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Kevin thought about his visit with Nick all the way back to Los Angeles the next day, and how Nick seemed like he was hiding how he truly felt. He never pressed Nick about it because he didn’t want to create any new tension between them, and figured that whatever it was would eventually come to light anyway.

“You’re awfully quiet, honey. Did your trip go okay?” Kristin asked when she had picked him up from the airport. She and Kevin were alone in the car, as Mason was left home with a sitter.

“Oh, it went just fine. We had a good time.I’m just tired from the flight, I guess.” Kevin smiled. Kristin looked at him skeptically. She knew better of her husband and that he, much like Nick...was not a good liar.

“Well, I am.”

“Did you and Nick have an argument?”

“Not exactly. I visited his video shoot, then had dinner with him and his girlfriend Lauren. Then yesterday we went hiking and we talked. I told him everything. He was okay with me coming back to the group, but I just feel like he was holding back or something. Like he was hiding something.” Kevin said, watching the traffic go by.

“I’m sure you are just being a big worry wort as usual. By the way, when we get home you should call Brian. He was trying to call you but you hadn’t landed yet and your phone was off.” Kristin laughed as they finally pulled into the driveway at home. She went to talk to Mason’s sitter and Kevin went out to the backyard to call Brian.

“Hey, Kev. How was your flight?” Brian asked when he picked up the phone.

“It was fine, I just got home.”

“Did you talk to Nick? Jenn was asking if I had heard anything because she wants to have a meeting with all five of us before the cruise is finalized.” Brian said, jumping right into what he wanted. Kevin had to laugh because he knew that his cousin was eager to find out what happened with Nick in Tennessee, but he wondered why Brian didn’t just ask Nick directly. He supposed that it was likely because they were not as close as they once were.

“Yes, I talked to him. When does she want to have this meeting?” Kevin asked to avoid any further questioning.

A few days later, Kevin parked in the parking garage where the Backstreet Boys management was. He started to press the button for the elevator and stopped before staring at the ground and genuinely wondering what the hell he was even doing there. Did he really want to throw himself into all of the craziness again? He remembered when he had decided to leave and he was so tired, he wondered if it was really okay to do this and go back out on the road when Mason was so young and he was planning on more children with Kristin. He wondered if the guys would mind if he brought his family along, because nobody seemed to have an issue with Brian and his wife and Baylee coming. He was just really deep in thought and didn’t even notice anyone walking up behind him.

“Hey, cuz!”

Kevin turned around to greet Brian, who’d been standing behind him. They shook hands and hugged briefly.

“I guess we are the first ones here?” Kevin wondered, staring at the elevator button again.

“No, I think Howie is upstairs already. Did you just get here?” Brian smiled. Kevin wasn’t listening, but he was silently coaching himself because doubt had creeped into his mind and told him again he was making a mistake. Maybe he would pretend he didn’t feel well and go back to the car. It was going to be weird seeing everyone together again in the same room.

“You seem distracted, are you okay?” Brian asked, noticing his expression.

“Nothing.” Kevin lied.

“Oh come on, Kevin. You’re just about as bad of a liar as Nick is. What’s wrong, I thought this was what you wanted. You wanted to come back to the group and everyone is okay with it.”

“It’s not that. I guess...I guess I just wonder if I’m doing the right thing here.” Kevin said, rubbing the back of his head with his hand and sighing.

“Kevin, I have known you my whole life and I’ve never seen you wrestle with something as much as this. All that matters is what you want. If you don’t want to do this, you can leave and I can make something up to tell everyone upstairs. If you want to do it, we can go up together and you can face it head on. I support you either way.” Brian replied, patting him on the back. Kevin nodded and pressed the button on the elevator, stepping on when the door opened. AJ and Howie were already upstairs in the conference room. Everyone greeted Kevin and it seemed to be going well until Kevin scanned the room adn noticed Nick was not there yet.

“I guess Nick is running late?” Kevin asked after he looked around again.

“Not sure, and I texted him. I haven’t heard from him since this morning.” AJ said with a shrug.

“I’m sure he’s just late, like when he was late to your wedding.” Brian offered when Kevin looked at the door.

“He was four hours late to my wedding, Brian. That’s not exactly comforting.” Kevin laughed. He wondered if something really was delaying Nick or if Nick just simply didn’t want to show up because he actually wasn’t okay with him coming back to the group.

Some of the management team filed into the room not long after, greeting Kevin and shaking his hand before everyone sat down.

“Where is Nick?” Jen asked, when the boys had all sat down at the table.

“He’s not here and nobody has heard from him yet, Jen.” Brian said. Just then, the door opened and Nick walked in looking a little frazzled as if he had run up a flight of stairs.

“So sorry I’m late, my cab was stuck behind this tractor trailer and everything was backed up coming from my hotel.” Nick said breathlessly. Brian gave Kevin a look as if to tease him for overthinking.

“Great, now that everyone’s here we can get started. I wanted to hold this meeting so that we could talk about Kevin coming back and how we want to go about doing this because we do have things planned for the rest of the year already. Kevin, our original idea was to let you come as a guest on the cruise for one of the or something like that. How do you feel about the cruise?” Jen asked. All eyes turned to him.

“I...uh…” Kevin stammered. He hadn’t thought about any of this yet. What was he even doing there? He was disrupting everything. He could feel Nick looking at him from the side of the table where he had sat next to Howie.

“Maybe not the whole cruise, it’s a lot to get thrown into.” Howie pointed out. Kevin smiled at Howie, grateful that someone understood. They didn’t know how the fans would react to any of this because he’d been gone so long. It was definitely going to be awkward for everyone, not just him or the other guys.

‘Yeah, we could have him as a surprise guest or something. Like at one of the parties.” Brian agreed. Kevin wasn’t opposed to this idea, at least he wouldn’t feel obligated to be there the whole time. He didn’t know what the cruise was like, but he had heard things from AJ from time to time. It seemed like fun but he wasn’t sure how to feel about the whole thing just yet.

“Don’t you have, like a beach party or something? That might be fun. Plus i can just fly to the island and surprise everyone there.” Kevin suggested.

“I like that idea. Plus the ship is still going to be there for the deck party that night so we could have him come.” Nick said, catching Kevin off guard. Nick smiled at him. Kevin started to feel more at ease. They continued the discussion and everyone was pretty much on the same page when it came to the themes for the cruise and cruise planning. Kevin guessed he had been nervous for no reason, after all everyone was older and a bit more mature now so it helped a lot.

“So how are we going to officially announce Kevin is back?” Jen asked at one point. They’d spent the last hour talking about the cruise and now it was time to discuss the rest of the NKOTBSB tour and how to go about recording the album.

“I think it should be at one of our shows. Maybe the one in LA? Go big or go home. The fans will go insane. I can’t wait to see their reactions.” AJ laughed. The whole idea seemed surreal to Kevin because he couldn’t believe he was sitting here at the table with all the guys again discussing their future. He privately wondered what was going through everyone else’s minds, were they as excited or nervous as he was? What did they think? Were they all really okay with this?

“What if I just came and did a surprise appearance to see just how people will react first, you still have more of the tour to go. We could announce my return at another show.” Kevin suggested. He kept trying to catch Nick’s eye but he seemed determined to look at everything and everyone but him.

“Oh, that’s a great idea. What about in London when we are taping it? I think that would be better than just doing it at one show.” AJ pointed out.

“I think we should announce the new album and stuff at that show too.” Howie agreed.

“Okay, we can always discuss this more in detail in a little bit when the cruise comes closer. Didn’t you want to talk about some things too, Nick? You told me last night on the phone you wanted to discuss some stuff about your tour and go over tour dates. Did you get those finalized with Lori?” Jen said suddenly. Nick had zoned out and jumped when he heard his name.

“Oh, uhm- it’s not important. I can talk about that another time. We are still working the dates out.” Nick said shyly, looking down at the table. He eyed Brian for a moment and went back to looking at the table.

“Nick…” Brian started, but Nick shook his head.

“I don’t have things finalized yet, sorry.” Nick replied. He was definitely acting a little strange. When they got out of the meeting, Kevin heard Nick talking to Jen just outside of the conference room.

“Jen, I wish you hadn’t put me on the spot like that. The meeting was about Kevin, not about me.” Nick whispered irritably, crossing his arms.

“Well, I thought it was a good time to talk about your tour since we were all there together. I don’t think Kevin would have minded,” Jen explained.

“I just don’t want to hurt his feelings. I know he’s nervous about all this and I’m not sure how to deal with it myself. I’ll have another meeting to talk about my own stuff. I was late. It would have looked bad if I made the meeting about me too.”

Kevin walked away and went downstairs to his car, thinking about what Nick had said. He hoped maybe things would be better and less awkward by the time the cruise came along.