Nick feinted right then skipped around to his left, before shooting. The ball flew up, rotating quickly because of the spin he’d put on it, then swished through the basket before landing in Brian’s waiting arms.
The shorter man groaned as he watched his friend pump his arms in the air, then shake his butt back and forth as he chanted, “nothing but net! I am so the man! Nick Carter, NBA superstar!”
“Fine, dumbass. Celebrate all you want. But you only beat me by three points, so don’t get all cocky on me.”
“Bite me, Rok,” Nick laughed as he pulled a towel from his bag and wiped the sweat off his face.
“Sorry, man,” Brian smiled as he chucked the ball at the taller man. “I’m on a low fat diet.”
“You little shit!” Nick roared as he dropped the ball and started chasing his friend around the court, flicking the towel at him. They chased each other around for a few minutes before Nick finally grabbed Brian, pulling him to the ground then giving him a noogie.
“Get off me, you big lump.”
“Not ‘til you apologize.”
“What are you two up to now?”
Both blond heads looked up at the tall, dark man who stood at the side of the court, frowning at them.
“Hey Kev,” Nick grinned. “Brian here was just telling me that he wanted to smell my armpits so I am helping him out.”
“I did not!” Brian protested; trying to avoid having the aforementioned body part shoved in his face.
“Somehow I doubt that, considering the headlock you have him in,” Kevin replied wryly as he watched his cousin squirm. “Let him up, Nick. Stinky country boy needs a shower before he heads to the airport.”
Nick stopped shoving Brian down and rolled over, still pinning him to the floor. “I dunno. I think Leighanne’s seen him all hot and sweaty before, don’t you?”
Brian finally managed to twist himself out from underneath Nick and stood. “She only likes it when she’s the one who gets me hot,” he replied with a superior tone. “Bringing up my sex life, Kaos? Man, do you ever need to get laid.”
Nick groaned as he stood. “I know. Living vicariously through you. Talk about getting desperate.” He yelped as Brian flicked him with the towel. “Hey! That’s my towel. Don’t do that. Kevin, tell him to stop!”
“No way man, you deserved that one,” Kevin chuckled.
“Yeah,” Brian replied, sticking his tongue out. Nick returned the gesture.
“Children! Would you stop it,” Kevin groaned.
Brian and Nick grinned evilly at each other, then turned back to Kevin and started whining.
“No, him first.”
“He’s touching me, make him stop.”
“He’s on my side. Make him go away.”
“Are we there yet?” The two voices blended together in perfect harmony on that line. Almost as if they had practiced it (which they had).
Kevin rolled his eyes. “The return of Frick and Frack. Now will one of you please hurry up and get changed or he’ll miss his sweetheart at the airport and we’ll have to put up with that whine for weeks.”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Dad,” Brian saluted as he grabbed his bag and walked towards the showers. “Later, Frack.”
“Later,” Nick replied, looked at his retreating back wistfully. Then he sighed and picked up his discarded towel.
“Feeling lonely?” Kevin asked.
“Kinda. One minute he’s my best bud, then next he’s someone else’s and I don’t rate. Gets to me sometimes.”
Kevin’s hand dropped onto Nick’s shoulder. “I know what you mean. He’s my cuz, my co-worker, then suddenly he is Brian of Brian and Leighanne fame.” He paused, then frowned at the look on Nick’s face. “What?”
Nick shook his head for a second. “Sorry, someone else said that to me a while back. ‘Of Brian and Leighanne fame.’ Kind of a strange phrase.”
“Yeah, but appropriate don’t you think?”
Nick nodded, his mind busy. It had been over two months and no word from Kat. He knew she was okay and still willing to go through with the plan – Leighanne kept him apprised of that. He was sure that “willing” was not the word Kat would use, but then who knew? Maybe she had changed on that score too. But other than Leighanne’s scant messages he knew nothing. Leighanne had even made him promise to stay away and not to try and contact Kat. She’d also refused to tell him what changes, if any, Kat’d made to her appearance. THAT had been hard. How was he supposed to be prepared if he didn’t know what he was preparing for?
And what happened if, when they finally got here, he screwed up? The two women had been developing some story to explain her presence – until Nick and she were to ‘fall madly in love with each other’ – and he had no idea what it was. What if he gave the game away?
What if he couldn’t go through with it? Out there Kat and Leighanne were working to make her into the ‘perfect” interim girlfriend for him, just so he could catch Howie out. What happened if he got cold feet? What happened if after all this he couldn’t act the way that he was supposed to? He wasn’t an actor – except in videos and that ridiculous slip and slide thing years ago - and even if he was they hadn’t given him any lines to prepare.
And when the hell was the plan going to be put into action? They had a tour starting up in a few weeks. That didn’t give them much time. He wanted the whole thing to be quick; Kat comes in, they pretend, Howie acts up, Nick knocks him down a few pegs, Kat leaves, Brian and Leighanne get married. Happily ever after. That was the way things were supposed to go. Only they couldn’t happen if they didn’t start soon.
Things on his end had been going okay. Howie was spending lots of time with his family and was acting like his old self. There was no sign of the weird wrapped-up Howie that had been around on the last tour. Only Miriam seemed oddly tense, but he’d never really paid much attention to Howie’s lover before so he wasn’t sure if he was seeing that simply because he was more focussed on things now. Maybe she’d always been tense and he’d never noticed.
He was starting to have a hard time remembering that this whole thing was real. Things with Howie were just so normal. He had to keep reminding himself that Howie’s sleeping around had occurred and that it could have catastrophic consequences. Hard to do when the man is goofing around with you just like he’d done for almost ten years.
Nick really wished he knew what was going on. And he really wished things would get moving. Maybe he’d stop by Brian’s later and get Leighanne to tell him the full scoop. She’d been putting him off for ages and that had to stop…
“Earth to Nick!”
The sound of Kevin’s voice jarred him out of his thought cycle. “Hunh?”
“You zoned out of me, dude. What’s up?”
Nick shook his head. “Nothing. Just thinking.”
“I knew I smelled smoke,” Kevin grinned. “So are you up for another game or not?”
Nick smiled widely and threw his towel to the side of the court. “After a comment like that it will be my supreme pleasure to beat your sorry ass.”
Kevin snorted, as he pulled his sweatshirt over his head to reveal his white tank, “don’t get kinky on me now, man. There’s enough slash about us on the ‘Net already.”
“Tap that finger one more time and I’m going to shove your hand down your throat.”
Kat chuckled at the growl from the seat next to her. “Tell me how you really feel, Leigh.”
“I feel tired and cranky and I want my Bri-bear. How’s that for you?” the blonde woman sighed.
“Told you we shouldn’t have gone out last night.”
Leighanne snorted. “It wasn’t the going out that hurts, it was those damn shots you kept sticking in front of me.”
“You didn’t have to drink them.”
“Oh shut up,” Leighanne grumbled as she readjusted her pillow. “And stop with the finger dancing.”
Leighanne yawned. “Nothing to be nervous about. You know everyone we are about to see,” she replied sleepily.
“No, I don’t. Jeanne Jones has never ever met a Backstreet Boy before. Heck, she didn’t even know much about them until a few weeks ago,” Kat reminded her.
Leighanne raised her head in alarm. “Oh. Yeah. I forgot.”
“You CAN’T forget Leigh-Leigh. I won’t work if you do.”
Leighanne smiled at the pet name that the other woman used. It was part of their ‘act.’ Part of the story they were going to tell everyone once they arrived in Orlando. Jeanne and she had met at some summer camp she’d been to when she was in her early teens. They’d bumped into each other again during her first few years in Hollywood and palled around, though Jeanne had moved on and they’d lost touch by the time Brian had come into Leighanne’s life. They had met up again in the last little while and their friendship had blossomed again. Now she wanted Jeanne to meet her new extended family, and maybe even set her up with one of them. She’d told Brian all about Jeanne over the phone, talking her up so much and bemoaning the fact that ‘such a wonderful woman was so jaded about dating’ that HE’d been the one to suggest that plan. Of course, he thought she was going to try and get Jeanne interested in his cousin…
She tried not to feel guilty about the lies she was telling him, believing that it was for the greater good, but she really hated deceiving him. Still, the other truth was much worse than this was.
“No worries, JJ,” Leighanne replied, mimicking the little Australian accent that Kat had introduced into her voice. That was part of her back story – she’d left California to spent time travelling and ended up on a sheep ranch in a remote part of Northern Australia. With a man who just got more and more remote himself. After fighting a losing battle for a while she’d packed up and returned to the States where she’d started to contact a few old friends, Leighanne being one of them. “I know my scenes. I am just saying don’t get all tense. You know these people so you don’t have to be nervous around them.”
“It’s because I know them that I am worried,” Kat moaned. “What if I slip up?” She took a deep breath. “Couldn’t you be engage to someone in ‘Nsync? I’ve never met them and I could care less ‘bout them,” she whined.
“Sorry,” Leighanne laughed. “None of them do anything for me either.”
“Damn,” Kat sighed dramatically. “And I thought you and Chris were so right for each other.”
“Chris?! Are you nuts. So not my type,” Leighanne giggled.
“PuhLease don’t tell me you are a JuJu fan, because then I would lose all respect for you,” Kat teased.
“You respect me?” Leighanne teased back, placing one hand theatrically on the base of her neck. She batted her eyelids rapidly. “Oh my! I am so… so… taken aback.”
The two women looked at each other then erupted into giggles. “You know, I think we may be okay after all,” Kat wheezed as she swept a laugh tear from her cheek.
“WE’ll be fine. It’s the morons on the other end I am worried about.”
Kat winced. “Maybe we should have told Nick more. Given him the same back story we had to work with.”
“Nope,” Leighanne said firmly, shaking her head. “It wouldn’t be natural. He’s got to do all that ‘getting to know you’ stuff there, in front of the others. If he just suddenly seems to know stuff about you it’ll just seem staged and they’ll start to suspect.”
Kat’s response was cut off by the crackling of an announcement over the intercom. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are now on our final descent into Orlando International Airport. If you haven’t already done so, please place your seats and tray tables in their original upright positions and buckle your seat belts.”
The two women scrambled to make sure every thing was in place, then leaned back in their seats. Kat’s finger started to tap again and Leighanne reached over and grasped her hand in hers.
“It will be okay. We are ready for this. We know what we are doing. Nick will be fine; you’ll just have to lead him along a little, but that is to be expected,” Leighanne reassured her, giving her hand a squeeze.
Kat nodded. “I know. Just jitters, I guess.”
“We all get those. Nothing like a little stage fright to make you feel alive,” Leighanne said with a big grin. “Once this is over we should both be up for Oscars.”
Kat snorted. “Yeah, but I’ll be in the Best Actress category. You’ll only have the Best Supporting role to go through.”
“True. And they get awarded at the beginning of the show so I can take off afterwards and relax.”
“Great! So just like this, I’ll have to stick it out till near the end before I can rest. Sheesh!”
“Yes, but who is going to get it worse? Nick is there to the bitter end and beyond.”
Kat laughed and leaned back in her chair as the wheels of the plane hit tarmac and bounced.
They were just pulling into the terminal when something occurred to her and she turned to Leighanne. “Actually, you will have to be there in the end too. Best Director is the second last award, and I think you’re the one of us who’d best be described as that.”
“Except this isn’t a movie, and if we win out I’m going to be there for a long, long time,” Leighanne sighed, as she started to speculate about could happen with her relationship with Howie once this was over and she and Brian were married.
Kat squeezed Leighanne’s hand to bolster her courage. “Let’s just worry about the opening credits, shall we?”
Leighanne smiled, shaking off her thoughts. “Let’s. Ready?”
Kat nodded quickly and stood. They grabbed their bags and headed for the doorway, steeling themselves for the roles ahead of them.
Kat Morgan may have boarded the plane, but she never got off.
Jeanne Jones had arrived in Orlando.
(c) Kat Morgan