As Peyton stood in the kitchen cooking breakfast, she heard her boyfriend in the bedroom waking up.
"Nick, I was going to suprise you with breakfast in bed, go lay back down,you are so tired from touring, I want you to relax, okay?" Peyton called out towards the bedroom.
Nick entered the kitchen. Peyton smiled at the sight of him. He stood in the doorway wearing boxers, with his hair messed up. His eyes couldn't disguise how tired he was, they had dark circles underneath.
"Can I watch you? I like to watch you cook." Nick said quietly as he pulled a chair out and sat down.
"Suit yourself." Peyton said as she flipped a pancake. Peyton had her back to Nick while she talked and prepared his plate. When she turned to set the table, she found Nick laying his head ontop of his folded arms on the table.
Peyton started to worry when Nick picked at the food on his plate. He normally had a ravenous appetite for pancakes and bacon.
"Sweetheart, are you feeling okay?" Peyton said as she smoothed his hair back away from his eyes.
"I'm just a little tired," Nick lied. He didn't have the heart to tell her he felt like he was dead.
"Come on Nick, let me take you back to bed." Peyton said as she pulled on his arm.
Nick slowly got up and followed her to the bedroom. He obediently laid back down onto the waterbed and allowed her to cover him up. He told her he wanted a blanket because he felt a little cold with the air conditioner running.
Peyton softly closed the bedroom door so Nick could get some rest. She told him that she was running into town to the store and would be back in an hour or so. Nick kissed her goodbye and settled back into the pillow, slowly drifting off to sleep.
When Peyton returned from the store, she heard Nick coughing in the bedroom. She set the groceries down onto the table and cracked the bedroom door open to look in on Nick. He was curled up on his side, sleeping. Peyton smiled.
Suddenly, Nick started coughing and didn't stop. It was a loud, barking cough. Peyton rushed into the bedroom. Amazingly, Nick was still asleep. Peyton touched hi arm to wake him up and was shocked at how warm he felt. His face was red from the fever that was invading his body, his hair was soaked from sweat.
"Nick, Nicky, wake up." Peyton gently woke Nick up. Once Nick sat up in bed, he stopped coughing. Peyton too a closer look at him. Although his face was flushed from the fever, his lips appeared pale, almost a blueish white color. Peyton could tell Nick was having trouble catching his breath.
"I'm calling an ambulance." Peyton said as she dialed 911. Nick couldn't summon the strength to protest. He laid back down in bed and immediately started to cough again.
After Peyton made the call, she helped Nick get dressed before the ambulance arrived. She was getting scared as she could see Nick getting worse by the minute. By the time he finished dressing, he was so weak he could no longer sit up.
When the ambulance crew arrived, Peyton stood quietly in a corner watching them work on Nick and talk to the hospital. They wouldn't let her ride with Nick in the ambulance, so Peyton followed them in Nick's Durango.
When she got into the vehicle, she was instantly hit with Nick. She could smell the cologne he constantly wore and it gave her an empty feeling at the moment. Peyton followed the ambulance with tears streaming down her face.
Peyton sat in the Intensive Care room beside Nick's bed. She kept hearing the diagnosis over and over inside her head. The doctor said that Nick had double pneumonia. Thye had Nick attached to all sorts of hospital equipment, IV's, heart monitor and oxygen.
Peyton smoothed Nick's hair away from his face. He was still so very hot. His fever was up to over 105. She quietly prayed that his fever would break soon.
Nick softly moaned. His eyes were closed.
"Are you in a lot of pain, babe?" Peyton asked.
Nick's eyes fluttered open. He softly mumbled something that Peyton couldn't make out. She leaned closer to Nick and tried to hear him.
"What was that honey?"
"I'm sorry." Was all that Nick could manage.
Peyton didn't reply to his remark this time. She smoothed his hair back and gently held his hand.
Most of Nick's day was filled with having blood taken from him and chest x-ray after chest x-ray. Nick didn't seem to be doing much better, Peyton thought. She was starting to feel sleepy watching Nick sleeping. As she drifted off to sleep, she quietly thought about all the fun times she and Nick had shared together. He was such a playful character, always pulling practical jokes on her.
One of Nick's favorite things to do to her when he was home was to hide in a closet and jump out from behind the clothes and scare her. He would do that when she was putting laundry away.
Peyton could hear Nick's laughter ringing in her ears. She jerked awake when she heard an alarm go off on one of the machines Nick was hooked up to.
A nurse rushed into the room and soon after her, several more people entered the room. Peyton moved quickly off to the side in a corner trying to grasp what was happening in front of her eyes. She soon realized that the alarm that was going off was to Nick's heart monitor. Looking at the machine, she saw that there was a flat green line going across the screen. Thinking to herself, Peyton decided that there was something wrong with the machine or the connections from Nick to the machine that was causing the bad reading.
A nurse came over to Peyton and asked her to leave the room. Peyton insisted on staying, but the nurse was firm in her request and led Peyton out to the waiting room. She looked back at Nick before she left and saw them doing what appeared to be CPR on him.
Taking a seat in the lobby, Peyton made sure she sat in a chair that had a view of the door to Nick's room. She didn't take her eyes off the doorway, hoping to find something by the activity of the people coming and going from the room.
Peyton could feel the tears burning her eyes as she sat thinking about Nick and worrying about him.
"It's just a stupid little cough, he can't be that bad." Peyton thought to herself. She was trying to keep her hopes up that Nick would be alright and that she was just making a big deal out of nothing.
Peyton felt her heart sink as she saw two nurses leave Nick's room. They appeared to be crying. Peyton didn't understand why they would be crying. Soon after the two nurses left Nick's room, a few more people left.
"Enough of this waiting!" Peyton said quietly out loud to herself. She got up and quickly approached Nick's room. As she entered the doorway, she looked towards Nick's bed. A nurse was pulling a sheet up over Nick's face.
"What are you doing?" Peyton shouted at the nurse. She couldn't understand why they would put something like that over his face.
Peyton rushed into the room and pulled the covers back off Nick's face. Without challening Peyton, the nurse turned and left the room.
"God, Nick, I don't know why she was doing that to you. It's okay now babe, I'm here and I will make sure no one does something like that to you again." Peyton talked to Nick as she rearranged the covers on his bed. As she smoothed his blonde hair back, she noticed he wasn't hot anymore.
"Hey, Nick, I think your fever's broke. That's good, that means you'll get to go home soon." Peytone took Nick's hand from under the covers and held it.
As she sat with Nick and talked to him, she didn't hear the soft footsteps entering the room. Suddenly, Peyton felt a hand on her right shoulder. She turned to see Brian standing next to her with tears running down his cheeks.
"Oh, Brian, I'm so glad you came. Nick is sleeping right now, god, he would be happy to see you too. I think he is doing better, his fever seems to have broke." Peyton said as she stood up to give Brian a hug.
Brian looked at Peyton and then at Nick.
"Um, Peyton, there's something I have to tell you." As Brian spoke, his voice was choked with emotion and was barely audible.
"Okay, sure." Peyton turned and looked at Brian with a smile on her face. Her smile faded when she looked at Brian and could see that he was pale.
"Nicky's gone." Brian stated flatly.
Peyton laughed. "No he's not Brian, he's right here, he's just sleeping.
Brian grabbed Peyton by the arms and made her face him.
"Peyton, Nick is dead." Brian started crying.
Peyton felt her knees buckle. Brian had a hold of her so she didn't fall. Burying her face into Brian's shoulder, she started to scream.
"You're wrong, you're wrong!" Peyton screamed over and over. She turned to Nick and pushed him on the shoulder as if to wake him up. Once Peyton realized that Nick wouldn't answer her or wake up, she dropped to her knees and starting sobbing.
Peyton sat off in a corner at the funeral home. There were nonstop visitors that came to pay their respect for Nick. Fans lined the streets outside. Brian and the rest of the group were busy talking to people from the music industry that came.
Peyton decided she needed to go outside to get some fresh air. She walked up to Brian and whispered, "I'm going out for a few minutes, okay?"
"Hold on a second, I'll walk with you." Brian whispered back in her ear.
"Thanks, Brian, but I need to be alone for a few minutes, okay?" Peyton whispered.
"Alright, but if you aren't back in 15 I'm going out to look for you." Brian said as he squeezed her arm.
Peyton managed a slight smile as she nodded. Walking out the front door, she was hit with the warm Florida breeze. She couldn't help feeling how emty and indifferent the air seemed to her without Nick alive. It was like the world was mocking her and she couldn't help but feel betrayed that the sun would be shining or that people would be going on about their daily lives.
She walked back behind the funeral home into a small grove of trees. It was secluded and no one could see her once she was in there. Peyton sat don on an old tree stump and let her emotions go.
With her head down in her hands, she wept openly. She felt a cool breeze go through her body. Suddenly, she felt as if someone was standing by her watching her. Looking up, she saw a shadow of a man with sunlight behind him obstructing her view of his face.
"Don't cry, Peyton."
It was Nick's voice. Peyton was certain of it.
"Nick?" Peyton cried out.
"Shhh. Peyton, I had to come back to you, please, don't cry anymore, I'm fine." Nick said quietly.
"Bbb..ut why did you leave? We had so much planned, Nick." Peyton asked, her voice still wracked with sobs.
"I had to, I'm so sorry." Nick said softly. Nick reached down and took Peyton's face in his hands. "I have to go."
"Nick, don't leave me again!" Peyton begged.
Nick leaned down and gave Peyton a tender kiss.
"I just needed to say goodbye and tell you I loved you." Nick said
"No, Nick, it's love, not loved and you can't leave me!" Peyton cried.
"Peyton, don't make this any harder. You will find someone else and you will marry and you will have 2 kids, a boy and a girl, and you will name your boy Nickolas. Just remember, I will always love you and I will be your guardian angel. Tell Brian that I will be watching him too and the rest of the guys, okay? I'm sorry Peyton. I love you. Goodbye."
Nick vanished as suddenly as he appeared. Peyton hear a twig snapping and saw Brian standing at the edge of the grove.
"Peyton, there you are. I was starting to worry about you." Brian smiled.
Peyton thought about telling Brian that Nick was just there, but decided to skip it as she figured he wouldn't believe her anyway.
"Was someone out here a few minutes ago? I thought I heard a voice.." Brian asked. He could smell cologne that reminded him of Nick.
Peyton smiled. "No, Brian, no one."
Taking her hand Brian said, "Come on, they're waiting for us. Let's do this for Nick."