Quit Playing Games
(c) Kat Morgan
Kat spent her first week just adjusting to the tour schedule. Just feeling the flow, observing the way things worked. Most of the notes she took applied to that: nothing about the Boys themselves, just observations. How long it took to set the stage and to strike it. The extra people they needed on staff for pyrotechnics and pulleys and so on. Jay and his need for complete schematics of all the venues. If she did pay any attention to the Boys themselves it was related to the sound checks they did, the dance practices, and also what they did in their down time.
It is a week of getting used to the way things worked, and also letting others get used to her.
She wasn't totally sure if her inquisitive nature was helpful or not, but she felt that she needed to know everything. To her mind, in many ways, the Boys themselves were just cogs in the wheel. It was important to know how the wheels worked in order to understand where the cogs fit.
She still hung around with the Boys themselves. Her friendship with Howie had grown, and she'd also gotten close to AJ and Brian.
AJ flirted up a storm with her and she responded in kind. The sexual innuendoes flew between the two. Enough to make the others blush. But both AJ and Kat knew they were just flirting. Just trying to get the best line in. They flirted for flirting’s sake, not because there was any attraction. By the time the two slowed the major coquetry they had clearly scoped each other out and found each other to be someone of worth.
In the same way things at work with Brian. Kat quickly clued in to the fact that Brian liked a quick wit. And to show off his. AJ may not have a girlfriend with him on the tour, though he spoke highly of a woman named Micheline who he clearly had feelings for whether he is ready to admit it or not, Brian was definitely ‘off limits’ romantically. All Leighanne, his girlfriend, had to do was look at him and he’d start grinning foolishly. And she’d do the same. The two were so clearly in love it was almost tattooed on their foreheads.
So instead of the "flirt game" that Kat had played with AJ, she found in Brian, someone she didn’t have to hide her acerbic wit from. If anything she let it freer than she ever had before. And he had always accepted it, and tried to top it. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But always with the same good humor that she delivered it with.
And Howie? In many ways he was a mix of AJ and Brian. He liked the flirting and he also liked the silliness. But if the discussion turned serious he was always up for that as well. If anything Kat’s attraction to him rose higher and higher. She’s always had a "weakness" for men who challenged her intellectually, without making her feel bad if they bested her.
But his drinking disturbed her.
She’d spent her life around a drunken parent and had always felt an innate fear of what liquor could do. He always handled it well; never acted intoxicated or anything. Maybe she was just being sensitive, given her background. But surely no one really needed to have 5-6 drinks just to get through an evening?
And his constant working out bugged her too. Okay, that was because it made her feel so inadequate. He was so dedicated to it, and she was, well, a lump. Maybe it was from her days as a swimmer, but she hated to sweat that much. He seemed to almost get off on it. Howie? An adrenaline junkie? Maybe. It certainly explained the industry he had chosen to work in. But then they all were. It was probably nothing. Just an out of shape person being grouchy about a very fit person.
Nick and she weren’t, as yet, comfortable around each other. Brian had told her not to worry; that it was Nick’s way. He needed time… And he did hang around when she was with Brian. He just didn’t say much. Kat remembered reading somewhere that he was kind of shy, though he sure didn’t act it with the others. It was hard to deal with. With AJ and Howie it had been almost easy. Even with Brian, who was well known to be the "shy" Boy. She’d swallowed her initial shyness and just let loose. And quickly learnt the way to get the best out of them. She didn’t know what to do to get Nick to open up.
Kat glanced at him and sighed. Patience, she told herself. If anything she could always leave him for last when it came to individual interviews. If time is what he needed, she could give him that. But she’d still need him to open up. Her personal preference aside, he was, for many people, the most popular Backstreet Boy. Stories about and pictures of him made magazines fly off the shelf. Sure, they were mostly the teen ones, but still his appeal was obvious.
And then there was Kevin.
What could she say about the god who walked the earth?
He combined the seriousness of Howie with the fun of Brian. He was not as playful as his cousin was; his wit was more cerebral. And when he pulled an AJ (flirted), it was always such a surprise. Like an undiscovered country. Amazing and full of untold wonders. Yet mysterious and unexpected.
And he was totally without modesty when he was being goofy. People magazine may have named him Sexiest Pop Star Alive, but he still seemed to see himself as the guy who may have been captain of his high school football team, but was more comfortable on stage performing in the school’s plays or musicals. The guy who was a bit player at Disney, not an international celebrity.
They were all that way. They’d had to adjust obviously; less time with family, hard to have consistent relationships, always under a microscope, having to have bodyguards or wear disguises when they went out in public. But in many ways they were the same old guys they’d been before they’d become Backstreet Boys.
Or at least the kind of guys she’d assumed they’d been. If she really thought about it Nick and AJ had spent their formative years in the group. Nick had been what? Twelve? Thirteen? when they started. AJ a few years older. Brian had been almost eighteen. Pretty much all ready moulded. And Howie and Kevin even older. When you thought about it, there was a great age disparity between them. From Nick’s almost 20 to Kevin’s 28.
Maybe she, as a fan, was reading more into them than was true. Maybe she’d listened more to other articles she’d read than reality. But she honestly couldn’t see Howie, Nick, AJ, Brian or Kevin doing anything other than the performing they loved so much.
And the articles had been pretty much accurate for at least three of the five. Jury was still out on Nick. And she freely admitted her own biases when it came to Kevin.
But her role here was to discover the "truth" as much as she could. To reveal the men behind the Boys.
Just as Brian had said that time was required for her to get through to Nick, so to was it needed for her to get the actual story about each of the men.
At the end of the week Kat sat down and re-read her notes. There was so much to know. So many more questions she needed answered.
Or did she?
It was time she thought, and headed down to the suite where the Boys were doing yet another photo shoot. Though even there she fell into her usual practice of scribbling notes in her book.
"Hey Kat," Howie said once they finally broke away from their poses.
"D. Listen, have you guys have some free time? I wanted to talk to all of you."
He shrugged, looking at the others. "We could probably do it now. Or at least after we get out of this makeup." He walked over to the others, asking them. Kevin and Nick cast her a glance, then Howie turned back to her and nodded. "Give us five. We can meet back here."
She smiled and let them head out. Then sat and organized her thoughts.
AJ was the first to return. He strode in, pretending that the room was a catwalk as he strutted up and down, posing occasionally. "Here we have AJ McLean wearing the latest in ‘hot-looking guy’ apparel. Note the sudden absence of rouge and eyeshadow…."
Kat laughed, then even harder as Brian came in, saw what AJ was doing and squealed and said in a high pitched voice, "Omigod! A Backstreet Boy! And he is sooooo beautiful!"
"Want an autograph, little boy?" AJ smirked.
Kat had to admire guys who were so grounded about their own success.
"Is AJ preening again?!" Nick said as he sauntered into the room.
"When isn’t he?" Howie asked as he and Kevin strode in.
"Not in front of the writer! You’ll make me look bad," AJ teased.
Kat chuckled. "I think that ridiculous white toque you like to wear does that."
"Hey!" AJ replied with an affronted tone.
"Sorry AJ, but that hat… and the black toque too… they have to go."
He pouted. "But I like them."
"They’re annoying," Kat replied. Was it possible for his lower lip to jut out even more?"
"But I can keep the leopard skin one, right?"
"Oh sure. That’s one sexy. Those two make you look like a lost little boy sitting in a snow bank."
AJ shuddered dramatically. "I’ll burn them right away."
There was a silence in the room for a moment. Then Brian piped in. "Well? You called this meeting, Kat."
She nodded. "I guess I just wanted some direction. To know what you want me to write."
The Boys exchanged glances.
"What did Jive and The Firm say?" AJ asked.
"Nothing really. I think they are waiting to see what I send in before they start commenting." She shook her head, "look, I know I’m biased. I am a fan first and foremost. And I am not trying to suck up to the bosses… But I want to know what you want out of this."
Again with the silence.
"I like what you’ve been doing so far," Kevin finally said. "You’ve been getting a feel for how things work behind the scenes. I like that. No one else has really looked at that side. They just focus on us."
Howie nodded. "The whole idea is to get a full understanding of us. And by that I mean the whole BSB operation. Too much focuses on just us, or Nick," he grinned and the man mentioned blushed.
"Its not my fault, D. If I could get away from that I would. It’s the damn teenybopper fans."
"Don’t knock fans, Frack," Brian said. "We need then no matter what their age."
Kat jumped in. "But if you want to survive NKOTB syndrome you need to hit the older fans. You have t make it "respectable" to admit to being a BSB fan."
"That’s what the book is about," reminded AJ.
"But how do I get there?" Kat asked.
"I agree with Kev. You seem to be interested in getting the complete story. I’ve seen you talking to the crew about setup. That’s something no one else has ever done. As the most they have spoken to the Band, but never more than that," Brian said seriously.
Nick nodded. "BSB's become a big production. I’d rather we show that than just what we are doing."
"I guess what we’re saying is that we’ve liked your approach so far," Kevin smiled.
"But you haven’t seen anything I’ve written."
"Then show us. Even if it is just notes or excerpts," AJ replied. "We have seen some of your writing, but not as it applies to us. I, for one, would find that interesting."
"Even if it’s the fanfics she has written about us?" Howie put in.
The others turned to Kat who was staring at Howie with a stunned look. "How do you know about those?" she finally croaked.
He smiled superciliously.
"Are they x-rated? Can I read them?" AJ asked, grinning at her embarrassment.
"No!" She lowered her voice to normal levels. "I, umm, I haven’t… I wrote them a long time ago. I don’t know how you found out about them, D. I would rather show you the book notes," she finished, trying hard to regain her composure.
"That would be better," agreed Kevin, giving her a smile. "And far more on topic."
She smiled at him in thanks.
Brian also smiled at him. "Yeah, the book is what’s important. When can you show us some of what you have?"
Kat said a silent prayer of thanks to Brian, and Kevin, for bringing it back to the task at hand. "I can print out what I have, if you want. Read it over and let me now what you want more of."
"Sounds good," Nick nodded. "Are we done? I have some stuff to do before we head to the stadium."
Howie snorted. "Mario Kart beckons."
"I think we are done here. Thanks for your guidance," Kat smiled, then turned to Kevin. "You’re sort of the unofficial leader of the group. What do you say to the idea that the Backstreet Boys is a group of four, rather than five?"
He frowned at her, then his face cleared as he got her point. AJ got it at about the same time and chuckled. "I’d run if I were you, D. Someone doesn’t like getting unexpected surprises."
Howie looked at her, then at Kevin, who said, "Nah. We don’t need him really. He’s just for show. Sic him."
"Yikes," D said and charged from the room, Kat at his heels.
(c) Kat Morgan