- Text Size +
AN: Thanks so much for the reviews! Thanks to KimberlyCan, libragurl and nycki02! Loving the feedback and want to say thanks so much for keeping up with the story even after such a long break!

Chapter Thirteen: Day Off

Brian and AJ had gone to bed just after midnight. AJ was getting anxious. He kept bouncing his knees up and down and whenever he thought no one was paying attention, he would focus on his breathing. I sympathised with him – after everything he had been through, this was the last thing he needed: the worry of one of his closest friends making the same mistakes he had made.

Brian went up with AJ. He hadn’t been in a good mood since he got off the phone with Leighanne. Granted, he hadn’t been in the best moods before then either, but after that call, he was even more sullen. I was not surprised. I knew Leighanne wouldn’t be happy to hear that Brian was staying for a couple of nights. So that left Kevin and me, sitting at the kitchen table and taking in as much caffeine as possible to stay awake.

Kevin was being silent – more so than usual. When AJ and Brian went to bed, he made a call to Kristin, the hour be damned. When he had returned, his demeanour mirrored that of Brian’s. I was curious as to why. I knew Kristin would have no problem with Kevin being Florida for a week or so, so it had to be something else.

“You should go to bed, D,” Kevin said, the first words he had spoken to me in an hour. “You haven’t had a proper sleep since this whole...shit happened.”

I shook my head. “I want to be here when Nick gets back.” In truth, I was scared what Kevin might do to Nick if I wasn’t there to stop it.

“If he even comes back,” Kevin muttered.

“He’ll be back,” I assured. “All his stuff’s here.”

Kevin didn’t look convinced. “Once the sun is up, I’m going over to his,” he said. “And if he still hasn’t shown up by nine, I’m calling the cops.”

I looked at my watch. It was three-thirty. Hurry up Nicky!

“What do you plan on doing, Kev?” I asked. I felt it might have come across as a little too aggressive, but Kevin had that look in his eyes – the ‘I’m gonna beat this kid bloody for making me worry’ look.

“I plan on setting him straight,” Kevin replied as if that explained everything.

“Because that had worked so well last time,” I said it sarcastically, annoyed at Kevin’s response.

“Is there something you want to say to me Howie?” Kevin looked taken aback by my attitude. I didn’t blame him – I had gone from reassuring to snarky in less than a minute.

“I just don’t think shouting at him is the right way to go,” I replied.

“I didn’t shout at him,” Kevin objected.

“No,” I agreed. “But you were intimidating. You were demanding and aggressive. Nicky’s only going to react to that in a way that he’s used to – yelling, screaming and punching.”

“What am I supposed to do Howie?” oh no, Kevin’s voice had broken. “How am I supposed to react to him taking PCP?”

“Maybe we should try to understand what’s been going on with him in the past couple of years,” I suggested softly. “Maybe it’s about trying to get back that trust. He’s mad at us,” it was plain to see. “And if we just scream at him that’s only going to push him further down the path he’s already on.”

“It worked with AJ,” Kevin sounded defeated.

“No, you telling him you wanted nothing to do with him anymore is what worked,” I corrected. “And if you do that with Nick – well, AJ had his mum. Who does Nick have?”

Kevin looked as if he were battling with my words in his head.

“What’s happening with Nick is different than what was going on with AJ,” I continued. “AJ had a support base. He had us, he had his mum. No one has really been in contact with him for two years. I don’t know what’s going on with Jane, but –“

“Bob divorced her,” Kevin interrupted.

“What?” This was news to me.

“Bob divorced Jane,” Kevin repeated.

“When?” I spluttered.

“I only found out today,” Kevin said. “When I rang Kristin before. Apparently they divorced a year ago.”

That explained the mood change after he had taken the call. “How come I haven’t heard about this?”

“Because no one knew,” Kevin said. “Kristin found out on a website today. Apparently Jane contacted a tabloid trying to explain Nick’s behaviour away with the divorce.”

I sat there looking down at the cup of coffee I nursed in my hands, suddenly not knowing what to say. All I could think was ‘that poor kid’.

“I was going to, you know,” Kevin said softly.

I looked up. “What?”

“I was going to,” Kevin repeated. “I was going to tell him ‘no more’.” There was that break in his voice again. “I was going to tell him I don’t want to know him anymore.”

“And now?”

“You’re right D,” Kevin looked exhausted. “It won’t work on him like it did on AJ.”


July 7, 2001

“Kevin, slow down!”

“Shut up Brian!”

“It was just a baseball game! Can’t you let it go?”

“No, Nick! He promised he’d be there!”

I looked out the window as Kevin sped down the main road. The other cars seemed to be going at a snail’s pace compared to the one we were in.

“Kevin! SLOW DOWN!”

Kevin didn’t take any notice of his cousin and I glanced at him from my position in the front passenger seat. Kevin was outraged. He was going to do some serious damage. I was in no mood to stop him. This needed to happen.

“Nick, put your seatbelt on!” Brian yelled from the backseat. There was a click.

“What’s the plan Kev?” I asked.

“Enough’s enough,” Kevin growled as our hotel came into view. “This ends today.” He pulled up at the front of the hotel and we all got out. He gave the keys to the valet and rushed inside.

“Can’t we just talk about this first?” Brian asked as Kevin went straight for the stairs, bypassing the elevators.

“There’s nothing to talk about Brian,” Kevin said as he took the stairs two at a time.

“Yeah? What are you going to do? Just let it go!” Nick shouted. “Why do you have to be such a jackass?”

Kevin ignored the insult. I turned to Nick who was lagging behind the rest of us and stopped him from going further up the stairs.

“Nick, go back to your room,” I said. “You don’t want to see this.”

He just growled and pushed past me.

When we made it to AJ’s floor, Kevin and Brian were waiting for us. I found that a bit odd. Considering the pace Kevin was going, I would have thought he would head straight for AJ’s room.

“I need to know you got my back,” Kevin said in a low voice, the fire in his eyes never lessening. “We need to be in this together.”

“I can’t be a part of this,” Brian shook his head. “It’s wrong.”

“No,” I said, making it quite clear that I was with Kevin on this. “What’s wrong, Brian, is if we ignore it any longer. We should have done this ages ago. He needs to know that he can’t continue like this.”

“Howie’s right,” Kevin said, a bit more softly now. “This is not about some stupid baseball game or him missing recording sessions anymore. This is about the person he has become. About what those things are doing to him!”

Brian swallowed, looking uncertain.

“Rok, this needs to happen,” I pushed and slowly he nodded.

“Nick,” Kevin turned to the youngest. “Are you in or are you out?”

Nick looked flushed, his mouth slightly open. He raised his hands and clutched them in fists in his hair. He looked slightly panicked.

“Kevin, just think about this...”

That seemed to send Kevin off again and he turned around and marched to AJ’s room.

Quickly forgetting about Nick, Brian and I followed closely behind Kevin. When we reached AJ’s room, the door was slightly open. This did not surprise me, but it did make me uneasy.

“AJ!” Kevin slammed the door open and stormed inside, taking in the hotel room which mirrored the set up of a one bedroom apartment: there was a kitchenette, a small living room, a bathroom and a bedroom. Kevin headed straight for the bedroom, AJ appearing to be nowhere else. “AJ!” he attempted to open it but when he found it locked he banged on the door. “AJ open this damn door!”

There was silence for a millisecond and then Kevin started banging furiously again. That uneasy feeling was starting to intensify. Why hadn’t he answered yet? Maybe he couldn’t answer? Maybe he was unconscious. Just when I was convinced he was dead, a shout came at us from the other side of the door.

“Go away!”

“Open this door!” Kevin screamed back.

“Fuck off!”

Kevin’s face contorted in rage and before I knew what was happening, Kevin’s foot had impacted with the door and we had entry into the bedroom. I will never forget the scene in front of me in that moment and judging by the look on Kevin’s face, neither would he.

AJ lay on his bed, completely and utterly high. Fast food wrappers littered the floors but that was nothing new. What struck me was the amount of prescription and illegal drugs that sat on the bedside table and the empty bottles of alcohol that were scattered across the room. Thinking back to how the kitchen and living room looked, I realised this is where AJ did all his drinking and drugs. This wasn’t good.

Upon our entry, AJ tumbled out of bed and stood up. He was only wearing his undies. I tried not to notice the tourniquet that was still tied around his arm.

“What the FUCK?”

“Where the hell were you today?” Kevin shouted, walking further into the room and standing just arm’s length away from AJ.

“It’s my day off,” AJ screamed back.

“You promised to be there!”

“No, you TOLD me to be there!”

There was silence as Kevin stared down AJ.

“Kevin,” I don’t think anyone but me heard Brian’s soft call. I looked over at him. His eyes were wide and he looked absolutely petrified. He stood with his back to the wall, leaning on it as if for support. I shook my head at him – this needed to happen.

The stare-off ended when AJ lay back down on the bed. That’s all Kevin needed to completely set him off.

“What the fuck is going on here?” he picked up a bottle from the bed. “What is this?” he turned to the bedside table and picked up what I was sure was a clear plastic pouch filled with cocaine. “Is this who you are now?”

AJ sat back up and attempted to reach for the pouch, but Kevin held it away.

“That’s mine!” AJ’s screamed.

Kevin hurled the bottle he was still holding across the room with such strength that it crashed against the wall. There was a strangled scream from behind me and I turned just in time to see a flurry of movement and Nick’s form leaving the room.

“GET OUT!” AJ screamed, suddenly lunging at Kevin.

Kevin simply pushed AJ’s small frame back on the bed and threw the pouch of cocaine on top of him.

“If I walk out that door, we’re done!” Kevin growled. “You are DONE!”

“I hate you!” AJ spat. “Get. The. Fuck. Out!”

Kevin turned his back on AJ and stalked past Brian and me. Reaching the doorway, he paused for just a second and then, surprising all of us in the room, probably even himself, he threw his fist into the wall. He turned around.

“You are dead to me,” he said before walking out.

Brian and I stood there, looking at AJ. I hoped he would ask for help, start crying and telling me he’s found the error of his ways. But instead all he did was sit up, stare at us and then when he thought we had just planted ourselves in the room, he picked up another beer bottle and threw it in our direction. It landed at Brian’s feet. That’s all I needed. I turned my back on him and walked out.

I found Nick standing in the living room, the door to the hotel room open. Kevin had left. Nick was standing there with the most pathetic look on his face. His hands were in his hair and his eyes were wet.

“Howie?” he asked uncertainly.

I didn’t have time to console him. I wanted to get out of that room as fast as I could. I had to mourn a friend.

“I told you to go back to your room, Nick,” I said, as I passed him by and walked out.


A/N: So I hope you all enjoyed that! Please feel free to leave me critiques if something is off! Next chapter there will be no flashback, just so I can get the story moving. I want to finish this story sometime in the next year lol Thanks again to those who have reviewed and those who have read! xxx