The New York wind was swift and chilled as it swept across the city streets.
He pulled the collar of his jacket up around his neck, trying unsuccessfully to keep the cold out. He'd only been in the city
for a matter of weeks, but he knew already that he'd never get used to the cold.
Of course, there had been a time when
he thought he'd never get used to a life without the other Boys.
The show had been good that night--well, better than
good, really. He was comfortable in a role where his character needn't be judged, even more comfortable to know that people
expected the worst from him. For once, he could prove everyone wrong every night and go home without a second thought to it.
He could call his wife and know that she was safe. He could maintain a less than vice-like grip on fame and still have a life.
It was an interesting concept, really, but he enjoyed it nonetheless. As he stared through the white clouds of breath and
out along the rainwashed streets, he could feel the distant fingers of privacy caressing his lower back.
wasn't enough to keep him from the ten or so girls that lingered to his left, though. Every night there was a small crowd
of the old fans, and he'd be lying if he said that he wasn't grateful for their attendance. He needed their presence as a
reminder that he had in fact lived another life once. He needed the women there to keep him from the belief that the days
of Backstreet had been nothing but a starving artist's daydream.
The heels of his Kentucky boots clicked along the
cobblestone and concrete as he made his way over to the fans. With a ready smile and a kind heart, he welcomed the return
of Kevin Backstreet and the throngs of girls he inspired. Cold fingers fished a Sharpie out of his pocket, and he began signing
playbills while making idle conversation. It was hardly the whirlwind of adoration that came with the old meet-and-greets,
but he rather liked the intimacy that came with theater.
It didn't keep him from missing his Boys, though.
was in the midst of signing the last playbill when he felt a tap on his shoulder. Quickly, he thanked the young woman--when
had they all become legal?--in front of him and turned to face his visitor, the voice of whom registered before the face.
but old enough to have traveled the world time and time again. His brow furrowed at the sound, but the smile remained firmly
A nervous chuckle had replaced the high pitched giggle that had once been a warning to watch
his back. Long, bony fingers toyed with blisters just above the waistline, like a childhood too anxious to give way to adolescence.
I had to come see what the critics were raving about," he joked lamely, and sincere blue eyes rose to meet Kevin's own hunter
green. "You were great out there, man. Really. The stage suits you."
The meet-and-greet grin faded to the usual paternal
smile. "Thanks, man. It always has."
The nervous chuckle returned. "Ain't that the truth." Nick glanced hopefully at
Kevin, and the older man recognized the need for safe small talk before any soul-searching began. "How do you like playing
Kevin laughed heartily. "I love it. Isn't that terrible? People expect me to be a greedy, money-hungry
bastard, and I love to deliver. It's nice to play a character that's better accepted when he's worse off, you know?"
can imagine. You don't have to worry about making a good impression, for once."
He nodded. "Exactly. And the meaner
I am, the better it goes over. It's a win-win situation, really." He winked. "That, and I don't feel guilty for riding everyone's
ass after the show is over. The cast knows I'm a nice, Southern gentleman."
Nick arched a golden eyebrow. "You must
really have them fooled."
He shrugged modestly. "Eh, you could say that." Small talk officially over, he closed the
space between his brows and cocked his head to the side. "So, what brings you to this neck of the woods?"
fell to the ground, and he began kicking at nonexistent pebbles like the boy Kevin knew he could be. "Aw, you know...I missed
He couldn't help the way his own, thick eyebrows rose at the thought. "Really?"
Nick looked up with a
frown. "Yeah. Why? Don't you miss us?"
Years of experience as the metaphorical father had taught him to recognize the
question as don't you miss me. Truth to tell, his preoccupation with the New York winter had kept him from a steady
train of thought regarding his younger brothers, but the question sparked a pain in his abdomen that could only be explained
"Yeah," he said quietly. "Yeah, I do miss you." He could hear the excess sentimentality, though, and
knew he had to rectify it before either of them got in too deep. "I'm having fun, though. I think we all needed a break."
younger friend returned his gaze to the ground and began kicking again. "Yeah, I guess."
Kevin chuckled lightly. "Nick,
you recorded a whole album in a few months' time. I think you needed the break more than any of us."
The indifference was obviously a mask for insecurity, and his paternal hand had found Nick's shoulder before
he could ward off the effects of instinct. "Heywhat's going on? Why so glum?"
Blue rose steadily, and for a moment,
he was paralyzed by the brightness of Nick's eyes. The younger man had always worn his heart on his sleeve, but the presence
of such feeling, such a striking hue rendered him speechless for more than a minute.
"I just..." Nick paused and shook
his head. "Actually, Kev, I was thinking of recording another album."
Kevin's eyebrows rose. "As a group?" No,
not as a group. Don't say that. You know it can't happen because we're all at God-knows-where and no one has enough discipline
to sit down and admit that we might not be so good at the make-the-little-girls-swoon gig this time around.
Not as a group. As me."
He released a breath he didn't know he'd been holding and nodded slowly. "Another solo album."
Nick paused, and suddenly he could feel those blue eyes searching his for something, anything, and he wasn't necessarily sure
he could give it.
"What is it, Nick?"
The younger man--when the hell did he become a man?--sighed.
"I don't...I just...dammit, Kev, I can't do it. I can't do the waiting thing. I've got to keep myself busy somehow, you know?
If I sit and wait for everything to fall into place, for the group to feel right again, I'm going to go insane. Every time
I think about it, I just get depressed. I don't want to move on--hell, I don't want to move anywhere--but if I don't keep
moving, I'm screwed. If I don't keep moving, I'm going to shut down. I know you guys all have lives and shit, but...I need
this." The two men locked gazes, and those bright blue eyes conveyed more urgency than the young man's voice ever could. "I
The words were out before he could stop them. "I need it too, Nick. We all do."
at the ground again and shook his head slowly. "Not like I do, Kev. Not like I do."
He sighed, shoving his hands in
his pockets in hopes of finding some kind of warmth in the darkening alleyway. "I don't know when it's going to be right again,
A bitter laugh sounded. "Neither do I, but that's just the thing. I can't keep waiting, you know? I mean, I'll
always be waiting, but I need something else to do. Something else to concentrate on."
He nodded. "Yeah, I know. Why
do you think I'm here?"
When Nick spoke, his voice was little more than a whisper. "Because you're moving on."
shrugged his shoulders. "Moving on, moving...it's all the same, isn't it?"
Blonde locks swished back and forth. "Not
And suddenly he understood. Because moving on meant leaving something--someone--behind, and they
were past the point where that could occur without excuses, without reasons, and...
"You looking for my blessing?"
looked up and offered a half-smile. "Kind of? I guess? I don't know what I'm looking for."
Kevin chuckled. "I think
His boyish uncertainty was palpable. "Do you?"
Kevin winked. "Don't I always?" With that, he released
one hand and wrapped a muscled arm around young shoulders. "Go on and make your album, Nick. I'll still be here when it's
over with, right time or not."
He nodded. "Really. I can't speak for the others, but..." But that
wasn't the right answer. "Look, Nick, what we have--what all of us have--it's something more than albums and time alone, okay?
We've got ten pretty solid years, kid. That's a lot of time to want to throw away, and none of us are that stupid."
looked up hopefully. "None of us?"
Kevin ruffled his hair on a whim, digging for the beginning that had felt so wonderful
to them all. "Not me. Certainly not you. The fact that you're here proves that much. I love you, Nick, and that's bigger than
any of this. Love goes on."
Nick chuckled lightly, nervously. "Even if the album flops?"
"Hell, yeah. We had
our share of flops, didn't we? You live. You learn. You keep moving."
Nick looked sideways long enough to catch Kevin's
gaze. "You ever think we'll be moving together again?"
Kevin sighed heavily. "I don't know, man. Maybe. Maybe not.
But we're here now, right? We're still holding on to something. Isn't that enough?"
Another, younger sigh. "I guess."
The baby of the Backstreet Boys paused for a moment before adding, regretfully, "I should probably get going. Long flight
Kevin nodded his understanding, because the conversation was over and the blessing had been given. He only
hoped he'd been able to provide that for which the younger man had been searching. "Sure thing. Thanks for coming, kiddo."
There were a few clicks on the concrete that separated parent from child, and then...
He turned, biting back the laughter that threatened to bubble forth. "Hey, Nick?"
And, suddenly, he was
enveloped in the hug he'd been initially expecting. "I love you, too. I'm not leaving you guys behind, you know."
laughed. "Yeah, Nick. I know."
More clicks on the concrete, and the men parted, moving farther away and
closer together; towards the future, absent and alike. Apart, among. Themselves, each other. All at once.
But they were moving, and that was enough.