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Chapter Eight

"We need a plan," Howie said.

I was still wondering what the hell the phone call had been. I stared down at the cell in my hands, then glanced up at Howie, who stared back through my own eyes. My stomach turned when I looked into them. I could see it. I could see the hurt I was feeling. It was like looking into the mirror when I was depressed, before they gave me the antidepressant s... seeing the pain on display... It was the reason why I wore those damn sunglasses so often. To conceal what I didn't want seen.

I swallowed hard and looked away.

"What kind of plan?" I asked, looking back down to the cell phone.

"The kind that explains why we can't have sex with our wives," Howie replied quietly. We both glanced back up the stairs, where Ro had gone. "Let's go downstairs," Howie whispered, "So we can talk about this."

I led him back downstairs to the basement and closed the door. "She won't hear us down here," I said.

"What if she comes looking for us?"

"We'd hear the door open before she got down here."

"She could listen through the door," he argued.

I stared at him, "It's soundproofed."

"Why in the world would you --"

"Trust me," I muttered. "You don't want to know the answer to that." I smiled sweetly. He must've remembered Ro's leather lingerie and decided not to challenge me because he silenced and didn't ask any further questions.

We sat down in chairs and I sighed. "So a plan," muttered Howie, "It's gotta be something good, too... Something that would explain all this..."

I know it's stupid, but the first thing that came to my head was WWND - What Would Nick Do, that is. He might be a dumbass, but Carter was notoriously excellent at coming up with tall tales to explain his mishaps. Granted, some of them were worse than others, such as the time he claimed aliens abducted his body and performed science experiments to explain why he showed up late and buzzed to a recording session, but sometimes they were plausible excuses. I could really use the Carterific brain, the mastermind of getting in and out of trouble.

"We could call Nick," I suggested.

Howie rolled his eyes, "Please, he'll have us saying we were abducted by --"

"You never know, he might come up with one that's actually possible," I replied, "Faster than we are."

"I'm doing the best I can!" Howie wailed pitifully in my most overwhelmed voice. I stared at him. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, steadying himself. "Sorry," he muttered.

My antidepressant s were wearing off.

"Seriously, Nick might have an answer," I stammered.

"Fine, call him then," he replied, turning away from me.

I sighed and pulled the cellphone back out of my pocket again - and again wondered who that number had been that called Howie - and dialed Carter's cell number.

"WHASSSUPPPPPPP PPPPPP!? I'M ENGAGED!! Leave me lovin'!!" Beep.

I'd started to respond before I realized it was his voicemail. "Bastad," I muttered, closing the phone shut. I dialed it again and waited.


I waited for the message to finish playing to leave a normal voicemail.

"........Howie? Hello?"

Oh this one wasn't the voicemail.

"Nick?" I asked.

"Hey D!!! Whuzza my Mexican buddy?" Nick asked.

"Nothin'," I said, "Look, Nick I --"

"WOAH wait a sec, I just got away with callin you a Mexican?" Nick laughed, "Aw Howie, finally come to terms with yourself?"

That's right too. Howie hated that. I forced a growl, "Shut up, it's Puerto Rican - I'll kill you."

"You'll kill me? Or keel me?" Nick asked.


"Look," I said, ignoring his question. I was digging myself a nice deep hole. "I have a weird request."

"Sure anything for my favorite Backstreet Boy," he crooned.

"I need help coming up with...an excuse," I answered.

"An excuse?" Nick laughed, "For what?"

"I don't wanna have sex with Leigh."

The line got silent for a long, awkward pause. "Ok I'm sorry, I though I heard you say you need an excuse to turn down sex," Nick laughed.

"I did say that," I answered.

Another long, awkward pause.

"Dude what the frick is wrong with you? Why the hell would you refuse sex?" he said the word like it was hallowed. Like someone uttering the name of God in a church - kind of hushed.

"Well it's - it's me and Ho--- AJ," I said, catching the name on the way out.

Nick paused. He snorted. "AJ gave up sex?" he asked.

"I - I .... Yes," I answered.

"Tell'em you made a bet who can go the longest without getting laid," Nick said. "But I dunno why the hell you wouldn't wanna get sex. I mean Leigh is like a fricking goddess..." he paused, "Ro's a little scary-intense, I get why AJ would need a break, I bet she rides him like a freaking machine..." he muttered, "She seems very industrialized . Leigh is classic. Kristin and Leighanne, too. Very classic. Very classy..."

"Okay let's not talk about this," I muttered, feeling a little jealous Nick thought Leigh was sexier than Rochelle.

"I mean don't get me wrong, I'd personally go for my Becky over any of ya'lls wives..."

"Hanging up now, Nickster," I muttered.

I shut the phone and looked at Howie. He'd curled my legs up to my chest and was laying in the fetal position on the bed.

".........D?" I said.

He looked up, tears glassing over his - my - eyes. "I miss Caroline," he whispered.

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

"Take the pill."

I had begged for a pair of glasses. They kept the tears at bay. I shook my head stubbornly. "No."

Thoughts about Caroline had mixed with thoughts about dad. I would have been happy to stay curled up in the fetal position all day and cry. It didn't matter that I couldn't change the course of life; I just wanted to dwell.

"I don't want you committing suicide in my body," AJ snapped. "I kinda like my body."

"I like my body," I said pathetically. I sniffled.

"Sweet Jesus," J muttered.

"How come you're never cry-ey?" I asked. I had spent too much time in AJ's body. I was obviously picking up some learned 'Carter' words.

"I did," AJ said. "In private."

"But you have to go out sometime," I whined.

"I know. That's why I drank. Drinking made me forget. Drinking made me happy. A happy asshole but nevertheless, happy.

"Nevertheless?" I asked. That sounds like my kinda word."

AJ sighed. "I know. I think it's from being stuck in here so long." He pounded my chest.

I sucked down another crying spell. Caroline. Dad. Not having my body. James. My son. Not my son anymore. I was AJ. I was stuck with Xena, Warrior Princess. I was--

"Nick gave us a great excuse," AJ said. I turned to him, his (well, my whole visage tinted behind the glasses.

"What?" I asked.

"Nick suggested we tell our wives that we made a bet to see who could go the longest without sex," J said proudly.

I shook my head. "I don't know if that's going to work," I said.

"Why the hell not?"

"Because," I said rationally. "Step into a woman's mind."

J snorted. "Hell no. That's like being in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Makeup, and tampons, and--"

"We wear makeup," I reminded him. We both glanced down at my black nails. There was silence as my point settled in.

"Anyhow," J finally continued. "I don't want to go into a woman's mind. It's bad enough I'm in your bod."

I scowled. "Touche. But, I'm just saying that from a woman's standpoint, if you tell her she can't have something, she's going to want it even more. Nick doesn't understand that. Yet."

J leaned forward. I rubbed my moist eye. My stomach burned; part of my thought process was still on our brief conversation about alcohol. It sounded so damn good right now.

"You have a point," J said slowly. "But what other choice do we have?"

Now he had a point. I sighed. "You're right. It's all we've got."

J cracked my knuckles. I scowled. "Could you not do that? I don't want arthritis when I get older."

"You're already old," J teased.

Oh god. I was. I was old. Old meant death. Death meant--


"Crap," J muttered. He started to stand up but I tugged him back down.

"She means me," I said. I exhaled. "I guess my wife wants to have that talk now. Stay here."

"If she's in that outfit again, you've got to come get me," AJ said. He sat on my shoe, waiting for an answer.

"Why, so she can think I'm a creep?"

J made a face. "This is crap. You have a libido. You know how much I want to--"

"Touch it, you die," I said coldly. Without waiting for an answer, I pounded up the steps.

Ro was waiting for me (well, J) in the kitchen. She was dressed normal - as normal as Rochelle dressed, that is. Blue jeans, black shredded skull shirt showing ample amounts of skin, and as always, the red lipstick. Her hands were wrapped around a cup; she looked up as I walked in.

"Sorry to tear you away from your man," she said with a scowl.

I paused. WWAD (What Would AJ Do?)

I smiled. "C'mon Ro, you know D's not my type."

A-ha! That got a smile from her. I sat down across from her. She reached out a hand and tapped at my nails.

"Monkee, what's going on?"

Here it was. The moment of truth. I shrugged like I had seen AJ do a million times.

"I made a bet," I said.

"A bet?"

I laughed and snickered. I slid my glasses down, gave her a split-second peek of my own eyes, and back up the glasses went. "A--Howie and I were bullshitting around and Howie got all fuckin' cocky and well, long story short, we ended up making a bet to see who could go the longest without sex."

I didn't have even a second to see if my story worked. Ro kicked me under the table and I almost faceplanted into the wood. I held my shin, wincing as the pain ricocheted to my (well, J's) bum knee.

"You ass!" she hissed. "Why would you do that when we're--"

"I'm sorry," I gasped. "It's male pride and shit."

I was waiting for another kick. It didn't come. When I finally chanced to look up, Rochelle was looking thoughtful.

"Maybe...maybe not doing it will make it more effective when we do?" she asked. "How long's the bet?"

Crap. We hadn't figured that out. Who knew how long this switch would last?

And what if it was - gulp - permanent?"

"Three more weeks," I heard my own voice say. I looked up. J was standing in the doorway of the kitchen, looking satisfied that his wife was still fully closed. Ro smiled and looked at me.

"Just in time for our next open window," she said. She hopped up and threw her arms around me. She pushed the table back, and climbed onto my lap. She stuck her tongue out at me (well, J).

"Monkee's gonna beat your ass, Dorough," she said happily. J looked like he was being squeezed like an orange.

"We'll see about that," he said tensely.

"We'll see."

Unknown McLean Fact #8: We're all competitive guys, but Nick and AJ are the worst. One time they dared each other to see who could slid the farthest barechested down a patch of snow-covered ice. The result? Both the dumbasses ended up with nipple burn.