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When AJ checked his watch five minutes ago, they still had an hour before the meeting would commence. In fact, Kevin and Nick had not even arrived yet and the last thing he expected to see barging through the conference room was Johnny Wright himself. A very pissed off Johnny Wright. Johnny hates to wait on people so he was known to arrive at meetings right on the dot and expected everyone to be accounted for by then. Therefore, his early arrival raised some eyebrows in the room, which for now, only consisted of Brian, Howie and AJ. “Where’s Kevin and Nick?”Pissed off was an understatement. Johnny was furious. “They still got an hour left Johnny.”Howie replied. “What’s wrong?”Brian asked. AJ saw a copy of the Enquirer on the Manager’s hand and quickly stepped in. “Yeah Johnny, if you’re mad cause of some pictures they run of me and Nick from last night then no worries about it all right. We were just smoking and Nick wasn’t even drinking.” Brian was annoyed, probably not believing that their manager could get mad over some stupid paparazzi shots. “I don’t think a few shots of them having dinner and smoking would ruin our career Johnny.” “Yes I know that. But I don’t appreciate being kept in the dark about something like this and only to find out from a stupid tabloid paper!”He slammed the papers down on the table, and on the front page, splashed in bold, the words ‘Backstreet Influence the downfall of Nick Carter?’ There were pictures of AJ and Nick having dinner and a few more of them making their way back to Aj’s car, both smoking. While AJ looked like his normal self, Nick looked disheveled somehow and they caught him with a frown, his eyes downward, as if lost in his own thoughts. But that wasn’t what shocked him. Another set of pictures were also splashed across the front page. It was taken the day before, in the morning. AJ could tell because he remembered both Kevin and Nick wore the same attire. Two of the pictures showed them entering the LAPD Headquarters while the second set showed Kevin exiting first and went straight to his car. As always with Kevin, he could get away with murder with that calm poise. Another few pictures were captures of Nick walking out, looking distraught. The tabloid talked about how it was left to Kevin to take care of Nick, probably even being forced or dumped into it. They made it clear for everyone to see that Brian and Howie were missing in action, saying that the relationship left between Nick and the two 'saint Backstreets’ were the ones they were contractually bound to. So that left Nick with one true friend left. AJ McLean, and he was just the right person to lead Nick to the correct path. And that had violent spats of sarcasm in it. The article ended with this : Rehab is just a phone call away kid. “Why were they at the police station yesterday?”Howie asked. “That’s what I’d like to know!”Johnny exclaimed. “I thought the whole DUI thing is over.”Brian said. “Why didn’t they say anything?” AJ wasn’t sure himself, but he had a feeling it had something to do with the entire incident at the parking lot the day before. The overheard conversation that had AJ guessing. That was partly the reason why he had asked Nick out to dinner. And he had come so close to the truth when Nick held back. He knew something was up then. He just never thought it’d be that serious. “You think this is serious, whatever it is?”Howie asked. “If it involves the police, it has to be serious.”Johnny said. “Look, lets not get riled up over this. We should wait for them and give them a chance to explain.”AJ said. “I’m sure they have a perfect reason for this.” “I hope so. I’d hate to know we’re keeping secrets from each other again.”Brian said. AJ sighed. He could tell hell was just around the corner. ---- Nick had not stop humming random songs ever since they entered Jive’s infamous headquarter. Kevin watched in amusement at the sudden change of demeanor of the young man ever since he had told him back in the car, on their way to the meeting, that he would be telling the guys and management about the whole mugging incident. “No more hiding.” “Good, cause this secret is killing me.” “I’m sorry I got you into this.” “I’ll do it again in a heartbeat, you know that.” “Awww that’s so sweet.” “Shut up...you did the same for me, for like a million times already.” “Wow, that much huh?” “I never really say thank you, did I?” “Wasn’t looking for one. I know you’re grateful.” “Yeah well, thank you man, I mean it.” As they entered the elevator, Kevin realized how relieved he was that Nick was there with him. Being in an enclosed area alone seemed scary now. You could do nothing if someone were to rob you in an elevator. And trapped with someone who could throw a mean punch or worse, armed, wasn’t something Kevin would want to experience. Nick’s giggles distracted him, which again, was something he was grateful for. He needed to stop imagining the worst. “Should I even ask why?”Kevin sighed. “If you’re curious to know why.”Nick giggled again. “Does it have anything to do with me?” “Kinda.” “Kinda?” “Kinda.” “Ok why?” “Can you imagine the looks on the guys when you said you got mugged?”Nick laughed. “Man, priceless I’m telling ya.” “I’m glad you’re enjoying this Nick.” “I’m glad too.”Nick laughed. The elevator stopped, the door opened and Kevin rushed past Nick, glad that he was out in the open once again. “What’s the rush? I didn’t even fart in there.” Kevin ignored the remark, waving for Nick to hurry up. “We’ve ten minutes left and I plan to grab a drink before meeting starts.” “Okay so, are you planning to tell them before or after the meeting?”Nick asked as he tried to catch up with Kevin’s long strides. “How about during the meeting?” “Is that a good idea?” “We’re talking about scheduling stuff now, so I gotta give them a head up if they need me back for the line up.” “Smart.” “Of course.” “Apparently smug too.”Nick snorted as he stopped on his track, waiting for Kevin to push the conference room door open. Something seemed out of place, Nick thought. A conference room with only minutes away from a meeting never had been so quiet before. Kevin took a double take at the plaque on the door. It showed Conference Room 4. He knew he had the right room, but there was no one there, except for The Enquirer sprawled carelessly on the table. He watched as Nick walked pass him and went straight to pick the paper up, whistling carelessly. “You sure we got the right room Kev?” Kevin walked in after him, already fishing out his cell phone to give one of the guys a call. “I’m calling Howie,”He said, already auto dialing his number. “this should be right though, I know Brian repeat it for me last night and called me old man.” Something had caught Nick’s attention and Kevin sure hope it wasn’t another new Jane article. And for some reason, Howie wasn’t answering his call. “Kev,”Nick waved for his attention. Kevin motioned him to give him a second, he was going to try Brian. “No, Kevin, look.” Nick held the front page of the tabloid paper for him to see. He heard Brian’s voice going ‘Cous where are you?’ but he was too preoccupied to answer. Shit.


Nick felt bad for Kevin. It wasn’t Kevin’s intentions to keep it a secret. He just needed time to himself before he could face the rest and tell them the truth. In fact, Nick suspected, had it not been for the fact that Kevin had chosen to go straight to Nick’s house instead of driving back home alone, Nick would be out of the loop too. And Nick completely understood why the other guys were mad at Kevin. He could tell, there were fears in their eyes, insecurities and worries that edged every anger. Perhaps that was why, he actually felt relieved that their reaction was one of anger and not plain ignorance. It showed that they still care. “How bad is it Kev?” Howie asked calmly after fifteen minutes of non-stop bantering. Everyone had finally settled down, realizing that all talking at once wouldn’t help the matter. Even Johnny had stopped pacing the room and took a seat with them. “We got a suspect. I was there yesterday to meet the sketch artist. They’re now looking for the suspect and I’ll have to go back for a line up and that’s it.” Kevin explained. “And how did Nick get into this mess?” Johnny asked. “I went over to his house the night I got mugged.” Kevin explained, as always, making eye contact with everyone in the room. That was more than what Nick could say about himself. He could never look at someone right in the eye, even when he wasn’t to be blame and was defending himself. “Call it panic or whatever, but I didn’t feel like going back home to an empty house and Nick’s just happen to be nearby.” Brian snorted. “Figures. They make Nick looked like the troubled one in this paper.” “I told Nick on our way here that I was going to tell you guys today. Weg and Jive need to know about this cause they’ll need me for the line up one of these days and it’s going to affect our schedules. I’m sorry you guys had to find out from this.” Kevin said. “I didn’t even see them.” Nick said. “See who?” AJ asked. “Paparazzi.” “Of course bro. If you had seen them, you’re gonna make Jive make a statement so fast, they can’t even say ‘cheese!’” “So what do we do now?” Brian asked. “Release a statement, we gotta straighten things up ASAP, God knows Nick doesn’t need anymore rumors going around.” AJ said. “We can’t do that.” Johnny said reluctantly. “We have to run by the people who’re handling Kevin’s case. If they allow us to make a statement, we will, if not, we’ll have to keep it to ourselves first.” Nick nodded. No one could really tell what was going on in his head. His expression didn’t show much. In fact, it was weird to see him this collected. AJ had a rough idea though, because he had seen that troubled look on Nick the night before. Kevin reached out to touch his hand, Nick didn’t even realized that until he felt the soft squeeze. Kevin had never looked this serious before. “I’m sorry.” Nick raised his eyebrow, surprised by the apology. “Damn Kevin, what are you sorry for? I’m sorry you have to go through this bro. I’m sorry you have to keep it from the rest of the guys that must be tough for you. But we’ll all get through this, as always.” “I’m sorry I got you in the tabloid again, all for the wrong reasons.” Kevin explained. Brian giggled, brightening up the moody conference room. “Are you kidding me? Once they found out what really happened, Nick’s gonna be the new hero! Lil bro accompanied Kevin to the police station. Aww, that’s cuddle factor right there.” Everyone snorted at Brian but the grins on their faces took away a lot of tension from Kevin. “Besides,” Nick shrugged. “I looked good in red.”
Brian knew something was definitely wrong when Kevin had someone following him wherever he goes. At first he shrugged it off, convincing himself that it was just his over imaginative mind doing an overdrive. Now he wasn’t so sure. This was the third time he waited for someone else to go on a toilet break before he announced he was going too. Coincidence much? He didn’t think so. So he dished out a plan. “Yo Rok, I know you meant well with this get together dinner thing, but I think we’ve been followed.” AJ said as he shoved another forkful of spaghetti. “I won’t worry too much about it. Who would want to put up a picture of ALL of us having dinner together in the tabloids? They want us fighting each other.” “All they need is a picture where we’re frowning and Nick looking bad and they’ll get a story.” Nick smiled and munched on his chicken wing. “And we all know that will never happen.” Kevin snickered. “Yeah?” Nick nodded and swallowed. “Cause it’s really hard to get a bad picture of me when I’m having chicken wings.” “Bless the chicken wings!” AJ laughed. Brian took a sip of his drink and pushed his empty plate aside. “So guys, we need to talk.” “Happy conversation please, my chicken wings doesn’t like serious talks.” “I don’t think this will happy happy Nick.” Kevin said. “You know we need to talk about this.” Nick sighed. “It’s not that serious guys. Kevin pretty much got the suspect down to a T. They’ll catch this guy soon enough and then Kev’s gonna go for the line up and that’s it, case close.” “And meanwhile, tabloids will be hounding you down because of those stupid pictures earlier today.” Brian reminded him. “So? It’s not a big deal, they’ll get tired of it soon enough. Besides, I doubt it will last long, once Kev identify the dude, we’re home free.” “The deal is, you’re gonna tell us if it’s too much for you, right?” Howie said, looking at Nick. Nick took another bite of his chicken wings before taking a sip of his drink. “Hey, I’m not the problem here, really. The deal is, are you okay Kevin?” Kevin almost dropped his fork. That came out of nowhere. “Of course I am. Just a bit pissed this has to be out there. And wrongfully told.” “You can bunk off at my house tonight if you want, I can do with a little company.” Nick said. “I’m okay. It’s over. I’m just worried what those people at the headquarters will say about the tabloid thing. They might want to keep this on the down low.” AJ laughed. “Nothing is dl when it comes to Backstreet Boys, they should know this is coming one way or another.” “Well, we’ll find out from Johnny tomorrow. And then we’ll go from there.” Brian said. “I hope this gets resolved quickly.” “Man, if I were mugged, I’m not sure what the fuck I’m gonna do.” AJ said. “Don’t put yourself in a situation where you CAN get mugged.” Kevin said. “And that my brothers, is the lesson for tonight.” “And with that, I’m going to excuse myself to the men’s room.” Howie smiled, making a beeline to the room. Brian giggled. “Man, how long was he holding that one?” “Not a good conversation to have with chicken wings.” Nick pointed out. “That looks yummy.” Nick grinned. “It is.” Brian playfully pouted. “This is where you go ‘wanna have some Bri Bri?’” “Fine, but just a little bit cause I’m still a growing kid and needs more food than you.” AJ grabbed one and placed it on his plate. “Me too, I’m a growing kid, thanks Nick.” Nick looked at his plate. One chicken wing left. “Kevin, you’re not getting any.” “I’ll stick to my salad, thanks.” “That chicken stick looks yummy.” Nick said, peering over Kevin’s bowl of salad. “Okay, and this is where I go ‘back off my dinner’.” “You’re no fun.” Nick said before grabbing his last chicken wing. Howie sauntered back to the table, in a frown. “Hey Kev, did you know a woman was killed near where you were mugged? On the SAME day!” Kevin almost choked on his food. How had he managed to forget about that? Great, now they would think that he was hiding something from them still. “Where did you hear that?” “Was on the news. And yeah, they installed TV in the men’s room now.” “Cool! Gotta check it out.” AJ said. “You didn’t know about this Kev?” Brian asked, even though he had his suspicions that Kevin already did. Nick couldn’t bluff if his life depended on it. “It gets interesting,” Howie said. “she was the secretary to John Klass, the guy who’s running for Mayor. His first public speech is like in a week’s time.” Kevin felt his stomach roared.
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