backstreet boys

Fiction by Pen . . . . . not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

Fallen Down I'm Still Alive

written for MTYG 2016

“I’m sorry, Brian. I have to make the call, and in the circumstances, there’s only one call I can make. You’re out.”

* * *

“How d’you feel about working out a whole new show?” Johnny had a knowing twinkle in his eyes as he posed the question. “Something exciting enough that people will choose to visit this park just so they can see it. Are you up to it?”

“Heck, yeah!” said Brian. He was ready. Ever since Reed had moved on and Brian had moved up to team leader, he’d been hoping for the chance to show what he could do—beyond the skills that had gotten him where he was—and he couldn’t suppress the grin that spread across his face. Didn’t want to hide how pleased he was, anyhow.

“They want something different this time,” Johnny said. “Not a show that's just a sequence of great stunts, obviously the stunts have to be real thrillers, but they want more, they want a story. To get the audience really involved.”

“Are they looking to tie in with any particular movie, or—?”

“No. A general stunt spectacular, but with plot. I can put you in touch with someone in the writing team if you want, but it’s your call.”

“I’d rather see what the team can come up with on our own,” Brian decided. Secretly, he thought that having 'writers' for rides and suchlike was a real stretch. It wasn't like a rollercoaster needed a script. Anyhow, he was certain his team could devise a basic plot and a bit of dialogue. “I mean, we’re not talking about anything complex, are we?”

“I kinda doubt it,” Johnny said. “Okay. I’ll leave it with you. I want to see an outline a week from today. We can bring in a writer to polish the dialogue later. And I’ll get my assistant to email you the budget, it’ll be comparable to what we’ve been working with, but we’re boosting it some. I’m hoping for twenty per cent, but I haven’t persuaded Accounting yet. Should have something tomorrow.”

“I’ll look at putting the extra money into spectacle. I think the team we have will be enough.”

“All right, then.”

*

Nick, Howie and AJ whooped when he gave them the news. They all knew the show had been getting stale for a while now. Chris and Joey, who worked at That Other Park, had mocked them about it last time they all got together for a friendly drink after work, and Brian knew his guys would be glad to have something fresh.

“It’s gonna be a lot of work,” he said. “We still have to put on the current show every day even though we’ll be rehearsing a new one in the mornings, and I don’t want anyone getting careless. People come to see amazing stunts, they don’t want to see someone get killed.”

“Some of them do,” AJ said, darkly.

“They’re on vacation,” Brian said. “They want a good time. They don’t mind a scare, but they want a happy ending.”

“So, you got any ideas for the story line?” Nick said. “Are we going to use horses?”

“I think it has to be cars,” Brian said, regretfully. He loved going ‘old school’, he’d been riding horseback practically since he could walk, and his first stunt job had been in a Wild West scenario. “We can do a lot more spectacular stuff with cars. Audience don’t understand the skills you have to use when you ride, but they all know about cars.” Since he’d retired his favorite horse, it wasn’t that hard a decision to make.

“Can we hire a stunt woman?” Howie was nearly always The Girl. “I mean, I’m okay playing the heroine, but it’d be nice to get a change.” Even with the new rules about employing a female stunt performer where possible, it wasn’t always possible to find a woman with the skills they needed. The good stunt women went to Hollywood as soon as they could, and no stunt team needed someone who didn’t have the skills.

“I… will see if we can find someone,” Brian said. “I think we’ll have a little leeway in the budget, but she has to be someone really good who actually wants to stay with us. And you may have to understudy.”

“Yeah.” Howie looked resigned but not unhappy. He knew Brian would do his best.

*

In the end it was Brian who came up with the storyline. AJ was, as usual, the villain, with Nick as his sidekick. Funny how that worked out, really, because AJ was a sweetheart, and Nick was… well. Brian tried not to think too much about what Nick was, because that line of thinking was never going to go anywhere. Nick was a good ‘heavy’, he could slouch and sulk convincingly. Brian had a store of secret memories of Nick’s goofy, sunshine-filled smile, but Brian tried not to think about that.

He’d even managed to track down a stunt woman who could do most of what he wanted and was willing to learn the rest, so Howie was going to get to be the innocent ‘audience member’ who got dragged into the action by the villains. He’d be good at that, because nobody ever looked at Howie and thought, stuntman. The rest of the cast would be filled in by the corps of regulars, a rookie or two, and maybe one or two ordinary actors who knew enough about stunts to keep out of the way. Brian, of course, would play the hero. Sometimes, he thought it’d be cool to act the villain, but audiences never believed him as a wrong ‘un. Which wasn’t such a bad thing, really.

“You going to stop working and come for a beer?” It was Nick, grinning at him from the doorway.

“I guess…”

“You’ll wear out your eyes looking at that screen,” Nick said.

“I am kinda tired.” Brian glanced at his watch, and was startled. “Guess it has been a long day.”

“Not even you can come up with all the details of the best stunt show in the universe all at once,” Nick told him, as Brian shut down the computer with his plans and budgets and procurement and safety protocols all taking shape. “Let it go for tonight. There’s a new band playing at that club Howie likes.”

“How new?” Brian asked, warily. He knew he was a bit old-fashioned, but he liked his music to have tunes. And words that made sense. Okay, mostly made sense.

“I promise I’ll sneak you out under my coat if your ears start bleeding,” Nick said, and slung his arm over Brian’s shoulders. It was just Nick’s way, hugging people, expressing affection through touch, Brian knew, but the warm weight felt comfortable and right. He wound his arm around Nick’s waist for a moment, then poked him so that Nick squeaked and cringed away. Best not get used to it.

* * *

“I’m sorry, Brian. I have to make the call, and in the circumstances, there’s only one call I can make. You’re out.”

“But—“

“You know it has to be this way.”

* * *

“Maybe next time I can be on your team?” Nick said, plaintively, dusting himself down after a spectacular flip-and-fall. “It’d be nice to win, once in a while.”

“Nah, the audience loves the David and Goliath thing you got going on,” AJ said. “You’re the biggest on the team, you have to be a baddie.” AJ was growing a truly ugly beard. In preparation for the show, he said, but Brian had seen him stroking the crinkled mass when he’d thought nobody was looking. AJ had had some seriously weird face fungus in his time, but this one was the worst. Brian couldn’t deny, though, that it looked mighty villainous.

Everything was working out great so far. The team had thought up some exceptional stunts, and Johnny had approved everything—including the stuff Brian had thought he’d have to fight for—and told them full steam ahead. They had a storyline, which was mostly an excuse to get them from one stunt to the next, but which also had a couple twists in it that Brian was proud of, like his heroine getting into a spectacular fight with tough guy Nick and rescuing herself. Alicia was shaping up well, and what she didn’t know she was eager to learn.

Still, right now Nick looked a bit battered, after practising his fight with Alicia for most of the morning. He still had to perform in this afternoon’s show. “Okay,” Brian said, “I’m calling it for now. Go get lunch, everybody, and back to prep as usual for the three o’clock.” It was the quiet season, which meant only one show a day, but with the new show in prospect they were at least as busy as in high season. They had two shows tomorrow and Sunday, because weekends were busy whatever the time of year, but they wouldn’t be working on the new show in the mornings as well, so he could get a lie-in in the morning.

“You busy tonight?” Nick said as Brian gathered his notes from today’s session.

“Tonight? I have to get this integrated into the plan,” Brian indicated his collection of paper, “but I guess I’ll be done by seven. Maybe sooner, if I don’t get any new ideas.”

“No more new ideas!” Nick pleaded. “I don’t think we can fit in any more.”

“Hmm. I’m still not sure about the fire barrels,” Brian said. “I think we could do something better with that beat, but I don’t know what.”

“Have the sidecar separate from the bike?” Nick suggested as they headed back indoors.

“I wondered about that, but I’m not sure Alicia has the experience. The sidecar’s tricky to steer, and I don’t want to spook her on her first gig.”

“Maybe you could get Howie in there instead?”

“You know what, that’s not a bad idea. I’m not sure how we fit that into the story, but, yeah. Maybe. Lemme think about it.”

“But not tonight? I mean, you hafta eat, and I’ve been wanting to try that new burger place two blocks east.”

“Yeah, okay. I can’t be working all the time,” Brian agreed, and was rewarded with Nick’s sunny smile.

It was not quite seven when Nick pounded on the office door, but Brian was good and ready to stop for the day, and pleased with his adjustments. Even the revised budget appraisal had seemed to come easy, and Johnny had dropped in for a few minutes to express approval of how the show was shaping up.

Brian’s enthusiasm spilled out as the two of them rode out of the staff lot on Nick’s motorbike—easier to park, Nick had said—and he spent the whole of the brief ride talking about how great everything was going, only to find that he had forgotten to turn on the radio mike in his helmet and Nick hadn’t heard a word.

Never mind. He could say it all again while they waited for their food.

It was a bit of a surprise when they settled at a table for two.

“Isn’t anybody else coming?”

“No, just you and me. Is… is that okay?”

“Sure. It’s fine.” Part of Brian wanted to say, It’s great! He could pretend it was a date. But that would be foolish. So he re-launched the whole excited spiel about the show, and as Nick was enthusiastic about it too, the conversation went well. It flowed on from there to talking about their families and how Nick’s kid brother was following in his footsteps, as a juvenile performer in a show at That Other Park.

“Aaron says I’d be fussing over him all the time if he worked here,” Nick said, “but I think it’s nice if family can work together. I mean, it’d be cool, don’t you think?”

“I guess it could be awkward,” Brian said, “but I don’t see why it couldn’t work out. I used to work with my cousin, but he moved out west a while back. That was a lot of fun. Kevin’s mostly kinda quiet, but he has a wicked sense of humor and we pulled some amazing pranks.” So of course he had to tell Nick about some of the times they’d had, back in the day, and Nick was giggling like crazy by the time Brian ran out of memories.

“You don’t think there’s anything wrong with working with someone if you have a—a relationship, then?” Nick was so cute when he got that earnest look in his eyes.

“Course not,” Brian said. “I mean, they say you shouldn’t work with someone who’s, like, family, but sometimes it makes things better. More fun, or, more secure—like, I always knew for sure Kevin was looking out for me. I mean, we all look out for each other, but if you’re, uh, closer to one person, then you’re even more aware of what they need. So it can be good. You just have to keep things, you know, balanced.”

“That’s what I think,” Nick said, and stole three of Brian’s fries.

After burgers, which were above average but probably not worth making a special trip for, Nick proposed ice cream, so they walked along to the Italian parlour and indulged themselves with gelatis, and somewhere in the conversation Brian began to have a funny feeling about this. Were they—could this be—were they on a date?

It was hard to figure out, because Nick was the friendly, cheerful companion he always was, except, how else was he gonna behave if this was a date? And he was smiling a lot, and looking at Brian with such warmth in his big blue eyes, except where else was he gonna look, even if this wasn’t a date?

Things got a lot clearer when Nick drove Brian back to his car in the staff parking lot, because Nick kissed him.

*

There was a lot of kissing—a lot of kissing—in the parking lot, in Brian’s hallway, on the beach, on a rollercoaster, and in a very large bed with purple silk sheets, where there was a whole lot more than just kissing, and when Brian woke up next morning he was very pleased with life until he realized that his bed didn’t have purple silk sheets, just ordinary cream cotton ones, and that the things he was remembering so rosily had been a dream.

What had actually happened was that he’d gaped at Nick in astonishment, and Nick, blushing like his face was on fire, had gotten back on his motorbike and out of the parking lot like a bat out of hell, leaving Brian bewildered. But pleased. Definitely pleased. Because even if he hadn’t managed to grab onto Nick and kiss him back, Brian now knew for certain that Nick wanted to kiss him.

Brian was going to make sure it happened again, and this time, he’d be more than ready.

* * *

“I’m sorry, Brian. I have to make the call, and in the circumstances, there’s only one call I can make. You’re out.”

“But—“

“You know it has to be this way.”

"But it's not my fault!"

"Doesn't have to be anybody's fault. I'm still not letting you do this."

* * *

He didn’t have any candles.

This was not usually a problem. He had a wind-up flashlight and two battery ones in case of power outages, so what did he need candles for? But a flashlight wasn’t any use when you planned on having a romantic dinner for two. Brian was determined to show Nick that last night’s kiss had not been a mistake, and the best thing to do, it seemed to him, was invite Nick over to his place for dinner—he could cook a mean steak, and the Cheesecake Factory would provide dessert—and make it clear that there was definitely no need for Nick to run away after kissing Brian.

So right after breakfast he headed into town and straight for the nearest mall. He’d never looked for candles before, ‘cause why would he? But if there was one thing he knew, it was that in any mall in the country, somewhere, there’d be a store selling candles. Yep, there it was, on the second floor.

Brian never took the elevator in any building less than fifteen storeys high. He had a great-uncle who was ninety-four, who told him his two top tips for a long, healthy life. Always take the stairs was one, and the other… Brian couldn’t remember the other. But he always took the stairs. Sometimes he’d race the elevator, and mostly, he won. It was an easy way to keep in shape. So up he went, and went into the candle store, and nearly walked straight out again, dazed by the assault on his nostrils from about a thousand different—mostly horrible—scents. He persevered, though, and found something that smelled okay (a candle that didn’t smell was apparently not an option), so he bought a couple and headed back down the stairs. Next stop, supermarket.

Except someone’s kid left a tin truck on the stairs.

Afterwards, Brian supposed it was ironic. If that was what ‘ironic’ meant, he was never quite sure. He thought it was probably ironic, that a stuntman who spent hours every day falling and jumping and fighting and doing all kinds of dangerous stuff, would be injured while he was out shopping.

Breezing down the stairs, Brian trod on the truck, skidded crazily sideways and was falling before the cry of dismay made it out of his mouth. He knew how to fall, of course he did, he rolled instinctively into a ball, but a fall on concrete stairs that he hadn’t been expecting and wasn’t padded up for…. he clouted both knees and skinned his elbows and tucked and rolled yet somehow caught his shoulder against the handrail and found himself tumbling sideways like a carpet unrolling, desperately protecting his skull with his arms, until he hit the ground with a thump that knocked all the remaining breath out of his body, gasped for air, and when he hauled some into his lungs he could have screamed at the pain which shot through him. And he was dizzy when he tried to get up, his head must have hit an edge somewhere because wow.

Brian lay there in a crumpled heap and tried to breathe very shallowly. Legs appeared in front of him, and concerned feminine voices rang in his ears, and somebody said, call 911 and after a while some guys coaxed him onto a stretcher and asked him his name and he said, “It hurts when I breathe,” and then nothing.

*

They didn’t keep him in the hospital for long. By some miracle his internal organs were undamaged, and the concussion didn’t turn out to be serious—he was under observation for a couple of days, long enough to be sure he could remember his own name and who was president and wasn’t having double vision or deafness or anything else serious, but he was fine. The scrapes on his hands, knees and elbows were cleaned up and would heal soon enough, and bruises all over his body, well, that was nothing new, not in his line of work. It was the broken ribs that were the problem, but, as the attending physician said, there wasn’t much anyone could do to help those heal, and he didn’t need to be in the hospital while they did.

Johnny sent one of his assistants to fetch him home, and Brian managed to persuade the driver to take him to the park, to Johnny’s office, instead of back to his place at the edge of town.

“I’m sorry, Brian. I have to make the call, and in the circumstances, there’s only one call I can make. You’re out.”

“But—“

“You know it has to be this way.”

"But it's not my fault!"

"Doesn't have to be anybody's fault. I'm still not letting you do this."

"Johnny, listen. There's still time. I'll be okay."

“Nine days. Barely enough time to get Lance prepped. And you won’t be fit to go nine days from now, not with your injuries.”

“I’m a fast healer,” Brian protested.

“You’re out.”

“I’ll be better by next week! I can do it. It’s my show, Johnny, it’s my show, I have to be there. For the guys. It’s just a couple ribs!”

“Yes, and the doc says it could take months for them to heal. And meanwhile what if you puncture a lung or get an infection or start bleeding internally? Hell, what if you pass out from the pain, or get out of your head on painkillers and mess up your timing? I know you stunt guys, you’re always insisting that you’re fine, and don’t think I don’t know how you sometimes go on when you’re injured. Why do you think I got management to agree to the on-site medic? I’m not going to sit here and let somebody be killed on my watch because he was too damn pig-headed to do as he’s told and take it easy for a while. You are out.”

“But… but they need me.”

“Howie can handle things. We're bringing in Lance Bass to take over Howie’s role, I know you don’t like it but he’s been working motorbike stunts for years now, he’ll do fine. Howie will get to play the hero until you are cleared to get back to work. By the doctor. I mean it, Brian. I don’t even want to see you on set while you can’t breathe without wincing. Go home.”

The assistant drove him back to his place at the edge of town, helped him get out of the car without wincing too hard, wished him a quick recovery, and waved a cheery goodbye as she got back into the car and eased out of Brian’s driveway.

Brian looked at his neat little house, and sighed, then wished he hadn’t. Breathing carefully and taking everything very slowly he made his way around to the paddock at the back, and was gratified to see Special K, his one-time favorite stunt partner, prick up his ears and walk purposefully towards him. The beautiful black horse nosed hopefully for treats, but Brian didn’t have anything with him right now, and Special K seemed happy enough to be petted, and if Brian maybe wept a couple of tears into his silken mane, the horse wasn’t going to tell anybody.

“It was my show,” Brian mumbled into the sleek black neck. “My show.”

*

The broken ribs made his life miserable. The least effort made him wince. Climbing the stairs to his bedroom had to be done in twos and threes, because he couldn’t get his breath in fast enough to walk up them easily, let alone run up the way he usually did. Even the simple, everyday chores of washing himself or getting food from freezer to microwave brought pain, and when he settled down to watch TV and spotted The Simpsons on the schedule, he regretted it pretty soon because laughing hurt like there was a spiked band around him crushing his chest.

Even worse was the misery of knowing he’d let his team down, that they’d have to go on with the new show—his show—without him. Without him there to make certain everything was perfectly prepped, that everyone knew exactly what he, or she, was doing, that there was nothing left un-checked that ought to have been checked. And Howie was going to be playing Brian’s part, but it had been planned to make use of Brian’s strengths, not Howie’s, and was Howie going to be all right? And Nick, who was going to make sure that Nick didn’t keep trying to do that little bit too much, the way he always tried to give a hundred and ten percent, was Howie going to be able to stop him pushing himself too hard?

Plus, if everything went off perfect, like it had to, it had to, then what was Brian going to do when he was fit to work again?

There was nothing to take his mind off his troubles. The X-Box games had never had much appeal: he did try the airplane simulation a few times, but it was hard to concentrate. The livelier games just reminded him of work, of the job he couldn’t do right now.

He listened to music, although it didn’t exactly cheer him up. Somehow he wasn’t in the mood for anything cheerful, and his collection of country albums supplied heartbreak and regret in abundance, until he had to turn it off and go outside.

He spent quite a bit of time out back, talking to his beloved horse. Special K had been the best stunt horse Brian ever worked with, almost psychic in his ability to understand what his rider wanted, and Brian had bought the horse after Special K was retired, because the horse was more like a friend than a—a colleague. K still seemed to have that psychic link, or so it seemed, for the horse was happy to stand still and let Brian lean his head against his strong neck and talk about his troubles. But he couldn’t lift a saddle onto K’s back, and it would have been beyond stupid to go out for a ride in any case.

Without Special K, Brian thought he’d have gone crazy. Normally, he enjoyed the isolation of his little property beyond the edge of the city, but normally he was seeing folks every day, working with his friends, and it was nice to retreat to peace and quiet. Now, he was alone. And he didn’t understand why he didn’t hear from anyone, except a couple of official letters from Johnny giving him details of his sick leave. His phone was always silent, no missed calls, no missed messages. The only person who visited was the guy delivering the groceries, who Brian had to tip big-time because he’d brought everything right into the kitchen and put some of it away because Brian couldn’t manage.

Brian didn’t understand it. Why didn’t AJ and Howie visit? Where was Nick? He knew they were busy, they’d be even more crazy busy than usual now that they were having to switch things around for the new show. Plus they’d be switching on the old show, he realised, and heck, they must have had to sub someone in for him last Saturday when he had the accident. That was doable, because they always had coverage, but… were they mad at him? Maybe it seemed like he just didn’t turn up, maybe they thought he—what? That he didn’t care? Surely they wouldn’t, they couldn’t think he’d just let them down like that?

But nobody called, nobody visited, and it hurt to breathe, and it hurt even more when the sobs just couldn’t be contained any more.

*

After a seriously uncomfortable night followed by dropping about fifteen things as he tried to make breakfast followed by having to email his mom and assure her he was getting better and she didn’t need to fly in from Kentucky, Brian had been weeping quietly into Special K’s neck when he heard the faint sound of a car pulling up out front. Suddenly conscious that his eyes were red and he was not up to facing whoever the visitor might be, he decided to stay put. Maybe they’d go away.

They didn’t. After several minutes, he heard footsteps crunch across the gravel then heard somebody walk towards him across the grass. The horse blew noisily, backed away from Brian and made a whickering noise that said “I’m done here, you take over” just as if he’d spoken the words, since K promptly cantered across to the far side of the field, leaving Brian alone to face whoever had come to visit.

“Uh. Brian?”

It was Nick.

Brian turned, carefully.

Nick looked pale but resolute. And worried, and, oddly, nervous.

“Hi,” Brian said. He didn’t dare say more, he might burst into tears.

“Um. How are you?”

“Healing, I guess.”

“They—they didn’t—why didn’t you answer your phone?”

“Why didn’t I—because it never rang! Because nobody called me. Not one of you. I mean.” He was going to have to not talk, because if he talked he’d end up shouting and if he shouted he’d end up gasping for breath and that was never good.

“That’s not true! We all called, when you didn’t show up, we thought something must have happened, and we had to switch to the second team lineup, and then Johnny said you wouldn’t be back for the new show and to put Howie into the hero spot and none of us knew what the hell except I thought it was because of me, only today he told us you’re on sick leave so what the hell happened?”

“Nobody called!” Brian was angry now, and fumbled for his phone. “See! Nothing! Not even a text, not from any of you!”

Nick stared at the blank screen. “That’s not right. Man, I texted so many—you didn’t get any of my messages? Wait, how do you get your messages up?” He poked at the phone. Brian let him. There weren’t any messages to see.

“Is this phone even working?” Nick said, puzzled. “I can’t get anything.”

“Oh, give it here.” Brian snatched it impatiently, and winced as the spike of pain shot through his chest. He stared at the phone in bewilderment. He’d checked it so often, looking at the screen and seeing no new messages, but he hadn’t—he tried to swipe, and nothing happened. Nothing worked. “It’s not working,” he said, baffled. “I don’t—maybe it got broke when I fell?”

“Brian, what happened to you?” Nick said. “I mean, you look—“ he gestured at Brian, “you don’t look like there’s anything wrong but you can’t move properly and you can’t work so—what happened?”

“I fell,” Brian said. “Got off easy, except I broke three ribs and I can’t, I can’t do anything and it hurts to breathe and I—“ Immediately, Nick was there, holding him so gently, not hugging him tight but encircling Brian in his arms, and something just broke and Brian sobbed against Nick’s broad shoulder. And it hurt, it hurt to heave in those painful breaths, it hurt to think about how useless he was right now, how he’d let everyone down and lost the best job he’d ever had and the chance that would never come again, but Nick was stroking his hair and murmuring how it would be okay, everything would be okay, until eventually Brian was able to get himself back under control and take the Kleenex Nick offered, and wipe his eyes and his nose.

“Surely Johnny told you?”

“He said you were on sick leave. Today, I mean, he just told us today. He wouldn’t tell us what was wrong, said it was private medical information.”

“So what did you think happened? Like, I just decided not to show up? That makes no sense.”

“I thought. I thought when I—I thought it was because of me.”

Brian stared.

“Because I, uh, kissed you and you didn’t—I thought you’d been looking at me like, you know, and I thought when we had dinner together and you said, about relationships, I thought, only when I kissed you it was like you didn’t expect, maybe you didn’t want, uh, and when you didn’t show up next day I thought… “

Brian felt suddenly lighter, as though a great weight he’d been carrying had floated off. “Then you’re an eeeeejut,” he said. “And I did want. I just—I was surprised. I was gonna, I thought we could have dinner, I went to the mall to get candles, and that was where I fell. I think there was something on the stairs, I don’t remember. Kind of stupid, a stuntman who can’t fall down stairs without breaking his ribs.”

“Oh, baby. No.” Nick moved as though to hug him close, then remembered and stroked his cheek instead. “Broken ribs, man. No wonder you’re on sick leave.”

“It sucks,” Brian muttered.

“Yeah,” Nick said, “but it could have been way worse. And you can’t do fight scenes with broken ribs, and I totally get why Johnny says you can’t come to work because I know you, you’d be trying to make stuff perfect and hurting yourself worse, but hey, you can come watch the new show next weekend when we make our debut. It’s not gonna be the same with Howie as the hero, we had to adapt the hero fight on the catwalk because he seriously is a tiny, tiny person and it just didn’t work, but you know we won’t let you down.”

“Feels like I let you guys down,” Brian said, gruffly.

“Everyone’ll understand. We all want you back, when you're ready."

"I don't know, it feels like there won't be room for me."

Nick took Brian's face between his large, comforting hands. "We want you back," he said. "Trust me." And Brian looked up at him and saw that it was true, and then Nick leant towards him and his lips were right there and he kissed Brian, and this time Brian kissed back, and moved closer to the warmth of Nick's chest, and even in the middle of the best kiss of Brian's life Nick remembered not to squeeze him tight. Nick was amazing. Brian told him so.

"Yeah, and when you come see the show," Nick said, "I won’t let anyone, like, pat you on the back or anything, scout's honor. Come on, let’s get you inside. You need to tell me exactly what hurts and what doesn’t.”

“Okay. Er, I do?”

“Yeah,” Nick said, taking Brian’s hand and letting Brian lead him towards the back porch. “Because, you know that scene in Indiana Jones where Marion gets to kiss the bits of Indy that don’t hurt? I plan on doing that.”

Brian was quite surprised to find out how much of him didn’t hurt.

 

 

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