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Christmas Eve started off without a hitch. Everyone woke up on time and in the best of spirits. Kevin decided that he would not only buy Nick some things for Christmas but all the others as well. After all he was their big brother as Lou always drilled into him every chance he got. He didn’t mind it so much; in fact he kind of enjoyed it as long as he wasn’t being accused of things just because he was the oldest.



He got a kick out of being the one they all looked up to. So knowing that, he decided to be a good ‘brother’ and buy them all something special. Something that would bond them together. At first he tossed and turned during the night trying to come up with the perfect gift.



Matching shirts or sweaters would be too tacky. Hats would make AJ excited but Howie hated them. If everyone was a bit older he would’ve suggested getting all of them the same tattoos but then couldn’t help but smile at the thought of trying to explain to Denise and Jane why their kids looked like truck drivers.



Finally at around 2am he came up with the best idea, so he smiled and closed his eyes and went to sleep.



“What are we going to say about your eye?” Kevin looked over at Brian who was fussing with the very black eye Nick was given yesterday.



“Ouch! Don’t touch it doofus!”



“We’ll just tell them the truth I guess… and the make up people will have to do the best they can to cover it up” Kevin nodded at Howie who took in a deep breath and focused his gaze out the window.



“You’re nervous aren’t you D?”



“A little bit”



“Yeah me too” Kevin admitted biting on his bottom lip and fidgeting in his seat.



“Merry Christmas Eve by the way”



“Thanks and the same to you guys!” AJ said looking around the apartment for his sunglasses.



“Must you wear sunglasses for today’s performance J?”



“Johnny said it’ll give me my own look”



“Well I hope they don’t think that look is hey I’m retarded”



“Shut up munchkin!”



“How many times do I have to tell you not to call me munchkin?”



“I will call you munchkin until you are taller than me”



Nick rolled his eyes, “I’m not going to stay this short forever you know!”



“Well for now you are a munchkin” Nick and AJ started to play wrestle, “Guys quit it! They’ll be here any minute to come and get us”



“Kevin stop being such a party pooper”



“I believe that’s his job AJ” Brian winked at his cousin and laughed as the car horn beeped for them.



“This is it guys”



“I know”



They all grabbed onto each other’s hands and said a silent prayer before walking out the door to their gig. It all seemed to be going just as planned Kevin thought to himself as they walked out the door as brothers. A unit strong confident and sure.



That was going…coming back was a different story.



Kevin opened the door without saying one word to anyone, just came in walked over to the bedroom and shut the door. Howie walked in next, biting on his bottom lip and clearly unhappy about what had gone on earlier.



AJ went home with his mom so Brian and Nick were left bringing up the rear, both not saying one word as Nick gingerly closed the door behind him.



“You think he really means it?”



“I don’t know Nick”



“He can’t leave…if he leaves we won’t have a group”



Brian placed his hand around Nick’s back, “He won’t leave Nick, don’t worry”



Howie was sitting at the table still not saying anything to anyone; just sipping on some iced tea trying to collect his thoughts. Nick went over and sat across from Howie placing his head on the table like a lost little puppy dog. “Why didn’t they like us Howie?”



“I don’t know Nicky…it happens I guess”



“Do you really think Kevin is quitting?” Howie shrugged just as the door to the bedroom opened and out came Kevin carrying a suitcase.



“You’re not really quitting are you?” Kevin wanted to avoid this scene completely, still embarrassed by how unprofessional he had been in there. If he could have just left that room and never looked back he would have, not even to say goodbye to these people who he had referred to as brothers earlier on in the day.



“Yes I am lil man...sorry”



“But why?”



“Because it’s clear that this isn’t right for me”



“So just because they didn’t like us you’re throwing in the towel then? After all the hard work and everything we have been through?”



“Howie it’s more complicated than that”



“No it’s not, you’re just giving up!” Kevin rolled his eyes at Nick who was now standing up in front of him ready to grab the suitcase and bring it back into the bedroom.



“I didn’t expect you to understand”



“And why is that? Because I’m a kid?”



“Yes”



“Well even a ‘kid’ can tell when someone is just nothing more than a lousy quitter”



Kevin looked over at Brian, trying to ignore what Nick had just said, “Look, it’s nothing personal. I like all of you it’s just that, we aren’t going to get anywhere with this thing. Couldn’t you see that today? I mean he said we were wasting our time and theirs”



“So we just go somewhere else”



“Brian, I’m too old to do this”



“No you aren’t”



“I’m only two years younger than you Kevin”



Kevin was now getting angry, “Well it’s easy for you guys to stand there and tell me stay, it’s not you who they yell at whenever anything goes wrong!”



And that is exactly what had happened. The performance went relatively well but the trouble started when Johnny got a look at Nick’s eye.



“What the hell happened?” He had said grabbing a hold of Nick by the face to closely examine the damage.



“I fell”



“When were you going to tell me about this?” Johnny gave Kevin a venomous look, “This is going to make us look like a bunch if idiots”



“I’m sure the make up lady can fix it”



“Well I guess it’s too late to do anything about it now. You should have told me about this earlier” Kevin pushed himself away from his manager’s grip, “Sorry” He finally said after so many more colorful words ran through his mind. This was Christmas Eve and he was not going to let Johnny ruin it, besides he was uptight that was all. There was a lot riding on this performance.



So Nick got his make up done and after they were done with him, you could hardly tell he had a black eye.



They took their places on stage and after a few deep breaths and reassuring smiles at one another, they did their thing.



Not realizing what they would see after the lights went up.



They had been told over and over again how important this particular gig was ever since they had gotten news that home for the holidays was going to be just a meaningless phrase this year. The last thing they expected when the houselights came up was to see about 200 old people wearing reindeer antlers and swaying to the music.



It was up to Kevin to introduce the members of the band to the audience after the first song. To which he glared more than once at both Brian and Nick for cracking up when their backs were turned.



The older people all clapped and as they did their little antlers swayed back and forth. Kevin looked over at Johnny who nodded and then with his head motioned to a few men dressed very nicely standing in the back, standing out in the crowd like three sore thumbs.



“Hi there! We’re the Backstreet Boys and we’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas” He wasn’t sure what set if off. Maybe it was being overworked, maybe it was the lack of sleep or maybe it was all the adults in the room wearing reindeer antlers but he suddenly felt himself wanting to burst into laughter. Especially when they all answered “Merry Christmas” back to him in unison. He smiled and took a deep breath, “We’re going to sing a little song called Loverboy” To which one of the females in the audience wooed. Kevin laughed, he couldn’t help it but the second the music started he fell back into the routine.



The crowd loved them and gave them a standing ovation. The boys grabbed hands and bowed together. They sounded great. All their notes were in key, the dance moves were flawless and they were under the impression that they had given the performance of their lifetimes.



Until they got off the stage.



Johnny wasted no time in getting them into a room in the back and reaming into them about their performance. That’s when things got ugly.



“What the hell was that up there?” Once again he was directing all his comments and tirades to Kevin and no one else.



They all looked confused like the best day of their lives turned into the worst, “What do you mean? I thought we were great”



“Great? You call that great? You guys lost it up there. Your dance moves were forced looking, the singing was semi adequate and what the hell was up with laughing at your audience Kevin?”



“Did you SEE them? I hardly think they noticed”



“Yeah they loved us” Johnny now walked over to Nick who had made that last comment, “Oh yeah they loved you SO much they lasted for about three minutes before leaving”



“What do you mean?”



“Who cares about the old people guys, you were doing this for some record execs who I convinced to leave their families to come and hear you!”



“They only stayed for three minutes?”



“Yes Kevin and only because I all but blocked the door before Loverboy was over”



“I don’t understand, what didn’t they like about it” Brian looked crushed, which made Kevin even madder.



“They said you guys are too flat and you’re basically wasting your time”



“That’s harsh”



“It sounds harsh Howie but that’s show biz”



None of them knew what to say or do; all of them looked down at the floor, deflated and pretty much near tears but it was Kevin that actually lost it this time.



“Well then you know what? Screw it!”



“Excuse me?”



They were all surprised as he continued, “I said screw it, screw them and screw you too!” Kevin started walking away when Johnny grabbed him by the arm, “Don’t walk away from me when I am trying to talk to you kid!”



Kevin pushed Johnny away which made the other boys gasp, “And don’t call me a kid one minute and then make me responsible for everyone in this band the next minute! I am tired of all the rehearsing! I’m tired of not being able to go home for the holidays and most importantly I am sick to death of being treated like garbage by you and everyone else!”



“I am trying to help you!”



“No you are not! All you’re doing is making us feel like crap”



“If you want things sugar coated go try out for the Mickey Mouse Club! This is the real deal”



“Whatever I’m done with this!” Kevin shoved past Johnny and walked out the door. Ready to walk away from it all, go back home where he would be surrounded by the love and warmth of his family. He didn’t need this aggravation. He could just get a piddly job until something better came along.




“Kevin I know today was grim but….”



“Howie, come on you know as well as me that we are wasting our time”



“I don’t think we’re wasting our time” Kevin looked over at his cousin who had his arms wrapped around himself looking more like a grandpa ready to lecture then his baby cousin.



“You can’t leave us…I mean you’re supposed to be watching me” Now Nick had his hand on the suitcase that Kevin was carrying.



“Oh now I’m watching you huh? Before you almost had a cow when AJ said I was babysitting you”



“Please don’t leave…” Kevin sighed and looked at everyone, he was hoping all their heads would be down but actually they were all staring at him. He suddenly felt like a loser, a quitter, everything his father had engrained in him not to be.



“Just give it some more time Kevin…this was our first rejection, the guys were probably in a bad mood because we kept them from their holiday. Give it some more time”



“And we won’t let Johnny blame you for everything anymore…it’s usually all my fault anyways so we’ll just tell Johnny to yell at me”



Kevin smiled and ruffled Nick’s hair, “I’m sorry guys…I guess I just let them get the best of me”



“Does this mean no quitting for Kevin?” Howie asked winking, “Heh? Heh?”



“You’re such a dork Howie”



“So does that mean you’re back?”



“Yes I’m back” Nick ran over and literally jumped into Kevin’s arms. “Woohoo!!!”



“But I am going t go out for a little bit…okay? I need to go get some stuff”



“Oh yeah?” Nick made it so obvious he wanted a present it was almost funny. “Yeah, I need some underwear he said winking which made Nick stick his tongue out at his friend.



“You are coming back though right?” Before Kevin left he turned to his friends and nodded, “I’ll be back!”



“That was the worst Arnold impersonation ever cousin”



Kevin shook his head as he closed the door. Happy he had changed his mind and decided to stay.
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