In Name Only
The one thing about the Backstreet Boys is that that is what they are. BoyS. Five guys – men – individuals. Each with their own disparate personalities and points of view. They don’t even dress the same – well, not now that they are no longer under orders to. And no, the onstage costumes don’t count – after all, if you take a good look at them, you’ll see that even though they look very similar, each outfit has just that little touch of difference.
Even though their lives are very comparable, they do have their own uniqueness. Sure, the hotel rooms look the same, but how they adapt them is different. Tour buses can be changed too. When they are at home… no two houses looked the same. And any similarities between their cars are more the fault of the manufacturers than the Boys.
So is it that hard to believe that the Boys would all fall in love differently?
Brian had found his soulmate early. Of course he’d been the one who was most wiling to settle down. Willing? Ha! Try desperate. He knew what he wanted; a woman he could spent the rest of his life loving and children, lots of children. He was a man made for the married life and he knew it. And in Leighanne he had found his perfect match.
Howie… well, to say his way of falling in love was confused would be accurate. He’d tried… really tried to be something other than he was. It was only when he finally admitted it, not just to himself and his group mates, but also to his family and the public that love came along. Love can’t flourish properly in confusion. Howie was proof of that. What he’d wanted most out of love was acceptance. He’d found most of it in Kat… except for the last, major, area. In Todd he’d found it all.
Nick needed acceptance too. But he also needed someone who would let him be wild – even be wild with him, but also ground him when he needed that too. Someone who was aware of his background and could understand when he behaved a certain way. Someone who could accept that in many ways his social upbringing was deficient; that he hadn’t gone through the kind of societal learning that others had at high school or college. He needed someone who could help him overcome the faux pases that created, but not make him feel lacking because he’d never had a chance to learn. And, perhaps more than any of the others, he needed someone who could care less that he was Nick Carter, and loved him for himself. He’d seen it all and knew that was the most important thing. And as the song goes, he didn’t care who they were or where they’re from as long as they love HIM. Emma fit that bill.
AJ didn’t know what he wanted. He just wanted love. He’d be the first to admit that in the past he’d confused that with sex – and enjoyed it immensely. It was hard for him; the lonely fatherless boy who had grown up the butt of jokes at school. Overnight he was a sex symbol. Girls who wouldn’t look twice at him before now threw their phone numbers at him, begging him for just one night in his arms. A drunken revel had ended with a tattoo, and suddenly the number of girls after him doubled. He was the rebel. The bad boy. And they all wanted that. But what did he want? It had taken him a while to figure that out. He wanted the love he had for his ‘brothers.’ He wanted a friend and a lover. Someone who was just as wacky and spontaneous as he was. Someone he could never get bored with. Someone who needed him but wasn’t dependent on him. Someone who understood... Oh hell, he just wanted Tina. Let’s leave it at that.
To say that Kevin wanted it all would be about right. He wanted the wife, the kids, the acceptance, the understanding, the wildness and the fun. He wanted someone who would yell back at him if he was being a jerk and whom he could yell at in turn. Someone who loved him despite the fact that he could be a self-centered dumbass. Someone who could out-stubborn him when it was needed. Someone who knew the ups and downs of being who he was and was willing to ride that roller coaster with him. He understood loss now, better than he ever had, and he knew what he didn’t want to be without. But what he needed most was trust. Total and complete trust. Privacy, secrets if you will, was important to him, and he need someone he knew he could trust. Even after the most hurtful betrayal he had ever lain at Kat’s doorstep, she’d never broken her promises to him. Through thick and thin… He had what he most wanted. It had just taken him a while to see it.
If it makes sense that each Boy falls in love differently, then it would follow that each Boy would solidify his love differently.
For Nick it was a pool party at his house, followed with a quiet, yet sincere, sunset ceremony on the beach. The bride wore a white slip of a dress; something that hugged her body, yet let the ocean breezes flow through. The groom was in khakis and silk shirt. Both wore sandals. Even the guests were dressed as casually; some still in shorts (though clean ones – not the ones they’d been goofing around in all day). After the exchange of vows and rings, Nick kissed Emma lightly in the lips then let out a whoop of joy and spun her around in his arms, before the two dissolved into a passionate kiss that caused some of the guests to start complaining about the searing Florida weather.
Everyone trooped back up to the house for a more relaxed evening of barbequed steaks and a homemade wedding cake (care of Kat). The newly wedded couple spent most of the night snuggled up together in the hammock at the corner of the patio, while guests came over and passed on their best wishes. The only calamity to befall the whole event was when one of the pugs decided that Emma’s train needed to make a circuit or two of the house. He bounded through the crowd pulling the white veil along behind, tripping people and generally causing havoc. The other pugs would have joined in, but were too busy enjoying the fruits of the other’s labour: most of the folks he tripped tended to drop their food.
The bride and groom took it all in stride – Emma had been heard to laughingly egg the mischievous pug on - and soon prepared for their honeymoon exodus. Nick handed the keys to the house over to Howie who was going to watch the place while they were away, then swept Emma up in his arms and carried her down the dock to where their vessel awaited. The two cracked up over how the boat looked: the Boys were never one to be stymied by a little thing like an unconventional vehicle. There were streamers all along the mast, and “Just Married” written on both the port and starboard sides. They’d even covered over the “bumper sticker” that Nick put on years ago after a mishap – instead of ‘I stop for seagrass’ it now read ‘I stop for MY WIFE.” The piece de resistance, care of AJ of course, was the banner across the bridge. It was festooned with unrolled condoms and read, ‘Condoms? Don’t need them! I’m MARRIED!’
In retaliation, Emma made sure that her bouquet landed in Tina’s arms, while Nick flicked the garter straight at AJ’s head.
Not that the two needed any extra help from fate: Nick and Emma were cutting their honeymoon short so they could be back in time to see AJ and Tina tie the knot.
And that had to be done in style. AJ style, that is.
Tuxes for all the men, and the ladies in long dresses. Champagne and caviar. An Elvis impersonator. The most diverse mixture of folks you could ever get your hands on. Steve Tyler and Gwen Stefani mixing with tattoo artists and McDonald’s fry chefs. A jungle petting zoo for the kids. Even the strippers from the stag, and stagette, parties dropped by.
But that was all after the ceremony.
While Nick’s had been relaxed and casual, AJ’s was formal. Who would have thought it? The wild man wanted a traditional wedding.
So the local church was booked, and all was to go by the book. Even the weather came through: a bright, beautiful, clear day. The groom arrived early and worked his way through two packs of cigarettes before the bride’s entourage was spotted. This necessitated a full fumigation and several gulps of mouthwash before the best man, Howie, declared him acceptable for polite company. It was all in the day’s service: Howie, with Nick’s help, had already had to hold AJ down a couple of times just to stop him from rushing out to find some hair dye.
It had all gone well. The moment AJ had looked down the aisle and seen Tina coming towards him he’d straightened up with a loopy grin on his face. His hands, which had been nervously clasped, fell to his side, and he even removed his glasses, letting all in the room see the love shining in them. Tina seemed to be the same way: a nervous wreck at the beginning of her walk (Kat and Leighanne swore later that they were afraid she’d done their hands permanent damage by the way she’d been squeezing them), and serene and composed by the time she hit the altar.
AJ had cried up a storm when she said ‘I do.’ He was blubbering so much the minister had to ask him for his answer twice before he could make it out. The final, resounding, “hell, YES!” cleared up any confusion. And the look on his face when, instead of confetti, the guests showered the newly married couple with stuffed animals, was priceless.
Brian got great points from the others for that idea, though explaining to Chris, Bry, and Tom that all the toys were going to a local children’s home after the ceremony was not easy. The older two agreed to it easily, after extracting promises that they were allowed to chuck as many as they wanted at Uncle AJ and Aunt Tina: Bry got a particularly good throw in, beaning AJ in the head with one small rabbit. Tom was less understanding, and it was decided that he could keep the small bear he had latched onto and most unwilling to give up. Once he knew his new friend wasn’t going to go flying off, he’d fallen asleep the bear wrapped tightly in his arms.
At the crack of dawn, as the party finally started to die down, AJ and his bride retreated to their limousine for their honeymoon flight. And in keeping with the spirit of the last wedding, they ensured that the bouquet and garter ended up where they wanted them to.
It was a quaint little church on the top of a hill. Pine trees surrounded it, making you feel that you were in the midst of a forest rather than just overlooking the ocean. The sun streamed through the windows, filling the room with light. The oaken pews were polished up fine, and the plain white walls gave the place a spartan but pure ambiance. Howie sighed happily. How they had found this place he didn’t know, but he could think of nowhere better for the two to wed. It was so ‘them.’
He walked back to the front of the church, nodding at the guests as they streamed in, to join AJ.
“How’s things going in the back?”
“The usual. Both of them are equally freaked out.” He sighed again. “Four down, one to never go.”
AJ put an arm over the other man’s shoulder. “Come on, man. Don’t be depressed. Someday your prince will come.”
Howie laughed and shoved AJ’s arm away. “Dumbass. My prince has already come. And I’ve come for him too.”
AJ clucked his tongue. “D, what have I told you about giving out too much information?”
“Yeah, but it’s so damn fun actually shocking you.”
“I’m not shocked. I just don’t want to hear about it. Tell you what, get it on video and then we’re okay.”
Howie snorted good-naturedly. “Did you ever think we’d get to this?”
AJ thought for a moment. “Honestly? There were times when I really doubted it. I actually thought you and Kat would make it, so the idea of something else wasn’t something I even considered. And with all the shit that went down,” he shook his head. “But I’ll tell you, any doubts I ever had were erased by two things.”
“The way Kevin fell to pieces after you two went to Austin. Deny it all he wanted that man was in loooove.”
Howie winced, remembering how close that had come to being the end of his friendship with Kevin. “And the other thing?”
“You know when Kat was at your place? That first time I saw her? I just barreled into the house and interrupted you. I brought it up, and all she said was she wasn’t sure things could ever corrected. Man, the fear and pain in her eyes…”
“And that told you they’d make it? That’s whack, Bone,” Howie frowned.
“Don’t you see, D? They each thought they’d lost everything and the only thing they wanted was each other. It’s like that saying, ‘if you love something set them free. If they come back they are yours forever.’ They had to totally let each other free to see they would always come back.”
They stood in silence for a minute. “That’s deep, Alex.”
“It scares me when you’re deep.”
AJ shuddered. “Freaking me out too. I’m gonna go find my wife and get un-deep, if you know what I mean,” he said with a wiggle of his eyebrow.
Howie chuckled. “Yeah, I should go see how the bride is doing.”
“If she wants to take up smoking, I got a few extra cigs.”
“I’ll pass it on, but I doubt it.”
Kat looked up and smiled at Howie when he entered the room. “Everything alright out front?”
“And he’s here?” The twinge of panic in her voice was hard to hide.
Howie sat down next to her and winked. “Funny. He just asked me that question too.”
“Mooommmmyyyyy!” Chris came running into the room. “There you are. Mom, Daddy’s being annoying. He says I can’t go play down on the beach.”
“Gotta agree with him there, sport,” Nick said as he strolled into the room. “You got work to do really soon and we can’t be without you.”
“But I got to play on the beach at your wedding.”
“Thas cos thas was on a beath, dumbass,” Bry piped up from the corner, where Leighanne was arranging her dress. When Bryleigh had heard that Chris was going to be the ringbearer she had insisted that she was going to be in the wedding too. Rather than have the two wrestling over the rings in the middle of the service, Bry had been appointed flower girl.
“Bry!” Leighanne protested, trying hard not to laugh.
“Well it was,” the little girl responded through her missing front teeth. Then she stamped her foot angrily. She hated this. All her words came out funny. Why couldn’t her stupid teeth grow in faster?
“Chris, we are almost ready. You can play out there after the service, okay?” Kat promised.
“Aren’t you ready yet?” Chris whined.
Kat pulled him up into her lap. “Toffee, darling, this is one of the most important days of my life. This is the day I pledge to love your daddy forever. And he pledges the same to me. You understand what that means. You were the one who kept asking when we were going to get married. So today is the day. I think you can wait for that.”
Toffee cocked his head, then laughed, wrinkling his nose. “You’re right, Mommy.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek then slid off her lap. He walked out the door, and she could hear him down the hall telling everyone that ‘today Mommy and Daddy get married. Cool, hunh?’
“That kid is nuts,” Nick laughed.
“It’s the company he keeps,” Leighanne smirked as she stood. “So, not to sound too much like my little cousin there, but are we ready?”
Kat paled. “I…”
“That’d be a yes,” Nick declared as he jumped up. “I’ll go shake the groom up and get him out front.” He planted a big kiss on Kat’s lips. “You look incredible. Now get ready to go out there and marry my bud, or I’ll try and whisk you away myself.”
Kat smiled tremulously. “I’d hate to have to explain that to Emma.”
Kevin stood at the front of the church, hands shaking. A throat cleared and he turned to his right to see his brother Tim smiling at him. It made him feel so much better knowing that his family was here. He glanced over to his mother, who was already starting to dab her eyes with a handkerchief. Yes, life was good. But only if she said yes. She had to say yes. Oh God, what if she doesn’t say yes? His body started to tremble and Brian elbowed him.
“Stop worrying, old man,” he whispered. “Now stand up straight. That’s my daughter up there.” Kevin looked down the aisle, finally hearing the music that had clearly been playing for a few minutes. The look on Bryleigh’s face was befuddled. She stood there, staring at everyone in room, her eyes wide. It finally registered with her that she knew everyone and there was nothing to fear. So she took a step forward. Then took one petal from her basket and placed it on the floor. Then another, directly in front of the other. She continued this way, first one petal then another, creating a small, straight line of flowers.
Kevin raised his eyes and could see Kat peering around the corner, trying so hard not to laugh at the little girl. Their eyes met and they both grinned widely. Kevin leaned over to Brian who looked like he was trying hard to decide between running up and helping her or cracking up. “I think we forgot to tell her how to do the job,” he tittered.
Brian let out a little gasp of laughter, then said, “I’ll fix it.” He moved forward, only to be restrained by Kevin.
“No worries. I think it’s being taken care of.” He pointed with his chin.
Chris had let out a long, heavy sigh, put down the ring pillow he had been holding and gone over to Bry. They had a brief, animated conversation, which ended with Bry throwing a handful of petals in his face. He spat out the petals with a disgusted look, but nodded his head. Bry glanced over her shoulder at Leighanne who also nodded her head, as tears of laughter trickled down her face.
Bry grinned widely and then took off. She threw the next handful up in the air with a loud, “hooray!” then skipped down the aisle, saying hello to people she knew and throwing handfuls of petals at them. Her basket was almost empty by the time she hit the front, so she upended the basket, patting it hard so that the final petals fell on Kevin’s shoes, then looked up at him for approval.
“Great job, Bryleigh,” he said huskily, his body shaking again, though this time with restrained laughter.
“Thanks, Unca Kev,” she replied sweetly before running up to Leigh and climbing into her lap. “Did you see me, Momma? I gave ou’ the fowers!”
Chris had watched the whole thing with a disgruntled look on his face. Bry just hadn’t done right. And he was going to show her the way it should be done. He squared his shoulders and started his slow march down the aisle. He got halfway down before he realized he’d forgotten the pillow and scurried back to get it.
His second walk was a little faster, and his face a little redder, but just as dignified. Kevin didn’t care: as soon as Chris got to the front he swept him up into his arms giving him a big hug. Chris dissolved into giggles, playfully batting Kevin’s kisses away, then hugging his dad tightly. He climbed up next to Leighanne and he and Bry shared a high five.
All eyes now focused on the far end of the aisle as Kat and Howie began their walk. Some in the crowd might think it strange: her ex-husband giving her away to her new husband, but for Kevin, Kat and Howie it was perfectly logical. The story had begun with the three of them and it made sense for this chapter to end with them all involved. It also showed that they had all forgiven each other for the mistakes of the past. Their friendship was stronger than ever and would stay so in the future. It had been a long road, but they had come through it together.
As she walked the narrow walkway, as the Melanie Doane track - "Good Gifts" played, Kat’s eyes met Kevin’s and all she ever wanted to say to him shone in them. Kevin’s eyes were saying the same things. This was the day that had been coming for them for so long. But rather than being a culmination, it was just another beginning. Another chapter. Here was where their story truly began. It would be a comedy and a tragedy, but more than anything it would be a love story. It would be…
“Okay, this is taking too long,” Chris announced. He hopped down from the pew and went down the aisle to grasp Kat’s hand. “Come on, hurry up. You gotta get married.” He dragged her along, finally pulling up in front of Kevin. “Here she is Daddy. Why are you laughing? You shouldn’t be laughing – you should be getting married.”
He stood back and tapped his foot until Tim wiped his face quickly and began the reading. After a few minutes Chris cleared his throat loudly, and Tim nodded sagely. He skipped straight to the meat of the matter.
“Do you Kevin Scott Richardson take his woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
Kevin opened his mouth, but was interrupted by his son once again.
“Sure he does. So does she. Are they married yet?”
Kat couldn’t restrain her laughter any longer, and collapsed against Kevin in a fit of giggles. Kevin held her close, his eyes sparkling, as he also started to laugh. He waved his mother away when she tried to come up to take Chris away and leaned down to scoop up his son. He held him in his arms, then he nodded to Tim and said, “I do.”
When her time came Kat first kissed Chris the cheek before giving her assent.
Not to be outdone by the antics of his nephew, Tim promptly turned to Chris.
“And do you Christopher Jerald Howard Morgan take Kevin and Katherine to be your parents?”
Chris looked around startled. “I get to chose?” Then smiled widely. “Yeah, I love them. I wanna keep them.”
“Well, thank God for that,” Tim breathed, eliciting another laugh from the audience. “Do you have the rings?”
Chris twisted and Kevin put him down so he could run over and retrieve the pillow.
After that the rest of the ceremony went smoothly. Chris seemed to be content now that the vows had been exchanged and went to sit with Leighanne and Bryleigh. He only piped up again at the end when Tim presented Mr. and Mrs. Richardson, and then it was only to cheer loudly and point out that he’d told everyone that it was going to happen. Bryleigh retorted that she’d known first.
While the two little cousins duked it out over who was first, it was Howie who had the last word. As he raised his glass in a toast to the happy couple, he gave them a wink, and said, “to the Richardsons."
Two people who found and loved each other despite all the obstacles. And yes I count myself among the list of obstacles… To Kevin and Kat. And to a marriage that will never be in name only!”
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