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I fidgeted under my Mother's scrutiny, as she looked every inch of me over, making sure I looked perfect for our big appearance on TRL. It didn't feel right being here without the other's. At least Kevin was in the studio.

"Hold still" She grabbed my chin and actually licked her fingers and let her slobber make contact with my hair, "Aw Mom that's totally disgusting!" I couldn't believe she just did that, under the amused eyes of the MTV make up people. How embarrassing.

"Sorry you just had a fly away honey. I was fixing it. Now it looks good to go"

I batted her hand away. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Kevin smirking at me, "It's not funny Kev"

"Yeah it is squirt" I rolled my eyes at him but he still seemed pretty amused, "You ready to go out there?"

"Of course he is Kevin, he's a natural performer aren't you baby?" I tried to make my Mom shut up. That's why Kevin and the other guys didn't like her. She was a control freak. Funny that Kevin wouldn't like a control freak since he had a lot of control freakish issues himself, but the way my Mom acted, made it seem like she was this selfish stage Mom when I knew it was only to mask her true feelings of failure at not giving me a better life as a child.

Kevin ignored my Mom and asked me again, "Are you ready to go out there?" Mom got disgusted and walked out of the room. My eyes focused on her back as she left, she was annoyed and hated the fact that Kevin came with me. I know she did. It's weird to say, but I think the reason my Mom didn't like Kevin was because she was jealous of him.

Over the years, I found myself going to him more then her for advice or consoling. He was the one that was there for me, well him and the others but for some reason, maybe because he was the oldest, Mom seemed to resent Kevin the most.

"I wish it was Carson out there, at least him I know, Puff Daddy? I have no clue"

"You'll be find lil man"

"What if I accidentally call him Puffer Fish or something stupid like that?" The make up people thought that was pretty funny, "You know, now that you said that it will probably happen"

"Why can't rappers just have normal names? It would make my life so much easier"

"Yeah Nick, that's why they use those rapper names, to make YOUR life more difficult"

Kevin bat me on the head, but I was still anxious. I hated going on television. I know I am a total ham and love the spotlight but I have also been told by more than one person that I come across as a little dim witted when I speak in public. Damn nerves. I had just gotten so used to all of them doing the talking that having to go out there without them, made me triple nervous.

Kevin put a calming hand on my shoulder, "You will do fine, just let your Mom do most of the talking" I nodded.

"I need to go downstairs for a meeting about our next appearance, but good luck, I'll be watching"

"Okay, hey Kev, are you coming to Virgin with us after we're done?"

"Why? Are you going there?"

"Mom thought it would be a good idea to have us drop by there when we were done. Besides I wouldn't mind going to buy some things"

He tried not to look annoyed that it was my Mom's idea but I could tell he was. "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea"


After Kevin left the room my Mom came back in, she sat down and stared at me while I fidgeted under her gaze. I absolutely hated when she did that to me. I wasn't gonna give in this time. I wasn't gonna let her get to me, "What?!?" I finally said after two minutes.

She smiled, "You look great kiddo. You ready to do this?"

"Yeah, Mom are you mad at me?"

She walked over and hugged me, "No, why would I be mad at you?"

"I don't know, you always seem mad at me" She pulled away from me and became cold once again, "Let's not start again okay?"

"Okay, sorry. I was just asking" There was a time when my Mother was my best friend. After my dad and brother abandoned us, as she likes to say, she went through a period of time where she ignored me, but after she met and married Bob, her and I became inseparable. I was a mommas boy. Those were good days. Rare and short, but good.

"We are ready for you" The producer said ushering us down the hall and towards the studio where screams of teenage girls could be heard echoing down the hallways.

Mike shifted from one foot to the other as the day wore on. This was the worst part about retail. Having to stand for 8 hours straight. It got old after about the 4th hour. By the 7th, which is where he was now, it became almost unbearable. He supposed he would get used to it in time, but for now his feet were beginning to tingle with the feel of pins and needles. "God, I wonder if small third world countries use this as a form of torture?"

Melinda laughed, "Use what?"

"The standing for 8 hours at a time"

"Who knows? Throw in some crappy music and you have your own private hell" Mike laughed as he leaned against the counter, trying to give his aching feet a rest. "Hey, at least you only have one more hour of this. I still have four to go" she said pointing to the clock.

"I did my time, time for you to do yours" He smirked at her. He loved to flirt, he figured it was one of the only things he was any good at. His father had told him more than once, that it was a gift from God.

Melinda ventured over to the window, "Uh oh here they come" She said as she saw a shift in the crowd as they started to head to Virgin, "This is the fun part"

The shift manager came over to the two of them plus called over the other ten people working in the section for a small meeting by the registers, "I just wanted to let you know, that Nick Carter and Kevin Richardson are making there way into the store" There was a mixed bag of groans and shrieks of excitement, depending on the gender and age of the worker. "So, it's gonna get a little crazy up here in a few minutes. They are going to close off this part of the store so the two of them can shop which will leave us with the job of making sure no stray fans make their way over there to bother them" Then she quickly started to bark orders to everyone, the lucky girls who were assigned to help Kevin and Nick shouted with glee, while Melinda and Mike were stuck with register duty.

"You guys are lucky, you will definitely get to meet them" One of the girls from the pop section said. "Yeah lucky us" Melinda said sarcastically sticking up her middle finger at the Backstreet Boys display in the middle of the floor.

Mike laughed, she cracked him up. He wanted to ask her if she was dating anybody but he didn't want it to seem like he was totally into her yet anyway. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a hurricane coming through the store. All you heard was a shrill high pitched scream. It sounded like the world's loudest fire alarm. Mike grimaced, "God! Why the hell are they screaming like that?"

"I have no idea but if they don't stop I'm gonna go down there and personally start kicking some ass"

The screaming went on for about twenty minutes never subsiding as the two boy band members signed autographs. The manager came over, "Okay showtime people, here they come and remember we kiss there asses okay?" Melinda and Mike looked at each other in disgust as the two boys, three body guards and at least fifteen other people followed them up the escalator and into the pop/rock section of the store. Mike was entranced by the scene, picturing himself in this scenario. Or trying to anyway. His dad laughed at his dreams, never once allowing him to try performing or encouraging him in any way.

His eyes watched a the two stars walked with their own personal posse's through the store piling CDs into their carts like they were shopping at a dollar store. Occasionally they would stop and pose for a picture with a store employee and sign an autograph here or there, but for the most part, all they did was shop.

"It must be nice to have that much money huh?" He looked over at Melinda when she didn't reply and smiled when he saw her unfazed and flipping through Circus magazine. "Money is the root of all evil Mikey" She said snapping her gum as she flipped the page.

"I guess" He noticed the boys were now making their way over to the registers only to be stopped by a group of teenagers who had managed to elude security and make their way onto the floor. "Looks like there is trouble a brewing" That made Melinda finally look up to notice the sudden huddle of screaming, crying fans around the two boys.

The crowd was making them shift back and forth and at one point Mike was sure they were going down. It was the first time he actually got a close up look at them both too. The brunette seemed to be handling his own, smiling at the teenagers as they shrieked his name but the other one was much more quiet and looked absolutely terrified. Afraid the crowd would swallow him whole in one gulp.

"He's really young" Mike said now leaning on the front counter willing his numb feet to stop tingling on him.

"Yeah I think he's like five or something"

"Who would do that to their child? Put them in show business at that age?"

"The same kind of person who would write a book about him and collect money off of his fame"

"Is that right?" Melinda nodded. "yup, that's why they were on TRL. The Mom wrote a book"

"That's awful"

"Tell me about it. I think she should be shot" Mike laughed, "Is she in here?"

"How the hell am I supposed to know?"

"I think you are a closet fan" She stuck out her middle finger at him, but he knew he was right. She knew a little too much otherwise.

The crowd was finally broken apart with the girls being led back down the stairs crying as they were literally carried away, their arms extended crying out "Nick!" and "Kevin!"

"Okay looks like we're up" She said as she placed her magazine behind the counter and smiled at the guys walking towards them. Kevin went to her register while Nick went to Mike's.

Mike did a double take when he saw how full the cart was in front of him. He didn't think any one person could own so many CDs. Was he even going to listen to all of these?

He glanced at the pop star for the first time, noticing although he was a little older then five, he was still definitely a teenager. Mike smiled at him and noticed the blonde fidgeting and biting his bottom lip. "Guess you like Nirvana huh?" Mike tried to strike up conversation with him, like he would anybody else he rung up.


"I said guess you like Nirvana, you bought five of the same Nirvana CD"

"Oh yeah, I love them. I bought one for every car plus one for the bus"

"Oh" At least he's old enough to drive.

"Journey? I love Journey" Nick's eyes gleamed when Mike said that. "Me too. They are the best. Steve Perry is my idol!"

"Mine too" Nick smiled and relaxed what seemed like for the first time since they had entered this store.

Mike looked over at Melinda and caught her staring at the blonde in front of him. Yeah right Melinda, sure you don't like them. He made a mental note to make fun of her for it later. Finally after he scanned the last CD, which happily were all good ones with the exception of a few things he never would be caught listening too, he hit the total button.

"WOW!" He didn't mean to say it out loud it just caught him by surprise. Nick seemed a little embarrassed and Kevin glanced over as well. "Okay well..that's $645.98"

"Okay" Nick said handing over his credit card not thinking anything of it at all. "That's like almost as much as I pay for rent" Mike said again not thinking before he said it. Nick laughed uncomfortably and his manager glared at him. Melinda smiled though.

Once the charge was cleared his bodyguard grabbed the bags except for the one holding the Journey CDs. That one Nick kept for himself. Before walking away, Nick looked over at Mike's name tag, "Thanks for taking care of me Mike" He pulled a Journey CD out of his bag and handed it to the clerk, "This one is for you"

"Thanks a lot" Mike said surprised by the nice gesture. Then watched Nick make his way with Kevin over to a blonde woman standing by the escalator. He hugged her and handed her a CD from his bag. She kissed him and lovingly put her arm around his shoulder as they made their way down the escalator.

Mike looked down at the CD that Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys had given him and he couldn't help but smile when he saw what it was, Frontiers his favorite Journey record.

"The bushy browed one didn't give me crap" She said as she grabbed the CD away from Mike and looked at it.

"That was nice of him" another clerk said walking over to the register after seeing what transpired there.

"Yeah it was"

"They were both really nice" Another clerk said.

"I can't relate to those guys at all" Mike said putting his new CD under the counter for the next ten minutes that he was clocked in for.

"Well, you may not think you have anything in common with those guys but I have to tell you that that you and that blonde have the same exact eyes" Melinda winked at Mike and he winked back at her.

As his shift finally came to an end, Mike grabbed his CD and his jacket and headed back to his small apartment hoping to track down that guy he got his weed from along the way home.