Running Up That Hill – Day 23

These days
Things are just okay

-Xu Xu Fang ‘These Days’

I can handle my liquor better than Nick can. Well… most people can handle their liquor better than Nick can, but you know what I mean.

It was late. We’d already been at the bar for a few hours already and Nick was completely trashed. He and Chris were dicking around, dancing (or trying to, at least) and hitting on girls. I think Nicky thought he was being a lot smoother than he actually was.

Meanwhile I was sitting at the bar. I felt sort of like a parent, sitting there and watching over him like that, but can you blame me? I wasn’t really interested in acting like the frat boy Nick had transformed into as soon as we’d stepped inside the club. I’d tried hanging out with them at first, but this version of Nick was so different and I had no clue how to relate to him. Plus this young adult club atmosphere wasn’t something I was used to.

It probably wasn’t something Nick was used to either, but he was fitting in just fine. Plus it helped that he was Nick Carter. God’s gift to women… or so he thought anyway. He certainly wasn’t acting like it.

It wasn’t that he was an overly sloppy drunk or anything, Nick just gets more… Nickish whenever he drinks. That’s the only way to really describe it. He just gets louder, thinks he’s a lot funnier than he actually is and gets a lot more touchy.

Like, with anyone. That’s why it’s better to stay away from him when he’s drunk!

“Howie, Howie, Howie,” Nick said as he raced over to me. He was practically in my face. I wasn’t kidding when I told you he liked to get close! “Dude, I got girls for us man. And they’re hot,” he said excitedly, cupping his hands in front of his chest.

“I’m not going to go home with one of your groupies tonight, Nicky,” I told him with a laugh.

Nick shook his head dramatically. “No Howie man, you don’t get it! She wanted you. I went over to her and she was all like, ‘Oh, is that Howie over there? I’d really rather be with him!’ Seriously!”

He must have been wasted, because there’s no way he would have made a comment like that sober without some kind of stupid joke.

“Think about it, you’ve got a fan! You owe it to her, man.” He started laughing so hard he had to put his hands on my knees to stabilize himself.

I still maintain that he was totally drunk. I half pushed him away. “I’m sure she’ll survive.” I looked past Nick to see if there were actually any girls looking eagerly at us. Chris was talking to a couple of them, and they seemed normal enough, but there was no way I was going to go home with some college aged girl from a club!

Speaking of Chris, he really bothered me. He seemed to be doing just fine and keeping his head, while Nick continued to make a fool out of himself. If Nick wasn’t well… Nick, I could see Chris being the smooth one and Nick being the drunk idiot who got his leftovers. I know that’s a terrible thing to say, but it was sort of true.

I mean, I was well aware that Chris had been Nick’s enabler from the start, but to actually see it in action was quite another story. This guy wasn’t doing him any good.

“Nick, come on, let’s go home,” I tried to persuade him, knowing he had a rule about not taking girls back to his house. It didn’t overly bother me that he was sleeping with tons of different girls, he’d always done that (okay, all of us had, but I’m just talking about Nick right now!) but I didn’t want to let him out of my sight in this state.

Yeah, yeah, I know I was being overly parental. Can you really blame me?

Nick looked at me in surprise. “Home? Howie, we just got here! And what about the girls?!”

I looked down at my watch. It was nearly one in the morning. We definitely had not “just got here.” The way Nick was going, I was sort of surprised he wasn’t on the ground.

“There will be girls wherever you go, Nick,” I said with a laugh. “I think we’re done for the night.”

He eyed me suspiciously. “Are you trying to get me to go home with you Howie?”

Yes Nick, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do! “That’s the idea.”

He rolled his eyes. “Come on Howie! This is the first time we’ve been out in… forever! We haven’t gone out in so long! Let’s do a shot? I’ll buy you a shot! Remember when we used to do shots, and when we did the centurion?”

I was certain I would never forget the night that Nick and I did the centurion. “Fine… let’s do shots. But after that we’ll go home.”

He put his arm around me. “Deal!”

And it was at that point Nick ordered six shots of tequila. “I said one!” God dammit.

Nick just grinned. That stupid goofy sheepish grin he always had when he knew he was being a little shit. “Come on Howie, I’ve seen you do worse.”

I knew I could handle three shots of tequila in succession, but I was pretty sure in Nick’s state he couldn’t. At least I’d be able to get him home… because I’d be dragging his ass off the floor of the club!

Sure enough I was right. At least about the part where Nick couldn’t handle the shots. He was all giggles for a minute afterwards, and then very quickly sat down beside me, folded his arms on top of the bar and put his head down.

“Nicky, you okay?”

He didn’t look up. “Mmmhmm.”

I was suddenly envisioning Nick throwing up in the club and our faces plastered all over the paper the next morning. At least it would probably be easier for me to get Nick out of there now, which I had to do before that vision of mine became a reality.

Too bad that’s when Chris decided to finally make his way over to us. “What’s he doing? Those chicks are waiting for us and they’re going to leave!”

I really didn’t like this guy. “I think we’re heading out,” I told him.

He raised his eyebrows, clearly unamused. “Heading out? We just got here!”

I nodded my head towards Nick. “Look at him. I’d say he’s ready to call it a night.”

Chris rolled his eyes. “He’s fine,” he said, then turned towards Nick. “You’re good, aren’t you? Those girls are waiting for you, and they won’t leave without you.”

Again, Nick didn’t look up. “Dude, I want to go home,” he muttered.

“Typical. This is so typical of him,” Chris mumbled, looking down angrily at Nick. “Call me when you get your act together and can actually hold your alcohol so we can score some chicks.” Then he marched out of the club in a huff.

I couldn’t care less about Chris and was pretty glad to see him gone. “Come on Nicky,” I said. “Let’s go home.”

~~~

Breakfast was awkward. Kevin was still in a mood and I didn’t really have it in me to try and sort things out with him. We made small talk, but it was hard to act like nothing was wrong.

“Isn’t it weird?” Kristin remarked as we sat around the table. “The next time we all see each other you’ll be back on tour again. This break went by so quickly.”

It was a little bit weird, I had to admit, but it wasn’t like we’d never been on a break before. Sure this one was unexpected, and it had been hard at first to deal with what had happened, but we’d all made our peace with it. I know I had at least, the visit with AJ had really helped. As far as I was concerned, the break had served its purpose. AJ had gotten the help he’d needed and he seemed to be a lot better for it.

“It seems like just yesterday you guys were announcing on TRL that AJ was going into rehab,” Leighanne mused as she sipped her coffee.

That seemed like an eternity ago. It had only been earlier in the month, but I remembered feeling like I wanted nothing more than to be close with the other guys in the group while all that was happening. Now, all I wanted was to get away from them for a little while. I was almost dreading going back on the road.

“It seemed like you all needed this though, not just AJ. I know I liked having the time off and I’m not even in the group.”

I did find it a little funny that our wives were sitting there having a discussion about our break and our group without any input from Kevin or myself.

I cleared my throat, not wanting to go into how I was actually feeling about the break and the group. As far as the break was concerned, I just wanted to enjoy what was left of it. Now that I knew AJ was going to be okay, I felt I could.

Not that there weren’t other members of the group who were cause for concern, but I didn’t have the energy to worry about them for the time being.

“We’ve really got to get moving if we want to make our flight,” I said to Leighanne and stood up from the table. “Thanks for letting us stay with you guys.”

“Anytime,” Kristin smiled and then nudged Kevin.

Kevin looked at me. I could tell he was still annoyed, I was too, but I knew it would pass. At least we still had a few days before the craziness started up again.

“Don’t be a stranger, cuz,” he said as we got up to leave.

“I won’t,” I replied, even though it was a lie. I intended to be until it was time to go back on tour.

~~~

“Good morning, sunshine,” I heard Howie say the next morning. Or afternoon. Whenever it was. I looked around and sure enough I had spent the night in my bathroom again. I should probably just move my bed in here.

“Morning,” I muttered, sitting up. Howie handed me a giant coffee – an iced americano from Dunkin’ Donuts. Howie is the king of fixing hangovers. I love him.

He eyed me as I sipped my coffee. I could tell he kind of wanted to grill me, but he also had sympathy. Because he was a nice person like that. I was so glad he was the person who had come to visit me instead of Kevin.

“So, do you recall what happened last night?”

Nevermind what I said.

“Yeah… we went to the bar and drank a lot.” Duh, Howie.

“You almost passed out,” he reminded me. “Thank God you were able to walk from the cab the house… I don’t think I would have been able to carry you,” he laughed.

“Tequila will do that,” I said. Just thinking about it made me want to throw up again, even though I didn’t think it was possible that any of it was left in my system.

“It was your idea,” he said.

“Yeah I know. I always get stupid ideas when I’m drunk. It’s your fault for listening to me.”

He shook his head. “Chris left the club before we did. He was pretty pissed off.”

Chris was such a tool sometimes. “Yeah, he always does that when I get too drunk to go home with any girls and ruin his chances.”

“Does that happen a lot?”

Crap, I said too much. “I dunno,” I shrugged. “I’m just out there having fun, sometimes it gets out of hand. It happens.”

Howie sighed. I knew he was just concerned, but he was starting to piss me off. I didn’t need him to be so concerned about me, especially when I was feeling like shit.

“I’m not saying you can’t go out and have fun, Nicky, but maybe those clubs aren’t the best place to do it, you know? And that Chris guy’s bad news… if I wasn’t there he probably would have just left you there.”

Yeah, he probably would have. Howie was right, Chris was kind of a tool. “I know,” I mumbled, finishing my drink. I let my straw make that slurping noise for longer than I should have just because I knew it would annoy Howie.

“It’s not doing you any good to stay out here by yourself hanging out with that guy.”

I raised my eyebrow. I knew he was going to try and get me to go back to LA with him. “You’re here now,” I pointed out.

“I can’t stay here with you forever, Nicky.”

“It’s not forever, we’re going back in tour in a week.”

Just come right out and say it, Howie!

“I know, but I’ve got stuff I need to do in LA before we do,” he said. He probably wasn’t lying either. Howie was always busy with something.

“I’ve got stuff I need to do here,” I said and he gave me a look because he knew I was full of shit. I had nothing better to do. I was bored as fuck. “So what… you want me to come back with you to LA?”

“Only if you want to,” he replied as if it was no big deal.

I rolled my eyes. “Cut the crap, Howie. I heard you talking on the phone with Kevin, I know you guys are trying to get me to come back to LA with you so you can watch over me because you think I’m being a big fuck up down here.”

He stayed calm. That’s kind of what I loved about Howie. Even when I got pissed off he was able to keep his cool. “No, I came to visit you because I was worried about you down here all by yourself, getting into trouble with Chris. I don’t want to watch over you, I just don’t want you to be alone because it doesn’t seem like you’re handling it very well.”

I couldn’t really argue with him, I guess. I also didn’t have the energy to. If I went to LA I probably wouldn’t be so bored… I’d have to deal with Kevin, but if I stayed with Howie, he’d keep him off my back. “Fine,” I sighed. “I’ll come with you to LA.”

~~~

“What’s going on?” Kris asked me point blank once Brian and Leighanne left.

I shrugged. “Nothing. Things are just weird I guess, since we saw that AJ’s doing fine it’s just a regular break now. We all need some time away from each other, I think.”

She gave me a look. Kris could always tell when I wasn’t telling her the whole truth. Usually, it was one of the things I loved about her. Today it was annoying me. I really didn’t want to talk about it. What I had said was true, we really did need some time off from the group and that included all the drama that had been going on lately.

“Really? Because he couldn’t get out of here fast enough, and you two hardly said anything to each other last night.”

“It’ll be fine. We just had a small disagreement over some group stuff.” Over Nick, really. That kid was causing problems even when he wasn’t around! I had to admit, I was sort of glad I wouldn’t be seeing him until we went back on tour. I’d probably just take out all my frustrations with Brian out on him… which I suppose made sense, since he caused them in the first place!

Kristin sighed. “Just don’t forget, the two of you are family, you were before you were in this business together, and you will be if one day you’re not part of it anymore. Don’t let something silly come between you guys. It’s not worth it.”

I pondered that for a moment. She was right, as usual. Not just about Brian, but about all of us. We always said we were brothers. Though we needed some time apart, I still needed to act like they were important to me regardless of the status of the group.

“Thanks baby,” I said, kissing her on the cheek. “You’re right.”

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