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Mike had dreaded the climb back up to his dingy old apartment more than anything else. He enjoyed his time with Melinda; she even made him forget about things for a little while. They talked, played some stupid card games and just watched television. Things he might have done on any ordinary day.

He missed those things; ordinary days. Since his dad and brother walked into his life and turned things upside down the word ordinary disappeared from his vocabulary. Maybe he would find it again, now that both men were happily out of his life.

He sighed looking up at the stairs. “Why do I always lie to myself?” He asked out loud not even caring that his nosy downstairs neighbor was watching him from her door.

Finally he walked up the steps as if he was walking towards a guillotine. Each step brought him closer to the realization of what had happened earlier, even though he was still kind of unclear about it.

He was taking an innocent nap, something he had needed after talking to his witch of a Mother. God he had almost forgotten about her. “Rejected by three family members in one day! A new record” He once again said to himself.

Not his father though, no…he had rejected his father. Not the other way around.

He stood with his hand on the doorknob really not wanting to turn it. What if his father didn’t leave? What if he was waiting on the other side of the door? Mike wasn’t sure which scenario he wanted to happen. Maybe he hoped dad was inside. This way they could talk things through. Maybe he had been wrong about the whole thing. Maybe dad didn’t set him up at all. An innocent mistake is all it had to be.

“Whatever happens happens” He said drawing in a big breath and walking into his apartment.

It was dark except for a thin line of light streaming through the window. Putting on the light Mike surveyed the damage from the fight he had with Nick. The apartment was a mess, but he didn’t want to clean it. In fact he found himself not able to look. “Maybe I can just move” He said landing on the couch with a thud. He didn’t bother to turn on the light, things looked more appropriate in the dark.

A shuffling coming from his bedroom made him sit up straight, “Who’s there?” He asked slowly getting up searching for something to attack an intruder with. Ironically he didn’t stop his search when his father walked out of the bedroom.

“I thought you would be gone by now” Mike said now putting on the light and sitting back down on the couch. He refused to look at his dad, even though he wanted to desperately.

“Yeah…relax I am just about done. I was just gonna go you know? Without even saying goodbye or anything but I couldn’t do that”

“Don’t you mean you wanted to come and see if there was anything you could take from me? Well’s dry old man sorry”

“Michael, why do you hate me? I didn’t do anything wrong”

Mike laughed and rolled his eyes wishing he had never come back here. “I don’t know exactly what you did, but I don’t want to know either. I am done with you and done with him…now if you don’t mind…I need to go to bed, seems like I have to find a job tomorrow”

That was one tidbit Melinda had shared with Mike; the fact that he was fired because of leaving so abruptly. Yet another job lost; he liked this one too.

“I just wanted to tell you that I love you son”

“Then why don’t you tell me what happened? Why is Nick accusing me of stealing from him?” John walked over and sat next to his son.

“Okay…I did steal that card from the brat. I wanted to make a better life for us”

Mike laughed; he really wished his father hadn’t told him that. Any lie would do; why start being honest now? “So stealing and blaming me would be the way to do that?”

“Mike, I never blamed you. Nick did”

“How did that card get into my jacket?”

“I put it there”

“Exactly” Mike sat up frustrated just wanting his father to leave already. Walk out of his life like he had so many times before. This time don’t bother coming back though.

“I wanted us to have something. It’s not fair that your brother and Mother got all the best things out of life while we got stuck with the crap”

“When life gives you lemons you make lemonade” Mike recited as if it was a mantra he spoke every night before bed.

“Yeah or you get even with the stupid people who gave you the lemons in the first place”

“Dad…Nick didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not his fault that he became rich and famous. It’s not his fault that we are broke. Stop blaming him!” Mike got up now to search for something he could drink. He wasn’t even thirsty but if he stayed on the couch listening to his father any longer he might just start screaming.

“I know it’s not his fault directly but the kid is an arrogant snob! Did you see how quickly he accused you of stealing from him?”

“It’s over…thanks to you he will probably never talk to me again anyway” Finding a can of Yoohoo sitting in the back of the refrigerator he reached for it and popped it open.

“We are too good for him Mike” That made him mad; he walked over to his father flailing his finger in the air. “You know what; he is too good for us! That boy is a good kid who was unfortunately born into our screwed up family”

“Well, I told him Jane should have had an abortion”

“It’s time for you to leave” Mike said having enough.

“Can’t we talk some more son?”

“We are done talking. Leave now!” John smiled at his son, “You know what Mike…you get attached to things too easily”

“He’s not a thing…he’s your son and my brother”

“Whatever…I’m not worrying about it. I guess I’ll go sleep on the street somewhere” John said as pathetically as possible. Mike went and opened the door for him, “Have fun…better bring a blanket”

Just as John was about to leave, Mike stopped him in a moment of pure guilt; “Dad wait!” He walked over to his wallet and took out $50; then hesitantly handed it to his father. “Keep your money son…I have a ton from your brother” With that being said, John gave his son a wink and a smile as he walked out the door and out of Mike’s life forever.

After his father left, Mike sat on the couch legs on the coffee table just randomly flipping channels. If he could have closed his eyes and pretended this day had never happened he would have. At least he had managed to clean up the place a little bit. Ironically enough one of the things that had managed to break during the scuffle he had with his brother was the CD cover that held the Journey CD Nick had given him.

He found himself shutting off the TV now and grabbing the remote for his stereo. He hit the random play button and the song Separate Ways started to blare through the speakers.

Boy they really were on different paths weren’t they?

A fierce knocking on the door made him roll his eyes once again. Stupid downstairs neighbor probably complaining about the noise. “I’ll turn it down” He yelled from his place on the couch.

Still the knocking continued. At first he had planned on ignoring it forever. They could knock till their hand fell off for all he cared, but after about two minutes and the guitar solo of the song, he gave in and opened the door; shocked to see who was on the other side.

“What do you want?” He found himself asking Kevin as he stood on the other side of the door, knuckles ready to once again wrap against the wood.

“I have been knocking forever. Didn’t you hear me?”

“Yeah but I pretended not too. If I had known it was you I would have let you keep knocking until the sun came up” He then looked at Kevin with fierce eyes. “What do you want?”

“Is Nick here?” Mike couldn’t believe this man who had done nothing but berate him since they met, now had the nerve to come over here looking for Nick. There was something about the look on Kevin’s face though, that left Mike feeling unsettled.

“NO…he wouldn’t be here Kevin…He hates me”

Kevin stood there awkwardly as if waiting to be invited in, “Are you sure Mike? I mean I won’t be mad at him or anything but I really need to know…”

“How the hell dare you come here after causing me nothing but grief and then accuse me of lying to you? Go away” Mike said as he began to close the door on Kevin.

“Wait! I’m sorry…it’s just that, you were our last hope” Mike stopped then and looked over at Kevin to see a nervous almost desperate face.

“Why are you saying that?” He asked now once again fully opening his door and this time allowing Kevin to walk inside.

Once inside Kevin took about five steps in and turned to the man he still didn’t fully trust, “He’s missing. He’s been gone for about two hours now…we can’t find him anywhere”

Mike took a deep breath letting the words Kevin just said sink in, “How did that happen? I mean you guys have a load of security don’t you?”

“He ditched his bodyguard”

“Crap! The guy who took me down can’t even manage to keep track of a kid?”

“When Nick wants to get lost…he gets lost”

They both stood in silence for a moment; not quite sure of what needed to be said. “He’s a big boy Kevin. An 18 year old knows how to keep himself safe. I’m sure he’ll turn up” He walked away from Kevin then and sat down, a little surprised when Kevin stood in front of him.

“It’s different for us…I mean don’t you get that by now Mike? I’m not saying that to be a big headed jerk; it’s just reality. Your brother forgets that from time to time. He shouldn’t though. There are a lot of scary people out there Mike and a lot of them are infatuated with your brother”

Mike tried to shake off what Kevin had just said, but he kind of knew that all along. He saw the screaming fans outside of TRL. He heard people talking about his brother all ages all genders. “Why would he do something like that? If it was dangerous why would he just leave?”

Kevin sat down beside Mike now, looking annoyed but more nervous. “Because sometimes he doesn’t think”

“He’s been missing for two hours now?” Kevin nodded, “Do you think he’s with your dad maybe? Brian said that your dad was there for a visit shortly before he left for that walk”

“No, but I bet that’s why he left. My father is the one who was stealing from him” Kevin turned in shock, “What?”

“My dad…he has problems Kevin and well frankly he’s not a nice man” “We thought it was you…I admit I thought it was you” Kevin sank back in his seat feeling a little guilty.

“I know...everyone did including Nick. But it wasn’t me; I would NEVER do something like that. My father would though. Would and did; I know my dad’s visit wasn’t a good one with Nick. He came here and told me that before I kicked him out”

“You saw your dad then?” Now it was Mike’s turn to nod, “He said that he stole that money for us…please. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself. Never has”

“So Nick knows it was his dad then?”


“Who would do that to your own child?” Kevin said rubbing his temples with his fingers.

“We weren’t really blessed in the parent department Kevin, but I’m assuming you already know that. Did you try Jane?” He asked refusing to call her Mom.

“No…Nick had a fight with her and said he never wanted to talk to her again”

“Wow….poor kid; he probably feels like the whole world has turned on him” Mike knew that feeling well as he said the words. He was feeling the same way. Maybe he and his brother weren’t that different after all.

Kevin stood up, “Well, thanks Mike…I’ll let you when we find him”

“No way Kevin! I want to come with you. I’m sure I will be able to help and I can’t just sit here and wait for a phone call”

“Okay that’s a god idea, the more of us scouting for him the better”

“Great I’ll go get my coat” He grabbed his coat and both men left the apartment as allies for once. One goal in common, to find the both they both called brother.