Nick snuck back into Turner Field, where Brian's dressing room was. Amanda was snapping last minute pictures of the fans leaving the stadium, getting some comments for the article. Brian was talking to his parents. Jackie was clinging to him tightly, kissing his cheek, and his dad and brother were both standing, looking misty-eyed and proud.
"Sorry for interrupting," Nick apologized, stopping at the curtain. "I can tell you later, Brian," he whispered, backing away.
"Tell me what?" Brian asked.
Nick stopped and re-entered the tent. He paused. "Amanda and I just made up," he said, a grin crossing his face.
Brian's eyes widened with joy, "You did!?" he cried. He parted from his mom and wrapped his arms around Nick. "I'm so happy, Nick!"
Nick's grin only widened, "I'm happy, too."
Brian patted Nick's back, and gave him an extra squeeze before letting go of him. "I'm so relieved to know that you've got someone to take care of you..." he laughed, "'Cos Lord knows you need it." His eyes danced as he laughed.
Nick laughed, too. "Thank you, Brian."
"No, thank you, Nick," Brian answered solemnly. "For everything."
Brian rode home with Leighanne and Baylee in their own car. Leighanne was driving, and Baylee was in the backseat, singing I'm Alive quietly, making facial expressions just like his dad's. Brian smiled, tired, watching Baylee in the mirror over his visor. Leighanne reached over and held his hand as they idled at a stop light. "Did I mention how proud I am of you, baby?" she whispered.
Brian turned his hand to squeeze hers back. "You are a beautiful woman, Leighanne," he whispered, "And I love you."
She smiled, and lifted his hand to her mouth, kissing his knuckles. "I love you, bear," she answered.
"You make me a lucky man," he said, sighing happily, listening to Baylee in the backseat.
Leighanne felt her heart stir. She looked at him. "Brian?" she asked.
"Hm?" he hummed, half asleep.
"The only good-bye you're saying tonight is to the fans," she said.
Brian blinked his eyes open and stared at her silhouette against the city lights. "I'm not saying good-bye," he said. He squeezed her hand.
"Okay," she answered, "As long as you know that."
Brian smiled, and closed his eyes again. Leighanne drove home, her hand clutching his.
The house was flooded with cars. The after party was at Brian's, and they'd done a great job of setting it up. Inside, music played and streamers were hung up all over the place. Kevin, Nick, and Amanda were standing on the lawn, waiting for Leighanne, Baylee and Brian - the guests of honor - to arrive.
"Don't think I'm not still pissed at you," Kevin said to Nick, who had gushed about Kevin forgiving him for being such a douche by leaving a note to tell him where they were going. "I'm just glad you did what you did, Brian needed it."
"Which means I was...." Nick said, leading.
Kevin sighed, "Which means you were right," he said.
"No, no, wait..." Nick grabbed Amanda's micro-recorder. "Now, say it with enthusiasm!"
"Fuck you," Kevin laughed, pushing the recorder away.
Amanda laughed as Nick hopped from foot to foot, "C'mon! Sayyyy it!"
The headlights illuminated the driveway, and Nick handed the recorder back to Amanda, turning around excitedly. "He's here!" he cried, bounding toward the driveway.
Amanda smiled, watching Nick run to greet his best friend.
"I'm sure Brian already told you this," Kevin said, looking at the goofy grin on Amanda's face as she watched after Nick, "But if you hurt him, you've got four other Backstreet Boys to answer to."
Amanda smiled, "Brian did tell me that," she said.
Leighanne parked the car where Brian always did, and Baylee leaped out and ran toward Kevin. "Uncle Kevin!" he yelled, excited, "Uncle Kevin!" He leaped at Kevin, his arms wide and smile even wider.
"Baylee!" Kevin scooped him up into his arms and squeezed him, "You're getting so big."
"I know!" Baylee answered, "Pretty soon you won't be able to pick me up anymore, huh?"
Kevin laughed, "You've heard that a few times."
Leighanne's cry filled the air.
Amanda, Kevin and Baylee all looked toward the car. Nick was pulling the door opened, panicked, fumbling to get it. "Shit," Kevin whispered. Baylee wiggled in his arms, but he held him tight.
Amanda's skin felt like it had frozen and shrunk tighter around her body. Because of the angle of the car, all she could see was Nick, kneeling beside the passenger side, and the silhouette of Leighanne, illuminated by the dome light, as she leaned across the seats.
Howie came out of the house and Kevin pushed Baylee into Howie's arms, "Hold him," he demanded. Howie's hands braced Baylee's back, holding him tight to his chest.
"What's going on?" he asked Amanda, confused.
She couldn't speak to answer him.
Baylee started to get nervous, "Daddy?" he called, watching as Kevin reached Nick's side at the car.
Amanda started walking towards the car, feeling numb, as Baylee started to cry behind her. As she got closer, her head began throbbing, and she could hear Kevin and Nick, both shouting.
"Nick, you need to move, you need to get out of the way," Kevin was shouting, pulling at Nick.
"No!" Nick was yelling, "No, stop it!"
Kevin pulled Nick up by his shoulders, pushed him out of the way, and leaned into the car. Nick was shaking so hard... Amanda had never seen anyone tremble like that.
Amanda laid her hand on his shoulder and he turned around, his face red. He laid eyes on her, and he flung himself into her, clinging to her. He slid to his knees slowly on the driveway, his face pressed into her stomach, hugging her legs. She closed her eyes.
"Make it stop," Nick begged her, his voice shaking.
"I don't know how to," she said, just as desperate as he sounded.