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Kevin woke up unaware of his surroundings and with a huge crick in his neck. He had forgotten that he ended up on the floor and it took a few minutes for him to remember why. The soft sound of snoring coming from his right made him smile. There was Nick sprawled out with one of his arms on Brian and the other on Kevin.



Slowly Kevin moved Nick’s arm and sat himself up once again rubbing at his neck. “Merry Christmas” He whispered to his two sleeping friends and once again to his family that were so far away from him today.



Glancing over at the clock he was unsure if it was too early to call home, “Only 7am? Damn I need to go back to sleep”



“You always wake up talking to yourself cousin?”



“Good morning Brian and Merry Christmas”



Brian sat up and yawned stretching his arms way over his head as Nick rolled over on his side at the sudden movement. “That was about the most uncomfortable night’s sleep I have ever had. Care to tell me why the heck we were sleeping out here in the first place?” He glanced down at Nick, “Although I have my suspicions”



“It’s a family tradition for him. I just thought it would be nice if we spent the night all of us together”



“Well I say next time we all sleep in a bed then” Brian stood up and ran into the bathroom. “Ah well guess going back to sleep is no longer an option” Kevin uttered to himself as he stood up and covered Nick as he lie there dead to the world.



He walked over to the window wishing he would see snow outside to greet him, which was sometimes the hardest part about not being home for the holidays. He loved running out in the snow first thing in the morning before the presents were unwrapped. In fact he would run into his big brother’s room and wake him up begging him to go sledding before mom woke up and ruined their fun.



Tim would roll his eyes and act all disgusted but Kevin knew deep down inside that his brother longed for that quality alone time with the baby of the family. They would go out and sled, make snow angels and then maybe have a small snowball fight until dad would yell at them to get back into the house before they caught pneumonia.



Even last year, now that the Richardsons were all grown men, they still went outside and had that snowball fight before presents were unwrapped.



Kevin suddenly found himself longing for his big brother Tim. He loved both his brothers equally but it was Tim he used to tag along with most. He idolized Tim and always said he wanted to be just like him in every way. Christmas was their time to bond and once Tim left the house it got so lonely. When Christmas rolled around with both Tim and Gerald back home everything felt so normal; even with dad gone.



“Whatcha thinking about?”



Kevin looked over at Brian and smiled, “Just home I guess”



“Yeah…me too. Think it’s too early to call them?”



“I’m sure my mom is up but I don’t want to wake the house up so maybe we should wait a little while longer”



“Good idea” Brian said sinking into a kitchen chair, “So what are you going to feed me?”



Kevin laughed, “Well I was thinking some bacon and eggs maybe?”



“Hey for kicks we could wake up Opie over there and have him cook for us, I’m bummed I missed the last time he attempted to cook”



“Opie?”



“Yeah…first thing that came to my head”



“Should we wake him up?” They both glanced over to the living room where the faintest hint of snoring could be heard.



“Nah let him sleep, I’m sure he’ll be bummed today. Poor little guy, his parents still haven’t called?”



Kevin shook his head as he took out the eggs and began to crack them, “I’m hoping they’ll call today”



“They better!” Just as he said that the phone rang waking the young blonde up as it did. Nick jumped up and ran over to the phone before Kevin could reach it.



“Hello?” He asked in anticipation and then a look of disappointment appeared on his face, “Oh…hi Mrs. Richardson…okay sorry about that….Anne…yes and thank you we’re looking forward to eating it today…Merry Christmas to you too…here’s Kevin” He handed the phone over to Kevin and then walked into the bathroom.



“Hi Mom”



“Merry Christmas baby”

“Same to you…I was going to call you but I thought it was too early”



“It actually is too early, I’m up making breakfast, you know the calm before the storm? And well, I had to call my baby first before things got too crazy. I wanted you all to myself and you know how it gets here it will be pass the phone along to everyone and I’ll hardly get a word in”



Kevin smiled and held the receiver close to his cheek, closing his eyes and trying to picture his mom standing in their kitchen with flour all over her hands from making her home made biscuits.



“I’m actually making breakfast too” He heard her smile; he just knew she would be at that statement. “You are?”



“Yeah I’m making us bacon and eggs”



“Kevin I’m so proud of you! Don’t burn the house down” Now he knew where he got it from.



“No worries mom”



“I know honey, I’m just teasing. Is Brian up and awake?”



“Yup he’s sitting here next to me”



“I know Jackie plans on calling him a little later. I told her I wanted my Kevin time first”



“Your Kevin time?” She laughed, “Yes my Kevin time”



“I miss you mom” Kevin said suddenly feeling all the longing for her creeping into his heart almost to the point of bursting into tears which he probably would have done if Brian and Nick weren’t around to see him become his mother’s baby.



“I miss you more but you know what?”



“What?”



“We’ll have many more Christmases to spend together. I’m willing to sacrifice this one” He wanted to speak the words aching in his heart at that moment. Wanted to mention to her that his own father could have said the very same thing to him and now he was gone. That nothing was certain, who for sure could say if they would have another Christmas. That was the paranoid little boy inside the man coming out, the one who wanted to jump through the phone and make snow angels with his brother. He didn’t say any of those things though; instead he just nodded and said a simple, “I love you.”



“I love you too honey, by the way how is our little boy doing? He sounded very excited when he answered the phone” Anne Richardson as well as Jackie Littrell had all but adopted the youngest member of the Backstreet Boys. They worried constantly about his well being which was probably one of the reasons their sons did as well.



“He probably thought you were going to be his parents”



“Have they called?”



“No, they haven’t” Kevin sighed and looked over to the still closed bathroom door.



“I called them Kevin but they didn’t pick up so I left a message. If they don’t call you give that boy some extra love and attention today okay? Remember he is still only a child”



“Yes I know mom and we will”



“I know you will because you’re my son and I raised you right” Kevin laughed.



“Okay well better go sweetie…give Brian a huge kiss from me”



“Um…I’ll pass” This time she laughed.



“Tell everyone I said I love them and Merry Christmas”



“Will do bye bye honey” He didn’t want to hang up the phone so he held it in his hand and stared at it for a minute.



“You okay?” He placed it back on the carol, “Yeah I’m okay Bri”



“Good because I’m still starving over here!”



“Last time I checked you did have two hands and two feet”



“Yes and I also have one hungry tummy what’s the point?” Kevin shook his head ignoring his cousin and walking over to the bathroom door, “Nicky…are you okay in there? Did you fall in or something?”



Within seconds of him asking, Kevin heard the toilet flush and out came a still sleepy and obviously very upset Nick. He tried not to show his disappointment and instead plastered on a smile. The smile that would one day make all the little girls swoon but the same one that the boys would read as fake.



“Merry Christmas!” He said walking over to Kevin and giving him a hug and then doing the same to Brian”



“Merry Christmas to you too Nick. Kevin is about to feed us!”



“Cool” He said taking a seat next to his friends. He let out a sigh which made Brian smile at him and ruffle his hair, “So were you happy that we slept out in the living room with ya last night?”



“Yup, thanks for doing that too”



“It wasn’t any problem, maybe for the old man over there though”



“Hey!” Brian and Nick laughed as Kevin just turned his head and ignored them, “So Nick did you check the bedroom?”



“Huh?”



“The bedroom, you said your parents would leave all of you something on your beds right?”



“I don’t have a bed here Kev”



“Well maybe Santa knew that and put a present for you on Howie’s bed”



Nick’s eyes lit up as he jumped up and ran into the bedroom, Kevin excitedly following. When he turned on the light he gasped when he saw a video game and sketch pad waiting for him on the bed. “Wow! Awesome!!!” He walked over and picked up the gifts and ran over and gave Kevin a hug”



“You didn’t think I would just give you some dumb box for Christmas right?”



“It wasn’t dumb cousin”



“I know… but it wasn’t exactly the most exciting gift in the world either…by the way, did you check your bed Bri?”



Nick moved out of the way so Brian could see a video game of his very own sitting there. “YAY I get more than a dumb box to!”



“Hey!”



“I’m just kidding….Wow you rock Kevin!”



“Can I get that on tape and play it back when you start bitching at me?”



“Seriously Kevin that was so nice of you. Thanks so much, I feel bad all I got you was crumby moth balls”



“Nick that was one of the most thoughtful presents anyone has ever given me. Besides my mom helped with the funding so you should thank her”



“Your mom rocks my world” Kevin laughed and went over and examined the gifts he had bought for the boys. “Yeah she rocks mine too”



His mom had placed in the letter just for him a $100 bill and told him to spend it on Brian and Nick since they would be missing home this year. She also slipped him a $50 all for himself.



He had planned on giving it to them in the morning but when Nick mentioned his family tradition he decided to wait until both guys were asleep and do it that way instead. “Now are we ready for food?”



Brian and Nick nodded examining each other’s presents as if they were five all over again. In that instance Kevin felt like maybe that was what he and Tim looked like on Christmas day. Looking at what each other had wondering who’s was better. That’s really when it kicked in for him, the love he felt for these guys, how yes even though Brian was his cousin, they were so much more. All five were brothers and he loved them all very much.



They spent the morning eating runny eggs and slightly burnt bacon while talking about which video games were the best. Kevin felt so out of the conversation but seeing how excited the boys were over the topic he still had to smile. This reminded him of home and the silly things they would talk about at the breakfast table.



They were sitting around the table playing a game of poker using Hershey’s kisses as chips when Howie walked in. It took the boys by surprise because Howie had no plans of returning so soon. “Howie D what are you doing here?” Nick said running over to him and giving him a hug. Howie stepped back a little surprised to see the young blonde in such good spirits.



“I thought I’d bring you guys back some food, actually my mom insisted”



“I thought you wouldn’t be back until tomorrow” Kevin said grabbing the huge bag Howie had in his hands from his friend and placed it on the table.



“I know but I kind of felt bad not being here with you guys besides my parent’s house gets insane when the whole family is back.”



“Aww admit it Howie, you just missed us!” Nick said as he opened the bag to see what kinds of goodies were inside. “You can’t honestly be hungry Nick. We just ate what my parent’s sent us less than an hour ago”



“My stomach knows no limit on Christmas Kevin, we are supposed to eat ourselves sick on the holidays remember?”

“Well there’s plenty of food in there plus a gift from my mom to you Nicky”



“Another gift jeez Nick you are getting spoiled rotten today” Brian kidded as Nick took out all of the food to get to the box on the bottom. Howie winked at Kevin who glanced over and smiled at him.



“She told me to tell you it’s nothing much but when she saw it she thought of you”



Nick nodded and ripped the beautifully gift wrapped box open. He pulled out a gold chain with a cross on it, “Wow this is awesome Howie!”



“I hope you like it” Nick walked over and grabbed Howie in a hug, “it’s really perfect thank you”



“Merry Christmas”



Suddenly Nick’s whole demeanor changed and he wiped away a few tears, “What’s wrong Nicky?” He turned away, “Nothing I think its allergies”



Brian, Kevin and Howie all looked from one to the other, “Nick it’s okay to cry”



“God you guys must think I’m nothing but an overgrown crybaby because it seems like all I’ve done since I’ve been here is cry. Sorry”



“It’s understandable little man, it’s the holidays and you miss home”



“You’ve all been so great to me, your parents have just been so…and my own family hasn’t even…” He sighed at a lose for words, “I am going to take a shower…thanks again Howie” Howie nodded and smiled at him.



“I didn’t mean to make him upset, he seemed so happy a few minutes ago”



“You didn’t do anything Howie, it’s his stupid family”



“When I told my mom that they haven’t even bothered to call she was sick with worry so she sent me out to buy Nick something special”



“I’m glad he has us” Brian said sticking a cookie in his mouth that Howie had brought from home.



“Me too” Kevin answered as he looked at the bathroom door once again after hearing the water turn on.

As always thanks for reading!
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