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Chapter Four

“So in all the planning that we’ve done so far,” said Brian, “We haven’t figured out how to break this all to Kevin.”

Nick sighed, “I know. I dunno. I was going to tell him the other day, but he’s so damn hard to talk to sometimes. Especially about stuff like this that he doesn’t approve of.”

“Tell me about it, I grew up with the guy,” Brian winked.

“I basically did, too,” Nick reminded him, smirking.

They were sitting at a table playing checkers while they were talking, the TV on and playing reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond from one corner of the room. It had been a couple days since Nick had seen or spoken to Amanda, because he’d been stuck here, but they were planning on leaving the next morning when they went home, so he planned to call her that night and make sure everything was still game.

Brian’s piece jumped four of Nick’s, ending the game, and he grinned all cheesy. “Dammit,” Nick groaned. “Why the crap can I never win this game against you? Howie’s a push over with it…”

“I’m just that good,” Brian answered. “And also Howie is crap at this game because he has that everything-has-to-be-symmetrical quirk…”

Nick laughed, “Yeah, true.” He sighed, “This doesn’t solve the Kevin problem, though,” he said. “What if we just disappear?”

“God no,” Brian said, shaking his head, “You know Kevin, he’d have the entire police force after us trying to figure out where we are.”

“And our pictures on milk cartons,” Nick added, “You’re right.”

Brian laughed, “Too bad we didn’t absolutely know we’d get his voicemail if we called him, we could leave a message. At least then, there’s a really good chance he wouldn’t get it until after we’d already left, therefore he couldn’t stop us from going.”

“How about a note?”

Brian and Nick exchanged glances.

Kevin was pissed. No, Kevin was beyond pissed. He was livid.

It was the next morning and he’d just received the note when he’d gone in to see Nick and Brian.

We’re going on a road trip, Nick’s messy chicken scratch hand writing had explained, We knew you’d be pissed, so we decided to leave a note instead of telling you directly. I know that’s kinda crappy, but... We’ll call you after we’re on the road and keep you updated. Please don’t worry about us, we’re both okay and we both put a lot of thought into this. We’ll be back before you know it.

He slammed the door and stormed down the hall, past staring people, into the parking lot. A white and teal bus was unloading under the shelter of the loading bay, and he stood beside a bush and dialed Nick’s cell phone, the note clutched in his hand so tightly that his knuckles were pale white.

“Hey it’s Nick, leave some lovin’.”

“What the fuck are you doing?” he yelled into the phone. A couple people whipped around to look at him and Kevin lowered his voice, “Are you insane? Do you have any idea – any idea at all what the consequences of this stupid little road trip of yours could have?” Kevin looked at the note again and sighed. “Tell Brian I said hello.” He hung up the phone and shook his head.

Kevin clenched his fists and stormed toward his car across the parking lot, people still looking his direction. He got into the car and drove at top speed toward Nick’s apartment, in the slim hope that they hadn’t left just yet.

Admittedly, it didn’t take a lot to talk Amanda into accompanying them on their road trip. Amanda had called Eric and let him know what was up and had been given a very enthusiastic go-ahead. She knew Eric would like the idea.

She pulled up to Nick’s apartment building, her car’s hatchback trunk full of luggage, and was surprised to see the rig that was parked by the entrance. Nick had borrowed the Backstreet Boys’ tour bus. She parked next to it, and got out, pulling off her sunglasses and gawking up at it.

She’d only been there a moment when Nick and Brian came out the door of the apartment building. Nick was carrying two suitcases, and Brian had a couple shopping bags from a local grocery store. Brian walked by Amanda to the door of the bus and disappeared inside, while Nick hoisted the suitcases he had into a storage compartment underneath the living quarters. “Hey ‘manda,” he greeted her with a smile as he turned back to the apartment building door. “You bring your stuff?”

“Yeah,” she thumbed in the direction of her car.

Nick smiled, “Sweet, lemme get the rest of Brian’s crap outta the hall here and then I’ll start loading yours before I bring mine down.” He disappeared into the hallway, leaving Amanda standing awkwardly beside the bus.

Brian came back down the steps and out the door of the bus as Amanda was looking up at it. The tinted windows, the sleek design. It was intimidating, she thought. But Brian smiled as he stood next to her, “Dot’s a good bus,” he said. His voice was a little scratchier than she’d expected.

“Dot?” she asked, glancing at him.

He nodded, “That’s what we named her,” he explained, smiling.

Amanda looked Brian over. She was surprised by how much more mature he seemed compared to how he always had acted during what few interviews she’d seen him in. She’d always thought of Brian Littrell as the hyper, annoying Backstreet Boy, even more so than Nick. Of course she’d apparently been wrong about Nick, too, but still… She’d seen an interview once when Brian had been literally doing somersaults in the chair he was sitting in while the other band members had been talking. When he’d fallen down, he’d cracked up, and Nick had started laughing, too, and the only one of the Boys left focused on the actual interview after that had been Kevin.

Evidently, thought Amanda, marriage and fatherhood finally caught up to Brian.

“I’m Brian, by the way, but you probably already know that,” he said. He shook her hand.

“Amanda,” she said, “And yeah, I did already know that. Nick hasn’t shut up talking about you since I met him.”

She had expected Brian to laugh, jokingly apologize, or say something like ‘good things, I hope?’ but instead his eyes clouded slightly and his forehead creased in concern. “Oh?” he asked.

Amanda nodded awkwardly as he dropped her hand, a bit delayed. “All good things, though,” she said, with a forced laugh, trying to get things back on track.

Brian’s concern flickered away and he nodded, “Oh, good,” he said.

Luckily Nick came out of the apartment building at that moment, breaking the awkwardness, and Amanda quickly launched herself over to help him put the suitcases into the underbelly of the bus. Brian hung back, watching, and Amanda couldn’t help but feel like he was studying her.

Once they’d gotten the luggage all into the bus – which had turned out to be quite the jigsaw puzzle, actually (Nick had gotten all but one good sized trunk in, taken everything back out in piles in the parking lot and reworked it all several times until it fit) – Nick ran back upstairs to get his computer and turn off the lights in his apartment and lock up. Brian got on board the bus, and Amanda parked her car in the farthest corner space in the lot under a small tree.

Nick and Amanda met at the door of the bus. “All right, one more stop then we can head out,” he said, climbing up behind her into the body of the bus.

Amanda had been on a couple of small tour buses before in the past, but the Backstreet tour bus was different than any she’d been on. It was set up more like a cramped apartment than a regular bus. At the top of the entry way stairs was a small kitchen to the left with the driver/passenger seats to the right. Beyond the kitchen, she could see a stretch of six bunks, three on each side, and beyond that two doors – one probably to a bathroom – and past those, even, a living/dining area, which was where Brian had retreated. He was sitting on a sofa that took up the entire back wall, laying down on it with his eyes closed.

“Here, Bri’s probably gonna nap for awhile, you can sit up here with me,” Nick said, directing Amanda to the passenger seat. He hopped behind the steering wheel.

Amanda watched as he stuck the key in the ignition and yanked the hand-shift down to drive. She got the feeling that he probably had not done this very often because of the way he was molesting the stick to get it to change gears.

“Here we go,” Nick said, as the bus began to move forward from its space in front of the apartment building.

Here we go indeed, Amanda thought, glancing into the side mirror as the building grew smaller behind them.

Nick steered the bus around the lot to the street and entered into the flow of traffic, getting honked at by a car he’d accidentally cut off when the bus took up two lanes to make the right hand turn. He smiled sheepishly in her direction. “I’m still getting the hang of driving something this big,” he admitted.

“You’re doing good,” she lied.

“That’s good,” Nick smiled, “Cos it’s gonna be even more awkward with the trailer hitch.”

“Trailer hitch?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Nick said, concentrating on the road so hard he had his tongue stuck out a little bit. “All the equipment and the bikes and stuff are all in this trailer thing we gotta pick up. But that’s outside the city a little ways cos I didn’t wanna try driving that into the city. I mean the bus is bad enough…”

“Bikes?” she asked, looking surprised.

Nick laughed, “Yeah, didn’t I tell you? Brian and I got our motorcycle licenses.”

“Motorcycles?” she asked. She glanced over her shoulder at the sleeping figure of Brian way in the back of the bus, and then at Nick. She couldn’t picture either one of them driving a motorcycle. Brian just didn’t look…rebellious…enough, and Nick… well, Nick just barely could walk without killing himself, he was such a klutz. She frowned at the idea of him driving a motor cycle.

“Yeah, it’s gonna be great,” Nick said, oblivious to the concerned look on Amanda’s face. “Don’t worry, we got you a helmet, too, so you can ride behind me.”

Great, so we can both die when you dump the bike, she thought. “That’ll be fun,” she said aloud, wondering how she could get out of it.

Nick drove the bus through the city and got on the southbound highway. He was right about the driving being easier outside of the city, and Amanda was glad to see that his driving skills improved exponentially.

Kevin’s tires squealed as he pulled up into one of the parking spaces in front of Nick’s apartment building. He got out of his car and burst into the entryway/mail cubical. He pressed the buzzer for Nick’s apartment and held it down, waiting. When no response came, he swore and punched the wall.