Bed of Roses
Chapter Nine
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Twenty-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine
Chapter Forty
Chapter Forty-One
Chapter Forty-Two
Chapter Forty-Three
Chapter Forty-Four
Chapter Forty-Five
Chapter Forty-Six
Chapter Forty-Seven

Come into my playground
No one else can see
Baby, let me show you
How this could be
So, join me, baby, close your eyes
Come into my playground
Where everything's all right

Alli bobbed her head gently to the beat of the music as she sipped her water. The others were crowded around the booth at the club, all smiling and laughing as they spoke. From across the table, Nick caught Alli's eye and smiled gently at her. He had been trying to make things right all day, and she had to admit that it was working. The show had gone well, and he had waved at her as promised. He hadn't even left the table to dance and mingle yet, and she was impressed, to say the least.

"Yo, Al, what are you daydreaming about?"

Alli rolled her eyes, trying to hide her smile. "Nothing, just spacing out."

"Did you like the show?" Nick asked, grinning. His grin soon faded to a sheepish smile. "I didn't get to ask you last night..."

Alli laughed and smiled at him warmly. At least he's trying. "Carter, you know I loved it. You're a great performer."

He smiled back at her and took a sip of his drink. "Thanks. Means a lot, coming from you."

AJ winked at Alli from his position on Nick's right, and she stuck her tongue out at him. "AJ, I'm warning you..."

AJ laughed and held his arms up in surrender. "Okay, okay! Listen, I'm going to dance now."

"Good riddance!" Alli teased. AJ was sure to shoot her the finger as he walked away from the table, smiling to show that he was kidding. The song soon faded to a ballad, and the other couples at the table stood up to dance. Before Alli knew it, she was alone with Nick at the table, something she hadn't expected.

"So, nice night for dancing, huh?" Nick remarked, eyeing her as he sipped his scotch. She shrugged.

"When I learn how to dance, I'll tell you," she quipped, and Nick laughed.

"Al, you know how to dance. No way you're fooling me. I saw you in the audience tonight, girl. You were tearing it up!"

Alli rolled her eyes. "It's called moving to the music. That wasn't dancing, that was wiggling. I can grind, but I definitely don't dance."

Nick wiggled his eyebrows at her, the alcohol having loosened his tongue a bit. "I could always teach you, you know," he commented, winking at her. She smacked him on the arm and groaned aloud.

"I'd rather be eaten by wild boars than have you hitting on me all night, Carter. Stop."

Nick pouted playfully. "Come on, Al, dance with me? Just one dance, and then I'll go off in search of a playmate and leave you alone."

"Well, gee, when you say it like that, why the hell not..." she muttered sarcastically, and Nick tugged on her sleeve playfully. She definitely looked good in her glittering long-sleeved electric blue shirt and black leather skirt. The silver hip chain only added to her appeal, and Nick smiled at the sight. It was rare that Alli ever got dressed up.

"Come on, you've got to be a real dumbass to screw up a slow dance. I know for a fact that you can sway back and forth. If not, I'll let you dance on my toes."

Alli's eyes lit up at the prospect of stepping on Nick's toes for an entire five minutes. "Really?"

He rolled his eyes. "So glad that you delight in my pain," he retorted, and Alli laughed.

"You got it, Carter." She paused a moment to drain her glass. "No, seriously though, I don't want to dance unless you can stand on your own two feet. Last night absolutely sucked. Holding your heavy ass up and trying to move back and forth is not my idea of a good time."

Nick frowned at the mention of the night before. He couldn't remember anything more than waking up with a dreadful hangover, but he had figured that nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Dancing with Alli hadn't been one of his assumptions.

"I'm not drunk, Al. Not yet, at least. You won't have to hold me up." His frown deepened. "And what's this about dancing last night?"

Alli shrugged, mentally kicking herself for mentioning anything of it. She didn't want Nick to know any of what he had said for fear that he'd remind her that he hadn't meant it. She hadn't been entirely honest with AJ in that Nick's words had hit her harder than AJ probably imagined. The talk she'd had with Nick that morning had been difficult enough without Nick erasing the meaning behind the night before.

"You just asked me to dance and gave me the puppy dog face. You were so drunk that you almost fell over." She shrugged again for emphasis. "Nothing big. It was just one dance."

Nick nodded as if processing the information. "Al, I didn't come onto you, did I?"

She shook her head. She felt awful for lying to him, but she couldn't stand to hear him ask her more questions and remind her that he was drunk. She knew that he had been drunk. However, knowing it and accepting it were two different things entirely. Alli wanted--no, she needed--to hold onto the belief that the Nick she remembered was still somewhere inside the Nick she now knew.

Nick watched her carefully, noting that she was uncomfortable. Dammit, I did come onto her. And she's lying about it. She feels like she needs to protect me...

"Al, you're lying."

She looked up at him, obviously surprised that he'd picked up on it at all. "Carter...okay, you said a few things that you wouldn't have said sober. It wasn't a big deal. You didn't try to jump in the sack with me or anything. Relax, okay? I know you were drunk."

Nick nodded. "Good. I wouldn't want you to think that I would..."

Alli shook her head. "No, I know you wouldn't. Don't worry about it."

By that time, the slow song was over and Alli could see Nick eyeing the dance floor anxiously. A tall brunette off to the right was smiling coyly at him, and she rolled her eyes as their gazes connected. "Go dance with her. You know you're not going to have any fun with me."

Nick winked at her before walking off. "Don't have to tell me twice!"

Only moments after Nick had joined the young lady with brown hair, Leighanne and Brian returned to the booth to rest. Alli moved to slide over so that they could sit, and Leighanne breathed a sigh of relief.

"Man, it's hot in here! Al, why aren't you dancing?"

Alli looked to Leighanne with a smirk, seeing that her friend was getting slightly tipsy. "Leigh, I don't dance."

Brian grinned at her from his position at Leighanne's left. "Liar, liar, pants on fire! Al, you do too dance. I've seen you and AJ go at it a few times when Manda's too tired."

She shrugged. "Okay, okay... I'm honestly not in the mood tonight."

Leighanne arched an eyebrow. "Oh? I saw Nick out there grinding against some brunette. She looked about twenty, though, so I guess we're okay." She looked at Alli intensely before shaking her head. "I don't understand how you deal with him. He treats women like trash."

Brian rolled his eyes in disgust. "Yeah, well, I'm sure we'll meet tonight's conquest on the way to the hotel."

Alli frowned. "I thought we were leaving tonight. That's what the iterary said..."

Brian shrugged. "I guess he'll take her in the bunk with him. It won't be the first time, that's for sure. He'll probably send her home in a cab tomorrow."

Leighanne looked at Brian skeptically. "Hello? We'll be on the road."

Brian looked at the two as they danced and shook his head knowingly. "No, he won't keep her around. She's cute, but she's not his type."

Alli snorted in disbelief. "You mean he actually has a type? I'm impressed."

Brian tried to hide his smile, but Leighanne giggled. "Good one, Al."

"I was serious."

Brian frowned. "He prefers the type that don't want to cling, to be honest. She's clingy."

Alli shrugged and swirled her water around in the glass. "Well, if he's looking for instant gratification, I'm sure that a quick fuck in the bathroom could fix that."

Brian groaned at the language and Alli smiled innocently in return. He rolled his eyes. "I wish he wouldn't do this," he muttered before flagging down a waiter and asking for a Coke. Alli's smile faded and she looked wistfully out at the dance floor.

"Me too, Bri."

* * * * *

Nick smiled happily to himself as he grinded against the brunette in front of him. She had been all over him at first, but he was quick to back away. He didn't like women that didn't let go. If anything, he preferred the women who came, gave him what he wanted, and left. He glanced at his watch while he danced, then looked around the club and spotted Alli, Brian, Leighanne, Howie, and Jessi sitting in their booth, all chatting amiably. He wouldn't deny that, after that morning, it was definitely good to see Alli laughing.

He suddenly felt someone's long nails running up his thigh and gulped. The brunette he had been dancing with for an hour and a half offered a seductive smile.

"Something wrong, baby?"

He grinned at her sexily. "Never. You enjoying this?"

She eyed the bulge in his pants and arched an eyebrow. "Obviously not quite as much as you."

Nick winked at her. "All for you, baby. Think you might be able to take care of that?"

She shrugged lightly. "Oh, I'll see what I can do."

Nick smiled slowly. "Better go somewhere a bit quieter then."

He took her arm and led her into the VIP lounge, then headed down another hallway where he knew there'd be a more welcoming atmosphere. He spun around to face her and ran the pads of his fingers across her left cheek. "You're beautiful, you know that?"

She smiled. "Not quite like you are, pretty boy."

Nick chuckled in appreciation. Most of the women that actually followed him into the back hallway were dead from the neck up. Wit was a rarity. "Glad you like what you see," he winked at her. God, that's Howie's thing. Get it together, Carter. You know how to play this game. "'Cause I wouldn't want to disappoint such a wonderful woman as yourself."

She pursed her lips together in a smirk. "Oh? There's a lot more you have yet to see, you know."

Nick licked his lips subconsciously. "Show me."

She grinned. "Gladly."

Her breath was hot against his neck as he moved to kiss the lips he had been watching all night long. She was a teaser, pulling him to her and backing away, kissing him passionately and cutting it off without warning. He loved the challenge, and he pulled her to him with intensity, closing his eyes to relish the feeling. All at once, he was lost in the moment. The music was still pounding in his ears and he could feel her fingers working at the zipper of his pants. He felt her slide them down, grinning as she let out a low whistle of approval.


His chuckle was low and throaty. "You're worth it, sweetheart."

She took his length in her hand and raked her nails up and down it lightly. "You're a sweet talker," she remarked. Nick reached in his back pocket for a condom and bit back a moan at her touch.

"Talk is cheap."

She smirked as she knelt down before him, taking the foiled package and ripping it open gently. "Truer words were never spoken."

* * * * *

It was a little over an hour later when Nick finally strode out to the booth again, waving to the brunette before joining his friends.

"We ready to go yet?"

AJ, completely disregarding the question at hand, turned to Nick with a smirk on his face. "Hmm, the Carter kid is smiling. Did someone get laid?"

Nick grinned. "Aw, come on, J, it is really that obvious?"

Brian rolled his eyes. "Can we talk about something else?"

Nick turned to Brian with a frown. "You got a problem, Rok?"

"Did you even catch her name?"

Nick nodded proudly. "Yup. Sophia. And yes, she was legal. Any more questions?"

AJ leaned in with a devilish smile. "How was she?"

Nick's grin grew as he leaned in to answer AJ. "Wonderful, man. She had these long fingernails that worked miracles thought impossible. She totally made up for the fact that I have to spend tonight alone in the bunk. It's a shame that she couldn't stay longer."

"Did you use protection?"

Nick rolled his eyes at Brian's question, already annoyed with the older man's concern. "Yes, Dad. I'm not stupid."

Kevin, having caught the edge in his friend's tone, turned to him with a look of genuine concern. "Leave him alone, Nick. He's just looking out for you."

Nick shot Kevin a glare that warned him not to go further with the line of conversation. "I don't need to be looked after, okay? I'm not a fucking child anymore, Kevin."

Howie shook his head at Kevin and placed a hand on Nick's shoulder. "Dude, chill. Kev, relax. Let's not start another argument, okay? Nick, Kev's just trying to stick up for Brian. It's not worth fighting over, okay you two?"

Both men rolled their eyes and crossed their arms over their chests, mumbling incoherent threats in the other's direction. Satisfied, Howie leaned back against the padding in the booth and returned his arms to their former position around Jessi's shoulders. The two exchanged smiles.

"Nicky got laid!" AJ cried, letting out a little whoop of excitement. Alli rolled her eyes in disgust and eyed the beer in his hand. She hated it when one of the guys got more than a little tipsy. She herself rarely drank, and usually ended up as the only sane person in a group of a bunch of morons. She was, however, thankful that Nick had chosen to stay somewhat sober that night. She wasn't sure that she could've handled another emotional surprise.

"AJ, shut up. The whole room is going to hear you."

Nick shot Alli an inquisitive look. "Alli, lay off AJ. He's drunk."

Alli rolled her eyes again, but obliged and took another sip of her water. She'd lost count of how many glasses she'd had that night. Brian gave her a sympathetic look from across the table and she smiled at him to reassure him that Nick's comment hadn't meant anything. As usual. It's just Carter, right? Doesn't really matter what he says. Lord knows that it's not supposed to get to me...

Kevin surveyed the entire group and shook his head as if to clear it. "Are we ready to go now?" he asked impatiently. The others nodded, and AJ giggled. As they filed out of the booth, Alli noticed AJ swaying on his feet, so she grabbed his arm to steady him and began to lead him out of the club.

"Alli?" he asked, staring at her with a dumbfounded look on his face. Normally she would've laughed, but she wasn't too thrilled with the idea of caring for a drunk Backstreet Boy every night.

"Yes, AJ?"

"Does Nicky still love you?"

At the sound of his name and the words that AJ had spoken with such nonchalance, Nick turned around and moved to catch up with the other two, eyeing Alli suspiciously.

"What did he just say?"

She shrugged. "Asked if you were still in love with me."

Nick's features darkened. "And why the hell would he ask something like that?"

Alli glared at him from her position under AJ. "I don't know!"

Nick's blue eyes narrowed in her direction. "I think you do."

"Does Nicky still love Alli?!" AJ persisted, nearly screaming the words. Alli turned to AJ with a reassuring smile and shook her head sadly.

"No, AJ, Nicky never did love Alli," she said gently while rubbing his arm, and AJ's perplexed expression deepened.

"He did too! He said so last night!"

Nick's eyes burned into Alli's as he looked down at her. "You said that nothing else happened last night."

Alli sighed. "Okay, Carter, you kept saying that you loved me. You asked me if I still loved you and I told you I did. You did the little routine we used to do when we were kids. That was it, okay? And I took you up to your room and you asked me to help you take your shirt and pants off and sit up on the bed with you so we could talk. I got up there because you looked so damn sad and stroked your hair until you fell asleep. Other than that, nothing fucking happened, okay?"

Nick's eyes widened at the words. "You sat with me on my bed while I was fucking naked?"

Alli shook her head. "No, Carter, you were in your boxers. Trust me, I have no desire to see you naked. Never have, never will."

Nick's boyish face took on a serious and somber expression as he faced Alli, though he still looked slightly bewildered by the knowledge of his behavior the night before. "Al, I'm not in love with you, okay? You're my friend. And as for whatever we used to do when we were kids, forget about it. We're not kids anymore." He shook his head slightly and looked at the ground with an incredulous expression. "I don't know what came over me that would make me do something like that."

Alli tried to maintain her indifferent expression as his words hit her full force. "And as for whatever we used to do when we were kids..." He forgot. Get it through your head, Al. You heard him. It meant nothing. He doesn't care anymore. She forced herself to paste on a reassuring smile and looked him straight in the eye. "I know what came over you. You were drunk. That's all. It meant nothing."

Nick nodded, looking relieved. "Right, it meant nothing." He watched as Alli looked sadly at the ground before shaking her head every so slightly and continuing forward with AJ in tow. "Al, you okay?"

Alli looked back at him and nodded. "Sure."

"What happened last night...don't let it get to you. I didn't mean it," he said gruffly. Alli nodded.

"Right. Forget about it." Just like everything else we supposedly shared.


performed by Mikaila