The first time Brian notices it, he and Nick are talking. With the new schedule and AJ’s problems and the perpetual everything else that is their lives, they haven’t been able to hang out alone, just Frick and Frack, for a long time, so when they finally can all they ever do is talk.
Still, Brian doesn’t mind when Aaron comes in from the other room and listens to them, eyes huge and amused in his thin little face, doesn’t even mind when he plops himself down in Nick’s lap, wrapping his arms around Nick’s neck and looking so content that for a second he seems more like Nick’s girlfriend than his little brother. Its…weird, but so are Nick and Aaron, so he doesn’t really notice anything really strange until he focuses on Aaron’s hand, curling a fist in Nick’s t-shirt, and he realizes that what he at first took for a whisper was really Aaron licking Nick’s jaw.
Brian just kind of stares for a second, because Nick is still talking to him about basketball or church or whatever they were discussing before the world shifted, and running his fingers gently through Aaron’s hair. Finally it hits his brain, though, and he says, “What?”
Nick and Aaron both look up at the same time, two wet mouths falling open. Two pairs of gray-blue eyes focused innocently on Brian’s face, and for a moment he thinks he was just seeing things, but then Nick’s hand sweeps down the length of Aaron’s back to the patch of skin exposed between his t-shirt and his jeans. “What what?” Nick asks, and grins. A single finger slides into the dip of Aaron’s waistband.
“I think…I’ve gotta go,” Brian says, hearing the slow heavy drawl of his own voice in his ears. It takes him a second to get his body moving, but he finally manages to get up and say, “See you later, Frack. Aaron..”
“Bye,” they say in unison, and as Brian closes the door, he swears he can hear a cross between a giggle and a moan.
Brian doesn’t remember anything the next day. That is to say, Brian wishes he doesn’t remember anything the next day, but he does. He wakes from restless sleep and the traces of his remembrance are washed away by the hot harsh beat of the water on his body.
At sound check Aaron is there, and he and Nick terrorize each other the way they always do, Aaron clinging to Nick’s back like a limpet while he tries to sing. They end up talking to some crew guys on the other side of the stage, Nick’s arm around Aaron’s shoulders, and even as they’re carrying on a conversation, they start affectionately slapping at each other. Whatever they’re doing, they don’t seem able to stop touching each other for a second, but its…normal. Sweet, even. Brotherly.
Howie sees him watching and peers over his shoulder, smiling. “Nick looks happier with Aaron here,” he observes. “Maybe we should talk to their dad about Aaron coming with us on the second leg.”
Brian shrugs. “Maybe.”
When he looks back at them, Aaron in on the floor, writhing under Nick’s hands in an ecstasy of tortured laughter. “Ni-i-ick, stop!”
Nick’s hands slide under Aaron’s shirt.
While they’re touring, they always eat dinner together. “Like we don’t see each other enough,” AJ used to sneer, but he likes it now, eats pressed right up against Howie’s side. They all eat on one bed, so there’s not exactly a lot of space to move, but its comfortable. The family that lays together stays together, after all, and Brian assumes that it can apply to eating as well. They’ve had enough laying with each other after Germany. Kevin snores.
Nick shows up that night with a hickey, and the rest of the Boys flirt between teasing and honest disapproval, because none of them have the time to deal with groupies and they’re not supposed to screw the staff. Besides, everyone’s stance pretty much seems to be, “If I’m not getting laid, neither are you,” and no one else is getting laid.
“Shut the fuck up,” Nick finally says, rolling his eyes, “I did it with the vacuum, okay? Can we just eat?”
“Yeah, a cute young vacuum back in your room,” Howie murmurs, and when Nick looks up, his eyes catch Brian’s and twinkle.
“Yep,” he says quietly, and moves his thigh until it’s pressed up against Brian’s, hot through the layers of denim.
Brian doesn’t…dwell. On anything, really, but especially not on this. He’s one of those people who accepts everything with sunny optimism and moves on. He wouldn’t dwell on this. Isn’t.
Of course not, because its just weird, and he’s probably just reading too much into things.
It was really just a whisper.
It was really just a bruise.
Its all really just a lie that he tells himself to be able to sleep at night, until he realizes what kind of person it would make him if he was imagining all this.
Brian pays more attention.
Nick and Aaron kiss, a lot. They’re both very physically affectionate people, quick to hug and easy to touch, so its never a surprise when Nick bends to press a soft kiss to the top of Aaron’s head, or when Aaron turns and lifts a hand to guide Nick’s cheek to his lips. When they kiss, Howie makes the sweetest little cooing noise, and AJ smirks over the top of his sunglasses. Kevin never really notices beyond amused tolerance, but Brian…does.
What’s surprising is not really how often they kiss, but the way they react to it, to just kissing. Aaron will kiss Nick on the temple at breakfast and pull away, breathless and pink. Nick will buss Aaron on the cheek, pull back to look him in the eye, and then look away, smiling secretively.
Its…sweet. Sweet, and beautiful, and Brian tries to pretend that he doesn’t notice, but he can’t.
6. Kiss II
Brian sees them kiss another time, a private time. Its dark but he can still see them, golden boys glinting in the half-light. Nick’s hands pressing Aaron’s hips into the wall, the curve of Nick’s back as he bends almost double just to reach Aaron’s mouth. Aaron on tiptoe, arms wrapped tightly around Nick’s neck.
Pale skin glowing, red mouths, and the pink flash of tongue.
When Aaron whimpers, Brian doesn’t know whether to leave or interfere, but then Aaron’s hands are tangling in Nick’s hair, bringing his head down to his neck, where the soft sound of Nick’s licks and sucks are still audible over the music of Aaron’s moans. When he cracks the door to leave, Aaron catches his eye and makes the barest motion with the hand not buried at the base of Nick’s skull.
For awhile Brian tries to avoid Nick, which is nearly impossible, since they work together, but literally impossible because Nick never gets the message. He will hang all over everyone like a puppy until they yell at him to stop, and then back off only enough for them to feel bad and call him back.
But this time the problem isn’t that he’s hanging all over Brian as it is that he’s hanging all over Aaron. They’re constantly close, hugging, touching. If its just them and Brian, they’ll kiss softly and sweetly without even looking at him, and because of that Brian isn’t sure exactly what they want from him.
He’s not sure what he wants from them, either.
Brian sometimes forgets how big Nick has gotten. He looks at him and expects him to still be that sweet, thin boy with a fringe of blond hair constantly in his eyes.
The hair thing hasn’t changed, but everything else has. Nick towers over Brian now, can pick him up and throw him over one shoulder like Brian’s a damsel in distress, and his demure prettiness has melted into harsh angles and a wicked grin. Brian remembers when they used to share a bed, and he could curl himself around Nick and feel like he could protect him from anything. He wonders if that’s what its like for Nick and Aaron.
Having Aaron around them has always been sort of like having a little Nick, young and bratty and exuberant, wanting so much to be like his big brother that he became a singer for that sort of attention. For Nick’s attention. Aaron has been petted and spoiled and loved since forever, and at first it bothered Nick, but he’s older now, older and wiser, and he pets and spoils and loves Aaron more than the rest of them put together.
Now Aaron is more like Nick than ever, but where Nick has grown large—frighteningly large, it sometimes seems—Aaron has gotten, if possible, smaller. His skin stretches over his face like a mask and his eyes are too large and too tired. He just looks sad where Nick has always looked so constantly, constantly angry.
But that’s TV. This is real life, when they are together, and Nick and Aaron glow like angels with twisted halos, always smiling as they touch. One day Brian walks in on them hugging, just hugging, and Nick smiles at him over Aaron’s head, and its so, so bittersweet.
Maybe Nick wasn’t asking for what he thought Nick was asking for.
Brian can’t help but think on it. Can’t help but think on long pale limbs and blond hair and love, love he knows will stop if he tells Nick its wrong, because Nick has always looked up to him.
Nick and Aaron are beautiful together, beautiful and wrong in ways that make Brian feel guilty for sins he’s not even committing, and he could stop it if he wanted to.
They’re wrong, but they’re beautiful. And it makes them happy.