"He's doing it again."
"Who?" Howie looked up from his spreadsheet, his mind only half concentrating on what AJ just said.
"Nick. He's doing it again."
Howie rubbed the bridge of his nose, right between his eyes where the beginning of a migraine could be felt tap tap tapping away. He sat back and tossed his pencil on the desk. "So go ask him to stop, Aje."
"I can't. You remember what Kevin said."
"No, I don't, but I'm sure you're about to tell me." He came off sounding pissier than he felt, and a tinge of regret stabbed his heart when AJ got to his feet and started to walk out. "AJ—"
"Forget it, D, you're busy. I'll catch you later."
"Don't be mad."
"Don't go away mad, just go away?" he grinned. "I'm outta here."
Howie sighed and went back to his work, relieved that he'd just dodged a bullet with his best friend, forgetting all about whatever it was that Nick was doing that was making AJ crazy. Knowing Nick, it could be something as simple as breathing.
"Kevinnnnn .... God, make him stop? Please?"
"Aje, for crying out loud, leave the kid alone." Kevin lay down the book he'd been trying to read and leaned his head back. Unbeknownst to him, he rubbed his eyes and the bridge of his nose exactly like Howie had just moments earlier. "He's lonely and it makes him feel better." He saw AJ began to argue with him and he held up his hand. "And don't try to tell me that you've never been homesick on tour, I remember the night when—"
"Fine. Okay, I'll let it go. But Kevin? If he's still doing it at bedtime, I swear I'm gonna have to hurt him."
"No you won't," Kevin answered with a soft smile. "Look, Brian's downstairs watching a movie, why don't you go hang with him for a while. I'll talk to Nick and see what I can do to help."
AJ grinned and plopped his sunglasses back over his eyes. "You rock, man. Seriously."
"Yes, I do," Kevin smirked, "now get lost."
With a quick salute and a clicking together of his booted heels, AJ took off leaving Kevin to (once again) slip into the role of big brother. Slipping his leather bookmark into place and closing his book, Kevin sighed. Nick was floundering, and he wasn't certain that anything he said or did could help. Ten years ago a new Nintendo game or all you could eat ice cream from room service would have done the trick, but now? Now Nick was twenty-four and fixing a broken heart wasn't quite as simple. Kevin raised his hand to knock on Nick's door and wished like hell it was ten years ago.
"Nick? Nick, it's me. Can I come in?"
Kevin grinned at the closed door, thinking maybe his wish had come true after all. "Come on man, you know I'll stand here and knock until you let me in." There was no answer from within, but finally when the door opened all Kevin saw was Nick's retreating back.
"Why not just get Drew to use his pass card?"
"Because you're not a kid, Nick," he sighed. "Can I sit?" he asked, and at Nick's quasi-nod, he sat on the unused bed across from the other one where Nick had thoroughly destroyed the covers.
"AJ sent you."
No use denying it. "Yes, he did. Wanta tell me what's wrong?"
"Maybe I just wanted to piss off Aje." Nick almost hid the grin that threatened to lift the corners of his mouth, but not quite.
"You're slipping, dawg, there's better ways than this."
"Maybe, but this one is sure as hell more effective." He was chuckling now, and flopped onto his back on top of the rumpled comforter. "Has he threatened to kill me yet?"
"No, so far he's only up to bodily harm."
"Shit, I gotta try harder," he said, struggling to sit up.
"Save it, I sent him down to bother Brian."
"You're no fun anymore, Kev. You gettin' soft in your old age?"
"That's not what Krissy said last night."
"Aww, damn man, way the hell too much information," he laughed as he heaved a pillow at his friend and sometime lover.
"Always," he chuckled.
"But I made you smile."
"You suck, Kevin, and I don't mean that in a good way." Nick hauled himself to his feet and reached for his guitar again.
"Oh no... I thought you were stopping?"
"Nope, and this time it's your fault. Now I'm all angsty and sad again," he said with a dramatic sigh and a teary (albeit fake) sniff.
"Bullshit," Kevin laughed as Nick began to pluck the strings, then finding himself humming along.
"Come on Kev, sing along, you know you want to," Nick grinned with a devious twinkle in his eye.
And so it was, when AJ banged on their door an hour later, he could hear the distinct sound of two harmonious voices lifted in song.
"Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea,
and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee..."