Remember Me This Way – Chapter Twenty-Six

When Brian awoke that morning, he jerked back completely started. Nick’s face was inches away from his own, staring at him in amusement. His hair was going every which way, and looked to have only been awake no more than twenty minutes before Brian. He laughed, shoving him away. The two only had a one more day in New York City, the choice had been made to spread out the promotion, rather than jam all of it into one or two days. This way, the idea was that Nick could possibly handle it easier.

Or so Nick hoped.

“Morning Brian!”

The sky was still dark; no hints of the coming dawn had begun to show through the window just yet. The two had an early start that morning. Nick stayed on the bed, hopping on it excitedly. Despite everything, he loved what he did, and was trying his best to live for the moment. That meant rather than letting himself dwell on everything, he had to try and get everything together.

Also, there was something happening after the promotional bits, that he didn’t want to think about. If it meant going back to his old standby of acting hyperactive and a bit crazy, so be it. At least then, he could try and get through the day with some bit of sanity.

“Huh?”

Nick jumped up to his feet on the bed, almost falling off the in the process. Suddenly, he felt like a kid again, when he’d come into Brian and Kevin’s room daily to do this. So much so, that Kevin got sick of it and decided Brian and Nick would be sharing hotel rooms from then on, back in their beginning days in Europe. Oddly, it felt like everything in his life was coming full circle. Nick wasn’t sure if that was just fate, or his own memories mixing in with the present as a result of his disease. He jumped again, this time, Brian rolled off. He landed on the floor along with the blankets and one of the pillows.

“Mmm better…” Brian mumbled. It was funny how he immune he was to Nick’s antics. He beamed at his friend as he leaned over close, his hair falling into Brian’s face. Nick held back the sigh that wanted to come, he wondered then how much Brian would miss them. Nick jumped again, letting him fall back onto the bed.

He wondered if somewhere inside, would he miss Brian?

“Wake uuuuuuuuup.”

An eye peeked back open. “You know I love ya man, but…”

“But dude, I gotta tell you about this dream I had.”

Chuckling, Brian climbed off the floor, shuffling towards the bathroom. Nick followed behind him. Part of him was curious if Brian even wondered how Nick broke into his hotel room. The two made their way in and as Brian brushed his teeth, Nick attempted to flatten down his hair a bit. It looked a bit more disheveled than usual.

“Dreumm uh?” He replied.

“Yeah, dude it was crazy. There was this girl…”

“Yah, ‘ere’s abays a birl…”

“Man, and she was this really hot alien chick. I ended up chasing her all around the freaking universe. Like in these Star Wars bad ass ships, speeding around trying to get some alien ass.”

Brian drank some water, gargled, and spit it out into the sink. “You put your spacesuit on…so you could jump into your rocket!” He sang with a big grin. It was a song Nick had on his second solo album, released five years ago.

He laughed. “Mock it all you want, that song was fucking bad ass.”

“If anyone’s the alien, it’s you.”

“Well I am out of this world.”

Brian rolled his eyes, but smiled. Yet, that morning, Nick noticed the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. The realization hit him; both of them were playing their part. Neither of them wanted to admit it, but both of them knew it. It just took till that moment for both of them to see it. Nick glanced around for a clock, just to break the silence.

“When are we supposed to go?”

“We’ve got about two hourrrrrs.” Brian answered, yawning.

“Is Johnny meeting us here?”

A frown and a crease of the brow immediately appear. “Johnny?”

Immediately he noticed his mistake. Johnny Wright hadn’t been their manager in years, about a decade, actually, when Nick thought about it. Still, he reminded himself, he didn’t mix up the year, and he knew where he was.

“Sorry I meant…” What had he meant? Jenn hadn’t come; she was handling other aspects of things. He just shook his head.

“Nick?”

“Never mind, let’s just get ready okay?”

****

The two stood out on the balcony of Nick’s hotel room as twilight settled down upon them for the coming night. He didn’t acknowledge the other just yet, just looked beyond him, lost in thought. It had been a good day after the tiny lapse that morning. For the first time in days, nothing had slipped beyond him or gotten muddled, as far as he knew anyway. Brian had confirmed this earlier when he asked him however. They only had the last day in New York tomorrow before returning to Los Angeles to finish off his mini promotional tour with a few late night talk shows that were the staple of any promotion.

Leighanne and Baylee would be meeting them there as well as the rest of the fellas, so that they could begin getting the final album together. They knew this was the last time, and so they wanted to do it together. Wives, kids, and the original five themselves, one large family all together in the city.

But all of that would be in the near future, rather than the present moment where Nick was staring out into the beautifully lit up one of a kind city. He bit his lip when the morbid thought of never seeing New York City filtered across his mind. His gaze shifted back other to the man standing almost beside him on the balcony, and tried to gather himself together.

“I was watching you on the Today Show this morning.”

“You woke up that early?”

A scoff. “Hell no, I just haven’t slept yet dumbass.”

Aaron…” Nick started, but was at a loss for words for his baby brother. Once, he had been his younger and smaller mirror image, only with brown eyes instead of blue. Over the years that had changed. Aaron claimed it was because he looked more like their father. Nick knew otherwise. Years of bad choices had left their mark on him. Drugs, alcohol, and only God knew what else; the constant abuse had aged him terribly.

He ironically almost looked older than Nick these days, despite being eight years his junior. The lines along his eyes were deeper, his face marked with the tale tell signs of heroin abuse, and a receding hairline that was mocked by Nick’s own still full head of hair. Aaron just smirked sardonically. He had become incredibly bitter when he had never been able to revive the budding music career he had enjoyed when he had been nothing but a child. All it did was strain the once close relationship between the two brothers even more, keeping them to be practically strangers despite all of Nick’s attempts as to otherwise.

“What? Be glad I saw you big gro. Fuck, everyone still loves you, don’t they?”

“People love you too you know.” Amazingly enough, it wasn’t a lie; there were still active fan sites for Aaron. Nick would know, Baylee would mention it on his random Google-fests.

Aaron pulled out the cigarette that rested behind his ear. After lighting it, he took a long drag, shutting his eyes as if were a form of pure undiluted bliss. Nick winced. He quit the habit ages ago, and the last thing he wanted was for another Carter to suffer from a deadly tortuous disease because of bad choices.

“Nothing like you.” His voice dripped with acid. “I’m never enough. And do you know why? Because I’m never fucking Nickolas Gene Carter.” He scratched his arm nervously as the cigarette rested between his lips.

Nick could see the needle marks lined up along his arm when the sleeve rose up. Once again, he winced instinctively. This was far from how he wanted this to go. He had called Aaron, arranging him to meet him up in NYC, he had wanted to try and talk to him. In fact, Nick wanted to tell him everything, and repair what he could while he still had the time. So far, Angel was the only Carter who knew what was to come besides himself. She had sworn not to say anything, understanding why he hadn’t told the rest of their family yet. Nick had thought tonight would be a chance to tell Aaron, a chance to heal.

Instead he could feel his anger bubbling just beneath the surface.

Instead, he was half tempted to just punch his brother in the face, the way he knew he deserved to be.

“You know that’s bullshit.”

“You know it’s fucking not. I’m always fucking compared to you so no matter what the hell I tried it was never enough. You complain about what I do? Well you’re the one who got me here!”

He knew his brother was baiting him. He knew Aaron well enough that he should ignore it. Yet his temper had been intensified more and more with each passing day, ever since his mind began to break down. It was because of this, that he suddenly found himself purely furious.

“Oh so you mean mom, who always ignores me, yet worships you…loves me sooooo much more?! Or do you mean the media? The media’s bipolar, always has been! You need to earn that shit. Instead you just fuck your life away down the damn toilet. God Aaron, stop blaming everyone else and get your fucking act together!”

“You can’t talk to me like that Nick! I’m not a fucking kid anymore!”

“You’re right, you’re not! So grow the hell up!” He screamed, his face starting to turn red from rage and frustration. The two brothers stared at each other. For a moment, it looked like it would actually come to blows. Instead, Aaron turned and went back inside. Nick could hear a loud crash that soon followed.

The door slammed.

And once again, Nick was alone.

 

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