"Hey, sorry we're late," A.J. said as he and Katie rushed into the back entrance of the arena.
Brian looked up. "We?"
Katie ran into his arms and hugged him. "Yes, we," she replied, kissing his cheek.
"Heyyy, cuz!" Brian said, grinning.
"Kates!" Nick said when he walked into the room.
"Hey, Nickers!" she replied, hugging him around the neck.
"Knickers?" He laughed. "Like the underwear?"
"I was thinkin' more like Snickers, the candy bar, but...yeah, that suits you too. Just ask Lanie, right?"
Nick glared at her for a moment and then smiled, realizing what she had said. "Yeah, you're right."
"Where are D and Kev?"
"D is doing is hair, and Kev is on his way," Brian replied.
"Kev is late?" Katie asked in awe. "Kevin Scott Richardson is late?"
"I know," Nick agreed.
"I've gotta go change, babe," A.J. said, kissing her cheek. "Later."
"You sure you don't need any help?" she purred, putting he hands on his chest.
"After the show," he assured her, kissing her quickly before he dashed away to his dressing room.
Katie heard a door open and close behind her, and she turned to see a troubled Kevin walking into the room. "Hey, Kev," she greeted, hugging him. "Where's Linz?"
"She had plans," Kevin said softly, not quite looking into Katie's eyes.
She touched his arm. "Kevy--"
"I'd better go change," he murmured, hurrying away down the hall.
Katie frowned and looked at Brian, who shrugged, as did Nick.
"Don't ask me," Nick muttered.
Howie walked into the room. "Hey!" he said when he saw Katie, going to hug her.
"Hey, D!" Katie replied. "Oh, you have a hair sticking up."
"What? Where?" Howie asked immediately, trying to locate it.
Katie laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Just kidding."
"You're mean," Howie whined.
"Aw, I'm sorry," Katie cooed, kissing his cheek.
"Hey, do you know what's up with Kev?" Katie wondered, letting go of him.
"No, but I'll bet it has something to do with Linz because he was fine this morning," Howie recalled.
"Ohhh," Katie said. "Maybe Bone knows. I'll go ask him."
She went down the hall and found his dressing room. She knocked on the door. "A.J.? Can I come in?"
Inside the dressing room, A.J.'s eyes widened. He almost dropped the cigarette that was in his mouth, and he started to choke on the smoke. "Uh...I'm not decent!" he lied, putting out the cigarette. Thank G-d he had been smoking in the bathroom.
She laughed. "Like that's gonna bother me. Come on, I have to ask you something."
"Just a second, sweetheart!" A.J. said, searching frantically for an ashtray. He finally found one, put the cigarette in it, and stuffed it in the drawer of the vanity. A.J. quickly sprayed some air freshener in the room and some binaca in his mouth before opening the door. "Hey, baby. What's up?"
"Kevin is acting weird. Do you know why?"
A.J. shook his head. "Not a clue."
"Oh...okay then," Katie replied, smiling. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. Then she pulled away and made a face. "You taste funny."
He shrugged. "I have to get ready anyway."
Katie pouted. "Oh, well. Hey, can I use your bathroom?"
"No!" A.J. said quickly. He laughed uneasily. "Uh, no, it kinda smells in there. You probably don't want to."
She laughed. "I'm sure it's fine."
"No, no, don't go in there," A.J. insisted.
Katie raised in eyebrow and smiled wryly. "Are you hiding a girl in there or something?"
"Of course not," A.J. replied with a forced laugh.
"Okay. I'll, uhm, use someone else's," Katie reasoned, looking at him strangely before walking away.
A.J. moaned and collapsed into his chair after the door was closed. "Fuck me!" he mumbled, burying his head in his hands.
"And I want it tha-a-at wayyy," A.J. sang as the platform lowered beneath the stage for the last time. "Goodnight, Orlando! We love you forever!"
The platform came to a stop, and everyone started to cheer and hug everyone else.
"Done with another tour!" Brian exclaimed.
Katie and Linz hurried over to join the cheering. Katie jumped into A.J.'s arms for the second time that day and kissed him. "You were so great, baby!" she murmured, running her hands down his chest.
Linz timidly tapped Kevin, who was hugging one of the dancers, on the shoulder. He turned, and his face lit up to see her.
"You came!" he observed, pulling her into his arms and kissing her.
"Of course I came," she replied, stroking his cheek.
He smiled and ran his hands through her hair. He was obviously wrong about what had happened before. Linz was completely back to normal.
"You did a great job," she mumbled into his chest.
"Sorry if I blew you off before, Pumpkin."
Kevin smiled warmly. "Don't worry about it."
Linz felt another wave of guilt wash over her as Kevin's arms tightened protectively around her body. She bit her lip and closed her eyes tightly until the feeling had passed. Then she pulled away and smiled devilishly. "Want to go back to my place?"
"Ohh, you know I do, babe," he replied, "but I think we're all gonna go out to eat first. We usually do at the end of a tour."
"Okay...but I want you afterwards, okay?"
"You got it," Kevin agreed, winking.
Katie sighed and rested her head on A.J.'s shoulder as she watched Linz and her brother. "I see that Kevin's back to normal again," she noticed.
"Yeah," A.J. agreed, shutting his eyes and tightening his hold on her. He couldn't believe that he had to deceive her like this. I'm not deceiving her, I'm going to tell her later! He could suddenly feel another craving coming on. Shit... "Oh, baby, I gotta put you down for a second while I get my stuff."
"I'll come with you," Katie offered.
"No, I'll be right back," A.J. assured her. He set her down, kissed her cheek, and ran away before she could say anything else.