Kevin didn’t tell the guys because the situation had changed. Nick chose not to say anything because he was still unsure of what had happened back in the police HQ. The tour rehearsal went in blur. There were a few times when he felt like just bursting out ‘Kevin got mugged last night and now he could be a witness to a murder he didn’t even know happened’, but of course he held that back. Surely it wasn’t this difficult for Kevin back then; when he decided to not interfere with Nick’s life and let him make the mistakes he needed to do in order to learn from them, right? “Okay that’s it, we’re having a break.” Brian announced right after they were done with Climbing The Walls. That wasn’t difficult for Nick at all since he wasn’t doing lead, it was difficult though, to join Kevin and Howie in harmony when he knew what was going on. Nobody seemed to protest Brian’s decision since they had been practicing non-stop for the past hour. Nick went straight for his Evian, leaning against the mirrored wall he had learnt to look into while they were rehearsing. It used to bother him much, looking at himself dance. Back then, he always felt miserable, seeing how well built the guys were and there he was, sticking out like a sore thumb. A scrawny kid with a big head. “I’ve decided on that hobbit picture for my solo shot.” Brian said as he approached Nick while wiping his sweat with a Winnie the Pooh towel. “Yeah? What gives?” “AJ said I looked good in that one too.” “Unless there’s a conspiracy going on.” Nick said, wiggling his eyebrows. “I should ask Kevin.” “Good luck.” Nick smirked. Brian raised an eyebrow. “Do I need one?” This is it, Nick thought, a chance he had been waiting for. Brian was there, he could tell him, he knew he could count on Brian for help. “Yo Nick! You got a stick on you?” AJ yelled from across the room. Nick bit his lips. “Yeah. In my bag.” He looked on as AJ went to his duffel bag and after dumping almost all the contents out, found the pack of cigarette he was looking for. He took one and placed everything back in. “Thanks man, I owe you one.” “Yeah.” Nick said, unsure if giving a poison to someone else is considered an act of giving. “All right ladies, I’m out for a smoke!” AJ made sure he yelled and left the studio. Howie and Kevin, who were talking, shook their head and decided to join Nick and Brian. “This smoking thing is getting out of hand.” Kevin said. “Someone should talk to him.” Howie agreed. Nick snickered. “Well, I’m definitely out.” “Instead of following his example, you should have talked to him against it.” Kevin pointed out. “I’m not following anybody Kevin, it’s my choice.” Nick said. “And until you caught either one of us blowing smoke in your face, don’t talk nothing.” “By the time one of you got cancer, there’ll be nothing to talk about Nick.” “Okay guys, we really don’t need to start arguing.” Howie said. Nick was looking too upset over a small matter and it was worrying Howie. Nick temper was something none of them would love to see, especially when the temper is directed to Kevin Richardson. “Yeah Kev, no one said nothing when you decide to wear skirts.” Brian shrugged. “Skirts don’t give me cancer.” Kevin replied. Nick smirked. “Yeah, it just makes us look gay.” “So what were you doing at Nick’s house last night Kev? Was it one of those Kevin’s random surprise spot checks?” Brian asked. Nick didn’t dare to look at Kevin, afraid of what he might see there. He wasn’t used to seeing Kevin lies. In fact, he had always looked up to him for the truth when everything else seemed to be one huge mass of lies. “I was driving and got sleepy.” Kevin replied short. “Did you give the kid a hard time Kev? I noticed Nick looked disturbed when you guys came in earlier.” Howie said. Nick wasn’t sure if Howie was joking or if he really noticed the confusion that Nick was trying to hide from everyone. He began to feel uneasy around them. There shouldn’t be any more secrets among them, not after what AJ went through. They promised. He promised. “Nah…I think he’s just shocked he actually had real food for breakfast.” Kevin joked. “I’m shock you even have real food Nick.” Brian teased. “Thanks to Marlena, and that’s the cleaning lady, not his girlfriend.” Kevin answered for Nick. The guys were laughing but Nick hardly found anything funny about that. He took another gulp of his drink before dropping it to the floor. “I’m gonna join AJ and have myself a cancer stick, yell when you need us okay.” Nick grabbed his pack of cigarette that AJ had conveniently placed on top of his bag and left. AJ was nowhere to be found. The car park was deserted, with about seven cars occupying various parking spots. Four of them belonged to the Backstreet Boys. He took one stick out and fished for his lighter in his pants and quickly lit it up. Taking a long, deep drag of the cigarette, he took his time to blow it out, along with those poisons, some of his worries. The Chief Inspector wanted Kevin to drop by his office again after rehearsals. Kevin said he’d go but Nick wasn’t sure if that was a quick way to bail out of there or if Kevin truly intend to keep his end of the promise. It was also highly disturbing to see pictures of where the murder took place and pictures of the dead woman, looking pale, blue and…dead. During the ride back, Kevin said not a word and Nick was thankful that he was behind the wheel, it gave him an excuse to not talk but concentrate on the road. But during one of the red stops, the silence grew too intense that he had to say something. It could have been you Kevin. I don’t think whoever this murderer is, was looking for a guy Nick. That didn’t stop whoever the asshole who mugged you. That’s different. What difference? That guy could be the murderer for all we know! He’d kill me already. I’m just saying I’m thankful you’re all right. Me too…just don’t tell the guys about this okay? Why not? I’ll tell them. Promise? Promise The door that Nick had came out from banged against the wall and a very furious Kevin Richardson was charging at him. Before Nick could react, Kevin had grabbed him by the shirt and pushed him back against the wall. His hand was pushed back and the cigarette hit him on his face before he lost the grip and dropped it on the floor. “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?” Nick was too shock to say anything. Part of him was cursing for the burnt that his cigarette had marked on his cheek and another part of him was still trying to figure out what was going on. “YOU WERE GONNA TELL THEM, DIDN’T YOU? DIDN’T YOU!” Nick could feel Kevin’s anger dripping from his fingers and straight to his neck, where he was almost strangling him. But besides the obvious, Nick also felt the tremble in that grip, Kevin’s fear coursing through him. He also felt anger, but this he felt coming from him, not Kevin. When that anger finally took over, Nick found himself quickly pushing Kevin away, a feat that was once impossible for him when Kevin Richardson was involved. Now they stood almost head to head, shoulder to shoulder. Physically, Kevin wasn’t as terrifying as he used to be. What came out of his mouth still send shivers down his spine even though he wouldn’t admit to this fact to anyone. Kevin faltered a little but it was enough to shake him out of whatever mad trance he was in when he barged out and went after Nick like a raging bull. “What makes you so damn special huh Kevin?” Nick gritted, his voice low and hoarse. “What…what makes you think you’re better than everybody else? Was there supposed to be a code or something that I missed?” “What the fuck are you talking about?” Kevin groaned. “You think getting mugged is special Nick? You think I want this?” Nick smirked and shook his head, as if not believing those words came from Kevin. “You really have no idea do you?” “If you’re suddenly so smart Carter, then tell me what is it I’m not getting!” Kevin said, almost yelling again. “Pretending is so much better don’t you think so Kev? Doesn’t take much when it comes to you anyway…who would have thought you’re all scared and vulnerable in there? Especially when you were going on and on about my smoking.” Kevin stared at him, as if searching for the right words that could be found in those blues. Nick knew this look too well. It used to scare him. It was Kevin’s way of saying he’s trying to understand what’s going on in his head. This time it was different though. Kevin was looking at him for answers that weren’t there. “You won’t find any answers just looking at me Kev, cause I’m the one asking you right now. Or should I do the same? Look in your eyes and see if I can get in your head?” Nick didn’t look into those eyes though, he was mad, but it wasn’t enough for him to look. The things he could see reflected in those greens might just be too much for him to handle. Something Nick said must have knocked some sense in Kevin, because something changed, as if some unforeseen energy had delicately peel those madness off him and now standing in front of him was the old Kevin, calm and collected. “I want to help you Kev, trust me I really do.” Nick said when Kevin showed no signs of saying anything. “But it’s hard when you’re always on my case.” Nick thought he heard Kevin snorted, he wasn’t too sure. He shook his head and then stared at Nick again, as if he couldn’t believe what he had just said. When Nick showed no signs that he was joking around, Kevin gave him that look again, searching for something in his eyes. Or was he trying to say something? Nick thought. Kevin always has that effect on him, the one of confusion. You can never really tell sometimes. But there was something that Nick felt from the stare, something he wished he hadn’t detected, because after almost twelve years together, he knew what he felt was true. There were disappointment and betrayal in Kevin’s eyes. And it was meant only for Nick. It lasted for a mere second or two, but it doesn’t go unnoticed. “I’m sorry bro, I didn’t mean to start on the smoking thing back there.” Nick shrugged. “You’re just concerned Kevin, I get that. I guess I’m still not over what happened back at the police station. I worry for you Kev…this could be really serious.” Kevin nodded. “Look, I’ll go back there today like I promised, once I get a clear picture of what’s going down, I’ll tell the guys. Is that okay with you?” “Nah.” Nick shook his head. “I’m coming with you.” Kevin was about to say something when Nick cut him. “If you notice Kev, that’s not a question, that’s a statement. So you can’t say no.” “I was going to say, Nick, before you nicely cut me, that that would be nice.” Nick smirked and rolled his eyes. “Smart ass.” He rested his arm around Kevin’s shoulders, pulling him in as they started heading back towards the studio. “Hey Nick.” “Yeah?” “I’m sorry about that burn on your cheek.” “It doesn’t even hurt, don’t sweat about it.” “I’m not worried about that. We have a Rolling Stone photo shoot tomorrow, an ugly Nick could hurt my reputation.” “Oh you have a reputation now?” “I always have, where’ve you been?” “Wow, hello ego, I don’t think I’ve met you before.” “Hey Nick, I really am sorry about your cheek.” “Yeah, he said he’s sorry too.” Nick joked. “And I really wanna help you Kev, you know that right?” Kevin nodded. “I know you do. You love me.” “I love you.” Nick smiled. “So what did you tell Bri and D when you wanna come out here and kill me?” “I wanna kill Nick, be right back.” “Nice. And they didn’t even try to stop you.” “They said make it quick, not to hurt you too much, for old times sake.” As they walked back to the studio, deep in conversation and momentarily successful in pushing their impending fears to the back of their minds, both Kevin and Nick failed to see AJ appearing from a corner at the car park, taking his last puff before falling behind them, back to the studio.