Chapter 10 – The Reminders of the Past

Nick was up early the next morning to go to a meet and greet. He shut his phone alarm off quickly, in an effort to not wake Brittany.

It worked. When he glanced over at her, he noticed she was still asleep. She clutched the blankets in her hand and stirred a little, but she didn’t wake up. He ran a hand through his hair and decided that he really needed a shower. Even his feet felt dirty, on account of being on the beach for the majority of the day before.

Nick pulled his shirt off and headed over to the small bathroom when he noticed Brittany roll over in her sleep.

“Mmph, Nialler,” she muttered, her face nearly in the pillow. “Sorry…”

Nick sighed. Now that he’d slept and sobered up, he almost couldn’t believe he’d spilled his guts to her the night before. He normally wasn’t the type of person to do something like that – he liked to keep all of his feelings bottled up inside.

And evidently, so did Brittany, as she was very clearly dreaming about her ex-boyfriend. Despite their conversation the day before, and even though she seemed to understand the fact that he’d been holding her back, she didn’t seem to be over him. Not in the least.

Nick didn’t mean to stand there and watch her sleep, but he was torn between feeling bad for her and being angry with her. Here she was, supposedly strong, leaving him in Europe because he’d cheated on her and because she wanted to finally break free and have a career of her own and yet…

She was dreaming about him and judging by the torn up look on her face, missing him.

He wondered for a brief moment if, when the cruise was over, she was just going to go back to him. He quickly dismissed that thought, thinking it was ridiculous. She was just dreaming, and they’d just broken up. Of course she was going to be subconsciously thinking about him.

But, as Nick began to walk away, something caught his eye.

He looked back and when he looked closer, he noticed that along with the blanket, Brittany was clutching the bracelet in her hands.

And that, Nick knew, had to have been a conscious decision. She had to have been thinking about him, she had to have picked it up and she had to have gone to sleep while holding on to it.

Whether she had a boyfriend or not, Nick couldn’t really care less. But this particular boyfriend – one who very clearly was not on the same wavelength as she was, who wanted to her move across the world, and then threw a hissy fit when he didn’t get his way annoyed him.

Perhaps because he’d worked with her for a year and already felt protective over her. Or maybe it was because he’d been that boyfriend before, and he knew that the cycle had to be broken or it would just keep repeating itself. For Brittany’s sake, nothing good was coming of their relationship. Not now.

He had to admit, he felt sorry for her. Aside from the fact that she’d always been under One Direction’s shadow in her own career, she really had seemed to love him. To know that she couldn’t continue to grow in her own career and life unless she did so without him couldn’t have been easy for her.

Nick sighed. He didn’t have time to worry about her now. He made his way into the bathroom for a quick shower and tried not to think about everything that was bothering him. Surprisingly, it was a little easier than it had been before.

Maybe talking to Brittany about it had actually helped.

He got dressed as Brittany continued to sleep, still mumbling to herself. Nick ignored her, but made a mental note to talk to her afterwards.

There was a knocking at his door. And when Nick opened it, he was grateful to see Howie standing there.

“Hey Nicky,” Howie said. “Ready to go take some photos?”

“Yeah,” Nick said, grabbing his room key off the table. “Shhh,” he said quietly, pointing inside the room. “She’s still asleep.” He stuffed his key into his pocket and shut the door behind him.

“What, you wear her out last night?” Howie laughed as they walked down the hallway.

Nick rolled his eyes. “Yeah right.”

“Oh come on,” Howie said, giving Nick a knowing look. “We all saw you leave the party.”

Nick ran a hand through his hair. He’d nearly forgotten about that. Stupid Brittany and her stupid plan to get him to stop drinking and back to the room. Although he had to admit, it had worked quite nicely. “Yeah, she was just trying to get me back to the room. We didn’t do anything. We’re not going to do anything.”

Howie raised his eyebrow. “O…kay? Then what’s with her? Why’d you bring her?”

Nick looked as the ground as he continued walking. “I just…wanted to bring someone,” he admitted sheepishly. If he was going to tell any of the guys, Howie was his best bet. AJ wouldn’t understand, and would probably tell Rochelle, who would run off and tell Lauren. Brian would just roll his eyes. Kevin would probably tell him some story of something that had happened in his past that he felt related to this for whatever reason. Howie was the only one at times who seemed to truly understand and not judge him.

Howie nodded. “Because Lauren usually comes with you?”

“Yeah… and I didn’t want to be alone with all you guys and your wives. I wasn’t even thinking about it, I just saw her in the studio before I left, and she looked so sad, and I thought, why not? You know?”

Howie frowned. “What, because of that twitter stuff from yesterday?”

Nick shrugged. “Yeah, sorta. Her and her little boyfriend broke up.”

“That’s rough,” Howie sympathized. “Is she not dealing with it well?”

Nick shrugged. “She’s fine. She broke up with him… but I think she still misses him.”

“I’m sure she does. Breakups are never easy, especially in the public eye.”

“Tell me about it,” Nick muttered. He’d been through one too many public breakups in his time. “But it’s weird… we talked about it, and she seemed like she was over it, but now she sort of seems like she’s not.”

Howie looked shocked. “You talked about her breakup with her?” he asked finally, somewhat in disbelief. “That doesn’t sound like you.”

Nick shrugged. He hadn’t had much of a choice. Bringing Brittany on the cruise, he knew he’d have to talk to her eventually, if not to just be a decent human being. But, as it turned out he’d enjoyed talking to her about her problems and helping her. “Yeah, I did. And…we talked about Lauren too,” he mumbled, somewhat embarrassed to be admitting it.

Howie smiled at Nick as the two of them reached the elevator.

“I’m glad you’ve found someone you can talk to,” he said as he pressed the button.

Nick grinned, glad that Howie understood. “Thanks, dude.”

***

When Brittany woke up, Nick was gone.

That was just as well, she figured. She wasn’t sure what she’d dreamt about, but she’d come back to consciousness feeling gloomy and sad. The empty room certainly wasn’t helping that, but she figured it was better than nothing.

After her conversation with Nick the night before, he’d fallen asleep right away, but she’d laid awake, thinking. She’d even gone so far as to dig her bracelet out of the pocket of her discarded jean shorts and gently look at it as guilt overwhelmed her.

Though she’d spoken to Danielle and knew full well how Niall was coping with their breakup, seeing Nick nearly break down in front of her gave her a new perspective entirely. It was hard for her to not draw parallels between the two of them. However different they were, the situation was nearly the same. And when she’d seen the lost look on Nick’s face, she couldn’t help but feel angry with Lauren for leaving him. He’d clearly loved her a lot.

She sighed to herself and went to go sit on the balcony, still lightly holding the bracelet in her hand.

She played with it in her palm. There were a few minor scratches on it, but all things considered, it was still in pretty good condition. The diamonds glistened in the sunlight as she thumbed the inscription.

There was a pain in her chest as she read the words. She could still clearly remember when Niall had sung those words to her, kissed her and then took off, leaving her sitting in the hotel room missing him, even though she knew she shouldn’t have been.

Sort of like she was doing right at that moment.

She gripped it a little tighter, unsure of what she was supposed to be feeling. She was angry with him for being so rash – both in the case of assuming she’d move to London and sleeping with someone else when she’d turned him down.

She was proud of herself for leaving him… and yet, she was sad because it was over. Even though she was sure it didn’t have to be over. If she were to call him and try to mend things, she was fairly certain he’d take her back. He’d done it once before.

Especially since this time, it was effectively all his fault. At least, she knew he probably thought so, even if that wasn’t entirely true.

She felt sick to her stomach, and it had nothing to do with the boat she was on.

Brittany wasn’t sure how long she’d been sitting out there, lost in her memories and thoughts. But eventually, the door to the room opened and Nick was back from wherever he’d been.

“Hey,” he said, stepping out onto the balcony. “What’re you doing?”

She shrugged. “Sitting,” she said, as though it was obvious. “Where were you?”

“Meet and Greet,” he explained, pulling up a chair and sliding it close to her. “It was boring,” he said, glancing down and still noticing she was holding the bracelet in her hands. He sighed a little, but strangely, he didn’t dread talking to her about it. Now that he already had once, it seemed easier. “What’s that?”

She looked down at her hands. “You know what it is,” she said.

“Yeah,” he said, looking back up at her. “So why are you sitting out here with it?”

She shrugged, not really knowing what to say to him. “I don’t know. I just felt like it.”

“You’re not going to get over it if you keep clinging to the past, you know,” he advised, and the pointed to the bracelet in her hands. “If you keep clinging to that.”

“I don’t know if I want to get over it,” she whispered. “I thought I did, but now I just…”

“Hey,” Nick said, looking at her. “It sucks. I know that, and you know I know that. But remember what we talked about yesterday? You have to move on.”

“Easy for you to say,” Brittany rolled her eyes, perhaps harsher than she’d intended. “You don’t know what I’m going to have to deal with when word about this gets out.”

Nick gaped at her. “Oh believe me, I do. My breakup with Lauren might not have made any headlines, but you better believe that I’ve had other ones that did. And they were a lot worse than this. If that’s the only reason -”

“It’s not the only reason,” she cut him off. “It’s not. I was with him for two years, okay? I just need some time,” she said quietly.

Nick nodded, slightly taken aback by her sudden outburst. “I get it,” he said, his tone softening. “But you’re not doing yourself any favours right now.”

He held out his wrist for Brittany to see. Old Habits Die Hard. It was inked on his wrist forever, as a reminder of what he’d gone through. Of what he had to get over. Of what he had to cover up.

Paris.

Not that Brittany seemed to be aware of that.

“Look,” he said. “I’ve been there.”

Brittany silently contemplated what Nick was trying to tell her. She didn’t know what he’d been through in the past, but it obviously had been bad enough for him to permanently have a reminder inked on his body. “What am I supposed to do?” she asked quietly.

“Get rid of that,” he said, pointing to the bracelet in her hands.

She rolled her eyes. “I’m not getting rid of it. What do you want me to do? Throw it in the ocean?” she asked incredulously.

Nick shrugged. “Sure.”

She looked down at it, and instantly remembered the first time Niall had handed it to her, standing backstage at Madison Square Garden. “I don’t think I can.”

“Then give it to me,” he said. “I’ll do it.”

She looked at Nick, and looked back down at the gold chain in her hands. She knew he was right. She had to get over it, she couldn’t keep clinging to the past. It wasn’t going to help her any to keep thinking about him. She’d broken up with him, and she knew deep down it was the right choice, no matter how hard it was to see so soon after the fact.

She stood up, tossing the bracelet to Nick. “I’m going to go take a shower,” she said, not wanting to discuss this any further.

She turned away and went back into the room, not wanting to watch as Nick threw her most prized possession into the ocean.

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