28 "You won't believe what happened," Chester said, laughing as he sat down on the bus seat where the guys were gathered with bottles of beer in their hands.
"Try me," Phoenix grinned.
"Remember those two chicks that made Gem fall? Well, they're here and the girls found out. Man, you should've seen the look on Gem's face. She looked as if she was ready to kill," he chuckled to himself as the rest nodded. Veruca watched them amusedly.
"Anyhoos, Gem, Holly and Erin got them back good," he grinned and proceeded to elaborate on Gem's revenge.
Gem and the girls had gotten the two girls kicked out of the fest, accusing them of pickpocketing. Holly had slipped her money into Dee's bag without her knowing and Gem had alerted security, pretending to have lost her wallet.
"Damn, you should have seen the girls' faces when your friend made the security take them out." Chester laughed harder. "Tried their best to deny it, but Gem was one great actor. Pulled off that whole act perfectly!"
"Liz?" Veruca asked as Chester nodded. "She kicked ass, man. And those three are so fucking happy that they got back at the two they almost gave the whole thing away, laughing and screaming so loud."
"Yeah, you're right. I don't believe it," Phoenix laughed, shaking his head. But he knew that it was something the three girls were capable of conspiring. They were nice girls, but rub them the wrong way and you'd get it good.
"So where are they?" Rob asked.
"Celebrating I suppose. They'd probably come looking for us to tell us soon," Chester opened a bottle of beer and drank it, still laughing.
"These two girls were responsible for Gem's fall, but we couldn't find any proof that they did it. Gem was really pissed when we didn't let her kick their asses when she found out." Mike explained to Veruca who had a smirk on her face. "I guess she'd got her revenge now, then. I'd have kicked their asses too if I was Gem," Veruca laughed, turning to look at the bus door where the three girls were banging on excitedly.
29 Veruca rolled her eyes, laughing at Liz. "Woman, I swear, if you do anything to harm Rob, I'm gonna kick your head into your ass myself." Liz grinned. She'd been bugging her friend about introducing her to the guys for ages, but Veruca knew her friend too well to take that risk. Broken hearts and one night stands. None of the guys needed that at the moment. She considered the consequences. Sounds like some lame line out of some cheesy country song.
"Oh come on! I promise I'll behave.." Liz smiled pleadingly at her. "I won't touch Rob. Not even a strand of hair!" she held out her right hand, vowing.
"You're crossing your fingers, Liz. I know you." Veruca shook her head, but she finally gave in, leading the way to the tour bus. Inside, the guys were playing a round of poker. Phoenix dealt a round for them, Chester smirked, trying hard but failing to keep a straight face. Mike threw in a stack of chips and Joe followed suit.
"Hey boys, I want you guys to meet Liz," Veruca stepped up to the table. They looked up, smiling at the two.
"Hey Liz!" Chester grinned.
"Well, you know who's who so I don't have to introduce anyone to you," Veruca sat down on the seat next to Mike. "Grab a seat, woman, and make yourself at home."
The bus had gotten a little cramped with all the people in it. Liz sat on the seat beside Rob, flashing Veruca a secret grin, but she was busy looking at Mike's cards. He let her deal his cards, leaning back onto the back of the seat, watching her. He could watch her for hours. The way she spoke, the way she moved, the way she dressed. He wondered why those thoughts appeared when he'd clearly told himself that they were just friends. What the fuck's wrong with you, Mike? he heard himself say.
"Ahh... a royal flush...!" Chester grinned widely, spreading his cards on the table. Brad threw his cards on to the table and groaned it was the fourth time he'd lost in a row and his chips had dwindled to one stack of blues.
"Oh, darn it V! Look what you did! I could have won if you didn't put that card down." Mike picked up the cards and rearranged them back into his deck. Veruca looked at it and then at him, grinning.
"Aw... cut her some slack Mikey. She just wanted to help you," Joe teased. "Didntcha, V...?" he smirked at her.
"Shut up, Joe." Mike laughed.
"So, do you want to maybe go have a drink later?" Veruca heard Liz saying and turned her attention away from Joe to her friend. She caught her smiling at Rob. Veruca tried to catch Liz's attention, but Liz had intentionally ignored the fact that Veruca was in the bus.
"Hey Liz, didn't you say that Zac wanted you to help him out with the interviews?" Veruca asked, eyeing her friend who turned to her coolly. She caught the glint in Veruca's eyes, "Oh, he can wait." Veruca's look turned into a glare. "What?! So you can throw yourself at Mike but I can't do the same with Rob?" Liz asked icily. The guys turned to look at Veruca whose eyes were wide.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Veruca felt her cheeks grow hot. She hoped they wouldn't notice her blush.
"Oh, nothing, V. Just making random statements. You shouldn't be ashamed if you're doing it though," she said when she caught her looking flustered. "Anyhoos, I should be going. Wouldn't want to get fired. I wouldn't be able to get another job as easily as you did, V," she stood up, smiling her cheshire cat smile at them. BITCH!!! WHAT is she doing!!???? Veruca eyed her friend who was heading out of the bus, mouth agape.
"What's THAT supposed to mean, Liz?" she asked before Liz got out. She shrugged without answering, leaving Veruca feeling uncomfortable in the bus with the guys.
"Gee... she's a sweetie," Brad mused, trying to break the tension. Rob rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably, but stayed silent. He didn't know what to make of Liz and her forwardness.
"Sorry guys," Veruca smiled apologetically at them. "That's just how she is."
"No prob. I think she's sassy," Chester smirked.
"Bitchy you mean?" Veruca arched her brow at him, sighing.
Mike watched her in silence, trying not to take Liz's statement personally. She stood up, motioning to leave. "Hey, where are you going?" Phoenix asked adamantly. "I just dealt you a round."
She shrugged, "Grab a bite. You guys go on. I never really like poker anyway. Have fun."
"Hey, wait up. I'll go with you," Mike caught her hand and noticed that she stiffened at his touch. He let go and waited for her to move so that he could follow her. The guys watched them in silence throwing glances at each other. This was going to be their next topic over the game. Veruca blinked at him, not answering, wondering whether she should let him come along.
"I'm so sorry." She mumbled as they walked down the parking lot.
"Whatever for?" he asked.
"What Liz said."
"Forget it," he shrugged it off, but he couldn't forget it himself. He turned to the woman beside him. She was looking down and he couldn't see those deep green eyes of hers.
"UGH! She can be such a bitch sometimes."
"Hey. No prob. Bitches I can deal," he chuckled. She laughed too and he felt relieved that she did.
"You still want to go grab something to eat?" he asked her, strolling beside her, hands in his pockets. She shook her head, making a face. "I wasn't hungry actually. Let's just walk." She looked up at him and gave him a smile.
"Sure thing, bud," he pulled her in with one arm for a quick hug. He couldn't help it. She looked like she needed one badly and if it made her smile like she just did, everything's okay.
--- Mike tossed in his bunk, he kept playing the entire scene when he first met her until that evening when they took that walk. He frowned and beat his pillow, pressing his head deep into it, trying to get into a comfortable position. He shut his eyes and ignored the thought that popped into his head. He opened his eyes again. Images of Veruca played in his head each time he closed his eyes. He thought of the times they'd just hung out and have a good time, the things he'd done for her, her smile, those deep green eyes of hers... Alright! Alright! If I admit I love her, would you let me sleep?! He mentally yelled at himself, covering his head with his pillow, curling up on his side. He tossed to the other side a few seconds later, throwing the covers back and got out of bed.
30 "Hey," Brad sat down beside a surprised Veruca on the edge of the stage. "I remember Mike saying that you liked hanging out here," he grinned at her. She smiled back unsurely.
"Yeah. Secret hide out busted. Gotta go find a new one now," she rolled her eyes at her stupid answer. "So what are you gonna talk to me about now?" she voiced her question.
He laughed. "Well, since you want to get to the point...I wanna talk to you about Mike."
"Ugh... Brad, please, if it's going to be another I-think-you-make-a-cute-couple talk, you can go back to the bus and sleep," she groaned.
"No no.. this is a when-the-heck-are-you-two-gonna-admit-your-feelings-to-each-other talk."
Veruca frowned. She didn't like the sound of that last statement. She'd managed to push the same question that had been bugging her for weeks and Brad had to dig it up again. "What's there to talk about?" she asked innocently.
"Veruca, I've been friends with Mike for ages. I know when there's something up with him. He just doesn't want to do anything about it."
"Then go talk to him about it. Why come to me?" Veruca asked incredulously.
"Because he's not going to tell me anything. He would have told me without me asking if he wanted to. He doesn't need prodding. I was just wondering why he isn't, that's all. He could have made a move on you easily, but he hasn't. And that's weird."
"That's weird how?"
"Please tell me you're just playing dumb about how he feels about you," Brad begged, eyes wide. Veruca had to laugh at the look he gave her but the laughter died when he gave her a serious look.
"Sorry. In this case, I really don't know anything," she shrugged, trying not to let herself overreact at the fact that was settling into her head. "What are you talking about?"
"Mike likes you. But he isn't doing anything about it. The stupid fuck doesn't even know it yet. Probably thinks that no one notices the way he looks at you or how he is with you and what an absentminded fuck he's been lately. But you know, when you mess up your parts too often, people get suspicious. And if you have a stupid grin on your face for most of the time people would really think that something's wrong with you. Don't tell me you've never noticed how he is with you."
"How IS he like with me? Isn't he always like that?" Veruca asked in a small voice. Her heart raced at the thought of what Brad was saying to be true.
"Dammit Veruca. You can be so stupid sometimes. Sorry, but it's true. You are. AARGH! You guys are driving us nuts! All the sexual tension between the two of you, you have to cut it with a chainsaw." Veruca stifled a smirk at that comment and Brad's exasperation.
"Oh Brad. It's not as simple as that."
"What the fuck do you mean?! You like him, he likes you. Get together already and save us the trouble!"
Veruca laughed, shaking her head. "Well, I suppose he didn't tell you about how we spent the whole day together... sexual tension and all...?" she winced sheepishly.
Brad gawked and then frowned. "No. What happened?"
"Nothing. Nothing happened. We just hung out, got too comfortable until he started freaking out about it. I don't know what got into him though." she frowned, remembering that day. Brad looked at her questioningly.
"He was pretty distant after that until I made him talk. Said we were going too fast and I suggested we start over as friends.."
"What did you guys do?!"
"Nothing! That's the whole problem! We didn't kiss, we didn't even make any passes at each other, if that's what you're implying." She was starting to get a sinking feeling in her heart. Brad let out a laugh.
"What the fuck is going on here?!"
"That's what I'd like to know. Maybe you should have gone to talk to Mike instead."
"Okay. Let me get this straight. He copped out on you when you guys were hanging out even though nothing happened. So there's nothing between you two and you don't have any feelings for him. Am I right?"
"Well.... not entirely..." Veruca groaned, but she couldn't lie.
"What?!" Brad almost yelled.
"Shh...! Not so loud," she hushed him, smiling at his reaction. "Since you took the initiative to come up here and talk to me, I'm not going to lie to you.."
"What the..." Brad threw her a confused look. "Since I took the initiative..?? What the hell...?!"
"Well, you got me. I guess I DO have some feelings for him," she mused, more to herself than to Brad. "I don't know. I just feel really comfortable with him. He IS a really sweet guy," she started to smile dreamily and stopped herself before Brad noticed.
"Are you in love with Mike?" he eyed her suspiciously.
Veruca's smile fell as she sighed, looking downwards. "I don't know."
"You have to know. What's so complicated about that? It's either you love him or not."
"Well, there are so many other things to take into consideration. Him, me, you guys, his career, mine...." she let her sentence trail off.
"And if he loves you? Does that make it easier for you to answer the question?"
At that point Veruca looked up sadly at Brad. "Not really."
"Because he doesn't deserve me." she turned to look away into the empty pit. "He doesn't deserve someone like me. He deserves someone better. He's too nice."
"What the hell are you talking about? And you're not nice? Is that what you're saying?" Brad frowned at her.
"Yeah. All the things I've been through, the person I am... he deserves far better. Far more than I can offer. Don't you think that could be the one reason why he hasn't made any moves?" she asked defiantly.
"That's bull shit. You can't degrade yourself like that. You're a wonderful person and I trust Mike's judgment of character. He wouldn't have stayed around you for so long if he didn't like the person you are. He even talked us into giving you a job. Godammit. He bugged us endlessly to hell about it until we gave in and the manager was another story all together. I don't know how he groveled to get you where you are now," Brad, who was normally calm, felt a little irritated.
Veruca stared at him, letting his words sink in. "You know, maybe you should have talked to Mike first. Maybe you shouldn't have said anything and let it be."
"And go nuts? No way. I'm going to get to the root of this if it's the last thing I do. You guys are my friends. Veruca, I wouldn't have come to talk to you about this and say all these things if I didn't care about you and Mike."
"Thanks for your concern, Brad. But I really think that if anything could have happened between Mike and me, it would already have." She shrugged despondently.
Brad shook his head. He took a moment to reflect on her words. They confused him. They didn't fit her actions and the look on her face. He couldn't agree with her stupid almost selfless ideas of keeping her feelings to herself just because she thinks she's not good enough. Low self esteem? Doesn't sound like Veruca at all. Here's a gorgeous, intelligent woman, independent and has a sharp tongue to boot. Low self-esteem just didn't fit into that mould. Could she really be in love with Mike? Possible. That should explain her dreamy looks and why she's extremely nice to Mike all the time.
"Talk gurl. Tell me what you're thinking, what you're feeling, what you want to do... Maybe I can pick out something that you haven't noticed," he urged, resting his hand on hers in a friendly gesture.
"Okay... I'm thinking that Mike's ... he's... a wonderful guy? Oh I dunno. I'm confused. Thanks to you." Brad smirked at that comment.
"Hey, don't thank me. If I didn't talk to you would still be denying yourself," he defended himself.
"True that..." she mused more to herself than to him.
"Veruca, don't you think he deserves to know?" he gave up on the idea of deciphering her feelings and actions and came to a conclusion that only a person who's in love can be this confused.
"I suppose he does," she muttered after some thought.
'You want me to talk to him?" Brad asked. She shook her head, giving him a broad smile. "I'll figure something out. Thank you so much for talking to me though. You're such a sweetie," she reached over to hug him. It felt food to have someone to hold on to when she was emotionally falling. He gave her a warm supportive smile.
"Yeah... Major sugar rush, dude," she rolled her eyes at her own statement.
Brad laughed, "Talk to him,'kay?" she nodded, biting her lower lip and hugged him tighter, feeling the urge to sniffle.
Brad stood up to leave, yawning. He patted Veruca on her head as she smiled up at him. Everything's going to turn out alright and we can all live happily ever after, he thought sleepily. He looked up to see Mike standing at the back of the stage, looking as surprised as he was to see him there. He threw his friend a smile and patted his back as he headed back to his bunk.
Veruca had seen him standing there and she froze. She'd pschyed herself to talk to him but not that soon. She waited for him to approach her. He did, and smiled unsurely at her.
"You're up late," she said out loud.
"I couldn't sleep." What am I doing here? Was I really going to tell her? Now?? he felt a surge of panic, but stayed put.
"So, what's your excuse?" he asked candidly.
"Sugar rush," she grinned. It wasn't entirely a lie now, was it? she asked herself. He chuckled. "What's yours?"
"Brain's overworking." He grinned back. "Couldn't stop thinking."
"Bout what?" Do you really want to know, Veruca? She asked herself, feeling the chilly night breeze against her skin. She shivered slightly.
"Stuff?" she cocked her eyebrow at him. "Like what?"
He nodded. "Meaning of life. Linkin Park. Me. You. Why does the world go round." He rambled on with her looking funnily at him.
"Whoa whoa whoa... back up there a bit... Me?" she stopped him.
"Yeah. Me," he smirked. She rolled her eyes and laughed. "Lame-o Mikey." She shook her head at his lame attempt at a joke. Her smile faded when she caught his eyes and she felt her pulse quicken. Her eyes closed when he leaned down, touching his lips on hers. She kissed back as he placed his hand behind her neck to pull her closer. She felt only a rush of pure joy and the beating of her own heart. They pulled away, staring at each other dumbfounded, then burst out laughing sheepishly, Veruca biting her lower lip with a smile on her face.