Quit Playing Games
"Jeez, Howie, way to stink up a room," Nick snickered.
Howie grinned and sniffed his armpit. "That's pure sweat, Nicky. Nothing like it."
"Yeah, well it smells. Take a shower."
"You should try it sometime, fat boy. Loose those you love handles of yours," Howie said maliciously.
"D!" Brian gasped.
"Howie, that's not nice," Kevin drawled, glancing quickly at Nick who had paled and was looking shocked at the sudden attack. Nick's weight was always a sore point with him. But this is the first time that Howie'd been the one to make fun of him.
"Nick's not fat," a quiet voice said.
The others turned, Howie noticing Kat for the first time. She was sitting in the corner, focused on the laptop, hands flying on the keys.
"What did you say?" Howie said belligerently.
She didn't even look up, just continued to focus on the machine. "Nick's not fat."
"You're one to talk," Howie muttered.
That did stop her. Kat knew she was overweight. Was even trying to do something about it, but let's face it: most of her time was spent where she was. Sitting. Typing. 8 hours or more a day. No matter how much she tried, she was always going to be bottom heavy. She looked up at Howie. "No fair, D. Besides, were talking about Nick, not me. He's not fat. His body's still trying to figure itself out. He's still growing."
"Yeah," Howie giggled. "Growing out."
"No. Up," Kat replied.
"What?" Brian asked. "He stopped growing a year ago."
Kat turned her attention back to the laptop. "No, he didn't. He's taller now when I came on tour. He's taller than Kevin now."
"I am?" Nick said, finally jumping in.
"He is not," AJ said.
Kat sighed. She is obviously not going to get this paragraph done until this is over. "Yes he is."
"Wanna bet?" AJ said.
"Fine. $20 on Nick," Kat said. "Nick, Kevin. Take off your shoes and stand back to back."
The two men looked each other, and then Kevin shrugged in pulled his shoes off. Nick did likewise. They stood back to back and Kat took her flat portfolio and dropped it on their heads. Then drop a pen on it. Slowly, it started to roll, then fell off the portfolio. On Kevin's side.
"Holy shit! She's right," Brian said, stunned.
Kevin took the portfolio off his head and turned to Nick. Noticing for the first time that he had to look up a little to see his eyes. Which at the moment were wide with surprise.
"It's only a little, a quarter inch or so. But it's enough. Nick's not finished growing yet, Howie." She turned to AJ. "You owe me money, Bone."
Then she took the portfolio back from Kevin, shivering a touch as her fingers brushed his, then picked up her pen and sat back down at the computer, typing away as if nothing happened.
They men stared at her: Howie with a scowl on his face.
Then Brian laughed. "Well, Nick is right too. Go take a shower, D."
"Yeah," Kevin agreed with a half smile on his face.
"Fine, I get the hint," Howie said and stomped from the room.
The others slowly trickled out of the room, leaving Kat still working and Nick sitting there, glancing occasionally at her.
"Thanks," he finally said.
"What?" Kat raised her head, startled by the sound of his voice.
"I said thanks."
"No problem, Nick."
"How did you know? No one else did."
She shrugged. "I have to tip my head up a little higher to look at you.
"Well, thanks. For coming to my defense."
She turned and looked at him. "Any time Nick. Look, Howie is letting his bodybuilding go to his head. Ignore him."
"But he is right. I am fat," Nick said sadly.
"Nick... Don't judge yourself by them. Please. I'm serious: you are still growing. Your body still trying to find its way."
He still looked miserable. Howie had hurt him deep.
"Nick... OK, so you aren't a twig like AJ. And you see how much work Kevin and Howie put into keeping their bodies buff. You do weight training, but it's not you. Your body shape is better for the things you do like: basketball and swimming."
"So you think I'm fat too," he said.
"Growl. If you say the word Ďfatí one more time I'm going to hit you," she groaned and he smiled a little.
"Nick, what I mean is this: get you on a basketball court in you can beat the crap out of any of them. Same in the water. You're like a fish. But you're judge yourself against them when it comes to weight training. They've been doing it for years: of course itís going to be hard for you to catch up. You may not have the rippling stomach that Howie has. But you have a different body build. You have broader shoulders, a firmer physique. . ."
"A fat-..." he started, then changed his statement when she raised her hand. "A heavier one."
"I'm not gonna talk to you if you're going to wallow." She sighed. "You are different. So be it."
"What you mean?"
"Kevin and Howie excel at weight lifting. Howie's become almost psychotic about it. So try something else." She looked him up and down. "Want to try kick boxing or a martial art?"
"Kickboxing?" he said surprised.
"Sure. You have the shoulders for it. And the arms. Your legs are strong enough. And you are coordinated." She grinned. "And more importantly: you'd be the only when doing it."
"Kick boxing," he said. Then. "Wait a minute. I'm coordinated?"
Kat laughed. "Yes Nick. That may not always have been the case. You did go through a sudden growth spurt. But even Fatima's not riding you as hard as she used to, I bet." Nick thought for a second then nodded.
"Don't tell Howie I said so, you're better dancer than he is now. All that muscle he's been so intent on developing has made him lopsided."
Nick laughed. "Really?"
"Oh yeah. He used to flow. More like AJ than anyone. Now he's kind of off. You've got flow."
"As much as AJ. . ."
Kat chuckled. "Nope, no one's got as much as AJ. But he studied: he took jazz and ballet, and I think we both know that all the time he spends with dancers isn't just him trying to score."
Nick grinned, then look at her intently. "Kevin?"
Kat took a deep breath. "Kevin is good. But he's a ballroom dancer. All straight back and fancy foot work. He's good, but he doesn't flow as well as I've seen you do. You'd be better of following AJ."
"Wow! Not the answer I expected from you," Nick marveled.
Kat realized that her crush on Kevin was now common knowledge, despite her best efforts. Oh well. It didnít seem to interfere with her friendship with the tall, dark and sexy man. "Don't you start. I get enough of it from Howie. Whatever else Kevin is, he's not perfect."
Nick clutched his heart and fell backwards onto the couch. Kat laughed. "Stop it. I'll deny I never said that, too."
He grinned widely, the tension finally leaving his eyes. "No one would believe me anyway." He got up. "Thanks Kat."
"Your welcome. And Nick..." she said as he started towards the door.
"Maybe you can help me. You're not fat, but I am." He started a protest but she cut him off. "Don't say it. I know my problem is too many hours on my butt writing. Maybe should give me some pointers. . ."
"With what? Basketball?"
She shrugged. "Whatever. Basketball, swimming, weight training. It would help a lot to learn from someone who would push me, but not make me feel too bad about it."
"Don't you think that Howie..." he trailed off as she looked at him cynically. "I get your point. OK. I'll help you, but you have to help me too. You seem to have, umm, better eating discipline than I do."
She smiled. "I don't fall to pieces when I smell pizza."
He laughed. "Yeah. Like that."
"OK. Deal?" She held out her head and he shook it. "Deal."
He was practically skipping when he left the room and Kat smiled. Then sighed and went back to her typing.
"That was a good thing you did," a voice behind her said.
"Damn! Don't sneak up on people like that, Kevin."
"He needed to hear it from someone other than us."
"Like I said: he still growing."
"True. And he's remarkably fit for a guy his age. His weight may yo-yo a bit about that never changes."
"Well, he's only 20. His body will stop changing so much soon."
"Yeah, and getting him to try other things. Things that he'd like to do will help." He rose. "I have no flow, hunh? Too straight backed?"
She flushed. "Go away, Kevin."
He chuckled and left her to her work.
"That wasn't very nice. You made me look like an idiot," Howie grumbled.
"You were acting like one. Jesus, Howie why did you pick on Nick that way?"
He shrugged. "He was bugging me."
She frowned and he continued. "I've put up with it for years: his whining. Always, 'why am I so fat?' Then he demolishes a whole pizza. He's such a baby."
"For Christ sake, D! He's had to grow up on the road. He's looked for as much joy as he can. So he plays video games, basketball and he eats pizza. The only other male role models he's had have been you four. And don't tell me that none of you ever whined." She sighed. "I'm not saying go easy on him, but there's no need to be cruel."
"Going soft on Nicky? What will Kevin think?" Howie asked maliciously.
Kat knew exactly what he'd say. But wasn't about to tell Howie that. Not when he was obviously in one of his moods.
"Speaking of whiners ..." she said as she got up. "Later, D."
He looked after her angrily. "How dare she? OK, he had been a little harsh. But..."
He shook himself. Damn, he needed Miriam. He was starting to get wound up again. He'd apologized to Kat, and to Nick, later. Right now he had to call his girl and ask her to come back.
(c) Kat Morgan