- Text Size +
Nick was sitting on a little wooden bench in a classic looking jail-cell. He could almost imagine Billy the Kid or someone having been contained in these four walls. He still couldn't believe he was here, he felt so stupid. He was just glad that Brian's phone hadn't been ruined by the water yesterday. Since he still had Amanda's phone in his pocket - or he had until the cops had taken it away with the rest of his personal belongings - the next person he would've had to try was Kevin. And he wasn't positive, but he was pretty sure he would rather stay in jail until he was nothing but a smoldering corpse on the floor than admit to Kevin that he'd been arrested again.

That hadn't gone over so well last time.

He heard Amanda's voice echoing through the building before he saw her. The cop led her into the room and she attached herself to the bars, sticking her hands in to hold Nick's hand. Brian was right behind her, brandishing his check book and looking exhausted. He followed the officer to a desk in the corner.

"Thanks for coming to get me," Nick muttered, sheepish.

"What the hell did you do?" she asked.

"Well I got stopped because one of the tail lights on the rig is out, and when the guy asked for my license and registration--"

"Oh shit," Amanda gasped, "Your wallet."

"Yeah. So I tried to explain, but he wasn't listening to me. So I kind of got upset and took his little notepad of ticket slips," Nick continued, his cheeks were reddening with every word now, "And I ripped them up..."

"Nick..." Amanda closed her eyes.

"And he got really pissed, and he smooshed me on the side of the bus and started trying to put handcuffs on me... and... I kind of tweaked out..."

Amanda sighed.

"And...here I am." He held out his arms to indicate the cell.

"What exactly did they charge you with?" she asked.

"Driving without a license, but they figured they should take me in because I got too emotional," he laughed, but promptly stopped when he saw that she was not even slightly about to crack a smile.

Brian came over as the officer started unlocking the cell door. "Very smooth, Carter," Brian said as Nick came out of the cell. He turned back to the officer. "Thanks again."

"No problem." The officer looked at Nick. "No more ripping up pads of tickets, got it?"

Nick's face was scarlet as they walked out of the station.

They got into the waiting cab that had brought Brian and Amanda to pick up Nick, and Nick told the driver how to get to where the bus had been left. Nick stared out the window, feeling stupid, his arms crossed over his chest. "You're lucky they didn't press any charges for resisting arrest or assaulting an officer or something," Brian said, "You got off with like a $300 fine."

"I feel like an idiot," Nick mumbled.

"Can they technically even arrest for what he did?" Amanda asked, glancing back and forth between the two Boys.

"Officer Simpson there said that they technically had the right to hold him for up to 90 days," Brian answered, "But they only bothered taking him in because he threw the fit..."

Nick banged his head against the window.

"Did you at least get the bikes?" Brian asked. Nick nodded.

When they got to the bus, Amanda couldn't help but laugh at the shredded up ticket papers that littered the ground by the door. She scooped them up, "For the scrap book," she teased Nick before throwing them away. He only scowled, not yet quite ready to joke about his traumatic morning.

Brian got to drive. He fumbled with the stick and mumbled prayers, making the gears screech every now and then. Nick sat in the passenger seat and directed him where to go while Amanda sat in the kitchenette.

They were about halfway to the lodge when Amanda heard her cellphone ring. She stood up as Nick pulled it out of his pocket and looked at it. "Oh hey it's your Dad," he said, holding it up over his head for her to take.

Her stomach turned.

Amanda reluctantly grabbed the phone out of his hands and moved through the bus to the sofa in the far back. "Hello Eric," she answered it.

"Where the hell's my story?" he demanded.

Amanda took a deep breath. "I'm ... not quite done with it yet," she whispered.

"Tobias said you got everything you needed, what the hell are you waiting for?"

"Do you always listen to everything Toby says?" she demanded, "I mean, I am your daughter, can you not respect that I don't feel like I have enough... details... to write the story yet? I'm working on it."

"Tobias says you're getting awful comfortable out there with these Boys," Eric snapped. "You aren't out there to schmooze with the Backstreet Boys, you're there to get a fucking story."

"I'm aware of that," Amanda answered.

"Is it at least a good one?" he demanded.

Amanda stared at the backs of the Boys heads as they talked. Nick's enthusiasm starting to return ever so slightly. He spoke a lot with his hands, holding them up and splaying his fingers while he explained stuff. Brian's laugh carried through the bus.

"Yeah, it's a good one," she answered.

Eric's voice was excited now, "The big one?" he asked.

"Possibly," she said.

Eric's voice softened suddenly, "You get me that story, babycakes, and you'll have yourself a byline. Picture it now... Article by Amanda Jane Golde. Can you see it? Something to make your old man proud by."

Amanda's throat ached. She'd been working to earn a byline her entire career, since she'd graduated from college, and gotten the job at her father's company to begin with. He'd put her into Pop Stuff Online to keep her out of the way, paying her a small salary, and promising that if she ever got just the right story for Pop Stuff that he'd promote her to one of his other publishing projects - something more sophisticated, like one of the newspapers or make her an editor at one of the magazines. She'd busted her ass writing stories for him - mindless fluff pieces about the weight of Hilary Duff and who Brad Pitt was cheating on now. He was finally, finally throwing her the bone she'd been digging up for eight years.

But at what cost?

"When can I expect the story, baby girl?" he asked.

"I'll call you," she promised, and hung up before he could say anything else.

Amanda held the phone in her lap, her mind spinning. Something to make your old man proud, he'd said. A fleeting image went through her head of her father's face beaming with pride as he held up the latest printed edition of Pop Stuff, a picture of Brian and Nick on the cover, and the article saying by Amanda Jane Golde inside. In her imagination, she kissed his cheek and called him Daddy and he smiled and hugged her.

She couldn't remember the last time he'd hugged her.

Nick was suddenly at her side. "Hey," he said, wrapping his arms around her. "You mad at me?" he asked, when she stiffened.

Amanda shook her head, "No."

Nick frowned. "I'm sorry I got arrested," he whispered.

"I'm not mad at you," she snapped. She stood up and walked away toward the front of the bus.

Nick blinked in surprise, and watched as she dropped into the bench next to the table. "Well damn you could've fooled me," he muttered, frowning.