“What happened to you?” AJ asked as Brian limped into the arena.
Kevin chuckled. “Aren’t pillows soft? They can’t cause too much damage.”
“It wasn’t the pillows. It was the two women swinging them,” Brian replied gruffly as he sat down. “Leigh and Jeanne were going at it. Apparently it started as a water fight then they decided pillows were better. I stopped by to see if they wanted to come down with me and got stuck in the mayhem. I was actually doing okay – managed to get them both backed into a corner, but I slipped on some water.” He shrugged. “It’ll be okay. Just a little twist.”
“Think you can dance tonight?” Howie asked worriedly.
AJ snorted. “Rok can’t dance even with his regular legs. A fucked-up one may make him better.”
Brian glared at AJ and growled.
Kevin laughed. “Should I get you a pillow, cuz?”
Brian shook his head. “No,” he replied and then grinned evilly. “But you can get me Nick. Got some complaints to lodge.”
“Alright! This time I WILL get to see Nick get his ass kicked,” AJ cheered.
Kevin swatted the top of AJ’s head, then turned to the band and told them to start the sound check.
They had gotten through a few microphone problems by the time Nick came jogging in, a basketball tucked under his arm.
“Hey! Couldn’t you guys wait for me? I was just outside,” he complained.
“You knew what time we were starting. The others managed to get here on time,” Kev replied sternly.
“Yeah, well, I was here before all of you. Even you, Kev. And I told you that when I called to see if you were on the way. I also told you where I’d be and to call me when we were starting,” Nick retorted. “Don’t crap on me. This one was your fault.”
Kevin shrugged. “I told you we were starting on time whether you were here or not.”
“Oh knock it off, Kevin. Stop treating him like he’s a baby. He called. You are the one who fucked up,” AJ said.
“Look,” Kevin sneered. “I am tired of Nick getting away with shit because he’s Mr. ADD. He’s just frick-ing irresponsible that’s all.”
“That’s frack-ing irresponsible,” Nick stated. “But why don’t you tell me more, Kevin. Tell me how you really feel. ‘Cos it’s not like I haven’t heard you calling me shit for that last eight years. What’s a few more?”
“I have not…”
“Have too,” Howie said immediately.
“All the time,” Brian nodded.
“You’re always riding him,” AJ said as he took a sip of water.
Nick shot smiles of thanks to the others then turned back to the tall man. “Look, Kev. I know you don’t think much of me but this one is on you. You set me up for this. I told you I was here. I told you I was waiting for you. You just decided it was better to crap on me than tell me to come in like you promised.”
He smiled. “And as for having attention deficit disorder, what do you expect? I’ve had almost a decade of four guys going ‘Nick, look over here’ or ‘Nick, come see this.’ It does kind of affect a person.”
“Good answer, Nicky,” Howie snickered and leaned over to ruffle Nick’s hair – which was met by an annoyed protest from Nick and then a grimace by Howie when he realized how much Nick had sweat while playing basketball.
Brian raised an eyebrow at Kevin. “You have to admit, cuz. Nick has been a lot more reliable than you have given him credit for. He has a full member of this team and you are still treating him like a 13 year old.”
Kevin glared at Nick, resenting him for the little palace revolt that was happening in front of him. “He’s not always responsible.”
“And neither are you, sleepyhead,” AJ replied. “Neither am I or Howie or Brian. We all have our moments.”
“I resent that,” Howie chuckled. “I am perfect,” he preened as he patted his hair. “But they are right, Kev. Stop treating Nick like that. Now, can we please get on with it? Miriam is leaving today and I want to see her before she goes.”
“Just ignore him,” Brian whispered to Nick as they watched Kevin grumble about this something with the piano sound.
“Yeah, he’s being a dick,” AJ agreed.
Nick shrugged. “I’m kind of used to it now. At least this time I know it was his fault not mine.”
“To be honest, Nick, it is rarely your fault any more,” Brian shrugged. “I just think that he’s being crappy now because you have Jeanne here.”
Nick started. “Jeanne? What does she have to do with anything? He’s not interested in her, is he?”
“Don’t think so,” Brian admitted. “I just think it’s cos you two are at the lovey-dovey stage and he is missing Lana even more.”
“You know how he gets when he’s not getting any,” AJ smirked. This time it was Nick was swatted him. “You know, the reason I’m losing my hair isn’t because of heredity. It’s cos you guys keep hitting my head.”
“We’d kick you ass but you don’t have one,” Brian smirked.
AJ stuck out his tongue.
“Put it back inside, Bone. No one wants to see it,” Nick said absently. “So you don’t think Kevin’s interested in Jeanne?”
“Why, you afraid he’ll steal her away?”
You have NO idea, Nick thought. “Of course not,” he replied cockily, puffing out his chest. “Once she’s had the best she’d never want his skanky ass.”
“Nick, I hate to tell you… but she hasn’t had the best: I’m already taken,” AJ cackled. Howie called him and he jumped up and trotted over leaving Brian and Nick alone.
“Seriously Nick, I don’t think Kevin is interested in Jeanne. He’s just lonely and with the rest of us having their girls here… He’s just taking it out on you because it’s fresh.”
“Besides, he had his chance and he blew it. I’ve seen you and Jeanne together and you fit better than they did,” Brian smiled.
“If you say so,” Nick mumbled.
Brian just looked at him, slightly concerned by Nick’s up and down ego problems. They’d plagued the younger man for years – and were usually set off my Kevin’s authoritarian behaviour. He’d been pretty good about it so far in the tour, but one bad scene could cause a depressed slump. That would just made Kevin snap more and Nick get more depressed… and the whole thing would go on for weeks. He sighed. It was amazing how well Kevin and Nick could get along when they got along – and how bad when they didn’t.
“Oh, don’t worry about Kevin. He’s just got, what was it Jeanne said the other day? ‘His knickers in a twist?’ I got a complaint to make about that woman of yours.”
Nick grinned. “What has she done now?”
Brian pulled his pant leg up and pointed at his ankle. “Just look at this!”
“She dirtied up your socks?” Nick asked with a puzzled frown.
“Hell, no. It’s my ankle. It’s probably broken. Just because she can’t keep the damn water in the sink where it belongs.”
Nick laughed. “Not ANOTHER water fight. You sure it wasn’t Leighanne who started it?”
Brian sniffed derisively. “My sweet Leigh wouldn’t do something like that.” Then he laughed. “Okay, so she would, but you have to stop those two, man. Can’t you just grovel an apology to Jeanne and let her take you back?”
“Got nothing to apologize for.”
“Well do SOMETHING. I want my woman back, Carter.”
“Nick’s stealing Leighanne?” Howie asked as he sat down beside them.
“No, Jeanne is. And I want Nick to straighten her out so she and Leigh can stop sharing a room and I get Leigh back.”
Howie snorted. “It’s only been a few days, Rok. Don’t tell me you can’t live that long without her.” Brian stared wistfully into space. “I find any moment without her difficult to bear,” he said softly.
Nick swallowed the lump that appeared suddenly in his throat. He reached over and squeezed Brian’s hand. “Don’t worry Brian. I’ll straighten things out and you’ll have Leighanne back tonight.”
“Thanks man,” Brian replied with a beatific smile.
Nick smiled back, trying to hide the discomfort he felt about the look on Howie’s face. He tried to figure out what it was… then it came to him. Calculation. Howie looked like he was plotting something.
The lump that had been in his throat was now a heavy knot in his stomach.
“Go away. I’m busy.”
Nick opened the door anyway. “Too busy for me?”
“Naw, sorry Nick. Come on in. Make yourself at home.” Jay gestured to the chair next to him that was covered in papers. “Umm, okay. Don’t sit there. How about…” He looked around the room. Just about every surface was covered in stacks of papers, rolls of blueprints or pieces of equipment.
“S’okay. I’ll stand,” Nick grinned.
“Good man,” Jay said, returning his smile.
“I just came to tell you that Jeanne is going to be staying on tour with us for a while.”
Jay grunted. “I was starting to get that impression.”
“Yeah, so this is for you.” Nick pulled a folder out from behind him and handed it to Jay.
“Her file. All you need to know about her. I knew you’d want to put one together on her if she’s staying so I saved you the trouble.”
Jay stared at Nick, a frown on his face. After a moment, “that is not how it works, Nick. You know that.”
“That is how it’s working this time.”
Jay held the folder out to him. “No can do, Nick. I do my own security checks.”
Nick ignored the outstretched folder. “Not this time. Everything I need to know about Jeanne I know. I can assure you that she poses no threat to me or the guys or the tour. No security checks, Jay. Not on her.”
“I mean it. No checks, Jay. That is all you are getting. All you are going to get. Feel free to pass it around. But nothing else on Jeanne goes out except what is in that folder.”
Jay shook his head again.
“Jay, you do a good job. Don’t make me have to fire you over this,” Nick said firmly.
Jay just gaped at him.
“No checks, Jay,” Nick repeated resolutely.
“Fine. No checks,” Jay agreed, more out of shock than anything. Nick shot him a wide smile then left the room.
Jay stared down at the manila folder. What the hell was going on? Nick got involved with the business end of the tour. Heck, he was surprised that Nick even remembered that he put together files on all their staff and guests. He flipped the file open: it was even laid out the way his usual reports looked. Something was definitely going on… He read through quickly, looking for anything that wasn’t right but nothing caught his eye. Hmmm. Very interesting.
His cell phone started ringing and he shut the folder. Then his pager and the hotel phone started ringing. He groaned as he dropped the folder down on the stack on the corner of the desk. One situation he’d have to look into later. Right now he obviously had another crisis to deal with.
(c) Kat Morgan