Remember Me This Way – Chapter Ten

Nick stared at the scars that ran along his right arm. They zigged and they zagged, standing out harshly, pale in contrast to his tanned skin. They’d be a reminder till the memories finally went, of the day his life crashed and burned before him. Or started to, anyway. He got closer to the mike stand in the booth. His eyes closed as he let himself just escape into the music.

It’s like I’m screaming now…
I can’t make a sound
And I don’t know how to move on…
Wish I could just go back
But I can’t do that…

His voice was soft and gentle, soothing and haunting. The song was about lost love, but to Nick, it was about losing himself. The self he wanted to be once more. Everything that felt like slipping through his fingers, he yearned for them as he sang. He pulled away from the mike for a moment when the music faded out. “How’s that?”

“Wow, that was downright depressing, in a good way.”

Nick laughed, stepping out and grinning at Mike. “Thanks? I think.”

“Always ready with the flattery for ya.” The two had been recording together all morning. Nick had him flown out to where he was yet again. It’d been three weeks since their last session in Ohio. Now they were in Richmond, Virginia. Leighanne was due to join them in a couple days. Leigh had already come by with James only a week before.

“I think it’s coming out good though, my fave track yet. I should go back in, lay some more adlibs on and see how it comes out.”

Mike glanced up at the clock on the wall behind Nick. “Don’t you have a show tonight?”

He glanced at his watch and blinked. An hour before sound check was supposed to go on. He felt like screaming. “Shit! I gotta get going. Thanks!” How could he forget something important like that?

“Later Nick!”

As he quickly headed out with a final wave to his friend, he ran out to the road, where he hoped he could quickly catch a cab. While Richmond was no New York City, he knew he could probably find a cab without having to actually call for one. At least, so he hoped. The fellas were going to kill him if he was late. Not to mention their manager, no doubt about it. He wasn’t looking where he was going as he pulled out his phone. Which Backstreet Boy to call first? Turned out, it was a question he wouldn’t have to answer as the phone buzzed within his hand.

“Hello?”

“Nick where are you?!”

“I’m sorry Howie! I’m on my way. I swear.”

“Sound check was supposed to start TEN MINUTES AGO!”

“What?” Finally, he flagged down a cab. “I thought it was in an hour.”

This shit can’t mess with my sense of time can it? Note to self: Ask the next Doctor I see at the next tour stop. Because of his touring, Nick had sent Dr. Hansen his schedule. He then faxed Nick’s files to the Doctors he’d be seeing on the road since Nick refused to have a nurse or doctor tour with him. At some of the stops, Nick was forced to sneak away for check up appointments every four weeks. They didn’t take long, they were more for memory tests, checking upon the progression, and how he was reacting to the medication. Still, it was just another lie to add to the pile that continuously rose. Nick stared at the cab when the driver honked to get his attention back to reality once again.

“Yo, can ya get in already big shot?” He called out with a thick Brooklyn accent. Nick raised a brow as he got in. Not something he expected seeing as he was down south.

“Why-” he shook his head. “Never mind, Richmond Coliseum man, and step on it.” He went back to Howie who was still on the cell phone, and now cursing at him angrily in Spanish, amusingly enough. Those were mainly the words Nick knew, thanks to Howie.

“Look Howie…”

Now he’d come back to English. “You’ve been so flaky and irresponsible; we can’t even rely on you anymore. Justin is stalling the sound check cause you’re nowhere to be found. God knows where you are…” And the Spanish cursing filtered in once more.

“Howie!”

“What Nick? What?”

Nick glanced out his window, taking in the scene around him. That was the thing about Virginia, or anywhere along the east coast or down south in general. He always felt like he went back in time again, just from the trees and old feeling buildings he passed. “I’m on my way. I’m sorry. I screwed up the time.”

“You’ve been screwing up a lot of things lately.” And then the dial tone.

He kicked the empty passenger seat above him. “Fuck.” Nick muttered angrily.

After the phone call from his rightfully irritated band mate, the ride itself was uneventful. He stared out the window, lost within the scenery around him. It really was quite beautiful in Virginia, something he didn’t always appreciate given how quickly he always traveled. The drive was shorter than expected. He ran into the large stadium. It was a large, grayish brown circular shaped building with an interesting design Nick always enjoyed when they performed there. He ran through the performer’s entrance, away from the fans. Luckily, security, at Howie’s request kept the area clear so Nick could get in. Nick dialed Brian’s number as he raced down the halls.

“Nick? Where are you?”

“I’m…in…the building!” He panted, as he continued to navigate his way through. “Tell Howie…so he doesn’t….kill me!”

A strained chuckle. “He might anyway.”

Sounds like you wanna help him there Bri. “I’ll be there…in….a…”He burst through a pair of double doors, only to be met with the stares of Brian, AJ, and Howie, as well as half the stage staff and their manager. “…minute.” He clicked his phone shut, giving a sheepish grin. “Hi?”

Jen, who’d been their manager since 2007 during their underground days, was giving Nick what he still thought of as the Kevin Death Stare. A talent few had, and was still amazed she had since she became their manager after Kevin had left the group. Her heel was tapping the floor irritably as Nick forced himself to look humble.

“I’d lecture but I’m pretty sure if we keep the fans waiting, they’ll kill security. So when you come back from sound check, you and I need to talk Carter.”

She pushed him forward behind Brian. They walked out upon the stage, where four stools awaited them, and a crowd of fans could be seen sitting in the seats just before them. He ran a hand tiredly through his hair, wishing yet again he didn’t keep forgetting to get it cut. Despite everything however, it didn’t feel like he was going through the motions when it came to the fans. Instead, the excitement that always came when they screamed rushed through him yet again, giving him a new pick-me-up. He grinned, hopping up on his stool so excitedly he almost fell over with it.

“Alright!” announced Justin, one of the people who worked for the company that ran their fan club. “Now that Nick has finally arrived…”

Nick smirked, speaking into the microphone. “Damn that Backstreet time.”

The fans laughed, and Nick avoided the narrowing of Howie’s eyes. AJ could be seen snickering beside him, nudging Brian to say something to him in his ear. Brian. He missed their bond right then, how close they were. He’d worked so hard to bring their friendship back after he screwed it up during his alcoholic drug addict days. Now, everything felt like it was going back to that, only without the oblivion drugs and alcohol could help provide.

“Who has a question for Nick? We’ll start with him, since he’s the tardy boy.”

Many girls raised their hands eagerly. Most were within their late twenties and some early thirties. The teenagers who were there looked to be daughters who’d become fans because of their mothers that accompanied them. It felt odd, knowing his music was now touching upon new generations of fans. Many who weren’t even born when their debut red album was released or far too young to remember when Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) dominated the pop charts when they finally broke onto radio in America. Nick never imagined in his wildest dreams when this all started that it would ever go this far. But so it had.

Too bad he was the only one who knew that now was the beginning of the end.

“Nick?”

He blinked, giving a goofy grin he knew the fans would expect of him. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to space out that way. Aliens abducted my brain for a second.”

AJ smirked at Nick. “For a second? Don’t let him fool you ladies. They took his brain back in 1996. We’ve been trying to get it back from them ever since.”

The crowd laughed along with Nick. He wondered if they noticed Brian’s lack of wisecracks at him that would have normally accompanied this. “Can you ask me again darling?”

The young girl swooned a bit at the charm he let himself exude then. “I asked when you’re older and retired from the music business-”

“Awwww!” The other girls interrupted.

“-What will you remember most about being a Backstreet Boy? If you have children, what would you tell them about it years from now?”

Nick froze, staring at her. It was an innocent question, he knew. One that had depth and real meaning beyond all the ones that still asked what kind of underwear he liked to wear. But in that one moment, Nick could swear he could hear his heart shatter. Shatter upon the floor into shards that would only make him bleed even more than he already felt he was on the inside. He swallowed hard as he fought to keep his composure. But how could he answer something he knew would never come to be?

“I ain’t sure…but I’m sure the fellas here will tell them all sorts of stories that I won’t!” He joked, trying his damnedest to look jovial as he said it. It was an honest answer, despite how he made it come across.

While everyone else laughed, Nick Carter simply fought to keep himself together.

****

“Completely irresponsible!”

“Jen, look I-”

“And it ain’t the only time this tour either Carter! I don’t know what your deal is right now, but you need to get your shit together. Like, yesterday.” She stormed off, her heels clickety-clacketing down the hallway as she went. Nick punched the nearby wall, wincing at the pain it caused. His hand now throbbed, but he was able to wiggle his fingers at least.

Nothing broken this time, score one for Nick.

“Didn’t you learn from the last time you punched something out of anger? The wall will win just like the window did.” Brian asked as he approached him. Nick simply rolled his eyes in response.

“What is going on?”

Nick shook his head, heading back to their dressing rooms. They only had an hour and a half before show time and he was hoping at a chance to snack before then. It was one of the few times he felt hungry that day and wanted to jump on it before it went away again thanks to the medication.

“Nothing.”

“Are you on drugs again?”

The accusation caused Nick to freeze; turning slowly back to the man he called his best friend. “What?!”

Brian stared at him, his normally friendly blue eyes stony, cold, and serious. “I mean it Nick. Are you on drugs?”

Rage boiled beneath the surface. Nick’s mind was slowly dying, and it was killing him not to tell the guys. Something he was doing for their good, rather than his own. He was doing his best to try and do everything right before he, Nick was gone with only a mindless shell to leave behind. And this was the thanks he was getting? Brian accusing him of doing drugs again?

So much for my best friend having some fucking faith in me. “NO! I’m not on drugs Brian!”

“Well you’re acting weird, you’ve gotten irresponsible, suddenly you’re having odd hyper highs…what are we supposed to think?”

“You’re supposed to trust me!”

“You mean like the last time we tried to trust you? When you almost killed yourself because we didn’t do anything?! Where you got yourself heart problems, begged for them almost by doing this shit?!” Brian yelled, his accent that had faded over the years coming in clearer than ever the way it always did when he was upset.

Nick marched up to Brian; the two were toe to toe as Nick stared down at him. Two pairs of blues met angrily in a way that would give any observer chills from the intensity alone. “I’m not that guy anymore. I’ve got shit I’m trying to deal with. That’s it. I’m fine. You can either trust me or drug test me. Cause I don’t give a damn. I ain’t lying.”

Nick stepped back, walking away. He kept his back to Brian, despite how much it hurt not to confess it all. He couldn’t believe Brian thought that. How could he believe that when Nick worked so hard to get himself together again over the years?

Alright sure the alcohol came back, but I had a handle on it. Still do.

“Then why don’t you tell me what’s going on Nick?” Brian called out after him.

Rather than responding, Nick simply walked away. Truth be told, he had no idea how to answer him anymore. Right then, he didn’t want to even if he did. At that moment, he felt Brian didn’t deserve that right anymore.

 

*Lyrics come from the song “Scream” by Nick Carter

 

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