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Chapter 8

I woke up and curled up closer to Aj. I nuzzled his neck until he woke up and acknowledged me with a sleepy eye

“Entertain me!” I commanded as he chuckled

“It’s so early. You’re crazy” He said with a yawn while grabbing his phone to check the time “We have another hour to sleep”

“Or we could use that hour to shower” I offered as he squinted at me

“Before we dance? Doesn’t that seem a little counterintuitive?” He asked and I grinned a little at his slow morning mind

“I wasn’t so worried about being clean as maybe being dirty…” I said innocently as he caught on and smirked

“You are perfect for me, you know that?” He said kissing me on the lips. I pulled back a tiny bit and inched him off of the bed and into the bathroom. I took off the boxers I was wearing that were Aj’s which left me in a wife beater with my black bra (both of which I had pulled on in the middle of the night when I woke up cold) and a matching pair of black underwear. He stripped to his boxers and turned on the water. I stepped in and watched Aj’s face as the white wife beater turned see-through. “God you’re amazingly sexy”

“Come join me” I said seductively as he climbed in. Naturally the hour was spent with much making out in the water. We took turns soaping each other down over our underwear which was quite entertaining but finally we had to succumb to the clock. I stripped secretly in the corner and threw a towel around me before going to the steps of the bus and seeing my dance bag packed for me. The note on top made me roll my eyes even though no one was around to see it. It said “tonight you’re mine”

“What are we going to do about that?” Aj asked reading the note over my shoulder. I shrugged.

“I figure I’ll just sneak over here once she’s done with whatever she wants to do” I said with a grin “I don’t think I can sleep without you next to me anymore anyway”

“At least it’s not just me then” He said with relief as I gave him a peck on the cheek and then shut myself in his room to get changed. I changed into a long sleeved white and black varsity style shirt and some tight black dance shorts. Then I put on some knee high socks that were black with white stripes on the top and placed a netted old school style baseball hat sideways over my braids which had stayed pretty much intact through the night. Mollee sure knew how to dress me. I forced my flip flops on over the socks and walked out to a grinning Aj. “Sometimes I’m not sure you can get any more adorable and then you walk out in an outfit like that”

“Thank Mollee, she picked it out” I said giving him a kiss on the cheek and taking his hand so we could walk together to rehearsal. As we got closer to the studio I saw a familiar brunette walking out the door and I dropped Aj’s hand to rush to meet him. “Hey! Josh!”

“Kat! Hi! I was looking for you” He said as I smiled a little. He discreetly gave me a head to toe sweep and I watched the appreciation register in his face. I have to let Mollee dress me more often “You look cute”

“Thanks! What did you want?” I asked as Aj caught up with us

“I was looking to see if you might be dancing this morning. I wanted to bring you this. You probably already have it but I figured if you were here and dancing that maybe you could dance to this and I could watch…” He trailed off nervously as I took the burned CD from him.

“Midsummer! Oh I love this ballet!” I said glancing up at his excited expression

“Yeah, it’s Mendelssohn and it was choreographed in the 60s by-” He started but I cut him off

“Balanchine, I know! Gosh it’s one of my favorites. Thank you so much!” I gushed and I felt Aj’s hand on my back. I turned to him and saw some emotion flash across his face that was new to me but I brushed it aside and giggled “Sorry, Aj this is Josh, Josh this is Aj. I told you I met a roadie, right Aj? Well here he is!”

“Josh, at your service” Josh joked and Aj hardly cracked a smile

“Aj, her boyfriend” He said as I registered what emotion I had seen. It was jealousy. I hit him lightly and gave Josh a quick hug.

“We have to run but thank you so much! Are you free around 6? That’s when we get out and I could dance the bit that I know from this” I said as Aj cleared his throat

“Aren’t you spending time with Mollee tonight?” He said and I sighed

“Well she can wait a bit so Josh can see me enjoy his present. She won’t mind. Are you free?” I asked again as Aj sent out as many unfriendly vibes as he could.

“I am. Meet you here at six?” He asked. Either he was completely unfazed by Aj or unwilling to show it but he acted as if Aj wasn’t standing protectively next to me with his hand pressing harder and harder down on my shoulder.

“See you then!” I said excitedly before dragging Aj into the studio and then turning to him when we were alone “That was not very attractive”

“Well he likes you. It’s obvious. He should know where you stand. Where do you stand anyway?” He asked as I rolled my eyes

“You are ridiculous. I stand right here, next to you” I said and he looked away. Suddenly I remembered the portion of our conversation from last night where he confessed his ex had cheated on him. My annoyance evaporated and I placed my hand lightly on his cheek to direct his gaze to my eyes. “I am yours and only yours. I just met Josh-”

“You just met me” Aj scowled

“Well he’s fun because he knows a lot about ballet and music. That’s all. He fits that little niche in my life. You fit a much bigger niche. It’s more of a hole than a niche. It’s like a sink hole, getting bigger all the time.” I explained and he laughed a little

“Good analogy. I’m the sink hole of your life” He said but smiled all the same “I’m sorry”

“We’ve all got past, right?” I repeated his words back to him and he kissed my head. We walked over to my corner and I kicked off my flip flops, figuring I’d dance in the socks today.

“Have fun last night?” Mollee asked putting her stuff next to mine

“I sure did. Thanks for making me look so cute, I’m getting compliments left and right” I said squeezing her in a hug. “Oh and do you want to ballet with me after rehearsal?”

“Why?” She asked. Ballet was never her favorite thing.

“Josh, that roadie I met, gave me a copy of midsummer and I promised I’d show him what I remembered before we spend our night together” I said hoping she wouldn’t be mad

“Oh. Well I’ll let you dance for him then. Just come straight to me when you’re done. No stopping off with him” She said pointing at Aj who pouted at her and she laughed “It’s not that you’re so bad, I just miss her”

“I can share” He said innocently causing me to laugh

“Sure you can” I said sarcastically. Fly bounded in and I ran to Brian’s side, skidding in my socks so he had to catch me before I fell over

“SAFE!” He said like an umpire as I giggled at him “Cute outfit”

“Thanks” I grinned

“Alright everyone today we will finish up the rest of the choreography that includes both the guys and the dancers, God willing. Then we’ll have a few days of review and then the schedule will change a bit. But for now let’s get ready for Bye Bye Love” Fly said as we cheered

“I can’t believe we almost know everything!” I said excitedly as Brian sighed

“You know almost everything. We have another half a show to learn. I’m so tired!” He exclaimed leaning all his weight on me which I staggered under

“Bri!” I warned as he almost squished me. He pulled himself back up to a standing position. Bye Bye Love was an adorable dance. We were only in the first half but it had lots of cute little moves and involved Brian, Nick, Mollee, and I all up front together acting the verses for the most part. We had a blast and Fly dismissed the dancers for an early lunch while he taught the guys their part for the end. I took Mollee’s hand and grabbed a bagel before sitting with the other girls.

“So tell me about this Josh” She said as she took a bite of her sandwich

“He’s a roadie, he’s adorable and he knows all about ballet” I said as she smirked

“Aj doesn’t like him, huh?” She asked

“Why do you say that?”

“He’s a guy. That you like. That knows about stuff he doesn’t and that you want to spend time with. Just a hunch” She said as I frowned at my bagel

“Is that bad?” I asked and she threw her arm around me

“Little sis there is much you still need to know about men” She said as I ducked out from under her arm. I hated when she lorded her age and supposed experience over me.

“Aj doesn’t care that I’m close with Brian” I said as she sighed superiorly and I fought the urge to smack her

“Brian is married”

“Nick then”

“Nick is dating your sister. They are both non-threatening. This is an unknown force. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be friends with Josh, quite the contrary, I think it’s good for you to have other people in your life. I’m just saying that it may take Aj a while to get used to it. And they probably won’t be best friends” She advised as I took a bite of my bagel

“Boys are stupid” I said and she laughed

“Damn straight” She agreed. The guys joined us for a little bit of lunch and Aj was normal considering how tense he had been in the morning. The fact that Josh wasn’t with us probably helped. We walked back in to the studio to learn Straight through my heart and Fly looked us all up and down before he started talking

“Ok so this dance has some acting in it” Fly started

“Let’s hope it’s not Kat again” Nick snickered and I threw my gum wrapper at him

“But we need to get through it today so I need you all to try and hold it together” Fly said as we all looked at each other and started giggling. This was going to be challenging. “Ok, I just need the girls first” Fly said as we stood up. The basic gist was that we were criminals stealing various things and the boys would come in as the police. Our dance acting started to the 007 theme which was fun and Mollee and I got to be featured in front. When it broke down into a hip hop segment we all had a blast, really able to show off our own moves without toning it down for the boys. They were great singers and everything but we were happy to stretch our dancing muscles and really show off. I could tell Aj was impressed with my moves and I had a blast dancing just for him. Then I got to stay on stage a bit longer and fake fight with Brian until Nick came on. Then the guys learned their segment without us and Aj sang straight to me as usual which had me feeling all kinds of good. Overall it was a good rehearsal which actually wasn’t too dance heavy for us so I was totally ready when six came and I was strapping on my point shoes.

“Can I watch too?” Aj asked shyly as I warmed up my ankles

“That depends. Are you going to be nice?” I asked as he sighed

“I guess I’ll have to be” He said with a pout. I stood up on point and was about level with him so I kissed him lightly.

“I love you” I said which made him grin from ear to ear

“Love you too” He said as I heard the door shut behind me. I turned to see Josh come in awkwardly and I had to laugh. He had worse timing than I did!

“Are you ready to see some sick ballet?” I asked as he smiled

“Always” He said pulling a seat over near where Aj was sitting but still a good five feet away from him. Boys are impossible. The music started and it took me a while to cue it to a portion that I knew some choreography to but I got there eventually. It felt good to be doing some more serious ballet and I relished in each extension as my body stretched and all the stress I had flowed out. I could feel the tension emanating from the boys but once I got really into what I was doing the world disappeared. I went into a turn sequence and couldn’t hide my grin as I landed the end pose perfectly and looked up at the two guys who had forgotten to hate each other in the presence of the ballet. Dance has such power sometimes.

“That’s all I know off hand. I’m sure I could learn some more or come up with something. I mean it would be no Balanchine…” I trailed off as Josh stood up and gave me a quick hug.

“It was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing it. I’ll let you get back to your sister” He said shyly. I nodded and he headed out. Then Aj’s arms were around me and I giggled as he planted kisses all down my neck.

“You’re a really beautiful dancer” He said once he was able to meet my eyes.

“Thanks babe” I said sitting to change out of my shoes

“Do you hate that I can’t talk ballet with you? That I don’t know who composed that music or what on Earth you mean by Balanchine?” He asked with concern in his eyes. I smiled and reminded myself to be patient

“Does it bother you that I can’t carry a tune and don’t know the difference between your harmony and Howie’s?” I asked hoping to make a point

“Ok. I’m sorry. I’ll settle down” He said as I took his hand and we walked together over to the bus

“It’s ok, I understand. It’s kind of cute that you’re so worried that any guy could take me from you”

“It is a little ridiculous, huh?” He asked as we approached the bus

“A little” I said leaning in for a kiss. As always we were broken apart by my lovely sister clearing her throat.

“Say goodnight, you’re coming with me!” She said as I smirked

“Goodnight my love” I whispered

“Sweet dreams” He said turning and reluctantly walking away.

“What are we doing tonight?” I asked as Mollee all but dragged me to the front lounge

“Having sister time. I want to make shirts!” She said giddily as I laughed. Mollee and I had been to every dance studio imaginable and most of the time the studios didn’t have enough money for proper costumes for each dance number so dancers got really good at creating sweet outfits that would match and look good on stage. Of course since we had moved to New York we hadn’t needed to make our own stuff but apparently Mollee was feeling nostalgic.

“You are crazy. Shall I drive to get some tie dye?” I asked as she nodded happily and threw me the keys which I caught in an amazing move of coordination. We hurried into the car and I turned on the ignition. Aj’s solo album blared out of the speakers causing Mollee to shoot me a look before turning it down “Hey it’s good music”

“You have no idea how to have a healthy relationship” She teased as we drove off the lot.

“Well you’re dating a coworker. That’s not healthy” I retorted defensively

“So are you!” She shot back

“Not the one I’m with all day. I hardly see Aj in rehearsal” I explained as Mollee, in a perfect imitation of me, rolled her eyes

“The only reason you’re not dating the one you’re dancing with is because he’s married” Mollee said and I punched her in the arm

“Don’t be mean to me” I pouted and she punched me back causing me to swerve a little in the road “And don’t make me crash this car”

“I’m sorry. I just think you and Aj could stand to slow things down a bit” Mollee said and I shot her a look “Hey, I like him and everything. He treats you well but you two are just so intense. It’s a little scary for me to watch”

“I understand your concern and I feel it sometimes too but when I’m with him it’s just like everything is right. I know who I am. I’m not so nervous. Besides you he’s the one person who knows everything about my past and still loves me enough to deal with it” I said staring determinedly at the road

“I know you have trouble making friends of any kind and I know I’ll never understand what that’s like” She conceded which made me sit up and pay attention “I just saw you get in over your head with a guy before and I don’t want something like that to happen again”

“Aj is nothing like Rich” I said sternly and Mollee fell silent for a minute

“Kat” She said cautiously, obviously trying to word something difficult “I don’t think Aj would ever do what Rich did. But if you let yourself get absorbed by someone again you open yourself up for the possibility. They say that victims of these kinds of things often search out similar situations in an effort to cope-”

“You’ve been reading too many psychiatry books” I said impatiently “I’m not searching out anything. I wasn’t searching when I found Aj. He was just there. What we have is completely unexplainable”

“Ok. Just be on guard please. Hang out with the other guys a bit. Maybe eat lunch with Sophie.”

“I am capable of making friends. I found Josh” I said as she smiled

“You sure did. And how hot is he?!” Mollee sighed as I grinned

“He certainly has something” I said as we pulled into the store. We got some supplies for tie dye and some fabric markers and drove back without too much more conversation of my relationship with Aj. When we got back to the bus we forced Sophie and Camie to join us and we had a blast making a mess behind the bus on the pavement. Mollee and Camie were still quite cold to each other but she was warming up a little to me. Sophie worked as a great buffer and was sweet as always. We had the girls’ night we had wanted a few nights ago without incident and when I went to bed Mollee looked pleased with my ability to have fun without Aj around. I laid in my bunk and looked at my phone, fully intending to text Aj that as soon as the coast was clear that I’d be sneaking out to see him but then I began to think about Mollee’s concerns. Maybe it would be good for me not to spend the night over there. Just to prove that I could. I sent him a text saying that Mollee was holding me hostage and he sent back his disappointment with an invitation to bring Mollee to a press junction that the guys had tomorrow morning. Seeing the publicity side of things sounded exciting so I agreed and fell asleep happily anticipating the next day.

“Molls! Wake up!” I shook Mollee early the next morning and she groaned and rolled over

“No. No rehearsal this morning. I sleep” She said groggily

“Want to come out with the guys and watch some interviews? It could be fun!” I said as she opened one eye and surveyed me cautiously “Nick will be there”

“I don’t make my decisions based on the presence or lack thereof of one Nick Carter” She said pointedly but grinned all the same and hopped out of her bunk with newfound energy. I had to laugh at her.
“We’ve got 15 minutes to meet by Nick’s bus and they’ll drive us to the hotel where all this is happening” I said eagerly as Mollee nodded
“Why are you so in the know about this?” She asked standing in the clothes room as we both tried to figure out what to wear
“Aj texted me last night” I said and Mollee sighed “Hey! I stayed and slept here alone when I could have snuck out! We only texted a bit”
“Ok I guess that’s a start” She said as I frowned at her stubbornness. You would think I was just some irresponsible love sick teenager. I buried my frustration when Mollee suggested that we try to match and that we wear the shirts we made yesterday. We both dressed in jeans and boots and then pulled on the matching dance shirts we had made. We had cut open the huge shirts they had given us and then weaved suede chord through the sides so it gave a provocative view of our silhouettes. Mine was white and blue tie dye with black wording and hers was white and pink tie dye with black wording but they both said the same thing. “Do what you love. Dance” We took turns braiding each other’s hair into pig tails and put on matching baseball hats. We ran out, a little late for Aj’s rendezvous time and we rushed into the van that would take everyone to the hotel.

“Kat! You’re coming!” Brian said happily as I got in and slid next to Aj in the back seat. Mollee slid in next to me and Nick slid next to her. “And Mollee is here! This will be fun”

“We just can’t handle even a day apart from you guys” Mollee joked as she hugged Nick tightly.

“I missed you” Aj whispered to me as I looked into his eyes. They were alight with the excitement of the day and seeing me and it was all I could do to keep from jumping him right there. “This shirt is adorable”

“Thanks. We made it” Mollee butt in as I rolled my eyes.

“I’m glad you guys had fun” Aj said kissing my nose lightly causing me to smile like an idiot. Suddenly from the seat in front of us I felt Brian’s hand as he swiped my hat

“Hey!” I said trying to grab for it as he stuck it on his head

“How do I look?” He asked with a grin as I launched myself at him. In the battle for the hat a random elbow went off course and landed on Aj’s forearm.

“Oh I’m so sorry!” I said leaning back victorious with my hat on my head as I studied Aj’s wound. It was starting to bruise and I kissed it. “All better?”

“All better” He confirmed as I smiled. Finally we arrived at the hotel and were quickly herded inside so the guys could set up while Mollee and I pulled up chairs out of the camera’s view. The room seemed very crowded as people ran around adjusting the guys’ microphones and make up. A stylist worked hard on Brian’s hair to fix what we had wrecked in the back of the van and he stuck his tongue out at me from behind her back as I gloated that I was comfortable and not being prodded.

“Can you imagine all those people swarming you?” Mollee whispered to me as Nick threw her a helpless look when a sound guy tried to attach his microphone to his shirt all while a makeup lady was powdering his face

“Not at all” I said as everyone started to clear out to begin the first interview. It started off controlled enough, but like anything involving Brian, things quickly got out of hand. First Nick was asked a question about working as a solo artist and he started to answer truthfully and then he started talking about the beatings the media always gave the guys and out of nowhere Aj whipped out his arm and showed a huge bruise.

“Yeah it hurts, a lot” Aj said pointedly towards me “And it itches a lot”

“Butthead” I pouted as Aj stuck out his tongue at me. That was all Brian needed to begin to spin the interview out of control. Nick was fielding another question about group arguments and Aj and Brian started whipping their heads towards me and back to each other as Nick tried not to get distracted. I started giggling and Mollee had to cover my mouth with her hand. Then Nick got sick of being the mature one and started trying to throw Brian under the bus with every question. He insisted that Brian only liked to listen to Norah Jones and then his voice cracked as he started talking about the ups and downs in relationships and everyone lost it, clearing their throats to make fun of him. Nick brought it back down for a moment when he mentioned Brian and Howie had been lucky enough to find women to marry and implied that he and Aj were headed in a similar direction. Mollee and I blushed identically which caused everyone to crack up again. Brian and Nick started singing about holding coffee cups and harmonizing while Aj tried to talk and Howie tried to get them under control but only got sucked in when they started talking about who the unofficial leader of the group was.

“We’re a team. And there’s no ‘I’ in team” Nick said trying to bring it back to the topic

“There’s an e, a, and an m” Brian said as Nick sighed, his hopes for saving even a tiny portion of interview dashed

“If there was an I it would be Tim” Aj corrected as I groaned at his horrible pun and Brian high fived him

“That was a good one dude!” Brian said as everyone laughed. Finally the last question was asked about what to expect for the new tour and Howie got an evil glint in his eye.

“Well we are bringing dancers with us again” He started and I shook my head. If he thought he could get us on camera he was crazy

“We actually have some with us now” Brian said catching on as I shook my head more vigorously

“They even match!” Nick said and Mollee jumped up, eager to be in the spotlight but I put my head in my hands

“Sisters Kat and Mollee everyone” Aj introduced and Mollee pulled me in front of the camera and waved as I waved shyly from behind her

“We often force members of the tour to dress alike so we know they’re ours” Brian said as I pushed him lightly and he pretended he had been socked in the face. I crept out of the view of the camera and wrapped my knees up to my chin in embarrassment, vowing revenge. The rest of the interviews were similar to the first. Howie tried desperately to keep the other three on task but there was a lot of squirming and singing while other people were talking. All in all it was a real blast and while Howie kept trying to get Mollee and me on camera mostly we just provided a laugh track to the guys’ antics.

The day flew by and before we knew it we were in the van heading home as the sky darkened while the sun sank slowly beneath the horizon. Aj was holding me on his lap and I was resting my head on his chest, staring out the window to watch the sunset when I felt him press his lips sweetly to the top of my head. I tilted my head up and pouted, wordlessly demanding a kiss on the lips and he obliged. The world dropped away as it always did and I was sucked into Aj’s touch as we made out in the back of the van. The van must have stopped at some point because the next thing I knew Aj was laying me carefully down on the back seat while kissing me passionately. I wouldn’t have noticed if not for the effort required to keep balanced on the seat. Once I realized what was happening, I pulled back a little to survey the scene. It was almost entirely dark and no one was in the van with us. I squinted, trying to remember how we’d arrived in this position and Aj smirked

“You’re so cute when you’re puzzled. What’s wrong?” He asked smoothing the wrinkles that appeared at the bridge of my nose and between my eyes when I was confused.

“When exactly did everyone leave?” I asked

“I don’t know, I was distracted” He said attempting to kiss me again but I stopped him

“We have to stop losing time like this, it can’t be healthy or normal” I said as Mollee’s words from yesterday drifted into my consciousness

“Why are you so worried about normal?” Aj asked between planting sweet kisses on my neck. I moaned a little in a pleasure but reluctantly stopped him and sat up. Aj sighed knowing I wasn’t going to drop this and sat up as well facing me.

“Seriously, doesn’t it worry you that we are moving so fast and furious?” I asked with concern

“Honestly I’m not worried. I’ve never felt like this before and I just don’t want it to end. Sometimes I feel like our time is limited and that thought is more than I can bear. I’m not rushing you, am I?” He asked meeting my eyes

“No no, you are very good and staying in my comfort zone. What do you mean you feel like our time is limited?” I asked leaning my head into his chest as he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me to him

“I don’t know, I can’t explain it. You’re just so good for me, you have no idea, and maybe it’s my problem but I just feel like it can’t stay like this forever. That we have a timeline and I have to get all the good parts in before something terrible happens” Aj said sadly

“Aj” I sighed and maneuvered myself on top of him so I could straddle his lap and meet his eyes “No matter what I’ll always be here for you”

“I know. I’m just really good at messing things up” Aj confessed and I kissed him lightly on the lips

“Well I don’t know about all of that. But I do know that you are everything to me and that it is terrifying but also the best feeling in the world. I’m not alone in the world anymore. I have you” I said as a small smile came to his lips

“I know the feeling” Aj said sweetly pulling me into a tight hug “Are you allowed to stay with me tonight?”

“Absolutely” I said as he helped me out of the van and we walked in a comfortable silence towards his bus. I was about to go in when he stopped me

“You know I’ll be here for you too. Always, no matter what” He said seriously searching my eyes

“I know” I said before pulling him into my lips.