Nick had been determined to whoop Brian's ass at this basketball game, but when Brian made his fifth basket in a row Nick threw his hands up in concession. "Alright, alright. You win. But thanks man," he smiled.
"For what?" Brian asked as he went for a layup, pointing out how he did it in an effort to teach Nick a thing or two about the game. After that fifth basket, it had kinda turned into that. Like it tended to do because Brian was currently better than Nick at basketball just for the sheer fact he was older and taller. Well, for the time being anyway, because Nick was grow up still and then he was going to be, like, a whole foot taller than everyone else, or something. And then he'd win. He'd always win.
"Cheering me up. I'm not so mad anymore," Nick replied matter of factly. And he wasn't. Guess he needed an outlet for his frustration.
Brian shrugged it off and gave Nick a tip on his three point shooting skills. "Hey, what are best friends for?"
Brian always knew how to cheer Nick up.
It had started when Kevin and Howie walked into the compound from the grocery, and put three two liter bottles of Coke into the fridge. They had promised Nick that yes, they would buy the cans this time. That yes, they would pay attention to what he wanted more often. That yes, his opinion was valid and valued and wanted and all that stuff. And Nick had believed it, because he had needed to believe it. He had needed to feel like more than just "the kid," and he had needed to hope that this was going to be the beginning of it.
But when it came down to it, Kevin had decided he didn't want Coke in cans (he hated the pop tops). And then Howie had decided that he, too didn't want Coke in cans (12 ounces is so not enough, and going down to the kitchen for multiple cans over and over was annoying). So they got the bottles.
Nick had protested when he found out, because it was not fair that they totally ignored his request even after they'd promised, "You know I like cans of Coke and not bottles of Coke. And you said you'd get the cans this time. You had promised!" He had made a face and used that whiny voice he tends to use when he's annoyed but that he always denied that he used.
Kevin just shrugged. "Sorry, Nick. Guess we forgot."
You always forget, Nick thought to himself as he stormed off to pout in his room.
Nick peeked around the corner, trying to see if no one was around. The coast was clear so he walked into the kitchen. The sight of the bottles of Coke just made him even more annoyed, and he grumbled as he opened the bottle, got a glass, poured the Coke into the glass and try to drink.
Cue the soda's carbonation reaching Nick's nose and causing him to sneeze a couple times. He nearly slammed the glass on the table.
When he went to pick the glass up again, there was a hand holding a straw in his face. He took the straw, mumbled a "Thank you," and stuck it in his glass.
"No problem," came a voice. Brian's voice. Then a, "You okay?"
"Yeah, of course I'm..." Nick started, but then he thought about it. "No. No I'm not okay. It's not fair, Brian. It's totally not fair. No one ever asks me what I want to do, or where I want to go, or anything. Is it because I'm the baby?"
Brian shrugged out of lack of any other reaction. Cause he honestly didn't know. He wished he knew, though. He wished he could do something to calm Nick's nerves. Cause Nick was upset, genuinely and validly upset. "I don't know. But hey, you're older today than you were yesterday, you know?"
Nick just glared at him. "That doesn't help. I'm still younger than Kevin. And Howie. And you. And heck, even AJ."
Brian made a face. At least he'd tried. "Well, you're right about that one. But that doesn't mean much of anything."
"It means I don't get to make any decisions," Nick started, "It means I'm expected to go with the flow and just accept things the way they are. How is that hardly fair?"
"It's not," Brian agreed, "But you have to remember that Kevin is the youngest of three. So he's been in your shoes his whole life. He's probably taking advantage of the fact that he's now the oldest. He wants to protect us, take care of us. And yeah, that sucks for you, especially since you grew up an oldest."
Nick thought about that. That made sense, but it still sucked. Still sucked because he felt like he was being left out, even though he wasn't. Not really. Cause he did have to admit that some of the things the other guys chose were things he had chosen as well, if he had gotten the opportunity to do so. And it wasn't like the guys chose to do stuff Nick outright couldn't do because of his age. They mostly stuck to the compound, or their hotel rooms, stuff like that. In a way, they were sacrificing what they really wanted to do for Nick's benefit.
"I'm selfish, and immature, and a stupid kid," Nick said when he finally spoke up.
"Now, I didn't say that," Brian pointed out, "You did."
"So, it's not true. You're still growing up and learning. We all are, really, but we've already done all the so called 'selfish, immature, stupid' stuff you're doing now. One of these days you'll be over it," Brian smiled, then held his hand out to pull Nick up off the couch. "How about hitting the court?"
And that was how Nick ended up losing to Brian on the basketball court, and simultaneously releasing his frustration at Kevin. Brian had that effect on him, making him forget everything that made him angry.
That was probably why Brian was his best friend.
And then Brian slung his arm around Nick as they walked into the house, a smile along his face. As usual.
Brian reached for two glasses and the open bottle of Coke. Nick reached for a straw all on his own.
"You know," Brian thought out loud as he dropped some ice cubes into his glass, "You really can't do this with a can."
Nick nodded, "No, you can't."
"And have you ever bit into an ice cube?" Brian asked, probably asking a very stupid question.
"Well, yeah," Nick didn't know what Brian was getting at.
"Ice cubes squeak!" Brian exclaimed with a demonstration that made Nick laugh.
And that was why, when Nick was drifting off to sleep that night, he decided this whole "being everyone's little brother now" thing would be pretty awesome.