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Day Sixty-Eight.

Joe is a piece of shit. Ever since he started going out with Camilla (who, for the record, was my celebrity crush first, not his), he's been ditching me to go out for lunch with her. I wouldn't mind so much - it's not like I need him to hold my hand to cross the street or anything - but shit, when we're trapped on-set and the only other companion I have is Kevin, it sucks.

Of course, there are other actors on-set, too. But they're girls. And I know that by this age, I should be able to befriend girls, but I just can't. No, sorry, not can't - won't. Girls are fuckin' annoying. If I'm not able to feel ‘em up, then listening to their whining and bitching gets me nowhere. I won't do it.

I could always hang around and let them swoon over me, but I wasn't looking for ass. I had Mystery Girl.

As it turned out on this particular Friday, Pep had a day off school. I missed that - getting days off. Sometimes I get days off as a celebrity, but it's lame when all of my normal friends are in school. And by ‘all of my normal friends', I mostly mean Pep. Anyway, I asked her to meet me somewhere for lunch. And by ‘asked', I mean instructed. She obliged, like she always does.

"This doesn't mean I didn't have better things to do, Princess," she made sure to tell me as we sat across from each other at a café. (By the way, that fucking nickname spread like wildfire. Thanks a billion, Joe).

I shrugged uncaringly. "Then why are you here?"

She grinned. "'Cuz I like you."

That's what I thought. See? Imagine girls as moths. I, of course, am the flame. You get the picture. I don't mean to sound conceited, but everyone fucking loves me. They just do.

We ate, and I kept track of time. Even when you're a Jonas Brother, nobody reacts too well when you show up late. In fact, it's even more catastrophic than you can imagine. Still, I didn't have to worry much. Every time I have a meal with Pep, I could swear she hasn't eaten for days. She inhales everything in sight. It's a little unnerving, and I wonder where she keeps it all.

I'm used to it, though. Everything she does is fast.

"Oh," she groaned, taking one last bite and leaning back in her chair, hands on her stomach, "I can't eat anymore. I'm so bloated; I'm on my period."

I'm not a guy to cry out very often, but at this, I exclaimed, "Eugh!" while dropping my fork and pushing my plate away. Suddenly, my hunger was replaced with the need to vomit. I glared at her menacingly and said sternly, "God, Pep! Didn't I tell you never to talk about that around me!"

Pep shrugged unsympathetically. She stretched out her legs very calmly. "Well, it's true."

It took a lot of effort to swallow the food in my mouth. Appetite quelled: forever. "It's disgusting," I returned, curling my upper lip in distaste.

Pep laughed, as if my queasiness was something to joke about. "What about the biological process is disgusting to you?"

I thought it was quite obvious, but when I realized she was serious, I replied, "You're bleeding out of your... ugh."

I must mention how unimpressed I was by her amusement. Patting her stomach, she chuckled, "You should be happy my egg wasn't fertilized."

My eyes widened in horror. The thing about Pep is that for someone so small, she has a very large voice. It carries. And we were in public, for crying out loud. And I'm Nick Jonas.

"Could you stop it?" I muttered, placing my elbow on the table and covering my face with my hand. "People are staring."

It didn't bother her at all. Nope, not one bit. "Why are you so embarrassed? Menstruation is a natural occurrence-"

Let me take this moment to say that I rarely show any signs of outward panic. I am a calculated individual who plans his actions strategically.

However, at this time, I hissed frantically, "Shut up! Shut... up!" She seemed surprised by my outburst, and I felt a little bad, so I leaned forward and explained as quietly as possible, "Besides the fact that I've lived with guys my whole life, I was home-schooled and missed Sex Ed, okay?"

I thought this would grant her an explanation as to why I was so uncomfortable with the conversation we were having, but it only served to confuse her more. (Did I not already mention that Pep isn't really all that smart?)

"You mean, you don't... know?" she asked, genuinely intrigued.

Oh, for the love of God. She's my best friend, but she can be as asshatted as Kevin sometimes. "Of course I know," I spat back.

She seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. She lowered her voice and said, "Oh. Okay. I thought so, because you and Miley..."

I stared at her sceptically. Where was she going with this? Still not amused, I picked up my fork. I was hungry again.

I waited for Pep to elaborate, but she had trailed off and had no intention of returning.

"Wha'?" I asked, my mouth full of food.

"You just... I thought that you guys had..."

Oh. Nope. Busying myself by stuffing my face, I waved my left hand around, drawing her attention to my purity ring.

"Well, I know that," Pep said uncomfortably. "But you said..."

I snapped to attention. I said what? Before you get the wrong idea, I never have and never will discuss the physical aspects of an intimate relationship with anyone. That's just... eugh. Who else needs to know? And if I were to discuss it with someone, it wouldn't be Pep. I can't think of who it would be - Joe, maybe - but not Pep. No, definitely not her.

My eyes locked on Pep's, I demanded rudely, "I said wha'?" (Side-note: Mouth still full of food).

"She... I don't know, you mentioned a few times about how whoreish she was," Pep blurted out quickly. "So I just assumed that you had at least-"

"Whoa," I interrupted her, using my hand to silence her. "No. Never assume, Pepper. Not... God, don't think about that."

How uncomfortable is it when your best friend admits she thinks about you and your ex-girlfriend? Awkward. Gross. Oh, Pep. I like her the way she is, but sometimes it would do me a favour if she exercised a little shame.

However, the proton had a point. I did mention that Miley was whoreish. I think that was the exact word I used, actually. She used to send half-naked pictures of herself to my phone, and whenever we were alone, she'd always - God, I feel bad for saying it.

I'm totally joking; I don't feel bad at all. She talked pretty dirty sometimes. And she was up for anything. I got a lot out of that girl. I could've milked her for all she was worth if I wanted to. Anyway, total slut if given the chance.

Pep shrugged innocently. "Why not? You asked me once if I slept with Jake Lancaster."

It took me a moment to register this name in my mind. I nodded in recognition, and pointed out matter-of-factly, "The evidence was overwhelming, and it was a need-to-know situation."

She grinned. "What about it was ‘need-to-know'?"

Taking another bite off my plate, I replied calmly, "I needed to know if I had to beat this guy up."

Jake Lancaster was some kid who went to school with Pep. They went out for like, a week. It was really lame. Anyway, I'd already met him by then, and he thought that Pep and I were in love or something - funnily enough, I was dating Miley at this time - and he told me to ‘back off, popstar'.

Obviously this guy was a complete fucktard, and naturally I decided I hated him - first, for being so blatantly ignorant about my relationship with Pep, and second, for calling me ‘popstar'. I went over to Pep's one morning and as soon as I knocked on the door, he opened it. He smirked at me like he had something I didn't - I assumed it was Pep's virginity - and then he walked away holding his shirt in his hand. I was confused, so I asked Pep if they slept together. It was important to know the answer, because this guy thought he had something on me, and if that proved to be true (i.e. if he had sex with Pep), then I had to beat the shit out of him to make up for it. However, Pep told me they didn't do it, and so Jake Lancaster was off the hook.

Pep laughed. "Nick, he's on the football team."

I rolled my eyes. Why do people always assume that football jocks are at the top of the human food chain?

"And I could kick his ass," I answered confidently.
Just because he's bigger than me, doesn't mean I don't know how to take him. It's against the guy code, but seriously, if your first move is to kick a guy in the groin, he's completely helpless and you can win the fight even if you're up against a fucking sumo wrestler. A swift kick in the nuts is absolutely paralyzing, and the key to success. Hey, I never claimed to be an honourable guy. I would do it if I had to.

For some reason, Pep found my statement charming.
"Y'know, I know you'd never say you care out loud, but sometimes you're really... I don't know, sweet."

Ugh. Fuck that. Guys with no balls are sweet. I was about to explain to her that I would not be smashing Jake Lancaster's head to a pulp for her benefit, but for mine, when I glanced out the window and saw a flash of honey-coloured hair strolling by. I had to do a double-take. There was only one person I could think of with hair like that, and... by God, it was Mystery Girl.

"Holy shit," I breathed, craning my neck to keep my eyes on her as long as possible as she walked away.

"What?" Pep asked in excitement. She tried to follow my eyes, but she had no idea.

Rainie had an oversized purse thrown over her shoulder as she meandered along the busy LA sidewalk. It was a warm, sunny day in May, but she wore a thin, long-sleeved t-shirt and tight-fitting jeans - which, by the way, her ass looked amazing in. Fucking right. What are the odds she would walk by on the one day I leave set for lunch? Fate, I tell you. This was absolute confirmation that we were meant to be.

"Nick, what are you staring at?"

I knew she was right in front of me, but Pep's voice sounded very far away all of a sudden.

I wondered where she was going. Maybe back to her apartment. Maybe she was on a lunch break, just like me. Maybe she was heading back to her office - but she was dressed pretty casually. Maybe she worked with Lesbian Friend as a photographer. Maybe she went to school and didn't work at all.

I kind of wanted to follow her.

"Nick J!" Pep snapped her fingers right in front of my face, and I jolted back to my seat in surprise. Man, I was out of it. While I blinked fiercely, she asked, "What did you see?"

I pointed out the window in the direction of my wife. "Rainie," was all I managed to say.

Pep's face lit up with enthusiasm as she, too, craned her neck to see out the window. "Where?"

"There," I said quietly. "You can't really see her... the one in the red shirt, see?"

"Obnoxiously large black purse?" Pep asked.

"It's not obnoxious," I told her in annoyance. I was offended that she'd even think that way about my Mystery Girl. Shitty-ass best friend. She was supposed to be supportive of my obsessions.

"Yeah, I see her," Pep murmured. "But she's not much from behind."

I beg to differ.

"I wish I could see her face... hey, we should follow her!" Pep cried, aglow with the thrill of her new idea.
It sounded like a better idea when I thought of it.
When I heard it out loud, the idea sounded a lot more stalker-ish. "No," I declined immediately.

"Come on," she urged. "We have to! You can't just let her get away!"

"I'm not... I can't," I shook my head.

But I didn't have a choice. Pep was already handing me my sunglasses and my wallet, taking my hand and pulling me up. I was still hungry, by the way, and there was plenty of lunch left to be eaten.

"I'll pay you back later," she promised quietly as she left me at the cash register. "I'll go outside and keep track of her!"

"No - hold on, we're not - goddammit, Pep!" I hissed, but she was already out the door.

Fuck.

While I waited for service, I pulled my black cuffed beanie out of my pocket and slid it over my curls. They'd be mad at me back on-set for ruining my hair, but it was fixable. If I was going to legitimately shadow someone, I couldn't be recognized. The paps would have a field day.

I was leaning over the counter, waiting for my credit card to be approved as Pep stuck her little red head through the door. "Nnnn... Norman!" she whispered.

She couldn't see the utterly incredulous look on my face as I glared at her because it was disguised by the sunglasses, but it probably wouldn't have bothered her anyways.

"Try to hurry up!"

Then she was gone.

As soon as I'd pocketed my wallet into my black skinny jeans, I rejoined Pep outside in the bright California sunshine. She grabbed my grey t-shirt and tugged, taking off at a half-jog.

"Will you stop!" I said under my breath, yanking her hand away from my shirt and issuing a groan of displeasure. "You're being severely creepy, and who the hell is Norman?"

"You are," she replied, the freckles on her nose crinkling when she smiled. "I couldn't think of another N-name."

"Why didn't you just use Nick? It's common enough, smart one," I said, following her at a quick pace. She dodged in and out and around the hoards of people flooding the sidewalks.

She turned her head to glance at me unapologetically. "You looked like you wanted to disguise yourself," she answered. "I didn't want to give anything away."

"You know what would be a better way not to give anything away? If we weren't following Rainie like spies!"

"I want to see her!" As if that made it all right. Pep ordered, "Walk faster, we're getting close."

Fuckity fuck fuck. My converse shoes were untied and there was a relatively high probability that I would trip and fall on my face (especially at the pace we were walking. I don't know how Pep walks so fast for someone with such little legs, but I was basically jogging behind her). Knowing Pep, she would say something loud and inappropriate when we were within hearing distance, like, "Look, Nick Jonas! There's the girl you are absolutely head-over-heels for, there she is, right there, see her?"

Last time I saw Mystery Girl, I had been prepared. I'd thought it over in my mind. I hadn't mulled over what would go down if we had any surprise visits. And this was a surprise visit. Needless to say, I was panicking a little bit.

Seriously, omg wtf. It was beyond my realm of understanding at that point in time why I had agreed to follow Pep when I could have just as easily turned around and gone back to the set. Jesus.

"She's stopping at the fruit market!" Pep exclaimed, as if this was the greatest news since the defeat of Voldemort.

"Fantastic," I muttered, sarcasm dripping from my lips. Aside from the well-timed display of my sexual urges a couple months ago in front of an entire crew of important people, this was possibly the second-most embarrassing thing that had ever happened to me, and I couldn't really figure out why.

Before I could protest, Pep grabbed a hold of my wrist and dragged me behind her just as I remembered that I should check my blood sugar. It's beyond me how I managed to think of blood sugar at a time like this.
Thank God I did, though, because it gave me an excuse to stop for a minute or two. (Also, of course, it prevents my untimely death and all that jazz).

Pep waited patiently as we loitered in the doorway of a boutique, her eyes carefully trained to Rainie's location as she browsed through the fruit market. She peered around the corner, gazing intently. She turned to face me just as I was slipping my Omnipod into my pocket.

"She's pretty, Nick," she said with a relaxed smile.

I rolled my eyes, though she couldn't tell through my sunglasses. "Pretty? Are you fucking kidding me? You dragged me through hell just so you could stare at her for three seconds and tell me she's pretty?"

Rainie was buying grapefruit.

Pep shrugged. "I don't know. I mean, you obviously see something in her that I can't see... out of curiosity, what is it?"

I glanced at Rainie, digging in her purse for change.
"She's..." I trailed off. I changed my course of action. "I..."

"Love her?" Pep finished for me.

"Pft. No," I scoffed. (Yes. It was definitely love).

"Then what is it?" Pep folded her arms across her chest.

I didn't know. How was I supposed to describe the way I felt? I'd sound crazy if I told her that God shone a light to guide me to Mystery Girl, and that birds sang and squirrels danced and there were fucking angels playing ‘Ode to Joy' whenever she was in my presence. Even good ol' Pep might not believe me.

"I feel drawn to her," was the best I could do. "Like a gravitational - oh, shit." I grabbed Pep's shoulder and spun her around, forcing her to face the wall behind us. I readjusted my beanie and leaned against the wall next to Pep, pretending to be muttering something to her. Mystery Girl was so close. She'd purchased her grapefruits and she was going to pass us on the way back.

"What?" Pep cried as I was in the process of manoeuvring her around. "Nick, what are you - Nick!"

I swear to God, if she wasn't a girl and she wasn't my best friend, I could've crucio'd the hell out of her.

Mystery Girl peered at us through her sunglasses as she walked past. I stood closer to Pep, as if her tiny midget body could conceal me, and dug my heel into the back of her calf, hoping it would warn her to shut up. As soon as Mystery Girl had escaped my vision, I let out a breath. Pep was staring at me with wide eyes. Apparently I'd scared her.

But she had to understand. "You little shit," I told her, a hint of a smile playing on my face. "You almost blew-"

"Nick?" That beautiful voice stopped me mid-sentence. I froze. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rainie backtracking as she peeked her head around the corner. "I thought that looked like you."

I had never quite understood the term ‘dying inside' until this moment. I could literally feel my organs shrivelling up into jelly. My heart stopped beating. My lungs stopped pumping. Most of all, I just wanted to curl up and pretend I didn't exist.

I turned my head slowly towards her, managing a small wave. "Hi."

No ‘fancy meeting you here' or ‘nice to see you again' - I didn't have the brain capacity for such complex phrases.

Satisfied that it was indeed Nick Jonas she was talking to, she allowed herself to come into full sight as she asked, "What are you doing here?"

That was my problem. What was I doing there? I couldn't think of an excuse. I was crammed between two brick walls with a little red-headed dwarf, trying desperately hard not to be recognized. What excuse was there for that?

Pep was no help. I could feel her staring at me, eagerly awaiting my response just as much as Mystery Girl.

"Shopping," I replied, gesturing behind me to the boutique. It sounded plausible, no? When Mystery Girl's face displayed unreserved confusion, I turned my head and read the store's title: ‘Rhonda's Maternity'.
Son of a bitch.

Pep saw it as well, and I could tell she was suppressing the urge to howl with laughter.
Nonetheless, she gallantly swooped in to rescue me. "I made him," she added. "But he didn't knock me up. My mom's pregnant. Baby shower this weekend."

Gee thanks, Pep - though I could have done without the ‘knocked-up' comment.

Rainie seemed surprised to hear Pep talk, as if she hadn't noticed her until that moment. Probably my fault. It was most likely my job to introduce her.
"This is Pep," I said suddenly. "She's a friend of mine. Pep, this is Rainie. She's... a friend of Jesse's. Who is a friend of mine."

Excellent work, Nick. Way to not make things awkward. Rock on, you charming playboy, you.

They shook hands. Mystery Girl smiled brightly. "I didn't know Nick had a girlfriend."

"I don't," I answered quickly. Single. Completely unattached. Available 24/7. Give me a call. Please.
Pep frowned.

"Oh," Mystery Girl replied. "I just thought... because you introduced me as... never mind." Because I introduced Pep as my friend and went on to introduce Mystery Girl as Jesse's friend? Pft, well fuck me if I'd ever refer to her as Jesse's girlfriend.

"What brings you here?" I inquired, ignoring the awkwardness.

"Um... shopping as well," she answered with a grin. "Just have to get a few things done before my class this afternoon."

From the corner of my eye, I saw Pep open her big mouth to invite her to hang out with us, but before this could happen, I blurted out, "You go to school?"

"Mm hmm. UCLA."

UCLA. My future wife - gorgeous and well-educated.
"That's a nice disguise you got there, Jonas," she continued, tugging on the brim of my hat. "You're quite the skater-boy off-duty."

If she liked skater-boy, I could be skater-boy. I'd Avril Lavigne the shit out of sk8r boi. Hell, I'd dress up as Tinkerbell if she wanted me to.

"I like to keep a low profile," I told her.

She nodded. "Well... I know who you are."

"The curly hair and bitter expression gives it away!" Pep chirped, tugging on one of the curls that stuck out from under my hat.

Pep was ruining this for me. If only she could take a hint and scamper off, I could be alone with Mystery Girl. Then I could really get somewhere. I'd even turn off my phone and consider not returning to the set for the rest of the day.

Rainie smiled warmly. I melted. "Cute."

Cute?!
I glared at Pep like this was her fault
. She grinned at me and chuckled softly, making it seem like we were sharing some sort of intimate moment. Damn that girl.

"Anyway, I'd better get going," Mystery Girl said with a sigh. "It was nice to meet you."

Pep returned the polite comment.

Rainie locked eyes with me - at least, I was pretty sure she did, but we were both wearing sunglasses - and I could've sworn she winked. "And you. I'll see you soon, probably."

My stomach tightened in a knot as I gulped, "Yep."

She laughed quietly to herself, a light little, "Hmm, hmm," before prancing away.

I watched her for a few moments before taking a deep breath and turning to Pep. I had every right to strangle her, but it was hard to stay mad at someone so undoubtedly innocent. Instead, I smiled and shook my head, lightly tweaking her on the nose.

"You kill me," I muttered.

She snorted with laughter. "Nick, you had her eating out of the palm of your hand."

I frowned, offended. "Up yours, munchkin."

"Really, though," she commented as we began to leisurely walk back where we came from, "You're lucky you're a Jonas, or you'd be shit outta luck when it comes to girls."

I playfully nudged her with my elbow as we walked.
She giggled. "But who knows? You might just have a chance."

Oh, I had more than a chance. Mystery Girl thought I was cute, and she heavily implied that she wanted to see me again. All I had to work on was changing ‘cute' to ‘devilishly handsome', and ‘see me again' to ‘see me in bed', and I was good to go.
Chapter End Notes:
Oh, man. So I'm on campus right now and instead of doing work for my two and a half hour break like I planned, I've been doing nothing substantial with my time... so I decided that I would post this before I go to class in five minutes :)

Anyway, I've been getting a lot of questions that are similar in nature, so I thought that I might just answer some of them in an author's note so we're all on the same page, but now I don't have time hahah. So I'll do it in the next chapter! A real FAQ. Man, I've always wanted an FAQ. I'm so excited.

Hope you liked this chapter! The next one probably won't be up quite as quickly because I've almost caught up to myself in writing and I need to plan out some more, but I'll do my best! Thanks for all your comments, I really am blown away that so many people are enjoying this story.
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