Bed of Roses
Chapter Ten
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

I keep hanging around
Got some attachment to you
Way down is still where you get through
I told myself that it isn't right but it isn't wrong
Yet I've found
The more you hot and cold me
The more I need protecting

"Carter, what are you doing?"

"I'm bored."

"Yeah, no kidding..."

"What're you reading?"

"The Notebook."

"Haven't you read that before?"


"So why read it again?"

"It's a good book."

"Doesn't it get old?"

Alli rolled her eyes and set her book down, careful to mark the spot so that she could pick it up again if she was in need of entertainment. She turned her gray gaze on her blonde friend and groaned. "You know what gets old?"


"Your whining," she muttered as she re-opened her book and started reading where she had left off. She counted silently to ten in her head, knowing from experience exactly how long it would take before Nick began his trademark whine. Before she had reached nine, Nick's features contorted and he sighed.


Alli frowned to herself. Darn, I'm out of practice...

"Come on, there's nothing to do! You know what happens at the end of that stupid book, and it makes you cry anyway! Why do you care? You could always be hanging with me. The guys bought some movies before we took off this morning, so we could watch something like the old days. Please?"

Alli rolled her eyes again for emphasis and rolled her head in Nick's direction. Truth to tell, she wanted nothing more than to have a movie night with Nick like they had in the old days, but she was still feeling the effects of the night before, and she was trying to get used to the idea that he was changing. She needed time to plan the retrieval of the Carter she remembered. Playing hard-to-get had to figure for something. "Does the phrase 'I'm reading' mean anything to you?"

Nick cocked his head to one side and smirked, arching an eyebrow as well. "You know me. What do you think?"

It took every ounce of Alli's self-control to keep the surprise off her face. "You know me"? Man, he's really desperate. He's pulling out all the stops tonight. She sighed exasperatedly and studied his face doubtfully for a moment. "Are you really that bored?"

Nick groaned and rubbed a hand over his face. "Yes! Jessi, Howie, Kristin, and Kevin are playing poker in the front, Leighanne and Brian are doing kinky romantic crap in their bunk, and AJ's dead asleep. I'd leave you to your own devices, but there's no one else to bother! Come on, Al." He rolled his bottom lip out in a pout. "You know you want to."

Alli sighed. Damn him.

"Fine, I'll watch one movie with you. After that, I'm getting back to my book. I was almost at my favorite part when you so rudely interrupted me." She watched as the famous Carter grin spread across his features and he picked her up, dropping her book in the process. Alli squealed, partly in delight and partly in protest.

"Carter, put me down! I'm not a toy, dammit! And you made me lose my place..."

Nick rolled his eyes. "Oh, please. If it's your favorite part, you can find it again. We're going to the entertainment room."

Alli laughed. "You sound like such a dork, Carter. It's not the 'entertainment room,' it's the back room."

A different, sexier grin spread across Nick's face and he wiggled his eyebrows. "The back room, huh? Al, what's gotten into you? I thought you just wanted to watch a movie..."

Alli's eyes widened. "You pervert! One more crack like that, Carter, and I'm changing my mind. No movie, no entertainment, no nothing. I'll go right back to my book."

Nick laughed at her protests. "Okay, okay, okay. Damn, you're feisty. I'll be good, I promise. Too bad, though. I'm sure you'd make for one hell of a ride, if you know what I mean."

Alli groaned in disgust. "Carter, shut the hell up. That's like incest or something. And no girl in their right mind would jump in the sack with you if they knew what was good for them. Pity that so many don't."

Nick's smile faded and he rolled his own eyes and dumped Alli on the couch, having reached the "entertainment room" (or the back room, depending on the point of view). "Whatever. Lemme go see what movies there are. Stay there."

As soon as his back was turned, Alli made a face. "Great, now he's pissed at me," she muttered under her breath. Nick turned around and eyed her suspiciously.


She smiled innocently. "Nothing."


She nodded. "Yeah, that's right. Turn around and find us a movie. I don't have all day, Carter."

Nick's countenance took on a perplexed expression. "What do you mean? We're driving all night, remember? You've got a lot longer than all day..."

Alli burst out laughing. "It's an expression, dumbass! Don't think too hard, Carter; you might confuse yourself."

Nick rolled his eyes again. "Yeah, funny. Don't knock on my intelligence, man."

Alli's eyes bugged out. "Intelligence? What intelligence?"

He whirled around and glared at her. "Alli, I'm serious, okay? Be nice, for once."

Alli rolled her eyes in response. "Geez, touchy touchy. What crawled up your ass? If you're going to dish it out, Carter, expect to take it every now and then."

He responded with a grunt as he began ruffling through their video options. Finally, after some silent deliberation, he picked on and stuck it in the VCR. Alli's sarcastic expression returned.

"Oh, don't bother asking me what I want to watch. Really. I don't have any kind of opinion whatsoever."

Nick grinned at her and plopped down on the couch next to her. "I know, believe me."

She opened her mouth to retort but decided that it wasn't worth the effort. "Fine, what are we watching?"

Nick laughed. "Three guesses, Al, and the first two don't count."

"We're watching Aliens again?! Carter, do you have any idea how many times I've seen this movie? When I go to sleep at night, it haunts me. Sigourney Weaver somehow got confused with my Sandman because of your stupid obsession..."

Nick burst out laughing at his friend's sarcasm. "No, Al, the guys wouldn't let me put Aliens on the bus. They call it torture. We're watching..."

Alli interrupted him, wide-eyed. "You're going to make me watch The Legend of Sleepy Hollow again, aren't you? Dammit, Nick, I really hate that movie. Ever since we were kids..."

He held his hands up and surrender and shook his head. "Hell, no, Al. Trust me, after you spent the whole time buried in my shoulder, I decided that we wouldn't see it again. Having you that close to me is truly frightening."

Alli grinned wryly at him. "The feeling's mutual, trust me."

"We're watching Braveheart."

Alli sighed. "You're such a guy."

Nick laughed and wrapped an arm around her comfortably, pulling her closer. "Thanks, Al. I appreciate it. Now hush and watch the movie."

"This thing is three hours."

He laughed. "Yeah, I know. Isn't it great? It's the longest one on the bus."

"No wonder you picked it! Are you trying to torture me?"

Nick chuckled hollowly. "Yeah, that's it, Al. You've figured me out."

"I knew it!"

Nick clamped a hand over her mouth, pulling her even closer. "Alli, shut the hell up and watch the movie, okay? I know it's hard, but three hours of silence will not kill you."

Alli rolled her eyes and sat in silence for the first five minutes before she noticed that Nick still had yet to remove his arm from its place on her shoulder. She eyed it skeptically, then turned her gaze on her tall, blonde friend. "I thought that the thought of being near me repulsed you?"

Nick shrugged. "Not so bad."

Alli arched an eyebrow in surprise. "You're scaring me now."

Nick groaned. "Al, can't I just hold you without you getting all defensive on me?"

Alli cocked her head. "Not with your track record."

Nick actually laughed. "Yeah, I do have a way with women, huh?"

She sat bolt upright and glared at him. "Do NOT get cocky with me, Carter. I'll knock you flat on your ass and go back to my book."

Nick smirked. "You know, I've heard about the woman to bitch in three seconds keychain, but I haven't actually seen anybody act it out before now."

"You're asking for it," Alli warned, narrowing her eyes in Nick's direction. "I'm serious, Nickolas. I'm not one of your girl toys. I'd like to think that I'm a little bit smarter than that."

Nick's own eyes widened at the use of his real name, and he backed up a bit. "Look, Alli, I don't think of you as one of my girls. If it makes you feel any better, I don't think of you as a girl at all. You're more like a guy friend than a chick. You're just comfortable, and you looked cold. I was trying to be nice."

Alli's shoulders visibly relaxed, but her frown remained in place. "No joke?"

Nick nodded, his own brow furrowed. "Yeah, no joke. What's with the hostility?"

Alli sighed. "Forget it. The movie's still running, and we're missing all of the good parts."

Nick's eyebrows arched. "You said at one time that there were no good parts to this movie."

"I changed my mind."

Nick frowned in concern when he saw that she had planted herself in the corner of the couch, as far away from him as she could get. God, what did I do? I thought we were over the hitting thing already?

"This isn't about the other day at breakfast, is it? I told you, Al, I was hung over. Just leave me alone when I get like that, and I'll cool off."

Alli shook her head. "Forget it, Carter. It's not worth it, okay?"

He shook his own head in protest and paused the movie. "No, I won't forget it. Why are you mad at me?"

"I'm not."

He snorted in disbelief. "Yeah, right! What's with the attitude, then? This is kinda harsh, Alli, even for you."

Alli's gray eyes widened. "Even for me? What's that supposed to mean?"

Nick shrugged. "You just go off easily. Chill out, okay? I'm not gonna fuck you. I just want to watch the movie."

Alli nodded. "Fine. So turn it back on."

"Are you still pissed?"


"Then why are you still looking at me like you're waiting to throw punches?"

She sighed heavily and relaxed her gaze, letting her eyes soften. Nick's own shoulders sagged with relief when he saw the anger disappear from her eyes. She laughed. "I'm sorry, okay?"

Nick smiled warmly at her. "Okay. Truce?"

She nodded. "Truce."

Nick looked at her with a frown. "Since when did you truce without a pinky swear?"

She stared at him in amazement, unable to conceal her surprise. One moment, he was warning her to start treating him like an adult, and the next he wanted to revert back to his old, friendly ways. She didn't understand it, but it hurt every time he went cold. Dammit, Carter, you're playing with my head now.

Reluctantly, she held out her pinky and watched as he hooked his larger finger around her smaller one. He laughed when he pulled away, and he patted the seat next to him in a gesture of welcome. She scooted over gently, her apprehension apparent in her movements. When she finally reached his side, Nick pulled the blanket from the floor and placed it over the two of them.

"Your hands are still cold," he informed her, wrapping his arm back around her shoulders. She shrugged lightly and fixed her gaze on the television.


Nick laughed, and Alli felt his abdomen shake against her. "No, don't apologize. I was just saying that they were cold. Your hands have always been cold."

Alli smiled gently, trying to swallow the tears that threatened to spill over. "Yeah, well, some things never change," she said quietly. Nick nodded his agreement and turned back to the movie, un-pausing it so that they could watch the rest. Alli saw Mel Gibson rallying his troops for battle, but her mind was elsewhere. She hated the irony of her statement, and it continued to replay in her head.

Yeah, some things never change. I just wish that you didn't have to.

performed by Mandy Moore