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Kevin looked at the mess in front of him shaking his head in disgust. How many times was he supposed to remind his cousin that the hamper was exactly five steps away from his bed. Boy he wasn’t really that excited to have to room with Brian but his aunt insisted and since Brian was only eighteen it made sense but he had to admit he didn’t much like the role he was beginning to see himself having to play. That of babysitter. Whether it was keeping up on top of Brian making sure he didn’t leave a trail of clothes and clutter behind him, to keeping AJ out of trouble when he managed to always be blunt and speak his mind about things.
Luckily since Howie was only a year younger, he felt like they were more buddies then anything else.

The one guy he really had no connection with no matter how hard he tried was Nick. He had nothing in common with the kid at all. When they were together it just felt odd and Nick let it be known that he felt the same way. In fact whenever they were in a room together just the two of them, Nick would be quick to excuse himself before Kevin could even attempt a conversation.

Kevin didn’t even mind that so much. This all had happened so quickly for him, that he didn’t even allow himself to get really that connected to any of them. He was kind of afraid it would all go away. Why bother getting attached if that was the case right?

“Why does Jane want to see us anyway?” Howie asked coming out of the bathroom half shaved and half dressed. Only thing shielding him from the world was a sky blue terry cloth towel.

“No clue” Kevin said picking up one of Brian’s socks. He walked to the bedroom door they all shared and flung it inside.

“Think she’s pulling him out of the group?”

Kevin shrugged, anything was possible. Jane, Nick’s mother had a problem with many things having to do with the band. Especially the long travel time they spent going back and forth from their home in Tampa to Orlando which is where the rehearsals would take place.

Lou had offered to find them a place in Orlando to make things easier but the Carters had refused saying their lives were firmly planted in Tampa and they wanted some sort of normalcy. Kind of ironic since she was such a stage mom. Kevin smiled because he knew once his own mother ever met Jane she wouldn’t like her much. She’d say something like “That woman is definitely type A”

“I hope not, because well…I kind of like the little nipper” Howie said once again walking into the bathroom and turning on the faucet.

That made Kevin smile, Howie seemed so nice. At first he really thought it was an act. When he first met Howie he wasn’t sure what to think. He looked kind of like a mix between total dork and total geek. He had a look of intense concentration on his face until the greetings happened. Then Howie’s look turned soft and he walked over and half hugged his new band mate and shook his hand, “Welcome to the group…if there’s anything I can do let me know…after all we are really going to be with each other all the time right?”

When Howie spoke those words it had really scared Kevin for the first time since the auditions and first introductions. At that point it just seemed like a dream of some kind, but when Howie said we’ll be spending a lot of time together it really hit home. HARD!

Suddenly he found himself going home to look through the contract, double and quadruple checking it. Talking for hours on the phone with his Mom and oldest brother reading every line and every word making sure he was making the right decision. He almost decided against the whole thing. Did he want to spend every waking minute with those guys? The other thing that kept going through his mind is why did those other two guys leave in the first place? Was there something wrong with the group? After talking himself out of the group all he had left to do was call Lou and tell him.

It was Howie who convinced him to change his mind. He dropped by Kevin’s small cramped apartment with a pizza and of all things a six pack of root beer.

“Hi…just thought I’d drop by” He said stepping into the apartment and smiling at how small it was. He put the pizza box and the sodas down on the table and turned to Kevin, “I like your place…very nice”

“Thanks”

“So…I know you are probably feeling a little overwhelmed, I know I did too when it all happened” Kevin just nodded.

“I guess I just wanted to tell you that we are so happy we found you. I mean you are such a good singer Kevin and our voices just blended so well”

“You’re right” And he was. The four of them sounded awesome together.

“Anyway thought I’d just bring us some dinner and get to know you. I would have brought AJ but he had something to do with his mom and grandma”

“Oh…what about the little one” Howie laughed, “Nick you mean?”

“Yeah sorry…I forgot his name”

“It’s okay…believe me once you get to know him you won’t forget his name. He’s kind of memorable”

“I’m sure he is”

“He’s in Tampa with his family”

“Oh”

“They both really like you. Nick couldn’t stop talking about you actually. He thinks you are the best thing since sliced cheese”

“Isn’t it bread?”

“Yeah Nicky always gets his sayings wrong” Howie said twisting off a cap to a bottle of root beer and handed it over to Kevin.

“Honestly Howie…I’m thinking about not signing the contract”

“I had a feeling you were going to say that Kevin…I did the same thing at first, I mean I was surrounded by children at least I felt like I was. I mean one of the guys was my age but everyone else were babies”

“So what made you change your mind?”

“The music. I love to sing and we sound great together. Besides they grew on me. Well I had known AJ beforehand but Nicky grew on me. He’ll grow on you too”


“Where is your cousin?” Howie said once again emerging from the bathroom this time fully clothed and freshly sprayed with cologne. Too much cologne.

“God D are you trying to kill me with that stuff or something?” Kevin said through a cough.

“Too much?”

“Uh…yeah” Kevin said fanning the smell of Howie away from his nose. “I’m hoping if I smell bad enough she won’t stay that long” Kevin laughed out loud at that one. “You never answered my question…where’s Rok?”

“They are over J’s house being tutored”

“Oh yeah I forgot…Nick is with them too right?” Kevin nodded.

Just as if on cue, the doorbell rang sending Howie running through the apartment as quickly as possible picking up ant stray socks, underwear and pants that he found strewn along the path to the doorway.

Kevin just sat and took a sip of his coffee. Taking a deep breath as he heard Howie greet Jane at the front door.

She came and sat down across from Kevin and smiled at him, “Hello Kevin, thanks for seeing me. I wanted to make sure to talk to the two of you while Nick was at school”

“What’s going on?

“I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind if Nick stayed here with you guys for three weeks” You could tell by the hesitation that neither Kevin or Howie were expecting that one.

“See, we have had a vacation planned for almost a year to go to Europe. We have the tickets and everything. If we cancelled out now we would lose all our money and we have been saving forever!”

Kevin was doing math in his head, “Wait a minute, isn’t that going to be Christmas?”

She nodded, “Yes it falls during Christmas, but I didn’t know what else to do. I know you guys will be working and would be here anyway”

“But I planned on going home for Christmas”

“Oh…I guess Lou didn’t tell you then?”

“Tell us what?” Now Howie asked oddly curious and half annoyed.

“That you guys have a performance on Christmas Day so no one is getting to go home anyway”

“What? We didn’t know that”

“He probably hasn’t told you yet. I only know because I had told him about my plans”

Kevin wanted to storm out of the house and down to Transcon after hearing that. How in the hell is that possible? He had not been able to get home in ages and his whole family was so looking forward to seeing him for Christmas. It was one thing when he only had a day off for Thanksgiving but now he would be stuck up in Florida for what his family always held as the most important holiday of the year.

“So is it okay then if Nick stays with you?” Kevin turned his attention back to Jane, “I don’t know Jane…I mean I’m still going to try to get home”

“Well what am I supposed to do?”

“He can stay here Jane, I mean if Kevin goes home I will watch him” Howie sat down at the table and smiled at both Kevin and Jane instantly making Kevin feel guilty for being so selfish.

“Thank you so much Howie…”then she turned towards Kevin again, “It’s just that if you guys said no then I would have had to ask Johnnie or Lou”

“Yeah or change your plans” Kevin said under his breath.

“Thank you so much I actually have his suitcase with me. I made sure I packed a lot of his things so he wouldn’t need anything”

“Wait…you are leaving him today?”

“Yes, if that okay. We are leaving first thing in the morning” She walked over to the door, opened it up and brought in a huge suitcase.

Placing it in the middle of the kitchen area she looked to both boys, “Thank you so much for doing this guys. Nick just loves you both and I know you will take good care of him”

“Do we have to pick him up?”

“No I’ll handle that. I’m on way over there now actually. Again if there’s anything I can do…”

“Have a good time and bring us back something from Europe”

Howie smiled at her. When she left, Kevin and Howie stood staring at each other, “I hope you don’t mind that I said yes but I didn’t want Nicky left out in the cold”

“Nah it’s okay I guess” He didn’t mean to sound so unsure of his own words but the truth was he was now pissed that he was going to miss Christmas and now to top it all off he was going to be babysitting too.

“I wonder why she didn’t ask Denise. I’m sure she would have taken him”

“No idea” Howie said while grabbing Nick’s huge suitcase and bringing it to the bedroom. “Where are we going to put him anyway?”

“I guess he gets the couch or maybe he can sleep on the floor in our bedroom”

“Well I’ll put this in here for now, I guess we can figure out the rest later” He said lugging the baggage into the bedroom. “You know Brian will just end up entertaining him the entire time”

“Let’s hope” Kevin said under his breath. He walked over to the table and picked up the cup left behind by Jane and brought it over to the huge pile of dishes waiting to be washed in the sink.

“Whose turn is it to wash these?”

“I think it’s Brian’s” Kevin shook his head, debated on leaving the dishes untouched but then rethought his decision and started to wash.

He wanted to go home so badly for Christmas, it was something he looked forward to while in the middle of all the practicing and stupid bullshit they had to put up with. It was all going to be okay because he would be home in no time to see his family and friends.

“It sucks we can’t go home for Christmas” Kevin said placing his hands in the soapy water feeling for left over utensils. He forgot that Howie actually had his family in town and couldn’t help but feel a little jealous.

“I know you’re right about that”

“Brian will not be happy”

“None of us will be”

“Guess we’ll just have to be our own family this year” Howie said taking a seat on the couch and turning on the television.

“Well you’re lucky. You get to go home”

He didn’t mean for his comment to sound so biting but he couldn’t help it. Kevin had a hard time holding back his feelings. He knew this was a trait that tended to drive the other guys crazy.

“I’m not going to get to go home either if we are performing Kevin” He sounded annoyed.

“Well we’ll make the best of it I guess”

“You know worse things could happen” Even though Kevin nodded his head in agreement he couldn’t see what could be worse then having to be stuck so far away from home with kids. Now one that he would be in charge of.

Just as he thought that, the door opened and in walked his messy cousin and the foul mouthed AJ.

“I don’t know about that D” Kevin said as he watched the three boys walk over to the kitchen table and plop down on the chairs.

“I’m hungry man got anything to eat?”

“You were just at your grandmother’s. Why didn’t you eat there?” Howie asked in a joking manner as he grabbed some Cheetos out of the cabinet and tossed them over at AJ.

“She doesn’t have any of this good stuff…Kevin pass me a Coke would ya?” Kevin shook his head as he took his hands out of the soapy water and splattered the suds all over AJ.

“Hey! Watch it…my eyes!”

He ducked his head into the fridge and pulled out a can, before tossing it he gave Brian a look, “You want one to I suppose?”

“Nah I’m good”

“Splendid” Then he threw the can at AJ. “By the way, I did the dishes for you”

“It wasn’t my turn it was Howie’s” At the mention of his name he slinked back into the sofa, “oops” that caused Brian and AJ to laugh but Kevin didn’t seem amused, “Where’s Nick?”

“He is out in the car talking to his Mom about something”

“Oh…actually she’s telling him he’ll be staying here a few weeks” Now Kevin deciding to give up on the dishes went and took a seat on the couch next to Howie leaving the two younger ones in the kitchen by themselves.

“He is? AWESOME!” Brian stood up and entered the living room and sat on the floor and of course AJ followed but not before grabbing the bag of Cheetos.

“Don’t get any on the carpet please!”

“Kevin you’re such a nag!”

The door to the apartment opened and in walked Jane and a very quiet Nick. “Okay guys here he is…take good care of him” She gave him a hug and kiss then blew out the door so fast she almost left a breeze.

Nick just stood there staring at the door. He didn’t look happy. “Great, moody tween alert” Kevin said under his breath. “Come in here and join us little man”

Nick stood up and huffed into the living room and plopped on the couch next to Howie.

“Problem?” Brian asked amused.

“I hate my Mother”

“Aw Nick that’s not nice” Kevin scolded before stopping himself. Great already I sound like his dad. He thought to himself as he rubbed at his temples. He felt a headache coming on.

“You get to spend some time with us and I think that’s pretty cool!” Brian said playfully grabbing at Nick’s feet and pulling him off the couch and onto the floor. This brought about a laughing fit from the soon to be fourteen year old as he was tickled and tackled.

“Maybe this won’t be so bad after all” Kevin said not knowing how wrong he would be.
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