Chapter 35 – The Beach

After dinner, the four of them weren’t sure what to do so they settled into the living room to watch a movie. It had been something of a long day, and by the end of it, Danielle was asleep on Liam’s shoulder.“I guess we’ll be off to bed, then.” Liam said, gently nudging Danielle awake.

“Night,” Brittany said, looking over at the two of them. She glanced over at Niall.

“Yeah,” he said, standing up and stretching a little. “I think I’ll be off to bed too.”

Brittany nodded at him, but didn’t say anything. She wasn’t going to go to bed yet, but she didn’t really mind that the others were. In fact, she needed some time alone.

Niall walked up the stairs behind Liam and Danielle and nodded a quick goodnight to them before heading to his own guest room. That in itself was weird, since Brittany had basically given him what had appeared to be her room in the house. Even though she wasn’t sharing it with him, he still felt awkward standing in it. He wasn’t even sure what he was doing in Malibu – Danielle had said that him being there would probably help to make Brittany feel better, but as far as he could tell, he was only making things more awkward.

He didn’t know what to say aside from the awkward conversations that he felt he was forcing his way into. He found himself not knowing what to say to her – aside from the fact that he was sorry he’d never contacted her after they’d met up again in New York. He didn’t know why he hadn’t – he had every intention of texting her, but he never knew what would have been appropriate to say.

Besides, he was sure if she’d really wanted to talk to him, she would have texted him herself. After all, she had been the one to end their relationship in the first place. He figured the ball should be in her court to take any sort of steps towards the two of them being friendly again.

Nevermind the fact that she’d been the one to kiss him, but he was sure that was just because she’d been drunk.

Sighing, he picked up his bag and rummaged through it, opting to try and forget about all of this for the rest of the evening.

He glanced upwards and looked out the window. The beachfront property really was amazing. He wasn’t sure he could live in a place such as this, but it was certainly nice to spend a few days there.

Then he squinted slightly, noticing Brittany walk out to the beach area and sit herself down in the sand. She obviously wasn’t aware he was watching her. What was she doing?

It was clear to him that Nick’s death was affecting her more than she’d let on. It was hard not to tell – the way her eyes glossed over when he was mentioned and how there was suddenly a thick silence. Brittany acted as though she was okay, when in truth, she really wasn’t.

He felt bad for her as he watched her just sitting there alone on the beach. He dropped his bag from his hands and took a deep breath. Now was probably as good an opportunity as any to take that first step. He quietly walked out of the room, trying to make as little noise as possible as he made his way out to the beach.

Brittany stared out at the water in front of her. The waves were calmly pooling up against the shore, cresting only slightly.

She held her knees tight against her chest as the water sparkled. It was beautiful and it was her favourite thing about Nick’s Malibu residence, just as it had been his.

And just like that, tears formed in her eyes as they did every night. The pain in her chest got greater, and she choked back a sob. The water in front of her was clear, but the sight grew hazy as the tears that had formed in her eyes started to fall.

When she was sitting out here alone at night, watching the stars and the water, she let go. She tried so hard to be strong for everyone else, but this moment, when she was alone on the beach, when she could almost feel Nick’s presence, and yet at the same time miss it so greatly, she couldn’t hold it in. So, she let herself cry and miss him, watching the waves move up and down against the dark backdrop of the sky.

She was so lost in her own thoughts that she didn’t hear the footsteps coming up behind her.

“Hey,” the sound of a familiar voice came. “Are you alright?”

Brittany glanced up at Niall, who was standing about a foot away from her, looking at her cautiously.

She wiped a few tears from her eyes, but her face was still stained and her eyes were still red. There was no use lying to him and she wasn’t even sure she wanted to. She was so sick of keeping everything bottled up inside. “No,” she admitted, “I’m not.”

Niall nodded at her knowingly, and glanced down at the area beside her, as if asking if it was okay if he could sit. Brittany nodded her head at him. She’d wanted to be alone, but she found herself not minding the company.

“Sorry your friend died,” he said sincerely, looking out onto the ocean, just as she was.

“Thanks,” Brittany mumbled, still looking out at the water. “Why’d you come out here?” she asked, after a couple of moments of silence.

Niall shrugged. “I saw you walking out here through the window. I wanted to come talk to you and see how you were doing…”

She just nodded, almost wishing it was more awkward. That would have given her something else to focus on other than that fact that her best friend was gone. But now that she was sitting here and allowing herself to actually open up and deal with that, the awkwardness of having to save face was gone.

It was almost the same as when she’d gone to New York. She let her guard down and felt a little bit more at ease, which was strange for her, because it had been up for so long.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Niall asked, turning his head a little to try and meet her eyes.

Brittany shrugged. There wasn’t much to tell. Nick’s death was going to leave a void in her that would never quite be filled. “I just can’t believe he’s gone,” she whispered.

Niall just looked at her sympathetically.

“I know you probably think it’s stupid, but he was my best friend in the entire world. No one got me like he did. Sometimes I felt like we were the same person split in two. And now that he’s just all of a sudden gone, I just can’t…” she trailed off, not knowing what else to say and feeling that lump of sadness start to rise in her throat again.

“I don’t think it’s stupid,” Niall said quietly, while shaking his head. “You’re lucky to have had a friend like that.”

Brittany shrugged. “And now he’s gone,” she said sadly.

“He’s not really gone,” Niall said. “I mean he is, but you still have all those memories together.”

Brittany nodded. That much was true, she supposed. “I just can’t stop thinking about him, and how great of a person he was. And how much fun we always had together, even that first time on the cruise we clicked so fast…” she trailed off, almost forgetting the reason she’d been able to go on the cruise in the first place. “I’m really sorry about that,” she admitted, looking at him.

“What? That you went on the cruise?” he asked, raising his eyebrow. “Don’t worry about it, it was years ago.”

“No,” Brittany said, looking at him. She figured she might as well admit everything else, now that she was sitting here and spilling all of her other feelings to him. “I meant for breaking up with you like that. I’m sorry,” she said softly.

Niall just shrugged. “I deserved it, I did sleep with that other girl.”

Brittany nodded slowly. “Yeah, you did, but I wasn’t ready for the relationship that we had, and I bailed. When we were together, I always felt like I was constantly going two separate ways. I wanted to be here in the states, doing my music stuff, but I also always wanted to be with you. I couldn’t have both and as hard as I tried it just didn’t work. When you did that – because I didn’t want to move with you to London, by the way, I just took it as an excuse to end it and go do what I wanted to do. I was selfish, and I’m sorry.”

Niall contemplated that for a moment. “What made you think of all that?” he asked her.

Brittany glanced out at the water. “Just thinking about the cruise… Nick told me all of that. He was so right and I just didn’t even see it. If I’d have had it my way, I would have stayed with you forever, trying my best to be in two places at once and it wouldn’t have been fair to either of us.” She looked at him. The breeze caught his hair a little, and she smiled to herself.

“It’s not completely your fault,” Niall said, turning to face her. “I felt awful, and there were so many nights I cried myself to sleep,” he admitted sheepishly. “I know you needed to go out and do your own thing, but it doesn’t excuse what I did and I’m sorry.”

Brittany shook her head. She didn’t care anymore. They were older now, and she hoped a little wiser. They had more freedom and flexibility now than they did when everything was fresh and new and they were stuck in the world of being teen idols.

It was almost unbelievable that they were sitting here, having this conversation. Normally she wouldn’t have opened up to him quite so easily, but she found herself wanting to clear the air and fix things with him. She hadn’t told Nick how much she’d cared about him when she’d had the chance, and she wasn’t going to let herself make the same mistake again.

“I wish you would have spent the night with me in New York,” she whispered almost inaudibly. “I must have dreamt about it, because I woke up the next morning thinking you were going to be there and when you weren’t I was disappointed.”

“You were drunk,” he said seriously. “I wasn’t going to do that to you.”

“I’m not drunk now,” she said almost instantly, looking at him intently. He had changed – he was a little more direct now than he had been when they were younger. His hair was a darker colour, save for a few glistening highlights. He was a bit stockier, but his eyes were the same clear blue that they had been when she’d first met him. They were the same ones that she remembered staring into as he sang to her, while she mentally begged for him to kiss her.

Now, she found herself in the very same situation again.

“Niall…” she whispered, leaning in closer to him. Their noses touched and she closed her eyes as he too leaned in.

“Wait,” he said softly, their lips nearly brushing together. “Don’t do this if you’re just trying to get over him.”

“I’m not,” Brittany said quietly, and she truly wasn’t. “I was never in love with him… because I was always in love with you.”

That was all it took for Niall to close his eyes and press his lips against hers. They kissed easily, not stopping after a couple of seconds like they had the last time. Instead, Brittany moved closer to him, gripping his t-shirt with her hands. She pushed herself against him, and the two of them toppled over in the sand.

Neither of them commented on the ridiculousness of the situation as Brittany leaned down to kiss him again. Niall reached upwards, wrapping his arms around her waist and holding her tightly. He broke their kiss slightly and half opened his eyes. “Are we actually doing this?” he asked cautiously.

“Yeah,” Brittany said. She lowered her head to kiss him but instead of kissing her back he sat up a little, gently pushing her away. She sighed a little bit, thinking that he was going to come up with some excuse as to why they shouldn’t.

But he didn’t. He stood up and outstretched his hand towards her. “We should go inside then,” he said.

She nodded, taking his hand and allowing him to help her up. She took one final look back out at the water as they made their way into the house and smiled a little. Finally, she was beginning to feel better about everything.

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