This is where the story really starts. Where reality checks in and our heroes are forced to deal with the consequences of their actions. And when talking about a person like Nick, those consequences are heavy indeed.
Our actions define us, that’s no secret, and up until this point Nick’s actions have been nothing but noble and very romantic. But until now, Nick had it easy. Things were going to get a lot more complicated once his new bride regained consciousness.
If Nick didn’t want Stacey to vanish from his life the minute she woke up, then it was going to take a lot of work. Luckily for Nick, he knew that, so he started by refusing to let go of Stacey’s hand until the doctor had to physically pry him away in order to examine her.
Upon checking Stacey’s vitals, the doctor said she probably went into shock, and that it was best to not wake her so her body could have the time it needed to recover. He also told Nick that Stacey’s memory loss was most likely due to a mental problem rather than a physical one, and that he was probably not the right doctor for this job.
Nick was crushed by the news of a possible mental illness and asked the doctor to stay at least until Stacey woke up, to make absolute sure that she was going to be ok. The doctor agreed and actually turned out to be the first person Stacey saw when she came to. “Welcome back, Mrs. Carter,” he greeted. “I’m Dr. Cartwright. You went into a bit of shock but you’re going to be just fine.”
“Vasquez,” Stacey mumbled as she pressed her hands against her throbbing temples. “My name is Stacey Vasquez. I don’t know what happened, there was this guy and he was saying something about Tahiti and being married and… Ow. My head hurts.”
“Try to relax Ms. Vasquez. I can give you something for the headache if you’d like, but I’m also going to give you something that will help keep you calm until you can get home to some familiar surroundings.”
It wasn’t until that moment that Stacey really took a good look around. The minute she’d heard the word doctor, she assumed she was in a hospital or something, and that that morning’s nightmare had been exactly that: a dream. Disoriented as she was, Stacey recognized the hotel and the man sitting in a chair across the room unable to take his eyes off of her.
The room started to spin again and the doctor held out a couple of pills. “I don’t want any drugs,” Stacey said pushing his hand away.
“I really think it might be best.”
“Being drugged is probably what got me into this mess in the first place, ok? I don’t want the pills! I’ll be fine. I’m not going to pass out again, I just want to go home.”
The doctor sighed and then shrugged at Nick. “I think my work here is done,” he said getting to his feet. “Physically everything seems to be ok. And she’s obviously coherent, so there’s really nothing else I can do.”
Stacey watched Nick shake the doctors hand and accept the bottle of medication – just in case she changed her mind later. She started to rethink her decision about not taking it once the doctor was gone and she was alone with Nick. The silence was deafening to both of them, but neither knew what to say so Nick started with the basics. “I’m Nick,” he shrugged.
“I made all the arrangements. The next plane doesn’t leave until five, so we have a couple of hours still. We’re already packed, so I thought maybe you’d like to go for a walk? I’m sure you could use the fresh air and you probably need to eat something.”
This was first decision that Stacey had to make. Her first action that was not simply a reaction, which would give Nick a glimpse of what he was up against. He knew she was scared – and he couldn’t blame her, he was too – but he also knew that while she may be extremely stressed, she was still the same woman he’d been with for the last nine days.
Stacey is a very practical person – logical in her thinking. Nick knew this because every time he’d tried to get her to do something spontaneous or adventurous, her first instinct was to tell him he was crazy. Even under the affects of a love potion it was still quite the feat for Nick to convince her to marry him.
Nick suggested the fresh air and food, because it was a simple enough request that Stacey might actually agree to it. If he’d suggested they play or explore the island for a couple hours, Nick knew she would have chosen to wait it out in the hotel room. He waited, and then tried not to look too relieved when Stacey slowly nodded. “A bagel and some juice might be nice,” she agreed.
The two were really awkward with one another as Nick waited for Stacey to get dressed and attempted to explain the few unfamiliar items - the new bikini, for example - in Stacey’s suitcase. But they both felt a little better when they got to the hotel lobby and there were other people around, one of whom greeted them the minute they got off the elevator. “Mrs. Carter!” the hotel’s general manager greeted, instantly bringing the tension back. “It’s good to see you up and about. You gave us all quite a scare.”
“Yes, she’s feeling a little better,” Nick answered when Stacey shrugged, a little overwhelmed. “In the mood for a bagel though. Could you point us in the direction of a good café?”
“Of course. There’s an exceptional one right down the street, with a beautiful view of the ocean, but we also have excellent room service if you’re reluctant to leave the hotel.”
“No,” Stacey finally spoke up, “he’s right. I could use the fresh air.”
The hotel manager forced a smile as he nodded his head. But being hotel management herself, and familiar with having to sugar coat something unpleasant for a guest, Stacey picked up on the man’s uneasiness right away. “Is there a problem?”
“Oh, no, Mrs. Carter, I assure you everything here is fine, but are you aware that the news of your marriage leaked over night?”
Stacey was a little confused, but didn’t have time to ask, because Nick beat her to it. “What? How?”
“I have no idea, but it’s all over the tabloids today.”
“Shit!” Nick hissed.
“So far we’ve been able to keep your presence here secret,” the manager promised, “but it’s out of my hands once you leave the hotel.”
“No, no, you’re right. Thank you,” Nick replied, trying his best to hide his anger from Stacey, “I’m sure a little room service on the balcony will be more than enough fresh air.”
“I’ll have something brought up straight away.”
Stacey had been so preoccupied that she’d merely been taking everything in at face value. She was so worried about getting home, that the fact that she was married hadn’t really sunk in yet. And exactly whom she was married to, didn’t sink in until the mention of the paparazzi, but when it clicked, it came down on her like a ton of bricks. “Nick Carter?” Stacey gasped when she finally put two and two together. “The Backstreet Boy?”
Nick tried not to frown because he knew this was coming, but he was still a little disappointed by the look on Stacey’s face. “Not when I’m with you,” he answered, feeling more insecure than he’d ever felt in his life. “I’m just Nick.”
Even in the middle of the most terrifying day of her life, Stacey’s brain automatically recalled the hundreds of tabloid pictures, the DUI charges, the countless women he’d been linked to, and lets not forget the infamous Paris Hilton.
So, tragically, even though Nick was being completely sincere – maybe for the first time in his life – Stacey’s mind about him was already made up, and hearing him say romantic things like “when I’m with you I’m just Nick,” didn’t help the situation any.
“I eloped with a Backstreet Boy?” she repeated again in astonishment and then began spouting a bunch of angry gibberish in Spanish.
Nick didn’t have a clue what she was saying, and, figured he really didn’t want to know, but it was obvious she wasn’t as happy about the marriage as he was. And he was pretty sure he heard the term “stupid idiot” more than once. He wasn’t sure if she was referring to herself or him, but either way it was pretty discouraging. “We’re going to head back upstairs now,” he said to the manager who was now trying not to smirk at the newlyweds.
Stacey’s words didn’t return to the English language until they were back in the hotel room, but the minute the door was closed, she spun around and yelled, “Don’t you think I might have wanted to know that little piece of information?”
“I was just trying to make things easier for you.”
“By lying to me about who you are?”
“I didn’t lie to you.”
“You weren’t exactly straight forward!”
“It’s just that you didn’t recognize me the first time either, and you weren’t very happy when you found out then. I figured it would be the same this time, so I hoped I could get you back home before I freaked you out any more. Honestly, Stacey, I was just trying to help.”
“If you really want to help, then why don’t you tell me how, in the name of God, we ended up in the tropics as Mr. And Mrs..”
“Well,” Nick gulped, “Tahiti was your idea. I said anywhere you want, and you said somewhere that I’d never been so that we could see it for the first time together.”
Stacey’s brow furrowed and her mouth dropped open, but the anger had left her face and she was just genuinely baffled. He was telling her about a conversation that to her didn’t exist. It still seemed impossible that he could know anything about her, yet it sounded exactly like something she would have said.
“It was really sweet, actually,” Nick admitted in a much softer voice. “Most people wouldn’t have considered my feelings like that. I’m a little bummed we’re going to miss it.”
“And the man and wife part?” Stacey asked, suddenly very afraid that that answer might make sense too.
“I don’t know, a miracle? Fate?”
Stacey was a little relieved by the ridiculous answer. She looked at Nick as if he’d absolutely lost his mind, and the poor guy was pretty hurt. “That’s what it felt like to me,” he defended himself in a very desperate manner.
“Everything was so perfect. You were perfect.”
And that’s where Nick lost her. Little miss practical couldn’t handle something quite so romantic, anymore than she could fathom the idea that anyone - especially someone so glamorous - could ever think that about her. Her attitude turned a little condescending, and she asked, “Does that line usually work for you?”
Nick wasn’t sure how many times he’d felt his heart break this morning, but this time it actually felt like it was being stomped on. “It’s not a line! I know I’ve gone through my share of women in the past, but I wouldn’t have committed an entire weekend to any of them, much less till death do I part. Trust me, I didn’t think I was the marrying type! But I never thought I’d meet someone that could see past all the bullshit that goes along with being Nick Carter and love me for just me either.”
What else could Nick say? Stacey didn’t know where to go next either, so they just kind of stood there in silence for a minute until room service knocked on their door. Once it was just Nick and Stacey again, Nick looked at the tray and shrugged, “You should probably eat something. It might make you feel better. I’m not hungry.”
Stacey was surprised when Nick escaped to the balcony needing the fresh air more than she did at this point. She didn’t want to believe the things he’d said because she was scared. She was sure doing her best to convince herself that he was insane. But he looked like he was really struggling to keep it together, and the man made a frighteningly convincing argument.
Deep down Stacey felt bad that she’d insulted him, but she couldn’t take it back. She didn’t want to give any false impressions that he had a chance with her. Even if he was being sincere, Stacey just couldn’t see herself with a man like him. She just wanted to go home. Back to her quiet, little, insignificant life, with her regular, old, boring family. But it wasn’t her fault really; that’s all she really knew.
Stacey gave Nick some space for a while, and kind of picked at the food a little, but she didn’t really have the stomach to eat much either. Eventually, though, her guilt caught up with her and she cautiously stepped out onto the balcony. She stood next to Nick and leaned over the railing, finally allowing herself to take in the beautiful sight. Nick glanced at her but still said nothing, and the two were silent until Stacey worked up the courage to finally mutter an apology. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” Nick grumbled.
“No, but I didn’t have to be rude.”
Nick shrugged his shoulders as if to say forget it and then cast his gaze back out to the water. He looked sad, and Stacey hated to kick him while he was down, but she still had so many questions that she desperately needed answers to. “What’s going to happen when we go back?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m assuming everything was legal, so we’ll have to get an annulment, right?”
“If that’s what you want, then I guess that’s what we have to do.”
“You can’t possibly want to stay in this marriage?”
Actually, that’s exactly what Nick wanted. Stacey may have been letting the world get in the way of feeling their connection, but Nick remembered the last week and a half. He remembered that feeling of knowing he’d found his soul mate. He knew that somehow, even though he couldn’t explain it, they were connected on a deeper level, and that he would feel that connection whether she stayed in his life or not. That’s the power of love. That’s why it’s called a soul mate.
“I just want to make you happy.” Nick released a painful sigh. “I’ll do whatever you ask me to. If you want it annulled, I’ll get my lawyer on it as soon as we get back.”
It’s not that Stacey is completely made of stone or anything - she has a heart - but all of the love he displayed was frustrating. It just couldn’t be possible, and he shouldn’t be expecting her to just feel the same way. To her, the whole thing was crazy. While it was sweet, it all felt a little too dramatic. “Look, I’m sorry. I really am. But I don’t know what you expect from me. I can’t just stay married to you, I don’t even know you.”
“What do you want to know? I’ll tell you anything.”
That was not the response Stacey wanted to hear and she lost control of her temper. “I don’t want to know anything! I just want to go home and forget any of this happened! My boss is probably pissed that I asked for more time off, and my family must be worried sick! How am I going to explain this to them?”
Unfortunately for Stacey, while she didn’t remember the last nine days, they’d still happened. She would still have to suffer the consequences of her actions. And right then, reality was about to give her an ugly slap in the face. She knew it was coming too. She could tell by the way the blood drained from Nicks face. “What?” she asked frantically.
Nick swallowed a lump in his throat and pulled the bottle of anxiety pills from his pocket. “You might want to take one of these.”
“What is it?!”
“You quit your job before you left, and you’re not exactly speaking to your family at the moment.”
Stacey gasped a very sharp intake of breath, and could barely manage to ask, “What happened?”
“You said your family was pretty traditional, so when we decided to get married I went to ask your father for your hand. Of course he said it was crazy and wouldn’t give us his blessing. You didn’t appreciate that very much. You guys had a pretty nasty fight.”
Stacey brought her hand to her mouth for fear that she might actually be sick. Stacey’s family and her job were the only things in life she really cared about - other than her friend Jessica - and she hated to think that she’d destroyed all of that. She flinched when Nick sat her down, but she was shaking so badly that she had no choice but to accept the help.
Nick watched the flood of tears begin to spill from her eyes and knelt down to her level. “I’m sure they won’t be angry anymore when we explain what happened. This was not your fault. There’s obviously something wrong with you and if anything, your family will just want to help you like I do. They love you. They’ll probably be relieved to hear that there’s some kind of explanation.”
“What do you mean there’s something wrong with me?”
“The doctor said it could be some kind of schizophrenia, or maybe multiple personalities, but don’t worry, whatever it is, I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”
Stacey looked up at Nick in utter shock. “You think I’m crazy?”
Nick pulled at his hair as if that might release some of his frustration. “I don’t know what I think! All I know is that last night you and I were the happiest two people on the planet. How can that just be gone over night? How come you suddenly can’t remember a single moment of our time together? That’s not normal, Stacey. I don’t want to believe it, but maybe the doctor is right. Maybe you need help.”
Stacey was angry and confused, but she couldn’t deny that this situation wasn’t normal. She didn’t believe she was crazy, but then, how often do crazy people know they’re crazy? There really was no other way to explain what was going on and she finally broke down completely. She began to sob and Nick went to get her a bottle of water. When he returned, Stacey looked at the medication sitting on the table in front of her and then swallowed a couple pills, excepting her defeat.
Nick hated to see her give up like that, but he really felt it might be best. All he could do was offer her a small smile, and Stacey stared into his eyes trying desperately to not panic.
Nick took a chance, and gently wiped away the tears from her face. The gesture only made her tears fall faster, but there was something so comforting in his touch that she threw her arms around him.
You can imagine what if felt like for Nick when she allowed him to console her in her moment of need. No one could blame him for the tears that fell from his own eyes as he held her. “It’s going to be ok,” he whispered as he rocked her in his arms, gently stroking her hair, “I promise.”