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Kevin felt bad leaving Nick alone once again but when he had asked Johnny if he could stay at home and take care of the boy, all he got in return was a laugh and a “You can’t be serious!” He decided it best not to press his luck on the matter.
By the time he left the bedroom with nothing left but toast crumbs and a half a cup of tea, the tutor had come and gone leaving a boatload of make up work for Nick once he was better.

“So how is the little psycho…I mean sicko” AJ received a disapproving head shake from Kevin and a friendly bop on the head from Brian, “Sorry Freudian slip I guess”

“Do you even know who Freud is AJ?”

“Some crazy sex doctor” This made everyone smile “What? I’m right aren’t I?”

Again Kevin shook his head, “Is this his homework?” He asked staring at the pile of books left on the table.

“Yup, she was kind of pissed he didn’t show up”

“Yeah? Well she’ll live with it”

“He was supposed to have a history test today and she wondered if that was why he was suddenly sick” Kevin grabbed the top book off the pile, a Norton reader third edition, and started skimming through the poetry section. “Nah, he’s got a fever. He’s not faking it”

“Was Johnny really pissed?” Howie moved beside him and decided to grab the next book off the pile, much to the amusement of Brian and AJ.

“You know if you guys have a hankering to go back to school just say the word and we can gladly let you do OUR work”

“Just curious, it’s been forever since I have looked in one of these books” Howie turned to a random geometry page filled with formulas and theorems. “How in the world does Nicky even understand this stuff?”

Brian laughed, “He doesn’t…it makes his head spin, just like it made MY head spin”

“I was always bad in math” Howie flipped the pages as if it were a picture book, “And I have to say I don’t miss these days at all” He placed the book back on the table as if planting an exclamation point at the end of his statement.

“Yes” They all looked over at Kevin who never took his eyes away from the page he was reading.

“Uh…yes what Kev?”

He looked over at AJ, then back down at the book. “Yes Johnny was pissed”

“Really pissed?”

“Brian he wasn’t happy, he said that whenever one of us gets the sniffles we can’t expect the whole world to stop”

“But he still gave him the night off anyway?”

Kevin nodded at his cousin. “I don’t know how you guys do it. School and the Backstreet Boys. I give you credit”

“It’s not easy, none of this has been but you know what cousin? I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world”

“Sure he says that…he’s done with stupid ass school at the end of the year”

“Awe poor wittle AJ” Brian grabbed AJ’s cheeks.

“Well what I did for Nicky today, I will gladly do for any of you. If you feel bad, let me know okay? No one should have to be forced to work their ass off when they are feeling ill. I mean sick sick, not I think I stubbed my toe sick”

“But stubbed toes hurt!” Kevin rolled his eyes at Brian who was holding his foot trying to get his toe in his mouth, “There is something seriously wrong with you!”

“Should we maybe call Nicky’s mom to let her know he’s ill?” Kevin looked over at Howie then lowered his voice to a whisper, “No, there’s really nothing she could do about it and truthfully, I doubt she’d care unfortunately”

He learned to speak softly from now on concerning touchy matters. “I mean she’d care but…you know what I mean” They all nodded.

“Anyway he’s sleeping now so maybe that’s all he really needs”

“I still feel bad” Brian hung his head down deciding to give up on getting his toe in his mouth.

“Don’t Bri…he knew you didn’t mean anything bad by it. Besides when we come back from the studio maybe you can talk”

“How long do you suppose we are going to be stuck in the studio anyway?” Kevin shrugged, “He made it seem like a long time so if I were you guys I’d try taking a serious nap”

“I would but Goldilocks is sleeping in my bed isn’t he?”

“You can take mine Bri…and J you can have Howie’s”

“So you really think we need to nap then?” He nodded, “I’m not saying you have to but it’d be a good idea. I have no idea how long we’re going to be stuck tonight and since we are going to be Nickless he might be pissed enough to find a reason to keep us longer”

They both stood up and walked into the bedroom, “And stay quiet…Nick needs his sleep”

“Yes sir pappa bear sir” Kevin rolled his eyes at the boys as they tiptoed over exaggeratedly into the room. “I do sound like a father sometimes don’t I?” He asked Howie once the younger ones were gone.

“Yeah but you know what? I kind of think they like it to be honest. I know AJ would never admit it, but he really looks up to you, we all do”

“Oh stop D…there’s nothing to look up to”

“Sure there is, standing up to Johnny for Nick took a lot of guts Kev….seriously I don’t think I could ever do that”

“Sure you could”

“You suck at getting compliments Kevin” He laughed.

“It just didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me”

“Well it was”

“Thanks Howie”

“You’re welcome, now I’m going to take your advice and take a quick nap. Thanks for giving my bed away”

“Sorry about that”

“That’s okay…I’m stealing the couch though so if you want to sleep you get the floor buddy” He pat Kevin on the back and then walked into the living room.


~*~*~~*~*



Kevin was right about the studio and getting punished for lack of bringing the youngest member with them. It was almost as if Johnny was trying to get the message across that he was the only one allowed to make decisions of whether or not someone could be sick and stay home.

They were at the studio for about 8 hours. Much longer then they had anticipated. Whenever they thought a take was perfect they would be shot down by the producer or Johnny himself saying it could be done better and if Lou were there he’d be having a cow.

According to Johnny; Lou would have had enough cows to have himself a full head of cattle.

When they emerged from the studio it was actually light outside. “Now boys because you worked so hard tonight we’ve cancelled your dance rehearsal so go home and get some sleep”

The boys weren’t excited and didn’t show any emotion at all, they were too physically exhausted to care. Especially Kevin. Even though he had urged all the others to nap, he chose to stay awake and get some things done like exercising and then a few calls, one to Kris and one to home. It almost felt like he had the place all to himself as he sat and talked, no one looking over his shoulder or eavesdropping on his conversation.

He was paying for those few hours of freedom now though as he staggered up the steps with a huge headache. It felt like a hang over actually, he had never been quite so tired in his life.

The boys didn’t even say one word to each other just moved to their nap spots from earlier and went to sleep. This of course left Kevin and Howie out in the living room with poor Kevin having to sleep on the floor.

“I’ll take the floor if you want Kev; I mean you got no sleep yesterday. I at least got a few hours of naptime”

“Nah that’s okay, I am so tired I would be able to sleep on a bed of nails D”

That being said, Howie turned off the light while Kevin drew the blinds and they all fell asleep.


~*~*~*~*~*~



Nick sat up in bed rubbing his sleepy eyes with his fists. Looking around he was a little confused to find AJ sleeping in Howie’s bed. Snoring up a storm. He felt a little better than yesterday, his head not quite throbbing but still overall kind of icky. He could tell he had a fever by the tingling he felt in his cheeks.

Walking into the kitchen it looked like it was midnight; the blinds were drawn to disguise the morning sun.

He tiptoed over to the unmistakable sound of Howie’s snores and went and tapped him lightly on the shoulder. “D?” He whispered but all he got in return was a grunt followed by a roll onto his side.

Nick glanced down at the sleeping form of Kevin; he looked so uncomfortable on the floor, his arms wrapped around himself with no sign of a blanket anywhere; using nothing more then one of the throw pillows from the couch. Scanning the room Nick found a blanket that he took and placed over Kevin as he slept.

All he wanted to do was watch some TV since he was wide awake but decided not to wake Howie and Kevin up. Instead he ventured back towards the bedroom to possibly catch up on some more sleep when he got the brilliant idea to surprise them all by making a huge breakfast. It was the least he could do to show his gratitude to them for letting him stay home.

He knew they had a dance rehearsal later in the morning so he would make a big breakfast for them before they left. Checking the clock he saw that it was 7am, he’d have to work fast before the alarm clock went off at 8.

Part of him wished he could stay home again today since he still wasn’t feeling totally himself but he also realized that would be pressing his luck. Nah he had to go to rehearsal today so why not make the most of it.

He went to work in the kitchen searching the cabinets for something he could make and smiled wide when he saw all the ingredients he’d need for French toast staring him in the face.

Everything was going well until it came time to make the bacon. He had soaked the bread in the egg batter just like he had seen his mother do more than once. Of course when his mother made French toast it very rarely fell apart like his was now. Maybe he was soaking it too long he wondered when moving the bread from the batter to the pan it fell apart and went sailing to the floor.

“Shit!” He growled but then quickly shut himself up glad to see neither Kevin nor Howie stirring from the noise.

He quickly squatted down on the floor to clean the batter up and in the process forgot about the bacon which he had thrown in one lump into a frying pan on high heat. Before he had time to realize what was happening the fire alarm went off as smoke from the overly hot bacon pan finally reached the ceiling.

Now in full on panic mode Nick reached over to shut off the stove only to accidentally touch the burning hot frying pan with his hand.

“AHHHH!!” He screamed at the top of his lungs.

Kevin sat bolt up right when he heard the yell and panicked when he heard the alarm. His fast movement made Howie roll over so fast he fell off the couch. He managed to get into the kitchen in two giant leaps to see Nick holding his hand and screaming in pain.

“What the hell happened?” Before Nick even had a chance to answer Kevin grabbed Nick’s hand and pulled him over to the sink putting the water on and plummeting his hand underneath the faucet. Howie, once he rolled off the couch came running into the room and shut off the burners on the stove top.

“Nick what the hell were you doing?”

“Cooking…owe…. crap it hurts”

“Well stop fidgeting and keep it under the faucet…Howie is there anyway to shut that stupid alarm off?”

“I am trying to get it” He was swiping at the alarm with a broom trying to knock the red button which he finally succeeded in doing.

Kevin pulled Nick’s hand out from under the water and looked it over, “We’ll put some aloe on it but I think you’ll be fine” He didn’t bother to let go of Nick’s arm as he walked towards the bathroom, pulling Nick along. “How the hell did they sleep through all of that?”

“I have no idea” Howie yawned putting the fan over the stove on and opening the windows to get rid of the smoke which was pretty thick in the kitchen.

“I mean the whole friggin house could have brunt down and they didn’t even come in to see what the hell was going on!” Once again Nick was being pulled behind Kevin as he sat him down at the table and opened up the aloe. “And what’s the one thing I asked you not to do Nick?”

“I was just trying to make you guys breakfast”

“That’s not what I asked”

“You told me not to burn down the house”

“Bingo! Very good…so mind telling me why my apartment is a smoky mess?”

“I was just trying to do something nice…that’s all, before we had to go to rehearsal this morning”

“We don’t have rehearsal it was cancelled since we worked our asses off last night”

“Oh” Kevin put down the aloe and grabbed a band aide. “I don’t think it’ll blister”

“I’m sorry Kev I really am”

“So what were you making? Bacon and eggs?” Kevin tried to calm himself down at this point more grateful that his house was still standing and that he didn’t have to call the Carter’s and explain that their eldest son spontaneously combusted, then actually angry about what had happened. Maybe the lack of sleep also helped.

“No actually it’s French toast”

“That’s bread?” Howie asked no longer able to hide his smile.

“Yeah, I think I soaked it too long” Howie cracked up at that, completely losing it to the point of crying.

“Don’t laugh at me” Nick said trying his hardest to keep a straight face.

Now Kevin was also laughing and the three of them burst into hysterics. “I can’t believe you”

“What? I honestly was just trying to be nice”

“Only you can take being nice and turn it into a five alarm fire” Once again more laughter.

“Are you okay?” Kevin finally asked after the laughter had died down. Nick nodded, “I am now that I have my Winnie the Pooh band aide.

“Nick, we’re still really tired so I know I’m heading back to sleep…you think you can manage to stay away from flammable things until we wake up again?”

“I’ll try…again I’m really sorry guys” Both Kevin and Howie hugged him, it was nice.

“I’ll have this kitchen cleaned up by the time you all wake up okay?”

“Okay…but how are you feeling? Better I take it?”

“A little bit better yes”

“Okay because you still feel a little warm there buddy”

“Yeah but I’ll live”

“Hopefully as long as you stay away from the oven” Howie said taking one last dig at Nick before going back to bed.

“Why don’t you go to sleep in the bedroom, Kevin you can have my bed”

Kevin reached over and tousled Nick’s hair, “Thanks lil man”

Once they both left for the bedroom Nick got to cleaning up the kitchen which took about three hours. By the time everyone else was awake, Nick was sound asleep on the living room floor in almost the same position Kevin had been earlier.
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