A Collaboration between Bron and Suzie

Chapter 19

After Nick left with Kevin, he returned a short time later in his own car. Quietly, he knocked on the door hoping that Angel was still up. When she opened the door wearing a very short robe and nothing else, she smiled, "Great minds think alike."

Nick had made many calls, personal and professional, between his meeting with Gene and the guys and his dinner with Kevin and the girls. His head was swimming trying to absorb all the information he had gathered.

Lying on Angel's bed while his head rested in her lap, Nick poured out everything he learned. His father's charges had been dismissed and his parents officially filed for divorce. His father was openly dating his new girlfriend and introducing her as such. BJ was arrested again for DUI, which Jane bailed her out. Nick was still undecided if he would keep his home in Marathon or sell it. Finally, he would be heading to London to do a couple of tracks for his solo CD at the end of the week. Nick told the guys in the meeting he would be unavailable for a few weeks. They weren't too happy with his news, especially since Kevin had just returned from being gone for six weeks, but they understood and supported him.

The support part almost freaked him out a bit. Nick was all set to defend himself. Kevin was even nice about it. Nick felt a burden lift off his shoulders but then immediately thought of how Angel would react to him leaving for a while.

As Nick talked, Angel played with his hair, while massaging his scalp. She could sense him relaxing when he talked about his father's charges being dropped. She felt him tense up while talking about BJ and her troubles. Nick wanted to help her, but was at a total loss as how to get her help. He could no longer ignore she wasn't troubled. Angel tried to give him some advice, but since she didn't know BJ, it was hard to know what would be best. Nick was grateful Angel didn't form any opinions of his sister based on what had been in the media.

As Nick told Angel about going to London, he turned to face her. His eyes didn't quite meet hers as he told her he needed to leave in a couple days for maybe a month, it wasn't definite yet. Angel smiled brightly; she was ecstatic for his CD to be finished. More importantly, the boys appeared to be more supportive than last time.

"That's wonderful news Nick. You must be kind of excited, huh? Are you all packed? Do you need help with anything?" Angel was thrilled.

Nick looked at Angel like she had three heads.

Angel's faced turned to one of worry, "What's wrong Nick?"

"I just thought…" now he was embarrassed to say what he thought, "...Never mind, its nothing."

"Oh no, we told each other we wouldn't play mind games and I'm not in the mood to read yours, so what's bothering you? What did you think?" Angel sat up on her knees waiting for Nick to answer her.

Nick was now cursing himself for making that promise to Angel. After her confession in Atlanta, he made her promise to keep the lines of communication open. He figured it would be more of her over analyzing situations or stories about him in the media, especially with fan encounter stories and rumors that tend to circulate in the BSB message boards.

Hanging his head low in embarrassment, "I thought you'd be upset at me 'cause I need to go away for awhile."

Before he could look up and see her face, Angel pulled him into a strong hug. "Don't get me wrong, I'll miss you but this is what you need to do. And I, for one, am dying to hear this new CD, so you better haul your ass across the Atlantic and get busy."

Squeezing her tightly, burying his head into her hair, he felt overjoyed, "You're the best. You know that? I know with the time zone difference it'll be hard to stay in touch, but I promise to take my laptop."

Angel chuckled, "And you're gonna use it?"

Nick gave her a sly grin, "Yes woman! I'll keep in touch by emails. Of course Kevin would kill me if I went into isolation without having a way to communicate with him." Nick began chuckling at the thought.

Nick leaned into Angel's ear whispering, "Can you keep a secret?"

"Yes, but it seems you can't." causing Angel to fall into a fit of giggles.

Nick gave her a pout with his lower lip, which she quickly sought out with her own lips and sucked on it. This caused a delay in his plans to tell Angel his secret. Realizing she didn't know what he wanted to tell her, she stopped. "So?"

Slowly, Nick snapped back to reality, "I will be flying to Chicago next Thursday to surprise A.J."

"You're leaving London and going to Chicago to surprise A.J? Why?"

"A.J. is going to appear on Oprah. The producers want the rest of his Backstreet brothers to surprise him, show our support with his alcoholism," Nick shrugged, "And to talk about how his illness affected the group. How he has been doing. Ya know, the usual shit."

"HOLY SHIT! The fans are going to flip out seeing you guys all together. It has been over two years since all five of you were in public as a group."

Nick watched her eyes bounce and sparkle while she processed the information. Nick quieted her down by pressing his lips to hers, which were moving a mile a minute.

"Shhh…now you know WHY you can't tell anyone. And I mean ANYONE Angel." Nick gave her a look she hadn't seen before.

She swallowed hard. "Is this a test? To see if I can keep my mouth closed?"

Nick snorted. "Now that you mention it, yeah. Of course, if this gets out, I'm totally screwed 'cause they'll know it was me who spilled the beans."

"How do you figure? It could be Howie. You know how he is. He has a way of just talking and blabbering, something could slip out."

Nick grabbed Angel and pulled her down with him on her bed. "Enough talking woman. We have a busy day tomorrow."

"We do?"

"Yeah, I need help doing laundry and packing."

"Yeah, YOU do have a lot to do." Angel said as Nick just laughed.

"Hey, you offered," Nick countered.

Angel replied slyly, "But you didn't ask nicely."

"Hmm, I have something better in mind," Nick said, as he slowly got undressed.

True to her word, Angel kept her mouth shut for the next week. It was killing her. She wanted to tell Sheridan and Marybeth so badly, but she couldn't risk it. Nick was trusting her and she would prove to him she was trust-worthy.

The following Wednesday AJ flew to Chicago to appear on Oprah to discuss his drug and alcohol addiction. Much to his surprise, all the guys surprised him by showing up. Since Nick had flown to London to cut some tracks for his solo CD and Brian went home to Atlanta to take care of his own personal recordings, AJ never suspected a thing.

The fans were equally as surprised. However, the fans weren't aware that the boys had been working together for the past two months. So to them, this was the first time, in a long time, the boys were all together.

Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, Sheridan had a little drama of her own.

After dropping the bomb on her parents that she wouldn't be home for Thanksgiving and then explaining why, she stared at the ceiling with one hand in the air while Angel sat on the couch giggling at her. "Mom really, I'll be home for Christmas… Yes Mom, I know I am your baby. You'll be fine Mom, you can still make a turkey for Dad." Sheridan paced the floor with the portable in her hand.

Angel smiled at every sour face Sheridan made and then laughed her ass off. Angel guessed she had it pretty easy with her parents, they didn't drive her half as crazy as Sheridan's did. Angel would just ignore her parents instead of talking to them.

The phone was handed to her and Sheridan smiled as she covered the phone, "Mom wants to talk to you and I can almost guess about whom. Keep it short and don't tell her a damn thing…." Sheridan released the phone, "Don't tell her what you really think either."

Angel hated being put on the spot. She growled at Sheridan as she took the phone.

Sheridan went and stood by the window as Angel spoke to her Mom. The past week or so she had spent reflecting on her relationship with Tom. Their arguments were more and more frequent. At first she chalked them up to nerves for both of them. She was going to meet his parents for the first time. Tom was constantly keyed up and continuously asking her how the project was going. The last argument was a dozy; she was replaying it in her head. "How come you never talk about it with me?"

"Because I signed a contract. You know I am not supposed to talk about it." Sheridan sat at her desk as he sat on the corner of it.

"It's me, I'm your man," Tom leaned forward and kissed the side of her face in full view of everyone at work.

"I would appreciate it very much if you would not do that here." Sheridan shuffled papers on her desk.

"You are very uptight. What is wrong?" Tom reached for her hand to only have it pulled away from him.

Sheridan knew he wouldn't like the answer, but she really didn't give a hoot anymore, "The same thing that it was last week, and the week before, and the week before that."

Tom sat and mulled her words over. Crossing his arms, he leaned forward, "I want you to meet my parents first, then we'll take it from there."

Tilting her head to the side, she stared at him, "Are you serious? I have to meet your parents before you'll sleep with me?"

Sheridan's voice rose higher and higher with each word. Nervously Tom glanced around to make sure people hadn't heard her. "You know what I mean," he laughed nervously.

"No, I don't think that I do. We go to your parents in two weeks Tom. Can you tell me what is going to change between us after we go to your parents versus say today?" Sheridan was still just as confused about their relationship.

A loud clap startled Sheridan and she turned to see Angel smiling at her. "All taken care of. Mama Anderson now thinks you are dating the most wonderful, all around American jock, a successful businessman, a real mover and shaker. I left out the gay part." Angel added the last line for humor.

When Sheridan stormed from the room, Angel knew she made a mistake. "Shit," Angel groaned as she walked down the hallway and knocked on Sheridan's door. "I'm sorry Sheridan. I was just kidding."

"Go away. I'm sick of this shit." Sheridan yelled. Dressing quickly, she took off while Angel was in the shower. She knew Angel didn't mean it, but her words were sounding truer and truer to her everyday.

Sheridan sat in the park for over an hour trying to get her thoughts straightened out. "This is hopeless," she muttered as she went back to her car and drove home.

Friday, the boys flew back into town and things resumed as they were before the Oprah show. Even Nick returned to Los Angeles instead of London. Keeping the fans in the dark about some projects had its advantages.

The next meeting was scheduled on Tuesday, two days before the long weekend, their Thanksgiving break. Brian had been adamant at the last meeting before the Oprah jaunt about getting the time off even though the director wanted all of them to work. "We all have plans. We all have family. We won't be here."

Sheridan was astonished at the time that the small-framed man could act so authoritatively, but he did get them the time off without another word said. John had again tried to get them to stay in town and Brian, once again, had refused him. Not one person in the room spoke after Brian, he was speaking for all of them and their silence threw weight behind his announcement.

During a break in their Tuesday meeting, before everyone took off for other places; Kevin caught up with Sheridan in the hallway. "See and ya'll thought I was the bad ass," Kevin laughed as he spoke.

"Brian surprised me again," Sheridan smiled back. "Are you looking forward to going home for Thanksgiving?"

"Hell yeah, my Mom is cooking. I love my Mom's cooking. Turkey, stuffin', mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, without the marshmallows, biscuits and gravy, the whole nine-yards. Then I get to sack out on her couch and watch the games."

Sheridan giggled, "That sounds like so much fun for your Mother."

Kevin blushed, "Oh we help. We all pitch in and do the dishes and clean-up."

"I would hope so," Sheridan began to walk through the door back to the meeting. Gentle pressure on her hand stopped her. Turning, she looked at Kevin, "Did you want something Kevin?"

Kevin wanted to ask her what she was doing for Thanksgiving but there were times when Sheridan seemed unapproachable to him, this was one of those times. He had never approached her about her relationship with her boyfriend or about the premiere again. Instead he opted for something safer, "Um… No, just have a great holiday if I don't see ya."

"I will. I think it will be very special." Sheridan thought about how special it might just be. "Finally anyway," a smile appeared on her face after she spoke.

Kevin thought about what Sheridan had said through the entire meeting. The words didn't make sense. When the meeting wrapped up, the words still haunted him as he boarded a plane to head home to his family.

Angel was having Nick over for Thanksgiving dinner. With everything going on with his parents' relationship, he didn't really want to choose whom he wanted to spend the holiday with.

As Sheridan packed, she was grateful that Nick was coming over to spend Thanksgiving with Angel, since she knew Angel wouldn't go home and she had the plans to meet Tom's family. Meeting Tom's family was not only upsetting her, it seemed like her relationship wouldn't move forward until this was over with. It was the strangest thing since she couldn't figure out why this was so important.

Sheridan packed an over night bag since Tom's parents lived in a small town a couple of hours away. Angel had gone with Nick to Whole Foods, and by the looks of her list when she had left, she wouldn't be back before Sheridan left. Not to mention the lines at the grocery store the day before a holiday were long and there was a cashier's strike going on.

Tom waited as Sheridan locked up the apartment and grabbed her suitcase. They headed to his parents' house. The drive didn't do much to ease Sheridan's jitters. From the moment she arrived at his parent's house, the situation left her nerves raw, it went downhill from there.

On Thanksgiving, Kevin sat at the kitchen table talking to his Mom as he thought about Sheridan and the group. In the little time since he had been back, he had been accepted and now was as tight with the girls as the rest of the guys. "Mama, I have to use the phone. I'm gonna check up on Nicky."

Anne shook her head at her son, "Dear, Nicky isn't a little boy. You told me he was spending time out in Los Angeles with a 'Special Friend,' as you called this person. I will assume that would be a woman and I'm sure he doesn't want to talk to you right now."

Kevin's face scrunched up into a weasel like expression as he smiled, "Aw Mama, I know he doesn't want to talk to me, that's why I'm callin'" Kevin laughed as he grabbed the portable phone off the wall and headed to the living room.

Anne shook her head and looked at her daughter in law, "Some things will never change with those boys. They constantly pick at each other."

"Just like brothers," Tracy smiled back.

"Yep, only Kevin isn't the underdog like he is here," said Tim, Kevin's older brother, as he laughed.

Kevin dialed Nick's home number and the machine picked up. He thought about dialing Nick's cell next, but he knew exactly where Nick was. Dialing the apartment number, he waited for one of them to answer the phone. Most likely it would be Angel because she wouldn't know this number on the caller id. He wasn't sure if Nick would recognize the number either.

"Hey!" Nick laughed into the phone. "You're not supposed to be calling me. We're on a break."

"And you're not supposed to be sleeping with the employees." Kevin laughed back into the receiver. "So what's going on out there?"

Nick's laugh was loud and taunting in his ear, "You mean has Angel heard from Sheridan?"

Kevin sat in the recliner, "Dude, don't yank my chain before I eat, ya know better. Sheridan seemed to think that this weekend was pretty important."

"Settle down Papa Bear. But on the QT, I really think Sheridan and Tom are history as a couple. Sheridan isn't spending Thanksgiving with him anymore. She left his parents and went home to Pennsylvania."

"What did you say?" Kevin bolted up from the recliner. "What are you talkin' about?"

"Angel thinks it's great... Tom's gay." Nick had to throw the last part in or Kevin would never go for it. Nick had a small flashback in the middle of the conversation.

Kevin had made many calls to Nick lately, trying to get a grip on Sheridan's relationship with Tom. Nick, of course being the ever-loving brother, passed along anything he heard. Then he would remind Kevin that he should be doing this himself. Kevin's standard reply was, "Can't dawg, she's involved with someone. I don't go there."

"Just like you never told a woman you loved her just to have sex with her!" Nick would yell back into the phone and then hang-up before Kevin could yell back at him.

Returning back to his telephone conversation with Kevin, Nick continued, "Angel swears up and down that her 'Gaydar' goes off every time she is around Tom. Ya know what else?" Nick whispered.

"Why are you whispering Nick?"

"She'll hear me."

"What else Nick?" Kevin felt a headache coming on.

"They haven't got it on yet. It's been months. Can you imagine that shit? Angel told Sheridan to ask Tom why he hasn't slept with her yet. You know what he said to her?" Nick's words couldn't be heard over his laugher. Kevin heard one word, 'marriage'.

Kevin was rubbing his temple as he tried to understand what was going on, "Run that by me again Nick."

Angelina grabbed the telephone from Nick who was now rolling on the sofa holding his stomach while continuing to laugh.

"We can't tell you anything. It is against the employees rules of do's and don'ts." Angel said with a laugh.

"You broke that rule awhile ago lady. What's the dish?" Kevin relaxed. Angel, he could understand, she wasn't laughing half as hard as Nick.

Angel reiterated what Nick had said, "Tom is gay. The little fucker is gay and he is using her to hide behind. Ten months of going out with him and nothing but one second base encounter. He even took her home to meet his parents, but they had a huge fight."

"Where is she now?"

"She went home to Erie. You'll see her Monday. Have a nice dinner." Angel hung up the phone to see Nick dancing around her.

"He so likes her. Thank you," Nick picked her up off the floor and squeezed her.

"Sheridan is going to kill me. Did you know she wrote all of Kevin's parts?" Angel began to stuff the turkey.

"Shit, I figured that one out after the first time we slept together." Nick plopped down on the couch only to have the television turned off on him.

"If you are eating, you're helping." Angel stood with the remote in her hand.

"Fine," Nick dragged himself into the kitchen. Once at the sink, Angel flicked the television back on. "Thanks," he gave her hug. "It would be so cool if they could get it together."

"Don't count on it right away. I've been trying for months to get her to cut Tom loose and it hasn't happened. They have had fights before but nothing like this."

"All we can do is try!" Nick batted his eyelashes at Angel.

"Asshole," she quipped as she slapped him with a dishtowel.

Sheridan sat in her room, at her parents' home, crying her eyes out. She had called Angel to tell her that she was at home and not with Tom. Angel tried to pry but Sheridan wasn't sharing any of the messy details. When she found out that Tom had invited a ton of people to meet her, she became angry. The anger came from the fact that she thought they were going to be able to spend some of their time alone. Every single minute of every day was scheduled to do something. Sheridan blew up when it dawned on her, not too soon after their arrival, that they were not going to have any time together alone and they were sleeping in separate bedrooms. Calling a cab, she left a dejected Tom sitting in his parent's kitchen. Paying an absorbent fee, she was able to catch a flight to Pittsburgh and a commuter jump to Erie to get home. At first, she was going to head right back to her apartment but then she remembered that Angel and Nick had private time scheduled.

Her parents were happy she came home, but could see how sad their daughter was. Both chose to ignore the obvious and enjoy the time they had with her. "It will be fine dear, every couple has their quarrels." Her mother said.

"I think this is more than that Mom, much more." Sheridan spent the entire Thanksgiving moping around the house in an old bathrobe and slippers.

The day came when Sheridan had to return to California. At the airport, her mother handed her a huge tote with a handle. "What is in here Mother?

"Leftovers. You don't eat right," her mother kissed her cheek.

"I can't take leftovers on a plane," Sheridan wanted to hide from everyone. She heard the giggles from the bystanders.

"Yes you can baby. Tell them your Mother said so. Now go." Mrs. Anderson waved frantically as if she were a five-year-old child seeing a grandparent off to Florida for the winter.

Sheridan stowed the tote in the overhead compartment and prayed to God nobody would smell the food. The plane and cab ride back to the apartment were uneventful and boring as hell.

She had started writing a new story but wasn't sure where she could go with it. Sitting at her desk in her room, she waited for Angel to come back from where ever she had gone. Crawling into bed later that night, she assumed Angel was at Nick's place.

As she lay in bed, she heard Tom's voice on the answering machine. He had made no less than five calls to their number in the last two hours. The last one was pleading and whiney. "I know you are there. I called your Mom."

Sheridan closed her eyes, "Great. Just great. Now I have to explain all of this to Angel and then to my parents."

She listened to him speak. "I'll see you tomorrow at work."

"Not if I can help it. I have a meeting with the guys tomorrow night here at the apartment. You have meetings all day. With any luck, I won't even see you." Sheridan said to no one. Pulling her quilt over her shoulder, she smiled as a pair of green eyes smiled back at her in her dreams. A loud sigh would have been heard in the room, had anyone been in the room, but her.





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