It took about three seconds for everyone to jump out the car when it pulled up to the cabin. Joey scrunched his face up as he looked at the cabin.
"This is it?" he asked, uncertainly.
"I'm not a very rich man; I wanted to give us a nice vacation. So shut up." Chris scolded him.
"Hey Justin!" JC called from behind the car. He picked up a clump of snow and walked around to Justin. "Look it's fake."
"Oh geez, it's not fake. Let it go." Justin scoffed. "Besides, you wouldn't even know how to tell if it's fake."
"You know, I'm not as stupid as you all make me out to be. Snow is thicker than this. Just feel it. It doesn't have the right consistency." JC held it out to Justin.
"You can't argue with that Justin. Very clever scientific reasoning, JC." Zoe said, placing her hands on his shoulders.
"It's not fake. Get it through your little head, all right?" Justin swung his bag over his shoulder and started walking toward the cabin. JC glared and threw the 'fake' snowball at Justin's back. Justin only laughed and went on inside.
As Chris was getting everyone's stuff out of the car, Joey came beside him to lend him a hand.
"I'm going to walk around for a while if that's OK with you." Joey said.
"What do you mean by walk around?" Chris grunted as he hauled a heavy bag out of the back.
"I just want to go on a walk, maybe get to know the area a little better. I won't get lost or anything."
"Can I come?" Lance popped up next to them with a smile on his face. Unfortunately for Joey, that is.
"Actually, I think that's a good idea. Why don't you take Lance along with you?" Chris suggested, although Joey knew he really had no choice.
"Fine, come on." Joey jerked his head to the left, where he'd be heading. Lance followed closely behind.
"Hold his hand! It's likely you'll lose him if you don't." Chris called after them. Joey frowned and took Lance's hand in his.
"So where are we going?" Lance asked anxiously as Joey guided him along.
"Well, I was going to try and meet some girls at the ski lodge, but now that you're here, I'm not going to." Joey replied.
"I thought Mallory was your girlfriend." Lance tilted his head and looked at Joey curiously.
"Explain it to me." he persisted.
They stopped for a moment while Joey began thinking. "Maybe...I think she said it's because her dad won't let her have a boyfriend. She can date all she wants, she's just not allowed to be serious with anyone." Joey explained.
"What do you mean by serious?"
Joey sighed as they proceeded to walk across the snow. "I forgot, I'm talking to a seven year-old. I guess serious means when you're capable of loving that person."
"Do you love Mallory?" Lance said in a humorous, adorable way.
"She's a good friend of mine, but no I don't love her." Joey paused. "In fact, I think I am going to try and meet some girls. As the saying goes, kids are like a total babe magnet."
"You mean, I get to come?"
"Of course you get to come. You and I never get to bond with each other." Joey said. Lance furrowed his eyebrows in confusion.
"That's because you said bonding was stupid. And that I get in the way."
Joey laughed loudly, soon letting it die down as he realized how not funny it really was. "You don't get in the way, per se, you just mess things up sometimes."
"Is that suppose to make me feel better?" Lance said, doubtfully.
Joey cringed. He was never really good with kids and that was the reason he didn't like bonding. He was afraid he'd screw up like this. Lance looked at him sadly.
"Forget everything I just said. I was...delusional." Joey said.
"Is it true that there's always one bad kid in a family?"
"Yes," Joey sighed in relief. He assumed Lance was talking about him and that gave him an excuse to be a jerk. Joey was just bad.
"Then, I guess I'm the bad kid, huh?" Joey's eyes widened. He held his hands out telling him to hold on.
"What makes you think-"
"You said I mess things up all the time." Lance interrupted. Joey hit himself in the forehead.
"Crap," he said to himself. He put his hands on Lance's shoulders to get him to look at him. "You are not the bad kid. If anyone is a bad kid, it's me. I'm mean and rude. I say things that mean absolutely nothing."
Lance frowned. "Oh."
"You know what? I'm not much of a big brother anyway. I'm the big brother you go to when you do something bad and don't want to get in trouble. And when is that? Never, because you never do anything bad."
"I guess you're right."
"Yeah, I'm right. I'm the bad kid, so I know what to do in bad situations." Joey smiled. He now felt relieved that he had fixed everything. "I mean, if you broke something, what would you do?"
"I don't know." Lance shrugged.
"See? You can't be bad. Any bad kid would know that you hide the remains of what you broke and pretend you know nothing about it."
Lance smiled. "So I'm good?"
"Yes, you are a very good kid." Joey changed their path and turned around to head back to the cabin. After his experience, he wasn't in the mood to look for girls anymore. "Let's go back and see what everyone else is doing."
The two of them were silent most of the way back. Joey was afraid to say something that would mess things up again. Once they got back, everyone had gone inside. Joey told Lance not to mention their conversation to anyone, and then they went inside.
"Do you guys want another blanket?" Chris asked his two youngest brothers. The night had come quickly due to the long car ride there and JC and Lance were settling down for bed. They were going to be sharing a bed, considering the only other bedroom in the cabin had two beds and Joey and Justin would be sleeping there. Chris and Zoe settled a couple of old couches.
"We'll be fine." JC answered Chris' question and snuggled beneath the blanket they had in an effort to get warm. Because of the rush Justin had put on him to pack, he didn't have the time to pack any warm pajamas. So he was now wearing a pair of thin sweatpants and a t-shirt.
"You sure?" Chris said. JC nodded.
JC nodded. "Positive."
"All right, I'll see the two of you in the morning." Chris leaned down and gave both of them a kiss on the head; JC rolling his eyes as he did so. "Good night."
Chris shut the light out and closed the door softly. Lance turned over on his side so he was facing the door. There was a bit of light creeping from underneath it so he tried to stay as far away from darkness as he could. He hugged the stuffed animal in his arms tightly and closed his eyes.
Normally, Lance could fall asleep within ten minues of lying in bed, but he was having trouble. And to add to it, he was beginning to hear strange noises coming from outside. He shuddered and rolled back over and latched himself around JC's body.
"Lance?" JC, who had not yet fallen asleep either, sat up and tried to push Lance off of him. "What are you doing?"
"I'm scared." he whispered.
"Well, let go of me and I'll go turn the light on." Lance cautiously released his grip on him and JC climbed out of bed and flipped the light switch on. He squinted at the sudden brightness. "Why are you scared?"
"I heard something outside. I think it's a wolf or a monster or something."
"There is nothing outside but fake snow and trees. No wolves and no monsters." JC sat back down on the bed and rubbed his eyes.
"Go out there and look." Lance persisted.
"No way. I am not going to go out there and look for something that's not there. Plus, I don't want to get in trouble for going out there in the middle of the night."
"Don't you love me?"
"Yeah I love you, but I'm tired and I want to sleep." JC lied back down on the mattress and closed his eyes, not even attempting to sleep at all. He knew Lance would eventually convince him.
"Just go look real quick and then you can come back and go to sleep."
"Fine, I can not believe I'm doing this." JC pushed himself off the bed and headed towards the window. He lifted it open, exposing gusts of extremely cold air to blow into the room. JC sighed and climbed through the opening and lowered himself the short distance down to the ground. From the window to the ground, it was about seven feet. He began to shiver uncontrollably as his bare feet touched the ground.
"Lance, there's nothing down her..." he trailed off as he looked up, noticing Lance trying to close the window. "What are you doing?!"
"I was cold so I wanted to close it, but now it's stuck." Lance struggled to pull one direction or the other.
"What do you mean, it's stuck? I can't fit through there." JC observed the small opening that Lance had left when he was trying to close it. "It's cold out here, I want back in."
"What do you want me to do?" Lance asked. He kneeled down next to the opening so JC could hear him.
"Go get Chris!" JC rubbed his hands up and down his arms, which were full of goosebumps. His teeth began to chatter.
"But if I go get Chris, we'll get in trouble! You said so."
"I d..don't care! Go get him."
"You'll blame it all on me. You'll say I made you go out there."
"I will not! P...p...please just go get him." The wind continued to blow, not doing much for JC's already cold body.
Lance bit his lip and stood up, leaving the room. He walked across the floor to Justin and Joey's room. The two of them were both sleeping when he came in. The floorboards creaked as he crept over to Joey's bed.
"Joey," he whispered, shaking him. Being a light sleeper, Joey woke up at his touch.
"Lance? What are you doing here?" Joey asked.
"I have a problem. I need your help."
"Ask Justin, he'll help you better than I will." Lance shook his head and shook him harder to get him to possibly get out of bed.
"I can't. It's something bad and you said if I did something bad then I'm suppose to go to you. It's bad, Joey, really bad." Lance said in hushed panic.
"And again, my words come back in my sleep." Joey muttered. He threw his blanket off and followed Lance out of the bedroom. "What's your problem? What did you do wrong?"
They approached the bedroom and went inside, Lance shutting the door. "I locked JC outside."
"You what?" Joey looked at him disbelievingly. "How did this happen?"
Joey looked out the window where indeed JC was waiting for someone to help him inside. JC saw Joey and got angry.
"That's not Chris, Lance! Joey can't help, he doesn't care!" JC yelled.
"Hey, I do to care. Just hang on, I'll open the window and you can climb back up." Joey clutched the window and attempted to pull it open.
"It's stuck." Lance informed him.
"That's OK, I can get it." Joey pulled harder, only to find that it was truly stuck. "Man, this thing really won't open. I bet Chris could get it."
"My p..point exactly." JC said. "Go g...get him."
"All right, I'll be back." Joey began towards the door.He went in search of Chris and found him messing with the fireplace and Zoe laughing at his struggle to get a fire going. "Hey, Chris. We have a crisis."
Zoe and Chris both turned to him, the fire starting just as Chris turned his head. He jumped up startled by the sudden heat.
"What's up?" Chris asked.
"This is gonna sound very weird, but JC is locked outside." Joey motioned for Chris to follow him back to the bedroom. When they returned, Justin had awoken and joined them in trying to open the stuck window.
"Oh no." Chris muttered. He walked over to the window and motioned for Justin to stop. He took over and tried his hardest to get the window open. "How did this happen?" he asked, not stopping his efforts.
"Well, I thought I heard something outside so I asked JC to go look for me and the window got stuck." Lance explained, fearfully. He was afraid Chris was going to start yelling at him.
"Oh geez," Chris groaned. "JC, why don't you go around to the front door and we'll let you in."
"I t...tried that alr..ready, there's a f...f...fence blocking it off." he stuttered. Chris sighed.
"What if you and Justin tried to open it together. That's twice as much strength." Zoe suggested.
"Right, that could work." Justin said. He stood beside Chris and the two of them began to pull upward on the window. After a few seconds, a miraculous creak was heard and the window budged all the way open. JC instantly raised his hands up for help. Chris extended his arms and pulled the half frozen boy back into the cabin.
Justin grabbed the blanket from off the bed and wrapped it around JC. "I told you to pack warmer clothes." he said.
"Like that would have helped. It's like twenty degrees out there." Joey couldn't help but laugh. Now that JC was safe, the whole thing was rather funny to him.
Chris held JC's body close to him and ran his hands up and down quickly to produce any kind of warmth for his little brother.
"You know, he could die from hypothermia." Joey joked. Justin instinctively hit him upside the head. JC looked up at Chris with fear in his eyes.
"He's just kidding, you're not going to die." Chris assured him. "Why don't we get out of this room, it's too cold in here."
Chris led JC out of the room, assuming that everyone else was going to go back to bed. Joey headed back towards the bedroom, but Justin hung close behind Chris.
"It's a good thing I got this fire started." Chris said. JC immediatly lied down on one of the couches, the one that was closest to the fire, and curled up tightly to force the coldness out of his body. He groaned after he let a sneeze escape.
"Looks like he's going to get pneumonia anyway," Justin commented. Chris shook his head.
"Maybe a cold, but not pneumonia." Justin laughed because Chris didn't understand the joke. "Do you need anything?" Chris asked, kneeling next to JC.
"I just want to sleep." he moaned. His shivering had begun to refrain and the color was starting to return to his face. Chris nodded in understanding and stood up to sit by Justin on the other couch.
"You know, I think I have it under control. You can go back to bed now." Chris told Justin, in a rather sarcastic way.
"That's all right, I'm not really that tired. I'll just stay out here with you. You're gonna need someone to talk to." Justin said.
"Really? I was just gonna go to bed. It looks like JC's already asleep."
"No, I'm not." he mumbled, keeping his eyes closed. Justin laughed as Chris shook his head. It was then he noticed the person missing from the room.
"Hey where'd Zoe go?" Chris asked.
"Oh, she's sleeping upstairs with Lance. To protect him from the 'monsters'. Figured it was best so JC could just sleep down here with you." Justin explained.
"She didn't have to do that."
"Yeah, well she did." Justin paused. "Well, I guess I'm going to go to bed now. I'm pretty tired."
"I thought you said that you weren't that tired." Chris said.
"Yeah, well I changed my mind. Good night." Justin rose from his seat and rubbed his dry eyes as he walked back his designated room.
Chris stood up and grabbed the blankets that were resting on top of a chair. He draped one across JC, knowing he probably needed more than one, and kept the other one for himself.
Reluctantly, he put out the fire in the fireplace. He almost jumped at how much colder it was without the given heat. But it was either that or risk setting the place on fire. A heater would be running periodically though, so Chris figured the cabin would be kept pretty warm.
Chris crawled onto the couch and flipped the lamp off beside him, settling down to sleep.
The next morning, Joey woke up and got dressed quickly. He was prepared to break away from his family and do what he had planned on doing the day before. He was going to 'pick up chicks', as his slang language referred it to.
Joey walked out of the bedroom, bumping into Justin on his way out.
"I was just gonna come ask you if you wanted some breakfast." Justin said. "All we can eat is cereal, since there's not stove."
"No stove? I wanted eggs. I've been wanting eggs for the past week and I never get them." Joey groaned. "I even tried to make them myself."
"Joey, this isn't a hotel suite. It's a cabin, a cheap cabin. So no stove, do you want some cereal?" Justin asked.
"No thanks, I was just heading out anyway." Justin rolled his eyes at the irony.
"Where are you going?"
"Skiing." Joey lied. He figured if he was asked, he could say that he went there to ski, but got preoccupied by a girl.
"Do you even know how to ski?" Justin questioned.
"I'll wing it." he shrugged.
"Fine, but be careful. I don't want to find out that you've gotten in an accident because you were 'winging it'. And put on a coat, will you? We don't need you getting sick too."
"All right, all right." Joey grabbed his coat and slipped it on, disappearing out the door.
Justin turned around and noticed that JC was waking up. He crossed the room and sat down on the edge of the couch as JC turned over and opened his eyes.
"How do you feel?" Justin asked him, sympathetically.
"I feel awful." JC moaned. "And I'm really hot."
Justin put a hand to his forehead to check his fever and sighed. He smoothed back the hair on JC's burning face and smiled.
"I'll take away one of the blankets since you're hot, but you have to keep the other one. You have to keep warm when you're sick or else you'll get sicker." JC nodded. Justin was surprised that JC hadn't complained about that, but realized that no matter how sick he was, he was going to have a fit about what Justin was going to say next. "Chris went into town to get you some medicine. He'll be back soon."
"What? No, I don't want any medicine. I'm fine." JC whined.
"I don't care if you don't want it. The only way your temperature is going to go down is if you get some medicine. I will force it down your throat if I have to."
"Not fair. Make Lance take it, it's his fault I'm sick." JC said.
"It's not his fault. You didn't have to go out there."
"He told me to, and he wouldn't shut up until I did. He accused me of not loving him. What was I supposed to do?" Justin shook his head. "And then he tried to close the window because he was cold and it got stuck. His fault."
"Don't blame it on him, he doesn't know any better."
Chris came through the door at that moment, carrying a brown paper sack. "Do you know how hard it is to find a drug store in this town?" he said. He set the bad on the table and began taking things out.
Justin joined him and looked at the items on the table, including a carton of strawberry ice cream. "Ice cream, huh. Good plan."
"Well," Chris glanced at the couch and lowered his voice. "You know how JC is about taking medicine. This is the only way."
"You're right." Justin watched as Chris poured a teaspoon of the medicine into a bowl of ice cream, blending in with the pinkish color. He mixed it up with a spoon and carried it over to the couch.
"Hey, JC. You want some ice cream?" Chris sat down on the edge, the same way as Justin had.
"Don't even try it, I know what you put in there." JC muttered. "You think you're so sneaky, don't you? You do it every time I'm sick; you think I wouldn't catch on?"
Chris set the bowl on a nearby end table. "Look, I know it's nasty and I know you don't want it, but you have to take it. If it was a cold or a headache, I'd let it slide, but you have a fever. You can either take it straight or with the ice cream. Your choice."
JC was about to answer, but he was interrupted by Lance coming asking for breakfast. Before Justin could respond, JC piped in, "Want some ice cream?"
"I'll make you some cereal." Justin corrected. He took Lance over to the table and poured him a bowl of cereal. Chris turned back to JC.
"Do you want the ice cream?"
"I don't want it, but you're going to yell at me if I don't eat it, aren't you?" Chris nodded. "Fine, give it to me."
The bowl was handed to him and he reluctantly took a bite, immediatly tasting something 'off' about it. Chris sighed in relief and stood up from the couch, joining Lance and Justin in the kitchen.
"Is Joey still asleep?" he asked. Justin shook his head.
"He went skiiing." Chris gave him a look of doubt. "I'm just relaying the message. Whether he actually went skiing is his business."
"He probably didn't." Lance said. He sounded very sure of himself. "You know, because he's the bad kid and everything."
"What do you mean, 'the bad kid'?" Chris said.
"You know, the bad kid." Lance replied. Chris chuckled.
"No, I'm afraid I don't know. Explain it to me."
Lance sighed in exasperation. "The bad kid is the kid that the family likes the least and that always does bad stuff to get in trouble. The bad kid."
"Oh, I see. And Joey is the bad kid?" Justin said. Lance nodded. "Where did you hear a crazy idea like that?"
"Of course." Chris nodded in understanding. "Well, I don't like any of you the least. I love all of you very much. So Joey is not the bad kid."
"Well, then who is?" Lance asked.
"No one, there is no bad kid. He made it up for some odd reason."