In Name Only
"Howís he doing?"
Leighanne sighed. "A bit better. Heís sleeping finally. Bryís being a handful though."
Brian came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, kissing her temple. "Iím sorry, baby. Want me to take her with me tomorrow?"
"Yeah right. Youíll get so much recording done with her running around underfoot." She sighed and leaned back into his chest. "I suppose that Nick could keep her amused."
Brian shook his head. "Not here yet. He was kind of vague about when he was going to get here. Maybe KevíllÖ" His voice trailed out, thinking of the incident a couple of days ago. Kevin had been over for dinner and had been playing with Bryleigh and baby Thomas. He had been fine for a while, then suddenly his face crumpled and heíd had to go out into the back yard to regain his composure. He was missing CJ so much. And every time he played with Brianís children he was reminded of his own son. Bry had finally stopped asking him where CJ was, but there were reminders just the same.
It hadnít helped that CJís birthday had only been a month ago. He and Kevin had been talking amiably, then suddenly heíd started telling Brian about this toy, a dinosaur model, that heíd gotten CJ. He went on and on about how it was so popular, especially with kids his age, and how heíd love it and Ö Then he ran out of steam; suddenly realizing that he wouldnít be seeing CJ on his birthday Ė that he didnít know when heíd ever see him again.
Leigh understood his silence and turned in his arms to face him. She gave him a quick peck on the lips. "Its okay. Iíll manage."
He smiled sadly at her. "I just wish I knew what to do."
"None of us do."
"Do you think she still loves him?"
"Yes," Leigh replied immediately.
He looked at her in surprise "No hesitation? Youíre pretty certain."
"I think it would be damn near impossible for her to stop. Do you think Kevinís stopped?"
Brian shook his head.
"See? Even if he told her he did, he canít. Wherever she is, she is still in love with him. And probably slowly bleeding to death because she is convinced he doesnít love her."
Brian let out a snort. "How can she believe that? Jesus, canít she seeÖ"
"Thatís just it; she canít. We see it all the time, but thatís because he is here. What is she going to see? The only way we have to get "messages" to her is if we say something publicly. And he wonít say a thing. Only Howie has, and I doubt she wants to hear anything from him. And as for Kevinís actions: he told her he didnít love her anymore, and how can she believe otherwise when he is busy sleeping his way through every woman in Hollywood?"
"Heís not doing that anymore," Brian protested, feeling the need to protect his cousin. Then relented at Leighís raised eyebrow. "Okay, so not as much."
"We know why he is doing it. But will she?" Leigh concluded.
Brian sighed. "Damn, I wish I knew."
She smiled at him, and he couldnít help the surge of love that went through him whenever she did that. "At least heís talking about CJ now. He couldnít do that much even a few months ago," she reminded him.
They stood together, locked in each otherís arms until a plaintive wail came from upstairs.
Leighanne smacked him playfully on the arm. "Yes, so I heard."
He chuckled and gave her a quick hug. "Iíll go. Maybe he can gnaw on my fingers for a while."
"Donít be silly; you know where the teething gel is."
He walked toward the doorway, turning at the last minute. "Do you think heíll ever be able to talk about HER?"
Leighanne didnít have an answer.
"But I donít understand why you are so angry with me," Patti said with a little whine in her voice. "All I said was that Kevin should settle down a little and not be such a lech."
"You said it to his face!"
"So? Better than behind his back."
"Not if you knewÖ" That was just the problem. Patti didnít know. And how could he tell her? Did he even want to? Why the hell had she said it when she did? Kevin was finally getting back to some sort of state of equilibrium. He wasnít drinking as much, and hadnít started another one of his "whirlwind" romance in a few weeks. Even though they had just agreed to be back together as a group, he seemed to be more, well, Kevin-like. Then Patti had gone and said that to himÖ
Kevinís response? If Patti thought he was lech, then Kevin was determined to really show her.
AJ still wasnít sure how many girls Kevin had ended up taking home with him.
But he had been very hung over today at the studio. Fortunately, AJ knew a thing or two about curing hangovers and had taken care of things before Brian and Howie had arrived.
"If I knew what?" Pattiís voice demanded.
That was the problem: she was becoming too demanding. Wanting to know too much about things that she shouldnít. Not her fault really; heís never kept too many secrets from her before. Heíd been very open with her about his life and what was going on in it. The entire time he was a solo artist there had been no need for secrets. Now, well, these werenít his secrets to share this time. He was back in Backstreet secret-land. And somehow he got the feeling that he couldnít trust Patti with those. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
"Look, its just that Kevin doesnít take criticism like that well. Especially from someone he doesnít know well."
"You have to admit it, babe. He really doesnít know you well. Itís more knowing of him than him. He and I havenít been all together that close ourselves over the past two years. I think I can still say that sort of thing to him; and I have been trying to. Subtly." He shook his head and said firmly. "You canít."
"Iím sorry, sweetheart. It just isnít something that you should have said."
Patti sighed. "Okay. Iíll apologize to him the next time I see him."
"No! Just leave it. Hopefully heíll forget about it. Donít remind him."
"Are you sure?" She turned her big eyes up to him, and he gave her a tight hug.
"Iím sure. Better this way," he murmured into her hair. "Letís talk about something more interesting. Like us."
"Us? Us how?" she replied with a husky purr.
He grinned sexily. "Us any way we feel like it," he said just before he kissed her. He just wished he could shake the feeling that it was us Ė no way.
It had taken a while to calm Kat once sheíd finally broken down. Emma, who was still stunned by the turn of events, jumped into action. She organized the eveningís closing of the restaurant and the exit of the other staff, all without having anyone come back into the kitchen area. Nick had gathered Kat into his arms and held her tightly. All thoughts of "kicking her ass" had fled; now he just felt like an idiot. He knew he was going to get some response from her Ė though she had clearly been determined not to react. Just not this.
"Dumbass," he mumbled to himself. He knew sheíd have been hurting for years, but he hadnít seen it. Heíd only seen how Kevin was behaving. And even how Howie was. Those two were clearly in pain. It had occurred to him that Kat would be the same way, butÖ
"Big dumbass," he muttered.
"I am not," Kat whispered back.
"Not you. Me. Did my Bulldozer Nick impression again and made you cry."
"I think I was going to cry after seeing you anyway."
"Gee thanks. Glad I have that effect on you," he joked lightly.
Kat swatted him on the chest. Then seemed to realize where she was sitting and tried to get up.
"No way. You are not moving. Iíve got two years of hugs to catch up on and I am not going to miss this."
Kat chuckled. "Damn, I missed you, Kaos."
He gave her a kiss on the tip of her nose. "Missed you more."
"Now who is acting like a dumbass?" Nick laughed. "Who was the one who found you?"
"I always knew where you were, Mr. Celebrity. No need to look."
"Oh yeah. Excuse the blond moment." He gave her another squeeze. "Are you glad I found you?"
Kat stiffened. "Honestly? No. I missed you so bad, but I donít know if I can deal withÖ"
"We wonít tell them, then. Not yet. Not till you are ready."
Kat looked at him with a startled expression. "You do that? You wouldnít tell them?"
Nick thought about it for a moment. "I wonít. I want to, damn you have no idea how much. But I wonít." He gave her another hug. "But if you think that I am leaving here without trying really hard to convince you to come home, you have another thought coming."
Kat sighed and nodded.
"Now, next question. When I can see my nephew?"