“Whoah, calm down..” AJ began, scooting away from her. “I’ve got nothing to do with this.”
“It’s just... ugh,” she groaned. “Why ME?! What the hell did I do?”
AJ glanced down at Sandra and sighed. He’d found his way into her bedroom when it was obvious she wasn’t going to join them downstairs. She was in her ‘thinking position,’ as she called it; lying on her bed, her legs resting against the wall, ankles crossed. He sat on the edge of the bed and asked what was wrong.
Not that he didn’t already know. When Nick started avoiding his best friend, everyone noticed.
“He’s an ass,” she was saying. “I didn’t do anything; I KNOW I didn’t!”
“He’s not an ass,” AJ groaned. “He’s Nick. You know that.”
She shot AJ a dirty look. Of course she knew that. He was Nick. Stubborn, pigheaded Nick, who did what he wanted without no explanation. Nick, who shut himself out from everyone and everything, oblivious of what was going on around him. Plain ‘ol Nick. Her best friend.
“I’m his best friend,” she told AJ. “Doesn’t he know by now that I am not one to be ignored?”
“So why don’t you go tell him that, instead of being stubborn and pigheaded yourself?”
“He doesn’t want me around,” she said slowly. “People avoid other people for a reason, AJ. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what’s going on here.”
“You can’t believe that..”
“You got a logical explanation other than that, Sherlock?” she asked him, her eyes narrowed.
They’d fought before; countless times. One exploding at the other in a fit of rage, and them not speaking to eachother for weeks at a time. The only difference between those previous times and right then was that this time, she had no idea who had done what, or who was angry at who.
It hurt; sure it did. She’d look at him, and she wasn’t able to read his thoughts like she’d once been able to. It’d been a week, roughly, and she was beginning to think that things were definitely changing. From bad to worse, no less.
At least she’d always have the memories, she thought, over three year’s worth. She’d always remember those. Best friends make the best memories, and she’d always felt that they would be making memories forever.
It had been forever, she mused, looking out her window at the rainclouds that were looming dangerously close. It had been up until a week ago.
It lasted forever
And ended so soon
- - - - - - -
“I’m SO glad you convinced me to come down here.”
“Are you really?”
“San. This is your house, damnit. You have to be around...”
“Not if I don’t wanna.”
“You know what? Tough shit.”
“No. You’re staying down here, and that’s final.”
Sandra glared at him, then at the figure beside him. “How do you put up with this... jerk?!”
Amanda grinned apologetically. “He’s had too much caffeine today, San. Forgive him?”
“When pigs fly,” Sandra fumed. “Til then, he can shove it.”
“Geez, San.. such loving words..”
“Cram it, AJ.”
She hated that she was in a bad mood. She hated even more that she was taking it out on AJ.
Damn that Nick Carter and every incoherent thought in his brain. This was all his fault.
‘I’ll show him,’ she thought smugly. ‘If he thinks he can just walk away, he’s got another thing coming.’
- - - - - - -
“I didn’t realize...”
Nick didn’t so much as look Brian’s way. “Well, now you know. Not as simple as you thought it was, huh?”
“Does she know?”
Nick shook his head. “That would kind of defeat the purpose of avoiding her.”
“Will she know?”
“No,” Nick answered quickly, finally looking at Brian. “She won’t. She can’t. It would ruin everything. I don’t want to ruin everything. I want things to be like they used to.”
“No you don’t,” Brian pointed out. “Seriously, bro, if you wanted things to stay like they were, you’d never have had this realization of yours to begin with. Obviously you’re wanting something more.”
“So why am I so damn scared?!” Nick asked, his voice laced with exhasperation.
“Because you know what’s at risk,” Brian began. “You know how much it’s worth to you. How much she is worth to you.”
Nick let Brian’s words sink in before nodding slightly. “She is worth more than her weight in gold,” he whispered. “I just... don’t wanna lose her.”
“Who says you will?” Brian asked, his eyes hopeful.
Nick shrugged, trying to swallow the knot in his throat. This was harder than anything he’d ever come across. Confusing as hell, too.
He should know what to do, he figured. Hell, he helped sing a song about this, didn’t he? So why weren’t the answers coming to him? How did he fall in love with her?
- - - - - - -
She had to admit it; the walk did her good. Granted, she just walked a block or so, but the fresh, cold air really cleared her head. Well, it cleared it enough to make her see Nick deserved a chance to explain himself before she ripped him a new hole.
She hated being left in the dark where he was concerned. After so much... drama... they had been through together - both his and hers - she’d come to think she’d be the last one he’d ever think to shut out.
How wrong she’d been.
Maybe that’s why it hurt so much, she thought as she started up the long walkway leading to her family’s beach house. Maybe that’s why her heart was twisting in ways she never thought possible. They’d gone through so much...
A strong gust of chilling wind hit her head on, and she instinctively wrapped her arms around herself.
“Sunny San Diego, my ass,” she grumbled, reaching the front door. Once inside, seeing that Nick was, in fact, the only one missing, she bounded over to Brian.
“Bri, can you tell me something?”
“What do you need?” He asked her, knowing full well where her mind was.
“Do you know what’s been going on with Nick?”
Brian shrugged his shoulders, then shook his head. “Not really, San. Sorry.”
“Hm. I guess that was expected. Tell me something else?”
“He’s out back sitting in the sand. Can’t miss him.”
“Thanks,” she smiled feebly. “Now do me a favor and pray one of us doesn’t kill the other out there.”
“San?” Brian called out as she turned to walk away.
“Go easy on him.”
The way the light in Brian’s eyes faltered just a little bit was unnerving. A strange feeling settled in the pit of her stomach, and every intention to yell, kick and scream at Nick flew out the window the instant concern for her best friend struck her.
She rushed past friends and family and headed toward the sliding glass doors leading out to her backyard; the clean, white sand and the cool, refreshing ocean.
Before she exited the house, however, she had some unfinished business to tend to, and it went by the name of AJ.
He glanced over at her and turned quickly to give her his full attention. “What’s up?”
Her arms went around him in a tight hug. “I’m sorry,” she said. “For earlier.”
“It’s okay,” he grinned. “We both know it’s Nicky’s fault. Now go let him have it.”
She attempted a smile, and felt she failed miserably. The only thing on her mind was getting to Nick and seeing, once and for all, why he was being so evasive, and why this peculiar feeling inside her kept growing as the seconds ticked away.
She swung open the screen door, and immediately cussed aloud for forgetting, for the second time that day, to grab a sweater or jacket on her way out.
She was about to turn and head back in to get one, when her eyes caught a movement of sorts up the shore. Her eyes squinted, growing accustomed to the approaching darkness, and let out her breath slowly.
Nick sat in the sand, as Brian had said, staring out into nothingness. The way he always did when something big was bothering him. The only difference was that, this time around, she wasn’t out there sitting next to him.
‘Yet,’ she told herself sternly as she walked briskly toward him, then opting for a slow jog.
The sky was growing darker, thunder rolling in the distance. She suspected the rain would begin to fall soon.
Yet Nick sat there, oblivious to what was going on around him, staring up into the sky.
[part i | index | part iii]