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Chapter 42

Nick felt a lump rise in his throat as he gazed at the scene that lay before him in Brian’s room. Brian lay in the center of the hospital bed, looking tiny and vulnerable. He looked even worse than when Nick had seen him before, so lifeless and pale looking. Jackie and Harold sat next to each other on one side of his bed. Jackie was clutching onto Brian’s hand, and Harold had his hand rested on her back. One look at Jackie’s face told Nick that she had been crying. He didn’t blame her. One of her sons was already dead, and another was nearly dying before her very eyes.

Jackie and Harold both looked up when Kevin and Nick, followed by AJ and Howie, entered the room. Jackie’s heart nearly broke when she saw Nick. It was obvious he had been crying as well. He looked miserable and helpless sitting in that wheelchair, and despite her own grief, her heart went out to him. She knew he was just as upset as she and her husband were.

“Come over here, hun,” she said softly, motioning for Kevin to push Nick to the other side of Brian’s bed. Kevin did so, parking Nick next to the bed and locking the wheels of the wheelchair.

“Harold, I think we’d better give the boys some time alone with Brian,” Jackie whispered to her husband, taking his hand. He nodded and stood up.

“We’ll be back later, guys,” Harold said to the other four and followed his wife out of the room.

Once they were gone, Nick could no longer hold back his tears. He began to weep, crying shamelessly for the horrible tragedy that had fallen upon Brian and his family.

He slowly took Brian’s cool hand in his trembling own. “Bri… I’m here for you, bud,” Nick said, his voice shaky.

“We’re all here, Rok,” AJ added, sitting down where Harold had once been sitting. Howie sat down next to him, and Kevin took a seat next to Nick.

Suddenly, Brian’s eyes fluttered open. Nick, AJ, Kevin, and Howie all exchanged surprised glances. Brian looked around, and his gaze met Nick’s.

“Hey, Frick,” Nick said, forcing himself to smile, for Brian’s sake. He couldn’t let Brian see that something was wrong. He only hoped that Brian was drugged up enough that he wouldn’t notice the tearstains on Nick’s cheeks.

“Nick?” Brian asked, his voice soft.

“Yeah, buddy, it’s me,” Nick replied. “AJ, Kevin, and Howie are here too.” Brian slowly rolled his head around to look at them all.

“Have I had the surgery already?” Brian asked, sounding breathy and rather disoriented.

“Nope, not yet, cuz,” Kevin said. “You will soon though. And then you’ll feel much better.”

As Brian processed what Kevin had told him, tears suddenly welled up in his eyes.

“Bri? What’s wrong?” Howie asked worriedly, noticing his friend’s tears.

“Scared,” Brian murmured, his grip suddenly tightening on Nick’s hand.

“I’m scared too, Bri,” Nick replied, his voice low.

“But don’t you worry,” AJ insisted. “Those doctors will fix you up as good as new, and then you can go back to doing all the things you used to do. Singing, touring, kicking Frack’s ass at basketball…” He had hoped some humor would lighten the situation, but Brian seemed too out of it to even really understand what he was saying. He could tell he had already been given some kind of medications.

Brian closed his eyes and slowly drifted off to sleep again, his hand once again relaxing around Nick’s.

Nick sighed softly and patted his best friend’s hand, praying for the countless time for the Lord to pull Brian through the surgery. The Littrells couldn’t bear to lose two sons in one night, nor could he bear losing two friends in one night. He knew Harold was already in Heaven, watching down on them all, and he hoped that he would also help to protect his younger brother.

***

Finally, a few minutes later, it was nearly time for the surgery. Dr. Adele returned to the room, followed by a group of other doctors and nurses, and together, they transported Brian from his bed to a gurney and wheeled him out of his room. Kevin wheeled Nick out after him, and AJ and Howie followed.

Once in the hall, they found Jackie and Harold, as well as everyone else that was there for Brian saying their final goodbyes to him before he was taken to the OR.

After they were done, the four Backstreet Boys quickly took their turns with Brian. When Kevin wheeled Nick up to the gurney, Nick simply grabbed a hold of Brian’s hand and gave it a squeeze, whispering, “See you in a few hours, Frick.”

He knew he might not, but he also knew he had to think positively, for Brian’s sake, as well as his own.

“The surgery should take at least four hours, maybe more,” Dr. Adele said. “Just go to one of the waiting rooms and relax. It’s a complicated surgery, but I’m pretty optimistic that Brian will pull through just fine. I’ll be down to talk to you as soon as he’s brought out of the OR.”

“Thank you, Dr. Adele,” said Harold, offering him a grim smile. Dr. Adele smiled back, and then they wheeled Brian down the hall. He was now on his way to get a new heart, and a new chance at life.

Chapter 43