Disclaimer: I do not own or claim any rights to Big Time Rush or the characters portrayed in this story, nor do I own or claim any rights to The Bachelor. It's all in good fun and because I can't contain the visions in my head that scream to get out.
Lots to say here. Okay. First, thank you Malachite for pointing out errors I made in the previous chapter. Things do slip past me sometimes and I welcome you guys to call it to my attention so I can fix it right away. I tend to mix up names a lot when I write, no idea why. Also, the question of cell phones was brought up. I'm not exactly clear on the rules for these reality shows, but I think Malachite is correct in stating the contestants are not allowed to use them. I'm playing with that rule a little bit here, relaxing it to a certain degree. As I said before, I'm taking liberties. That's what's awesome about writing, you can do what you want. ;)
Second, I could not find a schedule listed anywhere that tells the order/frequency of the dates (both one-on-one and group), so I'm making my own up and trying to keep it in line with what I remember. It's probably not correct, but I tried. I'm just going with what works for the story.
Third, Kurisss brought up the point that this fic seems to have pieces of all my other ones scattered throughout. I laughed because I noticed that too, though I didn't do it intentionally. So if you notice things that I've used before, don't hold it against me. Think of it as a blast to the past (for those of you who've read my other stuff, of course).
Okay, and lastly. I love hearing your votes on who you want to win and why. Seriously, I love it! Don't assume, however, that it's going to go a certain way. It's much too soon to make that call, and I still don't know who's going to end up winning (even after writing six chapters). Don't count anyone out yet! James is going to go through a roller coaster of emotions as this continues, and as Kendall says in this chapter, hearts will be broken. It's the nature of the game. I don't look forward to breaking anyone's heart, but the bottom line is there can be only one. What I can promise you is that in the end, everyone will find what they're looking for—one way or another.
So for those who don't know, this is how "The Bachelor" works. Approximately 30 contestants are chosen to compete on the show. They live in one big house together for about six weeks, and each week at least one contestant is eliminated at the rose ceremony. If the Bachelor gives you a rose, it means you stay another week. There are other roses given for other reasons (for example, the First Impression rose is given to the contestant who makes the best first impression on the Bachelor), and once you receive one of those roses you're guaranteed to remain until the next week. At the end of each date the Bachelor also has the choice of giving his contestant a rose or deciding not to, and that decides whether you go home or not. There are group dates and one-on-one dates and the drama gets out of hand sometimes because the competition can be vicious, but ultimately it gets down to two contestants and at that point the Bachelor decides to propose to one of them, or he can choose to propose to neither of them. I've taken some liberties with the rules and the process here, partly because I'm not sure of all the rules and partly because it works better for the story, but hopefully it makes sense and stays somewhat true to the show's atmosphere.
So I dedicate this to kathrynew30 because even though she laughs at me for watching the show, she is always encouraging when it comes to my writing and she's been wanting this story for a long time. My other two betas Aranelle and PromiseMeTheStars also have informed me who they think should win, and while I love how each of them are rooting for different guys, in the end it's up to James. God help him, because the poor guy is going to go through so much emotional upheaval before he's forced to make a final decision. How is he supposed to choose between these three incredible men?
Kendall and Logan were playing a game of chess on the patio when the first date card came. They'd been discussing how much they hated having cameras follow them 24/7 (there were even cameras in the bedrooms), as neither enjoyed being followed constantly; Kendall tended to be in the spotlight often because of his career, but this was a whole new level even for him.
Carlos ran up from inside the house where he'd been playing video games with a few of the other men. "Guys! It's here! Come on, it's here!"
The anticipation was palpable as they joined the group already crowded around the table in the living room, where an envelope sat daring them to open it. This was the first one-on-one date, the first opportunity for someone to spend time completely alone with James, and it would involve a day filled with whatever James chose for them as well as a romantic dinner to top it off. If all went well, the contestant would be given a rose at the end of the evening; if not, he would be going home.
"Come on, open it!" Carlos urged Peter, who was closest to the envelope.
"We all know it's gonna be for Kendall," Scott complained. "Why bother?"
"Dude, you don't know that." Carlos grabbed for it suddenly, staring around at them all before sliding a finger under the flap carefully. "I made a pretty good impression on James, don't forget."
Kendall smirked while Logan only shook his head; Carlos hadn't let anyone forget that for the past few days, and yet somehow he was still liked among the guys. Had Kendall made a comment like that, his ass would've been kicked by now—or someone would've tried, at the very least. It went to show that Carlos had that something special about him that was irresistible to anyone and if Kendall had to guess, he would vote Carlos as the name on that card.
Sliding out the paper inside, Carlos waited until all eyes were on him before reading aloud. "'Kendall. Let's-'" The chorus of groans drowned out Carlos' voice, and he glared at everyone until it was silent again. "'Kendall.'" He smiled at his green-eyed buddy, who was inwardly groaning himself. "'Let's have a ball on top of the world.' Huh. Wonder what that means?"
"Maybe he's taking you dancing," Peter mused. "The hockey player at a ball, that ought to be fun."
"Oh please God, no," Kendall moaned. "I don't dance."
"Those things are usually a play on words," Logan remarked. "I'm sure it's code for something, not an actual ball. Though I'd pay to see you dancing."
"Shut up." Kendall tried to smack Logan, but he ducked it with a grin.
"Come on, Kendall! Let's go get you ready for your date!" Carlos was pulling him up off the couch, Kendall reluctantly following.
"You're coming, too," he called back to Logan. "In this guy's hands I'll probably end up smelling like hot dogs."
"Hey, no mocking the dogs! Say what you want about me, but never mock my dogs."
Chuckling, Logan followed them up the stairs to their room.
"I don't even know what to wear for this thing!" Kendall whined.
"Let us worry about that." Carlos rubbed his hands together, flinging open the closet they shared with glee.
Logan sat on his bed and offered Kendall a smile. "He's way too excited about this."
"I know! You'd think it was his date or something."
Carlos pulled out a purple shirt, then shook his head and returned it to the closet. "Oh, don't worry, it will be soon enough."
"Carlos, weren't you the guy who thought he had no chance against all of us?" Logan wondered.
"Yeah, but that was before I met him. He likes me. A lot. So I'm not even worried about it. Mom always says if it's meant to be, it will be. If it's not, move on to the next thing. Oh, how about this shirt? I bet you look good in blue."
Kendall sighed, giving in. He had no idea what to expect on this date tonight, and even less what he wanted the outcome to be.
When James stepped through the door with a big smile for everyone, Kendall's heart stopped for a moment. Truly, how could anyone be so beautiful? He hated that, hated that it came to James so easily while most guys had to work hard to look even half as good as James did.
Every hair was perfectly in place yet somehow still maintained a sexy, wind-blown look. He wore black jeans that managed to give him a classy appearance, which was accented by the dark blazer he wore over a gray button-up. The only thing that seemed at all casual was the pair of clunky leather boots on his feet, and Kendall hated him most for those because James had somehow found his one weakness-a guy in heavy boots did things to him.
He stood up, a bit nervous now as James turned away from one of the other contestants to smile at him. "Hey. Wow, you look great."
"Uh...really?" Kendall asked. "Thanks." Not knowing what sort of date it would be, Carlos had chosen a deep blue button-up for him but Logan had made sure to include a t-shirt underneath in case there was anything adventurous planned. He'd wanted jeans but both Carlos and Logan shot down that idea. "What if he takes me rock climbing?" Kendall had argued. Logan's response had been to toss him a backpack. "There. Take a pair of jeans and sneakers. Now quit arguing with everything we say and let Carlos do your hair."
Carlos hadn't done all that much differently, thank God, but looking at James now Kendall wished they'd worked a miracle to make him worthy of such beauty at his side. Sure, James said he looked great, but James was supposed to say things like that. "So where are we going?"
"I'm not telling you that." James waved at the group clustered around them and stepped outside, Kendall turning back to give panicked eyes to his buddies. Logan patted him on the shoulder, Carlos mouthed "Have fun" at him, and then he was alone with James-or as alone as he could get with a camera crew following their every move.
"You afraid of heights?" James asked, reaching back for Kendall's hand.
Kendall allowed it, more out of nerves than anything else, and shook his head. "Not as far as I know. I might change my mind if we're going to be suspended over a pit of alligators."
"No," James laughed, squeezing Kendall's hand in reassurance. "Not today, anyway. Just a quick ride in the air."
They turned a corner of the house and Kendall's eyes widened. The rotors of a helicopter started turning, making speech impossible as they ran toward it and hopped in. James passed Kendall a headset, instructing him to put it on, and after belting in they were being lifted into the air.
Kendall let out a gasp, instinctively grabbing James' hand.
"First time?" James asked, trying not to laugh.
"Yes. Don't make fun of me."
"I'm not! I think it's cute."
Kendall turned a glare on him and James laughed outright.
"I've been on planes before, just not helicopters."
"Helicopters are cool, dude. It's like being in a plane, only you're in this little bubble. Not much separating you from the sky."
"Really, James? That's supposed to make me feel better?"
"Relax," James chuckled, squeezing Kendall's hand tighter before loosening his grip. "Just look around. Look down at L.A., how beautiful is. At night it'll be even better."
Kendall took a deep breath and managed to follow James' suggestion, distracted from his fluttery stomach immediately. James was wrong, this was nothing like being on a plane. They were closer to the ground and everything was so clear. He felt like they were floating, or maybe flying on a magic carpet, as he recognized landmarks from the few years he'd lived in Los Angeles.
"Look, there's the observatory! And the Hollywood sign!"
"See? Cool, right? Look over here."
Kendall did, leaning across James for a better view. He took in a few more familiar sights before feeling a hand on his back. He said nothing but his heart was pounding hard by the time it started sliding up toward his hair. Turning his face, Kendall was startled to find James' so close, James' lips inches from his own.
"I really want to kiss you," James breathed, fingers tightening in Kendall's hair.
After a long moment, Kendall sat up and back. "I told you. I don't kiss on the first date."
"Technically this is our second."
Kendall tried to ignore the fingers still in his hair and how amazing they felt moving against his scalp. "Technically, that wasn't a date and there were a ton of other guys around."
"You're gonna be a tough one to crack, aren't you?"
Kendall shrugged, staring out his side of the helicopter. James made him more nervous than the helicopter had, and he wasn't sure he liked that.
"I know I came on strong the first night, freaking out, but I was so surprised. I didn't expect you and honestly, you're one of my favorite players. Imagine meeting one of your idols when you least expected it. Wouldn't you have freaked out?"
"It's not that."
Kendall sighed, wishing James would just shut up for five minutes to let him gain control over his emotions. It didn't help that the fingers were still moving, making Kendall want to lay his head on James' shoulder and kiss him until they couldn't breathe. "Can we just enjoy this and not talk about kissing for a while?"
"Fine. But I'm not giving up. Just give me a chance, okay?"
Kendall knew James had to be confused. He'd come here to win the heart of the Bachelor but instead was pushing him away. How could Kendall explain it was James himself that was the problem? His lifestyle, his persona, his apparent habit of sleeping around? Kendall just couldn't wrap his head around that, nor could he shake the feeling James was going to break everyone's heart by the time this was over. "I am. This is weird for me. I-hey look, it's the Staples Center! Are you taking me to work, James?" he teased.
"Former workplace," James corrected. "L.A. misses you, by the way. You should work out a trade and come back."
"I miss L.A. too, didn't have much say in that trade. My G.M. said he hated to lose me, but he got three defensive players the team sorely needed. So of course now they're a bitch to beat." As the helicopter started dipping toward the Center, Kendall's eyes narrowed. "I was joking. Are you really taking me to a hockey game?"
"No, the Kings aren't playing tonight. But there are other teams who play here, you know."
Kendall saw purple and gold everywhere among the crowds moving toward the stadium and felt a tiny bit better, but not much. A Lakers game wouldn't be as bad as a Kings game would've been, but he still might run into people he knew. "Did we really have to use the helicopter to get to the other side of town?"
"No, but it was fun, wasn't it? Admit it, you enjoyed it."
Surprisingly, Kendall had. He was looking forward to the next ride to take them home. "Maybe a little."
"You loved it," James grinned as the helicopter touched down on the roof. "Come on." After removing their headsets, James grabbed Kendall's hand and they jumped out to rush to the roof entrance, Kendall leaving his backpack in the chopper.
Of course once they got downstairs there was a camera crew waiting, but Kendall tried to ignore that.
"I'm letting you choose. Box or floor seats?"
The question caught Kendall off guard. Floor seats were definitely more fun, but that would mean they'd be visible to the world. Weren't they supposed to be keeping this discreet? Kendall knew some of his former teammates would probably be in attendance as well, and the idea of them thinking he'd date a man like James Diamond made him cringe. "Um...box?"
"Whatever you want."
Thirty minutes later they were ensconced in a luxury box, watching the basketball game from above as they were plied with drinks and fancy foods. It wasn't anything Kendall hadn't done before, but it felt different this time, probably because he had a gorgeous man at his side.
James was a blast to watch a game with. He knew the players, he knew the plays, and he hollered the way Kendall did when he disagreed with a call from the ref. When a shot was made they cheered and high-fived, and cussed up a storm when the opposing team had the nerve to score. In between periods they discussed what they might've done differently and some of the more amazing plays they'd witnessed, downing beers until Kendall had almost forgotten that he was on a date with a man he was trying to discourage but not so much that he wasn't given a rose; it was a fine line.
The Lakers won. The mood was buoyant as they left the box, James holding Kendall's hand to lead him back up to the roof.
"So you had fun?" James asked after the headsets were back on and the chopper was in the air.
"So much fun! Makes me wish I still lived in L.A."
"You could, you know. I could make that happen."
The atmosphere changed in a heartbeat, Kendall glancing over to find James' eyes full of something like hope. "James..."
"I mean, I'm not allowed to tell you what I'm feeling, can't give any real clues, but I can tell you I've never met anyone like you. I haven't figured out yet why you're so closed off, but I need you to give me a chance."
Looking out his side of the helicopter, Kendall sighed. James wasn't making this easy. "Even if you chose me in the end, I wouldn't just magically give up my career, or my team. And you're always traveling anyway, we'd hardly see each other."
"Don't assume things about me."
"How is that an assumption? Your career requires you to travel the world."
"You don't know my plans for the future."
"Oh, so what? You're giving up modeling?"
"I never said that, and would it kill you to look at me when I'm speaking to you?"
Yes. It just might. Kendall shifted in the seat enough to give James his attention. "I'm sorry."
"Am I right in assuming you came on the show to fall in love?"
After a hesitation, Kendall bit his lip and nodded, unable to meet James' eyes.
"So the problem is me. Which makes no sense, because what have I ever done to you? Have we met before and I forgot? Maybe a long time ago? Oh shit, did I fuck you and leave you?"
Kendall wasn't sure whether to laugh or be offended. "No. We've never met before yesterday."
"Okay, so what's the problem?"
"It's...me. Okay? It's me."
"Then let me fix you. And if it has to do with things you might've read about me, don't believe that shit. None of it's true."
"Oh, so you don't sleep around all the time?"
"No, I totally do that."
Rolling his eyes, Kendall returned to staring down at the mass of lights below them.
"But people change, Kendall. Don't assume you know what I'm feeling or what I want. And most importantly, let me sweep you off your feet."
James' hand slid over to cover Kendall's, fingers intertwining with his. Kendall wasn't sure he liked what it was doing to his heart.
"Please. Let me in."
The whispered words sent shivers down his spine, leaving Kendall breathless. Had James tried to kiss him in that moment, he wouldn't have been able to resist. Instead the sudden dipping of the helicopter distracted them both, Kendall letting out a cry of surprise and squeezing James' hand tight.
"Hope you like stars, because we're eating under them."
The chopper was setting them down near the Griffith Observatory, high on top of a mountain overlooking the city. They stepped out in front of the camera crew, which was of course in place and waiting, then headed into the building.
"This way," James said, pulling Kendall along past the exhibits.
"Where is everybody?"
"It's closed tonight. For us. If you want to after dinner we can check this stuff out, but let's eat first. I'm starving."
Kendall was, too. They'd munched on finger foods at the game, but he was ravenous for an actual meal and prayed it wasn't something he'd hate.
James opened the door to the balcony area, leading Kendall to a table set up amidst flowers of every color and elegantly twinkling lights strung around the place. There were of course candles burning, glorious white ones that stood out brightly in the shadows.
Stopping to simply stare, Kendall breathed, "James. Wow."
"You like it?" James beamed. "Come here. Sit down." He pulled a chair out for Kendall, motioning for him to sink into it.
Kendall did slowly, feeling numb. This was the sort of thing he'd dreamed of but never shared with anyone, fearing he would be mistaken as "girly," but he was a sucker for romance. How was it possible that this man could be a perfect buddy to watch a game with and then shift effortlessly into a romantic date? "Did you do all this or was it the show?"
"Well, the show provided it all." James took a seat across from Kendall and picked up the bottle of wine that was chilling. "But I outlined what I wanted. I hope it's not too uh...you know."
When James blushed, Kendall's heart melted against his will. "Girly?"
"Well...yeah. Is it?"
Even if James' face hadn't looked as if his entire fate rested on the answer (which, in a weird way Kendall supposed it kind of did), Kendall would have reached out for his hand. He rubbed his thumb over the back of James' left hand and said, "It's perfect." And he meant it.
A smile of such boyish charm spread across James's face that Kendall was taken aback as James asked, "Wine?"
"Yes. Thank you." He lifted his glass for James, thinking that this was a side of James Diamond the world never got to see. Had Carlos and Logan been right? Was there more to him than Kendall had assumed? "Tell me about yourself."
"I'm a model. I love to watch hockey in my spare time."
"I knew that. Ever play?"
"Never. I'd be a disaster on skates." After pouring his own glass of wine, James set the bottle down and leaned back, gesturing toward someone behind Kendall. In seconds there were salads before them. "Have you played all your life?"
"Pretty much, yeah. My mom signed me up when I was five and I never stopped. Why don't you play?"
"I wasn't into sports much after junior high. I played basketball for a while, and baseball, too. Then I started getting into drama, did a lot of acting and singing."
"Seriously? How'd you end up modeling?"
"Look at this face. Any other career would be a waste of it."
Kendall spluttered a laugh, grabbing a napkin to wipe his mouth. "You really are as cocky as you seem."
"It's not cocky when it's the truth. Why act modest when we all know I'm right? If you've got the tools, use them. Your tools are for hockey. Mine are to look pretty."
"But modeling is about more than your face, right? You have to have the confidence to pull it off, the ability to present an image."
"Have you met me, Kendall? I've got what it takes, which is why I'm so successful with it."
"You don't ever think there's something else you'd rather do? Something that might be more fun?"
"Modeling is fun for me. It's a lot of pressure, and a lot of work to keep myself looking as good as I do, but once I step out on that runway it's all worth it. And let's not forget the magazine shoots I get to do, the commercials, and all the parties I'm invited to, all the free clothes I get. Why wouldn't anyone want that?"
"Don't you ever just want to be normal?"
James sat back in his seat, setting his fork down. "I don't know that I've ever been normal. From the time I was a kid, people were calling me a fag. I'd date girls and it never made a difference. I was made fun of for the singing, for the musicals I was in, and if I hadn't been talented at sports I would've been laughed off those teams. But I don't see any of that as a problem. It just guided me where I belonged, which is where I am now."
"And you're completely happy with your life."
After setting down his empty wine glass, which James promptly refilled, Kendall asked, "Then why in the world would you go on a show like 'The Bachelor'? Something must be missing."
James didn't answer right away. When he did, it was in a confidential manner. He leaned forward and said quietly, "Would you believe I'm lonely?"
"Even though you sleep with a million guys?"
"And girls. But yes. I didn't realize I was until recently. My stylist got me thinking about my life, made me look around at it and notice what was missing. I kind of hate her for that, but here I am."
Kendall was a bit stunned. James had gone through the exact same thing he had, suddenly taking a look at his life and seeing that there was something missing. "You were too busy to really notice before, right?"
"Exactly. I kept myself busy. And I love sex, okay? I'm not gonna lie. I get it whenever I can, and when it's offered to me as much as it is, hell yeah I'm gonna take it. But I'm always careful and I do have standards."
"And you're ready to just give that up? Because we're all looking for someone who's faithful. I haven't talked to most of the guys in the house, but I'm pretty sure that's a common standard for us."
James chewed his lip, waiting until their salad plates were replaced with prime rib dinners that had Kendall salivating. Finally James replied, "Lana—she's my stylist, and also my best friend—she says I haven't met the right man yet, that once I do I won't want anybody else. I'm looking for that, because I'm not sure it exists. If it does, though?" he said softly. "Then yeah. That's what I want."
Jesus Christ, do not make me fall in love with you. Without intending to, Kendall slid his hand across the table and lifted James' to his lips. "It's out there, James. I don't know if it's me you're meant to be with, but it's out there. If you open yourself up to it, you'll find it." The look in James' eyes made him want to fly out of his chair and pull James into a gentle kiss, show him that there was more to physical contact that lust.
"Please let me kiss you tonight," James whispered. "Just one before I let you go again."
His heart dragged him closer to James, but his mind forced him to sit back in the chair and let go of James' hand. "Eat," he urged softly. "We've still got some time."
Disappointment cropped up in James' gaze but he returned to his dinner, and there was a long silence between them while both tried to get a handle on their emotions. The food helped, giving them something to focus on, and when Kendall's eyes spied the rose on a nearby table that he'd missed before, he wasn't worried about it; he knew James would ask him to stay. What he didn't know was whether or not he'd say yes.
Oh, who am I kidding? I'm not going anywhere. Carlos and Logan needed him, and he couldn't fool himself into believing that he didn't want to be around James anymore. Every second that passed it was harder and harder to keep his eyes off the man before him, so beautiful and so much deeper than he'd wanted to imagine.
"You don't seem to be hurting in any way. What sort of injury did you suffer?"
The question surprised Kendall, seemingly coming out of nowhere. "My knee. It still hurts sometimes if I walk on it too much, but mostly it's fine. I didn't need surgery or anything, thank God."
"So on our next date I'll have to make sure we don't do a lot of climbing or running. Got it."
Kendall ignored the hint, but his heart fluttered at the idea of being alone with James again.
"So where do you live? In San Jose?"
"For now, yes. I'm originally from Minnesota."
"Is that where your family is?"
"Yeah. My mom and sister. I don't talk to my dad. Long story I'm not getting into."
"That's fine. I don't talk to mine, either."
"Problems with the gay thing?"
"No, he's just an asshole. Mom's supportive, though. A total bitch when she wants to be, but very supportive and loves me very much. I just hope she doesn't scare you away when the time comes."
"Oh? Planning to keep me around to the last round, James?"
James blinked, obviously not aware he'd let that slip. "You never know, right? You might end up one of the last two. If you don't leave on your own first."
"Or if you don't send me home first. As you meet more of these guys, you might find someone you like better, someone you can really fall in love with. There are a few great ones."
"Like Carlos and Logan?" James smiled. "I can tell you get along with them well. They seem like good guys."
"They are. Don't get so fixated on one person that you ignore the rest."
"Trust me, I won't. I don't have any idea what to expect over the next few weeks. I came into this thinking it would be a piece of cake. Now I'm starting to get that it's going to be extremely hard to make these decisions as time goes on. I don't want to hurt anybody."
"It's going to happen. I hate to say that, but hearts will be broken. Just...don't be cruel to anyone, okay? Remember that we all have feelings."
"Why do you think I'm such a monster, Kendall? Because I sleep around?"
"I don't think you're a monster."
"Your opinion of me isn't that great. I wish you'd forget everything you think you know about me and just let me show you that I'm worthy of your attention."
"I do think you're worthy. I just-"
"Then quit fighting me. I know you want to kiss me, I can see it in your eyes. Let it happen, Kendall. Please. We don't have a lot of time here, even if I wanted to just say fuck everyone else and run away with you I couldn't. Our time together is short." James reached over and picked up the rose, holding it out to Kendall. "And I'm not ready to give up on you yet. Will you accept this rose? Please?"
Kendall had every intention of accepting it, but at the moment he couldn't even find words. No one had ever looked at him the way James was, with such devotion and hope and it left him speechless.
"Wait. Kiss me before you answer. Just kiss me first, and if you really don't feel anything, I'll let you go. But do that for me. Please."
"I don't need to kiss you," Kendall said softly. He stood up next to the table, pulling James up with him. "Yes. I'll take it."
James' fingers shook slightly as he fastened it, and once it was in place James tilted Kendall's chin up. Kendall's heart was crashing in his chest when their lips met, and it wasn't aggressive or sleazy at all, it was a sweet, passionate kiss that made him lift his hands up to slide into James' hair to deepen it. His tongue found its way into James' mouth, James letting out a little moan and opening himself to it, and when they finally pulled apart neither could breathe properly. James wrapped his arms around Kendall and hugged him close, the relief evident. "Thank you," he whispered.
"Don't thank me. Just don't make me regret this."
"I won't. I swear."
"You can't promise things. You're going to fall for them, for so many of them. It's not going to be easy, James."
"None of them are you."
"But some of them are more than me."
"But right now I'm with you. Were you finished with your dinner?"
Dinner? What was dinner? Mentally returning to their surroundings, Kendall replied, "Uh...yeah. Was there more planned?"
"Did you want to see the exhibits?"
"Whatever you want."
"I want to just keep kissing you."
Kendall chuckled and stepped back, reaching for James' hand. "Let's walk around."
Their conversation was lighter as they wandered the observatory, neither of them huge astronomy fans but finding it fascinating anyway. They also spent time simply staring out over the city, Kendall reiterating how much he missed Los Angeles and that it had become home to him when he lived there before. James managed to sneak in a few kisses, which Kendall returned, but the more they kissed the less they wanted to stop, until finally Kendall said, "We should go. It's getting late and you have a big date tomorrow."
"Right. The group date. That's definitely going to tire me out."
"Anything exciting planned?"
"I can't tell you. But it'll be fun."
"All those guys fighting to get your attention? Yeah, you'll love it."
"It's not all of them. Only six."
"Still. You'll love it."
"Yeah, I will," James grinned. "I wish you could come, though. I don't even know when I'll have you alone again. That's what sucks about this."
"I'll be around. You can steal me away from the crowd for a few minutes, sneak a few kisses in."
"Definitely on my list of things to do." James leaned in to kiss Kendall just before they stepped into the helicopter again, belting in and then they were on the way back to the mansion.
Two minutes in, James attacked Kendall's lips, Kendall kissing him back eagerly as they both knew their time was limited. Kendall kept wanting to pull James onto his lap but couldn't due to the seat belts and the confined space, and it frustrated him to know that within minutes James would be out of his reach, for weeks possibly. How would he handle watching James date other guys and know he was kissing them, know he was probably falling in love with them? All of the drama-filled moments he'd witnessed while watching the show in the past came back to him and suddenly made sense; it was no wonder the girls cried and raged at each other, Kendall would be tempted to punch anyone who touched James after tonight.
What was I thinking, coming into something like this? This is what Mom was talking about—I'm going to get my heart broken. Damn you, James Diamond, why couldn't you be the horrible person I thought you were?
Once the helicopter touched down Kendall pulled back, but James grabbed him and dragged him in again. "Not done with you yet."
They kissed for another five minutes, Kendall getting more heated until he shoved James away, knowing if he didn't now he wasn't going to. "Go. You have to go."
James took a deep, calming breath and stepped out of the helicopter, walking Kendall to the door of the mansion in silence but holding his hand tight. "Thank you," he said when they stopped. "That's probably the best date I've ever been on."
Kendall nodded in agreement. "I'll never forget it, that's for sure." There was so much he wanted to say suddenly-apologies for his initial prejudice, gratitude for the wonderful time they'd had together, and that part of him he wasn't willing to acknowledge that was screaming at him to beg James for another date. Instead he simply said, "Goodnight, James."
When James leaned forward for one last kiss, Kendall met it softly, and it was like their first kiss had been—passionate, but almost hesitant in its sweetness. It was over too soon, and Kendall opened the door with one last glance over his shoulder. James waved, and then the door was closed.
The living room went dead silent when Kendall walked in. He was met with hard stares from almost everyone, and as his emotions were already so jumbled and uncertain it was the last thing he wanted to deal with. Turning toward the stairs that led up to their rooms, Kendall's momentum stopped at Carlos' voice ringing out to him.
"Kendall! We're gonna check out that jacuzzi, come join us!"
He twisted around to find Carlos near the patio door, Logan standing nearby and silently inviting Kendall over with his eyes.
Hefting the backpack higher on his shoulder, Kendall walked through the living room with his back straight and head high, not acknowledging the silent faces watching him. Carlos slid an arm over his shoulder while Logan closed the patio door behind them, and when Kendall noted a few guys in the pool he almost turned back but Logan gripped his elbow and steered him over to the jacuzzi, where he dropped his pack on a table.
Carlos stripped out of his shirt, having already changed into swim trunks, and Logan did the same. Kendall kicked off his shoes and slowly pulled off his pants, leaving himself in boxers and the button-down while the other two slid into the jacuzzi, making noises of contentment.
"Come on, dude, join us. It's amazing in here."
A smile stretched Kendall's lips. It was strange how a few words from Carlos seemed to make everything alright, or at the very least a little better. He shrugged out of both shirts, got rid of his socks, and then was sliding down into the water between them, the waterfall from the neighboring pool loud enough so that they could talk quietly without being overheard.
"Hey," he said to them, finally feeling himself start to relax.
"Long night?" Logan asked in an attempt to get Kendall talking.
"It was...not at all what I expected."
Carlos nodded. "So you like him."
"That's...yeah. I guess I do."
"You know that's okay, right?" When Kendall didn't answer, Logan continued. "You're supposed to like him. That's why we all came here. I can tell you feel guilty about it, and that's ridiculous."
"I don't feel guilty," Kendall sighed. "I just didn't expect to feel this way."
"Uh oh. Someone's falling in love," Carlos sang lightly.
Kendall was quiet again, so Logan asked, "Where did he take you?"
"To a Lakers game. And then we had dinner at the observatory."
Two gaping mouths met those words.
"You got to go to a basketball game?" Carlos whined.
"He took you to see the stars?" Logan said at the same time.
Kendall chuckled. "Yeah, both things were pretty cool."
"Damn. I wonder where my date's gonna be."
"I wonder if I'll even get a date before he sends me home."
"Logan," Kendall began, "you're gonna get a date. And Carlos, I'm sure your date will be amazing, too."
"Did you kiss him?" Carlos asked. Kendall's eyes cut away, and Carlos answered the question for him. "You did. Wow. Is he a good kisser?"
Logan jumped in. "Carlos, what kind of question is that?"
"It's a valid question, Logan. Some hot guys aren't great kissers."
"I wouldn't know."
"You've kissed hot guys before, haven't you?"
"I don't know that you'd call him hot."
"Him? Has there only been one, Logan?"
Kendall rejoined the conversation. "You didn't tell him anything, Logan?"
"I was married," Logan responded, for Carlos' benefit.
"To a girl?"
"Yes, Carlos. To a girl."
"Wow. What happened?"
"She passed away. I decided that if I was going to try again, it might as well be with a man because that's what I'm truly attracted to."
"So you've never been with a man?"
"Oh damn. Make sure you tell James that on your date, I bet he'd love to break you in."
"Why do you have to make it about sex?"
"Carlos has a point, Logan," Kendall offered. "A lot of guys like being your first one. Then again, some guys don't because it can be really awkward."
"I'm not sure that's helping me feel better, Kendall."
Shrugging, Kendall said, "I was just making a point. And how did you two spend an entire evening together and not talk about yourselves? I figured by now you two would know everything about each other."
"Well, we spent most of the evening defending you," Logan answered with a rueful smile.
"I was right the first night, Kendall. Those guys are assholes."
"Not all of them," Logan corrected. "But yeah. Most of them. They think it's unfair that you're here."
Kendall sighed again. "I understand why they feel that way, but it's not my fault. I didn't know it was going to be him, and I certainly didn't know about his hockey fetish."
"Still," Logan reasoned, "you do have an unfair advantage. He was already enamored with you before you even opened your mouth. It makes things harder for everyone else." At Kendall's surprised look, he added, "I'm not saying I resent you for it. But I get why they're upset."
"They need to get over it," Carlos argued. "Yeah, maybe James liked him right away because of who he is, but that can fade. Once he gets over the excitement of meeting his idol, Kendall will be just another guy like the rest of us and then James will fall in love with someone else."
Kendall kept his face neutral as Carlos spoke, but the words trampled on his heart to leave him feeling suffocated. It was the same thing he'd said to James, basically, what he'd in fact encouraged James to do, but it wasn't what he wanted anymore; Kendall wanted James to love him, and suddenly he understood that the next five weeks were going to be pure hell.
"Carlos, you don't have to be rude about it."
"How is that rude, Logan? It's the truth."
"It's obvious Kendall really cares about James, there's no need to make him feel like he doesn't have a chance."
"I never said he doesn't have a chance."
"You might as well have."
"I'm just saying-"
"Guys, it's fine!" Kendall interrupted, holding up a dripping hand. "I know what Carlos means. And he's right. Tonight was great, but now James is going to spend time with everyone else and find the one he's supposed to be with. It's best he got me out of the way first."
Logan studied Kendall as if searching for clues, Kendall again feeling like he was being analyzed like a lab rat. He lifted himself up out of the jacuzzi and onto the tiled edge. "I'm going to bed. Don't stay up too late, guys, I think the date card comes around nine tomorrow. You get a whole day with him."
"If we get picked," Carlos reminded him. "He only gets six of us tomorrow."
"You'll get picked," Kendall assured Carlos. "Best first impression, right?"
"True." With a grin Carlos splashed water toward Logan. "Lighten up, maybe you'll get picked, too."
Logan splashed water back in Carlos' direction, annoyed. "I'm not worried about it."
"So you don't care if you get picked or not?"
"Of course I care. I'm just not going to worry about it. If it's meant to be, it will be. Isn't that what your mom says?"
Carlos smiled. "You're right! But I still think you're worried about it."
"I'm not worried, Carlos."
"Goodnight, guys." Kendall stood up, reaching for a towel from a nearby pile.
"Wait," Carlos called out. "You didn't tell us about your date."
"Yes, I did. Basketball and the stars. It was a ball on top of the world, just like the card said."
Kendall expected Logan to tell Carlos to back off at any second, and would have welcomed it. Instead Logan stared up at Kendall, waiting in silence for an answer even though it was obvious he felt it wasn't their business.
"Yes," Kendall finally responded. He picked up his clothes from the table where he'd dropped them.
"A lot?" Carlos pressed.
"A few times," Kendall conceded. He lifted the backpack over his shoulder and grabbed his shoes.
"How many times is a few times?"
Avoiding Carlos' question, Kendall said, "Goodnight, guys."
"Goodnight, Kendall," Logan answered.
Grateful that Logan wasn't prodding him, Kendall gave him a tiny smile and walked into the house, once again ignoring the silence that fell as he made his way to the stairs.
"They kissed a lot," Carlos commented when Kendall was gone.
"I think so."
"Something changed. He doesn't hate James anymore."
"No, he seems a bit overwhelmed."
"Did you notice he was wearing the rose?"
"Of course. He wouldn't even be here if he wasn't. Did you really think he wasn't going to get it?"
Carlos shrugged. "If he was rude enough to James, he might've been sent home. Part of me thought that would happen."
"I never thought he wouldn't be offered the rose, but I wasn't sure he'd take it. I guess there's a side to James we haven't seen yet, if he can win Kendall over."
Nodding slowly, Carlos remarked, "We've got some serious competition, dude."
Logan didn't respond, but he knew the contest had just gotten a lot more difficult.