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Chapter 60

Early the next morning, the door to Brian’s room opened, and in walked Nick.

It had been almost a week since the accident that had injured him and killed Brian’s brother, and Nick had been discharged from the hospital just that morning. Although his shoulder was still healing, his bruises and cuts had mostly gone away, and his strength had returned. Now he was there only as a visitor. He was glad, because the only thing he needed to do was visit Brian and talk to him about the one thing that had been eating away at him for so long.

“Hi, Brian,” he said, shifting awkwardly. “Did I wake you up?”

Brian smiled at his best friend. “Naw. I was already awake,” he replied. “Good morning.”

Nick smiled slightly. “Morning. So… how are you feeling?”

Brian grimaced. “Not too great,” he admitted. A look of fear crossed Nick’s face. Brian saw this and quickly forced a smile. “Aw, don’t worry, Nicky. I’m gonna be fine. But I did just have a heart transplant, and I still have pneumonia, according to Dr. Adele. You can’t expect me to feel a hundred percent yet.”

Nick nodded solemnly. “Bri… I just wanted to say… I’m sorry,” he said softly, glancing at the floor.

“Sorry? Frack… what for?” Brian asked, confused.

“Everything,” Nick replied. “It’s all my fault.”

“What do you mean?” Brian asked.

“I… I left you… and-“

“Nick, you already apologized for that, remember?”

“Yeah, and I made you have a heart attack,” Nick shot back, immediately regretting the words.

Brian’s blue eyes widened as he gazed up at his best friend. So that was what the pain in his chest had been. He remembered that vividly. “Nicky, no, that wasn’t your fault!” he exclaimed forcefully. “That was no one’s fault! My heart was just worn out.”

“No,” Nick said, shaking his head doubtfully. “I stressed you out. I made you worry. It is my fault.”

Brian shook his head. “No, Nick, it’s not,” he insisted.

“And… it’s my fault Harry’s dead too,” he said, his voice rising as tears filled his eyes.

Brian gasped. “Frack…”

“He was taking me back to my hotel. It was so late, and he was tired. He fell asleep at the wheel and drove into a tree, Brian. And all because of me.”

“Oh, Nicky,” Brian murmured. How long had poor Nick been carrying around all this guilt? “Nick, who told you this was your fault? How did you ever get that idea into your head?”

“No one had to tell me,” Nick said. “I already knew. Oh, the guys kept telling me it wasn’t true. Your mom even tried to convince me it wasn’t. But I knew it was true… and now so do millions of others.”

“Huh? What are you talking about?” Brian asked.

Nick realized he’d said too much. “Uhh… nothing,” he mumbled, his face growing red.

“Nick,” Brian started, “I know something’s up. Please, don’t hide things from me.”

Nick’s eyes lowered. Brian knew him too well. “Well, there was this one article…”

“Article?”

“In this tabloid,” Nick continued, his voice so soft, Brian could barely hear him.

“And?”

“It… it was all about how I was the reason for all of this – your heart attack, Harry’s death, everything,” Nick sobbed.

Brian looked stricken. “Oh, God, Nicky,” he whispered, reaching a hand out to his friend. “Come here.” Nick walked hesitantly to his friend’s bedside. “Sit,” Brian said, patting the bed next to him. Nick sat down lightly on the edge. Brian lay his hand on Nick’s shoulder. “Frack, you’re my best friend. I don’t blame you at all, not for any of this. None of it’s your fault. I got sick. That was no one’s fault. I had the heart attack because I was sick, not because of you. It’s not your fault Harry died either. He was tired, yes. But he didn’t have to drive. It was all fate. Nicky, believe me, I love you. I would never blame you.”

“Thanks, Brian,” Nick said, gently hugging his best friend. “I love you too.”

Brian smiled, and Nick smiled back. Brian could tell that Nick had been carrying this guilt on his shoulders for way too long, and now that it was gone, he knew everything was going to be okay.

Chapter 61