Through Thick And Through Thin

Chapter Three

"And I want it that way," A.J. sang as the platform started to lower beneath the stage. The other guys shouted out their goodbyes to the screaming crowd until they had completely disappeared from view.

Brian let out a whoop. "Almost done with another tour!" he exclaimed.

"Yep, all we got left is our homecoming," Nick pointed out.

A.J. groaned. "I know that we've done this show a hundred times, but homecoming makes me nervous," he complained.

"Everything makes you nervous," Howie commented.

A.J. grinned and shrugged. "Maybe it's just because Katie will be there."

Kevin looked away and felt his stomach do a somersault. Even after a year, he wasn't exactly used to the idea of his best friend and his little sister being together.

"Hey, Kev, you okay?" Brian asked, seeing his cousin look away in disgust.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Kevin muttered. "Just a little tired is all."

"Aren't we all," Howie agreed, yawning.

"Aw, is it past your bedtimes?" Brian cooed, putting his arms around Howie and Kevin.

They both smiled sarcastically at him.

"I'll be back," A.J. said as he started to walk down the hall to his dressing room.

"Yeah, same," Nick agreed, following him.

"Me too," Kevin said. Brian and Howie shrugged and went after them.

A.J. breathed a sigh of relief when he was finally alone in his dressing room. He had been waiting for this all night. He dug in his bag and drew out a box of cigarettes and a lighter. A.J. eagerly pulled a cigarette out, lit it, and took a drag. He groaned when he saw his reflection in the mirror. He shouldn't be doing this. He shouldn't be ruining his voice-- or his life--like this. What would his mom think? Hell, what would Katie think? A.J. let out another groan, remembering how his girlfriend disapproved wholeheartedly of smoking. There was a knock at the door, and he answered it, forgetting that he had something in his hand.

It was Kevin. "Hey, Bone, have you seen my..." Kevin trailed off, seeing A.J.'s hand. "What's that?" he asked with dangerous repose.

A.J. glanced down at his hand and his eyes widened. "Uhm...nothing?"

"Don't pull your shit with me. That's a cigarette. You're smoking again, aren't you, A.J.?"

A.J. looked away and didn't answer.

"Aren't you?" Kevin repeated, the tone of his voice escalating a bit.

A.J. sighed. "Yes, I am. Please don't tell Katie! She thinks that I quit."

"You want me to lie to her?! To my own sister?!"

"No, just don't say anything, please."

Kevin didn't respond.

"Look, I know that I shouldn't be doing this--"

"Damn right you shouldn't!"

"But I'm trying to quit. I swear that I'll tell her after I quit, but I don't want her to find out about it the wrong way. Please, Kev?" A.J. begged.

Kevin sighed sharply. "Okay, I won't bring it up. But if she asks me, I'm not lying to her," he warned.

"Okay, thank you so much, Kev!"

"Yeah, whatever. But if you do anything to hurt her--"

"I won't," A.J. said confidently.

"You'd better not," Kevin said. "Because if you do, I'll beat your ass to a bloody pulp."

A.J. moaned and banged his head against the wall. He knew that Kevin would stay true to his word, but that was little consolation for the fact that he was doing something that Katie would be angry with him for. He hated to make her mad, to see any kind of unrest in those beautiful green eyes of hers. A.J. looked at the cigarette he was holding in disgust and quickly put it out. A minute later, he couldn't hold back the cravings any more and lit a new one, knowing that it was wrong but at the same time unable to stop himself.

* * *

Linz sighed and moved closer to the warm body next to her as she woke up the next morning. She smiled, feeling muscular arms tighten protectively around her. "Mm...Kevin," she mumbled softly.

"Kevin? Who's Kevin?"

Linz's eyes widened, and she sat up straight. Her heart sank when she saw Carlos lying there next to her. "Oh my G-d..." she whispered.

"Linz, who's Kevin?" Carlos demanded, sitting up.

"My boyfriend," she said quietly.

"Your boyfriend?"

She nodded and looked to him with desperate eyes. "I'm so sorry that I didn't tell you. I wasn't thinking, and--oh shit, if Kevin finds out--"

"He won't find out," Carlos assured her. "I'll leave."

Linz frowned and nodded again. "Thank you," she whispered.

"Hey, don't be thanking me," he said as he got up. "I'd do it all over again if I had to."

Tears started to form in Linz's eyes. She couldn't believe that she had let something so stupid and irresponsible happen. She bit her lip as the tears started to fall, wondering what Kevin would do if he found out about this. Their relationship would be over. Linz took a deep breath. Kevin could never find out about this. She didn't know how she would survive if he left her. She had never been this happy to be with a man in her entire life, and now she had blown it all in one stupid mistake. NO! she thought fiercely. I won't lose him. Even if it means lying...I won't let him go! She breathed deeply as she heard the front door open and Carlos' car pull out of the driveway. Everything would be fine as long as she kept her mouth shut.


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