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Nick, Kevin, AJ, and Howie arrived to Turner Field in a sleek black limousine.

The parking lot was crawling with photogs and reporters from various news stations from around the globe. AJ spotted one he recognized from Japan. "This is nuts," he said, taking a swig of Perrier water.

The stadium was packed. The stage was as far back on the field as they could set it up and still have room for the stage crew to get behind it and for Brian to get off and on it. They'd cleared off a special VIP area to the left of the stage for Brian's family, the four Boys and their wives, Leighanne, and Baylee. Fans filled every nook and cranny of the stadium, though. The field, which was all general admission, was packed like sardines. The stands were scattered with signs, which were held high, saying things like "we love you Brian!"

Amanda was backstage. "How do you feel, about to take the stage for the last time?" she asked, holding up the little micro-recorder.

"It's bittersweet," Brian answered. The crowd could be heard cheering, and random cries of his name echoed around the backstage area. People were scurrying around like crazy, ducking in and out of the little curtained-off dressing area they'd set up for Brian. "I wasn't going to tell the fans," he said, "But I realized that it wasn't fair to them not to say good-bye."

Amanda made notes about the expressions he was making, the looks in his eyes, the sounds and smells of the backstage area. "And what made you change your mind?" she asked.

"Kayleigh and Brianna," he said without hesitation, "I owe them."

Amanda smiled. "Are you scared?" she asked.

"No," he answered, shaking his head.

"Even though the stands are packed?"

He laughed, "I'm a little nervous I'm going to start throwing up midway through Angels & Heroes or something, but we've played crowds like this before..."

"Did you know there are over 51,000 fans in the audience right now? You're causing a fire hazard here at Turner Field, how does that feel?"

Brian cracked up, "Well if you promise not to smoke, I'll feel a lot safer."

Amanda laughed. "I just have a couple more questions for after the show, then I should have everything I'll need."

Brian beamed, "Thank you again for doing this for me. It means a lot to me."

"It means a lot to me that you'd ask me to do it," Amanda answered. She reached out and took hold of his hand and squeezed. "You're a great man, Brian."

"You're on," a pipsqueak of a roadie announced, tucking his head into the little dressing area.

"Enjoy the show," Brian said, winking at her.

"I'll be in the press box with the camera," she answered, standing up and tucking the micro-recorder into her purse.

Brian stood up as she left the room and took a deep breath, steadying himself. His hands were shaking. They make have done sell out shows at the Tokyo Dome before, but this was completely different. This wasn't just any show, and he wasn't buffeted by his brothers. He made his way toward the stage. The lights had gone out, and a flashlight was being held up for him. He followed the glow in the dark stage tape, and, his heart beating a tattoo in his chest to the same beat as the fans shouting his name (BRI-AN, BRI-AN, BRI-AN), he ran onto the stage.

The lights were hot and they made him sweat. In the center of the stage sat a stool and his microphone stand. He moved quickly, kicked the stool back just a little bit so he could stand before it, and clasped his hands around the microphone as the single white spot light hit him and the beat started throbbing behind him.

"I've lived a lot of life
I caught a dream or two...
It's been a sweet ride..."


He caught sight of Nick, staring up at him, and he smiled and waved. Nick waved back.

"But I've faced my share of nights
and searched like we all do
looking inside
Now I'm standing here
Cos You've made it clear...

He pointed to his chest as he sang the chorus, his eyes scanning the crowd, trying to look at every one of the fans, trying to tell them all how much he loved them. He smiled and wiggled his fingers, pointed, made the heart shape with his hand.

"I'm finally wide awake
I'm finished being known
It's a new day...
I can feel it on my face,
In hopes of a midnight sun
That won't fade away...
Now I'm bowing down,
And I'm crying out..."


Brian pulled the microphone from the stand and dropped to his knees as the lyric called for it, his arms splayed over his head, eyes closed. The fans were screaming...

"This heart inside me beats because
You loved enough to take my cross
And I'm alive...
You gave Your life to shatter death...
So even after my last breath...
I'm alive... forever... forever more
Forever, Lord...


Amanda could feel the tears streaming down her face. The song was the epitome of the courage that Brian had shown over the past four months, the resolution and the determination and even the joy in the face of death.

She took picture after picture as Brian sang. He covered a couple of his favorite Backstreet Boys songs, and did most of his album, including In Christ Alone, and, of course, Welcome Home, You.

He'd been on stage for two hours. His voice was starting to run raw and Amanda knew that the concert was going to wrap up really soon. The fans were mellowed out after he'd sung a beautiful version of Amazing Grace. He had opted to sit down on the stool halfway through the show, and was getting paler the longer he sat in the hot stage lights. He splashed a bottle of water over his head and ran a hand through his hair.

"The last song I'm going to sing for you," he said, putting the bottle down at his feet, "Is one that I wrote over the last couple months. Because of that, there's no music, so you'll have to imagine that part." He laughed, and smiled as the fans screamed loudly in response. "Maybe Nick'll be kind enough to mix it for you one day and sing a cover," he smiled in Nick's direction. Again, screams ensued. "Okay," Brian said, pulling out a page from his pocket, "So, um, here is goes. It's called Hard Times."

The entire stadium was completely silent the entire way through, aside from Brian's own foot tapping and his voice.

"What is a life at the end of the song
What is hope when you're just holding on
To that last note... that hangs in the air
Tell me, what is life... cos all I know is it ain't fair

You're gonna see hard times, baby
You're gonna see hard times, my love
But even when you can't see me
I'm smiling down from above

Where is God when you feel this alone?
When you're helpless... and you have no home
No place to go... where they understand
What is life... when it doesn't go like you planned?

You're gonna see hard times, baby
You're gonna see hard times, my love
But even when you can't see me
I'm smiling down from above

Even when you can't see me...
I'm smiling down from above...

Oh... you're gonna see hard times
Cos that's just the way life goes
But just when you think you can't take it
When you've lost all your hope
I'll always be there

You're gonna see hard times, baby
You're gonna see hard times, my love
But even when you can't see me
Yeah, I'll always be there


The silence carried for long seconds after the last note of Brian's rasping voice died away, echoing off the stands of the field. The first one clapping was Nick. One by one, the stadium erupted. Brian leaned into the microphone, "Thank you," he said, his voice low. Tears were streaming down his face now as he bowed. The fans shouted, whistled, screamed... Leighanne, Baylee, Nick, Kevin, AJ, Howie, and all of the others in the VIP box were on their feet. Nick was jumping up and down. Amanda had the camera steadily trained on Brian, catching every single look of elation as the roar echoed through the stadium.

He covered his face with his hand, trying to compose himself. Then he leaned into the microphone, and, looking directly at Amanda, he said, "Because... I don't know... how to say good-bye to you..." She smiled, knowing he was quoting her. He looked up into the crowd, "And... it's not really good-bye anyway... because I'll see you all again one day..." he took a deep breath. "I guess there's only one thing left for me to say."

Brian smirked, leaned into the microphone one last time, and sang out, "Gotta go!"

And with that, he ran off the stage.
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