“So you’re going to come with me to talk to them, right?” Brian asked in a hushed voice so that AJ wouldn’t hear him. Nick seemed a bit distracted and then focused.
“Um...yeah, I’m coming with you. Are you sure this is a good idea, though? Lou said they hate us. I don’t feel like fighting with them.”
Brian placed a hand on Nick’s shoulder and reassured him they’d be fine as long as management didn’t try to interfere with the conversation, which he had a feeling might happen. Nick stared at Brian the whole car ride to the venue, thinking about the things Brian had been saying to him the last few days. That they were a team, that they were unstoppable together and how he trusted him completely to help him. However, he also heard Leighanne in the back of his mind begging him to help her convince Brian to go to a doctor about the chest pain….and he agreed with her to the point where he meant to bring it up but it never seemed to happen. He knew Brian wouldn’t appreciate him and his girlfriend talking about him behind his back because he didn’t like when Brian and her did it to him.
“You okay, Brian?” Nick asked suddenly, causing him to look back at him.
“Huh? Yeah, I’m just thinking about things.”
Brian shifted in his seat as he watched the passing traffic from the window. He had so much that he wanted to say to Nick but he held back and just blurted out what his brain was thinking, not his heart. His heart wanted to tell Nick that he lied to him back in July and it was bothering him. The truth was, his heart and his mind had been wrestling with these new feelings for Nick and the fact that the proper thing to do was stay with Leighanne because he should be. He felt bad for lying to her too because he liked her, but he wasn’t in love with her as Nick had not so nicely pointed out on multiple occasions during angry outbursts.
Yet now Nick and Leighanne were acting friendly and this left Brian even more confused than before. At least when they were at odds he didn’t feel obligated to be swayed either direction. Brian just wasn’t sure how to put how he felt to words and he knew it was going to take some time to deal with it. Sometimes he wanted to ask Nick how he came to the conclusion that he was gay, how it all started...the truth. The feeble explanation Nick gave back in July didn’t seem to be the full story. Something was missing.
“Just got a lot on my mind about the tour, about Lou…”
Nick nodded thoughtfully.
“Sorry, it’s not that I don’t want to talk about it, it’s just a lot and I don’t know what’s going to happen. Like if I go up against Lou, he goes to the label - and the label drops us...what do we do? We’ve all worked so hard. I don’t want to ruin that for you guys. Lou is literally stealing from us, you should see what my parents helped me dig up after I overheard him on the bus talking to your mom that day. I found out so much crap, Nick. It’s making me so sick that he’s taking advantage of us and that other band. I have to say something to them, what if they don’t know? I’ll never live with myself if I don’t say something.” Brian confessed softly.
“Really? Lou’s stealing from us?” Nick asked.
“That’s just the tip of things, but yes.”
“I knew he was up to something, but this is...this is not what I was thinking at all.”
“Yeah...he’s taking our money and giving us crap. I just want him to make things right, Nick. I want him to pay us. We did the work. Not him. I’m just scared, I guess. What are we going to do if nobody believes me?”
“We will get through it together. Just like we are now.” Nick smiled, putting a hand on his knee. Brian shifted away, staring back out the window.
Nick stared at him dejectedly and the car ride was continued in silence, nobody speaking until they reached the venue where the basketball game was being held. There were some press and fans there, the boys stopped for photos and interviews but went inside to get ready. Brian could feel himself tensing up thinking about talking to NSYNC...were they as horrible as Lou said? Lou had told them many times that the other group would make fun of them, that they hated them and thought they were better than the Backstreet Boys. Lou said that there was no way they’d ever consider each other equal.
“There they are,” Nick whispered when they came out onto the court to do the introductions, he could see the other five guys from afar and they were avoiding eye contact at all costs.
“We gotta talk to them somehow.” Brian whispered back, sizing them up. He wondered how they were going to do this with so many people watching. As the game went on, Brian felt like talking to them wasn’t going to happen because every opportunity he had, there were distractions. He’d tried to get their attention but it seemed like they were ignoring him on purpose and it was pissing him off.
“Well?” Nick asked tentatively after another failed attempt where Brian tried to sneak into their locker room after the game. Brian looked defeated and tired. He was also hungry. Things didn’t look too hopeful right now but part of him didn’t want to give up completely yet.
“I don’t know, Nick. Maybe we could find out where they’re staying and try to get them at their hotel? I’m out of ideas.”
“Ya think we could come up with something after we eat? I’m starving, all that running around made me hungry but it’s getting late and like nothing is open.” Nick said, rubbing his stomach and making a face.
“Are you boys hungry? We are going over to McDonalds.” Johnny called over when he heard that they were looking to eat.
“Who’s we?” Brian asked when they’d finished getting their stuff together.
“Justin and JC, I’m going with them so you might as well come...we can share a van- if everybody stays civil.” Johnny said as if he anticipated a full out brawl in the back of the minivan.
As soon as the words left his mouth Nick and Brian looked at each other and smiled.
“Okay, we’ll go.”
The van was silent as the four boys, Johnny Wright and the driver went over to the nearest McDonalds. Everyone was trying to avoid eye contact with one another, Nick and Brian sitting in the first row and the other two boys sitting in the back. Brian was just gathering the words to start talking when Nick nudged him, nodding towards the other two.
“Talk to them.” Nick whispered.
Before Brian could speak, one of the NSYNC boys did.
“You guys can’t even wait until we aren’t around to talk shit about us?”
“Excuse me, we aren’t even talking about you so chill the fuck out.” Nick snapped at the one with the curly hair. He had earrings in his ear and looked angry.
“Nick, don’t.” Brian cautioned. Nick was getting red in the face as the conversation went on and he was about to lose his temper.
“Sure sounded like it. I bet it was bowl cut over there that said it too.”
Brian had to hold Nick from jumping into the backseat.
“I’ll kick your ass right here. Pull the car over. I can take him.” Nick shouted.
“Boys, knock it off.” Johnny called from the front, rolling his eyes.
“If you fight like you sing, I’d say that you don’t stand a chance against me.” Justin sneered. Nick looked like the vein in his forehead was about to pop, Brian held him back and shushed him.
“Justin, knock it off. Johnny is gonna be pissed if we fight here.”
“No, I’ve had it with them thinking they’re better than us and saying shit, you heard what Lou said. I’m done with this crap, JC. They can’t keep trashing us.”
“We haven’t said anything about you!” Nick shouted. It was then that Justin and JC looked genuinely confused.
“You haven’t?” Justin asked.
“No, dude.” Nick said.
“Then why would he say that you guys did?”
Brian looked at them with a bewildered look on his face, blinking. It was then that things seemed to click…Lou did it so they wouldn't talk to one another and find out what he was doing.
“Wait, hold up...what exactly did Lou tell you we said?”
Justin looked at JC, still angry but softened his expression a little when he saw that the other two wouldn’t retaliate anymore.
“I think we need to have a long talk.” JC said as they pulled into the McDonalds parking lot and Johnny told them to get out to go in and order.
After everyone had ordered, the guys all sat down and waited for their food to be ready. Brian was floored at some of the stuff Lou had said to the guys from NSYNC and they were equally as shocked by the information they got from Brian. Nick stayed quiet for the most part, scowling because of the comment that Justin made about his voice. When they got their food the conversation continued.
“So Lou gave us each a check at this big dinner recently, and when we opened it we saw that it was only 10,000.” JC said, opening his hamburger and taking a bite out of it.
“10,000? That’s it?” Brian asked, getting pissed off again. He could only imagine how much was being taken from them too.
“Isn’t that a lot of money?” Nick chimed in.
“When you think about all the hours we worked, missing holidays and working all night long rehearsing, performing...the shows we have done and appearances...it should really be a lot more.” JC told them. Brian nodded in agreement, all of it was starting to make sense to him.
“Have you talked to him about all of this?”
“Well, we haven’t exactly tried yet. We’re afraid that if we do he will take everything away. He’s pretty much told all of us if he feels we aren’t going to make him any money he’ll pull the plug.” Justin explained.
“Lou told me that too.” Nick said suddenly. He had never mentioned any conversations that he had with Lou to Brian before, usually when the subject of their manager came up he was very quiet and uncomfortable.
“What did he say to you, Nick?”
“He said if you kept going on about this money thing that he was going to have the label drop us. He said that his other band doesn’t question him and he doesn’t want to manage a band that won’t trust him. Then he told me to keep an eye out for him but I am not doing it. He’s stealing from us...I am not helping him.” Nick confessed.
“I can’t believe he asked you to spy on me, but I appreciate that you didn’t do it.” Brian smiled at him. Johnny came over to them to tell them they had to leave, so the boys decided to continue talking in the van in hushed voices. Johnny looked somewhat worried and Brian enjoyed seeing him be nervous. He was pissed off and it was far from over, he was pretty sure he was going to sue their management now, all he had to do was get the other guys to go along with it.
He figured once they got back to the hotel he would have a talk with everybody about what he found out and it would persuade them.
Ignoring the chest pain he was currently having, Brian was excited to get things in motion for the band to get what they deserved, no matter what the cost.
Even if it was costing him his health.