“No, when I came home all of his stuff was gone. I tried texting him but he never answered me back. Nobody has heard from him. I hope he’s okay, he was so upset.” AJ said. Brian looked at his feet, the situation was becoming more and more distressing.
“Yeah, I tried Howie too. I was hoping he would have at least come back here. Thanks anyway.”
AJ closed the door and Brian went back to his car, sitting in the parking lot of the apartment building and thinking. Where could Nick have gone? Was he even still in LA? What if they never spoke again?
All of these questions came and went as Brian aimlessly drove around for most of the morning, looking for Nick in places where he thought he might be but he didn’t have any luck. He finally went back to Leighanne’s apartment feeling defeated.
“Did you find him?” Leighanne asked when he walked in the door sighing around lunchtime. She made him something to eat and they sat down at the kitchen table.
“No. Nobody’s seen him, Leigh. He turned off his phone and won’t talk to anyone. I’m so worried about him. What if he’s hurt or something? It’s all my fault.” Brian said, looking at the sandwich on his plate. He couldn’t eat because he was so worried about Nick that food seemed like the last thing on his mind right now.
“I’m sure he’s fine. I don’t know why you are so worried. He’s not a kid anymore. I know his parents left you in charge of him before because they didn’t want to take care of him, but he’s not your responsibility anymore. He’s 18.”
“It wasn’t that his parents didn’t want to take care of him. We were overseas a lot. His parents have other kids too. They couldn’t be in two places at once.” Brian argued, slightly annoyed that his girlfriend was taking the moment to insult Nick yet again.
“Baby, this is serious. He’s missing. I thought you and him were friends? I’m really worried about him. This isn’t like him to just disappear like this. I was really mean to him yesterday. I said some things that I really shouldn’t have. I feel awful.”
Leighanne stopped eating and set her sandwich down, licking at the corners of her mouth.
“I’m sorry for sounding harsh, but its just that Nick isn’t a child anymore. I’m sure he’ll turn up. You have your surgery in a few days, shouldn’t you be thinking about that?”
Brian frowned, and the anxiety he had about the surgery bubbled up again. He was trying to take his mind off of his impending surgery, but his concern for Nick outweighed everything else. He knew this was even more confirmation of how much he actually loved Nick and it made him even more confused than he had been about his feelings for him. He thought about all the times they’d been together, nights when they laid together in bed and nothing else mattered in the world. Nights when he would lay awake after Nick had long fallen asleep, listening to him against his chest. Brian had never felt like this about anyone before. It made sense why he was so mad about Nick hanging out with Lance, and that was when Brian realized he loved Nick. He realized that Nick was right, and he had been very wrong. He wanted to talk to Nick so badly about all of this but Nick was nowhere to be found.
“You really should eat something.” Leighanne said, snapping him out of his thoughts. He looked at his phone but there were no messages. He decided to text Nick again anyway and went back to his lunch just to please his girlfriend, even though he didn’t feel hungry.
A couple hours later, Brian was surprised to hear his phone vibrating in his pocket, so he took it out to find a text message from Kevin.
Nick is fine, he is at my place. Don’t come here.
Brian breathed a sigh of relief and he decided to drive over to Kevin’s house that he shared with his girlfriend, Kristin even though Leighanne disapproved and Kevin told him not to come. He didn’t care. He was determined to make things right.
“What are you doing here?”
“Where is he?” Brian asked when Kevin came to the door. Kevin looked angry.
“I told you not to come here, Brian. He’s still really upset. He turned up a little while ago crying and asking if he could stay here. He wouldn’t tell me where he was or what he was doing all night. He just said he needed to sleep.” Kevin said quietly.
“I have to talk to him, Kevin. I made a huge mistake and I want to apologize. I leave to go to the airport to fly home soon. I don’t want to go into surgery knowing that I upset him like this. Please let me talk to him.” Brian begged.
“Brian, I had to talk him out of quitting the group. I don’t need you coming here and upsetting him again. You really hurt him. Not just physically….you broke his heart. You’re lucky that I don’t punch you in the face right now for what you pulled yesterday.” Kevin said, dropping his voice to a whisper. Brian’s heart sank.
"He was going to quit the group because I broke his heart?”
“Yes.” Kevin nodded.
Brian looked at his feet before he decided to leave. He felt horrible and his chest hurt, his stomach did somersaults all the way back to his girlfriend's apartment. He didn't go in right away, he stayed in the car thinking of the fight yesterday and how he had talked to Nick, who had been so patient with him the last year.
“Still haven’t found him?” Leighanne asked when she saw Brian come back a second time looking upset. His eyes were red as if he’d been crying.
Leighanne didn't say anything, because Brian didn't give her the chance to. He went to bed without dinner and just kept to himself the rest of the night.
A couple of days later, Brian was getting ready to be prepped for surgery. The whole morning all he could think of was Nick and their fight, how he'd walked out and slammed the door.
"Are you nervous?" Leighanne asked. She had come to the hospital with him. His parents were going to arrive a bit later.
"N-no." Brian lied, feeling a lump in his throat. He had taken an anxiety pill the night before because he had a panic attack just thinking about today. What if something went wrong? What if he didn't come out of this? Nick still wasn't speaking to him. What if that was the last time they'd ever speak again or see each other again? He didn’t want to think about that because it literally made him feel sick.
"Sweetie, it's going to be fine. You're in great care here, remember?" Leighanne said, leaning down to kiss him gently on the cheek. He turned away from her and she looked disappointed that he cared more about Nick then her being there.
"Where's my phone? I need to try Nick again." Brian asked. Leighanne rolled her eyes and got his cell phone, handing it to him. He tried calling but it still went to voicemail. Usually Brian would just hang up but he left a message this time.
"Nick, I know you don't want to talk to me. I know you're upset and you're hurt. I don't like that I am the one who hurt you. I didn't mean any of those things that I said. You're the best thing that ever happened to me, Nick. I wouldn't be getting this surgery if you didn't push me to. I just wanted to tell you that if I don't make it that I'm-I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I love you and I'm sorry." Brian said before hanging up. He handed the phone back to Leighanne. She looked like she wasn't happy with the message. Brian didn't say anything, he didn't have time to question her because the nurses came in to take him.
"If anything happens...if Nick calls…t-tell him-“
"Don't worry, baby. I'll take care of everything. You’ll be fine." Leighanne said as they put him on the gurney to bring him to the operating room. She gave his hand a squeeze and he felt his chest tighten. He laid in the gurney looking up at the ceiling. He was terrified.
He went through the doors and out of the room where he'd left Leighanne and started crying. He cried for the first time in a while because he allowed himself to. He felt so vulnerable and alone. Nobody was there to comfort him but the nurses. He wanted to vomit from anxiety as the lights overhead passed by one by one, inching him closer and closer to the operating room. When they started to give him the anesthesia, he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, keeping Nick in the back of his mind. He just wished and wished to see him again.
“Just breathe deep, Brian. 3….2...1…” the doctor said gently, as Brian’s eyes started to droop.
Everything went black.
“Brian, come on. Wake up!”
Brian opened his eyes but he was not in the operating room, and Kevin was there shaking him gently. He was laying on a couch in a dressing room but he had his shoes on as if he’d fainted or simply nodded off.
“Wha-what’s going on? Where are we?” Brian asked. They were both wearing all white, white shirts with white jackets and pants. The only thing that was not white was their shoes. Kevin reached out for his hand and helped him up, leading him out of the room. They appeared to be backstage somewhere but Kevin looked older. Everyone’s voices echoed, out of sync with their mouths. It was like the dream he had about being married to Leighanne, except she wasn’t here.
“Come on, the show’s about to start. Nick’s looking for you.” Kevin said, pulling him along.
“What? What show? I thought I was having heart surgery. What is happening?”
“You fell asleep. I’m just glad I woke you up.” Kevin replied. They were going down a hallway, their silver shoes echoing on the floor.
Brian had never been more confused as he was right now in his entire life. He looked wildly around, there were so many people in the backstage area of wherever it was they were.
“Where is Nick?”
Kevin looked back at him and smiled.
Kevin opened the curtain they’d stopped in front of and Nick stood at the end of a long walkway, under a spotlight. He had his back facing him and Brian could hear him talking but it was garbled, until he got closer. Nick finally turned around, smiling at him. He looked like an angel, the white light shining above him while he wore the white suit, his hair falling in his face. He looked older too like Kevin, but his face still looked as if he hadn’t aged.
“Nick…I-“ Brian breathed.
Nick didn’t say anything, he simply smiled and leaned down to kiss him. The rest of the lights came on, revealing an audience cheering loudly for him and Nick as they kissed, blissfully unaware of anything that was going on around them.
“I love you.” Nick mouthed, but Brian couldn’t hear him over the cheering crowd.
“I love you too.” Brian whispered into Nick’s lips as they kissed again. Everything was so perfect, and Brian knew this was not real but didn’t care. He was perfectly fine with never waking up if he could spend the rest of his days like this in Nick’s arms.
Unfortunately, he was disappointed when he did wake up some time later. When he woke up, the first face he saw was a face with blonde hair.
“Nick?” Brian whispered groggily. He blinked and someone squeezed his hand. He heard his parents talking softly.
“No, sweetie, it’s me…..Nick isn’t here.”
Reality had hit him almost immediately. Nick wasn’t here, and he wasn’t sure when he would see him. He was stuck here.
He almost wished he had never woken up.