Quit Playing Games
Kat looked up from her cup of tea to see AJ standing next to the table. "Morning Bone. Opting for something other than an Egg McMuffin this morning?"
"Yeah. Apparently the others are getting tired of it so I have to suffer through," he mimicked Kevin’s drawl exactly "a ‘more nutritious’ breakfast today."
Kat smiled, and gestured to the seat across from her. He sat, ordered coffee and some food and glanced warily at her. She was a little pale, and there were dark circles under her eyes. And her hands shook a little. If you didn’t know you’d think that she was fine, just up a little earlier than she should have been. But he knew she’d gone to bed early the night before.
"Kat? How are things with you?" he asked.
"Fine. All this travelling, though… I used to love to travel. Now all it seems to be is the inside of buses or planes or hotel rooms. How can you stand it?"
"I wish I could say you get used to it, but you don’t really." He sighed, "it would be nice to actually see the places we are, but that gets a little crazy sometimes."
The waitress brought over his coffee, interrupting that stream of conversation. After she left he tried again. "And the writing? That’s going good? We’re giving you enough feedback?"
"Yes, actually. You have all been great. I wish The Firm was as forthcoming with their criticism. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop there. I really liked the interview that Brian gave me the other day. Lots of insight, and it gives me some ideas about where to fill in more detail."
"Yeah, Brian’s good. Everyone is always trying to portray him as some country hick, but he’d really sharp. He led us out of a bad place a few years ago. Made us all a lot stronger."
Kat nodded. She had read that it was Brian who had initiated the Boys much-publicized split from TransCon Records and their former management company. "True. He was quite open about that. I think in many ways that is where that wrong impression of him comes from; the ‘image’ of him that they pushed was that of the cute choir boy next door. The boy grew up."
AJ thought of some of the times over the years when he had seen Brian act like anything but a choir boy and chuckled. "You can say that again."
"I hope the rest of you will be as forthcoming as he was," Kat mused and poured some herself more tea.
He was about to press forward, but again the waitress showed up to interrupt them. At least the food was good.
"You’re not eating?" He asked as he shovelled some food into his mouth.
"I ate earlier. I just can’t seem to get enough caffeine right now is all."
At last! An opening!
"Probably because you are not sleeping," he said quietly.
Kat’s hands shook and she put her cup down. "Well, with all the partying…"
"I mean the nightmares."
Kat blanched. "How…"
"My room has been right next to you for the past few nights. I couldn’t help but hear."
Kat looked down. "I’m sorry."
"Don’t apologize. I just want to make sure you’re okay."
He looked at her and sighed. "No, you’re not. Come on Kat, tell me what’s wrong."
"Nothing’s wrong, AJ," she replied stubbornly.
"You just wake up screaming every night for no reason?"
"I don’t want to talk about it. Please," Kat begged.
"I can understand that. But Kat, we both know its getting worse. I was knocking on the connecting door for ages last night."
"I didn’t hear you," she whispered sadly.
AJ shoved his plate to the side and took her hand in his. "Look, if you don’t want to tell me about it, can you talk to Howie? I know you to are close."
Kat shook her head. "It’s just a bad spell. I’ll take better care. I’m sorry I’ve been disturbing you, AJ."
"Nightmares don’t just go away, Kat."
She looked at him, seeing something very old and very painful in his eyes. He knew what they were like. She wasn’t sure what had caused his, but he knew.
"I know. But in this case, talking about them will only make them worse. No, don’t interrupt me, AJ. I know what I am saying. Just let me try and deal with this for a few more days. Please don’t fire me…"
"You think I’d fire you over some bad dreams?" he asked incredulously.
"If I’m keeping you awake… and you have to perform…"
"Get serious. I just, well, I like you…" Kat blushed. "I mean, you are good to have around, and you’re upset about something and I wanted to know if I could help."
She was silent for a moment. "Thanks AJ. Just knowing that helps a lot."
"And if you need to talk I’m here."
"And I’ll make sure that I’m next door for the next few days. Just in case."
"You don’t have…"
"Otherwise you’ll have to explain this to someone else," he noted.
He was right. If he could hear it when the ‘mares hit, any one else would too.
"Thank you again."
He nodded, then shook himself, trying to get rid of the heavy atmosphere that had descended at the table. "Now where is that woman with some more coffee?" He gestured for the waitress, then leaned forward conspiratorially. "I hear it puts hair on your chest."
It was such a sudden about face, Kat had to laugh. "Wouldn’t all that hair get in the way of the tattoos?"
"No, baby, I only have the tattoos because the coffee isn’t working the way it should."
Once his coffee cup was refilled and he had taken one deep gulp Kat mused that it was a good thing that he didn’t have much hair on his chest.
He gave her a quick frown and he raised his cup again. "Why?"
"It’d just get caught in your girlfriend’s teeth."
It was a good thing that Kevin had come along at about that time, because AJ needed someone to pound his back when he choked on his coffee.
The next few nights were quiet. Both Kat and AJ managed to get good night’s sleeps. Which was also good, because they had become closer friends during the days and she was working on convincing him to invite his friend Micheline to join the tour. He’s been without a steady girlfriend for some time, and while that meant he was getting some serious flirting practice in, he missed having someone special with him. He, and Nick, were the only ones on the tour without a girlfriend. Nick was just coming out of a relationship, and was still in that ‘relieved to be single’ phase. Kevin had Lana, and Brian had Leighanne. Miriam joined Howie every few weeks when she could get away from her business. And AJ had no one.
Micheline had been a friend for a while, and he admitted to sleeping with her a couple of times, but in a casual sense. It just seemed that more and more, his thoughts went to her. They were talking a lot on the phone, and he was starting to think it was time to make more of the friendship…
"So call her and ask her to come," Kat said in frustration. It must have been about the fifteenth time she’d said it over the past few days.
"But how do I know she wants to?"
"AJ, come on. What are you afraid of?"
"That she doesn’t want me," he said softly.
Kat looked at him. It amazed her that onstage, or in front of the cameras AJ was this swaggering, confident man. But when he was at rest, he really was a very quiet, even a little unsure, guy. "Look, you all ready said that you two had some chemistry. And you talk to her on the phone all the time. If you were unwelcome she would have told you by now. Just ask her if she can come down for the weekend. Sort of a trial run. If you don’t want things to change, or if it doesn’t look like its going to happen, you’ll know."
"She’s not stupid. She’s gonna know why I’m inviting her."
"Fine. So she gets a chance to see if she wants more too. You are not asking her to marry you or anything. You are just asking her to come hang around with you for a few days, and see what happens. If she says no, then you tried. Move on. But sitting here moaning about it is only going to make you feel sorry for yourself."
"Yes, Mom," he smirked.
"Hey! I am not that old."
"So if you are going to set me up, who can I set you up with?"
Kat groaned. "Don’t even go there, Bone."
He rubbed his hands together thoughtfully. "Hmm. Let’s see? One of the band? No, those guys are too weird. One of the dancers? Maybe… I know! Nicky!"
Kat laughed. "Very funny. I hate to remind you of this but he is half my age."
"All the more fun! And he is not. Okay, so about ten years younger."
"More?" he said looking at her surprised. Then he thought about it. "True. But still..."
"Sorry, babe. No can do. I never date the boss."
"But I wanted to play matchmaker," he whined.
"What’s he on about now?" Howie said as he joined them, giving Kat a small hug.
"Nothing. Just being his usually freaky self. I told him to invite Micheline for a few days."
"Ohhhh. Don’t do that. Then you will get to see a very sad sight: AJ in LUV," Howie teased.
"Oh shut up D," AJ blushed. "Like you don’t get all starry-eyed when Miriam shows up."
"Children, behave," Brian said in his best "father" voice as he sat down on the stage next to them.
"Yes, Daddy," AJ said and then started to suck on his thumb.
"Well?" Brian said looking at Kat with a twinkle in his eye.
"Oh yes, this is SO going in the book."
(c) Kat Morgan