A/N: I really have no idea where this came from. I was working on the next chapter of 'Another Reason' and this just popped up out of my head without warning. I actually really like it. Please leave me some feedback and tell me what you think :D Thank you for reading!
Teams, Bands, and Bros
Kendall Knight's famous phrase among his friends was, "Always stick together." It was logical in Logan's mind, easy to understand for Carlos, and admirable to James. When the members of Big Time Rush worked together, the outcome for whatever situation they faced—dismal or otherwise—was, a majority of the time, success.
They were a team, in both the literal and best friend sort of way. They were a band, as in group of attractive pop singers making a living off their music. And if nothing else, the four considered themselves bros.
"Are you ready," announced Carlos, cupping his hands around his mouth, "for the fastest swirly slide ride in the history of fast swirly slide rides?"
"I really doubt there is such a history," Logan replied monotonously, though he kept an amused eyebrow quirked.
James crouched near the bottom of the snaking yellow tube, a red stopwatch occupying one hand. He expectantly peered up at helmet-clad Carlos, who was dramatically rolling his shoulders in preparation for his stunt. "Then we'll make history," James said to Logan. "We'll start the world record for fastest ride down a swirly slide ever."
Standing near the kitchen table, Logan crossed his arms. "What makes you think you'll go down any faster than before?" he asked. "Your velocity won't increase unless you factor in some sort of determinant that will alter your acceleration—"
"Say it so I understand it," Carlos interrupted. He huffed an annoyed sigh, glaring down at Logan.
"What's going to make you go faster than before?"
Carlos rolled his eyes like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Duh. I coated the inside with butter." He reached down and obtained a roll of saran wrap seemingly from nowhere. "And I'll cover myself in this, so I'll slide down easier."
Logan exchanged a glance with Kendall, who leaned imperturbably against the kitchen counter. The look was clearly for confirmation and support for the question, "Are they serious?" But it was also a silent inquiry generating a hundred different thoughts, one of them being, "Why do we hang out with these guys?"
Kendall didn't need to answer, because Logan rotated his body to once again face James and Carlos. Kendall was thankful, considering the only response he could have offered was a shrug.
He pondered it frequently these days: what kept the four of them strung so tightly together? Why did their friendship work? Kendall was level-headed and collected, Logan was an indecisive brainiac, James was stubborn and slightly conceited, and Carlos was, well, Carlos. Reckless and naïve and living in a world of sunshine and daisies.
Sometimes they'd fight. Usually the disputes were petty slap-fights, though they occasionally turned violent. James would spend hours in the bathroom caking makeup on his skin to hide purple bruises, Logan would skillfully wrap knuckles and apply bandages, Carlos would buff the scratches from his helmet, and Kendall would make himself suffer for his idiotic misdeeds by refusing to pop a pain pill.
With a few rare exceptions, they never needed to apologize. Each boy possessed the intellect to understand when the other was sincerely sorry, and the next day things would be back to normal—which probably included constructing a slingshot in the park to fling watermelons, or enraging Gustavo to a point where he chased them with a baseball bat.
"Where did you get all the butter?" Logan asked Carlos.
The Latino shrugged casually. "I know a guy." He then closed his legs together and began to twist the plastic wrap around his jeans, starting at his feet and working his way up.
"And how do you plan to clean it up when you're done?"
"With soap," James replied.
Logan bit the inside of his cheek, eyes traveling up the slide. "Just be careful," he warned.
Kendall knew Logan had an instinctive, over-protective quality in him which foiled all his attempts to be unconcerned about the stunts Carlos and James pulled. Because Kendall did, too.
He was the leader of Big Time Rush. Or, at least, that was what he'd been told. He was never exactly fond of the title being used among friends, because in Kendall's mind, they were all leaders in their own unique way. Sure, he more commonly bailed the guys out of trouble, and he kept them together when Hollywood Fever altered their personalities, or Snake Timmons and his reality show fogged their brains. And sure, the guys usually came to him when they needed encouraging words and pep talks, and they trusted him to withhold their secrets and personal problems. Not to mention Kendall could demonstrate the best way to perform a killer slap shot.
But who did Kendall, James and Carlos turn to when they needed help with their homework? Who did Kendall, James and Logan turn to when they craved a fun time? Who did Kendall, Logan and Carlos turn to when they desired an effective way to impress a girl?
They watched out for each other. Not just on the rink like a team, not just in the studio or on stage like a band. They had to constantly have each others' backs. That's what bros did.
Seventh grade. A tall, skinny kid named Jonah Marks was bitter because he had practiced the entire off-season in order to make the hockey team. When Kendall, James, Carlos and Logan were accepted like they were every year, the kid sort of snapped, cornering them after school and screaming his head off about how they didn't deserve to play on the team. Jonah Marks wasn't a very bright guy. Who tries to take on four hockey players all by himself?
Kendall, of course, used every smooth-talking tactic he knew to reason with the kid. But his slick words proved ineffective, as Jonah's face reddened to the shade of a tomato and two fists clenched at his sides.
Then, Logan, who had been standing sheepishly out of the way and hadn't made a sound, went down. He fell with a cry of alarm, blood spraying from his nose and gushing down the sides of his face. He landed flat on the pavement, writhing on his back in pain from the forceful blow.
Kendall only took a second to gasp and decide what to do next. Because no body hurt his team, his friends, his bros. No body hurt them, and no body thought of hurting them. And due to the patronizing sneer curling Jonah Marks' upper lip combined with unstable rage burning in Kendall's blood, he decided no body would even look at his friends with harmful intentions.
It was the only time he had really been in trouble with his mother. He slumped home that night with a black eye so swollen and puffy he could barely see, a nearly-broken thumb due to an inadequate fist-making ability, split lip gushing blood, and painfully scraped knuckles damaged from Jonah Marks' crooked front teeth. Mrs. Knight grounded him for two weeks. Part of his punishment included washing the kitchen floor, sweeping the garage and scooping the gunk from the gutters. Considering Kendall's hands and ribs were sore from his scuffle, it was a harsh penalty indeed.
"Alright, James, you ready?" Carlos called down. He was wrapped up to his neck in a thin transparent layer, black helmet securely on his head.
"Ready!" James cried excitedly, holding out the hand with the stopwatch. He leaned forward near the exit of the slide, intently watching.
Carlos waddled forward and began to count down.
"I can't look," Logan murmured, closing his eyes.
Yeah. There was no way this was going to end well. Truth be told, Kendall had the power to stop it. Carlos would listen to anything he said. But he had to admit he was curious to see how the exploit would play out. Odds were Carlos wouldn't get hurt too bad, and even if he did, Logan was around to patch him up.
Heck, Logan had been training for a medical career since he was five years old. The eager little boy would run around his backyard with one hand tightly clutching the tiny first aid kit his parents had given him for his birthday. It was packed with colorful plastic instruments for taking pretend temperatures, measuring blood pressure, listening to the beat of a heart, and testing reflexes. Also inside, his prized possession carried a box of real superhero Band-Aids, half of which ended up keeping Carlos from bleeding to death that summer.
Logan was a very skilled practitioner, spreading beach towels on the lawn for his friends to rest as he went about treating their nonexistent illnesses. When he spotted a freckle, an old scar, or general skin discoloration, a sticky strip displaying a comic book character was promptly fixed upon the blemish. Though not particularly fans of getting body parts covered in unnecessary Band-Aids, the boys enjoyed the mini lollipop Logan treated his patients to once his examination was complete. Sometimes if he ran out of Dum Dums, he'd offer an imaginary sucker from the imaginary breast pocket of his imaginary lab coat. But those were never as good.
Kendall wondered how long Logan would stick around. He would go to medical school, there was no doubt about it. True, Logan enjoyed everything about the band—the singing, the dancing, the fans, the time spent hanging out with his three best friends—but helping people was his passion. James was the one who loved and was perfectly content with every single thing about his job. Logan would sometimes sulk into the room he and Kendall shared, plop down on his bed take a nap after a long day of recording. Only Kendall knew Gustavo's harsh criticism was a hard blow to Logan's self-confidence. It was just a matter of time before they graduated, a matter of time before the band was ending, and a matter of time before Logan called it quits and went off to college.
And James. James always struggled in school. Kendall had never heard him speak of going on to college and, honestly, James didn't need to. He had the potential to be a solo artist, an actor, a model, an anything. And James knew it.
Throughout their Minnesotan school years, James joined choir and theater. He sang, danced and acted in school plays, and every production's director told James he possessed the most talent of all the kids on stage. So with constant complements and encouragements from teachers, and the Brooke Diamond cosmetics business adding more handsomeness to his flawless face, James became blessed with a generous amount of confidence. Most of the time, anyway. When his brown locks poked up in a disheveled mess from a bad hair day, he'd lock himself in his house and dampen, blow-dry, comb, style, repeat until he was satisfied.
Kendall always admired James's determination. If James said he was doing something, by gosh, he was going to do it. He took pride in everything he did, always striving to be the best. Soon he'd realize he could make it in Hollywood without the remaining members of the band, and he'd say farewell. He'd be the star of the next teen vampire movie, he'd be on the cover of the hottest magazines in the world, he'd be performing duets with singing legends.
Carlos was a mystery. A bouncing, gleeful, innocent mystery. Nothing ever concerned him, as he was too busy having fun. But sometimes his fun got a little out of hand. Kendall and the guys had spent many hours in the emergency room waiting for Carlos's broken bones and concussions to be treated. What Carlos didn't know did hurt him, though he never seemed to learn from his mistakes.
There was a particularly frightening event that occurred freshman year. Apparently a sign reading 'danger: thin ice' meant 'welcome: come play.' Kendall blamed himself for the accident for a long time afterwards. Every Minnesotan knew the acceptable times to go skating on a frozen pond, so, naturally, he assumed he didn't need to keep an eye on Carlos. But nothing could be assumed with Carlos. Kendall had first heard a loud hiss, followed by the most sickening crack ever to invade his ears. He whipped around and watched in horror as Carlos's body sank waist-deep into the freezing water.
Luckily, Kendall had enough sense to stay put and not rush onto the breaking ice. Even more fortunate was the fact Carlos hadn't been completely submerged and managed to pull himself out of the water. It was an especially good thing for Kendall, considering his calm composure had shattered, leaving him a panicky mess on the snowy banks of the pond. Carlos was shivering violently when he stumbled over to Kendall, teeth clicking together through a goofy grin. "That was close, huh?"
Kendall led the walk home, one arm securing around Carlos's torso as they trekked the short walk to safety. By the time they reached their destination to supply Carlos with warm clothes and possibly call an ambulance, the Latino was struggling to stay upright. Kendall hadn't acted like it at the time, but he was terrified. He had nightmares the rest of the week, the image of his friend plunging down into the icy water at subzero temperatures forever burned in the back of his mind. Not that he'd let the guys know that.
"Three… Two… One!" Carlos threw himself headfirst into the entrance of the slide. "Whoo-hoo!"
Kendall blinked, surprised at how fast Carlos did emerge from the other end.
James animatedly pressed the button on his stopwatch, letting out a triumphant cheer as Carlos sailed out of the slide. However, all mirth was abruptly cut off when Carlos continued sliding across the hardwood floors of the apartment.
Logan yelped as Carlos crashed into the kitchen table. One chair toppled over with a noisy clatter, collapsing on top of Carlos's butter-coated body.
"Carlos!" Logan and James cried simultaneously. Even Kendall failed to suppress a gasp. The three friends rushed over instantaneously, Kendall and James dropping down to Carlos's side and Logan yanking off the fallen chair.
"Man, are you okay?" James asked. He stopped and narrowed his eyes, studying the way Carlos squirmed in the confines of his plastic.
Kendall noticed the unusualness as well. Squatting, he reached forward and rolled Carlos over. A large piece of saran wrap clung against Carlos's face. It rose and fell rapidly as he fought for air.
"Dude!" Logan exclaimed. He leaned down and snatched the offending object. Carlos sucked in a large mouthful of oxygen. "You could have been in real trouble," scolded the brown-haired boy. "What would you have done if no one else was around?"
Kendall had his bushy eyebrows raised as he awaited a response.
Carlos wriggled slightly. "I wouldn't have done it alone," he said. "Someone had to time me. By the way, what did I get?"
James held up the stopwatch. "One point nine seconds!"
Logan frowned, obviously becoming angry. "You guys, Carlos could have killed himself. Do you not understand the seriousness of the situation here?"
"Would you stop freaking out?" Carlos rolled his eyes. "I mean, c'mon, Logan, I'm alive, aren't I?"
Logan took a deep breath to calm his jittery nerves. Kendall didn't blame him. One of these days Carlos was going to get himself killed, or at least seriously injured. It would be a long time before he matured and realized soon he would need to grow up. He would need to decide on his plans for the future, because quite frankly, being a superhero would be tough in this economy.
Carlos seemed a bit vexed at Logan's reaction. James hasted in assisting Carlos break free from his plastic cocoon, rolling his body along the floor as if unraveling a roll of carpet.
That's what teammates and band mates and bros did for each other. They helped without being asked, and they always had the power to know when help was needed.
Normally the situation was minimal in its severity. Kendall invested time after school to help the guys with their skills on the ice, James taught new strategies to master Mr. X's dance moves in the studio, Logan was the go-to guy for homework help, and Carlos knew the best way to devour eleven corndogs in sixty seconds.
But sometimes things weren't as innocent. Like when James's parents divorced. He didn't mention it much, only a few times so the guys were aware of his situation. Apparently the Diamonds were careful not to argue in front of their child, but even with the bedroom door closed, James could hear every vicious word.
One night the phone rang at the Knight residence. It was ten o'clock PM, and Kendall was already in bed, though not quite asleep, as a thunderstorm was rolling through. Mrs. Knight entered his bedroom with the cordless phone to her ear, informing him of something that sent chills down his spine: James had run away.
Kendall knew where James was. He wasn't sure how he knew, but he did. With his dinosaur pajamas still on his body, he ran downstairs and slipped into a coat and pair of shoes. Mrs. Knight warned him to stop, but Kendall had no time to obey his mother when James was somewhere alone.
Rain fell down in sheets. The sky was about as black as Kendall had ever seen it, and even with his coat covering his torso, water seeped through and drenched his clothes. The lightning lit up his two-block jog to the nearest city park. By the time he arrived and found James hugging his knees to his chest and sobbing underneath the plastic awning of the playground equipment, Kendall was nearly blind from the torrents pouring in his eyes. He breathed heavily from the run, though his body shook and shivered from the cold rain running down his skin.
It was the first and only time Kendall had given James a hug. Because hugging was reserved for moms and grandmas and girlfriends, not for guys. They were much more comfortable with grabbing each other's hand being pulled close for an affectionate shoulder-bump, because those technically didn't count as hugs. Everyone knew that. But seeing James look so devastated—entire figure sopping wet as rain never ceased its relentless pouring, and thunder failing to drown out the noises of his sobs—every article in the unwritten book of manliness disappeared. Kendall wrapped his protective arms around James and held his shaken friend for the longest minutes of his life.
They didn't talk to each other the next day. Or the day after that, actually. But when Monday came and the boys took their seats in first period English, James plopped down in his usual spot between Kendall and Carlos, greeting the group brightly like always.
The night at the park was never spoken of again.
"Would you quit bugging me?" Carlos groaned, annoyance directed at Logan. "I'm fine. Now help me get this plastic off!"
"You're covered in butter; I'm not touching you," Logan huffed.
With a devious smirk, Carlos tossed his body forward and rubbed against Logan's side. Logan yelped and jumped away, looking down in disgust at his clothes. "Hey, dude, not cool!" He shoved Carlos, still half wrapped, into James.
"Hey, watch it!" James cried, pushing Carlos back into Logan. "This is a new shirt."
Kendall had been friends with the guys long enough to know a fight was about to transpire. He watched amusedly as James attempted to tackle Logan to the ground, only to have Carlos unintentionally intercept the brunt of the attack. The three boys tumbled to the ground in a heap of tangled limbs, shouting and attempting to land punches to any available body part.
Kendall hummed thoughtfully, cocking his head to the side. So maybe Logan needed someone to give him a much-needed adrenaline rush every now and again. And maybe Carlos required someone to keep him from doing something a little too dangerous. And maybe James could benefit from someone reminding him of the pleasures life offered away from the 'big time.' And—just maybe—they needed to beat each other up once in a while to remind each other they cared.
So instead of pulling his friends apart, Kendall flashed his trademark smirk and flung himself onto the pile of flailing arms and legs. The four rolled around on the floor for minutes, their shouts of protest and semi-contemptuous jeers eventually turning into wholehearted laughter and playful jostling. And when they called a truce and picked themselves up, everyone was covered in a slick layer of butter and had bits of plastic wrap clinging to their clothes, as well as a few light bruises. The boys looked down at each other, then burst into another fit of side-splitting laugher.
Maybe, Kendall thought, they would go their separate ways one day. They would be broken from their team, drift from the band. But they would always be bros. Moments like this proved it. Moments where Logan forgot about how fearful he had been, where James didn't care his clothes were ruined, and where Carlos put aside his frustrations. Moments where Kendall remembered everything they had experienced together, and the more encounters to come in the future.
And those were some pretty fantastic thoughts.