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Chapter 8: Reunion

AJ glanced up from the table as he saw Kevin heading for the door. "Where are you going?"

"Out."

AJ smirked at his one-word answer, but pressed him anyway, just to see him squirm. "Out?"

Kevin's hand was on the doorknob. "Yeah, out."

AJ smiled coyly. "With Ella, am I right?" He had to bite back his laughter as he saw Kevin blush.

"Yeah," Kevin admitted, "with Ella."

AJ chuckled. "Be back before midnight, man."

Kevin rolled his eyes, "Shut your trap, Bone."

AJ just laughed and Kevin left.

"What's so funny?" Howie inquired as he entered the kitchen. "Where's Kevin gone?"

AJ made quotation marks with his fingers. "He's gone 'out'."

Howie raised an eyebrow. "Ella?"

AJ could only nod and chuckle. His smile faded as he saw the worried look on his friend's face and in his eyes.

"How's the kid?" he asked, referring to Nick in the living room.

Howie shook his head. "Not good. He's taking this a lot harder than the two of us put together. I'm sure that he could give Kevin a run for his money."

"Has he eaten at all today?" AJ wondered.

Howie shook his head. "I don't think he's eaten much in the past two days."

AJ whistled and shook his head. "Let's hope Brian gets home soon. We need him."

~~

Kevin arrived at Johnson's Café at six thirty-five, precisely five minutes after Ella got off work. He smiled seeing Ella sitting outside the diner wearing a heather-gray hooded vest, her red hair blowing lightly in the breeze. Streetlights reflected off of her ruby stud earrings.

"Hi Ella," he greeted.

Ella looked up and smiled brightly as Kevin drew close. "Hi, hon."

"I hope you haven't been waiting long."

Ella rose as she replied, “No. Not long."

Kevin smiled and held out his arm. Ella linked her arm with his and they headed off down the street.

"Where are we going?"

"I'm taking you to dinner and then maybe a walk in the park."

Ella couldn't take her gaze off of Kevin. "And just where is dinner?"

Kevin grinned seeing that Ella was gazing up at him. "There's a nice Chinese restaurant not far from here. I've been there once. The food's pretty good."

It'll be even better as long as I'm with you, sugar, Ella thought as she leaned her head on his shoulder.

Unconsciously, Kevin wrapped an arm around her waist and held her closer as they walked. He heard Ella sigh happily and realized the position he was in. As he thought about it, he realized that it felt good to be that way, arm in arm with a pretty lady, especially one who understood how he felt, her head on his shoulder and his arm wrapped around her waist. He found himself smiling and didn't care in the least. After a few minutes of walking, Kevin spotted the Dragon Moon.

"We're here."

Ella looked up at the restaurant. It was small, but it looked cozy and private enough for them. Kevin, being the gentleman that he is, held the door open for Ella and let her enter first. They sat down at a table by the window and picked up a paper menu. After voicing their opinions to each other, Kevin went to the counter and placed an order for a dish of General Tso's chicken—which they would share since it was so spicy, but good at the same time—two pints of Won Ton soup, pork fried rice and egg rolls.

~~

The wolf Akela made his way through the forest to the river, having heard his son's call in his heart. He found the young man sitting on the river's edge with his knees up to his chest and his chin resting on his arms. Akela padded over to Brian and sat next to him as he stared into the river. The sun was setting beyond the horizon, painting the landscape in beautiful colors.

"Your thoughts are troubled, my son."

"Yes, Old One," Brian replied, using the term of endearment. "They've been troubled for many days now. I've lost sleep."

"Your mother and I have noticed," Akela said. "But why?"

Brian sighed and turned to the wolf. "Cassidy told me the other day that she'd seen Kevin. She'd heard him say that the others were upset because I was gone. I've spent hours on end watching each of them through my telepathy. Like Kevin was, I'm starting to worry about Nick as well. But he knew that I wouldn't come back. And I’m just not ready."

"You are best friends, is that correct?"

"Yes, of course. But what--"

"Do you miss him?"

Brian started to speak, but no words came. He turned back to the river, at a loss. Of course he missed Nick.

"They all miss you. Like you do them."

Brian turned away. The air stirred, and Brian knew Akela was taking on his human form. He felt a hand on his shoulder but did not turn back.

"Son, you must go back."

Brian whirled around to face him, eyes wide. "No! I'm happy here. I have a family, and there's peace in my life for the first time in a long while. Don’t make me go back."

"There is something missing though," Akela noted, his ancient eyes locked with Brian's blue ones. "Deep down you know it."

Brian found he couldn't use his voice again and looked away.

"What of the woman you left behind that has a piece of your heart?"

Brian closed his eyes. "That life has too much pain," he said softly. "I want to forget it."

"You cannot," Akela said. "You must go back and face your pain."

~~

"I talked to Kristin the other day."

Ella looked up from her food as Kevin spoke. "Did you?"

Kevin nodded. "It took a long time, but we worked it out. We're just going to be good friends from now on, dating other people..."

Ella studied her food instead of him. He was afraid, she could tell, but eager to move on. For once, she realized, she wasn't meaninglessly flirting with a man. She cared about Kevin and didn't want to press him. After all, he'd just gotten his heart broken when his fiancée broke their engagement. Without thinking, she put too much duck sauce on her egg roll and didn't realize it until she bit into it.

Kevin chuckled as she spit into her napkin. The smile faded as he realized that she seemed nervous, on edge. He'd never seen that from her before and it worried him.

"Are you all right?"

Ella nodded as she sipped her drink. Setting it down, she confirmed, "I'm just fine."

Kevin smirked and leaned forward. "You may give great advice and help others feel better because you're an empath..."

Ella looked up in surprise, waiting for him to finish. The smirk turned to a grin.

"But you are a horrible liar."

Ella laughed, and that made Kevin smile, seeing her relax again. He didn't have to be an empath to know there was something there between them.

"Well," she began, "it's been... a very long time since I've been on a real date, seeing someone...."

Kevin waited patiently. He knew somehow that she was letting him in to a part of her life that no one had touched in a long time.

"You see, being an empath, I have to be very careful about who I 'let in' to my life. It's hard to find someone I can trust, someone I can care about..." she licked her lips nervously and her voice dropped to a whisper, "I let the wrong person in once and got burned.... Badly burned."

Kevin was stunned. But also he felt glad that she was willing to let him in to her life. He placed a hand over hers.

"I'm sorry," he said. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Ella shook her head. "No. It happened long ago, and it's best left in the past. Please understand."

Kevin smiled and squeezed her hand affectionately. "I understand."

Ella smiled and squeezed his hand back. "Thank you."

After a few moments of silence, Kevin asked, "Do you want to go for a walk?"

Ella noticed the empty food cartons and nodded. "Sure."

They stood, and Kevin slipped the rest of the fortune cookies into his jacket pocket. Ella raised an eyebrow as she watched him.

"The others will kill me if I tell them we had Chinese food and I didn't come home with some fortune cookies," Kevin explained with an amused chuckle.

Ella laughed and Kevin offered her his arm again. She linked her arm with his, and they left after paying the bill. They reached the park in a matter of minutes and strolled, taking their time. The early fall wind blew against them, and Ella rubbed her arms. Instinctively, Kevin shrugged off his jacket and put it around her shoulders. Ella smiled and wrapped the jacket closer around her.

They made their way to the gazebo and sat down. Kevin wrapped an arm around her shoulder and she leaned into him. Neither said anything for a while, just enjoying one another's company.

"What was your favorite part of the meal?" Kevin inquired.

Ella smirked. "Won Ton soup and chopsticks."

Kevin laughed as he remembered the incident. He'd been trying to pick up the Won Tons with his chopsticks, but he couldn't hold on to them and they slipped back into the soup, splashing the soup all over the table. Ella reached into the pocket of Kevin's jacket and pulled out a fortune cookie. Kevin watched her for a moment, then asked if he could have one too. Ella handed him the one she'd just taken out of the package and pulled out another. Kevin broke open the cookie and pulled out the slip of paper. He nibbled on his cookie as he read. He heard Ella sigh happily and lean in closer to him. He looked down and saw her reading her fortune.

"So what does yours say?" he asked.

She read, "Life will hand you a magical moment. Savor it."

Kevin smiled.

"What does yours say?"

"Do you believe in love at first sight, or do I have to walk by again?"

Ella smiled and looked up at him. "And do you?"

Kevin looked down at her. "What?"

"Do you believe in love at first sight or do I have to walk by again?"

It took a moment to register what Ella was saying. Kevin smiled and leaned closer. "I believe."

"So do I," Ella agreed.

Kevin brought a hand to the back of her neck and gently pulled her closer. He brushed her lips with his in their first kiss, gentle and utterly sweet. It was subconsciously agreed that they would take it slow, one day at a time.

~~

Kevin looked up as Ella slowed down in front of an apartment building about a mile and a quarter from the diner.

"This the place?"

"Yes," Ella replied. "This is home."

She started to reach for the doorknob but paused. She turned back to Kevin. "Thank you for tonight," she said. "I had a good time."

Kevin smiled. "So did I."

"Sing for me?" she requested.

Kevin took her hands, kissed each one, and began to sing. "Are there stars out there tonight? I don't know if it's cloudy or bright. I only have eyes for you, dear. The moon may be high, but I can't see a thing in the sky, 'cause I only have eyes for you. I don't know if we're in a garden or on a crowded avenue. You are here... so am I... maybe millions of people go by, but they all disappear from view, 'cause I only have eyes for you."

He leaned down and brushed her lips in a gentle kiss. "I love you," he whispered as he pulled back.

Ella smiled. "I love you, too."

Kevin held the door open for her as she stepped inside. After a few moments, he realized that he was just staring at the spot that was no longer filled with Ella and he started for home.

~~

Howie looked up from the movie as he heard the door open. Glancing at the clock, he saw it was quarter to eleven. Kevin entered the room and sat down on the couch next to Howie. Howie noticed that there was a wide grin on his face.

"Your date go well?"

Kevin smiled. "Wonderfully."

Howie smiled knowing Kevin was happy. Ella had given him that.

With the movie over, both Boys headed to bed.

~~

The waves lapped against his bare feet as Howie stood at the edge of the ocean. He smiled and breathed in the salty ocean air. It was peaceful here and he could relax and leave the troubles of the world behind. He stood there for a while, letting his feet get buried in the sand every time a wave washed over his feet. Howie realized that he had his notebook and pen with him. He stepped out of the water and headed to drier sand, sat down and opened his notebook. Making a mental note to get a new pen soon, he began to write.

It’s peaceful here at the ocean, he wrote, I know people think that it’s only Nick that enjoys the ocean so I’ll let them think that. But I love it here. It’s a place where I can escape from the troubles of the world and let my problems go. I have so many, but here I can forget about them.

A shadow fell over him and he looked up in surprise. He gasped and the pen and notebook fell from his hands, recognizing the figure that stood before him.

“Brian!” he cried, leaping to his feet, a joyful smile on his face.

“Hi Howie,” Brian greeted as the friends embraced.

As they pulled back, Howie didn’t know what to say. He was seeing Brian right in front of his eyes. Where had he gone? Had he stopped running? Was he all right?

Brian held up his hands. “Whoa, slow down Howie. One question at a time.”

Howie reddened. “Sorry. I forgot you can read my thoughts.”

“It’s all right,” Brian replied. “You deserve an answer to those questions anyway. I didn’t run too far and I found a place where I could be at peace with myself. I’m all right, Howie; but I’m still a little scared to face all the pain back in 'reality’. How are you and the others?”

Howie took a deep breath. “We all miss you so much Brian,” he replied. “Kevin is still trying to find balance in his life after his breakup with Kristin, although I think he and Ella will get together nicely.”

“Monica’s sister, right? Good looking red-head who’s quite the flirt?”

Howie nodded. “Right. A.J’s been really restless lately and he’s not sleeping well. He’s taking walks a lot to try and help him feel better; they don’t, not that much, anyway. Nicky… Brian, he really needs your help. It’s getting bad, he hasn’t been eating.”

Brian’s eyes widened. “What?”

Howie nodded. “He’s getting thinner, paler. And he’s losing himself in his artwork again. I’ve seen some of it and I can’t bear to look at any more. There’s so much pain in it. He’s told me there are times at night where the pain in his legs is so strong that it wakes him up in the middle of the night.”

Brian paled and ran a hand through his hair. “I should have seen that.” He paused, and then looked back at Howie. “What about you? How are you doing?”

The friends started walking down the beach as Howie continued.

"I feel so helpless, Brian,” he confessed, “I’m supposed to be the ‘mediator’ of the group, but I’m feeling the same as everyone else. I’ve tried to do something productive for the group, but I just can’t. I hate feeling helpless, Brian. It scares me.”

“I’m sorry.”

The friends walked along in silence for a while, lost in thought.

“How’s Ro?” Brian asked suddenly.

“Ro?”

“Ororo. How is she?”

"Oh. She’s… lonely… sad and worried about you. She misses you so much.”

They stopped and Brian dug his hands in his pockets, looking unsure.

“Please come back, Brian,” Howie begged. “We’re not complete without you.”

Brian nodded. “I’ll come back, D. Don’t tell anyone, though. I want it to be a surprise.”

Howie hesitated. He knew how much he and the others wanted to see Brian again.

“Please Howie. Do it for me."

“All right,” Howie consented.

~~

It was almost quarter till eleven when Howie entered the kitchen the next morning. The dream had been so real, but he didn’t want to tell anyone about it for fear of giving false hopes. Especially with Nick; that would hurt him more. Kevin and AJ were at the table conversing and it looked like AJ was agreeing with whatever Kevin was saying.

"It’s certainly worth a try,” he said. “Ella’s a smart woman.”

“You’re certainly right about that.”

“What’s worth a try?” Howie asked.

“We’re going to start fighting,” Kevin said. “Fighting against the hate and prejudice. We cross all kinds of barriers with our music; age, race, religion, and we reach millions. We can write songs that will show the world that we’re fighting against the prejudice. We are who we are and no one can change that.”

Howie looked at him in surprise. “Ella’s had a big influence on you, hasn’t she?”

Kevin just smiled.

“Well, you’re right,” Howie agreed. “It’s worth a try. Where’s Nicky?”

Kevin nodded toward the bedrooms. “In bed. He finally went to sleep three hours ago. He stayed up all night drawing. I went to check on him and he was just starting to fall asleep.”

“Did you see what he drew?”

Kevin shook his head. “No, the sketchbook was closed. He needs a new one, he only has a few more pages left.”

“I can get him one when I head out today,” AJ offered. “I need a walk anyway.”

Kevin nodded in acceptance and AJ went to check what kind of sketchbook Nick was using. He came back a few moments later.

"He woke up a little as I was looking for the sketchbook, and then went right back to sleep,” AJ explained. “He wants oil paints and canvases now. Hey, do we have anything on the schedule for today?”

“There’s a press conference in the next town, but I can handle that,” Kevin said.

“I can go with you,” Howie offered.

“All right then.”

“Kev, let me have one of those fortune cookies,” AJ requested.

Kevin tossed him a cookie and he tore the package open and broke the cookie, pulling out the paper. He raised an eyebrow at what he read.

“What’s it say?” Kevin asked.

“The afternoon knows what the morning never expected,” AJ read.

Howie kept silent, but he was pretty sure he knew what it meant.

~~

Howie knew something. AJ was certain of that as he walked into the art store two hours later to look for Nick’s oil paints and canvases, but he didn’t let it bother him. Howie would talk when he was ready. He found several canvases of various sizes that he thought would do, and searched for the oil paints. He glanced down the aisle and saw some sketchbooks for colored pencils and thought that Nick might want to try that as well. Grabbing a good sized sketchbook and a large container of colored pencils, AJ had what he wanted and amazingly made it out of the store without getting mobbed, or even noticed. Glancing around, he saw a few people that looked similar to him with their all-over-the-place tattoos and wild hairdos and piercings. AJ guessed they probably thought that he was just another one of those weirdoes that came around from time to time.

Let them think that, he thought as he stepped out of the store and headed back to the hotel. He started worrying about Nick again as he felt the weight of the items in the bag that he had purchased. Was Brian ever going to come back? He had to come back. Nick needed him desperately.

AJ hadn’t been paying attention and bumped into someone as they stepped out from a store.

"Oh, excuse me!” AJ apologized, then got a good look at the person he had bumped. Blue eyes stared back at him, a smile on the man’s face. A.J’s eyes bugged out.

"Brian!” he cried, enveloping his friend in a hug. He stepped back and got a good look at his friend. There was something different about him, but AJ couldn’t place it.

“It’s so good to see you,” he continued. “We’ve really needed you here. Come on, Nick will be glad to see you.”

A.J grabbed Brian’s wrist and began pulling him down the street toward the hotel. Brian laughed and followed him, having been unable to get a single word in. After about a block, Brian had to pull his wrist from A.J’s grip.

"AJ, for goodness’ sake, can you slow down?” He laughed. “I can tell you’ve got a lot of questions. Don’t you want them answered?”

AJ stopped and turned around. “Yeah, I guess I do. Are you okay?”

Brian smiled. “I’m just fine, Alex. I needed to get away and try to make peace with myself. There was a lot I had to work out.”

“Did you get it all worked out?” AJ inquired.

“Most of it, yes,” Brian replied. “I’m all right, now. You don’t need to worry.”

AJ smiled with relief. “So, where did you go, B?” he asked. “How come you’re so calm now? What happened to make you decide to come back?”

“Things just happened that way, Aje. I was watching you guys and I realized I needed to come back, so here I am. How’s Ro? Is she still here?”

AJ was surprised at such an evasive answer, but he replied, “She’s out of town for the day. She’ll be back either later tonight or early tomorrow morning.”

“Okay,” Brian murmured quietly, and AJ caught the flash of loneliness in his eyes before it was quickly hidden.

“Well, let’s go then,” AJ suggested. “Kevin and Howie are at a press conference, but they’ll be back soon.”

“I know.”

AJ glanced at him in confusion, and the blond tapped his head. Telepathy. AJ nodded and headed down to the hotel with Brian right beside him.

They entered their suite quietly and AJ explained. “Nick’s asleep. He stayed up most of the night drawing and finally went to sleep around seven. He wanted some oil paints and canvases, but I also got him some colored pencils and a pad. I figured he might want to try those at some point.”

Brian held out his hand. “Let me take them to him.”

The bag in his grip, Brian opened the door quietly and saw Nick sleeping on his side, pillows behind his back to support him while he slept. Ever so gently, he lowered onto the bed beside his best friend. He brushed a stray lock of hair out of Nick’s face as he watched him sleep. He’d lost weight, and his face was paler than usual, having always been a bit on the pale side. Dark circles were under his eyes, indicating that he hadn’t slept much at all in the past two weeks. A pang of guilt stung Brian in the chest as he realized that it was mostly his fault that Nick was hurting. There were surely other reasons, but he was positive that he was the main one.

Nick started to roll onto his back, but was stopped by the pillows. His eyes fluttered open as he reached behind his back to remove the pillows, and paused as he saw what he thought was a dream. Brian was sitting on his bed watching him.

“You’re not dreaming, Frack,” Brian said. “I’ve come back. I’m sorry I hurt you.”

"Brian.” Tears were in his eyes as he reached up for his best friend. Brian carefully wrapped his hands around Nick’s back and lifted him, pulling him into a hug. Nick winced slightly and Brian repositioned them so the younger boy could be more comfortable. Nick’s grip was tight as they held each other, and Brian could feel the moistness on his shoulders from the other’s tears. He started rubbing his young friend’s back in comfort.

“It’s all right, Nick,” he soothed. “I’m back. I’m back to stay, I promise.”

Nick sniffled. “You won’t leave again?”

“No. I’m not leaving you and the others again. Granted, where I was staying was peaceful, but I’m needed here more.”

“Where were you?”

Brian thought about his answer. “I found some unusual friends that let me stay with them. They showed me the wisdom of facing my pain and the reality of what I am.”

“And what are you?”

Brian smiled. “I may be a mutant and an experiment, but I’m also a Backstreet Boy. I’ve got a job to do."

Nick grinned. “B-Rok’s back."

“And I’m here to stay.”

“Food!” AJ shouted as he entered the room with two pizza boxes in his arms.

Brian and Nick cheered as AJ opened the boxes to reveal an extra cheese pizza and a pepperoni pizza.

“Bone, you’re a life saver,” Brian remarked.

"So are you,” AJ replied. “We are going to get this boy to eat.”

"Yeah, I hear you haven’t been eating, Nicky,” Brian said as he turned to his friend, now lying on his side once more.

Nick blushed as he took two slices of pizza. “The only thing I could concentrate on was my artwork,” he admitted. “I didn’t think about eating, sleeping barely occurred to me and the others had to force me to do that.”

Brian shook his head. “Aw, Nicky.”

“I know. This is the first good sleep I’ve had in days."

Half an hour later, the main suite door opened and the three friends could hear Kevin’s voice back in Nick’s bedroom.

“If that’s pizza I smell, there’d better be some left!”

“We’re in Nick’s room!” AJ called.

The door opened and Howie and Kevin entered. Seeing Nick awake, Howie gently sat beside him, being careful not to move him in any way that might cause the younger boy pain.

“How are you doing, Nick?” he inquired.

"Better,” Nick admitted as he handed a piece of pepperoni pizza to Howie and Kevin. Kevin didn’t take his piece as he saw the other pizza.

“Extra cheese?” Kevin wondered. “Brian’s the only one that likes—“

He stopped and looked up as he heard the bathroom door in Nick’s room open and couldn’t stop the gasp of surprise that escaped his lips. Brian stood with his hand still on the doorknob, staring back at him. Without even realizing his feet were moving, Kevin crossed the distance between he and his cousin. Brian hadn’t moved at all from his spot at the door. Kevin’s hands went to the younger man’s face, almost unwilling to believe he was really standing there unless he had physical contact. That mere touch brought tears to Brian’s eyes, and he leaned into Kevin as he was given a bear hug.

~~

The sun was already in the sky when Ororo entered the hotel, back from her trip and desperately wanting food and rest. She retrieved her key from the young woman at the desk and headed toward the elevator. Once the doors closed behind her, the woman at the desk picked up the phone and dialed a number.

“Hello?”

“She’s returned,” the young woman said. “She’s on her way up to her room now.”

“Thank you very much.”

~~

AJ looked over at Brian after he hung up. “That was the front desk. Ro’s back and on her way to her room.”

Brian smiled. “Great. I want to surprise her with breakfast.”

“That ain’t all she’s gonna be surprised about.”

“Duh, Aje. That’s the point.”

“At least I’m not blond.”

“Blond’s a state of mind, not a hair color,” Brian pointed out as he picked up the phone to dial room service.

“If it’s a state of mind, has Kevin ever had any blond moments?”

“That’s for me to know and you to find out.”

AJ laughed as Brian placed the order for breakfast.

“Bri, if you’re going to surprise her with breakfast, you might at least want to look decent,” Kevin remarked, entering the room. “You haven’t shaved in two weeks.”

“Aw, darn. I was wanting to keep it!” Brian complained.

“Go shave,” Kevin ordered.

“Shoot.”

“Bang, you’re dead.”

“If I’m dead, how am I supposed to surprise Ro with breakfast?”

The other boys laughed as Brian entered the bathroom to shave. They heard the spray of the shaving cream as Brian began to whistle.

“What’s that?” Kevin asked, as the tune seemed familiar but he couldn’t place it just yet. “Is it one of our songs?”

Brian didn’t answer; he just kept whistling. Suddenly Nick spit his juice back into his cup, realizing what the song was and laughed.

“What?” Kevin demanded.

“Brian, you are so bad!” Nick laughed as he clutched his aching sides.

“Yeah, I know, I know,” they heard Brian reply. It sounded like he was near, but they hadn’t even seen him leave the bathroom.

Suddenly Kevin cried out in surprise as a glass of ice cold water was dumped over him. Nick’s face was red; he could barely breathe from laughing so hard. AJ and Howie were leaning on each other to hold themselves up as they laughed. Kevin spluttered for a few seconds as he looked around, trying to figure out how that had happened. They could hear someone snickering quietly, and immediately knew who the culprit was even though they couldn’t see him. A knock on the door let them know room service had arrived, but before anyone could move, Brian suddenly appeared in front of the door. Kevin waited until Brian had brought the food back into the room before he spoke.

"You.” He shook his head. “I should have known.”

Brian just smirked as he arranged the eggs, bacon, and sausage and fruit salad on plates and bowls and put them on a tray.

“What were you whistling anyway?” Kevin asked. “I couldn’t figure it out and Nick seemed to be the only one to get it.”

Brian’s smirk grew to a grin as he glanced at Nick. Nick just chuckled. Brian finally looked at Kevin and made a face as though he just realized that Kevin’s shirt was wet.

“Kevin, you’re all wet,” he pointed out. “You’d better change into something clean.”

He picked up the tray and headed for the door, beginning to sing the tune he had been whistling in the bathroom.

“God must have spent a little more time on you."

The door opened and closed again before anyone could react other than bend over laughing at the look on Kevin’s face.

“I can’t believe he’d sing anything belonging to N*SYNC. Let alone that song.”

As Brian approached the suite that Ororo had all to herself, he reached out with his mind and found her in her bathroom showering. He broke away, then telekinetically unlocked and opened the door and stepped inside. He smiled as he saw that the kitchen was right across from her room, so once she stepped outside, she would see him. He set the tray on the table and sat down to wait.

~~

Ororo stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel to dry off, feeling refreshed but hungry. Slipping on her robe once she got in her room, she decided to call for room service. Sliding her feet into her slippers, she opened the bedroom door to head for the kitchen to make the call. She froze in the middle of the hall as she saw a sight in the kitchen that made her heart speed up. Brian was sitting at the kitchen table with a tray of food, waiting for her.

He stood, giving her the smile she’d been missing so much. In an instant, she was in his arms, sharing a passionate kiss of welcome and joy. Finally, she stepped back and gazed up at him, saying the words she’d been dying to say for two weeks.

“I love you so much.”

Brian’s smile could have lit up the city it was so bright. He took Ororo’s hands in his and kissed them.

“Spoken word can’t express how much I love you, Ro,” he said. “And I’m never leaving you again. I’m back to stay.”

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