Chapter 23 – Not To Blame

I woke up the next morning to something I had never experienced before. Well, that’s not entirely true. Things like this had happened, but not exactly like this. Danica and I had woken up next to each other the morning before, but that was different. It had been awkward and neither of us knew what to do. This morning, well it was still kind of awkward, but sort of comfortable at the same time. I don’t really know if that makes a lot of sense. I looked over at her, still sleeping.

If there was something I could have done to make everything better and to make all the drama go away, you can bet I would have done it. As much as I wasn’t looking forward to talking to Brian, it was just something that I was going to have to do eventually.

I don’t really know that it was fair for him to talk to Dani first. Whatever he said obviously upset her, and it really should have been me that he was angry at. I mean I guess the whole plan was Dani’s idea and all, but I was the one who’d been dicking around not knowing if I actually wanted to be with her or not. I was the one who told Brian it was cool for him to date her, and that I didn’t want to be with her.

So of course what did I go and do? As soon as I saw them together I got crazy jealous and took her from him because I thought it was my right or something… because we were fake dating. I don’t even fucking know.

Yeah it’s okay, you can say it. Dick move, Nick. Dick move.

Either way, there was nothing I could do about that now. Brian was royally pissed off and I had to fix it. I didn’t really have a choice. We had to spend all of our time together whether we liked it or not and eventually Kevin was going to give me hell.

Speaking of Kevin, there was a loud knocking on the door which jolted me awake. Not that I wasn’t already awake, but you know that kind of awake where you’re conscious but kind of still sleeping and thinking about stuff? Yeah, that’s what I was doing.

“Get up Nick! We have to be at the airport in fifteen minutes.”

Fuck. Looks like even though we’d had a nice heart to heart, Kevin was still Kevin. At least that was still normal.

Danica woke up quickly too. I mean, who wouldn’t? Kevin’s not a quiet guy.

“Mornin’” She said, her eyes still sleepy. It was adorable. I hate being a lovesick moron, but with her I couldn’t exactly help it.

“Hey.” I replied quickly, kissing her on the forehead. I jumped out of the bed and started getting dressed in my scattered clothes from the night before. “Our flight leaves soon. Kevin is pissed.”

Dani rolled her eyes, but I knew better. I knew she was scared of Kevin. “Okay.” She said, giving me a sad smile. As I tossed clothes her way, she quickly got dressed. “Nick…”

“Yeah?” I looked at the clock on the night stand. It was 6:15 in the morning. I could probably blame my tardiness on the fact I’d only had about three hours of sleep. For a second I thought I might be able to sleep on the plane, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Not with serious talks and the fact that we were 35,000 feet up in the air. I hate flying. Today sucked.

“Thanks for last night.” She said finally.

“No need to thank me, baby.” I grinned. I knew what she meant, but I didn’t want this to turn into a big serious feelings fest. There was going to be enough of that later.

I guess she understood, because she just smiled, jumped off the bed and grabbed her bag.

As we left the room, I looked at the bathroom. A shower would have been nice. That was first on my list of things to do once we got wherever we were going.

Dani squeezed my hand and gave me another one of those sad but hopeful smiles she’d had on her face all morning. “See you later.” She said before wandering off to meet the other dancers.

“Mornin’ fellas.” I said, as I met up with the others. I scratched the back of my head and tried to look casual, but I don’t think I succeeded.

“Finally lose your virginity last night, Carter?” AJ snickered. Kevin gave AJ a look, and he shut up though. I didn’t say anything back.

The thing was, I couldn’t care less about AJ’s stupid comments, because that’s all they really were. I don’t even think he was mad at that point; he just liked to push my buttons. I could probably still hang out with AJ and things would be fine. I couldn’t even look at Brian though. Not without feeling like total a total shit.

Kevin just went on with our morning huddle like it was business as usual. I guess it was just another day for everyone else. Maybe I was reading way too much into things. Dani’s drama queen-ness was rubbing off on me probably.

I had to say though, I liked our little morning meetings. Just the five of us, no one else. That was kind of nice, since we were always surrounded by a bunch of people we didn’t know telling us what to do. It always made me feel like we were in this together, and it was about us, not about some managers wanting to make money off us.

Not that morning though. That morning I just wanted to skip all that and go right to the end of the day.

Eventually the (painfully awkward) meeting was over and our bodyguards escorted us into the elevators. I thanked God that I was riding down with Howie, and that the others were in another one. That made it much better.

“Nick?” Howie said as the doors closed.

I kept staring up at the numbers above the door. “Yeah?”

“Brian’s going to get over it.”

I turned to look at Howie. “What?” I mean I knew Kevin knew… but I didn’t think the others knew. As far as I knew the others thought Dani and I had been dating the whole time.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.” Howie said, giving me an obvious look. “But Brian’s going to get over it, just talk to him.”

I sighed. “That’s what everyone says.”

Howie laughed. “That’s because it’s the truth. You’re his best friend; he’s not going to let this ruin things between you guys forever. He’ll understand eventually. Besides, you and Danica look really happy together. Everyone can see that.”

I love Howie.

~~~

I hate flying. You have no idea. I can’t sleep on the plane at all, and I feel nervous the whole time until the plane slows down after we’ve landed. You’d think that after all the flights I’ve been on, it would be old hat to me now, but nope. Not at all. Never going to happen, man.

This was of course made worse by the fast that I was sitting right beside Brian. I was sure that was Kevin’s doing. I mean, I knew I had to talk to him, but I also knew I didn’t really want to. Evidently Kevin knew that too, so he pushed us together. I guess it was for the best. I guess.

The plane started to take off and I started tapping my foot on the ground, like I always did when I was really nervous. Brian just looked out the window. That made me feel really weird. Usually I think he would have tried to calm me down to take my mind off things. I couldn’t really blame him. He probably wanted me to suffer a bit.

I looked directly in front of myself and studied the tray (which was in its upright locked position) very carefully. It was only a two hour flight. Only two hours and I would be safely back on the ground. I was going to get on my knees and kiss it.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Maybe if I calmed down a bit I’d actually be able to sleep, because those three hours was really getting to me. My eyes felt really heavy, plus if I fell asleep I might not have to talk to Brian. It didn’t seem like he wanted to talk to me anyway…

I was jerked awake for the second time that day, but this was a lot more terrifying. I know, more terrifying than Kevin? Trust me. We were going down, and I’m not even fucking kidding. The plane was taking a nose dive towards the ground, or at least that’s what it felt like. The pilot was shouting things over the intercom, and the flight attendants were freaking out, moving carts and stuff.

That’s how I knew it was really bad. If you want to know if you’re okay on a plane, just watch the flight attendants. If they’re okay, you’re okay.

We were definitely not okay.

I thought about everything that was fucked up in my life. Danica wasn’t on our plane, she was on a different flight with the other dancers. She’d be crushed… I wanted to tell her I loved her. Or that I really liked her a lot. I didn’t think she would have minded me saying it that time though. Not when I had like 5 minutes left to live.

And suddenly my fight with Brian didn’t matter any more. I grabbed his hand and held on to it for dear life.

“What the hell, Nick?” He nearly shouted, pulling his hand away from me. The fuck? I mean, I knew he was pissed at me but this was a life or death situation here!

I closed my eyes, this was not happening, this was not happening…

When I opened my eyes again, I was still holding Brian’s hand, and he was giving me the most confused and angry look I’d ever seen him give. I pulled my hand away from him and looked around. The flight attendants were pushing carts around normally; Kevin and Kristin were sitting normally, reading their books and the plane was definitely not moving downward at top speed.

“We’re not crashing anymore?” I asked Brian stupidly. I didn’t really care that he was annoyed with me. Life. Or. Death.

He still gave me that annoyed look. “We were never crashing, Nick.”

AJ popped his head up from the seat behind me. “You fall asleep for an hour and you have a plane crashing dream?” He laughed in disbelief as he fell back down into his spot. I shook my head and looked at Brian for support.

“Sorry, Rok.” I said sheepishly.

“It’s fine.” He replied, gazing out the window again.

I sighed to myself. This sucked. I might as well started having my talk with him, now that I’d already got the ball rolling with my (very real) plane crash freak out. “I meant… I’m sorry for everything. With Dani…and stuff…”

That got his attention away from the window. “You’re sorry?”

“Yeah…” That was what I said!

“Do you expect me to just say it’s okay and pat you on the back?” He asked bitterly.

“Yeah…I mean no.” I didn’t know what I was supposed to say.

“Why’d you do it?”

I looked around. Kevin and Kristin were still reading their books, but Kevin was probably listening. AJ and Howie were both wearing headphones, probably sensing the impending drama that was about to come from in front of them. Why couldn’t Howie go into peacemaker mode?

I guess because I had to get myself out of this mess. I wasn’t very good at that stuff.

“I didn’t mean to. I mean, I know you expected me to say that, but it’s true! I didn’t have any feelings for her, and I didn’t think I was going to. She liked me… but I couldn’t turn her down because I just didn’t know what to do and I didn’t want her to not be friends with me…”

Brian raised an eyebrow. “So you’re only sleeping with her because you didn’t want to turn her down?”

No! God, why wouldn’t he let me finish? “No… that’s why I told you that you could ask her out. I thought if she fell in love with you instead she’d forget all about me. She probably would have been better with someone like you anyway.”

He looked hurt. That was probably the wrong thing to say… but it was the truth. And I still kinda felt like that. That Dani would be better with Brian. He was better at relationships than me, but yet here I was trying to fix everything.

This time he didn’t interrupt me, so I continued. “But I saw you guys kissing and I just felt sick. Like she should have been kissing me, not you, you know?”

“She was on a date with me, Nick. I think it was fair game that she was kissing me, and not you.”

Okay, fine. He was right about that. “I know. I was just jealous. Cause I realized I was being stupid and scared… cause Dani was my friend and if I wanted to date her I’d have to respect her and not be a total relationship wad… I didn’t know if I could commit to that. But when I saw you with her, I just wanted to take her from you and I know I suck but that’s how I felt.”

Brian looked away from me and out the window again. “And you couldn’t just tell me you were feeling this way? Instead of me finding out from her running into Kevin’s hotel room and kissing you?”

“I was going to tell you… I didn’t know she was going to do that…” That was a total lie.

“That’s bullshit and you know it. You had chances to tell me, and you didn’t.”

He knew me too well, but I had to level with him. “Look, Bri. I’m sorry, that’s really all I can say. She wanted me though… there was nothing either of us could do about that. If she wanted to be with you instead she would have chosen you, but as soon as I told her how I felt she was right there with me.”

He was quiet for a minute. The flight attendant came by and asked us if we wanted anything to drink. Brian shook his head and I contemplated ordering beer for us. Beer always makes things better between dudes. I knew that if I did that, Kevin would interject and not let me anyway. That and it was like nine in the morning. So I just asked for a Coke.

“I’m happy for you guys.” He finally said.

Did I just hear that right? “What?”

“I’m happy for you. I’m hurt that you didn’t feel like you could come to me, but you’re right. She wants to be with you.” He smiled for the first time since we’d sat down next to each other.

“Do you think that makes her stupid?” I asked cautiously. I sucked at relationships. I knew I was going to end up hurting her.

“No.” Brian replied at the same time Kevin said “Yes.” from in front of me.

I told you he had been listening!

“I’m not a good enough boyfriend for her.” I said, playing with my fingers. I was sure that was what Brian thought too, that he would have been much better with her than me. He was probably right about that, but what could I do?

“I don’t think that’s true, Nick.” He seemed to be back to reliable, advice giving, non hating me Brian. That was nice… I was happy it was so easy for us to go back to normal. I guess Kevin and Howie were right after all. “Just show her you love her.”

I scoffed. “I told her that I did and she freaked out.”

Brian rolled his eyes. “I didn’t say tell her. I said show her.”

See? He was so much better at relationships than I was.

“How?”

“Just do something nice together. All your relationship has been up to this point is drama and angst.” He advised.

He was definitely right about that. The thing I’d liked most about being friends with Dani was how much fun we’d had together. We’d done none of that since our whole relationship started. “Thanks Bri… are we good?”

“What?”

“Is everything cool with us now?” I thought it was, but you never know.

Brian smiled, he even laughed a little bit. “Yes Nick, everything is cool with us now.”

I wanted to give him a hug. When the plane finally touched the ground and slowed down I felt more relief that I probably ever had in my life.

And no, I didn’t actually kiss the ground.

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