Separate Ways by Mare

1. prologue by Mare

2. 1 by Mare

3. 2 by Mare

4. 3 by Mare

5. 4 by Mare

6. 5 by Mare

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40. 40 by Mare

41. epilogue by Mare

prologue by Mare

Prologue

I followed him all around the small two bedroom house we rented in Tampa. Hung on every word he ever spoke. He was my big brother and I loved him more then life itself. Not that I even understood what that meant. I was only four at the time. But to me he was bigger than all the super heroes on the planet. Superman and Batman combined couldn't hold a stick to Mike.


If he ever got tired of me following him all over the place, he never showed it. Not once. He would always great me with a smile and a hug, no matter what kinds of things were going on in our lives. Mom and dad fighting so fiercely that the police would have to come and break things up. That I remember like it was yesterday. The loud arguments they would have, when all I could do was sit at the top of the stairs in my brother's lap, and listen.


I would squeeze his leg tight in my hands when the glass would start breaking and he would sweep me up in his arms and bring me into our room when the swears started to fly out of their mouths.


Blaring the song Separate Ways out through his small ghetto blaster. At least that's what he used to call it. I think Mike was the sole reason I even got into rock and especially Journey. He had them plastered all over our bedroom walls. Journey and Madonna, but only because she was a total babe. His words not mine.


He would make me laugh as he jumped from bed to bed with a baseball bat in his hands imitating a guitar. As the screaming got louder, so did the music.


"Come on squirt sing with me" He would say grabbing my hands and making me jump on the bed right along with him. I never realized he was doing that to help the screaming and crying of our mother in the background go away.


He was my best friend, from what I can remember. It was all such a long time ago.


That night while Separate Ways was looping on our stereo, dad came in and sat down on my bed. He shut the music off and told us he was leaving. He couldn't stay anymore. Mom wouldn't let him. I cried, but not because of that. Truthfully, I was always a little afraid of my father and was kind of happy to see him go. I cried because I saw Mike cry. He ran over to our dad and hugged him tight.


"It's okay Mikey! Everything will work out you'll see buddy." My dad said patting my brother on the back trying to get him to stop crying. He would glance at me from time to time and smile. My eyes were only set on my sad brother.


Mom came in shortly afterwards which made me scared. When the two of them were in the same room together it was never a good thing, but she seemed very calm and composed as she took a seat next to me and pulled me into her lap.


"Guys..your dad and I can't do this anymore so we have decided it's time for him to leave."


"No! You can't do this to us! I hate you!!" Mike screamed at my Mother, clinging onto my father as if he were to let go, he would never see dad again.


They sat and consoled us for a little while before dad packed his things and moved out. That very same night. The one thing I didn't expect was that Mike went with him. At first Mom explained that it was because Mikey was so sad. This would make him feel better. Make him realize that dad wasn't going away forever.


I hugged my big brother. The last thing he did for me was rewind the Separate Ways tape and play it again as he winked and played some air guitar out of the house and right out of our lives.


I never saw either of them again.


After their disappearance, I remember police. All day and all night, stopping by our house as if they lived there. I would just look down from the top of the stairs, feeling like the warm blanket which used to be my brother was missing. I became a thumb sucker right then and there. At four years old, never sucked my thumb before that. I remember Mom crying and worried most nights while she ignored my existence all together. The only thing I ever had to keep me company was that Journey tape. I was barely tall enough to reach the ghetto blaster, but I quickly learned how to put it on and off.


Two years later, Mom and I left our small home and moved to Orlando. She found a new man, and in the process forgot her old life. Bob Carter married my Mom on the three year anniversary of my Dad and brother's disappearance. He adopted me 6 months later.


Suddenly, the Alexander's ceased to exist. I was no longer Nickolas Gene Alexander, I was Nickolas Gene Carter and it seems from that moment on Mike and my dad were nothing more then a lingering memory. A far off dream.


Occasionally Mom in her more melancholy moods would wonder what ever happened to her son, if he was growing into a full fledged man who was as beautiful as me. I couldn't even remember what he looked like. I didn't even know how much older he was. I was so young back then and Mom never wanted to answer my questions. I think he was a brunette just like her. She said it's funny how I looked so similar to Bob. But I bet Bob and my REAL dad looked a lot alike.


Over the years I had all but forgotten about that life. As the performing came and then the sudden fame in Europe with my boys, my new big brothers, that old life had vanished into one bad memory.


I never allowed myself to look back. I never really wanted to.


Just lately my past has visited me in my dreams. Forcing me to remember who I was, where I came from. Funny how dreams can be interpreted as premonitions. I forced myself to close my eyes and fall asleep on the tour bus with my head phones blaring Separate Ways.

1 by Mare

1



"Nicky...time to wake up!" I knew it was time to wake up. I heard my alarm clock. If I wanted to get up when it went off I wouldn't have pummeled the snooze button. When were these guys ever gonna figure that out?

"Nick, come on!"

"In a minute."

"Now!"

"I still have four minutes before my alarm goes off again." I said rolling over and trying my best to block Howie's annoying voice. I heard my radio go on full blast. God I hated when he did that.

"Seems like your four minutes are up." I rolled over and hit him with my pillow. This was our morning ritual. Every single morning we did this. It never got old, for him anyway.

"You just turned the radio on D! Duh what am I stupid or something?"

"Yeah you are Kaos." AJ said walking past us with toothbrush and towel in hand.

"No one asked you." I yelled as I sat up.

"Why are you always the last one up?"

"I think it's because I'm the only one who has the common sense to realize that we only have one bathroom on this thing."

"He's right Kev, I'll give him that much."

"Thank you Brian" I sat down beside him at our small table and grabbed the box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch from the center of the table and poured an over abundance of it into my bowl. I was hungry.

"How can you eat that junk?"

I decided to answer Kevin with my mouth full, "I am a growing boy Kevin." They all laughed as it spewed out of my mouth.

"You are ridiculous you know that?" I answered with a nod stuffing my face to maximum capacity yet again.

"So what's on the agenda today Kev?" Brian asked as he stirred his Cheerios into his soy milk. Ick! I will never get used to that.

"Well, I think once we get into Joisey, we do a bunch of promo pics for the upcoming tour. I think we have an interview with some stupid fluffy magazine..."

"Oh that means I better get my favorite food and colors list ready." I reached over Brian and gave AJ a high five for that one.

Kevin ignored us and kept going, "And then we break up for things."

"I know I'm going to a children's hospital with Brian and AJ" Howie added, "I'm not sure of the time."

"Yeah and Nick and I get to go into New York."

"We do?" He nodded.

"You don't remember? You and your Mom are going on TRL to promote her book." Yeah, I probably blocked that out. When my mother told me she was writing a book on my life I thought she was kidding. Then when I actually saw her talking to a 'ghost writer' I became furious. I think that was truly the first time I had ever yelled at my Mom. Not only yelled at her but called her things no son should ever dare to call his Mother. My dad busted me for it. He actually slapped me for the first time in my life. I guess I deserved it too.

We barely talked for months after that. Now that I was 18, Mom didn't have to come with me as my chaperone any longer, so that had distanced us a bit. She hesitantly called to book us on TRL. As a matter of fact, she's not the one that even called me. It was her publicist. Why she even needed a publicist was beyond me. Sometimes I think my Mom forgets which one of us is famous.

"Hey Nick, who the heck is Mike?" I actually think I gasped when Kevin asked me that.

"Huh?"

"Mike, who is he?"

"Why do you ask?" I shoveled another spoonful of cereal into my mouth, not quite sure if I wanted to go down this road with the guys yet. It's not like I purposely didn't tell them about my brother. The guys knew about Bob and that he was my step dad but I never really told them much else. Sensing it was a touchy subject, they never asked either. Even though I know more then once, they wanted too.

"When I passed your bunk last night, I took your Walkman off your ears and you hit me and called me Mike." The other guys laughed.

"Awe cute, were you dreaming about a pet monkey or something?" I couldn't resist. I took a spoon of cereal and hit AJ in the face with it. He counter attacked with a piece of syrupy waffle. Sparking a mini food fight but more importantly making the subject of my brother forgotten.

Kevin was not happy with us but we didn't manage to make too much of a mess. As I cleaned the syrup out of my ears, I remembered what Kevin had said to me, "Why are you going into New York?" I asked him as he stood outside the bathroom waiting patiently for me to finish getting myself cleaned up and ready.

"I have some stuff to do at MTV too besides I figured you would like some company." I nodded. He really wanted to come because he didn't trust my Mom. The two of them made it no real big secret that they didn't like each other very much. They tended to butt heads about things. I was kind of happy Kevin would be there to act as a buffer between the two of us. We still weren't on the best of terms her and I.

"So you never answered my question before, about Mike?"

"Oh...yeah. I have no idea." I shrugged and moved out of the way so he could use the bathroom. I didn't feel like going into the dreams I have been having concerning my brother. They were all the same and all about that night. It's like suddenly all the memories I had tried so hard to avoid were invading my dreams. All ending with me waking up and missing my brother.

The first paycheck I got, I remember telling my Mom that I wanted to hire a private investigator to go look for him. Not dad but Mike. She frowned and said that Mike was an adult. If he wanted to find us, he would have.

I think I was fifteen at the time so I asked how old Mike would have been. She said 24. Same age as Kevin. I wonder if they would have been friends or if Kevin would have driven my brother as crazy as he drives me sometimes. She gave me a hug and said "I think by this time honey it's best to leave the past as the past. When the time is right, he will come to us"

By the time we hit New Jersey, we were ready for our crazy day.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~


"Mike this isn't break time! Get to work or lose your job!"

Mike rolled his eyes at his manager. The fourth manger he had in two months. The fourth job he had in two months. He knew he couldn't blow it this time. He was so behind on his bills including his rent that if he lost his job, this time he would be out on the streets. So even though he had every four letter word he could think of running through his mind, he bit his tongue and walked back into the busy record store.

By far out of all the jobs he had, working at the Virgin Mega store was the best. There was so many people in and out. So many famous people coming in to do autograph signings. He had only been there for three days and he had already seen Billy Joel and Stevie Wonder, shopping just like regular people. Of course, he couldn't get in more then a hello before being whisked away by the guy who was training him. There was a guy who was in charge of walking around with Mr. Joel and recommending things to him.

"How do you get that job?" He had asked one of his coworkers. Some girl with blue hair and a pierced nose, "You have to be screwing the manager of customer service."

"Oh, is she cute?"

"Oh yeah HE'S a real cutie pie." They both chuckled and became instant friends.

Her name was Melinda which didn't fit her badass image at all. Turns out she was in about the same predicament as Mike being in debt and one step away from homeless.

"Maybe we should live here in the store."

"Oh yeah, that's a grand idea."

"I hate this fucking place" Melinda cursed a lot.

"I kind of like it."

"You're new. Don't worry Mike. You'll hate it too in no time."

"Nah..I doubt it."

"Once you have to kiss the asses of a damn boy band you'll wish you were never born."

"Why do you say that?"

"Just wait and see." She said and threw her cigarette on the floor and stepped on it. That's when his manager told him to get a move on.

Mike felt refreshed being here so close to music. God he really loved the hell out of music. He had wanted so badly to go to college for it. He never got the chance though. He didn't even finish high school. So, he survived working one piddly job to the next. Eventually getting fired from them all because of his lateness and general lack luster attitude.

He guessed the drugs didn't help either.

"What's with the crowd outside?" he asked Melinda as he rung a customer's order through the register.

"There's a stupid ass Backstreet Boy going on TRL today."

"Oh" He didn't get TRL. He dared to watch it once but all the screaming and the stupid people talking during the videos seemed to have no point.

"That means it going to get busy as shit after the show. They come over all screaming and crying and buying their stupid CD's like their going out of style. I hate corporate America."

He just laughed.

"You know they should have really put you in the punk section. This pop/rock thing doesn't suit you well at all."

She stuck her pierced tongue out at him "Shut the hell up."

He laughed and she pretended not to be entranced by his good looks. He picked up on it though and smiled.

"You just wait and you'll see. After that jackass makes his appearance on TRL, all the teeny weenies will be in getting their CD. Just wait and watch." Almost as if on cue, Quit Playing Games With My Heart started blaring through the store.

"See? What the hell did I just tell you?"

"That's them huh?"

"Yeah" She sat against the back counter and filed her nails.

"He'll be in after his TRL appearance most likely."

"Well, at least it will be exciting."

"If you like screaming and crying 10 year olds it will be."

Mike decided to go out on the floor, he had enough negative energy thrown his way for now today. He walked over to the CD rack where the Backstreet Boys were displayed and laughed.

"I hate corporate America too." He said as he began to pile on even more CD's to the display. Glancing at the five pretty boys on the cover but thinking nothing of it.

2 by Mare
2

I fidgeted under my Mother's scrutiny, as she looked every inch of me over, making sure I looked perfect for our big appearance on TRL. It didn't feel right being here without the other's. At least Kevin was in the studio.

"Hold still" She grabbed my chin and actually licked her fingers and let her slobber make contact with my hair, "Aw Mom that's totally disgusting!" I couldn't believe she just did that, under the amused eyes of the MTV make up people. How embarrassing.

"Sorry you just had a fly away honey. I was fixing it. Now it looks good to go"

I batted her hand away. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Kevin smirking at me, "It's not funny Kev"

"Yeah it is squirt" I rolled my eyes at him but he still seemed pretty amused, "You ready to go out there?"

"Of course he is Kevin, he's a natural performer aren't you baby?" I tried to make my Mom shut up. That's why Kevin and the other guys didn't like her. She was a control freak. Funny that Kevin wouldn't like a control freak since he had a lot of control freakish issues himself, but the way my Mom acted, made it seem like she was this selfish stage Mom when I knew it was only to mask her true feelings of failure at not giving me a better life as a child.

Kevin ignored my Mom and asked me again, "Are you ready to go out there?" Mom got disgusted and walked out of the room. My eyes focused on her back as she left, she was annoyed and hated the fact that Kevin came with me. I know she did. It's weird to say, but I think the reason my Mom didn't like Kevin was because she was jealous of him.

Over the years, I found myself going to him more then her for advice or consoling. He was the one that was there for me, well him and the others but for some reason, maybe because he was the oldest, Mom seemed to resent Kevin the most.

"I wish it was Carson out there, at least him I know, Puff Daddy? I have no clue"

"You'll be find lil man"

"What if I accidentally call him Puffer Fish or something stupid like that?" The make up people thought that was pretty funny, "You know, now that you said that it will probably happen"

"Why can't rappers just have normal names? It would make my life so much easier"

"Yeah Nick, that's why they use those rapper names, to make YOUR life more difficult"

Kevin bat me on the head, but I was still anxious. I hated going on television. I know I am a total ham and love the spotlight but I have also been told by more than one person that I come across as a little dim witted when I speak in public. Damn nerves. I had just gotten so used to all of them doing the talking that having to go out there without them, made me triple nervous.

Kevin put a calming hand on my shoulder, "You will do fine, just let your Mom do most of the talking" I nodded.

"I need to go downstairs for a meeting about our next appearance, but good luck, I'll be watching"

"Okay, hey Kev, are you coming to Virgin with us after we're done?"

"Why? Are you going there?"

"Mom thought it would be a good idea to have us drop by there when we were done. Besides I wouldn't mind going to buy some things"

He tried not to look annoyed that it was my Mom's idea but I could tell he was. "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea"

"Coolness"

After Kevin left the room my Mom came back in, she sat down and stared at me while I fidgeted under her gaze. I absolutely hated when she did that to me. I wasn't gonna give in this time. I wasn't gonna let her get to me, "What?!?" I finally said after two minutes.

She smiled, "You look great kiddo. You ready to do this?"

"Yeah, Mom are you mad at me?"

She walked over and hugged me, "No, why would I be mad at you?"

"I don't know, you always seem mad at me" She pulled away from me and became cold once again, "Let's not start again okay?"

"Okay, sorry. I was just asking" There was a time when my Mother was my best friend. After my dad and brother abandoned us, as she likes to say, she went through a period of time where she ignored me, but after she met and married Bob, her and I became inseparable. I was a mommas boy. Those were good days. Rare and short, but good.

"We are ready for you" The producer said ushering us down the hall and towards the studio where screams of teenage girls could be heard echoing down the hallways.
~~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Mike shifted from one foot to the other as the day wore on. This was the worst part about retail. Having to stand for 8 hours straight. It got old after about the 4th hour. By the 7th, which is where he was now, it became almost unbearable. He supposed he would get used to it in time, but for now his feet were beginning to tingle with the feel of pins and needles. "God, I wonder if small third world countries use this as a form of torture?"

Melinda laughed, "Use what?"

"The standing for 8 hours at a time"

"Who knows? Throw in some crappy music and you have your own private hell" Mike laughed as he leaned against the counter, trying to give his aching feet a rest. "Hey, at least you only have one more hour of this. I still have four to go" she said pointing to the clock.

"I did my time, time for you to do yours" He smirked at her. He loved to flirt, he figured it was one of the only things he was any good at. His father had told him more than once, that it was a gift from God.

Melinda ventured over to the window, "Uh oh here they come" She said as she saw a shift in the crowd as they started to head to Virgin, "This is the fun part"

The shift manager came over to the two of them plus called over the other ten people working in the section for a small meeting by the registers, "I just wanted to let you know, that Nick Carter and Kevin Richardson are making there way into the store" There was a mixed bag of groans and shrieks of excitement, depending on the gender and age of the worker. "So, it's gonna get a little crazy up here in a few minutes. They are going to close off this part of the store so the two of them can shop which will leave us with the job of making sure no stray fans make their way over there to bother them" Then she quickly started to bark orders to everyone, the lucky girls who were assigned to help Kevin and Nick shouted with glee, while Melinda and Mike were stuck with register duty.

"You guys are lucky, you will definitely get to meet them" One of the girls from the pop section said. "Yeah lucky us" Melinda said sarcastically sticking up her middle finger at the Backstreet Boys display in the middle of the floor.

Mike laughed, she cracked him up. He wanted to ask her if she was dating anybody but he didn't want it to seem like he was totally into her yet anyway. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a hurricane coming through the store. All you heard was a shrill high pitched scream. It sounded like the world's loudest fire alarm. Mike grimaced, "God! Why the hell are they screaming like that?"

"I have no idea but if they don't stop I'm gonna go down there and personally start kicking some ass"

The screaming went on for about twenty minutes never subsiding as the two boy band members signed autographs. The manager came over, "Okay showtime people, here they come and remember we kiss there asses okay?" Melinda and Mike looked at each other in disgust as the two boys, three body guards and at least fifteen other people followed them up the escalator and into the pop/rock section of the store. Mike was entranced by the scene, picturing himself in this scenario. Or trying to anyway. His dad laughed at his dreams, never once allowing him to try performing or encouraging him in any way.

His eyes watched a the two stars walked with their own personal posse's through the store piling CDs into their carts like they were shopping at a dollar store. Occasionally they would stop and pose for a picture with a store employee and sign an autograph here or there, but for the most part, all they did was shop.

"It must be nice to have that much money huh?" He looked over at Melinda when she didn't reply and smiled when he saw her unfazed and flipping through Circus magazine. "Money is the root of all evil Mikey" She said snapping her gum as she flipped the page.

"I guess" He noticed the boys were now making their way over to the registers only to be stopped by a group of teenagers who had managed to elude security and make their way onto the floor. "Looks like there is trouble a brewing" That made Melinda finally look up to notice the sudden huddle of screaming, crying fans around the two boys.

The crowd was making them shift back and forth and at one point Mike was sure they were going down. It was the first time he actually got a close up look at them both too. The brunette seemed to be handling his own, smiling at the teenagers as they shrieked his name but the other one was much more quiet and looked absolutely terrified. Afraid the crowd would swallow him whole in one gulp.

"He's really young" Mike said now leaning on the front counter willing his numb feet to stop tingling on him.

"Yeah I think he's like five or something"

"Who would do that to their child? Put them in show business at that age?"

"The same kind of person who would write a book about him and collect money off of his fame"

"Is that right?" Melinda nodded. "yup, that's why they were on TRL. The Mom wrote a book"

"That's awful"

"Tell me about it. I think she should be shot" Mike laughed, "Is she in here?"

"How the hell am I supposed to know?"

"I think you are a closet fan" She stuck out her middle finger at him, but he knew he was right. She knew a little too much otherwise.

The crowd was finally broken apart with the girls being led back down the stairs crying as they were literally carried away, their arms extended crying out "Nick!" and "Kevin!"

"Okay looks like we're up" She said as she placed her magazine behind the counter and smiled at the guys walking towards them. Kevin went to her register while Nick went to Mike's.

Mike did a double take when he saw how full the cart was in front of him. He didn't think any one person could own so many CDs. Was he even going to listen to all of these?

He glanced at the pop star for the first time, noticing although he was a little older then five, he was still definitely a teenager. Mike smiled at him and noticed the blonde fidgeting and biting his bottom lip. "Guess you like Nirvana huh?" Mike tried to strike up conversation with him, like he would anybody else he rung up.

"Huh?"

"I said guess you like Nirvana, you bought five of the same Nirvana CD"

"Oh yeah, I love them. I bought one for every car plus one for the bus"

"Oh" At least he's old enough to drive.

"Journey? I love Journey" Nick's eyes gleamed when Mike said that. "Me too. They are the best. Steve Perry is my idol!"

"Mine too" Nick smiled and relaxed what seemed like for the first time since they had entered this store.

Mike looked over at Melinda and caught her staring at the blonde in front of him. Yeah right Melinda, sure you don't like them. He made a mental note to make fun of her for it later. Finally after he scanned the last CD, which happily were all good ones with the exception of a few things he never would be caught listening too, he hit the total button.

"WOW!" He didn't mean to say it out loud it just caught him by surprise. Nick seemed a little embarrassed and Kevin glanced over as well. "Okay well..that's $645.98"

"Okay" Nick said handing over his credit card not thinking anything of it at all. "That's like almost as much as I pay for rent" Mike said again not thinking before he said it. Nick laughed uncomfortably and his manager glared at him. Melinda smiled though.

Once the charge was cleared his bodyguard grabbed the bags except for the one holding the Journey CDs. That one Nick kept for himself. Before walking away, Nick looked over at Mike's name tag, "Thanks for taking care of me Mike" He pulled a Journey CD out of his bag and handed it to the clerk, "This one is for you"

"Thanks a lot" Mike said surprised by the nice gesture. Then watched Nick make his way with Kevin over to a blonde woman standing by the escalator. He hugged her and handed her a CD from his bag. She kissed him and lovingly put her arm around his shoulder as they made their way down the escalator.

Mike looked down at the CD that Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys had given him and he couldn't help but smile when he saw what it was, Frontiers his favorite Journey record.

"The bushy browed one didn't give me crap" She said as she grabbed the CD away from Mike and looked at it.

"That was nice of him" another clerk said walking over to the register after seeing what transpired there.

"Yeah it was"

"They were both really nice" Another clerk said.

"I can't relate to those guys at all" Mike said putting his new CD under the counter for the next ten minutes that he was clocked in for.

"Well, you may not think you have anything in common with those guys but I have to tell you that that you and that blonde have the same exact eyes" Melinda winked at Mike and he winked back at her.

As his shift finally came to an end, Mike grabbed his CD and his jacket and headed back to his small apartment hoping to track down that guy he got his weed from along the way home.
3 by Mare
Just wanted to say thanks for all the feedback :)


3

Mike sat on his raggedy old couch, smoking some weed while listening to Journey. He closed his eyes and tried to see anything other then the dismal situation life had put him in. So many times he wished he had the power to transport himself out of there and too another time. Maybe walk out the door and instantly change his identity.

A fresh start.

That's all he wanted. He had thought about calling Melinda after her shift was over, see if maybe she wanted to come over and watch a movie or something, but he didn't know her well enough to do that so instead he found himself scrolling down the pages of his black book, looking for a girl to call. Someone to come over and keep him company. His eyes stopped on his ex girlfriend. They hadn't ended on good terms but he missed her, so he took a deep breath and tried her, grimacing when she actually picked up the phone.

"Hello?"

"Suzi?" He said after a few moments of debating whether or not he should just hang up and forget about this whole stupid idea.

"Oh my God, what do you want?" Yup he had definitely made a mistake.

"I just thought I'd call to see how you were. I miss you"

She laughed, "You're kidding right? Please tell me your kidding"

"No, of course not"

"Mike I thought I made it perfectly clear to you that I wanted you to drop dead in the most painful way imaginable"

"I thought that maybe..."

"Maybe what? You stupid bastard, you came into my home and robbed me!"

"I didn't mean too honey, it was the drugs"

"Don't call me honey. What... so does that mean your clean now?" Mike couldn't help but feel a little guilty that he was about to lie while smoking a joint, "Yeah Suz, I'm an all new person"

"I'm glad to hear that Mike, but I have moved on, you should too" And with that she hung up on him.

"That went well" He snickered to himself, sitting back and taking another puff of his joint. He hadn't totally lied to Suzi, he was off the heavy duty stuff. Busted for a misdemeanor robbery, he was sentenced to a drug rehab where he got pretty much cleaned up. That seemed like such a long time ago, but when he thought about it, it had all happened less then a year ago.

There were many times, especially on nights like this one, where he was feeling particularly lonely, that staying sober had been a challenge. He decided that joints were harmless. So he still smoked them regularly. He blamed his stupid father for all of his grief. The guy ruined his life, plain and simple.

He tried not to let his mind go back to those days but he often found himself living amidst those memories. Memories of his dad lying to him, telling him they would be going back home soon, while selling drugs to survive. Dad who made it a ritual to go into a grocery store and make a check out for double the amount, getting the cash in his hands and ignoring the bank fee when check after check bounced.

His father taught him how to steal things by putting them under a shopping cart so no one would notice and then going back to an unsuspecting clerk and telling them he was short changed, walking out with a twenty when he had paid with a single. That was how John Alexander worked.

"What an ass" He said under his breath. Knowing that his dad had finally got caught stealing and was rotting in prison made him oddly happy.

Mike flicked through the channels stopping on MTV where they were talking about that Backstreet Boy's appearance on TRL. They showed the crowd from earlier that day and talked briefly about that kids Mom writing a book about him. He rolled his eyes when he heard her name was Jane. "What is it with Mom's and that name. Must they all be total bitches?"

He had gained an intense hatred of his Mother over the years, as he stayed with his alcoholic father with no sign of the woman even looking for him. He also wondered whatever happened to his brother. He smiled, "Nicky" Noticing the similarity between his brother and mother and THIS guy with his mother.

"Both Nick and Jane. Weird coincidence there" They showed the blonde from earlier that day shifting nervously while he talked, falling over his words and looking for his Mom's approval. They barely even showed her, instead focused on him. Mike smiled at the screen, "Thanks for the CD kid, you have no idea how much I needed that today"

Once Nick Carter was off the screen and a stupid rap video began to play, he shut the television off and closed his eyes, listening to the song Faithfully as it blared through his apartment.

"Maybe someday" He said as he lost himself in the chorus of the song, playing air guitar and wishing for brighter days.
~*~*~*~*~*~*
All I wanted was for her to leave. It seemed the older I got, the less I wanted my Mom around me. She drove me nuts, when I was little I was able to handle it, all it did for me these days was get on my nerves. She insisted that I go to one more book signing with her, this time at a tiny little place on Long Island. I wanted to say no, I only had three days off and I didn't want to spend one of them stuck in a book store with fans who could really care less about my Mom anyway. Of course I smiled and said I would. I just couldn't stand up to her. I never won so why bother.

So when we all met back at our hotel in Manhattan, I was more then happy to make up any excuse I could think of to get away from her and her nagging. The instant I saw Brian I found my salvation. He looked at me and laughed knowing full well how I must have been feeling, "Hey there guys, how did the appearance go?"

"It went good" He walked over and gave my Mom a hug and kiss. "Honey, I'm going back to our room to rest a bit okay?"

"Our room? Mom I was going to room with Brian"

"Oh that's okay Nick, your Mom is in town" Brian said with an evil grin that only I could see.

"No really" I gave Brian a dirty look, he was doing that on purpose, "I really kind of want to hang with you tonight" Then I turned to my Mom with pleading eyes. Of course she looked hurt, she wouldn't be Jane Carter if she didn't, "Okay, that's fine. Whatever. I'll see you in a little while" When my Mom left, I turned to Brian and stuck my tongue out at him, "You are an ass"

"That's it, I'm telling your Mom you said that" I walked over and jumped on his back making him fall to the ground.

"Easy, let's not cause a scene okay?" Kevin said hauling Brian up and sending me a warning glance.

"You did do a great job today lil man"

"You think so?" He nodded which made me smile. "Although you really went a little crazy at Virgin"

"Why? What did he do?" Brian was playing keep away with me since his hands had found my Diskman. He yanked it away from me and fidgeted with it from one hand to the other as I tried to get it away from him.

"He bought out the store, what did your bill come to Kaos?"

"I don't remember"

"Nick, you have to keep track of those things, you spent about $600 in there"

"He did?" Brian finally gave in and gave me my Diskman back shaking his head at my little shopping spree.

"What? It's not like I bought them all for me, I am giving them away for Christmas, I even got you something"

"You did?"

"Yup" I wiggled my eyebrows at him hoping he would be curious. "Cool, I'll be excited to see what it is"

"Don't you want a hint?" He laughed, Brian knew me so well. He knew I wasn't going to be able to wait until Christmas to give him what I had bought for him.

"No, I want to be surprised"

"Okay" I said in my sing song voice, "But I really think you are going to want to know what it is" Both he and Kevin cracked up. "He even gave a CD to the guy who waited on him at the store"

"Oh that was nice Nick"

"I know, I'm a saint. He said he liked Journey so I had to"

"You didn't buy me Journey did you?"

"Nope, I bought you Marilyn Manson" I crack myself up.

We all traveled into Kevin's room where a huge dinner was waiting for us, compliments of the Four Seasons Hotel. All of this gourmet food that I will never have a taste for. They made a burger for AJ and I. We sat around eating and talking. I really enjoyed being with these guys. They really were my comfort zone. As a matter of fact the first time I felt uncomfortable was when my Mom entered the room from her nap.

The five of us fell silent for some reason which I'm pretty sure enraged her. Mom always tended to think people were talking about her behind her back. "How come you didn't come and get me Nickolas?"

"Sorry Mom, I didn't want to wake you"

"That's okay, actually Dad is coming up tonight so, you my dear, are off the hook" I tried to hold in my excitement, but I'm sure she picked up on it. "When is he getting here?"

"In an hour or so, we are going out to eat and then catch a show. You are more then welcome to come with us honey"

"No, that's okay. You guys go have fun"

"But tomorrow you are still coming with me to Long Island but then Dad and I are going back home"

"Okay" I walked over and gave her a kiss.

I was glad Dad would be coming to keep her company, there was something about being 18 and hanging out with your Mom that seemed wrong to me. When she left, Kevin looked at me and his expression grew serious for a minute, just then I had second thoughts about not going with Mom after all.

"Hey Nicky, come here a sec" I walked over and sat down, "You know I hate being called Nicky right?"

"Shut up" Alrighty then.

"What's up?"

"We were just wondering how you were really feeling about this whole book thing?"

We? Funny...I guess that meant I was a topic of discussion.

"I guess okay"

"It doesn't bother you at all?"

"A little..but what can I do about it?"

They all nodded. "If you need to talk we're here squirt" AJ said, but I laughed because when he was serious it cracked me up for some reason. "Thanks"

"So, what's the plan for tomorrow? Is anybody actually going to attempt going home?" Everyone shook there heads, "Not enough time. I'm just chillin in the Big Apple Dawg" I laughed out loud at Howie. He was such a corn nut sometimes.

"It looks like we all be chillin in the NYC peeps" I said giving them my Yo Yo rap look.

"Word to your mother" Brian agreed.

"Sometimes I worry about all of you. You know that?"

"What? Kevin worry?" I once again had everyone laughing. If only I could be like this in public.

"Oh..wow before I forget to tell you guys, we have a BIG TRL appearance before Millennium comes out in April"

"Talk about planning ahead, it's only November dude"

"I know, but I wanted to let you know before I forget"

"Thanks"

"I say tomorrow we go try to shoot some hoops Bri, what do you say?"

"It's a deal Nicky" He of course emphasized the Y. Which led me to once again jump on top of him.

"Just another day in the life of the Backstreet Boys" Howie said as he watched Kevin and AJ pile on top of Brian and I.
4 by Mare
4

The next day I sat next to my Mom as she signed book after book for teenage girls who were only there to see me. I don't think my Mom realized that but I did. The line extended all the way out the door and wrapped around the building. "Oh my goodness. I knew this book would be a success. What did I tell you baby?" She said pulling me into a hug.

"Yeah Mom" Was my only response. Truth was I was in a horribly bad mood. I barely got any sleep last night because Brian and I spent most of it talking. Of course he had nothing to do today so he could sleep in, me on the other hand, my Mother came into my room at 7am telling me it was time to wake up. I have been in an awful mood ever since.

"You don't seem excited" She said, I think noticing my ill mood. Of course when you are in a terminally bad mood the last thing you want to do is make other people feel good, so I was honest. "I'm really not. I feel like I'm on display" Yup that did the trick. She really wasn't happy with that response at all.

"You are a pop star baby, of course you are on display"

"But that's different, I'm not with the Backstreet Boys today, I am with you" She handed a book over to me to sign for the girl waiting in front of my Mother which I did then handed it back to her. She was crying. Why they cry I will never understand. Fans, I don't think I will ever get them.

"This is not the time to talk about this Nickolas"

"You brought it up, not me"

My Mother finally lost her temper just as a girl was trying to hand her a copy of my book. "You know, if you are going to have this kind of attitude, I would rather you leave"
I rolled my eyes at her and stood up to walk over to my dad.

"No!!" I turned to see the girl who was standing in front of my Mom trying to pry the book out of my Mother's grip to make her way over to me. The sight made me laugh. My Mother didn't seem to want this girl to leave before she got to sign the book, the girl on the other hand, really just wanted to make her way over to me. I thought she was going to yank my Mom right out of the chair she was pulling the book back so hard.

"Don't laugh, it's not funny" My dad said hitting my back. Of course he was smiling too. Finally the girl made her way over to me, Mom not looking very amused. She came over and handed me the book, "Could you please sign this for me?" As if trying to prove my point, I said nice and loudly, "Aww sweetheart, this is my Mom's book, I'm only here to watch"

The girl looked a little annoyed and tried again, "I came for your signature, your Mom is a nice lady but...please?" He smiled and grabbed the book, "And who do I make this out to?"

"Kat"

"As in meow meow?" She laughed, "Yup and can I get a picture too?" After I signed her book I decided to add further insult to injury and asked my Mom if she could take the picture, knowing full well she was too busy. I was just being a brat. My father took the camera and snapped a few shots.

The line which had been in front of my Mom began to shift towards where I was standing. I was enjoying it briefly until I saw my Mother look like she was going to cry. I really didn't mean to make her THAT upset. I was just trying to prove a point. I went and sat next to her for the remainder of the book signing but she refused to say one word to me. I hated the fact that our relationship was so strained these days, but it was her fault not mine.

When the last book was signed and the last picture was posed for, I finally allowed myself to stand up and stretch. I was going to go back to that hotel and take a power nap. My Mom and Dad were off in the corner talking to her editor, but then her gaze kept going to me. I smiled at her but she turned away.

Now I felt guilty. I wondered if it was normal for a Mother to play mind games with her son, the way mine did with me. I didn't think Brian's Mom ever did that to him. She walked over holding Dad's hand, "Thanks for coming out here" She said surprising me a bit.

"It's okay Mom. Sorry I was being a je.."

"We are going to Paris! Tell him Bob" I looked over to my Dad. "I am whisking your Mom away for the week to France" I smiled but again felt annoyed, Mom picked up on it, "With the advance I got for the book" I was sad she felt the need to throw that in there, but I guess I may have been giving off that vibe. Who knows?

"That's great guys. You will have a blast I'm sure" I gave my Mom a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

"I love you Mommy"

"I do to brat"

We made our way back to the hotel with nearly a word spoken except by my dad, rambling the way he did whenever my Mom and I got into stupid fights. Which these days, seemed to occur more and more. I hugged them again and made my way to my room, where Brian was STILL sleeping, and plopped on my bed. Where I stayed until Brian woke me up insisting I play basketball with him. Giving me until he got out of the shower to get myself ready to go. I just sat up and stared at the wall. It dawned on me to maybe call my Mom and Dad and say good-bye to them before they left. I rang their room only to find out they had already checked out and left me a little message saying they'd see me in a week or so.

They didn't even wake me up to say good-bye, just left me a little note and that was that. It was hard for me to even wonder anymore, if I were a real kid going to a real school, if it would be normal for parents to just leave their child and go to Europe for a week without so much as a do you need anything? Or this is where we'll be in case of an emergency, or how about I love you and I'll miss you? Nothing.

Brian walked out of the bathroom and threw a basketball my way, "You ready to go play?"

"Do I look ready to go play?" I asked him, still reeling from a bad case of bed head. My hair looked even worse when I laid down for a nap then it did when I would sleep on it all night. My head was weird that way.

"No one would recognize you, so yeah I say go out just like that" I threw my pillow at him, "Let me get fixed up then we'll go"

"Okay" He said throwing himself on the floor and popping in a video game to keep himself occupied.

"How did it go anyway?"

"It went"

"That good huh?"

"Yeah" Brian knew me well enough to know I was done with Carter talk for the day, so he just became engrossed in his video game. I came out of the bathroom looking and feeling much better then I did walking into the bathroom. I hated to say it, but Mom's departure lightened my mood a bit.

I grabbed the ball "Let's go we don't have all day" He ran in front of me, I closed the door, "Where are we going anyway?" He laughed as we raced each other down the hall towards the elevator where our bodyguards were patiently waiting for us.
~*~*~*~*
He ran into the record store fifteen minutes late for his shift, not even bothering to tie his shoes or brush his hair. He was met with the disapproving glance of the manager who was forced to count his register and relieve the person he was supposed to be relieving himself.

"Nice of you to grace us with your appearance Alexander"

"I know, I'm sorry, I didn't hear my alarm"

"You know, you have only been working here four days and you have been late three of them"

"It won't happen again"

"You're right, it won't" The manager threatened as he walked off to do whatever it was managers did. He looked over to see Melinda smirking at him, "Way to piss off the big guy Mike"

"Yeah, I really have quite a talent for pissing people off" She laughed.

"So..." she said glancing up at his hair, "Rough night?" He suddenly found himself working his hands through his hair and straightening out the parts that were sticking up as he rolled his eyes at her. "Yeah I guess you could say that"

"Care to elaborate?"

"Not really"

"Okay..whatever" She seemed annoyed with him, he really did have a gift for pissing people off.

"Look, I'm sorry I'm a little grumpy, I'm still a little tired"

"It's almost noon"

"What? Are you going to try to tell me you're a morning person Melinda?"

"As a matter of fact I am" Mike laughed and started to settle himself down a bit. He hated being late for everything but he did little to remedy the situation. Before he dropped out of high school unwilling to repeat the tenth grade for, ironically enough, too many missed days of school, he would regularly get detention for being late.

His reasoning was he would still have to serve the detention whether he was five minutes late of five hours late so may as well stretch it as long as he could. He rarely even saw a first period of any class. Opting to sleep in the extra time and then kind of just mosey on into second period. Not like he had anyone telling him not too. Dad really didn't care. He was actually happy when Mike dropped out of school. One less thing for him to worry about.

"So, plan on working anytime soon?" He looked up to see Melinda holding a box of CD's out to him. He grabbed them from her, "I guess you want me to put them out huh?"

"Yes please"

"Okay fine" He left the counter and went to load up the shelves, he was glad, he hated being behind the register. At least being out on the floor made the day go by faster. He looked down at the box and smiled, "Of course, why wouldn't it be you guys?" He said walking over to the empty Backstreet display.

"You know, it doesn't scare me that you are talking to the CD but if it answers, then I'll be a little nervous" He closed his eyes feeling a little dumb for being caught talking to himself to be met with another co worker of his, "Hey Ariana"

"Howdy Michael" Mike smiled at the woman who was about the same age as he was. She was a bright ray of sunshine always smiling and making people feel happy, compared to the antithesis which was Melinda. Mike himself was quite taken with her, but she was happily engaged to someone else. She grabbed a CD from the box, "You know I have the worst luck in the world, the one day I call in sick and I miss Nick. Tell me how life is fair"

"Sorry, he gave ME a CD" He gloated.

"Yeah, I heard, that's not fair either by the way" she pulled the cover up even with Mike's face and stared from one to the other, "You know, in a weird kind of way, you look a little bit like him you know"

"I do?"

"Yup"

"Maybe it's the eyes. Melinda said we have the same eyes"

"Yeah, she's right you do, but you guys also have the same smile"

"You want me don't you Ariana?" She laughed and playfully hit him over the head with her price puncher. He looked over to see if Melinda was jealous and couldn't help but smile when he saw that she was.

"That's okay, one of my friends went to his book signing this morning so she's bringing back an autographed copy"

"Cool"

"Yup, I thought so too"

Three hours later, while once again shifting from foot to foot only to receive chuckles from Melinda, Ariana's friend came back to the store with that book. Mike looked on as she grabbed the book and hugged it, like it was Nick Carter himself. "Oh great, now she's gonna show us his signature, can't wait" Melinda huffed while plastering on a fake smile. Yup she was jealous alright, Mike and his male ego thought at the same time.

"Hey guys look at what Maria brought me" She said handing the book over to Mike. "To Ariana with love, Nick Carter" He said out loud.

"Well mersey me" Melinda said sarcastically, "I think Nick must be in love with you"

Mike flipped through the pages looking at old pictures when he suddenly felt himself swaying, "My God" he said in barely a whisper. All three of the girls looked at him concerned that he was going to pass out, that's how white he suddenly became.

"Who is this woman?" He asked a very confused Melinda. She only answered with a shrug. "That is Nick Carter's Mother" Maria, the girl who had brought the book in the first place said.

Mike couldn't hold his legs up any longer. He was really beginning to sway. This was impossible. Totally impossible. "Mike, do you need to sit down? I'll go get one of the managers" Ariana said running to find help. Mike drowned her out, all he could do was look at her face. The face of the woman he used to call Mom.

"Where was this book signing?" He asked still visibly shaken.

"In Long Island but it is long over now"

"Where is he staying do you know?"

"Who?" Mike pointed to the picture of Nick on his Mom's lap.

"They usually stay at the Four Seasons when they are in New York, but he might be gone by now"

"What's going on Mike? You're scaring the hell out of me?" He turned to Melinda, not even knowing where to begin. He had so many thoughts going through his mind. So many emotions ripping through him at that moment, all he could do was run. He needed to talk to Nick. Get some answers.

"I have to go" He said taking Ariana's book with him, "Wait! My book"

He turned to her, "I'll get you another one"

"But it's autographed"

"I'll bring it back to you I promise"

"You're gonna get fired" Melinda yelled to him as he walked towards the escalator, "I'll call you tonight" he said hoping management wouldn't catch him and force him to stay.

This is impossible. He thought one final time before going into a full on sprint right out of the store.
5 by Mare

5

It frustrated me to know end that something as small as playing basketball had to be turned into such a major production. We couldn't just go to a court somewhere, we had to go to a remote place, where the chances of being recognized was zilch and then make sure we had permission or could get permission to be there. Why, is still a mystery to me considering we have about 800 pounds of security with us between Brian's bodyguard and my own. Okay maybe I'm exaggerating but not by much.

I used to be terrified of them. I thought if they really wanted to, they could just stomp me to the ground. Luckily they have turned into so much more then security for me, they also became great friends. That's how I chose to look at them when I went out for something like this. They weren't there protecting me from whackos, they were my friends hanging out with me.

So, we finally ended up about thirty minutes up the road at an elementary school, PS 187 or something like that. All I know is, I was glad to finally be able to play some ball. Too bad I sucked at it. Within about ten minutes I was losing horribly, but Brian being such a great guy, didn't gloat...much.

"You know my Grandmother plays better than you" He said shooting another two point shot into the basket.

"Who cares? My grandma plays better than your grandma" That helped, he laughed and while he was distracted I ran past him and made a shot.

"That was cheating Nick!"

"Hey, I take it anyway I can get it"

I ran towards Keith, my bodyguard, "Wanna play?" He smiled, "No squeeb you go ahead"

He called me squeeb, I never got that. I have no clue what a squeeb is and I never bothered to ask him. That was his nickname for me. Of course while I was distracted talking to Keith, Brian managed to steal the ball and make another shot.

"NO fair!"

"Life's not fair squirt"

"Squeeb, squirt what is it with you people and your silly nicknames? And I seriously am not a squirt. I tower over you buddy" Brian shook his head and threw me the ball, "So...you mentioned Mike again last night"

"I did?" He nodded.

"Yup" I threw the ball from where I was standing hoping it would go in but of course it didn't. "If that went in I would've eaten my hat" He said coyly.

I was bothered that I was talking about my brother in my sleep again. "Brian, I..." I wanted to tell him right there, but stopped myself, figuring I would tell him over a midnight snack and a game of Nintendo.

"What?"

"Nothing, let's head back. I'm a sweaty mess"

He wiped himself off with a towel and threw a clean one my way, "Since you are quitting, I guess I won huh?"

"I'm not quitting I just don't want your old body to tire out on you" He whipped me in the butt with his towel as we walked out of the gym and back to the limo.
~*~**~*~*~~*
Mike almost got hit by not one car, but two on his quest to get to the Four Seasons Hotel. He wasn't paying attention to where he was going, and in this city, that was not a good idea. He probably looked like one of those crazy homeless people he always passed up on the street, the ones that always seemed to be conversing with an imaginary friend. He couldn't help it though, the same thoughts kept running through his mind the entire sprint towards the hotel, "This is impossible, how can this be?" Over and over again he heard himself utter the words.

When he finally was close enough to the hotel to see the huge sign, he allowed himself to smile. "This is unbelievable" He noticed people looking at him the same way he looked at those crazy people, he didn't care though, this was big. Not only had he found his little brother but he was..."My brother is a pop star!" He laughed/screamed to a crowd of New Yorkers waiting for a light to turn red so they could move in a herd across the street.

They didn't seem to care, but Mike did. How on Earth had that happened? They were in the store. He had actually waited on him. How could he not know? Then a scary thought occurred to him, one he refused to let linger in his mind. "What if Nick knew? Maybe that is why he gave me the CD?" Nah impossible. There was no way the kid would have known.

Kid? He smiled again, his brother was 18 years old. WOW! "My brother the Backstreet Boy" He laughed as he walked into the huge lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel.

He was blown away by the size and just overall extravagance of the place. It was beautiful. He walked over to the front desk, "Excuse me?" The snobby looking man looked up at him, "Yes?"

"I was wondering if you could tell me what room Nick Carter is staying in?" The hotel clerk laughed, "I'm sorry sir but we don't give out personal information on any of our guests"

"He is staying here correct?"

"I'm sorry sir I can't give you that information"

"Yeah he's staying here, they always stay here" Mike turned around to see a trio of young teenage girls staring back up at him. They all had his brother's name as well as the rest of the band plastered all over their shirts.

"Oh, thanks"

"Sure, we are waiting for at least one of them to make an appearance, we saw Nick and Brian leave a while ago but they were fast so we didn't get to talk to them or anything"

"They left?" Mike's heart sank.

"Yeah but they'll be back. Hopefully the others will come down soon" He noticed that all three were holding copies of his Mother's, just thinking that sent chills down his spine, but his mother's book in their hands. Then he realized that he was too. He forgot that he had stolen the book from poor Ariana with not so much as a single explanation. Ah well, if he was right and Nick was his brother, maybe he could just bring HIM to the store and have HIM sign another one for her. He smiled again.

"Thanks for the info…" He extended his hand.

"Tori" she interrupted, "And this is Ashley and Meighan" He nodded to them all, "I'm Mike" He was tempted to finish with, "Nick Carter's long lost older brother" but stopped himself. He had a feeling they would have tackled him to the ground if he did that. Protecting their Idol to the death.

"So, are you like a fan or something?" He laughed, "Or something"

They quickly grew tired of the older man and turned their attention back on the elevator in hopes of just a glimpse of one of the boys. Mike however looked down at the book he had been carrying and realized that he had never bothered to even look through it or read it. So he decided to take a seat in the lobby and read while he waited for his brother's return.

It had been so long since he had seen any pictures of his Mom and brother. His dad had thrown the two he had in his wallet away one day leaving Mike to only recall them in dreams. Another horrible thought suddenly filled his mind, replaced by the one he had previously, what if he was wrong? It has been a very long time since he had seen a picture, maybe his mind was just playing tricks on him. But as he turned page after page of the book seeing old pictures and reading old stories, he knew it was them. He also realized that he was nowhere to be found.

"It's like I never existed" he said aloud, suddenly angry at his Mother and even a little at his brother. The girls screamed which caused Mike to look up, hoping to see his brother. Instead he saw the other one who had been to Virgin yesterday, signing autographs and posing for a picture with those three girls.

Mike took a deep breath and slowly made his way over to Kevin who hesitantly smiled at him she stood there being hugged by the girls. Meighan ran over to Mike and handed him a camera, "Will you take a picture of all of us with Kevin please?" He nodded and snapped the picture hoping they would finally go away, which they did not.

He hadn't realized that Kevin was staring at him waiting for a pen or something already grabbing the book he had in his hand to sign it. "NO!" Mike said more forcefully they he had intended causing Kevin to pull back and shrug at him. "Sorry, I was just waiting for...do you know when Nick Carter will be back?"

"No sorry" Kevin's bodyguard, sensing Kevin's discomfort stepped in front of him, "Sorry, Kevin's done signing for now"

"I don't want his autograph, I just want to know when Nick..." Again Mike was answered with a shrug from Kevin as he was led out the door and to an awaiting van.

He once again took a seat on the chairs and leafed through the book stopping on a collage of pictures of Nick when he was a baby. Mike could remember when most of them were taken. He remembered how badly his brother used to cry when it came to getting his picture taken. He would have to tickle him under his chin to make him laugh. That was his ticklish spot, under the chin.

As he flipped through page after page and read a little bit, he got the sense that his mother was nothing more than a money grubbing stage Mom. He also realized that most of the pictures she had used, pictures that he used to be in, were altered to leave him out. He was probably lying somewhere on a cutting room floor.

He suddenly began to feel like maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. It was clear that he was no longer wanted. He got up to leave when he heard the girls squeal once again. When he looked up he saw them swarming around his brother and his friend, Bodyguards surrounding him. He smiled as he wrote but his body language said get me out of here. Which was precisely what Mike's heart was saying to him, get me out of here.

He stood there staring and unsure of what to do.

6 by Mare
6

This was my least favorite part about being famous. Always having to be 'on' I never knew what being 'on' meant until Lou gave me a two hour lecture about it when I was 15 in Germany and asked some girls if they could please stop screaming into my ear. He pulled me aside then and lectured me on the finer points of being a teen idol. "It goes with the job" He had said. "You should be grateful they are there at all. If they want to pull at your hair and rip your shirt off, let them and smile as they do it" Of course, it was easy for him to talk, he didn't have to worry about it. But that's exactly what I did when a swarm of girls stood around me screaming. I worried. So, naturally when Brian and I arrived back at the hotel to a few fans, I whined.

"God! How do they always know where we are?"

Brian looked over at me and smiled, "I have no idea, but at least there are only three of them I think"

"There's always more than three, just wait and see, suddenly the lobby will be swarming"

Keith stopped us by placing his hand on my shoulder, "If you want, we could find a back entrance" I looked over at Brian and shrugged, I would have loved to do that. Playing basketball made me hot and sweaty. The last thing I wanted to do was put on a happy face and hug people. I probably stunk.

"Nah, that's okay man. We'll rough it out. Nick and I are tough aren't we kid?" Brian winked at me which meant I should stop complaining now.

SO, I reluctantly followed Brian and Keith into the lobby where we were instantly greeted by shrieks. It sounded like there were thirty people standing around us by the way the girls were acting. I know I should have been grateful, but at that particular time I wasn't. I was hot and felt a headache creeping up behind my eyes, telling me that I was coming down with the start of a cold. All I wanted to do was shower and go take a long nap.

"Oh my GOD!! I love you guys so much!!" One of the girls said to me through tears, which instantly made me feel guilty for ever wanting them to go away in the first place. I smiled and grabbed her in a hug "Thanks darling" I gave her my smirk which I'm pretty sure did the trick because she started full out balling onto my shoulder. Brian was busy signing an autograph for one of the girls while the third one rambled on and on so fast about something, I couldn't understand a word she was saying. I just smiled and nodded hoping that she wasn't telling me that her dog died.

I finally got the crying girl to calm down as we posed for picture after picture. It seemed like when one girl was done the next one moved to take her place. They were doing the same thing to Brian. The funny thing was, they never once asked the two of us to pose together. I bet that's something they regretted when they got home. "Damn! We had them both why couldn't they make a me sandwich?"

"I just wanted to let you now how much you guys mean to me. I would be nothing without you and your music" I smiled, that touched me deeply. I mean, it's something I don't get really, I'm only a kid, how in the world can I make such an impact? Beats the hell out of me.

I'm pretty sure they would have stayed all day and followed us right up to our room to continue oogling if Keith hadn't nicely moved us along towards the elevators.

"I think you have a male admirer Nick" I looked over to the very amused face of Brian and saw him glance over at a guy who was staring at me. Even once I looked at him, he just kept staring. It was a little creepy actually. I smiled at him because I didn't know what else to do. One of the girls saw me glance towards the man and decided to fill me in, "He's here waiting for you" She said still bouncing up and down holding my mother's book in her hands.

"Aww isn't that sweet" Now Brian was really enjoying himself.

The man slowly made his way towards me also clutching my mother's book in his hands. Keith still continued to usher us towards the elevators never stopping, his hold firm on my arm guiding me away from the girls and the man.

"Excuse me" the man finally said. I turned towards him and smiled. He looked vaguely familiar. "I was wondering if I could speak with you for just a minute?" Now Brian who was having fun suddenly decided to get all protective, "Um..I'm really sorry but we are in a bit of a hurry" Now Brian was pulling me by one arm and Keith by the other.

"Please? It will only take a few minutes" He didn't sound sure of himself, which only made Keith more insistent that I leave right now.

"I'm really sorry" I said as the doors closed. I nervously ran my hands through my hair.

"I need a shower like no one's business!"

"Yeah you do" Brian was quick to agree which sent me running over to him and hugging him tight against my sweaty skin.

"Ewww Keith get him off of me dude"

I laughed as I pulled away. "See I told ya I stink" We all got a laugh out of that one.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~~*

Mike just stood there staring at the elevator doors that had closed on him, missing any chance he had of ever talking to his brother. He couldn't believe he hadn't been more forceful. Barrel his way onto that stupid elevator and demand some of Nick's time. But, he just let him go. With not so much as a word uttered about it.

Dejected, he walked past the screaming bouncy girls and out the lobby doors back to his apartment.

When he got there, he was met with a dozen messages on his answering machine. The first three were friendly reminders from bill collectors. We just wanted to remind you Mr. Alexander that you are two months past due on your credit card. How sweet of them. Then the calls from the store. At first they sounded concerned. "Mike where are you? Please give the store a call back as soon as you get this" to the last one on his machine, from the boss himself, "Mr. Alexander, if you still value your job you better call within the next ten minutes"

Once he got up the nerve to call, he was surprised to see that he still had a job. He got the "and if this ever happens again you're gone" speech but aside from that not a big deal was made about it. Thankfully.

His doorbell rang about an hour after that. He was in the middle of making a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. He had thought about just going to bed forgetting the day even happened, but his hunger prevented him from doing that. "Great who is it now?" He said wiping his hands on a dish towel and making his way over to the buzzer to let whoever it was in.

"With my luck I probably just buzzed the grim reaper up"

It wasn't the grim reaper, but could have very easily been the grim reaper's cousin, "Hi"

She bolted through the door, "Where the hell did you go?"

"Nice to see you to Melinda"

"Stop fooling around with me, seriously Mike. I could have fucking lost my job because I covered for your ass!" He knew it was because of Melinda that he still had his job.

"Sorry...it's just been a horrible day" He said sitting on his couch and placing his feet on his broken coffee table.

Melinda sat beside him, still looking angry but also grateful that he was alright.

"Why? What happened?" He rolled his eyes, did he really want to explain this to anyone when he had such a hard time dealing with it himself?

"It's nothing...thanks for covering for me. I owe you big time"

"Yes, you do Mike and you know how you can start?"

"How?"

"By telling me what had you running out of that store like a psychopath. Poor Ariana was beside herself" She laughed. "You had to see her, she kept saying HE HAS MY BOOK! it was pretty friggin hilarious"

"Yeah, I feel bad about that. I guess I owe her one too"

She turned on the couch to face him, a gesture which made Mike a little uncomfortable, he was never big on confrontations. "So, tell me what's going on" Melinda said slowing each syllable as she spoke.

"Okay, but if I tell you, do you promise not to go blabbing it to everyone?" She smiled and crossed her legs pretzel style on the couch, "Ooh, this must be good..I promise...now shoot"

He decided to tell her about everything, even the part about his dad in jail. She sat oddly quiet for Melinda. When he got to the part about Nick being his brother, her eyes grew big as saucers and then they sat in silence.

"So, you think I'm nuts?"

"No...but, are you sure? I mean absolutely sure?"

"No, but my gut tells me he is the one Melinda. I really think Nick Carter is my brother"

"Jesus Mike, this is the kind of shit you see on soap operas. This doesn't happen in real life" He nodded. She had a point, it was really bizarre. "So what are you going to do?"

"Nothing I guess, I tried to talk to him at the hotel but his security brushed me off"

"That's ridiculous, they wouldn't do that if they knew who you were"

"But they don't" She stood up and grabbed both of Mike's hands in hers pulling him off the couch, "Let's go"

"Where?"

"What do you mean where? We are going back to that hotel and you are going to talk to your brother if I have to cause a major scene to get you in to do it"

"I don't know Melin..."

"Do you want to talk to him Mike?" She asked still holding both of his arms close to her. Mike looked her in the eyes and smiled, "Of course I would. Nothing would make me happier"

"Well, let's go then!"

He suddenly felt a whole new rush of adrenaline over take him and once again wanted to run right to the hotel. He almost forgot to shut off the burner where his boiling water was waiting for him. By the time he was done with his story the water had just about evaporated entirely. He had forgotten all about the Mac and cheese. Now all he had on his mind was his little brother.

"But why out of all the groups and bands in the world, does your brother have to be a stinking Backstreet Boy?" She said as they closed the door ans headed back towards the hotel.
7 by Mare
(Quick author's note: I just wanted to take the time to thank Maegan, Alyssa, Julilly, Surabhi and Maddi for the positive feedback on this story. You guys are the reason for the next chapter so this one is for you!)
7

When they got back to The Four Seasons, the place seemed much more calm. The three fans that had been there waiting for his brother had finally gone, leaving the lobby quiet and peaceful. He looked completely out of place. Men sat in the huge chairs wearing suits and talking on cell phones or reading copies of Business Weekly while sipping an overpriced coffee.

If he looked out of place it was nothing compared to Melinda, decked out in her plaid red and black mini skirt and nose ring. Needless to say, people were staring.

"I don't think this is such a great idea"

"Oh stop being a wus Mike" She said as she pulled him along like a scared child following his Mom.

"What if he doesn't want to talk to me?"

"He'll want to talk to you"

"What if he doesn't?" And that was a good question. What if the kid had no desire to revisit his past? Mike was pretty sure if that was the case, he would be utterly devastated.

"He will want to see you, now shut up and let me think" She pushed him on to one of the big plush couches to more stares and now smiles. Mike felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment.

Melinda paced in front of him trying to think of how on Earth she could get Mike up to see his brother. Finally after about three minutes of pacing, she plopped down beside him in disgust. "I got nothing!" She said swinging her high topped sneakered feet back and forth.

"See? Maybe this was a stupid idea Melinda. I mean, there are just so many negatives to this"

"Maybe you're right Mike. I just wanted to help. I mean it's your brother for God sakes"

"I know" Suddenly he found himself very angry at his Mother once again. If she had only kept in touch, or tried to find him, maybe he would have had a chance to grow up in this life. The life of a pop star. Instead, of resigning himself to the fact that he had to go back to his small hole in the wall apartment where his macaroni and cheese waited for him.

"Life's not fair"

She looked over to her friend and saw how lost he seemed. She placed a consoling arm around him. Mike pulled back because of the unnatural gesture. "Life does suck doesn't it?"

Mike nodded and smiled at her.

"Maybe if we sit here long enough, he'll come back down here" She looked down at the book that Mike had made sure to bring with him on his journey back to the hotel. He held it like a security blanket. Maybe if he held it tight enough he could squeeze his Mother right out of there.

She grabbed the book from his hands and began flipping through the pages, "Looks like she remarried" She said pointing to a picture of the only man his brother knew of as father. "Funny how they look alike" She turned page after page, skirting over the words and occasionally laughing and making comments like, "This woman writes like an 8th grader" Followed by a swift, "No offense"

Then she finally stopped on a page where Jane, thinking of calling her Mom was almost offensive to him, was standing there holding a paintbrush in her hands. A small crooked smirk appearing on her face. "You look like her you know" She kept allowing her glances to pass between the book and Mike.

"I know" He said staring in silence at the elevators as they opened and closed for everyone except his brother.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
"God! Do we have to do another one?"

"Yes, Nick, it's no big deal. Why do you have such a problem with them? They just love the hell out of you"

"I know Kevin, but I hate television appearances. I always look fat and sound dumb"

"No, you don't and no you don't again. Relax, it goes with the job buddy"

"Don't worry Nick, Kev won't let you make a fool out of yourself" Howie said patting my arm, he was lying though, because when it came to doing these stupid interviews I always managed to say something utterly ridiculous. They always tried their best to make me talk too, even when I hung out in the back. Management insisted.

"I thought we had the day off"

"Well, we don't anymore so suck it up and stop whining"

"I'm not whining"

"Yes you are and we did have most of the day off, you got to play some basketball"

"Yeah but I also had a stupid book signing with my stupid Mother"

"Nick that's not nice" Leave it to Brian to cut in when I started to pick on my Mom, even though I am positive he agreed with me.

"I said stop whining Nickolas" Kevin said walking past me in the middle of buttoning his shirt and giving me a light kick on the butt as he did it.

"Ow! And I'm not whining!" I insisted brushing through my wet head of hair. I was looking forward to a night of goofing around up here, playing games and hanging out with the older guys, just being a kid and having fun, but no... stupid Lou and his stupid business head decided for us to do an interview and performance for some silly little talk show which I can't even tell you the name of because I don't think I have ever even seen it.

I grumbled looking through my bags, trying to find just the perfect thing to wear. I really wasn't in the mood to be 'on' tonight. I had my fill of it actually. Now I wanted to be 'off' for awhile. I started fumbling with the zipper of my duffel bag which held most of my underwear and socks. The zipper was stuck and no matter how hard I pulled I couldn't get the thing to open. Finally at my breaking point I threw it across the room, accidentally hitting AJ in the back.

"What the fuck was that for?" He said turning around and staring at me with fierce eyes.

"Sorry, I didn't meant to hit you, I was just frustrated"

"So you throw the bag across the room? Nice thinking Nick" Kevin was shaking his head at me. I hated when he did that.

"I don't want to go Kev, I have a headache and I just want to relax. Can you get me out of it?"

Now he shook his head some more then turned back in my direction, holding the bag in his hands.

"You get like this whenever your parents leave you know that?"

"What? This has nothing to do with them" It had everything to do with them. "I am just tired"

"Nicky, the interview will take all of about ten minutes tops, then we will come back and relax. Okay?"

"But I don't feel good" Kevin gave me the small smirk. The one saying 'please, I'm a pro at reading you by now.' I only answered his smirk with a frown, He handed the duffel bag to me "Do you need me to open that for you or you wanna just fling at random people until it opens by itself?"

"Good one Kev!" AJ cheered from across the room. I promptly gave him the middle finger in return. Brian seeing my sour mood sat down beside me and placed a loving arm on my back, "What's up turkey butt?"

"I don't feel good and I want to stay here"

"And?.." He made one of his silly puppy dog please tell me more type faces which made me laugh, "You are an idiot"

"I know what you are but what am I?" He said in his Jim Carrey voice.

"An idiot!"

"I know what you are but what am I?"

"An idiot" We were kind of pushing each other as we joked around until Kevin came and stopped our fun, "Enough you too. Nick get dressed already" Kevin winked at his cousin as if he had managed to get me out of my bad mood. But he didn't, believe me my mood had taken a turn for the awful. Maybe Kevin was right, maybe it was my parents. I mean first she totes me all over the place with her as she sells her book, about me! Then she runs off to Paris without even bothering to say goodbye. Sometimes I felt more like a business venture then a son.

"Guys you have ten minutes" Keith said peering his head into the room. Of course everyone was finished getting dressed and all ready to go except for me. I was still in my boxers and tee shirt, moping on the bed.

"Everyone out I want to talk to Nick alone for a minute" Kevin said pushing Brian out of the way, "See ya downstairs doofo burger"

"I know what you are but what am I?"

Then they finally all left, leaving me with Kevin. He sat down on the bed next to me "What's wrong Nick?"

"Nothing, like I said I am tired and don't feel good and just want to relax"

"We are all tired, there's more to it then that. Seriously is it your Mom?" I shrugged. He nodded, "I'm sorry kiddo, she loves you in her own way, I think sometimes she just gets too caught up in things"

"She didn't even say goodbye" He hugged me, "I know"

"It's just that she can be so..Sometimes I don't even think she cares Kev" Was that a tear I felt shimmy down my cheek? No way, not while I was in my boxers and tee was I going to cry on anyone's shoulder.

"She cares Nick, she cares" He said deciding it was best to just sit by my side and not putt me into a hug. I bet it was the underwear thing. "I'll tell you what, I'll make up some kind of excuse for you for tonight" My head shot up like I was electrocuted or something, "You mean it?"

"Yeah, you look a little flushed" He said bringing his hand to my forehead, "I'll see what I can do" Then he winked at me. "But just in case, better finished getting dressed" He stood up and left the room. When he was gone, I lost it. I started to cry, why the heck did I let my Mother get to me like that?
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~~*~*~*~*
Melinda shook her head in disgust as she finally closed the tell all book, "This woman is something else, no.."

"Offense, I know I know and I agree with you" Mike let out a sigh and looked down at his watch. This was a waste of time. He couldn't believe that he was not only wasting his time but now Melinda's as well. He was never one to open up about things to anyone, his Father told him to talk about his problems was a sign of weakness, so why he had opened up to this girl he had known for less than a week still baffled him.

"Maybe we should just.." Melinda suddenly jumped out of her seat and pointed to the elevator which had opened to reveal a gaggle of Backstreet Boys. "It's show time" She said, before Mike could even pull himself together to confront the potential situation, Melinda was heading right for them.

He sat and watched as she sweet talked her way past the two bodyguards watching the three guys, none of which were Nick, and then she casually made her way over to the three and chatted with them. She was still holding Jane's book in her hands and raised it for them to sign, nonchalantly looking over at Mike as she did it. He kept his eyes on them the whole time hoping to see his brother walk by next. His heart started racing just thinking about it.

The elevator door opened again this time carrying another bodyguard, the same one that prevented him from talking to Nick earlier, and the other guy, Kevin maybe? Still no sign of Nick. Melinda walked over to Kevin and talked to him and handed the book over to him to sign, when she looked over at Mike this time, she had a devilish smirk on her face.

After a few minutes they all made there way out of the lobby and Melinda walked happily back over the couch and sat down beside her friend, "There, that will make Ariana happy don't you think? I bet she'll even hug me for it" She said sounding slightly disgusted. That brought a smile to Mike's face. "You know it would do you some good, maybe her happy, sunny disposition would rub off on you then"

"Pfft..not likely, anyway I have good news for you, well I guess good news"

"Okay..what is it?"

"Your brother is right upstairs, they are going to an interview or something but he is sick so he's staying here"

"And it's good news because?"

"God do I have to spell everything out for you?"

"What are you happy he's sick?" She shook her head and shoved him a little, "No, but I bet he will come down here. Kevin..." When she saw the smile form on Mike's face about how quickly she had said his name, she felt the need to clarify, "At least I think that's what his name was...Anyway he said that Nick would most likely be coming down to get some snacks"

"Oh, nice of him to tip off the fans to my brothers whereabouts"

"I'm just irresistible I think" She smiled and winked.

"So? I guess we wait?"

"Sounds like a plan, by the way you owe me a dinner for all of this Alexander"

"Sure thing" He said grabbing her and kissing her on the cheek. She giggled. Mike's gaze once again went to that elevator hoping his brother would get hungry soon...
8 by Mare

*Thanks Silver and Sherry ;) *

Oh and one other thing if you happened to by chance read this and get totally confused, it's because I accidentally posted chapter 9 instead of 8 lol sorry. It's all fixed now though :)

8
I was grateful to Kevin for getting me out of our interview. I have to admit I was more than a little surprised when he came back and said that Lou said it was fine for me to bail. It was very out of the man's character. Hey I wasn't going to knock it though. I felt liberated; free to do whatever I pleased, even if it was only for a half an hour or so, even though I knew they would be there much longer than that.

After I got all my frustrations out and had a good cry over how stupid my Mother was, I felt a lot better. I probably could and should have gone with the guys, but ah well. I was still not feeling totally great. My headache had hit me full force and I should have just used the time to go to sleep, but you know me, why do that when I could reek havoc or something much more exciting then sleeping.

I sat on the bed and flipped through the channels, grateful that no one was there to yell at me for doing it. After about fifteen minutes of that, I decided I was a bit hungry so I went over to the desk and pulled out the room service menu. I hated staying in hoity toity hotels because the room service menu was always ridiculous. Can't a boy just get a burger and fries and a big fat chocolate shake. The way my stomach grumbled when I thought about the food made me realize it was a must.

My eyes went down the menu seeing everything from Filet mignon to some weird fish I never heard of before, of course there was the caviar for a huge some of money that I'm sure Lou would kill me if I ordered, especially since I am supposed to be ill. Nope... no burgers anywhere. I threw the menu on the floor and laid back down on the bed, legs dangling off the side, totally dejected and undecided on what to do.

The brilliant idea of me sneaking down to the lobby came halfway through a rerun of Frasier and three chips into a bag of stale Doritos. Don't ask me why I didn't just want to send one of our people down there for me, I felt the need to be mischievous, of course that was a need I knew I would pay for if by chance I were to get caught.

I sat up and blew my hair out of my eyes shaking my head in disgust about my very stupid idea. "That's it I'm doing it" I grabbed my sneakers after finally putting on some pants and a gray tee and placing one of AJ's black hats on my head, I opened my door and peered down the hallway. Security had left, they were somewhere skulking around but they weren't right outside the room, which I was grateful for. "Kevin is going to kill me, no I take that back...everyone is going to kill me" I whispered to myself as I compulsively pressed the elevator button that would lead me downstairs to the lobby.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~~*~


"This is a complete waste of time"

"Would you relax Mike, come on, you never know"

"I feel like we have been waiting here FOREVER"

"How long has it been since you've seen him again?" Melinda looked over to Mike who was growing more and more impatient by the second, but even more than impatient, he felt like he was losing his nerve. If the kid did by some chance happen upon them down there, what on earth would he say anyway?

"It's been a long time. A really long time."

"Then what's a few minutes more?" He nodded, and smiled at the woman he admired more and more every day.

Melinda tossed a Corn Nut into her mouth as she passed the bag over to Mike. "How can you eat that stuff?" He asked kindly declining her offer, she shrugged, "It's probably the most expensive bag of Corn Nuts I have ever eaten in my life"

"I told you not to buy them here," she stuck her tongue out at him revealing half of an uneaten nut. He grimaced but also laughed, "You are disgusting you know that?"

"Yeah, whatever."

"SO, I know why I'm here...but why are you here?" He said after a few minutes. She stopped midchew.

"What?"

"Why are you here with me? I mean don't get me wrong I really appreciate it and all, but, I was just curious."

"You think I have ulterior motives?" Her tone grew more serious clueing Mike into the fact that he had made a mistake.

"No, I didn't say that I was jus.."

"NO, you think I am after you or something don't you? God don't flatter yourself Mike."

"Relax, I was just asking."

"You want me to leave?"

"No of course not."

"I just came because I figured you needed a friend...and well...that's what friends do." He smiled at her, genuinely happy with the outcome of that conversation. He thought it was going to end badly for a while there.

"So much time has gone by."

"I know."

"It's almost stupid to do this."

"You wanna go home?" She looked over to him and grabbed his hand. Did he want to go home? "Yeah, maybe that is a good idea."

"Are you sure? Because I have my bag of nuts here, I'm good for at least another hour or so.." He laughed, stood up and held out his hand to her, "Let's go, I'm probably wrong anyway."

"Okay suit yourself."

She got up and together they made their way out of the lobby, just as the elevator doors opened.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


I stepped out of the elevator and briskly made my way into the gift shop, not really sure why. My real target was a pizza place I had seen down the street. Go in there, grab a quick slice or 2 and bring it back up to the room, no one would be the wiser, but I felt the need to regroup in the gift shop first.

I walked in and kept to the middle of the store, afraid I might break something. I had done that before, it wasn't pretty. I walked over to the candy and grabbed a Chunky bar. It had been such a long time since I had one of those things; and made my way to the counter to pay. I didn't notice I was being watched by about five people in the store. I guess I was too caught up in my chocolate.

"That'll be $2.25."

"For a candy bar?"

"Yes."

"Okay." I fished in my pockets for money, feeling like an idiot that I didn't have any on me at all. That was gonna ruin my pizza plans. "Can I put it on my credit card?"

"Sure thing" She smiled. I couldn't tell if it was a mocking me kind of smile or a genuine I'm happy to serve you smile.

"Do you think pizza places take credit cards?" She looked at me even more amused this time.

"I would guess so, I mean this IS New York City." I nodded at her. Her tag said Julie, so I thought I'd personalize, "Um, thanks Julie, you have a great day."

"I will. You do the same." She winked and laughed, yup she pretty much thought I was a moron.

"Excuse me are you Nick Carter?" uh oh. I looked over to the family and nodded. Immediately I had two ten year old girls hugging me from either side, their dad giving me directions to move closer to them as he took the picture while Mom just looked on in amusement. "Okay say cheese!"

"Cheese!" we all said together. They kissed me and hugged me as I politely thanked them, heading for the door.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be that other person, the one waiting in the lobby for someone famous to come down. I wonder how exciting it would be, Mom proudly looking on as dad snapped a picture of me with Steve Perry. I smiled at the thought.

Walking through the lobby unnoticed was easier than I thought it would be. The people sitting their were busy occupying themselves with other things and remarkably, the fans were nowhere in sight. I pulled my cap down and began my stride over to the pizza place, there was a cold chill in the air which found me regretting the fact that I didn't bring a light jacket with me, but there was no way I was going back.

I picked up my pace as I got to the corner ready to cross the street.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Mike and Melinda sat quietly staring at each other, she was playing with the paper from her straw, crumbling it up and soaking it on the wet table top. Mike just kept shaking parmesan on his piece of uneaten pepperoni pizza just because it was something to do.

"You know, if you weren't hungry, we didn't have to come."

Mike looked up from his cheese sprinkling and shrugged, "Yeah I know but I didn't really feel like going home either."

"If you aren't going to eat that" She pulled the plate away from him and grabbed the extra cheesy pizza off the plate and took a huge bite.

He would have smiled if his mood had suited him, but instead he turned his gaze from Melinda to the Sprite in front of him. The condensation from the ice slowly beading up around the outside of the glass. He wiped it away with a napkin, wishing it was that simple in real life. Wiping everything away. Truth was, finding his brother had stirred up a lot of memories he had kept hidden way at the bottom of his heart. Memories he was better off forgetting.

Happy memories.

Memories of long walks in a park with Mom and the baby. The way she held his hand in hers as she hummed.

"We can always go back you know, it is right down the street."

"I know" He looked over at her and winked, not quite ready to smile.

"Would you do me a favor Mike?"

"Sure, what is it?"

"Would you order me a side of garlic knots?" Now he managed to smile, "Boy when you're hungry you're hungry. I thought you said those Corn Nuts would keep you satisfied."

"Eh, I lied."

"Garlic knots?"

"Yes."

"I hope you don't plan on kissing anyone with that garlicky breath." She rolled her eyes, "There you go dreaming again Cassanova..just get me my knots please I would but I'm too busy eating your pizza for you."

"No problem." He stood up and made his way to the counter, just as he got there someone walked right into him, almost knocking him down.

"Jesus Christ watch where the hell you're going!" He shouted at the guy who was now busy bending down to pick up the baseball cap that had fallen off his head.

"Sorry...I wasn't looking," He said as he stood up to match eyes with Mike. Nick Carter staring into the eyes of his brother. Not even realizing it, shifted his feet uncomfortably from one to the other biting his bottom lip nervously.

"NO...it's okay" Mike said softening his voice while he tried to take in the presence of his baby brother. Once he really got a good look at him, there was no doubt in his mind. This was Nick; his Nick.

"I don't know if you remember me but..." He tried to find the words as Nick continued to shift his gaze from the man in front of him to the floor. "but...I am the guy who you gave that Journey CD too" That made Nick look up and smile, the worry gone from his face.

"Oh...yeah I remember you, have you listened to it yet?" Mike nodded how was he going to do this without sounding like an idiot?

"It was great, really helped my mood."

"Yeah Journey does that." Did he remember listening to Journey while I held him and danced around? Mike thought as he watched the boy smile, his mind traveling somewhere other than the pizza place where they stood.

Mike couldn't take his eyes off of his brother. He wanted to pull him in a hug, he wanted to tell him how much he loved him and missed him, but all he was doing was making Nick uncomfortable. He could tell by the way he slouched his shoulders and once again bit at his bottom lip. The same things Mike himself would do when uneasy.

"Well, it was nice seeing you again...."

"Mike."

"Mike." He extended his hand to Mike which he gladly took, was he going to just walk away? Not let him know?

"Same here Nick. It has been a pleasure and thank you so much."

"No problem."

Mike walked back over to Melinda that watched the whole episode with her mouth agape. He sat down still staring at his brother over at the counter placing his order, "So? what happened?"

"I thanked him for the CD."

"And?"

"And that was it."

"What do you mean that was it? Aren't you going to tell him you're his brother?" She had raised her voice a bit that had Nick look over their way.

"Keep your voice down...no I don't think I am Melinda."

"You are an idiot Michael, he is here right in front of you!"

"I know that."

"And you are just going to let him leave?"

"I..." He saw Nick paying for his order, he knew he was running out of time, "No, I'm not," He said and got up and walked back over to Nick just as he was leaving the restaurant.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~~


Mission accomplished, I got my pizza, paid with credit card and was only noticed about three times. Not a bad deal. I opened the door and hurried back out into the cold air. The guys would be back soon and I wanted to be in the comfort of my own room when they got there. True there was a good chance they would see the pizza but I could always say someone went and got it for me. Yes, home free.

"Excuse me?" Almost home free. I stopped at the sound of the man's voice, "Nick Carter!" I was just about to cross the street but decided to stop. I turned to see the man running towards me. "Okay Nick calm down he is not a crazy person.." I quietly tried to reassure myself as he caught up with me, a girl in a plaid skirt running after him.

"Sorry..I...I just have something I need to tell you." He said trying to catch his breath. I placed my hand on his shoulder, "Sure thing, catch your breath first, I don't want you to die on me."

The man laughed, which made me smile. I put my hand in my pocket searching for a pen, expecting him to say he forgot to ask me for an autograph, I never expected to hear the words that he was about to say.

"Nick, there's no easy way to put this so I am going to be blunt, My name is Mike Alexander and I'm your brother."

9 by Mare
*thank you so much for all the feedback on this one. I really appreciate it :)*

9

I looked at him with unbelieving eyes, my mouth wide open in shock. He just stood there staring at me, waiting for me to say something profound maybe? All I could get out was "What did you just say?"

He regrouped and tried again placing his hand on my shoulder, in my shock, I didn't even pull away.

"I'm your brother Nick. I didn't realize it until..." I cut him off I couldn't listen to it any longer. Who the hell did this guy think he was and why would he do this to me.

"No! Stop right there!" Which he did, mid sentence. "You don't talk about my brother you got it? Now I have someplace to be" With that I turned and started to walk away from him, not even paying attention to the green light and the oncoming traffic I was about to walk into.

"Nick! Stop!!!!" He screamed, I turned to see a taxi screeching to a sudden stop only about ten inches away from me. I tried to scream but nothing would come out. I did manage to drop my pizza though. Great just great.

The man pretending to be my brother ran over to me while the girl who was with him looked on holding her hand to her heart as if she was reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. "Watch where you're going" He scolded.

"Leave me alone" I pushed away from him and crossed the street, not even looking back. I felt him following me though, I heard his footsteps coming up to me again. I almost went into a full on sprint then, just get back to the hotel and alert security, tell them to take this crazy guy the hell away from me. But instead I stopped, turned around and waited for him.

He seemed surprised as he lowered his run to a nice slow walk. The girl he was with, just opting to stay on the other side of the street. I looked over to her and back to him as he finally caught up to me. "Why are you doing this to me?" I wanted to sound mean. I felt hurt though, a little hurt and a lot anxious.

"Nick...I'm sorry, I didn't mean to tell you that way. I tried to tell you at the hotel earlier but they rushed you off"

"No, I mean why are you pretending to be my brother?"

"Pretending?... I'm not pretending. I AM your brother...you have to believe me"

"Oh I have to believe you? Do you have any idea how many wackos like you come here and claim they know me or they know someone in my family? I don't have to believe anything"

I couldn't believe this guy. Now I was just getting pissed off. I turned to walk away form him again, "Remember when I used to sing to you on night's that Mom and dad would fight?" I stopped just for a second. He threw me for a loop there. This guy was good. "I used to play Journey for you and let you jump on the bed" I started walking again but this time a little more slowly while he continued to talk after me, "And then we would lay on our backs and look up at the sky. You told me you wanted to be an astronaut, at least I think that's what you said. Back then it was hard to understand you" I still continued to walk.

Now he ran ahead of me and walked backwards while he faced me. "You used to have an imaginary friend, what was his name again?" I looked down and continued to walk but I felt compelled to answer him. "Gus"

He smiled, "Yeah Gus that was it, he did something really freaky for a living right?"

"No, he was in a full body cast because.."

"That's right, because he kept falling off your shoulder"

"How did you know that?" I asked him right at the main entrance to the hotel. The doorman smiled at me and tipped his hat.

"Because I am your brother Nicky"

I didn't know what to do. I really wanted to believe him, more than anything else in the world. Have this guy be my brother. But my time in the spotlight made me see people for what they were. People like this guy would say just about anything to get what they wanted. Use me and then leave. I have seen it more than once. Even though I wanted to believe him, I just couldn't; so, I turned and walked inside heading straight for the elevators.

"Nick, what do I have to say to make you believe me?"

"Fans know everything"

"I'm not a fan" I hit the elevator button but moved out of the way since there was a small crowd waiting to use it. "You're not a fan?"

"No, I can't even hum a single note of one of your songs...sorry"

"Well, then maybe your little sister is a fan" I allowed myself to look at him, we did look a little alike. Was Mike a brunette? It's sad that I couldn't really remember, but I was so young.

"Do the fans even know about me Nick? Do your friends?"

They didn't. No one knew about him. In my pain I laid my brother to rest. Long forgotten...a distant memory.

"Mom seems to have forgotten about me. I noticed I wasn't even mentioned in her little tell all book"

I felt a tear fall from my eyes. "Why are you doing this to me?" I noticed people staring at us. I was making a scene. I wiped my tears away when I heard the elevator door ting. "Nick...please.." I turned my back to him as I entered the elevator and moved to the back behind all of the business people that were in there. I wanted to hide. Disappear. Vanish, like my brother and father did such a long time ago.

I heard him one more time beg me to talk to him, to give him another chance as the elevator doors closed.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Mike stood at those damned elevator doors again mad, confused, sorry and most of all regretful. Regretful of his decision to go through with the idea in the first place. "How could I have said that about his Mother?" He mumbled as he took a seat in the lobby and waited as Melinda walked over to him.

"So, I see things didn't go very well huh?"

"No, you can say that again"

"He didn't believe you?"

Mike shook his head. He was tired of speaking. Talking seemed to get him nowhere. He went about the whole thing so stupidly. "I'm an idiot"

Melinda placed a consoling hand around Mike, "No your not" She placed her head on his shoulder as he nodded, "Yes I am. A big ass idiot. You know I actually dissed our Mother. Here I am trying to convince the kid that I am his brother and what do I do? Diss his Mom"

Melinda sat up, "Well she deserves to be dissed. That woman seems like a jerk. No offense"

Mike Smiled, but felt empty. The emptiness went away though once those elevator doors opened and Nick stood there once again. Mike tapped Melinda as he stood up.

Nick walked slowly out of the elevator and made eye contact with his brother, his eyes still wet with tears. Rubbing the back of his neck he walked over to where Melinda and Mike stood looking down at the floor.

Mike slowly approached his baby brother wanting to just embrace him but realizing that wasn't a good idea. Not yet anyway. "I'm glad you came back" is what he finally decided on after about two minutes of just standing there and staring at each other.

That made Nick look up. He was still just a tad shorter than Mike. Just a tad. "I thought maybe you'd want to come upstairs so we can talk a little bit"

A small smile played on Mike's lips, "Of course, I would love that"

Nick's eyes made their way to Melinda who was watching as if it was a scene out of her favorite movie. "Oh, Nick this is Melinda" She waved then started to back away.

"Pleasure to meet you Nick. I'm gonna go home and let the two of you talk. You have a lot to catch up on"

Nick nodded at her as he continued to rub his neck. She pulled close to Mike and whispered in his ear, "Don't let him go this time"

Waving once more she trotted proudly out of the lobby leaving the two strangers just staring at each other.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~~*~*

I had NO idea what I was doing. I was standing there in the elevator ready to just forget I even saw this guy. But when I reached my floor I couldn't make myself get off. So, I stayed on and rode it all the way back down to the lobby. I guess I needed to know for a fact if this was my brother or not.

Inviting him up to my room was probably the biggest no-no I could do. When security found out I invited a stranger back to my room, they would flip out. I looked over to Mike and noticed him staring at me; I immediately looked back down at the floor.

This was all so awkward.

Neither of us said a word on the elevator, in fact it wasn't until I reached my room, that he finally said something, "So, I guess this means you believe me now?" I put my card in the door and it clicked open. "Not sure" I put on the light and invited him into the room.

"Holy crap this is a big room! What do you need all this space for?"

"It's not just mine. I share with Brian"

"Oh" He answered like he knew who I was talking about.

I put on the light and took a seat on my unmade and very messy bed. My clothes were strewn all over the place. The guy who claimed he was my brother moved my shirts off Brian's bed and sat across from me, hands on his legs, biting his bottom lip.

"So, why did you wait so long to find me?" I finally got up the courage to ask, "I mean if you say you are my brother, then why now?"

He looked over at me and licked his top lip, "I didn't know it was you. I didn't realize it until I saw your Mom's...I mean OUR Mom's book. Once I saw some of those old pictures I knew"

I wiped the next batch of tears away from my eyes wishing that at any moment my security, or Brian or anybody would come in and make everything alright. I had no idea how to feel. "I'm sorry Nickers, I didn't mean to make you cry" He stood up and moved next to me on the bed. I immediately got up.

"Nickers? AJ calls me that sometimes"

"He does? Well I gave you that nickname when you were about 2 kiddo"

I walked over to the window, I didn't want him to see me lose it. I hated to cry and if this guy WAS just posing for a magazine or something, my little episode would be all over the place.

"Nick, I wanted so badly to find you and Mom after dad and I left, but he wouldn't let me and then when I finally left him...I don't know" I turned to him again, he did look like the guy I ran to so many times in my dreams. The one that would pick me up and carry me on his shoulders when I was too tired to walk.

I walked over to my backpack and took out my wallet, "Is it money you are looking for?" I pulled out a wad of cash, too bad I had forgotten to bring it with me on my little trip to the pizza place. "How much do you want?"

"I don't want your money" He sounded hurt.

"It's always about money" I tried to hand him all the money I had just so he would go away and never talk to me again take his lies with him. He surprised me when he instead grabbed my arm pretty forcefully and sat me down next to him, I was going to call for help but I didn't, I somehow knew he wasn't going to hurt me.

"Nick DAMMIT! You are as stubborn as I am! Look I don't want your money kiddo, I want you okay? I love you and I have missed you SO much, I can't even begin to tell you" Now I saw tears falling from his eyes. "Please give me a chance. I swear to God I am who I say I am...Nick, I am Mike, I'm your brother"

I stared at his face, looked into his eyes and then I knew. I nodded and was just about to hug him when the door opened.
10 by Mare
*thanks for reading :) *

10

"Away from him now!" Keith said moving towards Mike very quickly with the rest of the boys following behind. Before I could say anything to his defense, Keith grabbed my brother and put his hand behind his back and had him pinned against the wall. Mike dumbfounded by the whole incident didn't even make a squeak.
"Stop Keith!" I yelled but was stopped by Kevin who tried to usher me out of the room. "Are you okay?" He asked grabbing me by my shoulders.

"Yes, of course I am okay, why wouldn't I be okay?"

Keith now had pulled Mike farther away from me as Kevin kept pulling me trying to get me out of the room, "I don't understand.."

"Get him out of here" Keith said continuing to push Mike against the wall.

"But...Keith stop!"

"Did he hurt you?" Brian asked coming up from behind Kevin. I was so confused. They always made me so confused, "No! Why would he hurt me?"

"When we walked in someone at the front desk said a guy was arguing with you and followed you up to your room"

"No, it's nothing like that"

My attention left from Brian and Kevin hovering around me to Keith shoving my brother out of the room, "No wait! Mike!!" I screamed breaking free from Kevin.

That made Keith turn around his grip still very tight on my brother, "You know this guy?"

"Yes! That's what I have been trying to tell you!!"

Immediately Keith let Mike go with a shove forward. Mike straightened his shirt and rolled his shoulders. I bet that hurt.

"I'm sorry man, can't be too careful" Was about the only apology Mike was gonna get from my bodyguard.

"No, that's okay sir...you were just doing your job. I'm grateful he has you around"

I smiled. I didn't remember my brother that well but the guy I thought he would be would have said something like that.

"You know this guy?" Kevin said now walking closer to me looking mad. Very mad.

"Yes"

"Do you remember the little rule we have about bringing in people to our hotel rooms Nicky when no one is here?" Now it was Howie's turn. They were embarrassing the hell out of me. Mike just continued to watch while nursing his shoulder.

"Yes I know..."

"Well, then why is there someone in here?"

"There just is all right? It's none of your damn business anyway!"

"Nick, when your parents aren't here, it is our business" Kevin was quick to correct me. What else is new?

"You shouldn't be having people in here anyway if you were too sick to show up for an interview" Of course AJ had to mention the interview. He absolutely hated it when I got to get out of stuff and he didn't. I just would kid him it's because he had yet to develop a trademark sad face.

"This was a special circumstance" I looked over at Mike who was watching me the whole time. Unfortunately Kevin saw that too. Of course in his haste, he misread it, "Um..sorry about all that but I think it's best that you go now" His tone cold sounding like he was so much better then everyone else.

"No way!" I said making my way over to Mike. "He stays"

Kevin shook his head at me, which made me want to just throw myself on him and start punching him. "Nickers, it's okay. I tell you what, I'm gonna go down to the lobby for a while, then maybe we can talk some more okay?" I turned to him, while he was talking he had put his hand on my shoulder. Funny how that one little gesture made me feel so protected when always having four older guys around didn't always make me feel that way.

"Okay" I said and then grabbed a piece of paper from the desk. Mike not sure where to look, feeling everyone's eyes on him just stared at the floor.

I sat on the bed and fished for my cellphone. I grabbed it and handed it to him, "Here ya go. I'll give you a call in a little bit"

He smiled. "So you believe me now?" I didn't want to answer him with our little audience but I did nod my head. I stood up and moved towards him ready to hug him, but he grabbed my hand and shook instead. I was hurt but understood that he probably didn't want to be tackled again.

"Talk to you soon" He said gripping the phone as if it was the hand of his baby five year old brother, and then with Keith unnecessarily escorting him, he left my room. Leaving me in there with four very mad, inquiring sets of eyes.


~*~*~*~*~*
Mike walked out of that room stiff, sore and a little flustered about being 'taken down' He had only been 'taken down' like that once in his whole life by the police when they suspected he was selling drugs to kids on the corner. They had been wrong about that, but not wrong about the drugs. Luckily for him though, they failed to search his apartment, quickly realizing that they had the wrong person.

After that scare, he had laid off drugs for a little while. A little while meaning two weeks. It scared him sober for two whole weeks. He smiled at the memory, now that he was pretty much drug free with the exception of the joint he allowed himself to smoke every so often. He's pretty sure that if he was on drugs, after that bodyguard roughed him up, he would have gone on another one of those cold turkey kicks.

Even though he was now sore he still couldn't seem to wipe the silly grin from his face. He had found his brother finally. Not that he had been searching for years or anything like that, but even still there he was. Happy, healthy and wealthy beyond belief. A true success in every sense of the word.

One thing he was sure of, he had NO plans on letting his father know. Not that he even really talked to dad much anymore; but if the guy caught wind of who his son was, that would be so bad for Nick, which led Mike to start thinking about that side of the story.

Surely the kid was going to ask about his Father. He walked out of the lobby and stood outside the big doors, wishing he had a cigarette with him. Even though he wasn't a smoker. After all that had happened today he really needed something.

"So what are you doing out here?" Mike jumped. Which caused Melinda to laugh, "God you are skittish as a cat you know that?"

"Jesus Christ woman! Why the hell are you still here? Are you stalking me or something?"

"Did you really expect me to just leave?"

"Yeah..because you said that's what you were planning on doing"

"I know, but I just had to stick around for a little while. Besides, I decided to call in sick. I said I had a family emergency"

Mike put his hand to his head, he had forgotten all about the prospect of working. "Shit, when am I supposed to go in?"

"Relax...not tomorrow" She said winking at him. He nodded. "So...why are you out here? Did he get sick of you already?"

"No...his bodyguard tackled me and his friends threw me out" For some reason she just thought that was hilarious and let out such a loud belly laugh that everyone who was walking by couldn't help but stop and stare.

"So...does he believe you?"

"Yes"

"Really? How awesome. I'm happy for you Mike"

"Thanks"

"But if he does believe you, then why are you out here talking to me?"

"I guess he needed to talk to the others for a minute to let them know who I am so I don't get body slammed every time I enter the room"

"Ah...good idea"

Mike nodded, "I should go in, he's gonna call me when he's done" He held up the phone as proof of his statement.

"Nice...so I guess my work here is done then"

Melinda gave Mike a huge hug, holding him tight in their embrace. She felt goosebumps form on her arms which tingled all the way up to her lips now formed in a small smile.

"Melinda...I just wanted to thank you for sticking by me today. You really gave me the courage to do this"

She smiled at him, "My pleasure. Have a great time and don't forget to give me a call and tell me all about it"

As she walked away, Mike couldn't help but stare at her butt. She was attractive, and he could feel himself falling for her some day. Now, though, all he had to do was think about his brother. He looked down at his hand. The hand that held the phone and tried to will it to ring.


~*~*~*~*~*~
I sat on the bed and watched Kevin pace back and forth in front of me as if I were a child. Which I wasn't. I was 18 years old, soon to be 19. I didn't need to be treated like this. I didn't need a baby sitter. I needed friends right now.

I really wasn't listening to anything he was saying but occasionally I heard words like maniac, fans and death. Leave it to Kevin to be ridiculously extreme.

"So... who was that guy anyway?" Brian's question finally made me look up from the floor. My heart quickened as I prepared to tell the guys my secret.

"Yeah, if he's your buddy how come this is the first time any of us have seen him?" Howie asked.

"He's not really a buddy of mine"

"See? I knew it!" I rolled my eyes at Kevin, "He's a relative" Ha! Take that!

"Oh" Kevin slinked back and sat down. I think I actually made him feel stupid for a minute.

"Relative?"

"Yes..."

"I mean...well, this is going to sound really odd but..." I was stammering. Something I always did when I was nervous.

"What? Is he your cousin that you have chained in the basement that nobody talks about?" Brian was joking but I didn't laugh. It was sad how close he actually was to the truth. I suddenly felt ashamed that I had never told them.

"He is my brother...kind of" That got their attention.

"Your brother?" AJ asked standing to walk towards me.

"Kind of? What does that mean?" Now Kevin was up and pacing again.

"He is my brother from my Mom's first marriage"

"What?" I didn't like the accusatory tone it seemed like they were all suddenly taking with me.

"I don't really talk about it much"

"No! You don't talk about it at all. Nick is this some kind of joke? If he's one of your friends just tell us" Even Brian sounded like he was getting annoyed.

"Why would I lie?"

"So, you have a brother now? Suddenly?"

"You know what? GO TO HELL!" That about did it, I was furious and stormed out of the room and into AJ and Howie's room slamming the door and locking it tightly. How dare they question me. This was hard enough without them in the picture.

I walked over to the phone by the bed and called my cellphone to talk to my brother.
11 by Mare
* wow! I am overwhelmed by the wonderful feedback this story has gotten. Thank you so much :) *

11
I sat on the bed with the phone in my hands ready to dial up my cell phone and talk to my brother, but of course someone knocked on the door. I wasn’t surprised. I was certain that was going to happen. Maybe I would have even been a little disappointed if it didn’t. I sighed before getting up and opening the door. Brian was standing on the other side, fake smile plastered on his face. Brian was a man of many smiles, depending on the situation; he seemed to have one for everything. Brian was a Hallmark card. This smile said sorry about being a jerk written all over it.
“Can I come in?” I moved to the side, giving him his answer. He walked in, biting his bottom lip and sat down on the bed. “Thanks” he said as I made my way next to him. I decided I didn’t want to sit across from him. I wasn’t in the mood to have him reading my facial expressions.

“How come you never told me?”

“I don’t know”

He was hurt. I could read it in his voice. I told him everything, but yet didn’t mention this. I don’t blame him, I would have been just as hurt; probably even more. I sat swinging my feet off the edge of the bed, listening to my best friend breath next to me.

“Is that the Mike you talk about in your sleep?”

“Probably”

Then in a move I just knew he was going to make, he moved across from me onto the other bed. Damn predictable Brian. I looked down at the floor.

“Is there a reason you don’t talk about him? Is he a jerk?”

“No!” My head shot up and I said it sternly.

“Okay sorry, no need to take my head off; it’s just a little weird Nick. That’s all”

“I know” I found myself looking over at the phone afraid if I waited to long I was going to miss my window of opportunity to talk to him, not only that but also the longer I waited the more I grew anxious.

“He probably hates me” I whispered, taking Brian by surprise.

“Why would he hate you?”

“He just would”

I could tell by the way he was fidgeting that he had about a thousand questions for me. I was just waiting to be bombarded at any moment by them, but that never happened. He just sat there with me, waiting for me to make the first move. Whether it be to shoo him away, cry about everything or open up.

“My Mom was married before Bob” I looked over at him again, finally ready to tell him everything…well almost everything.

“Yeah, you mentioned that before, that Mike was from your Mom’s first marriage. So he is your half brother then?”

I shook my head which made him recoil. Poor Brian, he probably felt like he was watching one of those stupid soap operas. “Bob isn’t my real dad”

“He isn’t? You look just like him though”

“I know. It’s weird, but he and my Mom met long after I was born”

“Oh” Now I heard that in his voice again, the sound of hurt ringing in my ears.

His facial expressions said it all as I finally just threw it all on the table for him. The look of shock when I told him about the fierce fights my parents used to have. The look of anger about the disappearance of my father and brother, and most noticeable was the look of disgust when I told him my Mom no longer liked to remember the past. “What is done is done”

“So she never even bothered to go looking for him?”

“No” I was embarrassed. “That’s why he probably hates me”

“No Nick, it isn’t your fault. I mean you said you were only five when he left. You were way too young to do anything about it” I nodded even though I didn’t believe what he was saying. I mean I know I was only five but I’m not five anymore. I am 18 and I could have easily looked for him. But then again, I guess he could have just as easily looked for me.

“Don’t get all postal on me, but I have to ask…the big brother in me won’t let me NOT ask” I smiled, “Okay what is it?”

“Promise you won’t go postal?” I laughed “Yeah Bri, I promise”

“Okay” He took in a deep breath. “It’s just that…don’t you think it’s a little curious that he came to find you now?”

“No, I told you he saw my Mom’s book”

“Yeah I know…but even still. Are you sure it’s even him?”

“No…but how would he know those things if it weren’t him?”

“Nick, con artists can find out everything they need to make a quick buck” I rolled my eyes and rubbed my face. Brian seeing those actions knew I wasn’t happy with what he had to say. “Sorry kiddo, but I’m just saying…watch your back. You don’t really know anything about this guy”

“That’s why I need to call him. Because I WANT to get to know this guy”

He looked frustrated, as if I didn’t understand what he was getting at. I knew exactly what he meant. I just wanted to hear him say it. Which he finally did, “Don’t trust him”

“How would you feel if I said that about YOUR brother?” I couldn’t help but get all defensive.

“That’s different”

“Why? Because it’s you and not me?”

“No! Because I have known MY brother all my life. This guy just walked up to you on the street and told you he’s your brother”

“He IS my brother”

“Nick you don’t know that…this guy could be anybody”

I didn’t answer he even paused expecting one. When nothing came I thought he would have taken the cue and left but NO, he used it as an excuse to keep going, “This guy might have heard about your Mom’s book, maybe he heard the name Mike somewhere, put 2 and 2 together and BAM, suddenly Mike comes back”

“But you didn’t even know about Mike and YOU know about everything” That made him pause.

“I don’t know buddy, I just don’t trust this guy”

“Brian, you don’t even know this guy. How can you not trust him?”

“It’s a gut feeling” I stood up, “Your gut is wrong this time, now if you don’t mind, I really need to call him back”

“Nick, I’m not going to tell you what to do…”

“Then don’t”

“I didn’t want to fight about this”

“I don’t either”

“Good, just do me a favor”

“What?”

“Be careful and don’t be alone with him” That did it. I was mad ALL over again. I wanted to start spewing every cuss word I knew, I wanted to start insulting his brother, but I couldn’t. Harold was a great guy; so was Brian. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of nodding, “Yeah whatever” I walked him to the door and practically slammed it in his face.

Now came the hard part, of course by the time Brian left I had all but run out of nerve. What if this guy was a fake? Would I even see it? Or worse yet, if he wasn’t a fake but only wanted to see me to tell me off. Tell me that I am a rotten son of a bitch for never even trying to find him. I must have sat holding that phone in my hands for ten minutes, even having to hang up because of the busy tone that would happen after waiting to long to dial somebody. Finally I decided to just go for it.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Mike found himself back on those same seats that he and Melinda were occupying earlier. Back when they were staking out the joint. Back when he really thought he would NEVER actually meet his brother. It all felt like some kind of action game to him. Playing hide and seek, but the way grown ups would. Never in his wildest dreams did he actually think that Nick would have let him in with open arms. Mike smiled just thinking about the Journey song.

It made him feel good to know that he had influenced his brother musically. Hell, for all he knew maybe HE was the reason Nick went into show business in the first place. Had the Backstreet Boys ever won an award? Maybe he had been thanked without even realizing it. Mike had always wanted to be a performer. It was something that lived in his heart ever since he was old enough to walk. Even though it hadn’t happened for him, he was glad that it had for his little brother. Brother It seemed so odd to even think about it. He had found his brother.

He felt his hand vibrating, temporarily forgetting that he was still clinging onto a cell phone. “Here goes nothing” He said pulling the phone up to his ear.

“Hello?”

There was silence at first on the other end. He almost hung up. Then a faint swallow was heard, followed by a small “Mike? It’s me… Nick”

Mike sat up a little straighter and found himself gulping as well. “Hi Nickers…How are you doing kiddo?”

“Um…I’m good. Sorry about all that before”

“It’s no problem. He was just doing his job. That’s all”

“No, I also mean about the way the guys were acting”

Mike shifted. He felt a nervous energy. It’s how you would feel talking to a stranger who you somehow felt an odd connection with. “It’s okay”

“I don’t really know what to say” Nick admitted openly to his brother, who smiled in return. “I’m glad you said it before I had a chance to. I think it’s normal to not know what to say. This is kind of an odd thing isn’t it?”

Mike was taken back by how shy his brother seemed over the phone. How could he be that famous but yet still so shy? “Yeah it is odd…so, how long have you been working at the record store?” At least it wasn’t a question or statement about the weather. That was a good sign.

“Not very long. Believe it or not this is only my first week there”

“Wow!”

“How long have you been a pop star?” Mike joked, instantly regretting it by the uncomfortable silence from the other end of the line, “Sorry I was just joking. I have a whacky sense of humor” That made Nick laugh. “Whacky huh?”

“Well you know, some people are zany others are whacky…what are you?”

“People tend to think I have a silly sense of humor” He had answered the question as if he was being interviewed by Bop magazine.

“I can believe that about you. You were a silly kid”

“I was?” Suddenly his flat, guarded tone became slightly more animated.

“Yes you were. You used to run around the house naked all the time” Nick giggled.

“I did?”

“Yes, you don’t remember that?”

“No”

“You used to always have no clothes on and run around. Mom would chase after you with a diaper and you would bat her hand away” Now Nick was laughing, not giggling but laughing and the sound warmed Mike’s heart.

“That didn’t make me silly, I was just a baby”

“Okay maybe that didn’t make you silly but walking around with a dump truck on your head certainly made you silly”

“Oh my gosh! Mom still kids me about that. She said I used to walk all over the place with my toy dump truck on my head”

“You did, then you would hit the walls, fall down and cry”

“Okay maybe that was a little silly then”

“Yeah just a little”

Then there was some more silence. Mike was trying to figure out a good way to break the quiet but Nick beat him to it. “I remember you always reading to me at night” Mike sighed and just for a moment thought he was going to cry. It all felt so overwhelming to him suddenly. So many emotions flooding his mind. “You used to do the voices of the characters for me. Didn’t you?”

“Yes” He said in barely a voice.

“I loved that” Mike felt a tear make its way down his cheek and wiped at it before people noticed. “I did too”

More silence, this time not as uncomfortable. This time it felt nice, like two brothers in deep thought and fond memories, “Mike, you want to come back upstairs?”

“I would love that”

“Okay. You remember what room I am in?”

“Yes, but make sure no one tackles me this time” He laughed again.

“I’m glad you found me”

“I am too Nick”

“See ya in a little bit”

Mike hung up the phone and sat staring at it for a little while. That couldn’t have gone any better if he had written the dialogue himself. He stood up to get into the elevator when he was blocked by Kevin.

He stood up awkwardly then, not sure if this was going to be a good thing or a bad thing.

“Mike was it?” Mike answered with a nod.

“We need to have a little talk” And there Mike had his answer. This was going to be a bad thing.
12 by Mare
*Thanks Kristina and Wajeesha and anyone else reading this ;) I hope to get another chapter done by tomorrow*

12
They both stood facing one another, looking like they were either ready to hug or tackle each other to the ground. As Mike took a moment to look Kevin over, he noticed they were both very similar in height and weight, which meant if the guy started anything with him; it would be an even fight. It’s sad that Mike’s thoughts always worked that way, but living with his dad, who would frequently come home drunk usually followed by an angrier more drunk man chasing him, had gotten him used to sizing up people.
This Kevin guy looked like he had been in a few fights too. He had that demeanor about him. Maybe it was overconfidence he was picking up, but whatever the case; he knew this guy wasn’t there to buy him a drink.

“Let’s go for a walk” Kevin said after a few moments of awkward silence.

“Do you think that’s wise? I mean you could get recognized”

“It’ll be alright, here let’s just go in there for a cup of coffee” He started walking towards the small but very expensive restaurant located right inside the hotel. Mike looked down at the way he was dressed and hesitated before actually walking in. The most embarrassing thing that could possibly happen to him would be to get kicked out of a place with one of his brother’s friends there to witness it. Kevin picking up on Mike’s uneasiness smiled at him, “It’s alright, they won’t care what you look like”

The Maitre D Greeted Kevin at the door as if they were old friends and quickly rushed the two men past the few people who were dining in the place. They were sat in a small corner table, away from everybody.

As Mike sat across from the man who was handed a huge menu before Mike was, he couldn’t help but notice that unlike his brother, this guy carried his fame in his posture. Not saying he was arrogant or anything like that, but he just seemed more comfortable with the little glances and whispers that he was receiving. He wore his fame like a comfortable pair of sweatpants, while his brother seemed to wear it like an uncomfortable pair of corduroys.

“Mike, are you hungry? You can order anything you want…my treat” Mike looked over to Kevin, even though he was feeling a little hungry since he had barely touched his food at the pizza place, it still felt wrong of him to order a meal and have a total stranger pay for it. Besides, maybe this was a test or something.

“No thanks, I’m good”

“Okay, then can we have two cups of coffee please?” The waiter took the order and was gone in a flash.

Mike started to bite his bottom lip uncomfortable with this whole situation suddenly. “I suppose you’re wondering why I wanted to talk to you.” Mike nodded slowly.

“Okay…” Kevin’s posture shifted a bit, whatever he was going to say; he didn’t want to, “Look, Nick is a great kid”

“He seems like it”

“And he tends to be a little naive most times”

“Yeah so am I, it must run in the family” Mike let out an uncomfortable nervous laugh. Feeling stupid the instant he did it. Kevin did not return the laugh with anything more than a stare.

“Right…anyway, I guess I just wanted to know what it is you want.”

The question caught Mike off guard. “Pardon me?”

“My cousin told me that you went up to Nick on the street and told him you were his brother. I just think that’s a little odd…I mean don’t YOU think that’s a little odd?”

Mike hesitated a moment by taking a sip of his water, “Yeah I guess that could be considered odd, but he is…my brother…not odd” Again he felt stupid, why was it he always said stupid things when he got nervous?

“And you have proof of this?” Mike shifted his weight to one side and grabbed his wallet from his back pocket. Who did this guy think he was? Kevin watched with no emotion showing on his face. It was quite obvious he didn’t trust the stranger sitting across from him at all. Mike fiddled through his wallet until he found his driver’s license. He was thinking of throwing it at Kevin’s face but thought twice about it, instead he calmly handed it over to the man who carefully looked it over.

“Nice picture” He said retuning the card back to Mike, “But that doesn’t really prove anything”

“Sorry I left my DNA kit at home” Okay he had to start getting a little sarcastic.

Kevin snickered, “Do you have any pictures of him as a baby? Maybe the two of you together? Anything?”

“No…my dad threw them all away when we left”

“Oh” It was crystal clear that Kevin didn’t believe a word Mike was saying and it was beginning to grate on his nerves. “I’m who I say I am”

“I’m sure you are who you say you are, but I have a hard time believing that you are his brother”

“And why is that exactly? Not that it’s any of your business anyway” Okay that was clearly the wrong thing to say, but it was too late to take it back.

“I make sure Nick is my business” Kevin answered calmly, almost too calmly.

“Well, Kevin…was it?” He couldn’t help but be sarcastic, he felt so on the defense, “Now, Nick is MY business too and if you’ll excuse me, I’m supposed to go upstairs to meet him”

“I don’t want you to see him until I can speak to his Mother about you” Mike took a deep breath as the waiter came with their coffees. He needed that. He was ready to explode. Kevin paused long enough to smile at the waiter, once he was gone he continued, “Jane will be able to tell me if you are who you say you are, until that time, I don’t want you to see him”

“Who exactly do you think you are? I don’t think you are allowed to make those types of decisions. Are you?”

Kevin took a sip of his coffee; Mike knew it was to collect his thoughts calmly. “I have known this kid since he was going on 13. I have always made it a point to watch out for him”

“And for that I’m grateful” Mike said trying to calm his own feelings down. Kevin nodded, “Anyway, if there is a man that suddenly pops up claiming to be someone he’s not. I make it my business. I have to. Otherwise, no one else will”

“Where is his Mother anyway?”

“Don’t you mean Our Mother? Isn’t Jane supposed to be your Mom too?” Kevin raised an eyebrow when he asked that question as if he had just caught Mike in a lie. “That woman is anything but a Mother to me, but yes technically she is the one that gave birth to me so yes she is my Mom”

“Well, YOUR Mom is in France, she didn’t even think about calling her own son and saying goodbye” Mike instantly was able to tell that there was no love lost between Kevin and his Mother.

“So when is she due back?” Kevin shrugged, “No clue….so right now he is upset about that. I don’t want to add a phoney brother to the list”

Mike sat quiet for a minute resting his chin on his hand. “She will probably deny ever having me” he finally admitted.

“And why would that be?”

“I wish I knew” Kevin nodded and took another sip of his coffee quietly.

“What about your father?”

“What ABOUT my father?”

“Maybe he could clear it all up”

Oh I’m sure he would LOVE to clear it all up for you Mr. Pretty boy but see...he is sitting in prison right now so he’ll have to get back to you on that!

“Dad wouldn’t be able to help”

“And why is that?”

“He’s unavailable”

“Oh…I see, well then I guess you’re just going to have to wait”

“He’s expecting me upstairs any minute; he’s probably wondering where I am RIGHT now. Did you even talk to him? He knows I’m his brother”

“No I haven’t talked to him yet”

“Maybe you should, instead of coming down here and acting all high and mighty”

“I would think that you would be grateful for my concern” Mike took a minute to think about that statement and found himself absolutely disgusted when he DID agree. He was grateful. “I am” He admitted, really not wanting to.

“If you are his brother, then I am going to be the first one to welcome you in with open arms. I’ll apologize for seeming like such an arrogant dick”

Mike smiled, maybe in another life and time he would have been friends with this guy. They seemed to be a little similar, “I have to say, if I were you, I’d probably be doing the same thing” That made Kevin smile.

“Good”

“I would never hurt Nick. I love him” Mike tried to reassure Kevin who sat back and sipped his coffee. Just then the cell phone rang which had both men staring at it; finally Mike picked it up, not exactly sure what he was going to say “Hello?”

“Mike? Where are you?...” Nick was giggling. That really warmed Mike’s heart to hear his little brother giggle again, “You get lost or something bro?” HE looked over to Kevin who sat staring with a very stern look on his face. “Uh…no I didn’t, I’m still in the lobby”

“Oh well get on up here! I want to show you some stuff”

“What kind of stuff?”

“Um…I have a few videos from home and I have my drawings”

“You draw too?” Mike glanced over to Kevin who looked like he wanted to rip the phone right out of his hands.

“Yeah, I just made a picture of you and I”

“You did?”

“Yup…so, come on up and I’ll show it to you” He paused, he didn’t want to say what he was about to say. In fact, just thinking about the words was breaking his heart. He felt trapped, like he had no other choice, especially since Kevin was sitting there staring at him, more like glaring at him. “Look…Nickers…its kind of late and I’m really tired”

There was a pause; he could swear Nick stopped breathing. Mike wanted to just come out and say this son of a bitch Kevin is here just about holding a gun to my head forcing me to say this, but he didn’t really blame Kevin. As much as he wanted to, he just couldn’t. “I think I am going to go home and go to bed”

He heard his little brother sigh, “Uh…okay yeah sure. That’s okay. I guess I’m tired to”

“I’m sorry Nick…” He felt so horrible.

“No…uh…no it’s okay” Nick paused again, “Will I see you tomorrow?” Mike glanced over at Kevin, “Why don’t you give me a call tomorrow and we’ll talk about it, Okay?”

“Yeah, um…okay. Sounds good”

“I love you Nickers” There was another pause then finally, “I love you too Mike” Mike put his hand to his chest, wanting so badly to go up and give his brother a hug. But instead he just hung up the phone.

“You did the right thing” Kevin said.

“Oh did I? Seems like for someone who doesn’t want my brother hurt. You just did a good job of letting me hurt him just now” Kevin looked down at the table, he seemed upset with himself and that gave Mike a little satisfaction, “I know I’m a son of a bitch, but I had to be”

“I’m doing what you asked me to do today because in a way I guess I agree with you, but I’m telling you right now you are not going to prevent me from seeing my brother” Mike stood up to leave, “Mike?”

“Yeah?”

“I meant what I said. If you are who you say you are then I’m sorry” He was looking forward to the apology that would eventually have to come from this asshole's mouth, he thought to himself as he turned to leave, “But…” That made him turn around, “If you are an imposter, be sure I will do everything in my power to get you behind bars where you belong” Mike didn’t say anything, just turned and slowly walked away.
13 by Mare
13
I hung up the phone and didn’t exactly know how to feel. I mean I know it was a long day; the poor guy had been tackled by my security guard and then thrown out of the room by one of my friends, but still…too tired? We hadn’t seen each other in about 14 years if my math was correct, which I know probably wasn’t, but even still, it has been long enough that I think I’m going to call it a night didn’t seem like a viable excuse.
Just negative thought after negative thought pounded inside my head making me nuts. Did he not really want to find me? Was this REALLY a ploy to get money and maybe he had a change of heart? Was it that he didn’t like what he found? That was probably it; he was probably regretting ever finding me. I knew I shouldn’t have mentioned the drawings, I probably sounded like a three year old. I mean I know I always act immature, maybe he got one look at that and decided that I was more of a hassle then I was worth.

That last thought did it, I actually got so sick thinking about it that I made myself ill. As I washed my face off and threw a stick of gum in my mouth to kill the feeling of throwing up, I found myself getting madder at Brian for some reason. Not sure why, but I didn’t feel the need to prove him right, but boy did I need to talk to somebody, even if it was to hang and laugh.

I was also a little surprised that after I stormed out of that room, no one ever came to talk to me, well except for Brian that is. Granted, I’m sure Brian told them all about how my brother and I met and they were probably sitting right next door and laughing about how stupid I am. Waiting for the chance to say, See? I told you so…now you will know to listen to me, I am ALWAYS right.

I was stuck, I wanted someone to talk to, but I had no idea who. Maybe it was by instinct, or once again by sheer stupidity, I found myself dialing my Mom’s cell phone. After all, if anyone deserved the right to know about Mike, my Mother did. I waited and waited for her voicemail to pick up, I knew she wouldn’t answer her phone, she seldom did these days but I would leave her a message to call me, it was an emergency and I needed her right away; that’s what I was going to do.

When I DID get her voicemail, I hung up. Knowing that it would just hurt even more when she never did call me back. SO, I moved to the floor and cradling my head on my lap I just sat there and rocked. Rocking always managed to sooth me, calm me down. When things got too stressed in BSB land, I would lock myself in the bathroom and do this. The guys would tease me, telling me that I took the longest dumps known to man, but it just kind of helped to calm me down.

How could he want to call it night? Was it something I said?


~*~*~*~*~*~
Mike stood in his apartment looking out the window. He loved to people watch from this particular window; the strangest people would cross its path. Sometimes it was men dressed as ladies, sometimes it was ladies dressed like men. Sometimes it was a biker dude holding hands with a nun. Just the strangest things, but living right in the heart of NYC, you just came to expect the unexpected. Now he found himself looking out there trying to find the answers he was searching for. When he had gotten home he was so angry at Kevin he actually punched a wall. And because the walls were oh so sturdy, his fist went right threw the plaster leaving a huge hole. “Toothpaste will not work this time” He had muttered to himself, while cleaning the blood from his knuckles. He had learned from one of his ex girlfriends a little trick she had picked up in college; if you put white toothpaste in a hole it covers it up. Of course she was talking about tiny holes made by nails not huge holes made by fists.

Oh how good it felt to picture Kevin’s head as he punched though, who did that guy think he was anyway? Even though he as annoyed at Kevin, he was even more annoyed with himself, to allow himself to be bullied by Kevin in the first place. Or was it bullying? The guy was just looking out for Nick, is that such a bad thing? That should have been his job, not some obnoxious jackass who thinks he’s better than everybody else.

He had thoughts about calling his brother back, admitting the real reason he had left in the first place, but he just knew it would make things worse. So he sucked it up and stood staring out the window. Tomorrow was another day, and tomorrow he was going to spend the day with Nick. No matter what anybody said, he was going to have his time with his brother. “Let him call the police on me” He yelled out into the street, “Yeah you tell him buddy!” Was yelled back in return. Mike looked down to see and old man of about 70 wearing nothing but a black mesh top, a leather mini skirt and mesh stockings.

Only in New York, Mike thought as he closed his window and really did settle in for the night, anxious about tomorrow, He was going to drop by an arts and crafts store and get his little brother a bunch of fun materials. He didn’t have much money but it would be worth the smile he would receive in return.


~*~*~*~~*~~*
Finally after about an hour of sitting and rocking on the floor, I made my way over to Howie and AJ’s room. I couldn’t help it; I was a creature of habit and those negative thoughts just wouldn’t leave my brain. No matter how much I really wanted to, I didn’t go to Kevin or Brian who had thankfully took my slamming the door in his face as a cue to stay over with his cousin for the night. It was kind of late, but not for those two so I made my way over and knocked on the door, AJ opened it up and smiled at me, “We were wondering how long it was gonna take you to come over here” I rolled my eyes at him, “Jerk”

“I’m just teasing you kiddo, come on in”

Howie was sitting with his legs crossed on his bed holding a pillow across his stomach The Tonight Show on mute in the background. When he saw me, he pat the bed next to him, so I walked over and sat by his side. “Brian told us everything, are you still mad?”

“Yes, he is a jerk!”

“So how did it go with your brother?” AJ sat on his bed staring at me, he wanted to know to. I felt embarrassed not wanting to really admit that my own brother dissed me ALREADY!

“He went home; he was tired so I guess I’ll see him tomorrow”

“He didn’t come up to see you?” I shook my head, “Nicky, Brian told us how you met and…”

“Howie don’t…okay? I really don’t feel like listening to this right now” He nodded and placed a hand around my back. Good old Howie, he knew when not to press.

“Have you called your Mom Kaos?” I looked over at AJ and shook my head, “Not yet, I guess I will tomorrow”

“You guess? Don’t you think she should know about this?”

“She will, but it would only freak her out. I need to figure out how exactly I am going to tell her”

“Was it weird talking to him again?” Howie asked, staring with curious eyes.

“Yes, it was odd at first but then…I don’t know, it just kind became more natural”

“So you are SURE he is who he says he is then?” Why were they all so skeptical? I mean I know I was skeptical but why them? “I have to admit at first I wasn’t sure, but now I really do think it’s him”

“Why?”

“He knows things that…well…only he would know” AJ and Howie glanced at each other, I could tell this was a hot topic after I had my little hissy fit and stormed out of the room, I thought so when Brian had came over but now these two just confirmed it.

“What?” I asked defensively, I was tired of having to defend every single action or decision I made. It was grating on my nerves.

“Nothing…jeez, relax Kaos” AJ snickered but I read more into it. I had known these guys for a long enough time to know that there was more to their stares then met the eye.

“You guys don’t believe him either do you?” I finally asked. Why not? I needed to know who was on my side. So far it was Nick 0 group 2. They kind of looked at each other again, a little more uncomfortably this time. “Well?”

“It’s not that we don’t believe him because we don’t really know him”

“Exactly my point”

“But…” There was always a but.

“But what?”

“It just seems a little too neat, I mean don’t you think so Nicky? Suddenly he pops up right after you make an appearance in the store and give him a Journey CD?”

“Howie’s right kiddo. It’s too much of a coincidence”

“Maybe it’s not a coincidence. Maybe it’s fate”

“Could be, just be careful okay? Promise me you will be careful” I nodded at Howie. It’s funny because if Kevin had said the same thing I would have blown up at him, but I don’t know; Howie just had a way about him.

I hung out with Howie and AJ for about an hour, we watched the rest of the Tonight show and the start of this really cheesy movie which involved a floating piano and some very bad acting. Once a man started hacking at the piano with an axe, I took it as my cue to leave.

I really thought I was going to be sleeping in the room alone, not that it made me happy or anything; being alone in a hotel kind of freaked me out, even at 18. I was ready for it though and to be honest I think I just needed a night away from Brian. As luck would have it however; I opened the door to find him lying on his belly on the bed watching that very same stupid movie. When I walked in, he sat up and clicked off the TV.

“I didn’t think you were going to be coming back” He said surprised. Maybe he was looking forward to having his own room too.

“Sorry to disappoint you” I plopped on my bed and threw my shoes off. I was hoping to hit him but unfortunately missed.

“So, I guess that means you’re still pissed at me then?”

“No, I’m not pissed, I could care less what you or your cousin think” I pulled myself under the covers and turned away from him.

“Is it really him Nick?”

I turned once again to face him, once he saw my eyes he continued, “Because if you don’t have any doubts then I’ll believe you”

“It’s him Rok”

“How do you know?”

“I’m not sure. He knows stuff. He just does. After you left when we had a chance to talk, I just knew it was him. It felt comfortable; it felt nice”

“There’s no doubt in your mind?”

“None…although he blew me off tonight” I turned back towards the wall not ready to see Brian’s happy reaction.

“What do you mean?”

“He said he was tired. He left to go home and go to bed”

“Maybe he really WAS tired” I turned back around, “I don’t think so. My guess is you have nothing to worry about. I think he doesn’t want to be bothered with me”

Brian looked down at the floor and began biting at his nails, “Nick I wouldn’t read too much into that. Maybe he really was tired”

“After going 14 years without seeing me, I would hope he could stay awake past 11 Brian”

“Just don’t read too much into it okay?”

“I don’t get it, one minute you are telling me the guy is a fake and now you are telling me to not read into it. You’re confusing me Rok!”

“There might have been circumstances” That was it for me, suddenly like a little light bulb going off in my head; I finally allowed my brain to go there, “Circumstances…meaning?” I sat up, I had a feeling I wasn’t going to much like where Brian was going with this.

“Maybe he was…” His eyes searched around the room as if it told him what to say next. “Just don’t worry about it okay?”

“Oh My GOD!! Kevin talked to him didn’t he?” I stood up and began to pace.

“Shit!...Nick, don’t go racing to any conclusions”

“He did didn’t he?”

“He was just concerned, we were just concerned”

“YOU?” I wanted to punch my best friend right where he stood just then.

“No! I didn’t do anything, I swear Nick, I went and told Kevin and the guys the story and he took it upon himself to talk to your brother”

“What did he say?” I was fuming.

“I don’t know, I told him I didn’t want to know…I knew you would be upset”

I grabbed my shoes putting them on with such force that I actually hurt the soles of my feet. Brian noticing my actions went to block the door, “Where are you going?”

“I am going to talk to your stupid ass cousin!”

“Nick don’t…calm down first”

“Go to hell Brian” “He was only looking out for you” I was done listening to him; I had one mission and only one mission. I was going to Kevin’s room and kicking some Kentucky ass!
14 by Mare
*sorry about the wait...phone line problems lol*

14

I stormed out of my door slamming it shut, not caring that it was late and I could have woken people up. All I wanted to do was rip Kevin’s head right off his shoulders. I banged on the door with both fists and I could tell by the way he said “Who the hell is it?” That I had either woken him up or interrupted a phone call. Good! He deserved it.

I briefly thought about not answering him, let him sweat it out, but then I quickly realized all that would do is leave me outside his room while he ignored me, so I said in a deceptively calm voice, “It’s me”

“Nick?” He said as I heard him walking towards the door.

“Yeah, open up a minute”

He opened his door all the way and I walked in, once again very calmly. Boy was I a good actor. “What’s up lil’ man?”

I turned around once he had shut the door and before I had time to talk myself out of it, I charged at him, full force. “What the Fu...” Is all he got out before I tackled him to the ground and got in a punch right to his face.

“You stupid son of a bitch! How can you do this to me?” I shouted at him while he blocked his face from my blows. I only managed to get in that one hit because next thing I knew he had rolled me over and sat lying on top of me, pinning my arms down with his legs.

“Calm the hell down” He threatened. That’s the best word I could use to describe what it was because he wasn’t even close to yelling, but the way he grit his teeth as he spoke made me realize that if I didn’t do what he asked, he could very well kill me.

“Get off of me!”

“Not until you calm down…God what is wrong with you? I can’t believe you punched me you little shit”

“I still have more where that one came from”

“Yeah I’m sure you do Rocky but I suggest you quit the tough guy act NOW!” He shouted the last word right into my ear.

“Get off of me” I tried my best to kick him off of me but he was just a little too big for me to handle so after a while I just stopped.

“You done now?” He asked me sarcastically. What an ass!

“Yes now get the hell off of me”

“Fine but I’m warning you, you hit me again and I’m hitting back I don’t care how old you are!” With that being said he rolled off of me and sat on the floor holding his jaw. I just laid there for a few minutes, out of breath and hot.

I finally sat up, a far enough distance away from Kevin who still sat there nursing his jaw; he looked like he was ready to kill. “Mind telling me what the hell that was all about?” He looked my way and all I saw staring back at me was hate filled eyes. It took me back for a second.

“Why did you tell Mike he couldn’t see me?” I was still seething.

“He told you? Very nice of him”

“No! He didn’t tell me anything, my guess is he didn’t want to cause any rift between us. Your cousin told me”

He rolled his eyes, “Oh nice going Brian”

“Well you see, the weirdest thing happened Kevin…he trusted me when I told him about Mike”

“I trust you to Nick”

“No you don’t”

“I just think you are being naïve. All I said to Mike was I wanted to talk to your Mom first”

I shot him an even dirtier look if that was possible, “Did you call my Mom?”

“I tried but I wasn’t able to track her down”

“How could you do that without even talking to me first Kevin?”

Now the hate was all but gone from Kevin’s eyes as he got up to grab some ice from his bucket, he was definitely going to have a bruise. “Nick, I just wanted to be sure”

“All you had to do was talk to me and then you would be sure”

“Besides, Mike thought it was a good idea” I grunted and shook my head, “Sure he did”

“No…he really did. He said if it was him, he would do the same thing”

I looked over at Kevin wanting to believe him. I mean was it warped of me to want my real big brother to be completely over protective of me while at the same time being totally put off that Kevin was? What was wrong with me? Kevin seeing that my interest in what he was saying was peaked, continued, “He said that HE understood I was just looking out for you. I wish you could understand that” Now Kevin looked hurt. Maybe it was the way he held his chin in his hand while he was speaking but I started to feel an overwhelming sense of guilt about punching him.

“I’m sorry I hit you” I said to the floor.

“Nick, I just don’t want you to get hurt. So, just wait a few days, once we talk to your Mom and straighten everything out, I’ll feel better about letting him be around you”

“Kevin don’t take my apology as an agreement” He looked over at me confused. “What do you mean?”

I stood up, my body ached, I’m sure I would wake up with a few bruises of my own tomorrow, “I mean that even though I said I was sorry for hitting you, it doesn’t mean I think you’re right. I AM going to see my brother tomorrow and you aren’t going to stop me”

I was ready for round two, if he thought I was about to back down he was kidding himself. “It’s too late tonight to call him, but I’m calling him first thing in the morning and inviting him to spend the day with me” Kevin sat shaking his head in disbelief at me, which only helped fuel my little speech to him.

“I am an adult now, not you or my Mom or anyone for that matter can tell me who I can and can’t see. So, stay out of MY personal business and I’ll stay out of yours”

Kevin stood up slowly now, the move was so slow in fact, that I thought he was going to lunge at me at any given second. I found myself moving away from him, just in case.

“Okay Nick…you win” Now it was my turn to be confused. I stood there just looking at him waiting for the punch line. No pun intended of course. He was totally on his feet now and slowly walked over to his bed and sat down, turning on the television, “You are right, you’re 18 years old. If you want to see him go right ahead; I won’t stop you”

“Really?” I was waiting for the catch.

“Really, it’s your life. I am done fighting” I still wasn’t totally believing him, waiting for him to yell psyche! Or something; but he didn’t, actually once he made his statement he totally ignored me, acted like I wasn’t even in the room anymore.

“Okay, thanks Kevin. Thanks for understanding where I’m coming from”

“I don’t understand where you’re coming from Nick but I refuse to care anymore. You’re on your own” Okay that hurt like hell. But I knew it was some kind of trick or mind game or something and I refused to play into it. It was a little awkward, I just stood there staring at him while he watched TV, waiting for him to say or do something more, in my mind thinking of the perfect exit line. Something to really make him wish he wasn’t such an idiot.

“Well, I don’t care that you don’t care anymore” What? Good one Nick!

He ignored that with a shrug, “Whatever”

“Fine!” I know I wasn’t making sense anymore but I had to say something to get the hell out of there and that’s about the only thing I could think of, so I turned on my heel and started for the door, “Oh and Nick...” There it was, finally he was going to say watch your back or I didn’t mean it of course I care, or something like that.

“What?”

“We have a pretty full schedule tomorrow, so I doubt you’ll be able to spend the day with him. Good luck with that”

“What time is our first thing tomorrow?” He ignored me again as I stood there waiting for his answer. Without taking his eyes away from the paid advertisement for knives he said, “You’re a big boy go back to your room and look it up yourself”

“Fine! I will goodnight” asshole! I walked out and slammed his door.

When I got back to the room Brian was waiting up for me. I entered once again slamming the door. I was beginning to be very good at that. He wasted no time in trying to find out what had happened I however was not in the mood. I decided instead of having to deal with the inquisition, I would opt to lock myself in the bathroom until he fell asleep. Shortly after entering the bathroom and taking a seat on the toilet, there was a knock at the door, “How did it go? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Go away I don’t feel like talking about it”

“But…what did he say?”

I rolled my eyes wishing that I had one of my CD walkmen hiding in there with me. I didn’t feel like hearing anyone talking anymore tonight.

“Nick? Are you in there?” Duh! No Brian I’m not; I vanished into thin air!

“Leave me alone Brian, I’m done talking for the night” My voice cracked, damn it! I hate when that happens. Here I thought I was fine and then I go and almost cry.

“Let me in Nick”

“No! Now go away please” And that was that. I shut him out. Refusing to listen to him beg me to let him in the room. Eventually he walked away, but I didn’t come out of the bathroom until I saw that the light was off; when that happened I crept into my bed and thankfully went to sleep.


~*~*~*~*~*~*
The phone ringing abruptly woke me up. I was having the best dream too; it involved me in a hut tub with five beautiful women. Snoopy was there, which was weird, but even still I didn’t want to open my eyes. I tried my best to ignore it, after the 8th ring I gave up. I sat up yawning and pulled the phone to my ear. “Hello?”

“Nick” It was Howie.

“Yeah?”

“Are you guys up and ready to go?” I hated when people woke me up asking me if I was ready for anything. It usually made my whole day rotten.

“What are you talking about?”

“Didn’t Kevin call you?”

“No”

“Oh, I thought he always gave you guys wake up calls”

“He doesn’t want to bother anymore I guess” I said in a pretty sarcastic voice, considering I was too tired to even realize it.

“Well, you guys better hustle then because we have to be in the van at 8”

“What time is it now?”

“7:40”

“What? Why the hell did you wait so long to call me?” I was yelling which woke Brian up.

“Relax, I assumed Kevin called you”

“Shit! Okay well we might be a little late”

“Better hurry” I didn’t even bother to say goodbye I just hung up on him. Poor D, he always seemed to incur my wrath. “What?” Brian asked sounding even more annoyed then I felt.

“Better get your ass up we have to be in the van in about 15 minutes”

Brian shot out of bed, if I wasn’t in such an ill mood I probably would have laughed because it looked like something out of a cartoon, I swear that boy’s feet didn’t even touch the ground getting from the bed to the bathroom. While he was in there getting ready I just threw on anything I could find, not caring if it was dirty or clean. I had no idea what was on the agenda today, but if it did call for me to be dressed up they would have to dress me up themselves.

“SHIT!” I screamed putting on my socks when I realized that I hadn’t called my brother to let him know I would most likely not be able to see him until later. I searched through my duffle bag for our itinerary, I couldn’t find it anywhere.

“Nick! Finish getting dressed, it’s already 8, we are late”

“Brian do you have any idea where we are going and when we are coming back?”

Brian came out of the bathroom a little too dressy for my taste. That wasn’t a good sign for me in my sweats and dirty orange tee.

“I think we have a thing in New Jersey, I have no idea what or when we are coming back; but we need to leave now” He tossed me my shoes, “I need to call Mike and let him know I won’t be here”

“Call him from the car, we gotta go dude”

I had no choice I had to leave the hotel room as is and not call Mike until I knew what to tell him. I brought my duffel bag with me knowing I’d have to fish through it to get the schedule for the day. When I reached the car, all the guys were already in and waiting for Brian and I. All of them were dressed very sharply and I received snickers when I entered the van.

“Very nice Kaos, that’ll impress them”

I moved into the middle row sitting in between Howie and Brian.

Kevin sat in the front seat and didn’t even bother to glance my way when I entered the car. I could swear he was smirking though, great just great! Kevin 1 and Nick 0.

When we took off, I looked at the hotel behind me, hoping that Mike wouldn’t show up there. Maybe I was afraid if he did and I wasn’t there he would disappear out of my life again.








Email: marrbop@aol.com
15 by Mare
15
The ride to wherever we were going was one of the most uncomfortable ones I have ever experienced. Partly because I wasn’t ready for it, partly because I knew Kevin hated me but mostly because I had NO idea what to tell my brother. I didn’t know him well enough to just assume he would be okay with whatever it was I told him. He might have been there in the hotel waiting, looking at his watch for the fiftieth time wondering why it was I didn’t even bother to call him. Then he would leave, never to come back ever again. Well except to maybe go to all the tabloids and tell them what a horrible and inconsiderate brother I was in the first place.
“What are you thinking?” I turned to look at Brian who was watching me with a wondering look on his face. I know that they wished they could figure me out sometimes, I was kind of glad I was such an enigma to them.

“Just thinking about Mike”

“Oh” I could swear I heard a ‘pffft’ come from the front seat but I chose to ignore it.

“Yeah, I feel bad. I wanted to spend the day with him, I don’t even know where we are going” I whispered that last part because I didn’t feel the need to let Kevin know that since I had left him last night, I didn’t manage to figure out anything.

“Well, just tell him you are in Jersey and you’ll see him when we get back”

“Yeah Kaos, maybe we can all go to dinner or something” AJ offered. That was nice. Nothing would make me happier then to have Mike gel with the guys.

“Maybe, although it might be a little overwhelming for him at first”

“I think it’s a great idea…” Howie trying his hardest to be impartial, “What do you think Kevin?” Oh here we go.

“Yeah whatever” I rolled my eyes. I know that Brian was aware that Kevin and I had a little confrontation yesterday but I don’t think the other two did, until right then, when you could visibly see the tension in the car. I decided to not let Kevin get to me and instead focused my attention on calling my brother…one problem though, “Hey D…can I use your cell phone?”

“What about yours?”

“Mike has it” I swear another subtle grunt was heard coming from the front of the van.

Howie tossed his phone to me with a wink and a smile; “you know you would make a good Santa Clause D” He looked at me like I was odd. I however, thought it made perfect sense. Whenever anyone needed anything, it was Howie who would always come to the rescue. Just like Santa. See? It makes sense really.

I didn’t like the idea of calling and talking to Mike in front of everyone. Not sure why, but I found it embarrassing. I mean when we came to awkward pauses in our conversations, everyone would know. I was sure they would all be staring at me the whole time as well; I had to do it though, I didn’t want to wait until we reached our destination. It was probably juvenile of me to think that way, but I was afraid the longer I waited, the sooner he would lose interest.

I blame my short attention span for that.

SO, I turned away from them, the best I could considering I was in the middle and all and I called my cell phone.

He answered on the fifth ring. Turns out I had woken him up. Stupid me!

“Mike?” There was a long pause, Felt like hours but maybe only a couple of seconds.

“Nick…is that you?”

“Yeah man, I’m sorry; I woke you up didn’t I?” He yawned.

“Uh, no I was awake” Liar “What’s up tiger?”

“Tiger?” I laughed causing Brian to laugh as well even though he had NO idea what the conversation was.

“Yeah, you got a problem with me calling you tiger?”

“No, I kind of like that actually. Even though sharks are more my speed”

“Sharks huh? Well I think that would sound silly if I called you shark”

“Yeah me too” Wow what a dumb conversation we were having. Considering it was only our second or third real one as family.

“So, what’s up? You kind of sound like you’re breaking up, are you in a car or something?”

“Yes. A van actually, that’s why I called, um…” I bit my bottom lip. “I have this thing in New Jersey today”

“Joisey huh? What exit?” He cracked up but I didn’t get it. When he figured that out, his laughter kind of slowly faded, “So where in Jersey? Maybe I can meet you there” Now that was a good idea. Why didn’t I think of that? Just because I was working didn’t mean that he couldn’t come and spend the day with me. The thought of him following me around all day kind of excited me. One problem, I was still Captain Clueless as to where the heck we were going. I didn’t want them all to know that, especially Kev, but to see my brother I swallowed my pride and asked, “Hey guys, where are we going? Mike wants to meet us there”

There was silence, the kind I didn’t much like. The looking at each other, wondering who was going to break the news to me kind of silence. Finally it was Santa Clause himself that spoke, “Nick, we have a photo shoot and then a lunch with business executives who will be sponsoring our tour”

“Oh”

“I doubt Mike would be able to come join us”

“Oh” I said again. I found myself biting my bottom lip again, “Mike. It’s a tour sponsor thing, I don’t think they’ll let you come” There was a slight pause, “Oh that’s no problem Nickers, I’ll catch you when you get back then”

I smiled; I knew he wouldn’t be mad “Cool!”

“What time you think you’ll be back? Maybe we can do dinner”

“Yeah, that sounds great…” I turned away from the phone, “Hey guys, what time will be back? Mike wants to do dinner?”

“Not until really late buddy” Howie once again, Mr. Bearer of bad news.

“How late is really late?”

“My guess is midnight or so” That came from the front. I’m sure Kevin just couldn’t wait to say it. Nothing makes him happier than ruining my day.

“Shit!” I felt the need to cuss, then once again I turned my attention to the phone, “Um...Mikey….I won’t be back until midnight, they think”

This time there was an awkward silence. I could tell he was disappointed, I don’t blame him; I was too. “Okay, well how about tomorrow then?” He thought I was lying to him, I could tell by the hurt sound in his voice. The same sound I often had…sometimes too often.

“Tomorrow sounds great!” I said happily, “I’ll look forward to it and I’m really sorry, I wanted us to have the whole day”

“Awe, that’s okay tiger, it happens. We’ll just catch up tomorrow; after all, we do have our whole lives right?” That made me smile. “Right”

“So, I will see you tomorrow then. Call me when you get back tonight and we’ll talk about it”

“Really? It will be late”

“I don’t care”

“Kay”

“Nick…I uh…I’ll see you tomorrow”

“Okay, bye bye”

When I hung up the phone, just like I had predicted they were all staring at me, well three of them anyway, the fourth could care less; remember?

We’re gonna hang out tomorrow” I proudly announced. They all smiled, “That’s great Kaos, and I’m looking forward to getting to know him”

“I am too; he’ll get a kick out of you Rok”

“Nick, we have a really hectic schedule tomorrow as well, if you bothered to even look at your itinerary” Kevin was really annoying me now.

“Yeah he’s right kid, but I think you can at least steal some time to see him” I hated being SO busy that I couldn’t even spend time with my family.

“I’m really looking forward to it, I can’t wait for MOST of you guys to meet him” I had to add the word most. It seemed appropriate. Once again the tension in the car got thicker, “I already had the pleasure, now it’s everyone else’s turn” Stupid Kevin with his fast comebacks.

“You know Kev, I don’t know why you have to be such an ass about this” Was that AJ coming to my defense?

“I don’t care either way. I’m happy for you Nick. Really I am” He did sound kind of genuine. He was confusing me. I hate being confused. Why would Kevin say he was happy for me when he was anything but?

“Sure you are” I said sarcastically, not sure why as the words were leaving my mouth. Maybe I was in the mood for a fight. Another fight, speaking of which, “So, do you think the make up people will cover that bruise up?” I know, I was such a bastard sometimes.

“What bruise?” Oh he wanted to play that game then? Okay I was ready to play, “You know…from where I punched you in the face last night” Howie, Brian and AJ all looked at each other, but Kevin laughed, “In your dreams lil man. No bruise, it was only red. It’s all better now; like it never happened. I’d like to treat it that way. Like it never happened”

I rolled my eyes and by the look on Brian’s face, I knew he wanted the whole story as soon as we were able to get away from the rest. Howie and AJ looked amused but not that curious, they were used to my little outbursts by now but then again they didn’t know the entire tale.

That was the last thing discussed in the van. Everyone else pretty much rode in silence the rest of the way. I opted to close my eyes and try to get some sleep. If it was going to a long day, I wanted to be ready for it.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Mike hung up the phone with his work people, it was like some weird psychic thing, the minute his plans are all shot to hell, work manages to call and ask him if he can fill in for somebody at the last minute. The ironic thing was it was Melinda that had called off. He decided he would say yes since it would give him something to do, instead of sit at home and dwell on the fact that he didn’t feel welcomed into his little brother’s life. He didn’t know what he was expecting, maybe a red carpet, maybe a huge Oprah type moment when suddenly everyone surrounding his brother’s isolated pop bubble he lived in would open their arms to him.

After meeting Kevin, he knew that was not going to be the case. Kevin had made him feel anything but welcome. In fact, Kevin made him feel cheap. He didn’t blame the guy totally. It was true that if in the same situation he would most likely have done the same thing, what bothered him was the fact that he was never IN the same situation, when by all rights he should have been.

He felt cheated by everything. Not yesterday because reality hadn’t quite set in yet. Yesterday felt like a dream to him, something he had never thought would happen. He had ignored all the feelings of insecurity surrounding him then, all he had concentrated on was talking to his brother.

Today was a different ball game. After he talked to his brother, He felt like crap. He knew Nick wasn’t lying to him, but he just started to doubt that he would ever feel totally excepted into his brother’s life.

Maybe he was grateful for that call into work then. He could forget about things for the day. Just be good old Mike Alexander. So, he got up got dressed and headed for work. As he opened the door, he was a little surprised to see who was standing on the other side waiting for him.

“What are you doing here?” He asked surprised and a little caught off guard.

“Now is that anyway to great your Father?” John Alexander asked his son as he entered the apartment carrying nothing but a duffle bag and a smile.
16 by Mare
*As always, thanks so much for your feedback! IT has really meant a lot :)*

16

Mike just stood staring at his father incredulously, why now of all times? He always had the absolute worst timing in the world. It wasn’t enough that over the years his dad had done nothing but ruin his life over and over again, constantly having to change cities and even names at one point to stay out of trouble with the law, but now he has to come back just as he was about to rekindle a relationship with his only brother.
Great timing

“Well, why are you just standing there with a dumb look on your face? Aren’t you going to say wow dad you look great I’m SO happy to see you?” That snapped Mike out of his semi daze as he walked over to his father and gave him a forced hug.

“I’m sorry dad; I’m just a little surprised that’s all”

“Believe me so am I” he said as he ventured into the room and threw his duffel bag on the couch, like he was claiming his territory. Mike closed the door and walked over to where his father was and decided to sit on the coffee table across from the man who he thought he would never really have to see again.

“So, why are you here dad? I have to admit I didn’t think I’d be seeing you for a while”

“Yeah I know…” John took a cigarette out of his jean pocket and lit it up, “I can tell by the numerous visits you made to me while I was in that hellhole”

And here comes the guilt ladies and gentlemen Mike was wondering how far into this little visit THAT would happen, turns out only about three minutes. Three minutes and he had already managed to turn everything upside down.

“I’m sorry about that dad; it’s just that I was trying to move on with my life” Mike stood up to go find his father a make shift ashtray seeing as how if he didn’t, John would have been more than content to just let the ashes drop on the floor.

“Nice to know that moving on with your life means no more bothering to talk to your father” Mike stopped his search to take a deep breath or else he would have started hyperventilating, his father made him that crazy sometimes.

“How long do you plan on staying” He dared to ask from the kitchen where he was retrieving an old aluminum pie plate for his dad.

John ignored his son as he took a minute to look around the room, kind of disgusted with how small the place was. True it was a little bigger than his prison cell but not by much. He was somehow hoping that Mike had struck it rich while he was gone, buying a house big enough for the two of them to live in comfortably. No such luck; he would have to sleep on the small couch he was now sitting on. That sucked!

“Dad”

“What?”

“Why didn’t you answer me?” Now Mike was back in his small living area extending his makeshift ashtray to his father, “I asked you how long you planned on staying”

John took the ashtray and placed it on the floor by his feet. He loved just letting the ashes fall from the end and down onto the floor. He ignored his son once more, long enough to inhale and exhale; Mike stood patiently waiting for his answer while biting on his bottom lip.

“Just until I get back on my own to feet. Don’t worry, I’ll be out of your hair soon enough”

Mike nodded because he couldn’t think of anything else to do, he wasn’t about to throw his dad out knowing he would end up at one of those shelters, but yet he didn’t really want him staying around either. Maybe he would just stay long enough to get his act together.

“You didn’t escape or anything did you?” That made John laugh, “No, I suppose they just got tired of me” When Mike didn’t laugh, John continued, “God kid where did your sense of humor go? Relax; I was let out on good behavior. I think they needed my room or something, whatever the case, your dad’s a free man!”

“That’s excellent” He feigned a smile, really just wanting to scream. This was not at all a good thing, in fact this was probably as bad as it could possibly get.

“Holy shit!” He exclaimed when he realized he should really be getting dressed for work, but did he really want to leave his father alone in his apartment? Not that there was anything that he could possibly steal but still.

“Where did you get the fancy cellphone? I never pictured you as a cellphone type of kid” Mike ran over and retrieved the phone out of his father’s hands as if it stayed in those hands long enough, they would magically reveal who it actually belonged to. Speaking of which, now he had a brand new dilemma, what the hell to do concerning Nick. There was NO way in hell he was going to tell his dad about Nick. He felt a little bad about it, he did deserve the right t know, but then again why? He couldn’t even recall his father EVER bringing up the kid at all, once they walked out the door of that old rickety house in Florida, it’s like he had forgotten he had two sons.

Suddenly he felt bad for bringing up the fact that his Mom never tried to find him, when here was their father who had done the same thing.

Two lousy parents!

“Jesus Christ kid, don’t worry I won’t run up your phone bill”

“It’s a friend of mine’s phone” He said taking it and putting it in his coat pocket. John Alexander smiled, “Would this be a female friend Mikey?” He smirked, the same smirk that both boys had used as their trademark to get all the women they wanted.

“Actually yes, but she’s just a friend”

That’s who he needed, he needed Melinda there. She would know what the heck to do, he thought to himself as he watched his father pull off his shoes and throw his feet onto the couch; lying down like a man who had NO plans at all to ever get up again.

“Dad, I really have to go and get ready for work, but I guess we can talk later”

His father grunted, totally ignoring him, like he had always done on countless occasions while growing up.

By the time Mike got done dressing himself his dad was fast asleep on the couch, snoring away. “Okay dad, see ya!” He whispered sarcastically as he walked out the door first making sure he hadn’t left any money at all hanging around.

Mike found himself suddenly a little happy that Nick was going to be gone all day. He don’t know what he would have done if the two had actually crossed paths today. He took a deep breath and got himself into work with about two minutes to spare.


~*~*~*~*~*~~*
I was acting like a child. I knew I was, I was full aware of it. No matter how many times I tried to change that side of myself, I just couldn’t. It’s like our roles had been cast and from time to time it was me that had to act like a spoiled brat.

When we got to this formal dinner thing, my mood had only worsened. I wanted to just go back to the hotel and call Mike; I didn’t want to be a Backstreet Boy today. I wanted to be an Alexander. Alexander…I couldn’t recall the last time I had actually allowed myself to be called an Alexander. It felt good; like maybe I could be me for once and not this Nick Carter person, because frankly, he grated on my nerves. Today definitely being one of those times.

I had decided that if I had to be in a bad mood, I was also going to make my entire group suffer. Misery loves company correct? So I was pouty and huffy to the point that even Brian, who could act just as spoiled sometimes, chose to walk away and ignore me.

After Brian was wise and finally decided to abandon ship, I just kept to the side of the room, head down playing with my Gameboy. That is before management, who were already furious with me for not being suitably dressed for the occasion, had ripped it right out of my hands. I knew they would manage to find me something to wear, good old predictable me, management had gotten used to always bringing an extra set of clothes with them whenever we had an event like this, because usually it was me, or perhaps AJ and Brian that would forget to dress appropriately. Nine times out of ten it was me, so one urgent phone call later, there I was in a VERY uncomfortable suit. About one size to big, smiling for cameras and being poked and prodded like I was a Christmas Ham.

We were supposed to mingle with the rich, business people first then go up to the table on the risers and discuss how happy we were that we had a sponsor. Blah blah blah…

It was a Jive head that yanked the Gameboy out of my hand, much to the chagrin of Kevin who witnessed the whole thing. He whisper yelled at me to act my age for once. You know what I mean by whisper yell? That cordial threat that comes through a smile as onlookers walk by. Couldn’t have our sponsors thinking anything bad could we?

After my Gameboy was gone, I was forced to do something other then be distracted, so I stood against the wall and smiled when people walked by. I figured that was the safest thing I could do. No one bothered me, but I was occasionally shot a look from Kevin. When it came time for us to head to the front and make our grand speech, I sat on the end with my head down. I really didn’t want to be bothered with any of this.

Kevin was going on and on rambling as he always does. The boy just really likes the sound of his own voice. Too bad nobody else does. I cracked myself up, which unfortunately brought the attention to me.

“Is something funny?” Uh oh I thought as I realized all heads were turned my way. I looked up to the man how asked the question. He held a small microphone and was staring at me, “No, sorry…I was just thinking of something”

“Care to share?”

“Not really”

Now I knew once that happened all the questions would start. It always happened like that for me, the guys thought it was because I couldn’t stand NOT being the center of attention even for a minute, but I think it’s because I really was a dumbass.

“Nick, tell us how you feel about the tour?”

“It’s good”

“Nick, do you have a girlfriend?”

“Nah”

“Nick how do you feel about your Mom’s book?”

“It’s a book” Everyone in the room laughed, I didn’t understand why. I didn’t think I was being funny. Brian and AJ laughed too. Howie and Kevin however, were not amused.

“You’re a boy of few words aren’t you?”

“Uh huh” More laughter.

After that they luckily moved on and I once again drifted off into daydream land. I loved daydream land. Nothing bad ever happened there. No matter what, it all turned out okay. In this little daydream, I pictured my brother and I going to a baseball game, not as a celebrity with guest, but as two normal brothers. Maybe he had a broken down van that he would drive us in. We would buy two hotdogs each and sit patiently with our gloves on waiting to catch a foul ball. Which Mike finally does in the bottom of the ninth inning. The walk off homerun ball. Everyone around him cheers then he hands it to me.

“This is for you kid. I love you!”

“Earth to Nicky…” I felt a hand on my shoulder and I glanced over to see Howie tapping me.

“We’re all done. Where were you?”

“Baseball game”

Howie nodded as if it all made perfect sense. I followed him down the few steps which led back to the main hall where the mingling once again commenced. I wanted to sneak away, just disappear. It probably wouldn’t be too hard, I decided that maybe I could go into the bathroom and sneak in a call to Mike. Not that I would have any idea what to say, but at least I would worry about that when the time came.

I walked past a few happy smiling people to find the bathroom. Of course, I was unaware that Kevin was following me. Why I would be the least bit surprised was beyond me, but when I got into the bathroom and once again took out Howie’s phone, Kevin decided to stop his let’s ignore Nick time.

“Don’t you think it’s rude to keep using his phone without asking?” I jumped about ten feet, but luckily I didn’t let out a scream. That would have been embarrassing. I turned around to face him, once my heart found its way back into my chest, “He knows” I lied of course, Howie wouldn’t mind.

“Who are you calling?”

“That’s none of your business, besides you don’t care right?” I instantly went into spoiled brat mode, God I hated doing that, but I couldn’t help it.

“How long you plan on acting like a baby about this Nick? I would love to know so I can pencil in when I can tolerate being around you again” I rolled my eyes. He was good, I’ll give him that much.

“I’m not acting like a baby” Yup I was the master at lame comebacks.

“I hope you’re calling your Mom. The sooner you do, the sooner this all get's straightened out”

“Oh I’ll leave that up to you since you seem to always want to call her anyway” Now he rolled his eyes.

"Whatever...do what you want, don't be too long, people want to know who it is they are graciously donating their money to...oh and try not to act like an ass please" Instead of looking at me he looked at the phone. Boy he sure as hell didn't want me talking to my brither which I KNEW he realized was going to happen once he walked out of the bathroom.

Once I heard the door close, I walked into a stall and dialed my phone patiently waiting for him to pick up.


~*~*~*~*~*~~*~
Mike staggered into work right on time. How he managed that was beyond him but he was there exactly on time. Not a minute to late or to soon. The manager was even standing there by the punch clock waiting for him. That guy can't wait to fire my ass he thought to himself when it appeared that the manager was disappointed with Mike's punctuality.

He still couldn't believe that his Fahter had come back home. What lousey timing and now what the hell was he supposed to do? He walked over to his register where Ariana was standing there waiting for him. She had a very amused look on her face.

"Hi Mike"

"Hey" He realized he didn't take her book back to work with him. He almost wanted to run away knowing she owuld ask about it.

"So..." She said

"Yeah I know, I'm really sorry for leaving with your book yesterday, I forgot it but I'll bring it tomorrow. I promise"

She smiled, "Oh that's okay...I have to ask" That made Mike look her way, "What sweetie?"

Ariana walked closer to him so that only he could here, "Is it true that he is your brother?" That took Mike by surprise.

"Ariana...I don't want people to know"

She smiled and started to hop, "Oh my gosh it IS true? I thought Melinda was just playing with me, but it's true? Oh my GOD!!"

"Look, I'm not positive yet. I still have to talk to him and all that stuff. Melinda wasn't supposed to tell anybody" He said the last part sounding more than a little annoyed which made Ariana become very apologetic, "I'm sorry Mike, I won't tell a soul, I promise" He nodded at her, he believed her, but then again he also believed Melinda.

"Thanks. I appreiciate that. I'll give you your book tomorrow"

"Keep it for as long as you need it" She said. He was really angry at Melinda right then, and happy that she wasn't in work.

"SHIT!" HE screamed which caused a bunch of heads to turn his way.

"What's wrong Mike?" Ariana asked, worried the man might flee again with NO explanation.

"I left my jacket home" She looked confused and Mike couldn't blame her. How was she supposed to know that in the jacket was Nick's cellphone.
17 by Mare
*Hope everybody stayed safe the past few days!*


17
John Alexander was a man who never had much in his life; he had been through so many bad times and often felt a little guilty for bringing his son along for the ride. Mike was a good kid, he didn’t deserve the kind of life that he found himself in. So after he gets out of prison where does he find himself? Right back at his son’s doorstep once again needing his help. He felt bad but yet, also felt like the kid in a way had owed him.
When he had woken up from his little nap on the very small uncomfortable couch which would be his bed for a while, he felt a little disoriented. At first he thought he was back in prison, but the nice breeze coming from the cracked open window, coupled with the smell of fresh air, made him realize that he was in fact a free man. He sat up and stretched feeling like he needed to take a shower. He was a free man; it was time to start smelling like one.

He walked around the small apartment in search of his son, wondering where the heck the kid had gotten too now. He laughed figuring that Mike had probably run away and just abandoned everything. That wouldn’t surprise John much after the unexcited greeting that he received from the boy. Then he remembered Mike saying something about work and he once again relaxed a bit.

He found himself roaming over to the kitchen, grabbing himself a beer and some leftover pizza that Mike had in there and walked over to the TV and flipped through the channels. It felt good to be a free man; maybe he would rethink his life.

“It’s all that bitches fault” He said out loud, seeing Carol Brady on the screen but thinking of his ex wife Jane. He blamed her for everything and thought about her often; never in a good way. If she hadn’t thrown him out of her house, things probably would have turned out different for him. He felt bad at the time, taking his son along, but he wanted to show her no one messes with John Alexander. Besides the kid was better off with him anyway. She was a horrible woman and an even worse Mother.

He spit at the TV just then, not even feeling bad for doing it. He often wondered about her, so many times wanting to show up at her doorstep and tell her the hell off, but he knew she would manage to have him arrested for kidnapping THEIR son.

Stupid bitch!

The phone ringing made him turn his eyes away from the television. He thought about just ignoring it and letting it ring but he was kind of hoping it would be his son. Maybe then he could drop a few hints that he really wanted some Chinese food and a carton or two of cigarettes. He scrambled around the apartment looking for the phone, not seeing it anywhere before realizing that it was coming from his son’s room. He ventured inside and picked it up on about the tenth ring.

“Hello”

“Dad” John smiled when he heard Mike’s voice on the other end of the line, “Yeah son, where were you? I was worried”

Mike laughed, “Yeah sure you were”

“No, I was. I didn’t know where you went”

“I told you I was going to work”

“I know, I remembered after a little while”

“Good…uh dad?”

“Yeah?”

“Did my cell phone ring at all?”

“I don’t think it did”

“Okay good…” Relief was heard on the other end, “Listen…um… if it …um…does would you …uh…do me a favor and…um… NOT pick it up? Just let the…uh… answering thing get it. Remember …um…it’s not my phone and I think Melinda would be upset if some stranger answered it”

“I’m not a stranger, I’m your father”

“Yeah I know, but to her…um… you are a stranger” John raised an eyebrow; his son was lying to him. He could always tell by the stuttering.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t want me to answer it? You aren’t embarrassed to have me here are you son?” There was a very awkward pause and for some reason that made John mad. He had only asked half teasing, by the lateness in his son’s reply, he knew that maybe he WAS embarrassed. That only made him WANT to answer the phone and invite the girl over where he could walk around the house naked, burping and farting.

“Uh…no dad. I’m not embarrassed…um…just promise me…okay? I gotta get back to work”

“Sure son, whatever you want. Listen can you pick your old man up some ciggies and Chinese on the way home?”

“Sure dad. I gotta go, I’ll see you later” When Mike hung up; John just smiled curiously at the phone. Sometimes he didn’t understand his son. Of course now he will answer the phone just out of plain curiosity but before he probably wouldn’t have. As if on cue, suddenly another ringing was heard, this time far off in the distance. He couldn’t’ make out where it was coming from but upon further investigation he noticed it was coming from Mike’s jacket. He fiddled through the pocket and brought out the phone. Looking at it, he decided to go ahead and answer.

“Hello”

“Um…hi Mike” It was a guy, that instantly disappointed John as he rolled his eyes at the phone ready to hang up at any moment. Maybe his son was gay! Maybe that was the reason for the secrecy.

“He’s not here what do you want?” He suddenly was regretting ever picking up the damn phone in the first place. Especially since there was a pause in conversation.

“Hello?” He asked again.

“Um…yeah, do you know when he will be back?”

“No I don’t sorry. I guess you’ll have to call back later”

“Can you take a message” Now John was really getting angry. What was he a friggin secretary now? “Yeah sure hang on a sec…” He pretended to get a pencil and paper.

“Okay go ahead…”

“Just tell him that his brother called”

“What the hell are you talking about? Mike doesn’t have a brother” John was now yelling at the kid on the other end of the line.

“Um...”

“Jesus Christ kid stop your damn stammering and tell me what you want to say”

“I am his brother” Nick said in a whisper.

“Kid, I am his father and I’m telling you he ain’t got no goddamned brother. Okay?” There was a long pause “Hello are you still there?”

“Yes...Sorry I must be mistaken then”

“Whatever” John said as he hung up on his youngest son, not even making the connection. He was so disappointed; he thought for sure that he would be talking to a lady. Instead he got his son’s gay lover. Great just great…no he got his son’s brother! What the hell was that all about? Maybe he belonged to one of those damn cults or something. They paddle each other and proclaim their love to their brothers.

He walked over and decided to give the bed a try. Maybe if it was comfortable enough he could guilt his son into sleeping on the sofa while he gave his father the bed. He laid down and sighed, it was comfortable but not any more or less comfortable then the scrawny couch he was sleeping on. Turning on his side, he placed his hand under the pillow and jumped when he heard something fall to the floor. He pulled himself to the end of the bed to see that it was a book.

He grabbed it and looked at the cover, “The Heart and Soul of Nick Carter…Jesus he is gay isn’t he?” he was just about to toss it down to the ground when his eyes caught those of the woman who he used to love more than anything else in the world, staring back at him from the pages of the book.

“I’ll be damned” He gasped as he flipped from page to page, more than a little amused.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I sat on the toilet just stunned after I got off the phone. Well actually after I was hung up on. I didn’t know how I felt. I was numb. I couldn’t even tell you what I did for the rest of the day, who I met or talked to because after that little conversation, I was in a fog. I pretty much stayed out of everybody’s way, especially the other guys. Knowing how moody I was earlier it wasn’t that hard to do. They thankfully did the same; keeping a safe distance away from the very moody Nick Carter.

After that dinner we had some kind of autograph signing in a mall or something, I know it seems sad that I couldn’t even tell you where we were or why we were there. All I knew was I wanted to go back to the hotel and go to sleep. I didn’t want to think about Mike, my parents or anybody. I’m so stupid! How could I have actually believed that that guy was my brother? Was I that dumb?

But then again, if that guy really WAS my brother, then why would my own father disown me? I was so confused. Those two thoughts took turns playing in my head until I was ready to explode. Going back and forth from sadness to anger.

“Did you talk to him?” I looked up to find Kevin sitting next to me, we were in the van. When did we even get into the van? I looked out the window to see it was dark. Where was I? Had that much time actually passed?

“No”

“Is everything okay? You seem quiet” I seem quiet?

“I thought you didn’t care” I said. I really wanted to tell him everything, cry on his shoulder and have him help make figure this stuff out, but I couldn’t. I was too afraid that he would give me that I told you so speech and I really wouldn’t be able to take that right now.

“Nick, can we call it a truce? I mean I was just asking, there is NO need to give me attitude” I wanted to answer him, but I didn’t. So he just scooted away from me. The others were having a conversation and kept trying to get me involved, so I closed my eyes hoping they would get the hint to leave me alone which they did.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~
By the time Mike came home from work, John had managed to put the book back where it was, take a shower and even clean up the place a little bit. He had a whole new mission suddenly. He greeted his son at the door and happily took the bag of Chinese food from him and brought it over to the coffee table where he had already set out some plates.

Mike seemed more than a little surprised, “Thanks for getting this son. I really do appreciate it” He then walked over and gave his son a huge hug.

“Wow dad! Thanks”

“It’s no problem, I am so grateful to have a son like you” He said winking as he poured out the fried rice on two plates, giving his son the bigger one. “How was work?” He looked up to see Mike smiling, he was aware he had caught him off guard.

“It was good dad. I’m tired though. Any calls?”

“Um…no not really, just a wrong number”

“The cell phone?”

“Didn’t touch it”

They had some casual conversations, John letting Mike do most of the talking; he found himself more convincing when he did that. By the time dinner was done they both sat with their feet up watching television.

“I have been thinking about your Mom” He felt his son looking at him.

“Really? I thought you hated her”

“I did…we didn’t have the best relationship the two of us” Mike chuckled, “So I remember”

“Yes you and your brother went through a lot. I’m sorry”

Mike was taken a back. Did his father just apologize?

“It’s okay dad. You tried your best”

“It wasn’t good enough for you Mikey or for Nicky” He said placing a hand on his son’s shoulder.

“I wish I could make it up to the both of you. I have been thinking of trying to find Nick, you know to tell him how much I love him”

“You have?”

“Yes but I doubt he would even want to talk to me”

“I’m sure he would…someday maybe” John smiled.

“Perhaps someday” He knew how to play his son, hell he knew how to play everybody.

Mike stood up to do the dishes, “No, let me do those for you kiddo. You relax; you’ve had a long day”

“Wow, thanks dad”

“Not a problem” If it was going to make him a millionaire he was all for it.


~*~*~*~*~*~
It was around midnight when we got back to the hotel, just like Howie had predicted. The guys didn’t even say goodnight to me. They had enough of my babyish attitude. I couldn’t really blame them, but I needed them right now. Brian didn’t even wait for me like he usually did. He just went right up to the room; I bet he would have gladly locked me out for the night if I had given him the chance.

Not sure why, well okay maybe I WAS sure why, but instead of ending up in front of MY hotel room door, I ended up in front of Kevin’s.

I knocked twice and almost walked away when he didn’t answer, but then he opened the door. I just stood there with a sullen look on my face. “What’s wrong lil man?” He asked me in his slow drawl. I didn’t answer him but extended my hands for a hug, which he gladly returned.
18 by Mare
*sorry about the wait and thanks for the warm reviews. I SO love all of you guys!*



18
Once I got into Kevin’s room and sat down I just let everything out. He didn’t interrupt me at all; just kind of let me spew everything out at him. It’s funny because normally I would have saved this job for Brian but for some reason, when it came to the real heavy duty stuff, Kevin was the one that helped.
When I started to talk I was so emotional and I think at one point I might have even scared the guy. I tend to be emotional and moody but the utter helplessness that I showed in our conversation was making him uneasy. I could tell he felt like he was in a little over his head.

He sat and listened as I told him about my parents and the fights they would have. It’s funny what you find yourself remembering when your fake brother comes back into your life and then your fake father hangs up on you. The thing was…I still kind of believed that Mike really was telling me the truth. I mean he knew so much; too much to be lying. Posers aren’t that good.

At one point in our conversation, if you could call it that, Brian must have made his way into the room because when I looked up from the floor I saw two pairs of eyes staring at me instead of one.

“Nicky…” Kevin called me Nicky when he was about to call me stupid. “You are too naïve. I mean you have to think before you trust people” See? I told you

“But…he knew so much”

“Come on Nick, how many times have you even said the fans know more about us then we do?”

“Yeah but Bri, this is different”

“I know” he said, stretching over to where I was and patting my leg.

“I’m supposed to call him tonight. He wanted me to call him when I got back”

“Nick…I’m really sorry buddy. But aren’t you glad you found out now? I mean what if he had dragged you somewhere and had his way with you?” I laughed at the absurdity of what Kevin just said. He didn’t find it funny but Brian chuckled a little to.

“It’s not funny”

“I still kind of think he may be Mike” I said softly. I didn’t really want Kevin to start up again. I was happily surprised when he didn’t. He just stood up and placed a hand on my shoulder. “So, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know” I answered honestly. I really had no clue. Do I call Mike and pretend I didn’t talk to his Father? Or do I confront him about it? If he is my Mike, will that be the final straw to break the camel’s back? First he is interrogated by my band mate then he gets interrogated by me. I would probably be done at that point.

“What are you thinking professor Nickington?” I looked over to Brian and he was holding two of the hotel glasses to his eyes as spectacles. I laughed to make him happy.

“I don’t know Bri…what do you think I should do?” That’s what I needed, somebody to tell me what to do. While pondering the question he removed the glasses from his eyes and placed them on the bed, “You want to know what I would do?” I nodded.

“I would just leave things alone and call my Mom” I nodded because in his reality that’s probably what I would do to. But unfortunately this wasn’t his reality…it was mine. “I don’t know Brian”

“I’m not telling you to do that, I’m just telling you that’s what I would do”

“So you don’t think I should call him then?”

“It’s up to you, if you want to call him, I’ll support you, if you don’t I’ll support you. Either way…it’s your decision”

I didn’t want it to be my decision, so I looked over to Kevin who was sitting quietly just observing the two of us.

“You want me to call him?” Did I want Kevin to call Mike?

“I won’t be mean or anything; I’ll just simply confront him about things…that’s all. You can even stay in here and listen if you want” I could really tell Kevin wanted to make that call. Part of me thought that he still WOULD make that call whether I gave him permission or not.

“Kev…thanks for the offer but I think I am going to call him myself” Kevin reluctantly nodded, “you want me to stay?” I shook my head at him, which I don’t think he was too pleased at either; then I did the same to Brian, “I think I want to handle this by myself”

“You sure?” Brian asked me now all the playfulness gone from his voice.

“Yeah, but thanks guys…for everything”

“Not a problem…we’ll be right in the next room if you need us” I nodded again as I picked up the phone. Kevin stopped right before closing the door, “Oh and Nicky…” Here is comes again… “Don’t say you’ll meet with him again okay?”

I took a deep breath and once again called my cell phone.


~*~*~*~*~
Mike sat next to his father watching television, the entire time feeling a little guilty about wishing the guy was gone. He found himself glancing over to catch his father smile as he watched some random sitcom. Just the way it used to be when he was a kid. That was something he had in common with his father; the love of watching TV. The two of them would sit like couch potatoes and laugh about the stupidest things. Maybe that was why he had been picked to go with his father while Nick got to stay home.

“Dad...” He found himself saying out loud. He wasn’t even sure why. It’s not like he had any question in mind to ask the man, His dad glanced over to Mike, “Uh huh?” Half listening.

“Nothing” Mike shifted to more of an upright position and stared down at his watch. No wonder why he was so tired it was almost one o’clock in the morning. It was a good thing he didn’t have to work until later on in the day, otherwise he for sure would be late for work tomorrow.

He had asked Nick to call him as soon as he got in and having his dad show up had almost made him forget that. He glanced at the clock on the wall just to make sure he did have the right time, yup it was one o’clock and still no Nick. Maybe he had gotten caught up in traffic after all didn’t he say something about being in New Jersey? That was it; he thought to himself, he must be stuck in traffic.

“Something wrong son?” Mike looked over at his father, who had since shut the television off and was staring instead, at his son.

“Uh…no dad…I just …uh well I’m kind of expecting a call”

“Oh right…from your lady friend?” John Alexander said with a slight touch of sarcasm in his voice. Or from little mister moneybags?

“I think I am going to hit the hay for the night. Goodnight dad”

John got himself up off the couch and held his hand out to his son who grabbed it hesitantly. Once he did the father helped to pull his son up and then grabbed him into a hug. The gesture took Mike totally by surprise. “Wow! Thanks dad” He said as he moved away from his father.

“Night son and thank you for having me here. I promise I will try my best to get out of your hair as soon as possible”

“You can stay as long as you need to dad…it’s really alright” See? Palm of my hand. John thought as he layered one compliment on after the other, this one he genuinely meant though “I love you Mikey”

“You too dad”

As Michael closed the door to his room, he sighed, not really sure what that was all about but not fully trusting it either. His father was not exactly the lovey dovey type. It was sad that he had to think his father’s love suspicious but that’s the way it went. He immediately decided to go check his hiding place, the place where he put his passport; not that he would ever be able to afford to go anywhere, his birth certificate and most importantly his Save Mikey fund he started for himself. He learned to put money away a little at a time and forget it was there so this way if he ever WAS evicted or ever did lose his job he would have something to live off of. Not that $450 was enough to live off of mind you but it was a start. He had forgotten all about it in his rush to get to work, now he figured was a good time to check to see if the save Mikey fund had gone bye bye. He was relieved to see that the jug of money was still there; he decided not to count it yet. That could wait for another time. He had to trust his dad at least a little right? Yeah right…He said as he emptied his money on the bed and started to count it up.

Half way through, the phone on the bed rang, “Hey Nickers I was getting a little worried about you” He said trying to balance the phone on his shoulder while he continued to count his money.

“Hello? Nick are you there…unless…is this somebody else?” Mike suddenly dreaded the thought that maybe that Kevin nut job was at it once again, or it could have been someone actually looking for Nick, this WAS his cell phone.

“No…it’s me” Mike smiled when he heard his brother’s voice, “Hey kiddo. How did today go?”

“Who are you?” Mike tensed up at that question which caused the phone to fall from his shoulder and right onto the floor.He scurried to pick it up.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean who are you?”

“Why are we going through this again Nick?”

“I called before” He was trying to gauge what was going on with his brother; he sounded so hurt and angry but mostly flat.

“You did?”

“Yeah and your father answered” Mike bit his bottom lip, “He did?”

“Yeah and he said the funniest thing…he said you didn’t have a brother”

“Nicky he had no idea it was…"

“NO! Stop pulling this shit Mike; who the hell are you and what the hell do you want?”

“No, its dad…I swear, he had no idea you would be calling that’s all”

“Why would he say you had no brother?”

“Because he wasn’t thinking; he doesn’t know we have been talking” There was a very long pause in the conversation, then finally a “How come you didn’t tell him about me?” As he was talking to Nick, Mike made his way out to the living room, this was the last thing he wanted to do. “Because I didn’t entirely trust him” Now John was sitting up and watching his son curiously as he spoke on the phone.

“Why?”

“I have my reasons”

“That’s my father too then?” Now Mike was standing there glaring at his father who pretended he had no idea what was going on.

It was going exactly as he thought it would go. At first he was a little bummed that he had hung up on his son. If he had known he never would have, but then he got to thinking that eventually this very conversation that was happening would indeed happen and he would be forced to come clean to Mike and in the process get what he needed; his younger son back.

“Unfortunately yes…he is your dad too” John pretended to be totally surprised at what he just heard. He placed his hands to his mouth and tried to act as guilty as possible.

“Is that…could that be…Nick?” He asked in awe. Mike nodded and quickly turned away from his old man and continued to talk, “Nicky…you have to understand this happened so suddenly I haven’t had time to tell anybody let alone grasp it myself. He didn’t know; he is standing right here next to me as shocked as I was at first. As shocked as you were when I told you”

There was another long pause, during that time, Mike placed his hand on the receiver so Nick couldn’t here, “Dad why the hell didn’t you tell me he called?” Mike was seething.

“I thought it was a prank. Oh my God…I told him you didn’t have a brother”

“I know that”

“So…dad doesn’t hate me then?” When Mike heard that he turned his attention back to the phone, “No, of course not. He just didn’t know”

“Let me talk to him” John whispered while Mike bat his hand away from the phone.

“I’m sorry Nick. I accidentally left your phone here when I went to work today…”

“You told me you didn’t have to work today”

“Yeah, but I was called in…anyway, I asked him not to answer it but apparently he did. He just showed up today minutes before I left for work, I had no time to say anything to him…”

“It’s okay Mike. You don’t have to apologize. I’m sorry I doubted you”

“So, we all good now? I mean again?” Nick laughed but he still sounded a little hurt and more than a bit leery.

“Yeah…we’re all good”

“Excellent”

“Let me talk to my son” John insisted once again. This time he was vocal enough for Nick to actually here him so Mike had no choice but to hand over the phone. “Nick, dad wants to talk to you”


~*~*~*~*~
When I heard Mike say those words I tensed up. I really didn’t want to talk to my father. I was afraid of my father. I always have been. The man used to intimidate the hell out of me from what I can remember; hell he even scared the crap out of me when I didn’t know it was him.

But it was too late and before I knew it I heard his voice on the line, “Son…is that really you?” It didn’t sound like the same voice I had heard earlier. That one was a rough hate filled voice. This guy sounded nice, sweet, loving.

“Dad?”

“Yes…I’m so sorry for hanging up on you. I had NO idea…my God. I have missed you so much” My father…my REAL father, the guy I had made almost a fantasy hero in my mind just told me he missed me. I looked around the room wishing that Brian had stayed behind. I wanted to share the moment with someone who would have understood how important this was to me.

“That’s okay dad”

“Have you been well?”

“Yes I have”

“That is SO wonderful. I will let you get back to talking to Mikey but son…I love you” My father just told me he loved me, “I love you too dad”

There was a short pause when my dad handed the phone back to Mike, “Okay?” Was all he said.

“Yeah, I’m great now”

“I need to go to bed kiddo, but I can stay up and talk if you want”

“No, if you need to go to bed then…”

“No, let’s talk instead, I have the rest of my life to sleep” I smiled, God how I wanted him to say that. I lay on the bed and talked to my brother, telling him about my life, my friends and my world for almost the whole night.

I suddenly went from not having any family to having my real one back and it felt great.
19 by Mare
*I'm back again lol*



19
Mike was almost late for work again; even though he didn’t even have to be in until one o’clock in the afternoon. He had spent the whole night on the phone with his brother. They had some serious conversations about life love and missed opportunities. For instance he found out at around three in the morning, that if Nick didn’t become a pop star he would have joined the military or perhaps been a marine biologist while Mike confessed he would have gone to college and gotten a teaching degree. That or become a rock star. They had both laughed about that one. Nick also confessed that sometimes he wished he could just disappear into the fog. Change his name, identity and never look back. Mike had confessed the same thing, ending with “Well if you want we could run away together, change our names to John and Joe Smith and live on a pig farm in Kentucky.
He didn’t talk about family much but neither did Mike. Probably a road neither was ready to venture down. He did talk about his friends though, especially Brian. The conversation was Brian this and Brian that…Brian… Brian… Brian. Mike could tell how much he depended on those guys for everything. He couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy about it all. Especially when Kevin was brought up. It seemed as if Kevin had assumed the role he was meant to play. Kevin was the lead player while Mike was now relegated to understudy. He also didn’t like him much which didn’t help.

Through most of the conversation though, they had grown more comfortable with each other. Mike was positive that if he hadn’t finally said he HAD to go to bed, they would still be talking now. So, even though he was in a fog and had one of those I didn’t get enough sleep last night headaches…it was worth it.

“Hey stranger long time no see” Mike turned at the sound of Melinda’s voice and was greeted with a wink. She looked different today; she had once again dyed her hair but this time a very normalish auburn.

“Hi” Mike was short with her, “Someone’s grouchy today I take it?”

“Can I ask you something?”

“What?” Mike walked off towards the registers and Melinda followed. The store was pretty dead so most of the workers were out on the floor working on displays and stocking. “Why the hell did you tell everyone about Nick?”

“I had to…it was either that or YOU would lose your job. I was covering for YOUR ass!”

“So you tell the whole friggin world about my celebrity brother?” Melinda was pissed, “You are a really ungrateful son of a bitch you know that Alexander?”

Now he felt bad; why did he always manage to piss off the opposite sex?

“Look I’m really sorry…I just...I didn’t want anyone to know that’s all”

“Whatever I’m going out on the floor…” She said pushing past him and making her way away from the registers.

“Awe Melinda wait” He ran after her, “look I’m sorry I didn’t get much sleep last night and I’m grouchy. I took it out on you I’m really sorry”

“Whatever”

“Are you going to be mad at me all day?”

“What’s it to you?”

“Come on Melinda please?”

“Fine! But you were a bone head. I was only trying to help. I’m sorry if it caused a ruckus”

“Actually more of a brouhaha”

She smiled and punched him in the arm, “Oh then that’s okay”

Mike relaxed, the last thing he could handle on this 8 hour shift was dealing with a pissed off Melinda. Bad enough the bosses were wanting to fire him every chance they got. Although now that he thought about it, his boss wasn’t even waiting for him at the punch clock today. That’s because suddenly he was important. The brother of a pop star. Haul out the red carpet people here comes Mike the sub celebrity!

“How is it going with Nick anyway?” She asked sticking a piece of Wrigley’s in her mouth and throwing the wrapper behind her on the floor. “You know…there’s a garbage can right next to you” She shrugged at Mike, “Too much work…so?”

“It’s going really well, that’s why I was up all night. We talked the night away” Melinda laughed, “Can you be any cornier?”

“I could if you really wanted me to”

She put up a hand, “No really…that’s okay. So what did you guys talk about?”

“Just stuff”

“Did you tell him about your dad yet?”

“Actually guess who showed up at my doorstep yesterday?”

“Jehovah Witness from hell?” Mike laughed, “Nope…worse”

Melinda looked up, once she did Mike finished, “My dad!”

“No way!!”

“Yes”

“Mike that is fucked up seriously”

“I know”

“So? Did they meet or what?”

“No but they talked on the phone for a few minutes yesterday”

“I thought he was in prison”

“Yeah so did I”

“So what happens next?”

“I’m seeing him tonight after work, he has something to do during the day but then he has the night free so we are going to dinner or something”

“With the dad?”

“No…Just me and the kid, I plan on warning him about dad’s past before he actually gets to meet him....should be interesting”

“Wow! Sounds like fun”

“Oh yeah nothing like telling a long lost brother about his father’s jail time” Melinda pat her friend on the back and then walked out onto the floor while Mike manned the registers.

He was a bit nervous about their dinner tonight but he was glad it would be just the two of them. They’d laugh some, talk some and then he would tell Nick about their dad. Maybe after he did that, Nick would open up and their Mom. Maybe she was in prison too. Mike laughed at the silliness of his thoughts.

Regardless of how he would take the news, Mike was glad that for once HE would be the one to pick Nick up if he fell.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~~*
I knew I was in for twenty one thousand questions by the time I got off the phone and met up with the guys…so I didn’t. After I got off the phone I lay in bed and went to sleep. I didn’t care if it wasn’t my room; I just didn’t feel like being interrogated. I had a good conversation with my brother I wanted to end on a high note.

I wasn’t surprised to be shaken awake by Brian at around five in the morning. I tried to bat him away but he only laughed, “We have to get up now”

“Why?”

“We have a thing” I pulled the covers over my head, “We always have a thing”

“Come on Nick…just get up besides I want to know how it went with Mike”

I reluctantly sat up and Brian laughed, “Your hair is sticking straight up!” I licked my hand and straightened my hair up which made Brian laugh some more. I’m so glad he found me so amusing.

On any given day if he or anybody else had woken me up this early I would have possibly bit them, but I was really excited to tell Brian all about my conversation. “Well?”

“We talked for a really really long time” My voice was hoarse. I bent down and popped a cough drop in my mouth from the box on the floor. I’m sure Kevin wouldn’t mind.

“Why didn’t you come back to the room? Kevin was pissed; he had to sleep in your bed last night”

“He could have come back here”

“I think he really wanted to respect your privacy”

I smiled, Kevin WAS trying; I’ll give him that much.

“It was just a big misunderstanding. My dad…” I took a deep breath; it seemed so weird calling someone other than Bob my dad. “My dad didn’t know that Mike had gotten in touch with me. I talked to him last night too”

Brian looked a little surprised and possibly disappointed. “Oh…but why would he say he didn’t have you then?”

“I just think he thought I was a crazy person”

“Well, he wasn’t that far off the mark then” I threw my pillow at his head but he ducked and it landed on the floor. “Your aim sucks this early in the morning”

“We are seeing each other tonight” Brian’s smile left his face. He wasn’t happy, “Nick…what did Kevin...”

“I know what he said, but Brian it's okay he’s my brother. Really”

“Why don’t we all meet him tonight then? I mean I really want to get to know this guy too” I looked at him suspiciously.

“You do?”

“Of course I do. He IS your brother isn’t he?” I nodded and smiled.

Yes he was.

“I don’t mind if you want to come but I don’t know about everybody. I don’t want him to feel totally intimidated…”

“Don’t you think the best thing for Kevin would be to just spend some time with Mike? I mean once he sees the connection you guys have, if you do, he’ll back off” Brian was really selling his point to me.

“Yeah but…”

“Come on Nick…let’s get practical for a minute, Kevin will NOT let you go alone anyway”

“He can’t stop me” I was getting mad at Kevin before I even saw him.

“Yes he can. Your Mom and dad signed a paper to put him in charge of you when they aren’t here remember?”

“God Brian…that was for when I was a kid”

“Doesn’t matter, in his eyes you are his responsibility. I’m just telling you how to make it easier on yourself”

He had a point. I mean it really would spare us all a day from hell if I had the opportunity to invite them all to come before Kevin insisted he come…right?

“Okay, that’s what I’m going to do. You guys can all come”

“Excellent” Brian said smiling. “I really am looking forward to meeting him Nick” And I could tell he meant it.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
John Alexander sat sulking in his son’s small apartment, angry that he had no control over the situation. He was angry that Mike said he couldn’t come to dinner with the two of them, but if he wanted his son’s money, he would have to be patient. It would be nice seeing the little one again, so many times he had really thought about Nick. Thought about going back for him, but Mike was a handful enough and he knew that his baby would cry for Jane.

Jane…now her he didn’t miss at all. If he could bypass stealing from Nick he would go straight to Jane, but then again screwing HER baby over would get back at her wouldn’t it?

He found himself growing restless and went to where Mike had hidden his cash. He had found it the first day. The jar of cash but decided not to touch it, this time however he had an idea. He opened the jar and took out the wad of bills…he put them in his pocket and slipped on one of his son’s jackets; time to go make a fast buck.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Mike stood in the break room, cell phone to his ear and listened to his brother suddenly make his life hell.

“So you sure you don’t mind?”

“No Nick, of course I don’t mind….I mean I would love to meet your friends” Does that Kevin jerk have to come too?

“Are you sure?”

“Yes”

“Good because they all really want to meet you too” I bet they do

“Excellent…well I’ll be happy to see all of you guys”

“Yeah and they are also looking forward to meeting dad. I know I am too, it’s been a long time”

Mike shifted nervously, “Uh yeah about dad…Nick…dad won’t be coming with us tonight” There was a pause in the conversation. Mike had figured out that whenever his brother stopped talking he was upset. “He has some other stuff to do but he said he can’t wait to spend some time with you”

“Oh…that’s okay. He might have felt overwhelmed…are you sure you don’t mind Mike?”

“I don’t mind”

“Good…listen I have to go but I’ll see you at the hotel at 7…okay?”

“Sounds good Nickers…oh and tonight is my treat; tell your friends that okay?”

Mike hung up with his brother and wanted to hit his head against the wall. The last thing he wanted to happen tonight was meeting the other four. He had rehearsed and rehearsed how he was going to tell his brother about their father but now that was thrown out the window. He knew he would be under a microscope tonight so he figured if he paid they would all realize he wasn’t in this for the money. He had enough money saved up to do just that. Treat them all and get that stupid Kevin ass of his back.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
I turned to the rest of the guys after I got off the phone, “He said he was okay with you all coming”

They all smiled except for Kevin, “What about your dad?”

“Actually dad has something else to do today, so it will just be Mike”

Kevin nodded. When I met up with all the guys for breakfast Kevin sat in the corner and just listened. He didn’t look pleased; actually he looked mad as hell. I ignored it. He was just about to open his mouth when I announced that I wanted them all to come tonight. After that his mouth stayed closed up until when he asked about my father.

“I am looking forward to meeting him Nicky”

“Thanks Howie. He sounded excited to meet all of you too”

“Yeah I am curious to see if he is as loopy as you are”

“Shut up AJ” I turned to Kevin as if to prove a point, “And he said he was paying for all of us”

Kevin smiled, “How extremely generous of him”

“Yes I thought so too” I said a little bit snotty.

“He doesn’t have to pay for us all…maybe just you” Brian said now feeling like there was going to be a fight.

“I guess we’ll leave it up to him” I glanced Kevin’s way and then walked out of the room.
20 by Mare
20

Mike couldn’t calm himself down. As he stood in the lobby of the hotel and waited for his brother to come down, he almost got to the point of hyperventilating. The panic had only escalated throughout the day especially when he had gone home after a stressful day at work and went to his jar to take out the money he had planned on using to pay for dinner that night. The jar was completely empty, lying on its side on his bed.
At first his thoughts were irrational, maybe the jar opened up by itself and all the money fell out and is now under the bed. He had gotten on his hands and knees to peer under the bed to find nothing but a few socks and some dust bunnies.

Then he thought maybe he had moved the money to another location. So, he ran around the house taking down all the shoe boxes, empty food containers and wallets he could find. Still no money, his house was in a shambles. Things thrown everywhere, hoping against hope that maybe if one more thing was turned over he would come across his money.

It wasn’t until 5:30 that he sat on his sofa, lit up a joint and resigned himself to the fact that his father had stolen it from him. He had called Melinda and left her the oddest message at that point. He couldn’t even really remember what he had said, something like can you lend a friend $500? Not that he would need that much but hell… maybe he would.

He placed his hands on his forehead, and then thought about canceling. He could make up some kind of excuse for not showing up. Maybe he could say that he didn’t feel very well or something. He had actually even dared to dial his brother’s hotel room, now that he finally had the number. After only the first ring he hung up and decided to suck it up. He would just try to corner Nick alone and tell him the story. “Oh Nick see, your father is a lying, cheating, stealing son of a bitch. He decided to take my money and leave me with nothing. Isn’t he great? Don’t you love the fact that you found us? You are SO lucky. Now do you mind paying for your big brother’s dinner? Oh and everyone else since I was supposed to do that too?”

“Just fuck it…I’m going” He had said to his empty house. He would deal with his father later.

He paced nervously after going to the ATM machine and extracting the remaining $120 he had in his account. “Hopefully they are all on diets” He muttered under his breath.

As he walked into the hotel he noticed a group of people standing outside holding signs and screaming. They were waiting for the Backstreet Boys to surface. There cries were so loud he had to actually cover his ears as he entered the building.

“This whole thing is insane” He had said to himself.

Now waiting in the lobby for his brother to make his way down, almost ten minutes late, he had almost turned around and left twice already; both times getting as far as the front door before turning around and coming back. The people working the front desk probably thought he was a loony tunes. Finally he saw the posse make their way out of the elevator and head straight for him. He stood up and straightened the suit he had decided to wear. They however were all in jeans.

Great move Alexander! He grumbled to himself when he finally saw his brother smiling and making his way towards the place he was standing.

Nick grabbed Mike in a hug and kissed his cheek “Hi brother” He had said which for an instant calmed Mike down. After all this was for Nick wasn’t it? Who cared about what the others thought? Right?

“Hey Nickers” Mike whispered into Nick’s ear.

When Nick pulled away Mike got a chance to really take in his brother’s appearance. They really did look a lot alike. The main difference besides the hair color was Nick’s baby face, versus Mike’s more mature looking features. The two were about an inch off height wise.

“You look good” Nick said winking at him as one by one the boys lined up to say hello.

“Mike, this is Howie…” Mike extended his hand which Howie took in a firm hand shake, “Pleasure to meet you Mike”

“Same here”

“And this is AJ…we like to call him Bone”

Mike did the same to AJ, “Yeah and we like to call HIM doofo burger!” Mike laughed, this one was young too.

“This is my Brian” Brian laughed when Nick claimed ownership to him as if he was a pet or something, “Nick has told me a lot about you Brian” Mike said grabbing this stranger’s hand but wanting to hug him. That’s how much he felt he had grown to know Brian purely from Nick’s ramblings about him.

“I am really looking forward to getting to know you” Brian said.

“And you have already met Kevin” Nick said kind of hesitantly. Kevin extended his hand and Mike shook. That seemed to ease his little brother’s mind.

“Nice to see you again” Kevin lied.

“Sam to you” Mike also lied.

“Well where are we going for dinner? I’m starving man!” AJ said rubbing his stomach in circles the way a pregnant woman would.

“Since Mike is paying he should pick” Nick was quick to announce which almost made Mike go running for the toilet.

How about McDonald’s? He wanted SO badly to say but instead he said, “You decide Nick. I’m not too familiar with anything more than fast food and pizza”

“Fast food sounds great to me” Both Nick and AJ said at the same time.

“How about the Tavern?”

“The Tavern?” Mike asked, it sounded like a cool place; maybe it was a cozy diner or something.

“Oh I hate that place, it’s too hoity toity” AJ complained, “They don’t even know what a hamburger is there”

“Awe come on…what do you say Mike? It’s a really good place” Howie said. Mike looked over at his brother; Nick answered with a shrug. “Okay sounds good to me”:

“Excellent Tavern on the Green it is!” Mike’s eyes grew wide

“Tavern on the Green? You mean THE Tavern on the Green?”

“Yeah I think so…is that okay with you? I mean we could go somewhere else”

Mike swallowed hard, “Uh…no that sounds great but it might be a little out of my price range”

“Oh relax man…Nick was only joking about you paying for us, we are treating you” Brian said wrapping his arm around Nick.

“Oh no you don’t have to do that”

“Please, we want to, I mean you are family right?” Kevin asked. He didn’t sound sincere. He sounded like he wanted to catch someone in a lie.

“I insist on paying at least for my brother” Mike looked over and winked at Nick.

“Well why don’t we figure out who is paying for who AFTER dinner, come on man I’m starving. Can we stop and get a hot dog on the way?”

“Jeez for a little guy you eat like a horse man” Brian joked to AJ as they left the building and smiled at the crowd who were yelling and screaming their names.


~*~*~*~*~*~
By the time we had reached the restaurant, I had my headache back and a semi ripped shirt complete with a thin line of blood flowing freely from the scratch marks left there by my fans. I didn’t get why if the loved me so much all they ever seemed to do was hurt me.

It started with a friendly, “Nick can you take a picture with us” and escalated to a near frenzy when one of the girls behind the picture taking duo grabbed for my hair. The next thing I knew I had a security guard pulling at me from one direction while the girls where pulling at me from the other. I heard my shirt tear and felt the intense burn as my flesh was being ripped into by nails. Very sharp nails.

I heard my brother vaguely screaming “Get your hands off of him” Then I was picked up and whisked away in the van while the crowd screamed after us.

“God are you okay?” Mike said once we were safely on our way, he grabbed my arm to get a look at the damage.

“He’ll live. Right Kaos?” I nodded while Mike continued to hold my arm in shock. He wasn’t used to that…unfortunately I was.

“Does that happen a lot?” I shook my head, “No not really”

“Yes it does, that’s why we don’t like him or anyone else roaming out of the building without a body guard” I rolled my eyes at Kevin. He’s such a drama queen sometimes.

“God Nick!! You are lucky something like this didn’t happen to you when I met you at the pizza place!” Mike yelled…yes, I said yelled.

“Relax Mike; it’s no biggie…If I didn’t do that I would have never found you”

Mike looked at me and smiled while still holding my arm. “You are going to need a band aid or something”

“Yeah I know” I said as slowly pulled my arm away from him, nursing it with my other arm.

“You okay lil man?” Kevin asked looking at my arm and then my face.

“Yeah I’m fine. It’s no biggie”

“Okay well happy to hear that”

“Man we really need to start slipping out the back entrances” AJ said to no one in particular as the van continued on towards the restaurant. I watched my brother as he looked out the window. He seemed uncomfortable and I felt bad for him. The van was absolutely quiet for the rest of the way in fact, it wasn’t until we were led to the private room in the back when Brian broke the tension.

“So…Mike…tell us what Nick was like as a kid”

Mike was sipping on some ice water sitting back and I think secretly wishing that no one would look or speak to him.

“Nicky…” He looked over at me and smiled. “He was just a little ball of energy. He used to run around the house in his diaper and a cape”

“Cape?”

“Yeah…well, not a cape but a small towel. He would jump on the bed and call him self super duper” Everyone laughed.

“You were such a dork!” Howie said after taking a sip of tea.

“At least I don’t do it anymore, unlike you”

“Oh good comeback”

“Thanks D” I winked at him, more to imitate him than anything else.

“SO, how did you guys come to meet my brother hear?” I didn’t mean to but I had to look over at Kevin when Mike called me his brother. He tensed up in his chair. I knew I shouldn’t have looked.

“Why don’t you tell him the story Kev?” I said.

“It’s a boring story”

“I have never heard it”

“I’m sure you must have read it somewhere” He said looking Mike straight in the eyes.

“Nope…sorry. I really wasn’t much of a fan” The guys all laughed.

“But now you will be right?” AJ asked raising an eyebrow. Mike nodded.

“That’s okay Mike. Harold…” I bent towards Mike and whispered, “That’s Brian’s brother” He nodded. Brian seemed to think that was the funniest thing ever. He chuckled before he continued, “Anyway, Harold hates our stuff but he buys at least ten copies of everything we have ever done”

“Well, now I will too” Mike said smiling at me. I looked down at the menu, suddenly filled with love for my brother and so grateful for this opportunity.

“I love you Mikey” I suddenly blurted out in front of everybody. How embarrassing that was, but I couldn’t help it. It just kind of popped out of there.

“I love you too kiddo” Then I saw the glances exchanged between the others; especially my best friend and his cousin.

The waiter came by and took our orders. I decided to get whatever Mike did. Not that I was being an idiot but I wasn’t in a thinking mood. Kevin and Brian decided to excuse themselves and go to the bathroom. I knew there was going to be a conference and I wanted to hear what they had to say. Mike seemed to visibly relax when Kevin left which made AJ laugh, “That’s okay Mike. He makes us uptight to” Mike laughed but was a little embarrassed that his disdain was that evident.

“Are you okay?” I asked him. I really felt bad for dragging all the guys with me.

“I’m fine. How about you?” He pointed to my arm and head. “Oh that? I already forgot about it”

“I don’t know how you guys do it” He said sitting back and taking another sip of his water.

“Hey Mike, I am going to the bathroom, you mind?”

“No go ahead”

“Okay” I got up and made my way to the bathroom but not before looking back to make sure he felt at ease. He seemed to like Howie and AJ. He also really seemed to like Brian too; Kevin, not so much but maybe in time.

I walked into the bathroom and about dies when I heard Brian, “I hope I’m wrong”

“Wrong about what?” I asked walking in ready to fight. Both boys stopped speaking and looked as if I had caught them in the boys’ locker room smoking.

“Hi Nick” Kevin said washing his hands and combing through his hair with his fingers.

“Don’t hi Nick me. You hope your wrong about what Bri?”

“Nothing, it doesn’t really concern you”

“Bullshit”

“Why are you getting so defensive?”

“Because I think you guys came in here to bash my brother. I saw the looks you gave each other”

“You’re being paranoid”

“I don’t think so Brian”

“Okay you want to know what we were discussing?” Kevin asked me walking away from the mirror and towards me.

“Yeah I do”

“Don’t Kev…”

“No Brian, the boy wants to know and we should tell him”

“Tell me”

“Your brother is flying on something”

“What?” I was confused I didn’t have a clue what he meant.

The two looked at each other again. “Did you notice his eyes?” Brian asked me.

“No, what are you talking about?”

“They were glazed over”

“He worked all day, maybe he’s tired”

“Nick…” Kevin sounded disgusted. “He wasn’t tired”

“What are you trying to say exactly Kevin?” I said taking a few steps toward him ready to replay my little pummeling incident from the other day.

“He means I’m high” I turned toward the door to find my brother standing there, with a slight frown on his face.

“No he didn’t”

“Nick…I’m sorry. I tried but I need to leave. I really don’t feel the need to be put under a microscope. I was high Kevin. Because I felt SO nervous about having to put up with you and your bologna”

“Mike, he’s an ass” I said now totally focusing on my brother.

“I need to go home. I’m sorry about leaving you. I’m not mad at you okay?” Mike said gently grabbing both of my arms so I would focus on what he was saying.

“Don’t go”

“I really need to”

“Mike…”

He turned to leave, “I’ll call you Nickers. Nice to meet you Brian. Tell the others I said the same” And then he left. Just like that. Left me in the bathroom at Tavern on the Green. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I just stood there in shock.

“Nick…” Brian said placing his hand on my shoulder. I pushed him away. “Leave me alone” I pushed past him and ran into a stall.

The two stayed in there with me for a while but when eventually they walked out and back to the table. That’s when I decided to leave myself, only I bypassed the table and headed straight for the front door.
21 by Mare
*Hey guys! Thanks for the great feedback :) *



21

I was glad I wore my hooded sweatshirt to the restaurant since I refused to go back to the table to get my jacket. The fall weather had taken a turn towards winter and a small but chilling breeze was blowing as I walked out of the Tavern on the Green and headed down the street, away from everybody.

What I really wanted to do was find my brother’s place. He had mentioned the street name a few times on the phone but just like I do with everybody else, when it came to important details like that, my brain shut off. I was sure the guys were still thinking I was in the bathroom at this point and I wanted to be gone before they realized differently.

I couldn’t believe they had been so mean to my brother, I mean Kevin…okay well that wasn’t as surprising, but Brian? Why on earth would Brian be bad mouthing my brother in the bathroom instead of sticking up for him? So he smoked a joint, big deal. It wasn’t like he denied it or anything. None of us are perfect. Hell I had even smoked a joint of two in my day.

I placed my hand in my sweater's pockets as I continued to walk down the street with my head down. Partly to shield myself from the wind but mostly to shield myself from anyone that might recognize me.

Turner Street? Or maybe it was Tenth Street? I really wish I had paid better attention to him.

I stopped for a second just to look both ways before I crossed the street. There were SO many people around I was quickly becoming lost in the crowd. I could have probably just stopped one of them to ask them where I was going but decided against it; I had a better idea.

Once I got to the other side of the street, I held out my hand to haul a taxi cab. I knew where I needed to go; to the record store. I’m sure one of those people would know how to get to Mike’s house.


~*~*~*~*~*
Mike walked into his apartment in a huff. He was pissed as hell at just about everyone in the world, especially his father. As a matter of fact, he was certain that he was going to throw the old man’s ass right out in the street when he got home. He was hoping his dad wouldn’t be there but unfortunately there he was sitting on the couch with his feet on the coffee table, drinking a beer and eating some take out.

“You’re home early” John Alexander said as his son walked in and threw his keys across the room. “Didn’t go well I take it?”

“Why the hell did you take my money?” John looked up as his son swiped his feet right off the table and onto the floor.

“What money? What are you talking about?”

“Don’t lie to me”

“Son...”

“Why the hell did you steal from me?”

“I didn’t steal from you…I wanted to double your money”

“I didn’t ask you to double my money dad”

“Relax, it just so happens that your old man DID double your money” He said taking out a wad of bills and throwing them at Mike. “Seems like you owe me an apology” Mike stood open mouthed and ready to scream. He had enough. “I owe you an apology? You ruined EVERYTHING tonight!” Mike walked away and slammed the bathroom door shut behind him. He knew if he didn’t walk away from his dad now, he was going to punch him.

John sat on the couch unsure of what he needed to do. He had only seen his son this angry three times in his whole life. He decided to play caring father. He did love his son and didn’t like to see him this way, but at the same time, there was a football game on television. Maybe it wouldn’t take that long.

He stood up and made his way over to the bathroom door, “Son…what’s wrong?” He asked as sweetly as possible.

“Everything…nothing…just go away”

“Tell me” there was a hesitation and then the door swung open. “Okay dad, I’ll tell you…let’s see, ever since my brother has come back into my life I have been judged”

“Judged? Is Nicky judging you?”

Mike walked past his father and headed for the kitchen to grab a beer of his own. “No Nicky is about the ONLY one who hasn’t judged me. It’s his stupid friends”

“His friends? But who the hell cares what his friends think?” Mike laughed, “You don’t understand”

“Then explain it to me”

John wanted to laugh as he saw his son trying his best to get out of telling him the truth. That his youngest son was famous. He really wanted to place a bet with someone on how long it would take Mike to actually tell his Father the truth.

“It’s...I was supposed to pay for ALL these people tonight but I couldn’t because YOU stole my money”

“I told you I didn’t steal your money”

“Whatever”

“So what then? Nick threw you out of the restaurant or something?”

“God…no dad, but his friends...”

“Come on, Nicky is only a kid, his friends are too; just tell them to shut the hell up”

“No dad, it’s not that simple”

“And why not?”

“Look, I am done talking for the night…I’m going out” Mike walked over to where he had thrown his keys and bent down and picked them up.

“If Nicky calls, just tell him I’ll call him later and that I’m not mad at him. Okay?”

“So, you are giving me permission to answer your phone then?” John asked sarcastically.

“Yeah, if he calls tell him I’m sorry for leaving like that and I’ll call him later”

“You just left?”

“Dad... Enough... I’ll see you later” With that being said Mike walked out of his apartment, slamming his door shut.


~*~*~*~*~*~
I paid about thirty dollars for the cab ride to Virgin. I’m pretty sure I was ripped off but I handed over the money anyway. When out of the car I pulled my hood over my head and headed for the entrance. He worked in the pop/rock section. That much I remembered.

I took the escalator up to the pop/rock section hoping no one would recognize me. Unfortunately I was not in luck. It was late so there really weren’t all that many people in the store but even still I was being stared at. At this point I wasn’t sure if it was because I was wearing my hood that I was attracting attention or if it was because I was famous. So I pulled my hood down as I entered the section.

About three people were staring at me while I walked towards the cash registers. Whispers of “Isn’t that somebody famous?” Making there way past me as I continued. That girl who had followed my brother the day we first met was standing there at the counter talking to two other people. One of which totally knew who I was; she started fanning herself and mouthing “Oh my God!”

“Excuse me” They all looked at me, the one fanning herself smiling and bouncing now.

“Yes?” The male said. He didn’t seem impressed. The guys never seem impressed.

“I was wondering if you could tell me where Mike Alexander lives.”

“Sorry sir, but we don’t give out that kind of information”

“Oh please, give him a break. Hi Nick. We met earlier my names Melinda. Remember me?” I smiled and shook her hand, “Of course I remember. Nice to see you again” I glanced over to the bouncing girl to see her near hysterics.

“Oh this is Ariana. She’s an insane Backstreet Boys fan” Melinda said rolling her eyes.

I walked over to the girl and gave her a hug; my standard fan greeting. Hoping she wouldn’t get overly excited and start mauling me or something. I had already been hurt once today, I didn’t feel like a repeat.

“Oh my Gosh Nick…I am so...Oh gosh…I have a fish and he…well” I started to laugh at her as she kept falling over her words.

“Relax” I said and used Kevin’s ever popular calm down sign. “Now what about your fish?”

“Um…I have a fish named Nick”

“How sweet darling” I kissed her on her cheek and she started to cry. I never got why they cried.

“I thought your brother was with you tonight Nick” Melinda said as she watched disgusted. I could tell this whole pop star thing didn’t suit her well.

“He kind of left and I need to find him”

“I know where he lives; I’m off work just hanging around with these losers. I can take you there if you want” Melinda said as she pulled her jacket from around her waist and placed it on.

“That would be great. Thanks” I smiled as a chill went down my back.

“Awe, you’re cold. You don’t have a jacket with you?” Ariana asked so sympathetically I had to laugh.

“It’s okay”

“Eric you should give him yours”

“Then what am I supposed to use?” the guy at the register said, now totally annoyed. I laughed again, “It’s really okay. I’ll live. I’ve been colder than this before, No biggie”

“Alright, let’s get moving” I waved to Ariana once more as she blushed. “Very nice meeting you doll”

“Thanks, same to you” She said in a half cry.

“Don’t mind her, she’s insane” Melinda whispered under her breath. I think I liked this girl.

I put my hood up again and this time sneezed as we made our way out of the store. “Hey, you really are cold huh? What’s the matter? Don’t they teach you how to dress yourself in pop prince school?” Yes I really really liked this girl.

“Uh…sarcastic much?” I asked her. She smiled. I think she really liked me to.

“Hope you don’t mind, but it’s kind of a long walk from here. I would have us take the subway but I’m a little afraid you might get recognized and mobbed, speaking of which, shouldn’t you have like a ton of security guards around you?”

“Like I said, I was kind of in a rush”

“Okay…well, I won’t pry, but I’m telling you this isn’t safe being out here alone”

“You can be my protection” She laughed at me.

“So…are you and my brother dating?”

“HELL NO!” By the way she said it; I could tell she wished she was dating him. Maybe if he ever talked to me again I could work on that. Nick Carter, matchmaker.

“Okay” Was all I answered.

We didn’t talk too much because it was so cold and windy by this point; to talk hurt. She had her face buried into her scarf and I had mine buried in my sleeve. I was such an idiot for not getting my jacket but let’s face it, if I went back for it, I would have stayed there, sulking and miserable. I needed to find Mike. I needed to tell him, I didn’t care if he smoked a stupid joint, I didn’t care what stupid Kevin or Brian thought or anybody else for that matter. I needed him in my life. Nothing else much mattered.

“Some of the streets we passed were a little scary. Hookers on the corner and guys hanging, talking AT each other instead of TO each other. I wonder what that is like. To just hang on a corner and watch the girls.

“Here we are” She said stopping in front of a building that just about looked like it was ready to collapse.

“Wow, so this is it huh?”

“Yup, this is how the other half lives Nick…he’s in apartment 7, Third floor”

“Thanks, are you coming up?”

“No. I have a feeling you guys need some one on one time” I nodded.

“I’m kind of worried about you walking home alone”

“Oh please, people fear me not the other way around”

“But even still...” Melinda walked over and gave me a hug.

“I like you Nick, you seem like a great kid, now go up and tell your brother he owes me another slice of pizza”

“Will do” I watched her as she walked down the block and around the corner. Then I proceeded up the rickety stairs. The wood was literally rotting and I was kind of scared that I might fall right through the steps. How the other half lives. I said to myself as I maneuvered down the small hallway to apartment number 7.

I knocked on the door, and was a little surprised when it opened immediately; like he was waiting for me.

“Nick…Oh my God…Is that you son?” My Father asked me. Before I could answer he grabbed me in a hug and cried on my shoulder.

“I missed you son. Welcome home”
22 by Mare
22

It felt odd. I mean not in a bad way…but in an eerie way. He had the smell I remember him having when I was a kid; a mix of Irish Spring soap and Old Spice cologne. It was a sickly sweet smell and when I inhaled it again, it brought me back to my past. I felt like I was that four or five year old kid all over again. I couldn’t really remember very much of my dad besides his smell and the fact that I was afraid of him. I can’t even recall why. Maybe it’s his size. Maybe it was his temper, but he used to scare the crap out of me. I didn’t feel that when he hugged me though. All I felt was odd.
He pulled away from me and held both of my arms with his hands. “Let me get a look at you…God, you look just like your mother” He then pulled me close to him again. I felt stupid because I didn’t return the hug right away. We kind of looked like Pepe Lepew and that cat. He was hugging me and there I stood with my arms down at my side. What a jerk I must have looked like, but he had thrown me off guard. When he hugged me the second time, at least I hugged back.

He pulled me away from him this time and finally got out of my personal space long enough to invite me in. “Come on in kiddo…we have a lot to catch up on” He closed the door behind me, “So, is Mike here?”

“Nope, he left for a little while. I guess he felt like your little dinner didn’t go very smoothly” I nodded. Poor Mike, I wouldn’t blame him if he never talked to me again.

“He said your friends didn’t like him too much” Now my dad sat down on the couch and placed his feet on the table.

“That’s why I came. I wanted to tell him that I don’t care what my friends think of him”

“He should be home soon son. I can’t get over how much you have grown”

“I’m…eighteen”

“I know”

“So, tell me all about your life” He shut the television off and pat the couch signaling me to come and sit next to him. I felt out of place. Was it wrong of me to wish that my father was there too? I mean Bob. I had a feeling that if my Mother knew I was sitting here talking to my real father that she would have a fit and a half.

“Um…well…”

“Are you doing well in school?” He interrupted me, before I even was able to get a word out.

“Actually, I’m finished with school. I graduated this past May”

“Excellent”

“Yeah”

“You going to college? I always wanted my sons to go to college”

“No sir” I began to realize that maybe my father had no idea how famous I was.

“Nickolas…you need to go to college, I mean doesn’t your Mother want you to go?”

“No sir...you see, I am in a band”

“A band?”

“Yes”

“What do you play?”

“I sing”

“Oh…well still can’t you do both?”

“We are kind of famous” I watched as my dad smiled at me, “Really? How famous are you?”

“I’m in the Backstreet Boys” He seemed really surprised.

“Are you serious? Son I am so incredibly proud of you” My dad just told me he was proud of me. Isn’t that every boy’s dream?

“Thanks”

“Wow…that’s incredible. I hope you are being careful with your money”

“Oh yeah dad. I’m really careful with it. As a matter of fact, I never really see it”

“Is that right?”

“Yes, Mom and dad…” I stopped. He gave me a look. How can I be that dumb? Good one Nick!

“I mean…Bob, he is my step dad…I mean...Mom got…”

“It’s alright son. I am happy for your Mom” He placed his hand on my knee and smiled at me.

“She takes care of my money”

“That’s great. Just be careful, you should invest some of that money. If you want I can do that for you, so this way you will have a nice nest egg when you aren’t so hot and sexy” He grabbed my chin and tousled my hair. I laughed.

“I would like that”

“Yes, I mean that’s what I do for a living. I’m an investor. So, just say the word and I’ll get you hooked up. I won’t even charge because you’re my son and all” He laughed and winked at me.

“Are you okay?” He asked me suddenly sounding a little worried.

“Yeah Why?”

“You’re shivering...”

I didn’t even realize I was shaking. But I guess I still had the cold November air pumping through my veins.

“Yeah, I’m a little cold. I forgot my jacket” He jumped up and walked over to the closet where he pulled out a blanket for me and draped it around my shoulders. “Silly boy shouldn’t be going out without your jacket, let me make you some hot tea okay son?” I hated tea but because I was being coddled I nodded. When was the last time my own Mother ever said that to me?

He ran into the kitchen and hummed while he made me my tea. I laid down on the couch and suddenly grew SO tired. I could barely keep my eyes open. Maybe it was the warmth of the quilt or the humming from the kitchen or maybe it was the warmth of being cared for, whatever the case, I fell asleep right there in the middle of my reunion.


~*~*~*~*~*~*
John hummed away as he made his son tea. Nick did look great and it was nice seeing him again. He had to bite his tongue a few times, especially when Jane was brought up in the conversation, but he had to pretend he liked her; for now anyway.

When he walked over to the couch to see his youngest son fast asleep he was temporarily overcome with love for the boy. He even stood there watching him for a few minutes, pulling up the blanket all the way to the top of Nick’s neck and placing a pillow under his head.

He seemed like a good boy. But then he saw the wallet, it was calling to him. Saying ‘steal me and go on a shopping spree’. He lifted the wallet off of the floor and opened it careful not to wake his son up. The kid had just about every kind of credit card known to man; MasterCard, Visa, Discover, Diner’s Club, everything. “I bet none of these even have a spending limit do they son?” He took Nick’s Discover card, the one that was shoved all the way in the back and therefore, in the mind of a con artist, the one that was used the least and he placed it in his own pocket. If he notices, I’ll just say it fell on the floor and plant it under the couch. He said to himself as he leaned back and placed a loving hand on his son’s back and flipped the television back on.


~*~*~~*~*~*~*~*
Mike got home about an hour later and was not happy when he saw his little brother sound asleep on the couch with his father’s arm wrapped around him; also sound asleep. “Great…now I’m probably going to be accused of kidnapping” He said in a whisper but still loud enough for his father to jerk awake. When he saw Mike he smiled, “Isn’t he cute?”

“Why is he here dad?”

“He came looking for you”

“When?”

“Shortly after you left”

“How did he get here?”

“He didn’t say”

“What did you tell him? Did he tell you?”

“That he was famous? Yes he did. Why you couldn’t tell me is beyond me though”

“I was afraid you’d try to rob him blind”

“I’m offended Michael”

Mike was surprised when his dad sounded hurt. “Look, I’m sorry dad but…I just didn’t want you to…”

“Let me tell you something son. I love the both of you. If your Mother hadn’t thrown me out of the house, I would have still been a part of this kid’s life. I don’t care about his money. All I care about is seeing him happy. Just like you. I want you boys to be happy” Mike sat down on the coffee table looking down at his brother who was really dead to the world. “Think anyone knows he’s here?” Mike asked his father wanting to drop the conversation for the time being.

“If I had to take an educated guess, I would say no. The kid showed up here with no jacket even”

“Great…well then maybe I should call them and let them know so they don’t all go crazy looking for him”

“Good idea. The last thing we need here is the FBI” John said letting out a laugh that caused Nick to stir in his sleep.

“Why don’t they like you son?”

“I guess I’m not good enough for him” And that was the answer, he had just never actually verbalized it before but that’s how he felt. He wasn’t good enough for this kid.

“You are good enough for him. Maybe THEY aren’t good enough for him” Mike laughed at that. “Yeah dad…maybe”

“I don’t want to call them” He confessed to his father. They made him feel small, for some reason.

“Then don’t. It’s really none of their business where he went anyway” That was true. When He was 18, he would take off sometimes for days at a time and no one ever came looking for him. Nick was an adult, he came here on his own and he will leave on his own.

So just as quickly as he walked towards the phone, he found himself walking away from it. “They’ll call him if they want him” John said as an extra reassurance.

“I gave him his phone back so yeah, you’re right. If they call we’ll answer it. If not, well then to hell with them all”

“We don’t need anybody anyways, just as long as the three Alexanders’ stick together” His Father said proudly.

“He’s not an Alexander” Mike was quick to correct his father, unaware that his father already knew that.

“He’s not?”

“No. He’s a Carter now”

“She remarried?” He asked sounding very hurt.

“Yeah, I’m sorry dad”

“Well, he’s still an Alexander at heart. He’s my son” They both stared down at Nick, “Yeah I guess he is” Mike said.

“So, I guess he’s spending the night then?”

“Yeah, I guess so. You can sleep in the bed with me if you want dad”

“Thanks, I can always stay on the floor, you know that I am used to uncomfortable sleeping conditions” Mike laughed, “Which brings me to this. Mike please don’t tell Nick about me okay? I want to start fresh and I really don’t want him to know about me being in prison” Mike looked at his Father suspiciously, “If you are trying to have a fresh start then why did you steal all my money?”

“I doubled it. I didn’t steal it. I was trying to help you out. Truly” Mike sighed, “Okay. I believe you; sorry I accused you of robbing me”

“That’s okay son. I understand why. I’ve changed; now please let’s not tell Nick about the prison thing…okay?”

“Okay”

John was relieved when he heard Mike say okay. Everything was working out very nicely.
23 by Mare
*sorry about the delay*

23

I woke up disoriented. I hated when that happened. Whenever we were on the road, I always woke up not really sure of where I was, sometimes even hoping that maybe I would find myself back in my room in Tampa; my life before this just one big magnificent dream.

It was chilly in my hotel room, or at least that’s where I thought I was. It wasn’t until I sat up and struggled with the lamp on my right, that I remembered that I was very far from The Four Seasons. I yawned and stretched, searching for a clock anywhere in the place my brother called home.

I had to settle for squinting at the VCR’s tiny clock to see it read almost 6 am. I had managed to stay away from Nick Carter Backstreet Boy for a whole night. No one even came to look for me. The thought felt liberating and terrifying all at the same time.

Thoughts of full on search parties roamed through my head as well as Kevin screaming at me when I got back. Not that it was any of his business. I was old enough to leave forever if I wanted to. Besides, if they were worried it served them right for being such jerks to my brother.

“Hi”

I jumped at the unexpected hello and Mike laughed. “You want some coffee? Or are you more of a chocolate milk kind of guy?”

“You scared me. You shouldn’t go around scaring people like that”

“Yeah apparently…so?” He was waiting for my answer as he stood in the doorway to his kitchen.

“Coffee is fine”

“Milk and sugar?”

“Yes please”

“How many?”

“Four”

“Four? Why don’t you have some coffee with your sugar?” He teased as he measured out enough coffee for the two of us to have at least two cups each.

“So…sleep well last night? I have to say I was surprised to see you on my couch when I got home”

“I’m really sorry Mike. I will totally understand if you want me to leave” He shook his head while he roamed around his cabinets in search of the sugar, “That’s nonsense, why would I want you to leave? As far as I can tell you did nothing wrong”

“I should have never put you in the situation”

“To meet your friends? Nick it shouldn’t have even been a situation”

“I know” He smiled as he brought down the sugar from the top cabinet and placed it in each mug. First doling out my four spoonfuls then his two.

“Do your friends know you’re here Nickers?” He asked right before blowing on his hot coffee and motioning for me to follow him back to the living room.

“No…well they probably figured it out but it’s not because I bothered to tell them”

“And security?”

“Can kiss my lily white ass!”

Mike laughed at me. “You want anything to eat?”

“It’s really early Mike. Do you always get up this early?”

“Hell no…dad snores”

“Oh”

“It was nice seeing him again” I admitted. He made me feel good, nurtured. I was a little surprised.

“How about some toast. You want some toast? Or maybe some…I think I have Captain Crunch”

“It’s too early to eat for me”

“Your loss”

So I sat and watched my brother pack away four slices of toast and a bowl and a half of cereal. We didn’t even talk much as he ate, he mostly just looked at the box and for the first time since I had really gotten to know him, I grew uncomfortable.

“Maybe I should go” He looked up with mouth full, “Why?”

“Because…”

“Nick, I’m not mad at you”

“You sure?”

“Yes”

“Then why are you kind of…I don’t know…ignoring me”

“Just because I am not talking doesn’t mean I am ignoring you, God kid, don’t people ever just sit quietly where you come from?”

I felt stupid, he was right, the truth is, I never had enough time to myself to really be bathed in a quiet silence for long periods of time. I bet I would feel just as uncomfortable with Kevin or Howie as I was right now with Mike.

“Whatcha thinking Nick?” I was pulled away from my thoughts and smiled at Mike, “Just that no. The answer to your question is no. I am never around people who shut up. As a matter of fact, I am rarely alone”

“That must suck”

“Yeah…sometimes it does”

“You know I would fantasize about being famous…is it fun?”

I shrugged, I hated when people asked me that. In stupid interviews we had our set answers to questions like this. “Oh yes, it’s a lot of fun but also a ton of hard work”

I didn’t find it fun at all. I mean I ENJOY fame, but it’s not fun. Being a singer is fun, being with the guys is fun but being famous is NOT fun.

“Maybe we should switch places for a day like the Prince and the Pea”

Mike laughed again, “You mean the prince and the pauper. It’s the Princess and the pea”

“Whatever, you got what I meant right?”

“That would be fun, if I was five years younger and as good looking as you, I might just have considered that offer”

I rolled my eyes at him and he stuck out his tongue at me; his mouth full of half eaten toast.

“So what are you gonna do today?” I looked over at him and shrugged again. That was a really good question. If it were up to me, I would never leave, but unfortunately there were bigger powers at play.

“I guess I should probably go. I know we have some stuff to do today. We are only going to be in New York for five more days I think, possibly more” Now his expression became gloomy.

“Oh”

“Yeah, usually we are only here for about three days tops but since the new album is coming out and all, we are here to also record some stuff”

“Good…so I get you for a little while longer then” I smiled. “Yeah you’re stuck with me for a little bit at least”

“Good, I don’t mind being stuck with you…now the OTHERS…” He winked at me to let me know he was teasing.

“I feel the same way”

“You shouldn’t. They really care about you Nick”

“I know. I should probably be going” Mike put down his coffee, “Okay let me walk you there”

“It’s okay. I know it’s early and all”

“Nick. I know you are a full grown man, but this is not the safest neighborhood in the world. The kooks come out late at night and early morning”

“That’s what Melinda said”

“Huh?”

“Melinda. She is the one that brought me here. She told me the same thing”

“How did Melinda bring you here?”

“I went to the record store looking for you and she said she would show me where you live. She’s a neat girl. I like her”

“Yeah I like her too”

“You should ask her out then”

“Maybe…someday”

“Don’t let her get away Mikey. She seems perfect for you”

“And you know this because?”

“She seems perfect for me too”

“Ah I see. You into older women then?”

“I’m not picky I’ll take whatever I can get” He laughed.

After our quick breakfast, Mike let me borrow one of his jackets and the two of us walked back to the hotel. It was a long walk but not that bad. We talked a bit more about life. I convinced him to start taking drum lessons, and he convinced me to take up the guitar. He said I would be good at it. Maybe I will.

I invited him to come up but understandably, he declined. This left me one whole elevator ride of dread. I wasn’t sure what exactly I would be in for when I got back up to my room, but I wasn’t really looking forward to finding out either.

I had to knock because I had left my key card in my jacket pocket. I lightly tapped on the door, but it sprung open instantly. I was expecting to see Brian but instead I found Kevin. I wasn’t ready for that.

“Hey” I said slowly almost as a question then a greeting.

“Hey” He answered as he opened the door for me and went back to his bed. Brian’s bed.

“Where’s Brian?”

“He wanted his own room for the night, so I said I’d switch with him” That was a good lie, I’ll give him that.

“Oh…cool”

I could tell by his hair that he hadn’t been to sleep but yet he also hadn’t been searching frantically for me either. “I’m a little surprised that you didn’t call out the National Guard”

He laughed, “You sound disappointed”

“No…I’m not, just surprised”

“Well, at first I wanted to but then…well I knew you were with your brother and I figured if you needed us for anything that you would call. I am correct…right?” I nodded.

“So, there was really no reason to worry. You are an adult and more than capable of making decisions and if I were you I have to admit I probably would have done the same thing”

STOP THE PRESSES! DID KEVIN JUST KIND OF TELL ME HE WAS WRONG?

“You would have?” I needed to hear this one again.

“Yes, only I would have had the sense to take my jacket at least”

“I knew if I went back to that table I would have never left”

“Yeah but if you went back to the table you wouldn’t have had to. We were jerks and I’m sorry. I know Brian is too. We were waiting to tell you that but you never showed up”

AND AN APOLOGY? “Oh”

“Finally after AJ went in to look for you, we had realized you actually split”

“Sorry, I hope you guys weren’t too worried”

He smiled, I could tell he was. “That’s okay. You did what you needed to do, just like I did what I needed to do”

“And what did you need to do?”

“I talked to your Mom”

I really should have seen that coming. “You did?”

He nodded and rubbed his red sleepy eyes, “Yeah, I had to”

I sat on the bed across from him and took of my…I mean Mike’s jacket. “What did she say? I mean was she happy? What?”

“She wants you to call her as soon as you can”

“Where is she? Is she flying back?”

“I have no idea Nick. Just call her…she is worried” I wanted to yell and scream at him for once again interfering in my life, but I didn’t. He was right to call I guess.

“I should wait until later on don’t you think?”

“Call her. She’s in Paris, I think they are 6 hours ahead or something like that” I had to ask him, because I needed to prepare myself, “Does she believe him? Or is she like the rest of you?”

“Why don’t you ask her that question yourself?” He handed the phone to me. I reluctantly took it and dialed my Mom’s cell phone.
24 by Mare
24

With every ring, my desire to hang up grew more and more. I don’t know why, but my Mom was the last person I wanted to speak to. She would probably be happy, grateful even that we had finally found him, but deep inside of me, there was a gnawing in my insides, telling me I was wrong.

Kevin sat across from me and watched so I really had no choice but to go ahead and talk to her. Maybe she wouldn’t answer and I could leave a message.

But when I heard that familiar click on the other end of the line, I knew my last chance at fleeing had run out.

“Hello?” I briefly thought about not answering her and hanging up. Telling Kevin she wasn’t there and that I would try her later.

“Nick? Is that you?” So much for that…

“Hi Mom!”

“Oh my God Nick, what the hell where you thinking? Going off with a total stranger just because they say they are your brother? I thought you had more sense than that”

“Mom it’s really him” There was a pause; like she was drinking in the info that she had probably tried to convince herself wasn’t really there.

“But…how can you be….”

“It’s him. I know”

“Is he…okay?” She sounded like she was crying.

“He’s great Mom”

“And what about your Father?”

“I saw him too”

“Nick, I don’t think you should trust these people” Now it was one thing for Kevin and the rest of the guys to doubt my brother’s credibility, by my own Mother? Our own Mother?

“Mom, I’m tired of having this argument with everyone under the sun. It was him”

“But Kevin said that he had his doubts” I glanced over at Kevin. He knew his name was brought into the conversation. I could tell by the way he suddenly started to shuffle around for something to do.

“He is paranoid” I made sure to say loud enough that he knew I was talking about him.

“But even still…” She paused again, “Are you sure?”

“Yes Mom, it’s him and he’s great”

There was a silence and I found myself biting my bottom lip. I hated our silences, they were never comfortable for me; ever. I knew in her head she was trying to convince herself that this couldn’t be right. She liked her life before this happened. Mike would only bring back the past and if it’s one thing I learned from my Mom over the years is that the past was left buried, under so many layers of oppressed memories that you could never dig your way out of them all.

“Well, I guess we’ll just have to discuss things in greater detail when I come home”

Her tone grew colder. I was so good at predicting my Mother’s every move that sometimes I even scared myself with my accuracy.

“When will that be?”

“Next week”

“Next week? You mean after what I told you, you don’t want to come home?” I happened to glance over at Kevin who was staring at me with such intensity I could see my reflection in his eyes.

“Well, it’s just that these plans have been set in stone for a while and…”

“I thought dad surprised you with the trip”

“He did but that doesn’t mean he didn’t plan way ahead Nickolas”

My full name meant that the conversation was going to come to an end very soon.

“What does dad think of all of this?”

“I haven’t told him yet. It’s best not to say anything until we know for sure”

We did know for sure but she knew that too. I doubt my father would ever know about this conversation, in fact I don’t think he would even be aware of Mike’s existence at all if it wasn’t for me telling him when I was little. I remember that was a huge fight they had. He accused her of keeping secrets. She insisted it wasn’t a secret just not something she thought much about anymore. I almost wish I didn’t remember that.

“Okay…well I guess when you get home then” Kevin smiled sympathetically at me.

“Honey, listen to Kevin okay? Stay away from Mike until I get home”

“Okay” I lied. If she wasn’t even going to care enough to come home, I wasn’t going to stay away. I was only in New York for a little while longer to begin with.

“I love you Nick”

“Yeah…me too” I didn’t feel the need to be all sappy with Mom. I was too mad. She was hurt; her deep dramatic breath she took as she said good bye was supposed to be my hint.

I hung up and cussed her out under my breath. Kevin pretended to ignore it. “So, what did she say?”

“Pretty much what I thought she would. That she is staying in Paris”

“Does she think it’s him?”

“No…she knows it’s him” I was shaking my head. Aren’t Mothers supposed to care about their sons?

“Nick, I’m sorry I called her, but…”

“I know Kevin and it’s okay. Like you said you did what you had to do”

He stood up and ruffled my hair as he walked past me and towards the bathroom; now that I was finally home he was going to get ready to go to sleep.

I still was trying my best to understand how my Mother could dismiss her first born. Would she do that to me one day? Maybe. Then I guess my brother, my father and I could start a rejected by Jane club.

“What are you smiling about?” Kevin asked me as he walked out of the bathroom and headed for the bed. “Nothing”

“I’m going back to bed”

“You never went to bed”

He smiled and I smirked. It was one of those little exchanges that we didn’t let people see very often. Our way of acknowledging how much we secretly cared about each other. Okay well his part maybe not a secret but my part sure was.

“Goodnight little man…well actually good morning. I guess wake me up in about three hours”

“Okay” I said yawning myself. I almost went to sleep but instead I decided to go pay Brian a visit. I needed the company of my best friend.


~*~*~*~*~*~

The walk back to his apartment was spent second guessing his new found relationship with his little brother. In an ideal world, Mike thought, he should have been able to embrace Nick, catch up on old times and start fresh. But this was far from an ideal world. The man snoring from the bedroom as he walked in the door was a stark reminder of that. Mike shook his head as he watched his father sleep; the man snoring away like he didn’t have a care in the world.

He hated waking up this early but when he was troubled he couldn’t sleep and ever since his father had knocked on his door, he had been troubled. Then Melinda bringing Nick here.

“Melinda” He said aloud. Maybe he would call her and invite her out to breakfast before their shifts at work started. He had really started to have feelings for the girl, but for some reason wasn’t acting on them. He looked at the clock and figured it was too early, so instead he put on the radio and was immediately met with his own brother’s voice singing All I Have To Give. He couldn’t help but smile about how odd that was. All the times he had heard this song on the radio, had even caught himself singing along with it more than once, he never knew it was Nick.

“Is that Nicky?” Mike looked over at his father who was standing by the bathroom, in nothing but his boxers, his stomach slightly hanging over them. Mike nodded which brought about a small dance form his father.

“Can you believe my friggin son is that guy on the radio?”

“That’s pretty amazing isn’t it dad?”

“Yeah it is. So want to go to breakfast? My treat” Mike looked over at his Father suspiciously. Smiling at his son’s curiosity he continued, “Oh relax, I didn’t mug anybody. Remember I won money”

“Yeah but didn’t you say that was my money?”

“Okay fine. Then you’re treating. I’ll get dressed”

John glanced over at the credit card he had borrowed from his youngest son. He would pay him back, this was only a loan, he had convinced himself, knowing that today he was going to go on a little shopping spree. He would use that money to buy both Mike and Nick something nice, true it was Nick’s money but still what he didn’t know couldn’t hurt him right? He looked over at Mike and smiled one final time before heading in to get dressed and start the first day of the rest of his life.

Mike’s thoughts drifted back to Nick. He found himself wondering if he had caught hell for not going home last night. “Poor kid”

“What’s that son?” John yelled from the bedroom.

“Nothing” He answered.

Yup in an ideal world he would be sipping on coffee next to his girlfriend Melinda, talking about his father happily in past tense, not meaning he had died or anything but that he had moved on. They would have a romantic breakfast, possibly a bubble bath and then maybe later on that day he would invite his brother over to watch a football game.

Instead he was going to breakfast, after he had already stuffed his face, with his father who was going to end up making him pay for everything. He would have to sit and listen to stupid prison stories and act like he was interested.

“Okay I’m ready when you are…oh and one the way; let’s go shopping I know a great place near Times Square”

“Dad…I have to work today”

“I know, don’t worry it’s close to where you work and then you can go to work and I can head out to look for a job” Mike looked surprised. “A job?”

“Yes”

That made Mike smile, maybe his father was going to change afterall.
25 by Mare
25

I fell asleep on Brian’s bed right next to him. He had let me into his room and we talked for a little bit. He apologized, I apologized and then we played some Nintendo. Next thing I knew Howie was shaking me awake. Brian slept in a heap next to me, very close to the edge of the bed and I thought for just a split second about pushing him and making him fall. I know I’m mean but if it’s there ya gotta take it right?
“You pretty much had us all worried sick about you last night Nicky” Howie said sternly. How odd the only lecture I thought I had escaped since joining the Backstreet Boys was going to come at the hands of sweet D.

“I know. I’m sorry”

“I’m just glad you are okay”

“Thanks. I’m all good D my man besides would I let anything happen to me?” For some reason I was in a really good mood. When you consider that less than 24 hours earlier I was as gloomy as gloomy could be.

I turned towards Brian and smiled when I saw I had missed my window of opportunity to push him off the bed. He was slowly getting himself up. “God you are a real bed hog you know that Kaos?”

“Am not”

“Are too”

“Am not” He smiled at my playfulness. I think he was grateful that he didn’t have to deal with Nick the brat today.

“So what’s the plan today?” I asked AJ as he stumbled by me razor in hand.

“Do you ever know what’s going on Nick?”

“Nope”

“We are going to a meet and greet and then something at MTV AGAIN!” Howie said walking past me and looking down at my undressed self. “You better go and get yourself dressed Nicky and while you’re at it wake Kevin up. I have tried three times”

“No way!”

“Yes way and besides it’s your fault that he is grumpy anyway” Brian said smiling with a devilish face.

“Okay fine but if I don’t come back alive…”

“I get his Nintendo stuff”

I stuck my tongue out at Brian and made my way back to my room where Kevin was still sound asleep and snoring away.


~*~*~*~*~*~
“Pick out anyone you want…like I said my treat” John said to his eldest son who was staring with mouth agape at the collection of sports memorabilia in front of him. “Dad…I can’t they are much too expensive” Mike had picked up an old baseball card of his hero Joe DiMaggio and was staring at it in awe.

“Hey son, do you remember when we would go to your little league games and then always manage to make our way to one of these stores to look at the cards?” Mike nodded. It was one of those nice childhood memories he would recall when his life was going down the toilet.

“Yeah and Mom always refused to come in saying she had better things to do”

“Yup” John’s face went from a smile to a frown. “That woman hated for us boys to have fun. I wonder if she ever let Nicky join a little league team”

“Doubtful he had time dad”

“True, what with him being a mega star and all” John placed the Joe DiMaggio card back on the shelf and continued to walk through the store.

“Do you plan on speaking to your Mother?”

Mike had been dreading that question since his father had gotten here. The one good thing about fleeing from their lives when he was a child was the fact that he didn’t have to ever be a part of a custody battle. No pitting kid against one or the other for their love.

“Not sure. I have mixed feelings when it comes to Mom” Mike grabbed a baseball signed by the 1964 Mets.

“Well, I won’t hold it against you if you want to talk to her”

“I’m not sure if I have anything to say to her”

“She was your Mother”

“Yeah, that’s the word though dad…WAS”

John gave his son a sympathetic look but deep down inside he was pleased. It would have killed him if Mike had decided to try and make nice with Jane. He found himself clutching a baseball glove tightly to his chest while memories of his life with her passed before his eyes, some good but most horrible.

Mike had walked past his father and was making his way out of the store. John took that as an opportunity to pick up that Mets baseball and buy it for the boy. He would give it to Mike over dinner and a movie; A boy’s night out, just the two of them…no worries. Maybe he would even invite Nicky.

“Is that all sir?” The older man behind the counter asked, putting down his Sports Illustrated magazine and acting like taking care if his customer was the biggest burden in the world.

“Yes thank you”

The cashier rung up the sale, “That’ll be $450.00”

John slowly held out his son’s credit card to the man, hoping the guy wouldn’t even give it a second look which happily for him, he didn’t. He decided just to be safe he would sign his son’s name. He had become a master at forgery while in prison. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do with his time there.

He took his bag and thanked the man who had reluctantly helped him with a wave of his hand.

Mike was standing outside pacing and looking at his watch.

“You bought something?” He asked eyeing the bag.

“Yup but you can’t see it. It’s a surprise”

“Okay…well dad I really need to be going to work”

“Have a good day son and thanks for the breakfast” John winked at his son who smiled in return.

“Yeah yeah yeah…you’re welcome. I’ll see you when I get home”

“Okay sounds great”

“Let me know if Nick calls okay?”

“So does that mean I have permission to talk on your phone? Wow I feel so privileged” Mike rolled his eyes at his father’s sarcasm.

“Yeah but whatever you do, DON’T scare him away” The telling tone Mike used when he said that temporarily hurt John’s feelings. Did he actually think a man would hurt his own son? As he watched Mike walk away he had to laugh at himself. Duh you idiot you are using the boy’s money aren’t you?

This reminded him to look at his watch. He had his own meeting to keep, a big poker game which would most likely give him the chance to start over.

“Son this could be my out. I hope you understand” He said to the credit card as he placed it back into his pocket, walking across the street to the ATM machine. When he had first gotten the card, he noticed that there were four numbers printed in ink in the top corner of the card. He was sure it was his son’s PIN number for the card. Now it was time to test it out. He stuck the card into the machine refusing to look directly at the camera above him. When he put in the four digit number he didn’t breathe until he heard the clinking of the cash coming from the machine. “Stupid boy! Don’t you know you are NOT supposed to put your PIN number right on your card?” He said to himself as he grabbed the $500 out of the machine and walked down the street towards Mickey’s Pool hall.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I sat there in a fog for most of the interview at MTV. To be honest, that place just gave me the willies. Everything about the people that worked in that building rubbed me the wrong way. It was as if all of the sleaziest people in the music business rented out a building and called it home. I don’t think any of us really enjoyed being at MTV for extended amounts of time. We just knew it was what needed to be done in order to get somewhere. You had to pretend that nothing on earth made you happier than spending quality time with Carson Daly. He was so nice to us every time we came within whispering distance of him, but once we were gone, he would talk about us like we weren’t fit to wipe his boots.

Gotta love show business.

“Hey! You need to focus” I hated when Kevin yelled at me in front of people, especially these people. By the looks on their faces they were all amused. Kevin was NOT in a good mood as I and everyone else guessed he wouldn’t be. A tired Kevin was a grumpy Kevin but since I was in a rotten mood the day before I decided to let him have his attitude.

“Seriously Nick, you think you can concentrate for more than two minutes?” Again chuckles from the interns.

I wanted to be mean, and ask some of these people who were so much older than me to stop laughing and get me some coffee. Since the best thing they would ever do is wipe an MTV exec’s butt.

I decided to keep that thought to myself.

“God Kevin quit hounding me, I’m all set. Let’s just get this stupid thing over with” He was turning my sunny mood into a dull and rainy one fast.

“Okay guys we are going to do some promos for your upcoming special and then you guys get to do TRL” Some blonde chick was spewing out our schedule to us as we walked briskly down the hallways.

“Nick?” I wasn’t paying attention. I was actually counting the number of yellow tiles I had passed by.

“Yeah?”

“Is that okay then?”

“Is what okay?” Kevin sighed at my question. I decided not to give him the satisfaction and pretended to know what the hell the girl was talking about.

“Oh yeah that’s fine. Whatever it’s all good” I was NOT going to admit I had no idea what I had just agreed to.

“Excellent, the car will be waiting for you right after we are done here”

“Car? Okay yeah cool” The four boys were staring at me. THEY knew I wasn’t listening.

When we finally reached our destination I grabbed Brian’s hand and whispered, “Where the heck am I going?” He laughed.

“Out on a date with a lucky fan from TRL”

“What?” I thought he was kidding at first. I really did because surely they couldn’t have possibly let me agree to that, could they?

“Okay guys sit down here” The woman said pushing us to our spots.

“See what happens when you don’t listen?” Kevin said batting me upside the head.

I hated when he did that.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
“You in?” The smoke in the small room at the back of the pool hall was thick, making it hard to see. John had to squint to make out the three cards he held in his hand. Two kings and a nine of spades. He had lost a lot of Nick’s money today in the few hours he had been playing, only winning one hand. Since then he had made two more trips to the ATM machine taking out $500 bucks a pop. Now he was down to his last hundred bucks. He knew two kings weren’t that great of a hand but maybe he would pick up another nine or better yet another king and win. The pot of money was big, very big.

He threw in his fifteen dollars, “I’m in” He said trying to hold back his anxiety. “I’ll take two” He slid the two discarded cards towards the dealer who in turn gave him his two new ones.

He took a deep breath and looked at the first card he pulled; a nine of hearts, that’s two pairs right there baby! Then he turned the other and had to hide his excitement when he saw yet another nine; the nine of diamonds. Now he had a full house, a sure winner.

They went around the table and almost all of the guys dropped out throwing their cards down in frustration. When they got to him John just smiled and said, “I’m in”

The man he was playing against. A big man wearing sunglasses in the dark room and a fedora hat, smiled “I’m in too and I raise you a hundred bucks… but uh oh…looks like you don’t have it” The man laughed a sinister laugh and placed both of his chubby hands on the pile of money.

“Wait!” John yelled. “I have this” He said whipping out his son’s credit card”

“Um…this is poker idiot. We don’t take credit here”

“No, I’m putting it up. If you win, I’ll withdrawal $1000 for you”

The man seemed amused, “And how do I know you have that kind of money?”

“Because it’s my son’s, he’s a big pop star. I swear that thing is worth more than any money on this table”

The guy picked up the card and looked it over, “You sure this is legitimate?”

“I swear it is”

“You seem like a nice enough guy, fine I’ll take it” The man threw Nick’s card into the middle of the table and said call. John let out a sigh of relief; he knew he was going to win. A full house king high would beat about anything.

He threw down his cards proudly, “Full house King high” Everyone gasped dramatically even though they really couldn’t care less.

“Wow, not bad Johnny except I have myself four of a kind” He said tossing down his four threes.

“No! that’s impossible…you cheated!” John said enraged. The man who had been smiling took great offense to that and stood up ready to fight.

“What did you just say?”

“I said you cheated!”

“Care to say that again?” now the man was in John’s face.

“You cheated scum bag!” And with that being said he lunged at the guy and knocked him over the table.

It took a few minutes to calm the scene down. The last thing the pool hall wanted to do was call the police, so instead they settled on throwing both guys out of the place and let them finish outside.

As the chubby man with the sunglasses stood up and wiped his bloody lip he said, “You know, nothing will make me happier then spending your stupid kid’s money!” He dangled the credit card over John's head before putting it in his pocket and ready to walk away.

“Go to hell!” John growled reaching up to try to grab it from the man who kicked him in his side. "That's what you get for caling me a cheater!"

As the man walked away, John put his hand up to the cut that was bleeding right above his left eye, why did all the crappy things have to happen to him he wondered as he staggered down the street towards the bar he planned to wash all his sorrows away in.
26 by Mare
*just wanted to say thanks to ANita for all of those wonderful comments lol I appreciate it also sorry for the delay guys*

26

Why must they always scream? And I don’t even mean just scream. The girls who admire us scream as if we are tearing them apart limb from limb. The hardest thing for me to do is act like I enjoy it. I really don’t. Oh I LOVE the fact that we have fans because without them where would we be? But the fact that they scream scares me to death. I never enjoy it when people yell. My Mother is a screamer. My teachers were screamers. My father was a screamer; my real one, not Bob. I closed my eyes and remembered some of those chilling fights that would break out late at night. I would be sound asleep and wake to hear the screams coming from down the hall. They sounded like they were always right outside of our room, but they were both just so loud that their screams vibrated through the whole house.

I would always jump into bed with Mike when they fought. I would put my head into his chest and try to make myself deaf. I remember at one point I even asked God to make me deaf just so I couldn’t hear them yell at each other anymore.

“Earth to Nick…come in Nick ya there?” Kevin asked me tapping me pretty hard on the head.

“What?”

“How the hell can you even manage to zone out with all the noise out there man? Sometimes you really scare me dude” I must have looked confused by AJ’s comment because they all laughed.

“I hear them Bone”

“You guys are on in about five minutes” The lady who had been carting us around all day said to Howie, kind of looking happy that she done having to entertain us for the day.

We were waiting in the green room right off the entrance into TRL. The sound of the crowd, even through the doors was deafening.

“You know I never told anyone that before. I wanted to be deaf when I was little” Once again they looked at me like they had interrupted a conversation that I was having with myself.

“Why would anyone want to be deaf Nicky?”

I shrugged at Howie. I’m not even sure why I felt the need to share that information with them. Maybe I WAS just having a conversation with myself.

“Okay boys you’re on” A man wearing a headset said while pushing us out into the roaring crowd of fans.


~*~*~*~*~*~

“So you still mad at me?” Melinda asked rubbing against Mike as she walked by and took her place behind the cash register.

“I’m not mad at you”

“You sure?”

“Yes. I already told you that”

“Well, good because you would have no reason to be mad at me” She stuck her tongue out at him playfully. “So, how are things with the brother and the dad?”

“Interesting. I’m not sure really. Nick didn’t say much and Dad made it sound like they got along great.

“Your brother seems like a really good guy” She popped her gum as she handed a bag to her customer.

“He is”

“You know he’ll be on TRL today”

“Oh yeah?” She nodded and pointed down to the crowd of people waiting in the street. “It’s doubled in less then an hour”

He smiled. How odd it was that all of those girls were there to see Nick. The kid who used to wet his pants when he saw a spider. His little brother was so far removed from all of this. To think how much had changed. Ariana came running into the section and ran over to the television sitting above their heads. “Management said we could watch the TRL with the boys on it”

“Gee wonder why?” Melinda said sarcastically.

“Your brother is so scrumptious Mike I can’t even stand it” Ariana put MTV on then stood back to watch. The boys were already out and talking to Carson. All of them looking very happy but not Nick. He looked anxious.

“He doesn’t like all of this hoo-hah crap does he?” Melinda asked Mike who shook his head and stared at his brother on the screen. It looked like they were doing some kind of contest with a few fans. There were four girls in a line being asked random facts about the boys.

“I would win this SO easily” Ariana said as she continued to put out merchandise while only half paying attention to what she was doing.

“Okay Tammy, here’s your question….”Carson paused dramatically biting on his lip while searching for a great question. “Okay what is Nick’s favorite band?” The girl fidgeted furiously as she half cried and half screamed her answer “JOURNEY!!!”

Carson looked over to Nick for confirmation. Once he nodded the girl bypassed Carson and broke for Nick almost knocking him down to the ground.

“I guess she won” Melinda said amused.

“I hope not she doesn’t seem very balanced”

“You think? What gave that away? Possibly the fact that she had your brother’s name written all over her face?”

“I knew that answer. I would have won too” Ariana said winking at Mike.

“I wish it was you and not her. You I like”

“Awe thanks cutie” She walked over and gave Mike a huge hug.

“You have just won a dream date with Nick!” The girl screamed directly into Nick’s ear and continued to jump up and down.

“Oh no! She’s going out with him. How unfair is that?”

“I don’t like that. Not at all”

“Look at Mikey going all big brother all of the sudden, it’s really cute” Mike ignored Melinda as she pinched his cheeks and only focused his attention on the screen where the girl still had his brother wrapped in a hug. Jumping up and down and screaming. Nick looked so nervous that Mike wanted to jump through the screen and rescue him.

“I wonder whose idea this was” He said taking a few steps away from the resister and over towards the television.

“Probably their management. Don’t you now bands like your brother’s are only puppets on a string.

Mike sighed, “Good look Nickers” He said before turning off the TV and going back to work.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I had a headache and this girl was not helping. I tried to smile as she continued to jump and scream and in turn spit all over me, but it got old and after about ten minutes I was done. When we finally went to commercial break, it took two security guards to get her off of me.

“You can’t expect me to do this!” I said to anyone who would listen. “This girl is going to scream like this the WHOLE friggin time”

“What do you suggest we do? Tell her that we were only kidding? Sorry kid but you agreed to this, now you have to go through with it”

“Can’t we all go?” I asked looking from one boy to the other” They all looked sympathetic behind their smiles.

“Nope sorry. That would cause too much of a scene”

“Won’t I cause a scene? Send Howie. He won’t cause a scene”

“HEY!” Howie answered back through a bunch of laughter. The guys were really enjoying this a little too much.

“It won’t be so bad. You are going to dinner where a camera will be the entire time. You won’t be alone with her. Don’t be afraid Nicky that bad ole fan won’t get you” I rolled my eyes at Howie.

“We are back on in ten seconds guys” The stage manager called as we were once again ushered out onto the stage.

“It’ll be okay Nick. You won’t get hurt or anything okay?” Brian whispered to me from behind.

I nodded.

For the next part of the segment, I was standing next to the girl who had finally stopped her screaming thank God, but was now blubbering. I put my arm around her to calm her down which caused her to shake.

“Well guys for your date, the two of you are going to Mario’s” Everyone clapped.

I was in the mood for Italian so I was happy. I felt bad, I mean don’t get me wrong, I did love this girl. She seemed nice enough and a huge fan, I mean she had my name on her face for God sakes, but I just don’t like to be surprised with stuff like this. It made me feel cheap for some reason.

“So why don’t you guys go on ahead, your limo awaits” Carson said as cheesily as he could. I grabbed the girls arm and together we waved to the crowd and walked out the door towards what would be one of the longest nights of my life.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“I said I want another” John hastily said to the bartender.

He was slurring his words almost to the point of incomprehension.

“I think you’ve had enough buddy” The man said taking John’s glass away and putting it back behind the bar.

“I’ll say when I had enough give me some damn more”

“Beat it!” Now the guy was fed up. Since John had walked in, he was rowdy and rude. As he drank he softened up a bit but now he was getting loud again.

John went to go pull out his money scrounging up his last few dollars and placing them on the bar, “Fine…keep the change, I got plenty more where this came from” Then he stood up just about falling off of his seat and landing on the floor.

“Oopsies” He said standing up by grabbing on to someone’s leg. Once he was up, he walked out the door and shielded his eyes from the glare of the sun. He still ad so much of this damn day to get through, he wasn’t sure how or even why he could do it. He had lost his son’s money and even worse then that, gave his credit card to some stranger. Not that he willingly gave it to the guy but he was in no position to try to get it back form him. Maybe he would try now. All he would have to do is find him. That shouldn’t be too hard.

Maybe he should instead, find his son. Ask Nick flat out for a loan. Why not? They were flesh and blood right? Blood is thicker than water. “But not thicker then Bourbon” He said out loud laughing at his own joke.

He was trying to remember the name of the hotel Nick was staying at, it had to be one of the biggest and best, “Only the biggest and best for MY son” He said once again out loud, not noticing the crowds of people giving him sympathetic looks as they walked by.

“Was it the Four Seasons?” He tapped a young lady as she was trying to cross the street. She had a Backstreet Boys shirt on. “HEY! That’s my son!” He screamed. The girl pulled away.

“Do you know where my son is staying?” She didn’t answer him.

“Hey I’m talking to you bitch!” He said walking towards her. She panicked and ran. He noticed a bunch of girls coming towards him wearing Backstreet paraphernalia. He decided to follow the crowd. No doubt, they would lead him to his son.
27 by Mare
*Hey these two chapters are for you WHite Diaomonds and everyone else. I really am sorry I have been so bad at updating!! It's gonna be like that for December :(*





27
If I thought that girl who won was crazy at the TRL studios it was nothing compared to the limo ride over to the restaurant. The two of us sat very close to each other because the camera crew needed enough room to film us. She didn’t say two words to me the entire time; just stared with this crazed smile on her face. Whenever I tried to make conversation she would start to cry so I tried to not even look her way. I couldn’t help but feel that maybe this was actually more of a punishment for this girl then a reward. She made it seem torturous and I felt bad.

The MTV people riding along with us pressured me to do something for her. They said it was bad television to just watch two people sit next to each other without even making eye contact so I had no choice. I had to speak.

“…so...Tammy was it?”

“Oh my God…you said my name” She screamed. I laughed, I couldn’t help it. Sometimes you just gotta laugh.

“Yes I did, and it would make things go a lot smoother if you realized I am just a normal guy”

“You’re not normal…you’re Nick Carter”

“Okay you have a point there….relatively normal then” She started to cry and I placed my hand on her arm, “Come on Tammy, don’t you just want to have some fun tonight? How can we have fun if you are going to do nothing but cry?”

“I’m so sorry…God I’m such a bad fan”

“No you’re not. You are one of the best” I laughed and pointed to my name on her face, “And one with impeccably good taste”

That made her smile. Yes ladies and gentlemen I still have it. Even when I don’t want it.

“SO why don’t you start by telling me how old you are” She was still shaking but happily she calmed down a little bit.

“I’m 18” I have to admit, I was a bit surprised about that. I thought she was younger.

“Very nice”

“Thanks” She started fanning herself and once again tried not to cry.

The producer person gave me a look; I guess I wasn’t doing a good enough job for her standards. I’m not sure what she wanted exactly. Maybe she wanted us to start making out. Who knows? One thing I did know for sure was by the time we had arrived at the restaurant, I was ready to go back to the hotel.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~
John continued to stagger through the crowd of teenage girls trying to make his way to the hotel he was sure they were heading towards. He had a hard time keeping up but luckily there was such a huge mob scene by the time they reached the hotel that he was easily able to not lose the crowd.

He stopped and just took it all in for a brief moment. The screams, the signs, and the pictures of his son plastered all over banners the girls had made for him. If the guys from prison could see him now, they would hardly believe it. John the failure, ending up with a filthy rich son; rich and famous to boot.

A woman holding a jacket of one of the screaming girls was standing there right next to him, she smiled “Kids huh?”

“Yeah seriously” John answered.

“My daughter, I told her to put her jacket on but she insisted that she didn’t need it. She said that she wanted Nick to see her I love Nick pins all over her shirt”

John laughed. The lady looked around, “So where’s your kid? Did she get lost in the crowd?”

“No actually Nick is my son” He said proudly. The lady looked surprised and her demeanor changed slightly. “Oh I see, well I guess I should go find my daughter”

“You don’t believe me do you?” Now he was angry. Why was it that no one ever listened to anything he said?

The woman pretended not to hear him and continued to walk forward. That was it, he grabbed the woman’s arm, “Damn it woman! I am Nick Carter’s father! Of course his name’s not really Nick Carter at all. His real names, Nick Alexander!”

“Get off of me!” She yelled causing many people in the crowd to turn her way.

“Yeah that’s right Nick Alexander. His stupid bitch of a Mother changed his name on me”

By now men were coming to help this woman who was crying out in desperation while hitting John with the jacket she was carrying. Three men descended on him and knocked him down to the ground while the woman made her escape.

“Get the fuck off of me dammit! You have No idea who you’re dealing with!” The guys let John up after a few minutes of struggling. “Now I think you better be on your way mister before someone decides to call the police”

Hearing the word police made John calm down and put up his hands in defeat, “Okay fine…sorry”

He started to push away from the crowd and was about to turn the corner when he was stopped by a camera crew.

“Excuse me sir…we are with MTV and saw what just transpired there, did you say you were Nick Carter’s Father?”

“Damn right I did” He said still slurring some of his words. The camera crew thought it was pretty funny and were whispering amongst themselves, “Do you mind if we film a little mini interview of you for MTV?”

“Will I get paid?”

“No…sorry, but you’ll get air time”

“Sure…whatever”

“Great I’ll just need you to sign this consent form for me” She said placing a piece of paper in front of John’s face.

“Fine I’ll sign anything you want” He said quickly jotting his name down.

“Is this live?”

“No…but it will air later on today on one of our news segments”

“Excellent. It’s time the whole world finds out who Nick’s real daddy is. But do you mind of I have a cup of coffee first? I’ve had a rough day”

“Sure thing” The lady said still smirking.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~
“So Tammy, what do you like? It looks like they have a pretty huge selection of stuff” When there was no answer, I looked up to find her staring at me once again.

“Tammy?”

“Um…whatever you’re having. Not like I can eat in front of you anyway”

“Sure you can. I plan on eating in front of you”

“Nick you can do anything in front of me if you’d like” That made my eyes widen; my oh my.

“Okay well I think I am going to have the stuffed shells”

She started to cry again, “Okay maybe not? How about the Chicken parmesan? Will that make you stop crying?”

“I am just so happy. I can’t believe this. This is the happiest day of my life”

“Oh honey, you will have many happier days I’m sure then going out to eat with me”

“No way Nick…this is the best” She made me smile. Sometimes in my little bubble I just get so upset with the fans. I don’t get the big picture, all I know is they are a big reason why I no longer can have a normal social life. Most of the time I am bummed by that but things like this, seeing how much of an impact one stupid dinner could have on one person, enough of an impact for her to say it is the best day of her life, that makes me realize how much I do take the fans for granted. After realizing that, I decided to stop dreading this day and start having fun.

We ate…well I ate, she watched and mainly picked at her food and then I insisted that we split a dessert. I asked her if she had anymore of that face paint and when she said yes, I decided to put her name on my cheek, now that made the MTV people happy. She cried a few more times, well okay about a billion more times but by the end of our dream date I have to admit I had a pretty good time.

We took a bunch of pictures and then it was back to the MTV studios where my van would bring me back to the hotel.

“Good job today Nick” One of the TRL producers said to me as I was getting ready to leave. I was standing by a mirror in one of the dressing rooms taking the paint off of my face.

“Thanks, I had a good time”

“I have a question for you”

“Okay”

“Was your dad in Times Square today?”

“No. He’s in France with my Mom why?” She smiled, “Let’s just say that we have a very interesting interview planned tonight. You need to watch it; you’ll get a kick out of it. Some people are just kooky”

I didn’t think about it, it should have clicked really. I was so used to only having one father that my real one never once popped into my head.

“Okay well you have a good night” I said walking into the small but still kind of big crowd gathered outside the Times Square studios and jumped into my awaiting van.


~*~*~*~*
When Mike made his way home his dad was sound asleep on the couch, the smell of cigarette smoke reeking through the apartment. “Fantastic” He said as he clicked on the light.

“Son?”

“Hi dad…busy day?” He asked sarcastically.

“Actually yes” He sat up and yawned.

“Did you find a job?”

“No... I tried but no one was hiring”

“No one huh?”

“I was on TV today though”

“You were?”

“Yes. MTV”

“Why?”

“They just were interviewing random people and out of the crowds they just picked me”

“That’s a weird coincidence. You didn’t mention Nick did you?” John’s face fell into a scowl, “And why the hell would I NOT mention Nick. He is my son you know!”

“Shit dad! Tell me you didn’t tell the MTV people that”

“You’re damn right I told the MTV people that”

“What were you thinking?”

John stood up truly mad and pushed his son against the wall, “I am thinking that’s my son and it’s not fair for this other jerk dad of his to get all the limelight now… is it?” Mike winced; it had been a while since his dad had done anything like that to him. “You haven’t changed at all have you dad?” Upon hearing those words, he loosened his grip on his son. “Yes I have changed, I’m so sorry Mikey, it’s just that it’s hard for me you know? He’s my son and I love him. I just wanted to share that with the world”

“What are you up to old man?” Mike said suspiciously.

“I’m not up to anything Mike. I swear it. The old dad is gone oh and I bought you something” He said walking over to the bag he had gotten earlier in the day. He was glad that he hadn’t lost it in his numerous fights.

Mike cautiously took the bag and was surprised when he opened it. “Dad how did you afford this?” he asked holding up the baseball.

“They lowered the price for me”

“Thanks dad”

“I love you Mike” He said grabbing his son into a hug. As Mike returned the hug he felt that ever present sense of dread.

“Now let’s watch MTV and wait for my interview” He said switching on the channel and taking a seat while Mike bit on his fingernails.
29 by Mare
29

I sat there on the bed just overcome with emotion like a silly five year that I had just accused Brian and AJ of being. I think they understood. Quickly after I saw that interview, AJ shut off the television and they both sat on either side of the bed next to me. I guess they could tell I was an emotional wreck.
“This is all so weird” I said wiping a tear away from my eyes.

I felt AJ’s hand rubbing my back. Odd I know but actually when he wanted to, he could be the best older brother in the world.

“You’re a lucky man Nick. My father is a piece of garbage and here you have two men loving the hell out of you”

“I know…it’s dumb of me to cry”

“No it’s not Nick. It’s a completely normal reaction” Brian once again always managing to say the right thing.

“I wouldn’t even know what to say when I called him Brian. I mean I haven’t really spoken to him in forever”

“I know….how about a simple… I heard what you said on MTV. Thanks” That was perfect. Why couldn’t I think of that myself? It seemed like the obvious thing to say. I nodded at him as AJ continued to rub my back in an affectionate way that would eventually, knowing AJ, turn into a slap to the back of the head.

“I hope to hell my Mom didn’t see that”

“I doubt they showed that in France, but maybe that would be a way to get her lazy ass back to the US and help her son go through this crap” Well put AJ. It was no big mystery that the guys didn’t much like my Mother. To be honest, sometimes I didn’t either, but some of them showed it more than others. I had mentioned that earlier with Kevin but AJ would be the other one that wouldn’t hide his feelings for my sake.

“I think I’m gonna call him now before I completely lose my nerve” I said grabbing my phone ready to call. I had already memorized Mike’s number just by dialing it so many times even though a few times I hung up before the first ring. That was at the beginning of the relationship. It’s funny to think how little time had actually gone by since we found each other again. I felt like I had never missed a beat with my brother. Maybe the same would be said for my Father and me; even though we never had a solid relationship. Maybe now that I was older, things would be different.

I dialed Mike’s half hoping that no one would answer.

“Hello?” I actually gulped when he answered the phone.

“Dad?”

“Nicky is that you son?” I nodded like he could see that or something. Duh Nick. The friendly slap by AJ to the back of my head made me speak, “Yeah dad it’s um…me”

I told you he would slap me didn’t I?

“Nicky…Mike is not here at the moment, but I can…”

“No dad. I actually called to talk to you. I saw you on MTV earlier and I just wanted to say…well…thanks” There was a pause on the line; I thought maybe he had hung up.

“Nick…I meant every word. I love you son” I didn’t know what to say, I nervously licked my lips and wished that I had thrown both AJ and Brian out of the room. They sat there staring at me, trying to read every gesture and movement I made.

“Uh…”

“It’s okay Nick. You don’t have to say anything back. I am not worthy of your love”

“Of course you are dad. I do love you”

Again there was a pause, I heard a sniffle. Damn was my dad crying?

“Thanks son. I can’t even tell you how good it was to hear you say that”

“I’m glad I finally got the chance to” I bit my lip which brought about another smack from AJ. He hated when I did that for some reason. He could smoke like a chimney but God forbid if I bit my lips. It drove him crazy.

“I was wondering if maybe you wanted to go out for lunch or dinner or something dad”

“I would love that Nick”

I smiled, “Good. You pick wherever you want”

“I would go and eat out in the back by a dumpster as long as I could spend some time with you”

Now it was my turn to get a little weepy. I looked away from both Brian and AJ and wiped my eyes. “Well, I don’t think we need to eat behind a dumpster” I looked over to Brian who had a ridiculous look on his face. He made me smile.

My dad laughed at that too, “well you pick then and I’ll meet you there, I’m kind of hungry now actually are you busy?” I had no idea. I know I really should learn my schedule.

“Hang on and I’ll check” I cupped the receiver in my hands to mute my conversation with the guys to my dad’s ears. “He wants to know if I am busy right now. Are we doing anything? Do we have anything planned for the next hour or so?” AJ and Brian looked at each other, “Nope. You have about two hours or so before we have to go to the studio so it’s all good bro”

“Excellent…thanks” I pulled my hand away from the phone, “Dad, now is fine”

“I’m so happy to hear that”

“Yeah….how about we meet in the lobby?”

“Sounds good son”

“And then we can decide where to go from there, just so you know dad, security will probably have to come with us. Is that okay?” my dad paused for a moment which once again made me nervous. Being followed by big bodyguards had that effect on people; that’s why whenever given the chance I would try to ditch them.

“That is fine, I am just grateful that they are there to protect you” Isn’t that exactly what Mike had said?

“Great….I’ll see you in about twenty minutes then?”

“Sounds good son and once again I want to say I love you”

“Love you too dad” It felt more natural coming out of my mouth that time.

“Sounds like you are going to go meet daddy then?” Brian asked winking at me. I bit my lip again which cause AJ to roll his eyes at me.

“I’m nervous guys”

“Want us to come with you?”

“Oh yeah that’s a great idea since the last time we all did that my brother was accused of being a drug addict” Yeah I guess I’m still not over that.

“Whatever man…we’re just trying to help out but if you’re going to be an ass about it…”

“Sorry AJ, I’m just nervous…I appreciate it, I just think this time I should go alone”

“Not entirely alone…you need to bring security with you this time kiddo”

“I know Brian…I know. Can we not tell Kevin about this please? I don’t want him to be a worry wart” They both laughed at me, I think they liked the worry wart line.

“Yeah we won’t tell him”

“Thanks, well I better go get ready then” I stood up to go into the bathroom for a quickie shower.

“Kaos” I looked over to AJ, “Yeah?”

“Have a great time” I nodded and proceeded to go inside to get ready.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~

John looked at himself in the mirror before walking out the door to meet his son. He looked good. It was amazing that when he was able to keep himself up and put a good comb through his hair, how similar his youngest son looked like his Father. They both had the same facial features and the eyes; also the blonde hair.

He was a little nervous about this little meal they would be having. Everything was banking on it. If he wasn’t absolutely convincing he wouldn’t gain the trust of his youngest although he seemed to be extremely naïve, a trait that both of his sons shared collectively.

On his way to the hotel, he took out the last bit of cash he had, wasn’t much; about $45, but he had a plan of his own to get more. He would also try to access another credit card from Nick. He noticed by looking at his wallet a few days prior, there was actually an ATM card that was lying in the back of his wallet. If he could get his hands on that he would be golden. He paused briefly wondering if that jackass he had lost all his money too was spending his son’s money. Surely if he had noticed the four digit Pin number in the card so did that asshole. He shook off those thoughts, he needed to concentrate.

He put his money back in his wallet and headed into the lobby of the hotel.


~*~*~*~*~*~*

I was so nervous waiting for my dad. I swear with all the performing we do, I haven’t been as nervous as I have been this last week; first meeting Mike and now meeting my dad. I would take performing solo in front of a sold out crowd in my underwear over this any day. Well maybe not in my underwear but I think you get the idea. Anyway when he waved to me my stomach moved up to my throat. I have no idea why, maybe secretly I was hoping that Mike would have come with him.

I walked over to my father with Ron my bodyguard close behind me. He saw me and smiled, then shook my hand. I think he wanted to hug me but maybe was too afraid with Ron hovering over us like he was.

“Hi Nickolas”

“Hey dad” I bit my lip and by instinct grimaced expecting to be hit by AJ. “So where are we gonna go son? Any ideas? And by the way I would like to treat you”

“Dad don’t be ridiculous, I’ll get it this time”

“No son…I insist, afterall what kind of Father makes his son treat?”

“Dad really…let me okay?” He looked at his dad and smiled, he wanted to do something really special for his dad. This man that he hadn’t seen in such a long time.

“Okay son…have it your way but next time, I want to treat you” He winked and then did pull me into a hug. It felt so natural for a father to be hugging his son. My Father, my real one.

We decided on this swank little bistro downtown very close to Rockefeller Center. I mostly listened to my Father talk about the old days with he and Mom. He told me story after story about my childhood. How I loved to take his ties and hide them on him so he couldn’t leave to go to work or how when I was about five I would wake him up by jumping up and down on his bed. He said I loved to be thrown around like a football.

Most importantly he told me about his dreams. How he one day wanted to own his very own company. How he was kind of a vagabond nowadays not having his own place, opting instead to give to every charity under the sun. He said he had even given a bunch of money to my ocean campaign without even knowing it.

I was proud of this man, the guy who was my Father. He was an honest, hard working man who just seemed like he had such a good heart. I wanted to do something special for this man.

“What kind of company would you want anyway?”

“Aw Nick I am probably boring you to tears why don’t you tell me a little about you”

“There’s really not that much to tell. Believe it or not my life is pretty dull”

“Dull?” He laughed while putting another spoonful of his crème Brule in his mouth, “Now how do I find that hard to believe?”

“I know…everyone does, but to be honest…being famous is kind of a drag sometimes”

“I am sure it is”

“SO anyways, you never answered my question”

“Oh about the business?” I nodded, He put down his spoon and placed his hands on the table, “I’m thinking about starting some kind of thing for kids. Like a place where they could go instead of being on the street. Like a boys club or something like that”

“Wow…that’s really impressive”

“I can’t believe I am even telling you this. I haven’t told anyone. It just feels so comfortable talking to you son. Mike doesn’t even know. Don’t tell him okay?”

“I’m sure Mike would love that”

“But still…promise me anyway, that you won’t tell him”

“Okay not a problem”

“Thanks son”

I nodded again as the check came. It cost about $200 when all was said and done. He wanted to leave the tip but I wouldn’t let him. “Hey dad I’m going to the bathroom I’ll be right back” I put my credit card into the bill fold and got up to make my way to the bathroom. As I walked past my dad he dropped his money so I bent down to pick it up for him. “Thanks son, I could’ve gotten that myself”

I smiled then continued on towards the bathroom.


~*~*~*~*~

John grabbed the wallet he had just taken out of his son’s pocket and glanced down at it, he had to wait until after the bodyguard passed him by. He could tell that the guy didn’t trust him at all but that was his job. He was a little afraid of pick pocketing his own son right with security breathing down their necks but he also knew he was one of the best at it, so he had devised the plan during dessert, to drop his money on the floor knowing his son would bend to pick it up. Since he had noticed when Nick pulled his wallet out initially it was in his left pocket it would be a cinch to grab.

It turned out to be a piece of cake and no one suspected anything. The waiter came and gathered the check and John continued to search through the wallet finding the card he had noticed earlier. It was an ATM card and just like the credit card earlier it had his PIN written on the back. He quickly placed it in his jacket pocket and put Nick’s wallet on the ground. Where Nick tripped on it on the way back to his seat.

“Holy shit! I can’t believe I let this fall out of my pocket” Nick said bending down to retrieve his wallet. John feigned total shock, “Oh my goodness how could I have missed that son you need to be more careful with your money. I would hate for somebody to take advantage of you”

Nick sat down and grew serious for a minute, “Dad…I wanted to give you something” John stopped breathing as he saw what he hoped he would see, his son pulling pout his check book.

“I wanted to give you some money to start up your business. I mean it’s not much but I know every little bit helps right?”

“Aw son I will not take money from you. I can do it myself. It’s okay” Even though John was salivating it wasn’t part if his plan to have his son give him anything this quickly.

“Dad please?”

“NO! I insist, but thank you so much for your offer. You are a good boy”

And that he really did mean; he almost felt bad for what he was about to do. Almost being the operative word in that phrase.

“Well dad I had a great time”

“Me too son”

“Let’s do this again real soon okay?”

“Sounds good to me, but next time my treat remember?” Nick nodded and smiled. As they parted way and Nick was safely back with his bodyguard, John whipped out the ATM card and made a withdrawal of $1000.
30 by Mare
*Merry Christmas :)*


30

I was so happy with how the meeting with my dad went, that I could have floated all the way back to the hotel. Funny how perspectives change when you get older. I used to be so afraid of him. I remember that clear as day. I didn’t remember hiding his ties or ever not wanting him to leave. As a matter of fact, I remember being happy when he walked out the door. When he wasn’t there Mom had no one to yell at. That was always a plus.

I shook my head then, just thinking about my Mom. How could she willingly miss out on this? I mean I can understand why she wouldn’t want to see my dad again, even though she was the one who threw him out. But Mike? Did she really not care if she saw her eldest son?

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe Mike was the one who got a better deal. He got dad and I got stuck with Mom. I suddenly felt the urge to call her if nothing else to start an argument or something. Bob hated when I did that, but I did it often. So did she though.

Bob…funny how after only one meeting with my real Father, I had already resorted to calling my adoptive one by his first name already. Was I that ready to make a change? Sometimes change is good.

I picked up my phone and dialed my Mom’s cell leaving our argument in fates hands.

As luck would have it I got her voicemail so I decided to not even bother leaving a message. I noticed as my fame grew, her absences did too. She seemed to be around me less and less, opting to do fun things that we could have only hoped to do when we were poor and nobody. Not that I’m complaining. I want my Mom to have nice things. She deserves it too but maybe just once I would have liked it to be me that went to Italy with her and Bob. Let me have a vacation with no worries. Just a family that loves me.

God I probably sound like such a sap when I say things like that but to me family is so important; it really is. If you can’t tell that by now then you are just not paying close enough attention to this story.

“Hey turkey butt whatcha doing?” I rolled me eyes at Brian and ran over to him and stole the ball he was dribbling in his right hand.

“Hey! Not fair I didn’t see that coming”

“I guess your mind is not as sharp as it used to be huh old man?”

“Who you calling an old man?”

“Uh…see what I mean?” I walked over and tapped him on the head with the ball, “I am calling you an old man Rok!”

Brian just laughed and of course while he was laughing I got distracted, so he used that as his chance to steal the ball away from me. “Well I may be old Nicky my boy but I still got it! Let’s go find us a hoop” I nodded and just started following him as well as our barrage of security.

“Tell me if you think this is stupid” I said catching up to him and once again stealing the ball.

“Okay”

“I’m thinking of giving my dad some money to start a business”

“What kind of business is Bob starting?” Nice to know that at least one of us still considered Bob my dad.

“Not Bob…my real dad” There was slight hesitation in his step, “Oh”

“He wants to open some kind of thing for troubled kids”

“That sounds awesome. How much are you thinking of giving him?”

“I was kind of thinking a blank check” That made Brian slow down again almost to a halt.

“You think that’s wise? I mean you only just met him”

“I know, but he’s my Dad Bri…and he’s been through so much. I just want to help”

Brian smiled at me, “I know you do but a blank check? Maybe you could go into business with him instead”

“Uh sounds like too much work”

“What about Mike? What does he think about it?”

“I can’t tell him”

“Why not?”

“My dad doesn’t want Mike to know about the new business just yet” Brian came to a stand still, “That sounds a little sketchy baby, don’t you think?”

“No not really, would you think it was sketchy if your dad told you something and not Harold?”

“No but that’s different”

“How so?” I knew what he was going to say, I guess I just needed him to verbalize it. Looks like I was going to have that fight after all. He wouldn’t do it though, like he sensed I was just waiting for it or something; he changed the subject on me.

“So, when is your Mom coming home?” I shrugged. “I don’t know and I don’t care”

“Nick…”

“Nope, I don’t want to talk about her, she will put me in a lousy mood. Let’s go find that basketball court” Now I picked up my pace leaving Brian just standing there but eventually he followed.


~*~*~*~*~
Mike was working his ass off lately at the record store. It seemed like he was always being asked to work overtime or asked to cover for someone when they called in sick. He was convinced that maybe his boss was just waiting for his opportunity to fire him. Maybe the first time he said no that would be it, he would be handed his walking papers.

The only thing good about that was Melinda, she seemed to be working late right alongside of him. That he didn’t mind, even though he was anxious about not getting to spend enough time with his brother, she made things okay. He blushed just thinking about her.

“What are you thinking Spanky?” He turned to her with a questioning glance, “Spanky?”

“Yeah I think that’s going to be my new nickname for you, Spanky”

“Is that all you can come up with? What about something like stud muffin or Adonis!” She laughed, “Now you’re hallucinating Spanky” Then she tapped his butt. He liked that.

“I am actually getting off early tonight” He said winking at her gesture.

“Lucky shit”

“Yeah, I have worked late the last two nights so they are letting me go home early, which is good because I am afraid my dad is up to no good”

“What makes you say that?”

“Because he’s my dad”

“How trusting you are. Did you ever think that he might have changed?”

“I want to think that but I’m used to being let down when it comes to him”

“How’s he getting along with Smiley?”

“Smiley?”

“Yeah my nickname for your brother”

“Man why does he get to be Smiley and I get to be Spanky?” She smiled and shrugged.

“Alexander!” Mike looked over to his boss who yelled his name from clear across the room, making heads turn as he did it.

“Yes sir?” He asked making his way over to the man before he caused anymore of a scene.

“You have a phone call” That was s surprise to him. He shook his head just imagining what exactly his dad needed from him now. Maybe he had finally burned the house down or something.

“Tell him I’ll be right there”

“I’m not your secretary Alexander and it’s not a him”

“It’s not?”

“No, she says she’s your Mother” Mike couldn’t breathe just for an instant. “What?” He asked losing his voice as he said it. His boos stared at him angrily and purposely over emphasized every word as if Mike were ‘special’

“I s-a-i-d, it’s y-o-u-r MOTHER” The man held out the phone to him and Mike hesitantly took it.

“Hello?” He asked with a trace of anticipation on his voice.


~*~*~*~*~*
John paid the hooker $1200 for his time spent with her. It had been a long time since he had been with a woman. He didn’t understand how the straightest guy in prison within time could become a sissy. It was beyond him. He would never stay in prison that long but definitely long enough to miss the affection of a woman. The lady looked at the money and shoved it down her bra all the while popping her gum. “You’re a good customer, come back and find me sometime”

Then she left, John looked around the extremely dirty hotel room and wondered how he could make love in such a place like this. “That wasn’t love that was just nasty dirty sex” He laughed, “Thanks Nick”

He put his clothes back on and ventured out of the hotel room to another poker game just up the street. He decided to buy Mike something for his apartment; he would make up a story how he got a job doing work for random older people. He already paid about three elderly women to say that he was hired by them. He knew Mike was getting suspicious of the money that was coming in. The last thing he needed was for Mike to blow things now. He was so close to all the money he wanted. He could taste it.


~*~*~*~*~
We ended sitting up on our hotel room sulking over the fact that we wouldn’t have time to play basketball after all. Seemed like at the last minute our management decided to give us something else to do, so in the 45 minutes we had left we opted to play some Nintendo. Video basketball was almost more fun than the real thing anyway.

Kevin came in with one of those looks on his face. I hated those looks, sometimes he was too serious. I can just picture him as an old man, “you know if you keep pouting like that your face will stay that way” I blurted out. Brian laughed.

“Hey, can I talk to you for a minute?”

Please be talking to Brian…please be talking to Brian…

But of course when I finally decided to look up it was me he was staring at. “Can it wait? I’m kind of in the middle of a game here”

“I talked to your Mom”

“God Kevin why don’t you just marry her? You seem to talk to her more than my dad does” Again Brian thought that was pretty funny but when he laughed he was given the dreaded look of death from Kevin. That made him want to make an abrupt exit.

“I’m gonna go find AJ and Howie, see what they are up to”

“Good idea” Kevin said. I made sure to mouth the word coward to him as he left.

“So did you call her this time or did she call you?”

“She called me”

“Oh how very nice of her. Ask me when the last time she called me was” I sounded hurt and he felt bad. He came and sat next to me on the floor.

“It wasn’t like that. She called because she was worried about you”

“She could have told me that”

“She wanted Mike’s number” Okay he had my full attention now. “She did?”

He nodded, “I didn’t have it but I gave her the store he worked at”

“Well good, I hope they get to catch up on stuff”

“She doesn’t think he’s for real Nick. She thinks he’s trying to milk you for money”

“Well that just proves how little she knows her own son”

“She also said your dad was in jail”

“What?”

“She said that he has been put in a jail a few times. Just be careful okay?”

“This is bullshit Kevin. I’m not listening to this anymore” Now I was ready for my fight. I picked up the phone and called my Mom with Kevin sitting right there.
31 by Mare
*I am sorry for the lack of updates. I had a case of writer's block. Thanks to some of you and your feedback it helped me come up with this one. So guys I thank you! Sarah I left you a note on the nice feedback you left me on Revelation :)*

31

Mike stood there with the phone tight in his hand, gripping it if it were the only thing holding him in place on the earth. With a very shaky voice he finally managed to say something.

“Hello” He said not liking how small he sounded.

“Is this Mike Alexander?” His Mother sounded cold, just like Nick had made her out to be. Well, both Nick and his father. She sounded like she was in a rush; the last thing she wanted to do was speak to her son she had just found.

“Yes, speaking”

He switched ears during the pause, trying to escape the noise coming from the break room off to his left; people laughing and talking about some random game being played somewhere. Those people had no idea he was being reunited with an estranged Mother.

He was growing uneasy with every moment his Mother paused on the line, running through all possible scenarios in his mind. Would she yell at him? Or start crying out of pure joy for finding her boy after all these years?

“Oh” He wasn’t expecting that reply. An ‘oh’

“Is there something I can do for you?” He asked now trying to match her coldness word for word.

“Yes, I want you to tell me what you want from my son”

“Pardon?”

“Nick. Look, I know who you say you are and I know Nicky believes you. Maybe he’s right…”

“You say that like you are almost disappointed by it. Would you rather I just disappear again then Mom? Maybe dad will take me away again, I’m sure that would make you very happy” He was a little surprised that he yelled at her, but it was pent up anger from years and years of feeling unloved by the woman he should have felt loved by.

“Mike…that’s not fair”

“So now you think I am Mike? Make up your mind”

“I…I just want you to leave Nick alone. I mean spend time with him and all but please don’t take advantage of him”

He couldn’t believe it was possible to feel as hurt as he did just then, but he did. He found himself getting choked up on the phone, barely able to talk and suddenly very conscious of his surroundings and the fact that people were staring at him, one of them being Melinda.

“I would never do that Mom. If you ever bothered to get to know me, you would know that” He swallowed back his tears and took a deep breath which helped him compose himself better.

“And keep your Father away from him. I want him to have NO part of Nick’s life”

“I gotta go Mom. It’s been nice catching up with you after all these years” He didn’t let her say another word. Instead he hung up the phone and walked past everyone and into the men’s bathroom followed by Melinda.

“That was your Mom?” She asked once the door was locked.

“You shouldn’t be in here, it’s the men’s room” He said trying to laugh fooling no one at all. He walked over to the sink and splashed some water on his face.

“What did she say?”

He looked up at Melinda not turning around but staring at her reflection in the mirror. He smiled at her thinking if he was a little happier he would tell her she was beautiful. “Well, it wasn’t I love you, that’s for damn sure” She walked over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Seriously Mike, what did she say?”

“Do you think I’m a bad person?” The question kind of surprised Melinda as she stood there with her mouth opened.

“Of course not, I don’t like bad people”

“I can never win. Sometimes I feel like no one is on my side. It’s no use”

“Mike don’t go feeling sorry for yourself now”

He ignored her and walked out of the bathroom, he had one thing on his mind, something he hadn’t thought of for a while and that was escaping the pain. Drugs would do the trick if only he could get his hands on some drugs. He needed something.

“Where are you going?”

“For a walk”

“Let me come” She followed him out of the men’s room and back out into the hallway, by now the curious crowd had dispersed leaving just the two of them there looking at each other.

“I really need to be alone”

“Don’t do something stupid Mike” He laughed and walked away leaving Melinda worried.

“You know you are still on”

“I don’t care let them fire me” Were the last words he said before walking out the door.


~*~*~*~*~*~
I slammed the phone down when I once again got no answer from my Mom’s cell phone. I bet she was trying to avoid me. She knew I was going to call her up and yell at her. She would deserve it too. Why always call Kevin? She didn’t even LIKE Kevin! Most of the time she would complain about him and how nosy he was. She hates it when he butts into our lives.

Kevin just sat there watching me have my little tantrum, not saying anything but being a silent witness. I turned toward him, “Do you think she will actually call him?”

He looked over at me and shrugged, “Not sure lil man. She sounded like she wanted to”

“I hope she doesn’t mess everything up between us”

“I’m sure she won’t”

“Then you don’t know her very well do you?” He gave me that look again but before I could even roll my eyes, my phone rang. I took a deep breath when I saw it was my Mom.

“It’s her” I said to Kevin hoping he would take that as a hint to leave.

He didn’t.

“Hi Mom”

“Hi”

“I have been trying to call you for a while now”

“I know” She knew? So she really didn’t want to talk to me. God what is her problem?

“Oh that’s nice to know. Well Kevin is here if you’d rather talk to him” I was really sarcastic when I said that. Making sure I over annunciated every word.

“Nick please don’t act like that”

“So did you talk to him?”

“Who?”

“Don’t play dumb Mom. You know perfectly well who”

“I did”

I sat on the bed, “How did it go?” I asked trying to calm myself down a little. “Was he surprised?”

“He hung up on me” I have to admit, that surprised me.

“He did?”

“Yes. Nick I don’t want you near them anymore”

“You didn’t believe him then?” I stood up again ready to pace.

“I believe him” That made me refrain from doing so.

“You do? And you still want me to stay away from him?” She confused me sometimes this woman.

“Yes I want you to stay away from them both. Nick they aren’t good for you”

“He’s your son. How can you say that? I mean aren’t you curious at all what he is like? His life? His hopes? His dreams? I mean you just found your son Mom. You looked for him for so long and you finally found him”

There was a long pause. I took that as a hopeful sign, I was getting through to her. Soon she would fly back home and agree to meet her long lost son. We would be a family again. Kind of, I am a rational person. I knew she was very happy with Bob. So was I but how cool would it be to have her and dad speaking and getting along. That would mean holidays together the five of us, in the family I have always wanted….

“I always knew where he was” That blew me out of my dream world. I mean exploded me out of my fantasy land.

“What did you just say?” I had to have heard that wrong.

“Nick, I never told you this, but I did find your father when you were younger”

“What?”

“Remember when I had hired that private investigator?” I nodded, but of course she was my Mom so she kept going realizing that most likely that is what I did.

“Well, he had called long afterwards; this is when we were already with Bob. He said he found your dad” I felt Kevin’s eyes peering at me willing me to look up and let him know what was going on, but I ignored him. I just listened, probably concentrating harder than I ever have before, blocking everything out besides her.

“He traced him to an address in New York. I knew he was there”

“Did you go and see him?”

“Yes, I drove up there; made up some story that I had a meeting to go to”

“I think I remember that” I said.

“I drove all night with about a million things going through my head to say. At first I was going to call the police and have him arrested for kidnapping but as the drive went on Nicky, I realized that I enjoyed my life as it was now”

“So you didn’t do anything?”

“I found them. I saw Mike sitting on a bench smoking and talking with his friends. I wanted to go talk to him but I didn’t. I just drove away”

I was floored. More like appalled, how could she do something like that?

“Why? Why did you leave him there?” I was shaking my head and once again I felt Kevin’s eyes staring at me.

"You don’t understand Nick. My life, I was just getting on with my life. I had come to terms with what had happened. I had a new husband, a new life and I was happy. Mike seemed happy on that bench. He had also moved on with his life. He was in his late teens by then”

"I Can’t believe this”

“Nick…”

“Why do you want me to stay away? You told Kevin that dad was in jail?”

“He was. He has been in jail more than once for all sorts of things”

“Maybe you drove him to that”

“That isn’t fair!” She screamed at me. Like she had any right at all to yell at me.

“Oh it’s not fair huh? Well what you did wasn’t fair either. You kept me from my brother and my Father!”

“Don’t be selfish” Okay that’s when I blacked out. The rational Nick left the building.

“Selfish?” I briefly remember standing up then, I have to admit everything else is a big blur.

“How dare you call me selfish? You know what Mom. You are the most selfish stuck up botch I have ever met. All you car about is MY money! That’s why you didn’t want Mike in my life or dad because then you would have to share MY money with them”

“Nick don’t…”

“I am done talking to you! I hate you and never want to talk to you again do you understand me?”

“Nick you don’t mean that” She screamed.

“Yes I do. Goodbye” I clicked off the phone and then continued my tantrum by walking over to the lamp and flinging it across the room.

“Nick!” Kevin screamed at me.

“GO TO HELL! I HATE YOU TOO!” Why I said that I couldn’t tell you. I think Kevin understood, he just kind of shook it off and walked over to the lamp and picked it up.

“Nick…calm yourself down”

“You know what? Fuck her! I don’t need her…not like she was ever there before. She was the crappiest Mother ever. Good riddance to her” I was in my own little world. If Kevin said something I wasn’t listening. I didn’t hear anything but my Mother telling me I was selfish.

“Nick…”

“I can’t believe her! God she makes me so mad, well I’m done now. Seems like you will have to get off your own fat ass and get yourself a job now bitch!” I kicked the wall. I was so mad I was shaking.

“What the hell is going on in here?” Howie came in; I bowled past him almost knocking over him.

“Nick where are you going? We have an interview”

“Dammit!!!!” I stopped in the hallway and wanted to just lean against the wall and cry. Instead I punched it.

“Calm yourself down NOW Nick” Kevin stood sternly looking at me; he was done with my rant and thankfully so was I. Now I was exhausted; both physically and mentally.

I laid my head against the cool wall wishing I could just be sucked into it. Some kind of abyss where horrible Mothers didn’t exist. I felt a calming hand on my shoulder. “I don’t really know what happened Nicky, but it’ll all work itself out. For now, you have to put on a smile and fake it for an hour or so. Think you can do that?” I nodded at Howie and he smiled back at me gripping my shoulder as if giving it a hug.

Kevin walked up to me next, “We need to talk about what just happened Nick”

“I need to go see my dad and my brother”

“You will, but first we have to do this”

“I know” Then I finally allowed myself to look at Kevin. He didn’t look mad, he looked sorry; so did Howie.

That made me finally pull myself together. I knew as soon as I was done with this thing, I was going to see my dad and tell him I would help him live his dreams. My Mother could go screw herself!
32 by Mare
32


I was anything but entertaining at our little interview. I almost felt bad about it, whenever they asked me a question I would answer with no more than two words at the most. After awhile Kevin would interrupt and take over for me, apologizing because I was under the weather. So I got to sit and listen to the rest of them field the usual barrage of useless questions. Stupid ones like what was our favorite color. Did we get along like brothers? Etc... Nothing we haven’t answered about a million times. Sometimes I wanted to just send these people a pre taped interview with the answers to all of these questions on it. This way we could have some times off to play basketball. Maybe I would suggest that to the guys.
When the interview was over Brian came over to me and placed a hand on my back, “I didn’t know you were sick again”

“I’m not”

“Oh” Both and he and AJ didn’t know I had a tantrum right before we left. Surprisingly it wasn’t brought up in the van ride there. I think Kevin realized bringing it up would set me off again so he chose to ignore me. I was grateful for that. I knew however, that once we got back to the hotel all the questions would come. I didn’t plan on sticking around long enough to answer them. I made up my mind during that interview, that I would go visit Dad and Mike. Tell them about Mom and apologize for anything creepy Mom might have said to either of them. I didn’t know if she had talked to dad or not, but one thing is for sure, if she did she probably wasn’t nice about it.

It was time to turn over a new leaf. Become a new person, Nick Carter the un-Carter. I would miss Bob, but if it meant that I was free of HER! Then I’m sure in the end it would be worth it, besides with my dad and my brother in my life, plus the guys I would hardly even notice she was gone.

“Hello? Where did you travel off to?” Brian was knocking on my head, I guess I kind of zoned out. They were used to it. By then we were already in the van and taking off down the highway back to the hotel. At least I hoped that was where we were going.

“We are done now right? Or do we have something else to do?”

“Wow he can actually talk…imagine that” AJ being sarcastic. Have I mentioned he hates it when I get out of things for being sick? Especially when I’m not sick?

“Leave him alone AJ, he has a lot on his mind” Wow! It was odd to hear Kevin say something like that. I guess witnessing a good old Carter breakdown can do that to somebody. Kevin glanced over at me and gave me an understanding smile. Not that he even knew what was going on, but maybe he thought he did.

“Yeah just like a fish, I guess he can’t think and speak at the same time” “What does that even mean Bone?” Brian asked him half laughing.

“I don’t know…I’m hungry let’s move on” Everyone in the van laughed including me, but one glance over at Kevin made my smile disappear. I knew there was no escaping him once the van came to a stop. I decided to close my eyes and sleep for the rest of the ride.

Sure enough once the van came to a stop and we kind of piled out of there I felt a hand on my shoulder, “We should talk” I heard whispered in my ear.

“There’s really nothing to talk about” I said smiling my famous half smirk that drove the girls wild. Too bad Kev wasn’t a lady because it didn’t work at all on him.

“I think we have plenty to talk about Nick”

“I really need to go call Mike before he makes plans already”

We were at his hotel room door by this point and I sympathetically looked over at Brian to save me but by then I think he sensed that something had happened so he kind of shrugged and walked away from us. Kevin opened his door and we both walked in.

“I promise you will get to see your brother and father soon, I just want to know what happened to get you so worked up before”

“Okay fine…well basically my Mom is a lying bitch and I am done with her and her games”

“Why? What did she lie about?” I started getting restless licking at my bottom lip and shaking my leg.

“Everything Kevin. My whole Damn life has been one big lie” I shook my head and felt the heat rising in my cheeks. I was angry but more hurt.

“How so?”

“She knew about Mike. She always knew where he was. She just chose not to do anything about it” I took a pillow and flung it across the room.

“Nick enough with the flinging okay?” He bit his bottom lip then continued, “So she really knew?”

“Yeah this whole time”

“And what about your dad? What did she say about prison?” That’s why he was so interested. He didn’t care about what happened he just wanted to make sure that he was at least right about one of them.

“I’m done talking about this Kevin. I am going over to Mike’s” I stood up to leave but of course he stood up to, “Nick…I really think you should call your Mom back”

“Never again, I’m done with her”

“You know you don’t mean that”

“Oh yes I do mean that”

“No you don’t. I know she has done some awful things but she is your Mother. Think of how many people can’t say they have a Mother or a father”

“You know it always comes down to you and your father Kevin. I am sorry he died but just because you don’t have a dad anymore doesn’t mean that everyone’s life is so much better than yours” I really didn’t mean that. I felt horrible as the words were leaving my mouth. It’s funny really because whenever I said something stupid, which was often, the only person I ever felt really really guilty for hurting is Kevin; especially now, when it showed so readily on his face.

“Okay fine” He said walking past me and heading for the door.

“Kevin, I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry man”

“Just think about things Nick. Don’t be so irrational” With that being said he walked out the door. I almost ran after him but decided against it. Instead I slammed my body down on my bed and screamed into the pillow I hadn’t thrown across the room.

That made me feel a little better, not a whole lot better but at least enough to call Mike’s without sounding like I was about to jump off a bridge. My dad picked up after the third ring and said that Mike was out but he would be more than happy to hang out with me. He even said he wanted to walk me there. I told him that’s why I have a security guard to which he laughed and said I’ll see you in a little while; followed by the nugget I really desired to hear. I love you son.

See? That was all the proof I needed to know I could easily live a life without Jane. At least I had one parent who loved me and accepted me for Nick the person, not seeing dollar signs in his eyes. Mike and my father were the real deal. I called down to my security and about fifteen minutes after that we were on our way to Mike’s.


~*~*~*~*~*
John put the phone down and smiled. He was slowly gaining his youngest sons trust and affection. For a brief moment he forgot that he even had ulterior motives. He was just happy that Nick was back in his life; that was until he looked over at the new couch he had bought for Mike. It was burgundy with big plush pillows. The perfect couch to sleep on. Mike would be so surprised when he saw it. He had counted on his son to arrive about an hour ago but as the time passed, he soon began to think that maybe Mikey had made plans without telling him. When he was trying to decide on just the right present for Mike, he figured out that a brand new couch would fit perfectly. The old one he had was sagging in the middle and worn from age, plus extremely uncomfortable to sleep on. He decided if nothing but selfish reasons that if he was going to stay on with his son for a longer period of time, he would need to sleep more comfortably, even though with Nick’s Mac card he could probably score a place of his own he didn’t want to be THAT obvious. So he went with the couch. He was so excited about it, just like in the early days when the boys were young and still believed in Santa. He loved setting things up for them late at night just to see the looks on their faces. He wondered if they ever figured out most of the things they had gotten from Santa were stolen. Probably Mike had figured it out but doubtful that Nick knew. Why? He thought bringing another smile to his face, “Because I am perfect in his eyes”

He heard keys being fumbled around outside the door and decided to go let Mike in. He probably had his hands full with take out, John had hoped as he answered the door awaiting his son’s surprised expression. Instead, when he opened the door he smelled the scent of alcohol on Mike’s breath. It was so strong that it made even John wince.

“Hey dad” Mike said side stepping into the apartment, tripping on his feet and landing with a thud on the floor.

“Son, are you drunk?” Mike laughed.

“Me drunk? Naaaah” He said getting on his hands and knees to try to get himself up. John walked over to help and together they managed to pull him back on his feet.

“I was worried, where have you been?” John asked leading Mike to his brand new couch and sitting him down.

“I was out getting a little drinkie”

“I see that” He looked into his son’s glassy eyes and instantly recognized that glazed over look, “Have you been doing drugs son?”

“Are you the police all of the sudden or something?” Mike laughed after he said that but then immediately stopped when he noticed he was sitting on something brand new. “Where the hell did this thing come from?”

That wasn’t exactly the reaction John was looking for but he was grateful that Mike managed to notice even in the state he was in.

“I bought it for you son. I wanted to surprise you with it”

“How the hell did you afford this dad? Who did you kill to afford this?” He laughed when he said it even though he was only half kidding. Sad as that may be. “I told you I got a job working for this rich old lady. She gave me a bonus”

“What are you having sex with her or something?” He said once again cracking himself up, “Ahhh…sorry dad. I thought it was damned funny”

“Mike, is something bothering you?”

“Naaah what could possibly be bothering me?”

“It’s just that I thought you were done with the drugs”

“Relax old man…it’s hardly drugs. Just some pot, nothing big”

“Even so…”

“I talked to an old friend of yours today dad” Mike sat up straight and tried to moisten his very dry mouth.

John tensed up, thinking Mike had come across one of his gambling buddies or even worse, the guy who had stolen Nick’s credit card. “You did? I don’t know anybody here. It’s probably another John Alexander they were talking about. I wouldn’t even listen to them”

“I talked to Mom” John just sat there frozen, not believing he just heard Mike say that.

“Oh she’s a real sweetie that one. I can see why you left her. What a bitch!” John stopped himself from smiling. “Why do you say that?”

“She doesn’t want Nick to see us again dad. I guess we aren’t good enough for the pop prince or something” The way he said pop prince sounded so hateful, it once again threw John off guard.

“He’s on his way over right now Mike” Mike looked over at his Father, “Nicky?” John nodded.

“I can’t let him see me like this dad” Mike stood up and swayed as he did, “If he sees me like this then he’ll never come back”

“I doubt that is true Mike, unless he’s really as shallow as his Mother” To that Mike got defensive, “Leave Nick alone! He is a good kid who doesn’t deserve that witch for a Mom or a complete loser like me for a brother. Maybe Jane is right, maybe he is better without me” Before John could say something consoling or conniving to Mike, there was a knock on the door. Mike looked at his dad, “I’m going to the bathroom, just tell him I’m not here okay?” John nodded. “Okay but you have to come out of there at some point”

“No I don’t” Mike said holding the wall and leading himself towards the bathroom. Once safely inside, John opened the door. Nick was standing in front of him holding his arms across his chest to keep himself warm.

“I thought you weren’t going to answer for a minute there” He said half smiling.

“Sorry, I was in the bathroom, come in Nicky” He said immediately grabbing his son in a big bear hug.

“Wow nice couch”

“Yes it is, I bought if for Mike” Actually YOU bought it for Mike briefly ran through John’s mind which luckily he didn’t verbalize. Nick walked over and sat on it, “Oooh very nice…so is Mike not home yet?”

“Actually no…want to go for a walk? Maybe go get a cup of coffee or something? I do owe you a dinner remember?” John raised his eyebrow at his son hoping he would take the bait and want to leave so he could use Mike’s episode to his advantage. He felt bad doing it, but he would share the wealth with Mike when this was all over with.

“Sure dad that would be nice”

“Great let me just go get my coat and then we can go” John walked over towards the bedroom and whispered into the bathroom door, “Nick and I are going out for a little bit”

“Okay” Mike said very softly. “Have fun”

“We will”


~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I really still would have felt better if Mike was home, not that I don’t like my dad or anything but we just weren’t at the point where I felt comfortable being alone with him. Maybe this little trip out would help. I thought I was hearing things for a minute when my dad left to get his coat, but then I heard it again, it was Mike’s voice. He was home but for some reason avoiding me. It was my Mom’s fault I bet. She had finally convinced him to stay away from me. I started to panic just thinking about that and stood up to make my way over to the bedroom to find out what the hell was going on.

My father came out two seconds later with his coat, “Are you ready kiddo?” I wasn’t sure if I should bring up Mike or not so I just nodded but looked over at the bathroom door. “Why is the bathroom door closed?” I asked knowing full well it was because Mike was hiding in there. My dad wrapped his arm around me, “I’ll tell you on the way”

So many thoughts were running through my head, maybe this walk was the get out of our lives walk. Maybe Mike hated me so much that he didn’t even want to come out and say good bye. Maybe that was my Father’s job. I was just waiting to hear him say it. I even braced myself for it.

“You asked why the bathroom door was closed” My father started to say. Here it comes…

“Mike was in there, he didn’t want you to see him in the condition he was in” I stopped walking, “Condition? What condition? Is he alright? Did something happen?”

My dad pulled me close to him then, placing his hands on both of my shoulders and looking me in the eyes, “Son…I didn’t want to be the one to tell you this, but Mike is a drug addict”

I felt my whole world crash down in just one sentence.






Email: marrbop@aol.com
33 by Mare
*hey guys thanks for reading!*

33

John felt bad when he saw the look of pain run across Nick’s face. He had to do it though, use this to his advantage in some way. “But…I knew he did pot every once in awhile. He said he used to do a lot of drugs. I thought he was clean now” Nick leaned his back against the wall of the building they had stopped next to. His security guard hanging slightly back. It made John uneasy knowing the man was hearing every word uttered between the two.

“Yes, but it’s gotten bad. He drinks and does all sorts of drugs. Cocaine, heroine, crack…you name it and he has tried it. That’s the real reason I am here son. To help him” Nick looked up at his Father.

“I had no idea”

“It’s terrible really, he never really got over things when your Mom and I split Nick. He always felt abandoned by her. It took it’s toll after awhile. She actually talked to him today”

“I know she did…I talked to her too. I was coming to tell you guys that I cut her out of my life” To that John, stepped back. “You did?”

Nick only nodded with his head hung down.

“Why?” He placed a consoling hand on Nick’s shoulder. Turns out he didn’t have to work as hard as he thought he would with his youngest son. Part of his plan was to turn the kid against his Mother but seems she had done that all by herself.

“She told me…” John watched his son as he tried to find the right words, “She just told me some things that made me realize my life would be better without her in it”

“I’m sorry to hear that son, I really am” And he really was. The hurt in his son’s voice was almost unbearable, but yet here he was ready to totally devastate him further. It made no sense but just like his Father had passed on to him, you always have to look out for number one. If you don’t, then eventually you will be the one left in the dust, so with that thought in mind, John overcame his moment of weakness and once again kept up his charade. “Nick, maybe it’s for the best that she is gone. You will always have Mike and me…that is if we can clean him up”

“How do we do that? Should we put him into rehab?”

“I don’t know yet, I haven’t figured it out. Those things cost a lot of money. Money I just don’t have” John made sure he put his head down in shame on that line.

“Dad, money is no object. I can help”

“But son…doesn’t your Mom have control of your finances?” The question he had needed answered since he first found out his son was a millionaire.

“Yes” John felt his heart pounding in his chest. This was it, the moment he really had been waiting for, “Well, I doubt she would want to help Mike”

“It doesn’t matter, it’s my money”

“But not if she is in charge of it”

“You know, technically I’m an adult. I am 18 years old, so all I would have to do is get it turned over to me. I never really thought about it before. Management always recommended that we have someone else take care of our finances. I just assumed Mom was the best one to do it”

“I can understand why they said that. It’s a hard job actually…hey if you want me to take over I would be more than happy to” His heart stopped beating. He felt guilty, nervous and exhilarated all at once while he awaited Nick’s answer.

“Maybe…we’ll see, but thanks for the offer. Speaking of which I kind of need to find an ATM machine. I owe Kevin some money” It wasn’t the answer he had hoped for but at least his plan was definitely in play.

“How much do you need? I have some money on me” John almost laughed at the irony that he could easily have been Nick’s ATM machine.

“Kevin bought me a few video games awhile back and now he is kind of reminding me that I never paid him back for them. It’s okay, I’ll just get some money out but thanks”

“Ooh okay, well I know there is a Mac machine right around the corner next to a deli that has the best corned beef sandwich I have ever had” “Ewe! I hate that stuff dad” He laughed, “Just like Mikey”

“Speaking of Mike, will he be okay alone?”

“I think he needs some alone time, but don’t worry he should be just fine. He didn’t want you to see him like that”

“Okay, so he doesn’t hate me then?”

“No, of course not Nick. He loves you” His son smiled when he said that and started once again to walk towards the ATM machine. As they got closer Nick whipped out his wallet rummaging through it turning plastic leaf after leaf hoping to get to just the right card. Once again John froze when he realized the card he was looking for was the one he himself had in his back pocket.

Nick began to look once again this time with a more panicked expression on his face, “Oh my God!” He said as he began searching his jacket pockets, “My card is missing”

“Your ATM card?” John asked as calmly as possible.

“Yes…it was here before, oh NO!” The security guard walked over to Nick, “What’s wrong Nick?” John stepped back and listened as his son explained to his bodyguard what had happened. The bodyguard decided to retrace his steps from Mike’s apartment to the Mac machine just to make double sure it hadn’t fallen out on the walk. John kept a calming arm around his son’s shoulder the whole time. “I can’t lose this card. I just lost one of my credit cards and got hell for it”

“It’ll be alright Nick. It will be found” Within a few minutes, the bodyguard came back letting them know that it hadn’t turned up on the street.

“I am so dead!” He said panicked. John was panicking in his own right. He wasn’t expecting this to happen, not this quickly anyway. He had known that eventually both cards would be noticed missing but not quite so soon. Where it was placed in his wallet he was sure the card wasn’t used all that much. A mistake!

“Nick don’t worry about it. We’ll report it to the police and they will be able to trace if any transactions were made on it. It’ll be okay. Remember when AJ did the same thing?” Nick nodded at his bodyguard, but was still in a state of panic. John was in his own state of panic now. What the man had said about getting the police involved hit home and now he was trying to figure out how to get the card back into his son’s wallet without him noticing.

“Son…let’s go have a nice lunch on me, then maybe we can go back to your place and try to figure things out” He needed to get that damned bodyguard away from his son so he could maybe slip the card somewhere onto Nick’s person without him noticing.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea Nick” The bodyguard said eyeing John suspiciously, which once again made the thief uneasy. “We should go back to the hotel and report the card missing so this way we can close the account” Nick nodded and then looked over towards his father.

“Dad, I’m sorry…tell Mike I said I love him and we’ll figure out what to do about his problem later. I will give you a call”

“Do you want me to come with you son?” He was sincerely hoping that the answer would be yes; even though it would be dangerous he had to get that card back to his son before the police were involved.

“NO that’s really okay. Believe me you won’t want to see the lecture I’m gonna be getting from just about everybody”

“No son seriously let me come back with you. I want to help you through this”

“Dad it’s okay, go be with Mike instead” He grabbed John into a hug during which time He almost was able to get the card into his son’s jacket pocket but he failed. Nick pulled away too quickly. Now he was sunk. As his son walked away from him he broke out into a cold sweat seeing all the millions of dollars he could have made walk away along with his hopes and dreams. There had to be a way to stop this. If he really did go to the police then surely they would see all the transactions made and make the connection…unless. John was disgusted with himself but figured out a way to get out of the crisis but if he was going to, he would have to hurry.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~
As I walked back towards my hotel room I dreaded the lecture I would be getting, of course it was no one’s business whether I had lost my cards or not, but the oddest thing happened when it concerned me. Everyone made it their business. I swear to God if I shit then at least thirty people knew about it. At least one thing I didn’t have to worry about was having my Mom find out. Boy she would have screamed her head off at me. I couldn’t spend all my time worrying about this anyway; I had bigger things to worry about. I was sure that within time they would find my card somewhere, maybe even lying in the tour bus or something. I had my brother to think about. My brother the drug addict? He didn’t act like an addict, not that I knew what an addict acted like or anything but he seemed too together to be one.

I was hoping Brian wouldn’t be in my room when I got back but he was. He was sitting on his bed talking on the phone. I kind of went over to our corner of stuff as we liked to call it. A corner of pretty much every room we ever shared together which contained all of our fun stuff. Basketballs, baseballs and gloves, video games etc… I grabbed a basketball from the pile and sat on my bed dribbling it, trying to calm myself and my thoughts down.

Finally after about an hour the guy got off the phone. Boy Rok sure loved to talk on the phone. To anybody; chances are he didn’t even know who he was talking to. It was probably a wrong number.

“Mom says hello” He said winking at me, “Why are you back already? I thought you were going to Mike’s”

“He wasn’t home and besides I kind of lost something” Oh yeah maybe another reason everyone always knows my business is because I can’t ever keep my mouth shut!

Brian sat up and smiled, “Lost something? Okay what did you lose now?”

“My Mac card” I grimaced. He shook his head and laughed, “Kaos you are something else you know that?”

“I don’t know where it went”

“You have to be more careful Nick, seriously”

“I know please no lecture Brian, I have other things on my mind” I don’t know what it was about him, but I felt the need to tell him everything ALL the time. Even when I have no intention of saying anything it pours out of me. So of course I told him all about Mike and his drug problem and told him if he told anyone I would never speak to him again. He just sat and listened; creeping closer to me as I talked until eventually he was right next to me.

“Nick I am so sorry to hear about all of that. I really am” He sounded sincere enough, but I couldn’t help but think that somewhere there was an I told you so ready to make it’s way out of his mouth.

“I just hope he is okay” I said once again bouncing the basketball on the gray carpet of our hotel room.

“I’m sure he will be fine especially if your dad is there for him” I nodded, I’m sure that dad was going to take good care of Mike and together we would get him through any rough times he might encounter.


~*~*~*~*~*~*
John made his way back into the apartment trying to be as quiet as possible. He looked around for Mike and let out a sigh of relief when he heard snoring coming from the bedroom. He tip toed over to take a look and sure enough his son was passed out on the bed lying face down with his feet dangling off the end. He still had his shoes on and was fully dressed. John crept over to Mike’s jacket and grabbed it. Walking out of the room he removed his own jacket and placed Mike’s on instead and then ventured back outside to the ATM machine for one last withdrawal before the card was frozen. As he got closer he placed his hood on once more, careful to shield his face from the cameras overhead. He felt horrible for what he was about to do, but that was life. He walked over to the ATM and withdrew $2,000.


~*~*~*~*~*
Kevin paced back and forth in front of me for like the hundredth time. See? I told you, they just kind of find out. I know for a fact it wasn’t Brian who told him because Brian never left the room not even once, but yet within about ten minutes after I had confessed all to Brian about Mike, Kevin waltzed in proclaiming, “So, I heard you lost your ATM card….AGAIN!”

I sarcastically as possible explained to him that technically he was wrong since the last thing I lost was a credit card and not an ATM card but he didn’t much care for my attitude, or so he said. I think he was probably still annoyed with my earlier remarks to him, for which I still wanted to apologize. It’s hard to apologize when you have someone lecturing you though. And that is what he was doing.

“You have got to be careful Nick. You can’t take these things for granted”

“I know”

“I mean, we’re not talking about an account with ten bucks in it”

“Kevin, I know”

“Now all this person has to do is figure out your PIN number and you are screwed!”

“They could use it as a credit card, don’t forget that” Thanks AJ, he made sure to remind Kevin of that. I wasn’t about to tell them that I had written my PIN number on the back. God I can only imagine how long that lecture would have been.

“You all need to be more responsible” Kevin looked over at AJ, “You too!”

“Me? What did I do?”

“You have lost your card more than once too if I recall” Ron, the bodyguard who accompanied me came in only making things worse. “Well, it seems like there have been several withdrawls from your account in the last few days” Kevin raised his eyebrows at me.

“Really?” I was trying to think, had I maybe used the card? But to be honest I couldn’t remember the last time I had used it.

“Yup and I mean a lot!”

“How much is a lot?” Kevin asked walking towards Ron to look at the paper in his hand. His eyes got really big when he saw the amount which made my heart jump into my throat. “Over $5,000!!”

“Holy shit! That can’t be right” I said walking over to look at the paper. I grabbed it from them in total disbelief. Sure enough it had said that around $5,210 including ATM fees had been withdrawn from my account. I know it wasn’t me.

“Nick, does your Mom have a copy of that card?” Kevin asked once again taking the paper out of my hands and examining it like it held a clue or something.

“Nope. She doesn’t even know about this account. I opened it when I thought she was being too liberal with her spending of MY money. That card was definitely in my wallet”

“Don’t worry lil man…I’m sure everything will get straightened out” Kevin said patting my back, I am sure he wanted to lecture some more but also noticed I was starting to get upset.

“It looks like the money was mostly drawn from the same location, it shouldn’t be too hard to track then” Ron said to another security person as they looked at the addresses. “Actually it’s really close to here. We’re gonna look into it a little further and let you know what is going on okay Nick?” I nodded at them as they left the room.

“Nick…I know this is going to start another argument but whatever, I have to ask” Brian walked over towards me, funny I knew what he was going to say, it’s something I had briefly thought myself… Briefly.

“Maybe Mike?” He whispered, in hopes that Kevin wouldn’t hear even though he was standing in the room. I didn’t get mad, I mean I had just told him that my brother was a drug addict and of course it only stands to reason that he might have stolen my card, but NO way.

“I don’t think so Brian”

“Okay” He said very quick to drop the subject.

I almost wanted to puke knowing that not only did someone steal my card but had also spent $5,000 and that was just in withdrawls. It had to be a stranger; God please let it have been a stranger.

I couldn’t handle it if Mike stole from me. He would never do that anyway. This made me decide to call my dad. I had told him that I would call him later on. Hopefully he would be able to distract me from this stupid mini drama that was going on.

“Well guys, I’m gonna go call my dad, I left him pretty abruptly when I noticed my card was missing” Both Kevin and Brian nodded at me as I walked out into the hall to talk to my father.
34 by Mare
*Thanks as always for the comments and feedback you guys rock my socks!*

34

I talked to my dad for a few minutes and let him know about my situation. That someone had indeed stolen my card and also spent a lot of money on it. He sounded mad that someone could be so horrible to steal from his son. What I was really hoping was that maybe he would have a clue if Mike had the card. Of course I didn’t want to come right out and ask that. I was pretty positive that Mike would never steal from me anyway. No this had to be the work of a total stranger.
In have to admit I did grow even more suspicious when at the tale end of our conversation my father insisted we go some place to talk; just the two of us, no body guards or anything. He had asked me if that was possible and I said yes; even though I knew I was lying. There was no way security would let me just leave without them. They wouldn’t do that in a small little rural town in the country somewhere. They definitely wouldn’t do it in New York City.

I decided that after some of the things we had to do today, nothing that major just make an appearance here or a quick interview there, that I would try to slip past the guards and meet up with my father.

Lucky for me during this time not much more was said about the missing card. Kevin kind of stayed on his side of the van and slept. I guess he was tired. Howie never tended to lecture me much, not with words anyway, sometimes small little glances from him spoke volumes. Brian, AJ and I just kind of talked about stupid things. Nothing important and for that I was grateful. They had actually both managed to calm me down to the point that I had almost forgotten that I had to sneak out.

“Don’t forget boys, we are only here for another three days before heading back to Orlando to do some heavy duty rehearsing for the concert” I nodded only half listening to Jamie as she spewed off an itinerary to us. Three days didn’t seem long at all. Funny that normally they would have dragged but now that I had a family who I was leaving behind three days seemed too short.

Maybe I could convince the guys that I should stay up here a few more days to stay with Mike. Maybe call it a family emergency. But then I would have to go into details as to why. The last thing I wanted was to tell them about Mike’s problem. I know Brian didn’t say a word. I told him I’d never talk to him again if he said anything to anyone.

Okay I know it was immature but you gotta do whatcha gotta do.

“Okay so you guys actually get to sleep in tomorrow. We don’t have anything scheduled until the late afternoon. So you have some free time gentlemen!”

“Wow a whole freaking half a day…what ever should I do with myself?” AJ answered sarcastically. I laughed but Jamie just scowled. Our management team always did a lot of scowling.

Now I began to feel anxious, knowing if I was going to disappear I would have to fool even Brian. They would all be so incredibly mad at me for doing this, probably even try to ban me from seeing dad and Mike, but if dad wanted to meet in private there had to e a reason. Part of me, maybe already knew what it was, but I didn’t want to admit that to myself just yet. I couldn’t admit that to myself.

I hesitated just a moment while stepping out of the van, part of me wanted to just tell them what I needed to do. It’s not like they could refuse to let me do it. I was 18 and legal. I didn’t have anyone to answer to but myself.

“What?” My eyes quickly diverted from Kevin, I guess I was so caught up in my thoughts that I had been staring at him.

“Nothing” I said biting my lip and trying my hardest to look at anything else but him. He knew he always knew. Kevin could read me better than anyone and that was terrifying sometimes.

“Oh no…please don’t do anything stupid Nick” The guys all laughed.

“Why would you say that?” I asked innocently.

“Because you just look guilty, that’s never a good thing”

“Um…okay” I once again smiled at him but he knew something was up. Damn him!! Now I had no idea how I would do this. No clue at all.

“I need to go to the bathroom” I suddenly blurted out like I was three and was about to pee myself.

“Well run your ass up to the hotel room then” AJ said giving me the oddest look.

“I don’t think I’ll make it. I need to use one in the lobby” Okay well that brought about another you are up to something look from Kevin, which I tried to ignore.

I decided to start hopping from one foot to the other as if to prove the point of how badly I needed to go. “I’ll be back in a minute” I said to them all and before anyone could say another word, I darted to the bathroom in the lobby; not exactly sure of what I would do once inside.

I was so stupid sometimes. So now I managed to get myself stuck in the lobby bathroom knowing full well that at least one person would be waiting for me when I got out. I even went so far as to briefly consider climbing out of the window.

“Nick what are you doing?” I actually screamed when Kevin walked in.

“Uh…nothing”

“Okay Nick…level with me, what is going on? You were planning on sneaking out or something?”

I was about to lie again, think of something to say but instead I sighed and told him the truth, well not really the whole truth but enough, “My dad wants to see me”

“So?”

“He wants me to come alone”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, but I know security would never let me do that”

“You are right and you know why?” Okay here we go…

Before I could answer his hypothetical question he continued, “Because it’s dangerous Nick. That’s why. I’m sure your dad realizes that”

“Kevin….it’s jus that, he specifically said no bodyguards or anything”

“Don’t you find that a little strange buddy? I mean why would he say that?’ Here’s where I needed him to stop asking me questions, we were soon getting to the part I didn’t want to talk about.

“He probably has his reasons”

“So you thought that you would go ahead and sneak on over there and no one would notice?” Kevin laughed at the end of his question making me feel like an idiot.

“Just never mind. I’m an adult and you can’t tell me what to do anymore. My Mom is history. I am leaving to go see my dad, if you don’t like it, tough titties!”

“Tough titties?” He laughed again which really did nothing more than make me mad. “Okay Nick…look… how about I come with you?” Now it was my turn to laugh, “Oh are you my protection now?”

“No, I mean we will still have to bring a bodyguard but I promise we will both stay out of your way while you talk to your dad”

“Really?” He nodded. “Really. I would rather that then you try to sneak out”

“You promise you guys will stay away?” He nodded again.

“Okay then, you have a deal” Kevin misled and pat my head, “How in the world were you even going to try to sneak out of here anyway?” He asked as he opened the door for me.

“No clue, I was thinking about climbing out the window” He laughed as the door behind us slammed shut.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~~*
John paced back and forth as he waited for his son to show up. He had gone over his selling points again and again in his head. That is what he was about to do, make a sale. He was always very good at selling things; being a used car salesman was the only real job that John had excelled at. He had a way of turning lemons into gold. Something he was always known for was his smooth talking abilities. Isn’t that how he had won Jane’s heart? He had convinced this woman to drop everything and follow him everywhere he went. At that point he was unemployed, but he made himself sound like a visionary. That’s how he was able to make his first professional con. Convincing Jane’s dad to loan them a substantial amount of money to which he promised to start his own business.

That never happened of course but just like with everything else, he was able to smooth talk his way out of the situation. When the kids came, the smooth talking became harder, simply for the fact that they needed money all the time. That’s when he took to stealing; conning people into helping him out or giving him a loan and then conveniently disappearing when it was time to start repaying them.

Now came the biggest con of his life. To make this work, he had to convince Nick that only he was able to control his finances. No one else; a fact that he thought would be easy considering he seemed as gullible as his mother; when he looked up to see Nick walking alongside two other men though all hope of this sale had come to an end.

Nick walked with his head down as the two others followed closely behind him. Anger was building up inside of John to the point that he wanted to just start shaking and screaming at his stupid son for failing to listen to him. As they got closer though, he had managed to calm himself down and even managed a smile and a nod to the other two men.

“Don’t worry dad, they just came for the walk” Nick said sensing how uncomfortable his father was with the unwanted company.

Now it’s time to turn it on Alexander. Now or Never! He took a deep breath and began his sale…

“Okay son, it’s just because this has to do with your brother and we can’t have people interfering” Nick smiled and nodded at Mike and Kevin who happily stayed away from them as John continued to talk, “Son…I found a great place we can admit your brother to” Nick looked hopeful, “Really?” John feigned a smile, “but there is one thing though Nicky, they need a deposit. It’s a very expensive place in Nevada and I am the only one allowed to admit him” He gingerly put his hand on his son’s shoulder and turned him away from the unwanted company and began to slowly walk up the street. “This place is beautiful Nicky. It has the best doctors and the greatest 24 hour care. Out of all of the places I looked into this one was the tops”

“That’s great dad, did you tell Mike?”

“No not yet, I figured maybe that’s something we could do together. He has been acting weird Nicky, like he is not himself. He went out a little while ago and came back with a lot of money. I don’t know where he’s getting it from but it troubles me”

Nick stopped walking and looked up at his dad, “You don’t think he’s stealing do you?”

“I can’t be sure Nick. There’s really no way to tell” He could tell by looking into his son’s baby blue eyes that he believed the lie.

“What needs to be done?” Nick asked after walking silently for about a half of a block.

“They need the funds placed into an account that they could access every month”

“Oh that should be no problem dad; I can open an acc…”

“No son, I asked about that believe me, but because you are only 18, they said it would have to be in my name for it to work. They wouldn’t settle for anything else” Now his heart was jumping inside his chest. Nick stopped walking once again which troubled John a little.

“How much would you need dad?”

“Well, I’m not sure, I remember you mentioning that maybe you would like me to take over your financial responsibilities?” John turned around to see if the posse was still following and waved when they were.

“Dad…I don’t know I think I may want to just be in charge of my own...”

“Now nick, I don’t want to tell you what to do with your money or anything, hell I have NO right at all to tell you that, but I just think maybe this would work best. This way I could open a joint account in our name along with Mikey and use that money for his treatment”

Now they were standing in front of the apartment building that he and his son lived in. Feeling like he was about to lose his sale he diverted, “I tell you what, I’ll give you time to think about it, but don’t take too long because they will only hold his space for a day or two at the most”

“Okay yeah…I just think it would be good to talk it over with someone. Kevin's really good with things like that”

John licked his lips, “Oh Nicky I don’t think that would be a good idea only because we don’t want people knowing about your brother’s sickness”

“Yeah but Kevin and the guys are different. They wouldn’t tell anyone”

“Nick aren’t these the same people that have constantly tried to rat your brother out to you? Do you think Kevin would tell you this was a good idea?” Nick looked back towards Kevin as if searching for the answer.

“You’re probably right”

“I know I’m right but like I said take a day to think about it”

They opened the door and made their way into the building and up the stairs. This is the part of his plan he didn’t want to happen but to finish this sale it HAD to happen.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
My father had put more on my plate then I was ready to digest. This seemed like a grown up decision, one that I didn’t feel ready to make. Kevin would be the perfect person to help me through this. But my father was probably right when it came to Kevin and how unobjective he could be.

My dad keyed into Mike’s apartment and we both walked hesitantly in. I didn’t know if I wanted to see my brother in the state I was told he would be in. I wasn’t even sure if I totally believed that he was an addict. He just didn’t act like one, but now I’m getting redundant.

I sat on the couch and caught my father’s eyes. He was staring at me, like he had just committed the biggest sin of his life. It was weird but I brushed it off. The poor guy had a lot to deal with these days.

“Is Mike home?” I whispered, almost hoping he wasn’t.

“I’m pretty sure he is asleep” my dad said averting his eyes away from me and towards the bedroom. He walked into the kitchen “I’m gonna get a drink, you want anything Nick”

“No thanks” I half shouted to him

“I have a headache; hey can you go into your brother’s jacket and grab the bottle of aspirin out of there for me?”

“Uh…yeah okay, where is it?” He popped his head out of the kitchen, “I think I saw him put it on the chair in his room when he came in” I hesitated, not really keen on going into his bedroom and possibly waking him up, but when my dad came out rubbing his temples I gave in.

I walked over and gently opened the door to his bedroom. Mike was sleeping on his back with one hand behind his head; his feet dangling off the end. I searched the room with my eyes finding the jacket sitting on the chair at the end of the bed.

“Hey Nicky” My name caught me off guard and I jumped. Mike was mid yawn and rubbing at his eyes.

“Hey” I walked over to the jacket and searched through the pockets.

“What are you doing?” He asked now sitting up in the bed.

“Dad said you had aspirin in your…” I stopped when I felt a plastic rectangle in my hand. I pulled it out and looked at it and that’s when my world came crashing down.

“I don’t have any apsir…”

“Why did you do it Mike?” I asked him as he squinted to try to make out what I had in my hands.

“Do what?” I couldn’t believe he was asking me that.

“Steal from me” Now he was up and off the bed and walking over to where I was standing.

“What the hell are you talking about?” I was never very good at controlling my anger, and to prove that point I shoved the card towards his face almost hitting him in the nose with it.

“I’m talking about this you son of a bitch!”

“Get that thing out of my face” He said batting my card out of my hand.

“You stole from me, you know they all said not to trust you but I didn’t listen”

“Nick I have no idea what the hell you are talking about” My father had managed to make his way into the room amidst our yelling at each other.

“What is going on?” He asked walking in between my brother and I. I pointed to the floor where my card was, “That is what’s going on”

My dad walked over to the card and picked it up off the floor, “Mikey…” He said, but when I looked over at Mike he didn’t look guilty he looked mad as hell. And not at me either.

“What did you do old man?” He asked our father while I looked on totally confused.

“We’ll talk about this later” he said as he walked out of the room, my brother following on his heels”

“Did you set me up you bastard?” he continued to ask in an accusing manner. He was mad as hell and a little scary.

All the yelling coming from the apartment brought Kevin and Mike upstairs which really came as no immediate shock to me. There was an abrupt knock on the door “Let us in please” Came Mike’s loud and low voice.

Everyone including me ignored it, “Son, don’t try to pin this on me, why have you been stealing from your little brother?”

“I did not steal from him” he said and then looking me right in the eyes he said it again, “I did not steal from you”

“Then why do you have my card in your jacket pocket?”

“He must have put it there! Nick I can’t believe you are listening to him” Mike was really mad and took an empty beer bottle from the coffee table and careened it across the room breaking it into a million pieces.

“Let us in, this is the last time I’m asking nicely” Came Mike’s voice.

“You don’t trust me? After all the shit we have talked about and everything we have been through? Well go to hell!” Mike shouted at me.

I was furious by this point. How dare he tell me to go to hell when he had been stealing from me? So I did the only thing my 18 year old brain told me to do, I charged at him. We both hit the wall but he was so much stronger than me he pushed me off of him causing me to hit my head on the table; of course just as Mike and Kevin entered the room.
35 by Mare
35

I sat quietly in the back of the car looking at the scenery blurring by me on the way back from the hospital. As an afterthought to the events that had just happened I reached over to my temple and massaged the bandage that kept my ten stitches covered and out of sight.

I hadn’t said one word to anyone since I got into the car. I didn’t even make eye contact with a sole. Not that there were many people accompanying me to begin with; just Kevin’s bodyguard and Kevin himself. Sitting in the back so close to me that I could feel his breath on my neck but yet as silent as a shadow.

I couldn’t bear to look at him or anybody else; if I could I would have just disappeared into the cushions never to be heard from again. I was such a fool. Such an incredible fool.

I closed my eyes and the scene from the apartment flashed before me, me falling and hitting my head on the table full force, it hurt like hell but I was already in pain anyway. Kevin and my bodyguard Mike came storming in, my dad had opened the door for them, I’m sure he would have broken it down otherwise.

My bodyguard pounced on my brother pinning him underneath his big frame while Kevin came running to me. I was a little dizzy but still mad as ever.

“Are you okay Nick? Nick? Can you hear me?” I nodded as he tried to pull me up.

“Oh my God, is he okay? I didn’t mean to hurt him. I would never do that” I looked up to see my brother trying to pull himself away from my bodyguard and make his way towards me, frustrated that he couldn’t do it.

I felt my body being lifted up and decided to give Kevin a hand before he dislocated my shoulders or something, “Ow! Kevin”

“Sorry, aww lil man you are bleeding” I didn’t care; I just wanted to get out of there. My father stood silently watching by the front door, he looked like he wanted to bolt. Who could blame him?

“Nicky I am SO sorry; I didn’t mean to hurt you! God are you okay?” Again Mike’s alarmed voice echoed through the small apartment. I wouldn’t even look his way.

I had managed with the help of Kevin to stand up and was now wiping the blood off of my chin. I thought he had punched me at first. I didn’t realize it was just dripping from my temple.

“He needs to go to the hospital” Kevin snapped. He was furious with me I think.

My father made his way over to me, “Nicky are you alright son?” I nodded.

“Nick, please…” Now I allowed myself to look over at my brother. My bodyguard had loosened his grip on him so he slowly began to walk towards me with pleading eyes.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you Nick. I would never do that EVER!” Kevin stood in between me and him now, “you stay away from him do you hear me? I should have stepped in a while ago but I didn’t. Now I am. You come near him again and I will call the police on you!” That’s when I realized it wasn’t me Kevin was furious with. It was my brother.

“Kevin…it’s okay. Let’s just go” I managed to say. I believe it’s the last thing I said.

“Nick I can’t believe you don’t believe me” Mike said as I walked out of the door, “You can go to hell then. I didn’t need you before and I sure as hell don’t need you now!” He screamed. The words ran through my ears and lodged in my heart causing an unbearable ache.

“I’ll check in on you later” Dad said as I began my descent down the steps.

I’m not even sure how we ended up in a car with Kevin’s bodyguard; it was all blurry to me.

I felt Kevin’s arm on my shoulder as he bent closer to me now, “You feeling okay baby?” I nodded, not ready to talk just yet.

I was such a fool…


~*~*~*~*~*~**~*~*~
Long after the fight broke out and Nick had left, Mike just sat staring at his father. This was the part that John had dreaded most. He loved his son, and he hated to hurt him this way.

“Maybe it’s all for the best” He said trying to console Mike.

“Yeah I agree dad, maybe it is all for the best. You know what would even be better, if you would get the hell out of my life too while you’re at it” He stood up and wiped the small specs of blood left on his face by a cut.

“Aww son, you’re upset you don’t mean that”

“You are wrong old man! I don’t know what exactly you did and right now I don’t really care. All I know is I am going out. When I get back I want you and your stuff out of my house!”

“Mike”

“I mean it, or else I will call the police myself and tell them that you are a lying stealing son of a bitch! Out now!” He said pushing his father out of the way and bolting out of the house like it was on fire.

“I had to son…I did this for us” John said to the empty room, wiping a tear from his eyes.

Maybe he would have to stay clear of Mike for a year or so, just until he got over what had happened but he knew in time; Mike would accept him back into his life. He always did, because plainly put they are all each other had.

John looked around the small apartment; the coffee table was broken with a small pool of blood lying just beneath its legs. The shards of glass that Mike had broken earlier still remained on the floor. The place was a mess; just like his life.

He gathered up the few things he had brought to his son’s and walked out the door, not even looking back. He couldn’t lose his focus now; not when he was so close to what he wanted. What he needed.

He placed his gloves on his hands as he moved outside and then placing his head down into his jacket he started his brisk walk back to the hotel where he hoped he could manipulate his son into handing over his fortune.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Mike climbed up the stairs with a pizza in one hand and a six pack of beer in the other. When he left his house in a huff, he had no clue where he was going to end up. His first thought was to go to the hotel and make sure his little brother was okay. He really hadn’t meant to hurt him. Sometimes he had no control over his emotions. Seeing Nick bloody and dazed had frankly scared him to death and to top that off, Kevin had to be a witness to it. There was no doubt in Mike’s mind that if he did go see his brother, he would be leaving in handcuffs.

SO instead of making a right towards the hotel, he turned into that pizza place where he had first ran into his brother, ordered a large pepperoni pizza with extra cheese and walked towards Melinda’s place. If she wasn’t home then he would just sit on a damn park bench and eat the pizza alone and maybe if he was lucky he would freeze to death.

Standing in front of her door, he hesitated before knocking, thinking this was insane. But he did it anyway and when she answered with a look of surprise on her face, he smiled at her.

“Mike what the hell happened to you?”

“I come with food” He said smiling and handing her the pizza. He didn’t feel like answering questions right now, he just wanted to be around a friend.

They sat on her couch watching TV and eating, it wasn’t until two beers into his visit that he finally opened up to her, telling her all that had happened.

“You think your father set you up?” He nodded taking another swig of his beer.

“He accused me of stealing a stupid credit card or something. How could he even think that?”

“Well, not to play devil’s advocate or anything but what would YOU think if your credit card was in HIS pocket?”

“I still wouldn’t think he stole it!”

“So, what happens now?” She asked pulling cheese off the end of the pizza slice and cradling it in her fingers as she slipped it in her mouth.

“Now I say good riddance to both of them”

“Mike you don’t mean that” He turned to her with a very stern look, “I mean that. I don’t need them Melinda…all I need is you” He said attempting to bend towards her and give her a kiss. She moved away, “Mike stop talking out of your ass!”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean? I thought you liked me hell you seem to flirt with me non stop” He sounded hateful and condescending.

“I don’t want to have to throw you out but stop taking your frustrations out on me! I do like you but I will be damned if you think coming over and sticking your tongue down my throat is going to be the simple solution to your family problems” He laughed and in doing so softened up a bit, “You’re right. I’m sorry…it’s just that I don’t know what to do anymore Melinda”

She wrapped her arm around his shoulder, “Well, let’s figure it out then. Do you really want to cut your brother out of your life?”

“I don’t know. I can’t stand the fact that he doesn’t trust me. I don’t think I can get over that”

“Do you love him?’

“Of course I do”

“Then you’ll have to get over it”

“I don’t want to think about him tonight can we just I don’t know…be friends or something? No talk of horrible fathers or famous brothers?” She pulled him close to her and gave him a hug and as much as he wanted to kiss her he decided against it, opting instead to lie his head on her shoulder.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I laid in my bed looking up at the ceiling occasionally stopping long enough to wipe a tear from my eye. I felt so hurt and betrayed, but now I wasn’t sure who I felt betrayed by. Mike looked so surprised by the accusations I was hurling at him and then he pointed the finger at my father.

“Hey” I looked away from the ceiling when I felt Brian sit down on the bed next to me.

“How are you feeling buddy?” I shrugged; not ready to break my vow of silence just yet.

“Nick, please tell me what happened, I want to know. Maybe I can help” He sounded so sincere and loving. I called it his consoling Nick voice. “Kevin said you haven’t said one word since you got hurt. Did your brother knock your voice box clear out of your head?” He was really trying everything in his power to make me laugh even resorting to the good old Donald Duck voice. “Awe come on Nicky, please tell Donald what’s the matter with you…aaaaachooo!” He said sneezing in that ridiculous voice. I couldn’t help but smile.

“Now that’s what I’m looking for” I turned away from him then, I wasn’t ready to let this slide off my back. How in the hell do you let something like this even slide off your back in the first place.

“Mike stole your card didn’t he?” He asked now lying down next to me even though my back was towards him. “That is what happened isn’t it?”

“I don’t want to talk about it Brian...please leave me alone”

“He speaks” I wiped another tear from my eyes and thankfully because he wasn’t facing me he didn’t notice.

“Please leave me alone Bri…”

“If I were this upset would you leave me alone?”

“If you asked me to I would”

“You Nick Carter are a big fat liar!” Then I felt him hug me from behind, “We love you Nick”

“No one loves me” I whispered.

I’m not sure if he heard me say that or not but he just laid there next to me and didn’t say another word. Not until Howie came into the room declaring that my father was waiting to come up to talk to me. His tone was also sickly sweet. I sat up then and Brian shortly followed.

“You want me to stay?” He asked me.

I shook my head which had my two friends glancing at each other in concern.

“You sure Nicky? We could both kind of stay here just in case he upsets you”

I looked over at Howie now, “He won’t upset me…noting can upset me anymore”

“Nicky…”

“Howie enough coddling…just tell them to let him up” He smiled at me, “Well at least you are talking again” I smiled.

Brian stood up and fixed his hair in the mirror, “You know what kiddo…it’s your brother’s loss not yours because no matter what, you have four other brothers who love you like crazy. I know you don’t believe that right now, but I swear on my Mother it’s true”

“Thanks Brian” I smiled as he pat me on the head, “See ya later knucklehead”

After Brian left I ran into the bathroom and splashed some water on my face before my dad came into the room. I didn’t need him to see me weak.
36 by Mare
36

By the time my father made it up the elevator and into my hotel room I had managed to calm myself down and had my mask placed firmly on my face. There would be no more tears for Nick tonight; especially in front of my family.

He knocked and I held my breath just for a second before exhaling and opening the door to him. He instantly walked in and hugged me tight. Just like a father should. Then pulling me away he surveyed the damage that my evil drug addicted brother had done. At least that is what his face was screaming. Look at what my evil older drug addicted son did to you.

“Does it hurt?” He asked lovingly running his hand on the bandage concealing my stitches.

“I’ll live. I have had worse than that happen believe me” He laughed. “Yeah son…I’m sure you have a ton of interesting tales to tell me. I look forward to hearing them all some day” He looked around the room uneasily. I could tell he thought we were being watched.

“No one is here dad. It’s just you and I” He seemed to relax a bit more at that.

My father smiled at me and walked over and sat down on the bed. I noticed for the first time that we had very similar strides in our steps. Not confident at all but a little slouched over and nervous.

“How is Mike?” I didn’t want to ask at first, I had actually thought of never saying his name again; that’s how hurt I was. I still loved him though, in spite of everything and I still wanted to help him. I mean I heard stories of drug addicts doing crazy stupid things to the people they loved because they were desperate. Maybe that was Mike.

“He’s very sorry for hurting you Nick. He feels awful about it”

“Yeah? Well good…he should”

“Son, it’s his illness. He didn’t mean to hurt you, he loves you. I hope you realize that” The glint in my father’s eyes made me feel like he was talking for himself and not for Mike. That for some reason made me uneasy.

“I know” I confessed although I think staying mad at Mike would have made things easier.

“We need to get him some help son” I nodded, “What do you need me to do?”

My father stood up and paced briefly once again looking nervously around the room; during that time I started to pick up little habits he had. They weren’t that hard me for to notice since I bore many of the same traits. Such as pacing and biting my bottom lip when I was nervous, or better yet when I was about to lie.

He bit his lip and stood in front of me and I noticed the small line of sweat running down his forehead and landing on his collar. Why was he sweating? It was freezing in here.

“Son, to make this thing work, I need you to transfer funds into an account for me, maybe we can open it jointly or better yet, I could take over control of your finances…”

“Dad I don’t think you realize how big of a job that is exactly”

He laughed at me and licked his lips, another thing I did when I was nervous and uneasy.

“Nick, I am a business man remember? Of course I know how much work that is. I am willing to do it for you though…for us”

“Oh that’s right and what was your business again? I don’t remember?” He grew impatient with my question. I can’t even tell you why I suddenly felt the need to ask. Maybe part of me wanted to catch him in a lie or something. Self sabotage as Kevin would say when I would get into unhealthy relationship after unhealthy relationship. He would be proud of me for remembering that too.

“I was into real estate” My head snapped up at him. Oh my God maybe I did catch him in a lie.

“I mean…I want to be in real estate that is if I can get that shelter built” It made sense what he said but there was a hesitation. Just the smallest one; the same kind I often had when I was caught in a lie of my own. What was wrong with me? Why did I suddenly not even trust my own father?

“Oh” Was my only reply to that. He once again took to pacing the floor as he explained in detail about why it would be beneficial for me to have him in charge of everything. How he would turn my fiscal earnings blah… blah… blah …That’s all it turned into about ten minutes into the conversation. A bunch of blah blah blahs.

As he rambled on, my mind wandered way back to the time when I still lived under this man’s roof. I remember him pacing like this as he would yell at my Mother, maybe trying to convince her about something…kind of like he was trying to convince me now. Those little talks always ended in fights.

I would maybe be sitting in the living room in my play pen hitting myself in the head with my Winnie the Pooh. I was too old for a play pen but they would put me in there to keep me from running all through the house and out the door. I had done that a few times.

Are you listening to me son?” He asked stopping right in front of me.

“Uh yeah dad”

“No you weren’t Nick. I could tell you were zoning out!”

“Dad do you remember when I would escape out of the house when I was little? I think I used to run around the block” He looked annoyed; “No I don’t”

“I used to do it a lot, so you and Mom put me in a play pen”

“Nick, you really have to pay attention to what I’m saying” I looked up at him and he was stern. Not happy at all; almost scary. Maybe he didn’t remember because he didn’t care. Then our original phone conversation popped into my head. The first time I had called my brother’s house. How cold he had been to me, saying he didn’t have another son. Not even a hesitation when he said it.

“Dad when I first called Mike’s house”

Now he was really becoming agitated, “Nick seriously we don’t have time for this nonsense! Are you listening to me or not?” He yelled at me and I winced. Instantly he switched faces, or should I say masks. Back to the caring father and I began not to believe a word he was saying to me.

“Son…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap. It’s been a hard day. What about the time you called?” He asked now sitting next to me and placing his arm around my shoulder.

“You said you didn’t have another son…Why?” He took a deep breath and once again licked his lips. “I didn’t think of it Nick” He paused and suddenly I couldn’t even look at him.

“I never thought in a million years that you would have come back into my life. You’re a blessing from heaven” I wanted to believe that. Desperately wanted to, but didn’t.

“Mike seemed like he had no idea what I was talking about when I accused him of stealing my card” Now it was my turn to stand as suddenly I was becoming nervous and uneasy.

“Well…that’s normal…I mean…um...if someone accused you of stealing something wouldn’t you deny it?”

“But it wasn’t even that. He had NO idea what I was even talking about”

“Nick that’s ridiculous! The card was in his jacket pocket!”

“I know but…” I stopped for a moment. I looked at him in a moment of revelation; he seemed put off by the look.

“Dad…you told me to look in his pocket for the aspirin, but there was no aspirin in there”

“Yeah so? Maybe he moved it…Nick we are getting off track here”

“It’s like you wanted me to look in the jacket…” Then I found myself taking two steps away from him, “It was you” I said in a small voice.

“Nick you are being ridiculous” He laughed. It was a nervous laugh; that had me convinced.

“Dad…why did you steal my card?” Now he walked close to me as if to muzzle my mouth or something. The gesture made me take a few more steps back. Suddenly I was afraid of him, like I used to be. The nights I would run away out of my house away from my play pen would be because I was SO terrified of this man; the one standing in front of me right now.

He placed his arms in front of him and then put his finger to his lip, “Nick stop…you just need to relax, we don’t want anyone to hear” Once again he looked around nervously and for once I regretted my decision to not have the guys stay in the room with me.

“I think you should go dad” I said after exhaling a deep breath. He looked shocked and mad, “Nick you are being stupid! It wasn’t me son. It was your brother”

“Seriously dad I think maybe you should just leave…”

“Nick what about your brother? Are you going to piss him away? Just like a typical pop prince?”

“What? No dad…I plan on helping him”

“The only way you can help him is if you give me the money” Now his sweat was pouring off of him.

“I will dad but I’m doing it by myself. I just think right now it’s hard for me to trust anybody so if you just give me the name of the place I will gladly…”

“Nick you are as dumb as everyone says you are! I told you they won’t do it for you”

“Well maybe I can convince them. I have some pull. What’s the name of the place?”

He stood staring me down as I held the phone in my hands. Waiting for him to give me the number that deep down inside I knew didn’t even exist. Finally after what seemed like a small eternity he laughed. It was a defeated laugh but I was nowhere near smiling.

“Okay…okay you win. There is no place. Actually it’s for me…I didn’t know how to tell you this but” His mood got serious and he sat on the bed, “I have cancer son. I am dying” I stood with my mouth open not believing that a man who supposedly loved me was so capable of betraying me this way. “Dad you need to leave before I call the cops” Now his act was over and he stood; hate filling every pore if his body while hurt filled mine.

“You know what? I never wanted you. Neither did your Mom. In fact, I drove her to the abortion clinic the day she told me she was going to have you…I convinced her to change her mind; seems I made a mistake” I took a deep breath, there was no way I was going to show this man how much that hurt, NO way!

“Turns out you are a no good loser! What a disappointment!”

“Bye dad” Was all I said in response.

“Do you want me to just wait so you can have your poor old man arrested? Maybe it’ll make the papers and you can grow even richer off of my misfortune. You would really like that wouldn’t you son?” this time the word son sounded venomous on his lips. Almost like a racial slur.

“I’m not going to call the police dad. All I want is you out of my life”

“Well, I’ll tell Mike that. He’ll be happy to hear it; he told me he hated you from the moment he laid eyes on you!” I closed my eyes and then took another big breath.

I opened the door for him and watched as he sauntered out.

Once he was gone I didn’t know what to do with myself; my first inclination was to throw something; anything But it wasn’t anger I felt…I was just numb. Actually looking back on it now I can say it was the weirdest feeling. Like all the times you have been hurt secretly develop calluses on your heart making it almost impossible to break. I felt hard like that.

I walked over to the phone by instinct wanting to call my Mother. See? When bad things happened I talked to the guys but when horrible things happened I usually called my Mom. Not that she ever made me feel better but it just was something I did.

Not this time though; this time I was hit with the reality of this situation. I was an 18 year old with no one to call.

Brian walked in unannounced and not welcome, “I saw your dad leave…did you guys have a good visit?” I put that mask back on and nodded.

“Good, how is Mike?”

“Good…hey Brian I am going to go for a walk to try to clear my head” He looked over at me and I smiled, “you want me to come?”

“Nah it’s okay”

“Don’t forget to bring security or else...” I laughed, believe me, it was hard as hell to muster a laugh but I did anyway, “I know I know…or else Kevin will kill me”

“Yeah exactly” He said lying on his bed and putting the television on.

“Bye Bri” I smiled at him, not having Any intention of ever coming back.

I was done!
37 by Mare
*You guys rock my socks! Thanks for the reviews :)*


37

Mike had dreaded the climb back up to his dingy old apartment more than anything else. He enjoyed his time with Melinda; she even made him forget about things for a little while. They talked, played some stupid card games and just watched television. Things he might have done on any ordinary day.

He missed those things; ordinary days. Since his dad and brother walked into his life and turned things upside down the word ordinary disappeared from his vocabulary. Maybe he would find it again, now that both men were happily out of his life.

He sighed looking up at the stairs. “Why do I always lie to myself?” He asked out loud not even caring that his nosy downstairs neighbor was watching him from her door.

Finally he walked up the steps as if he was walking towards a guillotine. Each step brought him closer to the realization of what had happened earlier, even though he was still kind of unclear about it.

He was taking an innocent nap, something he had needed after talking to his witch of a Mother. God he had almost forgotten about her. “Rejected by three family members in one day! A new record” He once again said to himself.

Not his father though, no…he had rejected his father. Not the other way around.

He stood with his hand on the doorknob really not wanting to turn it. What if his father didn’t leave? What if he was waiting on the other side of the door? Mike wasn’t sure which scenario he wanted to happen. Maybe he hoped dad was inside. This way they could talk things through. Maybe he had been wrong about the whole thing. Maybe dad didn’t set him up at all. An innocent mistake is all it had to be.

“Whatever happens happens” He said drawing in a big breath and walking into his apartment.

It was dark except for a thin line of light streaming through the window. Putting on the light Mike surveyed the damage from the fight he had with Nick. The apartment was a mess, but he didn’t want to clean it. In fact he found himself not able to look. “Maybe I can just move” He said landing on the couch with a thud. He didn’t bother to turn on the light, things looked more appropriate in the dark.

A shuffling coming from his bedroom made him sit up straight, “Who’s there?” He asked slowly getting up searching for something to attack an intruder with. Ironically he didn’t stop his search when his father walked out of the bedroom.

“I thought you would be gone by now” Mike said now putting on the light and sitting back down on the couch. He refused to look at his dad, even though he wanted to desperately.

“Yeah…relax I am just about done. I was just gonna go you know? Without even saying goodbye or anything but I couldn’t do that”

“Don’t you mean you wanted to come and see if there was anything you could take from me? Well’s dry old man sorry”

“Michael, why do you hate me? I didn’t do anything wrong”

Mike laughed and rolled his eyes wishing he had never come back here. “I don’t know exactly what you did, but I don’t want to know either. I am done with you and done with him…now if you don’t mind…I need to go to bed, seems like I have to find a job tomorrow”

That was one tidbit Melinda had shared with Mike; the fact that he was fired because of leaving so abruptly. Yet another job lost; he liked this one too.

“I just wanted to tell you that I love you son”

“Then why don’t you tell me what happened? Why is Nick accusing me of stealing from him?” John walked over and sat next to his son.

“Okay…I did steal that card from the brat. I wanted to make a better life for us”

Mike laughed; he really wished his father hadn’t told him that. Any lie would do; why start being honest now? “So stealing and blaming me would be the way to do that?”

“Mike, I never blamed you. Nick did”

“How did that card get into my jacket?”

“I put it there”

“Exactly” Mike sat up frustrated just wanting his father to leave already. Walk out of his life like he had so many times before. This time don’t bother coming back though.

“I wanted us to have something. It’s not fair that your brother and Mother got all the best things out of life while we got stuck with the crap”

“When life gives you lemons you make lemonade” Mike recited as if it was a mantra he spoke every night before bed.

“Yeah or you get even with the stupid people who gave you the lemons in the first place”

“Dad…Nick didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not his fault that he became rich and famous. It’s not his fault that we are broke. Stop blaming him!” Mike got up now to search for something he could drink. He wasn’t even thirsty but if he stayed on the couch listening to his father any longer he might just start screaming.

“I know it’s not his fault directly but the kid is an arrogant snob! Did you see how quickly he accused you of stealing from him?”

“It’s over…thanks to you he will probably never talk to me again anyway” Finding a can of Yoohoo sitting in the back of the refrigerator he reached for it and popped it open.

“We are too good for him Mike” That made him mad; he walked over to his father flailing his finger in the air. “You know what; he is too good for us! That boy is a good kid who was unfortunately born into our screwed up family”

“Well, I told him Jane should have had an abortion”

“It’s time for you to leave” Mike said having enough.

“Can’t we talk some more son?”

“We are done talking. Leave now!” John smiled at his son, “You know what Mike…you get attached to things too easily”

“He’s not a thing…he’s your son and my brother”

“Whatever…I’m not worrying about it. I guess I’ll go sleep on the street somewhere” John said as pathetically as possible. Mike went and opened the door for him, “Have fun…better bring a blanket”

Just as John was about to leave, Mike stopped him in a moment of pure guilt; “Dad wait!” He walked over to his wallet and took out $50; then hesitantly handed it to his father. “Keep your money son…I have a ton from your brother” With that being said, John gave his son a wink and a smile as he walked out the door and out of Mike’s life forever.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
After his father left, Mike sat on the couch legs on the coffee table just randomly flipping channels. If he could have closed his eyes and pretended this day had never happened he would have. At least he had managed to clean up the place a little bit. Ironically enough one of the things that had managed to break during the scuffle he had with his brother was the CD cover that held the Journey CD Nick had given him.

He found himself shutting off the TV now and grabbing the remote for his stereo. He hit the random play button and the song Separate Ways started to blare through the speakers.

Boy they really were on different paths weren’t they?

A fierce knocking on the door made him roll his eyes once again. Stupid downstairs neighbor probably complaining about the noise. “I’ll turn it down” He yelled from his place on the couch.

Still the knocking continued. At first he had planned on ignoring it forever. They could knock till their hand fell off for all he cared, but after about two minutes and the guitar solo of the song, he gave in and opened the door; shocked to see who was on the other side.

“What do you want?” He found himself asking Kevin as he stood on the other side of the door, knuckles ready to once again wrap against the wood.

“I have been knocking forever. Didn’t you hear me?”

“Yeah but I pretended not too. If I had known it was you I would have let you keep knocking until the sun came up” He then looked at Kevin with fierce eyes. “What do you want?”

“Is Nick here?” Mike couldn’t believe this man who had done nothing but berate him since they met, now had the nerve to come over here looking for Nick. There was something about the look on Kevin’s face though, that left Mike feeling unsettled.

“NO…he wouldn’t be here Kevin…He hates me”

Kevin stood there awkwardly as if waiting to be invited in, “Are you sure Mike? I mean I won’t be mad at him or anything but I really need to know…”

“How the hell dare you come here after causing me nothing but grief and then accuse me of lying to you? Go away” Mike said as he began to close the door on Kevin.

“Wait! I’m sorry…it’s just that, you were our last hope” Mike stopped then and looked over at Kevin to see a nervous almost desperate face.

“Why are you saying that?” He asked now once again fully opening his door and this time allowing Kevin to walk inside.

Once inside Kevin took about five steps in and turned to the man he still didn’t fully trust, “He’s missing. He’s been gone for about two hours now…we can’t find him anywhere”

Mike took a deep breath letting the words Kevin just said sink in, “How did that happen? I mean you guys have a load of security don’t you?”

“He ditched his bodyguard”

“Crap! The guy who took me down can’t even manage to keep track of a kid?”

“When Nick wants to get lost…he gets lost”

They both stood in silence for a moment; not quite sure of what needed to be said. “He’s a big boy Kevin. An 18 year old knows how to keep himself safe. I’m sure he’ll turn up” He walked away from Kevin then and sat down, a little surprised when Kevin stood in front of him.

“It’s different for us…I mean don’t you get that by now Mike? I’m not saying that to be a big headed jerk; it’s just reality. Your brother forgets that from time to time. He shouldn’t though. There are a lot of scary people out there Mike and a lot of them are infatuated with your brother”

Mike tried to shake off what Kevin had just said, but he kind of knew that all along. He saw the screaming fans outside of TRL. He heard people talking about his brother all ages all genders. “Why would he do something like that? If it was dangerous why would he just leave?”

Kevin sat down beside Mike now, looking annoyed but more nervous. “Because sometimes he doesn’t think”

“He’s been missing for two hours now?” Kevin nodded, “Do you think he’s with your dad maybe? Brian said that your dad was there for a visit shortly before he left for that walk”

“No, but I bet that’s why he left. My father is the one who was stealing from him” Kevin turned in shock, “What?”

“My dad…he has problems Kevin and well frankly he’s not a nice man” “We thought it was you…I admit I thought it was you” Kevin sank back in his seat feeling a little guilty.

“I know...everyone did including Nick. But it wasn’t me; I would NEVER do something like that. My father would though. Would and did; I know my dad’s visit wasn’t a good one with Nick. He came here and told me that before I kicked him out”

“You saw your dad then?” Now it was Mike’s turn to nod, “He said that he stole that money for us…please. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself. Never has”

“So Nick knows it was his dad then?”

“Yeah”

“Who would do that to your own child?” Kevin said rubbing his temples with his fingers.

“We weren’t really blessed in the parent department Kevin, but I’m assuming you already know that. Did you try Jane?” He asked refusing to call her Mom.

“No…Nick had a fight with her and said he never wanted to talk to her again”

“Wow….poor kid; he probably feels like the whole world has turned on him” Mike knew that feeling well as he said the words. He was feeling the same way. Maybe he and his brother weren’t that different after all.

Kevin stood up, “Well, thanks Mike…I’ll let you when we find him”

“No way Kevin! I want to come with you. I’m sure I will be able to help and I can’t just sit here and wait for a phone call”

“Okay that’s a god idea, the more of us scouting for him the better”

“Great I’ll go get my coat” He grabbed his coat and both men left the apartment as allies for once. One goal in common, to find the both they both called brother.
38 by Mare
38

I left the hotel without even looking back. I just wanted to escape, run away from it all. It wasn’t that hard actually, I had become a pro at losing security when I wanted too. Piece of cake; I managed to ditch him the second someone called his cell.

As I aimlessly roamed the streets of NYC, with my hood up over my head, I longed for nothing more than to just blend in. Be one of the guys I saw walking next to me. They all seemed so carefree and happy.

When I turned a corner I was met by about five kids who looked like they were my age, maybe a year or two older. The way they were carrying on made me think they were college kids out for a night on the town; two girls and three boys all laughing and walking arm in arm.

I could have just melded in with them because they were so entranced with one another they barely even noticed. I could have been one of their college friends and I even found myself laughing at some of the stupid jokes the one guy who was without a woman on his arm was saying.

They were in the midst of a night of bar and club hopping and were arguing about where to go next. The guys wanted to go to some raunchy bar but the ladies wanted to go sit on the beach.

I almost wanted to ask them why because it was really cold out. Why on earth would you want to go sit on a beach in New York? But ironically enough after they had managed to walk ahead of me and I watched normalcy fade, I found myself longing for that beach.

When I felt like this, so desperate and especially alone, I only longed for one thing; water. It was my saving grace. Nothing could cheer me up as watching the waves hit the shore. At the worst times in my life, when I was permitted to have those, I would even find myself falling asleep on the beach to the sound of waves clapping against the rocks.

When you are famous like me, you are rarely permitted moments like that. People may hear you saying how lonely you are or how sad but they just kind of give an attitude like “How can he be sad? He has everything in the world” Even my guys. They might hear me having a pity party for myself and not fully understand what was going on. “You are so young Nick…call me when you find a real problem” was usually the smug reply I would get from Kevin. He had no idea, none of them did. Now as I walked along the streets of Manhattan at night, I was beginning to realize that maybe now they finally got it.

I knew they would be worried about me; I could even picture Kevin pacing back and forth threatening me with bodily harm. Was it bad that I wanted that to happen? I wanted them to be worried. But even still, as I thought those things I fought the urge to say well nobody cares.

It’s hard to feel like there is anybody out there that cares for you when your own parents don’t seem to. I mean how bad of a person do you actually have to be to have not one but two parents who don’t give one damn about you or your life?

“Move out of the way kid” someone said as they shoved me from their path. The guy seemed like he was in a real hurry. I was so into feeling sorry for myself I hadn’t even realized that I stopped walking dead in the middle of the sidewalk. Big mistake in New York.

Looking up at the street signs I couldn’t believe how much ground I had covered without even knowing it. The welcome heat to my left made me look to see I was next to a subway station. In all the times we traveled to New York I had never been on a subway. I remember begging my Mom and dad to take me on their just once but they both refused. I smiled at how hypocritical I was, now that my real father had rejected me, I was back referring to Bob as my dad.

Glancing down the steps of the subway station I decided to go for it, I made my way slowly down there, crinkling my nose at the most unpleasant scents that irradiated from the ground.

I was met with a steady beat of someone playing some empty tubs in a random hip hop rhythm. People were throwing him money as he played, but mostly they just ignored him.

I felt the need to stand there and listen to what he was doing; he seemed so into his music; just like me when I got into the zone. When he was done I clapped and went into my pocket and threw $10 in his hat.

He nodded at me as he started another song. Maybe we could use him on our next album, I briefly thought before I heard the high whistling sound the wheels of the train made as they came into the station. Suddenly it seemed the people, like cockroaches came out of everywhere all bound for one single destination. They ran toward the train as if they didn’t catch it, their world might end.

I got caught in the crowd and found myself being shuffled right along towards the gates. I hadn’t bought my ticket yet…or was it a token or something? Now I was feeling slightly dumb again.

Pushing myself out of the crowd I had a tiny flashback of being stuck with a bunch of screaming teens as we left a hotel in Germany. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going and next thing I knew, I was in the middle of them all screaming and clawing at me. I think it was Howie who pulled me out of that one. They have all had to rescue me from something like that at one point or another.

Even AJ who of course waited a few minutes to laugh at me first. They were good guys and I found myself suddenly feeling guilty for having left the way I did. In fact, this was the second time I had done this to them on one trip. First at the Tavern on the Green and now. Maybe if I gave them a quick call they wouldn’t be mad. I stood against the wall contemplating this for a little while. I wasn’t that far away, maybe Dave, Mike or Rob would come by and pick me up. I’d get a little lecture but that would be the end of it. Then the reality would once again set in. I would be Nick the dope. The stupid kid who so readily trusted these two men who claimed they were family. So eager to let them in that I opened up to them and gave them everything I had.

“Someday you’ll learn not to trust every single person you meet” One of them would say, maybe Howie. Most likely they would make D talk to me because he was the nicest. Kevin would hang back after yelling at me, but they all would look at me with disappointment lighting their faces.

I could see it as if they were standing in front of me now. That thought alone made me decide to buy myself a token and head off to somewhere. Problem is I had no idea where.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~~*~*
Mike and Kevin sat in the back of the car making small talk, both feeling very uncomfortable in each other’s company. They seemed to be getting nowhere fast; no leads at all were popping up making both men edgy. “I swear to God when I find your brother I am going to kill him”

“You know…maybe if you spent less time pointing out all the stupid stuff he did and more time being nice to him he wouldn’t always fight with you”

Kevin turned towards Mike, “He told you we fight?”

“All the time according to him…he seems to think you nag him a bit” Kevin shook his head, “It’s only for his own good. He mistakes concern and love for nagging”

“Have you ever told him that?”

“What?”

“That you love him? Obviously Nick doesn’t feel loved” Mike lay back in his chair tilting his head towards the car’s roof.

“Obviously? Excuse me for being cynical but you have known him for what? All of ten minutes? You act like you have been the best big brother on the planet” There was hurt in Kevin’s words. Mike not only picked up that but also a hint of jealousy as well.

“No Kevin…I admit I have been a lousy brother to him, but I wouldn’t have, had I known where he was”

“You could have looked for him”

“I’m doing that now aren’t I?” Kevin moved his head towards the other window trying to distance himself from Mike who continued to look up at the roof, wishing he were in a convertible starring up at the night sky.

“He just knows”

“Knows what?” Mike asked looking away from the little dipper in his mind and focusing on Kevin. It was dark in the car but his silhouette told so much. His shoulders hunched his hands clenched. “He just does…Nick knows we love him”

“Okay”

“Do YOU love him? You talk about me…what about you?” Now Kevin was getting defensive; a side effect of the very long day finally catching up with him.

“Of course I love him. I love him so much it hurts and you know what the worst part of that is?” He didn’t wait for an answer because he knew none would be found, “What’s worse is no matter how much I care about him…it’ll never be enough. Too much time has gone by Kevin. He doesn’t consider me his family…he considers you guys his family” Now it was Mike’s turn to sound hurt and a little jealous.

Kevin found himself playing with the tassels on his scarf interweaving them through his fingers. “Well I have a feeling he isn’t thinking he has any family right now. I guess we can thank your father and mother for that”

More silence after that, there seemed to be nothing left to say except as they drove past the subway station that Nick had been earlier, Mike said more to himself than anyone else… “We’ll find him”


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
I have come to the conclusion that people who rode the subway late at night weren’t all there. I sat in an almost abandoned car trying not to make eye contact with the other four people there. I felt like they were all staring at me and I hoped it wasn’t because I looked familiar to them, at least that is what I originally thought. After awhile all the weird stares I got weren’t of recognition but of ‘I want to kill you’ or ‘let’s go in the back and have a good time’ Ick! There was one guy in particular who kept licking his lips at me whenever I glanced his way. He had to be about fifty and he made me uneasy.

That’s when it started to dawn on me that maybe I had made a mistake. Maybe running away was a bad idea? I mean my Mother, not the nicest sweetest or most maternal person, had at least drilled something home to me as a kid. She said it’s not a good thing to run away from your problems because they will always come back to bite you on the butt. But then again, where is my Mother now? riiiight…must run in the family.

I had gotten on at least three trains switching from color to color not knowing what the hell I was even doing. Just asking the people at the booth how to get to a beach. Some were real smart asses about it. “Hey this kid thinks he’s in Miami or something…he wants to go to the beach” That was my favorite, but finally I was pointed in the right direction towards what I guess was my final destination. Jones Beach? I just hoped it was a real beach.

Of course when I left the station the fifty year old pervert was following me. Of course he was…why wouldn’t he be? I picked up my pace a little to which he laughed.

“Somebody’s paranoid” He said yelling after me. I felt dumb so I slowed down.

When he caught up with me he pushed me to the ground, “I never said you shouldn’t be paranoid did I?”

I was lucky all he did was rob me, it could have been worse; so much worse. It was so easy for him to overpower me. He laughed about how weak I was; especially liking the part where I cried. He got annoyed when I didn’t have a wallet on me. All I had was about a hundred bucks stuffed in my pocket which I cringed at when he put his hand in there and grabbed it out. I guess to get even with me, he punched me in the face and stole my jacket!

It was like the perfect ending to the kind of day I had. I sat on a bench shortly after that, wiping my bloody lip. Nice to know I had something to match my bloody head from earlier. Because he stole my damn jacket I was freezing my ass off as I sat there like a stupid five year old crying and cold.

About fifteen or so minutes later another group of people left the station. They all passed me without bothering to look my way. They probably thought I was homeless or something. I’m kind of happy no one knew who I was.

“Are you okay son?” A very nice man asked while sitting down next to me. I kind of moved away from him. “Is there something I can do for you?”

“I was just robbed and I don’t even have enough change to call home” I sounded pathetic, “Oh my goodness…are you okay?” He asked seeming genuinely concerned. I nodded at him. “Would you like to use my phone and call your parents?” Well that did it; the poor guy had no idea what kind of a day I had or anything about me but I completely lost it when he said that.

He probably wanted to run away from me but instead he gently wrapped an arm around me and let me cry. When I finally let up he did me the favor of calling Brian which I was thankful for. I didn’t want to talk to him, I was already feeling more than a little dumb.

“Your friend said someone will be her to come and get you okay Nick?” I nodded at the nice man. “Thank you so much sir, I usually don’t act like such a baby but…” The guy stopped me, “Oh nonsense…I would be doing the same thing as you if I were just robbed, you were just lucky you weren’t hurt too badly…you know at this time of night you should never travel alone even if you are in college” The guy thought I was a college kid. For some reason, that became the highlight of my otherwise cloudy day.

“Would you like me to sit with you until your friend comes?” I wanted to say yes but I didn’t, “No that’s okay he should be here soon. Thanks so much for everything”

He decided to stay for which I was grateful. I couldn’t bare to be alone anymore.

I hoped it was Brian who would come, or maybe they’d just send me a car. They were probably so pissed at me, they would never want to even talk to me again.

Would serve me right.
39 by Mare
39

They must have circled the city at least three times looking for Nick. Going in and out of the same streets, passing the same homeless people and the same hookers trying to flag them down. Still no sign of the young one. This had panicked Kevin like nothing. He always felt responsible for Nick. It was his mom’s fault and not even Nick’s mom; HIS mom. When she first met the young blonde she had taken Kevin aside and whispered into his ear, “You need to look out for that one Kevin”

At the time, he rolled his eyes but then as he got to know Nick he saw how much maybe his mom was right. The kid was so naïve and vulnerable sometimes. All the guys noticed it too, they even had a meeting about it after Nick decided to disappear into a crowd of fans not much thinking about the consequences. Kevin smiled just remembering how silly that meeting was. “You know we should really put a leash on him” Brian had joked but now he wished they really had done that.

“Why are you smiling?” Kevin glanced over at Mike who looked tired “I was just remembering something”

“Oh? Care to share?” He didn’t know Mike for that long but he had so many of the same mannerisms as Nick. How on earth had he ever doubted their relation to one another. “Just about your brother when he was younger. We always thought we should buy him a leash”

“Well I say when we find him I’ll help pitch in for one” Mike laughed and stretched. “You know maybe he went back to the hotel”

“No...Brian is there he would have called”

“Do you think maybe he…” Kevin’s cell phone ringing cut Mike’s thought off. He quickly clicked on it hoping it was Brian or the other guys saying Nick had been found.

“Hello?”

“Hey Kev…it’s Bri”

“Is he there?” Mike leaned closer to Kevin as he spoke.

“Not exactly, but we know where he is now”

“Where?” Kevin tapped the driver on the shoulder to tell him a location.

“Jones Beach” Kevin nodded, “The beach! I should have known!” Then he said it out loud for the driver “Jones beach!” Kevin put his hand on the phone and looked over at Mike, “We found him” Mike sat back and placed his hands on his head. “Thank God”

“What did he say? Did he tell you why?”

“I didn’t talk to him. He didn’t want to talk to me, some older man called. He said Nick was mugged.”

“Holy crap! Is he okay? I mean what happened?” once again Mike sat up straight trying to get into the conversation.

“Relax, I guess he’s fine…just shaken up”

The conversation with the two went on for a little while longer, just enough time to get the gist of what happened and how sad Nick was feeling. By the time Kevin got off the phone they were already on their way to pick up the wanderer and Mike was exploding with questions.

“Why did you ask if he was okay? What happened?”

“Don’t worry he’s okay but Brian said that he was mugged”

“Boy that poor kid has had one very bad day” Mike said once again trying to find a comfortable position. Kevin nodded with a deep, pondering look on his face, “I was wondering if we should maybe call Jane”

To that question, Mike had very strong feelings himself but, how he felt didn’t matter at the moment. The only thing that mattered was Nick, so he sucked it up, “Do you think it’ll help or hurt?”

“It’s hard to say… they have one of those explosive relationships but in the end he always seems to want to talk to her about stuff” Mike once again felt a pang of jealousy, would he ever know what that feels like? To be able to call on a mother for love and guidance? “Well then maybe we should give her a call, but let’s see how he is first” Kevin agreed.

When they arrived at the bench Nick was sitting on, they were taken back by how incredibly young and innocent he looked. They stood watching from a distance as the older gentleman gently rubbed Nick’s back as he sat hunched over, his elbows hitting his knees.

By instinct Kevin started to walk towards the boy as Mike not sure what to do just kind of stayed back. As Kevin got closer he suddenly found himself stopping. Mike watched as Kevin just stood there staring at Nick; then he turned around and walked back towards Mike.

“What’s wrong?” Mike asked confused as to why he turned back, “You don’t think you should go talk to him?”

“No…I think he would want YOU to talk to him actually. He needs you; I’ll come there in a little bit” Mike was a little surprised, “Are you sure? I mean he thinks the world of you Kevin and I am sure I’m the last one he’d want to see”

“No, you’re wrong. Not about him thinking the world of me of course” Kevin laughed, “I mean…who doesn’t? But he loves you Mike and I think he needs to see that even after all the crap, you are still there for him”

Mike looked over at his little brother again then back to Kevin, “Thanks man…maybe you’re not so bad after all” Kevin smiled and gestured towards Nick, “Now go get him and I’ll be there in a few”

Kevin watched as Mike slowly made his way over towards Nick and the older man, smiling at himself as he watched.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I saw a pair of legs coming towards me and when I saw the length of them, all hope of being greeted by Brian left. I didn’t want to look up at all, to see his disappointed glare. Kevin had a way of making me feel even smaller then I already felt. The kind man sitting next to me bent close to my ear, “I think one of your friends is here to take you home” I decided to sit up straight then and smile at the man before looking over at Kevin. I was shocked when Mike was glancing back at me. Not sure of what to do, I looked down at the ground. The older man stood and shook hands with my brother, mumbling something to him that I couldn’t really hear. Once he was assured I was in good hands he walked over to me once more, “Well Nickolas, since you’re brother is here I’m going to get to where I need to be”

I stood up and took the man’s hand, “Thank you so much sir…for everything” The man smiled at me and pat my head. “Not a problem, we all need to help each other in this world” Then he walked away leaving me staring at Mike unsure of what to say.

I sat back down once again and Mike sat next to me, first taking off his jacket and placing it on my shoulders, “Seems like you should always carry a spare” He said in almost a sickly sweet voice.

The warmth of the jacket felt great after shivering for what felt like forever, “Thanks” My voice still sounded really shaky, “So what are you doing here?”

I still wasn’t looking at him but down at the floor. I realized at that moment how much of my life I spent looking down instead of up. Almost like I didn’t deserve the right to be proud and sure. He was fidgeting next to me, I could tell that he was now as cold as I was earlier. I went to take the jacket off but he stopped me, “I was in the area and thought I’d drop by” He said laughing and wrapping one arm around me.

“Are you okay?” He whispered coming in closer. I shook my head and the tears started up again, “I can’t do anything right. I mess everything up”

“Nick it’s not you”

“Who is it then?” He started to rub my back the same way the older man had. I felt like maybe I didn’t deserve him in my life at all. “Nickers…it’s not you. It’s just circumstances. Our dad is an ass! It doesn’t make you a bad person”

“No maybe not, but accusing you of stealing from me does”

“Nick, if I were in your position I probably would have done the same thing. I mean you have people all around you saying not to trust me including your own father and then BAM! Suddenly you find your wallet on me. I mean to not accuse me would have been idiotic” I looked over at him once more. I hadn’t realized how much this was probably effecting him. He was in the same exact boat as me. That in a very selfish way, made me feel a little better.

“I’m sorry dad did that to you Mike. I’m sorry I trusted him”

“Don’t apologize” He said and then leaned over and kissed the top of my head. My emotions had just about run dry so as I sat cradled in the arms of my big brother rocking slowly not even caring what we probably looked like to passers by. I recalled earlier days when mom and I would do the same thing. How when I felt so alone I would only find her arms to rescue me. I never felt the love that I should feel coming from a mom, but I felt it with Mike.

During this time Kevin had slowly walked towards us and took a seat on the other side of me. I was sandwiched by the two people I admired most. I felt his arm on my shoulder. Even if I hadn’t seen him coming I would have known by that grip.

“You okay lil man?” I pulled away from Mike and looked over at Kevin. He looked different to me tonight, maybe because I was seeing a friend instead of an enemy.

“Yeah I’m okay”

He put his hand under my chin and moved my head so he could examine the injuries to my face, “That must have hurt huh?”

“You should see the other guy” I joked but neither of them laughed.

“I’m sorry; you must both hate me for acting like such an incredibly stupid child. Running away and of course you having to rescue me…AGAIN!” Kevin laughed.

“It’s okay but I think from now on we are going to attach a homing device to you so this doesn’t happen again”

“Homing device…that’s pretty funny man” Mike said amused which made me laugh.

”So you mean to tell me you both don’t totally hate my guts then?”

Mike pointed over at Kevin, “Nickers…would I have come half way across New York with HIM if I hated your guts?”

“HEY!”

The playful way they were going at it made me smile. Could this really have a happy ending? “How did that happen anyway?” I asked now curious as to how they became traveling buddies.

“That’s a story for later, right now we should get you home…what do you say, ready to go?” Kevin stood and offered me a hand to help me up which I gladly took. Mike followed and we walked all three of us back towards the car.
40 by Mare
40

That night, once we got back to the hotel I remember thinking to myself how weird it was to have the lowest day of my life end as one of the happiest. Seeing my brother sitting around my hotel room talking and joking with the four other guys I have ever let into my world, made me smile. There they were plain as day, Howie sitting across from me, legs tucked under him as if he was in Kindergarten, AJ on the floor holding cards in one hand and a bottle of Pepsi in the other joking with Kevin who was playing a game with him. Brian and Mike talking about basketball on the other bed while I just looked from person to person and nodded.
This is what should have happened all along.

I was so afraid that once we got back to the hotel, the masks would come off and Kevin would throw my brother out of the hotel room. I was shocked when he instead invited him not only up to hang but later to spend the night because every once in a while you needed a good old fashioned slumber party. Whether you were eight or eighty.

We had started doing that back when I was thirteen as an excuse for me not having to be alone ever. Kevin at first shunned the entire idea, rolling his eyes and fighting with me every step of the way, but I think he got used to it in his own silly way. I am pretty sure he started to enjoy them as well.

Every time something bad happened to one of us in our short careers and brotherhood, we would have one of these things. A slumber party, of course you had to say it with a lisp ala AJ. That would make it complete. It was a thlumber partey. When I first made my way back into the room, I found a happy Brian, who came and tackled me to the ground, “Our prodigal son has returned home saints be praised” I had no idea what he was talking about but he made me laugh.

Odd that the only person to lecture me was AJ. He looked at me and actually yelled, “You better not pull that crap again Kaos! I mean it!!” How weird is that? Kevin actually was speechless for a little while.

When this was happening, Mike kind of hung in the background, perhaps waiting to be tackled by security. Who could blame the poor guy? Howie walked over to him and gave him a nice warm hug. That was the beginning of starting fresh for me.

Everything else quickly became a thing of the past at that point. Fresh start; do over. Worked for me.

So just watching Mike interact with my four other brothers was heaven to me. I almost thought it was a dream. Things usually didn’t end quite so happily for me.

About half way through the night and a pepperoni pizza later, I had almost forgotten about how cold I was and how lonely I had felt. The level of despair thinking that briefly no one in the world was on my side.

Mike came over and laid next to me on the bed while the rest of the guys continued to watch Alien.

“You feeling better?” I looked over at him and smiled, “Yup” He nodded almost relieved.

“What about you? I know you had kind of a tough day too” It made me sad that he seemed so surprised that I actually cared about his feelings. I wonder how little that has happened to him over the years. “I’m okay. I’ll live” I sat up now, looking to make sure the rest of the guys were in their own little world. Once I saw our conversation was going to be pretty much just between the two of us, I kept going, “Mike….you’re not going through this alone. Don’t lie to me, I know you are hurt by what happened today”

“Nickers, it’s all good really” He fidgeted and began to bite his bottom lip.

“Mike, you don’t have to do that. I won’t let you” I gave him my best Kevin look. For some reason it didn’t have the desired effect. He laughed at me.

“Okay kid…fine. I’m pretty bummed about everything but I have you so it’s all good”

“Yes you do have me and it works both ways you know. Just like I can come to you, you can come to me. You better!!” He ruffled my hair and smiled, “You are too much Nick”

“No, I’m serious as a heart attack! I love you Mike! And I want you to talk to me if you are upset” He smiled and looked back towards the television but I caught a glimpse of a tear in his eye.

“I’ll be right back” I said standing up and putting my shoes on.

“Oh God here we go again….get the leash Kev!”

“Ha Ha! Very funny Brian. I’m just running to the vending machine. Is that okay with everyone?” They all looked at me suspiciously and I rolled my eyes. Okay I knew I would never live running away down. Served me right I guess.

I left their questioning gazes and made my way out into the hallway. For some reason I felt I needed to do this and no don’t worry it wasn’t leave. I pulled my cell phone out and dialed my Mom.

I know I had said I never wanted to talk to her again and maybe on some level I really didn’t want to. With her came a lot of hurt. She always had a way of making me feel like complete crap. But on the other hand she was also my Mom. For many years she was all I ever had and we stuck to each other like glue. Over the years that relationship kind of withered away to the point where we were now. Small conversations about work. Anything else would end up in a fight like the last time we talked. When I told her about her son; the one she wanted to forget.

Just thinking about that made me hot under the collar and I almost put the phone away. I wasn’t calling for me though, not this time. I was calling for Mike because deep down inside, he needed his Mother even more than I did right now.

Now I was certain when I called it wouldn’t be Mom who answered. It was the little angry dance we did. Mom would make my dad answer the phone with some stupid excuse. “Oh she’s not here Nick, I’ll tell her you called and by the way you really need to apologize to her!” That’s pretty much how it always went and nine times out of ten, I would end up begging for forgiveness, even when she should have been the one asking for it not me.

So like I predicted it was my father, the one who I had actually given up a millisecond after finding my real one, that answered the phone.

“Hi daddy” Yup always called him daddy when I was knew he was mad at me. I know how hypocritical I am.

“Nicky, long time no speak how are you buddy?” Just like he called me Nicky and buddy when he was catapulted in the middle of our arguments.

“I’m okay…is Mom there?” He paused I could tell he was probably looking at her while she shook her head at him, maybe holding her hand to her temples, in an overly dramatic fashion.

“No buddy, I’m sorry but you know she’s kind of upset”

“Dad, I know she’s there. I really need to talk to her”

There was some shuffling and muffled voices. Probably some really nasty dirty looks, but eventually I heard her voice. Soft but stern at the same time.

“Mom, I know you’re mad at me but for once this isn’t about you or I, it’s about Mike”


~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Mike sat on the bed, watching the other four guys just sitting comfortable enough in each other’s company not to even have to say a word. He wanted to hate these guys, but he just couldn’t. That would be a very John Alexander thing to do; be angry at the other guys for having each other. Maybe take Nick away from them, manipulate him into thinking that they were no good for him.

How in the world was it that he could be raised by such a hate filled man and yet have a heart? He sometimes found himself wishing he had no heart. If he didn’t care than what was there to lose?

The sad truth was this was all soon coming to an end and then what would he have? No job meant no money and no money meant no place to live. He guessed he could maybe ask Melinda if he could stay with her until he got on his own two feet again.

Nick and the boys were set to leave New York in a day. Would they keep in touch he wondered. God he hoped so, but really what were the chances? He had such a busy life that there would be no chance he would find the time to keep in touch. Than there was also that pity factor. Mike knew he could ask Nick for money and he would give it to him without even flinching but the last thing he wanted to be was the loser brother that grubbed.

He looked down at his watch realizing that Nick had been gone for almost fifteen minutes already. He was just about to speak up, “Maybe he did leave us again” when Brian cut his intentions off, “Mike” He looked over at the blonde, “Yeah?” For some reason that brought about a chuckle from the group, “It’s it weird how he has the same blank expression as Our Kaos?” After saying that AJ quickly added, “No offense man…it’s just that the resemblance between you guys is unmistakable”

“Really?”

“Yeah…anyway, I’m sorry Rok what were you gonna say to Mike?” AJ put his fingers up to his lips and snapped right in front of them, zipping them shut. “I just wanted to apologize for being a jerk to you at the Tavern, I never got a chance to tell you that. I mean it” Mike smiled at Brian, someone he could see warming u to quickly, just like his brother had.

“It’s no problem. Thanks for looking out for Nick. He’s really lucky to have you guys. Really”

“Where is the little wanderer anyway?” Howie said making his way over to the door, “We need to put some bells on him or something”

He opened the front door and looked into the hallway. Mike craned his neck to see what was going on, but then Howie closed the door again. “He’s on the phone”

Then he glanced over Mike’s way, “I think he’s talking to your Mom”

“Why was he talking about money? OUCH!” Kevin punched AJ in the arm for saying that which made Mike laugh. He didn’t want his Mom and Nick to get along again. That was John coming out in him, but he couldn’t help it.

“It’s okay…I’m not a big fan either” Mike said winking at the boys. He felt a little better seeing that they also had no real love for his Mother. At first he thought it was only Kevin but apparently they all felt the same way.

“It’s not that we don’t like her but sometimes…well…sometimes her priorities aren’t straight” Howie said looking over at Mike and smiling.

“I know” He really didn’t because in all honesty he didn’t like her. He had no reason to. The woman shut him out of her life and threw away the key.

Nick walked in a few minutes later biting on his bottom lip which made Kevin and Mike both shake their heads. That woman did nothing but make that kid feel like total and complete crap. He walked over to the bed and sat down, still clutching his cell phone in his hand.

“I take it the conversation didn’t go well?” Brian asked; you could tell he was getting ready to summon all the goofy voices just in case they were needed.

“I’m not really sure. You can say we kind of left it out there”

“Was that Mom?” Mike hated calling her that but for Nick’s sake he felt like he owed it to her. Nick answered with a nod.

“I told her about what happened and what dad did” Mike nodded.

“Should I expect the police then?”

“Mike…No! She knows you had nothing to do with it, in fact she said she was sorry you had to go through that”

“Yeah…okay squirt, well whatever. At least I’m glad she talked to you and you guys straightened everything…” Nick’s cell phone started blaring which made Mike stop.

“Who is it?” Nick turned the phone around to look at the number even though he already knew, then he handed the phone over to Mike, “It’s mom and she is calling for you”

At first he was hesitant to take it from his brother’s hand. The other four guys looking on as if a big cliffhanger was about to be revealed. “It’s okay really...take it”

Finally he grabbed the phone from Nick and after the fifth ring, right before voicemail he placed it to his ear to talk to his mother.

“Hello?”

“Michael?” She sounded softer now, almost like a different person entirely from the one who had been so vicious only a few days before. He couldn’t recall when the last time someone had actually called him Michael. He liked it, made him feel like a real guy.

“Yes…hi Mom”

Suddenly he became aware of all the stares and found himself getting up and moving into the hallway placing a loving hand on his brother’s shoulder as he did.

“Mike…I am so sorry about what happened with your father. He is a bad man”

“I know, I’ve lived with him all this time remember?” His words cut through the air and he hoped right into Jane’s heart.

“Nick told me what you did and how you found him. He said you have been so supportive while he’s been there”

“He’s my brother and I love him very much”

“I know you do and that’s wonderful” She paused; it was uncomfortable, “Look…I wanted to say…well…ask if maybe you and I could…could…”

Mike smiled and held the phone closer to his ear, “Could what?” Now his voice as soft as hers.

“Could maybe try to get together and talk, just you and I, fresh start”

“I would like that very much” He tried not to get choked up but it was hard, the woman who had rejected him his whole life was suddenly calling him home.


~*~*~*~~~*~~*~*~*~
I sat there in the room explaining to the guys what my phone call was all about, how I had gone on and on talking about what a great guy Mike was and how bad he had been hurt by all of this. How he deserved some love and attention for once. Then I told them the part which was hardest for me, the part where I told Mom to either except Mike or forget about me.

Turned out I didn’t really have to even say that because she was more than willing to try to rekindle their relationship. She told me I should consider inviting him on tour as a roadie or something.

I told her I thought it was a great idea, which I did.

When Mike finally came back into the room he came and sat next to me, giving me a huge hug. Nothing more needed to be said, I was finally after all these years going to have my family back. The real one.
epilogue by Mare
Epilogue


Mike said goodbye to his brother the very next day. It was an emotional goodbye filled with lot’s of hugging and promises to keep in touch. Nick paused outside the bus for a few minutes as if afraid of saying something to his brother that might upset him, but he finally found his words looking right into Mike’s eyes as he said it, “Hey…I was wondering if maybe you wanted to come with me? You know I could always use some more help”
“Jesus that was the biggest understatement of the year!” AJ teased hopping past Nick and making his way onto the bus.

How desperately Mike wanted to say yes, take me away from this place and this life. I want to start over again. But he only smiled and pulled his baby brother into another hug, “Aww Nick…thanks a lot but I don’t think I would be good on the road. At least not now, I have an apartment and I should really try to find another job”

Nick looked a little disappointed, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, but don’t worry. Just because I’m not following you doesn’t mean we won’t stay in touch” He could read the doubt in his brother’s eyes but he meant it. They had lost each other once before and Mike wasn’t going to let that happen again.

So they said their goodbyes and life went on.

Nick moved from city to city on tour to promote the release of their newest CD Millennium; while Mike went back to the store and begged for his job back.

Maybe it was his charm or the smirk, most likely it was the famous brother but they gave in and rehired him.

Jane kept her promise as well and called Mike after Nick left. At first the conversation was empty and emotionless filled with a lot of silence, as the calls progressed so did their relationship. He even ended the last conversation with her by saying bye mom.

Melinda walked by her friend and purposely brushed him as she passed, “Hey you!” She said taking her familiar place next to him by the cash registers. “I can’t believe you actually made it here on time”

“I have been known to be punctual on occasion” He winked at her which she seemed absolutely repulsed by but Mike knew better. Their relationship had grown to a little more than friends although neither of them would ever tell you that, if you asked them.

“I can’t believe your brother’s coming back to town”

“Yeah I know, I’m kind of excited about that, it’s been awhile”

“About seven months...but whose counting?” Arianna said walking by the counter and smiling at both of them as she stacked the front display with the Backstreet Album.

“Are you getting together?”

“Yup, of course we are” He stood watching his brother crowd the display, already enjoying the looks on the faces of the teenage girls ready to buy the new CD.

“Have you heard from your dad anymore?” Mike looked away from the display and back to his kind of sort of girlfriend, “No, not since last month”

On that day, John Alexander had the gall to call his son up like nothing had happened. He called out of the blue and actually asked his son for a loan; Mike hung up. It was a chilling reminder that no matter what, that man was always going to be a part of him.

“He hasn’t bothered Nick has he?”

“He better not!”

“So when will he be here?” Melinda went into her pocket and pulled out a stick of gum.

“You know we’re not supposed to chew gum up here remember? It looks unprofessional” He crossed his arms over his chest mocking disappointment. She answered with a huge bubble which popped all over her face.

“Serves you right” He teased and then lovingly plucked the mess from her cheek and stuck it in his mouth.

“That was truly disgusting” Arianna said shaking her head at them both. Mike winked at Melinda who smiled a devilish smile.

“Today”

“Today what?”

“You asked when Nick will be here; the answer’s today. I’m seeing him right after work”

“Cool, nice of you to wait until the last minute to tell me”

“I’m sorry…I didn’t really want people to know when he was coming into town this time around”

“Oh I see so this way you can hog him all to yourself?”

“Yeah something like that, it’s just that right now any time we get to spend together is precious, I’m sorry for not letting you know”

“It’s not like it’s any of my business though. It’s no big deal” He turned towards her then and wrapped her in a hug, “Actually if it weren’t for you I would never have found him in the first place. You are the one that kept pushing me to talk to him. So thank you!”

“Okay kids break it up you’re making a spectacle of yourselves” One of their co workers said making them smile and move away from one another.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
The day felt never ending to me. Since the time I left New York all those months ago so many things had happened. A brand new album, a hit single and total fame. Just thinking about how easily I skipped out of that hotel to get a slice of pizza before would now seem almost impossible. I guess until the newness of the album was done and over with anyway.

My life has really changed. Now it seems everyone recognizes me and shouts my name, I can’t go anywhere without hearing I Want It That Way and seeing us on MTV. It feels good but in a slightly terrifying kind of way.

I’m not sure if I am ready for that kind of fame just yet.

That wasn’t the reason the day kept dragging for me though, Mike was the reason. It had been so long since I had seen him that I couldn’t wait to once again hug my brother face to face. We made sure we kept in touch but it just wasn’t the same you know?

My mother came up from behind and grabbed me in a hug, tugging at my clothes to make sure they were on straight. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“Of course mom. It’s now or never” It took a lot of convincing for my mom to agree to come with me to see Mike. I mean a lot of fighting and huffing and puffing. It was my father that finally talked her into it. Sure he was really pissed off when he found out about Mike and all the secrets that she kept from him, but after a while he started to understand. I mean we both knew how Jane was.

“Are you sure he won’t hate to see me?”

“I’m positive” I pat her shoulder. My mom and I did some growing on our own. At first it was kind of difficult; I tried to distance myself from her, sometimes I still do. Many a long night talking about her to Kevin and especially Brian made me realize that I was too young to be so angry. They were both very convincing when they wanted to be. Besides she had agreed to continue to get to know Mike which I believe she has done so there was really no reason to be upset with her; for now at least.

We stood side by side as he walked in to greet us. He stopped short when he saw our mother standing beside me and I thought maybe I had made a huge mistake for a moment. But then he continued to move closer as the smile on his face widened. He walked straight towards me and grabbed me in a huge hug. “Nickers! Long time no see! God you have grown some more”

“Hey Mike, how’s it going?” I pulled away from him as he still cupped the back of my neck in his hand, “Going good…going good” He said not looking at me but staring at our mom. She smiled at him as he let go of me and made his way over to her.

“Hi” He said walking towards her not sure whether to hug or shake hands. She seemed just as lost.

“Hi, you look great” Then she pulled him closer into a hug.

I couldn’t help but smile. At first it seemed forced but then it turned into a more natural cling.

“There is so much I want to say to you. I have so many regrets Mike…so many”

“I know you do, but we’re here now so let’s start fresh”

She wiped away a tear that threatened to spill down her cheek. “Sounds good to me” She said placing her hand on his face. A gesture of love, one of the rare ones that mom showed anymore.

I watched them both as they held hands and talked and that flashback from so long ago came back to me. I was transported back in time to my old room, long before the fame and the money; when all we had was each other.

“I’m starving what should we eat?” I asked selfishly breaking up the moment for my stomach and besides I was starting to get that mushy feeling and the last thing I needed was to cry.

They both looked over at me and laughed, then Mike grabbed me and together all three of us hugged. “This feels good” He said looking at mom and then me.

“This is what family feels like Mike” He pat my head and then we started to head for the front door out into an awaiting van to take us to dinner.

“Hey I wasn’t tackled this time. I guess that’s progress” He said opening the door for our mom.

“Don’t worry they’ll get you on the way back home. The night’s still young” He shook his head and pushed me into the car.

I silently sat in the front seat while mom and Mike played catch up in the back. Staring out the window I just couldn’t help but smile. You know I hated this life sometimes and all the crap that came with it, but then again if I didn’t have it I wouldn’t have Mike.

I looked back at the two of them laughing about something and realized just like that night when my father and mother came into our room all those years ago and took everything away, I would also remember this day forever. The day that it all came back.

Ironically enough, just as the thought crossed my mind a song came on the radio. The conversation stopped for just a moment and I was pretty sure they were both thinking the same thing.

“Life really does come full circle doesn’t it?” I asked turning around to look at them.

“Yes my little brother it certainly does” Mike said as we sped off to dinner with Separate Ways blaring in the background.


The End




*Author’s Note*

Well I guess I just wanted to say thank you so much for taking the time to read this story. I truly enjoyed writing it. Just a few notes of thanks. You really don’t have to read if you don’t want to, I know these things can be boring, but for this story I would feel bad if I didn’t thank a few people who really helped me get through the writing on this one. There was a brief period of time during the writing of this story that I contemplated giving up writing completely lol eh…it happens but with the love and support of these people I kept it going.

Mersey ~ From the first sentence to the last you have shown nothing but support for this story as well as all my others. You have put up with my rants and raves and my whining lol thanks for being my cheerleader.

Swenglish ~ You initially pushed me to write on this as you tend to do with everything. I may seem hostile at the time but I appreciate it! You always inspire me to want to be a better writer so thank you for that.

Sam ~ WOW! You have been constant support for this one and for that I thank you!

Nikki, Kat and Maria ~ For dropping me a note every once in a while to let me know you are enjoying what you have read. You guys always make me smile :)

To the regular readers who sent me feedback for this one at Vaffel and Chaos you are the best. I would have no plans on writing another chapter for awhile until I saw the great things you had to say. Your words inspired me to write.

And for anyone else who has read regularly and stayed with this story from start to finish even through the periods of time when nothing was being updated.

Thanks!

Mare

March 19, 2004


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