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Chapter Eighteen

I pulled Howie into our hotel room and closed the door. He looked like he already knew what was coming. We stood there awkwardly, staring at each other. I took a deep breath, "Howie I'm--"

"No, J, I'm sorry," Howie blurted before I could get the words out.

I stared at him.

"I had no idea you felt like this all the time," he muttered, staring at his toes, "It's- I- It's awful."

I rubbed the toe of my shoe against the carpet. "I'm sorry too, D," I mumbled.

"Why? Hell, my life is good," Howie rambled, "I'm happy, I don't feel like crap..." he frowned.

"You have so much responsibility," I answered, "It's crazy. It's like constantly everything is running through my head- constantly thinking about everything and worrying about everyone and... and listening to Brian's sex life -- Oh my God."

"At least Brian turns off!" Howie exclaimed, "And Jesus some of the stuff Nick's done is just..."

"I KNOW," I gasped, "You'd never imagine..."

"I wouldn't want to imagine!" Howie retorted.

We stared at each other. I sighed, "D... I was wrong, saying that your life was perfect. I - I didn't really think about anything except how sorry for myself I was."

"I know, and I didnt understand that at the time, but... I - I do now!" Howie said, "And I'm sorry too, for saying you had an easy life, because there's nothing easy about this."

"C'mere." I grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him into me, wrapping my lil short latinized arms around him. "Shit D, I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry, too," he sniffled.

The sniffle was all it took. I started bawling like a baby...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"So I got some good news and I got some bad news."

Nick plucked a Ranch Dorito out of the big blue bag he was straddling between his legs, licked both sides of the chip, and then stuck it in his mouth. J and I watched him chew about three million times.

"What? What?" J demanded.

"Well..." Nick plucked out another chip, but before he could lick it, I yanked it out of his hands.

"Hey! That's mine!"

"I thought you were eating healthy!"

"I'm practicing my sympathy eating!" he protested.

J paled. It was weird to see me pale. "Becky's pregnant?"

Nick grinned. "Nope. Not yet. But I'm aiming for our wedding night. I'm gearing my guys up." He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

I so didn't want to hear this.

"That's really nice," I said. "But what's the news?"

"What news? The good or bad?"


"You've gotta pick one."

I felt like a bull; I was sure if I had to play Nick's games much longer I was really going to see red.

"The good news then," I said through gritted teeth.

"The good? There was good news? Hmm...oh yeah!" Nick leaned back and smiled. "My Becky tracked down Nurse Ribbit. She is the same one that was so mean to me."

Nick pouted. My pulse picked up. "And?"

"Well, Becky worked her magic...not like real magic, but--"

"NICK!" I bellowed.

Nick sighed. He looked at J who was trying not to laugh. "Man, I miss you. I don't like this. It's like you're glaring at me," he whined. "I'm used to Howie doing it, but not you."

J leaned forward and patted Nick's knee. "Dude, I will never glare at you ever if you get us changed back."

Nick shook his head. "Well, it's not that easy."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"See, that's kinda the bad news. Nurse Hatchett told Becky that she can't change you back. That's up to you guys."

"But we've tried everything," J complained.

"Nu-uh. You two have been at each other's throats until like fifteen minutes ago when I walked in on you guys like making out," Nick said smugly.

He had a point. Not about the making out thing, but we had been pretty vicious to each other. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Bri lean forward; he ran his fingers along his scarf. AJ looked like he wanted to take the end and pull. We both needed our preferred Backstreet Boy back.

"Okay, we've been nasty, but we've made up. We're cool. So that should be it right?" I said hopefully.

"Maybe not," J said quietly. I looked at him in surprise.


J leaned back and smiled. "You helped me..." he pointedly stared at his crotch. "I still need to help you."

I shook my head. "No. I refuse--"

"D, whatever it is, do it," Bri pleaded. "I can't talk to you as AJ about...things."

J rolled his eyes. I was distracted by Nick. He had found a pack of balloons. He blew up one, then the other. He pulled at the neck of his shirt, stuffed them down, and started playing with them.

"J?" I said slowly.


"I'll happily accept your help. Just tell me what I need to do to get it done."

Nick shook his head. "Becky's are much squishier." Bri, somehow ignoring the blonde, nodded happily. "We've got, yikes, three hours before soundcheck. Can you guys do this?"

We stared at each other. J nodded. I took a deep breath.

"Three hours? That's plenty of time," I said.

"Let's roll," J said seriously.

Unknown McLean Fact #18: When J was seventeen, I helped sneak him into a porn store without his mom knowing. He bought this busty blow-up doll and we named it Tiffany. She pretty much became the group's unofficial mascot. Kevin tried to avoid it like the plague, but Brian kept finding creative ways to sneak it into his cousin's bunk. AJ would die if he ever found out I knew, but one day I walked in on him 'practicing' on Tiffany (in Kevin's bunk, no less). Needless to say, soon after, Tiffany suffered a tragic accident by giant safety pin. After that, AJ just transferred his affections onto the real deal. Rochelle should really thank me, because, you've got to admit, there's a big difference between real and plastic.