When Nick awoke the next morning, confusion was his new friend.
He took in his surroundings. Nothing looked familiar. The room was not his own. Neither was the bed. In fact they had the standardized look of a Motel 6. The girl sleeping next to him in the nude was a nice surprise, causing him to jerk back a bit. His mind felt muddled and drowsy and he racked his brain to remember just exactly happened at the club last night. Most of it was a complete blur. He rubbed his forehead as he sat up, trying to decipher what he did.
He’d gotten mad at Brian and went to the clubs to blow off stream.
There’d been drinks, and lots of them.
He groaned as his head throbbed. But the groan wasn’t because of the pain, rather because of the realization of what last night was. It had been a binging night, something he’d sworn to himself that he wouldn’t ever do again. A blurry haze of memories filtered through his mind, lots and lots of drinks. The girl next to him had been….a fan. Not a groupie, but a fan he’d drunkenly attempted to seduce, and succeeded from the looks of it. After that, everything was blank. He didn’t remember leaving the club, coming into a hotel, nothing.
‘Well shit…what the hell was I thinking?’
But he knew what he’d been thinking. He’d been angry. Rational or not, it didn’t matter. When Nick got angry, he got reckless. He always found himself on a mission to prove something. And when Nick Carter got on those self made missions, disaster or random chaos usually followed. In all actuality waking up next to a random girl he couldn’t remember sleeping with, was mild compared to what could’ve been the result. Lately, with his drinking, he’d been blacking out events more, not that he would ever admit that to Brian. He stretched a bit as he climbed out of bed, immediately pulling on the jeans haphazardly thrown on the floor the night before. His cell phone buzzed in his pocket, and still shirtless he headed into the restroom as he answered quietly.
“Nick where are you?” The accent that had faded over the years was in full force, angry and loud, making Nick cringe as head throbbed intensely once more.
He blinked. “Howie? I just woke up, what’s the matter?”
“You’re an hour late!”
Nick’s eyes scrambled around for some sign of the current time. They settled upon a cheap looking wall clock within the bathroom and he felt them widen. Eight in the morning. Howie was right. “Shit, D, I’m sorry. I-“
“It’s alright Nick, just get here ASAP okay?”
He nodded, for a moment forgetting that that the Puerto Rican man couldn’t see him. “No problem. Be there soon.” He hung up the phone and gave himself a good look in the mirror again. Nick looked horrible and he knew it. There were bags under his eyes from what he knew to be a lack of real sleep; his hair was every which way. Turning on the sink, he put his hands in, using the water to slick back his hair a bit, splashing his face as well in an effort to wake up.
When he found himself looking less like a zombie and more like a member of the living, Nick walked back into the main room. There the girl still slept, a mess of raven black hair strewn around the pillow, her full lips forming a small smile. She was sweet looking, and although Nick couldn’t remember what she’d been like, he felt guilty for what he was about to pull.
Searching around for his shirt, he pocketed his watch from the nightstand beside the bed and fought to keep himself as quiet as possible. Maybe if she woke up, she’d think it was a dream? The thought was unlikely yet it managed to comfort his own misgivings about his actions. Finally he spotted his shirt, half hidden under the bed, along with his leather jacket which had been thrown across a tiny shabby looking blue couch at the end of the room. Checking the pocket, he smiled in relief at the slight jingle of his car keys. Carefully, he crept out the door and down the hall, throwing on a pair of shades in hopes no one would recognize him.
Since the group’s move to Interscope Records four and a half years before, they had risen back to the heights of fame they hadn’t seen since their comeback back in 2005. Nothing close to what the insanity was from 1999, but they had become relevant one more, with a triumphant return to Top 40 radio. With the return to trendsetting rather than trend chasing, they’d caused the backlash against the lip-synching and auto tune that had become trendy during what they’d dubbed their “underground phase”. Radio had come back to loving acts with true vocal talent, rather than media hype.
And while they’d all loved the success coming back their way and had been enjoying it ever since both as a group and through their solo careers; there were moments Nick missed the days where no one cared about them in the United States. During “Unbreakable” and even “This Is Us”, it had been easier to go out and about unnoticed, and ignore the few paparazzi that only came his way because they couldn’t find anyone better than a Z-lister at that moment. Now, he was lucky he could go anywhere in major cities without being spotted and mobbed once again.
Thankfully, the motel (which he learned was Figueroa Hotel, not Motel 6) was not a place he’d normally be seen in and as he headed outside into the parking lot, he wondered just what made him choose it. Probably just a lack of sober thinking, if he wanted to be honest with himself.
It wasn’t exactly close to Mood either, maybe he’d club hopped for a bit before he met his one night stand?
Nick spotted his car and jogged over to it, despite how his stomach lurched a bit in protest. He’d pop a hangover pill later, he figured. It’d become habit to store some in the dashboard of his car, hidden away in the back of it in case Brian or any of the fellas decided to suddenly get nosey.
He took a left out of the parking lot and made his way down the roads. He frowned as he tried to remember the quickest way to the recording studio. There wasn’t a lot left to do, just a couple songs on their list of those they wanted to try out for the next record. He made a turn down Olympic Boulevard, figuring he was on the right track. He turned on the radio, and grinned a bit as Green Day filtered through the speakers. Deep down he was still a lover of rock, even though he long ago realized that wasn’t all of who he was as a musician.
Lost in thought, he continued making his way to the studio, or at least he thought he was. He frowned as he took a good look around him, nothing feeling familiar to him anymore in the town that at one point of his life was home. His eyes kept skipping around the area, showing nothing that sparked even a hint of recognition to him. Despite himself, he was worrying. He felt his phone buzzing once more against him. Pulling over to the side of the road due to the California cell phone laws, his frustration beginning to rise, he answered.
This time, it was AJ.
“Yo, where ARE you? It’s 9:30 and Howie’s about to cut a bitch.”
“I’m…” Nick sighed and looked out through his window. He wasn’t about to admit he hadn’t a clue where he was right now. The guys teased him enough at his ability to space out reality so often. “…on my way. Traffic is insane right now.”
Maybe it was? If Nick was lucky, it would be, simply to support his answer. Then again, he never lucked out in situations like this.
“Oh yeah, some crazy accident or something.”
‘Please don’t let AJ ask where or I’m fucked.’ He prayed silently, going through the radio stations to try and find out what to say in his lie in case the prayer failed and he was in fact asked.
“I’ll be there soon.” ‘I hope’ He added mentally.
“B wants to talk to you.”
“AJ I can’t drive if y’all keep me on the phone.”
“Hey you know how he is, if I say no he’ll jump my ass and grab it from me.” A pause. “Here Brian.”
“Are you okay Nick?”
Nick felt his dimming temper begin to ignite once more as he grit his teeth. Brian was getting to be more and more like his cousin over the years, only it wasn’t in the good ways. “Yes, I’m fine. Just caught in traffic.”
“Are you sure? I have a feeling…”
“I’m alright okay? Baylee’s your kid Brian, not me. Look I overslept which was why I didn’t wanna play basketball in the first place yesterday. Now today, there’s traffic that’s holding me up. I’ll be there soon. I’m alive, I’m fine, and fuck, I’m even dandy. Now get off my ass Brian.”
He was met with silence on the other end, which suited Nick just fine. Part of him knew that he was taking out his frustration on the bad morning he’d been having on Brian, but the other part of him figured he deserved it for not treating him like the adult he was.
“See you there then.” And then he was met with the dial tone.
“Fuck!” He tossed the cell in the passenger seat and hit the steering wheel in annoyance. He looked outside the window again and this time caught sight of the road he was on. West 11th.
“Okay, don’t panic Nick. You just haven’t been in dive hotels in years, and you’re used to Nashville now. That’s all. Okay. Just need to find the place before the guys decide to hunt me down. No big deal. “
How was he supposed to get back to the recording studio when he wasn’t even sure how to get back to that random hotel he’d stayed at the night before? He kicked the floorboard, angry at himself for even being so stupid to begin with. He knew better than to try and prove anything to Brian. It always got him in messes he was always to stubborn to ask for help cleaning up. It was then he finally noticed the GPS system he always forgot he had on his car. The reason Nick never remembered it was simply because he never used it really.
He entered in his current location, and racked his brain to remember the address of Paramount Recording Studio. His mind relayed the mental pictures of it, trying to remember exactly what the street signs said. Finally, Santa Monica sprang to the forefront of his mind. Relieved that he was finally able to remedy this blunder, he turned the radio up once more, head banging happily to Linkin Park as his car was finally finding its way to the recording studio.
It’d been almost eleven before Nick finally walked through the doors. He was met with two sullen faces as he shrugged sheepishly. Luckily for him, Howie seemed to be laying down his vocals, but despite that managed to send Nick a deadly glare from recording booth. AJ raised a brow but decided to stay quiet. Brian on the other hand had no problems walking up to him and pulling Nick aside away from AJ’s ears.
“Look, I wasn’t paying attention and I got lost in traffic.” Nick figured perhaps a kernel of truth hidden within the lies would help his story a bit against Brian.
“Alright. Look I’m sorry if I’m worrying too much. I just have this feeling, maybe it’s just because your bleached blonde booty has a knack for trouble” He teased.
Nick beamed at his best friend, the anger from earlier that day and the night before now forgotten. It was hard to stay mad at Brian, a fact he often cursed and appreciated at the same time. He pulled the shorter man into a hug, ruffling what was left of Brian’s thinning hair. “At least I still got hair to dye shorty. Maybe I should look into finding you a wig…”
Brian shoved him back, laughing. “Bald…is…” he posed into a faux model stance. “…beautiful!”
He chuckled. “And this is why people still think we’re gay.”
“Oh you know it honey!”
Nick had this feeling that although Brian let it go for now, he wasn’t giving up so easily. Brian never did. Even though he wouldn’t admit it, and often denied it even to himself, he loved that Brian was stubbornly persistent. His thoughts were interrupted as Howie stepped out of the booth.
“You’re up tardy Boy.”
Nick saluted and rushed into the vocal booth, forgetting the troubles of that morning and being swept within the passion of what he loved.
With all the changes that he’d lived through, and all that had yet to come, that would be the one thing that would never change. His love for the music.