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Nick walked into the living room.  He spotted Ariel lying on the floor coloring while Roxie was knitting on the couch.  He sat down next to Roxie and placed his head on her shoulder.

She laughed.  “You’re in the way.”

“So.  Stop.”  Roxie adjusted her position so that she could knit with him leaning on her.  She kept knitting while he sat there with his head on her shoulder.  “Roxie.”  He whined.

“Why are you whining?”

“Because you’re not paying attention to me.”

She looked over at Nick but kept knitting.  “What’s gotten into you?”

He sat up and leaned against the other side of the couch.  “Nothing.”  He said, but Roxie could tell that something definitely was going on with him.  He was acting like he had something to say, but he was waiting for her to pry it out of him.

She placed her knitting down and looked at him.  “Something’s bothering you.”

“Nothing’s bothering me.”  He lied and stood up.

“Where are you going?”

“Upstairs.  You won’t have to decide who gets more attention, me or a ball of yarn.”  He said and headed for the stairs.

She secured her knitting.  “Ariel, stay here and color.  I need to go talk to your daddy.”  She said and headed up stairs.  She entered the room to find Nick pacing.  “Nick, what’s going on with you?  Did I do something to upset you?”

"No...  You didn't do anything..." Nick said.

 "Okay, who did?"  Roxie asked.

 Nick looked down at his feet.

 "Are you going to make me guess?"  She sighed.

He sighed and sat down on the bed.  “I’m scared.”

“What’s wrong?  Why are you scared?”

“My mom wants us to go over there for dinner.  I made every excuse why we couldn’t but somehow she got me to agree.”

“Nick, that’s a good thing.  Isn’t it?”

“No, of course not.”

“Why?”

“Because the last time I was there, I was disowned.”

“Nick, how old is Ariel?”

“Almost 5, but you knew that already.”

“Yes, but the last time you were there was before Ariel was even conceived.”

“Actually, she was conceived on BJ’s bed, but they don’t know that.”

“My point is.  That it’s been over 5 years, since that day.  You’re not the same as you were back then.”

“Call her back and tell her that I suddenly came down with a rare disease and I won’t be able to make it.”  She couldn’t help it.  She giggled.  “Why are you laughing at me?”

“I’m sorry Nick.”  She sat down next to him and put her arm around him.  “They’re your family.  You wanted them back.  Now you’re willing to throw that away.  They invited you.  That’s a good thing.”

"How are you so sure it's a good thing?  It could be bad.  What if I do something they don't like again and throw me out?"

“Are you planning on running around the neighborhood streaking?”

“No.”  He said with a chuckle.

“Then I think it’s safe to say that you won’t get thrown out.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because I am.  Now relax.  You’ll be just fine.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“Nick, if you keep avoiding them, you’ll never get them back the way you want them.”

“And you think one dinner will make BJ and Leslie like me again.  I think not.”

“They’ll forgive you in time.  Now come on.  We should get Ariel ready.”

“No thanks.  I’ll stay here.  You can go though.”

"Nick, I'll be RIGHT there with you...  You don't need to worry.  But it’s your family, they invited you, I don't think you need to be worried.”

“But…”

“No.  Just go.  If it gets too unbearable we can come home.  If you just relax, you’ll see that it won’t be as bad as you’re making it out to be.”

 

~*~

 

Nick parked his jeep in front of the house he grew up in.  He stared at the house for a few minutes.  “Are you ready?”

Nick sighed.  “As ready as I’ll ever be.”  He stepped out of the jeep and walked around the side to get Ariel out of her car seat.  Holding Ariel’s hand, he headed toward the front door.  He rang the bell and nervously started to shift his weight from foot to foot.

The door flung open.  Angel was standing there.  She saw Nick and smiled excitedly.  "Nick!!"  She said and ran over to him and hugged him.  "You're here!  C'mon in, I've been waiting for you all this time!  Mom's already got dinner almost ready."  She said, talking a mile a minute.

 Roxie glanced over at Nick and smiled, hoping his sister's excitement would ease his worry a little. 

As they walked into the living room, Jane came out of the kitchen.  “Oh, I thought I heard the door bell.”  She said and came over and hugged him.  She bent down so she was at eye level with her granddaughter.  “I have something for you sweetie.”

Ariel looked at her curiously.  “You do?”

“Yeah.”  She stood up and walked Ariel over to the couch.  Once Ariel was sitting, Jane handed her a gift bag.  Ariel immediately opened the bag and looked inside.  There was a big box in there and big boxes usually meant the best toys.  She reached in and took out the box and realized it was a baby doll.  She gasped excitedly.  “Daddy, can I open it?”

“I don’t see why not.” 

Ariel smiled.  “Here Daddy.”  She said handing him the box to open.  After a couple minutes he got the doll out and handed it to her.  She squealed in excitement and held the doll close.

“What do you say?”

She looked at Jane.  “Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome sweetie.” 

Jane went to walk back into the kitchen to finish cooking.  She passed Nick and gently squeezed his shoulder.  “Thanks Mom.”  He said thanking her for buying a toy for Ariel.  “You didn’t have to buy her anything.”

“Sure I did.  She’s my only grandchild and I missed 4 years of spoiling.  I have to make up for lost time.”  Jane turned to head back into the kitchen.

“Do you need any help?”  Roxie asked.

“Everything is completely under control.”

Aaron came downstairs.  “Hey Nick.”  He said and plopped down on the couch next to his brother and put his feet on the table in front of him, leaning back into the couch. 

“Hi Aaron.”

“So, Nick.  When can I work in your store?”

“What?”

“Just think of it Nick, we can change the name to ‘Carter Brother’s Records.’”  He said and pretended to display the name by holding his hands up.

“Nice try, but no.  The name stays.  And if I do let you work there, you’ll just be a sales associate, not a partial owner.  Sorry.”

 Aaron chuckled.  “Are you sure?  Because that would be a great business venture.”  He nodded encouragingly.

 “I’m sure.  And besides, it’ll be awhile before you work there.”  Nick explained, trying to let him down easy.

 “Why?  Don’t you want your little brother working with you?”  Aaron narrowed his eyebrows.

 Nick shook his head and smiled for a second.  “You’d work for me, not with me.  And the store is fully staffed, and since I’m not working at the moment there’s no one to okay taking on another staff member.”

 "Aww, but come on, Nick...  I've been trying to find a job forever!"  He continued to pester.

“Well, then you can wait a little longer until I go back to work.”

BJ walked into the living room.  “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.”  She said when she saw Nick.  “Mom.”

Jane emerged from the kitchen.  “Yeah?”

“What’s HE doing here?”

“I invited him for dinner.”

"INVITED him?  Why would you invite him?!  He's probably just here to scope out the place and see what he can - "

 "BOBBIE JEAN!"  Jane shouted scoldingly.

 "What?!  Seriously, mom.  You really want him back?"

 "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do."

 "What's going on in here?"  Bob asked, rushing into the room.  He could sense the tension in the room.

No one in the room spoke.  Nick stood up and picked up Ariel.  “Where are we going Daddy?”

“We’re going home.  We’ll stop for pizza.”  He said and headed for the door, feeling stupid for going when he knew this would happen.  But most of all, he felt rejected.

“Nicky, stay.”  Jane said.

“I don’t think so.  I shouldn’t have even come.”  He said and proceeded to walk outside.

Roxie started to follow Nick outside and turned back to his family.  “I know he hurt you all, but that was almost 5 years ago.  Isn’t it time to forgive him?  I had to convince him that he should even come.  He was afraid that this would happen.  And just so you know, he really needs his family right now.  He's really depressed.”  She said, and then headed toward the door.

“Wait here.  I’ll go talk to him.”  Bob said.  He went outside and saw his son trying to get Ariel into the car seat.  Ariel was fighting him because she wanted to say.  “Ariel, why don’t you go back inside?”  Ariel turned to the house and saw Roxie standing in the doorway and ran to her.

“What are you doing Dad?” 

“Roxie told us, about you.”

Nick’s eyes widened thinking that she told them about his attempt.  “I swear I won’t try it again.”

“Nick what are you talking about?”

“Oh.”  He realized that Roxie didn’t tell them about what he did.  “Um, Nothing.”

Suddenly it dawned on Bob.  “You attempted to kill yourself didn’t you.”

“What?  No, that’s ridiculous.”

“I may not have seen you since I kicked you out, but you’re still my son, and I can still tell that you’re lying to me.”  Nick leaned against his car and looked down, not daring to look at his father.  “Why’d you do it?”

"I...  I didn't think I mattered to anyone..."

"How could you think you don't matter?  I thought you were doing well...  You have a beautiful daughter and a girlfriend that's crazy about you."

“It’s complicated Dad.”

“Why don’t you try to explain it?”

“I don’t have a family, at that point Roxie was so mad at me that she had dumped me and was planning on moving out of my house and my daughter wanted to go live with Roxie.  I wasn’t needed.”

"Of course you’re needed.  You’re daughter will always need you.  Even when she’s an adult and it seems that she doesn’t and it seems to me that your girlfriend and your daughter love you a lot.  And you have your family back...  Your sisters might take a while to come around, but they will...  I'm sure they will.  Now do you wanna come in for dinner now?”  Nick nodded and stood up straight and began walking back to the house.  Bob put his arm around Nick’s shoulders as they walked across the lawn to the front of the house.

When Nick and Bob entered the house, both BJ and Leslie were glaring at Nick.  “Come on Les, let’s go out for dinner.”  BJ said.  She grabbed her purse and headed for the door, with Leslie following right behind her.  An awkward silence fell over the group.

“Dinner is just about ready.”  Jane said, then disappeared into the kitchen.

Nick looked down at Ariel.  “Let’s go get you washed up for dinner.”  He said, taking Ariel’s hand and led her to the bathroom.

“Daddy, how do you know where you’re going?”

“I grew up here.”

“You did?”

“Yeah.”

“Can I see your room?”

“Well, right now, dinner’s ready and also, I doubt it is still decorated as my room.  It has been about five years since I’ve lived here.”

“Oh.”

“Now get in there.”  He said nudging her into the bathroom.  He leaned against the wall, waiting for her to come back out.

Inside the bathroom, Ariel was about eye level with the top of the counter.  She looked for something she could stand on.  Not finding anything, she stood as high on her tiptoes as possible.  She still couldn’t reach it.  She started hopping trying to reach it, but that didn’t help her.  “Daddy.”  She called.  Nick stood up and pushed the door open.  He looked at her jumping up and down.  “I can’t reach.”

Nick smiled at her and lifted her up so she could reach the faucet and wash her hands.

Jane walked to the bathroom wondering what was taking them so long.  She arrived at the bathroom just as Nick shut off the faucet and turn around so that Ariel can reach the towels and dry her hands.  She smiled as Nick put Ariel down.  When Ariel was on the floor, she realized that her sink cabinet was just about as tall as Ariel.  “Geez Nick, do you feed this child, she’s so little.”

“Yes I feed her.  And yes, she is little, but she only looks smaller because your sink is so high.”

After dinner, Aaron, Angel, Nick and Bob went into the living room.  Bob was sitting there quietly listening to his children catch up with each other.  Jane was showing Roxie and Ariel around the house.

“And lastly, this was Nicky’s room.”  Jane said and pushed the door open to reveal a room that had definitely been lived in by a teenage boy at one time.  As they stepped into the room, Roxie said.  “I thought he didn’t like being called Nicky.”

“You’ve called him that?”

“Yeah, and he immediately told me that he hates that.”

“Oh he does hate it.  But if you call him Nicky often enough, he’ll eventually give up and stop fighting you.”

“Really.  That’s valuable information.”  Roxie said.

Ariel walked around the room.  She couldn’t believe that this was where her Daddy used to sleep.  She looked around the room for a few more minutes before running downstairs into the living room.  She immediately climbed onto Nick’s lap.  Nick hugged her as she sat on his lap.  “Daddy, I didn’t know you played the guitar?”

Nick looked at his daughter.  “What?”

“Jane showed me your room.”

Nick nodded and leaned so that his mouth was right by his daughter’s ear.  “You should call Jane Grandma and Bob Grandpa.”  He whispered into Ariel’s ear.

“Okay Daddy.  I saw your room and you have a guitar.  How come you don’t play at home?”

“I don’t play anymore honey.”

“Oh, why not?”

He shrugged.  “I just lost interest I guess.”

“You should play now.”

“I don’t think so Ariel.”

“Why not?” 

“I haven’t even picked up a guitar in five years.  I doubt I can still play it.”

“Please Daddy?”  Ariel said with a pout.

“You’re cute but not cute enough to get me to embarrass myself.”

Ariel turned to Jane.  “Can we take Daddy’s guitar home with us?”

“Of course.  It is his after all.”

“Come on Daddy.  We need to go get your guitar.”

“We’ll get it later, before we leave.”  He said, not ready to see his old room.

“But if we get it later you won’t be able to play it now.”

“I’m not going to play it now Ariel.”

“I want you to.”

“The first time I ever pick up a guitar in five years, will not be in front of an audience.”

“Oh come on Nick.  We’re all family here.”  Bob said trying to encourage his son.

Nick shook his head.  Ariel slid off his lap and grabbed his hand and pulled to try and get him up.  “What?”

“Come on Daddy.”

“Where are we going?”

“Just come with me.”

Nick relented and let Ariel lead him to his old room.  He entered the room.  It felt so weird for him to be back in that room.  Just by looking around the room he realized just how much his life had revolved around music.  He remembered that there was a time that he wanted to be a famous singer.  That obviously never happened, and never would happen.  He didn’t miss his old dream, but he did miss the music.

Ariel was standing by the guitar.  “Daddy, it’s too big for me to lift.” 

Nick looked over at Ariel.  “That’s okay.  I’ll get it before we leave.”

“Why won’t you play?”

“I’m out of practice.  I’m not sure I can even play it anymore.”

“Try.”

“Not right now honey.”

“Please Daddy.”

“Maybe some other day.”  He stood up and grabbed his guitar.  He immediately brought it out to the car and then returned back inside.  He sat on the couch next to Roxie and she leaned into him.  He put his arm around her.  He looked around the room for Ariel and found her sitting in Angel’s lap and talking excitedly to Angel.

A couple hours later, he looked over at Angel and found that she was still holding Ariel.  The only difference being that Ariel was falling asleep.  He looked at the clock and realized that it was getting close to 9:00.  He stood up.  “We should really be going.”

“Do you have to?”

“Yeah, it’s passed Ariel’s bedtime.”  He walked over to Angel and took Ariel from Angel.  She immediately placed her head on his shoulder and stuck her thumb in her mouth, while holding her new doll in the other hand.  He said goodbye to Aaron and Angel and nudged Ariel to do the same.

He walked over to his parents and gave his mother a one handed hug and shook his father’s hand.  Bob pulled Nick into a hug.  Nick looked at Ariel, “Go say goodbye.”  He said and put her down.  She went over to Jane.  “Bye Grandma.”

Jane smiled proudly.  “Bye sweetie.”  Jane said and hugged Ariel.

Ariel walked over to Bob.  “Bye Grandpa.”

“Grandpa?”  He said with a smile.  He loved the sound, but he still had to tease someone.  He looked at Nick.  “I’m not old enough to be a grandfather.”  He said teasingly to Nick.

Matching his father’s joking tone he said.  “Get over it old man.  You’re a grandfather.  Now say bye to your granddaughter.”

With a smile he bent down and hugged Ariel.  After the hug Ariel went back over to Nick.  She looked up at him tiredly and reached up.  Nick bent down and picked her up.  She once again placed her head on his shoulder and popped her thumb in her mouth.  She closed her eyes and fell asleep on Nick’s shoulder.

Later that night, Nick and Roxie were lying on their bed.  They had found a movie on TV to watch while they cuddled.  The movie was horrible so they were barely paying attention to the movie.

“Was it as bad as you thought?”

“I guess it could’ve been worse.”  He said then turned his attention back to the movie.

“Were you in a band?”

“What?”

“When you played the guitar, did you play in a band?”

“Yeah.  God, that was a long time ago.”

They fell into silence.  After a couple minutes, Roxie broke the silence. “This movie sucks.”  Roxie said with a laugh

“Yeah, but there’s nothing else on.”

“So, we don’t have to watch TV.”  Roxie said and grabbed the remote to turn off the TV.

“What did you have in mind?”

“You’ll figure it out.”  Roxie said then climbed on top of him.  She kissed him passionately as she grinded against him.  He moaned into the kiss and she broke away from him.  She kissed down his neck and bit down on his flesh.  She smirked as he moaned in pain and pleasure.

She felt the growing bulge against her stomach as she continued to kiss down Nick’s chest.  Roxie reached down and rubbed him through his boxers eliciting a moan from Nick.  She slipped her hand inside his boxers and continued rubbing him.

Nick moaned loudly.  Roxie took her hand out of his boxers and moved back up his body and kissed him.  “You need to stay quiet if I’m going to do this.”

Nick nodded and Roxie made her way back down his chest.  Nick’s breathing was labored and he was getting impatient.  He reached for his boxers to push them down to free himself.  Roxie slapped his hands away.  “Be patient Nick.”

Nick let his hands fall to his side.  Roxie began to slowly inch his boxers down, kissing, and slightly nipping at every inch of skin that she exposed.  Nick moaned deeply in his throat.  Roxie pulled his boxers down, finally allowing his erect penis to stand straight up. 

Roxie gently blew on his tip.  Nick bucked his hips.  Roxie placed her hands on his hips to hold him down.  “I thought I told you to be patient.”  She said as she started to rub him.  She gently blew on his tip. 

“Oh my…

Without warning, Roxie took him fully into her mouth.  “Holy shit.”

Roxie began sucking him.  His moans were becoming progressively louder.  He grabbed a pillow and put it over his face to muffle his screams.  He started to buck his hips, trying to get himself further into her mouth.

Roxie knew that he was close, but she wasn’t ready for him to come.  She pulled back letting his manhood fall out of her mouth.

Nick opened his eyes and looked at Roxie.  “Why’d you stop?”

She didn’t answer him.  She started to teasingly lick his tip.  She slowly began taking him into her mouth until she deep throated him.  She began to lightly graze her teeth over his shaft.  He was groaning loudly.  She brought her hand in between his legs and began massaging his balls, sending him over the edge.

“Oh fuck.” He moaned as he shot his load down her throat.  She swallowed.  She slowly moved up his body as Nick's breathing slowed after coming down from his high.  He kissed her, tasting himself on her mouth.  She pulled back and rested her head on his chest while he played with her hair.  “Wow.” 

“I’m glad you liked it.”  She looked up at him and realized he was already falling asleep.  She smiled.  “I love you Nicky.”

“Mmhm.  Love you.”

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