“Thank you, the food was great. Do you think Nick would be up to go fishing with me tomorrow morning? I know it’s last minute but I need to talk to him before the group goes forward with any plans for me to go back. I don’t want him to be the last one to know because you and I both know how that is going to go.” Kevin asked, feeling defeated that he still hadn’t talked to Nick about returning. At least if they were out fishing or hiking Nick wouldn’t have cell phone service and they wouldn’t have any interruptions. Now that he knew that he was worried over nothing, Kevin had a feeling this would be an easy conversation from here….at least he hoped it would be anyway. With Nick it was always difficult to tell because his mood sometimes changed so rapidly.
“I don’t see it being a problem-” Lauren started, but Nick appeared next to her in the doorway.
“Sorry about all of that, I was hoping I wasn’t too late to say goodbye. You’re leaving already?”
“It’s okay, Nick. I know you have album stuff and all that. Since you’re here, how would you feel about going hiking or something tomorrow? Since I’m going home tomorrow night.”
Nick paused for a few moments, deep in thought about something. Kevin watched curiously. He wondered why Nick was hesitant to accept his invitation.
“Sure thing, Kev. We haven’t hung out in a long time, I can come pick you up if you want. What time should I come to the hotel?”
“I hope first thing in the morning is not too early...like 7?” Kevin asked.
“That sounds good. I will set an alarm, no problem.”
Lauren was giving Nick a look as if he had grown two heads before she laughed. Both of them knew Nick did not like to get up early.
“What? I can get up early.” Nick protested, his arms crossed.
Kevin laughed, “You’re not known for being an early riser. Never have been.”
“You’re one to talk, you love to sleep in!”
Lauren laughed at the two of them as they continued their banter before Kevin agreed to text Nick the address to the hotel just as the taxi pulled up to the house. He went back to the hotel, feeling a bit nervous again because he was finally going to talk to Nick, the moment he’d been waiting for this whole time. Now that they were going to be together without any interruptions, he went over what he was going to say in his head a few times the next morning before Nick came to pick him up. He was dressed down in a t shirt and sweatpants, since they were just hiking. While he waited for Nick, he went downstairs to get some breakfast since the hotel offered it for free with his stay. He had a cup of coffee and just finished it when Nick texted him that he was in the lobby. Nick was dressed down too, wearing the almost same thing he was wearing the day before with the addition of a Tampa Bay Buccaneers hat.
“You look like you just woke up. Do you need to stop for coffee or something?” Kevin commented when he saw how tired he was as they got into the car.
“Yeah, we can stop. I was just up late last night talking to my manager and working on some things because she called me again after you left. We are working on some tour dates and stuff but it’s clashing with the group dates and the cruise.”
“I bet it is hard to juggle both at the same time. How do you manage?” Kevin asked while they were in the drive thru waiting for the coffee Nick ordered.
“Sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle because I want the guys and management to be okay with me doing my side project and cutting into group things. I always talk things over with them first so they don’t think that I am ditching them completely. Their feelings matter.” Nick said, choosing his words carefully. Kevin grew silent after the last sentence, feeling guilty that he hadn’t discussed leaving with anyone but management. He knew that Nick felt betrayed and so did the other guys. Looking back, he knew he would have handled things different because of how it affected all of them. He wasn’t just a coworker to them. He was family and they were family to him. He had taken them for granted even though he knew he had every right to time away for himself. Kevin had beaten himself up so many times over the years for leaving and had almost convinced himself he didn’t deserve the chance to come back because he felt so guilty.
They finally left the Starbucks and went on their way to the hiking trails up in the mountains.
“I’m glad you asked me up here, it’s a beautiful day. Not too hot.” Nick commented as the two of them stretched for a few moments before heading up the trail. They planned to hike for an hour or two and then turn around to come back to the car. They’d brought some water and snacks, Nick had stopped on the way and picked them up after Kevin asked if he had brought water.
“Same as always, I always forget to bring important shit. I’m sorry, Kev. I wasn’t thinking.” Nick apologized as Kevin patted him on the shoulder.
“It’s fine. We kind of planned this last minute.”
They didn’t talk a whole lot the way going up, other than small talk until they stopped to have some water.
“So are you going to eve tell me why you came to see me?” Nick asked when they stopped again to have the snacks they brought. It wasn’t much, just some granola bars. Kevin froze for a minute because even though he’d been rehearsing in his head what he was going to say to Nick he wasn’t ready.
“You were right when you asked me if it was something important back at your video shoot, Nick. This is important but it’s hard for me and I don’t know where to begin.” Kevin explained, taking a bite of the granola bar and washing it down with the bottle of water in his other hand. They were sitting on a rock overlooking the forest, and the view was beautiful.
“Is everything okay?” Nick asked in concern.
“Everything is fine, Nick. It’s nothing like that. Tell me something, do you remember when I decided to leave the group and we all had that meeting?” Kevin sighed, still trying to find the words he wanted. Nick looked at the ground, thinking. He didn’t look like he was happy to remember that day.
“I know how upset you were then and I think about it a lot.” Kevin confessed. Nick looked up at him.
“It wasn’t you that I was upset at, really.”
“GO AWAY AND NEVER SPEAK TO ME AGAIN, I HATE YOU!!”
“I seem to remember it a bit differently, you yelled at me and told me never to talk to you again.” Kevin said softly, hearing Nick’s voice echoing in his head.
“Well, yeah...I did say that. It’s just- I really wasn’t mad at you specifically. I just thought the band was going to break up, I felt that I was going to lose my family. I was mad because you never really talked to us or anything, and I blamed myself for you leaving. I’m sorry if I ever made you think it was your fault. It wasn’t. I was being selfish at the time. I was going through some shit and I took it out on you.” Nick sighed, fixing his hat.
“You said you hated me, Nick. You have to understand how much that really hurt me because I thought I was just doing what was right for myself. I mean, I am sure you can understand now having gone and done your own thing too. Sometimes we just need to do things. I needed to get inspired again. I needed to start a family. Surely you can relate with how things are going between you and Lauren-“ Kevin said, but Nick’s face grew tense.
“How can you sit there and assume I would leave like you did? I would have had the decency to talk to you all about it before springing a meeting on us. Is this why you wanted to talk to me? You came all the way here to start this same fucking arguement? Don’t you have anything else better to do with your time?” Nick snapped. He looked at the ground, his chest heaving because he was trying not to upset himself. He knew he didn't mean the last part but he'd been bottling it up for a while. Kevin could see that and he put a hand on Nick's shoulder.
"Nick, I know we never really had a real conversation about that day, but I wasn't here to talk to you about that. Your feelings do matter to me. So much that I booked a flight here on a whim because I didn't want to talk to you about this on the phone. Doesn't that mean something to you? " Kevin asked calmly. Nick sighed and drank from his water bottle, listening.
“I’m sorry for blowing up at you. I just have a lot going on right now.”
“Look, if it makes you feel better….I agree the way I did things was kind of shitty. That’s why I came to talk to you. I didn’t want this to happen again when you and I have been on pretty good terms.” Kevin said.
“What’s going on? You’re not like, dying from cancer or something- are you? I don’t think I can handle that right now, Kev. Just spit it out already.” Nick begged.
“I want to come back to the group, and I wanted to ask for your blessing. I’ve been thinking and I feel inspired to make music again, Nick. I miss you guys. I miss being together and traveling, I miss seeing our fans….I just miss it.”
Kevin stopped talking when Nick didn’t have anything to say. He was half expecting Nick to yell again but he looked at the ground. The two of them got up and decided to head back to the car since they’d been walking for quite a while.
“Nick, are you okay? You have been quiet.” Kevin asked when they were crossing a stream in the woods going downhill. Nick turned around and saw how anxious Kevin looked and chuckled.
“I’ve never seen you nervous before.” Nick commented, smiling.
“I was afraid to come talk to you, Nick. Afraid because we’ve had a lot of history and last time I did a group thing you didn’t seem so thrilled about it. I just want you to understand that this isn’t like a one time performance like that night you were sick in LA. This is a true comeback. I had to convince myself that this is what I’ve been missing all this time. It’s scary for me. Didn’t you feel scared going out on your little solo tour?” Kevin confessed.
“First of all, it wasn’t a little solo tour…” Nick said irritably. Kevin put a hand up to stop him before he started yelling.
“You know what I mean, Nick. Weren’t you afraid when you came back and did the group thing again? How was that for you?”
Nick stopped walking, and crossed his arms as he thought for a few minutes before he began to walk again.
“I was terrified. Brian was just so angry when I left. He didn’t speak to me for a whole year after I told them I recorded that album. Did you know that? He was my best friend, Kevin. He wouldn’t even look at me when I came back from doing my tour. Did you think that is what I was going to do to you? I’m not like him. I love him and all, but he’s kind of changed. Things changed between me and him when he had a kid. I guess that I was angry at you because I thought I was going to lose you too. You’ve been like a big brother to me…like a dad almost. I was afraid you were going to leave me like everyone else.” Nick said softly. His eyes were watering and Kevin didn’t say anything, he just hugged him. Kevin knew that the strained relationship between Nick and Brian hit Nick hardest and he hated that. They’d gotten better but there were times when Nick really missed how the two of them used to be. Kevin chalked it up to the fact that Brian was simply five years older and ready to grow up, while Nick wasn’t. Nick was still figuring himself out but it seemed like he was starting to settle down. Maybe things were different now.
“I know how hard that probably was for you, because I know the two of you were close. I think that it was just something that happens when we get older, but he still cares about you like I do. We all care about you. If I didn’t care about what you thought, I wouldn’t have asked you how you felt about me wanting to come back to the group. If you aren’t comfortable with it, you can absolutely tell me. It won’t make or break my decision but we can work it out so that we are all comfortable with it.” Kevin promised. Nick didn’t say anything, he just nodded.
The two of them got to the car, feeling tired and sore after their hike...and it was late in the afternoon. Nick drove Kevin back to the hotel and still hadn’t said anything about what Kevin had told him. Kevin was feeling like he should speak up but Nick beat him to it.
“Look, I don’t want to keep you from something that you want to do. You wouldn’t do that to me, so if you really need my blessing this is it. I think you coming back would be good for all of us. I mean it.” Nick said suddenly.
“Do you mean that?” Kevin asked. Nick didn’t say anything else, but he hugged him.
“Yes. You’re a Backstreet Boy forever. You’re stuck with us for life.” Nick laughed. Kevin smiled, feeling relieved that things had turned out okay after all. He and Nick said goodbye and he went back to California feeling good about things, at least for now.