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He wanted no part of this, any of this. Some would say he should consider himself lucky that this is the worst that could have happened, but he wasn't some people and he wasn't the least bit happy about this. He sat back in the hot leather of the limousine and glared out the window. The further they went, the more the city disappeared and the angrier he became. He crossed his arms firmly over his chest and allowed his forehead to rest against the cool glass of the tinted window. He watched as stoplights and traffic gave way to tall grass and a great expanse of land he couldn’t remember ever caring to see. Not that what he wanted mattered for shit. That point had been proven to him quite well. He grimaced as he recalled the meeting he’d had with his assistant a week before.


He’d rolled out of bed so hung over he couldn't remember how he’d gotten home or even where his shoes were. His cell phone was thumbing over and over again on the nightstand and he resisted the urge to pick the damn thing up and chuck it against the nearest hard wall. The thunder in his head was deafening and all he wanted to do was throw up and then crawl back under the covers. He sat on the edge of the bed, trying to gather strength to stand and make his way to the bathroom. He wasn’t sure how long he sat there, teetering between falling back against the mattress and falling forward onto the carpeted floor. He was just getting ready to push himself to his feet when the doorbell started ringing incessantly from two floors below. He closed his eyes, hoping if he wished hard enough that this nightmare would end and he could go back to sleep. No such luck, along with the doorbell chime, there was now the deftly pounding of someone at the door. It was doing wonders for the pounding in his head. He growled as he pushed himself to his feet, stumbling and tripping over his shoes. He shot his hands out and was able to catch himself against the wall before he fell. Whoever was at the door was going to get it, if he made it down the stairs in one piece.

He took a deep breath and slowly made his way to the door, tripping twice more before he’d even reached the doorway. There were few people who had the gate code to even have access to the door this way. That could only mean that the one man band at the door had to be important, relatively so anyway. He made it to the landing of the third floor and gripped on tight to the banister before slowly shuffling down the stairs. As he got further down the first flight, the noise grew steadily louder. He had to stop a couple of times to rub at his temples, determined to kill whoever was at the door and making such an offending racket.

On the second floor landing now and still one more set of stairs to go. He gritted his teeth and promised himself he wouldn’t drink this much again. It was a crock of shit, and he knew he’d be downing the whisky bottle before the sun went down, but it was something he could soothe himself with in this horrendous moment. What could possibly be so important that he needed to be woken up at the ass crack of dawn? He was really going to wring someone's neck.

Finally reaching the main floor, he was so relieved he almost dropped to his knees and kissed the stone floor, but the knocking was so loud he would much rather beat his head against the floor rather than listen to the noise any longer. Reaching out in front of him, he gripped the doorknob and used it to propel himself closer to the door. He growled again as he ripped open the door and glared at the intruder. JC Chasez, his personal assistant stood on the other side of the door, a cocky smile dancing across his face.

“Well good afternoon sleeping beauty. So glad to see you up and about.” JC cooed as he leaned against the doorway.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Kevin growled, not at all happy to have JC’s glittering face on his doorstep.

“Well honey bunches, I am here to let you know that you’ve really cooked the goose this time.” JC said as he pushed past Kevin’s frame in the doorway and made his way into the mansion.

“I don’t think that’s how the saying goes, for one, and for two, what the fuck are you talking about?” Kevin demanded as he slammed the door closed behind them. He grimaced as the sound echoed through the open entryway and vibrated right back to his temples.

JC didn’t respond. JC wasn’t even in the fucking room as Kevin turned around. He groaned and followed the path he thought JC might have taken, cheering inwardly when he found the younger man bent over and digging something out of the refrigerator.

“Thank god. Make me some breakfast too,’ Kevin mumbled as he settled himself into the kitchen chair and dropped his head in his hands. He jumped slightly when he felt something hard hit him in the arm and looked up just in time to see the apple JC had chucked at him fall to the floor. “What the fuck?” he demanded.

“I’m not your personal bitch, no matter what you may think otherwise. I am here to save your ass, not cook for you. You want food, you hire a cook, or better yet, you learn to make it yourself. Guess what buddy, you’ve pissed off the wrong people, for too long and now you’re going to have to pay for it.” JC jumped his small body up onto the kitchen island and grabbed a banana off the counter.

“My head hurts too much to understand your riddles today JC. Just tell me what the hell is going on.” Kevin whined.

“Don’t whine. It’s really unbecoming.” JC said with a laugh. “What’s going on, is you were photographed drunk and belligerent last night. There’s multiple videos and a hundred photos flying around. Not only that, but you started throwing punches at the bouncer who tried to remove you peacefully from the bar. You’re going to have to pay him a pretty nickel, but he’s agreed not to press charges.”

Kevin shook his head and threw up his hands. “Okay. If he’s not pressing charges, what’s the big deal? The stuff with the media will blow over, it always does. Doesn’t seem like a reason to get bent out of shape.”

JC rolled his eyes. “No one gives a shit what you do or don’t think is a problem. You’ve been a mess since Kristin left. I’ve tried to help you, I’ve tried to give you space to grieve your marriage and come to grips with what’s going on, but it doesn’t seem to be working. You’re getting worse, not better. Management is fed up trying to deal with your attitude problem, your inability to keep a deadline or a commitment and you’re a disaster for the PR department. Frankly Kevin, no one wants to work with you anymore. They are this close to cancelling your contract for the next three albums. If they do that, your career is over. Once you’re labeled difficult to work with, no one will give you another chance. Is this what you want? To be completely done with music?”

The pounding was so hard in Kevin’s head now that he swore he could feel his eyeballs move. He tried to pay attention to the words coming out of JC’s mouth. He knew they were important, but he was too damn hungover to really make heads or tails of the severity of the situation. “What am I supposed to do?” he asked quietly.

JC took a deep breath and looked away. “They want you to take the next six months and figure your shit out. If you can’t come up with some new material, a new attitude and a better handle on your life, then you’re done.”

Kevin just looked at him, unsure if he should be happy, sad or scared by the news. “What are they expecting me to do? Go to rehab? I’m not a 12 step kind of guy, I can’t do that.” he felt his voice growing more urgent the more he talked. JC had to understand that one of those types of facilities, while they may be great and even necessary for other people, they were not for him.

JC shook his head. “No Kev. I saved your ass again. My aunt has a small house in Mount Pleasant and she currently doesn’t have a renter for it. You’re going to move there for the next six months and try to figure out who you are. Who Kevin Richardson is without his doting wife. You're going to live in a small beach town and figure your shit out. You’d better come back with a pile of songs and a fresh perspective. I'll come visit occasionally, and if I don’t feel like you’re making progress then you will go into a rehab facility, there’s no other option here. You need to sober up, however we have to do it.

“Where the fuck is Mount Pleasant?” Kevin asked, the fight leaving his exhausted body.

“South Carolina.”


The further they drove the more he could see of the coast. He pressed the button to lower the window a crack and breathed in the sweet salt air. It always amazed him, how easily the air changed the closer to the ocean he got. It was the same anywhere the ocean touched the coast. He had been given a week to set his affairs in order and pack his things before he was packing onto a plane and thrown clear across the country to live in a Podunk town along the Atlantic Ocean. The only good thing about this whole damn experience would be six months of fresh, delicious seafood. He had to have something to look forward to. JC was supposed to meet him there, opting not to fly with him and listen to more of his bitching and whining. It had been more than a week without any kind of alcohol and he knew that the worst of the initial cravings was probably over, but he still had the niggle in the back of his mind, the one telling him he wasn’t good enough for anything and that’s why she left. It was that voice he drank to science. Now he would have to find something else to devote his time to because he couldn’t write.

Every time he got out a notebook and actually sat down to try to write anything, he would end up focusing solely on her and that would inevitably lead him back down that same road of needing to drink, and apparently he wasn’t supposed to be doing that to excess anymore. The limousine slowed to a stop and Kevin anxiously peered out the window. The house was small, smaller than the home he’d grown up in, in Kentucky. His mansion in Los Angeles had 12 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms. How in the hell was he supposed to stay here for six months? This had to be some kind of joke. He made no move to get out of the limo, just sunk further back into the seat and prayed he could become one with the leather and never have to step foot inside the small shack of a house.

Of course, none of his prayers were really going answered these days. He’d apparently done something pretty awful to piss off the big man upstairs because he was just continually getting shit on. The limo door opened and JC’s smirking face appeared in the door opening. “Hi honey, happy to have you home.”

“Fuck you.” Kevin growled and threw his head back against the seat and closed his eyes. “I’m not living inside of that little shit hole.”

JC laughed, loudly. “You haven’t even seen the inside. Stop your whining and get out of the car. Your attitude is exactly why you have to stay here. “

Kevin huffed, but scooted his butt to the edge of the seat and then stood, climbing out of the car.

“Welcome to Mount Pleasant.” JC said, beaming up at him.


“Agnes is in room 6. She’s puked three times this morning according to Mrs. Wilson and Lance says she’s puked on him once as well.” Howie said, tossing Nick a clipboard before grabbing the next one off of the busy desk.

Nick took it and flipped several pages before looking back up. “Did she eat anything out of the ordinary?”

Howie shrugged. “I have no idea. I’ve not actually talked to Mrs. Wilson, Lance brought Agnes back to the exam room so you might ask him.”

“Buttercup Lawrence?” Howie questioned as he flipped through admitting paperwork. A flustered man with a teacup chihuahua met him at the counter. “Right this way Mr. Lawrence.”

Nick glanced at the dog and groaned inwardly before heading down the hallway to exam room 6. He hated treating little dogs. He knew it was a pretty shitty opinion for a vet. He should love all animals, blah, blah, blah. He didn’t understand the fascination with small dogs and they always seemed to bite and nip so much more than regular dogs. He sighed and pushed his way into the exam room, nodding to Lance as he entered. He talked basic information over with his vet tech before Lance left the room, leaving Nick to do the exam.

“Lance says you think she may have ingested toilet paper?” Nick said as rubbed the head of the aging Maine Coon.

Mrs. Wilson nodded. “I was babysitting my grandson and he got into the stock pile in the linen closet and was ripping it to shreds. When I discovered what was going on, a lot of it was wet and I had to pull pieces from her fur. I can only assume she ate some of it.”

Nick gave her a soft smile. “While we don’t want her to do it often, ingesting the toilet paper will not cause her any long term injury. She will have an upset stomach for a few days and she may throw up a few more times. Try to make sure she’s drinking plenty of water and you may want to just give her soft food until you know her tummy is feeling better. “

He finished up the vitals on Agnes and was printing out her discharge paperwork when Mrs. Wilson threw herself into his arms. “Thank you so much dear. I was so worried about her when she started getting sick. She means the world to me.”

Nick smiled and hugged her back. “I know she does. We’re going to do everything we can to keep her in the best health possible.”

She smiled up at him and cupped his cheek with one of her soft worn hands. “You’re such a sweet boy Nickolas. When are you going to settle down, hmmm?”

Nick laughed and squeezed her hand before stepping backwards to get her peppers off the printer. “I...I’m not sure. Haven’t meant the right person yet I guess. Not that it’s easy to meet someone around here.” he gave her a shy smile.

“You never know.” She said with a teasing tone. ”That famous musician is supposed to be moving in this week.”

Nick tilted his head as he signed and folded the papers. “What famous musician?”

“I can’t ever remember the name right. Kevin Richards or something like that. They were talking about it down at Rosie’s this morning. Truth be told, they’ve been talking about it for the past week, ever since the arrangements were made. He’s staying in Lucinda Chasez’s rental house, the one right down on the water. Apparently Lucinda called Maggie the moment she got off the phone with her nephew. According to Maggie Jane, he’s the assistant, the one that does all the work.” she waved him off as she scooped up her precious cat. “I’m just saying, you never know what will happen, and you’re such a handsome boy.”

“Well I appreciate you always looking out for me Mrs. Wilson. I promise you will be the first to know when I’m ready to settle down.” he gave her a wink and a pat on the shoulder before excusing himself from the room.

He made a beeline to the staff lounge, grabbing a bottle of water and settling down into one of the chairs at the table to catch his breath. He was grateful that the people of this town still cared about his well being. But sometimes working in the same town he’d grown up in could be suffocating, especially when they wanted to give him the third degree about his love life. So what if he wasn’t settled down? There was more to life than a wife, kids and a white picket fence. Like the animals he treated on a daily basis, the animal shelter he volunteered at once a week and the puppy adoption events he organized and threw twice a month to help keep animals off the streets. With so much time dedicated to animals and their care, it left very little time for his own.

“Get her squared away?” Lance asked as he breezed into the room.

Nick nodded. “Yep, she’s out of here and my next one is a biter.”

Lance laughed. “Are you hiding from a little dog Dr. Carter?” his electric green eyes danced with laughter as he gazed at his boss and friend.

“I don’t know if I need to hide from the dog or Mrs. Wilson. She’s back on my case about being single.” Nick said with a groan as he gulped down two big mouthfuls of water before standing.

“How come you never talk about your love life with me?” Lance pouted.

Nick shook his head. “I don’t want to talk about it with anyone!” he laughed at the pout that continued on the other man’s face. “Stop pouting. There's nothing to even talk about anyway. I have no love life. I’m married to my work.”

“Well that’s the fucking truth.” Lance muttered under his breath.

Nick turned in the doorway and looked back at him. “What did you say to me?”

Lance laughed and shot him the finger. “Go deal with the ankle biter.”

Nick shook his head and walked back out into the hallway, Lance’s laughter echoing in the small hallway.