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Author's Chapter Notes:
Quick A/N: this one is structured differently and now I'm thinking this was the way to go all along lol. I might go back and change the other chapters so it's like this one. You'll get what I mean - it' only a slight change but I think it'd be a lot better.

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Long, Hard Road

When I’m down on my luck and I’m searching for my soul
When I’m feeling too much and I start to lose control
When I’m down so low that even enemies don’t wanna know
You still care for me, say a prayer for me, and I know...


7th August, 1993

What a fucked up, shit ass day. Donna and Johnny, I now realise, are complete shitheads! I should have been home today with my family but instead I was forced to stay in Florida practicing stupid dance moves. I should have been home!

“You’re going home on the weekend, Kev,” my cousin tried to console me.

“Shut up Brian,” I snapped. “And why the fuck did you invite the kids over?”

I was sitting on the couch in front of the TV in the apartment Brian, Howie and I had rented together. I had wanted to go straight to my bedroom but I knew if I did I would only end up sobbing into my pillow the entire night. Only Brian knew why I was not in the best of moods – he knew what day it was today. So why in all holy hell did he invite AJ and Nick to the apartment for?

“Keep your voice down!” Brian hissed, turning around to look into the kitchen where the other three guys were. “You need the company.”

“Oh really?” I snarled.

“Kev,” Brian now had a tear in his eye. “I know it’s tough. I miss him too...”

“Oh spare me,” I really didn’t want to hear it. “Do me a favour, Brian? Fuck off.”

I was being cruel. Brian was grieving too, my dad was his uncle after all. But I just couldn’t deal with him at the moment. So I switched on the TV and ignored him as he backed away.

I was left alone for a good ten minutes. I could hear them whispering in the kitchen – I mean, how could I not, the kitchen was freaking attached to the living room. Brian was probably telling them what day it was today. I couldn’t care less anymore and I ignored them, trying instead to focus on the news program on TV but finding myself slowly becoming consumed by the emptiness I had been feeling all day in the form of anger.

If I had been more aware of my surroundings instead of locked in my own head, I would have heard the “Nick! No!” But I didn’t. Or I did, but I didn’t really take notice. I should have. Maybe I could have stopped him.


I jumped off the couch, my hand on my head, staring down at a grinning thirteen year old who stood behind the couch, holding a strand of my hair between his fingers.

“You’ve got a whitey,” he said innocently.

“What?!” I spluttered.

“You’ve got a whitey,” he repeated, shoving the strand of hair in my face. It was indeed white.

“Nick, I’m gonna take you home, come on,” Howie called from somewhere behind Nick. I didn’t bother looking up; all I could do was stare at this kid in front of me who waved this white hair around as if he’d struck gold.

“You’re old,” he said, sticking out his tongue.

I smacked his hand out of my face, trying to contain my rage. Careful, Kev. They do bad things in prison to guys who murder kids.

“Get that out of my face,” I said, sitting back on the couch. I felt another sharp pain as he again pulled out another hair. I should know better than to have turned my back on him.

“Here’s another one,” he said.

“FUCK OFF!” I screamed. I could not deal with this! Not today! I just needed to grieve in peace.

“NICK!” Brian rushed forward and grabbed at Nick, but Nick pushed him off and came around to stand on the same side of the couch with me. I think he had a death wish.

“I’m sorry, Kev,” he said, his smile all gone now. “Here,” he bent forward. “You can pull out my hair if you want.”

I looked at him, absolutely bewildered and simultaneously annoyed.

“I’m not going to pull out your hair Nick,” I said, sitting back down again.

“Okay then,” he said, sadly and I almost felt bad for not pulling out his hair, but then I realised how ridiculous that is.

He turned around and I thought that would be the end of it. That was until he jumped on me, wrestling me on the couch, calling out “Whitey, whitey!”

It should have been a scream of rage that escaped my mouth, but it was laughter that did instead. Before I could think about stopping myself from having even the slightest bit of happiness on this fucked up, shit ass day, I was wrestling Nick back.

“Old man can fight!” Nick laughed.

“Let’s see how you like getting your hair pulled out,” I grinned.

He quickly got off me.

“Not my hair! It took me ages to get it this long,” he said.

“Well you better run fast then,” I laughed. “Five...” he looked at me, wondering what the hell I was talking about. “Four...” I cackled.

“Dude, you better run!” AJ laughed.

“He’ll pluck you bald, Nick!” Brian chimed in.


“Oh SHIT!” Nick finally got the idea and took off.

“ONE!” I shouted, racing after him.


Lifting me up like an angel when I hit the ground
Feel your arms all around me when I’m feeling down
Lift me up like an angel when I hit my low
When your arms are around me
I don’t wanna let you go


2nd December, 1998

The doorbell rang. Another relative with more food probably. Thank God for these countless relatives with their trays of food, otherwise I’d never eat.

“I’ll get it mama,” I said, bending down to kiss her. She sat at the kitchen table where she’d been sitting since the funeral. My dad was in the backyard – he needed the fresh air.

My mum only nodded at me as she stared straight ahead. She had become listless, non-caring, hollow. It had been three days since the funeral, but she never changed out of black. I was worried.

The doorbell rang again. My relatives were impatient people.

“I’m coming!” I shouted as I walked briskly towards the front door. When I opened it, I was speechless.

“Hi Howie,” Nick looked uncomfortable, nervous and fidgety.

“Nicky?” I asked disbelievingly. “What...what are you doing here?”

The other guys couldn’t get away from our schedule to come to the funeral. They had been in L.A while I was given leave.

“I...I thought maybe I could visit,” he swallowed, “I thought, if it’s okay with you, maybe I could go visit Caroline?”

I was hit with such emotion. I felt my knees buckle tears well in my eyes.

“Don’t worry about it,” Nick said quickly, looking ashamed. “I...I just thought...I’ll go...”

He turned around to leave but I stopped him.

“How are you here?” I asked, choking back the sobs. “How did you convince management?”

“I told them I had meningococcal,” he said sheepishly, giving a little smile.

I laughed, feeling a tear leave my eye.

“And they believed you?” I asked, disbelieving.

“I forged a doctor’s note,” he shrugged. “They wouldn’t dream about making me work – not after Brian...”

“Where are the others?” I asked, looking over his shoulder, expecting the others to be with him.

“They, ah,” he looked uncomfortable again. “They couldn’t come. It would look weird if suddenly we all came down with meningococcal.”

I laughed again. “Right.”

“Who’s at the door?” my mum screamed from inside.

“Oh, here,” he held out a bunch of flowers to me. I hadn’t even noticed him carrying them. They were carnations but when I looked closer I noticed there were actually two bunches but they were wrapped as one.

“One is for your mum,” he explained. “The other is for Caroline.”

“Nicky...” another wave of emotion overcame me.

“I’m sorry I missed the funeral,” Nick said, his own eyes tearing up. “I really liked her, you know? I really wanted to be there.”

I didn’t doubt it for a minute.

“Let’s go visit her,” I managed to say. “She’ll like the flowers.”

“Thank you,” he said quietly.

I shook my head and hugged him tightly, no longer bothering to hold back my tears. “No, Nicky,” I squeezed him, feeling so much love for him in that moment. “Thank you.”


When I’m lost along the way and I can’t face another day
If I stumble on the road and I can’t carry the load
If I lose my faith, my kindness, generosity
Would you hold my hand?
Say you understand my pain?


28th January, 1998

“Welcome back Brian!” Kevin’s smile was making me nauseated. Yes, it was his smile and not the fact that I just had open heart surgery only three weeks ago and I was already back at work.

“Thanks,” I said cheerfully, although all I wanted to do was stab him through the heart, make him undergo open heart surgery and then not show up when he’s in recovery. See how he likes it.

“We missed you Rok,” AJ said, grabbing me into a hug. When I flinched he pulled back quickly. “Did I hurt you?” he asked, worried.

No, it’s fine. It’s just the knife you forgot to take out of my back. “Just a bit sore,” I said instead, smiling.

“You should have taken at least another week off,” Howie said and I couldn’t help but think this was him wishing I hadn’t come back at all so he could take all the lead vocals.

“Where’s Nick?” I asked.

“Running late again,” AJ said.

“Speaking of the devil,” Howie said, looking towards the front door of the studio where Nick had just entered from.

“Sorry I’m late guys,” he said, walking up to us, carrying a big bag in one hand. He dropped the bag when he reached us and instantly grabbed me into a hug. I hugged back but not with as much energy as he hugged me with.

“What have you got there Nick?” Kevin asked curiously.

We broke apart.

“I’m really glad you’re back Frick,” Nick said and like with the others, I felt a bit of resentment towards him. He crouched down beside his dropped bag – a shopping bag – and pulled out what appeared to be a large heart shaped pillow. He handed it to me, slightly avoiding my eyes.

“What’s this?” I asked, a little annoyance in my voice.

“A gift,” he said simply.

“A gift?” I repeated snidely, feeling angry. I looked down at it. An envelope was pinned to it. “You think I want a gift?”

Nick looked hurt. “I...”

“I wanted you to come to the hospital,” I spat, clenching the pillow and staring vehemently at all of them. “I don’t want your gifts.” I threw the pillow, the envelope still attached, on the floor and stalked off.

The rest of the day the other guys were overly polite with me but would stay out of my way as much as possible. Nick didn’t approach me at all and the pillow Nick had given me stayed on the floor where I had thrown it. I kept looking at it, both angry at Nick’s gesture and curious to see what was inside the envelope. When it came to leave, they all said goodbye and left me alone in the studio. I was just about to follow but the pillow drew me towards it. Bending down, I picked it up, unpinned the envelope and opened it. It was a letter in Nick’s very untidy handwriting.

I bought you this heart so you’ll always remember how strong yours is.


It’s been a long hard road and it’s only just begun my friend
And this I know
You helped me carry the load
‘Cause you’re always down for...


9th August, 2001

“I don’t know if I can do this, mum,” I said nervously as we stood in front of the doors that would lead out into the real world. I had been here for a month – it was so peaceful and so heavenly, how will I cope without it?

“You’ll be fine Alex,” she wrapped her arm around me and steered me towards the exit.

“No,” I stopped again, trying to find an escape route back into rehab. Yes, I know how that sounds.

“Alex, look at me,” she was firm so I looked down at her. “You will be fine, honey. It’s normal to feel like this. But you’ll be fine. I promise you.”

I don’t know why, but my mum always had that calming effect over me. If she said everything was going to be fine, then everything was going to be fine.

“Okay,” I nodded. “Let’s go.” I took in a deep breath of air and walked out the doors of the rehab clinic.

“See?” she said once we were about a couple of feet away from the door. “Not too bad, was it?”

I shook my head but I could feel the anxiety come over me again so I concentrated on walking.

“Where’s the car?” I said, now just wanting to flee this place and go home.

“Just a couple more minutes.”

I looked straight ahead as we walked, trying to resist the urge to run. When we turned into the parking lot of the hospital that was parallel to the rehab clinic, I noticed something.

“What the hell is that?” I asked, squinting to try and get a better look at some guy who was holding a poster over his head. “Is that...Nick?”

It was. Nick was standing by my mum’s car, holding a large poster above his head that read, “It’s A Boy!”

I stopped in my tracks staring at him as he had this big dopey grin plastered to his face.

“They didn’t have any situation appropriate ones in the gift store,” he said and I burst out laughing, my anxiety gone.

“Oh my God, Kaos, what the hell?” I cackled, walking closer to him.

“I also bought you this,” he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of pink booties.

I couldn’t stop laughing. I took the booties from him and then the poster and held them, cracking up so that I had to hold on to my side as I was actually getting a stitch. My mum started laughing too and then Nick as well.

“I’m glad you like them,” he said.

Somewhere in the laughing, I had begun to cry. I pulled him into a hug, the booties and poster pressed between us.


A/N: Thanks to KeepThisSecret, emeraldbecca1991, Mare, libragurl, PaulaKTBA and KimberlyCan. Always, ALWAYS appreciate the feedback (it’s never a good idea, IMO, to stop thanking you for encouraging me!) So next chapter is the last one! Yay! Obviously the song was Lift Me Up (shout out to emeraldbecca1991 for figuring it out about five chapters back lol) and I know it wasn’t written by Nick but I somehow thought of him the first time I heard it. Also, no more flashbacks anymore! Thanks again!