Running Up That Hill – Day 20

I don’t mind
As long as there’s a bed beneath the stars that shine
I’ll be fine, give me a minute, a man’s got a limit,
I can’t get a life if my heart’s not in it

-Oasis ‘The Importance of Being Idle’

I looked at my half packed duffel bag that was sitting on my bed. I didn’t need very much, after all we were only going to Arizona for a couple of days. For whatever reason, it was just hard to bring myself to actually finish packing.

I wasn’t nervous about visiting AJ. In fact, I was almost excited. I knew that Kevin and Brian were nervous, Kevin especially, but they didn’t really have anything to worry about. AJ had been at his worst when we were out on tour, and that intervention (or whatever you want to call it) had been exactly what he’d needed. He could only get better. If he’d made no progress at all, we’d probably know about it. Denise wouldn’t have wanted us to come visit him if things were going badly. The fact that we’d been invited was a good sign.

I’d tried to tell Kevin that, and although he’d seemed to agree, I knew he was still worried. I couldn’t blame him, Kevin always worried about the rest of us, AJ and Nick especially. Of course he was going to be stressed out about this.

If I was worried about anything, it was how AJ would react when he saw the three of us without Nick. I’d given up on the fact that he was going to show up. Since he hadn’t made it to the Jive meeting, there was no reason for me to think that he’d come with us to visit AJ. I know, I know, that sounds a little backwards. Wouldn’t Nick be more willing to visit with AJ than to visit with Jive?

You would think, but I knew that Nick was scared of talking to AJ. He wasn’t comfortable in those situations, and tried to avoid them as often as he could. The only reason he’d go visit AJ at all was if he was already with us and we put him on the plane ourselves. Since he’d conveniently decided not to come with us to the meeting, I knew it just wasn’t going to happen.

As much as Nick was acting like he didn’t have a care in the world, I knew otherwise. I didn’t know exactly what he was doing down in Florida. I had yet to see any headlines about him, but I was still worried. Nick had a tendency to get a little out of hand (maybe more than just a little) when we were on tour. Though he didn’t need to be watched nearly as much as AJ had, it worried me to think about what he’d be up to without the rest of us around. It was already clear he’d managed to get himself into trouble, as evidenced by his argument with Kevin a few days ago.

Truthfully, I felt like Nick could have benefited from a visit with the rest of us a little more than AJ. That’s not to say that AJ didn’t need or want to see the rest of us – I was sure that he did. However, he was also getting treatment for his condition and had the support of his family.

Nick was just lost and alone down in Florida. He had no family around him and I didn’t really want to know about the types of people he was probably hanging around. I couldn’t shake the worried feeling I’d had about him since he’d left here. He had been so distant and sad. If we wanted to be able to go back on tour in a few weeks, not only did AJ have to be doing better, all of us did. That included Nick and whatever he was going through.

Out of the four of us the break was affecting him the most, and the hardest. Even if he would never admit it to the rest of us, it was easy to tell that was the case. I got the feeling he missed us – even though he’d never admit to that either.

I missed him too – and not just because of what was going on with the group. We’ve said many times in interviews that the five of us were like brothers and it’s true. Things felt incomplete without AJ around, and they felt even weirder without Nick. It just would have been nice to have all five of us together again.


Leighanne, Kevin, Kristin and myself were impatiently standing near one of the many check-in areas at LAX. I checked my watch and looked up at the flight board. Where the heck was Howie? He was never late. It’s not like we were in danger of missing our flight or anything, we had made sure to get to the airport an hour earlier than necessary, but still, it was weird.

I looked up at Kevin, and he shrugged. “No idea,” he said, knowing exactly what I was thinking. He pulled out his cell phone, presumably to call him. As if on cue, Howie strolled up to us with his luggage in tow. He was wearing a grin on his face and didn’t look at all like he was aware he was over fifteen minutes late.

“What’s up guys?” he asked cheerfully.

Kevin put his phone back in his pocket. “Traffic?” he asked lightly, ignoring Howie’s question.

Howie looked at him oddly for a second. “What? Oh, because you said we were meeting here at two. Yeah, sorry about that, I had some last minute packing to do.” He motioned towards his suitcases, which were twice the size of either of ours.

“It’s only a two night trip,” I laughed a little. I know Howie likes to overpack, but it wasn’t like we were going to be spending much time outside of our hotel rooms and the airport.

“Oh, right,” he replied, avoiding eye contact for a second. “About that-”

“Guys,” Kevin cut him off. “We should really start heading towards security, our flight leaves in two hours and there’s always a line. Plus we’re already fifteen minutes behind schedule,” he shot a glare in Howie’s direction.

Good old Kevin, trying to take control of a situation any way he can. At least I knew now that in hierarchy of people he liked to pick on when Nick and AJ were gone, I came after poor Howie.

We started walking towards the security line (which was pretty long, as it always is at LAX) and Howie cleared his throat. “Yeah, as I was trying to say earlier, my flight’s not leaving for another three hours, I just wanted to come see you guys off…”

Kevin and I exchanged a glance before he spoke up. “What? There are no other flights to Arizona today. That’s why we’re leaving so early.”

Apparently I caught on before Kevin did. Sometimes he got so stuck in his schedules and planning that he wasn’t able to see past them. “You’re not coming with us, are you?”

Howie shook his head. “No, I’m not.”

He was so easy to read. “You’re going to Tampa, aren’t you?”


Kevin raised his eyebrows, but didn’t say anything. I couldn’t tell if he was shocked, or angry, or okay with it. I couldn’t say I was surprised. Even if I thought Nick was being childish, I couldn’t deny the fact that he probably needed someone with him. And really, there was no one more suited to the Nick watching job than Howie. Even if Kevin liked to think otherwise.

“Are you serious?” Kevin asked him sharply. Guess he was angry.

Howie stayed calm. He’d probably been anticipating our reactions. “Yeah, I know AJ needs us, but he’ll have you guys. I just think that Nick might need us too… and he probably does feel bad about the fact that he’s not here or coming with us, you know?”

I was pretty sure he’d rehearsed that little speech. I didn’t think we needed to baby Nick, but Howie’s intentions weren’t bad.

“Does he know you’re coming?” I asked, though I was sure I already knew the answer.

Howie shrugged. “I thought I’d surprise him.”

“And you think that’s a good idea?” Kevin asked, still looking like he wasn’t okay with all of this.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Howie said dismissively. If any one of us could show up on Nick’s doorstep without getting the door slammed in our face, he was probably our best bet. “Besides Kevin, I know you’re worried about Nick. At the very least, I’ll be able to see what’s actually going on with him instead of the show he puts on for us.”

“It’s not a very good show,” Kevin muttered.

Howie nodded. “Which is exactly why one of us needs to go visit him, don’t you think?”

Kevin shrugged. “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” he finally admitted with a sigh.

Howie probably should have been a lawyer. No wonder he’s our Switzerland.


I took a sip of my coffee as Kristin flipped though the in flight magazine. Despite the price you pay for a first class seat, I’m certain that they give you the same coffee as they serve to the people in coach. Not that I think I’m above the people who buy coach or anything, I’m just a coffee snob. They should probably just serve better coffee to everyone.

I started picking at the cup as my mind drifted yet again to Howie, Nick and what was going to happen in Tampa. I was sure Nick wouldn’t be as annoyed with Howie showing up as he would had it been Brian or myself who had decided to go down there.

Of course, Howie was the only one of us who would actually decide to go down there instead of complain about how much of a brat he was being. I couldn’t decide if that made him noble or stupid.

Kristin put her hand on top of mine and offered me a small smile when I turned towards her. “What’s wrong?” she asked knowingly.

I sighed. She knew me too well, although I guess I wasn’t doing the best job of hiding the fact that I was stressed. It was enough that we were going to see AJ – now I had Howie and Nick to deal with too? “You know what’s wrong, I’m worried about Nick.”

“I know you are. But you don’t have to be, do you? Howie’s going to go visit him and everything’s going to be fine. That should make you feel better, not make you worry more.”

“I worry about everything, Kris.”

“Yeah, I know,” she replied quickly. “But you really don’t have to. Everything’s going to be fine. Howie might even be able to talk some sense into Nick, and hopefully everything between you guys can get patched up before you go back on the road.”

“Maybe,” I shrugged. “I guess I’m mostly worried about the fact that only two of us are going to see AJ. How are we going to explain this to him? I just wish that Howie could have picked a better time to go see Nick, you know?”

Kristin shook her head. “You’ll just have to tell AJ what’s been going on, I guess. It’s not like you wouldn’t have had to anyway, Nick wasn’t going to come with you guys regardless.”

She had a point.

“Plus, you know that Nick probably feels bad about not coming with us. I think that Howie going to visit him will make him feel a little better about that. This was probably the best time he could have picked to go visit Nick.”

Again, she had a point. Plus, that was exactly what Howie had said before, and he wasn’t wrong. I guess I was over thinking things just a little. I wished all four of us could have gone to visit AJ together, but I supposed it wasn’t the end of the world that it was just Brian and I. At least someone was going to visit him.

Besides, Nick probably did need a visit just as much as AJ did. Maybe even more.


“Dude, this sucks. Let’s go to the bar. It’s Saturday night and all you want to do is hang out on your back porch smoking up?”

I leaned back in my chair and ignored Chris as I finished off the last of my joint. I didn’t want to deal with going to the bar and hitting on chicks. For once, I just wanted to sit back, relax and not be Nick Carter for an evening. Instead, I could just be a guy with weed, pizza and an awesome backyard.

“Seriously? You’re just going to sit there? Man!” He kept on complaining, but he didn’t leave. Maybe if he smoked some of that weed I mentioned before he wouldn’t be such a prick!

“You can go jump in the pool if you want. That might be fun.” I said finally, not really giving a shit. It would probably be better if he left anyway. Sometimes Chris was the ruiner of fun. Especially when I just wanted to sit there.

“You know what’s more fun than jumping in the pool? Girls. Lots of girls. Like the girls who are currently at the bar getting drunker and drunker, waiting for someone like us to save them from the embarrassment of having to go home alone.”

He was still complaining, but he was also still not leaving. I knew why. Because without me, he was just a dude in a bar trying to pick up chicks like everyone else. With me, obviously, he was Nick Carter’s cool friend. And Nick Carter got all the chicks, they all felt sorry for him because he was home from tour, and they wanted to know how he felt about how AJ was doing in rehab. Well, maybe some days, Nick Carter doesn’t want to talk with any chicks or anyone about how AJ’s doing in rehab and just wants to hang out by his awesome pool.

“Dude, you can go to the bar without me. No one’s stopping you.”

“We’re bros. You’re supposed to be my wingman!”

See? I told you. Everyone’s looking for a slice of Nicky C. Well, they’re not going to get one! Not today anyway. Not while I was sitting in my comfortable as fuck lawn chair.

“Come on man…” and just like that Chris started complaining all over again. He really was a buzz kill! Or a relax kill.

He talked so much I almost couldn’t hear the sound of my front gate buzzer going off. “Shut up, Chris,” I muttered, and listened intently. I even put my hand up to my ear, ’cause I’m cool like that.

“What are you doing?”

“I think someone’s here. But who?” I wondered out loud.

Chris rolled his eyes. “The pizza guy?”

“No… he was already here…”

Again with the eye rolling. What was he, my girlfriend or something? “You said you were going to order a second one. I think your exact words were ‘Dude, this pizza was so amazing, we should order another one so it’s amazing all over again.’ This is the worst Saturday ever. I’m so out of here!”

He was right, I did say that! “Awesome!” I said, going back into the house. I didn’t really care that Chris was leaving. Then I could enjoy my pizza in peace, plus I wouldn’t have to share any!

“What’s up, pizza guy? Welcome back to my casa!” I laughed as I pressed the intercom.

“Nick? No… it’s not the pizza guy. It’s Howie.”

Howie? Howie! He’s chill and mellow and likes pizza. But what was he doing here? Wasn’t he supposed to be with Kevin and Brian talking about how much of an ass I was? “Howie… if you’re really Howie, what kind of conditioner do you use?”

“Redken Cool Finish Invigorating,” he replied easily. I didn’t know if that was true or not, but only Howie could come up with that answer that fast. I buzzed him in and waited by my front door.

“What’s up, Howie?” I grinned. I couldn’t hide it. I was actually happy to see him. “Why aren’t you in LA?”

He wheeled his suitcases into the doorway. “I thought I’d come visit you instead,” he said.

I could have hugged him. But instead, I just put my arm around him as we walked through my house to the backyard. “Howie, Howie, Howie,” I said. “You’re in luck. It’s Saturday at Casa de Carter, and weed and pizza is on the menu.”

“Yeah, I can tell,” he said, sitting down in one of my comfy lawn chairs. I lit up a second joint and went to hand it to him. “No thanks Nicky, I’ll just stick with the pizza.”

“Come on dude, it makes the pizza taste way better.”

“I know.”

“I know you know,” I said, wiggling it in front of him again. This time, he took it from me. I knew I was being kind of a dick pressuring him like that, but I didn’t really care. It wasn’t the first time Howie and I had sat around getting stoned together, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. We always had fun.

He’d come to visit me even though he was supposed to be visiting AJ. Howie was the best. He got me. He was way awesomer than Kevin, who was mad at me all the time. Or Brian, who wanted to hang out with his wife who thought she was better than me. Or Chris who just used me to pick up chicks.

I grinned. If I hadn’t been so high I probably wouldn’t have shown it as much, but I was really happy to have him there.


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