Brian turned in his sleep as the first rays of sunlight stealthily slipped through the curtain and attempted to pull him from the veils of misty slumber.
Brian's eyes slowly fluttered open and he winced slightly at the harsh fingers of light felt their way across his face. He moaned in protest and wriggled over to the far side of the bed to try and escape from the disturbing sunbeams.
His eyes snapped open again as he realised that he was not in the familiar surroundings of Kevin's house. He turned to stare at the pale blue walls and then breathed a sigh of relief as he remembered the plane trip that had brought him to the calm sanctuary of Nick's house… or it would be calm if he could get used to the damn cats that seemed to rule the street and caused Brian's heart to leap into his mouth every time one of them slid past the window.
Slowly he sat up and leant across to the window above the bed and pulled the curtains firmly closed to seal away the light, before turning back over and burying his head in the pillows.
Despite his unease last night, he seemed to have slept peacefully. At first, he had been terrified and had lain awake for hours staring up at the ceiling and adjusting himself to the creaks and sounds of the house.
Finally he appeared to have drifted to sleep and no nightmares had followed him into his slumber, like they had done so many times before. Brian smiled as he shifted his head to make himself more comfortable upon the pillow. If the next few days would continue to be like this, he could see himself being fully prepared for the tour. Yes, he had been nervous last night when the cat crossed the window but jumpiness was to be expected… wasn't it?
Suddenly a loud ringing filled the room. Brian jumped as the noise jerked him out of his thoughts, but his heart soon relaxed when it recognised the phone. He smiled to himself as he heard Nick swear as he stumbled across the landing to seize the phone.
"Yello?" he asked sleepily. "Oh wassup Kev?"
Typical Kevin, calling at cockcrow to check up on them. Brian sat up and rubbed his eyes
"What?" Nick said, still on the phone. "Hang on."
Brian slowly stood up and hurriedly began to throw a T-shirt and a pair of jeans on, guessing that Kevin would be wanting to talk to him to make sure that he had not died of a heart attack in the night. To his surprise though, he heard Nick beginning to clump down the stairs.
Curiously Brian finished zipping his jeans up and then stumbled towards the door. The phone was missing from the hook, so Nick must have taken it with him. But didn't Kevin want to talk to him?
He ran a hand through his messy curls and then quietly began to creep down the stairs, eyeing the open door to the lounge where Nick seemed to have gone.
"What's the problem, Kev?" Nick asked, his voice hushed. Brian crept a tiny bit closer. "A note? What kind of note? Oh God…"
Brian stiffened slightly, his heart thumping inside of him nervously. This did not sound good… A note? He silently climbed down to the final step and then crouched down.
"Have you called the police?" Nick asked urgently. "Good, well at least Brian wasn't there to see it. Yeah, it's lucky that he decided to come up here. Obviously whoever sent it thought he would be staying at yours."
Brian gasped slightly and clutched the stair rail in clammy hands to stop himself from sinking to his knees. Another note from his enemy…
"No, I won't tell him, it'll only upset him."
'Damn right!' But it was too late… Brian's stomach was already beginning to churn and melt within him into a pool of nausea that could erupt at any moment. He gulped slightly and lowered himself down to sit upon the stairs. He leaned his against the banister and his fingers gripped the wood tightly. Nervously his eyes swivelled to face the front door opposite him, as if some unseen assailant would burst through it at any moment.
'You killed someone! The punishment for a killer is to be killed!'
He dragged his eyes away from the door, knowing that it was securely locked and that nobody could even get across the front yard without tripping the security sensors. He lowered his head and closed his eyes, trying to force his trembling body to take in gulps of air.
'It was just a note… probably nothing too bad. Just a note… A scrap of paper with words on…'
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words can never hurt me
But that was a lie. Words could hurt her. Words could frighten you. Words can make your heart lurch within you…
"What are we gonna do on tour? No, you're right, they can't send notes to every hotel, but this guy sounds serious."
Brian looked up again and shuffled closer to the banister as if he could somehow hide behind it. 'No, no, no! He's not serious! H - he's going to leave me alone!' Brian told himself. 'Please leave me alone!'
"Yeah, we'll tighten security and one of us will have to keep an eye on him - but be subtle about it. He gets uncomfortable and scared if you're too obvious. No! I'm not accusing you of that! I'm just saying that we can do it without making even more scared! Are you sure we shouldn't tell him? Oh okay, we don't want him to worry. What about his house? I could get my sister to watch it? No? The police are going to do it? That sounds like a better idea."
The police were going to watch his house? What about him?!
"Kevin, I'm sure everything will be fine. No one is going to even get near him on tour, not with so many security guards around! We just need to keep an eye out," Nick's voice said.
They all needed to keep an eye out now. One slip up… and anything could happen. Blood red letters swirled in front of his eyes, only this time the blood was not from Liam's body, but from Nick's and Kevin's. What if something happened to his friends?
"Yeah, we'll be ready on Thursday for the press conference. Bye Kev… Be careful buddy."
Brian stealthily began to creep back up the stairs as he heard Nick replace the phone. Once he reached the landing, he sat with his back to the wall wishing he had never decided to eavesdrop so that he could have remained blissfully ignorant of the latest threat.
"Brian!" Nick called suddenly.
"Yeah?" he replied, clearing his throat and hoping that his fear could not be heard.
"I'm doing waffles for breakfast - want some?"
"Sure!" Brian forced as much cheerfulness as he could summon to disguise his voice, even though the thought of food began to make his stomach writhe about inside of him.
He dragged himself dismally to his feet and began to clamber down the stairs. Every time he began to think that he could be normal again, something happened. But what had the note said? Was it worse than the 'murderer' message? And would his stalker continue to make his actions more threatening? His fingers curled themselves into balls, but he could not fight against an unseen opponent. That was what was the most frightening. There was nothing physical for him to see and solve and he had no idea what or who he was defending himself from.
Glumly he wandered into the kitchen, finding that Nick was already preparing the breakfast and setting out the table. He really was making an effort to see that Brian was comfortable in his messy home - the kitchen had been completely cleared of it's usual piles of pizza boxes, coke bottles and candy wrappers.
"Morning," Nick said grinning as he entered the kitchen. "Sleep well?" But Brian could see the way his smile was strained and the concern lurking in his eyes was plain to be seen.
"Yeah I did," Brian said softly, knowing that from now on his slumber would be more restless. He gulped slightly as his heart shuddered in his chest, fearing what was to come to next. Slowly he sat down at the table, fearful in case his legs collapsed from beneath him.
"That's good," Nick replied. "Breakfast will be done in a minute. Ya wanna get yourself a drink?"
Brian stood up and picked the orange juice bottle up from the side, before opening a cupboard and seizing two glass beakers. He returned to the table and his trembling hands sought to pour out the delicious orange liquid into the glasses. For a brief second, he saw that it was blood in the bottle…
His hand jerked and the juice dribbled from the bottle and onto his shirt. "Idiot," he muttered, cursing himself for allowing his fear to imagine such grisly spectacles.
Nick laughed slightly, but his face was still anxious after the call from Kevin. "Don't worry about it," he said, tossing Brian a cloth to mop up the small puddle of orange juice upon the table and his shirt.
Brian smiled back at him, but knew that his attempt probably looked as feigned as Nick's did. Carefully he dabbed at the mess he had made and did his best to wipe the stain from his shirt. He threw the cloth back at Nick, hitting his friend squarely on the head.
"Hey!" Nick complained.
"Oops," Brian replied, but there was no playfulness in his voice. Wasn't Nick going to tell him about the note and warn him about his stalker?
"Grub's up!" Nick said, placing a plate in front of Brian. "Eat up."
Brian stared down at the food before him and his stomach grumbled and gurgled in a defiant way. He stared across at Nick who was already beginning to eat his own breakfast, albeit he seemed to be forcing it done.
Brian glanced back down at his own plate and then slowly began to cut the closest waffle into tiny, bit size pieces before tentatively nibbling on them, praying that they would not come hurling back out again.
"Oh, AJ wanted to know if you wanted to go cinema tomorrow? He's going to be in the area and thought we could meet up," Nick said, eating his breakfast extremely slowly.
"Sounds good," Brian said. "Something to do before we go back on the road."
Brian gulped down another piece of his breakfast and froze for a moment as he felt his stomach beginning to churn sickeningly. He stared back down at it, wondering if he dared try to force any more into his stomach.
"Don't you like it?" Nick asked as he chased the final piece of his own waffle about the plate until he impaled it with the fork.
"I'm just not too hungry," Brian said, even though his stomach still felt empty.
Nick shrugged. "I'm not normally hungry in the mornings either. You done?"
Brian nodded and handed the plate to Nick who carried it over to the trashcan. Nick yawned slightly as he piled the plates up beside the sink and then back down into his chair.
"Who was on the phone?" Brian asked casually. He wondered if Nick would tell him… So far he seemed happy to keep him lost in the dark.
Nick spun around and stared at him, the colour from his face beginning to drain abruptly. "Uh…"
"Something wrong, Nick?" Brian asked, watching as his best friend squirmed with unease. He just wanted to know if he was prepared to tell him… "Was it Kevin?" he pressed.
"Yeah," Nick replied, suddenly busying himself with the breakfast. "Just Kevin. He was, um… calling to check up on you."
"Typical Kev," Brian said.
Nick nodded and flipped the radio on. Brian stared at Nick's back for a minute, but decided not to pursue the subject. Someone had written him a note, and a threatening one from the sound of it, he was not sure if he wanted the rest of the details.
"I meant to say, why don't we start packing today for the tour?" Nick asked. "Saves us getting up toooooo early on Thursday."
Brian feigned a smile and nodded. "Good idea
The tour… By the end of the week he would be back on stage again on a wide-open stage where anybody could see him. His stalker could be waiting in the audience, preparing any number of tricks for him and his friends.
Brian could feel his hands trembling and the way his skin turned clammy and cold. He glanced over at Nick who had begun to wash up, throwing spurts of foam onto the window in front of him messily.
His heart was beginning to thump harder inside of him and with each pound he felt weaker and weaker. Shakily he stood up and began to head towards the door.
"Where you going?" Nick asked, turning suddenly and seeing him sneaking off.
"I'm gonna go start packing," Brian mumbled, trying to walk calmly out of the kitchen.
"Something wrong, Brian?" Nick quizzed.
Brian pretended not to hear the question as he slowly climbed up the stairs, not too fast in case Nick suspected something and followed him. His heart shuddered in his chest with each beat as if it feared that it each palpitation would be the last. Gasping Brian fell into the spare room and shut the door behind him.
He yanked the curtains closed forcefully to seal out the sunlight and to block the clear glass which looked into his room in case anybody should be watching. He quickly clambered into bed as if he could hide from the cruel world beneath the soft covers as he had done as a child. He wrapped the duvet tight about him and buried his head in the spongy pillow, but the fabric soon became wet with his tears. He sniffed slightly as he wrapped himself into a ball and shuddered beneath the blue duvet.
His nightmare wasn't over and would never be over. Somebody had known that he had been staying with Kevin. What if they tried to do something to his cousin's house, believing Brian to be there?
Images of a house with bright, burning flames rippling out of the window began to fill his mind and he could almost hear the screams of Kevin and Kristen.
'It was just a note!' he cried to himself. "Just a note and no physical violence!'
But he could not stop worrying.
'Murderer, murderer, murderer.'
Someone was going to make him pay…
The notes were just the beginning…
Brian sobbed into his pillow, wrapping the sheets about his head to conceal himself from his life. "Why won't they leave me alone?"