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A muffled sound filled the stairs leading up to the apartment. At first it sounded like a whisper before turning into a full blown explosion of sound. The loud booming coming from Kevin as he opened the door in disgust, "That was a freaking waste of time!"

"Okay Kevin we get it... enough!" Brian said sitting down at the table and rolling his eyes as Nick ran past him and right for the bathroom.

"Again with the bathroom!" Kevin walked over to the door, "You know you wouldn't have to go to the bathroom every ten minutes if you hadn't been such a dumbass last night!"

"Shut up!"

"Don't tell me to shut up Nickolas! Of course your stomach is going to bother you after eating almost a quarter of a jar of peanut butter at 4 in the morning!"

"He had PB and J last night?" Brian asked amused. Kevin turned towards his cousin, "No that would have been semi normal, he had peanut butter right out of the jar! Just stuffing it into his face because he didn't have the common sense to make himself a bowl of cereal or something"

"Shut up!" Again coming from the bathroom.

"Is that why he kept going to the bathroom during rehearsal?" Again Brian seemed more amused then annoyed, which caused Kevin to grimace.

"Yes! And I don't think it's all that funny either. He totally kept messing up today between his bathroom runs to his sloppy footwork!" He made sure to say the last part especially loud so Nick could here. The toilet flushed and Nick came trouncing out staring up at Kevin, "I didn't mess up on purpose besides you were messing up too!" He walked away and mumbled, "You think you are so perfect? please!"

"Excuse me? What did you just say?" Nick turned around, "I said i'm going to go play video games"

"No you are NOT" Brian watched the heated exchange in a mixture of wonder and amusement.

"What?"

"I said no, you are going to go into that bedroom and take a nap. Do us all a favor!"

Nick cackled, "Are you actually telling me to go take a nap like I am some three year old?"

"Yeah...I am" Now Kevin approached him which sent Nick taking a few steps back. Seeing Nick shy away from him he softened up a little bit, sorry to see that reaction, "Nick, I just know you are tired. You were making SO many stupid mistakes we barely were able to get anything done at all!"

"I am just a huge fuck up!" He growled

"Nice mouth and no i'm not saying that"

"Yeah you just did!"

"Nick I..." Before he could finish Nick walked into the bedroom and slammed the door.

"If he stays here much longer we are going to have to replace the hinges on those doors" Brian said in a half laugh. Kevin turned towards his cousin, "It's not funny Brian!"

"I kind of think it is! You know we should sell tickets and rent a steel cage"

"He made a fool of us today" Then suddenly Brian's tone got more serious, "No he didn't. We all make mistakes Kevin. He's not perfect and he was right you were screwing up too"

"I know but..."

"No one seemed to be mad at him for it but you, even Fatima wasn't annoyed, she was more annoyed with AJ for disappearing with her assistant then she was at Nick for messing up. You're too hard on him Kev"

He sat down across from his cousin, "I have bad news Brian"

"What?"

"We can't go home for Christmas this year" He had wanted to break the news to Brian at a different time maybe over dinner and a movie. Just the two of them, but the news seemed to want to come out now. He watched as Brian sat in silence letting what he said sink in. "Oh" He finally said after a few minutes.

"Yeah...I didn't know either. Jane told me yesterday when she dropped Nick off"

"She knew?"

"Yeah I guess Lou told her"

"Does Howie and AJ know?" He looked back to Brian and nodded, "Howie does but i'm not sure about J"

"That really sucks Kev, I wanted to go home. I haven't been home in forever"

"I know...me too"

"I've almost forgotten what my bedroom looks like" All Kevin could do was nod feeling the same way as Brian. He longed to go home. He missed everything about it, maybe that's why he was being so hard on the kid. Maybe he was just angry at the world?

"Mom is going to be so sad Kevin. She kept talking about how good it will be to see us. did you tell your Mom yet?"

"No not yet Bri...I was going to call her today but thought I should tell you first"

Now his cousin sat quiet, the smile gone from his face, "Maybe i'll take a nap too" He got up and made his way into the bedroom just as Howie walked in, "Brian...Nicky... Denise is here to take you guys to your tutors" Brian turned around and sighed, "Guess naptime will have to wait"

"I'm really sorry Brian. I didn't mean to bum you out" Brian smiled and walked past Howie and down the steps.

"What was that all about?" Howie asked confused about Brian's untypical unhappiness.

"I just told him about Christmas"

"Oh...well where's Nicky?"

"Pouting" That made Howie smile as he opened the door to the bedroom and poked his head in. "Nicky?"

"Go away!"

"You have to go to your tutor. Denise is outside waiting for you"

He walked out of the bedroom and glared at Kevin, "Good at least I will be out of your hair and fucking up for someone else now!"

"Nick the language! tone it down" Howie said smiling and embarassed.

Nick ignored Howie and made his way over to the living room where he had his backpack, "I don't know why I even bother with this crap. it's not like I'm going to graduate or anything. I'm too stupid for that aren't I Kevin?"

"Nick enough! I never once said you were stupid!"

"The night's still young...bye D see ya later" He said before slamming the front door and running down the steps just as Denise honked for him to hurry.

"Should I even ask what that was all about?" Howie said sitting across from Kevin.

"Did Fatima say anything about rehearsal to you Howie?"

"Nope just that maybe tomorrow will be a better day"

"I am having a feeling we'll catch hell about it from Johnnie or Lou"

"It wasn't that bad Kevin. You worry too much" He had heard that statement his whole entire life. Long before he even met these people. It was a known fact that Kevin Richardson worried about every little thing.

All the time!

He tended to worry so much about the smallest of things he would get his mom and dad all worked up.

"Maybe you're right, I just felt like we were getting glares from management everytime Nick made a mistake or excused himself to go to the bathroom"

Howie stood up and walked into the living room, "I didn't notice. In fact..." He stopped and bit on his bottom lip which meant he was about to say something he didn't want to.

"The only time I saw them glare was when you made a mistake" Now Kevin was fully on the defensive, "Whatever D! I'm going to take a shower" He left abruptly leaving Howie shrugging at his mood.

He hated when he felt like this. Usually a good run or session at the gym would help to clear his mind but nowadays he was so tired after rehearsing the last thing he wanted to do was journey to the gym so he figured maybe a nice hot shower would help.

He locked the door and turned on the water just sitting on the toilet and throwing his head back. He was a perfectionist which kind of went along with being a worry wart. If things weren't perfect it threw him for a loop.

His brother reminded him of that the last conversation they had together.

"You know Kev what did you expect you guys are just starting out"

Kevin grabbed the phone cord and closed the bathroom door this way Howie wouldn't here him talking, "I know but God these kids make so many mistakes and now they are saying we can't handle just being a quartet and need a fifth person. They are thinking even younger than Nick possibly...maybe I should get out now before it gets out of hand"

"Kevin you aren't a quitter. Dad didn't raise us to be quitters! Right now things are up in the air but they'll settle down you'll see"

"But what if they don't? I mean you have to see this kid. He acts like he is in daycare" Tim laughed.

"Seriously Tim, I am really out of my league here!"

"You really think they'll go younger?"

"I don't know. I think the only reason they wouldn't is because then they'd have to deal with another stage mom"

"Well Kevin the choice is yours you're 22 and dad isn't around so i'm going to make this easy on you kid okay?"

"Okay" Kevin smiled, he enjoyed Tim's advice. He had a great bond with both of his brothers but Tim seemed to understand him a bit better then Jerald.

"I am saying you have to stay there! Give it at least another month or so and then if things don't get any better maybe we'll re-evaluate"

"Since when do you make these decisions?"

"Since you asked!" Kevin rolled his eyes but nodded in agreement. He wasn't a quitter.


He wasn't sure how long he was in the bathroom but he did make sure he took a nice long shower which turned into a sauna while he sat there letting the heat of the room all misty, calm him down and relax his tired muscles.

By the time he got out of the bathroom, the apartment was vacated. Howie leaving a note saying he was going to visit his mom and staying there for dinner.

Mom...he decided to make that call he had been avoiding since yesterday. He sat in his towel on the bed and dialed his mom's house. She picked up after the third ring sounding rushed until she heard her son's voice on the other end of the line.

They talked for a little while before Kevin actually got to the main reason for his call. He gulped a few times and told her about Christmas. She sounded disappointed but quickly masked those feelings and instead congratulated him on the gig. She had a way of making everything negative into a positive. A trait he wished he inherited from her.

Before they hung up the phone he made sure to tell her he loved her and to please let Brian's parents know about the change in plans. She joked that she was always left with the dirty work and then the phone call was over and done with. Leaving Kevin relieved but still unhappy. He placed his head on the table when peace and quiet was over.

In walked Brian followed by Nick who didn't say two words before going into the bedroom to resume his sulking.

"Do you run around the apartment naked or something while we're not here?"

Kevin had no clue what the question was about until he realized he was sitting there in just his towel. "Yes Brian how did you ever guess?" He stood up, "I would like to go get dressed but i'm afriad if I go in there he'll attack me or something"

"He's in a mood today"

"No really? I would have never guessed! Boy you really are a master of the obvious today B"

"Well excuse me but it's YOUR fault he's so pissy"

Kevin opened the door to the bedroom where Nick was sitting on Brian's bed with one of his text books propped open, a move which kind of surprised the oldest band member.

Nick turned to face the wall when Kevin walked in, "What are you doing buddy?" He asked in the most calming voice he could muster.

"Studying for this stupid history test that I am going to fail because I suck at everything"

As much as Kevin just wanted to say okie dokie well have at it, grab his clothes and run the hell out of there, he stopped himself. "Nick you shouldn't be so hard on yourself"

"I know...that's your job!" Ouch!

"Okay I guess I deserved that" He said now sititng on the bed next to the angry teen.

"Kev, i'm kind of busy here"

"I just wanted to apologize for earlier. I didn't mean to yell at you"

"And tell me to take a freaking nap?" Now Kevin's patience was waning, "Yes and telling you take a nap"

"Okay thanks" Nick said still buried in his text book.

"People make mistakes it's natural. I didn't mean to take everything out on you"

When he failed to get anymore of a reaction out of Nick he stood up and grabbed his clothes. As he was leaving he heard Nick say to himself, "You were right, I am a total loser" He chose to ignore it for now anyway. Parenting time was over as far as he was concerned. Maybe later on tonight they would have a Walton's moment. For now he wanted to just go hang out with guys his age.
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