By: Chaos and Raven
There has to be a limit for how many times you can be asked the same stupid fucking question before you snap and kill that final unfortunate person who asks. Nick reached that point three hours ago. He is tired and annoyed and wants a shower really, really badly. He wants to gouge out the eyes of the reporter who had been chasing him around all night. He tries to leave, and is stopped in his tracks by the Glare o' Doom, courtesy of his mother. He wants to gouge out her eyes, too. Bitch.
"Nickolas, you can't leave yet." She still has that sour look on her face.
He wants to say 'Fuck you, it's my life,' but what comes out is the beginning of an apology. "I was just--"
"Nick! There you are. We're ready. Are you?"
He's interrupted by a smooth bass voice and high laughter. Nick turns to see Lance Bass and his own younger brother walking up to them. Lance has an arm around Aaron's shoulders and grins conspiratorially at Nick.
"Allons-y," Aaron says happily. Nick doesn't remember French being part of his curriculum.
"Jane, nice to see you again." Lance looks as though it's anything but. He turns to Nick. "You ready to kick it?"
"Um, sure." He's not quite sure what Lance is talking about but it sounds like freedom.
"Wait a minute. Where are you going?"
Lance rolls his eyes and cuffs Aaron playfully. "You forgot to tell your mom? You're just all kinds of trouble, AC."
Aaron turns his big brown eyes to their mom, and Nick knows whatever it is, they're going. "We're going back to Lance's to hang out and stuff. It's okay, right?"
She sighs and looks Lance over, as if trying to find fault with him. "You have an interview in the morning," she says.
Aaron shakes his head. "Nuh-uh, it was rescheduled. I'm free until Monday. I checked. I'll call you tomorrow," he says as he leads them away. "C'mon, Nick."
Despite himself, Nick is impressed. Aaron has already learned the fine art of asking but not waiting for the answer. Nick still has problems with that sometimes. He hates to disappoint people.
Lance and Aaron talk animatedly the entire trip to Lance's house. Nick stopped listening after the first five minutes. They converse in a complicated mess of inside jokes. Occasionally, Aaron throws in a French phase and Lance beams at him. It's mildly disconcerting. Nick wasn't even aware that Aaron and Lance knew each other.
The house is big but not sterile. Lance pulls into the garage and leads them through the kitchen. Nick follows them into the living room. There are pictures all along the wall, and even one of Aaron on a side table.
"Make yourself at home," Lance says. It's clearly directed to Nick because Aaron is already fiddling with the sound system. "I don't know about you guys, but I need a shower."
"I could actually use a shower, too," Nick replies. He wouldn't ask, but he feels just immensely gross.
"Oh, no problem. I have a few bathrooms."
"Can I go in the pool?"
Lance rolls his eyes. "It's ten PM."
Aaron simply stares back.
"I suppose I can be persuaded. But," he adds before Aaron can rejoice, "if I find a single drop of water anywhere on my hardwood floors, I will personally see to it that you are dismembered, so get a towel before you go out."
"You are such a freak," Aaron says.
If Nick hadn't been watching so closely, he might have missed it. If he knew his younger brother even the slightest fraction less, he wouldn't have even noticed. Aaron's nose scrunches up, his eyes go soft, and he smiles. Lance smiles back sweetly, but Nick doesn't notice that. He knows that face that Aaron made.
Lance watches Aaron leave, and Nick watches Lance. There's no way to describe what he's feeling at the moment. It's angry and hurt and betrayed. Aaron, his baby brother, and Lance, who is supposed to be one of the good guys. Nick turns and fists the front of Lance's shirt before he can think about it.
"Nick! What the hell?"
"What the fuck are you doing with my little brother, Bass?"
To Nick's surprise, Lance relaxes in his grip. "I wasn't sure you'd notice," he says finally.
"Wasn't sure I'd notice? He's sixteen you fucking asshole."
Lance drops his head back against the wall with a loud 'thunk'. "I know, believe me. Can I just explain? It's not exactly what you think."
"This had better be good," Nick says with narrowed eyes. He's been reflexively clenching and unclenching his fist. The urge to punch Lance in the face is still running strong.
"It was, um, just after the Grammy's. We were at the same party and I was just kind of watching people. He was talking with this guy and it was -- it was so obvious what was going on. Aaron... it was like he was planning it." Lance pauses, gathering his thoughts. "Your brother is a good kid, Nick. But he's so confused about what's expected of him.
"I went over and basically intimidated the guy into leaving. Aaron told me, he said 'I'm just going to find someone else so don't waste your time'." Lance's eyes close. "I decided I would be that guy for him. I thought it would be better than having him party hop and picking up strange gross older men."
Nick is trembling. He doesn't know where to direct this unmanageable fury. "So you figured you'd just fuck my baby brother? Save everyone else the trouble."
"No!" Lance's eyes snap open. A look of sheer horror crosses his face. "We don't! Jesus Christ, Nick. Give me a little credit. He's sixteen. I'm not, I'm not like that. He wanted a boyfriend, not the sex. Someone forgot to explain that the two can be mutually exclusive."
"So it's our fault?" Nick snaps.
"That's not what I'm trying to say. He likes having this secret," Lance says, changing directions. "We don't do more than kiss a little and cuddle. I swear, it's nothing more than that."
Nick smacks the flat of his palm hard against the wall. "Fuck! Fuck. What am I supposed to do? Just let this go on? You're like, ten years older than him."
"Eight," Lance says softly. "And yes, just let it go on. If you don't, what do you think he'll do?"
Nick sighs, defeated. "He's just a kid. Why can't he date someone his own age?"
"If I thought that would work, I'd have already found someone for him," Lance says. "If it makes you feel better, I do genuinely care for him. When it's over, I don't think he'll be the one with the broken heart."
Lance says it with a smile so it takes Nick a second to catch on. "That's..."
"Isn't it though? Come on, might as well hop in the shower before Aaron gets bored of the pool. There are only so many laps you can swim."
Lance shows him to the guest shower and leaves him with clean towels. Nick turns the water all the way hot and lets it burn his skin. He doesn't like the situation he's in now. If nothing else, Lance is right about Aaron. About what will happen if Nick tells them they have to stop. He worries enough as it is without adding that to the list. Aaron off with strange men.... He shudders.
Lance isn't downstairs when Nick gets out of the shower, but Aaron is now on the sofa watching TV. It's some old movie starring Cary Grant. He doesn't recognize it but then again, he doesn't like black and white movies much. Aaron grins up at Nick as he walks into the room. He's still wearing his towel and Nick hopes to god there's something under it.
They're both curled up on the couch when Lance comes down a few minutes later. Cary is staring deeply into some girl's eyes but Nick's not watching closely. Lance sits in the armchair across from them and Aaron's eyes barely flicker over to him.
"Come on, Lance. Don't be scared. Join the cuddle," Nick says.
Lance raises an eyebrow and then slides out of his chair and pads across the room. Aaron may hide disappointment well, but he can't smother the happy grin that breaks out when Lance drops into the empty space next to him. Nick thinks it might be okay, the way that Aaron looks at Lance. It's a lot like love and respect and friendship. Not a bad combination, especially when Lance reflects it back at Aaron.
"Can you believe he enjoys this crap?" Lance says to Nick. "What teenager likes old movies?"
"Keep it up, and I'll lose the remote." Aaron retorts.
Lance grins and ruffles Aaron's hair. He turns his head into Lance's palm and Nick can't see it, but he can imagine that look again.
"I put a pizza in the oven," Lance says. "I know Aaron will be hungry and I figured it would hurt for us grown-ups to have some substantial food."
"Pizza!" Aaron cheers.
"Do you guys want something to drink?" Lance asks. "I have soda, milk, water, and beer."
"Beer." Both Carter brothers reply.
Lance shoots Aaron a look that says 'you must be joking'. "So, beer and water," he says. "Come help me carry, Aaron. I only have two arms."
Nick watches over the back of the sofa as Lance and Aaron walk into the other room. Lance's hand rests on Aaron's lower back, and he guides the teenager in front of him. If it weren't so obvious what they're doing, Nick would follow them. Instead, he forces his attention on the television and tries not to think of Lance carefully touching Aaron's face. Tries not to think of them kissing.
Aaron is his baby brother. Nick would do anything to make Aaron happy. Right now, anything means pretending he's okay with Aaron and his older boyfriend. It means ignoring the fact that Aaron and Lance are probably kissing in the other room. He doesn't want Aaron noticing girls, much less boys.
Lance comes back with a chilled glass for Nick. Aaron is a step behind him with two tumblers of water. Lance detours back into the kitchen and brings out a plate filled with pizza and a handful of paper towels.
They finish the food and watch the rest of the movie. Lance and Aaron are not too obvious about their affections, a fact that Nick is distinctly grateful for. He is resolved to adjust to their relationship. It's just going to take him a while.
Lance rinses off the dishes before leading the two Carters upstairs to the guest bedrooms. "There are three spare rooms, pick whichever ones you want," he says. "My room is down the other way."
Aaron steps into the first bedroom he comes across and shoots Lance a significant look. Smiling at Nick, the other man follows. He tips the door shut but it drags on the carpet and stays open.
It makes him feel dirty for invading his brother's privacy, but Nick stays by the door.
"Why can't I stay with you?" Aaron asks.
"Baby, your brother is being nice enough to not slap me with statutory rape charges. I don't want to press my luck. Maybe he'll get used to it and you can sleep with me again, but not until then when he's around."
He sighs. "Nick's prolly going to want to be around a lot more after this, huh?"
"I would assume so," Lance says. "He's being very cool about it, Aaron. You really ought to thank him."
"I know, I just. I wanted to wait to tell him, not have him find out."
Nick hears the soft wet sounds of kissing.
"It'll be okay. Only two more years, right?" Lance tries for lighthearted. "I'm sure by then the novelty of having a sexy older boyfriend will have worn off. You'll be seducing elderly matrons with too much money while I bemoan my loss."
There's a long silence and then the sheets rustle a little.
"Don't say that. I'm not going to get sick of you. I love you," Aaron says quietly.
Nick's chest seizes up for a minute. Aaron isn't the kind of person to say anything lightly and if he thinks he loves Lance, he probably does. He reevaluates Lance's assessment of the situation. With any luck, there won't be broken hearts on either side.
"I love you, too. I just... worry. Things change pretty quickly when you're sixteen."
"Maybe if we were having any sort of sex at all you could worry about that. I can get the sex anywhere. We know that. I want more," Aaron says earnestly.
"I'm only occasionally insecure," Lance replies with a slight laugh. "So long as you're happy, Aaron, it's good enough for me."
"Well, okay then. Good night."
There is another pause for them to kiss.
"Good night, Lance."
Nick takes a step away from the door, but it's not far enough to be inconspicuous when Lance emerges into the hall. Lance jerks his head up when he notices Nick standing there staring at him.
"I guess you heard all that?"
"Yeah." Nick admits. "I didn't quite mean to. Just." He shrugs helplessly.
Lance shakes his head. "No, it's okay. Unless you're upset by it?"
"Not... really." Nick says carefully. "It's good you guys talk about things. I, he's really lucky that you were there. That you cared enough to do something. And thanks, you know, for taking care of my little brother."
Lance looks a little surprised. "Um, you're welcome. I care about him a lot."
"He means it, about not changing his mind."
"He means it as much as he can." Lance corrects. "I know he doesn't have plans to run off. And I know I'm a little paranoid because I can be a shitty boyfriend. Things change, though. I just want to be prepared if I do have to save myself from a broken heart."
Nick nods seriously. "Don't go chasing him off just to save yourself some imagined trauma. I know for a fact his big brother will kick your ass."
"I expect nothing less." Lance smiles. "Good night, Nick."
Nick grins back. "Night, Lance."
He walks into the next available room and strips out of his jeans. It wasn't what he would have chosen, but it obviously wasn't his choice to begin with. Maybe it would prove amusing to keep their mother off the scent of Lance and Aaron's romance. Nick might even cultivate a friendship with the other members of *NSYNC just to really piss her off. His last thought before drifting off is to ask Lance for Joey's phone number.