Kayla and Kevin couldn't stop laughing as they walked up Brian's front path together. In the car on the way over to his cousin's house, Kevin had found an 'N Sync song on the radio, and the two of them had been belting it out at the top of their lungs with great spirit.
The door opened, and A.J. appeared. He grinned, seeing his two friends. "Hey, guys." He smiled at Kayla. "Don't we look lovely this evening."
She laughed. "Do you ever stop flirting with anyone, A.J.?"
"Well...I don't think I ever started flirting with Kev here."
Kevin grinned. "Let's hope not," he agreed as he walked into the house with Kayla following him.
A.J. closed the door behind them. "Everyone else is already here," he explained. "We're picking out a movie to watch right now."
They went into the den, where everyone was sitting around Brian's couch. Howie, Nick, and Brian himself all waved when they saw Kevin and Kayla.
"Heyyy, Kayla!" Brian said. He immediately got up from the couch and gave her a hug.
"Hey," she replied, hugging back. She waved to Howie and Nick. "Listen, I am parched."
"Oh, let me get you something to drink," Brian offered.
"No, no, I'll get it. Just tell me where the kitchen is."
"Right through there," Brian directed pointing to a hall.
"Okay, thanks," Kayla said before going down it and into the kitchen. As she unearthed a glass and started to put ice into it, she could hear the guys squabbling about which movie to watch. She smiled. They were so cute as a group, even when they were fighting.
"Kayla!" Brian yelled after a moment.
"Yeah?" she yelled back.
"What movie do you want?"
"I don't care as long as it's not scary!" she answered.
There was another burst of noise and talking, followed by laughing. Kayla shook her head, still smiling, as she walked out of the kitchen. She entered the den and immediately stopped, seeing that the guys had filled up the couch.
"Hey!" she exclaimed. "You didn't save a spot for me!"
"Yeah, well, you snooze, you lose," Kevin said.
She gave him a hurt look.
He laughed. "I'm just kidding. You can come sit on my lap, sweetie."
"Kevin's lap? Ew, gross," she said jokingly. She walked over and seated herself on top of him. "So what are we watching."
Nick grinned evilly and held up a DVD case. "The Exorcist," he answered.
Kayla's eyes widened. "NO."
"Yes," he said, handing it to Brian, who walked up to the DVD player and put it in.
"No way am I watching that movie," she resolved.
"Au contraire," Kevin told her, locking his arms around her waist so that she couldn't get up.
"Guys, I'm not joking," she said. "I am not going to watch 'the scariest movie ever made!'"
"It's not that bad," Howie attempted.
"Kayla, it'll be okay," Kevin reassured, patting her on the back. "I'll protect you from all of the bad guys."
The other guys started laughing. Kayla smacked him on the arm and started to get up again, but he recovered and pulled her back down.
"Come on, seriously. Won't you watch it with us?"
"C'mon, Kayla, pleeease?" Brian interrupted, using that infamous puppy face.
She groaned. "Oh, fine. Damn it, Brian!" she said, laughing. "I know I'm going to regret this."
"Nahhh. You'll love it," Brian told her.
"Yeah, nightmares for a week. I'll love that."
"Hey, baby, if you have trouble sleeping, you just come knock on my door, and I'll take care of you," A.J. said, winking at her.
She laughed. "Okay, yeah, I'll do that. Prepare to be woken up a lot in the next week."
"Hey, everyone move over a little," Kevin said. They did, leaving space in between him and Nick. "There, now you can sit in between two big men."
Kayla grinned. "Nick? A big man?"
"Very funny," Nick replied sarcastically.
"Awww, I'm just kidding, Nicky-Poo," Kayla cooed, patting him on the shoulder.
Nick grabbed her hand. "You call me that again and you're a dead woman."
She rolled her eyes. "But I have to have a cute nickname for you," she protested.
"That's fine, just don't call me Nicky!"
"Do you have issues or something?" Kayla wondered.
"Yes, I have issues with being called Nicky," he said, rolling his eyes.
"It's a possibility," she defended, laughing.
"A real likely one, too," he added.
"Hey, zip it, you two, it's starting," Brian cut in.
"Or we could just keep talking," Kayla said cheerfully. "So Nick, tell me about your childhood. Tell meó"
Just then, Kevin clamped his hand over her mouth, so she had to be quiet.
There was an awed silence around Brian's den as the movie ended. Everyone was just staring at the now blank TV screen with wide eyes. After a moment Brian finally got up to take the movie out of the DVD player. He glanced back at Kayla and couldn't help but smirk when he saw the expression on her face.
"So did you like it?" he asked her.
She let out a little whimper.
"I see," he said, laughing.
"You're such a wuss," Nick commented.
"Oh, yeah, Carter, you're one to talk," Kayla remarked. "Don't think I didn't feel you clinging to my arm."
"At least I didn't spend half the movie with my face buried in Kevin's shoulder," he retorted.
Kayla giggled. "I should hope not," she agreed. Then she turned to Kevin. "Of course, he might like it."
"What now?" Kevin asked, just now recovering from the movie's end.
Kayla and Nick laughed. "Nothing," she said, patting his arm.
"That movie is fucking sweet," A.J. muttered, grinning.
Kayla reached across Nick and smacked him.
"What was that for?" he whined.
"Language!" she said.
"Hypocrite," Howie coughed, grinning.
"Don't make me smack you too, D," she warned, wagging a finger at him.
Howie pretended to hide his face out of fear, and she laughed. "Hey, what time is it?" she wondered.
"Gee, I don't know...there's only a clock right there," Kevin said, pointing to it.
Kayla rolled her eyes at him before glancing over and checking the time. Her eyes widened when she saw it. "Hey! It's 12:13!" she commented.
"So?" Kevin wondered.
"'Uh, yeah, Kayla, you'll be home by midnight, I promise,'" Kayla said, imitating Brian.
Brian looked up, grinning. "I didn't say midnight, I said twelve."
"I didn't say which twelve," he said, grinning slyly.
Kayla picked up a pillow and threw it at him, laughing. "I hate you."
He laughed too and threw it back. "No, actually, I really did think we'd be done by, oh, quarter till. But some people...ahem, ahem...were late getting here." He looked meaningfully at Kevin and Kayla.
"Don't look at me, she's the one who took ten minutes to get out to my car!" Kevin defended.
"You're such a liar! I took three! You were just late!" Kayla shot back, laughing.
"I was not!" Kevin argued, starting to tickle her stomach.
She shrieked with laughter and tried to tickle him back, but then Nick joined in and held her arms down while Kevin kept tickling her.
"Tickle fight!" Brian yelled, throwing himself across Kayla and starting to tickle her back.
She was giggling hysterically now, her face turning bright red from laughing so hard. Howie and A.J., the only two who weren't participating, gave each other a look. Then, smirking, they both went up to Nick and pinched him on the neck. He yelped, let go of Kayla, and tumbled backwards, making Howie and A.J. start laughing too. Then Brian, who was lying on his back on top of Kayla, reached for Kevin and started tickling him instead.
"Shit!" Kevin yelled in surprise, letting go of Kayla and falling backwards just like Nick had. As soon as she was freed, Kayla jumped up to her feet. Howie and A.J. walked up to her, grinning, and she motioned for them to give her five. Nick was getting to his feet, and Brian was chasing Kevin around the room. Kevin finally reached Kayla and, grabbing her waist, hid behind her.
"Save me, Kayla!" he begged.
Laughing, she put a hand up to stop his cousin. "No! Bad Brian!"
Brian started to whimper like a puppy.
"Serves you right," Kevin said, sticking his tongue out.
"Haha, well, this is fun and all, but might I remind everyone that we have to be up at seven tomorrow," A.J. interjected.
"I have to be up at six thirty," Kayla said.
"Well, don't you feel special," A.J. said.
"Come on, Kayla, I'll take you home," Kevin said.
"Okay. Thanks for having us over, Bri," Kayla said, going up to him and giving him a hug.
"No problem. Are you sure you don't want to just stay here for the night?" he offered.
She smiled and shook her head. "No, that's okay. But thanks."
Brian smiled and saluted her. "Anytime. See you up at the studio tomorrow."
Kayla walked out of the house with Kevin, Howie, and A.J., since Nick was staying with Brian at the moment. She hugged all of them goodbye before getting into the car with Kevin. As she got into bed and turned off the light in her room that night, she thought back to that evening and she couldn't wipe a happy smile for her face. She had been right in thinking that things would be picking up from now on.
Little did she know, over the next few months, her entire world was going to change.