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...Three Years Ago... Just Before Nick Turned 32...

The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was a Christmas tree. It was a little one, it was on a table, lit up with multicolored lights. Baylee was kneeling on a chair next to it, stringing a construction paper garland around it. Brian was standing to one side.

I watched them as they moved, Baylee more frantically, Brian carefully fixing the rings to hook onto branches to stay where Baylee was laying them. Brian's hand was shaking, his arm looked... funny. Baylee turned and looked up at his father, "Will this wake Uncle Nick up?" he asked.

"Maybe," Brian said.

"Can we sing Christmas songs when he does?" Baylee asked.

"Yes," Brian answered.

Baylee smiled, "It would be a Christmas miracle, huh?"

"Yeah," Brian's voice dropped lower than it had been. "It really would be..." He turned and glanced at me. His face paled. His eyes widened. "Nick," he gasped.

Baylee turned around.

"UNCLE NICK!" he screamed, his arms flying wide open, the construction paper chain forgotten, dropped to hang from the side of the tree. Baylee leaped off the chair and towards me.

I suddenly realized I had no fucking idea where I was.

Baylee pulled himself up beside me on the bed. A bed that wasn't mine. Wait, Christmas? I tried to remember what I'd last seen. The van. The song. AJ's voice.

Baylee threw his body across my chest and hugged me, his little arms wrapping around me.

I opened my mouth to ask
"What Happened?", but nothing came out. My hand rose to my throat.

Brian crossed the room and grabbed my hand and pulled it away from my neck. He stared at me, his eyes scared, sad.

Baylee squeezed my chest and stomach, his little head heavy on my chest.

I stared up at Brian, pleadingly.

"It's going to be okay, Nick," Brian whispered, "But there's some stuff you need to know."