Something About You by Arok
Summary: Something About You
I don't know where to begin
I don't know how to get out there to see you
I don't know where to dig in.
I don't know how to get in there: to feel you

Baby there's something about you that
I can hold on to
I'm going to hold on to that
Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters: Kevin, Nick
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Slash M/M
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 47 Completed: Yes Word count: 155868 Read: 19971 Published: 10/25/20 Updated: 03/16/21
Story Notes:
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1. Chapter One by Arok

2. Chapter Two by Arok

3. Chapter Three by Arok

4. Chapter Four by Arok

5. Chapter Five by Arok

6. Chapter Six by Arok

7. Chapter Seven by Arok

8. Chapter Eight by Arok

9. Chapter Nine by Arok

10. Chapter Ten by Arok

11. Chapter Eleven by Arok

12. Chapter Twelve by Arok

13. Chapter Thirteen by Arok

14. Chapter Fourteen by Arok

15. Chapter Fifteen by Arok

16. Chapter Sixteen by Arok

17. Chapter Seventeen by Arok

18. Chapter Eighteen by Arok

19. Chapter Nineteen by Arok

20. Chapter Twenty by Arok

21. Chapter Twenty-One by Arok

22. Chapter Twenty-Two by Arok

23. Chapter Twenty-Three by Arok

24. Chapter Twenty-Four by Arok

25. Chapter Twenty-Five by Arok

26. Chapter Twenty-Six by Arok

27. Chapter Twenty-Seven by Arok

28. Chapter Twenty-Eight by Arok

29. Chapter Twenty-Nine by Arok

30. Chapter Thirty by Arok

31. Chapter Thirty-One by Arok

32. Chapter Thirty-Two by Arok

33. Chapter Thirty-Three by Arok

34. Chapter Thirty-Four by Arok

35. Chapter Thirty-Five by Arok

36. Chapter Thirty-Six by Arok

37. Chapter Thirty-Eight by Arok

38. Chapter Thirty-Eight by Arok

39. Chapter Thirty-Nine by Arok

40. Chapter Forty by Arok

41. Chapter Forty-One by Arok

42. Chapter Forty-Two by Arok

43. Chapter Forty-Three by Arok

44. Chapter Forty-Four by Arok

45. Chapter Forty-Five by Arok

46. Chapter Forty-Six by Arok

47. Epilogue by Arok

Chapter One by Arok
Fall was Kevin’s favorite time of the year. Not just because his birthday was in October, but mostly because he found something beautiful and poetic in the way the leaves would spend months growing tall and strong and reach a pressipis and begin to age quickly, turning into brilliant shades of orange, red and yellow before curling into themselves and simply letting go of everything. Once separated from the tree they would die and become one again with the earth. It was a cycle one could depend on, like clockwork and in Kentucky, the trees were always just a little more vibrant, more engaging to the senses. The gorgeous colors of fall would draw a person into the arms of nature and then show them how wonderful it could be to finally let go.

Kevin never raked the leaves to dispose of them in bags, instead he preferred to let them litter the acres of land he owned, allow them to crunch under their feet and disintegrate until they were only a whisper of what had been. It was nice living on several acres of land, there weren’t nosy neighbors who preferred perfectly manicured lawns with no leaves to really allowing the land and himself to become one with nature. After all, why else would he even want to be here if it weren’t to completely immerse himself in the beauty of the trees and the crispness of fall.

Nothing made him happier than when the wind would pick up, catching some of those freshly fallen leaves up in it’s embrace and moving them from one section of the yard to another. Nothing made him feel more at ease, relaxed, then sitting out on the patio with a cup of coffee and feeling the breeze rush past. He kept the windows open in the house more often than not for this reason as well. He was always surprised how quickly nature could change his mood, his whole perspective on life. All it took was some trees and wind and he would always feel more grounded than he had been before. He was a simple man really. It was a blessing and a curse depending on the situation and who you asked.

He relished mornings like this. The rain had rolled in the night before bringing with it a coolness that was predicted to stay for the remainder of the week. The early morning sunlight was trying but failing to break through the dense fog that had set in earlier this morning. There appeared to be a barrier of precipitation hovering mere feet above the ground, just waiting to burst and bring forth more rain.

The boys were with Kristin and he had a week to just be before they returned home to him. They were on an extended break and there were some projects he could work on if the mood struck, but other than that he was completely free of responsibility and could just sit out here for hours if he so chose. He could barely remember a time when he’d felt so light and free. He loved his boys, but there was also something so freeing about not being responsible for them for just a little bit and knowing they were safe with their mother only added to his freedom.

Thunk. Thunk.

He sat his coffee cup down and glanced around. He’d thought he’d heard something, but peering out over the yard and around seemed to hold no indication of movement or sound. He decided it must have been the wind or a squirrel. They seemed to be all over the place this morning. He’d seen several playing in the yard when he’d first stepped out onto the patio. They quickly dispersed when they realized they were being watched.

It was getting chilly out. Kevin pushed out of the rocking chair and stood and stretched. He needed his cardigan and the paperback he’d started last night he decided. Turning to head back into the kitchen he heard the same sound again.

Thunk. Thunk.

What the hell was that? He spun around on his heels and tried to focus, listening, looking. Still nothing jumped out at him, allowing him to identify the sound he kept hearing. He shook his head. He was starting to go crazy out here in the wilderness he thought to himself chuckling.

In the kitchen he washed out his coffee mug and laid it on the rack to dry. Another benefit of being by himself for a week was the scarce amount of chores that he created just taking care of himself. He still had a housekeeper coming in once a week, but he was tidy by nature and couldn’t let dishes or clutter sit waiting for her once a week trip.

He’d just started up the stairs to the second floor when the noise was so loud he jumped.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

This time it was faster, louder and very close. He was completely alone in the house, there weren’t even any pets here. The boys hadn’t asked for one yet, and Kevin had been waiting on them to request the responsibility of one before forcing something like that on them. He didn’t want to be the one stuck taking care of it all the damn time. They were getting older now, so he figured that was coming soon. But for now, the house should be silent. Where in the world was that noise coming from? He took the stairs two at a time back down and stood in the foyer waiting to see if he heard it again. Realization dawned on him about the same time the noise started again.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

It was the front door. How in the world had he even managed to hear anything that far out on the patio and how long had someone been banging? He quickly crossed to the front door and peered out the peephole. He didn’t see anyone at the door, but there was an unfamiliar SUV parked in the driveway. How in the world did someone even get up here? His place wasn’t listed anywhere and there was a gate and incredibly long driveway. He could have sworn he shut and armed the gate when he’d dropped the boys off with Kristen the night before but he’d been so tired and drained from the switch off that he’d done everything on auto pilot. For the life of him now he couldn’t remember if he’d gotten out of the truck and physically shut the gate or not.

Without being able to see anyone at the door he was a little hesitant to yank it open. But he convinced himself he was just being paranoid. It was probably a neighbor, even though the closest one wasn’t for miles. He placed his hand on the doorknob and felt the door vibrate against his hand.

Thunk. Thunk.

He shook his head and twisted the knob, pulling the door open. Before he knew what was happening something hit him directly in the face. He stumbled backwards slightly, the door swinging wide open as he tried to figure out what the hell had just happened. Looking down, there was a red fire truck on the floor and a blonde haired, blue eyed boy standing with clenched fists on his doorstep.

“Odin?” Kevin said, completely shocked to see the little boy standing on his porch.

The boy tilted his head and peered up at him but remained silent. Where the hell was Nick. What in the world was going on? And best of all, why the hell did he get a fire truck to the face?

“Where’s your daddy?” Kevin asked gently, trying a different tactic.

Still Odin said nothing and continued to stare. After a moment he turned on his heel and pointed to the SUV. Kevin looked at the car closer but couldn’t see anyone inside it. He reached out and put his hand on Odin’s shoulders. “Let’s get you inside and then I’ll go check on your daddy.” Kevin said bending down to pick up the truck. He ushered the small boy into the living room and flipped on the TV. Deciding cartoons would be a welcome distraction he left Odin with the TV and the offending fire truck and went back outside.

Closing the door behind him, he once again looked at the SUV. It wasn’t one he recognized as one of Nick’s, but then again they hadn’t talked in months. That’s what made this all so strange. They weren’t the two most likely to hang out with each other during vacations, so why was he here? Why now?

Making his way closer to the SUV he heard the blood curdling scream that could only come from a baby. He heard Saoirse before he saw her. She had most definitely gotten her father’s lung capacity he thought. Nick was in the driver’s seat, hunched over the steering wheel as the poor baby wailed in the backseat. Whatever was going on had to be bad. Kevin quickly closed the distance between him and the car and yanked the door to the backseat open. Saoirse was louder now, screaming and crying, her poor pretty face covered in tears, snot and was that applesauce? Kevin shook his head and made quick work of unbuckling her from her carseat. Lifting her out of the car he situated her in his arms before shutting the door. She wasn’t dressed for the Kentucky fall and Kevin worried about her catching cold but the cool air seemed to have the same calming effect on her that it did him. Once out of the car seat and into the crisp morning air the wailing subsided into noisy gasps for air and soft hiccups. “That’s better isn’t it little one.” Kevin said gently rubbing circles on her back to help calm her down.

Inside the SUV, Nick still sat. Kevin could see now his shoulders were shaking viciously and he knew whatever drove the younger man to come here was devastating. Kevin took another look at Saoirse to make sure she was okay for the moment before shifting her to his left side. He walked around the side of the SUV and gently opened the driver’s side door. Leaning into the car he wrapped one arm around Nick’s broad shoulders as he held his baby girl in the other. As soon as Kevin touched him, Nick seemed to come completely apart. The cries grew stronger and he collapsed against Kevin, wrapping his arms around the other man’s waist. He knocked Kevin off balance for a moment but Kevin managed to shift his weight quickly enough to keep everyone upright. Nick clung to Kevin desperately, crying and muttering “gone” over and over. Kevin was starting to get scared now. He’d never seen the younger man like this. It was uncharted territory.

Sure he’d always been the one Nick came to in crisis, the one to soothe his fears and insecurities away, but he hadn’t been in this role for years. Nick hadn’t needed him anymore.

Kevin continued to try to rub Nick’s back all the while balancing the baby in the other arm. It had been quite a while since his boys were this little and he was quickly remembering how fatigued arms could get while holding these small bundles of heavy joy.

A noise caught his attention and he glanced up to see the front door standing wide open again and Odin standing in the opened door frame. He sighed quietly. So much for his quiet week of no responsibility.

“Come on baby,” Kevin said to Nick, pulling him away from his embrace. “We need to get the kids into the house and then you and I can talk okay?” Kevin said looking down at the shattered man.

Nick nodded and turned the key in the ignition. He grabbed the diaper bag out of the passenger seat and got out of the car. Kevin held Saoirse out for him to take. “You take the kids inside and I’ll get all your bags out of the car.” Kevin said rubbing his own arm after Nick took her back. His arm was going to be sore for a while. He never understood how small babies could make a grown man’s arms hurt so bad.

“There’s a lot Kev,” Nick said softly, not meeting his eyes.

Kevin laid his hand on Nick’s back and squeezed his shoulder. “That’s fine. It’s chilly out here and neither of the kids have coats on right now. Get them in the house before they catch a cold. There’s some grapes and bananas in the kitchen, get Odin a snack and let me unload the car.”

Nick nodded and shifted the baby onto his hip. “Kev,” he started.

Kevin interrupted him. “We will talk until you can’t utter another word. But right now the kids come first so let’s get them taken care of and then I’ll give you all the time you need baby.”

Nick nodded and slung the diaper bag over his shoulder. Heading towards the front of the house he scooped Odin up by the shoulders and directed him back into the house. Kevin sighed again.

What in the hell was going on? He couldn’t believe something this significant had gone on with Nick and none of the others had thought to call him and give him a heads up that there was a possibility of his younger friend showing up on his doorstep. He quickly took his phone out of his pocket and sent a quick WTF message to Brian before beginning to unpack the bags from the back of the SUV.

Nick was right, there were a lot. Kevin was well versed in fatherhood and knew how much kids needed anytime you traveled, regardless of where you were going or how long, but still. How long was Nick planning on staying here?

There was only one way to get to the bottom of all of this. Pushing several duffle bags up his shoulders, he grabbed the pack and play, and slammed the door to the SUV. Surely this would be enough to get them set up and if they needed something else they could always come back out and get it.
Chapter Two by Arok
Once back inside the house Kevin quickly went to work setting up the pack in play. If they were going to have any chance at talking they were going to need somewhere safe to put Saoirse down. It had been a few years, but Kevin still remembered the tricks to the middle to lay flat and quickly had it up and secured. He opened one of the duffle bags he’d brought in and found some lovies and a blanket. Putting them both down inside the playpen he did a quick look around the room to make sure there wasn’t anything out that either of the kids could get hurt on. Satisfied that the living room was relatively safe for small children, Kevin made his way towards the noise in the kitchen.

The noise was loud from the hallway and only got louder the closer he got to the kitchen. Saoirse was screaming again and Odin was facedown on the kitchen floor hitting his truck on the stone floor. Nick looked frazzled beyond belief, crouched down with the baby on his hip trying desperately to get Odin off the floor. The whole scene would have been comical if Kevin wasn’t worried out of his mind about his younger friend.

Nick looked up at him when he walked in the room, tears threatening to fall. Kevin took a few moments to survey the room before stepping into action. He reached out and helped Nick up off the floor.

"I have the pack and play set up in the living room. You take the baby in there and see if you can get her to nap. Let me see what I can do here with Odin." Kevin said ushering Nick out of the room.

Nick stopped in the hallway and watched as Kevin laid face down on the kitchen floor beside Odin. Nick managed the smallest smile. This is exactly where he needed to be. Who he needed to be with. For once, he’d made the right decision.

-

He really needed to sweep the floor, especially before the baby ended up in here Kevin thought as he laid down on the floor. The appearance of the larger man on the floor was enough to startle Odin into silence. The fit throwing stopped and he gazed at Kevin curiously. "Floor." Odin said.

Kevin chuckled and smiled at the young boy. "Yeah buddy, we're laying on the floor."

They continued to stare at each other for a long moment. Odin smiled and rolled over his fire truck for Kevin to get a look at. Kevin took it and rolled it back and forth a few times before pushing it back to the child. "Are you hungry?"

Odin nodded. "No lunch." he said nodding his head again.

Kevin smiled at the boy, but on the inside was growing even more concerned for the little family. Had none of them eaten lunch? Is that why everyone was so upset and crabby? What hadn’t Nick fed them? Why was Nick here? What in the world could possibly be going on? He helped Odin off the floor and brought him over to the sink to wash his hands. After some lifting and splashing both were wet but had clean hands. Kevin had forgotten how so much about the early years. It was crazy how it slipped from your mind as your own children grew. His youngest was seven and while he could still remember so much about him being little, he forgot the mundane day-to-day parts of parenting a child as young as Odin.

He sat Odin down at the kitchen table with a cup of milk. He looked so small in the large kitchen chairs and made a mental note to check the attic for any of the boys’ booster seats or high chairs. He couldn't remember what Kristin had packed away and if she took any of it with her when she moved out, but it was worth a look if it would help make the kids more comfortable. He crossed the room to the walk in pantry and rummaged around until he produced a jar of peanut butter. He racked his brain momentarily trying to remember if Odin had any issues with peanuts. The exercise made him sad momentarily. How far had they all fallen away from each other if he couldn’t even remember if Nick’s son had a peanut allergy? He brought the peanut butter back into the kitchen.

“Do you like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?” Kevin asked holding up the jar for Odin to see. His eyes went wide in excitement and he nodded enthusiastically. Kevin was struck in the moment how much of his father poured out of those baby blue eyes. Kevin was temporarily transported back to the moment he’d met those eyes for the first time. They were as blue and shiny as Odin’s were in that moment, so full of wonder and curiosity, full of excitement. Kevin felt the same surge of protectiveness for the young child that had always come when Kevin thought of Nick. It was uncanny really.

Breaking from his reverie, Kevin located the jelly from the fridge and the bread from the box on the counter. He set to work making several pb&j sandwiches, intending to make sure Nick ate as well. When he was done he rummaged in the kitchen drawer until he found the dinosaur sandwich cutter that Mason had insisted he needed to ever eat a sandwich. After using it on Odin’s sandwich and disposing of the offending crust he placed the plate in front of the blonde and refilled his milk glass.

“Dinos!” Odin squealed, picking up his sandwich to show Kevin. Kevin smiled and ruffled his hair. Just like his daddy, he thought wistfully.

Where was Nick? He’d been got for quite a while at this point. He’d go look for him as soon as Odin was finished eating. He dug in his pocket for his cell phone. There was a message from Kristin, updating him on their day and sending a couple of photos of the boys. He smiled. He’d only dropped them off the night before, but he was already starting to miss them. The other message was Brian’s reply. All it contained was a solitary question mark. Like that was helpful.

What is going on with Nick? Why did he show up on my doorstep?

What do you mean? He’s there??

Yes, that’s what I am saying. Something bad happened. He showed up here with both kids hysterical. We’ve not been able to get both kids calmed down for any length of time so we can talk. I thought maybe you could give me a heads up.

What’s going on now?

I sent him to settle the baby. I’m feeding Odin lunch. He says they haven’t eaten all day. Nick was completely falling apart when I answered the door. I’m getting really concerned. At first i was pissed because I thought you guys were keeping things from me but it sounds like you didn’t know either.

No, I haven’t talked to Nick in weeks. We’ve been on the road with Baylee and I guess I’ve just been so caught up in my own stuff I didn’t even think to check in. Lauren’s not with him?

Nope, just him and the kids. There’s enough stuff in the car to last them a month somewhere. I think she’s kicked him out or something, but I don’t know why she didn’t keep the kids. THis whole thing is confusing. Why would he come here? To me?

You know why Kevin. It’s always been you. If something is really wrong with Nicky there’s nowhere else he would feel comfortable going. I’m glad he's there. Whatever’s going on, he needs you and we need you to take care of him.

Kevin sighed and shoved his phone back in his pocket. Glancing at Odin, he laughed at the smeared peanut buttery face smiling back at him. “Was it good?” Kevin asked, chuckling.

Odin nodded and held out his sticky fingers. “Wash.” Kevin nodded and led Odin back to the sink. Once their hands were washed once again and Odin’s face wiped clean they walked back towards the living room. There was silence coming from the direction he sent Nick in so he was hopeful the younger man had luck getting the baby to calm down and take a nap. Nick sat on the couch, his head buried in his hands, but the baby fast asleep in the pack n play. One kid down, one to go. Odin climbed up on the couch beside his father, startling him from his thoughts. Nick looked up, his eyes meeting Kevin’s. Broken was all Kevin could think. Nick looked completely broken. Odin laid his head on his daddy’s shoulder and let out a yawn. Kevin went to the hall closet and grabbed a throw blanket, remembering what used to work for Maxwell, and sometimes still did. He came back into the room and handed the blanket to Nick.

“Just lay here and hold him for a little bit. He’s had a full morning and now a full belly. I bet he will drift off if given some quiet and time with Dad. I’ll be out on the patio if you want to talk. If you want to curl up and sleep with him, that’s fine too. I’m not in any rush.” Kevin said smiling down at the boy he’d spent most of his life taking care of.

Tears filled Nick’s blue eyes again, but this time they didn’t fall. He simply nodded at Kevin and pulled Odin close to him, laying them both down on the spacious couch. Kevin left the room quietly hoping they could all get some much needed rest. As impatient as he was to get to the bottom of all this he also knew the best thing for the three of them was rest. It drove him mad not knowing what was wrong so he could fix it. Even as the thought crossed his mind, Kevin had an overwhelming sense of dread that whatever this was, he wasn’t going to be able to fix it this time.
Chapter Three by Arok
Kevin grabbed the tea kettle and filled it with water as he reentered the kitchen. He wanted something hot to drink, but didn’t think more coffee was a good idea right now. He couldn’t believe where this day had gone. His plan for the day had drastically changed in only a few short hours. As much he usually got annoyed when plans changed at the last minute, he just couldn’t bring himself to be annoyed about these turn of events. Not when Nick was in the state he was in. The water boiled quickly and Kevin grabbed a mug and tea bag from the cabinet as quietly as possible. Tea in hand he slipped silently out of the kitchen and onto the back patio. He closed the door behind him and settled back down into the rocking chair.

He closed his eyes and rocked softly back and forth. The wind was back. He wished he’d thought to grab his cardigan before coming back outside but there was no way he was going to chance going back inside and possibly waking everyone up. He took a few more sips of his tea in hopes it would be good enough to keep him warm. He wrapped his hands around the mug and thought about what Brian had said.

You know why Kevin. It’s always been you. If something is really wrong with Nicky there’s nowhere else he would feel comfortable going.

The words played over and over in his head ever since he’d read them. Sure he could have seen that a few years ago, before he married Lauren, before the kids, before Kevin’s own divorce. But none of this seemed feasible anymore. He tried to think about the last time they’d talked, really talked. It had probably more than a year since they’d had a meaningful conversation. Sure they had shared a quick update here and there, talked about work and menial things, but nothing of any substance. It had been almost five months since he’d even seen the younger man and then that had just been for a meeting with their management. They had all agreed at the beginning of the year that with everything going on in the world they needed to take the year and just spend time with their families, work on themselves, work where they could be safe, but no touring or recording until things got back to a new semblance of normal for everyone.

He’d come back home to Kentucky where he split custody with Kristin, one week on, one week off and he’d slipped into a quiet life of parenthood and writing. He was thankful for the break, time to reconnect with his kids. He always missed a lot when they were on the road and since the divorce, Kristin wasn’t as willing to uproot her schedule at a moment’s notice to travel the world with him like she’d used to. He understood, really. The boys were getting older, becoming their own people and didn’t want to constantly have to leave their friends. It was something they would all have to get used to next year when they began recording again, but for now, Kevin was soaking up as much time with them as he could.

He’d expected that Nick went back to Vegas, but admittedly, he hadn’t really thought to check in much. Always waiting for the younger man to make the first move. He wasn’t sure why that was. He called the others whenever the whim struck him, but with Nick, he’d always wait for Nick to call first. He’d usually tell himself it was because he had mothered Nick for so many years he didn’t want to get to the point where he would push the younger man away for good with his well meaning probing or opinions.

Kevin was started out of his thoughts as he heard the screen door to the kitchen open behind him. He turned in his rocker slightly to see the exhausted face of the younger man. Nick stumbled out onto the patio and collapsed into the rocker beside Kevins. They sat in silence for a few moments, the only sounds came from the wind and the squeaking of the rocking chairs as they rocked back and forth. The rhythmic notion of the rocker and the wind was usually enough to relax Kevin and he was ashamed to say that more than once one of his boys had found him sound asleep out here. There was just something about being in the Kentucky air that brought him right back to being a child, where he could fall asleep at any moment and in any place. After several moments Kevin took a chance and glanced over at his younger friend. Nick was leaned back in the chair, his eyes closed but the slightest look of peace on his face for the first time since he’d arrived. Nature had struck again, claiming another victim.

Kevin got up quietly and went back into the kitchen as quietly as possible. He grabbed his cardigan from the kitchen chair and slipped it on before heating the water kettle again. He grabbed a plate and the pb&js he’d made for Nick earlier. Once the water boiled he retrieved another mug and tea bag. Knowing Nick would never drink the tea straight like Kevin did he grabbed the honey pot and swirled honey across the top of the mug and stirred it gently. Once he had his provisions, he went back to the patio, being as quiet as possible not to wake the children. Nick was looking out over the yard when he came back outside.

“It’s beautiful out here Kevin.” Nick said softly watching the squirrel family chase each other up one of the trees further out in the yard.

“It really is. Being here is magical sometimes. Not just because it’s home, but the air, the foliage, everything about this place just soothes me.”

Kevin proffered the mug and sandwiches to Nick. Nick smiled gratefully and took both from Kevin’s outstretched hands. “Thanks. I haven’t eaten today. I didn’t even realize I was hungry until just now. Jesus, Odin must have been starving.” Nick said shaking his head, his eyes filling with tears once again.

Kevin caught one of Nick’s hands in his own as he flung them around. Nick had always used his hands to talk and it was usually more pronounced when he was upset. Squeezing it gently Kevin spoke, rubbing his thumb back and forth on the back of Nick’s hand. “Eat baby. We’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t take care of yourself. Eat and drink and then let’s talk.” He squeezed Nick’s hand again and then released him, sitting back down in his own rocker.

Nick didn’t respond verbally but took a long drink from the mug before placing it on the coffee table in front of him. He made quick work of the sandwiches, realizing he was hungrier than he’d originally thought. Maybe it was just the thought of having to provide the food, think it thorough, make a decision and make it happen that made the idea of eating right now so unappealing that he’d just completely forgot it was something that had to be done. Leave it to Kevin to figure out what was missing and do something about it.

Once the sandwiches were eaten and the tea drank, Nick actually started to feel a little more human. At least that’s what it looked like for Kevin as he continued to sneak glances at the blonde out of the corner of his eye. He didn’t want to push, but he desperately wanted to get Nick talking before the kids woke up. He was afraid if he didn’t they were never going to get through this evening, or however long Nick was staying. And if Nick intended to stay there were things that had to be decided, rooms needed to be reorganized, things moved around. The kids needed their toys and clothes and a place to play.

“I left Lauren.”

Nick’s voice broke Kevin out of the spiral of responsibilities his brain was. “What?” Kevin said shaking the fog off and turning in his rocker to look at the other man.

Nick stared down at his hands, wringing them in and out, over and over again. He didn;t speak for a few moments, just continued to play with his hands. Kevin reached over and slid his hand between Nick’s own to distract him. Nick stared at their clasped hands and threaded their fingers together before he spoke again.

“Lauren has a drinking problem. Like worse than AJ. It’s been going on since before we got married. But I convinced her and myself that we could work through it, that she could get the outpatient help she needed and we would be fine. And we were a lot of the time. When she was pregnant she stopped drinking, both times, after Odin she started again when I went back on tour and I was no longer around to watch her. She lied to me about it, constantly. I came home during one of our breaks to surprise her and found her passed out in the living room with bottles of vodka on the floor. She was passed out cold Kevin, while Odin slept in his crib down the hall. I should have left her then, but we had a baby and I didn’t know what to do. There was a tour going on and I couldn’t bring a baby with me by myself. I never had any kind of support system outside of you guys. I woke her up and we had a knock out drag out fight. She begged me to stay, promising to get help again.

And then we found out she was pregnant with Saoirse and she stopped completely. We were so in love with her and with Odin I thought for sure it was going to stick that we were going to come out on the other side of this thing and everything was going to be wonderful. And then this virus happened and we were suddenly at home, all the time and she started acting really weird. She would stay up later than I would and then sleep in until like noon the next day. I mean I didn’t care about her sleep schedule as much as I cared about how her whole attitude changed. She just wasn’t the same.

About a week ago I found her passed out in the living room again. She had been putting the vodka in water bottles, just like AJ used to. This time, there were two of my babies asleep in the house while she was passed out, completely dead to the world. So bad in fact I had to pour water on her face to get her to wake up. I honestly thought I was going to have to call an ambulance. When she came to, she had a million excuses about how hard this was all on her and how she needed it to feel normal again. I completely lost it. I know how this works. We’ve been down this road so many times with J and I know I am supposed to have more compassion for her because she’s my wife and the mother of my kids, but it’s because of my kids that I am just done man. I am absolutely completely done. I can’t trust her. I can’t trust her as a partner and right now I damn sure can’t trust her as a mother. I took a week and separated in the house, thinking that maybe if she saw I was serious that she would check herself in somewhere and get the help she really needs, but instead she started openly drinking right in front of us, almost taunting. I couldn’t keep the kids in their bedrooms anymore. It was killing us, killing me to stay in that house. So I did the only thing I knew to do. I packed our bags, told her we were done and she wasn’t getting access to the kids until she could prove to me she could be clean and sober and I rented a car and started driving.”

While Nick was talking he continued to stare at their clasped hands, squeezing them every once in a while when the memories became too much to bear. Kevin felt a million feelings at once. He was heartbroken for his friend, for the end of his marriage, for all the shit he’d been hiding trying to be strong for everyone, furious at Lauren for her actions and her inaction in getting help, but most of all, most of all he felt thankful that Nick not only trusted him enough to tell him what was really going on, but trusted him enough to come here. To come to him when he needed someone the most.

“At first I thought about going to our house in the Keys, but I really couldn’t bring myself to go to another place we’ve shared as a family knowing it’s all falling apart. Another part of me was afraid if she got desperate she would come there looking for us. So I came to the only place I could think of where we would be safe, and I guess selfishly, I also knew you would take care of us, and if I’m being completely honest, I could really use that right now.” Nick said softly, his voice breaking as his shoulders started shaking with tears.

In an instant Kevin had slipped out of the rocking chair and was kneeling in front of Nick. He gathered the younger man in his arms and hugged him tightly, allowing the man a safe place to cry. “Shhh Nicky,” Kevin said rubbing small circles on his back the same way he’d done with Saoirse hours ago. It was also the same way Kevin used to comfort Nick when he was younger too, Kevin realized. “I’ve got you baby. I’m not going to let anything happen to any of you. You can stay here as long as you need to. You know that. Of course i’ll take care of you.” Kevin continued to whisper soft words to the blonde as he held him tightly.

Kevin’s own heart was aching for his friend. He wanted nothing more than to take all his pain away, but knew it was something Nick would have to work through on his own. The best thing he could do would be to be there for him and the children, to be the pillar of strength for all of them until Nick could get his strength back. It was time for Kevin, mother hen, to make a comeback and take care of Nick and his family. They were all family, even before they had wives and kids of their own, the five of them had formed a friendship that transcended all others. They were a family unit first, friends second and colleagues third. His family needed him and he would do everything in his power to make things better for the younger man.

Nick pulled back and smiled weakly at the older man. “Kev, I don’t know what to do. I can barely take care of myself at the moment and they need me and I just don’t know how to do it all. I know us showing up here isn’t fair to you, i know you have your own shit going on. I just didn’t know where else to go.” Nick said wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Nick, you are welcome here anytime. For as long as you need. My house is yours. We’re going to get you through this, one day at a time. First though, I need to reorganize some stuff around to give you and the kids some space. The boys are with Kristin all week so that will give us some time to get you three settled. We’ll have a full house a few weeks a month, but I think we will be able to manage just fine until you are back on your feet.” Kevin said squeezing his hand.

“I don’t know how to thank you.” Nick started but Kevin cut him off.

“There’s no thanks necessary. You would do the same if the tables are turned. This is what you do when you care about someone. I love you Nick, and those kids. You are my brother and my friend and I will do everything in my power to help.” Kevin said staring at him intently so he would get the message.
Nick nodded and wrapped his arms around Kevin’s neck hugging the older man to him. They hugged for what felt like eternity, Kevin cradling Nick against his chest, afraid to let him go back into the world. Nick finally pulled away and kissed Kevin lightly on the cheek. “Really, thank you.”

Kevin smiled and got to his feet, crackling and popping all the way. Nick laughed, standing as well “Perhaps it’s you who needs a young thing around to help with chores old man.” Nick said picking up his dishes and following Kevin into the house. Kevin glared at him for a moment before chuckling. “Go check on the kids and I’ll wash these dishes. I have limited food, I was only going to be cooking for one this week and besides, you would not eat anything I had planned. So I need to put in a grocery order. Let me know if there are specific things the kids like to eat and if there’s anything specific you’d like me to order.”

Nick smiled and nodded. “Sounds good. Let me check on them and then I’ll come help.”

Kevin watched him leave the room. Watched the way his hips swayed as he made his way down the hallway towards the living room where his children were sleeping. Living together indefinitely was not going to be easy, and it has nothing to do with having three additional people under his roof.
Chapter Four by Arok
Getting groceries ordered and dinner ready was relatively uneventful. Kevin ordered enough groceries to last them the week and decided he would make more definitive decisions around what food to stock in the house when it came time to place the order at the end of the week. Having the groceries delivered not only saved so much time going to the grocery store, but also minimized the risk to himself and others by being in public. He usually only ordered groceries on the weeks the boys were home with him and managed to limp by with what was left over or ordering take out on the days he was flying solo. With three additional people in the house this week, that was never going to be feasible.

Once the groceries were delivered and put away he set to work creating a tomato sauce for pasta. He figured spaghetti was a safe bet for the kids and knew how much Nick liked it as well. The kids had woken up about an hour ago and Kevin had sent Nick in to keep the company in the living room. Everything had happened so fast he hadn’t had any time to worry about switching rooms around or baby proofing to make it safer for Saoirse. If they were going to be staying here for a while he had to make the space more conducive for a baby, they couldn’t be hovering over her every second, she would need her freedom to explore her new space and get comfortable. A baby gate would be necessary though to keep her from being hurt on the stairs. He remembered having one for both the top and bottom of the staircase when Maxwell was little but he couldn’t quite remember what had come of it. He made a mental note to check the attic for it as well when he went looking for the high chair and booster seat.

He hummed to himself quietly as he made quick work of dicing the tomatoes and onions for the sauce. Adding them to the skillet, he washed his hands and preheated the oven for the garlic bread. He wasn’t sure how long it had been since the three of them had a proper meal and he was determined for them all to go to bed with full tummies. His phone vibrated on the counter. Drying his hands he picked it up to see another text from Brian. It had been a few hours since their last text exchange and knew his cousin was getting antsy by his lack of response. He just didn’t feel like it was his place to give Brian much information about what was going on. That would have to come from Nick. The other man had trusted him enough to come here, to turn to him in his time of need. He wasn’t going to then betray that trust by sharing Nick’s story with the others. Nick would tell them when he was good and ready.


Brian: What’s going on??? Kevin????

Kevin: Brian, I’ve told you. Everything will be fine. I will tell Nick to call you tomorrow. Just leave him alone for the evening and let him settle in here.

Brian: He’s staying there? How long is he staying there?

Kevin: I don’t know Brian. There's a lot going on and none of it will be solved overnight. Right now he just needs a safe place to be for him and the kids while he handles things.

Brian: So he's staying there indefinitely? Are you going to be okay with that?

Kevin: What??? Of course I'll be okay. What are you talking about? I'm not going to turn a friend away if they need me. You know that. I will have him give you a call in a day or so.

Brian: I know you won't turn him away, but I also know what him being there could do to you. You have to take care of yourself too. I'm just looking out for all of you.

Kevin: Things will be fine. I will be fine. I don't even know what you are insinuating. We'll talk to you in a couple of days.


Kevin sighed frustrated and tossed his phone back on the counter. Brian needed to mind his own Goddamn business. Everything was going to be just fine.

The sauce started to boil on the stove so Kevin added the rest of the ingredients and gave it a stir. He was bent over trying to find his Dutch oven when Nick walked into the room. He cleared his throat, causing Kevin to jump a mile into the air. "Jesus Nick, you scared the shit out of me." he said standing up quickly. He was going to have to get used to other people in the house and not be so jumpy. Nick smiled and chuckled. "Sorry Kev. I didn't mean to scare you. How can I help?"

Kevin gestured towards the stove. “If you want to get the garlic bread in the oven that would be helpful. I’ve just got to boil the pasta and then toss it all together.”

They set to work, side by side as they finished dinner preparations. Kevin quickly made plates for both kids so their food could cool before making plates for himself and Nick. “I haven’t had time to look for a high chair for Saoirse so she’s going to have to sit on your lap to eat. I think I have Max’s old chair in the attic. I was planning on looking for it this evening when we started moving things around.” Kevin said, wiping his hands on a dishtowel.

Nick turned to face him from his position at the stove where he was sampling the pasta sauce from a spoon. His eyes were closed happily as he licked the spoon clean. Kevin did a double take and quickly looked away. Nick sat the spoon down and crossed to where Kevin stood. He wrapped his arms around the older man and hugged him tightly. “Thank you Kev, for everything you are doing for us. I know how big of a pain having three people to take care of, just showing up on your doorstep must be. I...I just can’t be anywhere else right now. But I want you to know how much this means to me.” Nick said softly hugging him one more before releasing him. Nick carried the plates to the table and then left the room in search of the children.

Kevin stood dumbfounded leaning against the kitchen island. Several deep breaths later he was finally able to move. What in the world had he gotten himself into?

Dinner was eventful, fun even. He’d forgotten how fun it was to have a lively meal with good company. Most of his meals were either spent alone, or listening to the boys drone on about Fortnite or Pokemon. He’d missed adult conversation about movies, music and even politics, anything that wasn’t a cartoon character. Both kids made an absolute mess with their spaghetti, getting it all over their adorable faces. Odin had it him his hair and down his arms, while Saoirse managed to shove some in her ear while none of the grownups were watching. But they ate, both kids cleaning their plates and Odin even asking for seconds. It pained Kevin to think how long they possibly could have been hungry not just this last week with Nick falling apart, but all the times they’d been left with LAuren and she'd been drinking. He urged himself not to think about it and instead vowed it would never be something either of them would have to worry about. At least not while Kevin was around to control it. Nick ate too, a healthy plate of pasta and bread and when he was done declared it was the fullest he had been in weeks. Kevin beamed on the inside knowing he’d managed to make a small difference, if only for a moment for the three.

“They are going to need a bath.” Kevin said chuckling slightly as Saoirse waved her red sticky hands in the air before touching her face and decorating her sweet cheeks with even more tomato sauce.

“Yeah no kidding.” Nick said laughing.

“I think maybe a sleepover in the living room will be the best thing for tonight. Once the kids are down you and I can work on getting some of the bedrooms upstairs situated for you guys. There’s just been no time to do it yet and I am sure once they have a nice warm bath they will both be ready to snuggle in for the night.” Kevin said, clearing the last of the plates from the kitchen table.

“Are you sure Kevin? I feel awful coming in and invading your house like this. Maybe it would be better if we just got a hotel room.” Nick said looking up at him sadly.

Kevin shook his head emphatically. “Nonsense. How in the world do you expect me to take care of you if you are in a hotel? You’re going to stay right here. There are 8 bedrooms and three different lounge rooms in this house. It’s much too big for just me and the boys part time. We just have to arrange it a little better so it works for everyone. And we can do that as soon as we get these little angels to sleep.”

Nick stared at him for a long moment and then smiled sadly. “If you say so Kev.”

“I do and this is my house, so I’m the boss.” he said winking at Odin.”Now you take the kids to the hall bathroom and give them a bath. I’ll clean up here and then set up the living room. “ Kevin said, turning back to the sink to begin washing the dishes. He heard the scuttle of the chairs on the stone floor and breathed a sigh of relief when he heard them clammer down the hallway. This really was going to be a long night.

Once the dishes were clean and their dinner mess cleaned up Kevin made his way back towards the living room. He stopped at the hall closet and got a few extra blankets and a couple of pillows before heading the rest of the way into the living room. He set to work building a pallet of blankets and pillows on the floor for Odin and made sure Saoirse had a blanket inside the pack and play. He laid a pillow at one end of the couch and folded the bigger blanket in half, laying it beside the pillow for Nick. He’d just finished setting up when a freshly showered Odin came hurtling into the room from the left. Kevin barely had enough time to register him coming before the boy plowed right into him, sending them both tumbling back onto the couch. Odin giggled like a mad man and smiled up at Kevin. He couldn’t help but laugh. He really was his daddy made over. Kevin sat them both up and ruffled Odin’s wet hair out of his eyes. “How’s your daddy doing with your sister?” He asked looking around the room and realizing Nick was still missing.

“He wet.” Odin said giggling again.

Uh oh. That didn’t sound good. Kevin switched on the TV and quickly found a cartoon to keep Odin occupied while he went in search of Nick. Nick was indeed wet. When Kevin found him in the bathroom he was soaking wet from the neck down. “What in the world is going on in here?” he asked, leaning against the doorframe.

Nick looked up at him and shrugged sheepishly. “This isn’t the easiest thing to do by yourself.” he said laughing. “This one is very splashy and likes to squirm.” Nick said gesturing at the baby. She smiled at Kevin from the doorway and proceeded to try to shove her first entirely in her mouth. Kevin laughed and picked up the towel from the corner of the sink. He opened it up and then proceeded to lift the baby out of the bathtub. He sat down on the toilet seat with her and proceeded to dry her off. Nick pulled himself up off his knees and sat on the edge of the toilet seat. He lifted the wet shirt off, exposing his toned stomach and chest. Kevin quickly looked away and busied himself drying, diapering and dressing Saoirse.
“I..I um..the living room is set up so the kids can sleep. I will let you get them down and I’ll head upstairs to start organizing some stuff around.” Kevin said tossing the towel into the hamper. Nick picked it up and used it to towel off the excess water from the bath. “Thanks Kev.” he said smiling.

Kevin smiled back, for a moment too long, and then handed Nick back the baby. He quickly got up and left the small bathroom. Once back in the living room he could see Odin’s eyes drooping as he sat on the couch watching Paw Patrol. “Oh Kev, he loves this show.” Nick said coming up behind him.

Kevin jumped slightly, not anticipating the closeness of the other man. He shifted his weight and nodded walking closer to the small boy. “Okay Odin, it’s time to settle down for bed.” Nick said sitting down on the edge of the couch. He sat on the end still cradling Saoirse in his arms. She was getting sleepy too, her little eyes blinking slowly on the verge of awake and asleep. Odin sighed and slipped off the couch. He gave Nick a hug and leaned down to kiss his sister’s cheek. He turned to look at Kevin. Kevin smiled and said goodnight. He turned to leave the room to give them some time together when he felt little arms wrap around his waist from behind. Looking down he saw Odin’s arms wrapped firmly around him. He stopped and dropped to his knees, taking the young boy in his arms. He gave him a big hug and kissed his cheek. “Story? Pweae?” Odin asked looking up at Kevin hopefully.

How could he possibly say no to those eyes. The same eyes as his father, the same eyes that used to plead with him, very much the same way. He’d never been able to say no to those eyes. He nodded, not trusting his voice to speak. He hugged Odin again and then released him and went to the bookcase in the corner to look for something suitable for bedtime. Most of Max’s books were upstairs, and Kevin wasn’t even really sure what they even still had here anymore. Kristin had gone through most of the boys' things when they were separating and Kevin didn’t know if any of the board books from his childhood survived or not. He made another note to look for those types of things when he climbed into the attic. Finally finding a book he thought would work he picked it up and went back to the couch. He sat down beside Nick so Saoirse could see the pictures too and pulled Odin into his lap.

“I used to read this one to Max and Mason when they were your age.” Kevin said opening the book. “Llama Llama Red Pajama.”

Kevin began reading the story, tickling and playing with Odin as he went. Halfway through the story Odin had curled up in his lap and was struggling to stay away. Nick sat back further into the couch and shifted Saoirse in his lap. She had just fallen asleep and Nick was trying to let her get good and asleep before he moved her to the pack and play. He closed his eyes and relaxed, moving against Kevin until his head naturally fell on his shoulder. Kevin glanced over as the story ended. Odin asleep in his lap, Saoirse asleep in her father’s arms and Nick barely awake on Kevin’s shoulder. He brushed the hair out of Nick’s eyes and placed a gentle kiss against his forehead. Leaning back into the couch to get more comfortable he wrapped one arm around Nick’s shoulders and pulled him closer. The other hand threaded in Odin’s hair, rhythmically moving back and forth to aid in his sleep. Organizing the upstairs could wait.
Chapter Five by Arok
Several hours, a shit ton of boxes and so much dust Kevin wondered what the housekeeper even did later, they had collected an assortment of old baby items, toys and things the kids could use while staying with Kevin. Both men were hot, sweaty and exhausted. They decided to take a break, to catch their breath before continuing on. “I am severely out of shape.” Nick said laying on the floor.

Kevin sat leaning against the wall, trying to stretch the kinks in his back but being unsuccessful. “I don’t even know that shape has anything to do with it. We were already tired when we started and neither of us has ever spent a lot of time doing manual labor.” Kevin said chuckling. Giving up on being able to stretch while still sitting up he laid down beside Nick on the floor and tried again. This time he was able to pop the section of his back that was giving him the most grief. He moaned slightly, finally getting a little relief in his tired muscles. Nick looked at him briefly before quickly looking away and rolling onto his side to face the older man.

“I’ve been here for hours and I haven’t even taken the time to ask you how you are. I’ve been so consumed with my own drama and the kids. I’m sorry for being so selfish. How is it having to split custody of the boys?” Nick said looking over at the older man.

Kevin laid there for a moment before rolling onto his side as well. Facing each other, Kevin sighed. “I hate sharing. But we’re doing a good job of it. The boys are well adjusted and don’t seem to mind going back and forth. A week is hard, but it’s nothing like it is when we’re on the road. I think having that experience really helps. It’s been a blessing being stuck at home so much and getting to spend so much time with them. They are so independent and so grown up while still being so little. It’s amazing to watch their little personalities develop. They are alike in many ways but so different too. They love each other the way brothers do but spend the majority of their time aggregating each other. It will be nice for them to have Odin and Saoirse here to play with the weeks they are here. I think sometimes they get bored with me.” Kevin said chuckling.

Nick smiled and laughed as well. “You? Boring? Never!”

They settled into comfortable silence for a long moment. “Why did you file for divorce Kevin?” Nick asked quietly, not meeting the older man’s eyes. Kevin hesitated for a second before rolling back onto his back. He stared at the ceiling looking for the right words.

“How come you didn’t ask me that last year when it was happening?” He asked looking over at the blonde.

Nick shrugged and rolled onto his back beside Kevin. “I always got the feeling you didn’t want to talk about it, so I wanted to respect your privacy. I asked Brian a few times but all he would tell me was you had your reasons.”

Kevin nodded, leave it to Brian to be evasive and make it seem more tawdry than it really was. “You need to call him by the way. He knows you’re here but I didn’t tell him what was going on. He’s chomping at the bit to talk to you but I told him to give you a few days to settle in first.” Kevin said. He stretched his arms above his head, making his frame even longer than usual.

“Thanks Kev. I’ll call him in a day or so. I’m not ready for everyone to know how I failed at my marriage yet.” he said with a sad laugh.

Kevin turned his head to look at him and took one of Nick’s hands in his own. “You didn’t fail baby. You did everything you could, but love isn’t always enough. Especially when one of you has a problem with substance abuse. How many times has AJ relapsed until it stuck? He had to get there on his own, there wasn’t anything we or Rochelle could do to get him there. Same thing here, you did everything you could, she’s just not ready to be clean. Don’t think for a second you failed. Yes, your marriage may be over, but you put your babies first and that’s the most honorable, strong and selfless thing you could have ever done. I’ll never say it enough, but I am so incredibly proud of you. You’ve not only grown into a wonderful man, but an amazing father. The rest of the guys feel the very same. Believe me, I would stake everything I have on that fact. Not one of us would ever think this is your fault or something you could have done differently. I don’t want to hear that defeatist tone again. You are amazing.”

Nick didn’t know how to respond. Tears filled his eyes again for the millionth time that day. Knowing Kevin was proud of him was enough to bring him to tears. He’d tried so hard, for so long in everything he did to make the older man proud of him. To hear the words said in such a loving and understanding way was almost too much for Nick to hear.

He smiled a wobbly smile at Kevin and then hid his face against Kevin’s chest so the older man wouldn’t see him cry again. Kevin brought both arms down around the blonde and held him close while they laid on the floor. After a few moments Nick spoke.

“You didn’t answer the question. Why did you ask for a divorce?”

Kevin exhaled slowly. This wasn’t something he talked about, with anyone. He wasn’t even sure what or how much to say. They had divorced for many reasons. Some that were public and others that were just between him and Kristin. A lot of factors came into ending their nineteen year marriage, the most significant would never be spoken out loud.

“We grew apart. I know it’s a cliché, but I grew at a different rate and in a different direction than she did. At the end of the day, we both loved each other and we love the boys, but I was no longer in love with her. I took a long hard look at my life and realized that I hadn’t been happy in a very long time and it wasn’t fair to her or the boys to keep pretending it was her that made me happy any longer.”

“Was there someone else? Someone else that made you happy?” Nick said looking up at him through his eyelashes.

Kevin swallowed hard and looked away. “Are you asking me if I cheated on my wife? The answer is no. I was always faithful to her. As you can understand from your own experiences, even though you try for something, doesn’t always mean it’s going to work out. That’s what happened with Kristin. At the end of the day I am happier being alone than pretending to be something I’m not.” Kevin said quietly, hoping Nick would drop the subject.

They laid together in silence for a few more moments before Nick finally pushed himself up into a sitting position. “We’d probably better get finished before we become too stiff to move.”

Kevin stared at him, swallowed hard and nodded, trying desperately not to think too hard about the words the younger man had just muttered.

-

The house had eight bedrooms in total. There were two master suites on either side of the house with three bedrooms on the third level, two more on the second floor and a very small one on the first floor that was mainly used for storage. The third floor housed his boys and the studio. He did most of his work in the studio and when the boys were there it was easier having them on the same level he was. It also helped having his bedroom on a separate floor so they all had some privacy. It made sense to Kevin to set Nick up in the master on the other side and let Odin and Saoirse have the other two bedrooms on the second floor. Nick tried to argue with him about the arrangements.

“Kevin, you do not have to give us all this space. It’s too much. The kids can stay with me in my room.” Nick said, shaking his head.

Kevin turned from where he stood making the twin bed in one of the rooms for Odin. “Stop Nick. Don’t be ridiculous. There is no way any of us are going to get any peace if the three of you are holed up in one bedroom. How do you expect to spend your time here? This house is just as much yours while you are here. I expect the three of you to take full advantage of all rooms of the house. We may have to keep the kids out of Max and Mason’s rooms, but mostly because they have Legos and other things Saoirse can choke on and I don’t feel right making them move their things, but other than that any place in the house is fair game for all of you. Don’t keep the kids locked up in a room. Let them explore and feel at home here.” Kevin said emphatically.

Nick shook his head. “What did we do to deserve you?” He said quietly.

Kevin wasn’t sure how to respond so he didn’t and finished making the bed. He set up some of the trucks they had found upstairs on one of the bookcases for Odin to see when he woke up. They’d found most of the things he’d been looking for. The highchair and booster had been easy to find. They’d found boxes of books and old toys that Kristin had asked him to take to Goodwill months ago and forgot. They were perfect to bring down for the kids though. He’d looked all over but still couldn’t find any of the baby gates. He’d quickly ordered one for each floor from Amazon. They would be essential in keeping Saoirse safe in the house.

“Odin is going to love this. He will love all the toys he’s never played with. It’s like Christmas.” Nick said chuckling as he turned and looked at all they had managed to get done in the short amount of time.

“I’m glad. Whatever I can do to make this all easier is all I want to do.” Kevin said, smiling genuinely at the other man.

“You really mean that don’t you?” Nick asked suddenly.

“What? That I want to make this easier on you?” Nick nodded. “Of course. You know all I’ve ever wanted to do is take care of you baby. Even when you didn’t want me to. You can be pretty stubborn. I’m just glad you came, that you trusted me to help you and you didn’t shut down and shut us out.” Kevin said, crossing the room to wrap the younger man in a hug.

Nick clung to him and allowed the tears to fall. He was getting really sick and tired of crying. “I’m sorry I’m such a blubbering mess.” Nick said laughing against Kevin’s shoulder. Kevin squeezed him close for a moment and then released him.

“No worries. I’ve been there. You’re going through a lot. It will take time, but you’re going to be just fine. All of you.” Kevin grinned at him before leaving the blonde alone in the room.

-

It had been an incredibly long day, Kevin thought as he climbed into bed a few hours later. Rolling over onto his side he glanced at the clock. It was after two. Pretty late for this old man who had gotten up at five that morning he thought chuckling to himself. They had managed to get all the rooms set up and Nick had opted to sleep downstairs in the living room with the kids until they could get some baby monitors. Kevin had placed another order for monitors and a few extra toys for the kids, his own included. This was going to be an adjustment for everyone and the more he could do to make sure all the kids felt safe and comfortable the better they would all be for it.

Even though Kevin was physically and emotionally exhausted he still had difficulty relaxing enough to fall asleep. His mind kept drifting to the people camped out in his living room. People who needed him now than ever before. That fact alone was exhilarating. Kevin, selfishly, lived to be needed by the people he cared about. Taking care of others was completely natural for him, he excelled at it and most of all, he really enjoyed it. The next few days were going to be insanely hard. He had no disillusion about that, but knew he would do everything in his power to make this work for everyone. His mind finally slowing, Kevin fell into a fitful sleep.
Chapter Six by Arok
Kevin moaned as he thrust harder into the blonde. Working his hips furiously he groaned as he watched Nick bite his lip and throw his head back in pleasure.

"Harder Kev," Nick said, drawing his legs up by his knees to give Kevin better access.

Kevin leaned down and caught those ruby red lips with his own, thrusting his tongue into the younger man's mouth in time with the way his cock was thrusting in and out of his ass. Nick returned the kiss, clutching the sheets in his hands as he gave himself over the other man. He ground his ass back against Kevin, causing him to go even deeper and they both moaned as Kevin hit his prostate over and over again. Kevin's fingers were burrowing into the fleshy part of Nick's hips, holding on for dear life as he brought them closer and closer together.

"Oh god Kev, I'm gonna cum." Nick warned, thrashing his head back and forth on the damp pillow.

Kevin smiled and picked up his pace, his own orgasm right there. "Do it baby, come for me. Show me how much you love me."

"Uhh, I do. God Kevin I fucking love you." Nick yelled as he came, white hot spurts covering Nick's stomach.

Kevin was right behind him, moaning the other man's name as he came deep inside him. He collapsed against the blonde and kissed him sweetly. Nick looked up at him and smiled. "I do, you know."

Kevin rolled over and looked at him quizzically. "Do what?" he asked, unsure he was ready for the answer.

"I do love you, it wasn't just a moment of passion comment, Kev." Nick said leaning over and brushing the sweaty hair out of Kevin’s eyes. Kevin smiled at the other man and caught the hand in his. Kissing the back of his hand, and then rolling it over to kiss the palm, Kevin smiled against the heated skin. "I love you too baby."

-

Kevin woke with a start. He was alone, sweaty and dear god, covered in cum. He'd had a fucking wet dream, while Nick slept less than a floor away. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been so embarrassed. He peeled the covers away from his skin and climbed out of bed. He would definitely have to wash his sheets now. He stripped the sheets and bundled them into a ball by the hamper before shedding his clothes and walking into the spacious master bathroom. What in the world had gotten into him? He felt like an idiot. It had been so long since he'd had a dream like that he'd thought they were gone for good, but apparently all it took was the object of his desire to show up unannounced and destroy the wall he'd put up around his inner thoughts.

He sighed heavily as he stepped into the steaming shower. This was going to be hard, probably one of the hardest things he'd ever done. But it was something he had, no, needed to do for the younger man. Right now Nick needed someone to help him, take care of him and get him back on his feet. He didn't need someone lusting after him and making everything more difficult.

He showered quickly. Stepping out of the shower he toweled off and dressed in record time. The less time he spent alone and naked the better. Walking back into his bedroom he took notice of the time. It was a little after eight. He had no idea if Nick’s kids were early risers or not, but he figured he would go start breakfast anyway. Before he’d even hit the staircase he could hear the cacophony of shrieking, cartoons and laughing. He descended the stairs quickly and hurried into the kitchen. There was flour, or what Kevin only hoped was flour, everywhere. Every surface appeared to be covered in it. It was on the floor, down the front of the dishwasher and leaking out of the bag on the counter. Sairose sat on the floor, putting fistfuls of it in her hair and in her mouth while Nick and Odin were turned trying to make the mixer work. Kevin surveyed the extensive mess before him and wondered again what he had gotten himself into. He leaned against the doorway and cleared his throat. Nick jumped and whirled around, his face reddening as his eyes landed on Kevin.

“Kevin, I am so sorry. I promise we will clean it up.” he stared, putting his hands up in a calm down gesture Kevin had seen a million times before. He tried to keep his face looking stern, but the near panic in Nick’s eyes and the terror on Odin’s face was enough to break his tough guy demeanor, even if it was all a façade. Kevin smiled and walked further into the kitchen. The closer he got, the worse the mess got. Behind the kitchen island, hidden from his original place in the doorway was cracked eggshells, even more flour and what could only be described as some kind of paste that Kevin determined had to have been made by Sairose when she was eating the flour. He shook his head in laughter and lifted her off of the floor. She stared at him with wide blue eyes, much like her fathers’. Kevin had to smile wider. Oh how these same eyes had looked at him in much this way for so many years. He hugged her little body against him and turned to Nick. “What exactly are you attempting to do Nicky?” Kevin asked peering over the edge of the mixing bowl.

“The kids were hungry and I wanted to surprise you with breakfast as a thank you for all you’ve done for us. I’ve never used one of these things.” he said gesturing towards the mixer. “And before we knew what was happening, flour was flying everywhere out of here. Kevin looked at the mixer, and then looked back at Nick. “Was it off when you added the flour?”

Nick’s face turned crimson. “At first it was, but then while I was pouring the flour in, Odin flipped the button. I tried to shut it off fast enough, but I guess I didn’t quite get there quick enough.” He smiled sheepishly. Kevin laughed. Well that explained everything. He smiled down at Odin so the boy would know he wasn’t angry.

“What were you trying to make Odin?” Kevin asked.

His grin was a mile wide on his pale sweet face. “Cakes!!”

“Ah!” Kevin said. “Do we want pancakes for breakfast?” He asked first looking at Odin and then asking Sairose while tickling her belly. She laughed out and smiled. Odin nodded enthusiastically.

“Alright Nicky. You take baby girl so she stops eating the flour. Odin and I will make breakfast.”

Odin clapped his hands excitedly while Nick started to protest. “Kev, I.” he started.

Kevin didn’t listen. He handed the baby to Nick and steered Odin towards the sink, taking the mixing bowl with him as they went. “Since we have no idea how much flour actually ended up in the bowl, let’s wash it out and start over. Sound good?” Odin nodded and smiled up at him. Kevin smiled back and ruffled his hair. Cleaning the bowl, the two set to work making enough pancakes for an army.

-

Hours later, the kitchen cleaned and the kids napping, Nick and Kevin found themselves alone and in silence. This was the first run of the kids sleeping in their newly organized rooms so Nick was hesitant to leave the second floor in case they needed him. Kevin offered him some privacy, opting to work in the studio and give his boys a call. Nick had agreed to finally call Brian so he would stop blowing up both of their phones.

Calling his boys was always a welcome distraction. He learned all about what they had been up to, how school was going and what they had done for classes that day. Since the beginning of the year the boys were doing virtual school, which was easy enough to facilitate with their split custody schedule, all they needed was a good internet connection and they were good to go. After talking for a while to each of the boys they put their mother on the phone. Even though they were now divorced, Kevin and Kristin tried really hard to keep a good relationship for the boys.

“Hey Kev,” she said taking the phone from Mason.

“Hey honey. They giving you a hard time?”

She laughed. “These boys? They are either loving each other or trying to kill each other. There is never any happy medium. For the most part it’s okay. They aren’t happy we won’t let them go trick or treating this year. I’ve explained to them until I am blue in the face that it’s just not safe but you know how stubborn they can be.”

Kevin laughed. “I wonder where they get that from.” he teased.

“Yeah, I wonder.” she said sarcastically with a laugh. They both knew he was extremely stubborn and they had most definitely inherited that trait from their father.

“Kev.” She said, suddenly serious. “Did I overhear correctly? Is Nick there?”

The question hung in the air, the silence crackling between them.

“Yes.” he said quietly, knowing exactly where this conversation was going.

“Kevin, is this a good idea? You know how you...” Kevin cut her off before she could finish the thought.

“Kris, believe me I know what you are going to say. I understand why you are worried, and I can only ever be honest with you, so honestly, I am a little worried too. But I can’t do anything else, you know I can’t.” he said softly.

She sighed. “I know. Believe me Kev, I know. I’m just worried about you. With the kids coming home in a few days, is it all going to be okay?” She asked, the worry evident in her voice.

Kevin nodded even though she couldn’t see him. “Yeah Kris. It’s going to be okay. You will be the first to know if I think the boys need to come to you any earlier or we need to extend the time you have them, but honestly I think the boys will enjoy new friends to play with. Plus, you know how big of a kid Nick is."

She laughed at that one. “Yeah, I know. I am just worried about you. How you’re going to handle it all. I still love you, even if we’re not “in love” with each other anymore. I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

“Thanks Kris. I love you too, you know. Always will.” he said, his voice breaking a little. He did not intend to get this emotional on the phone just talking to his ex wife and kids.

They finished the conversation and after another quick goodbye to his boys he hung up. Left in silence, his mind drifted back to their conversation. He understood completely why Kristin had her guard up, why she was worried. After all, Nick played a big part in the reasons for their divorce, even though he had no idea. Only he and Kristin did, and that’s exactly the way it would stay.

The boys had seemed excited about having house guests, especially when they knew that no one was allowed in their rooms and all their own toys were safe. He chuckled at that one. The boys had way too many toys, in both houses! If he was honest he figured all of their kids were pretty spoiled, but hey, why did they work if they couldn't provide nice things for their kids? He knew he went overboard quite often.

Kristin was always vilified by the fans of being a gold digger and spender of his money, but that was the furthest thing from the truth. To start with, she had a large trust fund from her grandparents, so even when they’d married she had quite a bit of money of her own name. He’d still given her way more than she wanted when they divorced, it was only fair. Secondly, she was huge on saving. She chided him all the time for the amount he spent, not only on himself and his kids, but groceries as well. She never could understand paying more for something because of convenience when you could get it cheaper somewhere else. Frugal was the best word to describe her.

He admitted he spent the majority of his money. A lot of the time he always felt like he needed to make up for something. At first it was being on the road so much and then later when they told the boys they were divorcing he felt more than ever the need to make it up to them. He still spoiled them with time as well. On the weeks the boys were home they did everything together. He was completely devoted and available to them, a lot of times too much to where they would tell him to go away or to give them space. He loved that most of all, it meant he’d done his job correctly. It reminded him of how overbearing his own father had been at times. It made him miss him a little less sometimes, knowing he was carrying on his traditions.

He wondered briefly how Nick’s conversation with Brian was going. He prayed his cousin was being understanding and supportive. Sometimes you could never tell what kind of mood you would catch Brian in. He hoped Brian wasn’t encouraging him to work it out with Lauren for the sake of his marriage. Brian had tried that line when Kevin told him that he and Kristin were divorcing. Kevin had never explained all the reasons, and Brian never fully understood, but frankly, it was none of his business. And while Kevin knew that Brian mostly meant well and wanted his friends and family to be happy, there were times when he got too caught up in what was “right” to worry about how it impacted the person he cared about. This was another reason Brian had never been told the true reason for the dissolution of his marriage.

Kevin looked at his watch. It was 2:30. The kids had been asleep for about an hour. If lucky, they would have an additional hour before they woke up. Kevin didn’t want to go downstairs and risk waking them early if he could help it. His mind made up, he took out the notebook he kept in the studio. Flipping to the page he was looking for he grabbed a pencil and set to work on the song he’d been working on for the past six months. He had the melody down and knew where he wanted it to go. He even had some of the words, but he’d been stuck for the past few months and even though something inside of him said this was going to be the song to change his life, to put him on the map as a solo artist, he still struggled with the words he wanted to get out. He stared at the notepad for several long moments, waiting for inspiration to strike. He hummed quietly. He had the first verse down, he just had to write the rest of it. He’d started the groundwork for the song the day after he told Kristin it was over, the emotions of their fight pouring from his fingertips onto the piano keys and his notebook. He was starting to feel that same spark of inspiration now and was determined to do everything in his power to make sure it didn’t slip away from him this time.

I don't know where to begin
I don't know how to get out there to see you
I don't know where to dig in.
I don't know how to get in there: to feel you
Chapter Seven by Arok
The next few days passed by in a blur. Everyone was busy settling into a new normal. Kevin tried to help when he could, but also knew Nick had to learn how to parent two kids under five by himself. He still kept an eye on things and stepped in when he saw Nick getting overwhelmed or if he was having trouble balancing both kids at the same time. That was the whole point of Nick staying with Kevin then being on his own right? They managed to perfect a pretty easy routine the first few days. Kevin knew it would all change as soon as the boys came home and there were two more kids in the house. He was desperate to have them home. Even with all the chaos in the house this time, he was still missing them a little more than normal. He had high hopes for blending the responsibilities and homes together for the time being to make it easy on everyone.


Nick had refused to discuss his conversation with Brian and Kevin had dropped it, not wanting to pry. His cousin had been uncharacteristically quiet however and so Kevin was beginning to grow worried they had fought or Brian had done or said something to hurt Nick’s feelings. He figured he’d give it another day and then grill Brian to see what happened. Nick seemed relatively okay. He got flustered easily, but he was also dealing with more than anyone should have to all at once. He seemed upbeat most of the time and spent all his time with the kids while they were awake. They shared meals together and sometimes chatted for a while after the kids went to bed but the evenings Nick spent locked up in his bedroom. That was just fine with Kevin. He usually retired to the studio in the evenings, knowing as soon as Mason and Maxwell came home he wouldn’t get any time to work on his song until they were back at Kristin’s the following week.


Fall was in full swing and Friday found Kevin buried in leaves in the backyard. The large oak tree had decided to shed most of the beautiful red leaves it had been holding onto for most of the season. Growing up on the beach for the most part and far away from trees of this kind, Odin was mesmerized by the leaves falling and everything you could do with them once they fell to the ground. Kevin had shown him how to scoop them into a pile and jump in them for fun, or make it rain leaves by throwing them up into the air. They had been outside for hours, chasing each other, throwing the leaves and laughing. Nick had brought Sairose out with them at first, but after she tried to eat a leave and then managed to put a bug in her mouth, Nick had taken her back inside to play and left Odin with Kevin. Kevin loved playing with the youngest blonde. Several times Kevin wondered if this was exactly how Nick was as a child. It was startling for Kevin to realize that Nick was just 10 years older than Odin was now the first time they met. It just didn’t seem possible. It felt like Nick had been a part of his life forever, the missing piece to his happiness.


He shook his head with laughter as leaves rained down on top of his head. This was the new game Odin had invented. He’d tackled Kevin to the ground a little bit ago and then quickly set to work covering Kevin’s large frame with leaves. Kevin had to laugh. He figured this was Odin’s version of a sandcastle, but with leaves. It was cold and slightly damp on the ground, but Odin was having so much fun that Kevin couldn’t bring himself to stop the game. Every time Odin giggled and then snuck a glance at Kevin his heart soared. The devilish look in those beautiful blue eyes would always do him in. Odin had no idea his father had perfected that look years ago and had always managed to use it to get whatever he wanted. The groundwork had been laid. Odin would always get whatever he wanted where Kevin was concerned.


Kevin lay perfectly still pretending to be asleep as Odin placed the last of leaves over his face. He heard the backdoor open and Nick come outside. “Odin, where’s Kevin?” He called. It sounded to Kevin like he was still on the patio. He heard the snickering continue.


“I dunno.” came the giggled reply.


Kevin smiled under the leaves. It had to obvious he was laying on the ground right beside the young boy Kevin thought. But still Nick sounded confused. “Odin, it’s not funny. I thought he was out here with you. Did he go back inside?”


The snickering continued but Odin didn’t answer. Kevin wasn’t quite sure if Nick was sincerely confused, or was playing with Odin. He couldn’t take the risk of moving. It would ruin someone’s plan. He just wasn’t sure if it was Odin’s or Nick’s. He heard the shuffling of leaves as Nick walked out into the yard. Kevin tried in vain to see out around one of the leaves placed over his face, but still he couldn’t see anything. He felt Odin back up into him from where he was crouched on the ground.


“Odin?” Nick questioned. “What’s going on? Where’s Kevin? Did he leave you out here alone?”


“Uh huh.” Odin said quietly.


The shuffling noise got closer and Kevin could see a shadow above him. Nick had to be standing right overtop of him now. He stuck his tongue out just enough to shake the leaf loose from where it covered his eye. With one eye partially uncovered he could see Nick standing beside Odin with his hands on his hips. He didn’t look like he was playing to Kevin, but maybe he was a better actor than he originally thought. Suddenly an idea took hold. If he shifted quickly, he could grab Nick and scare him. The idea was genius, payback from years of pranks and jokes. He wiggled his fingers loose of leaves and in one quick motion he shot his hand out, grabbed Nick’s ankle and pulled.


“Ahhh.” Nick yelled as Kevin’s hand yanked him forward.

The motion had startled the younger man and before either of them could react Nick was falling, landing right on top of the older man. Shocked blue eyes met green as the leaves dispersed and Nick fell against Kevin’s chest. Kevin broke out into laughter at the look on Nick’s face. Nick was too shocked to laugh and continued to look down at Kevin. Kevin’s laughter eased and he continued to stare up at the younger man. The fall air crackled around them. Suddenly it wasn’t funny anymore. Kevin stared up into Nick’s face. His cheeks were flushed and his eyes still held a hint of uncertainty. Kevin tried really hard not to let the proximity of the blonde affect him but it wasn’t working. His eyes fell to Nick’s lips, pouty and full. He’d fantasized about those lips on his so many times he’d lost count and there they were, directly above him, so close all he had to do was push up off the ground and they would be his.


Before either man could move, Odin dropped an armful of leaves on top of them, startling them both out of the moment. Kevin laughed and rolled to his side, dropping Nick onto the ground. “Ohph.” Nick moaned as he hit the ground. “Thanks a lot Kev. First you scare the crap out of me and then you drop me on the ground. It’s wet down here.” he said sitting up on his hands.


“Haha sorry Nicky.” Kevin said, trying not to look at him. The moment had been too intense. He’d almost slipped. He had to put some distance between them and fast. “Yeah, it is wet. We’ve been playing in it so long I am pretty soaked. If you’ve got him I am going to run in and take a shower. Odin should probably have a bath and some warm clothes soon too so he doesn’t get sick.” Kevin said brushing off his hands and backside as he stood up. He didn’t even wait for a response. He quickly made his way back into the house and up the stairs. He didn’t breathe normally again until he’d safely locked himself inside his bedroom.



Kevin leaned back against the closed door and took several deep breaths. He was furious with himself. What had started out as a harmless prank had quickly turned into something else entirely. If Nick had stayed on top of him for very much longer he would have gotten first hand knowledge how much his proximity affected him. Kevin pulled his sweater off over his head and tossed it towards the hamper. His soaked pants and underclothes followed. Completely naked now he walked into the bathroom and quickly turned on the shower. Once inside the hot cascading spray he started to relax.


He was still hard, it was a position he was finding himself in more and more than he anticipated. He quickly washed his hair and soaped up his loofa. As he made his way down his chest and stomach he stopped and wrapped his hand around his erection. Nick was outside, and even if he wasn’t the bathroom was pretty insulated away from anywhere he would be. Kevin began moving his hand back and forth slowly, remembering what it felt like to have Nick’s body pressing down on his own. He moaned softly as he sped up his hand. He thought briefly what it would have felt like to take that pouty bottom lip into his mouth and suck on it, how it would feel to brush their lips together. Kevin imagined it would feel like fireworks igniting inside of him, the heat and passion he’d kept locked away for the younger man for so long finally catching spark and enveloping both of them. Kevin’s hand was moving faster now, pumping his thick cock up and down, bringing him closer and closer to his release. He moaned again, needing to cum, needing the release that he would never get with the other man. His mind drifted briefly to the dream he’d had a couple of mornings ago, imagining again what it would feel like to slide in and out of that gorgeous ass. That was all it took and Kevin came hard against his hand and the shower wall. He bit the fist of his other hand to keep from yelling out. The last thing he needed was Nick tearing down the door to find him naked in the shower.


He finished soaping himself and rinsed. Finally clean he stepped out of the shower and toweled off. He hadn’t brought clothes into the bathroom with him so he tied the towel around his waist and went back through the bathroom into his bedroom. As soon as he entered the room there was a pounding at the door, causing him to jump slightly. He really didn’t want to answer without dressing first, but Nick was banging so hard Kevin was half concerned the house was on fire. He swung the door open and was surprised to see Nick and Odin both standing in the doorway.


“I...I..um” Nick said blushing as his eyes roamed over Kevin’s naked chest. “We...um wanted to see if you wanted lunch.” Nick refused to meet his eyes and instead focused anywhere but Kevin’s face.


Kevin chuckled and held onto the knot on his towel. He tried not to think about what the blush could mean. They had seen each other naked a hundred times before. Why would Nick be blushing now? Curiosity sparked deep within the older man and he tried to put it out with no anvil. “Sure. Let me get dressed and I’ll come down and help.” Kevin said smiling at them both.


“Cheesey cheese!” Odin said happily, smiling up at him.


Nick rolled his eyes and smiled at Kevin. “Grilled cheese. He’s begging for it.” Nick deciphered.


“Sounds yummy. I love grilled cheese.” Kevin said, winking at Odin. Odin jumped in the air in joy and skipped off down the hallway.


“Just give me a sec.” Kevin said turning and shutting the door. He heard Nick mumble something from behind the door but was too preoccupied to inquire what it was. He was confused, very confused about why Nick would blush just from seeing him in a towel. Maybe it was because Odin was right there. That made sense. Kevin would probably be slightly embarrassed if one of his boys found Nick in a towel. His mind made up, he quickly got dressed and went down to help with lunch before he had to spend the next hour cleaning the kitchen back up.


-


After an uneventful lunch they settled into the living room. “Wanna watch a movie?” Kevin asked, carrying Sairose from the kitchen.


“Movie!!”Odin said excitedly.


“What about Casper?” Kevin said picking up the remote from the coffee table. “It’s almost Halloween and that shouldn’t be too spooky for you.”


“Man, Kev, I haven’t watched that movie in years.” Nick said drawing Odin into his lap.


They settled down onto the couch, the movie playing quietly in the background. “Want me to take her?” Nick asked, gesturing to the baby.


Sairose had quieted and had curled into Kevin’s arms, her little head tucked into his shoulder. Her short little breaths against his neck told him she was asleep, even without having to look. “No. She’s sleeping and she’s perfectly fine right where she is.” Kevin said quietly, rubbing light circles against the little girl’s back.


If he couldn’t hold Nick, at least he could hold a piece of him close. Nick eyed him curiously and then nodded. They sat in silence for a while, wrapped up in the journey that Casper the friendly ghost took. Kevin glanced over at Nick halfway through the movie to find Odin curled into his lap asleep and Nick playing on his phone. A look of anger and disgust on his face. Kevin reached out the hand that wasn’t occupied with the baby and placed it on top of one of Nick’s. “What’s the matter?” He said softly, trying not to wake either child.


Nick shook his head and looked up at him. Kevin could see the anger radiating in those beautiful blue eyes. “It’s Lauren. She keeps sending me these insane text messages. Saying she’s going to hire a private investigator to find me, that I can’t hide forever, that these are her kids too. She doesn’t deserve to see them right now. She needs to get help, get clean and stay clean before I can ever trust her enough to see these kids. I don’t even like to think about how lucky we are that nothing ever happened to them while she was drinking. So many things could have gone wrong, they could have been hurt or worse. I can’t risk something happening to them.” He said, his eyes filling with tears of anger.


Kevin was quiet for a long moment before he asked. “How do you feel about Lauren outside of her drinking problem? Do you still love her? If she did the work and got clean, would you go back to her?”


Nick thought about the answer for a moment before replying. “No, I’m not in love with her. I’m not sure I ever really was. I think I got to a point where everyone around me had grown up so much and I was tired of being left alone. You all had wives and at least one kid, some of you had multiples and I was tired of being the one nobody loved, not having anyone to care about me. I wanted a family, my own family and then I met Lauren and everything seemed to fall into place and I could finally see where the things I wanted were within my grasp. So I grabbed on and did the things I was supposed to do to get the family I always wanted. I think I always assumed the love would come, or hell, what did I even know about love. It wasn’t like I had many that had shown it to me. But once I saw that she could have the potential to hurt my babies, to put that family I wanted in danger, any semblance of love I felt for her vanished.”


Kevin wasn’t sure how to respond to that. If only he could tell Nick exactly how much he had always been loved, cherished even, but it wasn’t what Nick wanted or needed to hear right now. “Nick, if you are honestly down with your marriage, I think you need to hire a lawyer.” Kevin said shifting on the couch. He placed a hand on Sairose’s back to steady her as he turned into a side position so he could face Nick on the couch. Her breathing hitched as she snuggled closer. God he could get used to this. He missed Maxwell being this little. With Mason he had been home more, on his extended hiatus from being part of the group. Maxwell had been unplanned and came during the height of his return and he had missed out on many experiences like this, just cuddling a small baby close while they slept. It was the stuff of dreams. Knowing this little bundle was part of the man he’d loved for more than half of his life made it that much better.


Nick had a shocked look on his face. “A lawyer? Seriously Kevin?” he asked skeptically.


Kevin nodded. “If it were just you, I would say you have some time, but there are a lot of different issues here. The biggest thing you need to do is file for emergency custody of the kids before she does. I know it sounds messy and dirty, but if she is already sending you threatening text messages then this only has the potential to get that much worse. You need to protect yourself and the kids. You need to file for custody, even if you want to wait on the divorce part.”


Nick thought about it for a moment. “Did you use a lawyer for your divorce?”


“Yeah I did. We’re not average people Nick. While I trust Kristin wholeheartedly with the kids as well as my wealth, I still wanted to make sure everyone was safe and protected. We have 50/50 physical and legal custody of the boys. We make all decisions as a team and always present a united front for the kids. As they’ve gotten older and want to try to pit us against each other, that decision has become much more important.”


Nick shrugged. “I guess you’re right. I didn’t realize you had gone as far as using a lawyer. The whole thing was so secretive and you both seemed so fine before and after I guess I just assumed you had just worked it out between you and filed the paperwork.”


“We talked about it, but using a lawyer was better for everyone. He helped set up trusts for the boys and made sure no matter what happened to either of us that they were protected and cared for. If something were to happen to us the boys will go to Brian.” Kevin said softly. He was afraid their conversation was getting too loud.


“Do you have the name of the person who handled your divorce? Maybe he can give me a referral.” Nick said softly, brushing the hair out of Odin’s eyes. “I need to do everything in my power to keep her away from then until she’s clean.”


Kevin reached out and took Nick’s hand. He squeezed their fingers together gently. “I’m really proud of you Nicky.”


Nick looked down at their clasped hands and then met Kevin’s intense gaze. He blushed and looked away, but didn’t make any attempt to move his hand. “Thanks Kev. That really means a lot to me.”
Chapter Eight by Arok
Kevin awoke the next morning full of energy and excitement. This was going to be an exciting day. Not only were his boys coming home, but it was also Halloween. With the current state of the world, Kevin and Kristin had both agreed that there was no way they could celebrate the holiday trick or treating like they normally did. Instead they had decided to give each boy a Halloween basket and have a spooky egg hunt in the backyard. They had been planning this for months. Kevin and Kristin had both stuffed hundreds of skeleton eggs with candy weeks ago and they were in the closet in his studio where the kids would never think to look. Kristin also planned on staying to enjoy the festivities as a family, just like they had celebrated every holiday since the divorce. Even though they were no longer husband and wife didn’t mean they weren’t a family, especially where the boys were concerned. Both Kevin and Kristin were committed to keeping the same traditions with the boys, regardless of their marital status.

Kevin knew there were plenty of eggs for Saoirse and Odin to play as well and when he’d ordered the gates and baby monitors he had also ordered extra treats and costumes to put together baskets for Nick’s kids as well. With everything they both had been through the last few weeks, Kevin decided they needed a little bit of magic and excitement.

Kevin hadn't mentioned any of the Halloween plans to Nick. He knew the young man was under enough pressure as it was. He didn’t want to add to his stress by reminding him about the holiday. He also didn’t want Nick to get it in his head that they were intruding and try to take the kids out for the evening. He knew his boys would have a lot of fun sharing in the excitement of the egg hunt with the little ones.

He knew today would be exceptionally stressful for Nick. After their conversation yesterday afternoon, Kevin had phoned his lawyer and gave him a brief rundown of the situation. His lawyer was adamant that Nick needed to make a move sooner rather than later and offered to meet him first thing Saturday morning to discuss options and next steps. Nick had hesitated but then agreed to meet with him and see what he had to say. Nick was supposed to leave in an hour to meet him downtown. Kevin had insisted on keeping the kids, telling Nick he was more than capable of handling two kids by himself. The boys and Kristin weren’t supposed to arrive until at least five, so that gave Nick plenty of time to take care of business before he found himself in the middle of the Halloween shenanigans.

Kevin walked into the living room to find Odin and Saoirse fighting over a pop tart. Nick was nowhere to be found and Saoirse was getting upset as Odin kept trying to grab it out of her hands. “What’s going on buddy?” Kevin asked crouching down beside them.

“Hungry. Last one.” Odin said pointing at the pop tart Saoirse held in her sticky fingers. No matter how hungry he was, you couldn’t have paid Kevin to eat anything a baby had gotten their hands on.

“I’m pretty sure there’s some more in the kitchen. You keep an eye on your sister and I’ll go check.” Kevin said, glancing around the room. Where was Nick?

As he entered the kitchen, Kevin caught sight of the blonde outside on the patio. He was dressed in slacks and a white dress shirt, his back to the kitchen, talking on his cell phone. From what Kevin could see he was very agitated. He was gesturing wildly with his hands and while Kevin couldn’t hear what he was saying, he could tell by his demeanor that whoever Nick was talking to was upsetting him. Kevin thought briefly about intervening, trying to calm the other man, but thought better of it. He couldn’t fight all of Nick’s battles for him. He opened the pantry door and quickly scanned the shelves for the box of pop tarts. Finding the last box on the bottom shelf he grabbed a package for Odin and kicked the door closed with his foot. Pulling out his phone to add more to the grocery list he realized he had a text from Kristin.

Kristin: “Still on for tonight?”

He texted back. “You bet. I’m pretty excited about it actually.”

Kristin: “winky face. Me too. The boys will love it. They miss you and are ready to come home.”

“I miss them too. I’m ready to have them here. I’m going to place an order for groceries this afternoon. Is there anything else we need for tonight that we forgot?”

Kristin: “Nope. I think we have everything covered. Are Nick and the kids going to join us?”

There it was. He wondered how long she had been holding back on asking. She had to already know the answer. They were staying in his house for heaven’s sake. It wasn’t like he could exclude them.

“Yeah, they are. Is that going to be a problem?”

Kristin. “Of course not. I was just trying to figure out how many treat bags to bring.”

Kevin rolled his eyes. She was fishing for information and they both knew it. He had no idea why she tried to pretend otherwise. He really couldn’t blame her. The way their marriage had blown up was completely on him, he probably would feel the same in her shoes. He just hoped she would be able to be civil towards Nick while she was there. He wouldn’t understand her hostility and didn’t want to have to fabricate a story later to make up for her behavior.

He closed the messaging app and opened the grocery app. Making sure to order enough pop tarts to satisfy all the kids in the house he quickly opened Odin’s package of pastry and popped them into the toaster. His eyes were drawn to the patio again. Nick was still outside but there was less arm flailing now. Kevin imagined whatever had upset him was over and done with now. He drummed his fingers on the counter tops while he waited impatiently for the toaster to finish. He glanced at the clock above the stove. If Nick didn’t get a move on he was going to be late to meet the lawyer. Kevin debated on what he should do, but the choice was made for him as Nick came barreling through the patio door. Kevin glanced up and was taken aback by the anger on his flushed face.

“What’s the matter Nicky?” Kevin asked with concern. The toaster popped and Kevin grabbed a plate and gathered up Odin’s breakfast.

Nick shook his head. “It’s nothing. It’s Brian. He’s an ass. I don’t have time to get into it. Are you sure you’re okay with the kids? I really need to get out of here.” Nick was trying to tuck in his dress shirt, but his hands were shaking so much he could barely get the shirt tails inside his pants. Kevin put down the plate and crossed the room to where Nick stood. He took both Nick’s hands in his own.

“What’s got you so worked up.” Kevin said looking at the younger man intently.

Nick shook his head and looked away. “Brian, he just, has ways to make you feel like absolute shit. I’m trying here. I’m trying to do what’s best for my kids and best for me, but you know how he is. He’s got the “perfect wife and perfect kid” and doesn’t understand how other people struggle with things like this.”

Kevin drew the other man into his arms, wrapping him tight. “You are doing the right thing baby. Don’t let him get in your head. He could be the unhappiest man on the planet but he would never admit it or do anything about it because it goes against what he believes to be true. You and I know otherwise. I’ve been down this road with him a hundred times, believe me. The best thing you can do is ignore him and limit the amount of information you give him. But don’t think for one second you are not doing the right thing.” Kevin hugged him close and then regretfully released him.

Nick caught his hand and squeezed it. “Thank you Kev. I honestly don’t know what I would do without you.”

Kevin chuckled and pulled away. Picking Odin’s breakfast back up he turned and winked. “Well lucky for you, you’ll never find out. Now get out of here before you’re late.”

-

Three hours later Nick still wasn’t home. Kevin didn’t find this unusual. When he’d been meeting with his lawyer, it could take hours at a time, especially in the beginning. Kevin and Kristin had done everything amicably. Kevin could only imagine how long it took if one were in a situation like Nick’s. The kids were napping upstairs, giving Kevin a few moments of peace before his house exploded into chaos. It was almost two. Kevin had exactly three hours to get everything set up for the Halloween extravaganza. Clipping the baby monitor to his jean pocket he hefted the witch's cauldron full of stuffed eggs and headed out into the yard. He set to work hiding hundreds of skull eggs. Some he tossed loosely in the grass so Saoirse could find them, others he hid in more challenging places, like on tree branches and beside the landscaping rocks to make it fun for the older kids as well.

Once he was satisfied his yard was a skull egg explosion he wondered back into the house to set up the kitchen. He covered the island with a Halloween tablecloth before setting a smaller cauldron he’d washed earlier in the center. He planned to make a punch and put it inside that cauldron, made with sherbet and sprite, just like his grandmother used to make when he was a boy. Themed cups, plates and napkins rounded out the island decoration. He called the local pizza place and ordered several of their jack o'lantern pizzas. It was tradition after all. They always got the pumpkin pizzas, even on Halloweens where they were able to trick or treat.

Once he was finished in the kitchen he headed upstairs to gather the Halloween baskets he’d put together for all of the kids. Arms full of pumpkins, costumes and toys he stopped short when he heard Saoirse cry out from her bedroom. Panicked for a moment on how to get her while holding everything, Kevin crept quietly to her room. Cracking the door open he could see her wiggling around in her crib. He kept quiet, just watching. She sighed and settled down. Relieved, Kevin pulled the door to and hurried down the stairs with the Halloween goodies.

Kevin was just finishing setting up the baskets and costumes when he heard the front door slam open. “Kevin!” he heard Nick yell before he could move to go find out what was going on, the younger man came rounding the corner into the kitchen. He skidded to a stop when he laid eyes on Kevin and the decorations. “Kev.” his voice cracked and his beautiful blue eyes filled with tears.

Kevin immediately dropped the candy in his hands and was beside him in seconds. “What’s the matter? What happened?” Kevin asked, taking Nick by the elbows. The blonde threw his arms around Kevin’s neck and cried. Kevin brought his arms up around him and gently rubbed his hand up and down Nick’s back. “What is it baby? What’s gotten you so upset. Did the lawyer have bad news?”

Nick didn’t answer for several minutes. Just clung to Kevin like his life depended on it and cried against his neck. Kevin just held him, unsure of what else to do to comfort him. After several more minutes his tears subsided and he pulled away. “I’m so sorry.” he said wiping his eyes. Kevin squeezed his forearms. “Don’t be sorry, just tell me what’s going on.”

“It’s Halloween.” Nick said looking around the kitchen. “It’s Halloween and it completely slipped my mind. I’ve been so wrapped up in what’s going on between Lauren and I that I completely forgot. I was with the lawyer and as I was signing the paperwork I had to ask for the date. Once he told me it was the 31st, it felt like the floor had dropped out from under me. I failed my kids again. Odin loves Halloween. It’s one of his most favorite days of the year and I just forgot Kev. I was so upset the whole way home, not sure how I was going to make it up to him and then, then I walked in here...and” Nick’s face crumbled and he was crying once again. Kevin didn’t hesitate to wrap his arms around him. Pulling him close, Kevin whispered words of encouragement, trying to soothe the other man.

Nick pulled away, just enough so he could look at Kevin’s face. “You didn’t forget. You have the house decorated, you have things for my kids.” Nick said gesturing towards the kitchen table where four sets of Halloween baskets and costumes were set up neatly. “You always take care of me.” he said, his voice breaking.

“Of course I do Nicky. I love you, you know that. And this is nothing. Kristin and I had already planned out how this evening would go, adding three more is nothing. And don’t worry about forgetting anything. For one, you’ve got to give yourself a break. You are doing the work of two parents, trying to find your way, and doing a damn good job of it I might add. I told you before, anything I can do to make this easier on you is what I’m going to do.” Kevin hugged him tight and then released him. “Now go change. The kids will be getting up soon. We’ve only got about an hour and a half before the boys and Kristin get here and then we can actually begin our night of fun!” Kevin said, his eyes twinkling.

Nick stared at him for a moment before leaning in and brushing his lips across Kevin’s cheek. “Thank you.” he whispered before he turned and left the room. Kevin’s hand shot up and touched the place on his cheek that was burning. Nick had actually kissed him. Just barely, on his cheek even, but still. Those lips had touched him. Kevin found it hard to breath momentarily. His heart was thumping loudly in his ears. He had to get a grip. His kids would be home soon. He had to focus on that and putting on the best Halloween celebration any of them had ever seen.

-

He hugged his boys extra hard the moment they were in his arms. It had only been a week, but it had been an exceptionally long and mentally exhausting one. Having his boys home was a feeling he couldn’t even begin to describe. They were thrilled with their presents and costumes. Maxwell wanted to be Groot, while Mason had opted to be a character from Minecraft. Kevin had ordered Odin a Batman costume and Saoirse was an adorable little scarecrow. Always with a camera in hand, Kristin had set to work photographing everything the moment she walked in the door. That was just fine with Kevin. The more she was taking photos, the less she would be interacting with Nick. Plus she took gorgeous photos and was glad they would be able to have them to commemorate their celebration.

Nick was back to his regular self after he’d showered and changed. He got the kids into their costumes and had met Kevin back in the kitchen about the time the boys had come bouncing into the house. There had been lots of hugging and catching up as Maxwell and Mason were reintroduced to Odin and Saoirse. Kids never seemed to remember people from one meeting to the other and they were all a little leery of each other at first. Once Kevin had explained again, who they were and why they were there they had seemed to warm up to the idea. The pizza arrived right after Kristin and once everyone had something to eat Kevin corralled everyone into the backyard. Kevin was the only one who had been back there so it was a welcome surprise for everyone. Kristin gave each child a pumpkin basket and a flashlight.

“Kev, you hold them back and let me get out in the yard in front of them. That way when you turn them all loose I can get some good shots.” Kristin said running out into the back yard to get into position.

“Alright guys, everyone got their buckets?” Three heads nodded back at him. Saoirse was trying to put her bucket on her head, not paying the slightest bit of attention to him. Kevin laughed. “Alright you three, make sure you leave a couple eggs for Saoirse to find. Once your bucket is full you have to run back here and dump them out before continuing alright?” Again, three heads nodded back.

“On your mark, get set, GO!” Kevin yelled.

Three boys went tearing into the yard, laughing and chasing each other. Kevin had to laugh, this was the magic of childhood. He was so thankful the kids had each other and despite everything going on in the world, they could all have a wonderful holiday and have a good time. Saoirse sat on the ground, perfectly content just playing with her basket. Kevin walked a little ways into the yard and grabbed a couple of the eggs. He came back and laid them down on the ground beside her. Her pale blue eyes looked up at him and smiled. His heart melted. Out in the yard Kristin was chasing the boys, shooting photos and laughing at their antics. Kevin leaned against the post of the patio and surveyed his handiwork. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and his heart swelled with love. He jumped slightly when he felt Nick press against him. Nick wrapped his arm around Kevin and rested his head against Kevin’s shoulder.

“Look at them Kev.” He said wistfully. “I can’t thank you enough. I feel like a broken record, but it’s true. This is the happiest I’ve seen him in weeks. You did that for him. Just, thank you.”

Kevin nodded. He could barely breath with Nick pressed against him like this, there was no way he was able to reply. Instead he concentrated on taking small deep breaths and watching the kids play in the yard. His gaze caught sight of Kristin who had stopped running and was gazing at him intensely. He shifted his gaze, not wanting her to ruin this moment for him. He watched Max try to trip Mason so he could reach an egg sooner before they both collapsed on the ground in a fit of giggles. Odin, thinking they were playing a new game, dropped his pumpkin basket and jumped on top of the boy pile. They all erupted into laughter. Laughter really was the best medicine, especially when it came from your children.

-

An hour later the kids were back inside, in their pajamas and sorting their candy in the living room. Kevin had declared they could all camp out in the living room for the evening if they behaved themselves. Kristin was packing up her things to go and stopped in the living room to hug Maxwell and Mason on her way out. “I’ll walk you out.” Kevin offered getting up off the living room floor. “I’d like that,'' she said smiling up at him. “Goodnight Nick.”

“Night Kristin. Thanks for letting us crash your family party.” he called from the floor. He was helping Odin sort his candy into piles of what he could eat and what Nick planned on stealing for himself.

She smiled and waved as she walked back towards the foyer. Once outside in the cool air Kevin could breath easier. She turned to look at him, her eyes studying him. “You’re having a tough time.” she observed quietly.

Kevin nodded. There wasn’t any use in lying to her. She knew him well enough to know otherwise. “Yeah, a little bit. But I’ll be okay. Don’t worry about me.”

“Of course I’m going to worry Kevin.” She said incredulously. “I love you. I know how you feel about him, I know this must be killing you.” She cupped his cheek with her palm. “Just be careful. You’re such a good man, your heart is so big you forget to take care of yourself first and then you end up hurt.”

He leaned into her palm and took a deep breath. ”I know. Thank you. I love you too. I promise I am doing everything I can to protect myself and still be there for him.”

She looked at him for a long moment and then nodded. Leaning up against him, she quickly kissed his cheek. She hurried down the porch steps and out to her car. Kevin stood at the door and watched her leave. He hated the way things had turned out, hated that she wasn’t the one that could make him happy. She was perfect in so many ways. That’s why they’d ended up married with two kids. He’d convinced himself for so long that the feelings he’d always had were meaningless and what he’d felt for Kristin was the real deal. But he’d been so very wrong and with that, he’d hurt so many people. His heart had always belonged to the blonde who at this very moment was probably trading his jolly ranchers for reeses pieces.

​The evening had been a success. His boys were happy, Odin and Saoirse seemed happy. He just wished the deep feeling of loneliness that had settled inside would ease.
Chapter Nine by Arok
Nick woke early the next morning. He rolled over in the spacious king sized bed and grabbed the baby monitor and his cell phone. It was barely seven and a quick glance at the monitor screen told him both kids were still sound asleep. He'd started out the evening sleeping with Odin in the living room so he could hang out with Maxwell and Mason but Odin refused to settle down and go to sleep so Nick had brought him upstairs. As soon as he was tucked in tight with no distractions he'd passed right out. By the looks of the monitor, he hadn't moved much since Nick had left him to sleep.

A smile crossed his features as he lay and thought about the night before. It had been an almost perfect evening. Both kids had loved the impromptu Halloween party and Odin was so excited to have someone other than Saoirse to play with for a while. Nothing made him happier than his kids being happy. It was Kevin that made them happy, made them all happy. That thought had been crossing his mind a lot lately, more than it ever had, which was saying something. Kevin had gone out of his way to make them feel safe, taken care of, included in something, a family. If he was being honest, that's all he ever wanted in life. To be part of a loving family where he could receive just as much love as he gave, and he had a lot to give.

Saoirse was still asleep too, but Nick suspected she would probably be up anytime. She had fallen asleep earlier than everyone else. The commotion of so many new people, the sugar and the fun of the party had tired her out quickly and she had gone to bed early. He smiled wider as he watched his baby girl sleep on the monitor. She was perfect and precious. The overwhelming feeling to protect her from everything, including her own mother was so strong he could almost taste it. After meeting with the lawyer the day before, his resolve to fight, to file for custody and divorce was steadfast.

He turned on his phone. Seven messages from Brian, one from Angel and an email from the lawyer with signed copies of the paperwork he'd filled out yesterday. He ignored the messages from Brian and quickly responded to his sister. She knew what was going on, but not where he was. He wanted to keep it that way in case Lauren tried to get the information out of her. Angel was a horrible liar and he knew she wouldn't be able to keep his secret, no matter how much she tried. It was easier to let her know everyone was okay so she wouldn't worry, but that was all she needed.

He couldn't believe the course his life had taken in just a few short weeks. He'd gone from being quarantined with his wife and kids, to finding out his wife's drinking problems had never gone away to semi-moving to Kentucky, to filing for custody and divorce. It was like a whirlwind. Add that to the fact that he was now sharing a house with Kevin. Kevin. He couldn't even let his mind go there right now. Too many other important things needed his thoughts to worry or think too much about his true reasons for coming here, to him.

That's also why he was ignoring that good for nothing best friend of his. Brian was doing nothing but making this whole situation worse. He wouldn't listen, he didn't understand. Couldn't or wouldn't understand, Nick just wasn't sure which. Sometimes he could be intentionally daft. Other times he used his obliviousness to try to force or push people into doing what he thought they should do based on his always present moral compass. This time Nick was finally doing what he wanted, or at least partially, and he wasn't going to have Brian get in the way or mess with his head.

He rolled onto his stomach as he gazed at his sleeping kids through the monitor. He loved spending time with them, making memories and making up for lost time of him being on the road more often than not. Briefly his mind began to race about what he would do when it was finally time for them to tour again. How was he going to provide a stable environment for two kids while touring the world all by himself. As quickly as the thoughts came he was able to calm himself. There was plenty of time to figure all of that out. There wasn't even an end in sight to their quarantine life for now. When the time came to make those kinds of decisions he would be more level headed and things with Lauren would be in a much different place. And of course, Kevin would be there to help him make the right decision. Kevin had promised he would be there every step of the way and Nick planned on holding him to that.

He was started out of his thinking by the sound of Saroise's cry. She was standing in the crib, crying and shaking the sides of the railing. He wondered quickly if he had secured it well enough when he put it together, but then remembered Kevin had double checked it, he was sure of it. She was safe, but probably wet and hungry. It was time to get up and start the day.

-

Odin woke up not long after Nick got Saoirse set up in the high chair with yogurt and a banana. Sitting him down at the table he wondered what he could make for breakfast that would feed everyone, but wouldn’t also destroy Kevin’s kitchen. He opened the refrigerator and gazed at the neat row of shelves. His fridge had never looked this orderly. There was a place for everything and it was positioned just so. Nick wondered how Kevin managed to keep it so organized with kids getting in and out of it all the time. He was always amazed when he opened any door to a closet, cabinet or pantry. He’d always known that Kevin was anal about being neat and tidy but he had no idea he kept things this immaculate all of the time. It always made him feel bad when he or one of the kids made a mess. He didn’t want to push too many buttons or overstay their welcome. He had no idea what he would do if Kevin told him they had to leave. He would be lost right now without the other man, honestly he was lost most of the time without him, but this time was completely different.

Nick jumped when he felt Kevin’s hand wrap around his fingers gripping the side of the refrigerator. “Whatcha looking at Nicky?” Kevin asked peering over his shoulder.

Nick shrugged. “Just trying to find something to make for everybody. I’m not a chef and we know how badly I messed up the pancakes the other day. I didn’t want to make another mess.”

Kevin waved him off and reached around him to the egg carton. “Nonsense. It wasn’t a big deal, we got it cleaned up and everyone had a nice breakfast. I don’t know what you’re still beating yourself up over it.”

Kevin grabbed a bowl and whisk and set them on the counter before returning to Nick at the fridge. He reached back inside, grabbing the milk, cheese and lunchmeat. In doing so he brushed up against the other man, causing Nick to inhale sharply and step back. “You okay?” Kevin asked, looking at him concerned.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I just, I don’t want to screw this up and you make us leave.” Nick said honestly while he watched Kevin flitter around the kitchen.

Kevin grabbed a skillet and put it on the stove before turning back to look at the blonde. “Why would you think I would make you leave? I love having you here.” Kevin said, not meeting Nick’s eyes as he cracked the eggs into the bowl.

“Because Kev. Let’s face it, we’re a messy handful. We are loud and obnoxious and make messes all over your house that you then have to help clean up. We’re a pain in the ass.” Nick said, rolling his eyes.

Kevin stopped his movements and really took a look at the other man. Nick was trembling, just slightly. Most probably wouldn’t have been able to tell, but Kevin had memorized every detail of the other man years ago. He could tell instantly when something was amiss. “What’s the matter Nick?” he asked, serious this time.

“I was going to do that.” Nick said gesturing towards the breakfast Kevin was preparing. “But I don’t know how to do a lot of these basic things that come so easy for you. My mom never taught me how to cook and by the time I needed to feed myself there was always someone else around to do it, or places I could just order from. I don’t even know what the hell you’re making with that stuff.” he said pointing to the eggs and lunch meat.

“All I can think about is if I screw this up too and you kick us out, then it’s one more way I’ve failed my kids, because there is no way I can keep them safe, happy and fed all on my own right now. It’s just not possible. I’m trying Kev, shit. I’m trying so hard. I guess I didn’t realize, didn’t fully comprehend how serious this all was until I talked to the lawyer yesterday. He wants to file for sole custody of the kids. He wants to have a judge force her to enter treatment and complete the steps or sign over her rights. Shit got really real yesterday and I guess I am still just trying to process it all. I just, I can’t lose you too.” Nick said looking up into shocked green eyes.

Kevin didn’t know which statement to attack first. He hated that Nick had to face all this head on. When he’d separated from Kristin they had plenty of time to digest the situation and they methodically went through each step together, while there were hurt feelings, there hadn’t ever been any outright hostility. He wasn’t sure what he would have done, or how he would have felt if he had also been fighting for custody. He was thankful again that regardless of how badly he’d broken her heart with his confessions, that she was willing to put that to the side so they could still be great parents first.

“Baby, I am not going to kick you out, ever. You will never lose me.” Kevin said wiping his hands on a towel and coming around the side of the island. He sat in the counter high barstool and drew Nick closer to him. Taking one of Nick’s hands in his, he squeezed it. “I know this is hard, but I promise you, right here and now, it’s going to get easier. It really, really does. I’ve been through at least part of this and I’m in a much better place today than I was six months ago. You will never have to face any of this alone. I am right here. I am not going anywhere and neither are you.”

Nick moved in between Kevin’s legs and wrapped his arms around the older man’s neck. He hugged him tightly and sighed contentedly when Kevin squeezed him back. They stood that way for a few minutes. It proved to be too long for Odin, who started yelling about being hungry. Kevin laughed and pulled away. Sliding off the bar stool, he resumed his place at the island. “I am making omelets. It’s what I make every Sunday morning after the boys come home. They should be up in the next hour or so and will be expecting them. So even if you had started cooking I would still have had to cook these anyway.” He winked at Nick.

Nick smiled shyly and looked away. He checked on the baby and took the spoon and bowl from her. Giving her a book to keep her occupied he ruffled Odin’s hair and went to the sink to rinse out the dishes.

“As far as you not knowing anything,” Kevin started glancing over his shoulder at the younger man. “I will teach you anything you want to know. I know you didn’t grow up the same way the rest of us did and sometimes we, or at least I don’t, remember that there was a lot we learned that you never did. I’m sorry for that. If you want to help me with breakfast, I will show you how to do it.”

Nick was touched. It was nice to be acknowledged for his feelings instead of someone just pushing them to the side or trying to convince him the way he felt was incorrect. He’d only been 14 when they started touring Europe and he’d basically been on the go since. That didn’t leave anytime for cooking, cleaning or other various life skills that at the time, had been easier to pay someone to take care of rather than learning how to do it himself. He regretted that now, but he couldn’t change the past. If Kevin was willing to teach him, then he was willing, wanting to learn.
Chapter Ten by Arok
They had settled into a good routine. Kevin’s boys had school from 8 until 3 every day with an hour break for lunch. Both were old enough that they could get on to their lessons and complete their school work with minimal supervision. Kevin checked on them periodically and answered questions when they had them, but for the most part they worked quietly upstairs while Nick and Kevin entertained the two younger kids.

In the evenings after school time was over they would all gather in the kitchen, cooking and chatting before all six would sit down together and eat. Then Kevin would spend time one on one with each of his boys, each getting at least an hour before it was time for baths and story time. Each evening they all would gather in the living room to read. Maxwell and Mason had to practice as part of their lessons so they along with Kevin and Nick would take turns reading stories out loud to Odin and Saoirse as well as themselves. Kevin cherished these evenings, cherished the time where to an outside observer would seem like they were one big happy family. Hell, the shock of blonde hair his children inherited from their mother, Kevin sometimes could even fantasize they were completely their kids, his features muddied with some of Kristin’s had created two startling beautiful children. With Nick’s blonde hair and blue eyes, so similar to his sons, he could, at times pretend they had made them together. A completely ridiculous thought, but they were his.

By Wednesday, Kevin could tell something was bothering his oldest. He didn’t want push, Mason usually came to him right away when there was something wrong. Kevin hesitated in pressing the issue, but decided if Mason hadn’t fessed up by that evening he intended to talk to him about it. They only had three more days together until they went back to Kristin’s. He didn’t want to waste any of their precious time with Mason upset. Several days while the boys were doing their schooling Kevin had sealed himself off in the studio, trying to get the words swimming in his head down on paper. While there were only a handful of his songs actually recorded, Kevin was an advent songwriter. He wrote all the time. He wrote for himself, trial material for the group, he’d even written several songs for other musicians and musical groups. He just felt the need to get the words that spun around in his head down on paper.

While they were all working, Nick had spent the week reconnecting with his own children. Playing, singing and dancing and watching movies. Every time Kevin came downstairs to get lunch or snacks for his boys he always found them in a new adventure. It was good to see. It warmed Kevin’s heart knowing how much this time meant to the other man. His boys seemed to enjoy having them there too. They weren’t sure on how to interact with Saoirse much besides reading, but they spent a lot of time with Odin, Nick too. They had introduced him to Fortnite and Minecraft and they often were all playing games until Kevin declared bedtime and turned off the television. At least in his mind it seemed to be working out well.

Nick still hadn’t mentioned much about the lawyer, but had another meeting at the end of the week so Kevin was hoping he would open up more after their second meeting. He knew Nick had signed the initial paperwork to get started and paid the retainer. Kevin was trying not to fixate on the conclusion of his friend’s marriage, but it was constantly on his mind.

His phone chimed and he stopped doodling on the page to answer it. Oftentimes when he was writing he would end up with several pages of doodles as well as he got stuck and mulled over the words he was trying to say. Glancing down at his phone he read a text message from Kristin.

Kristin: “How’s everything going over there?”

He smiled. He hadn’t heard anything from her since Saturday night. He was glad she had given him space, especially after how they ended the evening. He texted back.

“It’s going well. The boys are doing their schoolwork right now and then we’re going to make dinner. They miss you.”

Kristin: “I miss them too. Just a few more days. Remind me when I come get the boys that I have something for you.”

“Thanks Kris. I’ll try to remember. Have you talked to Mason at all?”

Kristin: “I talked to him last night. Why?”

“Did he mention anything to you or sound strange? He’s acting weird, but won’t talk to me about it. I’ve decided I’m going to corner him this evening if he doesn’t talk to me before.”

Kristin: “Not at all. He was telling me about his math test. He seemed completely normal to me. If you sense something is off then I’m sure something is bothering him. It just might not be big enough for him to say anything to you about it. Let me know what you find out.”

“I will. Hopefully I’m just overreacting.”

He shut off his phone and shoved it in his pocket. He was getting hungry. Locking his notebook in the desk in the studio he wandered to Maxwell’s room. Peaking in he saw him on a video call with his class. He pulled the door closed and then headed towards Mason’s room. He was working quietly at his desk.

“Hey buddy,” Kevin said taking a seat on the edge of Mason’s bed.

“Oh hey dad,” he said glancing up from his notebook.

“What are you working on?” he said peering over Mason’s shoulder to glance at his assignment.

“I’m just doing some practice problems for my math test on Friday. It’s going to be a big part of our grade for the semester so I want to make sure I’m ready.” Mason said smiling.

Kevin was so proud of his work ethic and his determination to do well. “It’s great to study bud, I’m really proud of you.”

They sat in silence for a couple of moments. Finally Kevin couldn’t wait any more. “Is your math test what’s been bothering you this week?” Kevin asked gently, placing his hand on Mason’s arm.

Mason stopped writing but didn’t respond right away. He put his pencil down and looked at his father. “A little bit.”

Kevin looked at him quizzically. “Is that all?”

Mason sighed and shook his head, but refused to look up at him.

“What’s going on Mason? What’s got you upset?”

“You’ll think it’s stupid.” Mason said quietly.

“I don’t think anything that bothers you or Max is stupid. Tell me.” Kevin said lifting Mason’s chin to make the child look up at him.

“I don’t want you to put up the Christmas tree with Odin and Nick while we’re at moms.” Mason said in a huff.

Kevin was taken aback. Was this what had been bugging his son? “Is that what’s wrong? Why in the world would you think I would do something like that without you. That’s something we always do together.”

“Because you’ve mentioned decorating a couple of times and I know you like to do it early and Max and I have to go back to mom’s on Saturday and then it will be a whole 'nother week before we’re back. I was scared we would come back and you guys would have done it all and we would be left out.” Mason said sadly.

“Do you have a problem with Nick and the kids being here?” Kevin asked, hoping this wasn’t the case.

“No! I like it a lot. I just don’t want to miss out on stuff with you because you and mom aren’t together anymore.” Mason said.

“I promise buddy. We will do it the day you come back from your mom’s. I swear no decoration will go up without you and Max being here to help okay?” Kevin said.

Mason nodded, his eyes shining. “Thanks dad.”

“I love you kiddo. I’m going to go get some lunch together. I’ll bring yours up in just a little bit.” Kevin stood and ruffled his blonde hair.

He was relieved to get to the bottom of his son’s discomfort and was even more relieved it wasn’t anything serious. Putting up the tree wasn’t even something that had crossed his mind that heavily, let alone picking a day to do it. He reminded himself that they were at the beginnings of separating right before Christmas last year and the uncertainty probably made Mason feel as scared as both kids had felt back then. He made a mental note to be a little easier on both of them. The time since the divorce had gone so quickly for him, and being that it was he who had ultimately asked for it, he’d been so relieved it was over and done with. He had to remind himself it wasn’t the same for the boys, who didn’t fully understand and would never know the true reasons behind it.

He went down the stairs as quietly as possible, not sure who was napping or what was going on on the levels below. This is how most of the afternoons went. He would barely emerge from the studio to eat and feed the kids, opting to spend all of his time channeling the music that seemed to be flowing through his fingers lately. He was very thankful for the inspiration, but knew it was coming from the man who’d moved into his home.

Once he got to the first floor of the house he peeked into the living room to see Nick and Odin curled up together asleep on the couch. It was the cutest sight Kevin had ever seen. Again he had the strongest urge to brush the hair from Nick’s forehead and follow his fingertips with his lips. What he wouldn’t give to be able to brush his lips across the other man’s. Saoirse was nowhere to be seen, probably asleep in her room Kevin thought.

He breathed heavily and turned on his heel to head to the kitchen. He took several deep breaths while preparing lunch, hopeful to ease the heat in his chest. The heat that appeared anytime he allowed his mind to wonder what it would actually be like to be with the other man. Kevin knew it was nothing more than a fantasy, but he lived for the dreams of being able to touch him, kiss him, taste him. If given the chance, he would never allow Nick to believe for a moment that he was anything less than loved. That’s what drove him crazy about Lauren’s behavior. She had him. Had the thing that Kevin had longed for, dreamed of for so long that it just felt like a part of him. And she had taken it for granted, taken him for granted. She had something that Kevin would never have the chance to have, and it broke Kevin’s heart to know that she had squandered it, and in the end hurt Nick and the kids. Kevin would never hurt him. All Kevin wanted was to love him, but that would never happen the way he longed for. Didn’t mean he wasn’t going to take care of them now and show them how much he loved all of them, even if it couldn’t be in the way he so desperately wanted.

Kevin was shaken from his thoughts as a loud shriek pierced the air. Kevin bolted from the kitchen and up the stairs in seconds. He made it to Saoirse’s door in record time. Throwing open the door he found her on the floor screaming at the top of her lungs. Kevin knelt to the floor and scooped her up in his arms. He had just begun checking her over when Nick busted through the door. “What happened?” he choked out, his eyes wide. “Is she okay?”

“I don’t know. I just got in here. I have no idea what happened.” Kevin said gently. He hugged her to him and shushed her gently, trying to get her to stop screaming. He bounced her softly a couple of times, which seemed to ease her cries. She hiccupped a couple of times, but stopped the screaming. Kevin rubbed her back until she calmed. Once he was continent she wasn’t in immediate danger he laid her gently on the floor to resume checking her over.

“She seems to be okay,” Nick said rubbing his hand over her belly to make her smile. She was giggling now and smiling up at her daddy.

“Yeah I think she is too.” Kevin glanced around the room curious as to what had actually happened. A sneaky suspicion took hold and he picked her up off the floor and put her back in the crib. She smiled at him when he placed her down on the mattress. Kevin ruffled her hair and then held his hand out to help Nick up off the floor. “What’s going on?" he asked.

Kevin pulled him out into the hallway and pulled the door partially closed, leaving just a crack for them to peek through. “I think you’ve got a monkey on your hands and I think she fell trying to climb out of her crib.” Kevin said, turning to look at Nick.

His eyes went wide. “There’s no way. She’s barely one. She’s way too little for that.”

Kevin smiled, “She may be little, but she’s just as rowdy as you are. Watch.” he said gesturing towards the cracked door.

Nick moved closer to the door and pressed his face into the crack. He watched her quietly for a few moments. Kevin couldn’t see out around Nick’s head, but he was pretty positive about what had happened. Nothing else made sense for how she got out of the crib without the sides falling off. A moment later, his suspicion was confirmed. “There she goes!” Nick yelped, reaching back and grabbing onto Kevin’s hand. “She’s going to fall again!”

“Go in there and get her.” Kevin said chuckling. He squeezed Nick’s hand and then released it, pushing the bedroom door open.

Saoirse glanced up, a startled look on her face as she had one foot over the side of the crib and the other foot was on her tiptoes giving her more room to climb. Nick reached her first and pulled her out of the crib. He sat with her on the floor laughing. “I just can’t believe this.”

Kevin smiled as well and joined them on the floor, sitting down beside Nick. “Maxwell did the same thing. He wasn’t much older than Saoirse. Looks like we’re going to have to convert her crib to a toddler bed.” He leaned back on his hands to stretch his back. Nick shook his head. “I guess so. I won’t be able to trust her in it with the side on anymore.”

“We’ll do it this evening. If she’s going to be this mobile I need to get the gates put up too.”

Nick smiled at him and watched Saoirse play. He was thankful she wasn’t hurt in the fall, and once again, extremely thankful for the other man. Nick shifted on the floor until he could lean against the other man. They sat like that for several moments, innocently pressed against each other, but even something as mundane as this was filling Kevin’s head with less than innocent thoughts. He wanted nothing more than to push the other man the rest of the way onto the floor and kiss him senseless. But that wasn’t something he could do, so instead he relished the time and the touches he did get, even the innocent ones.

-

“Can we listen to Christmas music while we make dinner dad?” Maxwell asked, bouncing into the kitchen later that night.

“Sure buddy. What’s got you in the Christmas spirit?” Kevin asked, taking taco ingredients out of the fridge.

“Mason told me you agreed to wait until we’re back to put up the tree. I know we don’t have time to do it before we go back to mom’s now, but we really wanted to make sure you waited.” Maxwell said fiddling with the iPod dock on the wall.

Kevin couldn’t believe both of his kids had been worried he’d put the tree up without them but neither had felt like they could say something about it. That really bothered him. Of course he would wait for his children. He just couldn’t figure out their logic on why he would do something like that without them, especially after the year they had all had. “Why would you think I wouldn’t wait for you?” he said, turning to look at his youngest.

Maxwell shrugged. “Mason said you probably wanted to do it now and not have to wait on us since we would be gone so long.” he said sadly.

“Max, I love you. You and your brother are the most important things in the world to me. I will never do anything like that without you two being involved okay? I know this year has been hard, getting used to your mom and I not being together, but we both love you very much, okay. You’ll always come first.”

That seemed to appease him and he set to work looking for a song to play. Kevin got out the cutting board and began dicing tomatoes and onions. Nick wandered in a few moments later followed by Mason. They were laughing and joking about the game they had just played. Kevin smiled watching them chat animatedly together.

“Christmas music already?” Nick asked, walking around the island to wash his hands.

“Yup.” Maxwell said, “We’re getting into the Christmas spirit.”

Everyone laughed. Most dinner prep was like this. It made Kevin incredibly thankful to have a houseful of people. He thought for a second about how lonely the house had always felt when the boys were with Kristin and he was alone. He never wanted to go back there. “Why didn’t we ever record a Christmas album?” Nick asked, bumping his hip against Kevin’s as he reached for the taco seasoning.

Nick set to work browning the meat on the stove, while Kevin finished chopping the veggies and heating the taco shells. “It never really worked out, time wise. We’ve talked about it several times, but something always comes up.”

“Dad's written a bunch of Christmas songs.” Mason said grabbing a drink from the fridge and sitting on the island bar stool.

“You have?” Nick asked, turning to look at the older man.

“Yeah! N Sync even recorded one of them.” Mason broke out before Kevin had a chance to answer.

Nick’s head whipped around. “What? How did I not know this? When? What song?” Nick asked a million questions all at once.

Kevin blushed and waved him off. “How in the world did you know that?” Kevin asked Mason. “That happened years ago, way before you were even thought of.”

Mason shrugged. “Mom told me.” He took another drink and then swiveled off the barstool. He headed out of the kitchen. “Let me know when it’s time to eat.”

“Kev??” Nick asked curiously. “How did I not know about this? Do the others know?”

Kevin blushed again and shrugged. “It’s not a big deal. I have no idea if they know, it wasn’t a huge thing. Chris called needing help rounding out their Christmas cd several years ago and I had a couple of songs I’d written that we’d never had the need to use so they used it.”

“I just can’t believe it.” Nick said.

Kevin laughed. “Why? I’ve written a lot of songs that others have recorded.”

This caused Nick to stop completely and turn to look at him. “Seriously? I had no idea. Why didn’t you ever tell us?”

“It’s really not that big of a deal. Sometimes I have too many ideas and a lot of them don’t always fit with our image or our sound, but they are still good songs, so when management passes on us using them, then I sell them independently.”

“I never knew this. I feel like an idiot.” Nick said, turning back to the stove.

“Don’t be like that. It’s really not a big deal. Plus, even though we’ve lived out of each other’s pockets for years doesn’t mean we know everything there is to know about each other.”

Kevin’s words hung in the air, each thinking about how much truth there really was to that statement.
Chapter Eleven by Arok
Saturday appeared out of nowhere. Kevin couldn’t believe Nick had already been there for two weeks. It seemed like yesterday Odin was knocking on the door. It was also time for Mason and Maxwell to go back to Kristin’s, she would be picking them up anytime now. He was sad the boys were leaving and also a little nervous to be left back alone with Nick without the interference of his kids. They were very cute and much needed distractions. They were all outside shooting Nerf guns and trying to take advantage of some of the last fall days before it got too cold to play outside. Kentucky winters could be brutal and even in winter jackets it was often times too cold to be out for any length of time. He had to remember to have Nick order the kids winter coats. If they intended to stay through the winter, coats would be a necessity, for Nick too. The younger man was used to living in warmer climates and would be in for a rude awakening when the wind chill dropped and he wasn't dressed properly. Nick had left a few hours ago to meet with the lawyer and had left Kevin in charge of all of the kids.

Mason was trying to teach Odin how to reload his gun while Maxwell kept jumping out of the bushes and shooting them. It was comical. He was impressed by Mason’s patience. He’d shown Odin how to load the gun several times now, but he didn’t seem to be getting it. Odin had never played with them before and Kevin had to admit they could be complicated for little hands. Kevin had Saoirse on the patio playing with play dough and out of target range of the older boys. The last thing he wanted to do was explain a Nerf welt to Nick.

Kevin squished the colorful clay between his fingers and rolled it into a ball before flattening it with his hand. He laid it down on the plastic tablecloth he’d put down for her to play on. Taking one of the cookie cutter shapes he pressed it into the clay until the letter S cut out from the rest of dough. He pulled it from the mold and handed it to her. She gazed at it for a long moment before crushing it into her fist. He had to laugh. At least she wasn’t eating it, yet.

“Knock knock,” Kristin called, tapping on the patio door.

Kevin looked up from his place on the ground. “Hey Kris.” he said standing up to greet her.

He kissed her cheek and gestured for her to have a seat in one of the rockers. She smiled and settled into one. He took the one beside her and keeping one eye on the baby settled in himself.

“How’s it going?” he asked, smiling at her.

“Good,” she said, settling her bag on the ground. “Are they ready to go?”

“Yeah. They packed their stuff early. I told them they could play until you got here. Oh, by the way it turns out, they were scared I would put the tree up without them.” Kevin said, turning to look at her.

She laughed. “How silly. Of course you wouldn’t do that. I’m sure they are just feeling insecure with this shit year, and now Nick’s here. It’s a lot of change all at once.”

“Kris.” he started but she interrupted him.

“Stop. I’m not lecturing you on having him here. I understand it. I don’t understand how you can be coping with it, but I understand your reasons behind it. Speaking of,” She said, pulling a wrapped package out of her bag and handing it to him. “Wait until you’re alone to open it.”

Kevin looked at her quizzically but then nodded. “Okay.”

She clapped her hands and stood up, gathering the boys’ attention from the yard. “Okay boys, let’s get our stuff and get outta here.” She bent down to get her bag.

“Take care of yourself. I’ll see you in a week.” She leaned down and kissed his cheek before straightening and heading back towards the kitchen.

The boys gathered up their guns and bullets and dropped them in the bucket they kept on the patio. After several hugs to Odin, Saoirse and Kevin they followed in the wake of their mother, grabbing their bags in the kitchen as they went.

The quiet settled over the house after the older two kids had gone was intense. Odin came up on the patio and joined Saoirse in the play dough fun. Kevin watched them for a while, the package from Kristin burning his fingertips in his curiosity. A few minutes later Saoirse stood up and waddled towards the kitchen door. Kevin figured that meant she was done playing. Enlisting Odin’s help to clean up the play dough, they quickly got all the clay back inside the containers and cleaned up the rest of the mess. Kevin ushered both kids back inside the house and set Saoirse in her high chair. He put the package on the island and helped Odin wash his hands for lunch.

He quickly got some fruit and lunch meat roll ups on plates and put them down in front of the kids. Leaving them to eat their lunch he walked through the foyer to grab the mail and the baby monitor. He stepped out the front door and grabbed the mail and a package that had been delivered sometime after Nick left.

Glancing down he saw it was addressed to the other man. He was curious about this as well, but it was none of his business. He carried the mail and the package and placed them next to his on the island. He tried not to think about how it made him feel to see Nick’s name on a package followed by his own address.

He sat impatiently with the kids while they were having their lunch. He felt guilty for being so impatient, but he was very intrigued by the package Kristin had brought and her cool demeanor this morning. She had seemed very distant, which was unlike their usual interactions. He was curious, but didn’t want to push and start a fight. He wondered if whatever it was she had brought would shed some light on her attitude.

Several minutes later both kids were done with their lunch. Tucking the package under one arm, he picked Saoirse up with the other. “Odin, can you grab the baby monitor and bring it upstairs with us?” Kevin asked, gesturing to the monitor on the counter.


Odin nodded happily and hopped off his chair. Monitor, baby and package in hand the trio headed up the stairs toward the bedrooms. “You go on in your room Odin and I’ll be in to tuck you in as soon as I get your sister down okay?”

Odin gave him a thumbs up sign and skipped off to his room. Kevin continued down the hallway to Saoirse’s room. They had converted her bed to a toddler bed several days ago, taking off one side and installing a toddler rail. She had done well with staying in bed once she was put there so far. Kevin quickly changed her and laid her gently down in the bed. Covering her with the fluffy blanket he knew she preferred, she snuggled in and reached out for her favorite llama stuffy. Kevin had gotten it for her for Halloween, after they had read the llama llama book. She had slept with it every day since. Her sweet little eyes were already drooping. Kevin bent down and kissed her tiny cheek before straightening and leaving the room. He made sure the door was securely closed so she wouldn’t be able to get out of the room on her own and headed towards Odin’s room. He was playing with his cars on the floor.

“Okay bud, your turn for nappy time.” Kevin said walking into the room.

Odin let out a big yawn and stood up. He followed Kevin towards the bed and climbed under the comforter. Kevin pulled the blankets all the way up and tucked him in from all sides, just like Odin liked it. He sat on the edge of the bed and brushed the white blonde hair off his forehead. “Have a good nap little man. Daddy will be back by the time you wake up.”

Odin nodded. “Lobe you Kebin” he mumbled yawning again before rolling over onto his side.

Kevin froze. Had he heard Odin correctly? Had he really just said he loved him? Tears pricked the corners of Kevin’s eyes. He wasn’t prepared for this. “Love you too buddy,” he whispered, rubbing the small boy’s back gently.

He quickly stood, grabbing the baby monitor from the floor and hurried from the room before any tears could fall. Once he was safely alone in his room he sat on the edge of his bed and dropped his head in his hands. The love he had for these kids, kids that weren’t even his was overwhelming. It was then he remembered the package from Kristin. Where had he left it? He retraced his steps and found it sitting on the dresser in Saoirse’s room. Being as quiet as he could, he snuck in and got it. Once he was back inside his quiet bedroom he sat in the armchair in the corner. It was a small reading nook area he had organized after Kristin had moved out. He barely used it, but it took up the space that was left by her things.

He’d been so anxious to open it, but now sitting here, finally alone, he found himself a bit frightened to find out what was inside. He sat in silence for several moments debating on what to do. Finally his curiosity got the better of him and he ripped the kraft paper off the package. Inside was a plain white gift box. He tossed the paper to the floor and gingerly lifted the lid to the box. His breath caught in his throat as he gazed down at the framed photo inside the box. It was a photo Kristin had taken the night of their Halloween party. Kevin was leaning against the banister of the patio, Nick beside him with one arm wrapped around Kevin’s shoulders. Kristin had caught them in a moment of laughter, gazing at each other with looks on their faces that to Kevin could only be described as love. He knew that’s what was reflecting from his eyes, he knew it did every time he looked at the younger man, but there was no way Nick’s eyes were saying the same thing. It was wishful thinking on his part. But still, this photo, it tugged at something in Kevin, an unspoken desire that said maybe this wasn’t as helpless as he’d always thought it was. He lifted the frame out of the box to get a better look. In doing so the bottom fell to the floor. When he leaned down to pick it up his fingers brushed a ripped piece of notebook paper. Frowning he opened the roughly ripped note.

“I spent so many nights hating you for destroying us, for destroying our family. I couldn’t wrap my head around how you could throw everything away for someone who would never feel the same way about you that you felt about them. And then I saw you together, I developed this photo and suddenly it all made sense. I don’t think I ever saw you looking at me in quite this way, and I know I never looked back at you this way either. I don’t hate you anymore, I understand now why the pull of this kind of love is so intense that nothing else can matter. Kevin, I no longer think this is a one sided, hopeless situation. Be careful with your heart. I love you.
-K

Suddenly Kevin couldn’t breathe. He hadn’t been imagining things, well maybe he still was. But if that was the case, then Kristin was imagining it too. It could be though, Kevin rationalized, after all they would be the only two desperately searching for something to be there. He wondered what to do. He felt like he was going to combust. Maybe, just maybe he could send a snapshot of the photo to Howie. Just to see what the other man would say. Maybe give the other man no context, just the shot of the photo. Howie had always suspected that Kevin had deeper feelings for their younger bandmate than he’d let on. He’d asked Kevin about it a few times, but Kevin always had an excuse or a way to dissuade Howie’s questioning. Yes, Howie was impartial, a good judge of any situation. He would be able to decipher if Kevin was just overreacting out of hopefulness instead of being cautious. His mind made up, he dug his cell phone out of his pocket. Taking a quick snap of the framed photo he quickly sent it to Howie before he could change his mind.

-

Nick got back from the lawyer's office a little after one. It had been an extremely grueling visit. There were tears, frustration and a whole lot of money spent, but Nick was feeling more optimistic than he had in awhile. He felt bad that he'd been delayed so long and had left Kevin with the kids for another extended period of time. He only hoped they had went down easily for their nap and had not driven Kevin crazy the whole time.

He entered the house quietly in case they were sleeping. He glanced into the empty living room as he came in through the foyer. Finding no one inside he headed towards the kitchen. Another empty room, but this time his eyes landed on the package on the counter. He'd forgotten it was supposed to be delivered today. Checking quickly that it had his name on it, Nick grabbed it up. He stopped momentarily to grab a drink from the fridge before heading up the stairs to the second floor. He stopped briefly at each child's door, his ear pressed against it, listening for movement on the other side. Once satisfied both kids were still sleeping he made his way towards his room. He turned and glanced down the hall towards Kevin's room. His door was closed and Nick wondered if he was napping as well. Turning he entered his room and closed the door. Grabbing the baby monitor so he could keep an eye on his kids he stretched out on the bed with his package.

He tore into the Amazon envelope and smiled when the N Sync Christmas CD fell out onto the bed. After that day in the kitchen, finding out the rival group had recorded a song that Kevin had written, he had scoured the internet in vain trying to find out what song it could possibly be. Getting nowhere, he had decided to order a copy for himself to read the liner notes. He'd only ever heard the CD once, and that was during a party, and he'd not really given it much thought. He'd known they had recorded a mix of new and classic Christmas songs. It was driving him crazy knowing that there were songs out there that Kevin had written and he knew nothing about them.

He tore off the cellophane and opened the CD case. Extracting the booklet from the plastic case he laid back on the bed and began flipping through the pages. He reached the end without ever seeing Kevin’s name. Starting over from the beginning, he started again, going much slower this time so he wouldn't miss anything. He skipped over the classic songs at the beginning and began reading the notes accompanying several of the original songs.

There. Track #9. The song was entitled "In Love on Christmas". The writer was credited as Scott Richardson. He'd missed it the first time, his eyes looking solely for Kevin’s name. Of course Kevin wouldn't have used his first name. Suddenly Nick had the overwhelming desire to track down every song Scott Richardson had ever written, now that he'd figured out Kevin's pen name. But how would he go about it? Maybe Howie knew how to find things like that out. He wouldn't have to tell Howie what name he was looking for or why, just a general, how do you do this sort of question. His mind made up, he shot a quick text to his older friend.

He got up and crossed to the dresser where his headphones were laying. If he was going to listen to the words of the song he wanted to be completely submersed in it. He didn't have a CD player, but now that he knew the name of the song he was looking for he could pull it up and play it on Spotify. He found the song easy enough. Taking one last glance at his kids to make sure they were still sound asleep, he hit play and closed his eyes.


We’ll share
I’ve prayed
To be loved
On Christmas
Because Christmas love gives me that feelin’
We’ll share
I’ve prayed
To be loved
On Christmas
Because everybody should be in love with somebody on Christmas

The verse and chorus were nice. They were well written and actually sounded like something they would have recorded if they had ever gotten around to that Christmas album.

Last year, Christmas
It happened without us
I was all mixed up and confused
I didn’t know what to do, baby
I never thought I’d feel this way
I always thought Christmas was a happy day
I always prayed that Santa'd pack love on a sleigh and send it my way

The second verse is what got him. Goosebumps formed on his arms the first time through. He backed the track up with his finger several times to hear the words again and again. Why were they affecting him so much? He picked up the CD and looked at the date on the back. Doing some quick calculations he realized the CD came out when he was 22 or 23, depending on when it was recorded and released. Kevin and Kristen had been happily married by then. What could have possibly inspired Kevin to write these lyrics? Nick knew that songwriters didn't always write from personal experience, but Nick knew in the limited exposure he'd had to Kevin as a songwriter that he did in fact write what he felt and experienced.

His heart was pounding. Who was the person that inspired Kevin to write this? Now more than ever the desire to track down Kevin’s other songs was almost too much. He really hoped Howie texted him back soon.
Chapter Twelve by Arok
Nick waited impatiently for Howie to reply. He still hadn't even read the message by the time the kids woke up from their nap which meant any research Nick would be able to do would have to wait until the kids went down for the night. They were excited to see him when he went into each of their rooms. Odin had woken up first and the two had played with Odin's hot wheels on the rug until Saoirse woke up. It was noticeably quiet in the house without Mason and Maxwell there. Nick wondered if Kevin ever got used to the eerie quiet. Just hours ago the house had been full of laughter and screaming, but now the only sounds Nick could hear was the quiet clank of Odin's cars crashing into each other.

When Saoirse woke up he had quickly left Odin to head to her room. Now that she could get in and out of bed all by herself she was into everything when unsupervised. Just that morning she'd managed to pull every single baby wipe out of the package and thrown the diapers all over the room before he'd made it to her. He did not want a repeat of that mess. He glanced down the hallway after leaving Odin's room. The door to Kevin's bedroom was still shut. It was a little odd, more often than not Kevin left the door open when he wasn't inside. Nick wondered if the kids had worn the older man out worse than he'd realized and needed the extra time to recoup.

Walking into his baby girls room reminded him that life could be simple. She looked at him with awe and love every time she saw him, immediately putting her hands in the air in a pick me up motion. Nick was always more than happy to oblige. Changing her quickly he carried her back to Odin's room so they could all play together. Odin was a great big brother, but sometimes he could get possessive of his cars. To keep the play civil Nick usually picked out a couple of cars from the bucket for Saoirse to play with and tried his best to keep her from picking up Odin's. He enjoyed putting them all in a line and having them change places. It was simple, mundane, but Nick found these quiet moments with his children to be beautiful.

While the kids were preoccupied, he pulled his phone back out of his pocket and checked his messages. He had another one from Brian which he promptly ignored and checked the conversation with Howie. The older man still hadn't read his message. He didn't want to seem desperate by reaching out again before he received a response. This wasn't usually like Howie though. Out of the five of them, he was the one with his phone permanently attached to his hand. He always got back to people quickly. Nick wondered what could be going on that Howie hadn't even read his message.

Nick looked up just in time to see Saoirse attempt to bring her hot wheel down on top of her brother's head. Grabbing her hand quickly he told her no and redirected her to play alongside Odin and not on top of him. He watched them play for several more minutes, loving the way they interacted with each other. It reminded him of how close he had been with his siblings once upon a time. He still was pretty close with Angel, but his relationship with Aaron was garbage and he barely talked to BJ anymore. Growing up the way they did was hard and it affected each of them differently. He vowed to make sure he could do whatever it took to keep Odin and Saoirse's' childhood intact. Even if that meant keeping them away from their mother.

He glanced at his phone. Still nothing from Howie. It was almost four though, where had the day gone? They would need to figure out dinner soon before it was time for baths, stories and bedtime. Nick was really hungry. He'd been too anxious to eat breakfast and had skipped lunch to continue making progress with the lawyer. He wondered if Kevin was awake yet. "Odin, I'm going to take your sister downstairs and figure out dinner. Do you want to come down or stay up here?"

"Stay here." the boy chirped, not even bothering to look up.

Nick smiled and hoisted Saoirse into the air. She squealed with laughter and smiled. God he loved them. The thought crept up all the time, reminding him that everything he was fighting for was worth it. Nick carried her downstairs, taking note that Kevin's door was still shut. He settled her in the high chair with a book and a container of play doh. Once he was sure she was content in the chair he walked to the fridge and glanced around inside. There was some chicken sitting on a shelf in the fridge. Nick tried to think about what he could do with the chicken. He took it out of the fridge and sat it on the island before taking out his phone again and doing a quick Google search. Finding a recipe that looked fairly easy for someone with absolutely no culinary skills, he set to work trying to make something edible.

Kevin finally appeared in the kitchen almost an hour later. Nick noticed immediately that something seemed off with the older man. His eyes weren't the same vibrant green they'd been just that morning and he seemed distracted, distant. Nick watched as Kevin played idly with Saoirse for a few minutes before washing his hands. He leaned up to pull the plates down, exposing his toned stomach as his shirt rose. Nick blushed and frantically looked away before he was caught staring. The chicken was almost done and smelled good if he did say so himself. The recipe had been easy to follow and he hoped that his first solo meal was at least halfway as good as it smelled.

"Looks delicious Nick," Kevin said peering over his shoulder into the skillet.

Nick turned to reply, not realizing how close the older man was actually standing. They were almost cheek to cheek. If he turned, just slightly more to the right he would be able to brush his lips against Kevin’s. He licked his lips nervously and quickly looked away. "Thanks Kev. I hope you're hungry."

Kevin nodded and backed away, placing the plates beside Nick so he could begin dishing out the food. "I'll go help Odin wash up." he said leaving the room.

Nick breathed a huge sigh of relief once he'd left. Dear God he had to get himself under control. Dinner was very good, or at least Nick thought so. Considering the only thing he could cook before moving in with Kevin was eggs and pizza rolls, he was pretty proud of himself. Kevin was pretty quiet throughout dinner, pleasant, but not very friendly. He mostly ate and talked to Odin here and there. As soon as he was finished eating he thanked Nick for dinner and was gone. Nick was starting to get worried he had done something to make the other man upset, but he couldn’t think of anything in particular that had happened. Maybe this was just the way Kevin was after the boys went back to Kristin. He figured it was best just to leave him alone. He didn’t want to irritate him by being pushy. All throughout dinner Nick had resisted the urge to check his phone. Now that dinner was done, he continued to resist. Both kids needed baths and bedtime stories. They came first over his curiosity, his desire to find out more about the man who had suddenly turned into such a mystery.

It was easiest to bathe them together and they were still so little that it wasn’t a big deal. He put them both in the bath and set to work getting them clean. Fifteen, very soaked minutes later they were clean, Saoirse diapered and swaddled in their jammies. He decided it would be safer to read in Odin’s room rather than going back down to the living room. He wasn’t sure what was going on with the older man, but the urge to isolate himself was strong. Settling into the oversized chair he pulled both kids down in his lap and settled in for story time. Saoirse didn’t even make it through the first story before she was fast asleep, curled up in his lap. Odin however wasn’t satisfied with just one story. Tucking the baby in closer, he grabbed the other storybook Odin had selected. After that story was over he managed to tuck Odin in with only one arm while he held the baby in the other. He leaned down and kissed his son’s soft cheek. “I love you buddy.” he said as he started to leave the room.

“Lobe you too daddy.” Odin said, pulling the covers up to his face. Nick smiled and turned to leave the room, one hand on the door. “Lobe Kebin too.” Odin said quietly, staring up at his father. Nick was silent, not sure what to do. He hadn’t expected this, but it made his heart swell all the same. “Me too buddy.” he said quietly before shutting the door behind him.

Saoirse settled in just as easily when Nick was finally able to put her down. He snuggled her llama in close and covered her gently with her blanket. Her sweet face was happy and content in her dream, completely oblivious to the turmoil her father was going through. Odin loved Kevin. What in the world was he supposed to do with that information? They had all encouraged their kids to love each other, calling each other uncle and trying to be a part of each other’s lives, but this… Odin had never said he loved any of the other guys. It was probably just because they had been living here the past couple of weeks he rationalized.

He closed his daughter’s door softly and made his way back to his bedroom. Finally he was alone, and free of responsibility for the rest of the evening. He emptied his pockets, tossing his phone on the bed before undressing. He looked at it momentarily but forced himself not to check it. First he needed a shower. He set out pajamas for himself and walked into the bathroom. Glancing at himself in the mirror, he took notice of his appearance. His hair was getting very shaggy. He hadn’t had it cut for months. His didn’t grow as nicely as Kevin’s did. The man was made to have long hair. Nick often thought about how it would feel to run his fingers through the jet black locks. If only, he thought. He showered in record time and got dressed before he picked his phone back up. Taking a quick minute to check the baby monitor he settled back down on the bed and took a deep breath. He clicked the power button and held his breath. He had one new message from Brian, and finally, one from Howie. He smiled wide as he opened it up.

Howie: Hey Nick. So nice to hear from you. I’m doing well. Thank you for asking. ::eyeroll emoji:: To answer your question, you can search ASCAP to find songwriter information. Give me a call and let’s catch up. I miss ya.

Nick smiled in victory. He knew he needed to give the other man a call, especially now that he had come through for him. He got up from the bed and grabbed his laptop and headphones. He picked his phone back up to reply.

“Thanks D. I knew I could count on you. I’ll give you a call in a day or too. Love ya.”

Howie’s reply was almost immediate. “Love you too.”

Nick smiled with the information in hand, he fired up his laptop. Finding the website was easy enough. He began reading the sidebar trying to find a way to search for an artist. Finally towards the bottom he saw what he was looking for. He typed in Scott Richardson and held his breath while the computer thought about his request. One name came up in the search. Clicking on it he quickly skimmed the page. There were the songs he knew Kevin had written, some they had recorded and others they had loved but never used. He found the holiday song that N Sync had used towards the middle. A little further down the page his eyes stopped on one title in particular. "If I Didn't Tell You" According to the ASCAP website it was written by Scott Richardson and recorded by someone named James TW. It wasn't an artist Nick was familiar with. It felt very surreal to know that someone else had recorded a song Kevin had written. Someone else got the opportunity to read over the words that he had so carefully chosen and put together, singing the rhythm and melody that Kevin had written in his head. It really bothered Nick that there was this whole side of the other man he knew nothing about. He knew Kevin enjoyed writing music and always came to any planning meeting with notebooks full of ideas, but this just felt strange, in a way. He didn't like the feeling that Kevin had something outside of them, outside of him.

He quickly opened the Spotify app on his laptop and did a Google search for the song. It came up easily. He was afraid to read the words. He wasn’t really sure why, this is exactly what he’d been waiting to do all day. He wanted to know what was written, what Kevin had been thinking and feeling. He checked the website again. This song was registered and recorded in 2019. Just last year. Maybe this song was inspired by the divorce. There was only one way to find out. Putting his headphones back on he settled back against the headboard. He closed his eyes and hit play, deciding to just listen through the first time before reading the words.

From the moment I first met you years ago
You were someone I wanted to get to know
Just something about the way it felt being with you
I knew I liked ya
But didn't know what to do

Nick sat straight up on the bed, knocking the laptop clean off his lap. It clattered to the floor, and thankfully didn’t seem to take any damage. The goosebumps were back, the intense feeling he’d felt earlier in the day listening to the N Sync song was back, only this time was much stronger. His heartbeat quickened as the chorus started.

'Cause if I didn't tell ya
I still think that you'd know
'Cause you make me so nervous
Every time that we're alone
And if I didn't have ya
I'd still want you to know
Baby, you're the one that my heart thinks about the most

His eyes filled with tears. He’d never had this intense reaction to a song before. He was finding it difficult to breathe.

Do you ever think about it like I do?
And would you never regret it like the way I would?
There's something about the way you look
When you look at me
It's wrong to assume, but, you make me believe that

If I didn't tell ya
I still think that you'd know
'Cause you make me so nervous
Every time that we're alone
And if I didn't have ya,
I'd still want you to know
Baby, you're the one that my heart thinks about the most

Every word of this song continued to speak to him. Each word was so beautiful, deep and touching and the arrangement gave him chills. He’d never heard this man sing before, but his voice was low and so full of emotion that the tears just slid down Nick’s cheeks. He was unable to stop them. He wished that Kevin himself had recorded the song, but Nick was afraid that if he had, he’d never have been able to get through the first verse without throwing himself at the older man. He was finding it difficult not to fling open his door and race down the hallway and take the other man into his arms and finally, finally kiss him the way he’d only dreamed about for years.

So tell me I'm wrong
And make me forget
'Cause the more that I think of
The better it gets
So tell me I'm wrong
And make me forget
'Cause the more that I think of
The better it gets

He was a full on blubbering mess now. As the chorus picked up again the tears came faster. The line from the chorus echoing on repeat in his head. Baby, you're the one that my heart thinks about the most. Everything about this song was love. 2019. How in the world had Kevin written such a heart wrenching song in the middle of his divorce? Had the divorce all been Kristin’s idea and he wrote it about her? None of this made any sense. He was so confused and the aching feeling in his chest was just getting stronger. He couldn’t turn it off. He hit the repeat button in the Spotify app and continued to listen to the song over and over again on repeat. He drew his knees up to his chest and rested his head against them, allowing the tears to fall unashamed. What he wouldn’t give to have Kevin feel just an ounce of this for him. The ache was overwhelming, he had no idea how to get it to stop.
Chapter Thirteen by Arok
Kevin had been unable to think about anything but the photo for hours. He was so consumed in what it could mean that he barely even left his room. Opting instead to grab something quick from the kitchen to snack on when he heard Nick down the hall so he wouldn’t have to interact with him more than necessary. He just had no idea what to say to him, or how to act.


Howie had done nothing but cause even more trouble. After Kevin had sent the photo to the other man, Howie had immediately replied back with a single question mark. Unsure what to say, he left the message on read for the next hour while he continued to stare at the photo and pace his room. He wasn’t sure what was affecting him more, the photo itself, or Kristin’s response to it. How could she say that? Didn’t she understand what the slightest bit of hope would do to him. Was this some kind of cruel trick to get back at him for the way he’d ended things? As quick as the thought came he dismissed it. She was not a vindictive person, nor was she a liar. If she had felt the need to not only print, wrap and frame this photo for him, then she had to believe the words she had also written down.


While ignoring Howie, she’d also sent him a message telling him the boys were settled in for the evening and asking him if he’d opened the package. He also left her on read. He couldn’t bring himself to form words to reply to her. He continued to walk the perimeter of the room, back and forth, the frame clutched tightly in his hands. When had this room gotten so small? The usually spacious master bedroom felt cramped and cage like. But he wasn’t willing to venture back downstairs for more space.


Dinner had been strained to say the least. He was afraid that at any moment he would open his mouth and his feelings for the younger man would just come pouring out of him. He had never felt this unsettled, felt like he was spiraling before. He had been in love with the other man for so long, that being able to restrain his feelings was second nature. But right now, after seeing this photo and her message, every wall he’d built around his heart to protect himself was crumbling and he had no idea what to do. And to make it worse, the object of his desire and affection was now living in his house with him. How had he gotten himself into this situation? His palms were sweating and his heart had been beating rapidly since returning to his room.


He jumped when he heard his phone vibrate on the coffee table. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know who was calling, wasn’t even sure he would be able to make coherent conversation. Feeling like he had no other choice but to answer the phone he clicked the call button and settled into the chair.


“Hey D.” he said hoarsely, clearing his throat to attempt to sound normal.


“What’s going on?” the other man demanded immediately, not even faking pleasantries.


“What do you mean?” Kevin asked, confused.


“Don’t give me any of that shit Kev. What is going on? You send me a photo, one that would make anyone blush, and then you go completely silent on me for hours. What the hell man. Again I ask you, what is going on?” Howie said, a little impatiently.


Kevin signed deeply, but didn’t answer. The two men sat on the phone in silence for several moments. “Do you see it?” he finally asked, his voice barely above a whisper.


“See what? The two of you making googly eyes at each other like you’re the only one’s left in the world? Of course I see it. I’ve been seeing it for years man.” Howies said softly.


Kevin sat up straighter in the chair, clutching the phone in his hand. If it were possible, his heart was beating even faster now. “Wh...what do you mean?” he managed to spit out.


“Kevin, what is going on. When was this photo taken?” Howie asked, his voice softening.


“Last weekend.”


“He’s there? Now?” Howie asked, sounding surprised.


“Yeah, he got here a couple of weeks ago. It’s his story to tell so I haven’t pushed him to reach out. He’s got the kids here, there’s a lot of stuff going on with Lauren and he’s filed for divorce and emergency custody of the kids.” Kevin said quietly.


Howie whistled, low in his throat. It was a sound made often when he was surprised. “Well, I can honestly say I didn’t see that one coming.”


“No one did.” Kevin responded. “He just showed up here with the kids one morning. Took me completely by surprise. Of course I couldn’t turn him away, not when he needed me. He and the kids have pretty much moved in for the foreseeable future.”


“Jesus Kevin.” Howie said, “How’s he doing? How are you doing?”


Kevin shook his head, but then remembered Howie couldn’t see him. “We’re all doing the best we can, given the circumstances. I try to help out with the kids when I can. The boys just went back to Kristin’s this morning, but they enjoyed having two new friends to play with while they were here. They seemed to like spending time with Nick too.”


“Why did you send me the picture Kev?” Howie asked after a few moments of silence, both had been lost in their own thoughts.


“I wanted to see if you could see what I saw the moment I looked at it.”


“I think you’d have to be pretty blind not to Kev, but again, I know both of you. I know you think you’ve done a great job of hiding how you feel about him, but I’ve always been able to see through you. I know you love him. I also know he’s the reason you asked Kristin for the divorce.” he said gently.


Kevin was floored. He never knew that the other man had been able to figure out his secrets. Sure he knew that Howie had made little comments here and there, but nothing so bold that Kevin ever questioned that he knew his true feelings. “How?” he choked out, his eyes filling with tears again.


Howie sighed, “I guess it was the little things at first. You always seemed to take care of him more than the rest of us, that’s not to say you didn’t take care of us too, but with him, it was always just a little more. Then as he got older and I assume your feelings grew deeper it was the way you would look at him, or watch him as he moved. You always thought you were being sneaky, but I could tell. The year before you told us you were getting divorced, something changed in the way you acted around him. You just always looked like you were in pain, or broken, or something like that. It’s hard to explain, it was just a feeling I got when I would watch you.”


“Wow, I can’t believe I was being that obvious. I always tried so hard to be careful.” Kevin said sadly.


“I don’t think it was obvious to other people. I’ve always been a quiet observer, I’m always going to pick up on things other people don’t. It’s just who I am. I read body language. And in yours it was easy for me to decipher that you wanted him.”


Kevin closed his eyes and allowed a couple of tears to leak out. This was way too much information to take in all at once. He couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that Howie had known, for years, how he had felt. Years when he thought he was dying on the inside trying so hard to hold on to this secret so it wouldn’t destroy the group, his friendships or his marriage. And all this time, the younger man had been completely aware of Kevin’s inner turmoil.


“Why didn’t you ever say anything?” Kevin asked softly.


“I did!” Howie insisted. “I asked you several times, in several different ways, what was going on with you and how I could help you. You always brushed me off. I figured when the time came and you were ready to discuss it that you would reach out to me. Seems like I was right.”


Kevin wasn’t sure what to say to that. He could remember a couple of instances where Howie had seemed to push him to talk, but none of them had given him the impression that Howie was more aware than he let on. Suddenly a thought crossed Kevin’s mind. “Wait, you said looking at each other. Are you saying you think Nick’s looking at me the same way?” He asked, suddenly terrified to hear Howie’s answer.


Howie was quiet for a long moment. So quiet in fact that Kevin pulled the phone away from his face to make sure they were still connected. Finally he spoke. “I don’t want to get your hopes up Kevin. I’ve never talked to him about it, so these are completely 100% my own observations, so you’ll have to do with it what you want. But in my opinion, yes, I believe he’s been looking at you in the same way for a very long time now.”


The words hung in the air. Kevin was convinced his heart had stopped beating. There was absolutely no way, no way in the world that Nick could ever feel the same way. It just wasn’t possible. “Kev?” Howie questioned.


“I’m still here. Just thinking.” Kevin mumbled.


“Look, don’t get caught up in your head about what’s right or wrong or what you think is going on. I think the answer you need is right in front of you. I am only looking at a picture of a picture. You’ve not only got the real photo in hand, but the real living and breathing man in your house. What do you see?” Howie said gently.


“I don’t know.” Kevin admitted. “I’ve spent so much time trying to hide my own feelings that I never went looking for his.”


“Maybe you should start.” Howie said gently. “You never know where that might get you.”



Shortly after that Howie had to run. A quick goodbye and a promise to call if anything else developed, Kevin was once again alone with the framed photo again. Maybe he needed a fresh perspective. He decided to put the frame back in the box and take a shower. Maybe if he tried to relax, to clear his mind, he would be able to think better. Be able to decide if there was something he should do, something to say about the photo, or about how much he’d loved the younger man for most of his life. He shook his head, there was no way he was doing that one.


His body and his mind were tired as he stood under the warm spray. The hot water helped to relax his fatigued muscles and he turned the water up a notch hotter, embracing the burn of the hot water on his skin. It was comforting to feel something, anything but this deep sense of confusion and dread. He alternated between being thankful that Krisitn had taken the photo and being pissed that she’d managed to awaken this part of him that he had always intended to keep closed. Sure he’d asked her for the divorce because he just couldn’t pretend with her anymore. Loving someone else so intently, and then trying to pretend to love her in the same way had gotten to be so difficult and so much that he lost himself in the process. For everyone’s sake, it couldn’t continue that way.


But he’d never intended for Nick to ever be made aware of how he felt. But now he was here, asleep down the hallway with his beautiful kids and those pouty lips and baby blue eyes that kept turning to him for love and guidance. All Kevin wanted to do was to take him into his arms and hide him away from the world. Protect him from each and every thing that would ever come against him. Hold him until his arms gave out. All of these dreams had always seemed so far out of reach that he barely let himself think about them, dream about them. And now, after a note from his ex-wife and a phone call from one of his oldest friends he felt like the earth was shifting beneath his feet and he had no idea what to do about it.


Back in his bedroom after his shower he picked up the photo again. He had the same feeling wash over him again. There was love in both of their eyes. Whether or not it was brotherly love from Nick’s side, he didn’t know. But he could see, clear as day, how much he loved Nick pouring from his own.


Why had she given him this picture? What was he supposed to do with this? Not just the photo but the implications behind it. He wondered if she should call her, but it was already late and he didn't really want her to know how much her little gift had sent him spiraling. His phone buzzed on his nightstand. Glancing over at it he saw another message from her pop up. Speaking of the devil he thought. It was after ten, he wondered quickly if something was the matter with one of the boys. Grabbing it up he opened the conversation.


Kristin: "Stop freaking out and over analyzing everything."


She knew him too well. They'd only been married more than a decade. You tended to learn a thing or two in that time about another person.


"Ha. I've barely done that."


Kristin: "You're lying and we both know it. I didn't give you the photo for you to spend all night freaking out about it."


"So why did you?" the question was sent before he could second guess himself. It was almost like his fingers were possessed.


Kristin: "Because when I saw the two of you that night, the easy way in which you laughed, smiled and moved together, I got jealous. But then, when I was going through the photos and I stumbled on this one, I just knew. I knew that he felt the same way you did and I knew that if you were ever going to have a chance at true happiness, that I had to let you know too. I love you Kevin. I always have and I always will. I have a sneaky suspicion that he mirrors those sentiments."


The tears came again. Not forcefully, but wetting the corners of his eyes all the same. How did he get so lucky? How did he manage to meet, love and have kids with this woman. A woman who he shattered with his own insecurities and desires and still, she was actively looking and trying to make sure he got the things she knew he wanted. He was truly blessed to have her in his life.


"I love you too. I have no idea what to do with this information."


Kristin: "I don't know that you have to do anything, at least not right away. Just observe, be more open and less closed off with him. Pay attention to how he acts around you. See if you can see or feel it too if you're not so focused on keeping your feelings hidden. Do whatever is going to make you happy. That's the best thing you can do."


Kevin knew she was right. But was it really that easy? Just let down his guard and pay attention to the way the younger man responded to him? How was he supposed to do that without jumping him at every given opportunity? He was curious, god the curiosity was killing him. He wondered what Nick was doing that very moment. He knew he'd been aloof earlier in the evening and knew the younger man had noticed. He hated that but at that time there was no possible way that he'd been able to carry on a conversation with the other man.


Maybe he could go check on him. Go ask him how the meeting with the lawyer went. That would be a pretty safe topic. He'd never pushed him to talk about the meetings before, but maybe this time it would give them something to talk about besides Hey, I love you.


The more he thought about it, the more he was convinced this was a great idea. He quickly got up for the chair before he could talk himself out of action. He opened the door quietly and poked his head out. He knew the kids were asleep and didn't want to risk waking them up. Nick's door was closed and he hesitated for a moment. Maybe this really wasn't a good idea his brain said tried to tell him, but he pushed that feeling down and walked down the hall. He knocked quietly on the door and fidgeted while he waited for Nick to answer.


It seemed like it took forever to hear some kind of noise from the other side of the door. He wondered if Nick was asleep. Finally after several moments he heard Nick call out and the door opened. There in front of him stood the angel of a man he'd been in love with for so long. His eyes drank him in, gazing at every feature. Were those tear tracks? Had he been crying? His hackles were immediately up. What had upset him? Nick was staring up at him, with a look that Kevin couldn't quite figure out.
Chapter Fourteen by Arok
“Oh, hey Kev,” Nick said once he’d opened the door. He stepped aside so Kevin could enter the room. He was thankful he’d managed to close his laptop and turn off the music before opening up the door. “What’s up?”

Nick gestured for Kevin to have a seat on the bed and he took the desk chair, drawing his long legs up underneath him. He was exhausted, mentally and physically. All he wanted to do was go to sleep and hopefully come morning he’d be in a much better headspace. But this was the first time Kevin had sought him out to talk, to spend time with him, outside of caring for the kids and he wasn’t about to let the opportunity to talk to the older man pass him by, no matter how tired he was.

“I wanted to apologize for being in a funk. I’ve just got some things on my mind I’m trying to work through and I didn’t want you to feel like I was ignoring you or upset with you or anything. Your dinner was amazing. I’m really proud of you.” Kevin said fidgeting with his hands in his lap.

Nick blushed and stared at an imaginary spot on the floor. “Thanks Kev.”

“How was your meeting with the lawyer?” Kevin asked looking up at the blonde.

Nick sighed and rolled his neck from side to side trying to get it to pop. This chair was very uncomfortable. Kevin scooted back on the bed, his back hitting the headboard. “Come sit over here and get out of that horrible chair. I told Kristin years ago it needed to go in trash but she insisted on keeping it. It’s like sitting on a rock.”

Nick chuckled and nodded. It really was uncomfortable. He crossed to the other side of the bed and settled in beside the other man. They weren’t touching, but Nick could feel the heat from Kevin's body and it was doing all kinds of delicious things to him.

“All the paperwork is signed. They plan on serving her with papers next week. I am willing to give her the house in Las Vegas, her car and alimony. In turn, I want the rest of my property and vehicles and sole legal and physical custody of the kids. We can work out a visitation schedule once she gets clean, but it will have to be on my terms and she will have to come here, they won’t be traveling to see her.” Nick said sadly.

“So you intend to stay here in Kentucky?” Kevin asked softly, turning to look at the him.

Nick nodded. “If you don’t want us to stay here, I’ll start looking for a place, but we don’t really have anywhere else to go that I feel comfortable being right now.”

Kevin picked up the hand closest to him and clasped their fingers together. “Stay as long as you want. Stay until we go back on the road, stay longer than that. I like having you here, all of you. My home is your home, always.” Kevin squeezed Nick’s hand gently and then leaned back against the headboard and closed his eyes.

Nick felt the tears prick the corner of his eyes but refused to let them fall. Deep down he knew that Kevin wouldn’t make him leave, that’s why he had the lawyer put Kevin’s address down as his permanent residence. At this rate, he never intended to leave. Maybe if he stayed long enough he could make Kevin understand how good they could be together, not just great roommates, but incredible lovers and parents, together. He shifted closer to the other man and laid his head against Kevin’s shoulder. Kevin let go of their hands long enough to bring his arm around Nick and pull him in close. Nick settled down against him, moving his head to Kevin’s chest and throwing an arm around his waist. They settled in, so comfortably that Nick questioned why they didn’t do this every night. With the feel of the other man’s heartbeat beneath his hands he felt himself begin to get very drowsy. For the first time in weeks he felt completely relaxed, boneless. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, inhaling the intoxicating scent of the other man. Before he knew what was happening, Nick was sound asleep.

-

Kevin tried not to react to the blonde curled around him like a spider monkey. Nick had fallen asleep so suddenly Kevin hadn't had time to shift into a more comfortable position and now he was afraid to move too much and wake the tired man. He'd casually placed his hand on top of Nick's golden locks right before he fell asleep and was softly running his fingers through the soft waves. It was getting so much longer, growing into his eyes and down his neck. Nick usually kept it pretty short, but with the quarantine, neither of them had ventured out for haircuts. Kevin's own mane was long enough to require a ponytail most days, but it was a style he had worn before so it wasn't as much of a surprise as Nick's long hair. It didn't matter to Kevin. He found the younger man sexy no matter which way he chose to wear his hair. But he couldn't think about that right now, not which Nick pressed against him. He tried not to get caught up in the fact that Nick intended to stay here, with him in Kentucky. He couldn’t allow his mind to race to those places it so desperately wanted to go. But why not? After all, that’s why he’d come in here in the first place, wasn’t it? To see if there were any signs that the younger man felt anything besides friendship for him? What else could choosing to stay here mean?

He shifted a little to get more comfortable. It was bliss to hold Nick in his arms. He hadn’t done this in years, and then would have been the other man still had nightmares. He couldn’t even remember when Nick stopped sneaking into his bunks ro sleep. Had he known the last time, was the last time, he never would have let Nick go come morning. But now, here he was several years and life experiences later, curled up against him. Just as he had many, many times before. It gave Kevin a sense of pride to know he had always managed to be a source of comfort for the blonde. Once again, he thought about all the ways he could make Nick happy, make him feel loved, truly loved, for the first time, if only Nick would let him. He brushed the hair out of Nick’s eyes, much as he’d done with Odin hours earlier. He could be good for all of them, could take care of all of them. They could be so happy, all six of them together. If only. The thoughts danced in his mind as he tightened his grip on the other man and drifted off himself.

-
Kevin awoke the next morning cold and alone. He was disoriented at first until he realized where he was. The images of the night before flooding his mind, he sat up and looked around the room for signs of Nick. Finding none, he picked up the baby monitor on the nightstand and checked it. Both rooms were empty, which only meant Nick was downstairs or somewhere else in the house with the kids. Wait, was that time right? His head shot up and he looked around the room frantically for a clock. Was it really after 10? He couldn’t remember the last time he’d ever slept that late! Finding no clock in anywhere, he left Nick’s room and headed down the hallway to his own. He could hear laughing coming from somewhere downstairs and decided he’d go shower before heading downstairs. He got to his room and rescued his cell phone from the nightstand. 10:15 it read. Holy shit. He’d slept like the dead. He couldn’t believe it. His messages caught his eye. He had one from Howie and three from Brian.

All Howie’s said was “So”. Kevin had to smile at that. Once Howie got invested in something he was like a dog with a bone. It was all in good nature, Howie generally just wanted what was best for everyone. He didn’t have a selfish bone in his body. Kevin wasn’t even sure at this point what to say, that anything could be said. Nothing had changed since yesterday. He hadn’t heard from Brian in a few days, opening his messages he was a little taken aback.

Brian: “What's going on over there???”

Brian: “Why are you both ignoring me?”

Brian: “Kevin. I want to be answered NOW. If one of you doesn’t answer me soon then I’m driving up there. This is ridiculous.”

What in the world was going on? He hadn’t heard from Brian in days and their last exchange had been civil and Kevin had told him he’d call if he needed anything. Why in the world was Brian having a fit? He quickly texted back.

“What are you talking about? I just got up.”

Brian’s response was immediate. “Just got up? It’s after 10 Kevin. What in the hell is going on over there?”

“Nothing that I know of. It’s been a rough few days for everyone. I guess I was just tired. I didn’t set an alarm and just woke up on my own. What’s the panic about? What’s going on with you?”

Brian: “I’ve been trying to get Nick to answer me in almost a week, but he keeps reading my messages and then never replying. I was starting to wonder if you’d killed him and taken his phone.”

Kevin chuckled at that one. While he had no idea that Nick had been ignoring Brian, he figured Nick had to have his reasons for doing so. “Haha, he’s very much alive. Though I haven’t seen him yet this morning so I could be wrong.”

Brian: “That’s not funny Kevin. Will you find out why he’s ignoring me and tell him to message me or call. I’m worried.”

“I’ll talk to him, but I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. He seems to be holding it together just fine.”

Kevin was not getting in the middle of one of their squabbles. He would casually mention it to Nick, but that would be it. He’d learned the hard way not to take sides when it came to the two of them. Although, if Nick had felt the need to ignore Brian for more than a week, then it seemed like whatever Nick was upset about was a little more serious than their usual tiffs. He closed his phone and tossed it onto the bed. A shower was in order, then he would go see what in the world was going on downstairs.

-

“Hey sleepyhead.” Nick said, smiling softly from where he lay stretched out on the floor with Saoirse.

Kevin laughed as he entered the living room and took a seat on the floor beside him. Nick and Saoirse were building with blocks on the rug on the floor. Odin was watching cartoons on the couch, perfectly content and zoned out. Kevin had to smile at the dazed look on his precious face. It was the same one Nick used to get when he watched cartoons on the tour bus.

“I cannot believe you let me sleep that late. I can’t even tell you the last time I’ve slept past eight.” Kevin said, taking a block and putting it on top of her tower. She smiled up at him and handed him another block.

“Let you! I tried to wake you when the kids got up, but you were dead to the world. I could barely untangle myself to go get the baby.” Nick said laughing.

Kevin blushed and focused on the tower building. They made it several inches tall before Saoirse would knock it down and they would start all over again. “I figured you needed it. You’ve looked stressed the last couple of days. It was nice to see all the worry lines fade away in your sleep.” Nick said softly, taking more blocks out of the bucket to start a second tower.

“Yeah, last night was nice.” Kevin said quietly, refusing to look at the other man.

Nick nodded. “Yeah it was. I haven’t fallen asleep that fast, or stayed asleep that long in years.”

They sat in silence, each inside their own thoughts. Saoirse alternated between the two of them, handing one a block and then giving one to the other. Each continued to build the tower for her, only to have her knock it down and burst into giggles each time. The sound was music to Kevin’s ears. Baby giggles were the best sound, and knowing they came from Nick’s daughter, and that he’d been the one to produce them, it was everything.

After several minutes of quiet Kevin finally felt like broaching the subject of Brian. “I had several texts from Brian when I got up. He thinks I’ve murdered you.”

Nick shook his head but didn’t smile. “He should have left you alone.” he said quietly.

“What’s going on between you guys. He says you’ve been ignoring him for more than a week. That sounds serious.” Kevin said gently, peering at the younger man over his block tower.

“He just said some things that I'd rather not repeat. Things he knew would hurt me and he did it anyway. He did it to be vindictive and to prove that he knows better than I do about how I should live my life. I don’t much care to talk to him right now. He shouldn’t have bothered you though. This is between him and I. Once I calm down I’ll message him, but right now, now I just can’t Kev.” Nick said sadly, handing Saoirse another block.

Kevin held up his hands in mock surrender. He knew exactly how big of an asshole Brian could be. It didn’t surprise him that he’d said something insensitive, but it didn’t make it right. Kevin planned on saying so if Brian continued to push. “You don’t have to explain it to me. I know he can be a jerk sometimes. I’m here though, if you need to talk about it. If he messages me back I’ll tell him to give you some space.”

“Thanks Kev.” Nick said, refusing to look at him.

Whatever the hell Brian had said, it had to be something pretty bad. Just the mention of the other man’s name had set Nick on edge. Kevin could tell a change in his demeanor immediately. He mentally kicked himself for even bringing it up. Kevin looked at the other man and at the same time Nick was looking up at him. Blue eyes met green and both men smiled and blushed before quickly looking away. This was going to be a long day.

-

The rest of the day passed in much the same way. Before Kevin knew it, they’d eaten dinner and Nick was starting the kids’ evening routines. Kevin had excused himself to go back to his room and call his own boys. He chatted with each of them for about an hour and then spoke to Kristin for a few moments. Convincing her everything was still in very much the same place it was the day before, he hung up.

He’d had another message from Brian when he returned to his room. He’d promptly told the other man that he would have to work out whatever was going on with Nick himself and to leave him out of it. Brian didn't respond to that message. Kevin didn’t think he would either. He glanced at the clock and realized it was almost 10. He wasn’t really tired after sleeping all morning. He decided to watch a movie and settle in for the night. He found one quickly on Netflix he’d not seen yet and paused it so he could wash up. He grabbed his pajamas and took them into the bathroom with him. He quickly brushed his teeth and changed. He pulled his hair back into a low ponytail to get it up off his shoulders. Walking back into the bedroom, he was startled to see Nick curled up on one side of the bed.

“Hello.” Kevin said quizzically, cocking his head to one side and smiling gently at the other man.

Nick laughed. “You didn’t answer when I knocked so I came on in. I hope you don’t mind.” He stretched out on top of the comforter and put his arms behind his head before smiling up at Kevin.

“No of course not, make yourself comfortable.” Kevin said laughing. He shut off the overhead light to the bedroom and flipped on the bedside lamp as he climbed onto the bed beside the blonde. “Everything okay?”

Nick nodded. “Yeah, just really didn’t want to be alone. Is that okay?” He asked quietly.

“Of course,” Kevin insisted. He climbed under the blankets and got comfortable. “I was going to watch a movie. You want to stay and watch it with me?”

Nick yawned and nodded. “Yeah, I’d like that.” He sat up and scooted his legs underneath the covers and made himself comfortable.

They laid side by side for the first twenty minutes of the movie before Nick spoke. “They served Lauren the divroce and custody papers today. I was told to block her number, that she was informed all communication was to go through their office.” Nick said quietly.

Kevin rolled over onto his side and peered up at the other man. This was the first he’d heard of it. He knew she was supposed to be served sometime this week but he had no idea it had happened already. “Have you heard how it went?”

Nick turned to look at him, “They said she was compliant, whatever that means. I guess we’ll see. She has 30 days to sign and return the papers, otherwise they will push to bring us before a judge. I have no idea what her headspace is right now. I haven’t spoken to her since I left. I’m scared for the kids, but the longer I’m away from her, the more convinced I am that I’m doing the right thing.”

Kevin smiled. “I’m proud of you Nicky. You decided what was best for you and the kids and you did all the things you needed to do to protect all of you.”

“I never could have done any of this without you Kevin.” Nick said softly, looking at him intently. “I can’t ever repay you for everything you’ve done for me.”

Kevin waved him off. “I haven’t done anything baby. The strength you’re feeling comes from within you. You just needed someone to remind you it was there. It always has been. And you don’t have to thank me for anything. The best way to thank me is just to make yourself happy. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. Kevin said quietly, rolling back onto his back.

They settled back down to watch the movie, both men’s minds far away from whatever the plot was supposed to be. A few moments later Nick reached for Kevin’s hand beneath the blanket. Finding it, he laced their fingers together and continued to pretend to watch the movie.
Chapter Fifteen by Arok
Nick woke up to the feel of Kevin pressing against him, he in the little spoon position, even though they were relatively the same height. The feeling was like nothing he'd ever experienced, he could get used to this, and he almost had. This was the fourth morning this week alone he'd woken up in much this way. After the first night he'd gone to Kevin's room for company, not wanting to be alone after hearing Lauren received the divorce papers, he'd kept going back. Every night he would knock softly at the door until Kevin would answer with a soft come in. He'd climb in beside the other man and they would watch something on TV. Sometimes they would talk about random stuff in their minds, other times they would just laugh and enjoy whatever show Kevin had chosen. But every night, without fail, Nick would fall asleep in Kevin's bed and wake up tangled around him in the morning. A couple of nights he'd fallen asleep without even touching the older man at all, his body reaching out for Kevin in his sleep. Another night they fell asleep holding hands. Nick wasn't sure what was happening, or how Kevin felt about it. All he knew was he intended to keep knocking on the door at night until Kevin told him to stop.

He always slept so much better after laying down with Kevin. Sleep washing over him like a tidal wave. He couldn't remember ever sleeping so well, or so deeply. Being this close to Kevin just calmed him in a way that he'd never experienced before. No one else had ever had this effect on him. He never wanted it to stop.

After waking up in Kevin's arms, he usually had to quickly leave to check on the kids or get up Saoirse. He wished there could be a morning where he could just wake up and lay there for hours, memorizing the gentle rise and fall of the other man's chest, feel his tickling breath against his neck. The rest of the day would move in with Nick feeling a sense of peace that had been missing for so long. Knowing at the end of the night he would crawl back in bed with Kevin was exhilarating. He only hoped it never ended.

He was worried though. Mason and Maxwell would be coming home tonight and he wasn't sure how Kevin would feel about him sleeping in his bed when his kids were in the house. Although it was all completely innocent, nothing tawdry had happened, no matter how much Nick wished it would. He had dreams about how it would feel to have Kevin wrap his arm around him, begin kissing his neck and run his hands all over him. At this point, Nick would pay any sum of money for the older man to touch him, no questions asked.

He could see Saoirse up and about her room on the baby monitor. As much as he didn't want to leave this wonderful cocoon, especially when he didn't know how long he would be able to stay in it, he knew his fatherly duties came first and he needed to get her changed and fed. Sighing in resignation, he carefully extracted himself from Kevin's arms, using extra caution not to wake the other man up. He grabbed his phone and the monitor and quickly turned to give one last look to the other man. His ponytail had fallen out sometime in his sleep and the jet black hair was splayed over the pillow and his beautiful face. Nick's fingers itched to touch him, brush the hair back and kiss his cheek. He heard Saoirse shriek and knew he had to leave. Regretfully he made his way to the door and closed it gently behind him.

-

The boys arrived back home a little after 4. Kevin had promised them they would put up the Christmas tree the first day they were back home. He had spent most of the afternoon bringing up boxes from the basement while Nick kept Odin and Saoirse occupied. The day had slipped away from both of them, eat caught up in their own activities, so Nick suggested that they order in for dinner. Placing a Doordash order was easy and soon Nick was helping everyone get cleaned up for dinner. Once the food arrived everyone was excitedly taking around the table about what they wanted to do that weekend, how they wanted to decorate the tree and anything else they could think of. Nick took this time to reflect. Watching Kevin with his sons, and watching Odin get caught up in the conversation with them as well. It was heartwarming to seem them all together, doing something as mundane as eating dinner. It was one of the most exciting things that had happened to Nick in a while. He had to be pretty boring to be so enthralled with a family dinner, but he'd never had anything like this growing up and he and Lauren hadn't really tried to do it either. It never really had seemed that important, but now, sitting around Kevin's kitchen table, it seemed like the most important thing in the world.

The kids ate quickly, too excited to start hanging Christmas lights to take their time. Nick had to laugh at how quickly they were done and bouncing in their seats to get started. Kevin got up and started clearing the table. Nick jumped to his feet and stopped him with a hand on his arm. "Let me." Nick said quietly. "They've waited long enough. I'll clean up the kitchen, you take your boys and get started."

Kevin looked at him for a moment and then gave him a wicked smile. "Thank you." he said quietly, staring long enough to make Nick's heart do flip flops. Kevin stood up and ushered the boys toward the doorway. He stopped and glanced back at the table. "Come on Odin, we're going to need your help!"

Odin's face lit up with excitement and glanced at Nick for reassurance. "Are you sure Kevin? I don't want him to get in the way of time with your kids. They just got home and this is your tradition." Nick said nervously.

Kevin waved him off. "We're creating new traditions together this year." he said softly, his eyes boring into Nick's. Holding out his arm for Odin, the boy scampered off of the kitchen chair and hurried to Kevin's side. They left the room arm in arm talking a mile a minute about the kinds of decorations they would use. Nick glanced at Saoirse who was perfectly content playing in her high chair and munching on her breadstick from dinner. Nick didn't even know what to say to Kevin's statement. The words had touched him, maybe more than they should have. But sometimes it was nice to pretend that there was a chance that Kevin could possibly want more from him than friendship.

Nick went to work throwing away wrappers and other trash from their dinner. He got a dish rag and wiped down the table and chairs and then the counters, just as he'd seen Kevin do. He wanted to leave the kitchen in the same condition they'd found it. If he was being truthful, he also needed to give himself some space from the other man. It was becoming harder and harder to keep the way he felt locked inside. He knew he had to, for everyone's sake. He couldn't take the risk of ruining their friendship, disgusting the older man with his advances and ruining any chance of getting them all back on their feet. He would just have to work harder to keep his feelings in check, that started with making sure there was a bit of distance between them. So instead of running into the other room where Kevin was, he was going to stay in the kitchen with Saoirse until he ran out of plausible excuses to stay away.

Once the kitchen was clean and the leftovers put away, Nick was running out of things to do. He picked up Saoirse from the high chair and decided a bath was in order. He quickly took her upstairs and into the bathroom. They played in the water, sang songs and finally back in her bedroom, got diapered and put into jammies. She was getting sleepy, he could tell by the way her eyes wouldn't quite focus in on him. He smiled at her lazily. She was perfect. He carried her to the rocker into the corner and settled down with her in his arms. He hadn't had time alone with her like this in a long time. Most bedtimes consisted of trying to get both kids down at the same time and more often than not they would simply read stories until one or both of them drifted off. But alone with Saoirse, he leaned back in the rocker, holding her tightly in his arms. He began humming to her as he rocked. Before he realized what tune was stuck in his head, he'd started singing the song he'd had on repeat for most of the week when he was alone.

'Cause if I didn't tell ya
I still think that you'd know
'Cause you make me so nervous
Every time that we're alone
And if I didn't have ya
I'd still want you to know
Baby, you're the one that my heart thinks about the most

He rocked and sang quietly, rubbing her little back as he went. Before long she was sound asleep. He held her a little longer, not ready yet to give up the feeling of her little body curled against him. She was growing so damn fast. He just wanted to keep her little as long as he could. Once he was sure she was good and asleep, he stood and softly placed her into her bed.

Now he was officially out of things to do to keep him out of the living room. Resigned to his fate, he closed her bedroom door and headed down the stairs.

"I was thinking we might need a search party to come find you." Kevin said looking up from where the kids were wrapping him up in garland. "I could use some reinforcements."

Nick laughed as he watched the boys wrap him tighter and tighter. The room looked like an explosion of Christmas. There were lights, garlands and ornaments covering every surface. It truly was a Christmas wonderland. In the time it took Nick to clean up the kitchen and the baby, they kids had managed to open every tote and box and somehow only have the bare tree upright. Again Nick was struck by how perfect the moment was. He picked up a string of lights and began to gently untangle them from each other, plunging them in to make sure they all lit up.

Everyone had a job. Maxwell worked the bottom of the tree while Kevin handled the top. Odin and Maxon went around gathering things that the tree handlers needed and before long they had found a rhythm that worked. The tree was shaped quickly, Kevin and Nick taking sections to get it fluffed out. The lights came next, brilliant colors of blue, red and yellow. Odin’s favorite part was draping the garland and beads from one branch to the other. Once the essentials were on the tree, Kevin and Nick sat back on the couch and let the boys go to town hanging ornaments all over it. It was comfortable, simple how easily they could intertwine their lives.

“What’s this dad?” Mason said, bringing over a branch for Kevin to inspect.

Kevin laughed and took it from him. “This is mistletoe.” Kevin said, smiling. “When two people stand under mistletoe, they’re supposed to kiss. See?” He said holding it high above Mason’s head before kissing him on the nose. Mason giggled and grabbed it from him. He proceeded to hold it above Maxwell and Odin’s heads before kissing them both on top of the head.


Nick and Kevin both laughed as the boys fought over who was going to hold and who was going to kiss. Before long they had lost interest and moved on the mechanical santa who climbed up and down the tree. Kevin rescued the mistletoe from the floor and was going to lay it on the coffee table before he stopped himself. Making up his mind quickly, he held it above Nick’s head and promptly kissed his cheek. Shocked, Nick yelped out, causing the boys to turn and look at what had caused the noise. Nick started laughing, attempting to hide his embarrassment and jumped from the couch. He spent the next several minutes helping the boys hang ornaments up higher on the tree and trying to calm his breathing.

About an hour later the tree was complete and everyone was exhausted. Odin was up way past his bedtime and was fading fast. He’d been trying to fight to stay awake for the past hour and was ready to give up. Nick and Odin waved goodnight to the group in the living room and headed up the stairs to the second floor. Odin quickly changed into jammies and was nothing but yawns as he climbed in bed.


“Did you have fun buddy?” Nick asked, pushing the hair back out of his eyes before kissing his forehead. Odin nodded. “It’s always fun witb Kebin.” Odin yawned again and closed his eyes. “Yeah, it really is.” Nick said softly. He continued to sit on the edge of Odin’s bed for a few minutes longer. He was already asleep. Nick swore everyone slept better in this house than they ever did in their home in Las Vegas. The kids never had gone down this easy or stayed asleep all night without issues. It was either the Kentucky air, or the raven haired man who had invaded their lives. Nick was pretty sure he knew which one it was.

He got up, flipping off the light as he went. Once in the hallway he pulled the door to quietly, trying not to wake either kid. He turned to go to his bedroom when he caught sight of Kevin coming down the stairs to the third floor. Kevin reached the landing and turned to look at him. “Odin asleep?” He asked quietly. Nick nodded. “What about the boys?” Kevin shook his head. “Went out like lights.” he chuckled.

“You coming to bed?” the older man asked, beckoning down the hall with the tilt of his head.

Nick’s heart stopped. This was what he’d been waiting for, agonizing over all night. Did Kevin really want him to sleep in the same room, same bed as him? Even with his kids here? “You sure?” Nick managed to croak out.

Kevin nodded and held out his hand. Nick hesitated for just a moment before taking it and following Kevin down the hallway to his bedroom.
Chapter Sixteen by Arok
They had been mentally dancing around each other for days. They spent their days and evenings with the kids, sometimes all together, and sometimes Nick with his and Kevin alone with his boys. Both men worked hard to make sure the children felt included and happy with their current living arrangements. But no matter how each day went, the evenings always ended the same.

Both men wrapped around each other and fast asleep in Kevin’s room. While they had both become quite accustomed to their new arrangement, neither one had actually said anything about it. It was an unspoken understanding that come time for bed, Nick would crawl in beside the other man and they would settle down together. Sometimes they would watch tv or a movie, other times, Nick would fall asleep almost as soon as Kevin’s arm came up around him. Kevin’s boys were no longer morning kids, which allowed Kevin the luxury of sleeping in. While Saoirse was lucky to sleep past 6, Nick was always up with her bright and early. It also helped keep their sleeping arrangements hidden from the rest of the house. Nick was not at all itching to explain to Kevin’s sons why he slept with their father every evening.

The week seemed to have melted away from all of them. It was already Friday, Mason and Maxwell would go back to Kristin’s tomorrow. It had been unseasonably warm for November, it was even supposed to get close to 80 today. Nick and Kevin had decided they would host a campout in the backyard for the boys’ last night of the week. They had spent the previous night before putting up two separate tents in the backyard. The plan was for the boys to sleep in one, while Nick, Kevin and Saoirse slept in the other. That way if Saoirse couldn’t handle the camp out, Nick would easily be able to come back inside and sleep in the house with her. Nick was very excited that Kevin had still planned on them sharing a tent, even while having all the kids outside. He’d grown so used to sleeping with the other man, he worried without him he’d be restless all night long.

The boys were super excited about the campout. They had ordered hotdogs, and stuff for s'mores from Instacart, plus they had pulled out Kevin’s acoustic guitars and they had promised to sing songs and play football in the yard. Nick had to admit, he was probably looking as forward to their evening as the kids were. He loved being included and participating in all of these little family activities that Kevin came up with. The fact that Mason and Maxwell wanted him and Odin to join in made it all the sweeter.

Nick was in the kitchen trying to get lunch finished when the boys came racing into the kitchen, Kevin hot on their heels. Odin grabbed ahold of Nick’s legs, giggling so hard he could hardly breathe. “Mobster!” he yelled as he tried to hide behind his father. Nick looked up to see the twinkle in the beautiful green eyes across the room. He laughed. “What’s going on guys?”

Mason laughed and flopped down in a kitchen chair. “Dad’s been chasing us all over the house pretending to be a scary monster. He got Odin pretty good.”

Kevin smiled and came around the island to help Nick with lunch. He grabbed some plates and began putting chicken nuggets on plates while Nick helped Odin wash his hands. Once all kids were washed and had plates in front of them Nick took a seat on the island bar stool and breathed a sigh of relief. It was like feeding animals at the zoo come mealtime with a house full of hungry kids. When they were ready for their meals, they were not going to be kept waiting. Saoirse watched the older kids intently as she gummed on her own set of chicken nuggets.

“Aren’t you hungry?” Kevin asked sitting down beside Nick with his own plate.

Nick shook his head. “Nah. I snacked a little while making lunch. I’ve not really been that hungry lately, nerves I guess.”

Kevin frowned at him but said nothing and went back to eating his lunch. He tried to remember the last time Nick had really sat down and ate a full meal. They’d all been so busy lately with having Max and Mason home, especially Kevin since he was also facilitating school with them during the day and trying to spend time with them at night. He made a mental note to keep an eye on the younger man. He was brought out of his thoughts by the doorbell.

“Expecting someone?” Nick asked, looking over at him.

Kevin’s frown deepened. “Not at all. I’ll go check it out. You stay here with the kids.”

He put his plate on the island and brushed the crumbs off his lap as he stood up. He had no idea who could possibly be at the door. Kristin wasn’t supposed to be here until tomorrow and he couldn’t think of anyone else who would have the gate code to get this close to the house without calling ahead. His heart sank when he peered out the peephole to see none other than Brian shuffling from foot to foot on the front porch. What the hell was he doing here? Kevin took a deep breath. He was happy to see his cousin, of course. But a sinking feeling in his stomach told him this wasn’t going to be a pleasant visit, for any of them. He didn’t think Nick had even spoken to Brian in weeks. Nick had asked Kevin for time when it came to the other man. Why the hell was he here now? Well there was only one way to find out. Opening the door he peered questionably at his younger cousin.

“What brings you here Bri?” Kevin asked coolly, opening the door.

“What kind of greeting is that?” Brian asked, pushing past him to enter the foyer.

“It’s the kind I ask people who show up at my door uninvited.” Kevin retorted.

“I didn’t think I needed an invitation to visit my family. Where is everyone?” Brian asked, looking around the room.

“We just sat down to eat lunch. Are you hungry?” As frustrated as he was by Brian’s arrival, manners prevailed, and if Brian was hungry he would of course feed him. Right before he threw him back outside on his ass.

“That sounds great.” Brian said turning and heading for the kitchen.

Kevin took off right after him, hoping to get to the kitchen quickly to ease the confrontation between the two blondes. He reached the kitchen about the time Nick’s eyes landed on his best friend. His eyes shot from Brian up to Kevin’s, a look of hurt and distrust clouding his baby blue eyes.

“Uncle Brian!” the boys shouted, jumping up from their chairs and running over for hugs, Odin included. Brian was quick to return hugs and kisses, stealing chicken nuggets off plates as he went, much to the dismay of the kids.

While the other man was preoccupied, Kevin tried to catch Nick’s eye. He could see instantly that his guard was up. The easy going demeanor that had been part of him since he arrived at Kevin’s was now stiff and rigid. He could almost feel the anger vibrating off the younger man. He curled his hand around Nick’s bicep. “You okay?” He asked quietly for only Nick to hear. The blonde shook his head. “What the fuck is he doing here?” he bit out.

Kevin shook his head sadly. “I have no fucking clue. He wouldn’t tell me. Whatever it is, I have a really bad feeling about it.” Nick nodded and stiffened as Brian finished with the kids and turned to look at the pair.

“What? No hug for your best friend?” Brian asked, coming closer to the younger man.

Nick held up his hand to keep Brian from coming any closer. “What are you doing here?”

Brain stopped in his tracks and gazed at them curiously. “You’ve been ignoring me. I figured this way, we could get to the bottom of whatever it is I did to piss you off. If I’m here, you can’t ignore me.” he said smiling cheekily.

The goofy good guy routine Brian did usually worked on Nick. Nine times out of ten, Nick would giggle, and throw his arms around the other man, their argument long forgotten. But whatever had caused the rift, was much deeper than Kevin had first believed. Instead of hugging his friend, Nick pushed away from the island. “Fuck. You.” he growled at the older man before storming out of the kitchen and onto the patio.

The silence was deafening. Kevin stared at Brian, his eyes wide. He didn’t think he’d ever seen Nick so upset. What in the world had happened to make Frick and Frack crumble like this. Brian turned to look at Kevin. “What’s his problem?”

Kevin held up his hands in surrender. “I have no idea what’s going on between you two. He asked me to stay out of it, so I respected his wishes and I haven’t asked or pushed. Whatever you’ve done, you’d better fucking fix it. You can’t run off and leave him in this state. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this mad.” Kevin said angrily.

Brian nodded and took off his baseball cap. He sat on the barstool and ran his hands through his curls. “I really thought coming here was a good idea.”

“I think a heads up would have been nice.” Kevin said hotly.

He helped the boys clear their plates and ushered them out of the room. He took Saoirse from her high chair and washed her face and hands before tickling her tummy for smiles. “She’s getting so big.” Brian commented while watching. Kevin nodded. “Yeah, she’s gained quite a bit of personality in just the few short weeks she’s been here.” He hoisted her in his arms and headed out of the kitchen.

“Fix this.” he said, before leaving Brian alone in the kitchen.

-
Nick paced the backyard. He couldn’t believe Brian had the audacity to just show up here. He was so mad, so hurt, that he felt like he was coming out of his skin. In hindsight, he should have seen this coming. This was Brian’s MO. He could not wait for you to come to him. If you were mad at him, he would force the issue until he got his way. All Nick had asked for was time to get over the hurtful things he’d thrown at him the last time they spoke. That shouldn’t have been too much to ask for. The fact that it had taken this long, and Nick still hadn’t reached out or replied to him should have clued the older man in on the fact that he went way too far this time.

Nick stiffened as he heard the patio door open and close behind him. He wasn’t sure which one had come out to check on him and at this moment he wasn’t sure which one he wanted to face.

“We need to talk,” Brian said from the patio door.

Nick sighed and turned around to face the man who was supposed to be his best friend. “I don’t know if I’m ready for that.” Nick said honestly, but he crossed the yard to the patio and settled down in Kevin’s rocking chair, taking some semblance of strength and comfort from the scent of Kevin clinging to the old wood.

“Nick.” Brian started, sitting down beside him in the other rocker. “We’ve never been upset with each other this long before. I didn’t know what to do to get you to talk to me. I’m sorry if showing up here upset you, but I can’t keep pretending I’m okay with you ignoring me either.”

“Fuck what you are comfortable with Brian.” Nick said hurtling himself out of the rocker to face the other man. “I came to you, in one of the hardest times of my life, needing assurance and comfort and what do you do? You throw your biblical nonsense at me and tell me I’m wrong for how I feel and how I will feel so much better if I just push those feelings away and work harder on saving my marriage.” Nick spat out.

“Wait a minute,” Brian tried to speak, but was cut off again by Nick’s outburst.

“I LOVE HIM.” Nick screamed, his face turning red from the stain of his voice and the tears he was trying desperately to keep at bay. “I fucking love him. I’ve loved him for as long as I possibly can remember and it is absolutely killing me being here, knowing he doesn’t feel the same. So you know, I go to my best friend, the one who’s supposed to encourage me and support me in everything I do and instead of providing any semblance of support. What do you do brother Brian? You fucking stick the knife in a little bit deeper and you twist it around, spouting your hate and your bullshit beliefs. So fuck you. I don’t need your kind of support. And I certainly don’t need your lame excuses or your attempts at soothing your own conscience. I’ve been doing just fine without you and I can’t tell you when I’ll be ready to talk to you again because right now, I can’t even fucking stand to look at you.”

Nick brushed past the older man and stormed into the house, colliding right into Kevin as he went. He felt himself slipping, feeling the solid mass of the man he loved against him, the tears were overwhelming. He couldn’t do this, not right now. He pushed away from Kevin and quickly left the room. When he got to the stairs, he took them two at a time until he was safely locked inside his bedroom. Only then did he allow the avalanche of tears to fall.

-

Kevin stood gobsmacked in the kitchen. What had just happened. What had he just overheard? Could it possibly be true? The thoughts were racing through his mind so fast couldn’t even grab on to one to see it through. At this point, he wasn’t sure if he should follow and comfort Nick, go outside and interrogate Brian or lay down from the shock of it all. He took several deep breaths to calm his nerves. Had he really just heard Nick screaming that he loved him? Could the stars finally have aligned for them in that way? The possibility of it was leaving him breathless. He’d been trying all week to keep his heart and his mind opened to the possibility that Nick could feel the same, but besides them sleeping together every night, he hadn’t really been able to pinpoint any example that said yes, he really did feel the way Kevin was so desperate for him to.

Kevin didn’t have to decide his next course of action, it was decided for him as Brian opened the door to the kitchen and stepped inside. He looked startled to see Kevin standing in the kitchen. “How much of that did you overhear?” he asked sheepishly.

“Most of it.” Kevin said gruffly.

Brian nodded in resignation. “I really messed up this time.”

“It sounds like it.” Kevin returned, trying to keep any emotion out of his voice.

“Should I go try to get him to talk to me?” Brian asked, his eyes misty with united tears.

Kevin shook his head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea right now. I’d at least give him a little bit to calm down before trying again.”

“Did you hear what we were fighting about?” Brian asked softly, refusing to meet his eyes.

“Barely. I’m not sure I understand completely. But I caught the gist.” Kevin didn’t want to press, but the hopefulness of the situation was almost too much to take.

“I guess I’ll go play with the kids and see if he calms down.” Brain said sadly getting up to leave the room.

“How long are you staying?” Kevin asked curiously.

“I’d planned on the weekend, but I guess I’ll play it by ear. If I can’t get him to talk to me I’ll just change my flight and head home. I’m not going to force myself on him in his home if he doesn’t want me here that badly.”

Kevin nodded and suppressed the urge to smile like a loon at the “his home” comment. “Can you keep an eye on the kids for me? I need to call Kristin and check in for tomorrow. Saoirse is napping in the pack and play and the boys are playing Fortnite.”

Brian nodded and left the room. Kevin dug his phone out of his pocket and stepped onto the patio. Dialing Howie’s number as soon as the door closed. He picked up on the third ring.

“Lo,” He sounded distracted.

“Hey, you got a few minutes for me?” Kevin asked softly. He walked out further into the yard, heading down towards the wood line to stay out of earshot of everyone else.

“For you? Always. What’s going on? Everything okay?”

Kevin was quiet for a moment. “Kev?” Howie asked again.

“I’m not entirely sure. Brian’s here.”

“Oookay? Is that a problem?” Howie asked, confused.

“Well normally no, but he and Nick got into it a few weeks ago and Nick had pretty much cut all communication with him. Brian has asked me to intervene and when I started to, Nick asked me to leave it alone, so I did. I didn’t really think much of it until he showed up on the doorstep.”

“Dude, that keeps happening to you. Are you running an orphanage for Backstreet Boys? Will AJ be next? I guess I need to call him and decide who’s turn it is.” Howie said laughing.

Kevin chuckled too. It was pretty comical when you could look at it from an outside perspective. “Okay so here’s where it gets serious and I need your advice. So they had a confrontation in the kitchen and Nick stormed out with quite a bit of colorful language. So I quickly got the kids out of the room and set up in the living room so they wouldn’t know what was going on. In the meantime, apparently Brian went out to confront Nick again. You know how he is when he feels trapped Howie. I’d never seen anything like it. All I know is, I was coming back into the kitchen to see where they ended up and all of a sudden I hear Nick, screaming at the top of his lungs, I love him. So I froze in the kitchen, not sure what to do. Half terrified he was talking about somebody else and half terrified he was talking about me. Then he starts laying into Brian and tells him he’s loved this man forever and then says he’s having trouble being in the house because I don’t feel the same way. Howie, he was talking about me. I’m almost sure of it. He told Brian he loves me. Screamed it. What do I do now?”

Howie let out a whistle. This was getting old. “Holy shit. That’s a lot to unpack. What do you want to do?”

“I want to hold him down until he says it to my face and then I want to do all kinds of things to him that are none of your business and can’t be done with five kids running around.” Kevin said breathlessly.

Howie laughed out loud. "Thanks for sparing me the visual. Where is he now?”

“He went storming into the house away from Brian. If I had to guess he’s locked in his bedroom.” Kevin said, turning to look back at the house. From where he stood at the edge of the woods, there was no movement at all. He wondered how Brian was doing with all the kids at once. He wondered more how the blonde was coping upstairs.

“I think you should give him time to calm down. No good is going to come of pressing him before he’s ready. Give him some space and then when you feel like the moment is right, then you either tell him how you feel, or you show him. Whatever is natural in the moment.” Howie said gently.

Kevin nodded. Could he do that? Could he open up his mouth and say all the things he’d kept buried deep inside for so long? He wasn’t sure, but if there was any sort of chance that Nick felt the same way about him, then he owed it to both of them to open his mouth and do something to change everything for both of them.
Chapter Seventeen by Arok
Kevin came back into the house a while later. Still mulling over in his mind what he wanted to do next. Whatever it was he chose, he knew he’d now reached a point where ignoring his feelings and turning his back on the way he felt was no longer an option. It was time to get it all out in the open and if Nick wanted him, then that was great and he could finally allow himself to imagine what a life together with the other man would be like. If Nick didn’t want him, well then he’d find a way to get over the other man once and for all, but the time to run and be afraid of his feelings was over. It was now or never, so to speak.
He wandered into the living room to find Brian and Mason battling it out in some video game. Brian looked up as he walked into the room. “Hey Kev,”

Kevin glanced around the room for any sign of the other man. “Nick still hasn't come down?”

Brian shook his head sadly. “I’ve debated trying to find him, but for one I don’t know which room he’s staying in and two I figured he’d slam the door in my face. I figured I was safer with the kids.”

Kevin smiled softly. Odin and Maxwell were curled up together napping on the floor while Saoirse was still sleeping soundly in the pack and play. Mason on his own was no trouble at all, especially when video games were present. So of course this was easier than dealing with someone who you’d hurt.

“I’m going to go up and talk to him. See if I can get him to come out of his bedroom. You still okay down here?” Kevin asked, turning to leave.

Brian nodded and shot him a grateful smile. “Thanks Kev. I really want to fix this. I know I overstepped. I..I.”

“Enough. I don’t even want to hear it. It’s not me you hurt. You’re going to have to fix this with him.”

Kevin let his words hang in the air as he left the room. He headed up the stairs to Nick’s room, unsure of what he would find when he got there.

Knocking on Nick’s door gently he waited patiently for any kind of response from the other side of the door. Hearing none, he knocked a little louder. Still nothing. Getting nervous now, Kevin reached for the door handle. Finding it unlocked, he turned it quietly and stepped inside the room. The only light came from the small bedside table. Nick was laying on the bed, his back to the door. It looked like he had his headphones on, which explained his non response at the door. From his place in the doorway Kevin could see his shoulders shaking slightly, letting know the younger man was indeed awake, and worse, still pretty upset. He closed the door quietly behind him and crossed to the bed. In one fluid motion, he laid down beside the blonde and gathered him into his arms from behind. Nick jumped slightly at the intrusion, but relaxed back against him in recognition. The shaking of his shoulders increased as Kevin tightened his grip around the younger man. He held Nick for several long moments while he cried, hoping his presence gave Nick some kind of comfort. He reached up gently and removed the headphones from Nick’s head. He laid them on the bedside table and smoothed the hair out of Nick’s eyes.

They laid like that for a while. So long in fact, that Kevin was almost convinced that Nick fell asleep. Just when he was going to pull away from the other man to check, he felt Nick roll over in his arms until he was facing Kevin. Kevin was shocked to see Nick’s beautiful blue eyes were completely bloodshot. His face red and stained with tears. He hadn’t seen Nick this upset since he’d arrived on Kevin’s doorstep, much like Brian had only hours earlier. He reached out a gentle hand and cupped Nick’s warm cheek in his hand, brushing his thumb over the delicate skin. “It’s okay baby.” he said softly.

Nick’s eyes filled with tears again and he buried his head in the crook of Kevin’s neck. Kevin brought his arms down around him and pulled him close. His cries muffled against Kevin’s skin. He was never letting this man go. Even if Nick rejected him, rejected everything he had to offer him, there was no way he could ever turn his back on him, ever let him go completely. He hugged him tightly, doing his best to comfort. “I’m sorry.” Nick mumbled against Kevin’s neck.

“No reason at all to be sorry.” Kevin whispered before he kissed the top of Nick’s head.

He continued to hold him until his tears subsided once again. Nick pulled back just enough to look up at him, but making no move to remove himself from the closeness of Kevin’s arms. “He’s still here isn’t he?” Nick asked softly.

Kevin nodded. “He said he planned on staying the weekend, but he’d go home if you didn’t want him here.”

“I don’t know what I want.” Nick said softly, a few tears continuing to trail down his cheeks. “He said some really shitty things, hurt me quite a bit. I just wanted time to deal with it and get over what he said. It was my own fault, I knew he’d never understand.” Nick said sadly.

“Understand what?” Kevin pressed, unsure of how much Nick would reveal.

“Just some stuff I was going through. I needed my friend and he wasn’t there, you know?” Nick said quickly, ignoring the obvious question from Kevin.

He took a deep breath and reminded himself this was not the time to bring it up. They had waited this long, when he finally told Nick how he felt he wanted it to be in a much better circumstance. Not in this cold spare room, blubbering about how hurtful Brian was. He was going to make it magical and pray it helped Nick feel the same. “Do you think you can stand to talk to him? To work it out?” Kevin asked softly.

Nick shrugged. “I’m not sure. Of course I want to, he’s my best friend, but. I can’t be or do the things he wants from me. He has to try to understand.”

“Tell him that. Don’t give him any room for discussion. Believe me baby. I had several, horrific conversations with him, probably in the same vein as yours. I know how he is. I just remind myself that he’s family, and he generally means no ill will. He’s just stubborn and lives by a different moral compass than I do.” Kevin said softly.

Nick nodded and buried his face back against Kevin’s neck. He hugged Kevin tighter, pushing their bodies as close as possible. “Are the kids okay?” Nick mumbled.

“Yeah yours are asleep and he’s playing games with Mason. Everyone is okay.” Kevin said, running his hands up and down Nick’s back in a soothing gesture.

“I guess I should at least try to talk to him.” Nick said sadly. “I don’t want him being here to ruin our camp out.”

“Shit. I forgot all about it.” Kevin said, pulling back from Nick. “I guess if he’s staying I need to pull another tent out of the garage.”

“I can always just stay in the house with the baby. That way he can sleep in your tent.” Nick offered pulling away and sitting up.

Kevin grabbed his hand and squeezed. “No. I want you to sleep in my tent. We’ll figure something out.” Kevin said seriously before releasing his hand. Both stood and stretched. “Thanks for coming to check on me.” Nick said, turning to look at the other man.

“Of course. I would have come earlier, but I wanted to give you some space first.” Kevin said, pulling him into a hug.

“Thanks Kev.” Nick whispered, hugging him back tightly. Kevin rested his chin on Nick’s shoulder and inhaled deeply. Just a little longer. Just stick it out a little longer and then you can finally say something and finally find out if he feels the same.

-

They descended the stairs, side by side but not touching. Nick turned to Kevin and gave him a small smile before turning the corner to the living room. Brian looked up at both of them as they appeared in the doorway. All the kids were awake and most of them yelling. Kevin had to laugh. Brian only had one child, and he hadn’t been little in years handling 5 under ten got to be quite a handful at times. Kevin swept into the room and grabbed Saoirse from the floor. Checking to see if she needed changed and finding her dry, he shooed the rest of the kids out of the room. “We’re going to start the football practice.” Kevin said looking at Nick. “I’ll have them outside if you need me.”

Nick gave him a small smile, an understanding passing between them. If the conversation with Brian got out of hand, all Nick had to do was come outside and Kevin would make sure it ended. Even without exchanging words, they both knew. Nick waited until he heard the banshee of kids and Kevin head through the foyer before he turned and fixed his eyes on Brian. He took a seat at the end of the couch and pulled his legs up underneath him. Brian sat at the other end and turned to look at him.

“Look Nick,” Brian started.

Nick cut him off. “Let me go. I just need you to understand how much the things you said hurt me. I am doing everything in my power to protect myself and to protect my kids from a person who is not only a danger to them, but also to herself. I shouldn’t have confided in you how I was feeling, I should have known you’d never understand. That’s on me and I won’t make that mistake again. What I need from you is some grace and understanding. I need you to respect me, even if you don’t agree with the choices I make. I’m glad you have the person you love most in this world, and I’m glad that she’s the kind of person who not only supports but embodies your beliefs, but our beliefs are not the same Brian.” Nick took a breath.

Brian began to open his mouth again and Nick held up his hand to stop him. “I love him, I love him so much it hurts me, physically to be this close to him every day, feeling the way I do and knowing it’s a hopeless cause. I understand this is the situation I’ve put myself in and I need to figure out a way to deal with it. I also know, there’s not one place in this world I could have come to with two kids and a broken heart and been given the same encouragement and support that I’ve received since the moment we arrived here. None of the rest of you would have dropped everything the way he has to help me. I can never repay that. But I need you to understand that the way I feel isn’t going to change. I’ll find a way to deal with it better so it doesn’t interfere with the group or anything like that, but it’s not going to disappear, so you’re going to have to come to terms with that.”

The silence was heavy for several long moments. “Can I speak now?” Brian asked quietly, his gaze intent on Nick’s. Nick nodded, blushing slightly.

“I’m sorry Nick. I’m sorry for the things I said and the way they affected you. I never meant to hurt you and I’m ashamed of myself that the words I chose did that. I’m more ashamed you feel like you can’t confide in me or trust me with what you’re dealing with in your life because that’s all I want to be. I want to get back to that place where we share everything. I miss my best friend. I have no excuse for the things I said or how it went down. All I can do is apologize and promise you I’ll do better in the future.” Brian said his voice cracking at the end.

Nick smiled sadly and nodded. “I accept your apology. I’d like to work on getting back there as well.”

Brian was quiet, focusing on a spot on the floor. Nick watched him intently. “What is it?” he asked gently.

“Do you know why Kevin got divorced?” He asked quietly.

That one surprised Nick. Where was this coming from? “I mean, he told me they’d grown apart or something like that. Why?” Nick asked curiously.

“I am not going to say anything else, because I’ve almost ruined one friendship with my big mouth, but I think you need to ask him again.” Brian said, turning suddenly to look at him.

The look in Brian’s eyes startled him at first. What in the world did that have to do with their fighting? “Okay. I’ll ask him, but I don’t quite connect the dots between that and us fighting.” Nick said, confused.

Brian nodded. “I think you will after you talk to him, and if not, we’ll talk about it more then. Nick nodded and looked away.

“I’m okay if you want to stay the rest of the weekend. It would be nice to catch up.” Nick said softly.

“Are you sure? I don’t want to press my luck.” Brain said chuckling.

Nick smiled too. “Yeah, I’m sure. We’re having a campout in the backyard. It will be fun.” Nick said standing up and offering his hand to Brian. Brian grabbed it and pulled the younger man into his embrace. “I love you Frack.” Brian said softly. “No matter what, I love you and I’m proud of you.”

Love filled Nick’s heart and he squeezed the other man back. “Thanks Bri. I love you too.”

-

Kevin had just thrown the football to Maxwell when Nick and Brian came out onto the patio. Kevin cut his eyes over to the younger blonde and sighed in relief when Nick gave him a small smile. He wasn’t paying attention to the game, his eyes still on the blonde, when Maxwell sent the ball flying right into his face. It knocked him off guard and Maxwell erupted into laughter. Kevin had to smile, but then took off after his youngest son. Before long he’d reached him and grabbed him around the middle before they both collapsed into a pile of laughter and giggles. Once he had Max down on the ground he tickled him mercilessly until he cried uncle. Kevin laughed and rolled over before propping himself up on his elbow. Nick was smiling and tickling Mason and Odin at the same time while Brian had Saoirse in his arms and was dancing around the patio. Whatever had happened, it seemed like their talk had worked wonders on both men. Nick’s defenses were gone and both men were all smiles. It felt good to be surrounded by so much love.

Kevin pushed himself off the ground and hurried over to tickle Mason as well, Max right on his heels. Before long there was a giant pile of Richardsons and Carters laughing and shrieking in an all out tickle war. Kevin finally surrendered and rolled onto his back away from the mess of limbs. “Getting too old for roughhousing cuz?” Brian called from the patio. Kevin flipped him off and rolled onto his stomach before standing. He offered a hand to Nick and helped pull him to his feet as well. The two men joined Brian on the patio while the kids continued to tickle and beat each other up in the grass.

“Nick tell you we’re camping out tonight?” Kevin asked as he settled down in his rocking chair.

“Wanna stay in my tent uncle Brian?” Mason yelled from the yard. “Yeah! Stay with us!” Maxwell chimed in.

Brian laughed. “Apparently I will be staying in the cool people tent tonight.”
Nick and Kevin both laughed and exchanged quiet looks, both secretly pleased neither would have to give up their spot in their tent together to accommodate Brian. “Well I’m going to start bringing out the hotdogs and smores. Is anybody hungry?” Kevin called out.

A huge uproar of Mes came from the boys in the yard as well as Brian. Kevin chuckled. “Let me go start getting things ready.” He stood up and headed towards the house.

“I’ll help you,” Nick said quietly, standing and following the older man into the house.

Once inside Kevin went to the pantry and started grabbing boxes and the bag of marshmallows. “You guys work everything out?” he asked as he started piling things onto the counter.

Nick nodded. “For the most part but hey, can we talk tomorrow? Like when it’s just the two of us? I have something I want to talk to you about.” Nick said quietly.

Kevin nodded, “I want to talk to you too, but are you sure it can wait?” he asked concerned.

“Of course. We can talk sometime in the evening or something when the boys leave. No rush, I just don’t want to be interrupted. Everything is fine though.”

Kevin nodded. “As long as you’re okay then sure, we can talk tomorrow, but if you’re not.”

“Really Kev. I’m okay. Let’s just enjoy this evening we have together. I think Brian intends to stay the weekend, but we’ll wait and see.” Nick said gathering things up in his arms to take outside.

Kevin nodded and headed to the fridge to get the hotdogs. Something was bothering the younger man and it was going to drive him crazy until he figured out what it was. Grabbing the last bit of things needed he followed Nick back outside.

-

Later they all settled down in their tents. They had played numerous games of football, eaten until they were sure someone was going to puke marshmallow and told ghost stories with Kevin’s kids once Odin had fallen asleep. It had been so much fun that the boys hadn’t wanted it to ever end. Kevin cherished this time, knowing how quickly they were growing up. He loved making memories like this with them. Saoirse had done well being outside too. She mostly played on the patio with the adults, but once it was bedtime she settled down easily enough on a mound of blankets in the corner of Kevin and Nick’s tent.

They had declared bedtime about an hour ago, and everyone had made their way to their tents to settle in. Kevin was laying at the edge of one side of the tent with his own set of blankets and Nick was laying at the other. This was the first night in more than a week that they hadn’t fallen asleep curled up together. Kevin was finding it impossible to fall asleep. He just kept thinking about how close the blonde was and how silly it was that he couldn’t sleep without him being even closer. He thought Nick must be having the same problem. He could hear him shifting in the sleeping bag every few moments and his soft huffs as sleep never came.

After several more minutes Kevin had enough. He rolled onto his side and faced the younger man who was on his back and staring up at the ceiling of the tent. “This is ridiculous,” Kevin said quietly. Before Nick knew what was happening, Kevin had wrapped his arm around his waist and drug him, blankets and all until he was pressed up against the older man. Kevin wrapped one arm around Nick and tucked the other one under his pillow. Tangling their legs together with a gentle nudge, Kevin finally settled down into the blankets and closed his eyes. Several moments later he heard Nick’s breathing even out and knew the younger man was asleep. This is exactly the way it should be, Kevin thought as he too drifted off to sleep.
Chapter Eighteen by Arok
Kevin had woken up ahead of Nick for the first time all week and laid quietly, relishing the feel of the other man wrapped in his arms. As he held him tightly, he was struck by the simple thought that he didn’t do anything like this with any of the other guys. He’d never slept with any of the other guys after they’d come back from America, just Nick. At the time he’d always convinced himself it was because the younger man was still quite young and needed the extra comfort and reassurance. But it had happened off and on for years. Maybe once every couple of months when he’d had a nightmare or a fight. It had stopped of course, about the time he started seeing Lauren seriously. But here lately, it was every single night, something Nick himself had started. Not that he was complaining at all, but still. Kevin couldn’t think of any adult men who spent the night in each other’s beds, or held hands as much as they did. That thought alone gave him hope. He knew why he was doing it and so accepting of Nick’s affection, but why was he? He held him a while longer, memorizing the rise and fall of his chest as he dreamed. His sweet face was relaxed and serene in his sleep and Kevin wished that he could make that look appear when he was awake as well. If given the chance, Kevin would do everything in his power to release the stress and anxiety from the other man.

Saoirse started shifting around in the tent and sat up. Looking around she looked around and smiled when her eyes settled on Kevin. He smiled back at her. She was a beautiful sight. Kevin carefully extracted himself from the blonde. He was already awake, there was no reason Nick should have to get up with her. He shifted into a crouched position and swooped her up in his arms. Once he had the baby in hand, he quietly left the tent. He glanced toward the other tent and seeing no movement, decided they were still sleeping. The dawn was just beginning to break and knew he still had a little while before anyone else woke up.

He took Saoirse in the house to change her diaper and her pajamas. Once they were back in the kitchen, he set her up in the high chair with a tub of play dough and set to work making breakfast. He started the coffee first, knowing he would need all the caffeine and reassurance he could get to make it through this day. His mind was going a million different places at once. He still hadn’t figured out how he was supposed to even broach the topic with Nick and then to top it off, Nick had something he wanted to talk to him about. He’d driven himself mad last night thinking about it. If Brian hadn’t been sleeping in the tent beside them, within earshot, he would have forced the blonde to tell him right then and there. Patience was not his strong suit. He kept one eye on the baby while cracking eggs into a bowl. She was usually good to play with the clay, but occasionally, she would try to sneak it into her mouth. Now with another mouth to feed, Kevin knew he had to get breakfast prepared before the natives woke up and started getting restless. He thought back to the night before. It had been a great time and he hoped all the kids had just as much fun as he had. After Nick and Brian had talked, the tension had eased and you could visually see the two best friends relax with each other and enjoy themselves. Kevin was a peacemaker at heart and he wanted nothing more than for everyone to get along and just enjoy each other’s company.

He’d just tumped the eggs into a bowl and was getting ready to start on the bacon when he heard the patio door open. Throwing a glance over his shoulder he saw Brian enter the kitchen. “Coffee’s ready if you want some.” Kevin said, turning back to the stove.

Brian yawned. “That sounds great. Man those kids kept me up late, even after you two went to bed.” he said laughing as he reached for a cup from the cabinet. He poured himself a giant cup of coffee and breathed in the aroma before taking several long sips.

“I hope you had fun.” Kevin said as he laid several strips of bacon into the skillet.

“I did. The boys did too. Thanks for letting me stay Kev.” Brain said quietly.

Kevin nodded. “Of course. Thanks for talking things out with Nick.”

Brain was quiet for a long moment. “You heard more than you’re letting on didn’t you?”

Kevin nodded. “Yep.” He refused to turn and look at the other man, instead, put all of his focus into the cooking.

“What are you going to do about it?” Brian asked as he leaned back against the kitchen island.

Kevin glanced over at him before checking on Saoirse again. Deciding she wasn’t eating the clay he focused his attention back on his younger cousin. “I haven’t decided yet.”

Brain sighed. “I think you need to tell him.” he said quietly. “I think it might make a difference.”

Kevin wasn’t sure what to say. He really didn’t want to get into this with Brian. One because it really was none of his damn business, and two because he didn’t want to deal with any of his family values bullshit. “I think that’s my decision to make,” he said evenly.

The first round of bacon was done, he pulled down a serving platter and transferred the bacon from the skillet to the platter before starting the process over again, lining more bacon in the skillet. By his estimate, it was going to take at least two packages, maybe even three to feed this crew breakfast.

Brian put his mug down on the island and turned to face him. “Of course it is. All I’m saying is if you actually open up your mouth and say something to him about it instead of hiding behind it you might find out that it’s not the way you’ve always assumed it was. But of course, do what you want. I’m just trying to help.” Brian muttered irritably.

Kevin signed heavily. This wasn’t how he wanted to start this day. “I understand. Thank you for trying to help. You can understand my hesitance to even discuss this with you. It hasn’t ever gone well for me so why should I assume it would this time?” Kevin said looking over at him.

Brian hung his head and nodded. “I know. I’ve fucked up, quite a few times. I’m sorry Kev. I just honestly want you to be happy. Whatever it takes you to get there.” he said softly before crossing the room to sit beside the baby. He grabbed part of the clay from her and started to make shapes with it for her.

Kevin let the conversation drop as he finished the bacon. Pulling down plates and forks, he laid everything out on the counter before venturing back outside to wake everyone up. He wasn’t sure which tent to approach first. Deciding he’d have a few moments with the younger man alone if he went there first, he unzipped his tent and climbed back inside. There was a delicious blonde angel laying on the ground surrounded by blankets and pillows that just an hour ago Kevin was laying with too. That thought along cemented his desire to have the conversation with Nick. What if they could do this every night? What if it could be so much more? The what ifs alone were breathtaking.

He crawled inside, closer to the younger man until he was laying right behind him. He brushed the blonde hair out of Nick’s eyes and smiled as Nick snuggled back against him. His body reacting to Kevin’s presence, even in his sleep. Kevin watched him for a few moments, wanting these moments alone to last forever. But knowing the kids needed to eat before it got cold forced him into action. He leaned down and softly kissed the top of Nick’s head before gently shaking him awake. Nick’s blue eyes opened slowly, blinking as they adjusted to the morning light. He gave Kevin a shy smile as he came too. “Hey, “ he whispered softly.

“Hey yourself.” Kevin whispered back. “I’m sorry to wake you, but it’s time for breakfast. I don’t want the kids to eat everything before the rest of us even have a chance.” Kevin said chuckling.

Nick laughed and then sat up quickly, looking around the tent for Saoirse. “Relax,” Kevin said gently, placing his hand on Nick’s arm. “She’s in the house playing with play dough with Brian.”

Nick smiled again.”You got up with her? Why didn’t you wake me?”

Kevin brushed him off. “Of course I did. You do it everyday. You needed a break and I am happy to give it.” He smiled cheekily and moved to leave the tent. “I’m waking the kids next. It’s going to be a race to the bacon in about 20 seconds. Consider this your official warning.”

Nick laughed and watched Kevin leave the tent. What magical thing had he done in his life to deserve the care and consideration from this man? He would never be able to figure that one out.

They had deemed the campout a smashing success. The older boys were gushing about it when Kristin had come to pick them up. As sad as Kevin was for them to leave for another week, he knew that he wasn’t going to be the most present parent until they had some time together to talk and Kevin knew once and for all how the other man felt. He’d been playing this conversation over and over in his head all day. Trying to mentally prepare himself for it going the way he wanted as well as if it didn’t go well. He had to say, he was more prepared for it to go horribly. It was almost torture to think about it going right and then none of the things he’d thought about coming to fruition. He’d locked himself in his bedroom after the boys left, needing some time to himself to collect his thoughts. He was startled when he heard a knock at the door. He crossed the room and opened it quickly. Standing on the other side was Nick, looking completely unsure of himself and hesitant.

“Everything okay?” Kevin asked, gazing at the younger man.

“I think so.” he said quietly as he brushed past Kevin to enter the bedroom. Kevin glanced around the quiet hallway before closing the door behind them. “Are the kids okay?” he asked, taking a seat on the bed, his back to the headboard. There really weren’t a lot of places to sit down in here, Kevin realized as he looked around the room.

“Yeah they are both napping. Brian too. He’s passed out on the couch downstairs. I think the boys must have kept him going long after we fell asleep.” Nick said, chuckling softly. He sat on the end of Kevin’s bed, drawing his legs up, indian style underneath him.

Kevin smiled too. Watching the light reach NIck’s eyes as he laughed was one of the most magical things Kevin had ever seen. He’d figured that fact out when Nick was only 14. Something he had worked long and hard on repressing, given their age differences at the time and so many other factors.

“What’s up Nicky?” Kevin asked, unsure of why he was here. His stomach was already doing flip flops. Was this the right time to blurt out his secret? One he’d carried with him for more than 20 years at this point?

“You promised we’d have time to talk once the kids left.” Nick started quietly. “I was hoping you had time to talk now.”

Kevin nodded, his nerves beginning to get the best of him. Finally he would learn whatever it was that was so important for Nick. “Sure. What do you want to talk about?”
Nick played with his fingers. Fidgeting. Clasping and unclasping his hands over and over. It was a nervous habit and it drove Kevin crazy. He wanted to take the other man and shake him like a pinata until he started spilling out his words. But he refrained, squeezing his fists tightly beside him, urging himself not to get impatient.

“I want to talk about your divorce.” Nick said quietly as he looked up at Kevin, finally meeting his eyes.

Kevin was a little stunned. “My divorce? What about it? We’ve talked about it several times before.”

Nick nodded. “I know, but Brian said I needed to ask you about it. He said it was important for me to understand. And when I think about it, it’s always felt like you’ve been holding something back from me when we talk about it. So I’m only asking one last time. Why did you get divorced?”

Kevin stared at the younger man, his eyes transfixed on the blue orbs staring back at him. Now this was not the way he’d imagined the conversation going. Not that he necessarily had a speech prepared or anything, but he didn’t expect it to start here. He took a deep breath and broke eye contact with the younger man. His words catching in his throat, he managed to choke out a strangled, “You.” before the tears were pricking the corners of his eyes.

He dropped his head in his hands as the tears started flowing faster. Unable to look up at the younger man, he kept his head down and tried desperately to stop the tears from flowing. He felt the bed shift as Nick moved closer to him. Nick’s hand cupped his cheek and lifted his head from his lap. “What did you say?” his voice hoarse as well, but his eyes still as intense.

Kevin nodded softly. “I said, we got divorced, because of you.”

Nick sat back on his heels and stared at him. “I don’t understand.”

Kevin tried to speak, tried to explain, but the tears were back and coming at such a strangled force all he could manage to do was drop his head in his hands again, his shoulders shaking from the force of it all.

Nick’s voice was more strangled this time as he placed his hands on Kevin’s shoulders and pushed back gently, forcing Kevin to look up at him. “I’m trying Kevin. Please, please make me understand. Please tell me what you mean. How could I cause your divorce?”

Kevin started into the eyes of the man that he would and had given up everything for, even if he never wanted or asked him to. Finally, the words started to pour out of him. “I love you. I’ve loved you for more than half of your life Nicky. It just got to the point that I couldn’t pretend to be someone I wasn’t anymore. I spent all my time thinking, dreaming about you and at the end of the day there wasn’t any love or time left for her anymore. It had always been you and I just got tired of denying it.” he said softly, never moving his eyes from the younger man.

He watched as his words washed over the other man. Watched the moment that the truth of what Kevin was saying dawned on him, watched the slow sexy smile spread across those pouty lips. “You love me?” Nick asked quietly? His voice raspy in Kevin’s ears.

He wasn’t sure he could speak. Wasn’t sure he could even form words with Nick looking at him like that. Kevin nodded, his eyes still never leaving the blondes. Nick shifted closer. He pushed Kevin’s legs apart and crawled in between them. He was so close now Kevin could feel his breath hitting his face. Nick reached out and wrapped his arms around Kevin’s neck. Leaning down, Nick brushed his lips softly against his. “You.” he said as he brushed them gently against Kevin’s. “Love.” He did it again, the feel of Nick’s soft lips touching his were setting off small explosions all over his body. “Me?” Nick asked teasingly, finally biting Kevin’s bottom lip and sucking it into his mouth. Kevin had enough. He shifted his weight and grabbed either side of Nick’s head as he took control of the kiss, pressing their lips together and urging Nick’s mouth open with his tongue. He felt the other man begin to tremble in his arms and deepened the kiss, forcing his tongue in further, dancing with Nick’s until neither could breathe and they pulled apart. Laying his forehead against Nick’s he attempted to catch his breath. “Yes.” he said simply, the heat rising in his cheeks and spreading in his stomach.

Nick’s face broke out in a grin a mile wide. “I love you too.” he said softly, gazing up at the other man. Kevin’s heart skipped a beat, hearing the words was almost better than the kidd before it. Kevin blinked a couple of times and pulled back to study the younger man’s face.

“Are you sure? Because if this is some kind of game, or experiment, I need to know right now.” Kevin said, his voice cracking on the last word.

Nick’s eyes went wide and he shook his head emphatically. “No game, no experiment. Just me, sitting in front of the man I’ve always loved, finally hearing he loves me too. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s also incredibly hard to believe, so you might have to do a bit more to convince me.” Nick said smiling cheekily.

Kevin smiled too. His heart was full. The thoughts he’d been having for the past week were real. Nick loved him. They loved each other. What could stand in their way now? “I think I can manage that.” Kevin said huskily before pushing Nick down against the mattress and catching those pouty lips again with his own.
Chapter Nineteen by Arok
They laid together, kissing and snuggling. Nick felt like his heart was soaring. The feel of Kevin pressed against him, the feel of his lips on his skin set him on fire. The simple fact that he had the ability to reach out and run his fingers through Kevin’s jet black locks was enough to send him over the edge of consciousness.

They’d barely talked, after their initial confession, they had quickly figured out something better to use their mouths for and Nick was obsessed with the feel of Kevin’s lips against his. It was different, kissing another man. The feel of it, Kevin’s facial hair tickled his face and felt so different from kissing Lauren. But just knowing it was the older man, this man he’d wanted for so long for, was almost too much. He never wanted to stop kissing him, touching him.

But he also knew they didn’t have long until they needed to face reality, responsibility. At least for Nick, his kids would be waking up from their nap soon and there was the added frustration of Brian who was camped out in the living room at what had to be the absolute worst time to have house guests in Nick’s opinion. He pulled away from Kevin’s kiss and smiled at the other man.

“I want to do this forever.” he said softly, his hand resting gently on Kevin’s hip.

“I know exactly how you feel. It doesn’t seem real. I’m afraid if I stop I’ll never have the chance again.” Kevin admitted looking down into Nick’s eyes.

“I honestly don’t think I can ever go back to a time I couldn’t reach up and kiss you.” Nick whispered, his eyes misting.

Kevin leaned down and kissed his forehead, his cheeks and then his nose. “Good thing you’ll never have to then, huh baby.” Kevin whispered, his Kentucky drawl heavy. Nick felt his eyes roll back in his head as Kevin took his mouth in another bruising kiss.

"We really need to talk, there's so much I want to ask you, to understand. But I don't want to stop this." Nick said breathlessly as Kevin brushed his lips across his throat.

"Mmhm." Kevin mumbled against his skin.

Nick giggled, Kevin's facial hair was tickling his neck but he didn't dare ask him to stop. The tickles were something he was very much looking forward to getting used to. Kevin shifted his hips and pressed closer into Nick's own, the friction making him moan out before he could help himself. He blushed furiously. He hadn't meant to, but Kevin being this close to him was making him feel all kinds of things he'd never felt before.

Kevin chuckled softly. "Don't blush baby, that was the sexiest thing I've ever heard. Knowing it was for me." Kevin ground his hips against Nick a second time, this one deliberate and smiled devilishly when Nick's eyes slammed shut as he moaned out again.

They were interrupted by the chime of Nick's cell phone."Who the fuck is that." he groaned stretching his arm out to retrieve it from the bedside table. "Shit." he said, pulling away from Kevin and sitting up. "It's Brian, the kids are awake and he doesn't know what to do."

Kevin pulled away from him and took several deep breaths to calm his racing heart. "It's okay baby. The kids come first."

Nick shoved his phone in his pocket and stood up. "Is it really bad to say I wish they didn't right now. There's so many things I want to say to you, so many things I want to do." he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively as he made Kevin laugh.

"Don't worry baby. This is just the beginning, we've got forever to figure everything out." Kevin said softly.

Nick turned and gazed at the other man. "You really believe that?" he asked softly.

"Believe what? That we have time to talk later?" Kevin was confused.

"Not just that. Forever?" Nick said softly, tilting his head to the side to peer at the other man, anxious to hear the older man's response. So much was riding on this. What if it didn't mean as much to Kevin as it did to him?

"Of course forever baby. Now that I've got you I don't ever plan on letting you go." Kevin answered honestly.

Nick shot him a small sexy smile before turning and leaving the room. Kevin felt his heart leap in his chest as Nick left the room. In barely an hour, his world had been turned on its axis. He couldn't believe the younger man had said he loved him too. He couldn't get over the feeling of their bodies moving together, the feel of his touch on his skin. He needed to be careful though, he couldn't risk scaring Nick by coming on too strong or advancing on him too quickly.

After all he was just in the beginning stages of his divorce, there was still so much to talk about and work through. They hadn’t even had the most basic of conversations. Sure they had both said their feelings, but what did that mean? Were they together? And while Kevin hoped to God that was the case, they’d never said and if they were, there was a lot more that needed to be discussed. Starting a new relationship was always hard, but then factor in that they were two guys, that they were famous, had four kids between the two of them, and one was in the very beginning stages of divorce, this whole thing had messy written all over it. Kevin knew all of this, he also didn’t give two shits about how hard it could be. As long as he had Nick, nothing else mattered. But Nick would have to completely understand what he was getting himself into if he wanted to be with him. This wasn’t a passing thing. If Nick allowed Kevin to have him, he was never going to let him go. As creepy as that sounded in Kevin's head.

What the hell were they supposed to do with Brian in the house or what would they tell the kids. Worrying about anyone else at the moment seemed premature until they'd had more than a half hour to talk to each other. The next time they had an opportunity to talk he needed to keep his hormones in check so they could actually get somewhere before he just pawed the man to death, but oh how delicious it was to touch him. He smiled at the memory, allowing it to do all kinds of things to him. It would take several minutes until he was able to safely join the others downstairs.

-

When Kevin finally was able to stand and walk downstairs, he found the rest of the house in the backyard playing with the NERF guns. He took a seat in his rocking chair and watched the two large children chasing Odin around the yard. Saoirse had been placed on the patio with books and bubbles, but upon seeing Kevin come out on the patio she had quickly left them and wobbled over to where he sat in the rocking chair. When she reached him she raised her hands in an up motion. He smiled but didn’t hesitate to scoop the girl up into his arms. She settled back against him as they rocked and watched the battleground in the yard. His breath caught in his throat as Nick turned around to shoot Brian and locked eyes with him. Nick shot him a wink and another sexy smile before pelting Brian with a series of bullets. Odin erupted into laughter and ran after his uncle to tackle him to the ground. It was comical to see them all acting like such big kids, but it was just the kind of release Nick needed. Brian too, Kevin suspected.

Kevin rocked the baby for quite a while, she was perfectly content sitting in his lap and playing with his hair. A few times she had gotten her tiny fingers stuck and pulled it a little too hard, but it was easy enough to detangle. After a while Nick and Brian called it quits and helped Odin pick up all the bullets littered all over the yard. They joined Kevin on the patio, Nick dropping into the rocker beside him and Brian and Odin taking seats at the patio table.

“I can take her.” Nick said gesturing towards the baby.

“Nope. She’s just fine.” Kevin said as he continued to rock her softly. If she was not making any move to get off his lap, then he wasn’t going to give her up any earlier. He loved babies, missed desperately how little his kids were. He wondered briefly how Nick felt about babies, was Saoirse the last one he wanted? As quickly as the thought entered his mind he pushed it right back out. They had way too many things to worry about right now before he started thinking about that.

Nick settled back into the rocker and listened to Odin ramble on about what happened in the Paw Patrol episode he and Brian had watched when he woke up from his nap. Kevin smiled and hugged Saoirse closer. The anticipation, the hope that this could be his new normal, that these three people could be part of his life forever was the best feeling in the world. Nick caught his eye and gave Kevin a small smile. It was magic, all of this was. He couldn’t wait for Brian to leave, he couldn’t wait until they could have time, just the two of them to figure out whatever this was happening between them.

“You guys want to order pizza?” Brian asked as he looked at his watch.

Kevin laughed, “You got somewhere to be?”

Brian nodded. “Yeah, Leigh called while I was napping. She’s upset about the election and she wants me back home. I changed my flight and I’m flying out in a few hours. I know I said I’d stay the weekend but.”

Nick cut him off. “It’s fine Brian. We understand. But yes, let’s order pizza. I am starving and in no mood to cook.’

Brian howled with laughter. “You? Cook? How do you get Kevin to eat pizza rolls?” he said smiling at his younger friend.

“Hey!” Nick said pouting. “All have you know that Kevin has taught me quite a bit about how to cook. I made those chicken nuggets you ate yesterday!”

Brian laughed. “I’m just messing with you man. I know there’s no way you can stay here and not learn a thing or two from the old man.”

It was Kevin’s turn to be offended. “Hey! Who are you calling an old man?” This old man gave you a tent to sleep in you ungrateful creep.” he said laughing.

They all broke out into laughter. Nick dug his phone out of his pocket and ordered enough food for a small army. “Hey, at least we won’t have to make lunch tomorrow.” he said smiling sheepishly.

Kevin smiled at him, trying to convey his excitement to have Brian leaving ahead of schedule. He detected a twinkle in those beautiful blue eyes and could only imagine that the younger man was thinking the same thing.

-

Hours later Brian was on a flight back to Atlanta. They had full bellies and two very filthy kids that both needed baths. Kevin had offered to help, secretly thinking the sooner they got the kids bathed and put to bed then the sooner they would be able to talk. He’d managed to keep his hands to himself the entire rest of the time Brian had been there. He’d even restrained himself again right after Brian left. The kids were covered in pizza sauce and garlic sauce and desperately needed to be bathed. Kissing Nick would have to wait, no matter how much it killed him.

He took Odin into the bathroom in Nick’s room while Nick bathed Saoirse in the hall bathroom. Doing baths this way got them done in less than ten minutes. The kids were clean and into pajamas and ready for stories in no time. Kevin hated to leave them for this part, but knew if he didn’t want to be interrupted with Nick later then he needed to go call his own boys now so he wouldn’t have to stop and do it later.

He left Nick with both kids in Odin’s room, telling Nick to join him in his room once he had both kids down. Entering his room, he quickly picked up and picked up his phone. He talked to Mason first, hearing all about their day baking with their mom. He listened intently, trying his best to be focused and present on his kids, instead of thinking about the blonde down the hall. Maxwell asked if they could try out some new science experiments he’d seen in a YouTube video. Kevin told him they would have to order the supplies, but he would try to have them all by the time he arrived back on Saturday. After speaking to both kids Kristin appeared on the phone.

“How’s it going hunny?” She asked gently.

Kevin wasn’t sure what to say. On one hand he felt like he owed her the truth, to know that something was happening with Nick, but at the same time what would he even tell her. Nothing really had happened yet. “I’m doing okay. A little extra tired after having Brian here too. He just left about an hour ago.”

“Yeah I was pretty surprised to see him. Mason said he and Nick were fighting most of the time he was there.” she said softly.

“Yeah. You know how Brian is. He said some pretty messed up things and hurt Nick’s feelings. So instead of respecting Nick’s request for space, he decided to show up here and try to force the issue. I think they have mostly worked it out though.” he said yawning.

“You need to get some rest. Don’t let me keep you. Anything else you want to tell me?” she asked, pressing just enough.

Kevin sighed. “I don’t know yet Kris. Give me a day or so and I’ll get back to you.”

She seemed to take that answer and they hung up a few minutes later just as Nick entered the room. He’d changed into his pajamas and looked absolutely adorable. He stood awkwardly in the doorframe, not making any move to come in or leave. “What are you doing?” Kevin asked, confused.

“I’m not sure. It all feels a little awkward at the moment.”

Kevin nodded. It felt awkward for him too. “Just come here.”

Nick turned and shut and locked the door. He dropped the baby monitor on the bedside table and sat down beside Kevin on the bed. He kept his hands in his lap, playing with his fingers again. “Why does this all feel so weird?” He asked, raising his eyes to look at Kevin.

“Because we left things in a weird place, hell we barely even had a chance to talk and then we had to stop and deal with kids and my cousin and we’re both unsure of what’s going on and what all of this means.” Kevin said as he kicked off his shoes. He scooted his butt back across the bed until his back hit the headboard. Spreading his legs apart to make room for Nick he beckoned the younger man in between them. Nick wasted no time settling in the open space, resting his head back against Kevin’s chest. Kevin brought both arms around the younger man and laced their fingers together.

They were silent for several moments. Just enjoying the feel of each other and the wonderfulness that was this moment. “I need to know how you feel Nick.” Kevin said softly. “There’s a lot to cover here, but I need to know what you want.” It was easier to get the words out without them being face to face. If Nick wasn’t ready to move forward, he wouldn’t be able to see the hurt on Kevin’s face.

“I was going to ask you the same question. I want everything Kev. I want everything and more, with you and only you.” Nick said softly, squeezing the fingers of their hands together.

“I want that too.” Kevin said softly. “You’re all I’ve ever wanted. I promise baby, if you give me this chance, I will love you like you’ve never been loved before. "

He felt Nick’s tears hit their intertwined hands before he could figure out what was happening. Nick’s shoulders shook as he cried. Kevin leaned down and turned Nick’s face gently so he could look into his eyes. “Why the tears baby,” he said softly.

Nick forced his eyes closed tighter. “Do you know what you do to me every time you call me baby?” Nick said hoarsely. “It feels like my tummy is doing flip flops, it makes me feel like I’m floating.”

Kevin smiled. “Good.” he kissed Nick’s forehead. “Float away baby. I’ll catch you.”

Nick snuggled closer to the other man before speaking again. “No one has ever said something so nice, so important to me before and actually meant it. But I believe it when you say those things to me, that you’ll love me.”

“Of course I will baby. You just have to let me and I will love you for the rest of my life. I’ve already loved you for more than 20 years, and that was before I got to taste your sweet mouth.” he said as he traced a finger over Nick’s flushed lips.

Nick closed his eyes again. This time Kevin suspected it had nothing to do with tears. He kissed Nick’s forehead again. “We need to keep talking.” He said, pulling back up to where he was leaning back against the headboard again. “Does this mean we’re together? Like boyfriends?” Kevin said chuckling at how ridiculous it all sounded. They were grown men, but he felt like a high school kid asking out his first boy.

“Mmmhm.” Nick mumbled as he pushed himself back further into Kevin’s arms. “I want to be your boyfriend.” Nick’s face tilted up and Kevin forgot to inhale momentarily at the look of pure love and desire in the younger man’s eyes. He couldn’t help himself any longer. He leaned down and gently brushed his lips across Nick’s. It wasn’t enough, but it would have to be for the moment.

“I guess we really need to figure out how all of this is going to work.” Kevin started as he pulled back away from Nick.

Nick pouted as he drew back but nodded. “Yeah, I agree. I’ve been thinking about it all day, but I didn’t know how you felt so I didn’t want to get ahead of myself and then be disappointed.” he answered honestly.

“You’re never going to be disappointed again baby.” Kevin said softly, “At least not if I can help it.”

Nick smiled. “I love you.” he blurted out and then blushed.

“I love you too. You’re going to have to get this blushing under control or you’re going to pay for it.” Kevin said, dropping his voice an octave.

“Promise?” Nick flirted back.

“Ugh, you’re going to be the death of me.” Kevin said chuckling. “For real though. We’re coming into this in a much different position than most people start relationships. There’s history here, the press, the kids, our families…divor”

Nick cut him off by pressing his lips against the older man’s. He nipped and licked at Kevin’s mount until Kevin opened his mouth. At once he was assaulted with Nick’s tongue in his mouth, licking and massaging his tongue as he claimed Kevin’s mouth as his own. When the air was gone and they needed to breathe, Nick reluctantly pulled away. His cheeks pink and his blue eyes ablaze. Kevin felt light headed from the whole exchange. “Sorry.” Nick said sheepishly. “Still trying to get used to the idea that I can do that now.” he said quietly.

Kevin smiled. “It’s a wonderful feeling isn’t it. No more hiding, no more trying to pretend that you sleeping beside me every night isn’t the highlight of my whole day.”

Nick smiled. “It’s mine too. It’s the only time I have you completely to myself. Just you and me.”

“We can build that kind of life together you know,” Kevin said quietly. “A life where it’s just you and me. And the kids, they have to come too, but we can make this thing work. As long as we have each other and you’re willing to put in the work with me, we can be blissfully happy. I’m sure of it.” Kevin said brushing the blonde hair out of Nick’s eye before cupping his cheek.

Nick leaned into the caress. “I want that. I want all of it. I will take whatever I can get because as far as you are concerned, everything will still never be enough for me. I love you Kevin. I’ve loved you for so long, and so hard. I spent so many nights crying myself to sleep when I was younger trying to figure out what I could do to get you to look at me the same way I was staring at you. And then you and Kristin got married and I felt like the world had dropped out from under me because I knew there really was never any hope that you would love me. And then there were your kids and it was another indicator that the way I felt for you would never matter. So when I met Lauren I allowed myself to get caught up in what would produce me a family the quickest. I was so tired of waiting, so tired of being alone and unloved. And then Odin came and I’ve never felt love like this before. Holding him in my arms gives me purpose in life. I hadn’t felt that before. I never felt like I actually mattered to anyone just because I was their person.

And then I found out you were getting divorced and suddenly all those walls I put up around myself to protect myself from the loneliness of loving you started to crumble. I think that’s part of what happened with Lauren. She never knew how I felt about you, nobody did. I think Howie suspected, but he never outright came out and asked me. But things between us changed. I was trying to hold on to myself while being consumed in the fact you were finally going to be free and then she told me she was pregnant and now there was another baby in the mix and it all got to be so intense. I know I wasn’t a good husband to her during that time. It’s no excuse for her behavior or her drinking, but looking back I can see how I played into it. Allowed it to happen I guess. I guess that’s why my first thought was to come here. I needed to see you. I needed you to make me whole. I never in my wildest dreams thought it would bring us here though.” Nick said quietly as he finished his tale.

“Oh baby.” Kevin said as he hugged the other close. “I loved you for so long I can’t even tell you when it stated or how it got to be so much. You were barely 18 when I asked Kristin to marry me. I never imagined you could think of me that way. We’d been together forever and I figured if I couldn’t have you, I could at least have a nice life with her. I really do love her, as a person and a friend and mother. I was just never in love with her. She knew that. She didn’t know why, but she respected there were pieces of myself I kept closed off from her. She also knew I am an insanely loyal person and while I may have spent all of my time fantasizing and dreaming about you, I never once acted on anything and never cheated on her. When I told her I wanted a divorce and the reasons why, it clicked instantly for her. She knew it was you before I even opened my mouth. There was no use denying it to her. If nothing else, she’s always deserved honesty. It’s something we still strongly believe in today.”

Kevin pulled away from Nick and got up from the bed. Crossing to the bookcase in the corner he grabbed the frame that was hidden on the shelf and crossed back to the bed. Settling down next to Nick he handed the frame to him. Nick took it and glanced at him questionably. He gasped softly as he gazed down at the photograph that had changed everything for Kevin. Nick looked up at him unsure of what to say. “Kristin took it the night of our Halloween party. She wrapped it and gave it to me when she picked up the kids. She left me a note. Telling me she used to hate me for what I’d done. But it also said that she believed you loved me too. She encouraged me to reach out to you to see if you felt the same.”

Nick was silent. He stared at Kevin for a few moments before dropping his eyes back down to the frame. “Kevin,” he started. “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” he said softly. He traced their faces and then his own arm casually thrown around Kevin’s shoulders. “I can’t believe she was able to capture how I felt about you in just a photo.”

Kevin nodded. “I was afraid to believe it was love I saw in your eyes. I can clearly see it in mine. I was shocked when I saw the photo at first too. It really changed everything for me.” Kevin said softly.

Nick continued to stare at it for a few moments more before taking it and propping it up on the bedside table on the side he’d been sleeping on. Kevin smiled. He was so thankful for that photograph, and even happier to display it out in the open where they could see it every day.

“I think for this to work, we’re going to have to be completely honest with each other. Not that I don’t think you have been, but if we’re going to move forward, then this has to be a partnership. I need you to be there for me, just like I will be there for you. We both have a lot of baggage, but it needs to be baggage we unpack together. No more you taking care of your kids and I taking care of mine. If this is going to work then there’s 4 kids in this house that need both of us. Same with your divorce. You being divorced, free and available for me, that now affects me too. I want to be included, a part of it all. I want to be the one beside you when you win custody and you sign your name next to hers for the final time. I want you to stop pretending you’re living in that cold room down the hall and be here, in my bed, with me every night. We don’t have to tell the guys or Lauren about anything until we’re more comfortable. But Kristin has to know and we need to be able to tell the boys. I’m not going to hide you away like a dirty secret. I love you Nick. When I say that, I am telling you I am committed to you, I am committed to your kids, I am committed to this life I want to build with you. I just need to know you want the same.” Kevin said softly as he gazed at the younger man. He watched as Nick’s eyes filled with tears while he spoke and then silently slipped down his cheeks. He’d reached for Nick’s hand halfway through his speech and he continued to rub his thumb against the smooth skin as he spoke.

“God Kevin.” Nick choked out before the tears came faster. “I’ve dreamed of you saying something like that to me for so many years. I can’t even tell you how many nights I fantasized about you knocking on my hotel room door and telling me you couldn’t live without me. All this time wasted. I want all of it. I want your kids. I want your baggage too. I just want you, always, just you. I never want to be without you again.” Nick blubbered through his tears before throwing himself in Nick’s arms. Kevin held him close. His own tears sliding silently down his cheeks. This was really happening. This was real. They were finally rounding a corner on years of heartache and loneliness. And they were going to do it together.
Chapter Twenty by Arok
They pulled away from each other at the same time. The time for tears was over. There was nothing left to cry about tonight. They were here, together, about to embark on a whole new adventure together, one Kevin was far too excited to begin. They gazed into each other’s eyes before Kevin made the first move and lowered his mouth to Nick’s. The instant their lips touched Kevin swore you could hear the crackling of the electricity between them. The heat began to rise in his stomach and up through his cheeks. He kissed Nick hard, trying desperately to convey all of these feelings in one kiss. Nick fell into it, wrapping his arms tightly around Kevin’s neck and shifting against him.

He spread his legs, one on each side of Kevin and shifted until he was straddling the older man. The kissing continued. Gentle and loving at first but becoming more frantic the longer it went on. Kevin broke the kiss first and began trailing kisses down the side of Nick’s neck. He nuzzled behind his ear gently with his nose and nipped his earlobe with his teeth. “You’re mine.” he growled, low and possessively. Nick moaned and pressed against him, the pajama pants he was wearing now leaving nothing to the imagination. Kevin continued his assault on Nick’s neck, this time moving to the right side as he bit, licked and sucked his way to Nick’s collarbone. He nipped it playfully, eliciting another moan from the blonde. He could get used to this sound. It was like music to his years, a sound he’s yearned for so long. He was determined to hear this sound every single day. He pulled back from Nick’s neck and gazed down at his younger lover. “I don’t want to push you. I have no idea what you’re comfortable with here.” Kevin said, his voice cracking with his accent getting thicker the more turned on he became.

“Mmm,” Nick moaned out. “I want all of it. I want you.” he said grinding his pajama clad crotch into Kevin’s stomach.

“Are you sure baby?” Kevin asked.

“Oh god, Kev. I’m more than sure. Please.” Nick moaned again as Kevin took Nick into his arms and moved them, pushing Nick back against the mattress. “Make me yours, please.”

Kevin could have come right there. The words hitting him so hard he almost did. “My pleasure baby.” He said as he leaned down to kiss Nick again.

Their tongues battled for control of the kiss as they licked and sucked. Kevin bit Nick’s lip gently and sucked it into his mouth. Nick writhed beneath him, trying desperately to rub himself against any part of Kevin. Kevin broke the kiss long enough to remove his shirt and then reached out to grab the bottom of Nick’s shirt. Nick’s hands flew to stop him. “Please, no.” he said quietly.

Kevin backed off, confused. “What’s the matter baby. Do you want to stop?”

Nick shook his head. “God no, I just want to keep my shirt on. Is that okay?” Kevin looked at him for a moment. “Why?”

Nick blushed and looked away from him. Kevin reached out and turned Nick’s head to make him look at him. “What’s going on?” he asked softly.

“I just don’t want you to be disappointed.” Nick said softly, trying to avoid his eyes. Kevin’s heart stopped. Disappointed? How could he possibly ever be disappointed in this beautiful specimen of man. “Baby, there is nothing you could do to disappoint me. I love you, you are the most beautiful thing in the world to me. But if you are more comfortable keeping your shirt on right now that’s fine with me. But it’s not going to stay every time. Okay?” Kevin asked, caressing his cheek.

Nick nodded. “Thank you.” he said softly. Kevin nodded and began kissing his neck again.

“I love you.” he whispered again in Nick’s ear, feeling the younger man react beneath him. He was never going to get tired of saying those words. “Tell me what you want.” he said huskily.

“Oh Kev,” he groaned out as he thrust up against Kevin’s hips. “I need you to touch me or fuck me or something. I need you. You’re driving me crazy.”

“Mmmm. Am I driving you crazy when I do this?” He asked sexily as he reached between them and gently cupped Nick through his pj bottoms. Nick bucked against his hand, panting as he tried to get more of himself into Kevin’s hand.

“What about when I do this?” Kevin said, licking the shell of Nick’s ear. He gently squeezed and then released him, before starting the whole process over again.

“Oh god, do that again.” Nick managed to get out.

“Mmmm. You want me to keep touching you baby?” Kevin asked, biting the space on Nick’s neck just below his earlobe. Nick jerked up off the mattress.

“Oh my god baby.” Nick moaned, not even trying to hide his desire behind small moans and blushes now. “You have my whole body on fire. I need you. I’ve waited for this for so long. Please, baby.” he begged.

The sound of Nick begging was the sexist thing he’d ever heard. Everything he discovered about the blonde, the way he sounded, the way he tasted, the way he felt. Every time Kevin thought he’d found his new favorite thing, he would discover something else and it would quickly take its place. Kevin stood up and went to the nightstand drawer. Finding what he was looking for he came back to the bed where Nick lay watching his every move. Now it was Kevin’s turn to feel self conscious as the blonde watched him unbutton and slide off his jeans. Nick inhaled loudly on the bed. Kevin blushed. If he wasn’t so turned on right now he’d be embarrassed about being on display. But all he could think of was how it was going to feel to finally be with the younger man, after years upon years of wanting.

He crawled back onto the bed and kissed Nick deeply. “You sure about this? If you're nervous or you’ve changed your mi…” Kevin didn’t even get through the rest of his sentence when he felt Nick’s hand wrap around him. “Ugggh’ he groaned out, falling back against the mattress. Nick took this opportunity to take control, pushing Kevin down and capturing his mouth with his own. Kevin was more than willing to give up the control if it meant that Nick kept touching him this way. Nick was lazily sliding his hand up and down his shaft, his fingers teasing the head of his cock as he went. Kevin felt like he was going to fly off the mattress at any moment. “Nicky,” he begged. Nick’s eyes twinkled as he sped up his actions, collecting the precum from the head of his cock and using it to lubricate his actions.

“Are you going to stop asking me if I want this and fuck me now?” Nick asked, his voice deep and full of desire.

Kevin’s eyes slammed closed as he groaned again. If Nick didn’t stop right now he wouldn’t even make it that far. “Yes. I will, but you’ve got to stop. I don’t want to come in your hand our first time together.” Kevin said looking up into Nick’s blue eyes.

Nick smiled and released him. He locked eyes with the older man as he brought his own hand up to his mouth and quickly licked off the parts of Kevin that had ended up on his fingers. Kevin growled as he grabbed the younger man and flipped them over, taking the younger man by surprise. He kissed him hard, tasting himself on Nick’s tongue. Again, this was now the hottest thing he’d ever seen. He was sure his opinion on that was going to keep evolving the longer he spent with the blonde. Nick broke the kiss this time, bucking his hips against Kevin’s. Kevin wasted no time reaching for the waistband of Nick’s pajamas. He stopped himself from asking Nick if he was sure again and in one fluid motion he pulled Nick’s pants and boxers off, sending them flying somewhere behind him. There in front of him sat the sexiest thing he’d ever seen and what was more, he was waiting just for him.

“Please.” Nick begged again, writhing on the bed.

Kevin smiled and slid up his body, groaning out loud the moment their erections brushed against each other, finally free of the restricting clothing. It was unlike any sensation Kevin had ever felt before. Nick was hard and warm against his skin. So wanton he couldn’t stop grinding and pressing against him. Nick's blue eyes were almost black with desire. Desire for him. He almost couldn’t believe any of this was happening. He kissed Nick again, this time slowing his motions down as he softly ground into the other man, hoping the love he felt in his heart was also coming through into this kiss. He needed Nick to understand how much he loved, needed him. He broke away and looked down at Nick again. “Have you ever done this before?” Kevin asked softly. Nick’s eyes grew wide and he shook his head. “Have you?” he whispered back. Kevin shook his head too. Relieved that he would be Nick’s first in this regard. “I love you.” Kevin whispered before sitting back on his heels.

“Oh baby, I love you too.” Nick said, his need so strong.

Kevin moved in behind him, picking up the bottle of lube from the bed. He squeezed some in his hand and quickly spread it up and down the length of him. No matter how good it felt now, he knew in a matter of moments he was going to feel the best he ever had. He spread Nick’s legs until they fell open on either side of him. He grabbed a pillow from the top of the bed and coaxed Nick’s hips up. Sliding it underneath Nick’s butt he now had better access. Nick was absolutely beautiful. His cock thick and long and begging Kevin to reach out and touch it. And so he did. Lubing both hands, he used one to begin working at Nick’s entrance while he used the other to wrap gently around Nick’s erection. He tried to time his movements so Nick felt pleasure and pain at the same time. Once his finger had passed through the tight ring of muscle he kept that hand still while his other one moved up and down, gently coaxing and pumping the other man. When he thought Nick was ready for more, he gently pushed a second finger inside, moving them up and down in a scissoring motion, doing his best to stretch and prepare him for what was to come.

“Enough,’ Nick moaned. “Please just fuck me.”

Kevin smiled. He could get used to this directness from the younger man. He removed his fingers and applied more lube. He came up on his knees and positioned himself at Nick’s entrance. “I love you.” he groaned out as he pushed slowly inside. Nick let out a rush of breath between his teeth and grabbed both of Kevin’s arms with his hands. “Don’t move.” he begged. Kevin complied and went absolutely still, trying his best not to do anything to hurt the younger man. This was sweet agony. The feeling of being buried, so deeply inside of the other man was something he couldn’t even describe. He never wanted to leave. This was worth waiting his whole life for.

"Okay, move." Nick said a few moments later.

Kevin nodded and pulled almost completely out before slamming back into the younger man. Suddenly Nick moaned out loudly and his body seemed to jump on the bed. "Whatever you just did, do it again."

Kevin smiled. He pulled out and slid back in, aiming right for Nick's prostate. "I'm not going to last much longer baby," Kevin said, wrapping one hand around Nick's cock again. "I want you to cum with me." He began pumping his hand up and down Nick's cock in time with his thrusting. A moment later Nick moaned out. "I'm gonna cum Kevin."

That was all the encouragement Kevin needed. With one more thrust and shift of his hand they were both coming hard. Kevin collapsed on top of the blonde, trying desperately to catch his breath. Figuring he was crushing the man he shifted his hips and gently pulled out and fell into the space on the bed beside him. Drawing Nick into his arms they laid like that for several long moments.

"That was amazing." Nick started. "I've never felt anything like that before." he mumbled as he snuggled in closer to Kevin.

Kevin leaned down and kissed Nick's sweaty forehead. "Me neither baby, but I can tell you one thing. I want to make you cum like that everyday."

Nick smiled against Kevin's skin. "This whole thing feels so surreal. I'm afraid to go to sleep because I'm scared when I wake up it will all have been some kind of wonderful dream." Nick said softly.

"Mmmhmmm." Kevin said sleepily. "It's no dream baby. Dreams could never feel this good. This is real. I love you and I'm going to love you every single day." Kevin reassured the blonde, pulling him tighter into his arms. He didn't plan on ever letting go.

-

Nick woke up the next morning feeling lighter than he had in years. So much had happened in just one day, changing everything. He'd dreamed of this for so long he just couldn't believe it was real, couldn't believe this man was really his. He rolled over so he could watch Kevin as he slept. Kevin had one arm possessively around his waist, holding him in place. He laid there soundly, watching the other man sleep. Kevin looked more relaxed in his sleep, years younger without the worry lines etching his chiseled features. God he was beautiful, godlike really with his porcelain skin and dark features. Nick resisted the urge to trace his lips, his cheeks. He didn't want to wake the other man, wanted these moments to be able to reflect on the day before and watch him unabashedly.

Last night had been everything he'd dreamed of and more. The way Kevin made him feel when he touched him, it was unlike anything he'd ever experienced. Kevin wasn't just touching his skin, it wasn't just lust filled sex. When Kevin touched him that way, he was touching his soul as well. None if it had just been sex, like it always was with Lauren or how his other relationships had felt. This was different, so much more. This was making love, giving himself over to the other man so completely. He couldn't begin to imagine being able to experience that every day. The thought of it was exhilarating. He truly felt how much Kevin loved him as they moved together and only hoped Kevin had felt his love emulating from his movements as well.

He'd been so nervous, so ashamed of his body and what he had to offer the other man. In the moment he'd panicked, not ready to bare it all in front of him. He'd struggled with his weight all his life and he knew Kevin had always been kind and supportive of that. But in that intimate moment, he couldn't allow Kevin to see him, to see how much work he still had to do. Especially when compared to the gorgeous physique the other man had. There was no way he would ever be able to measure up to that. He didn't want to disappoint him, he'd been trying to eat less, but there hadn't really been time for exercise with everything going on with the divorce and the kids. He only hoped he could love up to what Kevin deserved.

The sex was amazing, that was an understatement. But beyond that, the conversation they'd had before that all started had really set the mood for their first time together. Hearing Kevin say how much he cared, how much he wanted to grow and build a life with him. These were all things he'd waited his whole life to hear. Kevin wanting to blend their families together, saying this was a forever thing and not just a fleeting obsession was more than he could ever hope for.

Sure there was still a lot to figure out and they would probably stumble at times, but for the first time in a long time he felt like he and the kids were going to be okay. They would be able to tackle anything with Kevin beside them.

He never wanted to leave these arms, he knew he would have to get up any moment to take care of the kids, but the moments he spent wrapped up in Kevin's tight embrace were moments to be treasured. Kevin's ponytail had long been undone, happened before they'd even fallen asleep but now the strands of hair decorated his shoulders, begging for Nick to touch it.

And so he did. He ran his fingers through it gently so not to wake the other man, enjoying the silky texture. This was something he'd fantasized about. He loved when Kevin grew it out and let it hang down in his shoulders. He never looked sexier than when his hair was long like this. He heard the shuffling from the baby monitor and knew the baby was waking up. It wouldn't be long now and he would have to break away from being Nick Carter the lover to being Nick Carter the dad. Both were very important to him, but this one was fresh and new and he was still the tiniest bit afraid it would all evaporate on him and he'd be left alone once more. He couldn't think about that though, wouldn't even allow his mind to go to a place where this, this feeling, this love they were just beginning to explore, was gone.

It was time to get up. He knew even without rolling over to check the monitor that at least one kid was awake and the other would follow shortly. They deserved his attention now. He quietly untangled himself and found his pants across the room on the floor. This was the first time he'd had to find his clothes the next morning after falling asleep with Kevin. The thought alone brought back so many images from the night before that he blushed. This really was a whole new world for him.
Chapter Twenty-One by Arok
Kevin had awoken that morning blissfully happy. He couldn't remember a time when his heart felt fuller. He made quick work of showering and dressing, anxious to get downstairs and see the man he'd loved and finally had all to himself. He heard them as soon as he stepped outside his door. Odin was shrieking and he could hear Nick saying something but couldn't make out the words. He walked into Odin's room to find Odin hitting Nick repeatedly on the leg while he juggled the baby on one hip and his cell phone in the other hand. Kevin wasted no time in remedying the situation. He walked over to Nick, smiling as he reached for the baby and took her out of his arms. Nick smiled at him gratefully and straightened up. He mouthed the word lawyer and Kevin nodded and shooed him from the room. Nick hesitated unsure if he should go, until Kevin stepped forward and kissed him ever so gently on the lips before pulling back and pushing him towards the door. The blush was back on his cheeks as he exited the room. Kevin chuckled to himself before turning around and facing the smaller blonde.

"And just why were you hitting your daddy?" Kevin asked closing the door to the bedroom and settling Saoirse on the floor to play. With the door shut there was less chance she would try to escape and offered Nick some additional privacy for his conversation.

Odin shrugged."Dunno."

"It's not nice to hit, little man, especially not daddy okay?" Kevin said looking down at the boy.

Odin nodded. "I sowwie."

"Don't tell me, you'll have to tell your daddy." Kevin ruffled his hair and took a seat on the floor between the kids.

Odin pulled out his tote of dinosaurs, handing Kevin a T-Rex, he took out a Triceratops and tried to attack Kevin’s dinosaur. They played like that for a while. Saoirse started taking dinosaurs out of the bucket and standing them up on the floor. Odin would then attack them with his t-rex. She thought this was hilarious and would continue to stand them back up everytime he knocked them down. Kevin just sat back and watched them play, wondering what Nick’s lawyer was calling about. He was a little concerned how Nick would react. This was the first call after their night together. Would he be open and forthcoming about what the lawyer said, or would he hold back and keep it to himself? Kevin had meant every word he’d said the night before. He wanted to do all of this together, not each of them handling their own separate business. He knew Nick didn’t have the best examples of how to have a good relationship, but he was hopeful they could find a rhythm that worked for them, as long as Nick didn’t try to shut him out. He hoped Nick took him seriously when he said they were now in this together.

Twenty minutes later Nick opened the door to the room and stepped inside. He looked worse for wear but Kevin remained silent, waiting to see he would react. He smiled softly at Kevin as he closed the door behind him. He crossed to where Kevin was sitting on the floor and plopped down beside him. Leaning close he softly brushed his lips across Kevin’s. Kevin smiled into the kiss and brought one hand up behind Nick’s head, bringing him closer and deepening the kiss. They broke away a few moments later, breathless. “Good morning.” Nick said softly, resting his forehead against Kevin’s. “Good morning to you too baby.” Nick blushed and brushed his lips across Kevin’s again. “I still can’t believe I can do this.” he whispered softly, pulling away.

Kevin smiled. “You can, and I hope you will.”

Nick chuckled and shifted to lean back against Kevin’s shoulder. Kevin wrapped his arm around him, supporting them both. They sat in silence and watched the kids playing. “She’s refusing treatment.” Nick said quietly. Kevin breathed a sigh of relief he hadn’t even been aware he’d been holding. Nick was talking. He was actually sharing about what was happening with the lawyers, including Kevin in the conversation. His heart soared. “So what happens now?” Kevin asked, squeezing Nick’s shoulder gently.

“Now they start preparing to go to court. They will have to get statements from everyone involved, we have to have a child welfare worker come and interview us, see the house so they can testify we’re taking care of the kids and they are safer here than they would be with her. I have to start going through text messages and emails to start documenting times when I knew she was drinking or could have possibly been putting them in danger. Apparently she’s not fighting about the divorce part, she just wants to fight me for sole custody.” Nick said softly, turning to look at Kevin.

He pulled away startled as he observed the tears running silently down Kevin’s cheeks. “Kev, baby what’s wrong?” Nick asked, his voice full of concern.

Kevin shook his head as more tears slipped out. He cleared his throat before speaking. “You said we. You said we have to do this, we have to be prepared for this.” The tears catching in his throat.

“Well yeah.” Nick said confused, turning to take Kevin’s hands in his. “I thought that’s what we talked about last night. Was I out of line?”

Kevin shook his head vigorously. “God no baby. It just touched me, to hear you say those words, to know you’re taking this as seriously as I am. That you want it as much.” Kevin said softly.

“Of course I do. It’s all I’ve ever wanted Kev. I meant everything I said last night. I’m all in.” Nick leaned in and caught Kevin’s lips with his own, kissing him deeply, trying to convey how much the older man truly meant to him. Kevin smiled into the kiss and swiped at Nick’s lips with his tongue until Nick’s mouth gave way and allowed him inside. They broke away regrettably, when Saoirse hit them with a dinosaur.

Kevin laughed and took the toy from her before standing it up with the rest of the line she’d made. “This is going to be fun.” he said with a laugh. Nick smiled too. “It’s not going to be easy Kev.” he said suddenly serious. “I hope you’re not mad, but I told the lawyer what’s going on. I figured if things had the potential to start getting ugly with her then they needed to know all the facts up front. He said that our relationship could cause things to get trickier, but he was optimistic that we had enough evidence and of course i have enough money to make our case. He just wanted us to be aware that she could go to the press, or our families, that it could get messy much quicker than we wanted.”

Kevin nodded, squeezing Nick’s hand in his. “I was actually thinking about that. I figured it would be the first move she made. I don’t know where you are emotionally, if you're ready to make a statement to get out ahead of her. This is all moving so fast, but I knew it would once the wheels started spinning. This is what I was trying to explain last night but not doing a good enough job. We’re not two normal guys starting a relationship. We’ve got a lot going for us and just as much going against us. Between the kids and the press and the ex-wives, we’re in for the fight of our lives to be together. But I’m prepared to face whatever comes at us because I know at the end of the day I love you enough to make it all worth it.”

Nick smiled, his eyes filling now. “I feel the exact same way. I didn’t want to push you into anything you weren’t ready for. You didn’t ask for any of this bullshit.”

Kevin caught his chin before Nick could look away. “You’re right. I asked for you. I asked for all of you. I asked for the chance to spend my life with you, the chance to love you. This is just part of the deal.”

Nick leaned into Kevin’s palm as he gazed up at him. “I love you.” He pushed against Kevin’s hand until he could gently place a kiss in his palm. “I love you too.” Kevin whispered softly. “We’re going to be just fine. I guess we’re going to need to make some phone calls.” he said winking at the blonde. Nick laughed and leaned back against him. “Yeah, you’re probably right. We’ve got a little bit of time. She has no idea yet, she doesn’t even know yet where I am, but when she does we’re going to have to make a statement or deal with the rumors.”

“Thank you for including me in this. Taking these steps to beginning our lives together.” Kevin whispered as he kissed the top of Nick’s head.

Nick squeezed his hand. “Thanks for loving me.”

-

Kevin walked into the kitchen for a drink. He’d been working on his song in the studio for most of the morning. He was suddenly inspired and didn’t want to let a moment get away from him before he had it down on paper. He’d gotten quite a bit done before he’d decided to take a break to see what Nick was doing. They had played with the kids for another hour that morning before Kevin had excused himself to the studio. Nick hadn’t asked what he was working on and Kevin wanted to get the song finished before he brought it up to the blonde.

His heart stopped when his eyes fell on the blonde, leaned over the island watching something on his phone. The way the sunlight from the patio danced off his blonde hair made him look almost angelic. He was absolutely beautiful, and he was his. That thought alone made Kevin’s stomach leap in excitement. He crossed to the side of the island and leaned over Nick’s shoulder. “Whatcha watching baby?” he breathed against Nick’s neck. Nick stiffened at first, jumping at Kevin’s presence so close. He turned to peer at him and smiled mischievously. “It’s some stupid cat video Brian sent me.”

Nick turned around and wrapped his arms around Kevin’s neck, playing with the hair gathered there before leaning up to kiss him. Kevin opened his mouth for the younger man, allowing him to take control of the kiss. Nick licked and sucked at every inch of Kevin’s mouth before caressing his tongue with his own. Kevin shifted closer, pinning Nick between him and the island. He broke the kiss and dropped his mouth back to Nick’s neck, remembering all the spots that had gotten such a delightful response the night before. Nick arched against him, exposing more of his neck for Kevin’s kisses. Kevin obliged, licking and sucking every bit of skin he could get to. Nick moaned, his fingers threading through Kevin’s hair as he held the other man’s head against him. “Baby,” he moaned, unable to form any other words. Kevin smiled against his skin and nipped it for good measure before pulling back and taking his mouth in his again. Nick responded almost immediately, forcing his tongue against Kevin’s as they battled for control.

Kevin pulled away first and smiled down at the blonde before quickly turning him around. Nick’s hands shot out to steady himself against the island. “What are you ooooh,” Nick moaned out as Kevin moved in behind him, grinding his own hard cock against his ass. “Mmmm. What am I doing baby? Well right now, I’m showing you how much you turn me on. How hard your kisses and that pouty little mouth makes me. Can you feel it Nicky? Can you feel what you do to me?” Nick nodded, throwing his head back against Kevin as he pushed his ass back against Kevin’s cock. “Mmm. I’m glad you like that. Maybe you’ll like this more?” he said, his voice husky. Nick never would have guessed that Kevin’s voice could be any sexier than it was, but dear god when he was turned on it just dripped sex. It was almost too much, hearing Kevin saying all of these things to him, pressed up so close.

Kevin wrapped one arm around Nick to hold him in place while the other hand came around and squeezed his hip roughly. Nick bucked and pressed even further back against the older man. Kevin chuckled and leaned down to kiss him as he slid his hand in the waistband of his shorts. Nick groaned out the moment Kevin wrapped his fingers around his cock. He was so hard already, just from Kevin talking and grinding against him. Having Kevin finally touch him was almost too much. “God Kevin, what are you doing to me?” He moaned as Kevin began moving his hand up and down his shaft, slowly, teasingly. Nick wasn’t sure how he was going to stay upright. Between the feeling of Kevin’s hand torturing him and the feel of Kevin’s hard dick grinding against his ass, the pressure was almost too much. Nick thrashed his head around against Kevin’s chest as Kevin pumped him quicker, sliding his hand up and down. Nick was so hard he shifted his hips into Kevin’s hand, trying desperately to convey his need for the other man. Kevin got the message and picked up his pace, moving his hand quicker now. Nick was a bundle of nerves, suddenly he felt his stomach tighten in that delightful familiar sensation. “I’m gonna cum Kevin.”

Kevin growled and bit his neck, grinding into him even harder now as he increased his motions again. Nick braced himself against the island as his orgasm slammed into him, spurting his load against Kevin’s hand and the inside of his shorts as he went. If Kevin hadn’t been so close, pressed against him he would have fallen to the floor. The rush of his release so overwhelming his legs felt like jelly. “Jesus Kev.” he whispered, trying desperately to catch his breath. “Mmm, did you like that baby?” Kevin whispered against his ear. Nick shivered. The things this man did to him. “More than liked. I cannot believe the way you make me feel. I can’t believe I went through my whole life without feeling anything remotely like what I feel when you touch me.”

Kevin smiled. “I feel the same way baby.”

Nick turned around and could see Kevin’s own erection straining against his jeans. An idea took hold and Nick sank to his knees. Glancing up at the older man, almost asking permission, he rubbed Kevin through his jeans. He loved the feel of Kevin in his hands, loved knowing was the one making him moan. He unbuttoned and then unzipped Kevin’s jeans before sliding them down his hips. His cock sprang free, resting against his stomach as Nick moved in between his legs. Taking a deep breath he moved closer, taking the length of him into his mouth. “Oh god Nicky,” Kevin groaned, his turn to hold on tight to the island counter. Nick smiled around Kevin’s cock as he quickly licked and sucked, running his tongue back and forth over the swollen head. Nick had never done this before and as nervous as he was about doing a good job and being able to please the other man, he was enjoying the feel of Kevin in his mouth, the taste of him was addicting. He sucked harder, his hands coming up to caress Kevin’s ass as he licked and sucked him.

“God baby, I can’t take much more.” Kevin groaned.

Nick quickened his motions, squeezing his ass harder and increasing the suction with his cheeks. He felt Kevin buck against his face and knew it would be any second now. Making a quick decision he pushed further, taking the older man completely in his mouth until he hit the back of his throat. Kevin yelled out as he came, releasing in Nick’s mouth as he gripped the counter for support. Nick licked him as he pulled away, smiling up at the other man. Kevin pulled up his pants slightly before dropping to the floor beside Nick.
“Jesus was right Nick. Holy shit.” Kevin said, leaning back against the cabinet. Nick smiled and moved in closer to him. “That was fun.” Nick said shyly. Kevin growled and leaned in for a kiss. “It was more than fun, baby.”

“Has it ever felt this way for you, with other people?” Nick asked softly, refusing to look at him.

“Like this? Not at all. Nothing else comes close to the way you make me feel baby. I think it’s because I love you so much. It’s more than just sex.” Kevin said quietly as he closed his eyes and rested against the island. Nick laid his head against Kevin’s shoulder. “Every time you touch me feels better than the last time. I never want this feeling to go away.” Nick said closing his eyes as he leaned in to the other man.

“I think if anything, it’s only going to get stronger, as we learn more about each other. I love you Nicky.”

“I love you too Kev.”
Chapter Twenty-Two by Arok
The next couple days passed by in blissful silence. They hadn't heard anymore from the lawyer but were expecting a call anytime that day. They had spent the last few days spending time with the kids and enjoying time with each other as they grew into this new chapter together. Kevin knew that once his boys came home they were all going to have some tough discussions. He wasn't sure how Mason and Maxwell would take the news. Mason was extremely loyal to his mother, as he should be, but Kevin was concerned about how he would view Nick's presence in their lives now. His permanent presence. He had to make sure both boys understood that this was how things would be from now on. First things first, he needed to have a conversation with Kristin. She deserved to be the first one told. He had mentioned it to Nick earlier that morning, inviting him to participate in the spirit of being open with advancing their relationship forward and building their life together.

"As much as I love that you are including me in this, I really feel like this is a private conversation between the two of you. We're all going to have to sit down together and talk eventually, especially if we decide to make a statement, but I think this first initial conversation needs to just be you and her." Nick said, squeezing his hand as they laid in bed together that morning.

Kevin was touched that Nick was respecting her position, not only as his children's mother, but also his ex-wife and friend. They were going to need her as an ally in getting through Nick's divorce proceedings as well as coming up with a way to co-parent the children together. The boys were going to have to respect Nick. They would need Kristin's help in making this possible.

"I agree baby. I just wanted to make sure. I don't want to keep you out of any part of this." Kevin said as he brushed the blonde out of Nick's eyes.

They had agreed that Kevin would call her that evening. It was already Thursday, the boys would be home on Saturday and that would give her plenty of time to help them come up with a game plan for how to approach Mason and Maxwell. Nick's kids were so little that they could say the words over and over, but they would never understand. Mason especially could still remember what it was like having his parents married and Kevin wanted to be sure to respect that while also easing him into the idea that his father was with another man, and not just any man at that, but one he'd grown up knowing. It would be confusing for all of them, and Kevin suspected based on Mason's general attitude about the divorce, that it could be quite uncomfortable for them for a little while. But regardless of that, his kids had to be told before the press was. They had to have time to come to grips with the changes as a family unit first and then they could tell others.

Kevin had been dodging calls and texts from Howie and Brian for days. Telling them the bare minimum about how they were doing to get them off his back. He did not want to tell them anything yet, he wasn’t sure how they and AJ would respond once they knew. He could only have so many difficult conversations in one week. While they had this grace period, before shit hit the fan, he was going to take advantage of their quiet time together. If he was being completely honest, he was worried about how Nick would react with too much thrown at them too fast. All of this was brand new, would he be able to handle the sudden pressure of the media, friends, family knowing all these intimate details? Would he pull away or regret taking this step forward with him? He hated feeling this way, but this was the most important thing to him, he couldn’t let anything destroy it. Kevin knew without a doubt, after only having Nick in this way for a few days, that he could never go back to the way things were. It would completely break him. A break he didn’t think he’d ever be able to recover from. So it didn’t matter how hard this could get. It didn’t matter to him any of the inevitably nasty things that would be said about them. Hell, it didn’t matter to him in the least if he ever stepped on stage again as a member of a boyband, all he cared about was making sure Nick was by his side when this all blew apart. He prayed it wouldn’t get that bad, but he was also realistic enough to know they needed to be prepared for all outcomes.

After a full day of writing and lounging in the living room with Nick and the kids it was finally time to call Kristin. He wanted to wait until he knew the boys would be in bed, not sure how she was going to respond. He didn’t want to thrust something at her without her having time to come to terms with it without an audience present. He’d been dreading this all day. He knew it was the next step and had to be done, he just hated the idea of possibly hurting her again. Especially with this. When they went through the divorce process, they divorced, both under the understanding nothing would ever come of his feelings. But now, once again he was changing everything on her.

He closed the door to his bedroom and paced the room for several minutes. Nick had offered to stay downstairs to give him privacy. The kids were asleep, he knew if this ended up becoming too difficult he could always just move downstairs to where he was playing video games in the living room and he would have his support. He just needed to take a deep breath and get it over with.

He took a seat on the edge of the bed and dialed her number. The phone rang a couple of times before it abruptly stopped and her voice filled his ears.

“Hey hun,” she said softly. “Everything ok? It’s late.”

He sighed audible, but somehow had lost his voice to speak.

“Kevin?” she said, her voice growing concerned.

“I’m here Kris.” he finally answered after a second.

“Are you okay?” her voice had gone up an octave, like it always did when she was concerned. This brought him some level of comfort, that he could still read her this well even after all the shit he’d put her through over the years.

“Yeah. I’m okay. I just really need to talk to you. Do you have a few minutes?” he asked softly.

“Of course, but you’d better start by spitting it out because you’re currently scaring the shit out of me.” she said slightly agitated.

Kevin chuckled. “Never one for patience Kris.”

“Patience was never my strong suit. You know this. Now tell me what’s going on.” She was slightly more demanding now.

“Nick and I are together.” he blurted out before he could stop himself. He cringed at the way it had come out. He’d wanted to ease into it, give her time to adjust. But somehow in thinking so hard about the right words to use, his brain made the decision for him.

“Is that all? Jesus Kevin. You had me scared half to death.” she said, letting out a big sigh.

Kevin started at his phone confused? All? Was that all? This was the biggest thing he’d ever done. How could she ask if this was all? “What do you mean Kris? Is that all? I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell you for days and you make it sound like it’s no big deal.”

She sighed, a little sadder sounding now. “Kevin. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to downplay what you’re telling me. What I am saying to you, is I came to terms with this weeks ago. I knew the moment he moved in there that something like this was going to happen. I was even more convinced when I saw the two of you together. That’s what I gave you the photograph. I was trying to push you, to let you know that I’m okay, that we will be okay. I know you love him, you don’t need to tell me that. If this is what you want then I support you. You don’t even have to ask.” she said gently.

“What did I do to deserve you?” he asked, his voice thick with emotion now. He was trying hard not to cry. He had spent so much time the last couple of weeks in tears, for good and bad, he was simply tired of the exercise. It didn’t seem to matter though, her words had touched him.

She laughed out loud. “Hunny, I ask myself that every day. But honestly, I am so happy for you. Do I wish things could have been different for us? Of course. But I love you, I just want you to be happy. Does being with you make you happy?” she asked quietly.

“More than anything in the world.” he said honestly.

“Well there you go. Nothing else matters. If you are asking for my blessing, you have it. But you already knew you would, so what’s really going on?”

Damn this woman was good. She had a sixth sense for sensing bullshit. It’s one of the things that made her such an amazing mom. It was also one of the things that had forced their divorce, he just couldn’t hide the way he’d felt about Nick anymore.

“There’s going to be some trouble with Nick’s divorce.” he started. He took off his shoes and climbed back onto the bed until his back rested against the headboard.

“What kind of trouble?” she asked suspiciously.

He drew his legs up until he could rest his arms over his knees. “Lauren is going to fight for sole custody of the kids. She’s agreed to sign the actual divorce part of the paperwork, but she wants to fight for the kids. Nick told his lawyer what was going on with us and there’s going to be an investigation. There’s the very good chance she will go to the press in an attempt to undermine his credibility. We’re discussing the possibility of releasing a statement before she has the chance to use it against him.” he told her quietly.

“Jesus Kevin. Talk about going into things head first. And you say I lack patience.” she said with a laugh. “What do you need from me?”

Kevin sighed and closed his eyes. He knew, deep down he knew, that she would always be on his side, but it was something else entirely to hear it. A weight he hadn’t even been aware he’d been carrying around seemed to evaporate from his shoulders. He breathed a sigh of relief before answering. “We need to tell the boys,” he said quietly. “I cannot release a statement, tell the rest of the guys or anything else until Mason and Maxwell are fully aware of what’s going on. I don’t want them to be blindsided.”

“I agree with that. You sound like you’re worried about their reaction. I thought they liked Nick.” she commented.

“Of course they like Nick, the fun goofy uncle that visits every once in a while and plays video games with them. We’re talking about something else entirely now. Maxwell will more than likely not even bat an eye about it. Mason is who I am most concerned about. I know he still has strong feelings about the divorce and now to throw in that dad has a boyfriend who also lives in his house with two additional kids is quite a different story.” Kevin answered.

“True. How do you envision this happening, there’s four different kids here.”

“Honestly, I’d like to sit down with you and Nick for us all to discuss. He was adamant I have this conversation between you and I first before he got involved. I can’t predict the future Kris, I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I do know he will be part of it. The steps we’re taking, the choices we’ve made have all been in the vane of blending our families together. It’s going to be messy and we’re all going to have some growing pains. I guess what I am asking here is if you are willing to let him into our parenting dynamic, are you willing to recognize Nick as my partner, as another authority figure in the boys’ lives on the weeks they are here?” Kevin asked softly. Honestly, this was the part of the conversation he was scared of the most. Being able to actually parent the boys easily together was going to be a big deal when it came to blending their families.

“What’s the end game here Kevin?” she questioned quietly.

“What do you mean Kris?”

“I mean, where do you see this ending? Are you going to date him? Get married? You’ve been together a week and now we’re talking about co-parenting and going to the press. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying any of these things are wrong. We both knew if you ever got together things were going to be a lot different in your relationship then they would normally be under these circumstances. It just comes from who you are. I also know that you are not one to go with the flow without a plan, so that’s what I am asking for. What is your plan that I already know you’re cooking up in that head of yours.”

Kevin had to chuckle at that one. She knew him so well it was scary sometimes. “You’re right. Of course you’re right. It’s not necessarily a plan, just a general outline. Yes, I want to manage to get through this divorce process and then yeah, I would like to ask him to marry me, but we’re talking down the line. It could be years before this thing gets settled and he’s legally available and there’s the added factor that I have no idea how he feels about any of it. I just don’t want to present this to the boys as something that has the option of changing. In my opinion, this is not going to change, even if we never get married, as long as I have him with me then I have everything I need.”

“Then I am okay with sitting down and having the conversation. I would like to be present when we talk to Mason and Max. I think it will add to your credibility if they can see that I am accepting and okay with this.” she said.

“I would love nothing more. It would be wonderful to have you there. We’d like to talk to them on Saturday. I am not sure we can hide it inside the house and I don’t like the idea of keeping something so important to me from my sons.”

“I agree. I am okay telling them on Saturday. I love you Kevin. I will support you in whatever you need. If you need or want me to write an official statement or speak to the attorney myself, I am more than willing to be a character reference for both of you. Regardless of everything that happened, I can’t fault Nick for any of it. He’s an excellent father and I know will only be better under your guidance. You two deserve all the happiness.” she answered honestly.

Kevin couldn’t stop the tears this time. “Kris.” he started before his voice gave out.

“Hey,” she said soothingly. “Don’t cry. I just don’t want you to feel like you two are alone in this. I am here. I will help however I can okay?”

“I don’t know how to thank you, seriously, for all of it.’ he started.

“Hush. These are my kids too. I know you would never do anything to put them in danger. Making yourself happy is doing what is best for them. If Nick is that person that makes you happy then they will need to get used to it. I really don’t think it’s going to be that hard on them. It will take some getting used to, but we’re all going to be just fine. You’ll see.”

Kevin was still staring at his phone when Nick entered the bedroom a few minutes later. He couldn’t wrap his mind around not only Kristin’s acceptance, but her outward insistence on trying to help them, in whatever means were necessary. He only hoped the conversations with his sons went as well as this one did. Once he had them on his side then he could really accomplish anything. He was startled out of his thoughts as Nick climbed up beside him on the bed.

“Well?” he asked quietly, tilting his head to the side.

Kevin smiled at the beautiful blonde who had so quickly become his entire world. “She’s okay. More than okay. She’s willing to write a statement and help us fight.” Kevin said softly, looking into the blue orbs of Nick’s sweet face.

Nick broke out into a grin. “See! I knew it would be okay. Is she okay with us talking to Max and Mason on Saturday?” he asked hesitantly.

Kevin nodded. “Yes, she wants to be a part of it, but she’s very supportive. It was such a weight off Nick. It means a lot that even after everything, she’s going to be supportive of us.”

Nick scooted on the bed until he was close enough to pull Kevin into his arms. The older man fell against him easily, the emotion from the call making him weak. Nick wrapped his arms tightly around the man and hugged him close. “I love you, so much.” he whispered before placing a kiss on top of Kevin’s jet black hair.

“I love you too.” Kevin said against Nick’s chest. “So much.”

They sat together for several long moments. “If the boys need more time,” Nick started before Kevin cut him off.

“No.”

“You didn’t even let me finish.” Nick said exasperated.

“I don’t need to. I know what you’re going to say and the answer is no. I’m not going to go back to a place where we’re not together.” Kevin said simply shifting in Nick’s arms so he could peer up at the younger man. “It’s not happening.”

Nick gave him a small smile. “I don’t want it to, but these are your children. It’s completely different. Mine are small and none of this phases them, if yours need more time..”

Kevin grabbed Nick by the back of the head and brought his mouth down to meet his. “No.” he whispered before pressing his lips tightly against the blonde. Nick opened his mouth, allowing Kevins’s tongue to push forward, licking and claiming Nick’s mouth as his own once again.


No, Nick didn’t think he could go back either. Especially not when Kevin kissed him like this. He could get lost in these arms, this mouth. They finally broke apart for air before Nick pushed him down against the mattress.

“Are you going to kiss me every time you don’t like what I have to say?” Nick asked, smiling down at him.

“And even when I like what you’re saying.” Kevin said smiling as he reached for him again.

They fell together, a mess of arms and legs as they battled for dominance over the kiss and the situation. Nick came out victorious, shifting until he was straddling the other man. He leaned down and kissed Kevin once more, soft, slow memorizing every crevice of his mouth and lips before pulling away. He reached down and pulled the ponytail holder restraining Kevin’s hair, once it had fallen around his shoulders, he wasted no time running his hands through it. “I love your hair long.” he said gazing down at the older man.

Kevin smiled. “I love everything about you.”


Nick blushed and looked away. Kevin took the opportunity and bucked his hips, unsettling Nick enough for him to flip them over. Nick stared up at him, shocked and on his back. Exactly where Kevin wanted him. He smiled sexily at the younger man. “Nicky, did you think I was going to let you be in charge?” he asked, dropping his voice lower, knowing how much of an effect it had on the other man. Nick groaned and wiggled his hips against him.

“Patience Nicky.” Kevin mumbled as he pulled his shirt over his head.

He reached for Nick’s shirt, carefully, determined this would be the night he wrangled it from the other man. Nick’s eyes went wide and his hands were already moving to block Kevin’s movements when Kevin shot his hands out and took Nick’s in his own. Crossing them above Nick’s head he pinned them to the mattress before lowering his mouth to Nick’s. He gave him a sweet kiss before moving his lips to his cheek, his jawline, and then to his ear.

“I am going to remove this shirt, even if I have to rip it off. Then I am going to kiss, lick and suck every inch of skin that’s exposed. Then I am going to show you just how sexy I think you are and how hard you make me just from looking at you. If you fight me on this, I will restrain you. Do you understand, baby?” Kevin whispered seductively as he sucked gently on Nick’s earlobe before biting it gently.

Nick moaned but resisted the urge to move again. “Good boy.” Kevin growled before letting go of Nick’s hands. He slid his hands underneath the t-shirt and caressed every inch of exposed skin he came into contact with as he slid his hands up Nick’s chest. He kissed Nick again as he leaned down to pull the offending shirt completely from Nick’s body. Sitting back on his heels, still straddling the other man, he smiled as his eyes drank in his prize. “My god you’re beautiful.” Kevin breathed out.

Nick blushed again and started to move to cover his stomach before he felt the pressure of Kevin’s hand against his wrists, keeping him in place. Kevin moved his hips to get closer and in doing so, brushed against Nick’s straining erection. Kevin smiled down at the blonde. Even in his discomfort, Kevin still managed to affect him. That thought alone was intoxicating. Kevin started with Nick’s neck, knowing how much those kisses turned on his young lover. He nipped and kissed down one side before moving to the other. Nick’s eyes closed out as he repeated Kevin’s name over and over softly as he continued his movements. Kevin moved from his neck to his collarbone, licking and sucking one side and then the other. Once he’d made his mark there he moved a bit lower. He brushed his fingers over Nick’s nipples watching in fascination as they hardened beneath his touch. He pinched each one gently and followed with his tongue, licking and then biting each one in turn. Nick groaned out, panting as Kevin continued his actions.

“You doing okay baby?” Kevin asked gently. He sat back on his heels and brushed the shaggy hair out of the other man’s face. Nick caught his hand mid movement and brought it down to his mouth, kissing his palm before gently biting the side “I’m wonderful.” he gasped out as Kevin retrieved his hand back and continued lower.

Kevin continued to kiss Nick’s exposed skin as he moved even lower, nose brushing gently against the hairs on his stomach, tickling the other man. Nick giggled and then growled out, fingers threading through Kevin’s hair as Kevin reached his belly button. Kevin kissed it gently before poking his tongue out and diving it inside. Nick bucked against him, trying to get closer to the sensations. Kevin smiled against his skin and kissed his stomach a few more times, muttering “beautiful” as he went. Once he was satisfied he had licked and kissed every part of Nick’s upper body, he was ready to move even lower.

He crawled back up Nick’s body before taking his mouth in a bruising kiss. “Are you starting to understand now? Do you see how beautiful you are to me?” Kevin whispered against his neck. Nick moaned and shook his head. Kevin pulled back slightly. “No? You don’t? Well let me show you baby.”

Kevin reached for Nick’s hand he brought it up to his mouth and took his turn kissing Nick’s palm. Nick closed his eyes, trying to snuggle closer to the other man. Kevin took Nick’s hand and placed it against the growing bulge in his sweatpants. Placing his own hand overtop of Nick’s he leaned down to whisper again. “You feel that baby. That’s just from looking and kissing you. This is the first time you’ve even touched me and already I’m hard baby. You make me crazy, all day, everyday. I’m just biding my time, waiting until I get the chance to have you. You are so fucking sexy baby.”

Nick was writhing now. “Please.” he moaned out.

“Please what baby.” Kevin asked. He enjoyed teasing his lover, enjoyed hearing Nick tell him exactly what he wanted.”

“Please fuck me Kev. I’m so hard, I feel like I could explode without you ever touching me. Please.”

Kevin smiled and released Nick’s hand. “Tell me you think you’re sexy first.” Kevin moved his hips, rubbing his crotch against Nick’s causing the other man to moan out. He bucked his hips, trying desperately to rub against Kevin, any kind of friction to remove the intense feelings the older man was giving him.

“Say it and I will fuck you. I want you to understand and believe how sexy you are. How much I love you.” Kevin said shifting his hips forward.

“OH fuck.” Nick moaned out as he increased the rhythm he had started with his hips, rubbing against Kevin. “Okay, okay. I believe you. I’m sexy.” he said quietly.

Kevin leaned down and kissed him. “See that wasn’t so hard. And you are the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Kevin pulled away from the younger man and quickly rid them both of their pants. Grabbing the lube from the nightstand, he was kneeling between Nick’s legs in no time. He quickly lubed up two fingers and slid them easily enough inside of the younger man. He was still slightly stretched from their love making that morning, so Kevin made quick work of stretching him, knowing the time for teasing was over, for both of them. Once he was satisfied he lubed himself up and pushed inside. He let out his breath as the sweet heat of Nick sucked him deeper inside. “My god baby. I never get tired of this feeling. Being buried inside of you, making you mine.” Kevin ground out as he waited for Nick to signal that he could move.

“Uhhh,” the blonde moaned out before he started pushing his ass back against Kevin’s cock, pushing him inside even more. “Fuck me baby.” he said huskily, his eyes still squeezed closed.

“I love you.” Kevin moaned as he picked up his pace. Kissing and touching Nick had gotten him so worked up he didn’t think he would last long. Every time Nick pushed his ass back in time with Kevin thrusting inside he hit Nick’s prostate, causing the younger man to yell out in pleasure. The sound alone could make Kevin come. He steadied himself with one hand on Nick’s hip while he used his other hand to wrap around the younger man’s cock. He jerked his hand in time with their movements, bringing Nick closer to the edge. “Are you ready baby?” he asked, his voice low and throaty. Nick nodded and with one final thrust and jerk they were cumming together once more.

Kevin gripped Nick’s hips tightly as he rode out his orgasm, loving the feeling of being inside of him as long as possible. After they’d come back down, Kevin gently pulled out, both groaning at the loss, before falling on the mattress beside him.

“I love you.” Nick was the first to speak.

“I love you too baby. Thank you for trusting me enough to take off your shirt.” Kevin rolled onto his side to peer at the other man. “You are so sexy. I don’t want you to ever think badly of yourself or ever doubt how much I want you.” Kevin said as he leaned in and kissed Nick softly on the cheek.

“I’m trying. It’s hard. It’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life. I just don’t want to disappoint you.” Nick said softly.

“Never. Never could you disappoint me. Especially with the way you look. I’m not a shallow person. I don’t care about any of that. I care about what’s in your heart. And I know that person pretty well. And I love him very much.”

Kevin kissed him softly once more before drawing him into his arms. He pulled the blanket up around them as he pulled Nick even closer. He never wanted to let go.
Chapter Twenty-Three by Arok
Nick was nervous about a lot of things lately. What should have been one of the happiest weeks of his life was quickly overshadowed with nervousness and doubt because his bitch of an ex-wife had the ability to try to take everything he'd worked so hard for away from him. Looking back over the week he could barely believe that he'd finally been able to tell Kevin his feelings, have them reciprocated, and explore love and pleasure like he'd never even imagined before. These were all wonderful, magical things he never wanted to give up.

He was nervous now because the things Lauren could try to do had the potential to put all of this in jeopardy. There were so many what ifs, and Nick had always been a firm believer in the fact that if another shoe had the potential to drop, then it absolutely would. He couldn't seem to calm the voice inside that kept telling him this would all slip away and it would be entirely his fault.

First of all, no one should have to think about making big life changing decisions the first week they were together. He recognized the absurdity of this notion. But again, you had to also factor in that they had known each other for almost thirty years, had been in love with each other for at least 20-25 of them, that was a long time for anyone. So why it may feel like to others they were moving too fast, Nick just felt like they were making up for lost time. His heart and mind had been made up about the other man years ago. This was it for him. Kevin was it for him. Kevin was all he'd ever wanted and if he indeed slipped through Nick's fingers, there would be nothing left of him in the end. Nick had vowed to himself that no matter that happened, he would not let everything fall away without fighting tooth and nail for it.

He was mainly worried about Kevin's children. This was the one biggest factor besides telling the guys and the press that Nick worried about. Telling Maxwell and Mason would be hard, and if they reacted badly, it had the potential to ruin everything right then and there. Nick could never allow himself to be the wedge between Kevin and his children. If the kids couldn't come to terms with this, then he would have to back away. He would do everything in his power to make the kids comfortable, but he knew how these things could go.

He remembered how he felt when his own father had remarried. Even though he was older than Mason was now during the transition he could still remember the anger and resentment he carried around with him and he'd not been anywhere as close to his dad as Mason was to Kevin. Hell years later, his father was gone now, and he still could remember the pain. Of course his entire childhood had been nothing but pain, another reason why he was fighting so hard for these kids. All of these kids. Nick was sure that if they could get Kevin's sons on board that they had a real shot of creating something wonderful together.

He was also worried about how the other guys would take the news. Brian and Howie already knew there were feelings there, they just didn't really understand the extent. Aj, well neither of them had talked much to him in the last few months. He was focused on his sobriety and spending time with his own kids. He checked in occasionally, but for the most part he kept to himself. Nick had no idea how he would respond. He mostly worried they would think he was being selfish about wanting to get out in front of this thing so Lauren wouldn't have any legal ground to stand on. He just really wanted this all over and done with.

He was trying to keep it all together, for himself and for Kevin. He didn't want Kevin to know just how scared he was about telling the kids, didn't want to add another weight to his already heavy shoulders. Nick tried to push away the little voice to the back of his mind and ignore it but moments like this, when the kids were quietly playing and Kevin was working upstairs and he had the quiet to think, the voice began yelling.

Nothing had ever come easy for Nick. Sure it looked like it from the offset, being a member of an award winning boyband, but there was so much behind the scenes no one understood. The public had no idea how bad his weight issues were, how many years he was berated for things he couldn't control. Then there was the train wreck of his parents, the drugs and alcohol, the constant horrible relationships of people either abusing him or using him for his wealth and status. Then his brother completely went off the deep end falling so far down into the pool of drugs and depression that Nick was convinced he would one day get a phone call to identify his remains. Things had the tendency to get bad where he was concerned. Why would he deserve to be happy with the man he loved? How could he even possibly think this could go any other way?

He was broken out of his reverie by Saoirse plopping down in his lap. She stared up at him in wonder, and touched his face with her tiny hands. This is why he was fighting so hard. Out of everything good and bad he'd done in his life, these two kids were the best thing he'd ever done. He would move heaven and hell to keep them safe and protected. No matter what was thrown at him moving forward, it was worth it if the end result was them together. He picked her up and squeezed her close before tickling her little tummy. She squealed in delight, drawing the attention of her brother and before two long Nick had both kids climbing all over him in laughter and tickles. Yes, this was all very much worth it.

-

Kevin felt like he was coming out of his skin. He was nervous, nauseous and very unsettled. Kristin and the kids would be here any moment. He was anxious about their upcoming conversation, but also about Nick. He’d been acting strange all day. Kevin couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He was hoping the younger man wasn’t getting cold feet. He’s left him to his own devices for most of the day. He was making great progress on his song and wanted to have time to work on it before the kids came home. He had the arrangement laid out and most of the lyrics. He was just waiting for the rest of the second verse to come to him. He wasn’t worried. So much of the song had just written itself, he knew it would come when it was ready. Working also gave his brain a different place to focus so he hadn’t spent all day worried about the upcoming conversation. But since coming downstairs it was like he’d walked into a wall of anxiety. Nick had been loving, but aloof at the same time. It was strange and it was starting to drive him crazy.

Glancing at his watch he double checked the time. Kristin had said she would get there by 5. It was a little after 4:30. Getting up off the couch in the living room, Kevin went in search of his lover. He found Nick in Odin’s room reading to them quietly. Kevin stood in the doorway watching the sight. God he loved this man.

Nick glanced up and gave Kevin an uneasy smile as he closed the book and put Odin back on his feet. “Is it time?” he asked softly, turning to put the book back in the bookcase.

“Not quite.” Kevin said gently. He crossed the room and drew the other man into his arms. “What’s going on baby?”

Nick looked at him startled. “What do you mean?” He questioned as he returned the hug.

“I mean, you’re acting strange and it’s starting to scare me. Talk to me Nicky.” Kevin said brushing his hand against Nick’s cheek. Nick leaned into the touch and his eyes fluttered closed. He didn’t answer for several moments. “I’m just nervous. I’m trying to keep it together so I don’t make you even more nervous than you already are. I’m sorry.” he said softly.

“Don’t be sorry baby. I was just starting to get worried you were changing your mind.” Kevin admitted.

Nick’s eyes darkened. “Never. I want this, more than anything Kevin. But things never work out where I’m concerned, so I’m nervous. I love you so much, if something happened…” Nick’s voice started to wobble and Kevin drew him in close. “Shhh baby. We’re fine. I love you too.” Kevin leaned in and brushed his lips gently across the younger man’s right as the doorbell rang. Nick jumped and pulled back suddenly. “Showtime.” he said hoarsely.

Kevin frowned. This wasn’t the way he wanted to go into this, with Nick feeling unsettled and insecure and his own anxiety so high. But he also knew he couldn’t keep his kids waiting. Squeezing Nick’s hand before leaving the room he headed down the stairs to let them into the house. He opened the door to hugs and kisses, the stress momentarily forgotten, he gripped his kids tightly, trying to soak up all of their love. Being away from them for any length of time was hard. “I missed you both. I’m so glad to have you home.” Kevin said kissing each of their cheeks and heads in turn. He broke away from the kids and gave Kristin a hug as well. “Thank you,” he whispered in her ear as he hugged her close. “Anytime.” she whispered back.

Kevin opened the door wider, and grabbed the boys’ bags before ushering them all into the house. “Hey before you guys run upstairs to get settled in, I want to have some time to talk to you.” Kevin said, sitting their bags by the staircase. Maxwell turned to look at him suspiciously. “Did we do something wrong?”

Kevin laughed. “Not that I know of. Are you feeling guilty about something?” Maxwell shook his head vehemently.

“Let’s go to the kitchen.” Kristin said pushing the boys in that direction.

A noise caught Kevin’s attention and he glanced up to see Nick coming down the stairs. He stopped at the top and locked the gate, keeping Odin and Saoirse on the second floor before heading the rest of the way down to meet Kevin at the foot of the stairs. “You ready baby?” Kevin asked him quietly. Nick shrugged. “Let’s do it.”

Kevin turned and began heading towards the kitchen before he felt Nick grab him by the hand and yank him backwards. He stumbled slightly and found himself pressed tightly against the other man before he knew what was happening. Nick gripped his face on either side with his hands and lowered his mouth to Kevin’s. Licking against his lips, Kevin opened his mouth to the other man as Nick licked and sucked every crevice. They broke away a moment later, Kevin breathless. “What?” he began to question but Nick laid a finger against his lips to quiet him. “I just wanted to have this, this feeling, this memory if it all goes badly in there.” Nick said quietly.

“Baby, no matter what happens there. You and I are going to get through it. Together. I promise you that.” Kevin squeezed Nick’s hands. “I love you.”

Nick nodded and gave a small smile. “I love you too.” Kevin smiled at the man and squeezed his hand one more time for good measure before releasing him and making his way into the kitchen.

The kids and Kristin were already sitting around the table when they walked into the room. The boys looked at Nick curiously, but said hello. Kristin stood and hugged Nick as he approached the table. The gesture was not lost on Kevin, she was already trying to set the pace for their conversation. Once everyone was seated, Nick on his left and Kristin on his right, Kevin studied his kids. Taking a deep breath he began to speak.

“I’ve only ever been honest with both of you. As long as I and your mother have felt like you were old or mature enough to handle the information, we’ve always tried to be open and share things with you. So in that spirit I want to be honest with you now.” Kevin started.

The boys were looking at each other and then staring back at the three adults in front of them. So far, neither of them spoke. “What I am about to tell you does not reflect on your mother and me, or anything like that. I love you and I want to be able to share the things in my life with you. You both know that Nick and Odin and Saoirse have been staying here for the past few weeks. While Nick has been here we’ve had a lot of time to talk. There’s a lot of history here, Nick and I have known each other for a very long time. Almost as long as your mom and I have known each other. One of the things Nick and I have finally had the chance to be able to talk about is how we feel about each other. Nick and I are in love with each other, we’re starting a relationship together and his presence in the house with Odin and Saoirse will be permanent. Nick is now my boyfriend.” Kevin said, holding his breath as he finished.

He felt Nick place his hand on his thigh under the table. Nick squeezed it gently, showing his silent support. Kevin smiled inwardly, wishing he could reach out and touch him, but not yet. Maxwell tilted his head to the side. “So you like to kiss each other?” he asked, confused.

Kristin’s laughter was loud and welcome as the question caught them all off guard. He could feel Nick laughing beside him. He smiled at the innocence of the question, but his eyes were focused on his older son, who sat stony silent, a dark look covering his handsome features. Ignoring the question for the time being he reached across the table to touch Mason’s hand. He jerked it back as he jumped from his chair. His blue eyes ablaze he started at each adult in turn before narrowing his eyes on Kevin. “So you’re a gay? Is that what you’re telling me? What about mom? What about us? You’re supposed to love her! You’re supposed to love us.” he pushed away from the table so fast he sent the kitchen chair to the floor. He fled from the room before anyone could speak. There it was, Kevin thought. The response he’d been waiting for. He felt Nick's hand leave his thigh and he moved his hand from the top of the table to grab it, not allowing the younger man to pull away from him.

Maxwell looked around the room with wide eyes. Kevin could see the uncertainty play out on his young features. He was feeling a loyalty to his brother, to his mother and probably even to Kevin all at the same time. “How are you feeling bud?” Kevin asked him gently.

Maxwell shrugged. “I don’t really care really. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. Is he going to like boss us around and stuff?” He asked curiously.

Nick laughed at this one. Clearing his throat, he glanced at Kristin and Kevin before responding. “I will be another adult in the house. Someone you can come to for help or someone to hang out with. This is all tricky,” Nick broke off, unable to finish.

Kristin picked up the mantle. “You and your brother will respect Nick’s place in the house. He’s never going to ask you to do anything your father and I wouldn’t ask of you. If he tells you to brush your teeth or pick up your clothes, you’re going to do those things, no questions asked. If he tells you to do something you don’t think is right, then you go to your dad or you call me and we’ll talk about it. But I don’t ever see any of those things happening. Odin and Saoirse will be living here too and you’ll treat them the same way.”

Maxwell nodded in understanding. “Yes Ma’am.” he said, saluting.

This broke some of the tension and everyone laughed. Kevin was still debating what to do about Mason when Maxwell asked if he could leave the room. Kristin instructed him to go play in the living room and to give them a chance to talk. Once Maxwell had left the room Kevin felt his shoulders sag. The conversation had weighed heavy on him and he knew it wasn’t over yet, but having one son okay with the situation and another upset was better than them both upset.

“Well I think that went as expected.” Kristin said softly as she settled back down in the kitchen chair.

Kevin nodded. “Yeah I honestly expected worse.”

Nick looked at both of them in turn before speaking. “You’re not surprised about him being so upset?” he asked quietly.

Kristin shook her head. “It was much worse when we told them about the divorce. Mason is a very emotional and possessive kid. I knew he wouldn’t take it well at first.”

Kevin agreed. “I was envisioning punching, screaming. At least he hasn’t thrown up yet.” he said winking at Kristin.

“Oh god,” she said laughing. “If that starts I am out of here and you two can figure it out on your own.”

“What?” Nick asked, confused.

Kevin laughed. “The night we told them we were getting a divorce. He made himself throw up all over the living room in protest. It was horrible. It took hours to clean.”

Nick shook his head in amazement. His heart had started beating so fast as the young boy had run from the room he was afraid he himself would have thrown up. He was somewhat relieved to learn this wasn’t as bad as it looked from his position. “Would you mind if I tried talking to him?”

Kevin and Kristin glanced at each other before turning to him. “Are you sure baby?” Kevin asked, squeezing his hand gently.

Nick nodded. “At least let me try.”
Chapter Twenty-Four by Arok
Finding Mason turned out to be a bit of a challenge. He wasn’t in the living room or in his and Maxwell’s rooms. Quickly running out of ideas of where he could be Nick went to check on Odin and Saoirse. There, curled up in Saoirse’s room with her and a story book, he found Mason. He stood and watched him quietly as the young boy acted out the parts of the story with his voice, pretending to be a duck and a cow. Hope sparked deep within Nick for the first time. Maybe this wasn’t a lost cause. Sensing his presence, Saoirse looked up and smiled at him from her place in Mason’s lap. She quickly hopped up and waddled her way over to her father. Nick bent down and scooped her into his arms, kissing her cheeks. Just holding her close gave him the courage and push to move further into the room and take a seat on the floor beside Kevin’s oldest son. He placed Saoirse back down on the floor to play and leaned back against her dresser.

He could remember the day Mason was born. Could remember how Kevin’s voice broke as he called to tell him his son was finally here, finally a reality. Nick had been so happy for him, so very happy, but also so heartbroken for himself. The day Mason was born was the day he’d finally nailed the coffin shut on any notion of the other man every feeling anything but brotherly love for him. Until now.

They sat in silence for several moments. Nick tucked his legs underneath him, sitting Indian style and picked up the book that had fallen to the floor. Finding a random page, he began reading. At the end of the page he offered the book to Mason. Surprisingly he took it and continued the story. When he had read his page he handed the book back to Nick. They went on this way, taking turns, page after page until they finished the book. Nick stayed silent, hoping the story was enough to break the ice. Mason remained quiet, staring at his shoes. Nick leaned over, bumping Mason’s shoulder with his own. The motion knocked Mason off balance and he giggled as he fell over.

“Wanna talk about this?” Nick asked quietly.

Mason shook his head and continued to stare at his shoes. Nick stayed silent. Hoping the silence would get to the younger boy first. A few moments later Mason turned to him. “I always thought they would get back together.” he said quietly.

Nick nodded. “I can understand that. My parents divorced when I was a little bit older than you. I used to think about that every night. When my dad remarried and I suddenly had an older sister that I didn’t know at all, it was really hard. My parents were nowhere near as great as yours. They were pretty shitty to each other, and to us.” Nick said quietly.

“How long has this been happening?” Mason asked.

Nick turned on his butt so he could look at the boy. Facing him, he asked “How long has what been happening?”

“You and my dad?” he asked quietly.

“Hmmm. That’s a big question, with many different answers because there are even more questions nestled inside it. If you're asking how long your dad and I have been together, since last Sunday.” Nick answered honestly. “Now, if you’re asking how long I’ve loved your dad, and wanted to be with him, be his boyfriend, that answer is more like 20 years.”

Mason’s eyes grew large. “20 years? That’s insane.”

Nick chuckled. “It is. If you ask your dad, he will tell you he’s loved me for 25 years. That’s even crazier. I was only 14 when your dad and I met. We’ve been in each other’s lives a very long time. I knew I loved your dad by the time I was 18, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. It wasn’t something we ever talked about. I never believed he could love me. By the time I fully understood what I was feeling for him, he’d already asked your mom to marry him. And then you came along, and then I met Lauren, then Maxwell came and then Odin and Saoirse were born. There were always things standing in the way for us.” Nick explained softly.

Mason stared at him for a few moments. “So do you kiss each other?”

Nick laughed and nodded. “Hug too. We’re just like anyone else in love. The difference is who we are, what our jobs are. You know what it’s like being the son of a backstreet boy. I’m not going to lie to you, the next few months could be hard for you and your brother because of us and the decision we’ve made to spend our life together. My soon-to-be ex-wife isn’t a nice person and she’s going to try a lot of crazy things because she wants to take Odin and Saoirse away from me. We don’t have the kind of relationship your parents have where they work together to take care of you. I’m trying to get custody of them so she has to see them on my terms. I’m trying to keep them safe because she’s not a nice person and she’s making bad choices that put them in danger. So I am telling you all of these things that I probably shouldn’t be telling you so you can understand what’s going on and what’s going to happen. Your father and I are going to release a statement in the next couple of days to the press, telling them we’re in a relationship. Your friends and teachers are going to find out, and I’m sure there’s the possibility for people to say or do things that are not appropriate because of that. And I can’t tell you how sorry I am that this could happen ahead of time. I wish we lived in a world where none of these things mattered and everyone could just be happy, but I think you’re old enough to know that’s not always the case.”

Mason nodded. “But you love him?”

Nick smiled. “More than anything. I love you and your brother too. I can’t predict the future, but I can promise you right here and now, that I love your daddy more than anything in this world and I will never stop fighting anyone or anything that gets in the way of us being happy. All of us. Your father and I are trying to build a life together, one that includes you and your brother and Odin and Saoirse. That’s all we want."

Before Nick could continue the smaller boy had launched himself into Nick’s lap. Wrapping his arms around the child he hugged him back tightly. Nick could feel Mason’s tears against his neck. He rubbed his back in soft, gentle motions, trying his best to ease the boy's thoughts and fears. This was progress Nick thought. He heard a noise from the doorway and glanced over his shoulder to see Kevin standing in the doorway, tears streaming down his own cheeks. Nick’s heart clenched. How long had he been standing there? He panicked momentarily, hoping he hadn’t overstepped by sharing so many details with the young boy. Kevin crossed the room and dropped to his knees beside the duo. He took them both in his arms, crushing Mason between their chests in the process. Nick watched the emotion play out over Kevin’s features from overtop Mason’s head. Through his tears, Kevin mouthed the words Thank You. Nick nodded and leaned into the embrace. Finally Mason pulled away from Nick and turned to his father.

“I’m sorry dad.” he said softly.

“Oh baby, it doesn’t matter. I just want you and your brother to know how much I love you, how much we love you.” Kevin said softly, wiping the tears from his son’s cheeks.

“I know. Nick told me.” he said smiling.

Kevin leaned in and kissed his son’s cheek. “He’s right. I love you very much.’

“Have you really loved him for 25 years? Even when you loved mom?” he asked quietly.

Kevin nodded. “I have. I’ve loved Nick most of my life. I’ll explain it to you more when you're older.” Kevin said, ruffling his hair. Mason giggled and ducked away from him. “I’m going to go find Max.” he said quickly as he bounced out of the room.

Nick looked at Kevin and smiled. “I don’t even know how to thank you.” Kevin started before Nick shut him up with a kiss. “Is it bedtime yet?” he asked, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively at the other man. Kevin laughed and checked his watch. “An hour.”

-

They fell against each other exactly an hour later. Mouths crashing and hands grabbing items of clothing as they went. Nick hit the bed first, with Kevin right on top of him, falling together. Nick laughed and kissed him soundly before standing again to take off his pants. Kevin stood as well kicking off his shoes and reaching for Nick’s shirt. Tonight he didn’t hesitate and allowed the older man to pull it from his chest.

Bedtime had taken twice as long with two additional kids in the house. Everyone’s emotions were high so extra stories were necessary to get everyone calm enough to settle down for bed. The moment they’d hit the bedroom door, Kevin had kicked it closed behind him before advancing on the blonde.

Nick grabbed the bottom of Kevin’s shirt and quickly had it up and off, tossing it over his shoulder. Kevin’s pants came next, joining the shirt along with his boxers. Now that the other man was completely naked, hard, gorgeous and all his, Nick made no delay in taking his lover into his mouth. Sitting on the edge of the bed he grabbed Kevin by the hips and pulled him close. As Kevin stood in front of Nick’s spread legs, Nick began nuzzling his thighs with his nose as he went. Kevin panted out, bucking his hips gently against Nick’s face as Nick continued to bite and lick Kevin’s inner thighs. He brought up a hand to cup Kevin’s balls as he rolled them gently in is hands before continuing his teasingly slow torture. Kissing, biting and sucking everywhere except where Kevin wanted him most.

Nick smiled against the warm skin as Kevin threaded his fingers through his blonde locks, silently urging him to move closer. Nick watched him with hooded eyes, watched as he continued to grow harder, his cock leaking now from Nick’s teasing menstruations. Taking pity on his lover, with the emotional night they’d lived through Nick scooted closer to him from where he sat perched on the bed. He blew gently on the tip, eliciting a moan from the other man. Nick smiled and poked his tongue out, slowly, teasingly, licked the tip. Kevin groaned, his hands flying up to rest gingerly on Nick’s shoulders. Nick sucked a little harder before opening his mouth wide and taking the whole of Kevin into his hot, wet mouth in one fluid motion.

Kevin’s knees buckled against him but Nick was prepared for it and kept both hands on Kevin’s hips to keep him steady. Nick licked and sucked, sliding his mouth all the way down until his nose tickled the patch of hair on Kevin’s stomach before pulling completely off and doing it over again. Kevin’s breathing had quickened and his moans were coming faster now. Nick increased his speed, allowing Kevin to buck against him, taking more of him in his mouth each time. A moment later he could feel Kevin’s fingers digging into his shoulders and knew his lover was close. Coming completely off he looked up at the other man before whispering, “I love you baby.” He immediately took Kevin in as far as he could. The words and the emotions were too much and Kevin came hard, buried in Nick’s mouth. Nick drank him in and then licked him clean as he pulled off. Smiling up at the other man he pulled Kevin down to the bed. Kevin came easily, his body weak from the day. Kevin pulled Nick up close to him. “Thank you. I love you baby, so much.” Nick smiled and placed a kiss against his chest.

“What about you?” Kevin asked, gesturing towards Nick’s obvious arousal. Nick blushed and looked down. Kevin caught his chin with his hand. “What is it baby.”

Nick hesitated and then said, “I’d really like to fuck you.”

Kevin smiled. He’d been thinking about this for a couple of days. So far Nick had always been on the bottom. Kevin was scared but also very curious to know what it felt like to be on the receiving end. He just hadn’t been sure how to bring it up to the other man and then there’d been so much to think about for tonight’s conversation that he just kept putting it off. Kevin grabbed Nick by the back of the head and lowered his mouth to his. Kissing him deeply he pulled away and whispered, “Fuck me” against his lips.

Nick moaned and caught his lips in another kiss, biting and sucking his bottom lip as he did. Kevin could taste himself in Nick’s mouth and felt himself grow harder at the implication. So many things and feelings were circling his mind. But the top of the list was how much he wanted this man. Wanted to give himself over completely, mind, body and soul. As they broke apart Kevin scooted back on the bed towards the headboard, giving Nick plenty of room. Nick smiled and grabbed the lube out of the nightstand drawer. “This is going to hurt at first, baby.” he warned. Kevin nodded. “Make me yours Nicky.”

Nick’s groaned and went to work opening the lube and applying it generously to his fingers. Spreading Kevin’s legs, he moved in between them and rubbed his lube coated fingers up and down the crack of Kevin’s ass. Feeling Kevin buck back against his hand he smiled and pressed one lubricated finger against his pucker, watching in fascination as Kevin’s body pulled him inside. He watched Kevin’s features to gauge his discomfort and waited until the other man smiled and nodded before moving his finger in and out. He gently pressed a second finger inside and wiggled around, trying to find Kevin’s prostate. He found it a few seconds later when he felt Kevin try to jerk on the bed. He fingered Kevin’s ass for a few more minutes, driving his lover crazy as he prepared him for what was to come. “Please baby.” Kevin begged, his southern drawl so thick it was enough to make Nick momentarily forget everything.

Gaining control, Nick applied the lube to his own cock, making sure to cover it completely before moving close to the older man. “You ready baby?” he asked softly. “Please. Do something.” Kevin begged in reply.

Nick wasted no time, pushing inside Kevin he groaned in pleasure at the incredible sensations. He’d never felt anything remotely like this before. Every experience with Kevin was so much better than anything he’d ever experienced with anyone else. Every touch felt better, every sensation more intense, every feeling deeper. It was unbelievable how much he loved this man. He watched Kevin’s face again, watching for the pain to leave his features before pulling himself out and slamming back in. He could tell the moment his cock his Kevin’s prostate, loved watching as the older man came apart on the bed before him. He sped up his actions, hitting Kevin’s sweet spot over and over, his head and body writing beneath him. Nick loved seeing him like this, wild and out of control. Focused solely on pleasure, pleasure Nick was giving to him. It was an all consuming feeling. He was getting close to the edge. Kevin’s body was milking him with every thrust. He wrapped his hand around Kevin’s aching erection, determined to make his lover come first. “I love you baby,” he groaned out as he continued his pace, fucking and stroking Kevin as he went. Kevin groaned, bucking his hips up into Nick’s hand. “I’m gonna come. I love you.” he groaned out as he came once again, all over Nick’s hand and his stomach. Nick gave one final thrust and was coming inside of him, moaning Kevin's name out loud as he went.

Nick collapsed on Kevin’s chest, unable to hold himself up any longer after the force of his orgasm. He laid there for several moments, trying desperately to catch his breath. Kevin brought his arms up around him, holding Nick against him. Nick didn’t want to move, didn’t want to pull out and lose this feeling of being so connected to the other man. He knew he had to and he moaned softly at the loss as he pulled out and laid down beside the other man. Kevin rolled onto his side and drew Nick close against him, Nick’s back resting against Kevin’s chest. Kevin leaned down and placed a kiss at the base of Nick’s neck. “I told you we’d be okay baby.” he whispered against the heated skin, causing Nick to shiver.

“MMmhm. You did. I was just scared to believe that this could work out for us. I guess I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Nick said quietly.

Kevin kissed his neck again and then his head. “It will baby. There’s too much working against us not to. But I just need you to believe, deep inside,” Kevin placed a hand against Nick’s chest, right over his heart. “I need you to know that I love you. And nothing, nothing is going to change that. No matter what comes our way. We’re going to deal with it together. You are stuck with me, Mr. Carter.” Kevin said, pulling him as close as possible.

Nick snuggled back and closed his eyes. “I never want to be anywhere else.”
Chapter Twenty-Five by Arok
"I've been thinking about Thanksgiving." Kevin announced as he entered the bedroom the next afternoon. Nick was lying on the bed anxiously awaiting a call from the lawyer that was supposed to have come hours ago.

"Thanksgiving?" Nick questioned, taking a break from staring at his phone for a moment to peer up at the other man. "Isn't that weeks away?"

Kevin laughed. "Not at all baby, have you even looked at a calendar since you got here? Thanksgiving is in two weeks, it's the next week I get the boys. We get them for Thanksgiving this year and Christmas next year. Although we usually end up seeing each other anyway even though it's not our designated holiday."

Nick laid back on the bed and got comfortable against the pillows. "I guess I've never asked what exactly your arrangements are." he said, placing his phone on the nightstand to ignore it until it rang.

Kevin stretched across the foot of the bed propping himself up with his elbow. "You mean 'our' arrangements." Kevin said gently as he gave Nick a pointed look. "Together, remember."

Nick blushed and nodded. "I just don't want to overstep. This is all so new."

Kevin smiled. "I know it is. I'll just keep reminding you. But to answer your question, we alternate holidays. She gets them for Thanksgiving one year and Christmas the next and I get the opposite. So far we've ended up spending at least a small part of the day together anyway. Last year she had Thanksgiving, but I ate dinner with them. I had Christmas but she came in the morning when we opened presents. As long as it's okay with you, I would like to continue that, unless you or her have any problems with it."

"Of course not Kev, whatever is best for your family. I am perfectly content with it. I'm just thankful to be included." Nick said with a small smile.

Kevin reached across the bed and took his hand. "Of course you are, you're my baby." he smiled sweetly at the blonde.

Nick laughed and pulled Kevin's arm to bring him closer. "So what do you want to do for Thanksgiving?" Nick asked as Kevin settled in beside him.

"Well in the spirit of creating new traditions, I was thinking we could all cook together. Let each of the kids pick out something they really want to make and we eat whatever they come up with." Kevin said his eyes twinkling with excitement.

Nick chuckled. "You do realize we will end up eating pizza and corn dogs for Thanksgiving if you let them choose."

Kevin nodded. "Oh I am fully aware, but we will make them from scratch, not the store bought kind."

Nick tilted his head and peered at his lover suspiciously. "Are you feeling okay? Mr. Perfectionist is okay with having a traditional meal be destroyed by crazy kid food choices?"

Kevin laughed and rolled over closer to the blonde. Nick pulled his arm around the other man, drawing him into his arms. Kevin leaned his head back against Nick as he responded. "You came and changed what I believe in." his smile a mile long as he sang the long forgotten lyric. Nick punched him in the arm before leaning down and brushing a kiss across Kevin’s forehead. "Asshole." Nick muttered as he held Kevin tightly against him.

They sat in comfortable silence for several minutes. "Can I ask you something?" Nick asked suddenly.

Kevin frowned. "You can always ask me anything, we're way beyond the point of secrets between us."

"After Mason told me about the N Sync Christmas song, I went digging around. I found that one and I also found another one by James TW. Did you write those about Kristin?"

Kevin was silent for a second. "How in the world did you find those?" he asked, surprised.

Nick smiled against the top of Kevin's head. He was alternating between running his fingers through the silky locks and placing gently kisses against his head. "I'm not as blonde as I look, you know."

"Of course not. I can see the N Sync song, but how did you find out about the other?"

"I found the pen name in the liner notes of the N Sync CD and asked Howie how to research songwriters on the internet. He directed me to a website that allowed me to search. I found it easily enough. It was beautiful Kev. I can't tell you how many times I've listened to it. Especially before I started sleeping in your room. I was listening to it all night some nights." Nick told him honestly.

Nick let his hand wander to the hem of Kevin's shirt. Slipping it underneath the fabric he began rubbing circles against the flatness of Kevin's stomach. He would never be as toned or as thin as Kevin. Their body make-up was just too different. As much as he was ashamed of his own body, Kevin was going a long way to try to take that insecurity away. Kevin shifted back against the younger man, giving Nick more access.

"No. I didn't write those songs about Kristin. I wrote them about you."

The words hung in the air for a moment. Nick's hands stilled under Kevin's shirt. Never in his wildest dreams would he ever have imagined Kevin wrote such beautiful words about him. "What?" he asked, shocked.

Kevin nodded. "I couldn't tell you how I felt about you. I couldn't tell anyone, but I could write it in a song and pretend like they weren't inspired by anything. Kristin never was involved with my songwriting so she never knew what I did or did not write about. I'm not even sure she knows the other song was sold and recorded."

"Why did you sell it? Why didn't you record it?" Nick asked seriously.

"There was no way I could have brought that song to you guys. I would have never been able to be in the room with you as you read or sang any of it. I wrote it at the beginning of our divorce. I had just told Kristin it was over and I was overcome with grief and hurt. And I threw myself into writing. I was trying to get everything I felt about you out so I could begin to rebuild my life on my own. It just seemed to flow right out." Kevin said softly.

"But why didn't you record it yourself?" Nick pressed.

"All by myself?" Kevin laughed. "That would never happen. I'm not the one the fans buy the records for."

Nick pulled away from the other man and gazed down at him. "You could definitely release a solo record. And I would be willing to bet people would buy it just as much as any of the rest of ours. You have the sexy voice of an angel baby."

It was Kevin’s turn to blush as he turned away from him. In a complete role reversal, Nick was the one this time to grab Kevin by the chin and make the other man turn to face him. Peering down from above him Nick said. "I laid awake so many nights listening to that song and longing to hear your voice saying those words. I had no idea you wrote it about me, but I wanted to pretend you were saying those words to me. God baby you have to sing it for me sometime, knowing the history behind it now with your sexy voice will be amazing. But you should really think about recording on your own. It would be wonderful."

"Maybe I'll sing it for you sometime." Kevin said smiling shyly. "I had no idea you knew anything about the song." he sounded bewildered.

"I couldn't get over that there was part of you out there that I knew nothing about. I had to know what you'd been thinking and feeling. At the time though, I assumed you'd written it about her."

"Nope, only you. All the songs are written about you." Kevin mumbled. Nick had started his movements again, running his hands up and down Kevin's stomach and chest. He grazed one Kevin's nipples, twisting and pinching it gently between his fingers. Kevin groaned out and pressed further back into Nick.

"All the songs? Are there more?" Nick asked as he leaned down and nipped Kevin's earlobe. The other man jerked softly under the movement before answering.

Nick moved his hand to the other nipple. Squeezing a little harder this time as he licked along the shell of Kevin's ear before lowering his mouth to Kevin’s neck. Kevin opened his mouth to speak but instead let out a moan as Nick but down in the soft flesh playfully.

"I'm working on one now. I started writing one right before you moved in. Ooihh," Kevin gasped out as Nick's lips found their way to his collarbone. Nick's allowed his hand to fall away from his chest and was walking it teasingly back down Kevin’s stomach towards the waistband of his jeans. Once he reached the button he quickly unbuttoned and then unzipped the jeans. Kevin was impressed he could do it all one handed. He quickly forgot everything else as Nick's hand slid inside his boxers and gently wrapped around his length.

"Mmm." Nick mumbled against Kevin's neck. "I still can't believe I can touch you like this whenever I want." his hand began moving up and down the shaft, slowly at first and then speeding up and back down again. Kevin was lightheaded, not sure if he should focus on the words Nick was saying or the pleasure Nick was giving with his hand on his dick. He arched into Nick's hand, trying desperately to push closer. It felt so good, pressed up against him, Nick wrapped around him so close. "You're so sexy when you moan. Did you know that baby? Do you know how sexy you are?" while Nick mumbled words against Kevin's neck he was also placing feather light kisses everywhere his mouth landed.

The motions caused Kevin to moan again, louder this time as he began to lift his hips up in time with Nick's motions. Every single nerve ending in his body was in fire. The things the younger man did to him with the simplest of touches was something he would never get used to. He wasn't used to being in this submissive position. He was always the one in charge but with Nick, there was something exhilarating about giving himself over so completely to the other man, knowing Nick would catch him as he fell over the edge.

Nick continued to mumble soothing words of love as he assaulted Kevin's neck. Kevin was getting close now, he threw his head back in pleasure exposing more of his neck to the other man. Nick bit down on the space between his neck and his shoulder making Kevin yell out. Then he was coming hard and fast chanting Nick's name as he shot his load all over Nick's hand and the inside of his jeans.

Falling back against him Nick removed his hand and wiped it in the bedspread before gathering the older man in his arms and holding him close. It took several moments for Kevin's breathing to return to normal. "That was amazing. You are amazing." he said, smiling up at the blonde. Nick smiled and leaned down to brush his lips against Kevin's. "I love you." he mumbled against Kevin's mouth as he opened it for the older man. Their tongues caressed gently as Kevin deepened the kiss.

They were broken apart by the ringing of Nick's cell phone. His stomach dropped. He knew this was the lawyer's office before he even reached for the phone. Looking at Kevin quickly for reassurance he picked up the phone and answered.

-

It wasn't as bad as they had feared, but it was still not great. Kayla, the paralegal had called to inform them that they had given Lauren's attorney Nick's new official address and it would be a matter of time until she figured out where or more importantly, who he was with. They had agreed together that the next step would be to tell the rest of the guys what was going on and if they received their blessing then they would move forward with releasing a statement. They had three days to make a decision before the lawyer wanted to move forward. Giving them a tight deadline to get the blessings of their friends to irrevocably change the course of their careers. Nick just hoped they would be open and willing to listen. Somehow he was just as scared about talking to them as he was about telling Kevin's sons.

Kevin had texted them all asking if they would be available for a video call that evening. Getting a universal yes, they had scheduled a call for after the kids went to bed. Neither of them wanted to disrupt their time with the kids with this nightmare anymore than they already had. Nick had been on edge ever since their response and found himself snapping at Odin over little things, letting his stress get the better of him.

Kevin entered the bedroom, having heard Nick's raised voice from the hallway. He quickly took the baby out of Nick's arms and kissed his surprised lover. Pointing towards the door he ordered, "Go. Take a bath, relax, leave bedtime to me."

Nick started to protest, there were four kids who needed baths and stories, too much for one person alone. "Kev," he started but Kevin silenced him with a kiss. "You're no good to anyone with your anxiety this high. Go recharge. The kids are fine. I'll get everyone to bed and then we can make the call." he stared at the other man pointedly.

Nick sighed and kissed both of his children good night. He'd just reached the door when Kevin's words stopped him." Nothing bad is going to come of this. If they cannot be accepting, then I am ready to step away. Nothing is going to keep you from me. Do you understand?"

Tears pricked Nick's eyes but he nodded and fled the room before they could take root.

Kevin watched him go, wanting to provide additional words of encouragement but knowing the kids took priority at the moment. His were downstairs playing video games before bed which just left Odin and Saoirse who needed baths. Wrangling both into the bathroom he set to work completing the task. As he bathed both kids he was pricked again by the notion of another baby. As if they didn't have enough chaos in their lives he decided. Laughing it off he quickly finished one child and then the other before lifting both of them from the tub. He assisted Odin with changing first, sending him downstairs to wrangle the other two while he diapered and dressed the baby. They had found a good rhythm for bedtime with four kids. Each night they would find a room to gather in and one of the kids would choose the story. Tonight was Odin's turn to choose. Selecting a llama llama book, Kevin settled into the chair with Saoirse on one knee and Maxwell teetering on the edge on the other. Odin had opted to sit in Mason's lap making the older boy laugh in delight. It warmed Kevin's heart to see the kids accepting each other so well. It made every seem so much easier when they would run and play and laugh together. Opening the book he began.

-

Once story time, three tuck-ins with Odin, Saoirse getting out of bed and dragging out her diapers as soon as he left the room and six kisses a piece to his boys, Kevin was finally done with bedtime. It had been slightly harder than he'd imagined by himself, but he wanted to do whatever he could to ease Nick's discomfort about the next difficult conversation. He found him in the bedroom stretched out on their bed with his eyes closed. With the only light in the room coming from the cracked bathroom door, Kevin originally thought he was asleep, but creeping closer he saw his lips moving, his headphones in. Trying not to startle him, Kevin placed a hand gently on his knee as he sat down beside him. Nick jerked slightly but opened his eyes. Smiling when he saw Kevin. "Hey baby," he said quietly.

"Are you feeling relaxed at all?" Kevin asked as he brushed Nick's saggy hair out of his eyes. He would never tire of this motion. He'd spent so much time thinking about it in the years he'd spent pining after this man. Wanting to touch his hair, his face. Nick leaned his cheek closer to Kevin's hand silently asking for comfort. Kevin obliged and stroked his cheek.

Nick nodded, "As relaxed as I can be before we blow up all of our friendships." he said softly.

"It's not going to be like that. I promise. I know it's scary, hell I'm nervous too, but I don't think it's going to be as bad as you're imagining. Just look at the kids. They took it a lot better than we thought. The worst it's going to be is when the press release goes live. We'll have our phones blow up for days and there will probably be a lot of nasty comments made, but we'll get through it. You'll see. Now, let's go call them and get this one over with."

-

Situated in the living room, a much more neutral setting than their bedroom, they connected Kevin's laptop to the Zoom call. From where the laptop was situated their hands were not visible. Kevin took Nick's hand in his and squeezed it gently as they waited for the others to join the call. Moving quickly before one of them popped up Kevin turned to Nick and brushed his lips gently across the blondes. Nick smiled into the kiss and as he pulled away whispered a soft "love you".

The ding from the computer signaled that one of the other guys had joined the call. Glancing at the screen they saw it was Brian. Kevin clicked the button and suddenly his face appeared in front of them. He looked more haggard than when he'd been at the house a couple of weeks ago Kevin thought, asking a mental note to have a separate conversation about what was going on in his life.

Nick and Brian chatted about sports while Kevin was connecting Howie and AJ to the call. Once they were all five visible to each other Nick felt the nerves return. Howie and Brian knew the gist of his situation, but Nick hadn't even spoken to AJ since everything had happened. They spent the first few minutes catching up and sharing stories. They really needed to do this more. Nick suddenly had a deep sense of longing for the friendships and the closeness they all shared while together and touring. He hadn't realized until that moment how much he missed each of them. This was going to be even harder than he'd thought it would be to get out. Eventually the talking seemed to lessen as each of them undoubtedly were wondering what had mitigated this summons to communicate. Kevin squeezed his hand again, quietly letting the other man know he was right there. Of course he was sitting so close together on the couch that their shoulders rubbed together every time one of them moved. If he wasn't so preoccupied with the task at hand Nick was convinced he would soon have a much different problem on his hands, or more importantly, in his lap.

Shaking those thoughts from his mind he tried to stay focused. "I know you're wondering why we called a meeting." he started.

"We," AJ said laughing. "I thought daddy Kevin called the meeting. I had no idea you were even there. How come Nick gets to come hang out and I'm stuck being tortured by girls in California?"

Brian laughed. "Hey I was there a few weeks ago!" he said rubbing it in.

AJ threw up his hands. "What the hell am I? Chopped liver? I see how I rank here. Howie have you been there too?"

Howie smiled. "Nope not yet, although I did threaten Kevin I might show up there soon."

Nick was distracted. Not prepared for the antics of the other men. Forgetting where he was in his speech he began to stammer. "I..i. Well."

"I called the meeting, but yes it's something WE want to talk to you about." Kevin said, taking over control of the conversation.

Nick turned and shot him a grateful look, momentarily forgetting the other guys could see him. He squeezed Kevin's hand back and turned to face the other men.

"So AJ you've been a little hard to get in touch with. There's a lot going on you don't know, and even more that none of you know. I'll start from the beginning to get everyone caught up."

Nick began his tale of how he ended up on Kevin’s doorstep and everything leading up until Brian's visit.

"So the next part of this actually starts when Brian was here."

Brian looked around shocked. "What? Something happened while I was there?"

Kevin laughed. “You were never the most observant cuz.”

Nick smiled softly. “Guys, this is hard. I am trying to find the words and all of them are escaping me. So the only thing I can do is blurt it all out and you deal with it however you’re going to and we’ll move on from there.”

AJ sat forward in his chair and removed his sunglasses. Brian shot him a confused look. “No matter what’s going on Nicky we’ll get through it together.” Howie said softly. The other two nodded their heads.

Nick’s eyes began to fill with tears and he dropped his head in his hands, removing the clasped one from Kevin’s to shield his face. They had already agreed Nick would be the one to start the conversation and Nick was pleasantly surprised to see Kevin holding to that, remaining silent as Nick worked to compose himself. He was rubbing Nick’s thigh in a slow reassuring motion, trying to offer support out of the eyesight of the other guys. Nick took a deep breath and shooting a glance at Kevin before speaking he said, “Kevin and I are together. And there’s going to be some fallout because of that with Lauren.”

Nick bit the inside of his cheek to keep from screaming as he watched the news play out across the faces of his oldest friends. Howie was smiling, Brain looked unsure and AJ... well where was AJ? Nick laughed as he poked his head up from the floor.

“Jeez dude did you fall on the floor?” Howie asked laughing.

AJ dusted himself off and resumed his seated position. “Little bit. Out of everything I was expecting to hear, that was not one of the things I’d been preparing myself for.” he said laughing.

“This happened while I was there?” Brian asked, confused. “When?”

Nick blushed. “When you were napping on the couch.”

Brain shot out of his chair. “I knew you two were acting weird! I just thought you were still mad at me. Damn how did I not see this? Is this why you were so happy to get rid of me?”

Nick blushed harder now. Causing AJ to crack up. Nick looked at Kevin, a relieved look on his face. So far there weren't any harsh words or name calling. Kevin smiled back.

“So what’s the fallout Nicky?” Howie asked, his business voice coming back.

“Hold on, before we go any further, I think Nick really needs to hear that you are okay with this. That it’s not going to affect our friendships or anything like that.” Kevin said sitting forward in his seat.

Nick smiled inwardly. This is exactly what he needed but was too afraid to ask the words. Everyone was nodding and smiling. “No problem with me. Just didn’t see it coming, no idea how I missed it.” AJ said, shaking his head.

Brian and Howie started speaking at the same time and then laughed. Both expressed their loving sentiments as well. “So the bad news part of this, is Lauren is going to fight me for sole custody. In doing so we have to have an investigation, a social worker has to come to the house, there will be interviews and written statements, the whole nine yards. When we talked to the lawyer, they recommended that we release a statement about us being together to keep her from being able to use it as ammunition. Right now she’s not aware of where I am or anything to do with Kevin, but it’s only a matter of time. So what I’m really asking for, is your blessing to release a statement so I can tell the world that I love Kevin and protect my kids.’ Nick said softly, suddenly unable to look at any of them. He stared at his folded hands and waited for the worst to happen.

No one spoke for several moments. Nick resisted the urge to bolt from the room. His knees were jumping as he shook his foot up and down in nervous anticipation. Kevin’s hand was back on his thigh but he was too scared to look up.

Brain spoke first. “I am never going to ask you to hide who you are or who you love. If you want to release a statement, I will stand behind you and defend you. I think I’ve done enough damage over the years. I think this is the least I can do for the two of you. I love you both very much and I just want you to make each other happy.” Brian said softly, his accent thick as he tried to hold back tears.

This got Nick’s attention and he looked up to see the three men who meant the world to him all in varying states of emotion. AJ was openly crying and Howie looked like he could at any moment. Nick wasn’t sure what to make of any of this.

“Thank you Bri.’ Kevin said leaning in to wrap his arm around Nick’s shoulders. The blonde fell against him, burying his face in Kevin’s neck, no longer caring who was there to witness their affection. Kevin tightened his hold on the younger man, pulling him closer. His own eyes were misty but knew he needed to keep his emotions in check until this was all over.

Howie was the next to speak. “I love both of you. I support you in everything. Like Brian said, you just need to make each other happy. I told you at the beginning of this we’ll deal with whatever together. This is still true. We will deal with anything as a family. Just like always.”

It took AJ several moments to get his tears under control so he could speak. ‘You both have always been a constant source of love and support for me. How could I ever turn my back on you when now I have the opportunity to offer the same to you. I love you both, you’re my brothers, my friends. I’m so happy for you. And I will support you till the end.”

Kevin smiled at their friends. This was exactly the reaction he was looking for. “Thank you guys. Your support means everything to us. We will be contacting management in the morning and will release a statement sometime before the weekend is over. We’ll probably turn off our phones for a few days, but we’ll get back to you once everything blows over. We can’t thank you enough.”

They all said their goodbyes and ended the chat. Nick finally pulled away from Kevin’s neck and smiled wistfully at the other man. “I can’t believe it went so well.” he said softly.

“Of course it did baby. I told you it would be okay.” Kevin held the other man against him. There had been way too much emotion this week. He just wanted to get to a place where they could just enjoy being together without having to worry about some kind of complex conversation or something else coming up that they had to fight through. Kevin knew it was never going to be as easy for them as it was for other couples, but he couldn’t wait to get to a place of semi-peace so they could just enjoy being together.
Chapter Twenty-Six by Arok
Sometimes waiting was the worst part. Everything that could have been done was done. After days of planning, crafting of words, tears, laughter and love they had crafted a statement they felt reflected not only who they were as performers, but also who they were as a couple. It had been signed off on by the rest of the guys and their management. They had sent it to the lawyer and they along with their management team would be sending it out sometime that very afternoon. Kevin had spent most of the morning on the phone with his mother. Deciding it was best to give her a heads up before her phone began imploding. Nick wasn't sure what all had been said but Kevin had insisted it had been positive.

Kristin, god love her, had offered to take both of Nick's kids home with her for the evening to give Kevin and Nick a kid free night when she came to make the weekly switch. Nick had hesitated, not wanting anyone else to have to be responsible for his children, but she had insisted and when Maxwell had begged for Odin to come too Nick was hard pressed to say no.

The prospect of an entire evening alone with his lover was exhilarating. Kevin had been excited about it as well. So excited in fact that he had sent Nick to his old bedroom and told him he wasn't allowed to come out until Kevin told him otherwise. He'd also confiscated Nick's phone and laptop. They had made this decision ahead of time together. Turning off all phones and putting all electronics in the kitchen so they wouldn't be tempted to look and see if the announcement had been made every five minutes. They had both agreed they wouldn't even touch them until Kristin brought Odin and Saoirse home the next night.

Alone in the bedroom with nothing to entertain himself, Nick took these quiet moments to reflect on the past month and a half. In his wildest fantasies, and there had been several featuring the older man, he's never imagined this. He'd never allowed himself to get to a point where he could imagine them ever having life together. Couldn't ever imagine that Kevin would love him, especially not as much as he claimed too. Nick really had no reason to doubt him either. Kevin was honest to a fault, always over analyzing every action and decision before moving forward. The fact that he'd not only made the moves to tell his family, their brothers and the entire world should be enough for Nick to believe him when he said I love you. And he did really. It was only in quiet moments like this when his doubts and insecurities were so loud they tried to down out the soft southern drawl of his love. Nick had been dealing with his insecurities for so long, every relationship only encouraging them to grow and suffocate him. He'd never been with someone who tried so hard to make him feel comfortable not only together, but comfortable in his own skin. It was wonderful and loving and Nick had no idea how to handle it.

Nick wasn't sure why things always seemed to be so hard for him to believe. He was so afraid that he would give himself over to the other man so completely and then the bottom would fall out and he wouldn't be able to catch himself. How could he get to a place where the possibility of those bad things happening weren't real? How did other people do it?

He hasn't even missed Lauren. That was something he'd thought of that morning after hitting send on their announcement. He could honestly care less if he ever had to deal with her again. That was sad for him, especially seeing how well Kevin and Kristin seemed to navigate divorce, but it only solidified in his mind that outside of the children, his whole relationship with her had been a mistake. Although maybe the mistake was too harsh of a word. The kids were everything and he reminded himself that each and every one of these experiences brought him to the place he was now. If things with Lauren hadn't come crashing down around him, there might not have ever been anything of significance to force him to seek solace in the older man and then what? Nick didn't even want to think about a circumstance where they never got to this place together. Maybe he should thank her, after all, because of her he ended up with the three most important things in his life. Their relationship may have been toxic but the end result was heaven. He'd found that, the moment he'd arrived on Kevin's doorstep.

He threw himself against the mattress. He was getting restless. Kevin had been gone for more than an hour. How much longer was he supposed to stay locked in this room with nothing to do. He wondered how his kids were, worried they were too much for Kristin to handle. Odin could be a handful and four kids sounded easy, but he had quickly learned over the last week that trying to get four kids to do anything at the same time was anything less than a nightmare. But it was a nightmare he looked forward to every morning when he woke up. He actually preferred the weeks they had all the kids. The added chao seemed to motivate him to push harder, hang on tighter to those he loved and so far his relationship with Kevin’s sons had only improved. He was looking forward to Thanksgiving and their first official holiday as a family of six. He loved saying that out loud. Family of six. Gun to his head, someone asking him to predict his future, he never would have been able to imagine a world where he was with the love of his life and four wonderful kids. His heart had never felt this full.

He was startled out of his thoughts as a piece of folded paper was slid underneath the bedroom door. Curiosity peaked, he climbed off the bed and bent to pick it up. He unfolded it gingerly, not ready for what was written inside. The words caused a grin to spread across his face a mile long.

“I never knew love until I had you. Meet me in the studio in 10 minutes. Come naked.“

He giggled by the forwardness of it all. They hadn’t been able to be this free with each other yet. There was always the possibility of a child needing attention, or someone finding them. With the exception of that incredible day in the kitchen, they’d never been naked together in any other room of the house and even then, they had barely removed any clothing at all. The thrill of what was to come was exhilarating. He had no idea what Kevin had planned, but he was determined to enjoy every moment of it. Trying not to let the voice in his head have any say in his evening, he quickly pulled his shirt from his head and tossed it towards the hamper. His jeans and boxers headed in the same direction. Once he was naked, he was even more anxious than he’d been before. It hadn’t quite been ten minutes, but he was afraid if he stood in this room alone any longer he would chicken out and end up putting his clothes back on. Taking a deep breath and allowing his desire to drive him, he opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.

The hallway was dark, all floors seemed that way from where he stood. The door to their bedroom was shut and he wondered fleetingly what all Kevin had managed to do in an hour. He’s never actually been inside of Kevin’s studio, so he didn’t know exactly what to expect. But when he stepped inside, it was something like he’d never imagined. The room was ablaze with candles. They seemed to cover every surface, all varying sizes and shapes. And there, in the center of the candlelight sat the most gorgeous man he’d ever laid eyes on.

Kevin was seated at the piano, his green eyes glowing in the soft light, completely naked. Nick felt his heart leap into his throat and had a hard time swallowing, let alone breathing. Kevin was absolutely breathtaking. Kevin scooted on the piano bench and motioned for Nick to join him. Nick hesitated only for a second before crossing the room and taking a seat beside his lover. Kevin smiled and leaned in, brushing his lips lightly against the blondes. Nick opened his mouth, urging Kevin to deepen the kiss. And he did. Kevin took Nick’s face in either hand and brought his mouth down on him hard and fast, lapping at his mouth and tongue. Only pulling apart for air, Kevin laid his forehead against Nick’s. “I love you baby.” he said, his voice soft and his accent thick. Nick’s face was flushed and his breathing labored. Already the man was having a serious effect on him. He was already hard, being in such a romantic setting, so close, so loved by this man was driving him wild. He wanted to touch, taste and kiss the older man everywhere, but sensing there was purpose for being in this room, Nick tried to calm his breathing and practice patience. “I love you too Kev.” Nick whispered, afraid to talk any louder and break the moment.

Kevin pulled away and took one of Nick’s hands in his own. “I finished the song I’ve been working on this morning, actually, I had been trying to write one song and it just wasn’t working how I wanted it to go and so I scratched it. The events of the past month have been the most important of my entire life and so when I took the time to sit and reflect and started trying to put into words what this time, what you have and will always mean to me, the song just wrote itself. I envision a much more complete arrangement with drums and guitar, and since it’s about you, I would like to play it for you on the piano. Would you like to hear it?”

Nick nodded, unable to speak at the emotion in Kevin’s voice and that look he was giving him. He was very excited to hear the song, had been thinking about what Kevin had been so hard at work creating, what it could possibly sound like and now was his chance. The thought of hearing Kevin sing, alone, in this room full of candles and love, was almost too much. Nick could feel the tears forming and Kevin hadn’t even done anything yet. The enormity of the situation was not lost on Nick. He was willing to bet there were very few who were ever allowed to hear Kevin in this way and was very touched to be able to experience it. Kevin turned toward the piano and flexed his hands a few times before he began to play.



Hold your breath, don't look down, keep trying
Darling, it's okay to be scared, it's frightening
At times it just feels like the world is trying hard to knock us down
But there's a reason that we're still here when no one else is around

How we've grown
Every single day I'm proud
I swear, I won't
Let anything stop us now

There was absolutely no way to control the tears that came falling down around him. Kevin’s voice was beautiful, haunting. Nick was finding it hard to breath between the tears and the emotion swelling in his chest. A quick glance at Kevin told him he was having the same problem. Tears were falling softly down his cheeks, his voice growing thicker with emotion.

I'm not a soldier
But I'll fight through our darkest of days
Get on my shoulders
And I'll carry you all of the way
'Cause there's no life worth living in

If you're not with me in it
I'm not a soldier
But you make me wanna be brave
Yeah, you do

Through the depths of despair, we've stumbled
And all that distance between us, we've crumbled
We've ignored all of the rumours and jealous disapprovals
And we've come out the other side with something beautiful

The words just kept getting more intense, detailing the pain and love they had shared, not only over the past month but for so many years of loving one another and not being able to express it to anyone else, let alone each other. Each word that was uttered from Kevin’s mouth touched him deeper. How was the other man still able to sing this, let alone write it. Kevin wrote this stunning song for him, for them.

Oh, how we've grown
Every single day I'm proud
And now I know
There's nothing that can stop us now
I'm not a soldier
But I'll fight through our darkest of days
Get on my shoulders
And I'll carry you all of the way
'Cause there's no life worth living in
If you're not with me in it
I'm not a soldier
But you make me wanna be brave
Yeah, you do

Only we know where we're going
Every day we're gonna keep on growing
Learning from the tears and the mistakes
We're not perfect but we've come such a long way
As long as I got you by my side
I know what I wanna do in this life
One day when our kids fall in love
We can tell them that the odds were against us

The sob was so loud Nick jumped before realizing it had come from his own throat. Kevin stopped playing, his tears were too strong to continue. As soon as Kevin turned toward him Nick threw himself in the other man’s arms, wrapping his arms around his neck and sobbing for all he was worth. Kevin wept with him, holding him as tight as possible. The two sat on the bench holding each other, both overcome with so much emotion they couldn’t fathom letting go. Nick felt like his heart would explode. He couldn’t believe these words, couldn’t believe they were written about him, about them. He was so moved he wasn’t even sure he could speak. How could he ever tell Kevin just how much this song had touched him. And oh god, hearing Kevin’s voice bringing the words to life, was another experience in and of itself.

Kevin finally pulled away from him, wiping the stray tears from Nick’s cheeks. He smiled weakly, his own tear stained face glowing in the candlelight. “Did you like it?” he asked sheepishly.

The tears returned as Nick nodded. “Kev,” he started but his voice broke and it took several deep breaths to calm himself enough to attempt to speak again. “I’ve never heard anything more beautiful. I cannot believe you wrote that for me, it’s better than anything I’ve ever heard. It’s so perfect, the lyrics, the arrangement, my god your voice. You cannot give this song to anyone else. If it’s recorded it has to be recorded by you, only you. No one else.”

Kevin started to protest but Nick stopped him. “No, promise me, promise me this song is just for us and if anyone else ever hears it it's because you released it. You baby. You’re the only one I can ever hear sing these breathtaking words. It means so much to me that you understand how wonderful you are, not only as a songwriter, but also as a solo artist. I’m telling you, this was the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard. I will remember this for the rest of my life.”

Kevin blushed. “You really think so?”

Nick nodded. “More than I’ve ever believed in anything else. You are made for this.”

Kevin pulled him close, wrapping his arms tightly around the other man. Nick’s encouragement meant everything. He was incredibly proud of the song, and wanted the world to know how much the other man meant to him, but he still wasn’t quite sure anyone would want to hear a solo record with only his voice. He didn’t have the harmony that Brian had or the sex appeal that AJ had. His voice didn’t hold a candle to Nick’s either, he just couldn’t see it, but the words spoken by this man were still exactly what he needed to hear.

Nick grabbed Kevin by the face and pulled his mouth down until their lips brushed against each other. Their mouths coming together, mixing their tears of love and adoration together as they licked and sucked. Nick scooted closer to the other man until he was practically straddling him on the piano bench. Both were already hard and Nick wasted no time in pressing himself into the heat of Kevin’s middle. Kevin moaned softly as Nick’s erection rubbed against his own. He brought his arms down around the blonde, resting his hands on Nick’s hips. He pulled the other man closer and moaned again as their hips rocked together. Nick pulled him closer, placing soft kisses down the side of his neck and his collarbone as he ground their erections together. Kevin slid his hands down further until they cupped Nick’s ass and began pushing Nick closer in time as he thrust back against him. Nick moaned, breaking his lips from Kevin’s flesh as the sensations became too much. “Baby,” he rasped out as Kevin began moving faster. “I’m close.”

Kevin nodded and increased the speed of his hips. They had all night, he intended to make the most of it, but right now the need for release was so strong he could taste it. Playing the song, feeling the naked heat of his lover so close was almost too much for him. He couldn’t believe that Nick had felt comfortable enough to do as he’d asked. Kevin fully expected Nick to have waffled, uncomfortable entering the room naked, but the moment he’d stepped inside, his golden features illuminated in the candlelight, the only thing Kevin could think of was taking him. And he had plans for that as well.

“That’s it Nicky, let go baby. Come with me.” Kevin mumbled against Nick’s skin as he leaned down to lick and bite the side of Nick’s neck. Nick bucked against him frantically, trying to get as close as possible. Kevin smiled and squeezed Nick’s ass as he gave one last thrust against him. With a garbled, “I love you,” they were coming together on the piano seat and each other.

It took several minutes for the breathing in the room to return to normal. “I’m sorry.” Nick mumbled. “I didn’t mean to make it all happen so quickly, “ he started.

Kevin smiled. “Shhh. I’m not done with you yet.”
Chapter Twenty-Seven by Arok
Nick’s body was on fire. Not only was every nerve ending lit up by Kevin’s touch, but he could still hear the sound of Kevin’s voice caressing his skin as he sang that beautiful song. Nick’s mind kept drifting to how Kevin had looked and sounded in that intimate moment. He had never shared anything like that with another person. And the way they’d come together right after only made the whole thing that much more incredible. He would never forget this night. No matter how badly things blew up tomorrow when they checked in with the outside world, tonight was just for them and Kevin had made it magical.

Nick moaned as he gripped the edge of the piano top to keep himself upright. Kevin was kneeling before him, sucking and licking his length as Nick tried desperately to stay upright. His hands were wet with sweat and Kevin and they slipped and slid against the smooth surface of the piano. His hips jerked forward right before he came a second time, Kevin eagerly waiting to drink him in. He sagged against the instrument as his breathing evened out before sitting on the bench to keep from crashing to the floor. Kevin smiled up at him from where he knelt on the floor, his eyes dark with lust and love. Nick loved that look, almost more than any other. Kevin was the only person he’d ever been with that looked at him that way. Like a prize, someone worthy. He’d never felt anything like it before. Kevin was going a long way to break down the walls of all of his insecurities. He wondered if Kevin even knew he was doing it, or if this was just the way Kevin loved, so completely that it overtook the other person. Whatever it was, Nick never wanted it to end.

Kevin gripped the piano bench as he climbed off the floor. Settling in beside the younger man he titled his chin with his finger, lifting Nick’s mouth to his. He kissed Nick softly, so completely, wanting his lover to taste himself on his tongue. This was proving to be one amazing evening. While they had managed to get each other off with their mouths and rubbing against each other, Kevin still had plans for the younger man. Something he’d been thinking about all day and another reason why he’d chosen this room to spend most of their evening. He pulled Nick back against him until Nick’s head rested on his shoulder and his back was evenly lined up with Kevin’s chest. Nick wrapped his hands around Kevin’s and they sat there holding each other for several long moments. Kevin nuzzled Nick’s neck with his nose and whispered words of love against his heated skin. Nick smiled and shifted backwards, trying to get closer. “I love you baby,” Nick mumbled, closing his eyes and enjoying the feel of their skin against each other.

This time was special, they wouldn’t get this freedom often, and that was okay. But Kevin wanted to make sure he used all this time to his benefit. He also wanted to help ease the anxiety that his young lover felt about himself, about their relationship, the divorce and the world. If he could take all the doubt and insecurities away from the other man he would in a heartbeat, but he knew how Nick’s beautiful mind worked. Kevin just wanted him to finally feel loved, protected and worshipped for who and not what he was. Kevin wanted to make him smile, give into the feelings he knew they were both experiencing and stop being scared. It wouldn’t happen overnight and going public would be one big step in the right direction. Kevin was determined to spend every day of his life letting the other man know how much he was so deeply loved.

“You up for more?” Kevin whispered huskily against Nick’s ear.

“Mmm, you are insatiable.” Nick mumbled, turning his head so Kevin could get closer to his neck.

“Only for you baby.”

Kevin let go of Nick’s middle with one of his hands, keeping the other one firmly in place as he held the other man against him. He shifted on the piano seat and pulled Nick even closer, resting his erection against the top of Nick’s ass. Nick moaned softly, feeling Kevin pressed up against him. His hand free, Kevin slid it gently down Nick’s stomach stopping as he reached Nick’s lap. He was just starting to become hard again and Kevin reached lower, cupping his balls in his hand and squeezing them gently. Nick groaned and tilted his head back until his lips met Kevin’s. Kevin kissed him claiming his mouth as his own and licking every crevice. He sped up his movements, pushing his erection firmly into Nick’s ass now and caressing Nick’s balls with his hand. Before it got out of hand and ruined Kevin’s plan he squeezed one last time and gently released him. Pulling away from the other man Nick started to protest.

Kevin chuckled softly. “Now which one of us is the insatiable one?” he asked smugly as he watched the need fill Nick’s eyes as they became darker. Kevin stood and closed the lid to the keys on the piano. “Stand up.” he instructed the other man. Once Nick was on his feet he pulled the piano bench out and positioned it longways in front of the backside of the piano. “Kneel down.” He instructed Nick as he pointed to the bench. Nick looked at him hesitantly, but followed the direction. He knelt down on the piano bench and turned back to look for further instructions. Kevin came up behind him taking both of Nick’s hands and placing them down on the piano top. “Up on your knees and lean forward, put your ass in the air.” Kevin whispered against his earlobe, licking and biting it for good measure. Nick moaned but did as instructed. Kevin kissed his cheek and leaned one hand down to gently wrap around Nick’s erection. He was hard and leaking precum already. Kevin was exhilarated. This was all coming together exactly how he imagined. He stroked Nick a few times, drawing whimpers and moans from the younger man before letting Nick’s cock fall from his hands.

Coming around behind the blonde man, Kevin had to remind himself to breathe at the sight before him. Nick wanting and spread just waiting for Kevin’s next move. It was quite the sight and Kevin was so hard he wasn’t sure he could slow this down to enjoy it the way he really wanted to. Taking several deep breaths he tried to calm the blood rushing through his head. He palmed Nick’s ass with both hands, rubbing and squeezing the firm flesh as he came closer. Spreading the cheeks apart he kissed each orb beneath his hands before moving forward and licking each one. Nick moaned breathlessly and tried to push back against Kevin's face, trying desperately to get closer to him. Kevin smiled against Nick’s ass and snaked his tongue out to run along the crack. Stopping just before he reached Nick’s pucker he reached around to palm Nick’s erection once more. Nick was even harder now and jerked against his hand the moment Kevin wrapped his hands around him. “Baby,” Nick gasped out.

“Shhh,” Kevin whispered against his skin. “It’s going to get even better.” Kevin stroked him a couple of times and then released him, going back to his original mission. Licking further down Nick’s crack he pressed his tongue roughly against Nick’s pucker. Nick howled and bucked his hips backward, almost knocking Kevin off balance. Kevin chuckled and used one hand to hold on to Nick’s hip to keep them both upright. Moving back to Nick’s ass Kevin pressed his tongue against him harder this time, the tip of his tongue pressing inside of the tight ring of muscles. Nick was panting now, the sound like music to Kevin’s ears. Kevin pulled his tongue out slowly before shoving it right back in. He continued this motion for a couple of minutes, enjoying the feeling of his lover shaking against him and the sounds he made under Kevin’s touch.

Getting so hard himself it was hard to stay on task, Kevin pulled his tongue out and licked and spit against his pucker, leaving enough spit to help lube the younger man. He licked his finger, sucking on it to wet it before bringing it down and slipping it easily inside the other man. Nick was begging now, his body shaking, sexy and wanting just for him. Kevin made quick work out of stretching the younger man, adding a second finger and moving them back and forth in preparation of what was to come. Pulling his fingers out he squeezed each cheek of Nick’s delicious ass before coming around him to capture Nick’s mouth with his own. Nick pushed back away from the piano and wrapped his arms around the older man, kissing him deeply, tongues battling. Nick pulled away first. “You’re going to kill me. You’ve got to do something."

Kevin smiled against Nick’s mouth. “Yes love. Stand up.”

On shaky legs Nick was able to stand and face the other man. Kevin turned him back to the piano and instructed him to lean against it. He spread Nick’s legs apart, giving himself enough room to move in between his legs. Taking his own erection in his hand, Kevin pumped himself several times using the precum that leaked out as lubrication. He lined himself up with Nick’s ass and in one motion was pushing inside his lover. He groaned at the feeling, his eyes flying shut. Nothing in the world would ever feel better than this. He tried his best to stay as still as possible as he waited for Nick to signal to continue. Once Nick started pushing back against him, Kevin knew he could move. Pressing Nick further down on the piano with one hand he used his other hand to grip Nick's hip as he pulled out and then slammed back in, fucking Nick into the piano top. Nick moaned as Kevin hit his prostate over and over again. Both men were so hard and so emotional from their evening together it didn’t take long before they were falling together. Kevin came hard buried deep inside of Nick’s ass while Nick was coming all over the closed lid of the piano. Kevin was thankful he’s had the forethought to shut the lid. Nick collapsed against the top, gasping for breath as he gripped the lid. Kevin regretfully pulled out of his lover and pulled them both gently down to the piano bench once more. They really needed a couch in here Kevin thought as he drew the other man into his arms.

“I can’t take anymore tonight.” Nick said chuckling. “You’ve wrecked me in the most incredible way.”

Kevin nodded against his head. “I completely agree. Let’s move this to our room. It’s way more comfortable to hold you in there than in here. Although I’m never going to look at this piano or bench the same way again.” Kevin said, placing a kiss on the top of Nick’s head.

Nick untangled himself from Kevin’s arms and helped blow out all the candles before they shut the door to the studio and walked hand in hand back to their bedroom.

Once inside the comfort of their room, Nick dove for the bed. His tired muscles were fatigued and he wanted nothing more than to wrap himself around his lover and never let go. Kevin quickly joined him and pulled him into his arms. Nick signed contentedly as he threw one leg over Kevin's and settled in against his chest. Kevin held him close and they stayed that way for several moments. "No matter what happens in the next few days, weeks or months, I need you to understand. I need you to remember this night, remember how much I love you and how much I will always be right here beside you fighting for and with you. I know you're scared and I can feel you holding part of yourself back from me. I know it's nerves but I swear to you baby. There's no need to hold back, I'm not going anywhere, ever. We're going to be just fine. I promise you." Kevin said as he gently brushed a kiss across the top of Nick's head.

Nick placed several small kisses against Kevin's chest." You are right. I am scared. I've never felt anything like this before in my life. I've never been with someone who made me feel the things you do. I've loved you for so long and now that I know what it's like to have you, to be yours, I can't go back to being anything less."

Kevin squeezed him tighter. "That's what I'm saying baby. It's always going to be this way, you and me, together against whatever is thrown at us. I just need you to start believing it."

Nick nodded and yawned against Kevin's chest. "I promise, I'll try."

-

The next morning Kevin awoke still tightly wrapped in Nick's embrace. This hardly ever happened. Usually by the time Kevin woke up Nick had already been up at least an hour with the baby. Having this morning to lounge and hold each other meant everything. He made a note to make sure Kristin's Christmas present this year was extra special for everything she had done for them. She had to have known what would be going on in the house by offering to give them the evening alone and Kevin was in awe of her strength. He knew she still loved him and had the tables been turned he wasn't sure he would have been strong enough to be so selfless and supportive.

This would be hard on her too, the things people would say not only about him and Nick, but there would undoubtedly be some very nasty comments made about her as well. After all they'd been married for more than ten years. How could she have not known her husband was gay and in love with one of his bandmates? If he could change the way this had all happened he would have tried to lessen to the effect it was going to have on those he loved, but he didn't regret a second of it if it got him to this place, wrapped tightly so warm and in love with this man.

Kevin studied him for a long time, usually missing out in the way the sunlight lit up his features and danced in his golden hair. He was so peaceful when he slept it reminded Kevin of earlier days when he had been young and afraid of the world around him. For the most part he still was, Kevin thought. Still afraid of so many different things and still looking to Kevin for guidance, just like he always had. It was a little surprising to Kevin now looking back.

Sometimes, even just fleetingly if he thought back to different moments over their years together, he could start to pinpoint little moments in which he could almost believe that he was seeing the way Nick felt play out right in front of him. Of course back then he had been so consumed with hiding his own thoughts and feelings from those around him that he never picked up on the subtle nuances of it all, but now. He could remember certain looks and phrases Nick had given and said and taken out of the context, or without knowing what Kevin knew now they seemed completely innocent and nonplussed. But having this man in his arms, in his bed every night brought back some of those memories in a whole new light. He hoped Nick would eventually be able to do the same, be able to reflect and really understand the depth of the love Kevin had for him.

Kevin was nervous to turn on his phone, he hated to admit it but it was true. He wasn't sure if he was more nervous for his own regard and those of his ex-wife and children or if he was more worried about the way Nick would handle the bad press, the comments Kevin knew would be inevitable based on their circumstances. He knew it would be a matter of time before Lauren was calling anyone and everyone trying to find out how to get to the property. Kevin had made arrangements to change the gate code and increase security until all of this had blown over. He wasn't going to take any chances, not when it concerned the ones he loved the most.

Nick snuggled deeper into his arms while he slept causing Kevin's smile to grow. The way he felt about this man could never be put into words for others to completely understand. Everything started and ended here, with this man. He knew that no matter what happened in life that they would manage to get through it together.
Chapter Twenty-Eight by Arok
Nick had tried to prepare himself. Knew that going public had the possibility to blow up in their faces. He knew all of this. But it didn’t stop the crushing blows he felt when it was finally time to face the music. So many hurtful comments, so much hate. He scrolled through article after article, posts from fans, texts from people he had grown up with, people who were supposed to be his friends. And there, someone had gotten to Lauren and she had issued a statement.



“I knew he was a faggot from the first time we slept together, but I thought after we had our son he would change. But it looks like the joke’s on me. Or possibly him. I don’t see how Kevin could stay with someone who cheats on his wife and can’t take care of himself. When I kicked him out he was severely overweight. It’s a matter of time before Kevin leaves him too.”



Nick had felt the air leave him as he read the words over and over again in his mind. He’d memorized the words, memorized the hate and anger. He could recite it on demand, could tell you how it felt as the words penetrated his mind and took root. Isn’t this exactly what had been nagging him in the back of his mind since the moment Kevin’s lips had first met his. Waiting for the other man to realize that Nick was nothing, worthless. A fat, ugly waste of a man that would only bring Kevin down? Would only contaminate his life, his family. Nick was like a cancer, destroying everything he touched. How could he stay here. How could he possibly face the other man. See his eyes read those words, see him agree. He couldn’t take it.



He had caved and peaked early. They had agreed to look at everything together, but the fear had been eating him up inside and he needed to see, needed to know what things were said before Kristin brought his kids home. So while Kevin was in the shower he had sneaked downstairs to grab his phone. Sitting on the stool in the kitchen, feeling like the entire world was raining down on him, he didn’t hear Kevin enter the room.



“You promised to wait for me.” he spoke softly, an edge in his voice.



Nick tensed but didn’t turn. He knew Kevin would be mad, hell if the situation was reversed he would have been furious. But he had been scared, and rightfully so it appeared. He remained focused on his phone as he answered. “Yeah, sorry.” he muttered, refusing to meet Kevin’s eyes. He knew he was being a jerk, but he was unable to stop the feelings coursing through him. As he felt Kevin’s presence draw closer he felt even more on edge.



“I just wish you would have waited. I don’t want you having to face it all alone.” Kevin said gently, placing a hand on Nick’s shoulder.



Nick flinched away from his touch and jumped from the bar stool. Kevin tried to hide the hurt in his eyes as he watched the blonde. Nick still refused to look at him, focused only on the phone in his hands. Kevin drew closer, lifting a hand he tried to gently take the phone from the other man. Nick yanked his hand back and glared at him. “What are you doing? I am trying to read something.”



Kevin was taken aback. Nick hadn’t spoken to him that way in a long time, especially not since all of this had begun. “I am trying to get you to calm down and talk to me.” Kevin said evenly.



“I don’t want to talk right now. I want to read this.” Nick said, gesturing towards his phone as he leveled his gaze at the other man.



Kevin studied him for a moment before throwing up his hands and walking away. He busied himself setting up the coffee pot while mentally trying to calm himself down so as to not snap at the younger man. He knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but Nick didn’t have to make it harder either. He couldn’t understand where the anger was coming from, especially after sharing such a wonderful evening together the night before. Had people really reacted that badly to their announcement? And if so, why did it appear to affect Nick so much? Was Nick regretting coming forward? Was he regretting being with him? The fear was creeping into his chest and he was suddenly scared to turn around and face the other man.



Pushing the ridiculous notions away he turned to study his lover. Nick’s face was scrunched up in concentration, anger radiating from his shoulders. Kevin wanted nothing more than to go to him and take him into his arms and make all the pain and fear go away. Somehow he knew he wouldn’t be welcome at the moment. He watched him quietly, waiting for the coffee to brew. He made no attempt at reaching for his own phone. Right now it didn’t matter to him at all what people were saying, it only mattered what Nick was feeling.



“You ready to talk about it?” Kevin asked as he pulled two coffee mugs out of the cabinet and began pouring a cup for each of them. He put the cup for Nick across the island closer to his reach but made no move to go closer to the blonde.



Nick didn’t answer, still focused on whatever it was he was reading. Kevin watched the flash of pain cross his lover’s eyes and wished again there was something he could do. They stood in silence for several moments. Once Kevin was finished with his coffee he rinsed and dried his cup. Glancing at Nick again he took a deep breath and figured he would try one more time before leaving him alone to brood.



Walking closer he tried to reach for him. “Don’t. Just don’t.” Nick said angrily.



Kevin sighed. “What’s going on Nick. What is so bad I can’t even touch you? That we can’t have a conversation? Jesus, this is exactly why I didn’t want you to read any of this shit without me.” Kevin huffed out exasperated.



“What is going on, is exactly everything I was worried about.” the blonde bit out, still refusing to meet the other man’s eyes.



“What are you talking about. Talk to me baby.” Kevin said, reaching out to him again.



Nick pulled away and threw his hands in the air and yelled. “You really want to know KEV-in. You got saddled with the fat washed up, worthless popstar. Is that what you want to hear? It’s all here in black and white. Everyone is taking bets on how long until you leave my fat ass. Do you want in on the bet? Is that it? Most are saying you won’t last a month before you’re done with me. That’s what’s going on. No one thinks I’m good enough for you. No one thinks I’m good enough for anyone. I’m just a faggot who fucked over my wife and can’t do anything right.”



Kevin flinched and watched the tirade. He could believe people were saying garbage, but what he couldn’t believe was Nick was buying into any of it. Hadn’t Kevin just spent the last several weeks, hell all night trying to show the younger man just how amazing, desirable and wonderful he was? And all it took was some ill timed articles to send him spiraling like this?

“What the fuck Nick. How can you even give those words another thought. I’ve told you a million times I’m not going anywhere. I think you’re perfect. I love you.” Kevin tried to go to him but Nick danced away from him.



“Stop lying to me.” the blonde yelled. “I’m not good enough for you. I’ll never be good enough.” he spat out. HIs eyes were wild and he glanced around the room, searching for an escape.



“Nick,” Kevin started trying to get through to him.



“I can’t do this.” Nick said softly before turning and darting out the patio door.



Kevin watched him go, unsure of how to react. What the fuck had just happened? The doorbell rang, alerting him that Kristin was back. There was no time to go after him, the kids were home and they needed him. But Nick needed him too, at least he thought, hoped, he did. What the hell was he supposed to do now? What had Nick meant he couldn’t do this? Fear raced through every part of Kevin. The doorbell rang again, this time louder. He had to get the kids, had to be an adult, but how was he supposed to do that when he felt like his heart had just run out the back door?
-
After setting Odin and Saoirse upstairs in Odin’s room Kevin threw himself into the rocking chair. He watched the kids play quietly as he sat and tried to figure out what to do. Kristin had barely stayed for five minutes, she was exhausted after caring for four kids by herself all night. Kevin thanked her profusely, pushing his panic down as he explained Nick was busy and would thank her himself as soon as he saw her again. He was on autopilot with the kids, kissing his two goodbye before bringing Nick’s upstairs. Odin asked several times for his daddy but Kevin kept telling him daddy would be back in just a little while. Would Nick be back in a little while?

Realistically, Kevin knew Nick had to be somewhere on the property, but there were acres on acres of land here. Nick had been gone for more than two hours and every minute that ticked by, the fear Kevin was trying to keep at bay threatened to overtake him. What if Nick really did regret this? What if he wasn’t ready to move forward with their plans, their relationship? The thought was so terrifying that Kevin tried desperately to push it away.

Saoirse could sense something was bothering him and kept bringing him dinosaur after dinosaur to place in his lap. She would then laugh as soon as she placed the next one down on him. He tried desperately to be in the moment with her, but his thoughts kept drifting to her father.
-
Nick kicked the side of the horse stable. He was ashamed, embarrassed and scared. He hadn’t meant to freak out and leave. He really hadn’t meant to be such a fucking jerk but the words kept echoing in his head and when he opened his mouth such hateful things spilled out. He couldn’t get the hurt look on Kevin’s face out of his head. He never wanted to hurt the other man, couldn’t believe he had acted that way. No wonder everyone said Kevin would wise up and leave him. He wasn’t anything worth keeping around.



He felt guilty knowing that his kids had to be back by now and here he was having a mental breakdown in the middle of the woods. He knew they were safe and cared for with Kevin, didn’t even really cross his mind to worry about them when they would be with the other man. Kevin always took care of everything. So why couldn’t Nick let him care for him now?



Nick had never been to the stables before. They were nestled pretty deep on the property with a separate gate entrance so Kevin could have a ranch hand come in and take care of them without ever bothering the main house. Nick wandered into the barn structure and admired the large animals. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d been this close to a horse. Growing up in Florida didn’t lend itself to lots of horse ranches and Nick was pretty sure the only time he’d ever come close to seeing one in person had been right after he’d joined the group and Kevin had brought all of them to his mother’s ranch for a weekend of relaxing before they left for Europe the first time.

Nick smiled at the memory. All of his best memories featured Kevin in one way or another. That’s what hurt the most. He couldn’t lose him, the other man was the biggest part of his life, had been for so long, what would he do if Kevin decided he wasn’t worth it all, that they weren’t worth it.



They had barely been together a month and now Nick couldn’t get the idea of Kevin leaving out of his head. All he could hear, see, think were all the horrible things he’d read. All the words saying he wasn’t worth it. When would Kevin figure that out as well.



The tears came, hard and fast. Spilling down his cheeks as he tried desperately to hold on. He collapsed on a hay bale and buried his face in his hands.
-
Kevin was tired of waiting. It had been four hours. Four torturous hours of not knowing where Nick was or what the hell was going on. There was no way he could handle waiting any longer. He dressed both kids in their sweatshirts and jackets and grabbed a flashlight. He told Odin they were going to play a game called find daddy. Odin was equipped with his own tiny flashlight and excited to start the game. Kevin carried Saoirse in his arms and the trio set out through the kitchen and the backyard patio in search of the other man. With the season beginning it’s shift toward winter, the Kentucky night was already very dark at only five o’clock. Grasping Odin’s tiny hand in one hand and Saoirse and the flash light in the other arm they made their way all around the areas of the backyard. Finding no trace of daddy they set off deeper in the woods. Kevin hadn’t taken the kids past the backyard yet and wasn’t thrilled to go traipsing all over the acreage on such a cool dark night. But at this point, he had no choice. Odin was still very excited about the game and Kevin was tired of waiting for the other man to appear and so they trudged on.



Another twenty minutes had passed and Kevin’s arms were getting sore holding the baby and now Odin was crying about his legs hurting. Kevin wanted to cry as well. Where the hell was Nick. They passed a clearing and as they rounded the corner Kevin could hear the whinny of the horses. Odin jumped, grabbing onto Kevin’s leg like a spider monkey.



“What’s that Kebin?” he said breathlessly.



Kevin chuckled. He’d forgotten Odin had never seen the horses. Hell had probably never even seen a real live horse. “That buddy, is a horse. Would you like to pet one?” Odin’s eyes filled with wonder in the flashlight beam. “Yes!” he said happily.

Kevin smiled and took his hand, leading him closer to the stables. He thought briefly how much the reaction reminded him of Nick’s first adventure with horses. As they got closer Kevin shifted the baby to his other arm so he could lead Odin into the stable safely. Once they reached the door he propped it open with his foot as he led Odin inside. Turning to fight for the light switch he heard Odin yell. “Daddy!”



Kevin turned quickly to see the other man sound asleep, propped up against a hay bale. He wasn’t asleep for much longer however as Odin launched himself on top of him. Nick startled awake and blinked a few times before taking in the scene in front of him and wrapping his arms around his son. “Hey buddy.” he whispered against Odin’s head as he hugged him close.



Blue eyes sought out green as Nick allowed himself to drink in the man in front of him, holding his daughter with a relieved look on his delicate features. “Sorry Kev,” he whispered softly in the dark barn.



Kevin nodded and sat Saoirse down on the barn floor so he could stretch his arms. He walked away from the trio to check to make sure the horses had what they needed for the night. Now that he'd found Nick, confirmed he was safe, he wasn't sure what the hell to say to him. On one hand he was so frustrated with him he wanted to scream, but knew that would get them nowhere. On the other hand, he was so relieved he was okay that all he could think about was wrapping his arms around the younger man and kissing him thoroughly.



"Kev," the blonde started.



"Not now. Not in front of the kids." Kevin said huskily, trying hard to control his temper.



Kevin turned and took Odin by the hand. "You can carry her back. I'll walk with Odin."



Nick nodded and picked his daughter up in his arms. Hugging her close and breathing in her precious baby scent. Taking a deep breath he turned and followed them back to the house.

Once they got back inside Kevin sat to work fixing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It was late and the kids needed to have something to eat before bed. Plus his own anxiety about the impending conversation with Nick was so overwhelming he wasn't sure he could be trusted to make anything more complex than peanut butter and bread. He put sandwiches, apple slices and yogurt on plates and helped Odin wash his hands. Nick got Saoirse set up in her high chair and handed her the plate.

Realizing the kids were under control, Kevin left the kitchen and headed upstairs. He needed to get away and clear his head. Heading to the bedroom he stripped off his clothes as he made his way to the bathroom. A hot shower would do wonders for his tired muscles. Climbing inside he turned up the taps as hot as they would possibly go. He was on edge and had no idea what he would even say to the other man when they were finally alone. What if Nick didn't even come to him? What if he stayed in one of the kid's rooms or went back to the guest room? How did everything go sideways since yesterday?



Kevin stayed under the spray until the water went cool and his fingers were pruny. Deciding he'd wasted enough time and water he shut off the taps and climbed out. He toweled off the excess water and tied the towel around his waist. He'd forgotten to bring a change of clothes into the bathroom so he opened the door and headed into the bedroom to get dressed. He stopped in the doorway when he saw Nick perched on the edge of the bed. Nick's eyes were in him immediately, but he remained silent.



Kevin walked further into the room and crossed to the dresser. Pulling out a pair of boxer briefs and pajama bottoms he quickly got dressed. Finally he ran out of things to do and had to turn around and face the other man.



"I'm sorry I ran." Nick started softly.



Kevin bit his tongue and looked away. He tried really hard not to get upset. "So why did you?"



Nick hesitated and leapt to his feet. He began pacing the floor but still didn't speak. "Are you going to talk to me or wear a hole in our carpet?" Kevin said after several moments.



Nick stopped immediately and turned to look at him. "Our carpet?"



Kevin looked at him strangely. "Yes, our carpet. If you keep walking in the same area over and over again you are going to wear out the pad and then we'll have to replace it."



"But you still want it to be our carpet." Nick said smiling softly.



"What the hell is going on? You're talking in riddles, you disappeared on me all day, you read the comments without me after you promised. What the hell is going on today? What has changed between last night and today. Are you regretting this? Regretting us?" Kevin finally asked, letting out a rush of breath at the end and staring the younger man down.



The air in the room shifted and all the color left Nick's face. "Are you?" he whispered the question, choking on the words.



Kevin looked at him hard, really looked at him for the first time since that morning. Nick looked worse for wear. His normal brilliant blue eyes were a dull Grey color and his cheeks and face were stained with tears and dirt from the barn. He looked like he was teetering on the edge of control and quickly losing that battle. It struck him then that Nick looked worse in this very moment than he had when he'd shown up here all those weeks ago.



"Of course not." came Kevin's soft reply.



"But they said…" Nick's words died on his lips as Kevin crossed the room and drew the younger man in his arms. Kevin kissed him then, hard and quick until Nick relaxed into his arms and began responding. Kevin eased his grip and the kiss slowed becoming gentle and loving instead of forceful and demanding.



Pulling back Kevin answered. “I’ve told you several times that I don’t care what anyone says. I’ve tried so hard baby to make you understand that it’s only you, it’s only ever been you that I want and need. What do I need to do to make you believe me?” Kevin pulled away and ran his fingers through his long hair.



Nick watched him, still breathless from the kisses and tried desperately to put his feelings into words. “Kev,” he started before his voice cracked and he had to look away from the intense stare of those beautiful jade green eyes. “You could have anyone, why me? You’re going to wake up one morning and realize that you’ve wasted all this time, all your energy, your whole life on this fat, worthless person and then you’re going to leave me and it will destroy me Kevin. I won’t be able to come back from that.” Nick sank to the floor, defeated with tears streaming down his cheeks.



Kevin watched it happening, but was unable to move to stop it. Is that really what he thought of him? Did he really think so little of the words, the emotions, the touches they had shared so far in their brief relationship. He didn’t understand. How could Nick ever, ever think any of these things. Kevin had always known the other man had insecurities, but this was a whole new level that he had never seen exhibited. Worthless? How could the younger man ever utter those words about himself? Didn’t he understand that to Kevin he hung the stars and the moon? Everything began and ended with Nick. In 25 years, there had never been another person for him and he knew in his heart, there would never be anyone else.



Kevin knelt on the floor beside the younger man, leaning back on his heels as he studied them. “I love you. I’ve always loved you and I will always love you. No one, not a single person on this planet will ever convince me that loving you is not my destiny, not even you. I just wish there was some way I could get you to believe me.” Kevin said dejectedly. He still didn’t touch the other man, opting instead to remain close, but give Nick the space to make the first move.



The younger man sat cross legged on the floor, tears still streaming down his ample cheeks. “I..I love you too.” he choked out. “So much.” he launched himself at the older man sending both of them crashing backwards on the floor. Kevin’s arms were around him in an instant and they laid like that for several long moments. Once the crying subsided Nick snuggled closer into Kevin’s arms and took several deep breaths to calm himself. Kevin took this moment of calm to roll them over so they were both lying on their sides. He didn’t lessen his grip and they remained locked together. He brushed the golden tufts of silky smooth hair off of Nick’s flushed forehead and dropped a small kiss on the tip of his nose. Nick smiled softly as he tried to wipe the remaining tears from his face.



“Nicky...”



“Kev…”



They both started at the same time and then laughed. “You go first,” Kevin insisted.



Nick took a deep breath and then began. “I’ve spent my whole life on the edge of getting exactly what I want and then in some way it gets twisted and I lose everything. It happens all the time. The Backstreet Boys are doing fantastic and then we all need a break and I am completely alone. Then I get to release a solo cd and in turn everyone I know and love turns on me. We come back together only for you to leave us. It goes on and on like this. The last being finally having the kids and family I always wanted and then having a wife that has to get wasted every night to even be in the same house with me. It hurts Kevin. It makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with me, what is so bad about me as a person that these things always happen, how can anyone love me? And then reading what she said, she said you were going to leave me. She said it was a matter of time. And it brought it all back, every insecurity, every doubt I’ve ever felt and why wouldn’t it? What makes this any different than anything else I’ve ever wanted? It’s only a matter of time.” His eyes filled with tears again and he dropped his gaze to the floor, now unable to look into those green eyes he loved so much as he uttered the words that had plagued him all day, plagued him for so many years if he was being honest.



Kevin thought about what to say for a moment. He had figured something like this was coming. It was complete bullshit and he couldn’t believe Nick was able to let her continue to play games with his mind, but he also knew that Nick didn’t have any real examples of love working out. Hell even Kevin’s own marriage came crumbling down right around him. Kevin reached out and took both Nick’s hands in his own. Rubbing the backs of his hands gently with his thumbs he tried to coax the other man to meet his gaze.

“Nicky,” he said softly, almost a whisper. The blonde raised his head only a few inches and gazed up at him through thick blonde lashes. “I’m only going to say this one more time, so I want to make sure you are listening.” Kevin waited until the younger man nodded his head in acceptance.



“I will never, ever, stop loving you. I will never walk away from you or these kids. I meant what I said, in all the times I’ve said this is forever for me. You are forever for me. I don’t care if you never work again. I don’t care if you weigh 800 pounds and I have to roll you from room to room. I love you for your heart. I love you for your mind. I love you for your spirit. I just love you Nick. I’ve loved you in some capacity since you were 12 years old and I will not stop because of some damn news article or some bitchy ex-wife. You are it for me. This family is it for me. But you have to make a choice. I can’t live out each day terrified you’re going to run out the door every time this gets hard or someone else has spouted off at the mouth about us. As much as I want and love you, my own heart can’t take it. I need you to decide, right here, once and for all if this is what you want. If I am what you want. If so then I will spend every single day trying my best to show you how loved, how cherished you are. I will spend the rest of my life showing you how much you mean to me baby.” Kevin’s voice broke and he waited, unmoving for Nick to make his choice.



Nick smiled through his tears. Everything he’d ever wanted was sitting in front of him asking him to give him a chance, give them a chance. How could he possibly do anything less. “Yes,” he said quietly. “Yes, it’s you. It’s us. All I’ve ever wanted is you, Kev. Please just love me.” he managed to speak out before he collapsed in Kevin’s awaiting arms, a fresh round of tears pouring down his cheeks.



Kevin pulled him in close and held him. They sat like that on the floor, wrapped together. Kevin rocking them gently back and forth as he held the man he’d loved for most of his life in his arms. He could feel Nick’s defenses crumbling, could feel the moment Nick let go of all of the fear and anguish of the day. For the first time, Kevin believed Nick was beginning to understand the depth of his feelings.
Chapter Twenty-Nine by Arok
After what felt like eternity, Kevin felt the feeling in his lower half begin to slip away. His butt was numb and if they didn’t move soon he was going to scream. He pulled back from Nick gently and took the younger man’s face in his hands. He dropped a kiss on his nose, both cheeks and then a soft, sweet kiss on his lips. “I love you baby, let’s go get you cleaned up.” Kevin said gently unwrapping himself from the blonde. Nick nodded and shifted off his lap, standing and offering his hand to help Kevin up off the floor. Kevin stretched, popping and groaning as his body came to life again.



“You’re getting old.” Nick giggled listening to the noises Kevin’s joints made.



“Who are you calling old?” Kevin said, turning to glare at the younger man. Nick giggled and took off running to the bathroom, Kevin hot on his heels.



Kevin caught Nick around the waist as the younger man reached the sink. Kevin was still naked from his previous shower, Nick clad only in his boxers and thin t-shirt. Kevin pushed the younger man into the bathroom vanity and watched as the slow sexy smile spread across his lover's beautiful features. Nick gripped the counter as Kevin pressed into him from behind. "Are we done fighting now, because if so I have several ideas of what else we could be doing instead." he whispered seductively as he bent down to lick and bite the skin right behind Nick's ear. The skin that was always so sensitive, smelling so much of the other man. Nick groaned and relaxed back into him as Kevin wrapped one arm solidly around Nick's waist. "Mmm, were we fighting?" he mumbled as he pressed harder back into Kevin's body.



"That's what I thought." Kevin whispered against his skin as he took his free hand and slipped it easily inside Nick's boxers. Kevin stroked him a couple of times before pulling him out of the confines of his underwear. Kevin smiled at the blonde in the mirror as his fingers wrapped around him, hard and warm, already leaking and ready for whatever Kevin wanted to do to him. Nick’s head fell back against Kevin’s chest as he gasped at the sudden touch of the older man. His legs wobbled under him and had it not been for Kevin’s arm securely around him he would have surely crumpled to the floor with the rush of emotions that were currently overtaking him. Nick moaned and allowed his eyes to drift closed as he gave into the desire Kevin was creating inside his body.



Kevin slid his hand up and down, pumping the hardened flesh as he ground his own erection into Nick’s ass. He could feel the other man begin to shake gently under his hands. He began placing featherlight kisses along Nick’s collarbone and back of his neck, nipping him playfully as his hand continued to work him closer to his release. “Mmm, baby, you taste like candy baby.” Kevin mumbled as he moved from one side of Nick’s neck to the other. Nick barely managed a reply, his moan overtaking him as he began to thrust into Kevin’s hand.



Kevin picked up the pace, jerking him faster and rubbing his head, collecting the precum for lubrication as he continued his assault on the younger man. Nick was panting now thrusting in time with Kevin’s hand and then grounding his ass back into Kevin’s cock. Every nerve ending was on fire for the other man. “Kev, baby, I’m there.” he mumbled right before his orgasm tore through him and he came hard all over Kevin’s hand and the front of the vanity. Kevin held him upright as Nick’s depleted body sagged back against him. Kevin chuckled and wiped his hand on the soiled underwear before wrapping his other arm around the man. “I love you Nicky.” he whispered holding him close.



“I love you too Kev,” Nick mumbled, his face blissful and relaxed.



Kevin smiled at him in the mirror even though he couldn’t see. He studied their reflection while Nick worked to catch his breath. The contrast of their bodies was beautiful. Nick’s golden tan skin and blonde hair against his whiter and dark haired complexion was striking. Kevin could gaze at them together all day. The way that Nick’s body fit so secure, so evenly and snug against his own as if they were two puzzle pieces made to perfectly fit each other. And fit they did. Their bodies fit and became one in the most erotic and brilliant way that it took Kevin’s breath away. He wanted Nick to experience this, to see what he saw when he looked not only at Nick, but at them together. They were beautiful. Together, they were the most beautiful sight Kevin had ever seen.



“Nicky,” he whispered, kissing the side of Nick’s cheek and nuzzling him gently with his nose. “Open those pretty eyes.”



Nick blinked several times and then opened his eyes, focusing in on Kevin’s in the bathroom mirror. “Look baby,” Kevin started. “Look in the mirror. Look at how you look, how your body looks pressed against me, fitted to me. Look how beautiful you are, how beautiful you are here with me.” Kevin said, his voice dropping low with his desire.



Nick looked, blushed and tried to turn his head away but Kevin was prepared and instead used one hand to grab his chin and turn Nick’s head to make it instead focus on their reflection in the mirror. “Look baby. Look at how I look with you next to me, see how perfectly we fit together? Beautiful.” he said as he nuzzled the back of Nick’s neck and dropped kisses on each shoulder. “Look how close we can get, look how I can nestle so tightly, so right. I bet it’s even more beautiful when I’m buried inside of you. What do you think, Nicky? Do you think so?” Nick didn’t answer but Kevin could feel this breath quicken as he continued to talk.



Kevin moved his hand behind their bodies and forced Nick’s underwear down his hips, still keeping one arm securely around his waist. “That’s better,” Kevin mumbled as he pulled Nick back against his straining erection. Both men moaned as Nick’s ass hit Kevin’s cock and Kevin pushed even closer grinding into him gently. “Now where was I? Oh I know, right about here.” Kevin said as he used his knee to push Nick’s legs apart just a smidge. The movement made Nick spread just enough for Kevin to nestle himself even closer to his ass, causing the younger man to moan and push his hips back into Kevin.



Kevin smiled and increased his hold on the man. “Now Nicky, let’s take another look at how beautiful we are shall we?” he made sure he had Nick’s eyes on him before moving or speaking again. Nick’s cock was hardening again under Kevin’s intense gaze and Kevin grasped him gently in his hand and pumped a couple times, making Nick grunt and push back once more. “Look how pretty your cock looks in my hand baby. Looks like your cock was made just for me doesn’t it? The only way it looks any better is when it’s sliding in and out of me, making me yours. Isn’t that right Nicky?” Nick couldn’t contain the moan that escaped his lips. Kevin was driving him crazy. He was so hard, already, that he wasn’t sure how long he would be able to last. Wasn’t even sure what Kevin’s plan was. He was only relieved Kevin still loved him, still wanted him. He felt himself being swept off in these feelings of need and desire for the other man.

Kevin continued to stroke the other man whispering gentle words love and desire. Nick felt like he was losing control all over again. “I want to see how beautiful you look with me inside you, claiming your body and making you mine. Do you want to see that Nicky? Do you want to see what you look like when I’m fucking you?” Kevin rasped out as he sped up his hand.



The moan that echoed in the tiny bathroom almost made Kevin come right then. He slowed his hand and took several deep breaths to control himself. Nick was shaking with want and nodded biting his bottom lip to keep from moaning out again. Kevin smirked and leaned in to capture that bottom lip into his mouth. Nick returned the kiss in the same intensity, both men battling for control. Finally with a shaky breath, Kevin pulled away and pulled open a drawer in the vanity. Rooting around until he found what he was looking for he quickly opened the bottle and squirted the lube into his hands. He made quick work of lubing himself up and in seconds he was at Nick’s entrance. “Ready baby?” Kevin asked turning Nick back around so he could watch them in the mirror. Nick nodded and gripped the counter, preparing for Kevin. Kevin took a deep breath and pushed inside the tight hot heat he’d quickly become addicted too.



“God baby, you’re so tight. So good.” Kevin ground out once he was completely inside. He was finding it difficult to keep his own eyes open, wanting nothing more than to pull out and thrust back into the younger man with all he was worth. But he waited, not wanting to hurt Nick anymore than he already was. He waited until Nick started pushing against him before he used his free hand to straighten Nick’s frame so he had a clear view of what Kevin was doing. Kevin pulled out gently and thrust back into his young lover, watching the expression change on Nick’s face as he hit his prostate. It was by far the most beautiful thing Kevin had ever seen.



“Look baby,” he said, prodding Nick to open his eyes and stare into the mirror. “Look how sexy you are as I fuck you. You're so hot, so tight. It’s like your ass was made just for my cock. Is that right Nicky? Were you made just for me?”



Nick could barely keep his eyes open, let alone make conversation. The things Kevin was doing to his body, to his heart were so intense they scared and excited him. He wasn’t sure what to feel, what to say next. He started pushing his hips back, meeting Kevin thrust for thrust pushing him deeper inside. Nothing felt better than having Kevin buried inside of him, nothing. So he opened his eyes and watched the look of love cross Kevin’s features once their eyes met in the mirror. He tried to hold on, tried to remember this moment, this feeling forever. But one more thrust from Kevin sent his body shattering into a million pieces as he came a second time all over himself while Kevin emptied himself deep inside. Nick struggled to breath, never wanting this moment, this feeling to end.



Kevin managed to catch his breath and pulled out gently, both moaning at the loss of contact. He pulled Nick’s heated body around and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him close. “You are beautiful and I love you.” Kevin whispered against the lips he loved so much before taking them in a bruising kiss. Nick sighed contentedly against him and pulled him closer.

“I really need that shower now.”

-

After a very heated shower they were both sated and exhausted. Nick drug the older man towards the bed and climbed in, pulling Kevin down beside him. He checked the baby monitor quickly to make sure both kids were still sound asleep before rolling over against Kevin. The older man smiled down at him and pulled Nick into his arms. “Did you read any of it at all?” Nick asked as he settled into the embrace. He wrapped one arm around Kevin’s middle and snuggled in as close as he could. Kevin shook his head. “Honestly, there wasn’t time and after seeing how upset you got I really had no desire to. Nothing is going to change how I feel about you, about us. I’ll answer the people who personally reach out to me, but i’m not concerned with the rest.”



“How do you get to that place.” Nick asked softly after a few quiet moments.



“What place?” Kevin questioned.

“That peace. The place of not caring what people are saying. I guess I’ve never been able to be comfortable enough in my own skin, as my own person to be able to ignore the things that are said or written about me without getting hurt.” Nick said softly. He took Kevin’s hand in his and began loosely clasping and unclasping their fingers together as he spoke.

Kevin clasped their fingers and squeezed. “Oh Nicky, it’s not something that everyone can do. Everyone is different. I’ve never cared much about other people’s opinions, outside of you and the other guys. I know things are different for you and I’m sorry if I am not understanding enough with you sometimes. I can understand it’s hurtful to read those things. I won’t tell you I enjoy reading it, but those people out there, they don’t know the real me. They don’t know what’s in my heart. I refuse to let them get to me. Now if it were you or one of the others thinking those things, then I’d be crushed. I wouldn’t be half as confident as I am. You can always be confident in the fact that I love you baby.”

Nick sighed happily and snuggled in deeper. “I love you too. I’m going to try really hard not to let any of it get to me. Please just be patient.”

Kevin kissed the top of his head and smiled. “I promise baby.”
Chapter Thirty by Arok
The next couple of days passed in a blur and before either of them realized it was the week of Thanksgiving, their first holiday as an actual family of six. Nick was beside himself with excitement and trying hard to keep his expectations in check. They got the older kids back on Saturday night and by the time Monday rolled around Nick was bouncing off the walls. Kevin watched with a light heart and a smile as Nick practically bounced from room to room trying to entertain four different kids for days on end, never losing energy or focus on the tasks at hand. It was the happiest Kevin had seen Nick in years and knowing he had something to do with it was the best feeling in the world.

They had promised the kids they could pick all of the things they would make and Kevin had ordered enough groceries for an army. As expected their Thanksgiving menu consisted of pizza, corn dogs, mac and cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Kevin planned on sneaking a pumpkin pie in there somewhere but that was as traditional as they were going to get. As "anal" as he was, he was surprisingly okay destroying what was typically a very traditional meal to make it fun and exciting for his family. Of course that's what all this was about, creating new memories and new traditions with the family he and Nick were creating. It only made sense they completely changed the way any of them ever celebrated Thanksgiving. He had to admit after the turmoil of the last several days he was looking forward to having this time to begin working on their relationship, their family. After their argument Kevin really started to feel like they were getting on the same page, and was starting to get excited about the possibilities for them.

As originally planned, Kristin was planning on joining them for the actual dinner part of their celebration, but the cooking and parade time would be just for them. Kevin chuckled to himself as he remembered days before when Nick begged and pleaded with him to be able to watch the Thanksgiving day parade before they got started on any actual cooking. Of course, how could he resist those baby blue eyes he loved so much. That’s how he found himself crammed on the couch with a bouncing boyfriend on one side, hyperactive four year old on the other while the other two kids attempted to build Legos on the floor. Saoirse made this task difficult as she kept trying to knock down everything they put together. Kevin had to give his boys credit. They took it all in stride and hadn’t lost their temper with her yet. Kevin smiled to himself, his heart growing with love as he enjoyed the quiet morning in front of the television watching the Thanksgiving day parade. Each new float and musical performance seemed to captivate Nick and Odin more than the last. The look of pure joy crossing Nick’s features was enough to make Kevin burst. He could care less how long the parade too, if they ended up having to eat frozen pizza for dinner it wouldn’t matter at all if he could continue to see that look on his face.

Nick caught him staring and turned to look at him. “What Kev?” he asked, his eyes twinkling.

Kevin shook his head. “Nothing at all, baby.”

Nick tilted his head to the side and looked at him curiously. “Why are you staring at me?”

Kevin blushed and smiled. “You’re adorable. And I love you.”

It was Nick’s turn to blush and he smiled back at Kevin before returning his attention to the tv. Odin recognized Mickey Mouse and started yelling to look at the next float coming down the parade route. Yes, Kevin could get used to this. The quiet moments doing nothing but watching a parade, everyone doing their own thing in a room but doing it in the company of each other.

It was hard to remember how quiet and boring his life had been on the weeks the boys were with Kristin. Nick had brought so much life, love and noise into his life in the short time they’d been together, but Kevin never wanted to go back to the way it had been before. He’d been slowly dying in his loneliness, his unrequited desire for the other man and since Nick had come to him, since they had begun this journey together, Kevin felt like he’d never imagined feeling before.

He was brought out of his thoughts by the feeling of Nick threading their fingers together as he picked up Kevin’s hand from where it was resting on the couch cushion. Nick rubbed it gently with his thumb and then relaxed his fingers, but refused to let go. He turned his attention back to the parade, a soft smile sitting pleasantly on his lips. Kevin’s face reflected the smile as he settled back into the couch to continue watching the parade and enjoying their first holiday together.

-

Something was burning, three kids were screaming and at the same time the smoke detector went off the doorbell also rang. Nick looked up at Kevin with sheer panic in his eyes as everything seemed to go off the rails at once. Taking charge, Kevin started barking orders.

“Mason, take the dish towel and go wave it in front of the smoke detector in the foyer until the noise stops. Nick, you go deal with the door while I try to get control of whatever is happening here.” Kevin quickly removed the cookie sheet from the oven. The pizza had expanded in the oven and some of the sauce and pepperoni had leaked down the side of the pan and was burning on the coils of the oven. It was going to be one hell of a mess to clean up, but at least dinner wasn’t ruined. He put the pizza on the counter and gave the macaroni a stir. He was just getting ready to put the pie in the oven when he heard a commotion in the hallway.

Tossing a glance at Odin and Saoirse to make sure both were still content with the coloring pages Maxwell had found for them, he went after Nick to see what was going on. He dismissed Mason with a hug as he came through the foyer, his arms tired of flapping the towel. Mason agreed to watch the younger kids as Kevin continued on to the front door. He stopped in his tracks as he rounded the corner and his eyes landed on the blue eyes of his cousin.

“Brian?” he asked, confused.

Nick was grasping the door frame as he looked from Brian, to his suitcase and duffle bag and then back to Kevin. Brian stood bashfully on the doorstep and shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

“Hey guys,” he said softly. “How’s it going?”

“What are you doing here?” Nick asked as he stepped aside and allowed Brian to enter the house.

Brian hefted both bags in his arms and entered the room, dropping them beside the front door. Nick closed the door and met Kevin’s eyes behind the other man. Kevin studied Nick for a moment trying to gauge his reaction. Neither of them had been expecting the other man, let alone on Thanksgiving and by the looks of it, Brian was completely alone.

“I uh, I didn’t really have anywhere else to go.” Brian said, his voice faltering. “Leighanne kicked me out. She’s leaving me.”

The air in the room shifted as Nick threw his arms around the older man. Kevin quickly followed suit and all three met in a hug. After a few minutes they all pulled away from each other. “Would it be okay if I stayed here for a few days until I figure out where to go from here.”

Kevin met Nick’s eyes above Brian’s head. Each man nodded slightly before turning to their band mate and friend. “Of course you can stay.’ Kevin said.

“Thanks guys. I know this is a horrible time. I’m sure you guys had your own plans.” Brian said.

“We can adapt.” Nick said, leading Brian back towards the kitchen.

“What is that smell?” Brian asked entering the kitchen. He surveyed the scene in front of him before turning to the other two men. “What in the world are you guys making? This is Thanksgiving?”

Nick smiled and looped his arm through Kevin’s. “Welcome to the first Richardson-Carter Thanksgiving. Where kids decide the menu, whatever they want goes. Don’t worry Saoirse wanted mac and cheese so you’ll have your favorite too.”

Brian laughed and settled into a kitchen chair to hug each of his nephews in turn and then picked up a crayon to begin coloring. Nick turned to Kevin and smiled a half smile. Their eyes met and an unspoken message passed between them. Neither were particularly happy about sharing their bubble with anyone, especially not on Thanksgiving. But Brian was family and this is what being there for family was all about, especially on holidays. Kevin pulled Nick close and placed a kiss on his lips, soft and sweet. Nick pulled him closer and buried his face against Kevin’s neck. “I hate this.” he whispered against Kevin’s smooth skin. Kevin nodded but didn’t reply as he rubbed his hands up and down Nick’s back.

Kevin looked up and saw Brian looking at them before looking away quickly. Nope, he was not looking forward to this at all. Their perfect holiday was quickly turning into anything but. As much as he wanted to find out what was happening with Brian, he selfishly just wanted this time with Nick and their kids. He took a deep breath and placed his lips against Nick’s forehead before pulling away. He couldn’t let anything else burn, especially now when they had someone else to feed.

-

Dinner went off relatively well. Kristin arrived just as Nick was setting the last of the corn dogs on the kitchen table. She had not been informed of the menu ahead of time and was as delighted as Nick and Kevin were to try something new, especially in the spirit of starting anew. Everyone skirted around the reason from Brian’s sudden presence and the lack of family accompanying him. Kristin left soon after dinner, promising to be back on Saturday for their weekly switch off.

After dinner Nick started baths with the younger two kids and left Kevin and Brian alone in the kitchen to handle the clean up. Mason and Maxwell had long since went upstairs to play video games and settle down for the evening. Kevin busied himself putting away leftovers and loading the dishwasher so he wouldn’t start interrogating the other man. Brian was content sitting on the barstool at the island watching. After several moments he finally spoke.

“Thanks for letting me stay, Kev. I know you’re not exactly thrilled to see me, especially showing up unannounced.” Brian started.

Kevin stopped what he was doing and turned to look at his younger cousin. “Stop. I am happy to see you. I want to be there for you. I don’t know what happened, but I can guarantee you Nick and I probably understand exactly how you’re feeling.”

Brian nodded. “I’m not ready to talk about it yet.”

Kevin smiled. “I figured as much. You always needed time to come to terms with things yourself first cuz. Don’t worry about it. We’re here for you when you’re ready. You can stay in the guestroom Nick used to use if you want or the smaller guest room down here.”

Brian laughed. “I will definitely stay down here. I don’t want to be on the same floor as you two when you start going at each other.”

Kevin blushed. “Hey now, there are kids in the house. Lots of kids. We don’t exactly get much time to ourselves.”

“Aww Is Kevvy not getting any?” Brian said cackling.

Kevin smiled wickedly. “Not what I said at all. What I am saying is we’ve gotten very good at making the most out of our limited time.”

“I do not need this image in my head.” Brian shrieked as he covered his face with his hands.

Kevin shrugged. “You’re the one assuming. I just had to correct your very incorrect assumptions.”

They both laughed and Brian finally stood to help. With two of them moving they finally got the kitchen cleaned up. Kevin got clean sheets and blankets out of the linen closet for Brian and left him alone to make up the guest room.

Once he got upstairs he yelled for Mason and Maxwell to join them in Odin’s room for stories and snuggles. The boys were down the stairs in record time and were just getting settled when Nick walked in with Saoirse freshly diapered and in her pajamas. Nick smiled as his eyes settled on Kevin already set up in the rocking chair with Odin in his lap. Maxwell had picked the story this time, a story about construction equipment that he’d loved since he was Saoirse’s age. Nick leaned down and planted a small kiss on Kevin’s mouth before settling on the floor at his feet with the baby in his arms. Mason and Maxwell drew close to both of them as they settled in to listen to the story. Nick smiled as he watched Kevin act out the characters in the story. The way his green eyes twinkled with mischief and love were almost too much for Nick to handle. Looking around the room, full of kids and love, Nick was reminded he had a lot to be thankful for.

--

Later that night as they climbed into bed Kevin grabbed Nick around the waist and pulled him down on the mattress against him. Nick let out a laugh and fell against him gracefully. Kevin took his lips in a kiss and then pulled away, leaning his forehead against the younger mans.

“I’m sorry our Thanksgiving ended up with a houseguest.” Kevin said gently as he slid his hand up the back of Nick’s shirt. He rubbed and gently scratched the skin, causing goosebumps to rise on Nick’s skin.

Nick pressed his mouth against Kevin’s taking a gentle lick across his lips before pulling back. “It’s okay. Thanksgiving is all about family. Our immediate family and our extended. Brian is family any way you look at it. I wish it could have just been us, but I am also thankful he felt comfortable enough to come to us.”

Kevin nodded and shifted to bring Nick even closer. “I understand baby. I hope it was still a nice day for you. I had a great time and I think the kids did too.”

Nick moved to begin placing kisses down the side of Kevin’s neck, eliciting a moan from the older man as he moved to give Nick better access. “You know.” Nick said as he pulled back. “I was thinking about how young Odin and Saoirse are and how they will probably never remember the way it was before. Before all of this, before us. When they think about their family holidays and tell their friends and future spouses, they will only remember exactly how it is now, how to them, it was always just the six of us. That is something I am very thankful for.” Nick said looking in Kevin’s eyes.

Kevin felt his eyes dampen and told himself they were long past the tears. “That’s beautiful, baby. I am and will be forever thankful you showed up on my doorstep. I love you.”

Nick nuzzled his face into the side of Kevin’s neck and resumed his kisses. Stopping suddenly, Nick sat up, pulling the older man with him. Nick climbed onto Kevin's lap, pressing their bodies close together as he resumed his earlier movements. He started off slowly with small nibbles and bites before moving his way down the side of Kevin's neck and to the place where his neck and shoulder met. Biting the other man playfully he pulled away and reached for the bottom of Kevin's sweater. "I'm very thankful I can do this whenever I want." he said, smiling seductively as he pulled the sweater and undershirt over Kevin's head and tossing it to the floor. He continued to lick and suck the exposed flesh of his lover eliciting several throaty moans from the other man.

Not one to sit idly by, Kevin gripped Nick's hips in his hands and began pushing his own hips into Nick's, grinding their straining erections together. Nick pulled away long enough to let out a moan of his own before swatting Kevin's hand. "Stop. I'm not through telling you all that I'm thankful for yet and you're making it hard to concentrate."

Kevin chuckled but released Nick's hips and let go. With a sly grin. "I'm sorry baby, please continue."

Nick smiled back before thanking Kevin's lips in a breathtaking kiss, tongues caressing, loving each other. As the kiss became more demanding Nick broke free and then returned to nuzzling the older man's neck. "I'm very thankful for this place right here." he said, darting his tongue out to lick the skin. "I'm thankful for it because I fit so nicely here, like this part of your body was made for me to snuggle into."

Kevin groaned out and tried his best not to thrust his hips up onto the other man. The teasing touches were getting to be too intense but Nick had never taken his time like this before, usually their roles reversed and damn if Kevin wasn't going to enjoy every moment of it. Everywhere Nick's hands touched felt like fire had ignited his skin. His need for the other man growing by the second. Nick began kissing a line down Kevin's chest stopping at first one nipple, licking and sucking until it peaked in a tiny bud, before moving onto the other. Doing the same while pushing his hips down into Kevin again caused the older man to groan out. "God Nicky, I don't know how much teasing I can take."

Nick smiled against his skin as he nuzzled his nipple with his nose. Continuing down Kevin's lean chest nick continued to place several kisses, sometimes biting gently, love bites, but always licking. He traced a line down Kevin's stomach with his tongue stopping only when he'd reached the other man's belly button. Nick shifted his weight down the other man's body and he moved. Peering up at Kevin with bright blue eyes he smiled. "Know what else I'm thankful for Kev?" Nick poked his tongue out and licked the outer ring of Kevin's belly button. Kevin didn't answer, instead he threw his head back as he gripped the bedsheets. Nick smiled and plunged his tongue into the tight crevice poking it in and out, imagining what he could do to the other man if his tongue was elsewhere. Kevin bucked his hips up against him as he moaned. "Nicky, please."

"Please what baby? I just want to finish telling you all the things I love about you. How you're the thing I'm most thankful for this year. How you make everything else seem trivial in comparison." Nick sat up on his legs and let his hands drift to the button on Kevin's dress pants. Undoing it slowly he pulled down the zipper and shifted to the side to pull the pants and boxer briefs down and off the other man. Once Kevin was completely naked and spread out before him Nick sat back and smiled.

"Now this, this is what I'm most thankful for."

Nick moved closer to the other man, locking and sucking on his inner thigh and he moved closer and closer to his prize. Once he was directly in front of Kevin's straining erection he shot a glance at his lover. Kevin's green eyes were trained on him, almost begging. Nick smiled at him, determined to put him out of his misery. In one fell motion he took the entire length of the other man in his mouth, stopping only when Kevin hit the back of his throat. "Holy shit baby," Kevin ground out trying desperately not to buck his hips up and choking the other man.

Nick smiled around Kevin's cock as he picked up his pace. He pulled up, almost letting Kevin fall completely out of his mouth before plunging back down, licking the length of him as he went. Nick continued to bob up and down, enjoying the moans the other man couldn't control as he went. He began to hum, just a hit to add to the friction the older man was undoubtedly feeling. Not wanting Kevin to come this way he stilled his actions, taking one last lick up the shaft and sucking gently in the head of Kevin's cock. Pulling back he smiled down at his love, his best friend, his everything. Thankful was exactly what he was feeling. He felt it coursing through his veins every time the other man looked at him. Every smile, every touch. Every whispered 'I love you'. All of these things Nick would be eternity grateful to share with the other man. Suddenly he was overcome with emotion and could feel the tears nip at the corner of his eyes. Kevin felt Nick pull away and opened his eyes.

Green eyes met watering blue and smiled. "What's the matter, baby" Kevin whispered.

Nick shook his head. "Nothing. Everything is perfect. I was just thinking the thing I'm most thankful for this year is us, you. I can't live without you anymore baby."

Kevin smiled and took the opportunity to reverse their positions. Taking Nick by surprise, he flipped them over until Nick was in his back, pinned underneath him. He leaned down and gently kissed the younger man. Pulling away he whispered. "I am eternally thankful you showed up on my doorstep. I can't live without you either baby. I love you. Let me show you how much."

Nick moaned and nodded his head. "Please baby, no more teasing. I need to feel you."

Kevin kissed him again, not meaning it to get as intense as it did, but both men were consumed with each other, the emotions flowing through the room and their desire to express their love to the other. Breaking away Kevin was able to pull himself back far enough to focus on the task at hand. He leaned over, grabbing the lube from the nightstand drawer before returning between Nick's legs. He opened the tube and was squeezing it out into his hand when Nick stopped him.

"No fingers, just you baby. Just want to feel you." Nick said softly as he pushed his hips up into Kevin, emphasizing his point and rubbing their erections together.

Kevin nodded and proceeded to lube up his cock. Once he was ready he ace himself at Nick's entrance and leaned down to capture his mouth as he pushed inside the tight heat of his lover. They moved together effortlessly, soft and gentle at first until neither of them could take the pace any longer. "Harder baby. Fuck me." Nick breathed out in between gasps and moans.

"So tight Nicky, God baby I love you." Kevin moaned as he picked up the pace, slamming into the other man before pulling out and doing it again. He hit Nick's prostate with every thrust, causing the younger man to yell out in pleasure each time. Before long they were coming together, exclamations of love pouring out of them as they rode our their climax together.

They lay together, sweaty and covered in Nick's cum but neither could be bothered to care. Nick snuggled closer to the older man as Kevin pulled out of him and spooned up behind him. "I love you baby," Kevin said before dropping a kiss against Nick's sweaty forehead.

"I love you too." Nick smiled to himself as he held onto Kevin's arms wrapped securely around his middle. "I never want to move."

Kevin smiled against the back of the younger man's neck. "You don't have to until one of the kids wakes up." he said, chuckling softly. "We can wash the sheets tomorrow."

A few moments later Nick began to chuckle. "What's so funny?" Kevin asked as he nipped and kissed against Nick's shoulder blade.

"Just thinking I can't believe we did all of that with Brian sleeping downstairs."

Kevin laughed at that. "We'll get used to it because I'm not going without you because he's staying here. He can wear ear plugs."

Nick laughed and rolled over in Kevin's arms. He placed a small kiss against the other man's lips and then pulled back. "Thank you, for all of this, for making this the best year ever, for loving me."

Kevin smiled at the younger man. Before nuzzling into his neck. Placing soft kisses against the heated skin he responded. "Loving you is easy baby. I've been doing it for so many years it just comes naturally. I'm just thankful from here on out I can share it with you."

The two lovers smiled and settled down in the sheets, wrapped tightly in each other's arms. It was true. They both had a lot to be thankful for this year.
Chapter Thirty-One by Arok
Brian had been there for four days. Four days of Kevin and Nick tip toeing around the issues at hand. Four days of trying to include him in their daily activities to keep his mind off Leighanne and his spirits upbeat. Nick was at the end of his rope with it. He loved Brian, he really did. He would go out on a limb and say besides Kevin, Brian was the only other person in the world he loved besides the kids, but the man had to go. Nick wanted to spend most of the next few weeks with just Kevin.

Everything about their relationship was so new and exciting, but at the same time they had put up with so much shit in a short amount of time it felt like they'd been dating forever. The kids were always going to add a layer of complexity, reduce the amount of time they could spend learning and loving each other. Nick was fine with that, more than fine. Having his and Kevin's kids together, all of them a family was a dream come true. What was not, was sharing all of this time with Brian. It would be one thing if Brian had opened up, tried talking to them at all. If Nick could see an end in sight to his stay and his life returning to normal he would be less irritable about the whole thing. But as it stood, Brian was acting like this was some kind of exotic vacation in the middle of Nick's living room and he felt like he was going insane.

Nick slammed the bedroom door as he entered the bedroom. He'd just put Odin and Saoirse down and now had a free hour or so before they woke from their naps. All he wanted to do was crawl into Kevin's arms and forget the world for a little while. He stopped short as he watched Kevin lacing up his shoes.

Glaring at the other man he said "Where the hell do you think you're going?"

Kevin looked up at him with a smirk. "Brian and I were going to go down to the stables and brush the horses. Is that a problem Nicky?"

Nick groaned and threw himself down on the bed. Kevin chuckled and finished tying his shoes. Walking over to the bed he sat on the edge and turned to face his lover. "What's going on baby?"

Nick huffed and turned away from him. He knew he was being childish but he didn't care. He was so frustrated he could scream. Wasn't Kevin as bothered by Brian taking up all their time as he was? Why was he spending his afternoon with Brian when he could be spending it with him? He jerked slightly as he felt Kevin begin to rub his hand up and down Nick's back in smooth slow circles. Nick squeezed his eyes shut, determined not to cry. His bad mood was causing his emotions to run all over the place and all he wanted right now was Kevin's comfort. He took several deep breaths and shifted his backside until he was closer to the other man. Kevin smiled and continued to stroked his back, calming the man in the process. After a few moments Nick felt relaxed enough to roll onto his back and face Kevin.

"I'm sorry." he mumbled before hiding his face against Kevin's jean clad thigh. Kevin brushed the hair out of his eyes before cupping his cheek. "Don't be sorry, just tell me what's got you so keyed up."

"You'll laugh at me." came the mumbled response as Nick's mouth pressed into the fabric of Kevin's pants. He kissed and nuzzled his thigh, trying to hide the blush in his face. Kevin shook his head and pulled Nick away enough so he could look at his face. "I will never laugh at you. Talk to me."

Nick huffed again and threw himself onto his back. "I can't believe it's not bothering you that he's still here." Nick accused, unable to meet Kevin's eyes. "And now you're spending the afternoon with him instead of spending time with me. We've had barely any time together at all and now he's here and taking more time away from us."

Kevin smiled. This man, this adorable man had his heart. He'd always had it, but it was in sweet innocent moments like this that Kevin realized just how much of a goner he really was when it came to the blonde. "Who said I'm not annoyed he's still here?" Kevin asked softly. He stretched out on the bed beside Nick and propped his head up with his arm so he could peer down at the other man.

Nick shrugged. "You just don't seem annoyed. You haven't made him talk to us and he's still here." Nick pouted, his bottom lip extending out too far for Kevin's liking.

Kevin leaned down and took that bottom lip between his own. Kissing the other man thoroughly before pulling away and smiling down at him. "I love you. You are adorable. I am very frustrated. I want to turn him upside down and shake him until he spills all the problems that brought him to our door, but it's not going to make this easier on any of us. You know as well as I do that he has to be the one to get to the place where he is able to open up. Believe me baby, this is driving me just as crazy, but Brian is family and he needs us right now. We, we're forever and I promise you baby as soon as we're free of houseguests I will make up for all of this lost time. Don't be embarrassed to miss me because I am missing you just as much."

Nick blushed again and buried his head against Kevin's chest. "I'm sorry for being a baby. I'm just frustrated and I want to spend time with you."

Kevin wrapped his arm around Nick's head, cradling it close to his body. "I completely understand, baby. I feel the same way. I thought if I got him outside with the horses and away from everyone maybe he would talk to me. The sooner we get to the bottom of whatever happened the sooner we can get him out of our house."

Nick laughed against Kevin's chest. "I know. I'm sorry I'm such a baby."

Kevin smiled and pushed Nick back down on the bed. "You're not a baby, you're MY baby. Let me make you feel better before I go outside."

Nick blushed and bit his lip. Kevin groaned. "You're going to kill me with that lip." he leaned down and took Nick's mouth in a bruising kiss. While he distracted Nick with his kisses, he quickly slipped his hand under Nick's shorts. He felt Nick groan into his mouth as Kevin gently wrapped his hand around Nick's hardening length. He continued the kisses, breaking away from Nick's mouth and adding several kisses on his cheeks and his jaw line. While he placed kisses he sped up the movement of his hand, pumping Nick's cock as it pulsed against him. He felt his own erection starting but this was about making Nick feel better. He shifted closer as he buried his face in Nick's neck, biting and gently sucking the skin he loved so much.

"God baby, that feels so good. Please don't stop." Nick bucked his hips up to meet the pace of Kevin's hand as he panted and tried desperately to hold on.

"I'll never stop Nicky. Just feel it baby. Just feel how good I take care of you, how great it's going to be when we get some time later. I love you baby." Kevin sped up his movements, jerking and rubbing Nick faster as he watched Nick's breathing hitch. He knew he was close and wanted to watch Nick's beautiful face as he gave in to the feeling. Kevin leaned down and kissed him deeply, tongues darting from mouth to mouth, caressing and sucking. Kevin broke the kiss regretfully as Nick's body started to shake. He watched in awe as the man he loved so much completely fell apart beneath him, shooting hot streams of liquid inside his shorts and all over Kevin's hand. Kevin pulled his hand out of Nick's shorts and wiped it on the sheets, smiling at the complete look of bliss on his lovers face. He got up and went into the bathroom to wash his hands. Reentering the bedroom he grabbed the baby monitor and moved it closer to the bedside table he turned the volume all the way up and then sat back down in the bed.

"Why don't you take a nap. Just lay here and relax until you fall asleep." Kevin leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on Nick's lips.

Nick smiled and nodded. "Why does a simple hand job feel so damn good Kev?"

Kevin smiled down at him. "It does doesn't it? Way better than doing it yourself. I think it's because we love each other and we're perfect for each other and so every thing we do together is that much better, that much more intense." Kevin answered honestly.

Nick smiled up at him as he settled into the bed pillows. "We really are, aren't we?" Nick asked sleepily, his eyes drifting closed.

Kevin leaned down and kissed his cheek. "Of course we are, baby. I love you."

Standing up Kevin turned off the bedside lamp and turned to look at the sleeping man. This bundle of nerves, anxiety and love was all he'd ever wanted in life. He completely understood where Nick was coming from and wanted nothing else than for Brian to leave so they could have time just for them. He had no idea the extended visit was bothering the blonde as much as it was. Kevin vowed to do everything in his power to make sure they helped Brian as much as he could, but also got him back out the door as quickly as humanly possible. Nick smiled in his sleep and Kevin felt his heartbeat quicken. The love, the want and need he felt for Nick just continued to grow everyday. Sometimes the desire was so strong it took his breath away. This was surprising for Kevin. He'd always believed that the unrequited feelings he felt for the blonde were the strongest he'd ever feel. But they were nothing in comparison to how he felt now that he had Nick in his life, his heart and his bed.

--

It was cold out. Kevin wished he'd grabbed his scarf before they trudged outside but he'd forgotten. It was too late now to worry about going back. He tucked his chin further into his jacket and pulled the beanie down in his head. They made their way across the acreage and towards the stables. They didn't talk as they walked, both men content in the silence. Kevin kept racking his brain, trying desperately to think of a way to get Brian to open up. He was very close to pushing him in the hay and standing over him until the man started talking. Kevin smiled to himself. It had worked when they were kids.

Once they reached the stables Kevin set to work turning on the lanterns hanging outside the stalls and checking all the horses for food and water. Brian had spent so much time on Kevin's dad's farm as a child he knew what to do without direction from Kevin. Brian began moving hay around, making sure each stall had an adequate supply. They worked side by side for a while, neither man speaking. The silence was starting to drive Kevin insane. With his chores done he went to find the brushes. Grabbing one for him and one for Brian he met the other man in the middle of the barn. Handing over the brush he followed Brian to a stall. Once they were both inside and had begun brushing the horse down Kevin had enough.

"Start spilling."

Brian blanched and looked up at him, eyes wide. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about the fact that you've been here for four four days and not a word. You crashed our Thanksgiving, eaten our food, and holed up in our living room, I think the least you can do is talk to me. What's going on? Why did Leighanne kick you out?"

Brian stopped brushing and stared off into space. He was quiet for several moments before he spoke. "We've been fighting a lot lately. We've always had somewhat of a disconnect in our beliefs, in our values. What didn't seem like big deals when we got married has become bigger as we've gotten older. For the longest time I just went along with whatever she felt like we should feel or believe in because it was easier and at the time even though I didn't believe what she did, it didn't affect me one way or the other and I was never passionate about it so it was easier for me, for our marriage to just agree and take up the cause beside her. As I've gotten older and I've changed, and the world's changed, it has become a lot more obvious where we differ."

Kevin looked at him curiously. He had a hunch where this was going but wasn't sure if he should come out with it or not. When it was clear that Brian wasn't going to continue he turned to his cousin. "She has a problem with Nick and I?"

Brian looked up at him sharply. Unable to believe Kevin could decipher his cryptic explanation and know immediately what the heart of the matter was. He'd been so scared to talk to them about it, to explain. But at the same time when it had come time to leave his home, they were the only two people he knew he could count on. Brian nodded. "Yes, and no. There's more to it. It's such a mess Kevin. I never wanted any of this to happen. I didn't want to feel this way. I should have just kept my mouth shut. But I didn't tell her ahead of time and when the announcement was made she went absolutely ballistic. I tried to talk to her, to explain but I said the wrong things and made it worse and now I have no idea what's going to happen. You have to know I'd never do anything to intentionally hurt either of you. I love you both so much." he tears welled up in his eyes, his accent growing thicker as the emotion filled his voice.

Something in Brian's explanation struck Kevin and he felt a white hot fear run through him. At first he thought he was mistaken, that he'd heard wrong. But as he watched Brian pace in the stall he felt his stomach lurch and knew that he, in fact, had figured out the crux of the issue at hand. "How long?"

Brian stopped pacing and turned to face him. Kevin felt his breath catch as he waited for the response. "How long what Kev?"

"How long have you been in love with my boyfriend?"

Brian stared at him for a moment before looking away. Bingo, Kevin thought. A sick feeling of dread and apprehension filling him. Brian didn't look back at him, instead he searched around the horse stall until he located the bale of hay and collapsed down on top of it. "A really long time. I don't even know anymore."

Kevin tried to remain calm. Inside he wanted to puke, he felt the earth move underneath him and he was afraid if he made any sudden movement he would end up on the floor of the horse stall, right under the horse.

Brian dropped his head in his hands. "I'm sorry Kevin. I never wanted to think about this to talk about it. I never imagined we'd be having this conversation. I never wanted either of you to know. I'm not here to make trouble for you, I promise. I would never try to get in the way of what you have. I just have to be honest with you. A lot of things were yelled in the heat of the moment, I apparently revealed more than I anticipated and she figured it out. She told me there wasn't going to be a faggot living in her house and I had to pack my shit and get out."

Kevin didn't know how to respond. On one hand he was glad Brian was finally opening up, trusting him, to tell him what happened. But on the other hand, one of Kevin's worst nightmares was coming true right in front of him. He took a deep breath before responding, fear and anger raging a war inside of him. "I don't know what to say."

Brian shot up off the hay bay. "Kevin, I'm sorry. I never meant for any of this to happen. Nothing is going to change. I don't even plan on telling him. This is just something I have to work through on my own. Like I said, I'm not here to try to get in between you. I just needed to be with you both, with family. I know this probably changes things between us but it doesn't have to. Give me one more day to make some calls and I'll get out of your hair."

Kevin looked at him for several moments before backing away. "I.. I need some time." he backed out of the stall and with one last look at Brian he left him standing in the stable. Kevin wasn't sure what to do or where to go. He couldn't go back to the house, not yet. He could feel the tension vibrating off of him and he knew Nick would be able to tell something was wrong the moment he saw him. Kevin wasn't sure he wanted Nick to know yet. He was terrified, he felt sick at his stomach and thought momentarily he would throw up. He stumbled down the path from the barn, further into the wooded area of his property. He couldn't believe this was happening. Sure Brian could say it wouldn't change anything until he was blue in the face but Kevin was terrified. They were Frick and Frack. Kevin had always been jealous of their relationship, their closeness. It wasn't until Brian got married that Nick really started reaching out to him for support and comfort. It had been a blessing and a curse. Nick had been heartbroken when Brian had gotten married, so much so that Kevin had always secretly wondered if Nick had feelings for Brian outside of their friendship.

And now, now that same man who crushed that little boy all those years ago was suddenly single, and apparently in love with him. Where did that leave Kevin? He tried not to let the dark thoughts overtake him, but how could he not? It was one thing for the outside world to be against them but now it seemed like they were being sabotaged from the inside. The sick feeling was back. Kevin found a tree stump and settled into it. Dropping his head between his knees he took several deep breaths, trying desperately to get the feeling to pass. He felt a couple of tears slide down his cheeks and chastised himself for getting all upset before he had a reason to be. Just because Brian had feelings for Nick didn't mean Nick returned them. He'd said he loved Kevin, wanted to spend their lives together, right? In a million years he never would have expected Brian to have feelings for Nick, but at the same time it sort of made sense. When Brian had found out the reasoning behind Kevin’s divorce he had gotten really shitty with him, tried desperately to talk him out of going through with it. Telling Kevin over and over again how leaving his wife would be the biggest mistake of Kevin’s life. In hindsight, Kevin wondered if Brian just couldn’t stomach the thought of him being in love with Nick as well. Then there was the blow up between Nick and Brian once Brian found out Nick was there and staying with Kevin. Kevin still wasn’t sure what all had been said between the two friends but knew it had to be intense for Nick to have reacted the way he did when Brian had shown up there unannounced the first time. There were so many thoughts swirling around his head he wasn’t sure how to get them all straight. He took another deep breath. He had to figure out something before he went back to the house. One thing was for sure, he couldn’t face Nick in the current state he was in.
Chapter Thirty-Two by Arok
Nick was feeding Saoirse applesauce in the kitchen then Brian came in through the patio door. Nick glanced up at him, peering around his small frame in search of his lover. Not seeing him, Nick frowned and peered up at the other man. “Where’s Kev?” They had both been gone for quite a while. Nick had taken a small nap and woken up when Saoirse did. He'd been disappointed to find that Kevin still wasn't back, but tried to push it out of his mind. If he convinced himself that Kevin being absent all day would get Brian out of their hair quicker than that's what he was going to do. All he wanted to do was curl up with the older man and never crawl out of his arms. He was a little embarrassed for being so needy, but they had just dealt with some of the most emotional weeks of Nick's life and all he wanted was for things to calm down so they could start enjoying life together, their new life together.

Brian flinched and briefly flicked his eyes to where Nick sat. He stood with his hands in his pockets and bounced on the soles of his feet. “He’s not in here?” he asked as his eyes skittered around the room. He refused to focus in on Nick and instead looked everywhere but. Nick shook his head, fear prickling as he gazed at Brian curiously.

Nick gave Saoirse another spoonful of applesauce and sighed heavily as she smacked the spoon out of his hand and watched it fall onto the high chair tray. Once it was off the spoon she was more than happy to stick her fingers in it and raise them to her mouth, sucking the sticky sweet puree off her fingers. Deciding it was a lost cause, Nick positioned the bowl in front of her and ditched the spoon. This made her happy and she proceeded to shove both hands into the applesauce before sticking her hands in her mouth. Nick figured it would be easier to give her a bath than continue to fight her to eat off the spoon.

“Did something happen? Is he alright?” Nick stood and took the spoon to the sink before turning to face the other man. Brian’s face was white and he was shaking slightly. “Brian what is going on?” Nick demanded.

Brian took a seat, well fell into the kitchen chair was more like it. “I fucked up Nicky.” He dropped his head and ran his fingers through his curls to avoid looking at the other blonde. Now Nick was really freaked out. He'd never seen Brian look or act like this for that matter. Why was Kevin missing? What could Brian possibly have done that kept Kevin from coming back to the house. “Brian, tell me what the fuck is going on right now.”

Brian sighed. “We had a fight. He left the barn. I thought he came back here, but obviously he didn’t. I don’t know where he went.”

Nick perched on the island bar stool. Keeping one eye on Saoirse and the applesauce he was convinced would momentarily be painting the floor and the other eye on his best friend. He tried to keep his breathing under control, growing increasingly anxious as the time ticked by. What in the world had happened out there. Kevin had only been planning on talking to him about his reasonings for Leigh kicking him out. How in the world had it ended in a fight that left Kevin somewhere outside. Why hadn’t he come and found Nick immediately after it happened? Nick tried not to let that part bother him. Finding out what had happened was more important right now.

“What were you fighting about that was so bad he didn’t come back to the house.”

Brian hesitated for a moment before answering. “You.”

Nick startled. “Me? Why were you fighting about me?”

Brian looked away, unable to meet Nick’s gaze. Instead he focused on the baby playing happily in the applesauce. She alternated between shoving tiny baby fistfuls of it into her mouth and wiping it in her hair. He smiled softly as he watched her, remembering what Baylee had been like when he was small. He had a momentary pain of sadness, wishing he'd agreed to another child all of those years ago. Perhaps if he had things would be completely different now. Maybe he'd never felt this way. He could feel Nick's eyes boring into him and he knew he was going to have to tell him the truth, as much as he didn’t want to have this conversation.

“Nick..’

“What the hell did you do to him?” Nick demanded crossing his arms over his chest. “How come every time you come here you start a fight with someone?”

Brian looked at him for the first time. Nick was pissed, which made this conversation so much harder to have. Brian didn’t want to tell him with the younger man glaring at him like that. But he also knew there was no way he was getting out of this kitchen without telling him. If he didn’t do it himself, now, then he knew for sure Kevin would when he finally decided to come back inside. Where was he anyway? Why had he gone off somewhere instead of coming back to the house. Kevin must be really pissed too. He had a sinking feeling in his stomach. He was honest when he said he loved them both and didn’t want this to change anything between them. He wasn’t there to try to break them up, not at all. He just wanted, well Brian had no idea what he wanted.


“I told Kevin that I have feelings for you. Feelings I’ve had for quite awhile. Leighanne found out about it in the course of an argument and she said she didn’t and couldn't live with me anymore knowing I could have feelings like that for another man. Like I told Kevin, I’m not here to cause trouble. I’m not trying to interfere. I just needed a place to go and Kevin’s always been the first place I go when something is seriously wrong.“

Nick felt like he’d been slapped. Brian had feelings for him? Brian, holier than thou Brian, who gave him nothing but shit every time he tried to talk to him about how he felt about Kevin. This fucker was going to stand in front of him and try to tell him he had feelings for him? Had told Kevin this?

Oh god. Kevin. He could only imagine how it must have felt to hear this, to know his cousin had feelings for his boyfriend. Suddenly Nick was furious. Madder than he could remember being in a very long time.

“I don’t even know what to say to you right now. I can’t believe after all the things I told you about how I felt about him and how much he meant to me that you would go and pull something like this. How many times did I cry to you about how much I loved him and you tried to make me feel like shit for being gay, for loving him. Now you’re going to waltz in here, in OUR home and try to say that you have feelings for me? You’re seriously fucked up. I do not, have not and will never have feelings for you. I want to be very clear on that. I love him, with everything I am. He’s everything I’ve ever wanted and as long as he will have me, he’s everything I’ll ever need. I think it’s best if you pack your stuff and you find somewhere else to stay tonight. I’ve got to go find him and when I bring him back here, I don’t want you here.”

Nick turned away from him and grabbed Saoirse from the high chair. Taking the steps two at a time he went upstairs to clean up his daughter, never once looking back at the crestfallen man in the kitchen.

--

Nick was so mad he was shaking. He wasn’t sure what to do, but he knew he needed to find Kevin. To touch him, to hold him. He racked his brain for where to even look for him as he quickly bathed and changed the baby. Once she was clean he hesitantly headed back down the stairs. He did not want to face Brian again. Mason, Maxwell and Odin were playing in the living room. The older kids played on the Xbox while Odin played with dinos and hot wheels on the rug. Mason looked up at him as he came in the room. “Uncle Brian left.” he said looking at Nick quickly before focusing back on the television.

Nick breathed a sigh of relief. One issue was resolved. “Hey Mas, your dad and Brian got into an argument. He’s still outside somewhere and I need to go find him. Any ideas on where to look?”

Mason nodded. “If it was a bad one he’s probably out in the woods, down by the pond. It’s a little ways past the stable. He used to go there a lot, before you moved in. He always said it made him feel closer to grandpa out there.”

Nick smiled. He’d never seen it, but it sounded exactly like Kevin. He had to find him now. “Mason would you mind keeping an eye on all the kids while I see if I can track him down? I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t necessary.”

Mason’s eyes lit up. “You trust me to watch all the kids?”

Nick smiled, remembering what it felt like to be entrusted to watch over someone else, even if it were for a brief moment of time. He’d felt the same way the first time he’d been asked to watch Angel and Aaron. “Of course buddy. I know you can handle it. Do you mind?”

Mason shook his head, a smile of pride on his face as he settled back into the couch. “Nope. I’ll do great.”

Nick smiled and ruffled his hair. “Of course you will. I’ll try to be gone long. If something happens call your mom okay?”

Mason nodded and with one last look around the room to make sure all the kids would be safe and relatively okay while he was gone he grabbed his jacket and headed out the kitchen door.

--

Fuck it was cold. Nick was not used to winters in the Midwest. He needed to get an actual winter jacket and hats and gloves for him and his kids. He never really had to worry about it before living in Nevada or Florida for that matter, but it was cold up here. He pulled his jacket tighter around him and pushed forward. He passed the stable relatively quickly. His long legs and determination to find his lover propelling him forward quickly through the acreage. Mason had said it was a little ways away from the stable. He kept his eyes open, peering every which way for any sign of a pond or Kevin. It was beginning to get dark and Nick was kicking himself for not grabbing a flashlight, or his cell phone before venturing outside. When he’d left the house his only thought had been to get to Kevin as quickly as possible, nothing else had even crossed his mind. Still he pushed on.

The more he walked, the angrier he got, but now he was starting to get a little scared as well. He’d never spent much time out in the woods, especially after dark. Why did everything seem so much creepier when the sun was setting? How in the world did Kevin find this relaxing? The beach was relaxing, the waves crashing and caressing each other as they rose and fell. The feel of hot sand underneath your skin. That was relaxing, this was downright terrifying. He heard a tree branch snap and felt the fear rise in his chest. He whirled around, blinking a few times to adjust his eyes to the difference in light. Nothing popped out at him. An owl hooted somewhere in the distance and Nick though again how there were never any owls on the beach. He kept moving, his legs taking him deeper and deeper into the wooden confines of Kevin's property.

He rounded a corner, convinced he’d been walking for hours. There, up ahead seemed to be a clearing. Possibly a pond on the other side? At least it looked like it might have been. As he grew closer he saw several cut trees and wondered what this part of the property was used for. Nick really needed to learn more about the land and all of it’s secrets he thought as he advanced on the cleared area.

“Nick?”

Hearing his name made him stumble and he shot out his hands to break himself if he fell. He tripped over his own two feet but managed to stay upright as he turned towards the voice. Kevin sat a few feet away on a tree stump, peering out at the small pond. Relief filled the younger man. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been happier to see him. Kevin was here, safe. Kevin would protect him from the woods. All the thoughts jumbled in his mind as he quickly made his way to his lover.

“God baby, I was so worried.” Nick said as he dropped to his knees in front of the older man. He laid his head against Kevin’s thigh and took one of his hands in his. Threading their fingers together he sighed out loud.

“How did you find me?” the older man questioned as he took the hand Nick wasn’t holding and ran it through Nick’s hair. Needing the connection, the contact with the younger man.

“When Brian came back to the house you weren’t with him. I got upset and demanded he tell me where you were, what happened out here.” Nick pushed closer into him, needing his warmth as well as his comfort. Kevin was okay, at least physically.

“Did he tell you about the fight?” Kevin asked, his voice full of unshed tears.

Nick looked up at him from where he sat on the ground, watched those beautiful green eyes he loved filling with tears was enough to break Nick’s own heart. He nodded. “Yeah he told me. After I told him off I kicked him out. I hope you’re not mad.”

Kevin inhaled sharply, the sound wet and garbled with his emotions so high. “You...you kicked him out?”

Nick smiled shyly at him. “Are you mad at me?”

The tears sprang forward, falling down Kevin’s cheeks so quickly he couldn’t brush them away quick enough. Horrified, Nick jumped to his feet. “I’m sorry Kev, I can call him and tell him to come back. I didn’t mean to overstep. I was just so angry and if he didn’t get away from me right then I was going to hit him.”

The tears came quicker and Kevin grabbed Nick’s wrist and pulled him down into his lap. Nick adjusted himself until he was straddling Kevin on the tree stump, his long legs hanging off the other side. He placed his forehead against the older man’s and pulled their upper bodies as close as he could manage. “Talk to me baby, did I do the wrong thing?”

Kevin shook his head, his eyes never leaving Nick’s blue ones. “No baby, you did everything right. It’s me, it’s my issue.”

“Your issues are my issues. Talk to me.” Nick said as he hugged him close.

“I was scared. I was so scared, baby. I guess on some level I always felt like I always came in second to Brian, in everything. You two were so close and I know the only reason you pulled away from each other was his marriage. When he told me he loved you, all I could think about was here was another avenue for me to be second best. If he wanted you, then maybe there was a part of you that had wanted him back then. I know it’s stupid. I just couldn’t face either of you until I got myself under control. I wasn’t even sure how to tell you.” Kevin said dejectedly.

Nick leaned in and brushed their lips together before pulling back and smiling at the other man. “I love you. I have only ever loved you. The only thing I felt when he told me was blinding anger. Anger that he put all of this on you, anger that he made me feel so bad about myself for loving you, for being gay. I was so angry I swear if Saoirse hadn’t been in the room I would have gone after him. The best thing I could think of to do was to get rid of him and come find you. You’re all I ever want.”

Kevin smiled at the blonde. His heart filling with love at each word that fell from his lips. The fact that Nick had not hesitated, not even tried to prolong the discussion with Brian about his feelings for him told Kevin everything he needed to know right there. He’d never felt so much compassion for another person. “You’re all I’ve ever wanted too Nicky. Just you.” Kevin buried his head into Nick’s neck and inhaled the scent of his lover.

​He looked up suddenly. “Where are the kids?”

Nick laughed and pulled him closer. “I left Mason in charge.”

Kevin chuckled. “Oh god. We’d better get back. There’s no telling what kind of mess we’ll come back to.”

Nick smiled and stood up offering his hand to Kevin as he went. Kevin took it and laced their fingers and together they headed back towards the house.
Chapter Thirty-Three by Arok
Once they got back to the house they were relieved to find everyone still in one piece. Nick thanked Mason profusely for holding down the fort and promised to write a letter to Santa himself telling him how great of a big brother he truly was. That elicited quite the response from the child, throwing his arms around Nick so quickly that he almost sent them crashing to the floor. Nick was shocked, but quite touched that Mason was so happy. He'd tried desperately to connect with both of Kevin's kids, wanting them to eventually see him as another father figure, an adult completely on their side and routing for them too. While they chatted and played games together, there wasn't any real emotional contact between them. To have Mason throw himself in to Nick's arms warmed him in a way he hadn't been aware he needed. Kevin watched the whole interaction, thanking his lucky stars that they could get to this place together, all of them.

Nick started dinner while Kevin helped get the kids washed up and ready to eat. Nick took notice of his mood. While he was present and helpful with the kids, he still had an air of detachment from everything. Nick once again cursed Brian for planting the seed of doubt that was most definitely blossoming in the other man. Nick was determined to make sure he ripped it out by the root, as soon as they had the ability to be alone. No one was going to make Kevin feel like second best, or that he was anything less than the most important thing in Nick's life, at least not if Nick could help it. While he was a little hurt by Kevin immediately thinking the worst, he completely understood where he was coming from.

Hell, Nick was probably the most insecure person anyone had ever met. It was important to understand that about yourself he supposed. He knew if the tables had been turned, if someone else that Kevin had been close to suddenly wanted him, Nick knew he would head down a very dark spiral of self doubt and loathing. He already felt like he wasn't good enough for the older man most of the time. Someone else wanted him, loving him, Nick knew he wouldn't be able to handle it, at least nowhere near as well as Kevin seemed to be doing.

Nick finished the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as Kevin came back into the kitchen. He smirked as he peered over at the plates. "We need to buy stock in peanut butter." he teased as he grabbed a couple of plates and headed to the table.

"Hey! Neither of us feel like cooking and at least the kids will have dinner." Nick said pouting.

Kevin held up his hands in defense. "Hey I'm not judging, I like peanut butter. All I am saying is it might be a good place to diversity our portfolio. We buy this shit in bulk and we still seem to be running out of it all the time."

"You'd better love peanut butter!" Nick threatened, his lip protruding further as he continued to pout.

Kevin crossed the room and took the younger man in his arms. Leaning down he nipped at the pouted lip before taking the lower one into his mouth. They kissed deeply, Nick wrapping his arms around Kevin's neck and bringing him closer. They were interrupted a moment later by Nick's cell phone ringing and three kids bombarding into the room, Odin laughing as the two older boys chased him through the kitchen and under the table, laughing and shrieking all the way. Kevin pulled away and smiled down at the blonde. "Never a dull moment around here."

Nick smiled before leaning up and pecking him quickly on the lips. "I wouldn’t want it any other way."

Kevin smiled as he turned to the children clambering over the kitchen chairs in their game of chase. "Who wants pb&js!"

The cheers from the kids were fierce and Nick chuckled as he answered his cell phone. He glanced at Kevin, his eyes growing wide and quickly ducked out of the room. Kevin caught the look on Nick’s face and felt a twinge of fear take hold again. Pushing down the momentary panic he surveyed the room around him. Odin was hiding under the table, while Mason and Maxwell kept trying to grab him from where they sat in their seats. All the boys were flushed and all smiles. Brotherhood was a beautiful thing. Kevin thought about his own brothers, the rest of the fellas and how he wouldn't trade any of this for a different life. It was true, there really was not a dull moment in this crazy nut house.

About twenty minutes later Nick reentered the kitchen. Kevin took notice of Nick's face and shot him a look. Nick shook his head, "We'll talk later.” Nick quickly grabbed his own sandwich and sat down next to Odin to make sure he finished his dinner. Saoirse was playing in the remnants of her sandwich smearing peanut butter all over her cheeks and the high chair tray. Kevin smiled as he surveyed the table. This was a nuthouse, but he was damn proud of it and he would do everything in his power to keep it protected.

--

After a shower, due to a very rowdy bath time leaving him soaked and covered in baby shampoo, Nick was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to curl himself around the older man and forget the world and all the pressure it wanted to constantly put them under. Kevin wasn't in the bedroom when he came out of the shower, but it was still early so Nick hadn't expected him to be laying down yet. Pulling on a pair of sweatpants he decided to forgo the shirt and ran his fingers through his growing hair. Seriously, a haircut would be in order the next time he had to venture out to meet the lawyer. He checked the baby monitor quickly to make sure the kids were still sleeping before slipping out of the bedroom and making his way downstairs. He found Kevin in the living room, stretched out on the couch with a book in hand. He glanced up as Nick walked in and smiled. "Now this is something I can get used to." Kevin said softly, placing his book on the coffee table.

Nick stretched out on the couch beside him pressing his back against Kevin's chest and laying his head against his shoulder. Kevin's arms came around him and taking both of Nick's hands in his. The action was both firm and comforting. "What's that?" Nick asked absent-mindedly, playing with the fingers of Kevin's hand. Kevin caught Nick's fingers in his own and squeezed softly. "You, walking around here without a shirt on. You're damn sexy, baby"

Nick chuckled and shook his head. "Doubtful. I was just too lazy to go and find one and I knew the kids were asleep."

"Well whatever the reason is, I'm thankful. I like seeing you this way." Kevin said, as he moved their clasped hands to begin rubbing small circles across Nick's stomach.

Nick pressed himself further back into the older man and felt Kevin's grip on his tighten. His eyes drifted closed as he got lost in the feeling of his lover. The touches were calming and intimate. Kevin was silent for several moments, concentrating only on relaxing the blonde with his hands. As he felt the tension in Nick's body leave he himself began to relax. They'd had a hell of a day and Kevin for one was glad it was over. His mind was still spinning however about Brian and what to do about it. For now, he was just so very thankful that Nick had made it clear that no matter what Brian thought or felt, that it wouldn't interfere with them or stand in the way of them being together.

He watched the way Nick stared at their hands, quiet but content. He knew one of them would have to bring up the phone call, probably Brian too. He just wasn’t sure how much energy he had to get through it all tonight. He was tired, so damn tired of fighting. It seemed like they were constantly on an uphill battle. What he wouldn’t give for just one month of peace. One month for them to have the chance to see how far they could fall, how close they could grow without a million things flying at them at once. He knew he was being ridiculous. Nothing mattered, except the fact they were together. He also knew, honestly believed, that together they were strong enough to get through anything.

“What’s going on Nicky,” he asked softly, breaking the silence.

Nick sighed and pushed his face closer to Kevin’s chest. He didn’t answer at first, just inhaled the scent of the older man, cherishing these quiet moments. “The lawyer called. That’s who was on the phone earlier. They got a phone call from the social worker. They want to come and do a home visit on Friday.”

Kevin nodded. “Okay, we knew this was going to happen. What’s got you so upset?”

Nick tilted his head back and looked up into the green eyes he loved so much. “I’m just scared Kev. If this doesn’t go well, I could lose my chance at custody. I could lose my kids. I don’t know how I can go on without them here with me.” Nick’s head dropped back down to look at their hands.

Kevin leaned down and dropped a kiss on Nick’s forehead. “Everything is going to go just fine baby. Our home is safe, we have plenty of food and money to take care of these kids. We’re going to be just fine. I understand it’s scary. Hell I would be scared shitless, but we’re in this together. From start to finish, it’s you and me.”

Nick smiled softly. “Our home huh?” he asked smiling up at Kevin.

“Of course our home. What do you mean?”

“I guess I still view it as your home, and we’re just staying here.” Nick said, avoiding his eyes.

Kevin struggled to sit up, pushing Nick into a sitting position as he went. Nick leaned up and shifted on the couch until his back was against the cushions. Kevin reached over and cupped his cheek, moving Nick’s head to make the other man look at him. “This house is not mine. This house is ours. We are building a life here, a family here. Everything of mine is yours. I hope you know that. There is no me without you anymore.” Kevin said honestly.

Nick blinked back tears and smiled softly. “I don’t have much to offer you, but whatever I have is yours. I love you, Kevin.”

Kevin reached out and pulled Nick closer to him. Nick scooted and shifted on the couch until he was in Kevin’s lap, his legs curling behind the older man. Kevin laid his head against Nick’s forehead and kissed his nose. “All I want is you baby, every day, forever.”

Nick felt his cheeks flush as he leaned in and brushed his lips against the older man's. What he intended to be a short, sweet kiss quickly turned into more as he felt Kevin's tongue against his lips, begging for entrance. Nick opened his mouth and quickly fell into the feelings Kevin created as his hands wrapped around Kevin's neck. He could feel the other man's arms wrap low around his back, pulling him even closer. His shirtless chest was already warm and the feeling of Kevin's touch in his naked skin felt like fire licking at his flesh. He moaned out, not even realizing he'd done so as he shifted his hips in Kevin's lap.

As their kiss deepened he felt Kevin's hips rise up to meet his, their erections rubbing against each other softly. Another moan escaped Nick and he broke their kiss to gasp in air as he began to move his hips back and forth, causing a delicious friction against the other man. Kevin's head fell back against the couch cushion as he continued to raise his hips to meet Nick's. Taking the opportunity in front of him, Nick scooted even closer and continued to ground his hips down against the older man as his mouth found its purchase against the soft ivory skin of Kevin's neck. He bit and sucked along the length of Kevin's neck, groaning every time Kevin's rock hard erection pressed into his own. What was meant to be a comforting hug between lovers was quickly turning into much, much more as Nick's body betrayed him and begged Kevin for touch and release. Kevin moaned then and reached up and grabbed the back of Nick's head before bringing their mouths together in a searing kiss. "Need you. Now." Kevin grunted against Nick's lips. Nick smiled and kissed him back before nodding.

Before Nick could even process what was happening he felt himself lifted up and then thrown back down on the length of the couch. He smirked up at Kevin, the smirk dying quickly at the look on Kevin's face. Kevin tore off his own t-shirt and his pants quickly followed. Before Nick knew what was happening his pajama bottoms were yanked off and his was stretched out naked on the couch. He didn't even have a second to be embarrassed or object before Kevin was on him, his knees on either side of Nick's hips and his cock grinding down wonderfully against Nick's own. He cried out, his head falling back into the soft leather, no longer caring where they were as long as he could continue to feel this man move against him. Kevin began placing kisses all across Nick's chest, paying extra attention to his nipples as he went. Nick bucked up against him, wanting to get closer, wanting anything more from the older man. "I love you baby." Kevin said as he looked up from licking a path down Nick's stomach. Nick looked down and groaned at the look of lust and love mixing in Kevin's electric green eyes.

"God baby, I love you so much." Nick said before dropping his head back against the seat of the couch. The way Kevin was touching, caressing every inch of his skin was making it hard to breath, let alone talk.

Kevin continued down with his kisses, skipping over the place Nick wanted him most. He kissed along Nick's thighs and then sat back on his heels. "You ready baby?" he asked softly, his fingers drifting down the curve of Nick's ass and teasing along his crack. "Oh shit baby," he moaned as Kevin's finger brushed his puckered entrance. He shifted his hips down hard trying anything to get closer to the fingers and the wonderful feelings they brought to his body.

"I'll take that as a yes." Kevin said smiling. He looked around the room and smiled when his eyes fell on the basket of baby supplies they kept in the living room. Getting up from the couch he crossed to the bookcase and rooted around in the basket until he found the baby oil. They could buy more to replace the basket supply he though smirking to himself. He turned to rejoin Nick on the couch and his breath caught in his throat. Seeing the blond stretched out, so hard and writhing on the couch waiting for him to return, waiting for his touch and affection was almost enough to make him come right there. How had he gotten so lucky to have this gorgeous man want him? It would be a question he asked himself every day for the rest of his life. Whatever it was he had done to deserve him, he would be eternally grateful.

"Baby, I'm dying here." Nick said as he propped himself up on his elbows and gazed at Kevin over the back of the couch. "What's the matter?"

Kevin shook away the thoughts and gave Nick a small smile. "Nothing baby, just thinking about whatever I did to deserve to have you here with me, just like this." He settled back on the couch between Nick's spread legs.

"I think you got that backwards baby. I'm the incredibly lucky one here. I have no idea why you love me, I'm just thankful you do." Nick answered honestly.

Kevin popped the top off the baby oil and proceeded to pour a handful into his palm. Rubbing his hands together to warm it, he grasped his cock in his hand and pumped it a few times to coat it in the slick oil. As he did he spoke. "Baby, I love you for so many reasons, one day I'll write them all down for you and whisper them against your skin while I make love to you. But right now I need you."

Nick moaned and nodded. "Me too. Fuck me baby."

Kevin needed no other encouragement. He pulled Nick's hips closer and lifted then gently before sliding a throw pillow under his butt to raise him higher off the couch. Once Nick was positioned he pressed against his entrance and sighed in relief as he slid inside the tight, warm heat of his lover. He grunted as he slid all the way inside, loving every feeling, every emotion that danced across his lover's face. Nick's eyes were closed, his head thrown back and he let out little grunts and moans and Kevin began moving inside of him. Kevin tried to keep his eyes trained on the blonde, tried to watch the pleasure in his face, but everything felt too good, too right and he found his own eyes closing as he pulled out and slammed back inside his love. The pressure built quickly, it had been an emotional day and too much teasing had put them both on the edge.

"I'm there baby," Nick managed to choke out as he wiggled against the couch cushion. Kevin groaned and thrust a couple more times and then they were both coming, releasing together, forgetting everything else and only focusing on the love between them.

Kevin pulled out and laid alongside Nick to catch his breath. Not for the first time, Kevin was thankful he'd sprung for the oversized couch when he'd replaced the living room furniture after Kristin left. He never imagined he'd need a larger sofa to hold two men over six feet tall, at the time he'd only been thinking of slumber parties with the boys, but now, now the couch size had brand new meaning and he couldn't be happier. He could feel Nick working to catch his breath beside him and smiled. He loved knowing he was the one who did that. He'd made the blonde come so hard it had taken his breath away. It was a high he never wanted to come down from. He shifted until he could place a kiss against Nick's shoulder. Nick turned his head and smiled at him, the sweetest, most satisfied smile he'd ever remembered seeing.

"Thank you for knowing exactly how to take my mind off of everything else." Nick said laughing quietly.

Kevin smiled too. "Oh, it was definitely my pleasure baby."
Chapter Thirty-Four by Arok
Nick spent the next two days in a state of constant panic. Not only was there barely a week left until Christmas, but the social worker would be there that morning to inspect the house and meet with the children. He was on edge, cranky and every little thing seemed to set him off. He'd yelled at Odin for messing up his room after Nick had just cleaned it and when Saoirse had thrown the diapers all over her bedroom for the third time Nick had to walk away before he completely lost it. That's where Kevin found him, pacing the floor of the hallway, angrily mumbling to himself and looking like a bear ready to attack.

Kevin had heard Nick yelling from upstairs and knew something had to be really upsetting him for him to react that way, especially with one of his children. Kevin frowned as he got closer and could really see just how affected the younger man was. He knew Nick hadn't seen him come downstairs, so he waited until the other man turned around before coming up behind him and wrapping his arms securely around his lover. Nick stopped pacing instantly and melted back against him. Kevin’s grip around him tightened, pressing his chest back against Kevin's own and securing his arms at his side. All Nick could do was lean against him, completely unable to get away, exactly how Kevin wanted him. They stood like that for several moments in the hallway, rocking gently back and forth while Kevin held him. "You calming down?" Kevin asked softly, his breath tickling the side of Nick's neck as he whispered against his skin. Nick shivered in his arms and nodded. Kevin dropped a kiss against the place where Nick's neck and collarbone connected, eliciting a soft moan from the other man.

Kevin smiled. How many times over the years had he had to hold Nick in this very fashion. All the times before had been without the kisses or touches that now meant so much more, to both of them. All the other times had been completely platonic, but Kevin had learned early on, all those many years ago that the best way to get the younger man to calm down and relax had been to gather him in his arms to hold him as tightly as possible. It worked like a charm every single time.

When they were first forming the group and Nick would get overwhelmed by it all, Kevin and the other guys had tried desperately to get the young boy to calm down and focus. It seemed like everything they tried had only served as kindling for Nick's raging anxiety. Out of sheer desperation one afternoon in Germany with Nick almost trembling with anger over something AJ had said to him they had tried everything to get him to calm down and focus. Kevin had been afraid at the time that they were going to come to blows and even though Nick had been younger than AJ at the time, he'd also always been stronger. Kevin knew if Nick got a hold of him in his current state that there was the possibility of AJ being seriously injured. So Kevin had come up behind Nick, gathered him in his arms, much like he was doing now, and squeezed him as hard as possible. The rest of the guys watched in amazement as the fight drained out if the other man and his small body had sagged against Kevin. Even after he'd stopped thrashing about Kevin had continued to hold on to him. Giving him a couple of minutes more to calm down Kevin released him. After that Nick was fine and they continued the recording session without another incident. Kevin had to use this tactic more times than even the other guys knew over the years when Nick's emotions or anxiety got to be too great for him to be able to control on his own. Now that they were together, Kevin was pleased to see it still had the same desired effect. Nick went slack against him, but this time he rolled his head to the side and buried his face against Kevin's neck, inhaling the scent of the older man only helped to further calm him. "How do you do that?" Nick mumbled against the flesh of Kevin's neck.

The older man chuckled as Nick's breath tickled against him. "Do what?"

"Always know exactly what I need." Nick whispered softly.

Kevin squeezed him even tighter. "Mmm, that my dear boy is because I love you so. I made it my job to know what you need and when so I can be your own personal slave." Kevin winked at him and wiggled his eyebrows.

Nick laughed and placed a kiss against Kevin's neck before moving and placing several more along his jaw line. He twisted in Kevin's arms until he could lean in and brush his lips across the older man's before sighing with contentment. "Mmm, don't give me any ideas. If I have to think about you being my slave we'll never get through this interview."

Kevin threw his head back in laughter. "Baby, if you don't chill out we're not going to get through it anyway. Everything is going to be fine. You're stressing yourself out to the point it's not going to go well if you're this upset. I understand how much is riding on this and I'm beside you every step of the way. But, for everyone's sanity why don't you take a walk outside. Go down to the stables or the lake. We have two hours before she's supposed to be here so go let me take care of the kids and everything else here. Relax, clear your head and come back in a little bit."

Nick started to shake his head but Kevin kissed him to silence him. Nick smiled into the kiss and hugged the other man tightly. Kevin hugged him back and then released him. Turning Nick towards the stairs he slapped his ass and said "Go! Seriously, we'll see you in a little bit." Nick gave him one last look and then bounded down the stairs and out of sight. Kevin sighed and shook his head. They were going to have to replace all of the carpeting in this damn house with the worried pacing Nick seemed to do in almost every single room Kevin thought as he went to examine the mess Saoirse had made.

Her beautiful face lit up the moment he stepped inside the room. Seeing her look so innocent, so much like her father in every expression seemed to grip him around the heart every time he saw her. She stood on shaky legs and ran to him at the door, thrusting her little arms up in the air for him to lift her. Not making her wait a beat, Kevin leaned down and scooped her tiny frame up into his arms. She leaned her head against his cheek and proceeded to try to give him several sloppy baby kisses. Kevin chuckled as he tickled her tummy. Yep, definitely her father's daughter. While he held her he examined the room more closely, double and triple checking that all outlets were covered and all furniture was secured to the wall. Satisfied he held her close to his body as he began picking up the diapers all over the floor. They made a swoop motion together every time he leaned over and she giggled with excitement with every lean. Kevin’s smile only grew as her giggles increased.

God help him he loved this little girl, Odin too. He never imagined himself having more kids after Maxwell, and definitely never a daughter. Getting pregnant with Kristin had been a trying experience and the thought of putting her through that again hadn't even been a question. But now, everything was different now. Not only had his relationship with Nick brought two wonderful additional children into his life, but he wrestled with the possibility of more all the time. He loved this life. He loved all of them and nothing would separate them, he was sure of it.

--

This was not going well. Kevin kept one eye on the elderly social worker and the other eye in his lover who was wringing his hands at every turn. They started in the foyer and followed the woman around from room to room as she checked outlets, smoke detectors, door locks and more. She scribbled notes on her clipboard and scowled at them every time they went anywhere near each other. He knew they made her uncomfortable, knew she was not acceptable of their relationship, but he hoped that she would at least be able to remain objective in her report. As they followed her up the stairs to the second floor Nick shot him a worried look. Kevin pushed down his own anxiety and gave Nick a comforting smile. He hoped his expression was confident enough to ease some of the other man's fears, even though on the inside he felt like screaming. Mason and Maxwell had been instructed to keep the younger two kids occupied while he and Nick had met her at the door. As they rounded the corner his heart grew two sizes as his eyes fell on the kids in the room. They were all four huddled in the center of Odin's room, Saoirse in Mason's lap and Odin and Maxwell curled up together as Mason read to them from the storybook on the floor. He shot a glance at Nick and smiled softly as he saw the tears well up in the corners of his eyes. These kids continued to amaze him.

He looked at the social worker and was pleased to see a small smile graced her lips. Maybe they were making progress. She watched the children for several moments as they seemed oblivious to whatever was going on in the room. As she moved to leave the room Saoirse's head shot up from the story, her eyes fixed solely on Kevin. She pushed herself off of Mason and toddled over to where the adults were standing in the doorway. She stopped in front of Kevin and fell on her butt. "Da." she said as she lifted her arms in the air. Kevin was momentarily speechless. This was the first he'd heard her say anything and wasn't sure exactly what to do. When no one made a move to pick her up, she got louder. "Da. DA." she yelled as she waved her arms up at Kevin.

Smiling softly he reached down and picked her up. She smiled and tried to do her baby kisses again against his cheek. Nick laughed for the first time since the social worker arrived. The sound filled Kevin with happiness as he smiled, enjoying the happiness from his lover and the slobbering mess the baby was making on his face. He glanced at the boys and was relieved to see smiles in their faces as well before Mason continued with the story. The social worker hid a small smile and nodded as she bustled out of the room. Kevin and Nick followed, still holding onto the baby as they went. She inspected Saoirse's room, the bathrooms and even went to the third floor and examined Mason and Maxwell's rooms. Once the inspection process was complete she sent Kevin and Nick back downstairs with Saoirse so she could talk to each of the kids alone.

Once they entered the living room Nick fell back into the couch and dropped his head in his hands. Kevin, still carrying the baby, grabbed a couple of soft books and stuffies from her bin by the window and sat her down on the rug before taking a seat beside Nick on the couch. He placed his hand on Nick's knee and squeezed, letting the other man know he was there but not risking any other kind of contact with the social worker in the house. The last thing they needed was for her to find them doing something inappropriate.

Kevin leaned back against the back of the couch and tried to relax. He was confident they had secured the house well enough to pass an inspection, he was also confident that his own boys understood enough about what was going on to answer her questions honestly and accurately. Odin was still so young and was easily confused, but he was still confident in all the kids' ability to handle their portions of the interview. Next she would talk to each of them individually before sitting down with them as a couple and going through her recommendations. According to the lawyer, once this part of the process was finished all they were waiting on was a court date to go before a judge. With the holidays coming so quickly that wouldn't happen until sometime after the first of the year, leaving them completely intact through Christmas and New Years.

He smiled softly to himself thinking about Christmas. As much as he was excited for the kids and the presents they had bought for the kids, he was even more excited for the surprise he had planned for Nick. He bit his lip from giggling it was going to be a Merry Christmas indeed. He was startled out of his thoughts by the sound of someone coming down the stairs. The social worker made her way down the stairs slowly. Once she was on the landing she glanced towards the two men. "Who wants to go first?" She asked briskly.

Nick stood and gave Kevin a look of fear. "I might as well get this over with." he turned and followed the woman into the foyer and towards the kitchen.

Kevin sat back down on the couch and watched Saoirse chewing on her stuffy. She was perfectly content chewing and twisting it in her hands, not even bothering to look over at him. He smiled as he watched her. He wanted to go upstairs and grill the boys over what had been said but he knew it would be of no use until after she left and if it had gone badly, he didn't want to know about it yet. He tried breathing in and out slowly to settle his nerves. He was worried about Nick and how he was handling his portion of the interview. He knew how nervous the younger man was and only wished they could have done this part together instead of being split up. In what felt like no time at all he felt the couch shift and Nick settle in beside him. Nick grasped his hand in his and gave it a squeeze.

"Your turn baby." Nick said softy, his voice heavy with tears.

Kevin squeezed back. "What happened?"

Nick shook his head and looked across the room, his eyes focusing on the fireplace to keep from crying. Kevin watched him for several moments before Nick spoke. "You'd better go, don't keep her waiting."

Kevin felt his anger begin to build. "What did she say to you?"

Nick still refused to look at him. "She asked me what would posses me to put these babies through the stigma and scrutiny of not having a mother, of me being gay. I.. I didn't even know what to say. I wasn't expecting something so mean Kev. She made it sound like I was doing something wrong, doing something to hurt my kids. But I'm not. Just look at them, they've never been happier than since we got here, since you. Jesus Saoirse called you Da, she's never even said a word before. How could this be wrong? How could I be hurting them by loving you, by you loving us?" Nick's blue eyes filled with tears and Kevin pulled him close before dropping several kisses against his soft hair.

As he pulled back he grabbed Nick by the chin to make sure his eyes were focused only on him. Once their eyes met Kevin finally spoke. "You are doing nothing wrong. I love you baby, I love these kids. We are a family, all six of us. She's not going to tell us otherwise." he dropped a kiss softly against Nick's lips before releasing him and getting up off the couch. He had to take several deep breaths as the left the living room so he wouldn't be tempted to slap the homophobic social worker off the kitchen chair.

As he entered the kitchen he tried really hard to keep a neutral look on his face, but the anger bubbling underneath the surface was hard for him to mask. He'd never been good at controlling his temper and could go from zero to sixty in no time. This was not one of those times he could let his anger get the better of him however. Too much was riding on this to let that happen. He took a seat across from the woman and tried not to shoot daggers at her with his eyes. She didn't even look up at him, just flipped to another page in her notebook and began asking basic questions about his past, his financial situation and the custody arrangement he had with his ex-wife. After several minutes of her questioning and her refusal to actually look at him he'd had enough.

"Let's stop this here."

She looked up at him confused. "We're not done here Mr. Richardson."

"I understand that, but you and I need to get something straight or I'll call the lawyer and ask them to send a social worker who can actually do her job and handle working with a homosexual couple without judgment and discrimination. The entire time you've been in our home you've done nothing but show your disgust for us and our family. I understand you may have personal feelings about gay couples and you are entitled to your opinion. What you are legally not allowed to do is let your prejudice come into play when you are evaluating my home and my family. I will not allow your own discrimination about our family to affect the facts here. We have a very clean, safe and loving home. Nick and I together make more money than a good half of the entire state of Kentucky. Then if you want to add into the other elements here that we've managed to blend two families into one, four kids that act and treat each other like siblings, we have a wonderful relationship with my ex-wife and have plenty of family and friends who love and support us. There is no alcohol or drugs in this home and it's fully stocked with more food than even necessary for six people. That's all semantics. What's the most important here, what really matters in the grand scheme of a happy home is how much I love him and how much he loves me. We've been each other's lives for almost 29 years now and I've loved him for almost every single one. You will not find another house to visit that has more love or determination to be together than this one right here. So we will play by your rules and we will jump through your hoops, but I will not allow you to stand in my home and make him feel bad, or make me feel bad for the love we share just because we are both men." After he finished he sat back in the kitchen chair and studied her face. She was shocked, a look of… Well Kevin wasn't really sure what that look was, crossed her features.

She studied him for several moments and then nodded. "Duly noted Mr. Richardson. I do apologize. I am uncomfortable with this. I've been doing this job for a very long time and you are the first couple...of this…type that I've had to interview and I admit I've been very uncomfortable with the whole thing. I don't not understand your lifestyle or your choices, but as you have clearly pointed out, it's not my job to understand, but to make sure the home is safe for the children. I have to admit there's nothing here that would warrant any further investigation. Let's get Nick and be finished. " she shoved her papers back inside her binder and rose from her seat. Kevin stood as well and waited for her to pass before following towards the living room.

Nick's eager eyes locked on his as soon as they came into view. He sent the younger man a small smile, hoping to ease his nerves. The woman settled herself in the armchair as she laid down her bag and binder. Kevin took his place beside Nick, lacing their fingers together as he took the other man's hand in his.

"Nick I'd like to apologize for the way I spoke with you. I fully admit that I'm uncomfortable with your situation and I let it cloud my judgment. As I have stated to Kevin here, I see no issues with the home or environment you've created for the children and I will make sure my report includes that. "

Nick's eyes glistened as he tried not to allow the emotions he was feeling her the better of him. "Thank you. I can't tell you how much this means to me." he said as he squeezed Kevin's hand.

She nodded and rose to her feet, gathering her belongings as she went. "Let me walk you out," Kevin offered, always the southern gentlemen.

Nick smiled at both of them as they left the room before collapsing on the floor with Saoirse. It has been a very emotional week. Who the hell was he kidding. Most weeks since he and Kevin had gotten together had been one crisis, one problem after another. He hoped and prayed that they could just celebrate Christmas together without any catastrophe or anything else happening. All he wanted was a very quiet holiday and time with his loves.

Kevin held open the front door as the social worker slipped her coat on. Stepping out in the chilly air Kevin wished he'd grabbed his own jacket. She turned to face him, a small smile on her face. "Anyone would be a fool not to see how much you love and care for him." she said softly.

Kevin nodded. "I do. More than anything. Do you have a second to answer a couple of questions."

She glanced at her watch and then nodded up at him. "Sure, my next appointment isn't for another hour."

He crossed his arms from the cold and debated how to phrase his question. "You might not be the right one to ask or have any idea, but if in the future, we wanted to explore adoption, is this the same kind of thing we would have to go through?"

The woman's face relaxed, a surprised look crossing her features. "Actually, depending on how far out you are thinking, this visit right here covers you for two years. There wouldn't have to be another visit like this done unless something had changed, relationship, financial or if you switched homes. To get started with the adoption process you would need to submit a formal adoption application through the department of social services or through a private agency if that's the route you choose to go. Are you thinking of adopting a child together?"

Kevin shrugged. "It's an idea I've been tossing around. Nothing we've really spent time talking about we've had more pressing matters to deal with first obviously, but it's something I think I want to consider down the road. I just wasn't even sure how to begin the conversation or the process. We have a lot of love between us and a lot to offer. We love kids and we love our family, if there is a child out there that can benefit from the love and security we can provide then it's something I want to explore."

She nodded and patted his cheek. Digging around in her bag she produced two business cards. She handed them both to him. "One is my office card. If I can do anything to help you or answer any questions then give me a call. The other is for a private adoption agency. I'm assuming that would be more your style." she winked at him. "Either way, it would be easier for you in the long run to wait until at least the custody hearing is finished and custody of these two children have been established. Then once that's settled then I would begin the process of adopting. I won't lie to you, it's not an easy process, no matter how much celebrity or wealth you have and being a gay couple may play a factor depending on if your trying to adopt a baby where the mother decides or an older child where the courts decide. Just be prepared, that's my advice to you. "

He thanked her and watched her walk to her car. Once he was sure she was safely inside and her car started he turned and went back inside the house. He suddenly had a lot to think about.
Chapter Thirty-Five by Arok
Author's Notes:
Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for giving me an outlet to deal with my stress and anxiety. I am so thankful you've been enjoying the story and the love between these two.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! Let me know what you think about the Christmas gifts!
The first snowfall, Kevin believed, was always a cause for celebration. When he was a little boy and his father was still alive it was something they celebrated together. Kevin could still remember being woken from a dead sleep by his father, his eyes dancing as he instructed Kevin to get dressed, handing him his winter coat and shoes. He always sat on the edge of Kevin's bed while Kevin hurried to change and bundle up. Once ready to go Kevin's dad would hold a finger to his lips, signaling that they needed to be quiet. Together in the dark they crept out of the house, leaving Kevin's mom and brothers sound asleep. They wandered out into the backyard, a thick layer of snow already coating the frozen hard ground. Kevin stood in the middle of the yard, flakes coming down all around him as he spun in a circle laughing and trying to catch the icy flakes on his warm tongue. They stood outside for what felt like hours, looking at the snow and sharing this very special moment together. After the very first time Kevin had known to expect it. If he heard rumblings of snow coming from school or the news he would go to bed with a giant smile on his face knowing at any moment his bedroom door would creak open and there would be his father, jacket in hand and so excited to venture outside. No one else was ever invited, it was the one thing they shared together that was just theirs and no older brothers were involved, stealing his dad's time and leaving Kevin out of the fun.

Kevin leaned against the couch in his studio and smiled to himself as he remembered the memories. He hadn't always been so serious, so focused and determined. A long time ago, Kevin had been that excited little boy. When he lost his dad, any leftover innocence was taken too. By the time the rest of the guys came into the picture and the group was formed, he had forgotten all about magic and how it truly felt to have the heart of a child. Kevin always felt like that part of him had died that day, buried alongside his father. But it was slowly coming back. Being with Nick, having all these hopes and dreams come true was doing a lot to bring back that childhood wonder and love for things of magic, like the first snowfall.

It just so happened that the snow was scheduled to hit on Christmas eve. He hadn't checked the forecast at first when he'd begun to plan out Nick's Christmas present. At the time the weather wasn't even something that would play a part in his plan. But then his phone alerted him of the possibility of snow, the first snow and he'd been flooded with memories of his father and winters long ago. Every time he tried to think of something else, his mind drifted right back to those cherished images of dancing in the snow with his father. Ashamedly, he'd never done the same with his own boys. He hadn't even really given much thought to the snow or the time with his dad in years. Most of the time he wasn't even home when the first bout of cold and snow ravished Kentucky. But everything was different this year, everything. And all Kevin could think about was snow and how now, somehow, this had to be a part of it. He wanted to make this new memory with Nick.

While he knew no holiday or day for that matter could ever be exactly perfect, he wanted to at least try. After everything they had been through lately, he really needed a win. They were prepared for Santa and for Christmas morning. All gifts had been ordered and wrapped and were currently sitting locked in the studio closet. While they weren't going to have Kevin's boys for Christmas morning, they had already made plans to go to Kristin's to do Santa in the morning with all the kids and then after breakfast they would bring Odin and Saoirse home to unwrap the rest of their presents. The younger ones were still little enough not to care, and Kevin secretly wondered if this would be the last year Mason would believe. He didn't want to mention that fact, too scared that if he said it out loud it would come true. He wasn't ready to admit his oldest was old enough to stop believing in Santa.

They would get the boys back on Sunday night, allowing the boys extended time with Kristin. It was also to assist with Nick's Christmas present but he didn't know that yet. He smiled to himself thinking about his plans. She would also be keeping the younger two overnight as well. The original plan was for her to keep them on Saturday night into Sunday, but now with the snow coming, Kevin had to figure out if the snowfall was worth changing his plans for. Well, not changing them, just speeding up the timeline a bit.

He checked the forecast again. Almost a foot of snow was expected to fall beginning at dawn on Christmas eve. Nick had never seen snow like this before. His mind made up, Kevin dialed the familiar number to change his plans.

--

Kevin was acting weird, he was almost… giddy. Nick had never seen him this way and honestly, it was starting to scare him. It started sometime Sunday night and there had been no mention, no defining moment that Nick could point to and say that's what caused it. It was nice, very nice to see Kevin all smiles at every turn. But that wasn't Kevin and now Nick was growing concerned his boyfriend had been replaced by a pod person. Perhaps Kevin usually got this excited about Christmas. Admittedly they hadn't spent the holidays together in several years and never after they'd started having kids, so maybe this really did happen every year. Whatever had happened, he wouldn't talk about it. Every time Nick brought up his good mood Kevin just assured him he was fine, just finally happy. That always shut Nick up with a smile. He loved being part of what made Kevin happy. After all, he had his own permanent grin every time Kevin was in his general vicinity. Kevin had made him extremely happy too. He had no idea when this hellish year had started, that it could end with them finally at this place. Finally together and working towards building a life not only for themselves, but also for their kids.

The feeling was indescribable and Nick had always been awful with words so he struggled to really define and explain to Kevin how much he meant to him. He'd tried. His first idea for Kevin's Christmas present had been a letter. That was scrapped very quickly. Nothing made sense, it seemed flat and Nick didn't even feel anything after he read it. He wanted to give Kevin something that would touch him and mean something to him, not just a watch or a book. This had to be personal, this had to be special. It was their first Christmas together and Kevin meant everything to him. So why was this so hard? Was he really that clueless about life and love that he couldn't put pen to paper and write his love what he felt in his heart? Maybe it was just the fact that he never excelled in writing, as a musician it was a hard thing to admit. Nick wondered if bus school played a part in it or if he was always destined to suck at it. Didn't matter, he couldn't change the outcome now.

He stretched out on the floor in Saoirse's room as he watched her play. He spent a lot of time thinking lately about the past and how he and his children had gotten to this point. For the longest time, he'd been afraid to think beyond the past, to hope or to dream about what his future could hold. Sure he and Kevin talked in future tense, made references to their lives together and great things to come. But in the back of his mind, Nick was always hesitant to imagine, to dream too far into the future. Anytime he'd ever done that the worst would happen and his world would bottom out and then where did that leave him? Slowly, probably much too slowly for Kevin's liking, this was beginning to change. For the first time Nick could start imagining what the next year or two could hold and know that it had a very good chance of coming true. Kevin did that, Kevin gave him back his ability to dream by providing him love, security and comfort. How was he ever supposed to express all of that in just one Christmas gift? Kevin has spent Nick's whole life helping to mold and shape him into the man he was today, and then, when the time was right and they both were ready, Kevin was showing him how to love and be loved, how to be a better person, a better man. He owed everything to Kevin, his whole life, his heart.

Maybe he could work on a song, put lines down and see where that got him. Maybe, just maybe, if it were good enough he could convince Kevin to record it. A fire began inside him, a thrill so invigorating it demanded to be set free. How wonderful would it be if Kevin recorded a song that Nick wrote for him, about him, about their love? The smile grew as his baby girl shoved a block in her mouth and slobbered all over it before taking it out and handing it to him. He needed to get some paper.

--

It was Kevin’s turn to grow suspicious. For the last two days every time he saw Nick his head was buried in a notepad, scribbling furiously across the page. Kevin had made the terrible mistake of trying to take a peek and Nick had shrieked, jumping from the couch and sprinting up the stairs. The whole thing had happened so fast that Kevin stood dumbstruck in the middle of the living room. Once his mind had proceeded what had happened he chuckled to himself, his curiosity now peaked ten fold. He had tried to ask Nick about it later, but the younger man had shut down, insisting it was just something private he was working on. Kevin tried to accept that, give him the privacy he so obviously wanted, but the not knowing was driving Kevin insane. Which that in of itself drove Kevin insane. He was not typically impatient by things like this, preferring to allow people to come to him rather than force things out of them, but this time, especially with Nick it was difficult. Kevin didn't like that either.

--

"Do you mind helping Odin and Saoirse get ready for bed? I want to finish what I'm working on and I'm running out of time." Nick asked sweetly as they cleared the dishes from dinner.

Kevin turned to him, one bushy eyebrow raised as he smirked at the other man. "Is this the same top secret project you won't tell me anything about?" Kevin inquired.

The grin in Nick's face expanded. "The one and the same."

Kevin looked at him, leaning against the island, his hair a mess and his shirt covered with half of Saoirse's spilled dinner. Nick had never looked more beautiful. Kevin dropped the last of the dishes in the sink, determined to deal with them later and crossed to where Nick stood. He placed either of his hands on each side of Nick, backing him up into the cool surface of the island top. He dropped his head down to brush his lips sweetly across the blonde. When they broke apart Kevin smiled at him. "Anything for you, love."

Nick smiled back and wrapped his arms around Kevin's neck, pulling the other man closer. He placed several kisses up and down the exposed flesh before burying his face in the spot between Kevin's neck and collar bone. Kevin wrapped his arms around him tightly, holding him in place tightly against him.

"I love you, Nicky." Kevin said against the top of Nick's hair.

"I love you more Kev." Nick mumbled against the heated skin of Kevin’s neck.

They stood like that for several moments, holding each other like they never wanted to let go. Nick pushed his hips into Kevin's and smiled when he heard the small gasp of breath from the older man. Liking the response, he did it again and started this assault to Kevin's neck. Kevin moaned and pushed him further onto the island, grounding their hips together. It was Nick's turn to moan and he his grip around Kevin's neck increased, trying desperately to hold on and stay upright. Kevin caught Nick's bottom lip with his own and pulled the other man in for a steamy kiss that left them both panting and wanting more. Just as Kevin reached out to touch the bulge that was growing rapidly in Nick's pants, Odin came barreling into the kitchen. They broke apart instantly and Kevin scooped Odin up in his arms to allow Nick time to adjust himself. Kevin glanced over at the blonde and smiled triumphantly as his face was flushed red, eyes closed tightly and his chest heaving as he tried desperately to catch his breath. Kevin leaned over and kissed his cheek gently.

"You go do whatever you need to do baby, I got the kids."

Nick gave him a soft smile, finally opening one eye to look at him. "Thanks baby,"

Kevin smirked. "You might however, start with a cold shower."

--

After the iciest shower Nick could stand he still didn't feel any less affected by Kevin's advances. Damn him. Nick pulled the notebook out of his nightstand drawer where he was keeping it stashed and spread out on their bed. Laying on his stomach with the notebook in front of him he debated and fiddled with the wording as he tried to get it just right. The scent of Kevin was everywhere in the room and all over the blankets filling him with immediate comfort as well as causing his already heated body to respond. He needed to chill the hell out if he was ever going to get this song finished. He had the chorus down, that came very easily to him and he was actually really proud of it. Writing lyrics had never come especially easy for him, not as much as it did for the other guys. This was a big undertaking and he hadn't left himself much time. The good thing was that if he fumbled or messed up the wording that once Kevin got it he would know exactly how to fix it and make it right.

The first part also came together easier than Nick anticipated. The words just seemed to pour out of him and he only had to do small edits to get them how he wanted it to sound. It was the second verse after the first chorus that was keeping him stumped. Nothing wanted to flow together and he kept writing and then erasing everything he put to paper, none of it good enough for Kevin's Christmas present.

Nick rolled on his back and stared up at the ceiling fan, watching it circle slowly around and around. Maybe when all of this was over he should take a songwriting class. That could possibly make things easier for him in the long run.

He remembered the first time he'd ever written anything. They were in the Bahamas so many years ago, writing for their next record and he had been sent to his room until he could produce something of substance after being caught doing one too many pranks and not working. He'd been so embarrassed, so frustrated. He couldn't tell the other guys how much he was struggling with the actual writing part and that's why he spent all his time pranking and goofing off instead of writing. Nick had barely been 20, every bit of a lost kid at that time. After being yelled at for being childish and a distraction ]his shoulders had sunk and he'd fled from the room before any of them could see the tears fall. Once he was safely back in his own room he'd flung himself on the bed and cried until his throat was sore.

He must have fallen asleep because the next thing he remembered he woke up to the gentle strokes of someone rubbing his back. He rolled over and was shocked to see Kevin perched on the edge of the bed, his green eyes filled with concern. He'd reached up and brushed a lock of blonde hair off Nick's forehead before cupping his cheek in his larger hand. "What's going on Nicky?" he'd asked so softly Nick wasn't even sure he'd actually spoken.

Nick shrugged and looked away, the argument with the other guys hitting him full force as he remembered the angry things they had said. "I can't do this Kev, I'm not good at it. I don't know the right things to say in most situations, let alone in a song. I suck and I'll make the record suck or you'll all laugh at what I write."

Nick refused to look at him, instead focusing on a piece of imaginary lint stuck to the top of the bedspread. Kevin watched him for a moment before reaching out his hand and gently raising Nick's chin to make him look up. Once their eyes met Kevin gave him a soft smile.

"Nicholas, you are smart, strong and capable. You can do anything you put your brilliant mind to. You can do this, you're doubting yourself too much to allow your creativity to flow free. Clear your mind and then write down how you feel, about anything. Life, love, friendship, any of those things can spawn great lyrics. We're not looking for complete songs here, get some lyrics down on paper and then we can all work together to make something of them. This is what brainstorming is. The nice thing about being in a group is you have four other people to work together with, to bounce ideas off of and to grow with. That's why we're here. Don't shut yourself out and think you're not good enough, because you are, baby, you're amazing and you're going to do great things. You'll see."

Nick remembered every single thing about that encounter. Looking back on it now, Nick believed it was probably when he first felt a spark for Kevin. A tiny ember of love that came from someone taking the time to understand his insecurities and instead of laughing or shoving it aside, Kevin met it head on and instead encouraged him not only to do the task at hand but to be better overall. No one had ever told him he was smart or capable of anything before. He'd never had that encouragement from his family or school or anything else. It was like somehow without the words every being said, Kevin understood he needed someone to believe in him, believe he could actually do something. Kevin's encouragement and understanding had made all the difference in him and he'd actually been able to sit down and contribute quite a bit to the writing process.

Thinking about it now gave him goosebumps. Had Kevin loved him even then? That had been almost twenty years ago, it seemed insane to think about it now, especially when moments like that felt like yesterday. Defining moments in Nick's life that now in all actuality were probably defining moments in their relationship without either of them even knowing. Nick smiled as he snuggled deeper into the mattress. If he was being honest, almost all of his defining moments in life included Kevin in some way, some more than others. He'd spent so much time pinning for the other man and so much time wishing they could be together, that Kevin could ever love him. Then in his worst moments he would stumble into Kevin's arms, begging his older brother, his band mate, to make everything better, to fix his heartache, all the while wanting nothing more than for Kevin to see him. And now he did, how in the world did Nick end up so lucky? Inspired now from his trip down memory lane, Nick rolled back over and began scribbling once again.

--

"How do you feel about Kristin keeping all the kids tomorrow night so they can all wake up together for Santa on Christmas morning?" Kevin asked rolling over to gauge Nick's reaction.

Nick propped himself up by his elbow on their bed later that night. He looked at Kevin quizzically. "Where did this idea come from?"

Kevin smiled, trying to keep the bigger grin off his face. He didn't want to give too much away. "Well to be perfectly honest, I was going to have her keep them on Christmas so I could give you your present later in the day on Christmas but there's somethings that have changed and I now want to give you your present tomorrow instead and if it goes how I hope it will, we will want time to ourselves after."

Nick stared at him for a moment. "It's not some kind of weird sex thing is it?"

Kevin’s laugh shook the bed as he laughed so hard he ended up with tears in his eyes. "What the hell Nick!"

Nick laughed too. "Hey I'm just trying to figure out what kind of present involves not wanting children in the house."

"You'll see." Kevin said, his green eyes twinkling in the bedside lamp light.

Nick was silent for a moment. In all his haste to create the perfect gift for Kevin he never really stopped to think about what Kevin would be giving him. Now the curiosity was killing him.

"Nick," Kevin asked gently after several moments of silence. "Are you okay with Kristin keeping the kids?"

"Are you sure she doesn't mind. I mean it's a little strange to ask your ex-wife to watch the kids of her ex-husband's lover so they can have time together for Christmas." Nick said, glancing at him uneasily.

Kevin nodded. "Yeah, I mean to other people sure, it's weird. But you know first hand that my relationship with Kristin isn't like other divorced couples. We're closer than that and she knows how much I love you. Hell she loves you herself and those kids."

Nick smiled, his cheeks tinting red. He couldn't remember ever having people care about him this way outside of just brotherly love then guys felt towards him. "Yeah I'm okay with it as long as it doesn't put her out."

Kevin smiled and pulled Nick to him until Nick's head rested against Kevin's chest, their legs tangling together in the familiarity of their bodies coming together. They were quiet, just holding each other for a long stretch of time before Nick pulled away to look up at him.

"Hey Kev," Nick said softly.

"Hmm?" Kevin mumbled sleepily, opening one eye.

"Do you think, I mean depending on how this goes, it could all change if we don't get it, but I was thinking, maybe."

Kevin cut him off and stared down at him, both eyes completely open now. "Slow down. What is it baby?"

Nick took a deep breath and then tried again. "If we end up getting custody, if we win, do you think all the kids can always spend Christmas eve in the same house?"

Kevin felt a tug at his heart. How did this man constantly do these things to make him fall even more in love with him over and over again? He leaned down and brushed a kiss across Nick's forehead. "We will win. Don't worry about that. But yes, I think we can talk to Kristin and see if she objects, but I seriously doubt she would have any issue with it."

Nick smiled. "I just thought it would be nice if they got used to all being together for Christmas. Waking up in the same house and not doing Santa at two different places."

Kevin rolled to the side to flip off the light before pulling Nick even closer to his body. "I think it's the best idea. I love you, so much."

Nick buried his head against Kevin's chest. "I love you too." They drifted off both dreaming of Christmas gifts and new traditions.
Chapter Thirty-Six by Arok
"Kevin!"

"Kevvvvvvvin!"

"Kevin, Kevin, Kevin"

"Kebin!"

Kevin opened one eye, bracing himself for whatever was happening at this very moment. He'd been having a wonderful dream about what could possibly happen after giving Nick his Christmas present before he was pulled back to the land of the living by shrieks and screams. When his vision cleared and he was able to focus his grin returned. Nick, Odin and Saoirse were standing beside the bed the biggest smiles he'd ever seen adorning all three faces. He pulled the blanket up higher against his nakedness and sat up.

"What's going on guys?" he asked laughing.

"SNOW!" Nick yelped, his blue eyes twinkling bright.

Internally Kevin sent up a prayer of thanks. Step one in his plan was here. "It snowed?" he asked, trying to pretend like he had no prior knowledge of this wonderful phenomenon.

Odin shook his head emphatically. "It's white."

Kevin laughed. "It is white buddy. It's white and cold and magic."

"Can we go play in it Kev?" Nick asked, his face reminiscent of the child he used to be.

Kevin chuckled. "I need to get dressed first, but yes, let's go play in the snow."

Odin cheered and took off out of the room to get his jacket. Nick's grin was a mile wide and filled Kevin with hope and love. He couldn't wait to go through the rest of his plan. Nick picked up Saoirse and bent down to place a kiss gently against Kevin's lips before straightening.

"Hurry up old man, there's snow!" he yelled as he bundled out of the room to get everyone dressed.

--

The snow adventure with the kids didn't go as easily as Nick had anticipated but it was still fun. Saoirse didn't like the cold and refused to be put on the ground so either Nick or Kevin had to hold her at all times. Odin loved the snow for exactly 20 minutes before he'd had enough and wanted to go back inside. Nick sadly admitted defeat and they headed back in. Nick vowed to come back out once the kids had left. Maybe he and Kevin could have a snowball fight or make snow angels! Sure it was silly, but growing up in Florida didn't allow him much access to snow and he still found it thrilling.

After a quick lunch Nick went upstairs to pack bags for the kids to take to Kristin's. The plan was for Kristin to bring the boys with her to pick up Nick's kids while Kevin drove back to her house loaded up with all the Santa gifts for all four kids. This way he could hide them without any child seeing what they were getting ahead of time. Kevin already had his truck packed and ready to go. Now it was up to Nick to get the kids dressed and packed. Kevin had been secretive ever since they came back inside and Nick had decided he didn't much care for surprises if it made him this closed off. He didn't much care for secrets when it involved his lover.

He dug around in the closet until he found the two small backpacks he had brought to Kevin's several months ago he sat back on his butt in the middle of the floor of Odin's room and allowed the emotions he was feeling a chance to bubble up to the surface. He remembered so vividly packing these backpacks the first time. Screaming at the top of his lungs at Lauren while she had tried to grab his arms or stand in his way. In one particular shining moment when he had gone to make sure both kids were safe and okay in another bedroom she had tumped both suitcase over and thrown the toys and clothes all over the room. He'd came back to an absolute mess, her eyes wild as she continued to yell and throw insult after insult at him. He stood there in the middle of the room and had closed his eyes. Trying desperately to hold on, he had repeated the words Kevin had spoken to him so long ago. You are smart, strong and capable. They had become a mantra from him over the years. Every time he was faced with something hard or he felt like he couldn't go on, he would say those words to himself and they would give him the strength he needed to go a little further, to work a little harder.

Smiling inwardly he also remembered that usually once he got through whatever it was that was so difficult, that Kevin was always standing on the other side, with arms open wide. Waiting and willing for him to step into them for comfort and grace. It was in that instance that he knew exactly where he needed to be. He'd pushed past her as he repacked the bags and took them to the car before heading back into the house to rescue his children. He had packed them away, driven for days and ended up on Kevin's doorstep, exactly where he always needed to be.

It seemed like a lifetime ago, but one he was thankful to leave behind. Now as he packed the bags he could take his time, focus on what they would need knowing Kristin would take excellent care of both of them and when they reunited in the morning they would be celebrating Christmas together as one big happy family, exactly as he'd always wanted. The thought alone put a giddy spring in his step.

"What's got you all smiles?" Kevin said from his perch against the doorframe.

Nick jerked up, surprised to be interrupted in his task. "Just thinking about you, and how lucky I am. And thinking about how excited I am for Christmas."

Kevin smiled. "You have no idea baby. Just wait until you get your present." he wiggled his eyebrows and laughed as the scowl crossed Nick's face.

"I do not like all the secrets." the younger man huffed as he went back to zipping the backpacks up.

Kevin laughed. "Oh, but I really hope you will."

Nick turned and smiled. "I'm sure I'll love it Kev. I love everything you've ever given me. I just hope you like my gift. I suppose I'll give it to you tonight as well."

Kevin grabbed Saoirse's backpack and zipped it before heading to the bed and grabbing Odin's stuffed alligator. "Did you get Saoirse's llama? She won't sleep without it."

Nick smiled. "Good catch, I did not grab it."

Kevin nodded and left the room to grab the stuffy before rejoining Nick in Odin's room. He wrapped his arm around Nick and gave him a squeeze. "Kristin will be here in about an hour and then I need an hour or so to get ready for tonight."

Nick smirked at him. "This is sounding more elaborate every time. We need a babysitter and you need time to prepare. My gift is going to be nothing in comparison to whatever it is that you have planned."

"I got my Christmas gift the moment you showed up here. I get a little more every time you touch or kiss me. Every day with you is a gift and I treasure each and every one."

Nick blushed. "I love you Kev."

Kevin leaned over and kissed Nick's temple. "I love you too."

--

Nick was nervous. He wasn't entirely sure why, he had been given strict instructions to shower and dress in the clothes Kevin had laid out for him. That was a little odd, but Kevin had looked so determined that Nick hadn't wanted to second guess him. After kissing both his kids goodbye and hugs for Maxwell and Mason he had headed upstairs to shower while Kevin completed his Santa errand to Kristin's house. When he walked into the bedroom he was momentarily stunned to see the suit laid out on the bed. It was a deep navy color with a crisp white shirt. Suddenly Nick felt very unsure of himself. What in the world was Kevin up to? There was no way that his song would ever measure up to whatever it was that Kevin had planned. He sighed softly before stripping his clothes off and heading towards the bathroom. He studied himself in the mirror frowning at what he saw. He tried hard to push down the feelings of inadequacy and hatred toward himself but it was hard sometimes. All he wanted was to be good for Kevin and he hated when he felt like he didn't measure up. He turned the tap on high and let it run for a few moments before stepping under the hot spray. He was slowly getting excited about whatever his present was. He was mostly looking forward to the secrets stopping. Never again he thought as he finished cleaning himself up.

--

The sun was just beginning its descent. It had appeared for just a short period of time in between the snowfalls. There has been so much snowfall during the afternoon one could barely tell where they brought the kids out to play that morning. Kevin smiled thinking about the way he'd been woken up that morning. He could only hope this went well and he could have moments like this for the rest of his life. He straighten the lapels on his suit coat. He figured Nick was probably out of the shower and getting dressed right about now. He'd ordered dinner and had picked it up on his way back from Kristin's. It was keeping warm in the oven and his hope was that after they got to the present and everything turned out okay that they could eat dinner in front of the fireplace and warm up from being out in the snow. He'd already started the fire and by the time they were finished outside and back in the living room the fire should have had enough time to heat the room.

His hands were clammy and he felt his breath catch in his throat in the coolness of the snowy air. He took several deep breaths to calm his nerves and turned to watch the sunset. The snow was beginning to start again, Kevin couldn't have asked for a better evening to do this. He patted his breast pocket and smiled feeling the weight of Nick's present. A few minutes longer and Nick should be coming downstairs. He had told Nick to get cleaned up and meet him out on the patio. He glanced down at his watch. Should be anytime. He heard a noise from behind him and glanced back into the house. The air around him shifted and he felt his eyes grow wide and his mouth go dry. Before him stood the most gorgeous thing he had ever laid eyes on. The blue suit made Nick's eyes shine so bright they were blinding. He felt his heartbeat speed up as the blonde stepped out onto the porch. Kevin held out his hand and Nick took it, lacing their fingers together.

"You look…" Kevin couldn't even finish his sentence.

Nick blushed and smiled at the older man. "Kevin you are a dream. I love you."

Kevin smiled and pulled the younger man to him, kissing him gently on the forehead before pulling him out in the snow. Nick laughed and stumbled behind him. "Kev, I'm going to ruin these pants."

Kevin smiled. "I'll buy you another pair. I just wanted you dressed up for this." They walked to the center of the yard, snow falling all around them.

"For what?" Nick asked, turning to look at the older man. Kevin was suddenly not beside him, confused, Nick turned around and felt the air leave his lungs as his eyes focused on the beautiful, wonderful, kneeling, man in the snow.

Nick's eyes grew wide as Kevin reached up and took both his hands in his. "Baby, I have never in my life wanted anything more than I've wanted you, a chance with you, a chance for us. I always imagined if I could get you to notice, to really see me and the love I have for you that I could make you the happiest man alive, just like you make me every single day just by being you. I love you, desperately and I love both of those babies as if they were my own. I know everything is up in the air with the divorce and custody and we will have to wait for all of that and that there's going to be a hell of a lot more thrown at us before we get our happily ever after. I want you to know I'm here. I'm not going anywhere and I am in this for the long haul. I love you baby. Will you make me the happiest man on this earth and marry me?"

Kevin gazed up at Nick, silent tears sliding down both of their faces. Nick dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around Kevin's chest, almost knocking him over in the process. Kevin moved to kneel on both knees in an attempt to keep them both upright. He hugged the younger man tightly against him, unsure if this was a happy hug or a sad one. He decided not to press and squeezed his eyes shut, pulling the man as close as possible. After a few seconds Nick pulled back and looked deeply into Kevin's eyes.

"Yes, a thousand times yes. I want to be with you forever." Nick's eyes shown in the diming light, his cheeks rosy with the cold.

Kevin gripped the back of Nick's head and crushed their lips together. They kissed passionately, oblivious to the cold and enjoyed being newly engaged and together. They broke apart breathless and freezing.

"I can't believe you did this." Nick said as Kevin opened his jacket and extracted the slim silver band from his pocket. He slid it on Nick's finger, in the place his old ring had been, before bringing Nick's hand up to his mouth and kissing the cool metal. Nick sighed happily as he watched Kevin's movements.

"I love you, I want you to always know and always believe that it will be you and me against everything, forever baby." Kevin's said getting to his feet and pulling Nick up as well.

They embraced tightly, neither willing to let the other go even though the temperature was quickly falling and their pants were wet. They stood together, holding each other and sharing small, sweet kisses until the last remnants of sunlight drifted from the sky, replacing it with a cool dark grey sky as the snow continued to fall. Once it got too cold for both of them, they broke apart and Kevin pulled Nick towards the house.

Once inside Kevin went to the oven to pull out their dinner, grabbing plates and utensils from the kitchen drawers. Nick surveyed the food and the work Kevin had put into this. He stared down at his ring, watching the way it glittered in the kitchen light. He couldn't believe Kevin had done this. He felt like he was soaring; he'd never been happier in his life.

"Thank you." Nick said softly.

Kevin looked up from what he was doing, dishing food onto plates. "For what baby?"

Nick spread his hands wide gesturing to Kevin's preparations. "All of this, for loving me, for giving me the most amazing Christmas gift I could have ever asked for. Just knowing you love me enough to put up with my bullshit for any period of time is just astonishing to me."

Kevin smiled. "Always baby. Always you and me."

Kevin gestured towards the plates. "Take those into the living room. I've already started the fire. I'll grab the wine and we can eat in there to warm up."

Nick flashed him a dazzling smile before lifting the plates and leaving the room. Kevin watched him go, becoming memorized by the sway of his hips. He'd said yes, Nick had agreed to be his husband, agreed to spend the rest of his life with Kevin. The feelings coursing through him were almost too much. He felt like his heart would burst with happiness. He couldn't wait to consummate their engagement.

--

Kevin stopped in his tracks as he came into the living room. Nick was sitting directly in front of the fire, wearing nothing but his black boxer briefs. The wine glasses shifted in his hand as Kevin struggled to breath at the beautiful sight in front of him. Nick heard and turned, a smile crossing his gorgeous face. Kevin quickly made his way across the room and handed Nick the wine and glasses.

"I guess I'm a little overdressed for the occasion," Kevin said with a laugh as he gazed down at his young lover.

Nick smirked wider. "I agree. My pants were wet and I didn't and to mess up such a nice white shirt with dinner so I thought this was a much better option."

"I'm not complaining. I think you are brilliant." Kevin said as he shrugged out of his jacket and lifted his shirt off his head. In no time he was down to his own boxers and took a seat on the floor beside Nick. He opened the wine and poured them each a glass before leaning over and brushing his lips across the blonde's as he held out the glass. Nick kissed him back, slipping his tongue inside Kevin's mouth swiftly, lovingly caressing before pulling away and taking a drink of his wine.

Settling back they took turns feeding each other bites, taking time to slip their wine and steal kisses as they went. The fire crackled sending off a warm heat that took out the chill from being in the snow. Nick's heart was so full he didn't think he'd ever be cold again. After the plates were cleared Nick shifted closer to the older man until Kevin wrapped his arm around Nick's shoulders and brought him even closer. They sat in front of the fire for a long time. Nick kept sneaking looks at his ring and smiling to himself as he thought about his much this present had meant to him. It has been completely unexpected, never would he have imagined that Kevin was ready to take this step. Sure, they would have to wait until his divorce from Lauren was final, but it would all be worth it if he got Kevin in the end.

"Your present is nowhere as wonderful as this." Nick said softly, unable to meet Kevin's eyes. Kevin's gift had been so wonderful, so thoughtful that Nick felt ridiculous for even bringing the song downstairs.

Kevin grabbed Nick by the chin and turned his face so they were looking into each other's eyes. "Stop. Stop putting yourself down and insinuating that you are not good enough. You are wonderful, everything to me and I am going to spend every day of the rest of your life making you understand that. Your gift is perfect, simply because it came from you. I wanted to do this for you, for us. This gift is just as much for me as it is for you. Knowing you, the famous Nick Carter, wants to spend his life with me, be my husband, is the best gift I could ever ask for. "

Nick blushed and buried his head against Kevin's chest. He allowed Kevin to hold him close for a moment before getting up and crossing the room. He had rewritten the lyrics into a more legible from, saving the original documents he'd scribbled on in case Kevin wanted to make any changes. He grabbed the folder from the coffee table that he'd placed there before meeting Kevin's eyes and came back to take his place in front of the fire beside the older man. He turned and looked at Kevin closely.

"I racked my brain trying to come up with the perfect gift. I really wanted it it be special and personal since it's our first Christmas together. I thought a lot about us and our history. I was reminded about our time in the Bahamas and how you encouraged me, even then to do more for myself and to be better. Thinking back I think in some way that those moments were when my feelings for you started to change, so slowly that I didn't even realize what was happening at the time. So in honor of that and that time, I decided to try to put into words how I felt about you, and us. I wrote a song, and I was hoping that one day, if you like it, that you would record it." Nick said softly, waiting for Kevin to make some kind of reaction.

Kevin's face softened and he reached out to take the folder from Nick. "May I?" he asked, gesturing to the folder.

Nick nodded and handed over the folder. He drew his knees up close to his chest as he leaned back into the couch to support his weight. He was nervous, scared Kevin would hate it or even worse, laugh. He brought his fingers up to his mouth and started hesitantly biting at his nails as Kevin opened the folder and peered down at the words he had poured his heart and soul into for so many days.

Kevin wasn't sure what to expect when he'd opened the folder. He was touched that Nick would even think to do something like this and further intrigued that Nick would want him to record it. Nick had been dropping hints and encouraging him to begin recording a solo record, he just hadn't gotten the guts to start the process. His eyes widened as he read the first verse.



Growing up I wasn't like all of my friends
Going out to find new love every weekend
'Cause every girl I'd meet out would wanna be something more
And every time I cared
It wouldn't be what they're looking for
Put my hope in all the wrong places
It made me see the things I wanted
Guess I made all the right mistakes
'Cause my luck came around
When I stumbled

His heart rate increased as he read the first verse several times over. He could feel the pain, all the heartbreak that Nick had encountered over and over on his quest for someone to love him the right way. He'd been there for every single heart break as one woman after another had let him down. They had all either used or abused him in some way and Nick's giant heart had taken beating after beating. Kevin was still amazed he could even begin to love to trust another human. Hell even the kid's own mother had turned into a pathological liar and user.

Right into your love, right into your love
Right into your love, right into your love
How, I'll never know, how, I'll never know
But I'm staying for it now

The chorus was sweet and Kevin could feel the tears begin to prick at the corners of his eyes. This song was so innocent and so completely Nick. Kevin was in awe and could hardly believe it was written just for him.

Like you weren't surprised, you opened up the door
And made me question everything I believed before
And I'll admit it if you admit it on the count of three
Let's say it together
Can this be forever?
Put my hope in all the wrong places
It made me see the things I wanted
Guess I made all the right mistakes
'Cause look what we found
Now I've stumbled

The second verse was what broke him. He felt the tears rush forward before they could stop them, dripping down his cheeks and onto the page. There was more but he couldn't go on. He glanced up and saw the terrified look on Nick's face. He reached a hand out and laced their fingers together. "Baby, it's absolutely beautiful. I can't believe you wrote this. Is this what you've been doing with your notebook all week?"

Nick nodded hesitantly. "Are you sure you like it? You're not just saying that?"

Kevin shook his head, pulling the blond closer to him. He wrapped his arms around Nick's neck and pulled him in for a kiss. After breaking apart he laid his forehead gently against Nick's own. "Never, it's amazing. I wouldn't change a thing. I have never received a more thoughtful and loving present. I love it so much. I love you so much. It's just wonderful. Thank you."

Nick smiled shyly. "Do you think you would record it?"

"If I ever decide to take that step, to record on my own, then it will be the first song I ever record." Kevin answered honestly.
Nick's own eyes filled with tears and he leaned forward, brushing his lips against Kevin's. "Thank you for saying that. I think you should record on your own, but I know you're not there yet. I just wanted to give you something that would hopefully push you down that road. I love your voice and I know millions of fans would agree with me."

Kevin smiled and kissed him again. "You are amazing, do you know that?"

Nick shook his head. "You've got that backwards. You are the amazing one and I'd like to show you."

Nick leaned in and took Kevin's mouth in a crushing kiss. He pushed his tongue inside the other man's mouth, caressing and tasting every inch before breaking away and nuzzling against the side of Kevin's neck. Kevin shifted on the floor, trying to give Nick more access. Nick placed several kisses along Kevin's neck before moving, pushing Kevin down on his stomach. He stood up and removed his own boxers before returning to the floor. Kneeling over Kevin he reached up, slipping his fingers inside the waistband of Kevin's boxers and pulling them down off his ass and down his legs. Once they were both naked Nick settled himself on top of Kevin, his weight resting on either leg as he straddled Kevin's back. Nick’s soft cock and balls rested gingerly against the small of Kevin’s back as he leaned forward and placed a kiss at the back of Kevin’s neck. The motion caused the older man to shiver, giving Nick all the motivation he needed to move forward. He stated at the top of Kevin’s back, licking, sucking and kissing every inch with his mouth and then caressing the flesh with his nimble fingers. Kevin let out several soft moans as Nick moved his ministrations downward. He shifted down Kevin’s back as he worked his way down Kevin’s back, smiling as he went.

Nick could feel himself growing harder the more he kissed the older man, loving the sounds of pleasure his lover made as he continued his actions. By the time he’d moved down far enough for his cock to rest between the cheeks of Kevin’s ass, he was so hard he could barely contain himself any longer. He ground his hips down against the other man, his cock dipping dangerously close to Kevin’s entrance. Kevin let out a deep, shaky moan as the head of Nick’s cock rubbed against his sensitive skin.Nick placed another kiss in the center of Kevin’s lower back before shifting upwards to kiss his mouth. Kevin felt him coming and leaned up on his elbows to meet Nick’s mouth as his lips came down against his own. Nick moaned into the kiss, his dick rubbing delicately against Kevin’s ass.

“Make love to me,” Kevin whispered into the quiet room.

Nick looked at him, unsure he’d heard the other man correctly. Usually it was Kevin fucking him, not the other way around. Nick felt himself grow even harder and bit back a moan. “Are you sure baby?” he asked half scared Kevin would change his mind.

Kevin nodded. “Please. Just be slow.”

Nick smiled and leaned down and brushed their lips together. “Of course baby. I love you.”

“Love you too, hurry. I need you.” Kevin groaned.

Nick got up off Kevin’s back and crossed to the baby basket for the baby oil. They really needed to start carrying lube in their pockets if they were going to make a habit of fucking in every room of the house. He smiled to himself as he grabbed the oil with his left hand and caught sight of the ring on his finger. He was going to make love to his fiancé. He was engaged to the sexiest, most amazing man in the universe. His heart felt so full he thought he might burst. He hurried back to Kevin and settled himself on the back of Kevin’s legs. He grabbed the throw pillow from the couch and helped Kevin ease up off the floor so Nick could slide it under his hips. Once Kevin was propped up high enough Nick went to work applying the baby oil to his fingers. He slipped one inside Kevin easily enough and waited until he felt the older man relax before moving it. He pushed it in and out a couple times, trying his hardest not to give Kevin any discomfort. Once it seemed like Kevin could handle one, he slipped another finger inside. He twisted and turned, fucking his fingers in and out of his lover stretching him in preparation to take Nick. Once he felt Kevin’s hips start pushing back against Nick’s fingers he pulled them out and oiled up his cock. Getting back on his knees he pulled Kevin up by his hips until he was almost on all fours. Nick placed himself against Kevin’s pucker and took a deep breath before slowly easing inside. “God baby, you’re so tight. I love you so much.”

“Love you too, Nicky.” Kevin ground out trying to breathe through the initial pain.

Nick pushed all the way in and sat, waiting for Kevin to adjust before moving. While he waited, trying desperately to hold on, he began stroking Kevin’s long locks, running his fingers through the strands over and over.

“You gotta move baby, I’m dying here.” Kevin said as he pushed his ass back against Nick.

“Anything you say Kev,” Nick said as he pulled almost completely out before slamming back into the older man.

They quickly found a rhythm, Nick thrusting in and out with Kevin pushing back, taking everything that Nick gave him. The only sounds in the room were moans from the lovers and the crackling of the fireplace. Much too soon they were falling over the edge, NIck coming deep inside Kevin while Kevin came all over the throw pillow. Nick eased Kevin back down to the floor before pulling out and rolling onto his back beside him. Both men were breathing heavily, trying desperately to catch their breath.

“That was amazing Nicky, thank you.” Kevin managed to get out before dropping his head down on his folded arms to breathe.

Nick laughed. “There is no need to thank me for that baby. This whole night has been magical from start to finish. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Kevin smiled. “I wholeheartedly agree baby. Merry Christmas.”

Nick smiled back and rolled closer, resting his head on top of Kevin’ folded arms and throwing an arm and leg over the other man.

“Merry Christmas baby.”
Chapter Thirty-Eight by Arok
Kevin opened his eyes and smiled softly at the mop of blonde hair covering his chest and falling into his face. He pulled his lover closer in his arms and just took a moment to relish the quiet and weight of him. He'd never experienced anything like this before. His feelings for Nick far surpassed any emotion he'd ever had and what stuck him the most was regardless of how much he'd been in love with Nick before, now after almost seven months together, those feelings were stronger, deeper than he'd ever imagined.


They had shared so much of their lives and themselves with each other the last few months that Kevin couldn't believe it was even possible for two totally different people to grow as close as they had, especially two people who had known each other for so long. He was still learning new things about Nick everyday. He hoped it was the same for the other man.


Nick mumbled something in his sleep, his lips brushing the skin on Kevin's chest and causing a ripple of desire to rush through him. Even in his sleep, Nick had the ability to make him extremely aroused. Of course right now it wouldn't take much for Kevin to be harder than hell and ready to go. They had barely any time alone together the past week and a half and the distance between them was starting to get to him. He needed time with Nick, he needed to feel him physically and emotionally.


It had started with a house full of kids. The last weekend he'd had Mason and Maxwell had erupted into a fight of epic proportions when Maxwell and Odin had broken a Lego set that Mason had worked on for weeks. The whole thing had been an accident, but the older boy hadn't seen it that way at first. Nick and Kevin had been playing downstairs with Saoirse when the screaming started. But by the time they'd made it up the stairs the older boys’ bedroom, the room had exploded with Legos and there were three different boys crying. Each boy needing individual affection and attention from their fathers and refusing to be in the same room with each other.


It had been especially hard for Kevin because both of his own boys were now at war with each other and he found it difficult to give them both the attention they needed without making the other one angry. Kevin finally had to make a cot for Maxwell in Odin's room to keep his boys from killing each other the rest of their stay. Instead of doing things as a family, he'd had to bounce back and forth between his two boys trying to keep the peace and make them understand each other. The whole situation had been so exhausting that admittedly he was relieved when it was time to switch back with Kristin.


The next week, Kevin had been fully expecting a relaxing week with Nick and the kids as they tried to get back into the swing of things after their difficult week before. The first night without the boys, Saoirse started teething and was up the whole night screaming. She would wake every hour and a half and scream so loud the entire house would be awake and on edge. They'd tried everything. Frozen teethers, alternating pain medication, warm baths and snuggles. Nothing worked and out of desperation they'd finally called the pediatrician only to be told that some babies just cried all the way through it and it should end when the tooth broke through the surface. Kevin had never been more exhausted. The more Saoirse cried, the more on edge Odin became and began acting out in his own ways to get attention. He’d started throwing toys, hitting his sister and overall being a clingy mess. They had ended up with both kids in bed with them more times than Kevin cared to admit over the last few days.


The screaming had settled sometime after five that morning and as Kevin shifted to be able to catch a glimpse of the alarm clock he found it was just after eight. The kids would both be up at any time. He wouldn't move, wouldn't budge an inch until they awoke. He wanted desperately to hold on to any moment like this with Nick he could. He ran his fingertips up and down the smooth skin on Nick's back and rested his hand at the cleft of Nick's ass. He wanted so badly to roll him over and have his way with him, but he knew Nick was even more exhausted than he let on.


They were waiting to hear from the lawyer on the next steps and the fear and anxiety from the anticipation of the call was putting even more pressure on the younger man. Kevin was worried if the outcome wasn't what they were wanting that he would crack under the weight of it. Kevin kept telling himself that no matter what happened, they were strong enough to deal with it together. He just had to convince himself of that.


Nick shifted against his chest and Kevin felt the arms around his waist increase their pressure. He smiled to himself and breathed in the scent of his lover. He could barely remember what his life had been before, before Nick had brought him so much happiness and love. Looking back it was insane to think of how many years he had pinned over that other man and how long it had taken them to get here to this place. It would never matter though, as long as they got here and Kevin could hold this man in his arms then everything else was worth it. He leaned down and kissed the soft golden hair letting the smell of the younger man fill his senses. He felt himself grow even harder. If he didn't get to touch, get to feel his touch soon he would surely lose it. Most nights they could barely pull themselves into bed before they collapsed, let alone do anything else, but this had to happen, and soon.


"If you don't quit poking me with that thing." Nick started, completely startling Kevin and he let out a giant laugh.

"I'm sorry baby. I had no idea you were awake. You just feel so good against me and it's been like two weeks and I miss you, he misses you." Kevin pulled Nick even closer and placed another kiss against his hair.


Nick moved quickly and brought his lips up to brush against Kevin's, eliciting a moan from both of them. He shifted his hips until his own erection was felt, full and heavy against Kevin's thigh. He rubbed against him gently, enough to cause a gasp to fall from his chapped lips as his eyes rolled back in his head.


"Now who's poking who?" Kevin said with a smile.


"I don't care. I need you. I need to come." Nick grunted as he reached over and wrapped a hand around Kevin's length as he continued to rub himself against Kevin's leg.


"Need you too." Kevin managed as he reached down and wrapped his hand around the back of Nick's neck and crushed their lips in a bruising kiss. Nick moved his hand up and down the length of his lover, collecting the precum that had leaked out of the tip and used it to speed up his actions as he worked Kevin quickly, trying to bring them both close to the edge before they were interrupted. Kevin's tongue was everywhere, licking and sucking the inside of Nick's mouth as their kiss grew deeper and their movements more frantic. It had been so long and they needed their release so much that it didn't take long and they were both crashing over their edge.

As they came down from the desperately needed release, they clung together, neither wanting to let the other one go. "I love you," Nick mumbled against the warmth of Kevin’s chest where his head rested.


Kevin's head was thrown back against the pillows as he tried hard to catch his breath. "I love you more."


They laid for a moment, just enjoying the feeling of each other. It wasn't long though before the intense scream could be heard from down the hallway. Nick sighed heavily and let out a groan. "I don't know how much more of this I can take." He admitted softly.


Kevin let out a small chuckle. "I get it. It's hard not to lose your patience with her. These past two weeks have definitely been a testing of our parenting abilities."


"I'm done with the test. Just let it be over." Nick laughed, covering his face with his hands.


Kevin sat up in the bed as Nick rolled to the side. "The teeth will break through soon and then maybe we can all start to get some relief."

"I hope so. You take a shower and I'll go deal with her. Maybe she won't wake Odin and he can get some more sleep. Poor kid was up all night with her too." Nick pulled his t-shirt on that he'd tossed on the floor the night before and slipped on his pants. He turned around and caught Kevin's gaze.


"What are you looking at?" he said, unable to keep the smile from his face.


"Just my sexy fiance. Sometimes it's hard to believe how lucky I am." Kevin said gently.


"I'm the lucky one baby." Nick said, throwing Kevin a wink before slipping out the door to get to his screaming daughter.


--
Kevin found Nick an hour later facedown on the living room floor while Odin drove trucks on his back and Saoirse chewed on her rubber blocks. He stood in the doorway watching the sight, wondering what he did to deserve this chance, this family. Odin looked up from where he sat and gave Kevin a grin.


"Wanna play trucks?" he asked, holding up his toy.


Kevin nodded and crossed to the middle of the living room. He laid down beside Nick and turned his face so they could look at each other. Nick gave him a small smile as he settled in. "Hey baby," Kevin mumbled as Odin slammed the truck down on his back. Nick chuckled. "Yeah he does that at first."


"Go easy, okay buddy. Just drive them, don't slam them." Kevin said with a laugh.


Nick reached over and laced his fingers through Kevin's as they laid with the kids on the floor. Once he got the hang of it, Odin was pretty relaxing. He went back and forth between Nick and Kevin as he drove cars on each of them. Saoirse was happy for the first time in days and continued to play with her blocks, letting everyone breathe a sigh of relief that possibly they were on the upswing of the tooth from hell. Kevin was just beginning to drift off when the ringing of Nick's cell phone broke through their bubble. He pulled it out of his pocket and checked the display before getting up and leaving the room without a word.


Kevin had a sinking feeling wash over him and tried to keep from reacting. Something had happened, he felt it in his bones. Odin was peering at him curiously and Kevin realized he'd sat up, effectively taking away Odin's play surface, but at the moment he couldn't calm himself down enough to get back on the floor. Odin waited for a moment to see if he would lay back down before he shrugged and went back to the toy box to find something else to play with. Saoirse took interest in his movements and got up on shaky legs to follow him. Kevin watched the two of them pull toy after toy out of the box and toss it onto the floor. He didn't have the energy to make them stop.


It felt like hours before Nick rejoined him in the room, but Kevin figured it had to be only several minutes. He felt his heart plummet as he looked up and saw Nick standing in the doorway. His face was ashen and his eyes were shining with unshed tears. Kevin swallowed hard and tried not to panic. No matter how bad this was, he had to be the one to keep it together. Nick needed him to keep it together, to be the strong one.


"Kev," he managed to get out, his voice trembling.


"Nicky," Kevin responded in a hushed tone.


Before he knew what had happened, Nick had propelled himself across the room and then he was in Kevin's arms, shoulders shaking with sobs as he buried his face against the side of Kevin's neck. Kevin's arms were around him in an instant and he stretched his legs out in front of him to keep them both upright. Nick clung to him, never once breaking the connection as Kevin manipulated their arms and legs to make the embrace more stable and comfortable for both of them. Once Nick's legs were wrapped securely around Kevin's waist and both arms wrapped around his middle Kevin squeezed as hard as he could, hoping the touch would be enough to bring the younger man some semblance of comfort. He still had no idea what was going on, but he could feel Nick struggling to get closer to him and knew that the blonde needed the touch and comfort of their embrace more than anything else at the moment.


Kevin glanced at the kids and was relieved to see them both still digging out toys and paying the two men no attention. Nick's sobs grew louder, the shaking more intense and Kevin was scrambling to come up with a way to ease his tears. He'd never been like this before and Kevin had no idea what to do. Deciding he had to try something, Kevin tucked his head beside Nick's and began to softly start singing in his ear as he began to rock the man in his arms.


Like you weren't surprised, you opened up the door
And made me question everything I believed before
And I'll admit it if you admit it on the count of three
Let's say it together
Can this be forever?
Put my hope in all the wrong places
It made me see the things I wanted
Guess I made all the right mistakes
'Cause look what we found
Now I've stumbled

Kevin whisper sang the words Nick had written him for Christmas, the lyrics of the song that Kevin had been working on mixing and recording for the past several weeks, needing the song to be perfect before Nick listened to it. He kept singing as he rubbed his hands up and down the younger man's back, kneading and squeezing the soft flesh as he went. The crying began to ease, but Nick's grip around his neck only increased as he held onto Kevin. They kept this up for several minutes until the cries quieted completely and Kevin was able to loosen the hold he had on him. He placed a kiss against Nick's forehead and pulled back slightly. Nick's blue eyes, still filled with tears peeked up at him from the crook of Kevin's neck. The sight left Kevin breathless. Nick looked so much like the frightened child of a lifetime ago that Kevin physically ached for the man.


"What's going on baby," he asked, his voice laced with fear and emotion.


Nick's eyes slammed closed again and he blinked back the tears. "I don't know how to tell you." he admitted softly.


Kevin was surprised, not sure how to take Nick's statement. "What do you mean baby. You can tell me anything, you know that. I love you and I'll be right here for you no matter what."


"You promise?" Nick whispered, unable to meet his eyes.


"Of course." Kevin answered honestly.


Nick took a deep breath and gazed into Kevin's eyes before he spoke. He pulled Kevin closer if that was even possible, needing to feel as much of the other man as possible. "The judge ruled against giving me sole emergency custody. I have to allow her to have the kids, at least two days and two nights a week until the official custody hearing when they will ultimately decide what happens. So my lawyer says the best way to help us get custody is that I have to take the kids back to Las Vegas and allow her to have them on the days she's allotted."


Kevin felt like the floor had been pulled out from underneath him. While they knew this was always a distinct possibility, Kevin had hoped, and prayed, that the judge would side in their favor awarding Nick custody to keep the kids in Kentucky until the official decree has been finalized. Nick was talking a mile a minute now. The tears were back and Nick was coughing trying to keep going while the tears clouded his eyes and his throat. It was time for him to be the rock Nick had always needed, he could fall apart later.


"Shhh baby. Stop. Stop crying, it's going to be okay. You're going to make yourself sick baby. Take some deep breaths for me." he soothed as he kissed the top of Nick's head, his forehead and then the tip of his nose as he started to ease the cries.


Nick hiccupped a couple of times as he tried to catch his breath. Kevin’s heart broke, not only for himself but for his lover and their kids. He knew there were a million things running through Nick's mind at the moment and he had to do his best to soothe each and every fear in a way that would help Nick be able to cope with it.


"It's gonna be okay baby. I know right now it doesn't feel like it, and it feels like everything is falling down around you, but I'm right here. You don't have to do any of this alone. I've got you, I've got them. We're going to be okay. You're going to be okay. " he said quietly as he started rocking the man once again in his arms. No matter how old they both got, this would always be a position that was second nature to them. Kevin had comforted Nick in this same way so many times over the last twenty-eight years it didn't even seem possible it had been that long.


"But I'm going to have to leave, I'll have to go back to Vegas, at least for a couple of months until the trial date. I don't want to leave you, I can't handle being without you." Nick said, burying his head further to Kevin's chest.


Kevin nodded, kissing the top of Nick's head as they rocked. "A couple of months isn't so bad baby, we've done a lot worse than that before. And on the weeks when the boys are with Kristin then I'll fly to you and that will cut the time in half."


"You will?" Nick asked, his voice small and childlike from against Kevin's chest.


"Of course I will baby, unless the boys need me for something here then I will come to you. I can't let you be away from me for two whole months, silly," Kevin said as he kissed each of Nick's eyelids before brushing his lips in a soft, sweet kiss. "How could you think I wouldn't move heaven and hell to be with you?"


Nick shrugged, "You don't seem as upset as I am I guess."


"Oh baby," Kevin said softly. "Believe me, I'm dying here. The thought of falling asleep without you for any length of time is almost more than I can handle. I also know that this is something we have to do, not just for us but for our family and once it's all over then we never have to be apart again and so it's worth it to me.


"You promise?" Nick asked again.


"Promise what? That we won't have to be part again?" Kevin questioned.


Nick nodded, his long blonde hair falling down into his eyes. "Yeah, that. Promise me we won't have to feel pain like this again. Promise me when this is over and done and I'm officially divorced that I won't spend another day or night without you with me."


"I swear it Nicky. We get through this and we're free to get married, to move on with our lives together and most of all, we'll never spend a day apart." Kevin swore.


Nick nodded and settled down in Kevin's arms. "I don't want to do this. She doesn't deserve it and they sure as hell don't deserve to have to leave their home to go somewhere new just because she wants to be a bitch." Nick huffed. "And I really don't want to leave you. What if you decide all of this isn't worth the trouble while we're gone. What if you like it better when your life goes back to normal with just you and the boys."


Kevin let out a small laugh. "Baby, I don't have a life that doesn't include you. You are it baby. I'm going to miss you like crazy, but it will only be a week at a time and we'll talk every day. We're going to make it through this and we'll be stronger for it. Just think about what we get out of the deal. We get to plan a wedding or run away and get married. We get to spend every day for the rest of our lives together. It's a pretty good trade off to me."


"I love you Kevin, so much. You're it for me too. I spent my whole life wanting you, wanting you to want me and love me. It's all I've ever wanted." Nick told him honestly.


"Right. Which let's me know we're going to be just fine. When do you have to leave?" Kevin asked bracing himself for more tears.


"She gets her first visitation next week. So I'll have to find an apartment or something this week and we'll have to leave by Sunday so we can drive. I don't want to take them on a plane with everything going on and having to leave you. We won't be able to handle it." Nick pushed his face deeper into the warmth of Kevin's arms and hoped he could pull enough strength from the older man, knowing he would need it in droves if he was ever going to survive this.
Chapter Thirty-Eight by Arok
Nick and the kids had been gone for less than twenty-four hours and Kevin was already going insane. He was thankful the boys had been there since Saturday. Knowing he had two kids counting on him to keep it together made the time he had to spend apart from the rest of his family easier to manage.

Of course explaining to Mason and Maxwell what was happening, and why it was happening had ended up being harder than he had originally anticipated. He knew the boys were getting used to having the other kids and Nick become part of their world, but he hadn’t anticipated how badly they would take the news of the temporary separation. Mason had ran up the stairs and slammed the bedroom door and Maxwell had promptly burst into tears, much to the shock of Nick and Kevin. Saoirse and Odin were still too young to firmly grasp exactly what was happening, so Nick offered to talk with Mason while Kevin handled Maxwell. It had taken Kevin more than an hour to soothe the crying boy and get him to talk about the way he was feeling. At one point, Kevin almost said to hell with it and started crying alongside him, but Kevin knew that he had to be strong, not just for Nick and Odin, but now for his boys as well.

Later that night all six of them curled up in Nick and Kevin’s bed to watch movies. Kevin had Maxwell settled on his left, while Odin and Mason laid in between him and Nick with Saoirse curled up asleep in Nick’s chest. It was the first time they had tried something like this and Kevin’s heart was so full he was afraid it would break from happiness alone. He had casually cast a glance at Nick and discovered silent tears falling steadily down his golden cheeks. Kevin had felt his heart seize and blindly groped the sheets until he located his lover’s hand.

Wrapping their fingers together, he squeezed tightly hoping to give the man a small bit of comfort in a bed full of their children. Nick turned his head and mouthed I love you before turning his attention back to the movie. Kevin ached all over knowing the pain the other man was in and knowing there was very little he could do to ease any of it. He was struggling in his own mind and knew he had to hold it together until he was alone, everyone else was counting on him and he was determined not to let any of them down.

They all fell asleep, one after the other and by the time they woke up on Sunday morning Kevin’s heart was a little heavier and the urge to breakdown and cry was getting almost too hard to keep at bay.

Nick and Kevin had spent Saturday morning packing their things and after a quick lunch it was time for Nick and the kids to get on the road. Knowing they had an audience of children, they both tried to keep their emotions as under control as they could. They had cried together several nights before then and Kevin continued to assure Nick that everything would work out and they would be an even stronger couple than they were now when this horrible situation was over with.

Kevin and the boys stood on the porch as the rest of their family drove away, Kevin’s shoulders shaking with sobs as soon as Nick’s SUV turned out of the drive. Mason had taken one hand and Maxwell the other and they led him back inside the now too quiet house. They had all collapsed on the couch in the living room where they watched tv while Kevin tried his best to keep it together, but failing miserably.

At one point Kristin had called to check in and after talking to Mason she’d shown up with pizzas and a hug and offered to take the kids home for a couple of days so he could pull himself together. He adamantly refused, but did take her up on staying the night in the guest room so he could have some time to himself.

With Kristin there to watch the kids he had gone back upstairs and fallen into their bed where he could let out all the fear and stress he’d been carrying on his shoulders. He hurt, physically hurt on the inside more than he ever thought possible. It was ridiculous he knew, everything he had told Nick was true. It was only a week at a time. A week they would both be incredibly busy and then they would be back together for a week. But it was the first time they had been apart from each other in more than seven months and their first time apart as a couple. It was scary and uncertain and something Kevin couldn’t control. Not being able to control or fix the situation for anyone drove Kevin crazy. He was used to being in control and in this situation every single part of it was taken out of his hands.

Nick finally called when they made it to the apartment. It was extremely late, almost dawn and Kevin cursed the fact that Nick had to wrangle to small children halfway across the country all by himself. It wasn't fair that any of them had to do this at all.

Nick and Kevin had managed to find a small two bedroom apartment online that was fully furnished and less than twenty minutes from the house Nick and Lauren had shared. The landlord was willing to rent it month by month considering the circumstances and they were hopeful they would only need to sublet it for a short amount of time. Nick and Lauren were still only communicating through their lawyers and Kevin knew Nick was anxious about seeing her face to face and letting the kids go.

Nick had been exhausted from the drive and the kids and were barely hanging on by the time they spoke. He had cried on the phone and Kevin had finally started singing again, enough to quiet the tears to a dull hiccup so Nick could relax and fall asleep. Kevin had fallen asleep shortly after.

The first official day of being apart, Kevin had helped the boys get started with school and then locked himself in the studio. He had tried to push all his emotions to the back of his mind and focus only on his task of recording the song. But after several hours of stops and starts, Kevin gave up. Knowing what it meant to both of them and the words Nick had so delicately threaded together with his gift made it hard for Kevin to work without getting choked up so he quit and instead opted to sit silently in the studio allowing his mind to wonder.

By the time school was done for the day he had managed to push the thoughts away as best as he could and instead focused on the boys and spending one on one time with each of them. He had built Legos with Mason and watched him play video games. Maxwell wanted to play board games and after six rounds of Uno Kevin’s nerves were fried and he set to work making dinner while he debated when he could call Nick. He didn’t want to be overbearing and knew Nick needed time to settle in and come up with a new routine, but he was desperate to tell the other man how much he loved him. He checked the clock again. It was only five which meant it was only three there. He would call after eight and not a minute before. He shook his head and went back to work. It was going to be a hellishly long week.

--

The first time Nick saw Lauren after their separation was in the parking lot of the District Seven police station. He had a court ordered mediator with him for the exchange. The terms of the agreement were Nick would hand the kids over to the mediator, Heather, and she would then give the kids to Lauren. They would switch the next morning when Lauren's time ended and the kids were free to come back to Nick.

He tried not to look at Lauren as he stepped out of the SUV. He unbuckled Odin first, giving him a giant hug and kiss and letting him know how much he and Kevin both loved him. They had all video chatted with Kevin right before Nick left to meet Heather and Odin had talked about him the entire way to the police station. He was also so excited to be in a parking lot with real police cars he didn't even notice how upset Nick got after he allowed Heather to pull Odin away. Once she had a secure grip of Odin's hand he went to the other side of the car and began the process of unbuckling Saoirse and gathering their things. He hugged her tight and dropped kisses all over her cheeks and nose before handing her and the bags to Heather.

"We'll see you tomorrow morning at ten, Mr. Carter." she said softly. She had talked to Nick earlier that morning and had some background information on the situation.

Nick nodded and watched her walk away, taking both his babies away from him and giving them to their mother, a woman who had done nothing but lie, cheat and abuse drugs and alcohol for the better part of the last two years. Nick couldn't let go of the uneasy feeling he had, but knew he was unable to do anything but play but the judge's orders and hope for the best. His eyes fell in his soon to be ex-wife and wondered for the hundredth time how he'd ever gotten in this position. She had lost weight, he could tell that much from the distance he was parked. He wished he had gotten the approval to make her be drug tested, but that was something else the judge had deemed unnecessary. Nick hoped like hell this would all work out and he would never have to deal with this again.

Lauren glared at him from across the parking lot and he watched, holding back tears as she tried to reach for Saoirse and she screamed, looking around frantically until she could see him. He felt like he couldn't breathe, watching his daughter scream for him and knowing there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. She tried to hug Odin next and he stepped away from her and he too turned back and looked at him longingly. He bit his bottom lip to keep his tears away and he gave them both a little wave. Heather moved to the car and started getting them situated.

Nick felt his knees buckle and knew he had to get back inside the car before he collapsed on the pavement. On shaky legs he walked around to the driver's seat, one hand on the side of the SUV while the other gripped the car keys. He hurried and got inside, folding himself over the wheel as the tears began to fall. His shoulders shook with the force of his sobs as he tried hard to catch his breath. He didn't know how long he sat there crying.

By the time he looked up and wiped his face, both Lauren and Heather were gone. He was half surprised an officer hadn't been out to check on him but figured they dealt with things like this all the time and it probably wasn't as unusual as it felt for him. He wiped his face as best as he could and threw the car into reverse as he pulled out and headed back to the parking lot. He needed to talk to Kevin, needed to hear the soothing drawl of his lover's voice, but he knew he needed to be home when he did it.

Twenty minutes later he was pulling into his parking spot. Grabbing his phone, he took the stairs two at a time, the exercise mixed with his emotional distress causing his heart to beat irregularly. He grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and downed half of it before throwing himself down on the couch and picking up the phone. He hit the familiar button and waited patiently for Kevin's sweet voice. He sighed with relief the moment he heard the voice come on the line.

"Hey baby." Kevin said softly.

"Hi." Nick breathed out, his whole body relaxing knowing Kevin was on the other side of the phone.

"How are you holding up?" he questioned.

Nick sighed. "As good as I can be without you here with me. Besides leaving you on Sunday, that may be one of the hardest things I've ever done. They were crying Kev, screaming for me and all she could fucking do was stand there and smirk at me. I didn't think I would make it out of the parking lot. "

"I'm so sorry baby. I'm sorry we have to do this, that you have to do this. I'm sorry I couldn't be there with you today to make it easier for you." Kevin said softly, his own voice thick with emotion.

"You're there for me now, I need you now more than I needed you then. And while I would give just about anything to feel your arms wrapped around me right now, we have two other boys that need you right now." Nick said as he stretched his legs out on the couch and allowed himself to get comfortable. The fact that he was virtually childless for the next twenty-four hours was suddenly forefront in his mind. He couldn't remember the last time he hadn't been solely responsible for someone else.

"I love that you think that, that you say things like that almost as much as I love you." Kevin said.

"What do you mean?" Nick asked.

"That you talk about the boys as ours, that we're all together. As much as we've talked about it, it still catches me off guard, in the best way possible when I hear you say things like that. Makes me happy, makes me feel complete, baby."

"Good." Nick said softly. "Because that's exactly how you make me feel every day."

"What are you going to do the rest of the day?" Kevin asked, his voice and words soothing away every fear and worry that had gripped Nick since he'd left the drop off.

"You know, I was just realizing I would be completely on my own and the only thing I want to do is sleep. Long hours of sleep without being woken up by screaming." he said with a small laugh.

"I think that's a great idea, baby. You could use the extra sleep and it will make the time disappear and before you know it you'll be able to go pick up our babies. When does she get them again?" Kevin asked.

Nick's smile grew as Kevin referred to the kids as their babies. He could understand what Kevin was meaning when he spoke of the other including the kids. It did make his heart beat a little quicker and his belly feel flush with love and admiration for the other man. "She gets them back on Thursday and then I pick them up on Friday morning and then you will be here on Saturday and everything will be right in the world, at least for a week."

"Exactly baby. Go get some sleep. I'll wait for you to call me so I don't wake you up. Don't worry about what time it is, I'll want to hear your voice, but don't get up early in my account. I want you to sleep as long as you can, and that's an order mister. "Kevin said mock sternly.

Nick giggled. "And what if I ignore it and stay up all day playing video games instead?"

Kevin tried to keep his voice hard but Nick could hear the laughter trying to break through. "Well then Nicky, you'll have to be punished when I get there on Saturday."

Nick felt his face flush and he swallowed hard. "What if I want that?" he asked, dropping his voice down an octave.

Kevin laughed this time. "None of that, Maxwell is asleep in my lap and Mason is sitting here playing video games."

"That's no fair, you stated it." Nick insisted with a huff. Leave it to Kevin to get him aroused and then leave him hanging while they were several hundreds of miles away.

"I did no such thing, you brought this on yourself. Go to sleep now and maybe I'll help you with your… Problem this evening." Kevin said sweetly.

Nick sighed loudly. "Fine."

"Aww baby don't be like that. I love you." He tried again.

"I know, I love you too. I just miss you." Nick whined.

"I miss you too baby. Now go to sleep so I can tell you all about how much I miss you this evening."

They said their goodbyes and Nick hung up the phone. Pushing himself up off the couch he stumbled down the hallway to the bedroom and shed his clothes. When he was left in nothing but his boxers he climbed under the crumpled sheets and pulled the thick blanket up over his head. He tried to block out all other thoughts but Kevin arriving on Saturday and soon he was fast asleep.
Chapter Thirty-Nine by Arok
The second drop off, while not as traumatic as the first, was still not without tears and frustration on both parts. Lauren continued to give him the smug satisfied smile from where she stood at her car. He still stood a hundred feet away digging the blades of his car keys into his palm to keep from going after her. He leaned back against the trunk of his vehicle watching as Heather secured his children in the back of Lauren's car and bit back the anger that coursed through him every time the children were taken away from him. He had to constantly remind himself that playing by the rules of the court would only make him look more favorable in the eyes of the judge and this would all be worth it. Fighting for and protecting his kids was worth it. He just hated that he had to continue to subject them to the chaos and uncertainty of their mother in the name of keeping them safe.

When he'd got them back on Wednesday, they had been in dirty clothes and Nick was convinced that she hadn't bathed them the night before. While kids could usually go one or two days without a bath, it still had irritated him to no end that she couldn't handle a small task like keeping them clean. He'd promptly taken them home and after the longest bubble bath in the world for both of them he'd called Kevin to air his frustration. They'd both agreed that documentation was key, so after their baths he'd set to work checking both kids over from head to toe and documenting anything that looked out of place. He also made note of the dates she'd had the kids and the fact that they hadn't been bathed. He made a mental note to start taking pictures of them when he dropped them off and when he got them back. He hated being so petty and having to act this way, but it was part of the process when trying to get custody, especially sole legal custody.

As a gay father with a partner, the odds were already stacked against him in the eyes of the court and he was determined to do whatever it took to be able to show them that he was the more suitable parent. He had no idea what they would do if the judge made them share custody or even worse, gave it to her. His overpriced attorney had assured him that at the very least they would end up with joint custody, but they were doing everything in their legal power to secure custody in his favor. He could only keep up what he was doing and be the best father he could be. He couldn't worry about the what ifs, otherwise he'd never be able to function, especially without Kevin there.

Instead of retreating to the car to let his emotions get the better of him, he stood his ground and watched the mediator speak to Lauren before they both got in their cars and drove away. He didn't breathe normally until he was alone in the parking lot. Once they were gone he took a deep breath and relaxed visibility against the car as the realization that Kevin would be there to give him strength for the next week of exchanges gave him the boost he needed to move on with his day.

Back in his car he sent Kevin a quick text to let him know everything went okay and took off towards the apartment. His first night alone without the kids he'd spent several hours sleeping and the rest playing video games. It was nice to have some time for himself. Time to do exactly what he wanted without having to worry about kids or Kevin. But the freedom he felt from it only lasted a couple of hours and then he just felt empty and alone. It was a feeling he'd experienced so many times before and one he was glad he would never have to feel again once the divorce was final. He didn't miss the irony that his finalized divorce, something meant to bring people together and by default make them feel less alone, was the one thing keeping him in this state. He was counting down the hours until Kevin arrived.

Kevin had an afternoon flight scheduled to come in on Saturday and Nick needed time to get the apartment up to Kevin's standards. Living alone with two kids while in Vegas, his subpar housekeeping skills had reared its ugly head and the apartment looked like a bomb had gone off in it. He didn't want to waste what precious time he got with Kevin with one or both of them picking up so he was determined to spend his childless day making sure the apartment was clean and stocked with food before the older man arrived.

They talked on the phone every night, sometimes for several hours. They always did a small call right after dinner so the kids could all talk to each other and also give Nick time to talk to Maxwell and Mason and Kevin a chance to see Odin and Saoirse. Nick was relieved after the first time speaking to the older boys that they continued to tell him things just like he was there with them. He was concerned his relationship he was building with the boys would suffer during their time apart since they weren't able to travel with Kevin to see them. But after several days of talking to them on the phone it was clear to Nick that wouldn't be an issue. Same went for Kevin. Odin and Saoirse both loved to see and talk to him on the phone and Saoirse could spend hours hobbling around the apartment with Kevin in her hand while she showed him toys and the wall. They took everything in stride and Nick would never be able to thank Kevin enough for the strength and security he brought to his life, had always given to him.

Once back at the apartment, Nick surveyed the damage. He hadn't don't laundry since they arrived and there were days worth of clothes that needed to be washed and dried. He started there first and then moved to picking up toys and taking out the garbage while the clothes hummed away in the washing machine. He fell into his chores and didn't even realize that hours had passed. Once he was finally content with the way the apartment looked, he grabbed his laptop and stretched out on the couch to order groceries. He had just scheduled the delivery when his cell phone rang.

"Two more days baby and then I get to touch you, in every place I've been dreaming about. It's gonna feel so good baby." Kevin's voice poured into his ear, giving him goosebumps at the sound of his sultry voice.

Nick groaned and closed his eyes as he closed his laptop and tossed it onto the floor. "Really, with that voice?" he asked, a little more breathless than he'd been anticipating.

The deep chuckle of his lover filled his ear. "Hey I had to get you back for the other night when you fell asleep on me."

"That's not fair. You know how exhausted I was. I told you that before anything even started." Nick said pouting, remembering the night before when he'd fallen asleep in their middle of their conversation.

"I know baby, I just like to tease you. Are you doing okay?" he asked, growing more serious with concern.

Nick smiled, imaging his lover's crinkled eyebrows as he tried to figure out if Nick was really okay. "Yeah, I'm okay. I'm not used to the quiet. It starts to get to me sometimes after the non stop screaming and laughter of the last few months." he said sadly.

"I'll have you screaming Nicky," Kevin said, his drawl coming out again.

"Jesus, Kev." Nick said with a giggle.

"I'm sorry. I just miss you," Kevin said as he laughed.

Nick bit his lip coyly to keep his smile contained. "I miss you too baby. I want nothing more than for you to have me screaming your name, a few times I hope. We've only got a week to catch up before we have to do it all over again."

"Don't you worry about that tight now baby. Just focus on the fact that I'll be there soon and then we will make up for all the lost time."

Nick sighed and closed his eyes as he pictured his fiancé in his mind. "What are you up to?"

Kevin sighed. "I've been working in the studio today. Trying to get somewhere but it's not working. I don't know what's going on or why I can't focus and actually get something done. The boys are still doing school and then they are going to play video games. Which reminds me Mason wanted to know if you wanted to play Minecraft with him after dinner. I was supposed to ask you yesterday and it slipped my mind. It was the first thing he asked me this morning. "

"Absolutely." Nick said. "I was going to mention it but then I forgot too. I'd love to play with him. But right now I'd like to play with you." Nick said smirking at the look he knew had to be on Kevin's face.

"Don't start something you can't finish, Nicky." Kevin warned but his tone was still playful.

"Who says I won't finish? I fully intend to finish baby, are you going to help me?" his voice deeper as he imagined the countless times they had finished together.

Kevin groaned, a sound Nick lived for and he knew he had the older man right where he wanted him. "You said the boys were still working and you were alone in the studio. Lock the door baby."

Nick kicked off his shoes and stretched out on the couch to give himself more room. He grabbed his headphones from the laptop bag on the floor and quickly connected them to his phone so he could have both hands free. He waited for Kevin to return to the phone, growing more excited by the anticipation.

"Okay, the door's locked." Kevin said as he picked the phone back up.

"Good. Now get comfortable on the couch baby. I'm laying on the couch here. I can't wait until you're here and we can lay on it together. We can watch movies and hold each other. Doesn't that sound nice baby? Do you want me to hold you, or you hold me. Maybe I'd put my head in your lap and you could run your fingers through my hair. I still haven't gotten it cut yet, before long it's going to be as long as yours."

Kevin sighed and Nick could hear him shuffling around and getting comfortable on the couch in the studio upstairs. Nick could picture his long frame spread out on the leather sofa, his legs spread out in front of him while he laid on his back. "Mmm, tell me more baby," the older man mumbled, his voice low and soft.

Nick felt chills of excitement run down his back as he closed his eyes and saw his lover's face. Nothing could be better than the faces Kevin made when he was aroused, when Nick was touching him and making him moan. It gave Nick a feeling of satisfaction to know that he was the one causing Kevin to make those faces and sounds, to make him feel good. He reached down and unbuttoned the snap on his jeans and then pushed them and his underwear down springing his rapidly forming erection free. He took the length in his hand and stoked it slowly while he continued to talk.

"Well if we were laying here together with my head in your lap then I would pull your lips down to mine and kiss you." Nick said and he continued to palm and rub himself. "I miss your mouth and the things it can do to me. I miss your kisses and what it feels like to have you kiss over every inch of me."

"I miss that too baby. I miss waking up and feeling you pressed so tightly against me, the way our bodies line up so perfectly. You are perfect." Kevin's voice was thicker now, a sure indication of his level of arousal.

"Are you touching yourself baby? Are you imagining it's my hand stroking you up and down so good? I love the way you feel in my hand, so long and hard. Knowing it's all for me baby." Nick moaned as he increased the speed of his movements flicking his wrist as he moved his hand quicker. With his few hand he began twisting and pinching his nipples, imagining it was Kevin's skilled fingers instead, touching and caressing them into stiff buds.

"Yes baby, I've needed your touch for days. It's all I've been able to think about. I want to touch you, and sink down so deep inside you while I stretch you and take what's mine. Do you want that baby, do you want my thick cock inside of you claiming you once again?" Kevin's voice was melting his insides and Nick wasn't sure how much longer he would be able to hold on.

"Oh God Kev. The things you do to me, even when your not here baby, your voice is pure sex. You have no idea how hard you make me. I can come just listening to you speak, God I love you." his movements were becoming frantic as he worked quickly to get off, breathing heavy and moaning in Kevin's ear as he went.

"Fuck Nicky." Kevin yelped as he let out a groan. The sound of Kevin coming over the phone was the most erotic think Nick has ever heard and with one last jerk he was shooting his load all over his chest and hand. His eyes slammed shut and he panted hard, desperate to catch his breath.

On the other side of the phone Kevin was much the same and Nick grinned, happy he could satisfy his lover even without them being physically together.

"I love you baby," Nick managed to choke out in between bouts of breath as his heart rate came down and he still struggled to keep up.

"God I love you too Nicky. So much. Two more days baby. We can do it."

The words were everything he needed and Nick still clung to them hours later when the silence of the apartment began to get to be too much for him to handle. He repeated them over and over to himself, remembering how they sounded coming from Kevin and basked in the love they shared and the knowledge that soon they would be together again.

--

Kevin glanced up at the knock at the door and frowned. Checking his watch he almost fell off the piano bench when he realized what time it was. It was almost after six and he hadn't even noticed the afternoon slipping away from him. He jerked to his feet and quickly crossed to the door. He opened it to find two pissed off kids standing in the doorway.

"We're hungry and you've been in here all day." Maxwell said with his arms crossed over his chest.

"Yeah Dad. It's almost time for me to play with Nick and we still haven't had dinner. What's going on. You've been playing the piano for hours." Mason said, glaring at him.

Kevin had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. He had no excuse for losing the afternoon. He'd never done this before and he immediately felt guilty, but after his phone call with Nick earlier he had been more inspired than he could ever remember and he had set to work on recording the song Nick had written. He was almost done and wanted nothing more than to get it finished before he left to join Nick in Vegas.

"I'm sorry guys. I was working and I completely lost track of time. How about to make it up to you we'll order pizza and you guys can start playing games now while you wait."

Both boys cheered and chased each other down the stairs while Kevin fished his cell phone out of his pocket to call the pizza place. He smiled to himself as he took the steps two at a time to reach the kitchen. After the pizza order had been placed and the gate unlocked he checked his phone for messages. He had several from Nick.

Apparently when he hadn't resurfaced, the kids had called him. The last mess he made him laugh out loud.

"Did I fuck you so good you died up there? What is going on baby?"



He quickly shit a text back, the smile growing as he hit send. "In more ways than one baby."



He thought about it for a second and sent another. "Seriously though, you inspired me so much I got caught up in recording and mixing that the afternoon slipped away. They managed to get my attention and now we're waiting for pizza."

The text back was instant. "Thank God. I was starting to get worried. I love you. I'll call you tonight once Mason and I are done playing and the kids are in bed."



He sent his love back and closed his phone. He went to work grabbing plates and napkins and took them to the living room. They usually only ate at the table but he figured the boys would get a kick out of being allowed to eat in front of the TV for once. An hour later they were fed and he could hear the sounds of his son and his lover playing Minecraft while he helped Maxwell build Legos in the kitchen. His heart was full, the only thing that could make him feel better would be them all together. Just a few more days and he would have Nick back in his arms and all would be right in the world again.
Chapter Forty by Arok
They had both agreed that it would be best for everyone if Kevin found his own way to the apartment rather than having Nick try to bring the kids to meet him at the airport. Kevin was due in any minute and Nick was nervously pacing the apartment, picking up odds and ends and feeling like he would come out of his skin at any moment. He was nervous and excited about the older man’s arrival. He was so excited to see his lover, touch him and know that he was real. But he was also nervous that their time apart would somehow crack the walls they were building around their family. What if Kevin changed his mind? What would he do then?

After cleaning the living room for the third time, he decided he needed to find something to occupy his time before Kevin arrived. He checked on both kids and once he was reassured they were playing happily in the other room, he settled into the couch to play video games to pass the time. He got lost in the game and didn’t even register how late it had gotten. His head shot up the moment there was a knock at the door. He quickly turned off the game and made his way on unsteady legs to the door. He took a deep breath and threw open the door, not even checking to see who stood on the other side. His knees buckled when his eyes fell upon the welcome sight of his lover. Before he could even react to Kevin’s presence, he was pulled into the familiar arms and held tight. Nick felt himself sag against the other man as all the stress and anxiety he’d been carrying for a week slowly faded away.

They stood in the doorway holding each other until Odin came to the door and shoved them apart, wanting his own hug from the older man. “Kebin!” he yelled as he wrapped his arms around Kevin’s waist and held on for dear life.

“Hey Buddy,” Kevin said as he squeezed Odin into his side before he bent down and lifted the small boy into his arms. “I sure missed you.” Kevin held him close as Odin nestled his head under Kevin’s chin and burrowed into his chest. “Missed you.” he said softly.

Still holding the boy, Kevin stepped through the threshold and came the rest of the way into the apartment. Nick grabbed Kevin’s bags and ushered the man in as he closed and locked the door behind them. Saoirse was standing in the hallway, watching the display in front of her. Once her eyes had settled on Kevin she let out a high pitched giggle and toddled over as quickly as she could, wrapping her tiny arms around his leg. He smiled down at her, tears brimming the corners of his eyes.

Nick watched the display with a wistful smile on his face. “As you can see,” he said softly. “We all missed you.”
Kevin gave Nick a grin. “You don’t know how badly I missed all of you.'' he said as he rubbed small circles on Odin’s back, much like had done for Nick when he was smaller. Nick left Kevin to put his bags in the bedroom while Kevin got settled on the couch. Odin curled up next to him, between him and the arm of the couch leaving Saoirse room to curl up in Kevin’s lap. Once he had lifted her up off the floor and settled her she reached up and grabbed him by the cheek. Struggling to stand, he lifted her little body up until she could support her weight on his lap. Once she was stable he let her go and watched as she leaned in and pressed her open, slobbery mouth against his cheek. Kevin laughed out loud as he kissed her cheek back and gently tickled her belly. “I missed you too baby girl.” he said and was rewarded with a wide toothy grin. She settled back in Kevin’s lap and curled up against him.

By the time Nick had returned to the living room they were pretty comfortable on the couch. Nick smiled at the sight and felt like a weight had been lifted off of his shoulders. Kevin did that, just by being present, in arms reach where Nick could see and feel him there. The older man had barely been there ten minutes and Nick already couldn't bear the thought of him leaving again. Kevin looked up as Nick entered the room and tilted his head toward the open spot on the couch silently asking Nick to join them. Nick wasted no time in curling up beside Kevin, resting his head against his lover’s shoulder and placing his other hand against the baby. They silently continued watching the cartoon Odin had been watching as they enjoyed their reunion. No words were needed, touch was enough to calm everyone’s fears and before Nick knew it, the three of them were fast asleep. Nick leaned over to the edge of the couch and grabbed the throw. He opened it gently, stretching it out over his kids and his lover as he settled back in against Kevin and closed his eyes. Sleep overtook him quickly, finally able to relax.

--

The sun was setting by the time Nick’s eyes fluttered open. He jerked awake as he found himself alone on the couch and couldn't figure out what was going on or where the kids were. Like a dream, the events of the afternoon came back to him and he stretched before getting up off the couch in search of the others. He found the kids and Kevin in the kids’ room, laying on the floor and playing with cars and blocks.

“Hey baby.” Nick said as he stepped into the room.

Kevin twisted from his position on the floor to give Nick a smile. “Hey sweetheart.”

“Why didn’t you wake me up?” Nick asked as he settled on the floor, folding his long legs up into a cross legged position.

“You needed to sleep. The kids and I just wanted to play and I wanted you to have some rest. I was going to wake you up before I ordered dinner.” Kevin handed him a truck and went back to driving his own car on Odin’s imaginary road.

“I was going to cook.” Nick insisted. “I ordered groceries and everything."

“And you can, tomorrow. There’s no need for all of that tonight. We’re all worn out, let’s just order in and we can have a movie night. Odin will pick.” Kevin said, shooting the boy a grin.

Odin’s eyes lit up as he looked from one man to the other. “Can we watch Paw Patrol? He asked excitedly. Nick groaned. “We’ve watched that movie every night since we got here.” Nick protested.

Kevin laughed. “Actually, I have a brand new Paw Patrol movie for you in my bag. We can watch that.” Kevin said with a wink.

“Really?” Odin exclaimed with wide eyes.

Kevin nodded and in an instant he felt Odin jump on his back and wrap his small arms around his neck. “Twank you Kebin!” he yelled causing both men to laugh.

Nick smiled at his son and lover, feeling incredibly grateful that they got along so well and even more grateful that he was here with them. “What do you want to eat? I can order burgers or something.” Nick offered.

“Sounds good to me baby. I just want to relax with you and hopefully have time to hold you once these rugrats go down for the night.” Kevin said as he switched out the car he had for a school bus.

“I’ve been thinking of nothing else for days.” Nick admitted, catching Kevin’s eye.

Kevin nodded. “Me too baby. Now go order dinner. The quicker they eat, the quicker they get sleepy.”
Nick laughed and pushed himself up off the floor as he went in search of his cell phone.

--

The awkwardness didn’t surface until after the kids had gone to bed and they had crawled into Nick’s. Kevin wasn’t sure when or why it had appeared, but he could feel the shift in the air as soon as they were alone. They had enjoyed a quiet dinner as a family and after two viewings of Kevin’s new Paw Patrol movie, Odin had finally agreed that he was getting too sleepy for a third. They had settled into a familiar nighttime routine, working together to dress the kids for bed and instead of Nick reading, Odin had asked that Kevin read them their bedtime stories. Saoirse hadn’t made it through the first one before her eyes began drooping. Odin had insisted on two more before he felt ready for bed and Kevin had readily agreed. Once the stories were done and the kids all tucked in, they had stumbled down the hallway to Nick’s room and collapsed on the bed together in a heap of tired arms and legs.

Kevin could usually handle the silence, but not tonight, not after being apart for a week. Nick’s head was nestled against Kevin’s shoulder as they lay together, both staring up at the ceiling in the quiet of the apartment. Kevin wasn’t sure what to say to break the silence. Nick seemed to be focused on something and Kevin didn’t want to pressure him to talk until he was ready. He was content just having the younger man in his arms, close enough to lean over and kiss him any time he wanted. The thought filled him with so much happiness he did just that, rolling over so the blonde was snug underneath him as he lowered his mouth to Nick’s and brushed their lips softly against each other. It took Nick a minute to realize what was going on, but when he did he gripped Kevin by the back of the head, pulling him closer and deepening the kiss.

Kevin groaned and pulled Nick’s bottom lip into his mouth, sucking and biting it as Nick fought for control of the kiss. They broke apart to breath and Kevin set to work sliding his hands up the trim sides of his lover, his fingers slipping under his t-shirt and running up the smooth skin until he could pull the shirt from Nick’s chest. Once the offending material was gone, Kevin settled overtop of him as he licked and bit at the sweet tasting skin of Nick’s neck, biting hard enough to leave a mark before tonguing the reddened skin to ease the discomfort. He continued his descent, licking and biting before licking the sting away once again as he made his way to each of Nick’s nipples, teasing the sensitive flesh beneath him until Nick was writhing and buckling up against him.

“Baby...please...touch me.” Nick groaned as he pushed his hips up and moaned as he rubbed against Kevin’s thigh.

“Where do you want me to touch you Nicky?” Kevin asked, glancing up at him from where his tongue was currently circling Nick’s navel. He dipped his tongue in and out, lapping at the sweet taste of Nick’s skin that he’d been denied for days.

“Anywhere Kev. Just do something. I’m dying here.” Nick thrust his hips up again for good measure, making his point known without having to ask for what he desperately wanted.

Kevin smiled and sat back on his heels as he hooked his fingers through either side of Nick’s waistband and pulled the sweatpants and underwear from him in one quick yank. Nick’s erection sprang up, hitting him softly in the belly as it was released from the confines of Nick’s sweatpants. Nick was already hard and leaking precum and Kevin couldn’t wait to taste him. Denying himself no longer, he settled between Nick’s legs and grasped him tightly in one hand and lowered his head to take the younger man in his mouth. The shock was so great that Nick bucked his hips completely up off the mattress, pushing himself further into Kevin’s warm mouth. The older man had been expecting it and relaxed his throat, allowing Nick to slip even further inside. He sucked hard before releasing Nick and licking and sucking his way up and down the thick shaft. Nick couldn’t control his hips and kept trying to force Kevin to take more of him. Kevin smiled around Nick’s cock as he allowed his tongue to slide out and lick up the shaft while Kevin sucked gently on the head.

Nick’s moans were like music to Kevin’s ears and he couldn’t get enough. He stopped his actions long enough to ask for the lube and as soon as he had it in his hands he settled back to his previous position. He opened the cap and squeezed some of the slick liquid into one hand. While he licked and sucked at Nick's cock, he slid one oiled finger into Nick’s hole, tapping his prostate as he forced his way inside. The action was all that it took and then Nick was coming, shooting into Kevin’s awaiting mouth as he groaned out. “Fuck baby. Shit. I love you.” he yelled as Kevin continued to move the finger back and forth and then added another, twisting and opening to get Nick prepared. Kevin let him fall from his mouth as he sat back and continued his ministrations on Nick’s ass. He pushed hard, jabbing both fingers into Nick’s prostate and Nick screamed, the action triggering a second orgasm as Nick came again.

Kevin pulled out his fingers and climbed off the bed long enough to remove his clothes before he was right back between Nick’s legs, watching his lover come down from his release. "You killed me baby,” Nick mumbled out, struggling to keep his eyes open.

Kevin smirked. “We’re not done yet, Nicky. You ready for more?”

Nick nodded and have him a small smile. “I’m always ready for you baby.”

Kevin gave him a wicked grin and placed himself at Nick’s entrance. He took one leg at a time and lifted them over his shoulders, giving him a much deeper position to piston into Nick. He slid gently into his lover, trying his best not to hurt him, but the feeling was too intense, he’d missed Nick too much. Once he was completely engulfed in the heat of the younger man he tried to wait patiently, giving Nick time to adjust to his size. Once Nick gave him the signal he pulled out and then quickly thrust back in, sending short hard jolts to Nick’s prostate.

Nick moaned, his erection coming back almost instantly as he felt Kevin move inside him, bringing him closer and closer to release. “That’s it baby. Right there. Uhh.” Nick moaned out as his head thrashed back against the pillows.

“You’re so tight baby. God I missed this, missed you.” Kevin grunted as he went faster, slamming into Nick over and over until he felt the familiar burn in the pit of his stomach and knew he was falling. “I’m there baby. Gotta come, come with me.” Kevin reached down and wrapped his hand around Nick’s cock and after two short jerks Nick was coming, his ass muscles clenched and pulled Kevin over the edge as he went.

Both men collapsed back in the bed, breathing heavy and covered with sweat. It took several minutes for their breathing to return to normal. Nick spoke first, rolling onto his side and staring up at the other man. Kevin turned when he felt Nick’s eyes on him. “I love you.” the blonde said softly, a hesitant smile on his face.

“What’s the matter baby.” Kevin asked softly, his eyes showing concern.

Nick shook his head and moved closer, taking Kevin’s hand in his own and resting his head against his shoulder. “I just missed you. I’ve never needed anyone like I need you. I just...this has been so hard. I know it’s only been a week, but doing this, all of this without you right here has been tough. I didn’t even realize how hard it’s been until you were here and I didn’t have to be the only adult, the only one holding it all together. It scares me sometimes that I need you so much.”

Kevin leaned over and rested a kiss against Nick’s head. “I need you too baby, just as much if not more. It was a tough week for me too. I’d forgotten what it was like to be the sole person the kids needed, hell I forgot what it was like to sleep by myself. I think I only slept one good night the whole week and that was only because exhaustion caught up with me and I just couldn’t do it anymore.” he admitted.

Nick looked up at him, getting lost in the soft green of Kevin’s eyes. “Really?”

Kevin frowned. “Yes really, why do you think it doesn’t affect me as much to have you away from me as it does you?”

Nick shrugged and looked away, breaking their eye contact. Kevin wasn’t having it and grabbed Nick by the chin, tilting his face up so Kevin could see him better. “What’s going on in that head of yours?”

“You just seem so much more put together. I feel like I’m falling apart most days and then I talk to you and you’re nothing but strength and you just seem to be doing okay with all of this, just fine.” He sighed as a lone tear slid down his cheek. “I just want you to want me, more than you’ve ever wanted anyone. I want you to need me as much as I need you. I want to know that your heart is breaking every day that we’re apart, just like mine is broken.” Nick whispered, ashamed of his insecurities and afraid of Kevin’s response.

Kevin sat up and drew the younger man into his arms. Nick tucked his head under Kevin’s chin, settling his cheek against Kevin’s chest so he could feel his heartbeat. “I was such a mess the first night you left baby that Kristin had to come and sleep in the guest room. I couldn’t watch the kids, I couldn’t do anything but cry and clutch your pillow.”

Nick pulled back just enough that he could look into Kevin’s eyes. The older man nodded, answering the silent question. “It’s true. She called to talk to the boys and Mason told her I couldn’t stop crying and the next thing I knew she was there, feeding them dinner and telling me to go upstairs and pull myself together. I couldn’t come back downstairs until the next morning I missed you so much.”

“I talked to you that night. Why didn’t you tell me?” Nick questioned as he pushed his face deeper into the comfort of Kevin’s embrace. If he could crawl under Kevin’s skin it still wouldn’t be close enough for him in his raw emotional state.

“Because you needed me to be strong. I couldn’t let you know I was falling apart while it was taking everything I had to keep you held together. The kids needed you, I had to be strong for both of us. But don’t think for a moment that this isn’t ripping my heart out too. If I could have it my way, we’d never spend a second apart, but that’s not possible. I love you baby, desperately. I’m counting down the seconds until this is over and you are all back home where you belong, with me.”

Kevin held him tighter as the silence returned, this time much more comforting than it had been before. They had both been able to finally voice their concerns and Nick felt another weight leave his shoulders as he snuggled into the older man. While he wished Kevin had voiced his discomfort earlier, Nick understood why he had tried to be brave enough for both of them. Nick felt the love he had for the older man rush through him and he pulled back just enough to reach up and brush a chaste kiss across Kevin’s mouth. “I love you,” he whispered against Kevin’s mouth. Kevin moved forward and kissed him squarely on the mouth before pulling back and giving him a small smile. “I love you more baby.”
Chapter Forty-One by Arok
Of course Kevin’s time in Vegas went so much quicker than Nick’s time alone. Before either of them knew it, Friday had come and it was time for Kevin to return to Kentucky to collect Mason and Maxwell for his week. Nick tried to be stronger, better with Kevin leaving, and for the most part he was. He managed a teary goodbye at the apartment and managed to keep his emotions relatively in check until well after the kids had gone down for the night. It wasn’t until he crawled into bed, still able to smell Kevin on the sheets, that he allowed the tears to fall.

Their week together was exactly what Nick had needed and he was more motivated than ever to follow each and every stipulation the courts wanted to throw at them so they could have the best shot of winning custody as possible. They had spent as much time as possible together and Nick had soaked it all up, banking on the memories being enough to last him another week alone with the kids.

Kevin had gone with him to both drop offs and pickups that week, but stayed in the car as Nick requested. It made him feel better knowing that Kevin was right there, but he didn’t want it to be something that Lauren used against him later. The kids had once again come home on Wednesday and Friday still wearing the clothes Nick had put them in the morning they switched off. Considering he had sent both kids with a backpack full of clothes anything else they may need he was livid come Friday morning when the same thing had happened again. When Heather had brought him back the kids he smiled and gave them both hugs and kisses. Lauren had sped out of the parking lot as soon as the kids were no longer in her care, so Kevin felt comfortable enough to leave the car.

Nick had discussed his concerns with Kevin at length and he knew how important this was for the younger man. Kevin got out of the car and gently took Saoirse into his arms and Odin by the hand, leaving Nick free to speak to the mediator out of earshot of the kids.

Nick turned to the older woman and gave her a small smile. “I’m trying to play by the rules and I am doing my best to be okay with this, but I do not understand how it is acceptable for her to keep the kids for 24 hours at a time and they come back to me dirty and wearing the same clothes as the day before. '' Nick took the backpack from her hand and unzipped it, showing her the contents inside. “I’m not asking her to buy them clothes. I send them with plenty of clothes each time. Why is this happening? What can I do?” Nick pleaded.

The other woman was quiet for a moment as her eyes drifted to Kevin laughing and playing with the kids as he got them buckled securely into the car. “He’s good with them.” she mused, ignoring his statement.

Nick turned and looked over his shoulder in enough time to catch Odin throwing his arms around Kevin’s neck and planting a kiss on his cheek. Nick’s smile warmed. “The feeling is mutual. He adores them just as much, if not more. He treats them like his own boys. He’s an excellent father.” Nick said softly.

“And so are you. I know this is tough right now. While I have to remain impartial, I can sympathize with what you are going through. Unfortunately, we live in a society whose first instinct is to preserve the mother’s custody at all costs, even if the father is involved. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, it’s just the facts of the matter. I will tell you that I have already documented your concern and every time it happens I add it again to my report. I’m not going to lie for either of you, but I’m not going to withhold information either. I can tell how withdrawn and forlorn the kids are when they have to leave your care and how happy they are when it’s time to come home. I was hopeful that after a few times of being on their own with Lauren that the distance they were putting her through would begin to dissipate, but so far it hasn’t. That is also documented in the report. The kids are both too young to really be influenced by much other than feelings and instincts. It’s not like you’re telling them their mother is a bad person and then they are reacting, they simply have no idea. Right now the best thing you can do for you, and for them, is to keep being the best father you can be. I am hopeful this will all shake out exactly as it’s meant to. Have you received a definite court date yet?” she asked as she pushed her shoulder bag up on her arm and checked her watch.

Nick nodded. “It’s scheduled for the end of April.”

She gave him a smile. “It will be here before you know it.” she patted his arm affectionately, and then turned on her heel and strolled to her car. Nick watched her go, his mind focusing on the words she said. Preserving the mother’s custody. It shouldn’t be that cut or dry. He shook his head and climbed into the SUV, pushing her words away as he once again focused on his family in the car.

--

Nick was developing a love/hate relationship with Tuesdays. He still hated having to share his children. Hated having to be stuck in this place to appease the judge and his shitty soon to be ex-wife, but he also really enjoyed having one day that he could just come home, collapse and sleep until he had filled his emotional tank and cleared the cobwebs from his mind. His Thursdays were spent cleaning the apartment, getting groceries and preparing for Kevin’s visit. There was a lot to look forward to by the time Thursday hit. They had been doing this for more than a month and in some ways it was getting easier to manage. He didn’t feel like he was drowning on his own with the kids and was actually starting to feel more secure being on his own as a father, not that he wanted to ever be without Kevin’s help or assistance, but it was encouraging to know that if push came to shove he could manage rather effectively on his own.

Nick had just kicked off his shoes and was getting ready to crawl into bed when there was a knock at the door. He frowned, confused on who could possibly be knocking. He made his way back down the hallway and peeked through the keyhole. UPS. He unlocked the chair and opened the door.

“Are you Mr. Carter?” the man asked as he looked over his clipboard.

“That’s me.” Nick said, getting more curious as the man dug in his large bag. Producing a thick envelope, he scanned it and handed it over.

“Just need a quick signature and then I’ll be on my way.” he handed over the clipboard and Nick scribbled his name across it, not even giving it a second thought. He said goodbye and closed the door, turning the package over and over in his hands.

The return address was Lexington. Had Kevin sent him something? He was equal parts nervous and excited and had just started to tear the top off the envelope when there was a second knock at the door. He tossed it on the kitchen counter and went back into the living room. Thinking maybe the UPS man forgot something, he didn’t even check this time and threw the door open, stumbling back in surprise as he took in the man on the other side of the door.

“Brian?” he asked curiously. “What the hell are you doing here? How are you here?”

The older blonde chuckled softly and lifted his bag in the air. “Can I come in?” he said with a smile.

Nick continued to stare at him for a moment, so confused by his presence that the package that had been at the forefront of his mind only seconds ago was momentarily forgotten. He stepped aside and allowed Brian to follow him into the small apartment.

Brian entered the living room and tossed his bag down by the door before turning to Nick and pulling him into an awkward hug. Nick wasn't sure what to do or how to react. He hadn't seen or spoken to Brian since he'd thrown him out of Kevin's house during Thanksgiving. He returned the hug and stepped back quickly, wanting as much distance between him and the other man as possible. He continued to stare at him, waiting for some kind of explanation. After the last fight, Nick hadn't been in any hurry to set things right between them. He was focused on Kevin and their family and then one thing led to another and before Nick had even realized it, several months had passed since the two best friends had talked. Still, Nick was uneasy by his presence. Nothing ever good happened when Brian was around, especially when he showed up unannounced.

"How did you find me?" Nick asked, the questions swirling in his mind.

Brian took a seat in the couch and leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees as he faced Nick. "I called management. Told them I needed to get in touch. They were more than willing to give me your current address."
Nick bit his cheek to keep from mouthing off. He was going to have to have a talk with his manager. Only he and Kevin were supposed to have the address here. He tried to focus on the situation at hand. How was he supposed to deal with Brian as well as everything else going on.

"Why are you here?" he asked, a little more forcefully than he intended.

Brian looked at him and sighed. "We need to talk, Nicky. We need to move past this. I heard you were here and that Kevin was still in Kentucky and I figured this was my shot."

"Your shot for what?" Nick demanded, crossing his arms over his chest.

Brian took a deep breath and stood, coming closer to where Nick stood. "I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. About the past and where my present and future lie. Leighanne and I are talking about divorce. I rented a small apartment in Georgia so we can try to work out our differences but I am just not sure it's worth it in the end anymore. I've been thinking about how things were with us, when we were younger. I got to thinking about conversations we had and I just had to talk to you. I just have to know if we could have ever been anything. If I had said something before you went to Kevin."

Nick glared at him, unsure of how to even respond. He didn't have a chance. The sound of his cell phone ringing shattered the silence in the room and Nick stepped back, digging into his pocket for the phone. He felt relief and terror as he saw his lover's name across the display. How was Kevin going to react to Brian being there.

"Hey," he said softly as he answered the phone.

"What did you think?" Kevin's excited voice said in his ear.

"Think about what?" Nick asked, confused.

"I got a notification that you signed for the package. Did you not open it yet?" Kevin asked, his voice taking on a teasing tone.

Fuck. He'd forgotten all about the package with the unexpected visitor and whatever it was had been important. If possible, he felt even worse than he had before. He turned and faced the kitchen, putting his back to the man in his living room.

"There's someone here." he said quietly.

"Who's there?" Kevin questioned, his voice hitching. The sound formed a tight band around Nick's chest and he knew this wasn't going to end well.

"Brian." Nick said closing his eyes and forcing the image of Kevin's face out of his mind. He knew the admission would bother the other man, but he also didn't want to hide or lie to him either. "

"Why is he there Nick?" Kevin sounded angry and further away than ever before. He felt his pulse begin to race and tried to think of something he could do to get himself out of this situation. He didn't even want Brian there in the first place. Suddenly he was angry, with all of them. How dare they put him in the middle of this.

"I have no idea." Nick said with a sigh. "He just showed up right after the package arrived and I haven't had any time to do anything about either."

"Call me back when you do." Kevin clipped.

Nick could barely formulate his next thought before all he heard was a dial tone. Shocked, he pulled the phone from his ear and stared at the display. Kevin had hung up on him. His stomach rolled and he swallowed hard. This was turning out worse than he thought.

Nick turned and glared at the man who professed to be his best friend. "What the fuck do you want from me?" he demanded, his temper rising.

Brian blanched and took a step back. An angry Nick wasn't one you wanted to be around, and right now Nick looked borderline furious. "I just wanted to talk to you."

"So talk." Nick said, gesturing to the couch. He took a seat across from Brian in the armchair and recrosssd his arms as he leaned back.

"Do you remember being in Germany and you crawled into my bunk and told me you were in love but you were too scared to tell anyone, to tell him." Brian asked as he stared at his hands instead of looking at Nick.

Nick thought back, trying to remember the exact instance Brian was talking about. Suddenly it hit him, it had been their second year touring there and he had realized he was noticing Kevin more than he ever should have. Nick nodded but didn't say anything.

Finally Brian looked up at him. "Was it me?"

Nick frowned. "What? Was what you?"

"Were you in love with me then? Was it me you were talking about?" Brian asked, his eyes wide and his jaw set.

Nick laughed. He hadn't meant to, but the stress of everything was getting to him and the noise bubbled up before he could help himself. "No. I wasn't talking about you. I was talking about Kevin."

Brian looked at him closely. "So all those years ago, it was Kevin?"

Nick nodded. "It's always been Kevin. Since the first time I got an erection. Hell the first time I felt anything, it was always Kevin. It just took us a long time to get to where we are now."

Brian nodded and looked down, staring at Nick's hand. "Are you still wearing your ring?" he questioned.

Nick looked down at his own hand, a smile playing on his lips as he twisted the metal around his finger. "No, I'm wearing Kevin's ring. He asked me to marry him at Christmas and I said yes. We're getting married once the divorce is final."

Brian looked at Nick and took in the way he smiled as he looked at the ring and the way his voice caught when he spoke of the older man. "So there was never a chance for us?" Brian asked, needing to be sure so he could close this chapter of his life.

Nick shook his head. "I'm sorry Bri. I never wanted to hurt you, but no. I never felt that way about you, you were always just my best friend. I love him. I'm going to spend my life with him. He's my past, present and future." Nick said with a wistful smile.

Brian nodded and stood. "I should go. I shouldn't have come unannounced, I just had to know. I needed to ask and it wasn't something I could do over the phone."

Nick nodded and stood as well. There was no awkward hug this time. Just two friends resigned to where their relationship was currently.

"I miss you, as my friend. I miss you both." Brian admitted as he opened the door.

"We miss you too. Just give us some time." Nick said softly, holding the door open wider.

Brian gave him a smile and ducked his head as he left the apartment. The moment he was down the steps Nick shut the door forcefully and leaned back against it. He felt a heavy weight in his stomach, knowing he had to fix whatever had happened with Kevin as soon as possible.
Chapter Forty-Two by Arok
With shaky hands Nick carefully tore the top off the padded envelope and upended the contents onto the counter. A cd case and note clattered out on to the counter top. Nick knew what it was immediately without even having to reach for it and turn it over. Suddenly he felt even worse than he did before. This was the song Kevin had been working on so tirelessly the whole time Nick had been in Vegas. This was their song. Written by Nick and recorded and mixed by Kevin. The fact that he’d finished and been so excited about it that he’d had to overnight it to Nick brought tears to his eyes.

And then Nick had been preoccupied and delayed spending what should have been a joyous moment with his lover, to deal with the mess of his friend, made him feel even smaller. Kevin’s feelings must have been so incredibly hurt when he'd called so excitedly and discovered Brian there in the apartment. Nick knew how pissed he would be if their positions were reversed and he cursed Brian and himself for causing his lover any pain.

Wasting no more time, Nick quickly found the cd player in the living room and slid the disk inside. All at once he was surrounded by the deep, husky voice of his finance. He sank down onto the couch to listen, curling his legs up underneath him to get comfortable. The song was beautiful, even more so than he had anticipated it being. He felt so proud of the older man he thought he would burst. Hearing Kevin sing the words he had penned touched him so deeply that he didn’t even register the tears falling down his cheeks until the droplets landed on his clasped hands. He had to call Kevin. He had to tell Kevin how much him recording the song meant to him. They had to talk about this and set things right.

--

Kevin refreshed the tracking information on his phone every five minutes to track the deliveries he'd sent out. He had locked himself in the studio again so he could be free to talk without the boys overhearing him. He also tried to keep a close eye on the clock, not wanting a repeat performance of losing track of time with with the kids again this week. According to the app the first one, the one to the producer would be delivered by the end of the day and the second, the one to Nick would be delivered within the hour. He was excited for both men to hear the finished product, but was overjoyed at the prospect of Nick hearing it from start to finish for the first time. Nick knew that he'd been working on it, but he had no idea to what extent or how close it was to being completely finished. Kevin had worked on it tirelessly and then when he felt like it was good enough, he'd reached out to a producer for a second opinion. He smiled as he remembered the conversation.

--

"Is this JC?" he'd asked clumsily, more nervous than he really should have been.

"It is. Who's this?" the unfamiliar voice in the other side of the line responded.

"It's Kevin Richardson. I have a proposition for you and I didn't know if you maybe had some time to talk." Kevin had said.

The name had been given to him after talking about the idea of a solo record over with Howie. At first Kevin had laughed, thinking the idea of calling him up out of the blue was ridiculous, but the more he and Howie spoke the more it made sense. JC was an incredible producer, and one who had intimate knowledge of what they had all been through and when he really stopped to think about it, he was the perfect person to reach out to. Howie had passed on the number and now all Kevin had to do was convince JC to work with him.

"So Carter wrote the song and you want to record and release it?" JC asked, trying to understand.

"Yes. I've actually already done some vocal work on it. I just need someone to give me the direction and help mix it. I've also done the piano arrangement." Kevin explained.

"Congratulations on that by the way. I had heard you guys released a statement. I was going to get in touch to wish you both the best but I figured you were being bombarded so I decided to wait until I spoke to one or both of you." JC broke off the topic to explain.

"Thank you. Actually we're engaged. We're getting married once his divorce and custody arrangements have been settled."

"You sound happy man. Happier than I've ever remembered hearing you. " JC said softly.

Kevin smiled despite the fact that JC couldn't see him over the phone. "I've never been happier. He brings out the best in me. That's where I got the push to do this. Knowing he believes in me, believes in my ability to do this, it's enough for me to give it a try."

They had hung up shortly after that, Kevin promising to send over the music and lyrics as well as everything else he'd done so far on the song for JC to look over. An hour later JC had called back even more excited than when they'd talked the first time.

"This song is beautiful Kev. Nick wrote this?" JC questioned.

Kevin beamed. "Yes. It was my Christmas present. He did a fucking amazing job on it. I didn't change a thing."

JC was impressed. "I'm really excited about what we can do with this. Give me a couple of days and then we'll get started."

They talked several more times while Kevin was in Kentucky. He'd done so much work in preparation that the real work he needed JC for went quickly and before he knew it the song was mixed and finished. He'd sent final copies to both Nick and JC and was waiting rather impatiently for his lover to hear it.

He refreshed again and cheered when the screen changed from Out for Delivery to Delivered. He checked the time and realized it had been scanned more than twenty-five minutes ago. Why hadn't Nick called yet? He gave it another five minutes and when Nick still hadn't called he punched in the familiar number and settled on the piano bench as it dialed.

"Hey," Nick said softly, his voice sounded strange to Kevin's ears, but he chose to ignore it in his excitement.

"What did you think?" the question popped out before he could even think about it. He'd been waiting for this moment for so long. He'd poured his heart and soul into this song and Nick's opinion on it mattered more than anything.

"Think about what?" the other man said, confused.

"I got a notification that you signed for the package. Did you not open it yet?" Kevin asked, his voice taking on a teasing tone.

Out of all the sceneries Kevin had envisioned when he sent the cd, he was not expecting this one.

"There's someone here." Nick's voice said quietly.

"Who's there?" Kevin questioned, his voice hitching before he could stop it. His stomach started doing flip flops and he knew whatever came out of Nick's mouth next wouldn't be good.

"Brian."

A million thoughts ran rapidly though his mind and he took a deep breath to keep himself from over reacting.
"Why is he there, Nick?" Kevin tried to keep his voice even, to keep his anger repressed, but he was afraid he was doing a pretty shitty job of that.

"I have no idea." Nick said with a sigh. "He just showed up right after the package arrived and I haven't had any time to do anything about either."

"Call me back when you do." Kevin said and pressed the end button on the phone. He knew it wasn't the most mature thing he could have done but he also knew if he had kept trying to talk to Nick then his initial anger would take over and they would both end up saying things they didn't mean. It was easier to take a break, a little bit to calm down, before they spoke again.

Kevin stared at the phone in his hands and tried to keep his temper under control. He wasn't sure which one he was madder at, but knew Nick hadn't really done anything for him to be angry at. He was just concerned that Brian was there and slightly suspicious of the reasons behind his visit. They hadn't left things on good terms and he was curious why now all of a sudden he would show up at Nick's when he wasn't there with him. Why hadn't he even tried to call Kevin?

What was supposed to be a fun afternoon was quickly becoming anything but. He got up from the bench and crossed to the bookcase where he kept the bottle of whisky. Grabbing a tumbler from the display he poured himself a glass before settling into the couch. He nursed his drink as his mind swam with possibilities and fears.

It was an hour later when his cellphone chirped and he sighed with relief when Nick's name came across the display. Not even thinking twice he hit the button to pick up the call.

"I loved it. It's amazing. You are fucking amazing. Baby, you sound so incredible. Thank you for recording it." His lover's voice filled his ear, saying all the things he'd been waiting so selfishly for.

"Thank you. That means a lot to me, the song means a lot to me Nicky." Kevin admitted.

"I'm so fucking sorry." Nick managed to get out, his voice cracking with tears.

Kevin's pulse quickened and his heart began hammering in his chest. "What are you sorry for?" he was trying to prepare himself for bad news, but he could barely breathe over the lump growing in his throat.

"For not opening it earlier. For not telling him to fuck off the moment he stepped inside the apartment so I could open it and see what was inside. Everything happened all at once and it just slipped my mind and in doing so I made you wait. I'm so sorry." Nick said.

"Did something happen, with Brian?" Kevin asked the question he wasn't sure he wanted the answer to.

"God no." Nick said quickly. "He basically just wanted to know if there has ever been a chance for us, if I'd ever felt that way for him. I told him truthfully no, there's never been anyone else for me but you, not really. I mean Lauren is a whole other thing, but even with her, I never felt the way I feel for you for her. You've always been the one who's had my heart. "

"You don't know how badly I needed to hear that. And you have nothing to be sorry for. You didn't know he was coming. The whole thing was just bad timing." Kevin said softly.

"Probably about as much as I needed to say it. I love you Kevin. No one, nothing else will ever change that." Nick said quietly.

The words sent a shiver down Kevin's spine and suddenly he had to be there. He had to see him, touch him. Maybe Kristin would agree to take the boys a little earlier this week. It was worth a shot. Ordinarily he would never cut his time with them short for anything, but the need to see Nick was growing stronger. There was no way he would make it until Saturday. He'd have to talk to Kristin and check flights. But maybe he could get there by Thursday at the latest. His heart skipped at the prospect. He really needed to be there. The pull was so strong, like nothing he'd ever experienced before. He wasn't sure if it was his insecurities or the song being done, but something was pulling him to Vegas. Now all he had to do was to talk to Kristin.
Chapter Forty-Three by Arok
Surprisingly, the conversation went much easier than expected. It helped that Kevin had never once asked Kristin to change their custody times since they had divorced. In the grand scheme of things, he was only asking her to take them three days early, but he had still been pretty nervous about it. He didn’t want her to get the wrong idea and think this was going to be a common occurrence. Kevin couldn’t really explain why he had this overwhelming need to be in Vegas, sure the separation was hard and Brian being there hadn’t helped, but it was more than that. Kevin couldn’t quite put his finger on it, it was just something he felt strongly about.

After calling Kristin to beg for her assistance, he’d rescheduled his ticket and went back upstairs to begin packing his suitcase. He would drop the boys off with Kristin Wednesday night so he could catch the first flight to Vegas on Thursday morning. That would put him in town by 9am and Nick would be back from the drop off a little after 10. Kevin had keys to the apartment and planned to make good use of them. Once Nick was free of responsibility, they could spend the entire day and night together, getting acquainted and putting all the doubts and insecurities to rest before they picked the kids back up on Friday morning. The extra time would bleed into Kevin’s week in Vegas and they would have plenty of time to catch up and be together. Kevin was really looking forward to all of it.

The biggest challenge was keeping his entire plan secret from Nick. When they spoke on Wednesday night, he had to make up an excuse for why Mason and Maxwell weren’t available to chat with him. He could tell Nick was suspicious, but he knew come morning when they were once again wrapped tight in each other’s arms, that the little white lie would be completely worth it.

“They went to Kristin’s for dinner. They were really missing their mom so we decided to let them go over for the evening. “ Kevin answered as he stretched back on their bed. His suitcase was packed and waiting by the front door, the only thing that stood between them was time. He couldn't wait until morning.

“Everything okay there?” Nick questioned, his voice sounding unsure and small over the line. Kevin smiled inwardly, as he fiddled with the alarm to wake him for his early morning flight.

“Yeah babe, everything is fine. Just counting down the hours until I can be there.” Kevin said truthfully.

He could envision Nick’s smile by the tone of his voice. “Shit me too. It’s been the longest week. I’m not going to let you out of arm’s reach once when you are finally here.”

“Sounds perfect to me. I can’t wait to be wrapped up in you too. “ Kevin admitted.

They were both silent for several moments, both lost in their own thoughts of each other. Kevin pined the phone between his chin and his shoulder as he pulled off his jeans and kicked them out of the way. Once he was left in his boxer briefs and t-shirt, he climbed into their bed, settling in Nick’s ordinary spot and cuddling down with his pillow.

“Are you nervous about the drop off tomorrow?” he asked softly.

Nick sighed heavily before answering. “Honestly, a little. They were still dirty when I picked them up this morning, which is annoying and frustrating. But Odin was weird all day. I tried to get him to talk to me but he was just really quiet and resigned. It’s not like him at all. I tried talking to him about his visits with her but every time I ask a question he gives me a brief one word answer and won’t look at me. It’s starting to worry me because it’s just not like him, you know?”

Kevin nodded, even though Nick couldn’t see him. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Have you talked to her at all?”

“Nope. She just stands there glaring at me. She doesn’t even try to get them in or out of the car. Heather has to do it all. I just don’t understand Kev. I mean, I had a shitastic mother so I mean I get it. I just wanted better for my kids and I’m so mad that this is what they get.” he said quietly.

Kevin let out his own sigh. “You are giving them the best. She is responsible for her own choices and actions. Once we get custody, they will have two loving fathers who will give them the world. Lucky kids, they are.”

“You sound like Yoda.” Nick said laughing, the sound caused Kevin’s smile to spread wide across his face. It was a sound he would never tire of.

“You know I have no idea what that is right.” Kevin said with a small laugh.

Nick’s laughter erupted from the other end of the phone. “Babe, as soon as this is all settled and I’m back home you are watching all of the Star Wars movies with me from start to finish.” Nick threatened.

“I’ll do anything with you, Nicky.” Kevin said sweetly.

“I’m going to hold you to that Mr. Richardson, you may come to regret those words.” Nick quipped.

“Never, baby.” came Kevin’s sweet reply.

“Just a few more days and then you’ll be here.” Nick begged softly.

“Mmmhm.” Kevin mumbled noncommittally. “Can’t wait.”

--

Lauren didn’t even bother to get out of her car this time. She pulled in more than five minutes late and proceeded to stay seated while Heather tore the kids away from him and took them to their mother. Saoirse had been especially clingy all morning, every little thing had set her off. She woke up almost an hour earlier than normal with a scream so piercing she woke Odin as well. She threw her breakfast bowl on the floor the moment he’d set it on her highchair tray, sending strawberries and oatmeal skittering across the floor. Odin was mad they didn’t have time to watch Paw Patrol and managed to get his outfit dirty not once, but twice before they left, prompting a last minute clothes change.

By the time they had to leave for the switch off, both kids were screaming and crying and his nerves were shot. To top it off Kevin had texted that morning to say he’d been pulled into a meeting and wouldn’t be able to chat before the drop off like normal. Nick understood, but he had been really looking forward to the call, needing the strength of his lover after his hellish morning.

He had given Saoirse to Heather first and when he went to unbuckle Odin from his car seat, the small boy had tears streaming down his pale cheeks.

“What's the matter buddy,” Nick asked as he wiped the wetness with the back of his hand.

“Don't wanna go.” he said quietly, pulling his head down to play with the seat belt instead of looking at Nick.

“Oh buddy, I don’t want you to go either, but you have to. I’m so sorry. But it’s just overnight and then when I pick you up tomorrow you won’t have to go again for several days okay. And on Saturday Kevin will be here. That’s good right?” Nick tried hard to keep his own tears at bay, Odin breaking his heart with every word.

His son looked up at him, his blue eyes shimmering with tears. “Kebin?” he asked quietly.

“Yep. In just a couple of days, Kevin will be here with us for the week. Aren’t you excited to see him? I know I sure am. Just focus on that okay?” Nick tried.

Odin nodded. “Kebin’s coming.”

Nick smiled and finished unbuckling his young son from the carseat. “Absolutely. Kevin will be here soon and then everything will be perfect.”

Odin wrapped his arms around Nick’s neck and held on tight as he lifted him from the car. He squeezed the little body against him before he lowered him to the ground and grabbed their backpacks out of the back of the SUV. Handing them all to Heather, he watched as she took the kids and their things to Lauren.

His heart beat a little quicker as his breathing increased and the tears came back. Heather barely had the door shut on the car before Lauren was peeling out of the parking lot. Nick could hardly catch a glimpse of her, sunglasses covering most of her face and Nick felt a strange sense of fear grip him. His eyes flicked back to Heather who was shaking her head and making notes on her clipboard before she walked across the parking lot and got into her own vehicle. Nick sighed heavily and shut the trunk of the SUV before walking back to the driver’s seat. Climbing in he grabbed his phone and checked his messages. Still nothing from Kevin, he must have still been in his meeting. He tried not to let his disappointment get to him. This was turning out to be a really shitty day.

--

Kevin touched down in Vegas a little after nine. There had been turbulence that kept them in the air longer than he'd originally allotted time for. Thankfully he had figured in delays and knew if he could get a cab fairly quickly he would still have plenty of time to get to Nick's and take a shower before he got home from the police station. His mission was the only thing on his mind as he grabbed his carryon and headed out the doors of the airport.

The cab turned out to be easy and he settled back into the stale cushion of the backseat to relax and let his mind wander. He knew Nick had been disappointed with him that he wasn't available to have their call before drop off, and Kevin hated missing the time with the kids, but he was in the air at their scheduled time and there was just no way. The timing on this was too close. He had to be ready when Nick got back, he wanted to show Nick he was willing to move everything at a moments notice to be there with him. He still had that nagging feeling in the back of his mind, but tried hard not to think about it or what it meant. He could only hope Nick was as excited as he was to see him early.

When they arrived at the apartment, Kevin breathed a sigh of relief when Nick's car wasn't in its designated spot. It was nine forty five, he still had maybe a half an hour. He quickly paid the driver and took the stairs two at a time until he reached the door. He dug the keys out of his bag and entered the apartment, breathing in the scent of his lover as he stepped inside. He immediately felt calmer than he had in days.

He smiled as he walked through the rooms of the quiet apartment. It was messy, sure, but it was nothing like Nick had described, or perhaps he forgot that Kevin knew exactly the time of housekeeping he did and wasn't surprised by anything. He took his bag into the bedroom and placed it on the floor. He gazed around the room, his eyes landing in the bed and felt himself stir. He couldn't wait to be laying in the crumpled sheets with Nick's long, lean frame wrapped around him. He smiled and quickly stripped off, the need to wash the morning and the airport off of him was too strong to do anything else.

A very hot shower later he was back in the bedroom and debating if clothes were necessary. It was already after ten and Kevin knew Nick would be arriving home at any time. As much as he wanted soft and sweet and the opportunity to hold the younger man for hours and talk about nothing at all, the desire to feel their skin pressed tightly together won out.

He dried off and then went to work making the bed, knowing full well he intended on messing it up within the hour. He went back to the bathroom and brushed his teeth and combed his long hair, wringing out the extra water into the towel and debating on if he had time to dry it. Another glance at the clock said no, and he left the bedroom to get settled on the bed, trying to decide the best way to present himself. He felt a little silly by the whole thing, but he also knew how much Nick would appreciate the effort he made to allow himself to feel it. He felt the smile in his face widen as he heard a door open and shut further into the apartment.

--

He was angry, stressed, disappointed and scared. His anxiety was climbing and he wasn't sure how he was supposed to spend the rest of the day doing mundane chores without losing his mind. He missed the older man and it felt worse after their fight or whatever it was earlier in the week and now Kevin's evasiveness about talking today. He was curious what kind of meeting could pop up out of nowhere that would keep them from being able to talk this morning, but he was trying not to let it get to him. He could feel the physical as well as the emotional distance between them heavily and it only added to his bad mood. Nick wanted to call him on the way home from the police station, hear his voice offer words of love and comfort to make Nick forget all about this horrible week and focus only on the face that they would soon be together. He had even reached for his phone twice but talked himself out of it both times. He didn't want to take the risk of bothering or upsetting the other man with his neediness. Kevin was busy and when he had some spare time he would give Nick a call. At least that's what he kept telling himself.

Nick parked the car and got out. He trudged slowly up the stairs knowing the only thing waiting for him was a heap of laundry and a mess and a half in the kitchen. He hadn't even had time to clean up Saoirse's wonderful breakfast mess. He sighed heavily and opened the door. Once in the living room he surveyed the damage. It would definitely take a few hours, but after he did that there was a good chance he would still have time for a nap. The longer he looked the more his mind wondered. Maybe he could take the nap first. The mess wasn't going anywhere and there wasn't anyone but him here to be bothered by it. He smiled the first smile of the day. He would feel a lot better if he just went back to sleep and started this whole day over again. He kicked off his shoes and left them by the door. Heading down the hallway to the bedroom he pulled his shirt from his back. He started unbuckling his jeans and pushed the door open with his foot. His heart stopped momentarily when he saw the beautiful man lying in his bed. He blinked a couple of times, convinced his eyes were playing tricks on him.

"Kev?" he questioned, his voice beginning to tremble.

Kevin nodded and opened his arms for the younger man. Nick wasted no time and dove at the man in the bed, knocking them both backwards into the mattress with his landing. In no time, Kevin's arms were pulled up around him and holding him close. "I missed you so much babe. I just had to be here, I had to see and touch you and know you were okay." Kevin whispered against Nick's hair, the words falling into his ear and caressing his skin.

Nick hugged him tighter and buried his face against the side of Kevin's neck. "I'm so glad you did. I didn't even realize how much I needed you here with me until I saw you lying here. I missed you, oh God, I missed you."

Nick was shaking now, unable to keep the tears away. He cried happily against his lover and squeezed him tight, trying to get as close to him as possible.

"Let it all out baby," Kevin soothed. "I'm here now and you don't have to do anything alone."

They stayed like that for a couple of minutes, until the desire Kevin had felt earlier came back even stronger and he shifted them, allowing him the opportunity to push Nick down into the mattress. "Let me take care of you." he said softly. Nick's red rimmed blue eyes looked up at him adoringly and nodded. He was already almost naked and Kevin wasted no time in riding him of his jeans and underwear.

Once the blonde was spread out before him, Kevin sat back on his heels to admire the view. Nick's cheeks had a rosy red flush and his pretty mouth was wet from his tongue and just begging Kevin to lick and suck those pouty lips. His eyes traveled lower, watching the rapid rise and fall of Nick's chest as he tried to breath through his arousal and emotions. Kevin watched his belly inhale and exhale and wanted nothing more than to rub his face over the soft smooth flesh. As his eyes fell even lower, landing on the prize between Nick's legs, he felt himself grow weak at the sight. Nick was hard and leaking already, as his cock bobbed lazily against his abdomen. Kevin allows his eyes to rise and meet Nick's. He was biting that lip now, beautiful blue eyes dark with desire and Kevin wasted no time in getting reacquainted with every luscious inch of his lover.

He leaned down and kissed the pouty mouth, smiling as he heard Nick sigh heavily into the kiss. With his right hand, he allowed his fingers to drop lower, skirting over one nipple and then the other as he pinched and tickled his way down the other man. Never breaking the kiss, he wrapped his hand around the growing length as his tongue slid into Nick's mouth, licking and tasting every inch of the his fiancé. He moved his hand quickly, jerking Nick expertly as their bodies moved together. His own straining erection was caught between their thighs and he moved with determination, allowing himself to feel the sweet friction that every move made.

Nick was gasping now, a soft sexy pant that Kevin wanted to hear every day for the rest of his life. He watched as Nick threw his head back and arched against his hand. Knowing the other man was getting close but refusing to let it end this way, Kevin pulled back. He stopped all movement and released Nick's erection. Sitting back he watched the dazed expression on his lover's face as he blinked and opened his eyes.

"Wha?" he barely got out before Kevin's mouth was crashing back down in his, kissing him forcefully as he groped for the lube on the nightstand.

"Shh baby. Want to be inside you when you come. Do you want that?" Kevin asked, dropping his voice to that low octave he knew drew Nick wild.

He was rewarded with the thrust of Nick's hips up into his own and had to bite back the moan as Nick's dick collided into his. He was trying to keep his wits about him, but every touch from the other man kept his skin on fire. He growled and continued his movements, leaning down to nip and suck at the delicate skin of Nick's collarbone. He had long since discovered the hot spot on the younger man and knew it would only increase his need for release. He wasn't disappointed, as soon as he bit down Nick's arms were coming around him, one hand buried in the thick of Kevin's hair, holding his head in place while the other hand wrapped firmly around his waist.

Kevin continued to kiss the tanned skin, allowing his tongue to lap at it softly before biting down, just enough to get a gasp from the other man before continuing with kisses. Between them, Kevin began shifting his hips, just slightly enough to grind down against him, making Nick's breath come out in the short, gasping sounds that Kevin adored.

When his own need for release had built too much to ignore he pulled back, taking one last swipe at Nick's earlobe before sitting back on his heels and smiling down at his lover. "I missed you." he said huskily.

Nick's eyes were dark with desire and something else Kevin couldn't identify. "I missed you too." he choked out, his eyes watering.

Kevin instantly leaned down and placed kisses on each of Nick's cheeks and then both eyelids before brushing them gently across his mouth. Nick's tongue sought entrance to Kevin's mouth and he was more than willing to allow him, opening against the soft lips he stroked Nick's tongue as he slipped it inside. As the kiss deepened, Kevin felt himself start to lose control and knew he needed to stop. He broke the kiss and dropped one more for good measure on Nick's forehead before reaching over to the nightstand and digging around for the lube.

Back in between Nick's legs he applied the wetness to first his fingers and then the length of his cock. "Just want to feel you. No fingers. I can take it." Nick whispered in the quiet room.

"Are you sure baby?" Kevin asked gently, placing the tube down beside them.

Nick nodded furiously. "Yes. I've been thinking about you for days. I just need to feel you. Please."

Kevin gave him a smile. He could deny this man nothing. He moved closer and placed himself at Nick's entrance before gently pushing inside. The first contact of their bodies coming together after the week of separation was a feeling Kevin cherished. He loved to be right here in this place, deep inside his lover.

They moved slowly together, the unspoken need for intimacy was clear to both of them. Kevin watched in delight as Nick's body and beautiful face reacted to every movement, every thrust inside of him. Kevin did everything he could to chase away the ghosts of the week and all the insecurities both of them had dealt with and make their time together that much more intense. They came together, several moments later and Kevin wasted no time in wrapping the boneless man into his arms, determined to never let him go.
Chapter Forty-Four by Arok
They made love several more times before they came up for air. It was after six and Nick was starving, his rumbling tummy echoing in the quiet apartment.


"I guess we should order food huh?" Kevin said with a laugh as he smacked Nick's naked ass.


The younger man yelped and jumped from the bed as he looked around for his clothes. "Yes, I do believe it's your responsibility to keep me fed. Where did my pants go?"


Kevin watched with a wide smile as the blonde moved around the room collecting his articles of clothing that were removed so hastily only hours before. "It's a responsibility I take very seriously. I can't have you wasting away to nothing."


Nick gave him a pointed look as he struggled to get his jeans back on. "I'm pretty sure I would never waste away."


Kevin grabbed his arm and pulled sharply, sending Nick crashing back down to the bed and onto Kevin's lap. He stroked Nick's check affectionately and kissed his mouth gently. "You are perfect and I love you."


Nick blushed and nuzzled his face into the side of Kevin's neck. "I love you." He mumbled against the smooth, warm skin.


Kevin brought his arms around the man and shifted them both back against the headboard of the bed. They sat there for several minutes enjoying the feeling of each other's bodies pressed against their own.


"I can't tell you how much it meant to me to walk in and find you here." Nick said quietly as he played with several strands of Kevin's hair.


"I'm pretty sure it meant as much as it did for me to be here. After this week I just wanted to see you. I had to be right in front of you and know that everything was okay." Kevin said softly.


"I'm so fucking proud of you for finishing the song. It's beautiful, more than I ever hoped it could be. I know you're scared about opening yourself up to that side of the business, doing it solo, but I'll be right there beside you every step of the way. Your voice I can't even explain to you the things it does to me. I know other people are going to feel the same way, our fans, they are going to go nuts for it baby. " Nick said honestly, hoping his words were taken to heart, that Kevin really understood how wonderful his music truly was.


"I'm working hard on believing it. Working with JC was fun and exciting and the idea that I could do this on my own is terrifying. I can't do it without you, so knowing I have your support means everything to me." Kevin tightened his hold on the blonde and pressed his face against the side of Nick's face, breathing in the scent of his lover.


Nick turned to him and brushed his lips across Kevin's forehead. "Just think," he said wistfully, "This time next year you could be a platinum selling recording artist with a number one album, and we could be married."
Kevin delighted in the way the blonde's eyes lit up and danced with the possibilities. "Mmhm. And maybe there could even be another rugrat running around. You could be Mr. Dad and follow me around the country with our band of merry children."


Nick froze and looked at him closely. "Another baby?"


Kevin shrugged. "Maybe, who knows what a year will bring. I don't want to discount the idea. Do you?" he questioned quietly.


Nick thought for a minute before shaking his head. "No, not at all. I just didn't think…"


Kevin smiled as the younger man trailed off, getting lost in his own head. Kevin squeezed him tightly, breaking his reverie. "Hey, no pressure. Don't freak out. Just something I don't want to take off the table. Okay?"


Nick nodded slowly. "You really want to have kids with me?"


Kevin laughed loudly. "Baby we already have four. I think it's safe to assume I want to have kids with you."


Nick blushed. "That's not what I meant."


Kevin's laughter eased and he looked at the other man questioningly. "What then?"


"I just meant that it's a big step, trying to adopt a child together. It's permanent." Nick refused to meet his eyes.


Kevin frowned. "Nicky, everything we've done up until this point has been a big step. We've told our families, the media and our fans we're together. We're engaged to be married, one of the biggest steps a couple can take. We are blending two households into one and raising four kids as siblings, probably the biggest step. All of these things are permanent. Why do you think adopting a child is anything more than what we've already done? We have a lot of love between us and in our family. When we're ready, I think we could do a lot of good in a child's life, don't you? "


Nick nodded. "Yeah, I do. I know I'm being dumb."


Kevin grabbed Nick's chin in his hand and made him focus on Kevin's face. "What can I do to convince you that this is real, that we, you and I and everything that comes with it, is permanent?"


Nick shifted in Kevin's lap and tried to pull away but the older man gripped him too tightly to let him go. "I'm trying. I want to believe you so badly, but bad things keep happening and then it scares me because if I lost you I don't think I could continue on. I know I'm a pain in the ass and I know my anxiety makes me paranoid and I'm sorry I can't just trust blindly like other people can, but literally nothing in my life has ever worked out the way it's supposed to or the way I wanted. I just find it hard to believe that the thing I want more than anything will be the one thing that sticks."


Kevin nodded and laid his head back down against Nick's shoulder. He knew the fractures to Nick's self esteem and self worth ran deep. He knew the insecurities he faced were magnified tenfold with his life constantly under a microscope. "I understand Nicky, really I do. I'm sorry if I get exasperated with you over it sometimes. I apologize for that. I know this is hard for you and in asking you to have blind faith in something you've never seen work out. But I love you, I'm never going to stop loving you. The sooner we can work through your fears , the quicker you can be happy, baby, truly happy. I'm not going anywhere. It's you and me forever. "


Nick studied him and then nodded. "Thank you for understanding, or at least thing to."


"Of course." Kevin answered with a kiss to Nick's nose. "Now I do believe I promised to feed you."


--


An hour later the Chinese food place down the street finally dropped off their dinner. The delay wasn't their fault so much as it took Kevin more than a half an hour to get out of the bedroom and order it. Every time Nick looked at him in that way that he knew made Kevin's knees weak he would fall back against the pillows and pull the younger man down with him for more kissing and caressing. Two blow jobs and a hot and heavy make out session later they are relatively dressed and ready to eat. Kevin retrieved the food from the door and made his way back to Nick in the kitchen, who was supposed to be finding plates and silverware. Instead, Kevin found him playing in his phone, a look of complete concentration on his face.


"What's up?" Kevin asked as he started taking containers out of the bag and setting them up on the counter.


Nick shook his head and tossed his phone on the counter before rubbing his face with his hands. "Usually the lawyer has sent me an update by now. But I still haven't heard anything. I'm just ready for this to be over."


Kevin nodded and turned to reach into the cabinets for the plates. He began dishing the food up onto plates while he examined the younger man. "It's all going to work out Nicky." He said softly.


Nick gave him a look and then smiled and took one of the plates. "I hope so. I don't want to think about the alternative."


--


Later that night after fucking in the living room, again in the bedroom and once against the refrigerator they were satisfied for the moment. Kevin's back still hurt from where the fridge handle had dug sharply into his back as Nick forced his way inside, but remembering how hard he came while clutching the sides of the door made the ache incredibly worth it. They were curled up, naked on the couch and covered in an afghan. Nick lay nestled between Kevin’s legs, his head resting comfortably on his shoulder while they watched a movie, the volume so low Kevin had to strain to make out the words. The movie hadn't started out so quiet, but somehow as it progressed the volume got lower and Kevin wasn't about to leave the cocoon they had created to look for the remote. Nick didn't seem to mind the quiet monologue either so he settled back into the couch and held his lover closer.

Kevin watched Nick as he watched the movie. Took in the quiet way his eyes danced over the screen with a smile and his pretty pink lips mouthed out the words. It was a movie Nick had seen a hundred times before, one that always brought him comfort. Kevin didn't care much for the lord of the rings, but he would watch it eagerly if it meant he could hold Nick like this and enjoy these gentle moments. The more the movie progressed the more the worry lines and stress seemed to melt off the other man. Kevin smiled thinking he could have something to do with the change.

He was glad he'd come early, knowing how frazzled Nick had been the last few days had only added to his need to be in Vegas. The odd feeling he'd had for the past few days still hadn't gone away, but things between them seemed to be in a good place and he was choosing to push past the feeling and focus on the positive. They had several days together and Kevin intended to spend every single one of them making sure Nick knew how loved he was. Their talk about insecurities played heavily in his mind and he was more determined than ever to make sure Nick understood that when it came to the two of them, there was nothing he would ever have to fear.
“I love this part.” Nick whispered, eyes focused solely on the tv.

Kevin turned his attention to the tv and watched another fight scene play out. He had long since given up any pretend notion of watching the movie. He mumbled a reply and hoped Nick didn’t ask him about the plot. He knew there were hobbits and some kind of ring and a lot of food and fighting. After that, the entire concept was lost on him. He loved to watch Nick watch the movie though, loved how into it he got. It was little things like this he missed the most when he was alone in Kentucky. He was broken out of his thoughts by the tilt of Nick’s head, his attention no longer on the movie but now on him.

“What’s going on in that head of yours?” he asked as he picked up one of Kevin’s hands that had been lying against his stomach and threaded their hands together.

Kevin took in a deep breath and sighed happily. “Just thinking about how much I love you and how much I love moments like this.”

Nick gave him the famous Carter grin. “I love them too. I just wish they were at home, and not here.”

Kevin snuggled down deeper into the couch, feeling the warmth and comfort from the weight of the other man in his lap. “Mmmhmm. That would be nice. We’ll be there soon, all of us.”

“What do you think will happen if we decide to tour again, or if you want to tour on your own when you hit it big?” Nick asked, his eyes back on the television.

“Well, if either of those things happen then we’ll do them together, just like we always have. We’re not going to move forward with anything until the custody thing is lined out. If we’re all on tour then we’ll hire a nanny and bring the kids with us. Kristin and I have already discussed it, it was part of our custody arrangement. When I am touring and it’s my time with the kids then she will fly them to me. We will probably do more time, maybe a month or so at a time so that it’s less back and forth on everybody. If it’s just me, well then we’ll all pack on the tour bus and you can follow me around the world. What do you think about that?” Kevin asked with a grin.
Nick grinned back. “I think it sounds perfect. I’d love to be your groupie. Have you invite me on your tour bus and show me a good time.” Nick said suggestively.

Kevin laughed. “Down boy. I think six times in one day is enough. My back still hurts from the last one. You shacked up with an old man, remember.”

Nick laughed and turned to look at him, placing a kiss against his chest. “I think you are perfect.”

It was Kevin’s turn to laugh. “I love you Nicky,”

Nick smiled back and leaned up to grab the remote. “How can you follow the movie if you can’t hear it?” he asked, shaking his head as he increased the volume and settled back against the warmth pressed tightly against him.

--

The next morning they woke up late, still sprawled out on the couch and pressed tightly against each other. Kevin shifted first, the pain in his back and neck making itself known the moment he tried to move. He groaned out, a noise so loud it startled the blonde angel asleep on his chest awake. Nick blinked a couple of times and then moved to sit up.

Kevin grimaced and scooted back on his butt to sit against the arm of the couch. “I am much too old to sleep on the couch.” he said trying to stretch and get the blood flowing back into his limbs.

Nick grabbed his phone off the table to check the time and cursed. “Fuck, we’re running later. We’ve got to get showers and get out of here to get the kids.” He pulled himself from the couch and stood, giving Kevin plenty of room to get up off the couch. He surveyed the room and shook his head. “I didn’t get anything cleaned yesterday. You distracted me.” he said with a laugh.

Kevin tried to smile but it came out lopsided and full of pain as he struggled to make his tired limbs cooperate as he stood and stretched again. “I’ll help you clean up once we get home. Maybe a hot shower will help loosen me up. Don’t ever let me sleep on the couch again.” he groaned.

‘Whatever you say, old man.” Nick managed to get out before he darted down the hallway. He didn’t get very far before Kevin’s arms came around him and they were tumbling to the floor. They would be very lucky if they got to the police station on time.

--

They had been sitting in the parking lot for more than thirty minutes. While not late, they had arrived a lot closer to the pick up time than Nick was comfortable with. They barely made it ahead of Heather, and parked off to the side while they waited on Lauren to show up with the kids. Nick was starting to get restless and turned swiftly in the car seat every time someone pulled in or out of the parking lot.

“Why don’t you go talk to Heather?” Kevin asked gently, placing a comforting hand on Nick’s thigh. “Maybe she’s heard from Lauren.”

Nick turned and looked at him, chewing the bottom of his lip until it started to crack and bleed under the pressure. Kevin reached out and gently pulled the lip away from Nick’s teeth before leaning in and brushing his own lips across Nick’s mouth. “Stop this, you’re going to hurt yourself.” he said softly.

Nick sighed and leaned his head forward until their foreheads touched. “She’s never been late before.” Nick said quietly.

Kevin pushed forward and kissed the tip of Nick’s nose. “All the more reason to go talk to Heather, at the very least her tardiness needs to be documented.”

“You’re right. I’m just scared.” Nick said honestly.

Kevin unbuckled his seat belt and moved closer, wrapping his arms around the other man. Giving him a gentle hug, he kissed the top of his head before pulling away. He pushed the button to release Nick’s own seat belt and then sat back in his seat. “Go.”

Nick gave him another look and nodded before climbing out of the SUV. Kevin tried to push the gnawing feeling away and focus on being there in the moment with the younger man. He watched Nick jog across the parking lot from the side mirror. Nick talked animatedly, his arms and hands moving quickly as he illustrated his point. A few minutes of silent observation and Nick was walking back to the car while Heather was stepping out of hers. Kevin watched as she left the car and headed towards the door of the police station. The fear returned and suddenly Kevin felt the white hot fear pool and curl in the pit of his stomach. He jumped slightly when Nick opened the door and slid into the seat beside him. Kevin tried to keep one eye on Heather but lost her as soon as she entered the station. Turning back to look at his lover he swallowed hard to keep the fear from being visible on his face. “What’s going on?” he asked quietly.

Nick was shaking and Kevin reached out and took both of his hands in his. “Not sure yet. Heather hasn’t heard from her either. Apparently the next step is to get an officer to accompany Heather to the house. We’re not allowed to go. We have to sit here and wait until she knows more.” Nick said, his voice cracking. “Kev, if something happened to them…”

Kevin wasted no time in pulling the younger man into his arms. It was difficult with the middle console and the gearshift, but he made it work, pushing the discomfort of his back and straining muscles to the side as he did everything he could to comfort the other man. “Don’t think about it Nicky. Just stay right here in this moment.” He turned when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye and saw Heather walking towards the SUV. He pulled back from Nick slightly but kept one arm wrapped around his shoulders. He pushed the button to roll down the car window and turned to listen to what she had to say. Nick peered up at her with hopeful eyes.

“I spoke to an officer and he’s going to head over now. I am going to make a few phone calls and then head over myself. She still isn’t answering the phone. I know how much you want to go, but you have to stay here.” she looked at Kevin pointedly. “Keep him occupied until we get back. I will phone as soon as I understand what’s going on.”

Kevin nodded and watched her walk away before rolling up the window. Turning his attention back to the blonde he tried once again to push the aching fear in his stomach away. Now was not the time to fall apart. He could do that later once he knew what was going on and everyone was safe. This was another thing he couldn’t control and he was getting really tired of ending up in these situations lately.

“It’s going to be okay baby,” he said softly, brushing the hair out of Nick’s eyes. He wasn’t sure in the moment if he believed it, but he hoped he was convincing enough to ease some of the tension Nick was carrying.

They sat quietly for a long time, each stuck in their own thoughts. Kevin left one arm wrapped around Nick’s back while Nick crushed Kevin’s other hand in a death grip. Kevin tried everything he could think of to occupy his mind. He wished he could come up with something to say to take Nick’s mind off the problem at hand, but for the first time Kevin was clueless of what to say or do to help. He hated feeling this way.

Kevin had no idea how long they had been sitting in silence when Nick’s cell phone rang, starling them both out of the quiet. With shaky hands he reached into the center console for it. “It’s Heather,” he said quietly, his scared eyes locking on Kevin’s.

“I’m right here. Whatever’s going on, we get through it together.” Kevin whispered.

Nick nodded and pushed the button before raising the phone to his ear. “Hello?”

He listened quietly for a few moments before he started shaking, tears welling in his eyes and spilling down his cheeks. Kevin felt his heart drop to his feet and turned in the car seat to get closer to the other man. Nick was nodding through his tears and said a quiet goodbye before dropping the phone to his lap and letting loose a twisted sob that seemed to get stuck in his chest before ripping his throat apart in an anguished cry Kevin had never heard another human make. Nick fell against him in an instant, wrapping his arms tightly around Kevin’s neck as he sobbed into his chest. Kevin tried not to panic, unsure exactly of what had happened and afraid to envision the worst. He held Nick close for several moments, one arm wrapped around his waist while the other gripped the back of Nick’s head tightly against his chest.

Nick’s crying eased slightly and Kevin couldn’t hold it in any longer. “What happened?”

Nick pulled back just enough to see Kevin’s face. A fresh round of tears began falling down his cheeks. “She’s gone.”
Chapter Forty-Five by Arok
“Gone?” Kevin questioned. “What do you mean gone?” his heart started hammering in his chest and he wanted to shake the younger man until the words came tumbling out of him.

Nick took a deep breath and choked on his tears. “She’s dead.” he managed to get out before he broke down completely, hands gripping fistfuls of Kevin’s shirt as he cried hard against the other man.

Kevin felt a shock go through him and he wasn’t sure what to think or even if he’d heard Nick correctly. He tried to remain level headed, but he needed to know what happened. He needed to make sure the kids were alright. Nick couldn’t stop crying long enough to get a word out and Kevin was growing restless. He pulled Nick closer to him and reached down in the console for the phone. He hit redial and waited impatiently for Heather to pick up on the other end.

“Hello,” she answered, her voice frazzled.

“Yeah, Hi. This is Kevin, Nick’s finance. He is a wreck and I am trying to figure out what exactly has happened and what we need to do next.” he answered, swallowing down the lump in his throat.

She sighed on the other end of the phone. “I knew I should have waited until I got back to the station, but I knew he would want to know right away.” she said softly. “The officer who accompanied me did a wellness check when Lauren didn’t answer the door. He found her in the bathtub. There were drugs all over the bathroom and at the moment we can only suspect it was an overdose.”

Kevin felt sick. “What about the kids?” he asked, trying desperately to keep the bile down that was rising in his throat.

“The kids were still in their bedroom. They are dirty and hungry, but seem to be relatively unscathed. I have them with me and I am taking them to the emergency room for an examination. I need you to meet me there so that Nick can consent to treatment. We can talk about everything else once we’re face to face. The most important thing right now is that the kids are okay.”

Kevin agreed and said goodbye. Breathing a hesitant sigh of relief, he settled back in the seat with Nick still curled up in his chest. Kevin closed his own eyes and leaned his head back, breathing in the scent of his lover. He tried to steady his own breathing while holding the shaking man against him. This was the bad omen that had been following Kevin around for days. This is why he had felt such a strong urge to be in Vegas. If he hadn’t come early, Nick would have had to deal with all of this alone and wait even longer for assistance as Kevin made arrangements and tried to get to him. Kevin sent up a prayer of thanks to whoever would listen for giving him the inclination that he needed to be with Nick early. He tried to focus on Nick and not his own feelings, but couldn’t help the small cheer of relief that the nightmare was almost over and maybe, just maybe when it came time to return to Kentucky, he could take all of them with him.

“Switch me seats baby. We need to meet Heather at the emergency room and you’re in no condition to drive.” Kevin said as he pushed Nick back slightly.

Nick gazed up at him, his eyes bloodshot and tear tracks covering his cheeks. “I didn’t want it to end like this.” he whispered softly.

“Oh baby,” Kevin said as he leaned his forehead down to rest on Nick’s. Both men needing the closeness of the other. “I know you didn’t. No one did.”

“I can’t help but feel happy that it’s over though. I know that sounds horrible, that I sound like a horrible person.” Nick mumbled between them, fresh tears falling from his eyes.

“Shhh.” Kevin soothed. “I know what you mean and you’re not horrible baby. I understand. Let’s just get through the next few hours and then we can focus on what comes next okay?”

Nick nodded and pulled away. Kevin brushed his lips across Nick’s in a comforting kiss before opening the car door and coming around to the driver’s side. Nick opened the door and stumbled out into the parking lot. Kevin took him by the arm and helped him make his way to the passenger seat. Once Nick was securely inside, Kevin shut the door and made his way to the drivers side. In minutes they were on their way to the ER, minds spinning a million miles a minute.

--

They arrived at the hospital in record time. Kevin offered to drop Nick off at the door, but the younger man refused, wanting Kevin with him every step of the way. They had to search for several minutes before they were able to secure a spot in the back of the parking lot. Kevin cursed the fact that they didn’t have any kind of disguise with them at all, he didn’t want their business splashed across the 6pm news if he could keep from it. He quickly got out of the SUV and came around to Nick’s side to help him out. Hand in hand they quickly made their way across the parking lot and into the small emergency room entrance.

Kevin spotted Heather right away, standing off to the side trying to talk to the admitting nurse as well as holding a screaming Saoirse. Odin stood beside her, hands over his ears while he yelled back just as loud. Kevin felt Nick squeeze his hand and they surged forward, trying to get to the kids as soon as possible. Odin looked up in a hurry and once his eyes landed on them, he yelled “Kebin” and took off running. They met him in the middle of the room, Kevin dropping to his knees as the young boy flung himself into Kevin’s arms, tiny arms wrapping hard around his neck. Kevin wrapped both arms securely around him and hugged the tiny boy against him as he dissolved into tears.

Nick watched them, tears filling his own eyes. “Go to her,” Kevin managed to choke out as he rocked Odin tightly in his arms. Nick nodded and left them in the center of the room to take Saoirse. Once he had her securely in his arms the shrieking stopped as she tried to kiss the side of his face. Nick held her as tightly as he could without hurting her tiny body. He breathed in her baby scent and sighed in relief to have her safely in his arms. The tears were falling steadily and he stumbled back towards Kevin before collapsing to the floor beside the older man. Kevin released Odin just long enough to gather Nick and Saoirse with his other arm and brought the other two into a four person hug in the middle of the hospital waiting room. Relief was coursing through Kevin’s body and he couldn’t even be bothered by the optics of the four of them sobbing together on the floor of the ER. He held his little family as tight as he possibly could, so thankful everyone was safe, but most of all, together at last.

They stayed like that for several minutes before Heather approached them, laying a hand gently on Kevin’s shoulder he looked up to meet her eyes. “Let’s get you all into a private room so you can be together while Nick fills out the paperwork and we wait for the doctor.”

Kevin nodded and pulled away. Nick stood on shaky legs and picked Saoirse up in his arms. Kevin too stood, a little slower then the rest and once he was back on his feet he lifted Odin high in the air until the little boy was wrapped back around him again. Together the foursome followed Heather down a long hallway into their own private room. Kevin sat Odin down on the examination bed so he could do his own inspection of the boy. Nick placed Saoirse down beside him and Kevin looked them both over while Nick took the clipboard and began signing the papers presented to him. Heather watched them closely, nodding her head as Kevin looked over arms, legs and bellies and backs before giving both kids as many hugs and kisses as they could handle. Nick finished the paperwork and handed back the clipboard. “How much longer until we can take them home?” he asked.

“Well once the Dr. signs off on them here, you can take them back to your apartment. The police are processing the scene at the house now and once they file their official report I will be able to file mine. Once both reports are turned over to the judge he will issue custody to you, as you are their only living parent. Once you have that, you are free to leave the state and take them back home to Kentucky.” Heather said as she glanced over the papers to make sure everything was in order.

“I didn’t want it to come to this.” Nick said softly. “That’s why I wanted her to be tested. That’s why I asked that she be forced into treatment. I just wanted her to get better, for herself and ultimately, for them. I never expected…” Nick’s voice broke as the tears returned. He tried to get them under control quickly, not wanting the kids to see him so upset.

Heather reached out and placed a hand on his arm. “You’re a good man Nick and an even better father. I know how much you wanted this to work out and I commend you for being as passionate about her care as well as the care of the children. It’s unfortunate, but the system is broken and a lot of the time it fails in catastrophic ways, just like this. There’s no use in beating yourself up about it. You did everything you could to help her and to help the children. Addiction is messy and heartbreaking and her decisions to do what she did is what ultimately hurt her the most. The only thing you can do now is be the best father you can be to the kids. Perhaps see about getting Odin in to see a play therapist to make sure he can come to terms with what’s happened in a healthy way. Remind the children about the good qualities their mother had and don’t dwell on the bad. It’s going to be hard, and it’s going to take time to heal, for all of you. But it looks like you’ve got a pretty good man and a solid support system behind you.”

Nick turned and looked back at the examination table. Both kids were sitting quietly, both had their arms wrapped around Kevin’s neck as he held each of them, one in each arm. Nick smiled and nodded. “He’s the best.”

She smiled too and gave his arm another squeeze. “Can I do anything else for you?” she asked gently.

Nick thought for a moment and nodded. Turning so his back was to Kevin and he wouldn’t be overheard he leaned in closer. “When we’re filing all of this paperwork with the state, what can I do about having Kevin listed as their other guardian? Like an adoption?”

She gave him a shy smile. “Let me see what I can do.”

He nodded and pulled her in for a hug. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for us.”

She hugged him tight and then pulled away. “I should have my report done by the end of business tomorrow. I will work over the weekend to get all the necessary forms together for both of you to sign.” she said, casting an eye towards Kevin. “We should be able to get everything filed with the judge’s office on Monday and fingers crossed, you will at least have permission to take them to their real home by the end of next week.”

Nick gave her another smile. “I really appreciate it.”

With a nod she gathered her things and headed to the door. “I’ll let the doctor know you’re ready to see him.”
Nick watched her go before joining the kids and Kevin. “Everything okay?” the older man asked as Nick pulled himself up on the table and took Odin into his arms. The small boy curled around his father and laid his head against Nick’s shoulder.

Nick nodded. “Yeah, we’ll have some paperwork to sign over the weekend, but she thinks we might be able to take the kids home at the end of next week. Do you think Kristin would let you push your days back a few days again so we can all drive home together? I feel bad about asking and messing up your schedule again with Mason and Maxwell, but I don’t think I can get them back myself. “

Kevin shook his head immediately. “Of course. I’ll do whatever we need to do to be home, all of us together.” he reached over and took one of Nick’s hands in his own. “I’m so proud of you baby, for holding it all together. You are amazing.”

Nick ducked his head and looked away. “I’m hanging on by a thread. I want nothing more than to crawl into bed and cry for the next week straight. But they need me.”

Kevin squeezed his hand. “They do, but you also have me. If you need some time to yourself to come to terms with what’s happened, just let me know. I can keep them and give you time to process everything, some time to grieve. “

Nick bit his lip again and nodded. “Thanks baby.”

“I just don’t want you to think you’re alone, or you’re in this alone. It’s you and me, always.” he brought Nick’s hand up to his mouth and kissed each of his knuckles and then the back of his hand before lowering it to Nick’s lap. Nick squeezed back and gave him a sad smile. Any additional conversation was interrupted by the knock at the door and both turned to watch the doctor enter the room.
Chapter Forty-Six by Arok
They got back to the apartment several hours later. The doctor had given both kids a clean bill of health. They were exhausted, mentally and physically and all Kevin wanted to do was get everyone bathed and into bed.
He sent Nick and Odin to the couch to watch TV while he got Saoirse bathed and diapered. Once she was clean and snuggly, he traded kids with Nick and took the boy into his own bath. Both kids were full of yawns by the time he was done. Putting them down to sleep was relatively easy and as soon as they were fast asleep Nick was having trouble keeping his eyes open.

"Come on baby," Kevin said, taking the blonde by the arm. "Let me help you take a shower and then let's climb into bed."

Nick nodded and followed Kevin down the hallway and into the master bedroom. Kevin quickly stripped off his clothes and then reached for the hem of Nick's shirt. He pulled it gently up over the other man's head and once it was clear he tossed it towards the hamper before drawing the younger man into his arms and holding him tight. Nick immediately snuggled it to the depths of Kevin's embrace, his head nestled between Kevin's neck and his collarbone. Kevin held him for several moments, just giving him the comfort that Nick so desperately needed. When they broke away Nick held a small smile. "I love you." He whispered.

Kevin cupped the side of Nick's face in his large hand. "I love you too baby. Come on, let's get you undressed." He went to work unbuckling and unzipping Nick's jeans before he pushed them and his underwater down his muscled thighs. He wanted to do so many things to make the younger man feel better, but he knew now wasn't the time. He helped Nick step out of his pants and shoes and took him by the hand to the bathroom.

Turning on the taps as hot as they would go, he went to the closet and grabbed two towels before leading the younger man into the shower and underneath the spray. He quickly set to work washing Nick's hair and body before moving onto his own. Once they were both clean and pruney he turned off the water and stepped out. He quickly dried himself off and then grabbed the other towel to assist Nick. Finally, they were both clean and dry he pulled Nick out of the room and back to the bedroom. They fell into the bed, Nick curling his tired body around him instantly. He hadn't been laying there long when Kevin looked down and saw the soft rise and fall of his chest and knew his lover was finally asleep.

Kevin laid there in the quiet for a long period of time, his mind running a million miles a minute as he tried to think about everything they needed to do. First things first he needed to call Kristin and let her know what had happened. He would need to ask her to keep the boys for a few more days so he could help Nick pack up the apartment and make the trek from Nevada back to Kentucky. He supposed they needed to let the other guys know what was going on before news broke to the media. He did not want them finding out something this huge that way. There were funeral arrangements that needed to be made, he wasn't even sure where Nick's relationship with Lauren's family stood and if they would want him involved in it at all. Would the kids be expected to attend?

His head hurt from questions he didn't have the answers to and when he finally could allow himself to stop asking them, he was then hit with wave after wave of relief that nothing had happened to the kids and that their family was still intact. He knew Nick was hurting more than he would let himself admit. Kevin knew how he would feel if he ever lost Kristin and they were still friends. At the very least, Nick needed to spend some time with her family and go through the house to get anything he hadn't managed to get before they had come to Lexington the first time. Maybe they needed to rent a moving truck. He made a mental note to make some calls in the morning. He stretched so he could read the alarm clock, it was too late to make any calls tonight. He pulled the other man close and snuggled down into the blankets. As he fell into a restless sleep, he could only think of what it would be like when they finally got to go home.

--

Kevin woke up the next morning with Nick still wrapped around him in the same position he'd been in when he'd finally fallen asleep. He ran his fingers up and down Nick's back, delighting in the warm flesh beneath his fingers. He glanced at the window and could see it was still pretty dark outside. He hadn't really gotten off of Eastern time and even though he was tired he knew he wouldn't fall back asleep. He laid there for several more moments before the urge to lean over and kiss the other man senseless got to be too much. Knowing Nick needed as much sleep as possible, he carefully extracted himself and headed to the bathroom to relieve himself. After doing his business and washing his hands he came back into the bedroom to check on his lover. Nick had moved to the middle of the bed, sprawled out on the center. He looked like an angel Kevin thought. Kevin retrieved his phone from the nightstand and quietly slipped out of the bedroom. He walked down the hallway and quickly checked on the kids in the other room before making his way to the kitchen. Once he was alone in the room he quickly checked the time. Figuring Kristin was already awake he made the first of several calls.

It rang three times before she answered, rather breathless and he wondered if he'd caught her in the middle of something. "Kevin?"

"Hey Kris." Kevin said as he leaned against the counter.

"What's going on?" she asked almost instantly.

"How do you always do that?" Kevin said with a small smile.

"Because you didn't call last night, it's six o'clock in the morning and your voice has that pitch it always gets when something is seriously wrong. So what's happened?"

"I don't even know how to tell you. I'm hoping the more phone calls I make today the easier it will get to say and to understand. Lauren didn't meet us to trade off the kids yesterday. The mediator and a police officer had to go to the house to do a welfare check. When she didn't answer the officer broke in through the back door and went inside. He found her in the bathtub. They think it was a heroin overdose."

"Omg Kevin. Are the kids and Nick okay?" she asked.

"Yeah, everyone is okay. Well as much as they can be. We're just hanging in there. We had to take the kids to the emergency room to get checked out. When that was done we came home and crashed. I just woke up and you're the first person I called. They think the kids will be able to leave the state by the end of next week. Nick won't be able to get the kids home by himself. I wanted to see if you would be okay keeping the boys for a few more days so I can help him get everyone back home." Kevin said with a sigh.

"Oh of course Kev. Whatever I can do to help. You know I'm always here for both of you." She answered immediately.

"Thanks for that Kris. I'm sure over the next few weeks we might have to take you up on that."

They finished their conversation and said their goodbyes. When he was alone again in the kitchen he breathed a heavy sigh of relief, dropping his phone on the counter and running his hands over his tired face. He felt good knowing that one difficult conversation was done with and that Kristin was willing to handle the boys a little longer to allow Kevin and Nick time to tie up the last of the loose ends in Vegas before finally venturing home.

Home. Every time he thought of the word he felt his heart skip a beat. As tragic as all of this had been and would probably continue to be for all of them for the next little while, they were finally going to be able to go home.
Kevin opened the fridge and grabbed the orange juice before reaching into the cabinet to get a glass. As he reached for the top shelf he jumped slightly when he felt strong arms come down around his middle. Nick nuzzled into the back of Kevin’s neck and placed a kiss against the skin. “Hey baby.” Kevin said as he wrapped his arms around Nick’s. Nick laid his head on the back of Kevin’s shoulder and squeezed.

“The bed got cold without you.” he mumbled against Kevin’s hair.

“I’m sorry baby. I wanted to get started on making some phone calls.” Kevin leaned back into the embrace and sighed as Nick tightened his arms.

“Did you already call Kristin?” he asked.

Kevin nodded. “Yeah. She was the only one I’ve gotten to so far. She’s totally fine with keeping the boys. We’re not leaving here until we’re leaving here together.”

“I can’t wait.” Nick said softly.

“Are there things at the house you want to get? Should I try to call and rent a U-Haul or something?” Kevin questioned as he reached for another glass and poured them both juice.

“Nah. Everything there was pretty much hers. Anything of mine of any value is in the house in Marathon. I am not interested in going back there. I’m not even sure if I can handle walking through the house at all.” Nick said sadly.

Kevin turned in his arms and placed a kiss softly against his mouth before handing him the glass of juice. Nick squeezed him once more before releasing him and stepping back. They both drank their juice for a moment while Kevin debated on how to phrase his next question. “What about funeral arrangements?” he finally asked.

Nick shook his head. “There won’t be any. I had a text from her father this morning. He says they are going to have her cremated and they don’t want me involved in any type of service. They said a lot of really mean things, which I expected. They said her drug and alcohol problems were my fault, that my lifestyle, my job is what drove her to abuse and that it’s my fault she’s gone. I know it’s not true, but it still hurts. I don’t want to see them and I don’t want them anywhere around the kids. I just want to pack our stuff and wait impatiently for the paperwork to go though so we can go home.”

Kevin nodded and pulled him close. He put his juice down on the counter and wrapped Nick tightly in his arms and rested his chin on Nick’s shoulder. “Why don’t you go back to bed and I’ll call D and let them know what’s happened. I don’t want any of them finding something like this out on the morning news.”

‘Shit, I didn’t even think about it.” Nick said, his eyes wide.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll let Howie know what’s going on and then he can take it from there. You’ll have to release a statement, but I am pretty sure your management team can put something tasteful together for you just to sign off on. Once I talk to Howie I will call and let them know what’s going on. I’ll call the lawyer too. We might need him here to help push things along.” Kevin said as he pulled back.

“Kev, I can’t ask you to do all of this.” Nick started.

“Hush baby.” Kevin said as he brushed his lips across Nick’s mouth. “This is what I do best, handling shit like this. Let me take care of these things so you can be present with the kids. I don’t want you having to stress about anything else than you have to, okay?”

Nick nodded. “I love you. Thank you.”

Kevin smiled. “I love you too. Now get your cute ass back in bed before the kids wake up. These next few days are going to be insane and you’re going to need all the rest you can get.”

Nick smiled and grabbed his juice as he headed out of the room. Kevin poured himself a second glass and dropped down in the kitchen chair before picking up the phone and dialing the familiar number.

“Hey D. We need to talk.”

--

Three days later the official paperwork was delivered by courier. Nick had received a call from Heather that morning letting him know that everything had been filed and all they needed were signatures to get the papers submitted to the courts. If everything went according to plan, they would be free to leave the state on Friday. Nick had met the courier at the door and asked Kevin to keep an eye on the kids while he went through all of the paperwork alone in the bedroom. Kevin had agreed immediately and was now playing with dinosaurs and trucks with Odin and Saoirse while Nick locked himself in the bedroom with the forms.

He looked over them several times. He hadn’t been alone much since the whole ordeal had happened. Kevin kept him occupied, motivated and moving forward. Every time he felt like he was slipping he just had to remind himself that if he just kept pushing just a little harder that this would all be over and they could go home. He couldn’t wait. He knew he would have to deal with his feelings, his grief and his anxiety, but he didn’t think he could do any of those things until they were safely back in Kentucky.
He laid the forms out on the bed. There were several standard forms that required his signature, but the most important ones were buried at the bottom of the stack. A petition for adoption. He hadn’t spoken to Kevin about it before he had Heather draw up the papers, but knew without even having to ask that Kevin would be more than willing to sign them, overjoyed even.

He read through the form three times, his eyes always drifting to the bottom where Kevin would sign. It had his name printed in block letters. Petitioner name: Kevin Richardson. Relationship to Child: Father. There was a form for Odin and another form for Saoirse. He felt his heart skip a beat and his eyes fill with unshed tears every time he read the words.

He quickly signed all the non related forms and stuffed them back into the envelope. He gathered the adoption forms and made his way out of the bedroom and down the hall to the kids’ room. He pushed the door open slightly and felt his heart grow two sizes as his eyes fell on the sight in front of him. Saoirse was sitting on Kevin’s back where he lay on the floor while Odin was curled into his side looking at a picture book. Ever since they had brought the kids home, Odin hadn’t left Kevin’s side. They were stuck together like glue and in a strange way, Nick could understand completely why he didn’t want to let Kevin out of his sight. Nick felt the same way. There was something about knowing Kevin was right there that filled him with a deep aching sense of security and comfort that he had never experienced before, even before they got together. If he needed comfort of any kind, Kevin was the only one who could provide it. And now that same sense of belonging and comfort was the same for his son as well.

He walked further into the room and laid down on the floor beside Kevin. The older man turned and gave him a smile. “Get it all done?” he asked softly.

Nick smiled. “All but one form. I need your help with it. Do you mind taking a look?”

Kevin shook his head and held out his hand to take the form. Nick tried to keep the smile off his face as he slid the paper across the carpeted floor for Kevin to reach. He took it in his hand and started at the top of the first form. He hadn’t even made it completely to the bottom before his shoulders started to shake and the tears were streaming down his face.

“Nicky…” he managed to get out. “Are you sure?”

The tears were coming so fast that Kevin couldn’t keep them wiped away, especially while still keeping Saoirse on his back. Nick nodded. “I’ve never been more sure of anything.”

Kevin held out his hand and gestured for the pen Nick had brought in with him. Without skipping a beat he scribbled his name across the bottom of the form before lifting it and signing the form for Saoirse underneath. Once his name was written on both child’s adoption forms he slid them back over to Nick. “I don’t even know what to say.” Kevin said softly.

“Just say you love me, that you love us.” Nick said, fighting back tears of his own.

“It’s so easy to love somebody like you. I’ve known since you were 14 years old, there was just something about you that spoke to me and told me you would change my whole life. And it was right, not only have you changed it, but you’ve become the center of my universe and now our family can finally be complete.” He reached out and cupped Nick by the back of the head, pulling the younger man close enough to crash his lips down on him, taking him in a breathtaking kiss.

Nick had never felt happier, even in the midst of the sadness of the week and the trauma they had ensued. He knew that no matter what, as long as he had Kevin standing beside him at the end of the day that there was nothing they couldn’t handle together. They had reached the end of this journey and now there was nothing left standing in the way of them finally being together, exactly as it was meant to be.
Epilogue by Arok
The leaves fell and danced and mingled with each other creating a kaleidoscope of color. Red, orange and even yellow danced in the breeze and through the chilling Kentucky air. Fall was in full swing and in another week or so there would be no more leaves left to fall, the last one submitting to the winter air and there would be nothing left of this beautiful season but the memories. And oh how many memories this fall held.

There were memories of laughter and fun as two families melded into one. Lovers were here to profess their undying love and devotions while also solidifying their two families as one new family unit. It was a day that had been on the horizon since the beginning, it just took a little longer than anticipated to come to fruition.

Odin screamed out as he was chased through the piles of autumn leaves by his new older brothers. He glanced behind him several times to see if he was running fast enough and forgot to check in front of him. The tree branch came out of nowhere and before he knew it he was skittering across the yard, through the dirt and the foliage.

"Man if you got your tux dirty dad is going to be so man." Mason said laughing as he offered a hand down to help the young boy to his feet.

He helped Odin dust off his suit coat as Maxwell joined them. "We better hurry up," he said. If dad and Papa find out we're out here instead of in the house getting ready we're all going to be in trouble."

Mason and Odin laughed but took off towards the house with Maxwell right on their heels.

--

"When do you leave to go back on the road?" Brian asked as he settled into the uncomfortable chair in Nick's old bedroom.

Nick turned from his place at the full length mirror as he adjusted his tie. "We get back from the honeymoon in two weeks and then I think Kevin's first show is a week after that in Seattle. We won't have the older boys until a week after that and then we will have them for a month. He's got a couple months left of shows and then he will be done with the tour and we can celebrate the holidays at home before we're all back in the studio in February. "

Brian watched Nick fiddle with the tie as he spoke, still never getting it quite right. He stood and crossed the room, swatting Nick's hands away and starting the whole process over. "Let me, you're going to make it crease."

They were silent for several moments as Brian untucked the tie and started the whole process over again. "Are you nervous?" Brian asked.

"You know, after everything we've been through this year, I'm not at all. I know there's nothing I can't do with him by my side. He always has been and always will be my destiny. I can't believe we've had to reschedule this twice already so I'm still just a little in awe it's finally happening. "Nick said as he watched in the mirror.

"Yeah, who would have known his album would go to number one as soon as it was released." Brian said with a laugh.

"I did. I told him the thing was going to fucking blow up. And it did and I am so proud of him. If we had to reschedule a couple of times so he could live out this dream then that's completely fine with me." Nick said with a smile.

"I'm proud of both of you. I honestly thought you'd come home married after everything you guys went through in Vegas." Brian laughed and laid the tie down as he tucked it against Nick's shirt.

"We didn't want to make anything with us official until he was officially listed as the father with the kids. That was really important to me. But now he's their legal father too and everything is falling into place. Nick continued to look at himself in the mirror, smoothing away imaginary wrinkles as he turned from side to side.

"I'm really glad both of you were willing to sit down and talk to me about everything and we could move past this so I could have both your friendships back and I could be here for this." Brian said softly.

Nick turned from the mirror to look at his best friend. "After everything with Lauren it was more important to both of us not to waste any time. We love you and we need you in our lives. I'm glad you worked everything out with Leighanne."

Brian threw his arms around the younger man and held him tight. The two best friends stood in silence for a moment before the door burst open in a fury of activity.

"Odin got dirty outside." Maxwell announced with a giggle.

Nick and Brian pulled away with a laugh. "Dear God don't let Kevin find out."

-

Kevin paced the bedroom as he watched the festivities coming to life outside. He alternated between peering out the window and pacing the floor. He vaguely remembered teasing Nick about having to replace the carpeting and laughed.

"How you doing old man?" AJ asked as he came into the room, shutting the door quickly behind him.

Kevin turned from the window and gave him a grin. "I'm anxious to start the rest of my life."

AJ smiled and clapped him on the back before pulling him into a hug. "Never thought I'd live to see the two of you getting hitched."

Kevin's grin widened. "I never thought I'd live to see any of these things, but look at where we are. I couldn't ask for anything more." he smiled blissfully as he thought about their life together. In a year's time they went from being separated and dealing with a very ugly custody issue, to being more in love than he'd ever imagined and getting ready to truly begin their life together.

"Well Mr. Big Shot Solostar," Howie said as he ducked into the room. "You almost ready to get this show on the road?"

Kevin took a deep breath and turned to look at both of them. "How do I look?"

--

The ceremony started without a hitch and there wasn't a dry eye in the yard by the time Nick and Kevin joined hands. The kids were being seated off to the side while Leigh and Rochelle tried to keep everyone under control.

It was a beautiful, crisp day and Kevin and Nick had worked tirelessly to make the backyard grounds the perfect spot to hold their wedding. It was the place of many first for them and also the place they got engaged. It only made sense that when it was time to hold their small, very private ceremony, that it be held on the same grounds.

Kristin had come to them and asked if she could officiate. After several conversations they decided what better way to show strength and solidarity not only to themselves buy also to the children to have her be such an important part of their big day.

"Kevin, would you like to read your vows?" Kristin asked as she turned him.

Kevin nodded. He gave her a small smile and then turned to Nick, squeezing his hand, he tried to get the words out before the tears came. "From the first day that I met you I knew there was something about you. Something I couldn't possibly understand at that time, but I knew the moment your eyes met mine that you would change my world forever. I just had no idea how often and how deeply this would come to be true. I had no way of knowing that a 14 year old boy would be the one I chose to spend my life with, to build a family with. I think God every day for bringing you into my life because I know I am incomplete without you. I promise you that I will love, honor and cherish not only you, but our children as well for the rest of my days. "

Nick bit his lip as the tears fell and quickly took back one of his hands to wipe his face. Kristen gave them both a smile and then turned to Nick. "Are you ready to read your vows?"

Nick nodded and turned back to Kevin. "There's never been another person on this planet that's meant more to me than you have. In one capacity or another, you have always been the most important thing in my life. I would be nothing without you, I am nothing without you. I need you in my life and right beside me every night and everyday. You are my entire world and if I live to be 100 it would still not be enough time to show you how much you mean to me. I promise to love, honor and cherish you and our kids every day of my life. "

Kristin smiled as both men wiped away tears and tried their best to compose themselves. It was hard watching them give themselves to each other. She knew it would be, which is also why she knew she had to be the one to officiate it. She'd spent months debating her decision before finally registering online and the going through the motions of asking them. She was right. It was hard to come to terms with the fact that the man she loved, loved someone else. But she couldn't deny the way they felt about each other, no one could and at the end of the day all she wanted was his happiness. And the happiness of the children, but they were just as enchanted by Nick as their father was. Once they had been told that Kevin had formally adopted Odin and Saoirse they had come to her and asked if they could call Nick Papa since that's what Odin and Saoirse called Kevin. At first she hadn't been comfortable with the idea, but after everything else, knowing they were all going to be one big happy family one way or another, there was no way she could stand in the way.

"You may now kiss and I pronounce you husbands." she said with a smile, her own tears beginning to fall. She watched as Kevin drew Nick into his arms and kissed him passionately in front of all their friends and family. She was surprised she didn't feel a pang of regret, but there was none. As her eyes fell on her sons, her heart was warmed by them curled together with their siblings. Saoirse asleep on Mason's lap, her head on his chest and his arms wrapped tightly around her. Maxwell and Odin were sharing one of the folding chairs and their arms were wrapped tightly around each other's necks. This was exactly how everything was supposed to be.

As she focused in on the couple in front of her again she smiled. They were gazing lovingly into each other's eyes and the love between them poured from every smile. She turned to the crowd in front of her and smiled wide.

"I'd like to introduce for the first time, Mr & Mr Richardson-Carter."
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