Nick and Brian had put off talking about Leighanne and the kiss for a while and just focused on the group, although Nick wanted to know what was going to happen between them so he decided that today was a good time to talk about it.
“Do you think all this work is going to pay off soon, Brian?” Nick asked to start a conversation when they were on their tour bus after a particularly grueling show day. They had interviews and press beforehand so there really wasn’t any downtime other then when they could eat really quickly or sneak in a nap.
“I can’t say for sure, but I’d like to think we will. Remember what Lou said? We will be larger than life and living in one of those huge mansions like he has before you know it. We’ll blow our noses with hundred dollar bills and order pizza on gold trays.” Brian smiled.
Nick seemed to contemplate this for a moment before he made a face.
“Dude, that kinda sounds gross. Why would you blow your nose on money?”
“I’m not saying we really will...it’s just an expression, you goober.” Brian laughed as he nudged Nick in the side.
“I’m not a goober, you’re a goober!” Nick giggled, pouncing on top of Brian. They play wrestled until a voice made them look up.
“Having fun, boys?”
Nick stopped what he was doing when he spotted Lou, and Brian thought this was a little off considering he always thought Nick liked their manager. Lou was always friendly toward them and their families, getting them whatever they needed and throwing their birthday parties at his house. He would send them planes and limos to pick them up. It kind of gave them the taste of a much better life and after seeing how Nick lived, Brian thought that Lou’s house seemed like Disneyland.
“Hi, Lou.” Nick said in a less than enthusiastic tone.
Their manager smiled at both of them and continued to the back of the bus where Nick’s mom was tidying up the bunk area.
“Nick, is everything okay?” Brian asked. Nick looked at the floor, as if he were thinking of something to say.
“Yeah...yeah, everything's fine. No problem.” Nick sighed.
Brian made a mental note to keep an eye on Nick when Lou was around because he sensed something was definitely wrong.
“So are we ever going to talk about what happened in Cocoa Beach, or are we going to keep skirting around it?” Nick whispered, making sure that Lou or his mother were nowhere in hearing distance of their conversation. They’d resumed their seats at the little kitchen table towards the front of the bus and started a game of Go Fish with a deck of cards Kevin had left there.
“What is there to say, Nick? I told you, I don’t have any feelings for you.” Brian lied. His chest was bothering him and he brushed it off again.
“Why are you making that face? Are you okay?”
“It’s nothing.” Brian lied, feeling anxious again. He hated when people pointed out things that were wrong with him, or when he was doing something wrong. Brian was a perfectionist. Imperfection made him upset.
Nick looked around to see if anyone was listening and started whispering so only Brian could hear. They could hear Nick’s mother and Lou talking by the bunk area about Aaron and the Europe tour.
“No, something is wrong with you. You were like this at the video shoot, and at the hotel in LA - don’t think I haven’t noticed.”
“Everything is fine. Besides, we are about to release an album, go on tour, do a ton of press and things are finally about to pick up for us. I can’t have something wrong with me. Lou won’t be happy if he has to pull the plug on everything because I’m sick.” Brian whispered, once again looking to see nobody was coming. The truth was, when he was anxious, his chest would start hurting very dully and he thought it might have to do with his heart murmur. He would keep saying to himself when things slowed down and they had some time off that he would see a cardiologist, but that never happened. Lou and Johnny had so many things booked for them that there literally was no time off. They even worked holidays, putting in many long hours rehearsing dances or whatever else was scheduled.
“You really should go to a doctor, I don’t want you to get sick.” Nick said, putting his hand over Brian’s and squeezing it gently with his thumb. Brian pulled it away and picked up a card from the pile on the table.
“I don’t need you to tell me what to do.”
Brian’s sudden coldness made Nick back off and they continued their card game, not speaking for most of it. Brian excused himself to use the restroom and went to the back of the bus where he heard Nick’s mom and Lou talking with Johnny.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying, Lou. She is saying Nick and the other boys are tired, and you won’t give them any time off.” Johnny said quietly. Brian sat in the bathroom, listening as he used the toilet. He left the door slightly open so he could hear better.
“These kids are going to make me quite a bit of money. If they took a break now when we are about to break in the United States, they will never put their foot in the door. I put my money into this group, and I can take it away.”
“Well, Lou...if you really think they will make that much money I don’t see harm in Nick putting in extra work.” Jane commented. Brian was in disbelief at how everyone was practically salivating at the thought of how much money the group was about to make, although as the ones doing all the work they were not seeing much money from it. It just made Brian think about his managers in a different light . How much money were they earning and where was it going?
“That’s what I like to hear, Jane. I wish the other parents were on board as you were. You definitely have your son’s future in mind.” Lou said.
“I think we could look at a solo tour for Aaron after this one is over, if you want to draw up some things for me….”
The conversation was making Brian sick to his stomach so he left the bathroom as quietly as he had come and made his way up front. Nick was there waiting for him with a concerned look on his face.
“I heard everyone talking in the back and it wasn’t good, Nick. We need to do something.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your mom, Johnny and Lou were all talking about how they didn’t care we were tired and all they want is us to make them money. They don’t care if we are sick, or dying or anything. Lou just wants to make money and so does your mom.”
“That’s bullshit.” Nick said, looking towards the back of the bus where his mom was.
“Nick, I think you and I need to do something. We are all tired. Nobody seems to care and it’s pissing me off. The only way that we are ever going to get any time off is if we refuse to do what Lou wants us to do. Everyone is afraid of him, but I’m not. What do you think?” Brian asked quietly.
“I am tired, Brian...but like you said before, everything is about to happen. We can’t take time off now. What about all the work we did?”
“True, but we need to stand up for ourselves. You became a singer because you enjoy it, right?”
Nick considered this for a moment. He did do it because he enjoyed it but he also thought that money could save his family. He wanted to help them more than anything. He never wanted to see them struggle again.
“You and me will stand up to him. Together.” Brian told him, banking on the fact Nick trusted him completely to make this work. If things were going to change with their management, Brian knew he needed help. If anyone would help him it would be Nick. Between the two of them, they might be able to convince everyone else that they were overworked.
“Together.” Nick smiled at him and held out his hand for Brian to shake.
Brian knew that the kiss would come up again eventually, but for now he was happy having Nick on his side.
Little did he know it would not last for long.