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Author's Chapter Notes:
AJ & Howie
A/N: Hi everyone! So a couple things before I start this chapter:

1. From now on, I will be posting a note at the beginning of each chapter, letting everyone know whose POV you will be reading from. So, for example, in this chapter we have POVs from AJ first and then Howie. So at the beginning of each chapter I’m simply going to write AJ & Howie. That tells you who you’ll be reading and in what order. Thanks to Lynzer4 for the suggestion! I will also be going back over my earlier chapters and doing it to them too.
2. This chapter has adult themes, specifically in the flashback scene. I suggest something, although it is not made explicit and I do not outright mention it. If I haven’t scared you away, happy readings!

Chapter Twenty-One: Making Plans and Being Spontaneous

Kevin finished his burrito, stretched and stood up.

“I’m wiped,” he said. “I haven’t slept since I arrived.”

“Yeah,” Howie piped up. “Sleep sounds good.”

Howie went to lead the way out of the kitchen, but Kevin stopped him.

“Oh hey, we should go out for dinner tonight,” he said.

“I don’t know Kev,” I said hesitantly.

“It’ll be good to get out, J,” he rebutted. “Tell Nick. We’ll see you guys tonight at seven.”

With that he left. Howie nodded his approval at the suggestion and then followed his older bandmate out of the kitchen.

“Well it was nice of them to ask,” Brian said sarcastically. It was just him and I left in the kitchen now. “But Kevin’s right,” he added. “It’ll be good to get out.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Locking yourself up and away from the real world is not helpful,” Brian insisted.

I nodded. He was right. No matter how shitty I felt right now and no matter how much I just wanted to lock myself in my bedroom, crawl into bed and forget about this shit-storm, in the long run it would do me no good. It would only lead me back into that life of anxiety and depression, of drugs and alcohol.

“You’re right,” I admitted. “It will be good to get out.”

“Why don’t you go up and tell Nick our plans,” Brian suggested.

Before I could answer him, my cell started ringing. I flipped it open and inspected the caller ID.

“It’s my mum,” I moaned.

“Why is she calling you on your cell?” Brian inquired.

“I still haven’t plugged the phone back in,” I said sheepishly. “I’m really lazy okay? I haven’t even cleaned up Nick’s damn cell from the living room.”

Brian just smirked, obviously entertained. I let the phone ring out.

“What were you saying, Rok?”

“I said you should go up and tell Nick our plans for tonight,” he repeated.

“I think you should do that,” I said.

“Howie’s right, you know,” Brian said. “You need to talk to him.”

I didn’t say anything to that.

“Are you scared or something?” Brian asked.

I didn’t say anything to that either. Was I scared? Yes. I was terrified. Because out of all the guys, I should have been there for Nick and I wasn’t. I could have just checked up on him once a week, I could have prevented what he had done to himself. So was I scared? Abso-fucking-lutely. Talking to him would be like facing my faults. I don’t think I can do that.

And then there was that other thing I didn’t want to face: my mum. Who had just decided to ring again.

“Why aren’t you picking it up?” Brian asked. “You guys had a fight?”

I didn’t wait for it to ring out, I hung up.

“She just annoyed me earlier,” I said. “I need some space.”

“Oh, okay,” Brian said cautiously. “Anyway, Nick-“

My cell phone rang again. Fed up, I didn’t even look at the number before I hung up. It was then that I gained the courage I needed to face one of my fears today.

“You know what Brian?” I suddenly had adrenaline pumping through my veins. “I will speak to Nick.”

I stood up from my seat and before Brian could say anything I was marching up the stairs to the second floor. It was like something had come over me that gave me the strength to finally face Nick. I knew that if I stopped for even a second to contemplate this change in me, I would back out. I guess that’s what made me barge into his bedroom without so much as knocking.

“It wasn’t me!”

I probably should have rethought the whole no knocking, barging in thing. He was only lying on the bed writing in a notepad – remind me to tease him about keeping a diary when everything returns to normal – but God knows what he might have been doing instead. Flashes of that time I walked in on him ‘exploring his body’ went through my mind and I inwardly shuddered. To be fair though, he was only like thirteen or fourteen at the time.

“What wasn’t you, Kaos?” I asked playfully, hoping to lessen the tension I knew was coming. Kind of like a pre-emptive strike.

His guilty look had me worried for a second. What had he done? I saw his eyes flicker to the space next to his bed. I went to inspect what he had glanced at and saw my gargoyle shaped lamp smashed into pieces on the floor. I was so relieved it wasn’t a bottle of alcohol or a tub of pills that I didn’t care about the lamp.

“I’ll pay for it,” he said quickly.

I laughed. “That’s okay,” I said. “I didn’t like it much anyway.” It was a lie. That thing was freaking amazing.

We just stayed there staring at each other after that. There was that tension I was talking about and now I was really regretting being so spontaneous before. I wanted to inch out but he was staring at me, expecting me to talk. What the hell was I up here for in the first place?

I started to panic. I had nothing to say. I had forgotten why I was here in the first place. But Nick wouldn’t stop looking at me so I had to say something.

“Want to come to the video rental store with me?”

Why, AJ? Why would you want to prolong this torture?

Nick nodded. “Okay.”

Say what?

“I’ll meet you downstairs in fifteen,” he said.

I left his bedroom feeling a little nervous. I didn’t want to be left alone with Nick! Why the hell did I offer such a stupid thing? I had absolutely no intentions whatsoever of renting a movie, so how the hell did that come out of my mouth? And more importantly, why had Nick taken me up on the offer? I thought he hated me. Wasn’t he just screaming my head off last night?

Brian had migrated to the living room where he was currently parked in front of the TV watching a western.

“How’d it go?” he asked me, turning the TV on mute.

“Huh?” I flopped down beside him on the couch.

“Did he say yes to dinner?”

Oh yeah. That’s why I was up there.

“I didn’t ask,” I admitted. “I kinda got sidetracked.”

Brian had a questioning look on his face. “What happened?” he asked.

“I asked him if he wanted to go to the movie rental store instead,” I said.

Brian’s eyebrows shot up. “First you didn’t even want to talk to him and now you’re going out alone with him,” he whistled. “Moving fast there J,” he laughed.

“Brian,” I could hear the panic in my voice. “I can’t go with him.”

“Why not?” Brian asked, the fun in his voice gone.

I took in a deep breath and voiced what I had been trying to avoid. “Because it’s my fault.”

Brian looked confused. “What is?” he asked.

“All this,” I waved my hands around as if that explained anything. “What happened to Nick.”

Brian looked almost mad. “Wow, that’s incredibly self-centred of you,” he said.

That was not the reaction I was expecting. “What?” I asked, stunned.

“That’s really egotistical of you,” Brian repeated.


“You think you’re the cause of this?” he waved his hands around, mimicking me. “He did this to himself.”

I shook my head. “I could have check on him,” I objected.

“Is that you’re responsibility?” Brian shot back. “I didn’t check up on him either. Why aren’t you blaming me?”

“Because you live in Georgia!” I exclaimed. “And I only live five blocks away!”

“Big deal,” he said. “I could have easily picked up the phone.”

“But the drugs and the alcohol,” I was begging for him to understand. “I did that to him.”

There was moment in which all Brian did was stare at me and then quite suddenly, he burst out laughing.

“Brian!” I was a little offended. Here I am, pouring my heart out and Brian is laughing at me!

“I’m sorry J,” Brian said, calming down, although letting out a few chuckles here and there. “It’s just...I mean, have you ever met the Carter family?”

He had a point.

“That kid was drinking when he was eight,” Brian continued in a much more serious tone.

“Remember when I got him plastered that one time?” my mind once again flashed back to that incident in Canada in 1998. “In Canada?”

“Yeah, I remember that,” Brian said simply. “So what?”

“So what?!” I exclaimed. “I got him drunk! He was drunk for the first time ever!”

Brian sighed. “You know what AJ,” he said, “if it wasn’t with you, it would have been with someone else. Or even maybe just him – alone. He grew up in a culture of drinking, he was bound to end up there.”

I contemplated that for a minute before Brian continued.

“But the truth is you’re just as much to blame as the rest of us,” he said softly. “But the person here who is really at fault, is Nick himself.”

“That’s not fair Brian,” a voice came from the stairs.

I jumped, so scared that it was Nick and we were caught out. But it was only Howie.

“I thought you went for a nap?” I asked.

He ignored me and strode over to us. “That wasn’t fair,” he repeated.

“I think it was pretty fair,” Brian said. “He has to take responsibility for what he’s done.”

Howie nodded. “I agree, but I don’t think blaming him for anything is particularly helpful.”

“Look at the mess he’s gotten himself into,” Brian blurted. “Of course it’s his fault! The drugs, the alcohol, the partying, the house...”

“The house?” I asked. “Didn’t he sell the house?”

Brian looked at me, a little embarrassed. Apparently Brian and Howie were privy to something that I just wasn’t aware of.

“Oh, stop being so sanctimonious Brian,” did that actually come out of Howie’s mouth? “You act like you don’t even care.”

“Of course I care!” Brian jumped up from his seat. “That’s why I’m here. That’s why I argued with my wife – so I could stay here for him. But I am NOT going to just sit back and act as if he’s not to blame for any of this.”

“How about you reserve some judgement until you know the whole story?” Howie asked calmly.

“Whole story?” Brian asked. “What whole story? All I know is that his parents divorced,” he gave me a side-long look before continuing, “and he’s got that other problem. That’s all he’s told me.”

“Well he’s not gonna tell you much more if you blame him for everything,” Howie said.

“Well why don’t you tell me the whole story then?”

“Because it’s not my place.”

There was a rush of footsteps heading down the stairs and we all turned to see Nick jump onto the landing. When he saw Brian and Howie there, poised in what was sure to look like a confrontation, he seemed embarrassed.

“Did I interrupt something?” he asked.

“No Nicky,” Howie said quickly.

“Nope,” Brian mimicked.

“Okay then,” Nick said. I noticed that he was much more comfortable around Brian and Howie now then when I saw him with them last. This gave me a little bit of hope.

He turned to me. “Did you want to go?” he asked cautiously.

I looked over at Brian who nodded encouragingly and Howie, who looked pleasantly surprised.

I gulped. “Sure Kaos,” I said, standing up and grabbing my car keys off the hook on the wall near the front door. “Let’s go.”

When AJ and Nick left, I turned back to Brian.

“Everything will turn out in the end,” I said. “And you’ll have your answers.”

He looked over at me.

“I do care about him, you know,” he said.

I nodded. I shouldn’t have claimed otherwise. “I know,” I assured.

“The thing is, Howie,” he looked sad. “I’m just so angry at him. And a lot of it is resentment.”

“What do you resent?” I asked.

Brian shrugged, a sudden sadness overcoming him. He collapsed on the couch.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess I resent that he took me away from Leighanne and Baylee. That he’s so irresponsible and selfish.”

I could tell there was more.

“What else?” I pushed, going to sit beside him.

He shrugged again. “He didn’t call me!”

I looked at him quizzically and he continued.

“He called Kevin,” he explained.

I quickly realised what he was saying: he was talking about the night we found Nick. “He was completely out of it,” I said.

Brian shook his head. “Yeah he was, but he still wanted to call Kevin,” he said. “He wanted to call Kevin instead of me.”

I didn’t know what say. Brian and Nick had a special relationship that none of us could quite understand. They really took to each other the moment they met. I guess what Brian was feeling now was something similar to how Nick must have felt when Leighanne came into the picture.

“He used to come to me for everything,” Brian continued. “How did we get so estranged?”

“He’s coming around,” I said. “It’s going to take time. Not just with you, but with all of us. We all have healing to do and not just with him.”

“We’ve done so much for him, he doesn’t even know,” Brian said.

That made me a little mad. “We didn’t do what we did – we don’t do what we do – to get thanked,” I said to him.

“No, I know,” Brian said quickly. “But when he looks at me like I’m the last person in the world he wants to see, I can’t help but think what I’ve done for him and how ungrateful he is.”

“He can’t be grateful for things he doesn’t know about,” I said firmly.

“I think he knows,” Brian said.

I turned to look at him, confused.

“Knows what exactly?” I asked.

“About Lou.”

My body froze. “What about Lou?” I asked him cautiously, incredibly scared of where this was going.

Brian looked at me nervously. “Do you think he knows?” was all he asked.

I shook my head. “No,” I said angrily. “And he’s never going to know.”


30th May, 1998

Kevin, Brian and I stepped out of the police station, more nervous than when we stepped in. We began walking down the street.

“I hope we did the right thing,” Brian said after a few minutes had passed.

“We did the right thing,” Kevin assured.

“We should have done it sooner,” I said and they both looked at me sadly. They knew I was right.

“I wonder what will happen now,” Brian pondered.

“They’re going to talk to Nick,” Kevin said. “They did say they would keep us out of it. Tell him they got an anonymous tip.”

“I don’t think he’ll say anything,” Brian said.

“We had to do it anyway,” I said. “We should have done it when AJ first told us.”

“We don’t actually know if it’s true though,” Brian pointed out. “I know this is not the point, but Nick never denied or confirmed it.”

“You’re right, Bri,” Kevin said. “Lou is a slimeball, but that doesn’t mean he did that.”

“No,” I agreed. “But it is kind of suss. I mean Nick would go over there for sleepovers – just him and Lou. And having us call him Big Poppa? Even if he didn’t do it, he was still really inappropriate.”

“Yeah, you’re right D,” Kevin nodded. “I’m just glad he’s finally out of our lives. We can move on now, now that we’ve settled.”

“We can’t move on, not until the police have interviewed Nick,” I pointed out.

There was a silence as we thought about that. The detective we had spoken to informed us they would interview Nick within the week. It was going to be a very long week for the three of us.

“I hope we did the right thing,” Brian repeated.

“We should have done it sooner,” I said.


A/N: Another chapter up and another chapter closer to finishing. Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed! Thanks to PaulaKTBPA, Lynzer4, KimberlyCan, KeepThisSecret, Mare and emeraldbecca1991. I cannot believe I have 75 reviews!! That is so awesome so thanks to everyone! Love getting all the feedback! Again, I should be back with another chapter this time next week. In the meantime, wish me luck because I am writing another chapter for my thesis on cannibalism and it is slightly grossing me out. Haha Much love.