Chapter 4 – The Outsider

Brittany and Nick walked through Miami International Airport a little awkwardly. Brittany had fallen asleep on the plane, just as she always did. When she awoke, they were just beginning their decent into Miami. Now, once they had picked up their luggage, they were waiting for a car to take them to the hotel.

Neither one of them knew what to say to each other. Nick had never been good at small talk, and Brittany couldn’t believe that she’d travelled all the way to Florida with him on a whim.

She glanced around nervously, suddenly realizing the gravity of what she’d done. She was sure it wouldn’t be that suspicious just being with Nick – she’d been out in public with him dozens of times before. But the fact that she wasn’t over in Europe when she was supposed to be and while everyone knew why she was supposed to be, suddenly made her feel sick.

Through everything that had happened, she’d only focused on how upset she was, how angry she was, and how this was affecting her. She’d completely forgotten about the fact that she’d had a very public relationship and people finding out that it had ended would be potentially worse than when they had found out it began.

Nick looked over at her. “What are you doing?” he asked, watching her glance around.

“Nothing,” she said. “Just making sure no one’s taking pictures of us.”

“No one’s going to take pictures of us. We’re standing at the airport waiting for a car,” he said, stating the obvious.

She looked at him as thought he was crazy. How could he be so sure of that? Did he not live in Hollywood where paparazzi and fans took pictures of him all the time?

“What?” he asked, when she didn’t say anything.

“Fans don’t just hang around and take a million pictures of you everywhere you go?” she asked in disbelief.

“Uh, I guess they do?” Nick shrugged. “Not everywhere. I guess if they do I don’t really care. I’m so used to it.”

She sighed. He was so far removed from the boyband hype that he had no clue what he was even talking about. “So there’s no Backstreet Boys update account?”

He raised his eyebrow, not having a clue what she was talking about. “You mean like, a website?”

Brittany wondered what it must have been like for him to have been famous in the 90’s, before there was twitter, and a zillion update accounts tracking his every move…and by association, her every move. “No. It’s like… a fan run twitter account that compiles information about your every single move.”

Nick squinted his eyes and he glanced around, looking for the car. “That’s creepy.”

She nodded. “Yeah, I could probably log on to twitter and tell you what restaurant One Direction ate at today. I could tell you everything they did and where they are right this second. There’s nothing like that for you?”

Nick shook his head. “Uh, I mean, there are accounts that post pictures and stuff… but nothing like that. Our fans are sane,” he said, then rethought his statement. “Our fans have lives.” He looked at Brittany, and then raised his eyebrow, correcting himself again. “There’s nothing like that,” he finally said.

She sighed. “You’re lucky.”

Nick looked down at her. “What, you think that since you’re here with me someone’s going to take a picture and start a rumour?”

“No,” she said. “I mean, I guess, but not because I’m here with you, just because I’m here, and not in Europe, and all their stupid fans know it was supposed to be our anniversary weekend, so they’ll probably figure it out and ask me a bunch of questions that I don’t want to answer.”

“Lucky for you, there’s no cell reception on the boat,” Nick laughed.

Brittany shrugged. It wasn’t the weekend as a whole she was worried about. She didn’t care if there was no cell reception on the boat – she’d still have to get off the boat eventually and deal with the public.

“You should just do what I do,” Nick said, just as the car pulled up in front of them. The driver got out and took both Nick and Brittany’s luggage, placing it in the trunk. Once the two of them were seated in the back of the car, Nick finished his thought. “Anyway, just do what I do,” he said with a grin. “Don’t even look at your replies. Or, say something stupid, and watch the drama roll in.”

“You don’t reply to your fans?”

Nick shrugged. “Nope.”

Brittany looked at him strangely. “Don’t they get mad?”

Nick shrugged. “I dunno. That’s why I don’t look at my replies. I don’t really get twitter,” he laughed. “I only got it because management told me I had to. I just sorta… program it at the beginning of tours and let it post updates all on its own.”

“That must be annoying. Don’t you want to interact with your fans like that?”

Nick raised his eyebrow. “Not really. We have soundcheck parties for that. I’m not going to spend all my time on twitter talking to fans and answering their questions. We did just fine before twitter, we’ll do just fine now.”

Brittany shook her head, but sort of smiled. It was times like this when the generation gap between them was apparent. “My fans kind of expect it,” she said. “Like, they get upset if I don’t respond to anyone for a couple of days.”

“Really?” Nick asked, and Brittany nodded. “That’s weird.”

“I guess it’s just different,” she shrugged, pulling her phone out and looking at it. She opened up twitter, but instead of scrolling through her own feed, she gave into temptation and looked up 1DUpdates.

“Hey, let me see that,” Nick said, leaning over and looking at the screen as Brittany slowly scrolled through the updates. She readjusted herself so that Nick was able to see her phone better. “See?” he said, glancing at her. “The last thing they did was get off the stage… and apparently now they’re on the tour bus going back to the hotel. Nothing about you.”

“That’s not what I was looking for,” Brittany said, continuing to scroll down the feed. “There it is.”

1DUpdates: .@BrittCooperMusic leaving the hotel this morning! She was supposed to be there for three days… [View Photo]

“You don’t look happy,” Nick commented, still peering over her shoulder as he looked at the picture.

“I wonder why,” Brittany said sarcastically, expanding the tweet and looking at all the comments.

“How did they know it was your anniversary? How would they know something like that?” Nick asked as he watched Brittany look through the pile of comments.

“They know everything,” Brittany muttered. “I don’t know how they know, they just figured it out. Last year I went to visit him in London for our anniversary, and when I got to the airport to go home, there were girls waiting for me there with a scrapbook they made us as a gift.”

“That was nice of them,” Nick said.

“Yeah,” Brittany shrugged. “It was, but the pictures they had in there sort of creeped me out. The first one they had was us walking through the airport in New York… and that picture caused so much drama for me, I didn’t need to see it with sparkly stickers around it, you know?”

Nick gave her a look.

“I guess you don’t know,” she laughed. “But…they just know everything somehow. I’m surprised they don’t know…” she trailed off, biting her lip and staring out the car window. It still made her sick to think about.

Nick watched as Brittany did this and sighed to himself. He didn’t know how to deal with her break-up drama. Especially when he didn’t know what exactly had happened… and he wasn’t sure he wanted to ask because if she started to cry, he didn’t think he would know what to do.

“Are you hungry?” he asked instead.

“What?” she asked, looking back at him as he changed the subject.

“You slept the whole flight. You want to go get something to eat? We could go to Chili’s. There’s one sort of by the hotel,” he suggested.

Brittany wrinkled her nose. “I hate Chili’s. Their food has like, a million calories per bite.”

Nick laughed. “And normally, I’d agree with you, but I think today, it’s okay. Come on, it’s on me.”

She looked over at him. He had the most hopeful look on his face; it was obvious how much he was trying to make her feel better. “Isn’t this whole trip on you?” she asked him, smirking a bit.

“Nah,” Nick said, grinning at her. “It’s on the fans who were dumb enough to pay to go on a tropical cruise in the summer.”

***

A little over an hour later, Nick and Brittany strolled into the Intercontinental Inn in Miami. There were a few fans sitting in the lobby, and Nick waved a quick hello to them before making his way up to their floor.

“They’re not going to follow you?” Brittany asked in disbelief as the two of them stood in the elevator.

“Uh… actually, it was kinda weird that they didn’t,” he admitted, scratching his head. “They must have been the few sane ones.”

As soon as they stepped off the elevator onto their floor, they noticed Kevin and Brian standing in the hallway.

“Hey Kev,” Nick said brightly. “Bri.”

“Hey,” Kevin said, nodding at Nick and looking down at Brittany.

“Oh,” Nick said, looking at his bandmates a little awkwardly. “Yeah, I decided to bring Brittany with me. You know, give her a little vacation since she’s been working so hard,” he grinned, deciding not to go into the whole story for her sake.

“Hey guys,” Brittany smiled friendlily. She’d met the other members of the Backstreet Boys, but only once or twice before.

“Hey,” Kevin said, returning her smile. He fished through his pockets and looked back at Nick. “Here’s your room key, you’re in 317.”

“Thanks…” he said, taking the key from Kevin. “I guess we should get you a room,” he said, turning to Brittany.

“Uh, the hotel’s full,” Brian finally spoke up, looking at Nick.

“What? How’s that even possible?”

Kevin gave Nick a look. “Because we announced on the site that there was a deal here… and that we would be staying here.”

“Oh,” Nick responded, then looked down at Brittany, who was watching all of this unfold while staying quiet. “Well, if you want I can crash with one of these guys and you can have my room.”

She shrugged. “It’s fine. I’ll stay with you.”

“Okay, well, I guess we’d better go get ready to go down to the club…” Nick said, picking up his suitcase and intending to walk over to his room, but Kevin stopped him.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” he asked, then eyed Brittany. “It’s private group stuff.”

“Uh, sure,” Brittany said, glancing up at Nick.

Nick just shrugged and handed her the room key. She took it and wheeled her suitcase down the hall, in search of the room.

Once Brittany was out of earshot, Kevin wasted no time. “What are you thinking, man?” he asked, shaking his head.

“What?” Nick asked, knowing full well that Kevin was going to start lecturing him about Brittany. He’d known that the moment he’d seen the two of them standing in the hall. Just his luck – why couldn’t it have been AJ and Howie? Or Howie and Kevin?

Really, any combination that wasn’t Kevin and Brian would have been ideal.

“Don’t play dumb,” Kevin said. “Are you serious right now?”

“Uh, yeah?” Nick squinted his eyes at Kevin. He didn’t really want to hear Kevin’s lecture, and he wasn’t even sure why he was still getting them, to be honest. At thirty-four years old, Nick was getting tired of hearing Kevin’s fatherly advice.

Brian and Kevin exchanged a glance, and Nick rolled his eyes. “Why’d you bring her here?” Brian finally asked.

Nick shrugged. “I told you, she needed a vacation.”

“And you thought that the best way to give her one would be to bring her on a crazy Backstreet Boys cruise? This isn’t a vacation, Nick, it’s work,” Kevin said seriously. “She’s not going to have fun, she’s going to be bored out of her skull. We don’t have time to babysit.”

“Whoa,” Nick said, holding up his hands for Kevin to stop. “First of all, you don’t have to ‘babysit,’ she’s twenty-one and can take care of herself. Second, I didn’t want her hanging out in LA all alone, getting into trouble.”

Again, Kevin and Brian shared one of their glances.

“You know, I’m standing right here,” Nick said, looking at the two of them.

“Sorry Nick,” Brian sighed. “It’s just that… it’s things like this that caused Lauren to leave you…”

Nick’s eyes widened. He hardly talked about the fact that Lauren had broken up with him six months ago, and hated it when anyone brought it up. She’d left him – there wasn’t much he could do about that. Though he knew full well the issues that Lauren had with all the time he spent with Brittany, Nick maintained that she had just been just an artist he was managing. She was still just an artist he was managing.

“You know,” Brian continued, looking at Kevin for support. “Your conquests.”

“My conquests?” Nick spat. “Are you serious right now? She’s not a fucking conquest, Bri. She’s just a girl who I work with who I decided to bring on the cruise because she looked sad and like she needed something to do for the weekend. So I gave her something to do.” He ran a hand through his hair and glared at Kevin. “Don’t give me that look,” he said.

“I wasn’t giving you any look,” Kevin replied with a slight laugh. “You’re just getting awfully defensive.”

“And you’re pissing me off,” Nick said bluntly. He didn’t have time for their accusations. Once Lauren was out of the picture, it was like everything had gone right back to how it had been when he was in his twenties. The guys didn’t trust his decisions. They knew what was best for him. Or at least, they thought they did. “She’s not a fucking conquest,” he said again, through gritted teeth. “That would make me the shittiest person ever.”

“Okay, Nick,” Brian sighed. “Sorry.”

But Nick didn’t care to hear his apologies. “Whatever. I’m going to get ready to go to the club,” he said, walking away from them and heading towards his room. He took a deep breath and tried to shake off Brian and Kevin’s comments.

Because really, Brittany wasn’t a conquest.

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