So, screwed. And how.
Nate’s waiting outside the bowling alley, sitting on the steps. It’s unexpected enough that it takes Brad a few seconds to realise that yes, it is indeed Nate, jeans and white t-shirt and dark shades, because despite the late afternoon almost evening the sun is still quite strong. “Hey,” he says, stopping two steps away before daring a step into the V of Nate’s legs.
It’s nothing much and yet feels like a petrifying step to make.
“Hey,” Nate says, looking up. He takes off his glasses and hooks them at the collar of his shirt, causing it to ride a little lower, exposing just half an inch of his neck more, but Brad’s eyes follow the movement eagerly. When he forces himself to look back up (doesn’t need much forcing, looking into Nate’s eyes isn’t a hardship) Nate’s smiling slightly, like he’s pleased. “Hey,” he repeats and extends his hand. Brad takes it immediately, grips the forearm and pulls Nate up.
Every gesture takes on a new meaning with Nate, especially when it causes them to stand this close. “Hey,” Brad mutters back, and they stand in stillness for a moment more, before Nate steps back, reluctantly.
“We should go in,” he says, like he doesn’t want to, at all. Brad shares the sentiment completely.
“Remember when I said I never went bowling?”
“You mean lied about it?”
“Yes, that. What I meant was that I really hate bowling,” Brad offers and Nate laughs, leaning in slightly. “I’m gravely serious.”
“I’m sure you are,” Nate nods, nodding like he’s made a decision. “Wait for me?” he asks, stepping back, and Brad shrugs.
“Of course.” It’s not a difficult thing, he’d wait for Nate however long was needed.
“I’ll be right back,” Nate promises and disappears inside. Brad sits down on the steps and tries not to freak out too much.
He’s dated before. He’s pretty damn sure it wasn’t that hard.
Pun not intended, jesus fuck.
“Back,” Nate announces, stopping a step higher than Brad’s sitting and looking down. Brad has to narrow his eyes when he looks up, the sun getting in his eyes. He can’t make out Nate’s features, less along his expression, but his voice is warm enough, hopeful.
“So, that spontaneous change of plans of yours. What now?”
“I invite suggestions,” Nate shrugs.
“Bad planning, Fick.”
“I still maintain it has to be your fault. I’m usually much more--”
“Smooth?” Brad supplies, reaching out in the mirror of Nate’s previous gesture. Nate pulls him up and shrugs, his lips twitching with a smile he’s trying to hold back.
“You make it sound like a bad thing. And I’ll let you know I’ve never even tried to be smooth in my entire life,” he offers, shaking his head at himself. The phrasing certainly isn’t perfect.
“Clearly,” Brad offers. “You’re masking it quite well, though. I have it on a good authority that there are freshman girls mooning over you.”
“Do I dare ask?”
Brad almost holds back the next sentence, the words that press themselves onto his tongue. But fuck, he can’t be wrong about this, not the way Nate’s standing way too close for it to be anything else, not with everything today. “My younger sister is furious at me for supposedly turning you gay.”
“What are they teaching those kids at school, I can’t even,” Nate offers, pretending to be shocked. Brad holds his gaze, makes an effort not to turn back and turn it into a joke. “Sorry,” Nate offers. “Had to. But I don’t think you possess this kind of a superpower. Though you have played a part in my realising--”
He doesn’t get to finish. Brad’s heart starts beating too loudly somewhere around the moment Nate’s expression turns serious, heated, but the words get through anyway, make his stomach clench. “Okay,” he says and pulls Nate in, bringing their lips together.
It’s not exactly a good cinematic first kiss, too messy and a little awkward for that, with Nate making a low noise of surprise and stumbling forward a little, stepping on Brad’s foot as he does. It’s better for it, Brad thinks, it’s kind of close to perfect.
“This is vastly superior to bowling,” Brad offers into the kiss, his lips moving against Nate’s chin as he bows his head a little. Nate laughs quietly, warm against Brad’s skin.
“Can’t argue with you on that. So, as your planning had been clearly superior to mine, what next?”
“I don’t know why I should think of everything here, Fick. Least you could do is take me out for dinner.”
“You get pizza and you’re paying for your half. I’ve been told it’s the postfeminist age.”
“It’s a good thing you’re giving up on dating girls,” Brad mutters, even though he’s not quite sure, not quite certain he can presume.
“You’re probably right,” Nate nods.
They end up at Brad’s favourite pizzeria and it’s not even his choice. If it isn’t accidental then he’s impressed by Nate’s research skills. If it isn’t accidental it might mean he missed a good few previous signals, though.
“Why now?” he asks, after they’ve ordered and got their drinks, the pizza still on its way.
Nate doesn’t pretend to misunderstand, which is something Brad appreciates and not something he’s used to, from the girls he’s dated before, who all seemed to play some kind of game Brad never learned the rules to.
“That shouldn’t be your first question,” he says, running his finger down the glass of coke in front of him. “The first question is how long have I had a crush on you and the answer is pretty damn pathetic.”
He doesn’t seem ashamed of that at all, isn’t flustered anymore, like the kiss had cleared his doubts. Brad’s a little envious of that, he’s still nervous, his body far from relaxed. But he’s getting there, Nate’s smile is warm enough to melt the tension in him.
“How long?” he prompts and Nate laughs.
“Since just about the freshman year. Don’t flatter yourself, though, I wasn’t obsessing,” he adds wryly and Brad nods in acknowledgment.
“So, why now?” he repeats. “What changed?”
“You,” Nate says simply. “This year it seemed like I might have a chance.”
Brad can’t argue with that, this year he had developed his own crush. Only he wouldn’t quite call it a crush, not the way it makes his chest go tight and hollow when he looks at Nate and fill and unclench when Nate looks back.
“Is the Q&A part of the evening over?” Nate asks, leaning back. He’s trying for casual, that much is clear, but the look in his eyes is too serious to pull it off.
“You haven’t asked any yet.”
“I’d hate to ruin your man of mystery image, it works for you,” Nate offers flippantly and Brad can’t help but smile right back, even as he’s shaking his head.
“This year I’ve started to...” he offers and doesn’t finish, content with holding Nate’s gaze for a long moment, until the waiter comes by with their pizza, forcing them to shift and clear the table a little, moving the glasses out of the way. Brad’s pretty sure the way Nate’s fingers brush against is is completely deliberate, he didn’t have to reach for Brad’s glass at all.
Brad’s fingertips itch even as the conversation shifts into neutral ground, Nate bringing up the last few games and settling back with a smile when Brad starts his first rant of the evening. It seems like he’s enjoying arguing with Brad, quick responses and insults that don’t sting at all. It bodes well.
He doesn’t even notice the time passing, even when they make their way out of the restaurant and into the slowly darkening evening, still talking. Doesn’t notice it’s getting late until his cellphone perks up in his pocket, his mother wanting to know when he’ll be back and if he wants them to save him some Chinese.
“You need to be getting back?” Nate asks.
“No,” Brad says, even though he probably should. He has a shitload homework for Monday and probably no chances of getting to focus on it tomorrow, not with the whole dinner thing.
“Are you lying?”
“Probably,” he says. He really doesn’t want this to be over, though.
“I’ll walk you home,” Nate offers.
“You know, not actually a girl,” Brad points out. It’s not an opposition to the plan, he’d just like this on the record, really.
Nate gives him a long look, his mouth working around the answer. “That’s probably a very good thing,” he says finally and comes to a not-so-sudden stop on the sidewalk. They’ve been slowing down steadily ever since Brad checked his phone, but now Nate’s standing still and Brad has to stop as well, one step further, and turn in his tracks.
“What is...” he starts before Nate tugs at his sleeve and brings him closer, right into Nate’s space, all but sharing the same breath. Brad looks down. “Hey,” he mutters.
Nate smiles in lieu of an answer and leans in, kissing Brad. It’s something of an improvement over the first one, in the way that no one seems exactly surprised. And also, it lasts longer, with Brad deepening it almost immediately, because he’s not sure he could get enough of the taste. Nate’s fingers tighten on the material of Brad’s sleeve before he moves his hands higher, up Brad’s forearms, then placing his right hand on Brad’s chest, like he’s steadying himself.
Brad thinks he might need some steadying of his own, and reaching out seems like a great idea, resting his hand on the small of Nate’s back. Nate obligingly shifts even closer, licking at the corner of Brad’s mouth before he finally pulls back, his breathing uneven and his face flushed.
Brad’s pretty sure he doesn’t look much better.
Alright, correction. He’s pretty damn sure he doesn’t look even remotely as good as Nate does, even while he looks all messed up.
By Brad. It’s a good look.
“So, I guess no one is opposed to a second date?” Brad asks flatly and Nate snorts, shaking his head and stepping back, the cooling air of the evening creeping between them. Brad misses the warmth immediately.
“I could be convinced,” Nate nods and starts walking again. Brad falls into the step with him easily.
Dinner with Grandfather is postponed, on account of Brad’s face being plastered over the front pages of Sunday newspapers.
Apparently somebody does watch Genovia’s first public channel.
Brad’s rudely awoken by seven consecutive text messages from Ray Person, and his day goes downhill from there.
“There’s no way I’m going to school tomorrow,” he informs his mother and she looks up over the ringing phone and nods slowly before sighing and pulling the phone cable out of the socket. Not three seconds later, her cellphone starts vibrating with vengeance, travelling along the table like a demented electronic mouse.
“That would probably be for the best. Your Grandfather is sending over some people,” she adds.
Brad hates the sound of that. “People?”
“Security, for one. Someone to deal with the press. Someone... you know, I tuned out after the part about security, because the very thought of you apparently needing bodyguards...”
Brad reaches out and pats her hand awkwardly, not sure what to say. Because pointing out that she was the one to have an affair with a crown prince in the first place would only get him in trouble now.
Thankfully, Sandy chooses this moment to bounce down the stairs. “You’re trending on twitter,” she informs him.
Their mother stares at her for a long moment. “Is this a good thing?” she hazards, and Sandy shrugs.
“Depends whom you ask. Bradley will hate it,” she adds with not a small amount of satisfaction. “I seriously can’t wait for school tomorrow.”
“Brad’s not going. I think maybe you should stay home as well.”
Sandy gives her a look and Brad shakes his head. Even he knows this one, really. The only better thing to happen to Sandy would be becoming a princess herself. Her brother is trending on twitter, she’s going to be the most sought after girl at school tomorrow.
“Yeah,” she says. “No. Okay, I’m off to do some cleaning up of my facebook page. Brad, you should seriously take yours down, or lock all the shit up, pronto. I know you don’t have much on it, god knows how you function in the society, but there are photos you’re tagged in from the last year’s Halloween, and you want them on the news even less than you want that fugly school id picture they’re running now.”
Their mother looks heavenward and shakes her head. “What?”
“Have grandfather’s secretary deal with it,” Brad mutters. He has a feeling it’ll only get worse.
There are seventy-two missed calls on his cell. He was right to put it on silent. The voicemail has promptly given up, his inbox is clogged, and when he turns on his laptop he’s bombarded by the IM messages.
Seven of the e-mails are linkspams from Ray. It’s not only twitter, apparently, the damn tumblr has gotten into the game as well. The things they can do with four measly pictures of Brad that are available on the web are astonishing, but mostly come down to photoshopping Brad’s face over Prince William’s photos.
And then he finds that one message that actually terrifies him, nestled in between Ray’s insanity dot com extravaganza, no subject, just Nate Fick’s name in the sender column.
He closes his eyes before he clicks on it and has to force himself to open them again.
I assume it’s not something one mentions on the first date. If you’re considering a second one, I have to warn you, I don’t own any ballgowns. it reads, and Brad can practically hear Nate’s dry tone in his head. Two lines lower, and the tone changes into Brad’s head, a little more concerned, softer. Are you okay?, signed with just Nate.
It’s the entirety of the message, four lines altogether, but it’s enough to ease some weigh off Brad’s shoulders.
“Have you seen the fuckyeahprincebradley yet?” Sandy asks from the doorway. Brad shrugs at her and she takes this for an invitation to walk in and perch herself up on the side of his desk. “I’m pretty sure some posters are girls from our school. The more creepy ones.”
“You know I don’t speak your language, right? What do you want?”
She smiles. “Well, ideally, to give you a makeover, because your hair is tragic.”
“We both know that’s not going to happen.”
“I live in hope. Especially now you’re gonna have to represent your country and all. Hey, does the stepsister gets a title? Will I be the duchess of whatever?”
“Duchess of the Pain-in-my-ass, sure.”
“Yeah, new strategy for the press. Shut up and look pretty and for god’s sake, don’t try to be funny,” she mutters and kicks his ankle. “You’re more broody than usual. That prince thing can’t be that bad, come on.”
“If I were to pick the last job on earth that I want...”
“Barista,” Sandy points out. “You’d last two days and either quit in a huff or poison some moron who dared to order a pumpkin spice latte with soy milk.”
“Second worst, then.”
Brad kicks her back. “I was being rhetorical.”
“You were being a brat. Don’t make me stage an intervention,” she says sweetly, then sighs, shifting on the desk into a more comfortable position, resting her feet on the seat of Brad’s chair and kicking him in the process. “What’s number one?”
Brad shrugs, like he isn’t sure. Sandy’s clearly not buying it and he gives in. “I was thinking... Marines. I was considering joining the Corps.”
“Mom would have a cow,” Sandy mutters. “But, ya know, I’m pretty sure the king of Genovia is also the commander-in-chief. They have a military academy, too.”
“How do even you know that?”
“Wikipedia, you moron. If I’m to be a duchess of that country I should know stuff about it.”
“Of course,” Brad allows. “Also, you are absolutely insane.”
“And that way Mom won’t even complain much. I mean, everyone will make sure you don’t get killed, but you get to play soldiers all the same.”
“Yeah,” she nods. “But there are good things. Right?” She tosses her hair over her shoulder and slides down from the desk. “Also, I’ve untagged most of the photos, apart from the ones where you look almost decent, by some freak accident obviously. I have a few not-horrid ones from last summer, you should post one or two, so they stop recycling the id one. You look like a juvenile delinquent there.”
“Really? Thanks,” he says earnestly. “Since when are you my press secretary?”
“Since you obviously need one and it’s either me or Ray Person and we don’t want that, now do we?”
Probably not, Brad admits. “Okay,” he says. “I’ll ask grandfather about that title,” he adds and Sandy laughs.
“And possibly a medal for the services to the crown, really,” she says with a thick layer of false modesty and heads out. “And stop moping, it’s not an attractive quality.”
Easy for her to say. Besides, she lies, like a lying liar. Whenever they watch some stupid tv show with too much teen drama and not enough explosions, she always likes the broody dark guy.
Speaking of guys and liking.
And yes, he did turn into a teenage girl to rival his sister’s greatest hits, but he stares at Nate’s number for a long while before taking the coward’s way out and turning to his keyboard instead. Way less chances to make himself sound like an idiot through e-mail. Still good odds, of course, but not bordering on certainty.
Things got a little crazy, he writes. Might need a raincheck on that date, sorry.
It occurs to him belatedly that it does something else beyond giving Nate a way out in case he doesn’t want to be a part of this circus. It could give him an impression that Brad isn’t... invested. Or, to be precise, head over heels stupidly in love.
That, however, he can’t quite put into words suitable for an e-mail, and so he leaves it like that and hopes for the best.
What he gets, however, is more in the ‘worst’ column. The Sunday respite is over soon and he can’t hide in his room anymore but is treated to a long discussion with his grandfather, about the gameplan for the upcoming days and months. He wins some and loses some.
In the win column, he gets to finish high school. And he gets to finish it here, not in some private boarding school in Europe. In the lose column... well.
There’s no serious way out of the whole prince business. He could technically abdicate, but well, that’s opening a whole other can of worms and it could always be an option for the future. Besides, it would not solve his problems with the press and visibility, it might indeed make them worse.
Fuck’s sake, he hadn’t checked the websites since yesterday, but Sandy informs him it’s gotten worse. She said ‘even better’, but Brad can translate her pretty well.
She’s having the time of her life, for the record. She is going to school, because apparently she has an algebra test. It’s real, too. She’s a decent liar, but not to their mother, because there’s no way to get away with lying to their mother. She has an algebra test and she probably has never been so happy about one.
Brad, in turn, has a few days off for everything to die down. He has an interview scheduled for Wednesday, just to give the press something apart from the official statement. And he has a bodyguard.
He was going to get two, but that’s another compromise. Espera’s not bad, though, and he’s not going to hang around the house, only accompany Brad outside. And that includes school. Yeah, that’s going to be fun.
“Best day ever,” Sandy announces when she gets back, dropping her backpack to the floor and discarding her jacket on the couch, sliding down to sit next to Brad. “You might be the royal princess and such, but if I play my cards right I’m seriously going to be the prom queen,” she tells Brad and reaches out to ruffle his hair. She grimaces. “Jesus, do something with that mess.”
“One, it’s prince, and it just might be his royal highness to you. Two, why do I have to listen to this?”
“Because at the end of the rant there’s an intel on one Nathaniel Fick for you.”
Brad contemplates flipping her off, but sighs instead. “Fine. I am all ears. Riveted, even. Go on.”
She smiles winningly. “So. Ray says to listen to your voicemail, dumbass, and he’s going to be here tomorrow, he has debate today. Jenny says... well, not sure what she says, she was kind of changing her mind every sentence or so, but the gist is that she is worried and possibly happy for you and possibly regretting missing her chance to be the future queen of Genovia, or possibly glad to miss that bullet... Pick one you like best.”
Probably the worried part most, Brad thinks. Jenny’s the sort of person who gets worried all the time, about everything and everyone, from kittens to global warming. Brad isn’t quite sure what to do with her being worried about him right now, but he has a respite due to house arrest, so he doesn’t have to think about it yet.
Sandy waits for a beat and when it’s clear that Brad won’t say anything, she continues. “Seventeen other girls asked about you, I can make you a list. There’s lots of parties you’re getting invited to, and I’d be more than happy to go on your behalf,” she smiles winningly and Brad nods at her magnanimously.
“I’ll allow it. On the condition that you’d cut to the fucking chase.”
“Bradley!” their mother calls from the kitchen, her tone reproachful. “Language.”
Brad would complain that she was eavesdropping, but she probably wasn’t. She just had a serious radar for profanity. “Sorry,” he calls back, then drops his voice a few levels. “Sandy, spill.”
She opens her mouth and doesn’t get to even start before the doorbell rings out and she jumps up cheerfully. “And not a moment too soon. Don’t say I’ve never done anything for you,” she offers and waves her hand pointedly. “Go on, open it.”
Brad has a bad feeling about this.
“Hey,” Nate says, his voice carrying a hint of breathlessness. Like his heart is beating as fast as Brad’s. “Sandy says you’re stuck in the house for a while.”
“Does she?” Brad asks and hears her snort behind him.
“Duchess,” she says and heads for the kitchen, Brad can hear her talking to their mother.
“I’m not going to ask,” Nate says flatly and Brad nods at him.
“That’s probably wise. Come on in,” he says, stepping aside to let him in.
“Thank you, your highness,” Nate offers with a slight bow of his head as he walks in, his tone perfectly earnest, you could almost miss the hint of teasing underneath the seriousness.
“Don’t go there,” Brad warns him. “Or I’ll have the guards arrest you.”
The corner of Nate’s mouth twitches and he pushes the door with his elbow, closing it. He glances past Brad, hesitating for just a second before he leans in for a quick kiss, his lips just brushing against Brad’s, like he’s not sure the gesture would be welcome but wants to risk it anyway.
“Okay, there you can go,” Brad tells him, his voice nothing more than a whisper. Partly because he doesn’t trust his voice with anything more, and partly because he really doesn’t need his sister, or worse, his mother, to hear any of this.
It’s not the kissing part, it’s the getting all fucking mushy and screwed in the head over the kissing part. He’d never live that down.
“Come on upstairs,” he says, pulling at Nate’s shirt.
“The royal bedroom?” Nate asks, rising his eyebrows. Brad rolls his eyes at him.
“How many jokes like that you have left? Because, I hate to break it to you, but you are seriously unfunny.”
“You wound me. Just a few left. Until you pay for that message. Had me worried for a while,” he offers, as they’re making their way upstairs. Brad isn’t sure if he’d have the strength to be that open about his doubts. “Thankfully, your sister tracked me down and explained.”
“Explained,” Brad repeats, the door closing quietly behind them. Explained. He’s not sure if he wants to kill her or thank her.
“What exactly’s been said is for me and her to know and for you to worry about,” Nate shrugs. “Let’s just say, I really like her.”
“Now I know I’m in deep shit.”
“Yes,” Nate agrees and lets Brad pulls him towards the bed. Brad was never quite into that making out for the sake of making out thing, but now he can very much see the appeal. It’s a heady feeling, his blood rushing in his veins, heat under his skin wherever Nate places his hands. He’s not proud of it, but he groans in protest when Nate pulls away. “I’ve actually had different plans when I came here.”
Brad can’t help it, the words are out before he can check himself. “You came already? Now, that’s...”
“Who’s not funny now?” Nate asks. “I meant, Sandy said you were in a funk. Thought a movie could distract you.”
“This is pretty distracting,” Brad offers, making a point of running his fingers down the side of Nate’s neck.
Brad sighs. “I can tell where this is going. What’s the movie?”
Nate smiles winningly. “Lord of the Rings.” Brad can definitely see where this is going. Nate nods. “Return of the King.”
“You really are kind of an asshole,” Brad tells him fondly.
They let Brad out of the house on Wednesday. It probably wouldn’t happen if he didn’t have the interview, but he insists that if he’s fine going to the tv studio, he can attend history.
In the few days, the school has clearly gone crazy. According to Sandy ‘it was worse’, and Ray informs him that everyone has calmed their tits and don’t run around like headless chickens anymore... Nate just shrugs and says it’s bound to blow over in a tone that tells Brad he doesn’t quite believe it.
He’s accosted by five different girls just on his way to his locker, and they all twirl their hair around their fingers and bat their eyes in a way that makes Brad want to ask them if they lost their contact lenses.
The rest of the school just stares at him like he spouted an additional head or two. At least the teachers try to hide it.
“Seriously, it will blow over,” Nate tells him at lunch, kicking Brad’s chair to distract him from the fact that the conversations died out the moment he walked in, and the silence lasted until he sat down, increasing in strength and volume right after he did.
“Don’t use words like ‘blow’ in public, Nathaniel,” Brad shots back.
Ray gives him a look like it’s Christmas and he doesn’t know which present to open first.
“Shut up, Person.”
“Didn’t say anything, homes. But believe me, I could.”
Brad is pretty sure he can see Espera smirking a little, which is so very unhelpful. And unprofessional, he’d like to point out.
“Better come up with something I could say in the interview,” he mutters. “It’s to last for half an hour, sans commercials, and I don’t think I can talk about my glamorous life for more than five minutes. I mean, in a way that’s suitable for prime time tv.”
“Didn’t they brief you?” Nate asks.
“Sure, all about Genovia having the lowest illiteracy rate in Europe, and about the tourism industry, and about the great state universities. I don’t think it’s what they want to talk about.”
“Don’t forget the lowest infant mortality rate and lowest unemployment,” Nate offers. Brad gives him a look and gets a shrug in return. “Model UN, I remember things.”
“Of course you do. Hey, want to switch jobs?”
“Couldn’t put off the royal look like you do.”
“Is homosexuality contagious?” Ray asks. “Because I think I’m getting gay just listening to you two.”
“You could fuck off somewhere just in case,” Brad offers pleasantly, but he’s actually enjoying this. At least as long as he doesn’t think of the interview too much.
It would all go well, he thinks, if not for the actual debriefing he gets right before the interview.
He’s in a foul mood to begin with, because they’re putting make-up on him and the lights are already too bright, his mother made him wear a tie, and neither Nate not Ray nor Sandy are allowed in the studio, because they would be a ‘distraction’. Which means, after his mother and his grandfather are comfortably situated in an adjacent room and treated to tea, Brad is left alone with the make-up girls and, much worse, with one of grandfather’s press people.
He’s a short, anxious guy, who reminds Brad of that man on the radio, whatshisname, and who is beyond annoying even when he gives Brad the repeat of the few earlier lectures on Genovia’s GPD and the fact that he shouldn’t swear on air.
And then he finishes it off with one thing he probably shouldn’t have mentioned.
“They’re going to ask you about your love life, sir, and we’d rather if you smoothly changed the topic, or left it with a ‘no comment’. Something to think about, too, maybe there is a young lady fit to be, let’s say, seen in public with you?” he finishes and Brad is too surprised to punch him, which he would have done if he had more notice and if the make-up girl wasn’t brushing across his forehead with a giant brush.
The PR guy steps away and the girl doesn’t meet his gaze as she announces him ready. She’s flushing with embarrassment on Brad’s behalf, and that’s a little too much.
“Isn’t Genovia all fine with gay marriage and all?” he asks Espera, who’s standing by the door and acting for all the world as if he hadn’t heard the word of the conversation.
“Third country to allow it. Your grandfather had signed the bill himself, few years ago,” Tony says flatly, like he’s reading off a history book. Brad looks at him. “May I point out that your first tv appearance is a terrible timing for this?”
“Noted, thank you.”
They told him to turn off his cellphone, but he hadn’t yet, and he thumbs a quick message to send off. I’m doing something very stupid on tv, don’t miss it.
It takes Nate only few seconds to respond. I might have expected that. By the way, picking movies for tonight, you okay with Lion King?
It startles a laugh out of Brad and he switches off and pockets his cellphone with a smile. He thinks... he’s pretty sure Nate would... understand. If Brad actually listened to the idiot’s advice, if he chose to go with the pretty and press-friendly lie. But Brad’s stomach turns at the mere thought, and so.
So, here goes nothing.
“I’ll call the driver, have him keep the engine running,” Espera offers from behind him and Brad cracks a smile as he walks into the set.
After all, they told him to smile during the interview.
“The king is very disappointed,” Brad’s grandfather says. Brad blinks at him for a moment, wondering if it’s the way it translates weirdly into English, or if his grandfather really just talks about himself in the third person now. “Your grandfather, however, is proud of you. Worried and really not that happy at the fallout, but proud nonetheless.”
Brad continues blinking.
They don’t hug, it’s not what they do, but it’s... it’s fine.
He gets all the hugs in the world from his mother, however. It’s really embarrassing.
“You came out on the national television, what did you expect?” Nate asks, much later, once the fuss dies down a little and Brad’s allowed a moment of peace. And, incidentally, Disney.
“Well, they told me not to do this, what did they expect?”
“Obviously,” Nate mutters and rests his head against Brad’s shoulder.
“Hey, Brad, your bursting through the closet doors is trending on twitter,” Sandy informs him, poking her head into the room. She waves cheerfully at Nate and makes a face like she’s one step away from awwing at them, which just won’t happen.
“Bursting through the closet doors?”
“Well, you didn’t come out gently,” she points out reasonably and disappears, causing Nate to chuckle and burrow his face in Brad’s neck.
“She has a point.”
Yeah. Brad’s getting used to his sister being generally right. She’ll be impossible to live with, especially after she gets that title. But he figures he owes her that much.
“Okay,” Nate says. “The joke’s gotten old, I admit. So, I’m giving it up and turning it off,” he says, gesturing vaguely towards the screen. Brad snorts.
“You just really don’t want to make out while “Can you feel the love tonight” plays in the background.”
Nate shrugs. “I have standards.”
“No, you don’t,” Brad tells him. “But that’s fine with me,” he adds and doesn’t give Nate a chance to respond.