First of all, the bed was empty.
For a second, Nick frowned in confusion. Then he saw the figure lying on the ground next to the bed and he inhaled sharply, rushing to his side.
“Oh my God, are you okay?” Nick questioned in a rush.
Brian groaned miserably, squirming on the carpet as he tried to grab a hold of anything that could pull him up. “Do I look… freaking… okay to you?” he growled angrily.
Nick took a step back and frowned. Brian was obviously in pain, given the awkward position he’d managed to get himself in. “What the hell happened?”
The older man shot him a fuming glare from off the ground and finally managed to sit up, his face twisting in pain as he protectively clutched his broken leg. “I thought the ground looked nice,” he grumbled slowly through gritted teeth, breathing hard as he tried not to scream from the fierce pain that shot up and down his left leg. “Thought I’d… study it more closely… what the hell do you think happened?”
Nick shut his mouth, watching his angry friend try to pull himself up. He scoffed incredulously when Brian immediately swatted his hand away when he tried to help. “Well, you don’t have to be so condescending,” Nick mumbled, folding his arms across his chest and taking another step away from the struggling singer on the ground.
“I don’t need your fucking help,” Brian spat loudly and Nick flinched, looking around to see if anyone had heard him.
He already figured that things didn’t add up when he’d found his friend lying on the floor instead of in bed, with no nurses around to get him back under the sheets.
He felt a wave of disbelief when he realized that Brian was actually too stubborn to get help.
He sighed, knowing exactly that forcing his help wouldn’t do anything but make it worse, so he took a seat on the edge of the bed, studying his friend closely. “You know,” he commented, “you’re gonna tear those stitches out again if you keep moving it like that.”
“Oh shut up,” Brian growled, grunting as he curled his fingers around the wheelchair once more. So far, so good. Maybe, if he could get on his knees… well, knee, maybe he could climb up into the chair. He could do it all by himself and Nick could see that he wasn’t weak.
Cause he wasn’t weak.
And even if there was the slightest possibility that he was indeed weak, he did not want Nick Carter of all persons to know it. With a lot of effort, he actually managed to slip his leg underneath him. He bit his lip as a surge of pain rushed through him.
Nick sighed, wondering just how long he would let Brian keep this act up. He leaned forward, his arms still crossed, “Want me to get you some help?” he mumbled in an even voice.
“I got it!” Brian hissed between clenched teeth, slowly straightening himself, using the wheelchair as support.
“Aha! See, I don’t n-”
Nick flinched as Brian lost his balanced and slipped. Before long, he was in the same position as he started.
Shaking his head, Nick scoffed, “Should I just keep letting you hurt yourself, or what?” He grumbled, knowing all too well that his friend was being as stubborn as he could ever be. On the other hand, Brian hadn’t sent him away yet either.
“Just get out.”
Oh well, there it was.
“Why do I even bother? You’re such a fucking, little, stubborn idiot.”
“Ow!” Brian cried out and Nick rolled his eyes at yet another failed attempt. He had to give it to his friend: he did not know how to give up.
“Whenever you’re ready, dude…” Nick mumbled under his breath, deciding that he wouldn’t help his friend unless he asked him to. It was probably the only way to break that freaking stubbornness.
Brian felt his arms tremble more and more under his weight, slowly but surely he became exhausted, finding it hard to even move anymore. With a loud sigh, he eventually sank against the wall, finally giving up.
Leaning his head back against the wall, he took a few slow, even breaths and closed his eyes, willing the firing and warning pain in his legs to lessen. What was he going to do?
He really was weak.
Nick noticed the change immediately and moved to get up. “Don’t!” Brian snapped, his eyes flying open and glaring at the younger singer.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding!” Nick exclaimed in disbelief.
“I’m… it’s…” Brian stammered, having trouble finding his words. It used to be different. Everything used to be different. He used to be the strongest. He used to carry everything on his shoulders and still be relatively fine with it. And now he couldn’t even get up into a wheelchair alone. “Just… please… just don’t…”
Nick felt his heart break into a thousand different pieces. Ignoring his friend’s words, he got off the bed and took a few steps closer. The image of dragging a struggling Brian through a muddy field flashed through his mind and he suddenly stopped, blinking in confusion, a sharp stab of pain traveling through his leg.
He could feel Brian’s heated glare burning right through him and suddenly an idea sprang to mind. What if these strange pains and visions and feelings were not a coincidence? What if the connection was not entirely involuntary? What if Brian was doing it?
“Stop it!” Nick hissed.
Brian broke eye contact and the pain disappeared like it had never existed. Nick stared at him, speechlessly.
He had no idea how Brian did it or why it was even possible, or if the older singer even knew he was doing it. His friend looked down, his whole body shaking and Nick put a hand on his arm when he finally reached him.
To his surprise, Brian didn’t move away or scream at him. It seemed like he’d finally given in.
Brian could almost feel Nick’s pitiful stare burning through him, and he kept his gaze down, trying to conceal the sudden involuntary sobs from taking over.
His life was over. Couldn’t everybody just leave him alone?
Instead, Nick bent down and crawled over next to Brian, leaning back against the wall as well. He sighed, wondering how to get through to his friend, vaguely remembering the last time he’d pulled him away from the edge. That had been weird.
“Why are you even still here?” Brian’s broken voice snapped him out of his thoughts.
Brian looked at him, but not with the fierce glare he had before. Nick saw the barely concealed pain and exhaustion. The absent look on his friend’s face scared him a little. The obvious depression was persistent, and on some level, Nick could relate. He knew what it was like to feel stuck in the middle of life.
The circumstances were fairly different though.
“I’m useless, Nick,” Brian breathed, tears finally streaming down now, “I can’t sing, I can’t perform, heck, now I can’t even walk. Why do you even still bother?”
Nick frowned in confusion, “Because… you’re my friend…”
“I wouldn’t do the same for you.”
“Yeah, you would,” Nick stated, a bit of hesitation climbing into that little spot in his mind that used to tell him that he was not worth anyone’s time. “Y-you are just saying that so I would go.”
Brian didn’t answer him, but flinched as he shifted his position. “What am I gonna do?”
“Physical therapy would be a great start,” Nick mumbled.
“But what about the group? What about the foursome?”
Brian asked, a little panicked. “What’s gonna happen if I can never get back to who I was?”
“You don’t have to, man. No one expects you to.”
“But AJ said…”
“Yeah, we don’t listen to AJ. That’s rule number one, remember?” Nick said with an uncertain laugh. He wasn’t sure what AJ had said, but he would find out later.
“Why did you save me?” Brian asked quietly, looking back to the floor again.
Nick clenched his jaw and looked away, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“It was the strangest dream I’ve ever had, Nick, and you were there. You brought me back. Why did you do that?”
“I didn’t. It was your dream. What do I have to do with it. If someone saved you in a dream, that could only have been you, Brian,” Nick muttered. It wasn’t entirely a lie. Yes, he’d been there, but if his suspicion that Brian was controlling it was right, then it was Brian that had reached out to him all those times. A cry for help, desperate and pure. Just like it was Brian that had tried to push him away a few minutes ago.
Brian frowned, thinking about Nick’s answer and then shook his head, “that doesn’t make sense.”
“Makes more sense than you and me inside your head, dog.”
“Right. So are you gonna try and get back into bed?” Nick finally sighed, seeing as his friend had calmed down at last.
Brian let his head fall back against the wall and looked at him pointedly, “I can’t,” he muttered through his teeth.
“I’m sorry,” Nick asked, amused, with a little smile. ”What was that?”
“I can’t get up on my own,” Brian grumbled.
“Oh! Would you like me to help you?” Nick questioned, his smile growing wider. He could almost see Brian’s pride being crushed and beaten on the ground.
“Yes,” Brian hissed through clenched teeth.
“Well, you could have said so before, then we wouldn’t have had this talk from the floor.”
“Don’t push it.”
“Alright,” Nick grunted, getting up on his feet, wrapping one arm around Brian’s shoulders and hooking the other under his knee. It seemed very weird for a moment, not to feel another leg there, but Nick pushed that thought out of his head quickly, deciding that he didn’t mind one bit. “Good Lord, you’re heavy.”
“It’s called muscle, you should try it sometime.”