Here We Stand – Chapter Three

The Adjustments – AJ

“Okay, okay let’s try that again. AJ, you try singing a bit higher, you don’t have to cover my range anymore remember?”

So Kevin was still bossy as ever. And you know what? I was fucking thrilled.

“Can you see me, here I am…”

“Something’s still not right.” Great, now Nick’s deciding to nitpick. It’s almost like we have two damn Kevins. I love Kevin, the original one. I don’t need a blonde-mini-me though. Shit. One is plenty and perfect for the damn dynamic. I mean fuck, when Kevin left, I took it the worst. I’m sure Nick would tell you otherwise, but Kevin’s the dude who saved me. He’s the one who busted down my damn door to keep me alive. I hate to admit it, but part of me blamed Nick for him leaving. He’s the one who needed to get his shit together at the time.

I really hated when he left.

I didn’t blame him, hell no. I mean this shit got to me too. Why do you think I became an alcoholic? As much as I live this life, for a while I got lost in it. So yeah, I understood why he did it. I just hated that he had to leave. Couldn’t we just chill for a year and then come back? Or…something. I don’t know. It never felt right when he was gone. I know Nick liked it better; Kevin wasn’t on his ass anymore. Instead, musically Nick took the reins.

To be honest, we need someone on our ass about that. So I didn’t get mad when Nick did it. Brian didn’t want to, and Howie had a lot of the PR shit going. He’s the one who came up with the cruise idea. He saw how well it was working, how it would get press because it was a new trend, and went with it. Wasn’t the worst idea he’s ever had either.

I guess we all had new roles when I start thinking about it. Brian was the one keeping us organized, making sure we kept to schedule, suggested places we could go for promo to Jenn. I kind of just rode the wave. Sometimes I’d try and come up with lyrics and work with whatever writers and producers Nick dug up for us. Howie and I tended to get the most involved with the writing, though Nick and Brian would jump in sometimes too.

So I guess each of us took a piece of Kevin. Just, Nick took the most on. Like he wanted to prove we didn’t need him or something. Fuck that, of course we needed him. We work best with all five. I just think Nick needs to remember his old place.

“AJ are you paying attention?”

Wait, did both of them really just ask that shit?

Both of them looked at each other. Brian just started laughing.

“And you thought Nick was ignoring everything you said all those years.”

I rolled my eyes at them.

“Aww Nicky’s all grown up now, he’s just like Kevin.”

“I’m not just like Methuselay”

“You mean Methuselah.”

“Yeah, that.”

So we started again and both of them forgot I was basically ignoring everything they said. Not on purpose, just thinking about things. We had the cruise coming up. That was going to be the first official test drive for all five of us. We announced back in October that Kevin would be hosting the beach party when we stopped off in Nassau. No one knew he was back for good yet. Sure we’d tease it, but we weren’t planning on announcing anything till next year at the earliest. I knew why that was even if no one said it.

We didn’t want to say it and then be fucked if it didn’t work. Ain’t that just positive thinking?

It was going to work out. It had to.

Then again…

“Can you see me, here I am. Standing here, where I’ve always beeeeeeen!”

“Bri, are you okay? Have you been sick or something? You sound off.”

We couldn’t even get the harmonies right. Fucking hell.

“I don’t sound off.”

This was about to get really ugly.

Like falling out of the fugly tree hitting every damn branch possible on the way down ugly.

Kevin crossed his arms, facing his cousin. Nick was staying quiet, can’t blame him. Howie was checking something on his phone. None of us wanted to say what Kevin had the balls to. This was why we needed him. We knew Brian’s voice was slowly going to shit, how could we not? I mean hell, I lurk forums when I’m bored and needed something to do. Fans noticed it. We noticed it. His voice was starting to crack more, break easy, and waver a lot more. We knew. During the NKOTBSB tour we all started doing things to rest our voices. But the real reason was we wanted to have Brian do it but didn’t want to single him out.

Yeah, we’re chicken shits.

But none of us talked to him about it. I know we should have, but we couldn’t. We didn’t suggest anything. We hoped Brian realized it and did something. Sometimes it worked, the tricks and drinks we used along the tour. He’d start sounding better. Nothing lasted too long though. I think it’s cause he never gave his damn voice a break. After Never Gone, he did solo work. After that, we went to Unbreakable, and then This Is Us. Now we’re doing NKOTBSB. He never gave it a rest and its showing and sounding shitty.

What bugged me though, was that Nick was the one riding us musically while Kevin was gone. He was so damn determined to take his place. But he didn’t have the guts to tell his best friend what was up. Okay, I didn’t either, but I wasn’t trying to run the show either. Kevin’s back not even that long and he’s asking the question we should’ve asked after Brian got the Swine Flu.

“Have you thought about seeing a vocal coach about it?”

“No, I don’t need one.” Yeah, and I have a head full of hair.

“Have you heard yourself man? I’m not saying this to be mean.” He walked over, putting his hand on Brian’s shoulder. Very typical big brother Kev behavior right there. Some things really never do change.”I’m saying it cause our voices are what got us where we are.”

“You say us like you didn’t give up for awhile while the rest of us kept fighting.” Whoa. Okay that was a low blow. Especially since Brian was all for it when Kevin told him first.

See, this is why no one said it. We knew he’d take is personally.

For the first time, someone actually silenced Kevin. He stood there, staring at Brian like he was seeing him for the first time. Brian just glared back at him. He looked around at the rest of us. No one knew what to say. It wasn’t often those two fought, but when they did none of us ever had a clue what to do. They were family, it made everything more personal than if the three of us were involved.

“I need some air.” He declared, before storming outside.

I sighed. I really wanted a smoke but if I went outside I’d be the one trying to fix this. I didn’t want to fuck it up worse by telling him his cousin was right. Howie shared a knowing look with Kevin that he didn’t think I caught.

“I’ll go talk to him.” He declared before hurrying out after Brian. I had faith in Howie; he had this subtle ass way of getting under your skin and making you realize you were being an ass without ever saying it out loud. He’s stealth, D was.

Nick glanced at Kevin. “None of us knew how to tell him.”

“How long has this been a problem?”

Nick didn’t answer.

“Fuck he started cracking around the time you left, but it wasn’t that noticeable till after he had swine flu.”

“Why didn’t any of you try to get him to see a vocal coach before now? You saw one Nick; you should’ve had him go with you.”

“I saw one after you left, we had to rework all the vocals then. We thought Brian was just having a hard time adjusting.”

Okay, that’s bullshit. “Bullshit Nick, we all noticed and knew but you didn’t want to tell him. You had no problem bossing us around every other way, but you couldn’t give it to Bri straight.”

“At least I was trying to keep us on spot. You didn’t tell him either.”

“I wasn’t trying to be the new Kevin. You were, and so you should’ve manned up and dealt with it.”

His brows rose as he stared me down. Yeah, I said it. Before he could respond though, Kevin pulled him off to the side. Those two always had this weird ass bond that none of us could touch. Part of me was jealous. I always was of those two. Nick wasn’t even sure he wanted Kevin back at first, he wouldn’t say it, but you could see it. Yet there they were, just the way they used to be. I always wanted that sort of bond with Kevin. I never had a father growing up, Nick did. In fact, he really had two. I headed outside. Screw it; I really needed that smoke now. Anything would be better than watching those two.

It really wasn’t fair.

Next Chapter

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