Through Thick And Through Thin

Chapter Twenty-Three

"Are you sure this isn't too small on me?" Katie asked Linz as she checked her reflection in the mirror.

"Yeah, it fits right," Linz reassured her.

"I don't know...I don't think the leopard print really screams out 'me,'" Katie pointed out, her eyes moving from the low neck and high hem to the leopard trim.

"It looks great on you," Linz said with a shake of her head. "And you know how protective I am of my leopard shit."

Katie laughed. She was having a great time with Linz, and she had momentarily forgotten about A.J. and that afternoon. "Yeah, almost as protective as Kevin is of me," she agreed.

Linz laughed and walked up to her. "Now...what to do with your hair?" she wondered.

"Curl-it!" Katie coughed with a grin.

"Hmm...maybe we should curl it," Linz mused.

"Hey, good idea!" Katie exclaimed as Linz went to get the curling iron.

There were three knocks on the door. "Hey...can I come in?" Kevin's voice asked from the hallway.

"Sure," Katie answered.

The door creaked open, and Kevin stepped inside. "How's it going in here?"

Katie turned to face him and smiled. "I found a dress."

Kevin's mouth dropped open. "That's...uhm..."

"Finish that sentence and you're getting bitch slapped," Linz called as she emerged from the bathroom with the curling iron.

Kevin walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her. "You're not wearing one of those things," he complained with a pout.

"Yet," Linz corrected, standing on her tiptoes to kiss him.

Katie watched this scene and felt tears sting her eyes, remembering when she and A.J. had been shopping at the beginning of her vacation, before she knew about his awful habit. She let out a shaky sigh as Linz and Kevin continued to kiss. Linz heard her and broke away.

"I'm sorry, Katie, we shouldn't--"

"No, go ahead. I don't mind," Katie said softly, turning away.

"Well, it doesn't matter, 'cause I have to do her hair and get dressed anyway," Linz pointed out. "And so do you."

"All right. I'll see you ladies in a bit," Kevin sighed, kissing both of their cheeks.

"Bye," they said in unison as he left the room.

* * *

A.J. took a deep breath as he adjusted his tie in the mirror at his house. He wasn't sure about this...not just the clothes, but what he was planning on doing as well. That would be going to the club to find Katie. After he had finished crying over her leaving him, he had started to wonder what she had been about to ask him. He checked the caller ID, called Brian back, and found out about the get together, making some lame excuse about why Katie had dropped the phone, he didn't even remember what the hell he'd said.

A.J. knew that Katie would still be angry with him, but he had to see her again, to prove her wrong before he had to spend another second without her. He frowned as he saw how much his spiky black hair with purple tips clashed with the suit and sighed. This isn't me, he thought, looking through his massive closet for something else. After a few frustrated minutes, his eyes fell upon a white shopping bag in the corner with a piece of paper taped to it. He frowned and walked over to it, not recalling ever buying anything in a bag like that. A.J. picked it up and looked at the piece of paper. It was a note, in Katie's handwriting and dated about a week ago.

Dear A.J.:
     This is just a little something I picked up for you when I was touring in L.A. I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you for the progress you've made in these two weeks. Things may be getting a little strained between us, but you should know that no matter what happens to us, I'll always love you.
              -Katie Richardson-

A drop of something fell onto the paper, and A.J. realized that it was one of his tears. All initial doubt about going to the club tonight immediately vanished from his mind. Katie must have been telling the truth when she had written that note. A.J. took a deep breath and opened up the bag to find two flat boxes. He opened up the top one and pulled out a sleeveless black shirt with silver Chinese writing down the side. The tag said that the writing translated to "love now and forever." A.J. put that aside and opened the other box. In it were silver pants that matched the shirt and a Chinese dragon ring with his initals engraved on it. A.J. knew right away that he had to wear that to the club, and he hoped that doing that would help to soften Katie a little bit. He knew how adamant she came whenever she got angry, but he also knew how sweet and understanding she was when that hostile barrier was broken. A.J. swallowed hard as he slipped into the clothes. After all that he had done, he just hoped that she would listen to him.

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