we invented the remix 5

deep greens and blues by mette: the marital advice mix by luxshine

When they had been little, everyone thought that Kevin was Brian's brother. Not because they looked very similar: there was the faint family resemblance, but it was clear that Brian was a Littrell and not a Richardson; but because Kevin never let anything happen to his cousin.

They were inseparable when they were kids, and Kevin, being the tallest, always was there to try and keep his cousin safe. As the years went by, they both started on different paths, but Kevin was still there every time Brian needed him and Brian started doing the same for his cousin, standing by his side no matter what, which was why no one was surprised when Brian got the call to join the Backstreet Boys.

Everyone who knew the cousins was sure then and there that the group would work, would become great, as long as the two cousins were working together, because they had each others' backs.

As the years passed, Kevin was promoted from 'older brother' of the group to 'father figure'. He wasn't exactly sure when it had happened – somewhere between the time when he was the one making sure that Nick wouldn't get in trouble for doing all the things a fourteen year old should not do no matter what Jane Carter said, and the time when he broke down the door to AJ's room that day he wanted to forget no matter what - but the thing was that it had happened. Which was why he hadn't been really surprised when Howie came to his room one night during the Millennium tour and told him that he had a crush on Brian.

"Brian is getting married soon," Kevin had said. And in retrospective, that hadn't been the smartest thing to say. But in Kevin's own defense, he hadn't asked for the 'older brother/father figure' position, and he wasn't sure why the others thought he was good at giving advice. Kristen had once told him that it was because he spoke slowly. It made it sound as if he actually knew what he was talking about.

"That doesn't make me want him any less," Howie confessed, sitting down on Kevin's bed. "Am I a horrible person for wanting him?"

Kevin didn't answer immediately. Howie was one of the nicest people he knew; he was always more worried about the others' feelings than of his own. And Kevin wasn't one to give moral speeches. If Kristen had been engaged to someone else, he would've tried to win her back anyway.

"No, I don't think you're horrible," Kevin finally said. "I just hope you don't end up suffering more for this."

Howie looked at him, his eyes wide and sad, but even so, his friend smiled. Kevin knew it was a forced smile, but decided not to say anything else. There wasn't really much he could say.

"I just wanted someone to know," Howie finally said. "I'm not going to do anything about it."

Kevin nodded, because he understood. There were things that you couldn't keep to yourself.

Which was why it didn't really surprised him when, four months later, Brian came to ask him if he was hallucinating that Howie wanted him.

Kevin hadn't felt more uncomfortable in his whole life. Not when Lou had announced that they were going to do a couple of shirtless photo shoots. Not when he had reviewed the storyboards for Quit Playing Games with My Heart. Not even when he had to lie to Kristen about that one time in Germany when he had cheated on her.

But he managed to lie to Brian, and assure him it was all in his mind. He had actually looked into his cousin's eyes and had lied to him for the first time in years.

Kevin was also sure that Brian hadn't believed a single word out of his mouth, so he had gone and asked Howie to be more discreet. When that was over, he had called Kristen and told her the whole situation.

Kristen, bless her, had laughed.

"See, Kev?" she had said, once she managed to get words out. "This is why we don't need to have children. You already have four."

Most of the time, Kevin could ignore the romantic drama of his bandmates's lives. He still supported them if it was needed, like when he had defended Nick against Paris's accusations, or his monthly talk with AJ about his questionable choices of girlfriends, but in general, he took a live and let live philosophy about it all.

The only one who worried Kevin was Howie.

Howie, who kept dating men in secret, and breaking up with them because they were not Brian.

It all came crashing down one day when AJ was telling them about a girl who had given him her parents' wedding bands. Kevin wasn't paying much attention to the story itself because he had heard it, or variations thereof many times before. He loved their fans, but some were simply weird. The ones that showed up in wedding dresses, the ones that threw their bras on the stage, and of course, the ones that gave family jewelry to AJ.

What Kevin was doing was watching Brian, who had been restless for weeks, ever since Lieghanne went back home. And then Brian murmured something into AJ's ear and Kevin's world shifted. He knew that smile, he had seen it on Brian's face many times when Brian had been courting Leighanne.

Brian is having an affair with AJ. Shit.

After that, things got strange for Kevin. Howie didn't come to talk about how he felt, but then, he also stopped dating completely which made Kevin watch him more closely. Brian, on the other hand, looked on the verge of a nervous breakdown, which was the reason why Kevin decided to talk with his cousin after the worst interview they had ever done as a group, including the one they had given right after AJ had entered rehab.

Especially after Nick stormed out of their waiting room. Kevin never quite learned what had happened there, but he knew that it had to do with Howie, because long ago the only one who could make Nick look miserable was Howie.

"What's going on, cuz?" Kevin asked, as soon as he was alone with Brian. His cousin looked at him, looking honestly confused.

"AJ kissed me," Brian said, sitting down. Kevin didn't answer, so there was a long, uncomfortable silence before Brian spoke up again. "I liked it."

"Is this why you and Leigh are separated?" Kevin asked after another long silence.

"No. Yes. I don't know." Brian wasn't exactly having a conversation with Kevin. It was more like a series of long, awkward silences with some sentences in between. "I don't know what to do, Kev."

"Do you love AJ?" Kevin asked, decided to stop beating around the bush. Brian was old enough not to get freaked over one single kiss. Kevin also knew that Brian wouldn't get freaked just because AJ was a guy. Howie wasn't the only one who had confided his not so straight leanings to Kevin.

"I don't know," Brian was looking at his hands. "I just thought you should know."

Kevin raised his eyebrows, not convinced.

"I never thought AJ would kiss me," Brian said after another long silence. "I thought it would be ... not AJ."

Kevin sighed, knowing that his silence would be answer enough for Brian. If Brian was waiting for Howie to make a move, he would be waiting for a long time. Howie simply wasn't the type to just take what he wanted. But Kevin wasn't going to say anything because they weren't in high school and he was too old to be passing gossip about who liked whom.

That didn't stop him from calling Kristen later on. The others brought their problems to him, he was thankful that his wife would listen to his weird questions.

"Kristen, what would you do if I told you I wanted to have sex with another man?" he asked, after the other, normal subjects of conversation were over.

Unlike Brian, Kristen didn't need awkward silences. "Is it Howie? He's cute."

"I'm not talking about Howie," Kevin frowned on his cell. "And what do you mean he's cute?"

"Not Howie, huh? Well, I know it's not Nick," Kristen continued, as if she hadn't heard his question. "Oh, AJ then? I never figured you liked tattoos so much."

"You think Howie's cute?" Kevin repeated, allowing himself to smile. He knew that Kristen was joking. He hoped she was joking.

"Not as cute as my husband, no," Kristen answered laughing. "But seriously, Kev… what would you do if *I* told you I find one of my girlfriends hot?"

Kevin thought about it for five seconds. It wasn't that hard of a question. He loved Kristen, and he wanted to see her happy. The answer was simple. "If you are fine imagining that I find my bandmates hot, I'm fine with whatever you do."

The first half of the tour ended, and things went back to normal. Only a few public appearances and Kevin had to be honest with himself. He was not putting all his heart in the group, maybe it was time to call it quits.

But even if his heart wasn't all set on performing, he still was keeping an eye on his bandmates. He tried not to hound Brian and AJ. As Kristen had told him later, after their bizarre phone call, that it was none of his business and all he could do was to stay by both his friends' sides just in case. He watched Nick, but that was force of habit. Nick might not be 13 anymore, but part of Kevin would always see him as a kid.

Most of the time though, he watched Howie.

Which was why Kevin didn't miss the way in which little by little, the heartbreak in Howie's eyes when he looked at Brian and AJ together, grew. It came to a point at which Brian couldn't have possibly not noticed it. At times, Kevin wanted to call Howie, to ask him if he needed anything, to offer a friendly ear, but he didn't do it because unless Howie acknowledged he wanted help, Kevin wasn't going to actively meddle.

Which was why he noticed when Howie's looks changed from the look of someone wanting what he didn't have, to wanting something *more* than what he had.

It only took him four weeks to realize what was going on. Four weeks of discreet smiles between Brian and Howie, not so discreet touching between Brian and AJ, and after a while, Kevin just had to go and speak with Howie because he just couldn't bend his mind around the fact that the solution had been so simple.

"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" Kevin was aware that it was not the best way to open the conversation, but he was not going to beat around the bush. He wanted to make sure that Howie wasn't too out of his depth.

"What?" Howie kept his attention on the mirror, not turning to see Kevin.

"Can you really handle it? The three of you?" The actual question was if they all could handle it, but Kevin knew that Brian wouldn't answer him, and he had been trying too hard to give AJ his own space, since he had been doing great after rehab.

Howie turned around to see him, but instead of answering, returned his attention to the mirror. Kevin couldn't figure out what was so interesting about Howie's reflection, since he knew his friend wasn't that vain. The long silence was more than enough for Kevin to believe Howie was going to tell him to mind his own business.

"I'm a big boy, Kevin."

Close enough.

Kevin frowned. He didn't like to take the role of the father figure. He didn't need to tell the others to be careful, to look at both sides of the road. In his mind, Kristen's voice was reminding him that they already had four kids.

"I know," he finally said. He should stay out of it, but he couldn't. "But come on. Are you sure this isn't gonna mess with your head? I mean – you've been into him for a long time."

Howie never got angry, which was why when he frowned, it took a minute to Kevin to realize that it had been the wrong thing to say.


So you're letting him walk all over you. So you're not going into a free relationship. So I'm afraid this will end up breaking our friendship. The group. Kevin wanted to say all that, but he couldn't just say so. "So, he's with AJ. I'm just saying, don't ... well, you know?"

"I'm not doing much of anything," Howie told him, closing his eyes. To Kevin, he looked almost ashamed. "I'm taking what I can get. That's it."

Kevin shook his head. He was still worried, and he still wanted to understand what Howie was going through. But he couldn't blame his friend. If he only had one chance with Kristen, he would've done the same.

"Okay. You're all responsible people, so I don't need to tell you to be safe, right?"

Howie's playful answer made Kevin regret he had even asked, but it did made him feel better. At least, Howie seemed as if he knew what he was doing.

Still, Kevin decided that he would keep an eye on the trio. Just in case.

Later that night, Kevin called Kristen to see how she was. He missed her and wanted the tour to end so he could actually be with her, instead of just having those brief moments on the phone.

"Honey, stop worrying. I can hear you frown from here," she said, interrupting his thoughts.

"Sorry, Kristen, you were saying?" he answered smiling. He hadn't heard Kristen's question because he was still worried that one of his bandmates would end up hurt.

"You need to let your cousin make his own mistakes," Kristen said, very slowly. "It worked with the chemistry set, when he burnt his eyebrows."

"He was eight, and I don't think this is exactly the same thing." Kevin tried to sound angry, but the memory of that eventful evening in the ER still made him smile.

"I think not many people would see any difference between AJ and a volatile solution," Kristen pointed out.

"This might blow up in his face, and I don't think any doctor in the world could fix him," Kevin said, trying to make Kristen see why he was so worried.

"AJ and Brian are old enough to know the risks of a relationship under the media," Kristen answered, sounding amazingly logical. "Brian has managed to keep his separation under wraps, and everyone thinks AJ is dating your opening act. I honestly think they can handle being together, Kevin."

Kevin realized that he hadn't told Kristen about the latest development in his cousin's love life and decided not to tell her. After all, he still didn't figure out how they were supposed to get out of that situation without wanting to kill each other.

"Your eyebrows are straining again, dear," Kristen interrupted his thoughts. "Tell me the truth, what is worrying you?"

Kevin stayed silent for a long time, wondering how to tell Kristen what was the problem, what was really worrying him.

"If I told you I wanted to include another guy in our relationship, what would you do?" he asked, after considering the possibilities.

"Any random guy, or a specific one?" Kristen asked back. She didn't sound like she was teasing.

"Someone I cared about. That you knew I cared about a lot." Kevin was sure that there was no way that AJ hadn't known that Brian had been interested in Howie. Just like everyone had known that Howie was in love with Brian, just like they all knew everything about the others. "Who was in love with me."

"Sounds complicated," Kristen sighed. "Do I love this guy?"

"You at least like him," Kevin said. He didn't really know what were AJ's feelings regarding Howie. AJ was a hard man to read. "You don't mind having sex with him."

"Well, that's just it then," Kristen answered, slowly. "If you love him, and I don't, I guess it would be unfair for him. And if we both love him, it would be important to show him that we're not playing with him. In any case, it would be up to us three to make it work. It wouldn't matter if we loved him with all our heart, if he didn't believe we loved him so ... it wouldn't be completely in our hands. Makes sense to you?"

"Lots of sense." Kevin smiled, despite himself. Kristen's words of wisdom didn't make him feel any better about his cousin, but she was right. He couldn't interfere with what was happening between AJ, Brian and Howie. It was just not his place. "But that's what I love about you."

"I know." Kristen sounded as if she was smiling. It warmed Kevin's heart. "So… do you want to call Chris, or do you want me to call him?"

She was still laughing when she hung up.

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