© Kat Morgan 1999/2000
In Name Only
Chapter 29: Reverse Psychology
Brian and Leighanne had decided on a traditional June wedding, only to be stymied by a lack of the one venue they wanted the most; the church where Brian’s mother and father had been married. Not even his celebrity status, something he rarely played up, could manage to get him the date they had wanted.
After much to-ing and fro-ing they decided to move the date up to late May. Seeing as the tour ended barely two weeks before the new wedding date things were getting a little frantic.
Now that Paul had returned to Florida, Howie had more time on his hands, and was more than willing to jump in and help. Kat heaved a sigh of relief. She loved him dearly, but truth be told he was starting to get on her nerves. He was so puppy-dog grateful to her for letting him have the time with Paul, which only made her feel guilty for cheating on him. Yes, she still felt she was no matter what she said to Kevin to the contrary. Her loyalties were starting to shift towards the other man, but that wasn’t something she was ready to admit yet. Having Howie around all the time just made he more confused. And also difficult for her to slip off and see Kevin.
The two suddenly discovered a shared interest in museums and art galleries. And they indulged it. It wasn’t just an excuse – they did often go to museums and galleries together – Kat finally getting a chance to see, in person, the Pre-Raphaelite paintings she loved. Their relationship wasn’t just sex; some of the times they cherished the most were when they just got to hold each other and talk. They got into heated intellectual discussions about historical events. They discovered that History had been each other’s favourite subject in school – though the differences between the American and Canadian educational system meant they had divergent views. They talked about their writing; her current novel and his songs. It was only about half the time that they snuck off to a secluded hideaway were they could love each other for hours on end, safe from interruption.
"Its funny how things imprint themselves on your psyche and you can’t shake them," AJ thought as he saw another display of Easter eggs and had to repress a shudder. He’d always hated that vacation, and even now, thousands of miles away from Tampa, he still felt like it was closing in on him.
He smiled at the small group of fans in front of him, and began signing autographs and flirting outrageously, trying to shake the mood. Nick seemed to notice his mood and moved over to his side, helping him handle the press of people. "He’s getting perceptive in his old age," AJ thought as he smiled his thanks.
Nick had started spending a lot of time with Julie, one of the team of dancers who were on tour with them. She seemed genuinely interested in him, which helped. AJ scowled as he remembered a dancer he’d dated a few years back. She’d been more interested in AJ the Boy than AJ the man, and it had hurt a lot when he finally called it quits. He’d been through it with other girlfriends --they’d all been, especially Kevin with that bitch Suzanne, and that annoying Mindy – but AJ had thought that because they worked so closely together that things would be different. Not so. AJ hoped Nick’d have better luck.
He glanced over at Howie who was charming a small group of girls over by the tour bus. Despite his sexual preferences he was always and ever Sweet D. He was bearing up well after Paul’s departure. AJ was surprised that he actually missed Howie’s lover. Paul had been a good guy, and while he hadn’t gotten to know him really well, AJ had enjoyed his company. AJ still wasn’t totally comfortable with the situation; he figured that would come with time, but he had to admit that every decision Howie had made about his life had been well-thought out and sound. AJ adored Kat, and she had fit so well into their Backstreet family. Like a puzzle no one had realized was missing. The affection she had for Howie was genuine, and didn’t seem to suffer too much by Paul’s presence. In fact, AJ thought, if it hadn’t been for her he was sure that the others, himself included, wouldn’t have handled Paul being there as well as they had.
He glanced at her as spoke to Leighanne and Tina, the three women kept in the background as much as they could. Yes, the Backstreet family was expanding in weird and wonderful ways. And it was all the better for it.
Tina felt his eyes on her and flashed him a grin, which he answered.
She turned back to Kat, saying, "I got the package today."
"I know. I’m the one who’s hiding it in her suitcase, remember? You’re still not going to tell me what’s in it, are you?" Kat replied.
"All she’ll tell me is that it’s something that will make AJ very happy," Leighanne grinned.
"Whips? Chains? Handcuffs?" Kat mused cheekily.
Leighanne shook her head, trying hard not to laugh, "nope, those are all things that AJ’d all ready have with him."
"Hey!" Tina giggled, "that’s my baby you’re joking about."
The other two women exchanged a glance and then focussed on Tina, who cracked under the pressure of their gaze.
"Okay, so the handcuffs we do have, but…." she blushed and stammered. Kat and Leighanne broke into laughter, which Tina joined.
The Boys were starting to wrap up their autograph session and the women caught a signal from Terry, the bodyguard, and climbed aboard the tour bus. But not before Kat heard Leighanne whisper to Tina, "so if you have something else planned, can I borrow those handcuffs…."
The note that AJ had been given after the concert was cryptic and confusing. "Backstreet Boys, ducks and these fly. Look for your next clue with me." What the hell did that mean? He recognized Tina’s handwriting, but wasn’t sure what kind of game she was playing at. What flies? Well, he did – they were still doing the occasional flying trick as part of their shows, indeed they had done so tonight. He looked at the board he had used but it offered no hint. He gazed out at the stage. What could it be…
He started to laugh as he figured out what else flew, what had flown with the Boys at every concert they had had in past years. Guido. The band mascot, Guido the Love Goose, was a stuffed toy Canadian goose, given to the band by devoted fans. It was a mainstay on every tour; it even had its own website and fan club. He went over to the keyboards where Guido sat. Sure enough, underneath was another card. It was like one of those Valentine cards you got in grade school, only with an Easter theme; a chick amid brightly coloured eggs . "Seasons change, lights change, and so do people."
Okay, that was easier. He headed back to his change room backstage. It took a little while to find; she’d put it in the crotch of the pants he’s worn at the beginning of the concert. "Hmm, was there a hint in the positioning of the note?" he thought, with a grin. This card was like the last, only with the message, "Where friends gather there I’ll be."
Well, that could only be one of the guys. Unfortunately, AJ wasn’t sure where they all were. Kevin, Howie and Kat had said something about going clubbing. Nick and Julie may have gone along, or they could be off alone together. Brian and Leighanne? They were probably off doing wedding things. Damn, he wished he’d been paying better attention when they had said what their plans were!
He shouldered his bag and wandered to the back of the stadium, looking frantically for someone, anyone, who might be able to tell him were the others had gone. He’d almost given up when he saw Mark, the Boys’ longstanding security chief. "Mark! Man, I was beginning to think everyone had gone."
"Almost, was just heading out. What’s up, AJ? Need someone to escort you back to the hotel?"
"Actually I need someone to escort me to wherever the others are partying."
"Partying without you? I’m shocked," Mark teased.
AJ grinned. "Surprised me, too. Do you know where they are?"
"Just a sec. I’ll call Terry," Mark said pulling his cell phone out of his back pocket. AJ suddenly felt like a fool. His cell was in his bag; he’d been carrying it around with him for the past half an hour. And D always had his phone with him; AJ had often thought it was a permanent attachment to his ear. If he’d been thinking he could have called ages ago.
"They’re at a club called The Deluxe. Not too far from here. I can run you over and get you in. Terry’ll take it over from there."
The club was hopping; music blaring and people gyrating madly to the beat. If he wasn’t on a mission, AJ knew he’d probably want to stay and party the night away. He finally found the group at the back of the club. Brian and Leighanne were snuggled up at one end of a huge sofa, while Kat and Kevin were in the midst of a quiet conversation at the other end. Nick and Julie were dancing nearby, and Howie was chatting with a couple at a nearby table.
"Okay, one of you have a note for me," he said as he bounded up to them. Kevin looked up startled, a slight guilty look on his face, but Kat, who had seen him approach, just smiled and pulled a card out of her pocket. AJ was getting tired of looking at cute bunnies and little chicks, and turned the card over quickly. "Say this aloud and from a distance it looks like words of love."
He re-read it, but it made no sense. He glanced at Kat who had a grin on her face. "Okay, what does this mean?"
"What’s it say?" Brian asked curiously, so AJ read it aloud. Brian and Leighanne started to laugh, Kat and Kevin joining in.
"Okay, is this some kind of private joke?" AJ asked. The others just laughed harder. "Hey, help me here," he said in frustration.
"AJ? Do you remember a movie premiere we went to a little while ago?" Kevin asked.
"Which one? We went to several. Even to Leighanne’s movie premiere."
"And?" Brian asked.
AJ was still confused.
"Well, clearly I had no effect on you," Leighanne sniffed derisively. "Here’s a clue. If you say Olive Juice it looks like ‘I love you’ from afar."
"So you’ve got the next clue!" AJ said excitedly, moving over to her.
"I don’t know if I want to give it to you though," she smirked. "My movie debut, and you can’t even remember."
"Please, Leigh. I’m sorry; I’m just not thinking this evening," he begged and she relented, pulling a card from her purse.
This one was a little better than the others were; it had cute puppies on it instead of bunnies. "Check me in, check me out. I can answer your every question, and I hold your next clue."
"Nobody wants to just tell me what Tina’s up to and save me all this clue-figuring-out, do they?" AJ groaned.
"Sorry, Bone. This is too much fun. Seeing you squirm like this," Kevin chuckled.
"I’ll get you for that someday, Train," AJ threatened, but Kevin just smiled and told him to put it on his account.
"So where do I go with this?" AJ didn’t see Nick until the man yanked the card out of his hand.
"Hey, I was reading that!"
Nick just frowned and gave it back to him. "What kind of clue’s waiting for you at the hotel’s front desk?"
"Yeah," Nick replied. "Where we check in and check out. Get it?"
AJ jumped up, kissed Nick on the cheek and ran from the club. Nick looked after him quizzically, wiping his face. "What the hell was that about?"
"Ask him tomorrow," Leighanne chuckled.
Sure enough, there was an envelope containing another of those damn cards waiting for him at the front desk. "Easter is upon us, so I can be seen more regularly now. Normally, you’d only see me if you had too many of these."
He grinned. The rabbit on the card was a dead giveaway, and he and Tina’d joked about this just the other day. Drink too much and you’d end up seeing pink bunnies. He raced to the hotel bar and the bartender gave him another envelope. "All day long I go up and down. Tiring work. But if you want to make it to the top, you have to be consistent."
This hotel was one that he’d stayed in several times before, so that one was an easy one. It was one of the few that had a special elevator that took you to the exclusive floors. Like the one the Boys were staying on. He entered the elevator, activating the code for his floor, examining the elevator’s interior as it traveled up. The note was peeking out of the top panel, only noticeable if you were looking for it.
"What took you so long, AJ? Get your tail down to our room, right now!"
Okay, that clue was anything but vague. He sprinted down the hall, opening the door quickly.
Nothing more than a few candles lighted the room, but it was bright enough for him to see what was on the bed. Amid a pile of Easter straw, the kind you’d normally find at the bottom of baskets, Tina lay. She was wearing a pink push-up bra, with matching panties, a little cottontail attached. On her head was a pair of bunny ears, and she was eating a crème egg. Well, eating was the wrong word. She dipped her tongue in, getting a small scoop of the white and yellow nougat, which she moved around her mouth seductively. Her every gesture was turning him on. He swallowed, and finally managed to squeak, "hi."
Tina was well aware of the effect she was having on him, and enjoying every minute of it. She looked at him, as if seeing him for the first time. "Good evening, Mr. McLean. I was thinking; you have this irrational dislike for Easter. I think its time I did something to break you of it."
He dropped his bag, and pulled his shirt over his head, moving towards the bed. "If anyone can do it, you could," he chuckled, as he pulled her into his arms.
("I dreaded Easter every year because my mum made me go round to hospitals giving out Easter eggs, dressed as a fluffy Easter bunny." AJ McLean)