Life After The Unexpected by alota_cookin
Summary:

An unpredicted event can turn your life, upside, down.
Never, had Nick imagined, just how much, one event could impact his life.
Allow him to show you, his life...after the unexpected.

This is the prequel, to Life According To Baylee...as told by Nick Carter.

Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters: Group, Nick, Other
Genres: Angst, Drama
Warnings: Death
Challenges:
Series: Life According To Baylee
Chapters: 11 Completed: No Word count: 20446 Read: 17248 Published: 02/20/09 Updated: 03/03/12

1. Chapter One by alota_cookin

2. Chapter Two by alota_cookin

3. Chapter Three by alota_cookin

4. Chapter Four by alota_cookin

5. Chapter Five by alota_cookin

6. Chapter Six by alota_cookin

7. Chapter Seven by alota_cookin

8. Chapter Eight by alota_cookin

9. Chapter Nine by alota_cookin

10. Chapter Ten by alota_cookin

11. Chapter Eleven by alota_cookin

Chapter One by alota_cookin
It’s, all, my fault, and I know it. You can tell me, all you want, that it’s not my fault and that there’s no way I could have known…that I couldn’t have, possibly, prevented it…hell, I know that’s what he’ll say, too, but it really was my fault. He told me to stop stalling him…that he was going to be late, for lunch, with his wife. I curse myself, for actually listening…I never listen! Anytime he’s ever told me to shut up, and stop stalling, I have always ignored him and continued talking, about whatever I was thinking. Why didn’t I stall just a few more minutes? If I wouldn’t have listened, this accident wouldn’t have happened and I wouldn’t be rushing, to the hospital, right now! See? I told you it was my fault.

It all started, when I agreed to hang out with my buddy, Baylee, for the day. Brian was my best friend, and when he asked me to watch Bay, so he and his wife, Leighanne, could spend the afternoon and evening together, I couldn’t say no. Leighanne had already been out, to get pampered, or whatever, and Brian was supposed to pick her up, for lunch and an afternoon out.

We, all, decided to take a group vacation, in Florida, together. Everyone was, off, doing different activities, today, and had planned to meet, later, for dinner. I was at the arcade, with Baylee, when my cell started to ring. Being wrapped up, in the game, I ignored it, but it kept going off until I answered. AJ’s frantic voice floated into my ears. After picking up Leighanne, on time, might I add, they were in some kind of car accident. I was told to grab Baylee, and get to the hospital immediately.

I can’t, even, begin to tell you the thoughts that were floating through my head. Panic, and fear, ran through my veins, like never before. AJ didn’t give me any specifics, about the accident, so my imagination was running wild. The worst thoughts crossed my mind and, frankly, it was scaring the shit, out of me!

I strapped eight year old Baylee, into the backseat, making sure his booster seat was securely in place and the seat belt was snug. He could see the worry, on my face, and asked me what was wrong. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him. I ruffled his curls, and told him I would explain everything, later. Maybe I should have, just, told him, but I didn’t know all the facts and I didn’t want to worry my little buddy.

How I made it, to the hospital, without a ticket, is beyond me. I tried to pace myself, thinking that it would do no good, for us to be in an accident, too, but I couldn’t help it. In my mind, every moment counted because I might be losing my best friend. Every, worst case, scenario took over my brain, as I turned into the parking lot. Bringing the car, to a halt, I spotted camera crews, near the entrance. I wasn’t prepared to answer questions, and I was amazed that they were there, already.

Swiftly, getting Baylee out, I took a firm hold, of his hand. Baylee was, pretty much, running, to keep up with my long, fast, strides. I told him to keep his head low, as we approached the doors. I bowed my head, as well, holding my hand up, in front of my face. We began to weave, through people, as they started shouting, at us.

“NICK! NICK! WHAT HAPPENED TO BRIAN? IS HE OKAY?” I didn’t look up, to see which person was shouting. Damnit, these people are quick, on the draw. I barely even knew about the accident and they were already pounding down the doors. Couldn’t they give us a little bit, of time, to handle the situation? Hell…I still needed to find out what was going on!

“I DON’T KNOW YET!” My voice hit a top notch, because there were a good 20 people yelling, at me. A moment later, we busted through the doors, and into the lobby. Rushing to the information desk, I demanded that the woman tell me where I could find Brian Littrell. She looked at me, stunned. I must have come off harsh, even though I didn’t mean to.

“Nick…Baylee…” AJ’s voice grabbed my attention. I turned to see him rushing toward me, his face red, eyes puffy, and tears streaking his face. My stomach dropped and my knees went weak, knowing I didn’t want to hear, what he had to say. “This way…hurry.”

“J…tell me what’s going on! What happened? Where is he?” I held, tight, to Baylee’s hand, as we followed him down a hallway. The E.R. sign came into view, as he led us through a set, of double doors. A few moments later, we came to a waiting room. It felt like someone punched me, in the gut, when I saw everyone’s faces. My Ashley stood and hurried, to me, her face almost matching AJ’s. Suddenly, I was engulfed by several pairs, of arms, as was Baylee.

My mind raced, but yet, I couldn’t think straight. All I wanted to know was where Brian was, and how he was doing. By the looks, of things, it couldn’t be good. Every fiber, of my being didn’t want, to believe, what my gut was telling me. Someone better say something…and quickly!
Chapter Two by alota_cookin
Ever since that call, I had a bad feeling…this aching, gut, feeling that life, as I knew it, was crashing. My heart pounded, so hard that it felt like it had stopped…now, I know that seems impossible, but I swear it did. Everyone parted, from the hug, but no one could look me, in the eye. The fear that ran through my veins seemed to be the only thing that kept me standing…mainly because I could no longer, even, move. My chest felt constricted, and my mouth had, long since, gone dry. The voices, around me, were jumbled, and I couldn’t make anything out until…

“Leighanne…is in a coma.” Kristin choked, on her words, her voice cracking. “She…she received…” Her tears picked up and her sentence fell short. Looking from one face, to another, none of my fears were relieved. Kevin stared at the ground, his hands shoved in his pockets, and Leigh had her face covered, as she sat back down, and cried.

“Leighanne has severe head trauma.” Howie stepped forward, his eyes meeting mine. “The truck hit them, head on, and…” I watched him take in a deep breath, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to see Brian and I had to see him now.

“What about Brian? Where is he? I have to see him!” I pleaded, with Howie, to tell me about my best friend. This accident…I couldn’t stop thinking, about how it was my fault. How I should have stalled a little bit longer. A few precious moments, could have made them later…then they wouldn’t have been in the accident, at all. “Please…I have to know he’s okay! Somebody, just, tell me!”

“What’s severe head trau…ma?” Baylee asked, looking around, confused. I saw Leigh stand, wiping her eyes, and walking to Baylee.

“Come on, Baylee, let’s go for a walk, and talk, okay?” Leigh sniffed, as she took his hand, leading him out, of the room. Now, that’s a bad sign, if I ever did see one.

“Nick…he…Brian, he’s…he’s gone, Nick.” Could I tell you whose voice uttered the words? Hell no. All I know is that they pierced me, like a hot knife, ripping through my ribcage. All I wanted, was for someone to tell me that he was gone…to the vending machine…to see his wife…anywhere, except that dreadful ending that I knew they were implying. He couldn’t be…no…no, he can’t.

“No…” My voice failed me, and it came out as more of a breath than anything else. Tears stung my eyes, as my knees gave out. The arms, that had been surrounding me, earlier, helped me, to a chair. I couldn’t stop my eyes, from spilling over, with painful tears. My best friend…my partner in crime…gone? Ashley knelt, before me, taking my face, in her hands. Her fingers caressed my cheeks, as she sniffed, stifling her own tears.

“He…he died…on the scene, Nick. Baby, I’m so sorry.” I couldn’t, even, look, into those amazing blue eyes that I loved so much. The pain that surged through my body carried me out of the waiting room. I couldn’t believe it…I wouldn’t…I should have stalled…it was, all, my fault! My thoughts were so random, and jumbled, that I couldn’t even piece them together. All I knew was that I had to get out of that room…and fast.

“No…no…no…” My voice grew louder, as my legs carried me down the hall. I had no destination…hell, I didn’t even know which direction I turned. Both my hands covered my head, my fingers entwining, with my hair. My legs soon wore, tired, of running and I found myself sliding down the cold hospital wall…in an unknown hallway…on a completely different wing.

My eyes were glazed over, with tears, so much that I could barely see. Uncontrollable shaking took over my body, and my head fell into my hands. How could he be gone? My breathing was, now, ragged, as my crying increased. I couldn’t control my shaking hands, as I thought over what I had, just, lost.

Brian was my life line, for so much, of my life. When I was young and missing social interaction…he was there, to play video games or basketball. He was there, to help me understand the feelings, in me, when I started crushing on girls. The early years, of touring were great, but he was there when it got, to be, too much. Anytime I needed a friend…someone to talk to…someone to listen…a shoulder to cry on…Brian was always there.

He never scolded me or told me I was dumb. Not once, did he ever roll his eyes, or get annoyed, with my venting. Brian was an understanding man…one you could lean on and turn to, if you ever had a problem. Yeah, sure, I have a ton, of other friends, but no one could compare to my best friend. He was irreplaceable and now I felt like a part, of me, had died.

My brain refused, to accept it, but my heart could feel his absence. As my tears started to run dry, I thought of my little buddy. Jumping up, I started to race, back to the waiting room. Even though I couldn’t remember the directions I had taken, earlier, I was still finding my way, back, without a problem. Had anyone told him, yet? How could I be so selfish, to not think about how he was taking this? Brian may have been my best friend, and a major part of my life…and my life will, surely, never be the same, without him, but Baylee…he had lost a parent! My heart ached, as I saw the waiting room, come into view.

“Nick!” Ashley stepped, out the door, and made her way, towards me. Her arms wrapped around me, hugging me tightly. “How are you holding up, baby?” She pulled away, to look at my face and swollen eyes.

“Not well. Has anyone told Baylee…about…his dad, yet?” I choked, on my words, tears threatening to return. Hearing the door open, I see AJ and Baylee walking out. Baylee ran, my way, as soon as he spotted me.

“He knows that his mom is sick.” Ashley was discrete, with her answer, now that Baylee was standing there. I wasn’t surprised. How do you tell an eight year old that they will never see their parents again? And who would, want to, volunteer, to do such a thing?

“Hey.” I turned to AJ’s voice, and was immediately pulled into another hug. You know…I really didn’t mind the over abundance, of hugs, today. Hell…I needed them.

“NICK….NICK! Do you know where my dad is?” Baylee looked, at me, with hopeful eyes. He was clinging to my waist, as he continued his plea. “Where’s my dad? Why won’t they tell me? Is he sick, like mom?” I looked down, at him, not sure what I was supposed to say. What words, could anyone possibly find, to tell a child that their father had died?

“Uh, guys…I’m…I’m gonna take Bay, for a walk, alright?” I swallowed the, ever growing, lump, that was settled in my throat. How I was going to do it, I wasn’t sure, but I felt that I was the best one, to break the news, to him.

“Nick…are you sure you’re going to be okay? You want me to come, too?” AJ’s voice was soaked, with concern. My eyes met his, and I knew he was worried about my emotional state. AJ knew how hard this had hit me and that I wasn’t handling it well. There was no doubt that he questioned if I could emotionally handle the loaded task, of breaking the news, of his father’s death, to Baylee.

“We’ll be okay. Thanks, J.” My nose still sniffed, and my eyes weren’t completely dry, as I gave him a brotherly hug. He patted my shoulder, giving me a reassuring smile ant then he headed, back, into the waiting room, with everyone else. I was now left standing with Baylee by my side, and Ashley still standing before me.

“I love you, Nick.” She whispered, as her hand gently touched my cheek. Before turning, back, to the waiting room, she gave me a soft kiss. I watched her leave, and then rested a hand, on Baylee’s shoulder. Our pace was slow, as we headed down the hall, toward the elevators. Not a word was said, as we stepped into the open doors. He had to know that I didn’t have good news, for him, but I doubt that he could, even begin to, imagine how bad it really was.

My heart raced, as we reached the lobby. My mind churned, looking for the words I would use, to tell him. How could I tell him, without him finding out that it was my fault? I couldn’t bare the thought, of losing him, too…but I couldn’t help, but to think that he would reject me, after learning I had practically killed his father, myself. Maybe I could find a way, for him not to figure out that tiny detail.

“Baylee…” I bit my lip, as we found a bench, in an outside patient area. There were no cameras, to worry about, and only a few, scarce, patients. A soft breeze surrounded us, in the heat of the, early, June weather. It was nearing 4 o’clock, and the sun was still shining, brightly. It seemed, to me, like storm clouds should be covering the sky, to reflect the horrible sate that I found myself in. Where were the symbolic cracks of thunder and the harsh showers, of rain…the blustery winds and flashes, of lightening?

“Will you tell me where he is, Nick? I know something’s wrong, because no one will tell me.” The poor boy’s voice was low, and it wavered, with the uncertainty that he had to be feeling, at that moment.

“Do you remember what you were taught, about heaven?” I didn’t know, of any other way, to start this conversation. This had to be the, single, most difficult, conversation that I would ever have to start. Sure, there have been difficult conversations, and situations, throughout my life…but never anything, remotely, close to the one at hand.

“Of course. There are streets of gold and pearly gates…and everyone is happy, because they get to be with Jesus. We’ve talked about it, in Sunday school.” Baylee looked up, at me, with growing curiosity. I wondered if he was starting to get any clue, as to where this talk was leading. There was no sign that he was catching on, but I hoped that I wouldn’t have to utter the exact words.

“What do your mom and dad think, about heaven?” I pressed on, wanting him to center himself, in the thoughts, of heaven. What child doesn’t want to believe that they will see their parents again, someday? Heaven provided the hope, of seeing them, once again. Even I was told, as a child, that my loved ones went to heaven, when they passed. I leaned my elbows, on my knees, looking over, at him.

“Mom says that angels are everywhere, and that no one goes hungry, or has any pain. Heaven is where people go, when they die, if they believe in Jesus. Dad always tells me that someday, I’ll get to go, to heaven, because Jesus died, for me.” His fingers twisted, over each other, and I knew he was growing more, and more, nervous. I had to get, to the point…beating around the bush wasn’t helping him, at all.

“Baylee…when…when people die…” My head dropped, into my hands, as the words caught in my throat. I couldn’t do this. I thought I could, but there was no way. There was no way that I could tell my little buddy those horrible words. Tears pricked my eyes, and I struggled not to let them fall.

“Nick?” Glancing, at him, I saw his eyes were tearing. When I found out, about Brian’s fate, I thought my heart had shattered, into a million pieces. Well…if that were so, each one, of those little pieces, was, now, breaking into a million more, tiny, fragments. If you had asked me, to explain the feelings that coursed, through my body, it wouldn’t have come out as anything more than a jumbled mess.

“Well…you know there was an accident and that’s what made your mom sick. Your dad…he um…” There was that lump, again. I swear it was cutting off the oxygen, to the rest, of my body. I couldn’t breathe, as a tear escaped down my cheek, and my body felt numb. Just tell him, Nick. Damnit! My hands were shaking, again, as my palms went clammy. Every inch, of me, felt a pain that I wasn’t used to feeling…it was a different kind of pain…a kind of pain that I wouldn’t wish, upon my worst enemy.

“Is…is my dad…” Baylee’s voice cracked, as he turned his gaze, to the grass. He was putting it together, but I had to finish it, for him. I had to tell him where his father was. Drawing in a deep breath, I prepared myself. This was it. I had to say those nasty words that I didn’t want to face…a phrase that I would give anything, to change. My heart pounded, so hard, that I wouldn’t have been surprised, if Baylee could hear it. Tears were settling, in the corners, of my eyes, threatening to stream, down my cheeks.

“Your dad…he…he went to see Jesus, today.” As soon as the words left my mouth, we were, both, in tears…tears that flowed strongly. Not only was it hard, for me, to face Brian’s death, but the sobs, from the boy, next to me, tore me apart. My chest tightened, as I wrapped my arms around the, now, shaking boy. Is it possible to die, from grief? I only ask, because I felt like I was dying, at that moment. My world was, indeed, crashing…and now Baylee’s was, too.

“But…but…my dad is…supposed to be here…for me!” His wails pierced me, giving my skin goose bumps, and sending more pain, through my veins. I didn’t know how to begin consoling him. Were there even words that could accomplish that task? If there are…I knew I wouldn’t be able to find them.

“I know, Bay…I know…” I rocked, back and forth, gently, with him clinging to my side…his arms wrapped, around my waist. My fingers stroked, over his, messy, blond curls, trying to offer any kind, of comfort. His breathing was ragged, as was mine, and his tears soaked my shirt.

“I want my dad!” His voice was strained, and full of so many emotions…I could relate to almost every one, of them. There was a ripping sense, of loss, and a new void that would never be filled, again. Life can be so cruel and unfair…to make a little boy continue on, without his father.

“I’m so sorry, Bay.” I hugged him tighter, not wanting to let him go. I wasn’t sure if he really needed me…but I know that, at that moment, I needed him. How long we sat there, was a mystery, to me. I do know that our tears had run dry, before we even thought, about moving. He stayed in my arms, and I continued to hold on, to him, even after our tears had reduced, to sniffles.

When we, finally, stood, I wiped his tears stains, with my thumbs. Running my fingers through his curls, I made them presentable, again. Using my sleeve, I wiped away my own tear stains, before we took each others hand. We silently began the journey, back to the waiting room.
End Notes:
Thank you guys SOOOOO much, for all the reviews, on the first chapter!!! I hope you guys are still enjoying it!
Chapter Three by alota_cookin
Approaching the waiting room, with Baylee’s hand, still, securely in mine, my knees felt weak and my heart was heavy. I could hear his soft sniffles, and it made my heart ache, even more. I wasn’t the only one that was dealing, with a devastating loss, but the thought of life, without Brian, still would not process, in my brain. Knowing that Baylee was, now, without a father, tore my insides, to shreds. I couldn’t even begin to describe the raw emotions that coursed through me, with every breath.

Seeing the door swing open, my heart jumped, into my throat. Every ounce, of me, hoped that it would be Brian. Closing my eyes, for a moment, I wished, with everything in me, that I would open them and find that this was a horrible dream. Brian was known for his practical jokes, and although it would be the cruelest joke, in history, I found myself praying that’s what this was…a cruel, mean, insensitive joke. I wouldn’t even be angry, with him, for pulling something so horrendous…if he would just walk up behind me and shout ‘BOO’.

“Hey guys.” Ashley spoke softly, as she stepped into the hallway, meeting us. Her eyes were bloodshot, but her tears had stopped. Any other time, my heart would skip a beat, when I saw her face…but for the first time, it sank. Sure, deep down, I knew it wouldn’t be Brian, but the hope was still there and I was still disappointed.

“Hi.” I sounded more like a frog, croaking, than I did a human being, speaking. My voice was more than hoarse, and I was barely, even, able to voice that one simple word. My eyes still stung, from all my tears, cried. The punding, in my head, only grew worse, with each passing moment.

“Baylee, honey,” Kneeling down, Ashley took his other hand, looking into his eyes. “How about we go get something, to eat…just you and me?” Her voice dripped with the love, and care, that I knew she had, for him. She adored him, as much as I did, and often spent days, with us, just goofing around. I couldn’t count the times that she came up, behind me, and distracted me, just, so Baylee could win, at Mario Cart. The three, of us, had a unique bond…Baylee was not just my little buddy, he was hers, too.

“Okay.” He nodded, sniffling, again. Letting go, of my hand, he hugged my waist. My hands rubbed over his shoulders, as I drew him close. Kneeling down, I held his face, in my hands, and locked my eyes, with his. My heart thumped, against my ribcage, and my breathing was short, as I saw the sorrow, in the young boy’s eyes.

“I’ll see you, in a little bit, ok, buddy? Make sure you eat good, for Ashie, okay?” I swallowed hard and blinked back tears, thinking about how he’d never hear those words, from his father, again. Brian always made sure that Baylee ate well…otherwise he didn’t get dessert or snacks, that night. It’s those little things that I know Baylee will miss, about his dad…all those little, seemingly, insignificant, things that he will have to grow up, without. Nothing will, ever, be the same for him, and I knew it hurt…badly.

“Okay, Uncle Nick. I’ll try.” His eyebrows scrunched, and I could see the pain, still lurking, in his eyes. Licking his lips, he nodded his head, showing me that he agreed to do his best. He has always been a good kid…obeyed authority…kept up with his school work and kept good grades…done his chores…and listened well…aside, of course, from typical moments, of misbehavior, that you expect, from a child.

“Aw, Bay.” I let out a ragged sigh, knowing what he was thinking. How could anyone eat, right now? News, like this, could take away a person’s appetite for days…even weeks. Baylee and I didn’t, even, have the chance, to have lunch, before getting that call…so neither of us had eaten since around 9:30, this morning. Both, of us, needed food, but I wasn’t even close, to wanting food. I couldn’t blame him, for not being hungry, either...the boy had just lost his father and found out that his mom was badly hurt. I really don’t think anyone would have an appetite, after finding that out. “I know you’re not feeling hungry…but…you have to eat. Just do your best and eat what you can, okay?”

“Okay, I will.” One corner of his mouth lifted, as he failed at trying, to smile. There wasn’t a single fiber, of my being, that didn’t ache, watching him walk away, with Ashley. My brain was on overdrive, trying to process and accept the day’s events, but it wasn’t happening. I still couldn’t bring myself, to believe it. Biting my bottom lip, I wiped my hands, on my jeans, before entering into the waiting room. The group looked up, at me, as I walked their way. It looked as if everyone had run out, of tears, no longer able to cry anymore.

“Nick…” Howie rose, to his feet, and embraced me, tightly. My back bent, forward, allowing my forehead to fall, on his shoulder. “I know you’re having a hard time, Nick, but we have to talk about Baylee.”

“They um…they aren’t sure if uh…if Leighanne’s gonna make it.” AJ stood up, resting a hand, on my shoulder. Straightening up, I looked into his eyes, not sure how if I could face the idea, of Leighanne leaving us, too. I didn’t always get along, with the woman, but…how could Baylee survive without either one, of his parents? Wasn’t it bad enough, that he had lost his father?

“She’s in the Intensive Care Unit.” Kristin looked up, from her chair, where she had her face buried in her husband’s shoulder. My eyes shifted, locking with hers, as she continued. “She’s in a coma. They…oh God…they have her on…” So I was wrong…not everyone was out of tears. Kristin broke down, covering her face, with her hands.

“…life…support.” AJ’s voice was deeper, and much raspier, than usual, as he finished Kristin’s sentence. Did I hear him right, though? Life support? Isn’t that like being dead, without actually being dead? I mean…it’s as close to death, as you can get, without actually being dead…right? So, she was only hanging on, by a thread…a tiny thread that would determine if she would stay with Baylee, or go with Brian.

“L…l…life…” I couldn’t even get my voice, to utter the words. A hand came up, covering my mouth, as I just became lost, staring into space. I felt like I was in a trance, as I wondered how, the hell, were we supposed to tell Baylee, that his mother might die, too. He’s only 8, for god’s sake! I couldn’t fathom what life would be like, for him, without either parent. How could anyone expect a child, to deal with that?

“Brian’s parents and Leighanne’s mom are supposed to be coming.” Howie’s voice caught my attention, again, snapping me out of my trance-like state. I ran my fingers through my hair, bringing my hand back, to rub my neck. “We need to decide…who Baylee will stay with, until his grandparents arrive. Anyone want to volunteer?”

Everyone looked around, at each other. Normally, I would jump on the chance, to have a ‘sleep over’ with my little buddy…we’ve done it countless times, but it was different, this time. I wasn’t sure if I could handle the emotional weight, it would take, to help Baylee.

“Nick is the obvious choice.” AJ spoke up, shrugging his shoulders, like everyone should have known. I could hear my heartbeat, in my ears, and my palms became clammy, again. Rubbing my hands, on my pant legs, I looked from him, to Howie, and then to each of the others.

“I know that I…I can’t…” Kevin surprised me, as he shook his head. Tears were nestled, in his eyes, and he looked worse than I did. I was more confused, than ever. He’s always thought he could raise Baylee, better than Brian…I had expected him to jump, at the opportunity, to prove it by taking Baylee into his care. Sure, it would probably only be a couple days, before his grandparents arrived, but they would still be emotionally draining.

“Nick will take him.” I looked at AJ, not sure why he is volunteering me. The fact that no one was objecting, surprised me…well…I guess Kevin was the only one that I, really, expected to say anything, against it. “He is the closest, to Baylee, and is able to connect with him better than the rest, of us. Baylee will need someone to confide in, and we all know that he’ll feel most comfortable doing that, with Nick.”

“I think AJ’s right.” Leigh stood up, putting an arm around Howie, while trying to give me a reassuring smile. It’s just too bad, that no kind of smile could reassure me, even a little.

“So, it’s settled, then.” Howie nodded, in agreement, just as Ashley and Baylee walked in. I was taken aback, when Baylee ran to me, and wrapped his arms around my waist. Needless to say, I rubbed his back, returning the comforting gesture. Taking in a harsh breath, I knelt, looking him in the eyes.

“I ate all of my chicken nuggets and half of my macaroni and cheese.” He gave me a crooked grin, shoving his hands, into his pockets. I wasn’t prepared, for the next sentence, nor was I prepared for the effect it would have, on me. “Ashie shared a piece of vanilla cake, with me…just like…dad used…to…do….it was his…favorite! It felt like he was…still…here…but he’s noooooooot!” Taking gasps, between breaths, tears suddenly sprung, to his eyes, and streamed down his cheeks, rapidly. I was frozen, for a moment, just looking at him, with a broken heart. My blood ran cold, seeing him break down, again.

“Oh Baylee…” I clutched him, to my chest, as his shoulders started to shake. Being 8 years old, he’s a pretty big boy, but I still lifted him up, into my arms. “Come on, buddy, let’s go.” Feeling his face bury into my shoulder, I hugged him close. Licking my lips, I looked at the rest of the group, before heading to the door, still carrying the shaking boy. Hearing a few good-byes, I knew that Ashley and AJ were following.

Shushing the devastated boy, I made my way, to the elevator. I sighed, not knowing how I was supposed to handle this. My own emotions were running wild, how could I, possible, console him, too? I had to be strong. I had to be there, for him, and help him through this. But, how was I supposed to do that?

The ride, to the hotel was painstaking, and long. Every time that I glanced back, at him, he was staring out the window, tears still threatening, to fall. Ashley sat quietly, in the passenger seat, fiddling with her fingers. I knew that she felt bad, about the cake…I’m sure she didn’t realize the significance that a simple piece, of vanilla cake, would have.

Ashley headed up, to our suite, once we entered the hotel. Baylee, and I, walked to the front desk, to get a key card, for their suite. As much as I hated the idea, we would have to go in, to get the things Baylee would need. My fingers visibly trembled, as the desk clerk handed me the card. I was no where near, emotionally, prepared, for this and I don’t think Baylee was, either.

“I don’t want to go in there!” Baylee was pleading, as we reached the door, to the suite. Both, of us, stood there, staring at the hard oak door. Reaching down, I grabbed his hand, in mine.

“We…we have to. It’s…” I took a long, deep breath, trying like hell, to calm my nerves. The lump that had settled, in my throat, was almost cutting off my oxygen. “It’s gonna be…okay. We can do this, Bay…you and me, buddy.” Slowly reaching up, my arm felt like rubber, as I tried to slide the card. The first attempt failed, as I couldn’t get my body, to do what I needed it to. Pursing my lips, and scrunching my eyes closed, I willed myself, to try again. Letting my eyes open, my hand lifted the card, again. The little green light flashed, gaining me access, to the suite.

Swinging the door open, I felt my knees start to buckle. My hand flew up, gripping the doorway, as I tried to steady myself. Baylee took a few steps, inside the room, before his knees gave way. Crumpling, to the floor, his body began to rake over, with loud sobs. Seeing him, I lost it. Sliding to the floor, I closed my eyes, trying to will myself, to stay strong. Not trusting my legs, I had to crawl over, to him.

“Shhhh.” I brushed a hand, over his curls, as I sat myself next to him. Gently, I pulled him onto my lap, cradling him, in my arms. His body shook, in time, with mine, as we sat on the carpet, rocking back, and forth. How was I supposed to comfort him, when I couldn’t control my own emotions?

“I…I…I WANT MY…DAAAAAAAAAAAD!” Baylee’s screams pierced through me, like a hot, double edged sword. I didn’t think I could feel any worse…that my heart could ache, any more…that my mind could be consumed by any more pain…but I was wrong.

“I know, BayBay…I know.” Every blood vessel, in my body, felt constricted, as I gasped for breath. My heartbeat pounded, in my ears, and that was the only sign I had, to tell me that my heart was even still beating.

“I want him…to…to be heeeeere!” This strong willed child…this silly boy that possessed his father’s humor…this youngster that was so fun loving, cheerful and sweet…was reduced to nothing more than a broken, pain filled pile, of emotions. I, as a grown man, was also reduced to the same state.

“Me too…me too.” My eyes stung, and my throat tightened, as my own tears forced their way, down my face. Our wills were broken, our hearts wounded, and our lives forever changed. Nothing could take this horrific pain away…nothing could sooth the hurt that tore us, from the insides, out…nothing could change fate and nothing could bring Brian back, to us.

Being surrounded by the very essence, of Brian, just made it seem so surreal. His sneakers lay only a few feet away…his cologne hung in the air…his jeans lay carelessly thrown, on the bed. We were surrounded by him, yet he was no where. I could, almost, hear his laughter, as I spotted a sole game system spread, on the floor. Memories flooded my mind, as pieces, of our past flashed, like movies, before my eyes. My eyes shifting, to the bedside table, I saw one of their wedding pictures and more tears flowed.

All the times we’ve shared…the memories we’ve made…the pranks we’ve pulled…they were all I had, now…he was gone…truly, undeniably, out of my life, forever. I would never be able to horse around, with him…to see his smile or hear his laugh…to play ball, or video games, with him again, and it pained me, more than I could ever describe. You never understand how much you love someone, until they aren’t there, anymore.

I had no words, to comfort Baylee, as I had no words, to comfort myself. All I could do, was hold him, and cry with him. Our bodies shaking and our hearts breaking…we just sat, clinging to each other. I couldn’t bear, to look around, so my eyes squeezed shut, as I continued to sob. Baylee’s hands clung, to my shirt, balling it up, in his fists, as his tears soaked the material. My hand ran over his curls, and then rubbed his back, as I clung to him, too.

We had to get through this…and we had to do it, together. I had to be there, for him, no matter how hard it got. He needed me, and I needed him. We would face this, together, no matter what. I vowed, to myself, at that very moment…right then, and there…that I would make sure I was there, for him, every step of the way.
Chapter Four by alota_cookin
It took me over an hour, that night, before I was calm enough, to even move. Standing up, I left Baylee, in a crumpled mess, in the middle, of the floor. Quickly, I scurried around, to gather any of the vital things that he would need, for the next few days. I tossed the items into the bag, and slung it over my shoulder; then I bent down, scooping him up, into my arms. Hurrying, I flipped off the lights and slipped out the door, as fast as my legs could carry me.

Unlocking the door, to my suite, I carried my little buddy inside. Ashley came running up, to us, and took the bag, from my shoulder. She sifted through it, to find his pajamas, while I took him into the room that he would sleep in. I set him down and began to fix the bed. Through the corner, of my eye, I caught the sight, of Baylee…his face lacked all emotions, now, as he finished getting changed. Not a word was said, when he climbed under the soft comforter.

Feeling the distress that still loomed, in the air; I lay next to him, until he fell asleep. Once I heard his soft snoring, I silently slipped out, of the room. I could only imagine how many times we would be up, throughout the night. Slowly heading into my room, I saw Ashley already sleeping, soundly. I let out a soft sigh, as I climbed into bed, next to her, kissing her forehead.

You’d think that sleep would be hard to some by, after a day like this, but you would be, oh so, wrong! My brain had completely shut down, by now, and my body was numb. You could have pierced my heart, at that moment, and I wouldn’t have even felt a slight twinge, of pain. When I laid my head, on the pillow, my whole being gave up any, and all, fight, to sleep.

Although sleep consumed me, quickly, I was awake countless times, overnight. Sometimes it was me that had woken up, with bad dreams, or even happy memories that led to that familiar, painful feeling. Other times, I was woken by my hysterical nephew, whom needed comforting. Everything, in me, craved to ease his pain…to take away the hurt…even to, just, have the words, to calm him, but alas, I was at an utter loss. Was there a book, I could buy, that would tell me how to handle this? At this point, I would have paid any price!

Morning came, all, too soon; and we were still completely drained, of both energy and tears. We, all, got dressed, without really caring, how well we looked. Baylee’s eyes were dark, bloodshot, and puffy; as I am sure mine were, too. I held his hand, in mine, as we left the hotel. I have never held his hand, this much before, but I figured he could use as much comfort, as possible, in whatever form it could come in. Plus, it made me feel a little better, too.

The ride, to the hospital, was silent, aside from the one time that Baylee asked, if he would be able to see his mom, today. My brain wasn’t functioning well, enough, to form much thought, let alone words, so Ashley had to answer him, but only gave him a ‘maybe’. The car fell quiet, again, as we drove the rest of the way.

When we got to the hospital, I reached down, with one hand and grabbed Ashley’s; my other hand taking Baylee’s, and we made our way, through the parking lot. I held tight, to their hands, as we neared the crowd that stood outside the entrance.

“NICK! NICK! Can we have a comment, please?”

“Over here Nick!”

“Answer a few questions?” The voices were jumbled, all, of them, shouting at once. All the camera flashes were enough, to blind us, as we tried to weave through the people. I knew I had to address them, somehow, so taking in a deep breath, I turned to face the crowd.

“No comments, right now.” I held my hand up, signaling them, all, to hush. “We will hold a press conference, as soon as we know everything that’s going on. We appreciate the support of our fans, and ask that everyone be patient. Thank you.”

“NICK!”

“Just one question, Nick!” They were relentless, continuing on, with no respect for us. Sure, it’s their job, as reporters, but still. I just told them that there would be a press conference…what more do they want?

“Come on.” A strong, familiar voice, spoke behind me. Turning, I saw an old friend. It had been a couple years, since we needed security, and now, I was face, to face, with one of our old bodyguards. Shaking my hand, he held open the door, shouting at the crowd. “The man said he had no comment! Have a little respect!”

“It’s nice to see you again.” I smiled up, at him, thankful that he was here. Q was a friend and someone that I could trust. I knew that we were better off, now that he was here, to help.

“You, too, Nick. No one else is here yet, but I know that Howie and Leigh are on the way.” He gave me a small smile, while he walked us, to the elevators. He stayed in the lobby, while we went up, to Leighanne’s floor. Stepping out, of the elevator, we made our way, to the waiting room.

My mind swirled, watching Baylee sit in a corner chair. I knew what had to be done, but I also knew the possible repercussions, of it. Baylee deserved to see his mother, yet, could he handle it? Kevin would, surely, flip out, once he found out that I took Baylee down there. It’s not like anyone could, actually, go in to the room, right now, but it was possible to peer, through the glass. When my eyes drifted, to him, again, I knew what the right thing, to do, was. I needed to take him, to see his mother. What if she didn’t make it? I couldn’t bare the thought, of him not being able to see her, one last time. It was bad, enough, that he would never get that chance, with his father.

“Baylee…” I interrupted his thoughts, as I took a seat, next to him. “We’ve got to talk, for a minute.” His eyes met mine, and I still wondered if he could handle this. I wasn’t even sure if I could handle it. But, I knew that he would have it hanging over his head, his whole life, if she didn’t make it.

“Yeah?” Barely able to hear him, I set a hand on his shoulder. I shifted, slightly, knowing that I had to prepare him, if I was going to take him down, to see his mom.

“You know your mom is sick, right now, because of the accident. Well…I’m going to take you, to see her.” His eyes lit up, and his shoulders straightened, hearing this news. “I know your mom and dad taught you all about germs and stuff…right now we can’t go into her room, because the germs, we carry, might make her sicker, but we can see her through the window.” The ICU rooms had walls that were half glass, so that it was possible, to see a patient without going in.

“Okay.” I knew he understood the reason, for this, because Leighanne was a bit of a neat freak, and would always give him a lecture, about how germs would make you sick, whenever he forgot to wash his hands. His eyes still looked hopeful, about seeing her.

“I have to warn you, though, Baylee. When you see her…it’s going to be kind of scary. She has lots of machines hooked up, to help her. They don’t hurt her, they just help her to breath…they give food and medicine…she needs them, so don’t be too scared, ok? It will just look funny.”

“Okay, Nick.” He popped up, out of his seat, ready to go see her. Standing up, I took his hand, again, and headed toward the door. I drew in a deep breath, looking at Ashley, who gave me a reassuring smile. Although it was a nice gesture, her smile did nothing to ease the knot, in my stomach, or the lump in my throat.

I could tell that Baylee was both, excited, and nervous, as we walked down the ICU hallway. He wasn’t the only one, who was nervous, either. My mind battled, with itself, over this situation, and whether it was the right decision. I hadn’t thought about how bad Leighanne might look, or how traumatizing it might be, for Baylee. Looking at the room numbers, I knew we were getting close, to her room.

Drawing near, to the window, of her room, my stomach began to flip. I rubbed my sweaty palm, on my jeans, as we came to a stop. Closing my eyes, I took in a deep breath, before turning to look, through the glass. Baylee was already standing, with both hands on the glass, staring at his mom.

I was pretty surprised, to find that she didn’t look as bad, as I thought she would. Sure, she was pretty banged up, but there were bandages over most of her wounds. It was hard to believe that she was in a coma, when she just looked like she was taking a nap. There were several machines hooked up, just like I knew there would be.

“Nick?” Baylee’s voice was soft, as he looked up, at me. His hands still stayed, on the glass; while he looked at me with questions, in his eyes.

“Yeah, BayBay?” Swallowing the lump that remained hanging, in my throat, I prepared myself. I knew that he had, to have, a million questions, running through his mind.

“I want to go in there, and see my mom!” There were tears, nestled in the corners, of his eyes, but he wasn’t letting them fall. I couldn’t imagine what he was feeling, as he looked at his mom. “Why can’t I go in and see her?”

“Baylee…you can’t go in, just yet, because we don’t want to make her sicker, remember? You will get to go in soon, though…maybe tomorrow, when your grandparents come.” Honestly, I wasn’t sure if anyone was allowed in, to see her, yet. Yesterday, we were informed that no one could go in, yet and that when people were allowed in, it would only be immediate family. I knew I wasn’t allowed in, and I wasn’t about to ask if he could go in, alone. It seemed that it would be best, to wait until his grandparents arrived. But, how do you make a young boy understand that?

“But, she can’t hear me, through this glass…can she?” He was sniffling, and I knew he had to be frustrated.

“I’m sure she can, Baylee. Why don’t you give it a try?” Kneeling beside him, I put an arm over his shoulder. We continued, to look through the glass. He looked, at me, again, and then turned back, to looking at his mom.

“I love you momma. I hope you get better soon! Please, get better soon.” Shoving his hands into his pockets, he turned back, to me. We locked eyes, and that’s when the questions began. “What does that T.V. screen do?”

“That shows your mom’s heartbeat. See, look…” I took his pointer, and middle, fingers, and I helped him place them on his neck. “Feel that?”

“Uh huh.” He nodded slightly, leaving his fingers there, even after I had taken my hand away.

“Well, that little thump that you feel is called your pulse, and that’s what makes those little spikes, on the screen. That tells the doctors how strong your mom’s heart is…the higher the spike is, the stronger her heart is beating.” I gave him a small smile, hoping that, by answering his questions, it would help him feel a little better.

“So, why does she have that thing in her mouth?” Okay…this question was way harder! It’s not that the answer was a tough one; it was just a little more disturbing, for a young child, to hear. So, I decided that I better explain this in a little less detail. It’s not like I could tell him that the tube went all the way into her throat!

“Your mom has a little trouble breathing, all by herself, right now; so that big tube, in her mouth, gives her oxygen and helps her breath. It doesn’t hurt her at all; she doesn’t even feel it, right now.” I was pretty satisfied, with that answer…just enough explanation, to make him understand, without being enough, to freak him out.

“What is oxi…”

“Oxygen? It’s something that’s in the air we breathe. Your body uses oxygen for everything! It helps your heart to beat, and your brain to work, and even your muscles to move. Every time you take a breath, your body gets some of it!” I chuckled, softly, watching Baylee take a bunch of deep breaths. He turned back, looking through the glass. I knew this meant he was looking for more questions, to ask.

“Are those IV’s like the one that I had, before?” Baylee tilted his head, biting his bottom lip. I had, almost, forgotten about him being in the hospital before, since it was a few years back.

“Pretty much, yes. They give her medicine and stuff that take all her pain away.” I reached up, ruffling his curls. Looking at me, again, he gave me a half smile. Silence fell, over us, for several minutes. We just stared, through the glass, at Leighanne. I was praying, like hell, that she would pull through, and be alright; I’m sure Baylee was praying too.

“Nick…” His voice was soft, and dripping with sadness. Looking at him, nothing could prepare me, for his next question. “Is my momma gonna die, like dad did?” I was dumbfounded, to say the least. I guess, I should have expected it. I mean, his dad had already passed, and his mom was in a coma…any kid would have asked that question. What, the hell, was I supposed to say? I couldn’t give a straight answer, because there was no way, for anyone, to know that answer. Think quick, Carter!

“I don’t know, for sure, Baylee. Only God knows that. But, we’ll keep praying, for her.” Nice! Good answer! I could see that, that wasn’t the answer he was hoping for, though. Not that I expected him to be satisfied, with it, but it was the best answer I had. “Hey…what do you say we head back, and see if everyone else has gotten here?” The only response I got was a slight nod, as he slipped his hand into mine.

My heart was heavy, as we slowly walked, toward the waiting room. I just wish we would, all, wake up, already! There was a long road, ahead of us, and I wasn’t looking forward to the hike. So many emotions were up, ahead, and I could barely handle the ones we were getting, now. Then, there was the looming possibility, of Leighanne not making it. I couldn’t remember the last time I had prayed this much, and there was no end, to that praying, in sight!
Chapter Five by alota_cookin
Author's Notes:
Yes...I know...it's been forEVER, since I updated this. But, I think I have my writing spark back, so you will likely see more in the near future. I hope you guys are still interested in this. Thanks, by the way, for all the feedback everyone has left, on the past chapters...they are much appreciated!
They say things get easier, with time…that your sorrow and pain will fade…that the sun still shines…that time heals all wounds. I don’t know exactly who came up with these statements, but I’m calling their bluff. They only say this stuff, because they want to make you feel better, and give you some kind of comfort or hope. Well, it doesn’t work. You can tell me this crap, all you want; say it until your face turns blue…and I still won’t buy it.

It was a shitty, rainy day, in Kentucky. It’s been eleven days, since the accident and thank god the weather was finally reflecting the way I truly felt…shitty. It took every ounce, of energy, to get out of bed, this morning. My head was throbbing, from all the crying I had done, last night. My heart was aching, like never before, as I stepped out of the hotel and into the shitty weather.

Flipping the black umbrella open, I made my way to the sleek black rental car, trying not to think of where I was headed. It didn’t work. The whole way, I fought back my tears, as they blurred my vision, making the road even less visible. I took my time driving, but couldn’t delay the event any longer, as I pulled up, in front of the building. With a long sigh, I slipped out of the car, and back into the rain.

Stalling for even a few more moments, I smoothed down my all black suit. I ran my hands over the slacks, then the shirt, before straightening the black tie and buttoning the suit jacket. My hands shook, as I popped the umbrella back open. With shaking knees, I began the long walk, to the large front glass doors. This would surely be the longest day, of my life.

I was greeted by more open arms, than I really cared to deal with, and so many words that were meant to be comforting, but did absolutely nothing, for me. The place was packed…damn near shoulder, to shoulder. So many faces and only a few that I couldn’t place. I imagined they were from Leighanne’s family, or distant relatives, of Brian’s, that I had never met.

My breathing was far from normal, when I saw AJ and Howie headed toward me. Their faces matched mine…desperate, sad, hurting, and hopeless. Without a word, their arms surrounded me, soon joined by Kevin’s. The four of us just stood there, trying to offer each other strength, until it was time to sit down.

We made our way to the front, along with Brian’s other immediate family. I heavily took my front row seat, next to Baylee, unable to bring my eyes up to the screen that flashed pictures of Brian. I knew that they covered every stage, of his life, beginning to tragic end. No doubt, I was in more than a few, of them. Blinking away the tears that welled in my eyes, I felt Baylee lean into my side. Instinctively, I wrapped my arm around his shoulders, not caring how much his tears would soak my jacket.

My eyes finally lifted, as the preacher cleared his throat. There was no stopping it now…my eyes drifted and locked on that dreaded screen. I couldn’t tear them away, no matter how much it shattered my heart to see his smiling face, in only the 2D form. The sniffles and sobs were continuous, in every direction, filling the room with a sound that was worse than nails on a chalk board. And so it began…

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; they rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runnth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. And shall we pray…”

My heart was in my throat, as Baylee’s arms clung to me and my arm stayed secure around him. A few tears were starting to trail down my cheeks, as the boy next to me shook uncontrollably. This was really it. In only a short time, I would be making my way to that closed casket, to say my good-bye’s to my very best friend…as my little buddy would be saying his own tearful good-bye’s to his father. My eyes closed tightly, not because it was time to pray, but because I couldn’t bear to look at my surroundings. Soft music played in the background, as the prayer penetrated through my ears. No matter how hard I tried to ignore it, the words were clear and rang loud.

“Dear Lord, we are gathered here to honor the memory of Brian Thomas Littrell. We know that he is with you in spirit, as he is no longer with us, in human form. Our Father, we ask you to be with us, on this day. To offer us comfort. To help dry the tears that are being shed. Give strength, to us, in this time of loss, dear Lord. Help us to rejoice in the reunion of a son, with his heavenly Father. Allow us to celebrate the time we had, while he was with us, and to look forward to the day we shall see him again, in your presence. May we exalt you, and your mercy that allows Brian to be with you, today. Help us to keep him dear, in our hearts, as we continue this worldly life, without him. We thank you for your loving grace, and for your everlasting love. Amen.”

Thank him for his loving grace? Maybe it was wrong, of me, to be thinking the way I was, but I was not about to thank God for much of anything, at that moment. I didn’t want to exalt him, for any reason. Sure, I still had the other guys, my family, my health, Baylee…the list could go on, of all the things I had to be thankful for, but yet they were all shoved to the back of my mind, as the grief took over my entire existence. The pain was, once again, threatening to cut of my breathing and completely stop my heart, from beating. How a person could live through this kind of torturous pain, was a mystery, to me. Sure I had lost family, in the past, but no one as close to me, as Brian was. This was a whole new level of pain…one that I could not bear to ever experience again.

I tuned out the man, as he continued to quote scriptures, and talk about the passage from this life, into heaven. I really just didn’t want to hear it. This was another prime example; of things that people say; in an effort to make you feel better…give you a new outlook. It wasn’t working…not even a little bit. Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t ready or willing to let go of the pain and look at it in any other light. My grieving was far from over, and a simple little sermon was not going to make the process speed up.

My eyes focused on the picture screen again, as the uttered words became a faint noise, in the back of my mind. Suddenly, I found myself seeing mini home movies, in my head. Memories of years past and times I had shared with Brian were flashing in my mind. I was reliving the hours we spent on the basketball court, our first concert as a group, our first tour, the video games we played, sharing a hotel room…

It wasn’t until the floor was opened, for anyone to come up and say a few words, that I finally came back to reality. My arm was still holding Baylee and tears were streaking down our cheeks. I hadn’t even realized that mine had broken loose, until that very moment, but there was no stopping them now.

My teeth pulled at my bottom lip, as several family members came up to talk sweet words about Brian. They spoke of his kind and caring nature…how his laugh could brighten a room…how he was a good man, with strong morals. To me, I was slightly disappointed. No one was bringing up his fun loving personality or his crazy antics. My heart tugged me to my feet. My palms became sweaty and my breathing a bit shallow, as I found my body taking the few steps, to the front. Not that I should have been surprised, but Baylee was right beside me, holding tightly, to my hand. I took a quick glance at him, before clearing my throat.

“For those of you…who uh…don’t know me. My name…is Nick. Brian was…my…very best…friend.” I had to pause. My lungs cried for a deep breath that I just could not take, as the tears continued down my cheeks. “Brian…he was…a goofball. You could never…catch him…in a sour mood. I’ve known…I knew…him…for years. He was a…a prankster…the fun loving type that…that would do anything…to make…even his worst enemy…laugh.” My teeth found my bottom lip again, as my eyes closed. This was so much harder, than I ever expected. I was a grown man who was crying like a baby, and couldn’t even speak right. The words that I wanted, so badly, to say…just…they wouldn’t come out. Shocking me back to the moment, I felt a small hand reach up and take the microphone, from mine.

“Hi.” That simple word was more of a strangled sniffle, as Baylee struggled to talk. I couldn’t help but kneel down and bring him into my arms, as he stood facing the mass of fellow mourners. “My dad…was so cool.” Looking around, I saw a few faint smiles, as the little grieving boy made everyone’s heart melt…including mine. “I’m gonna miss my dad. There are lots of things that my dad…used to do…with me.” He voice dropped, for a moment, as he turned toward me. Our eyes locked and I could almost read his mind, as he held the microphone toward me.

“Bri and I…we spent…a lot of time…teaching the little man basketball.”

“We used to…play…all day…and they would both…take turns…lifting me up…so I could shoot the ball. I like basketball…my dad…my dad…liked…basketball…too.” His voice cracked, and my heart felt like it was bring twisted, in a cruel manner that was meant to make me suffer…and I was suffering.

“We…Brian…he was…trying to teach Baylee…layups…the week before…before…the uh…the accident.” My eyes closed tightly again, as I felt Baylee’s hand rest on my shoulder. I could kick myself, for ever getting out of my seat.

“My dad…he liked games, too. We used to…play…Mario Cart…and he always…let me win. He even let me…be Mario…cuz he is my…favorite. Then…one time…we were somewhere…far away…and we forgot to bring…the game so…dad and uncle Nick…went and rented it…from a store…”

“It was…Japan…I think.” I offered up the information, remembering the time. It resulted in a night filled with laughter and crazy attempts at repeating the Japanese words, since the game was obviously in that language.

“Yeah…and Mario talked different.” Baylee’s tears has almost stopped, and I could tell his mind was off, thinking about it and picturing the night in his mind…much as I was. “Dad started talking like Mario, but…he didn’t sound like Mario.”

“Brian was trying to impersonate the Japanese speaking characters. Naturally…Baylee and I joined in.” I found that my own tears had ceased…if only for a few moments, as we spoke about our memories. These were the things everyone should have been talking about, in the first place…happy memories, that Brian was a major part of…not that he had good morals.

“We played until it was way past my bedtime and we had so much fun. My tummy hurt cuz we laughed a whole bunch.” My eyes lifted from him, again, to scan the crowd. A few more faint smiles crept onto the lips throughout the room. Baylee had the same ability, as his father, to brighten a room, no matter how bad the situation was.

Baylee and I remained at the front, for quite some time, recounting silly events and happy memories. He uttered words that, I know, tugged on the hearts of everyone, in the room. By the time we returned to our seats, I felt as if my body was drained, of any energy that I had left. Once again, Baylee was in my arms, and our tears were starting to re-surface, as AJ stepped up next.
End Notes:
The scripture is Psalm 23, out of the New King James version, of the Holy Bible.
Chapter Six by alota_cookin
Author's Notes:
Hopefully this one won't make you all cry, like the last one did!
It’s been two months, since the accident, and I don’t feel a damn bit better. I never thought that one day could hold so much torture and pain, as that one day did. Every ounce of strength I had, was put to keeping my butt, in the chair through it, and it was…without a doubt…by far…the longest funeral I had ever attended. Random thought…can someone PLEASE tell me why the hell the word funeral starts with “fun”? There was absolutely nothing fun about that slow day of insane torture!

All the pain, still feels like it’s slowly killing me…even two months later. My days feel dull and clouded, like some kind of imminent doom is lurking around the corner…hell, maybe it’s hanging right above my head, waiting to dump on me. Now I know how Eeyore feels, with that dark rain cloud floating above his head, following him everywhere. So yeah…my days aren’t getting any brighter, and time sure doesn’t seem to be doing its job, of healing my wounds. My days are flying by, yet the minutes drag on, endlessly.

Leighanne has been moved to some hospital, out in Georgia. I’ve got not clue what the name of the place is, but I have the directions memorized, like the old Backstreet songs that I’ve been singing constantly for countless years. I have been a regular visitor, but not really for her…it’s more for my little buddy. I try to be there, as much as I can, to try and help Baylee through this. Maybe it’s foolish, of me, since he has so much family. To me, though, it doesn’t really seem like the family is taking time to really help Baylee. They feed him lines, like the ones I mentioned before, and try to comfort him, but I’ve never seen them just sit, and cry, with him. None of them have just sat down and listened, letting him talk about his own feelings and pain. Isn’t it bad for anyone to bottle their emotions? I think that rule should be applied double time, for a little guy like Bay.

So today, we went for a walk, just to get out of the white walled room and get some fresh air. Baylee’s hand was firmly secured, in mine, as we roamed aimlessly, around the hospital’s grounds. We talked about everything from the chirping birds…to what the clouds looked like…to why the sun is yellow. It was only after an hour of walking, and talking about pointless subjects, that Baylee finally turned the conversation, to his mother.

“I’m scared, Uncle Nick. What if momma doesn’t get better?” Ouch! What a way to kick it off, huh? I can’t blame him for asking, since I’m sure it’s a burning question, that’s been on his mind continuously. Looking down, into his eyes, all I could see was an innocent and wonderful little boy that really didn’t deserve to be put through any of this. Then again, I guess no one really deserves it, right?

“Well, Baylee, we have to keep hoping and praying that she does get better.” Did I just say the same thing as everyone else has? Yes. Guilty. Great. Come on…I had to do better than this! “But…I’m not sure what will happen if she doesn’t, buddy. She might have to go to heaven with your dad. It’s ok to be scared, Baylee.”

“I don’t want my momma to go to heaven! I want momma here with me!” His big blue eyes looked up at me, with such a wide combination of emotions. “What will happen to me?” I can’t deny that I had to fight a smile, on this question because it was such an easy answer!

“Oh Bay! You’ll probably go live with your grandma and grandpa…or maybe Uncle Harold. You still have a lot of family that loves you and will take super good care of you.” I gave him a small smile, proud of myself for finally knowing the answer to something! That’s definitely the worst part about this whole situation…Baylee has so many questions about what’s going on, and 95% of them don’t have easy, clear cut answers.

“Oh.” The tone, of his voice, told me that he wasn’t too thrilled with that idea. I didn’t have time to question it, since he spoke right back up. “Will I still get to go see other places with you? Or…or…will you and Uncle Alex, and Uncle Howie, and Uncle Kevin stop singing?”

“You know what Bay…” I knelt down, to his level, taking his hands in mine and looking into his eyes. “…I have no idea what’s going to happen. Only God knows that. But I promise you…no matter what happens…I will still take you to fun places. I’ll even shake on it!” This was, in no way a lie. It didn’t matter what happened…Baylee would always be my little buddy, and I can’t even imagine a time where I wouldn’t want to do things with him, or take him places.

“Really? You promise?” His eyes were wide, as he looked at me intently. Deep in those blue eyes, I could see a tiny glimmer of hope, or joy, or something…whatever it technically was…it was a good thing. Then he narrowed his eyes, at me…it was like he was trying to stare me down. “You gonna super secret shake on it?”

“You bet Bay!” I nodded and stood up, so we could do our special little handshake. It was a year, or so, ago when we made it up. It was pretty simple and not all that secret, but it was our little thing. So we squared our shoulders…high fived…bumped hips…’dusted’ our shoulders…high fived the other hands…then crossed our wrists, shaking each other’s hands.

“You can’t break your promise now, Uncle Nick!” He was giving me his very best warning look, and I couldn’t stop the small grin that it brought to my lips. Anyone who thinks Baylee is irresistible in pictures…doesn’t even know the half of it!

“I wouldn’t even want to Baylee. You’re my best little buddy…you know that.” Slinging my arm over his shoulders, I led him to a shade tree that was surrounded by nice green grass. We sat next to each other, leaning against the tree trunk and stretched our legs out, in the grass.

“Nick?” When I looked at him, he was staring at his hands. His fingers fiddled with each other, and I knew the next question wasn’t going to be as easy, as the last. “I miss my dad. I don’t like my momma being sick. And my heart hurts. When is my heart gonna feel better?” Uh oh. How in the hell am I supposed to answer that, when I’ve been asking myself the same damn question?

“Baylee…” I took in a long deep breath, letting it puff out, before I continued. “I’m not going to lie to you. You will always miss your dad. That will never go away. It will always hurt, too. But it won’t always hurt this bad. No one can ever replace your dad…he was very special…and the only dad you’ll ever have…so your heart is supposed to hurt right now. I don’t really know how to explain it to you Baylee, because my heart hurts too. I feel like the pain is never going to go away, but it will get better…it just takes a lot of time…it doesn’t just get better because you want it to.”

“How long before it gets better?” Oh boy. This is what I get for trying to be the strength, for an eight year old to lean on: hard questions that I can’t answer.

“I can’t answer that question, because I don’t know. I really wish I did know. I want my heart to feel better, too.” Whoever says ‘honestly it the best policy’ better be right, damn it! “I guess we have to help each other feel better. When I talk to you, I feel a little better.”

“I feel a little better, when I talk to you, too.” His eyes lifted up, to meet mine. All I could think about, in that very moment, was hugging him. So, I did. It was a short hug, but when your heart hurts, every hug is a good hug. “Can we be ‘feel better buddies’? You make me feel better than anyone else does.” Don’t ask me how I knew exactly what he meant…I just did. Maybe Baylee and I had a stronger connection than I originally thought.

“Come on now. You don’t even have to ask me that. We’re already ‘feel better buddies’. We talk all the time, right? And…I won’t tell anyone that you cry, sometimes…if you don’t tell anyone that I cry like a little baby!”

“It’s a deal!” Hey, he might be only eight…but he is a male, and he doesn’t like a lot of people knowing he cries! Besides, that little comment was enough to bring a tiny grin, to his face. I definitely needed to work on getting his smile back and his goofiness, too.

“You know what? How about you ask to spend the night with me, at the hotel? They have a huge pool…and a game room…and a basketball court! We can play until we pass out…eat junk food and pizza…and forget about our hearts hurting, for a little while. What do you say?” That did it! Oh yeah…I got game, baby! His face lit up and a smile crossed his lips, as he jumped up. Grabbing my hand, he pulled me back towards the building. I had a good feeling that they wouldn’t object to him coming.

Hopefully the night would be helpful…for both of us.
Chapter Seven by alota_cookin
Author's Notes:
Sorry it's been so long. I hope you're all still with me, on this one.
Just as I predicted, the slumber party was given the green light and before I knew it, Baylee and I were back to the hotel, where I was staying. We had decided the pool was first, on our list of things to do, and wasted no time getting changed into our swimming trunks. For the first time, in two months, we had genuine smiles on our faces and the laugher to go with them. Once we got to the indoor pool, we found it deserted, and were immediately throwing ourselves into the deep end like we didn’t have a care, in the world.

“I bet a whole bag of Skittles that I can make a bigger splash than you!” Looking up to where Baylee was standing, at the edge of the deep end, I smiled. So he wanted to make bets, huh? Well, we’d see about that!

“Oh you are so on, little man! Your cannon ball has nothing on mine!” I lifted myself out of the pool and stood beside him. Setting my hand on his shoulder, I glanced down at him, and my mind started to wander some. My heart still broke for him, but tonight I couldn’t let that show…I wouldn’t. Tonight I had to put all my concerns, my worries, my heart ache aside and just focus on giving him a carefree night, to just be a little boy.

“Too bad you’re gonna LOSE!” His grin widened as he stepped back, several feet, before running across the warm tiles, launching himself into the air. I had to admit…the runt had some serious splashing skills! Oh yeah…me and Bri taught him well!

“Alright Bay…you better watch out now…cuz I’m the master splasher!” I stepped back as he swam to the side of the pool, watching me closely. Rubbing my hands together, I wiggled my butt just to make him laugh, and then I followed his previous actions throwing myself into the deep, warm water. Just before my feet lifted off the tile, though, I ‘accidentally’ slipped some, causing my cannon ball to be more of a pathetic belly flop.

“That was laaaaaaaaame!” Baylee was cracking up, shaking his head, knowing a little too well that he had won the bet. “You SO owe me a bag of Skittles, Uncle Nick!”

“Yeah,” Shaking the water from my hair and wiping my face, I gave him a defeated smile. “I guess I do, huh? I’ll get it for you after we eat our pizza ok? You know you can’t have junk before junk!” His mom always hated Baylee eating foods that weren’t healthy, and usually I do my best to respect that. I have had my own health problems, in the past, because of bad eating habits and unhealthy choices…I didn’t want to see him go through that too. Not to mention the heart problems he and his dad had in the past…I know junk food doesn’t cause a hole in your heart or Kawasaki disease…but in general, grease and stuff isn’t good for your heart and Baylee’s heart will always be a concern for me.

“Pizza isn’t really junk…is it? As long as you don’t have too much, it’s ok…right?” He was climbing back out of the pool, most likely so he could just jump right back in. Let me tell you one thing…I don’t know if it’s from Leighanne home schooling him or if he’s just naturally smart…but Baylee is a very intelligent kid. What eight year old knows junk is okay in moderation? At least I didn’t know it, when I was that age…then again, I was in my late 20’s before I learned that valuable lesson.

“Yes, pizza is junk, Bay…it’s got a lot of grease and stuff that isn’t healthy, for your body. But you are right…pizza and all other junk food is okay, to have…sometimes. As long as you don’t have too much, of it, it’s just fine.” I leaned my back against the wall, of the pool, propping my elbows up on the edge as I watched him jump back in the pool. It was nice to see his bubbly energy again. The poor boy had been so drained, ever since the accident, and his energetic personality had been pretty non-existant. Sure, it’s understandable that he wasn’t full of energy after what had happened, but I still missed it.

Another hour of goofing around, in the pool, and we were headed back up to my room, looking like shriveled up prunes. Prunes are gross, by the way. Once we got changed and hung up our wet swim trunks, in the bathroom, I ordered up our pepperoni and extra cheese pizza. Hanging up the phone I dropped to the floor beside him, leaning my back against the couch.

“Can we play some video games, while we wait?” Did he really need to ask that? Since when have I ever turned down that kind of offer? Of course we could!

“Sure Bay. Which one do you want to play? Mario?” That was another unneeded question, since I knew Mario was his favorite. He knew that I knew, too, because he just rolled his eyes and gave me that ‘duh’ look. “Mario cart it is then.”

It didn’t take long for me to get the game up, handing him a controller. Taking the spot right next to him, again, with my own controller in hand, we started up the game. We were racing around the tracks, expertly, for a good twenty minutes, before the knock on the door announced the arrival of our pizza. I don’t think either of us had ever hopped to our feet so fast, before, in our lives! We ran to the door and he took the pizza, while I paid. Just the smell was making my mouth water and once we opened that box, seeing all that cheese…oh man!

“Mmm! This looks sooo good, Uncle Nick! Can I have two slices? Please?” The moment he looked up at me, with those begging blue eyes, I was a goner.

“Sure thing Baylee. Tonight is a special night, and I think I’ll have two pieces too! So what should we watch, while we eat?” Grabbing us each a plate, I dug out my own pizza since I was letting Baylee help himself. I didn’t miss the fact that he took the two biggest slices, out of the whole pie, but, just like everything else, I was letting the rule on portion size fly out the window, too. One night of splurging wouldn’t hurt him any…well…he might get a bit of a stomach ache after the Skittles were gone, since we were having soda with our pizza…but hey, at least I got Sprite and Root Beer for our choices, and both are caffeine free….just allot of sugar.

“Hey, Uncle Nick?” Plopping on the couch, with his pizza, he picked up the remote and started to flip through the channels. “Can we, maybe, rent a movie or something?”

“I guess that depends on what movies we have to choose from.” After grabbing us some napkins, I took my seat beside him, letting him continue to look for something we wanted to watch.

“Hmm. Oh look…the Chipmunk movie is on!” There was that lopsided grin that he got from his dad. Anyone who was a sucker for Brian’s smile…would faint from Baylee’s. He’s got more charm than any of us…probably more than all of us guys put together. “It’s one of my favorites! Can we watch it?”

Letting out a long sigh, I tilted my head, to look at him. As soon as his grin started to fade, fearing I was going to say ‘no’, I smiled at him. “You’re in luck, Bay. It’s one of my favorite movies too! We are so gonna watch it!” His smile instantly returned, even bigger than before.

With that settled, we got comfortable and ate our pizza while we watched the movie. I have to admit that I watched him, more than the movie. Every once in a while his eyes would light up, like they always used to, and his smile would grow to its full size. You never really know how much you love those things about a child, until they are taken away. A young one’s smile and laughter…especially his…are able to light up any room and bring warmth into your heart; and you can’t help but smile when you see that special twinkle of the eye. It’s a very sad thing when you see those things fade from a child’s face. I knew, in this case, it was temporary. I just wished there was no need for it to fade, in the first place.
Chapter Eight by alota_cookin
Author's Notes:
Is anyone still with me, on this? I know I've been horrible with updates. I'm so very sorry! Overall, I seem to be getting my writing mojo back, so keep your fingers crossed for more LATU and LATB updates!
It had taken me forever to get to sleep, that night, and still I could hear Baylee’s voice ringing through my dreams. My head was fuzzy and my body numb, the only image in my head was from last summer. Brian and Baylee had come over so we could go out on my new boat, for a boy’s day of play. Baylee had stayed with me, to get the boat ready and make sure we had everything we would need, while Brian made a run to the store for snacks and drinks. I was in the process of checking the oil levels when…

“Nick! Nick! My dad’s back!” His curls bounced, as he jumped around, excited to see his father had returned. Brian and Baylee had always been close…it was a relationship that I envied to some degree. I was never that close with my own dad. Sure…we had our moments or whatever…but not like these two.

“Huh? What?” Letting out a long groan, I started to feel the sleep fade. Baylee’s voice seemed to float out of my dreams and into my ears. With a strong bounce, of the bed, I know that the voice hadn’t been in my dreams at all. Baylee was awake. But if it wasn’t my dream…what did he mean…his dad was back? “What are you talking about BayBay?”

“My dad! He’s back…he’s really back! I woke up and I saw him…he’s here…somewhere! You gotta help me find him!” His feet made a thump as he jumped back off my bed, and then continued to patter as they hit the floor running out of the room. “I know he’s here!” Quickly rolling out of bed, I had to chase after him.

“Bay…Bay, he’s not…” He was searching, like crazy, trying to find his dad. Closet doors were whipping open, and then he was in the bathroom, pulling back the shower curtain before looking behind the door. With a gentle touch, I rested my hands firmly on his shoulders, to make him stop his actions. “Baylee…he’s not here buddy…he’s gone…remember?” The reality of it all was hitting me in the gut hard, once again. There was no fighting the sting of tears, it was useless, they would come no matter how hard I tried to fight them. I never imagined that this poor child would have to realize the loss of his father more than once. “I’m sorry Baylee…but…he’s not coming back.”

“But I saw him! I know I did!” Those big blue yes looked up at me with a sadness that tore me apart. I felt so horrible for him, on top of my own grief. “He...he…he was…there! I just…I know it!” The burden was heavy to bear, as I knelt down to him level, pulling him into my arms. With a gentle hand, I stroked his rumpled curls.

“I’m so sorry BayBay…but…it was just…a dream.” Like a sour, bitter taste in my mouth, I nearly choked on the words, wishing so badly that they weren’t true. I hated having to break the news, to him…telling him, again…that he’d never have the chance to hear or see his dad. “I’m so sorry.”

“He has to be here Nick! He just has to be! He wouldn’t leave me!” With a shake of his shoulders, he began to cry again, the tears coming hot and quick, soaking my shoulder in no time. My own tears began to run down my cheeks as I held him close. “He…he…he loved…me!”

“Yes. He did love you. And…he still does…he’s just…not here on Earth anymore. He’s in heaven…and…in your heart.” No matter how many times I would have to explain this, I’d never get over the horrific taste the words left in my mouth. With each word, I felt like a hot knife was piercing through me. The pain was supposed to ease with time, not get more intolerable! “He’ll always love you Baylee…he’ll always watch over you…from heaven…I promise.”

“But…but…I…want him…here” What could I do? Seriously? Was there even a way to possibly ease this young boy’s heartache? I can barely tolerate my own heartache and then seeing his just multiplies it a million times over. “Why? Why…did…daddy…leave me?!”

“He…he didn’t…do it on purpose…he didn’t…want…to leave you.” My arms stayed circled around him as my hands smoothed over his back with as much care as I could portray. I needed to be his strength…his rock. Everyone was so busy dealing with their own grief, from losing Brian…and worrying about Leighanne’s recovery…that it seemed, to me, like Baylee was getting left in the dust. He needed someone to talk to…someone to help him cope…to help him grieve…to help him get through this and become a stronger person.

“Nick?” His voice was trembling although the tears have slowed and his shoulders had stilled. Pulling away slightly, he brought those pools of blue up to mine. Our eyes locked and stared into each other for a long time before a soft whisper floated into my ears. “Can I…come live…with you?” Live with me? I guess it wasn’t too odd, of a question, since he has frequently had sleepovers at my house when I’ve babysat him. But...to live with me…that sounded so permanent…as if he had lost hope of his mother getting well.

“I don’t know Bay. I’d love to have you live with me, while your mom got better…but…it’s not my choice.” My tongue darted out to wet my bottom lip as my hand came up to brush his cheek. “You would have to talk to your grandparents…and see what they say.”

“Mama…” Wrinkling my brows, I watched his whole demeanor change. The sorrow in his eyes was still there, but he looked so distant. His shoulders sagged a bit more and he almost looked as if he were going to be sick. I couldn’t even imagine the next words that would come from this child’s mouth. “…isn’t going…to get better. She…is…gonna go be…with daddy…and Jesus.”

“Oh Baylee!” Instinctively, I pulled him back into my embrace, my own eyes squeezing shut. When had he lost hope? When had he given up? Why the hell wasn’t his family encouraging him that she would be ok? The kid needs a support system damn it and his family seems to really be failing him, in that area. “We don’t know that.”

“I do.” Sniffles plagued him as he pulling out of my arms and slumped to the floor. “She’s…gonna go away too…I just know she is.” I don’t think I could have imagined a deeper frown than the one etched on his face, at that very moment. I could feel my heart shattering into a million pieces, all over again. Every time I begin to think it’s starting to heal…I see the pain my little buddy is in…and it breaks all over again.

“Do you want to…um…pray…to Jesus…about it?” I was not the best, when it came to religion and prayer, but I was ready to try anything that might help him. “We can pray that…Jesus will…make her better?” Moving to my knees, I crawled over to the couch, resting my elbows on the smooth tan leather and clasped my hands together.

“You’ll pray with me, Uncle Nick?” He looked at me a little shocked, which doesn’t surprise me, but he quickly made his way over, assuming the exact same position. “Thank you.” The tiniest smile tugged at the corners of his lips, before he bowed his head. Now came the tough part. I hadn’t actually said a prayer in years and I wasn’t even sure that I could remember how.

“Dear…” I had to pause and clear the lump out of my throat. This was for my little buddy…I could do this…it’s just like talking to any other person, right? “Dear Lord Jesus…”

“…please help my mama to get better…” I couldn’t resist sneaking a peek at him; he looked almost like a precious little angel with his hands clasped and eyes shut tight.

“…we pray that your loving hand will touch her and give her the strength to pull through.”

“I really want my mama to stay with me, please.”

“We know that Brian is with you, in Heaven but we pray that Leighanne can stay a while longer.” My own eyes were clenched tight as my heart twisted. Baylee continued on with his prayer but I sort of tuned him out as I started my own mental plea. My prayer sounded a bit more like begging. I know you have your reasons for taking Brian, and I can respect that. But Baylee is only a small child and I can’t imagine him growing up without either of his parents. I pray that you’ll heal his mother and help him to stay strong throughout this whole process. He’s hurting so badly right now and it doesn’t seem like he has very much support. I’m trying so hard to be there for him but I’m not sure that I’m enough. Please…please…help us through this…keep us strong…give us faith…stay with us…and watch over us. I know I haven’t been one to pray very often…but if you can just, please, answer this prayer…I promise that I’ll be better. It’s with nothing but faith that I ask these things, amen.
End Notes:
Thank you...THANK YOU...for sticking with the story! I hope you liked the chapter.
Chapter Nine by alota_cookin
Time has no mercy. It doesn't care what you're going through...it keeps marching on at it's own pace. No matter how badly you want to freeze a moment and live it forever, time won't bother to listen...before you know it, that moment is gone, like a blink of your eye. On the other end of the spectrum...when you just wish time would fly and heal your heart, it just seems to drag on without hearing your plea. Time is cruel.

Ever since that night, praying with Baylee, I've continued to pray nightly. Maybe you'd call it begging, but either way, I've kept at it. It's been a while now...nearly six months...since the accident. Leighanne has gotten no better and the family is meeting today, to discuss what they are going to do. I can't imagine the burden they carry...being responsible for deciding one's fate? To top it off, it's the fate of a loved one that they have to decide upon. I'm not sure that choosing the fate of a stranger would be any easier...maybe just different...but I don't really care to find out.

So here I sit, swinging next to my shortest friend. The look on his face tears me apart...not that this day is any different than that of the last six months. No one had told Baylee what the meeting was about...no need to upset him before a decision was officially made...but yet he seemed to know exactly what was happening and it was written all over his face.

We barely swung as we sat in silence. I had no clue what to say or where to begin. I was honestly afraid of blurting out the wrong thing before my brain was able to stop my mouth. Let's face it...I've always been known for saying the wrong things at the wrong times. It's not something I'm proud of...but that's me and I can't seem to control it, no matter how hard I try.

“Nick?” Oh that soft voice...that young, innocent soft voice...it sounded to timid...so vulnerable. His fingers fiddle with the swing's chain, as if he couldn't bring himself to look up at me. That's probably a good thing, because out of everyone I know, it seems like Baylee can read me the best. One look in my eyes and he probably would have known, for sure, what was happening.

“Yeah, Bay?” Cracking, my voice gave it away that I felt like crying. But then again...how could I not feel like that? My breaths were shaky, despite trying my hardest to keep them even. About ready to burst from my chest, my heart pounded harder than ever. Rubbing my now sweaty hands, on my jeans, I waited for him to go on, although I wasn't sure I really wanted him to.

“My mommy is...gonna go...to...heaven...and be with daddy...today...isn't she?” Oh snap. There it was. He could have asked anything in the world, but no...he asked the one question I was praying he wouldn't. I guess I can't be surprised though. It's not like I could seriously expect him to ask if I'd take him to play ball...that would be ridiculously wishful thinking.

“Honestly...I don't know...but maybe.” Now my shoulders slumped, as if verbally admitting it was making my brain wrap around the idea that it may actually become reality. Shows you what good all that damn praying did! Why even bother, when it does no good? This is exactly why I stopped praying, to begin with. I never asked for a lot...just things like making my parents stop fighting...keeping our family together...making my heart hurt less...but guess what? Not a single one ever came true. To me, praying seemed like throwing a penny into a wishing well...it gets your hopes up but just lets you down in the end.

“I feel like my mom left me. You'd tell me if she died...right?” Would I tell him? Of course I would! I told him when his dad passed...didn't I?! My mind screamed, at him, but I knew that I couldn't expect him to think rationally right now. So, I slipped off the swing and knelt before him, taking his hands in mine.

“Yes, Baylee. If I knew your mom passed...I would tell you right away.” The moment he looked up, our eyes met. I miss the twinkle that used to be there, lately it's been replaced with dark clouds like those you see before a thunder storm.

I don’t know what it was, but something within me…deep, deep within me…told me that Baylee’s feeling was right and she was gone. Mind you, I wanted to fight that feeling. I wanted to do anything possible, to make that feeling go away…as if making the feeling go away would mean that Leighanne was still with us. But the truth of the matter was that I had no control over the feeling…or if the feeling represented truth.

What seemed like an eternity passed before I saw a few family members walking our way. One of those people was Leighanne’s mom. One look at her face…and I knew. I knew that the feeling wasn’t just that…it was an intuition of what was real. Baylee knew it, too. Sure enough, Leighanne went to be with her beloved Brian that day and, naturally, Baylee fell into pieces. Just when I had thought the pain couldn’t get any worse, my heart was torn from my chest, once again. The tears began to flow. They were flowing faster and harder than I expected. Oddly enough…they were my tears…not Baylee’s.

To tell you the truth, I think that poor child had completely run out of tears. He sat in that swing, staring at the ground, silently. There were no tears from his eyes. No whimpers from his lips. No groans from his throat. Just silence. It was a deafening silence though…one that just cuts you, right down to the core.

At that moment, I was sure that it wasn’t…wouldn’t… couldn’t…possibly get any worse. What else could Baylee be put through? That just goes to show what I know. Because I really had no idea what was in store for him…for us. And there was nothing that could prepare me for it, either. Life was about to get a lot more…shall we call it…interesting? A lot harder, too.
Chapter Ten by alota_cookin
Author's Notes:
Two chapters within a week?! Wow! I'm on a roll. And the next chapter should be up in a few days, so stick with me please.

Here I was, heading to another funeral…black suit…black tie…completed with a heavy heart. Today’s weather was much too sunny for what I thought it should be. In my mind, I figured it should be cold…rainy…gloomy…everything that represented sadness and loss. For some reason, though, it was cheery weather…the type of weather where you take your kids to the park…or take a date on a picnic. It was the kind of day that should make you feel happy. Too bad it was far from a happy day…it was a miserable one.

I argued with myself about this…going back and forth on whether I should come today, or not…but then I got the oddest call…just yesterday…from Brian and Leighanne’s lawyer. I think his name was Lester. Lester Kalihan. He advised me that I need, not only to be at the funeral, but also to attend the reading of the will directly afterward.

What did that mean? I had no clue. Brian probably left me some stash of silly string he had hidden in some secret place, or something crazy like that. I’m sure Leighanne had no clue of Brian’s secret stash. I bet it’s blue silly string and he hid it…in his home studio. No, no…it’s in the attic…behind some old family heirloom truck from the 1800’s.

The corner of my lips curled a tiny bit, thinking about all the things I could do with a secret stash of blue silly string that I inherited from Brian. After all…what else could he be leaving me? Everything of importance and value would be passed down to Baylee…of that, I was sure. I guess it was kinda nice that, in the midst of such chaos, at least I was sure of something. Everything else had spiraled so far out of my control that the possibility of me regaining any control, whatsoever, seemed to dwindle with every passing day.

Pulling up and parking the car, I solemnly stepped out of the car. Everything seemed to be going in slow motion now…as I stood up, looking around and buttoned the solitary button of my suit jacket. Even the blink of my eyes seemed to be in super slow motion, as I walked toward the brick building. I found myself asking, again, why do the bad moments in life seem to last forever? I don’t think anyone, in this world, knew how badly I wanted to turn back the hands of time to a moment when Brian and I were pulling pranks on the other guys…just to have Leighanne pop in. She always was quick to scold us, but you’d be surprised by the number of times she actually joined in and helped us out.

Leighanne got a bad rap sometimes and I’m not saying she was a saint, but she really wasn’t that bad. I could name a few women that had invaded the Backstreet world, who were a million times worse than Leighanne. Mainly they were always AJ’s chicks…but that doesn’t really matter, I guess. The point I’m trying to make is that Leighanne was actually a pretty okay woman. Granted she took up most of my best friend’s time and attention…but I couldn’t blame him. The guy was madly in love.

He wasn’t just in love with her, either. Brian would have thrown himself under a bus, in order to save Baylee from harm, too. I guess any descent father would, but Brian was like…Brian was the definition of a good father. They were both amazing parents, when it came right down to it…and no one that knew the family, could deny that.

As I made my way inside, seeing so many familiar faces with tear stained cheeks, I couldn’t help but remember how amazing their little family was…so filled with love and devotion. It was shocking, to me, that God would tear it apart, but I guess there had to be a reason…or, at least, that’s what Brian would be telling me, if he were here, right now. The hard part…was actually believing that there was a good reason for something to tragic.

I couldn’t really even tell you what happened at the funeral that afternoon. I know the pastor had some short message…something about heaven and eternal life, I think. Then…some people spoke. There might have been a song…or two…hell, maybe even three. Of course there had to be prayers said, too. But other than those basics…I can’t tell you much.

When it came time for the reading of Leighanne and Brian’s will, my attention span wasn’t much better. After leaving the church and driving across town, I parked outside of the upscale law office building. Like a robot, I got out and headed into the plush lobby, meeting up with the family. Once everyone had arrived, we walked down this long hallway that was lined with all sorts of certificates, degrees and things of that nature. Once we got to the room, I paused outside the doorway, watching everyone else file inside. Something about this, scared me senseless, but that seemed ridiculous to me, at the moment. What did I have to be scared of? I already figured out what he was leaving me. Silly string. So why were my hands sweating? And my heart pounding? Why did I have the strong urge to run, like hell, out of there?

The oak table, in the center of the room was a pretty good size, with like twelve really nice leather office chairs surrounding it. There were probably 25 of us, so I stood against the wall, allowing the family to have the chairs and the space right up close to the table. After all, they were the ones who had the right to be here. I was more of an outsider…the only one in this group that wasn’t actually part of the family.

My eyes followed Lester as he, and his assistant, sat down at the head of the table, with their folders. Even though I was watching the scene unfold before me…hearing the words as they read the will…my mind was wondering and wasn’t catching a single word. Yeah…that’s what the funeral was like…I heard it all but my brain wasn’t processing any of it…and now the same thing was happening here.

I don’t know how long I was standing there, staring into space, just thinking about my past adventures with Brian, but loud gasps snapped me back to reality and everyone was staring at me. Looking around the room, I saw every family member had their jaw practically on the floor and their eyes couldn’t have gotten any bigger. What did I miss? It was obviously something big…I think.

“What?” My brows snapped together, still wondering why, the hell, everyone was gawking at me. No one answered me though; they all just sprung to their feet and started shouting. Something “wasn’t fair”. There was no way of sorting out all the arguing, but I could make out that I “didn’t deserve” something.

“He can’t handle that!”

“That’s absurd!”

“I won’t allow it!”

“Stop! Everyone, please…calm down!” Lester was on his feet, trying to get everyone settled, but it wasn’t working the best for him. “ENOUGH!!” That did it. Mumbling, everyone sat back down…obviously upset. “Mr. Carter…”

“Yeah…when do I pick up the silly string he left me?” Even with the forced chuckle, I could tell that no one was amused, so obviously…my prize wasn’t silly string. Darn. I actually could have had fun with that. I guess he must have left me with his vid…

“…you are hereby awarded full guardianship of Baylee.” Now my eyes were bugging out, too, and I think I may have just gotten a bit of rug burn on the underside of my jaw. Lester was holding out a folder, to me, but I couldn’t lift my hand to take it.

“Wh…wh…what?!?” Yep…that was me, stuttering like a fool. Great. Seriously, this had to be a dream though, so it didn’t really matter if I sounded or looked like a damn fool.

“Aside from the items already discussed and divided among the family, you are hereby given all rights to the rest of the Littrell estate, on Baylee’s behalf, since he is still a minor.” With a hard swallow, I leaned back against the wall, staring at the tall man with salt and pepper hair.

Oh boy…I was starting to feel a little…dizzy…and my stomach was flip flopping…

“We can make an appointment for tomorrow…” He was looking around, at everyone else, as if he didn’t want the others hearing what he had to say. “…to discuss the estate further. As for now, Mr. Carter, you are to take the young boy with you and take over your title as guardian.”

…now everything was…getting fuzzy…and…I…feel…
Chapter Eleven by alota_cookin
Evidently I passed out cold, because when I opened my eyes, I was on the floor and looking up at everyone. They were all crowded over me, mumbling back and forth. Some seemed concerned about me, while others still seemed to be upset over me getting…oh my God…now I remember why I passed out.

How…in the hell…am I going to raise Baylee?! I can’t raise Baylee! What was Brian thinking?! He had to have been on a contact buzz from being too close to AJ…or something! This wasn’t possible. There was no way I could do this. They had to give Baylee to someone else. Someone more responsible. Someone in the family.

I would just have to suck it up and tell them I refuse the job. Nothing to it. I’d just stand up…right now…as soon as my body would listen to the signals being sent from my brain. Ok…ok…deep breath…

“I’m…I…I mean I…see I…um…” Now I just gotta say it. I’m not going to do this. I can’t. Come on mouth…say the words. “I’ll take…good care…of him.” Aw come on! What, the hell, was that?! Those weren’t the right words. Ok…deep breaths and try again…come on mouth…brain…you both can do this…

“Mr. Littrell felt very sure that you would, Mr. Carter. He was quite clear about his wishes, regarding Baylee and the estate. I assure you that this is exactly what Mr. and Mrs. Littrell wanted. When he was informing me of the changes, to the will…his wife was happily in agreement.” Whoa. Leighanne agreed?! Now that was a bit of a shock, to me. I was surprised enough that Brain trusted me with the care of his son…but for her to agree…happily? Wow.

“Uh…ok…” Everyone else was starting to file out, now, mumbling under their breath, as I started to get back on my feet. I still wasn’t feeling so hot and I really didn’t know how I was going to handle this. My mouth and brain were obviously not going to work together enough for me to decline this…so I guess I would just have to suck it up and follow through.

After making an appointment, for the following morning, with the lawyer, I walked out into the lobby. There, in front of me, stood Baylee and somehow, I looked at him a little differently. He wasn’t exactly just my little buddy anymore; he was a young life that I was responsible for. At that moment, things started to sink in, just a little, about what was in store for us…or, at least I thought I had a clue. Only time would reveal, just, how much things would change.

“I’m gonna live with you, Nick?” In his voice, there was just a tint of happiness that I could hear. He probably thought everything was going to be all fun and games…like a permanent sleepover.

“Uh…yeah…it looks like it, buddy. But for now…we’re just going back to the hotel, ok?” Licking my lips, nervously, I took the bag that his aunt was holding out. “I’ll make sure you get a nice big bed…the bounciest one they have, ok?”

“Yay!” Baylee always loved to jump and bounce on the bed…even if his parents wouldn’t usually let him. For tonight…I was willing to let just about anything slide…there would be no rules. Who am I kidding? There were never any rules when he was with me. Ok, maybe that’s not entirely true…it’s not like I let the kid stick things into electrical sockets or anything, like that.

“Come on, little man…it’s getting late. We need to get you some dinner and a bath before bed.” I took his hand and let him out to the car, getting him safely buckled in. I wasn’t ready to be a father…and suddenly I was basically just that…to a nine year old.

“Can we have McDonald’s for dinner, Nick? Please? Pretty please?” Glancing at him, in the rearview mirror, I backed out of the parking spot before making my way out onto the highway. His eyes were pleading and it was hard to deny those sweet blues of my best little buddy.

“You know what, Baylee? Since it’s getting late…we’ll have McDonald’s tonight. But tomorrow…we’re gonna eat something more healthy ok? You need good food to help you grow big and strong.”

“I know, Nick…I know…lots of vegetables.” Covering my mouth, I had to hide my grin because the look of disgust, on his face, was a great mix of cute and downright funny. With a roll of his eyes, he turned to look out the window, as I headed toward the closest McDonald’s.

Before I knew it, though, we had eaten and Baylee had taken his bath. I guess I was still in that auto robot like mode. I couldn’t focus on much of anything, so I broke a second ‘Littrell rule’ by letting him watch cartoons while he ate, since we had taken dinner back to the hotel room. I just didn’t feel like being out in public, you know? Anyways…he ate fairly well, but I couldn’t take much more than a bite or two.

Then, it was off to bed for the little man. He knelt by his bed, like usual, and prayed his precious heart out…asking for his parents to watch over him and for everything to be ok. I gave him a long lasting, tight hug before he crawled in under his covers. At that moment, it hadn’t sunk in yet, that this was going to become my life.

“You sleep good, buddy. And have good dreams, ok?” Pulling the covers up under his chin and tucking him in, I gave him a quick kiss on the forehead. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. I mean…how hard can it be, to raise a kid?

“Night, night, Nick. I love you lots.”

“Aw. I love you, too, buddy. Night, night.” With a flip of the light switch and the pull of his door, I was out in the main part of our suite. Who was I kidding? This wasn’t going to be easy! I could wish and hope for it to be a smooth ride, but it wasn’t likely. Kids act up…push your buttons…whine…beg…and then they become teens. Oh Lord, please help me through this.

Once again, I found myself looking up, at the ceiling. As I slid down the wall, to sit on the floor, I began to pray. I needed strength…a lot of it! I had never raised a child before and I had no clue how to do it. To be quite honest…I was scared…terrified, even.

“Please….please just help us through this. I can’t do this alone. I know I can’t. I don’t know how to raise Baylee! What if I screw up?” My eyes were closed now and I was fighting back the tears that were threatening to fall. I hated feeling so…weak…and helpless. Why can’t I just get back control of my life? Would I ever regain control? Or was it out of my hands forever?

Yet again, I was at the mercy of time…because, as I said before, only time would tell if everything would work out. I would have to just wait and keep praying that the pieces fell into place. Maybe tomorrow’s meeting will help give me some peace, of mind. At this point, I wasn’t sure of anything and I was left with…with faith. But did I have enough faith, to get us through this? Through this crazy, messed up life? Well…whatever faith I did have, would just have to be enough. I would make it be enough. I had to. For Baylee’s sake.
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