Side Trip – UNSETIC Files: The Crawl

                “We should do this more often.”

                “Oh god,” Brigid said, trying to stifle another tide of giggles as she shared a knowing look with Bryn.  “No, no, we should not do this more often.  Come morning, you will absolutely understand why.”

                AJ shot her a quizzical glance, then shrugged, ducking into the vestibule of the next bar on their crawl.  They’d started downtown at four.  It was nearly ten, now, and she’d lost count of how many bars they’d been to between here and there.  She could hear music through the doors, though, and it made her smile.  “This sounds like a good one.”

                “We’ll know that once we see the bar.”  Tim dropped a kiss on his sister’s temple and opened the door, holding it for the rest of them.

                Mat lingered out on the street, staring up one of the fliers pinned to the bar’s windows.  “Are you guys sure that we want to—”

                “The decision is already made,” Kate said, holding up a hand, one finger raised.  “We agreed on the rules.”


                She’d already breezed inside, following Bryn and Brigid through the door Tim held.  AJ was already inside, probably already finding somewhere for them to sit and checking out the bar’s selection.

                Jim stepped back out of the vestibule to wrap his arm around Mat’s shoulders, steering him inside.  “You heard the lady.”

                “Okay,” Mat said.  “I was just—”

                He didn’t finish.  He didn’t have to.  The rest of them were already inside and had figured out what he was trying to warn them about.

                “Oh shit,” Kate muttered.  “It’s not.”

                “Oh, it is,” AJ said, grinning as if this was the most amusing coincidence that could have ever happened to them.  “Karaoke night.”

                “We are not staying for this,” Kate said, holding up her hands.  “We’re not.  My ears can’t take it.”

                “Weren’t you just the one that told Mat that the decision was already made?”  Brigid squinted at her.  “So we have a drink and listen to some really bad singing for half an hour and we’re on to the next place.  What time was Chris expecting us back?”

                “Not until at least three,” Bryn said.  “We have plenty of time to blot out the memory of this with alcohol, Kate.  It’s fine.”

                “It is not fine because that.”  She pointed toward where AJ stood at the bar, thumbing through a stack of papers and chatting with one of the bartenders.  The man pointed toward a high table about halfway between the bar and the stage and AJ grinned up at him, nodding before she turned back to them and waved.

                “Well, she got us a table,” Brigid said, shrugging slightly.  “What’s so bad about that?”

                “Nothing yet,” Kate said, brow furrowing.  “But I’ve still got a bad feeling about this.”

                “Nothing some alcohol won’t solve.”  Bryn threw her arm around Kate’s shoulders, steering her toward the table.  Tim glanced at Jim, his brow arching slightly.

                “This could get interesting,” Tim said, a slight smirk curving one corner of his mouth.

                Jim deadpanned at him.  “Anytime you say that, I start worrying.”

                “That’s because you’re a smart man.”  Mat threw his arms around both of them.  “Come on.  I sense some really strong drinks in our future.”

                “Hey Mat?”

                “Yeah?”  He didn’t like the look that Tim was giving him.  It was a familiar one—a look in his longtime friend’s eye that spelled nothing but mischief of the highest order.

                “You remember that night in Tel Aviv?”

                His eyes narrowed.  “Yes.”

                “Okay.”  Tim sounded far too cheerful as he ducked out from under his friend’s arm, his pace quickening as he headed to the table.

                “My bad feeling just got worse,” Jim said.

                “Yeah, that’s probably a smart reaction,” Mat answered.

                “What happened in Tel Aviv?”

                “We do not have the time for that story,” Mat said honestly.  “But something tells me we’re about to get a variant on it.”

                “That is not comforting.”

                “As long as nothing gets set on fire and we don’t have to pay for any damages, I wouldn’t worry, Jim.  Honestly.  Don’t worry.”  Mat paused.  “Much, anyway.”

                “That is also not comforting.”

                “Lucky for us,” AJ was saying as they reached the table, “the sign-up list isn’t that long.  Not many people are singing tonight.”

                “Thank god,” Kate said as she settled into a chair.  “Maybe we can drink and get out before too much happens.”

                “What’s your problem with karaoke?” AJ asked, her brow furrowing.  Kate just shook her head.

                “That there’s too much bad karaoke in the world?”

                Tim smirked at his wife.  “You’re not wrong.  But what about some good karaoke?  Would that be so awful?”

                “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said, completely straight-faced.  “Is there a waitress coming, AJ?”

                “I’ll just get it from the bar,” Brigid said, standing.  “Same round as the last?”

                “Lemon drop for me this time,” Bryn said.  “The one that girl over there’s having looks good and I want to try it.”

                Brigid nodded.  “Anyone else changing it up?”

                “Surprise me with a micro,” Mat said as he settled into a chair next to AJ, wrapping his arm around his wife’s shoulders.  It was their first big night out as a group since Daniel and Fiona had been born and while they’d all seemed to be enjoying it, the urge to call Chris to check on the newborns was running strong in all four of the new parents.  Their three companions seemed less worried, more relaxed.

                Either that or they were just hiding any anxiety better.

                Brigid flashed a thumbs-up, glancing at the others for any additional last-minute requests.  Getting none, she headed for the bar to put in their order even as Tim studied Kate for a few seconds.

                “So what are the odds, do you think, that any of the singing is going to be good?”

                “So low that I will bet two weeks of laundry duty that we don’t hear any good singing.”

                “Really.”  Tim sounded both thoughtful and mischievous now.  “That sure, huh?”

                “I know that look,” AJ said, staring at her brother.  “Do not take that bet, Kate.”

                She glanced over at him, her brow arching.  “What is going through that head of yours?”

                “I’ll do it if you will.”

                Her brows shot up.  “What?”

                Tim smirked.  “I’ll do it if you will.”

                “What, take the laundry duty bet?”

                “No,” he said, standing up.  “Sing.”

                Her brows climbed even higher.  “You’re serious?”

                “You know it.”

                Kate stared at him for a few seconds, then smirked herself.  “Fine.  You’re on.  On one condition.”

                “What’s that?”

                She spun a finger at the rest of their companions.  “That all of us sing.  At least one.”

                “You’re trying to guarantee some bad,” Mat said, rubbing his temple.  “You really are.”

                “Am I?”  Kate smiled.  “Am I really?”

                “I guess we’ll find out,” AJ said.  She didn’t seem at all perturbed or displeased by the turn of events.  “I’ll grab the sign up.”

                “Let me handle it,” Tim said.  “Trust me.”

                His chair scraped against the floor and he passed Brigid on her way back from the bar.  She rejoined them at the table, her brow furrowed.

                “Why does he look like he’s about to cause all kinds of trouble?”

                “Because he is,” AJ said, then grinned.  “Hope all of those lullabies have limbered up your vocal chords.”

                Brigid’s expression slacked.  “He’s not.”

                “Oh yes,” Kate said, leaning back in her chair.  “He is.”

                Brigid looked back over her shoulder toward where Tim stood at the bar, pouring over that same stack of paper his sister had been before.  “You’re sure I can’t kill him?”

                “Settle down,” AJ said, waving her back into her seat.  “It’ll be fun.”

                “Depends on your definition of fun.”

                AJ grinned at Bryn.  “Trust me.”

                Mat toyed with his wedding band.  “She’s right.  We’re in for a show—even though we’re part of the show.”

                “It’ll be fine,” AJ said.

                Mat’s gaze slid toward her.  “You know he’s going to make us duet.”

                “Oh, I’m counting on it.”  She leaned up and kissed his jaw.  “I am absolutely counting on it.”

                Tim returned at about the same time as their drinks arrived.  As he settled back into his chair next to Kate, he glanced at Jim.  “You and I are up first.”

                Jim blinked.  “Wait, what?”

                “You heard me.”  Tim lifted his glass, swirling the bourbon around before he took a quick sip.  “You and I are up first.  You’ll sing the Bob Seger part.”

                Jim’s brow furrowed and he squinted at him.  “What did you do?”

                Tim grinned.  “You’ll see.”

                And they did, about five minutes later when the announcer called for Tim McConaway and Jim McCullough to come up to the stage to sing.

                “Don’t embarrass me up there, Jim” Tim said as they stood from their chairs.  “I’m counting on  you.”

                “Then you have made a grave mistake,” Jim said, not quite glowering as they headed for the stage.

                They settled on the stage and the projector screen behind them flashed the title and artist for the song.  A slow smile spread across Bryn’s face and she glanced at Kate, who leaned back in her chair, looking a little wistful.

                “Oh,” Kate sighed softly.

                “This already looks like a good choice,” Bryn said softly.

                The first few notes of “Landing in London” started and right on cue, Tim started to sing.  Kate felt her cheeks start to get warm in a way that had nothing to do with the fact that she’d lost count of the number of glasses of whiskey she’d had that night.  Brigid glanced at her and AJ, her brows shooting up.

                “I didn’t realize he could sing like that.”

                “That’s why she didn’t take the bet,” AJ stage-whispered, then turned her attention back to the stage.

                Jim, despite his initial surprise at the song selection, started in on his own cue.  The harmony and back and forth between the two men was impressive and by halfway through the first chorus, it was dead silent in the bar except for the music and the voices of the two men on stage.  Tim wasn’t looking at anyone, instead lost in the music, his eyes closed as if he knew each and every word to the song by heart.

                Kate had no doubt that he did and it made her heart ache.  There had been so much pain for so many years—pain for both of them—but until that very moment, she hadn’t quite understood its depth.  Her fingers tightened around her glass and she blinked back tears.

                Thank god he was hers.

                Dead silence followed the last notes of the song for a beat, then another, then the applause started.  It took a full two minutes for the emcee to get things quieted down enough to call the next singer up—Brigid—but by then Tim and Jim had made it back to the table.

                Kate stood up to hug him.  “I’d forgotten.”

                “I don’t sing that loud when I sing Fiona to sleep,” he said softly, kissing her lightly.  “I don’t want to wake you when I do.”

                “For that, you can wake me any time.”  She leaned her forehead against his, arms wrapped loosely around his neck.

                He grinned back at her, stealing another kiss.

                “Hey, Tim?”

                He glanced at Brigid, his brow arching.  “Yeah?”

                “Before I go up there, I’ve gotta know,” she said.  “What song did you pick for me?”

                He smiled weakly.  “You’ll see.  I’m sorry if it makes you cry.”

                She canted her head to one side, shooting him a look that was curious and suspicious all at once, then shrugged slightly and headed up to the stage.  Once the title and artist flashed up on the screen, it all made sense.  She shot him a pained smile as she lifted the microphone and the first few piano chords of “Glitter in the Air” began to play.