Quit Playing Games

Chapter 76

"Gimme a S."


"Gimme a U."


"Gimme a C."


"Gimme a K."


"Gimme a "S."


"What does it spell?"


"What does this song do?"

"Sucks!" AJ hooted, then yelped as a flying pillow hit him. "Geez, Howie. That wasn't nice."

"Yeah, well, neither are you and Rok. The song isn't that bad…"

Nick started making gagging noises while Brian smirked. "Okay, Howie then you try singing 'and nobody knows / how you are my rose' with sincerity. 'Cause I know I can't."

Howie looked at Kevin for some support then, seeing none, sighed. "Okay. You're right. It sucks."

"The music is pretty good," Nick put in. "The writer just can't rhyme for shit. Who did it? Someone at Jive's cousin or something?"

"Probably," AJ replied taking another bite of his pizza slice. "What do you think? Think they are trying to make us walk out of the contract by making us sing crap songs? Or do you think they actually think this is good?"

"No easy answer to those questions," Brian said as he leafed through the other songs that the record company had sent them. "Hey, this one isn't bad. Kev, give this a try."

Kevin took the sheaf of papers from his cousin, looked them over and then played the song on the piano. The others looked around at each other shrugging noncommittally. Kevin played it again, with less hesitation. Again the shrugs, though the eyes should a little more approval.

"What are the words like? Got audio of it?" Nick asked.

Brian peered through the stack, finally pulling out a CD and thrusting it at Howie. It was placed in the machine and the music began.

A few minutes later it was clear they had found one song that they could accept out of the pile that Jive had sent for their review. And they only had another mountain of songs to go through…

"I need a drink."

"AJ!" four voices echoed in response.

"Shit, guys, I meant a soda. Lighten up." AJ rolled his eyes. "Any one else want?"

"Sure," Nick replied bounding up. "I'll come with."

"Good. We'll just still here and talk about you while you're gone," Brian grinned.

Nick shot him the finger.

"I think we all need a break," Kevin groaned as he stood. He stretched out his back and legs.

"Kevvy-Kev's getting too old for this," Howie winked at Brian.

"We all are," Brian replied with a sigh as he rubbed his eyes.

"Not me," Howie said, puffing out his chest. "I'm in the best shape of my life."

AJ snorted as he re-entered the room carrying an armload of soda cans. He ignored Howie's glare as he started handing out the cans, only stopping when, instead of taking the offered drink, Howie reached out and grabbed AJ's wrist. "What the fuck was that supposed to mean?"

AJ winced a little at Howie's vise-like grip. "Nothing, man. Shit! Just teasing the old guys."

"Well, don't." Howe replied grabbing the can and flicking AJ's arm away.

Kevin leaned over to Nick and stage-whispered, "I think it crawled over to Howie and died there instead."

Nick looked confused for a moment then started to snicker. "Decomposing pretty quickly too."

Kevin grinned and the two clinked cans.

"Guys, can we get back to work?" Brian asked.

"Nope," Kevin replied, leaning back in his chair. "Us out of shape old guys want to take a break."

"I didn't mean you, Kevin," Howie started, but Kevin just waved him off.

"Gimme half an hour, okay? Let me just have some time to clear my ears."

"And maybe play a quick game of one-on-one?" Nick's asked.

Brian's eyes lit up and he grabbed the basketball from under the table. "Great idea, Kev. Back in a while. See you." He darted out of the room, Nick on his heels.

"That was an easy sell," AJ chuckled.

"Don't knock it," Kevin replied as he reclined on the sofa, pulling his hat over his face. "Don't bother waking me up; I'll be able to smell them come back in." He promptly fell into a light snooze. AJ shrugged, pulled out a cigarette and ambled off after the other two, leaving Howie alone. The older man sat for a few moments trying to figure out what to do. He was NOT going to play basketball, or hang around AJ while he sucked on his cancer sticks. He supposed he could call someone, but couldn't think of anyone he really wanted to talk to. And he wasn't going to nod off like that geriatric Kevin.

He glanced at Kevin, and was reminded of the conversation he'd overheard part of when he'd entered the studio. "So, Kev…"

"I'm asleep, Howie."

He snorted. "Yeah, and now you're sleep-talking."

Kevin flipped him the finger and continued to lay there. Howie sneered a little as he noted how Kevin's shirt lay over slack muscles. Kevin used to be so fit… "Look, man, I got a question."

"Still sleeping."

"Whatever. Look, is there something wrong with Nick and Jeanne?"

Kevin pulled the hat off of his face. "What makes you ask?" he queried noncommittally.

"Nick's been acting like even more of an ass than usual," Howie retorted. "No, seriously, he's getting that old 'stir-crazy, we've-been-at-this-too-long-and-you're-smothering-me' look he always gets."

"I'm sure they are just trying to adjust to being at home."

"Right," Howie said sarcastically. "Come on, Kev. I really like the chick, I do. But if she's started demanding stuff from him she isn't any better than Tina. And she'll need to take a hike."

Kevin sat up. "You have a hell of a lot of nerve, D. Jeanne is a great girl. She doesn't have even an ounce of Tina in her," he glared.

Howie held up his hands defensively. "I'm just saying…"

"Well, just don't say. Look, Nick and her, sure they may be having some growing pains. I'm serious about the 'coming home' stuff. I mean she'd only been seeing him for a split second before we went on tour. So being back here without the constant traveling - that takes a bit of adjustment. And you know how long it takes for Nick to calm down after a tour…"

"Yeah, but if she's pressuring him…"

"Pressuring him to do what? She's not the 'buy me cars and jewelry' type. She's more likely to turn Nick around and tell him to take it back if he tried showing up with that kind of stuff. Nah, if they are having any probs, its probably just the adjustment. I mean, Nick said…"

Howie leaned forward. "Said what?"

"That's his business, Howie." When Howie looked like he was about to protest, Kevin shook his head. "Look, D, I don't tell him what you've said to me in confidence. I'm not gonna do anything different for him. I'll tell you this much: if they're having troubles it isn't because she is demanding anything from him. So let it drop, okay? Let them figure it out."

"You think he can do that? Little Nicky?"

Kevin snorted as he lay back down. "He ain't so little anymore. Little jerk became a man sometime when we weren't looking. And he's done a damn good job of it. If he needs help, he'll ask. Until then, let him take care of his own business." He dropped the hat back over his face. "And I am still asleep."

Howie rolled his eyes, knowing he wasn't going to get any more out of the older man. He strode out of the room, letting the door slam shut behind him. The muffled swearing from the other side let him know that Kevin had not appreciated that, and he couldn't hold in a cheeky grin.

Outside, AJ was cheering on the two blondes as he finished his cigarette. He even did a little cheerleader dance when Brian made a basket, which had them all laughing hysterically. Howie nodded at one of the producers who walked by, then pulled his cellphone from his pocket. Miriam wasn't available. Again. She'd been unavailable a lot recently. He didn't like that. Not one bit. Maybe he'd have to teach her a lesson about that. Once he found her, of course.

Which reminded him…

"Do not do it! I mean it, Nick. Oh fuck! That is so fucking gross! You big ape!" AJ tried to wipe the sweat that Nick had flicked at him off his shirt. "Great now I'm gonna stink like you all fucking day!"

"Want me give you a big hug and make it better?" Brian asked, fluttering his eyelashes. Before AJ could even respond Brian grabbed him, rubbing his sweaty face along AJ's neck.

"Bitch! You stay away from me," AJ tried to detach Brian, but when Nick decided to join in the hugging-fest, he gave up and just stood there, groaning until the two men let him go. "Thank you very much."

"You're welcome," Brian said, ignoring the sarcasm in AJ's tone. "Anything for a buddy."

"Now I stink."

"You did before," Nick replied, twirling the ball on his finger. "Don't you have an extra shirt with you?"

"Yeah, but that was for later. Shit!" AJ stripped off his t-shirt and wiped off his arms, swearing as Nick wiped his forehead and then slid the damp hand down AJ's back. Brian laughed as the three men tumbled into the locker room.


Nick kicked off his shoes and pulled his t-shirt over his head. "Do the shower dance!"

Brian and he started to cavort juvenilely as they shed their clothes. Then they chuck their clothes at AJ and scampered into the showers. AJ shook his head and leisurely took his clothes off too. He was NOT going to smell stinky. Not when there was a shower right there.

When he emerged from the shower Brian and Nick appeared to be doing the "getting dressed dance." It was just like the shower dance only with a bit more butt-wiggling. He rolled his eyes and started to pull his clothes back on. He rummaged around in his pack for his clean shirt and pulled it on. "Anyone got any deo? Forget it: I'll just take use D's."

He opened Howie's usual locker and sprayed deodorant under both arms. He was just putting it back when Brian danced too close and knocked him against the locker door. "Will you two apes stop acting like children?" Brian looked at him quizzically. "Which are we?"


"Apes or children?"

AJ rolled his eyes. "Ape children. Now get the fuck out of the way so I can finish getting dressed." He bent over and picked up the deodorant can he'd dropped and found another small bottle that had rolled out of Howie's bag. "Hey, what is this? Hey, this is…"


AJ looked up at the angry Howie who now stood in the doorway.

"Howie! What the fuck are you doing with this?"

Chapter 77