A Heart Without A Home by ForeverRebel
Summary:



When Ava can’t take anymore of her boyfriend’s abuse she takes her four-year-old daughter and runs to her brother AJ for help. When AJ tries to talk her into leaving him for good and moving in with him instead, she does.

But what happens when her boyfriend comes after her? Can he protect her? After leaving her boyfriend Ava decides to swear off love. But when Nick starts revealing some hidden feelings about her will she give in? Or will she let her history of bad relationships get in the way of true love?

 


Categories: Backstreet Boys Characters: AJ, Group, Nick, Other
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Graphic Sexual Content, Graphic Violence, Sexual Assault/Rape
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 28 Completed: No Word count: 128433 Read: 50673 Published: 03/31/08 Updated: 11/02/14

1. Escape by ForeverRebel

2. Just The Way It Was by ForeverRebel

3. Tierja's Shop by ForeverRebel

4. The Unexpected Visitor by ForeverRebel

5. The Hardest Thing by ForeverRebel

6. The Silent Treatment by ForeverRebel

7. I Can't Do This Anymore by ForeverRebel

8. Tell Him The Truth by ForeverRebel

9. Wanted by ForeverRebel

10. Stubborn Denial by ForeverRebel

11. Being Strong by ForeverRebel

12. Right Hand Girl by ForeverRebel

13. Independent by ForeverRebel

14. The Note by ForeverRebel

15. Police Protection by ForeverRebel

16. Crazy by ForeverRebel

17. Daddy Kev by ForeverRebel

18. No More Secrets by ForeverRebel

19. Jealousy by ForeverRebel

20. Stalked by ForeverRebel

21. Needed by ForeverRebel

22. Finally Happy by ForeverRebel

23. Doubt by ForeverRebel

24. The Shape Of AJ's Heart by ForeverRebel

25. Surprises by ForeverRebel

26. That Smile You're Wearing, Its a Beautiful Disguise by ForeverRebel

27. Business Crisis by ForeverRebel

28. Show Em' What You're Made Of by ForeverRebel

Escape by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Chapter Edited: 11/23/2012

Surprise! I'm working on this story again *small smile* It's not a "I'm giving up on No Matter What" kind of thing, because I never ever could, that story is like my baby. Its more like a "I'm stepping away from it for a little while & concentrating on something new in hopes to renew my love for writing again" kind of thing. So I hope my NMW readers won't be too disappointed, and will enjoy this in the mean time :) For those who have already been reading this story, you might want to start from chapter one and read it over again, because I revised it quite a bit.
Chapter One: Escape

“Jade Sweetie, wake up!” Ava whispered frantically, as she gently nudged her four year old daughter awake.

“Mommy I’m sleepy…” Jade whimpered.

“I know baby, and I’m sorry but we really need to get out of here” Ava whispered while gathering the small child into her arms as she is still wrapped in her blanket. Jade snuggled close to her comfortably and held her doll close to her. Ava grabbed her red backpack that she packed stuff in and she put it on.

“AVA! WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?” her overly drunk and angry boyfriend exclaimed. Ava flinched at his words, but quickly dove for the window nonetheless. She opened it up and pulled the hood to her black hoodie down over her head before climbing out into the rain. “WHERE EVER YOU ARE, YOU BETTER HOPE I DON’T FIND YOU AND GET MY HANDS ON YOU!” Just then he entered Jade’s bedroom to find her bed empty and the window open. “NO!” he shouted with rage, before rushing to the window. He peered out to see that Ava just reached the ground. “YOU BITCH! GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW!” he roared, before turning around and running out of the room and he flew down the stairs. Ava took off running down the street as fast her legs would carry her.

“Mommy I’m scared!” Jade cried. She doesn’t know what is going on, but she knows there is something terribly wrong.

“Shh…it’s okay baby, everything is going to be okay I promise” She reassured, and she tried her very hardest to calm Jade down while she ran, but nothing she was doing was working.

“GET BACK HERE AVA, BEFORE I FUCKING KILL YOU!” She suddenly heard her boyfriend from behind her. Ava ran faster as she held Jade close to her protectively. She could hear his footsteps getting closer and closer. Knowing full well that she is not going to be able to escape this, she turned into a dark alley ending up right in a dead end. She rushed over to a few garbage cans and she placed Jade behind them.

“Stay there Jade! No matter what happens, don’t come out from behind those garbage cans until mommy tells you that you can, do you hear me?” She ordered frantically. Jade nodded and went further back behind the cans and sat down, before pulling her blanket over her head. Ava turned around just on time for her boyfriend to come running around the corner.

“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?” He shouted at her. “You know better than to run away from me! Get over here NOW! I am taking you home!”

“NO!” Ava argued, instantly pushing herself into a corner.

What did you say to me?”

You heard me, I said no. I’ve had enough David, I’m going home!” David raised his hand and smacked her hard across the face and Ava looked away from him as fresh tears rolled down her cheeks and blood trickled from her nose.

“Don’t you EVER talk back to me like that again, do you hear me?” He smacked her again much harder, causing her to fall to the ground sobbing. “And don’t you EVER tell me what you will or will not do! You will do as I say when I say it and you will ENJOY every fucking MINUTE of it!” He informed her, and he kicked her hard in the side. “Get up, NOW. We’re going home!”

Fuck you,” she sobbed, and he growled in low and menacingly, before reaching over and grabbing her by the neck and shoving her violently against the wall as she shrieked and cried harder. He punched her in the stomach and then grabbed her arm and began dragging her toward the exit to the alley.

“You’re going to come home with me and I’m going to beat you so hard you aren’t going to be able to move for days!” he told her.

“NO!” she shrieked and she dropped to her knees and grabbed onto a pole.

“GODDAMNIT AVA!” he roared. “THAT IS IT!” He let go of her and undid his belt before taking it off. He raised it in the air and brought it down hard on her back and she cried out in sheer pain. He did this to her a few times until her entire back was cut and then he threw the belt to the ground. “If you are not home by tomorrow morning, I’m going to come after you and kill you! Do you understand me?” he threatened, and he kicked her one last time, before turning around and storming out of the alley headed for home. Ava lay in pain for what seemed like forever until she heard Jade crying and she looked toward the garbage cans where she stashed her.

“Jade sweetie…it’s safe, you can come out now…” Jade did as Ava said and crawled out from behind the garbage cans and she walked over to Ava sobbing. Ava enveloped her in her arms while hugging her close to her and gently rubbed her hand over her back and placed tender kisses on her forehead. She lay there holding her until she knew she was somewhat calm and she reached into her pocket and pulled out her blackberry. She unlocked it and pressed the number two speed dial before placing it to her ear. She is calling her brother.

“Hello?” Came AJ’s voice on the other end and she can hear how confused he is. He hasn’t heard from Ava in over a month because of the recent fight they had. They were fighting over David. He’s been begging her to leave David since the very first day she started going out with him back in high school. He never liked the guy and knew from the very beginning that he wasn't good for Ava. Despite his begging and pleading, Ava stayed with David and on the night of their prom, Jade was conceived. When she was born, Ava who was at the time 17 insisted upon moving in with him even though both Denise and AJ told her it wasn't a good idea. A year after they've been living together, David became abusive – or at least that’s the story everybody else has heard. Still to this day AJ begs for her to leave him but as stubborn as Ava is, she never listens. So a month ago they got into a huge fight and haven’t spoken to each other ever since.

“Alex it’s me…” Ava sobbed.

“Ava what’s wrong? What happened?” AJ asked worriedly.

“I just packed up, took Jade, and tried to run away from David…but he came after me and beat me up…”

“He WHAT…? Are you okay? Is Jade okay?”

“Jade is fine for the most part…but I’m hurt really bad, Alex. I just wanted to tell you that I’m getting on a bus and going to mom’s house and I will be there in the morning. I really want you to be there when I get there…please say that you will.”

“No Ava, don’t you dare get on any bus! Stay right where you are, I’m coming to get you. Where are you at?”

“It’s fine Alex…I can handle getting on a bus. Don’t drive all the way out here…”

“Where are you at Ava? I am coming to get you!”

“I’m lying in a dark ally in my neighborhood covered in blood…” AJ was silent for a couple of moments.

“Alex?”

“I take that back. Don’t stay where you are, go check yourself into the motel down the street from your neighborhood. Don’t worry about the money, I’ll call and tell them you will be there shortly for a key. I will meet you there in a couple of hours. Okay?”

“Kay…” Ava sniffled and AJ hung up the phone. Ava did too and she got up, unzipped her hoodie, and placed Jade inside it before zipping it back up again and she placed her blanket on her so that it was sheltering her from the rain. She grabbed up her backpack and she headed for the motel like AJ had told her to. She is amazed that AJ even volunteered to come and get her after all of the horrible things she had said to him. After all of the horrible things she said to their mom. But she is glad that he did, because she needs him more than anything right now.
End Notes:
http://www.twitter.com/UrsTrulyAshee
Just The Way It Was by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Chapter Edited: 11/23/2012
Here's the next chapter.
Enjoy =D
Chapter Two: Just the Way It Was

When Ava arrived at the motel, just as AJ promised the man behind the desk in the lobby was waiting for her with her key. The moment she was safe inside her motel room, she placed Jade on one of the beds with some cartoons to entertain her with while she got in the bathtub to take a bath and she left the door open In case she was needed. Two hours later when she had just dried off and got dressed in a tank top and soft pajama pants and she was just brushing her long dark brown hair she heard a soft knock on the front door. She glanced at Jade who looked back at her worriedly.

“It’s okay baby, it’s just your uncle Alex” Ava reassured her, as well herself. She walked over to the door and peered through the window beside it, and much to her relief it was her brother. She unlocked the door and opened it up for him.

“Uncle Jay!” Jade exclaimed, grateful to see him.

“Hi sweetie…” AJ responded, going over and gathering his niece into his arms. She hugged him tightly and he checked her over for injuries. When he saw that she is okay, he kissed her cheek and set her down before looking at Ava.

“Are you okay?” he asked softly, and she nodded quietly.

“I took a bath as soon as I got here to clean up my injuries.” AJ nodded and he returned his attention to Jade.

“Are we going to your house now Uncle Jay?”

“Soon baby. I just need to talk to your mommy before we go. It’s a long drive though and you’ve had a rough night, so how about we get you in bed for now and you go to sleep. Okay?”

“Will you sing to me?”

“Absolutely,” AJ replied and he watched as Jade went over and crawled under the blankets and she lay her head down on the pillow and looked at AJ expectantly. AJ got on the bed and crawled over so that he was lying next to her and he wrapped an arm around her, rested his head in the palm of his hand and he began to sing softly to her the song All I Have to Give. By the time he finished, she was sound asleep hugging her doll close to her. AJ lay there in silence as he watched her sleep for a few moments just twirling a strand of her brown hair. God did he miss his niece so much. It was very hard for him to be away from her for an entire month. And it was even more torturing not being able to talk to his baby sister either. At the thought of Ava he looked over at her and saw her sitting on the other bed and hugging her legs to her chest with her chin rested on her knee and she was just watching him quietly as he took care of Jade. From the look on her face he knows she is wondering when he is going to stop ignoring her, which he had deliberately done when he walked in the door.

“Alex?” She spoke softly after a long moment of silence and he watched as a single tear rolled down her cheek.

“What?” he asked shortly, making it very clear that he is still angry at her.

“Do you hate me?” she sniffled, her voice so small and fragile.

“If I hated you, I wouldn’t come all this way to get you. I would have let you suffer. I’m just impressed that you even thought to call me…seeing as how I am an asshole and all…and that you think I should burn in hell, and seeing as how I don’t know what I am talking about. For someone who doesn’t know what he is talking about, I was pretty smart about the fact that the fucking bastard was all WRONG for you.”

“I was in love Alex, okay? I’m SORRY!” Ava sobbed. “I was blind…you of all people know what that’s like!” AJ let out a heavy sigh and looked back down at Jade and he gently caressed her bruised cheek with his finger. After a long while he looked back over at Ava and saw her lying on the bed curled up in a ball looking so fragile and broken that it tore his heart to shreds. He can’t see her face but he can hear her sniffles, and that is enough alone to make him cave. He didn’t drive all this way just to fight with her again and add another month to the silent treatment. He got up from the bed and went over and sat next to her and he rubbed his hand over her back in a slow circular motion. She looked up at him and he watched a tear roll down her cheek and drip off her chin.

“Come here,” He told her softly before gently taking hold of her arms and helping her sit up. She wrapped her arms around her legs and looked down avoiding eye contact with him. He tucked a brown curl behind her ear before placing his forefinger and thumb to her chin and he lifted it up so that she is looking him the eyes. “I love you very much honey…I could never hate you no matter what you do. You of all people should know that.” Ava scooted closer to him and he took her hand into his and gently squeezed it. “I missed you,” He told her sincerely.

“I missed you too Alex…so much…” she whispered as more tears fell from her eyes and he wiped them away with his fingers. “I’m sorry I said the things that I did…I didn’t mean any of it.”

“I know sweetie it’s okay,” AJ insisted while enveloping her in his arms for the first time and he brought her close to him for a very much needed hug.

“Does mom hate me?” she asked into his chest.

“Of course not…she’s very angry and hurt, but she loves her baby very much and misses her. She just wants you to come home like the rest of us.”

“I want to come home so badly. I feel so home sick…”

“That’s where I’m taking you sweetheart, I promise.” Ava slid her arms around his neck then and snuggled into him like the way she used to when she was just a little girl. She didn’t have a father to cuddle with, she had her brother. And though she would have liked to have a father growing up, AJ still managed to make everything okay. “But you have to promise me one thing.”

“What?”

“That you won’t go back to David.” He pulled back from her hug and gently cradled her face in his hands. “You can’t go back to David honey, under any circumstance. Do you hear me? None of us would be able to handle that. You can move in with the boys and me and have your old room back and everything. Just please promise me that you won’t go back to him.”

“He’ll come after me Alex…he told me if I didn’t come home he would come find me and kill me.”

“I would like to see him try. There is no way he is getting through the five us. There is no way I am letting him hurt you.”

“I promise Alex,” she whispered and she rested her head against his shoulder comfortably as he rubbed his hand over her back.

“My tummy hurts…” she pouted after a few moments.

“Why? What’s wrong with it?” he asked as concern filled his voice. When he didn’t get an answer he lifted her shirt up just far enough to see her stomach and there is a big bruise on her stomach where David had been kicking her surrounded by a bunch of little tiny ones. It looks like her stomach is just one big bruise. “Oh honey…” he winced and he gently rubbed his hand over it. She looked up at him as tears fell from her eyes.

“They’re everywhere Alex…anywhere you could possibly think of. He hurt me really bad…”

“I know…I know honey…”

“And he…he…r-raped Jade…” she managed to choke out as she fought to keep from breaking down into sobs all over again.

“He WHAT?!” AJ nearly shouted.

“Shhh! You’ll wake her!” she hissed tearfully. “She’s been through enough trauma for one night!”

“He what??” AJ asked more quietly, but Ava noted the hysteria in his voice. "He raped her...he handcuffed me down so I couldn't stop him...she kept begging and pleading for him to stop hurting her and she kept begging and pleading for me to stop him and there was nothing I could do but lay there helplessly as he raped my baby...." Ava explained barely being able to talk but AJ did his best to understand.

“When did this happen?” He asked, fighting back the urge to go to his house and beat him to a bloody pulp for hurting his sister and niece so badly. How dare anybody hurt his family. How dare them.

“Last night…” Ava sniffled. “And today too…”

“Has she had a bath since then?” he asked, and Ava shook her head.

“Did he actually have sex with her or did he just touch her?”

“I don’t know…I didn’t take her to a doctor yet because I knew he would stop me. That’s why I packed up and tried to run…I was going to take her home to you and ask you to go with me…” AJ pulled her into a hug and he held her close as she cries.

“We’ll go first thing in the morning…okay?” Ava nodded her answer, as it was all she could do to keep herself from having an actual panic attack. “It’s okay…everything will be all right. Your big brother won’t let that sick fuck anywhere near you or my niece ever again.”

“I love you Alex,” she told him while holding onto him tightly.

“I love you too…and you did the right thing about calling me. I’m sorry I snapped at you earlier.” He kissed her forehead softly and when he pulled back he lightly caressed her cheek with his finger. “Is all of your stuff still packed? Let’s go home.”

“I just have my one backpack. I had to leave everything that couldn’t fit behind.”

“Jade has lots of toys at my house so I’m sure she won’t miss anything but I’ll take you shopping if you need anything else okay?” He asked as she got up and grabbed her backpack.

“Kay.” He got up then as well and he went over and gathered his niece into his arms being extra careful not to wake her up. He gently made her rest her head against his shoulder and he grabbed her blanket and placed it over her so that nothing was exposed to the rain. He then went over and opened the door and held it open as Ava walked out pulling the hood to her hoodie back over her head and he followed.

“What about the room? Will they mind that I didn’t even stay the night in it?” She asked as she climbed into the shelter of the front passenger’s seat and she watched as AJ buckled Jade into the extra car seat that he always kept at his house.

“Nope, they won’t mind at all” AJ replied and Ava spotted the smug look on his face.

“Did I get into that motel room just because I am the sister of AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys?” Ava asked, narrowing her eyes playfully. It just now occurred to her how extra nice the old man at the front counter was to her. He had been treating her as if she were at some fancy hotel. Now that she thinks back, she doesn’t think it was just because she was in a bad condition when she walked in.

“Well…that factor may have helped a bit…” Ava raised her eyebrow at him as he got into the driver’s seat and shut the door and he looked at her.

“Okay, okay…so maybe it helped a lot.”

“Alex you know I don’t like using your career as an excuse for things,” she lectured as she scooted into the middle seat, buckled up, and rested her head against his shoulder as he pulled out of the parking lot and into the direction of home.

“I know but he wasn’t going to let you in without paying right away and unless you stayed the night if I didn’t tell him you are my sister. I had my manager call in and talk to him for me and she made it sound all professional like, telling him that I would be there in person to pay for it later if they just allowed you a safe place to stay until then.” Ava shook her head and couldn’t help but smile and she decided to let this one slide. She is just happy to have her brother back in her life and making sure everything is okay for her. She made herself comfortable next to him and he placed an extra blanket on her and she closed her eyes and was asleep very shortly. Two hours later when he arrived at his house he found all four boys sitting out on the front porch waiting. AJ looked down at Ava to find her still sitting close to him with her head rested against his shoulder and her eyes are barely open.

“Hey sweetheart…we’re here,” he told her gently.

“Kay…” Ava replied softly. “I need to get baby J…”

“No, shhh…let me do that.” AJ insisted while opening the door. He took Ava into his arms while getting out of the car and he put her down and pulled the hood to her hoodie back down over her head as it is still raining. He wrapped her blanket around her and closed his door and he walked around the car to Jade’s side with her following. He opened the door and took Jade out while being careful not to wake her and he gently made her rest her head against his shoulder before pulling her blanket back on her. He turned around and saw Ava standing behind him. He wrapped his arm around her waist and brought her under the shelter of the porch.

"Are they okay?" Nick was the first to ask as so much concern filled his voice. AJ shook his head in response and carried Jade inside and Ava followed. He carried her upstairs to Ava's old room and he laid Jade in the middle of the huge queen sized bed, covered her up and laid her doll next to her and he looked at Ava.

"Come on," he whispered softly as he takes her hand in his and he brought her out of the room, turned off the light and shut the door just a crack and he brought her back downstairs. Once down there he brought her back outside to four very concerned guys.
"What’s going on?" Kevin questioned as he watches Ava stare at Nick uncomfortably. She is afraid he might be mad at her like AJ was. Nick and Ava have been best friends since the very first day Backstreet Boys had started. Since she is inseparable of her brother she begged him to take her on tour with him. It didn't take much begging though because he can't live without her either, so he talked his mom into letting him take her with. After a little begging she finally agreed. When AJ first stepped onto the tour bus with his baby sister by his side, and Nick had first laid eyes on her he was in love. He knew he had to make friends with her, and he did. Ever since then they've been best friends, and Nick has always secretly been in love with her. He just could never find the courage to tell her. But ever since the fight between her and AJ, Ava is afraid that Nick might be mad at her for all the things she did and said even though the fight didn't involve him.

“David beat her up pretty bad…she was pretty broken up when I got there.”

“How is Jade?”

“Frightened…not so good…” AJ answered softly. “We have to take her to the doctor in the morning.”

“What? Why?”

“Ava was telling me he raped her last night and earlier today. She’s been keeping her from having a bath because she wants to take her to a doctor but David wouldn’t allow it so that’s why she attempted to run away…” AJ explained and everybody can tell that his heart has been broken upon hearing that his niece was raped.
“Oh my god…”

“Yeah, I know. She doesn’t know if he just touched her or actually had sex with her” AJ explained while looking down at Ava who hasn’t left his side at all since they arrived and her eyes are watery. He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her into him before kissing her forehead softly.

“And everything is okay between the two of you?” Howie questioned.

“Yeah, we made up back at the motel before leaving.”

“Good…because no one likes it when the two of you fight” Brian insisted.

“Ava come here…” Nick spoke up after a while of just watching her stare at him uncomfortably. She looked at him for a couple of moments before letting go of AJ and going over to him and she stood in front of him quietly. He looked back at her for a couple of moments before sliding his arms around her and pulling her into a hug. She returned his hug and rested her head against his shoulder.

“You don’t hate me?” she sniffled.

“Of course not honey, I could never hate you…I’m just happy that you are here and okay.” He reassured while gently rubbing his hand over her back. After a few moments she pulled back slightly and looked up at him and he brushed away her tears with his finger.

“You aren’t going home to him are you?” He asked softly, fully expecting her to say yes because that’s all his Ava ever does is run back to that asshole. But much to his surprise and relief, Ava shook her head.

“Aje says I can move back into my room here and he would protect me if he came after me.”

“We all are going to protect you,” Howie replied as he went over and wrapped his arms around Ava too and hugged her. “We missed you…”

“I missed all of you too…so much. You have no idea,” Ava replied as she received hugs from everybody. “Alex…” she spoke up after a few moments when all of the guys pulled away from their group hug.

“Hmm?”

“Can we go see mom? I miss her…”

“She’s coming over here first thing in the morning for breakfast. I called her and told her I was bringing you home. It’s too late to go over there now though; you are tired and need your sleep.”

“Kay…Nicky?”

“Yeah baby?”

“Will you sleep in bed with Baby J and me tonight? I miss your arms…”

“Yeah,” Nick replied, glad that he was invited and that he doesn’t have to find his own way up there himself. He was fully prepared to do so though if it came down to it.

“Thanks…” she told him gratefully and he took her hand into his and kissed it.

“Come on, let’s get you in bed…” he told her gently before taking her inside the house and AJ smiled. He is happy to have his baby sister home and he is glad that Nick can finally be happy too. Next to AJ he was the one affected the most by Ava being gone for so long.

As soon as Nick and Ava were upstairs they went into Ava's room and Ava looked around to see that it’s just the same as it was when she left. There are posters of Evanescence, Metallica, Nirvana, Bryan Adams, Cinderella, Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, Slash, The Spill Canvas, Green Day, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, My Chemical Romance, The Used, Fall Out Boy, and many other rock/80’s bands on her lavender painted walls. She also has some family pictures covering her closet doors and the headboard to her bed.

The queen-sized bed is covered in pastel purple sheets with a black comforter, purple pillowcases, and little black heart shaped pillows for a decorative look. The dresser, TV stand, the shelf holding her wall mount stereo, and headboard are all black, and she has wood floors just like everywhere else in the house. Her bedroom also has her very own bathroom in it, which is pretty convenient, when you live with five guys.

Basically, AJ spoiled her and made sure she had the best room in the house. When the boys all moved in together AJ gave Ava a room too so she could have one at his house and at Denise’s house too when she used to live with her still. He told Ava she could decorate the room anyway she wants because it’s hers and she went rock star crazy on him. AJ and Ava are the exact same in almost every single way that they could almost be twins. The only difference between the two is that while AJ is busy performing pop music in his well-known boy band, Ava leans more toward the hard rock side, and shows more interest in rock music and 80’s.

She likes some pop stuff, and she has a special place in her heart for Country music, but mostly she is a rock girl through and through. She has five electric guitars that she has collected and played in the past and they sit in a corner of her room on guitar stands. She eventually wants to collect more and start hanging them on one of her walls. One similar quality in Ava and AJ is their personality. She can be just as rebellious as him, just as stubborn as he can, and she developed a liking for tattoos, sunglasses, and hats at a very young age. And when they are both angry at the same time…everybody tends to run for cover because things get pretty crazy. Nick noticed Ava looking around the room and went over to her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close.

“You guys never took anything down…” she spoke softly.

“It’s your room, why would we take stuff down?” he asked and Ava shrugged.

“Because I didn’t live here anymore…and I was such a rotten bitch I just didn’t think you would want memories of me in your house,” she told him as tears form in her already watery eyes.


"AJ and I wouldn't allow anyone to mess with anything in here. We wanted to keep it the way it is because we were hoping that one day you would come to your senses and come home. AJ would come in here every day and just sit here holding a teddy bear of yours close with tears in his eyes and he would just sit here for hours thinking about you. No one would go near him when he was in one of those moods because we were always afraid we'd get our heads bit off or something.”

“Really?” Ava sniffled.

“Mhm” Ava rested her head against Nick’s shoulder as she leaned into him and he rubbed her back. "And you weren't a rotten bitch you were blinded by love...and it’s okay because everyone goes through that at one point in their life." After a few moments of hugging Ava pulled away from him and walked over to her red backpack that AJ had sat on the foot of the bed and she opened it up and pulled out her brush. She went into the bathroom and turned on the light and she brushed out her still damp hair from her bath earlier, and the rain. When she finished she walked out of the room to find Nick lying on the bed with his arm wrapped around Jade as she lay there sleeping peacefully and he was just watching her. Ava went downstairs and found Brian, AJ, Howie, and Kevin all sitting around in the living room. She went over to AJ, sat down next to him, and slid her arms around him, and she hugged him tightly. He smiled some and returned her hug affectionately.

"Thank you for leaving my room the exact way that it was...it’s comforting to come home knowing everything is just the way I left it..."

"I knew you would come back eventually...Kevin wanted to make it into a guest room thinking you weren't coming back but I demanded that everyone leaves it the way it is."

“Nicky told me…and I love you so much for having faith in me.” Ava sat with AJ for a few moments more and then she kissed his cheek before getting up and going upstairs. When she got up there she found Nick still lying on the bed watching Jade sleep. Ava turned the light off and shut the door just a crack before going over and lying down on the other side of Jade. Nick wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close as he stared into her light brown eyes as Jade lay between them. Ava lay there gazing into Nick’s blue eyes for a long while before finally drifting off to sleep and Nick fell asleep shortly after.
End Notes:
http://www.twitter.com/UrsTrulyAshee
Tierja's Shop by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Chapter Edited: 11/23/2012

Here's the next chapter. Enjoy =D
Chapter Three: Tierja’s Shop

The next morning Ava awoke to Jade giggling downstairs. Glancing over at her alarm clock she saw that it read 10:30. After lying there for a few short moments trying to wake up, she got out of bed and walked to the railing of the stairs and she peered over it to find Nick playing with Jade, and Brian and AJ sitting on the couch talking. Ava smiled a little as she watched her best friend spin Jade around in the air in circles while Jade giggled insanely.

“AH-HAHA!” he laughed in that familiar corny laugh that always seems to have a way of making Ava feel instantly at ease. He suddenly collapsed onto the couch behind him and Jade shrieked as he brought her with him and she giggled as she lay on top of him. She loves Nick with her whole heart and she loves playing with him and he always has a way of making her laugh no matter what kind of mood she is in. When she is in a bad mood, that is instantly changed when Nick is around. She never felt this way with David and Ava doesn’t blame her.

He wasn’t even in the hospital the day Jade was born. He didn’t want to be and he’s never loved Jade. Nick on the other hand was there for Jade through everything, even on the day she was born. He was the one in the delivery room, he was the one who held Ava’s hand through it all, and he was the first one after Ava who got to hold her. When he did he sat there looking at her with so much love in his eyes for a few moments before looking at Ava and telling her that she is the most precious gift god could ever give her, and she is so lucky to have her. He loves her very much.

Leaning against the railing at the top of the stairs, Ava watched as Nick kissed Jade’s forehead softly as she still lay on top of his chest comfortably and he raked his fingers through her brown hair that reached just a bit past her shoulders. After a few moments of just watching the two, Ava suddenly went downstairs and Brian, AJ, and Nick all looked at her. She went to AJ and sat next to him and he hugged her close to him affectionately.

“Good morning honey…how are you feeling? Did you sleep well?”

“Mhm, I’m feeling better.”

“Good,” Brian spoke up sincerely.

“Are you hungry? I was just getting ready to go get breakfast started. How about bacon, eggs, hash browns, and toast? I know that’s your favorite.”

“I’d like that a lot,” Ava responded, fighting back a wave of emotion at the memory of being thrown against the wall or beaten with a belt when her cooking wasn’t good enough for David. She could really get used to knowing that her brother is more than willing to take care of her all the time. Despite how hard she tried to stop it, her eyes clouded up with tears and AJ who noticed this and didn’t need an explanation just planted a kiss on her forehead.

“I will get right on that then sis,” he told her gently. Jade who was watching her mommy closely noticed her tears too and instantly got up from lying in Nick’s arms and went over and crawled into Ava’s lap before giving her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Ava returned both.

“I love you mommy,” She told her softly.

“I love you too baby,” Ava responded, and when she managed to keep her tears at bay she pulled back and cradled her face in her hands before gazing into her eyes that are much like Nick’s beautiful blue ones. “Mommy needs to take you to get your hair cut and your bangs trimmed” she announced, wanting to get on a happier subject for her daughter and it worked. Jade smiled really big upon hearing this announcement. She loves Fantastic Sams because Tierja, one of Ava's best friends works there.

Her two other best friends are Kathryn and Raven. She met Kathryn by chance in the library one day from sitting at the same table all the time. They both went through this phase where books were their only best friend and would spend hours at a time there.

They kept to themselves and didn't talk to each other for months until one day Howie picked her up from the library, noticed she was into all of the same books as Ava was, drank the same coffee as her, and even wore the same style as her, and thought it was crazy that they sit at the same table every day and never talk to each other.

He struck up a conversation with her and suddenly he was coming to the library with her daily. Eventually they were all three great friends, and not really knowing how it happened, she was eventually welcomed into the group as part of the family.

Tierja and Raven on the other hand, she met first on the internet and then in person heavily supervised by Q. It turns out that they weren’t dangerous psychopaths like AJ had feared and he even ended up having a crush on Tierja. He’s never once made a move though. He’ll flirt with her but for some reason the thought of getting too close to her freaks him out and nobody can figure out why.

Brian is the exact same except he is much shyer and he likes Raven. Raven has a daughter who is just five minutes younger than Jade. She was born on the same day when Raven's real due date was supposed to be a week after Ava's. But Zara decided that she wanted to come early and shock everybody. Everyone minus Nick was waiting in the waiting room to see Ava and Jade. Nick was already in with her but everyone else was waiting when Raven suddenly began to cry out in pain. Her husband wasn't there because he left her. He left her the day after she told him she was pregnant with his child. He got scared and demanded her to get an abortion and she was furious with him and refused because she wanted Zara more than anything.

They fought about it all day long and the next day she found him and all of his stuff gone. She went crying to Ava and cried in her arms for hours. Ever since he left Brian was there for her. When she cried out in pain in the hospital he freaked out and took her into his arms and asked her what was wrong. She told him that it was time and that Zara was going to come out in the middle of this waiting room if someone doesn't give her a goddamned room right now. Those were her exact words as she clung to Brian. By the time Zara and Jade were old enough to walk, they never left each other’s side.

They do everything together and are best friends and those who don’t know them would think they’re twins. They have such a connection with each other that no one could possibly begin to understand. When Jade is hurt, Zara is hurt. When Zara is sad, Jade is sad. When one cries, the other one does and sometimes that happens even when they aren’t even in the same room. Sometimes Ava and Raven and those who are closest to them wonder if the two of them are capable of reading each other’s minds. They haven’t witnessed it yet, but they’re waiting.

“Can we go today mommy?” Jade asked excitedly.

“I don’t know baby, it just depends on whether or not someone wants to come with us. Who knows where David is at and the first place he would look if we weren’t here is Tierja’s shop. We have another place that we really need to go to first though,” Ava explained.

“I’m coming! Me!” AJ was the first to say and he raised his hand in the air. Jade giggled and Ava smiled a little bit, happy that AJ is making an attempt to keep things light. Which is exactly why she wants him to come with her to the doctor because then maybe he would be able to make things so much easier for Jade. Provided they allow him to go back with her when they’re examining her, that is.

“Are you actually going to make a move this time Alex, or are you just going to flirt with her?”

“We’ll have to wait and see won’t we?”

“I will be impressed if you do.”

“I’m coming too,” Nick announced, and Ava smiled slightly.

“Of course you’re coming, you have no choice Carter.”

“Is that so?” he asked while raising his eyebrow.

“Yes it is so.”

“Who says?”

“Me. I said so,” Ava replied while setting Jade down and crawling off of the couch and over to Nick who was seated on the floor now. She straddled his lap and she slid her arms around his neck.

“Oh, so you are the boss of me huh?”

“Yes you should just call me Master Ava.” He chuckled slightly and slid his arms around her waist.

“I like Queen Ava better.”

“Is that so?”

“Mhm,” he answered while resting his forehead against hers. “Are you going to get your hair done too?” he questioned as he twirled one of her curls around his finger. She is definitely the Queen of his world, that’s for sure. And now that she has finally left David for good and is back in his life again, he has every intention of making her his.

“Nah I like my hair,” Ava insisted. The two of them were silent for a couple of moments, until suddenly she turned and looked at her daughter who is sitting nearby playing with her toys. She is no longer sitting with AJ because he and Brian had gone into the kitchen to make breakfast.

“Jade”

“Yes mommy?” when Ava didn’t answer right away Jade looked up from her doll and at Ava curiously.

“How would you like to put blonde highlights in your hair?” Jade suddenly smiled.

“Really…?”

“Yes really”

“Can I make it all blonde like Nicky’s hair?”

All blonde?”

“Yes.” Ava stared at her for a couple of moments skeptically, before looking at Nick with an unsure look on her face and he chuckled.

“You knew it was coming. You led yourself right into that one” he told her and he couldn’t hide his amusement no matter how much he tried. Ava sighed.

“Baby you are much too young to be dying your hair that much.”

“Buts MOMMY! I want to! You are letting me do highlights so why can’t I do all of it?”

“Because…mommy likes your brown hair” Ava answered with a faraway look in her eyes. Angry and upset with her mother now, Jade suddenly looked back down and continued to brush her doll’s hair. Ava sighed in frustration and rested her head against Nick’s shoulder and he hugged her a bit tighter while planting a kiss upon her forehead. She hates it when Jade is mad at her because just like Ava she is extremely stubborn and she will drag her anger out for as long as she possibly can until she finally gets her way.

What annoys her most about it is that Denise called it. When Ava was just a little girl herself Denise had told her that if she wasn’t careful she was going to have a daughter of her own someday who is just as stubborn and willful as she is. Sure enough she had Jade who was stubborn before she even left the womb. She loves her mother to death but she hates it that she is always right. She wasted a lot of time trying to prove her wrong when she was a kid. Rebellious to boot she was. To her relief, Jade never got the rebellious gene. She is just flat out stubborn. And she has been trying to talk Ava into letting her dye her hair blonde since she was old enough to talk and have her own opinion, because she wants to be just like Nick in almost every single way. Not that she can blame her really…

After sitting with Nick for a while and soaking up all of the affection he was giving her, Ava got up and went into the kitchen where she found AJ and Brian working on breakfast. She went up behind AJ, slid her arms around his waist, and rested her chin on his shoulder.

“Hey Sweetie, what’s the matter?” he questioned, knowing right off that Ava is upset without even having to look. He pulled her around and looked into her sad brown eyes.

“Jade is mad at me because I won’t allow her to dye all of her hair blonde” Ava explained while sticking her lower lip out in a pout. Something she learned to do quite well at a very young age.

“Aw honey, you know she gets that way every time you go to Fantastic Sams. Just let her be, she’ll get over it.”

“I know, but I hate it when she’s mad at me.” AJ wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her near as he continued to work on breakfast. After a few moments they heard the front door open in the living room and Jade’s excited squeals.

“GRAMMA!” Ava clung tighter to AJ upon hearing this, and AJ sighed.

“Bri you’re going to have to take over. Ava, I need to breathe sweetie…” he told her while bringing her out of Brian’s way so he could finish breakfast and he wrapped both of his arms around her. He very much wants all of this emotional stuff to pass because he hates seeing his sister in such a fragile state. She has always been cuddly with him since she was a little girl but never this clingy.

~*~*~*~*~

“Hi sweetie!” Denise exclaimed and she held her arms open just on time for the four year old to come bounding into them.

“I missed you!” Jade informed while hugging her Grandma tight.

“I missed you too sweetie…very much” Denise replied as tears fell from her eyes. She held her grandchild for a very long time and when she pulled back and took a look at her she noticed her bruised cheek. Denise let out a frustrated sigh as she gently caressed her cheek and she looked into her innocent blue eyes for a few moments before putting her down and she looked at Nick.

“Hey Nick…where is Ava?”

“In the kitchen with Brian and AJ” Denise nodded and then headed for the kitchen and Nick motioned for Jade to go to him before she decided to follow her. When Denise entered the kitchen she saw AJ standing next to Brian while leaning up against the counter with his arms wrapped around Ava from behind and he has his chin rested on her shoulder.

“Hi mom…” AJ greeted gently.

“Hi…” she replied while gazing at her daughter with mixed emotions. She is still very angry with her for what she did but at the same time she is just thankful that she is home and okay.

“Please don’t say I told you so mom…please…” Ava pleaded while suddenly breaking down into sobs. She doesn’t want her mom to be right this time. She just wants her to be there to comfort her. Denise’s heart broke upon seeing her youngest child standing there covered in bruises and with so much fear etched on her face and in her eyes. The anger inside her suddenly melted away and she went over to Ava and pulled her into her own arms and she held her tightly as tears fell from her own eyes. “I’m sorry mom…I’m so sorry…please don’t hate me.”

“Honey I don’t hate you. I could never hate you” Denise reassured. “I’m just thankful that you are home and okay. Don’t you ever do something like that again, do you hear me? Don’t you dare go home to him again I can’t take it! He could kill you Ava. Next time he just might kill you – or Jade!”

“I’m not mom I promise. Alex let me move back in with him and is going to protect me if he comes after me.” Denise sighed in relief and kissed Ava’s forehead as she continued to stand there hugging her. “I missed you…I thought about you every waking second since you’ve been gone. I don’t hate you Ava I love you very much and nothing can change that.”


“I’m sorry…” Ava sniffled. “I’m sorry I upset everyone…I’m such a rotten bitch who doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.”

"You’re not a rotten bitch. You just needed to learn that you were doing the wrong thing but neither AJ nor I could make you learn it. You needed to yourself. There was really nothing any of us could do to stop you. You had it set in your heart that you loved him - you were so in love with him that you were too blind to see that he didn't feel the same way...and we all make that mistake at one point in our life."

"But we love you with all of our hearts. Everyone makes mistakes honey, even me." AJ added, as he too wraps his arms around Ava. "But if you love someone...no matter how bad the mistake they've made you will always find it in your heart to forgive them."

"I wasn't really as blind as you guys think..." Ava confessed softly.

"What do you mean?" AJ asked as concern filled his voice and Brian looked up from making breakfast and at Ava confused.

"I moved in with him by force…I...I just made it seem like I wanted to... he said he'd kill Jade if I didn't. He was abusive a lot sooner than you all think..."

“Oh god Ava…”

"He didn't show up in the hospital because he didn't want to be there...he lied about his boss not letting him go. He referred to Jade as a mistake and said if I didn’t move in with him after she’s born he would kill her." AJ kissed the top of Ava's head before pulling away and he began to help Brian with breakfast again, needing something to concentrate on so he doesn’t go pay David a personal visit and let him know exactly how he feels about him right now.

“Where are the other boys?” Denise questioned as she continued to stand there hugging Ava.

“Good question…” Ava replied softly as she was wondering the same thing herself but never got around to asking it.

“Howie and Kevin went their separate ways for the day. They had some errands to run so it’s just Nick, Brian, and me until later on tonight.”

“Oh.”

“I’m going to go check on Jade,” Ava announced while pulling away from Denise and she went into the living room to find Nick lying on the floor with Jade and the two of them are coloring.

~*~*~*~*~

“Ava are you ready to go?” Nick questioned as he walked into her room and found her just finishing up her makeup. They had taken Jade to the doctor right after breakfast and then afterwards brought her back to the house and she took a very much needed nap as the stress from the appointment took a lot out of her. Now it’s later on in the afternoon and they are planning on going to Tierja’s shop next now that Jade is feeling better.

“Mhm...Did Jade get her shoes on?”

“Yeah I tied them for her and everything. She’s ready to go.”

“Okay,” Ava replied and she grabbed her red backpack and put it on. She had replaced all of her clothes and such with money and other things that she would need, turning it into an everyday purse. Nick took her hand and brought her downstairs with him and Ava went to go pick up Jade from the floor but she swatted her hand away, made a whiny sound, and got up and went straight for Nick instead. Nick picked her up and she slid her arms around his neck and rested her head against his shoulder and she gave Ava the dirtiest look ever.

Not only is she now upset with her for not letting her dye her hair blonde, but she is also upset that her mommy made her go through such torture earlier that day. She feels betrayed and vandalized. In her four-year-old mind that doctor had the exact same mission as her father – he was out to get her. And her mommy let him – again. Ava looked over at AJ with hurt in her eyes then as her heart is breaking. She has never felt so horrible in her life but she was only doing what is right for her. And though Jade may not understand it, she was being a good mom for once. At least she was trying to.

“Just give her some time honey…she may be angry right now but she’s going to get over it. You know you are the most important person in her life” AJ reassured as they all walked out the door.

“I am the worst person in her life…” Ava whispered quietly, purposely making it so no one would hear her. AJ locked the door behind them and they began their Journey to Fantastic Sams.

“Remind me to make you a key to the house Ava, okay?”

“Kay…” She replied softly and she felt Nick slide his arms around her and pull her to him after he had handed Jade over to Brian and she buried her face in his chest while he kissed her forehead softly and walked with her as she walked backwards. When they arrived at Fantastic Sams they walked inside to find Tierja just standing there.

“TIERJAAAA!” Jade exclaimed, showing a sign of happiness for the first time since they left the doctors earlier that day.

“J-BABYYYY! How are you?” She asked with the same enthusiasm as Jade. Jade went flying into her arms and Tierja hugged her tightly and kissed her cheek. “I haven’t seen you in two whole weeks! How have you been? Okay I hope…” She asked while looking Jade over. She knows David is psycho and when AJ is busy Tierja is the next person she goes crying to. Tierja too is always trying to get Ava to leave him but as stubborn as everyone knows she is she never seems to win.

“I’m okay…we runned away last night an’ we’re stayin’ with Uncle J” Jade explained, and Tierja looked at Ava curiously.

“You ran away?” she asked and Ava nodded quietly.

“For good this time?” she asked and Ava nodded again. Now looking very proud of her friend Tierja pulled Ava into a tight hug forgetting for a split second that she hurts easily.

“Ouch…” Ava whined and Tierja automatically pulled back.

“Oh honey…I’m sorry, I forgot…”

“It’s okay…I’m fine. My back is just bruised up so you have to be careful.” She once again pulled Ava into a hug, but made sure to be gentler.

“Are any of you here for a haircut of some sort? Because I am so bored. We aren’t very busy today.” Tierja asked, suddenly becoming serious again.

“Yes Jade is. She needs her hair trimmed slightly because it has split ends and she wants to have her hair dyed blonde,” Ava explained.

ALL of it?” Tierja asked making sure she heard her right. Ava nodded while smiling at Jade a little bit.

“All of it.” Jade suddenly smiled at her in return for the first time all day.

“Wow…and how long has she been begging for you to let her get it done?”

“Since she was old enough to argue with me…I figure as stubborn as both of us are one of us has to back down from this fight or it just might go on forever. And anyway…she deserves it.” Tierja took Jade over to her station where she cuts hair and she placed the booster seat in the chair before sitting Jade in it. She put her black Fantastic Sams cape on her and went back into the back to retrieve blonde hair dye. While she was doing that, Ava went over to Jade and wrapped her arms around her for a hug and she kissed her cheek.

“What do you say baby?”

“Thank you mommy…I love you.”

“I love you too,” Ava replied and when she pulled away she sat on Tierja’s work station and Tierja returned shortly after with hair dye and she immediately got right to work.
End Notes:
Twitter: @UrsTrulyAshee
The Unexpected Visitor by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Chapter Edited: 11/23/2012
Here's the next chapter.
Enjoy =D
Chapter Four: The Unexpected Visitor

When Tierja was nearly finished dying Jade’s hair and was almost ready to take her to go rinse the dye out the door to the shop suddenly swung forcefully open.

THERE you are!” came David’s angry voice causing everybody in the shop to stop and look at him. Ava’s entire body became tense upon seeing her worst nightmare standing at the door.

“Alex…” she whimpered nervously and she looked around only to find that he is nowhere to be seen. Nick went over to her and wrapped his arms around her protectively.

“It’s okay sweetie, I’m here” he reassured gently.

“David get out! You aren’t welcome here!” Tierja ordered.

“I have every right to be here! My daughter and girlfriend are in here!”

“Not unless you have an appointment. Last time I checked you didn’t so you need to leave.”

“I didn’t come here to get a haircut; I came here to get Ava and Jade. I’m taking them home.”

“I don’t think they asked for you to pick them up. Ava?” Tierja asked and Ava shook her head.

“Jade?”

“No…” Jade answered softly and she shook her head. She just knew that this was going to happen. She knew David was going to come after them. He always does.

“I don’t care WHAT they fucking want they are coming home with me whether they like it or not!” David roared not caring in the least bit if they are in a public place. Fantastic Sams isn’t very busy anyway and the only people who are in the shop are the employees and three other customers who are getting their hair done. It’s been like that all day and Brian and AJ have stepped outside and are completely oblivious to the situation. All of the employees, who are used to this by now seeing as how Ava runs to Tierja all the time, grabbed the two small children who belong to the customers and took them into the back where David can’t harm them.

“We aren’t going anywhere, David. This is a public place! Stop making a scene!” Ava spoke up. The only reason she has the courage to is because Nick is by her side for support.

“Don’t you dare talk back to me! You know what happens when you do!”

“I’m going to call the police if you don’t leave right now!” Jaime one of Tierja’s employees threatened.

YOU shut up! This isn’t any of your business!”

“No, it’s not, but it’s mine and I want you to leave right now!” Ava ordered tearfully.

“Don’t you DARE talk back to me like that you fucking know better!” David growled before going over to her and grabbing her roughly by the arm. He yanked her off of the counter and began to drag her toward the door.

“MOMMY!” Jade shrieked, suddenly breaking down into heart wrenching sobs as she watched David repeatedly punch Ava in the face and Nick dove toward him.

“LEAVE HER ALONE!” he shouted and he shoved David away from Ava. He started to bring her back but was suddenly shoved roughly to the ground and he went flying backward landing right into the wall. Nick cried out in pain and Ava backed herself into a corner sobbing, her whole body aching with pain just from David’s very presence. AJ suddenly walked in and took in the scene in front of him and he found David standing just inches away from his sister whom is crying and has a bloody nose.

“LEAVE MY SISTER ALONE!” he shouted and David looked at him.


“They’re coming home with me! I am taking my baby and girlfriend home with me and there is nothing you can do about it!” David informed him firmly. He grabbed Ava by the arm then and forced her up from her spot in the corner and he dragged her toward Jade, but Tierja beat him to her grabbing her up into her arms protectively.

NO, you can’t have her!” she insisted. Jade buried her face in Tierja’s shoulder and cried as she held onto her tightly and Tierja took her into the back with her knowing that AJ and Brian would protect Ava and she pulled out her cell phone to call the cops. AJ grabbed David and he pulled him away from his sister and punched him in the face much harder than David has ever hit Ava and David cried out in agony.

“Yeah see how it feels? See what you put my baby sister through? How would you like it if you had to go through this shit you put her through EVERY FUCKING DAY OF YOUR LIFE?” He shouted at him and he shoved him into the wall slamming his face into it and he held him there. “TIERJA, call the cops!”

“I’ve already done that” Tierja replied from the back. Just then David retaliated and kicked AJ hard where it counts. AJ cried out before dropping to the ground in sheer pain and David ran toward the door, pushed it open and fled.

FUCK!” AJ moaned. Ava went over to him and she helped him up from the ground before sliding her arms around his waist and burying her face in his shoulder and she sobbed. AJ rubbed his hand over her back in a slow circular motion, kissed the top of her head, and waited for his own pain to pass, which was happening slowly.

“It’s okay sweetie…he’s gone now…I’m here now…” he told her softly in her ear.

“Where were you Alex? He walked in and I called for you and you were nowhere to be seen.”

“I’m so sorry honey…Brian and I went to go check out the comic book store. It was a huge mistake…I won’t leave your side again okay? I promise.” Ava nodded tearfully.

“Are you okay?” she asked while sniffling and she looked up at him with eyes full of concern.

“I’ll live” AJ promised. “Might be able to still have babies if I’m lucky,” He added, trying to lighten things up a little. After a few moments when she had calmed down some she pulled away from him and went over to Nick who is still lying on the floor against the wall where he was thrown to.

“Are you okay Nick?” she asked softly as a single tear rolled down her cheek.

“The real question here is are you okay?” Nick replied. “I don’t matter honey, don’t worry about me.”

No", Ava replied firmly. “No,” she added while pulling him up from the ground. “You do too matter. You are in pain because of me…you got thrown against this wall because of me” she sniffled.

“No don’t you dare blame yourself! It’s not your fault!” Nick demanded while gently cradling her face in his hands. “Do you understand me? This was not your fault! I don’t want you to blame yourself for anything that man does.”

“Kay…” she sniffled and he pulled her toward the back where Tierja and Jade are hiding. He brought her into the bathroom after grabbing a washcloth and he got it wet before lightly pushing her back up against the wall and placing the cloth gingerly to her nose. While he was doing this, he gazed into her watery brown eyes with anguish and guilt in his own. Knowing exactly what her best friend is feeling right now, without him having to tell her, Ava reached up and pressed her hand to his cheek lightly caressing it.

“Stop it Nicky. I know what you’re thinking…if I’m not allowed to blame myself for what happened, neither are you.”

“I just feel like I should’ve been able to protect you better than that. Here that bastard was trying to take you from me again, and I got knocked right on my ass and was pretty useless. I don’t even want to think about what would’ve happened if AJ hadn’t come back when he did.”

“You were no more useless than I was…I probably would’ve let him run off with me, not because I wanted to, but because he terrifies me so much that I feel like I have no control what so ever when he’s around. You did what you could, but honey you were all alone and David is a pretty big guy…”

“That’s no excuse,” Nick insisted. He gently pulled the wet cloth from her nose and when he saw that it was clean and had stopped bleeding, he put it on the counter before turning his full attention on her again. He cradled her face in his hands, lightly brushing stray tears away from her cheeks with his thumb. “I’m much stronger and capable than that. I will be damned before I let him have you again, Ava” he told her softly and she closed her eyes before anymore tears could form in them from the emotions that his tender words and gentle hands had awoken. She sucked in her breath as he placed light kisses over her closed eyelids. She isn’t used to being handled with such care. Not since David entered her life, she’s forgotten what it’s like to be loved and cared for. When she felt him pull back, she opened her eyes and they connected with his sincere blue ones. He brought his arms down and around her waist and he pulled her into a hug. Ava returned it, resting her head against his shoulder.

“I love you Nicky, and I’m glad you were there for me. Please don’t beat yourself up over this.”

“I love you too,” Nick responded while pulling her a bit closer protectively, silently vowing to himself that he will do better next time. When he was sure both he and Ava were okay emotionally, he opened the bathroom door again and brought her back out to the front where Tierja now has Jade. AJ is talking to a policeman and Brian is interacting with the children of the costumers. He can hear him apologizing to them for frightening them and signing autographs for them and such. Tierja had rinsed Jade’s hair in the back room when they were hiding.

“Mommy…” Jade spoke up suddenly while holding her arms out to her and sniffling. With Nick’s arms still around her protectively, Ava gently took her from Tierja and hugged her close to her affectionately.

“It’s okay baby…everything is going to be fine. Uncle J got rid of daddy…he’s not going to force us to go home with him” Ava reassured while gently rubbing Jade’s back. “I love you” she whispered when she managed to calm her down after a while.

“I love you too mommy.” After what seemed like forever, when AJ had finally finished talking to the policeman he eventually went over and questioned Ava. When he finished doing all of his questioning he left and Ava looked at AJ wanting to know what was said between the two of them.

“He says a restraining order is strongly advised. It won’t put up an electric shield around you that will send him flying every time he tries to come near you, but it would still be very helpful. We can have him arrested if he ignores it.”

“Is he going to try to find David?”

“I gave him his license plate number and the address to his house so that they could but chances are he’s on the run by now. He said to call him the moment we see him again.”

“Kay…” Ava replied softly and even with Nick still in his protective stance behind her, AJ slid his arms around her and pulled her to him for a hug.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah…Nicky cleaned up my bloody nose for me.”

“I’m so sorry I left your side…I don’t know what I was thinking. This whole situation could have been prevented.”

“It’s okay Alex, it’s not your fault” Ava reassured. After a few moments when they pulled away she looked over her shoulder at Nick and then down at Jade in her arms. “Why don’t you go see Nicky now baby? I change my mind about getting my hair done…” Jade nodded quietly and Ava kissed her cheek before turning around and handing her over to Nick who gladly took her.

“Hey baby J,” Nick spoke softly as he gathered her into his arms. She wrapped her arms around his neck and rested her head against his shoulder and he walked around trying to think of ways to make her smile. Ava sat in Tierja’s chair and watched Nick knowing right off that is his mission. He went up to the front counter and grabbed a root beer lollipop and he opened it up and handed it to her. Jade couldn’t help but smile a little bit as she took it from him and put it in her mouth.

“Nicky,” Ava spoke up after a few moments of silence as Tierja placed a new black cape on her.

“Yeah beautiful?” he asked and he looked at her as he stood there placing soft kisses on Jade’s forehead.

“Will you blow dry Jade’s hair for me? I want to see what she looks like.”

“Me? You want me to use a hair dryer? But I’m a guy, I don’t use that stuff” Ava stuck her lower lip out in a pout then.

“Aren’t you the type of guy who is willing to do anything his Queen asks?” She asked him innocently, reminding him that he had deemed her his queen earlier that day. AJ was now watching Nick in amusement now curious as to what he is going to do. He along with everybody else knows that Nick has been in love with Ava since the very first day he set eyes on her. Everybody except Ava that is…but Brian is the only one who has actually heard him admit it because he is his best friend and they share everything. Only Brian knows how he truly feels about her. Nick let out a heavy sigh before going over to Tierja’s workstation and getting out her hair dryer and Ava smiled while AJ chuckled.

“This will be interesting to watch.” Nick sat Jade on the desk and plugged the hair dryer into the wall and he leaned over and whispered into Jade’s ear.

“How do you turn it on?” Jade giggled slightly and she pointed to the button that you slide up and down to make it either go high or low.

“Did you just ask Jade how to turn it on?” Brian asked, suddenly erupting with laughter.

“No, of course not!”

“Liar”


“I didn’t! Did I Jade?”

“No,” Jade answered while shaking her head, remaining loyal to her best friend.

“Then what did he say to you?” AJ wanted to know. She sat there thinking for a few moments before answering.

“He said that my Uncle J is nosey.” Nick, Brian, Tierja, and Ava all laughed at this knowing full well that Jade is just covering for Nick.

“Yes I did” Nick agreed and then turned the hair dryer on before anyone else decided to pick on him and he began to blow dry Jade’s hair using a brush as well to brush it out.

“Wow…I knew her goal was to look as much like Nick as she could get but…color her hair blonde and she really looks like his clone only female…” AJ announced as shock formed on his face. Tierja, Brian, and Nick were all staring at her speechless. Nick picked her up and turned her so she is looking in the mirror. He knew she had the same color eyes as him and personality but it never occurred to him that if you dye her hair blonde she would look exactly like him.

“Nicky?” Ava spoke up after a long moment.

“Hmm…?”

“Let me see my baby.” He turned around then and handed her over to Ava and Ava looked at her for a couple of moments before speaking.

“You look so beautiful baby…I didn’t think you could get any more beautiful then you already are but I was sure wrong.” She smiled and rested her head against her shoulder and Ava sat there rubbing her back. Nick stood there looking at them for a few moments and then finally spoke up.


“I’m going for a walk. I’ll be back.”

“Can I come Nicky?” Jade asked hopefully. He looked at her for a couple of moments and then shook his head and Jade frowned.

“Nicky needs to be alone for a while,” he told her before turning around and walking out of the shop. Brian stood there thinking for a couple of moments, and then went after him.

“Nick what is the matter with you?” Brian demanded as soon as he had caught up with him.

“Nothing” Nick answered and Brian watched a tear slide down his cheek and drip off of his chin.

“Yeah, that is bullshit. It’s just me; you know you can talk to me. What the hell is your problem?”

“There is NOTHING wrong with me!”

“So you are just crying for no reason at all?” Nick let out a frustrated sigh and he suddenly stopped walking. He raked his fingers through his hair and then looked at Brian to see a very concerned look etched on his features.

“Does this have anything to do with Jade?” Brian guessed. Nick gazed at him for a couple of moments and the nodded before sitting down on the curb while pulling his knees to his chest and he hugged them. Brian sat next to him and waited patiently for his best friend and little brother to finally open up to him.

“I’ve wanted Ava and Jade to be mine for the longest time Brian…I’ve wanted Ava to be more than just my friend since she was just 11 years old and I was 13. The moment she stepped onto the bus with AJ I looked at her and the first thing I thought was wow is she an angel? and I looked at you and asked you that very question. You laughed at me and told me no that is AJ’s sister and she is coming on tour with us. Right then and there I knew she and I just had to be friends. I wanted to get to know her…everything about her I wanted to know. I fell in love with that angel on the tour bus Brian but I can never bring myself to tell her. What if she laughs at me? What if she calls me stupid or something horrible like that? I couldn’t do it so I kept my mouth shut all these years and look what happened? She ended up with this asshole that never treated her right from the very beginning. She had Jade…and when I was in the delivery room with her…getting to see Jade being delivered was the most wonderful experience I’ve ever had in my entire life. Holding her that night was like holding my baby for the very first time and god I really wanted that to be true. There was never a day that went by after Jade was born that I didn’t wish she were mine.”

“Nick if you love Ava as much as you say you do then you need to stop being scared and make a move. You need to let her know or you are never going to get anywhere and you are always going to be hurting. She is not a mind reader Nick; she has no idea how you feel. She thinks you only like her as a friend. But you need to make your move now while she is single or you may never have another chance. If you want her to be your girlfriend…tell her so. If you want Jade to be your daughter then make it happen.”

“But what if she laughs at me?”

“Nick, do you really believe that she would laugh at you? She is your best friend and she always takes what you have to say seriously. She is so hurt right now...you telling her how much you love her just might help her feel better. All she needs right now is your love.” Nick sat there with Brian sitting quietly by his side in case he was needed for a long while until Brian looked down at his watch and realized and hour has passed and got to his feet. “Come on buddy…lets go back inside, I’m sure they miss us.” Nick stood up too and he followed Brian back into Fantastic Sams after making sure there weren’t any stray tears left behind for Ava to see.

“Nicky!” Jade exclaimed upon seeing him enter. She is sitting in Tierja’s chair while Tierja and Ava are in the back and Tierja is rinsing her hair. Nick went over and gathered the four-year-old into his arms and he hugged her close to him possessively.

“Hey beautiful angel of mine” Nick greeted with a grin and he kissed her cheek as she rested her head against his shoulder.

“What was wrong with him?” AJ asked Brian curiously and Nick heard him and looked over at them.

“Nothing,” was all Brian said. A few moments later Ava walked out of the back room with wet hair and Tierja at her side.

“I’m going to have to steal baby J from you Nick. Just for ten seconds. Ava wants me to trim her hair and bangs.” Nick handed Jade over to Tierja and she put the booster seat in the chair and then sat Jade on it and she began to cut her hair. As soon as she finished she brushed the hair from her clothes and then picked her up and handed her back to Nick.

“Ooh so much better, now we can see your beautiful eyes!” Nick informed while looking into her eyes. She smiled and again rested her head on his shoulder. Tierja then swept up the remaining hair belonging to both Ava and Jade and she cleaned up her area. When she was finished she looked at Ava just as she had turned the hair dryer off. Ava had requested for a little trim at the ends of her hair – but not a drastic one because she loves her long hair. It took her a year to grow it out so that it would rest almost at the middle of her back and Tierja put some golden highlights in it and gave her some thick bangs.

“Do you like it?”

“Thank-you Tier, I love it. I really needed this.” Ava told her while pulling her friend into a hug. Tierja returned her hug before going to the front counter with her and Ava paid for both hers and Jade's hair coloring and such.

“Tier when do you get off work?”

“Now.”

“Wow, really?”

“Mhm, I get off work at eight tonight. Laura is closing up for me.”

“Wow, it’s eight? We were here for that long?” She asked, looking at the clock in surprise and Tierja laughed.

“Yup, it is.” She took off her Fantastic Sam’s uniform revealing her mint green colored short sleeve shirt, blue jeans, and she has some black heeled boots. To go along with her outfit, she had used green and black eye shadow and black eyeliner and mascara to create the smokey eye look and her blonde hair is clipped up in a messy do making her absolutely beautiful in AJ’s eyes. Tierja noticed AJ staring at her just as she hoped and she smiled and turned to him.

“Will you put this away for me?”

“Mhm, sure will” he answered flirtatiously as he took the Fantastic Sam’s uniform and he went to the back to put it away and Tierja stared at his butt as he went. Ava rolled her eyes but giggled slightly. When AJ returned, he noticed she had pulled a forest green knitted scarf out of a drawer where she had placed it for safe keeping, so she wouldn’t get any hair dye on it and she was now wearing it to complete her outfit. He took Tierja’s hand into his, kissed it, and brought her toward the door. He opened it up and stood to the side.

“Ladies first” he told her and she walked out of the shop and he followed. The rest went out after them.

“Tierja are you coming to our house?” Ava asked hopefully after making sure Nick has Jade with him, which he does. She didn’t have to look very far, because now that they were outside she noticed he was back to standing next to her in that protective stance that he had on her earlier after the attack.

“Yes of course” Tierja answered. They went back to the house then and when they got there Brian unlocked the door and let everyone inside.

“We should call Raven and Kathryn tomorrow” Ava announced.

“Yes we should” Brian agreed, wanting more than anything to know how Raven and Zara are doing.

“Where are Howie and Kevin at?” Tierja asked curiously.

“Who knows…they both went their separate ways today, the both of them having a million different places they had to go. Hopefully they get back soon or they are going to miss out on a perfectly good pizza,” Nick answered as he was in the process of dialing the number to Pizza Hut while still holding Jade. When he finished he put Jade down and she happily ran off to play with her toys.
End Notes:
Twitter: @UrsTrulyAshee
The Hardest Thing by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Chapter Edited: 11/23/2012

Here's the next chapter. Enjoy :-)
Chapter Five:

“Have I told you how beautiful you are yet today?” Nick asked Ava while sliding his arms around her waist and pulling her to him.

“Only about a dozen times” she told him while smiling into his eyes. He kissed her forehead softly and hugged her tightly and she rested her head against his shoulder.

“Well it’s the truth. You are so incredibly beautiful it’s not even funny.” She slid her arms around his waist and buried her face in his neck and he rubbed his hand over her back. AJ turned on some music and went into the kitchen and he got out a coke and handed it to Tierja knowing it’s her favorite. After getting a coke for himself as well, he glanced over at Jade who was staring at Nick and Ava while playing with her dolls. Curious as to why his niece is smiling so big he looked over at them too and found Nick with his arms wrapped around Ava, Ava’s head rested against his shoulder and he is swaying with her as he sang the words to the song softly in her ear. AJ now understands exactly why Jade is happy. She wants Nick and Ava to fall in love. But AJ has known that fact for a very long time. He’s her uncle after all; he’s always been able to tell exactly what she is thinking. AJ smiled to himself as he can’t help but hope Nick and Ava will be together someday soon too.

“Let’s go out onto the beach” Nick spoke softly and he led Ava out the back door and down the path of the hill they live on that leads straight to the beach down below that the boys happen to own.

“Is it just me, or has he been much more lovey dovey toward her today than he usually is?” Tierja asked once they were gone.

“Nick is going to tell Ava how he feels tonight” Brian announced proudly.

“Really?” AJ questioned and he couldn’t hide the excitement in his voice. Brian nodded.

“That is what he was so upset about earlier. He can’t keep his feelings for Ava to himself any longer and he wants you know who to be his daughter” Brian explained in a quiet whisper so Jade wouldn’t over hear.

“Bout damn time” was AJ’s only response and Brian chuckled. “What? It is” AJ replied with a grin. “I’ve hoped and wished they would end up together for ten years now. He was one of the many reasons why I brought her with us on our first tour. He is so close to her age, her type, and I wanted to introduce them. You know he’s really made a huge difference in her life and has no idea what so ever. The moment they were introduced they hit it off really well. I’ve watched her over the years since then and I’ve never seen her anymore happier then she is when she is with him. He was the first friend she’s ever had in her entire life.”

“Are you serious? She really had no other friends?”

“Not until Nick came along. She was a very shy and quiet girl and was the type who sat in her own corner all the time because she got picked on. She hardly ever talked to anyone and she would come home crying to me every day. She was lonely and she wanted a friend who actually cared about her, not one who would use her to get to me. So she wouldn’t have to sit home alone by herself with nothing to do I took her everywhere I went. I would introduce her to other kids her age and all she would do is cling to me and beg me not to leave her alone with them. I hated it. I hated that no one liked her because she was such a cool and fun person all they had to do was get to know her. But they never gave her a chance…it was awful. She was so miserable in school so I talked mom into just taking her out of it. I talked her into letting me take her on tour with me and she could be home schooled on the road. So I took her with me and my plan of her meeting Nick worked like a charm. Just as I hoped the moment we walked on the bus I couldn’t help but notice him checking her out. I knew right then and there that her life would be better and it was. He changed her life without even knowing it – I know she’s never told him about her past.”

“Wow…I’ve never known her to be shy” Brian informed.

“Me neither” Tierja added.

“That part of her life she likes to keep to herself because it hurt her too much. She doesn’t like to think about it. Her story gets a lot darker than what I’ve told you but I promised her I would never tell anyone. There is a big part of Ava that none of you have ever seen and if it were to come back…it would be very bad.”

“She is just so outgoing now…she would walk through this house in a bra and underwear and wouldn’t care who saw her.”

“Well, she feels comfortable around you guys and girls. She knows you all love her very much. You took the time to get to know her and welcomed her into your hearts like a real friend. Her self-esteem has gone up so much that she knows she can say or do anything around you guys without being ridiculed. When she is around people she doesn’t know her shy side tends to come back and haunt her. I still sometimes find her clinging to me and begging me not to leave her side. Mostly at BSB events like interviews, meet n’ greets, or the press meetings she’s appeared in with me. Places where there are a lot of people she doesn’t know.”

“Oh…” suddenly the front door opened and Kevin and Howie walked in with a bunch of bags in their hands.

“What’s up family? We’re home!” Howie announced with a big grin upon his face.

“HOWIE!” Jade exclaimed and she dropped everything before jumping up and running over to him. Howie smirked, got down to her level, and he held his arms open wide for her as she went crashing into him.

“Hi Baby J! Oh my goodness I never get tired of your hugs!” Jade smiled even bigger and Howie pulled back just a bit to take a good long look at her, as this is the first time he’s seen her all day. He and Kevin were long gone before she was even awake.

Wow look at you Miss Blondie! When did this happen huh?”

“Mommy let me gets it done today. Do you likes it?” she asked anxiously, as if his opinion matters to her more than anything else.

“Of course I do sweetheart you look very beautiful” Howie informed her sincerely and Jade beamed and even blushed crimson red too.

“Tierja did it.”

“Well of course she did. Who else would you go to if you wanted your hair done?” Howie asked and he kissed Jade on the cheek before getting up and going over to Tierja and pulling her into a warm hug next. Tierja returned it, she too blushing as Howie made it sound like she is the only hairstylist in the world worth going to.

“Where are Ava and Nick?” Kevin asked curiously as he was now holding Jade who had flown into his arms the moment Howie let go.

“They’re outside on the beach.”

~*~*~*~*~

“Nicky?” Ava asked, suddenly breaking the silence between the two of them while they sat together on the comfortable lounge chair. They’ve been outside ever since they got home. When the pizza arrived they went inside to get some, but came right back out. Instead of just getting a blanket for them to picnic on, Nick decided that he would drag the pool side lounge chair down by the ocean just far enough back that the waves can’t reach them and they used that.

“Hmm?” he responded and Ava remained silent, just thinking. “Ava?” he questioned, turning his gaze away from the ocean and onto her instead. She looks so adorable all bundled up in his red buccaneers’ hoodie and snuggled up into his side so she won’t be cold. He can’t understand how anyone would ever want to hurt someone so beautiful and special. All he wants to do is take her into his arms and love her forever. She stared back at him in return for a few moments, before crawling into his lap straddling him. He slid his arms around her waist and pulled her closer making sure she was extra warm before resting his forehead against hers, her brown eyes meeting his curious blues.

“Why did you want to come out here?”

“You and I always come out here to look up at the stars together, its tradition. Don’t you remember? We liked to find shooting stars and make wishes on them and hope they come true later.” Ava nodded quietly.

“Of course I remember, I will never forget” she told him, smiling fondly at the memories. The two of them used to sit on the beach for hours and if AJ would let them, sometimes even all night. Except it was always a different beach because they were always on tour. If they weren’t in a place with a beach, they would sneak up onto the roof of hotels and hope that they have a good view of the stars from there. But the very first beach that they ever sat on will always hold a very special place in her heart.

It was the night they promised to be there for each other no matter what. It was the best night of her life. Nick smiled too at the sight of her smiling. He finds that she can’t smile enough these days. He idly cascaded his fingers through her dark brown hair and admired her chocolate brown eyes that are much like AJ’s. Ava slid her arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder, causing him to hug her closer to him affectionately. She loves how warm he makes her feel when he holds her. Warm, safe, and taken care of…he is exactly what she needs to get past this David mess right now. Her best friend…

“Shooting Star,” he announced softly, and she looked up into the sky where he is pointing and just like there tradition is supposed to go, the two of them silently made a wish.

“What was your wish?” she questioned after a few moments of silence and she looked up at him with a big smile on her face, which only made Nick smile. “If I tell you it won’t come true!” he laughed and he playfully rolled them over so that she lay underneath him and she shrieked in surprise and giggled incessantly as he began to tickle her.

“Nicky sto-ooooop!” she pleaded between shrieks and giggles. After a few moments, he did and chuckled softly.

Not funny!” she pouted and he just laughed even more as she tried to push him off of her and was unsuccessful. After making a great effort of calming down and becoming serious again, he enveloped her in his arms and rested his forehead against hers, gazing into her beautiful brown eyes that were thanks to him, filled with real happiness again for the first time since she came home. He delicately caressed her cheek with his finger, before bringing it down and tilting her chin up with it and he brought his lips down on hers kissing her softly.

Ava stiffened in his arms in surprise but kissed him back nonetheless, sliding her arms around his neck. Somewhere in the back of her mind, alarms were going off wanting to know what was going on, what is she doing? But at the moment she doesn’t care. She hasn’t felt such love and tenderness in a very long time and she can’t help but want more. When Nick felt her deepen the kiss, he slid his hands down to her legs and gently wrapped them around him and when she felt his wandering hands move up under the back of his bucs hoodie and her shirt lightly caressing her cut and bruised skin, the alarms in her head were getting louder and she abruptly pulled back ending the intense kiss.

She looked up at him in surprise and Nick stared down at her nervously, knowing right away by the look in her eyes that he has frightened her. This was not what his plan was. He really doesn’t know what came over him. “What just happened?” she asked when she managed to get her breathing back to normal.

“I’m so sorry Ava…I-I didn’t mean to…I don’t know what came over me. It was an involuntary action, I swear!”

Why did it happen Nick? Why did you kiss me? That sure as hell wasn’t involuntary, that had feeling in it!”

“Because…” Nick replied softly and he cradled her face in his hands and gazed into her eyes with so much seriousness in his own. “I want to be more than friends Ava…I brought you out here tonight not only because it is tradition, but also because I wanted to tell you how I’ve truly felt about you since the very moment I laid eyes on you. I love you Ava and I always have.” He explained, and he watched as a single tear slipped from her watery eyes and rolled down her cheek.

“But Nicky-“

“-No shhh let me talk okay?” he asked and when she made no other sign of protesting, he went on. “The first moment I laid eyes on you when you stepped on the tour bus with AJ at age eleven the first thing I thought was that you had to be an angel. When I turned and asked Brian if this were true he laughed at me and told me no – that you were AJ’s little sister and were coming on tour with us. Well when he told me this I was instantly excited. I wanted to get to know you…I had an instant crush on you Ava. And over the years that we’ve spent together and got to know each other…it became more than that. I fell in love with you somewhere along the way.” He explained softly and he wiped away her tears with his finger.

“But despite the fact that I was in love with you I was afraid to tell you. I was afraid you would laugh at me and call me a loser and never want to talk to me again. So I kept it to myself…and by doing that the only thing I got in result was pain and heartache. Especially when you started going out with David who has never treated you right from the start. You have no idea how hard it was for me to watch that Ava…no idea at all. Then Jade came along…and when you told me this it hurt me so much because I wanted to be the one to get you pregnant. Not that evil bastard you were dating. I wanted to be her daddy and when I held her in the hospital it was the most wonderful experience of my life. It was like I was holding my own little girl…it felt so right holding her Ava and it still does to this day – like she belongs to me instead – not him. But as much as I wanted it to be true, it wasn’t…and when no one else was around except for Brian I cried. I love her so much…and even though she is not my daughter I’ve always loved her. Even though you are not my girlfriend I’ve always loved you. I just wanted to tell you before it’s too late.” He told her and he looked up at the sky and then back at her.

“My wish Ava…for the past ten years has always been the same and it still has yet to come true. But that’s all up to you…” She looked up at him as endless tears rolled down her cheeks and it was a long time before she replied.

“Nick, I can’t…I just left David last night. I’ve been in so many bad relationships and have gotten my heart broken so many times in my life that I’ve just completely lost faith in men. I’m not sure if I will ever get it back – I’m not sure If I even want it back at this point in my life. I just feel like Jade and I are better off alone. I’m tired of getting hurt and I’m tired of David hurting Jade. I don’t think I could handle another one coming into our life and hurting her all over again…I need to just concentrate on being strong for her so that I can take care of her and keep her safe from David.”

“Ava I would never hurt you nor could I ever even think about hurting Jade! I love you both more then you could ever imagine. I’m not like that asshole and I can prove it! Whatever it takes to prove it to you I will. I will show you what love means if you will just give me a chance. Have I not made a good start earlier when we were kissing?”

“Nick-“

“-I was gentle with you the entire time. And you were kissing me back so you can’t tell me that you didn’t like it.”

“Of course I liked it Nick…I haven’t felt such love and tenderness in a really long time and god I wanted more, needed more, but that’s just the thing. I don’t trust myself to want or need more from you. David started out that way too in the beginning. He was all sweet and romantic, told me that I was beautiful all the time, and he too made promises to never hurt me. He told me that he would do anything for me...but quite frankly I am tired of all of the promises Nick! I don’t know what’s true anymore because all I have heard are LIES.”

“But Ava-“

“-No Nick! Just let me be…please!” she pleaded and after managing to push him off of her, she got up and ran toward the house. When she got there she threw the door open and ran inside causing all four guys, Tierja, and Jade to look at her.

“Hi mommy!” Jade exclaimed cheerfully, completely oblivious to her mother’s tears and Ava forced a fake smile for her but everybody else who had seen the tears knows that something isn’t right and is concerned.

“Hi baby” she replied and she went over and kissed her daughter’s cheek. Suddenly Nick appeared in the doorway with the same amount of tears rolling down his face but there is also anger there.

“Ava come here” he begged and half demanded.

“Our conversation is over!”

No it is not!” Nick protested like a stubborn child.

“I said leave me alone!” Ava shouted while breaking down into sobs and she turned and ran up the stairs leaving Jade along with everyone else staring after her confused – Jade scared more than anything else. She is not accustomed to Nick and Ava fighting.

“Why is mommy crying?” She asked Nick. But Nick didn’t answer he only ran up the stairs after his best friend. Jade started for the stairs too but AJ noticed and reached out and grabbed her into his arms.

“Jade stay down here...”

“But I want my mommy!”

“Wait a little while okay?”

“But I want her! I want to know what’s wrong!” Jade demanded as tears welled up in her eyes of blue and AJ could sense a tantrum coming on. He kissed her cheek and hugged her close to him.

“Your mommy and Nick are discussing something very important right now. It’s a very grownup conversation and it would just be best if you stayed down here with your Uncle J okay?” Jade’s lower lip trembled as she looked up at her favorite uncle.
“Come on now don’t cry…I’ll get you some ice cream how about that?” he offered and he carried her into the kitchen knowing that would be the best place for her to be. She won’t be able to overhear any of the shouting that he knows is about to come. It is an inevitable thing when you have his baby sister who is just as hot tempered as he is most of the time…and well…Nick who is just plain loud when he is angry.

~*~*~*~*~

When Nick got upstairs to Ava’s bedroom he discovered that the door is locked. Rolling his eyes he pulled his wallet out of his pocket and he opened it up and took out his blockbusters card before sticking it in the door between the doorknob and the lock causing the door to click and unlock. He opened the door then and went inside before shutting it behind him and he found Ava standing there crying.

“LISTEN TO ME!”

“NICK THIS IS MY ROOM GET OUT!” she shouted and she started for the bathroom door but Nick grabbed her gently by the arm and pulled her back and he lightly pressed her up against the wall next to the bedroom door where he was still standing.

“I CAN’T fucking believe that after ten years you don’t trust me! I’ve been here for you through EVERYTHING Ava! I’m the one you used to run to during all of your bad relationships! I stayed up all night with you and took care of you when you got your tonsils taken out! I slept in bed with you and held you in my arms when you were upset over a bad breakup! I was always the shoulder you cried on and I was here when you gave birth to Jade! Remember that? I was the one holding your hand telling you that everything would be all right! I was your best friend through it all and you look me in the eyes and tell me that you don’t trust me! That you won’t give me a chance because you are afraid I might hurt you the way David had! That I am going to walk out on Jade the way David had and it hurts me that after ten fucking years you don’t trust me! Well I just want you to know that I would NEVER EVER even THINK about hurting you and Jade because the two of you are my entire world Ava! But no matter how much I love you I don’t think I will EVER be able to forgive you for saying the things that you did! It’s going to take a lot! When you are done being a stubborn bitch let me know!” He shouted at her and with that he let her go and opened the door all the way before walking out and slamming it shut behind him.

He stormed downstairs and everyone looked at him to see a mixture of anger and pain in his eyes and he went straight for the back door, opened it up, went outside and he slammed that door too. AJ who had left Jade in the kitchen with Tierja so that he could come back out and listen to the shouting match let out a frustrated sigh as he knows his baby sister is upstairs falling apart right about now. He went upstairs to her room and he opened the door and went inside to find her sitting on the floor next to the door. She is leaning up against the wall that Nick had backed her up against and she was hugging her legs to her chest, her face was buried in her knees and she is sobbing. He went over and sat next to her before sliding his arms around her and pulling her into his warm embrace and she buried her face in his shoulder where she continued to cry. AJ sat there quietly rubbing her back just letting her get it all out. After a long while when she had calmed down to the point where her crying turned into sniffles he pulled back a little and cupped her cheek in his hand before gently tilting her head back so she is looking up at him.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked gently and she nodded quietly.

“What exactly happened out there?” he questioned and she began to explain. When she finished he tucked a strand of her hair back behind her ear and looked into her pained eyes.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do…walk away from him pretending I don’t love him. I love him so much Alex…he’s changed my life in so many ways and doesn’t even know it. He is my whole world too…my best friend and he makes everything okay. He’s so sweet to me…and the way he is with Jade is just amazing. But I don’t know what to do…I’m just so hurt and confused right now. I don’t know what’s real and what’s not anymore and he just caught me completely off guard…”

“What is your heart telling you to do honey? All you have to do is look deep into your heart and you will know what to do. If you see Nick in there…well then go for it because your heart knows what it’s talking about. What matters is what is in here” AJ explained while taking her hand into his and placing it over her heart. “All that matters is whether or not you are happy and I know that right now you are not and it’s killing me Ava. You just came out of a really bad relationship…it’s only natural that you are going to need some time to do some soul searching. But if you want my opinion, I’m rooting for Nick and to be honest sweetie I’ve been rooting for him from the very start. Not just because he is my best friend but because he is what’s best for my little sister. I’ve been watching the two of you over the years and it was easy to see that he’s loved you from the very start and he makes you happy. I’ve never seen you as happy as you are when he is around. He makes Jade happy too honey. Haven’t you noticed that ever since she was born she’s felt more comfortable around him then she has with David? It’s just more natural. Earlier today in the living room when Nick had you wrapped in his arms and you were slowly swaying to the music and he was singing in your ear I looked over at Jade and she was watching you with a big smile on her face. Being her uncle and all…I know she secretly hopes that the two of you will end up together.”

“I have noticed…every day I notice how close she is with Nick but I’ve never known she wanted us to be together.”
“She told me so years ago…but she made me promise not to tell you so you can’t tell her that you know.” Ava rested her head against AJ’s shoulder and he sat there gently rubbing his hand over her back in silence for a few moments.

“Are you ready to go downstairs now?” He asked her gently.

“I guess so…” AJ stood up then and he took her hands into his before helping her up and he slid his arm around her waist as she rested her head back on his shoulder again and he brought her downstairs.

“Mommy!” Jade exclaimed gratefully when she saw her and Ava went over and gently took her from Tierja and hugged her close to her before kissing her forehead softly. “Mommy are you okay? Why were you and Nicky fighting and why are you crying?” she asked worriedly and she looked into her mother’s eyes with her own full of concern.

“I’m okay baby…Nicky and I are just going through some tough times right now, but it’s nothing you need to worry about okay?” Jade looked at her for a couple of moments and then nodded and Ava brought her over to the couch where AJ was sitting and she sat down next to him with Jade in her lap. Jade wrapped her arms around her and rested her head against her shoulder.

“Where is Brian?” Ava asked after a while when she suddenly noticed that he is missing.

“Outside trying to tame Nick again…”

“Oh…” She was quiet for a long time while everyone talked and then suddenly Nick and Brian walked in. Jade crawled out of Ava’s lap and ran to him and he caught her just as she flew into his arms and he stood up. She looked him in the eyes then and saw the pain in them no matter how hard he tried to hide it from her and it made her frown, but she kept quiet nonetheless and rested her head upon his shoulder. He placed a soft kiss on her forehead and carried her into the kitchen with him. Ava slid both arms around AJ and rested her head against his shoulder and he kissed the top of her head as he hugged her close to him. Nick grabbed two Dr. Peppers and then took Jade upstairs to his room shutting the door behind him a bit hard causing everyone to flinch.


“I hate it when he storms around the house throwing his temper tantrums and slamming doors. He is almost as bad as AJ and Ava’s tempers put together. What good are you Bri? We send you out there to calm him down and he comes back in here the exact same as before” Kevin complained.

“I tried!” Brian insisted as he held his hands up defensively. “When he is throwing his tantrums there’s no way you can get through to him unless he gets his way. He has been like this ever since he was a kid but at least now he’s a lot more mature. It was so bad in the past that no one could even look at him without getting bitched at. His tantrums are especially bad when he is frustrated over him and Ava not being more then friends.” Brian explained while looking over at Ava. A tear slipped down her cheek as she continued to sit there snuggling with AJ.

“Ava did you really tell him that you are afraid he might hurt you and Jade?” Tierja asked while looking over at her best friend in disbelief. Ava shrugged tearfully.

“I’m afraid of everyone and everything right now, Tier…I just got out of a really bad relationship, can you really blame me? I’m not ready to trust anyone else right now, not even my best friend. I just wish he would respect that. But I can’t even look at him right now because he really hurt me when he called me a stubborn bitch.”

“Well…he was wrong and he was right about what he called you” Brian replied and Ava looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “You are very stubborn…but you aren’t a bitch. And seeing as how he is your best friend he should be more understanding.”

I’M stubborn? At least I’m not storming around this house throwing a temper tantrum like a baby! He is the one who needs to stop being such a jerk!”

“You are stubborn Ava and you always have been, especially when it comes to Nick. I know you’ve loved him for the past ten years just as much as he’s loved you. But you’ve never wanted to admit it because you are scared of losing your best friend. That something would go wrong and mess everything up. This entire time he’s felt the same way and you know it but you are too stubborn to do anything about it. No matter how much you want to. You may be hurt, you may be scared and trying to get over David and I understand that. I respect that and I love you and I am here for you but if you weren’t so damn stubborn you would notice that your best friend has been hurting over you for the past ten years. Hurting because he thinks his best friend doesn’t love him the way he loves her. For the past five years that you’ve been with David he has had to learn to cope with the fact that he can’t have you because you are taken. He has had to deal with the fact that he can’t be Jade’s father because she isn’t his, because she belongs to a man who does nothing but hurt her. When he knows that he could do a lot better. He knows that he could love you and Jade so much more than David ever could and I do too. I know he is ten times better than any of the ex-boyfriends you’ve ever had because he has always been here for you when you’ve needed him most. No matter how frustrated with you he was, he still loved you. No matter how much it was hurting him. I know some feelings that he’s been through that nobody else has ever seen. I hear him cry at night when he and I share hotel rooms. When he thinks I am asleep he cries and I know that it is over you. You may be hurting and going through a lot but look into the eyes of your best friend. I guarantee that you will realize you aren’t the only one.” Brian replied, trying to help his best friend out. It’s high time that somebody did. “You’ve never experienced always being second best to the woman you’ve been in love with all your life but Nick knows how it feels,” he added. Ava didn’t reply she only continued to sit with AJ in silence, completely drowning else out as they sat there talking to each other.
End Notes:
Twitter: @UrsTrulyAshee
The Silent Treatment by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Chapter Edited: 11/23/2012

Here's the next chapter. Enjoy :-)
Chapter Six: The Silent Treatment


Ava sat with AJ until one in the morning and then she got up and went upstairs to Nick’s room. When she got there she walked in and found him going through a box of pictures that are all of the two of them growing up together. Ava and Nick never went anywhere without a camera within reach and the two of them took lots of pictures together. There are also a lot of them that other people such as her brother, their friends, or their moms have taken too. The moment she walked in and he realized that it’s her he grabbed a pillow and placed it over a project that he is working on and doesn’t want her to see and Jade is sitting beside him going through pictures.

“HI mommy! Come look at pictures with Nicky and me! Look at this picture mommy it’s of you and Nicky sitting on a balcony at a hotel and you are looking at a pretty sunset together! He says that you were thirteen and he was fifteen in this picture!” Jade held the picture out to her and Ava took hold of it and looked down at it as a tear rolled down her cheek.

“We were in California at the time. Three years before I met your father.”

“Mommy sit with us and look at pictures” Jade persisted and Ava shook her head.

“Come get your pajamas on honey it’s getting late.”

“Do I have to go to bed?” Jade pouted.


“Not right away but soon. You can stay up for a half an hour more but that is it. We might be seeing Zara and Raven in the morning so you need your sleep.” Jade went from pouting to excited in just a second upon hearing this news and she smiled up at Ava.

“Come on,” Ava told her while holding her arms out. Jade stood up on the bed and walked over to Ava who gathered her into her arms and carried her out of the room with the picture still in her hand. It’s always been her favorite and Nick knows it. He also noticed the pain and the tears in her eyes and he sighed. He hates it that she is hurting and if he weren’t so mad at her at the moment, he would take her into his arms and make everything better. He wants to…and all she has to do is tell him he can and he will. Ava carried Jade into her room and helped her into her pajamas.

“Can I go back into Nicky’s room mommy?” She asked after grabbing her favorite blanket.

“Yes but can I ask you a question really quick?” Ava whispered quietly knowing full well that Nick is down the hall and will hear her if she isn’t careful. They live in a house with wood floors so voices tend to carry. Jade nodded her head and looked up at Ava curiously.

“What is he doing with those pictures?”

“It’s a secret mommy” Jade told her while shaking her head and she grabbed up her doll and ran down the hall to Nick’s room. Ava followed her and she leaned up against the doorframe as she watched her crawl up onto Nick’s bed and he cleared a space for her and motioned her to sit beside him and she did just that.

“Mommy”

“Hmm?”

“Can I sleep with Nicky?” Ava looked at her for a couple of moments and then silently nodded her approval.

“You don’t mind if she stays in here with you for the night Nick do you?” she asked softly and Nick didn’t answer, he only continued to sit there looking through pictures as if he hadn’t even heard her. She stared at him for a few moments and then turned and left the room and he watched her as she went noticing that she is crying. When she got downstairs she went straight over and sat next to AJ and she slid her arms around him and rested her head against his shoulder. AJ wrapped his arms around her in return and kissed the top of her head softly.

“Are you okay?” He asked softly.

“My best friend is giving me the silent treatment. I am far from okay Alex.”

“Just give him some time to cool down honey, he’ll come around” Howie told her gently.

“How can you be so sure? What if he never forgives me? He went and poured his heart out to me and I blew him off because I’m not sure I’m ready to give him what he wants. I don’t blame him…”

“Nick has never been able to stay mad at you for longer than a day Ava…he’ll be talking to you by tomorrow morning if he even lasts that long. He loves you” Brian insisted.

“I miss him so much…”

~*~*~*~*~

“Nicky” Jade asked while looking up at the blonde man she admires so much.

“Yes honey?”

“Do you love my mommy?” Nick peered down at the little one by his side for a couple of moments and then nodded.

“Then why are you making her cry?” Nick set the picture in his hands down and he reached over and gathered the four-year-old into his arms. She snuggled close to him and looked up at him wanting very much to know the answer.

“I told your mommy something that she wasn’t yet ready to hear because of the pain your daddy put her through so we are a little mad at each other right now. But everything is going to be fine, I promise. Everything will work out okay in the end…it’s nothing you need to worry about.”

“Are you and mommy still friends?”

“Of course…I love her and could never stop being her friend.”

“Good because I don’ts want you to ever stop being friends.” Nick leaned down and kissed her cheek and he hugged her tight before continuing to work on his project. She watched him for a while but then ended up falling asleep. When she did he carefully lay her down next to him and covered her up as she had her doll wrapped safely in her arms. He worked on his project for a few minutes more before putting it away in a safe place where Ava wouldn’t see it and then he changed into a wife beater and boxer shorts and he crawled into bed behind Jade with the light off. He wrapped a protective arm around her and watched her sleep for thirty minutes before going to sleep as well.

~*~*~*~*~

“Alex can I sleep in your bed tonight? Baby J is in Nick’s room and I don’t like sleeping alone. I can’t sleep alone…” Ava asked as she walked into her brother’s room as he was just pulling off his shirt and was standing there in boxers.

“Mhm go get in bed” he told her and she went over and crawled into his bed as he went and turned the light off before joining her. He crawled in bed beside her and pulled the blankets on them.

“How are you feeling?” he questioned softly as they lay there in the dark side by side just staring up at the ceiling.

“Alone…”

“You are far from alone sis…you are surrounded by four guys who love you to death and one stubborn Backstreet Boy who loves you almost as much as I do no matter how much of a dickwad he is being.”

“A dickwad he may be, but he has a right to be angry…”

“The way I see it,” AJ replied while tearing his gaze from the ceiling and looking at her. “If he is really the best friend he says he is he wouldn’t be acting this way, I don’t care how hurt he is. You have a lot on your plate right now and he is the one person you need the most and if he doesn’t start talking to you by tomorrow I’m going to start getting pissy with him.” Ashley couldn’t help but smile some and she rested her head against his as they share a pillow.

“I love how protective of me you are. I’ve missed it.”

“You are my sister it’s my job to be protective,” he informed her softly. The two of them lay there in silence for a while until she soon fell asleep and when she did he lay there watching her while silently worrying. Silently cursing Nick for acting this way. Yes he’s been in love with Ava since the beginning. Yes Ava hurt him he understands that. And as much as he really wanted him to reveal his feelings, and for him to be with her it was just really bad timing. He should’ve seen that then maybe he could’ve warned him not to do it just yet. But he was just blinded by his own dream that someday his best friend would be his sister’s prince charming and help her put all of her demons in the past. He is a firm believer that only Nick can do that. Without him…well, he doesn’t want to think about that. He came close to losing his sister once before, he doesn’t want things to get that bad again.

~*~*~*~*~

The next morning Ava awoke to the smell of bacon. She lay in AJ’s bed quietly staring up at the ceiling for a few moments trying to wake up all the way and when she did she rolled out of bed and headed downstairs. She walked into the kitchen where she found all five guys and Jade sitting around.

“Hey beautiful you are up early” Brian greeted as he was the first to see her and he went over and slid his arms around her waist and pulled her to him for a hug. Ava smiled and returned his hug.


“Alex is that bacon and eggs I smell?”

“Yes ma’am I thought I would make your favorite today to start your day off good.” Ava went over to the refrigerator and opened it up and she pulled out a can of Dr. Pepper before going over and sitting next to Jade who of course has Nick sitting on the other side of her.

“Good morning Nick” she spoke softly and she looked at him and saw him doing exactly what he had done last night. Acting like he didn’t hear her. She looked at him for a few moments and then put her Dr. Pepper down on the counter loudly before getting up and heading for the kitchen door.

“Let me know when breakfast is finished I am going upstairs” she announced but before she even made it to the door Howie reached out and wrapped an arm around her and pulled her near.

“Stay here sweetie, don’t let him get to you today” Howie whispered in her ear.

“I don’t feel comfortable in here” she insisted as she wants nothing more than to leave the room.

“Come here Ava, help me make cookies. You love to bake” Kevin spoke up. She looked at him for a couple of moments and then nodded quietly before walking over to the counter where he was baking chocolate chip cookies.

“Kay…” she replied softly and she began to help. After a long while she looked over at her brother.

“Alex can I use your cell phone? Mine is dead at the moment.”

“Mhm” AJ answered before pulling his phone from his pocket and handing it over to her. Ava turned it on and dialed Raven’s number and she waited as it rang.

“Hello?” Came the sound of Zara’s voice and Ava couldn’t help but smile some.

“Hey there Zara, it’s Ava. How are you?” Upon hearing this question, Jade’s whole face lit up in excitement and she looked up from her coloring book.

“Mommy can I talk to her? Please, pleeeease?” she pleaded eagerly, even going as far as bouncing around excitedly in her chair.

“I’m doing good, how are you? Mommy misses you!” Zara answered, her voice filled with just as much excitement as Jade’s.

“Oh, I’ve been okay…can I talk to your mommy please?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, and then afterward you can talk to Jade all right? She is very anxious to talk to you.” Jade smiled even bigger at hearing this and AJ chuckled amusedly.

“Yay! Okay I will go gets her!”

“Kay, thank you sweetie.” Ava heard the phone being put down and then the four year old yelling for her best friend.

“MOMMY! AVA IS CALLING YOU!” A second later she heard the phone pick up and then her friend’s voice on the other end.

“Ava!”

“Hey Ray, what have you been up to? And what is this I hear about you missing me?”


“Can you really blame me Ava? We haven’t talked in four whole weeks!”

“I know hon…that’s my fault. Life has been a little crazy lately with David and everything…”

“That’s why we tell you to leave him honey…will there ever be a day where you will actually listen to us? Or are we fighting a losing battle here?” Raven questioned, and Ava could hear the irritation behind her friend’s voice.

“Jade and I are actually living with Alex now. I took her and ran away and he talked me into moving back home and staying with him.”

“That explains why you are on his phone…it’s about damn time though! If you didn’t leave him soon you were going to be experiencing some very tough love from me.”

“I’m already going through some tough love right now…I think. I’m not exactly sure what it is.” Ava glanced over at Nick who was still sitting at the table with Jade writing and pretending that he isn’t listening to her end of the conversation at all – but she’s known him for ten years, she knows better than that.

“What does that mean?” Raven’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

“I will explain it to you when we’re in the same room. I don’t want to discuss it right now…”

“…Okay. Are you all right?”

“I’m fine…just come over please? I am in desperate need of a girl. I’ve been surrounded by guys for two days straight with an exception of Tierja being over here but we didn’t really get anytime alone because I was a little preoccupied with dealing with my issues…”

“Okay I will. I will get ready as soon as we hang up and then Zee and I will be right over.”


“Kay, thank you. Have you heard from Kathryn lately?”

“Yeah she was just here yesterday. She is supposed to be coming over here again today…we both will be right over okay?”

“Okay, then I will get Tierja back over here too so we can be complete.”

“That will be great! I haven’t seen Tier in a while either and miss her too.”

“Okay well she will be here if she can come.”

“I have to go get ready I am still in my pajamas.”

“Can Jade talk to Zara before you hang up? She really misses her best friend right now and is dying to talk.”

“Of course,” Raven answered and Ava looked to Jade.

“Baby J, come here honey.” Jade leaped up from her chair that she was sitting in next to Nick and she darted for her mother who handed over the phone.

“Zara?” she asked into the phone.

“Jay!”

“What’s up dude?” Jade asked eagerly. Being around the guys a lot she has learned the words what’s up, dude and whatever other phrase she managed to pick up on very early in her life. Ava couldn’t help but smile slightly and she walked up behind her brother, slid her arms around his waist, and rested her chin on his shoulder.
“When is breakfast going to be done? I’m hungry.”

“Five more minutes honey. Hang in there.”
I Can't Do This Anymore by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Chapter Edited: 11/23/2012

Here's the next chapter. Enjoy :-)
Chapter Seven: I Can’t Do This Anymore

Later on that day after breakfast and after showering, getting dressed into one of AJ’s pullover hoodies and some of her own comfortable jeans and doing absolutely nothing with her wet hair except brushing it, Ava went on downstairs. Once down there she discovered Nick was lying on the floor playing with Jade after having disappeared with her right after breakfast without so much as telling anyone where they were going or when they would be back. Just that it was some secret mission and Jade was really excited about it. While the two of them were playing, the others were all doing their own thing.

“Hey sweetie,” AJ greeted when he saw her and then paused when he got a good look at her. “Going through my clothes again?”

“I like wearing your hoodies, they’re comfy and make me feel safe” Ava insisted. He stood there quietly surveying his little sister for a moment and saw the vulnerable look in her eyes and he sighed. He regrets what he is going to say to her next but he has to, as it’s very important.

“Jade’s doctor called,” he announced in an undertone so the nearby four-year-old wouldn’t pick up on his words.

“What did he say?” Ava asked softly while crossing her arms over her stomach and glancing over at her daughter with frightened eyes.

“I don’t know he called your phone and left a message. I just saw that it was his number and didn’t answer it because it’s your phone.” Ava turned and headed toward the kitchen where she left her phone to charge only to have her brother gently grab her hand. She looked at him curiously and he handed it to her. She took it from him, unlocked it, and pressed one so she could listen to her voicemail before going toward the back door and disappearing outside. As soon as the door shut behind her, Nick looked around as if not feeling her presence anymore and he looked at AJ.

“Where did Ava go?”

“Out back to listen to her voicemail,” AJ answered while giving Nick a look like he isn’t exactly his favorite person in the world right now.

“Why? Who called?” Nick asked protectively. AJ gave a pointed look toward Jade and then held Nick’s eyes seriously knowing he would catch on. Judging by the worried look upon his face AJ can see that he had.

“Why don’t you go out there and be with her? She would really appreciate your company while she talks to him.” With that suggestion being made, Nick looked back down at the coloring book he was currently coloring in and continued to do so. AJ sighed heavily, shook his head, and he reached over and grabbed up a couch pillow before throwing it as hard as he could aiming for the younger man’s head. It bounced off of it and landed next to him causing Nick to mess up and color a big red line across his picture. He turned and narrowed his eyes at his band mate and AJ gave him a dark look.

Now Nick. I’m not asking you anymore.”

“I am playing with Jade right now,” Nick insisted stubbornly and then turned his attention back to his now messed up picture. AJ continued to stare at the back of his head, looking as though he might burn a hole right into it. The rest of their band mates have stopped what they are doing and were now watching the scene before them, ready to intervene if they must.

“Hey Little Jay?” he spoke up after a long moment, using his special nickname for her.

“Yes Big Jay?” Jade asked curiously, and she turned and looked at her favorite uncle curiously.

“Your mommy is outside with a tummy ache right now…and she is really sad. Don’t you think it would be nice if Nicky went out there to be with her?” Jade looked up at Nick then who was now looking down at her warily and she nodded in response to AJ’s question.

“Yes I do. Mommy likes it when Nicky gives her hugs and tells her that everything will be okay. Nicky goes - now!”

“But Baby J—“

“- Now Nicky. You goes be with my mommy or I will not be very happy with you.” Nick sighed heavily at her words and he set his crayon down before obeying her command and getting to his feet. He does not want her to be unhappy with him because she is the only one besides Brian who is being nice to him. He turned and headed for the backyard, passing AJ by as he did.

“You are shameless,” he informed and then went outside shutting the door behind him. AJ only shook his head and he went over and gathered Jade into his arms so he is cradling her and he planted a kiss on her forehead as she slid her arms around him and cuddled with him.

“Good job little jay,” he praised while carrying her over to the couch and sitting down with her.

~*~*~*~*~

Meanwhile outside, When Nick stepped out into the backyard he discovered that Ava was sitting out on the beach in their favorite spot – naturally. Nick sighed softly and then for the sake of finding out if his baby Jay will be okay he made his way out there. By the time he reached her he saw that she had just finished up on dialing and had put the phone to her ear. She looked up at him upon seeing his shadow and he saw surprise adorned on her beautiful features. He remained standing keeping a slight distance from her and he stuck his hands in his pockets as he gazed out at the ocean.

“Doctor Smith? Hi…it’s Ava McLean and I just got your message.” She paused a moment then and Nick risked a glance at her but instantly regretted it as soon as he did. God she is so beautiful…he thought inwardly to himself. Why does someone so off limits have to be so beautiful? It’s not fair. He wants nothing more than to sit next to her and hold her. To rock her in his arms and make this fragile state that she is in disappear. But she is not his to hold and being near her makes things all the more complicated. He misses her so much though…he yearns for his best friend. Her scent, the smooth touch of her skin, her soft silky hair, and the way she fits so perfectly in his arms. He is beginning to wonder if she was put into his life to be his own personal hell. He doesn’t know, but he knows one thing for sure. He can’t go on being just her friend anymore – it hurts too much. His heart is always going to ache for more…pretending just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

“Is she okay?” he heard her ask, throwing him abruptly from his thoughts and he continued to concentrate on the current issue at hand – Jade. He moved a little closer to her – but not too close and he sat down in the sand next to her.

“That’s great…thank-you Doctor Smith,” she spoke into the phone again after a long while and then she hung up. She put her phone down and the two best friends sat there in a long silence as they both stare out at the water, purposely avoiding eye contact with one another.

“Jade is fine,” She announced after a long while knowing that must be the only reason he is out there with her. She might as well tell him so he can run off and continue to pretend that she doesn’t even exist. “No diseases or anything else horrible like that…the doctor says there wasn’t even any penetration to begin with, he just molested her.” She added as her eyes watered up. Nick didn’t respond he only sat there in silence continuing to not look at her. But much to her surprise, he reached out and laid his hand in the sand between them so that their fingers were touching and he kept up his silence. The silence however, after a while was beginning to be too much for her to bear. She really misses and craves the sound of his voice.

“Nicky talk to me…please,” She pleaded tearfully and Nick with his eyes still on the ocean shook his head and stood up.

“I can’t do this anymore Ava,” he whispered, and then turned and walked back toward the house. Ava drew her legs to her chest and remained where she’s at as she carelessly let the tears that were clouding her eyes spill out over her cheeks. When Nick went inside he discovered that Tierja was there sitting on the couch beside AJ. He walked into the living room, right up to AJ, and he gently took Jade from him before turning with her and going upstairs without so much as a word to anyone. Everyone exchanged looks between one another, and then Tierja got up and went outside to be with Ava.

~*~*~*~*~

Later on that day the boys had last minute promoting to do before they go on their upcoming tour in a week. They have an interview with Ellen and they were meeting Kathryn, Raven, and Zara there. When they arrived where the interview was taking place they went in through the back way only to be greeted by a crowd of over-joyed fans. Once security cleared a path for their vehicle they pulled in and a gate was closed off behind them blocking the eager fans. They all got out of the car and were greeted and ushered in by their very own security, though the boys were sure to wave to the fans as they went in. AJ kept hold of Ava’s hand, as she was like usual during these types of events, glued to his side. Once they were inside the building AJ, Brian, Nick, Howie, Kevin, Ava, and Tierja all turned their attention on Raven, Kathryn, and Zara as they had followed them in. Jade squealed excitedly upon recognizing her best friend and Zara squealed too and before Nick and Raven knew it, both girls were out of their arms and running to each other.

“ZARA!”

“JADE!” they met each other half way and fell into each other’s arms for a hug. The adults watched them in amusement for a second, and then turned their attention on each other. Ava flung her arms around the closest friend to her, which happened to be Kathryn, who returned her hug carefully.

“Hi sweetie, I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too,” Ava replied as tears clouded her eyes and she sniffled some. It really has been so long since she’s seen her best friends. Raven walked up behind her and hugged her too, creating an Ava Sandwich.

“Ray says you’ve left David for good is that true?”

“Yes it’s very true. I’m living with Alex again.”

“That’s great, I’m proud of you” Kathryn insisted sincerely.

“Me too,” Raven added softly in her ear and Ava snuggled into her friends soaking up their hugs for all it’s worth. After a long moment she finally released them and the boys got their turn.

“Hey Ray, how are you and Zara?” Brian asked curiously as he got his chance to hug her.

“Good, but we’ve missed you so much Brian. Zara has talked about wanting to see you non-stop.” Brian smiled at the little girl who was busy catching up with her best friend at the moment and he made a mental note to pay special attention to her right after the show. By the time their little reunion came to an end Ellen was backstage discussing how the show would go and then she went out there and started it and soon enough the boys were out there doing their interview leaving the girls backstage. Raven glanced at her daughter to see her and Jade already engrossed in the bucket of toys Ava allowed Jade to bring, so she swung her arm around Ava and steered her toward the couch.

“Talk to me honey…what did you not want to tell me over the phone earlier?” She asked and before Ava knew it she was on the couch surrounded by the girls who she loves and a huge feeling of warmth rushed through her for the first time since the night before. Her girls, her family, the ones who know just how to make everything okay even if for just a little while…

“Nicky is giving me the silent treatment,” she answered tearfully and then began to tell them all about it and they listened to her without interruption.

“I understand where you are coming from honey…but would it really be so bad if you gave Nick a chance?” Raven asked when Ava had finished her story. “I mean it’s Nick, Ava…you know he loves you he always has…the last thing he’d ever do is hurt you.”

“Oh yeah? What do you call the silent treatment that he is giving me?” Ava asked softly and she idly sorted the M&Ms that she bought for herself into different colors.

“I’m not taking sides here, so please don’t misunderstand me. It’s wrong for him to pressure you but can you really blame him for being upset?” Kathryn asked. “Think about how long he’s waited for you…I would be hurt and frustrated too.”

“No, I can’t blame him…I’ve hurt him in so many ways I can hardly live with myself,” Ava admitted softly and she glanced at Jade, watching her play. “Believe me I feel like a complete bitch and haven’t stopped beating myself up. Sure Nicky would probably make an amazing boyfriend…the best, but I just don’t know if I’m ready to give my heart out again after just moving on from David…I’m hurting, I’m depressed, and I just really need my best friend. I just need time…this now or never stuff is not fair…it’s not.” Kathryn scooted closer to Ava then and enveloped her in her arms for a hug and Ava returned it.

“We love you Ava…just know that okay? You’ll figure it out soon enough…you’ll see.”

“I hope so,” Ava murmured into Kathryn’s shoulder. After a long moment, she grabbed up one of her M&Ms and chucked it at Tierja hitting her right in the head and Tierja gaped at her in mock surprise while the other two laughed. “Enough about me and my dysfunctional love life…let’s talk about the major flirting going on between you and my brother.” Tierja rolled her eyes playfully and threw a skittle at her right back only to have the younger woman duck.

“Let’s not and say we did.”

“Aw, come on Tier you know you want to.” Tierja stuck her tongue out at her playfully and an amused Raven spoke up.

“You know Tier, I think it’s going to have to be you who makes the first move because AJ is just too chicken,” she pointed out, helping Ava steer the conversation far away from her. She knows this is what she really needs right now, a distraction. The girls sat backstage and spent the entire time catching up and by the time the boys came backstage it was like there was never a big separation between them. On their way out they signed autographs to lingering fans, took pictures with them, and chatted for a bit before all piling back into the two cars and heading back to the Backstreet House.

“Jade,” Ava spoke up when they walked into the house.

“Yes mommy?”

“Why don’t you and Zara take your toys up to our room? They don’t need to be on the living room floor all the time; they’re in people’s way.”

“Okay.” Jade and Zara went and picked up Jade’s toys and took them all up the stairs using their shirts to carry them all so none would drop on the floor or get left behind.

“Hey Ray,” Brian spoke up suddenly, speaking to her for the first time since the beginning of the interview. He had been pretty distant with her afterwards due to being incredibly shy.

“Yeah…?” She asked while looking up from her notebook that she was writing in simply just to keep herself busy.

“Do you want some Pepsi?”

“Yes please.” Brian went into the kitchen and returned a couple of moments later with a Pepsi and a mountain dew. He handed her the Pepsi and was about to walk away but Raven was quick to grab his hand. Brian looked at her curiously.

“Are you mad at me?”

“No of course not, why would I be mad at you?” he asked the concern evident on his face and he turned and sat beside her on the couch.

“I don’t know…you’ve just been acting very distant with me since you came backstage from your interview. I didn’t do anything wrong did I?”

“No of course you didn’t…you didn’t do anything wrong at all,” he told her sincerely and he pulled her into a hug. “I’m sorry I gave you that impression, I didn’t mean to…” he apologized and she returned his hug while resting her head against his shoulder comfortably.

“How have you and Zara been?” he asked gently and he rubbed his hand over her back smoothly as she looked up at him.

“We’ve been fine.”

“That’s good to hear.” The two of them were silent for a couple of moments and Raven sat there in silence just thinking about things.

“I was thinking about starting to date again…” Brian suddenly pulled away from her and looked at her in surprise.

“Seriously?” Raven nodded and everyone was now secretly listening.

“Have you seen any guy in particular that gave you this idea?”

“I haven’t met anyone yet but I want to start looking because I’m tired of being alone and Zara really needs a father. She’s already asking me questions like why she doesn’t have a daddy and where is he and things like that. I told her the truth…she wants a daddy and I want a boyfriend…” Brian looked at her for a couple of moments.

“Well I’m sure you’ll find someone worth being with who will love you and Zara both very much one of these days because you’re a very beautiful woman and Zara is so precious. Anyone who doesn’t agree has serious problems.” Raven smiled a little bit and Brian kissed her cheek.

“Brian,” Kevin suddenly spoke up.

“Yes?”

“I want to have a word with you.” Brian looked at his cousin just as he had gone toward the back door and disappeared outside. Brian got up and followed him and he shut the door behind him.

“Tell her how you feel – now.”

“What? No way!”

“Yes way! Brian are you blind? She loves you too and that’s why she told you she’s thinking about dating again! It was a hint. She wants you to make your move, she wants you to be her boyfriend and she wants Zara’s future daddy to be you! How could you not understand that? Everyone else did!” Brian shook his head.

“I can’t…I’m scared. She’ll turn me down.”

“So you’re just going to make the same mistake that Nick had? Wait until she’s hurt and has given up on love until you tell her? Brian you are a lonely 27-year-old man, don’t you think it’s about time you start dating again? It’s been 7 years since Emily’s death; don’t you think it’s about time you move on? I know it still pains you that your fiancée is gone – it upsets me too because she was a wonderful woman and we all loved her. But Raven is wonderful too, we all love her just as much and she deserves a chance. She deserves someone who will love her the right way and take care of her the right way and will love and take care of Zara the right way too but she can only find that in you! You are the only one who can be that for her, who loves her that much. Think about it Bri…think about what I am telling you,” Kevin lectured and then he went back inside. Brian stood here for a long moment just thinking about it, and then he followed. He looked over at Raven then.

“Hey Ray?”

“Yeah Bri?”

“Do you want to go for a walk with me?”

“I don’t know Brian…what about Zara?”

“She’ll be fine…she’s playing with Jade and everyone here will be watching her.” Raven looked at him with an unsure look in her eyes and he went over to her and offered her his hand.

“Please? I promise you that she will be fine.” She looked into his eyes for a couple of moments and then took his hand and allowed him to help her up from the couch and lead her out the door.

“What did you tell him?” Ava asked Kevin while looking over at him and being highly impressed.

“That he needs to get over Emily and ask Raven out because she is hinting it to him and a bunch of other stuff.” Kevin answered with a small grin and Ava smiled excitedly.

“YAY! Go Brian!” She cheered happily. “Guess what Kat!” She added a second later.

“What?” Kathryn asked curiously, and Ava got up from her seat on the couch and went on over to the other one that her best friend was sitting on and she jumped onto it beside her and wrapped her arms around her neck. She rested her head against her shoulder and hugged her tight as if she’s a little kid.

“I love you, that’s what!”

“Ugh…Ava, off! You are squashing me woman!” she complained, though she wore a playful look upon her face.

“Hehe,” Ava giggled and AJ chuckled.

“What’d you three do to her while you were backstage? Spike her Dr. Pepper? She’s been crazy ever since!”

“No one did anything to her, she is just suddenly like this” Tierja answered and she was just as surprised, as Ava had gone from very depressed to extremely hyper in a matter of minutes. Kathryn felt Ava’s grip on her tighten and rolled her eyes playfully.

“Okay you know what you? OFF! Before you strangle me to death,” She insisted and then attempted to shove her off only to have Ava cling even tighter.

“But I love you Kat don’t you love me too?”

“Yes – very much – but I would love you a lot more if you were sitting over there” Kathryn insisted, and then successfully shoved her to the other side of the couch. Ava smirked and sat there watching everybody sit around and just chill for a few moments, and then got up.

“I’ll be back I’m going to check on the kids they’ve been quiet,” She announced and then she went upstairs and into her room only to find it empty. She turned around and went down the hall to Nick’s instead and just as she expected she found him with both children and the three of them are putting an 800 piece puzzle together. Grinning slightly at the reassurance that they’re both okay she turned and went downstairs again.

“Nick is up there helping them put an 800 piece puzzle together.”

“Wow that’s a complicated puzzle for a four year old,” Kevin replied. Ava went back over to Kathryn then and she sat beside her but didn’t wrap her arms around her the second time.

~*~*~*~*~

“Brian,” Raven said, breaking the silence between the two of them as they walk hand in hand through the park.

“Hmm?”

“How come you wanted to go for a walk with me?”

“So we can be alone.” Raven looked at him curiously for a couple of moments. She knows that he is up to something. They walked for a few minutes more and then Brian brought her to the Ramada. She sat down at the picnic table with one leg on either side of the bench and he sat the same way, sitting sideways so that he could face her. Taking her hands into his he looked into her eyes contemplatively.

“Brian I know there’s something on your mind. If you want to tell me than just do it…you know you can” She said, interrupting his thoughts as she was becoming slightly impatient. He gently smoothed his fingers through her dark black hair as he looked into her dark brown eyes and after a few seconds he spoke up.

“Ray we’ve been friends for the longest time…I’ve been here for you through everything. For you and Zara both and I would never hurt you or her, nor would I ever leave you either.”

“I know this Bri…”

“Well during the years that we’ve known each other, aside from Nick you’re considered my best friend. I love you and I love Zara very much but during the years I’ve had some feelings that you don’t know about…I don’t want to ruin our friendship by saying this but I can’t hold it in any longer. I can’t keep these feelings bottled up inside me any longer. My grief over losing Emily has been keeping me from telling you this because I still loved her and it took me a long time to get over the loss. I still love her now and that will never change...but I need to move on and I need to start seeing other people and I know Em would’ve wanted me to.” Tears flooded Raven’s eyes upon hearing this speech as she knows what’s coming next. She knows what he’s going to tell her. She’s wanted him to for so long.

“For years I’ve had this really huge crush on you…ever since Ava introduced me to you six years ago. And somewhere along the way…it’s turned into love. I’ve been afraid to tell you though because I was afraid you’d turn me down and I was afraid of letting go of Emily. But I know now that I’ve got to move on…I want to be your boyfriend and I want to be Zara’s daddy someday. I may not be the one who helped bring her into this world but I’d love her as if I did. Please give me a chance Raven…I can prove that I can be so much better than Zachary ever was.” She looked at him for a couple of moments, tears rolling down her cheeks and then she scooted closer to him.

“I’ve been waiting for you to say this for a long time Brian…earlier when I told you that I wanted to start dating again I hoped it would hint to you that I want you. There isn’t any other man that I could love as much as I love you. You’ve been here for me when I needed you most. I want you to continue being here for me forever…and for Zara too. You are the only father figure that she’s ever really had…has ever known. Promise me you will always be here for us.” Sliding his arms around her waist he pulled her closer to him then and rested his forehead against hers.

“I promise that you will never be able to get rid of me.” He gently dried her tears with his finger before cupping her chin in his hand and leaning forward, lightly grazing his lips over hers in a delicate kiss causing her to drape her arms over his shoulders and kiss him back making it much more intense. When they pulled apart she rested her head against his chest comfortably and hugged him tight. “Come on…we better head back. It’s getting very windy out and it smells like rain.” He got up from the bench then and offered her his hand. She took it and allowed him to help her up and take her back to the house. When they got there, they went inside and everyone looked at them. Jade and Zara are downstairs and when Zara caught sight of them walking in she smiled happily.

“MOMMY! BRIAN!” she exclaimed, and then ran toward them. Both of them got down to her level and she flew into both of their arms at the same time.

“Hey baby!” Raven replied and kissed her cheek just as Brian had kissed her other one causing Zara to giggle and Raven pulled away. Brian gathered her up as he stood and held her up in the air before blowing raspberries on her tummy as he carried her into the kitchen and she shrieked and giggled as he did. Just by the happy looks on Brian and Raven’s face as they walked in everyone can tell that they’re dating now and didn’t even bother to ask.

~*~*~*~*~

Later on that evening after the children were put in bed, Brian wandered down to the basement where he was told that his distant best friend could be found. He knew if he is down in the basement he is either in their recording studio working away on some solo project, or in their workout room working out his frustrations. When he got down there, he discovered that sure enough, the workout room door was open. Brian shook his head and crossed the basement to get to it and when he was standing in the door way, he found the younger man beating furiously on a punching bag. He is all sweaty and gross, so Brian knows he’s been at it for hours. He stood there quietly watching him until Nick finally felt his presence and turned his head to look at him.

“Hey” Brian greeted softly.

“Hey,” Nick responded while stopping what he is doing and going over and grabbing his water bottle. “I heard the good news about you and Raven; congratulations...I’m happy for you,” He added sincerely, though Brian could see the pain behind his eyes even though he worked real hard to hide it. He can’t hide things from Brian, it’s impossible. Brian gave him a small smile.

“Well, thanks, but I’m not down here to talk about me and Raven buddy.”

“I’m not in the mood to discuss my dysfunctional relationship with Ava right now, Bri, so we might as well talk about you and your happiness.”

“And what about you and your happiness?” Brian asked and Nick shrugged. “No matter how hard you try, you aren’t going to be able to just work your frustrations out of you in a Gym like this, Nick. You need to confront them otherwise they’re just going to be suppressed until you finally do.”

“I tried Bri…and she turned me down. What more can I do other than try really hard to get over her and move on with my life?”

“Is that what you really want? To just give up and move on with your life?” Brian asked, disbelief dripping off the edge of his voice. “I know you haven’t completely given up on her, you’re still working on that surprise for her that you’ve been putting together months before she even came back, I know that’s where you took Jade earlier this morning.”

“You know I don’t Bri, I love her. I love her so much that it hurts, but what else can I do?” Nick asked and he turned his back on him and downed some water in order to hide the sudden tears that came to his eyes. Brian moved closer and gently grabbed Nick by the arm, turned him around, and looked into his eyes seriously.

“Okay, so she turned you down, so what? Change tactics on her then. If she’s scared to be in another relationship right now, work with her until she’s not anymore. Love her, no matter what she says but don’t sit here and ignore her and make her feel like shit for being scared when she can’t really help it. You’re being just as bad as David by doing that. You may not be beating her like he did, and I know you never would but you are ignoring her and it hurts her just as bad Nick because it’s coming from you, the one person who is supposed to be her best friend and always be here for her, no matter what. Is that what you want, to hurt her?”

“You know I don’t, Bri…” Nick replied softly, not even trying to hide the pain and tears this time.

“Then man up Nick. If you love Ava as much as you say that you do, man up and fight for her, because my best friend isn’t a quitter – he never has been and I’m not about to let him be one now. She’s scared of you now, but it doesn’t have to be that way forever, you just have to be smooth about it and prove to her that you’re the right choice. Show her what real love is...don’t take no for an answer.” Brian waited and when Nick didn’t respond, he spoke up again. “Just think about it but I really believe that if you take my advice you will finally be happy. Meanwhile, Raven is waiting for me, so I’m going to bed. Get in the shower Nick, you smell” He insisted before turning around and leaving the room.
End Notes:
Twitter: @UrsTrulyAshee
Tell Him The Truth by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Chapter Edited: 11/23/2012

Here's the next chapter. Enjoy :-)
Chapter Eight: Tell Him the Truth

“Alex…” Ava asked while walking down the stairs a week later after having been up in her room playing her favorite Les Paul Guitar for hours. She found everyone sitting in the living room and walked in there. “When are we going on tour?”

“In three days…why?”

“Just wondering,” Ava shrugged and she went over and crawled into her brother’s lap – something she tends to do when she isn’t feeling well and she rested her head against his shoulder after he had shifted her so that he is cradling her. “What are we doing today?”

“Well the guys and I are going to a friend’s party…do you want to come? Tierja, Raven, and Kathryn are coming.”

“Do I know this friend of yours?”

“No, he is a new person that our manager has hired for our band. He’s hosting a party at his house so that we’ll have a chance to get to know him before the tour.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“Honey you are going to have to get to know him sometime. He is coming on tour with us. He’s going to be our new guitar player.”

“Well then I will get to know him then but I want to stay home. I have a stomach ache and don’t really feel like partying.”

“A stomach ache? What’s wrong?” AJ asked concerned and Ava shrugged her shoulders.

“I’m just feeling a little depressed, that’s all” She answered while glancing over at Nick who is still not talking to her and AJ sighed. Nick has reached the point to where he has officially pissed AJ off.

“Okay, okay…do you want someone to stay here with you and the kids?” he asked and Ava shook her head.

“I’ll be fine…I’ll stay here with Jade and Zara, you all just go have fun.” AJ regarded his sister for a long moment with a wary look upon his face.

“I don’t like the idea of you staying here alone with the kids…who knows what David is planning next.”

“I will lock all of the doors and windows. Alex I will be fine…” He looked at Ava for a long moment more still feeling very unsure about the situation, and then turned his attention on Kevin who had been lounging on the other couch across from him silently listening.

“Kev…what do you think?”

“What about Q? He could stay with her while we are gone, he’ll be more than willing to. You know how much he loves her.”

“Good idea,” AJ responded, liking that idea a lot. Q is the first person he can always count on when he needs to stick someone on “Ava duty” when they’re on tour. He was the first security guard to gain her trust when she was little. If she wasn’t clinging to him or Nick, she could be found clinging to Q which was actually pretty helpful because he always knew no one would mess with her if she was with him. AJ looked down at his sister then with a pleading look and Ava shrugged her shoulders.

“As long as no one is missing out on the party to baby-sit me…”

“I will call him in a little while then,” he told her feeling satisfied that they have reached a compromise and he pulled a blanket up on her as he sat there gently rubbing her stomach and she lay in his arms feeling small. She lay there quietly watching Nick play with Jade and Zara, and most especially, she watched the interaction between him and Jade, letting the guilt eat at her now that she didn’t have something to distract her from it anymore. She thought about how Nick has every right to be mad at her and he doesn’t even know the beginning of it. If he knew how horrible she really is, he would really give up on their friendship for sure. Watching Nick with Jade brought tears to her eyes as shameful memories flooded her mind.

“Ava are you okay? I don’t know if I like that look on your face...” Tierja asked after a half an hour. She’s been watching Ava watch Nick and Jade for quite some time. Upon hearing Tierja’s question everyone was now looking at Ava with concern, even Nick.

“…I’m fine.”

“No you aren’t…you’re thinking about unpleasant things,” Tierja accused. She is through with letting her get away with hiding her feelings. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing Tier, I swear.”

“I know you better than that honey.”

“Ava, Tierja is right. You haven’t been yourself this past week – you are barely able to concentrate on anything, you don’t talk much, you’re having unknown stomach pains…there is something not right with you so what’s wrong?” Kathryn spoke up, coming to Tierja’s aid.

“Nothing is wrong with me, just leave me alone!” Ava begged while breaking down into sobs and she got up from AJ’s lap and fled up the stairs going straight for her room. They heard her door slam shut behind her and Jade looked around at everybody suddenly very frightened and upset.

“Why is mommy crying?” She asked and Nick pulled her into his lap cradling her. He kissed her cheek and brushed her hair from her face.

“It’s okay baby…mommy will be okay. She’s just not feeling well right now…she will be fine though. I promise.” She looked at him for a couple of moments, her lower lip trembling.

“Kay…” She said while sniffling and Nick hugged her tight while resting his forehead against hers as he holds her close and he sat there being extremely scared himself. He wants so badly to know what’s wrong with his best friend, he too knows there is something wrong with her but he also knows that it’s something way beyond him not talking to her. He unlike everybody else can see that it’s more than that…he just wishes he knew what. Meanwhile upstairs, Ava went into her room and she lay down in bed before pulling her blanket on top of herself and she lay there just staring at the wall. After a couple of hours Tierja went upstairs and into Ava’s room shutting the door behind her and she went and sat beside her on the bed. She pulled the blanket from her head to find her lying there crying silent tears.

“Honey I’m worried about you…you haven’t been yourself. Please tell me what’s wrong.”

“I can’t tell you,” She insisted and she began to cry even more.

“Yes you can I’m your best friend, you can tell me anything and you know that.”

“No…I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because David will kill Jade if I do…”

“David isn’t going to kill Jade…you know that AJ and everyone else is here to protect her. What’s wrong?” Tierja persisted gently.

“He’ll find a way to kill her Tier, I can’t. I don’t want my baby to die, I can’t lose her!”

“He won’t. You need to tell me because this is getting to be very serious. We can help but only if you tell us…otherwise we won’t know what’s going on. We can’t read your mind Ava…though I can honestly say the talent would be pretty helpful.” Ava lay there continuing to cry and Tierja went on. “If you tell me you’re only going to feel ten times better sweetie…” she pulled Ava into her arms as she sobbed and she sat there with her, just holding her as she does. When she had managed to calm down somewhat ten minutes later, she spoke up, her voice trembling as she did.

“David always hated Jade…he never once loved her in all her life. When I told him I was pregnant he was so pissed off at me that he beat me up and insisted that I made a mistake. The night I told him he beat me so bad that he nearly killed me. It was the worst beating that I’ve ever received.”

“Why? Why would he hate his daughter?” It took Ava a few moments to answer. Tierja waited patiently for her to regain her composure.

“Because Jade isn’t really his daughter…” She admitted and it took Tierja a moment to really process that. When she finally did she stared at Ava in bewilderment.

“Whose daughter is she then?”

“She’s Nick’s…” Ava revealed while sniffling and she drew her legs to her chest before wrapping her arms around them.

“Oh my God…Ava, are you serious?”

“Back when I was sixteen and Nick eighteen, we had sex while everyone was out doing their own things. I went into Nick’s hotel room and we sat around talking for a while before suddenly we got on the topic about sex and I told him that I wanted my first time to be with him because we experience everything together. He resisted at first but I got upset with him and he hates it when I am upset…so he gave in. A month later I found out I was pregnant with his baby…”

“Why didn’t you tell him?” Tierja demanded incredulously. “Why would you keep something like that from him? He’s wanted her to be his daughter all this time thinking that she isn’t.”

“David threatened to kill Jade if I ever did! The day I told him I was pregnant he knew right away that he wasn’t the father because we never even had sex…that’s why he nearly killed me, and that’s why he wasn’t there when she was born. He didn’t want anything to do with her. That’s why he abused her every day and called her a mistake and other terrible things. That’s why Jade looks exactly like Nick and loves him so much. She has the same shape of face as him, his eyes, his personality, his love for singing and dancing…because he is her daddy.”

“Does she know?”

“No, she thinks that David is her father.” Tierja gazed at her for a long moment.

“You need to tell him Ava.”

“No I can’t!”

“You have to honey, Nick deserves to know that Jade is his baby and Jade deserves to know too.”

“What part of David will kill her did you not understand?”

“But he is her father! Ava how would you feel if you had to go four years without knowing that you had a daughter? You have to tell him!”

“I am NOT going to put my baby’s life in danger by telling him something that I PROMISED NEVER TO TELL!” Ava yelled so loudly that everyone had heard her downstairs. She got up from her bed then, stalked out of the room, and stormed down the stairs furiously. She grabbed up her hoodie, put it on and went straight for the door.

“Ava where are you going?” AJ asked worriedly.

“Somewhere that Tierja isn’t!” she answered and she went outside and slammed the door shut behind her.

“What did you do? Ava has never been so mad at you like that before…” Kathryn wanted to know, and everyone was staring at Tierja with concern. Tierja stared at Nick for a few moments and then looked at Kathryn.

“Nothing,” She answered while shaking her head and she went outside onto the beach to cool off. AJ got up and went after her. When the two of them came back five minutes later AJ knew everything that was said up in the bedroom and he is very shocked. He wants so badly to tell Nick because he deserves to know, but he wants Ava to do it on her own. He sat down on the couch and gazed quietly at Nick now, just watching him play with Jade. He understands exactly why Jade looks so much like him now. Ava stayed out all day and when it was only a half an hour before it was time for them to leave, everyone became worried. Its seven thirty and it’s after dark.

“She is supposed to be back by now…” AJ announced worriedly.

“Maybe she just lost track of time…” Brian suggested trying to think of a rational explanation of why she’s not back yet, but it’s not working out so well. Ten minutes passed them by as they waited and then AJ got to his feet.

“I’m going out to look for her.” Before he even made it to the door however, Nick grabbed his arm and AJ looked at him. “Let me…it’s mostly my fault that she is upset.” AJ nodded and sat back down and Nick handed Jade over to him. He went outside shutting the door behind him and he began looking for Ava in the freezing cold rain. He spent an hour looking when he suddenly heard a faint cry in a dark ally. He ventured into it and found Ava lying on the ground and David was kicking her repeatedly in the side. She is sobbing as she cowered weakly against the garbage cans.

Leave her alone!” Nick demanded and he ran over to David. He grabbed him by the arm and sent him flying across the ally and right into a few garbage cans sending those crashing down as well. David was up in an instant and he darted toward Ava only to have Nick move between them protectively and his fist connected with David’s jaw sending him staggering back. Nick grabbed up a big wooden stick that was lying on the ground and knocked a relentless David to the ground and he began beating him with it. He did this until he was no longer able to fight back and then threw the stick to the side before turning his attention on Ava. He helped her up from the ground and enveloped her in his arms protectively as she cried into his shoulder and put a death grip on him.

“It’s okay baby…I’m here now it’s going to be okay. Everything will be okay now,” he told her softly in her ear. She rested her head against his shoulder and he held her tightly as he glanced at a weak David who still laid moaning and groaning on the ground. He pulled out his cell phone and had his finger on the 9 when suddenly out of nowhere David reached out, grabbed him by the ankle and yanked on it sending him and Ava both to the ground.

Ava shrieked and held onto Nick tighter and he gently rolled them over so that she was lying underneath him. He turned so he was lightly lying on top of her with his back to her and was shielding her just on time for David to punch him in the face and Ava cried harder. She watched as Nick got to his feet and shoved David hard against the wall. She watched in fear as Nick struggled with David and winced each time he was hurt. “Ava honey, take my phone” Nick ordered after a few moments when he was starting to get control of the situation a little bit and he tossed it to her. “Call 911” he added and Ava quickly obeyed and started dialing and he soon heard her talking. Just as she was hanging up, he yelled out in sheer pain causing her to whip her head around and look at him fearfully only to see him leaning against the wall holding his stomach and David was tearing off around the corner. Nick waited a few moments for the pain to pass, and then went over to Ava and helped her up again pulling her into his arms.

“Did you call 911?”

“Yes they’re on their way.” Nick nodded and gently took her hand and pulled her out of the dark alley where he could see them coming better while they wait and she lightly pressed him up against the wall. “Are you hurt?” she sniffled, and she looked his face over and lifted his shirt up slightly so she could see his stomach, and was relieved to see no flaws in his beautiful features. He was still in the perfect condition that he was in before she left the house.

“I’m fine…I just want to get you home where you are safe. We’re going to report this to the cops, let them see that you’re hurt so that it’s on record, and then tomorrow we’re going to see what we can do about getting you a restraining order on him. Okay?” Ava nodded tearfully and noticing that she is shivering and that her arms are almost pink Nick unzipped his bucs hoodie, pulled it off, and instantly put it around her causing her to slide her arms into the sleeves and he zipped it up for her before pulling her against him protectively. They only had to wait a few moments more before the police showed up and after being questioned and then released, Nick picked her up so that her legs are wrapped around his waist and he carried her home.
End Notes:
Twitter: @UrsTrulyAshee
Wanted by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Here's the next chapter. Enjoy :-)
Chapter Nine: Wanted

When Nick and Ava reached the safety of their home, he brought her inside and everyone looked at them and saw that Ava’s entire face was covered in blood and that she’s been crying.

“Oh my god…what happened?” Tierja asked in surprise and fear was evident on her face.

“I found David beating her in a dark alley…” Nick answered and he lay her down on the couch before hurrying off to search for the first aid kit. Ava looked around worriedly while he was gone, and was instantly relieved when she didn’t see Jade in the room. She doesn’t want her to see her like this, she worries about her enough. When he returned with both the first aid kit and a blanket, he glanced at everybody else.

“Aje, did you already call Q?”

“No, my sister was missing I wasn’t sure there was even going to be a party tonight. I was prepared to have every police in Florida after David’s ass if you didn’t come back with her.”

“Good, because I’m staying here with her and the kids…you guys and girls go ahead and go to the party without me.”

“Are you sure? After what just happened I feel like I should be here, not running off to some party…” AJ hesitated and Nick opened his mouth to respond, only to have Ava beat him to it.

“Go Alex…I’ll be fine. Don’t let this spoil your night…” When Nick saw the protective look in AJ’s eyes and knew that Ava’s reassurances weren’t going to work, he spoke up.

“I will take care of her J…just go” he urged and half pleaded and he gave him a look making it very clear that he wants time alone with her. When he looked like he was still going to protest, Tierja gently placed her hand on his shoulder.

“Come on J-Man, you aren’t abandoning me and leaving me without a date tonight, are you? I will have to be forced to find someone else to keep me company if you go and do that…” she told him, and just as she hoped she saw a flash of jealousy in his eyes even though they never left his sister, who even in the state she is in, managed to smile a tiny bit. After a long moment, he heaved a sigh and turned his attention back on Nick who he pierced a warning glare on now, everything in his expression telling him that he better keep true to that statement he made earlier about taking care of her. If he comes home and finds his sister in an even more emotional mess than she is already in, and its Nick’s fault, he’s dead. When he felt that his threat was very clear, he leaned forward and planted a loving kiss on Ava’s cheek.

“Bye sweetie I will be home in a few hours. Jade and Zara are upstairs in your room, I didn’t want them down here around all of the stress. They were told that someone would come get them when it’s okay to come back down.”

“Kay, bye Alex…I’m sorry I made you late,” Ava replied and AJ shook his head.

“Don’t worry about such things, you’re much more important” He insisted sincerely before turning around and gently linking his arm with Tierja’s before steering her out of the house. Howie, Kevin, and Kathryn followed and after a quick but loving goodbye to Zara upstairs, Brian and Raven did too. As soon as the door was shut, Nick turned his utmost attention on Ava and after cleaning up her face he unzipped his bucs hoodie before sliding it off of her and taking a good look at her. When he saw the blood seeping through her white Good Charlotte tank top, he held her gaze, silently telling her to trust him as he brought his hands down and took the hem to her shirt before pulling it over her head so that she sat in her bra and jeans.

“Lay on your stomach sweetie,” He instructed gently and when she was doing just that, he proceeded to clean the cuts on her back created by a belt, both old and new with a wet wash cloth and some special ointment. Ava lay there quietly as he did; silently battling the urge to cry all over again from the intense emotions that his gentle and loving touch was awakening. He always has a way of making her feel taken care of, even when she doesn’t deserve it.

When he finished he leaned down and kissed the back of her neck softly before resting his forehead against hers and looking into her watery eyes. “Are you hungry? I bet the kids are…no one had time to fix them any dinner between worrying about you and then getting to the party” he questioned while idly sliding his fingers through her wet hair.

“Yes, very…I can make us all dinner if you want me to,” she suggested softly though he saw the nervous look in her eyes at even the thought of cooking for him. It’s no secret to anyone how David treated her whenever she tried to cook him something, which is completely bullshit since Ava’s always been an amazing cook. Denise taught her when she was very little.

“As much as I love your cooking sweetheart, I just want you to relax okay? You don’t cook in this house unless you absolutely want to and only then it has to be because you love doing so again, not because you want to please any of us.”

“Kay,” Ava responded softly, and he got up and went over to the fireplace and proceeded to make a warm fire in it when he noticed she was still freezing. When he finished he closed the safety screen and walked back over to her before kneeling down beside her and kissing her forehead affectionately. “You lay here and relax and I will make dinner – we’ll eat, spend time with the kids, and when they are in bed we’ll talk okay?” Ava nodded quietly and watched him as he disappeared inside the kitchen. She almost wants to get up and follow him; she’s missed hearing his voice so much. But she hasn’t seen Jade since she’s been back and knows that even though she was kept away from all of the stress, she is still going to be very worried. With that thought on her mind, she rubbed at her watery eyes and sat up before grabbing the blanket and wrapping it around her. When she was sure she was presentable for her daughter she got to her feet and walked upstairs to her room. When she got there, she pushed the door open and peered inside to see both girls playing with their dolls, though Jade was eyeing the door every once in a while watchfully. At the sight of her mommy, she suddenly looked very relieved.

“Mommy!” She exclaimed while getting to her feet and running toward her. Ava kneeled down and held her arms open just on time for the four year old to go flying into them and hug her very carefully. Ava enveloped her in her arms and hugged her back while kissing her forehead softly. “Are you okay mommy?”

“Mhm, Mommy is just fine baby. I’m even better now that I’m here holding you.”

“I love you mommy,” Jade spoke softly in her ear while snuggling into her and Ava hugged her a bit tighter.

“I love you too baby,” Ava responded while once again kissing her forehead. “Why don’t you two come downstairs and play so that I can see you okay? Nicky is making dinner.”

“Kay,” Jade replied and she pulled away from Ava and proceeded to help her best friend gather up all of their dolls and they followed Ava downstairs. As soon as they were down there, Ava went over to the fireplace, which is surrounded by a large wooden platform-like surface that comes out far enough that pillow cushions can be placed on them making sitting by the fire very comfortable and enjoyable. She sat down on one with her blanket still wrapped around her shoulders, and Jade went over and sat next to her wanting to be close to her mommy right now. Zara followed her lead and before Ava knew it, they were sitting there brushing their baby dolls’ hair and chatting amongst themselves.

By the time Nick came out of the kitchen an hour later he smiled softly at what he saw. Jade somehow ended up in Ava’s lap and while Ava fondly brushed out her shoulder length blonde hair, Jade sat with her baby doll in her lap and Zara sat in front of her with her baby doll in her lap and they too were brushing their hair. Ava noticed him there and caught his eye, she too smiling in amusement. After taking in the scene before him he walked over to them and leaned forward and kissed the top of her head before handing over a glass of ice cold Dr. Pepper.

“Thought you might be thirsty…dinner is almost done, should we eat right here by the fire?” Ava looked up at him and nodded.

“I’d like that. It’s nice and warm right here…is dinner something the kids might get all over?”

“Nah, I think they will be okay. I made them some Dino Nuggets and fries and you something special.” Ava looked up at him curiously and he smiled at her lovingly before turning around and going back into the kitchen. She eyed the kitchen door for a few moments before taking a sip of her drink and then sitting it down next to her. When her drink was situated, she continued to brush Jade’s hair and by the time Nick returned with two plates of chicken nuggets and fries, her hair was extra soft just the way she requested it.

“Alright kiddies, time to put the dolls down, dinner is done” Nick announced and when they did just that and Jade was placed on a cushion next to Ava instead of right in her lap Nick handed their food over and while they were eating that, he went back into the kitchen again, only to return a couple of minutes later with two plates of chicken parmesan with pasta. Something Ava had taught him how to make when she was eleven.

It’s always been one of his favorite meals for her to make and she knows it. When he handed hers over, she looked down at it for a long time in surprise and Nick sat down beside her and quietly watched her. When she looked up at him again her eyes were filled with tears but he knows that for the first time since he stopped talking to her, they aren’t unhappy ones. Nick reached over and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear before kissing her forehead softly.

“You know how much I love your chicken parmesan baby…maybe someday down the road when you feel up to it, only when you feel up to it, you can make it for me again…for old time sakes.” Not really knowing what to say to his sweet gesture, Ava scooted closer to him and rested her head against his shoulder before proceeding to eat the delicious dinner he had surprised her with and he wrapped an arm around her before eating his as well.

He kept up a happy conversation for the kids while they all ate and when they finished, he brought out graham crackers, marshmallows and some sticks so that the kids could be supervised in making s’mores and by the time ten o’ clock rolled around, they were both sound asleep, Jade in Ava’s arms and Zara in Nick’s. When he knew they were all the way asleep, he reached out and slid his fingers into Ava’s hair in a loving way.

“I’m going to go put them in your bed okay?” he whispered and Ava nodded quietly. Nick got to his feet carefully with Zara’s head rested on one shoulder and he gathered Jade into his arms managing not to wake either of them up before carrying them upstairs. By the time he returned a few moments later he found Ava right where he left her except the lights are now all turned out downstairs.

She has her legs hugged close to her chest, her chin rested on her knee, and her blanket around her shoulders as she still sat there in only her bra and jeans and she was just quietly gazing into the fire. He stood there admiring how beautiful she is for a few moments before going over and sitting on a cushion in front of her. She looked up at him and he gently grabbed the sides of her blanket and wrapped it more around her before resting his forehead against hers and looking into her eyes.

“How are you feeling?” he asked while placing his hand to her bruised cheek and gently caressing it.

“Better,” she answered softly. “I really missed the sound of your voice…”

“I’m sorry honey, I’ve been such a terrible friend this past week…you were only telling me how you feel it didn’t give me any right to yell at you and then ignore you for so long…you aren’t a bitch. You could never ever be considered one and I’m sorry honey, please forgive me.”

“No Nicky you have every right to be mad at me. I’ve done so many horrible things that you shouldn’t ever forgive me for…” She informed, wanting so much to cry. “I never wanted to hurt you. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you Nicky…you’re my best friend in the entire world…the one person besides my brother that I can turn to for everything and you always make me so happy…”

“And I want to continue making you happy; I want to spend the rest of my life trying to make you happy. I want to be here for you always because I love you. But I can’t just be friends with you honey, I want more than that. I need more than that. I can’t bear the pain of not being yours anymore I can’t handle always being second place in your heart…it hurts too much. I would love you ten times better than any of the boyfriends you’ve had in the past. I would never even dream of hurting you or Jade and I could prove it to you if you will just give me a chance…”

“It’s going to take time Nicky; you’re going to have to be patient with me. I’ve been through so much, please just give me that much. I couldn’t bear it if you ignored me again…I’ve missed you so much…” she begged as tears roll down her cheek.

“I’m never going to ignore you again baby, I promise. You will never be forced to go without hearing my voice ever again.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer to her and he slid his around her waist. “I’ve decided that I’m going to love you no matter what you say. I understand that you are scared, and I’m going to respect that, but I’m not taking back how I feel and I’m not going to pretend that we’re just friends anymore either. You can take all the time you need to feel safe again, and I will work with you on that, but I’m going to love you in the meantime.”

“I have a confession to make…I need to tell you this before you make that promise, because after you hear this you might not want to love me anymore…” she told him softly.

“What’s wrong?” she looked down and he watched a tear glide down her face and drip from her chin. He placed his forefinger and thumb to her chin and tilted it up so she is looking into his sincere blue eyes that she loves so much and he delicately caressed her cheek with his finger. “Honey, tell me,” he persisted gently.

“Nicky please don’t hate me after this…I don’t think I can handle any more pain. I will lose control…you really have no idea how much I will lose control…”

“I could never hate you,” he reassured her as he gently caressed her cheek.

“You won’t be mad at me either?”

“I love you baby and nothing you tell me is going to change that. We’re best friends, you can tell me anything.”

“The reason David nearly killed me the night I told him I was pregnant, the reason why he hates Jade so much and wasn’t there for her in the hospital is because she isn’t really his daughter…” Nick gazed at Ava feeling utterly confused.

“…Whose daughter is she then?”

“She’s yours…you’re her real daddy.” Nick stared at her for a long moment in shock. He is not sure he had heard her right. After a long moment when the words sunk in, he finally spoke up.

“Are you serious?” he whispered. It was all he could do not to break down and cry tears of joy upon hearing this news.

“Yes I am very serious…she’s yours. We had sex when I was sixteen and a month later I became pregnant with your baby. David knew right away that she was yours because he and I never slept together until after she was born when he forced me to. So he yelled at me and told me I made a big mistake and gave me the worst beating I’ve ever experienced. He threatened that if I told you he would kill Jade so I never did. I kept it secret from everyone, including Alex. I told Tierja earlier today and that’s what we were fighting about. She was telling me that I need to tell you because you deserve to know but I was refusing because I was scared of putting our baby’s life in danger. Please don’t be mad at me…I didn’t have a choice,” Ava explained the entire story while crying.

“I’m not mad at you, I’m just thankful that you told me. This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me…all I ever wanted was for you and Jade to be mine…and knowing the truth makes me so happy. I love you both so much and nothing can change that,” he replied while pulling Ava into his lap so she was straddling him with the blanket still wrapped around her shoulders. She rested her head against his shoulder and he sat there gently rubbing her back. As soon as she calmed down she looked up at him.

“I’m scared Nicky…what if David finds out I told you? He will kill our baby if he does…”

“No he won’t, I won’t let him anywhere near you or Jade ever again. He’ll have to get through me first and I am going to do what I should’ve done the moment you moved in with us. I’m filing a restraining order on him and he won’t even be allowed in the same neighborhood as you without getting arrested. Okay?” Ava nodded quietly. He stared into her eyes for a couple of moments and then cradled her face in his hands before leaning forward and brushing his lips lightly over hers. He felt her stiffen but after a moment she eventually returned it. When he pulled away he looked into her eyes and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. “When are we going to tell her? I want to go upstairs and wake her up.”

“No, don’t you dare wake her up she’ll be grumpy. We’ll tell her first thing in the morning.”

“Kay,” he replied before leaning forward once more and grazing his lips lightly over Ava’s only briefly before shifting so that she is lying underneath him cocooned in the blanket and his arms. “Thank you,” He told her while rubbing his nose over hers affectionately and she gazed up at him curiously.

“For what?”

“For giving birth to my beautiful little girl…I didn’t thank you then, so I’m thanking you now.”

“You being there was the best thank-you I could get. Having you in the delivery room holding my hand and reassuring me through it all, watching you hold her, you telling me that she was the most precious gift god could ever give was the best thank you ever. If you couldn’t know she was yours I at least wanted you there going through all of the steps a father would go through anyway. I made sure you didn’t miss out on anything in her life.”

“Jade is the most precious gift…and he gave her to both of us.” He told her and upon seeing her eyes tear up from his sincere words, he leaned down and placed delicate kisses on her lips before bringing them down to her neck. When he found the spot between her neck and shoulder that he discovered he likes four years ago, he lightly nibbled knowing exactly what reaction it would cause.

Ava’s eyes rolled to the back of her head in pleasure and she tilted her head back, all thoughts in her mind gone. While he was concentrating on kissing her neck, he brought his hands down to her jeans and fumbled with the button and zipper.

When he had them open he pulled them down and tossed them aside before bringing his lips down slowly over the valley of her breasts to her stomach, being sure to place delicate kisses over every little cut and bruise that has been inflicted on her. When he covered every inch of her, he cradled her face in his hands before looking into her watery eyes, handling her with such care that she knows she can only get from him.

“You’re beautiful,” he told her softly before bringing his lips down on hers and kissing her. “Let me love you baby, please? Let me show you how beautiful I think you are…how wanted you are.”

“Nicky, I’m scared.”

“Of what baby? I’m not going to hurt you.”

“You say that now,” she responded softly and he gently brushed away her tears before sliding his arms around her and cupping her bottom in his hands. He rested his forehead against hers and continued to look into her eyes making sure she sees nothing but love in them. “But some day down the road I’m going to end up doing something stupid and make you angry and want to hate me. They always end up hating me. I’m not worthy of being anyone’s girlfriend.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Nick insisted while hugging her closer to him. “Those fuckers who treated you like shit in the past weren’t worthy of being your boyfriend because that’s exactly what they were - boys. They don’t know just how special you are.”

“And you do?” Ava asked softly.

“Sweetheart I knew just how lucky I was the very moment I laid eyes on you at thirteen years old that wonderful day on the tour bus. It was the best day of my life. You are the queen of my world and you always will be” Nick informed and her eyes fluttered closed as he lightly kissed them. “None of those relationships in the past worked out because your heart was meant for me. You belong to me Ava, and you’re all I’ve ever wanted. Believe me; I’m going to treasure you for the rest of my life.”

“I want to believe you…” Ava whispered as he pressed her body closer to him possessively, his hands still cupping her bottom and he made a trail of feathery light kisses from her closed eyelids down to the tip of her nose until he reached her lips and claimed them for his own.

“Then let me make a believer out of you,” He told her between kisses and when he pulled away, he looked into her eyes. Completely transfixed by the blue eyes that she’s always loved as they stared into hers with so much love and emotion in them, all Ava could do was nod.

Nick once again brought his lips down onto hers and kissed her and when she cradled his face in her hands and kissed him back, instant butterflies consumed him. While he was kissing her, she brought her hands down to the hem of his shirt and brought it up wanting him to be just as naked she is. He pulled away from his kisses just long enough for her to pull it over his head before claiming her lips once more and she tossed the shirt to the side before bringing her hands to his skin and lightly caressing it.

Nick slid his hands around from her bottom to her legs and gently wrapped them around him before bringing his hands up to her bra and unclasping it from behind before sliding it down her shoulders until her breasts were uncovered. He brought his mouth down to her right nipple and sucked gently at first until he heard her soft whimpers and felt her tangle her fingers through his hair and he bit down a little and sucked harder.

After paying thorough attention to each one, his fingertips danced over her bare skin tenderly until they reached her panties. He grabbed the waist band and slid them down her legs and tossed them aside before leaning down and kissing her inner thigh, moving up until he reached her entrance and he slid his tongue over her, making her squirm slightly underneath him and whimper in obvious pleasure. He buried his face into her and began to completely devour her, making her arch her back and cry out. When he knew he was driving her completely crazy with want and need at this point, he pulled back.

“Nicky,” She whimpered impatiently and he smirked slightly, before proceeding to remove his boxers before devouring her mouth with his own and she wound her arms around his neck and kissed him back. “Please. Nicky please, I want – I need…” she pleaded between kisses.

“What baby? Tell me,” he encouraged, and she felt his already aroused and ready to go shaft at her entrance, deliberately teasing. “Tell me what you want.”

“You - inside me – please!” she cried out and he instantly obeyed pushing himself into her, making her gasp in pleasure. He gently grabbed her legs and once again wrapped them around him before beginning his slow romantic thrusts in and out of her and she kept her arms wrapped tightly around his neck as she moved with him.

He brought his lips down onto hers and kissed her, pouring all of his love into it before trailing his kisses down to her neck and lightly suckling on it while toying with her nipples with his fingers making her throw her head back and moan.

“Nicky please…faster. You have to go faster,” She pleaded while gently tangling her fingers in his hair and dragging his mouth up to hers and she kissed him while he slid his hands down over her body, gripped her hips, and obeyed her pounding into her hard and she met his pace with each thrust while trailing her kisses up to his ear and lightly nipping on his lobe and kissing his skin behind it, making him groan and thrust deeper.

She knows exactly which buttons to push so well that it’s almost as if four years hasn’t passed since they were last together like this. While keeping up his furious pace, Nick rested his forehead against hers, looked into her eyes, and slowly slid his hand down over her slick skin over her one leg that she has hooked around him and between her inner thighs until he found what he wanted.

With his shaft still buried deep inside her moving in and out, he dipped his fingers into her knowing exactly which buttons to push too and she cried out as he pushed her into an earth shattering climax and after only a couple of more deep thrusts he followed after her. Ava threw her head back in exhaustion breathing heavily. Her eyes were fixed on the fire in the fireplace still going strong, demonstrating the burning emotions inside her that she was currently experiencing. Nick bent down and kissed her forehead, her lips, and then the front of her neck with his arms wrapped tightly around her holding her to him.

“God Ava, I love you” he murmured into the crook of her neck as he had his face buried in it. When he had his emotions under control and was sure he wasn’t going to cry, he rested his forehead against hers searching for her eyes and finding them and discovering she wasn’t having as much luck as he was in not crying. He rained loving kisses down on them, causing her to close them and tighten her arms around him. He rolled them over so that she was lying on top of him comfortably with her blanket still wrapped around her. “You’re so beautiful and amazing and you fit so perfectly in my arms.” He told her, holding her closer against his chest. “You are mine and I am never letting you go.”

Ava rested her head against his shoulder and nestled into him while he held her protectively and even a little possessively. When he kissed her forehead affectionately a safe feeling rushed over her and she found herself holding him to that statement. No matter how scared and fragile David has made her, Nick seems to make it all go away as long as he is holding her.
End Notes:
twitter: @UrsTrulyAshee
Stubborn Denial by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Here's the next chapter. Enjoy :-)
Chapter Ten: Stubborn Denial

“Where is the fifth one? I thought there were five Backstreet Boys” Luke the boys’ new guitar player asked curiously.

“Yeah there are five. Our youngest member Nick Carter stayed home because my baby sister wasn’t feeling well and needed someone to stay with her,” AJ answered.

“Ooh, how old is she?”

“Twenty one – she has a daughter who is four years old.”

“Oh, I see. When you said baby sister I thought you meant a little girl.”

“Nah, she’s an adult…but to me she will always be my baby sister. I pretty much helped my mom raise her growing up, so.”

“Her name is Ava. You’ll definitely be meeting her soon because she’s coming on the road with us” Kevin added. “She’s like a baby sister to all of us. We pretty much helped AJ help his mom raise her from eleven up.”

“Okay, cool” Luke responded slightly amused.

“I’m going to call and check up on her, we’ve been gone for a while” Tierja announced.

“Okay,” AJ responded and instead of getting her own phone out, she reached into his pocket and got his out before going outside and he smirked.

~*~*~*~*~

“We should probably go check on the kids,” Ava murmured into his neck as the two of them still lay together by the fire cuddling.

“Okay, you do that and I will be right up baby okay? I just want to move the dirty dishes into the kitchen and straighten up a little bit so that Kevin doesn’t come home to see a big mess and kill me.”

“Yes, because Kevin is so scary” Ava giggled while getting to her feet with her blanket still around her and Nick grinned at the beautiful sound. He’s missed it so much.

“He is to me,” he told her while standing as well and sliding his arms around her waist and pulling her against him. “He spoils you and treats you like a princess, but he’s terrifying when it comes to me.” Ava smiled in amusement and slid her arms around his neck, wrapping her blanket around him too. “Don’t worry Nicky; I will protect you from the big scary Kevin.” Nick chuckled softly and rubbed his nose lightly over hers affectionately. Kevin would listen to her too, he’s almost sure of it. He is almost as bad as AJ when it comes to Ava. She could probably get away with murder when it comes to the two suckers.

“Well as safe as I know I am in your hands sweetheart, I still better straighten up the living room a little bit.” Ava smiled up at him and he leaned down and brushed his lips lightly over hers before reluctantly pulling away from her and getting to it. Ava wrapped the blanket around her so that she was completely covered in case one of the girls woke up, and she made her way up there.

When she entered her room, she found them both snuggled up together asleep in the middle of her bed, Jade holding her favorite teddy bear and somehow their blankets ended up on the floor. Ava shook her head and went over and picked it up before re-covering them with it. She leaned down and kissed Jade’s forehead softly before sitting on the edge of the bed and she lightly combed her fingers through her blonde hair, just watching her sleep. She’s always loved to do so since she was just a tiny baby because she’s always looked exactly like Nick, blonde hair or not and it comforted her to see him in her when she was lonely or scared.

She felt horrible keeping it secret from him, and hated David every single day since he made her do it because up until then, she never kept anything from her best friend that was important and that was the most important thing of all. It was mean and cruel, and if she were Nick she would hate her for it. She is very lucky that he doesn’t. But she did it to protect this precious child they created, and if she was forced to do it all over again, she would in a heartbeat. She will do anything to protect her child. Ava leaned down and kissed her forehead once more and just as she was pulling back her phone vibrated on the nightstand. She reached over and picked it up, turned it on, and put it to her ear.

“Hello?” she asked in a hushed voice and she got up and walked out into the hall so she doesn’t wake the two slumbering children.

“Hey Ava…what are you up to? How come you are so quiet?” Tierja spoke on the other end.

“Nothing too much, I was just checking on the girls, they’re asleep and I don’t want to wake them. What are you doing? Shouldn’t you be busy partying?”

“Aje told you we would be calling to check up on you, did he not?”

“Yeah, but that was before Nick decided to stay home with me. He’s been taking very good care of me, I promise” Ava responded with a small secret smile.

“Uh-huh, I just bet he has” Tierja laughed when she picked up on the naughty tone in the younger woman’s voice. “Does that mean you finally told him everything and the two of you are dating now?” she asked nosily and just as she had, Nick came up behind Ava and enveloped her in his arms from behind and peeked at the girls inside the bedroom as he did.

“No, it doesn’t mean we’re dating, and you are being awfully nosey” she insisted, playfully rolling her eyes.

“Yes it does don’t believe a word she says” Nick spoke just loud enough for Tierja to hear.

“I’m one of your best girlfriends, it’s my job to probe information out of you, woman” Tierja laughed.

“Carter has grown very possessive when it comes to me and claims that I belong to him now or something, but it doesn’t mean anything” Ava denied, partly playing but Nick could hear the serious tone in her voice and knows she is feeling slightly scared again. “And don’t go off and tell the others about Jade, because she doesn’t know yet and I don’t want her to be the last to know.”

“Got it honey…I’m glad you’re doing okay. You’re really missing out on this party though, because this Luke guy is hot!” Ava giggled slightly.

“Tierja you aren’t falling for the guys’ new guitar player are you?” Upon hearing this question, Nick chuckled softly in amusement.

“Hey! Don’t think for one minute that I can’t hear him! Smack him for me Ava.”

“No, I’m not going to smack him, he’s done nothing but make me happy tonight.”

“You suck,” Tierja insisted and Ava giggled, though she leaned back into Nick a little bit while he still stood there with his arms around her, tighter than ever after her statement to Tierja earlier and he kissed her lovingly between her neck and shoulder.

“Answer my question Tierja; you aren’t falling for the guitar player are you? Because my brother would be crushed if he found out,” Ava asked again, becoming serious.

“I know Ava but he’s not making any kind of move on me, all he’s doing is flirting. Every time I get too close to him he distances himself and I’m getting tired of waiting around for him. If he doesn’t start making some kind of move I’m going to start being interested in someone else because this guitar player is HOT!

“He’s not making a move because he is scared. He really loves you Tierja, I know he does. If you start flirting with someone else he’s going to be devastated.”

“Well what am I supposed to do Ava, sit around and wait on him forever?”

“If you love him enough you would.”

“Whatever Ava, I’ve got to go” Tierja replied.

“Tier-“ she started but was interrupted by the dial tone. Ava sighed and then turned off her phone and she looked at Nick sadly.

“What’s wrong?” He asked while leaning down and kissing her forehead softly.

“My brother is going to be heartbroken if he doesn’t stop messing around” Ava answered, and Nick leaned forward and brushed his lips lightly over hers and held her closer to him.

“You’re sleeping with me in my room tonight,” he informed her gently and she looked up at him, raising her eyebrow playfully.

“Oh I am, am I?”

“Yes, you are” He insisted while gently turning her around to face him and he slid his arms around her waist and brought his hands down to her bottom, cupped it and pushed her closer to him before leaning down and kissing her once more. “You are coming to my bed, and I am going to spend all night loving you until the fact that you belong to me is drilled into your head so there will be no more denial about it.”

“Just let me take a shower okay?” Ava asked softly when he rested his forehead against hers and looked into her eyes.

“That I can do,” Nick agreed gently and he kissed her nose lovingly, before pulling away and allowing her to go back into her room. He stood in the doorway and watched her as she pulled out a pair of panties and to his surprise one of his tee shirts that she stole from his closet. With those in her hand, she turned and went to him and he took her hand, gently squeezed it, and brought her down the hall to his room. He shut the door just a crack and went over and lay on the bed with his head rested in the palm of his hand and she disappeared in the bathroom. She was in the shower for ten minutes and when she came out she was wearing the clothes she picked out for herself, looking beautiful in his shirt. He watched her as she stood leaning against the door frame, her hand rested on her stomach and she wore a slight frown on her face and looked worried.

“What’s the matter baby?” He asked gently. “You have to tell me everything so that I know to comfort you.”

“I just realized we didn’t use any form of protection at all tonight,” she informed him softly. “I haven’t had time to get more pills since I left David. I seem to make a habit of doing that when it comes to you, and making love to you tends to result in having babies.” Nick smiled slightly and motioned her to him with his finger. She did as he asked and walked over to him and allowed him to slide his arms around her and gently pull her into bed with him.

“I hope my babies are in here,” he told her while leaning down and placing soft kisses on her stomach after having pulled her shirt up just far enough to see it. “Jade needs a baby brother or sister.” Ava bit her lower lip nervously.

“Jade’s mommy isn’t quite ready to give her a baby brother or sister yet…”

“I know, but she will be,” Nick responded gently and he brought his lips up to hers and kissed her gently before resting his forehead against hers and hugging her close to him as he has her enveloped in his arms protectively. “I don’t intend on just being one of your boyfriends baby…I’m in this with you forever. We’ll work on your fears together okay? I want to know all of them when they happen so that I can reassure you and make it better.”

“I just feel really fragile and scared all the time Nicky, one baby is all I can handle right now” Ava explained softly and she gently cradled his face in her hands while his forehead was still rested against hers and he hugged her closer to him when tears filled her eyes. “I can barely be strong enough for her as it is right now, I don’t know what David is going to do, and this is just a really bad time to bring another baby into the world.”

“Okay,” Nick responded gently and placed tender kisses over her eyes, causing her to close them making tears spill out over her cheeks. “No babies right now. We’ll work on making mommy nice and strong and getting her past this David stuff first and then we’ll talk. But I just want you to know that nothing would make me happier than to see another one of my babies growing inside you,” he told her while placing his hand to her stomach and gently rubbing it. “So I don’t want you to worry about me pulling a David on you if it should happen earlier than expected. Okay?” he asked while looking up into her eyes. Ava nodded tearfully and Nick gently dried her eyes.

“I will call the pharmacy and order more pills,” she told him softly.

“What and I am just supposed to wait a while for those things to be effective?” Nick asked amused, and despite the serious conversation they were having and her tears, she couldn’t help but smile up at him innocently. “I don’t think so woman,” he told her playfully and he reached out and opened his nightstand drawer and pulled out an entire thing of condoms and Ava laughed, making Nick smile at the beautiful sound. He’s decided his new goal is to make her smile and laugh as much as he possibly can, because she doesn’t do it enough.

“Why do you have condoms handy Nickolas…? Have you been sneaking women into your room in the middle of the night?” She asked and even though she is clearly teasing him, he saw a flicker of jealousy in her eyes and couldn’t help but secretly feel pleasure from it. She may deny that she is his, but if she’s jealous she obviously doesn’t mean a word of it.

“Oh yes, that long line of women that I have pining over me day and night” he teased right back, the tone in his voice making it very clear that there isn’t such a thing. Ava smiled and slid her arms around his neck.

“You have millions of fans pining over you all around the world, why would you want me?”

“Because you’re special,” he insisted leaning down and lightly nipping on her ear lobe before trailing kisses down between her neck and shoulders. Ava moaned softly and tilted her head back slightly. “You’re my beautiful angel that I first laid eyes on at thirteen and fell deeply in love with right then and there. The sun would rise and set with you each day, Ava, and I was only thirteen years old. You’re the girl who sat on the beach with me - or on rooftops if there wasn’t a beach for hours, sometimes all night if AJ would let you and talked to me about anything and everything and made wishes on stars with me. You’re the girl who taught me how to cook and always had really delicious treats baked for me after every concert because you loved to spoil me so much. Who spent hours playing video games with me when Brian didn’t want to, helped me pull pranks on the others, and laughed, joked around with me, and basically kept up with all of my crazy antics when no one else could or would. You are my best friend and I love you. There isn’t a girl in the entire world that could compare.”

Ava felt a lump in her throat upon hearing Nick’s true words and fought back the urge to cry again with great difficultly. David never said such loving things to her, she isn’t used to it. Very much aware of her emotions, Nick brought his trail of kisses up her neck and over her jaw until he found her lips and he kissed her, pouring all of his love into it and she pulled the blanket up on them and kissed him back.

~*~*~*~*~

The next day Nick awoke to find Ava lying in his arms still sleeping peacefully. He grinned and gently tucked a strand of her hair back behind her ear before leaning down and kissing her forehead softly. He lay there just watching her sleep for a few moments, loving the fact that he gets to wake up next to the woman he loves more than anything else in the world every single morning for the rest of his life. After a while he once again kissed her forehead, and then carefully laid her down beside him. He sat up and covered her up with the blanket and he got out of bed and went downstairs planning to get right to work on his plans for her. As soon as he got down there he found everyone else down there and awake – including Jade and Zara.

“NICKY!” Jade exclaimed happily, as she was the first to see him. Everyone looked his way then and AJ glanced over at Tierja giving her a questioning look that only she would understand. Tierja nodded and AJ grinned. Nick smiled and got down on his knees and held his arms open for her.

“Come here sweetie,” he said gently and she got up and ran to him, throwing her arms around him and she hugged him tight. He wrapped his arms around her waist in return and pulled her close to him, hugging her so tight that you would think it’s the first time he’s ever laid eyes on her. He kissed her forehead softly and gently rubbed her back.

“I love you Nicky,” she told him softly while clinging to him.

“I love you too baby, very much,” he replied while managing to fight back his tears. He sat there with her on the floor for a few moments, and then got up still holding her and he looked over at AJ. With one look into his band mate’s eyes, he can tell that he knows and it shouldn’t surprise him much. He knows Tierja told him yesterday right after Ava ran off. He couldn’t help but eye the man who has been like a big brother to him his whole life nervously. Jade wasn’t created under legal circumstances after all; Ava was only sixteen and he eighteen. “Are you planning on making breakfast for Ava this morning?”

“I make her breakfast every morning, don’t I?” AJ asked making sure to sound nice as he can see the younger man is nervous.

“I want in on it this time and we have to start now before she wakes up, because I want to bring her breakfast in bed.”

“What for?” AJ asked curiously. He watched his blonde friend put Jade down and while she ran off to play with Zara again, he followed him into the kitchen closing the door behind him.

“She’s in denial that after last night she is mine, so I’m trying to prove a point. That life with me will be much better than it was with David and I would happily cook for her for the rest of our life together if it came down to it. I just want to spoil her and make her feel loved and appreciated that’s all” Nick shrugged while pulling out stuff to make bacon, eggs, and hash browns and AJ proceeded to help him.

“It’s a good plan, and a good point to make too. She definitely deserves to be spoiled and feel loved and appreciated after all she has been through, but if you want advice from her big brother who pretty much helped raise her, her whole life you should eventually let her cook for you and love it so that she will see you aren’t suddenly going to throw her against a wall and beat her if she makes one little mistake. Get her past this fear so she will love cooking again.”

“I know, and I will work up to it. But right now I just want to take care of her and make her feel loved and appreciated.” AJ nodded quietly and while he got to work on making the bacon, Nick started on the eggs and hash browns. They worked in silence for a long while, until suddenly Nick broke it.

“Speaking of you being her big brother and pretty much raising her, her whole life, you should know that I plan on marrying her as soon as I possibly can and I know I have to get permission from you first. So if you’re going to have issues with that we better get it out in the open and dealt with now” He announced, putting all of his concentration in what he is doing so that he doesn’t have to look the other man in the eye.

“Oh really, and does she know this?” AJ asked, feeling both amused and impressed at the younger man’s bravery.

“Not yet. It’s another thing we have to work up to but it’s going to happen.”

“You seem to be doing everything out of order here, Carter.” He teased light heartedly. “First you get her pregnant at seventeen, and now you’re telling me you want to marry her and you haven’t even bought a ring or proposed yet?”

“I never said anything about not having bought a ring” Nick responded, looking away from the hash browns and at AJ very seriously. AJ looked at him curiously.

“When did you have a chance to buy her a ring? She’s only been home for a short time.” Nick shrugged his shoulders.

“I’ve been up to a lot of things that you don’t yet know about. I’ve had a ring custom made and bought specifically for her for a few months now, and the ring and proposal is only just the beginning of my surprise for her, the rest isn’t finished yet.”

“And what if she hadn’t come back? Then what would you have done?”

“Gone after her and brought her home myself. One way or another, she was coming home.”

“Does Littrell know about this?” AJ demanded, fighting back the urge to kick the other man in the butt for keeping this secret from him all this time.

“He’s been helping me plan it this entire time. He was going to help me ‘kidnap’ her and Jade and bring them home and everything if it came down to it.” Nick responded with a shrug of his shoulders. “And he’s been sworn to secrecy about the rest of the surprise and so has Jade, so you aren’t going to get any information out of either one of them.” AJ stood there in shock, just taking all of this information in.

“So, are you going to have any issues with me being with your sister or not?” Nick asked after a moment. “If so, I’d rather get it out in the open and dealt with now so we don’t have to worry about it later.”

“I’ve had you picked out as my brother in law since you were thirteen years old, Nick. I had you on my mind when I decided to bring her on tour with me that first time. I wanted the two of you to hit it off because she desperately needed a friend. I’m not happy about you sleeping with her when she was only sixteen, and I should really beat you senseless for that, but for the sake of my niece having her daddy in one piece and my sister being happy, I will let it go.” Nick smiled slightly and AJ continued. “I only want my baby sister to finally be happy, she’s had a really hard life and you are the only thing that’s managed to make it better. Get her through this mess with David and you will have my permission to propose to her.” Nick nodded, and one look into the younger man’s eyes, AJ can see that his blessing means more to him than he will openly admit.

“I’m working on that I promise. She’s stubborn which is pretty well known to everyone, but Brian reminded me I’m not a quitter and can be pretty stubborn too when I want to be.”

“Also very well known to everyone,” AJ responded with a small smile, and he patted him on the shoulder before turning his full attention on breakfast again and Nick did the same. “I used to think Jade got it strictly from Ava, but now that I know the truth I can definitely see she really does have you down to a tee.” Nick laughed softly and kept his full focus on what he is doing so that AJ wouldn’t see the sudden tears building up in his eyes. “I thought it was just imitation, I never would’ve guessed the truth if she hadn’t told me J…”

“I started to suspect it a little bit when she finally let her dye her hair blonde and her similarities to you became very pronounced, but I didn’t think too hard on it” AJ shrugged. “Were you mad when you found out?”

“Not terribly mad that I couldn’t keep it to myself and just forgive her and be happy. I promised her I wouldn’t get mad at her if she told me.” Nick answered softly. “I wish I could have known all of these years so I didn’t have to suffer so much pain, but at the same time I see and understand why she kept it from me. She was protecting our baby like any mommy would and I love her for that…that she would do anything to protect our child. I know if I were put in that situation, I would too in a heartbeat and I can see it was hard for her. There is no reason to make it any harder on her by being mad at her…especially when I spent all week putting her through such unnecessary pain to begin with.”

“Thank you for that…for being understanding,” AJ responded gratefully. He doesn’t even want to know what he might have come home to if the outcome had been different.

“I love her…that’s what you do for people you love.” AJ nodded quietly, and the two of them continued to cook breakfast. When it was nearly finished, AJ looked at the clock and then at Nick.

“You might want to send up reinforcements to make sure she stays in bed, she’s usually up by now, especially when she smells breakfast.” When Nick realized that AJ is right about that, he turned and walked to the door and opened it before peeking out into the living room. His eyes fell on his daughter as she sat playing with Zara.

“Baby J,” He called out.

“Yeah Nicky?” Jade asked, turning to look at her favorite person ever with a small grin upon her face and Nick smiled back, his heart melting.

“Want to do me a huge favor?” Jade nodded eagerly and got to her feet and ran over to him. Nick squatted down in front of her and took her into his arms for a hug. “Why don’t you go on upstairs and keep an eye on your mommy for me okay? I want to surprise her with breakfast in bed, so it’s important that she stays in bed until I get up there with it. Do you think you can keep her there?”

“Of course!” Jade responded importantly and Nick chuckled softly and kissed her cheek.

“Do you want me to go up there with her in case Ava doesn’t listen to the kid?” Raven spoke up in amusement.

“It might be a good thing, the woman is too stubborn for her own good sometimes” Nick replied and Raven laughed and held her hand out to Jade. When the small child took it she began to take her and Zara upstairs and Nick turned and returned to the kitchen.

When he and AJ had breakfast done, while everybody was fixing their own plate and settling themselves at the kitchen table, Nick with Kathryn’s help put together a tray full of enough food for Nick, Ava, and Jade and while Nick carried that upstairs, Kathryn walked behind him with the drinks so they wouldn’t get spilled on the way up there.

When they reached his bedroom upstairs and walked into the room, they found an amused Raven leaning against the doorway with her arms crossed while she watched both Jade and Zara sit in Ava’s lap and Ava had the most beautiful smile that Nick has ever seen on her face, as both girls have her laughing over something silly that they must’ve said. When Ava noticed the new people in the room, she looked their way, her eyes finding Nick first and her smile got even brighter if at all possible, as if he is the most important man in her world and Nick’s insides instantly melted. When her eyes fell on the tray in his hands, her heart did an entire flip.

“Oh, Nicky….” She spoke softly, and he grinned and brought the tray over to her and gently placed it in front of her.

“I thought I would surprise you this morning with breakfast in bed,” He told her before leaning forward and kissing her, making Jade smile and giggle happily.

“I watched her for you, Nicky. Zee an’ I sat right here in her lap an’ wouldn’t let her up for anything” Jade announced importantly and Nick grinned at her and kissed her cheek.

“Thank you sweetheart that was very good of you” he praised before sitting down next to Ava and watching her as she sat there staring down at her breakfast, momentarily unable to speak as Nick had taken her breath away. Raven went over to them then and gently gathered her daughter into her arms.

“Come on baby, let’s go downstairs and eat. Jade is going to eat breakfast up here with Nick and Ava” she told her while walking out of the room and Kathryn followed after placing the drinks on the tray, leaving the family to spend time alone. Ava looked up into Nick’s eyes and he saw a hint of tears in them but he knows he made her happy. She reached up and placed her hand to his cheek and pulled his lips down on hers and kissed him.

“Thank you Nicky, this is the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me” she told him softly and he smiled at her and lightly caressed her cheek with his finger.

“I’m just getting started baby. I plan to spend the rest of my life spoiling you.” When Ava pulled away she wrapped her arms around Jade while she sat in her lap and handed her, her fork before grabbing up her own and starting to eat and he did the same.

“I want to take Jade to the playground today,” She announced after a couple of moments and Jade squealed happily upon hearing this news. Ava smiled and kissed the top of her head before looking up at Nick and meeting his eyes giving him a look that clearly says she wants to make today a happy day for their daughter, because with Ava being such an emotional mess these days, there haven’t been very many.

“That sounds like fun…just the three of us, or are we going to invite everyone else?”

“Everyone else can come if they want.”

“They haves to come, Zee will want to play too!” Jade insisted happily.

“You will have to take that up with Raven sweetie,” Ava responded.

“The park will be fun, but I want to arrange for my lawyer to come by first so we can take care of some other important things that really need to be done.” Nick announced, and Ava once again met his eyes. “He will want to meet with you and Jade so he can see the evidence. I know you want today to be a happy one baby, but if we get it over with we won’t have to think about it anymore.”

“Kay,” Ava responded softly and he kissed her forehead. “Speaking of other important things,” she added and she gave him a look that clearly asked if he wanted to tell Jade now, or wait until they’re with everyone else.

“Now, if that’s okay. That’s why I made it a point to make sure she was up here with us. I gave AJ the go ahead to tell everyone downstairs for us so we will only have to go through it once.”

“Thanks for that Nicky…” She told him softly and she gave him a grateful look. Nick placed his hand to her cheek and gently caressed it.

“Always baby,” He told her before once again kissing her forehead and Ava looked down at their daughter causing Nick to do the same and they found her staring up at them happily. This is a huge turn around between the two of them; just yesterday Nick wasn’t even talking to her mommy and kept making her cry.

“What are you smiling about, huh?” Nick asked, playfully tickling her and she squirmed slightly and to his pleasure, she giggled, her smile got even bigger, and he got a smile out of Ava. Those are three of his absolute favorite things. They waited until the three of them were finished eating and then Nick gathered up the tray and moved it to the side before settling himself next to them again. Ava gently shifted Jade so she was sitting in her lap facing her and looked into her eyes, becoming slightly serious now.

“Baby, Nicky and I have something very important to tell you.”

“What is it mommy?” Jade asked curiously while looking up at Ava worriedly as she can sense her mood change.

“Mommy has been keeping a very important secret from you and Nicky all of your life. Nicky knows the truth now but it’s time for you to find out the truth too because I can’t go on lying to you anymore. I think it’s time that you know why David is the way he is toward you…”

“It’s because he dranked all the time mommy, I know this already…” she replied and she gazed up at Ava feeling highly confused.

“No honey, that’s not the whole reason…” Ava took a deep breath then, and she willed with all her might that the tears that clouded her eyes wouldn’t fall. So much for Jade only seeing her happy today – she will, Ava promised herself. Right after she gets this out in the open…it should be easier then. They can move forward then…

“Mommy what’s wrong? Why are you crying?” Ava stared at her for a few moments feeling scared and emotional. Nick took her hand into his own and squeezed it gently in attempt to remind her that he is there for her.

“It’s okay honey, you can tell her. You told me…” She looked at him then, waiting for the strength that he always manages to give her to sink back into her, and when it finally did she looked back down at Jade.

“Because he wasn’t really your daddy, Jade,” She told her deciding that there was no easier way that she could think of to put it. Jade stared back at her in bewilderment then, not knowing what to make of Ava’s confession.

“He…isn’t?” Jade asked slowly and Ava shook her head.

“…Then who is?”

“Nicky.”

“He-He…he’s what?” she stammered, her little eyes filling up with tears and going wide as she glanced up at Nick to find him staring right back at her and he was fighting back his own tears to the best of his ability. “Mommy - no…you’re playing games with me…” Jade insisted and she shook her head to emphasize that she does not believe her. It’s easier that way.

This information that her mommy is trying to tell her seems too good to be true. How long has she wished that Nick could be her daddy instead of the mean monster she’s had to live with? How many times has she longed for a daddy who would love her? Her whole life and she’s lost count.

She was just getting used to the idea that she was a bad girl and just didn’t deserve a loving daddy like any regular kid. And now her mommy is trying to tell her that she’s had one all along? No. It’s impossible! But her mommy is shaking her head at her. Why is she doing this? What has she done to deserve this? Did she leave her toys on the floor again? She can clean them up quick! She will. She’s been trying very hard to be a good girl.

“No baby, I’m not,” Ava insisted gently. “You know I would never do that to you – not intentionally. I’m telling you the truth…Nick is your daddy.” Jade shook her head in disagreement.

“No! Mommy, no!” she insisted, slowly becoming angry.

“Yes honey he—“

“—NO!!! STOP it mommy! Stop lying to me! I’VE BEEN A GOOD GIRL! I’M A GOOD GIRL, I AM!” she sobbed, and then started to fling herself from her arms so she could escape, run, and hide – something she learned to do very early in her life. But Ava was quick to gently grab her by the arms and keep her there, and she looked her daughter in the eyes.

“Jade – baby- honey listen to me, please” Ava pleaded tearfully and she gave her a serious look. “I would never intentionally lie to you if I can help it baby, and you know that. You’re a very good girl and I love you very much. You’re the most important thing in my life – mommy’s everything,” she reassured and she hugged her close, rubbed her hand over her back soothingly, and she placed soft kisses on her forehead.

“Mommy I’m so confused…” she sobbed into her chest.

“I know baby…I know,” Ava told her softly and she sat there rocking with her for a long while until she had her under control somewhat. She held on tightly to Ava with all her might now and sniffled. “Nick is your daddy honey I promise you that he is,” Ava began softly in her ear when she knew she was over the shock and ready to listen. “He always has been, always will be, and nothing can change that baby. That’s why you’re so much like him. That’s why you love him so much and want to be like him.”

She pulled back slightly and gently tilted her chin up with her forefinger and thumb and she gazed into her eyes with a small smile on her face now despite her tears. “You have his eyes, the same shape of face as him, and a big part of his personality. You love to sing and dance just like him. He helped bring you into this world and guess what? You mean the whole world to him baby.” She stole a look at Nick then and found him still watching her. She really took notice of their similarities for the first time in her life then and she suddenly understood why she was never allowed to dye her hair blonde up until recently. She looked back at Ava again, now feeling hurt.

“Why didn’t you tells me?” she demanded, now giving her mother a very accusing look.

“Because I couldn’t honey…David wouldn’t let me. He threatened to do some not very nice things if I ever did. You’re my special baby, the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I was just trying to protect you. I couldn’t keep it secret from you any longer though because you deserve to know the truth. It was hurting Nick because he so badly wanted to be your daddy never knowing he really was…I’m sorry baby, I’m so sorry I lied to you. I will never ever do it again if I can help it I promise.” She looked at Ava for a couple of moments in silence, and then she hugged her tightly and Ava returned it.

“Nicky is my daddy?” she asked, double-checking. She just wants to hear it confirmed one more time. Ava nodded and Jade looked up at Nick contemplatively, before crawling into his lap instead and she hugged him next where she began to cry all over again. She buried her face in his shoulder and he returned her hug, gently rubbing his hand over her back. He kissed her cheek and rested his forehead against hers. “I love you daddy,” she whispered after a long while when she managed to calm down a little bit. Nick was able to hold his tears at bay and keep from crying until he heard those words and that was it – he fell apart.

“I love you too baby and I always will,” he told her while hugging her tighter. As soon as he had calmed down too he looked down at her and delicately lifted her chin up so that blue eyes were gazing into blue. “You’re the most precious gift that god could ever give to anyone and your mommy and I feel so very lucky to have been the ones to be blessed with this precious gift.” Jade’s eyes watered up all over again, though she smiled some as her heart melted all at once.

She has never experienced so many different emotions before. And no one has ever told her that before other than her mommy. She’s never experienced having a father who really loves her until now and it’s the most wonderful feeling she’s ever felt. She’s romanticized Nick being her daddy for so long…and her fantasies don’t even come close to the real thing.

He leaned forward and kissed her forehead before placing other feathery light kisses on various parts of her face as he hugged her. She rested her head against his shoulder and plans on staying in his arms for as long as she possibly can. He wrapped his arm around Ava too, pulling her close to him.

“Does that make us a family now?” Jade murmured into his shoulder and Nick smiled tearfully.

“I’m working on it baby. Your mommy and I have a lot of things to work through, but if I have it my way we will be” he told her gently and he looked down at Ava before brushing his lips over hers with the lightest touch and she quietly rested her head against his shoulder too and combed her fingers through Jade’s hair lovingly.

“When are we going to the park mommy?” she asked while snuggling deeper into Nick’s arms.

“Soon baby. You need a bath, I need a shower, your daddy’s lawyer is coming over a little later, and then we can invite Zara and everybody to go to the park afterwards okay?”

“Okay,” Jade responded happily and Nick kissed her forehead softly and Ava looked up at him, causing him to tuck a strand of her hair behind her ear and look into her eyes adoringly.

“Will you get her bath water started while I go down the hall to get her some clean clothes to wear afterward?”

“Mhm, I can do that. I was thinking about putting on my bathing suit and joining her, I need to get cleaned up too. Is that okay?” He asked and Ava nodded.

“Get the water started, and I will be right back with her bathing suit” She instructed gently before getting to her feet and while she left the room to go to her own, Nick got up out of bed and headed toward his bathroom while placing soft kisses on Jade’s forehead.
End Notes:
https://twitter.com/UrsTrulyAshee
Being Strong by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Here's the next chapter. Enjoy!
Chapter Eleven: Being Strong

When Ava reached her room, she proceeded to get out clothes for Jade, deciding on a red Ramones tee shirt. She grabbed some panties, black jeans, and a belt with little decorative jewels around it. Ava buys a lot of Jade’s clothes from Hot Topic. That’s one thing she managed to inherit from her mommy besides her natural brown hair and her talent for being stubborn – her taste in music and her sense of style.

David always went out of his way to inform her that she’s corrupted her and turned her into an even bigger devil child then she already is. At one time, it had upset Ava so much that she smacked him and earned herself a major beating for it and a trip to the hospital in result.

Ava grabbed up Jade’s red high top converse shoes and her bathing suit and she went down the hall to Nick’s room where he and Jade were waiting to enjoy their bubble bath, Nick already in his swim trunks and everything. She handed over the bathing suit and while he proceeded to dress Jade in it, she walked out of the room and just as she was placing the rest of her clothes on the bed for later, AJ peered in the room and grinned upon seeing his little sister.

“Hey sweetheart…I haven’t seen you all morning, I thought I’d come up and see how you are doing,” he greeted gently and he went over to her and pulled her into a hug. Ava nestled into him and returned it and she smiled as he planted a kiss on her forehead.

“I’m doing better,” she answered and he pulled back slightly and looked into her brown eyes. When he saw that she was telling him the truth and she really did look much happier than she was yesterday afternoon, he grinned too.

“That’s because you have Nick here taking care of you,” AJ insisted. “Admit it Ava, he’s good for you.”

“Yeah, yeah give it a rest J” Ava insisted while rolling her eyes playfully and she went over and sat on the bed and hugged her legs to her chest. “You’re his biggest fan, I get it. But I think he’s too good for me, if you want my opinion.” AJ went over and sat in front of her before hugging his legs to his chest as well and he took her hand into his and gently squeezed it. “He’s too nice to me Alex; I’m not used to it…I keep waiting for him to turn around and smack me for saying or doing the wrong thing,” she admitted softly.

“He loves you honey, he always has. He would rather chew off his own hand then ever hurt you,” AJ insisted while wrapping his arms around her and hugging her and she rested her head against his shoulder and hugged him back.

“I don’t feel like I deserve to be loved by him after everything I put him through. I kept such a big secret from him for four years and it hurt him.”

“He knows David forced you to do it, it’s not like you wanted to do it. You were protecting your baby like any mother would do.”

“I spent so many hours at night in her room after she was born guarding her crib because I was terrified he’d smother her with a pillow behind my back. It took a month before I could sleep at night.” Ava admitted tearfully and AJ hugged her tighter.

“I wish you would’ve come to me about this instead of living in fear like that.”

“That wouldn’t solve anything, I would just be living in fear about him coming after us and following through with his threat like I’m constantly doing now ever since I left him, Alex.”

“But you wouldn’t have had to protect her alone. Nick and I aren’t letting him anywhere near the two of you…not without a real good fight. He spends hours down in the gym pretending that punching bag is David, just preparing himself for the moment where he has to fight him off of you.” Ava looked up at him and AJ gently combed his fingers through her hair. “The point is you’re my sister Ava. I don’t want you to be terrified into not coming to me about these things ever again. You need to know that I would walk through fire to protect you, and so would everybody else downstairs. Okay?” Ava nodded tearfully and he gently wiped away her tears. “I love you,” He told her seriously, before pulling her into another hug.

“I love you too,” She murmured into his shoulder and he kissed her forehead and after a moment, smiled to himself.

“Now do you want to tell me what you were thinking sleeping with Nick at sixteen? He was eighteen years old, Ava. Do you know how much trouble the two of you would’ve been in, if that was discovered by anyone outside of our family?” Ava smiled innocently, still not removing her head from his shoulder, though he could see it.

“It was the best decision I ever made, and I don’t regret it one bit no matter what age we were Alex.” AJ raised his eyebrow at her and when she saw him silently analyzing her answer, she quickly went on. “He gave me my beautiful little girl.”

“I think you’re using Jade as cover up instead of admitting that you think it’s the best decision you ever made, because you’re in love with him” he told her in playful amusement.

“I am not in love with him” Ava insisted stubbornly and AJ chuckled.

“Oh yes you are. If you weren’t why did you insist on doing it with him?”

“Because he’s my best friend and we experience everything together.” AJ rested his forehead against hers and looked into her eyes.

“Or maybe, you have always secretly been in love with him from the start and that was your excuse.” Ava narrowed her eyes at him and he playfully narrowed his own in return. She huffed and pushed him away from her and he just laughed.

“Don’t throw a fit just because I know you so well, Ava.”

“Two can play this game, Alexander James. If anyone is in denial about their feelings in this house, it’s definitely you.

“What is that supposed to mean?” AJ asked innocently.

“You know exactly what I mean. You’ve been flirting with Tierja and dodging your feelings for her for how long now?” AJ twitched at Ava’s words and avoided eye contact with her. She looked at him in silence for a few moments, and then reached out and gently tilted his chin up with her finger so that he is looking into her eyes.

“Tierja is good for you, Alex.” She told him, throwing his words from earlier right back at him. “So if you want me to even begin to work out my issues with Nick, you’re going to have to do the same thing. You’re in danger of losing her if you don’t.”

“What do you mean?” He asked, raising his eyebrow.

“She loves you Alex, but if you make her wait any longer, she’s going to try to move on because she can’t handle the pain anymore. She was telling me just last night how hot this new guitar player is. So if you don’t want competition, you better do something about it.” She held his gaze just long enough for him to see how serious she is about this, and then leaned up and kissed his cheek. “I’ll work on my issues if you work on yours. Be my role model, Alex.” She told him gently, and then got up and disappeared in the bathroom leaving him alone to think about this. AJ stared after her in silence for a long moment, before getting to his feet, grabbing up the tray of empty plates and glasses from her breakfast in bed surprise earlier that morning, and headed downstairs with it.

Meanwhile when Ava walked into the bathroom, she found father and daughter sitting in the tub together just covered in bubbles. Nick smiled at her appearance and Ava flashed him a smile right back before grabbing up Jade’s Barbie towel and leaning against the wall. She watched as Nick washed Jade’s hair and rinsed it and helped her clean up and then he stood up with her.

“Here sweetie, why don’t you take her while I take a very quick shower?” he asked and Ava nodded, opened up the towel and held it up and Nick gently placed Jade inside it allowing Ava to wrap her up and cradle her. She looked at Nick then and he leaned over and gave her a brief but meaningful kiss before she turned around and headed out of the bathroom.

She brought her over to the bed and gently lay her down on it before taking her bathing suit off of her so she could dress her, trying her very hardest not to think about the bruises on Jade’s body and how they got there. By the time she had her clothes on and was just finishing up on tying her shoes for her, Nick came out of the bathroom in just a towel and he noticed just by looking into his best friend’s eyes that something is truly upsetting her right now.

She is putting on a brave face for their daughter, but he knows better. He handed her a brush before retrieving some of his own clothes and going into the bathroom to get dressed himself. Ava brushed her hair and even put it up in pigtails and by the time she was finished, Nick came out of the bathroom dressed. Ava hugged Jade close, kissed her forehead softly, and looked into her blue eyes.

“Go downstairs sweetie and your daddy and I will be down soon okay?”

“Kay,” She said, and then got up and went downstairs. Ava waited a long moment until she was sure Jade had enough time to get far from hearing point, and then got up and went to Nick. She slid her arms around his waist, buried her face in his shoulder, and she began to cry letting all of her pain and frustration out in a flood of tears. He gently rubbed his hand over her back trying his best to comfort her, though he hasn’t yet figured out what has caused her to be so upset all of the sudden.

“Why did he do this Nicky? Why did he hurt her? She’s just an innocent child…she could never ever do anything to deserve this. Why does he punish her for something that I did? It’s just not fair!” Nick tightened his arms around her, now getting the gist of what is going on in her mind – of course. She’d been dressing Jade…she had to look at her bruises. That would do it…

“Because he’s a sick man honey…he has a problem. And if he ever comes near you or my baby again I’ll beat him senseless. He can’t hurt you anymore…not with me here. And this restraining order is going to do wonders. It won’t put us in a bubble, but we’ll have the law on our side if he comes near you and violates it. AJ has called Marcus and asked him and Q to come guard our property and when we go on tour I’m going to personally see that both you and Jade have a personal bodyguard at all times. We’ll have all the protection in the world…” Ava looked up at him feeling slightly calm now, though tears rolled down her face. He brushed them away with his finger before tilting her chin up and leaning down and brushing his lips lightly over hers. “I love you baby, it’s going to be okay” he told her between kisses and she tightened her arms around him and nestled her head in his shoulder.

“I need to take a shower and get ready for the day,” She murmured into his neck after a long moment.

“Okay, do you want me to stay up here with you?”

“No, I want to be alone for a while is that okay?” she asked softly, looking up into his eyes. “I’m not pushing you away Nicky, I promise. I just really need some space.”

“Okay, but I want you to call for me if you need me and I will come running.”

“Don’t worry, I will” Ava promised and Nick tightened his arms around her waist and kissed her one last time, making sure to pour all of his love into it. When he pulled back he tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear and held her gaze for a moment before she turned and walked out of the room to go to hers where all of her stuff is. Nick looked over at the bed expecting to see a tray there, and when he saw that it was gone he raised his eyebrow. Had Ava taken it downstairs while he was busy with Jade? Shrugging his shoulders, he turned and headed downstairs. When he got down there, Jade spotted him, smiled hugely, and got to her feet and ran straight for him. Nick grinned in return and caught her as she flew into his arms and he snuggled her closer to him causing her to nestle her head in his shoulder. While he was hugging her, Brian suddenly appeared in front of him, arms crossed over his chest and eyebrow raised. Nick raised his eyebrow in return.

“You’ve been holding out on me. I am your best friend, and you’ve been holding out on me. All these years you’ve confided in me about Ava, and I didn’t even know what happened between the two of you four years ago? This is best-friend-needs-to-know information, Carter!”

“Are you kidding me? I wasn’t going to reveal that kind of information, I was scared to death AJ would catch wind of it and murder me for sleeping with his sister.”

“As I very well should,” AJ spoke up from over on the couch where he was currently lounging. “And I would, if part of me wasn’t thrilled at the fact that my dream of you being with my sister is finally very slowly coming true.” Nick shook his head and placed a kiss on Jade’s forehead as he looked at Brian who continued to stare at him wounded.

“You couldn’t find a way to let me know when he wasn’t around?”

“So I kept one secret from you, Frick, big deal. You’re in on everything else going on in all things to do with Ava.” Brian huffed, gave Nick a look, but pulled him into a brief hug anyway. “I’m glad you’re happy again and finally have everything you ever wanted Nicky.” He admitted sincerely after a moment.

“Almost,” Nick corrected. “Ava needs some serious romancing, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Speaking of which, where is she?” Kathryn spoke up curiously.

“Upstairs taking a shower…she requested some space, and despite my better judgment I gave it to her. I hate not having her right where I can see her at all times though.”

“Q and the entire security team are around, so she will be okay for the time being” Kevin reassured. “Q is outside guarding the gate and he’s aware that your lawyer will be visiting soon. Everybody else is running about the place making plans to make it safer for both her and Jade for the remaining time that we’re here before we go on tour. So no one is getting in here and harming her.” Nick smiled softly upon hearing this information.

“That’ll make her happy, she’ll want to go right out and say hi to Q when she finds out,” Nick commented. He looked down at Jade who has her head rested upon his shoulder and was just staring up at him in silence. He smiled at her lovingly and kissed her forehead before going over and sitting on the floor with her a few feet away from the stairs, wanting to be nearby to hear Ava if she should call for him.

“Ava wants to take Jade to the park later; does anyone else want to come?”

“You know we’re coming,” Raven replied as she watched her daughter look at her with a pleading look and Jade and Zara squealed happily. Brian chuckled in amusement and went over and sat on the floor beside Zara before taking her into his arms.

“We all might as well come, security included. After last night, I think it’s better Ava has an entire guard whenever she goes out. I don’t even want to think about what would’ve happened if you hadn’t gotten to her on time.”

“Yeah, trust me, she’s not pulling a stunt like that ever again” Nick insisted while hugging Jade closer to him as if she were Ava. AJ smiled in amusement.

“Careful Nick…being too controlling isn’t a very good way to win her heart. She doesn’t like being told what to do; my mom has been trying all her life.”

“Tough cookies. When it comes to her safety, she’s going to listen to me. I’m not letting her leave this house alone like that again.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” AJ shrugged and Nick looked down at Jade and began conspiring with her about another plan he has for Ava. Meanwhile upstairs, when Ava got out of the shower she put on a black smocked waist dress with a leopard print belt. She blow dried her hair and then did it in two braids and applied makeup using black eyeliner, black mascara, and gold eye shadow. To complete her look, she put on some gold double teardrop chandelier earrings, black and gold bangles on her wrist, and some black and brown asymmetrical designed sandals.

When she was finished getting ready, she stood there quietly staring in the bathroom mirror contemplating her look. She hasn’t worn a dress in a really long time; David never liked her in them. He didn’t want her showing off too much, insisting that she doesn’t have anyone to impress because she belongs to him.

And now she’s left him and here Nick is insisting she belongs to him and no matter how hard she tries not to let it, it terrifies her. She doesn’t want another man claiming to ‘own’ her; she won’t allow herself to be in that sort of relationship again. Everything has to be equal or she’s not having anything to do with him.

The minute he starts telling her what to do, she’s done. Her promise to work with him on this slowly growing relationship will be over. When she managed to get her emotions in check and was sure she was ready to be strong and happy for her daughter like she vowed to herself that she would be, she turned and walked out of the bathroom and then her room and headed downstairs.

By the time she reached the bottom of them, her eyes fell on him as he still sat on the floor with their daughter in his arms and her stomach did an entire flip flop. When he smiled at her, her breath immediately left her lungs. She watched him stare at her in surprise for a few moments as he took in her outfit before getting up and gently putting Jade down.

He walked over to her and when he gently pressed her back up against the wall next to the stairs and those captivating blue eyes of his met with her brown ones, her control on her emotions went straight to hell as she felt the butterflies consume her. Nick rested his arms against the wall on either side of her so that she was caged between him and the wall and he rested his forehead against hers and looked into her eyes with so much love in his own.

“You look beautiful,” he murmured softly. He placed a soft kiss on her forehead before trailing his lips down over her nose kissing the tip of it before bringing his lips down to hers and pausing just inches away. “Kiss me,” he told her gently. Fighting desperately to hold onto what little control she has left, Ava gently pushed at his chest in attempt to get him to move, but he didn’t budge.

“Let me by you crazy man…I’ve got a daughter to take care of.”

“I’m not moving until you kiss me. We’ll just stand here all day” Nick insisted stubbornly, and she smiled up at him in amusement.

“Your lawyer is coming soon.”

“In an hour and when he does, if you haven’t kissed me by then, I’ll hold you captive in my lap until you do.”

“Is that supposed to be a threat Nicky? Because if so, you really need to come up with something better than that” Ava asked softly, secretly finding the thought of being held captive in his lap very appealing and she slid her arms around his neck.

“It’s not a threat, it’s a promise,” Nick insisted and he once again rested his forehead against hers. “Kiss me,” He ordered again.

“No,” Ava insisted.

“Why do you have to be so stubborn?”

“I was made that way, that’s what you signed up for when you fell in love with me.” Nick noticed the hidden fear behind her eyes, and knows it’s because David worked very hard to squash that trait out of her. She was going to do what he said, when he said it, and if she didn’t she was punished for it. She was going to be the way he wanted her to be, not the way she was born to be. Nick lightly caressed her cheek with his finger before bringing it down to her chin and tilting it up so she is looking into his sincere eyes.

“I love you exactly the way you are, baby. There is nothing about you I would change.” He lightly rubbed his nose over hers, giving her an Eskimo kiss. “Kiss me. Please?” He whispered, before bringing his lips down on hers and lightly kissing her. She found herself tightening her arms around him and after a moment she kissed him back causing him to smile between kisses and slide his hands down slowly over her arms, down her sides and he rested them on her hips. When he pulled back minutes later, she had to remind herself to breathe.

“I’m going downstairs to the basement to work a little bit on my solo project for an hour baby; I just waited until you came downstairs. Is that okay?”

“Yeah, it’s fine, I want to spend some time with Jade anyway” Ava insisted after only looking slightly taken aback at being asked permission for something. Usually it’s the other way around in her relationships.

“You order me around in this relationship, remember? You’re my Queen; you have me wrapped completely around your finger.” Nick told her, not missing a single thing. Ava raised her eyebrow and Nick chuckled softly. “I’ve been your best friend since you were eleven sweetheart, I know you and how you think” he reminded her and playfully tugged on her braid, flashed her his heart warming smile, and turned and headed for the basement stairs and soon disappeared to work on his project. Ava rolled her eyes playfully as she watched him leave.

She forgot he always loved to tug on her braids when they were younger. When she could no longer see him, she turned her attention on everybody else who was pretending to mind their own business. She once again rolled her eyes, before going over to Brian and the kids who were sitting on the floor playing with a mixture of Jade and Zara’s toys.

Ever since Raven and Brian became a couple, all of hers and Zara’s things have been mysteriously showing up at the Backstreet House very slowly. Last time she checked, Brian even gave her half of his closet. Smiling to herself at how well the new relationship between her friends was going, Ava sat down behind Jade and gently gathered her into her lap. Ava leaned down and planted a kiss on her forehead and quietly watched her as she snuggled into her comfortably.

“Are you having fun with your best friend, baby? It’s great having her over here every day isn’t it?”

“Yeah” Jade answered, smiling bigger than Ava has ever seen her smile and if she was being honest with herself, she knows a big part of it is because of Nick. Ava smiled softly and hugged Jade even closer to her. All she wants to do is do what’s right for her baby – she is what’s most important right now.

She left David, now she needs to find a way to be strong for her, because Nick knows the truth and as soon as David finds out that he does, he’s going to stop at nothing until she is punished for it. The fastest way to do that is to hurt her baby girl and he knows that. It’s his favorite power play against her. She’ll be damned before she lets that happen. She just doesn’t know how she is going to find the strength, every time the evil bastard comes near her she feels useless.

“Mommy,” Jade spoke up.

“Yeah baby?”

“Will you bake cookies with me?” Ava looked down at her daughter in brief surprise upon hearing this random question.

“Bake cookies with you huh?” She asked, casting suspicious eyes toward the basement. This has Nick written all over it.

“Please mommy? I miss baking with you, we used to do it’s all the time.” Ava stared down at her daughter’s hopeful face for a few moments and knew there was no way she was ever going to be able to say no to her and she sighed softly.

“All right…lets go,” She told her before getting to her feet and Jade squealed happily in response. “What kind of cookies should we make?”

“Peanut Butter!” Jade answered enthusiastically and Ava rolled her eyes playfully. There is not a doubt in her mind that Nick put her up to this. It’s a well-known fact that Ava’s peanut butter cookies are Nick’s favorite.

“Zara, do you want to bake cookies too?” She asked, turning to the other little girl, who still sat contently in Brian’s lap.

“Yeah!” Zara answered and Ava smiled at her warmly.

“All right sweetheart, come here” She told her gently, before gathering the other child into her arms as well with Brian’s help and taking them both into the kitchen with her where they proceeded to bake peanut butter cookies.

~*~*~*~*~

The three of them baked for an hour and by the time they had three batches of cookies fresh out of the oven and cooled, AJ poked his head in the kitchen.

“Sweetheart, he’s here” he announced gently.

“Kay, I will be right out” Ava responded and he watched her as she grabbed up a plate and placed two cookies on it and poured a glass of milk. When she finished she knelt down and handed the plate to Jade.

“Do you want to take this out to your daddy for me baby? I will be right out with yours and Zee’s plate next.”

“Okay mommy,” Jade responded and she leaned up and kissed Ava’s cheek before grabbing the plate from her, turning around and walking out of the kitchen. AJ gently squeezed her shoulder and smiled at his niece lovingly. When she was gone, he walked over to his sister and took the milk from her.

“Is this for Nick too?”

“Yeah…do you want a plate of cookies as well?”

“I’m sure everybody does, you know how much we all love your cookies. It’s been a very long time since you’ve baked for us” he told her and pulled her into a hug.

“I have to admit, I really missed this hardcore kitchen and oven that you made sure I had when we first moved in” Ava insisted while giving him a small smile. AJ chuckled softly.

“Why don’t you bring one big plate out and I will pour a pitcher of milk and bring out a bunch of glasses to make things easier.”

“Kay,” Ava responded softly and AJ kissed her forehead affectionately before taking Nick’s glass out to him. When he returned he proceeded to make a pitcher of milk like he said he would and when he had that finished and Ava had a big plate of cookies ready, he followed her out there. She glanced at Nick who was watching her every move from his spot on the floor leaning up against the couch, before going over and putting the plate of cookies on the coffee table.

“Oh Ava, those look really delicious…” Kathryn insisted while eyeing the plate of cookies with lust in her eyes and Ava couldn’t help but giggle softly.

“Everybody help themselves, there’s lots more in the kitchen so take as many as you’d like” she insisted as she watched AJ put the pitcher of milk and a stack of glasses down next to the cookies. She fixed Jade a plate of cookies and a small kid’s cup of milk that AJ had thought to bring out for her and handed it over to her daughter who sat contently next to Nick on the floor and Raven did the same for Zara. As soon as everybody had their cookies and were content, Ava started to go sit next to her brother only to have Nick slide his hand into hers. She glanced at him while he remained sitting on the floor and he squeezed her hand gently.

“Come sit with me baby, please?” She looked into his blue eyes and he made sure she could see nothing but love in them. She went over and sat in his lap and he enveloped her in his arms and hugged her affectionately. Ava hugged him back; her tense body eventually relaxing and he planted a kiss on her forehead. “The cookies are good baby, thank you” He told her sincerely and Ava rested her head against his shoulder absolutely refusing to cry when she heard the truth behind his words. Nick gently rubbed his hand over Ava’s back and looked over at his lawyer who sat on the other couch across from them and everybody else sat around them too enjoying their cookies and waiting for the discussion to start.

“James, this is my girlfriend Ava, Ava this is my lawyer James Conrad” Nick introduced.

“Hello Ava, it’s nice to meet you” James responded and Ava gave him a small smile but snuggled deeper into Nick nonetheless.

“Nice to meet you too,” She told him softly.

“I understand I’m here to discuss the possibility of a restraining order?” he asked, looking at Nick for this answer.

“Yeah, for Ava against her abusive ex-boyfriend” Nick affirmed while hugging Ava close to him protectively and planting a soft kiss on her forehead.

“Do you have proof of the abuse?”

“Yeah, both Ava and my daughter Jade are covered in bruises and we’ve reported incidents to the police a couple of times now where he’s forcefully tried to take her from us.”

“And a doctor willing to back us up if it’s necessary too…” Ava spoke up softly as she sat with her arms wrapped around Nick’s neck and her head rested on his shoulder. He looked down at her and noticed her trying very hard not to have a second meltdown over Jade in one day. He looked at James again who was confused.

“He molested Jade…we took her to the doctor and he’s made it clear that he will vouch for us that it happened” He explained softly.

“And Ava has been to the hospital several times in the past too,” AJ spoke up. “Every single doctor she has been to knows her well and has been urging her to leave him for quite some time, so I know they will gladly be a witness as well.”

“Okay, I’m going to need to see the bruises.” Nick nodded and looked down at Ava, gave her a trust me look and when he saw a small amount of trust in them for the first time since he told her he was in love with her, his heart warmed. He shifted her so that she was straddling his lap and gently made her rest her head against his shoulder before unzipping her dress just far enough that the cuts from all of the belt beatings she received in the past on her back were revealed and nothing else.

“She has lots more all over, especially on her face because of last night when he attacked, but she got in the habit of covering those up with makeup a long time ago. You can see her arms all black and blue from him grabbing her and digging his fingers into her constantly too,” he explained while gently rubbing his hands over her arms.
“Okay, I’m going to need you to take pictures of both Ava and Jade’s injuries before they fade and get them back to me as soon as you can so we can use it for evidence against him can you do that for me?”

“Yeah absolutely,” Nick answered while kissing the top of Ava’s head and zipping her dress back up. “We can do it tonight after she’s taken all of her makeup off for the day and I will give them to you tomorrow.”

“How soon after you’ve gotten all of the evidence against him, can you have a restraining order issued?” AJ spoke up again. “This is a very urgent situation, James, David is out there running free and we have no idea where he is or what he is going to do to her next. We have our Backstreet Security on her now, but we need all of the protection that we can get. He’s already tried to take her from us twice, like Nick said.”

“As soon as I have all of the evidence against him and you’ve filled out the petition, you will be given a temporary restraining order that will last fifteen days. David will be served during that time and then you will need to face a judge to be given a full restraining order.”

“And what if he doesn’t show up? Or violates it in some way?” Ava spoke up again for the first time in a while. “He’s not going to care; it’s just going to be a piece of paper to him, I know him.”

“It won’t put you in a bubble, but taking this action is still necessary because at least you will have police protection on your side. They’ll track him down and arrest him if he violates it.”

When he violates it,” Ava corrected him and she snuggled deeper into Nick. Nick tightened his arms around her and hugged her close to him protectively.

“He’s not going to get you baby, I won’t let him” He reassured gently and she buried her face in the crook of his neck. “So we’ll fill out the paperwork tomorrow then when we bring in the pictures?” he asked James.

“Yes, and if you will just provide me with phone numbers, I will take care of the doctor reports.” Nick nodded and pulled out his cell phone and began listing names and numbers and James wrote them down. When he had all of the information that he needed and set up an appointment for another meeting in his office tomorrow he left. Nick looked down at Ava in his lap to find her looking up at him not looking anymore reassured than she was before the discussion.

“I know it’s not going to put up an electric shield around you sweetheart, but it’s still a necessary step to take. Like he said, you’ll have full police protection this way.”

“I trust you to protect me a lot more than I trust this restraining order to protect me, Nicky…” Nick couldn’t help but smile softly and he slid his arms around her waist and rested his forehead against hers.

“Well that’s a big step away from how you felt just yesterday, that’s for sure.” Ava gently cradled his face in her hands and looked into his blue eyes.

“I told you I’d try…I meant it. You just have to be patient with me Nicky.”

“I have every intention of being patient with you baby, I’m not going anywhere” Nick reassured and he brushed his lips lightly over hers. “Except to the park with you and Jade because we promised.”
End Notes:
https://twitter.com/UrsTrulyAshee
Right Hand Girl by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
It feels like it took me a million years just to write this chapter lol. Enjoy!
Chapter Twelve:

“Who all is going to the park with us?” Ava asked, looking to her brother and her group of friends after Nick had stood up with her and placed her so that her feet were on the ground.

“All of us. Nick invited us to go while you were upstairs earlier,” Tierja answered. Ava nodded and quietly watched as AJ slid his arms around Tierja’s waist, pulled her near, and planted a kiss on her forehead. She raised her eyebrow curiously at this, but turned her attention on Jade nonetheless.

“Jade needs her hoodie before we go anywhere,” she announced while gathering her daughter into her arms. Jade slid her arms around her neck and snuggled into her, resting her head upon her shoulder.

“I’ll run up and get it, where is it?” Nick asked while gently combing his fingers through Jade’s hair and leaning forward and kissing the back of her head.

“Upstairs in my room, in the closet.”

“Okay, and would mommy like a hoodie too?” Nick asked while gently rubbing her bruised arms. “I don’t need to remind you how cold you were last night.”

“Your dark brown leather jacket,” Ava told him. Nick smiled softly and turned and disappeared upstairs. When he returned he had his red buccaneer’s hoodie on and Jade’s hoodie and his leather jacket in his hands. He wrapped Jade’s hoodie around her shoulders causing her to slide her arms in and when she was set, he took his leather jacket and did the same for Ava and as soon as she had her arms in the sleeves as well, he leaned forward and kissed her forehead before sliding his arms around both her and Jade and hugging them close to him while he looked at the others. When they were all finished bundling themselves up, they walked out of the house, locked it up, and with security at their side they headed to the nearest playground. As soon as they arrived at the park Ava put Jade down and she and Zara took off running to the play structure. Drew followed after them planning to keep a close watch on them knowing that David could be anywhere. While he was doing that, Q and Mike stuck to Ava’s side like glue, Q taking Ava’s hand into his and gently squeezing it.

“I heard you made some of your famous cookies today,” He commented gently.

“I did,” Ava answered while smiling softly. “J-Baby talked me into it, there was no saying no to her and that innocent face,” she added while casting Nick a playful annoyed look and he gazed back at her innocently.

“I’m going to have to get me some of those later, you know I’m a sucker for your cookies” Q insisted and Ava pulled him into a hug.

“I’m sorry Q; I would’ve brought some out to you if I didn’t have to be at the meeting with Nick’s lawyer.”

“That’s all right sweetheart, I’m a big boy and I’m perfectly okay getting my own cookies. I would have if I wasn’t so busy at the time” Q reassured gently while hugging her back and she rested her head against him causing him to kiss her forehead. “Don’t worry about a thing.” When she pulled away she took Nick’s hand into hers and he squeezed it and gently tugged her in the direction of the Ramada where everybody else chose to sit. When they arrived there, she noticed everybody but Tierja and Brian were there and looked around the playground curiously only to find Tierja sitting under a tree and Brian just walking up to her and sitting down next to her.

~*~*~*~*~

“What are you doing over here all by yourself?” Brian wanted to know.

“I don’t know…” Tierja sighed and she hugged her legs to her chest, and rested her chin on her knee.

“AJ?” Brian asked, taking a guess.

“Yeah…” Tierja answered and Brian slid his arms around her shoulders causing her to lean into him and rest her head against his shoulder.

“You two seemed pretty cozy on the couch earlier…”

“Yeah, I know, but it’s not enough…”

“I know,” Brian responded sympathetically and he hugged her closer and planted a kiss on her forehead. “I’m going to give you similar advice that Raven gave to me to pass on to Nick a week ago, honey.”

“Telling him is not going to make much of a difference, Ava has told him plenty and he still doesn’t do anything about it.”

“Exactly, and that is why you need to do something about it instead,” Brian insisted. “He’s a McLean….they’re stubborn, it runs in the family haven’t you caught on by now?” he joked. Tierja couldn’t help but laugh a little bit and Brian smiled, obviously pleased at his accomplishment. “Make the first move, some guys actually like that in a girl. If I know AJ at all, I’m pretty sure he won’t be any different. He’s scared for some reason, and just like Ava, it’s not really his fault. You just have to find a way to get past that.”

“Any suggestions on how I’m supposed to do that? None of the moves I put on him seem to work. I was the one who asked him to be my date to the party the other night, remember? And I flirt with him constantly too.” Brian thought about this for a few moments.

“You sleep over at our house on the couch with the girls every night…ask to sleep in his bed tonight instead.”

“Better yet, just be there waiting for him when he goes up for the night” Kathryn added, she Raven, and Ava suddenly joining them. Kathryn sat on the other side of her and wrapped her in her arms as well and the other two sat in front of her. “Don’t ask for permission.”

“Wearing really sexy lingerie...he’d really like that.” Raven added with a laugh.

“If he’s scared to be with me for some reason, how do you know that’s not just going to scare him off?” Tierja asked, feeling a mixture of doubt and amusement. Ava rolled her eyes playfully.

“Trust me, if my brother finds you in his bed in nothing but lingerie he will not be turning you down.” Tierja bit her bottom lip nervously. “Believe me honey, in his mind you’re his. Brian is right; you just have to break past his insecurities somehow.”

“Should we go lingerie shopping Tier? Ava, Kat, Q, Mike, and I will totally take you” Raven responded and Ava looked up at Mike and Q and burst out laughing at the looks on their faces and the other women joined her.

“If I’m seriously going to take your advice, we’re going to have to. I don’t have anything remotely sexy” Tierja answered when she managed to calm down.

“You’re taking their advice. Nick and I will watch the kids and everything” Brian spoke up again.

“All right…I could use a mall trip with my girls anyway…” Tierja replied while hugging Kathryn closer to her. “I’m sure Ava could really use it too.”

“You’re right, I could” Ava agreed. “The more that I am laughing and smiling and not thinking about David, the better.”

“AHHHH!!!! Mommy help me!!!! Save me from the evil monster daddy!!!” Jade shrieked playfully and Ava looked over at her and saw Nick chasing her around the park while she giggles uncontrollably and runs from him. Ava smiled softly and Jade ran over to her and flew right into her arms.

“Oh no! It’s a terrible tragedy! Nicky-Zilla is on the loose! AHH!” Ava replied dramatically as she shelters her and Jade continued her giggling. Nick ran over to them and made monster sounds as he tried to playfully grab her from Ava and Jade shrieked some more.

“Oh No! Oh No! Don’t take my baby Nicky-Zilla oh PLEASE!!” Ava continued. Brian chuckled and rolled his eyes playfully while Kathryn, Raven, and Tierja just watched in amusement.

“Mommy save me!” Jade shrieked amidst giggles while Nick tickled her.

“I’ll fight the Nicky-Zilla away, it’ll be okay!” Ava replied and then handed Jade to Raven before getting to her feet.

Stay back you evil Nicky-Zilla you! I’m warning you!” She threatened and Nick pretended to be very terrified.

“AHHHH!” He yelled and began to run as Ava chased after him and Jade giggled uncontrollably in Raven’s lap.

Nick let Ava chase him around the playground once, before suddenly turning around on her and taking her by such surprise that she shrieked. He playfully lifted her into his arms and spun around in circles with her, purposely making her laugh. When he stopped moments later, she shifted so that she is straddling him and slid her arms around his neck while he stood there holding her, before resting her forehead against his.

“Now Nicky-Zilla has mommy, what are you going to do now huh?” he asked and looked into her eyes playfully.

“You’re under arrest, Nicky-Zilla!” She told him loud enough for Jade to hear, and she heard her giggle some more, obviously very pleased that Ava had ‘caught’ him. Nick raised his eyebrow playfully.

“Oh really, may I ask what for?”

“For tickling my baby, that’s what for!” she insisted and Nick chuckled before gently placing his hand to her cheek and bringing her lips down on his and kissing her.

“What if I promise to be very sorry?” He asked when he pulled back slightly and she stared into his beautiful blue eyes slightly dazed.

“Then I guess that would be okay,” She told him softly before leaning down and kissing him again and he smiled between kisses, sliding his hands down over her sides and resting them on her bottom for support. When she pulled away some time later, she rested her head against his shoulder and snuggled into him while he hugged her close to him affectionately and carried her back over to their group of friends, AJ, Howie, and Kevin now sitting there as well. Jade had run off to play with Zara again over on the play structure with security keeping a very close watch on them.

“Aren’t you getting just a little bit too old to be chasing boys around on the playground Ava?” Kathryn asked amusedly.

“I would chase Nicky even when I’m 80,” she answered while Nick sat in the grass with her in his lap and she tightened her arms around his neck just a little bit and looked up at him. “No matter what my insecurities are, I know I will be chasing my best friend in a wheel chair someday.” Nick smiled amusedly upon hearing this.

“And our grandchildren will be chasing us trying to keep us crazy old folk in line,” He agreed before kissing her forehead lovingly and Ava giggled softly at the thought, making Nick grin and tighten his arms around her waist and gently make her rest her head against his shoulder causing her to snuggle deeper into him. “I love hearing you giggle, it’s the most beautiful sound in the world” he told her softly in her ear while everybody went back to their conversations and she looked up at him and lightly caressed his face with her fingertips just admiring him. He’s grown his hair out long since the last time she saw him before the big fight with her brother, and she loves it.

“I forgot how to giggle until I came home to you,” she admitted softly and Nick smiled at her lovingly, managing to keep his emotions at bay when he really wants to cry. This is the closest she has come to acknowledging her feelings for him since she found out he is in love with her. It’s a small admission, but he’ll take it.

“I’ll have you fully remembering in no time baby,” Nick reassured gently. Everyone hung around the playground for a couple of hours until Tierja, Kathryn, Raven and Ava announced that they were going to the mall for some girl time with Mike and Q tagging along. While they did that, the guys with Drew and Raul accompanying them, decided to take Jade and Zara and go to Nora’s Nook, a restaurant owned by a good friend of theirs.

“Hey guys, I haven’t seen you in here in quite a while” she greeted with a friendly grin when they entered.

“Hey Nora, how are you?” Nick responded while watching her grab up two kid’s menus and some crayons and seven adult menus.

“I’m doing okay,” she told him while flashing him a small smile that everyone instantly saw as fake. “I see you have Jade with you does that mean Ava is finally home? Should I be expecting her too?”

“Yes, she’s home, but no not today she, Raven, Kathryn, and Tierja decided to ditch us for a girl’s day out at the mall so it’s just us.”

“Oh okay, well right this way then” Nora responded and she turned and lead the group of Backstreet Boys and their security through the nearly empty restaurant to their favorite booth by the window and they all climbed in, Jade seated in Nick’s lap. He had tried to put her down, but the small child is being slightly clingy at the moment and insisting on sitting in his lap. Zara was being no different with Brian. “Can I start you all off with some drinks?” Nora offered and when she had their order down she turned and left to go get that. When he was sure she was far from hearing point, Nick looked at Kevin concerned.

“Was it just me, or did something seem a little bit off about her?”

“Nope, we all got that vibe,” Howie was the one to answer. Nick frowned slightly, but turned his attention on Jade nonetheless, kissing her forehead.

“What do you want to eat princess?” he asked gently and he proceeded to look at her menu.

“Grilled Cheese an’ Apples,” Jade answered after only having to look at her menu for a short minute.

“An’ I’ll have chicken strips an’ fries Brian” Zara added while looking up at her favorite person in the world.

“Yes ma’am, chicken and fries it is” Brian agreed and he chuckled at the happy smile on her face that told him he pleased her, and kissed her cheek affectionately. Nora gave them enough time to look at their menus and decide what they want before returning with seven cokes and two chocolate milks. She sat them all in front of them.

“Have you all decided what you want to order?” she asked.

“Yes, but that can wait. First you’re going to tell us what’s bothering you” Kevin insisted in his best fatherly tone that he tends to use on the boys. Nora narrowed her eyes at him playfully.

“I have a restaurant to run, Richardson.”

“We’re your only customers at the moment, Delaney. So, spill.” Nora sighed softly and after a long moment when she was sure she had control of her emotions, she spoke up again.

“My Grandmother has just been diagnosed with cancer and I’m the only one available to take care of her, so I will be closing the restaurant down in a week and moving to Iowa to be with her.”

“Oh Nora, I’m so sorry…” AJ responded and he reached out and took her hand into his and squeezed it. Nora gave them the best brave smile she could muster.

“It’s okay; we’re going to fight it. She’s going to make it through this.”

“Of course she will, especially since she will have you there by her side every step of the way” Brian reassured.

“You’ll keep us posted on everything that’s going on wont you?” Howie asked. “You know you will always have friends here if you need us.”

“Of course I will, I’ll keep in touch as much as I can.” Nora answered and she rubbed at her watery eyes and flashed them all smile. “Now what do you all want to eat huh?” she asked, making it clear that she really needs to be busy right now. The guys all listed their orders and she disappeared in the kitchen to pass the information onto the cooks, leaving the guys to chat amongst themselves. By the time she returned with their food some time later and had handed it all out and left again, Howie looked at Kevin and spoke quietly.

“Would it be insensitive to buy this restaurant once she is gone? I just got an idea…” Kevin shrugged his shoulders.

“She’s moving away, someone else will end up buying it anyway...and I’ll bet she’d want this place to be put to good use. What’s your idea?” Howie looked over at AJ and Nick and gave them both a look they would understand.

“That’s a really big gift D…you’d have to pitch it to her just right. You know how she is. She has to work for everything she gets, she doesn’t like to use us” AJ cautioned when he did understand.

“And she’s terrified of cooking right now to begin with. I just got her started on baby steps this morning with baking cookies with Jade…she’s going to have to feel safe cooking for the five of us before she feels safe cooking for an entire restaurant of people” Nick added.

“Her cooking is just too amazing for her to keep it in the family, I think she would be really successful if she had her own restaurant and could share her recipes with the world” Howie insisted.

“I agree with you, no one is a bigger fan of her cooking than I am, she’s been cooking for me since the beginning of our friendship. But like J said, it will have to be given to her just right or she won’t accept.”

“I’m sure I can come up with a sneaky way of making her feel like she earned it all on her own. Get her past this fear of hers and I will work on the rest.”

“I think once she’s cooked dinner for Nick alone and has seen that he would never hurt her, she’ll be okay” AJ insisted.

“And like I said, I’m working up to it. It’s going to take baby steps” Nick added. He looked down at Jade in his lap causing her to look up at him in return and he smiled at her. “Me and my right hand girl have it covered, don’t we princess?”

“Yeah,” Jade answered happily and he kissed her cheek affectionately.

“Operation: Carter Family is underway.”

~*~*~*~*~

When the boys, Jade, and Zara finished their lunch and paid for it and left they went home. While everybody was busy doing their own thing and Jade and Zara were playing and had Drew watching them like a hawk, Nick went ahead and went downstairs to the basement.

He spent a few moments on the phone with Denise, the only other person besides Brian and Jade who are in on the big “Secret Ava Project” that he has going on and then spent a good hour in the gym. By the time the girls came home and Ava ventured down into the basement looking for him, she found him lifting weights.

She leaned against the door frame and quietly admired the shirtless man while he sat on the bench working out, completely oblivious to her presence. He may be covered in sweat and his long blonde hair may be messy at the moment, but he is still the sexiest man she has ever seen. Suddenly getting the feeling that he is being watched, Nick looked up and grinned when he realized that it’s her and she smiled back.

“Hey beautiful, how long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough to have probably the most unpopular opinion ever,” she admitted with a small innocent smile and Nick raised his eyebrow curiously. “Don’t ever cut your hair Nicky, okay?” She added and Nick chuckled softly.

“You’re right, that is an unpopular opinion. Half of my fan base keeps telling me the opposite.”

“I happen to think it’s sexy…especially right after a workout.” Nick smirked slightly and motioned her toward him with his finger. Ava complied and when she was standing in front of him, he slid his arms around her waist and pulled her down into his lap so that she is straddling him. Despite how sweaty and gross he is, Ava slid her arms around his neck.

“Your opinion is the only one that matters to me,” He informed her before bringing his lips down on hers and kissing her softly. “I missed you. Did you have fun at the mall?”

“Mhm…I really needed the girl time. I feel a lot better than I have in a while” Ava admitted.

“Good, I’m glad” Nick replied and she rested her forehead against his and scrunched up her nose playfully.

“You smell Nicky, go take a shower.” Nick smiled playfully.

“Yes ma’am, but you’re coming with me” he told her while getting to his feet and shifting her so that she is hanging over his shoulder causing her to shriek and then laugh while he carried her out of the Gym and up the stairs to the basement.

“Put me down, you crazy man” She demanded as he carried her into the living room, earning the attention of their amused friends and Nick just laughed and proceeded to carry her up the stairs and into her room since it was the closest. He shut the door behind him and locked it, before bringing her into the bathroom and sitting her on the counter. He cradled her face in his hands and looked into her eyes with so much love and adoration in his own before bringing his lips down on hers in a soft kiss. Ava slid her arms around his neck and kissed him back and he brought is hands down to her legs and slid them up under her dress and she squirmed slightly when he caressed her skin between her legs, moving them up between her thighs. When he pulled back from their intense kiss, he grabbed the hem of her dress and brought it up revealing her stomach before leaning down and placing feather light kisses.

“As much as I love you in this dress baby, it’s coming off” He told her between kisses, and he began a trail of them up over her stomach, bringing her dress up with each kiss. When he reached the valley of her breasts, he rained tender kisses over it before continuing his trail until he reached her neck. When he did, he pulled back only briefly to pull her dress over her head and toss it aside, before resuming his kisses on her neck going for his favorite spot between her neck and shoulders.

She tilted her head back in utmost pleasure and he slid his hands back behind her, unclasped her bra, and tugged until it dropped to the floor. Ava dragged his mouth to hers and kissed him hungrily and while he kissed her back she brought her hands down to his jeans and fumbled with the button and zipper until she had them open and wasted no time in yanking them, along with his boxers down. When they were around his ankles he stepped out of them and grabbed the waistband to her panties before sliding them down her legs and dropping them.

With them both completely naked, he reluctantly pulled back from their kisses and after retrieving a condom from his jeans, he crossed the bathroom to the shower and proceeded to get the water running and adjust the temperature. When he had it just right and turned around, he found her standing behind him, braids undone and her hair down. She moved closer to him and cradled his face in her hands before bringing his lips down on hers and resuming their kisses.

Nick brought his hands down and cupped her bottom in them, causing her to jump up and wrap her legs around him and he got into the shower and stepped under the water, letting it cascade over them. Ava gently slid her fingers through his wet hair and when he pulled back from their kisses, she rested her forehead against his, tangling her fingers in it and he lightly pressed her back up against the wall. Her brown eyes met with his blue and whether she knew it or not, they were filled with so much love and desire that it tugged at his heart strings.

“You’re beautiful, and perfect, and I love you” he told her softly and he kissed her forehead lovingly and when she closed her eyes, he kissed her closed eyelids before cupping the weight of her breasts in his hands and bringing his mouth down on her left one and suckling lightly. Ava moaned and cradled his head in her hands causing him to suck harder. After paying thorough attention to both of them, he trailed kisses down over her body. When he reached her stomach he knelt down and with her pressed up against the wall and her legs spread apart, he buried his face between them and wasted no time in devouring her. When she felt his tongue and teeth, she gasped and pressed her hands to the wall above her head, needing something to do with them.

“Oh god…Nicky please!” she cried out, causing him to smirk slightly and kiss her inner thigh. He replaced his mouth with his finger and she squirmed when he dipped it in and out of her, deliberately teasing her and she whimpered. He kept it up until he had her practically writhing in pleasure against the wall and he stood up and kissed her mouth.

She reached down and grabbed his shaft in her hand and she traced her finger along the length of it, before closing her hand around it and moving it up and down, instantly causing a series of groans from him. When he became erect in her hand, she reached over and grabbed the condom that he left in a safe place, un-wrapped it, and slid it on him.

He slid his hands around behind her to her bottom, cupped it in his hands and lifted her up so that she was straddling him and he and the wall were the only two things holding her up. He captured her mouth with his own and kissed her hungrily and she kissed him back, gripping his shoulders as she felt him push into her.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Meanwhile downstairs, Brian who had taken the girls outside to play in the backyard shortly after Nick had gone downstairs to the basement earlier, brought them back inside only for Jade to start going directly toward the stairs.

“Where do you think you are headed Little J?” AJ immediately intervened when he noticed. He is glad that Brian had decided to take the kids outside for a while. Ava isn’t exactly quiet. Jade stopped abruptly at the stairs and turned her innocent eyes on him.

“To find Daddy, I want him to read me a story.”

“How about you wait until Daddy comes down to you?” AJ suggested warily. He glanced at Brian and gave him a help please kind of look, and an amused Brian went over and playfully snatched the small child up into his arms, making her laugh.

“Come on sweet angel, I’ll take you and Zara downstairs to play in the recording studio for a little bit. Maybe we can make a song together or something,” He told her while gathering Zara into his arms as well and taking the two of them downstairs to distract them. Raven who hadn’t seen her boyfriend or daughter at all since she’s been back because she was too busy having fun with Tierja and Kathryn, got to her feet and followed them down there and as soon as Brian had the two girls content in playing with the different sound effects and was sitting near them keeping a good eye on them, he slid his arms around Raven and pulled her near causing her to wrap her arms around his shoulders and he kissed her softly.

“So Ava and Nick are upstairs huh?” he asked while giving her an amused look and Raven laughed.

“Yeah…as much as she denies loving him, it didn’t stop her from hunting him down in this basement the second she walked in the door earlier.” She answered, and Brian gently pulled her into his lap. “Someone should consider making their two room’s sound proof one of these days if they’re going to keep this up on a daily bases though…sheesh.”

“He’ll awaken her hidden love for him soon enough, if he hasn’t begun to all ready” was all Brian said, ignoring her second comment.

“What did my daughter and the love of my life do while I was gone, huh?” Raven asked while planting a kiss on his forehead and glancing over at Zara.

“Nothing too much, just missed you. We had lunch at Nora’s; turns out she’s closing it down and moving to Iowa to take care of her grandmother who has been diagnosed with cancer.” Raven frowned slightly at this news.

“Oh no, that’s awful…”

“Yeah, she’s not doing good…but she’s staying strong. Meanwhile, since she’s closing the restaurant down, Howie is planning on buying it and giving it to Ava as a gift,” he announced and Raven widened her eyes.

“Wow, seriously? That’s a really big gift…he’s going to have to persuade her into accepting it.”

“I know, but he says he has a plan. I think he plans on telling her that they’ll be partners, but it’ll really be all hers, named after her and everything.”

“And her fear of cooking…?”

“Operation: Carter Family is underways,” Jade spoke up, having had partly been listening ever since he brought up the restaurant and Brian chuckled when Raven gave him a half amused and half curious look.

“It’s something fun Nick made up to help her feel involved in helping her mommy so they can eventually be a family. He calls her his right hand girl and everything.”

“Aw, I’m sure J-Baby is a very good right hand girl,” Raven praised and Jade beamed happily.

~*~*~*~*~

“Nicky faster, please go faster!” Ava pleaded, while tangling her fingers in his hair and Nick instantly did as she requested moving into her at a furious pace while he still held her against the wall. Ava threw her head back and he brought his lips down to her neck and kissed her softly before going to his favorite spot between her neck and shoulders and lightly nipping her with his teeth.

Ava cried out as the feverish passion between them was just enough to send her completely over the edge and after a couple of more deep thrusts, Nick followed. Still breathing heavily, Ava rested her head against his shoulder as he delicately held her against him.

When both of them managed to get their breathing under control moments later, Nick slipped out of her and she slid her arms around him and placed delicate kisses on his neck and he combed his fingers through her wet hair lovingly. “Please don’t ever leave me Nicky; I couldn’t handle it if you did.” With his hands still in her hair, he gently pulled her head back so that he is looking into her eyes.

“I’m not going anywhere sweetheart, I promise. You have me forever” he reassured. She gazed into his eyes in silence for a few moments, looking like she very badly wants to believe him, but isn’t quite there yet, before gently cradling his face in her hands and kissing him. He kissed her back while moving under the water and letting it cascade over them.

When he pulled back, he reached over and grabbed a wash cloth, soaped it up, and began washing her. When they were both clean and had their hair washed, the two of them got out of the tub. She grabbed her towel and wrapped it around her before walking out of the bathroom and going to her closet. By the time he came out of the bathroom behind her with his towel around his waist he went up behind her and slid his arms around her waist before kissing the back of her neck.

“You didn’t bring any clothes in here, did you? Now you have to walk through that hallway in a towel,” she pointed out amused and Nick chuckled softly.

“It wasn’t exactly on my mind while I was carrying you up here to make love to you.” Ava shook her head smiling, and he leaned down and kissed her cheek.

“Just let me get dressed and then I will go get you some.” She pulled a pair of denim shorts and a white tank top down from her closet, some panties out of her drawer and got dressed and when she finished, she went down the hall to his room and returned with a white tee, a pair of jeans, and boxers and while he proceeded to get dressed, he watched her put his bucs hoodie on herself and zip it up and shook his head smiling but otherwise didn’t say anything. When he was dressed and the two of them had brushed their hair, he gently took her hand into his and squeezed it before leading her downstairs. When they got down there, they received attention from everyone.

“Where are the kids?” Ava asked somewhat protectively when she realized her daughter wasn’t among them. Until David is caught and behind bars, she is going to have to know where she is at and who she is with at all times or she will go into straight up panic mode, no joke.

“Brian took her and Zee downstairs to play in the recording studio for a little bit. Mommy and Daddy need sound proof bedrooms,” Kathryn answered teasingly and Ava blushed and looked away, but otherwise relaxed at the reassurance that her baby is okay.

“She wanted you to read her a story Nick, I told her to wait until you came down here to her.” AJ added while quietly eyeing his sister. He just hopes they’re smart enough to use protection this time, because his baby sister is not ready to be pregnant again.

“I will have to do that, but right after dinner. I was thinking of asking her to help me make dinner for everyone,” Nick answered while looking at Ava pointedly.

“That’s a good idea, what are we having?” Howie spoke up.

“Something from Ava’s special menu” was all Nick said, and he slid his arm around her waist and pulled her near. She looked up at him and he kissed her forehead softly. “Want to come sit in the kitchen with us? I might need some pointers.”

“I’m sure you will do just fine, I taught you everything you know remember?”

“Yeah, but it’s been such a long time. You never know, I might need you to refresh my memory.” Ava narrowed her eyes at him playfully and he narrowed them playfully right back.

“Don’t think for one minute that I don’t see what you are trying to do here, Carter.”

“I’m not trying to do anything baby, except get you to keep me and Jade company in the kitchen that’s all” Nick responded innocently and she rolled her eyes. “Please, please, please?” he begged while playfully tickling her causing her squeal and laugh as she tries to squirm away from him, but he only held onto her so she couldn’t escape.

“Okay, okay I will, stop!” she laughed and he smiled in satisfaction and slid his arms around her waist and once again kissed her forehead before taking her hand and bringing her downstairs to the basement with him so they could retrieve their daughter from his best friend.

“Mommy, Daddy!” Jade exclaimed happily upon seeing them enter the recording studio.

“Hi Princess, are you having fun?”

“Yeah, Brian, Zara, an’ I are making a song! He’s writing it an’ then we’re going to record it!”

“Ooh, that sounds like fun I can’t wait to hear it” Nick responded, earning a smile from both kids, telling him he had pleased them. “Do you think you can take a break for a little while and come help daddy cook dinner?”

“Okay!” Jade responded enthusiastically. She loves too cook and secretly has hopes that she will get to help her mommy out in the new restaurant. She slid down from her chair and ran over to Nick and he gathered her up into his arms and instantly accepted her cuddles. She rested her head against his shoulder and he kissed her forehead affectionately.

“What are we having for dinner?” Raven asked with a small smile as she watches the picture perfect family before her eyes.

“It’s a secret – something off of Ava’s special menu, that’s all I’m saying” Nick told her with a small smile, and he slid his arm around Ava and began to take his girls upstairs to the kitchen so they can get to work.
End Notes:
Twitter: @UrsTrulyAshee
Independent by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Here's the next chapter.
Enjoy :-)
Chapter Thirteen

While Nick, Ava, and Jade were in the kitchen getting ready to prepare dinner, Brian and Raven joined everybody else in the living room with Zara who instantly went over to play with her and Jade’s toys.

“What were you three up to down in the recording studio?” Kevin asked curiously as he watched Brian sit on the couch and pull Raven into his lap.

“J-Baby, Zara, and I started writing a song together – they’re very excited about it, huh Z?”

“Yeah! Brian says we gets to record it with him when we’re done an’ everything!”

“Aw, how fun, we will all have to hear it when you’re done with it” Tierja responded, and Zara beamed happily before continuing to play with her toys.

“Tomorrow is our last day here before we go on the road, I was thinking of running to the grocery store to stock up on food for mine and Ava’s bus, does anyone else want to come?” AJ spoke up.

“Is Ava even riding on your bus this time around? I’m sure if Nick has it his way, she’ll be riding with him” Brian reminded.

“Or Nick could just ride on mine,” AJ pointed out, feeling slightly protective. He’s always had his sister with him on the road and he wants her in his sight at all times, especially now with this whole David situation going on. “He always has ever since we started using separate busses.”

“They weren’t in a relationship back then though. And are you sure you even want them on your bus after today?” Kevin asked with an amused smile.

“They’re just going to have to either learn to be quiet, or wait until they’re in their hotel that’s all. As long as David is out there stalking her every move, she stays in my eye sight at all times.”

“Well, you better discuss that with him. I can see a serious war breaking out over your sister otherwise, and that’s never any fun especially when McLean’s and their short tempers are involved.”

“I could always bunk on Nick’s bus,” Q who was sitting near Zara watching her play while also keeping himself in close distance of the kitchen door in case he needs to get in there to Ava and Jade at any time. “I have no problem with that what-so-ever, and it would certainly keep the peace.” AJ shrugged his shoulders non-committedly and looked at his band mates.

“So? Shopping anyone?”

“It’s a good idea,” Howie spoke up. “Are all of the women coming with us?”

“Tierja and I are definitely coming,” Kathryn shrugged and everybody looked at Raven.

“I have my job to think about, I can’t just up and leave right now” she answered while looking up at Brian warily. She’s been secretly dreading this conversation ever since they became a couple.

“Actually it won’t be a problem,” Brian announced and Raven raised her eyebrow at him.

“What do you mean?”

“I was talking to Amber the other day when I went to pick you up. I begged her to give you time off.”

“Are you out of your mind? I could’ve gotten fired!” she told him when she managed to find her voice to speak, the furious tone she was using getting Zara’s attention and she began to listen, feeling slightly worried. Her mommy and Brian never fight.

“No I didn’t honey Amber and I are good friends remember? And she loves you and says you are her best employee, she would never in her right mind fire you. She said no at first, but I followed her around all day begging and pleading. She finally gave in and said yes and she told me to tell you to have fun. Relax…you didn’t lose your job.” Raven looked at him for a few moments, not knowing how to react to this as many different emotions ran through her at once at what Brian had done for her.

She’s not used to any one taking care of her like this. Not since Zack left her. She has had to become independent and strong since then so that she could be a single mother and raise Zara all on her own. She is used to that and here Brian comes wanting to take care of her all the time. Don’t get her wrong, she likes being taken care of it feels good and she feels loved and appreciated and wanted whenever Brian is around.

She could really learn to get used to it…but he had taken such a huge risk with her job in doing so, whether they’re both really good friends with Amber or not. And as much as she enjoys Brian taking care of her, she still can’t afford to lose her job. She refuses to lose her job and have to rely entirely on him to support her. Not like she did with Zackary…the whole thought terrifies her.

“You still shouldn’t have done that!” She insisted with so much anger in her voice after a moment. With tears forming in her eyes, she got up and grabbed her keys. “Zara come on we’re going home.”

“Raven no! You’re NOT going out in that storm I forbid it!” Brian snapped. It had started raining shortly after the girls got home from the mall, and is now storming very hard.

“Well guess what Brian, you don’t own me!” Raven replied, as Zara got up and walked over to her. She got Zara’s pink jacket and began to put it on her.

“Raven, Brian is right you shouldn’t drive home in that storm.” Kathryn spoke up.

“I’ll be FINE it’s just a ten minute drive.”

“Raven you’re making a big mistake…” Kevin warned.

“LEAVE ME ALONE! I just want to go home!” She picked Zara up then and started toward the door.

“Raven Darkholm if you go out that door I swear I will drag you back in here! I don’t care if you’re kicking and screaming!” Brian demanded.

“You just go ahead and try it, Littrell, and I’ll run you over!” Raven snapped. She opened the door and went outside and just as he promised he would, Brian went after her and before she could put Zara in the car he took her from her.

“If you want to be stupid and kill yourself FINE with me, but I am not going to let you do it with my baby in the car!” Zara wrapped her arms around Brian’s neck and rested her head against his shoulder.

“She is NOT your baby Brian you didn’t help me bring her into this world, the fuck face that did left me!” Raven yelled, breaking down into sobs by now.

“YEAH well I WANTED to Raven! I wanted to and guess what! I wouldn’t have left you like that asshole, because if you haven’t noticed I LOVE YOU! I wouldn’t be standing out here in the middle of the goddamned rain screaming it if I didn’t! You can hate me all you want, but you’re going to do it here, because I’m NOT letting you drive home in this storm! HATE me all you want, but you’re NOT going home! I’m sorry I talked Amber into giving you a few months off but all I wanted was to spend time with you! I didn’t want to leave you behind!” He yelled back and then he grabbed her keys from her and carried Zara back inside the both of them soaking wet.

Everyone had heard their entire conversation from inside, including Nick and Ava because they came out of the kitchen to see what was going on. Brian put Raven’s keys up high where Raven can’t reach them before carrying Zara upstairs as she still has her head rested against his shoulder, and he placed soft kisses on her forehead. As soon as he had her upstairs he took her into his room where Raven and Zara have been sleeping in ever since Raven and Brian became a couple and shut the door. He lay Zara on the big king sized bed and he got her a dry tee shirt and panties from the top drawer. Raven had brought most of their clothes over, and Brian gave them two of his drawers and space in the closet. He went over to her and sat next to her on his bed and he took her jacket off. She lay there looking up at him in tears.

“Brian…”

“Yes sweetie?”

“Is Mommy going to take me home?”

“No, I won’t let her. Don’t worry baby.”

“Are you and Mommy going to break up?” Brian looked at her and looking into her brown eyes he found so much fear in them.

“I don’t know baby, not if I can help it.” Zara didn’t reply, and Brian took her wet shirt off of her, as well as her pants and panties before dressing her in dry warm clothes. As soon as he finished he leaned down and kissed her cheek, and she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly. He returned her hug.

“I don’t want you and Mommy to break up. I want you to be my daddy.” Zara answered, as tears streamed down her cheek. Not knowing what to say in return to that, Brian just pulled Zara into his lap and he held her close for a long time. After a while he got up and carried Zara downstairs and into the living room.

“Where is she?” he asked in a panic when he didn’t find Raven anywhere.

“Outside still…we’ve tried to get her to come in, but she won’t.” Brian sighed and put Zara down.

“Go play sweetie.” She did as he said and while she was doing that he went to the door and opened it. He looked outside to find Raven standing in the rain still leaning against her car with folded arms, and she is sopping wet.

“Are you going to stand out there all night?”

“It’s better than being in there with you,” She answered coldly as she tries so hard to be angry, but Brian could hear the falter in her voice.


“Honey please come inside…” Brian begged his voice gentle. “You’re going to catch a cold.”

“No. I don’t want to live anymore, I want the lightning to hit me” She added as she breaks down, finally letting herself cry. Brian went out there, and he went over to her.

“Why do you want to die baby?”

“Because Zackary hurt me…” She answered tearfully “He left me, and he left my baby and it’s all my fault.” Brian didn’t reply he only wrapped her in his arms, and she rested her head against his shoulder and continued to cry as the two of them stand there in the rain. He gently rubbed her back and just let her cry. When she had calmed down he placed his finger under her chin and lifted it gently so she that she is looking him in the eyes.

“Please come inside, I don’t want to lose you. I already lost one woman that I loved, I don’t want to lose you either. You’re the only woman I could ever love after losing Emily…please don’t leave me…you’re all that I have left. You helped me get over her death and move on and you make me so happy. Please don’t take that away from me. Please don’t take the only happiness that I have left away from me,” He pleaded. She didn’t reply she only wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled him close. She rested her head against his shoulder, and he picked her up. She wrapped her legs around his waist as he carried her inside, closed the door behind them, and put her down.

“Why don’t you go upstairs and get changed into dry clothes? If you really want to take Zara and walk out of my life forever, then I guess there’s nothing I can do to stop you. You can leave tomorrow when it’s not storming. You may not love me, but I love you, and I don’t want to lose you the same way that I lost Emily.” He suggested and he brushed some of her hair from her face and tucked it behind her ear. “You and Zara can have my bed tonight. I will sleep on the couch.” She looked at him in tears for a couple of minutes and then she went upstairs.

Brian watched her until he could no longer see her any more, before wiping his tears away and he went and sat on the couch that no one else is sitting on and just stared at nothing in particular as tears roll down his cheek. Raven went up to Brian’s room and she changed into a white tank top and pajama pants before proceeding to pick up Zara’s jacket and wet clothes. She hung her jacket up and put Zara’s clothes in Brian’s dirty clothes hamper right along with her own clothes. She lay down on Brian’s bed, and she lay there crying. Meanwhile downstairs, after an hour had passed, Ava poked her head out of the kitchen at her brother and friends.

“Dinner is about ready…someone better go tell Raven and ask her if she’s coming down to eat.”

“I will,” Brian insisted softly and he got to his feet and headed upstairs. When he got up there and was standing in the doorway to the room, he found his girlfriend lying on his bed crying. He sighed softly before crossing the room to his bed and crawling inside it behind her. When he enveloped her in his arms she leaned back against him and he kissed her between her neck and shoulder. “Is there anything I can do to fix this at all?”

“You can tell me not to leave…” Raven told him tearfully and she looked up at him. “I don’t want to leave Brian…” Brian tightened his arms around her waist and gently turned her around so that she is facing him before resting his forehead against hers.

“I don’t want you to leave either,” He informed her while gently tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear. “I want you and Zara to stay right here with me, you both mean the world to me.” Raven quietly slid her arms around her neck and buried her face in his chest and when he felt her trembling, he grabbed the blanket and pulled it over them and planted a soft kiss on her forehead.

“I’m sorry I talked your boss into giving you a few months off…you’re right I shouldn’t have done that without your consent. I just don’t want to go five months without you. I want to be able to be with you every minute that I can.”

“I just didn’t expect you to do that, it took me completely off guard and scared me” Raven told him softly and she looked up at him causing him to delicately brush her tears away. “I worked really hard for that job…when Zack left I had to make myself be independent and strong so that I could be a single mom and survive on my own. I had nothing when he left and I don’t ever want to be that way again. I know I have you, and I know you love me and you say you would never leave me. I know you enjoy taking care of me and Zara, and I love you for that. I love having you to rely on and I always feel very taken care of when I’m with you. But I need to still hold onto my independence a little bit Brian. If you, Zara, and I end up becoming an official family in the future, I need to feel like I’m taking care of our family too.”

“I don’t want to take your independence away baby, I like that you love to work and I’m not about to take that away from you. If I felt that talking to Amber would make you lose your job, I never would’ve done it. You didn’t lose your job, it’ll be right here when you get back. But if you don’t want to go, I’ll understand…” Raven brought her hands up and gently cradled his face in her hands before looking into his eyes.

“Do you honestly think I would be able to survive an entire tour without you either? Of course I want to come with you...” she told him softly and Brian grinned before leaning forward and brushing his lips lightly over hers. “But I want to call Amber and confirm all of this with her myself first thing tomorrow morning just so that I will have peace of mind that everything will be here when I get home.”

“Okay,” Brian agreed and he hugged her closer to him causing her to shift so that she is sitting on top of him with one leg on either side of him and she once again cradled his face in her hands before leaning down and kissing him. Brian slid his arms around her waist and kissed her back and when she pulled away, she rested her forehead against his and looked into his blue eyes.

“I love you,” she told him softly.

“I love you too baby, very much…come on, let’s go eat dinner. I’m sure Zara is waiting for one of us to come make her a plate if one of the others haven’t done it already” He told her and he got up with her straddling his hips blanket and all and while she rested her head upon his shoulder, he carried her downstairs. When they walked into the kitchen they discovered Zara already sitting at the table next to Jade contentedly eating her dinner. A small smile formed on her face however, when she noticed things seemed to be better with Brian and her mommy. Brian kissed Raven’s forehead affectionately and brought her to the table and sat her down in one of the two empty chairs left.

“I’ll make your plate baby, you stay here.”

“But Brian I don’t mind—“

“I love that you are independent baby, but you can let me take care of you a little bit” Brian insisted gently and Raven watched him proceed to go over to the food, which to his pleasure is steak, Garlic and Herb Potato wedges, and baked carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. One of Ava’s many specialties. When he returned to the table with both his and Raven’s plates he sat down, put hers in front of her, and looked at Nick and Jade. “It looks really good you guys, I can’t wait to try it.”

“Ava and Jade made the potato wedges and veggies, and I pulled the grill under the back porch cover and made the steaks.”

“Nick was going to help Jade with the potato wedges and veggies, but suddenly got really busy with the grill,” Ava cut in while looking over at Nick with playful narrowed eyes and he flashed an innocent look right back.

“Well I did” he defended and Jade giggled causing Ava to flash her daughter playful narrowed eyes too. She knows they’re conspiring behind her back.

“Well they’re delicious potato wedges and veggies,” Kevin told her gently after swallowing a bite of some potato.

“Yeah Ava, really good” Brian added, making point to try them first.

“Thank you,” Ava told them softly, and she continued to quietly eat her own dinner. Nick reached over and gently slid his fingers through her hair in an endearing way.

“She added her secret homemade seasoning onto the steaks too,” he added while leaning over and kissing her forehead. “In case you were wondering why they taste especially good tonight, it’s definitely not all my doing.” Ava stole a glance at Nick and he flashed her one of his genuine smiles, mouthed I love you and continued eating.

Ava gazed at him in silence for a long moment, before doing the same and AJ who was watching them, noticed the happiness that she used to have before David came into her life and sucked it out of her, was seeping back into her. Nick is bringing her back to life – slowly, but surely. When everyone was finished eating, AJ and Howie organized a cleanup party, insisting that since Nick, Ava, and Jade cooked they didn’t have to be a part of it.

While they were doing that, Nick took Ava’s hand and brought her into the living room and after setting a warm fire in the fireplace, he sat down on a cushion in front of it and gently pulled her down into his lap so that she is sitting with her back to him and the back of her head rested upon her shoulder. He slid his arms around her waist and she looked up into his blue eyes.

“Do you think Raven is going to be okay?” she asked quietly and when he saw the slightly worried look in her eyes, he hugged her a bit closer.

“Of course she will; it looked to me like she and Brian worked things out before they joined us. She just got scared that’s all, you know how she is…she’s probably as bad as you are when it comes to people taking care of her” he joked light heartedly and Ava playfully scowled and stuck her tongue out at him and he laughed.

“Seriously though, they’re going to be okay” he reassured after a moment when he became serious again. “They love each other, they’ll work it out. Couples fight sometimes, they can’t always agree on everything. Don’t worry okay?”

“Sometimes they can’t always make up in the end either though, sometimes they just leave.” Ava pointed out softly and she looked up into his eyes, revealing her fear and the pain she endured again and again from her boyfriends in the past and even from hers and AJ’s father. She and AJ don’t talk about it, but he knows his abandonment hurt her when she was a little girl.

He senses it whenever it’s brought up and knows there’s some big secret that neither of them is telling him. He’s fully aware of how angry AJ was when he left, he makes that no secret to anybody, but it’s affected Ava too, he just isn’t sure how much. He has plans of dragging it out of AJ the very moment he gets the chance though. He feels like he has the right to know.

“Cowards leave,” Nick insisted and he gently tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear before resting his forehead against hers. “But real men like Brian and I who truly love our women, will stick around and work through it no matter how hard it gets.” Ava sat there quietly taking in his words for a few moments, before cradling his face in her hands and kissing him and he kissed her back.

When he pulled away, he brought his hands down to her smooth legs and lightly caressed them; very much liking that she put shorts on. “Just keep this in mind baby,” He began and she looked up at him curiously. “You will be chasing me around in one of those motor chairs for the elderly when we are 80 years old. You can count on that.” Ava couldn’t help but laugh a little and he grinned at his accomplishment.

When everybody had the dishes in the dishwasher and the kitchen cleaned up, they joined Nick and Ava in the living room. Jade who went upstairs, returned shortly after with the Dr. Seuss book Horton Hears a Who. She walked over to Nick and Ava and gave Nick one of her heart-melting can’t-say-no-even-if-you-wanted-to looks.

“Daddy, will you read to me?”

“I sure will princess, come here” he told her gently and he pulled her into Ava’s lap so that she lay back against her while she continued to sit in his lap with her legs bent. He and Ava wrapped their arms around her and Jade happily rested the back of her head against Ava’s shoulder feeling pretty content with the both of them holding her. When she was settled, Nick opened the book and proceeded to read to her animatedly. Soon enough, Zara was sitting next to them on a cushion listening too, and the two of them brought book after book that by the time an hour had gone by Nick had a pile of them sitting next to him.

“Jade, go on upstairs and get your pajamas okay? I will be up in a minute to help you change into them” Ava announced when 11:30 rolled around and Nick had finished reading a The Little Engine that Could.

“Do I have to go to bed?” Jade asked while looking up at her mommy with an instant pout on her face.

“Yes I’m sorry sweetie, it’s getting late and we have things that we have to do in the morning”

“But I want daddy to read me one more book…”

“I read an entire pile of books to you baby, if I read anymore I’m going to end up reading your entire book collection, and then what would we do?” Nick asked while leaning down and rubbing his nose lightly over hers.

“But I want to stay up an’ play with Zara” Jade replied after a moment and Nick planted a soft kiss on her forehead.

“You and Zara can play tomorrow, she will still be here when you wake up I promise.” Jade huffed and before she could work up another protest, Raven spoke up.

“Yeah and anyway Zara is about to head to bed too.”

“Aww…Mommy…” Zara protested, causing Brian to chuckle a bit.

“Come on munchkin go get into bed and I’ll be up to sing you to sleep, how’s that?” Zara smiled really big and jumped up and ran upstairs causing Brian to once again laugh.

“She’s going to want you to sing to her every night now when she goes to bed, you do know that right?” Raven asked and she looked up at him smiling slightly.

“Mhm and I will always be here to do so.” She placed her hand to his cheek and pulled his lips down on hers for a passionate kiss and once he pulled away he set her to the side and got up and went upstairs to tuck Zara in.

“Jade, now.”

“Okay Mommy…” She sighed, and then crawled out of Ava’s lap and went upstairs to her room. She opened her drawer and got out her purple pajamas. They’re a long sleeved shirt, long pants, and they have little pink hearts on them. She sat on the bed and waited patiently for Ava to come up there. A few moments later, she and Nick walked in hand in hand, and she smiled sweetly at them. Nick sat next to her on the bed and began to help her get dressed.

“Mommy”

“Yes baby?”

“What are we doing tomorrow?”

“We’re going shopping with Uncle Alex to buy snacks for the tour, and then a whole lot of packing.”

“No playground?” Jade pouted.

“Aww,” Nick laughed and he looked at Ava with identical pouty lips, considering he is whom she got it from.

“No playground, Mommy?” he asked, causing Ava to giggle and she went over and sat in Nick’s lap as he is now finished getting Jade dressed. She leaned down and kissed Jade’s pouty lips, and then she looked at Nick, placed her hand to his cheek, and kissed him as well and he returned it.

“It’s going to be way too muddy for the playground tomorrow sweetie, but maybe if you’re a good girl daddy and I will take you to the toy store and buy you one toy from each of us. Sound good to you?” She suddenly smiled really big and had that same excited look Nick gets causing Ava to once again giggle.

“Daughter like father…” He smirked and leaned down and began to blow raspberries on Jade’s stomach sending her into a fit of shrieks and laughter.

“DAD-DYYYY, THAT TICKLES, THAT TICKLES!” she shrieked between giggles. Suddenly AJ and Brian walked into the room and AJ chuckled a bit at Nick and Jade. When he finally stopped, he carefully sat Ava on the bed beside him, and then he got up and picked Jade up and he playfully dropped Jade in the middle of the bed, as her head is rested against the pillow causing her to squeal in excitement and giggle once more. He sat beside her and pulled the blanket up on her, before brushing some of her blonde hair from her face and tucking it behind her ear.

“Are you comfortable sweetie?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Did you have fun today?”

“Yes lots.”

“That’s good, because Daddy’s day isn’t complete unless my sweet angel has had a fun day.” Jade smiled really big. “Now daddy knows he can sleep through the night knowing he’s accomplished his goal for the day. Made sure you have fun.”

“I love you daddy,” she spoke softly.

“I love you too baby, very much.” He replied and he leaned down and kissed her cheek. Ava then scooted over so she’s lying on the other side of her and she too wrapped her arm around her and kissed her on the cheek as well.

“I love you mommy,” Jade told her while wrapping her arms around her and giving her one of her Velcro hugs that she knows her mommy loves so much and Ava hugged her back.

“I love you too sweetheart, you are mommy’s everything.”

“Daddy, will you sing to me?” Jade asked hopefully.

“Of course princess, what should I sing?”

“All I have to give.”

“Okay” Nick told her and he began to sing to her. While he was doing that Ava kissed his cheek and got up and she went to AJ and Brian who have been in there the entire time waiting patiently.

“What’s up bro…Bri?”

“Are you two coming shopping with us in the morning like we discussed at dinner?”

“Mhm, what time do we need to be ready?”

“Well we really want to leave here at 10:00,” Brian answered.

“Okay cool we can have Jade and us ready by then, that’s easy.” Brian and AJ both hugged Ava and kissed her cheek before leaving the room and she went back and sat next to Jade again. Just as Nick had finished singing, Jade finally closed her eyes and was asleep. Nick reached over and dimmed the lamp on the nightstand before going over to the big light and turning it off and when he turned around he found Ava standing behind him. He slid his arms around her waist and gently pulled her up against him before leaning down and brushing his lips lightly over hers.

“What did Brian and AJ want?” he asked quietly.

“To double check if we were going shopping with them in the morning. They want to be able to leave at 10:00. I told them we would be ready, does that sound good to you?”

“If it sounds good to you, it sounds good to me baby” he reassured and he gently lifted her up into his arms cradling her and brought her over to the bed. He grabbed his soft bucs blanket that she loves so much, wrapped her in a cocoon, and got into bed on the side that Jade wasn’t sleeping on with her lying in his arms before propping the pillows. When he was comfortable he lay back against them before leaning down and placing tender kisses on her forehead, the tip of her nose, and then claiming her lips for his own and she kissed him back.

~*~*~*~*~

“Has everyone gone to bed all ready? What time is it?” Kathryn asked, as she sits on the couch next to Howie and AJ was sitting on the couch across from them. They’re the only three down there now. Kathryn is sitting close to Howie with her head rested against his shoulder as they’re sharing a blanket. It’s still storming outside and definitely not going to stop any time soon.

“Midnight,” AJ answered, after looking at his watch. “Where is Tierja, she didn’t leave did she?” he asked and Kathryn hid her smile and shrugged her shoulders.

“She’s around here somewhere. She probably went up to the bathroom to get ready for bed…I suppose we should follow everybody’s lead and get ready for bed too, seeing as how we’re waking up pretty early in the morning and have such a busy day and all.”

“Yeah you’re probably right,” AJ responded. “I’m going to go do that. Good night guys,” He added while getting to his feet and going upstairs and Howie and Kathryn exchanged amused looks. When they could no longer see him, Kathryn once again met Howie’s eyes.

“Looks like I’m by myself down here tonight…”

“Oh no you’re not…come get in bed with me, I’m not about to leave you down here by yourself,” he insisted while getting up and taking her hand. He pulled her up from the couch and he led her up the stairs, Kathryn smiling to herself as he did.

~*~*~*~*~

Meanwhile upstairs, when AJ walked into his room, his breath immediately left his lungs when he found Tierja sitting at the foot of his bed wearing nothing but a black pushup lacy bra and matching panties that she picked out from Victoria Secret earlier that day. Her long blonde hair that she had been wearing up in a ponytail all day is now down and she had put on some black eye shadow, black eyeliner, and some lip gloss, making her look sexy as hell.

He stopped short in the doorway, his eyes wide as he looks the woman he’s in love with over and to Tierja’s upmost pleasure, she saw sheer desire in his eyes. While he stood frozen in the doorway not knowing how to react to his shock right then, Tierja got to her feet and walked over to him and he watched her every move as she did. When she was standing right in front of him she cradled his face in her hands and looked into his eyes.

“I’m sleeping in here with you tonight,” she informed him, before pulling his lips down to hers and kissing him. After only a brief moment, AJ kissed her back and deepened the kiss while bringing his hands down to her waist and resting them there. Tierja slid her arms loosely around his neck and pressed herself closer to him, before trailing her kisses from his lips to his ear. “That okay with you?” she spoke softly. AJ shuddered and instead of answering her, he lifted her up and she wrapped her legs around his waist. He closed his bedroom door with his foot and brought her to the bed, laid her in the middle of it, and reclaimed her lips for his own in a hungry kiss while she pulled him down on top of her.

~*~*~*~*~

“I love watching her sleep,” Nick commented softly as he still sat propped up against the pillows with Ava lying in his lap cocooned in his blanket. She has her head rested against his shoulder and was quietly watching him idly run his fingers through their daughter’s soft blonde hair. She had subconsciously curled up close to Nick’s side and had her arm sprawled out across his stomach. “She’s always so peaceful; it makes me wonder what she could be dreaming about.” Ava smiled and reached out and lightly caressed the back of Jade’s hand with her finger.

“Me too,” she told him and she looked up at him and met his blue eyes. “Watching her sleep since she was just a tiny newborn has been my favorite thing in the world to do, because blonde hair or not, she’s always looked like you and it comforted me to see you in her when I was constantly living in fear at David’s house.” Nick lightly caressed her cheek with his fingertips.

“She has a lot of you in her too. She is almost just as beautiful as her mommy is,” he told her gently. “She is the most perfect thing you and I have ever done together, Ava…I love her so much.”

“She loves you too,” Ava told him softly when she managed to keep her emotions in check. “She had so much fun today, I’ve never seen her so happy.” She admitted and Nick rested his forehead against hers and tightened his arms around her.

“Did mommy have fun?”

“After we got all of the emotional stuff done and over with, yes…I really needed today.”

“Good,” Nick told her while lightly rubbing his nose over hers. “Because my day isn’t complete unless you’ve had a good day. Now I can sleep well through the night knowing I accomplished all of my goals for the day,” he repeated his words to Jade from earlier and Ava couldn’t help but giggle even though she really wanted to cry and he tilted her chin up and kissed her softly. Ava slid her arms around his neck and shifted so that she was straddling him before kissing him back. When he pulled away he gently laid her back on the bed between his legs and cradled her face in his hands before leaning down and brushing his lips lightly over hers.

“We’re meeting with my lawyer again tomorrow after we’re done shopping, we should probably get those pictures done and over with so we don’t have to worry about them in the morning” he reminded her gently. “Which injuries should we use as evidence?”

“The ones on my face, arms and back are the most brutal…and my stomach” Ava answered softly and Nick tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear and looked into her eyes lovingly.

“You lay here and relax and I will go down the hall to get my camera okay?” Ava nodded quietly and watched him as he got up and disappeared from the room. He was only gone for a few moments before he returned with his camera and he found her already laying there in her bra and shorts. He resumed his spot on the bed and once again shifted her so that she was lying between his legs with her own wrapped around him and he proceeded to take pictures of the incriminating evidence that will help them get this restraining order. The ones on her arms, her stomach, her face, and then her back and when he finished he placed the camera on the nightstand before grabbing the sides of his bucs blanket and wrapping it around her before leaning down and resting his forehead against hers. She slid her arms up and around his neck and looked into his eyes.

“Are you okay?” Ava nodded quietly and sat up in his lap before burying her face in the crook of his neck. “Just hold me Nicky,” she told him and he tightened his arms around her protectively and maybe a little possessively. Just as she was getting comfortable, the dimmed lamp flickered from the storm outside and then went off, sending the room into complete darkness. Ava looked up at him and he planted a kiss on her forehead.

“I’ll light some candles,” She told him before getting out of his lap. When she was on her feet he watched her as she opened her nightstand drawer and pulled out some scented candles and a lighter and placed them around the room. When she had them lit, she walked back over to him and he slid his arms around her waist and pulled her into his lap again before pulling down her shorts and dropping them on the floor so that she is only in her bra and panties and pulling the blanket up on her.

“Comfortable?” he asked when she slid her arms around his waist and nestled her head into his shoulder. Ava nodded quietly and he planted a kiss on her forehead. The two of them sat there in silence, Ava soaking up all of his hugs and kisses for all it’s worth and Nick looking down at Jade and resuming playing with her hair. When he finally spoke up again he rested his forehead against hers. “Can you do me a favor?” He asked softly. “It would mean the world to me...”

“What?” Ava asked, looking into his gentle blue eyes curiously.

“Can we change Jade’s birth certificate so that my name is on it instead of David’s?”

“Your name is already on it,” Ava revealed and she reached up and lightly caressed his cheek with her fingers. Nick looked surprised and a little curious.

“How did you pull that off when it had to be a secret? Wasn’t David pissed?”

“David doesn’t know I did it because I filled out the paperwork at the hospital right after she was born…I waited until you left the room. He would’ve murdered me as well as Jade if he found out” Ava explained and she reached over and once again opened her nightstand drawer and to his surprise, pulled out a folder that has both Jade’s hospital records with her footprints on it and her birth certificate inside. She handed it to him and when he opened it up and saw his name listed as the father on each of them, tears instantly came to his eyes and rolled down his face. Ava who was watching him lightly brushed them away with her fingers. “I kept it here so he would never get his hands on it. It was my way of respecting you, as well as protecting her. If he ended up killing me I didn’t want him to have any claim on her. Alex doesn’t know it but I went to his lawyer and asked him to write up a will for me and everything stating exactly what I want, and where to find these certificates if anything should happen to me. By all rights she is yours and would’ve gone straight to you.”

“That was really smart of you…” he told her, trying very hard to keep his emotions at bay and he tilted her chin up and kissed her. “Thank you baby, it means so much to me that you would do that…”

“You have to know and understand that it killed me to keep this secret from you Nicky…that’s the majority of the reason why I was having stomach aches during the time that you weren’t talking to me. Watching you with her and knowing how much I was hurting you by keeping this secret from you was slowly starting to make me sick…”

“I know baby, I could see it. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew you were making yourself sick for some reason and I knew my silent treatment was only half of it. I’m not mad at you, okay?”

“You should be,” Ava told him tearfully. “God knows I deserve it…I can’t live with myself, how can you?”

“Because I love you,” Nick insisted and after putting the envelope with the precious papers in them back in the drawer for the time being, he gently turned her over so she was lying on her stomach on top of him wrapped in the blanket. She looked up at him and he rested his forehead against hers and held her close to him. “I love you, and I can’t live without you, god knows I tried my damndest I really did. You were protecting our baby and if it were me in that position I would’ve done the exact same thing. So forgive yourself sweetheart, I have. There is no reason to make yourself sick over it anymore.”

“It’s not that easy,” Ava sniffled. “I was forced to lie to the one person I tell everything to…a part of me died a little inside when he made me do that, Nick.” Nick shifted so that she was lying underneath him on the bed and cradled her face in his hands and looking into her eyes.

“What can I do to make it all better baby?”

“Hate me like I deserve…”
“You’re asking me to do the impossible, honey” Nick insisted gently and he placed tender kisses on various parts of her face. “I don’t have it in me to hate you, nor do you deserve it either. You kept this secret from me to protect our baby like any mother would do and I love you for that. I love that you would go through such lengths to protect our child, even if it means hurting me. Would it have been better if you told me? Yes, because you wouldn’t have had to do it all alone, I would’ve been right here protecting the both of you from that bastard like the way it should have been. But I see and understand why you did it nonetheless. And it’s not like I missed out on anything, I still got to be a part of every single thing that went on in her life from the time she was born, you still made me an important person in her life. If you had kept her from me entirely, it would be a different story.”

“You were never just an important person in her life Nicky, you are the very center of her world,” Ava insisted tearfully. “From the time she first opened her little eyes in that hospital and looked up at you while you held her, she loved you. I think somewhere inside her she knew exactly who you were. It’s why she needed to be like you so bad.”

“I know I’m the center of her world, I’ve never had to work for her love. The question is, am I the center of your world? That’s my ultimate goal right now.” Ava opened her mouth to reply when suddenly out of nowhere, Jade shrieked shrilly and started crying. Ava flinched and both she and Nick turned their attention on her worriedly.

“MOMMY HELP!!! NOOO PLEASE, I’M SORRY DAVID I’LL BE GOOD I PROMISE! MOMMY HELP!” She sobbed while thrashing about in her sleep, her arms and legs flailing as if she is fighting someone off of her. Nick sat up and reached over and gathered her into his arms and held her close to him protectively just as everybody ran into the room, Kevin being the very first one in as he had been awake in his room reading by candle light. Tierja had thrown on one of AJ’s robes, AJ managed to get his boxers on amidst running out of his room, Kathryn and Howie were visibly just sleeping, and Brian and Raven were holding a frightened Zara who had woken up screaming and crying the very second her best friend had – pretty much simultaneously as if they were sharing the same nightmare. Ava sat up with Nick’s blanket wrapped around her to cover her half naked body.

“Shhh, baby it’s okay…it’s only a nightmare” Nick soothed, as he gently rocked her in his arms. Jade continued to fight with him and Nick sat there calmly holding her, Ava gently taking her arms into her hands so she could no longer hit him and he talked to her until eventually she heard her daddy’s voice and finally stopped screaming. Her eyes shot open and met with Nick’s calm blue ones and he looked down at her with nothing but love in them. “Hey you…” he greeted and she threw her arms about his neck, buried her face in his shoulder and continued to cry. He planted a soft kiss on her forehead and continued to rock her in his arms. “It’s okay, daddy’s got you baby. It was only a bad dream” he reassured. Ava gently ran her fingers through her blonde hair and kissed the back of her head softly and after what felt like forever to her, when Jade had finally calmed way down a lot, she turned her attention on Zara and frowned when she noticed tears rolling down her bloodshot eyes.

“Hey…Zare what’s the matter?” She asked, as concern filled her voice and Zara reached for her while sniffling. Brian brought her over to her and Ava gently took her and cradled her in her arms like a tiny baby and leaned down and kissed her forehead, before looking at Raven and Brian for answers.

“She woke up screaming and crying just as Jade had.”

“Aww…poor baby,” Ava replied sympathetically and she hugged her tightly as Zara automatically returned it before wrapping her arms around Jade and hugging her next. Jade wrapped her arms around her in return, and returned her hug, while sniffling still. Everyone else went and sat with them on the bed too, since it’s a queen sized bed. While the two children clung to each other in their laps, Nick turned his attention on Ava and gently cradled her face in his hands before looking into her eyes with that look she knows he gets when he is trying to read her.

“Are you okay?” he asked when he saw her hidden emotions in them. Ava shook her head and rested her head against his shoulder. He kissed her forehead softly and watched her as she looked down at the kids who haven’t let each other go at all.

“I’m sorry you all got woken up…I know some of you were sleeping” she apologized.

“It’s okay sweetie don’t apologize, we’re just happy Jade is okay.” Howie replied, while taking her hand into his and lacing his fingers with hers. Everyone sat there talking for a while before all eventually going back to their rooms. All except for Brian and Raven who are still waiting for Zara and Jade to finally let go of each other.

“Come on Zara, you need to get back to sleep, it’s late. You’ll see Jade in the morning,” Brian spoke up.

“I don’t want to,” Zara whined. “I want to stay with Baby Jay.”

“But baby you and Jade need your sleep.” Raven insisted.

“No…” both children whined, and Jade held onto Zara tighter.

“Can Zara stay with me tonight?” Jade begged.

“Yeah Mommy can I??”

“I don’t know honey; it’s up to Nick and Ava.” Jade and Zara both looked at Nick and Ava with pleading eyes and Brian and Raven also looked at them.

“It’s okay with me. Nick?” Ava asked while looking up at him.

“I don’t mind.” Raven and Brian both kissed Zara’s cheek before getting up and leaving the room. Nick and Ava lay them down, and Zara snuggled close to Jade while Jade hugged her tight being thankful that she’s there. Zara may be younger, but she promised Jade she would always protect her from David, or at least try to and only Zara understands what Jade is afraid of. Only she knows what happens in her nightmares, she hasn’t even told Nick. Only Zara understands how badly they frighten Jade.

“Daddy”

“Hmm?”

“Thank you…”

“For what baby…?” Nick asked all confused, and he lay down and wrapped his arm around Jade, Zara, and Ava, and Ava wrapped her arms around him, Jade, and Zara too as she lay on the other side of the kids.

“For loving me, and telling me that I’m special…Thank you for never hitting me…” Nick looked into her teary blue eyes for a few moments, and then he kissed her forehead.

“I could never hurt the two most important girls in my life. I promise you both” Nick replied, as he pulled Ava closer to them. She rested her forehead against Nick’s, as the four of them share a pillow. Soon both children were finally asleep, and Nick kissed Ava’s forehead and idly played with her hair. She soon fell asleep too and he lay there watching the three of them, until he too eventually fell asleep.
End Notes:
https://twitter.com/UrsTrulyAshee
The Note by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Here's the next chapter. I teared up a little bit while writing this one, for reasons that are my own. Heh.
Anyway, enjoy :-)
Chapter Fourteen: The Note

The next morning Nick opened his eyes and looked down to find both children gone, and Ava still snuggled beside him with her arms wrapped around his waist and her head rested against his shoulder. Feeling him stirring slightly she looked up at him, her brown eyes meeting with his beautiful blue ones.

“Hey,” she spoke softly.

“Good morning baby” He replied, before kissing her forehead affectionately and Ava smiled softly before snuggling deeper into him as this is really the first time since she’s been home that she’s actually woken up in his arms.

“I love waking up in your arms in the morning, I always have” She mumbled into the crook of his neck and he grinned to himself upon hearing that little admission, before rolling them over so that she was underneath him with his arms rested on the bed on either side of her head before raining numerous kisses over her face.

“Good, because you will be waking up in my arms every morning for the rest of our life together if I have it my way, baby girl,” he told her between kisses. Ava brought her arms up around his neck and closed her eyes comfortably causing him to place tender kisses on them, before finding her lips and claiming them for his own.

“What time is it?” he asked between kisses, not bothering to look at the alarm clock on the nightstand. He knows it will be wrong, since the electricity went out last night.

“Seven thirty,” Ava mumbled against his lips and he brought them down to her neck finding his favorite spot.

“You’re awake early,” he told her while lightly grazing her skin with his teeth and she let out a soft moan as her only response as he slid his hands behind her and sought out the clasp to her bra. When he found it she felt him undo it and lightly tangled her fingers in his hair.

“We’re going shopping at eleven thirty Nicky and we have you, me, and Jade who all need to get ready” She spoke softly in his ear. Nick brought his arms down around her waist and in one swift movement he was out of bed with her over his shoulder and she squealed playfully as he proceeded to carry her toward the bathroom.

“Well, there is only one obvious solution to that problem. I can multi-task…want to see how well I can multi-task baby?” he asked her when he was in the bathroom and she giggled as he sat her down on the counter and shut the door before opening the drawer he stocked condoms in when she wasn’t looking.

~*~*~*~

Later on that morning after breakfast, Nick walked into the kitchen with Jade rested on his hip bathed and dressed for the day, in a bright pink shirt with puff sleeves and the graphic on it reads “Love” in white fancy writing and is embellished with pretty glitter and rhinestones. She has on a pink ombre colored soft flowy tutu skirt with a shimmer waist band and to complete the look a matching pink tulle flower headband in her hair that Ava even went as far as curled for her and everything, and pink low top converse shoes. Just as he knew he would, he found everyone except for Raven, Zara, and Tierja hanging out in there, still cleaning up the breakfast mess. When AJ’s eyes fell on his niece he smiled in amusement.

“That is a lot of pink you have on there, Little J,” he commented and Jade giggled softly as he walked over to them, cradled her face in his hands, and kissed her forehead affectionately.

“She picked her outfit out all by herself today and insisted that mommy curl her hair because she wanted to feel pretty - huh princess?” Nick explained and Jade smiled shyly in response and rested her head against her daddy’s shoulder and snuggled into him a tiny bit more. She still isn’t used to him calling her princess; he never did it before they learned the truth. She still can’t get over the fact that she has a daddy and that he loves her, let alone the fact that he calls her princess. Nick hugged her close to him and planted a loving kiss on top of her head.

“Well, mission accomplished there, you look absolutely beautiful sweetheart” AJ told her gently.

“Thank you Uncle Alex,” She told him softly and AJ gave her a warm smile before turning his attention on Nick.

“Where is Ava?”

“She’s locked herself in the bathroom to get ready in peace and playfully informed me that she did not want to be disturbed. So I obeyed her orders for the sake of her remaining happy with me, but Q is standing outside her bedroom door nonetheless” Nick explained rather innocently. “You would think she was getting ready to go on a hot date or something, she’s wearing a dress for the second time in two days. She hasn’t worn dresses in a really long time, and suddenly she’s wearing them all the time now.”

“Because the asshole she begrudgingly lived with for four years wouldn’t let her,” AJ informed him after a moment, deciding he has the right to know that Ava is testing him. Nick arched his brow in curiosity at this information and AJ went on. “The day the two of us had that huge fight and stopped talking for a month, she had brought every single one of her dresses and outfits that he deemed too ‘revealing’ and put them in her closet here after having saved them from the garbage can when he threw them out. He was even telling her what she could and could not wear, because he didn’t want her showing off to anybody. As far as he was concerned, she ‘belonged to him’. It pissed me off and was the last straw for me, everything blew up.”

“So she’s testing me then” Nick responded, suddenly comprehending and AJ nodded.

“She will continue to do so for a while until she fully feels that she is safe with you Nick. It was a big deal to her when you told her she was beautiful yesterday. She is putting all of her time and effort in her clothes, hair, and makeup for you.” Nick nodded as he stood there silently thinking about AJ’s words, suddenly understanding other issues at work here that he had stupidly missed. No wonder she gets nervous and pulls away from him when he tells her she ‘belongs’ to him, David told her that. He doesn’t mean it in the same possessive and controlling way that David does of course, his words are strictly out of love but Ava doesn’t know that because she is used to the poisonous words that he fed her. He would have clarified if he had known his words were scaring her. They will be discussing this later.

“Anyway, Jade and I are going to run some Top Secret errands real quick. If she comes down here looking for me, will you tell her that I love her and will be back right on time to go shopping?”

“Will do,” AJ promised while eyeing the younger man curiously, wondering what he is up to.

“Thanks,” Nick responded and with Jade still rested comfortably on his hip and Raul at his side, he walked out of the house and went to go check on how his big surprise for Ava is coming along. AJ raised his eyebrow wondering why he went out the back door instead of the front and started toward it, only to have Brian grab a handful of the back of his shirt and pull him back.

“Oh no you don’t, McLean, you stay put” He told him and AJ huffed and went over and sat in the chair at the table.

“It’s a surprise for Ava, why does it have to be kept secret from me?” he complained and Brian grinned in amusement.

“Why do you think, J? It’s no secret to anybody that you can’t keep a secret, especially from Ava. You tell her everything and it’s important that she finds out about this at exactly the right moment so we’re keeping very quiet about it. She already knows we’re up to something because she got a peek at what Nick was working on a couple of weeks ago.” AJ sighed heavily, but otherwise accepted Brian’s answer and Brian rolled his eyes playfully.

By the time eleven o’ clock rolled around an hour later, Ava walked into the kitchen that only occupied Brian now, wearing a black and white striped short figure-fit jersey dress with a round neck and long sleeves. She had on black tights, black wedges that zip up in the back, and had left her hair down and straightened. To complete her look she simply put on black eyeliner and black mascara to bring out her chocolate brown eyes that Nick loves so much. She looked around the kitchen for Nick who was ever so slowly becoming her entire world whether she wants to admit it or not and when she didn’t see him or her daughter anywhere, she looked at Brian confused.

“He and Jade are running top secret errands, they’ll be back just on time to go shopping” He explained. “He said to tell you he loves you.”

“Kay” Ava responded, secretly not liking the fact that Nick isn’t close by where all she has to do is look across the room or reach out and touch him if she wants him and she went to the refrigerator and pulled out a can of Dr Pepper. Brian seeing right through her, couldn’t help but smile slightly but otherwise kept quiet on the subject.

“You look nice today,” was all he said and Ava flashed him a small smile. She opened her mouth to respond, when she was suddenly interrupted.

“You look beautiful” Nick corrected, as he had walked in the door right then and heard what was last said. He set Jade down onto her feet and she immediately took off to go figure out the whereabouts of her best friend. Ava’s eyes instantly fell on him and her heart did an entire flip when they met his. Not being able to resist, she ran over to him and flew into his arms, winding her own around his neck. Nick chuckled softly before cradling her face in his hands. “I guess asking you if you missed me would be a ridiculous question, huh?” he asked softly and she rested her forehead against his. “You aren’t allowed to disappear on me like that Nicky; I don’t like not having you near.”

“I didn’t go far sweetheart I promise” Nick reassured while sliding his arms around her waist and bringing her closer to him so that she was leaning against him.

“Are you ever going to tell me what you are up to?” She asked while looking up at him with a small knowing smile. “You know that I know you are up to something.”

“I will when the time is right. Not only are you not ready for it yet, but it’s also not ready to be seen either.”

“When will I be ready for it?” Nick looked into her eyes for a few moments, before gently lifting her up so that she is straddling his waist with her arms still wrapped around his neck and she rested her forehead against his.

“When you aren’t afraid to tell me that you love me,” he answered before gently rubbing his nose over hers for an Eskimo’s kiss. “When you can look me in the eyes and tell me that I am your entire world and that you’re ready to spend the rest of your life with me, I will take you to see your surprise.” Ava gazed at him quietly, wondering what he could be up to before cradling his face in her hands in return and leaning down and kissing him. Nick slid his hands down and rested them on her bottom for support before kissing her back and Brian deciding that he would give them a few moments alone before they have to leave for the store, grabbed up his coffee and book and slipped out of the kitchen. When Nick pulled away moments later, with his forehead rested against hers, he lightly caressed her cheek with his fingertips.

“Are you all ready to go?” he asked and she nodded. “I meant what I said earlier you know, you are beautiful” he informed her before going over to the counter and setting her down on it positioning himself between her legs while she rested her arms on his shoulders. “It’s been such a long time since you’ve worn dresses, why the sudden change?”

“David would never let me wear them,” She answered softly after a moment and after gathering the courage she went on, holding onto the promise that she made to him and herself that she would never lie to him again. “If he truly had it his way, I would’ve been forced to pretty much wear Amish clothing in public and wouldn’t be allowed to show off any skin what-so-ever unless it’s to him, because he owned me. I belonged to him and there was no need to show off to anybody else. He didn’t fully have his way, but came pretty close.” Nick slid his arms around her waist and pulled her a bit closer to him protectively, wanting her to feel safe to tell him this. “I missed feeling beautiful and pretty and wanted to hear you tell me that I am. I needed to know that you wouldn’t try to control me.”

“Did you get your answer?” Nick asked gently. When Ava saw nothing but love in his eyes she nodded quietly and he gently tilted her chin up and brushed his lips lightly over hers. “You need to start telling me when my words unintentionally scare you baby, or else how am I supposed to help you get past this?” He asked still remaining very gentle. “You need to know that when I tell you that you belong to me, I don’t mean it in the possessive controlling way that he did, I mean it strictly out of love. You can wear anything you want and I’m still going to think you are the most beautiful girl in the world and I hope everyone is looking at you, because the difference between that bastard and me is, I like to show you off, and I want them to be jealous that you’re with me and not them.” When Ava didn’t respond he rested his forehead against hers and looked into her chocolate brown eyes as he held her close to him. She slid her arms around his neck and snuggled into him. “Okay?”

“Okay,” Ava responded softly and he rubbed his nose lightly over hers.

“I mean it Ava Marie. You can wear whatever you want. Or nothing, I really like that too.” When he saw a small smile start at the corner of her mouth, he grinned slightly at his small success.

“I’m already naked enough around you; I can never seem to keep all of my clothes on when I’m alone with you” she informed him just before lightly swatting his hand when he slid it up her leg and under her dress and he smirked and gently nipped on her lobe before whispering in her ear.

“It’s because it’s my favorite…you naked in my bed with no makeup on and hair a mess. There isn’t anything more beautiful than that.” Ava rested her head against his shoulder and snuggled deeper into him and he kissed her forehead and hugged her affectionately. “I love you baby…I don’t want you to be afraid of me anymore. If something I do or say scares you, I want to know about it so I can make it better okay?”

“Okay” Ava answered softly as she hugged him back.

“Come on beautiful, it’s time to go shopping” he informed her when he noticed the time on the stove. Before she could move away from him he gathered her up in his arms so he is cradling her against his chest with care and began to carry her into the living room while placing tender kisses on her forehead. When he walked in there he found everyone waiting and a protective AJ and Kevin looked immediately concerned when they saw him handling her as if she might break.

“What’s wrong?” AJ demanded lightly.

“Nothing, all is fine. I have one of my beautiful girls and Brian has the other, so we are ready when you are” Nick answered, noticing Jade sitting on top of one of Brian’s shoulders while Zara sat on the other. AJ shrugged his shoulders and took Tierja’s hand in his before walking out of the house and everybody followed his lead, Kevin locking the door. They all climbed into cars and headed to Wal-Mart.

“Mommy,” Jade spoke up eagerly as she tugs on Ava’s shirt while they were walking through Wal-Mart, Ava holding on firmly to her hand and Q and Raul sticking closely to their side.

“Yeah sweetie…?”

“I gets candy?” She asked while looking up at Ava with the sweetest little puppy dog eyes ever.

“Sure baby, go ahead and pick something out.” Ava answered, and she couldn’t help but smile at how adorable her baby is. After a few moments of deciding, she eventually picked a king sized Twix bar up off of the shelves and Ava eyed her daughter warily.

“Baby do you really need that big of a candy bar?”

“Mommy please?” She pleaded. Ava continued to eye her daughter with a wary look on her face knowing exactly what’s going to happen after she eats all that sugar. Picture Nick’s energy times twenty and that will happen.

“Yeah mommy, pleeease?” Nick’s voice chimed in from behind her and a pair of gentle arms wrapped around her waist. He reached over and grabbed a Twix bar too as they’re his favorite candy bars and always have been. Ava rolled her eyes and smiled. She looked up at him and gazed into his irresistible blue eyes.

“You’re absolutely no help at all,” she informed him with laughter in her eyes.

“Yeah, but you love me anyway.” Nick insisted, and then leaned down and kissed her lips softly.

“Don’t you two ever stop? Get a room, sheesh” Kathryn teased, as she suddenly walked into the candy aisle and Nick and Ava pulled away. Ava looked down at Jade who still stood there holding her Twix bar and looking up at her mommy and daddy with her innocent little eyes.

“Fine…you can have it. But your daddy is going to be held responsible for just how crazy you get when you eat it.” She told her, as she scoops her daughter up and she lifted her playfully in the air and blew raspberries on her stomach making her shriek and then laugh hysterically.

“Mommy stop it that tickles!” She squealed, and Ava stopped and brought her down cradling her and she smiled into her blue eyes.

“You, angel, are so damn adorable it’s not even funny!” Ava told her as she places soft kisses on her forehead. Jade smiled happily and slid her arms around Ava’s neck and hugged her just as AJ and Tierja walked into the aisle.

“What are you three doing to that poor child; we can hear her screaming from all the way on the other side of the store.”

“Ava was just playing with her,” Nick explained while giving AJ a happy look as he too is starting to notice the happiness seep back into her ever since their talk this morning. When AJ and Tierja reached them, he slid his arms around Ava and kissed her forehead lovingly before taking notice of the giant candy bar in his niece’s hand.

“You’re giving Nick’s spawn that huge candy bar, are you insane? You’ll be scooping her down from the ceiling by the time that massive sugar rush I see in your immediate future ends” he teased and immediately felt Nick kick him in the butt and smirked.
“There’s no saying no to her, she gives you her sweet little puppy eyes and has you eating out of the palm of her hand” Ava insisted while leaning down and raining kisses all over Jade’s face making her giggle. AJ rolled his eyes playfully and then gently grabbed Nick by the arm and pulled him away from the group so they could talk in private. Ava eyed them curiously for a moment, but then turned her attention on Tierja who was trying to hide the upset look in her eyes to no avail. Ava handed Jade over to Kathryn and gently took Tierja’s hand and with Q still remaining strictly by her side as if he were glued to it, she pulled her friend away from the group too and spoke quietly.

“So? How did things go last night woman? I’m your best girlfriend it’s my job to pry answers out of you” She asked and Tierja laughed slightly.

“I see how it is…turning the tables one me now, are you?”

“Damn straight, now start talking” Ava answered with a small smile on her face.

“It went exactly the way I wanted it to go,” Tierja answered while eyeing the candy on the shelves.

“Then why don’t you look one-hundred percent happy?”

“Well, I guess I should say it went exactly the way I wanted it to go at the time,” Tierja corrected, looking away from the candy and at Ava instead. “Then we had a conversation about it this morning. It needed to be had, it just didn’t leave me one-hundred percent okay that’s all” she explained softly.

“What happened?” Ava asked concerned and Tierja looked at her, biting her lower lip nervously.

~*~Flashback~*~

Earlier that morning, after making his rounds and making sure people were awake and getting ready for the day, AJ walked down the hall to his room deciding he should probably get ready himself. When he was in the doorway he stopped short when he found Tierja standing in there in a towel. It was then that he remembered he told her she could use his bathroom to get ready. Tierja looked up at him with wide eyes, not having expected anybody to walk in.

“Holy shit…I’m sorry! I forgot you were in here…I….” AJ stammered, trying to find the right words, though all he could do was stare at the beautiful woman he loves as she stands there with nothing on underneath that towel and memories of them sleeping together last night flashed through his head. Tierja laughed slightly and walked over to him and she cradled his face in her hands and looked into his eyes.

“Alex, its fine calm down,” She told him soothingly. “It’s not like you haven’t seen me naked before, why are you so nervous around me?”

“I’m not nervous; I just forgot you were in here, let alone in a towel that’s all. You took me by surprise.” Tierja gazed up at him in silence for a few moments, and deciding that she would let him have his excuse for now, she slid her arms around his neck and pulled him closer.

“Well, get used to it, because I’m not going anywhere” She informed him and he rested his forehead against hers.

“Is that a promise?” he asked softly and whether he wanted her to see it or not, she saw worry in his eyes. Tierja placed her hand to his cheek and pulled his lips down on hers in a soft kiss and AJ kissed her back deepening it. When she felt him starting to take her towel off, she pulled back from him.

“I need to get dressed and put my make up on for the day, and if you really plan on us leaving this house by eleven thirty, you should probably get ready too” She informed him and she laughed at the pout on his face before grabbing up her backpack and going to use the mirror in his bathroom. AJ huffed, but followed her advice nonetheless and proceeded to do what he originally came into the room to do to begin with, not failing to notice the amused smile on her face.

~*~*~*~*~*~

When AJ finished showering and was dressed he slid his arms around Tierja’s waist from behind and kissed the back of her head affectionately before looking at her through the mirror. When he saw the worry in her eyes disappear and the small happy smile take its place on her face, he grinned back slightly and rested his chin on her shoulder.

“Are we going to discuss what last night was any time soon? I know it’s bothering you, and I know the other girls talked you into it. You aren’t the type of woman to have a relationship be all about sex, Tierja, and I respect you way too much to go in that direction.”

“I’m not the type of woman to have it be like that forever,” Tierja corrected him softly, darting her eyes away from him and putting all of her focus on her makeup. “I’m in love with you and always have been, and I can’t live without you, so if it means moving a step forward with you and not being alone and hurt anymore, I’m willing to make that sacrifice for you. But yes I’m eventually going to want more than that, and you’re eventually going to have to tell me what’s scaring you, Alex.” AJ fell silent and Tierja turned slightly and gently cupped his face in her hands and looked into his chocolate brown eyes seriously. “I know you aren’t ready to right now, all I’m saying is, I will go your pace for now like Nick is doing for Ava, but you’re eventually going to have to open up to me.”

“And what if I never can?” AJ asked softly, his eyes guarded.

“Then I will eventually walk away from you and try my damndest to move on with my life, but it will kill me, Alex.” When she saw that she made her point very clear, she turned her attention back on her makeup and hair again. AJ stood there watching her in silence for a few moments, before leaning forward and kissing her cheek affectionately.

“I’ll be downstairs if you need me okay?” He asked softly. Tierja nodded quietly and watched through the mirror as AJ walked away from her.

~*~End Of Flashback~*~

“I probably terrified him, but we had to have that conversation. I told him how I feel; I made it clear that I am not going to wait on him forever, and now it’s up to him to do something about it. That was the right thing to do, right?”

“Yeah of course it was. I’ve been telling him this for a while now, but I think he needed to hear it from you. I can see he’s trying Tier, he really is. He’s just afraid.”

“Do you by any chance know what’s scaring him? Maybe if I knew it would help but he won’t tell me and it’s frustrating me.”

“I have a pretty good idea,” Ava answered and when Tierja looked into her eyes with a pleading look she went on. “We McLean’s kind of have a problem that I’m beginning to realize runs in the family. None of us has ever been in a relationship that has actually worked out. Dad left mom, Alex could never hold onto his girlfriends in the past, and obviously I’m no different either, the worst of them all actually abused me and won’t stop until he kills the one thing besides Nick that means everything to me in this world. So when we find someone that means the world to us, we don’t want to do anything to ruin that,” Ava explained while looking across the aisle, her eyes landing on Nick.

“When he told you that he respects you too much to make your relationship all about sex, he meant it.” She went on after a moment and returned her eyes back on Tierja. “You’re different from any other woman he has ever been with. He’s in love with you and I think like me, he’s terrified of losing you. We both have major abandonment issues…I do anyway at least. It started with my father and didn’t end with any other man who entered my life. I may have been the one who left the last one, but he still broke me.”

“He didn’t break you,” Tierja insisted while pulling Ava into a hug and she rested her head against her shoulder. “I promise honey. I think if you let it, the situation could make you much stronger and if you tried, this cycle of bad relationships could end with you and Alex. You just told me in so many words that you love Nick. Not directly, because you’re a stubborn McLean, and I’m glad you didn’t because he deserves to hear it first, but I heard it in your words nonetheless. If you let go of the hurt and let yourself be open to it, you will realize he loves you too and that you were meant to be with him all along.”

“I’m trying, but you make it sound so easy” Ava mumbled into her shoulder as she hugged her back and Tierja kissed the top of her head.

“I know you’re trying, and there is no rush what so ever. Nick isn’t going anywhere and neither am I as long as Alex starts trying too. The cycle of bad relationships ends with me and Nick.”

“I love you Tier.”

“I love you too sweetie.”

“Alex told me that he’s had Nick picked out as his brother in law from the very beginning…well you need to know that the feelings are mutual the other way around. I’m looking forward to you being my sister in law some day in the future when this all works out.” Tierja laughed softly and rubbed at her watery eyes.

“Me too, but I’m afraid it’s going to be in the far distant future the way things are looking. Your brother is nowhere near ready for an actual commitment right now let alone marriage.”

“I just wanted you to know that, that’s all”

“Well thanks honey, that means a lot to me,” Tierja smiled.

~*~*~*~*~

After spending an hour at the store getting everything that they want and need to stock up all of their tour busses tomorrow, everybody left the store and after visiting Nick’s lawyer and giving him the pictures and discussing important things, they returned home only to find the door wide open.

“Okay…I know I locked this…” Kevin announced worriedly, as he looked at the guys. Everyone cautiously walked into the house and they found it completely trashed. There was things thrown on the ground, furniture thrown everywhere, glass broken, Clothes all over the place—it looks like a tornado or two has been through it.

“Oh…shit…” AJ spoke softly, and then looked around for Ava and he found her standing near him looking around the house with tears threatening to fall—she knows who did this. He reached over and took her hand and pulled her close.

“Who could have done this?” Raven asked softly, not even thinking.

“Think about it…the one person who is trying to get back at ME. It’s between ME and HIM and he’s taking it out on everyone else!” Ava answered, letting the tears fall. “Everyone has to suffer because of me…” AJ sighed and pulled Ava into a hug and he kissed her forehead.

“Sweetheart it’s not your fault and you know it.”

“Yes it is.”

No it’s not.” Nick replied and Ava shook her head in disbelief as Brian too wrapped his arms around her and hugged her close.

“Daddy…” Jade spoke softly, as she tugs on Nick’s shirt. Nick reached over and picked her up and she hugged him tightly as she rests her head against his shoulder and he placed soft kisses on her forehead as he hugs her close.

“Well…let’s all go make sure he didn’t take anything…and then call the cops” Kevin responded, and then took off looking around the house and Ava went straight upstairs. AJ looked at Nick to give him a ‘keep an eye on her’ look, only to see the younger man already following her up the stairs protectively. Just as he reached the top he heard her scream in her room.

“AVA!” Nick shouted and took off running in that direction still holding Jade and everyone else hurried up the stairs frantically after him. When Nick got inside the room he found Ava sitting on the floor leaning against the wall underneath a teddy bear that was hung up on the wall by a knife through it and there’s a note attached. Ava sat there hugging her legs to her chest, her face buried in her lap and she’s sobbing. Everyone else hurried in the room just as Nick grabbed the note and read it.

We know you told him. Was all it said.
End Notes:
https://twitter.com/UrsTrulyAshee
Police Protection by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Here's the next chapter.
Enjoy! :-)
Chapter Fifteen: Police Protection



After seeing what the note said, Nick sighed heavily and after handing Jade over to Tierja and the note to AJ, he went over and sat next to Ava before taking her gently into his arms and she buried her face in his shoulder, put a death grip on him, and continued to cry.


“What does the note say, J?” Brian asked worriedly.


“It says we know you told him on it…”


“And now he’s going to come after my baby, he’s made that very clear” Ava cried. “He knows I told him, and won’t stop at anything until he has her.”


“Well he’s not getting her” Nick reassured while tightening his arms around her. “You know that baby, she has nine people plus our security keeping an eye on her and we’re taking all of the measures to make sure he doesn’t.”


“That restraining order isn’t going to mean anything to him Nick.”


“Look at me baby,” Nick ordered gently and he pulled back from her and gently cradled her face in his hands so that she is looking into his eyes. “If you can’t have faith in this restraining order, then have faith in me instead. I need you to trust me to take care of you and our daughter; can you do that for me?” When all Ava did was gaze at him tearfully, he went on. “You have known me since we were kids, baby. You know I’m not going to let anything happen to either one of you. Not without a damn good fight and if he does manage to succeed, you know I’m going to go after him with a full vengeance. She’s ours, he can’t have her.” Ava shifted so that she is straddling him and slid her arms around him before once again burying her face in the crook of his neck and he slid his arms around her waist and held her close to him protectively.


“You and Jade are mine and I will fight like hell to make sure he doesn’t take you from me. And if that makes me sound a little bit possessive, so be it but the difference here is you are safe with me Ava. You didn’t give me a chance to fight for you when she was born, I’m asking you to give me that chance now.”


“I’m not going anywhere Nicky,” Ava spoke softly into his neck and she tightened her arms around his waist. “Where else would I go? You’re home to me and always have been and you are all I’m holding onto right now to keep me safe.” Nick gently placed his hand at the back of her head and made her rest her head against his shoulder before kissing her forehead and hugging her and while she hugged him back Tierja suddenly spoke up.


“Ava, Nick…we have a situation over here” she announced and Nick, Ava, and everyone else looked in her direction to find her kneeling down in front of Jade who was sitting on the floor leaning against the bed and she has her arms crossed over her chest and tears streaming down her face as Zara sat next to her with her arms wrapped around her.


“Baby Jay what’s the matter huh?” Ava asked while wiping her tears away and she got up and crossed the room to them before sitting down in front of her daughter after Tierja had moved. She gently gathered her into her lap so that she is cradling her, before resting her forehead against hers and gazing into her teary blue eyes. Nick who had gotten up and followed her sat down in front of her. “Huh? Tell Mommy why you’re crying.” After a few moments of silence Jade pulled out what she was hiding face down into her shirt and she turned it over revealing a ripped up picture of her and Nick together that was done professionally at one of his photo shoots. She was three in the picture and it was one of her favorites. On the now ripped picture David had wrote Nick is NOT your father, Jade.


“Oh no…” Ava spoke softly before looking at Nick not knowing what to do.


“He ripped my picture Mommy…” Jade cried, and Ava hugged her closer.


“It’s okay baby, calm down…Mommy has a whole box full of pictures of you and your Daddy.”


“But this one was my favorite picture Mommy, it was special”


“Here baby…let me handle this…” Nick spoke up, and he took Jade from her and placed her into his own lap before cradling her. He gazed into her teary eyes for a couple of minutes as she lay there sniffling.


“You and I will get another picture taken together, how is that?”


“It won’t be the same…” she sniffled. “This one was professionally done, Daddy. And you gave it to me on Christmas. It’s special…”


“Well the boys and I will surely be having another photo shoot soon…Daddy will talk the manager into letting you get your picture taken with me, how is that? We’ll make this one even more special. It’ll be recent and everything.” Nick offered, as he leans down resting his forehead against hers and she wrapped her arms around his neck.


“You promise?” She asked softly.


“I promise.” Jade looked up at him for a couple of moments just thinking as he cradles her in his arms and has his forehead rested against hers still.


“He killed Teddy…” She announced suddenly, and she sniffled.


“Well that’s something that Mommy can fix,” Ava reassured her as she sat Indian style in front of Nick while he sat in the same position and she brushed Jade’s hair out of her face before tucking it behind her ear. “I can sew teddy back up and he’ll look good as new I promise.”


“Really?” Jade asked hopefully.


“Of course…that’s what mommies are for, they make great doctors when it comes to injured teddy bears. Why don’t you take a nap and right when you wake up he’ll be good as new and ready for your snuggles?”


“No…”Jade whimpered.


“Yeah, come on honey you’ve been up since early this morning watching cartoons. You need a nap” Nick agreed with Ava and Jade stuck her lower lip out in a pout. And here she thought her daddy was always going to be on her side.


“I am on your side you silly goose” He told her, reading the expression on her face so well. “But when it comes to my little girl’s well-being, I’m going to side with mommy because she’s always right about those things.” Jade huffed, but otherwise didn’t respond.


“And anyway baby J, Zara can take one with you its nap time for her too.”


“Aww…Mommy…” Zara protested.


“Don’t Aww Mommy me, you’re taking one.” Raven replied, and couldn’t help but smile before looking at Ava.


“Want Brian and I to take her off your hands for a while sweetie? We can put them down for their nap in our room; I brought a lot of Z’s favorite Disney movies over here and everything.”


“If it’s not too much trouble…” Ava responded wanting to get through this emotional situation without Jade around to witness how upset she is any more than she already has. It’s only going to get worse when the cops arrive, which she can see that Kevin is already taking care of.


“Of course it’s not.” Raven insisted while walking over to them and scooping Jade up into her arms while she holds Zara at the same time and she carried them off to Brian’s room with Brian right behind them. She and Brian both hope to god that there isn’t too big of a mess in there. While Ava sat there watching them disappear out of the room, a thought suddenly crossed her mind and she got to her feet and rushed over to her nightstand and threw open the top drawer. When she discovered the envelope with Jade’s birth records in it gone, she turned toward Nick about to cry all over again only to find him standing right behind her and he gently grabbed her face and looked into her eyes.


“Calm down sweetheart, I have them…it’s okay” He reassured her calmly, having had figured out what she was currently panicking over the very second she ran toward her nightstand.


“You have them?” Ava asked emotionally, double-checking she heard him right and he pulled her into a hug.


“I have them, they’re safe” he answered gently while kissing the top of her head.


“Have what?” Kevin asked worriedly when he got off of the phone and Nick glanced over at him to see everybody eyeing them worriedly.


“Ava has been keeping Jade’s birth records, both from the hospital and her official birth certificate hiding in her nightstand drawer for the past four years because she didn’t want David to see them” Nick explained while rubbing his hand over her back soothingly. “They have my name on them listed as the father” He added before looking into her eyes. “She showed them to me last night and I moved them this morning to a much safer place in my room.”


“Where did you put them Nick? Show me, I need to know to have peace of mind. Her birth certificate can easily be replaced, but the one we got from the hospital is special to me. How do you know he didn’t tear your room apart too and find them?”


“Because he wouldn’t have been able to have access to them,” Nick reassured and he gently took her hand into his before leading her out of the room and down the hall to his own. As soon as they were in there, sure enough they discovered it just as trashed as the rest of the house. He brought her into his walk in closet and she watched him go over and sit on the floor in front of a rectangular compartment that occupied his hanging clothes. He motioned her toward him then, causing her to walk over to him and he gently took her hand into his and pulled her down into his lap. She watched him pull the compartment out away from the wall revealing a hidden fire proof safe behind it. He gently made her rest her head against his shoulder and covered her eyes before putting in the code, not removing his hand until he had the folder containing Jade’s papers in them out and had shut the safe again. He opened it up and showed them to her and when relief instantly flooded back into her, she reached up and cupped his face in her hands before pulling his lips down on hers in a soft kiss and he kissed her back.


“You are my hero right now,” she told him between kisses before shifting so that she was straddling him and he instantly slid his arms around her waist.


“Ever since you showed me these papers, I didn’t like the idea of them just being in that drawer of yours, so while you were in the bathroom getting ready this morning I took them. I meant to tell you, I’m sorry I didn’t baby.”


“Thank you for doing that Nicky, I would’ve been heartbroken if he got his hands on these. I never imagined he would break in here…you and my brother live here, in my mind this was the one place he couldn’t touch.”


“I have more room in this safe then I know what to do with, so if there is anything else important that you are hiding in that room that you don’t want him getting his hands on you tell me and I will lock it up for you.” Ava quietly eyed the safe in curiosity, suddenly wondering why he was so secretive about the passcode and the things that are in it with her of all people now that her previous worry was taken care of. Not missing this at all, Nick smiled softly and hugged her closer to him while planting a kiss on her forehead. “I have something in there that I’m not ready for you to see just yet. I will give you access to the safe when you finally do. I’m not hiding anything from you that I don’t plan on eventually letting you see I promise.”


“Nick, Ava, the police just pulled up” Howie warned, poking his head in Nick’s bedroom door.


“We’ll be right there” Nick responded before taking the folder from Ava and while she rested her head against his shoulder and snuggled into him with her eyes closed comfortably, he opened the safe again and returned the important papers to it. When he had it closed up and hidden again he stood up with her cradled against his chest and carried her out of his room and down the hall to hers again. Once they were in there, they only had to wait a few minutes before AJ brought the officer into her room.


“Hi, I’m Officer Drake. Are you missing anything?” The officer asked after taking in the room.

“We haven’t really had the chance to look around yet, but I don’t think so” Nick spoke up while hugging Ava close to him protectively. “He’s only interested in one thing, and that’s to torment my girlfriend.”

“He left this note attached to my niece’s teddy bear with a knife in that wall over there,” AJ spoke up indicating toward Jade’s favorite bear and holding out the paper. Officer Drake took it and after reading what it says, he looked at Ava.

“What does it mean?”

“David is my ex-boyfriend. When he found out that Nick and I were together for one night and that I was pregnant, he forced me to keep the fact that he is her real father secret” Ava answered softly, and Nick gently combed his fingers through her hair and kissed her forehead affectionately. “He told me that if he ever found out, he would take Jade from me and kill her. I kept the secret for four years to protect her but when I left him recently and moved back in with my brother, keeping the secret was making me emotionally sick so I finally told him...”

“Is this his first attack on you?”

“No, there have been a few other incidents where he has tried to forcefully take Ava from us that we have reported and we’re in the process of getting a restraining order” Nick spoke up after going over to the bed, clearing a space, and sitting down with Ava. “We had just come back from talking to my lawyer when we found the place trashed.”

“Well, it’s good that you’re reporting his every move so that it’s on record, but judging by the fact that he wasn’t afraid to break in here and give you a message that was clearly a threat toward your daughter, a restraining order is not going to stop him at this point.” Ava snuggled deeper into Nick, refraining from saying I told you so.

“We weren’t going to rely too heavily on it, but we wanted to get it anyway just to say we took that step.” Nick explained while rubbing his hand over Ava’s back soothingly.

“Well, lucky for you, you’re talking to the right officer. I don’t tolerate abuse against women and children at all and have helped many of them into safe homes and even saw that they eventually got their lives back in the past, so you have my full support in this, restraining order or not. Ava’s obvious bruises and this incident are enough evidence for me. Where is your daughter now?”

“Down the hall in my band mate’s room taking a nap. She was distressed over her teddy bear and favorite picture that he ripped up so we wanted to get her away from it all,” Nick answered after exchanging relieved looks with AJ.

“He ripped her picture?”

“Yeah, this one” Ava answered while reaching over and grabbing the ripped picture that she put on the nightstand earlier and handing it over. The officer nodded and opened his mouth to say something when suddenly his phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the caller ID.

“I have to take this, just a minute” He told them before answering the call and walking out of the room. When he returned minutes later, he had a frown on his face as he looked at Nick.

“Is your Lawyer James Conrad?”

“Yes…why?” Nick asked worriedly.

“That was my partner. We got two calls earlier, this one and a crime scene that we had to be at. So we did a divide and conquer sort of thing. He found your lawyer beaten till near unconscious in his office.” Everybody stared at him in shocked silence upon hearing this information, trying to process it. They had just spoken to James only an hour ago. After what seemed like forever, a suddenly tearful Ava was the one to break the silence.

“Is he going to be okay?” She asked softly.


“He is being sent to the hospital right now as we speak so as of right now we don’t know.”

“And you are sure it was David who did it?” Kevin asked.

“We’re positive. My partner found a note taped to James’s body stating it’s not going to be that easy to keep me away Ava.”

“I want to be kept up to date on him,” Nick insisted after a moment when he found his voice to speak. “He and I are close; he’s had my back in a lot of tough situations.”

“If it’s possible to give you that information I will let you know, I promise. But you may have to go through his family though. Meanwhile, would you consider the possibility of putting the two of them in the witness protection program?”

“My brother and Nick are getting ready to go on tour tomorrow, they can’t afford to go into hiding and I won’t leave them.”

“If going into hiding is the only way to keep that bastard away from you and my daughter, then that’s what the three of us will do” Nick insisted and Ava looked up at him.

“What about the Backstreet Boys? You’ll be letting down millions of fans by not being there.”

“They will just have to do without me for a while, that’s all there is to it. You are my family and my family is in danger. That comes first.” Nick replied while looking at Kevin who surprisingly didn’t look like he was about to fight this to the death. Ava really does have him wrapped tightly around her finger.

“Nicky I couldn’t let you do that. You love being onstage performing…you need it.”

“I need you more, and the decision is mine to make, not yours.”

“We will only go there if it’s absolutely necessary, I just want you to think about it that’s all” Drake responded. “If you do it, nobody outside of the house we put you in will be allowed to have any contact with you what-so-ever until David is caught. He would be waiting for that.” Ava reached out and grabbed her brother’s hand tightly in hers.

“I won’t leave you” She insisted, fighting back the urge to cry with great difficulty.

“Sweetheart, if it comes down to it, if it’s the only thing that’s going to save yours and Jade’s life you will do it.”

“What are you doing for security in the meantime?” Drake spoke up again after a moment.

“We have our Backstreet security guarding her; they don’t leave her side when we go out in public.”

“Is that going to be difficult when you’re touring and need them yourself? I imagine your young teenage fans get pretty crazy.”

“Yes, but it doesn’t mean we won’t figure it out,” Q spoke up from the doorway. “AJ has always had Ava on the road with us since she was eleven so we’re used to watching over her as well.”

“Yeah, but now you have someone out there stalking her every move…I can easily see him trying to take advantage of a very large crowd and attacking when you are most vulnerable. I will provide extra help if you want it.”

“We could never go wrong with a little extra help…” Q agreed after a moment, deciding the officer has a very good point. He can’t afford to be territorial with Ava right now when she and Jade’s life are in jeopardy. AJ can’t share him and Marcus all the time after all. It was easier when she was little, because all they had to do was sit her up on their shoulders and she was fine while they were able to put their focus on the boys, but she’s not so little anymore and there is a possessive man, probably with a gun out to get her. They could use the help. He’s not completely handing her over to this extra help though; they will have to put up with him.

“I’m not trying to come in here and take over, I promise. I can see how protective of her you are” Drake reassured after a moment, not missing the slight territorial look in Q’s eyes. He has a feeling Ava has every single man in this house wrapped tightly around her finger; they all seem highly protective of her.

“She’s the youngest out of the group and until Tierja, Kathryn, and Raven came into the picture, the only girl in the group too. She’s our baby and trust me she knows just how to act like it, of course she has us wrapped around her finger” Q insisted, not missing or finding it difficult to read the look in Drake’s eyes either. Ava couldn’t help but smile softly in amusement.

“Don’t fight over me boys; protecting me from David is going to require a team effort. There’s enough of me to go around.”

“Not too much of you to go around though,” Nick spoke up, tightening his arms around her and smiling. “I may not be as possessive as David is, but I’m sure as hell not sharing you either.” Ava shifted so that she is straddling him and while he slid his arms around her waist she rested her hands on his shoulders and leaned up and kissed him causing him to kiss her back lovingly.

“Don’t worry Nicky, there is only one man in this whole world that I want to belong to,” She told him between kisses and when she pulled away, he rested his forehead against hers and looked into her eyes working very hard to hide the emotion in his own, to no avail. She saw it and knows how happy she made him by saying that. It’s not I love you, but he knows she is getting closer and closer to it.

“Don’t mind them, they never stop. When are we going to be meeting this extra help?” Q spoke up again after rolling his eyes playfully.

“I could have them ready to go when you are, what time are you leaving tomorrow?”

“12 in the afternoon,” Kevin was the one to answer. “We will be getting on our tour busses here.” Drake nodded and sat there quietly thinking for a few moments, his eyes landing on the teddy bear that no one’s gotten around to taking down yet.

“You say that’s Jade’s favorite teddy bear?”

“Yeah, I’ve promised to have it sewn back up for her and good as new by the time she wakes up…I should probably get on that” Ava responded while getting to her feet and going over to get the teddy bear down.

“Does she take it with her everywhere she goes?”

“Yes she does. I’m surprised she left it home today, because she rarely goes anywhere without it. Nick gave it to her when she was a baby.”

“I know what you are thinking, and it’s a good idea” Q spoke up, once again reading the look on Drake’s face. “If you can do it, then do it.”

“Do what?” Ava asked curiously, and slightly amused. As much as Q wants to be territorial and not like Drake, he’s visibly having a very hard time. She predicts they’re going to be best friends within two weeks of being on the road together.

“If it’s okay with you and Nick, I was thinking how convenient it would be to put a tracker in her teddy bear so we would always know where to find her. I can have one in it in no time and you would still be able to keep your promise to have it sewn back up before she’s awake.” Ava looked over at Nick and saw he didn’t need any convincing about this, he’s sold.

“If it means knowing where my daughter is at all times, I’m okay with it. Ava?” he asked, looking over at her, wanting to include her on any decision he makes so that she knows she has just as much say in their relationship as he does.

“Okay,” She agreed and Drake pulled his phone out of his pocket.

“I’ll have my partner bring a tracking device then and call my captain and discuss all of this with him. In the meantime, you all should probably check to make sure nothing was taken and everything is normal around here just to be on the safe side.” When he walked out of the room, Nick got to his feet and walked over to Ava and wrapped his arms around her while looking over at AJ who looked at Q.

“This is a good thing Q; we need police protection on our side.”

“I know I’m just feeling a bit on the territorial side that’s all…I’ll get over it as long as I’m involved in everything…I’ve never not been in charge of Ava and Jade’s safety.”


~*~*~*~*~*~


The next day Ava awoke early to the sound of Jade’s excited squeals downstairs, and reached over to wrap her arm around Nick, only to discover him not there. Feeling confused, she opened her eyes and glanced at the clock to see that reads six am. When she managed to wake up all the way, she crawled out of bed and ventured downstairs as the smell of breakfast filled the house. Nick is sitting on the floor playing with an overjoyed Jade and Zara, and to her surprise Denise is there.


“Mommy!” Jade cheered the moment she saw Ava enter the kitchen, as her mommy is her favorite person in the world right now. Just as Ava had promised, when Jade woke up from her nap yesterday, her teddy bear was good as new like nothing ever happened to it. The smile on her face, the way her eyes lit up and how she looked at Ava as if she were a real hero all because she fixed her teddy bear had made Ava feel really good inside. Especially when she was rewarded with a Velcro hug and an I love you Mommy.



“Hi baby,” Ava replied, forcing a small smile on her face for her daughter before going over to Denise.



“Hey Momma…what are you doing here?” She asked while pulling her into a hug.



“I’ve been asked to go on tour with you and I agreed so that I could spend more time with you.”


“Oh, well that’s cool” Ava responded casually even though it’s very obvious that she’s beyond thrilled about this information. She has only seen her mom once since she’s been home and she misses her.


“You are up really early,” AJ announced, as he turned and looked at Ava to find her sitting in Denise’s lap shamelessly. She is the baby and she definitely knows how to act like it.



“I heard Baby Jay and woke up...It’s a habit I’ve developed from living with David over the years.”

“Oh…”


“And I smelled breakfast and knew it was you cooking so I had to come down here—wouldn’t miss out on your cooking ever.” Ava told him, again forcing a small smile. AJ laughed in amusement even though he did notice her fake smiles.



“I would have woken you.”



“Aren’t you just a little too old to be sitting in your Momma’s lap, Ave?” Kathryn spoke up. Ava wrapped her arms around Denise and hugged her while resting her head against her shoulder.



“Absolutely not,” She answered as Denise smiled softly and returned her hug and AJ rolled his eyes playfully.



“She’s a Momma’s girl and has been since she was little. She’ll never leave her side the entire tour, watch.”



“You’re just as much of a Momma’s boy as she is a Momma’s girl, Alexander James McLean.” Denise spoke up in a scolding tone, making AJ lower his head and the guys all laugh. Ava smirked.



“You got told, Ha-ha,” she teased.



“Shush you” AJ replied while shaking his head smiling and he turned his attention back on breakfast. Ava stuck her tongue out at him behind his back making everyone laugh once again and AJ turned and looked at them causing Ava to quickly stop and act normal. AJ raised his eyebrow.



“What’s so funny?”



“Nothing Alex, nothing at all…” Ava answered innocently and AJ stared her down, not trusting her in the least bit.



“…Right, you’re not Nick’s best friend for nothing.”



“Well I’m glad you pointed that out big brother, but I’m getting kind of hungry” Ava announced.



“Yeah dude, today would be nice.” Howie laughed. AJ scowled and once again turned his attention back on breakfast. Ava smiled and got up and went up behind him and she wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her chin against his shoulder.



“I love you Alex…” She told him with an innocent smile on her face.



“Yeah, yeah…” He replied, and wrapped one arm around her before pulling her around in front of him. He hugged her close to him and rested his cheek against her forehead while he continued to make breakfast. She stood there with him for a few moments, before going over to Nick and the kids and she sat sideways in Nick’s lap. He wrapped his arms around her waist and looked into her eyes.



“You are very unusually obnoxious considering it’s so early in the morning. You’re normally very grumpy when you wake up at six AM.”



“Well I had a very good night’s rest,” Ava told him, before placing her hand to his cheek and bringing his lips down on hers in a soft kiss.



“Daddy it’s your turn,” Jade spoke up, causing Nick to pull away from Ava’s kiss remembering he’s in the middle of playing mouse trap.


“Sorry baby,” Nick laughed and then turned his attention back to the game. After going his turn he looked back at Ava again resting his forehead against hers and he gazed into her brown eyes.



“You’re really good at distracting people, you know that?”



“Especially certain daddies” Jade added, making both Ava and Nick laugh.



“That’s right, especially certain daddies.” Nick agreed in a mock lecturing tone while making that goofy face he always makes and Ava giggled. He smirked at his accomplishment of getting her to smile for real for the first time all morning and he kissed her forehead and continued to gaze into her eyes.



“How come Baby Jay was so excited earlier? I could hear her from all the way up in my room.”



“Your mom walked in and she got all excited to see her.”



“I don’t blame her, I’m happy to see her too” Ava admitted as she glanced over at her mother who was in the middle of a conversation with Kevin and she rested her head against Nick’s shoulder. Her mom may have forgiven her when she came home, but she never really got to spend any time with her after that one morning, so she’s still kind of feeling guilty. They’re going to have to do a little mother and daughter outing and go the mall or something the moment they get the chance.


Nick who was paying very close attention to her while he was playing with the kids, gently brushed her bangs to the side and kissed her forehead affectionately, causing her to slide her arms around his waist and with her head still rested comfortably against his shoulder she quietly watched him and the kids play. By the time the game was over and Zara had won, breakfast was ready so while Nick helped them clean up Ava made Jade’s plate, then hers, and just as she was half way through making Nick’s, he came up behind her and slid his arms around her and kissed the top of her head.



“Are you making my plate for me baby?” He asked incredulously.



“You’re always doing nice things for me; I wanted to do something nice for you.” Nick quietly gazed into her eyes and when he saw her genuine desire to please him because she cares about him and not because she feels like she needs to he hugged her close to him. She leaned back against him and continued to do what she was doing and he kissed the side of her head.



“I love you,” he told her softly in her ear and when she finished she turned and handed the plate to him. He leaned forward and kissed her softly before going over and sitting down at the table, leaving the chair between him and Jade empty for her and she grabbed up Jade’s and her own and followed.
End Notes:
https://twitter.com/UrsTrulyAshee
Crazy by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
For those who don't follow me on twitter and therefore don't know, I'm going to be getting weight loss surgery done on the 20th. I have no idea how capable I am going to be of writing afterwards, so if I don't update for awhile, that's why. In the mean time, here's the next chapter. I will try to get one more up before the 20th, but you guys know how I am lol.
Enjoy :-)
Chapter Sixteen: Crazy




“Are you ready to go Ava? The tour busses are here, and so are Luke and our new security members. AJ wants you to especially meet Luke.” Nick questioned while walking into her bedroom with Jade naturally rested on his hip. She has her head rested against his shoulder and is sucking her thumb on one hand and clutching her teddy in the other. She hasn’t let it out of her sight at all since she got it back from Ava yesterday. He appeared in the bathroom to find Ava standing in front of the mirror, just staring into it. She has on a black double collar halter top that zips up in the front. It adorns rhinestones on the collars and side buckle belts. She has on denim blue jeans, her lace up platform boots from sketchers, and she left her hair down and straightened it. To complete her look, she was wearing black eyeliner and pink lip-gloss. Ava scrunched up her nose and looked over at him.


“And what if I don’t want to?”


“Honey, he is a really nice guy…Jade and I have both met him and he seems like the type of person you would get along with.”


“He may be a nice guy, but he is also a possible threat to my brother too.”


“It is not his fault Tierja is attracted to him and you know it. Maybe your brother needs a little competition around here to light a fire under his butt. You know he is never going to let anyone steal her away from him.” Nick insisted and he reached out and slid one arm around her waist before pulling her near and he rested his forehead against hers.


“You look gorgeous,” he told her, everything in his eyes telling her he wants nothing more than to unzip that shirt right off of her and have his way with her, and would if he wasn’t currently holding their daughter in his arms and didn’t have a bunch of people downstairs waiting for them. “Is it your goal to make me completely crazy? Because it’s working...”


“I do like it when you’re crazy about me,” She admitted, a small smile on her face and she gently took their daughter from him and while she slid her arms around her neck and rested her head upon her shoulder instead, Ava proceeded to walk out of the bathroom, taking great care to shake her hips seductively knowing full well that he is looking and she smirked when he groaned and hurried after her. By the time they got downstairs she took his hand into hers and laced their fingers together as she heard the voices of all of the men she doesn’t know and will have to put her trust in just outside. She is only just learning how to trust her best friend who she has known for ten years again; she doesn’t know how she is going to be able to put her life in the hands of complete strangers. Nick squeezed her hand gently and brought it up and kissed the back of it causing her to look up at him and meet his eyes.


“They know you are shy, AJ warned them all ahead of time and all of them are expecting you to be wary of them at first anyway because of how David treated you. So there isn’t any pressure for you to be warmed up to them right away. Just know that I’ve got you okay? I would never let anyone hurt you.” Ava nodded quietly and with her hand still in his, he took the lead and proceeded to take her outside and over to where AJ was standing with Q, Drake, and three guys she doesn’t know. When they noticed them approaching they turned their attention on them.


“You must be Ava,” A man with shoulder length light brown hair, light brown eyes, and a short goatee that circles around his mouth and across his chin reminding her slightly of her brother greeted as he watched Nick slide his arm around her waist and pull her and his daughter close to him. He was wearing a black tee shirt, dark denim jeans, and a black leather jacket which Ava noticed right away was concealing his holstered gun. “I’m Demyan Dombrovski.”


“Hi Demyan, it’s nice to meet you” Ava spoke softly. “Are you going to be my bodyguard or Jade’s?”


“Jade’s – Stefan here got nominated to guard you” Demyan answered, indicating toward the other man standing beside him. Stefan has short dark brown hair that reaches just below his ears with slightly curly bangs that comes to a rest over his forehead and dark brown eyes. Like Demyan, he too has slight facial hair. Stefan’s circles his mouth and outlines his chin and the bottom of his cheeks and he has sideburns that are the length of his ears. He has on a light blue hoodie and black jeans. She can’t see his gun, but she suspects it’s under his hoodie somewhere.


“That’s if that’s okay with you, we can have it any way you want. I’m Stefan Ivanov,” He added gently.


“It’s nice to meet you Stefan, and no that’s fine” Ava responded, taking note of the slight hint of a Russian accent in both of their voices, and their names are very Russian too, so they’re obviously from there. She briefly wondered how two Russian men ended up in the American Police department, but kept it to herself for now. She has a whole bus ride to get to know them and has every intention of politely grilling them later. They are going to be looking after her daughter after all. She’s not going to blindly sit back and let Q and Drake run everything. She loves Q, he’s like family too her and he’s been protecting her, her entire life. She trusts him with her life whole heartedly. She knows Drake is a police officer and everything, but she wants to know everything that’s going on and everyone involved in protecting her. It’s the only way she is going to be able to put her trust in these guys. She turned her attention on the third man standing there that she hasn’t yet met but knows is Luke. He has curly golden bronze hair that touches the bottom of the back of his neck and blue eyes. He is wearing a black tee shirt with a skull graphic on it, the short sleeved shirt revealing all of the tattoos on his arms and jeans, and red converse shoes.


“And Ava, this is our new guitar player Luke,” AJ introduced when he noticed his sister’s focus was on him. Ava glanced up at Nick just long enough for him alone to notice the look of surprise in her eyes that he was right before leaning against him and looking at Luke again. He does look like someone she would be friends with.

“Hi Luke, it’s nice to meet you” She told him politely and Nick smiled softly and slid both of his arms around her waist and turned her sideways so that she was facing him and leaning against his chest with Jade between them. He kissed her forehead, everything in his demeanor saying I told you so. No one else would ever notice the silent banter going on between the couple, but Nick and Ava have known each other for a very long time and don’t need words to tease one another. With an exception of playfully pinching him in the side and subtly pressing herself into his obvious bulge, she ignored him and kept her eyes on the guitarist she was in the middle of meeting, smiling softly when she noticed him fight back a yelp and just barely managed to remain perfectly calm.

“Likewise,” Luke responded gently. “Your brother tells me you play the guitar yourself.”

“Yes I do,” Ava answered while resting her head against Nick’s shoulder lovingly. “I’ve been playing from the time I was old enough to pick up a guitar and start strumming – completely self-taught.”

“Nice, I will have to hear you play some time,” he responded. Ava opened her mouth to reply when suddenly she was interrupted.

“J, come on. The drivers want to leave” Kevin announced, poking his head out from his bus. Nick gently guided Ava and Jade over to their bus with Drake, Demyan, Stefan, and Q following close behind them while AJ and Tierja went to theirs and Luke went to the bus specifically for the crew. When Nick and Ava were on theirs they discovered Kathryn, Brian, Raven, and Zara already on it. For the sake of their children and everybody’s sanity, they thought it be best that Jade and Zara don’t get separated. Kathryn however, is quite a surprise, Ava was sure she would want to ride on Howie’s bus.

At the sight of her best friend, Jade squirmed her way down from Ava’s arms and ran over to join her. When Nick saw that Brian and Raven were more than happy to accept her into their playgroup and were keeping an eye on them, he turned his utmost attention on Ava with playful narrowed eyes and she smiled up at him innocently. Before he could reach out and grab her, she turned and walked over to Jade and sat down beside her before gently taking her into her lap, planning on dragging this torture on for as long as possible.

He told her she was making him crazy, she wants to show him just how crazy she can make him. And besides, it thrills her. David never got crazy over her like this. He had all of the control in the relationship, and if she ever pulled a stunt like this on him he would beat her. She watched in amusement in the corner of her eye as Nick debated on whether he should playfully drag her into the back room, or let it go. After a full moment, he decided he would let her have her fun for now and let it go, but there will be payback. Two can play this game. Shaking his head, he turned his attention on the ‘security talk’ that was going on between Q and the police officers wanting to be involved in all things to do with the safety of his girls and Ava looked at Kathryn.

“Hey lady, not that I’m not happy to see you or anything, because you know I am. But what are you doing here?” she asked curiously, gently nudging her in the foot with her own as she sat across from her. “You and D have been pretty close lately; I thought you would want to ride on his bus.”

“D and I are just friends Ava,” Kathryn insisted when she noticed her young friend wriggle her eyebrow playfully and Ava smiled in amusement.

“With some pretty awesome benefits from the looks of things…”

“It’s not like that” Kathryn responded and Ava laughed.

“Then why are you blushing?” she asked and Kathryn threw a pillow at her, making Ava quickly dodge it and smirk.

“Only one woman is allowed to be in denial in this group at a time, Kat. Don’t go turning into me now.”

“Well I’m glad you’re finally admitting you are in denial” Brian spoke up in amusement.

“We’re not talking about me, we’re talking about Kathryn here” Ava insisted stubbornly. “With the two of you being just friends and all, I figured you would want to ride on his bus.” She amended, keeping up her playful banter, wanting to drag information out of the older woman. She knows she is keeping secrets from her she can sense it. Brian rolled his eyes playfully, but otherwise kept quiet and let the baby of the group have her fun. He knows she is like Nick, and once she gets started there is no stopping her.

“I just thought I would spend time with you and Raven, that’s all” Kathryn finally answered, her eyes discretely going toward the other side of the room where the officers and Q stood, Ava noticing in the corner of her eye that they landed on a certain very hot dark haired Russian bodyguard. Ava smirked in utmost amusement.

“With Raven and I huh?” was all she said, knowing those highly trained security guards can probably hear the smallest thing and notice the smallest details and she wouldn’t do that to her best friend no matter how big of a pain in the butt she likes to be.

“Yup,” Kathryn answered innocently. “And besides, he has Kevin with him on his bus. You know how those two are when they’re on the road.”

All about business, I know. Nick and I learned how to avoid being stuck alone with them a long time ago.”

“I’m surprised Nick managed to avoid having AJ with us, he was all about you being in his eye sight at all times last night” Raven responded.

“It helps to have him wrapped tightly around Tierja’s finger and her around his heart; he’ll do whatever she wants him to do. That and Q bribed him in order to keep the peace” Brian explained.

“Bribed him with what?” Ava asked amusedly, wanting to know what it takes to get her highly protective brother to back off. She’s never been able to accomplish that before, she didn’t think it could be done.

“He’s buying him Starbucks and breakfast every morning for a month.” Ava sat there in stunned silence for a long moment until she suddenly felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. She reached in and pulled it out and looked at it curiously to see that it reads Nick. She glanced his way and noticed him talking to security, though she recognizes that mischievous smile on his face nonetheless. Rolling her eyes playfully, she looked down at her blackberry and opened the message.

Just wait until I get you alone, you little minx…you’re in a world of trouble. Ava held back a snort and proceeded to reply. She is surprised that playful threat doesn’t terrify her, considering all things.

Oh I am, am I? she typed and then pressed send.

You better believe it, baby. You’re playing with fire.

Well I hate to burst your bubble Nickolas, but that’s going to be an awful long time from now. We share a bed with our daughter all night.

You can’t hide behind Brian, Raven, Kat, and the kids all day.

Watch me. She waited and when she didn’t get a response, she hugged Jade closer to her.
“Who wants to bake brownies?”

“I DO!”

“ME!” both girls exclaimed excitedly, their little eyes going wide.

“Great, looks like it’s unanimous – lets go” Ava told them with a big smile on her face, and she got up with each girl rested on her hip and brought them over to the kitchen, the feeling of Nick’s eyes on her not going unnoticed.

“Well, that came way out of left field…” Raven told Brian and Kathryn quietly, the three of them eyeing their youngest friend with surprised looks.

“I have a feeling she’s pulling the female Nick card and Nick just happens to be on the receiving end right now,” Brian told them amusedly, as the couple’s conversation through text and Nick’s uncomfortable predicament hasn’t gone unnoticed by him.

“Still, for her to decide to bake something all on her own is a pretty amazing step toward recovery. And the fact that she is able to tease Nick at all without being afraid of pissing him off says a lot too” Kathryn insisted.

“She’s a McLean, she’s a fighter. I knew it wouldn’t take long for her to bounce back, I’ve had faith in her all along” Brian insisted. “David didn’t break her, no matter how much she would like to think so.” Nick let Ava spend the time baking with the girls simply for the fact that it’s good for her, but he kept up his relentless texting nonetheless, being sure to explain to her in perfect detail just what he was going to do to her the moment he got the chance and enjoyed watching her squirm as he aimed to make her feel like he was touching her even though he was clear across the room. When he noticed her just putting the batch in the oven and the kids had run off to play again, he walked up behind her so that she was trapped between him and the counter as she was in the middle of wiping it up and slid his arms around her waist. She looked up at him with that all too innocent look in her eyes, though he could see the need for him in them anyway, especially when she felt him press his erection up against her.

“I am through with playing games with you,” he informed her softly in her ear and she fought back a moan as he slid his hand down between her legs and placed loving kisses on the back of her neck and shoulder. “Either you let me drag you back to our bunk, or we shut the door and make love right here and now, take your pick sweetheart.” Not having the strength to play hard to get anymore, Ava turned around to face him, brought her hand up and cupped his cheek in it and pulled his lips down on hers for a kiss. Nick moaned softly and kissed her back hungrily. When she pulled away minutes later he rested his forehead against hers and looked into her eyes.

“Make your decision baby, you’ve got about five seconds before I pick you up and put you on this counter” he told her quietly.

“Kat,” she spoke up, managing to keep her voice normal.

“Yes Ava?” Kathryn asked amidst playing video games with Brian, Raven, and the kids.

“Will you check on the brownies for me and take them out when they’re done, please?”

“Uh huh, will do” Kathryn promised, and Ava slid her arms around Nick’s neck just as he picked her up and proceeded to carry her into the bunk room shutting the door behind them.

~*~*~*~*~

“Alexander James, will you please relax? Your sister is fine” Denise lectured as she watched him stand at the window of the bus and gaze out at it agitated. Tierja had fallen asleep in the other room in front of the television after cuddling with him on the couch.

“I’ve never not had her with me on the road, Momma.”

“I know that, but she’s in a relationship with Nick now. Protecting her isn’t just your responsibility anymore, you have to learn to trust that he is just as capable of doing so too.”

“He doesn’t know everything that goes into protecting her, mom. There is a reason she has been kept in my eye sight at all times all these years.” AJ reminded, turning and looking at her with a serious look that she would understand.

“Then maybe it’s about time that you told him” Denise responded back just as seriously.

“I promised her that I wouldn’t. She wants that part of her life to stay buried.”

“What are you going to do when Nick proposes to her and she marries him and…oh I don’t know…decides she wants to move out?” Denise questioned and AJ looked at her like that’s the craziest thing he’s ever heard. “She’s not going to want to share that house with the five of you forever you know, and neither is he. You have to face the possibility that it could happen. And if it does, don’t you think Nick should know? Besides the fact that he is her best friend and could very well end up her husband someday, if god forbid she should relapse, he will be the one there when it happens. And he’s not going to have time to call you up and demand to know what’s going on with her, all of his focus will need to be on her.”

“Fine, you have a point” AJ responded softly and he turned and looked back out the window. Denise gazed at him quietly for a long moment, before going over to him and gently making him look at her.

“She’s still your baby sister, that’s never going to change and its always going to be your job as her brother to protect her. But I think it’s time you welcomed Nick into her circle of protection too so that it’s not all on you. He loves her; he has a right to know.”

“And what about the promise I made to Ava, huh?”

“I think the two of you should tell him together. She’ll do it if you convince her to, she always listens to you. If they’re going to be in a relationship, he deserves and needs to know everything about her.”

“Okay,” AJ agreed softly and he turned his head to continue to stare out the window, only to have his mother gently take him by the arm and pull him away from it.

“Now quit your worrying and come play checkers with me and we’ll talk about Tierja next” she added with a small smile on her face and AJ huffed and rolled his eyes. There are upsides and there are downsides to having his mother on the road with them.
End Notes:
https://twitter.com/UrsTrulyAshee
Daddy Kev by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Here's the next chapter. Finally, huh?
Enjoy =)
Chapter Seventeen

“If this is your way of punishing me, I’m going to tease you more often” Ava informed Nick softly as they lay in bed together coming down from the love they just shared. He had brought her in the bunkroom and had all of her clothes off in seconds and he wasn’t kidding when he told her she was in a world of trouble. He touched and teased her every bit as much as she had teased him earlier and more and wouldn’t give in until she was pleading with him and when he finally did, it was the best sex she’s ever gotten from him. She was currently lying on her back on top of him, the both of them wrapped in their blankets and she was comfortable. Nick chuckled softly and tilted her chin up and leaned down and brushed his lips lightly over hers.

“I’m okay with that,” he told her, tightening his arms around her. “I like it that you feel safe enough to tease me.” Ava looked up at him and he delicately caressed her cheek with his fingertips. “Just be prepared for me to retaliate, that’s all.” Ava gently grabbed his chin and pulled his mouth down to hers and kissed him while the back of her head was rested against his shoulder and he kissed her back lovingly. When he pulled away he rested his forehead against hers and she looked into his captivating blue eyes, silently thinking how much she worships him and she wants to do something nice for him. Something special at their hotel the moment she gets the chance.

“We should probably go check on baby J,” She informed him softly. “And I can smell those brownies all the way from in here; Kat probably has them out of the oven by now.”

“Should we go take a quick shower?”

“No, because then I will have to go through the whole process of blow drying and straightening my hair again. I already have to re-do my makeup,” Ava informed him and Nick rolled his eyes playfully.

“I don’t know why you bother; you look beautiful with or without all of that stuff.”

“Because I’m a woman, and that’s what we do” Ava told him before crawling off of him and out of bed. She gathered up her clothes and was about to rush to the bathroom, only to have Nick gently grab her hand while he still lay in bed. She looked at him curiously.

“I love you,” he told her, before reaching up and cupping her face in his hands and pulling her lips down on his and kissing her one last time. When she pulled away, she forced herself to breath and then continued to make her way to the bathroom, which was further back on the bus. Everyone is in the front of the bus, so she knows nobody is going to see her. Nick crawled out of bed himself and followed her in there, and while she got dressed and re-did her hair and makeup, he had a quick shower and got dressed himself before venturing toward the front of the bus again. When he walked out of the bunkroom, Jade spotted him amidst playing Mario Kart.

“DADDY!! Come watch me kick Brian’s butt in Mario Kart! I knocked his guy in the lava FIVE times!”

“That’s my girl” Nick told her, laughing at the pathetic look on Brian’s face. He’s never been able to beat him either.

“Laugh it up over there Carter; just wait until we hit the basketball court later. That’s one thing I can beat you at.” Nick rolled his eyes playfully and went into the kitchen where the brownies were sitting on the counter cooling.

“Are these ready to be eaten, Kat?”

“Yeah they should be, go ahead” Kathryn answered. Nick pulled down three plates and got Jade, Zara, and himself a brownie and brought them over to the group playing Mario Kart. They were in between games by now, so Jade looked up about to ask her daddy for one, only to see him hand a plate out toward her. She beamed up at him and took it.

“Thank you daddy”

“You’re welcome princess,” Nick answered while handing Zara hers as well and he leaned over and kissed her cheek earning himself a smile from her too, before sitting down and gathering his daughter in his lap and he watched as Brian and everybody else got up and went to help themselves to some brownies too.

“Where is Ava, Nick?” Kathryn asked, while carrying an extra plate in there with her and handing it to him for Ava when she comes out. She had noticed Demyan go back to check on her since she was back there all by herself.

“Doing all of that stuff that you silly women think you need to do when you don’t. She’s fixing her hair and makeup.”

“I see,” Kathryn responded in amusement. Meanwhile in the back bathroom, Ava noticed through the mirror as Demyan appeared, keeping a reasonable distance from the doorway so that she doesn’t feel threatened. She looked at him curiously and he gave her a gentle smile the best that he could. She has a feeling he doesn’t smile often and is doing it for her benefit.

“I just came back here to check on you. We all checked this bus as much as humanly possible before you got on it, but I still don’t like the idea of you alone.”

“Nick doesn’t either,” Ava told him while continuing to do her makeup though keeping an eye on him through the mirror. “But our relationship is very new and he knows I need my space from him sometimes. As much as he hates it, he gives it to me. He usually leaves Q outside my door though.”

“You two don’t act like it’s very new,” Demyan pointed out. “You two look like you’ve been in love with each other for years.”

“We’ve been best friends since I was eleven and he was thirteen so we have known each other practically our whole lives, but our relationship as a couple didn’t happen until I left David and came home. My trust level isn’t very high after what David put me through, so I’ve had to learn how to trust Nick all over again when he revealed his feelings for me and I am learning, but slowly.”

“I can understand that, but he is right for sending Q to stand outside your door. It’s a dangerous time for you to be completely alone right now. If you need space from him, just make sure you have one of us with you instead okay? Even if it has to be Q, I know you don’t know us very well yet.”

“That could change eventually,” Ava responded, giving him a small smile. “I had planned on a friendly interrogation for the three of you when I went back out there, but since you are already standing there you will do.”

“Interrogate away, I’ll answer mostly anything.” Ava noted the word mostly, but otherwise didn’t question him on it at this time. She has a feeling he’s a somewhat closed off person and has a fine art for becoming invisible when he needs to and is working very hard to be social for her benefit. Everything seems somewhat forced for him.

“I noticed you and Stefan both have strong Russian accents and Russian names,” She pointed out.

“Drake has Russian blood in him and is Stefan’s cousin,” Demyan answered. “We’ve worked a lot of rescue missions with him and have a high reputation as bodyguards, so he called us in on a favor.”

“How many rescue missions have you done?”

“More than I can count. All women and children who have been abused or kidnapped and used for sex trafficking.”

“Were they all successful missions?” Ava couldn’t help but ask in a soft voice. Before Demyan could even open his mouth to respond, another voice did instead.

“The majority of them were, but unfortunately not all of them” Stefan spoke up while entering the room and he walked over to Demyan and wrapped an arm around him. “As much as Demyan tries to be superman, he can’t be.” Ava looked at Demyan and couldn’t help but notice that he has a faraway look in his eyes as if she brought up a painful subject and was probably about to tell her the interrogation was over. He looks very grateful that Stefan came to the rescue. “We will be successful with you and Jade though, I promise” Stefan told her gently and he gave her a reassuring look. “We’re good at what we do and I understand Q and his team of security is too. You couldn’t be any safer.” Ava nodded quietly and proceeded to clean up her makeup and hair stuff since she was finished.

“Any more questions?” Stefan asked, giving her a friendly grin.

“Not at the moment,” Ava told him with a look in her eyes that clearly stated she will have some for him later though. “Right now I’m really craving a piece of those brownies, so I’m going to go get me one before they are all gone.”

“I think Nick already has a plate for you. Everybody was lined up so Kathryn didn’t want you to miss out and got you one” Demyan informed, and Ava couldn’t help but smile a little after her back was turned as she headed toward the front of the bus. Kathryn will be pleased that Demyan had noticed what she was doing. Though he is a security guard, so he notices everything, but still. He was watching her, that fact will still please her anyway.

~*~*~*~*~

The next morning Ava opened her eyes to find herself lying in Nick’s arms and smiled softly to herself as she snuggled into him. She loves waking up to him holding her, it doesn’t happen too often. She looked around to discover that instead of being on the tour bus where she had fallen asleep at, she was in their hotel room.

Nick obviously carried her into the hotel at six thirty in the morning when they arrived in Pittsburgh and crawled back into bed with her. A thought suddenly crossed her mind, and her eyes darted toward the bed across from them and found it empty. She froze immediately. Its normal for her daughter to be awake before everybody else, she’s always been an early riser, but she would’ve made some kind of noise to indicate that she is okay.

Ever since they left David and moved into the safety of her brother’s house, Jade has forgotten all about their well-practiced rule of being quiet in the morning so David doesn’t wake up before mommy can to protect her. Her playful shrieks and giggles are usually the first thing she hears when she wakes up now. She’s grown accustomed to the beautiful sound of her happy child.

After carefully digging herself out of the firm hold Nick has on her and managing not to wake him up in the process, she crawled out of bed and hurried toward the door to the front room, only to breathe a sigh of relief at what she found. AJ was sitting on the couch with his legs comfortably crossed over one another on the coffee table and his niece curled up in his arms and the two of them were quietly watching Winnie the Pooh together. Kevin of all people was standing in the kitchen preparing to make something, and the bedroom that connects hers and Nick’s hotel room with AJ’s was open and she could see Tierja in there getting ready for the day. After managing to get her breathing and her heart rate back to normal, Ava crossed the room to the back of the couch and leaned over and kissed her brother on the cheek.

“You have my child so unnaturally quiet this morning; it scared the crap out of me, J.”

“I’m sorry sweetheart, it wasn’t my intention. Blame the bear; she’s so absorbed in it this morning. And it’s not every day that I get to chill on the couch with my niece and watch cartoons.”

“I see,” Ava responded amusedly and she leaned forward and kissed Jade on the top of the head before starting to walk toward Kevin when AJ gently grabbed hold of her hand, causing her to look at her curiously.

“You aren’t allowed over there,” he informed her, knowing exactly where she was headed even when he wasn’t all the way looking.

“Why not?” Ava asked, raising her eyebrow as AJ gently pulled her around the couch and made her sit down where he could see her better.

“Daddy Kev’s orders,” AJ answered with a small secret smile. “He said not to let you under any circumstance.”

“How come he is cooking in mine and Nick’s kitchen when he has his own?” AJ shrugged his shoulders, again smiling at her secretly. Ava huffed, but otherwise let it go. She looked around the room and nearly jumped out of her skin when she noticed Demyan standing nearby keeping an eye on things. Where had he come from? Had he been there all along? AJ looked his way when he noticed her looking at him.

“Will you do me a favor and go close Nick and Ava’s bedroom door please? I want to talk to her without the risk of Nick waking up and over hearing us.”

“Sure,” Demyan answered, and then walked over and quietly closed the bedroom door. When AJ saw that it was, he looked at his curious sister.

“Mom and I were discussing things on the bus yesterday,” He began carefully, talking quietly so that Kevin won’t over hear in the kitchen. He knows Jade isn’t listening; she is pretty much zoned out right now.

“What about…?” Ava asked warily.

“We were talking about yours and Nick’s relationship and your life before he became a part of it.” He watched her as she sat all the way back on the couch and hugged her legs to her chest and suddenly became very vulnerable.

“Alex, you know perfectly well that I buried that life and would like for it to stay that way. Why would you even bring it up?”

“Because mom thinks Nick of all people has a right to know sweetheart…and as much as I like keeping the job of protecting you all to myself, I’m starting to agree with her.”

“There’s nothing to protect! I haven’t had those episodes in many years…since Nick entered my life. I’m fine.”

“Even so Ava…if god forbid that something ever happens to take you back there, Nick needs to know about it because you are in a relationship with him now and he’s going to be the one there to take care of you if it does. Not only that, but he’s your best friend and loves you and deserves to know that part of you.”

“He’s just going to think I’m a freak like everyone else back then thought and want to leave me” Ava insisted tearfully.

“Oh please…don’t make me laugh sis. Do you really not see how much that man loves you? Has always loved you? If you could’ve seen the way he was looking at you when we stepped on that tour bus together for the first time…” AJ insisted while reaching over and gently wiping her tears away and then taking her hands into his and rubbing the backs of them. “There is no way he is even capable of thinking awful things about you honey I promise” he told her gently. “And if you are going to be in a relationship with him, and plan on keeping your promise to be honest with him from now on, I think he needs to know everything about you.”

“I’m too scared to tell him Alex…” Ava insisted softly, and he brought her closer to him and pulled her into a hug.

“You won’t have to alone honey, I’m going to be right there with you. We’ll tell him together.”

“Kay,” Ava mumbled into his shoulder.

“Mommy, Uncle Alex, I can’t see” Jade complained somewhat, as she still sat in AJ’s lap and was being squashed as the two siblings hug. AJ and Ava both burst into laughter, Ava rubbing her watery eyes as she moved back.

“Sorry baby,” She told her, and she sat back beside her brother and rested her chin on his shoulder so that Jade could see again. AJ smiled softly and kissed her forehead before kissing his niece’s and he rested his feet back up on the coffee table and got comfortable with her again.

“We’ll tell him after Kevin’s surprise breakfast when everyone goes off and does their own thing and then mom said that she wants you to get ready, because she’s taking you and Jade shopping while the boys and I go and get ready for our first sound check with the fans.”

“Kay,” Ava responded softly, a small smile on her face upon hearing the last bit of what her brother said. She is looking forward to shopping with her mom. She hasn’t spent any special time with her since she’s been home and she really needs to. She sat watching Winnie The Pooh with AJ and Jade for a while until suddenly Nick came walking out of the bedroom. She looked back at him and her eyes lit up at the mere sight of him causing his heart to turn over in his chest and he smiled at her sleepily before walking up behind the couch and leaning over and kissing her lovingly.

“Are we in an alternate world here or something? You’re never up before me” He commented while leaning over the couch and enveloping her in his arms. She looked up at him and he rested his forehead against hers.

“I would have lingered in bed and cuddled with you, but J-Baby was being unnaturally quiet and gave me a scare. Turns out Winnie the Pooh is highly entertaining this morning.”

“Breakfast is ready,” Kevin announced just as Nick had leaned in and kissed Ava once more. When he pulled away he looked at AJ with a raised eyebrow and AJ gave him a look that he knew he would understand. Ava watched understanding form on his beautiful features. Nick turned his attention back on her and gently gathered her up so he was cradling her against his chest while AJ stood up with his niece in his arms and went to go get everybody else, who knows full well that breakfast is in this room this morning. Nick carried Ava into the kitchen, put her in a chair at the table, and as soon as he did, everyone else was piling into the room and making their own plate and Kevin put a plate of French toast, bacon, and sausage in front of her, as well as a glass of chocolate milk. Ava gazed down at the plate in surprise for a long moment, her eyes eventually filling up with tears. Kevin has been making French toast for Ava since she was eleven years old. It’s something special he has always done for her on the road, no one else. Usually when she’s on the bus with him she’ll wake up and find a plate sitting on the table already waiting for her. He always knew the exact time she would be awake too. She willed the tears in her eyes not to fall and when she managed to win the battle, she looked up at him and he gave her a small loving smile before enveloping her in his arms and kissing her cheek.

“Everybody else has made you breakfast, I wanted to be the one to do it this morning. It’s my way of saying I’m happy you are home…I missed making French toast for you last tour.”

“Thank you Kevin, I love you” She told him softly as she snuggled into his hug, resting the back of her head against his shoulder.

“I love you too,” He told her and he hugged her a little bit longer before pulling away from her and proceeding to fix his own plate now and while her family surrounded her to eat their own breakfast, she quietly dug into hers, feeling overwhelmed with the love only ‘Daddy Kev’ knows how to make her feel.
End Notes:
https://twitter.com/UrsTrulyAshee
No More Secrets by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Here's the next chapter. It was either give you a short one, or a very long one in which would take longer to get posted...so I decided to go with the short one and save the important chapter for the next one.
Enjoy :-)
Chapter Eighteen

“What do you and AJ need to talk to me about baby? What’s going on?” Nick questioned his girlfriend for the third time that morning. After breakfast everyone had gone off to do their own thing and Nick and Ava got the two of them and Jade ready for the day before sending her off with Brian and Raven, who with the company of Demyan, took the kids downstairs for milkshakes.

Ava told Nick that she and her brother needed to tell him about something important, and ever since she did he has noticed her getting quieter and stressed out by the minute. She glanced at him through the mirror amidst putting her makeup away, before going back to what she is doing, but otherwise didn’t answer his question.

He walked up behind her and slid his arms around her waist and kissed the back of her neck softly while she leaned back against him. He watched her closely through the mirror and noticed that look in her eyes that she often gets when she’s afraid she’s going to lose him. Nick gently turned her around to face him and cradled her face in his hands before looking into her beautiful chocolate brown eyes that she had used black eyeliner and mascara to bring them out with and match her black mini dress with long sleeves that adorned a brown belt around her waist and black ankle boots with heals. To complete her outfit, she had pulled her hair up in a half ponytail and curled the ends of it and she was wearing her vintage gold chain link necklace that Nick had given her for Christmas one year.

“I’m about to give you a very big part of me that no one but my mother and my brother know about…and I’m scared to death, Nicky” She told him softly.

“Whatever it is just know that I love you and I’m not going anywhere baby girl,” He reassured her gently, idly letting his fingers cascade through her soft brown curls. Ava gazed up at him in silence for a few moments, before sliding her arms around him and resting her head against his shoulder and he felt her put a death grip on him.

She wants very badly to believe him, but she has endured cruel words thrown at her and watched people walk out of her life upon hearing what she’s been through and Nick is the most important person in her life. He befriended her and loved her during a very hard time in her life when no one else would and made life okay again.

He is her rock and she won’t be able to handle it if he leaves her. Nick planted a soft kiss on her forehead and gently steered her out of the bathroom and out of their room just on time to see AJ entering the room from his own hotel room. He took one look at the fragile state that his baby sister is in, and his heart ached. He walked over and sat on the couch causing Nick to bring her over there too and as soon as he did, she pulled away from him and went over and sat next to her brother. If she loses everything important to her, her brother is going to be the only thing that she’ll want besides Nick back. Nick sat down on the couch across from them and looked at AJ.

“What’s going on J? She’s been in this fragile state all morning.”

“Ava and I both have been keeping a secret from you for the past ten years. Mom convinced me that it’s about time we clued you in on it now that you two are in a relationship. Especially since she vowed to you and herself that she wouldn’t keep anything from you anymore,” AJ began and Ava snuggled close to his side and rested her head against his shoulder, causing him to wrap an arm around her.

“Okay…so what’s the secret then?” Nick questioned while eyeing Ava with nothing but love and concern in his eyes. He hates it that she’s so scared and fragile and wants nothing more than to pull her into his arms and reassure her, but he recognizes that she needs her brother right now.

“You and everybody else who knows me are well aware of how I feel about our father…” AJ began after silently searching for a way to go about this. Nick nodded his head in response. AJ has never kept his anger toward his father secret from anybody, but he also knows it affected Ava too, he’s just never known how much and nobody in the McLean family ever talked about it.

Was he finally going to find out? “Well his abandonment affected Ava greatly too…I guess you can say more so than it did me, and if you are going to be in a relationship with her, you’re going to have to know everything that goes into protecting her.” Nick once again nodded, refraining from telling AJ to just spit it out already. “She really took it hard growing up because it was right after she was born that he walked out.”

“Alex basically became the man in my life even though he was only five years older than me. I clung to him everywhere he went,” Ava spoke up softly and Nick noticed her eyes fill up with tears. She had deliberately chosen waterproof makeup this morning, but knowing her she is probably going to spend some more time in the bathroom fixing it later.

“I did my best to make everything okay for her and make it so she didn’t ever notice his absence, but she did anyway and developed abandonment issues very young in her life. As she got older and started going to school she was a very shy and quiet girl. She got bullied and would come home crying every day – she didn’t have a single friend in the whole school. She was miserable, and with the added abandonment issues, she eventually fell into a depression and would become very withdrawn from even mom and me. We were concerned about her of course and watched her closely all the time and I took her everywhere I went – even more so than I already did. She would barely talk to even me anymore. When she was eight years old, I was home watching her while mom was out. I turned my back for a minute…just a minute” AJ had to stop talking right then and was visibly working very hard to keep his emotions at bay and Ava took his hand into hers and squeezed it. When he managed to succeed in controlling his emotions he continued.

“When I turned around and found her gone, I went into straight up panic mode. I searched for her everywhere, and by the time I found her, my eight year old baby sister who didn’t quite know how to swim yet and knew perfectly well that she wasn’t allowed near that pool without me or mom was floating face first in the swimming pool.” AJ once again took a few moments to gather his emotions, and when he did he went on. “I pulled her out of the pool, managed to dial 911 and perform CPR and by the time paramedics came she was breathing but they of course still rushed her to the hospital.”

“At first they believed I was just being a kid and acting up” Ava spoke up again. “They let it go and when I was okay enough, mom and J brought me home. When they thought I was tucked in my bed for the night, I snuck some of mom’s sleeping pills into my room, planning to carry out what Alex prevented earlier that day…”

“Luckily I was worried about her and went in to check on her. I found her lying on the floor with the pill bottle next to her, passed out” AJ explained tearfully. “She was rushed to the emergency room for the second time that night; thankfully they were able to revive her...”

“Obviously they deemed me unstable and put me in a psychiatric hospital after that” Ava added softly.

“I spent every single day, all day, in that hospital with her and saw to it myself that she pulled out of this,” AJ added. “When she did and was well enough to go back to school, everybody in that school knew what had happened to her and it gave the little shits more reason not to talk to her and pick on her. By the time Backstreet Boys came into the picture, I convinced mom that it would be best for her if we pulled her out of school and home schooled her on the road and it really was the best thing that we did for her.”

“I met you,” Ava informed tearfully and Nick once again noticed that fear of losing him in her eyes. “The one person in the whole world who wanted to be my friend…you made life worth living again. Alex and I agreed that it would be a new start and that dark part of my life would remain buried forever. I didn’t want you to know about it because I was scared to death you would be just like those kids in school and say awful things and shut me out of your life…”

“Baby, get over here…” Nick insisted in a slightly incredulous tone. When she didn’t move and continued to sit there looking terrified, he reached out and took her hand into his and gently pulled her into his lap and hugged her close to him protectively. After a few seconds, she snuggled into him and rested her head against his shoulder. He kissed her forehead lovingly. “I’m not going anywhere…if anything the only thing that hearing your story does, is make me want to hold you and love you even more.”

“When you stopped talking to me for those two weeks back at home it was the longest two weeks of my life,” she confessed softly. “You can’t shut me out like that – ever. You’re my rock, Nicky…” Nick hugged her even tighter and rested his forehead against hers.

“I’m sorry sweetheart…if I had known what kind of damage that was doing to you I never would have treated you that way.”

“And that’s why I got pissy with you and wouldn’t give you a break no matter how many times Brian insisted you deserve it” AJ spoke up again. “If I seem over protective of her sometimes, now you know why. I know she hurt you when she rejected you, but all I saw was her slipping back into that depression the more you ignored her and it terrified me.”

“I swear to god Aje, if I had known I never would’ve ignored her. I still would’ve been hurt, I’m not taking that back, but I would’ve handled it better.”

“That’s why I’m telling you all of this….now that you two are in a relationship, you are the one who is going to be there to protect her if god forbid she should ever relapse.”

“I haven’t thought of killing myself since I was eight years old, Alex…I’m fine” Ava insisted and she looked up at Nick. “Nicky has been my whole world since the moment he came into my life,” She added looking up at him and he smiled softly. She knows hearing her say that means everything to him. “And that world got bigger the moment our daughter was born.” Nick placed his hand to her cheek and brushed his lips lightly over hers.

“Still, I’m always going to worry about you. You are my baby sister Ava, it’s my job.”

“And I’m glad you two told me,” Nick added. “I want to know everything about you, there can’t be anymore secrets between us. That’s not how our relationship and friendship works. So if there is anything else I should know, now would be a perfect time to tell me.”

“That’s all, I promise” Ava insisted and he rested his forehead against hers and looked into her teary eyes. “You know everything there is to know about me.” Nick gently brushed her tears away.

“That dark part of your life can still remain buried, sweetheart. We don’t have to speak of it ever again if you don’t want to. It’ll just be between the four of us.”

“I’d like that,” Ava insisted and she gazed up at him with so much love in her eyes and he tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. Just as he had, Denise walked into the room and eyed them all.

“Is the discussion still going on?” She asked carefully.

“No, we’re done” Ava responded while snuggling deeper into Nick. “Are we sure we can’t take Nicky with us?” She asked and Nick chuckled softly.

“I think the fans would have a bit of a problem with that sweetheart” He told her gently. “But I will see you right before I go onstage for the concert. Q needs to be back by then but insists on accompanying you and the new security your first time out.” Ava suddenly looked amused.

“Doesn’t he need to protect Alex during the sound check too? I’m sure they’re all just as rabid then as they are during the concert,” She teased.

“He’s trusting Mike, Josh, Drew, and Brendon to hold up the fort while he is gone.”

“I see,” Ava responded with a small smile, and she cradled his face in her hands and rubbed her nose lightly over his for an Eskimo’s kiss. “Well I will be there for your concert because I can’t miss out on your first concert, but as soon as it’s over, I want either Demyan or Stefan to bring me back here. So I will meet you here okay?”

“What for?” Nick asked, raising his eyebrow.

“Oh you know….shopping can wear a woman out,” she told him with a secret smile that he recognized. “Jade and I will probably need a nap.”

“You know you can never keep it from me when you are up to something, woman…spill.”

“I’m not up to anything,” Ava insisted innocently. “Shopping is tiresome, that’s all.” Nick laughed and rolled his eyes, but otherwise let it go. He tightened his arms around her and kissed her softly.

“Well, your mom is waiting, so I better let you get to it then. I love you baby,” He told her gently. “Have fun okay?”

“I will,” Ava told him, looking into his blue eyes as he rested his forehead against hers. She doesn’t know how she is going to survive an entire afternoon without him. She will definitely be watching the show, that’s for sure. There is no missing out on seeing Nick do what he loves doing best in the world, he gets so passionate and into it. But that means she is going to have to con Brian into keeping him out longer than necessary if she is going to get what she has in store for him set up. Managing to pull away from him, she crawled out of his lap and went into their room to grab her backpack and when she was set she kissed her brother on the cheek and then allowed her mother, Stefan, and Q to escort her downstairs to get Jade and Demyan.
End Notes:
Twitter: @UrsTrulyAshee
Jealousy by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Well, it took an eternity to write this chapter, but here it is!
Enjoy :-)
Chapter Nineteen

“Mommy!” Jade cheered in her usual excited bubbly self the moment she spotted her coming out of the elevator and into the lobby. She hopped down from the stool to the milkshake counter, leaving her chocolate milkshake and teddy bear sitting next to Brian, and she darted toward her mother. Ava laughed and opened her arms and bent over, just on time to catch the four year old who wasted no time in throwing her arms about Ava’s neck, wrapped her legs around her waist, and gave her one of her favorite Velcro hugs. Ava enveloped her in her arms affectionately and hugged her back, taking it all in.

“Hi baby. Are you ready to go shopping?” she asked while following her mother, Q, and Stefan over to the group sitting at the milkshake counter, which happened to be Brian, Raven, Zara, Demyan, Tierja, and Luke.

“Yeah!” Jade answered enthusiastically and Ava silently eyed her milk shake sitting there and wondered if it was really such a good idea. She already has so much of her daddy’s enthusiasm as it is and then some and to add sugar into her system is a recipe for automatic disaster for anybody who has her for the rest of the day. Shoving the thought to the side, she turned her attention on Brian.

“Brian will you do me a huge favor tonight after the concert?”

“Of course, you know I will honey, anything…what’s up?”

“I promised Nick that I would be there for his first performance of the tour, but right afterwards I am going to have Demyan and Stefan bring me back here. Will you keep Nick out later than usual for me? I will text you when it’s okay for him to come back.”

“Why, what are you up to?” Brian questioned, his eyebrow rising in curiosity. Ava shrugged innocently.

“Just keep him busy for me, please?”

“Sure…there’s a Backstreet Boys after party tonight. I wasn’t planning on attending, but I will do it for you” he answered after a moment of eyeing her and trying to figure out what she is up to. He leaned over and planted a kiss on her cheek and she gave him a small smile.

“Thanks Bri,” she told him sincerely.

“No problem sweetheart, you know I would do anything for you” he told her, and she looked at her mother in order to avoid getting emotional for the third time in one day. It’s overwhelming how everyone is rallying around her and making her feel loved and protected. She’s grateful for it and loves them all so much, but it’s overwhelming nonetheless.

“Ready?” Denise asked and Ava nodded quietly, hugging her daughter close to her affectionately. Demyan who had stood when Ava came out of the elevator, grabbed up Jade’s teddy bear and handed it over to the small four year old.

“Don’t forget teddy, I’m sure he wouldn’t be very happy to be left behind,” he told her, offering her a smile just for her. Jade gave him a shy one in return, hugged her teddy bear close to her, and rested her head upon Ava’s shoulder.

“Thank you Demyan,” she told him softly and Ava smiled down at her slightly amused. It’s the first time she’s ever seen her daughter be so quiet and shy around anybody, even strangers. Being her daddy’s little girl, she loves the attention. She revels in it. If she had the opportunity to go up on stage and entertain all of his fans, she would do it fearlessly and undoubtedly steal each and every one of their hearts. “His feelings would’ve been hurted” she agreed.

“I can imagine,” he told her gently, playing along. Brian chuckled and handed her chocolate milkshake to her next.

“Have fun ladies,” He told them as Demyan, Stefan, and Q led them out of the building. When they were long gone, he looked at everyone else sitting around him.

“Well, I’m going to go check up on Nicky. Are you coming?” he asked Raven who was sitting next to him holding Zara.

“I was thinking of hunting Kat down, she’s been kind of quiet lately” Raven answered. “Tier do you want to come?” she added, turning to her only friend that is available at the moment.

“No, I’m going to stay down here and continue to drink my shake” Tierja answered while briefly glancing at Luke. She tried to be discrete, but both Brian and Raven noticed. Raven quietly eyed her for a few moments, and then sighed softly and leaned over and kissed her cheek before looking at Brian who shrugged.

“More time for video games with Nick I guess…or maybe some basketball, who knows. The two of them got up and walked away and Tierja turned her utmost attention on Luke. When the two of them arrived upstairs, Raven took Zara to the suite she and Brian share, while Brian went to the opened door of his best friend’s. He glanced inside and found Nick and AJ sitting on the couch talking about their discussion from earlier. He knocked on the door immediately getting both of their attention.

“What’s up Rok?” Nick asked, visibly happy to see him. He was hoping to get to spend the little time that they have before sound check with his best friend, since his other best friend is out for the day.

“I saw Ava leave and just came up to check on you. I know you get lonely when she’s not around, and that’s never a good thing. You’re like a puppy, the moment you’re alone and bored you do obnoxious things” He joked.

“And you usually join him,” An amused AJ added and Nick rolled his eyes playfully.

“Don’t you have a girlfriend you should be spending time with?” Brian asked, fixing a suddenly serious gaze on AJ while entering the room all the way. He went over and sat next to Nick so that he too sat across from their tattooed friend.

“I had my sister to take care of,” AJ insisted defensively, not liking the look the older man was giving him at all.

“Yeah well, you took care of her and now she’s at the mall with your mother. So I think it’s perfectly okay for you to go see Tierja. Do you even have any idea where she is at right now?”

“In our room getting ready to leave later,” AJ shrugged.

“Actually she’s been ready for a while now, Alex. And I think you would be interested to know that she is downstairs in the lobby drinking a milkshake and having the time of her life – with Luke.” He watched as the younger man stiffened. “All I am going to say is, you better step things up or you’re going to lose her, and it’s going to be no one’s fault but your own.”

“I had to take care of this thing with Ava and she knew I was doing that – it is not like I was intentionally ignoring her this morning, so quit looking at me like that” AJ snapped somewhat.

“It’s not just this morning, J, it’s all the time” Brian insisted. “You use Ava’s situation as an excuse to put Tierja second because you’re scared. And she’s not going to let you do that forever.” AJ opened his mouth to respond and Nick beat him to it, jumping into this conversation.

“I’ve got Ava covered, J, let me take care of her…Brian is right. Just focus on Tierja before you lose her.”

“I am NOT scared of anything!” AJ insisted stubbornly. “And I’m NOT going to lose her either!” He added, before getting up and storming out of the room. Nick rolled his eyes and Brian shook his head.

“McLeans…” he muttered in exasperation and Nick nodded.

“You definitely have to know what you’re in for when you fall in love with one, that’s for sure” Nick added and Brian turned his attention on him.

“So, what important thing with Ava did he have to take care of? Things seemed pretty serious earlier.”

“I can’t get into it because I promised Ava that it wouldn’t leave me, her brother, or Denise. Let’s just say every last bit of her skeletons came out of the closet today.” Brian nodded and could tell just by looking at him; these said skeletons brought him and Ava a little bit closer today.

“Video games?” He asked after a moment, and Nick’s whole face lit up.

“I love how you read my mind,” he told him, instantly getting up and fetching his x-box.

~*~*~*~*~

When AJ stepped out of the elevator and into the lobby, sure enough there was his Tierja sitting at the milkshake bar laughing at something funny Luke must have said. He felt an aching feeling twist at his heart, as it’s been awhile since he’s made her smile like that. Sighing softly, he made his way over there, walked up behind her, and gently slid his arms around her waist. She looked up at him, the smile still left over on her face.

“Hey,” He greeted gently and deliberately leaned in and kissed her lovingly right in front of Luke. He hopes to make his statement very clear: This is mine, so back off.

“Hey,” she responded when he pulled back leaving her breathless and she couldn’t help but give him a slightly surprised look. “Everything go okay with Ava and Nick, I take it?”

“Of course it did, she worries and gets upset over nothing sometimes. The woman is going to give herself an ulcer one of these days” AJ answered and he planted a kiss on her forehead and tightened his arms around her. “Go somewhere with me” he requested.
“You have sound check pretty soon here, what would we do in such a short time?” Tierja asked, not bothering to hide how surprised she is. Where did this come from?

“We have a couple of hours…just enough time to get a head start on playing tourist around Pittsburgh” he insisted while gently grabbing her hand, pulling her out of the chair, and after she grabbed up her milk shake, he patiently listened as she said her goodbyes to Luke, and then he gently tugged her out of the building and far away from the man as he could possibly get her.

~*~*~*~*~

“Mommy, I want to go to the toy store” Jade insisted as she followed her mother and grandmother around the home & furniture store in the mall, Ava holding on firmly to her hand while Jade held teddy’s in her other.

“We’ll get there soon honey, Grandma wanted to come in here first” Ava reassured gently. Jade gave an exasperated sigh.

“But this is boring,” she insisted. “Mommy I want to go now.”

“Well, I’m sorry sweetheart but you’re just going to have to wait.” Jade’s lower lip stuck out in an instant pout. “Why don’t you keep an eye out for a bed your size for the future if we should ever decide to give you your own room in the house? That will keep you busy.”

“That’s a good idea,” Denise agreed, meeting her granddaughter’s eyes and Jade couldn’t help but smile a little bit.

“Can I paint my walls pink, mommy?” she asked, turning her attention back on her mother and playing along. “If I should ever have my own room?”

“You can paint them any color you want; it would be your room.”

“I want a ballerina princess bedroom,” Jade decided after a moment. “Because Daddy calls me princess” she added and Ava smiled softly. She too is pretty fond of the new nickname Nick gave their daughter the moment he learned the truth. And it’s no secret why she would pick ballerina princess as her theme, because by the time she could walk that is all she has ever wanted to be. Nick has been teaching her to dance ever since and has taken her to every ballet you could possibly imagine. The Nutcracker is her favorite. David refused to put Jade in ballet classes no matter how much she begged and pleaded with him, but now that Nick is in her life, maybe the two of them can eventually get started on finally making their daughter’s dream come true. She wants it for her just as badly as she does. It’s the only thing she will ever ask him for.

“That would be pretty fun to put together; I already have lots of ideas flowing through my head. If you see any bedding that jumps out at you, let me know okay?” Jade nodded excitedly and immediately set to work on that. While she was glancing every which way around the store, Ava turned her attention back on her mother.

“Anyway mom, what are you in here for?”

“I thought I would completely redesign my house…and I thought I would let you do it all,” Denise answered after a moment. Ava looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

“Me? What for, you’re the one who has to live in it.” Denise slid her arm around her shoulders and hugged her close to her.

“Because you’re my daughter and I love you…and you’re really good at stuff like that. I just thought it would be something fun we could do together. I really missed having you around.” Ava rested her head against her shoulder and willed back her emotions the best that she could. “Momma you’re going to make me cry again. Everybody is being way too nice to me,” She insisted and Denise smiled softly.

“Well it’s the truth, and we’re your family. Families are supposed to support each other during difficult times” she insisted and she planted a kiss on her forehead. “Now what color combinations should I choose? Make it be something you would pick for you, I want it to be completely your touch.”

“Red, white, and black would be really beautiful…I myself personally love the cozy classic country home look. Everything would be wood and stone and have red, white, and black tones…think red roses, and romance” Ava answered after managing to gather her emotions, and thinking about it carefully. Denise and Ava walked around looking at stuff, Denise asking Ava her opinion on everything. While they did that, Q and Stefan stuck to their side like glue, while Demyan kept a trained eye on Jade who was still set on her mission of finding the perfect bedding.

All three security guards wore walkie talkies that kept them in contact with Officer Drake, who was hidden up high where he could see the entire store and prevent any danger that might come at them unexpected from afar. This would normally be Demyan’s job, as out of all of them, he is the best at making himself invisible in a crowded room, and he’s a very skilled sniper when it’s necessary, but he insisted on being the one to guard Jade. He won’t hand the job over to anyone else even for a little while, and that worries Stefan slightly.

“Mommy!” Jade exclaimed, gasping suddenly as she spotted the perfect bedding of her dreams.

“What baby, what’s so exciting?” Ava asked, pausing her detailed conversation with her mother and turning her attention on her and she gently gathered her up in her arms and hugged her close to her affectionately. Jade pointed toward the aisle across the way and Ava looked over there and suddenly became amused upon seeing the pink oval shaped princess carriage bed with pink sheer fabric and light pink frilly bedding and pillows. She wasn’t kidding when she said “ballerina princess”. Who knew she would find a canopy bed and all?

“It’s so perfect mommy, can we get it?” she gushed and Ava rested her cheek against hers lovingly while she held her close.

“You don’t have a room to put it in right now, and we are on tour at the moment. But how about we put it on hold just in case? That way it won’t go anywhere.”

“Okay!” she agreed happily and she returned her mommy’s hugs. Ava looked over at her mother and Denise immediately went to take care of it. As soon as she had, and the bed was on reserve for them, they started to head into the mall when Ava suddenly came across the kitchen section and came to an abrupt stop.

Denise quietly watched her as she eyed some white vintage china with three beautiful long stemmed red roses on them and a black border around the edges. There are plates, bowls, tea cups and even a cake and cupcake platter. She was always afraid to keep such nice things in her house with David, if you could really call it her house, but being someone who loves to cook and bake she’s always wanted it.

After a long moment of admiring them, and mustering up the strength to walk away, she turned and did just that and Denise wrapped her arm around her and quietly took note of her daughter once again trying to avoid tearing up.

“Toys now mommy?” Jade asked hopefully.

“Yes, we’ll go to the toy store now, you’ve been very patient” Ava answered when she was sure she would sound normal when she did and not like she was hurting inside.

~*~*~*~*~

“Where have you two been?” Nick asked AJ and Tierja curiously when he and everybody else met the two down in the lobby to go to sound check. The couple had just walked in the doors as they came out of the elevator. AJ slid his arms around Tierja’s waist and drew her near a bit possessively as he noticed Luke was among the crowd.

“Tierja and I managed to squeeze a little bit of sight-seeing in” he answered while planting a loving kiss on the tip of her nose and Tierja snuggled against him looking happy for the first time in a long time.

“He promised me more sight-seeing and dinner tonight after the after party,” Tierja added while sliding her arms around his neck and looking up into his chocolate brown eyes. He smiled at her and brushed his lips briefly, but meaningfully over hers wanting her to know she’s special to him. When he noticed their cars pull up, he began ushering her back outside with everybody else who exchanged looks with each other, wondering where this huge turn around with AJ came from. Brian and Nick especially, who had witnessed the tattooed man’s mini temper tantrum just earlier that day when the two of them got on him about neglecting her. When they arrived at the arena in their separate cars and were inside preparing for their first sound check of the tour, Nick pulled out his cellphone and snuck backstage with it, an amused Brian the only one noticing him.

~*~*~*~*~

“Mommy, can I get a toy??” Jade asked hopefully, as the two of them and Denise browse around the toy store together.

“Just one baby, okay?” Jade smiled excitedly and then took off ahead of them to look, Ava taking comfort in the fact that Demyan trailed her every move. Ava quietly continued to look too trying really hard to shake the upset mood she is in off when suddenly her cell phone rang. She reached into her pocket and pulled it out and Denise watched a small smile form on her face as she looked at the caller ID.

“Hey you…aren’t you supposed to be working?” She asked when she answered.

“I snuck away. I have a few minutes before Kevin notices…I just miss you and wanted to hear your voice, that’s all.” Ava laughed and Nick silently took in the beautiful sound.

“I haven’t been gone for very long; you act like it’s been days.”

“It feels like it’s been days, I don’t like it when you leave me” Nick insisted. Ava silently took in the love and affection she heard in his voice, soaking it up for all it’s worth and suddenly felt the pain in her heart that she feels every time David is on her mind lift.

“Well that makes me feel very loved, but you are going to get yourself in trouble.”

“I’m glad to hear that my lifetime goal of making you feel loved is working. What are you up to baby, are you having fun?”

“Yes, I’m having fun. It’s great to be out spending time with my mom. We were in the Home & Furniture store for her and now we are toy shopping for Jade.”

“Oh yeah..? What is my princess getting?”

“I don’t know yet, she’s still working on picking it out.”

“I can’t wait for her to bring it home and show me,” Nick responded.

“NICKOLAS GENE GET OFF THAT PHONE AND GET OUT HERE THIS INSTANT!!!” Kevin could suddenly be heard in the background. Nick cringed, and Ava giggled.

“Gotta go, I love you baby” Nick told her quickly, and Ava smiled.

“Please try not to give my Kevin an ulcer on the first day back on tour, okay Nicky?

“I will try not to, but I can’t make any promises” Nick joked.

“NICK, NOW!” Ava heard Kevin order much louder, telling her he had come looking for him and suddenly she heard Nick’s playful yells of distress, and then the phone go dead. Ava shook her head and looked at Denise.

“That man is crazy, Momma.”

“Did you expect anything less on the first day back?” Denise asked amused. She had to smile at the instant happy mood Nick put her in. He really couldn’t have picked a better time to call.

“No,” Ava answered and she looked to see what Jade was doing and found her happily browsing the many rows of toys looking for just the right one to be hers. She walked over to her and gently gathered her in her arms, feeling the strong need to have her daughter close to her at all times.

“Find anything you like yet baby?” She asked as Jade locked her arms around her neck, nestled her head against her shoulder, and snuggled into her.

“No, not yet – I want to check out the Barbie’s” Jade answered happily and Ava planted a soft kiss on her forehead.

“Well then let’s go check out the Barbie’s” She told her and rounded the corner to the next row of toys, finding herself in the Barbie section. The two of them and Denise then began a lengthy conversation over which Barbie’s Jade should pick. While she was doing that, Ava had half a mind on her surroundings, all of the sudden feeling a sense of foreboding that she can’t explain. She noticed a man standing in another aisle across the way. He was looking at baby dolls and not paying them any mind. He doesn’t appear to have any kids with him. He could be a father looking to buy something to bring home to his kid, but he looks completely out of place.

Like someone you wouldn’t normally see in a toy store. He has long blonde hair that is pulled back in a ponytail and dark brown – almost black eyes. He’s wearing a black shirt with short sleeves that reveal two arms full of tattoos and a pair of jeans with holes in the knees of the pant legs. She knows better than to judge a person by their appearance, especially since her brother could probably have a who-has-the-most-tattoos contest with this man and she knows a lot of good guys with long hair, her best friend being one of them at the moment, but she can’t shake the feeling of unease that she feels when she looks at him. She hugged Jade a bit closer to her protectively and gently linked her arm with Q, who gave her a small smile and planted a loving kiss on top of her head. She also discretely glanced over at Demyan and Stefan for double reassurance even though she knows full well that they’re there.

“Mommy I want that!” Jade suddenly announced enthusiastically and Ava looked to see what she was pointing at and discovered a box with a Barbie Fashionista Ultimate Limo inside it. Ava gave her a small smile.

“Sure baby, I know you and Zara will have a blast playing with that. What Barbie are you going to pick out to go with it?” she asked and while Q got the big Barbie Fashionista Ultimate Limo box off of the shelf to carry it for her, Jade happily pointed to the Barbie Doll that she wanted. Ava brought her closer and allowed her to grab it up.

“Good choice, she’s pretty. Let’s go pay for this now and get on with our shopping – mommy wants to look at clothes next” Ava told her and while they headed for the checkout counter up at the front, Denise slid her arm around her daughter.

“You know I’m going to want to buy both my daughter and my granddaughter these said clothes, right?” she asked her with a small smile and Ava looked up at her with a frown.

“Momma, no…”

Yes, ma’am, I am. You’re my daughter and I love you, let me spoil you a little bit.”

“Mom, I’m the one who should be spoiling you.” Ava protested and Denise rolled her eyes but otherwise didn’t even bother to acknowledge that nonsense. She knows she is still feeling guilty and won’t hear of it. And she’s spoiling her daughter today whether she likes it or not.



~*~*~*~*~

Meanwhile at the arena that the concert is being held at later on that evening, when Kevin had finally reined Nick in and had everyone in the same room, they invited the fans in for the sound check. While that was going on, Raven and Kathryn sat together having a lengthy conversation over anything and everything, Zara was out on stage with Brian charming his fans every bit as much as he was, and Tierja and Luke stood near the soda machine together.

“So, how was sight-seeing with AJ this morning? You looked happy when the two of you walked in,” Luke asked while focusing on getting a Dr Pepper out of the machine.

“I was,” Tierja responded with a small happy smile. “I really needed that time with him,” She added as he turned and handed her a Red Mountain Dew, already knowing those are her favorite.

“He didn’t seem all that thrilled with me when he came down from spending time with his sister earlier,” he commented casually. “Did I do something to offend him?” Tierja shrugged her shoulders and leaned against the counter.

“There’s a good chance he’s feeling a little threatened by you,” she told him, and didn’t bother to hide that this fact pleases her.

“He was in a pretty big hurry to get you away from me,” he agreed amusedly. “He should feel threatened. If he keeps leaving a beautiful woman such as yourself alone like this, I’m going to step in,” he insisted, moving a tad bit closer and Tierja had to force herself to avoid looking into his dark eyes.

“I’m in love with Alex, Luke.” She told him feeling the need to make this clear.

“You deserve better,” Luke informed while tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear. “This was the first time he paid any attention to you in a while wasn’t it? And it happened because he was jealous.”

“He has his problems, but we’re working on it” Tierja insisted, feeling the need to defend AJ, no matter how true Luke’s words are and no matter how good it feels to have someone paying attention to her. “Despite his problems, he does love me and we’ve even got another date tonight.” Luke shrugged his shoulders.

“If you say so, you know him better than I do. You just look depressed all the time, and I don’t like it.” Tierja ignored the little flip her heart did at his words and gave him her best smile.

“Well thank you for being concerned, but I’m fine.” And with that she turned around just on time to see AJ come backstage. She walked over to him and he gave her a small smile and cradled her face in his hands before leaning in and brushing his lips lightly over hers.

“Hey Mister, what are you doing back here? Aren’t you supposed to be working?” she asked between kisses, and he brought his arms down and slid them around her waist, before pulling her close to him possessively. She buried her face in his neck and took in the smell of his cologne. He only wears it because it’s her favorite and she knows it.

“Come hang out onstage with me baby, I want you with me at all times today.” He rested his chin lightly on the top of her head and looked Luke’s way, with eyes that said ‘back off’. Raven had texted him and told him what was going on. Luke returned his look with a very clear ‘make me’, and when Tierja suddenly looked up at AJ, he returned his loving gaze on her before she could notice.

“Won’t I just be in the way?” she asked doubtfully, and AJ gently lifted her chin up and kissed her lovingly.

“You could never be in the way.” Tierja heard the honest to god truth in his words and suddenly felt a lump in her throat and was fighting back the urge to cry. She doesn’t care if part of him might be acting out of jealousy right now; she’s desperately wanted this attention from him for a very long time. And at least jealousy means he cares. He took her hand into his, laced their fingers together, and brought her out onstage with him and before she knew it, he had her sitting on a stool and was including her and doing everything he could to make her understand that she’s special to him.

~*~*~*~*~

“Mommy, can I have an ice cream?” Jade asked hopefully as the group currently shopping at the mall hung out in the food court. They went clothes shopping, Denise insisting on buying both her daughter and granddaughter new outfits despite Ava’s protests to the offer and then immediately went from there to Panda Express and Mc Donald’s. After they all finished eating their meals, they continued sitting at the table discussing interior design, though Ava never took her eyes off of her daughter all the same and noticed her not only eyeing the Cold Stone nearby but the carousel as well and knew it was coming.

“Sure baby,” Ava answered with a smile and she looked at Q. “Maybe if you ask real nicely, Q will take you to get some and let you ride the carousel too.” Jade’s eyes lit up in excitement at this offer and she looked at Q with an effortless angelic look, instantly melting his heart.

“Please Q?”

“Sure sweetheart, let’s go – I could use some ice cream myself” he told her readily and he got to his feet and gathered her up in his arms. She snuggled into him and he walked off with her, Ava feeling glad that both the Cold Stone and the Carousel are right in her eyesight so she will be able to keep an eye on her baby at all times. When the two of them had their ice cream, Q with a cone of double fudge brownie while Jade got cake batter with sprinkles, the two of them headed on over to the line for the Carousel, making it just on time as the guy controlling the ride was in the middle of letting everybody on right then.

“Which one should we ride on, munchkin?” he asked while glancing up at her while she sat upon his shoulder with a small smile.

“The Unicorn!” she exclaimed happily and Q chuckled softly as he approached it.

“You would pick that one. Good choice,” he told her while putting her on it. While she held on to the pole with one hand and her ice cream cone in the other, he buckled her up and placed his arm around her protectively while eat ate his ice cream with the others. She smiled up at him some and he smiled back at her.

“Are you sure Demyan and Stefan are going to take good care of my mommy?” She asked, showing a small sign of worry as she glanced over at her mommy and grandma at the table. She was relieved to see that Stefan sat in a chair next to her. Demyan on the other hand, stood outside the gate to the ride keeping an eye on things in case Q might need an extra hand. She knows Drake is around there somewhere too, she just doesn’t know where.

“Of course they are baby, they’re tough guys and know what they’re doing. You have nothing to worry about,” Q answered and he gave her a goofy look. Jade giggled, which was exactly what he wanted.

“Good…cause mommy needs taking care of, especially when daddy isn’t around to do it.”

“Your mommy has an entire team to take care of her baby, and so do you” he told her and she giggled some more when he tickled her slightly, but not enough to make her drop her ice cream cone. “Okay?”

“Okay,” she responded and he leaned down and kissed her cheek. Jade sat there patiently waiting as the man controlling the ride loaded the carousel, all the while eating her ice cream and she let Q’s words reassure her. Q has never let her down before. If he says Demyan and Stefan can be trusted, she will trust them.

“Here we go,” Q announced after a moment and suddenly the ride started. Jade giggled and enjoyed the ride, calling out and waving to her mommy and grandma with one hand and her ice cream cone safely in the other while Q held onto her. Ava and Denise would smile and wave back in return. The ride went around a few times and when it stopped she looked up at her favorite security guard ever.

“Can we do it again??”

“Maybe some other time baby, you have to finish your ice cream and then we need to get going. Your mommy tells us that she wants to do some quick grocery shopping. We still have to make it to the arena in enough time to see your daddy before the show.” Q explained. When he had her unbuckled he lifted her up and placed her back up on his shoulder where she likes to be and brought her back to the table.

“Hi baby, did you have fun?” Ava asked when they returned.

“Yeah! I got to ride the pretty Unicorn an’ everything!”

“I saw that. How lucky they just happened to have a Unicorn on there when they’re your favorite, huh?” Jade nodded happily. “Did you tell Q thank you?” she asked when the security guard brought her down into his arms and cradled her now that he was officially finished with his cone. She looked up at him and smiled sweetly.

“Thank you Q,” she told him and leaned up and kissed his cheek.

“Anytime sweetheart,” he responded and he gently handed her over to Ava who gladly took her and snuggled her close. She and Denise finished up on discussing plans while they let Jade finish up her ice cream and when she had, they gathered up all of their bags and headed on out of the mall to go do some quick grocery shopping.
End Notes:
Twitter: @UrsTrulyAshee
Stalked by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Heres the next chapter.
Enjoy :-)
Chapter Twenty

“Q! What are you doing, are you crazy? My child doesn’t need any more treats!” Ava exclaimed exasperatedly. She had turned her back for one minute. One minute to look at the bread only to turn back around to see her pride & joy sitting in the front child seat of the grocery cart where she put her, munching on a soft sugar cookie with pink frosting and sprinkles from the bakery.

“What are you talking about, of course she does” Q responded with laughter in his eyes. “All children need treats, especially from uncle Q.”

“There is a limit to just how many this one should have and you know it. She’s had a milkshake, ice cream, and now a cookie. Do I need to remind you who she takes after?” Q grinned innocently and slid his arm around Ava and kissed her cheek affectionately. “She has a lot of her sweetheart mommy in her too you know. I would know. I’ve known you since you were just a kid yourself.” Ava huffed but otherwise hugged the man who has put all of his effort into guarding her since the beginning.

“Suck up,” She told him softly. “I love you, but you’re not off the hook.”

“She has a lot of her stubborn mommy in her as well,” Denise spoke up in amusement. “I would know that too.”

“I know, I know, you never let me forget it” Ava responded, smiling also and she placed herself at the grocery cart in front of her daughter again and continued shopping knowing they have a schedule to keep. They have to be back in enough time to relax with Nick before the show.

“So…daughter of mine, what is all of this for anyway huh?” Denise probed Ava knowingly.

“Nothing…” Ava answered innocently, avoiding eye contact and Denise smiled in amusement.

“Nothing huh…? And I suppose you asked Brian to distract Nick tonight all for nothing too, right?”

“That’s right” Ava answered, smiling a little and Denise laughed.

“All right, I will let you have your secrets. I will however ask, do you want childcare service tonight while this nothing is going on?”

“No not this time, I want her with me” Ava answered after a moment and she turned away from her mother while she grabbed at things on the shelves to hide the slight fear in her eyes. She doesn’t want her to know that she needs her daughter to hide behind tonight. She knows deep down inside that Nick would never beat her, but what she has planned tonight is a big step and she doesn’t want to do it alone. “Ever since I left David I can’t stand it when she’s away from me even for a short time,” She added after a moment, making up a quick cover story. But Denise can see right through her. She sees everything when it comes to her. “Besides, we’re a family now I’m kind of enjoying doing the family thing right now and so is Nick.”

“All right, well you know I am just right down the hall if you change your mind.”

~*~*~*~*~

“On the phone with Ava again, Nick?” Brian interrogated Nick playfully when he entered their tour bus and discovered Nick just getting off the phone. “She really hasn’t been gone for that long, bro.”

“A whole day, but who is keeping track?” Nick asked while plopping down on the couch looking thoroughly bored and lovesick. “And no, it wasn’t Ava.” Brian raised his eyebrow and eyed Nick with a look that clearly stated he doesn’t believe a word of it.

“Who else could it have been? Everybody else is just a walk away.”

“People working on things for me at home…and then people working on things for me here too” Nick answered evasively. “So how about we end this interrogation of yours and go see if anyone else wants to go play some basketball?”

“All right,” Brian replied after eyeing him curiously. “You and Ava sure are keeping a lot of secrets lately though” he added before getting up and heading for the door. Nick got up and followed him, but otherwise didn’t respond to Brian’s probing. He had to take care of something that is long overdue and he’s not ready to share it with anyone yet. Not until later on. When they walked into the backstage area they discovered AJ walking around with Tierja’s hand in his own talking on the phone and making plans for them later, while everybody kind of did their own thing. Luke was nowhere to be seen, but Nick suspects that’s probably a good thing. He heard from Raven and Kathryn that AJ looked like he might punch him earlier.

“Who is up for a game of basketball? Nicky here is bored and needs us to entertain him until Ava can come home and take over” Brian spoke up jokingly. Nick gave Brian a look that clearly stated don’t make me hit you and Brian rolled his eyes playfully.

“What? It’s the truth.”

“I’m in” Kevin spoke up.

“Me too” Howie added.

“Tier and I will go if you stop talking about my sister being Nick’s entertainment” AJ informed when he hung up his phone. “It’s not something a big brother likes to hear and I don’t feel like beating him up right now.”

“You don’t feel like beating him up right now?” Howie asked, arching his eyebrow as they headed out of the arena, women, security and all - Brian with his basketball under one arm and toting Zara under the other. “You live for beating him up what’s wrong with you?” AJ shrugged his shoulders and pulled Tierja under his arm lovingly.

“Better things on my mind right now, I guess.” Everybody was quiet as they took in this new behavior of AJ and Tierja quietly rested her head against AJ’s shoulder. As far as she’s concerned, Luke should’ve came into their lives and made him jealous a long time ago. She looked over at Brian when she felt him looking at her, and he gave her a small grin and winked at her. He’d like to think he helped a little bit when he confronted AJ about things earlier. He’d give anything to help make both of his struggling friends happy, because they deserve it more than anything. When they arrived at the park, Zara reached for Raven who gently took her daughter from Brian and hugged her close.

“Mommy, come push me on the swings! Please?”

“Sure sweetheart, as long as Kat and Tierja come with me” She told her gently and Zara eyed the two women she loves with a sweet angelic look that no one could ever say no to and Kathryn laughed.

“Aw, who could possibly say no to that sweet little face?” She asked while cupping the little girl’s cheeks in her hands and leaning forward and kissing her. Zara giggled.

“Of course we’re coming” Tierja added and after receiving a quick but meaningful kiss from AJ she followed her two best friends over to the swings with Drew following close behind them and the boys and rest of security headed on over to the basketball courts.

~*~*~*~*~

“Was that Nick you were just on the phone with?” Ava asked Q when he rejoined her side as she led her group into the alcohol section of the store. He had stepped away from her for a few moments when he received a phone call and Demyan and Stefan took his place in guarding her. “It sounded like it might be him before you walked away.” Q chuckled softly.

“How would you know that when you were standing a couple of feet away from me sweetheart…do you have Nick Radar or something?”

“Well it is my best friend we’re talking about here…I would know the sound of his voice a mile away” Ava answered while eyeing all of the wines on the shelves.

Yes it was Nick. He was checking up on you of course…he misses you. They just got back from the park where they let Zara play for a little bit while the boys played some basketball and he wanted to know when you were going to be back.”

“I’m almost done…you didn’t tell him where we were did you?” Ava asked, looking from the shelves to her big strong protector and she gave him a hopeful look.

“I did, but I didn’t tell him why. Your secret is safe with me sweetheart, don’t worry” He reassured, winking at her. She gave him a small nervous smile and continued looking at the wine. The more she thinks about her plans for tonight, the more scared she becomes. She wants to believe that Nick would never treat her the way David did. She’s known him for the majority of her life; you would think she’d know this without a doubt. But David has put so much hurt and fear into her that she doubts everything, including herself. What if she messes up tonight? Maybe her mother should take Jade after all…

“Mommy, that’s the drink that David always drinks…” Jade announced suddenly, spotting the beer bottles on the shelf across the way. She would know that alcoholic beverage anywhere. Not only were they always sitting around the home that she begrudgingly lived in for the past four years of her life, but David made her fetch it for him a lot too. “What are we doing in this aisle?” She asked, looking at her mommy with slight apprehension in her eyes.

“Alcohol is okay for grownups to drink if done in moderation honey…with family and friends during a get together, celebrations, and occasionally with dinner. Not everybody who drinks it becomes a monster.” Ava explained gently and she grabbed a bottle of Moscato off the shelf and put it in her cart. “Mommy likes a little bit of wine every now and then with dinner, that’s all” she added and she leaned over and kissed Jade on the forehead. When she saw that Jade was reassured and felt safe again she moved on, heading over to one of the lines to check out. When they had only one person in line ahead of them and room on the counter, she grabbed a divider and proceeded to put everything up on it when suddenly something caught her eye and she froze. Over at the bench next to the ice machine across the way, the same man from the toy store with long blonde hair – now worn down, sat reading a newspaper. He’s wearing different clothes, but she knows it’s him. Her entire body became stiff and suddenly she couldn’t breathe.

“Ava what is it?” Denise asked concerned when she noticed. When she didn’t answer her, she felt Q touch her shoulder.

“Sweetheart what’s wrong?”

“I want Nick and Alex…now.” Ava announced after a moment, working very hard not to have a panic attack - especially in front of Jade.

“You have to tell us what’s wrong” Stefan insisted seriously. Ava looked pointedly at Jade, making it perfectly clear that she will not be talking about anything in front of her daughter. Denise gently gathered her out of the cart and with Demyan at her side, she walked a little ways away but remained in seeing sight of Ava, knowing how important it is to her that she sees Jade at all times.

“That man…” Ava spoke when she was sure Jade was out of hearing point. “He was in the toy store earlier too. He has his hair down now and is wearing different clothes, but I swear to god it’s him.” Stefan and Q looked over at the bench discretely.

“I believe you…I remember him too. Just act normal,” Stefan instructed gently.

“We have to walk by him on the way out and everything. What if he tries to get Jade?” she asked, looking at Stefan tearfully. “I want Nick and Alex to come get us…please.” Stefan stepped closer to her and gently placed his hands to her shoulders and looked into her eyes seriously.

“You need to trust me Ava….neither of us are going to let anything happen to either one of you, I promise. Just act normal and pay for the groceries.” Ava, with her eyes clouded with tears nodded and turned her attention back on the groceries and continued putting them all on the counter. Denise returned at her side and began to help her and move things along a little more quickly. The whole time she felt Q’s hand on her back and it was helping her to keep her breathing under control. While Q was doing that, Demyan stood next to the cart holding Jade now and Stefan remained close by ready to grab Ava if anything should happen.

As soon as everything was up on the counter and by the time they were finally next in line, Ava had managed to stop her tears and did her best to act like nothing was wrong as the lady rung everything up and chatted with her. When everything was in bags and in the cart again, Ava gently took Jade from Demyan, desperately needing to hold her and she hugged her close to her protectively.

Denise grabbed the cart and Stefan gently positioned Ava between him and Demyan while Q walked behind her and they headed out to the car that way, all of them noticing the man trying not to look like he is watching them behind his newspaper. When they were outside they discovered Drake at the curb waiting in their car and while Stefan and Demyan worked on getting Ava and Jade safely in the car, Denise and Q hurriedly loaded the groceries before getting in themselves and Drake quickly got them out of there.
End Notes:
Twitter: @UrsTrulyAshee
I thrive on reviews ;-)
Needed by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Here's the next chapter.
Enjoy :-)
Chapter Twenty-One

“Go inside honey, Stefan and Demyan will stay with you. I need to get your groceries back to the hotel and then pick up food for the boys before the concert” Q instructed gently when they arrived at the arena. They had all gotten out of the car and he was getting ready to take Drake’s place in the driver’s seat. “Everybody knows what happened and is waiting for you.”

“Okay” Ava replied softly, trying everything she can to keep herself together for Jade’s sake alone. She doesn’t understand what happened at the grocery store, and Ava would like nothing more than to keep it that way. If she can get away with sheltering her from anymore trauma, that would be great. When she had her daughter out of her car seat and in her arms she turned and allowed Stefan, Demyan, and her mother to escort her into the arena while Drake took the front passenger’s seat. The officer had volunteered to go with Q and help him out.

As soon as they got inside and backstage, sure enough there was her family waiting for her. Ava’s eyes immediately sought out Nick first and foremost and she went straight into his arms. Nick, though slightly surprised, slid them around her waist and hugged her close to him protectively. He thought for sure she would’ve gone straight to her brother first, and from the look on AJ’s face, he can see he’s shocked too. She usually does during a crisis.

“Here’s my family…I missed you both so much,” He spoke, putting on a cheerful façade for Jade. He was warned by Q via text message that Jade knows nothing and Ava wants it to stay that way. He couldn’t agree more, as his baby knows way too much all ready. He pulled back slightly and gently cradled Jade’s face in his hands.

“Did you have fun shopping at the mall?”

“Yeah, lots! Mommy bought me a new toy and Gramma got me lots of new clothes!” Jade answered enthusiastically.

“Nice! Daddy wants to see this new toy of yours; did Q leave it with you?”

“I’ve got it right here, I knew Jade would want to share it with Zara the moment she got the chance” Denise spoke up. Jade smiled up at Ava and Ava mustered a smile back and set her down, allowing her to run over to her grandmother who helped her get her toy out of the bag. While that was going on, Nick sat down on the floor with Ava sitting sideways in his lap and she gazed up at him. He placed his hand against her cheek and gently caressed it, silently conveying to her without words that everything is okay. Ava slid her arms around his neck and nestled her head against his shoulder. When Jade had the big box with her Barbie Fashionista limo inside it, and her Barbie, she managed to carry it over to her mommy and daddy and Nick couldn’t help but chuckle softy.

“That box is bigger than you, princess” He told her and she giggled. When she reached him, he gently took the box from her and looked it over.

“Ooh, awesome!” He told her, showing her his enthusiasm and making her smile even bigger. “You and Zee are going to have so much fun with this – daddy might have to play with you too when he gets the chance.”

“I didn’t realize you were into Barbie’s, Nick,” AJ commented amusedly as he sat down next to him and reached over and combed his fingers through his sister’s hair endearingly. She reached out and took his hand into hers.

“When your four year old asks you to play Barbie’s with her, you play Barbie’s with her.”

“Where is Zee, daddy, I want to show her my toy” Jade spoke up after a moment.

“On our bus with Drew watching a movie – should I take you to her?” Kathryn spoke up before anyone else could, and she looked at Nick and Ava. Nick nodded appreciatively as Jade answered.

“Yes please!”

Kathryn walked over and stood in front of Nick and Ava and Nick pulled his daughter into a hug and kissed her cheek affectionately.

“Mommy and I will be there in a little bit princess, okay? Daddy loves you.”

“I love you too daddy,” she told him and she looked up at Kathryn.

“Here honey, let me carry that big box for you so you don’t have to” she told her and as soon as she had it in one arm and Jade’s hand in her other one, she and Demyan set off for the tour bus while Stefan remained behind with Ava. As soon as Jade was gone with the door closed, Ava took her face out of Nick’s shoulder and looked up at him, suddenly showing her tears for the first time.

“He has someone following us, Nicky” She told him and he wiped away her tears and delicately caressed her cheek with his fingertips.

“It’s not something we didn’t expect baby…it’s going to be okay” Nick reassured and he shifted her so she was straddling him, before wrapping his arms around her waist, hugging her close to him affectionately, and resting his forehead against hers.

“What if he had attacked us and gotten Jade?”

“None of us were going to let that happen, first of all” Stefan spoke up gently. “Demyan and I are a force to be reckoned with. He’s not going to get through us that easily. Second of all, he wasn’t there to attack us or he would’ve tried it long before you saw him.”

“Knowing David, he let her see him on purpose and was just there to terrify her….bastard” AJ spoke up while rubbing his hand over Ava’s back.

“He certainly wasn’t making a huge effort to blend in,” Stefan agreed. Nick tilted Ava’s chin up and kissed her softly before gently making her rest her head against his shoulder and he hugged her a little tighter, wanting her to feel safe. Ava snuggled against him and took in his hugs and kisses. She missed him while she was gone and it’s the only thing she wants right now.

“Thank you for getting them both back here safely.”

“Yes, thank you,” AJ agreed and he leaned forward and kissed the back of his sister’s head.
“What’s going to be done about this guy?”

“He hasn’t done anything to justify arresting him yet, but Demyan and I both got a good look at him in the mall and the grocery store. We will find out who he is and keep an eye on things. He’s not getting anywhere near them” Stefan reassured. While Nick, AJ, and the guys sat there discussing things with Stefan, Ava sat quietly snuggling with Nick. By the time they were finished Q and Drake arrived with a box of subs and drinks from subway. Nick grabbed both his and Ava’s sandwiches as well as Jade’s and handed them to Ava before swiftly lifting her up in his arms so he is cradling her and he brought her onto their tour bus with Denise, Brian, and Raven all following.

“Baby J, Q brought you a sandwich come eat” Ava instructed her daughter gently when Nick had sat her on her feet. She and Zara had been sitting in front of the TV with The Little Mermaid on and they were transfixed with Jade’s new toy.

“You too Zee” Raven added and while Ava, Brian, and Raven worked on getting the two children settled at the table, Denise gently grabbed Nick’s arm and pulled him a good distance away from everybody where they couldn’t be overheard. Nick gave her a questioning look.

“Do you think you could get away from Ava for a couple of hours tomorrow morning before we leave for the next town?” She asked quietly.

“Yeah, I’m sure I could manage it…why?”

“You and I have some errands to run…its important.” Meanwhile over on the other side of the room, as soon as Ava had Jade settled at the table next to her best friend, the two of them happily eating their kids meal from subway, Ava who didn’t miss the fact that Nick was no longer by her side looked over at him quietly wondering what he and her mother are up to.

“Aren’t you going to sit down and eat honey?” Kathryn questioned when she noticed and she turned and looked at her friends around her to see them looking at her with concern.

“In a minute,” Ava answered and she turned her attention back on Nick. Brian chuckled softly.

“Sit down and eat honey, he’ll be over here in a minute. You two are crazy.” Ava gave Brian an innocent smile, though he could tell it was slightly forced. She’s still feeling shaken about earlier and just wants Nick. He is the only thing keeping her strong right now when she feels like a fragile mess.

“Where is my brother?” She asked, hoping to take the attention away from this fact. “He is usually right here keeping an eye on me at all times.”

“On his bus eating alone with Tierja” Brian answered with a small grin. “They’ve got a date after the after party and everything.”

What?” Ava asked in shock. “How did that happen? Not that I’m not happy for her or anything, because I am, but…”

“Green monster jealousy. Luke was getting a little too close to her and it pushed him to step things up.”

“He looked like he might hit him earlier,” Raven added. Ava stood there just taking in this new information. She goes away for a day and misses all of this drama. Not that she wasn’t busy getting into some of her own or anything…while she stood there thinking about it, she let her eyes wander back over to Nick. He felt her gaze and turned and looked at her and he smiled at her lovingly making her smile back slightly. He went over and slid his arms around her waist and planted a kiss on her forehead.

“Baby, why aren’t you eating huh?”

“Because I wanted you to hold me” Ava answered and she nestled her face in his neck. “I need you right now, Nicky.” She told him quietly so only he would hear.

“I like being needed,” he told her in her ear in return and he brought her over to the empty chair and sat down in it before taking her into his lap sideways. She rested her head against his shoulder and finally started to eat now that he was there and eating too.

“So, what were you and my momma talking about so secretly over there?” she interrogated when her mother joined them too. Nick laughed and rolled his eyes.

“You wouldn’t be you if you didn’t ask that question.” Ava eyed him and her mother, her eyebrow still raised and Nick kissed the tip of her nose. “Just about how much we both love you, nosey, that’s all…eat your food.”

“If that were the case, you wouldn’t be standing way over there looking so secretive” Ava insisted stubbornly. Nick shook his head amused and Denise immediately changed the subject, bringing up her son as she too found it weird that he wasn’t there.

As soon as everyone was finished eating and had gone off to do their own thing, and Jade was sitting on the floor in front of the couch happily playing with her new toy, Nick took Ava’s hand and brought her over to the couch and sat down before gently pulling her down beside him. She curled up into his side facing him and he tucked a curly strand of her hair behind her ear.

“Creepy stalker aside, did you have fun shopping with your mom today?” he asked gently.

“Yes, the time alone with her was much needed. I really missed her.” Nick smiled softly and slid his arms loosely around her waist and rested his forehead against hers and looked into her chocolate brown eyes, causing her to wrap an arm around his neck and snuggle closer.

“I’m glad…but as good as that was for you, you’re not allowed to leave me alone for that long ever again” He teased playfully and she laughed softly, a beautiful melody to his ears.

“I wasn’t gone for that long.”

“You and Brian keep saying that. Neither of you seem to understand that it was the longest day of my life, Ava Marie.”

“I’m sorry baby, what can I do to make it better?” she asked with a small amused smile.

“I can think of a number of things, none of which involve our four year old being in the room…but since she is, this is perfect. You’re perfect.” Ava gently placed her hand to his cheek and brought his mouth down onto hers kissing him softly and she tightened her arm around him as he deepened her kiss with his own. When he pulled away she rested her head against his shoulder and glanced over at Jade and he did too only for her to look at them in return and smile happily before going back to concentrating on her toy. Nick kissed Ava’s forehead affectionately and idly played with her curls feeling pretty happy himself.
End Notes:
Please let me know what you think. I thrive on feedback :-)
Twitter - @UrsTrulyAshee
Finally Happy by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
OK, so I feel like I should explain the weird timeline for this story...haha. It's a little bit off, I know. Its during the time when Nick was working on "Now Or Never" (2002) but since the boys weren't touring during that time, I had to use the 2001 Black & Blue tour set-list. I also took Nick's appearance from 2012 and used it in this story instead because, well, anyone who knows me knows I like him with long hair...lol. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chapter.

I have a couple of people to thank for it - LenniLuvsBrian, who I forced to co-write it with me, since she was insistent on there being a concert scene (I always have such a hard time writing them, though I've been to every tour except This Is Us)

And the person who posted pretty much the entire 2001 Dallas show on youtube, in which I had fun watching during my research :-)
Chapter Twenty-Two

“I want to be able to sit out in the audience and watch the concert, will that be a problem?” Ava asked Stefan a little later on that night. The fans have been let in and it’s almost time for the boys to go out onstage and grace them with their presence. She was currently standing with Nick who had his arms wrapped around her waist and was placing tender kisses on her forehead. Jade sat nearby with Zara, still fascinated as ever with her new toy. Neither Nick nor Ava has ever seen her so absorbed in one thing for so long before. “I do it every concert and it’s their first one of the tour, so it’s important.”

“As long as we are able to control the situation around you the whole time it will be okay” Stefan answered after a moment. He really wants to say no and it is clear on his face. He can just see David taking advantage of a big crowd like this. But he recognizes how important this is to her and knows he has to make it work somehow. As long as she’s willing to compromise with him, he doesn’t see any reason to be the bad guy. She is the type of woman who would make it very difficult to be the bad guy. But if he has to, he will do it. He looked at Q with a look that clearly said help.

“We have a small balcony section to the left of the stage reserved for our friends and family watching the show. Nobody but them will be up there and you can easily protect her from there, my guys and I made sure,” Q spoke up.

“Okay,” Stefan nodded after a moment and he gave Demyan and Drake a look telling them to get ready. “I’d like to get you up there now then,” he added and Ava nodded and looked up at Nick. Nick gently placed his hand to her cheek and brushed his lips lightly over hers.

“Have fun Nicky, I’ll be watching” she told him softly and he rubbed his nose lightly over hers.

“I love you,” He told her, before pulling away from her and going over to Jade who looked up at him. He gently gathered her up into his arms and hugged her close to him affectionately, causing her to slide her arms around his neck and hug him back.

“Mommy is going to take you to your seats now baby, I will see you later tonight okay? I love you.”

“Okay Daddy,” Jade told him happily and he kissed her cheek. “I love you too.” He hugged her for a moment longer and then gently handed her over to Ava, before giving her one more quick but meaningful kiss and he slid his fingers through her soft curls. When he pulled back he watched her walk out of the room with Drake, Stefan, Demyan, and Q, as well as Kathryn, Tierja, Denise, Raven, and Zara. When they were all gone, he turned and prepared to go onstage and Brian, who was of course watching him, rolled his eyes playfully.

“You’re practically glowing, Frack.”

“And you’re having way too much fun making fun of me, Frick.” Nick responded as he picked up after his daughter, putting all of her toys away. “I can’t help it if I’m finally happy. I feel closer to Ava then I have ever been. This is the first time she’s ever needed just me. She didn’t go to AJ to take care of her when she was scared, she went to me. It’s a big deal.”

“Yeah I’m still dealing with that bro, don’t rub it in” AJ spoke up and he slid his arm around Nick and hugged him.

“I know it’s hard for you to let your baby sister go, but I’m thankful you stepped back and let me take care of her this time” Nick responded.

“I knew it was important to you. And it helped that I’m sort of pre-occupied with keeping Tierja in my life right now,” AJ responded. “I have problems of my own right now, so it’s good that you’re here to take over with Ava.”

“Not take over completely though,” Nick reassured. “She’s still your baby sister and always will be.”

“Damn straight she is,” AJ responded. “So do a good job with her or I will beat you. She deserves happiness this time around.”

“Well, she’s got it so don’t worry.”

“I hate to cut into your bromance time here guys, but we have to go onstage now” Howie spoke up and Nick and AJ looked around to see everybody watching them in amusement. AJ cleared his throat and pulled his arm away from Nick’s shoulders.
“Right,” Nick replied and he and AJ ignored the laughter as they prepared to go on stage and perform.

~*~*~*~*~

“Mommy, when will daddy be out?” Jade asked as Ava stood beside her mother and friends holding her daughter on her hip. Stefan was standing on the other side of her protectively, while Drake stood outside the door to the balcony and Demyan and Q were down below scanning the crowd looking for any danger that might come at them from afar. Kaci Brown currently had the stage and Jade was very unimpressed.

“Any minute now baby,” Ava reassured, kissing her on the forehead. “You have to have a little bit of patience.”

“They shoulda had Mandy Moore sing for them, she’s way better” Zara spoke up as Raven stood next to Ava with Zara on her hip as well so that the two friends could be side by side during the concert.

“Maybe if you put in a good word for her, they’ll ask her to join them during the second leg of the tour sweetheart” Drew spoke up amusedly as he suddenly came up behind them. Everybody looked at him curiously to see him holding two glow sticks in his hands. One was pink and another purple and both girls looked at him with widened eyes.

“Are those for us??” Zara asked hopefully and Drew laughed.

“Of course they are for you, silly. Who else would I brave the merchandise booth for but my two favorite girls?” He asked while handing them over, each girl getting their favorite color – Jade pink, and Zara purple. The two of them happily marveled over their new treasures and Ava looked at Drew and smiled.

“Thanks Drew, you didn’t have to do that.”

“Of course I did,” Drew insisted while planting a kiss on her cheek. “Just be thankful it wasn’t the rainbow cotton candy that I saw. Q told me if I valued my life I would strongly re-consider.” Ava burst out laughing and shook her head.

“Yes, he would know better that’s for sure. He got himself into trouble earlier at the grocery store.”

“I would’ve paid good money to see that. Well, there is always tomorrow night’s concert when Q hasn’t had a full day to have all of the fun without me.” Ava looked at him with a raised eyebrow and he smirked. “Hey, it’s glow in the dark rainbow cotton candy. They have to experience it just once you have to admit!” Ava rolled her eyes and shook her head in amusement.

“How about one to share?” She compromised and Drew grinned.

“It’s a deal,” he told her and leaned in and kissed her cheek once more before stepping back, but sticking around to help incase he’s needed. Just then the lights went out as Kaci Brown had long since announced the boys and left the stage. Ava had been so focused on her conversation with Drew she hadn’t even noticed. Jade and Zara both squealed excitedly as the music to the boy’s intro began. Ava and Raven exchanged amused looks as their daughter’s got just as excited as the millions of fans around them.

“Do you think they’ll sing As Long As You Love Me, Mommy?” Zara asked in Raven’s ear so that she would hear her as they watched the space theme pictures on the big screen and the special effects.

“Of course they will, what kind of concert would it be without As Long As You Love Me?” Raven reassured and Zara beamed. She always likes it when Brian sings that song to her. He makes sure to do it every night and now she gets to hear him sing it twice. Just then the boys took the stage, doing their robot-like space dance routine making the fans – and Jade and Zara go crazy, the two of them waving their fun new glow sticks that they adore and the boys went right into the song Everyone.

"We've been through days of thunder," Brian sang. "Some people said we don't belong. They try to pull us under, but here we stand together and we're a million strong....." The crowd shrieked its delight, cameras and cell phones waving in the air as girls eagerly tried to snap as many photos of their idols as possible. Ava smirked slightly as she heard the noise. She had missed this. "Let's get on with the show," the Boys sang, as they danced around on stage. "Oh let's get started," Nick smirked, as he gyrated his hips a little bit. He winked at Ava as he ran by, causing her heart to pound excitedly. Jade squealed, jumping up and down with Zara, as she figured the wink was for her - her eyes were of course glued to her Daddy. They finished with Everyone and set right onto Larger Than Life, as their fans really were larger than life - if the screaming wasn't any indication, their record sales definitely were. Ava and Raven moved to the music while they each held their girls, enjoying it with them.

After Larger Than Life the boys disappeared backstage for a quick wardrobe change, only to return one by one as they each said a little something to the fans with Kevin taking the stage last and announcing What Makes You Different (Makes You Beautiful). Ava hugged Jade close in anticipation of hearing this song live, as she watched all four boys join Kevin and take their seats on the stools in their white outfits, AJ’s complete with a hat of course. It’s a song that Howie had written and it makes her feel like it was written specifically for her.

AJ swears to her it’s just a coincidence since like everyone in their group, Howie is completely in the dark about Ava’s past, but ever since she heard it for the first time she deemed it hers and loves Howie just a little bit more than before if that was even possible at all.

“You don’t run with the crowd, you go your own way. You don’t play after dark, you light up my day” Howie began singing and Ava noticed Nick look her way again with so much love in his eyes as Brian took the next verse, making her heart turn over in her chest. Now that he knows her deep dark secret, he’s of course figured out why she’s always listening to this song. “Got your own kind of style that sets you apart…baby, that's why you captured my heart”

"I know sometimes you feel like you don't fit in and this world doesn't know what you have within," Howie continued as he stood from his stool.

"When I look at you I see something rare," Brian added as he rose. "A rose that can grow anywhere…and there's no one I know that can compare."

The other Boys joined Brian and Howie, all of them standing as the chorus began. A.J. was in front of his sister and felt Nick throw an arm around his shoulders. Together they sang to the girl they both loved with all their hearts.

"What makes you different, makes you beautiful. What's there inside you shines through to me. And in your eyes I see all the love I'll ever need. What makes you different, makes you beautiful to me..."

Ava wiped her eyes as she had of course teared up. This was her favourite song and her two most favourite guys had just sung the chorus to her.

"Hiiiii!" Jade squealed as she waved, jumping up and down excitedly.

Zara waved as well then looked to see where Brian was. He was by far her most favourite. He was dating her Mommy after all and he always made her feel like a Princess.

Nick and A.J. waved to the little girls and moved on before people got too suspicious. Sure everyone knew A.J. had a sister, but now was not a good time for people to fully realize that she was in the audience. After What Makes You Different (Makes You Beautiful) the boys moved on to do songs like Yes I Will, Not For Me, More Than That, I Want It That Way, and Quit Playing Games. Right as they were just starting Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely, Drew moved up behind Raven and whispered something in her ear. Raven rolled her eyes playfully and looked down at her daughter in her arms.

“Zara sweetheart, Drew has asked to borrow you for a few moments. It appears Brian may need your help with something…” Zara and Jade widened their eyes.

“Really, me…? But what can I do?” She asked astonished and Drew chuckled softly.

“You’ll see,” He answered and he held his arms out to her. Zara leaned toward him and allowed him to take her and he turned and walked out through the balcony door where Drake still stood guard, only to have Mike walk in and take Drew’s place so that Ava and Jade’s security detail remains strong. The women and Jade continued to watch the show, enjoying Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely and then they left the stage again for a short break only to have a funny video clip of them from “2050” as old guys appear on the screen and Ava, Jade, Denise, Kathryn, and Tierja got a real kick out of watching that.

When it ended the music to As Long As You Love Me began playing and Jade squealed in delight right along with the fans as they boys, and Zara appeared on the stage, all of them wearing blue outfits and sitting on giant blocks – Zara placed in none other than Brian’s lap! Nick walked to the edge of the stage as he began the song, pacing along the edge of it and singing his heart out to the crowd, something Ava loves to see most. She loves watching him put his heart and soul into doing the thing he loves.

“Although loneliness has always been a friend of mine, I'm leaving my life in your hands…people say I'm crazy and that I am blind, risking it all in a glance…and how you got me blind is still a mystery, I can't get you out of my head.” He discretely cast his eyes in Ava’s direction again, determined to make as much words as he can about her tonight. “Don't care what is written in your history, as long as you're here with me…” he added and he blew a kiss in her direction, making her swoon and he watched an amused Kathryn wrap her arm around her as the boys chimed in for the chorus.

“I don't care who you are, where you're from, what you did…as long as you love me. Who you are, where you're from, don't care what you did…as long as you love me.” Brian got up from his block and joined Nick in walking along the stage singing, though he smiled down at the little one on his hip so she knows he is singing to her too.

“Every little thing that you have said and done, feels like its deep within me…doesn't really matter if you're on the run,” Brian sang and he pretended to make like he is running, making Zara giggle and he planted a kiss on her cheek. “It seems like we're meant to be…” He added, and the boys jumped in again for the chorus.

“I've tried to hide it so that no one knows, but I guess it shows, when you look into my eyes…” Brian serenaded, and he rested his forehead against Zara’s and looked playfully into her eyes, making her smile big and look back into his with so much love in her own. She would be more than okay if her mommy made him her daddy someday. The man means so much to her and has since the day she was born. “What you did and where you're coming from….”

“I don’t care….” The boys harmonized.

“As long as you love me baby…” Brian continued, before looking back out into the audience and finishing up the song, even going as far as grabbing hands as he walked along the stage, though he held the small child close to him ever so lovingly the whole time. When the song ended and they were going into I’ll Never Break Your Heart, Brian quickly took Zara backstage again, meeting Drew halfway. When he took her again and proceeded to take her back to the balcony in secret, Brian rejoined the boys and finished the concert with them.

“That man is trouble with a capital T,” Kathryn informed Ava, kissing her friend on the forehead. “No one is supposed to know you’re out here, and he simply can’t help himself” she added and Ava laughed tearfully and rubbed at her eyes. “It’s is very clear that he loves you honey, you are beginning to see that right?” she asked and Ava nodded and rested her head against Kathryn’s shoulder as she continued to watch the show. They did Shining Star, How Did I Fall In Love With You, Time, Everybody, All I Have To Give, The Answer To Our Life, Get Another Boyfriend, and Shape Of My Heart, which AJ made sure to catch Tierja’s eyes during, putting her in tears next and then ended the show with The Call.

Drake, Drew, Mike, and Stefan waited until most of the crowd had exited the building completely before sneaking the women and children backstage again. When they got back there Ava gave her brother a brief hug and a kiss on the cheek and told him she loves him, before immediately moving onto Nick who hadn’t even completely changed out of his sweaty concert clothes yet. He was standing there looking absolutely sexy in nothing but a pair of jeans. He slid his arms around her waist and pulled her into a hug with their daughter sandwiched between them the both of them slid their arms around him, Ava’s around his neck while she buried her face in it.

“I thought you’d be in the shower getting ready for your after party by now.”

“I wanted to see my girls before you left,” Nick insisted gently and he kissed her forehead affectionately. “Did you like the show?”

“How could I not? Not only did all five of you put on a really great show, but you couldn’t have made it anymore special tonight” She spoke softly in his ear and he grinned and hugged her a little bit closer.

You are special. Are you sure you want to head back to the hotel? Haven’t we spent enough time apart today?”

“I don’t think the after party scene is appropriate for a four year old, babe. Maybe I will attend one another night, but I want to go back and rest this time” She told him and she looked up into his eyes, silently promising him that she will be giving him an After Party for two once their daughter is asleep later. He gave her a small loving smile and brushed his lips lightly over hers.

“I will see you later tonight then. I love you,” He told her and he hugged her one more time before taking his daughter from her and hugging her next. He had a quick conversation with her about the show before kissing her cheek and handing her back and he watched as Stefan, Demyan, and Drake escorted his two girls out to the trusted ride that Drake arranged for them to take back to the hotel.
End Notes:
As always, let me know what you think. I thrive on feedback :-)
Twitter: @UrsTrulyAshee
Doubt by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Here's another chapter that my emotions once again went into...
Enjoy :-)
Chapter Twenty-Three

“Hey sweetie, I thought you would be at the After Party with everyone else…” Ava greeted Kathryn when Demyan, Stefan, and Drake had finished helping her and Jade out of the car and she saw one third of her best friends get out of a cab from behind them with Zara in her arms.

“I didn’t really feel up to dealing with the whole party scene tonight,” Kathryn explained as Ava pulled her into a hug and planted a kiss on her cheek and then Zara’s, the younger woman perceptively noticing her friend eyeing Demyan in the corner of her eye, no matter how discrete she tried to be. “So I volunteered to take this little one off of Raven’s hands so she could stay with Brian and left.”

“I don’t blame you,” Ava empathized, hugging her a bit tighter. “I’m not a big fan of the parties that come with the whole celebrity package myself…too many people and I just cling to Nick or Alex the whole time I’m there.”

“But yet, you feel right at home in a crowded concert,” Kathryn pointed out amusedly.

“Yeah, I can’t really explain that logic” Ava laughed and Kathryn hugged her a little bit tighter.

“Anyway, I know you are busy being secretive right now and everything, but do you mind if I hang out with you? I’m pretty good at keeping secrets myself…” She asked and gave Ava a small smile and Ava laughed.

“Yeah, of course it’s okay…more than okay. I could really use some Kat and Ava time right now…”

“But let’s take it up to your suite instead, okay?” Demyan spoke up, coming up behind Kathryn. “It’s not safe to linger here in the parking lot.”

“You could’ve ridden back with us you know, why didn’t you say something?” Ava continued talking to Kathryn as Demyan silently took Kathryn’s side and Stefan took Ava’s and they let them direct them toward the building.

“It was a last minute decision and Howie wanted to talk to me before I left. By the time I was ready to go, you guys had already left.” Ava nodded and kept her arm around her friend’s shoulders while they walked. She didn’t fail to notice the look in her eyes when she mentioned Howie though. As soon as they made it up to the floor that their suites were on, Ava pulled her card out of her pocket and Demyan gently moved in front of her and Kathryn both protectively. This is the first time she’s ever seen the quiet man’s bossy side, usually he lets Stefan take the lead and do the talking.

“Give Drake your key and let him in first…just as a precaution.” He ordered gently and Ava did just that. Drake carded the door and opened it before going inside with his hand rested on his gun just in case and he did a quick search of the place. When he saw that nothing was out of the ordinary, he turned and nodded at Stefan and Demyan. Demyan stepped to the side and allowed them to follow Stefan in, before coming in behind them and shutting the door before doing what he does best and disappearing in the background.

“Mommy, I’m thirsty” Jade announced. “Can I have some chocolate milk please?” Ava scrunched up her nose a little bit.

“How about some iced tea instead?” She offered trying to sound as enthused about this idea as she can. She knows her daughter loves tea, so it can’t be too difficult to convince her. She used to drink tea straight out of her sippy cups because she would see her mommy drinking it and insist on having it too. And since it has all sorts of healthy in it, she didn’t argue and instead took full advantage of training her to be healthy young. Warm tea is her go-to whenever her baby is sick. “I brought some green tea and some chamomile tea…if you don’t fight me on this I’ll even add a little bit of honey to it” She bribed. She just doesn’t have to know that its sugar free honey.

“Okay…green tea, please.” Jade agreed and Ava sighed with relief before looking toward Zara who an amused Kathryn still held.

“How about you miss Zee…tea?” She asked, leaning forward and rubbing her nose over hers. The small child giggled.

“Chamomile please”

“All righty then…I have to brew it, so just hang tight okay?” When both girls nodded, Ava gently put Jade down and headed into the kitchen area and Kathryn put Zara down too and followed.

“What is with you suddenly being the sugar police today, huh?” Kathryn asked teasingly as she watched her friend get her tea stuff out. Not just any kind of tea, but the good expensive stuff…loose leaves and all. Ava and Jade have been making it a big mother and daughter event to visit every tea store they can find around the world when on tour with the boys. They’ve been to so many that there is an entire pantry at the Backstreet House just filled with any kind of tea you can think of down to stuff that will literally clear your stuffed nose when you have a cold.


“She’s just had so much today, that’s all. I think she’s reached her limit” Ava insisted innocently. “I know she’s been very good today, but she does have a reputation where sugar is concerned and everybody is well aware of that. Not only that, but it’s unhealthy to have too much of it. I think my stinginess about the sugar is well justified, especially this late at night.” Kathryn laughed.

“I hear ya,” she responded, leaning in and kissing her cheek.

“Besides, I’d really like her to start winding down so she will be ready for bed when it comes to that time,” Ava insisted, avoiding eye contact with Kathryn as she prepared to brew the tea leaves in two of her hardcore tea makers. When she had it set and doing just that, she looked at Stefan who stood nearby.

“Any of you want to do me a huge favor and run down to the ice machine for me? I should’ve thought to get some at the grocery store, but creeper guy was sitting next to it…”

“Yeah, I know. I will do that for you” Stefan answered, gently squeezing her shoulder before going off to fetch some ice.

~*~*~*~*~

Meanwhile at the after party, Tierja and Raven were hanging out off to the side out of the way with Drew while the boys did a quick meet and greet for the fans that paid extra money for it. There was a huge line of lucky fans and security was directing them onto a red couch with the boys behind the curtain to the stage for pictures.

The hundreds of fans not so lucky to score tickets for the event, could be heard on the other side of the curtain enjoying the music and waiting for the boys to take the stage so the party could begin. Nick will be DJ’ing for it and is pretty excited about it, but for the time being there is another DJ in his place.

“No hugs please – and eight to a photo” Q announced, only to have Brian walk up to the next person in line and throw his arms about her in an affectionate hug minutes later and Raven shook her head in amusement.

“How come Kat decided not to come?” Tierja questioned Raven as the two of them sat in chairs cross-legged sipping on apple martinis that Drew had gotten them while they watched the excited fans swoon over the boys. “She seems kind of off lately, what’s going on with her?” She added, looking at Raven concerned knowing that she’s had to of confided in her. The two of them spent the whole day together, hardly leaving each other’s side. Even consumed with her own situation with AJ, she still noticed this.

“I don’t know, she’s not really talking about it much” Raven answered, she too looking concerned. “I can tell you one thing though; she seems to be pretty interested in a certain sexy bodyguard and Howie doesn’t seem to be happy about it. They argued earlier…”

“So it’s not just me who’s noticed that she’s been acting off?” Tierja asked with a slight frown as she gazed into her drink.

“Oh no, even Ava is aware of it, as busy as she is with her own problems. I’m sure she is with her right now and will get it out of her one way or another, she has a certain relationship with her that we could never touch.”

“I hope so,” Tierja responded worriedly and Raven lightly nudged her in the arm. “Speaking of busy…how is it that you are aware of what’s going on with Kat when things seem to finally be happening between you and our AJ over there?” She asked, hoping to lighten the mood and it worked. She watched a smile form on Tierja’s face in an instant and smiled herself. It’s been a very long time since she’s seen her smile like that.

“That was a huge surprise he gave you toward the end of the concert tonight, wasn’t it?” she asked while wrapping an arm around her.

“Do you think he meant those things, Ray?” She asked softly, a mixture of hope and doubt in her voice. “Or was he just singing a song?”

“AJ seems like he has difficulty saying how he feels…so if he looked at you and sang those words at you, he damn well meant them sweetheart.” Tierja nodded quietly and gazed over at the man she has put her all into over the years and she let herself hope even further.

“What all does he have planned for you tonight?” Raven asked, trying to keep her friend positive. She can see the doubt in her eyes no matter how much she tries to hide it.

“I don’t know, he won’t tell me” Tierja smiled softly. “He’s being all romantic and mysterious about it, I love it.”

“You will have to give us all the details in the morning, you know that right? There will be no getting out of it.”

“I will give you details up to a certain extent, that’s all I’m promising” Tierja laughed and she rested her head against her friend’s shoulder and smiled at AJ who glanced her way upon hearing her laugh. He returned her smile with a huge one of his own, crinkling his nose and closing his eyes as he does, making her laugh again and he blew her a kiss before returning his full focus on his work and Raven rolled her eyes playfully.

“He is as bad as Nickolas, I swear.”

“Nickolas is completely head over heels and lovey dovey to Ava, so as far as I’m concerned that is not a bad thing.”

~*~*~*~*~

“J-Baby, let’s get you in your pajamas and then you can help me with mommy’s surprise dinner for daddy okay?” Ava told her daughter who was sitting nearby on the floor with Zara, the two of them watching cartoons and contentedly sipping on their tea. “We have to get started on it shortly here if we want to finish before his party ends. Brian can only distract him for so long.”

“Okay!” Jade responded happily. She loves to cook. Ava went over and gently gathered her up in her arms and after setting her tea on the coffee table for her to come back to later, she hugged her close to her affectionately. Jade snuggled against her and hugged her back as Ava kissed her forehead and carried her into the bedroom. Kathryn followed her and lingered in the door.

“If you were planning on making dinner for Nick how come you let him eat dinner before the concert earlier?” Kathryn asked amusedly and Ava rolled her eyes playfully.

“Trust me, he will be plenty hungry when he gets home. He always has a gigantic appetite after he’s been working all night, I would know. I’ve been feeding him after shows since I was eleven” She answered while helping her daughter into her pink princess nightgown and slippers, both of which has Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty on them. “Besides, making him not eat would’ve been suspicious,” she pointed out. When she finished she let out her pigtails and lovingly brushed out her blonde hair.

“I should probably get this little one in her pajamas too so that Raven and Brian don’t have to worry about it when they get home…I will be right back sweetie” Kathryn announced while looking down at Zara in her arms.

“Okay,” Ava responded and Kathryn turned around to see Demyan move from his perch against the wall readily. She raised her eyebrow at him, but otherwise didn’t respond as he she walked out of the room and he quietly followed shutting the door behind him. When they reached Brian and Raven’s suite he held his hand out for the key and she quietly handed it over. He wrapped an arm around her, carded the door and gently tucked her under his shoulder as he led her into the room cautiously. When he was sure there was nobody waiting in the room to attack he let her go and watched as she proceeded to take care of Zara.

“Why are you wasting your time protecting me when it’s Ava and Jade they’re after?” she asked, avoiding eye contact with him.

“Why did Howie let you come back here without so much as a single bodyguard?” Demyan demanded, ignoring her question.

“Howie isn’t my keeper” Kathryn insisted indignantly.

“Does he know you came back here alone? I know he’s not stupid, Kathryn.”

“I told him I was going back with Ava, he wasn’t aware that you had left without me” Kathryn answered, shrugging her shoulders. “Not that it’s any of your business.” She glanced up at the security guard just on time to see his eyes darken in anger and she shuddered and looked away from him. She continued to help Zara into her purple Jasmine Nightgown and slippers and when she finished she kissed her forehead softly.

“Ready to go back to Ava and Jade’s room sweetheart?” she asked gently while handing over her favorite doll.

“I have to go potty first” She announced. Demyan peeked into the bathroom and when he saw that nobody was hiding in there and that there wasn’t a window for someone to sneak into when the door is closed, he nodded at Kathryn.

“Okay, go ahead and do that and then we will go spend some more time with Ava and Jade before bed” she told her and she watched as the four year old disappeared in the bathroom shutting the door just a crack. When she did she stood up and Demyan suddenly moved in front of her, standing so close that she was forced to back up against the wall. She looked up into his dark eyes and shuddered again as they pierced her own light brown ones.

“Do not do anything stupid like that again, Kathryn, do you hear me? Your best friend is in danger, which puts everybody she loves in danger too and that damn well makes your safety my business” he informed her seriously. Not only do his eyes darken when he is angry, but his Russian accent gets very strong too and it took Kathryn a moment to remember how to breathe. Kathryn opened her mouth to respond when suddenly the toilet flushed, the sink water started running, and then shortly after turned off and Zara re-emerged from the bathroom smiling happily.

“I’m ready to go Auntie Kathryn,” she announced and Kathryn forced a smile for her. She looked up at Demyan who quietly backed up now that the child is back in the room. “You don’t know the first thing about me, I can take care of myself” She informed him icily and she watched his eyes darken even more and then moved forward and gathered Zara into her arms.

“Great, let’s go back to our friends” she told her and proceeded to carry her back to the other room with Demyan quietly following her.

~*~*~*~*~

Meanwhile at the After Party, the boys were out on stage entertaining their fans and Tierja and Raven stood just inside the door to the backstage watching and talking amongst themselves, when suddenly Luke appeared at Tierja’s side and the two of them looked at him curiously.

“Hey Luke…what are you doing here?” Tierja asked curiously.

“Yeah, the boys’ band doesn’t normally attend these things…” Raven added while eyeing the guitarist curiously and Luke shrugged his shoulders.

“I had nothing better to do, so I figured I’d see what a Backstreet Boys After Party is like.”

“They can get pretty crazy,” Tierja answered and upon hearing the fans get louder, she turned to see what is going on just on time to see AJ and Howie with the company of Mike and Q, go out into the crowd just to get them riled up even more and the fans instantly formed a circle around them as the boys sung along and moved to the music that Nick currently had playing and touched and held hands.

“I see that,” Luke responded and Raven and Tierja continued to watch in amusement as the boys put on their charm, effortlessly making their fans go crazy. AJ was being the big time flirt that he is reputed to be.

“It looks like you’re just about done with that drink of yours; do you want me to get you a new one? Apple Martini, right?” Luke asked Tierja and she looked down at the drink in her hand before nodding and smiling at him.

“Yeah, sure thanks” She told him and he flashed a grin before going off toward the bar.

“You know he is into you honey…right?” Raven questioned when he was far enough away that he couldn’t over hear with the loud music going on.

“Yes, I’m aware but I made it perfectly clear to him that I’m in love with AJ this afternoon.”

“I don’t think he really cares, honey…you didn’t see it because it was going on behind your back, but he issued a very clear challenge to AJ when he came backstage earlier.”

“Did he?” Tierja asked while raising her eyebrow and Raven nodded.

“AJ looked like he might seriously hit him. Kat and I were worried we were going to have to call someone back to break up a fight.” When Tierja didn’t respond as she was clearly taking a moment to process this new information, Raven continued. “I don’t like him and neither does Kathryn…and Ava hasn’t been very fond of him from the start either.”

“Ava is like that with everybody she doesn’t know very well,” Tierja reminded. “She’s the baby and she’s painfully shy, you know that. It has nothing to do with Luke.”

“She’s warming up to the new security detail pretty fast…and I don’t think challenging one of the main members of the boy band that hired him is a fine way of keeping his job. You would think he would have a little more respect.” Tierja shrugged her shoulders.

“He’s been nothing but nice to me, Ray. He’s my friend…” Raven gazed at her in silence, but otherwise didn’t respond as Luke returned right then and handed over the brand new apple martini. Tierja smiled at him slightly and took it.

“Thanks,” She told him and took a sip.

“No problem,” Luke responded, and then turned his attention back on what is going on causing the two women to do the same. The moment Tierja turned her gaze back on AJ however, it was just on time to see a woman who had been standing amongst the crowd around him slide her arms around his neck and claim hips lips for her own in a deep kiss. Tierja froze where she stood and grabbed onto Raven as the world stopped spinning around her and she waited for him to pull away. Any minute now he is going to, right? He loves her. But a full minute went by and when he placed his hands to the woman’s shoulders, tears instantly flooded Tierja’s eyes and she turned away not being able to stomach looking anymore.

“Honey…” Raven began, but Tierja thrust her drink into her hand and looked at Luke.

“Take me back to the hotel…get me out of here” She sobbed. Luke nodded readily and he slid his arm around her and steered her out of the place. Raven arched her eyebrow and frowned, before turning and looking at AJ just on time to see he had finally managed to come out of his shock and push the woman off of him. The moment he did, he turned in the direction he knew Tierja had been, fear evident on his face, only to meet Raven’s eyes.

“You’re in big trouble,” she mouthed, and he looked at Q and gave him a desperate look. Q wrapped an arm around him and steered him toward the stage and as soon as he was on it, he wasted no time in running after Tierja, needing to explain. He only had her by a very thin thread already, this is going to be the very thing that he loses her over, and he knows it. The real fear of it twisted at his gut and heart.
End Notes:
Be sure to let me know what you think, I thrive on feedback.
Twitter: UrsTrulyAshee
The Shape Of AJ's Heart by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Here's the next chapter.
Enjoy :-)
Chapter Twenty-Four

By the time AJ made it outside it was just on time to see Tierja drive away in a cab with Luke. He reached in his pocket to pull out his cell phone to call one himself when he felt the familiar touch of his bodyguard and one of his best friends. He turned and looked at him and he gently squeezed his shoulder.

“Hang tight, I already took care of your ride. Kev insisted I go back with you, not that I was waiting for his permission or anything, I was already right behind you.”

“If it doesn’t get here fast I’m going to run back myself, Q, I can’t wait.” AJ insisted while running his fingers through his hair in agitation. “I can’t lose her over this. Not over a misunderstanding, not when I’ve been trying, really trying with her lately. I didn’t ask for that.”

“I know you didn’t J, it’s going to be all right. When has Tierja ever not listened to you?” AJ looked at him as he fought desperately to keep his tears at bay. “She’s upset but she’ll listen,” Q reassured just as a cab pulled up. AJ opened the door and crawled into the other side so that Q could get in after and the driver drove off in the direction of the hotel, already knowing where to go. Q had stressed that they needed to get there quick.

When the cab driver arrived at the hotel he came to a stop right in front of the door. AJ thanked him and got out and while Q remained behind and paid the guy, AJ burst into the hotel and hurried up to their floor, taking the stairs. There is no way he would survive going up in the elevator. When he got to the suite he shares with Tierja he let himself in with his own card and found her standing at the foot of their bed with her suitcase open and she was in the middle of packing. Luke sat on the bed next to it holding her hand.

“Get out,” AJ ordered, giving Luke a look that clearly stated you really don’t want to mess with me right now.

“Not without Tierja. She asked if she could stay in my room for the night and I told her she could. There is an extra bed in there and everything.”

“Well that’s not happening, so get out before I throw you out.”

“Really AJ?” Tierja demanded, finally looking at him for the first time and revealing eyes full of tears and pain. “Who are you to decide what I will or will not do? You don’t get to walk in here after what you did to me tonight and start ordering me or anyone else around – especially the one person who has been here for me lately when it should’ve been you!”

I didn’t do anything to you baby, at least let me explain before you decide to walk out on me! I at least deserve that.” She looked away from him and down at her suitcase as she hugged her stomach stressfully. “Please,” he pleaded and when she heard the catch in his voice as he tried not to cry, she rubbed at her eyes and looked at Luke and gave him a look that he understood. He squeezed her hand gently before letting go and getting to his feet.

“You know where I’m at if you need me,” He told her gently before leaving the room without so much as a glance at AJ. When he was gone AJ crossed the room to her till he was standing behind her and he slid his arms around her waist and hugged her close to him possessively.

“What is there to explain AJ? I was there, I saw it happen” She told him tearfully, her voice faltering as she tried not to cry again.

“Then you had to have seen that I wasn’t enjoying that in the least bit, Tierja. I wasn’t kissing her back.”

“You weren’t pulling away either.”

“It’s not something I expected to happen in a million years, sweetheart. It came out of nowhere and it shocked me…my first reaction was to freeze up. By the time I finally regained my composure and pushed her away, the first thing I thought was you and the fear of losing you. It’s the only thing I thought about.” Tierja turned her head to the side and he leaned down and rested his forehead against hers and looked into her watery stormy blue eyes. “Please believe me…I can’t lose you, baby…” he pleaded softly, hugging her closer to him.

“How am I supposed to believe you Alex? I give you everything and you give me nothing to hold onto in return. I didn’t see the events leading up to the moment, I just looked and saw her wrap her arms around you and kiss you. How am I supposed to know that tonight’s stunt wasn’t you acting out because we were getting too close and you got scared?”

“That’s not how it happened baby,” AJ insisted. He moved in front of her and sat down on the edge of the bed before sliding his arms around her waist once more and pulling her close. Tierja slid her arms around his neck in return and once again pressed her forehead against his, looking into his desperate brown eyes. “She was a crazy fan who came out of nowhere and kissed me. I swear to god and everyone I know I didn’t ask for it.”

“You have to give me something to hold onto, Alex” she told him softly after a moment. “What am I to you? Tonight during the concert when you were singing Shape of My Heart, was I just imagining things when you looked my way? Because I let my heart believe you were singing to me. I let myself hope all night and then this happened and it took that feeling away in an instant and I felt sucker punched.” AJ gently pulled her down into his lap so she was straddling him and he tightened his arms around her and placed soft kisses on various parts of her face, making her close her eyes and tears spilled out of them. “I can’t do the no strings attached thing with you anymore, I can’t be just the woman you sleep with I need to mean more than that to you.”

“You already do mean more to me than that baby,” AJ insisted softly and she opened her eyes and looked into his chocolate brown ones, causing him to lightly rub his nose over hers in an Eskimo’s kiss. “You’ve always meant more to me than that and I told you so the day after we first started sleeping together remember?”

“You said you respect me too much to make it be all about sex with us.”

“And I meant it,” AJ insisted while gently sliding his fingers through her hair in an endearing way. “It’s never been about the sex, Tierja. You mean the world to me…you scare me to death, yes. But that’s just because there’s been no other woman in my life that was as important as you and I don’t want to lose you and I have a habit of losing people that I love.” Tierja tightened her arms around him and buried her face in his neck causing him to hug her close to him affectionately.

“Well you’ve got me, Alexander James…and I’m not going anywhere. So there is no reason for you to be afraid.”

“Really?” AJ asked softly. “What is this half packed suitcase all about then?”

“Well we are switching towns tomorrow after all…” She spoke softly in his neck and though still terrified that he came so close to her walking out on him, he chuckled softly. She pulled back and looked into his eyes and he brushed her tears away with his fingertips.

“I wasn’t going far, baby, just across the hall. I was upset and just wanted space to calm down and think. I would never really leave you…I’ve put so much time and effort into you to just give up on you. And I don’t have it in me either.”

“Next time you want space to calm down and think choose one of the girls…or my bandmates. Not a man who is clearly out to steal you away from me okay?”

“Okay,” She told him softly, smiling a little at his obvious jealousy and she rested her head against his shoulder. “Don’t ever stop being jealous Alex, it shows me that you care.”

“You don’t ever have to worry about that,” AJ insisted and leaned down and kissed her softly on the lips. “You’re the all-important woman in my life who is going to save me. No one is taking that away from me. You will be seeing the shape of my heart a lot from now on.” She felt her eyes fill up with tears once more and spill over her cheeks and he brushed them away with his fingers before kissing her some more. “You weren’t imagining things earlier…I was asking you in the best way I know how to have patience with me and stay.” he told her between kisses and she brought her hand up to his cheek and kissed him back as she felt the pain in her heart and stomach melt away. “Give me a chance to turn this night around, please? I made plans and I want a chance to carry them out.”

“Okay,” she told him softly, nestling her head into his shoulder a little more and he got to his feet with her and carried her out of the room. Just as he stepped out in the hall he noticed Q standing there dutifully in case he’s needed. AJ kissed Tierja’s forehead softly and hugged her close to him possessively.

“If anyone comes looking for us, tell them we’re out on our date. I don’t know when we’ll be back.”

“Okay,” Q responded and he gently squeezed AJ’s shoulder as he walked by.

“Help keep an extra eye on my sister tonight, please” He added, looking back at him as he went to the elevator.

“You don’t have to tell me that twice, I’ve got her.” Q reassured as AJ disappeared in the elevator with the doors closed.

~*~*~*~*~

“Hey Q, what are you doing back so early?” Ava asked curiously when her favorite security guard walked in the door. “The party isn’t over already is it?” she asked slightly worried and she looked up from the pasta she was making.

“Nah, it’s still going strong, no worries” Q reassured. “And even if it wasn’t, you asked Brian to distract him remember? He’s very good at that job and he wouldn’t let you down.”

“So what are you doing back so soon then?” Ava repeated, noticing he avoided her other question.

“Your brother and Tierja had some drama going on, she came running back here crying and he had to chase her back here and sort things out. Everything is better now though, they’re on their date and from what I gather, won’t be back til probably the crack of dawn.” Ava exchanged worried looks with Kathryn, but otherwise didn’t pry.

“Since you are back and everything, do you want to take over watching them for a while since they’re staying here in one place? Stefan, Demyan and I want to do a quick coffee run.”

“Yeah, go ahead I’ve got this.” Q replied readily.

“Are you sure? I can just tell them what I want and stay behind to help,” Stefan responded and Q shook his head.

“You’ve been at her side all day long; even a security guard needs a break. I’ve got her.”

“Okay then, we will be back shortly” he responded, and after eyeing Ava protectively for a moment longer, he followed the others out.

“Someone sure did get attached in such a short amount of time,” Kathryn spoke up in amusement as she sat comfortably on the counter holding Zara in her lap and watching Ava and Jade cook.

“And that surprises you?” Q asked, laughing slightly, and he slid an arm around Ava and kissed her cheek. “Everyone falls in love with Ava after spending just one day with her. He’ll be wrapped around her finger like everyone else in no time.” Ava rolled her eyes playfully.

“Yeah, yeah enough about me…I want to know what’s going on between Kat and a certain brooding but very sexy security guard” she responded, becoming slightly serious now. Kathryn raised her eyebrow.

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Oh please…you can’t take your eyes off of him, I’ve been watching you. To everyone else, he fades completely in the background when he wants to, but you are aware of him all the time,” Ava insisted, looking at her best friend with a brief knowing look before continuing with what she is doing. “You’ve been making excuses to be around him a lot lately too.” When Kathryn remained silent, Ava once again glanced over at her. “It’s not just you that I’ve noticed either. He changes whenever you are around too, his bossy side comes out.”

“Yeah, because he thinks he can order me around. But he’s in for a very rude awakening…” Kathryn admitted after a minute, deciding it would be useless to try and hide anything from her best friend. She knows her too well.

“And you and Howie? You looked hurt when you mentioned talking to him earlier.” Kathryn shrugged her shoulders and hugged Zara a bit closer to her.

“Argued with him is more like it. He knows me as well as you do and knew full well why I was coming back here.”

“He’s probably jealous, can you blame him?”

“He’s not jealous,” Kathryn insisted and Ava looked at her with a raised eyebrow. “Protective, but not jealous...we don’t have anything going on between us but friendship, I know it looks that way, but we don’t. All those times that I slept in his room back at home, we did just that – slept.”

“Why does he feel the need to be protective? And why were you sleeping in his room to begin with if nothing is going on?”

“As soon as Raven and Tierja moved into Brian and AJ’s room I was left alone on the couch. You know Howie; he’s too sweet to let that happen.” Kathryn explained, and Ava looked at her with a raised eyebrow, waiting for the rest of the answer to her question. “And he just knows things about me that I’m not ready to discuss with anyone,” she added, giving Ava a pleading look. Knowing full well what it’s like to have secrets that you aren’t comfortable sharing, Ava wrapped an arm around her and kissed her cheek before going back to what she was doing. “He’s my best guy friend and he takes very good care of me. Much like Nick always has for you, minus the hidden feelings.”

“I think Demyan would be one of the safest people to be around. No one will mess with you when he’s there.”

“Yeah, the whole dark and dangerous thing is what worries Howie the most about him. Again, he has his reasons for being protective…”

“Yet I haven’t heard a single protest made on his part about him protecting me and Jade,” Ava responded amusedly.

“You haven’t heard them is the keyword there. But AJ and Nick make the decisions where your safety is concerned, not him…and an officer brought him on too, so he kept quiet.”

“AJ and Nick make the decisions…I would like to think I had part in those decisions, they’re not my keeper” Ava responded somewhat indignantly.

“I’m afraid until the world is safe for you again, they sort of are honey” Q spoke up gently and he ruffled her hair. “Sorry.” Ava scowled.

“We’ll see. I could just stop cooking for them and then we’ll see who feels up to bossing me around.” Q chuckled in amusement at just how quickly her temper flared. He knows there’s nothing she hates more than being told what to do. She always had since she was a little girl, but David made it worse. “I’m serious…they’ll find their bossiness real funny one evening when everybody else sits down for dinner and there’s somehow mysteriously not enough food for them.”

“And if no dinner doesn’t work, there are other ways I can punish Nick too,” she added with a small wicked grin. “He knows better than to not treat us like a team.” Q shook his head smiling, but otherwise didn’t respond. “I’m about finished up here, can you text Brian and ask him what’s going on?” She added when she managed to get her temper under control, only to have a million butterflies take flight in her stomach and make her feel nervous instead.

“Yup, will do” Q replied and pulled out his cell phone.

~*~*~*~*~

“Did Ava tell you how long you are supposed to be baby-sitting me for? The party is about over, we have to go home some time” Nick spoke in Brian’s ear as soon as he had the last song for the night playing and the other boys were interacting with their fans. “And I for one miss my girlfriend. I only got to spend a couple of hours with her before the concert when she was whisked away from me again – I’m ready to call it a night.” Brian rolled his eyes playfully.

“It’s funny you should ask, because I was just going to tell you that Q. texted me and said she was almost done.”

“Almost done with what?” Nick asked slyly and Brian laughed.

“Nice try. Almost done with what…really?” Nick huffed.

“So we’re allowed to leave then?” He pouted somewhat and Brian nodded.

“We just have to make a stop along the way,” Brian added, making stuff up as he goes along as he knows Q said almost done. “Raven wants to get some apple juice for Zee to have when she wakes up in the morning.”

“Kay,” Nick replied and he waited it out till the song was over so the two of them could say goodbye to their fans properly. He doesn’t want any of them to feel gipped, especially since AJ had to leave early already. Not that he didn’t have a legitimate reason or anything…he hopes he got to Tierja on time, though he knows she would never actually leave him, especially not without hearing him out first. She always listens to him no matter how upset she is. But the question is, why was he put in this position in the first place? The fan had somehow mysteriously disappeared as soon as he did, just as quickly as she appeared which was out of nowhere. Shaking his head, he turned his full focus back on his fans. As soon as the song was over and they finished wrapping things up and were backstage again, Brian and Nick looked at Kevin as he spoke up.

“Someone should go back and check how things turned out with AJ and Tierja.”

“It will have to be you and Howie, because Raven and I are running to the nearest convenient store and Nick is coming with us.” Raven looked at Brian curiously.

“We are?” she asked and Brian gave her a look she would understand.

“Yeah honey, remember you told me that Zee will want apple juice when she wakes up in the morning? We have to go get some.”

“Oh, right – yeah, Zee loves her apple juice” she responded, catching on quickly and Nick rolled his eyes playfully, but otherwise didn’t respond.

“We will see you all later,” Brian insisted, before gently grabbing Nick by the arm and tugging him in the direction of the door. Kevin shook his head and looked at Howie and the two of them followed their lead so they can catch a cab back to the hotel.

~*~*~*~*~
“Brian is taking Nick to the convenient store with him on the false pretense that Zee needs apple juice in the morning. He’s waiting on my text for the okay to bring him back, so just let me know when” Q explained to Ava when he got a response out of Brian.

“Okay,” Ava responded busily, just as Stefan, Demyan, and Drake returned with their coffee and Drake handed some over to Q. He had texted him earlier and asked him if he wanted any.

“In the meantime we will just be right out in the hall talking to Q,” Stefan told her gently, before giving Q a look that clearly said he has questions. Q nodded and followed him and Demyan out into the hall, shutting the door behind them while Drake stayed behind. Ava raised her eyebrow, but otherwise continued what she is doing. Ever since Q’s cheeky comment earlier, she’s been feeling pretty sensitive about the bossy men in her life, but she is in too much of a hurry to follow them out there too.

“What’s up?” Q asked curiously when they were out of Ava’s hearing point.

“What’s this drama that happened between AJ and Tierja? Is it something that we need to worry about? You were pretty tight lipped about it toward Ava earlier…”

“Yeah, because she worries too much…especially over her brother so I didn’t think she needed to know the details. A random fan came out of nowhere and kissed AJ and understandably, Tierja got upset and ran back here with Luke. It’s resolved now though, like I said.”

“Raven mentioned earlier that AJ looked like he was ready to punch Luke,” Stefan stated. “Does their band usually attend their parties?”

“Not the after parties, those are just for the fans so it’s generally just the boys but Luke has grown a friendship with them.”

“Especially Tierja, it seems” Demyan responded and Q nodded.

“I’ve got AJ under control, no worries. He won’t be starting any fights under my watch.” Just then Ava poked her head out of the door.

“I’m setting the table Q, text Brian for me please”

“Okay honey, I will get right on that” Q promised while pulling out his phone again just as Kathryn gently made her way past Ava and out the door with Zara on her hip and she hugged Ava and kissed her cheek affectionately.

“I’m taking Zara back to her room and getting her settled down to watch cartoons since her mommy and Brian will be on their way back shortly.”

“Okay, thanks for keeping me company, don’t be a stranger” Ava responded and Kathryn gave her a small smile and headed back to Brian and Raven’s suite. Demyan followed her protectively.
End Notes:
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Twitter: UrsTrulyAshee
Surprises by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Here's the next chapter. Enjoy :-)
Chapter Twenty-Five

“Do you want some more iced tea to have with your food baby?” Ava asked Jade gently as she finished making her plate and putting it on the table where hers and Nick’s plates already were. She had gone as far as lighting a single candle in the middle of the table, as well as a few other ones around the suite, wanting to go above and beyond in surprising Nick.

“Yes please mommy,” Jade answered gently as she watched her nervous mommy get out the pitcher of green tea and proceed to fill her glass. When she finished she placed it next to her plate and looked at Stefan, Drake, and Q.

“We will be out of your way as soon as he walks in,” Stefan reassured. “But we will be right out in the hall the whole time if you need us.”

“Kay,” Ava responded and Ava’s phone vibrated. She looked down at her phone and there was a text message from Brian that read coming up in the elevator now. Ava felt the butterflies in her stomach worsen upon reading this news.

“He’s coming….hit the light switch for me please?” She asked and Q who was standing next to it did as she said, sending the place into darkness except for the glow of the fireplace and various candles everywhere. Ava picked up Jade and leaned up against the counter. They only had to wait a few moments until suddenly Nick appeared in the already open doorway.

“Hey, how come the door is open and the lights are off?” He asked curiously, only to suddenly stop short as he took in the scene in front of him. The dining room table was set beautifully with three plates of chicken parmesan with pasta and a side of broccoli, wine glasses by two of the plates, the silverware placed formally on napkins, and complete with a single candle in the center.

The suite itself was illuminated in Ava’s favorite scented candles and a warm fire in the fireplace, effectively making the whole place smell like her and the home cooked meal she made, creating the most perfect warm and loving welcome home he has ever had in his life. After taking in the room, his eyes landed on her as she stood leaning against the counter holding their pride and joy on her hip and waiting for his reaction.
Despite the apparent fear in her eyes, she looks breathtaking and innocent standing there in the glow of the candles, wearing his favorite tee shirt and her own pair of sweatpants. It was a long moment before he could speak as he stood there gazing at her and dealing with the sudden overwhelming emotions this simple, yet familiar gesture brought on. He felt a lump in his throat as he tried so desperately not to tear up.

“I thought I would welcome you home after a successful first night of the tour with your favorite meal,” she explained softly when he didn’t say anything.

“Baby, it’s beautiful…I can’t believe you went through so much trouble,” he told her when he managed to find his voice to speak and was sure he wasn’t going to cry. He crossed the room to get to her and when he stood just in front of her, she looked up at him and he placed his hand to her cheek and looked into her chocolate brown eyes with so much love in his own.

“Thank you,” he told her before leaning down and brushing his lips lightly over hers before bringing his arms down and around her waist and pulling her near. “This is the best welcome home ever. Life can’t get any better than this…I feel like the luckiest man in the world right now,” he told her softly in her ear before burying his face in the crook of her neck.

Ava slid her arm around him in return and rested her head against his shoulder, trying very hard not to cry herself. Q, Stefan, Drake, and Brian who had come in behind Nick exchanged small grins before quietly walking out into the hall and closing the door behind them so the family could finally have their alone time. When Nick managed to gather his emotions he pulled back slightly and looked at his daughter who still sat comfortably on Ava’s hip with a small smile on her face. With one arm still gently holding Ava to him, he placed his other hand to Jade’s cheek and looked into her blue eyes.

“Hey baby, did you help mommy cook dinner for daddy?” He asked gently and she smiled even bigger.

“Yes,” she answered happily and he smiled at her and kissed her cheek affectionately.

“Come sit down and eat before it gets cold,” Ava insisted and she walked over to the table with Jade and gently placed her in her chair before sitting in her own. Nick followed her lead and took his spot between his two girls. As soon as he did he eyed the wine bottle that was sitting there opened and waiting to be poured.

“You even got wine? You went all out baby…”

“I wanted to really wine and dine you tonight. I got the sweet stuff, I hope you don’t mind but you know I can’t stand anything but.”

“Of course I don’t mind, it’s perfect” Nick insisted gently and he grabbed up the bottle and proceeded to pour them both some. He looked over at Jade when he finished pouring and chuckled in amusement when he saw her drinking iced tea out of her own plastic version of a wine glass.

“I bet you’re feeling pretty fancy drinking your tea tonight, huh princess?” he asked and she giggled, making Ava smile too.

“I didn’t want her to feel left out.” Nick grinned and gently took Ava’s hand into his lacing their fingers together and he turned his attention on his meal. She quietly watched him as he picked up his fork and felt her stomach tighten in knots and her whole body tense up in nervous anticipation as he gathered up some chicken and took a bite. As soon as he did she watched as genuine pleasure formed on his face.

“Mm…baby this is delicious,” he told her as soon as he swallowed and he lightly rubbed his finger over her tense hand as he went for more. “I missed this…I love your cooking, it’s the best thing in the whole world,” he insisted, looking into her eyes so she will see the sincerity in his own and she felt her eyes well up with tears. She was able to hold them back and control her emotions until he looked at her with such obvious love in his eyes. It’s been so long since she’s gotten that kind of reaction from her cooking, that the feeling is so foreign to her.

With her hand still held gingerly in his, he brought them up and brushed her tears away, before bringing her hand to his mouth and kissing it softly. “It makes me feel loved and taken care of every time you spoil me with your home cooked meals.”

“Well good,” She told him softly. “Because you make me feel that way every time you take care of me, it’s only right that I return the favor.” She watched him enjoy his meal for a few moments in silence until the realization that he is not going to break into a rage any minute and start breaking things and beating her over a sudden mistake he’s found, fully sunk in. She felt her body ease up and she too finally grabbed up her fork and started eating. The moment Nick felt the tension in her hand relax in his, his heart warmed, because it was a sure sign that she is finally beginning to feel fully safe with him. He looked at Jade and smiled at her, making her smile happily in return. Four years old or not, she knows how big of a deal this is. She was a witness to most of David’s vicious bullying at dinner time after all.

“It’s good, huh princess?”

“Yeah mommy, it’s great” She agreed, smiling at her and Ava managed a smile of her own.

“Thank you baby,” She told her softly. “You did great work helping me make it as always” She added and Jade beamed in pride.

“I learn from the best.”

~*~*~*~*~

“Demyan gave me very interesting information just now, Kathryn Elizabeth…” Howie informed when she had let him into her room and she looked at him with narrowed eyes for a brief moment, before returning to her packing for tomorrow.

“You told me you were coming back with Ava, not by yourself.”

“I didn’t realize they had already left without me, it was an honest mistake” Kathryn insisted innocently. “If you hadn’t insisted on arguing with me, maybe I would’ve made it out there on time.”

“And when you did realize they left without you, the smart thing to do would be to come in and get security to go back with you! You know how important it is to be safe, especially right now with David after Ava. He could decide to use any of us to torture her and you know it.” Kathryn rolled her eyes slightly.

“I can handle myself, Howie, I’m fine. I called a cab, it’s not like I walked back to the hotel.” Howie gently grabbed Kathryn’s chin and made her look at him.

“And what if that cab driver had been working for David?” She opened her mouth to respond and he cut her off. “Or worse?”

“Don’t you think you’re being a little paranoid?”

“No, I think I am being perfectly logical here, Kat. I don’t trust anybody with you but my security…you’re my best friend and I want you safe. Is that too much to ask?” Kathryn felt her heart turn over in her chest as she heard the genuine love in his voice. She didn’t have that until Howie entered her life.

“No,” She told him, heaving a sigh and she buried her face in his chest. He slid his arms around her and pulled her into a hug and kissed her forehead the way a big brother would do. “It’s not…”

“Please humor me and make sure a security guard is with you at all times…”

“A security guard,” she repeated. “Okay, got it.” She told him and he could hear the small amused smile, even with her face buried in his chest.

My security guards, Kat…”

“Ava says he’s probably one of the safest security guards around, Howie. That nobody in their right mind would mess with you if he’s around, and I have to agree. You are being a bit ridiculous in not trusting him.”

“I haven’t seen the man smile once since he’s been on the road with us, Kat. He’s all dark and mysterious, It gives me the creeps. I don’t want you around him.”

“So what, I’m just supposed to stay away from my best friend the rest of the tour?” Kathryn asked, leaning against the bathroom door amidst coming out of it and she gave him an incredulous look. “That’s not going to happen, I need her.”

“You have me,” Howie told her, even though he knows it’s useless. He could never keep her away from Ava even if he had the heart to.

“Of course I do, I’ve always had you and I love and appreciate you so much. But she provides the girl support in the best friend package. That’s important stuff.” Howie sighed softly.

“Just…make sure one of my guys is with you at all times too, then. Please?”

“Like that is going to be a problem…besides the fact that Q is with Ava as much as he possibly can be, he’s also formed an obvious friendship with Officer Drake too. He’s not going anywhere.”

“Yeah, well…finish that packing tomorrow okay? You’ll have plenty of time. It’s late and I’m tired…are you coming and getting in bed with me? You were having nightmares again last night.” Kathryn nodded quietly, not bothering to ask him how he knows that. He always does.

“Just let me get a few things…”

~*~*~*~*~

“Oh no you don’t, Ava Marie, we have a system” Nick lectured gently when they were finished eating and she had immediately went right into getting started on the dishes. He got up and walked over to her, slid his arms around her waist from behind and kissed the back of her neck softly before turning the sink she had just turned on off. “The person who cooked never has to do the dishes.”

“You’ve been working all night Nicky, let me treat you tonight” Ava pleaded, looking into his eyes.

“It’s an entirely different story when I actually enjoy my job,” Nick protested, resting his forehead against hers. “It’s not work for me.”

“Well, I’m doing the dishes tonight no matter how much you protest.” Nick continued to look into her eyes and when he saw that this is genuinely important to her, he kissed her forehead softly.

“Then we will do them together…but later all right? Come spend time with me and Jade before we put her down for the night.”

“Which will need to be soon, she’s had a very late night” Ava responded while rubbing her nose lightly over Jade’s as Nick held her and she smiled and rested her head against Nick’s shoulder, showing signs of sleepiness.

“I want her to stay awake just a little bit longer. She’ll have plenty of time to sleep in tomorrow, we aren’t leaving the next town till the afternoon” Nick told her while taking her hand into his and bringing her into the living room and over to the fireplace, before sitting down and gently pulling Ava down beside him.

“Why, what are you up to?” Ava asked curiously when she noticed he seemed to be up to something and he grinned a little. “I have a few little surprises of my own tonight,” he admitted. “I was going to reveal them earlier, but it didn’t seem like the right time” he told her before looking down at Jade who was looking up at him curiously.

“Baby, will you go get daddy’s backpack for me please? It’s right over there” He requested while pointing over to the couch where he had placed his backpack earlier when he came in the door.

“Okay daddy,” She replied and while she got up and walked over to get it he gently pulled Ava into his lap, wrapped his arms around her from behind and rested his chin lightly on her shoulder, before hugging her close to him affectionately. She snuggled back against him, resting the back of her head against his shoulder, though she watched curiously as their daughter returned with the backpack. He took it from her and opened it up before reaching in and pulling out a white box with pink ribbon tied around it in such a fanciful way that a woman had to have done it. He handed it over to an even more curious Jade and gave her a small smile.

“Go ahead and open it princess.” Jade sat down and proceeded to do just that, untying the ribbon and opening the box and as soon as she did, she discovered three tickets sitting inside on top of white paper that was hiding the rest of the gift. She pulled them out and looked up at her daddy curiously, seeing as how she’s not fully able to read yet.

“They’re tickets to see the Aladdin Ballet performance in New York tomorrow night. I thought it would be a fun thing to do for you, your mommy, and I since daddy’s concert is not till the next day.” Jade gasped.

“Oh daddy, I would really like that lots!” she exclaimed excitedly and she looked at her mommy who was smiling at seeing her daughter’s happiness. She got up and threw her arms about her daddy and hugged him tightly and he chuckled softly and kissed her forehead.

“I knew you would…there’s more to the surprise princess, keep looking.” She sat down again and pulled out the pink tissue wrapping paper next that was hiding something somewhat small inside. She unwrapped it to find pink ballet slippers and her mouth gaped open. She stole a peek at her daddy, and then pulled out the next gift wrapped up in pink tissue paper. She excitedly opened it up revealing a pink leotard, pink tutu, and white tights.

“Oh daddy, I love them!” she gasped, hugging the slippers, leotard, and tutu to her excitedly.

“Remember when Daddy promised he would talk his manager into letting us do a new photo shoot together?” he asked gently and she nodded. “Well, she agreed and daddy thought you could be a beautiful ballerina for some of the photos,” he explained. “We will be doing an entire article about you and me that will be published in magazines all over as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

“Wow Jade that will be exciting won’t it?” Ava asked, managing to swallow the lump in her throat and hold her emotions together.

“Yeah!” Jade exclaimed enthusiastically and Nick grinned. “And there’s more…” He added, causing Ava to look up at him. What more could he possibly give, he’s already done so much. “My manager is also looking into ballet classes for me too that will start as soon as the tour is over. I want to wait until then because I want my entire focus to be on all of your recitals.” Jade got up from the floor, tears suddenly in her eyes, and still managing to hold her new ballet outfit in one arm, she threw her other one around Nick and buried her face in his shoulder and with his arms still wrapped around Ava, he hugged them both, gently pulling her into Ava’s lap.

“Thank you daddy, I love you so much…”

“I love you too princess; you’re going to make a beautiful ballerina” he told her while kissing her forehead. Ava wrapped her arms around her daughter and hugged her too, before shifting so that she was straddling Nick and placing their daughter between them and while Jade once again wrapped her arm around her daddy’s waist and hugged him, Ava wrapped hers around his neck and he rested his forehead against hers and looked into her watery eyes.

“Are you crying baby?” He asked gently, and he brushed her tears away with his finger.

“It’s a constant thing I do these days, I can’t seem to stop” she laughed softly. “Especially when you do wonderful things like this completely out of nowhere...” Nick tightened his arms around them both and rained loving kisses over her closed eyelids. “It’s just that I was going to work up the courage to ask you if we could finally make our daughter’s dream come true. I silently made my plans to do so this afternoon, and out of nowhere you already have it done.”

“Well, first of all…you don’t ever have to work up the courage to ask me for things…if something is important to you, the answer yes, no questions asked. Second of all…you don’t even have to ask me for things in the first place when you are with me, because I just know you. I know what you and my daughter need and you are always going to get it” He told her while rubbing his nose lightly over hers.
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That Smile You're Wearing, Its a Beautiful Disguise by ForeverRebel
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Chapter Twenty Six

“Are you really planning on staying out all night, Alex?” Tierja asked as the couple walked hand in hand along the sidewalk in the city of Pittsburgh.

“Absolutely baby, till the crack of dawn” AJ insisted and he wrapped his arm around her and pulled closer to him. She rested her head against his shoulder as he kissed her forehead.

“What can we possibly do all night? We did all of the nightlife stuff, there’s no way you could possibly pay the whole city to stay open for you” She questioned with a small amused smile and he chuckled softly and stopped in front of a building. He pulled her in front of him and once again slid his arms around her waist.

“We did the nightlife stuff and saw the best of Pittsburgh, yes, and now I plan to take a tip out of Nick’s handbook and step things up.”

“A tip out of Nick’s handbook, huh? You’re taking advice from Nick?” She asked teasingly, though when she looked up into his eyes he saw the thrill in her stormy blue ones nonetheless. It’s no secret to anyone that Nick goes a little overboard romancing Ava sometimes.

“You’re not allowed to breathe a word to anyone,” AJ teased right back and he rubbed his nose lightly over hers.

“Are you kidding me? I’m going to be talking about this night with the girls for hours tomorrow.” AJ rolled his eyes playfully.

“Well, as much as I hate to admit it, the kid has some pretty good ideas and he treats my sister very well,” he told her while bringing her into a restaurant that a friend of his happens to own.

“Where are we?” She asked curiously, having not caught the name of the place before they walked in. Had he distracted her on purpose? AJ just grinned and rested his chin lightly on top of her head as he made eye contact with his friend who was cleaning up. He nodded and motioned toward the stairs and AJ began leading her in that direction.

“A place that does dessert,” was all he said as he led her up the stairs and out onto a balcony where you have an awesome view of the city skyline. They discovered a blanket and pillows set up, candles lit around it romantically, and a chocolate fondue fountain set up next to it with bowls of marshmallows, strawberries, and cake cubes. Tierja looked at him curiously, only to have him hold a red rose out to her and grin at her lovingly. She felt her heart turn over in her chest as she took it from him and he tilted her chin up and kissed her.

“I thought it would be fun to have a fondue picnic and look up at the stars together all night” he explained between kisses and she slid her arms around his neck.

“It’s perfect,” She told him softly and he brought her over to the blanket, sat down, and gently pulled her into his lap straddling him. She once again slid her arms around his neck while still holding her rose in her hand and together the two of them checked out the sweets before them.

~*~*~*~*~

“And, she’s out…” Nick announced in amusement. He had eventually laid back on the floor right there where they were by the fireplace, with his two girls comfortably lying on top of him. He and Ava lay there quietly talking and watched Jade fight sleep until she finally gave in and crashed, her little head nestled against his chest.

“She had a busy day, I’m surprised she lasted as long as she did” Ava responded and she rained loving kisses on her daughter’s forehead. “She’s never gotten to stay up till 1 am before; I believe it’s a new record.”

“She can sleep in tomorrow, we are going to have a late start in going to the next city” Nick reassured and he gently tilted her chin up and kissed her softly. “You can sleep in tomorrow too.”

“Why, are you planning on keeping me up all night mister?” She asked with a small smile and he smirked and wrapped his arms around her as she rested her forehead against his and looked into his blue eyes.

“You know it baby…I have an entire night to thank you for the surprise you lovingly put together for me tonight.” Ava slid her arm around his neck and rested her head against his shoulder and he kissed her forehead softly, before once again looking into her eyes. “I still can’t believe you went above and beyond like that…you made me really feel like I was coming home to my family after a long day of work, even in a hotel room” he told her while hugging her and his baby close to him. “How did I get so lucky Ava? How did I manage to get someone as special as you in my life?”

“I’ve wondered the same thing about you since the day you entered my life, Nicky” Ava told him softly. “All you’ve done since then was take care of me…even when you weren’t aware that you were taking care of me, you were just simply being my best friend. That meant more to me than anything else in the world…”

“It’s my job to take care of you sweetheart,” Nick told her and he gently tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. “I was born to have the job.”

“Shh…let me talk for a bit okay? I want and need to get this out,” she pleaded and he kissed the tip of her nose before resting his forehead against hers and looking into her eyes curiously.

“You came into my life and brought sunshine and happiness with you. The mental scars from the bullying I endured and still carry around with me to this day, all of the jerks that came in and out of my life, when I got sick, or was scared…when I was pregnant with our baby and couldn’t tell you no matter how badly I wanted to, all of the abuse I went through with David…you were here and somehow made getting through it a little easier. And even tonight you stepped in and did something for our daughter that she’s wanted since the moment she could walk…but couldn’t have because David refused. I was trying to come up with a way to ask you, because I’ve never asked you for anything in our whole friendship. It would’ve been the only thing I ever ask you for too and only because it was for our baby and it was important and as hard as I try to be independent and earn things on my own, it’s something I can’t afford to give her on my own right now. But you stepped in out of nowhere and made it happen, because that’s what you are always doing. So really, baby, I should be spending the entire night thanking you.” Nick opened his mouth to protest, but she lightly pressed her finger to his lips, silencing him.

“I made you dinner tonight and went the extra mile to make it special and romantic because all you ever do in our relationship is give and you never asked for anything in return. The only thing you wanted was for me to love you and all I ever did was let you down and hurt you,” she went on, tears building up in her eyes. “I made you dinner tonight because I wanted to finally show you just how much I do love you and appreciate all of the things you have done for me. I worship you Nick…and the only reason I held back all of these years is because you’re the most important thing in my life and I didn’t want you to be one more thing in my life that I lost. I couldn’t bear it if you walked out on me. I was protecting myself…but I never meant to hurt you.”

“I forgive you baby,” Nick reassured when he managed to get his emotions under control, though Ava watched one lone tear escape from his beautiful blue eyes and roll down his cheek. She reached up and wiped it away with her finger and he tightened his arms around her affectionately, though remained cautious of the sleeping four year old between them. “I love you too and I’m never going to walk out on you, so just get that out of your head right now okay? Let go of that childhood fear and let me in...”

“I’m working on it, I promise” Ava told him softly and she buried her face in the crook of his neck. “As long as you are here helping me through it like you always are, I can conquer anything. You are my rock, Nicky.” Nick brushed his lips lightly over hers and gazed into her brown eyes for a few moments before speaking up again.

“Let me go put the munchkin in bed real quick where she’ll be more comfortable and then I’ll be back…okay?” Ava rolled off of him and he carefully got to his feet with Jade’s head rested against his shoulder and proceeded to go into the other room.

“Put her in the bed in front of the door and leave it open baby…please…I want to be able to look in there and see her at all times.”

“No one is getting in here from this high up and with security right outside the door all night baby,” Nick reassured before disappearing in the bedroom, though she watched him as he delicately laid the four year old in the bed Ava wanted her in and placed her teddy bear under her arm.

“I don’t care; I still don’t like that window. If David wants her bad enough…and believe me he does, he’ll climb the side of the building with mountain climbing gear if he has to.” Nick shook his head slightly at Ava’s words and started to get up and go back out to her when Jade’s small voice interrupted him.

“Daddy?” She whispered, having had opened her eyes the moment she felt his touch vanish. She clearly wasn’t sleeping as heavily as he thought she was.

“Shh…baby go back to sleep, I just put you in bed that’s all.”
“You’re supposed to sing to me,” she reminded him and Nick rolled his eyes playfully before sitting down on the side of the bed, leaning over and enveloping her in his arms, and he kissed her forehead.

“Yes your royal cuteness…how could I forget such an important detail? I’ll get right on that. What should I sing?”

“All I have to give,” Jade answered after giving it some thought and he immediately obeyed. Ava shook her head at just how much their child has her daddy wrapped around her small finger. She sat listening for a few seconds, until suddenly a thought occurred to her and she got to her feet and snuck over to the sink where she had gathered all of the dishes earlier, while Nick was currently distracted.

~*~*~*~*~

“Are you guys really planning on pulling an all-nighter out in this hallway?” Drew asked in amusement when he discovered Drake, Demyan, Stefan, and Q all sitting on the floor in front of Nick and Ava’s door.

“Not in the hallway all night, only some of the night” Demyan spoke up seriously.

“I’d pull an all-nighter in their living room if it wasn’t so important to Ava to have the whole place to themselves right now,” Stefan added.

“So if not in the hallway all night, then where else?” Drew asked Demyan curiously.

“I plan to go stand guard outside the window to their room at some point.” When Drew raised his eyebrow, Demyan fixed him with a serious stare.

“What? If the bastard wants that child bad enough, the height won’t stop him. I hate that window.”

“For as long as I’ve known David…and believe me, I’ve known him for four years…he’s never seemed like much of a climber.”

“I don’t care, I’m not taking any chances with this child” Demyan insisted and even though he hadn’t said it, Stefan heard not this time and shook his head.

“The crazy bastard won’t have a single ounce of peace tonight if he doesn’t do it, so just drop it” was all he said.

“Do you all have enough caffeine in that coffee of yours to pull off this all-nighter?” Drew questioned.

“Yup, we’re good. Now quit interrogating us and go get your beauty sleep. You will be picking up the slack for me when I go to bed in the morning.” Drew scoffed.

“I’m beautiful all the time, Q, what are you talking about?”

“Go to bed, Drew, I’m serious…the crack of dawn, Ava duty – your responsibility.” Drew shook his head and turned and headed for his room.

“You get bossy when Ava is on the road with us, man.”

“And I’m not about to stop until my girl is safe, so get used to it” Q insisted, just before Drew disappeared in his room with the door shut. As soon as he did, Q looked at Demyan.

“As for you, the bastard would have to be Spiderman to get up here, so you might as well stay here in the building where the chance of him breaking in is more likely.”

“I’m going out there at some point tonight just to be thorough. He had someone spying on us so if anyone is hanging around this building; I’m going to catch him. Plus there is a building across the street that IS easy to climb, what if he decides to put a sniper on the roof, take Nick out through the window and break in through the door to kidnap her? In my line of work, shit like that happens…it’s not just screaming twelve year old girls. And if it does happen, there won’t be anything we can do for Nick sitting out here.”

“Would you at least like some help out there then?” Q questioned, knowing the man is serious. He doesn’t talk much, so if he took the time to explain himself, nobody will be talking him out of it. Demyan shook his head, but it was Stefan who answered.

“He works better alone when it comes to stuff like that, his attackers won’t even see him coming.”

“All right, well are you going to at least tell me why you two were so curious about Luke earlier?” Stefan shrugged his shoulders.

“You just think he’d have a little more respect for someone who hired him, that’s all…” He answered, and then got up and started toward the candy machine.

“Getting snacks, you guys want anything?”

~*~*~*~*~

“Ava Marie, what are you doing?” Nick asked, gently sliding his arms around her waist and kissing the side of her neck lovingly.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” she asked with a small smirk upon her face.

“It looks like you are being naughty and doing the dishes without me, when I specifically told you that I would be helping you. Do I have to turn you over my knee?” Ava raised her eyebrow.

“I wouldn’t object to the idea…it might be kind of sexy” Nick looked down at her with playful narrowed eyes as she stared up at him ever so innocently and he chuckled softly and placed his hand to her cheek and brushed his lips lightly over hers, before once again sliding both his arms around her, lightly pressing her against the counter and proceeding to help her with the dishes. He could never lay a hand on her, even out of play. Not after what David put her through. He doesn’t even understand how he could do it, she’s so fragile and innocent. Ava smiled to herself and leaned back against his bare chest at the unexpected complete feeling that she suddenly felt just from Nick with his arms wrapped around her so protectively the way that they are and doing something as simple as the dishes with her.

She doesn’t ever want to be without this new feeling. She suddenly has the desire to repeat this moment every single night with him in a home she could call theirs. She wants it so badly and that surprises her even more. Ever since she left David, she imagined she’d never leave her brother’s house again. Could she have that home with Nick though? A home that would be equally theirs and not just his that she always has to tiptoe around? She suddenly had thoughts of what their kitchen would look like, and her great big dining room table where she would serve meals to guests with the beautiful china that she saw earlier that day in the mall and walked away from when she knew she could never have such nice things. She sighed softly and Nick looked down at her curiously, as he rubbed his soapy hands slowly over her arms and down to her hands before taking her sponge in his hand too and helping her wash the plate she was working on.

“Is something on your mind baby?”

“Only that I’m really realizing just how much I truly love you, and always have my whole life for the first time ever that’s all…” She answered, unaware that he could see her face through the reflection of the cupboard. Although she is being truthful with him, he can also see that look in her eyes that she gets when she’s thinking she’s not good enough to have something.

She’s had the look hidden behind her innocent brown eyes that she always disguised as best as she could with a smile for as long as he’s known her and he has a feeling that no matter how much he loves her and reassures her, she is always going to carry that scar with her. Try as he might, there are just some wounds that can’t be fully healed, but she is never going to carry them alone if he has anything to say about it.

He quietly helped her with the rest of the dishes, his hands lovingly moving over hers in the warm soapy water, lacing his fingers in and out of hers, and oddly enough creating a stirring inside of her. He felt her squirm while he leaned against her and sucked in a breath when her bottom pressed up against his bulge, before lightly nipping on her lobe and kissing her skin just behind it, making her shiver. He gently turned her around, lifted her up, and placed her on the edge of the sink and she slid her arms around his neck, opened her legs, and gently pulled him between them just as he covered her mouth with his own and kissed her, his tongue teasing at her lower lip begging for entrance until she let it in. Ava brought her hands down to the button of his jeans and undid them and while she gripped the front belt loops and his boxers in her hands and pulled them down over his hips he grabbed the hem to her tee shirt and brought it up over both their heads while her arms were still in the sleeves, creating an illusion of a barrier between them and the outside world, making her feel instantly safe and protected. He placed his hands on her bare stomach before resting his forehead against hers and looking into her eyes that are filled with so much want and need.

“Say it.” He ordered gently and she whimpered softly as he gripped the waistband to her panties and slid them down, letting them drop to the floor and casually slid his finger over her entrance. “Say it to me again baby,” he added kissing her forehead, the tip of her nose, and then her mouth. She wrapped her legs around him and gripped his buttocks in her hands wanting him closer and she gasped as he pressed the tip of his cock just inside her.

“I love you Nicky, so much…” she whispered between kisses. Nick took a moment to take in those words and soak them up for all its worth. He feels like a starved man where those words are concerned. She gripped him tighter as he suddenly pushed all the way into her and wasted no time in making love to her against the kitchen sink.
End Notes:
Please let me know what you think, I thrive on feedback.
Twitter: UrsTrulyAshee
Business Crisis by ForeverRebel
Author's Notes:
Here's the next chapter.
Enjoy :-)
Chapter Twenty-Seven

“Are you still awake?” Nick murmured against Ava’s ear hours later as the two of them lay on a mattress that he had eventually gotten off of their bed and placed by the fireplace. He’s not sure what time it is, but he can hear the birds chirping outside and see the slight glow of the sun coming up through the curtains, so he knows they’ve been up all night.

“Barely,” Ava murmured back and she rolled over onto her stomach on top of him and rested her head comfortably against his shoulder, before snuggling more into the big blanket that covered their naked bodies. “I can’t believe we had sex in pretty much every inch of this suite and I’m not dead from exhaustion.” Nick chuckled softly and tightened his arms around her, before resting his forehead against hers, looking into her eyes and tucking a strand of her damp hair behind her ear.

“My favorite was the kitchen,” he informed with a small grin on his face. “I can’t believe you’re a chef and we’ve never made love in the kitchen before up until now.” Ava laughed softly and he silently took in the beautiful sound.

“We can hardly call me a chef, baby; I’ve only ever cooked for the family before…”

“That could change some day, you never know…” Nick responded casually and she tightened her arms around him and lovingly buried her face in the crook of his neck.

“Oh yeah, baby?” She asked softly and he heard the amused tone in her tired voice.

“Yeah, why not…? You can’t keep your delicious cooking in the family forever; someone else is bound to discover it and lose their minds over it.”

“You really think I could pull off cooking for other people?” She asked in a small doubtful voice and she looked up at him again, meeting his blue eyes.

“I do sweetheart. You cook for all of us all the time…why not spread your wings and really venture out there with your recipes?” Ava bit her lip nervously at the thought.

“It’s one thing to cook for your family, but it’s a whole different ball game to cook for the rest of the world…David hated my cooking. Loathed and despised it…there was nothing I could do right for that man.”

“David is an asshole, sweetheart” Nick insisted, hugging her closer to him protectively. “His opinion doesn’t matter.”

“But if I couldn’t even do one thing right for him, what makes you think I can do it for strangers on the street?”

“Because baby you’ve been cooking for me for ten years. There is nobody in this world who loves your cooking as much as I do. You don’t make mistakes, Ava Marie. David was one big gigantic mistake…but your cooking is not.” Ava continued to look at him with doubt in her eyes and he rubbed his nose lightly over hers. “Trust me baby girl, you would have people lined up out the door and around the corner from miles away.” Ava gently cradled the back of his neck in her hands and rested her forehead against his.

“I love you for believing in me, Nicky, but I think you believe in me a little too much.”

“You don’t believe in yourself enough baby girl…so yeah, it’s all on me to be your biggest fan.” Ava closed her eyes and he lightly tickled her bare back with the pad of his fingers. “Just think about it okay? It would give you that independence you are always searching for. You would be making your own money by doing something that you love and at the same time be helping me provide for our family…like a real team.”

“Kay, Nicky…” she told him softly, deciding that promising him she’ll think about it won’t hurt anything. “I’ll think about it…”

“Thank you,” he responded, hugging her close to him affectionately and kissing her forehead. “I love you baby girl.”

“I love you too…” she murmured, before snuggling against him and drifting off to sleep. He once again kissed her forehead and quietly lay there watching her and gazing into the glow of the fire in the fireplace as he thought about things, before eventually drifting off to sleep himself.

~*~*~*~

Later on that day Ava opened her eyes and found herself lying in bed in the bedroom. Nick had obviously moved both her and the mattress back in there at some point that morning. She smiled to herself as memories of last night drifted through her mind and she glanced at the alarm clock on the nightstand to see that not only does it read eleven thirty, but there is also an iced venti caramel macchiato from starbucks sitting there next to it, and it had a message written on the cup. She raised her eyebrow in curiosity and sat up with her blanket cocooning her, before grabbing up the coffee and reading what it says.

Morning beautiful, see you soon it read, with a little heart under the words.

Ava’s heart melted as she got out of bed and ventured into the other room. When she discovered Stefan, Demyan, Drake, and Drew all sitting around the living room as well as Kevin, Brian, and Raven, she was suddenly glad that Nick seemed to have thought to put his tee shirt and her sweat pants back on her too. Jade and Zara were both of course sitting on the floor playing with Jade’s Fashionista Barbie Limo and watching cartoons.

“Morning sweetheart, how’d you sleep? We heard you had quite a night…” Raven questioned as she watched the younger woman go and instantly place herself next to Kevin on the couch and snuggle into his side with her blanket and all, like the natural baby of the group that she is. Kevin chuckled softly and wrapped his arm around her, and kissed the top of her head.

“Pretty good…I don’t regret staying up all night one bit, but I am very grateful Nick thought to provide me with caffeine right when I woke up nonetheless.”

“He knew you would be,” Raven responded and Ava rested her head against Kevin’s shoulder.

“Where is he anyway? I’ve grown accustomed to having him here right when I wake up…”

“Out running errands…he’ll be back soon, he has to be. We’re leaving pretty soon here” Kevin answered.

“And my brother…?” She added, not accustomed to him being gone in the mornings either.

“Still sleeping, he and Tierja had a busy night as well. I sent Howie and Kathryn in there to wake them up.” Ava nodded and snuggled into Kevin a little bit more.

“How long do we have?”

“A couple of hours…Nick already did most of the packing for your family but left your suitcase open and available to you knowing you would want inside it. Ray and I got donuts and apple juice for everybody if you’re hungry” Brian explained, before grabbing a nearby box of Dunkin Donuts and putting them in her reach. Ava raised her eyebrow in slight concern and reached for a pink icing donut with sprinkles.

“Did the poor baby sleep at all? We were up all night after all…”

“He says he did, we had no choice but to take his word for it.” Ava frowned slightly, but before she could open her mouth to respond, the door opened and the love of her life and her mother walked in, as well as AJ, Tierja, Kathryn, and Howie. Ava studied him and saw that if he got any sleep at all, it wasn’t much. Which is pretty obvious since he managed to get her coffee, pack their things, run errands to who knows where, and from the looks of their daughter, give her a bath all before eleven thirty.

And if that’s not enough to set people’s inner alarms off, the bags under his eyes should’ve been a big clue. She will definitely be forcing him to go to sleep the moment they’re on the bus later. She loves him for being there to take care of her and Jade, but not at the expense of his well-being. He has dance practice with the boys tonight as well as a ballet to take her and Jade to afterwards, he needs his sleep. She is slowly healing now, it is high time she shows him they’re a team and start taking care of him.

Despite being slightly upset that he hadn’t taken care of himself at all this morning, she smiled at him happily, instantly looking at him like he is her whole world and his heart turned over in his chest.

“Hey baby, you’re awake…” he greeted and crossed the room to get to her. When he was standing in front of her, he cradled her face in his hands and kissed her lovingly. “I see you found your coffee.”

“Yes I did, thank you baby…” she told him while sliding her arms around his neck. “It was definitely very much needed, and I love you” she told him, deliberately saying it in front of her whole family, making all of them exchange surprised looks.

“I love you too,” he told her happily, and he gathered her up in his arms and sat down in her place with her in his lap.

“So, where were you and my momma at this morning while I was sleeping, hmm?” she asked nosily, knowing full well that they were together. They both had a distinctive air about them that they were off doing sneaky things when they walked in. Nick rolled his eyes playfully and before he could open his mouth to respond, Denise beat him to it, having a ready answer.

“Out eating brunch,” she answered truthfully. “I just really felt like treating him to some brunch this morning and spending some quality time with him.” Ava knows full well that she is leaving something out, but was too overcome with emotion right then to really think about it.

How many times did she and her mother fight over her boyfriends in the past? Too many times to count and she hated it. It was an event that always ended with her storming off angry and in tears. She certainly never bothered to treat any of them to brunch or go out of her way to spend ‘quality time’ with them, that’s for sure.

To have her accept this one means so much to her, especially since she’s starting to open her eyes and fully understand just how important this one is and always has been. Ava looked into Nick’s eyes and while he hugged her close to him affectionately, his arms firmly around her waist, she brushed her lips over his, before gently making him rest his head against her shoulder and she hugged him back and idly played with his long blonde uncombed strands. She could feel him snuggle into her, another sure sign that he is tired. She knows he could fall asleep right there on her shoulder if she let him. And she wants to very badly.

“You have to let me up baby; I need to go get ready.”

“We have a bathroom and shower on the bus you know…”

“I’m not leaving this hotel room in my pajamas and without a bra on, Nicky, no matter how much you would enjoy that.” Nick laughed softly and placed soft kisses on the crook of her neck before pulling back and looking into her eyes. He kissed her lips briefly before reluctantly releasing his arms from around her. As soon as he did, she got to her feet, grabbed her only partially eaten donut and caramel macchiato from the coffee table and she disappeared in their bedroom, shutting the door behind her. He waited and when he heard the shower running in their room he looked at everybody else.

“She looks happier than ever…what happened last night?” AJ who still hasn’t been clued in on what his sister was up to while everyone was out partying it up and causing drama last night.

“She made me my favorite meal and surprised me with it when I got back,” Nick answered happily while pulling Jade into his lap and sitting back in his spot with her comfortably. She slid her arms around him and snuggled into him and he kissed her forehead. “She had candles of her favorite scent everywhere, a warm fire in the fireplace, the table set for three, and even wine…the whole place smelled like her and her cooking and it was the best welcome home I’ve ever received in my life. I completely forgot we were even in a hotel room and everything.”

“Apparently it was a really big night for the two of you…she’s even telling you she loves you, finally.” AJ responded, making Nick grin even more and Tierja gently wrapped her arm around his shoulders and kissed his cheek affectionately, knowing first hand just how important hearing those words from a McLean is.

“I’m happy things are turning around for you, sweetie” she told him gently.

“Thanks,” Nick grinned and while AJ reached out and slid his arm around her waist and reeled her in close to him, kissed her forehead and hugged her affectionately, he looked at Howie.

“I did my part in loving her cooking and even planted the idea in her head that starting a career as a chef would be the best thing for her…it’s your turn now. And you really have your work cut out for you, because she doesn’t believe it’s something she’s either capable of doing or deserves.” Howie nodded, Nick’s warning not being anything new to him, he knows how Ava is.

“Don’t worry, I’m on it” was all he said.

~*~*~*~*~

“Are you ready baby? It’s time to go…” Nick questioned while walking into their bedroom to find Stefan sitting in a lazy boy chair that he had pulled into the room the moment she was dressed and it was safe for him to go in there, and her just zipping up her suitcase.

Jade was sitting on the bed hugging her teddy bear close and quietly watching her, her hair now pulled back into two braids that rested on her shoulders, completing how adorably fashioned she looks in her red and black plaid long sleeved shirt, jeans, and almost knee high black boots that he had put her in earlier that morning.

To his amusement, Ava decided to match her today; wearing her own long sleeved red and black plaid shirt, jeans, and knee high black boots, but left her hair down and straightened the way she knows he likes it.

“Yup, I’m ready” she answered as he came up behind her and wrapped her in his arms.

“What, no makeup? I thought I was going to have to pry you from the bathroom mirror for sure…” he asked when he got a good look at her face and he smirked as she rolled her eyes playfully.

“Ha-ha…” she responded while leaning back against him. “That’s why I left the makeup out, smartass; I will wait until we’re on the bus.” Nick laughed and leaned over her and kissed her lips softly before pulling back. “Okay, well good because we really have to go now” he told her while grabbing up her suitcase on one shoulder, before wrapping his arm around her waist and in one swift movement, lifted her up and easily placed her so she hung over his other shoulder, making her squeal and laugh. He smirked and turned her so she faced the side of the bed and the nightstand where she once stood.

“Grab your stuff,” he instructed gently, and as soon as she had her black handbag in one hand and her coffee in the other, he glanced at Stefan to see him amusedly scoop his daughter up into his arms and follow him out of the room.

“What about the rest of the stuff, crazy? If you’re carrying me, who is going to grab those…?”

“I brought everything down to our bus ahead of time, we’re good” Nick told her amusedly and she rolled her eyes playfully when she felt his hand come to a rest on her bottom, holding her into place.

“You’re having way too much fun, Nickolas.” She informed him. “And I’m heavy; you should probably put me down” she added and he snorted.

“Hardly, sweetheart…I’m good, no worries.” He reassured her. Ava huffed but otherwise let it go. When they made it down to the busses he walked onto theirs and set her suitcase down before bringing her down into his arms cradling her. She rested her head against his shoulder and glanced at Howie curiously who was sitting on one of the couches beside Kathryn looking protective. Before she could say anything though, one of their event coordinators stepped onto the bus looking fretful.

“Hey Carrie, what’s up?” Howie asked concerned.

“I was looking for you or Kevin…Kev isn’t on his bus yet, so I found you. We have a problem…”

“What’s wrong?”

“Our caterer’s for tonight and tomorrow’s events quit on us last minute…we can just pick up some take out for you guys tonight since it will just be the five of you and our crew, that’s not a big deal…but we need to come up with something for the fan event tomorrow.”

“Isn’t this fan event that you speak of just another sound check and meet and greet…?” Ava spoke up confused from her comfortable perch in Nick’s arms.

“We decided to do something a little different this time…since it’s an outside venue we decided to throw in an intimate barbeque with the Backstreet Boys. They’ll still do the sound check and question and answer part like usual, but there will be food available during the meet and greet. We had a caterer, but like I said they quit at the last minute…”

“We could have Kevin or one of the security guards pull out a grill…” Brian suggested shrugging his shoulders and Kathryn smirked suddenly.

“I’d pay good money to see Kevin wear a chef hat and apron for the fans…” Ava couldn’t help but giggle.

“With kiss the cook on it...it would have to say kiss the cook” she insisted and Raven burst out laughing.

“Kiss the cook but don’t touch the buns!” Ava and Kathryn joined in on her laughter and Carrie smirked in amusement.

“As entertaining as that would be, we have a lot of fans coming to this meet and greet...we will need Kevin’s full attention on them…and that also means we will need all of our security guards focused entirely on the boys too.”

“Is there no chance of finding a backup catering company by tomorrow? Kevin and I could spend the trip to New York helping you find one if we have to…” Howie spoke up again; causally watching as Ava quietly snuggled deeper into Nick and bit her lower lip.

“That’s what I’ve come on here to ask you to do, but it is last minute so it won’t be easy...”

“I was planning on riding on this bus with Kat since she insists on being with Ava, but I’m sure Kev won’t protest to the idea of joining us…especially since it’s a business crisis. We could break out the phone books and get right to work.”

“That would be great Howie, thanks. He should be on his bus by now, I will go get him and then we can be on our way and get to work.” Howie nodded and as soon as she was off the bus, he got to his feet and went in search of the phone books, before proceeding to turn the kitchen table into a place that they can work.

Soon enough she was back with a ready-to-work Kevin and while the busses set off to their next destination and they got right down to business, Ava quietly squirmed out of Nick’s arms and walked over to the couch and sat down. She looked over at Nick, smiled at him, and quietly motioned him to her. He immediately obeyed and crossed the room to get to her and as soon as he was standing in front of her, she took his hand into hers and gently pulled him down so he lay across her lap on his stomach before grabbing a nearby pillow and making him rest his head on it.

“Bri will you do me a favor and bring me a blanket please?”

“Yes ma’am,” Brian answered, and he disappeared into the bunk room. While he was doing that, she grabbed the hem to Nick’s shirt and pulled it up over his head before tossing it aside so he lay there in only his jeans and he looked at her curiously.

“What are you doing?”

“Making you comfortable,” Ava answered just as Brian returned with a comforter from one of the bunks. He handed it to her and she covered Nick up and began to gently rub her hand over his back. “You may have been able to convince everybody else that you slept, but I know better” She informed him gently. Nick opened his mouth to protest, but she lightly placed her finger to his lips silencing him. “I love you for taking care of me and Jade, but not at the expense of your health. Since you insist on not taking care of yourself at all, I’m going to have to step in and do it. We aren’t doing anything right now Nicky, just relax and take a nap…” she told him seriously and she shifted so she was straddling him, before proceeding to give him a full on back massage. Nick couldn’t help but close his eyes comfortably at the feel of her hands rubbing his back.
End Notes:
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Author's Notes:
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Chapter Twenty-Eight

“I can’t believe he’s still sleeping as heavily as he is…did you knock him out?” Howie joked hours later when they were nearly in New York City. Ava had relaxed Nick with her back massage so much that he had given into his battle with sleep and finally crashed. She very carefully lay on her stomach on top of his back, rested her head against him, and covered up with his blanket too, before turning on the TV and that’s where she stayed the whole trip.

She wanted to hold him and be there for him while he slept like he always does for her. Jade had eventually curled up in the small space beside him too, while Zara lay on the floor with her pillow and the three of them lay there all afternoon watching kid friendly movies.

“He just really needed it…he was exhausted from not sleeping all night and then running errands all morning” she insisted seriously, before leaning down and kissing the back of his neck lovingly before once again nestling her head against him comfortably and looking to see everybody sit around the living room with her. “The man needs a serious intervention…he just never stops. He’s going to run himself into the ground if I don’t step in and start taking care of him.”

“Just give him a chance to realize he’s finally got you, he’ll settle down…” Brian reassured amusedly as he sat on the floor and gently gathered Zara up, swaddled her in her blanket as if she were an infant and cradled her in his arms. The movement hadn’t even phased the four year old who continued to sleep peacefully. “It’s going to take some time for it to sink in; he’s spent so many years waiting for you.” Ava wrapped her arms a little tighter around Nick’s waist affectionately and snuggled into his back a little more.

“How did the search for a caterer go?” she asked with a sigh a moment later. She had been successfully avoiding it all day, another reason she was sticking to Nick like glue, but with everybody now surrounding her, she felt like she had to ask. Especially since she really doesn’t want to talk about how much she hurt Nick anymore.

“Not so great, no one is biting” Kevin answered stressfully.

“You would think people would jump at the opportunity to cater for the Backstreet Boys…it would be big business for them.”

“No one wants to do it last minute” Brian shrugged. Ava buried her face in Nick’s back. She lay there with him in silence as she took in his words of encouragement from earlier that morning. why not spread your wings and really venture out there with your recipes? She’s never cooked for anyone outside her family before…except for David, and that didn’t go over so well. How is she supposed to cook for a bunch of strangers? The thought terrifies her…but she’d do it for her family to help them out of a bind in a heartbeat if she had no other choice and it’s starting to really feel like she has no other choice. She’s been listening to them struggle over at that table all day. Sighing softly once more, she planted a small kiss on Nick’s back before looking at Howie and Carrie who sat there watching her quietly, just waiting.

“What kind of food are you looking for?” She asked, making eye contact with Carrie.

“There’s no limit, as long as it’s fit for a Barbeque.” Ava bit her lower lip nervously.

“Okay,” She responded softly. “You provide me with information on how much food you think we’ll need, the grill, and the list of groceries that I give you and I will be your caterer…”

“Are you sure sweetheart? That’s a really huge job…” Kevin spoke up as he noticed Howie discretely give Carrie a look that looked suspiciously like I told you so and suddenly realized what he’s doing.

He rubbed his hand over her back gently as he sat on the floor leaning back against the couch she and Nick were laying on. “You’re finally recovering from what David put you through; it would be understandable if you need more time…” he added, giving Howie a serious look. He knows how important it is to get Ava past this, he understands how beneficial to Ava it would be for her to own and cook in her own restaurant someday, but Ava is like a baby sister to him. He helped AJ take care of her all of these years and will always feel like he needs to protect her, especially when AJ isn’t around.

“No, it’s okay…I want to try. You guys need a caterer, and I’m right here. It only makes sense.”

“You have a date with Nick and Jade tonight, are you sure you can handle a big job that needs to be done by 3:30 tomorrow?”

“Of course she can handle it,” a groggy Nick suddenly spoke up and she looked slightly surprised as he rolled over and wrapped her in his arms protectively. She rested her forehead against his and looked into his eyes and she saw utmost pride in them. “She’ll have me there to help her and Team Carter is a force to be reckoned with.” He insisted before brushing his lips lightly over hers and gently making her rest her head against his shoulder. “She’s not alone,” he added while hugging her close to him affectionately. She nestled into him comfortably and took in his affection like a sponge. She really needed to hear that right then.

“What should we make, partner in crime?” she questioned while placing delicate kisses on his neck and shoulder and he slid his hands down into the back pockets of her jeans just resting them there as he took in her kisses.

“You make delicious barbeque food sweetheart...I personally love your ribs.”

“Ribs are too messy…your fans aren’t going to want to eat those and then get their picture taken with you afterwards” Ava reasoned. “I’ll make ribs for you some other time” she promised, placing her hand to his cheek and looking up into his blue eyes. He rested his forehead against hers. “How about simple hamburger and hot dogs?” she suggested and Nick scrunched up his nose.

“This is your chance to show off baby…be creative.”

“I’m not doing this to show off; I’m doing this to help my family in their time of need.”

“As long as you are helping us, you might as well show the world what you’re made of while you are at it and have some fun with it.” Ava bit her lower lip nervously.

“I’m scared, Nicky.” Nick tightened his arms around her and hugged her close to him protectively.

“I know baby, but I’ve got you…force to be reckoned with, remember? I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”

“And you know I’m not going to let anything happen to you either,” Stefan spoke up from his lazy boy chair across the room where he’d been sleeping. He hasn’t even opened his eyes yet, but was awake and listening nonetheless and even in his sleep he was aware of Ava’s location at all times. He and Demyan decided to take advantage of being on a bus all day and caught up on sleep too, Demyan following Zara’s lead and crashing on the floor. “The minute anyone so much as looks at you wrong, they’ll be escorted out of the place.”

“Damn straight…and I will be doing the escorting” Q agreed. “You’re AJ’s sister and not to mention my girl…nobody is going to mess with you sweetheart.” Ava turned her attention back on Nick, her forehead still rested lightly against his and he gazed into her brown eyes and idly slid his fingers through her brown hair.

“The point is, it’s a new experience but you’ll be experiencing it surrounded by your family. We’ve got you,” he reassured her and she tightened her arms around him. “It’s a fall barbeque, so how about chili? That’s one of my favorites too. Probably more so than ribs…”

“Kay,” She agreed and closed her eyes as he rained kisses on them. “We could do a Chili Bar with bread bowls, hot dogs, and even your mouth-watering corn bread.”

“It sounds scary, but if you are there to help me, I can conquer anything…” she told him softly and he planted a kiss on her nose.

“Get the list to me this afternoon sweetheart and I will do the shopping for you and have the groceries brought to your room before dance practice tonight,” Carrie spoke up again.

“Will do…”

~*~*~*~

“Ava, sweetie you’re going to be fine…” Kathryn reassured as the two friends sat together on the beach. Stefan and Demyan sat together a short distance behind them, giving the women enough privacy to talk but not too much that they couldn’t get to them if something should happen. Nick was off playing in the sand with Jade, Brian, and Zara. They had arrived in New York with just enough time to spare to relax and everyone decided the beach was the place to be. With Kathryn’s help, Ava had just finished her list and Carrie had run off straight away to get the shopping done. “Who in their right mind would ever criticize you, or your food?” She added seriously and Ava quietly bit her lip as she idly picked dry sand up in her hand and let it cascade through her fingers, enjoying the warmth of it that the sun created.

“You’d be surprised at just how cruel people can be, Kit Kat…” she spoke softly, using the nickname that Ava had given her years ago, shortly after meeting her.

“Not to you, you’re too sweet and innocent…nobody in their right mind would want to hurt you.”

“In the family, sure…I know you guys love me. But outsiders are a whole different story…” Kathryn looked at her best friend and quietly watched the pained and faraway look that she so often sees when she’s thinking about something she doesn’t want to share form behind her eyes. She’s aware that she’s had a difficult childhood that she knows only so much about. She wrapped her arm around her shoulders, hugged her close, and kissed her forehead affectionately.

“Do you know why I chose to sit at that table in the library with you every day all those years ago, Ava?”

“No…why?” Ava asked softly and she rested her head against her shoulder and looked up at her with genuine curiosity. She always has wondered this. There were plenty of other tables for her to sit at, yet she always chose the one Ava was sitting at.

“Because being the people watcher that I was back then, I could tell just by looking at you that you were a person I wanted to be around. I saw the way you interacted with the people around you. I could see that you were shy; you never approached them on your own unless you absolutely had to, but on the rare occasion when they approached you; you were always so sweet and kind to everyone…you don’t have a mean bone in your body. And don’t even get me started on your family…” Kathryn explained, and she smiled fondly at the memory.

“The first thing I noticed was that it was big, because there was always a different person there to pick you up each day. And close too…and each and every one of them had such obvious love and adoration for you anyone could see that. I was just a stranger doing some people watching and still I knew you were the heart of this family and they wouldn’t survive without you. And you love each and every one of them just as much and all you ever want to do is please them, I could see that by the way you spent an hour each day pouring through cookbooks trying to plan dinner and dessert for them later on that night before you did anything else. You represented warmth, love, and family to me and I wanted to be a part of it. As an outsider, Ava…” Ava slid her arms around Kathryn and hugged her closer to her and Kathryn hugged her back.

“How come you never talked to me?” She asked softly, working real hard not to get emotional.

“Because while you were painfully shy, I was also very scared and cautious…we made a great pair, huh?” she laughed. “Neither of us was getting anywhere until Howie came along and forced us out of our shells.” Ava quietly nestled her head against Kathryn’s shoulder and bit her lip as a feeling of slight unease took over. She wants to ask what she could possibly have to be scared and cautious about, but she knows she’s not ready and won’t give her a real answer. “You are a ray of sunshine in everybody’s life sweetheart and anybody who doesn’t see that…David, the other fucktards that you dated before him, and whoever else came into your life and took you for granted back then that you can’t let go of now…are truly messed up and aren’t worth thinking twice about.”

“Thanks Kat…I needed to hear that. I love you.”

“I love you too,” Kathryn responded. “And if there is anything I can do to help you with this event just let me know. No matter how scared you are this really is your chance to shine, so have fun with it honey…”

“I am scared, but I’m sure with the never-ending support that I receive from Nick I will get through it. He really is my rock…” Ava admitted, suddenly looking over at Nick across the beach only to meet eyes with him. He had already been looking at her and could see that whatever she and Kathryn are talking about, it’s intense. Everything okay baby? he asked her with his eyes and she gave him a small smile and blew him a kiss, causing him to act like he is catching it and Jade giggled.

“Yeah, I know, you two are so adorable it’s almost sickening” Kathryn laughed. “Why don’t you go be with him while you can before he has to get to work later? I need to go talk to Howie for a little bit.”

“Okay,” Ava agreed, silently making a decision to spend some one on one time with Howie herself the moment she gets a chance and she leaned up and kissed Kathryn’s cheek. “Thanks for cheering me up, I really needed the girl time.”

“No problem sweetheart, that’s what best friends are for” Kathryn told her as the two of them got up. She gently squeezed her shoulder and walked off toward Howie and Ava turned and headed toward Nick. When she approached him, he looked up at her and slid his arms around her bare legs as she stood beside him wearing only his bucs hoodie and a bikini underneath and wound her arms around him.

“Come sit with me down by the water, baby, please…” she pleaded. Not needing to be asked twice he got to his feet and in one swift movement, playfully lifted her up over his head so she was looking down at him, making her squeal in surprise. She gently cradled his face in her hands, tilted his head back so he was looking up at her and kissed him with so much intensity that it took his breath away and it was a moment before he could kiss her back.

When she finally released him from the power she has over him, he took a deep breath and brought her over to the huge rock that was so close to the shoreline that waves crashed against the side of it and sat down with her in his lap. She slid her arms around his neck and he pulled the hood to his bucs pullover hoodie down over her head, before sliding his arms around her waist and hugging her close. He feels right at home sitting on a beach with her in his arms listening to the waves crash against the shore. Like everything is finally right in the world.

“You looked like you two were having a serious conversation over there, is everything okay?” He asked, looking into her chocolate brown eyes.

“I don’t know,” Ava answered, biting her lip nervously. “There’s something going on with Kat that she’s not telling me.” Nick planted a soft kiss on the tip of her nose and rested his forehead against hers. “I know we have a lot of work to do tonight and in the morning…but can we find some time just you and me to sneak away for a little bit and come back here? I miss our times together on the beach…”

“I don’t know about the just you and me part, Stefan and Demyan are kind of a necessity right now, but other than that…I will see what I can do okay?” Ava nodded quietly and he brushed his lips lightly over hers. “I miss our times on the beach together too, the last time was at home and it wasn’t one of our fondest moments” He told her between kisses and tightening his arms around her waist.

“Shhh…” Ava told him, tightening her arms around his neck and hugging him to her. “Baby don’t…” she pleaded, before kissing him back. “You’ve got me. I’m not going anywhere…don’t bring up bad memories.” Nick buried his face in her neck and she gently ran her fingers through his hair.


“I’m sorry sweetheart; I didn’t mean to make you feel bad.”

“I’m just trying really hard to make up for hurting you and Brian has already reminded me of it once today.” Nick frowned slightly.

“Why did he go and do that? And when?”

“When you were sleeping…he wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt me though...I’m just feeling overly sensitive about it right now.”

“You’re going to have to forgive yourself sometime, sweetheart…you can’t keep making yourself sick over this.” Nick insisted while hugging her close to him protectively. “Let it go…you and Jade are mine now, you’ve always been mine and that’s all that matters. We have our entire lives together to move on and create happy memories. It’s okay,” he reassured while kissing the top of her head as she nestled it into his shoulder. “I know part of the reason you are having such a hard time is because I shut you out. I handled my pain all wrong and I’m sorry for that baby…that’s never going to happen again. I love you.”

“You handled your pain like any normal human being would in that situation, Nicky…and I love you too.”

“I handled it the way a child human being would…from now on any problem we have in the future will be talked out and worked through together.” When Ava didn’t say anything, he shifted so his forehead was rested against hers while it remained nestled comfortably against his shoulder.

“Should we bring wine and dessert to our fresh start on the beach tonight?” He asked, gently brushing her tears away and changing the subject.

“And pillows and blankets…it’s going to be cold.”

~*~*~*~*~

“Don’t you have Jade to look after? I thought she was supposed to be your responsibility?” Kathryn questioned Demyan who had gotten up and followed her when the two women had parted. She stopped amidst going to Howie, who wouldn’t want her anywhere near the Russian and turned to look at him with a raised eyebrow.

“Drake has her and before you ask, Stefan has his eyes glued to Ava, which gives me the free time to look after you.”

“I don’t need looking after, I can take care of myself” Kathryn insisted indignantly.

“Kathryn, you came back from the venue by yourself last night when there is an abusive man after your best friend…you call that taking care of yourself?” Kathryn rolled her eyes.

“I took a cab, it’s not like I walked back and you didn’t need to tattle tell on me either. What are you five?”

“You still shouldn’t have come back alone. And Howie sure as hell deserved to know how careless you were – he didn’t know you were alone and neither did anyone else. You didn’t know anything about that cab driver, what if something bad had happened to you?”

“You keep talking like Howie is my keeper. What gave you the impression that he controls me at all?”

“Well maybe he should start. If he doesn’t keep better tabs on his girlfriend, she’s going to get into trouble one of these days.”

“That’s very caveman of you to say…and I’m not his girlfriend.”

“You can’t sleep with him and have him glued to your side everyday like he is and try to tell me the two of you aren’t seeing each other.”

“Sleep being the keyword there, that’s the only thing going on.” Demyan arched his eyebrow at her, not believing her. “He holds me at night because I have nightmares and can’t sleep alone. He’s my best friend and yeah he’s protective of me, but that’s as far as it goes. Kissing him would be like kissing my brother and believe me; we tested the theory many years ago.” Demyan was silent for a full moment as he took in this information.

“Why are you insistent on following me around and protecting me? You aren’t this obsessive about Tierja or Raven and the other two security guards don’t seem to care this much about me either.”

“Tierja and Raven seem to have better common sense about their safety than you do.” Was all Demyan said. He doesn’t know why he can’t seem to leave her alone. He has no doubt in his mind that she could hold her own just fine in a bad situation like she keeps saying. He can see that she’s tough and he senses that she’s had to before, but at the same time she seems fragile and small in some way and every time he’s near her, he just wants to protect her. From what, he’s not sure. He knows she’s hiding something, if the conversation he tried not to overhear between her and Ava earlier is any indication. He has perfect hearing no matter how far back Ava asked them to sit. Kathryn scowled.

“Are you trying to make me angry? Just…I need to go talk to Howie” She insisted, and turned to walk away only to have him reach out and gently grab her hand.

“Why are you having nightmares?” Kathryn gave him a look like she might want to ask him yet again why he’s so interested, but remained silent nonetheless. He noticed the small fragile look behind her eyes like anyone outside of this close group that she has surrounding her showing any sign that they might want to care about her is foreign to her. Maybe even suspicious…he gently rubbed his finger over the back of her hand that he held gingerly in his own.

“Howie knows why, and that is enough” She spoke softly. “And I’d really like to go to him now” She added, looking into his eyes with a pleading look in her own. Demyan released her hand and watched her at a distance as she made her way to Howie.

~*~*~*~*~*~

“So, how did my baby sister end up being our caterer tomorrow?” AJ interrogated Howie knowingly, as the two of them stood on the beach with Kevin and Kathryn suddenly joined them.

“Howie basically forced her into it,” Kevin immediately tattled.

“I didn’t force her into it, she volunteered to do it” Howie answered innocently as he wrapped an arm around Kathryn who quietly rested her chin on his shoulder.

“You manipulated the situation knowing she has a strong need to please her family all the time and wouldn’t leave them stranded and you played on it. Was there even a caterer at all in the first place? Or did you and Carrie plan this together?”

“So what if I did?” Howie admitted unrepentantly. “I know you’re feeling protective of her, but it’s what’s best for her and you know it. If we don’t gently push her to get past this she never will and it’s what’s best for her, even Nick knew it. He never would’ve let me do it if he didn’t, I wouldn’t even be able to get within five feet from her with how protective he is of her. She needs this restaurant.”

“I agree with him on this, but she’s going to constantly need someone she’s comfortable with by her side through-out the whole event or she will panic” AJ cautioned. Howie looked at him with a raised eyebrow, giving him and Kevin looks that clearly stated how crazy over protective the two of them are.

“She’s not as fragile as you guys make her out to be you know…David knocked her down, but he didn’t destroy her.”

“It has nothing to do with David, D, this goes way beyond David. I am serious…close family member and Stefan by her side at all times or things will go bad.”

“Don’t worry Aje, I’m not leaving her side at all tomorrow and Stefan already made it clear he wasn’t either” Kathryn reassured. “I don’t know what happened to Ava in the past, but I do know her. Even I notice she is either clinging to you, Nick, or Q at your public events at all times or hiding in the back. I’ve got her.” AJ nodded, letting Kathryn reassure him. When the slight fear for his sister faded away, he grinned a little.

“So, what delicious meal is my sister making, did she happen to share?”

“Nick talked her into making a chili bar,” Howie answered while eyeing his friend curiously as he didn’t miss just how tense he had been.

“Yum, I am looking forward to that…”

~*~*~*~*~

“Will you watch Cinderella with me when we get back Brian?” Zara asked hopefully as everybody headed back to their hotel located just down the street from the beach.

“I sure will baby, but right after our bathing suit party in a nice warm bubble bath all right?” He asked, seeing the look Raven was giving him.

“We’ve been playing in the sand on a cold October day in New York; we need to get clean and warm before we do anything else.”

“Kay,” Zara replied happily. “I have to have my rubber ducky in our bath party, Brian.”

“We will see to digging him out sweetheart, I promise” He grinned, kissing her on the cheek.

“Once everybody is all clean and warm, I will make you all hot chocolate to have during your movies, how does that sound?” Ava spoke up. “Nick has promised J-Baby that they would snuggle and watch a movie too and with weather such as this, hot chocolate seems like the perfect thing to have” She added, looking up at the sky that had turned murky on them. It had also gotten pretty windy too, making them all agree that they should probably head back before it gets worse.

“You spoil us so much sweetheart,” Howie told her while suddenly wrapping his arm around her shoulders, pulling her near, and kissing her forehead. “What would we ever do without you?”

“If I have it my way, you will never have to find out,” Ava insisted while hugging him back.

“Since when do we have hot chocolate? I don’t remember you packing hot chocolate…” AJ spoke up curiously as he gently slid his fingers through his sister’s hair. He misses her. He’s been putting his all into wooing Tierja these past couple of days, he hasn’t seen much of his sister and that’s not normal. “You’ve packed plenty of tea, but not hot chocolate…”

“Carrie should be bringing me back some very shortly here,” Ava answered. “I’ve decided since we’re doing the whole “fall barbeque” thing, we could throw in a hot chocolate and dessert bar too…”

“Did I tell you thank you for doing this at all?” Howie asked while hugging her a little tighter. “I know it’s going to be difficult for you.”

“You’re my family and you needed me, of course I am going to suck it up and do it no matter how hard it is.” Howie planted a kiss on her cheek.

“Well thank you,” he told her sincerely. “I know you will be just fine, not only will all of us be there to support you, but you are very strong and capable.”

“I second that,” Nick agreed while reaching out and gently snatching his girlfriend with one arm and reeling her in close to him so she walked backward with his arms around her waist while Jade occupied his shoulders. “My baby is superwoman whether she wants to believe it or not,” He insisted before leaning forward and brushing his lips lightly over hers. Ava smiled slightly and rested her head against his chest, letting him guide her as they walked.

When they arrived back at the hotel everybody went up to the floor their suites were on and while Kathryn disappeared into hers, Howie’s, Brian, Raven’s, and Kevin’s connected suites with Brian and Raven, Ava gently reached out and grabbed hold of Howie’s arm and pulled him into the two connected Carter and McLean suites before he could follow her.

He arched his eyebrow, but went with this nonetheless. He noticed Demyan linger in the hallway right outside of his and Kathryn’s room and felt mixed emotions. The man makes him very wary with his obvious interest in his best friend, but at the same time, she does need looking after whether she likes it or not. He just would prefer one of his security guards, not him.

“Will you give our little ballerina a quick warm bath and put her in comfy clothes for now? I will put her in her ballet-going-outfit later when it gets closer to that time” Ava asked Nick, looking up into his blue eyes with a loving smile. He grinned in return and leaned down and gave her a brief but sweet kiss before walking into their room with their daughter.

“What movie are we watching sweetheart?” She heard him ask conversationally as she turned and gently pulled Howie into the kitchen with her. AJ and Tierja were in their suite with the connected door open, Denise was on the other side of their room in hers, which just left her, Howie, and the security in hers and Nick’s.

“What’s up?” Howie asked curiously, as he watched her check out all of the groceries Carrie had left in her kitchen.

“I just felt like having some one-on-one time with one of the two of my best friends outside of Nick” Ava answered, giving him a small innocent smile, before pulling out the hot chocolate. Howie rolled his eyes playfully.

“You made it a point to make sure Kat was nowhere around. Start talking, woman” He ordered playfully, as he proceeded to help her make everybody hot chocolate.

“No, you start talking, mister. What is going on with Kathryn? I know you know so don’t try and tell me otherwise.”

“It’s not my secret to tell” Howie answered, and she looked up at him briefly and noticed a faraway look in his eyes all of the sudden as he set up the mugs for her. “She would never talk to me again if I betrayed her trust like that. Don’t make me do that to her.” She turned and suddenly fixed him with a serious gaze. “Is she in any kind of danger that I don’t know about? She let slip earlier that she was too scared and cautious to talk to me on her own in the library all those years ago…and it really alarmed me. What could our sweet Kathryn have to be scared and cautious about?”

“You know I would never let anything happen to her. I’ve got her taken care of, don’t worry about it.”

“You know it’s impossible for me not to worry about anybody that I love, Howie” Ava insisted, while turning her attention back on the hot chocolate.

“I know, and that’s one of the many reasons why you are the heart and soul of this family” Howie told her with a small smile and gently squeezed her shoulder. “You like to take care of each and every one of us. But I’ve got Kathryn for now okay?” Ava bit her bottom lip worriedly, but nodded nonetheless. Howie quietly helped her with the hot chocolate and by the time the two of them had enough made for everybody, Nick had brought a now bathed Jade out into the living room in fuzzy closed foot pajamas. With a big cozy blanket, the two of them had snuggled on the couch with Peter Pan in the DVD player.

“Well, if you aren’t going to be useful and answer my first question, how about you tell me what your deal with Demyan is?” She questioned when she noticed Stefan and Q step out into the hall. She flashed her friend a small smile as she handed Nick and Jade their hot chocolate. Howie sighed somewhat as he put more mugs of hot chocolate onto trays so he could help her deliver them to everybody else.

“He just makes me wary…that’s all. The man never smiles. It’s obvious he has demons in his past and it’s also obvious that Kathryn is attracted to him – I can’t keep her away from him. He’s not really the ideal fit for our sweet Kathryn. She’s fragile.”

“Are you sure there aren’t any hidden feelings about her and you aren’t just jealous?” Ava teased somewhat. “She told me no, but maybe you’re just good at hiding it from her.” Howie rolled his eyes playfully.

“This isn’t a Nick and Ava kind of thing sweetheart, I promise. She’s my best friend and I love her with all of my heart, but not like that.” Ava looked at him with an amused smile. “I just don’t like people that I hardly know near her.”

“Just because he has some demons in his past it, doesn’t make him a bad person honey…” she spoke up after a moment. “We all have them…me especially. Stefan told me he’s hurting over a recent rescue mission that went terribly wrong…he put the blame all on himself. It just makes him human, that’s all.” When Howie didn’t reply and seemed to just be taking this new information in, she went on.

“He smiles around her though. It’s kind of a new thing for him, but she brings it out of him nonetheless. She makes him a whole different person when she’s around…you should look past his demons and maybe you would see a whole different side to him. He’s been nothing but fiercely protective of both Jade and me and I think with whatever might be happening with Kathryn that neither of you want to tell me about…he would be good for her to have around.”

“I will take that into consideration, I promise” He told her as he grabbed one of the trays of hot chocolates up and he glanced over at her. “Are you sure you can carry that honey? I can have AJ help me.” He added as he watched her pick up the other one.

“Don’t be ridiculous, I’ve got it” Ava insisted in playful indignation, before turning and heading into her brother’s room. Howie chuckled softly followed her. As soon as AJ, Tierja, and Denise all had theirs, the two of them headed into Brian and Raven’s room across the hall where they found Raven and Zara both snuggled up with Brian watching Cinderella.

“Aww…don’t you three look like the picture perfect family,” Ava commented amusedly as they all three looked up at them when they entered.

“Hot Chocolate! Yay!” Zara exclaimed happily.

“Yay,” Ava agreed and giggled, before bringing her tray over to them.

“Gee, I wonder which one could be yours, Zee” Brian spoke up amusedly when he noticed the Simba shaped mug and she giggled. He reached out and grabbed it off the tray for her and handed it over.

“Careful honey, don’t spill it” Raven cautioned her gently.

“I put the kids’ in their own special mug to tell them apart, because there’s aren’t as hot as everybody else’s.”

“Which mug did J-Baby get?” Zara asked enthusiastically.

“Tweety Bird” Ava answered with a small smile. “It’s one of her favorite mugs” she answered.

“Cool!”

“Yeah, it’s very cool” Ava laughed and Brian and Raven each grabbed another mug.

“Thanks for the hot chocolate honey” Raven thanked her and she smiled.

“You’re welcome,” she responded, before following Howie into Kevin’s room and then into his and Kathryn’s. When the two of them walked in, Kathryn gave Howie a curious look.

“Where have you been all this time…?”

“I thought I would help Ava make some hot chocolate. You got to spend all this time with her earlier, I thought it should be my turn” he told her, before leaning forward and kissing her cheek. He held his tray up to her and she grabbed up the third to the last hot chocolate off of his tray. As soon as she had, Ava grabbed hers, leaving the last one for him. He grabbed it up and set his empty tray down on top of hers on the coffee table. She looked at him and Ava somewhat suspiciously, but otherwise didn’t comment as she took a sip of her hot chocolate.

“Mm…Ava this is really good, as always” She insisted. Ava opened her mouth to respond when suddenly Demyan, Stefan, and Q entered the room, making all three of them look their way.

“You weren’t in your room – you aren’t allowed to disappear on us like that Ava…” Stefan lectured with obvious stress in his eyes and Ava couldn’t help but laugh.

“I’m sorry honey, I didn’t think about it.” Stefan scowled as he watched his charge take a sip of her hot chocolate and Q smiled in amusement. He has a feeling Stefan isn’t going anywhere when his job is all over. Ava has gained a bodyguard for life.

“But if all three of you are in here, who is in my room watching Jade?” She added, she too smiling in amusement. She really hadn’t meant to stress Stefan out.

“Drake,” all three security guards answered. “He and Demyan decided to share the job of protecting her” Stefan added.

Your cousin did most of the deciding…” Demyan grumbled somewhat from his perch against the wall at a distance from everybody else. “But yeah, we’re sharing.”

“I see,” Ava responded. “Well there is hot chocolate in my room for any of you who wants some.”

“Sweet! I’m definitely getting myself some of that…” Q insisted, and he turned to head toward the door, only to have Demyan move from the wall and charge toward Kathryn at blinding speed.

“GET DOWN! Everybody get down!” he shouted, just as he grabbed her and dropped to the floor with her underneath him and a bullet shot through the window. He looked toward Ava who had shrieked shrilly when Stefan, who had moved when he did, no questions asked had grabbed her and Howie and took them down with them.

“Where are they, Demyan?” He demanded, as he watched Q crawl over to him and Ava.

“There is a sniper on the roof of the building across from the hotel, the bullet damn near fucking hit Kathryn in the head” Demyan answered, looking murderous.

“Obviously they were aiming for Ava, they were standing right next to each other” Q insisted.

“Someone needs to go get Jade! What if they’re going after Jade?” Ava stressed tearfully.

“Drake isn’t going to let anyone get her honey, just let us take care of you right now” Stefan reasoned with her gently. He cradled her face in his hands and looked into her teary eyes and she felt Q take her hand into his as well. “It’s going to be okay, calm down.”

“Kat, I haven’t heard a word out of you” Howie spoke up, struggling to breathe over the stress of how frighteningly quiet she is.

“She’s fine, she’s just in shock” Stefan spoke up again in the most calming voice he could muster, when really he would like to go into action mode right now and track the bastard down.

“I’m okay Howie…” she added when she managed to find her voice, knowing he needed her reassurance or he would get up and go to her himself. He doesn’t trust Demyan. “Don’t do anything stupid…just stay there.”

“I can hear Zara crying in there, what if Brian tries to come in here?” Ava spoke up worriedly when she managed to make herself calm down to an extent, though stress for her daughter was still evident in her watery eyes.

“BRIAN, WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T COME IN HERE. IT’S NOT SAFE.” Howie shouted after a moment.

“IS EVERYONE OKAY? WHAT’S GOING ON?” Brian shouted just outside the door, telling them all that he was indeed about to come in there. Howie shook his head.

“What did I tell you honey? The heart of the family. You know us all too well,” He told her and she couldn’t help but laugh tearfully.

“Of course I do…I have a lot of bossy men in my family, you all like to play the hero.”

“SNIPER ON THE ROOF. GET ZEE AND RAVEN DOWN JUST IN CASE,” Stefan spoke up this time.

“Shit…” they all heard Brian say and then heard him making orders to Raven to get down. Stefan gently gathered Ava up in his arms and crawled over to the wall out of view of the window so he could sit up with her in his lap. As soon as he did he pulled out his cell phone and proceeded to call Drake so he could ease Ava’s fears and get help. They certainly can’t stay pinned to the floor all day.

“Yeah, we already know” Drake spoke into the phone upon picking up before Stefan could say a word. “We heard the glass shattering and Ava’s screaming – it was all we could do to keep Nick from running to her rescue and Jade is just in hysterics wanting her mommy, but otherwise she’s fine. You can reassure her that no move has been made on this side of the building” He added, knowing Ava all too well even in such a short time.

“So I can assume since you are all so knowing, you’ve called for help then?”

“Yup…our NYPD buddies are out there searching as we speak.”

“Demyan says he’s on the roof. Kat was standing next to Ava and was the one who nearly got hit, so he’s furious, but otherwise we are all okay too.”

“If he’s any kind of sniper, he’s gone already, no one’s going to get him” Demyan spoke up. “Fucker has bad aim…so he can’t be any good though…”

“Let’s count our blessings that he does and that my Ava is just fine and that you have fast reflexes…and don’t cuss.” Kathryn scolded. Demyan scowled as he heard Drake laughing on the other end of Stefan’s phone conversation, having had heard what Kathryn said, but otherwise worked on calming down as he gazed into her brown eyes.

“Are you okay otherwise?” He asked, ignoring the conversation his partner and his partner’s cousin were having about him over the phone. “I know I shoved you to the ground pretty hard, and I am anything but light.”

“You probably knocked the wind out of me for about a second, but I’m okay. I’m surprised none of us were holding our hot chocolate at the time – I could just see us ending up with burn injuries if the outcome had been different. I need to make sure for myself that Howie is though.”

“You aren’t getting up until Drake gives the okay,” Demyan insisted firmly.

“And anyway, there’s no need because I’m right here and just fine sweetheart,” Howie spoke up, having had crawled over to her himself. He reached over and gently tugged her into his arms instead, though Demyan kept a firm hold on her hand. She slid her arm around Howie and hugged him, resting her head against his shoulder.

“You need a bodyguard with you at all times from now on, do you hear me? There will be no more careless cab rides home from now on” He insisted while hugging her close to him affectionately.

“Don’t worry, she’s got one.” Demyan spoke up. Howie bit back his protest, trying really hard to remember Ava’s words from earlier. The man did after all, just save her life.

“I’m well aware you don’t trust me and would prefer your guys, but their top priority is the five of you. That’s why we’re here.”

“You’re here to protect Ava and Jade.”

“Stefan has Ava, I have Jade – who I now share the job with Drake, as we made clear earlier. Jade is four years old…I think I can handle one more charge who happens to always be with Ava anyway.” Howie sighed heavily, but otherwise made no further argument.

“Q?”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got her too. She and Ava both.”
End Notes:
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