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They sat around the table eating pepperoni pizza from Dominoes, deciding to leave The Littrell and Richardson family’s food for Christmas day. As they did they joked and laughed about everything under the sun. They talked about the stupidest movies they had ever seen and of course all the ones that made Kevin’s worst movies ever list Nick called classics and the ones Kevin named as classics Nick had never seen before.



How odd it was for Kevin to sometimes look at this young child and think of him as a co worker. He was almost ten years younger and they were just supposed to meld, like best buddies. He was blown away by that sometimes.



“Kevin look at this!” Funny how he turned away from those thoughts to see Nick trying to stick a breadstick up his nose, “I’m a walrus!!”



“Walruses don’t have fangs up their noses idiot!”



“Whatever Brian! Kevin your cousin is such a loser!”



“Yeah well at least I’m not trying to stick a breadstick up MY nose!”



“You should because it would fit!”



“Hey!” A carrot went flying across the table and promptly hit Nick in the face. All Kevin could think to do was shake his head at them both. “You are supposed to be a role model for that child and what do you do? You throw food across the table…way to go Brian your mom would be so proud!”



Kevin shut his eyes as a piece of lettuce came sailing at his face which made both Brian and Nick crack up. “Nice Brian…very ni…” Before he had time to finish a carrot sailed across at him and when he glanced over at this cousin he couldn’t help but laugh at the look on his face. Half devil… half angel but all Brian.



“Okay that’s it!” Kevin stood up which made Nick wince. He felt bad at the reaction he got, it kind of surprised him but then he quickly grabbed a breadstick and flung it at Brian who was so surprised by that reaction he fell off his chair to dodge it.



“Oh my God….that was the BEST!!!” Nick said with the most exasperated look on his face.



“What kid? I can have fun too!” Kevin then grabbed another breadstick and chucked it at Nick who was still so shocked he let it hit him in the forehead without even trying to duck from it.



That made Brian burst into hysterical laughter as Nick just stood there dumbfounded. “Kevin can actually be fun sometimes Nicky I told you”

“You did?” Kevin asked sounding surprised.



“Of course but you yell at him so much he hardly believed me”



“I don’t yell” Both younger boys grunted, “Much…I don’t yell much”



“Kevin come on…you are always yelling”



“No I’m not!” Now he was getting defensive. He sat back down after taking the stray vegetables and setting them in the garbage can. “I’m not a screamer Brian”



“No one said you were a screamer Kev….just a yeller”



“And what the heck is supposed to be the difference?”



“One is more naggier than the other” Kevin shook his head, “You mean one nags more than the other”



“See? That’s exactly it!”



“What’s exactly what?”



“You just corrected Nick” Kevin let out a huge sigh, “I only corrected him because he was wrong”



“That’s nagging Kev”



“No it’s not….telling him to constantly do this or do that is nagging”



“You do that too” Kevin looked over at Nick who had his shoulders slumped as he bit into a piece of pizza. “I don’t nag you Nick…I just...never mind, just eat up!”



“Sorry I didn’t mean to ruin the fun…you’re not a nagger Kevin” Brian stood up and walked over to his cousin. “Now what do you say? Give a little kiss sonny boy…” He said trying to imitate his grandmother.



“Brian I have said this before and I’ll say it again…you are NOT right in the head” But he still kissed his cousin on the cheek, “Not right at all”



“Well at least I’m not a nag”



“Hey!”



Luckily after that conversation, talk once again turned to happy things. They compared notes about past Christmases and how old they were when the truth about Santa was out of the bag. They talked about favorite presents and the most horrendous things they had ever gotten. Nick had won that prize hands down when he said one year his uncle gave him a pair of toe nail clippers. Brian talked about the time he almost burnt his house down when he got up extra early to bake cookies for Santa thinking the best way to do that would be by throwing a box of Chips Ahoy into the oven, which of course prompted Nick to come up with “You weren’t a very bright child were you?”



That was pretty funny too.



After dinner they wandered into the living room where eating some home made chocolate covered popcorn and peanuts they watched A Christmas Story AGAIN! And also threw in The Holy Grail which made next to no sense to Nick but he was given no choice in the matter since Kevin said it was one of the best movies ever and Nick had never seen it before.



Both Brian and Kevin had seen this so many times they even had some of the lines memorized and Nick looked on sometimes in horror as they shouted them at the screen cracking themselves up as they did it.



“You guys don’t get out very much do you?”



“Hush Nick this is the best part…watch for the rabbit” When the rabbit came out of the bushes and attacked the guard the cousins lost their minds and high fived which made Nick laugh right along with them even though the movie wasn’t holding his interest at all.



“You know we need to watch The Goonies now”



“I don’t think so Nick”



“Well that’s not fair! I mean I sat through your stupid movie”



“How can you call the Holy Grail stupid?”



“Because it was…now come on what about the Goonies?”



“But watching the Holy Grail is a tradition with our families Nick, we sit and watch it while our moms are preparing Christmas dinner”



“Really? Every year?”



“Yup every single year and that has happened since my father was little he used to watch with Kevin’s mom and the other cousins while THEIR moms used to cook”



“That’s kind of cool”



“Yeah I know”



“So no Goonies then?”



“No!” they both said at the same time. “That’s okay because I don’t have it anyway”



That conversation ended with a pillow fight and even more laughter. All three boys tried their best to keep the fact that they were so far away from home out of their minds and they did a good job until bed time.



Kevin found himself blue as he was doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen from their little food fight earlier. Nick had since fallen asleep on the couch and Brian headed into the bedroom after talking to his parents on the phone for almost an hour.



Being away from his family was so hard on the holidays; he was fine until they called him. Once that happened his mood changed and he went quiet which sparked him to go into the kitchen in the first place. They sounded happy enough, both brothers getting on the phone and assuring their youngest sibling that mom was in good hands, there was nothing to worry about and that he should just focus on himself and Brian as well as that little teeny one which was their collective nickname for Nick.



What he found himself being most surprised about is how jealous he suddenly became that they were having such a great time without him. He almost would have felt better if his brother had said Kevin you need to come home mom is crying under a table because she misses you so much. We can’t live without you so get on the next plane home before Christmas is ruined for everyone!



The fact that they were fine with his absence only signaled to him how long he had been away in the first place. It was now becoming routine for Kevin to be gone for the important holidays.



That’s what made him sad.



He felt so disconnected to the people he loved that he wanted to cry, but he didn’t. Instead he did the dishes and would occasionally sigh as he went along. Hoping this little funk he was in would pass. He did choose this life didn’t he? He could have backed out; in fact he almost did as early as today.



What made him come back? The fact that he couldn’t live without the life he was so anxious to avoid. He wanted the fame; he wanted the adulation from screaming fans. He also enjoyed having people who he cared about go through it with him. Sure he could have stayed in Kentucky and become a local celebrity. Made his way around the radio shows performed at every Wild Cats pre game show, possibly been on a few community cable programs but that wouldn’t have been enough.



He was living his dream right now and with that dream would come sacrifices but at least he wasn’t alone. He knew that no matter what there would always be four other guys feeling what he was feeling, going through the same exact things he was and how cool was it that one of them was actually his cousin?



By the time the pile of dirty dishes was clean, so was his spirit. He felt better, maybe that’s all he needed a small poor me session. Pity party for one as his dad used to call them when one of his sons was feeling sorry for himself.



He walked over to the living room to make sure that Nick had a blanket wrapped around him when he heard the smallest hint of sniffling. Seems like he wasn’t the only one having a pity party.



When Nick heard Kevin approaching he closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep but he was fooling nobody.



“Nicky…what’s wrong” Kevin decided not to put the light on and instead sat on the coffee table facing the supposedly sleeping form of Nick Carter. When Nick didn’t answer Kevin decided to press instead of leave which is what the moody Kevin from a few minutes ago, the one with the dirty dishes, would have done. “Come on Nick…I know you’re not sleeping you are a terrible actor. What’s wrong buddy?”



Nick sat up, “I thought they would have called” Kevin moved next to him then and nodded, of course he hadn’t realized that the Carter’s never even bothered to call their son today on Christmas Eve and not only Christmas Eve but a pivotal day of his career too.



When they had gotten back from the show from hell…there were three messages waiting for them; one from Brian’s family, one from Kevin’s mom and one from Howie’s brother but nothing for Nick.



Of course there was so much drama going on at the time that no one noticed, but of course Nicky did.



“They were just probably too busy to realize it Nick…I wouldn’t worry about it”



“Too busy to miss their son?” Kevin knew his mother had planned on calling Jane but he forgot to ask about it today in the midst of everything going on. He wanted to call her and yell at her himself and the father, what was wrong with these people?



“They miss you Nick, maybe they’re just waiting for tomorrow to give you a call”



“Yeah maybe” He said wiping his eyes with his shirt.



“You know how you guys were talking about traditions before? That gay movie we watched?”



“It wasn’t gay but you mean the Holy Grail?”

“Uh huh…well my family has a tradition too”



“Yeah? And what is that?”



“We’d all sleep in the living room together on Christmas Eve…at least all of the kids. I mean it made sense mom and dad would be setting up the presents in each of our rooms so they made us sleep together on the floor in the living room. We’d get our sleeping bags out and just kind of huddle together under the tree”



“So your parents didn’t put your presents under the tree?” He shook his head, “No, there would be too much fighting. Santa would leave us each a present in our rooms on our beds this way we knew it was for just us”



“That sounds like fun”



“It was” He frowned again and let out a sigh as another stream of sad tears fell down his face. “This would be the first year we don’t do it…well I’m sure they are still but not me”



Kevin wrapped his arm around the teeny one and smiled, “Well how about we wake Brian up and we all do that in here?”



“Yeah?” Nick smiled a little bit, “Yeah why not…you want me to do the honors of waking Brian up or would you like to do that?”



“Can I put his hand in warm water?”



“I won’t tell if you won’t tell” Kevin said winking at Nick who giggled and jumped up. “Cool!”



Kevin laughed, “Remember it’s late”



“I know…and Kev…thanks”



“Merry Christmas lil man! Now go get Brian and I’ll set things up in here” When Nick went to grab Brian thankfully leaving out the warm water, Kevin set to making the floor of the living room comfortable enough to spend the night on. He threw the couch cushions on the floor and lined them all around the pile of blankets he grabbed from the closet as well as Howie’s bed.



He wasn’t that excited to be sleeping on the floor as he was sure his cousin wouldn’t be either, but sometimes it’s all about sacrifice and if this was going to make the holidays a little easier on Nick than he was willing to do it.



About fifteen minutes after that conversation a very sleepy Brian with a major case of bed head came stumbling out of the bedroom carrying his pillow followed by a very happy Nick.

He plopped himself down on one side and Kevin on the other while Nick wiggled his way in the middle of the two of them.



“I can’t believe I gave up my nice comfortable bed to sleep on the floor with the two of you”



“Brian relax it’s for one night”



“You better not fart Nick or I swear I’m going to hurt you!”



“Hey Brian pull my finger!”



“Shut up”



Kevin smiled lying on his back as he closed his eyes listening to his two band mates arguing and laughing next to him. Making sure he kept his hands under the covers and away from any warm bowls of water that should happen to pop up in the middle of the night.



“I love you guys” He heard himself say which surprised the other two as they stopped long enough to say, “We love you too even though you’re a nag!”



Laughter was followed by a “Hey!”
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