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~ 17 ~

Safe from Harm

I felt warm and opened my eyes to see Howie placing a blanket over me. “Sorry I woke you.” He whispered.

I rubbed at my swollen eyes. “It’s okay.” I guess I did fall asleep after all.

“I see you came out to sleep by the Christmas tree. I like to do that too.”

I nodded at him, “Something like that.” I sat up and grimaced slightly when I realized I had the biggest headache on the planet. That always happened to me when I cried as much as I did last night.

He walked over to the tree and flicked one of the bell ornaments making it ding. “I love Christmas.” He sat down beside me. “What’s that?” He asked when he saw the picture Max had given me the night before.

I almost wanted to hide it, but I handed it over, “It’s a picture of my mom and dad.”

He took it in his hands and examined it closely, “This is your mom, mom?”

I nodded and he looked at me, “You look like her.” Upon further examination of my face he looked concerned, “Your eyes are swollen. Are you okay?”

“I had a long night.” I didn’t feel like getting into it again. It was Christmas and I wanted to just make all the hurt go away, even if just for today.

He grabbed me and pulled me towards him. It was almost comical the way he did it. I laughed, “What are you doing?”

“Can’t I hug my Nicky on Christmas?”

“Yeah of course you can, but not in a gay way!”

He laughed and then proceeded to kiss me on the top of my head before letting me go. “You know I love you kiddo!”

“Yeah, yeah…me too.” I answered. We just had a gay, bonding moment.

“Anything you want to talk about?” He asked, staring at my picture once again.

“Not today, but thanks though D.”

He smiled at me, “You know you can talk to me anytime Nicky.”

“I know.”

Brian came out next, in his pajamas. When he saw Howie and I sitting on the couch he took a flying leap over it and sat down on the other side of me. “Merry Christmas guys!” He said just like a five year old. Before either of us could answer he bounced off the couch and ran to the balcony, “It’s still snowing out there! Wow! Have you looked out here recently? You can’t even see the cars!”

I stood up and made my way over to the window and he was right. There was so much snow out there that the cars were buried. “It looks like there’s at least two feet of snow out there!” Howie said making his way over as well.

There we stood three Backstreet Boys with our faces plastered to the balcony window, staring out at the snow like we were little kids waiting to go out and play.

“I want to go out there and play in the snow!” See what I mean?

“Think of the amazing snow ball fights we could have out there!” I added

“Or snow angels.” Howie had to feel included.

“I say at one point today, we go out and have fun in the snow!” Brian said as he walked back to the couch and plopped down, almost knocking my picture to the ground. He picked it up and looked at it for a long time. I wish I knew what was going on in his head. “This is her, isn’t it?” he finally asked me. “She’s beautiful. Where did you get this?”

“Max gave it to me last night after you all went to bed.” I thought for now I’d leave out our little fight.

“You didn’t start Christmas without me, did you?” AJ asked coming out of his bedroom and walking over to the tree.

“Yup, it’s now the day after Christmas, sorry Bone. Maybe next time you’ll think twice about sleeping in.”

“Very funny Rok! Now, let’s open some presents!” AJ moved to the floor and sat right next to all the boxes.

“Not until daddy wakes up.” Brian said lightly kicking AJ in the butt.

“Why isn’t he up? It’s weird, I thought he’d be the first one up, arranging the presents by person or alphabetical order or something anal like that.”

“Howie, I am SO telling my cousin you said that!”

“Oh please, like he’ll believe any of you.”

“I say we go wake his ass up!”

“Right, I suppose you’re volunteering to do that, Bone?”

“Nope, but I’ll let you do it. He’s your cousin!”

I sat quietly, knowing I was the reason Kevin was still asleep. I’m sure he didn’t fall asleep until almost four…again. “I think we should let him sleep for a little while longer.”

They all looked at me like I had ten heads. “What?” Howie finally asked.

“I think he should be able to sleep in. It is Christmas.”

“This is coming from the same child who woke us all up at 2 am one time just because he was bored?”

“I have matured since then, thank you very much!”

“That was two weeks ago!” AJ was quick to remind everyone. I was anxious and didn’t feel like being alone that night, so sue me!

“I’m awake.” We all turned towards the sound of Kevin’s voice. “And thank you Nick for being nice and wanting to let me sleep in.” He smiled at me and then gave all the other guys a dirty look.

“NO problem!” I said smiling myself and nodding.

“Merry Christmas everyone!” He said as he came and sat on the couch with us. “How did you sleep?” He asked me once he was settled in place.

“Okay I guess.” I answered as AJ started handing out the presents.

“Wait a second there Bone!” Brian stood up and ran into his bedroom only to come out a few minutes later with the antlers. “In my house, we have a tradition that the person who passes out the presents, has to wear an elf hat but since I do not have one of those, these will have to do.”

“I’m not wearing those stupid antlers!”

“Then you’re not the one passing out the presents!”

“Make the pip squeak wear them.”

“Pip squeak?” I asked, raising my brow at him. “I hope you’re not talking about me.”

“Who else would I be talking about?”

“I am taller than you.”

“Not by much and size has nothing to do with it.”

“Size has everything to do with calling someone pip squeak you moron, what do you think it has to do with?”

“Whatever dude, you’re wearing the antlers because I’m older and I say so.” He walked over and placed the antlers on my head.

“You look kind of adorable with those on, Frack.” Brian had to add which made them all mock ‘awe’ at me. Of course that was followed by Kevin snapping a picture before I had time to take them off. They all suck!

I moved off the couch and onto the floor, taking AJ’s place. “I guess that means I am handing out the presents now and guess who is getting theirs last?” I stuck my middle finger up at AJ. I know it wasn’t very Christmas like but he deserved it.

I started passing out the remainder of the presents until we all had pretty big piles next to us. We kind of looked like a bunch of spoiled kids with all the stuff we had to open. I almost felt bad…almost. Maybe if my life wasn’t so incredibly shitty at the moment, I would have felt more guilty but those feelings went away pretty quickly as we tore into our gifts.

I made out pretty well. I got a ton of video games and CDs and some gift cards for clothes. Brian’s mother made me a sweater that said Frack and of course Brian got a matching Frick one. She also made us all blankets.

Kevin’s mom sent me a few pairs of sneakers because I think Kevin probably told her I go through them pretty quickly. She also sent me pajamas and underwear which made me blush. Of course another picture was taken when AJ said, “Aww, he looks like Rudolph now!” Have I mentioned how much he sucks?

We all decided to skip out on breakfast and just eat the junk food we had in our room while we waited for whatever it was that Brian was so excited about to arrive. In that time, I changed into my Frack sweater and went to town playing some games. It was nice because for about two hours, I didn’t think about much. Just ate really bad things and played games with my best friend while the other three talked in the background. My headache finally went away and no one else mentioned my swollen eyes. I think they also felt like taking a break from all the drama for one day.

“I hope it gets here in time, otherwise we’re going to starve for dinner.” Brian said anxiously looking at the clock.

“What are we waiting for? I mean you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out your mom made us dinner, so what are we having?”

He actually looked disappointed as if we had no clue that we were waiting for a home cooked meal. And they think I act blonde! “Her famous ham with all the works but I’m afraid that maybe the snow won’t let it arrive on time.”

“It’ll be here.” I smiled at him and the thought of the meal that was coming our way. Brian’s mom was quite the cook. In fact, she was quite the mom in general. I have to admit, there were many nights that I would be jealous of Brian, especially when I saw the special bond he had with his mom. My mother and I were close, but never that close and then she died, so it’s something I’ve always longed for but never really had. I let out a giant sigh, not really meaning to.

“You okay?” I looked over at him and smiled, this time it took a little more effort. “Yeah, I’m good.”

“I wonder what Max is doing for dinner.” He asked. I had totally blocked my uncle from my mind. It was so weird thinking of him like that. I didn’t tell any of the guys about this newest revelation and I kind of decided to keep it that way for now. He was my family though, which I guess meant I wasn’t completely alone. That thought should have comforted me, but it didn’t. I’d gladly trade places with Brian and take his knitting, cooking, sweet mother. He could have my gun totting, mysterious uncle.

A knock on the door had us all jump. “Bad guys wouldn’t knock, right?” AJ asked as he grabbed a pillow defensively. Wow, we’re like the wussy version of the A – Team.

Kevin shook his head as he headed for the door and sure enough, there was our home cooked meal waiting for us. They wheeled it in on two carts and it looked so good my mouth was literally watering. “What a kind gesture for your mother to do this for us Brian.” Howie said as he helped the bellboy place the food on our table. “We have to call her and thank her!”

Brian was beaming with pride and love for his family. My heart ached for him that he wasn’t able to be with them and instead was stuck with me and all my dilemmas. Once again the fear of resentment came up at me from nowhere. They were all going to hate me after this. Especially if something were to happen to their families. Maybe it would be best if just Max and I took off somewhere alone.

Just thinking about the idea of leaving them made my stomach lurch. Would I really want to leave the safety of this family for the one I barely even know? I wasn’t even all that sure that Max was on my side. If he didn’t resemble my real mother the way he did, I would also think he was lying about being my uncle.

“Come on and sit down Frack, before the food gets cold!” I looked over at Brian and realized they were all staring at me. I guess I zoned out.

“You okay?”

I looked over at Howie and nodded as I made my way over the table. The smell of Christmas wafted through our suite. Funny what a little warm ham covered in brown sugar could to for a place.

AJ reached over to grab a biscuit which also looked homemade but his hand was slapped away by Kevin, “I think we need to say grace before we eat this beautiful meal.”

“First I want to read this note my mother sent along.” Brian said opening up a card with Snoopy dancing around a Christmas Tree on the cover. “Hi boys and very Merry Christmas to you all.” I could tell he was getting emotional already. He let out a sigh. I know those sighs well, I’ve been sighing a lot lately myself.

Brian continued on, “We wish that you could be here with us on this special holy day Brian, but because you can’t, we’re glad you’re getting to spend it with your second family. We love you and all of you boys and hope you enjoy the meal we have sent your way. I made the ham, your absolute favorite dear.”

He paused, “It really is my favorite meal my mom makes!” he added, “And I also made the mac and cheese. Anne made the biscuits and the sweet potato casserole.” We all looked over at Kevin to see his reaction. He smiled over at the bread as if he saw his mother’s face.

“Howie’s family sent along all the desserts so be sure to thank them as well. They were going to send them directly to you, Howie but decided it would be best if everything got here at once.”

Howie smiled, “I thought that coconut custard pie looked familiar.”

Brian then turned the card to the back and finished his mom’s thoughts, “I hope with every bite of food you all remember how much we truly love and miss all of you. And AJ know that even though you’re mom is away she loves you very much. She wishes she could have contributed to your meal. She said she would have sent your grandma’s cheesy mashed potatoes.”

AJ smiled and I was beginning to have a very heavy heart, “And Nick, I know right now things are very hard for you baby, but your dad loves you. We all love you.” Because I knew something like that was coming.

“Merry Christmas and call us after you eat your meal, but not before because we don’t want your food to get cold. Love and kisses, mom.”

We were all quiet for a few minutes, especially Brian who just stood there with that card in his hand and moved it to his chest. “Love you mommy.” He said finally placing the card on the table and sitting down, “Who wants to say grace?”

“I will,” Kevin grabbed AJ’s hand and in turn we all grabbed onto each other and bowed our heads, “Lord, thank you so much for the meal we have before us and all the love that went into making it. Thank you for our families and for our health and please watch over all of our loved ones who need some special attention from you on this day. Amen.” I knew he meant my father but I think he really didn’t want to say or do anything today to remind me of my dad. I appreciated that.

The food was fantastic and to say I over did it would be an understatement. I swear I look pregnant. If I were to give birth right now, it would look like a giant ham with biscuits for legs. That would actually be pretty cool!

After dinner we all kind of just sat around the tree, watching the snow fall and yes it was still falling. We were definitely experiencing a blizzard but we were all so stuffed the thought of going outside and playing in the snow quickly went away.

“What’s this?”

Kevin’s question brought me out of my food coma. I looked down to see the picture of my parents in his hands.

“Last night Max gave it to me.”

“I thought I told you not go back there!”

“I didn’t, he came over to me.”

I could tell he wanted to lecture me further but looked at the picture again and then stopped himself. He handed it back to me, “That’s a nice picture.” He smiled.

I nodded and looked at it again. My family, the one that I really never knew and now probably never would stared back at me all happy and smiling. I moved from staring at my parents to looking at the guys. It was weird that they were more real than my own mom and dad. That’s when I made my decision, even though it was a difficult one. They were my real family and I had to look out for them.

“Do you mind if I bring Max some leftovers?” I found myself asking Brian who was over in the corner talking to AJ.

“No, go ahead. We have plenty.”

“Do you want me to come with you? I think I’ll come with you.” Kevin got up answering his own question.

“It’s okay Kev, you stay here, and I’ll be right next door. I won’t be gone long.”

He gave me a look, “I don’t know if I like the idea of you being alone with him.”

“I promise I won’t do anything stupid.”

He waved me off, “All right.”

I nodded, took some food and headed to my uncle to let him know I wanted the two of us to leave the rest of the guys behind. It would be tough and not something I really wanted to do but in my mind it was the only way to keep them safe from harm.

Chapter End Notes:
I'll be back next weekend with chapter 18 :O) hope you enjoyed and as always, thanks for reading!