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A Collaboration between Bron and Suzie

Chapter 49

Her head rested on his broad shoulder as they flew first class back to Los Angeles. Angel was mentally, physically and emotionally drained. As she and Nick went to bed only hours earlier, she slurred she needed a vacation after these past two trips.

"Welcome to my life," Nick replied while spooning behind her. He had a more stressful day and wasn't able to finish the birthday plans he started since last week. In the wee hours of the morning, Nick called A.J. for help. A.J. agreed, he knew his younger brother was burning the candle at both ends.

"It's a beautiful, sunny day in Los Angeles. 88 degrees is the high." The Captains' voice vibrated throughout the cabin.

Marybeth and Sheridan were seated as a couple, much to the dismay of Kevin. He had trouble seeing his assistant as she took the window seat and Marybeth's height protected Sheridan from his prying eyes. He would swing forward and so would Marybeth. Yep, they were all plotting against him.

Kevin requested a glass of water from the stewardess as she passed by his seat. When she returned, she also dropped two capsules of Tylenol in the palm of his outstretched hand. Giving her a timid smile, he said his thanks and gulped them down. She then handed him a pillow and blanket to rest.

"Is it that obvious?" Kevin chuckled.

Leaning down as to not disturb the other passengers, she whispered, "No. Your friends told me that you may need a little TLC on the flight."

Biting the inside of his cheek, he nodded. "I'm all set, thanks." He then closed his eyes as he tried to get comfortable. 'Friends my ass,' he scolded them in his head.

The obnoxious laughter from Angel still resonated in his ears from earlier that morning. It started a chain reaction in the hotel lobby as the gang waited for the van to transport them to the airport. Marybeth's eyes were swollen from tears of laughter. She was wearing her glasses because she had to take out her contacts last night after one fell out and was lost. Even Sheridan couldn't hold back laughing in her boss's face. It was so bad Nick excused himself to the men's room before he caught the laughing bug. Kevin sat slouched in a lobby chair with a frown. As if the banging in his head didn't warrant for a bad day, Angelina's snorting would insure Kevin remained miserable.

Kevin tried to focus on Sheridan; it proved futile since a marching band seemed to be thundering around in his head. All he wanted to do was talk to her about last night. He had struggled since he woke to put the pieces together of what the hell had happened. He thought maybe he had done some Karaoke but he wasn't real clear on it. To top it off, it was Angel's birthday. Nick was stressing over his girlfriend's birthday plans and had confided in Kevin he needed help. Nick felt horrible that he didn't realize when her birthday was and was short on time to plan "the perfect birthday celebration." Of course, Kevin ended up helping with Nick's plans.

Strangely, Angel never noticed the stress from her boyfriend. Even with all the shit hitting the fan with his family the past week. Nick had mastered hiding his emotions around the ones he loved for so many years, Angel was fooled as well. This would later haunt him, but on a different subject matter all together. Therefore, Kevin had to be nice to Angel regardless. Kevin bit his tongue before he said something he would be in trouble for later.

Nick appeared to be resting in his seat but he was running through the events of the day in his head. Howie, Brian and A.J were all set with the plans. Nick almost had a cow when Angel insisted they go back to his apartment to do laundry. Nick had everything all set to take place at the girls' apartment. A little white lie will have to do. Nick just prayed that Brian was able to find his spare key to Angel's apartment and set it up.

Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, Leighanne and Brian were trying to locate the key as well as Nick's birthday present for Angel in his apartment.

"You can tell he rushed out of here. This place looks like a tornado swept through it." Leighanne said with a bit of disgust in her voice. She picked up an ashtray and dumped its contents in a trashcan.

Brian could tell Leighanne wasn't thrilled with the condition of Nick's apartment or the fact that he smoked. "Be careful we don't lose Baylee in his bedroom," she called to Brian as she began organizing Nick's living room.

"Nick could really use a woman's touch in this apartment. How long before Angelina moves in here?"

Brian nearly dropped the box in his hand. He found Nick's gift to Angel. "Oh, not long. If the paparazzi don't drive them together, this gift will." Brian held out the box to show Leighanne. Her mouth dropped open, "Wow! That is beautiful." Leighanne noticed Brian had removed the ribbon that held the present neatly together. "BRIAN THOMAS LITTREL! You aren't supposed to snoop! Your best friend trusts you to help him out, not invade his privacy!" Annoyed, she stomped out of the room to find Baylee. Luckily, he found the remote control and box of Lucky Charms to entertain himself.

"Find the key and let's go Brian." Leighanne demanded. She was surprised at Brian's behavior. She would have to discuss it with him later tonight.

As Brian search through the last pair of Nick's pants that lay on the bedroom floor, he pulled out the keychain that belonged to Angel and Sheridan's apartment.

Picking up Baylee, the family exited Nick's apartment and were on their way to the girls' apartment.

"'Ello," Baylee said with a huge smile. Brian and Leighanne turned to see who Baylee was talking to.

"Hello, what's your name?" a man's hand approached the little boys'. Leighanne moved away from the stranger, closer to Brian, to keep Baylee out of danger.

"I'm sorry." The stranger backed off. "I didn't mean to scare you all."

Brian recognized the girl's neighbor immediately as he spotted a USP package in his other hand. "Oh hi, you're Sheridan and Angelina's neighbor right? I'm sorry, I forgot your name." A smile crossed Brian's face and Leighanne knew it was safe.

"I'm Patrick," he extended his hand towards Brian's.

"Patrick. This is my wife, Leighanne, and our son, Baylee."

Baylee smiled as Leighanne spoke, "Hi, nice to meet you."

Patrick noticed Brian was opening up the girls' apartment. "Would you mind putting this package on their table? It arrived on Saturday and I'm on my way out of town. I'd hate to have Angelina miss out on one of her birthday gifts."

Brian graciously accepted the package and they said their goodbyes. "Let's hurry up and get out of here Brian. Baylee needs a nap soon." Leighanne was growing impatient.

Brian headed down the hall to Sheridan's room. Cracking the door open, he smiled at the neatness of the room. From what he had gathered from Nick, it almost took an act of congress to get Sheridan to Sundance. Kevin had finally showed up and saved the day. "Good ole Kev, riding to the rescue."

He bent down and lifted the dust ruffle. Brian peered under the bed, he couldn't see to the other side. "Geez, do you think you have enough shoes Sheridan?" Dropping the ruffle he looked around the room. "This isn't going to work. There is no room in here."

Brian headed towards Sheridan's closet and then stopped. He looked at Leighanne who now stood with her arms akimbo and a raised brow at him.

"I don't think Sheridan would appreciate you in her room."

"Yeah, but if I look, I could tell Kevin." Brian shot her a cheesy grin. Brian exited the room and stood in the hallway.

"Hurry up."

"Give me a few minutes, will ya?" Brian rolled his eyes. He went into Angelina's bedroom with Leighanne hot on his heels.

"I don't like you snooping in another woman's bedroom!"

Brian raised his eyebrows in surprise, "Are you jealous Leighanne?" A mischievous smile crossed his face.

Folding her hands across her chest, Leighanne adamantly denied such accusations.

Brian giggled as he walked towards Angel's closet, "Could have fooled me." Brian opened up the double doors and was in awe. It was cluttered, yet organized. It was packed with boxes, clothes, shoes, boots, coats and computer supplies. Leighanne stood beside Brian as she surveyed Angel's closet.

"I wonder what's in all these Rubbermaid boxes?" Brian questioned.

"C'mon Brian, hurry up" BANG "No snooping!" Leighanne yelled out the end as she ran into the living room to see what Baylee was doing and what the loud bang was.

Brian attempted to lift up one of the lids, but the weight from the boxes on top was too much. Determined to take a peek inside, he grabbed Angel's step ladder. 'This must be for Sheridan's benefit,' he giggled in his head. As Brian carefully maneuvered the top box down, he let out a loud grunt. "Damn, this box is heavy! I wonder what's inside?" he said to no one.

Leighanne came back into the bedroom with Baylee in tow. "Brian, I'm taking Baylee out to the car. He knocked over a vase with dried flowers in it."

Brian's face paled. "What kind of a vase was it?"

"Don't worry Brian, it's something we can definitely afford to replace." Leighanne said with a bit of arrogance in her voice. "I threw the pieces in their trashcan along with the dried flowers."

"Let's hope it doesn't hold any sentimental value. Go to the car. I'll be down in a bit." Getting irritated, Brian decided to drop it. He swung back to Angel's room to finish his investigation. Brian would definitely be returning without his spouse this evening. She was aggravating him and he was feeling the need for some space.

Carefully opening the lid, Brian saw a bunch of VCR tapes. He picked up one and read the label, "Black and Blue, Dallas Concert, August 2001," then another, "Black and Blue publicity tour, Spain." Digging up one from the bottom, it looked different from all the others and caught his attention. Pulling out a white laminated case, he saw a picture of what he guessed was a very, young Nickolas and the title, "Griswold, the Turkey." Opening up the case, Brian couldn't resist. He turned on Angel's VCR and TV and hit play. He knew he was out of time so he fast forwarded to see a nine year old Nick on the screen acting in a Sunday morning Tampa show. "Oh my God. I can not believe what I am watching right now."

Quickly returning the tape to its proper case, Brian put the box back in Angel's closet and then realized he still hadn't found a place to leave the gift for Nick to find before Angel did.

Looking under her bed, Brian felt like he was really invading Angelina's privacy. He saw handcuffs and pair of black thong panties. "Oh I'm going to hell" Brian said to himself. "Well, if she didn't find her used panties to do laundry, she won't find this box." He thought he rationalized that pretty well. Placing the blue box with the white ribbon under Angel's bed, Brian was about to get up and leave when he noticed another box filled with more VCR tapes. Sliding it out, he quickly opened it up to see all the labels to each VCR tape pointed at him so he could read it. He also noticed a bunch of CDs. Each CD was labeled NON with a city and date. Looking back through the tapes, Brian realized Angelina had a bootleg copy of every one of Nick's Now or Never concerts. "Why you little devil Angel." Brian teased. "Oh man, do I have leverage now!" Hearing a car horn BEEP outside, Brian knew it was for him to hurry up. Brian quickly swept the box back under the bed and raced out of the apartment, being careful to relock it again.

As the plane landed, Nick was getting jittery. Placing her hand on his knee, Angel gently massaged his nerves to calm him down. Kevin watched in awe how she could communicate to Nick by touch. Normally, Kevin could communicate to Nick by his eyes and body language, but this still impressed Kevin.

Kevin and Marybeth had driven their cars to the airport so it was decided that Kevin would drive Nick back to his apartment and Marybeth would drive Sheridan and Angelina home.

The opportunity to speak to Sheridan privately still hadn't presented itself. The harder he tried the harder his friends managed to foil his attempts to be alone with her. Every time he made eye contact with Sheridan, she would blush. He needed some time to shake the cobwebs out of his head before he could ask her what her answer would be.

On the car ride home, Nick discussed his plans for Angelina's birthday. "Well, she wants to come to my place to do laundry together and order in Chinese food. Ya know, a nice relaxing evening at home. But, I'll let her know my water is shut off so we can't do it here. I'll grab all our dirty clothes, throw them in my car, and take them to her place. We're just going to hang out until you all show up with drinks, food, and the cake."

Kevin noticed the scenery while driving. He said the occasional, "Uh huh" while Nick spoke, but for the most part, he was in another world himself. Sheridan's answer was the utmost thing in his mind. Trying to remember what the hell he did last night was the second.

"Why are we here?" Nick looked at Kevin as he parked the car in front of a florist shop.

Subconsciously, Kevin had driven Nick to buy flowers at the same shop he picked up his flowers for Sheridan. "Go get some nice flowers for Angel, Nick."

Hopping out of the car, Nick bounced through the front door. Quickly, Nick reappeared at Kevin's driver side window. "What kind of-- "

Kevin interrupted Nick, "Ask for Rose. She'll help you out."

Ten minutes later, Nick held a vase full of exquisite flowers as well as a basket draped around his arm. After putting them carefully in the backseat, he smiled at Kevin with an "I'm all set, thanks."

Kevin took a breath of A.C. air. "She's good, isn't she?"

"Yeah, she is. The old man is a hoot too. I guess being married for more than 50 years can do that to a person."

The remainder of the car ride home was quiet, except for the sounds of traffic rolling along with them.

Nick gently moved the flowers into his escalade before running upstairs to grab the remainder of his laundry. Kevin drove home in silence. His head still ached a bit and he was tired, but overall, he felt good and was looking forward to tonight. A nap was going to make a world of difference for him.

Marybeth parked her car then she released the trunk hatch. The girls' piled out one by one. Stretching her arms toward the sky, Angel cracked a few bones.

"God, that sounds gross," Sheridan complained.

"Sorry if my aging body sounds annoy you, but you should be used to them," Angel finished saying as she dashed up the stairs to unlock the apartment door. Marybeth hid her amused smile.

Sheridan smiled, "She loves to remind me that I am older than her. She forgets that I am wiser than her."

Angelina came bouncing down the stairs to retrieve her luggage from the trunk. "Ah, the 'I'm wiser' tale. Don't kid yourself Sheridan, you know you aren't that much wiser than me, ESPECIALLY IN THE ROMANCE DEPARTMENT." Angelina's voiced boomed through the parking lot.

"Shh…will you lower your voice." Sheridan said with bright crimson cheeks.

Realizing she was a bit louder than normal, Angelina's cheeks turned a nice shade of scarlet. "Sorry. My ears are still clogged from being in the plane."

As the girls' walked into their apartment, there was a strange feeling. Both girls noticed it as soon as they walked passed the living room. Cautiously, they started checking all the locks on the windows. Marybeth walked in and observed their odd behavior. "Is everything okay? Should I call security?"

Angel turned towards Marybeth with a quizzical look on her face. "No. It appears someone broke in to put something in our apartment, not steal anything." Angel's face paled as she held the UPS package in her hand.

Sheridan's mind began to race. "You never know. What if someone bugged our home? Spy cams, phone taps…"

"You watch way too much TV Sheridan." Angel concluded her roommate was overreacting.

"Yeah, we'll see about that." Sheridan spoke as she picked up the phone. She couldn't hear a dial tone. Bile began to rise in her throat as she heard a man's voice through the phone line.

"Hello! Angel? Sheridan? Yoo Hoo!"

Angel grabbed the phone from her frozen roommate's hand, "Give me that." She spat at Sheridan.

"Hi Nick. Sorry bout that." Angel gave Sheridan the evil eye. "What's up?"

"They turned off the water at my place so I wondered if I could bring all our laundry to your place?"

"Are you in your car now?" Angel sat down on the couch Indian style and hugged a pillow to her chest.

"Yup."

"Is the car packed with dirty laundry?" Angel was playing with him.

"Hey, I don't air out my dirty laundry!" Nick snickered, "Yeah, I've got it all in the back of my Escalade."

"Good thing you haven't traded that in for the smaller Mercedes you were eyeing. All your shit would never fit." Angel twirled her hair as she spoke.

"All OUR shit, you mean." Nick smiled as he drove along.

Sheridan looked at Marybeth and rolled her eyes. Walking towards the kitchen, she noticed her dried flowers in the trash with pieces of her favorite vase. "WHAT THE HELL?" Sheridan screamed.

Nick, Angel and Marybeth all yelled in unison, "What's wrong?"

Carefully picking up a flower, Sheridan held it up like the Olympic torch, "THIS! THESE!!" She pointed to the trash with free hand.

"Did you break your vase?" Angel questioned as she inspected the trash can.

Exasperated, Sheridan whined, "No! I would never throw away the flowers Kevin sent me. They're special."

"Did she just say what I think she just said?" Nick questioned with a laugh in his voice.

"Yes Nick. The "I'm-so-sorry-for-being-an-ass Kevin flowers."

Nick laughed even harder, "Didn't you throw yours away?"

Angelina smiled, "Yes I did. They just reminded me what a pig Kevin really is."

Hurt registered on Sheridan's face. "Hey. He's been trying to be less of an ass since then." Even Sheridan couldn't contain the laughter building in her as she thought about last night. "Did I just say that?"

Marybeth was confused but highly amused. "So when did the vase break?"

Angelina thought about it. "Maybe who ever dropped off the package broke the vase?"

Sheridan thought for a second, "Yeah, but no one else has a key to our place but us and our parents." With her eyes popping out of her head, "You don't think Tom made a new set of keys, do you?"

"Wait a minute -- your parents?" Marybeth questioned.

"Well, in case they ever come to visit - and we're busy, they can let themselves in." Sheridan rationalized it was always a good idea to have a second set of keys.

Angel bit her lips, Sheridan rationalized everything, the chicken. Part of her problem with Kevin was Sheridan's need to rationalize, too bad Kevin over-analyzed everything too. They both were neurotic. On Kevin, it was sexy; it made Sheridan a pain in her ass most days.

Nick almost ran off the road as he realized Brian would have been the only person who would have gone into their apartment while they were away at Sundance.

Angel thought about the conversation. "Well, Nick has a key to our apartment, but we've been with him the whole time."

Sheridan made a face, "Nick has keys to our place?"

Marybeth mumbled, "Uh oh, I can tell a fan moment is coming."

Angel shook her head yes, "Babe. Where are your keys?"

Sheridan couldn't contain herself, "Oh my God! A backstreet boy has keys to our apartment!"

Realizing he would need to lie, Nick spoke quickly, "They're at my place." Hearing his phone beep, he checked the caller ID on his cell. Quickly, Nick told Angel he'd be at her apartment soon, but that he needed to get this other call.

As Angel waited for Nick to come back on the line, she slid a smile to Marybeth. "Sheridan chill. You have keys to a Backstreet Boy's house too," Angel said hoping it would level her out for a bit."

Angle waited for the reaction and it hit like a brick. Marybeth showed herself out laughing and waving at Angel as she left. Angel tapped her fingers as she waited for Nick to come back to her.

"Brian, what the hell happened at the girls' apartment?"

"Hello to you too Nick. WHY?" panic set in as Brian thought about what Nick had just asked him.

"Oh I don't know. The girls come home to see a broken vase and the dried flowers that once occupied it thrown in their kitchen trash!"

"Oh man, I totally forgot. Baylee broke it earlier when..."

"Baylee?"

"Well, Leigh and I needed to run some errands today so they came along with me to your place, and then the girls' apartment. I'm sorry Nick. I'll replace the vase and get the girls' fresh flowers when I come by later tonight."

"The vase was Sheridan's. Kevin sent it to her and she's flipping out." Nick and Brian were engrossed in their conversation about tonight's birthday party that Nick forgot he had Angel on the other line. Nick reached the girls' apartment, causing him to mumble, "Oh crap."

"What's wrong now Nick?" Brian asked as he folded up his "to-do" list and grabbed his keys and wallet to head out the door.

"I forgot Angel's on the other line."

"You left the birthday girl on hold?" Brian's laughter could be heard until Nick snapped his cell phone shut. Redialing Angel's number, he told her to meet him downstairs with the laundry detergent.

Nick felt his cell vibrating as he began sorting the laundry in the trunk. "Yeah Bri?"

"Before I forget to tell you, Angel's present is under her bed."

Kevin sat at his desk sorting the mail he had picked up at the post office box. Nothing urgent needed to be addressed. Even it had to be it would have to wait. His bed was calling him and he needed it. Nick so nicely filled him in on what an ass he had made of himself last night. "Damn," he mumbled as he fell face-forward onto his bed. "Some day I'll learn… I've got to get some sleep. I have to talk to her, not tonight, too many people. Damn people were in the way the whole time we were up there. Marybeth, Angel, hell even Nick. The shits better stay the hell out of my way the next few days. Filmin' is going to start soon. Stupid scene…" Kevin grumbled as he drifted off to sleep.

Being yanked from a dream sucked. Being yanked from a dream about Sheridan sent him full tilt as he grabbed for the phone that rang incessantly next to his head. "Better be good."

"You're late. We're heading over there in a few minutes."

"Dammit." Kevin slammed the phone back into the cradle and sat up. He made his way to the shower as he tried to clear the fog from his head. In the shower, he realized he just hung up on A.J. "Oh well," Kevin dashed around his house trying to get to the apartment on time.


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The characters and events portrayed are fictitious.
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