The diagnosis from the doctor kept ringing in Brian's head. He was still dumbfounded and in shock. Something that started out being a small symptom blew into this.
Brian hesitated before he asked a question he dreaded asking. "So, how long before anyone can tell something's wrong with me?"
Leaning back into his seat, the doctor sighed. "Something like this, it's hard to say, we could be talking days, weeks, months or even years, I have no idea, every case is different."
The doctor leaned forward and wrote a prescription slip out. As he was handing it to Brian, he spoke again. "I'm sorry, I wish there was something more I can say or do for you. Take these as needed for pain. Call me if you need anything else."
Brian looked down at the script the doctor handed to him. He wanted so badly to wad it into a ball and throw it back at the doctor and scream, "This isn't gonna happen." He reluctantly stood up and left the office.
As Brian walked out of the office and down the steps outdoors, he had to catch himself from falling. After he made it to his vehicle, Brian started it up and headed towards the recording studio.
Brian was greeted in the doorway of the studio by Nick. Patting him on the back, Nick asked Brian where he had been, that they had been getting worried about him.
"I told you I had an appointment this morning, I guess it ran a little bit late, sorry." Brian apologized.
"It's okay, Bri, it's just that you had your cell phone turned off and you weren't answering your pages and we were getting a little worried."
Brian noticed his hands were shaking, he quickly put them behind his back, hoping no one noticed it. He followed Nick down the hall into the sound studio. Nick held the door open and motioned for Brian to enter before he did.
The rest of the guys were already sitting in the room. AJ was drinking coffee looking at sheet music with Kevin. Howie was in the corner on his cell phone.
Brian felt heavy-hearted. For the first time in his life, he felt all alone. He wanted desperately to tell someone about the diagnosis, but then again, he wanted to avoid telling anyone for fear he would be treated differently and he couldn't handle that.
Nick brought some sheet music to Brian. "this is the part we're waiting on you to record to get this CD going."
Looking the music over, Brian nodded. He had sung that song millions of times, it would be an easy ballad, nothing he would have to practice.
The intercom to the studio clicked on. Shane, the audio technician spoke into the microphone. "Anytime you're ready, Brian, just let us know."
Brian nodded, putting on the head phones and told the audio tech to que up the music.
As Brian sang, Nick sat and watched. He kept thinking to himself how he had never heard Brian's voice with such clarity and perfection as he sang at that very moment. He smiled at Brian.
When Brian's portion of the song was over, Shane confirmed that it was a good take and did a play back into the room. Nick took the sheet music for the next part over to Brian to read. It was the chorus of the song. Brian was thinking to himself it was odd that they had the entire group together to record this, they usually would do it individually and then blend the voices together for the final take.
"Nick, why are we all here again? I thought we usually did this by ourselves." Brian asked.
Nick clamped a hand on Brian's shoulder. "Because they want to have a photo shoot at the studio and they also want to record a documentary of us recording and this was the day that worked out for all of us with our scheduleds."
The morning was filled with each of them being recorded for their parts in the album, song for song. Brian escaped most of it by sleeping in a chair in the corner of the studio. He was exhausted. After the last take, he excused himself and left the room stating he was going to use his cell phone and take a breather.
"Hey, Nick, do you still have that schedule on you for March?" Howie asked.
Nick looked into his planner. "Um, yeah, but it's out in my car. Let me go get it." Nick closed his planner and walked towards the door. "I'll be back in a minute."
Nick walked out into the hall and found Brian, sitting on a couch, holding his head in his hands.
Nick approached Brian. "Hey buddy, are you okay?"
Brian kept his head down. The pain was excruciating.
"No." Brian mumbled, barely audible.
"Headache?" Nick asked.
"Uh-huh." Brian answered, quietly. Brian was silently cursing himself for not getting the prescription filled.
"Can I get you anything? Is there something I can do?" Nick asked, anxiously.
Brian slowly shook his head back and forth. It killed him to do that, but it would hurt worse talking.
Concerned, Nick squatted down in front of his friend. "Brian, are you sure you're okay? This seems like something worse than just a plain headache."
"It's probably a migraine." Brian lied.
"Do you have anything for it, Brian?" Nick was getting concerned. He could tell that Brian was in a great amount of pain.
"I have a script the doctor gave me today but I didn't get it filled yet." Brian quietly replied, still cradling his head in his hands.
"Do you have it on you?" Nick asked.
"It's on the front seat." Brian mumbled. He was starting to feel sick to his stomach.
Nick stood up. "I'm gonna have it filled right now, give me your keys."
As Brian stood up to give Nick his keys, he took a faltering step backwards and landed back onto the couch.
"Whoa, Brian, are you alright?" Nick asked, touching Brian's shoulder.
Nick couldn't Brian's reply and asked him to repeat it. Clearing his throat, Brian simply said, "Yes."
Again, Brian stood up to give Nick his keys and again he took a faltering step backwards and landed onto the couch.
"Alright, now I'm worried, Brian, something's going wrong here." Nick stated, a concerned tone in his voice.
Brian tried to brush the remark off. When he spoke again, the words Brian was thinking of saying were not the words that came out of his mouth. "Play it on here."
Nick spun around and looked at Brian. "What did you say?"
Brian cleared his throat. He tried to say 'nothing's wrong, I'm fine.' The words that came out of his mouth this time were garbled and didn't sound like words at all.
Nick instantly felt sick to his stomach. The first thought that ran through his head was that Brian was having a stroke. He looked at Brian's face hoping it would clue him in on what was happening. Nick shouted at the top of his lungs to get someone's attention. He spotted a payphone at the end of the hall and sprinted towards it. He dialed 911 and requested an ambulance to come.
Nick ran back to Brian. "An ambulance is on the way, hang in there, buddy."
Nick pulled into the hospital parking lot. He and the guys rode together after the ambulance took Brian away.
Walking into Brian's private hospital room, they found him laying in bed, sleeping. Brian woke up when he heard Howie bump into the chair that was situated by the bed.
"Hey Bri, how are you?" Nick asked.
Brian managed a slight smile back at Nick but didn't answer him right away. Sorting out what he was going to say before he opened his mouth, Brian cleared his throat and attempted to form his words.
"Good." The word came out quietly, toneless.
"You had me worried, boy." AJ stated. "So what's wrong with you anyway? They wouldn't tell us when we asked them."
Brian knew what was wrong, but his reply was a shrug of his shoulders.
After Brian and the guys managed to banter back and forth, making jokes and cutting remarks, Kevin stood up and announced that they should leave so that Brian could get his rest.
"See you tomorrow, buddy." Nick said as he rubbed Brian's left shoulder.
Brian smiled. "Thanks for coming, guys, maybe I will be let out of here tomorrow."
Nick headed down the hall to room 429, Brian's room. He had a few magazines and a package of Brian's favorite cookies tucked under his arm. Nick walked into the doorway of the room and stopped suddenly. Instead of finding Brian laying in the bed, Nick found a room that was empty, clean and waiting for a patient to arrive.
Turning around Nick walked up to the nurses station. He smiled at a red-headed nurse working behind the counter. She looked up and nervously returned Nick's smile.
"I need to find out what room you took Brian Littrell to, please."
The red headed nurse mumbled something under her breath. She stood up and pointed at Nick. "Wait right here."
The young nurse brought back a woman that appeared to be her supervisor. She walked up to Nick and quietly requested he follow her.
Instead of taking Nick into Brian's room, she took him into a small room that had two chairs and a coffee table in the middle with a box of kleenex. She gestured for Nick to take a seat, but he chose to stand.
"So, um, where did y'all move Brian?" Nick shifted, nervous.
"I'm sorry, I thought you knew." The woman started out.
"Knew? About what?" Nick asked innocently.
The woman looked away from Nick as she started to speak. "I'm afraid that Mr. Littrell was discharged."
"Dishcharged? Oh, I guess I didn't know. Did his family pick him up?" Nick replied.
The nurse finally looked Nick in the eyes. "No, what I'm trying to tell you is that Mr. Littrell didn't make it through the night, we lost him."
The nurse finally looked at Nick's face to see if he was comprehending what she was trying to tell him. His eyes shifted back and forth quickly as the words were sinking in. His face grew pale and his knees gave out causing him to fall back against the wall, the magazines he brought for Brian fell to the floor.
The nurse guided Nick to the chair and eased him into the seat. After a few moments, Nick looked up at the nurse, his face stained with tears.
"But how? He was fine when we left him." Nick asked.
"You really don't know, do you?" The nurse replied.
"Know what?" Nick managed to ask.
The nurse sighed. "I shouldn't be telling you any of this, but I've already said more than I should. Brian was terminally ill, you didn't know, did you?"
"Terminally ill? What do you mean by that?" Stunned, Nick tried to grasp the words.
"Brian had an inoperable brain tumor. I thought you would have known." The nurse stated quietly.
Nick shook his head. "Do you know how long Brian knew about this?"
"I'm sure he had the symptoms for about a year, but he just got the final diagnosis the other day, actually the day before he passed away. I'm so sorry." The nurse said as she touched Nick's hand.
Thanking the nurse, Nick realized he had the grim task of letting the guys know about Brian. The drive over to the studio was the longest trip Nick felt he had ever made in his life.
Pulling into the parking lot, Nick pulled up next to Brian's car, which was left just where Brian parked it. Getting out of his car, Nick walked over to Brian's vehicle and touched it. He looked into the driver's side window and saw the prescription slip that Brian had mentioned the other day, still laying on the seat, face down. A jacket was laying over the back of the front seat, waiting for Brian to put it on.
Nick felt the tears well up in his eyes. 'God, how am I going to tell them this?' Nick wondered to himself. Taking a deep breath, he walked into the office, the conversation he and Brian had that other morning going through his mind.
He stood for a long time outside the sound room door. Sighing heavily, Nick pushed the door open. As irony would have it, they were replaying a soundtrack that Brian had cut yesterday before it happened. It was the last song Brian would ever sing. Nick could hear Brian taking in breaths in the song, symbolic of living. Nick closed his eyes tightly. How he wished this weren't true. How much he was going to miss Brian.