Veronica sat at her desk, put her head in her hands and wondered how she was going to make it through the next two weeks, let alone a whole tour. She wasn’t sure she was strong enough. If she could limit the time she had to spend with Jon she might be able to handle it, but the very nature of her job meant that she had to be near him for most of her working hours. Her own perfectionist personality wouldn’t let her do less than her best, which meant that she wouldn’t delegate any but the smallest details to someone else’s control. Maybe she was a masochist after all.
“Ronnie?” Matt appeared in the doorway. “The winners of the contest are here to watch sound check, and I wondered if you wanted to be there too......are you okay?”
Veronica stood up and managed a smile. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just taking a break. Let’s go see what the fans think of the technical side of a show. Do we have someone on hand to answer questions about what they’re doing?” Matt nodded.
Sound check was long and tedious. Obie and Jon were nitpicking about everything. Even the fans were getting bored and restless. Finally, the powers that be were satisfied and called it quits.
“And that is a glimpse into the not so glamorous side of putting on a show.” Veronica spoke to the fans. “And you see how hard Jon works to make sure they put on the best possible show for the audience.” She caught a look between a couple girls and smirked. “What? Don’t tell me you’re not aware of his perfectionist tendencies?”
The girls laughed, then stilled as they looked beyond her to the stage. Another glance was exchanged. “Uh oh.”
Veronica heard the murmur. “What’s the matter?”
One of the girls leaned closer. “I think he heard you.”
Veronica turned to see Jon looking at her, frowning slightly. She glanced at Richie and winked before turning back to the girls and shrugging. “Yeah, I think he did.”
“Wow.” One of the girls was feeling bold. “You’re braver than I am.”
Veronica’s brows rose. “In what way?”
“I wouldn’t want him mad at me.”
It took her a minute to figure out what the girl was talking about. “Oh, you mean because of his temper?” The girls nodded. Veronica chuckled. “Oh, it’s not that bad. It’s not a lot of fun when he really cuts loose, but unless you know you screwed up majorly, you just treat it like you would any temper tantrum.”
The girls snickered, nodded, and beat a hasty retreat as Jon’s frown grew darker. Veronica had made no effort to lower her voice and it had carried easily to the stage. The fans were ushered out to the lobby area, and Veronica headed towards the side of the stage and the access to the hallway behind it. The men watched her.
“Nice try little girl.” Richie commented as she neared him.
Jon would have stopped her, but a voice interrupted him. “Dad? When are we going to eat? I’m hungry.”
Jon turned to his son. “Okay Jess, just a minute.” When he turned back, Veronica was gone. “Where’d she go?” All he got was blank looks and shrugs. “Dammit. Doesn’t she have a radio?”
After a brief pause, a staffer shook his head. “No radio, but she does have a phone.”
Jon snorted. He knew the name of that game. “Get her a damn radio!” He sighed. “Let’s go eat.”
Veronica spent the break making sure that everything was set for the after party and managed to grab a quick bite before the show started. She was about to go out and watch My Chemical Romance – or more to the point, watch the crowd and their reaction to them – when Paul stopped her and handed her a radio.
“It’s an easier way to communicate than the phones. We can’t hear them half the time.” He explained.
She met his gaze. “Is that the real reason you’re giving me this or is it the boss’ orders?”
He smiled. “Both.”
She sighed, but accepted the radio. As she walked towards the stage she clipped it onto her belt and fit the earpiece in its place. She could hear the chatter between staff and crew members as they checked the readiness of the equipment. She stood to the side of the stage where she could see both the band and the crowd. Halfway through the first song Stephanie and Jesse came and stood near her, security on either side of them. Stephanie smiled at her. Jesse seemed to ignore her, although she could see him looking at her out of the corner of his eye. Veronica smiled back and made her way to the other side of the stage.
During the break she watched the crew swiftly change the stage setup as the crowd began to fill the seats. She could hear comments and laughter as friends reunited and new ones were made. She smiled. This is what Jon had always talked about all those years ago. He wanted to bring people together with his music and celebrate life. He had achieved that and much more.
“Band to the stage.” As the words echoed in her ear, she took a deep breath. She wished that she could be anywhere but here. Jon’s stage presence had always had a strong effect on her, increasing her heart rate, sending her stomach swirling, heating her blood.....making her want him more than ever. Those were feelings she didn’t want to experience again – at least not in regards to him, but was afraid that was exactly what was going to happen.
At first she managed to avoid looking at the stage. She focused instead on the crowd and their reaction to him. The connection was obviously still there – quite a feat after almost twenty-five years. When Richie took centre stage, she judged it was safe to look. Watching him and listening to the lyrics of These Days brought tears to her eyes. Glancing up, she saw Hugh looking at her. He winked. She smiled.
When the song ended, the lights went out and there was a murmur in the crowd. Suddenly, a spot light drew all eyes – including Veronica’s - to a small stage off to one side of the arena, several rows into the crowd. The screams were deafening when Jon appeared. He grinned. She was caught and couldn’t look away.
Her heart started to pound as he finished on the side stage and made his way through the crowd towards the main stage. Towards her. She chided herself for being silly. She wasn’t some star struck teenager, or even an eager fan hoping for a chance to touch him. She didn’t want to touch him! Giving herself a mental shake, she tried to move out of the way as he neared her and she realized he would have to go through where she was standing to get back onto the stage. Suddenly, staff and security were surrounding her as Jon made his way through and she found herself face to face with him. He winked at her and reached out a hand to squeeze her hip before jumping up onto the stage.
For the rest of the show she couldn’t take her eyes off of him. Just like twenty years ago, the crowd faded and she couldn’t see anyone but him. When he came to her side of the stage, his eyes caught hers and it was as if he was singing to her and only her. His gaze heated and intensified, sending his personal message to her: later. She felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. Twenty years ago she would have grinned and impatiently anticipated the time after the show and the after party when they could escape and be alone. Now she just wanted to get away – from him!
By the end of the show she had to face the harsh truth. Not only did she have to fight off Jon and whatever it was he wanted from her, she also had to fight the feelings he evoked in her. Feelings that she had thought were long dead. No! I can’t still want him! Not after everything I’ve been through! I don’t want to hurt anymore! With a barely muffled sob, she turned away from where the guys were taking their final bows and fled the stage area and the building.