The show went off without a hitch and only someone watching Jon very closely – like Veronica was – would notice the slight flinches when he twisted a certain way or reached too far, or when Richie’s solo hit high notes or when Tico hit the drums especially hard.
When they gathered at the front of the stage for the bows, she headed to his dressing room to wait for him. As soon as the door closed behind him, his shoulders slumped and he buried his face in the towel he carried.
Without a word Veronica pulled his shirt off and inspected his back. “Sit down.” She helped him into a chair and urged his head back, massaging his temples with her fingers.
With a heavy sigh, he relaxed against her and let her fingers work their magic. “Mmmmm. That feels good.”
After five or ten minutes, she nudged him. “Ready for the shower?”
He would have preferred to stay right where he was, but he did feel a little grungy – dried sweat wasn’t the most comfortable covering against his skin - and he knew he must smell. Groaning, he stood, shucked his boots and pants and headed for the shower.
Veronica stood near the bathroom door and listened while she slowly undressed. It only took a few minutes before she heard swearing. Grabbing a towel she went to help. She found him leaning against the wall, shampoo in his hand. “Here, let me help you.”
Jon glanced at her and scowled. “I’m fine!”
“Uh huh.” Stepping into the shower stall, she took the shampoo from him and poured some into her palm. She washed and rinsed his hair thoroughly, but carefully, avoiding his wounds as much as possible.
Breath hissed through his teeth as soap hit his still tender flesh. “Fuck!”
Murmuring sympathetically, Veronica worked up a lather and used her hands as a cloth to wash his body.
Jon watched her, blue flames burning in his eyes. He wasn’t sure what pissed him off more...the weakness that he felt but didn’t want to admit to, or the fact that he had her naked and wet in front of him and didn’t have the strength or the energy to do a damn thing about it!
A flick of her hand turned off the water and Veronica stepped out of the shower. Sensing his mood, she dried off in silence and wrapped the towel around her body then turned to him. She handed him a towel then took another one to gently blot his back and hair. When she knelt to dry his legs, he stepped away.
“I can do it, I’m not a child!”
Biting her tongue, she dropped the towel and walked out of the bathroom and started to dress. It was going to be a long night.
A few minutes later he joined her and they dressed in silence. Veronica watched him warily in the mirror as she finished her makeup. She had a suggestion, but had a feeling it wasn’t going to be well received.
“I think maybe we should skip the party tonight and just go home.” Having lobbed the bomb she braced herself for the explosion.
His frown was instantaneous....as was his response. “No.”
“Jon, you need to rest. You must be tired. You’re barely out of the hospital. You have a concussion and the doctor warned you to take it easy. If you push yourself too hard you’re going to make yourself sick! You don’t need to go to the party.”
“Yes I do. People will expect me to be there. I’m fine.” He was exhausted, but he’d never admit it.
Veronica reached deeper for more patience. “Honey.....it’s been a long day, you did a great show. You’ve got another one to do tomorrow, plus interviews and the end of tour party that you have to be at....let’s just go home tonight. Please?”
His jaw firmed. “No. I’ll be fine. It’s my job to be there.”
“No, it’s your job to do interviews and perform on that stage! And you need to be healthy to do that – or at least to do it well enough to satisfy me and yourself. And right now that means you need to go home and rest tonight!”
“Ronnie, quit harping at me! I know how I feel better than you do and I’m fine! I’ll decide what I need!”
Her temper snapped. “Fine! Do whatever the hell you want! If schmoozing with a room full of people is more important than your health, go right ahead. Ignore the people that love you and want you to take care of yourself. You know best. What do I care if you want to kill yourself for the sake of your fucking ego! I survived losing you once, I guess I can survive it again.” She grabbed her bag, and stalked to the door. “Be a stubborn jackass if you want, but I’m going home!” Yanking the door open, she stepped through the opening. “I’ll send the car back for you.” She slammed the door behind her and stalked down the hallway.
Jon blew out a breath, dropped his head back and stared at the ceiling. “FUCK!”
“Hey Ronnie.” Matt’s greeting died as he got a good look at her face. “Are you okay? What’s wrong? Did something happen?”
“Your brother’s a stubborn ass!” She didn’t stop to chat.
“So nothing new then.” Matt fell into step with her. “Are you going to the party or home?”
“Home. I’m taking the town car. He can do whatever he wants. I’ll send the car back for him.”
“Okay. Sleep well Sis.” He paused. “For what it’s worth, he will see that you’re right....eventually.” He had no doubt that whatever the argument was about, Veronica was in the right.
“Before or after he hurts himself more?”
“Well, that would be the question. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see the answer.”
“If he doesn’t hurt himself I may have to do it for him!” They’d arrived at the door where the town car was waiting. Matt held the car door for her. “Thanks Matty, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Nite Sis. I’ll keep an eye on him tonight.”
All the way to Jersey Veronica sat silently in the back of the car, staring out the window and simmering. The thought of Jon hurting and all because he was too stubborn to listen to her and take care of himself was enough to make her want to scream – or hit something. She wasn’t really surprised at his decision – she knew him too well to think he would do anything else – but it didn’t make it any less frustrating.
At the house she poured herself a glass of wine, sat down on the couch, closed her eyes and tried to calm down and unwind enough to go to sleep. A few minutes later, the cushion beside her sagged as Boots joined her. “Hey there kiddo. What have you been up to since we left?”
“Meow.” She looked around the room then stared at the empty doorway.
Veronica smiled wryly. “Sorry, he’s not here. The stubborn control freak insisted on going to the party, even though he should be home resting.” She sighed and smoothed her hand over the kitten’s fur. “Why won’t he listen to me Boots? All I’m trying to do is look out for him and do what’s best for him. He doesn’t take very good care of himself, and pushes himself too hard. I just want him healthy and strong so that he can be here for the kids and for me for a long, long time. Why does he insist that he knows better and act like I’m just trying to be a bitch?”
“I don’t know either. He didn’t even discuss it with me, just shot down my suggestion and told me to stop harping at him. I know he loves me, but if he wants me to be a part of his life, he’s got to let me be a part of his decision making. I want to be his partner, not his employee.” She drained her glass. “Come on Boots, this isn’t going to be solved tonight, so let’s go to bed.”
Jon sighed in relief as the car passed through the gates. He felt like a bag of shit. His head was pounding, he’d been fighting nausea pretty much since they’d left New York, and he hadn’t felt this tired since his last trip to Australia. Actually, this was worse than any jet lag he’d ever experienced. All he wanted was to crawl into bed with Ronnie and sleep for a week. The thought of doing another show tomorrow made his stomach clench. He should have listened to her. He wasn’t up to the party. But he’d wanted to prove to everyone that he was...well....Superman. Idiot! Stupid, stubborn, idiot! You deserve to feel like this!
The house was in total darkness. There wasn’t even a single light left on for him. Standing in the foyer he felt a jolt of panic. He’d just assumed when she said she was going home that she meant this home. What if she meant her home...or a hotel or something? Despite feeling like death warmed over, he practically ran up the stairs and into his room, his relief at seeing her curled up asleep in his bed was almost overwhelming.
Pulling off his clothes, he left them in a heap on the floor and climbed into bed, shooing Boots off his pillow. He curled his body around Veronica’s, slid his arm over her waist and breathed in her scent and her nearness. When she shifted slightly, he squeezed her tighter. “Do you ever get tired of being right?”
“Are you ever going to get tired of being proven wrong all the time or will you finally accept that, as your head of promotions and someone who loves you, I’m only looking out for your best interests - both professionally and personally - and listen to me? Or are we going to butt heads forever?” At his silence she turned enough to see his face, raised a brow and waited.
Jon grimaced and sighed. “I know you’re doing what you think is best for me.” Her eyes narrowed. “And most of the time you’re right.” He admitted. “It’s just.....hard for me to give up control.”
“I’m not asking you to give up control, just...share it a little....with me. Trust my judgement. Include my opinion in your decision making, don’t just ignore it. Let me be your partner, not just an employee.”
Despite his own pain, he could see hers in the violet depths of her eyes. He knew he’d pissed her off earlier by dismissing her concern and suggestion, but he didn’t realize how much he’d hurt her. Dorothea used to just shake her head and let him find the errors of his ways on his own and either fix it or live with the consequences. Obviously Veronica didn’t want to do things that way. But he’d looked after everything himself for so long, he didn’t know if he could give up even that little bit of control. But he also knew that if he wanted to keep Veronica in his life he was going to have to find a way. He lifted a hand to caress her cheek with his fingertips. “I’ll....try. I promise.”
She knew that was the best she was going to get. “How bad do you feel?”
“A combination of the worst hangover and jetlag of my life.” He searched her eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you, and I’m sorry I hurt you. I never meant to do that.”
“I know you didn’t. You need to work on that.”
“I will. I promise.” Jon kissed her gently. “I love you.”
“I love you too. Get some sleep. You’ve got a long day tomorrow.”