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Day Three Hundred and Twelve.

The morning after the vodka, I woke up early with a splitting headache. I attempted to lie in bed and wait it out, but all of my thoughts were interrupted by the pain. My body was screaming for medication.

I wondered if Pep was awake - Advil.

I wondered why Rainie left in such a hurry - Tylenol.

I wondered if Rainie and Kevin - fuck, make it go away!

After I threw the covers off and jumped to a standing position, I had to sit down immediately and groan aloud. Spinning head. And this wasn't a good kind of spinning head, like when you ride a roller coaster. This was a ‘dear lord, I would rather die than suffer through this agony' kind of spinning head.

Slowly, I made my way to the kitchen, stopping every so often in the middle of the hallway. I put my hands on my knees and bent over, shutting my eyes tightly and fighting for survival. Once I was in the kitchen, I started to root through the cupboards for something to ease my pain. Eventually, I found a bottle of Advil. It was as I was searching for cups that I came across a small blue shot glass, sitting in plain view in front of the cups.

Huh. Weird. I thought we left all the shot glasses downstairs the night before. And then it hit me.

"Wait a second. Mine is bigger than Joe's!" I'd cried the night before as I compared my glass to Joe's. "I want a smaller shot glass."

"That's all we have; I checked," Kevin had answered.

... what a DICK.

Angrily, I filled a cup with water, swallowed a capsule of Advil, and practically threw the plastic cup into the sink to deal with it later.

I knocked on Kevin's door abruptly before letting myself in. He was fast asleep before I got there; now his eyes were fluttering as he groaned.

"What the hell?" I demanded, shutting the door behind me. "You deliberately gave me the biggest shot glass!"

"Wha..." he said groggily.

This was when I liked Kevin best: when he was just waking up. It was easiest to talk to him when he couldn't understand what I was saying and he wasn't conscious enough to reply. It's moments like this when I can understand how the Prince fell in love with Snow White and visited her every day when she was lying in that glass casket.

(Side-note: Terrible analogy. I'm not in love with Kevin. At all. Aside from the fact that he's my brother and it's both homosexual and incestuous, I barely even like him as a person. But really, have you heard Snow White speak? She had the most annoying voice. If I were the Prince, I would have moved on to Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella or some other Disney broad whose voice didn't make me want to drown myself).

"Last night. You said there were no other shot glasses, but there was one upstairs, you cheesedick. What's wrong with you? I have the worst hangover in history thanks to you!"

(Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. Technically, it was my first hangover, and I'd only been awake for ten minutes).

Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, Kevin sat up in confusion. "What? Oh... oh yeah." He chuckled.

"What's your problem? What have I ever done to you?" I demanded.

He continued to chuckle over the memory. "It was actually Rainie's idea. She thought it'd be funny."

I refused to let my jaw drop in front of Kevin, but my lips were definitely an inch or so apart as his words echoed in my mind. "Rainie?" I choked.

Kevin shrugged. "I didn't really care either way. But oh, man - are you starting to like her or something? Because she always tenses up when you're looking at her, and when you were passed out last night, she was so much more into me than before."

The problem with idiots is that they're like dogs or small children. Everyone cries harder in movies when dogs or kids die because they just don't understand as much as grown people. They're so innocent; they don't know what's happening to them. The same goes for idiots. For example, I could clobber Kevin with the guitar leaning against his desk and proceed to beat the living shit out of him, but it wasn't worth it. I'd feel sorry for him in the end, because he was just too idiotic to understand.

Starting to like Rainie? Yeah, Kev. If you call the better part of a year ‘starting', then YEAH. Holy hell.

My head was killing me. I needed to rest it on a pillow. And so, instead of killing my brother slowly and painfully which was the innermost desire of my heart, I fled his room with a slam of the door and dove back into my bed.

I was not pleased with Rainie. Our relationship required answers ay-sap. (As soon as possible. Dammit, Kevin!).

Day Three Hundred and Fifteen.

I figured the root of the problem with Rainie was that she was confused about our status, just like me. If she was secure in our relationship, neither would she try to play evil games (ie. ‘I Never'), nor would she attempt to flirt with my own brother while I was out cold from mass alcohol consumption. The best and most logical thing to do was to talk to her about it. We had some issues to work out.

"Be honest," I told her as we sat across from each other at a diner for lunch. "Are you or are you not over your last boyfriend?"

Her hair was pinned back today, but a few strands had fallen out and framed her face, making her look like some sort of angel. But I knew better. She was more like an angelic demon, taunting me with her gorgeousness.

"Who? Jesse?" she asked innocently.

How many ‘last' boyfriends are there?! I wanted to shout. For fuck's sake. I hadn't thought it was possible for me to be any more candid.

"Sure," she answered nonchalantly, the lines around her eyes crinkling as she smiled. "There was nothing between us, like you said. I'm having fun now."

I nodded, almost forking myself in the cheek. I shook myself out of my contemplative trance and pinned down a sliced cucumber from my salad, sticking it into my mouth.

I finished chewing before asking, "How about having fun with me?"

She gave me a look that read ‘you're weird' before sipping her drink. "That's what I said. I'm having fun."

I was fairly confident that ‘having fun' was indicative of sleeping around. If not quite so extreme, then at least fucking around with various people and their various brothers.

"But how about if it was just you and me?" I suggested.

"Like right now?"

"Yes. But exclusively like right now. Forever," I said, swiping my hand through the air to make a point.

Rainie frowned. "You want to only hang out with me over lunch... for the rest of time?"

I sighed. She didn't get it. Leaning towards her, I hissed, "No, I only want you to have fun with me forever. No one else." When her expression still displayed the utmost confusion, I added, "Having fun means dating, right?"

"You want to date me?" she asked, making very little effort to control the volume of her voice.

"Shh," I whispered. There were people here, and Rainie hadn't done anything to disguise her appearance. Nothing at all. "You know I do. I just want you to be ready."

She appeared almost miffed, which was strange. When I asked a girl out, I was prepared for her to blush and confirm my offer. I didn't expect her to be upset over my proposal. Who did that? Rude. I was laying my heart on the line again. I was sick of it. I was never a heart-on-the-line kind of guy, not even when the other person was reciprocating my heartiness. I always felt that it wasn't necessary. A girl should know if I liked her. If I kissed her, she should realize I either thought she was really pretty, or thoroughly enjoyed her company in a romantic way, or both. If I spent ten FUCKING months desperately trying to woo her, I would say that's enough laying of the heart on the line, wouldn't you?!

"I want you to be ready," she threw back in my face. "Nick, look at you. You're not ready for me in your life."

... someone kill me. Someone take a butter knife and repeatedly jab my chest until the skin breaks, layer by layer, and my heart eventually falls out.

"What?!" I cried. "I'm not ready?!"

I was ready in every way possible. Psychologically. Emotionally. Physically. My engines were going, all I needed was for Rainie to shift gears and step on the gas pedal. I'd been throwing unnecessary pack-ratted shit out of my heart for months in order to clear a nice, clean space reserved just for her.

"Look at you!" she repeated with a laugh. "Could you be more ashamed to be seen with me?"

Two things about my appearance:

1) If she was going for specifics, I was wearing checkered vans, black jeans, a simply faded blue shirt, my black cuffed beanie and dark sunglasses. What that has to do with my preparedness for a relationship, I couldn't have told you even if you held a gun to my head and threatened my very existence.

2) If she was going for body language, I was leaning over the table and whispering to her - but that's because it wasn't private enough in here.

"How am I ashamed?" I inquired, sitting back in my seat.

"First of all, look at the way you're dressed," Rainie began, counting off her fingers. Again, I looked at my attire. Nope, still couldn't have told you how it was indicative of my relationship status. Girls are fucking nuts. "The hat? The sunglasses? Clearly you don't want anyone to know you're with me."

"That's not fair," I argued. "I'd wear these anyways. It's a privacy thing."

She'd seen me out in public before, hadn't she? I was sure she had. In fact, I vividly remembered the day Pep and I had stalked her to the fruit market. Don't ask me how I remember, but I was pretty positive that I had been wearing almost the exact same thing.

"Well, what about the way you're leaning over the table?" she continued, ticking off another finger. "You keep whispering to me, like nobody's allowed to hear what you say."

"Do you want people to listen in on our conversation?" It all seemed absurd to me. Everything I was doing was perfectly logical. It was because I liked Rainie so much that I was trying to protect myself - not just me, but us. It was chivalrous, was it not?

"You didn't even walk in here with me. You dropped me off outside and told me to get us a table while you parked the car."

"I didn't want you to have to walk all the way from the parking garage!"

And this, my friends, is why I hate being a gentleman. At least when girls call me a jerk, I know it was well-deserved and there's nothing to be hurt about except the stone-cold truth. When I'm actually trying to be a good guy and I'm wrongfully accused of jerkiness - well, gentleman-like behaviour just isn't worth it.

"I guess I should be glad we're even here - you never want to go out in public with me."

I readjusted my hat in annoyance. "What does that have to do with our relationship? It has nothing to do with us; it has nothing to do with you. It's just that I get recognized, Rainie, and when I'm with you, I'd rather just be with you."

Pursing her lips together, she sat tensely for a moment or two before pointing out, "Five minutes ago you were telling me how you and Pep went out for ice cream last night."

You know, if I ever got anything right about Rainie, it was the nickname I gave her the first time I ever saw her. No one had ever been more deserving of the title ‘Mystery Girl'. Everything she said was enigmatic. Everything was suspenseful. I never had any idea how our conversations were going to turn out.

"So?" I asked, taking another bite of food. What did this have to do with anything?

"You'll go out with her."

Ah. I understood. "We didn't ‘go out'," I explained as patiently as possible. "It's a long story, but I had to drop off a ticket at this girl's house - you remember Avery, right? - and Pep had to come with me because the ticket was originally hers. On the way back, we were happy everything worked out the way we planned, so we celebrated with ice cream - what? Why are you looking at me like that?"

Rainie was tapping her nails on the table, clearly unimpressed. A sceptical eyebrow was raised as she looked me up and down.

"What?" I asked again.

"You'll go out with her, but not with me?"

"Ugh," I groaned, covering my hands with my face in frustration. "Can we leave Pep out of this? I think it looks bad that we're seen together so soon after you broke up with Jesse."

"Don't you think it would look worse if you were dating me but gossip sites only have pictures of you and Pep out together?" she countered.

"There are no pictures!" I argued.

"If you're my boyfriend, you have to take me out."

"It's hard!" I whined.

"Well," she replied, folding her arms across her chest to show me how unimpressed she was, "I don't want a relationship like this."

I bit my bottom lip to keep myself from arguing further. This was stupid. After being in love with her for so long, I didn't feel the need to justify or prove myself to Rainie. She should already have known.

And I was getting really frustrated with all the stalemates.

Day Three Hundred and Nineteen.

Joe was upbeat that night after we watched our friends' band perform in LA. Apparently, while lost in the crowd, he'd met a girl and she gave him her number. And he was feeling good about things for the first time since Camilla.

I'd invited Rainie to the show, but it was a good thing she declined my invitation, because sure enough, Jesse showed up to hang out with us afterwards. (Side-note: Pft. Not making enough of an effort to be seen with you in public, huh, Rainie? Kiss my ass, ice bitch).

"Why don't you talk to him?" Joe suggested to me as we crowded into a large booth at a pub.

"Talk to who?" I asked obliviously.

"Jesse."

"'Bout what?"

Rolling his eyes, Joe gave me a light shove. "About Rainie. If you really don't think you're disobeying the Bro Code-"

"Not the Bro Code again," I groaned in exasperation.

"You at least gotta let him know what's going on."

"He doesn't seem too concerned!" I hissed in reply, gesturing towards Jesse. He was chatting up a waitress already, grinning confidently.

Nonetheless, Joe wouldn't stop bothering me, so I intentionally slid out of the booth and wandered around to the other end just to get away from him. Annoying, self-righteous pest. As if he had never broken the rules before. I didn't think there was really any need to tell Jesse anything more than he cared to know. After all, sometimes the truth hurts.

"What's up, bro?" Jesse asked with a smile as soon as the attractive left.

Crap. He called me bro. I was afraid of that.

I chuckled nervously, answering, "Nothin'. What's up with you? Haven't seen you lately."

"Yeah. I've been around. You know, doing my thing."

These types of mindless conversations were ones that I tried my hardest to avoid. They're a waste of time, devoid of intellect and worth.

"True," I replied as casually as possible. I paused before mentioning, "Hey, I heard you and Rainie broke up."

Jesse nodded, appearing neutral. "Yeah, yeah. About a month ago. Who told you, Kevin?"

I dragged my tongue around my mouth as I mulled over my next words. Well, it was now or never. Might as well get on with it.

"Rainie, actually."

"Oh."

"Yeah," I added, tapping my fingers on the table in a pattern. Though the group discussion at our table was still very much alive, there was an awkward lull in the conversation between Jesse and myself. With a sharp intake of breath, I stated, "We became friends last summer on tour. That's all."

Jesse continued to nod. "Cool."

This was awkward and pointless. Luckily, I rarely crack under pressure. Normally I'm not one to initiate discussion, but there were things that needed to be said if I wanted Joe to leave me alone forever. "So are you seeing anyone else?"

He shrugged. "Here and there. Nothing serious."

"Have you talked to Rainie since then?"

Jesse let out a breath and smiled, giving me a strange look. "I thought you said you two were friends. Wouldn't you know?"

"Yeah. Right." I stared at the table unblinkingly. Jesse scanned the pub in search of his hot waitress. Now or never. "Listen, man, I gotta be straight with you. Rainie and I are sort of seeing each other."

There. I said it. Was it supposed to feel like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders? I didn't feel much different, but at least it was out in the open.

"Really? Sweet," Jesse answered easily. He looked surprised, but there were no signs of fury or jealousy. "Good luck."

I froze. That was it?! They dated for almost a year, and all I got from him was sweet?!

"I wanted to make sure you were okay with it," I pushed on. "Didn't want to make you uncomfortable or anything."

"Nah, it's cool," Jesse assured me.

"... are you sure?" I asked. I didn't go looking for trouble, but he had to give me something. How could he not be even mildly upset about this?

"Yeah! Dude, it's fine," he insisted. "I'm glad she's moving on. I was afraid she was gonna go downhill after I broke up with her, but the fact that she's-"

"What?" I demanded sharply. Who broke up with who?!

"She just took it kinda hard, that's all," Jesse responded. "She was really pissed off about it."

"You broke up with her?" I asked in disbelief. I hated myself for asking, but I needed to know. God, I sounded like effing Lance, with my curious craving for gossip.

He nodded.

It was killing me to keep myself from asking him why. Now that the story had been turned around, I needed to know why he did it. But I kept my trap shut.

Holy shit. All this time, I thought Rainie had broken up with Jesse on New Year's because she'd thought about the ultimatum I gave her and she truly wanted to be with me. But... wait a second, was I just a last resort?

A last RESORT?! FUCK that. I don't mean to sound conceited, but I'm Nick FUCKING Jonas. And yes, that is actually my middle name, capital letters and all. I could be anyone's first resort if I wanted, if there was such a thing. But Rainie's last?

There had to be another explanation. Maybe she had meant to break up with him, but he got to it first because he found out about her intentions and pre-emptively struck against her. That was plausible. It had to be.

Getting dumped by Dream Street. Jesus. Was it wrong to say that I lost a smidgen of respect for Rainie?

Day Three Hundred and Twenty-Seven.

Surprisingly, Miley gave me a ring while I was lounging around with a wiffel ball on set.

"Hello?" I answered hesitantly. I was afraid of being bitched-out, even if I had nothing better to do.

"Hey..." she trailed off, just as hesitant as me. "Thought I'd call to see what's up with you."

Was this a trick? I was pretty sure my Chaucer-ness was only accurate when I could see the person and judge their body language and facial expressions. It was hard to tell over the phone.

"Not much," I replied carefully. "Just hanging out on set."

I expected her to ask me a few more lame questions, but she jumped right into it. I liked that about Miley. She was straightforward; she almost always got to the point. There were no charades with her. You always knew what she was thinking because she told you.

"Can you drop by afterwards?" she inquired.

"As in, drop by your house?" I asked in fear.

"Yeah," she said quickly. "Just for a few minutes. I have something I need to give you."

A slap in the face? A one-way ticket to hell with front row seats? The last time I saw Miley, she basically told me she didn't want to see me again. In my mind, there was no way her invitation could mean good news.

"I guess, since it's on the way," I agreed with dread.

For the rest of the day, I tried to waste as much time as I could. I messed up my lines on purpose just to make time go slower and to keep us on set as long as possible. Unfortunately, we left around the same time as usual, except I received a few more dirty looks than was expected at the end of the day.

Luckily, Kevin, Joe and I had travelled together, so I was glad to have them stalling in Miley's driveway in case I needed to make a quick getaway.

I stood in the foyer of Miley's large house as her mother went to fetch her. It had been a long time since I'd ventured into this place. A long time. Miley leapt down the stairs after a minute or two, Justy following lazily behind her. Oh, God. He was here? If I was getting beaten up by a girl, the last person I wanted to witness the event was Justy.

"Hey," she said breathlessly, offering me a genuine Miley-smiley.

"Hi," I answered quickly, rocking back and forth on my heels.

She laughed. "Don't look so scared. I just have something to tell you, and I wanted it to be in person."

As she came closer to me and raised her arms, I flinched in anticipation of the blow. Fuck. Getting suckerpunched and/or cheapshotted by a girl - an ex-girlfriend, nonetheless - was not the ideal way to end one's day. And yet, I'd agreed to this. I'd willingly travelled to Miley's house in order to accept my punishment for being a jerk.

... what was wrong with me?

Before I could change my mind and bolt, I opened my eyes to arms flinging around my neck and locking there, hugging me tightly. I didn't know what to do. She was hugging me?

"What's this for?" I murmured, trying to ignore the fact that Justin was watching us from the stairs. Slowly, I returned the embrace by placing my hands tentatively on Miley's waist.

Eventually, she pulled away with another smile. "I'm just really proud of you, that's all. You do care."

I should have been more sensitive, but I thought by now we could all agree that sensitivity simply wasn't my thing. I demanded, "Care about what?"

Miley's eyes danced with humour. "Avery told me what you did."

"Oh. What I had to force her to do, you mean." Getting Avery to talk to me was only possible once I'd pulled up some records to find out where she lived and showed up at her house. Getting Avery to accept the ticket to the comedy show was even harder.

"Well, I think she's glad you did. She had a great time."

For lack of anything else to say, I asked, "The show was good?"

"She said it was awful," Miley laughed. "But... she gave the guy her number. I guess blind dates are her thing."

Who knew? Lance had another girlfriend when I still had zero official girlfriends. Fuck that guy. He wasn't even interested in girls; they were just handed to him on silver platters. Yeah, you're welcome, Lance.

"Good. Good to know," I said awkwardly with a curt nod of my head.

"Aren't you glad she's happy?" Miley asked in confusion. "That's what you wanted, wasn't it?"

I shrugged. "I don't know. Miles, I didn't really care too much for Avery. She scared me."

Honesty is the best policy, they say. Can I take my bitch-slap and leave now?

Furrowing her brow, Miley questioned, "Then why did you do it?"

I thought it was pretty obvious, but apparently I had to spell it out. "Well, for you."

"For me?"

I shrugged again. "I wanted you to know I still c-care about us. Our friendship." I stuttered on the word ‘care'. It almost hurt me to say it. I had to swallow down the pain afterwards. Mushiness was so not my cup of tea, and from the way Miley was staring at me, it probably wasn't my strongest suit. It was probably something similar to Voldemort declaring his love for muggles. There are just some things you don't expect from people.

In fact, until I said the words out loud, I didn't even know that that's what I had been trying to prove by setting up Lance with Avery. Weird; the things you can find buried in your subconscious.

"I don't want you to hate me," I continued, lowering my voice. Was it necessary for stupid Justy to eavesdrop? "Because I don't hate you." With a smile, I added, "I kind of like you."

Miley's shoulders shook with a silent laugh. "Kind of?"

What did she want from me? "You amuse me."

"I'm glad I amuse you," she said, the usual obnoxious volume of her voice returning.

"You know what I mean," I said while rolling my eyes. This was killing me. I might have even preferred the suckerpunch.

"I know, I know," she said, the country accent shining through. She turned her back to me to grab something from the bench. With a proud smile, she handed me a folded striped shirt. "This is yours. I've had it for like, two and a half years. I was really close to burning it once or twice, and then other times I just hoped you missed it and thought of me... but you can have it back now."

I'm not going to lie: I could barely even remember owning this shirt. Was she sure it wasn't Justy's?

"Gee, thanks Miley," I said jokingly.

"No matter why you did it... I'm glad you did this for Avery. It means a lot to me."

Nodding, I answered, "I know."

A smile played on her lips. "And I'm sorry for yelling at you."

This earned her a true laugh from me. "It was deserved."

"Can we be friends, then?"

I knew the answer was yes, but I said, "Only if you promise to stop calling me out at award shows."

"Done," she agreed. She held her arms out again for a hug, which I returned. With a giggle, she muttered, "That's who I remember."

"Huh?"

"I knew I fell in love with you for a reason. For a while, I forgot why."

I licked my lips, fingering the shirt I held in my hands. I locked eyes with Miley. "Hey. You don't by any chance want to keep this, do you?"

She shook her head.

I looked over her shoulder at Justy. "Hey man. You want this?"

Appearing ultimately confused, Justy replied, "No... no, I'm good."

"It's okay, dude. You can burn it. Or you can rip it up and use it as a head-scarf. Whatever." Without giving him time to reject me again, I threw the shirt at him. He was so surprised, he had no words. (What a shocker. He was such a chatterbox otherwise). I turned my attention back to Miley and offered her another smile. "My brothers are outside. I should get going."

"'Kay. You should call me sometime."

"Yeah," I agreed on my way out the door. "We should do another lunch soon. You, me, and Selena." I waved, and then I was on my way out.

Cheese and rice. Did I actually just suggest another lunch with my two ex-girlfriends? What was I thinking?

Still, I couldn't help my swagger as I made my way to the car. I felt like I had just shaken the Jonas Hate Club. I cracked the President - the rest of the minions wouldn't be far behind, I was sure of it.

Maybe not such a bad day after all.

Day Three Hundred and Twenty-Nine.

Elvis and I strolled over to Pep's house on a Sunday afternoon. At first, I had been reluctant to bring him around because of ol' Shep's passing, but when I found out that Pep's mom was storing dog treats just for Elvis, I couldn't deny him anymore. Besides, everybody in the family seemed glad when I brought him around.

Except for Pep's dad, but he never seemed to like me or anything to do with me anyway.

"Sarah's on the roof," he told me monotonously as I released Elvis into his backyard to play.

I took the stairs two at a time, waving to Carter in his bedroom as I passed. The moment I stepped across the threshold, Pep jumped through the window back into her room.

"Good timing," I noted with a grin.

Her eyes widened at my presence, and I wondered why she was so shocked. When Joe hopped through the window after her, it was possible that my eyes were more bugged-out than Pep's.

"Oh. Hey, Nick," he said, his tone chipper as he dusted off his pants.

"What the hell are you doing here?" I asked rudely, frozen in place. I was surprised he even knew where Pep lived. I supposed he'd dropped me off one or two times.

Joe shrugged, throwing an arm around the proton. "Can't I visit my good friend Pip?"

"My good friend Pep," I corrected him with a frown. "Seriously, what's going on?"

"We were just hanging out. Chatting," Joe answered casually.

"About what?"

He laughed. "Dude. Relax. No need to be jealous."

Jealous? "I just don't understand what's going on," was my weak response.

Joe patted my shoulder as he passed. "Don't worry about it." At the door, he turned and waved. "See ya, Pip. Have fun, kids."

As soon as I was sure he was gone, I glared at Pep. "What was that?" I demanded.

She shook her head, clearly looking to change the subject. "Nothing. Hey, I'm glad you're here. Carter just got a tuner for his guitar but he can't figure out how to work out; I told him you'd probably be able to figure it out."

And before I knew it, I was ushered into Carter's room. Between the two of them, Pep and Carter kept conversation going so wildly that I didn't have a chance to question Joe's mysterious presence earlier. By the time I'd fixed the tuner and Pep and I ended up together on her roof like always, I'd completely forgotten about it.

Day Three Hundred and Thirty Six.

Valentine's Day is supposed to be romantic.

Now, I'm aware that I'm not exactly your poster boy for romance, but civility in general with one's true love would have been nice on this Valentine's Day. Apparently, it was too much to ask.

Rainie and I were fighting again. This time, we hadn't even made it out of her apartment. From the moment I knocked on her door to pick her up, she had it in for me.

The plan was to pick Rainie up and take her out to a classy restaurant where I had made reservations for dinner. I hadn't made plans for afterwards, but I was thinking we could do something totally lame and barf-worthy, like walk along the beach holding hands.

Instead, we'd missed our reservation because she refused to leave the apartment with me.

"You said you were bringing Joe for Callan," Rainie said angrily.

"I suggested that a long time ago!" I cried. "And then I told you that Joe met this girl last week, so he's kind of tied up right now."

"Well, why didn't you bring Kevin instead?" she demanded.

Because Kevin would steal you from me, I wanted to reply. Instead, I opted for, "He has other plans." I wasn't exactly sure what those plans entailed, but he wasn't spending the evening at home - that much was certain.

"You should have told me!"

"I did. Obviously you didn't listen."

"Well, I can't leave Callan here alone on Valentine's Day," Rainie spat at me.

(She was breathtaking, by the way. She wore a typical red dress that hugged her curves in all the right places - all I wanted was to take her in my arms and kiss her).

Why was she so insistent on Lesbian Friend accompanying us, anyway? She was, after all, a lesbian. She'd totally ruin the mood, unless I thought of another girl for her to seduce.

I thought I was being helpful as I suggested, "Well, maybe Pep will be available at the last minute."

If looks could kill - and by looks I mean glares - I'd have twenty-nine bullet holes in my head after that suggestion. "Oh, of course you'd bring her up!" Rainie shot back. "If you want to be with her so bad, why did you even invite me out?"

I think it's rather understandable that my unhinged jaw wasn't out of line.

"What's that supposed to mean?" I was only trying to be nice. I was only trying to be considerate by thinking of Lesbian Friend's needs. What would she want a male date for, anyway?

"It's always Pep, isn't it? When things go wrong, Pep's the one you go to!" 

I almost laughed. "She's my friend."

"And what am I?"

"I don't know!" I cried in exasperation. "What are you? I want you to be my girlfriend, but you won't have that. Yet here we are, going out on Valentine's Day - and I'm not seeing anyone else, are you?"

Rainie folded her arms across her chest, unimpressed. "I can't leave Callan here on Valentine's Day. That's just not what friends do."

I ran a hand through my hair and sighed. Lesbian Friend was becoming a serious pain in my ass. Checking my watch, I murmured, "Good thing, then. We already missed our reservation."

"There's no way we would have made it anyway," Rainie snapped. "You wanted to drive all the way out to Monterey for dinner."

"It's nice up there. It's too crowded around here."

"So? I like it around here. There's always lots going on."

I paused. "Well, what's one night away?"

"Never know what you could miss."

Unsure of how to respond, I simply challenged her intense gaze.

"What was the deal with the reservation anyway, Nick? Was this another way for you to take me out in public without really taking me out?"

With a groan, I placed my thumb behind my ear and in my index finger on my temple. "No, this was my way of going out with you - like, on a real date. Just you and me. That was the idea, anyway."

"You really can't handle the idea of being seen with me, can you?"

"There's nothing further from reality!" I argued. "Why can't you let go of that? It has nothing to do with the public at all."

"Everything you do is carefully planned, Nick. Everything you do has a reason."

"The reason was to do something nice for you! Why are you so obsessed with the publicity thing?"

And then it hit me. Hadn't Rainie told me that she enjoyed taking advantage of Jesse's celebrity status?

Mother of God. But that couldn't be the reason. We had something real. We were friends long before we got together. She never tried to take advantage of me when we were friends. Not once. Now it seemed that every time I saw her, she expected us to go out. To flaunt the relationship that she wouldn't even commit to. Wasn't she the one who was worried about what it would look like to date a seventeen-year-old, anyway?

With a contemplative frown, I took a step away from her and paused at her bedroom door. Lowering my voice, I asked, "Do you even like me at all?"

Rainie's shoulders slumped. "I shouldn't have to answer that."

"Well, I'm asking."

She glared at me, muttering, "You know I do."

"No, I don't know," I snapped. "I never know anything with you. I think I'm doing something nice and then you tear it down like it's the most insensitive thing I could ever do. I think we're moving forward and then you say or do something to move us backwards again. I don't get it. I don't get you."

She shrugged. "What do you want, Nick? You knew that from the beginning, didn't you? From the first time we spoke, you told me you couldn't figure me out. That's just the way it is, okay?"

Tightening my jaw, I let myself out of her bedroom and made my way towards the front door, loosening my tie in the process.

"Where are you going?" she called after me.

Stupid question. "Where do you think? I'm not staying here and fighting with you."

She studied me as I slipped on my shoes. "It's Valentine's Day, Nick."

"And apparently I'm a shitty Valentine," I retorted, straightening my back and reaching into my pocket for my car keys. Before making my exit, I added haughtily, "Sorry for disappointing you."

Then I left. Rainie didn't follow.

All in all, I had a more successful Valentine's Day the year before, when Pep and I had the ultimate air hockey showdown and then watched Terminator (one and two). I was single then, and it may have been pathetic for Valentine's Day - but I was single now, and this was worse.

I couldn't sleep. Normally I didn't mind waiting for sleep to come, but not tonight. The longer I laid awake, the more my frustration festered. I needed to blank out my mind - a difficult task, given its extraordinary capacity for information and introspective thought that is almost always put to good use.

Flicking on the lamp, I threw the covers off my body after twenty minutes and searched for something mindless to watch on my laptop. I found the third season of The Office and put it on with a shrug. I hadn't watched it in months.

I started halfway into the season and watched five episodes in a row. I expected to laugh (if not out loud, then in my mind) and to forget about my problems. Though I hadn't watched the show for a while, I remembered the little thought that it required. It was simple; the plot barely moved. That was what I needed.

The problem was that nobody told me how upsetting it all was. By the time I gave up on it and turned out my lights again, I was shocked and appalled. Jim found another girlfriend. He paraded around with her in front of Pam. That was low. Bad call, Jim. What the fuck. Pam calls off her wedding and Jim finds someone else?!

I never got caught up in television shows. The drama was always too unreal for me. But the thing about The Office was that there wasn't supposed to be drama, and that was why I was so angry. Come on, Jim! Pam is waiting! Was it really so hard for him to see that she had feelings for him? And it's Pam, for crying out loud. The entire show had been building up to Jim and Pam; everyone knew that. Karen might have been hotter, but he'd never find anyone more perfect for him than Pam.

In the end, I went to sleep just as frustrated as I'd been before The Office, but for a different reason.

Ugh.

Chapter End Notes:
You know how I know it's finals season? Because I've written almost to the end of this story in approximately four days, and the amount of studying I have done is zero. Yep, must be finals!
Sorry about the Snow White thing. But I effing hate her voice. Always have.
Anyways... Nick is slowly starting to become aware of his subconscious. It's a step forward, right? Progress, maybe? Also, Nick's thoughts have become a little more frantic, a little more desperate. Have you noticed that he's started to emphasize words in capital letters? Usually when he's angriest.
I should study. But man, I'm like SO close to being done this story, and I just want to write all of it down. Ugh. I planned this out badly - I definitely should have either written this faster, or written it slower so that I wouldn't be caught in this moral dilemma.
We all know I'm going to write, anyway.
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