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at a distance that i didn't want to see

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*

“He’s going to win the Triple Crown,” Nick says impatiently. “You do remember what that is, right?”

“Sure,” Joe replies. “Check this out. It’s an iPhone app that lets you pop bubble wrap. Look!”

Nick sighs, kicking his feet up and slouching in his seat. Joe can be completely useless when he wants to be. Seriously, it’s not every day that you get to sit next to the Dodgers dugout and watch a future legend build his legacy right before your eyes. This happens, like, once in a generation, and Nick intends to absorb every second of the experience, even if Joe doesn’t.

“You used to get it,” he pouts, pulling his cap low over his eyes. “Who are you, seriously? Even Kevin knows who Mark McCarthy is. Kevin. Who, I will remind you, recently asked me what happened to the Montreal Expos. Kevin.

“Shut up,” Joe says mildly. “You’re going to miss the game.”

*

Nick loves day games, because victory is just that much sweeter when the sun’s still shining. They have dinner plans in Santa Monica, but it’s still early enough that Nick feels perfectly justified in wandering down to the players’ parking lot to catch a glimpse of McCarthy. He’d gone 3-for-4 with a home run in the seventh, the crack of his bat enough to keep even LA fans in their seats, and he’d made a diving catch that’s probably going to be first up on SportsCenter’s highlights reel tonight.

“That was unreal,” he says to Joe, who is taking pictures of himself with Hipstamatic and whose appreciation of The Great American Sport clearly leaves something to be desired. “No one makes that play. A-Rod doesn’t make that play. Chase Utley doesn’t make that play. I’ll bet that Ripken doesn’t even make that play. Insane, dude. Just nuts.”

Joe opens his mouth, and Nick momentarily thinks that he’ll reply with something pithy or useful, but he just ducklips at the camera and tilts his head into the dwindling sunlight.

“What?” he says when he catches Nick’s glare. “I haven’t changed my Twitter picture in, like, a month. Variety is the spice of life.”

You’re the spice of life, and you’re giving me heartburn,” Nick mutters. “Terrible heartburn. Chipotle-style.”

“And my beautiful face is the Pepto-Bismol.” Joe clicks away. “Hey, here comes your man.”

Nick whirls around, knocking Joe’s arm down in the process – “Dude, taking a good profile picture is an art, don’t mess with it!” – and sure enough, here comes Mark McCarthy, All-Star shortstop, wearing a white baseball hat and golf shorts as he fumbles with his keys.

He’s even more impressive in person, Nick thinks. He’s tall, easily over six-three – the new breed of middle infielder is corn-fed and Middle American – with brush-short brown hair and bright, alert eyes. Nick thinks about how those eyes can read a pitch as soon as it leaves the hurler’s hand, and he feels himself go a little bit speechless.

“Hi – hello there,” he stammers, waiting for McCarthy to look up. “We don’t want to get in your way or anything, but we just wanted to come down and tell you how great you were out there today. Really solid skills, man.”

McCarthy finally identifies the right key – a chunky one, fit for a pickup – and blinks a few times. “Oh, hey, bro, thanks a lot. It was a little crazy out there today, but we pulled through. You know someone at the club or something?”

“We’re actually Jonas Brothers,” Nick hears, and he darts a glance at Joe. He’s smiling wide, hooking his thumbs in his pockets, and he’s staring right at McCarthy. His phone is nowhere in sight. “We’re huge baseball fans – Dodger fans – and yeah, we’ve been watching you all season. Triple Crown, man! The big sombrero!”

Nick narrows his eyes. “That’s not what’s it’s called. No one calls it that. Don’t say that.”

“It’s totally cool, man, no worries. I don’t want to jinx anything, though.” McCarthy goes to knock on the hood of his truck, thinks better of it, and knocks on his own head instead. “Good to meet you. Which Jonas Brothers are you? Aren’t there, like, three? Where’s the third one?”

“Oh, he got married, so he can’t like anything that’s not at Williams-Sonoma anymore,” Joe says with a wave of his hand. “I’m Joe, and this is Nick. Listen, man, I know you’re probably hella busy – “

Joe never says Hella, Nick thinks.

“ – but we’re actually going to grab dinner in a few, and if you wanted to join us, I’d love to pick your brain about pitching.”

McCarthy scratches his head. “Well, I don’t know how much help I’d be, since I, you know, don’t actually pitch?”

If Nick could rip out Joe’s ribcage and wear it as a hat right now, he would.

“But definitely, sure,” McCarthy continues. “My main bro’s out of town this week, so I’m flying totally solo. And I figure famous people aren’t going to attack me with machetes, right?”

“Oh, for sure. Nick’s only allowed to use butter knives, anyway,” Joe replies, nudging Nick with his elbow. “What do you say, man? You wanna follow us over? Or you wanna take shotty in my ride? Whatever you want.”

As Joe exchanges phone numbers with McCarthy – and calls him Mark – Nick clenches his teeth and counts to twenty-five.

*

Dinner is kind of terrible.

Nick knows how to be friendly with famous athletes: you smile, tell them that you’re a huge fan, compliment their at-bat music, and follow them on Twitter. You run into them at charity events and take a few photos, maybe have management exchange numbers, and try to keep up with their season stats.

You do not take them out to dinner, order tequila shots, and tell them about the time your younger brother threw a temper tantrum after being called out in a charity softball game.

“So Nick’s standing there, all bright red and everything, and he just goes off on the ump. Like, he completely loses his shit. He’s screaming about foul lines, obstruction, too much dirt on the plate, you name it. Eventually, the guy just had to throw him out.” Joe is loose-limbed and handsy, grabbing McCarthy’s arm for emphasis. “So he sat in the stands and yelled at all of us about our batting stances for the rest of the game.”

“I was totally safe,” Nick replies. “It’s not my fault that Phil hired a blind ump. I believe in sticking to my convictions.”

McCarthy laughs. “Good for you, kid,” and it’s friendly enough, but no one ever calls him kid anymore. “What position do you play, Joe?”

“Right field,” Nick interjects witheringly. “That way, he can check his phone for messages without causing too much trouble.”

Joe sticks his tongue out. “Sorry that we aren’t all Olympic athletes, bro. I really am kind of terrible,” he says to McCarthy, grinning. “Fourteen hours a week in the gym, and I still can’t catch for shit.”

“Man, we can totally work on that!” McCarthy replies, sitting up straight in the booth. “It’s all about practicing. Next time we have an off-day, we should hook up and see if we can’t get you back on track.”

“Yeah,” Joe says brightly. “Hang on, let me see your phone. I’ll take a picture of myself, you know, so that you’ll totally know that it’s me calling you and not some rando.”

McCarthy hands over his phone, and Joe throws up the Wu-Tang sign.

Nick sighs and takes a savage bite of his steak. This is getting ridiculous.

*

The Dodgers have an eleven-game homestand, so McCarthy is around town for a while. He tries to show Joe how to locate fly balls, but Joe keeps falling over and giggling, so they move into the cool darkness of the indoor batting cage. Nick has been in there since he and Joe arrived at Dodgers Stadium that morning, hacking away at balls and wishing he were at least five inches taller. The sweet spot would be so much easier to hit.

“Open up your hips,” McCarthy calls, tossing Joe a batting helmet. “You’re swinging from your knees. That’s why you’re hitting so many grounders.”

“I was doing that on purpose,” Nick says, gritting his teeth and surreptitiously widening his stance. He hits the next ball into the overhead net at the end of the alleyway.

Joe makes a big show of not knowing how he should hold the bat for maximum badassery, so McCarthy steps behind him and adjusts his hands. Joe shifts his weight backwards, slotting himself between McCarthy’s thighs, and lets himself be manhandled into position.

“That works,” McCarthy says quietly, taking hold of Joe’s elbows and moving them incrementally higher.

Joe smiles, and Nick swings at the next pitch so hard that his bat goes flying and nearly massacres a clubhouse attendant.

*

Next time, Nick elects to stay home. He sits in Joe’s apartment and plays indoor fetch with Winston, who is far better at catching than his owner is, and changes all the radio presets on Joe’s stereo. He’s halfway through deleting a full season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta from the DVR when Joe walks back in, sweaty and smiling.

“You should have come today, dude,” he says, not noticing that Nick is spite-eating the last fruit popsicle. “I actually managed to get a little wood on the ball.”

Nick finishes the popsicle and bites down on the stick. “I don’t understand that, and I won’t respond to it.” He brushes by Joe and drops the stick in Joe’s stupid Art Deco trashcan that Kevin keeps mistaking for an umbrella stand. If Joe wants to spend all his time with Mark, why did he even bother coming home? Nick knows how to take a dog for a walk. He knows how to get the mail. He can totally sit here and manage Joe’s whole stupid household for him while Joe runs around with Mark.

“You need to check your levels,” Joe says mildly, dropping down onto the couch. The force bounces a sleeping Winston a full six inches into the air, but neither the dog nor his owner notice. “You sound really bratty. And take a nap. Mom told me that you spent the entire night in the studio, which is kinda messed up.”

“Well, excuse me for actually working,” Nick retorts, but he wanders off into Joe’s bedroom anyway.

“And you’d better actually sleep,” Joe calls. “We’re going to a party in Pacific Palisades tonight. Some guy Mark knows just did something cool, so he’s having a thing to celebrate it. And you can come if you stop acting like you need to change your tampon.”

Nick shoves his face into the pillow and groans. “Awesome,” he says, stale cotton sticking to his lips and muffling the sound.

*

The party is stupid, precisely as Nick thought it would be, and Joe has found someone else to fawn over: McCarthy’s best friend, a high-school math teacher named Rich with floppy black hair and a nervous disposition. Rich’s dad is the infamous Johnny Soto of Houston Astros fame, and normally, Nick would be on that like flies on honey, but Joe’s wide smile keeps Nick in the corner with a can of Diet Coke and several rounds of Angry Birds on his phone.

He doesn’t want to get into why this pisses him off so much, so he tries to turn his brain off and concentrate on the game; he fails miserably and darts a glance at Joe every ten seconds, hating how all three guys have their heads so close together. Joe is touching McCarthy’s arm, probably telling yet another story about how Nick’s a sore loser (which he’s not, okay), and Rich is staring at them intently, sharp black eyes watching Joe.

Nick jams his iPhone in his pocket and makes for the nearest staircase. Maybe he can get some peace and quiet until Joe decides to leave, at least.

Unfortunately, he barely makes it to the second-floor landing before he feels a hand on his shoulder. He turns around to find Joe behind him, alone, looking confused and a little drunk.

“What’s the issue, dude?” he asks, smiling. “Bathroom’s off the kitchen. No cheating.”

Nick rolls his eyes and shrugs him off, storming down the hallway with a pair of French doors in his sights. Joe trails after him, asking questions even as Nick bursts through the doors and finds himself on a small balcony overlooking the backyard.

It’s LA-cold, and Nick shivers involuntarily when he steps further outside. “It’s nothing. Just drop it, okay?”

“I’m not dropping anything,” Joe persists. “Just tell me what’s wrong, and I’ll fix it, and then we can go back downstairs and have fun and then go home and I’ll make you waffles tomorrow. Okay?”

Nick shakes his head. The suburban night sky is the same dull black as scuffed leather, and he focuses on a point in the middle distance as he studiously avoids eye contact with his brother. “Nothing’s wrong. I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

“Liar.” Joe leans against the railing next to him, blocking Nick in. “You’re lying to me. Don’t do that, Nick.”

“I’m not -- ” Nick starts, but he trails off when he spots movement in the back garden. “Wait, what’s that?”

“Don’t try to distract me,” Joe says. “It’s not going to work.”

Nick shakes his head. “No, really,” he says, pointing down at the manicured hedges. “Look. Do you think someone’s trying to party-crash? Or maybe break in?”

Joe leans over the banister and cranes his neck as far as it’ll go. “It’s Mark,” he says eventually. “And his friend, Rich. And if they were trying to break in, I feel like they’d be going towards the house, not away from it.”

Nick curses internally. An attempted burglary was his best avenue out of this conversation, and he’s stuck now. What’s he going to tell Joe? He’s not going to believe that Nick’s sick again, since he personally checked Nick’s levels before they left earlier. Maybe –

“Whoa,” Joe breathes, and Nick blinks back into focus.

Just past the tall hedges separating the kitchen from the backyard, there’s a small flagstone patio with a miniature fountain and a few lounge chairs. It’s been empty so far, but now, McCarthy is spread out on one of the lounge chairs. Rich is on top of him, and – ”

“Holy shit,” Joe says. “They’re totally making out.”

Even in his haze of shock, Nick manages to detect a note of disappointment in Joe’s voice. It makes something twist in his gut, hot and ugly and he needs to get out of here. He tries to turn around and leave, but Joe’s got him blocked in.

“Dude, let me go,” he says, knowing how snide and bratty he sounds. “I have shit to do.”

Joe shakes his head. “Oh, man, I was definitely not expecting that,” he says, unconsciously crowding Nick closer to the balcony railing. “I mean, I got a vibe from him and all, but still. Crazy.”

“Joe. Snap out of it.” Nick pushes back, but Joe works out more than he does, and he’s like a stout little brick wall; he doesn’t budge. “Seriously, this is weird.”

Joe cocks his head and physically turns Nick around, forcing him to look out over the backyard. “Weird, yeah, but also pretty hot.”

Nick tries to look anywhere but the patio, but eventually, he fails. The two guys are pressed together from head to toe, Rich’s hips pistoning down as McCarthy sucks on his neck, and he hears Joe take in a sharp breath when Rich sits up and undoes the button fly of his jeans.

“Okay, seriously, dude, let’s go,” Nick pleads, but Joe just presses against him harder.

He feels his older brother shake his head no, scratchy beard just brushing the outside of his own cheek. “Nicky, we gotta watch this.”

It’s a terrible invasion of privacy, and Nick feels sick when he notices Joe’s dick thickening through several layers of fabric. Of course Joe wants to watch this; he’s been gagging for it since the first time he laid eyes on McCarthy. But that definitely doesn’t give him the right to drag Nick into his weird little sex fantasy world. Nick wants nothing to do with this. If Joe wants to kiss Mark, wants to slide his fingertips into his boxer shorts and stroke his dick, that’s Joe’s business. Nick doesn’t need to get involved. Nick doesn’t need anything.

“Just watch,” Joe whispers, and when he wraps one arm around Nick’s chest and pulls him closer, Nick really does begin to panic – and to his horror, he can feel himself getting hard.

“I can’t,” Nick protests weakly, stung and defeated and wanting to die. He is not going to be into this. He’s not jealous of Mark. He doesn’t want Joe for himself. That’s absolutely not it, at all.

Mark pushes Rich down on the lounge chair and bends over, turning the bill of his baseball cap around, and Nick squeezes his eyes shut.

Joe begins to shake, and it takes Nick a second to realize that the bastard is giggling.

“I can’t believe you’re not going to watch,” he says, and Nick nearly stops breathing when Joe’s free hand slips up his shirt and ghosts over his stomach. “Whatever, dude, I’ll tell you what’s happening. I don’t want you to miss this.”

“But I want to miss it.” Nick’s too shocked to move now, Joe’s hand rubbing warm and dangerous over the skin of his stomach. “Joe, seriously, what are you doing, oh my God. We can’t. This is, Christ, no. Just, just stop.”

Joe pushes against him in response, pausing only to unzip his own jeans and – oh, fucking hell – pull his dick out, rubbing it right up against Nick’s ass. Nick gasps, stomach jumping under Joe’s touch, and this is how people go to Hell.

“He’s licking Rich’s cock now, Nicky,” Joe says, and as his own dick goes even harder, Nick wants to die. “Just real light, for right now, and he’s playing with his balls. He likes it, you can tell. Just using the tip of his tongue, nothing too crazy yet.”

When Joe reaches for Nick’s zipper, Nick doesn’t even have it in him to protest anymore. This is sick and insane and he’s never going to be able to forget it, and when Joe reaches through the slit of his boxer-briefs and takes hold of his dick, Nick moans with the abandon of someone who has no choice.

“He’s sucking on the head a little bit, now,” Joe tells him, running his fingers up and down Nick’s cock; he dips back to graze his balls, and Nick’s hips jerk further into Joe’s grip.

His brother is going to make him come, right here on this balcony, and Nick is powerless to stop it.

“He’s gonna get it wet first,” Joe says, stroking harder. “See, look, nice and wet.”

Nick whimpers; he’s on full sensory overload now, Joe’s busy hands making it impossible for him to even think. He’s not even watching Mark and Rich anymore. Joe’s doing that for him, talking him through it, grinding against him in a maddeningly slow rhythm. He stops every few moments to work his tongue against the curve of Nick’s shoulder, sucking and licking the skin there until Nick can feel the blood rising to the surface like oil in water.

“He’s taking him down real deep.” Joe punctuates this by twisting his palm over the head of Nick’s cock. “Man, you can tell he’s a pro. He’s not even using his hands or anything. He’s just sucking him down like crazy. I bet it feels so good.”

Nick opens his eyes and manages to focus for a few seconds; Mark is on the ground, cheeks hollowed out, hands down his own jeans as he sucks his friend’s dick. Rich has is holding his hand steady on the back of Mark’s head, and Nick catches a glimpse of him flexing his fingers before Joe starts up again.

“You ever had your dick sucked?” he asks quietly, and lets out a low whistle when Nick shakes his head no. “Not even Sam? I thought for sure she’d be down.”

Under normal circumstances, Nick would be blushing. “No,” he chokes, shuddering as Joe drags a fingernail across his nipple. “She just wanted to – wanted to fuck.”

Joe laughs, low sound reverberating down Nick’s spine. “Only you would skip third and go straight for home,” he says. “Sometimes, it’s even better than fucking, especially if they know what they’re doing. It’s so hot and tight, and so wet – ”

He pauses and brings his palm up to Nick’s mouth. When Nick moans at the loss of contact, Joe presses his hand against Nick’s lips. “Lick.”

Nick shifts his hips, dragging his dick across the thick seam of his jeans, desperately searching for some kind of friction. Joe makes a disapproving noise and pinches his nipple. “I said, lick.”

Nick Jonas doesn’t take orders from anyone, but in this moment – cool air hitting his hot flesh and Joe pressed up against him, holding him still – he can’t argue. He opens up and draws his tongue over Joe’s palm, working it between his fingers until Joe pulls away.

“Good,” he says approvingly, bringing his hand back to Nick’s neglected cock. “Good, so good. This isn’t as wet as it is when someone’s going down on you, but it’s close. It’s so close. I could do that for you, Nicky. Would you like that? You want me to suck your dick?”

Yes, Nick wants Joe to suck his dick. He wants to shove Joe to the wooden balcony floor and stuff his dick in Joe’s mouth, wants to see Joe close his eyes and moan around his cock. He thinks he wants to come in his brother’s mouth, all over his face, watch his skin get creamy with it. But he doesn’t say that; he just grunts instead, shoving forward into Joe’s smooth grip.

“Yeah, you do.” Joe sounds amused. “I could make it really good, too.” He nips at Nick’s ear, short little buzz of pain amidst searing pleasure. “Okay, you gotta open your eyes. He’s gonna come, and you have to see it.”

Nick looks up just as Rich’s face goes slack and his hips stop moving; Mark never stops bobbing his head, just works him through it until Rich pushes him away and reaches for his dick.

“See, that’s friendship,” Joe says. “You take care of each other. And I take care of you, Nicky. Right?”

“Yeah,” Nick gasps. Rich is jacking Mark at a furious pace, both of them sprawled out on the flagstones, limbs akimbo and mouths crashing together messily. Joe speeds up, too, matching their pace as he pushes his own dick against Nick’s ass, the swollen head exposed and catching on the fabric of his trousers. Nick knows that these pants are ruined, precome dripping everywhere, but he can’t bring himself to give a shit right now.

“Later on,” Joe says, “you’re going to have to take care of me. Maybe not right now, but someday, you’re gonna be ready, and I’ll be waiting. Whatever you want, man, you can have. We can suck each other off, you can fuck me – ”

Nick feels his orgasm building at the base of his spine, and he knows he’s not going to last much longer.

“ – you want to fuck me, Nicky? You can.” Joe is breathless now, and Nick bets he barely even knows what he’s saying anymore. “Christ, you can do whatever you want. Open me up, hold me down, stuff me up with your – with your cock – Jesus, yeah, you can do all of it. Everything.”

Nick breaks on the last word, arching his back and shooting long and heavy all over Joe’s hand. It seems to go on forever, static electricity racing through his nerves for ages, and when he collapses against Joe’s chest, he feels like he’s been coming for days.

“Oh, man, that was a good one, yeah, so good.” Joe’s frantic now, shoving his hips against Nick’s ass, and though Nick’s too boneless to do anything else, he does manage to tilt forward against the railing. He bends over for his brother, and Joe groans with relief.

“Thank you, Jesus,” he manages, wrapping both arms around Nick’s torso and fucking frantically against his ass. When he comes, it’s on a long moan, and Nick feels the pulses of come hitting him wet and hard.

By the time either of them is able to stand up straight, Mark and Rich are gone.

*

The next time Joe and Nick hang out with Mark, Joe is friendly and engaging, but he stays on Nick’s side of the table and shoots him a secret grin as he slides his hand over Nick’s cock through his jeans.

Nick bats him away, smiles, and asks Mark how long he’s been playing guitar.

END