How It All Began by Jamie, CJ_K
Summary: We started a story 6 years ago which some of you know as 'An Ideal Marriage?' It told the story of an alternate world which to all intents and purposes was much like ours but with one not insignificant detail... both women and men could conceive children. There we met Nick and Kevin, their friends and family and we watched as they worked to build a life together. But there was so much more that you wanted to know and we wanted to tel. How did Nick and Kevin get together? Were they childhood friends or relative strangers when they met. How did Nick and Corey become such good friends and what do Monique and Annaliese have against Nick? So from these questions and so many more we conceived the idea of 'How It All Began' which is Part 1 of 'An Ideal Marriage?'
Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys, Fanfiction > Music > NSYNC Characters: Group, Kevin, Nick, Other
Genres: Alternate Universe
Warnings: Sexual Content, Slash M/M
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 15 Completed: Yes Word count: 35637 Read: 22151 Published: 06/10/08 Updated: 04/06/11
Story Notes:
'An Ideal Marriage?' was in progress for quite awhile and has now been revamped to become a 3 part series the first of which is 'How It All Began'. This series will be completed.

1. Chapter 1 by Jamie

2. Chapter 2 by Jamie

3. Chapter 3 by Jamie

4. Chapter 4 by Jamie

5. Chapter 5 by Jamie

6. Chapter 6 by Jamie

7. Chapter 7 by Jamie

8. Chapter 8 by Jamie

9. Chapter 9 by Jamie

10. Chapter 10 by Jamie

11. Chapter 11 by Jamie

12. Chapter 12 by Jamie

13. Chapter 13 by Jamie

14. Chapter 14 by Jamie

15. A Note by CJ_K

Chapter 1 by Jamie
Authors: CJ and J.

Dedicated to: streetshark18 for suggesting that we post this story here and for the support given through the years.

Beta readers and helping hands and minds: Cole, Linda and Bryan.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and a product of our over active imagination.



An Ideal Marriage?
How It All Began


Kevin Richardson glared at his friend Matt Sigmond. "I don't understand why you had to drag me here tonight! You'd think with Corey around you wouldn't need me for company," he finished with a smirk.

Corey Jacobs who was standing in his fiancÚ's arms blushed and laughed.

Matt made a face at Kevin before kissing Corey's neck. "I brought you here so that you spend some time in a place that is not a working environment or your house."

When Kevin gave him an unimpressed look he sighed, "And I wanted some company myself 'cause Corey here will ditch me for Nick the moment he arrives."

Kevin sighed, "Ah, the famous Nick Carter. Are you sure he'll even be here tonight? To hear Monique speak of it, you wouldn't think so."

Corey grimaced at the mention of Mrs. Monique Carter, his best friend Nick's stepmother. "Try to listen to whatever she says from one ear, especially about Nick and then let it flow out through your other ear. It's not a big secret among the people who know her that she doesn't like Nick. Never has. Neither does that daughter of hers."

Kevin frowned, "Her daughter? That model Annaliese?"

Corey nodded, "Annaliese. She seems to like you," he said cheekily.

Matt laughed, "Yeah Kev, she likes you."

Kevin rolled his eyes, "Gimme a break guys."

Just as he finished speaking a voice sang out his name. "Oh Keeeevvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvin."

The three men winced. Corey snuggled further back into Matt's embrace and waited for Annaliese to make her way over to them.

Annaliese smiled at Kevin and stopped next to him, slipping her arm into his. She loved the fact that her mother was setting her up with this successful, rich man. The fact that he was incredibly sexy was just an added bonus. Not that she needed any help from her mother or anyone else in making him hers.

She smiled at Matthew Sigmond. "Hello Matthew." He's a very good catch too. I wish I could hook Trisha up with him. Too bad he seems so into that little twerp Corey, she thought in irritation. Oh well, once Kevin and I are married, I can find a way to separate them.'

She smirked at Corey, who'd been her junior in school.

Corey gave her a dismissive look that she didn't appreciate at all. Before she could say anything though, Matt spoke up.

"Let's go inside. It's getting a bit too warm out here."

As they made their way inside the house, Annaliese didn't let go of Kevin's arm. She didn't know if her step brother Nickolas would be showing up tonight but she wanted to stake her claim on Kevin before anyone else got any ideas about him.

Monique Carter smiled at the foursome. "Kevin, Matthew, Corey, I hope all of you are having a good time."

They smiled back politely and thanked her before Corey asked, "So, is Nick here yet?"

Monique narrowed her eyes before laughing, "Corey darling, I'm not even sure if Nickolas is coming. Who knows what sort of catastrophic event will hold him back this time."

Corey looked at her as if she had lost her marbles while Matt and Kevin looked at her in confusion.

Before Corey could say anything, Robert Carter joined them, having heard what Monique had said. "Darling, a Tsunami isn't something to joke about. A lot of people lost their homes, lives and families. Those first three days after it were the worst of my life."

He smiled at Kevin and Matt who didn't know what he was talking about. "Nick had been in Sri Lanka on holiday when the Tsunami hit last year. Three long days passed before he was able to send a message across to us that he was ok."

In a flash Matt and Kevin remembered the Tsunami that had been covered by every news channel and newspaper. As reports of missing people had come trickling in, names of celebrities that had been there were mentioned. Among all of them, Nickolas Carter, son and sole heir to Robert Carter had been one of the people who had not been found. He had eventually made contact with the Australian Embassy in Sri Lanka and gotten a temporary passport to travel back on.

Matt and Kevin exchanged looks. No matter what they had heard about Monique from general gossip and a little bit from Corey, she hadn't behaved at all rudely with them. Just the opposite in fact. For her to trivialize a natural disaster in such a way made them frown.

Monique clapped her hands together, "Alright Robert, enough of this depressing topic. Nickolas is not here and I doubt he's coming. I just wish he would for once pick up a phone and let me know in advance what his plans are," she finished speaking with a dramatic sigh.

As Monique quickly launched into an explanation about how loving and caring her daughter Annaliese was, always calling her and keeping in touch, Corey happily exclaimed, "Nick!" and interrupted her.

Monique's eyes snapped wide open as soon as she saw her stepson, Nickolas Carter, striding across the room, looking handsome in a pair of dark grey trousers and a lighter grey silk shirt. She watched Nickolas and Corey hug each other, happiness radiating out of them and fought the urge to make them stop it.

Nick hugged his best friend and then his father before turning to his step mother. He exchanged the obligatory air kisses with her before smiling coolly at Annaliese not making any move towards her. He turned his attention to Matt and smiled.

"Hey Nick," Matt said, stepping forward to hug the blonde.

"How are you Matt?" Nick asked.

"Doing good Nick, doing good. Allow me to introduce you to Kevin Richardson. Kevin, Nickolas Carter," Matt said introducing the two men.

Kevin's eyes hadn't shifted from the blue eyed blonde since he'd seen him come into the room. He smiled and held his hand out, clasping Nick's firmly.

"It's a pleasure to finally meet you Nick. I've heard a lot about you," Kevin said.

Nick smiled, his gaze locked on Kevin's. "Likewise Kevin."

Both men smiled the chemistry between them very evident.

Matt and Corey exchanged a surprised but pleased glance.

Before the conversation could go any further, Annaliese spoke up, "Nicholas, why don't you go and get yourself a drink and freshen up. You look tired," she smiled as she posed next to Kevin.

Nick smiled, "A drink would be welcome. I look tired? You're the first person who seems to think so Annaliese," Nick replied back smoothly.

"You look good son. Healthy and bright eyed," Robert said with a fond smile. "Though I am sure you DO need to rest. This is the start of your holiday. Take a few days off and relax rest, catch up on your sleep and with your friends before you come into the office. You deserve a break."

Nick smiled and hugged his father, “Thanks dad that sounds good.” He nodded his head at the rest of the group, “Excuse us.”
Corey smiled angelically at Kevin, "You coming Kev?"

Before Annaliese could come up with anything to say, Kevin made his excuses and went with Corey, Matt and Nick leading the way.



A little while later, Kevin and Nick found themselves alone outside. Nick smiled at Kevin and leaned against a pillar.

"Nick, you do realize we've been set up right?" Kevin asked in a low voice.

Nick chuckled, knowing Kevin was talking about how his dad, Matt and Corey had conveniently made themselves scarce once Nick had gotten a drink and they'd refreshed their own. "It was done so subtly it was hard to notice," Nick winked at Kevin.

Kevin smiled and shook his head.

Shaking his head, Nick continued, "Dad has been dropping hints as has Corey. I'm sure they've been doing the same to you," he said softly.

They shared a laugh and continued talking.

After sharing a drink with Kevin Nick excused himself so that he could mingle with the other guests too. Annaliese watched Nick walk away with a smile on her face. Just as she started walking towards Kevin she saw him walk over to Robert and her mother.

Quickening her steps she reached them in time to hear Kevin say his goodbyes.

"It's been lovely. But I have had a long week and I need to get some rest."

Annaliese frowned and put her hand on Kevin's arm, "Oh but tomorrow's Saturday. You can rest then." She smiled sultrily and lowered her voice to a smoky whisper, "We haven't been able to spend anytime alone tonight."

Kevin, mindful of the fact that Robert and Monique were standing right there and could hear everything, smiled politely and gently slipped his arm out of Annaliese's grasp. "Sorry Annaliese. I am quite exhausted. I only came tonight because Corey insisted on me coming." He smiled apologetically at Robert not meaning what he said in a rude way.

Robert shook his head and smiled back.

Corey, who had walked up to them with Matt, decided to add more fuel to the fire. "I really wanted Kevin to meet Nick," he said with an innocent smile.

Matt bit the inside of his cheek in order to keep a straight face while Kevin cleared his throat, both of them remembering the way Corey had pouted until Kevin had given in and come with them.

Robert smiled and hugged Corey before shaking Kevin's hand. "I'm glad you decided to listen to Corey and come tonight Kevin. You enjoy your weekend and rest. You really have been working very hard. I'm not surprised that you're exhausted."

Kevin, Corey and Matt thanked them again before heading out. A pair of blue eyes followed their progress until they were out of sight.
Chapter 2 by Jamie
Chapter Two



The next morning, Nick kissed his lover's neck before straightening up and heading for the door.

"Where're you going?" a sleepy voice asked.

Nick turned around and smiled but did not move back towards the bed knowing he wouldn't be able to leave easily if he went back. "I'm meeting a friend for breakfast. I still have to swing by my place and get changed. I don't want to be late. Go back to sleep baby. I'll call you later alright?"

When he saw the nod of acknowledgement Nick smiled and left, absently mapping his day out ahead of him.


-x-


Nick sighed as he drove towards his father's house. He'd had a good, relaxing day and didn't feel like ending it over dinner with his family. He chuckled to himself, ‘what family? Dad's the only one I care to see.’

Parking his car Nick got out and gave his reflection in the window a passing glance before striding to the front door and pressing the doorbell.

The door was opened by the housekeeper Cynthia who greeted Nick with a chilly smile.

Nick smiled brightly at her. "Good evening Cynthia how are you on this lovely day?" he asked knowing that she couldn't ignore his question since he was her employer's son.

Cynthia twisted her lips in a parody of a smile, "Good. Yours Mr. Carter?"

“I’m having an excellent day, thank you so much for asking," Nick replied.

"Mr. Carter is out on the terrace," Cynthia said before turning and starting to lead the way.
"Thanks but I can find the way own my own," Nick said stopping her mid step. He smiled innocently and walked around her in the direction of the terrace knowing it was killing her to let him wander through the house unsupervised.


Standing by the open doors Nick watched his father who was looking out over the garden. He tapped lightly on the door and smiled.

Robert Carter turned his head when he heard a soft knock and smiled when he saw his child standing there. Moving towards him he held his arms open delighting in the fact that his grown son had no problems in giving his old man a hug.

"How are you my son?" Robert asked softly.

Nick pulled back and smiled, "How do I look?"

Robert laughed at Nick's standard line, "Sexay as always kiddo."

Nick chuckled and shook his head, "I'm doing good dad. How are you? You look tired."

Robert sighed and shook his head, "It's been a tough couple of month’s son. Lot's of work to be done."

Nick frowned, "Shouldn't it be easier with Richardson around to lighten the load for you and share responsibilities? Isn't he pulling his weight?"

Robert nodded, "Oh he definitely is Nicky. He's a very competent young man and has a lot of good ideas. It took awhile for everyone in the company to welcome him and realize that young though he may be, he knows what he is talking about."

Nick rolled his eyes, "You're talking about Stanton when you talk about everyone aren't you?"

Robert smiled, "You are one smart cookie. Yes I'm talking about him."

"So how did Kevin win him over?" Nick asked curiously.

Robert hid his surprise at Nick using Kevin's name so easily and answered, "He didn't. When Stanton kept up with questioning Kevin over everything he did Kevin put his foot down. He started answering Stanton's questions with 'Because I wanted to', with variations as and when needed."

Robert knew his son would enjoy this piece of news. Nick didn't disappoint and began laughing gleefully. Nick had worked at Carter-Richardson during his school holidays since he was in junior high, starting from the mailroom and slowly working his way up. He'd clashed with Maurice Stanton on more than one occasion. Each resulted in an argument more memorable than the previous. Robert had stopped counting, once he'd reached ten, the number of times Maurice had complained to him about Nick. Each time his complaint had been unjustified. And each time Nick had turned the tables on him by complaining to his own supervisor that Stanton was being unfair by taking his complaints of a lowly employee like Nick to the big boss. Needless to say Nick hadn't won any goodwill with Stanton, something that he wasn't upset about at all.
Robert took in Nick's overall look and categorized the changes the young man had gone through in the 7 months it had been since he'd seen him. He'd lost whatever little baby fat he’d still had from his face but still looked younger than his 19 years. His blonde hair that he'd worn on the longer side for awhile now was cut short and spiked messily atop his head. His body didn't look just lean anymore but more fit. He smiled and shook his head, his son had grown up.

Nick smiled at his father's perusal, "Yes dad, I've grown up."

"You look good Nick. I like the hair."

Nick brought a hand up but stopped short of touching his hair, "Yeah? I got bored of always wearing it shaggy."

"It definitely looks good. Very grown up and very you," Robert said with a proud smile.

Nick grinned, his eyes lighting up with a mischievous glint. "I've made some other grown up changes too dad."

Robert eyed Nick warily, that smile warned of the shock he'd probably be getting soon, "What did you do?"

Before Nick could answer they were interrupted by Cynthia announcing that Monique was waiting for them in the dining room.

As soon as Cynthia left Nick turned back to his father, "What, no drinks first?"

Robert shook his head, "I told Monique no drinks. You know I don't like you drinking until you're of age kid."

Father and son shared a smile and walked in together all the while Nick cheered in his head. 'Yes! Dad, I love you! By making her skip the half hour spent on drinks you are letting me get out of here earlier. You're a genius!'

Schooling his features into an appropriately normal smile Nick entered the living room and moved through into the dining room. He took in his step mother standing near the table in a royal blue floor length dress with gold liberally splashed throughout the outfit as well as glinting from her ears, neck, wrists and fingers. He fought an internal battle to not roll his eyes and barely succeeded.

"Nickolas darling," Monique greeted him.

"Monique, thank you for inviting me over," Nick said while moving his face on either side of hers in the obligatory air kiss routine.

He winked at his father over Monique's shoulder knowing he was curious and aching to know exactly what other changes Nick had made. While he didn't mind telling his father about some of them others, like his lover would remain a secret for awhile. There was no way he was going to risk that news getting out and while he knew his dad wouldn't tell anyone, in this house even the walls had ears.

"How are you darling? You left in such a hurry last night I didn't get to talk to you," Monique said while running her eyes over Nick to make sure the changes she'd noticed last night were indeed real. She smiled coolly and sat down in the chair that Robert had pulled out for her.

Nick waited until his father had sat down at the head of the table then sat on his right side, opposite Monique. He crossed his fingers under the table hoping that whenever Annaliese showed up she'd sit next to Monique and not him. He looked at the place setting; there was one set next to him and one next to Annaliese. He wondered if someone else was going to be joining them too.

"I'm doing good Monique, thank you. The party last night was nice, kind of like a welcome home thing for me. I got to meet quite a few people in one go, saved me the work of having to call everyone and let them know that I was back in town," Nick said sweetly, knowing the last thing Monique would have wanted was to save Nick from having to go through any trouble.

Monique smiled slightly, "I wish you'd confirmed with me that you were coming though. I could've invited more people and planned a proper welcome home party for you," she said.

Nick laughed internally, 'Yeah you'd have loved that. A party to show off Annaliese and me and make sure enough of your friends were there to irritate me.' Out loud he only said, "I did confirm with dad. He must've forgotten to give you the message," Nick smiled at his father before turning his attention back to Monique. "It was a lovely party all the same, don't worry about it not having been enough."

"Hello all," Annaliese said breezily as she sashayed into the room, her heels making clicking noises on the floor.

"Hello Annaliese," Robert said.

"Evening," Nick said politely.

Robert and Nick stood up as Annaliese joined them. Annaliese gave Nick a frosty look for standing up and smiled at Robert before bending to kiss her mother's cheek. Nick was not an alpha male and as such didn't need to stand up when a woman entered the room. Nick allowed himself a small smirk before schooling his features back. He did it anyway because he considered it good manners to stand up.

"Hello sweetheart," Monique said, "Did you have a nice day?"

Nick sat back in his seat ready to enjoy the show, knowing that when a deliberate question was asked by either mother or daughter they wanted attention. He smiled at Mary the cook as she set a plate of appetizers onto the table.

"It was good mother. I had a really good time."

Monique smiled at Nick, "She spent the day with Kevin Richardson. You met him at the party last night, do you remember?" she asked.

Robert looked at Nick, waiting to hear what he said. He knew that his wife wanted Annaliese and Kevin to be together but his plans were quite different from that.

Nick nodded, "He came with Corey and Matt right?"
Annaliese immediately spoke up, "You shouldn't call him Matt, Nickolas."


Not wanting to argue Nick only said, "He's my best friend's fiancÚ Annaliese. And he asked me to call him Matt," effectively ending that line of discussion.

Annaliese waved her hand as if to say she didn't care.

"Of course he did," Monique said, smiling at Annaliese and Nick.

Nick nodded his head and didn't comment further.

Annaliese smiled, "We spent the day together. He’s such a gentleman. He didn't want to let me go but I told him that my baby brother was joining us for dinner."

Nick smiled back sweetly, "That's nice. You should've asked him to join us that way he wouldn’t have had to be apart from you."

Annaliese glared at Nick while Robert took a bite of his appetizer to keep from laughing.

Monique looked at Annaliese silently enquiring why Kevin hadn't come with her.

"He had dinner plans..." she quickly thought, "with an investor," she said with a smile.

Nick decided to be nice and not poke holes in what she'd said, just nodded and accepted it. He took a bite of the paprika mushrooms on his plate. He looked at Mary who was setting a glass of wine in front of Annaliese and complimented her. She smiled and thanked him before retreating to the kitchen.

Once the appetizer plates had been taken away and before the main course could be served Monique brought up Kevin again.

"So Nickolas, what did you think of Kevin?" she asked, looking at him to make sure she could catch any shift in his features.

Nick lifted one shoulder in a careless shrug, "He seemed nice enough."

Monique narrowed her eyes slightly, but Nick caught it all the same.

"What are your plans for after dinner darling? Maybe something with Corey and Matthew?" she asked knowing that Kevin was quite friendly with them.

"Nothing concrete as yet. I didn't make any plans that might cause me to have to rush through with dinner," he said with a smile at his father.

Robert smiled back.
Nick began eating the next course. He was thankful that Monique and Annaliese had stopped their subtle warnings about Kevin. Like he cared to know about the stories his step sister was concocting. ‘So like her to confuse wishful thinking with lying,’ he thought with a smirk.


-x-


40 minutes later Nick tucked into his dessert, ignoring Annaliese who was watching him enviously. Being a model she was constantly watching her weight and what she ate. With a twist of her lips she stuck to drinking coffee, resisting the urge to have another glass of wine or tuck into the chocolate dessert herself.

"Nickolas you'll put on weight if you keep eating like that," she said with a slight smile. Ignoring her mother's sharp look she smiled, "Not that there's anything wrong with that." It simply wouldn't do for Robert to think she was being mean to his precious child. She needed the credit cards he provided her with too much to say much to Nick in front of him.

Nick smiled, "I never watch my weight. I always eat whatever I want to." He slowly ate another piece of the warm chocolate mud pie while looking at Annaliese. The last thing he would do was torture someone in this manner if they couldn't eat something but Annaliese didn't even come into the category of 'someone' with him.

A few minutes later amidst idle chit chat that Nick knew Monique was trying to steer in a particular direction he felt his cell phone vibrating. Excusing himself he moved away and answered the call.

"Nicky?"

Nick smiled, "Hey Cor, what's up?"

"Not much just finished dinner. Are you done with dinner?" Corey asked.

"Yeah. What'd you have in mind?" Nick asked knowing that Corey had called for a reason.

"Coffee?"

"Who else?"

"Matt, Alice, Pam, David, Kevin, Paul," Corey replied quickly.

Nick smirked at how Corey had slipped Kevin's name in between David and Paul's. "Sure Cor, sounds good to me."

"Great! We're meeting at Matt's place ok?"

"Fine by me. Are you already there?" Nick asked.

"Nope had dinner at home with my parents," Corey said knowing Nick would understand his need to get away after spending an evening with his family.

Nick winced, "You want me to pick you up?"
"Yes please. How much longer do you need to play dutiful son?"

Nick smiled, "It would've been a lot longer if you hadn't called. I'll pick you up in 20 minutes ok?"

"I'll be ready. Bye Nicky."

"Bye Cor."

"Plans with your friends Nickolas?" Monique asked.

Nick sat down and smiled, "Yes, I'm meeting Corey in a little while." He provided her with the answer to her next question not wanting to drag this conversation out.

"Oh, that's nice," Annaliese said.

Nick nodded. He disliked the way she always said 'Oh' as if it was a chore for her.

"So Nickolas," Monique asked brightly, "are you seeing anyone?"

Robert narrowed his eyes at his wife before looking at Nick.

"No, I'm not," Nick replied. His mind flashed to earlier that day when he'd left a warm bed and even warmer body.

Monique looked like she was getting ready to launch an all out inquiry into his private life which Robert was quick to prevent.

"You should get going if you're going to be meeting Corey son. You shouldn't keep him waiting," he said with and winked surreptitiously at Nick.

Nick chuckled, "That's a good idea dad. You know how much Corey hates to be kept waiting," he said while standing up. "Thank you for dinner dad, Monique."

Monique came forward and kissed the air on either side of his face, "You're welcome darling."

Nick smiled politely at Annaliese before walking out with his father.
Robert hugged Nick and kissed his forehead. "Have fun and drive safe."
Nick smiled and nodded, "I will dad."
Chapter 3 by Jamie
Author's Notes:
Beta readers and helping hands and minds: Cole, Linda and Bryan.
Linda and Cole thanks for the suggestions for this chapter. They've been a big help.
Happy Birthday Linda :)

Thanks to all the readers at absolutechaos.net who've given us such awesome feedback!
Robert watched his son get into his car and leave. As always when he saw his beautiful son he wished things had turned out differently in their lives.

-x-

Nick turned up the volume on Coldplay's song Green Eyes as he drove towards Corey's parents house. He still couldn't believe that Corey was going to get married soon. If anyone deserved a calm and happy life after the tug of war that his childhood had been it was Corey.

-x-

Blonde hair pushed out from under a white comforter when a loud wailing sound rang through the room. Nick groaned and pushed himself up a little so that he could reach his bedside table. He rubbed his cheek on the soft pillow happy it was there so that he could knock his clock off the table while resting.

He frowned when his hand didn't encounter the clock as expected. Whimpering he slowly turned his head and looked at the table where sure enough his clock wasn't there. Remembering how he'd kept the clock and his cell out of arm's reach so that he wouldn't be able to break them into silence he looked at the desk in his room and sighed. By now he'd already expected to see his phone vibrating along the table while Corey's voice laughed and yelled at him to wake up. He wondered for the millionth time if it had been a good idea to urge Corey to record that for him.

"At least I wake up with it. Lord knows how many classes I'd have missed otherwise," he thought with a sigh while lazily hauling himself out of bed.

Turning the alarm off he tossed the phone back on the couch without checking any of his messages and shuffled into the bathroom for a shower.

Twenty minutes later Nick turned off the shower while thinking about the previous day. Breakfast with Corey hadn't gone perfectly but it hadn't been a disaster either. He felt guilty for not having thought about how crazy Corey's parents must have been driving him. Corey had been putting up a good front ever since his parents began introducing him to men they thought would be a good match for him. Nick himself hadn't pressed him too much to know how upset he had been when Matt and he had been newly engaged.

He vowed to do whatever he could to run interference with Corey's parents, both sets of them so that at least they'd spare the poor guy the agony of having to please his parents and step parents while trying to enjoy his wedding.


-x-

Matt rang the doorbell to Corey's apartment. While waiting for the door to be opened he glanced at his watch knowing that he was early. He turned his attention back in front of him when he heard the door being opened.

"Morning," Corey said softly while stepping back to let him enter.

"Good morning," Matt said while entering.

He smiled and slowly slid his arm around Corey's waist before lowering his head to brush his lips against his fiance's. Corey sighed and pressed his forehead against Matt's.

"What time will Kyle be here?" Matt asked while carding his fingers through Corey's hair.

"In a half hour or so. You're early," he said.

"I got you some breakfast," Matt said.

Corey smiled, "Is your mother still trying to fatten me up?"

Matt chuckled, "That she is my love. She insists you've lost weight and need to eat good food."

Corey shook his head as they walked towards the kitchen. Matt set down the bag he was carrying and grabbed some plates while Corey began making coffee.

"There's no need for that. I have coffee too," Matt said and held out a cup of coffee to Corey.

"You've thought of everything huh," Corey said.

"Yup. Now you just sit there and eat," Matt said while gently pushing Corey to sit and sliding three plates into the microwave.

Corey's eyes widened when he saw what was on the plates Matt set in front of him.

"Are you crazy? I can't eat all this Matt!"

"Of course you can. You just open your mouth and chew it," Matt said.

Corey started to stand up when he heard the doorbell but Matt stopped him.

"You just sit there, I'll get the door," he said while walking away.

Corey shook his head while frowning at the food in front of him.

Matt opened the door and smiled at the man standing in front of him. "Good morning Nickolas."

Nick smiled, "Good morning Matthew."

Both shook their heads before Matt stepped back so that Nick could enter.

"Where's Core?" Nick asked.

"Kitchen," Matt said while following Nick.

Nick entered the kitchen to see Corey frowning at the goodies on the table. "Whoa, yum! Who do I have to thank for all this?"

Nick asked while bending down to kiss Corey's cheek. He wrapped his arms around Corey's neck from behind and rested his chin on Corey's shoulder.

"That would be my mother," Matt said while sitting down across from Corey and Nick. "Now if Corey would just eat some of it I'd be a happy man."

"I can't!" Corey said.

Nick broke off a small piece of cinnamon roll and pressed it against Corey's lips, "Eat."

Corey reluctantly opened his mouth and ate it. Nick turned his head and whispered in Corey's ear, "You aren't going to look bad on your wedding day Core. Trust me. Your parents don't know what the hell they're talking about. If anything you need to gain some weight cause you look all skin and bones right now."

Corey looked at Nick and saw the truth in his eyes that he was seeing everyday in the mirror and nodded his head. Nick
brushed his lips against Corey's and took a seat between Matt and him.

Nick smiled, "So what's on the agenda with the planner today?"

Matt took Nick's cue, "We have to go over menu plans and finalize the seating arrangement and other minor details. We can try to get you as caught up on the plans as possible until the planner gets here."

Corey licked his lips to catch any stray cinnamon power that was stuck on his lips, "He doesn't need to be caught up."

Matt looked at Corey with a frown, "He's your best man, he should at least know the basics of what's going to happen as a run up to the ceremony and during and after it."

Corey smiled, "He already knows everything Matt."

Matt looked between Corey and Nick in surprise.

Corey laughed, "He's my best friend Matt. I've been telling him everything that's been discussed about the wedding from day one."

Nick had by then pulled out a red book with gold lettering. Matt could clearly see the words 'Matthew and Corey's wedding' across the front cover.

Matt looked at Nick with a new air of respect, "Where do you find the time Nick?"

Nick shrugged and smiled, "I find time for the important things in life."

After coaxing Corey into eating until they were satisfied Matt and Nick moved out of the kitchen while Corey went to answer the doorbell. Matt and Nick stood up when they saw Corey walk towards them with Kyle Simmons their wedding planner.

"Morning Kyle," Matt said while shaking Kyle's hand.

Kyle smiled, "Morning Matt."

Matt smiled and put his hand on Nick's back, "Allow me to introduce Nick Carter, Corey's best friend."

Kyle's eyes widened, "Nick! Nice to finally meet you in person."

Nick laughed and shook Kyle's hand, "Likewise Kyle. I see your cough is better. Your voice is almost back to normal."

Matt blinked and looked from Kyle to Nick to Corey.

Corey grinned, "They've been in touch since we decided to go with Kyle's as our planner for the wedding."

Matt shook his head with a chuckle.

-x-

After an hour Corey sat back with a happy sigh, glad that the decisions were flowing quickly. He looked at two of his favorite people in the world as they sat with their heads together looking through pictures of cakes. With a smile he joined them when they started pointing out certain ones that they liked to him.
Chapter 4 by Jamie
Author's Notes:

Beta readers and helping hands and minds: Cole, Linda and Bryan.

If you'd like to host 'How It All Began' please ask first. At the moment it's only available on the yahoo groups we post to and the absolutechaos website.

Thank you for the support and fb on this story. Thank you also to those you read it but don't give feedback.
Honestly feedback makes us smile and try and work faster to put out new material but it's not the end all of our life. We write for us. The fact that other people like it and let us know so sweetly is like the cheese on pizza :)

I just wanted to point out that I am not the only writer of this story. CJ, a very dear friend and beautiful person writes it with me. In fact more of than not when I'm stuck she brings forth the inspiration to continue. People keep referring to this story or 'An Ideal Marriage?' as my story and I don't like it. This is a story by CJ and me, Jamie. If someone calls it my story please don't let it slide without correcting them. Thank you.

Chapter Four

Nick finished reading the document in his hand and signed off on it. He glanced at the clock on his desk and sighed when he saw that it was just past 9pm.


‘Another exciting day in the life of Nick Carter,’ he thought with a tired laugh while picking up his phone and dialling a number.


"I can't take your call at the moment. Leave your name and number and I'll call you back when I can."


Nick rested back in his chair and spoke after the beep, “Hey it’s me. Just wanted to say hi and see how you’re doing. Night.” He disconnected the call and dialled another number.


"Yellow!"


Nick chuckled, “Still haven’t mastered the art of saying hello huh? He rolled his eyes with a smile when he heard laughter on the other end.


“Nicky, Nicky, Nicky, if I start saying hello people might think that something’s wrong!”


Nick laughed at one of AJ’s standard responses, “What am I going to do with you Alex?” he asked lightly.



“Worship me, there’s nothing else you can do,” AJ McLean said knowing it would make his friend smile. “How’s it going?” he asked in a more normal voice.



Nick shrugged even though AJ couldn’t see it, “As well as can be expected I guess. Between work, catching up with friends, calming Corey down, avoiding Barbie senior and junior I’ve been mega busy. What’s up with you? The peace and quiet getting on your nerves yet?”


AJ laughed, “Actually I’m enjoying myself. This is the first time I’ve been alone as such in years. You on the other hand sound like you need a break from your break.”


Nick sighed, “Things should ease up once the wedding goes off. Have you decided whether you’re coming or not yet? You know Corey really wants you there for it.”


AJ sighed, “Yeah I’m coming. Saying no to him is not worth how shitty I feel for days and don’t you dare laugh Carter!”


Nick bit his lip hard to control the chuckle that wanted to escape. "Don't forget to let me know your dates."


“I will. How’s lover boy?” AJ asked since Nick hadn’t mentioned his lover himself.


“He’s ok I guess. Busy as I am. It’s not been easy to hook up.”


“You are going to ask him to be your date for the wedding right?” AJ asked.


"I don't know bro. I haven't decided if it's worth it yet," Nick said softly.


“What?! I thought…!"


"That hasn't changed J!" Nick quickly interrupted him.


"But it doesn't change the fact that I need to see if it's worth it. I mean there's going to be a lot of press coverage. If I show up with a date I'm going to have to be prepared to acknowledge him. But what am I supposed to say? I need time," Nick said while standing up and starting to clear his desk up a bit.


AJ sighed, “I understand Nicky. I’ve seen how it can get here I can only imagine how crazy it must be there.”


“Thanks J,” Nick said sincerely.


Nick looked up when he heard a knock on his office door and smiled when he saw his father. “I gotta go J, dad’s here,” Nick said.


AJ smiled, “Tell him I said hey. And Nick? You know where I am if you need to talk,” he said softly.


Nick nodded, “I do.”


“Night Nicky.”


“Bye J. See you soon.”


Nick looked at his father, “AJ says ‘hey’.”


“Is he coming?” Robert asked with a smile.


Nick nodded and slid the last of his things into his bag, “Yup.”


“Couldn’t say no to Corey?” Robert asked with a laugh.


Nick grinned, “Yeah, giving in was the smart thing to do.”


Robert smiled and put his arm around his son’s shoulder, “You look tired my dear. I hope you haven’t been pushing yourself too hard kiddo. This IS your summer break after all.”


Nick briefly let his head rest against his father’s shoulder, “I just have a little extra stuff going on in my life right now. I’ll relax soon.”


Robert pushed the elevator button for the basement parking lot. “Nick I’m going to ask you something and I want you to answer me as truthfully as you can.”


Nick shrugged, “Sure dad.”


“Are you seeing someone?” Robert asked as the elevator doors slid open to reveal Kevin Richardson.


Nick closed his eyes in relief, “Saved by the elevator.”


Kevin smiled in surprise and stepped back to let the Carters exit the elevator.


“Back at work Kevin?” Robert asked teasingly.


He knew the young man had eased up on the sixteen to eighteen hour work days and wondered what he was doing there.


Kevin smiled, “Relax Robert. It’s Tuesday so you should know that I’m not here to work. I seemed to have misplaced a file of mine. It’s not in my bag, since I was in the area I figured I’d check here before checking at home. You’re here quite late yourself aren’t you?” Kevin asked, smoothly turning the tables.


Robert chuckled. As much as he nagged Kevin about keeping long hours he couldn’t deny that he usually kept long hours too which Kevin gleefully nagged him about.


“I had been chatting with an old friend and lost track of the time. When I was getting ready to leave I noticed that Nick was still in so I decided to pay him a little visit. I was going to call you from the car.”


It was only then that both the men turned their attention to the teenager among them and saw him slipping his phone back into his pocket.


“Hello Nick,” Kevin said with a smile and a nod.


Nick returned his smile, “Hey.”


“How have things been going?” Kevin asked.


Nick nodded, “Pretty busy but good.”


“Are you coming over?” Kevin asked Robert.


Robert smiled at Nick, “We’ve been eating dinner together every Tuesday.” Turning back to Kevin he nodded, “I’m up for it. What has Howie whipped up?”


“Thai,” Kevin said with a smirk knowing how much Robert loved variety in his food.


Robert closed his eyes and sighed in pleasure.


Kevin chuckled and looked at Nick, “You’re welcome to join us if you’re free Nick.”


Nick blinked as his father and Kevin turned to look at him expectantly. “Umm no yeah, I’d love to.”


Kevin smiled, “Great. Just give me a minute to go check for that file. Why don’t you two carry on? Robert you know all the codes to get in.”


“Alright.”


Father and son watched Kevin get into the elevator. Once the doors closed Robert turned to Nick, “Do you remember where the Richardson ’s house is kiddo?”


Nick chuckled, “Yes dad, I remember. You wanna ride with me?”


Robert shook his head, “I’ve got Alan with me. Why don’t you leave your car here and come with me? Alan can drop me home after dinner and then drop you?”


Nick shook his head, “I get very rushed in the morning if I’m not driving myself,” he said as they walked towards their cars. “And besides I like driving. Summer break is just about the only time I get to do it regularly. You don’t want to deprive me of one of my life’s greatest pleasures do you?” Nick asked with a dramatic sigh while leaning back against his car.


Robert rolled his eyes and reached out to ruffle Nick’s hair. Nick quickly ducked away, “Watch the hair dad!”


Laughing the two men got into their cars and pulled out of the parking lot of Carter-Richardson Enterprises.


Nick hummed along with Sting’s ‘Fields of gold’ as he drove. ‘This should be an interesting evening,’ he thought.






Robert glared at his son as he got out of his car, “Just how fast were you going young man?”


Nick laughed, “Well within the speed limit dad. You like to cruise comfortably; I like to feel the wind.”


Before anything more could be said headlights flashed on them and another car pulled up the driveway.


When Kevin emerged from his car Nick burst out laughing at the look on his father’s face.


“Kevin! How fast did you drive to get here so quickly?” Robert demanded.


The bewildered look on Kevin’s face set off Nick’s laughter again causing Robert to aim a mild glare towards him while Kevin looked at him in confusion.


“Well?” Robert demanded, crossing his arms over his chest.


Kevin smiled, "I was well within the speed limit Robert. We all don't cruise in our cars like you. We're impatient souls."


Rolling his eyes at both the young men Robert walked off towards the front door. Kevin and Nick shared a laugh before following Robert who’d already let himself into the house. Kevin slowed his pace to match Nick’s. Nick turned away from examining the new wing of the house that he’d not seen before and blushed slightly at being caught staring.


“Did you like the changes to the house?” Nick asked softly.


“Have you seen the house after the changes were made?” Kevin asked equally softly.


“That wasn’t an answer to my question,” Nick said with a smile and answered Kevin’s question. “No. I haven’t visited here in a year.”


Kevin smiled, "I love it. Thank you. I know you had a big part in the way it shaped up. You're most welcome to take a look at the new wing. It's been waiting for your approval."


Kevin caught his breath as he looked into sparkling blue eyes. Nick blushed.


Robert looked at the two men staring at each other and smiled.


Nick blinked when he felt his phone buzz in his hand. He gave Kevin a small smile before looking down at the phone. “Excuse me.”


Kevin nodded, "Sure."


They walked the rest of the way to the door in silence while Nick’s fingers flew rapidly over the keys on his phone. They reached the door just as Nick was done texting and looked up from his phone to find Kevin looking at him, his hand on the doorknob.


“Will you be offended if I hold the door open for you?” he asked carefully.


Nick looked at him with a serious expression on his face, “I’d be offended if you didn’t,” he said.


Kevin chuckled and opened the door before stepping aside to allow Nick to precede him into the house.


They went straight to the kitchen to find Robert standing at the stove and peeking under the lid of one of the dishes.


“Where’s Howie?” Robert asked without looking away from the dish.


“He had a date. You want to freshen up?” Kevin asked Nick knowing that Robert always freshened up before leaving the office.


Nick nodded, “Yes please.”


“Alright boss, heat em up,” Kevin teased Robert while leading Nick to one of the downstairs bathrooms.


Five minutes later Nick found his father and Kevin comfortably relaxing in the downstairs lounge with a drink. He stood at the threshold of the room watching them. Robert, whose back was to Nick didn’t notice him but Kevin did. He waited until there was a pause in their conversation before smiling at Nick.


Nick smiled back when he saw that he had been noticed. Robert turned around and smiled at his son before Kevin and he joined the younger man.


Robert led them back to the kitchen. Nick watched both of them moved around each other with a comfort born out of familiarity and spending time together. He wondered why his father hadn’t mentioned Kevin much in the last few weeks, especially since they apparently spent so much time together. He mentally shrugged it off and turned his attention to Kevin when he saw him looking at him.


“Nick would you like me to serve you or do you want to help yourself?” Kevin asked.


Nick tried hard not to look at his father when he heard him chuckle before trying to suppress his laughter.


“I think it would be safer for you to serve him Kevin,” Robert said as he hurried out of the kitchen before he burst into laughter in front of his beloved child.


Nick pouted at his father’s back before joining Kevin at the stove with a sheepish smile on his face. “I’m ah… not that that good with dealing with hot utensils. I um have been known to quite enthusiastically… fling them away from me.”


He tentatively met Kevin’s eyes and shared a laugh with him.






The next morning…


Nick yawned and rubbed his eyes while walking towards the door. He squinted at the man standing outside.


"Matthew?"


"Damn, sorry! Did I wake you?" Matt asked while taking in Nick's t-shirt and boxer clad body.


Nick smiled sleepily, "Sorta, but I'm glad you did. I'll be late for work if I don't start getting ready in a few minutes. So you have my sincerest thanks."


Matthew smiled, "In that case you're most welcome. I take it that you aren't coming with us to meet the parental units?"


Nick shook his head, grinning at the term Matt had picked up from Corey and him and started using for parents, "I have a meeting at work that I can't miss. I'm meeting Corey for lunch so he'll bring me up to speed."


Matt nodded, "Cool. Oh, dinner at my place tonight? Pizzas and a movie. I've already asked Brian. I'm going to ask Kevin too."


Nick nodded his acceptance, "Sounds good."


"Alright see you then. Have a good day Nicky."


Nick smiled, "Thanks you too."


Nick shut the door and leaned against it, thankful that the mean whose arms he’d left to answer the door hadn’t woken up and called out to him. Breathing a sigh of relief Nick went back to his bedroom.


Standing at the foot of the bed he admired the tanned, sleekly muscled body stretched out in his bed. Smiling he crawled up the bed to wake him up.






Hope this makes up for the delay in posting this month and the short chapter three. Take care!
Chapter 5 by Jamie
Author's Notes:
Happy Birthday CJ!

Beta reader: Bryan.

Any mistakes in this chapter are mine. I didn't have time to get some parts betaed. Please excuse any mistakes.

Thank you for the continued feedback and encouragement. It really keeps us going.
The Previous Evening...

Annaliese picked up the phone while lounging in her bath tub which was filled with bubbles. She clicked in Kevin’s office number and waited while it rang. Panicking slightly when the call went unanswered and went to voicemail she sat up and called his house.

“Richardson residence.”

Licking her lips in relief she spoke up, “I want to speak to Kevin.”

Howie Dorough rolled his eyes and matched her tone, “And you are?”

Annaliese pulled the phone away from her ear to glare at it before speaking, “Annaliese Adams!”

Howie smiled at the huffy tone of her voice. No matter how many times she called he still asked her to introduce herself.

“Mr. Richardson’s not in at the moment. Would you like to leave a message?” he asked politely.

“No,” she said before hanging up.

Annaliese fumed and smacked her palm against the bubbles while thinking about what to do. She slid back until she was immersed up to her shoulders when there was a knock on the door.

“Come in.”

Monique entered her daughter’s bathroom. “What did he say?” she enquired while taking a seat on a chair.

Annaliese pouted, “Haven’t been able to get in touch with him. He’s not answering at the office, he’s not at home so I’ll have to call his cell phone. Oh mom, I don’t think he’ll let me keep him from his little weekly dinner with Robert this week! Can’t you do something that’ll prevent Robert from going?” she whined.

Monique shook her head. “Well I can’t do anything about dinner but I can call him away early enough. Martha and Sally are coming over for drinks and dessert. They can bring their husbands along easily enough. Robert will come home, which is when you can go over there. I wish you hadn’t made such a bad and weak impression with the Richardson’s honey,” Monique said with a sigh.

“It’s not my fault they love precious Nick so much,” Annaliese said angrily.

Monique refused to get into this argument with her daughter again. “Ring Kevin on his mobile.”

Annaliese huffed and did as her mother asked. She frowned, “Voicemail.”

Monique’s expression matched her daughter’s, “Leave a message.”

Annaliese waited for the beep and dutifully left a message, “Kevin, hello… I’m meeting some friends for drinks tonight and thought you might like to join us.”

Monique nodded as her daughter ended the message, “A nice, casual message.”

Annaliese sighed, “Mother it’s one thing for us to lie to Nickolas and make Kevin and my relationship sound more than it is but the fact of the matter is that we haven’t gotten anywhere with him yet! Any other man would’ve been in my bed a long time ago!”

Monique looked at her daughter in exasperation, “Please make up your mind my dear! What do you want more, Kevin in your bed or his ring on your finger?”

Annaliese pouted, “Both.”

“Well then just jumping into bed with him won’t help you achieve them both. Yes Kevin is a young, open minded man but he has a lot of respect for his parents and Robert. The Richardson’s haven’t taken much of a shine to you and if they find out that you slept with their son it certainly won’t help matters!”

Annaliese didn’t bother to tell her mother that Kevin barely reciprocated when she touched him. Instead she steered the conversation in another direction while keeping the topic the same.

“I’ve been hearing rumours that he has someone in London.”

Monique looked at her daughter sharply, “A girlfriend?”

Annaliese shook her head, “I’m not sure. Could be either but people have been talking about a redhead a lot. A woman,” Annaliese clarified.

Monique shook her head, “I doubt it. I don’t know of many people who would have a long distance relationship and not see their boyfriend for over three months while staying completely out of the press’s eye. You know nothing gets by the paparazzi.”

Annaliese smiled and agreed with her mother. She’d been in a bad mood ever since she’d heard the rumours. She jumped when her phone rang and quickly dried her hands so that she could pick it up.

“Hello,” she purred.

“Annaliese? It’s Kevin. How are you?”

She shivered as his voice flowed over her like a smooth glass of wine, “I’m well darrrling , how are you?” she asked in a throaty voice.

“I’m doing good, thank you. About tonight, I’m sorry I’ll be unable to join you; I have dinner plans with Robert. Thank you for the invite.”

Annaliese laughed, “Oh is today your usual dinner date with Robert? It had completely slipped my mind. Well if you get done with dinner and would like to join us we’ll be at Red Light. I’d love for you to join us.”

“All right. Enjoy your night Annaliese.”

“Thank you darrrling, you too.”

Monique smiled at her daughter in satisfaction while picking up her own phone to tell her friends to bring their husbands too for dessert.


-x-


Later that night…

Robert rolled his eyes while Nick and Kevin laughed at his expense. “Yes yes, that was very funny,” he said while joining in their laughter.

“Ready for dessert?” Kevin asked while looking at Robert and Nick.

Nick clutched his stomach, “I don’t think I could eat another bite.”

Robert smiled at his son, “You will love Howie’s desserts kiddo.”

Nick smiled, “I’m sure I will dad but just not right now.”

“We can eat after awhile. There’s no hurry, is there?” Kevin asked while looking at Nick and then at Robert.

Nick smiled and shook his head, “No hurry at all.”

Robert’s phone began vibrating on the table before he could answer. He excused himself to answer it when he saw that Monique was the caller.

Nick and Kevin were in the middle of a discussion about some Spanish movie that he hadn’t heard about when Robert rejoined them.

“I’m sorry boys but I have to leave,” he said regretfully.

Nick immediately pouted, “Why? Aren’t you enjoying us making fun of you?” he asked, his pout dissolving into an impish smile.

Robert smiled fondly at his son, “It’s been the highlight of my day kiddo but Monique has invited some people over to the house and requested that I be there.”

Nick sighed and nodded, “Ok dad.”

“Well then Robert you’ll just have to take your dessert to go. There is no way Howie would forgive me if I let you go without it,” Kevin said in an attempt to diffuse Nick’s sadness.

Nick smiled slightly at Kevin after he saw the smile on his father’s face.

“That sounds like a brilliant idea,” Robert said.

The three of them went into the kitchen together where Kevin revealed the night’s dessert – Chocolate brownies with strawberries. Kevin put the biggest brownie into a bowl and handed it to Robert along with a fork.

“Here, now you can eat this in the car,” Kevin said.

Robert smiled and thanked him. He let Kevin and Nick walk him out to his car where he shook hands with Kevin before warmly hugging his son.

“You drive home safe ok?” Robert told Nick before kissing his forehead.

They watched Robert’s car move down the driveway before going out the gates. Once the gate had shut Kevin turned to Nick.

“Staying?” Kevin asked while looking into Nick’s eyes.

Nick nodded slightly.


-x-


Alan laughed at the blissful expression on his Robert’s face as he ate. Robert met his gaze in the rear view mirror and winked at him.

“I don’t know how you don’t like chocolate Alan,” Robert said while finishing off the last of the brownie.

Alan turned onto their street, “It’s too rich for my tastes. I don’t understand how you’re such a chocoholic and manage to look the way you do.”

Robert took a deep breath once they pulled up to his house. The chocolate in his system would help him get through this little get together.


-x-


Clad in a blue sheath Monique smiled as Robert walked into the living room.

“Hello darling,” she said as Robert crossed the room and bent down to brush his lips against her cheek.

“Hello,” he said before turning to greet their guests.

“Sorry I had to pull you away from Kevin darling. I completely forgot tonight was your little dinner thing with him,” Monique said.

Robert smiled, “It’s alright. I’m sure he won’t be lonely.”

Monique exchanged a look with Martha and Sally.

“How so?” Sally asked.

Robert took a sip of his coffee, “Nickolas is with him.”

Martha choked on the piece of pie she was eating. Robert looked at her with concern.

“Nickolas?” Monique and Sally asked in surprise.

Robert nodded, “Yes. Kevin invited him.”

“And Nickolas is still at Kevin’s house with him?” Martha asked.

“Yes, he stayed to give Kevin company over dessert since I had to leave,” Robert said innocently.

He then sat back and started a conversation with Sally and Martha’s husbands while trying not to laugh at the look on the three women’s faces.

Monique knew there was no possible way to call or text her daughter and let her know that Nickolas was with Kevin without being rude. She quietly plotted with Martha and Sally while trying not to think about Kevin spending time alone with her stepson.


-x-


TBC...
Chapter 6 by Jamie
Author's Notes:
Sincere apologies for this month's chapter being late. I had a lot of trouble finishing my part of it.

Thank you so much to all the people who've been reviewing and giving us such encouraging feedback :)

A heartfelt thanks to our awesome betas - Linda and Bryan.

Any mistakes left are my fault.
Annaliese held her breath and slowly tugged the fitted dress down her body. Breathing as gently as possible she fixed the thin straps around her neck. Standing back she admired the way the red raw silk dress fit her body and clung to her curves and breasts.


She clicked the speakerphone button when her phone rang.


"Hello," she purred.


"Darling!" Her best friend Trisha Adams' voice floated out to her. "It fits like a glove right?"


Annaliese slipped several bangles on her wrist and smiled, "No darling…"


"What!? But Sully did the alteration himself!" Trisha screeched in panic.


Annaliese laughed, "It doesn't fit like a glove Trish, it fits like second skin!"


Trisha sighed in relief before both girls shared a laugh.


"Joshua is going to be furious when he sees the dress but it's going to be worth it right?" Trisha asked.


Annaliese laughed lightly as she once again looked at the way the fabric was moulded to her body, "Absolutely! This evening is definitely going to be worth Joshua’s anger.”


"You're sure that Nickolas," Trisha said his name as if it alone could give her an ulcer, "doesn't have anything of Joshua's to wear right?"


"Very sure. Joshua went to the Bahamas just before Nickolas came into town. If Nickolas does have something of his then it's definitely last seasons."


Both girls shared another laugh before hanging up with promises to see each other later.


'Tonight's going to be my night,' Annaliese thought while putting on another coat of mascara.



-x-




"Would you two stop that? You boys really need to learn how to switch off from work mode."


The two 'boys' in question Matthew Sigmond and Kevin Richardson raised their eyes from where they had been clicking the keys on their PDA's. They looked at each other before raising their eyebrows at Robert.


He sighed and squeezed the bridge of his nose. “We’ve been in this car for fifteen minutes and you two have been on the phone for seven of those and then emailing or texting the rest of the time!” Robert said in fond exasperation.


"Sorry Robert," Kevin and Matt said in unison.


Robert rolled his eyes at them when they started laughing.


"So tell me again why I'm being dragged to this little shindig?" Kevin asked while carelessly dropping his phone onto the seat next to him.


"I have to go so you do too," Matt said quickly.


Robert started laughing at the look on Kevin's face. Matt winked at Robert and joined in the laughter when Kevin smacked his arm.


"It's a fund raiser. Proceeds from the event will be split between a number of hospitals and shelters. And you have to be there for it because Carter-Richardson has long supported these causes. And…" he trailed off.


Matt and Kevin exchanged a look, "And?" they asked expectantly.


"And your mother will kill me if I show up without you," he said with an unrepentant smile.


Kevin couldn't help but smile at Robert's expression. "So what will happen at this event?" Kevin asked, trying to prepare himself for a boring evening of socializing with people. He was sure that a lot of them would say, ‘So you’re Kevin, Jerald and Cara’s son.’ It wasn’t something he was looking forward to.


"There will be a fashion show where a few designers will show selected pieces…”


As Kevin listened to Robert’s explanation he sighed and thought, ‘Great! A night of fashion. Just what I need.’



-x-



Corey looked at Nick before turning his attention back to the mirror.

"Do you think I should drop down a size before the wedding?"


The soft and hesitant question caused Nick to look at his friend who was putting eye drops in his eyes. He frowned and shook his head, "Definitely not Core! If anything, I think you need to gain some weight."


Nick stood up handed Corey a napkin and watched him dab the excess drops from his eyes. "Has your mom been saying stuff to you again?" Nick asked.


Corey sighed and shrugged before meeting Nick's eyes in the mirror, "She and Peter," Corey said referring to his mother and stepfather, "have been more annoying than usual lately."


"Oh Corey," Nick said before wrapping his arms around Corey from behind.


Corey slid his own hands over Nick's before turning and wrapping his arms around Nick. "They've been interfering with the wedding plans, haven't they?" Corey asked Nick.


Nick's sigh sufficiently answered his question.


"Little things," Nick said, "like changing the size of your suits, changes to the menu, room arrangements..."


Corey took a few deep, calming breaths, "And?"


"And Kyle's assistant notes down their ideas and promptly puts them into a file marked 'Suggestions unsuitable for Jacobs – Sigmond wedding,'" Nick answered honestly.


Corey sighed in relief. He wasn't close to his parents or step parents. Nick and Robert were the only ones who understood exactly what he needed. They were his true family which was why he'd had no problem in asking Nick to help him plan his wedding. In spite of how busy Nick was he’d said that he would be honoured to help and excitedly jumped into helping with the plans. Robert too had always made himself available to help Corey.


"Were the ideas bad or just too different than mine, ours?" Corey asked.


Nick rolled his eyes, "They weren't bad Core, they were very bad. And completely different than yours. It wouldn't have felt like YOUR wedding if we would have incorporated their ideas."


Corey nodded, understanding what his best friend meant.


"I won't let anything ruin this for you Core," Nick promised softly and kissed Corey's forehead.



-x-



As soon as Robert stepped out of the limo photographers and reporters began screaming his name. He laughed they got louder once Matt stepped out behind him. Matt exchanged an amused look with Robert. They laughed when the photographer’s screams increased to a deafening level as Kevin joined them on the green carpet.


Kevin bit back a smirk and stood next to Robert which made the photographers go crazy. They had already decided on the caption to go with it. 'Accomplished businessman Robert Carter accompanied by Matthew Sigmond and Kevin Richardson.' The only thing missing from making it a perfect picture were two people – Corey Jacobs and Nickolas Carter.


"Robert! Robert! Where's Nick?"


Robert motioned for them to stop shouting so that he could answer, "He's running a little late and Corey's waiting for him, they'll be here soon."


Satisfied with his answer they started directing their questions to Kevin and Matthew.


Kevin and Matt simply smiled at the questions being thrown at them about their future plans, if Kevin had a date, how the wedding plans were coming along.


Robert waved at the reporters and photographers before walking towards the doors of the hotel with Kevin and Matthew behind him.


Robert led them towards their table. He smiled when he saw Monique seated at table number 2 enjoying a glass of champagne.


"Darling, there you are!" Monique said with a smile.


"Monique, this certainly is a surprise. You've actually reached somewhere before me," Robert said with a smile.


Monique laughed, "I came with Annaliese. She wanted to be here early. You know how close to her heart this event is."

Kevin and Matthew didn’t let their expressions mirror their surprise at Monique’s appearance and words. The woman was dripping in jewels. A heavy ruby necklace set off a low cut maroon gown. Matching ruby ring, bracelet and earrings completed her ensemble.


Both men politely bent down and air kissed Monique's cheeks.


They were quickly joined by Annaliese and another woman.


If Monique's appearance had shocked them, Annaliese's almost left them speechless. Dressed in a blood red dress that clung to her body, revealed a bit too much cleavage, with a slit that went up to her thigh Annaliese was definitely pushing hard at the envelope of decency and class of the event. If you added her bright gold bangles, earrings and necklace to it… well it left the patrons pretty divided. Half of them were busy drooling over her while the other half were turned off by such a blatant dressing style.


Annaliese came forward and brushed her lips against Matthew's cheeks before going and pressing herself up against Kevin.


"Hello darling," she purred while caressing his arm.


Kevin smiled politely while taking a step back, "Hello Annaliese."


Annaliese smiled and indicated her friend, "Kevin, Matthew, I'd like to introduce you to my best friend Trisha Adams. Trisha meet Matthew Sigmond and Kevin Richardson."


Trisha stepped forward and brushed her cheeks against Kevin's before giving Matthew her complete attention.


"Matthew, we've met before," she said while looking at him from under her lashes.


Matthew, who preferred Corey's honest, wide eyed look to this practiced one, smiled, "We have?"


Trisha nodded and tried to jog his memory, "At Joshua's last showing."


Matthew nodded, "Oh I remember attending that one. My fiancÚ was the show stopper for it," he said innocently.


‘Why did I have to mention that show?’ Trisha thought and closed her hand into a fist causing her long nails to dig into her palm.


"Of course! And didn't he look lovely!" she said with as sincere a smile as she could. "Speaking of, where is young Corey tonight?" Trisha asked placing emphasis on the word young.


Matthew smiled, "He's coming with Nickolas. He should be here at the perfect time though."


Ten minutes later they were being asked to take their seats, the event was about to start.


Monique knew Trisha and Annaliese well enough to know that they would shamelessly ignore the seating arrangement at table number 2 and sit in the empty seats next to Matthew and Kevin. She smiled, “Why don’t you girls sit next to Matthew and Kevin,” she said sweetly before quickly adding, “Just until Corey and Nickolas get here. It looks bad if all of you are sitting by yourselves.”


Annaliese and Trisha smiled at Monique before sitting down in the chairs next to Matthew and Kevin where Corey and Nick were supposed to sit.


Kevin and Matthew exchanged a subtle look before turning their attention to the runway set up in front of them.


"Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to…"


Alexander Alden welcomed everyone present to the annual event organized by the Dare to Dream Corporation. He reminded them that all the money raised that night would go to several charities across America and that the Dare to Dream Corp. did not accept any payment for organizing the event. So he asked people to be generous with their money to help out their favourite charities.


"Let us open this splendid evening with a fashion show by one of America's top designers. Featuring Kelli Dorjee's top pieces from her Summer Frolic collection and some from her new one, Winter Wonderland."


The audience watched in approval as beautiful women strutted up and down the runway in glittering dresses.


Kevin held his hand under the table and let his fingers fly over the keys of his phone.


Matthew did not react to the slight vibration he felt and discreetly held his phone where it was almost hidden by the tablecloth as he checked the text message he had just received.


::How long::

Matthew quickly sent back an answer.


::Food will be served in 20 mins::



-x-



Kevin smiled slightly and applauded politely as Sarah Connell’s collection ended and the designer took her bows. Matt had been spot on about the timing. The designers weren’t showing more than eight to ten pieces as most of the evening was to be dedicated to dinner, dancing and socialising.


“And now, our last designer of the evening before we serve the appetizers. We have with us Mr. Joshua Chasez!”


There was complete silence once Alexander had finished speaking. Even those who weren't interesting in Joshua Chasez's work or fashion had heard about the man who'd never had a bad season from the moment he'd stepped into the industry. He was very guarded about his work and supposedly no one got to look at his collection until he was ready to show it. Not even his mother!


Thunderous applause and excited whispers broke out across the room.


Annaliese and Trisha exchanged a confused look. If Joshua was showing a few of his pieces why hadn't they been asked to model them? The answer came soon enough when female models began walking out. Two of them were in dresses that were identical to the ones Annaliese and Trisha were wearing except for the alterations they had gotten made to them and they were in better colours. They only just resisted the urge to pout and glare at the models that had gotten lucky and grabbed such a job opportunity.


After a moment’s thought Annaliese decided that it was a good thing that she was not up there because sitting here she could at least keep working her charms on Kevin. She exchanged a smile with Trisha and Monique as male models who had been showing the best seller's from Joshua's summer line exited the runway. That smile turned into a confused one when Alexander began speaking.


"And now my dear friends we have a surprise for you. Mr. Chasez has very generously offered us a peek into his fall – winter collection which he will be showing next week. He has three pieces for us…"


It was unheard of for a designer of Chasez's talent and fame to be showing pieces from an unreleased line to such a large audience. Robert began applauding with Matt and Kevin almost immediately joining in as if they had planned it that way.


Kevin, who didn't follow fashion much, took his cue from Robert and Matt but also from something within him that found it ridiculous that people were too busy gossiping and speculating rather than welcoming the designer.


Annaliese and Trisha seethed with jealousy. The fall – winter line! How could their agent not have known about this?


'He's probably only showing the men's line,' Monique thought while smiling and applauding. She decided that now was the perfect opportunity to voice her thoughts.


"I cannot believe Corey and Nickolas are missing this!"


Annaliese and Trisha quickly agreed, "It is such irresponsible behaviour!" Annaliese exclaimed.


"And embarrassing too! We're sitting at one of the first few tables," Trisha quickly chirped in.


Matthew and Robert exchanged a glance while Kevin kept his eyes firmly on the runway so that he wouldn't have to comment.


"Here's the first piece to be shown from Joshua's unreleased fall – winter line!" The lights dimmed low and a spotlight trained at the entrance from where the model would step out. "It's worn by Alex Santis!"


People watched in stunned silence as a beautiful young man walked out in a casual look. He made his way down the runway without music, seemingly completely at ease with the number of people watching him. He was dressed in tan colour pants with a white turtleneck sweater. He paused at the end of the runway and looked out across the room before making his way back.


"The second piece is worn by Corey Jacobs!"


Silence spread across the room once again before people quickly began whispering while a few of the bolder ones stared at Matthew who stared expressionlessly at the runway.


On stage Corey slowly made his way down the runway. He stopped and let his eyes rest at the table where he knew Matt was sitting before moving on. When he turned to go back he stopped and slid his hands into the pockets of the black pants that he was wearing. He slid his hands back out while turning to walk back up the runway. Those few seconds were more than enough for people to notice the sparkling ring on his finger which was set off beautifully under the bright spotlight. It complimented the black pants, tight black knit tee shirt that stretched across his chest and toffee coloured blazer.


Kevin smiled and began applauding, happy about how confident the quiet, young man looked. When he looked at Matt he could see that his friend was smiling.


Robert was thankful that Joshua had agreed to turn the lights up with every model that walked out. He was enjoying watching the way several people reacted to what was happening on the runway.


Monique caught Trisha's eye and indicated that she should control herself. It wasn't the end of the world that Matthew's precious boy had pulled such a stunt. Though outwardly calm, internally Monique was furious. Nick had to have known that Corey had agreed to do this. Nick knew everything Corey did and Corey in turn did not take any big decisions without asking her darling stepson.


"Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Lia Hadley!" Alden said as a young woman who looked like an absolute vision dressed in billowing gold silk walked out. She wore no jewellery; her hair was swept up in a simple style that showed off the beauty of the dress and the woman wearing it.


She glided down the runway. Eyes the colour of melted chocolate sparkled as she looked around the room once she’d stopped at the end of the runway. It was as if she was looking for someone.


Experienced fashion enthusiasts, especially Joshua Chasez fans knew that he had a story behind every set of pieces that he showed in a line. They wondered what the end of this story would be and couldn't wait to find out more at his show next week.


The room went dark. "We have one more surprise for you ladies and gentleman," Alden said.


Annaliese was seething at not being asked to wear the gold gown. The fact that Lia Hadley had been asked to wear it and had not even hinted at it when she and Trish had been rude to her the previous day annoyed her a lot. 'The only way this night will get better is if Nickolas walks out now.’


Kevin and Matt stiffened and looked at Annaliese who finished off her third glass of champagne while not realizing that she’d said thought out loud.


“It is with great pride that I’d like to present Joshua’s show stopper. It is the companion piece to the one worn by the beautiful Miss Hadley. Please welcome Nickolas Carter!”


Lights brightened the room. A figure stood at the end of the runway and looked from one end of the room to the other as if he too was searching for someone. He turned and walked back; stopping at the other end of the runway he turned to face the room once again and held out his left hand.


Lia smiled and slipped her hand into Nick's. They shared a smile before slowing walking down the runway together as if they were walking down the aisle. They stopped at the end and looked at each other before looking out at the people who couldn't seem to look away from how well Nick's black suit and blood red shirt matched Lia's gold gown. They turned and surprised their already surprised audience further when Nick held up his right hand. Lia caught hold of it and slowly began to twirl back up the runway.


Thunderous applause broke out across the room as seconds after Lia and Nick had disappeared behind the curtain it parted once more to reveal Joshua Chasez walking out arm in arm with Lia. Alex, Corey and Nick accompanied them.


Monique reluctantly stood to join the standing ovation. She glanced at Annaliese and Trisha who defiantly remained seated. She let her eyes flick to the other people at their table who were also standing. With a huff Annaliese and Trisha stood up and clapped – a polite golf clap.


Blue eyes focused on Monique, Trisha and Annaliese before focusing on Matthew and Robert with a smile. They turned curious when they looked at Kevin.


“Strike one.”
Chapter 7 by Jamie
Author's Notes:
I'm sorry about the wait on this chapter. Getting the words out hasn't been easy lately. But we've managed to stick to a chapter a month updates so I'm glad about that :)
Thank you so much for the feedback and encouragement. It's very appreciated. Beta Reader - Bryan and Linda
Corey Jacobs, Alex Santis, Lia Hadley and Nick Carter walked the runwayfor designer Joshua Chasez when he showed select pieces from his fall collection which he will be next Friday. Joshua shocked the audience as well as the fashion world when he showed an unreleased collection and by his choice of models.

'I like to do something different with every show. I didn't mind showing a few pieces from the new line since it was for a good cause. Yes the outfits worn by Lia and Nick are the show stoppers for my fall line. I decided to have Alex, Corey and Nick walk the runway for me because they are close friends of mine. I've wanted to get them onstage for awhile now and this felt like the perfect time to do so.’

That was the statement given by Joshua after the show. Pictures of the onstage action will be released after Joshua’s collection’s official debut on Friday.

Annaliese flung the paper down in annoyance causing it to rattle her coffee cup. Monique who was eating her breakfast looked at her daughter with a frown.

“Something the matter dear?” she asked coolly.

“Nickolas!” Annaliese hissed before lowering her voice a little. “Every paper has mentioned last night’s event and all are full of praise for Corey and Nickolas.”

Before Monique could reply Robert walked into the room.

“Good morning,” he said in his usual good natured manner. Taking a seat at the table he poured himself a cup of coffee.

"Good morning darling," Monique said with a smile before continuing with her breakfast.

Annaliese smiled brightly at Robert. "Good morning Robert."

Robert smiled at her and sipped his coffee.

"Robert, you know the apartment in the Sanctuary building? Can Trisha stay there for about a month while her apartment is being repainted? She'll pay rent of course," Annaliese said while looking at Robert.

Robert lowered his cup and shook his head regretfully. “I’m sorry Annaliese but that apartment is in use. Trisha is welcome to stay here,” he said with a smile.

Annaliese tried not to let her disappointment show, “Thanks Robert.”

Monique frowned, “Why can’t Trisha stay there darling? She’s a trustworthy young lady and Annaliese’s best friend. Just because the apartment is in Nick’s name doesn’t mean that you can’t let Trisha stay there.”

Robert looked at Monique in surprise, “Nick is living there.” He frowned, “I’m surprised you didn’t know about it. He’s been captured entering and leaving the building numerous times by the paparazzi.”

“Nickolas is living at Sanctuary?” Annaliese asked in shock.

Robert looked at her, “Didn’t you wonder where he was living my dear?”

Robert shook his head and stood up while Annaliese flushed in embarrassment. Wishing them a good day he left the room.

Annaliese looked angrily at Monique, “How did you not know he’s living there?”

Monique looked at her daughter in annoyance, “It’s not like it’s easy to keep track of his movement’s honey.”

“But mom,” Annaliese whined, “Nickolas could be doing anything now that he’s living there and no one will be able to find out anything!”

Both remembered how the apartments for sale in the building were snapped up before construction was even halfway through. And the people that purchased it after it was complete ended up paying a few million more than the people who’d bought it earlier. It was advertised with the tag line that it provides ultimate privacy for people who want and need it.

Annaliese stood up abruptly. “I need to go talk to Trish,” she said and stomped out of the room.


-x-


Nick ran his fingers through his damp hair and spiked it up. Standing near the full length window he took in the view while thinking about the past.

Three years ago when his father had asked him if he was interested in purchasing his own apartment Nick had been all for it. When he’d heard about the perks Sanctuary had to offer he’d almost been sold on it. The price quoted for the place had been the only thing that had held him back. He’d discussed it with his godfather who’d told him that he had to think of it as an investment he was making. After thinking about it for a few days he’d decided to go ahead and buy the place. He hadn’t regretted his decision.

Tugging a shirt on he buttoned it up before picking up his phone. He checked his messages and then hit #3 on his speed dial.

“Hey you called?” Nick asked.

“Just wanted to check that you’re up. Matt will
be here soon.”

“I’m heading over right now Core,” Nick said with a smile.

Nick stepped out of his apartment and smiled when he saw Matt getting out of the elevator.

“Morning Nickolas,” Matt said with a smile.

“Morning Matthew.”

Matt stopped Nick as he was entering Corey’s apartment causing Nick to quirk his eyebrow questioningly.

“Nice love bite,” Matt said softly.

Nick’s eyes widened in surprise. He moved to the mirror that rested on the wall between both apartments and stared at his neck. Matt stood behind Nick and pushed his shirt collar back into place which effectively covered the small but dark mark.

When their eyes met in the mirror it struck Matt that Nick looked uncharacteristically young. He smiled reassuringly and rubbed Nick’s arm.

“Are you being safe?” he asked softly.

Nick blushed and whispered, “Yes.”

Matt nodded and gently guided Nick into Corey’s apartment.


-x-


Several hours later…

Nick sighed as arms slid around his waist and jerked him back against a warm body.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” Nick replied.

“Didn’t expect to see you today. Is everything ok?”

Nick nodded, “Yeah. Just wanted you to know that Matt knows I was with someone last night.”

“Does that bother you?”

Nick shook his head. “It doesn’t bother me that he knows. What bothers me is that one more person knows before my best friend does. I need to tell Corey and I can’t wait any longer.” He smiled slightly, “I hope you understand.”

“I do darling. Tell him. Would you like me to be there when you do so?”

Nick sighed and shook his head, “No. This is something that I should do alone.”


-x-


Robert laughed and shook his head, “It’s so good to hear that you’re enjoying yourself. Saw the pictures you sent. You both look like you’re having a wonderful time.”

Jerald Richardson smiled, “Oh we are Rob, we are. I wish you could’ve joined us but it’s probably better than you’ve been handling most of Kevin’s transition into the company. How’s Nicky?”


“Kevin’s handling things very well, just as I’d expected. Nick’s good, busy but enjoying himself.”

“And the preparations for Corey’s wedding? Is everything moving smoothly?” Jerald asked.

Robert nodded, “Everything’s progressing along as planned. He’s a bit stressed out but that’s to be expected.”

“Good,” Jerald sighed, “that’s good. And what about Kevin and Nicky?”

Robert sighed, “They seem to get along well whenever they meet. You should know that Annaliese has been showing a lot of interest in Kevin. Under the circumstances I haven’t felt comfortable talking to Kevin or Nicky about what we’d discussed.”

Jerald echoed Robert’s sigh. “That does complicate things. Cara would kick both our asses if we interfered if Annaliese likes Kevin. Does Kevin like her?”
“I don’t really know Jerry. He’s cordial. I don’t ask him about his personal life.”

“Let’s talk to them together when I’m back. We’ll just be up front and tell them what we think and let them take it from there,” Jerald suggested.

Robert nodded, “That sounds good.”

-x-

Corey let himself into Nick’s apartment and walked into the living room. He smiled at the picture that was hanging on one of the walls. It had been taken on Corey’s 19th birthday. Corey was sitting in front of a huge chocolate cake with Nick and AJ on either side of him with pieces of cake in their hands ready to smash on his face. He chuckled and shook his head.

His phone vibrating in his pocket caught his attention. Corey pulled it out and checked the caller id, smiling when he saw his wedding planner’s name on the screen.

“Hey Kyle.”

“Hello Corey. Free to talk?”

“Yup, just waiting for Nick to get home,” Corey said. “Do I need The Book?” he asked referring to his planner.

Kyle made a negative sound, “No no. I just wanted to ask you something. Your mothers sent us a new… suggestion.” Corey sighed asked him to continue when he hesitated. “Well they suggested that you wear a black suit with a gold shirt for the vows.”

Corey frowned, “Yuck! No thank you, with my skin tone I’ll look like a moron. I’m fine with the white one. And my second option is ready too.”

Kyle nodded, “That’s what I figured. Is the suit that JC’s working on for you ready?”
Corey smiled, “Almost. He’s saving the final alternations for a day before the wedding.”

“Corey please eat! And eat properly! The skinny look so does not suit you hun,” Kyle said.

Corey grinned, “Don’t worry, I’m eating properly. Thanks Kyle. You’ve made all of this so much easier to handle.”

Kyle chuckled, “My pleasure Corey. I’ll talk to you later. Have a good evening.”

“Thanks Kyle. You too. Say hi to tall and sexy for me,” Corey said with a laugh and hung up before Kyle could yell at him for teasing him.

He stood up and stretched before going over to the bar. Shaking his head he went towards the kitchen, ‘Gotta remind Nick to stock the bar.’

Opening the refrigerator Corey frowned when he saw the green and blue bottles.

-x-

Nick shut his apartment door and leaned against it for a moment before walking into the living room. Leaving his bag on the couch he walked into the kitchen and stopped short when he saw Corey standing in front of the open refrigerator.

When Corey turned around Nick gulped upon seeing the bottles in Corey’s hands.

“Since when do you drink Perrier?”

Corey’s eyes widened at the way Nick paled before flushing.

Shutting the refrigerator door Corey set the bottles of water on the counter between them and looked at Nick. “So best friend mine, is there something you’d like to tell me?”
Chapter 8 by Jamie
Nick tried to stay calm. He needed to keep control of his emotions so that he could control this conversation and steer it in the right direction without messing things up or hurting his best friend’s feelings.


Nick licked his lips, "Could we go sit?"


At Corey's nod the two young men went out into the living room and sat together.


Nick looked at Corey, "I've been keeping something from you for awhile," he said softly. "I had already decided to tell you about it today. I've been seeing someone," he said softly.


Corey who had already figured that out after discovering the water nodded and waited for Nick to continue while suppressing his hurt for the time being.


Nick's eyes were glittering with tears as he looked at his best friend. "He makes me happy. I can be me with him. There are no expectations, no pressure, no reputation to live up to… nothing."


Corey nodded in understanding while remaining silent. He wanted to hear Nick out.


"When we started out I wanted to tell you but you had just gotten engaged and there was so much going on in our lives that I figured I'd wait and tell you once we'd had a few dates, like maybe a 5th date if it got that far." Nick took a sip of water before continuing, "And then something happened which made me reluctant to say anything until I was here with you."


"What?" Corey asked softly.


Nick took a deep breath and released it before speaking,


“I had sex with him,” he said softly.


Corey gasped in shock even as the full significance of Nick's words registered in his mind. Nick had said 'had sex' and not 'made love'. Corey was well aware that his and Nick's views were different. He didn't begrudge the fact that his friend had lost his virginity to someone who he wasn't even willing to admit he was in a relationship with.


"Was it good?" Corey asked.


Nick's head snapped up at the soft question and he relaxed when he saw the small smile coupled with genuine curiosity on his friend's face.


Nick nodded, "Yeah," he breathed out, "It was… IS very good," Nick said.


He sighed, "You didn't tell me because you didn't want me to feel pressured,” Corey said while looking into Nick's eyes.


Nick nodded, "I figured it'd be better if I told you in person so that I could be here for you.”


"Are you serious about him?"


Nick nodded, "Serious enough to want to ask him to be my date to your wedding," Nick said causing Corey to break out into a happy smile.


"So… who is he and when do I get to meet him?" Corey asked.


Nick shrugged nonchalantly, "I don't know, soon I guess."
Corey stared at him in surprise before punching Nick's arm, "Jerk! C’mon tell me the truth."


Nick laughed, "I really don't know Corey. I haven't told him about you yet. He may not be ready or even want to meet my friends."


Corey glared at Nick for teasing him and tackled him. Both of them fell off the couch and landed on the floor. With a wicked smile Corey began to tickle Nick. Nick being quite ticklish immediately began shouting and laughing in surprise.


Nick rolled across the floor trying to get away from Corey's wriggling little fingers.


The doorbell ringing didn’t cause Corey to pause for even a moment.


After a few seconds Nick managed to gasp out, "That might be him."


The effect was immediate. Corey untangled himself from Nick and stood up.


"Wait Core, wait!" Nick said while sitting up.


Corey smirked at Nick’s flushed state and ran towards the door with Nick shouting after him. Skidding to a stop in front of the door Corey braced himself against it to get his breath back. With a quick check on his hair and clothes in the hall mirror he smiled and opened the door.
He sighed when he saw who was at the door, his shoulders sagging.


Matt and Kevin exchanged a look when the smile dropped off Corey's face to be replaced by a pout when he saw them.


"Oh, it's you guys."


Matt chuckled, "Well it's nice to see you too love."


Corey sighed and shook his head, "I thought you were someone else." He allowed himself to be drawn into Matt's arms for a soft kiss.


"Well I'm not sorry it's us," Matt said softly causing Corey to smile and kiss his cheek


"Who is it Core?" Nick asked.


"Just Matt and Kev," Corey said as he rounded the front entryway and saw Nick standing by the floor to ceiling window.


Matt and Kevin looked at each other and laughed.


"Well I certainly don't feel very wanted here Kev, do you?" Matt asked causing Nick to grin and step forward towards them.


"Don't be ridiculous. Corey's just being a pouty baby." He watched them take a seat. "So what's the plan for tonight?" he asked.


"Dinner and a movie ok with you guys?" Kevin asked. At their nods he smiled and said, "Good cause we already ordered. The food should be here soon," causing Nick to laugh while Corey just smiled distractedly.


Matt raised his eyebrows when he noticed Corey's distraction. Nick just smiled and shook his head.


"What will you guys have to drink?" Nick asked.
Matt moved towards Corey while asking, "What do you have?"


Nick chuckled, "Iced tea or coffee, wine, colas and water."


Matt smiled, "A soda's fine. Thanks."


Nick nodded and looked at Kevin who smiled at him, "Water please."


Nick went into the kitchen and was joined a few minutes later by Kevin who carried a bag of food.


Nick smiled at him and set down plates, "How're the lovebirds doing?"


Kevin shook his head with a laugh, "Corey's pouting about something."


"Core just needs a reason to pout around Matthew," Nick said with a fond smile on his face.


Nick had made a pitcher of iced coffee and poured out two glasses before waving the pitcher gently towards Kevin who was standing across the counter from him.


"Want some?" he asked.


Kevin shrugged while opening up boxes of sushi, "What is it?"


"Iced coffee," Nick said while handing Kevin little bowls for the soy sauce and wasabi.


Nick picked up one of the glasses and held it out to Kevin, "Here, try it."


Kevin took a tentative sip, his eyes widening in surprise, "This is pretty good."


Nick laughed at the look on Kevin’s face, "You don't need to look so surprised. I wouldn't make you try anything that didn't taste good."


Kevin licked his lips, "I will remember that in the future."


Nick lowered his eyes to pour out another glass of the drink for Kevin thus breaking the moment.


"I'll take these outside," Nick said softly before carrying their drinks out of the kitchen.


Setting the tray down at the bar Nick picked up two glasses handing the iced coffee to Corey and the coke to Matt.


"You want some help Nickolas?" Matt asked.


Nick shook his head, "Nope. Kevin's just opening up the boxes. I'll be back in a sec."


Within minutes the food was laid out on the coffee table. Corey and Matt were sitting on the couch while Nick and Kevin had made themselves comfortable on the floor.


The next thirty minutes were spent eating, talking and laughing, though Nick couldn’t help but notice that Corey remained distracted. He knew it wasn’t because of what he’d revealed but due to his insinuation that his lover would drop by. Nick bit his lip feeling a little guilty for teasing his best friend in that manner. He exchanged a look with Matt who quickly averted his head to smother the small smile that was threatening to escape.


After they'd eaten the four of them quickly cleaned up the place and loaded the dish washer.


Kevin stretched, "Shall we leave?"


Corey eyed Nick waiting to see if Nick had any objections and sighed when the blonde shook his head at him. “Yes, let’s leave.”


A few minutes later they entered the basement parking lot.


“Should we take one car?” Matt asked while looking at Kevin, Nick and Corey.


Corey bit his lip to curb his instinctive reaction which was to suggest that Kevin and Nick take one car. Now that he knew that his best friend had a lover he didn’t want to take advantage of whatever chance he got to push the two men together.


“Are you going to drop us back?” Corey asked Matt.


Matt smiled and put his arm around Corey, “Of course love.”


Corey smiled back, “Then we can just take one car.”


They looked at Nick and Kevin who nodded their agreement.

-x-

Three hours later Nick walked out of the theatre with a satisfied sigh. The evening had been a nice one. Corey on the other hand was trying very hard not to pout. He’d noticed Nick texting on his phone a few times and had hoped that Nick’s lover would have joined them but that hadn’t happened. He couldn’t help but feel disappointed.



“Core?”


Corey smiled. He liked the fact that his fiancÚ had developed a liking to the nickname Nick had bestowed on him years ago.


He turned his head and met Matt’s eyes, “I’m ok. Sleepy.”


Matt smiled and squeezed Corey’s hand.


When Matt pulled up into Sanctuary’s basement parking lot he guided the car into Corey’s spare parking space and turned off the engine. It was quickly decided that Matt and Kevin would go upstairs with Corey and Nick to drop them off. Nick seemed to find it amusing but decided against saying anything.


Getting out of the elevator at their floor Nick smiled and returned Matt’s hug. He and Kevin were moving away to his door so that Corey and Matt could have an illusion of privacy when Corey’s words stopped Nick.


“Nicky is…?” he trailed off and tilted his head towards
Nick’s apartment while looking at him.


Nick bit his lip and shook his head. Seeing Corey’s shoulders sag he sighed.


Matt gently kissed Corey while entwining their fingers together. Corey nuzzled Matt’s neck and allowed himself to be hugged before pulling back and smiling at him. Both froze as they turned towards Nick and Kevin.


Kevin had his arms around Nick and was kissing him… and Nick was kissing him back.


“What the hell?” Corey yelled out before covering his mouth with his hand as Kevin slowly broke their kiss and wrapped his arm around Nick’s back.


Nick blushed and resisted the urge to rest his head on Kevin’s shoulder... or drag him into his apartment. He met Corey’s eyes and smiled.


“Core I believe you’ve already met Kevin Richardson… my lover.”


Corey growled and stalked forward to punch Nick’s arm. Nick laughed and leaned back against Kevin’s chest as the older man wrapped his arms around Nick’s waist.


“I can’t believe you!” Corey mock glared at Nick. “I was pouting all evening, you KNEW I was pouting all evening and you didn’t bother to tell me that your lover was right there next to you? And YOU!” he shifted his attention to Kevin who smiled at him while kissing the back of Nick’s head, “All this while I’ve been singing Nicky’s praises and not once did you let on that you’ve met him. Hell met him? You’re together!”


Matt chuckled which made Corey turn around to look at him suspiciously. “Did you know too?” He turned to Nick and
Kevin who quickly began nodding then turned back to Matt.


Matt shot a dark look at the couple before looking at Corey. “Kevin told me a few hours ago baby. I swear I didn’t know anything about this!”


When Corey still looked doubtful Nick stepped in to help Matt out. “It’s true Core, Matt didn’t know.”


Corey just shook his head before smiling slightly. “I knew you two would look awesome together. I rock.”


Corey and Nick burst out laughing with Kevin and Matt quickly joining in.


His best friend was happy and with a man he liked. He himself was engaged to a man who adored him and whom he was quite sure he loved. All was well in Corey’s world.


-x-x-x-x-


http://2writetogether.livejournal.com/538.html Please go to this link for a quick note reg. this chapter to be read at the END of the chapter. Please don't read it before cause there are spoilers in there. Thanks.
Chapter 9 by Jamie
Author's Notes:
A big thank you to our awesome beta reader Linda.
-x-


Kevin sighed as a buzzing sound filled the room. He squeezed the warm body in his arms before letting go and reaching his arm out to smack the alarm off.


"Turn it off completely.”


Kevin opened his eyes at the murmured instructions. "Hmmm?" Kevin said.


"Turn off the snooze," Nick said tiredly. "Corey knows so there's no need for you to sneak off early anymore."


"Good point," Kevin said while turning the alarm off and wrapping Nick snugly in his arms.


-x-


Kevin slicked his wet hair back as he stepped out of the bathroom. Smiling at the way Nick was curled up in bed he walked over to him. Leaning over him he shook his head causing drops of water to land on Nick, making him shiver.


"Time to wake up baby," Kevin said softly.


Blue eyes fluttered open to look up at him. Nick smiled slightly and yawned while stretching. "Hmmm morning," he said in a rough, sleep filled voice.


He let Kevin tug him up from the bed and wrapped himself around Kevin’s damp body.


-x-


Nick rubbed his hair with his towel. Working a small amount of gel through his hair he quickly spiked it up. He left the bathroom after washing his hands and tugged on a pair of light grey pants. He checked his messages on his cell phone while making his way to the kitchen where he stopped short at the sight of Kevin moving fluidly around his kitchen clad in a pair of charcoal grey trousers.


Kevin turned around to set something on the table and caught sight of him standing there. "Morning Nick," he said with a smile. "We match," he said while indicating that they both had different shades of the same color on.


"We certainly do," Nick said while moving close to him with a smile as Kevin drew him in for a kiss. Nick sighed and nuzzled Kevin's neck before placing a soft kiss there and pulling back.


"What're you making?" he asked while surveying the table where Kevin had placed butter, milk, coffee and a bowl of strawberries and blueberries mixed in cream.


Kevin ran his hand down Nick's back before turning away to tend to the food. "Waffles," he smiled at Nick's impressed look. "Since I don't have to sneak out at unreasonable hours anymore I figured I'd actually cook. It’s a much better option than both of us grabbing cup after cup of coffee.”


Nick smiled and quickly kissed Kevin, "Thank you. Can I help with something?"


Kevin shook his head, "No. Just sit down, it's ready."


He served them both two waffles each and sat down himself. They proceeded to smother their waffles with butter and the cream covered berries before digging in.


-x-


Kevin watched as Nick raised his arms above his head and stretched. He smiled as Nick’s pants slid down a little bit to reveal his black boxers.


Nick quirked his eyebrow at Kevin when he noticed that he was looking at him. When Kevin shook his head he shrugged and put his shirt on.


"What're your plans for the day?" Nick asked Kevin while they continued to get ready.


“Got some files to review and a meeting with some of the directors and senior management which you’re welcome to attend by the way. You are a major shareholder after all,” Kevin said while fixing his tie.


Nick shook his head, "Is Stanton going to attend?"


"Yes."


"Then no thank you, I won't come. I sure dad will fill me in on it later."


Kevin sighed, "I wish you'd let me handle him."


Nick smiled slightly, "By all means please handle him but only if he does something to bother you that doesn't involve me."


"Yeah, yeah," Kevin muttered having had this conversation with Nick a few times already.

"Aww," Nick cooed and wrapped his arms around Kevin's neck. "It's really ok. I can tolerate that fool for now. I promise I'll let you handle him the day he crosses the line big time."


Kevin smiled and brushed his lips against Nick's. "Dinner tonight?" he asked while wrapping his arms around Nick’s waist. "Howie can whip up some Italian for us," Kevin said while trying to tempt Nick.


Nick groaned and nodded, "Sounds very perfect.”


-x-


Later that day in the evening…


Nick entered the Richardson house and headed to the kitchen. He smiled when he saw Howie grating some cheese while talking on the phone. They smiled and waved to each other.


Nick sighed when he felt warm arms sliding around him.


"Hey," he whispered.


"Hey," Kevin whispered back while pressing a gentle kiss against Nick's neck.


-x-


Nick drizzled a little chilly olive oil over his salad and bruschetta before carrying the plate into the tv room. He sat down beside Kevin on the sofa and yawned.


"Hmm… excuse me," he said.


Kevin smiled and set a glass of water down next to Nick's plate. “Sleepy?"


Nick smiled and nodded. "Someone kept me up most of the weekend,” he said sweetly.


Kevin nudged him, "I sure as hell didn't hear you complaining."


Nick grinned, "Hey I never said I didn't enjoy it and wasn't a willing and enthusiastic participant.”


Kevin joined Nick in laughter and shook his head.


“Do you want to stay over tonight?” Kevin asked.


Nick smiled, “I’d love to but I’m meeting Corey and his wedding planner for breakfast tomorrow. It’ll be easier if I stay at Sanctuary tonight.”


"What about dinner tomorrow?"


Nick looked at Kevin in confusion, "But tomorrow's Tuesday."


Kevin nodded, “It is my dinner night with him but I think you should come. What’s the harm?” he asked when he saw the doubtful look on Nick’s face. “I don’t see any reason why you can’t come,” Kevin said while stroking Nick’s wrist. “You came once before.”


Nick tried not to let on how affected he was by Kevin’s actions but figured he already knew thanks to the way his pulse has sped up.


He sighed, “There’s no harm I guess. I’m just nervous. I’ve been avoiding being alone with dad the last couple of weeks,” Nick admitted.


Kevin looked at Nick in surprise, “Why? Has he been talking about a guy called Ryder Cullen to you?” he asked in alarm.


Nick frowned and shook his head, “No. Who is he?” he asked curiously.


Kevin knew he wouldn’t be able to get out of giving Nick an answer and looked at him seriously. “Don’t tell your dad I told you or let on that you’re familiar with the name,” Kevin cautioned.


“Ok,” Nick instantly agreed.


“Cullen’s been in talks with us about letting him buy out Marten’s shares of Carter-Richardson. He’s also been very curious about and expressed a desire to meet you.”
Nick frowned thoughtfully, “Now that you mention it that name does sound familiar. I just can’t remember why and from where.”


“I’m sure it’ll come to you,” Kevin said. “Why have you been avoiding your dad?” He asked while changing the subject.


“He’s been trying to ask me if I’m seeing someone,” Nick said.


“I’m sorry Nick, I know you don’t like lying to him,” Kevin said.


Nick shook his head, “That’s just it! I haven’t lied but I haven’t told him the truth either.” He rubbed his eyes, “He’d wanted to ask me when I’d met him the day after I got here. You remember our first night at Sanctuary? The day after that. Luckily we were interrupted before he could ask. The next time was the night I had dinner with both of you. He’d just asked me if I was seeing someone and the elevator had opened to reveal you. I don’t know how much more time I have before my luck runs out so I’ve been avoiding being alone with him. Stupid I know but I’m not ready to tell him anything.”


Kevin squeezed Nick’s hand, “I know you said that you want to tell both our fathers soon after each other. I’ll call dad and tell him right now if you want.”


“And that’s another thing! What are we going to tell them?" Nick asked restlessly. “I don’t think, ‘we just sorta hooked up and started to have a good time’ will go over real well with them,” he said sarcastically. “Not to mention your mom will kill both of us.”


Kevin looked at Nick, “Well I hope you don’t still see us as just hooking up. We’ve evolved to more than that. Neither of us expected more but it’s happened. We aren’t just two people who hooked up to have a good time. We do genuinely care about each other. We HAVE been dating Nick, not hooking up for months now. We stopped hooking up just weeks after we first started to.”


Nick moved closer to Kevin, “I didn’t mean it the way it came out. I’m sorry.”


Kevin shook his head, “No apologies required or needed,” he said while lowering his head to brush his lips against Nick’s.


Nick responded wonderfully as always and slid his arms around Kevin.


“Are you sure you can’t spend the night?” Kevin asked while tugging Nick closer. “We can just… sleep,” he said causing Nick to grin.


“We never just sleep Kevin,” Nick said with a laugh.


“I thought you guys were meeting for dinner tomorrow night. Won’t you see him then?” Kevin asked although he already knew that Nick wouldn’t change his plans with Corey for him.


Nick chuckled, “Dinner will be with other people around. That’s socializing. Breakfast is about Nick and Corey time. Going over wedding details and generally just us spending time together. I had no idea of all the effort that that goes into planning a wedding.”


Kevin smiled innocently, “Well at least you’re getting good practice for when it’s your turn.”


Nick didn’t deem it necessary to respond verbally to Kevin’s words and just stuck his tongue out at him causing Kevin to laugh.

-x—x-

Whew…

Ok a few things to say..

HIAB is not going to be a very long story. There are only a few more chapters left before it ends and we move onto ‘An Ideal Marriage?’

CJ and I had started writing Matt and Corey’s story awhile back and happened to mention it to a few readers who expressed a desire to read it. http://2writetogether.livejournal.com/1987.html

We also meant to post a Valentine’s Day story. It’s about how Kevin and Nick meet.
http://2writetogether.livejournal.com/2147.html

As of now Matt and Corey’s story and the Valentine’s Day one will only be posted and updated on our lj. So feel free to read it on there if you’re interested.

A few people emailed me to say they couldn’t post comments on the lj. I have changed the setting so now anonymous users can.

Thank you.
Chapter 10 by Jamie
Author's Notes:
Not been beta read. All mistakes are mine and CJ's.
Nick slowly opened his eyes thanking his stars that he’d closed the blinds properly last night. Even the thought of natural light wasn’t welcome to him at the moment. Not with the sparks shooting around in his head and stomach.

Grabbing his cell phone from the pillow beside him he quickly sent off a text message to Corey.
‘Can’t make it, headache.’

He resisted the urge to text his boss too. He’d sleep for another two hours and then decide if he could manage to go to work or not.



-x-



Kyle took a sip of his hot cappuccino and sighed. He rolled his eyes when he caught Corey watching him with a grin.

“What?”

Corey chuckled, “You always get this really blissfully satisfied look on your face when you drink your first sip of coffee. Does tall and sexy get jealous of your friendship with caffeine?”

“Oh hush up and let’s focus on more important things like your wedding,” Kyle said.

Corey grinned and sat down, “Oh by all means let’s focus on my wedding and off your love life.”

“More like non existent love life,” Kyle muttered before clearing his throat. “Where’s Nick?”

Corey shook his head, “He’s not coming. He woke up with a bad headache and went back to sleep. I’ll fill him in later.”

Kyle nodded and set his coffee cup down. “Him not being here works out in a way because I need to talk to you about something.” He looked seriously at Corey. “We need to know if he’s bringing a date or not. I can’t leave the seating chart open for much longer.”

Corey sat back in his seat and sighed, “How does it stand right now?”

Kyle flipped his book open. “The way things right now I had evened out the main tables with Nick and Brian since neither had been sure if they were bringing a date. Now Brian has confirmed that he’s coming sans a date. Nick hasn’t decided yet.”

Corey bit his bottom lip while thinking. “What will you do if Nick has a date?”

Kyle pushed his book to the middle of the table so that Corey could see a miniature version of the seating chart. “Then everything would be perfect. Your friend Alex has confirmed that he’s coming without a date as well, so we’ll simply put him next to Brian and put Nick’s date next to him. Or if he doesn’t want his date at the main table we simply work around other tables. But in order to do so I need to know how close to the main table he wants his date to be. Do you see my problem?” Kyle asked gently knowing Nick was a touchy topic for Corey.

Corey nodded while studying the seating chart, “I’ll ask him and let you know in a day or two for sure Kyle. Thank you for being so patient with all this.”

Kyle smiled, “Just doing my job.”

“Oh!” Corey suddenly sat up straight. “What about Robert Carter?”

Kyle chuckled, “Already taken care of as per Matt’s instructions. You don’t need to worry about that. I’ll show you the completed welcome basket tomorrow. We’re just waiting for the CD’s to get done.”

Corey smiled and relaxed back, glad for the wonderful support system he had.



-x-



Nick checked the temperature of the shower to make sure it was perfect before slowing moving his body under it. The drums in his head had been playing a steady beat since he woke up. With a soft groan of pain he began washing his hair, figuring he may as well finish off his shower quickly instead of dilly dallying.

‘Migraines, allergies.. Dad sure has given me some awesome genes,’ he thought while tilting his head back to rinse off his hair.



-x-



After drying off Nick reached for his rarely used hair dryer and plugged it in. Today was definitely not the day to let his hair dry in its own time. ‘God please don’t let this turn into a migraine. Please let it just be a really bad headache,’ Nick thought.
Forgoing his contact lenses he slipped his glasses on and got dressed. With a soft groan he grabbed his cell phone and made his way towards the kitchen while checking his messages.

He rolled his eyes and deleted the first few messages after giving them a cursory glance. Deciding to leave the others until he got into work he entered the kitchen and stepped short at the sight that greeted him.

“You didn’t have to do this,” he said softly.

Corey smiled, “I know. But it’s my right as your best friend to take care of you when you’re not feeling well.”

Nick sat down and immediately drank the glass of water kept in front of him. “Thanks Core. You want to bring me up to speed on what I missed?”

Corey looked at the redness in Nick’s eyes and the way he was squinting slightly and shook his head. “No hurry. We can do it when you’re feeling better. Now eat,” he said and set a bowl of warm oatmeal in front of Nick.

Nick smiled as much as he could in the state he was in and began eating.

“Have you called for a cab? I can drop you off at work if you haven’t.”

Nick marvelled at the way his friend had changed. A year ago Corey didn’t drive and now he loved being behind the wheel thanks to Matt’s encouragement and support.
“No that’s ok; I’ve asked Alan to come get me. What’s the plan for tonight?” Nick asked.

Corey looked closely at Nick, “Maybe you should skip tonight and rest Nicky.” Seeing Nick shake his head he sighed,” Dinner at Shiro’s. You’re obviously exhausted. Why don’t you skip it and rest? AJ’ll be here by the end of the week and you’re not going to be able to entertain him if you’re feeling miserable.”

Nick knew that what Corey was saying made sense. He needed to sleep well for a few days to make up for all the late nights he’d been having. But he hated the thought of cancelling on his friends.

“Let me see how I feel by the end of the day. If I’m feeling better I’ll come, otherwise I’ll go home,” Nick said with a sigh.

Corey nodded in agreement.

Kyle who had been on the phone, entered the kitchen and exchanged a smile with Nick.

When the phone rang Corey answered it so that Nick wouldn’t have to stand up.

“Thanks, he’ll be down in a bit.”

Nick and Kyle looked at Corey.

“Alan’s here,” Corey said.

Nick immediately checked his cell phone for any calls that he’d missed and found none. “That’s strange. He usually calls me when he’s two blocks away.”

Corey smiled slightly, “He probably wanted you to finish eating.”

“I’m done,” Nick said and Corey saw that he’d finished the small helping of oatmeal that he had given him.

He grabbed a bottle of water from the counter and looked at Corey, “You’ll catch me up on everything I missed later right?”

Corey smiled, “Of course. Feel better Nicky.”

Nick gave him a small smile in return and turned to Kyle. “I’m sorry about the delays Kyle. I promise I’ll be all caught up on it soon. Please give tall and sexy my regards.”

Kyle rolled his eyes. “Get outta here you brat," he said with a laugh.

Nick got into the elevator with a smile on his face while Kyle and Corey exchanged a significant look as the elevator doors shut.



-x-



Nick nodded at the doorman and slid into the silver Mercedes that was waiting for him with a small sigh. “Morning Alan.”

Alan smiled, “Good morning Nick. Are you feeling better?”

Nick nodded slightly, “Yup, slightly better. Thank you for picking me up.”

“You’re welcome kid.”

They sat in silence, content to let the sound of traffic and the soft music playing on the radio as the only source of sound between them.



-x-



Nick walked into the building that housed the offices of Carter-Richardson and stopped when he saw the chaos near the elevators.

“What’s going on?” he asked the security guard as he entered after passing through security.

“Elevators are being serviced so only two are working. I’m sorry Mr. Carter but it looks like a long wait if you aren’t taking the stairs today. Unless you allow me to take you to the front of the line,” the man said apologetically.

Nick sighed at the thought of putting his already aching head through the exercise of climbing up seven floors. But the thought of standing in a long line or using his name to get to the front of the line was even more unappealing and something he couldn’t do.

“No it’s alright Paul, thank you. I’ll take the stairs,” he said and smiled slightly at the man before walking away.



-x-



Four hours later Nick was pulled out from the document he was reading by his phone buzzing. After glancing at the screen and seeing that it was Matt calling he sat back with a tired groan.

“Hey.”

“Hey… all ok? You don’t sound too good.”

Nick smiled at Matt’s concern. “Woke up this morning with a bad headache which may just turn into a migraine yet so it’s not the best of days. How’re you doing? Is your best man back in town yet?”

Matt winced in sympathy for Nick, “I hope it doesn’t turn into a migraine. I’m doing ok, desperately trying to control my work and hoping nothing comes up to ruin my honeymoon plans,” Matt said causing Nick to smile and ‘aww’ at him.

Matt chuckled and continued, “Yes, he’s back and so is his ex wife,” Matt said with a sigh.

“WHAT?” Nick hissed before wincing as pain flared up in his head. “Jess is back? How come?”

“Can you talk for a bit?” Matt sat back in his chair and turned to look out the window behind his desk.

“Yup.”

“Well your guess is as good as mine about Jess.”

Nick frowned, “How did you find out?”

“My parents told me. Mom asked me this morning if I was going to invite her for the wedding. Apparently Jess’ mom mentioned it to my mom last night.”

Nick massages his forehead, “And what did you tell her?”

“I didn’t say anything. Corey’s dad called to speak to me so the conversation was thankfully left unfinished.”

“Well you won’t need to make any personal excuses if you don’t want to,” Nick said slowly, “assuming of course that you don’t want her to be there.”

Matt sighed, “Of course I don’t want her there Nick, she broke his heart. I would like him to actually enjoy himself there and not be stressed and on his guard. And all the women invited are going to be there at Corey’s pre welcome dinner too and I don’t want to put him through the ordeal of dealing with her. Any help you can give me is welcome.”

Nick nodded slowly glad that Matt understood that Corey wouldn’t want the ex Mrs. Littrell there. “She did receive an invite to the wedding Matt. She RSVPed with a ‘No’.”

“What? Corey actually invited her? Cause I sure as hell didn’t,” Matt said in frustration.

“Calm down,” Nick said. “You know him, polite to the core. You really must work harder to break that bad habit of his Matthew. So anyway he did invite her since his parents were so insistent but she said no. So now you have a ready and genuine excuse that everything is already set and you cannot make changes to it all just for her, especially after she already declined your invitation.”

“What would I do without you Nickolas, thank you so much! I will work harder on breaking Corey’s habit. Apparently I haven’t been trying hard enough.”

Nick smiled, “I have complete faith in you Matthew.”

Matt chuckled, “Thanks. Am I seeing you tonight?” He asked, feeling less agitated after having spoken to Nick.

Nick sighed, “I’m not sure. If my head doesn’t feel better I’m just going to go home and sleep it off. I’ll let you know.”

“Alright babe you do that. Let me know and I’ll come fetch you,” Matt said.

Both said their goodbyes and hung up.

‘Back to work,’ Nick thought with a soft groan.



-x-



“Nickolas!” A strong voice boomed causing Nick to sit up in surprise.

“Jake,” he said with a small smile when he saw his boss standing just outside his cubicle.

“What’re you still doing here kid? It’s after 6,” Jake said while moving closer and leaning his hip against Nick’s desk.

“You’re still here too,” Nick pointed out. When Jake rolled his eyes in response Nick sighed, “Tomorrow’s report came here full of mistakes from the upstairs office with orders for ‘one of the interns’ to deal with it. So… I’m dealing,” he said simply.

Jake sighed, “Stanton again?”

Nick nodded slowly not willing to lie to his supervisor.

“What time did he send it down?” Jake asked curiously while his sharp eyes picked up the way Nick was squinting instead of opening his eyes all the way and the fact that he had his glasses on.

“Um… around 4.30.”

Jake looked at Nick in exasperation. “He knows full well that all my interns leave at 4 and you’re the only one who is staying late while training with the other departments. Why didn’t you just go up to your own office and finish your work? Hell why didn’t you just go home? You’re obviously not feeling well.”

Nick pouted slightly, “How was I to know he’d need things done for him? And I’m fine.”

“You have to face the fact that he’s got it in for you at some point Nick and I’d rather it be sooner than later. And as for you feeling fine,” Jake slammed his palm down on the desk causing Nick to flinch and grab his head.

Nick glared at Jake, “Was that really necessary?” he asked piteously.

Jake nodded, “Yes it was. Now come on, get outta here.”

Nick shook his head, “I haven’t finished this yet.”

“Nor are you going to.”

Nick looked at him in surprise. Jake shook his head, “I will not have my staff be taken advantage of in this manner. Now come on, get up.” Seeing the hesitant look on Nick’s face he continued, “Nickolas as your superior I am ordering you to leave that report alone and vacate the premises immediately,” he said seriously.

Nick knew that he wasn’t joking and shut down his computer before standing up. “What do I tell Stanton?”

“Nothing. I’ll deal with it.” When he saw that Nick was about to protest he continued, “When he picks on you as a member of the board it’s one thing but to single you out when you’re here as a senior level intern it’s quite another thing. He had no right to ask any intern here to do anything without clearing it by me first and you know it! The meeting was meant to be today and he didn’t have his reports ready. He’ll just have to deal with the consequences tomorrow.” Jake took a cleansing breath before continuing, “Now, did you drive today?”

Nick shook his head slowly, “Alan dropped me.”

“Good because you don’t look like you’re in a fit state to drive,” Jake said while walking to the elevators with Nick.

Nick pushed his glasses up and rubbed his eyes tiredly. “I’m exhausted.”

“You better start taking it easy kid or you’re going to make yourself sick before the wedding.”

Nick groaned, “Oh please don’t say that, don’t even think it cause it SO isn’t an option!”

They exited the elevator and walked out into the basement parking lot.

“You want me to drop you home?” Jake asked while unlocking his car.

“No, thank you, you go ahead. I’ll have Dave call me a cab,” Nick said.

“Sure?” Jake asked and slid behind the wheel of his car when Nick nodded.

Nick watched him drive away as he walked towards the security booth.



-x-



Kevin sighed as he checked his phone while sliding behind the wheel of his car the next morning. No messages. He clicked in Nick’s cell phone number and frowned when it went to voicemail again.

“Hey Nick, it’s me. Call me when you have the time.”

Setting his phone down Kevin put his Bluetooth headset on and drove off.



-X- TBC -X-
Chapter 11 by Jamie
Author's Notes:
Not been beta read except by us on our own so please excuse any mistakes or if you're feeling generous point it out so that we may correct it.
Thank you.
HIAB – 11

Nick winced as soon as he opened his eyes. Groaning softly he tugged the blanket tighter around himself and reached for his phone. Squinting at it he disregarded the missed calls and messages that he noticed were from Kevin and dialled his supervisor’s number.

Nick sighed in relief when Jake answered after two rings. “Morning Nickolas. How’re you feeling?”

“Not good at all,” Nick said with a soft groan. “May I skip work today?” Nick requested politely.

“Of course you may. Rest up kid. I hope you feel better soon,” Jake said gently.

Nick smiled slightly, “Thanks Jake. Hope the meeting goes off well.”

Jake smiled, “Don’t worry Nick, I’m sure it will. Rest up and let me know if you feel ok to come into work on Monday.”

Nick hung up the phone and curled back up in bed before sending Kevin a short text message.

‘Hey feeling quite ill. Taken the day off to rest. Hope the meeting goes off well.’

Kevin walked into the conference room and nodded at Robert as he took a seat at his right. Robert who had been doing something on his phone nodded back and smiled at Kevin.

Kevin didn’t bother with the discretion the others were showing and looked pointedly at his watch as Maurice Stanton hurried into the conference room.

When Kevin saw that Stanton didn’t even have his files in order and was checking them over after entering he began tapping his pen against the table while pushing his sleeve up to once again look at the time.

“Robert I’m going to get late for my next meeting if we continue at this rate.”

Kevin’s deep and calm voice caused Stanton to swallow and look up at Kevin and Robert.

“I’m-I’m ready to start, just waiting for Mr. Nickolas Carter to grace us with his presence,” Stanton said in a cocky tone.

Kevin leaned back in his chair and picked up a glass of water. “He’s not coming, you may begin,” he said dismissively.

“What?! Why not?” Stanton asked angrily.

Kevin made him wait while he finished drinking before keeping the glass gently back on the table and looking at Stanton. “Do I look like I’m sitting here to answer such questions Mr. Stanton? Ask his supervisor if you’re so curious as to why an intern is not present at a meeting he wasn’t meant to attend in the first place.”

Stanton turned to look at Jake who shook his head, “I told him he’s not needed here today.”

“But..” Stanton began.

Jake calmly interrupted him, “Mr. Stanton he’s my intern. I felt he was not needed here today and told him so. I don’t see the need to discuss this further. It was my decision to make. If you wanted my intern here or required his assistance any further on your report you should’ve asked me and I would’ve arranged it.”

Stanton swallowed as the twenty men and women seated around the room took further interest in their conversation. None of them had missed the way Jake had stressed the fact that Nick had helped Stanton with his report.

Robert cleared his throat and smothered the smile that threatened to take over his face when he saw that Kevin had noticed the twinkle in his eyes.

“If Stanton absolutely needs Nickolas here in order to continue then maybe we should get him here.”

Everyone turned to look at the person that had spoken. Kevin swallowed hard at the sight of the tall man standing in the doorway.

-x-

“Jerald,” Jake said with a smile and stood up to welcome him. “Welcome back.”

Jake smiled, "Yes, welcome back. When did you get back?

Jerald Richardson smiled, “Thank you. We got in early this morning. So Stanton, should we get Nicky up here so that you can proceed?”

Stanton felt the color draining from his face. Robert never interfered or gave Nickolas any extra benefits in the office but Jerald Richardson made no excuses about his love for Nickolas and hardly ever even addressed him formally. ‘Nick’ instead of ‘Nicky’ was the best he’d do.

‘I’m so screwed! The son already had it out for me, now he has his father for company,’ Stanton thought while smiling weakly.

-x-

Nick drove up the Richardson’s long driveway while running a hand over his hair. He cut the engine and adjusted his glasses before getting out of the car.

Howie opened the door in answer to his ringing the doorbell. “Hey Howie. God I’m so tired today. I could really do with one of those disgusting cups of coffee that Kevin always relishes as if it’s some nectar from the Gods like chocolate is,” Nick said with a soft laugh.

Howie could tell Nick was tired simply by the way he didn’t seem to be as aware of his surroundings as he usually was and was chattering so openly with him. His eyes widened when he saw Nick turning towards the staircase. He looked at the living room area before looking quickly at the younger man.

“Nick wait! I need to tell you something,” Howie said quickly.

Nick stopped and turned to look at him, “What’s up?”

He frowned when he saw Howie’s eyes widen. He turned back around with a smile for Kevin which froze on his face when he found himself looking into green eyes as familiar to him as the ones he’d been looking into night after night.

“Jerald!”

Jerald smiled and wrapped his arms around Nick. “Nicky! How are you kiddo?”

Nick blinked to make sure he wasn’t imagining things. “I’m… I’m good. How come you’re back earlier than planned?” Nick asked while trying to pull himself together and out of the surprise that seeing Jerald had thrown him into.

-x-

Nick tried hard not to let on exactly how uneasy he was during the next two hours. He chatted with Jerald and Cara about their trip, answered their questions about Corey’s wedding preparations and laughed off questions about his love life. Through it all he was very aware of the man sitting next to him. He wanted to yell out his frustrations every time Kevin answered his parents’ questions in short, precise answers thereby bringing the heat back on him. The first chance he got he was going to have words with Kevin, Howie and his dad for not letting him know that Jerald and Cara were back in town.

-x-

Cara smiled at her godson, “You’re staying for dinner aren’t you sweetie? Your dad, Monique and Annaliese are going to be joining us too.”

Nick smiled and shook his head, “I’m sorry no. I actually only dropped by to see you guys. I have plans tonight.”

Kevin looked at Nick in surprise but Nick refused to acknowledge him at that moment.

A little while later Monique, Annaliese and Robert entered the living room, Monique and Annaliese biting back their annoyance at the fact that Nick was in the room too. After greeting Jerald, Cara and Kevin Monique and Annaliese turned to Nick.

“Nickolas, how lovely to see you. I didn’t know you would be joining us,” Annaliese said.

Nick smiled and leaned against his father’s arm. “I was just about to leave. I had dropped by awhile ago to meet Jerald and Cara.”

Annaliese shook her head, “Just dropped by unannounced? How rude dear.”

“Nickolas is our godson Annaliese,” Cara said with a fond smile at Nick, “he certainly doesn’t need to ask before coming over. This is practically his house.”

Nick smiled and gave her a hug before taking his leave from everyone.

Kevin clenched his hand into a fist at the thought of having to spend the evening socializing while Nick escaped.

“I’ll walk you to your car Nick,” Kevin said.

Nick was about to politely refuse the offer when he saw his father and Jerald nodding approvingly. He fought the urge to pout and nodded his head. Smiling at Annaliese, knowing how much it was pissing her off that Kevin had offered to walk him out, he waved casually at everyone before walking off with Kevin.

Once outside Kevin sighed in relief when he realized that Nick had parked his car near the trees the lined the driveway. He was sure that the fact that none of the lights were switched on in that area was Howie’s doing so that they could have a bit of privacy. Sending a silent thanks for his friend’s thoughtfulness Kevin walked Nick to his car.

“I know you’re upset,” Kevin said softly, “but hear me out.”

“Upset doesn’t even begin to cover how I’m feeling Kevin. I was feeling horrible, sick and tired and just wanted to come see you for awhile because I felt bad for making you worry when I didn’t return your messages. But I come here and find out that my godparents are back and you didn’t even bother to tell me. Do you even know how shocked I felt on seeing him?” Nick asked equally softly before unlocking his car.

Kevin put his arms on either side of Nick’s body and blocked him in against the car. “Please Nick, I didn’t know they were back myself!”

Nick looked at doubtfully at Kevin.

Kevin sighed, “When I told you that my relationship with them wasn’t the best I wasn’t making light of the situation Nick. They apparently wanted to surprise everyone by being back and that’s exactly what they did. Only a few people knew they were back and I wasn’t one of them. Your dad knew, I didn’t. Do you think I wasn’t shocked to suddenly see my father today? At least you got to see him in the privacy of the house where no one else was gauging your reaction. Do you want to know where I saw him?” On seeing that he had Nick’s attention Kevin continued, “At work today. During the board meeting.”

“If Stanton absolutely needs Nickolas here in order to continue then maybe we should get him here.”

Everyone turned to look at the person that had spoken. Kevin swallowed hard at the tall man standing in the doorway.

“Jerald,” Jake said with a smile and stood up to welcome him. “Welcome back.”

Jake smiled, "Yes, welcome back. When did you get back?

Jerald Richardson smiled, “Thank you. We got in early this morning. So Stanton, should we get Nicky up here so that you can proceed?”



Nick gasped softly and looked into Kevin’s eyes. Now that they were alone he could look closely at Kevin and see the stress on his face and the way he held his body. Nick bit his lip. He himself had contributed to some extent to Kevin’s stress by not getting in touch with him and letting his messages pile up and then for behaving as coolly as he had in the house with him.

“I’m sorry.”

Nick’s voice was a whisper between them. He raised his eyes and looked at Kevin, letting Kevin see that his apology was real.

Kevin shook his head and slowly tugged Nick into his arms. “I’m sorry too baby. I should have tried harder to let you know they were back. Every time I took my phone out to try, one of them was next to me and I just didn’t know what to do anymore.”

Both closed their eyes and held each other tighter. Kevin slowly nuzzled Nick’s neck while running his fingers through his soft hair. Neither realized it but this was the first time they’d held each other for no other reason but to give and receive comfort.

A few minutes later Nick moaned softly as Kevin began pressing soft kisses against his lips. He was powerless against the magic Kevin always managed to weave around his body and eagerly began kissing him back.

“We.. should stop…. You’re expected back inside Kevin.” Nick sighed as Kevin kissed up his neck while rubbing his back. Nick hadn’t even realized when Kevin’s hands had slipped under his tshirt.

“I don’t want to,” Kevin said while nuzzling Nick’s cheek.

Nick smiled and turned his head to brush his lips against Kevin’s. “But you must.”

Kevin sighed and rested his forehead against Nick’s. “I wish you were staying for dinner too.”

Nick frowned slightly, knowing he’d refused the offer of dinner out of his irritation over Kevin not informing him that Jerald was back.

“I’m sorry,” he said sadly.

Kevin rubbed his back soothingly. “It’s ok. It’s for the best anyway. You’re still in pain and being around all of them isn’t the best thing for you.”

They shared a laugh and a hug before Kevin opened the car door for Nick.

“What time’s AJ’s flight?” Kevin asked as Nick slid behind the wheel of the car.

Nick slid his seatbelt on before looking at Kevin. “Tonight, 3am.”

“Want me to come?” Kevin asked.

Nick bit his lip before shaking his head. “Actually Brian’s coming with me.”

Kevin raised his eyebrows, “My cousin Brian?”

Nick nodded. “We have to go over some stuff and it’s just been crazy trying to find the time to meet. When he heard that I am going to be at the airport he called me and we fixed up a plan to meet for coffee and then for him to come with me so we can finish as much as we have pending while waiting for Alex.”

Kevin nodded, “That makes good sense.” He winked at Nick, “My loss is his gain.”

Nick smiled and leaned through the window for another kiss. Kevin cupped the back of Nick’s head as he started to pull away and deepened the kiss.

“Can I come over tonight?” he whispered against Nick’s lips.

Nick nodded, his body aching with the need to be with Kevin. He didn’t bother to work out the details of how Kevin would come over after dinner and leave before Brian came by. He wanted to be with Kevin and that was all that mattered at the moment.
Chapter 12 by Jamie
All mistakes are ours. Please feel free to point out any errors you find so that we can correct them.

How It All Began - Twelve


“Hey… did I wake you?” Kevin asked in confusion.

“Hmmm,” Nick moaned sleepily while sitting up and stretching causing Kevin to desperately wish that he were there to nuzzle Nick at that moment when he was sleepy and in the mood to be cuddled.

“Yup… where you?” Nick asked.

Kevin looked at his watch before speaking again. “Nick? Weren’t you supposed to be meeting Brian?”

Nick rubbed his eye, “He’s not supposed to come over until later. What happened to you? I fell asleep while waiting for you,” Nick said with a pout.

Kevin sighed for what felt like the hundredth time that day. “I’m sorry, I tried but..”

Nick grinned, “Let me guess, Monique and Annaliese were happy to prolong the evening?”

Kevin smiled, “Got it in one. I was looking forward to being with you.”

Nick bit back a moan at the throaty deep voice Kevin had used.

“Kevin,” Nick sighed needily. He licked his lips, “What time did they leave?”

Kevin groaned, “Past midnight. It was quite an exasperating evening.”

“Poor baby,” Nick cooed. “Why didn’t you come over then? I would’ve put in my best effort into trying to improve your night.”

“You’re such a bloody tease,” Kevin said with a chuckle. “I took a shower after they left to calm my irritation down and now I’m talking to you. I didn’t think you’d answer, figured you’d be with Brian,” Kevin said honestly.

“I was just going to leave you a voicemail.”

Nick yawned and rested back against the pillows, “Hmm, excuse me. Gosh I’m still so tired. You’d think I’d feel more rested after having slept all day but no such luck! Brian isn’t coming over until 1. That way we have a good hour to talk before we go to the airport.”

“Um Nick? It’s almost 1:45am,” Kevin said gently.

Nick’s eyes snapped wide open before he pulled the phone away from his ear and squinted at the time it displayed. True to Kevin’s words the time displayed was 1:43am.

“What the hell?” Nick said. He was very surprised.

“Where’s Brian?”

“Call him,” Kevin suggested, “and then call me back and let me know what’s going on,” Kevin said calmly.

“Ok,” Nick agreed instantly.

He disconnected the call, found Brian’s number and called it only to find it ringing before going to voicemail. Nick decided to leave a message, “Hey Brian, its Nick. Where are you? Call me.” Nick then sent Brian a text message.

‘Hey, where are you? Call me or text back.’

Switching the light on Nick got out of bed before calling Kevin as he got dressed.

“Where is he?” Kevin asked immediately.

Nick shook his head while pulling his jeans on, “No clue. He’s not answering his cell phone.”

“What about his landline?” Kevin asked.

“He’s staying with his parents this week while his apartment is being painted. I can’t exactly call their house at this hour. I just hope everything’s ok with him.”

“I can call. Want me to?” Kevin asked.

Nick bit his lip, his worry over people finding out about his relationship with Kevin losing out over his worry about Brian.

“Yes please,” Nick said softly.

“Hold on, I’m putting you on conference as soon as someone answers,” Kevin said quickly before putting Nick’s call on hold and dialling his aunt and uncle’s landline number. When their housekeeper answered the phone Kevin added Nick into the call.

“Hello, Littrell residence, Paul speaking.”

“Hello Paul, this is Kevin Richardson speaking. I was wondering if I could speak with Brian,” Kevin said politely.

“I’m sorry Sir but Mr. Littrell is a bit tied up in a discussion with the ex Mrs. Littrell,” Paul the Littrell’s housekeeper said apologetically.

Kevin frowned, “Is he ok?”

“Yes sir. No damage that a good hot cup of tea won’t fix,” Paul said, knowing that Kevin would read between the lines and figure out that Brian had been yelling.

“Paul once Brian is available please inform him that Nickolas Carter has continued on without him and will see him later.”

“Right, I will inform him,” Paul said.

Kevin disconnected the call after saying goodbye and made sure his call with Nick was still active.

“Well there’s definitely something going on there. Paul’s never this formal while speaking to me,” Kevin said.

Nick ran his fingers through his hair, “Well I hope he’s ok.” He checked the time again before sighing, “I guess this means that I’m driving.” He quickly covered his mouth as he yawned again.

“I really don’t feel right about you driving when you’re so tired Nick. Can I come with you?” Kevin asked gently.

Nick quickly thought it through and decided that they could afford to take a chance this time. He didn’t feel right about driving when he was this tired either and didn’t have the time to wait for a cab when Kevin was only a couple of blocks away.

“Yes please,” he said softly.

Kevin smiled, “I’ll be there in 10.”

--

Brian rang the doorbell and waited. He looked at the door to Corey’s apartment and contemplated ringing that doorbell too, but if Corey didn’t know that he’d ditched Nick, he definitely wanted it to stay that way.

After a minute went by with no answer, Brian sighed and rang the bell again before starting to check the messages that had come in on his phone. He saw the door opening out of the corner of his eye and quickly looked up only to blink in surprise.

Instead of the lean, pale body of Nickolas Carter, he was staring at skin the colour of honey, arms decorated with a few tattoos that he found very sexy, a toned chest and stomach, black boxers sitting low, very low… a throat being cleared snapped Brian out of the daze he’d fallen into.

--

AJ growled as the doorbell rang again and wondered who the hell thought it was a good idea to be at someone’s house this early on a Saturday. With a groan he sat up and forced himself to get out of bed. Peering into Nick’s room while walking past it, all he saw was a small lump under the white duvet. Shaking his head he walked to the door and opened it.

AJ looked at the man in front of him… about the same height as him, blonde hair that looked to be soft to touch with a slight curl to it, blue eyes, dressed well and staring at him in a way that made AJ very aware that he only had his boxers on.

He cleared his throat and watched in amusement as the man suddenly seemed to realize what he was doing. The colour rising in his cheeks was quite cute.

--

“Umm…” Brian seemed at a slight loss as to how to react to this stranger in Nick’s apartment. He hoped he hadn’t interrupted something.

AJ figured he may as well start and lead the conversation or they’d be standing there all day.

“Hi, can I help you?”

Brian regained control of himself and didn’t react to the fact that he loved the other man’s voice.

“Hi, I’m sorry if I disturbed you. I’m looking for Nickolas,” Brian said smoothly.

AJ smiled and shook his head, “Nick’s sleeping. Need’s his beauty rest. Can I take a message? I’m AJ, his friend.”

Brian shook his head, “I’m Brian, Brian Littrell. I’ll talk to Nick tonight at the show when I see him. Thanks.”
AJ shrugged, “Alright Brian. See you later.”

With a small smile AJ shut the door and reset the alarm before walking back to the guestroom and going back to sleep.

Brian stared at the door for a minute with a stunned smile on his face before shaking his head and getting into the elevator.

--

Nick squinted at the clock and pouted when he saw that it was almost 8.30am. ‘Way too early to be up on a Saturday,’ he thought while wondering what had woken him. He propped himself up on his elbows and listened but heard nothing.

The apartment was silent. With a shrug he dropped his head back onto his pillow and snuggled under the blanket again.
He quickly opened his eyes and grabbed his phone from the pillow next to his and typed a quick message to Kevin.

‘Why’d you leave so early? Don’t forget JC’s show tonight. Matt's fetching Alex from my place.’

After sending the message he closed his eyes and fell back asleep with the phone still clutched in his hand.

--

Annaliese sat at the breakfast table with Monique, a frown on her face.

“Mom! Don’t you even care that we all have to go to Joshua’s show tonight and watch stupid Nickolas and Corey waltz down the stage? As if they haven’t gotten enough publicity already!” she said angrily.

“Darling, calm yourself! Getting worked up is going to get us nowhere,” Monique advised while picking up her cup of coffee and sitting back. “Since the attention is going to be on Nickolas tonight as he is the show stopper for Joshua, we need to make sure that you are firmly by Kevin’s side throughout the show and for the party afterwards.” She put her cup down and turned to face Annaliese, “Do you think you can manage to hold Kevin’s attention all night darling?”

“Oh yes,” Angelique purred with a smile.

--

“Is Alex not coming with us?” Corey asked softly after peering into the room where their friend lay fast asleep.

Nick shook his head while grabbing his duffel bag and following Corey through the apartment. “He’s tired. I’d rather he get a few more hours of sleep so that he can enjoy himself tonight. I’ve already asked Matthew to fetch him for the show.”

Corey looked at Nick in surprise, “Matt? Not Robert?” The wheels clicked into place in his head while he was speaking. “Monique and Annaliese?”

Nick nodded, “I just know that Annaliese will tag along with dad and Monique. There’s no way I’ll subject Alex to that. Granted he can hold his own and they would behave for the most part with dad around but I’d rather not risk it. Besides Alex will sit up front with Matthew. After the stunt that Annaliese and Trisha pulled with the dresses you know Joshua won’t allow them to sit anywhere but at the back.”

Corey grinned at the thought of Annaliese and Trisha being escorted to the back row seats before doubts began to creep in. “But with them coming with Robert,” he trailed off.

Nick shook his head as they got into the elevator, “That won’t make any difference. Once Joshua has decided something it’s rare that he changes his mind. And you heard him as well as I did Core. He has decided against using Annaliese and Trisha to represent his work again.”

The two friends exchanged a look as they got into the car waiting for them. Both wished they could be present when the happy news was broken to the modelling agents and models. Joshua Chasez was looking for two models to replace Annaliese and Trisha.

--

Brian got into the limo and smiled at Matt. “Sorry to have kept you waiting.”

Matt frowned, “What’s wrong?”

Brian shrugged, “What? Nothing.”

Matt sighed, “Why do you even bother denying these things with me? We’ve known each other since before we could talk man.” When Brian still looked hesitant he rolled his eyes.
“You may as well tell me while we’re alone. We’ll be picking Alex up in no time.”

“Alex?” Brian asked curiously.

“Nickolas and Corey’s friend. He arrived from London last night.”

“You mean AJ?” At Matt’s nod Brian continued, “I was supposed to go to the airport with Nick to fetch him.”

“What happened?” Matt asked calmly.

“Jessica showed up.”

“Damn,” Matt said annoyed.

“It gets worse. To cut an irritating story short, she accused me of being the reason as to why she’s not invited to your wedding. Apparently it’s THE event to be seen at and she doesn’t appreciate my interference since she’s trying to slowly resurrect her social life,” Brian sat back and got comfortable just as they entered the premises of Sanctuary.

Matt hit a few buttons on his cell phone and waited for his call to connect. “Alex, we’re downstairs.” He hung up the phone and looked at Brian. “I hope you don’t believe her. I’ll invite her again if you want me to.”

Brian smiled slightly and shook his head, “Thanks Matt but no. It was her choice to turn down the invitation for the wedding.” He nodded at the surprised expression on Matt’s face. “Nick told me.”

“I just don’t want you to get any grief from your family.”

“Don’t worry about it. They have finally caught on to her flaws and don’t defend her actions blindly anymore.”
He stopped talking as the door opened and a man slid in.

“Alex,” Matt’s deep voice was filled with affection. “How are you?”

AJ accepted Matt’s one armed hug with a smile, “Doing good, how are you? All set to marry our Corey?”

Matt chuckled, “I’m doing good too and yes I am very ready, ecstatic, eager…”

They shared a laugh as he trailed off before Matt turned to introduce Brian to AJ only to find Brian staring at the younger man. He cleared his throat and bit back a laugh at the way Brian seemed to snap out of whatever he’d been thinking about and notice them again.

“Brian I’d like you to meet AJ McLean. AJ, this is Brian Littrell, my closest friend and best man,” Matt said with a smile. Both men could feel the affection that Matt had for them from the tone of his voice.

“We’ve met,” AJ said casually with a smile. “Nice to see you again.”

Brian smiled back, pleased that AJ remembered him, though he’d never admit such a thing in front of Matt.

“Likewise,” Brian said softly.

Matt glanced between the two of them, taking in the manner in which they were looking at each other.

“When did you two meet?” Matt asked curiously.

Brian quickly stopped staring at AJ and focused on Matt. “Um, this morning,” he said hesitantly. “I went over to Nick’s to apologize for ditching him.”

Matt stared at Brian, “Ditching him how?”

AJ could see how embarrassed Brian was feeling and smiled. “It’s really all right Brian. Kevin came with Nick but it’s not as if Nick doesn’t do things alone late at night in England.”

Matt bit back a smile at the casual way AJ had mentioned Kevin. He knew that Brian would start thinking about why Kevin was with Nick. He looked at AJ who winked discreetly at him.

Brian allowed AJ’s words to run through his mind and thought it over. But before he could comment he felt the limo start to slow down before stopping completely. They had reached. It was showtime.

--

Kevin sat opposite his father in the limo and bit back a sigh as he continued reading and replying to emails on his phone. The three of them had only been together for close to thirty minutes and Kevin hadn’t said a word for almost 26 of those. It certainly didn’t bode well as a sign of things to come.

“You went out last night Kevin?” Jerald asked.

Nothing in his father’s tone was meant to provoke but Kevin’s senses went on high alert just to be on the safe side.

“Yes.”

Deciding not to be difficult about his personal life for once, Kevin volunteered information. “Nick’s friend AJ arrived last night. Brian was meant to accompany Nick to the airport but couldn’t so I went with him. I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of a friend out alone so late at night.”

Cara smiled, “I’m glad you did son. I don’t like the thought of Nick being out alone this way either.”

Jerald smiled at his wife, “He’s a big boy honey, not the little child who would climb into your lap and snuggle down.”

Cara nodded, “Yes, he is. But in some way he’ll always be that little boy to me. Even when I’m snuggling his children on my lap, to me he’ll be little Nicky.”

Kevin listened to their conversation with interest. He’d obviously met Nick when they’d been children, but the six year age difference between them meant that they didn’t spend much time together. The fact that Jerald adored Nick so much while Kevin and he near constantly clashed, ensured that Kevin didn’t spend much time around Nick when he was over or out with Jerald.

Kevin’s paternal grandfather and godfather had convinced Jerald and Cara to send Kevin off to an elite boarding school in Europe when he was 11. It ensured that Kevin spent most of his formative years without the stress of near constant arguments with is father.

Kevin had in some part of his mind where he retained the hurt feelings of a child, always held a spark of bitterness towards Nick. He’d been apprehensive about meeting him. But when they had met, he’d been surprised that he felt nothing towards him, except a need to get to know the young man who fascinated him so much right from the first time they’d literally bumped into each other.

“So tell me son, what do you think of out Nickolas Carter?” Jerald asked.

Kevin snapped out of his thoughts and glanced at his mother before looking straight at Jerald. “He’s a nice guy, hard worker, intelligent and a good friend.”

The serious look on his face and the firm tone of his voice challenged Jerald to continue with this topic. Thankfully calm senses prevailed and Cara put her hand on Jerald’s arm. Jerald obeyed his wife’s silent request while pondering his son’s words.

--

Kevin sighed in relief when he spotted Matt, Alex and Brian. After posing for a few pictures with his parents he quickly made his escape and went to his friends. He smiled at Robert who had been coming towards him.

Robert smiled back at him, “Surviving son?” he asked with a quick look at Jerald.

Kevin sighed and shrugged, “Giving it my best shot.”

They shared a laugh before going their own way.

--

Robert looked at Jerald and Cara. “What’d he do?” he asked Cara while tilting his head in Jerald’s direction.

Cara laughed while Jerald started to protest. “He started to annoy our son again,” she said with a roll of her eyes.

“Why?” Robert sighed, “Why don’t you ease up and get to know him Jer? He’s a wonderful young man.”

Jerald sighed, “I know, I know. I shall try harder. It’s just troubling that it’s so easy for me to get along with Nicky and Corey but so difficult to just hold a short conversation with my son.”

Robert patted Jerald’s back, “Do try harder,” he said gently. “You don’t want to drive him away.”

Jerald nodded, knowing that Cara and Robert were absolutely right.

--

Nick sat still as a stylist ran her hands through his hair and gelled it under Joshua’s watchful eye.

Just then one of Joshua’s assistants came up him in a state of panic. “JC! Mrs. Monique Carter is waiting to be seated with Annaliese and Trisha. Their seats are not together. What should I do?”

Joshua exchanged a look with Nick before turning to the young woman. “Alice please calm down. Seat their according to the list I gave you. Their seats not being together is not our problem. If they create a fuss or have a problem with it then kindly invite to leave.”

When she still looked unsure about it Joshua shook his head. “Hang on, take Ron with you. He’ll handle it if there’s any problem.”

Joshua called his personal assistant over and explained the situation to him before asking him to accompany Alice out there.
Nick bit the inside of his cheek to keep the smile off his face. He knew he was being childish but he wished he could get to see the look on their faces at being asked to sit at the back while most of their colleagues sat in front of them. He smiled freely at Corey as he stood up to allow him to take his place.
--
Kevin took his seat beside Matt with a grateful sigh.

Matt raised his eyebrows, “What’s up?”

Kevin shook his head, “Just spent some quality time with my father,” he said. H managed to keep the sarcasm out of his voice since there were media people all around.

Matt nodded in understanding. He had heard enough about Kevin and Jerald’s relationship from Brian to know how things were between them.

Kevin leaned past Matt to greet his cousin and AJ. “Are you feeling better now AJ?”

AJ smiled and nodded, “Oh yeah. I slept until I absolutely had to wake up to get ready. I wanted to be well rested so that I could enjoy watching Nick and Corey strut their stuff.”

The four men shared a laugh as the lights began to slowly dim down. They heard loud whispers from the back. When they turned around all they saw were some people being lead away by security and Joshua’s assistants. They exchanged a look before focusing on the stage as the lights were turned off completely and the stage lit up as music began playing. Models began making their way out onto the runway. The show had begun.

--

As expected, the finale models garnered the longest and loudest applause. Joshua accompanied all of his models out onto the runway before taking his walk down it with Lia, Corey, Alex and Nick.

As soon as they were backstage, Joshua was whisked away to have a word with reporters while the four showstoppers were escorted to a room where they could change.

--

Monique applauded along with everyone else while trying not to let on how truly furious she was at the thought of her daughter having to go through the indignity of having to sit among the riff raff at the back while her stepson was being showered with praise. If her self preservation instincts weren’t so high she would have told Jerald Richardson to shut up rather than hear one more word about how stunning his little Nicky looked.

She bit back a curse when Annaliese and Trisha joined them after the show. ‘Not now girls, please not now. Just behave yourselves for a little while longer, then get Nickolas alone and claw away at him while chipping at Corey’s self confidence. But behave in front of the Richardson’s,’ Monique thought.

--

Joshua watched as Annaliese and Trisha joined the powerful group made up of the Littrell’s, Carter’s and Richardson’s. It was a pity he couldn’t go and join them until Nick and Corey were ready. He signalled one of his people to be around the group as he turned away to finish getting Lia ready.

--

Nick sighed in relief as he scrubbed off the last of the bronzer that had been applied to his face so that the light caught his cheekbone ‘just so’. He knew the makeup artists had meant well when they’d tried to educate him about the products they were using on him, but he just really didn’t care. He was training to work in a business environment. His clients and colleagues wouldn’t care how nice he looked if he didn’t keep up with his work. And as long as he did well, they wouldn’t care how he looked as long as he was presentable.

Rolling his eyes he turned off the water and began drying his face with a soft towel.

--

Corey looked around for Nick before spotting him standing by a window.

Nick saw Corey’s reflection in the window and turned around. “Hey. Ready to go out there and face the crowd for awhile?”

Corey nodded before something caught his attention. “Just awhile?”

Nick nodded and winked at Corey, “Yup.”

--

Trisha and Annaliese were very aware of the look that Monique had given them and were on their best behaviour. They greeted everyone in a polite manner and were friendly with Brian, Matt and Kevin. They were polite when introduced to AJ, who was equally polite in return. All in all, the last ten minutes or so had made them feel that the evening had finally started to move in their favour. The arrival of Nickolas and Corey however, threatened to ruin that.

--

Jerald and Robert were standing together for a picture with Kevin when the photographers went wild and began shouting for Nick to join them.

Nick confidently walked past Monique, Annaliese and Trisha and took his place between Kevin and Jerald. After a few pictures were taken the photographers urged Kevin and Nick to allow them to take a few pictures of them alone together.

They had the perfect taglines – ‘the future of Carter-Richardson’, ‘the heirs of Carter-Richardson.’

Various things ran through the minds of the people watching Kevin and Nick standing together. Annaliese was seething as Kevin casually slid his arm around Nick’s waist.

Jerald and Robert were smiling in delight over how perfect their children looked together.

Cara sent up a quick prayer that they weren’t making a big mistake by deciding to try and coax their children together.
She loved her son and wanted to see him happy and settled but Nick was also her own and she wanted him to be happy too.

Corey squeezed Matt’s hand and caressed his fingers. Matt tightened his arm around Corey’s waist and kissed his soft hair, his eyes focused on Monique and Annaliese’s reaction to Nick and Kevin standing together along with the amount of public approval that they were garnering.

Brian missed other people’s reactions as his attention was quite firmly focussed on AJ.

AJ had been cataloguing a few people’s reactions all evening and had figured out how to handle them. He wouldn’t allow anyone to hurt his friend’s emotions if it was in his power to stop it from happening.

--

“What’re you doing?” Nick whispered as his lover’s arm tightened around, making him yearn to lean into him.

“Resisting the urge to yank you into my arms and ravish you. Your plump, pink lips have been driving me crazy all evening,” Kevin whispered back causing Nick to blush which a lot of photographers managed to capture.

--

Matt brushed his lips against Corey’s. “Congratulations love. You were brilliant.”

Corey laughed and pressed Matt’s hand against his heart, “My heart is still pounding away. I think it’ll stay this way until we’re married!”

“It’ll have to be a little longer Core or I’d be very disappointed in Matt,” AJ said casually.

“Why?” Corey asked before groaning, knowing he’d walked right into that one.

“Because he needs to make your heart rate pound on your wedding night kiddo,” AJ drawled with a smirk.

Brian smiled as Corey blushed while his level of interest in AJ rose higher as it had been doing all evening.

Matt laughed at the blush spreading across Corey’s cheeks. He was pleased that Corey hadn’t bothered to deny that.

“Aww sweet wittle Corey is all blushy!”

Corey rolled his eyes at the gleeful voice that drew their group’s attention.

Kevin threw caution to the wind and placed his hand on Nick’s back as they joined the group. Annaliese dug her nails into her palm when she saw how close Nick was standing to Kevin.

“Damn bitch!” she hissed to Trisha who was standing next to her.

Trisha wisely kept quiet and did not point out that Kevin had moved closer to Nick and not the other way around.

As Annaliese hissed out one obscenity after another at Nick, she failed to notice the two women standing behind them.

The older of the two shook her head and walked away. It was safe to say that Mrs. Cara Richardson was not very impressed with the young woman who was angling to be Mrs. Kevin Richardson.

“Are we not trying to behave anymore?” Nick asked Kevin softly.

Kevin smirked, “No. I’ve had enough of behaving myself. Tonight’s the night Nick.”

“But Kevin…,” Nick started to say in confusion.

“Shh… I will keep the promise I made to you Nick. No PDA’s. We’re just two friends spending time together in a group. But tomorrow’s the day and I hope you’re ready. One way or another everything will be out in the open to our families,” Kevin said firmly.

Green eyes met blue and words and emotions passed silently between them.

“Now sweetheart you’d better move a little away from me before I kiss you,” Kevin said sweetly.

Nick lowered his eyes shyly and tried to move away but Kevin’s strong arm around him made him stop.

“You need to let go of me so that I can move,” Nick whispered.

Kevin tightened his arm around Nick’s waist before letting go of him and watching as he went and stood by a smiling AJ.

Kevin, Matt, AJ, Corey and Nick exchanged a quick look. Their future had been put into motion. All they could do now was hope that the road ahead of them wasn’t paved with uneven stones.

--

As they proceeded to leave, photographers outside got excited and began requesting for Robert and Jerald to pose together with their heirs again. Jerald smiled and put his arm around Nick while Robert beckoned Kevin over to stand next to him.

When their cars arrived, Robert and Jerald took their leave while the reporters pleaded with Kevin and Nick to hang back for a moment.

They exchanged a look before closing the distance between them and smiling at the cameras. Minutes later Kevin escorted Nick into a limo and turned to AJ only to see Brian standing close behind him. His eyes shined with amusement at the interested look in his cousin’s eyes. Brian was going to be in for an interesting time.

--

“What’s the plan now?” AJ asked.

“My house,” Matt said while opening a bottle of water and passing it to Nick.

“Will your parents be there?” AJ asked.

Matt nodded, “Yeah probably,” he said, a little confused as to why AJ would ask.

Nick chuckled, “He wants to smoke but won’t if your parents are home.”

Matt laughed, “Well they won’t mind.”

AJ just shook his head.

“You could smoke here,” Brian suggested.

“No no, I make it a point to never expose non smokers to second hand smoke. It’s not right.” He sighed, “I’ll go a little longer without one I guess.”

Kevin discreetly nudged Nick and tilted his head in AJ and Brian’s direction. As soon as Nick looked in their direction he immediately noticed the way Brian was eyeing AJ. He smiled, this was something that he definitely hadn’t anticipated and would be interested in seeing how it progressed.
Chapter 13 by Jamie
Author's Notes:
This chapter is not betaed. Any mistakes are CJ and mine.
Matt smiled as he looked at Corey when they got out of the car and found him staring at his house. He wrapped his arm around Corey’s waist and kissed his ear lightly.


“Does it feel like yours yet?”


Corey smiled and leaned against the taller man, “In a way I know you are mine so all your things are mine too. But I don’t think I’ll look at this house as mine until I see it after we’re married.”


Matt pressed his lips lightly against Corey’s while the rest of their friends got out of the car and looked at them with a smile.


-x-


Corey looked up from where he'd been busy texting away on his phone to find AJ and Nick looking at him with indulgent smiles on their faces.


"What?" he asked with a confused smile.


"Only a few more days and you'll be here for always," AJ said.


Corey smiled and nodded, "I'm so nervous but also so happy. This feels so right," he said as he looked out at the moonlight dancing across the pool.


"Have you seen your room here yet?" Nick asked curiously.


Corey shook his head, "Matt asked me if I wanted to see it or be surprised. I decided to let it be a surprise."


Nick could see Corey gearing up to ask AJ something and quickly put his hand on Corey's arm and squeezed slightly to keep him quiet. Corey looked between Nick and AJ and decided to heed his friend's advice and not say anything.


AJ shot Nick a look of thanks as they went with Corey to the bar.


-x-


Kevin narrowed his eyes at Brian in irritation which he did not notice as he was busy staring at AJ. Kevin knew that AJ wouldn’t mind being stared at but he wished his cousin wasn’t acting like such an idiot. A fascinated idiot, but one all the same.


He could well understand what was so fascinating about the young man. Skin that had a mocha tint to it, eyes so deep and dark they drew you in, tattoo’s running up his arm that added to the air of excitement around him and tempted one to touch and caress him.


When AJ excused himself from the room so that he could get his phone from Nick who was in the kitchen, Kevin sighed in relief.


He turned to Brian and raised his eyebrow, “What the hell was that?” he asked coolly.


Brian looked surprised, “What do you mean?” he asked in surprise.


“You… staring at AJ… stalking him with your eyes!” Kevin said slowly as if he were talking to an idiot which he truly believed his cousin had turned into.


“AJ?” Brian asked, still trying to come to terms with the fact that he had been staring at the other man.


“Alexander James,” Kevin said impatiently.


“How do you know?” Brian asked, his curiosity increasing by the second.


“Don’t try and change the subject Bri and quit making him uncomfortable! Stop staring at him as if you want to devour him.”


“He’s a beta?” Brian asked astonished.


Kevin rolled his eyes, “I know you’ve always had a preference for women but have you ever found yourself attracted to an alpha?” Kevin asked sarcastically.


“No! It’s just, he’s so…” Brian sighed. “Something about him draws me in.”


“Well I don’t think making him uncomfortable is the right way to go about this situation,” Kevin said gently. “Don’t take the chance that you might ruin his friend’s wedding for him Bri. If you aren’t sure about what you want, leave him alone.”


Brian was about to ask Kevin for advice on how he could go about things when Matt’s entrance caused their conversation to come to an end.


-x-


A couple of hours later Brian’s curiosity in AJ had been steadily increasing. He didn’t get the opportunity to engage him in conversation because AJ turned out to be very popular with Matt and his friends. So he stood by with AJ always in his peripheral vision and watched as the gorgeous young man enjoyed himself.


x-


AJ nodded in thanks as Kevin poured him half a glass of wine and was surprised to see him pour another half glass which he handed over to Corey. He saw that Nick had set aside the one glass that he’d been working on all evening and was savouring a latte at the moment.


Kevin sat down next to hi, “Any plans for tomorrow?”


AJ shook his head, “Nick’s going into work so I think I’ll be with Corey for most of the day unless we end up sleeping a good portion of it away. Sleep seems like a more viable option right now,” he said while tilting his head in Corey’s direction.


Kevin turned slightly and smiled at the way Corey was animatedly talking to some of Matt’s friends. ‘The kid’s definitely not sober, he’s had just enough to relax him into opening up,’ Kevin thought with.


The two friends shared a laugh as they remembered the last time both of them had sat down to drink together on Kevin’s last trip to London before Nick’s summer break had begun.


-x-


Brian watched Kevin and AJ carefully and wondered about their effortless interaction with each other. Questions filled his mind as to whether there was something going on between them.


-x-


A short while later Matt’s guests had left and it was just the six of them again. AJ raised his eyebrows at the way a glass and a half of wine had mellowed Corey enough that he was leaning comfortably against Matt.


“Is the little one planning to come home with us or hang around?” AJ asked casually.


Corey did indeed look very young and innocent the way he was snuggled with his head under Matt’s chin.


Matt smiled and nuzzled Corey’s hair. “Time to go home baby,” he said tenderly.


Corey sighed tiredly and tightened his arms around Matt. “You coming to drop me?” he asked softly.


Matt stroked Corey’s back, “Nick and AJ will drop you home. But I will come with you if you want me to love.”


“I’ll go with Nicky and Alex,” Corey said with a slight pout.


“It’s not long now before you’ll be with me everynight baby,” Matt said softly to Corey.


Corey blushed as he pressed his face against Matt’s neck where he pressed a soft kiss.


“You’re making it harder and harder to let you go Core,” Matt said.


Corey smiled, “I love you Matt.”


Matt smiled and tightened his arms around Corey, “And I love you my Corey.”


Corey grinned and moved away from his fiancÚ, “Goodnight.”


Matt walked Corey to Brian’s car, “Goodnight darling.”


“Goodnight,” Corey said again before brushing his lips against Matt’s.


Nick and Kevin exchanged a rueful smile at being unable to say goodnight the way they wanted to before Nick got into Brian’s car.


-x-


Corey smiled as he woke up, ‘Two more days until we leave for my wedding,’ he thought. He hugged himself before getting out of bed to start his day.


-x-


Kevin trailed his hand up and down Nick’s thigh causing Nick to tighten his hand on the steering wheel. He chanced a quick glance at Kevin and rolled his eyes at the smirk on his face.


“Jerk,” he said softly causing Kevin to chuckle and squeeze his thigh.


“When’re you going to speak to Robert?” Kevin asked.


Nick smiled, he was happy that the day he was going to be honest with his father had finally arrived. “Around four as of now. Otherwise at the end of the day.”


“What time are you meeting Jerald?” Nick asked carefully.


Kevin sighed slightly, “He’s given me an appointment for 4.30 pm.”


Nick could hear that his lover wasn’t happy about having to take an appointment to meet his father. But it was the safest place for them to meet since Kevin had been avoiding his father at home whenever he could.


Nick slipped his hand over Kevin’s and squeezed his hand. “It’ll get better Kevin. Just… try and give him a chance.”


Kevin nodded, “Mom, Howie, Brian, Matt, Robert all keep saying the same thing too.”


Nick pulled into his parking spot and turned to look at Kevin. “Don’t take this the wrong way Kevin but we know him better than you do so you should try and take our words to heart.”


Kevin knew that Nick was being sincere and nodded his head. He could trust Nick if for no other reason than because he knew that Jerald adored Nick.


-x-


Kevin nodded at people in the lobby as he entered the elevator before he began checking the new messages that had come in on his phone in the last half an hour. He didn’t react to the conversation taking place between the two men in front of him but was very aware of it.


Nick’s boss was talking softly to Nick but because they were standing in front of him he could hear every word being said.


“How upset did he get?” Nick asked.


“A fair bit. I’m sure stewing over it all weekend hasn’t/will not have helped his mood any,” Jake said.


On hearing that Nick sighed and muttered, “That’s just great.”


“No one likes to be embarrassed in front of their seniors, co-workers and juniors Nick especially when they know they are at fault and can’t talk or blame their way out of it. Just steer clear of him for a few days and let me handle it,” Nick’s Jake said patiently.


Nick nodded, knowing there was nothing else he could do if he wanted to avoid an unpleasant encounter with Maurice Stanton.


Kevin narrowed his eyes before nodding, confident in Jake Orrin’s ability to handle Stanton.


-x-


Nick knocked on his father’s office door and entered when he was given permission to do so. He walked in with a smile which turned into one of surprise when he saw his godfather and Kevin in the office.


“This is a surprise. Do you want me to come back dad?” Nick asked.


“No, no, come in Nicky,” Robert said.


“Have a seat kiddo,” Jerald said with a smile.


Nick exchanged a look with Kevin while sitting down, “Is everything alright?” he asked.


“Nothing’s wrong Nicky. We just wanted to have a word with both of you. It’s been a busy time and talking to you both together is the simplest thing to do,” Jerald said.


Both the younger men nodded, still confused as to what their fathers wanted to talk to both of them about.


“I would’ve preferred to discuss this with you alone first but well let’s just get to it,” Robert said.


Kevin and Nick exchanged a look, neither one sure which of them Robert was talking to.


Robert looked at Jerald before speaking, “Both of you are well aware that our families go back a long way. Your great grandparents were friends and started this company together, your grandfather, our fathers continued it on before passing it onto us.” He paused and smiled at Jerald, “Jer and I have been friends from the time we were babies. I can honestly say that there hasn’t been any major event in my life that he hasn’t been there for. When you were born Nicky there wasn’t any contest that Jerald would be a big part of your life.”


Kevin you’ve always been more comfortable with Rob than with me ever since you were a teenager and I can’t say that I blame you. I am very happy to see the way you and Rob have bonded while I have been away,” Jerald said sincerely.


There was a moment of silence before Robert started speaking again, “A thought came to us awhile ago that maybe we could play a different part in your lives now.”
He paused for a moment, hoping that their children didn’t react negatively to what he was about to say.


Nick smiled encouragingly at his father while Kevin kept his expression neutral. He already had an inkling as to where this conversation was heading and was curious as to what Nick’s reaction would be.


“We would like the two of you to consider each other as a match. For marriage,” he added when Nick looked at him in confusion.


“You want us to get married?” Nick asked quickly.


“We want you to consider it. Consider Kevin while he considers you,” Jerald said.


“Spend time together and see if marriage is something that could be a possibility,” Robert explained to his son gently.


Nick looked at Kevin only to find his intense green eyed gaze already on him. He knew that they should tell their fathers what they’d come to say and not take advantage of the opportunity that had been presented to them to date freely.


“I have to confess,” Kevin said, “that the reason I wanted to meet with you today was to let you know that I am dating someone and will be attending Matthew and Corey’s wedding with them as my date.”


Nick bit his lip to hold back nervous laughter at the look on Jerald and Robert’s faces.


Jerald took a quick look at Nick before focusing his attention on hi son. “I wasn’t aware that you were dating someone. It must be serious if you’re willing to bring them to the wedding.”


Kevin nodded, “It’s serious enough that I’m ready to date publicly. As for you not being aware of my relationship, I haven’t exactly seen much of you while I’ve been here,” he said calmly.


Robert could see their conversation quickly turning into a battleground between father and son and sought to diffuse the situation. “I apologize Kevin, Nick,” he said while looking at them. “Kevin I look forward to meeting the person who has captured your heart,” he said with a genuine smile.


After Robert nudged him slightly Jerald said, “Yes, I look forward to that too,” he said, though according to him no one would suit Kevin as much as his Nicky would.


“I will introduce you to the person in my life soon,” Kevin said as he stood up.


Nick quickly stood up with him, “Don’t be a jerk,” he said softly.


Robert and Jerald looked on in surprised silence as Nick and Kevin faced each other. Robert wanted to reprimand Nick for the way he'd spoken to Kevin but something about their body language made him stay silent.


Kevin sighed, “Fine!” He turned to Jerald and Robert, “I can introduce you to him right now if you’d like.”


The corner of Kevin’s lips turned up in amusement at Jerald’s half hearted nod and Robert’s more enthusiastic one. He held his hand out to Nick and waited until Nick moved closer to him before wrapping his arm around Nick’s waist.


“Robert, dad, you both already know him but I’ll just introduce him again. Nick Carter, my boyfriend,” he said lightly.


“Hi,” Nick said innocently, laughing as the look on their faces.


“When did this happen?” Jerald asked once he’d gotten over his surprise.


“We met in London in Feb and eventually started dating,” Nick said with a shy smile.


“In London? Then why didn’t you say anything when you met him that night at the party?” Robert questioned.


“We weren’t ready to. And I wanted to tell you first before letting other people know. Besides we only recently decided that we’re serious enough about each other to date exclusively and publicly.”


Nick let out a sigh of relief when his father and godfather both smiled at him. He looked at Kevin who squeezed his waist gently. They had overcome one hurdle together.


Kevin could see the relief Nick felt at having the acceptance of his father and godfather. Kevin on his part hadn’t really cared much what his own father thought but felt a lot of respect for Robert and was glad that he had reacted well to the fact that they had been dating for awhile.


For tonight they wanted to enjoy their past and how they came together while concentrating on their present.


Whatever their future brought them, one thing was for certain; in the near future their lives would get even more entwined than it already was. Neither one could honestly say that they weren’t looking forward to it.
End Notes:
Only one more chapter to go which will mainly deal
with Matt and Corey's wedding before we move onto
the next part of the story.

I'm sorry about the long wait between chapters. I'm
in between chemo sessions and my concentration is
usually shot to hell. The next chapter is already
done, just a few more paragraphs have to be put in
so if that ends up taking me time then CJ will split
the chapter into two parts and we'll at least post what's done.

Thanks for the continued support!
Chapter 14 by Jamie
Author's Notes:
Not beta read. All mistakes are mine and CJ's. Please feel free to point them out so that we may correct them.
Kevin and Nick sat down opposite Robert and Cara. Jerald joined them a minute later. Kevin resisted the urge to roll his eyes when he saw that his father still looked surprised over the fact that they were dating.

‘Probably shocked that his perfect Nicky is with me,” he thought, though he couldn’t deny, even in his head that he found Nick pretty perfect.

“We didn’t mean to keep us a secret but things have been kinda crazy around here,” Nick suddenly said apologetically to break the silence that had fallen over them. A silence that Kevin wasn’t doing much to elevate nor did Nick expect him to.

Cara didn’t know if it was her son’s influence or if Nick was just maturing but if he’d had to say those words a couple of months ago he would’ve been nervous. There was no hint of nerves now in Nick’s words or behaviour. He spoke like a confident but respectful young man who was sure about what he’d done.

“Well I for one am very happy to hear about this. You two look very sweet together,” she said with a smile.

Nick and Kevin exchanged a look at being called sweet but smiled and thanked her all the same.

Kevin looked expectantly at Robert and his father. “I hope our revelation doesn’t change anything and we will still have the time to figure out what we want?”

Robert nodded, “Of course. There’s no rush.” He smiled at both of them, “Nicky is this what you wanted to tell me when you had come over for dinner?” he asked, knowing Nick would know which night he was talking about since his son had only come over to his house twice the entire time he had been home for the summer.

Nick nodded, “Yes. I had planned to tell you before dinner but then it didn’t work out. And after listening to Annaliese’s fiction about how close she imagined herself and Kevin to be, well I didn’t want to embarrass her by saying anything.” He tactfully didn’t mention that Monique had also been telling tales about Annaliese and Kevin.

Robert smiled at the restraint his son showed by not saying anything about Monique. ‘My child is a wonderful young man,’ he thought proudly.

Nick smiled back before looking at Jerald. Jerald shook his head and smiled. “You’ve chosen well…”

Kevin calmly met his father’s eyes while biting back a sigh.

“…Nick,” Jerald said sincerely.

Years of training ensured that the surprise Kevin felt wasn’t displayed on his face for all to see. He closed his eyes for a moment. He opened them and looked at his father only to find him firmly focused on Nick.

“Kevin is a fine young man and I hope you two are very happy together.”

Nick smiled happily at his godfather. “Thank you!”

Suddenly those brilliant blue eyes caught his own. Kevin’s breath caught at being the focus of such happiness. He’d hardly gotten over it before Nick moved closer to him and wrapped his arms around him. Kevin knew how nervous Nick had been over telling their parents about their relationship and could understand his emotions. He held his lover securely in his arms and kissed the side of his head.

“It’s done Nick, it’s done,” he said softly to him while rubbing his back.

A little while later…

Kevin entered the living room and smiled slightly at Robert and his parents while walking over to Nick. They smiled at each other, very aware of the fact that their parents were observing them.

Kevin slid his arm around Nick’s waist and lowered his head. Nick smiled in return and lifted his head up to brush his lips against Kevin’s.

“Hey,” Kevin said softly.

“Hey,” Nick whispered, his heart thudding rapidly due to nerves.

“Relax,” Kevin said gently.

**

Robert and Jerald watched Kevin and Nick interacting together. There was smoothness in their body language that spoke truer than words could.

“They didn’t lie, they have been together for sometime,” Jerald said as he watched Kevin wrap his arms around Nick from behind and the way Nick comfortably leaned back into him.

Robert calmly sipped his drink and continued observing them. “I didn’t for one moment think that they would lie to us.”

The two friends looked at each other before Jerald sighed and looked away. “I have to admit that I was sure about Nicky but not Kevin. From the way I have always clashed with him, I didn’t think he would ever voluntarily open up about his personal life to me.”

Jerald looked at Robert, “You know I love Nicky like my own. Is my son the right choice for him?”

Robert looked at Jerald in surprise. “Jerry! We had hoped they would get together. Just because they have found each other on their own doesn’t mean you should question this. Look at them,” he said firmly and turned to look at the young couple who were laughing about something, their body language open and happy. “They have found their way to each other, let them take it from here on, on their own. If it’s meant to be, it will happen. If not, then I hope they will always remain friends. They can only benefit from having the other in their life.”

Jerald couldn’t help but smile at the happy smile on his precious godson’s face. He discreetly crossed his fingers and hoped for the best for both his kids.

**

“We’re the topic of conversation,” Nick commented while tilting his head unobtrusively in Robert and Jerald’s direction.

Kevin tightened his arms around Nick’s waist, “Do you care?” he asked.

Nick leaned back against his boyfriend’s chest and sighed contently. “Nope.”

“You staying over tonight?” Kevin asked.

Nick laughed in surprise, “No way!”

Kevin smiled at Nick’s laughter. “Can I come over tonight?” he asked softly, his fingers caressing Nick’s side.

Nick licked his lips, “They’ll know.”

Kevin resisted the urge to turn Nick around to face him, knowing that his young lover might find it easier to have this conversation without having to make eye contact with him. “Are you afraid of them finding out we’re lovers?” he asked gently.

Nick turned around to face Kevin, “I’m not ashamed of our relationship. I just… don’t know what to say if they ask. What if they feel it’s ok to push us because we’re sleeping together?”

“You’re very nervous at the thought of marriage,” Kevin commented gently.

“It terrifies me. I’m not at all ready. I feel I’m too young. I mean yeah it’s doing wonders for Corey but…,” he trailed off and shrugged helplessly.

“But you’re both different people. What works positively for him may not for you. He’s gaining independence with marriage while you might have to lose out on your hard-won independence with marriage,” Kevin said. He cupped Nick’s cheek, “Alright, you set the pace Nick. You have my word that I’ll support you in however you want things to progress.”

Nick smiled one of his smiles that never failed to take Kevin’s breath away before he flung himself into Kevin’s arms. Kevin laughed in surprise while wrapping his arms around Nick.

-x-

Cara smiled as she walked into the room and heard Kevin’s laughter. “Now that is a happy sound.”

Robert returned her smile. “Yes it is.”

Jerald wrapped his arm around his wife’s waist. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him so happy, so open. I hope it continues forever.”

-x-

“So, how did you two meet?” Cara asked as she sat back with a cup of coffee.

She had been watching them closely and what she’d discovered made her wonder whether they were aware of how often they silently communicated with each other.

Robert hid his smile behind his cup at the way Nick looked at Kevin and widened his eyes before fluttering his lashes gently. He didn’t know if his son did it deliberately or if it was an unconscious gesture but he had yet to meet a person who could refuse him what he wanted when he did that.

Kevin refrained from rolling his eyes at Nick and cursed himself for his inability to resist the sparkling blue eyes. “We ran into each other, literally, in London.”

Kevin kept his voice as dry as possible. He looked at Nick and held back a smile at Nick’s wide eyed pleading look. ‘Yes sweetheart, I know how to press your buttons too,’ he thought.

Nick rolled his eyes and threw his hands up. “Fine! One of these days I will win Kevin. You mark my words!” he said while looking at Kevin with a slight pout.

Kevin smiled, “Duly noted,” he said sweetly.

Nick pressed his lips together to keep from smiling and turned to look at Cara, Jerald and his father, only to find them watching him with amused smiles on their faces.

“Some friends and I hosted a S.A.D. party a couple of months ago and that’s where we met. Kevin was staying at the same hotel and helped me out of an uncomfortable situation. We… started to get to know each other,” he said a little shyly.

“A sad party?” Cara asked in confusion.

Nick grinned, “Not sad as in happy sad, S.A.D… Singles Awareness Day.”

Cara laughed and shook her head.

Nick shook his head when he saw that they were curious to know more. “Kevin asked me out whenever he wants in town and we kept in touch when he wasn’t. This is all I’m prepared to share at the moment.”

“When will you be ready to share more?” Cara asked while narrowing her eyes at her godson.

Nick shrugged and smiled at Kevin, “When I’m ready to. Or,” he paused and looked at Cara, “when I come up with something suitable that you can bribe me with.”

Kevin, Jerald and Robert shared a laugh at the look on Cara’s face.

“He’s got you there,” Robert said with a shake of his head.

“Brat!” Cara said with a laugh.

“And proud of it,” Nick said with a unrepentant grin.

Kevin squeezed Nick’s thigh, “We should get going. We’ve left Alex alone long enough don’t you think?”

Nick’s expression didn’t waver for even a second as he agreed with Kevin’s lie.. “You’re right.” He smiled at their parents, “We’ll see you guys in Bali if not before yeah?”

After a quick round of goodbyes Kevin led Nick to the front door.

“Should we expect you back tonight Kevin?”

They froze before Kevin turned his head and calmly met green eyes similar to his own.

“I’m not sure dad. Don’t wait up,” he said while turning back and opening the door.

Kevin could feel how rigidly Nick held himself while Nick could feel the tension emanating from Kevin.

As soon as they were in the car Nick buried his face in his hands. “Oh my god! I cannot believe he asked that,” he mumbled.

He was scared to lift his head and look at Kevin, sure that his boyfriend would be furious. Which was why he was surprised to hear Kevin laughing. He sighed as Kevin began to stroke his back.

“He was just being himself. I think he meant to tease you,” Kevin said while driving out of the gate.

“Well it worked,” Nick said with a pout.


There was a comfortable silence between them for a few minutes before Kevin rested his hand on Nick’s thigh.

“So? What have you decided about dad’s question?” Kevin asked.

Nick could feel his cheeks heating up and hoped that Kevin wouldn’t notice. He slid his hand over Kevin’s and squeezed slightly.

“You’re going to be getting home quite late tonight,” he said softly.

Their eyes met and Kevin nodded before he entwined their fingers together. He said was satisfied with how his life was going.

-x-

Kevin sighed a couple of hours later as Nick’s fingers ran through his hair. He gently bit down on the skin he had been nibbling on and was rewarded by a soft moan from Nick.

“Hmmmm Kev,” Nick slid his arms around Kevin’s back as Kevin pressed him against the wall.

“Don’t go,” he hissed softly as Kevin spread Nick’s open shirt apart and ran his fingers over his hot skin.

Kevin groaned and captured Nick’s lips in a deep kiss, their tongues duelling for control. “I don’t want to baby.”

They both knew that he had to though, which is why they’d left the bed and made their way to the door. It was as far as they’d gotten because their goodbyes had taken up the last 10 minutes.

Kevin broke their kiss and bit back a groan as he watched Nick lick his swollen lips. He gently pressed his fingers against Nick’s lips when the younger man tried to claim another kiss.

“Time for me to go,” Kevin said softly.

His eyes darkened as he felt Nick kissing his fingers. He moved his hand away and pressed a swift kiss to Nick’s lips.

Kevin stepped out into the hallway and rolled his eyes when he saw Matthew leaving Corey’s apartment. The two friends shared a laugh as they stood waiting for the elevator.

-x-

A couple of hours later…

Corey flinched away from an overzealous photographer. He tried to reach Matt and tried not to let on how closed in he felt by the paparazzi as they shouted questions out at him.

He sighed in relief when a strong arm went around his shoulders and a voice he recognized spoke into his ear. “I got you kid, just walk straight ahead.”

Corey felt himself calming down and allowed Kevin to shield him against the photographers.

Nick joined them and stayed on Corey’s other side. Corey felt Kevin’s arm shifting from his back to Nick’s so that both of them were close to the older man. He held back a smile at the subtle way Kevin was touching Nick and knew that the photographers behind them had a clear view of it.

“Well played,” he murmured to Kevin as they entered the airport and security held the photographers back.

Kevin winked at him in response.

Corey was incredibly honoured that Kevin and Nick were ready to open themselves up to perusal from the paparazzi just so that the press had something other than his wedding to talk about. He thought back to the night before…

“But Kevin,” Corey paced back and forth in front of the couch Nick and Kevin were sitting on, “you guys shouldn’t have to go expose yourself to those vultures for us in this manner. They’ll be SO intrusive!”

Nick sighed and rubbed his face, “Core will you please just sit down! I know you like to pace when you’re stressed but you’re giving me a headache!”

Corey pouted slightly before folding his arms across his chest and plopping down on floor next to the chair Matt was seated on.

Nick smiled slightly as Matt began stroking Corey’s hair, “Core… they will find out either way. The only reason we didn’t want anyone finding out before now is cause I wanted dad, Jer and Cara to know first. Now it doesn’t matter if the whole world knows.”

Kevin leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, his attention focused on Corey, “If Nick and my relationship helps take some off the attention off of your wedding then its ok with me. You just have to say the word and I’ll have the press’s attention divided between you guys and us.”

Corey bit his lip and looked from Kevin to Nick, sincerity and concern for him shining in both their eyes before raising his head to look at Matt.

Matt gently slid his fingers back through Corey’s hair before cupping the back of his head. “Our friends want to do something incredible for us baby.”

Corey smiled at him before turning to look at AJ who nodded his head in support. Corey nodded at Nick and Kevin, “Thank you.”

Nick stretched out his hand to his best friend who was already leaning forward. They squeezed the other’s hand before sitting back with smiles.

Brian who was still getting over his surprise at finding out that his cousin was dating Nick Carter turned his head slightly and found watchful brown eyes on him. He smiled tentatively and sighed in relief when AJ smiled back at him.


Kevin got them into the airport where Matt immediately ran his eyes over Corey to make sure he was ok.

He ran his hand gently up and down Corey’s side before sliding his fingers through Corey’s soft hair as the young man leaned against him.

“All ok babe?” he asked softly.

Corey nodded against his shoulder before straightening up and smiling at Matt. Matt smiled back and caught Corey’s hand as they proceeded towards the counter.

Kevin and Nick shared a look before nodding at each other. There was no turning back now. They had set their future in motion. Surprisingly neither felt anxious about their decision, sure in the fact that things would work out for them as life always did.
End Notes:
This marks the end of How It All Began. There will be one chapter of snippets from Corey and Matt’s wedding which shows how Nick and Kevin’s relationship gets exposed to the press, their friends and the public. After that is the next part of the story in An Ideal Marriage?


We’ve been working on Matt and Corey’s story for the people who expressed an interest in knowing more about them. If anyone has any suggestions of where we can post it, that’d be great.


Thank you for the continued support. It’s much appreciated :)
A Note by CJ_K
I'm sorry to be the one to have to inform you that my co author and very close friend Jamie passed away on the 11th of March 2011.

He fought long and hard but in the end it was just too much for him to go on.

He made me promise that I will complete the story we'd started. And I will honor that promise. He wrote a lot with me and the parts that he left unfinished his partner Cole has agreed to write with me.

Thank you for all the love and support we've had from each of you. Jamie would light up every single time he got an email informing him that we had a new review from this site.

Thank you.
This story archived at http://absolutechaos.net/viewstory.php?sid=9084