we invented the remix 6

beautiful by runzu: the skin deep and glitter mix by ephemera

It was pretty hard to believe, but the girl that half an hour ago Nick had thought seemed kind of pretty, kind of worth talking to, kind of likely to put out for a pop star, was still talking about man-bags. He'd followed the conversation initially; she thought it was fabulous that Brian had worn the man-purse on stage, and they were selling Leighanne's special design on tour, and apparently she thought that would really give the idea of man-bags a boost with the general population.

She had way too high an impression of what the guy in the street thought of a bunch of over-the-hill boy-banders.

Also, she liked hearing herself talk.

That was the only thing Nick could conclude, given that she was still talking, and he'd long since stopped trying to flirt, or, for the last little while, even answering with more than the occasional 'yeah?'.

The more time passed, the more things changed, the more other things stayed the same, and Nick always been chronically unable to pick out sane girls to hit on.

He looked around the room, over the blond bag-chick's shoulder, seeing the old-marrieds still over at their table, wives sitting on the wrong guys' laps, laughing at something. It still made him smile, seeing two of his boys so to-the-bone happy.

"I know! Isn't it great!" bag-chick exclaimed, gripping his forearm. Clearly she'd taken his unconscious smile for agreement with whatever the hell she'd been saying.

"Yeah. Yeah, I guess. Look - I'm sorry - there's someone I need to speak to. I'll catch you later, yeah?"

"Oh." Bag-chick's gleeful expression faded for a second, and then rallied into a slightly forced smile. "Sure."

Nick felt sorry for her, and leaned down to give her a brief hug and an insincere air kiss that turned her cheeks pink as he pulled away.

God, Nick thought, as he wove his way through the crowd. I sure can pick 'em. Still, he felt like he owed it to her - and to his own self respect - to try and make it not totally obvious that he was lying to get rid of her, so he took a direct path to the corner booth, trying to catch Brian's eye as he went.

"Hey, Bri - you seen AJ?" Nick asked as he got close enough to be heard over the bar's music.

"Was she crazy?" Brian tilted his head to indicate man-purse-chick across the room.

Nick glared.

"Just playin', " Brian grinned easily, not needing an answer. "I think he's down on the main floor."

"Cool, I could use a turn on the dancefloor."

"That what you're calling it these days?" Leigh leaned over to ask with huge, innocent eyes, and all four of them laughed as Nick gave them the finger. Smug married friends. Sometimes he kind of hated all of them.

Downstairs the light were dimmer, the air was thicker, and the music was loud enough to be physical, the bass line thrumming in Nick's chest.

The music wasn't anything to get excited about, but even so, the rhythm tugged at him, tempting him to drift into the crowded dance floor. The fun thing about celebrity parties was that the whole crowd was VIP, and he didn't have to worry about being mauled to shreds by overenthusiastic fans, or photographed looking like a dorky un-coordinated idiot.

Nick stood on the bottom step, one arm loosely looped around the banister, and peered through the flashing light to try and make out AJ amongst the crown. He couldn't see any sign of him, but there was a stage area up to one side of the DJ, where Nick could see dancers, and even if AJ wasn't over there, it still made a decent destination.

Nick launched into the crowd, letting the music sway his hips, moving with the crowd so it parted around him like water, letting him dance his way in and around and over towards the stage. He still didn't see AJ, and he drifted to a stop, stretching up to look around.

A gentle tap on his collarbone took him by surprise.

"It's okay," a throaty voice breathed into his ear, all exaggerated southern belle. "I'm right here, honey."

Nick blinked, and pulled back a little, re-establishing some personal space.

"Don't look so startled - pretty little thing like you - you must have all the ladies after you. You look like you could use a dance partner."

The drag queen's hand spread out from fingertips resting on Nick's collarbone to full palm contact with Nick's pectoral, long glitter encrusted nails digging into Nick's t-shirt just a fraction.

"I …" Nick stopped, and took in the over the top curled blond wig, the thick stage makeup, the obvious Adam's apple, the improbable figure, the ridiculous shoes. So the host had hired drag hostesses. Cute. And why not?

AJ was always teasing that Nick was so incapable of finding, let alone dating, a nice young lady, he'd be better off trying to pick a nice young man. The part where Nick always protested that he wasn't gay just made his stupid-ass bus partner shrug and grin and say infuriating things like 'so get flexible'.

Nick was already looking forward to the reactions he'd get when the guys spotted him dancing with a drag queen.

Nick swallowed his smile, and matched his reply to the style of the question.

"Why, it would be an honour, Miss," he said. "But first, may I ask your name?"

The drag queen's hand stopped suddenly, and she looked at Nick quizzically for a moment, and then shook her head a little, setting her earrings dancing.

"I'm Miss Marsha, sweet thing," she said, slowly, leaning in and up to be sure Nick could hear over the music.

Nick recognised the reaction - she'd expected him to know who she was. He guessed that maybe she was some kind of local celebrity - a literal scene queen - but he refused to feel guilty for not knowing about regional drag queen ratings.

Instead he straightened up, and held out one arm, stiffly, formally, like he was Clark Gable or some shit like that.

"Miss Marsha, may I have the pleasure of this dance?"

He grinned when she slipped her arm through his and let herself be led a few steps into the thick of the dance floor, where she turned and slid her other arm around his waist, turning the pounding bass into a slow dance. Nick let his hips follow her half-time sway, and went with it.

The songs changed - gaining more of an R&B feel, but still no tracks Nick really recognised - and the two of them carried on, letting the music move them back and forth, round and round, and Nick started to realise something.

Miss Marsha was hot.

Way hotter than she should have been. Nick kept trying to keep the fact that he knew she was a he front and centre, but it was getting harder and harder to do that, as she swayed and twisted, and pressed herself up against him.

Her long finger nails scrapped through the shaved hair at the back of his neck and made him shiver. Her waist was corseted, and her ass was lush , like, the perfect mix of firm and ripe, and it was like his hands kept heading that way without checking in for permission first. Her perfume was sweet, and spicy, and only came on stronger as they danced enough to start getting sweaty. When Marsha leaned in to take a long lick up the side of Nick's neck, he had to bite his lip, and he told himself that it didn't mean anything if he reacted, you know, physically, to the stimulation.

It was like the proverbial bucket of cold water being dumped over him when someone - AJ - suddenly grabbed him by the shoulder. Nick loosened his grip on Marsha, and twisted towards his band mate.

"What?" he hissed.

"Hey, dude," AJ held up both hands and made his 'innocent' face. "I just wanted to check that you were okay."

Nick frowned, and AJ raised one eyebrow and nodded towards Marsha, who was still dancing, one hand loosely resting on Nick's waist. .

"The hell? Oh!" Nick realised what AJ was hinting at. "No, yeah - dude looks like a lady, man, I know. And if you mention that time in Munich…."

"I'm just saying." AJ smirked, and Nick thought seriously about just strangling him then and there.

"I was seventeen, and you gave me beer!" Nick protested. "I'm not a total retard." AJ looked like he was going to debate the point, so Nick interrupted, using AJ's arm to physically turn him around. "Look - go tell Brian that my virtue's safe and leave me alone, yeah?"

"Fine, fine - I'll leave you and your dancing queen to have your fun." AJ blew Marsha a kiss, and then melted back into the crowd. Nick sighed, and turned back to his dance partner. Marsha twirled back into his arms with an extravagant gesture, and settled against Nick's chest possessively.

"Sorry about that," Nick said, although now AJ had broken the spell having 'Miss' Marsha cuddled up against him was less comfortable than it had been. Nick was really aware of the width of her shoulders under the ridiculous puff sleeves of her gown, the size of her hands, the way he could almost feel people watching them. Marsha was certainly the most interesting person he'd met at this party, though, and he wouldn't mind hanging out some more, just maybe somewhere less public?

"You want to maybe go check out one of the lounge rooms? There's one up on the roof that's really cool, sort of an Arabian Nights thing?"

Miss Marsha looked up at Nick from under long, glitter-fringed, lashes. "Sure, honey. Let's take this somewhere more private."

The implication was enough to set Nick's mind racing. He was playing with fire here. Miss Marsha took Nick by the hand and led the way, wending through the other dancers, and Nick let himself be led. People were going to notice, which meant that he was going to get their reactions, which was pretty cool - something to mix things up a little - but what if Marsha thought he was for real? What if she - he - was actually expecting stuff from Nick, thought he was actually into this?

The way Marsha was leading the way gave Nick an excellent view of her ass in its sleek, fitted skirt. The pink satin bounced the light in a way that made it impossible not to notice the swing of Marsha's hips, the way that ass moved… What if Nick actually was into this?

Nick did a mental count down of tonight's drinks, and wondered if someone had spiked something, because what he remembered didn't add up to enough to account for thinking like that. All of a sudden, a step appeared in front of Nick's right foot, and he almost tripped.

Miss Marsha looked back over her shoulder at him, one hand resting on her own shoulder like she was striking a pin-up pose.

"Second thoughts, sugar?" she said, loud enough to carry.

Nick shook his head. He moved closer to say, "the opposite," and then took advantage of the situation to get his hand back on that ass and goosed her with, with a broad smile and a wink.

"Greedy," Marsha grinned, batting his grabby hand away, and tugging on the one she held to get them back into motion.

Climbing a flight of stairs behind Marsha also afforded a fabulous view - not just off her ass, but the smooth bunching of muscle in her calves, smooth, creamy skin, the slightest hint of wobble in the ankles. So much like a real girl, no wonder Nick's libido was getting crossed signals.

At the top of the stairs, mindful of where the guys were sitting, Nick crowded close behind her, leaned over her shoulder, and whispered "You have the sweetest ass."

Miss Marsha somehow managed to wriggle her butt back against him, and tip her head back to answer him at the same time.

"Why, thank you, sweet thing." There was a smile in her voice, and she turned her head to brush a lipstick kiss on the side of his jaw. "Harem tent's on the roof, you say?"

Nick swallowed. All of a sudden getting out of the public eye was starting to seem like a good idea, and not just to reduce the amount of piss-taking AJ was going to do.

"Yeah," Nick whispered back, looking up under his eyelashes over to the guys' table to check on their reactions. AJ had played errand boy, sure enough, and all five of them were sitting in the booth watching him and Marsha like they were dinner theatre. Operation Mess With Their Heads was going well, even if Nick did feel like it wasn't entirely under his control.

Brian was in hysterics, and Leigh was whispering something behind her hand to AJ. Howie was staring at them - at Marsha - with an expression Nick couldn't read.

"Come on - before those clowns over there decide to come over here," Nick said.

Marsha chuckled. "You don't want to take me home to meet the family? A girl could be offended," she teased. She set off up the second flight of stairs to the roof garden without waiting for a reply, though, and Nick followed, making sure the Backstreet table would get an impression of him hurrying a pick-up away to the private lounges.

There were twelve little tent-thingies set up around the edge of the roof garden, hung with mini lanterns, and an artfully lit bar set up on the side where the expanse of inky black contrasted with the busy city lights, and told Nick that was the side of the building facing the ocean. You could kind of smell it on the breeze.

"Champagne?" Nick offered, and Marsha smiled back at him. "Sure."

The bar provided an ice-slick bottle, the bar tender sending the cork soaring off into the night, and Marsha dangled two long-stemmed glasses between her fingers as they turned back towards the private lounges.

The lanterns threw distorted shadows on the coloured drapes of the group of people gathered in the tent closest to the staircase, so they walked past, across to the far side of the roof, where things seemed to be quieter, Marsha still holding Nick's hand loosely.

There was what seemed to be an empty lounge here, and Nick bent to pull back the turquoise drape to one side of the doorway. Marsha gathered up an armful of thin cream fabric on the other side, and they both froze at the yelps of protest from inside, and then retreated in a flurry of apologies and awkwardness. The tents were filled with lavish couches and piles of floor cushions, and it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise to find folks taking advantage, but still! They hurried two tents along, looking for empty space with mutual urgency, where they collapsed onto the couch, laughing in disbelief.

"I'm not going crazy, right? Thatwas the Justin Timberlake Survivors Club we just walked in on?" Marsha asked.

Nick blinked and the image of Britney and Cameron Diaz curled around each other on the mounded cushions was burned into his mind. There hadn't been a whole lot of skin on show, but it had been unmistakably intimate.

"Man, I pretty much hope none of my exes ever talk to each other. I never thought to worry that they'd start hooking up like that."

"Not a fan of the girl-on-girl if you can't play too?" Marsha's voice was quiet, softer than before. After the dancefloor the roof garden was really quiet, and they were sitting shoulder to shoulder, hands still palm to palm, fingers interlaced, faces just inches apart.

"No, no, it's not that, it's more - I mean, if two of your exes get together for a coffee, they're probably going to talk about what a rat-bastard you were, and the time you didn't buy them a whatever, and how shitty they think it was when you turned out to be a controlling asshole because you don't want to see pap photos of your girlfriend making out with another guy, but if they're getting really intimate like that - you know they've got to be talking about what you did in bed, you know?"

"And you think sex is more - I don't know. That it's worse if they talk about that?" Marsha's thumb was rubbing a soft circle on the back of Nick's hand.

Nick frowned. "I guess. I mean, they always fucking talk about the bad stuff, right? I'm lucky if they don't go to the press with it. But, I don't know. It's like maybe the good stuff, that's more personal? Not just the sex, but -" He shrugged. "You never lay there at night, told someone stuff you weren't ever gonna tell anyone?"

Marsha snorted, and looked down for a second. Her fake eyelashes were super long, glitter encrusted at the tips, and her eyeshadow was starting to settle a little in fine laughter lines where it was packed on from eyelashes to eyebrow, blended out towards her temples.

"I think I get what you're saying," she said. "Sex doesn't have to be that - what did you say, personal? I mean, a lot of the time, sex is just a tool to get what you want, right? But that no-walls shit, that means they've got stuff that could really hurt."

"Yeah, that's - that's it. I mean - there's stuff I don't want people knowing about me more than I don't want them to know what positions get me hot and bothered. Not that I want that out in public a whole lot either… you know what I mean, right?"

"I think so." Marsha smiled, a little sad, a little raw. "I guess that's the silver lining to being the dumb shit who keeps going back to the same crazy ex in case things work out better this time - there's pretty much only one person I got to worry about for that."

It was Nick's turn to tighten his fingers around Marsha's. "Sounds like a tough ride."

Marsha shrugged. "My own damn fault for going back, I guess. Anyway - it's not exactly been rainbows and sunshine for you, right? I mean, my ex - that crazy shit set fire to my car once, but Paris telling the press that you beat her? And then hooking up with your brother? That's a whole other league, right there."

Nick tried not to blush. "So, you watched the show, then?"

"Someone gave me the highlights, yeah. Pretty brave, putting yourself out there like that."

"Pretty stupid, but - whatever. It's done now. My therapist's always nagging at me about being honest, and open, and all that, but I don't think he was really talking about 'on network television'."

"Maybe not."

"Don't get me wrong, he's really helped me address some of my issues, but-"

Marsha snorted. "Sorry - I'm kind of burned out on that therapy bullshit." Nick stiffened, pulled his hand back a little, but Marsha didn't let go, and carried on talking. "Wasn't the right approach for me, or however the docs put it when they finally let me out. If it works for you, I guess that's cool."

"Rehab?" Nick asked, casual, maybe a little cautious. He didn't normally get into these kinds of conversations with people he'd just hooked up with, but something about Marsha seemed to invite the intimacy. It felt like she wanted to keep talking, and Nick realised that he was actually interested in what she had to say.

"Paperwork said it was for the sleeping pills, right, but I think it was mostly just that I've always been fucked in the head. I mean, normal, well adjusted people, they don't do all the crazy shit people like us do - they colour inside the lines, right? Graduate high school, get a job, find a nice girl to settle down with - 2.5 kids and a picket fence, all that shit. Sane people don't work eighteen hours a day, seven days a week to impress some record company jerk, do they? I figure all successful people are fucked up - you kind of have to be, it's what makes it work."

"You know," Nick said with a small smile. "Not a whole lot of people get that." Then he laughed. "God, don't let people find out - they'll start deliberately trying to screw their kids up, and some parents really don't need the encouragement."

"Oh, man," Marsha said. "I think we can both drink to that!"

Nick held up the bottle of champagne that had been mostly forgotten on the couch next to him, and grinned. Laughing, Marsha disentangled their hands so she could turn the glasses right side up, ready for Nick to pour.

"Why the hell not," she said, after Nick had balanced the bottle amongst the floor cushions and claimed his glass. "To surviving our parents," she toasted.

"To surviving with style," Nick replied, and their glasses chinked.

They settled back onto the couch, Nick's arm automatically resting along the back, where Marsha's head would lean on it, their legs tangling together. There was a moment's silence, where Nick was thinking that this ought to be a lot weirder than it was, and then Marsha took another sip of her drink, and nudged a little closer into Nick.

"So, tell me something good about growing up, something your parents didn't mess up."

Nick thought for a minute. "I remember playing with my sister, when she was, like, still just a toddler, three or four, and her running under the hose, and laughing and laughing and laughing. That's pretty good. How about you?"

"Man, I don't know. Making friends, I guess, when we finally stopped moving back to Missouri all the freaking time."

"Here's to good friends." Nick raised his glass. "I don't know if I'd have made it without mine."

"Me either. Knowing you've got friends who stick around when the going gets tough - that's worth everything." Marsha nodded.

They were still talking, trading memories back and forth, and occasionally getting into deeper things as they went along, when Nick's phone buzzed in his back pocket.

"Hello?" he answered. It was AJ calling from downstairs.

"Hey, man, we're about to head out - where are you?"

"Dude, I was just talking with … You're leaving already?"

"It's, like, four a.m., Nick, and we've got that radio thing tomorrow, remember?"

Beside Nick Marsha was straightening up, shifting so she was perched on the edge of the couch, straightening her skirt, finding a resting place for her glass.

Nick looked down at his watch. "Crap, I didn't realise."

"You coming with us, or you want me to try and get you another car?" AJ offered.

Nick looked over at Marsha. If he'd spent the whole party curled up with a chick, he'd be planning to take her home by now, but with a guy… And anyway, Marsha was clearly getting ready to move out, the weirdly warm and comfortable bubble of their conversation broken by the call.

"Nah, it's okay. If you can hang out for like, ten more minute, I'll be down," Nick said.

Marsha stood up

"Sure thing, we can wait." AJ said.

"'Kay. Later." Nick closed his phone, and pulled himself to his feet, touched Marsha on the arm. "Sorry," he said. "I didn't realise it had gotten so late. That was the, um, my guys. I have to go."

"I got that," Marsha nodded, but she didn't actually go. It was weird - part of Nick really didn't want the evening to be over. He moved a fraction closer, and rested his hand on Marsha's artificial waist.

"Hey, um. I'd like to…, I mean … I had a really good time this evening. You're, like, the most interesting person here by a mile. Can I get your number?" Not smooth, no, but normally he didn't have to ask, and anyway, he'd never asked a guy.

Marsha looked at him, a frown pulling her perfectly arched eyebrows together.

"Dude," she said, with nothing of the south left in her accent. "I'm pretty sure you have that." There wasn't any overt attempt at the feminine, either.

Nick frowned back, trying to think if she'd - he'd - slipped him a card or something while he was distracted.

"No, I don't thi-" he started to say.

"Do you really-" Marsha snapped, and then stopped and changed tracks. "Okay - give me your cell."

Nick pulled his phone back out and Marsha took it without hesitation, and held it up, started pressing buttons and squinting at the screen. After several nail-jabs, and a bunch of scrolling, Marsha nodded to herself, and turned it around to face Nick.

"There," Marsha sneered, like she'd proved something.

Nick had to wrap his hand around Marsha's to get a good look at the screen, and then it took a little while for the tiny green letters to make sense. Business and cell numbers for one Marshal M.

Marsha … Marshal

Marshal Mathers

Oh fuck.

Marshal was watching him, and now that he knew it was totally obvious, even with all the glitter and panstick in the way, and that probably made it worse.

"Fuck," Nick said, "I didn't… Shit."

Marsha - Marshal - Motherfucking Eminem - shook his head.

"We've been talking all night, and you really didn't recognise me? Wow. I thought you were, you know, playing along with the game."

"Game?" Nick echoed, lamely.

"I can't believe you're so fucking stupid you didn't even recognise me. I guess everyone is right about you."

Any remnants of Nick's warm, happy buzz vanished, and he had to fight to remember his therapist's advice, taking two long, deep breaths before he opened his mouth.

"I'm sorry I didn't recognise you, Marshal. I guess we only see what we're expecting, huh?" he offered, touching the elaborate puff of one of Marshal's sleeves, brushing one finger against Marshal's made-up cheek, and then rushed on. "I mean, I had a good time, talking with you, and you look -"

"You think this is real?" Marshal spat back at him, digging his fingers under the neckline of the gown and tearing at it angrily. The dress was strong enough that it must have hurt, but Marshal kept pulling, knuckles white, until some of the stitches gave with an ugly breaking sound. Nick could feel his control over his anger starting to give the same way. "Are you some kind of idiot? I was just fucking with those losers down there who didn't know what to say to me. Even if I was a fucking faggot, do you think I'd fuck a fat, no-talent fucking boybander? I could record myself pissing in a bucket and it'd sell better than your solo shit."

Nick didn't wait to hear what was coming next, just screwed his mouth around the words 'fuck you', and slammed his fist into that way-too-pretty face.


The aftermath wasn't pretty, and it was public, and then Nick had to endure his bandmates making it clear that they weren't real proud of him, and do a radio interview with a black eye and stiff knuckles and beg the interviewer not to mention them on air. But that wasn't even the worst of it.

The worst thing was that Nick couldn't stop thinking about it.

Not just the fight, or the sharp edged words that echoed with all the others in his head, but the part before that. Talking. Dancing. The way Marsha had fitted against his side, and had understood where he was coming from. He'd hear a song on the radio, and be reminded of Marsha moving against him on the dance floor, or curl up in another oversize hotel bed, and it would be like he could still feel Marsha pressed up alongside him. He called Leslie, and they were talking, skirting around the edge of another argument about their fucking mother, and when Nick blinked he could see Marshal raising a glass to surviving family, and it felt like he'd lost something.

It was making him crazy.

"I thought we were, you know, being honest" Nick whined to AJ. "It's like, there's me baring my heart, and I swear I thought he was too, and then the next minute, it's fucking Eminem, playing a prank at my expense again. It's just - argh!" He threw his arms up in frustration, and thumped down onto the bus's couch. "And I can't get it out of my head!"

AJ patted Nick on the shoulder. "I know, man, I know." And then he tilted his head. "Maybe he was being honest?"


"Well, think about it. I mean, I'm guessing, obviously, but - from his point of view. If you were getting all kind of cosy and letting your walls down for someone, and then they turned around and basically said they had no idea who you were. I mean, I'd be pretty defensive, and maybe for Marshal, feeling defensive means him going on the attack."

Nick said 'huh' again, and stared up at the bus's ceiling for a while turning that over in his mind.

"So, you're saying, what? I'm the bad guy?" he said, after a while.

"Nick!" AJ protested, putting his coffee down to give Nick an awkward sideways hug. Even slumped down like this, Nick was just inconveniently tall for that. "No way. I never think you're a bad guy, and, with this, it's totally not your fault that Marshal didn't actually tell you who he was. I'm just saying, you don't know for sure if Marshal was being more honest with you after I called you than he was before.

"I guess not." Nick admitted, uncomfortably. He hated it when AJ started making sense about interpersonal stuff. It generally meant that Nick had been a jerk somewhere along the line, and he already felt bad about losing his temper and throwing a punch instead of walking away.

"You don't have to deal with it, if you don't want to; it's not like we move in the same circles that much, and what's he going to do, go to the papers? I don't think so, not with the whole drag thing. But if it's eating at you, you could always call him."

Nick snorted. "Call him?"

AJ shrugged. "Why not. I mean, what's the worst that can happen - he's still pissed off with you and doesn't take the call?"

It turns out it wasn't entirely a prank, and then I have to think about what it means, feeling like this about a guy. , he thought. "He writes songs about me stalking him?"

"Which would be worse than what's already been said about us in public because, why?"

Nick sighed. "See - why am I even thinking about this, when he's badmouthed us on tv and shit?"

"C'mon, we both get on stage every day and sing all sorts of lyrics we don't mean - I don't think you can blame Marshal automatically for all of that."

Nick shrugged, and the bus went quiet for a while, just the background sounds of traffic and wheels on the road.

"And hey, if you ask and he says 'yeah, it was all a prank' at least then you could just hate him without wondering if you ought to feel guilty, right?" AJ pointed out, clearly having spent some time thinking through the possible outcomes.

"I guess there is that." Nick admitted with a chuckle. "Although I wasn't feeling guilty till you brought it up."

AJ lifted his shoulders and gave Nick a broad smile. "Always happy to help a friend."

"Fucker," Nick cursed, affectionately. It was infuriating, but AJ's perspective made a certain amount of sense. If he tried to talk to Marshal, maybe he could figure out just what the hell had happened that night, and then it would stop haunting him.

"You know it, man," AJ said, using Nick's knee to leaver himself upright. "I'm gonna go back to my bunk for a while - got some calls I want to make, you know?"


The implied 'leaving you alone, to call Marshal' hung in the air between them, and Nick pulled his cell out, turned it idly in his hands as he sat, staring at nothing, and thinking about the options.

Eventually, Nick bit his lip, and located Marshal's number. He dropped his head back against the couch back, draped his left arm across his eyes, took a deep breath, and pressed 'call'.

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