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A Collaboration between Bron and Suzie

Chapter 38

After two grueling days, Angelina and Sheridan were finally done putting the finishing touches on the sets. Sheridan sat back and admired the set before her, it was exactly the way she envisioned it.

Meanwhile, sitting in a papazzan chair in one of the dormitory room sets, Angel took a few minutes to reflect over the past few days as she wiped sweat from her brow. Nick had been busy the past few nights in the studio with the boys, but he found time to pick her up and have a coffee date together this morning. Unfortunately, so did the paparazzi. Both feeling a bit self-conscious, they didn't stay too long in the coffee shop.

Nick and Angel missed spending quality time together. Nick made reservations for a nice dinner in Malibu at the Marmelade Restaurant Monday evening for the two of them. Angel was looking forward to a nice evening with her boyfriend and a decent hot meal, one she hadn't slapped together at least.

They arrived on the set from their coffee date a little after ten. Sheridan arrived roughly around the same time. When Nick called Angel earlier that morning, he conveniently woke up Sheridan.

Kevin had arrived on the set first thing this Monday morning. He wanted to see what was keeping his assistant away from her other duties. On the business end, he wanted to see what the delay was that was costing his production company a day of payroll without filming commencing.

Kevin was quite impressed with what he saw. Everything flowed much better and he could see the difference the girls argued about when it came down to the little personal touches on each set.

After a full day of filming, Sheridan dragged her sorry ass to Kevin's to get some paperwork done that should have been done on Saturday.

"Nice to see you," Kevin smiled as Sheridan let herself in the front door.

"How did you know it was me?"

Sheridan wore a face that read 'dumbstruck' and Kevin bit back the laugh, "Well not many people have the keys to my house and I think I heard the Titanic backfire when you turned the corner."

"Oh that," Sheridan smiled. "Patrick is going to fix it for me."

"Yeah for Patrick," Kevin was chewing his tongue so he didn't spit the words out letting her know how he really felt about Patrick.

Sheridan didn't understand Kevin's surly mood as she went to her desk and booted up her computer. After two hours she went into the kitchen. Going to the coffee pot, she stared at it. She could really use a cup after the long day she had.

Watching her from his office where he had the television on as a diversion, he watched her walk to his kitchen. Checking his watch he knew why, she hadn't eaten and it was going on nine at night. Standing in the doorway, he thought it was comical the way she looked at the coffeemaker. "It doesn't make it by itself, you have to help it," Kevin went to the coffeemaker. Grabbing the glass decanter, he filled it with water and poured it into the holding tank. Grabbing coffee grounds from the fridge, he watched Sheridan stare at him. "It keeps the coffee fresh if you don't use the grounds fast enough."

"Oh," Sheridan shrugged as she left him to make the coffee.

Kevin stood back and watched before he set the coffee down on her desk. Her fingers were flying across the keyboard as she typed away and hummed. He couldn't make out the song because she was singing so softly. Then he heard it, it was "I Want It That Way."

Absently Sheridan's hand slid to the mug. Taking a sip, she whispered a "thank you." As she drank half of the contents of the mug, she went to set the cup down and it landed on something soft. Her eyes quickly went to the mug, not wanting spill it. Placed on her desk was a small plate, next to where the coffee had sat. On the plate rested a juicy looking chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and she so hoped mayo. Grabbing the sandwich with two hands, she took a bite and moaned.

As Kevin sat at his desk he heard the moan and closed his eyes. "Why can't that be me instead of a sandwich?"

"What?" Sheridan said from his doorway.

"Oh how's the sandwich?" Kevin sat up quickly almost flinging his body from the chair.

"It's delicious. Thank you so much, I haven't eaten anything decent in days."

Kevin nodded as he dropped his head to the reports that he was supposed to be reading. "I figured as much. Why don't you finish up what you're working on and head home?"

Sheridan looked at the paperwork on her desk and knew she wasn't being fair to Kevin. "I really haven't spent enough time here to earn a paycheck this week."

Pushing back his chair, he forced it to lean back. Crossing one leg over the other, he preceded to lace his fingers together. Placing his hands behind his head, he stared at her.

Sheridan became restless as he kept looking at her and not saying anything. 'Please dear God, don't tell me I won't get a paycheck this week. The rent is due.'
"There will be times when I do need you here. Plus, there is now stuff we can do on the set when we're not working, so head home and I'll see you in the morning."

"Okay," Sheridan was uneasy with Kevin's calmness, it made her squirm. Shutting down the computer, she left him in the same place she had found him when she had arrived hours ago. Still in his office with the television on and his head buried in paperwork.

Nick and Angelina had a wonderful dinner at the restaurant but Nick noticed Angel wasn't quite herself. The mood felt strained. "Are you alright?"

Trying her best to smile, Angel said her usual response, "Yeah, I'm just tired." Nick had felt a distance between them ever since Saturday. He wasn't sure if this had anything to do with the encounter they had with Kevin over the pictures. Nick wanted to talk to Angel in private, but each had been putting in late nights. Unlike Nick, Angel didn't have the luxury to sleep in. She was up early and working on the set. Nick suggested he would come over and stay at her place but Angel declined saying she wouldn't be in the mood to talk, all she wanted to do was sleep.

Nick had talked to Brian about Angel's behavior since it began to affect his mood and attitude in the studio. Brian knew all too well what sleep deprivation could do; he saw how tired Leigh was after taking care of the baby, running on fumes.

After their dinner, Angel asked Nick to drive her home since she had an early morning. Nick was hoping for some more private time, just the two of them.

"Are you sure you don't want to stay at my place tonight? I'll get up early to take you wherever you need to be. I promise." Nick was sad, but hadn't pulled the pout card just yet.

"Yeah, I'm sure Nick. I haven't been sleeping too well and I wouldn't want to wake you up and wreck your sleep."

'Okay, this is new information,' Nick thought. "What do you mean Angel? What's been bothering you that you can't sleep?"

"I fall asleep just fine. It's the nightmares that wake me up that make sleeping impossible."

Nick hadn't known about these. "What nightmares baby? When did you start getting them?"

Realizing she was running her mouth off about something she didn't want to discuss with Nick, Angel downplayed the problem. "Oh, it's nothing to worry about Nick. It's probably because of the stress of getting the sets finished so filming can begin. That's all."

Nick didn't quite believe her. "You sure? Did they start Saturday night?" Nick knew Angel had been sleeping just fine before then since he was with her the entire time. In the back of his mind, Nick thought it had something to do with the paparazzi pictures.

Taking Nick's hand in hers, "Yeah, I'm sure baby. Look, I'm really sorry Nick. Please, just give me a few more days, I'm sure everything will be back to normal."

"If there's something else going on, you'll tell me right?" Nick needed to be convinced. His mind hadn't wandered too much but he could tell his girlfriend was hiding something from him, and he didn't want to push her. Yet, he didn't like the fact that she was lying either.

"Nick, there's nothing else going on. I'm just tired." Angel was starting to get bitchy. It was almost 11 o'clock and the only thing she wanted right now was her pillow.

"Okay," Nick was apprehensive. Nick dropped her off and headed for home.

Tossing and turning in her bed, Angelina couldn't settle. She was sound asleep, but she was thrashing about between her sheets. Kicking them off, she sat straight up trying to catch her breath. She was dripping with sweat, yet shaking from being cold.

Looking around her room, she tried to calm herself, 'Oh my God. It was a just a nightmare; just another nightmare.' Pulling her legs to her chest, hugging them, Angelina started crying softly. Rocking back and forth, she tried to console herself. Once she got her breathing under control, she searched her room. Her eyes landed on her clock, 4:39AM.

"You are so stupid Angel. What an idiot!" she cried to no one. 'What the hell am I going to do?' she thought. She felt very foolish and isolated. Her nightmares made her feel ashamed and she didn't want to talk about them with anyone, even Nick. However, she also knew that until she talked to Nick, they weren't going to go away for a while.

Sitting across from her roommate, Sheridan watched as Angel played with her breakfast. "Just in case you were curious, the process of eating works best when you put the food IN your mouth rather than rolling it all over your plate," Sheridan smiled hoping to cheer Angelina up.

When Angelina came out of her room earlier that morning, she looked very upset. Sheridan asked what was wrong, but Angelina just said she didn't sleep well and was tired.

Staring at her now, Sheridan knew something was wrong. Angelina loves to eat breakfast. "Honey, what happened? You were fine when you went to bed last night. 'Or at least she seemed to be.' Sheridan thought as she tried to recall her mood when she arrived home after dinner with Nick. "Did you get a call or email or something that upset you?"

Sheridan knew that Backstreet message boards had been inundated with speculation of Nick's new female friend. The paparazzi appeared to be everywhere the couple went. Sheridan was afraid may be the pressure was getting to Angelina, although you wouldn't know it by looking at the pictures or knowing Angelina's spitfire attitude.

Shaking her head, Angelina replied softly, "No. It was nothing like that. I just had a bad dream. A very, real-like, bad dream." Angelina picked up her bowl and went into the kitchen to put it away. "I'm going to take a shower. What time do we need to leave?"

Sheridan looked at her watch. They had plenty of time. "Take your time Angel. We'll get there when we get there." Angelina nodded and shut the bathroom door.

Running to the phone, Sheridan quickly called the one person who may know something about what's bothering her roommate. "Hey Nick. How are you?"

Dropping his towel on the floor after towel drying his hair, he replied, "Hey Sheridan, I'm good. How 'bout you?"

"Good thanks. Listen, I have a question to ask you and before you say it's none of my business, hear me out, okay?"

Nick groaned, "Why do I get the feeling I'm not going to like what you have to ask me?" Nick sat down on his bed as a nervous flutter shocked his body.

"It may be nothing. I always make something out of nothing. Angel just doesn't seem like herself. This is the third time this week I've noticed…."

"What are you talking about Sheridan? Cut to the chase please?"

"Sorry Nick. It has to do with Angelina. Has she been acting strange to you lately?" Sheridan held her breath waiting for Nick's reply.

"No. Well, maybe a little distant at times, but she says she's tired; she didn't sleep well the night before."

"Uh huh…" Sheridan contemplated her next question, "Hey Nick, can I ask you a rather personal question?"

"You can ask me anything Sheridan, it doesn't mean I am going to answer it though," Nick wasn't sure where Sheridan's line of questioning was going.

"I've noticed Angel's been staying ….I mean, she's been sleeping here in our apartment lately. Is there anything wrong between you two?" Sheridan's voice was very quiet as she finished her question.

Nick sat on his bed, staring out the window, thinking about what Sheridan just asked him. "There's nothing wrong between us. We haven't had a fight or anything. Sure, we've had disagreements but nothing serious. When I've asked her to stay at my place, she prefers to go home because of the early mornings you guys have been putting in on the set. She said she's been having nightmares and doesn't want them to interfere with my sleep. She told me this last night. I didn't know beforehand since she hasn't been around. She said that they are probably from the stress of putting the set together…" his voice trailed off and panic set in. "Sheridan, why do you think something is wrong with Angelina? What's she been doing? Has she been acting funny?"

"She's incredibly tired. She's not sleeping well at night, that's for sure. I walked by her room this morning and her bed covers were strewn all over the place. She looked like she had a fight and lost."

"What has she told you Sheridan?" Nick was now getting upset hearing what Sheridan was telling him.

"Nothing. I don't know what's wrong Nick, that's why I'm calling you. I'm trying to figure it out. I'll keep my eyes and ears open." Sheridan heard the shower stop and began to whisper, "Listen Nick, I have a plan. If you could, can you get her to stay at your place tonight? I think if she is having bad dreams every night, about what, I don't know, maybe you can figure it out if you are in the same bed. She's always been a great sleeper. This is so unlike her."

"Of course Sheridan. I haven't been pushing her to stay here with me or questioning her motives for wanting to go home since I know some pictures of us have surfaced to the general public. The fans know about her. I figured this was a way for her to try and keep the relationship under wraps. Her way of dealing with it, so to speak."

"I don't think that's it Nick. Angelina's a pretty strong minded woman. That wouldn't bother her too much, she'd tell them to kiss off."

"Really?" Nick questioned. He was pretty sure of himself or rather talked himself into thinking this must be the reason Angelina didn't want to be with him.

Sheridan could hear the sadness in Nick's voice. Mentally kicking herself, she retracted her statement a bit, "Anything's possible Nick. Maybe she is softening and this is affecting her more than I realized. I remember when we were younger, she would always worry about what other people thought of her. After the Joey fiasco, she certainly hardened her shell. Maybe she's doubting herself again."

Angelina walked out of the bathroom and into her bedroom. She looked a little better and smiled to Sheridan, "Who are you talking to?"

Nick's ears perked up. "Uh-Oh."

"I need to set up a dentist appointment." Sheridan replied. She hated lying.

"I'll be ready in five minutes," Angelina said before shutting her bedroom door.

"Hey Sheridan, I got an idea," Nick said as his mind raced, "And I'll need your help."

"You got it. What's your plan?"

"I'm thinking of taking Angelina away for the weekend, away from the stress here. What do you think?"

"Can I come too?" Sheridan said while laughing, "I'm just kidding. That wouldn't be a bad idea. Where are you thinking of going?"

"Brian is headed back to Atlanta this weekend when Howie goes to Japan and A.J. is off to a convention in Las Vegas. I was planning on going back to Florida for some personal business anyways. So I was thinking I could take Angel with me and we could head off to the Bahamas from there." Nick said grinning. "What do you think?"

Sheridan was surprised to hear that 3/5ths of the boys had plans already for this weekend. She hadn't had time to look at the schedule since her mind was focused on a day-to-day basis with the work she had to do. 'I wonder what Kevin has planned,' she thought to herself.

"I think you are right Nick. I'll help you convince Angel if need be."

Nick hadn't thought he'd need to convince his girlfriend she needed a vacation but was glad to know he would have help.

"I'll make the reservations, then tell the guys I have plans that weekend and will be away too. Thanks Sheridan."

"No problem. See you in a little bit."

"Bye."

After hanging up the phone, Angelina came out of her room all dressed and ready to go back to the set.

Sheridan needed to do some quick thinking if she was going to help Angel spend the night at Nick's. "Hey Angel, why don't we take my car today?"

Angel looked up from her handbag as she pulled out her set of keys, "You want to risk us breaking down somewhere and be late?"

Sheridan bit the inside of her cheek, 'smartass,' she thought. "Well, I need to stop and get gas before I forget."

Angel shrugged her shoulders, "Works for me. If we are late, you can call Kevin, the Lord and Master, and explain." Laughing, Angel walked out the front door.

"Bitch," Sheridan mumbled as she locked up the apartment.

On the set, the day went well as far as filming was concerned. Johnny Wright stopped by around lunchtime to give Howie and A.J. some material they would need for the weekend. Sheridan watched in awe at the interaction the boys had with their manager. Being the fan she was, she always thought there was bad blood between them but it turns out it was more the boys vs. Lou and Donna Wright, Johnny's now ex-wife. Kevin was deep in conversation many times but always stopped when she approached. She started to get offended until Johnny introduced himself and Kevin introduced her as his "Right Hand Man."

"Nice looking Right Kevin."

Kevin blushed and shook his head at Johnny.

Angel was trying to be discrete and hide. She knew Johnny would want to know how things were going with the paparazzi and she really didn't want to talk about it anymore.

Nick noticed Angel was very quiet. Just before lunch, he walked over towards her and asked if they could find a quiet place to talk. Angel knew she better shape up or her relationship was going to be in jeopardy.

"That sounds like a great idea Nick. Where would you like to go?"

"Why don't we eat lunch in my trailer? A.J. is running uptown on an errand." There were three trailers on the set for the boys. One is shared by Nick and A.J.; another one is shared by Kevin and Howie and the third one is for Brian, since Leighanne and Baylee were in town and visiting on the set.

As the director yelled, "CUT! Time for lunch," a siren went off. The caterer hired for the set was a favorite of the boys and served good food. As much as the money factor bothered Kevin on some level, the boys weren't going to skimp on the food for the staff. They were all working too hard and deserved a well-catered meal.

Sheridan had left Kevin talking into his cell phone. Johnny was walking behind the scenes as Sheridan went to seek out Angel. She wanted to have lunch with her friend and try and find out what was wrong. Sheridan approached Angel and Nick. Nick was behind Sheridan to see Kevin hang up the phone. Johnny approached Kevin once again.

Sheridan opened her mouth to speak to Angel.

"SHERIDAN!" Kevin bellowed around the huge set since he couldn't see her.

Sheridan rolled her eyes as Nick stuck his tongue out at her and began to laugh. "I'm so glad he has you to yell at now."

"Gee thanks, lucky me," Sheridan turned around and smiled at Kevin who stood with Johnny. "Yes Kevin?"

"Oh there you are. Come on, lunch. You, me, Johnny. We have work to do." Kevin walked off towards the caterer's set-up.

As soon as Kevin was out of earshot, Angel snorted and Nick was cracking up. "Ape man wants you Sheridan." Nick laughed and elbowed her in the ribs. "Oh a new story line for her."

"Shut up, you… you… blonde knuckle dragger," Sheridan stomped towards Kevin.

Angel pulled Nick back for a minute. "Cool it, she's pissed. She really is."

"That's her pissed?" Nick hesitated for only a second.

Angel nodded as she watched Sheridan shoot daggers with her eyes at her boss's back but she wouldn't ever say anything to him.

Nick wasted no time in getting his food so he could finally have some time alone with his girlfriend. He still needed to think of a backup plan in case Angel insisted she go home tonight and not stay with him. He made it back to his trailer in record time. Angel got side-tracked by one of the crew members.

Hearing a knock on his door, Nick groaned, 'Who could this be?' He was surprised to see it was Angel. "Why did you knock? You can just come in, ya know."

Smiling sheepishly, Angel said, "You never know if A.J.'s plans changed or something. I didn't want to barge on in, just in case."

Nick smiled and shook his head. "I never would have thought of that."

"Of course you wouldn't, but I would. I worry about the little things sometimes. I don't want to upset the others or anything." Angel put her drink and plate on the kitchenette table while looking for some napkins.

Nick thought about what Sheridan said on the phone earlier that morning and it clicked.

Coming back to the table, she put a bunch of napkins in the center of the table and quietly began cutting her teriyaki chicken with grilled vegetables. They had asparagus, her favorite.

Nick sat across from Angel and stared at her as she engrossed herself into cutting the food on her plate. Nick patiently waited for her to finish and look up at him.

As she began to eat her meal, she noticed Nick was just sitting across from her, staring. "Aren't you going to eat Nick?"

Smiling, he picked us his fork and nodded, "Uh huh." After a few minutes of silence, Nick decided if he needed time to convince Angelina to stay with him tonight, he better ask her sooner, rather than later.

Fortunately, Nick's worries were for nothing. As soon as he asked, she shocked him.

"Angel, I was wondering if maybe tonight we could grab a bite to eat and take it back to my place and we could come to work together tomorrow morning?"

Angel finished chewing her chicken before she spoke, "I'd like that," she replied with a genuine smile.

Nick began pleading his case, "I'd love to spend tonight with you Angel, it's been a long time..."

Angel cut in on him, "Me too Nick."

Nick looked up from his plate shocked. Angel's response didn't register until now, "Really?"

Angel half smiled at him, knowing she hadn't been the best girlfriend these past few days, "Yeah, really. Look Nick, I'm sorry if I seem a little distant from you lately. It's just there is a lot going on and I didn't want to have you deal with it too. You've got enough going on with your family, the CD, the movie…"

Nick reached across the table to take Angel's hand, "Baby, I don't care about all of that as much as I do about you, okay? Next time you feel overwhelmed, lean on me, okay?"

Tears welled up in Angel's eyes as she listened to Nick's words. In a horsed voice, she whispered "Okay." Thinking about her nightmares, she knew she had to come clean with Nick also. "I need to talk to you about something that's been bothering me."

Nick looked surprised, "What?"

Angel looked down at her plate, "I don't want to talk about it here Nick. I'd rather we talked at your place."

Feeling a sudden sense of uneasiness and nervousness, Nick's smile turned into a frown. "Can you at least tell me what it's about? Because I'm clueless Angel. I thought things were good between us."

Angel needed to reassure Nick before his mood carried out onto the set, "They are Nick. Something sort of came up and I just want to talk to you about it. That's all."

Nick wasn't pleased, "It's about us though, right?"

"In a round-about way, yes. But it's nothing serious. I just need to talk to you about something that's been bothering me lately. That's all. I'm trying to use Johnny's advice Nick and communicate when something's bothering me, okay?"

Nick tried to calm himself down. "Okay, if you say so. We'll talk about this tonight." Realizing he lost his appetite, he got up and threw away his lunch before heading to the bathroom in the back of the trailer.

Blowing out some air to push her bangs out of her eyes, Angel huffed, "That didn't go so well."

Suddenly, there was a knock on Nick's trailer door. Angel got up to answer it since Nick wasn't around. The one person she had been successful in avoiding was now standing in front of her.

"Hi Johnny, come on in. Nick's in the bathroom at the moment."

"That's alright. I came to talk to you."

"Me?" Angelina's voice squeaked.

"I just wanted to see how you were doing, that's all." Johnny was a very friendly and caring man.

"I'm doing pretty good Johnny. Thanks for asking."

"No she's not," Nick's voice boomed from behind her. Startled, Angelina jumped back a bit and gave Nick a nasty look.

Johnny could sense some tension between the young couple. "Well, if I can help either of you, in any way, please don't hesitate to contact me, okay?" As Johnny was about to leave, Nick joined him and they walked out of the trailer together.

"What's up bro?"

Running a hand through his hair, Nick huffed, "Damned if I know. Listen, I just wanted to let you know that I'll be heading to Miami this weekend and then I'm off to the Bahamas, that is if I can convince Angel to come with me."

"The Bahamas? Oh man, I'll stop by later tonight or tomorrow and drop off some VIP vouchers for Michael Jordan's charity golf tournament this weekend in Nassau. If you go, you can stop by and enjoy some celebrity mingling."

Nick smiled, "Cool." His smile faded, "But I'm only going to go if Angel comes with me. Otherwise, I'll spend a day or two in Miami then head back to LA."

Putting his arm around the younger man and giving him a reassuring squeeze, "I'm sure it will all work out Nick. Besides, who can resist that pout of yours? Besides Kevin that is," Johnny chuckled.

Nick half smiled, "I hope you are right."

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This is a work of fiction.
The characters and events portrayed are fictitious.
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