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lonely was the song I sang
Nick/David Henrie, rated NC-17. (+ unrequited Nick/Joe, implied David/Lorenzo.)

A million notes at the end.

*



Arizona is hot and dry, dusty in both clouds and a thick layer over Nick's skin, and David Henrie is sort of a douchebag. Not in an intentional way; it's just sort of the way he is that rubs Nick the wrong way, like an uncomfortable static electricity cling. So Nick leans in the opposite direction, keeps several feet between them all the time, turns the volume on the radio or the iPod up to the point where it's slightly too loud to talk over. Not that they're talking.

It's useless of him to try and avoid David. Not to mention stupid. Because somehow, someway, in Vegas, they'd accidentally gotten almost married. Nick still isn't sure how it happened. Some sort of practical joke and signing what he'd thought was an autograph but was actually a marriage license. Which is valid for exactly another three hundred and sixty-two days.

So now Nick has a marriage license that's public record and he's estimating they've got about another forty-eight hours before it hits the internet. He hasn't shared this with David, since he hasn't said more than a dozen words to David in three days. But David hasn't really tried to get him to talk, either; he'd taken one long look at Nick's face when they'd realized it was an actual marriage license and that yeah, one of David's douchebag friends had gone and filed it, and had completely shut up.

Nick's left to wonder why he ever thought roadtripping with David, or anyone related to David, or anyone who knows David, or anyone ever to be on a Disney show in the history of that channel, would be a good idea. He's left to wonder exactly why he's in Arizona, in the passenger seat of David's Challenger, letting the dust sink into his pores as he scowls.

David scowls back at him. "Shut up," he says.

The first thing he's said in seventy-two hours and it's to tell Nick not to talk. "You shut up," Nick replies, the lamest comeback of all time.

"You're so homeschooled, Nicky," David sighs.

Nick scowls harder. If the frown stays on his face any longer, it's totally going to be permanent. "Don't call me Nicky." The you don't get to call me that is unspoken, but clear, and Nick knows David gets it when he presses his foot a little harder on the gas pedal.

The really stupid part about all of it is that three days ago, he'd liked David. They'd been cool with each other, although not the kind of friends who tell each other everything, and certainly not the kind of friends who take their clothes off. Not that Nick wants to take his clothes off with David, even if they are sort of married, because he's too angry, and also because he's not gay.

"I guess you've got a dilemma there," David says.

Nick realizes he'd said at least part of that out loud. He pinches himself in punishment.

"Look, Nick..."

But David trails off like he really doesn't know what to say, and Nick scrunches himself down into the seat even more. "What?" he mutters.

"We could just let it expire."

Nick snorts so hard it hurts. "There's no way it will stay a secret for a year. Do you know how many people Google my name every single day?"

"Or we could get married for real."

Nick chokes on the breath he was trying to take. "Dave-"

"I'm serious."

"You're not," Nick coughs. Stupid dust. He rolls up the window. Anger simmers hot in his chest. "You were the one who was drunk when it happened."

"Fuck off, you were too."

"I was not!"

David looks over, makes eye contact for the first time in at least forty-eight hours, and says, "You were definitely not sober, Nick."

Nick hears the come on, man, isn't it easier if we chalk it up to being drunk? in that, and scowls again.

"Christ, dude," David continues, "quit denying what you do all the time. Own it for fucking once."

Nick looks pointedly out the window.

They stop at gas stations for cold drinks and to switch off driving, twice, and cross into New Mexico before either of them says anything else. Nick's pretty sure they're going to reach Dallas without any decisions made, and then it's going to be about a thousand kinds of awkward. He knows that David is right on at least one count: it would be easier to say they were both drunk when it had occurred, and it wasn't entirely a lie, they'd each had a couple of beers.

It's all pretty pointless, since they're on the way to Dallas so Nick can tell his family in person because he feels like it's the stand-up thing to do, and his dad isn't going to want to hear that he's been drinking, much less gotten sort-of married to another guy. His family isn't going to want to hear any of it; he's not sure why he's going to do this anyway. Maybe so they don't end up hearing it on Access Hollywood instead.

"Maybe we should tell your family first," he says to David as they cruise through Santa Rosa.

"I already did." David flips on the turn signal and changes lanes to exit the interstate. "It's your turn to drive."

They're parked at a gas station and standing outside of the car before Nick says, "And?"

"And what?" David slides down the side of the car to sit on the asphalt, his back to the metal, looking out at the road. With practiced ease, he lights the joint in his hand.

Nick slides down next to him, the press against the car making the back of his shirt ride up. "What did they say?"

David shrugs, inhales. The bridge of his nose is pink from the afternoon sun. "That I should take you back to Vegas and make you an honest man, instead of this just license bullshit," he says, sort of chuckling as the smoke drifts from his mouth, "and I didn't bother to explain that nobody does nothing with Nick Jonas that he doesn't want them to."

"Huh." Nick leans his head back against the car door.

"Hey," David whispers, and Nick looks at him. David shifts close, his mouth hovering bare over Nick's, and exhales. Nick inhales reflexively. Then he jerks away, the dryness of the smoke making him gasp and cough, and swears under his breath, and punches David in the shoulder.

David just laughs. Nick glares at him, heat swelling in his chest. "C'mon, try it again," David murmurs, moving his whole body closer and sliding an arm around Nick's waist.

It's a gas station parking lot in New Mexico and the asphalt feels like it's burning through his jeans as Nick watches David take another hit. Then David leans in and seals their mouths together, his free hand sliding through Nick's hair and cupping his neck, and Nick breathes in. The smoke goes easier this time. He manages to hold it a few seconds before the need to exhale overwhelms him, and he coughs it out and takes a few deep breaths of fresh air, eyes still closed. David laughs in his ear, still holding on to him, and between the sun and the pavement and David, Nick is way, way too hot.

"One more, c'mon," David whispers, and so Nick does.

"I'm done," he protests through the exhale, relaxing fingers he hadn't realized were clutching David's ratty t-shirt.

"That was pretty sweet, Jonas," David says, still close to his ear, "now tell me the craziest thing you've ever done."

"Nothing except this," Nick breathes, keeping his eyes closed, afraid of what might happen if he opens them. "Yeah, this is definitely the craziest."

David laughs, loud and wide and open, says something about how that's pretty fucking lame, and thunks his head back against the car. At least, that's what Nick thinks David does; he can hear the thud and feel the vibration of the warm metal. It's a good feeling. He could lean against it all day. "...to get us some snacks?" David is asking.

"Let's do it," Nick replies, a reply that is in no way an answer. "Let's go back to Vegas and get married."

"Yeah?"

Nick opens his eyes, blinking against the light. "What part of 'Nick Jonas doesn't do things halfway' did you miss in the last few years, Henrie?"

David grins. He ducks in again and it's super brief, but in this kiss there's no smoke between them.

Nick finds a baseball cap in the car and goes into the tiny building to pay for their gas and stand in the snack foods aisle for five minutes, trying to get himself under control again. Going back to Vegas and actually getting married would not only be the craziest thing he'd ever done in his life, it would be the craziest thing he'd be doing in several lifetimes, since Nick's pretty sure his mother could kill him and bring him back to life only to do it again if she set her mind to it.

Face it: he's the guy that usually avoids the thrill in favor of what's safe, and there's a huge part of him that's tired of being that person.

"Hey," David says, bumping into his hip.

"Hey."

David reaches out and pokes a package of Snowballs, then snags one of the individual apple pies. "We okay?"

"Of course." He wonders what sort of thrill David is getting out of this. "Dave."

"Yeah?"

"Do I want Pringles or these pretzel chip things?" He holds them up, smiling as precisely as he can, and David bursts into goofy laughter. Nick decides he likes that. He thinks maybe he gets why Joe's always doing the most ridiculous things to get him to laugh, and then the thought of his brother smacks into him like he's walked into a wall, like he's been punched right in the middle of the chest, and it hurts so bad.

David steps closer, saying, "Nick?"

"Please, I need to get out of here," Nick gasps, dropping the chips from his shaking hands and walking out as fast as he can. He sinks to the ground on the far side of the car and stares out at the road, not really seeing anything. Eventually, he hears footsteps, and David crouches next to him.

"I got lots of snacks?" he murmurs, like a question, like an offering. His face is gentle, concerned.

Nick snorts and presses his hand against his mouth as hard as he can. The breath he manages to take is a shaky one.

"What was that all about?" David asks. "I know you didn't just flip out over some chips, man."

Nick shakes his head.

"Is it the pot?"

Nick shakes his head again, says, "No, don't think so."

"Then what?" David drops the bag he's holding and shuffles closer, but not too close, like he's afraid to touch.

Nick leans his head on his knees, his face turned towards David, and tries to come up with how to say it. He composes and discards at least five things. "I don't love him like I should," he says finally, and no, that's wrong too. "I love him - more than I should."

"Who are we talking about?" David asks softly. Nick can tell he's running through people in his mind. The look on his face says he can't come up with anyone that makes sense.

Nick turns his face in the opposite direction and says, "Joe."

It's quiet except for the muted radio sounds from inside the gas station, a song that might be any number of his ex-girlfriends, and the cars passing on the highway. Then Nick hears the rustle of David standing up, and a hand slides under his elbow, tugging him against gravity. "Get in the car," David says, the words one strung-together mumble, opening the door for him.

Nick folds himself into the seat one careful limb at a time.

David walks around and gets in, slides the key into the ignition and starts the car. He turns his iPod up a little louder and pulls out of the parking lot. A cloud of dust rises behind the car. Nick shuts his eyes and lets the familiar music fill his head, because that's better than anything else right now. I called, I called, but I can't get through, said he's on his own but his own is you.

It's only after a couple miles that he realizes they're going back the way they'd come. "We're not going to Dallas?" he asks, after another half-hour stretches by.

"No, we're going to Vegas."

"Why?"

"To get married, dumbass."

Nick feels his jaw drop. "What - you - what?"

David reaches into the back seat, his hand returning with a bag of trail mix. "Open this for me?"

Nick does. He keeps the bag cupped in his hand as David picks through it, apparently looking for the almonds and the M&Ms. After a few minutes, Nick grimaces at him and plucks them out of the bag instead, passing the nuts and candies over in twos and threes until they're gone, then demands, "Talk now."

"About what?" David asks, sounding unconcerned.

Nick feels his stomach twist. "How do you mean, about what? Vegas? Marriage?"

"I think," David says slowly, "that we both understand the - the experience of someone you can't have. So - maybe we should be each others' experience of someone you can?"

Nick turns that over in his mind for a while. Puzzles over what David's secret is for a couple minutes. "I think - I think that made sense," he says finally. "It would make more sense if you were a girl, though."

"Fuck that, I'm not getting a sex change for your ass," David laughs. He knocks his fist into Nick's shoulder.

The knot in Nick's stomach loosens a little. "Hey, wasn't it my turn to drive?"

"Yeah. But I got it for now. Take a nap. De-stress. Veg out. I'll wake you up in like an hour, dude."

Nick nods, suddenly not minding the decision being made for him. "Okay."

He stirs once or twice, hearing David singing along softly to the low music, I wanna turn this thing around, I wanna drink with you all night until we both fall down, but he slips back under within seconds.

It's dark later when he wakes up again, as David turns the car off in the parking lot of a McDonald's. "Hey, you're alive," he says when he sees Nick's eyes are open. "Gonna run in - want anything?"

"Yeah, I should probably." Nick scrubs at his face with his palms. He feels exceptionally groggy, sort of sticky-tired, wanting a shower and some food and caffeine. "I'll, uh, I'll come in with you."

David waits for him to get out of the car, then slings his arm around Nick.

"Where are we, anyway?" he mumbles, yawning against David's shoulder.

"Ash Fork, I think." David pulls the door open and guides him inside, his palm warm on Nick's lower back. It's just like Joe would do and Nick shivers. He doesn't want David to be like Joe at the same time that he does.

David's hand drops once they're inside but he doesn't move away. Nick rubs at his face again and blinks in the bright light. His eyes focus on the soda fountain. "I think I'll just go stick my mouth under the Diet Coke dispenser," he says, and David laughs.

"Dude, your mom would kill me. Come on. Real food."

They order burgers and salads, sodas, and David gets a strawberry milkshake. "Can you have some?" he says around the straw, then holds out the cup to Nick. "I suppose I should learn this stuff."

"I can have some," Nick replies, still concentrating on getting as much soda as he can into his cup. Then he smiles at David and takes a drink of the offered milkshake. It's cold and sweet on his tongue. "Thanks."

"Uh, there's free refills, you know." David aims his straw at the fountain. "Free."

Nick snaps on the lid. "Yeah."

In the booth, he all but falls face-first into his food and they don't talk for at least ten minutes. When he feels slightly more human again, he tries to squint at David, but he's mostly too tired to do anything but sit there. Staying upright is a challenge.

David looks at him and laughs, the corners of his eyes crinkling. "I don't think I've ever seen you so tired," he says. He nudges Nick with his foot underneath the table.

"Get used to it," Nick grumbles, slumping sideways, propping his head on his hand.

"You know, we don't have to go all the way to Vegas."

"Huh?"

David concentrates on pulling something up on his Blackberry for a minute. "Here. Henderson is like half an hour closer. We could get a hotel room along the interstate somewhere, crash until they open."

As tired as he is, Nick still hears the if you still want to do this when we wake up in David's words. They've been driving for nearly a whole day now. Nick's lower back is aching and he thinks he might kill for at least four hours in a real bed. "A hotel sounds awesome. The sooner the better."

David's thumbing at the rollerball. Then he says, "There's a... right down the road, a Holiday Inn."

"I'm sold."

They dump their trash and Nick refills his Diet Coke, then they pile back into the car. The hotel sign comes into view after just a few seconds, flickering a little, but Nick has stayed at probably a thousand Holiday Inns over the years and flickering sign or no, they're all basically the same.

"You go in," he tells David, curling up in the seat, head against the cool glass of the passenger side window.

"Five minutes and you can pass out on an actual bed," David says with a grin and shuts his door.

Nick zones out until David comes back with keycards. They grab their bags from the back and board the elevator. It's bright and it dings loudly for each floor, until it's their turn and David tugs him out of the small space with fingers curled tightly around Nick's.

In the cool room, Nick drops his backpack, toes off his shoes, and dives headfirst for the nearest bed. He tugs the closest pillow underneath his head and then flings his arm out in the direction he thinks David is, mumbling, "C'mon, come on."

"What?"

Nick is exhausted, but he doesn't think he's at the point where he's talking with words that don't make sense. "Sleep. With me."

He opens his eyes to see David slowly unlacing his shoes, looking up at Nick. "Are you sure?" David asks.

"We're getting married tomorrow," he points out.

"Today, actually."

"Whatever. Come on." He wants another body in the bed with him; he wants someone warm to curl against; he wants dark hair to run his fingers through as they try to get comfortable on the lumpy hotel mattress.

David must finally get his shoes off because the light clicks to darkness and the bed dips, then David is next to him. He still smells a little bit like pot, and also like sweat and McDonald's, and the dry dust of the desert that the wheels on the car have been kicking up for days. Nick moves into him, throws an arm over David's waist and tucks his face into David's chest. It's close enough to what he actually wants but he's trying not to think about that, and after a few minutes, he falls asleep.

 



He wakes up alone, but the sound of the shower tells him that David's not gone. He sits up, blinking against the sunlight. He can smell coffee, like David made some, but he should eat first. Automatically, he checks his levels, not surprised when his blood sugar is slightly lower than it should be. He tugs on his hoodie before climbing out of the bed.

The door to the bathroom is open a little, wisps of steam escaping. Through the gap he can see David looking at himself in the mirror with a toothbrush dangling from his mouth, dripping wet and naked.

He coughs into his hand, fixing his gaze on the puddle that's forming on the tile floor. "Hey."

David turns his head and just looks at him for a second. Nick feels like he's a fly trapped in amber, waiting for a million years to go by. Then David says, "Shit, we're getting married, you can look," except it's sort of garbled by the presence of the toothbrush. Nick gets the idea, though. And now David must be, like, waiting for him to look.

He doesn't. He hears David spit out the toothpaste, hears him say, "You want a shower?" A brief pause, and then, quieter, "You okay?"

"Yeah, I just need some breakfast," Nick replies, making a face at his own lameness.

He's seen dudes naked before. This shouldn't be a thing. Except for how he's pretty sure now that David would let him touch if he wanted to, and David would let him pretend that he's - Nick doesn't want to think about that. Not yet.

"Don't we get free food at this place?" He's got a fuzzy memory of seeing continental breakfast on the sign outside.

David is still making no move to cover himself up. Water is dripping down his chest. "In the lobby, I think?"

"I'm gonna run down there quick," Nick says hurriedly. "Want me to bring you anything?"

"No, I'll get something on the way out. Thanks, though."

Nick is already opening the door, checking to make sure the coast is clear. He pats his hoodie pocket to make sure he's got a keycard. "Sure," he calls back, almost as an afterthought, stepping out into the hall and pulling the door closed behind him.

He walks down to the lobby, where there's a large L-shaped counter bearing trays of breakfast items, all lined up in precise rows. There's coffee, too; he pours himself a half-cup and drinks it while watching people wander to and from the front desk. No one seems to recognize him, but Nick knows he looks like a sloppy mess mostly hidden by a huge sweatshirt. Then he grabs the best-looking muffin and an orange and rides the elevator back upstairs.

David's dressed in jeans and a striped shirt, standing between the beds, a funny expression on his face. It clears when Nick steps into his field of vision. "Is that blueberry?" he asks, nodding at the muffin.

"Cranberry something." Nick glances down at it for a second. Then he tosses the orange into the air a little. "I like your shirt, dude."

The weird expression crosses David's face again, and Nick looks at him questioningly before taking a bite of the muffin. It's only okay, but he hadn't expected anything amazing. "Dave?" he asks hesitantly. "You okay?"

David looks sort of like he's just realized that Nick is there. ""You - you just reminded me why I want to do this, is all," he says. His hands are hovering over the buttons on the shirt.

"Oh." Nick isn't sure what to say to that, so he sets the orange on the desk, peels the paper off the bottom of the muffin and breaks it in half. He holds part out to David. "Want some?"

"Thanks."

Nick eats his half and most of the orange, then has another cup of coffee and gets in the still-wet shower. The little bottles of shampoo and conditioner are all open, but David's left some for him, and there's an unwrapped bar of soap sitting on the soap holder.

He's used showers only minutes after other people in countless hotels around the world and never given it a second thought, but today, now, it feels oddly intimate. Like David's fingerprints are all over everything. A thumb-smudge pressed into the milky bar of off-brand soap. Nick washes off the grime and dust, enough that the water is cloudy as he watches it swirl towards the drain.

He shakes himself out of staring and finishes up. Outside of the shower, he debates opening the door. The fan sure isn't doing any good at clearing the foggy mirror and turnabout's fair play. Although he's sure that David would look.

He opens the door. Stands there naked while he brushes his teeth and puts some lotion for guys on his face, while he rubs another towel through his hair and then finger-combs it into place. He can hear the television on, machine-gun fire louder than whatever lines are being said, and David's out there somewhere. Nick shoves his deodorant and all his other junk back into the Ziploc bag. He wraps the towel around his waist.

"Better?" David asks, as Nick rifles through his backpack for something to wear. On the television, Bruce Willis is sneaking down a hallway in bare feet.

"Yeah." He's not sure if this Kings of Leon t-shirt belongs to him or to Joe, but since it's clean and it's in his bag, he's claiming ownership. He pulls it over his head.

A bunch of henchmen do something drastic with a bunch of guns and David hoots at the screen. "Shit, this movie is awesome."

"Haven't you seen it like, eighteen times?"

"At least twenty-five," David scoffs.

Nick tugs on a pair of boxer-briefs and then a pair of shorts. "What about the sequels?"

David rolls his head on the pillow to give him an 'are you kidding me?' look and says, "Not as good."

"But the third one has Sam Jackson," Nick points out.

"Have you ever met Sam Jackson?"

He shrugs. "Actually, I have."

"I hate you," David growls, but without any heat. "Should we go?"

It takes nearly the entire drive to Henderson for Nick to tell the story about meeting Samuel L. Jackson, because David asks a million questions about every little detail. Before he knows it, David's parking the car in front of the office building, and Nick's more than a little suspicious that the constant conversation was really just to keep their minds off what they're about to do.

The justice of the peace is a woman behind a counter, and she pulls up their license electronically. She doesn't seem to recognize either of their names. It's over before Nick realizes it's done.

He must have said yes in the appropriate places.

"Do you have rings?" she asks, and they shake their heads. "You may kiss if you'd like," she adds, and Nick thinks she sounds like she thinks it's funny they need prompting.

He looks at David. David arches a brow, but doesn't move.

"Thank you," Nick says to the woman. Then he palms their brand-new certificate off the counter, grips David's hand in his own sweaty one (why are his hands sweaty? They were only getting married) and drags David out to the Dodge.

David unlocks the car and gets in without a word. Nick puts the certificate in the glove box. Then David says, "Nick."

Just that. Nothing else. Nick swallows hard, contemplates the angles between the gearshift and where he is and where David is. "If you can't be with one one you want, then want the one you're with," he says, and kisses David with a firm press of his mouth. Long enough to slip his hand around the back of David's neck and squeeze slightly. Then Nick pulls back. It's not - it's not right, but it's okay, and the look in David's eyes seems to echo how Nick is feeling in this instant.

"I'm sorry," he says.

David answers, "Don't be."

Nick pulls away, settling back against the passenger seat where he's spent so many hours now. David turns the car on, then lays his hand on Nick's thigh and squeezes. His palm is warm. "I get it," he murmurs, a raw edge to his voice that presses like a knee to the hollow of Nick's throat. "Okay? I get it. So for God's sake, Nick, don't you be fucking sorry."

He wants to ask who it is that David is wanting but unable to have, but part of him doesn't want to know. They'll cross that bridge in time, he's sure. "You, um, you want to get some lunch?"

"I want to get high, but definitely lunch first."

"You could smoke up later?" Nick offers. "We could... Hotel? A nicer one?"

The smile that David flicks him is half mocking and half unsure. "Honeymoon suite, Jonas?"

"Yeah," Nick breathes, sliding down in the seat a little, "why the fuck not?"

David laughs outright when he swears and mutters something that sounds suspiciously like "that's my boy". Nick elbows him hard in the side, flushing and biting at the inside of his lip. David calls him a douchebag and turns the radio up loud. The roar of the engine is lost to the music as they pull out of the parking lot.

His phone beeps fifteen minutes outside the city limits. Joe. Where u at, nick-o-las?

Nick almost wants to ignore him, but if he did, Joe would keep texting and calling and then there would be police cruisers and helicopters after them, following the GPS in Nick's phone or something. Still Nevada.

? thought u were coming home?

He's nineteen and he's been living mostly with Joe in L.A. over the last year, but Dallas is still home. Joe has been in their parents' guesthouse for a month now, "recovering" from his last film project by swimming in their pool, hanging out with Frank, and pestering their mom. Nick knows he'd just needed to get out of L.A. for a while, get back to himself, before he got too sucked in to the flash and glamor of the industry. Joe knows who he is and he knows how to get back to that if he feels like he's started striking out all the time instead of sliding into home plate.

Nick likes L.A. for how he's sometimes hounded (he doesn't like that specific part, per se), yet the very next day, he can slip through anonymously. He likes being close to the half-dozen friends they've got in the city. He likes Joe's house. He likes taking care of it when Joe's away filming.

But he'd found himself slipping into calling it ours, instead of simply Joe's, started using we and us often enough that even Demi had given him a long, hard look one day while he'd tripped over his words. It was then that he'd taken David up on his road trip-slash-Vegas offer, making the easy promise to drive to Dallas and pick Joe up from their folks', then head back to L.A., the three of them.

couple days, he writes back.

His phone chimes again almost immediately. miss u :-)

"Is it Joe?" David asks.

Nick's chest aches with how badly he wants to tell Joe he misses him, too. He leans forward and sets his phone on the dashboard instead, away from him, far enough that he knows David notices. "Yeah," he croaks.

David's eyes flick from him to the phone and back again, and then he reaches out and takes Nick's phone, tucks it in the pocket of the seat.

The weight on Nick's chest lightens by a few elephants. He turns his hand over, palm up, and David takes it, curling their fingers together.

They don't talk again until the album thudding through the speakers gets to the last song. "Dude, what do you think of this track? Lorenzo swears by it, says it's his favorite ever," David says, fingers tapping along Nick's.

"It's pretty good. Title track off their previous album is better, though. I think. The bass in this one isn't as intricate - not as melodic." Nick shrugs, then picks up David's iPod. He scrolls though the album list for a few seconds. "Here, you've got that one."

Music dominates the conversation until they reach the Strip. David guides the car to the Bellagio, much to Nick's surprise, and tosses the keys to one of the valets. He hands Nick back his phone. "Back in Vegas, baby," he says with a grin, pushing his sunglasses up on top of his head. "Lunch. And I couldn't get the fanciest suite, but I did get us one with a whirlpool?"

"Wait, what?"

David grins and slings his arm around Nick's shoulders as they enter the casino. "I called while you were in the shower this morning."

Nick snorts and rolls his eyes. "That was - anticipating a lot of things would actually happen between them and now," he says dryly.

"Happened, didn't they?"

Nick shakes his head, but really, it's kind of nice. He follows David first to the check-in desk, and then to one of the restaurants, where apparently they have reservations that they're about fifteen minutes early for. But they're seated anyway, and David immediately orders a Jack and Coke for himself and a Diet Coke for Nick. "You don't mind, do you?" he asks Nick hesitantly, and if Nick didn't know, he'd wonder what exactly David is apologizing for.

"No, it's cool. You can drink whatever you want, dude." He picks up the menu. Joe had always been overly conscious of the fact that Nick couldn't really drink without his blood sugar spiking, and made apologetic faces whenever he had something alcoholic and Nick was around. Nick doesn't care all that much, not really. He's had a few beers here and there, and because of one of those times, he was sitting here across from David at the freaking Bellagio like they're on their honeymoon or something.

With a start, he realizes they sort of are.

Before he can really think about what that might mean, the waiter returns with their beverages and David asks what's good. Nick listens with half an ear, rubbing his fingers over the condensation collecting on his glass. "You know what you want?" David asks, looking up.

Nick glances at the menu one more time and tells the waiter he wants the chicken. David orders, then they're alone again. Even though it's barely early afternoon, the restaurant is dimly lit, with few windows to let in the sunshine.

"So," he says.

David tips his head back against the leather upholstery of the booth. "You gonna change your name?"

Nick laughs and shakes his head, grinning at David. "Not that it would sound terrible or anything, but no."

"Would it retroactively change the name of your old band?" David asks, swirling his drink for a second. "All reissues would be Jonas, Jonas and Henrie instead?"

"It doesn't work like that," Nick chuckles, "but there's worse band names, I guess."

David's mouth pulls in a satisfied smile. Nick nudges his foot underneath the table and the smile pops full-blown. "I like you, you know, Nicky," he says.

"I like you, too. Davey."

David groans. "Ugh, point."

Nick can't help but smirk. "Um, were you planning on gambling?"

David tilts his head and stares at him for what feels like (forever) more than just a couple seconds. "Thought we already were," he says softly, but then their lunch arrives and Nick is saved from having to come up with a reply for at least a few minutes.

He's hungry, and the food is artfully arranged on a fancy-shaped plate. He swipes his fork through all of it, solely to cause some disarray. They eat in silence for a while, the clinking silverware and murmured conversations of other patrons all Nick can hear.

Then David's phone goes off, his ringtone the latest Kelly Clarkson single. "What, I like her," he says as Nick raises an eyebrow, and then answers. "'sup, Zo?"

Nick concentrates on the squares of crispy fried polenta on his plate as David listens to whatever Lorenzo is saying. David's clutching his napkin so hard his knuckles are white, and then he drops it on the table and slides out of the booth. "Give me five minutes," he says. Nick nods.

The waiter has brought their bill and Nick's pushing a piece of onion around and around, not planning on eating it, when David returns. Nick looks up at his face as he slides into the booth. It's obvious that David is trying to keep his expression neutral. Nick has enough experience reading people to know when someone's doing it. "Everything okay?"

David waves his hands, fingers spreading wide, as he says, "I totally told my brother a fuckton of lies, but other than that, it's all good."

"I'm sorry," Nick replies, because he doesn't know what else to say. He yawns, suddenly sleepy with a full stomach.

David shrugs. He opens the bill, signs what Nick assumes is their room number and his name. "Ready to go, hit the floor?"

"I think I'd rather nap." He shrugs, feeling sheepish, half his senses already dulling in anticipation of laying down for a while, pulling the sheets over his head to create complete darkness. "You can go, though; don't hold off on my account."

"You sure?"

"Yeah."

"I gave you a keycard, right?"

Nick pats his pocket. "Yep."

"Cool. I'll bring our bags up later."

David walks him to the elevators even though Nick tries to wave him off, and hovers hesitantly for a second before leaning in and catching the corner of his mouth in a kiss. Nick squeezes his arm and boards the elevator.

The suite is a thousand times nicer than where they'd been the night before, but he barely notices while taking off his shoes, then falls face-first down onto the bed. The comforter is silky and the mattress comfortable, and Nick kicks out of his shorts before wiggling under the sheets and falling almost immediately asleep.

He surfaces to someone sliding in to the bed next to him, barely on the cusp of being aware of another person. Of a warm arm coming over his waist, a hand spreading across his stomach, a body curling against his. "Joe?" he mumbles, because it's been a while since Joe's gotten into bed with him like this.

"No, but you can pretend I'm Joe," David murmurs against the back of his neck. "If you want."

Nick's heart beats a little faster when he remembers where he is and why they're here, but he feels himself relax again after a few seconds. "You too," he says. "Not pretend I'm Joe, but you can-"

"I know," David breathes, squeezing his hip.

Nick leans into him a little more. "Thanks," he sighs, and David rubs his cheek along the back of Nick's neck in reply. It feels nice and confusing at the same time. "How long was I asleep for? Did you win anything?"

"Enough that I can buy your wedding ring without having to put it all on my Amex."

Nick's taken off his silver band, and his hand feels strange and naked without it. Now he can replace it with gold. "Oh, we should do that. If you want to."

"There's about a dozen jewelry stores within walking distance, I'm sure." It doesn't seem like David's concerned with moving, though, his body molded to Nick's. His breath is warm on Nick's neck. It's nice and Nick is comfortable, aware of David there but not overly aware; he can lie here and not worry about David getting the wrong idea, or someone barging through the door and getting the wrong idea, or any of that crap.

David snuggles a little closer and Nick has to tell himself - sharply - that it's okay to feel this way.

He dozes off for a while, like he's floating on the surface of sleep, but not so deep he's dreaming. There are little flashes of things, like starbursts. But mostly he holds on to the soft feeling of being tucked under someone's arm until David stirs and Nick realizes that he's been awake the whole time.

"Want to get up, go buy rings, maybe some touristy crap we totally don't need?" he asks.

David presses a gentle kiss to his shoulder and then rolls away. "I'll buy you one of those 'I Heart Vegas' t-shirts."

Nick laughs and sits up. "Thanks."

"It'll make a good story about what I bought you as a wedding present," David chuckles, getting out of the bed. Nick follows, tugging his shorts back on and then reaching for his insulin monitor, checking it.

David watches intently. "You should probably explain all of that to me in detail," he says. So Nick does, even letting David watch him put a new pump on, since it was time to change it anyway. It's something he's always been sort of uncomfortable doing in front of anyone but family members (although he's done it anyway), but David is family now.

He looks at David in shock when he thinks it. David sits down again and raises both his eyebrows. "What, dude?"

"You're part of my family now," Nick blurts out.

David blinks. Then he smiles hugely. "I guess so. Dude, watching you have these revelations is sort of amazing!" He reaches out, winds their fingers together, taking the hand that Nick had pricked with the lancet. "Can I kiss you?"

"Yeah." Nick swallows his heart back down to where it belongs. It's a strange hurt, trickling through him quicker than he feels like it should, wanting to kiss someone who's not Joe. "Yeah, anytime you want."

David's eyes lock on his, that strange blue, but still warm and kind. "You sure?"

Nick nods. As David leans in, he starts to laugh, so hard tears pool in his eyes. "Sorry," he hiccups, as David draws back in alarm. "Sorry, it's not you - it's - two days ago I was convinced you were the biggest douchebag in the world and now we got married and it's totally not funny, except it's hilarious-"

"Oh my god, shut up," David interrupts, and covers Nick's mouth with his own.

It's less a kiss than it is a question, one that Nick isn't entirely sure how to answer. David's fingertips are firm underneath his chin but his lips are unsure. Nick shifts a little closer, curling a hand in David's shirt, and kisses back with more surety than he feels, until he does feel it. David's tongue curls around his, lazily, but doesn't linger. Instead, he nips at Nick's lower lip, then leans back. "Rings?" he asks, his breath not entirely steady.

"Yeah, okay," Nick murmurs, licking his tingling lips. He leans in to kiss David again, briefly this time, and David smiles against his mouth. "So, what are you thinking?"

"Huh?"

"Gold? Or platinum?"

"Oh."

Nick raises an eyebrow and David grins. Nick rolls his eyes. He lets go of David entirely and stands up to find his shoes.

David's hand settles on the small of his back as they leave the suite, and stays there. In the elevator, Nick gives him a questioning look. "I'm gonna be in your space all the time, Jonas," David says, a wicked smile crossing his face.

"Good," Nick replies before he can stop himself. He stands closer.

Their hands tangle as they exit the casino. Nick rubs his thumb slowly over the back of David's hand as they wander down the street. They find a jewelry store after a few minutes and David drops his hand to hold the door open.

Nick can feel the saleswoman's eyes on them as they hover over the men's wedding rings. "Are you looking to surprise your ladies back at the slots, or perhaps the pool?" she asks, her smile wide.

"Oh, they're shopping as well," David answers her after a beat, but his foot is pressed against Nick's.

"Let me know if you have any questions," she says, and moves to another customer.

David glances at him, mouth drawn tight. "Sorry," he whispers, "I just blanked, I-"

"I would have lied too," Nick says in a rush, shaking his head. He looks back down at the rings displayed in the case. "I think I just want something simple," he says after a minute.

"Yeah, me too."

He settles on a two-tone band, two rows of satin-finished white gold circling one of yellow, and David picks out the same thing in reverse. There's a symmetry to them that pleases Nick immensely, curling happily in his belly, and after they've paid and left the shop, he leans in and kisses David without caring who sees them.

David kisses back just as hard and his face is flushed when they part. "Dinner?" he asks, threading his fingers through Nick's once more.

"Sure."

"Room service?"

Nick shivers a little at that, hearing the rough edge in David's voice. "Yeah."

They walk back to the Bellagio, pausing a few times along the way to look at things in windows, but not actually stopping. The casino is alight with people streaming in and out, some stumbling from too many drinks, some calling out for others in excited voices, a clutch of ridiculously dressed women obviously celebrating something. But Nick doesn't see anything except David and the hazy future-thought of what could happen tonight.

In the room, he goes into the bedroom and checks his levels while David browses the room service menu, then looks at his phone. There are two voicemails from Joe and a picture message, as well as a ton of texts he's tempted to delete without reading. He ignores the fifteen new emails and opens the picture message. It's Joe and Frank, flashing peace symbols at the camera. wish u were here, is what the caption reads.

David tosses the menu down next to Nick and climbs onto the bed behind him, wrapping his arms around Nick's waist. He settles his chin on Nick's shoulder and Nick tilts the phone so David can see. "Do you wish you were there?" David murmurs.

"No. Yes." Nick sighs. "I don't know." He hits reply, types miss u guys, see u soon and hits send. He's not sure if he just lied to Joe or not. Right in this moment he doesn't really want to go home.

David presses a kiss below his ear, gentle and steady. "Did you and he ever..." he lets it trail off, not voicing the whole question.

Nick closes his eyes. He leans back into David's embrace. "There was like, two weeks once where I was totally, a hundred percent convinced something was going to happen. Joe kept giving me these weird looks and I thought for sure - for sure that he knew. That he knew I - wanted him. And I was terrified. I don't know if I was more afraid of something happening or something not. He would get all up in my space, crowd me up against a wall and we'd scuffle and he'd back off. I thought I was gonna crash out because I could barely eat. Thank God for hard candy."

"So nothing happened?"

Nick shakes his head. "Nothing's ever happened. With anyone. Ever."

"Hold up, Jonas, are you saying you're really a virgin?"

Nick feels himself flush like he always does when someone uses that word. "I coulda been a contender," he mutters, and David laughs, squeezes him tightly for a moment. "But yeah. I made a promise. I kept it. But - dude, let me tell you, Demi Lovato naked is really hard to turn down."

"Fuck, for real? She's fucking hot."

"Tell me about it."

"I thought she and your brother..."

"So did everyone," Nick chuckles. He remembers that day like it was yesterday, how hard it was to tell her no. How he'd managed not to say that it was more because he didn't love her, that he wasn't going to have sex with her if they were never going to be anything more than good friends who fucked on occasion. "Family secret."

David snorts and kisses his neck again. "You should decide what you want to eat," he whispers in Nick's ear, "and I'll call it in, and then we can tell each other more secrets while we wait for it to be delivered."

"Yeah." Nick grabs the menu and flips it open. "Oh, there's chicken tacos. Done."

"You're easy." David nuzzles against his shoulder, then pulls away to pick up one of the room phones. Nick lays down across his lap as he calls in their order, adding a bottle of red wine and some mineral water, and sighs in pleasure as David slides a hand through his hair, rubbing at his scalp.

"You don't mind I ordered wine?" David asks after he hangs up, and Nick shakes his head. "Cool." His hand slips down over Nick's neck, his thumb rubbing along Nick's collarbone.

Nick doesn't do anything but breathe, because it feels to him like David might have more to say. And finally, David says in a rush, "I'm so confused right now."

"Why?" he murmurs.

"I want to touch you," David replies, heavy emphasis on want, "and I know that I can - I can, right?"

Nick nods, waits.

"But, fuck, it feels like I'm cheating."

Nick turns into him a little. He's going to ask, because he has to know before he explodes. "On who? Who is it that's got you as messed up as Joe's got me?"

"Lorenzo," David sighs harshly, and then he relaxes underneath Nick, like finally saying it has cut a cord that's been binding him tight. "You - you see why I said I understood."

"Yeah," Nick breathes. He squeezes David's thigh.

They stay like that, not moving, not talking, until there's a knock on the door and a voiceannouncing room service. Nick gets up and signs for it while David stays in the bedroom. He tips the guy and flips the deadbolt behind him. "You want to eat out here or in there?" he calls to David.

"I'm coming," David calls back and, after a few seconds, he appears.

They sit on the loveseat and watch the local news while they eat. Nick licks his finger, picks up stray shredded cheese and lettuce from the plate, shoves aside the larger pieces of cilantro. David's wine is a deep burgundy, rich in the glass, and Nick keeps glancing over as he slowly works his way through half the bottle. David catches his eye. "Want a glass?"

"No, I'm good." But he leans over and kisses David quickly, just to taste.

They let HBO run for a while, a movie from a few months back. David lays down with his head in Nick's lap. Nick runs his fingers through David's hair, slowly and methodically, rubbing the soft strands between his fingertips every so often. "How do you stand it?" David murmurs, turning to look up at him.

"I just - do." Nick's never really thought about it before. It's always there; a constant pinprick sharp to his heart. Some days it stabs a little deeper than others and it never stops. Not since he was fourteen.

"You wanna go to bed?"

He looks down into David's cool eyes, sees the hesitancy there. "Let's try out the whirlpool," he suggests. "It's big enough for two, right?"

"Yeah."

David gets up off the couch and grabs his hand, hauls him up.

In the huge, stone-floored bathroom, Nick starts running the water into the tub and quickly checks his levels. Then they strip off their clothes. He looks at David, slim and muscled at the same time, the result of hours in the gym, and David looks back. "Have you been with guys before?" Nick asks suddenly, feeling the flush as it creeps down his chest.

David shrugs. "Sort of?" It's mostly a question. "We had this one PA on Wizards, he and I kinda messed around a little. Mostly handjobs. He gave me a blowjob once. It was enough that I knew I was cool with dudes, too."

"I don't have a clue what I'm doing," Nick admits, unable to stop himself from making a face.

"We're getting in a bathtub, that's not hard," David says with a smirk. "Hey, we'll figure it out together." He leans in and kisses Nick, and Nick hesitates for a second before putting his arms around David's neck. David's arms slide around his waist and Nick steps closer, into the warmth of David's body.

Without clothes, it's all wrong. He starts to shake and tries to steel himself, but it's too late. "Hey, hey," David says, moving back, his hands dropping firm on Nick's shoulders and squeezing. "We don't have to do anything you don't want to do. God knows it's weird for me, too."

Nick rubs his face with his palms, hating the way his breath is hitching, hating the cold feeling in his chest, hating all of it. "I'm sorry," he chokes out. "I wish I wanted to, I really, really do."

David's voice isn't entirely calm either when he says, "It's okay," and one of his hands slides up through Nick's hair.

Then Nick feels him move away. There's a splashing noise. He sucks in another deep breath and drops his hands down from his face. He's sure his eyes are red, his face splotchy, and he has to grab a tissue and blow his nose.

David's gotten in the bathtub, his feet kicked up on one side. He's looking at Nick, but there's no judgment in his expression. "There's more than enough room for both of us, dude."

Nick realizes his feet are cold from standing on the stone floor. He climbs into the tub, over caring that David's seeing him completely naked. He can't hold back his groan as the hot water envelops him. He settles in, one of the jets hitting right in the small of his back, and it feels fantastic. "I could fall asleep right here," he murmurs, letting his feet float upwards.

"There's a little sign right next to your head that advises against staying in here more than a half an hour," David replies. A wave of his hand sends water rippling in Nick's direction. "So if you fall asleep I'll just wake your ass up."

Nick snorts. "Thanks." He closes his eyes and breathes in the steam, feeling a little of the tension slip away.

David rouses him a while later. Nick's tired enough that he doesn't protest David's help as they climb out of the cooling water, and he rubs himself down with the towel David flings at him while he yawns, trying to keep his eyes open long enough to make it into some sleep clothes and to the bed.

He's just wrapped the towel around his waist when David catches his wrist. "What is it?"

"Let's sleep naked."

Nick's never slept naked with another person and he can't remember ever sleeping naked alone, either. Too many brothers who might come flying in without knocking and then teasing him mercilessly. "Why?"

David shrugs, says, "We're not entirely comfortable around each other yet. Might help."

It's an honest truth and Nick knows it. "Okay."

The sheets are silky and cool against his skin. David doesn't try to touch, just turns onto his side and Nick sees him rub his cheek against his pillow. "Nick," he whispers.

"Yeah?"

"Would you really do it, if Joe wanted?"

Nick draws his knees up towards his chest some more, sucks in a breath. "I don't know, dude." It's quiet for a few minutes, then he asks, "Would you?"

"Dunno."

Nick turns onto his back. "I think about it," he admits. "I have - I have a whole fantasy, or whatever; plays out in my mind."

"You jerk off to it?"

"Yeah," he breathes, goosebumps rising on his arms.

"But fantasy sure ain't the same as real life," David says, like he's reading Nick's mind. "I gotta say, it helps not being in the same house as Enzo anymore. I don't lay there and think about how he's just in the room right over."

He snorts. "Helps when you're not sharing a bus with somebody."

"Point." David chuckles. "Can you even fit more than one person in one of those bunks?"

"Yeah. You can," Nick answers, yawning, remembering the times he'd squish into Joe's bunk to watch a movie, every bump in the road jostling their bodies. Closer this time, further apart the next, closer again the time after that.

"Next time you go on tour," David murmurs, moving closer, close enough that Nick can feel the warmth of his body but not so close they're touching, "next time, I am totally coming with."

"'course." He moves his leg so the ball of his foot is pressed against David's calf. David doesn't say anything and Nick falls asleep like that.

 



He wakes before David the next morning to find they've moved closer in the night. Carefully, he slides out from under the arm that's draped over his waist and tiptoes into the bathroom to take a shower. When he's done, David is up. He kisses Nick good morning before shuffling into the bathroom.

Nick calls room service for breakfast while David gets in the shower. By the time he's dressed, the food has arrived, and Nick's on his second cup of coffee. It's almost noon; they don't linger over the omelets and fruit.

They do the whole drive in four-hour shifts, through a hot orange afternoon and the purple-toned evening and the dark, quiet night, not wanting to spend another night in an anonymous hotel room. The last stretch past sunup, Nick drives even though it's not his turn. He's so nervous he can't just sit still in the passenger seat and listen to Nina Simone anymore. David stays awake but doesn't try to make him talk, just curls his hand over Nick's thigh and leaves it there.

"I don't even know why we're here," Nick says, the words all tumbling out in a rush as he turns onto their street.

David simply looks at him. "I think you do, man."

He sighs. "Maybe."

He turns into the driveway. Puts the car in park, turns off the engine. Takes a deep breath.

It's like Joe's got some sort of radar for him or something, because before he can even get out of the car, the front door of the main house is flung open and Joe is nearly skipping down the steps. "Yo, Nicky! Hey, Dave."

"Hi, Joe," Nick says, and Joe barrels into him and he's caught up in a huge hug that feels like it lasts forever as he pushes firmly against Joe's chest. "Get off," he grumbles, but Joe only laughs and presses a smacking kiss to his cheek.

"I missed you," Joe whispers in his ear.

Nick aims for casual when he replies, "Missed you too," but he's not sure he hits the mark.

Joe lets him go and does that half-handshake half-hug thing with David. And Nick realizes that David's back is ramrod straight and even though he's participating, he's totally acting.

Oh.

Nick is already sure that coming here was a bad idea and he has no clue how they're going to survive driving back to California with Joe. If it even happens. He's tempted to get back in the car right now, dragging David along with him, and speed out of here as fast as the Challenger will allow.

But they're here now. He's going to do this. He's probably going to lose some, if not all, of his family over this, but Nick is starting to realize that in his heart, he believes building a life with David - David, who understands this - is better than the alternative: spending forever alone with the fact that he's in love with his brother. He's pretty sure he's never going to love anyone else like that, ever.

"Well, let's not stand out here all day," he says finally, then feels his cheeks turn red as he sees that both Joe and David had both been staring at him as he'd worked things out in his head.

"I got your bag," David tells him. Nick smiles a thank-you and they both follow Joe into the cool house.

Joe points to a corner for David to sling their stuff down into. "I'm the only one here right now," he says to Nick. "Mom and Frankie went grocery shopping. She was saying something about homemade pizza tonight."

With a start, Nick remembers that their father is on the road with the band he's currently managing, and Kevin and Danielle are in New Jersey visiting her family. As far as grand pronouncements go, he's picked a bad time, but part of him is suddenly relieved that his dad isn't here.

"You can sit down and chill, you know," Joe says, looking at him strangely. They're all just standing in the living room, David hovering over Nick's shoulder. "I'm just in the middle of having a Star Wars marathon with myself. Lemme get you a soda. Dave, you want one?"

"Sure."

The second Joe steps out of the room, David's hands curl lightly over his hips. "You okay?" he murmurs. "You were totally zoning out before."

Nick lets his eyes drift shut for a moment and sighs. "I don't even know what we're doing here."

David squeezes him briefly and then moves a few inches away as Joe comes back, balancing several cans of soda.

"Just started Empire Strikes Back when you guys rolled up," Joe says, handing out the sodas and then flopping down onto the couch. "I can go back to the beginning if you want?"

His arm flings out; Nick knows that Joe is reaching for him, but he takes the loveseat with David instead, setting his Diet Coke down on the coffee table. "I think we can pick up the story where it's at," he answers Joe, "right, Dave?"

"Yeah, Nicky." David grins at him and raises his eyebrows, an unspoken question. Nick shrugs. David lifts his arm and Nick slides underneath, curling against his side. He's careful not to look at Joe, glad that David is blocking at least part of the view.

On screen, the ghost of Obi-Wan is telling Luke Skywalker to go to Dagobah. Nick's seen this more times than he wants to think about counting - there was one tour when they'd watched the whole original trilogy at least twice a week - and he could probably recite all of the lines in his sleep, so he turns his face so it's pressed against David's side. It would be comfortable, but he's sure Joe is staring at them. He can almost feel it.

Joe's voice is cold, flat and startling when he says, "What are you doing, Nicholas?"

"I'm watching a movie, Joseph," Nick replies automatically, but his heart is pounding.

"What did you do to my brother?"

This question is obviously directed at David. Nick feels him go tense. He looks up. David's looking down at him, his mouth all screwed up in a weird expression. "Should I tell him?" he whispers.

"Guys?" Joe asks.

"Might as well," Nick whispers back.

He doesn't move as David turns his head towards Joe. "To answer your question - I married him."

There's a long silence. Then Joe laughs. It sounds bitter to Nick, or maybe he's just projecting. "Sure, right, you guys got married. Funny, funny, funny. But really, Nick doesn't cuddle."

Nick sucks in a deep, steadying breath. Then he holds up his left hand. After a moment, David holds up his as well.

"That's taking the joke too far," Joe snaps. The noise of the movie stops suddenly, and a quick glance tells Nick that Joe's paused it. "Nick, you can sit up and tell me you guys are faking me out any time now."

Nick sits up, slides his fingers through David's, and looks at Joe. He doesn't know what to say so he doesn't say anything. He just watches. His stomach aches as he sees confusion and anger pass over Joe's face until it settles into pale disgust. "You married him?" Joe hisses.

"I married him," Nick says.

"Why?"

Nick looks away from the ugly expression on Joe's face, to David and the gentle look he's directing at Nick. "Because I wanted to," he lies smoothly, squeezing David's hand.

David squeezes back.

Joe makes a choked noise. Nick feels like he might throw up. He doesn't move, though; he waits for the next strike, because it's bound to be coming, like a poised snake that can't be avoided. "Did you - did you come here to tell us that?" Joe asks.

"Yes."

There's another long silence, and then Joe says coolly, "In that case, you should leave before anyone but me knows you were here. Nick. Just go. I can't believe -" He stops talking and stands up, looking frantically around the room at everything but the two of them.

Nick scrambles to stand up as well, pulling David with him, and David maneuvers himself into the place between Nick and Joe. "It's okay, I got this," Nick murmurs, putting his other hand on David's elbow.

Joe's gaze snaps to David. "Get out of this house before I kill you," he growls, his voice low. Nick sees his hands curl into tight fists, knuckles white. "And Nick, if you go with him, you better stay gone."

It's like a blow to his chest and a slap to his face at the same time. Nick doesn't realize he's not breathing until his body starts to panic at the lack of oxygen. His head throbs. "Joe," he chokes out. But he stops himself before he can reach for Joe, even though he wants to go to him, wants to be in his arms and tell him it's all a misunderstanding, a lot of words all taken the wrong way, a thousand tiny lies. Shuts himself up before he confesses to his brother that he loves him the way he shouldn't.

Nick cuts his desire off at the knees in one sharp stroke, then locks it up for good measure. Later, he can break down. But not now.

"Nick?" David asks.

"We should leave," he says, ignoring the way Joe's expression turns stunned, like he was still thinking this was a joke. Or maybe like he didn't think Nick would really go.

Nick puts himself between Joe and David until they're out of the living room. He picks up their bags. He finds his keychain and removes all of his house keys.

He leaves them on the foyer table and they go.

Nick drives, because driving is something he can control. Turn the key. Foot on the brake, shift into reverse. Back down the driveway, curve onto the street. Brake. Shift into drive. Next to him, David is silent. Nick can see he's staring down at the wedding ring.

Pressure on the gas pedal, pressure on the brake. He's not going to make it very far before he breaks. Ahead, there's a Kroger. He signals, turns, and parks. "Nick?" David asks hesitantly.

Nick puts his head down on the steering wheel and starts to cry.

It's hot and gross and it hurts, and he can't stop even though he wants to, even though he hates crying. After a few minutes, David presses something into his hand; it's a wad of napkins from McDonald's. He can't help but laugh through his sobs, and then David is squeezing his shoulder. Nick leans toward him, and David carefully slides his arms around him and holds on to him the best he can.

"Sorry," Nick tries to say, but it's mostly just another sob and he's getting David's shirt all wet. David rubs his back in a slow circles until the tears stop and he can breathe again. He wipes his face with the napkins and sits up straight again, taking deep breaths until he doesn't feel so shaky anymore.

"I'm sorry," David murmurs, hands twisted in his lap.

"Why?" Nick doesn't trust himself with more than one word at a time.

"I shoulda punched him right in his face."

"Why?"

"Why? Fuck, Nick, for making you hurt so bad."

Nick tips his head back against the seat. "I, um. I thought we'd be there more than twenty minutes before it all went to hell," he says, sighing. "But it - it went about how I'd expected it to, you know?"

"No, I don't know."

"He thinks I'm gonna burn for eternity for this."

David looks at him, incredulous. "You're one of the best people I know," he says after a moment.

Nick shakes his head, because he's not. He fishes a bottle of Visene out of his satchel. "I used to pray, every night, asking the Lord to make it stop. It didn't. I asked - I asked why He was testing me like this. But there was never an answer to that. I'm already a sinner. Maybe my faith will save me. Maybe it won't. You don't need to try and make me feel better." He tips his head back and puts in the drops, blinking until the burning and itching stops. "Is there any water in here?"

David reaches into the back for a bottle and passes it to him. "Maybe I want to make you feel better," he says slowly, as Nick chugs the water. "As like, your husband."

He drops the bottle into the cupholder. "Then please," he murmurs, as exhaustion crashes into him, "get me out of this town."

"You read my mind." David opens the door and gets out, and Nick crawls across the gearshift into the passenger seat. He puts it back as far as it will go and stuffs a sweatshirt - David's - under his head. David gets in the driver's side. "It's... you ate breakfast this morning, right? Do you want lunch?"

"Wake me up in half an hour," Nick mutters, closing his eyes. "I just need a couple minutes."

He wakes up to David parking the car, then David's hand slides through his hair. "Hey, Applebee's okay? I know it's no Bellagio, but..."

Nick rubs his eyes. "It's cool, dude."

"I gotta hit the head besides."

"Me, too." He grabs his bag and gets out of the car, then reaches his hands towards the sky and stretches. It's warm out but not hot, the sun more pleasant than fiery for once. David smiles at him as they go inside and Nick can't help but smile back.

"So," David says, after they've ordered and Nick's downed two Diet Cokes in rapid succession, "what do we do now?"

Nick stabs at the ice cubes with his straw. "I should probably get all my stuff out of Joe's house in L.A."

"How much is there? Is it gonna fit in my apartment?"

"Your apartment?"

"You're moving in, right?"

"You want me to move in?"

David grins and it goes all the way up to his eyes. He reaches out and touches Nick's ring. "Where else would you go?"

"Oh," Nick breathes. "Well, I could put some of it in storage, I guess? For a while - until we get a bigger place or something." He makes it a question, feeling hopeful again.

"Sure. But let's make sure we can stand living with each other first."

Nick can't help his chuckle. "After all these hours in the car with you, I think I can handle it."

"We don't really know each other all that well yet," David says with a shrug.

Nick knows he's just pointing out a fact. "I know."

"But I did read in like, Dear Abby or some shit like that, that it's good to not know everything about your partner right away. Makes it more fun or something."

"Still a little mystery left," Nick laughs. He feels a little better, like someone's rolled a few of the weights off him. "So, back to California, then."

"Yeah."

"I love your car, but I'm so tired of being in it." Nick dips his finger into his water glass and flicks a few drops at David.

"Jerk," David chuckles. "How about once we get back to L.A., we don't go anywhere for a while. Days. Weeks, even. There's what, like eight thousand places that deliver?"

"At least. And laundry service."

David sips his coffee. The cup rattles a little against the saucer when he sets it down again. "If we weren't in the middle of a restaurant, I'd kiss you."

They're in a tiny two-person booth in a corner; it's fairly secluded. Nick takes a deep breath. "Do it."

David raises an eyebrow and leans across the table. Nick meets him halfway. Their mouths barely touch before Nick hears their waitress say "Sorry! Oh, sorry!" and David pulls back.

"Didn't meant to interrupt," she says, sheepishly, setting down their plates.

"Sorry, we just got married," Nick replies.

"Congratulations!"

"Thank you."

She leaves. Nick looks at David. "Was that..."

But David's grinning. "Fuck, if we're gonna do this, we might as well do it right."

Nick reaches out and squeezes his hand before picking up his fork and starting to eat his salad. He's barely halfway through it when his phone buzzes. i won't tell mom&dad. u can still get a divorce?

"What is it?" David asks immediately, because Nick's frowning.

Nick can't bring himself to say the words, so he just shows David the screen. David makes a face and pokes at the shrimp on his plate.

don't care if u tell them / not getting a divorce, he writes back. Then he silences the phone and zips it into his bag.

"What did you say?"

"That I'm - that we're not getting a divorce," Nick replies, in a voice more calm than he feels. He picks up his fork and takes a few bites, then glances up at David. "What happens now?"

David's quiet for a moment. Then he starts to sing, "California, California, here we come," and Nick laughs despite himself and flings a piece of lettuce in David's direction. "But really," David says, "I honestly - I don't know any more than you do, dude. I guess we'll figure it out as we go, or some shit."

"Yeah."

David tips his head back against the booth. "I don't think I can stand another twenty-hour drive. Maybe like, ten at the most."

"We could go for a couple hours and then get a hotel."

"That sounds good. One with a pool?"

"Yeah," Nick says, nodding, already imagining floating in cool water. "Man, I haven't been swimming in forever."

They keep on the highway until the sun starts to creep downward towards the horizon, as Nick scans the exit signs for a decent place that he knows will have a pool. "Dude, this exit, there's a Best Western. That should be good?"

"Let's do it."

Twenty minutes later, he's treading water in the indoor pool, wearing the grungiest pair of shorts he'd had with him. David's bobbing next to him and there's some kids on the opposite end, a couple moms on the deck chairs with books. No one is paying any attention to them. Nick appreciates that. "You know, we've done this whole trip so far without anyone seeming to recognize either of us," he says to David.

"You mean no one's recognized you," David chuckles. "I'm in a show on ABC Family, dude, no one ever recognizes me."

"Guess I'm not as famous as I used to be. And hey, I like your show. When's filming start again?"

"Two weeks." He sinks down under the water for a moment and then resurfaces. "Will you buy me a house with a pool?"

"Yes," Nick answers, without even thinking about it. "And I'll just float in it all day while you're at work."

David pretends to clutch at his heart. "Ugh, you wound me."

Nick smirks, then pushes off the bottom of the pool and swims backwards for a while, breathing in the smell of chlorine. Eventually, David drifts over and bumps into him. "What about you? When are you going back to work?"

"When I have enough songs," he murmurs, floating on his back with his arms spread wide. "I don't know when that will be."

David hums but doesn't say anything, then takes off in a leisurely front crawl. Nick looks up at the high ceiling and tries to make his mind go blank, to not to think about Joe. He stays like that until his fingertips are like prunes and the kids from the other end have all been carted off to bed by their parents. David passes him every so often, swimming slow laps up and down the length of the pool.

He's completely zoned out when David bumps into him. "Hey."

"What's up?"

"The pool is closing. There's hotel people staring at us."

Nick splashes his way upright and looks. There's two employees waiting impatiently for them to get out of the water. He can tell David is trying his best not to laugh. "Guess you're right," he says, grinning.

David punches his shoulder. "C'mon. Snacks and HBO, waiting for us."

They climb out, water streaming down. The employees ignore them as they scoop towels from the nearby cart and make a mad dash for the elevator, dodging a few lingering kids that are hanging from their parents' arms and clamoring for vending-machine candy.

Alone in the elevator, Nick presses his back to the wall and looks at David. Who, like him, is still dripping down onto the floor. David looks at him sort of sideways and smiles. Nick smiles back. He reaches for David but it's too late, the elevator is dinging their floor and the doors are sliding open.

The chlorine is starting to itch where it's drying on his face and arms. "Ugh, I gotta rinse this off," he groans, as David opens the door. He snags his toiletries and heads for the bathroom. "I'll be out in a few," he says over his shoulder.

He lets the hot water pour over him for close to a half-hour, letting it wash away the whole day, until he feels almost clean again. After he stops the spray, he stands in the wet stall breathing in the steam, forehead resting against the wall, until he can't stand still any more.

There are two missed calls from Joe when Nick checks his phone, but no voicemails. He’s alone in the room now; there’s a text from David saying he’d run down to the convenience store a few blocks away, and when his phone rings again, he takes a deep breath and picks up the call. “Hey.”

“Are you okay?” is the first thing Joe says. Then, “Where are you?”

Nick sits down on the bed, rubbing at his hair with the towel. “I’m fine. We’re in – Pecos, I’m pretty sure we’re in Pecos.”

“Do you want me to come get you?”

“What?” Confusion sweeps through him and gathers tense in his shoulders. “Joe, no.”

“Because I would gladly bash his face in, television be damned,” Joe growls.

Oh. “It’s not like that,” Nick says, trying to shake some of the tension out of his shoulders. He pulls his feet up, cross-legged, and tries to breathe evenly. “C’mon, you know no one’s gonna make me do something I don’t want to.”

He remembers David saying almost those exact words. Was that really only three days ago? Nick feels like he’s aged a thousand years in that time. He can hear Joe breathing on the other end of the line. “Joe?”

“I don’t understand, Nicky.”

I don’t understand it either, Nick wants to say. Instead, he murmurs, “I’m not asking you to, okay? I’m not asking anyone to understand.”

“Then explain it to me,” Joe whispers. Nick hears the sound of a door closing. “I’m out in the guest house, there’s no one else around, I didn’t tell anyone you’d even been home. It’s still our secret. I saved your keys. Mom didn’t see them. I've been praying for you all afternoon; I know you’re not gay, Nick, so tell me why you married Dave. And don't just - don't just tell me it was because you wanted to."

Joe's voice is rising in something close to hysteria, and Nick balls up a corner of the comforter in his fist. "I don't understand at all, baby brother," Joe says, and he sounds as hurt as Nick's ever heard him.

The door opens and David peeks in, his hair all in disarray. His eyes widen as he sees Nick on the phone. Nick waves him over, mouthing please, come here.

David drops his bag of snacks and climbs onto the bed behind Nick, curling his body around his. Nick leans back into him and David's arms slide strong around his waist.

"Are you still there?" Joe asks.

"I can't explain," Nick says.

"You're not in love with him, I know it. 'cause I know what you're like when you're in love, and you're not -"

Then you really don't know me at all, Nick thinks. "I do love him. In my own way."

David's palm splays wide over Nick's chest, over where his heart is.

"Nicholas, you're just messing with me now," Joe says. He's breathing faster. Nick imagines he's pacing.

"I'm not," he says tiredly and takes the phone away from his ear. He can hear Joe saying something but doesn't know what, and then he deliberately turns off the phone.

David kisses the back of his neck, gentle and soft. "Are you okay?" he asks after a few minutes pass in silence.

"No," Nick exhales. His heart is pounding. He's not sure what he just did, besides maybe make one of the most important people in his life never want to speak to him again.

"Can I help make it better?"

"Do you still have some pot?"

"You wanna smoke up? Yeah, I got some left." He starts to get off the bed, but Nick catches his wrist.

"I want you to touch me tonight," he says plainly, meeting David's eyes. "Can we - can we do that?"

"Yeah," David says, sounding surprised. Then he scoffs and grins. "Fuck, we're such fucking girls about this. Let's get high and get naked. I want my hands on you for real." He leans down. Nick meets the kiss halfway, and with abandon.

David pulls back after a moment, licking his lips. "Gotta, um, I should roll."

Nick moves backwards on the bed. He watches David's quick, practiced movements with the paper and herb, the way he licks the edge to seal it. Watches him dig a lighter from his backpack, waits while he shoulders the protesting window open.

"All right, ready now," David says, sitting down on the bed and lighting the joint. He asks, "Like before?"

"Yeah, sure." Nick closes the small amount of space between them, carefully straddles David's lap. David's wearing a pair of sweats and a Power Rangers t-shirt, and Nick slides his hands over David's shoulders, interlacing his fingers behind David's neck.

He's just wearing boxers and a t-shirt that's tissue-paper thin in some places, it's so worn. David's free hand settles immediately on his hip, thumb nudging under the edge of the shirt and rubbing over the curve of bone. Nick sighs at the feeling.

"Ready?"

"Born ready."

David's mouth quirks in a smile. His gaze doesn't waver as he takes a drag and holds in the smoke. Then his mouth opens over Nick's and Nick breathes in the smoke, fighting the urge to cough. David holds on to him until he exhales. "Okay?" he whispers in Nick's ear.

"Mmhmm."

David's lips close around his earlobe and Nick can't stop himself from jumping. "Whoa, chill," David says, words close to the skin; his free hand escapes from under Nick's shirt and strokes down his back. "Here, you need another hit."

They do it again, and again, and again, and then Nick doesn't know what David does with whatever's left of the joint, but both David's hands are on him, tugging him to lie down on the bed. He does, flat on his back, flinging his arms out. David presses a kiss underneath his jaw.

Nick feels loose and cloud-like, the hinges of all his limbs reluctant to cooperate. David hovers over him, laughing against his neck. “Dude,” he gasps, his breath damp on Nick’s skin, “dude, you’re so high.”

“Feels awesome,” Nick breathes. He sways on the bed underneath David, or at least it feels like he’s swaying, and then he arches up, making his arms wrap around David’s neck, a lazy circle. And he hooks his heel around David's calf for good measure, all the ways he can get David to stay right here and not move. “Kiss me? Kiss me.”

David does, first on his lips, then a string of them down his neck, and then Nick's lifting his arms so his shirt can be pulled off over his head and David can skim the backs of his knuckles down Nick's chest and stomach. Nick squirms and whimpers. It tickles. He pulls at David's shirt. "You, too."

David strips off his shirt. "How can you be Italian and so pale?" Nick asks, because he's high, it's totally because he's high, and David cracks up and buries his face in the place where Nick's shoulder meets his neck, and it feels really good. David's thigh moves between his thighs, and that feels good too, and oh. David's saying something.

"...ask you the same question?"

Nick's sure the only appropriate response to that is to tell David to shut up and to work his fingers through David's hair, since David is now mouthing at his neck and it feels - awesome, it feels awesome. Blood's rushing to his cock in earnest now, he's got about three seconds before it's totally obvious.

"You should just - not talk," David says, and slides down Nick's body in one fluid movement, trailing fingertips over Nick's nipples (his hips jerk, he can't help it) and dipping into his bellybutton (he whines, bites at his lips, squirms a little).

Then David's fingers curl into the waistband of his boxers, so close to his dick. "Okay, Nick?" he asks hesitantly.

Nick nods and lifts his hips so David can pull them off, hoping his face isn't turning as completely red as it feels like it is. "You too," he mumbles, kicking the boxers away. He traces the shape of David's bicep as David wiggles out of his sweats. He remembers being hot and halfway in David's lap in a gas station parking lot in New Mexico; maybe that was all leading up to this.

David drags a hand up his thigh, electric-sticky, making him shiver. Then - oh - David's licked his palm and his fingers are wrapping warm around Nick's cock and Nick can't close his mouth before the gasp is out. He reaches out, finding David's arm, and tries to move them closer together. He thinks David laughs, and then a leg is sliding over his, and David's other arm is sliding behind his head.

"Ugh, get closer," Nick bites out, even as David starts to move his hand. He's suddenly itching for skin on skin, for more of David to be touching; the slick palm stroking his cock just isn't enough.

"What - wait - I don't," David says, then, "I can't read your mind."

Nick forces his eyes open, dizzy. "Lay on - I think I want you to lay on top of me."

"Like this?" David settles over him, their dicks sliding together, and Nick groans and opens his mouth to David's, trying to say yes without actually saying anything at all. He forces his reluctant limbs to do what he tells them to and wrap around David. A strong thigh under one heel, a shoulder under one hand.

The friction's loose but he doesn't last. And after all the stars have sparked off gold behind his eyes, he can feel David still hard, grinding against him, slippery wet against his belly, and he doesn't know what to do so he bares his throat to David's kiss, moving how he thinks will work best.

It must be okay, because David comes seconds later, gasping something wordless against the thin hollow of skin at Nick's throat, heat everywhere they touch. Any energy Nick had left drains out of him in an instant and must from David too, because he sinks onto Nick like they're going to melt into one person after all.

Nick concentrates on breathing for a while and slowly, one finger at a time, curls his hand around David's.

"Fuck, we're gonna stick together all gross if we don't move," David groans, after what feels like hours to Nick but is probably only five minutes, ten at most.

"'kay," he manages to reply. He waits for David to move first.

It takes a while.

An inch at a time, they stumble out of the bed, knocking against each other and laughing.
"I'm hungry, are you hungry?" David asks, his mouth against Nick's cheek. "I bought snacks."

"You dropped them somewhere," Nick laughs, and it might be the funniest thing he's ever heard. "I should - levels, yeah, I should check them."

"Good plan."

In the bathroom, he drinks two glasses of water and wipes the mess off himself, and David makes faces at himself in the mirror. Nick throws the washcloth at him, then grabs his kit and does the test, squinting at the numbers.

David finishes cleaning up and leans over his shoulder. "Okay?"

"Yeah." He puts the meter back in the case. "Not that I'm planning on it, but um, if I ever get so messed up I can't test myself, you'll do it for me, right?"

"Definitely."

He looks over his shoulder at David so close. David's hair is a mess and his mouth is red, and Nick's suddenly sure that with a little more time and a little more practice, he could - he could love David closer to the way he should.

It's a huge realization. He swallows hard.

"You sure you're okay?" David asks softly.

Nick moves his head so he can press his mouth to David's. "Better than okay."

"Good. You'd tell me if you - if something was wrong, right?"

"Yes." Nick can't hold back his yawn, and he laughs at himself. "Man, we haven't done anything but eat and drive around a lot in like a week, and I'm still freaking exhausted."

"It's all the crazy emotional revelation stuff," David says, grinning, and then he grabs Nick around the waist and pulls him back into the bedroom. Nick falls down flat on his back on the bed, then the bag of snacks lands next to him with a thump, and then David crawls up beside him. He leans over Nick to swipe the remote from the nightstand. "Some of that in there is sugar-free," he says, settling down. He lays his head on Nick's shoulder. The television comes on with a pop.

David falls asleep five minutes into Mystic River, breathing deep and even against Nick, his package of Twizzlers forgotten. Nick tries to keep his eyes open but he's fighting a losing battle. He doesn't even bother with the remote, just makes sure his phone alarm is set for early so they can hit the road, then curls himself against David and falls asleep to the flickering light of the screen.

 



Driving back through the Arizona desert, Nick sprawls in out in the passenger seat, finds his John Mayer complete discography playlist, and breathes in the hot, dusty air and the smell of warm asphalt. David's hand is heavy on his thigh, thumb moving in slow circles over the khaki of Nick's shorts to the beat of the song.

It's dark and cool when they reach Los Angeles - David's asleep next to him, having switched driving for zoning out at the last gas station. Nick reaches out and drags his fingers through David's hair, rousing him. "Hey."

"I'm awake," David mumbles immediately.

"You gotta tell me how to get to your place from here."

"Oh. Yeah." David sits up. Their fingers tangle as he directs Nick to the right ramp, the right street, the right building. Nick guides the car into David's assigned parking stall.

"Feels weird to be back," he says, after they sit there for a couple minutes, the sound of the street traffic the only noise.

"Totally."

They clamber out of the car and grab all their stuff. Nick follows David inside the building, handing him the keys.

David flips to his house key on the ring. Nick can hear the television on inside the apartment and he makes a questioning face. David shrugs, biting at his bottom lip. “Probably my brother.”

It is. Lorenzo’s asleep on the couch, one tanned arm trailing down towards the floor. David stands over him and pokes his shoulder. “Yo, dude,” he says. “Wake up.”

“Wha?” Lorenzo turns his head; Nick sees his eyes only on David, sees the delighted smile spring to life on his face. “Bedtime, bro. Snuggle up.” Then Nick watches him realize someone else is there. He sits up in a hurry. “Oh, whoa, company. Hey, Nick.”

“Hey,” Nick replies, as casual as he can. But he reaches out and lays a hand on David’s lower back just the same. David takes a tiny step back, pressing into the touch, and something flares hot and bright from Nick’s belly all the way up into his throat. It takes him a moment to realize it’s jealousy.

Lorenzo is staring at them, his gaze dark and keen. Nick’s struck by the sudden fear that someone, somewhere, has caught him looking at Joe like that.

"Zo?" David asks. Nick doesn't care for his hesitant tone.

Lorenzo's eyes drop to their hands. "You got married after all," he says in a flat voice.

"Yeah, man, don't you wanna wish us congratulations?"

"Congrats and shit," Lorenzo says softly, and pointedly turns his attention back to the television.

Nick strengthens his touch on David's back. "Want to give me the tour?" he asks.

"Here's my brother the douchebag," David says, waving his arm. His mouth hardens into a flat line. Lorenzo ignores them.

Nick steps closer to him and David turns a little, pointing to where the refrigerator is humming. A half-dozen empty water bottles litter the counter. "There's the kitchen - at least the appliances are fairly new."

Nick lets himself be led down the hallway. "Bathroom," David continues, pushing the door open briefly to reveal the all-white space, "and, last but not least, the bedroom."

Nick looks around. The room is cluttered with clothes and shoes, DVD and video game cases everywhere. There’s a gaming system hooked up to a television on top of the dresser. David’s kicking a pile of clothes back into a corner and not looking at him.

Nick can still hear whatever Lorenzo’s watching from the living room, so he shuts the door. “Let it go,” he says quietly. David’s head jerks up and Nick finds all his suspicions confirmed in David’s face. “Jeez, Dave.”

“I never – we didn’t, it – it wasn’t like that,” David stumbles over his words.

“Except for when it was.” Nick sits down on the unmade bed, grasps David’s arm and pulls him down as well. They fall backwards and he lets David curl into him. He can feel the tension gathering underneath David’s skin. “You can tell me, if you – if you want to, okay?” he whispers.

"I tried to say no to him. I tried, so many times. And then I was just tired of saying no." David rests his forehead against Nick's neck; Nick can feel his eyelashes flutter as he blinks. "Like, who was ever gonna know, right? No one but us."

"And now me," Nick can't help but say.

David sighs. "And now you."

Nick touches his hair, gently. "What - what are you gonna do?"

"Go watch Jimmy Fallon. Then kick him off the fucking couch, tell him to go home, probably."

"Okay. Let's go watch Jimmy."

Lorenzo's slumped against the arm of the couch like he's half-asleep, but his eyes are sharp. "Jimmy's got Casey Affleck and a girl from some country band, like she's gone solo," he says, mostly to David. "And just so you know, I ate all your Fritos."

"You're a fuck," David replies. He sits down and Nick finds himself being pulled along, so he plasters himself against David's side, one hand on his thigh. On the screen, Jimmy's trying to get Casey Affleck to take part in some sort of song parody sing-along, and Affleck appears to be having none of it, waving his hands and insisting he sucks.

Nick moves his mouth closer to David's ear. "I'm looking forward to sleeping in your bed," he murmurs, not caring if Lorenzo can hear.

David's lips quirk in a smile. He turns his head. "Looking forward to having you in my bed," he whispers back.

He knows what David’s doing, because he’d wanted to do it himself in Dallas. Even though Joe, in all his cluelessness, would probably have misunderstood, or missed it entirely. He doesn’t know whether to be glad that it seems like Joe never figured it out, or to give in to the dull ache, the loss of what might have been.

Nick’s sure that Lorenzo isn’t missing a thing. He leans into David even more and across David’s chest, he can see Lorenzo’s hands curled into fists, and Nick is torn between wanting to punch him and knowing that really, it’s no one’s fault. He still doesn’t know if he would have given in to Joe like that, if Joe had wanted it.

He’s trying his hardest not to think about it.

On screen, The Roots smash into the beginning of “After Midnight”. David’s fingers slide through his, thumb rubbing over the back of Nick’s hand. Then Nick finds himself being pulled from the couch and led down the hallway back to David’s bedroom; inside, David crowds against him and Nick’s back thumps against the edge of the doorway.

He opens to David's kiss, giving back just as intently as David is offering, wet and sort of sloppy, a definite clash of tongues and teeth. Hands dig into his hips and then yank him towards the bed so quick he feels a little lightheaded. He kicks half-heartedly at the still-open door. He might miss. He doesn't check.

David pulls at his shirt and Nick lifts his arms, letting David strip it off. Then he unbuttons his shorts and shoves them off, glancing up at David's swollen mouth and dazed eyes as he does. David's not saying it, but he's obviously needing something and looking to Nick to provide it. So Nick stays silent, strips David off his t-shirt and jeans, and goes willingly onto the bed. David's already hard, cock flushed and jutting. Nick reaches for him with a touch that's more sure than he feels, wrapping his hand around and swiping his thumb over the head.

"Nicky," David gasps, and yeah, that goes straight to Nick's cock. "Fuck. Come here, come here."

Nick crawls on top of him. There's just the one light on in the corner, so the room is sort of dim, but he can see the redness of David's cheeks. He ducks down to kiss the hot skin. "You sure you want to do this?" He leaves the with Lorenzo in the next room unspoken.

David reaches over and fumbles open the nightstand beside the bed, rummaging around for a minute before unearthing a bottle of lotion.

"What I want is - is for you to fuck me," David says, pushing the bottle into Nick's hand.

He freezes, unsure. "I don't -"

"Me neither," David cuts him off, then kisses him quick and flashes an uncertain grin. "Can't be too hard to figure out, right?"

Nick opens the lotion in response and squeezes out a generous amount. "You sheets are going to be a horrible mess."

"Yeah, yeah." David moves backwards towards the headboard. He takes a deep breath and Nick can nearly see his aura of nervousness, like a bright cloud.

"Are you sure?" Nick asks, sliding the palm that's not covered in lotion up the inside of David's thigh.

David moves his legs further apart, drawing one knee up, everything shadowed. "I want it," he says again, dropping his head back against the pillows. "Put your - you should put your fingers in me first."

Nick has never turned away from a challenge in his life and he's not turning away from fucking his husband if he wants it, is asking for it. He drops light kisses on David's stomach as he works a slick finger into David's ass, as the volume on the television rises, a woman's voice singing I did all I could, I did it right there and then, I've already confessed, no need to confess again.

When David's panting and his hips are rising and falling to the rhythm of Nick's fingers sliding in and out (unconsciously, Nick has matched the tempo of the song), he pulls out and sits back on his heels. Wipes his fingers on the sheet and then slicks a palmful of lotion over his aching cock.

"Now?" He leans forward to whisper it in David's ear.

"Now."

His heart's pounding as he presses in, watching David's face the whole time, afraid of hurting him. "Come on, it's good," David gasps, like he read Nick's mind. He does something with his hips, and Nick slides in even more. David groans. "C'mon, fuck me."

Nick does, finding a rhythm in a few seconds, slow enough he can keep up with it but not so slow that it's maddening, the heat and friction making him dizzy. He wants all of his skin to be pressing against David's. He wants to close his eyes, but he also wants to watch the sheen of sweat glisten on David's neck. He just wants, and for the first time in years the object of his wanting isn't Joe, and it feels nothing less than triumphant.

"Nick," David breathes, as Nick bends his head and sucks on his pulse-point, the press of his tongue and the press of his hips all in time with the beat of David's heart, all drum and bass just like a song.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, Nick sees the light shift and realizes there's a shadow in the hallway. Lorenzo's shadow.

David clutches at his shoulders, too far gone to notice, and Nick makes the razor-sharp decision that he doesn't care about Lorenzo. He doesn't care at all. He picked me, not you, you're too late for this, he thinks in Lorenzo's direction. Then he leans down to catch David's mouth in time with his next sharp thrust. David's groan spills out, sounding wanton and helpless. Nick stops caring about his own pleasure because he's going to come no matter what, and probably soon, and tries to move in the ways that pull more wordless sounds from David's throat.

He slides his hand between them, wrapping around David's cock. This is his, too; David's desire is only for him. Nick breathes against David's shoulder and strokes his cock in time with his thrusts until David arches up in release, spilling wet into Nick's hand and between their bodies, gasping out his name. Nick turns his head, sees David's fingers holding tight to the bedsheet, his knuckles pale against it and moving with every hitch of Nick's hips. The gold of David's wedding band shines out against his skin and as Nick's orgasm sears through him, he thinks mine, mine, mine until it's the only word left that he knows.

He slumps forward, unable to do anything but breathe, waiting for his heart to slow its jackhammering in his chest. He hears a noise that could be footsteps moving away, or could just be the blood rushing in his own ears.

The slamming of the apartment door echoes loudly. Nick feels David’s shudder. He leans heavier, presses his teeth to David’s collarbone; anything to hold back the battle he knows David’s fighting with himself.

“He saw us,” David pants, his eyes closed. His fingers flex on Nick’s hips, sliding in the sweat.

Nick moves back a little, his whole body feeling gross and sticky. “Yeah.”

David groans. He rubs at his face. “Shit," he breathes. "Okay, someday, we’ll have normal, married people sex, I promise.”

“That’s totally a myth,” Nick can’t help but laugh. He flops to the mattress, kicking his feet free of the dark bedsheet. "It's all right. I don't care about Lorenzo," he says, and he means it. "Ugh, I'm so... I need to wash my hands. And like, eighty percent of my body."

He really doesn't want to move, though. It's David who sits up and drags him out of the bed, into the bathroom and the shower. They stand together under the hot spray and Nick feels almost content as he wraps his arms around David's waist. They trade lazy kisses back and forth, until the water temperature starts to drop and David turns it off.

Nick's tired, all the way down to the very marrow of his bones, but for the first time in days, he feels like it's a good tired. He stands in the bedroom with a towel over his head, peering out from under it as David strips the sheets from the bed. Then together they stretch a clean set over the mattress, pile the blankets on and fall back onto it, naked.

Nick snuggles close and lets David push his damp hair back off his forehead as he says, "Normal people only wish they were as fucked up as us."

"Don't even," Nick breathes. He drags his fingers up and down David's arm with a heavy touch. "There's still so much further to go," he says, after the quiet has stretched for a while. "This is going to hit the press eventually."

"I know."

"Do you think your parents will like me?"

"They'll love you," David promises. He yawns, then smiles sleepily. "Don't you remember when my mom had me get your autograph? She'll be stoked that you're her son-in-law."

Nick thinks of his parents, how he hasn't heard anything from his family. Joe might have kept it a secret or he might not, but if it hits the news, they'll find out no matter what. He readjusts the pillow under his head. "I went to freaking Dallas to tell my family and I never did."

David gets up to switch off the lamp. "It's late," he says as he slides back under the blankets. "There will be plenty of time in the morning for all the things we need to do. Shut your brain off, dude. Sleep."

But he can't, not yet. "It's not fair to you," Nick murmurs into the dark.

David tugs him a little closer, hands warm on Nick's hips. "What's not?"

"I can never give you all of my heart."

"Knowing what I do about you, and you knowing what you do about me, I'd say that giving each other even some of our hearts is pretty goddamned fair."

"You don't mean that," Nick sighs. Then he scoffs. "No one wants just a portion of somebody else."

David presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth. His words are warm puffs of breath against Nick's face, his voice raspy. "Would I like more of you? Yeah. I think I do. Is it gonna bother me that I don't have it? No, because I know you're never really gonna give it to the person you think it belongs to, even though it doesn't really belong to him. So it's like in limbo or something."

"In escrow," Nick can't help but say. He echoes David's kiss. "Trust-fund love."

"Sounds like a song."

"Could be a song."

"Play it for me when you write it."

Nick traces his thumb over David's collarbone. "Of course," he whispers. "Are you sure I'm just being stupid?"

"Yes," David says, laughing against his neck. "Nicky, we've got all the time in the world, why are you being so pessimistic about this all of a sudden?"

"I - I think I could love you enough that I don't want you to hate me for not giving you my whole heart," Nick admits, his pulse picking up. "It's important to me. You're important to me."

"And you're important to me, too. But you're over-thinking this, baby." David kisses him again. "We did this totally fucking backwards, but I dunno, dude. Maybe between your heart and mine, we're whole."

That makes sense to him. "That could be a song, too," he sighs, settling his arm across David's hip, fingers curving over the top of David's ass.

"Play that one for me when you write it, too."

The room is pitch black, but Nick smiles anyway. The half of his heart that belongs solely to David knows that he'll see it. "That one, I'll dedicate to you every night," he promises with a yawn. David hitches him closer still. Nick lays his head on David's chest, finding the steady heartbeat, and falls asleep to dream all the melodies he needs.

*end*

Notes: This is the Yuletide story that I didn't write for Yuletide for Alex, in which he'd requested DHen and pot and angst. I totally didn't intend to write this story. It just kinda happened. Thank-yous to Ruth and Alex for being my in-progress readers, and everyone over on LJ who was excited for this fic and answered the random questions I posed about random things for research. Dear actual Nick J., Joe, David and Lorenzo: Why you had to keep posting to Twitter every time I was working on this, I don't know, but at least you are all entertaining. Not to mention terrible spellers.

Music notes: Kings of Leon's "Milk", The Swell Season's "Low Rising", Phantom Planet's "California", Eric Clapton's "After Midnight", and Bob Dylan's "Thunder on the Mountain". The title track, and basically the theme song for this story, is John Mayer's "Half of My Heart".
There are 17 comments on this entry. (Reply.)
rsadelle: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] rsadelle at 03:28am on 15/02/2010
 
posted by [personal profile] lake_fic at 03:51am on 15/02/2010
 
posted by [personal profile] apicturewithbooks at 03:43am on 15/02/2010
I....don't even know how to respond to this. My heart was wrenched all over the place. I honestly don't think I could ever read this again. Its goddamn beautiful but it still hurts.
 
posted by [personal profile] lake_fic at 03:51am on 15/02/2010
Aww! They'll be okay; that's the whole point!
 
posted by [personal profile] elodie at 04:38am on 15/02/2010
so beautiful, as always, but so full of hurt. but full of much love too. ive missed you. was just thinking the other day, while rereading, when is she gonna write again? :)
 
posted by [personal profile] lake_fic at 04:39am on 15/02/2010
Here I am! This one just took foreverrrr.
 
posted by [personal profile] elodie at 04:41am on 15/02/2010
it shows how much time you spent. its gorgeously epic.
 
posted by [personal profile] 11oclockish at 05:32am on 15/02/2010
This is WONDERFUL. Oh, I love it so ridiculously much! It was so much sweeter than I thought it would be, and I love how it starts out with this feeling of resignation, but it quickly turns into genuine feeling and caring about each other. I love DHen/Nick J a LOT, and I'm usually about angsting them all up, but it was so refreshing to read about them actually liking each other, even if it's just with half a heart. (SERIOUSLY - WONDERFUL.)

Not to be that person who asks about sequels (except apparently that's exactly what I am) - but I would love to see how everything shakes out with Nick's family, and especially Joe (and Lorenzo). Uh, anyway, I am not asking you to write it/if you'll write it - just saying that if you decide to, I am all over it. :)

Seriously, I love this. I want to go read it all over again because it's just that delightful.
 
posted by [personal profile] pressdbtwnpages at 08:46am on 15/02/2010
Oh, this is just lovely and delightful and perfect and hurty and atmospheric and hot and sweet and all of my favorite things.

Exactly what I needed to read tonight. Thank you!
 
posted by [identity profile] blueandbrady.livejournal.com at 08:49am on 15/02/2010
Am I the only one who feels the worst for Lorenzo? I mean, Jesus. I hear Nick's pain, and Joe's an ass, and David's messed up too, but poor Lorenzo. My goodness.

And when I got to the parts you were angsting over on Twitter, I couldn't tell. They flowed great. Nice job.

jazzish: (Nick: pretty)
posted by [personal profile] jazzish at 07:44pm on 15/02/2010
This is increeedible. Wow. Just, wow. This is so... atmospheric. I don't know, I can't explain it, it just gave me so many FEELINGS. Definitely one of those stories I'll want to reread.

 
posted by (anonymous) at 12:38am on 16/02/2010
I NEVER. WANTED. THIS. TO. END.

Seriously. I enjoyed it so much, and felt like crying as I got to the last word.

Fucking amazing job.

I just want you to keep writing for forever..please?

<3
jazlyn: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] jazlyn at 01:06am on 16/02/2010
man, i was so going to go to the gym and be healthy and instead, I READ THIS. AND OH, DO I NOT REGRET IT. this was amazing, you have no reason to be insecure about it at all. david/nick is my new favorite thing. i hope you write a bazillion codas. <3
agirlnamedfia: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] agirlnamedfia at 04:47pm on 29/04/2010
Trufax: it's a TRAVESTY that this fic only had 13 comments. I lovelovelove it so much I reread it every other week! I think from now on, everytime I reread, I'm going to post as well. "DID YOU READ THIS ALREADY FLIST? DID YOU COMMENT ON IT? DID YOU? >:|"

No, seriously, this is as of this moment my favourite fic in the Disney RPF. Generally I don't pic favourites cause I just can't but this. this fic, God, it gives me so much FEELINGS. Hope and happiness and sadness and loneliness and weariness and love and sweetness and I think I could read this forever. I mean, should you feel inclined to write a sequel. :D I would be alllll over that!

I think generally, my feelings can be summed up in this:



Seriously. Stunning work. <3333
 
posted by (anonymous) at 08:53am on 09/12/2010
Oh god, the angst and the marriage and the David and the Joe and the hot boys smoking pot on their honeymoon, and goddamn you're amazing.

You should, uh, write some more of this. Um, like, this is all you should write for the next five years. Or longer, I mean, I'm not picky. At all.
 
posted by (anonymous) at 07:32am on 12/02/2011
2nd time i've read this. it's a really intense story. there were some parts where i wished for a bit more clarity- but it didn't take away from my enjoyment of the fic. well done. thanks for sharing.
 
posted by (anonymous) at 09:38am on 18/03/2011
Wow. This was awesome. I want to keep reading it again and again. I feel like this has a modern western written in it somewhere. Of course, that may just be because they're making a road trip. Still, the independence and isolation of the two characters provides a sense of resourceful cowboys just making their way.

David/Nick have suddenly become an obsession of mine. There is very little of them unfortunately. They have an interesting dynamic, and I liked to see you play around with that. Man, I totally see them both hurting, but I just want to tell them both to wake up and look at what's in front of them. Of course, it happens. This was very hopeful. I think it's mature and realistic of them to settle, but I have a sense that there's sweetness and truth in what they share. I think that's why I like David so much in this; he's kind of a sweetheart, but has his own issues.

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