Chapter 13 – The Mutual Understanding

“I don’t understand why you’re so pissed off about this,” AJ laughed as he leaned over Nick’s shoulder. Nick had come bursting into AJ’s house, sat down at his computer and had starting scrolling through the articles. “No one’s even gonna care.”

“Because!” Nick exclaimed, swiftly turning around in the computer chair. “It’s stupid.”

AJ scoffed. “Welcome to the entertainment industry, dude. Where have you been for the last twenty-one years?”

Nick sighed. Truthfully, he didn’t know why it upset him so much. He hadn’t been so bothered by the comments that had been made after the cruise – and these weren’t even that bad. The fact was that all of that had been speculation, and this was based on a very real comment made by someone who (as much as he hated to admit it) was a lot more famous than he was.

“I don’t know,” Nick said. “You know how sometimes you focus on dumb shit when you don’t want to deal with real shit?”

AJ raised his eyebrow as she reached for a pack of cigarettes. He took one out and held the package out to Nick, but Nick just shook his head. “What real shit are you dealing with?” AJ asked, before lighting up.

Nick shrugged. He hardly wanted to explain to AJ that this was his first Christmas in years without Lauren, and how instead of moping around his Nashville home he’d decided to fly out to Florida to see his mother. He’d decided that was much worse, but it was too late to back out now without a good excuse.

But he wasn’t going to tell AJ that. Because AJ would probably tell Rochelle, and Rochelle would tell Lauren, and then they’d laugh about how pathetic he was.

And though he really thought he’d gotten over it, seeing everyone happy and getting ready for the holidays just made Nick miserable all over again.

“Nothing, just shit,” Nick said, reconsidering the cigarette AJ had offered him earlier. He reached for the pack and pulled one out. AJ tossed him the lighter without a word. “I sorta blew up at Brittany,” Nick said looking back at the computer screen again. Brittany’s smiling face looked back at him and he felt a little guilty. But only a little, when he remembered that she’d effectively caused all of this. He lit up the cigarette and took a drag from it as he looked up at AJ.

“Way to go, man,” AJ said, rolling his eyes. “Now she definitely won’t sleep with you.”

“I’m not trying to sleep with her,” Nick said, shaking his head. “I just feel kinda bad, even though this is all her fault. She was the one who prodded him to say stuff on a twitcam apparently.”

AJ raised his eyebrow. “What’s a twitcam?”

“It’s like your socialcam shit, but it’s live,” Nick said, rolling his eyes. If anyone would understand the appeal of all these social media devices, it was AJ.

But apparently, the point of it was lost on him too. “Sounds lame.”

Nick shrugged. “I just don’t get it. She said she was over it, you know? I thought she was over it, anyway.”

“Girls are weird, dude. You know this,” AJ said, nodding his head at Nick as if to prove his point. They’d both had their fair share of girl troubles.

“Yeah, I know. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

AJ just shrugged and gave Nick a look as he leaned back against the dining room table a little. “Well, maybe she’s trying to avoid dealing with real shit too.”

“This is her real shit, AJ.” Nick rolled his eyes. He had no idea what Brittany could possibly be dealing with other than whatever people on twitter were saying about her. As far as he was aware, her breakup with Niall was the biggest drama that had ever happened in her short little life.

“You don’t know that,” AJ said still giving Nick that same look. “It might not be. It’s not even that big of a deal. So some kid in another boyband said you probably banged his ex-girlfriend. Everyone already thought that. I still sort of think that,” he laughed.

Nick gave AJ an unimpressed look, but he had to concede to the fact that his friend was right. In the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t all that big of a deal. He’d blown the entire thing out or proportion, but at least it had given him something of a distraction for the day.

“Yeah, I guess,” Nick said, standing up and zipping his hoodie back up. “I guess I’d better go home and start packing for my trip to Florida,” he said with a sigh, finishing off his cigarette and putting it out in the ashtray on the computer desk.

AJ gave him an understanding pat on the back. “Good luck, man.”

***

The next day Nick walked into the studio early to find Brittany sitting there playing with her iPad.

“Morning,” he said, sitting his coffee down on the table while pulling up a chair.

“Morning,” she said shortly, giving him a look.

The two of them were silent for a moment. Brittany fiddled with her iPad, not really wanting to be the first to say anything, but knowing she had to be. Nick took a sip of his coffee, trying to collect his thoughts before he spoke.

“I’m really sorry,” the two of them started at once. Brittany laughed a little, Nick just grinned and motioned for her to continue.

“Sorry,” she said again. “I shouldn’t have even gone on that stupid twitcam. You don’t have to worry about it though, I talked to Danielle and she said that Niall has a new girlfriend, so when that gets out I’m sure everyone will forget about him and me and all these comparisons you guys will stop.”

Nick nodded. He didn’t really care anymore – but he was at least grateful for Brittany’s explanation. “I probably shouldn’t have blown up at you yesterday, I’m just…” he trailed off, not really wanting to explain everything to her. “I just don’t really like the holidays,” he admitted, deciding that was safe enough.

“Me neither,” she muttered, looking at the ground.

They both looked at each other and nodded with a shared understanding and dislike for all things to do with Christmas. Brittany sighed, standing up. She was eager to get to work on finishing up the album – since the next day was Christmas Eve and Nick would be leaving for Florida.

Then, she wasn’t sure at all what she was going to do.

“Well, I guess we’d better get to work. Got a lot to finish up before I go,” Nick said, opening up his laptop. He didn’t care to discuss the matter any further – for the time being he was content to just focus on work.

Which was exactly how they spent the better part of the day. If Brittany had her way, this was what she would have spent all of her time doing. Just enjoying this relaxed, yet serious atmosphere in the studio with Nick. Either that, or being on tour.

Unfortunately for her, the minutes ticked by, and soon the day was over. “Shit,” Nick said, looking at the clock on the wall. “I gotta get home and pack, I have an early flight tomorrow.”

Brittany just nodded, trying to force a smile on her face. “Yeah, okay. Looking forward to your trip?”

Nick sighed. “No,” he admitted in his haste. He really wasn’t, and wished he had some kind of excuse to ditch it. It wasn’t like his family would miss him anyway – everyone else was going to be there too. They hadn’t missed him any other year – why start now?

“No?” Brittany asked, unable to contain her curiosity.

Nick shrugged his shoulder slightly and looked off to the side. “My mom and I don’t really get along.”

“Yeah,” Brittany nodded with a sigh. “Neither do me and mine.”

Nick frowned. He didn’t particularly want to go down to Florida. Hell, he didn’t particularly want to do anything related to Christmas at all. “Hey,” he said slyly, a grin playing on his lips. “Do you wanna just ditch it?”

Brittany raised her eyebrow. She had no idea what Nick was talking about. “What?”

“Christmas,” Nick explained. “You wanna ditch it? Blow it off? We can go to my house in Malibu and just watch movies or whatever.”

“Can you do that?” she asked him, though she’d be lying if she said the idea didn’t sound appealing at all. It sounded a lot better than hanging around LA doing nothing.

“Yeah, sure,” Nick said easily. “Who gives a shit? Not my family, that’s who.”

Brittany had to laugh a little at his bluntness. “Okay,” she said slowly. “I’ll have to pack a bag.”

“Yeah,” Nick said quickly. “Me too. But I’ll pick you up at your place tomorrow morning and we’ll head down to Malibu. What do you think, sound good?”

Brittany nodded quickly, feeling more excited about the holiday than she had in the past few weeks leading up to it. “Yeah, sounds good!”

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