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Kevin had the nicest dream that night. He was sitting in a boat on a lake fishing with his father, something he had done often as a way to bond as father and son do. They were talking and laughing about random silly things. That’s when Jerald turned to his son, placed a loving hand on his shoulder and told him how proud he was of him.



Kevin told his father all about Lou and how hard he was being worked and that he sometimes wanted to quit but his dad said never give up on your dreams. They embraced and then just like that he was gone.



The entire time it was happening, Kevin knew it was only a dream yet when the first stream of light broke through the window, he didn’t want to open his eyes. He finally did though, to see it was only 5 A.M.



He sat up and rubbed at his achy back, his legs still felt like rubber from the workout the day before and he wasn’t sure if he had it in him to put in another day like that one. Wanting so badly to fall asleep again he closed his eyes hoping he would find himself in that boat with his father smiling next to him, yet he only saw black. So he forced himself to get up and at least go the bathroom, maybe take a shower before anyone else, enjoy some quiet time.



Kevin stepped into the kitchen and sighed, he missed his family so much. He realized it was all part of growing up, moving away from home and getting a place of your very own but on days like this, he would have killed to wake up to his mom’s smiling face in the kitchen.



“Damn, I forgot to call her.” He muttered to himself when he realized that in all the excitement he never did make that call home to his mom.



“Call who?” Kevin’s eyes shot over to the couch where he saw the sleepy blonde head of Nick Carter sit up and rub at his eyes.



“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to wake you.” Kevin said making his way over to the living room and plopping on the recliner.



“You didn’t, I was already awake. I couldn’t sleep.”



“How’s the leg?”



“It’s sore, I was hoping the swelling would have gone down by now.”



“You want some more ice?”



“No it’s okay.”



“So how come you didn’t sleep? You know you’ll be exhausted today.”



“I know.” Nick adjusted and pulled himself to a sitting position with his bad leg still on the couch while the other one dangled off the side.



Kevin smiled at his baby brother well at least that is what he felt like. It was the first time he had thought about Nick like that, as his baby brother. “Are you hungry?”



“No, I’m really nervous about today. I am afraid Lou is going to scream at me or even worse, that maybe he screamed at my mom and kicked me out of the group.”



“Don’t worry about that Nick, I’m sure he will understand and he’d never kick you out of the group. We wouldn’t let him.”



“I just worry; I mean my family is counting on me to support them you know?”



It blew Kevin away, the things that Nick thought about sometimes, the things he was forced to think about. How a family could put so much on a child’s plate sickened him. Kevin moved from the comfy recliner to the couch to sit closer to Nick, he knew the kid needed a hug, that was one thing he had figured out by now, Nick always needed a hug. So he sat down next to the blonde and grabbed him into a hug, taking Nick by surprise.



“What was that for?” Nick asked pulling away.



“Just seemed like something you needed.”



“I did and thanks, Kevin?”



“Yeah buddy?”



“When my mom comes and gets me tomorrow, can I tell her I’m staying with you instead?”



That melted Kevin’s heart, he took a deep breath and smiled down at Nick who of course was now leaning against him, “I thought you couldn’t wait to go home.”



“I know, but this kind of feels like home.”



“I’m glad you think so, at first I thought you were going to hate it here.”



Nick laughed, “At first I DID hate it here.”



“Yeah I know.”



“But it wasn’t anything personal; I just didn’t want to be left behind. I wish they wouldn’t always do that to me you know?”



“I know and you can stay with us whenever you want okay? I’m glad this feels like a second home to you.”



“I didn’t say second home Kev…I said home. Nowadays my home doesn’t really feel like a home at all. It’s weird; I wish I could explain it. Things are changing that’s all I guess.”



Kevin reached down and pet Nick’s head as if he were a dog, “I’m sorry buddy, but maybe this change is a good thing. Anyway, you can always call this your home okay?”



“Thanks Kevin, so I can stay then?”



Kevin was hoping that Nick wasn’t being serious about the staying part, that maybe the teen had said that without thinking, like he had said so many things without thinking about them. Of course he couldn’t stay longer, and it’s not that Kevin didn’t want him around, just that there was a lot of responsibility that came with watching after the youngest Backstreet Boy. He needed a break, but he didn’t want Nick to feel like it was a rejection.



Something else that Kevin realized about the kid was how easily he was hurt. Maybe at first he confused Nick’s feelings with just being a spoiled brat but after spending so much time with him, now there was no doubt in his mind, Nick was NOT spoiled. Both Kevin and Brian were far more spoiled than Nick could ever be. In fact all of the guys minus Nick usually got whatever they wanted.



“Buddy, as much as I’d love for you to stay around…”



Nick nodded, “It’s okay Kevin. I know I’m a pain, you guys will probably throw a party when I walk out the door.”



“Don’t worry…it won’t be a big party.”



“You’re such a big jerk!” Nick laughed as he leaned his head into Kevin’s shoulder.



“Seriously little man, I’ve enjoyed you being here and so has Brian and Howie, but you haven’t been home in a long time. I know once you see your mom and dad you’ll forget you even asked to stay longer.”



“I hope you’re right.” Nick replied opening his mouth and letting out a big yawn.



“I’m always right…gosh haven’t you learned that by now?”



They both chuckled and soon fell asleep in their positions on the couch.



~*~*~*~*~




It was a wet Howie who woke them up about three hours later with the smell of coffee and cologne in the air as well as the sound of the shower water in the bathroom. He pat Kevin’s shoulder lightly a few times and gently whispered in his ear, “Kev….you awake?”



When Kevin opened his eyes he felt disoriented for a second until he felt the warm body of Nick snuggled up next to him.



“Was everything all right last night?” Howie asked curiously, his eyes shifting from Kevin to Nick.



“Yeah, I couldn’t sleep and neither could he. I guess we both dozed off.”



“His ankle still looks swollen.” Howie responded looking down at Nick’s leg.



“Yeah, I hope Lou doesn’t give us a hard time. He was up all night worrying about that, he’s afraid he’s going to get fired.”



Kevin moved Nick off of him so he could stand up, deciding to let the child sleep for just a few more minutes while he got his coffee.



“Brian?”



“In the shower, can’t you hear him singing at the top of his lungs?” Sure enough on second listen there was Brian belting out the Rainbow Connection singing as Kermit the Frog.



“That child is NOT right in the head, I swear to God he was dropped or something.”



“I should count how many times you say that about your cousin on any given day.”



“Can you count that high D?”



“Hey!” Howie handed Kevin a cup of steaming hot coffee as he sat down at the table, “I’m still sore from yesterday what about you?”



“A bit, I guess it’ll be something that we’ll get used to.” Kevin lied, really not believing he would ever get used to the hard schedule they seemed to face daily.



“I hope so…” Howie blew on his coffee a few times before glancing back in Nick’s direction, “So you think we should wake him? I feel so bad having to force him to wake up knowing he hasn’t slept all night, he’s just a kid.”



“He asked me if he could stay with us when his parents came to get him.”



“Really”



Kevin nodded, “Yup, his parent’s suck D. It doesn’t seem fair.”



“I know what you mean, but you said no right?” Kevin laughed.



“I said he wouldn’t want to once he saw his parents.”



“I told you…”



Kevin glanced over at Howie, “You told me what?”



“That you were going to get attached to Nicky, remember at first how you were on the fence about him? I told you once you spent a lot of time with him you can’t help but start getting attached.”



“Yeah you did say that.”



The bathroom door opened and one wet Brian stepped out, steam cascading into the kitchen along with him, “Cool! Look guys, I come with my own special effects!”



“Not right, that boy is not right.”



“That was twice already.”



“Why are we counting and where is the munchkin?” Brian said sitting down at the kitchen table and grabbing the cereal that until then had remained untouched.



“He’s still sleeping.”



“Shouldn’t he not be?”



“Yeah, let me go wake him up.” Kevin said standing up and walking back towards the softly snoring Nick.



He squatted down and gently tapped Nick as he quietly stirred and then opened his eyes, “Hey little man, time to get up.”



“I fell asleep?”



“Yup, we both did.”



Nick sat up and rubbed his eyes, “Oh, wow I’m really tired and I have a headache,” He said in his all familiar whiny voice that usually came with lack of sleep.



“Hey Waldo come and eat some breakfast….how’s the leg?” Brian shouted from the table holding his spoon in a salute to his young friend.



“Waldo?”



Kevin shook his head, “Don’t mind him Nick he’s not right in the head.”



“That’s three.” Kevin laughed at Howie as he counted while reading the paper.



“What if he makes me dance?”



“He won’t make you dance.”



“But what if he does?”



“He won’t, I won’t let him. Haven’t you figured that out by now Nick?”



“I have a headache.”



“I know I heard you the first time, come to the table and I’ll give you some more aspirin okay?”



“Okay.”



“Think you can walk on it or do you want a ride?”



“Take the ride Nick, why walk when you don’t have to? If I had a man servant offering, I would ride whenever I got the chance.”



Nick laughed at Brian while Kevin shook his head, “I guess that means you’re hopping on right?”



“Right.” Kevin turned and offered his back to his young friend who happily climbed on as they made their way to the kitchen table.



~*~*~*~*~*




Rehearsal was a little better that day then the last one, Lou was in a much better mood despite the injury that Nick suffered. Jane had indeed called and told Lou that she would prefer her son not participating in the dance rehearsals that day but if he absolutely needed to he could. That did nothing but further disgust all the guys and hurt Nick, making him feel like garbage, but luckily, Lou never made him dance.



He did however remind Nick almost every single time he stepped into the room, that it hurt the group as a unit whenever one of them was unable to perform. He was a real jerk, that Lou, in hindsight, how the guys hadn’t picked it up sooner remained a mystery to them.



Kevin was tired, hot and sweaty by their fifteen minute lunch break, yes only fifteen. He used that time to make sure the others were eating and drinking enough liquids almost forgetting to do the same for himself.



When did he become so responsible? He wondered as he stared at himself in the bathroom mirror before going out to start the second half of their day. He felt himself becoming a man, taking on the same kinds of responsibilities his father did. Taking a minute to remember the dream he had in the morning, which felt like eons ago, how his dad had told him he was proud. “I hope you are proud of me dad.” He whispered before going back out into the dance hall.



The second half of the day was less strenuous for them since they spent it in the studio recording what they hoped would get them signed. Because there was no moving involved, Nick was able to actively participate so the sad cloud that was hanging over him disappeared for the rest of the afternoon thankfully.



They sang three different songs, none of which Kevin was overly excited about. He thought they were a bit babyish and weren’t of the best quality but Lou knew best so he wasn’t about to open his mouth. There would be time for that later.



AJ, who had been pouting from missing out on all the excitement, asked if he could spend the night over at the guy’s place. Poor kid felt left out, since the four of them were bonding and he was stuck at home.



“Why not? The more the merrier,” Kevin had said as they made their way back to his place carrying a pot of spaghetti and meatballs that Denise made for them all. She often sent food along with AJ for the rest of the boys, like a den mother as Kevin’s mom always called her.



This time Howie carried Nick up the steps on his back, as they entered the dark apartment. “I hope you guys are hungry my mom made enough food to feed an army.” AJ said staring at the huge pot Kevin was holding.



“Well we are the Backstreet army,” Brian said grabbing the pot out of his cousin’s hands and placing it on the stove top.



“Hey for fun maybe we should have Nicky cook, remember how he almost burned down the place on one of his first days here?”



“Gee, thanks for reminding them Bri.” Nick said rolling his eyes at his friend as he gingerly made his way off of Howie’s back.



“Aw come here you,” Brian said walking over and picking Nick up over his shoulders making the young blonde giggle himself silly.



Howie laughed as he passed plates to AJ to set the table, they were all acting like a family, one big happy family that was interrupted by a knock on the door.



“I’ll get it!” Brian said still holding a struggling Nick over his shoulder.



“Let me down.”



“Say uncle.”



“No!”



“Then perched on my shoulder you shall stay just like a little parrot! I will call you Polly!”



Nick was still laughing as another knock was heard, this time a little harder and less patient.



“Guys stop fooling around and get that!” Kevin scolded as he started to pour the food into the plates.



“Okay fine, it’s probably someone trying to sell us something, hey maybe we can trade. We’ll give them Nick and take a new vacuum or whatever it is he tries to sell us.”



“What if he isn’t selling anything?” Nick asked still almost upside down on Brian’s shoulder.



“Then I guess we just give him you for free.”



“Hey!”



Brian laughed as he finally opened the door, almost dropping Nick when he saw who was standing on the other side, “Mrs. Carter…hello.”

Hey guys! Sorry about the lack of updates on this one but to make up for it i'll be back on Wednesday with another chapter which means if you are a Serve and Protect reader, no update this week. Sorry Backstreet high and serial killers/kidnapped kids don't mix very well lmao. See ya Wednesday with the last Apartment chapter *sobs* and as always thanks for the reviews!
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