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Kevin stepped out of the sound booth and sighed as he plopped down on the couch next to Nick. He rubbed the fatigue out of his eyes and yawned as he reached for his water bottle that sat on the coffee table in front of him. Nick glanced over at him and gave him a light punch on the shoulder before rising to his feet.

“You’re up next,” Kevin said with another yawn.

“You’re getting old, Kev,” Nick joked. “You can’t even hang a few hours in the studio with us,” he said with a laugh.

Kevin lightly chuckled as he ran a weary hand over his face. “I had a long night, Nicky,” he said as he unscrewed the lid to his water bottle.

“I heard,” Nick said softly. “How’s Sarah doing?”

“Exhausted and in a lot of pain, but they have her on some heavy pain relievers right now. She’s been sleeping a lot but that’s really what she needs to be doing. The whole thing has me stressed out but I’m glad he didn’t hurt her any worse than he did.”

Nick nodded and patted Kevin on the shoulder. “We got you, bro,” he said before heading into the sound booth to record his vocals onto the new song.

Kevin took a long swig of his water, sighing deeply as he screwed the lid back on. He rested his head on the couch cushion, fighting sleep as he sank into the soft leather material. His eyes were slowly closing as he heard the sound of soft footsteps coming in his direction. Forcing his eyes back open, Kevin saw Brian who was approaching him with a mug in each hand. Offering him a forced smile, Kevin sat up straight and yawned again.

“You look like you could use this,” Brian said as he handed one mug to Kevin.

“Thanks,” Kevin said as he took the mug from him.

He closed his eyes, inhaling the smoky aroma of the Peruvian coffee that they always kept in stock at the studio. Bringing the mug to his lips, he sighed as the warm liquid trickled down his throat. He could taste the splash of whole milk seeping over his taste buds. The coffee was prepared with perfection. His cousin knew him well.

“Did you come straight in from the hospital or did you go home first?” Brian asked as he took a sip of his coffee.

Kevin shook his head as he swallowed another sip. “I left early this morning, took a shower, then came here.”

“I overheard you telling Nick that Sarah’s experiencing a lot of pain. I’m really sorry to hear that,” Brian said, his tone filled with sympathy and his brow creasing with deep concern.

Kevin nodded wordlessly, observing Brian as he took another sip of his coffee. Brian clenched his jaw and tightened his lips, looking down at the mug in his hands.

“I’ve been praying for her,” he said as he shook his head in disbelief, bringing his gaze back up to Kevin.

Brian stared at him with his eyes filled with sadness and worry. Kevin knew that look. It was the look Brian always had whenever something hurt his soul in a painfully spiritual way. It was the kind of compassion that only a man of faith could truly comprehend. Kevin smiled softly at Brian and laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Thank you for that,” he said softly.

“What are the doctors saying about her condition? Is she going to be okay?”

Kevin sniffed as he noisily shifted his position on the couch, bringing his left leg up on the and slouching back onto the cushions, holding his mug away from to keep from spilling it on himself. He settled into his position and took another sip before responding.

“They said she’ll be okay. She has two broken ribs, which will heal on their own as long as she follows the doctor's instructions. She also has a gash on the side of her head, which should heal just fine as long as she keeps it dry and bandaged up.”

“So no concussion or any other complications?” Brian asked as he continued to sip his coffee.

“No, nothing like that. She was lucky this time.”

Brian exhaled with grievance. “And what about you? How are you doing? What’s on your mind?”

“I’m starting to feel like I’m in a therapy session,” Kevin said as he glanced over at Brian and chuckled lightly.

“Well, you are lying on a leather couch,” Brian retorted with a soft smile.

“Touché,” Kevin said with a weary smile, bringing the mug back to his lips.

“But seriously, how are you doing after last night?”

Kevin swallowed the last gulp of coffee in his mug and sat up straight to set it down on the coffee table. He rubbed both hands over his face and scratched the back of his head.

“I’m just glad I got there when I did. I don’t even wanna think about what might’ve happened if I had arrived later,” he said as he stared down at his hand that was mildly swollen from punching Keith in the nose.

“Where is he now? In jail?”

“Still at the hospital because I kicked his ass. I’ll probably need to call my lawyer if he presses charges against me. Of course, he was so drunk last night that it wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t remember half of what happened,” he said with a long sigh.

“Please tell me, she’s gonna press charges against him. Pardon my French, but what he did was fucked up.”

Kevin shrugged and scowled as he rubbed his tender knuckles. “I don’t know what she plans to do but I do know they plan on taking him to jail when he gets released from the hospital. I spoke with one of the police officers this morning and they said they found an outstanding warrant for his arrest for failure to appear in court over a DUI he received four years ago.”

“So he could be in jail for a while then?”

“It depends on how good of a lawyer he has. It’s a crap shoot. None of us know what the outcome will be. If Sarah presses charges, that’ll likely leave him in jail a little while longer, but none of it is set in stone. That’s the scariest part about this situation,” he said as he inhaled deeply and released a slow breath of tension. His chest tightened as he furiously rubbed his eyes. “The whole thing scares the shit out of me. How am I supposed to go on tour, knowing that her life could be in danger? What’s going to happen when I’m on the road?” he asked, fighting back the tears that threatened to escape his eyes.

Kevin sat in silence for a moment, swallowing back the hiccup of sobs that were slowly rising in the back of his throat. His body trembled as he felt the weight of anxiety, fear, and worry wash over him. Kevin looked over at Brian as he struggled to speak and a dry lump formed in his throat. He shook his head as tears blinded his sight, licking his lips before clamping his mouth shut.

“I swear to God if something happens….,” he trailed off as he stopped to regain composure. Tears began streaming down his cheeks and he clenched his jaw shut to control the trembling in his voice. He sniffled and gulped back the dry lump in his throat and continued his statement. “If something happens while I’m on the road, I’ll never forgive myself.”

Brian set his mug down on the coffee table and leaned in closer to Kevin, resting his hand on his back. “What do you think she should do?”

Kevin shook his head as he sniffled and quickly rubbed the tears away from his cheeks. “She can’t stay in that house. That’s the first place he’d go looking for her.”

“Maybe one of the girls could take her in or we can help her find a new place.”

Kevin exhaled loudly and leaned his head down, staring at the checkered pattern of the carpet beneath his feet. “If it were up to me, I’d take her in,” he said as he slowly raised his head and focused on Brian. “But it isn’t up to me. She has to make that decision.”

“I take it you haven't had an opportunity to talk to her about this?”

“Not yet,” Kevin said as he glanced at his watch. “It’s getting close to the end of our time slot for the day. I think I’m gonna head back to the hospital.”

Brian nodded and patted Kevin on the back. “Keep us posted. You know all of us will help in any way we can.”

“I know,” Kevin said as he stood up and stretched his legs. “I’ll call you later.”

“See you tomorrow,” Brian said as Kevin headed out the studio and shut the door behind him.

Kevin wearily walked down the hallway, frowning as his steps began to wobble a little. Exhaustion was settling heavily upon him, both physically and mentally. He frowned as he slowed down his steps to keep his balance and went around the corner of the hallway leading him to the main entrance of the building. He pushed on the door and stepped out into the fresh air, spotting AJ and Amanda walking towards him from the parking lot. He politely waved as they approached him.

“It’s about time you came back. The day’s almost over,” Kevin teased.

“We stopped for lunch after I ran my errands,” AJ said as he took the last drag of his cigarette and tossed the butt into the outdoor ashtray that stood beside Kevin.

“I’ve already recorded all my parts of the new song and my voice is shot so I’m leaving for the day.”

“We stopped by the hospital to see Sarah,” Amanda said as she reached up on her tiptoes to give Kevin a hug. “How are you? Are you okay?” she asked as he returned the hug and slowly let go.

“I’m okay. Exhausted, but okay,” he said with obvious heaviness in his voice.

“I can imagine,” Amanda said as she gently rubbed his arm. “Are you going back to the hospital to see her?”

“Yeah, for a little bit but I’ll probably go to bed early tonight. I’m barely functioning as it is,” he admitted as he looked down at her, knowing they could see the exhaustion in his eyes. “Was she awake when you saw her?”

“Mostly,” AJ piped in, pulling his sunglasses away from his eyes and cleaning them with the bottom of his white T-Shirt. “We didn’t stay long. Maybe twenty minutes at most.”

“She was pretty out of it and emotionally distraught,” Amanda admitted with a sigh. “How did any of us not realize what was going on between her and Keith? I mean, I always thought he was a prick but I didn’t think he was physically abusing her.”

Kevin shrugged as he dug his keys out from the front pocket of his jeans. “I’ve heard of abuse victims becoming good liars and knowing how to hide it well. She obviously mastered the art of that,” he said darkly.

“Why would she want to stay with someone like that? I don’t understand,” Amanda questioned.

“Things like this never make any sense, unfortunately,” Kevin said as he curled his fingers around his keyring.

“Do you know when they’ll be releasing her from the hospital?”

“The doctor seemed pretty confident that she’ll be able to go home tomorrow. She has two broken ribs but, unfortunately, the only thing she can do is take pain reliever and take it slow. The bones will have to heal on their own.”

“She’s lucky to have you,” Amanda said as she gave Kevin’s arm a squeeze.

“Yeah…,” Kevin said softly. “I’ll see ya’ll tomorrow. I’m gonna head that way.”

“Okay, call if you need anything,” Amanda said as she grabbed AJ’s hand and followed him into the building.

Kevin got into his car and turned the radio down low as he backed out of the parking lot, fixing his rear view mirror as he put the car into drive. He let out a yawn, realizing that the one cup of coffee he had earlier wasn’t enough to pull him out of his sluggish mindtrap. He sighed, glancing over at a drive-thru coffee shop located at the end of the parking lot, deciding he needed more caffeine before going back to the hospital. Kevin turned the car around and pulled into their drive-thru and ordered himself a small coffee.

As he pulled onto the main street, he took a sip of his coffee and set it inside the cup console and focused on the traffic in front of him. He was grateful that the hospital wasn’t far from the studio and the commute wouldn’t be horrendous on a Thursday afternoon. The sun beamed down on the hood of his car, causing a glare that made it difficult to see. Kevin frowned as he reached over to his dashboard and opened a small compartment where he stored his sunglasses and spare change. He flicked open the glasses and slipped them onto the bridge of his nose as he turned at the signal in the direction of the hospital.

Kevin spotted a parking space near the main entrance and locked his car before heading inside. He took in a deep breath of the humid Florida air and shoved his keys into his pocket; clutching his cup of coffee in the opposite hand. He sipped his coffee as he walked up the parking lot; his legs feeling heavier with each step. He walked into the large automatic sliding doors and shivered at the drastic change in temperature between the cold air conditioning and the muggy air outside. Kevin inhaled the putrid aseptic smell that wafted through the hospital and cringed internally. He hated hospitals. Being inside one triggered too many painful memories of his father dying of colon cancer and Brian having heart surgery. The last place he wanted to be was at another hospital, visiting someone who meant the world to him.

As he slowly walked through the hallway of the main lobby, his sneakers lightly squeaked against the shiny linoleum floor. He observed the signs on the wall, guiding him towards the elevators and stopped in front when he spotted the gift shop. He observed the display of flowers, balloons, and stuffed animals that were sitting in the window. Kevin hesitated for a moment, contemplating if he should purchase something. He tilted his head as a small teddy bear located at the front of the display caught his eye. The teddy bear was dressed as Snow White. He softly chuckled as he observed it for a moment and redirected his steps toward the gift shop entrance.

As he walked into the gift shop, he saw a basket full of Snow White bears and carefully picked one up, turning it over to observe the quality of the bear. He lightly brushed his thumb across the fuzzy material and squeezed it in the palm of his hand. Tucking it under his arm, he continued to wander through the gift shop, wanting to add something more to his present. He spotted a small turquoise vase of gerbera daisies and held the teddy bear beside it. A soft smile formed across his lips as he admired the two items together and decided it was perfect.

After he purchased his gift, Kevin made his way back to the elevator and went up to the third floor where Sarah’s room was located. He quietly opened the door to her room and stepped inside. Kevin was relieved to find her sitting up in bed, awake and watching the scenery outside her window. He approached her and softly smiled as she turned her head to look at him.

“You’re awake,” Kevin said softly as he set the vase of flowers beside her bed and scooting the chair by the window closer to her.

“Barely,” Sarah joked as Kevin set the bear on the bed. A smile spread across her face as she picked it up and admired the Snow White costume on the bear. “Aw, Kev…,” she said as she nuzzled it under her chin. “This is so cute.”

“I knew you’d love it,” he said with a smile, chuckling as she tucked it securely under her arm, running her fingers through the soft fur on the bear’s head.

“Yeah…I do…,” Sarah replied as she wearily laid her head against her pillow and looked at him with a fatigued smile.

Kevin took a seat in the chair and observed Sarah for a moment, timidly grabbing her hand. “How are you feeling?” he asked, feeling relieved when she laced her fingers with his.

“I’m okay. All things considered,” she said as she rested her other hand across her torso.

“Are you in pain?” he asked as he set his coffee cup beside the vase of flowers.

“Not right now, no,” Sarah said as she glanced over at the vase. “Beautiful flowers,” she said with a fond smile.

“It’s just a little something to brighten the room,” Kevin said as he nodded in the direction of the bear. “And that too, of course.”

Sarah looked down at her bear and placed it back onto her lap, smiling as she played with the fur on the bear’s arm.

“Where did you find this?” she said as she traced her fingers over the ears.

“In the gift shop,” Kevin said with a chuckle. “It reminded me of you at Disney.”

Sarah lifted up the bear again and snickered as she smoothed out the wrinkles on the dress. “I was a pretty good Snow White.”

“The best,” Kevin said with a smile and grabbing his coffee before leaning back in his chair. “Have you had very many visitors today?”

“AJ and Amanda stopped by earlier but that’s it. I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls from people who found out about it,” she said with a shrug.

“You have a lot of people worried about you,” he said as he took a long sip of his coffee.

Sarah sighed and set the bear beside her leg. “I know.”

“Have you thought about what you’re going to do when they release you tomorrow?”

“Go home, I guess,” she said with a grimace.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t like that option,” Kevin replied with a sigh.

“Well, what choice do I have? I don’t have anywhere else to go,” Sarah said with a loud huff.

Kevin ran a hand over his face and looked at her, pondering for a moment. He sat up straight and leaned closer to the bed. “Okay, I’m hesitant to even suggest this, but don’t bite my head off when I say it.”

Sarah raised a brow and kept her focus on him. “What?”

“You could always...you know...stay with me?” he said, feeling insecure about his suggestion.

Sarah closed her eyes and lifted her head toward the ceiling. “Kevin--”

“I know, I know. I’m not trying to tell you what to do. It was just a suggestion.”

Sarah kept her eyes closed as she shook her head. “Why do you always feel the need to be the hero when it comes to me?”

Kevin frowned as he slouched back down. “Because I care, Sarah. I care a lot.”

Sarah opened her eyes and winced as she shifted her body to look at him directly. “I know you do, but don’t you ever get tired of fixing my mistakes?”

“Not when it comes to you,” he said, his voice low and serious.

“But that isn't how it should be. It’s not your responsibility. Why should you disrupt your life to rescue me?” Sarah said as her voice began to lightly quake. “It’s not your fault that I’m a fuck up.”

Kevin furrowed his brow as he grabbed her hand and gently squeezed it. “Hey...don’t say that. You’re not a fuck up.”

“Well, only a fucked up person would stay in this situation for this long,” she said as she sniffled.

Kevin sighed and stood up, gently sitting on the edge of her bed. Sarah wiped the tears off her cheeks and quietly sobbed, looking away from him. Kevin’s heart broke into pieces as he watched her cry. He hated seeing her this way. He carefully reached over and grabbed her other hand, holding both them lovingly as he leaned in closer. Kevin looked at her until she eventually locked her eyes with his. Letting go of one hand, he carefully cupped his hand on her tear stained cheek.

“I am not going to let you go through this alone. Please don’t shut me out. Not this time,” he said in a hoarse whisper.

Sarah held her side as she quietly sobbed. She leaned her head down and sniffled wordlessly. Her slim, feminine hand trembled in his grip and her black hair cascaded over her face. Kevin gently tucked her hair behind her ear and guided her to rest her head upon his shoulder. He grimaced as he cupped his hand over the back of her head and kissed her forehead before carefully sliding his arm around her and shifting his body to where he was laying beside her. Sarah rested her head on his chest as he rubbed his hand on her back, resting his cheek against the top of her head.

“You don’t have to come stay with me if you’re not comfortable with it. At least let me help you find somewhere to go. Someplace where Keith can’t find you.”

Sarah nodded as she inhaled a shaky breath. “I wanna stay with you,” she mumbled as she buried her face into his chest, gripping the front of his blue Kentucky T-Shirt.

“Are you sure?” Kevin asked as he continued rubbing her back, slightly surprised that she agreed so quickly.

Sarah raised her head and looked Kevin in the eyes, tears flooding down her cheeks. “You’re the only one I completely trust.”

Kevin stared into her eyes for a moment and nodded. “Okay,” he said softly. “I’ll make some arrangements and you’ll be moved out of there in a couple of days. In the meantime, I’ll stop by your house and get a few things to get you settled into the guest bedroom at my place.”

“Thank you,” Sarah said, her voice barely above a whisper as she laid her head back onto his chest.

Kevin smiled warmly and ran his fingers through her hair. “No need to thank me. I’d do anything for you.”

“I know,” Sarah replied with a yawn, holding her side as she inhaled deeply.

Kevin glanced at his watch and gently slid away from her, guiding her to lay her head upon her pillow. “I should let you get some rest,” he said as he rearranged the blankets on her bed and covered her up to her torso before planting a soft kiss on her forehead. “I’ll come by tomorrow when they release you. I’m going into the studio early so I can be here to pick you up.”

“Okay,” Sarah replied as her eyes began to droop a little.

“Good night,” Kevin whispered as he smoothed out her hair.

He watched her for a moment as her eyes closed after mumbling incoherently. It was obvious that the pain medication had fully kicked in and she was quickly falling into a deep slumber. Her face appeared weary from emotional stress and physical exhaustion. He watched her sleep for a moment and looked up as the night shift nurse came in to check her fluids and update the dry erase board. Giving the nurse a polite nod, he quietly left the room feeling relieved that Sarah was safe for another night.