7. Nick

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Through the tiny holes in the closet door, Nick watches Bailey open the bedroom door to Ian.

Ian throws his hands up as soon as he sees her. "My sister! My twin sister!" He yells, wrapping his arms around her in a bear hug.

"Yep. That's me," Bailey says awkwardly.

"I neeed to taalk to you," Ian says, slurring his words.

Bailey removes his arms from around her back and takes a step backward. "Okay, fine. Just come in here. You're going wake Grandma up."

Ian walks into the room, stumbling over his own feet. "Oh, she's passed out on the recliner downstairs," he says, then whispers, "But she let me have some of her brandy first."

Oh fuck, Nick thinks. Ian cannot hold his liquor for shit.

Ian was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder when he was fifteen. He is totally good as long as he is taking his meds, but they cause his alcohol tolerance to be basically zero.

"Ian, you know you're not supposed to drink," Bailey says, shaking her head.

"One drink never hurt anyone," he says, shrugging.

He walks unsteadily to the bed before flopping down on top of it, staring at the white popcorn ceiling. Bailey follows him but sits on the edge. She glances at the closet door that Nick is hiding behind. "So Ian is there something you needed?"

He turns his head to look at his sister, holding up one wobbling index finger. "Yes. For sure. Just gif me a second to remember wud it was."

Bailey sighs deeply and looks back at the closet. She must assume Nick is watching because she gives him a helpless look.

"Oh yeah!" Ian shouts unexpectedly, making both Nick and Bailey jump.

He stretches his arm for her, but is unable to reach and unwilling to move. "Thank you so much for letting Nick stay here."

Um...what is he doing? Nick is worried, but what can he do? He can't exactly tell him to shut up.

"His home life is really not good, Bailey. He needed to get out of there tonight. That's why I asked him to come here."

Ian's sincere tone must grab Bailey's attention because she turns away from the closet and focuses solely on her brother. "What do you mean?"

Ian continues "His stepdad is a total asshole. Like...a total asshole. Nick has never told me for sure, but I think they fight. Like physically."

"Why do you think that?"

Shut up, shut up, shut up. Nick is mortified, and he hopes it won't get any worse.

Much to Nick's dismay, Ian answers her question. "He'll just have random bruises and shit all the time. Never to his face, but any time I happen to see his chest or back, it's like a fucking rainbow. I used to ask him where he got the bruises, but he would always lie. I stopped asking."

When Bailey turns back toward the closet, her eyes are concerned.

Fuck you, Ian. Nick doesn't want anyone to feel sorry for him. And by the look on Bailey's face, that's exactly what's happening. Probably thinking "Poor little Nick, can't even stand up for himself."

Nick can't look at Bailey's face anymore, so he throws his head back and pinches his fingers on the bridge of his nose. God, if I could just die right now, that would be great.

"Do you want know something I've never told you?" Ian asks her. Nick is grateful that obviously there is going to be a change in subject.

"Um...sure." Bailey sounds nervous.

"Okaaay. But you have to promise to never say anything to Nick," he says playfully.

That gets Nick's attention. He snaps his head forward to look through the slots again. He doesn't know what Ian could be getting ready to say that is worse than what he's already revealed. He holds his breath as he waits for the next words out of his best friend's mouth.

Although Bailey is not looking at him any longer, Nick can tell she is smiling as she says, "I promise."

Ian rolls into his side to face her. "Nick used to have crush on you."

What...the...fuck...

Ian doesn't wait for Bailey to respond. "Yeah. I think we were in junior high. Remember that boy/girl party Mom let us have in the basement?"

"Yeah, kind of."

"Well, right before everyone left--you must have already gone upstairs--a few of us started playing truth or dare."

Nick knows where this story is going and is already thinking of ways he can twist it into something other than the truth.

Ian continues, "It was Nick's turn and he picked truth. I remember I was surprised that he picked that, but I honestly think he just didn't want to play in the first place. You know, that's the great thing about Nick. He is always so willing to help his friends. Because, you see, I wanted to kiss Rachel...Rachel...what was her last name? Oh my God! I had the hugest crush on her. Why can't I remember her name?"

"Jesus Christ, Ian, get to the point!"

"Okay, okay. Geez. So anyway, someone--I don't remember who--asked him who he liked. Of course, he said no one. But then at that exact moment, you came down the stairs. The way Nick looked up at you, I knew the truth. The dude was smitten."

Bailey shakes her head. "But you don't really know. You just guessed..."

"No, no, no. Let me finish. After that night, I started paying closer attention to him when you were around. He would stare at you anytime he thought you weren't looking, and he was like obsessed with messing with you. He would just randomly bring up some prank when we would be in the middle of something else--like he had been thinking about you."

"Oh..."

Ian has more to say. Nick knows he is a talkative drunk, but it's never been at his expense before. Although maybe he should be, he's not mad. Ian doesn't even know what he's saying right now.

Ian rolls onto his back. "I'm just so glad nothing ever happened between you two. I was so nervous for a long time. As much as I hate the fact that you two hate each other, it's better than the alternative." His voice is starting to drift.

Bailey doesn't say anything but looks towards Nick. He swears she must be able to see him because he can feel the eye contact. He matches her sad expression. It hurts Nick to know that Ian would not approve of him and Bailey...dating? hooking up? Hell, Nick doesn't even know what he wants.

He and Bailey look at each other for several seconds before the low sounds of snoring come from the bed. Bailey's head turns towards her brother.

"Ian? Ian? You need to go to bed," she says, shaking him roughly.

Ian's snoring continues undeterred.

Nick is torn. He wants to get out of this room, quickly, but he also does not Bailey to see him again...ever.

Bailey stands up and walks to the closet before opening it quietly. Nick stands up quickly, knocking his head on a few clothes hangars. They both freeze and look at Ian to see if the noise woke him, but he doesn't move.

Bailey looks back at Nick with a remorseful look. He averts his gaze--too embarrassed to pretend confidence with her.

He swiftly walks across the room and opens the door to the hallway. Before leaving, he looks back at Bailey one more time. She looks confused...but still beautiful, of course.

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