Three Days Ago 5

The need for a cigarette consumed him as he climbed back onto the bus.  He hated that he was becoming so dependent on them again, but stressful situations tended to steer him back towards old habits.  Drinking a little too much with the guys and getting a little sloppy with his hour a day writing schedule.  Both the drinking and the smoking weren't good for him, he knew that, but comfort on the road was something that was hard to find so familiar things tended to be clung onto a little bit more.

When he turned from closing up the bus door Kelsey was sitting there staring at him from over the edge of her palm pilot.  Normally her watching him didn't make the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.  It was as if she was waiting for some unasked question to be answered.  He didn't know what the question was and there was no way in hell he could figure out what the answer was either.

"Tony?"

His eyes lifted to hers.  He could see the worry there and hated to think that he had anything to do with it.  Eventually they'd have to talk, he knew that, but he hoped that the two of them could do it calmly.  "Hmm?"

A bit of a smile curled onto her lips, just enough to show something other than a neutral expression, but not enough to show teeth.  "What's the plan for today?"

"Oh!"  He moved into the bus and came to sit next to her on the couch.  He sat a little ways away and watched her curl a leg up and turn more towards him.  "JR is gonna take a break.  He doesn't want to, but I don't want to be out in this weather if he's tired.  There's a big truck stop on the far side of the city so we're gonna park there for a few hours.  He's taking a nap and I think we should probably get something to eat."

Kelsey nod.  "Sounds good."

Even though he'd only been up for an hour or so, he was already set for a nap.  If he was going to be stuck on the bus for the next few hours he'd planned to sleep that time away.  Having Kelsey there was going to change that, which he found depressing.  Sleep was something he was always short on and getting a good day's rest on the bus was one of the reasons he'd agreed to ride with JR to Denver in the first place.  "We're gonna get into Denver late."

"That's ok," she said.

He wondered if she could tell that he was disappointed about having to spend time with her.  It wasn't really that he was upset about it, just shocked and switching gears to include her in his day was something that took a little bit of thinking.

"Where are you staying?  I mean, is it someplace where I should still be able to get a room?"

His eyes shot open at that remark and he knew instantly that he was going to smoke more than a pack of cigarettes as soon as he got his hands on them.  Insinuating that she'd get her own room definitely showed the amount of stress that was on their relationship at the moment.  "A room?"

"Well yeah," she said with a shrug.  Her voice was light and strangely stress free when she spoke.  "I don't expect you to--"

"You really want to stay alone?" he asked.  Anger came out at the edges of his words and his hands immediately started to tap on the couch cushion.  "You can stay alone if you want, but--"

"Well, no," she said, "But I know that you're on--"

"You're staying with me," he said.  He closed his eyes for a moment as he tried to control the tears that were pricking at the backs of his eyes.  He wasn't going to break down in the middle of the living room.  He'd almost broken down on the phone the night before.  They'd both been tired and emotional and away from each other and any and everything was setting them both on edge.

"You guys ready?" JR asked coming back through towards the front of the bus.

"Yeah," they both said.

"Good," JR said with a yawn.

"You want me to drive?" Tony suggested.

"Naw," JR said as he sat down.  He turned a little towards them from his seat.  "Go on and hang out with your lady."

"Your lady?" Kelsey said with a sigh.  "Tony, that's so cute."

"What?" he said with a shrug, glad for the distraction.  "I call you my lady.  Which reminds me.  I need to get on the internet tonight and update my journal for the fans."

"Yeah," she said, "I was wondering when you were going to do that."

Tony groaned.  He knew that she would glance at the thing over his shoulder when he was posting an entry, but he hadn't realized that she'd been waiting for updates.  If he had, he would have posted more often.  "You read that thing?"

"Yes," she said blushing slightly.  "I know it's sappy to go online and look, but it keeps me up to date with where you are and what you're doing."

"I call you so often though that I wouldn't have thought that you'd be worried about me."

"Honey," she said with a dramatic roll of her eyes.  "I always worry about you.  It's my job."

"Thank you," he said and leaned to kiss her.

He paused for a moment, eyes searching her face.  He couldn't remember if he'd kissed her yet.  Hell he couldn't remember if he'd hugged her yet either.  He hated that he couldn't remember stuff like that anymore.  He was still in shock at having her sitting in front of him instead of her being two thousand miles away.

"What?" she asked.  "I don't have bad breath do I?"

"No," he said and leaned until his forehead was against hers.  "I'm glad you're here."

"I was beginning to wonder," she said with a smile and moved to kiss him.

As the bus rumbled to life and pulled away from the radio station, Kelsey turned around on the couch and tucked herself against him.  He let out a breath and curled her against him, hugging her from behind, moving so that his chin was on her shoulder as she faced towards the back of the bus and turned a little to look out the window.  "I'm sorry if I was being an ass," he said near her ear.

"You weren't being an ass," she said turning to press her cheek next to his.  "I surprised you.  I really thought for a while that you'd be pissed at me."

"You thought I was pissed?"  He lifted a hand to his forehead.  "Shit."

He hadn't been pissed at all.  Shocked yes, worried yes, but mad, mad at her anyway, no.

"No," she said, "No no."  She turned around to face him.  "Not pissed.  Not angry.  Hell.  I don't know what I thought you were.  And--"

"And what?" he prompted.

"And that's the first time in a long time that you've been really hard to read."  She let her eyes drop and it seemed as she was staring at his chin or his adam's apple.  "You know me."  Her hands immediately started to wring together.  "I get a little girly every once in a while and need to freak out like every other girl in the world.  Just because I haven't done it in a few years doesn't mean--"

"So you jumped on a plane to come here?"

The bus pulled off the road and into a parking spot.  JR, who had been ignoring the conversation between them or at least had done a great job of pretending to ignore it, got up from his seat.  "We're here."

"Thanks JR," Tony said keeping his eyes on his girlfriend.  He didn't understand how things had gotten so out of hand, but sitting here with her trying to untangle the knot they'd worked themselves into seemed to be an impossible feat.  No matter how he tried to look at it, how he tried to fix it, he wasn't sure how they were going to do it.

"I'm gonna go slip into the bunk."  He came back towards where they were sitting.  "Take the keys and lock me in."  He lifted the keys a little then dropped them down a bit and Tony grabbed onto them.  "I'll set an alarm for a few hours and check the weather when I get up.  "Stick around here ok?"

"I've got my cell on me," Tony said then looked at Kelsey.  "Breakfast?"

She nodded.

"After last night I thought that I needed to be here."

"You needed to be here?" he asked feeling his tears pricking at his eyes again.

Her instant need to fill the empty air came out in a rush of words and rapid movements.  "I missed you and you missed me and we just left the conversation so open ended that I was just--"

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Last updated: 09/19/04.