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Chapter Six

June 20, 2014

Nashville General Hospital

"The MRI doesn't show signs of any damage, however TBI's can be difficult to diagnose because they struggle to pick up some areas. Unfortunately modern technology isn't totally equipped to diagnose instances of temporary amnesia 100% of the time."

"What's a TBI?" Nick asks.

"Traumatic brain injury," the doctor and I reply at the same time. Science and medicine are two fields that are not far removed. Nick looks at me in surprise. "How do you know that?"

"I'm a scientist," I reply as if it's the most obvious thing in the world. I'm surprised to see that the doctor even looks concerned at this statement. She shares a look with Nick. For a moment I wonder if the concern is just so she can have a reason to look at him. Nick doesn't seem to be as cynical as I. He laughs. I frown.

"What's so funny?"

"It's just," he laughs again. "You're so famous it's ridiculous, but you're definitely not a scientist. I mean, you said you wanted to be one when you were little, but one of the most famous female country singers in the world isn't winning the Norbert Prize anytime soon."

"Nobel Prize," I correct. Then the rest of the words sink in. "What?"

The last three hours have been nothing but upsetting surprises. I found while looking for clothes to wear to the hospital that my body was housing a pair of silicone implants that made my breasts feel like boulders. Even the old, soft t-shirt that was obviously a well worn favorite could not mask the giant ness of my boobs. I also found out that young Brian's full name is Benjamin Thomas Littrell, which Nick shouted in complete impatience when Ben complained about not coming to the hospital. There was a lot of conversation about me being his mom or his wife and ended with Ben slouched in a gaming chair half-heartedly playing a video game.

"I said you're a singer. Babe, you know this."

"I'm not your babe," I snap.

I fold my arms even though I know this is an infant's reaction. The doctor pulls Nick out of the room, but I don't care. I know what my game plan is. I need to get back to the huge mansion of a place Nick calls home and search for the compact. If I can tweak it enough, I can go back to June 19 and start my day again. The second time around I know better than to let my hormones get in the way. Hell, I would probably take Josh's advice and go to the Civil War instead. It would be easier than trying to figure out how I ended up married to Nick Carter and had a Brian clone living under the same roof.

I stare down at my hand. The wedding ring on my left hand is an obscene size. It, like my boobs, make me feel unbalanced. Everything about this is making me unbalanced.

Nick enters the room a few minutes later without the doctor. He grabs my purse and gives me another terminal illness sort of smile.

"You're discharged," he says.

I get up without argument, eager to go back to the house. Nick's hand hovers at my back but at the last moment doesn't touch it. My mind has memorized the layout of the hospital after just one trip and I lead the way to the car which is parked at a side door for what the staff called 'our safety.' The moment we step outside I am blinded by a flash.

"Courtney, are you okay?"

"Nick what's going on?"

People with cameras were closing in like flies to food. I am stunned but Nick grabs my arm, shielding me from them with his body. He turns his back just so and I am ushered around the car.

"Courtney, are you pregnant?"

"Did you miscarry?"

"Did you have a nose job?"

I am mesmerized by Nick's face in this moment. It is hard as stone. The dumb puppy look is gone and I fear that he might turn on the picture snapping leeches at any moment. His hand tightens on my door before slamming it closed. He lowers his head as he goes around to the drivers side door. I am surprised at how well he is handling the chaos. The doors lock the again the moment he's inside and he pulls out fast, causing the paparazzi to leap away. He drives rather fast around several curves. It is twenty minutes before peace restores itself inside the car.

"What just happened?" I ask.

"They follow us everywhere," Nick says. I am relieved that he isn't still constantly asking me why I'm asking him questions. Perhaps the doctor told him to play along since I have what she thinks is a concussion. I decide I can play it to my advantage.

"Where's Lauren?" I ask.

"Los Angeles, I think."

"You just married her."

"No, I married her in 2010. We got divorced last December."

I frown. That isn't right at all. "Why?"

Nick surprises me and smiles. "Because," he says softly. "You came to your senses. It only took you a decade and a half."

"What do you mean?"

Nick is driving through the prettiest landscape I've ever seen. The smell of summer permeates the air and the trees are the most luscious green imaginable. He drives for a few more minutes and a small lake appears in the distance. Closer and closer we creep. The car slows until all I see in front of me is water. We aren't in downtown Nashville anymore. He parks and throws an arm over the steering wheel, turning to look at me.

"What's the last thing you remember?" His voice sounds slightly shaky as. He doesn't want to know the answer.

I pause. The truth is embarrassing but it's the only starting point I have.

"Partying with Brian on his birthday and having sloppy drunk sex in the hotel room," I say truthfully. Nick closes his eyes.


I expect him to break into a joke, but he is serious when he actually looks at me again. "I loved you first."

Now I'm back to being confused. "Excuse me?"

"I was there when you walked in. I saw you first."

My thoughts went to the scrawny Nick with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Was he seriously insinuating his 'hey' was a vow of eternal love?

"You got pregnant with Ben that night. BSB blew up big and you went through hell just to try to let Brian know. He had his heart surgery in May and got back together with Leighanne." Nick is saying it fast like it's a bandaid he just needs to rip off. "It's coming back now, right?"

I shake my head no. He looks pained.

"He found out in September about the baby. You were probably the most hated woman in the world right about then. Everyone was all 'Team Leighanne' which was crazy because just a month before all the fans were accusing her of all kinds of stuff. The worst part was that Brian and Leighanne kinda ganged up on you saying you were making this up for the press. He didn't even come see Ben until he was three days old. Brian actually sent me in to see you first, to see if Ben even looked like him."

He pauses for a breath. I feel sick. I don't want to hear this. I can't imagine Brian, the Brian I've always admired acting like this. "He looks exactly like him," I whisper. Nick smiles.

"And he did then too. We'll go through the pictures when we get home." Nick looks out over the water. "I thought I could never hate Brian more than I did at that moment."

We are both quiet. Then I replay the words. "You thought?"

Nick's jaw tightens. "I can't go there," he sighs. "We got married here and I don't want to ruin this place with those memories."

"We got married here?"

I take another look at the lake. I try to imagine it filled with people, but it seems so serene that the thought depresses me.

"We had forty one people at our wedding," he says proudly as if reading my mind. "You, me, Ben, the minister, Leigh, and Howie were on this floating platform tied to shore, but that little distance made it feel like it was just our own little six-person world as we got married. Totally the best day of my life."

Nick's voice is filled with so much love for me that I can't even process the information. I am keenly aware that no one has ever talked about me in that way. My parents love me, or at least I assume they do in this dimension, but Nick seems to take it to a whole new level. I look at him and his eyes meet mine. He smiles. I'm dying to ask him how he could be the same guy I just saw on TV previews the other night getting his crotch lasered, but a different question bubbles to the surface.

"When was it?"

"October 31, 2013."


He laughs. "It was so much fun. You and I were Frankenstein and his bride. Ben went as Duke Nukem."

"But why?"

"Why what?"

"Why would you marry someone who has a child with one of your best friends?"

His answer is simple and full of truth. "Because I love you. I don't think we control who we fall in love with. I mean truly fall in love with. That's magic of a higher power."

The words hit me. Hard. "You are so not who I thought you were."

He takes my hand. I don't pull it away. It is dwarfed by his massive paw. He is grinning.

"That's not the first time you've said that, trust me."

And at that moment, I do.
Chapter End Notes:

Had time for a quick update! Enjoy!