ID.

That’s terrifying to think about. A month ago I thought I’d be single forever and in the span of four weeks I was suddenly on track to be married within the next five years? I shook the thought out of my head.


The next night I hung out on the side stage with Danielle. I felt like I was a step from death and all of my muscles were teetering on cramping. I tried stretching but it was no use. Dehydration was winning. I put on a little bit of extra makeup to hide my shame but I still looked tired and possibly a little bit sick. We were surrounded by some fans who had the more expensive backstage passes and their chaperones. I saw one girl jumping around as she kept bumping into her grandfather who struggled to keep his balance. I felt awful for this poor man and worried that it was only a matter of time before he was knocked down.

I grabbed one of those folding chairs from the larger green room and dragged it out to the side stage. I tried to squeeze by but some fans were bumping into me. One girl elbowed my stomach as I tried to sneak by and I felt like the small amount of jello I had managed to keep down was on its way back up. I paused to take a deep breath and hoped I wouldn’t throw up in front of everyone before I kept moving to make it to the old man.

“Excuse me, sir? Would you like to sit?” I opened up the chair and offered it to him.

He looked over at me with a smile, “oh, yes, thank you, you’re very kind.”

I smiled back shyly feeling too awkward to accept a compliment from a stranger and waved myself away.

I turned back to the stage to see Nick looking over at us with a smile.

Danielle bumped me with her hip, “someone is happy with you.”

“I think he’s just shocked that I’m still alive.”

Danielle laughed beside me, “I saw you were trying to hang with Joe and Jacob last night. Rookie mistake; I did the same a few years back, when I first went on tour with them.”

I looked up at her shocked by her confession. Danielle and Kevin had always seemed so put together and more mature than everyone around us.

She shook her head at me, “Joe is nothing but trouble, don’t let him sway you.”

I giggled at her words, “if only I’d of known this beforehand. I’d be able to hold down more than jello today.”

She flashed me a smile that made her look like a movie star, “lesson learned.”


When the concert was over the guys rushed off stage to greet their fans on the side stage. They greeted everyone before finally turning their attention to the old man sitting down.

“Papa, you came!” Nick remarked excitedly at the old man.

Joe came up beside Nick, “what did you think, Papa?”

“You boys were excellent. Always excellent, you always do such a good job!” He congratulated them. Nick helped him up and walked with him over to the green room as the fans were escorted to the exit.

Joe threw his arm around my shoulder, “hey, little one, thought you wouldn’t be able to join us tonight.”

I rolled my eyes at Joe, “you’re evil.”

“Ready for round two,” he teased.

My stomach twisted and I resisted the urge to gag, “I’m done drinking. I won't be doing that for a long, long time.”

Joe chuckled beside me, “aw, come on, you’re no fun.”

We entered the green room and the old man sat on the couch before Nick turned his attention back to me. “Vanessa, this is my grandpa Jerry.”

Jerry? Jerry as in Nicholas Jerry Jonas? Is Nick named after his grandpa? I reached a hand out to him, “nice to meet you, Mr. Jonas.”

He took my hand, “I’m no Jonas, I’m his mother’s father. Miller! Just call me Jerry.”

I blushed at my mistake, I feel dumb now.

“My dear, you look like a tomato,” he teased me.

Nick wrapped his arm around me, “Papa, this tomato is Vanessa, my-”

“Girlfriend!” Joe shouted from the other side of the room.

“So you’re the one the whole family’s been talking about.”

The whole family? A smile etched itself onto my face.

“Says you’re Nick in a wig,” he added.

I laughed while Nick tried to protest, “that is probably the greatest praise I’ve ever received,” I admitted.

He smiled at me, “well whether you are or you aren’t, you got me that chair and that tells me you’re a good person with a kind heart.”

“The kindest,” Nick assured him and I blushed all over again.

“You keep it up, tomato, I’m gonna have to use you for spaghetti,” Jerry teased me.

That night on the walk to my room, Nick brought it up again. “Papa, really likes you.”

I smiled, “I like him, too. He’s so funny. I didn’t know grandpas could be so cool.”

Nick pressed his eyebrows together in thought. I thought only your mom’s dad-”

“No, both, I just got to meet my dad’s dad when I was 2 but he died when I was in the first grade.”

Nick pouted his lips, “well if you want, I’m sure Papa, would be more than happy to adopt you.”

I smiled and rolled my eyes, “I don’t think that’s how grandparents work, Nick.”

“What do you mean? That’s exactly how it works,” he promised.

I giggled as I made my way into my room to change. Nick sat on the bed while I got ready. It took him a few minutes before he spoke up, “Ness?”

“Yeah?” I asked from the bathroom where I was washing my face.

“If your grandpa died when you were in first grade and you only met him when you were two… What happened during those four years?”

My brain ran through this stream of conversation and I came to the conclusion I’d have to share more about myself than I would have preferred. “I went to Colombia when I was 2 and I didn’t go back until I was 17.”

“Can I ask why?”

“I don’t know, I guess my dad has never really been one for bonding with people. He never thought to go back. Until Jennifer’s wedding he hadn’t gone back.”

“Why don’t you speak to your dad?... I mean, you talk to your mom every other day but I never see you talking to your dad.”

I sighed, “he’s not one for bonding with people.”

“What does that mean?”

“When they split, my dad never… looked for me… He left the day before my 16th birthday. On my birthday he didn’t visit or call… he just didn’t exist that day, and every day after… it took six months before I heard from him again. At my mom’s insistence. He took me to buy a new backpack and disappeared all over again. For a while it was just… once a month… until I stopped answering his calls.”

Nick watched me, “you didn’t want to talk to him?”

“I was mad at him. I hated him.”

Nick wrapped an arm around me.

“I’m the reason he was kicked out…” Saying the words out loud triggered a disassociation and I stared at the wall numbly.

“He kept threatening me. Said he would kidnap me just to teach my mom a lesson. He always sat in front of his stereo listening to his music. He’d call me out just so he could tell me every terrible thing about my mom. He said he’d kidnap me and then have himself killed.”

Nick kissed my temple but it did very little in the way of bringing me comfort. My brain was no longer aware of my surroundings.

“Once, he said these things to my brother… it didn’t go well. Eric punched a hole in the wall. My brother dropped me off at Berry’s for the weekend because he didn’t trust us to be home. My mom was in Chicago for a funeral. The week that followed my brother didn’t go to work because he worried about what my dad might do while he was gone. Eventually I’d had enough and I told my mom to make him leave.”

I blinked out of dissociation and I heard Nick take a deep breath beside me. I turned to face him and saw a look of horror on his face. “I’m so sorry, Vanessa.”

I shook my head as I bumped his shoulder with my own, “I’m fine, I mean I’m here, right? Just one big tomato?”

He chuckled sadly before he kissed my forehead. “You are strong and kind and you deserve a better life than the one you’ve been living.”

I leaned against his shoulder, “right now, my life is really good.” I smiled, “this summer has been… you have made my life so amazing.”

His arms wrapped around me and I melted into him. 


The next day Nick and I went out to lunch with his grandfather to an italian restaurant. We sat in a quiet corner while Jerry told me everything there was to know about Nick.

“You know, one time when he was, well he must’ve been about six at the time. This was just after he’d been picked up to do a show and I went up to New Jersey to visit them. Well, it turns out the little fella was so excited he got his words all jumbled.”

I saw Nick blush as he played with the straw in his glass. I don’t think I’d ever seen Nick looking so bashful.

“He ran up to me shouting: ‘Papa, Papa! I’m going to be Chit! I’m going to be Chit!’”

I tried to hide my laugh while Jerry placed a hand on Nick’s shoulder. “I was so confused. He thought he was saying one thing, I thought he was saying another. It took a minute before his mother came to translate for the two of us.” Jerry raised his tea to his lips to take a sip.

I smiled at the thought, “that’s adorable.” I looked over at Nick with a scrunched nose, “I forget that you used to be a little kid, you’re always so composed and put together.”

Jerry put his mug back down, “no, no, even as a child, little Nicholas was always one for being so serious.”

The three of us took a few laps around the park while Nick held my hand.

“You know, I’ve always wanted to take the boys back to Italy. Besides the touring nonsense, I would want them to experience it for real. You’ve ever been to Italy?”

I shook my head, “no, I’ve never been anywhere East of Tennessee.”

Nick chuckled, “let’s not tell Joe about that.”

Jerry pointed at me, “well maybe after this tour you could join us! What do you say, Red?”

I looked over at Nick not knowing how to respond. Would we still be dating by the time the tour ended? He smiled down at me, “it’s your call, partner.”

I shrugged as I looked back over at Jerry, “I mean… yeah, okay.”

He eyed me suspiciously, “yeah, okay? Don’t think I’m forcing you, Red.”

I shook my head, “no, of course not. I’d love to go! I’m just a little strange.”

Jerry watched me for a moment, “a little strange, huh? Well, I suppose you wouldn’t fit into the family if you weren’t a little strange.”

Nick chuckled and I thought about it for a moment. I suppose that could be kind of true, right? Nick is abnormally serious for his age, Joe is abnormally Joe, Kevin is abnormally cheery just all the time. This entire family is filled with people who are just a little bit strange. Is it possible that I could belong here? I sighed feeling more a part of this group than I ever had before.

Nick kissed the top of my head as Jerry watched us.

“The two of you remind me of my wife and I, God rest her soul. She was always such a kind, gentle woman. Lord knows she kept me light.”

I blushed as Nick chuckled in my ear, “mimaw, was the best. She would always spoil us. You know she got me my first guitar? One of those little fisher price ones but man, I was hooked.”

Jerry smiled, “she always knew you’d end up here, being this.”

I smiled at the thought of Nick being exactly who he was meant to be. The idea of him being the most absolute form of himself just made me feel warm inside.


I wore a short, black, polka dotted, a-line dress with black strappy sandals and my small red Kate Spade purse and waited for Nick. I stood in front of the mirror wondering if the waves in my hair were too big. Did I have too much volume in my hair? Did I just look frizzy? Were the curls too defined? I wore a black cat eyeliner and a bold red lip. Was it too red? Was it the wrong shade of red? Is this too much makeup? How are you supposed to dress for a surprise first date? What happens if people see us? What if they take pictures? Are they going to make fun of my outfit? I wore my white pearl earrings and a small diamond necklace that my mother had gifted me for my graduation. Were the earrings too old lady-like? Was I not wearing enough jewelry? Did I pack a bracelet? Do I even own a bracelet?

I spent too much time debating every choice I’d made about my wardrobe until a knock on my door snapped me out of my thoughts. I took a deep breath and reminded myself it was too late to make any changes.

I opened the door to see Nick standing there in a plain white t-shirt and jeans. He offered me a bright smile, “hey, partner.”

I blushed as my brain wrapped around the thought of what we were about to do. “Hi,” I greeted shyly.

He looked down at his watch, “I’m not too late am I? I wanted to make sure I was on time so you wouldn’t have too much extra time to doubt yourself.”

I shook my head, “no, you’re not late; I was just early.”

Nick offered me an apologetic smile, “I promise I tried to make this as easy for you as possible. I think you’re going to like it.”

I bit my lip nervously. I hope it doesn’t get too crazy. “What are we doing?”

“Dinner,” he smiled.

But I already knew that! How are we getting there? What if people are invading our space or taking pictures or something? How am I supposed to act?

I think Nick could see me doubting myself because he chuckled, “easy peasy, Ness. I promise.”

He extended his arm out to me, “shall we?”

I wrapped my hand around his bicep as he led me down the hall into the elevator. He pushed a button for the top floor and I wondered if we’d just be hanging out in his room for our date. I mean, that would make it easy, right? As we rode the elevator up I felt myself getting nervous again. Should I be saying something? Am I normally this weird? I looked over to see Nick looking completely confident as if this wasn’t a very big deal. Is this not a big deal? I haven’t really been on many dates. Am I blowing this out of proportion? I took a deep breath and let it out in a soft sigh.

Don’t panic, you’re practically already dating. I saw Nick look over at me with a small smile on his face. “Don’t worry, Ness. This is meant to be fun.”

He’s right. I know he’s right. I definitely shouldn’t be freaking out this much. He shouldn’t have to deal with me being this weird on a date that is supposed to be fun. I bit my lip before deciding to tiptoe as high as I could to plant a kiss on his cheek. He saw me struggling and dipped down slightly to make my life easier. Finally he blushed and turned his eyes on me.

“What was that for?”

I shrugged, “thank you… for tonight.”

He chuckled, “just wait til you actually see it.”

The elevator dinged to let us out on the top floor. Nick took my hand and walked me down the short hall to a door labeled ‘roof access employees only.’

“Nick, I don’t think we’re supposed to go out there.” I pulled on his hand to stop him.

He looked back at me with a small smile, “come on, I thought you were my partner in crime.” “What if we get in trouble?”

He smirked at me, “how about this, if we get in trouble, I’ll take the fall and you can blame it all on me. If we don’t get in trouble, you owe me a real kiss.”

I blushed at his proposition. “What’s it gonna be, partner?”

I nodded in agreement and a huge smile spread across his face. He opened the door, “watch your step.”

I climbed the half step up until we were officially on the roof. I looked around to see a giant panoramic view of Downtown Dallas. The setting sun cast a sky in pinks, purples, oranges and blues. Every beautiful color blending to give us a perfect setting.

“Nick, this is… wow,” I whispered.

He smiled beside me, “I hoped you’d like it.” He hopped up the half step and led me out onto the roof toward the ledge so we could get a better view of the city. His arm wrapped around my lower waist and I could feel his thumb stroking my hip as we appreciated the view. This is unbelievable. Off to the corner I saw a small table set up waiting for us to use it. “Are we supposed to go sit down?”

I tried to move toward it but Nick held me firmly in place. “Table’s not ready,” he smiled before rolling his eyes, “so hard to find a good restaurant around here.”
I giggled before leaning into him and taking a moment to watch the sunset. About twenty minutes later, Nick led me to the round table set up for two with candlelight and a waiter on standby. “Oh, look, a table finally opened up.”

Nick pulled my chair out for me and I resisted the urge to blush and jump around with excitement. I hung my purse from the back of my chair while Nick made his way to sit across from me.

I watched the sky get darker by the minute while the waiter handed us our menus.

“Nick?”

He looked up at me with a small smile.

“It’s going to get darker.” His face was amused. “What I mean is, I don’t think these candles are going to cut it.”

A smirk quickly took over his face as a set of string lights came on behind me. “You were saying?”

I blushed, “you’re way too good at this.”

He shrugged, “gotta be… how else am I going to impress you?”

Impress me? I was blown away by him before he ever even knew my name. I figured admitting that to him would be sort of weird so I just kept it to myself and switched topics.

“Is Texas your favorite place?”

He took a sip of his water, “it’s beautiful out here, and I was born here so it’s kind of special to me. But I don’t know if I’d be able to live here forever. I kind of like the on-the-go of LA and New York, you know?”

I shrugged, “I can’t say I’m one for the fastlife.”

Nick raised his eyebrows, “really?”

I smiled, “I know my family lives in LA and everything, but you know it’s the more quiet end of it, I guess. Yes, I can still sneak out and get a milkshake at midnight but the streets will be dead silent and I kind of like that.”

“Why did your family decide to settle in LA?”

I thought about it for a moment. “I think it was because of my grandpa. He was a fieldworker in the sixties. He’d come out to California during the summer, tend the fields and then head back to Mexico for the Winter. He marched with Cesar Chavez and he worked really hard to get citizenship for his wife and kids. On top of that he bought a bunch of properties in Mexico so that his family would be taken care of in the event of his death. His kids had finally been approved to come to the US and he bought a house in East LA before he passed. I think in his memory, my grandma packed up all eight of her kids and lived the life he had built for them. And we just kind of branched out from there.”

Nick nodded, “so your mom is Mexican and your dad is Colombian, right?”

I nodded.

“What do you identify as?”

“A mess,” I admitted with a laugh.

He breathed out a laugh as a charcuterie board was placed in front of us, “well, you’re a beautiful mess at that.”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I was raised in both cultures, with both families… I just sort of am all of it, but not all at once?”

He watched me confused, but I could tell he was really making an effort to understand.

“I just mean, like you… you’re different when you’re being Nick Jonas.”

He squinted his eyes at me, “I am Nick Jonas.”

I shook my head, “I mean you’re Nick Jonas™  and you’re rehearsed and proper and just a little bit too perfect to be human. When I first met you, you were completely unreadable and I thought you couldn’t stand me. You were 100% in listening mode trying to figure me out and so scarily serious. And other times you’re the grumpy Nick who refuses to lose a game. Or goofball Nick that is a lot sillier than I ever would have anticipated. On occasion you’re this Nick who knows everything about dating and being romantic and all this stuff that just makes me feel…” I shimmied and scrunched not knowing how else to describe it.

Nick chuckled, “I promise you, I don’t know everything about dating… I was kind of hoping we could figure that stuff out together.”

I grabbed a grape from the board as a smile spread across my face. Why is he so good at making me feel special?

After dinner, the staff setup a projector and a white screen with two lawn chairs so we could watch a film. Nick explained we were watching one of his favorite movies and I couldn’t keep my eyes off the screen. It made me feel like I suddenly knew him a million times better. After the movie, Nick and I made our way back to his room so he could check his levels after the soda he’d been drinking during the film. I sat on the bed when he came back from the bathroom before grabbing a juice from the minifridge. 

He sat beside me sipping his juice.

“If you weren’t doing this, what do you think you’d do?”

Nick shrugged, “honestly, I don’t know if I can picture my life not doing this. I’m sure I’d find something else to be passionate about, but I don’t think I’d ever be as happy as I am doing this.”

He nodded at me, “what about you? If you weren’t a ‘plain person,’” he teased me, recalling how I had called myself plain in Colombia a month ago. “What would you be?”

I blushed, “I really wanted to be a model when I was little… but then I ended up being this tall and the shortest model is still like eight inches taller than me?” I shrugged, “the genetic lottery was not on my side.”

Nick raised his eyebrows, “I’d beg to differ. They don’t make them like you.”

I blushed while Nick took another sip of his drink. “So, on a scale of 1-10, how would you rate our date?”

I bit my lip while Nick closed his juice and watched me with a smirk. “Nine?”

I looked up to see a look of surprise on his face, “Nine? What did I do wrong?”

I shook my head, “nothing.”

“Well, what am I missing?”

I scrunched my nose trying to avoid all of the nervousness already starting to build up. ‘Now or never,’ I reminded myself, knowing that the longer I took the more likely it was that I’d chicken out. 

My lips collided with his hastily causing him to laugh against my lips.

I pulled away feeling embarrassed after failing so miserably. “Sorry,” I mumbled.

Nick shook his head, “don’t be, we can just try again.”

I avoided looking at him feeling completely mortified. I tried to duck my head out of view from him but he placed a hand on my chin and showered my face with butterfly kisses. I took a deep breath in anticipation before finally reaching out to meet his lips again. I followed his lead this time and the kiss was soft and gentle. I reached out for the collar of his shirt to pull him in closer. I felt him smile as he wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me in as well. My entire body started to overheat at the realization of what I was doing but this time, I wasn’t going to let fear or anxiety win. I knew exactly what I wanted.

I don’t know which one of us initiated it, but we were going down and I wasn’t willing to stop just yet. I could feel the warmth of his skin through my dress and my entire skin was set ablaze. I wrapped my hands around his neck feeling like I couldn't be close enough. My heart teetered on the brink of cardiac arrest as it struggled to find a steady beat.

I kept my eyes closed fearing that if I opened them the crushing reality of it all would freak me out. Nick’s hand traveled up from my waist to my ribcage as his thumb and index finger rested just below my breast. My entire stomach flipped upside down as blood was rushed in every direction but my brain. He squeezed my ribs roughly before releasing his grip. The sensation from his grasp excited me and I wrapped my leg around his waist trying to pull him in closer. I pulled away just long enough to catch my breath when I heard Nick mumble to himself, “fuck!”

Before I could process what he meant he used his other hand to pull my face back toward him and reattach our lips. The hand on my ribs quickly slid down past my hips and slithered across my thigh before squeezing it and pulling me closer.

I felt him press against me and I froze momentarily. Everything in my body wanted to rush full speed ahead but my brain was slowly coming back to life. I knew my time was running out and I was determined to get the most out of this experience before it was gone. I leaned against Nick until he was laying on his back and I rested above him. Nick quickly pulled both of my legs apart so that I straddled him and I felt even more of him. Nick pulled away to kiss my neck and I let out a satisfied sigh. One hand held my ass firmly while the other tugged at the hem of my dress with urgency. I quickly attached my lips to Nick’s again as my body began to tremble knowing I’d gone further than I had originally anticipated and I wasn’t prepared for this.

Nick noticed the response and pulled away quickly. “O-okay, we can stop,” he let out breathlessly. His hands let me go instantly as I slid off of him and turned to face the ceiling. My body edged between excitement, embarrassment and alarm. I definitely did not expect to be doing this with someone I’d only known for a few months. And yet, here we were. I didn’t fully comprehend how I so willingly handed myself over to Nick. My entire life I was so afraid to get too close to anyone and yet seconds ago his hands were all over me and I couldn’t get enough. I knew my face, like every part of me, was overheating but I couldn’t be entirely sure that it was purely due to embarrassment.

I could see Nick turn over to look at me from the corner of my eye and a giant smile burst out across my face regardless of how desperately I tried to hide it.

“Yeah, me too,” he commented.

I turned to look at him confused by his statement to see he was just as red as me with a smile that mirrored mine.

I bit my lip before I blurted out an unplanned confession, “I like you.”

His eyes lit up and his smile became impossibly larger, “I like you, too.”

End Notes:

Hey all, sorry for the long wait. It was completely unintentional. I swear I didn't forget about this story or any of the other ones either. I just had a bit of writer's block coupled with the fact that I've started working again and I just moved into a new place.

If you're still reading, thank you for waiting. If you're a new reader, go away! I'm kidding. That was a bad joke... I'm good at those.

Anyway, please leave me your thoughts. Nick and Vanessa had their first official date. On a rooftop... wonder where I got that idea from. Their relationship is definitely changing. Shifting. Growing. Hopefully for the better but really you never can tell.

Signing out now because I need to start unpacking and whatnot.

Stephy

Happy Birthday, Mr. President by Stephy
Author's Notes:

Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Happy Birthday to you

-Marilyn Monroe

I flew back out to the tour for Nick’s Birthday just two weeks after I’d gone off to college. I arrived Friday afternoon and was escorted to the guys’ soundcheck. I walked into the arena as the guys were finishing up and slowly walked my way up to the front. I was halfway through the arena before I heard a loud, “no way!”

I giggled as I saw Nick jump off the stage and rush toward me at record speed. He scooped me up in his arms in a tight embrace, “what are you doing here?”

“I thought I’d surprise you and spend a little extra time with you before you get old,” I teased him.

“You’re amazing!”

We heard Joe tapping on his microphone, “attention, attention, will the missing band member please make his way back on the stage so we can finish soundcheck? I repeat, will the missing band member make his way back to the stage so we can finish soundcheck?”

Nick looked over at me with an apologetic smile.

“I know, just go, I’ll see you when you’re done.”

Nick rushed on stage and rushed through the last of it while I sat in the front row with my weekend bag and a giant smile.

As soon as they were done Nick hopped back off and ran toward me. I barely had enough time to stand up before he was tugging on my hand. “Wait, Nick, my bag!”

He turned and grabbed my bag quickly before rushing me out of the arena. He rushed down the hall into his private changing room with me trailing behind him. I resisted the urge to giggle feeling giddy about the fact that Nick was excited to see me.

He closed the door behind me before quickly attaching his lips to mine. This was new territory, Nick had never been one to kiss me without asking. Still, something about it was very exciting to me. I wrapped my hands around his neck and followed his lead because that’s all I’d learned to do so far.

I felt the ground disappear beneath me as Nick’s arms wrapped around my waist to lift me. I giggled in surprise and I felt a smile form on Nick’s lips as well, “God, I missed you!”

“I was only gone a month,” I tried to reason, even though I felt the empty slot in my chest refilling itself in his presence.

“A month is too long,” he muttered onto my skin while spreading kisses along my jaw.

I squirmed in his grasp feeling ticklish and he knew it. His kisses became more vigorous as I finally squealed in laughter, “Nick, stop! STOP!”

He chuckled as he released me and I set my feet back on the ground. “What, I can’t show affection for my girlfriend?”

I blushed still feeling a bit shy about the title, “I- no… you can, I just- I’m ticklish.”

Nick smirked and pressed a kiss to the top of my nose before we heard a knock at the door, “Hey, what are you guys doing?”

Joe popped his head in with an excited smirk which quickly vanished when he realized this wasn’t the compromising situation he’d hoped for. He smacked his lips, “you guys are no fun.”

“What do you want, Joe?” Nick spoke to his brother bluntly while I hid my face in Nick’s chest feeling completely embarrassed to even be seen showing any kind of physical intimacy with Nick.

“Well, a few of the band members heard Vanessa was back, they were wondering if she’d be hitting the town with us after the show?”

Both Joe and Nick shot questioning glances in my direction, “um, I have an assignment for my Political Science class due at midnight but if I can get it done on time…”

Joe squinted his eyes at me, “I thought Nick said you were like a brainiac bookworm or something?”

“I never said that,” Nick corrected adamantly.

Joe shrugged it off, “come on, Brain. I’m sure you can handle one teensy weensy assignment.”

I saw Nick scowl at his brother and I was slightly relieved that for once I wasn’t Joe’s target of entertainment and teasing. “Well, Pinky, I’ll see what I can do, we just might have time for world domination, after all.”

Joe’s brows pressed together while his eyes squinted in thought momentarily before shooting wide open again, “I loved that fucking show!”

I smiled grateful that for once my reference wasn’t completely lost while Nick spoke up with amusement, “Pinky, that makes you the idiot.”

Joe thought it through for a moment, “possibly, but we all know that show would have been nothing without Pinky.” He stretched and walked into the room to sit on the couch. “Let me take a load off, I’m a little tired of carrying this whole show on my back.”

Nick rolled his eyes, “whatever you say, Joe.”

The room sank into an awkward silence for a moment. I focused my eyes on the minifridge feeling completely uncomfortable. Nick clenched his jaw and stood in the center of the room without moving as Joe surveyed the room before he rose to his feet, stole a soda from the fridge, and made his way toward the exit, “I’ll see you two at the show.”

The door shut behind him and Nick closed his eyes and exhaled a deep breath.

I bit my lip nervously, “do you want to talk about it?”

He shook his head before sitting on the couch where Joe had been, “I don’t want to load you up with negativity on the days that you’re here.”

I shrugged as I moved to sit beside him, “I don’t want you to feel like you can’t talk to me just because I’m not always here.”

He sighed as he leaned his head on my shoulder, “I know he’s trying, but it’s not getting better. I don’t feel better about the album. Kevin doesn’t want to try anymore. Joe is confused as to why we’re even bothering. At this point so am I. I’m trying, Ness, I am. But I don’t know what more I can do at this point. I feel like I’m fighting with both hands tied behind my back.”

I ran my fingers through his hair not knowing what kind of advice I was supposed to give him. I admitted defeat and settled on just letting him know that I was still listening. “I hear you and I’m here for you, in any way that you may need me.”

Nick kissed my shoulder, “how do you always know exactly what to say?”

What? I do not feel like I aced that. I should have done so much better. I should have had a solution yet all I came up with was ‘I hear you’?

He looked up to meet my eye, “I feel like you’re the only person who truly listens to what I’m feeling instead of trying to patch things up and pretend it’s all fine.”

Huh. I did not expect that.

I spent a chunk of the concert locked up in Nick’s green room trying to finish my assignment before I could join in on the fun. Which honestly, how sucky is that? I flew all the way out here to do homework instead of spending time with my… Nick? I mean, boyfriend sounds weird and I feel like he’d be upset if he knew I called him a friend. This is all, very strange to me.

When I finished my assignment, I made my way over to the side stage. Joe was the first to catch sight of me. He smiled and bumped Nick to redirect his attention toward me.

Nick’s face was consumed with a cocky grin as his eyes locked with mine.

As the guys rushed off the stage to change in between sets, a security guard approached me.

“Miss, I was asked to escort you to the pit by the front stage.”

“I- what?” Why?

“Please, follow me.”

I followed behind him feeling completely confused before the pit was in my visual range. I saw the Jonas family standing there alongside a few family friends. They opened the barriers to allow me access before Danielle and Mrs. Jonas both reached out to hug me.

“Welcome back, dear.”

I smiled at them as they motioned me toward the front of the space so that I’d have better access to the stage.

When the guys came back on stage, Nick made a point to serenade me directly as he sang out:

“You might think

That I'm a fool for falling over you

So tell me what can I do

To prove to you

That's it not so hard to do

Give love a try

One more time

'Cause you know that I'm on your side

Give love a try

One more time”

I blushed like a maniac and tried to pretend the stomach thing wasn’t happening. I felt a million eyes on me and I was suddenly stuck between the giddy feeling in my stomach and the extreme desire to shrink into nothing. Is it supposed to feel like this? Like I can only be with Nick when no one else is around? Am I supposed to feel like running and hiding every time we’re in public? I shook the thought and tried to focus on just enjoying the show.

After the show, I sat in Nick’s green room while he showered and got dressed. I felt my phone buzzing in my hands with a new text.

From: Joe

We’re not ready yet. Stall him a little longer.

To: Joe

How do I do that? He’s out of the shower!

From: Joe

Get creative ;)

I blushed at the implicit message behind his words. Nick opened the door as he slipped on his t-shirt. “Hey, there, partner!”

He ticked his head to the right slightly as he took in the bright flush on my face. “What’s up?”

I shook my head as I tried to force the color away. “Nothing.”

His lip pulled up from one corner as he flashed me that ‘yeah, right’ smirk. “What are you hiding?”

I shrugged my shoulders hoping he’d let it go. His eyes trained on me for longer than I was comfortable with. I felt I was being crushed under a microscope.

“Joe said to make out with you.” I felt like I must’ve been running a fever, my face was so hot.

Nick’s smirk quickly grew into a smile, “I mean, that would be a great gift.”

“But I already kissed you,” I muttered.

I heard a breathy chuckle, “actually, I think I kissed you. It’s not a gift if it doesn’t come from you, Ness.”

I grabbed a couch cushion and buried my face in it hoping to hide. I felt completely embarrassed and overwhelmed.

I felt the couch shift beside me as Nick wrapped an arm around me, “okay, okay. You don’t have to do any of that. I was just teasing you.”

I buried my face in his shoulder and wrapped my hands around his bicep while he ran a hand through the curls in my hair. I knew he was only teasing me, but I couldn’t keep the red from consuming my face. I took a few deep breaths while Nick stroked my hair. I could feel the blood beginning to disperse as I breathed in Nick’s scent.

We sat in silence for a moment while I began to feel comfortable in his presence again.

“One to ten?”

I took another deep inhale as I cuddled closer to him. “... two.”

I felt him kiss the top of my head and I wondered why I ever felt uncomfortable around him at all. How is he this odd mix of comforting and embarrassing all at once? Is this normal? Is it just me? It’s probably just me. But then again, maybe that’s what it is when you date a celebrity? I don’t know.

I reached up to press a kiss against Nick’s jaw since that was as far as I could get. He looked down at me with a warm smile.

Before he could say anything else I kissed him again, this time aiming for his lips. It was quick and barely there but he leaned in closer encouraging me to try again.

For once, I wasted no time. I pressed my lips to his with more permanence. Nick played a more reserved role and encouraged me to lead. I pressed my lips against his more firmly hoping he’d engage. He didn’t. I scooted closer to him and ran a hand through his curls trying to get a reaction from him. His arms looped around my waist as he pulled me toward him. I repositioned myself to sit on his lap as my hands roamed through his hair, past his neck, to his shoulders.

I pulled away to catch my breath and Nick wasted no time to run kisses and nibbles down my neck. My skin crawled with delight as I threw my head back to allow him better access. His hands slid from my waist down to my ass before hastily pulling me into him. My pelvis ground against his before I could process what was happening.

An audible “Oh!” escaped my lips. I froze momentarily knowing I’d never made that sound before. Then again, I’d never felt that before, either.

I felt Nick smile against the sensitive flesh on my neck before doing it again.

I bit my lip trying to keep myself from making that sound again. My eyes shut as my body was no longer under my control. Nick guided my hips a few more times before stopping. I contemplated for a moment if I should continue or if that would be inappropriate before throwing out the entire debate and slowly moving my hips against his again. His hand squeezed my ass firmly as our lips reattached. I continued to move against him as my excitement got the better of me.

I heard my phone buzz with a text, likely from Joe, but I couldn’t bring myself to stop. My movement became slightly faster as I felt a pressure building between my thighs. Nick’s hands roamed across my body, sliding under the hem of my shirt as he stroked my back. My phone buzzed a second time and I broke our kiss as my attention was momentarily drawn toward the screen that lit up.

“Keep going,” Nick whispered against my collarbone.

I disregarded the phone and my head rolled back as I began to move faster still.

His hands squeezed my bare skin around my waist as he helped me move more easily. “Come on, Ness,” he whispered as his lips trailed below my collarbone toward my cleavage. It wasn’t long before I was struggling to control the sounds escaping me.

“Uh, oh, Nick!”

While this was all new territory, the tight feeling that was growing below my navel led me to believe I was on the cusp of something amazing. Still before I could reach it, my phone buzzed, again; this time with a phone call.

The reality of Joe being on the other end of the phone while Nick and I hid in here doing this felt shameful. I stopped immediately and pulled away from Nick altogether, trying to avoid the inevitable color that had yet to consume my face.

Nick cleared his throat and shifted his position almost as if he was also trying to hide from me just like I was doing to him.

I finally reached for the phone once it stopped ringing. I saw Joe’s name scrawled across the screen and I immediately blushed. I pray he never finds out what we were doing. I opened the texts to see two quick, concise messages.

From: Joe

Now

From: Joe

You coming?

I shut my eyes as my face turned red at the sight of the last message. I opened my eyes a few moments later to see Nick watching me from the corner of my eye.

“Uh, Joe’s looking for us.”

Nick sighed deeply, “okay, tell him we’ll be there in a minute.”

I looked over at him nervously. What if he wanted to talk about what just happened? Can I avoid this conversation if I just get us out of this room?

“Maybe we should go now. I mean, it’s Joe, he’ll likely come looking for us if we don’t go.”

Nick nodded as a slight pink hue consumed his cheeks. “Yeah, definitely, just um…”

I sent a quick reply to Joe saying we were on our way before I looked up to see Nick. 

He hadn’t moved yet; he closed his eyes, focused on an idea that was beyond my scope of knowledge. I wondered what he was thinking. Does he not want to go? Does he already know?

Nick looked down at his lap for a moment and hesitated before rising to his feet. “Um, yeah… let’s go.”

He reached a hand out to me which I took instinctively. I trailed behind him the whole way toward the rest of the group as I tried to take that time to properly pull myself together. I have no idea how the previous situation evolved so quickly nor do I know how to feel about it.


We entered the green room where we saw everyone standing around a giant, five tier cake. John was the first to catch sight of us. If he had any idea what we’d been doing, he certainly didn’t show it.

“Hey, birthday boy is here!”

Everyone’s attention turned toward us before Jacob crept up behind Nick and placed his hands on his shoulders. He roughly massaged his shoulders as he began to guide him toward the cake. “Cake time, my guy!”

Nick’s grip on my hand loosened as he moved toward the cake and I hung back looking for Joe.

Rochelle wrapped her arms around my shoulders. “Hey, little one! I missed you!”

I smiled and shook off the fear that anyone might know why Nick and I were late. “I missed you, too!”

Rochelle smacked her lips, “girl, please, I know you didn’t come back for my birthday two weeks ago.”

I giggled because I knew she was joking but I couldn’t help the small twinge of guilt that I still felt from her words. Am I a bad friend?

“I could only afford one trip, college budgets are extremely unforgiving,” I tried to excuse myself.

“Mhm,” she laughed, “guess he’s more important than me right?”

I didn’t respond, I didn’t know what to say anymore. She squeezed my shoulders as she began to push me toward the cake.

“Kind of great that you did come today, though. Wouldn’t have wanted you to miss this.”

Just as everyone crowded around the cake, Jacob began to count, “One, two, three!”

Before we could even begin the cake exploded as the top half flew off. Joe popped out of the cake in a blonde wig and a white satin halter dress.

His voice was nasal as I stared at him in absolute shock.

“Happy Birthday to you!”

I looked around to see everyone red faced fighting every urge to laugh while Nick stared on, still trying to figure out what was going on.

“Happy birthday, Mr. President! Happy birthday to you!”

Nick began to cackle uncontrollably while I watched it all unfold, wide eyed, completely shocked by everything still happening.

Joe finally jumped out of the cake covered in frosting and ruining a portion of the remaining cake, “happy birthday, bro!”

He charged toward Nick covered in frosting. Nick tried to run off but didn’t get very far before Joe was tackling him and converting him into a blob of frosting. Everyone laughed while Joe smeared frosting across his face.

“It’s in my nose!” Nick laughed aloud.

There was an inexplicable joy that came from seeing Nick like this. He was usually so stressed and frustrated. Seeing this lighter side to him made me so glad I had managed to visit.


That night, Nick and I walked into his suite hand in hand. Although he had managed to wipe most of it off he still smelled like sugar and sweetness and some of his curls had clumped together from the frosting still stuck in his hair.

“Be honest, Nessa, did Joe tell you his plan?”

I shook my head, “he told me that they were setting up to surprise you and asked me to stall, but he definitely didn’t mention anything about… well the whole Marilyn Monroe thing.”

Nick plugged in his phone as he chuckled and shook his head, “my god, he’s insane.”

“I heard that kind of stuff is hereditary,” I teased, as I sat on the arm of the couch, still keeping my distance, afraid of what might come next. 

Nick looked over at me with a smirk before crossing the room to stand before me, “oh, really.”

His hands wrapped around my waist as he dipped his forehead to press against mine. “There’s only one thing that makes me crazy…”

His lips pressed against mine fervently and I had a quick moment of panic. I pulled away hastily leaning my body away from him. His eyes locked onto mine as he tried to understand what he’d missed.

“I-uh.. um- you- you smell like frosting…” I sputtered out not knowing what to say or how to explain myself.

Nick’s eyes studied me momentarily before he sighed, “I just…” He bit his lip for a second while he edited his thoughts. “Okay, I should jump in the shower anyway.”

His hands squeezed my waist momentarily before releasing me altogether and walking into the bathroom.

I sat on the armrest for a moment trying to piece together how to explain to myself the drastic shift in my behavior from a few hours prior to now. I heard the water begin to run when Nick got out of the shower and decided to shake the thought out of my head. I grabbed the in-room phone by the bed and called down to guest services to request extra bedding.

I slipped into my pjs before pulling out my laptop to check my emails and respond to some classroom discussions before shutting down for the night.

I yawned when I saw my message had posted at 3 am New York time. Shortly after, I heard the shower cut off, I put my device away and gathered my toiletries so that I could slip into the bathroom when Nick was done.

I waited by the door with my small tote in hand before the door flew open. Nick stood at the doorway with a white towel wrapped around his waist and small droplets of water running down his chest.

I tried my best not to stare… I failed. “I, uh, I- shower… no, not that… teeth- sink teeth…”

Nick’s brows pressed together in confusion before a smirk grew on his lips.

“I need- toothbrush! Um, brushing my teeth…”

Nick let out a quiet chuckle before stepping aside for me.

I locked the door behind me and sat on the edge of the tub trying to piece together what just happened. How did my brain short-circuit so horribly? I thought back to the event but I could only seem to focus on the water running down his form. Sliding down his shoulders. I bit my lip wondering what would happen if I could bite him. Would he let me? Would he like it? Would he get on top of me and have his way with me? What if he-

My legs squeezed together as my excitement began to build. I looked up and came face to face with a mirror. My face was bright red and I felt like I might overheat. I shook the thoughts out of my head quickly before standing to start on my nightly routine.

I didn’t used to have thoughts like this before. Not about him or anyone. What is happening? How am I supposed to process this? When I finished washing my face and brushing my teeth I leaned against the bathroom counter trying to debate what would be a normal way to proceed. Should I tell him about it? Would it be okay to act upon these feelings? Would I be able to take it back if it all became too much? Does he think this way about me? Is there something I should be doing to make him see me that way?

I looked over my pajama set. A fitted grey henley and loose fitting bottoms. Is there any way I can fix this? I undid the first few buttons on my top hoping it might make a difference. It didn’t. I undid a few more. I mean, I could almost see something but also not really. I sighed. I tried to concentrate on what I’d seen girls wearing in movies.

I remembered seeing several actresses going without a bra in scenes where they were supposed to be sexy.

I blushed as I pondered the idea of actually ditching an undergarment. But also they say it's good for circulation to sleep without one, right? Also, I’ve heard that it can improve overall health and… maybe I should just take it off? I unclasped my bra and struggled to remove it without ditching my shirt. I wanted to avoid being naked in front of a mirror as much as possible before doubt starts to creep in.

After losing the bra I checked my reflection, did I look sexy yet? I played with my hair, loosened the last of the buttons and propped up my breasts until I was satisfied with the visual display.

I blushed realising I’d never seen myself in this light. I bounced around quietly, feeling excited with what felt like a new discovery. As I was about to head out, I heard a voice on the other side of the door.

“Oh, yeah, forgot I ordered these. Thank you.”

Okay, so I’m kind of excited to have Nick see me like this, but probably not guest services. I waited until I felt the coast was clear but just as I was working up the nerve to head out I heard Berry in the back of my head.

“Trust me, Vans, your ass will never again look as great as it does right this second. This is the time to enjoy that fruit. It’s a peach.”

I looked back at the mirror and realized that my bottoms were fairly loose and effectively hid what Berry described as my best asset. Also, Nick said he liked girls with nice butts. I thought back to when Nick saw me in my two-piece at the pool party and how Joe kept teasing me about it. I mean, if I want to make an impact?

I took a deep breath before stripping off my pants. I saw my white high-waisted Calvin Klien thong staring back at me. This seems excessive.

But it is what he likes. It’s almost guaranteed to work, right? It really doesn’t show off any more than my bathing suit did that one time.

Then again, that was different. There wasn’t the whole... dating premise involved. But also, if I can wear something this revealing in public in broad daylight, wearing it in private in a dark room is okay, right? I can turn off most of the lights so he won't see everything. Also, this is technically covering more than the swimsuit did. Stop being a wuss! Just go already! I bit my lip before running out head-first into new territory.

I turned off the lights as Nick made up the couch. He stood over it in flannel bottoms, still without a shirt.

Nick turned on the standing lamp beside the couch, “hey, I know you’re tired. I’m almost done here, just give me another minute.”

He tucked in the bedding between the cushions and the backrest to keep it from slipping. He hadn’t even turned to look at me.

I could feel all of my insides squeezing together with charged up excitement. What is he going to do when he sees me? I tiptoed over to him hoping to go unnoticed just a little while longer so I could get a little bit closer.

I reached the other end of the couch as he finished smoothing out the top sheets.

“Perfect,” he mentioned, more to himself than anything.

“How much?” I teased playfully.

I saw a smile forming as he finally turned to look at me, “for you, no cha-”

He stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of me. Is that good? That’s gotta be good, right? He’s not mad, right? No. Maybe?

I tugged at the cuffs of my sleeves that rested in my palms. I suddenly don’t feel as brave as I did a second ago. Did I do the wrong thing?

Worry started to disturb me and it cut through my tone as I spoke up, “Nick?”

Nick blinked a few times as he took a few steps toward me and stopped. His hands reached up toward me before dropping again.

“Holy fuck!”

My eyes widened in surprise. Oh, god, I fucked up. What was I thinking? I’m so stupid.

“Do you have any idea how bad I want you right now?”

Wait, what? He wants me? Like… in a dirty way? I bit my lip trying to hold back a smile. I’d never heard him talk like that.

“Can I…” Nick seemed pained trying to find the best way to go about it.

I quickly moved to close the gap between us hoping to capitalize on my win before it vanished. I reached up and wrapped my arms around his neck to meet his lips but he had other plans. He quickly scooped the back of my legs to lift me off the ground. I squealed in surprise.

His lips attacked mine more forcefully than he’d ever done in the past as he sat on the couch with me straddling him. His hands zipped across my body almost like he couldn’t decide where he wanted to touch me. His hands zoomed from my waist to my thighs, my ass to my back. I froze momentarily feeling completely out of my element. My body became rigid and I scolded myself for creating this situation.

It took a few moments before Nick stopped altogether. He leaned back on the couch as his hands found my shoulders and pushed me away slightly, “are you okay?”

I swallowed, not knowing how to piece together an apology.

“We can stop, we don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”

His eyes were so caring and sincere and I was reminded of every time he respected my boundaries. I sighed a breath of relief knowing I was safe in his hands and I’d only have to do as much as I was comfortable with.

I smiled, and nodded softly, “yeah, I just… I really like you.”

Nick smiled, “I like you, too.”

I leaned in and kissed him gently before taking his hands in mine. I could feel him throbbing between my legs and felt my internal temperature rise considerably. I guided his hands toward my ass again and felt his hot palms meet my warm skin.

Why does everything feel like it’s on fire?

It wasn’t long before his hands began guiding my hips against his again. It was easier for me to fall into a good rhythm the second time around and it wasn’t long before I felt the pressure building again.
“Oh, god, Nick,” I panted in his ear.

“Fuck, Ness,” He groaned as he buried his face in my chest.

His hands kept guiding me and helped me move against him faster.

I wrapped one arm around his neck as the other reached for the wall behind him for leverage. 

His hands reached up to cup my breasts as he nuzzled his face into them.

My head fell back and I closed my eyes as I felt the pressure between my legs growing stronger and stronger.

“Nick, I- uh… oh, god, I think I’m gonna…”

I stopped myself mid sentence not knowing for sure if I was on the right track or how far away I was or even having an appropriate name for what was happening to me.

“God, Ness, don’t stop,” he groaned, again.

I bit my lip hoping to keep my voice down as I chased down the elusive end. A few audible gasps broke through as I kept my pace. It felt like I’d been at it for hours but I couldn’t seem to cross the finish line. It felt like I was just a jump away from the end but I hadn’t been able to figure out what that jump might be.

“Nick… I can’t…” I let out defeatedly, finally slowing down.

“Keep going,” he encouraged me as his hips started reaching up to meet mine. I did as he’d instructed as I felt more stimulated. One of his hands slipped under my ass to the thin fabric separating me from the world. His fingertips began to move along the length of my opening for a few moments before slipping under the cotton shield altogether. His fingertips moved against my bare skin toward my opening. I couldn’t tell if I was ready or not but before I could decide, a horrible memory crossed my mind.

“Stop!” I panted.

Nick stopped all movements and removed his hands from around me.

I took a minute to catch my breath before collapsing onto his shoulder trying to comprehend how we got so turned around so fast. After a few moments, his hands began to rub my back  in a soothing motion.

“I’m sorry,” we both spoke in unison.

I shook my head, “I don’t know what happened, it was good and then I was thinking and then I thought about what he did and I don’t know- I just…”

Nick kissed my forehead, “it’s not your fault, I should have known better.”

“No, I- it was good. I just… I panicked.”

He brushed my hair out of my face, “hey, we go at your pace, remember?”

I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and just collapsed onto him under the weight of my exhaustion.

Nick held me for a few minutes as I fell asleep before whispering, “hey, Ness?”

“Mm,” I responded in my half-dormant state.

“Can we share a bed? I don’t want to let go.”

I didn’t have the brain resources to properly consider the question, so I nodded permissively before he stood up with me in his arms and carried us off to bed.

 

End Notes:

So, uh... that took me a while. Sorry everyone, I suppose I just got a little busy with work and adulting and whatnot... it was awful. Any way, let me know how you feel about this story. Leave word. Any word. Even if the word is: bad.

6 Months by Stephy
Author's Notes:

"Wish I didn’t have to go


It’s hard to leave you all alone


Even when we’re far from home


Yeah, we’re right where we belong"


- John K.

It had been just over six months since our first date. I hadn’t seen Nick since winter break. He had a few concerts and interviews in January and I was working through my schooling here in New York. We were supposed to meet up for Valentine’s Day but Nick explained he would be working on the album with Joe through the Holiday. I sat in the study lounge for the school of psychology with some of my new classmates trying to differentiate between axons and dendrites.

“Okay, which one sends it, again?” Samantha asked for the third time?

“Axons, dendrites are the little hands that receive it,” I reminded her.

“So from A to D?” She clarified.

“Yes, girl!” Dustin let out annoyed. “Like the alphabet. Like Adrian’s pathetic ass who keeps trying to contact me to get the D.”

Sam and I burst out in laughter. “I’m sorry, weren’t you saying just last week that you needed a new boyfriend?”

Dustin rolled his eyes, “yes, keyword being boyfriend. That boy needs to wine and dine me and until he does he is not allowed to sixty-nine me.”

My phone buzzed on the table with a text.


From Nick

Hey partner, what are you doing today?


I smiled at my phone.

“Aww,” Sam and Dustin teased me together.

“Girl you are sprung as hell!”

“Leave her alone!” Sam smacked his shoulder, “she’s trying to get the D!”

They both laughed and I blushed. “It’s so embarrassing when you say things like that.”


To: Nick

I’m studying with some friends. What about you, lovebug?


“Lovebug?” Sam read over my shoulder, “girl are you trying to get dumped? No guy wants to hear you quote the Jonas Brothers.”

“Instant mood killer,” Dustin agreed. “This is only acceptable in my dating world where everyone has dreamed of fucking one of them. Straight guys don’t give a fuck.”

I rolled my eyes, “I’m sorry, shouldn’t you be studying SSRIs and not my texts?”

“That sounds, like a better study tactic,” someone agreed behind me.

Sam and Dustin looked up with a smile before their mouths gaped open. “Holy shit!”

I turned around to see Nick; looking absolutely awe-inspiring in a large heathered coat, white button-up, and dark slacks; smiling down at me, “hey partner.”

I jumped out of my seat to hug him, “what are you doing here? I thought you said-”

“Well, I had to throw you off the scent.”

A giant smile etched itself onto my face, “you’re the best!”

“Kiss him!” Sam whispered loudly beside me causing me to blush.

“Oh, bitch, you’re really overstepping!” Dustin scolded her.

Nick chuckled, before turning his attention on them, “you guys must be Vanessa’s friends; I’m Nick,” he introduced himself.

“Oh, we know,” Sam smirked. “Vanessa has been clinging to her phone for as long as I’ve known her, I just didn’t realize you were this Nick.”

“That’s Sam,” I introduced her. “And Dustin.”

Nick shook their hands while Dustin scolded me, “girl, how are you going to spend an entire semester pretending to be my friend and not tell me you’re dating Nick Jonas? This is treachery!”

Nick chuckled, “I’m sorry to interrupt your study time but I was hoping to steal Vanessa away for the day?”

“Take her! We didn’t even want her here,” Sam insisted.

I blushed when Sam winked at me as Nick took my hand and led me out the door.

“Your friends are nice,” he noted as we made our way down the hall.

“Yeah, they are, most days,” I joked.

He smiled down at me, “are you ready for today?”

I shook my head, “no, I thought I was just going to be studying all day, remember?”

Nick looked down at my apparel noticing my sweats and an oversized hoodie, “would you want to change maybe?”

I nodded, “I definitely don’t want to go anywhere with you when I look like this.”

“I think you look great,” he lied.

I rolled my eyes, “my place is this way.”

I opened the door to my little studio apartment. Nick glanced around and caught sight of various frames and boards on the ground leaning against the walls. “How come you haven’t put anything up on the walls?”

I shrugged, “I haven’t figured out how to hang things on a brick wall.”

Nick looked around from end to end, “is this place smaller than your room back home?”

“It’s New York, everything is smaller.”

Nick raised his eyebrow, “you’d be surprised.”

“What are we doing today?”

He smirked, “that would defeat the purpose of trying to surprise you.”

“How am I supposed to know what to wear?”

“It’s nothing public, you can wear whatever you want.”

I sighed a breath of relief knowing I wouldn’t be facing any cameras today. After the public serenade, my face was plastered on social media for a week. Suddenly, old images from high school were surfacing. It felt like I was staring at a faceless crowd and they knew everything about me.

I decided on a floral print mini dress with some wool tights and booties. I tossed on a Guess peacoat and pulled my hair out of the bun it was in. I thought to do something else with my hair but given that Nick had been waiting, I decided against it. I applied some mascara and tinted lip balm before seeing Nick scrolling through his phone as he sat on my bed.

“I’m ready,” I bit my lip hoping he wouldn’t mind that I wasn’t exactly dolled up.

The smile that spread across his face lit up my soul.

“You’re stunning.”

I blushed as he got off my bed and reached his arm out to me, “shall we?”

I looped my arm through his as he led me out the door to a black sedan waiting out front. We were completely invisible as we slipped into the vehicle unseen by any lens.

“So where are we going?” I asked as I focused on the busy New York Streets that never seemed to run out of people with places to go.

“My place.”

My attention shot to him instantly. His place? In LA? That seems a little impractical given that I was not instructed to pack anything ahead of time.

“Your place?”

Nick shrugged, “I’ve got an apartment in West Lake.”

“Since when?”

He shrugged, “I kept it from when I was in How to Succeed, figured I come out here pretty often, might as well keep it.”

“West Lake? Isn’t that the rich side of town?”

Nick chuckled, “the rich side?”

I shrugged, “I went to Manhattan on a day trip once with some friends and we noticed there was a lot that we were not able to afford. We kind of just didn’t go back.”

He shook his head, “I mean Manhattan is a pricier area, but I wouldn’t say I’m living on the rich end.”

I rolled my eyes, “that’s what a rich person would say.”


Nick opened the door and allowed me to enter first. This space had high ceilings and plenty of space.

His foyer felt bigger than my entire apartment. “You keep this place just in case?”

He shrugged, “We tend to have a lot of business here in New York, it just sort of makes sense.”

My eyes widened as I walked further ahead to see a private dinner table set for two.

“May I take your coat?” He asked, reminding me to remove it.

I mindlessly removed the coat and handed it to him before moving toward the dining setup.

“How do you-”

“Good evening, ma’am,” A voice spoke up from my left.

I looked over to find someone in a white chef’s coat waving at me from the kitchen.

“Oh, geez,” I responded in surprise. “I didn’t know anyone was in here.”

Nick finished hanging up our coats before walking in to introduce us.

“Vanessa, this is Chef Giuliano. Chef, Vanessa.”

“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” he apologized.

“Oh, no, not- I just- I’m afraid of everything.”

Chef Giuliano chuckled while Nick rolled his eyes playfully, “if that isn’t the understatement of the week.”

I tried to feign upset but I couldn’t help the smile creeping on my face. “You’re the worst.”

He flashed me a proud smile, “where’s the lie, Ness?”


A set of smooth jazz standards poured over the speakers adding to the atmosphere of the space. Nick sat across from me after having tested his levels as Chef Giuliano, brought us the Amuse.

“First, we’ll start with a cold smoked oyster on the half shell, with apple and pink peppercorn granita.”

I blushed while Nick thanked him. I remembered someone once told me that oysters were quite handy at getting things started. Given that, I suppose it would be sort of fitting since we hadn’t been intimate since his birthday.

Nick held his oyster out to me, “cheers.”

I smiled and grabbed my own to gently knock against his, “cheers.”

It was slimy and cold and slid down my throat faster than I anticipated.

“What did you think?”

“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. “I swallowed it so fast I didn’t even get to taste it very well.”

A smile spread across Nick’s face as he shook his head gently.

“What?” Did I miss something?

“Nothing, you’re just… being yourself. It’s one of the things I like most about you.”

I smiled feeling at ease knowing that even though I’d made a fool of myself, at least Nick was entertained by me. “You know what I like about you?”

Nick quirked an eyebrow.

“I feel like you’re my opposite and my same all at once.”

He squinted in confusion.

“I just mean, we have a lot of commonalities but we also have so many differences between us. You have this natural magnetism and you can just be wonderful and easy. You also have strong confidence, one that I so clearly lack, and given this life and, really, just life in general, you’re like my shield.”

I paused trying to find the right way to say it so that he understood me completely, “I feel so safe when I’m with you. There’s a calm in being near you that I don’t have anywhere else. I know that sounds weird and maybe a little bit like a lie since… I just- there’s a side of me that I only ever get to experience when I’m with you. You’re the only one who brings it out of me.”

Nick smiled as he reached out for my hand and placed a kiss on it.


After dessert was finished, I sat back in my seat feeling satiated.

“What did you think of the dinner?”

“Everything was amazing,” I beamed as Chef Giuliano cleared away our plates.

Nick refilled our champagne glasses, “what do you have on the schedule tomorrow?”

I quickly ran through my agenda in my head, “I told Sam I’d help her study for the midterm. I was going to get some laundry done. Get some groceries.”

“Do you have time to stop by a home store?”
“Home store?”

He shrugged, “thought, I could give you a hand and hang up some of those frames you’ve got.”

I shook my head, “you don’t have to do that.”

“Of course I do! Those are number 27 on the list of boyfriend duties.”

I looked at him confused. “Wait, are- are you serious?”

He smiled, “what, don’t think I can be a handyman?”

“I-I don’t know, I never really thought about you in that position.”

He smirked, “well, yeah, but I can hire someone to get the job done. Be there around 2 tomorrow.”

“Wait seriously?”

“I want you to feel at home while you’re living here.”

I smiled a big, goofy grin, “you’re amazing.”

He smiled and shook his head, “just doing my job.”

“Can you stay the night?” he asked.

I bit my lip recalling how stressful it was the last time we shared a bed. I’d awakened with a jump and inadvertently scared him, too. “You want me to stay?”

He nodded, “I just got back to you, I want to be around you as much as possible.”
Why is he so freaking cute? I want to melt and just live here with him for as long as he wants me. I blushed a deep shade of red while scrambling to compose a response.

Chef Giuliano excused himself for the evening with a round of thank-yous from the both of us.

Would it be the worst thing if I stayed? Maybe it’ll be different this time?

I took a sip of my champagne, “Okay, I’ll stay on one condition.”

Nick tried to hide the smile as I stood up and walked over to his side, “can we dance?”

Nick hopped out of his seat eagerly, “oh, I’d use any excuse to hold you close.”

I giggled as he wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me in.

“The way you wear your hat, the way you sip your tea....” Ella and Louis serenaded us as I leaned my head on Nick’s chest and he rested his chin atop my head.

“I missed being held by you,” I admitted.

“I miss you every second of every day. I’m just dying for a chance to see you.”

I smiled against his chest as we danced along without another word.

Nick pressed a kiss to the top of my head and I returned the gesture by kissing his chest. Nick chuckled in silence and I looked up to catch a glimpse of that smile.

“I love you,” he whispered into my hair.

My heart swelled at his confession and I wanted nothing more than to make sure he understood how I felt about him. I reached up onto my tiptoes and pressed my lips to his gently. He pulled me in a little tighter. My hands slithered around his neck and his hands began squeezing my waist. 

I don’t know why but every time he did that, my insides would catch fire, and goosebumps spread across my skin. This simple gesture signaled to me his enthusiasm and sparked my own. Something about knowing the effect I had on him excited me. 

I began tugging on the collar of his shirt trying to pull him in closer. I could feel the smile growing on his lips as he chuckled at my response and pulled away.
“Maybe we should stop here before we get carried away.”

My lips pouted in response. I don’t want to stop, yet.

Nick kissed the top of my nose before letting go and moving to sit in the living room. I watched him move while I plotted my next move.

Then again, maybe he just doesn’t want to? If that is the case, would it make me a jerk if I pursue this further? I figured if Nick can respect my boundaries, I owe him the courtesy of respecting his.

I huffed out the built-up energy before joining him on the couch. I kneeled on the couch beside him and cuddled into his side. Nick chuckled as he wrapped an arm around me and kissed the top of my head.

“How’s school been treating you?”

I shrugged, “it’s not bad? I feel like it's a good pace and all the instructors are so knowledgeable. I think the worst part is the weather.”

I felt Nick’s chuckle before I heard it, “the weather’s no good?”

“I hate it, I feel like I’m always cold. There was like one warm week when I first moved out here and then I never felt the sun again.”

“Well, it’s winter,” he allowed.

“Winter was not like this back home,” I shook my head. “This is not winter, it’s an abomination.”

“Ha!” Nick let out.

I looked up just in time to catch the smile on his face.

“Winter is not a thing in LA,” he countered.

“Is too, it’s like 55 degrees. It rains sometimes.”

Nick shook his head, “you’re hilarious. It rains sometimes?”

“It does!” I couldn’t help the smile creeping onto my face despite his teasing.

“There are tons of great things about LA but seasonal changes is not one of them. There is no fall, no winter. It’s Spring and Summer. That’s it.”

“Those are the best ones anyway!”

Nick raised an eyebrow to me, “you don’t think that might be a biased opinion?”

“Every opinion is biased. Opinions are, by definition, biased.”

“Why are you so smart?”

I blushed, “my brother says I was born to be a smartass.”

His lips pressed together as he tried to hide a smile, “you mean because you’re smart and you’ve got a nice ass?”

My jaw dropped. How do I even respond to that? I mean I’ve gotta say something, right?

“Um… I- words...”

I could feel Nick chuckling beside me, “did I make you uncomfortable?”

I shrugged feeling my cheeks begin to heat up, “I don’t know what words I’m supposed to say. I don’t- um, flirting… I just… don’t know how.”

“Well, we’ve made it this far; so clearly, you know something.”

I stared at him puzzled, “did I flirt with you?”

He smiled at me, “it's very cute the way that you do it. Just a touch here. A misspoken compliment there. It’s barely there. But, I couldn’t stop staring at you long enough not to notice.”

I wrapped my arms around his neck as his slithered around my waist. “Why are you so good to me?”

“Because you’re amazing.”

I kissed his cheek before whispering against his skin, “you’re my favorite person.”


The next morning I woke up to the sound of a strumming guitar. I woke up to see Nick sitting on a chair in his pajama bottoms playing with a small smile.

He watched my eyes open before he started singing,

“Feels like it’s been six months and seven days

When I’m without you
There ain’t no way I don’t think about you, yeah
All I do is think about you, yeah


I love when you get so shocked
That your cheeks turn red
How am I the only guy inside your head?
I’m thinking out loud
Yeah, I’m just thinking out loud, yeah


‘Cause baby, when we fall asleep

You know that you’re safe with me

Baby, this is all we need

And we’re right where we belong

Wish I didn’t have to go

It’s hard to leave you all alone

Even when we’re far from home

Yeah, we’re right where we belong


All these things between us

Yeah, it starts to hurt

I’m getting jealous of my own t-shirt

The way it holds you, yeah, yeah

You know I wish that can hold you


Haven’t slept in three nights

Yeah, you’re on my mind

Flipping through photographs to pass the time

I’m thinking ’bout you

Yeah, I’m always thinking ’bout you

‘Cause baby, when we fall asleep

You know that you’re safe with me

Baby, this is all we need

And we’re right where we belong

Wish I didn’t have to go

It’s hard to leave you all alone

Even when we’re far from home

Yeah, we’re right where we belong


‘Cause baby, when we fall asleep
You know that you’re safe with me
Baby, this is all we need
And we’re right where we belong
Wish I didn’t have to go
It’s hard to leave you all alone
Even when we’re far from home
Yeah, we’re right where we belong


Girl, I really love you
Yeah, we’re right where we belong, yeah
You know I really love you, love you, yeah
You know I’d always love you
Yeah, we’re right where we belong”


He finished strumming while I just stared in awe, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Vanessa.”

A giant smile spread across my face as my face started to get hot. I got out of bed and crawled into his lap while he wrapped his arms around me tightly. “You wrote a new song?” I whispered into his neck.

Nick nodded and kissed my hair, “it’s yours.”

I looked up at him confused, “what?”

“It’s your song.”

I pouted my lips as my emotions started to get the better of me. He smiled, “you’re adorable.”

He leaned in to kiss me and my heart fluttered uncontrollably.

“You make me happy,” I mumbled against his cheek.
He chuckled, “that’s all I ever want to do.”

End Notes:

So Nick threw out some big words. Also how cute are they? Am I right? Anyway, leave your thoughts behind. Positive or negative, they help me grow!

Summertime Sadness by Stephy
Author's Notes:

Oh, my God, I feel it in the air
Telephone wires above are sizzlin' like a snare
Honey, I'm on fire, I feel it everywhere
Nothin' scares me anymore

- Lana Del Rey

In June I flew home to LA to spend time with my family and with Nick.

I came back to my old room to find Berry waiting for me with a giant grin, “sugarplum! You’re back!”

She engulfed me in a hug and tackled me onto my bed. I giggled.

“I didn’t know you’d be here.”

“I’m supposed to be studying for a final but I didn’t want to miss you coming home!”

“I feel so special,” I admitted with a laugh.

“Yeah, you were supposed to.”

We finally sat up before Berry bombarded me with questions, “so, how you liking New York?”

I shrugged, “It’s not so bad now that it's warmer. I mean, there’s still people everywhere, which can be a little overwhelming, and...”

“Would you want to live there?”

“I do live there.”

“Yeah, but long term?”

I shrugged, “I don’t know, I’m starting to feel like I have two lives now. I have friends out there and I have a video interview to be a research assistant next week and I feel like being there is pushing me to stay there, but-”

“But?”

I bit my lip, “I like the people here. Also, I was born here and I just like it here better, I think?”

Berry listened to me intently.

“I don’t know, maybe if I could bring my New York people here?”

She smirked, “you have this crazy idea of trying to keep people forever, you know?”

“Well, yeah, but if they’re good people, why wouldn’t you want to keep them?”

She rolled her eyes playfully, “it’s irrational, you’ve gotta learn to rotate.”

I stared at her confused.

“Okay, so try to think of it as when you were a kid and you had your stuffed animals. So you’d have a favorite one and that’s the one you’d sleep with until you had another favorite and then you’d switch them out. Or sometimes you’d just be in a different mood you know?”
She shrugged, “I don’t know you can still go back to old favorites but you’re not going to stick with it forever just because, right?”

I bit my lip knowing my confession would not go over well.

“What?”

“I slept with all of my stuffed animals.”

“Yeah, exactly, that’s what they’re for.”

“No, like at the same time.”
Berry stared at me in silence for a moment. “Are you serious?”

I didn’t respond, I didn’t know how.

She sighed, “oh, you piss me off. Who does that? That’s weird, Vans!”

“I didn’t want them to feel excluded or left out,” I defended quietly.

“They were stuffed animals! They didn’t have feelings.”

I shrugged, “they did to me.”

“Didn’t you have like a hundred stuffed animals, how did you fit them all in your bed?”

I blushed, recalling the memories, “I used to set them all around me or on top of me or wherever they fit and then I just… wouldn’t move so that they wouldn’t fall off.”

A smile pierced her concerned exterior, “you’re too sweet for this world. I mean, truly. I see a lot of who you are and what your goals are in life and I worry for you.”

I shook my head, “I don’t know what that means.”

“It means you do too much for everyone. And fine be kind and be generous but not at your own expense.”

Her words sounded strangely familiar and I didn’t know what to say. I liked helping people. And honestly, it caused me too much anxiety not to.

 

Berry and I hung out for a short while before she had to get back to studying. “We’re going hiking this weekend, though, so don’t forget.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” I promised.

She gave me another hug and with that, she was on her way.

 

That evening I slipped into a button-up shirt dress and some comfortable flats before I was in my mini cooper again, for the first time in a long time, headed for Nick’s home. I pulled up to his home where I noticed another car in the driveway. Either he bought a new car or he’s not alone. Can he afford to buy a new car? How much money does he make? How does he make his money, like is it a monthly paycheck or once a year or-

I shook the thoughts out of my head knowing I definitely should not be pondering his income.

 

I parked in the driveway behind the car that I knew was his before getting off to knock on the door.

I was about to knock when I heard shouting on the other end, “just drop it already, Nick! It’s fine! Leave it alone!”

“No, it’s not! I can’t put my name on it as it is!”

“It’s not all about you!”
“Are you kidding me right now? I’m fucking try-”
“Look, I’m not discussing this anymore. Do whatever you want! I’m out of here!”

The door swung open to reveal an annoyed Kevin. He stared at me surprised, “Vanessa.”

My eyes shifted to the ground as I whispered, “Kevin.”

“He’s… I’m just heading out, um Dani is waiting for me. But-uh, I’ll see you around.”

I stepped aside to allow him passage before looking into Nick’s seemingly empty house. I stepped inside cautiously closing the door behind me. I saw him pacing in the kitchen angrily. He was red in the face. I walked over to him slowly.

“Nick?”

His eyes shot up to catch sight of me. He rushed toward me quickly, before wrapping me up in his embrace. “How are you here right now?”

I wrapped my arms around his torso as my face became buried in his chest, “I flew back this morning.”

“I thought you said you had a summer load.”

“I do; online,” I smiled up at him to find his temper had cooled almost instantly.

He shook his head at me, “you must have superpowers or something, how do you manage to always show up right when I’m falling apart.”

I shrugged, “I’m just trying to do my job.”

He sighed out the leftover frustrations before releasing me to check his watch. “It’s 10:30 don’t you have a curfew or something?”

I smiled and shook my head, “guess my mom forgot all about curfews when I turned 19.”

He smiled back at me, “A whole year knowing you, huh?”

His lips pouted in thought, “it’s not bad.”

I raised an eyebrow in question, “not bad? What a glowing review.”

He chuckled and kissed my forehead, “well, can’t make you sound too appealing, someone might run in and steal you right from under me.”

I blushed at his words, “under you?”

Nick smirked at me, “how about I get you something to drink?”

He stepped away from me and turned toward the fridge. “I’ve got water, pineapple juice, cranberry juice, diet coke, something stronger?”

 

We cuddled together on the couch watching a movie, Nick’s thumb stroked my arm soothingly while my brain seemed to be stuck on a loop. Under him. Under him? Like me being under him? Physically? What would he do to me if I was under him? What if his hands were all over me? My mind drifted to his birthday last year and the day after Valentine’s day, my birthday, and I was suddenly trapped in a haze. My body temperature increased drastically and quickly. I squeezed my legs together when I felt the familiar heat building again.

Nick noticed my body stiffen and he immediately stopped what he was doing and focused all of his attention on me. “Hey, you okay?”

I felt the familiar blush of embarrassment growing on my face. I nodded quickly, futilely hoping he’d drop it.

“Ness, what’s wrong?”

I closed my eyes feeling like I’d been caught. I took a moment to try and think my way out of this. His hand reached out for mine as he stroked the back of my hand with his thumb reassuringly.

What can I say to make this go away? If I asked him to drop it, would he? What if he finds out what I was thinking? What would he say? Would he judge me? My heart raced inside my chest with a slight uptick of excitement.

Would it be bad if I just tell him the truth? How would he respond? Would he want the same things, too? I bit my lip in deep contemplation. Only one way to find out.

I took a deep breath and shook my head, “just- uh, my mind wandered to, uh… to us.”

He watched me patiently as he waited for me to explain.

“I, um, I-I like it when I’m close to you.”

The corners of his lips turned up slightly.

“I just mean, well… I like it when you,” I whispered, “touch me.”

He stared at me, frozen, all movements on his end had seized. He was expressionless for longer than I was comfortable with and I held my breath hoping for the moment to pass, or expand, or really do anything beyond this second.

“You what?” He finally let out.

His facade was cracking. I saw his adam's apple bob in his throat before a pink hue began to consume him. Seeing his reaction gave me a confidence that I’d never possessed. I don’t think I’d ever gotten that response from anyone before. I felt the desire to test it.

I licked my lips before looking up at him through my long lashes. My fingertips brushed up the palm of his hand and up his arm in featherlight strokes. “I like when you put your hands on me. It excites just to think about it.”

He let out a shaky breath, “you- you do?”

I bit my lip and nodded before shrugging, “I don’t know, I guess I was thinking maybe we could do that again.”

He seemed to ponder my offer momentarily before he got up off the couch before reaching a hand out to me. I took it fearlessly and followed behind him, barefoot, down the hall and up the stairs. I’d never been upstairs in Nick’s home, but I suppose there’s a first time for everything. He led me into the bedroom at the end of the hall where a large King size bed sat in the center of the room.

Nick cleared his throat as he walked into the room and slipped off his shoes. He rolled up the sleeves of his shirt and kicked off his shoes all while I stared on nervously.

“You okay?” Nick asked.

I swallowed the nerves that were building, “yeah, yes, I just- um…”

I stumbled in behind him feeling the gravity of the situation. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t even know where to start.

“You sure? You seem a little nervous,” Nick shoved his hands in his pockets as he watched me.

I nodded, a bit excessively, “ye-no, I’m… uh…” I closed my eyes trying to figure out how to compose myself.

I opened my eyes to see Nick asking for my hand. I crossed the room to meet him. He pressed a soft kiss to the back of my hand before running his hand through my hair.

“You don’t have to do this, you know,” he reminded me.

I was nervous about trying something new. I was nervous because I’d never even ventured into this territory on my own. Still, I knew what I wanted.

“I’m nervous,” I admitted. “But I-I still want… you.”

Nick studied me carefully before pressing a kiss to my forehead, “you can stop this at any time, you know that, right?”

I nodded again feeling a mix of nerves and butterflies and a swirling storm of mixed emotions.

Nick kissed my cheek before his lips met mine in a soft embrace. Immediately, all of my fear and worry began to vanish.

After a moment I felt him begin to pull away, so I tiptoed before he could to stop him. His hand gently grazed against my jawline and I felt a trail of warmth wherever his hands went. My hands reached for the collar of his shirt. He was delicate in every single one of his actions and it felt painstakingly teasing. With every second that passed,  my body craved him more and more and the slow, featherlight touches weren’t enough to quench my appetite.
It wasn’t much longer before I felt an overwhelming urge to move forward. My hands quickly started tugging on the hem of his shirt. Nick’s hands quickly moved to stop me as he broke our kiss.

“Slow down, Ness.”

I looked up at him confused. Did he not believe me when I said I wanted this?

He sighed, “this is new to me, too.”

I was shocked by his confession. I always saw Nick as a worldly guy, he’d been everywhere, tried everything, knew everything.

“I just- I want to make sure I get this right.” His jaw flexed as he stared me down intensely.

I couldn’t help the smile that crept onto my face. He was nervous. I’d never seen this side of him.

“I trust you,” I promised.

Nick exhaled in relief as his forehead connected with mine before wrapping both arms around my waist.

My hands hung from his shoulders before I reached up to meet his lips again. It was difficult and almost painful to move as slow as we did. My heart spent what felt like hours beating so hard, I felt it might burst out of my chest.

Slowly but surely, he reached for the top button of my dress and worked his way down. Goosebumps rolled across my skin in waves over and over again. I felt absolutely exhilarated being so vulnerable around him. I felt like I could hand myself over to him completely and know that I’d be safe in his embrace. When he finished unbuttoning, he pulled the two sides apart and stopped to examine the skin underneath.

I felt a heat creeping up my neck and into my cheeks. Having his eyes so focused on me was both unnerving and arousing. His jaw flexed and he swallowed harshly as his eyes scanned every curve. I stepped toward him as my dress finally slipped off my shoulders and pooled on the floor. His hands wrapped around my bare waist and his lips crashed into mine more forcefully.

I reached for his shirt again, more carefully this time, playing with the hemline around his waist before my hands finally found the flesh under the fabric. I felt the goosebumps across his skin as the fabric began to bunch in my hands as they traveled higher and higher. He pulled away long enough to discard his shirt before pulling my body against his. Feeling his hot skin colliding with mine was exhilarating. I’d never felt anything like it before. I pulled him in closer trying to increase the contact between the two of us. His hands slipped below my waist, over my underwear before firmly squeezing my ass.

“God, Vanessa,” he groaned out, almost in pain.

I pulled away to kiss across his chest from one collar bone to the other. His lips quickly found mine again before he lifted me off the ground and I wrapped my legs around his waist. He walked us over to the edge of the bed before laying me down onto it.

He hovered above me while my hands kept tracing the valleys on his arms. His hips collided with mine and I felt a familiar rush of butterflies as they migrated between my legs. My hands reached around his hips and pulled them toward me urging him to do it again. He complied with my request before whispering against my collar bone.

“I love you.”

I pulled his face up to meet mine before kissing him fervently. I wrapped my legs around his waist and my arms around his neck trying to keep him as close as possible. I felt him smile against my lips as my touch became rougher, hungrier, more desperate for him.

My hands quickly trailed down to his jeans. I tried unbuckling his belt when his hands stopped mine.

He pulled away and shut his eyes as he tried to control his breathing. “Ness, I-I can’t-”

I shook my head, “I’m sorry. I just- I wanted to touch you, too.”

Nick’s eyes were pained as he seemed to struggle in an internal battle.

“We don’t- we can stop if it’s too much,” I promised him.

For an instant the idea crossed my mind that he was always the one saying that to me, not the other way around, and yet, here we found ourselves.

He finally nodded before releasing my hands and allowing me to continue. My hands slowly undid his belt. Then the button. The zipper. I used my feet to begin sliding his jeans off of him. Once they were down to about his knee he stopped what he was doing to kick them off the rest of the way. I took that as my chance to crawl to the top of the bed and crawl under the bedding.

Nick’s eyes focused on me with a look of lust and pain before he met me under the sheets. I reached out for him first before he pulled me into him. One hand played with the curls at the nape of his neck while the other rested on his hip. After a few minutes, my fingers curled around the waistband of his briefs and he sucked in a sharp breath. He broke our kiss trying to figure out how to proceed.

“Do you trust me, Nick?”

His eyes remained closed while he battled some internal debate. “Stop me if you want to.”

My hand ventured into the other side of the fabric in search of him.

I wrapped my fingers around him to the best of my ability before stroking him back and forth.

His breathing was shallow and rapid before he growled out a “fuck!”

I felt him beginning to pulsate in my hand similar to the feeling I felt between my legs.

“Ness,” he whimpered.

I picked up speed incrementally but his hand reached for my wrist. “Ness, god that feels…” he took a deep breath. “Incredible, but I- if you keep going…” he pulled my hand out while he worked to regain a steady breath. “I want to focus on you.”

He pushed my shoulder so that I rolled back to lay flat on the mattress. He positioned himself above me before brushing my hair out of my face lovingly, “you’re beautiful, you know that?”

I couldn’t help the blush that consumed my cheeks as he kissed my nose. He planted butterfly kisses across my face before his lips wandered across my jaw, down my neck. His lips lingered around my collarbone before his teeth nipped at my bra strap.  I gasped in surprise as the strap snapped against my skin. I could feel him smirking at my reaction but I was too enthralled to care.

His lips ventured through the valley between my breasts before lightly nibbling on the sensitive flesh. My back arched in response and my hands became entwined in his hair as I pulled him in closer. He let out a breathy chuckle as he kissed down to my ribs and still kept going lower. He licked the skin just above the waistband of my panties and it felt like my entire body was electrically charged. His hands lightly tugged on the thin fabric that was my panties and my hips lifted to make it easier. His lips kept moving down. Kissing the newly exposed flesh and inching closer and closer toward uncharted territory. My hips dropped back onto the mattress in a panic while Nick stopped what he was doing to look up at me.

“That’s too- I can’t do that.”

Nick nodded silently.

“I just- this is all new and I’m not ready for all of that. I mean-“

“You don’t have to explain. I can stick to your limits.”

I sighed out a breath of relief before Nick’s lips met mine.

I played with his hair while his hands helped me discard my panties altogether. He positioned himself between my legs and made every assurance that my body was on the brink of overload before his hand began to masterfully pleasure me. I gasped in response.

“You okay?”

I nodded quickly before biting my lip and burying my face in my hands in embarrassment. Nick placed soft kisses on my hand, “talk to me, Ness. I don’t know what you want if you don’t tell me.”

I inhaled sharply before removing one hand to speak to him. “That feels-”

I gasped in excitement as he applied just a little more pressure.

“Oh, god, Nick!” I whimpered against his shoulder.

“What do you want, Ness?”

“Just, please keep- keep going.”

Nick kissed my forehead while my hands scratched at his shoulders lightly. It wasn’t long before my entire body was on edge quickly approaching the elusive brink.

“Nick, I think- oh, god! Nick, I think I’m going to-“

Before I could finish, I was burying a muffled moan in his shoulder while my body began to convulse beyond my control.

My entire body felt drained of all energy. I couldn’t feel the space around me anymore. My limbs felt like they were made of lead. I couldn’t move even if I tried. Nick laid beside me and kissed my temple before lifting me toward him as I rested limply against his chest.
We laid in silence for a few moments before I was able to speak again. “I- that was- I’d never done that before.”

Nick chuckled as he stroked my hair, “me either.”

I shook my head against his chest, “no, I mean, not even by myself.”

Nick was silent and I was kind of glad I didn’t have to see his expression. “It’s just- I was always so… It felt wrong and scary and- I don’t know, I guess I didn’t trust myself.”

Nick kissed the top of my head as he tightened his grip around me. “Thank you for trusting me.”

I kissed his chest before sliding my arm around him. 

 

I awoke with a jump when I felt Nick stroke my hair. “Hey, it’s just me. Didn’t mean to scare you.”

His voice was groggy and sleepy and I couldn’t help but smile. “I know, it’s just a bad habit I’m trying to break.” 

His arms stretched around me giving me a light squeeze. I looked up to see him with his eyes still half shut and his hair disheveled.

“You’re cute.”

A smile quickly consumed his face before he kissed the tip of my nose, “me? Have you checked the mirror lately?”

I giggled as I stretched out my legs. I buried my face in his chest again, breathing him in. “I like this. I want to do this more.”

He chuckled, “you know, I’ve had a very similar idea. Just kind of waiting for the missing puzzle piece.”

I glanced up at him confused. What puzzle piece? What is he thinking? He shook his head at me.

“No worries, I can wait.”

End Notes:

Hi all,

Hope you're still enjoying the story. I know people have been asking about this one as well as Let's Fall in Love. I promise I'm working on both as inspiration strikes. I want to put forth good content and sometimes it takes me longer than I'd expect but I'm not giving up.

Anyway, leave your thoughts behind. Let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.

Stephy

The Beautiful and the Damned by Stephy
Author's Notes:

Split right down the middle like there's two of me

No hiding, I bare all nudity

This is everything that comes with celebrity

criticism, ridicule and scrutiny

-G-Eazy

I came home to my mom’s place around noon so that I could start preparing for my interview on Monday. I laid on my bedroom floor studying when my mom entered my room.

“Oh, you’re studying?”

I nodded, “I have an interview for a research internship on Monday. Want to make sure I’m prepared.”

She nodded, “what time did you get home?”

Am I still under curfew and I didn’t even know? “Um, I came home today.”

She watched me without another word.

I shook my head, “I-I didn’t know there was a curfew. I-I thought- I mean, I didn’t do anything bad, I was just-”

“With your boyfriend?” She cut me off.

I bit my lip not knowing what more to say.

She shook her head, “you know boys only want one thing from you, right?”

That’s not entirely true. Nick lets me go at my own pace. I’m the one pushing us forward.

“You’re an adult now. I expect you to act like one. Make an appointment with your doctor.”

What? “Why?”
She gave me an incredulous look. “Because I don’t want any more grandkids right now and you can’t afford to raise one either.”

I shook my head, “but I’m not-”

“I don’t need to know. Just get it done so that we both have peace of mind.”

I stared at her in silence. I didn’t know what to say.

“I’m serious, right now.”

She watched me for a minute longer before leaving my room altogether.


On Tuesday, I sat in my doctor’s office fielding extremely personal questions in the hopes of obtaining birth control.

My doctor spoke to me with a smile, “Okay, Nessie, everything looks good. I’m going to give you a 3-month prescription. Just make sure you make an appointment for a pap as soon as you become sexually active. We really need to check down there and make sure everything is normal because birth control can exacerbate cancerous cells if not caught early.”
I’m sorry, cancer? I’m signing up for possible cancer? Do I have to? Is there a birth control that doesn’t cause cancer?

She must have noticed the concern on my face, “no worries, you’re not at high risk. You don’t have a family history of cancer so you should be fine, we just want to be sure. For someone like you, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. Plus, we’ll be getting you in as soon as you become sexually active to double-check and make sure you’re staying healthy.”

I nodded and sighed in relief. She rubbed my arm.

“I probably should have started with that given that you struggle with anxiety, huh?”

I shook my head, “no-no I’m fine.”

She smiled, “don’t worry, you’re young, you’re healthy as a horse, you’re gonna be okay, sweetie.”

She handed me my prescription and sent me down to the pharmacy.


The pharmacist spoke in one breath; quickly and without hesitation. “So you’re going to take one pill daily, at the same time every day. If you forget one just take it as soon as you remember. If you forget multiple, just take the one for the current day, or you could risk making yourself sick. Take the whole month before engaging in unprotected sex. If you need a refill, you would need to schedule an appointment with your doctor first. Any questions?”

I stared blankly, still trying to catch up, “uh, n-no.”

I shook my head before he handed me my medication.


Thursday Nick picked me up for a museum date. I tried ignoring the dull headache that I’d been fighting the last two days.

“Hey partner, you look amazing.”

I wore a white strappy summer dress that had an open back and a keyhole front. I paired it with nude strappy sandals and a nude purse. “Thank you.”

He opened my door for me but stopped me before allowing me into the car. He pouted his lips at me asking for a kiss. I smiled and happily complied.

We ended up at the MOMA taking in the artwork. We separated as soon as we entered a new room. One, because we wanted to observe different pieces, and two, because every once in a while, a fan would approach and ask for an autograph or picture. When he was ready he’d place a hand on the small of my back and lead me into the next room.

I kept hearing cameras snapping behind my back and my anxiety got the better of me. What if they’re taking pictures of me? Am I conceited for thinking they might be? What if my pictures end up online again? Should I have worn something else? Should I have done my hair up nicer? Is my eyeliner smudged?

My stomach began to turn at the thought of being surrounded by people who judge me for not being good enough for Nick. My headache was becoming more difficult to ignore. I felt his hand on the small of my back before I felt his breath on the back of my head.

“Hey, partner, you ready.”

I forced a smile and nodded. He could tell.

“What’s wrong?”

I shook my head, “nothing, I just have a headache.”

His brows pressed together in thought, “how about we get you some food?”

I tried to protest but then I realized that food would get us far away from here. I nodded timidly before he led me out of the museum back to his car.

We sat at a bistro downtown looking over our menus. My stomach had started to turn with a bit of anxiety wondering how long it would take before my images were splattered across social media again.
“What looks good to you?” Nick asked as he mulled over his options.

I realized I wasn’t actually looking over my menu, my eyes were set on it but my attention was elsewhere. “Um, I’m not sure. I don’t think I’m all that hungry.”

Nick’s head shot up as he redirected his attention to me, “are you okay?”

I shook my head, “I’m fine. Just a headache.”

Nick squinted at me while he observed me, “are you getting sick?”
“I don’t think so? Maybe it’s just a heat headache?”

“We’ll get you some ice water,” he raised a hand to call a waitress over and order some water for the two of us.

The waitress placed two glasses of ice water in front of us before reaching for her notepad, “what can I get for you?”

“Can I get a tuna melt on rye?” Nick asked, pointing out the menu item.

“Certainly, sir. And for you, Miss?”

“Oh, um… can I just, um I’ll have... The vegetable soup?”

“A cup or a bowl?”

“Uh, just a cup.”

“Anything else?”

“No, thank you.”

“Are you sure?” Nick asked, seeming concerned.

I nodded, “yeah, I’m just not very hungry today.”

I ended up playing with my soup more than anything. My stomach felt like it was squeezing together trying to force out whatever small amount of soup I had consumed.

Nick eyed me nervously, as he eyed the half-eaten soup and my steadily decreasing mood.

“Did you want to eat something else maybe?”

I looked at the food before me with disdain. “I don’t think I could eat anything right now.”

My tone was snobby and rude and so unlike me. Nick leaned back in his seat away from me clearly feeling uncomfortable with my response.

“I’m sorry,” I blurted out, instantly.

Nick shook his head without a word.

“I don’t know why I reacted like that. I’m just not feeling my best.”

Nick studied me carefully.

He must think I’m an awful person. He probably thinks I’m finally showing my true colors and he’s looking for a way out.

“How about I get you home to get some rest?”

His voice sounded genuinely concerned. But my doubts had me convinced he was just looking for a way to get rid of me.

I shook my head, “I swear I’m not usually like this. I just-“

Nick smacked down a few bills onto the table before quickly standing.

“I feel just awful right now and-“

Nick reached a hand out to me, “Ness, I’m not mad. I’m really worried about you right now.”

He took my hand that rested on the table and began to lead me out of the restaurant. We were halfway to his car when I felt it.

The sick feeling in my stomach slowly started to travel up my stomach to my esophagus. My mouth began salivating excessively.

“Nick, wait-“ I feebly tugged against his grip trying to get his attention.

Nick turned to look at me and his face turned to horror before I hunched over right in front of him and released a mix of soup, water, and bile.

“God, Ness.”

Nick held my hair back as tears rolled down my face. My stomach continued to squeeze together even as all the fluids had left my body. I continued to retch in the middle of the parking lot in broad daylight in front of my boyfriend. If I could even call him that anymore.

I couldn’t tell if the tears were caused by the vomiting or the absolute humiliation that I felt at that moment. Nick began to rub my back soothingly.

“Hey, are you okay?” The concern in his voice was clear as daylight.

“I want to go home,” I whimpered through my tears.

He was gentle with me as he loaded me into his car and handed me some tissues that he kept in the glovebox.

He patted my leg and squeezed it reassuringly but I couldn’t find the nerve to face him after what I’d just done.

The drive home was primarily silent, barring the hum of the engine and the whispered songs coming through the speakers. My headache was back to a dull throbbing while my entire body quivered with unease.

“Ness…” Nick looked into the rearview mirror before initiating a lane change. He seemed to be struggling to put his words together. Almost like he was searching for the most delicate way to dump me.

“What’s going on? Is everything okay in New York?”

I looked over at him confused, “what?”

Nick looked over at me briefly before turning his eyes back on the road.

“Are you… is your depression… have you been hurting-“

Wait, what? “No! No, I’m not, I don’t do that!”

Nick looked at me with uncertainty.

“I’ve been doing good. I have friends and I have a therapist- I’ve been doing the mindfulness practice.” The last thing I wanted was for Nick to think I’d gone off the deep end especially considering how well life had been for me as of late.

“I just thought I’d ask since I have a friend who-“

He stopped mid-sentence and his brows pressed together in thought.

“You have a new therapist?”

I shrugged, “um, well Dr. Park recommended that I find one out there since- distance and… it’s just a precaution. But I’ve been good.”

“Did your new doctor prescribe you any new medications?”

I shook my head, “no, I told them I didn’t want anything. I just-“

I froze in my tracks.

“Just what?” Nick asked.

I looked down sheepishly. I felt wrong for admitting that I’d even gone to get them.

“I- this week… I went to the doctor and she- she gave me stuff.”

He looked over at me quizzically for a factional second, “stuff?”

“I- it’s not- I wasn’t going to use it. I just- because…”

Nick glanced over at me again, “well what is it?”

I tucked my hands under my legs and focused my eyes on my knees

“Birth control,” I whispered.

Nick’s head snapped in my direction instantly. “What?”

My face felt like it was overheating and the blood rushing to my face seemed to make my headache more apparent.

“I didn’t- I wasn’t- I’m so sorry…. my mom said that I had to and I thought I could just do it but it wouldn’t matter. I didn’t mean- I wasn’t going to-“

Nick reached for my lap again to stop me, “hey, breathe. Don’t work yourself up about this. I’m not mad.”

I looked over at him shocked. What does this mean? Is he saying he wants me to be on it? But he wouldn’t do that. He’s not-

Before I could finish my thoughts he was speaking again. “I can’t tell you what medication you should or should not be on.” He took a deep breath, “if you… if you want-“ he cleared his throat. “Look, I don’t expect anything from you, please don’t do it because of me. I just… if it’s making you sick, maybe it’s not the right kind for you?”

Nick pulled up outside his house and we both sat in the driveway while he held my hand.

“I’m sorry I was being such a horrible person earlier.”

Nick breathed out a soft chuckle, “horrible is a bit excessive. Besides, I think everyone is entitled to be a little cranky when they’re not feeling so good.”

I forced a smile at his kindness but the headache persisted still and my stomach was still on edge.

Nick’s brows pressed together in confusion, “everything okay?”

I nodded quickly before analyzing my condition and realizing that I really wasn’t okay.

“No, actually. I still feel kind of sick.”

Nick took my hand and stroked it lovingly before placing a chaste kiss on the back of it. “How about we get you inside and get you more comfortable?”

Nick grabbed a carbonated ginger ale from the fridge in his kitchen while he directed me upstairs toward his bedroom.

I walked in and just stared around the large room trying to pretend that my brain wasn’t screaming at me, ‘you did a dirty thing in here!’

Nick walked in behind me and handed me the drink, “this might help settle your stomach. I’ll run a bath for you so you can relax a bit, hopefully it can help soothe your headache.”

I sat on the edge of the bed like a small child waiting for her parent to help her with bath time while Nick ran the water and then zoomed out of the bathroom and back downstairs. He came back up moments later with an ice pack and rushed past me into the bathroom without a word. I felt invisible for a moment but not necessarily in a bad way.

Watching someone care for me in such a detailed way… there’s something so innately wonderful about it. I felt like a fly on the wall observing someone I care for dearly, show me without telling me just how much they cared for me.

The water shut off and Nick came out shortly after, “um, I don’t have girl products, but mine aren’t too scented. You know cause the alcohols are bad for your-“

I smiled as Nick realized he was focusing on the wrong details. “Anyway, use as much or as little as you want. Take a minute to relax. I also- there’s an ice pack if you want to use that for your head. I dimmed the lights a little because I thought it might help. Um, towels. There are clean towels in the cupboard.”

He stared at me blankly, “I think… that’s everything.” He motioned toward the bathroom door inviting me to step into it.

I smiled at him as I got up from his bed and moved toward him. I stood in front of him and wrapped my arms around him with a quick, “thank you.”

I thought to kiss him but given that I’d been sick earlier today, I decided it’d be best not to. I rinsed my mouth out with water and mouthwash before hopping in the tub.

I sat in the tub with the ice pack at the base of my head and drifted in and out of lucidity before the water started to turn cold.

I grabbed a clean towel and dried off before realizing I didn’t have anything to wear. I peaked my head out of the bathroom to find an empty bedroom. I couldn’t hear him nearby so I dashed from the bathroom to his walk in closet. I grabbed the first big sweater I could find and slipped into it quickly before Nick could return. I pushed the sleeves of the sweater up slightly so that I wouldn’t be completely drowning in it. I brought my hair down from the makeshift bun I’d put it in before jumping in the tub and decided now would be as good a time as any to go off in search of Nick.

I opened the bedroom door to hear Nick’s voice coming from somewhere in the house.

“How soon can you get it down?”

I went down the stairs following the voice that slowly became louder.

“No, it wasn’t even like that. It was 3 o'clock for crying out loud.”

Nick sighed as I rounded the corner, “I don’t care about what they’re saying, just get it down!”

He caught sight of me and stopped immediately. “Phil, I got to go. Just take care of it please.”

Nick hung up the phone before giving me his full attention.

“Is something wrong?”

Nick’s lips pressed together while he pondered something beyond my grasp. He finally shook his head, “don’t worry about it. It’s all taken care of. Nice sweater.”

I blushed. “I didn’t- I don’t have any clothes. I just thought- I’m sorry. I should have asked.”

He shook his head, “don’t even worry about it. I just want you to be comfortable. How do you feel?”

I shrugged as I took a moment to assess my current condition. “My stomach is okay. My head still hurts but not as much.”

He offered me an understanding smile before opening his arms to me. I didn’t hesitate, I walked right into them. His arms wrapped around me tightly while mine looped around his waist.

“You hungry?”

His question made me realize that now that the nausea wore off, I was much more receptive to food.

“A little.”

“What are you in the mood for?”

“Baby carrots?”

Nick’s grip around me loosened as he stopped to look down at me, “Ness, you gotta eat more than that.”

“I know, I just- cause my stomach- I don’t want to push it. If I feel good I can do something heavier later.”

He seemed to ponder the validity of my explanation before finally agreeing and pulling the bag of baby carrots from his fridge.

“You want some ranch to go with that? Peanut butter?”

I shook my head, all too eager to take the bag from him, “nope, I like carrots. They’re really sweet.”

He smirked, “that’s not really a common descriptor for carrots.”

I shrugged, “my mom didn’t have candy in the house, really we only had it for birthdays and Halloween. The rest of the year we made do with cherries and mangoes and sugar snap peas…” I took a giant crunchy bite of the first carrot, “carrots.”

Nick smiled at me, “you’re too…” he paused trying to find the right word before shaking his head. “You’re too pure for this world.”

I tilted my head in confusion, “is that bad?”

He chuckled lightly, “it’s different.”

Am I doing something wrong? Should I be tougher? How do I do that?

“It feels like a blessing to know you. There’s just… I can’t explain it.”

A blessing? That’s unexpected. I didn’t even bother hiding the blush anymore.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to that.”

Nick smiled and leaned in to kiss my nose, “your face already says it all.”


Nick and I cuddled on the couch watching a movie. My hands idly played with his on my lap.

I heard Nick giggle before pulling his arm out of my grasp. “That tickles.”

I looked over at him surprised. “What does?”

He rubbed his arm roughly, “when you tickle my forearm.”

“How?”

He shook his head, “I don’t know what you’re doing. I just know it gives me chills.”

I smiled sheepishly before testing my abilities. I placed my hand on the back of his head and began lightly stroking my fingertips against his skin from the collar of his shirt to the crown of his head and back.

It wasn’t long before he malfunctioned and crumpled in the strangest way, “what are you doing to me, Ness?”

I grinned, “what do you mean?”

He looked over at me and instantly knew I was lying.

“You’re killing me!”

His lips made contact with mine quickly and adamantly. I did not expect this response and giggled as his hands wrapped around my waist to pull me into him. I feel a strange thrill in knowing I’d brought this side out of him coupled with slight trepidation.

My touch was more gentle than his as my fingers gently ran through the curls in his hair. His fingers dug into my ribs as it felt like he was trying to absorb me through touch.

It wasn’t long before I was suddenly sitting on his lap. I pulled away slightly, feeling a bit unprepared for the sudden turn of events. He pulled me back in quickly before his hands reached for the hem of my sweater. Feeling his hands on my bare thighs gave me pause. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t at the same stage as him and I wasn’t entirely certain that I was ready to repeat the events from earlier in the week.

I pulled away again, “Nick?”

He kept kissing my neck as the fabric of my sweater was covering less and less skin by the second.

There was an odd shame in admitting that I wasn’t ready for what was coming next. I felt like given what we’d done before I had no right to say no. I tried to think of another way to stop what was happening without admitting that I was a little scared.

“Um, I think I’m ready to eat… maybe I could cook for us?”

It took him a few seconds before he froze. He stopped and looked up at me. I tried to pretend that I was fine, but I felt like I was failing miserably. He sighed, “uh, yeah, dinner. We can do that.”

He pulled the fabric of the sweater back into place before releasing me. I hopped off his lap quickly before rushing toward the kitchen.

“Do you have any preference for dinner?”

He was silent for a bit longer than I was comfortable with.

“No.”

I opened his fridge to find the options fairly limited.

“Um, is a sandwich okay?”

“Yeah,” he finally stood up from the couch before walking into the kitchen. “That’s fine.”

I made two sandwiches and grabbed a water bottle and juice.

“Do you have a preference?”

Nick looked between the two, “um, let me check my levels first.”

He excused himself from the room for a moment before coming back in, “juice, please.”

I reached into the cabinet to get a glass for Nick while his eyes remained trained on me.

I poured it for him and offered him the juice and sandwich before putting the juice away.

I sat on the other side of the island across from him as we ate in silence.

I was about halfway through my sandwich before he spoke up.

“I’m sorry.”

I looked up at him confused. Sorry?

“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I guess I just thought because-“

I shook my head, “I wasn’t. I’m fine.”

His eyes met mine. “Ness, this isn’t going to work if you lie to me. This is all new territory for me from every angle. I’m trying to get this right.”

I looked down at my water bottle while he lectured me.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “It’s new to me, too, and I don’t know why it doesn’t just- I thought that since we already… did stuff. I thought I’d be fine. But I just got scared, I guess? I don’t know why. I just felt like it was fast and it was beyond my control and I just-“

“What do you mean beyond your control?”

I paused to think over my words. Why did I use that specific word?

I shrugged, “I don’t know. Just because I never- like no one gets to. But you’re different and then you kind of ask me? Or you don’t ask me but you like, offer? Not offer, but you give me options. No, not like…”

I sighed, and looked up at Nick hoping he understood what I was trying to piece together. He looked just as confused as I felt.

“You always say, it’s up to me. You let me decide when we stop or go or whatever. I think- I think because that time I didn’t have that. I don’t know, it was overwhelming… a little bit. But then I felt bad because we’d done it before and I thought I wasn’t supposed to feel like that anymore.”

Nick nodded, “I’m sorry I made you feel that way. I sort of assumed you would know to just stop me if it ever was too much. I mean, of course I want you to feel comfortable around me and I don’t want you to ever feel pressured. But, like I said, this is all new to me, too and I guess I just got carried away.”

My brain focused on the words, ‘stop me if it ever was too much.’ Almost like I was trying to train the response into my brain for future reference. I almost missed out on the rest of the conversation until I heard:

“It's not easy when you look the way you do and I want you as bad as I do.”

My head snapped up in response.

“And that’s no excuse. I know that. Which is why I want you to be honest and tell me….”

I zoned out, still focused on his previous words. ‘You look the way you do and I want you bad.’

I blushed all over again and took a sip of my water trying to pretend his words didn’t pique my interest.

I put the rest of my sandwich down trying to craft the perfect plan for how to proceed.

Nick’s face looked concerned, “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

I shook my head and bit my lip to try and keep my smile from spreading. “You didn’t. I’m okay.”

Nick took the final bite of his sandwich and washed it down with the last of his juice before grabbing his dishes and moving to the sink to wash them.

I shoveled the remainder of my sandwich into my mouth when he wasn’t looking before picking up my dish and setting it on the counter beside the sink.

Nick reached for it instantly without question.

“I can wash mine,” I offered, reaching for the sponge in his hand.

“I’m already here, Ness. Don’t worry about it.”

I thought to protest, but given that it was only one dish and he was essentially done before I could react, I figured it’d be pointless.

I hopped up onto the counter to sit while Nick reached for a dish towel and began drying the dishes on the drying rack.

Nick looked over at me with a small smile, “gotta put this away behind you, Ness.”

I ducked to the side slightly so that Nick could open the cabinet behind me without smacking my head, “you dry your dishes?”

He smirked, “am I supposed to hire someone to dry them for me?”

“Um, I think if you ask nicely, time will just do it for free.”

He shook his head, “I like when things are exactly where they’re supposed to be.”

My brows raised in surprise, “so you’re a clean freak clean freak. I didn’t see that coming.”

Nick chuckled, “what do you mean?”

“Well, I knew from the first time I walked in here that you were a clean freak. I just, this is a whole other level.”

He rolled his eyes at me. “I just like it better when everything is in its place.”

I watched him momentarily while he finished putting away the plates we used. He stood before me with a small smirk when he finished and placed his hands on the counter on either side of me.

“Does it bother you when things aren’t exactly right?”

He shrugged, “kind of, I just sleep better when I know things are as they should be.”

My brows pressed together in question, “do you get anxious?”

He pondered it for a minute, “not- not necessarily at the same intensity that you are familiar with but… yeah, a little, I guess.”

I was shocked, “I forgot that anxiety could be just a normal emotion for people. It’s always been this big thing that I have to tiptoe around. I just sort of forgot that normal people get it, too.”

“You don’t think you’re normal?” Nick asked with concern.

I flipped my hair back, away from my face, with exaggeration, “no, I’m fabulous!”

Nick chuckled, “you definitely are.”

I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him a little closer. He stepped toward me as his forehead met mine.

“You’re my favorite person,” I whispered.

He breathed out a soft laugh before kissing my forehead. I reached up to meet his lips and tugged on his collar to keep him close. I could feel the smile growing on his lips before he pulled away.

“What was that for?” He flashed the brightest smile I’d ever seen.

I shrugged, “maybe I want you, too.”

The grin on his face was undeniable. His hands reached for my thighs before pulling them apart and pulling me toward him harshly.

I gasped in surprise before his lips met mine more forcefully. I giggled as Nick lifted me off the counter and carried me out of the kitchen. He began kissing and nibbling on my neck as we moved through the home. Before I knew it, Nick’s arms had disappeared from around me and I was crash landing onto a soft mattress. Nick pounced on me quickly and I couldn’t help the laugh that erupted from me as he reached underneath the hem of my sweater.

“Nick, wait!” I giggled.

He continued to kiss my neck as his hands stroked up and down my hips. “Where are your underwear?”

“I don’t have any,” I admitted.

He looked up to meet my eye, “Are you serious?”

Before I could respond my phone was ringing out from my purse on the nightstand. My head snapped up at the sound of it.

“Don’t answer that,” Nick begged.

“What if it’s about the internship?” I began to wiggle out of Nick’s grasp before he sighed in exasperation.

I reached for my phone to see Berry’s name scrawled across the screen. “It’s Berry.”

I answered the phone, “hello?”

“What’s up, party animal,” Berry chuckled, softly.

Usually she uses nicknames like buttercup and sugarplum. Party animal is not a name she has ever assigned to me.

“What are you talking about?”

“...What are you doing?” I could hear the smile in her voice and I wondered if it was possible for her to know what I had been doing when she called.

“Uh, I-I don’t- nothing…” I lied, terribly.

“Mhm.”

I looked over at Nick with a bright red face hoping he’d help me concoct a story. “I-I’m not, I was eating a sandwich.”

“Is that for the hangover?”

The what?

“Never pegged you for a day drinker.”

Wait, what? “I’m… not?” I answered with confusion and uncertainty.
“Well, maybe once doesn’t make it so. But, yakking in broad daylight, that’s a little excessive, isn’t it?”

“I- I’m just, my- I think I just, because of the birth control-”

“You’re on birth control? Since when?”

I blushed while Nick sat across from me on the bed, “Um, Tuesday?”

“What hormone level did they give you?”

“I-I don’t know.”

Berry was silent for a minute, “Did you have any symptoms beforehand?”

“I had a headache and then my stomach started… My headache is going away now.”

Berry sighed, “okay, go buy condoms and make an appointment with your doctor, they need to give you a lower dose. Don’t take any more birth control until you get your new prescription. And whatever you do, use a condom. If you’ve only taken it twice, it’s not going to protect you especially if you stop taking it.”

I was drowning in my own embarrassment while Nick just stared at me waiting for me to explain what was going on.

“I don’t, uh, how- how…” I stumbled through my words while Nick stared me down.

“How did you know I threw up?”

Nick’s eyes went wide and his demeanor changed very suddenly.

“You’re trending on twitter?”

“What does that mean?”
Berry chuckled, “oh, my little old lady! It means you’re a hot topic.”

“People are talking about me?”

“Your boyfriend didn’t tell you? I assumed his manager or publicist would be all over it by now. He’s a hot topic, too.”

I looked over at Nick with tears in my eyes. Did he know? Why wouldn’t he tell me? “I-I have to go.”

I hung up the phone and stared at Nick’s knee in front of me. “Did you know I was-”

“Yes,” Nick admitted.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Nick shook his head, “I didn’t want you to worry.”

“Is it everywhere?”

Nick avoided my eyes, “I don’t know, Ness.”

I felt the knot forming in my throat and my stomach was wringing itself out as it wrapped around all of my other organs, “please, just tell me.”

He sighed, “It’s likely that it is, I have our management team working on getting it down.”

It felt like the room had been vacuum sealed. All air had vanished from my lungs. “I- I can’t-”

I pulled my knees up to my chest and buried my face in my hands.

Nick sprung into action and wrapped his arms around me. “Ness, I am so sorry.”

He ran his hands through my hair and kissed my forehead. “Breathe, Ness, you’re gonna be okay.”

 

End Notes:

Hello all,

So, I'm currently posting this from my job since I finally have a small window of silence to work on this. Let me know your thoughts. Things seem to have taken a downturn for Vanessa. How is she going to handle it? Sor far, it isn't looking soo good.

Best,

Stephy

Breaking Down by Stephy
Author's Notes:
All alone it was always there you see
And even on my own
It was always standing next to me
I can see it coming from the edge of the room
Creeping in the streetlight holding my hand in the pale gloom
Can you see it coming now?
I think I'm breaking down again

I was out to lunch with Samantha and Dustin celebrating the fact that we’d just aced our midterms.

“Yes, bitches!” Dustin cheered as we all clicked out iced teas together. “I knew studying with y’all would help me pass my classes!”

“That, and Ms. SmartyPants over here finally nailed an internship!”

I checked my phone as I let out a sigh of relief, knowing I’d finally managed to secure an internship. After the one from last summer fell through, I felt like no one would take a chance on me after being displayed on social media as a drunk, irresponsible college kid. “I’m just so glad that the whole thing is over with.”

“I mean, it was a given,” Dustin rolled his eyes. “How are you going to be on the Dean’s Honor Roll and not be allowed to work in a research lab?”

“And yet,” Sam shook her head disapprovingly. “Such bullshit.”

I laughed half heartedly as I checked my phone for the 15th time since we had arrived at the diner.

“What’s up, baby girl, d’you and hubsters get into a fight or something.”

I looked up from my phone, “oh, uh, no. We-” I decided it might not be the best idea to explain Nick’s dilemmas since they weren’t mine to share. “We’re fine.”

I’d been up late with Nick last night after he finished a concert. To say that he was distraught would be an understatement. He kept talking about how the band wasn’t coming together the way they should have. He looped through Kevin’s unwillingness to cooperate and Joe’s inability to perform to his standards. Kept saying over and over again that he was done and he didn’t want to do it anymore. I worried for him. At the end of the night he hung up with the promise that it was over and he wouldn't continue with the band anymore.


“That’s a lie if I’ve ever heard one,” Dustin called me out. “You’ve been doing this every 20 seconds.”

He imitated the constant phone checking by turning on the screen on his phone. His face was one of instant shock. “What the fuck!”

“What happened?” The concern in Sam’s voice was clear as day.

“The Jonas Brothers broke up?” 

Both Dustin and Sam turned to look at me with a look of shock on their faces. I didn't know what to say.

“V, did you know about this?”

I felt like a deer caught in headlights, I didn’t know what to say. “Uh, I-uh…” I shook my head, “I’m sorry, I need to make a call.”

I walked out of the diner into the busy New York streets as I searched through my call list. I tried to call Nick only to find out his phone was off. I sighed before opening up safari and searching for any sort of information.


I hid in my room searching through twitter for any and all mentions of the Jonas Brothers. There were a lot of devastated tweets about how they felt blindsided. Some tweets about how they were glad it was finally over and a small but growing percentage of tweets searching for a culprit.

It was around 10:30 and I was deep into the web of Jonas Brothers Fan Pages and Comment sections all still trying to pinpoint what could have led to such a disastrous end. I was reading a comment that really seemed more like a thesis than a regular post discussing how issues began when they went back on tour and how strange it was that this tour was the one in which they were accompanied by a stranger.

A stranger? I thought back to the tour trying to figure out who would have been declared the stranger when I realized it was me. They talked about how I was a poisonous figure who pulled them apart and ruined their dynamic. I saw a comment talking about the time I got sick in a parking lot. Another talking about how Nick had been manipulated by me. How I’d corrupted him.That I was probably getting him into ‘god knows what.’ How I had compromised his integrity.

I was pulled out of my research when I heard a knock at the door. I closed the tabs and jumped out of bed before opening the door. Nick stood before me, dressed in dark jeans with a white t-shirt and a pair of dark sunglasses.

“Nick?”
“Hey, Ness. Can I come in?”

I stood aside for him to walk past me into my bedroom. He walked into my dark room and looked around, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Uh, no- you didn’t.”

“I got on the first available flight. I just wanted to hide out for a while. I can’t say I’m really in the mood for interviews or talking to Joe or Kevin or anyone right now.”


We sat in the back of a little diner waiting for our food while Nick seemed incapable of keeping his leg from bouncing. I thought to ask him about today’s events but given that he’d made it clear he wasn’t interested in talking about it, I thought it best to avoid the subject.

“So, how was the flight?”
Nick’s eyes that seemed to zoom around the entire diner almost as if in anticipation of someone or something, finally found mine, “uh, you know. It was the same as any other flight. Long, just- I don’t know. Not anything special.”

I nodded, sensing his unease and too afraid to say anything else. His eyes continued to analyze the space around us before they flashed back in my direction. “I’m sorry, that was…” He shook his head. “That was bad. I didn’t mean to be such a jerk, I just-” He sighed, “I’m really sorry, Ness.”

I nodded, “I understand.”

He sighed, “It’s just, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Joe and Kev, they were blindsided and then all the sites and-”

I shook my head, “you don’t have to tell me, it’s okay.”

He reached a hand out to me as his eyes began to glass over. I took it as he squeezed my hand tightly. His eyes were glued to mine for a moment as they glazed over and the red rings around his eyes became more prominent.

“Thank you,” he let out in a strained voice before clearing his throat.


We made it back to my studio apartment around midnight where we laid in bed. Nick rested his head on my stomach and wrapped his arms around me tightly while I ran my fingers through his hair.

“We’re brothers, it’s not supposed to be like this.” I could feel his breath piercing through my shirt in the dark cold room as he spoke. “I don’t understand why they couldn’t just get it right. I worked so hard and I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Like no matter what I did I was pulling dead weight.” His tears began to seep through my shirt onto my abdomen.

“I feel like I hate them. I’m so mad at them for what they did. They just thought it was all a joke and left me to carry the load. I hate my brothers, it’s not supposed to be like that. I’m just so fucking tired, Ness.”

I kissed the top of his head knowing that nothing I could say would make this go away.

“Why couldn’t they see how hard I was trying? Why wouldn’t they help me?”

I held Nick throughout the night while the pendulum in his mind swung between hurt and angry.

The next morning, I woke up just after 4 to find Nick sitting at my desk scrolling through his phone. I forced my eyes to open as I sat up in bed. “Nick?”

He looked up from his phone, “hey, didn’t mean to wake you.”

“How long have you been up?”

He shook his head, “I couldn’t really sleep.”

I crawled over to the edge of the bed to be face to face with him. “Why don’t you come to bed?”

He shook his head while his eyes were glued to his phone, “I’ll go in a minute.”

“Hey, take a break.”

He didn’t look up, or even react.

“You said you were tired. Let’s get some sleep. You can take on all of this with a fresh perspective.”

He nodded but didn’t actually move. I rested a hand on his lap to capture his attention before he finally looked up. “Nick, I’m tired. Please come to bed with me?”

He put his phone down before following me into bed. He laid beside me and I made sure to use him as my pillow to ensure he wouldn’t go anywhere.

He wrapped an arm around me while my fingers grazed his abs through his shirt. I was on the brink of sleep when I heard him sigh and kiss the top of my head, “thank you, Ness.”

We woke up again around noon, Nick was in a minutely better state. In that he was no longer sleep deprived, but he was still completely decomposed.

“Good morning,” I let out horsley.

“Good morning,” he groaned.

“How are you feeling?”

He squeezed me as he pulled me closer to him. “I don’t want to get out of bed today.”

I couldn’t help the smile that consumed my face as he nuzzled his face into the crook of my neck.

“At all?”

He shook his head and the slightly stubble of his unshaved face tickled my skin. “Not at all.”

“Not even for food?” I giggled.

He was silent for a minute and I wondered if he had heard me, “We can get food delivered.”

I pulled away slightly to see his pleading eyes staring up at me. He wasn’t well, that much was clear. In the time that I’d known him, I’d never seen Nick actually take a day off like this.

While my therapists have both assured me that when depression sets in, the best course of action is action itself, perhaps grief was deserving of a little more sympathy. “Would you maybe want to watch a movie?”

He smiled up at me, grateful that I was agreeing to his terms. “You are the best partner in crime I have ever had.”


Nick and I spent the weekend holed up in my tiny studio apartment while the world passed us by. Unfortunately, Nick had to fly back to LA and face the music come Monday and I was alone again.

As soon as he left my studio, I was back online searching through deep tunnels for any new information or developments. I was not disappointed. A fraction of the crowd was hyper focused, and convinced that I was to blame for the separation of the band. I spent an unhealthy amount of time fixated on the messages watching them roll in across several platforms before shrinking into a dark corner of my room and trying not to cry while self-doubt and extreme guilt washed over me.

 

End Notes:

So we're almost at the end of the story. Where do you think this is headed? Also have you read the new story by Diamondwiththewritersblock? If not, I recommend that you do! Anyway, please leave your thoughts behind.

Stephy

This story archived at http://www.jonasbrothersfanfictionarchive.com/viewstory.php?sid=108