Remember Me This Way – Chapter Nineteen

“No…no. Oh I am not doing this.”

“You already promised, we’re already here!”

“And I was having a slight moment of temporary insanity…”

“You already said you’d do it man.”

“Like you’ll remember if I back out.” A grin followed, albeit a nervous one.

Nick shot him a look as he laughed. “Not fair!”

Brian sighed as he looked around. “I have to do this, don’t I?”

“Yes…yes you do.”

“We can still back out.”

“Oh no, we’re here…we…we gotta do it now.”

They were on a bridge together, one far higher from than ground than either of them were comfortable with. The river below flowed in a steady stream, beckoned to them, called to their shared fear of heights as the sun shone brilliantly overhead. Each of them were strapped securely to bungee cords and fretfully questioning their decision to do this.

It had been Nick’s idea, of course.

If Nick was honest with himself, he had bet that Brian would’ve bailed long before they’d ever arrived. In fact he’d almost counted on it. This had been an idea borne upon a depressive night, one where he had felt reckless as a result of everything. If Brian had backed out, instead of agreeing, then he could’ve done so also. Of course if asked, he’d lie, say he did, and kept face with the others, who all thought they had lost their minds. Instead, Brian didn’t say anything till now, when it was too late.

“Are you two ready?” Marianne, their trained operator, yelled. She was very likely fed up with their forty-five minutes of dawdling.

“Why are we doing this again? Really Nick…tell me why….”

“Tell me whyyyyyyyy…” He sang back, laughing to hide the fact his heart was beating faster and harder than a tribal drum. “You said yes because you love me. Cause you’re Frick, I’m Frack, and we do crazy ass shit together.”

“Yeah, crazy, this is downright suicidal!”

“But you promised cause you looooooove me.” He teased. Keeping it light was keeping him from freaking out.

“Right.”

Nick watched his best friend, the person he was really doing this for. He’d be the one who would remember. He’d be the one who’d think back on this and laugh, or cry, or smile. Brian was the one who needed to face this fear just as much as Nick did, maybe then, what was to come would seem like nothing. Or, at least less frightening. That had been his original mission statement when he’d first been diagnosed. Even though he’d deviated completely from what he planned to do then, he still wanted to leave behind a trail of unforgettable memories for them to think of when they visited what was left in the not so far off future. After everything they’d all done for him, especially Brian, he felt they warranted at least that.

I never deserved anyone like Brian. I’m lucky to have him.

“Are you guys gonna do this finally?” Baylee called from beside Marianne. He was on spring break, so he came to spend the week with them while they were in Australia. Leighanne had stayed behind this time, to work on her Wylee orders. That was what she and Brian claimed. Nick had a hunch Brian had asked her to.

He still hadn’t managed to find a way to tell Baylee, or explain, or really even try approaching the subject. Kevin had done him a huge favor by telling Mason and Kristin himself. Lily and Lenni were too young to understand, and for that, Nick was thankful. The same was still true for James, though Howie had mentioned he’d tell him when Nick was further along something about it so he’d understand. Brian had told Leighanne; but he had said Baylee, Nick’s adopted son in almost every sense of the word, deserved Nick telling him himself. While it was true, Nick still felt the urge to dye Brian’s hair pink as revenge.

Plus, then they’d match.

Note to self – Ask AJ what type of dye he used so I can sneak it in Brian’s shampoo if I survive this.

“We’re ready!” Nick finally announced, firmly ignoring the panicked look on Brian’s paling face. He didn’t want to know how he looked; he assumed it was similar though. “You ready Frick?”

“Dear lord, please don’t kill me for listening to Nick. I know, I’m supposed to know better…but he’s my brother and I wanted to be here for him… but this is crazy, he’s crazy…so please don’t let me die..” His head was tilted upwards, his eyes tightly shut as his hands looked to be in prayer. Birds twittered above them happily, oblivious of the two men terrified out of their wits below them.

“HEY!”

Brian gave a smile as the two gazes met. They peered over the edge together, looked back at each other, and gulped silently. They nodded at Marianne, who motioned for them to step on the platform beside them. They did so, each looking more uncertain by the second. Baylee kept the video camera on them as he approached the railing of the bridge. The platform moved away from the bridge, as Marianne handled the controls. She gave an encouraging smile that neither Nick nor Brian could even attempt to return.

“Okay Boys, jump when ready!” They’d already double and triple checked the harness and bungee cord about thirty minutes before, when their dawdling and fears had suddenly intensified.

“We can do this.”

“Heights kill people Nick.”

“I know…but we can do this.”

“Are you trying to convince me, or yourself?”

“No idea.”

“On three?” They had decided to be strapped together as well, figuring if they died, they died together. The logic was morbid but comforting.

“One…” Nick thrust them both forward and they flew into the air.

“NICK THAT WASN’T THREE!!!”

“WHOOOOOOOO!” Nick screamed, feeling the rush and the fear and the excitement pounding through him as they plummeted down. They fell freely, and Nick felt relieved, despite the fact he was having one of his biggest fears foisted upon him. There was something to the risk that blocked everything else out. It felt fantastic. Everything around had become a blur to him as he focused in on the adrenaline rush that pumped through his system to give him the natural high he needed more than he’d realized.

“Don’t let me diiiiiiiiiiiiie!”

“Brian! Open your eyes! We’re okay!” Brian’s eyes shot open. They skipped around rapidly, randomly. “Oh…oh my god!” He yelled as they hit the end of the cord and bounced back high into the air.

“WOOOO-HOO! In my next life, I wanna be like a flying squirrel or something!”

“A flying squirrel? Really Nick?” From the tone of his voice, Nick was sure Brian was convinced he’d lost his mind.

“That was fucking wicked!” Nick screamed as they bounced on their cord like a human yo-yo.

“I’m…we’re…alive! Thank you Lord! I’ll never listen to Nick again!”

Nick smirked as he squeezed Brian in their strapped embrace. Despite Brian’s prayers and thanks for being alive, he could also see an insane exhilaration clearly written in his eyes. They were sparkling brightly with a love of life. “You loved it. I can see it.”

“We are never doing that again.” He reiterated, looking stern. Nick wanted to laugh; it looked like Brian was afraid of him coming up with more crazy adventures for the two of them to go on together.

“But you loved it.”

“Don’t tell anyone, okay?”

****

That night had him playing video games with Baylee in his hotel room. It felt like déjà-vu on so many levels. The most basic of them was him flashing back to their early years. Nick had only been sixteen at the oldest, Brian just having turned twenty-one. They’d only just begun, without a clue of the journey they’d been set upon. It was one that would carry them throughout their lives. They had no idea of what was to come, only that they were to expect the unexpected. Even then, they never could’ve guessed their futures. Now he was playing with Brian’s son, and the familiarity comforted him.

“Nick you are going DOWN! You don’t mess with the Rok!”

“Ha! Take that!” Baylee cried as he battled Nick’s character in the latest Mortal Kombat game. There had to be twenty of them out by now, and Nick remembered when the first one came out. He was pretty sure Leighanne would have kittens if she knew he was playing this with her thirteen year old son. Brian knew, but while Brian was a loving and caring father, he was the less restrictive parent. Probably because of his own experiences, if Nick had to guess.

Actually, if Leighanne knew half of what he knew Baylee kept from her, he was pretty sure she’d have a heart attack. And that was just from the Playboys he knew Baylee kept hidden within the floorboard beneath his bed. If he did anything worrisome, Nick knew to fill Brian in. But he knew it was all just harmless teenager stuff. Completely typical. Still, Leighanne was more of a helicopter parent in terms of protectiveness, so it was safer to only mention the big stuff.

“Oh no, see I’m the master. You don’t mess with the king; I’ve been doing this since before you were born!” His character started beating Baylee’s. “YOOT!”

“Just because you’re an old man, doesn’t make you all knowing and masterful!” Golden curls hung just above Baylee’s eyes as his mouth tensed in concentration.

“Oooh scary, I’m messing with an old man!”

Nick stared at him, forgetting the game just for a moment. “If I’m old, what’s your dad?”

Brian laughed. “If I’m old, then what’s Kevin?”

“Methuselah…just don’t tell him that.”

“Ancient. But don’t tell Kevin!”

Nick was left within his reverie, lost within the past for a few moments. Hearing his character die with agony was what brought him back into the present. Baylee was staring at him, looking so much like Brian then. Concern was written there, the crease in his forehead, the way his brows furrowed. It was like looking at a window into his own history, or at Brian reincarnate.

“You okay Uncle Nick?”

Nick laughed at off. “Yeah, just tired. Maybe I am getting old.” He glanced at the screen. “Damn, I demand a rematch.”

“Too late, you lost Pinky.”

“You, me, my room at midnight, after the show. We’re re-matching.”

“Is that a challenge?”

“Hell yeah it is.”

“You’re on.”

He tossed the controller aside, grinning. “Maybe we should die your hair pink.”

“No way!”

He tapped his chin with a chuckle, leaning back against the bed behind them. “You’re right, I don’t think pink’s your color. We should shave your head, get you a Mohawk and dye it blue…”

Baylee snickered. “I don’t wanna look like Uncle AJ.”

“It’d be a good test for your dad though, see how he reacts.” Nick laughed just conjuring up the image. “I think we’d see an example of how he and Kevin are related. Man you should’ve seen how much I used to make Kevin mad back in the day with everything I pulled.”

“Kevin, really, I didn’t MEAN to…I think you look awesome without the bushy brows. Really, they’ll grow back!”

The memories were coming fast and furious at even the slightest mention these days. Nick had been talking to the doctors about this, as he traveled on tour. They’d warned him he may find himself going back to the past within his mind, to be careful about confusing the past with the present. The latter hadn’t happened yet, but he did find himself more reflective anyway.

“Dad says you always earned whatcha got.”

A smirk. “Well yeah, it’s no fun if you don’t earn it.”

“That’s what I tell him.”

Nick reached under the bed, holding what looked suspiciously like a bottle of hair dye within his hands. “Speaking of that…wanna help me with something?”

 

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