The Last Last One

There was a light knock at the door, and Nick shuffled over to answer it quickly.

“Hey,” he said, ushering his friend inside his luxurious hotel room. “I’m just sitting out on the balcony.” He motioned towards the sliding glass doors.

Brian laughed a little. “You got a room with a balcony?”

“Hell yeah,” Nick replied, as though it were obvious.

The two men had just come off a very long day at work. The group’s eighth studio album had just been released, aptly named 20. It had been a whirlwind of autograph signings, interviews and even a small concert with an intimate gathering of fans.

“You want?” Nick offered, holding out a beer to his friend once they were sitting down.

Brian hesitated for a moment, but then nodded as he took the drink from Nick. “Sure, why not?”

Nick smiled, and cracked open his own drink. He took a sip and looked out at the city in front of him. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to come to New York without thinking about all the album releases they’d done over the years. Somehow, even though he hadn’t lived there since he was young (and certainly never in the city) it felt like home.

“This is the end, isn’t it?” he said after a few minutes of reminiscing.

Brian raised his eyebrow as he looked at the younger member. “What?”

Nick just raised his eyebrow. “Rok,” he said knowingly.

Brian smiled a little at Nick’s use of his old nickname. “What makes you say that?”

Nick sighed. “It just feels like the end,” he said simply, looking out over the skyline again.

“How?” Brian prodded, though he couldn’t deny he felt it as well.

Nick just shrugged. “Just feels like we’re all going in different directions. AJ’s married, Howie’s doing his solo thing, I am too, you’ve got your family…”

“You thought Black and Blue was going to be our last,” Brian pointed out.

Nick rolled his eyes. “No, I was determined to make it our last. That’s different.”

“You also thought Never Gone was going to be our last.”

Nick nodded as he remembered that. “Yeah… that was ’cause Kevin left. None of us knew what was going on.”

Brian studied Nick’s solemn expression. He didn’t look worried, he just looked calm. It was as though he’d already accepted that this was indeed the beginning of the end for the group. It was a calm that Brian understood.

They just knew.

“Is it because Kevin’s back?” he asked, turning his attention away from his former best friend and back to the city lights.

“I was so mad when Kevin left,” Nick said, all of a sudden feeling oddly nostalgic for those days.

“I know you were,” Brian chuckled a little. “You didn’t talk to him for months.”

“Yeah,” Nick replied softly. “I sure did talk about him though.” He looked down at the near empty bottle in his hands, thinking about how much of a brat he’d been back then. Had it really only been six years ago? It felt like a lifetime.

“It does feel a little weird to have him back, to have all five of us doing this together again.” For so long it had been the four of them doing album releases, tours and interviews. Now, they had to readjust to the extra person all over again. Sure, they’d recorded the album with Kevin and done a few photo shoots, but the actual release of the album made it all seem that much more real.

Nick nodded a little, though that wasn’t the entire reason. “Sorta. It just feels so… final. Like this is our little reunion before we all go our separate ways. Maybe it’s time to move on, you know?”

Brian nodded in agreement. “I know what you mean.”

“Are you ready to move on?” Nick asked suddenly, finishing his drink and reaching for another.

Brian took a deep breath. He hadn’t spoken about this to anyone yet – not even his wife. “I think so,” he said slowly.

Nick nodded in agreement. “Me too,” he replied. “Like, actually ready, not angry at you guys so I’m taking off ready,” he clarified, thinking back to his past disputes with the group and Brian in particular.

Brian grinned, unable to stop himself from making a horribly cheesy joke. “Are you sure you’re not taking off?”

Nick rolled his eyes, but laughed all the same. “Shut up, Bri,” he said lightly before switching back to his somber tone. “Do you think the others guys know?”

“I do. It’s like you said, we’ve all been growing apart over the last couple years.”

Nick just nodded, but he didn’t say anything in response.

“Hey,” Brian said, trying to lighten the mood a little. “Do you remember the first album release we did here? When we did that autograph signing and that cheesy concert?”

Nick shook his head at the old memory. “Yeah, when AJ was so nervous he threw up in the trash can right before we went out?”

Brian laughed – he’d almost forgotten about that part. “Yeah! Anyway, remember how when that day was over we all said we hoped we’d get to do another album release one day?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, we’ve done six since then. I’d say that’s a pretty good run.”

Nick gave Brian an odd look. “I know,” he said quickly, feeling as though Brian may have misinterpreted his feelings on the matter. “You don’t need to look out for me anymore, dude.”

Brian jokingly gave Nick the same defensive look he’d just received. “I know,” he said, then softened. “I was just thinking about how young we were when we first started out, and how I used to act like your big brother.”

Nick smiled. “Seems like a long time ago,” he said quietly, looking back out into the city.

It was true, he’d never be able to look at those lights without thinking about that first album release and the way that the next two times after that they’d completely shut down Times Square. He’d certainly never forget performing in the pouring rain – or how he never would have guessed Kevin wouldn’t be with them for the next two albums.

They’d been through a lot together over the years, but Nick knew in his heart it was time to let go.

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