Alright, so I am totally behind on working at the deadline Mare gave me for the 6th, but this is a start. Let's see if I can actually make that deadline and get chapter 18 posted by then. Hope y'all enjoy this update and please let me know what you think!
The air inside the vehicle was stuffy as they sped down the interstate. Brian couldn't brush off the feeling of being too closed in; the clutter of the interior was unbelievable. Not to mention the air conditioner seemed to be out of commission and the heat inside was rising in temperature. Even with the light tshirt he was wearing, he could feel the sticky perspiration accumulating against his skin and it felt disgusting. But he had already chosen not to say anything about it. Nick appeared to be on edge as it was and bringing the matter up would only cause a dispute that Brian wasn't so sure he was in the mood to try to tackle. So he let it be and instead hoped they would be arriving at their destination soon.
"You're being rather quiet," Nick spoke suddenly, but even as he said it, he seemed to be hesitant to let the words slip, and he refused to even tear his eyes away from the stretch of road in front of him.
"You're not so talkative yourself," Brian pointed out, allowing his eyes to slip shut as he rested his forehead against the passenger window.
"Maybe not. But shouldn't you be cracking a joke or something?" Nick asked.
"That was random..." Brian mumbled.
Nick frowned as he whipped into the other lane and sped around a succession of three slowly moving vehicles. "I told you I don't do good with being put on the spot," he answered and reached forward to press the power switch on the stereo console. The silence was defeaning and Brian's lack of willingness to speak wasn't making it any less comfortable.
"You put yourself on the spot there. So don't blame me," Brian shrugged and sank further into the seat.
Nick chanced a glance in his friend's direction, staring at him with wonder. He could see the irritation just in the way Brian sat and the unpleased expression that wrinkled his normally calm features. It made Nick begin to think twice why Brian had even agreed to tag along in the first place. "Are you hungry?" he questioned seconds later, knowing it was lame but hoping all the same that he would find some way to break the ice and put the fued to rest.
Brian didn't look up. "You sure are on a roll with the random statements this morning," he chuckled.
"Well, are you?" Nick repeated.
"Am I what?"
"No Nick, I'm not hungry."
"Are you sure? Because Leighanne was telling me how you haven't been eating much of anything lately and I figured we could take the next exit and stop at a McDonalds or-"
"I said I wasn't hungry so stop asking me such a stupid question!"
Nick wheezed a breath and pressed back into his seat. It still took him aback to be caught by surprise with Brian's sudden new found irrational behavior or the fact that his friend seemed to have lost all of the personality he was so famous for. He had never seen Brian glare with such animosity or snap at the drop of a single word, the complete opposite of the mild mannered man Nick used to know. "Are you going to be like this the whole day?" he spat out without giving his choice of words a second thought.
Brian's eyes snapped open with an air of offense as he craned his neck. "What the Hell is that supposed to mean?" he demanded.
"It means you aren't making it very easy to be around you at the moment," Nick threw coldly in return.
"Maybe that's because I'm not all too thrilled to be going in the first place. I only agreed so you wouldn't blame me for yet another thing that goes wrong," Brian gritted and returned his attention out the window. "God Nick, has anyone ever told you that you have the personality and warmth of a cold, dead, gutted fish?"
"That was a bit harsh..."
"Might be harsh, but it's true."
"Damnit! I never blamed you for any of this Brian!"
"You sure have a way of placing guilt."
"Get off that already! You placed your own guilt upon yourself!"
Brian's glare tightened as he felt the vehicle speed up extensively. He sat up straighter, making note of how dangerously close they were coming to the edge of the lane and into on coming traffic. "Nick, slow down," he mustered tentatively, unconsciously gripping the seat belt latched across his chest.
"So don't even continue to put this all on me!" Nick continued to rant.
"You're not the only-"
"Nick! Watch out!"
Nick slammed his foot against the brake and jerked the wheel to the right, narrowly missing the front corner of an on coming SUV. The tires of their vehicle screeched in protest amidst the blaring of horns and he brought the car to a jolting stop on the side of the interstate. "Son of a bitch!" he growled, his whole body trembling from the near impact. He looked to his right where Brian sat gripping the dashboard with clenched hands, his skin a sudden ashen pale tone. Nick could see Brian's labored breathing as the man gripped the dashboard even tighter. "Brian, I...I'm sorry. I wasn't-"
"Paying attention!?" Brian squeaked, wincing as he closed his eyes to force the air to enter his lungs evenly. "Try keeping your eyes on the road next time!"
"Just pay attention to driving," Brian returned coldly, eliminating any opportunity to furter the dispute. "I'd like to make it to the stadium alive."
"I'll keep that in mind..." Nick grumbled and after a few moments of silence, he edged the vehicle back into the flow of traffic.
Brian almost sighed in relief as he lowered himself into one of the assigned seats designated by the tickets Nick still clutched protectively within his hands. When Nick had said they were good seats, he had never bothered to ponder exactly how good they were, but it had turned out to be rather impressive by the view Brian found himself presented with. Up close and personal he concluded, glancing down to the proximity of the field. Only a few rows back, Brian was sure they would soon be able to smell the sweat from the players and hear the plays being planned before they were put into action. He didn't care about the details though. It was refreshing to finally be out of the vehicle and in the fresh air.
Nick was babbling beside him, but Brian couldn't focus on a single word he said as he watched patron after patron file into the stadium, closing in the space around them from all sides. He decided making the decision to come that afternoon hadn't been such a bad one after all and knew to continue with whatever fight that had been brewing would be petty. As it seemed, Nick had already forgotten the incident that had happened in the car and remnants of the anger within were no longer apparent. The blonde wore a pro football jersey proudly and Brian was actually surprised to find that Nick hadn't gone so far as to adorn even the least bit of face paint as so many others tended to often do. Brian smiled, happy to know that Nick was allowing himself a moment to act normal and blend in with the crowd.
"Did I provide or did I provide when I said these were good seats?" Nick grinned childishly, waving his arm outward as if to showcase some grand expenditure he had produced.
"Not too shabby," Brian answered, letting Nick have his fun.
"Go ahead, you can say it," Nick nodded.
Brian eyed his friend with raised brows. "Say what?"
"C'mon B, I know you are thinking it."
"I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about."
"You're no fun, you know that?"
"Well, it's not always fun trying to figure out how your mind works," Brian smirked lightly. "Seriously though Nick, I have to admit. This is a good set up and the seats are great. I really do appreciate you letting me tag along. Despite what I might have said earlier..."
Nick shrugged, brushing the comment off. "Don't mention it."
Brian did just that and allowed the subject to drop. He continued to observe the interior of the stadium as it filled more little by little and the overall noise jumped through the roof. He could already feel the beginnings of a migraine start to form, but willed the pain away. He wanted for once to spend a normal day where he wasn't constantly finding himself plagued with the demons that were torturing his soul. And the fact that there was even the hope of getting along with Nick when their relationship had become so tumultuous, Brian couldn't find it in himself to even begin to complain further.
"Dude, where's your jersey anyway?" Nick questioned as he rubbed his hands in anticipation, craning his neck to glance in his friend's direction. He nodded to the simple white tshirt with a faded brand logo on the front that Brian sported against an old pair of light denim jeans that were fraying horribly around the hems of the leggings. Nick wondered how he could even be comfortable dressed in jeans when the temperature outside was just short of being excrutiatingly hot. Even with the khaki cargo shorts and light material jersey he himself had decided upon, Nick could already feel the sweat begin to drench his skin.
"Didn't even cross my mind," Brian shrugged nonchalantly, although he knew he couldn't even begin to explain to Nick that the heat wasn't having nearly the same effect on his own body. Oddly enough he knew the heat was present, but as far as he was concerned if he didn't know any better, he would have said the air merited a jacket to be worn. Brian kept his mouth shut, refusing to strike another match. Nick's temper seemed easily lit as of lately. Then again he couldn't claim his own fuse was much longer. He just wanted to enjoy the rest of the day.
"The first thing that should have crossed your mind when I mentioned the words "football" and "game" together is jersey. Where's your team spirit?" Nick scuffed.
"First of all, I hardly care much about either of these teams other then the fact that it's football. And two, you caught me by surprise right after I had woke up. So give me a little break that the gears don't spin the wheels as effectively inside my head as they do in yours."
"Defensive much are we?"
"No, I was just saying-"
"Chill, B. I'm kidding. Stop being so cranky."
"I'm not cranky Nick, I'm just tired."
"What's the difference?"
"Long night last night?" Nick asked and quickly turned his face, hiding the knowing grin that formed. He wasn't easily fooled. Brian had never been good with covering up the obvious difference in his demeanor after a deeply intimate night with his wife, even if he refused to outright admit to it. Nick had been able to tell the personal event had taken place the moment Brian had reached the bottom step that morning and sure enough as Brian's cheeks turned a deep shade of crimson, he knew he had hit the jackpot. "Ha! I was right! Why do you always try to deny it every time?"
Brian felt his cheeks grow even more red. "I don't try to deny it," he argued.
"At least tell me...was it good? I mean, was it really hot and steamy and-"
"I hardly think my sex life is any of your business."
"Of course it is my business when I see you walk down the stairs with that dazed "I so got laid last night" look on your face. Honest to God, it's no mystery Bri. You act like a damn school girl every time after you and Leighanne have fooled around in bed. Not that I am saying anything against your sexuality, but you should take a look at yourself in the mirror afterwards sometime. You'll see what I mean."
"You are such an asshole," Brian chuckled, lowering the bill of his hat lower to shade his eyes from the bright glare of the sun, but also to conceal the ever growing tint of embarrassment from his cheeks.
Nick held up his hands in defense. "I'm just saying..." he trailed.
"I think you might be jealous," Brian returned.
"Jealous of who? You and Leighanne? No offense but she don't appeal to me like that," Nick said with a defiant shake of his head.
Brian rolled his eyes. "That's not what I meant. If I didn't know any better, I would say you're testy because of a lack there of from the love department."
"You're oh so funny," Nick answered, his tone dripping in sarcasm. "For your information, I happen to be involved in a well balanced relationship and I get my needs met."
Brian smirked. "Now who's blushing?"
Nick glared. "Shut up."
"Well how am I supposed to know you're seeing someone if you always hide her away protectively like she's some fragile porcelain doll that could break? You never bring her around. For all I know she's just a figment of your imagination."
"A figment of my imagination?"
"Think twice about what you say because if I remember correctly there was an instance in the past when you created a fictional girlfriend because you were jealous that everyone else had someone."
"I'm not that shallow!"
"Not shallow, just desperate."
"I don't know what the Hell you are talking about."
"Aw, c'mon Nicky. Don't lie. You know exactly what I'm talking about," Brian pointed out in amusement. "It was one of the first times we were touring Europe and everybody had someone but you. Kevin had just flown Kristin out for a few days, Howie and I both had someone back in the states, and AJ had just began swooning over some blonde chick he met in Germany. You were the only one left out. Don't get me wrong...I'm sure it didn't help that back then Aje felt the need to rub that fact in your face. But I remember you were so jealous that you concocted the concept of some imaginary girl named Catalina. You said she was from France and you were always walking around gloating about this girl named Catalina. You were always "on the phone" with her. Then come to find out when Lou got charged with a hefty hotel phone bill it was BJ you were always on the phone with."
Nick groaned. "Did you have to bring that up?"
"Yes," Brian answered simply.
"I'll remember to keep my mouth shut next time."
"Glad you finally caught my drift."
"So how was the sex last night?"
"Nick!" Brian sighed and refused to say another word. Instead he sunk back into his seat and resorted to staring blankly out at the field, watching absentmindedly. Nick would never change and comfortably so, Brian was ok with that.
Brian glanced around wearily, squinting from the bright glare and clutching a half full luke warm bottle of water in a tight grip. His hands shook with on going tremors and his mind swam dizzingly. As the day progressed into mid afternoon, he felt himself fall deeper and deeper into a pained position. But he didn't say a word, couldn't say a word. All he could focus on was the excruciating pounding in his head and the roaring of the stadium made it feel as if it would explode without a moment's notice. His stomach twisted into a mess of tight knots which only intensified the nauseating side effects from the sun; he was surprised it hadn't erupted up from his throat. His hands shook harder as tiny droplets of perspiration slipped down his temples. He was begging inside for Nick to look over, but the younger man appeared far too engrossed within the game progressing in front of them. Brian licked at his chapped lips, grimacing as a sharp tinge of pain shot throughout his stomach and spiraled upward into his chest.
Nick jumped to his feet, holding his hands palm up in the air in a frustrated manner. "That was an incomplete pass you assholes!" he screamed as the game came to a temporary halt on the field. His eyes tightened into a deep glare as several agreements of his accusation rang around them. When the game finally resumed, he slammed back into his seat, clearly unpleased by what had taken place and the offical call that had followed. "Fucking morons! That was clearly an incomplete pass!" Fuming, he turned to Brian, searching for his agreement. "You saw that right? That was an incomplete pass!"
Brian looked up from the spot on the concrete he was staring at. "I wasn't watching. I'm sorry," he forced from his parched throat.
Nick paused, watching Brian carefully. "You ok?" he asked, noticing the creases of strain at the corners of Brian's eyes and there was no mistakening the way his hands were shaking so hard that he was barely able to keep hold of the plastic bottle within his grasp. He almost seemed to be gasping for breath as he clenched his eyes tightly shut without a reply. Nick turned completely in his seat, reaching out a hand for Brian's shoulder. "Brian, what's wrong?"
"I..." Brian wheezed as his stomach clenched harder. "I'm not feeling too great right now."
"What do you mean?" Nick questioned stupidly as Brian pulled away from his touch.
"I need the restroom," Brian replied shortly as he stood on unstable feet. He swayed for a moment and clumsily moved away before Nick could get another word in edge wise. His legs felt heavy as he forced each step he took and his stomach protested each movement. It had come on so suddenly that Brian didn't even know where to pin point the beginning. He slowly moved up the looming cement stairs, keeping his eyes purposely trained towards the ground to hide from the numerous odd stairs he received as he passed row after row. When he finally reached the landing at the top of the stair case and stepped under the air conditioned overhang, he nearly collapsed where he stood and he blindly reached out to grab onto whatever he could find to keep him upright.
"Excuse me sir, are you alright?"
Brian looked up to find one of the stadium custodians approaching him tentatively and he squinted to make out the man's stature. "Nearest restroom?" he asked quietly.
"Right over there," the man answered, motioning over his shoulder.
Brian brushed past him with a choked thank you and hurried unsteadily to the door a mere twenty feet away. Inside the air was nearly as hot as it had been out in the open vicinity of the stadium. Then again Brian was hardly able to distinguish the difference in temperature anymore and he felt just as suffocated. He stumbled over to the closest sink and fumbled to turn the faucet on, which only proved to be more of a daunting task then he had anticipated. Cupping the cool water into his hands, he brought it up to splash against his face, but he didn't find the relief he'd expected. His knees wobbled threateningly and he gripped the edges of the sink and stared into the full wall mirror. He couldn't think straight, could barely recognize his own reflection and it sent his heart into a rhythm of wild palpitations.
He didn't understand it. He felt fine that morning, absolutely elated after the passionate night spent with his wife. The heat had been uncomfortable when they arrived at the stadium, but that wasn't it. Something was terribly wrong. Brian gasped for a breath, gagging from the stuffy air circulating in the restroom. He reached into his pocket hastily, searching for the tiny pill bottle but his hand came up empty handed. "No...no..." he mumbled as his stomach churned for the worse. The sour bile was already steadily making it's way up his esophagus as he stumbled back from the sink. Immediately the room began to spin and his vision blurred. Brian felt his knees buckling beneath his weight and he lurched towards the nearest stall, slamming the door open before he came in rough contact with the hard floor.
Nick kept looking around, couldn't stop from craning his neck towards the stairs every few seconds in search of Brian's return. But the Ketuckian had yet to reappear and it sent the nerves throughout Nick's body running madly. He sat stiffly in his seat, restless and unable to focus on the game taking place in front of him. The interest just wasn't there anymore, but the concern was. Brian's sudden departure had been odd and completely out of character, even despite the fact that Brian had hardly been acting like himself lately. Nick couldn't pin point it, but something was flawed in the equation that day. Too much time had already passed, or so he thought, and as he craned his neck once more to look at the set of concrete stairs, his brows furled further. Finally he rose from his seat and inched his way along the row, offering many a multiple apologetic smiles towards the glares he received as he managed to step on more then one person's feet.
He set into a distracted jog up the stairs, hardly realizing the impact from the people he brushed into. 'Something's not right' his mind kept saying as he quickened his pace and took the remainder of the stairs two at a time. Winded and heaving for breath as he reached the top, Nick paused briefly to take a look around. The area was sparsely occupied and unsurprisingly so considering the game was just reaching into halfway through the third quarter. He located the restroom directly ahead and moved quickly forward, his mind buzzing with uncertainty. A blast of stuffy air flew at him as he shoved the door open, but silence was his only greeting. To his left a single faucet poured out at maximum force and he looked at it oddly. "Brian?" Nick called out, stepping further into the room. He walked over to the faucet and turned the system off.
Behind him a weak moan echoed off the walls. Nick spun on his heels where he stood and immediately caught sight of his friend crumpled on the floor inside the first stall. "Shit Brian!" he exclaimed and bolted into the tiny space. He dropped to his knees and grasped Brian's shoulder, hoping to merit a response. If it hadn't been for the barily audible moan he'd first heard, Nick was sure his friend wasn't even breathing. He shook Brian's shoulder harder. "C'mon B, look at me!" he begged, fearing the lack of an answer.
Brian moaned again, forcing his eyes open into tiny slits. His throat burned from the fierce retching and the sour taste of the bile still coated the inside of his mouth. His chest ached from the pounding of his heart against his ribcage. His stomach seemed to of frozen in a tight clench and the stabbing pain in his head remained elevated all the same. "Nick..." he croaked hoarsely.
"What happened to you?" Nick demanded, watching Brian attempt to push himself up with trembling arms into a sitting position.
"My medications..." Brian muttered just above a whisper, his stomach turning again. He grabbed the edges of the toilet once more and released another collection of putrid liquid.
"I don't understand!" Nick fretted, recoiling.
"I forgot to take them today!" Brian gritted and squeezed his eyes shut to will the pain away. He retched further.
"Damnit, I'm getting help," Nick answered and moved to turn away, but Brian quickly gripped his arm defiantly.
"B, this isn't right. You need to go to the hospital-"
"I'm fine. I'll be fine."
"You passed out!"
Brian inhaled an uneven breath and pushed himself back from the toilet. He should have known better, should have been more careful. "Nick, I'm sorry. J-just take me home," he begged feebly.
"I need my medication-"
"Please Nick, just take me home!"