Here we go with Part 13 -- Hope you are all continuing to enjoy the story. Time for a little post election humor here... If all those old people down in Florida has such a rough time figuring out the Presidential ballot, what I'm wondering is What the hell are they doing driving!!!!
One of the things that seems to be a tradition on here is for authors to mention some of their favorite stories... I have been an avid reader of quite a few: Brian and Me, Jamie's Romance, My Surprise Romance, Lance in Shining Armour, Studio in the Country, Lucky Me, Not Meant to Be, Twist of Fate, Mile High Meeting, Model Romance, Beneath It All and the list goes on. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, if you feel inclined to write and let me know what you think or just want to chat.
Now on to the standard disclaimers. I doubt that anything I write will make any difference since if you found this little gathering place on the World Wide Web you're probably going to go ahead and read what's here no matter what anyone says. But here it goes anyway...
If you have a problem reading about guys who like other guys as something more than just friends, you need to go find some other place to poke around. If you are under the legal age to read erotic fiction where you live, you probably wouldn't get in trouble for reading this story, but you really don't belong here. And most importantly, many of the names mentioned in this story have been changed to protect the guilty (or is that supposed to be the innocent?). Under no circumstances will I disclose whether or not I actually know any of The Backstreet Boys or any other celebrity who may make an appearance. Nor do I believe in outing people, so I will not disclose any information about the true sexual orientation of anyone mentioned in this story.
Previously in the story of Nick and the Altos
It's a wonder we didn't get pulled over for speeding and reckless driving, because we were flying and Nick was weaving in and out of traffic, flashing the lights as we raced to Eagle. When we pulled up to the terminal, Nick parked the car and helped me out. Gracie followed at our heels as we walked towards the Gulfstream, which was ready and waiting. Gracie ran up the steps and then Nick helped me up the steps and took me back to the couch and helped me sit down.
"We're ready to take off as soon as you get off the plane," Mary said.
"I can't let him travel alone like this so I'm going with you. Let's get this thing in the air," Nick told her, "Is there anything I can do to help speed things up?"
"No, Nick, just take care of Mikey. Eric and I have everything under control. Oh, and thanks for being here for him, he's a great kid," she said as she headed forward and pulled the cabin door closed.
Nick sat down next to me and maneuvered me around so I was laying down on the couch with my head in his lap and then he put his arm over my shoulder and took hold of one of my hands. The engines started and within a minute or two we were taxiing. There was a minimal delay at the end of the taxiway before we were cleared on to the runway and given clearance to take off. We felt Eric release the brakes and the plane accelerate down the runway. Within seconds we were airborne, helped by the cold afternoon air. We climbed rapidly and turned towards Santa Barbara.
Once we leveled off Nick excused himself and went over to the conference table where the phone was located and called my mother and told her I was en route to Santa Barbara. Then he called Kevin and told him what had happened and that he was going with me to Santa Barbara. From what little I picked up from that conversation, Kevin wasn't exactly thrilled by this turn of events, but there wasn't anything he could do about it.
After getting off the phone, Nick came back over to the couch and sat down and I snuggled back up against him and held his hand for the flight home.
I don't remember a whole lot about the two hour flight. What I do remember though is how sweet and tender Nick was. He sat there holding me the entire time, stroking my hair off and on and just talking to me about nothing every once in a while.
Mary came back to check up on us every so often and brought Nick something to drink when he got thirsty. She told Nick that my parent's helicopter would meet us at the Santa Barbara airport and fly us to the St. Francis Hospital where they had taken Angela.
We finally started our descent into Santa Barbara and touched down a little under two hours after departing Eagle. As soon as Mary opened the door, Gracie went running down the steps, with Nick and I close behind her. The Bell 430 was waiting with the rotor spinning. It took him a minute to get Gracie aboard and then Nick helped me inside. I was pretty much just doing whatever he told me. I wasn't even noticing the pain from my road rash. As soon as Nick was aboard, the pilot increased power and we took off heading towards the hospital.
It only took us 15 minutes to get there. Judging from the traffic on Hwy 101, if we had been driving it would have been well over an hour. I was still pretty much non-talkative, just sitting there leaning up against Nick with Gracie curled up at my feet. We landed at the helipad and the pilot told us he would take Gracie on out to the house and wait for a call if anyone needed him.
I don't know who the person was who met us at the helicopter, but he quickly led us to the room where my sister was located. I'm sure there were a lot of strange looks directed at us as Nick guided me with his arm around me as we rushed through the hallways. When we got to the room a nurse was standing outside the door.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"I'm Michael, Angela's brother. Where are my parents?"
"Hi, Michael, I'm Cheryl, the head nurse for this floor. Your parents are inside with your sister and brother. I'll let them know you are here."
"Can't we just go inside?"
"No, we can only let a few people in at a time right now. I'll be right back."
She went inside the room and I just stood there with Nick holding me. A few moments later the door opened and my mother and father came out with the nurse.
"Mikey, we're so glad you made it in time. The doctor doesn't think she'll last much longer. Jennifer is finally on a plane but we don't know if she'll make it in time," my mother said, weeping. She looked at Nick and smiled, "Nick, thanks for coming with him. I'm sure he was pretty much a basket case."
"It's ok, Mrs. Alto. I couldn't just dump him at the plane in his condition."
My father reached his hand out to Nick and they shook hands, "Good to see you again, Nick. If you need anything at all, just ask. We're really indebted to you for helping Michael."
"Mom, can we go in and see her now?" I asked.
"Mikey, I think I should wait out here, since I'm not family and they don't want a bunch of people in there," Nick said as he let go of me for the first time since we reached the hospital.
"Ok, Nick, I'll see you in a little while," I said as my mother and I walked into Angela's room.
Jason was standing on one side of the bed holding Angela's hand. He looked up when he heard the door open and gave me a sad smile and told me he was glad I got there in time. I looked at Angela and started crying again. She was so tiny and frail and was hooked up to a bunch of machines that were monitoring her vital signs. I walked up to where Jason was standing and gave him a hug and then I sat down on the bed next to Angela.
"Hi, squirt, I made it," I said to her.
She looked up at me and smiled but didn't say anything. I turned and looked where she had been looking and saw the drawing Nick had done of the three of us. It was sitting on the rolling table next to the bed.
"Nick came with me to make sure I got here ok, Angela," I said, "I don't think I would have made it if it hadn't been for him."
She smiled again and started trying to talk. She spoke so quietly I could barely hear her, so I leaned over closer to her.
"Mikey, I want you to still go swimming with the dolphins, even though I won't be able to go with you."
I couldn't hold back my tears, I was really creating a flood at this point.
"Angela, you can't leave me. I don't want to go back to being the baby of the family again."
"Mikey, get a clue. You've still always been the baby of the family, even after I came along. But Mikey, I still love you and I always will."
"I love you too, Angela. I'm going to miss you so much."
"I'm still going to be looking out for you, Mikey, you just won't be able to see me. Mikey, can I see Nick for a minute?"
I turned towards our mother and told her Angela wanted to see Nick. She told the nurse who went out in the hall and returned with Nick and our father. Nick came over and kneeled down next to me and smiled at her.
"Hi, cutie. Sorry we have to meet like this."
I pointed out the drawing to Nick and when he looked back towards her I saw tears in his eyes.
"Thanks for coming with Mikey, Nick. You gotta take care of him for me. I know I can trust you."
"I will, Angela, don't you worry. You're lucky to have him as a brother, he's pretty special."
"He's going to really need you, Nick."
"I know, I'll be there for him no matter what happens, Angela."
Then she smiled back at him and she turned and looked at the rest of us and closed her eyes. The beep we had been hearing in the background changed to a steady tone and I totally broke down. Nick grabbed me so I didn't fall to the floor and walked me over to a chair and sat me down. He stood there crying with me leaning up against him.
Someone finally turned off the monitoring equipment and the room became silent other than the sounds of my family crying. After a few minutes I stood up and we walked back over to the bed. All of the wires had been removed from my sister and she looked so peaceful. I leaned over the bed and gave her a final kiss on her forehead. Nick did the same. Then we all walked out into the hallway.
My mother, ever the strong one of the family, came up to us and told Nick that he would be staying with us unless he had other plans. He thanked her and said that would be fine. We all walked down to the private entrance to the hospital where a car was waiting to take us home. The drive was pretty much a silent one. I just sat and stared out the window, holding Nick's hand.
It was around 7:30 when we got home. We went into the family room and just sat there. About 20 minutes later Sarah came in and announced that dinner was ready in the dining room. We all got up and moved in there and pretty much ate in silence, other than asking for someone to pass some plate around.
After dinner I told Nick that I wanted to go out to the barn and see the horses. We walked slowly across the patio and down the path through the trees and then up the hill. Smoke was in his stall munching on some alfalfa cubes. I went to the feed room and got a small portion of grain for him and took it into the stall. He could tell I was really depressed and just stood there nuzzling my shoulder while I scratched his ears and petted his neck.
After a few minutes I walked out of the stall and turned and just leaned on the door and started crying again. Nick came over and put his arm around me. He didn't say a word, he was just there and it was such a special feeling having him there. While we were standing there, I heard a phone ring and felt Nick tense up a bit.
He stood up and dug his phone out of his pocket and walked towards the back of the barn.
"Nick, it's Brian. Kevin told me you went back to California with Mikey. Is everything ok?"
"No, Angela died just after we got to the hospital," Nick said quietly.
"Oh, no. How's Mikey?"
"He's really torn up, Brian. I feel so sorry for him. I just wish there was something I could do to help him."
"Nick, just hang in there with him. Having a friend near by makes all the difference."
"Yeah, I sure hope it helps. The whole family is devastated. Mikey's other sister couldn't even get here in time. She's on her way from the airport now."
"So do you know what's going to happen as far as a funeral or anything? I'll come out if you think it would help."
"I don't know anything yet, Bri, but I'll keep you posted. Listen, I need to get back to Mikey. Ok?"
"Sure Nicky, tell him how sorry we all are for us."
"Will do, Brian. Would you let everyone else know so I don't have to call them?"
"Sure, no prob. Later, Nicky."
Nick walked back to where I was standing at Smoke's stall and asked me if I was ready to go back to the house. I said I was, since Jennifer would be arriving soon. We took our time getting back but it was just our walking slowly. We weren't talking or anything else.
Jennifer was curled up on a couch in the family room when we got there. I went over and lay down with her and we both had a good cry. It had been years since I curled up in my older sister's arms, yet it felt like it had just been a few days. Nick sat by himself and just watched the sad events unfolding around him. My mother and father sitting side by side, just holding each other. Jason sitting in a chair just staring off into space.
I don't know how long we had been sitting in the family room but finally, our mother broke the silence.
"Kids, I know it hasn't been very long since it happened, but I need to tell you what Angela said to me on the way to the hospital this afternoon."
I sat up, as did Jennifer. I saw Nick sitting by himself, looking sort of out of place, so I got up and went over and sat down next to him. He took hold of my hand once again as we sat waiting for her to continue.
"She told me she knew she wasn't going to be coming back home and that since she and Mikey hadn't been able to make that last trip to Catalina Island, she wanted her ashes taken out and sprinkled at sea near the island. Your father and I have discussed it and plan to honor her request."
This set me off into a major guilt trip for not having fulfilled my promise to my little sister. Nick sensed my pain and pulled me closer to him.
"We will have a simple funeral service the day after tomorrow and then Saturday we'll take the helicopter out to Catalina. Mikey, would you meet us out there with your boat?"
"Yeah," I sobbed, "I should have stayed home instead of going to Colorado and taken her like I promised."
"Michael, she wasn't up to making a trip like that. Even if you had stayed here, we wouldn't have let her go. Honey, she wasn't mad at you. She wanted this because she loved going out there with you so much."
"Nick," my mother said, "Do you need to get back to your friends? We can fly you back whenever you're ready to go."
"Actually, Mrs. Alto, if it's ok with you, I'd rather stay here with Mikey and pay my last respects to Angela. I didn't know her very long, but we really hit it off."
"She would have liked that, Nick. She got pretty attached to you, too."
"Mom, what happened to the picture Nick drew that was at the hospital?" I asked.
"I brought it home and put it in her room, Michael."
"Mom, can I have it? It's pretty special to me."
"Sure, Mikey. I know she would have wanted you to have it."
A while later my parents announced they were going to head off to bed. I wasn't really all that tired, but I didn't really feel like hanging around in the family room any longer. I told Nick I was going to head up to my room and he said he would come up too. Jason even decided to stay rather than go back to his place.
Nick and I stopped by Angela's room before going upstairs. I went over to the nightstand and picked up Nick's drawing and carried it with me. When we walked into my sitting room Nick stopped and looked around.
"Holy shit, Mikey, what's all this stuff?"
"Oh, you haven't been in here before, have you. Welcome to the shrine to Mikey. My mother saved every trophy I won showing Smoke and decided to display them in here after I left for school. Pretty embarrassing isn't it?"
"No way! Man, you must have been pretty good to haul in all this stuff."
"Yeah, Smoke and I were pretty tough. It was a lot of fun."
He wandered around the room reading the plaques and the engravings on some of the trophies. I turned on my sound system and put on Savage Garden's Affirmation CD. We sat on the couch listening to the music. When it got to You Can Still Be Free, I lost it and started crying again. Nick stood up and pulled me up off the couch and led me into the bedroom.
He helped me get undressed and carefully replaced my bandages. After getting me tucked into bed he went around to the other side, got undressed and crawled under the covers and slid over next to me (you can get your minds out of the gutter, people, we both were still wearing boxers and tee shirts). I put my head on his chest and cried myself to sleep.
Nick was awakened the next morning by the sound of his phone ringing. As he started to come around he found himself spooned up behind me with his arm around me. He quietly untangled himself and reached over and got the phone out of his pocket.
"Hello," he said sleepily.
"Nick, it's Kevin. Brian told me what happened. How are you doing?"
"Well other than having been wakened from a good night's sleep, ok."
"How's Mikey taking it?"
"Not very well, but at least you didn't wake him too."
There was silence at the other end for a few seconds. "Kev, you still there?" Nick asked.
"Yeah, so you two are sleeping together now?" Kevin asked.
"No, Kevin, we slept in the same bed last night. He was so broken up I didn't want to leave him alone. What do I have to do to convince you that Mikey and I are just friends?"
"I'm sorry Nick, I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions. I'm just worried about you."
"Kevin, you need to let me grow up. I can't be little Nicky forever."
"I know, I'll try harder."
"Listen, I'll talk to you later, ok? I don't want to wake Mikey up."
"Ok, hope everyone is doing better soon, Nick."
"Me too," Nick said.
After turning off the phone, Nick slid back over to me and put his arm around me again. He tried going back to sleep but couldn't. He just lay there for an hour thinking about how comfortable it felt to lay there like he was.
The thing I remember most about waking up Thursday morning was how wonderful it felt to be held. Nick was spooned up against me and his arm was wrapped around under mine. I lay there for a few minutes just enjoying the sensation.
I guess Nick realized I was awake because he spoke softly to me. "Mornin' Mikey. How are you feeling?"
"Oh God, Nicky, I'm just so sad. I miss her so much. I think I'm ok, but I don't really know."
"I'm so sorry for you and your family, Mikey."
"Thanks, Nick. I don't know what I would have done without you. I doubt I could have even gotten out here in time if it hadn't been for you. And thanks for staying with me last night. It would have really sucked being alone."
"I didn't really want to be alone either."
We continued to lay there for a while. I didn't really fall back to sleep, but I must have been napping, because the next thing I remember was hearing my bedroom door open.
"Well, don't we have a cute couple in here?" my older sister said.
"Jeez, Jennifer, haven't you ever heard of knocking?" I asked.
"I did, Mikey, but you guys were obviously asleep. Or should I say fortunately. I'm very glad I didn't walk in on something."
"Shit, why does everyone think something is going on between us?"
"Listen, baby brother, you want me to get a camera and show you a picture? Then maybe you'd get a clue."
"Well, at least it was you and not Mom who walked in. I doubt she would be all that excited about seeing us like this."
"Oh, she knows Nick is in here..."
"How does she know that?" Nick asked.
"Well, she tried to wake you up in the other room and I guess it was pretty obvious you hadn't been there."
"Shit!" Nick and I said in unison.
"Relax guys, it's not like she thinks you are virgins or anything," she said laughing.
"Why not, I am," Nick said. As soon as it came out he realized what he had just said and started blushing.
"You're kidding..." Jennifer said.
Nick just lay there blushing away. "No," he said quietly.
"It's ok, Nick. There's nothing wrong with that. It's not like I'm the most experienced guy around. Now Jen, there, well that's a different story."
"Shut up, Mikey," she said threateningly.
"I don't think we have to worry about Jen saying anything about this to anyone, do we Jen?" I said with a big grin on my face.
She gave me a very dirty look and finally shook her head. "See, Nick, nothing to worry about," I said.
"God it sucks having a nosy baby brother," she said.
"That's the same thing I hear from Kevin, AJ and Howie," Nick said laughing.
"Guys, it's pretty obvious that, in spite of how cuddly you look, nothing happened."
"What makes you say that?" Nick asked.
"Well, two things. First, I know Mikey would never have unsafe sex and there's no evidence of safe sex around. And second, you guys have tee shirts on so I assume you still have your underwear on too."
"You might be surprised," Nick said as he started to throw the covers off us.
"No you don't Nick. I don't even need to see..."
Nick didn't stop. He rolled over on to his back and got out from under the blankets. "But, you're right. See, boxers and a tee shirt."
I lay there listening to the two of them go back and forth, getting to know each other a little better. I was glad this had happened because it was good to be having a little fun after all the sadness. While I knew that it would come back and I was going to be having some major periods of depression over the loss of Angela, it made me realize that our lives were going to go on and happiness wasn't a thing of the past.
I heard the door to the sitting room open. Before I knew it my mother had walked into the bedroom.
"Well, it sounds like you are all a bit more cheerful than when I last saw you. That's a good thing," she said.
"Hi, mom," I said.
"Hi, Mrs. Alto," Nick said hesitantly.
"Hi, boys. Breakfast will be ready in a little while, so you ought to get yourselves out of bed pretty soon. Since you didn't bring anything with you, I expect you'll need to go do a little shopping."
"Yeah, watch out Nordstrom!" I said.
"Mikey, what happened to your arm?"
"Oh, I crashed on my bike a couple of days ago," I replied.
"Don't you mean a car ran you off the road, Mikey?" Nick said.
"What? Mikey, it's time for a little truth session," my mother said.
"Can this wait till later?" I asked.
"Ok, at the breakfast table," she replied. "See you boys in a half hour."
Jennifer and our mother left the room. I gave Nick a death stare. "Thanks, a lot, Nick. Now I have to tell them what happened."
"So, you can still say it was an accident, even though I don't think it was."
"Yeah, and I suppose you plan on giving them your perspective, don't you."
"No, I'll keep that to myself like we agreed. Come on, let's get up and ready to eat," he said.
"Are you always hungry?" I asked.
"No, just most of the time."
We got out of bed and went into the bathroom. Nick got undressed and took a shower while I shaved and brushed my teeth. Then we traded places. Having him use my electric razor was no big deal, but I was sort of surprised to see that he used my toothbrush. But it wasn't like he had much of a choice if he wanted to brush since I didn't have a guest one sitting around.
After getting fresh bandages applied, we got dressed and went down to the kitchen and started with the all important cups of coffee. We sat down at the kitchen table and chatted with Mary, my parent's cook, as she prepared breakfast. My mom came in after a few minutes and joined us, followed by Jason and Jennifer.
"So where's dad?" I asked.
"He had some things to attend to with your grandfather this morning. He'll be back later," my mother replied.
"I suppose he is going to be coming to Catalina with you, isn't he?"
"Yes, Michael, he probably will. I think, under the circumstances, you need to keep your feelings about him to yourself. Angela was his granddaughter and he has made a big effort to be here."
"Yes, mother," I said.
"Now tell me about your little accident."
"Well, I was descending on the frontage road from part way up Vail Pass. I was going about 45 miles per hour through this sweeping turn when a car came up behind me and was going too fast. I had to get over right next to the shoulder and I lost control on a patch of sand. End of story."
"Did you see it happen, Nick?" she asked.
I looked at Nick and gave him a 'don't you dare tell' look. Naturally, my mother caught the look and knew there was something I wasn't telling her.
"No, I had waited down the hill because I wasn't in good enough shape to tackle a climb at that altitude," he replied.
"So you saw the car pass you where you were waiting, then?" she asked.
I looked at Nick and gave him a death stare. He looked back with this 'what am I supposed to do' look. I just rested my elbows on the table and buried my face in my hands.
"Yes, Mrs. Alto."
"There were these two guys in the car and they were really hauling ass," he replied.
"Nick, you promised you wouldn't say anything!" I whined.
"So what am I supposed to do, Mikey? Lie to your mom?"
"Well, Jason," Jennifer said, "what's your opinion?"
"Ok, you're right," he said as he fished $50 out of his wallet and handed it to her.
"What was that all about?" I asked.
"Jason and I had this little bet about you guys and he just lost," she replied.
"Bet about what?" Nick asked.
"Whether or not you are boyfriends," Jason replied dejectedly.
"Oh jeez, here we go again. So which side did you take, loser?" I asked.
"That you aren't," he replied.
"We aren't," I said, "so why did you pay her?"
"Oh, you are, Mikey, you guys are just too clueless to realize it. Obviously Jason agrees or he would have never parted with $50."
"Enough, children!" our mother said. "Michael, you do remember promising your father and I that you would tell us if anything suspicious happened."
"Yes, but I wasn't sure it was intentional."
"Don't give me that, Michael. Even if it wasn't intentional, it definitely qualifies as suspicious."
"Ok, I'm sorry I didn't tell you right away."
Fortunately, Mary came to my rescue by serving breakfast. The conversation was somewhat subdued, but no where near as forced as it had been last night. My mom wanted to know what everyone had planned for the day. Jason and Jennifer were already planning on helping her make the final arrangements for tomorrow. Nick and I both needed to go shopping for suits to wear. My mom asked us if we would pick up my cousin, Cody, at the airport since we were going to be out.
I hadn't seen Cody since Thanksgiving. He is the son of my mom's younger brother and his wife. He is attending boarding school in Arizona. He spends shorter holidays with us and goes home to England for longer holidays like Christmas.
After everyone was done eating, we got up from the table. My mother told Nick and me that she wanted to see us in my father's study before we left to go shopping. I told her we would stop by on our way out in 20 or 30 minutes. We went back up to my room to get what we needed.
Nick was very apologetic about having told my mother what had happened. I told him it was ok, since her interrogation skills are widely known, at least in the immediate family.
Nick went back to satisfying his curiosity about my life by poking around all of the stuff on display in my sitting room. He asked questions every once in a while about what things were.
"You know, Mikey, you really have done a lot of really cool stuff."
"Yeah, I had a lot of fun, in spite of my family."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, growing up I saw how Jason and Jennifer kept doing things that our parents supported and it always seemed like they got treated special because of who we were. I really felt sorry for all the other kids whose parents weren't well known."
"So what did you do differently?"
"I pursued other activities that no one in the family cared about but me. Showing horses, for example. My parents weren't interested in them and so people didn't know who I was. My parents never even went to watch me until Angela wanted to go."
"That would really suck having your family ignore what you were doing?"
"Yeah, it did, but at least everything I won, I won because I was good, not because of who I was."
"I can definitely understand how you feel there. Sort of the way people treat me. That's one of the reasons I feel comfortable with you, Mikey. I know you don't care who I am, you just care for me."
"Nick, the feeling there is so mutual."
"So when do we need to leave to pick up your cousin?"
"We probably should get moving since we have to stop and see what my mother wants."
Nick and I grabbed our phones and wallets and went downstairs to my father's study. My mother was on the phone when we walked in. She motioned us to sit on the couch in the sitting area of the room. When she got off the phone she came over and sat in one of the chairs opposite the couch.
She got this really serious look on her face and lectured us about how careful we needed to be right now. I decided it was best to just sit there and let her say what she felt she needed to say so I didn't object to any of her statements. Then came the bad part, she was sending Frank and Anthony with us on our trip to the airport and shopping. I tried protesting but in an argument with my mother there is no such thing as the irresistable force meeting the immoveable object, at least for me. She always wins. So I gave up pretty quickly to spare Nick the experience of how pig headed she can be.
Nick and I got up off the couch and she gave both of us hugs. It was getting really embarrassing for me because even my mother was acting like Nick and I were a couple. We went out and got into the back seat of one of the two Suburbans parked in front. For some reason the second one pulled around us and started down the driveway first. When it passed through the gate and reached the street, it turned left and headed towards the freeway. We made a right turn which seemed a little strange since it is the long way to get to the airport.
Frank turned and looked carefully out the back window and then told Anthony that the car parked outside the wall had followed the other Suburban. We took a right turn at the end of the street and went to the next major street and looped back to the freeway and headed towards the airport.
During the drive I pointed out some of the landmarks in town to Nick and told him a little more about Cody. I warned him that Cody had spent a fair amount of time with Angela and could tend to be pretty excitable, just like she had been. Then, after thinking about her I got pretty sad and withdrew into my shell. Nick pulled me over next to him and we just sat there with his arm around me for the rest of the ride.
When we got to the airport, I suggested that Nick stay in the Suburban so he didn't draw any attention and I got out to go in and wait for Cody. Frank got out and rushed after me, chastising me for not being careful. I apologized to him. He has always treated me nicely so I felt badly for acting the way I had.
Cody's plane was a little late, but as soon as it had pulled up to the gate and the stairs had been moved into position at the cabin door, he wasted no time in rushing down the stairs and walking quickly over to where we were standing. We gave each other a long hug and, when we separated and I looked at his face, I could tell he had been crying.
"So, you've been doing some crying too, haven't you Cody?"
"Yeah, Mikey. Man this really sucks. Angela was such a great friend for being a little girl."
I laughed at his comment. Here he was all of 15 and he was calling a 10 year old a little girl.
"You should have seen me last night, Cody. I was so broken up I could barely find my way around. If my best friend hadn't been here I don't know what would have happened."
"Where is he? He is a he, I assume?"
"Yeah, he's a he and he's waiting in the car. Let's get your bags and get going. We're going to stop and do a little shopping on the way home."
Frank followed us discretely as Cody and I went to baggage claim to get his bags. Once we had them we walked out to where Anthony and Nick were waiting in the Suburban. I opened the back door and motioned for Cody to climb in. "Cody, this is my best friend,..."
"You've got to be shitting me! You know Nick Carter? Oh my God!!!" Cody exclaimed.
Nick sat there, both stunned and amused. He looked over at me when I got in with this wry smile on his face. "Hi, Cody. It's nice to meet you."
"I can't believe this, you are like a God at my school and here I am sitting in a car with you. This is so incredible. How did you guys become friends?"
"Cody, calm down," I said, "Nick isn't going anywhere for a few days. At least I hope not."
"Nope, I'm hanging out with Mikey through the weekend. You too, Cody."
"Wow, this is so awesome!"
"So Cody, why did you say Nick is like a God?" I asked.
"The way all the girls are always all over him. I would so love it if that were happening to me! You have got to have the most incredible sex life!" Cody said.
"Uh, Cody, that's really none of your business," I said.
"Lighten up, Mikey. You must have forgotten what it's like to have a teenager's raging hormones!" Nick said, laughing.
That actually caused Cody to blush a bit and made him calm down, at least a little. As we were driving towards Nordstrom, Cody kept grilling Nick about what it was like being a teen heartthrob and having screaming fans following him everywhere. I just listened with one ear and gazed out the window at the people walking down the street. I saw this guy walking along with a young girl -- don't know whether it was his sister or his daughter -- and I was overwhelmed by sadness. I didn't start sobbing or anything like that, but I felt tears rolling down my face.
I don't know how he does it, but Nick is either so tuned in to me or is just always keeping an eye on me that he noticed immediately that something was wrong and told Cody to be quiet. Then he changed places with Cody and moved next to me, put his arm around me and hugged me close to him.
"What happened, Mikey?" he asked softly.
"It's really something so stupid..." I started to reply.
"Don't you dare say that," he interrupted, "it's not stupid no matter what it was."
"There was this guy walking down the street with a little girl and it reminded me how I'll never get to do that again."
"It's ok, Mikey," he said, "Let it out. It's going to be ok."
"Oh, shit," Cody said, "Guys, I'm so sorry."
"For what, Cody?" Nick asked.
"I didn't realize you guys were like... a..."
"Cody, it's not like that, were just really good friends," Nick said.
"Best friends. Friends who don't have a problem being close," I said.
"Mikey, do you really mean that. I'm your best friend?" Nick asked.
"Yeah, Nicky, you must have figured that out by now."
"Uh, guys, that's enough Kodak moments to last me for a while, ok?" Cody said.
I sat a little more upright, but Nick kept his arm around me until we pulled into the Nordstrom parking lot. We started to get out but Frank stopped us, explaining that he was going to go inside and arrange for a private room for us so we wouldn't get mobbed when people recognized Nick.
He came back about ten minutes later and opened the door. Anthony stayed in the Suburban while Frank escorted Nick, Cody and I into the store and upstairs to the private room we were going to be using. Two sales associates were waiting when we arrived and we told them what we needed and our sizes.
Within a few minutes they returned with a couple of rolling racks filled with a selection of suits, shirts and pants. A few minutes later another clerk arrived with shoes, socks and underwear. Nick picked out a beautiful Navy blue suit and I picked out a charcoal gray one. We took our selections into the changing room and got dressed and then came back out to wait for a tailor.
"Wow, Nick, you start looking like that very often and I might have to reconsider this dating thing," I said.
"You're not looking too shabby yourself, Mikey. Thought you didn't get dressed up."
"I don't, but that doesn't mean I don't know how."
"Uh, guys, you aren't going to... like start kissing or something, are you?" Cody asked.
"No Cody, not a chance," I said. "We're just joking around."
"Ok, I think I believe you."
The tailor showed up a minute or two later and marked the suits for the alterations they needed. He said they would rush the work and have them ready to be picked up by 5 p.m. We changed back into our other clothes and he took the suits to have the work begun. We both picked out several casual shirts, jeans, shorts and a variety of tee shirts and boxers. A couple of pairs of shoes later we were ready to pay for our purchases and head home. I had everything charged to my account and Frank led the way back to the Suburban.
Just as we were about to exit the store, we heard the unmistakable sound of screaming teenage girls yelling "It's Nick Carter, I'm positive!" We started running and, fortunately, Anthony had the Suburban ready and waiting. We jumped in and he pulled away from the entrance as four or five girls came running out.
"Wow, that was really cool!" Cody said, excitedly.
"Not even, Cody," I said. "You can't imagine how bad it can get."
"You haven't a clue, Mikey. What you've seen was child's play," Nick said.
Thirty minutes later we pulled through the gate and started up the long driveway. Frank helped Cody with his bags while Nick and I grabbed all our packages. We headed up the stairs. Nick followed me down the hall to my room and hung his stuff up in my closet. While I was really appreciative of him having spent last night with me, I had expected him to stay in one of the guest bedrooms tonight since I was in better mental shape that I had been last night. Guess I was wrong.
After eating lunch Nick suggested that we go horseback riding. I was a little unsure about how good of an idea that was since I was still a little banged up from my cycling accident, but I decided an easy ride wouldn't be too much. After changing we walked up to the barn and I saddled up Smoke for me and a gentle mare for Nick. Even though Smoke was getting older he was pretty excited about doing something other than relaxing in the pasture.
I climbed on a lot more slowly than usual and we started off across the pasture. We went out through the gate at the far side and started up into the foothills of the Santa Ynez mountains. After walking along for about a mile, I coaxed Smoke into a trot and laughed so hard at Nick trying to sit a trot that I almost fell off my horse. He was bouncing all over the place. After a few minutes I took pity on him and slowed the pace to a jog.
"You are such a jerk, Mikey!" he said as he pulled up next to me.
"Hey, I thought you said you knew how to ride?"
"I said I like to ride, I didn't say I was good at it."
"You want to try a lope?" I asked.
"I don't know. I was bouncing around so much trotting I don't know how I could handle going faster."
"Actually, all it takes is getting in sync with the rhythm. A lope is usually a lot easier for people than a trot.
"I guess I'm game, then," he said.
I gave Smoke a tap on his shoulder with my foot and he immediately changed from the jog to a lope. As I looked over my shoulder, Nick's horse started trotting to keep up, with him bouncing away. I increased the pace to the point that she broke into a lope. He was hanging on to the horn for dear life. I slowed Smoke down until he caught up and then started trying to give him pointers on how to get into the flow.
After about a half mile, he wasn't doing much better so I reined Smoke in until we were just walking. Horseback riding is one of those things that I had been doing for so long that I don't remember whether it was hard for me when I started or I just picked it up instantly, so it's hard for me to explain to someone how to do it. I did know that Nick was going to be very sore tonight, though.
After walking another mile we turned around and headed back home. We just rode along in silence for a way, enjoying the beautiful Spring afternoon. The sun was out and the grass along the trail was nice and green. In another couple of months it will turn brown, so this is the nicest time of the year to be out riding.
"So Mikey, how are you doing now?" Nick asked.
"I'm going to be pretty sore where I'm not healed up, but it'll be ok."
"I didn't mean that, I was asking about emotionally..."
"I'm doing better, Nick. Thanks to you more than anything," I said. "You can't even imagine how much your being here has meant to me."
"Glad I could help."
"You know, Nick, something has been sort of nagging at me though."
"Well, here you have been so involved in helping me though all the things I've been going through, but I've hardly gotten to know what makes Nick tick. I mean, I've learned how wonderful a friend you are and stuff like that, but not what's going on inside your head."
"Hey, don't feel badly about it. I know things have been pretty messed up since we met and I don't feel like everything is one-sided. So what do you want to know?"
"I don't know specifically. It's just that being around me and my family you've learned a lot about the way I feel about stuff. I've learned what a special, sensitive guy you are, but not what's going on inside and what you want out of your life."
"That's a pretty wide open question. Not exactly something I think I could answer in five minutes or anything."
"I didn't mean I wanted an abridged version of your life all at once, just that I want to know how Nick turned out to the incredible person I know."
"Oh, trying to get me to be the one blushing for a change?" he asked.
"Not especially, but I wouldn't mind it being someone else for a change."
"I don't know where to start. In a lot of ways it seems like my whole life has been part of the group and away from my real family. I mean, I was only 15 when this started, so it's really only a quarter of my life, but it has been so long that I don't feel a real attachment to them. Look at you, Mikey, you're just a few years older than me, well chronologically anyways, and you've really only been gone for a couple of years."
"I think you just slammed me, didn't you?" I asked and got a big grin in return. "Dick! But I was off at school for four years too."
"Yeah, but you probably saw your family pretty often, didn't you?"
"I guess, what with them spending time in Colorado and me flying home for weekends."
"Exactly, imagine what it would have been like to pack your bags and be gone for months at a time. Hours of hard practicing every day. Touring. Not exactly the easiest thing to do when you are 15. I was really homesick for a long time. The other thing is that the only people I really got to be friends with were Brian, AJ, Kevin and Howie. I never got the chance to have outside friends."
"That would tend to make you feel pretty isolated."
"That and then there was always Kevin playing dad and telling me what to do. Don't get me wrong, I owe him so much for making it through, but he tends to sort of get to me pretty often now."
"I've noticed... But there's no doubt that he really thinks the world of you."
"Yeah, I know, but is really getting old."
As we walked the horses back to the barn, Nick continued to tell me about what it was like growing up on tour. He got particularly excited when he told me about some of the practical jokes he had played on everyone. I could really appreciate the fun since I've been known to do the same kinds of things.
When we got back to the barn, we unsaddled the horses, brushed them down and then fed them some grain before turning them loose in the pasture. Then we walked back to the house. After getting something to drink, I decided to head upstairs for a shower and a nap. Nick decided to go into the family room and visit with Jennifer.
I lay down on the bed and stared up at the ceiling for a while. When I didn't fall asleep, I rolled onto my side and found myself looking at Nick's drawing of Angela and us. As I lay there I felt tears forming and start rolling down my face.
Well, that's it for Part 13 of Nick and the Altos. Part 14 should be ready by next weekend. Any comments, suggestions or whatever, email me at email@example.com.
Thanks for reading... Mikey