Katie reluctantly broke away from A.J., hearing a voice. "What was that?"
"A.J., are you there?" the voice called again.
"Shit! A.J., that's Kevin!" Katie hissed. "Shit, shit, shit, shit—"
"Oh yeah. We were supposed to go to dinner," A.J. recalled.
"Well thanks for telling me!"
"Sorry, but you kind of distracted me—"
"A.J.?!" Kevin yelled again.
"Fuck! I have to get dressed!" Katie realized, getting out of bed and gathering up her clothes. She frowned when she saw that something was missing. "Where the hell is my bra?"
"On the stairs, remember?" A.J. asked, pulling on his boxers.
"A.J. McLean?" Kevin asked again. He was getting dangerously close.
"Quick, just get under the covers next to me, and when he comes in, I'll pretend I was taking a nap," A.J. reasoned.
There was knocking on the door.
Katie dove under the covers, holding A.J. tightly around the waist and lying flat on the bed so it looked like she was just a lump in the blankets.
"A.J.? Are you in there?"
A.J. groaned, like he was just waking up. "Huh?" he mumbled groggily.
"Can I come in?" Kevin asked.
"Uhm, yeah, I guess," A.J. yawned.
Kevin walked in and turned on the lights. "Were you asleep?"
"What does it look like?" A.J. returned, stretching.
"Are you alone?"
"No, Kevin, I'm with my imaginary friend," A.J. retorted.
"Then would you care to explain this?" Kevin held up Katie's bra.
A.J.'s eyes widened for a second, but he quickly got a hold of himself again. "Kevin, what are you talking about?"
"You're not alone, are you?"
"Kevin, that's not mine—"
"And I haven't been with a girl either," A.J. finished, glaring at his friend.
Kevin could see the anxiety building in A.J.'s brown eyes. He walked up to the bed. "Mind if I see what's under here?" he asked, pointing to the floor beneath the bed.
"Go right ahead."
Kevin knelt down and looked underneath the bed. He found nothing and stood back up again.
"Do you believe me now?" A.J. asked impatiently, concealing a smile when he felt Katie's arms tighten around his waist.
Kevin backed away, getting ready to say yes, but then he squinted. He could've sworn that he'd seen something move underneath the covers on the far side of A.J. Without saying a word, Kevin walked forwards again and peeled back the sheets.
Katie squeezed her eyes tightly shut as she felt the blankets being lifted from over her head. When she opened them, she saw her older brother staring at her with his mouth open. She waved uneasily. "Uh, hey, Kevvy."
Kevin murmured something that she couldn't understand as he backed away in disbelief. "Oh my G-d." He looked at the bra in his hand and immediatley dropped it, realizing that it was his sister's.
Katie sat up, pulling the sheets up with her, and spoke up before Kevin could get the wrong impression. "Look, Kevin, this isn't what it looks like."
"Good. Because it looks like you and A.J. are fucking each other!" Kevin sighed. "How could you do this Katie? You know that it's wrong!"
"It's not wrong!" Katie shot back. "I love him," she explained, her voice softening.
"You...you love me?" A.J. echoed, looking up at her in surprise.
She looked at him in amazement. "Of course I love you, A.J.," she replied, putting her hand on his chest.
He smiled. "I-I love you too, Katie," he murmured, starting to kiss her.
"Oh no you don't!" Kevin shouted, stopping them. "Katie, how could you be so irresponsible?"
"We're not being irresponsible!" Katie yelled, pointing to a box of condoms on the night table.
"Bullshit!" Kevin returned. "You could still get pregnant! And what about STD's? This is A.J. we're talking about?"
"A.J. does not have any STD's, Kevin," Katie replied, rolling her eyes in frustration.
"How do you know?"
"It's called getting tested!"
"Look, that's not the point!" Kevin replied angrily. "You two shouldn't be doing this, anyway! What would the media think?"
"Fuck the G-d damn media! This is the man I love!" Katie practically screamed, taking A.J.'s hand in hers.
Kevin's eyebrows shot up. "Okay, that's it. A.J., get out of here. Katie, get dressed."
"You can't do this, Kevin!" Katie protested, hot tears burning in her eyes.
"It's for your own good—"
"I'm twenty years old!" Katie pointed out, gripping A.J.'s hand more tightly.
"Just get dressed!" Kevin commanded.
"Maybe you should do what he says, Katie," A.J. mumbled.
"What? A.J., what are you—"
"Just do it." A.J. looked at her meaningfully, and she knew what he was thinking. Get Kevin to calm down a little and then try to talk to him.
"Okay," Katie muttered reluctantly.
"You..." Kevin said disgustedly, pointing at A.J. "Go to the bathroom or something."
A.J. got out of bed, picked up his shirt, and left the room, his eyes never leaving Katie's until he was out of sight.
"Now, get dressed," Kevin said, throwing the bra to Katie, leaving the room, and closing the door.
Crying softly, Katie quickly pulled her clothes on. "G-d damn it!" she muttered in frustration, pulling her dress on backwards at first. She twisted it around and quickly slipped into her shoes. She was about to go downstairs to where she knew that Kevin would be pacing back and forth in the living room, but an idea glimmered in her head all of a sudden.
Careful not to be heard, Katie stole quietly out of the room and down the hall to the bathroom, where the light was on. She rapped quickly on the door. "A.J.!" she whispered. "Open up!"
The door creaked open, and A.J. was standing there. She could see that he had been thinking hard because of the slight frown on his face.
"Look, Kevin is probably going to take me back to his place for awhile to give me a lecture," she whispered to him after kissing his lips quickly.
"Are you sure that you know what to do? Want me to come with?"
Katie shook her head. "I can deal with Kevin, A.J. I just have to get him to calm down a little, and then I'll talk some sense into him."
A.J. nodded. "Okay, Katie. If you're sure..."
"I'm sure," she said, smiling warmly.
A.J. returned the smile and kissed her again. "I love you," he murmured.
Katie's smile widened. "Hey, I have an idea. Why don't you go to my house, and I'll meet you back there after I'm finished talking to Kevin?" she suggested, grinning evilly.
"Sounds good to me," A.J. replied, starting to kiss her again. Kevin calling her name from downstairs interrupted them.
"I better go, but I'll see you later," she said, running her hand down A.J.'s chest.
"Mmm," he remarked, trying to pull her closer.
"Later," Katie reassured him. "I love you, Alex."
"Love you too, Katie."
Katie kissed his cheek and went downstairs, where Kevin was indeed pacing back and forth in the living room.
"Let's go," he said, grabbing her arm.
"Let go of me!" Katie ordered, pulling away from him.
Kevin followed Katie out to his car and the two of them got in. They rode in stony silence most of the way to his house. "I can't believe you, Katie," Kevin said suddenly.
"Why? Why is it so unbelievable?" Katie wanted to know.
"You're too young to be having a relationship like that."
"Kevin, you're being hypocritical. You did it for the first time when you were only eighteen," Katie pointed out.
"That was a mistake. And so is this."
Katie just stared at him for a second with her mouth open.
"Don't look at me that way, Katie," Kevin said as he pulled the car up in front of his house. He was going to open the door for her but she did it herself.
"I shouldn't look at you that way? Kevin, you're the one who is insulting the love of my life," Katie said, turning away so he couldn't see her tears.
Kevin unlocked the front door and made her go inside. "You're young, Katie. You'll have other loves."
"What if I don't want any other loves?" Katie replied stubbornly.
Kevin put a hand on her back and steered her into his living room, where they both sat on the couch. "Look, A.J....he's like a brother to me—"
"Like being the key word," Katie interrupted.
"That's not the point. He's such a close friend of mine, and you should respect that and stay away from him."
"Kevin, don't you want your little sister to be happy?"
"Of course I do. That's why I'm doing this."
"If you want your sister to be happy, then don't take away the person who makes her that way," Katie pleaded.
"A.J. isn't the only person who can make you happy. There are other men out there, men who aren't practically related to you!"
"You're wrong. A.J. is the one I've been waiting for."
"You're not making sense! What do you two see in each other? You have nothing in common!"
Katie stared at her brother as if he had grown a second head.
"Well, besides singing," Kevin amended.
"Besides singing?" Katie echoed. "Singing is my entire life. Singing is his entire life. And besides, we complement each other. What he doesn't have, I have in excess, and vice versa."
"You're fooling yourself," Kevin argued. "Katie, I want you to stay away from him. Asking for a relationship with A.J. McLean is asking for trouble."
Katie had been dangerously close to slipping over the edge, and now she lost it. "Kevin, you can't do that! You can't tell me what to do anymore!"
"I'm just looking out for you—"
"No, you're trying to control my life! Why don't you just make my decisions for me? Is that what you want?"
"No, I want you to be successful, and—"
"You're not Daddy!" Katie suddenly shouted.
That had quite an impact on him, and he was quiet for a second. "Wh-What did you say?"
"You heard me." Katie sighed. "Listen to yourself, Kevin! You're trying to be a parent, not a big brother."
"But Dad is—"
"Dead. Daddy is dead. We have no father anymore, not on this earth anyway," Katie finished for him. "Look, when Daddy died, and I was only eleven, you were right to act this way. I needed a father figure in my life. I was only a child. But I'm an adult now, Kevin! That's right, I've grown up. And what I need you to be now more than anything, more than a father, and even more than a brother, is a friend. And Kevvy, that's not what you're doing!" Katie couldn't hold back the tears anymore and broke down crying, burying her head in her hands.
Kevin could feel a lump forming in his own throat as well. He shifted his position on the couch so he was closer to her and put a hand on her back.
"Don't touch me," Katie mumbled through her sobs.
He eased his arm around her and pulled her back so she was sitting up. Then he reached over and got a tissue. He started to wipe her eyes for her, but she grabbed it from him and did it herself.
"Don't call me that."
Kevin tightened his arm around her. "Sweets," he said in a softer, warmer tone. "I know that it seems like I'm trying to mess with your life right now. But you don't know A.J. like I do. Trying to be with him will only result in you getting hurt."
"Just listen to me for one second, okay?"
Katie looked up at him, sighed when she saw the worry in his eyes, and nodded.
Kevin took a deep breath. "A.J. has this habit...he'll find some girl—"
"So I'm just some girl now?"
Kevin shut his eyes for a moment. "She'll be a nice enough person—usually really pretty—and A.J. will convince himself that she's the one. He'll convince himself that he loves her, and he'll make her fall in love with him too. But then after a week or two, he'll get sick of her and just leave her...and she'll be heartbroken. I've seen it happen before."
"This is different, Kevin. It's real," Katie said softly.
He shook his head. "That's what you might think, Katie. But this happens all the time. He'll go on about how she has beautiful hair and eyes that look like the stars..."
Kevin noticed. "Oh, no. He said those things to you, didn't he?"
She nodded slowly.
"I'm so sorry, sweets, but that's just A.J. He's a great friend, but when women are concerned..." Kevin didn't have to finish the sentence. He wrapped his other arm around his little sister.
"I don't understand, Kevin. I thought it was for real. I thought that I could see it in his eyes..." She trailed off and started to cry again.
"Shh...it'll be okay," he said, holding her tightly. "I'm here for you."
They stayed like that for another minute or two before she pulled away and wiped her eyes again.
"Want me to take you home?" Kevin asked.
Katie stiffened, remembering what she had said to A.J. before. She looked helplessly up at her brother.
"Or if you don't want to be alone right now..." He nodded towards the guest room.
"Thanks, Kevvy," she whispered. "And I'm sorry that I—"
"No, no," he said firmly, shaking his head. "A.J.'s the one I'm mad at now, not you."
"Why?" Katie asked. "It was just as much my fault as it was his."
"That's not true," Kevin insisted. "And besides, you're my little sister, I can't stay mad at you for long," he added, tousling her hair. "Come on, you should get some rest, sweets." He walked with her to the door of the guest room. "I'll get you some stuff to sleep in. And if you need anything—"
"Just yell," Katie finished for him, managing a weak smile.
He returned the smile. "Yeah. I'll be right back."
In less than a minute he was back, holding a t-shirt and some boxers. "Here, I haven't even worn these yet," he said, handing them to her.
"Thank you so much, Kev," Katie whispered.
"You're welcome," he replied. He kissed her forehead. "Goodnight, Katie."
"'Night, Kev." She closed the door and stood
motionless for a second before she threw herself across the
bed and cried.