Howie looked over his shoulder then turned back with a grin. "Think he's going to go for it?'
"God, I hope so. The stick up his ass is starting to take root. If he doesn't do something about it soon I'm start spiking his drinks," AJ snickered.
"Wassup?" Nick said as he dropped into the chair next to them, putting a bottle of beer down on the table. It slipped a little but righted it before it fell over.
"Not much, Junior. Wassup with you?"
AJ looked at him. "Chillin'? Looks more like boozin'. You trying for my title?"
Nick snorted. "No way, man. Howie's already taken that."
"Excuse me?" Howie asked, his eyes shooting daggers at Nick.
"Ah…" Nick's face flushed as he tried to figure out how to get himself out of this one.
"You have been hitting the sauce a lot, D," AJ said, leaning back in his seat. He'd noticed Howie's drinking - and also his new muscles. And his swiftness to anger. If the shorter man was going to blow he's rather be out of punching range.
"And those cokes you been drinking have really been dry? Get real, AJ."
Nick reached over and took a sip of AJ's drink. "It's coke." He grimaced. "And diet shit, too. How can you drink that crap, Aje?"
He shrugged, tilting his head so neither man could see his eyes and the pain they held. "It reminds me to keep sober. Regular cola just makes me crave alcohol."
Nick nodded, giving AJ's shoulder a squeeze before taking a sip of his beer. He realized what he'd just done and said sheepishly, "it's only my second."
"It's cool, Kaos. But that's Howie's fourth."
The older man glared at him. "Since when do you count my drinks?"
"It's a hobby. I'm like Count Chocula or whatever. 'One Red Bull and Vodka, two Red Bull and Vodka, three Red Bull and Vodka, ha ha ha.'"
"Dude, that's not Count Chocula. That's Sesame Street," Nick giggled.
"You'd know, wouldn't you, Nick?" Howie lashed out. "Your intellectual show."
"Don't be an ass, D," AJ jumped to Nick's defense. If there was anything he hated it was seeing someone kick a puppy, and the hurt look on the younger man's face made him want to get some S'nausages for the guy. "You're drinking a lot and I don't like it."
Howie picked up his drink, chugging it back in one shot. He then turned and yelled "Waitress!" waving his glass in the air before slamming it down on the table. "Nothing like a born-again. So fucking pious," he sneered at AJ, daring him to escalate the issue.
AJ was more than willing to take him on. "Nobody's holier than thou, Howard."
Nick looked back and forth between them, not sure he wanted to be in the middle of a fight between the two. "Umm, guys…"
"What?" Howie snapped, turning his glare from AJ to Nick.
Nick gulped, nodding over Howie's shoulder. "Um, isn't that Kevin taking a chick up to his room?"
The other two men glanced around and then grin. "Buh-bye ass stick," AJ crowed.
"God, we can only hope so," Howie replied as he nodded at the waitress placing a fresh drink in front of him, missing the worried glances Nick and AJ exchanged.
"That man is so damn hot," Micheline sighed as she snuggled back into the cushions.
"Yeah," Jeanne smiled. "I hear that there is tape on him on the Internet somewhere - you know, from when he got arrested for dancing naked to the bongo drums. Now that is one film I'd love to see him acting in."
Micheline giggled. "Make me a copy if you find it." She yawned. "Sorry I wasn't in the mood to go out. Just not in the mood for crowds."
"No worries. The food is better here."
"Groan! Don't remind me. I so shouldn't have ordered that banana split."
Jeanne laughed. "Hey, it was healthy. Fruit, milk, that little wafer thing is your grains. Same they didn't slap a slice of turkey on it then it would have hit all the food groups."
Micheline joined in the laughter, then groaned and held her stomach. "Stop making me laugh. It hurts my poor bloated stomach." She let out a dainty burp. "Ice cream may taste good, but it isn't always good for me."
"Good thing I helped you out with it then, Jeanne winked.
The other woman nodded. "Who was that other actor again? I've seen him in other stuff."
"Christian Bale. He was in American Psycho." Micheline shook her head with a frown, so Jeanne continued. "He was in Empire of the Sun way, way back. That Velvet something or other, about a gay glam rock guy." Micheline still shook her head. "I think he was the baddie in Shaft. And he was in Newsies."
"Newsies! That was it. He was the little guy who organized them all. I remember now." Micheline let out another little burp, then a loud belch.
"Gross!" Jeanne laughed, more at Micheline's smile of triumph than at her action.
"Oh please, you are with the King of the burp. Don't tell me Nick hasn't treated you to his repertoire. I swear, you do not want to be around when he and Aje get into it. You're never quite sure if it's them or the tires on the bus have burst."
Jeanne giggled. "Better that end than the other."
Micheline snorted. "Now who is being gross?" She wriggled back in the cushions. "So what is up between you two?"
Jeanne looked back at the television screen, switching it back from the pay-per-view to regular TV. "Don't know what you are talking about."
"Don't play dumb with me. You two have been tiptoeing around each other for the past few days."
"Yeah right. Tell me another one. Come on, Jeanne. Tell Aunty Michie."
She chuckled. "The idea of you as an auntie anything."
"Hey! I give good advice."
"Sure…," Jeanne sighed. "I told him something from my past. You know, just growing up stuff. Anyway he didn't like it, I guess. He said he was okay with it, but he's been avoiding me. Even sleeps on the other bed. Not sure what to do. Maybe I should just let it - let him - go."
"Nah, don't do that. He's just being a knob. Give him a day or two and he'll forget about it."
"Doubt that," Jeanne sighed.
"Then tell him to stop being a dumbass. See? I am getting into the BSB jargon? I am sure he's not perfect. I mean, you didn't kill anyone did you?"
The Kat part of her shivered, but she could honestly answer, "no."
"'Borrow' your dad's car and total it? Didn't steal candy from babies? Help an old lady halfway across a street and then leave her there? Bring home a snake as a pet and drop it in your brother's underwear drawer?"
Jeanne was now the one holding her stomach as she laughed. "No," she wheezed between chuckles.
"Let me guess, you shoplifted lipstick and got the wrong colour. You wore plaid with stripes. I bet you had braces that picked up radio stations. Umm, you got your nose done 'cause you have a gross wart on the end of it. Oh, you used to eat boogers. No? That's more of a guy thing anyways. Nick probably did it. Yeah, and you been kissing that mouth too."
Jeanne pulled a face and pretended to be gagging.
"See? I bet there is nothing you've done that he can't beat. Just because he's a guy. I mean that whole 'puppy dogs tail and snails' thing it right one. Little boys are really disgusting. Give him a day or two and he'll remember some time when he peed on the side of a building…"
"He did that last week."
"Lord! Where was I then? I miss all the good stuff. Think we could get him to do a bongo dance? Anyway, so he's no prize. Just give him a little while and he'll forget about it."
"Sure he will. Besides, he's a guy. They are ruled by one thing and it's that one-eyed trouser snake they are always waving about in front of those squealing teenies. You two seem happy in that department - he'll be back."
Both Jeanne and Kat blushed at that. Jeanne because she because it was expected. Kat because it was something she hoped for.
"So I'm not the only one who's noticed," AJ drawled. At Nick's confused look he clarified. "About Howie's drinking."
"No. We all did. I think Rok and Kev are afraid to bring it up 'cause of all the trouble before."
AJ sighed. "Ah, the little business cousins. Afraid we'll lose more money if we have to ship him off to rehab mid-tour."
"That's not it, Aje and you know it. I think they just don't know what to do about him. I mean he sort of does it in waves, you know? Won't touch anything but Evian for a while and then pulls this fucking act like he did earlier. I mean you were REALLY self-destructive about it. Howie's just kind of moody."
"Still not a good thing. And he's been a lot 'moodier' recently."
"So what do we do? Send him to rehab or make him deal with it himself? Not good to have 'Sweet' D appear to be so fucked up."
AJ glanced at Nick, knowing there was a lot of repressed anger there. There were reasons for it - he'd been forced to deal with a lot of things on his own simply because their management had deemed that it wouldn't be appropriate for the cute blonde one to be seen to be having problems. "True. Especially all that bullshit we put out there about him being our 'peacemaker.' I tell you sometimes the PR we spout comes back and bites us in the ass, doesn't it bro?" He sighed. "Maybe when Kev stops getting lucky we can make him talk to D."
Nick sniggered. "Better him than me."
"Amen to that, brother."