In Name Only
"I said GET UP!"
"Stop fucking hiding in there and get up."
"Not hiding. I’m sleeping. Go away," he slurred.
‘You’re not sleeping. You’re hiding under the covers with your buddy Jack Daniels. This place reeks of it. Now, give me the bottle I know you have under there with you and get up!"
"Jesus Christ," Tina muttered angrily. Then did the only thing she could think of. The one thing that had always worked with another occasionally fractious Backstreet Boy she had been well acquainted with. She opened the curtains and pulled the blankets off the bed.
Note to self: Find out a man’s sleeping apparel habits BEFORE you uncover them.
Not that he wasn’t nice to look at, of course. He was well sculpted. Firm. Muscular. Though a little on the lean side. Tina repressed a chuckle. She was complaining about him being lean? She used to date the poster child for the word.
His tan was fading which gave his skin a sallow tone, and the lack of proper nutrition that he had obviously been treating himself to for the last few days made him look gaunt. The dark circles under his eyes did nothing to help.
And despite his flaccid state… well, he was a whole lot of man.
If you liked a man who slept with several bottles of booze. Bottles that were in various stages of being emptied.
He sat up, glaring at her angrily, kicking one of the half-drunk bottles onto the floor. He reached up, took the blankets back from her clenched hands, tucked them back around himself, then lay back down and pulled the covers over his head.
"You are not going to make this easy are you?" she said in an exasperated tone.
"Go AWAY!" was the shouted response (though it was followed by a groan because the noise had obviously hurt his head).
So she did.
Only as far as the kitchen of course. There, she filled a large bucket with cold water and emptied every ice cube she could find in his fridge into it.
She stopped and made a call, ensuring that the appointment which had caused her to be here in the first place had been cancelled, then organizing some alternate arrangements. Then she went back into the bedroom.
This time when she whipped the sheets off she followed it with an impressive encore.
Then casually sat back in a chair and waited for the swearing to stop.
When he finally calmed down, she looked at him, raised a dark eyebrow and said calmly, "it got you out of bed though didn’t it?’
"What are you doing here?"
"We were supposed to go out this evening remember? Meet with Hype Williams? Then you were going to head to the Billboard Awards?"
"Oh. I forgot," he said distantly. Then he realized that he was still naked and pulled on a robe.
Tina had to admit she was a little disappointed. Still, it was probably better that he was clothed – even if it was scantily.
"Rough couple of days?" she asked with a smirk.
His eyes clouded over and he mumbled, "yeah" before reaching of one of the bottles on the sodden bed.
Tina, you idiot she said to herself as she jumped up and knocked the bottle away. "No! No way, Kevin. No more of that. You are stopping it now. I am not letting you drink anymore. You are going to go and take a shower and get cleaned up. I cancelled the meeting with Hype, but you still have an awards show to get your," she sniffed delicately, "alcohol-soaked and smelly butt to."
"You’re handing out an award, remember? You have to be there."
"I’ll tell them I’m sick."
"Kevin, the show starts in 2 hours! Get your butt in gear. NOW!"
He grumbled but he did as she told him. She took the opportunity to clear away the bottles, pouring them down the sink in the kitchen. She pulled some cans out the cupboard and made him some food a la Chef Boyar Dee. And coffee.
When he emerged, slick and clean, he looked a little better. Not much, but a little. It wasn’t just his body: his face looked sunken and sallow too. And his eyes, while not as grainy, still looked lifeless.
"I’m hungry," he said petulantly. She shoved the bowl in front of him, motioning him to eat. Then went back into the bedroom to pull out the suit he’d gotten for the evening. She carried it back out to him, pretending not to notice that he’d rummaged around trying to find more alcohol. She’d hidden all of it carefully and it appeared to have gone unseen judging by the scowl on his face.
"Come on, pretty boy. Get dressed. Your limo’ll be here soon."
"I don’t want to go."
"Come with me."
"Hunh?" She looked at him like he’d gone mad. Not hard to imagine in his present state. "Get real."
He grinned smugly. "If you don’t go, I don’t go."
"I’m hardly dressed for it."
He glanced up and down at her black silk blouse and slim-line skirt. "You look fine."
"Forget it. I’m not going."
"If you don’t go, I don’t go."
"If you don’t go, I don’t go."
"Damn it Kevin, be reasonable."
"Think about how you can stop me from drinking. You know you want to. You wouldn’t have hid the stuff if you didn’t," he said with a wheedling voice.
It was tempting. Whatever had brought on this binge must have been a big deal. She hadn’t seen him this bad in almost a year. He’d been bad with the turnstile on his bedroom door, but he’d stopped the drunken binges soon after the Boys broke up.
"Tell me why you’re drinking and I’ll go."
The lifeless look that had disappeared as he teased her was back in an instant. "No."
"You’re going to the damn awards show anyway, Kev. Come on; I’ll help you get ready. Then you can tell me what happened, and I’ll make sure you get through the show in one piece."
"Fine. Hand me my socks."
They got to the auditorium after the show had started. Fortunately, that meant that they had to rush in, avoiding the flurry of questions from the media cavalcade parked outside the door.
Kevin gave her hand a squeeze as they entered the room, knowing that Tina had not been in the middle of this kind of event in more than two years. She turned to him and gave him a quick smile, her other hand brushing her eyes. The pit stop they had made to get some Visine and tissues had helped, but she still felt like they were twice their size.
When Kevin finally told her exactly what had happened in Austin, she had sobbed as much as he did. They had the limo drive around for a while until they both felt together enough to face the crowd, but they were both subdued.
Tina didn’t know what to think; she wanted to insist that Kevin not give up, but was afraid to push it. She honestly wasn’t sure whether his determination to try and forget wasn’t the right thing to do.
Better to just deal with this night one minute at a time and try and figure out what to do later.
"Pass me that polish."
AJ chucked her the first bottle he saw.
"No, not that one, the other one."
He sighed heavily. And complied. "Do you have to do that in here? You know I hate the smell."
"It won’t take that long," she replied nonchalantly as she opened the bottle.
The pungent odour pervaded the room immediately and he wrinkled his nose in distaste. He started flipping channels, search for something to watch.
"Hey! Turn it back. The Billboards are on."
He could hear it in her voice. Patti was still pissed that he had decided not to go. She had wanted to be there, hanging on his arm like a limpet. And, if he was being honest, that was one of the reasons he hadn’t wanted to go.
Things hadn’t been good for a while. Ever since he decided to get back together with the Boys. She had liked having him all to herself. Easier to manipulate.
Now, with others to try and win over… Well, she wasn’t at her best. Nick had been charming but distant the few times they’d met. His version of a snubbing. And the incident with Kevin… shit; the woman had absolutely no tact. Then that thing the other day with Brian…
And those constant questions… Why were they all acting like that? What was Kevin hiding? Why was Howie so stuck on finding his ex-wife? What had been happening that she didn’t know about? God, she was worse than any of those damn tabloid reporters that still plagued them.
"How’s Howie?" she asked with saccharin sincerity.
Devastated. Desolate. A wreck. Terrified that he has destroyed his friendship with Kevin. "Fine," he replied.
"Baby, you were there for hours. Are you sure he’s okay?"
"Sure, why wouldn’t he be? We were just working on some stuff," he said evasively.
"I just thought he’d been acting funny ever since he came back from that little trip of his," Patti continued to push.
"You know us artistic types. He’s just concentrating on work."
"Why didn’t Kevin come back with him?"
"Jesus, Patti, what’s with the twenty questions?"
"Nothing," she said indignantly. "I am trying to take an interest."
"Let’s just watch the show, shall we?"
She glared at him and settled back into the chair, painting her nails in long, angry strokes.
He ignored it as best he could, reading through the stack of papers in front of him. What was he thinking? She was driving him nuts. All this acrimonious attitude and constant whining. Shit, she complained more because he was around than because he was. Usually it had been the other way around. Damn, but he missed women who actually appreciated him. Women who actually liked him rather than just wanted him for his money or his status. Women like…
"I thought you said that Kevin wasn’t going to be at the show tonight," Patti’s voice cut across his thoughts.
"I thought he wasn’t going to be. Why?"
"Look, he’s right there. Wonder who the bimbo de jour is."
AJ looked up and his face whitened in shock. The kind of woman he wanted was right in front of him. On Kevin’s arm.