“I’m so fucking mad, Nick. I can’t see straight.” Brian ranted as they waited for the elevator to go to their floor.
“I don’t blame you. Are you feeling okay, you should probably calm down…” Nick suggested.
Brian glared at Nick, who decided to back off for the moment.
“Look, I know that all this stuff with Lou is going on, but I have to ask….are you considering going to a doctor? Even during the game you looked exhausted. You can’t keep putting yourself last. I don’t want you to get sick.” Nick said softly.
“I’m not getting sick. You sound a lot like Leighanne. Is she putting you up to this, Nick? I don’t need the two of you telling me how to take care of myself. I’m an adult. I do not need you to coddle me.”
“We just care about you, that’s all. Maybe you should listen to what she’s saying. She’s worried and so am I. The chest pain is not normal, Brian. You need to take care of it before something happens.” Nick protested. Brian ignored him and they were silent the rest of the way to their floor. The elevator dinged and the two of them stepped out, heading down the hallway to Kevin’s room to talk to the rest of the guys. They also stopped to get AJ and Howie, to bring them into the discussion. AJ was drinking but not drunk yet so they were able to talk him into coming.
“Would you mind telling me where you two went off to after the game and why we are calling a meeting without our managers present?” Kevin asked, standing in the room in his boxers and a shirt with his arms crossed. He had been about to go to bed and was annoyed that his cousin and Nick had disturbed him because they had to be up early the next day.
“Shut up and let me talk, Kev. You can nap later, this is important.” Brian hissed as he closed the door once AJ and Howie were in the room. Kevin opened his mouth again to argue back but he decided not to.
“First of all, I want to say that the reason our managers are not here is because this is about them. I went….well...rather Nick and I went and talked to NSYNC after the game. Johnny took us all to McDonalds.” Brian explained.
“I knew I smelled French Fries on Nick’s breath.” AJ said, as Howie laughed and Nick scowled.
“Did too.” AJ laughed.
“Enough. Anyway….” Brian continued, interrupting before the two of them started bickering. He went and started telling the others what Justin and JC told him about Lou, the whole time everyone was silent and in shock. Brian went on to tell them what he was finding out on his own with the help of his parents back home.
“So what are you saying, Lou is stealing from us? He’s been stealing from us this whole time?” Kevin said finally, sitting at the end of the bed and looking at Brian in complete disbelief.
“Yes, he’s taking one sixth of everything….as if he were a member of the group. I want to pursue a lawsuit against him but I can’t do it alone. I need you guys to back me up because if we don’t he’s gonna keep taking advantage of us for the rest of our careers. We deserve to get paid what we earned. End of story.” Brian told them. He could see Nick trying to catch his eye but he ignored him.
“All right, but what happens when we try to sue him? Lou’s said if we left the label nobody else would pick us up.” Howie asked.
“We considered this too, and he’s full of crap. Look at how our album sales are doing right now, we are starting to get noticed over here….someone will definitely sign us to their label. We have to do something, guys. Are you with me?”
Everyone looked at each other and to Brian’s surprised they all answered yes one by one. Brian was ecstatic...now all he had to do was reconnect with the lawyers he’d had his parents talk to back home and it would get the ball rolling for the group. He knew it was going to take time but it was worth the wait if they’d get what they deserved.
After the confrontation with Lou and the meeting with NSYNC, the guys hardly saw Lou for much of their tour in Germany. He usually tagged along for some of the shows, inviting them to large, expensive meals but not this time. He had stopped talking to them and asking how they were doing as well. Nick preferred not being bothered by Lou and just wanted to spend time with the guys on their downtime, which they did doing some sightseeing together and Kevin would film it for his family back home. Nick had to laugh at these mock documentaries, wondering what he was going to do with the footage when they got older. He also noticed that Leighanne and Brian seemed somewhat distant and he felt bad for them, because Leighanne genuinely loved Brian. He decided to talk to her about it because he figured they could come up with something together.
“Is everything okay between you and Brian?” Nick asked, and she shook her head softly, watching for the door to make sure Brian wasn’t coming. They had just gotten done with a show and they were all looking forward to getting some sleep in as the next day was their day off.
“He’s pushing me away, because I keep asking about his chest pain.”
“I been trying to talk to him, I don’t know what else to do, he’s definitely getting sick. Brian’s just so hung up on getting Lou to give us our money that he’s not paying attention to himself. You can see that he’s not feeling good. He had to take two breaks today during soundcheck and he was out of breath after the show.” Nick explained as Brian walked over to them looking annoyed.
“Having another meeting about me?” Brian snapped at them, and Nick sighed.
“We are worried about you,” Leighanne explained. Brian rolled his eyes and started to walk away but came back.
“There is nothing wrong with me. I keep telling both of you and you won’t listen to me.”
Leighanne looked concerned as Brian began to raise his voice.
“I SAID I’M FINE.”
“Brian, not here….” Nick begged, trying to direct him towards the elevator so they could continue the talk upstairs, but Brian pushed him off. His face was red and he was getting angry.
“Why do I have to hide how I’m feeling, but you two are having an open discussion about me in the middle of the hotel? No, Nick. The two of you got to talk and now it’s my turn. I do not have anything wrong with me, I’m just tired.”
“Because you’re in denial….” Nick started.
“I’m not in denial about anything.” Brian hissed, glaring at Nick who didn’t mean it the way it was taken. Brian had been pushing any feelings he had for Nick away since July in a last ditch effort to convince himself he didn’t have them in the first place. It seemed the more he shoved his feelings away the worse he felt, the more he thought about them. The more he thought about them, the more stressed and anxious it would make him. He was literally making himself sick with stress from everything so he asked Leighanne to come to the tour to see if she would help. Inviting Leighanne on the road in Europe was supposed to help but that wasn’t working either. How long could he keep this up for? He wondered how Nick was handling it, pretending he was something that he wasn’t. It was exhausting.
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Nick whispered in protest.
The elevator opened and the three of them stepped inside, Brian jamming his finger into the numbers for their floor in frustration.
“Well then what is this about? Because like I told you, I feel fine. Stop bothering me about this.”
“We can’t keep watching you hurt yourself like this, babe. I don’t want you to get worse. Please….”
Brian turned around to face her, his eyes full of fire.
“Hey, don’t yell at her.” Nick shouted, getting between them. Leighanne cowered in front of him and looked as if she were going to cry when the elevator opened again, and the three of them got off. Nick tried to ask her if she was okay but she didn’t answer. Leighanne took off running towards the room, slamming the door behind her.
“Go and apologize to her, she’s just looking out for you, ya know. Like I am.” Nick said, shaking his head. When Brian got to the room, he saw Leighanne packing up her stuff. He felt terrible for yelling at her and Nick when he saw their faces, this wasn’t like him at all. He was becoming so angry and he hated it. He had to fix things and he had to do it now.
“Leigh…don’t do this...don’t go. I need you. I’m sorry I yelled at you, I was just upset.”
“I don’t want to hear it, Brian. I can’t do this anymore...I can’t watch you get sick like this. I can’t watch you get so upset.” Leighanne said, crying as she packed a suitcase on the bed. Brian sat on the other bed, running a hand through his hair and sighing. All of this stress was certainly making his chest pain worse. He didn’t know how to deal with it all but he knew it was time to finally admit he needed help.
“Okay, maybe I don’t feel 100 percent...but I don’t have time to go to the doctor with this schedule they’re giving us. We are going to be busy the rest of the year-“
Leighanne stood in front of him, tears in her eyes as she made Brian look at her. It was then that she said something Brian would never forget for the rest of his life….
“Either you go get checked out, or I’m walking away.”