His name was Kevin Ray. He had fluttering, inviting, green eyes and his fingers made quick work of the classical guitar’s nylon strings. He brought with him the best drummer Cincy had ever seen and an experimental attitude that was curious about more than just music. Nick hated him. He hated Kevin Ray and his perfect harmonies and he hated the unsettling way that his smile made him suddenly very aware of his own heartbeat.
Nick’s hair was long and his thoughts were short. Contrary to popular belief, the life of tour was not glamourous. All the time that legend had devoted to getting laid after the show was more often than not spent crying. Homesickness was a constant. And now Nick was crying in the woods. But Kevin was wrapping him up in a hug from behind asking him to come back to the camp fire. He would in a minute. He just needed some time. He rubbed his fists on his face and knotted his fingers through his hair. A sharp and shaky inhale later and he was walking back to the fire where his friends sat on logs laughing and singing. Kevin strummed the guitar softly, “Me and all my friends, I can hardly recollect who I was before we met…” Nick took a seat beside him joined him singing. Heaven knows he cried enough later, but for the moment, he was with Kevin and all their friends.
Nick didn’t sleep and then he overslept. They had an interview. The hotel room was a blur of shouts and flying clothes and nervous laughter. Nick was the last one in the shower and the last one out the door. He could hear Eli yelling for him from the hallway. Tugging on his pants, Nick snatched a shirt from off one of the beds. He smelled it and it smelled like Kevin. He pulled it over his still-wet hair and dashed out the door with a grin resembling a twitterpated, bordering on frantic 13 year old girl. His smile was bigger and his dimples were deeper than they had ever been before.
“Is it your mom again?”
Nick stood in the doorway of the green room. He’d come giggling down the hallway, looking for Kevin. They were ready to sound check. When he walked in the room Kevin had just angrily tossed his phone on the makeshift coffee table and thrown his head in his hands. Covering his eyes, Kevin huffed in tears of frustration and nodded.
"It's so hard..." He croaked. "How is it so hard to understand? Bisexual. You like girls, and you like guys. It's never one or the other and she just wants to make me choose! Straight or gay?!" Kevin slammed his open hands on the instrument case in front of him. Stinging pain shot up his wrists.
"Hey, hey, hey--" Nick trotted over to him. He took a seat on the case in front of his green-eyed counterpart and took Kevin's hands in his. "Listen. We're playing one of the biggest shows of our lives tonight. Kev, are you going to let her bring you back down in the dumps again?" Kevin was silent and his eyes were avoidant. Nick could feel his hands shaking in his.
"She loves you, you know. And you know she's so proud of you. She just doesn't understand. But she is trying to love you the best way she can."
Kevin looked up. "I just wish she could let it be." he said quietly. "Maybe I should just date women. I could pretend to be straight." Kevin laughed weakly.
"Hey, don't say that," Nick touched a hand to his cheek briefly before snatching it away. He continued, "You can't live a lie, Kev. It's not healthy. You deserve more than this. So much more. Live your life and be who you are, but never apologize. You hear me? The ones who really matter will be there when the sun comes up." Nick could have gone on. He could have gone on for hours. Any girl or guy would be lucky to have Kevin Ray, he thought. But Blake was calling from down the hall telling them to get their asses in gear.
Kevin stood up and walked to the door, wiping his nose on his sleeve. Just before he walked out the door he turned, "Hey Nick,"
“Okay, you ready?” Nick looked into the tiny camera. Kevin gave him the tiniest nod to go ahead. Sheepishly he sang, “I’m leaving on a jet plane…” It was just for the #TalkingCovers, but still his cheeks were the slightest bit rosier than they had been. After all he was singing for Kevin. Ray. “…Oh please, don’t let me go…” He closed his eyes just in time to miss Kevin blush.
Nick couldn’t pretend like he hadn’t noticed how much the frontman of The Griswolds seemed to like Kevin. He really liked Kevin. Nick noticed the secret glances. Their conversations on Twitter were enough to make him sweat, and for the first time in his life he was starting to spite the fans he loved so much. He remembered every lingering touch with acidic clarity, the last thing he needed was 50 edits of it on his twitter feed.
When he walked back stage after a show one night, he was blinded. Maybe it was by rage, maybe it was the flash on Chris’s phone as Lucky snapped a picture of Kevin kissing him. Whatever it was, it was enough for Nick to retch in a garbage can an hour later. But nothing came but dry heaves of regret and missed opportunities.
Nick would never know that Kevin didn’t love Chris.
But he was there and Nick wasn’t. And Nick realized how much he loved Kevin just a little too late.